Sunday, February 28, 2021

Lucky Day

 William came to spend the night. It's been a couple weeks since we saw him, so it was nice to have him around. We decided to take a wander through the Goodwill to see if perhaps we might find some board games to keep him interested. It's always a bit tricky, because he would much rather play video games. We are the keeper of strict time limits (one hour) and are required to find other things to pique his curiosity. We hate to spend a lot of money on games because if he is not interested, they are never played again. 

It was a very lucky day. We found 'Clue'. William had never played it but hearing the words 'solve a murder', he was all in. He also found a magic set. On top of it all, the games were 99 cents!

So...we stocked up. 

I heard a little gasp from behind me, and turned to find Tim studying two large panels of acrylic, about 3 x 4 feet. They were thick panels. He said, "These are $4.99 each! Do you have any idea what this thickness of acrylic costs new?!!"

William and I stood there with our games. "Nope," I said. 

"These would be over $100. each. These will be great for the green house!" and there he went wrassling those bad boys up to the register before someone else caught sight of them. 

William and I followed along. 

We went to the car and a man stopped to talk. He had been behind us as we checked out. "Those were quite a deal," he said, And Tim, being Tim, explained how much they cost new at Lowes. "What are you going to do with them?" the man wanted to know, and I told him about our greenhouse to be built this spring. "That's great!" he said, "Good luck to you!" 

So we came home and Tim was beyond happy, and William tore into his magic set and was pleased to see that while one trick was missing, all the others were there, along with the instructions and a DVD, They were even different tricks from the magic set that he already has. 

I was happy too. I opened the Clue game and counted out the weapons - the revolver, the candlestick, the knife, the rope, the wrench and the lead pipe were all there. The cards were all there. Colonel Mustard, Mr. Green, Mrs, White, Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, and Mrs. Peacock were there too.

William was engrossed in stabbing a pencil through a playing card, magically undamaging the plastic frame the card had been inserted into. He demonstrated the trick to us. "Ta-da!" he said, "how did I do that? The plastic doesn't slide inside  the frame." 

"Hmmm," we said, and we pretended to be impressed, even though I had showed him how to slide the plastic inside the frame not more than 10 minutes before. 

I carefully replaced the game in the box, and put it away. This morning, William was anxious to play.  He took the game to the library where there is more room, and by the time that I went in there with my coffee, the lead pipe was missing. We looked under the sofa and the coffee table. We lifted sofa cushions. 

I didn't want to make him feel bad, but if I had to make a guess, I'd say "William, in the library, lost the lead pipe." 

We played two games and Grandpa and William both thought it was well worth 99 cents. 


Grabbed from the Headlines

 As a person who has never watched one episode of 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians', I have to admit that I do not understand why these people are 'reality stars'.  (Their reality, my reality, two different realities, that's for sure.) I see nothing about them worth emulating, and yet they have all these people hanging on every detail of their lives. 

I don't get it. 

But if you follow any news sources at all (and I do), these names keep popping up. You 'know' about them whether you're interested in them or not. So today, I was reading the national news and there was a breathless pop up: 'Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker vow to destroy each other completely: Is this healthy love?'

Okay. Why does this question even need asking? 

While we are on the topic of news, here's a headline from our local newspaper. 'Naked Man Fights With Police'You have to understand that Sugar Grove is a tiny town of just the slightest bit over 600 people. It will take a while for him to live that down, I expect. Initially, the lead line read 'A Sugar Grove man is behind bars after he fought with naked police during a domestic incident.' That went around facebook like lightning. Everyone was curious why the police showed up naked to a domestic incident. The paper quickly corrected the lead line, but still, reading the article, it says that the police were grabbed by "the heck". 

What the heck???

I still have questions.


Saturday, February 27, 2021

No Explanation.

 I think that it is interesting that this die-ting (I love that, YP, thanks!) somehow feels different. My mom was morbidly obese, and it limited her life in the end. To see myself beginning to look like her just made me feel as if I were heading down that same path. While I am not morbidly obese, those extra pounds bothered me. 

I am still sticking to that 1200 calorie diet. It does not feel all that restrictive to me in actuality. I have my 6 oz. of homemade yogurt in the morning with 1/3 cup of granola and a cup of coffee. I am surprised that this 'holds me', but it does. I have a choice of 3 go-to meals for lunch that are all less than 300 calories. I drink 20 0z. of water. That holds me until supper. I fix Tim a regular supper, and usually take whatever meat we are having and chop it up and add it to a salad. I drink another 20 oz of water. If I feel like eating a meal, I do but just give myself very limited portions. It's easier to stick to the salads though, because I do love salad. 

I do not eat between meals at all, aside from the birthday cake I had for William's birthday last week. 

It's been nearly three weeks now. I have lost 7 lbs, although the official weigh in isn't until Monday morning. Out of curiosity, I stepped on the scales early and surprised myself. I suppose it won't feel like a real achievement until I reach a double digit loss though. 

I do not feel deprived. As a matter of fact at this very moment, to my right, on a table in the office, there is a box of chocolates from Valentine's Day. I look at it sometimes. I know that I could have one if I wanted it. The idea flits through my mind and I look at the box and make a conscious decision that I don't actually want it which is very interesting to me. I haven't had even one. 

What I see is my mom, unhappy, in her recliner, angry with the world. Angry with me. Her favorite place to go was the all you can eat Chinese buffet in town. It was hard for her to eat supper at home alone, so she went out to eat a lot.  Looking back on it, there was no right way to handle the situation. Me, being me, tried to anyway. She often wanted us all to go out to eat with her, and I said, "Mom, I just worry about you," and that was the truth. I did. I suggested some alternative ideas. 

This went over like the proverbial lead balloon. 

My mother angrily demanded to know why I was worried about her. I told her. I told that I worried about her health, about her increasingly difficult time getting around, about her bad knees, about the fact that she wasn't a candidate for surgery to get anything done with those knees. About her heart. After all those years of tailoring her life around my father's rules, it was her chance to decide what SHE wanted and she was physically unable to. It bothered me. 

Her response was extremely emotional, and it was angry, and it was bitter. In her mind, I was suggesting that her life with my father was less than perfect. In her mind, I was judging her weight. She took it as just another sign that I hated her and was disgusted by her. She  felt that I was unkind.

In hindsight, a conversation like that requires trust. We did not have that. A smarter person would have realized that before the screaming and crying started. So....there it is. I am hella smart after the fact. In the midst of things, not so much, maybe.

My mom is gone now. She's been gone for almost 10 years. She went to her grave with that anger at me intact. I never wanted to fight with her and that episode was just one incident among a long line of incidents. It wasn't the first incident, It wasn't the last incident. It had gone on for years. No matter what was in my heart, she always certain in hers that my motivations were always malicious and cruel and spiteful. 

So here I am, looking in the mirror and seeing glimpses of my mother. It was a galvanizing moment. I looked squarely at the fact that I've gained weight since I quit work, since this pandemic, since my own torn meniscus has kept me less active than usual. 

Looking at it squarely, I had to make a conscious decision about how I was going to handle it. 

Become angry and defensive? No.

Accept it and allow it to define the parameters of my life? No. 

Isolate myself and refuse to acknowledge it? No. 

You know, I quit smoking 20 years ago after watching my father die of lung cancer. I made the decision that I wanted to spare my children the helpless agony of watching me suffocate slowly over the course of 3 days, and not. be. able. to. do. one. thing to ease that struggle. It was excruciating. 

Although I had quit smoking many times in my life, I walked away from that hospital room and I quit again. This time it felt different. I lost all craving for a cigarette. It never came back. The smell of smoke made me actually sick. I saw my father's face over and over again, a big man, panicked and crying out because he could not get enough oxygen into his lungs. 

I lost the desire for a cigarette, There was no withdrawal from the nicotine. I was done, and I knew that. There was no going back. 

 20 years later, it seems to have happened again, but this time it is food. 

It feels different and I can't explain it, but it will be three weeks on Monday and I have lost 7 pounds. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Phone Scams

The phone rang. I listened to the caller ID announcing the number, and it was not one that I recognized. It was local, but you cannot always go by that. These clever scammers have figured out how to appropriate area numbers to mask themselves. 

I listened to the message the robotic voice was leaving on the answering machine. It seems that a suspicious purchase had been made on my Amazon Prime account for $15,000+. If I did not contact them immediately, they would assume that I was okay with the purchase and my credit card would be charged.  Oh dear! I did not call them back because I don't have  Amazon Prime. 

The IRS calls me every so often as well. A stern robotic voice warns me I have underpaid my taxes and unless I call them immediately to resolve the situation, the police will be arriving to arrest me. Except that the IRS is a federal agency and they would have to send federal agents. It would not be the local police and furthermore, we have a lot of faith in our accountant who has never failed to show us what we owe to the IRS. (Even when we did not want to know.) So based on that, I don't bother calling them back either. (Side note: I have never had the police show up at my door to cart me off to jail either. So there's that.)

I get a lot of calls about my car warranty about to expire. Since we do not buy our cars new (and haven't in 24 years) we don't have car warranties to begin with. If I'm feeling especially lively, I'll take those calls just to listen, making appropriate 'oh my!' sounds. And then I say, "So which car is this on again?" They can never answer that question. They never know. They begin asking questions designed to have me provide the answer to that for them. I always say, musingly, "Gees...it just seems that if this were a real call, you'd already know which car you were calling about. Why don't you just send me something in the mail when you figure it out..."

There's the famous "We've been trying to reach you for days about a delivery." I know when I have a package due. If I feel like messing with their minds, I'll pick those up and make the appropriate sounds of curiosity, and then ask for a tracking number so that I can look up the package in question. No tracking number is ever forthcoming. 

I had a friend who used to keep a long list of every strange illness she ever heard of. The more intimate the symptoms, the more quickly it was added to her list. She lived for the moment her phone rang. The call always started with, "Hello, how are you today?" and she would start in with a long litany of "her" health woes. The hapless scammer would try to break in and turn the conversation back to the scam at hand. Dixie just prattled on and on about hemorrhoids and female problems etc. until the scammer hung up on her. 

Another friend's husband took one of the calls from microsoft. After displaying great concern about his computer, the scammer directed him to go to his computer and do 'x' and 'y' etc. Jeff sat there, quietly, not doing anything of course. After a time. the man asked if he had done that, and Jeff answered that he had. The man inquired what was on his computer screen. 

Jeff replied, "Well...porn." 

The man was shocked. "Porn?" 

"Yes," said Jeff. "I watch a lot of porn." 

The man said, "You need to close that right now." 

Jeff said, "I don't want to. I like porn. I watch it all the time. Don't you watch porn? What are your favorite sites?" etc. etc. He was obviously speaking to a scammer of high moral integrity. The scammer hung up. (side note: Jeff is not a porn addict, and never has been.)

I once answered a call from Microsoft myself. The heavily accented voice told me that he was calling from microsoft. I said, "Oh, you are not!" He didn't seem to have an answer to that, but after a moment of dead silence said, "Yes I am." I said, "You're not." He got a bit heated assuring me that he was, and I said, "Does your mama know you lie for a living?" 

Oh dear. 

The man began swearing at me, and I began laughing my foolheaded self silly. That made him even angrier. He hung up. It was so unexpected that when he called back, I was still laughing. He cussed me out a bit longer, but as I was still laughing, he hung up once again, and did not call back. 

These people are predatory. They are so threatening that it can be frightening. The simplest way to handle these calls is this: Tell them that you never provide banking or credit card information over the phone. Tell them to send the dispute to your lawyer. Ask them if they want the address. Oddly enough, they never do.


Thursday, February 25, 2021

I Missed the Bust

 I was in the middle of my zoom class. Tim walked into the office, shutting off the lights. 

"Hey, I said, "I can't see my books." 

He switched them back on and quietly left the office. 

After the two hour class, he came back in. "Weren't you at all curious about what the police were doing?" 

"When?" 

"While you were in class." 

"Where?" 

"Right in front of the house. Five police cars had a car with three guys pinned in. One of the guys took off running into the apartment house next door. He was hiding behind somebody's couch. The police went in and got him. They brought him out in cuffs. They took everything out of the car. It's piled on the front steps of the house next door..." 

"What? Are you kidding me? How do you know all this?" 

"I went out front and watched it along with everyone else on the street." 

Dumbstruck, I sat there looking at him.

"It was drugs," he said. 


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

In Which I Get Punched At Walmart

 Today I had to run to the store. I needed to pick up the bread that was to be given out with the soup kits. First handout, tomorrow! It will likely be a while before I get feedback on this, but I am excited to get the ball rolling. 

While I was there, I needed to pick up minutes for my phone. 

On the way back to that, I saw some little Troll dolls for Iris' Easter basket. 

After putting two Trolls into my cart, I continued on, and I saw my oldest daughter and Don. I visited with them for a while. While we were talking I saw some rainbow type yarn and picked it up to examine it. I bought a little set of fairy wings for Iris to flutter around the house in, and I toyed with the idea of making her a little wig of yarn hair. 

I was still holding the yarn when a woman pushed up in front of me. "Are you a knitter? Is that your daughter? I didn't know. Is that your daughter? How are things at your house?" 

The questions came rapid fire, and I stood there gaping behind my mask with this woman much more 'in my face' than I like, even when we are NOT in the middle of a pandemic. 

Answering her first question first, I said, "No..." AND THE WOMAN PUNCHED ME IN THE ARM! It wasn't a 'go on with yourself' teasing push. She punched me in the arm!

She continued on. "She IS TOO your daughter..."

I backed up. I did not like her voice. I said, "I was answering your first question. You asked me if I were a knitter." 

My daughter and Don headed off. The woman began asking questions about my daughter and her boyfriend.  I said, "Who are you?!!!"

She pulled down her mask and identified herself, someone I met briefly quite a while ago, and someone I thought even then was (forgive me) far more intrusive than she should have been. Those sorts of people always turn me off. Nosy people in my experience tend to be gossips, and I cannot abide a gossip. They can do a lot of damage. 

I put the yarn back and said, "Yes that is my daughter. We're fine at our house. I hope all is well at yours," and I pushed my cart away. 

I still can't get over it. She punched me in the arm. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

A Hint

 This morning, once again it was snowing. It was another steely gray day. I found it hard to get motivated. But when I went to put mail out, I noticed that it had begun to rain. I went back in and pulled on my boots and a jacket and went out to start shoveling. Rain falling on the snow could turn to icy slush and our driveway has just enough slope that it can make it difficult to get all the way to the garage when things ice up. 

I shoveled the walk, and then started the driveway, and the rain fell, and all around me was the sound of water running off the eaves and dripping trees. There was a breeze, and it wasn't cold. It felt almost like ~ dare I say it? ~ spring! 

Life Sentences

William has turned 10. I had birthday cake with them, the first bite of sugary dessert I've had in two weeks. I look at him wistfully. He's the same little boy that I held on my lap, watching him sleep as we watched an episode of Peter Rabbit and Friends, and the closing song always made me teary (I am a terrible sap)

The rain has moved on
And left a new day
Nothing seems to move everything is still
It's just a perfect day

The shadows and light
That move with the wind
Hidden violets grow splashed with summer spray
Just another perfect day

On the wild and misty hillside
Fear is nature's warning
Hunger here is never far away

And all of this world
Is for children who play
Days that never end always should remain
Another perfect day

Even as I held that precious bundle of sweetness close, I knew he would grow up, and that all days end, and not all days are perfect. Now he is 10. Beautiful still, lively, an inquiring mind, caught up in careful cartooning of aliens and nuclear power plants, interested in MineCraft and Roblox and Legos. Still precious to me, but a much taller bundle of sweetness who is, admittedly, not always so sweet. Strange to think of him halfway to being a man. 

On the front page of the newspaper was the face of an acquaintance who has made (and given away) 4500 masks since the beginning of covid. Mr. Rogers' mother always told him that during hard times, he should look, that he would always find the helpers. This is true. I saw her first thing this morning. 

In the same paper, I saw an obituary that brought tears to my eyes. There lives a genial lady who lives in a carefully decorated house, who loves Anne of Green Gables, who talks of kindred spirits, and delights when she finds them. She writes to nursing home residents every week, handwritten notes, a touch of familiarity for the recipients, but something novel in today's world of e-mails and text messages. And now her husband has died. I know that she is devastated.

I spent Friday morning chopping ham and vegetables and measuring out beans for the first of the soup kits for the food pantry. During the last zoom meeting, I noticed a woman who seemed adrift and disconnected. I thought to ask her to help me chop and package, and she agreed right away. I am a self conscious person and talking is hard for me, but I can turn into quite a blabber mouth when my hands are busy. I was delighted that she is the same sort of person, and we chattered and laughed the entire time we worked. It was wonderfully refreshing. 

I had a vision of $5. per family meals, and I must admit that with the first recipe, we did not meet that goal. Things came to $5.22 per kit. We will distribute for the first time on Wednesday, and I am eager to see how this shakes out. It will either fail, or it will not fail. 

Speaking of two weeks, I've been focused on careful eating and counting calories, and cutting out all snacks. I drink water steadily through out the day. I keep my calories below 1200 a day. I set a reasonable goal of two pounds a week for myself, with a mind to reaching the first milestone by my birthday, the second milestone by Labor Day. For the second week I have lost that 2 lbs. 

Once again, it is snowing, but later in the week, we are supposed to reach 47 degrees. 47! 

Life is not always perfect, but it is filled with perfect moments, isn't it?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Rabbit Hole

We spent part of the day helping with a move. 

Once home, it was time to sprawl lazily in front of the television. Following a suggestion from Northsider, we watched 'The Dig'. It was a gorgeous movie, set into the backdrop of England's entrance into WWII. Tim and I both really enjoyed it. 

You know how sometimes novels can take terrible liberties with a story? I found myself wondering how much of the story was true. 

Assisted by the wonders of the internet, I wandered off to lose myself in reading about Basil Brown. What a remarkable person he was! I cannot imagine someone so in love with learning, that even after he dropped out of school (to help support his family), he continued to learn on his own, earning diplomas of distinction in geography, geology, and astronomy from a 'self learning' university.  There was a real passion for knowledge, one that really did affect his life. He wrote books on his interests. 

You've got Stuart  and Peggy Piggot, minor characters in the movie, but very compelling in real life. Both of them came from rich families, studied extensively on archeology, became renowned for their work in the field. Both of them were prolific writers as well. They did divorce after 12 years of marriage, but both of them were life-long notables in their fields, and spent their later years teaching at university. 

Stuart and Peggy were geniuses, driven by a passion for the work they did, devoted their lives to it. Quiet Basil Brown was also a genius, a remarkable mind, no less driven, no less passionate about the work that he was doing. Had the man been born into wealth, able to attend any university, able to pursue his passion without worrying about supporting himself and May, he would have stood along side Stuart and Peggy as a peer. He would have had the same recognition that they did. He would have given lectures. He would had a comfortable life had he chosen a career open to him, but he followed his passion, and worked odd jobs to support himself. His wife May worked as a domestic all her life, but was devoted to him. 

They had no children. but his activities drew children to him no matter what he happened to be doing. A natural born teacher, he was quick to begin explaining what was happening, telling stories about ancient civilizations, putting them to work even, finding little things for them to do. He would have made a beloved schoolmaster. 

It all struck me as so very unfair, but yet when you look at pictures of Basil, you see a man who looks very happy. His work was evidently all the reward he needed. A man fulfilled by his discoveries.

I went on to read about Edith Pretty. I considered a wealthy woman who turned down a proposal when she was 18 to take care of her father after the death of her mother. She did that for 24 years. A huge sacrifice. But even more poignant was that Frank Pretty waited all those years, never marrying. Both of them were extremely wealthy people, and they bought Tranmer House knowing about the mounds on the property, curious about what they contained. 

Edith had her first and only child at 47. The marriage that both parties had waited so patiently for ended within 8 years when Major Pretty died of cancer. 7 years later, she would die too. Their 12 year old son Robert was sent to live with her sister, and never returned to Tranmer House. Ironically, he too, would die in his fifties, just as his parents had. 

I then wandered in to read about Sutton Hoo. I was engrossed, and headed off to read up on the Anglo Saxons...

In the middle of one of my readings, I heard the clocks chiming midnight from their respective corners of the house. I winced a little. How does time get away from me like that? I made up my mind to finish the topic I was reading on and get myself to bed. 

I headed towards bed as the clocks nagged once again...a single chime, a bit of ghostly music, a cuckoo, a deep double tone. It was 12:30. I fed the fire and climbed into my warm bed. Tim mumbled half asleep, "What time is it?" 

A bit abashed, I told him and then explained about the google rabbit hole I'd fallen into. 

He's used to it. He listened groggily and said, "That is neat."

It wasn't long before he was snoring once again. 

I lay there in the dark thinking about fate, and about our lots in life, about being part of something larger than ourselves, and before too awful long, I was sleeping too. I cannot tell you whether I was snoring.

'The Dig' was a beautiful movie, but Lord, when it was done, I dug myself right into a major rabbit hole. I fell asleep dreaming about treasure and what came before us. 


Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Homeless Woman

I also saw someone else in the grocery store ~ Bonnie, the homeless woman. She was with someone else, and I did not want to interrupt so I simply continued on down the aisle. 

This weekend, on a local 'helping hands' board, a post went up. A concerned citizen noticed that we had a homeless woman and her dog walking the streets. She was concerned. A flurry of posts went up, people brainstorming on how best to help her. 

'I took her to the grocery store yesterday.' 

The motel that she is in gave her a free weeks' stay.

Someone took dog food. and things for the dog (who s named 'Dog', btw.)

People stepped up, 3 dozen posts, the last I checked. 

The interesting thing is that as she tells her story to multiple people, there are obvious differences in the stories. But in these difficult days, what shines the brightest is the simple kindnesses being extended.

Are we all being taken advantage of? 

Perhaps.

At the end of our days, we will not be judged on whether or not our kindnesses were used wisely. We will simply be judged on whether or not we extended kindness into a world that is starved for it. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Nae Auld Lang Syne.

 Once upon a time that was a woman who was coming out of a shockingly awful marriage, and she wasn't going to ever get married again. Ever. Ever. Ever. 

Except that there was this man from work, who really kind of pursued the new girl. He said all the right things, and he was very nice. Against her own better judgement, she went on a date. There was another. After a couple months, out of the blue, he pulled her aside to say that he didn't think he wanted to date her anymore. 

She cried, but she went back to her solitary life with her kids and really wondered about her character defects. It seemed men liked her well enough until they got to know her. What on earth could be wrong with her? But did it really matter, if you were not ever going to get married again? Ever? Ever? Ever? 

Within days, her phone was ringing, and the man from work said, "Listen, I can't stop thinking of you, and I think that I made a terrible mistake..." and he talked about how badly he had been hurt before, all because he'd fallen fast and hard. And because it was happening again, he got scared. 

He begged for another chance. 

The chance was given.

This time, it was only a matter of days. He decided once again that he was making a big mistake. He told the woman he did not want to see her again. 

And once again, there were long sleepless nights of self doubt and tears. She changed shifts to make sure that she didn't have to see him everyday. She also realized she was probably a real dumb ass. 

Months later, there was a knock on the door. He stood there, awkwardly. He wanted to apologize. Quite shockingly, he also proposed. 

She did not let him in the house, but they sat on the porch for a bit. She declined his proposal and said, "You want what you don't have. As soon as you have it, you don't want it anymore." And she explained that she was not ever getting married again. Ever. Ever. Ever.

He cried. 

She said goodbye, and she did not cry because she'd gotten her crying done some time back. 

She watched him go and went back into the house, and her life and her kids. 

Today, standing in the checkout line, two people happened to exchange glances. One quickly turned away. The other marveled over the fact that, 25 years later, she was no longer that 40 year old dumb ass.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?

Turns out that sometimes that answer is yes. 

I loaded my groceries in the car, and returned the cart to the store. 

And then I went home. 


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Another Satisfied Customer

Unlike Joanne, it did not occur to me to forward a picture of my cat when I placed my order for one of Kyle Shifley's exquisitely handcrafted bookmarks. I described her only as an orange cat with big golden eyes and a long tail. Still, Kyle managed to catch the very essence of my cat, Paddington Paw-Cat
 (aka Paddy Paws). 


 I think young Kyle did a wonderful job on it. 
I am especially pleased the the whiskers and the tail. 
He even included a nicely written note thanking me for my order. 

Thank you Kyle! 
(signed)
Another Satisfied Customer

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Facing Facts

 I have always looked like my father. Well. except for the beard. And my hair was longer. And he was a tall person, and while I have been accused of many things in my life, I have never been accused of being tall. But aside from all of that, I looked like my father. 

I remember once when I was just a kid, out kicking down our dirt road with my brothers and sisters, a couple of fishermen were coming up out of the creek, and one of them said, "Hey. Is your dad ------. It scared me a little, those vague warnings, even back then, of strangers, and how they pretend to know you... There were four of us which would have made things a bit more difficult, I suppose, because we were scrappy little critters. So I answered, "Yes." 

And the man said, "Gees. You look just like him."

Everyone said that, all of my life. 

Except that I was washing dishes some months back and I looked at the window into the pitch black back yard. A face peered dimly back at me, and it was my mother's face. 

Mother/daughter relationships are not always easy. I asked her once, "Why are you so angry at me?" and her answer spat back at me, "Because you LEFT!" I looked at her, shocked. I am a mom too. It would never enter my mind that my children should never leave. I raised them to be independent. I wanted them to fly free. I wanted them to go all the places that I never did. While all these thoughts flashed through my mind, my mother glared at me, never flinching. I knew for a fact she had never spoken truer words than the ones she'd just said to me. 

Our relationship was even rougher at the end because she died of liver failure, and for the last couple years of her life, fluctuating ammonia levels affected her mind. Always sharp tongued, opinionated and critical, she became even worse during those last few days. 

So staring at my mother's face in the black window pane scared me. I know that sounds stupid, but when you know who you look like and suddenly you don't look like them, it's a bit freaky. I thought, for an impossible moment, that she was outside the window in the dark, looking in at me. 

My dad was skinny for most of his life.  As I gained a few pounds, my face changed. I have my mother's very blue eyes, and with the rounder face and the gray hair...well...suddenly I looked like my mom. This pandemic has added a few more pounds and the resemblance to my mother has only increased. 

Last week, looking in the mirror I studied my mother's face as she studied mine while I brushed my teeth. it was time to face facts.

I weighed myself, and walked out of the bathroom, I got a little note book and sat down. I wrote the date. I wrote the weight. I used my phone to count the calories in 6 oz of greek yogurt and 1/4 cup of yogurt, and one cappuccino made with skim milk and 1 tsp of sugar. 

The diet has begun. 


Monday, February 15, 2021

Touch of Gray

 And the snow, snow, snow came down, down, down... It is just so gray outside. Ugh!


Speaking of gray, I have broken down and bought a special shampoo for those of the gray headed persuasion. I haven't dyed my hair for a year now and discovered that I am completely gray. 

Which was bit of a shock. 

And while I'm grappling with my own reality, my niece turned 21 today. She has dyed her long red hair gray. 

Which was a bit of a shock.

I feel a distinct need to curl up by the fire and ponder life a bit. 


Late Edit: I made myself feel much better by ordering my shiitake and oyster mushroom plugs. When you're caught up in an exciting experiment, you don't care what color your hair is.




Valentine's Day

 After 23, going on 24 years, romance looks a little different than it did in the early days. 

I got a dozen red roses which I arranged in the vase with the remaining flowers from the last bouquet. 

We exchanged cards. 

I cooked a special meal: venison steaks marinated in garlic butter for the day.  I salted and peppered them and put them under the broiler for 3 minutes each side. They were tender and flavorful. Tim couldn't stop raving about them. 

This is how I cemented my position as Tim's one, true Valentine for yet another year. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Looking back, moving on

I was reading "ook?!" and she was talking about making yogurt. 

Stopped me in my tracks. I used to make yogurt. Almost every day, I made yogurt.  I had a little yogurt maker. Not sure where it went. But I went to e-bay, found someone selling one in the box for the highest bid. Turns out not many folks want a yogurt maker. I got it for under $9, a Euro Cuisine that makes 7 cups of yogurt at a time. Heading off to my old friend Google, I found a recipe for the Greek Honey yogurt that is my favorite yogurt. I make a batch up every Saturday, and it is enough to last me for a week of breakfasts. 

I top it with granola and eating breakfast this morning, studying my bag of granola, another think occurred to me. I used to make my own granola too. 

Google had a nice recipe for that, as well. Reading it, I realized that all the ingredients I need are already in my cupboard. 

There is a strange satisfaction, at 63, to rediscover that something which made perfect sense at 33 is still perfectly sensible. 

It does not always happen that way. 

A winter storm is coming. We are expecting another few inches of snow tomorrow. It will remain cold. The home fires are still burning and we're waiting this all out patiently. I am glad that Tim does not have to work tomorrow. I worry about that 75 minute commute in bad weather. 

It also gives us an extra day to finish up our work on the tax information that we are organizing for our tax man. 

Another box ticked, this one a major accomplishment. 

Another storm coming, one storm closer to spring. 

Step by step, we're moving forward.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Wolves

 Yesterday, I got up and did some writing and then headed off to the food pantry. We had received a major donation and I needed to sort through stuff. 

My own plan for the food pantry, the packaging of soup/casserole ingredients that are crock pot ready (think of your food subscriptions like Blue Apron, Dinnerly, Hello Fresh, etc.) is getting pretty close to being trialed on a small group of people who are involved with another ministry of our church. 

It is an ideal test since these people served are in a rough place. In speaking with them, they were all excited about the idea. Better yet, they all already had their own crockpots so that is an expense saved. As noted, I believe that we can put together a meal for a family for $5. I encouraged them to give things a try, and to get back with their ideas. Also to tell their friends, which is hopefully how we will grow to meet the greater need of our community. 

My idea will not eliminate the traditional food pantry. We will still have the occasional people that come to us with dire needs and require more than a meal to throw in their crockpots. These are desperate times. I am a firm believer that we all must do the best we can, wherever we may be, to lend a hand, to extend kindness into this world.

Speaking of lending a hand, the other ministry leader came to me and said, "There is someone outside who asked to speak to you." 

You will never believe who it was. Remember Bonnie, the homeless pilgrim? Yep. She is still around town. She stood there in her long woolen skirt, with her skinny dog, her pack on her back. 

I told her how glad I was to see her again and that she'd been on mind. 

She fixed an eye upon me. "I have a question for you," and she asked me a question designed to help her decide whether I was a 'true' Christian. 

My answer puzzled her. 

After a pause, she said, "You know that I am a seeker."

I said, "I think that we all are."

She said, "My job is to encourage others." 

I said, "I think that that is our job on this earth, but I can also tell you that encouragement is a two way street. Not only should we consider ourselves encouragers, but we should allow ourselves to be encouraged. That is what God intends when he calls us to be in community." 

She studied me.

The conversation was very stilted, punctuated by long pauses as each of us appraised the other, one standing on the sidewalk in her wool skirt, one freezing her ass off sitting on the marble steps of the church in her yoga pants.

It was a time to be careful, because one of the characteristics of schizophrenia is 'religiosity', the delusion that you understand God better than anyone else, and that it is your mission to fix the rest of the world. This can lead to very tragic events. 

I said, to her, "Listen, I'm here every Wednesday, and I would love to talk with you any time you want. On the other days, you're welcome to tell the priest that you would like to talk to me. He can call me and I will come."

I left then, heading to my car to run the errands for the rest of my day. I am intrigued that she would return. I am curious where this will lead. Life is an adventure isn't it?

I went to Aldi's and got my groceries for the week. Eggs. Milk. Strawberries. Oranges. Potatoes. Yams. A loaf of bread and two bags of broccoli. I got to the register and entered my debit card. The card reader asked if I wanted cash back, and I requested $20. Tim needed cash for the rest of the week.

The cashier complained. "You need to ask me if I have the cash to give to you. I just got here. You've cleaned me out!"

I looked at her a little surprised. "That's a new rule," I said mildly. 

She continued to complain. I think that she wanted me to retort sharply actually. I chose not to. She gave me 4 fives, still complaining. She didn't have a $20 bill to give me. I told her that I didn't need a $20 bill. The fives were just fine.

I repeated it to myself. 'It is our job to extend kindness...' Some folks make it a little more difficult though.

When I got home,  the chicken in the crock pot made the house smell wonderful. I popped a potato and a yam into the oven to bake. 

It was an interesting day. Iris missed her 'Ama and called to talk. She chattered away, talking about her boots and snow, and what she did that day. She has learned a new thing. She howls like a little wolf. She saw a program about a wolf pack and now she likes to be a wolf. Since we are part of her pack, we all must howl too. 

She's right. At two, she has it all figured out: we are all part of the same pack.

Aaaaaah aaaaaaah OOOOOOOOOOOOOH!





Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Enough

 I think that it is the difference in how we were raised. My family was not poor exactly, but we were very limited. I never felt poor, but I knew that I didn't dress like the other kids. I did not have a pass to the local ski slope. We did not take part in activities with other kids. We always had food on the table though. Sometimes my father took a deer out of season to make that happen.

Tim was raised poor. I don't know a lot of the details, but his life was mean. I heard stories from others who were shocked to discover that there was not food despite the fact that his mother canned everything that she could get from her garden and from generous people. His father hunted. They had chickens. But with six kids, that stretches things thin, and some times were more desperate than others. 

When we met, Tim was an extremely quiet fellow. He simply didn't talk. He had been divorced for 8 years and had been alone. I think that made him even quieter. He also didn't think much of himself, which was sad, because he really is a competent fellow. 

We married, and the first years were pretty tumultuous. I'm a pretty plain spoken woman. When his father mocked him in front of his children, Tim sat quietly eating his meal. I spoke to him afterwards. His only response was that his father had always been like that. 

It shocked me a little. In my family, comments like that would have gotten an on the spot response. There would have been raised voices, ultimatums. My family fought a lot, and I hated that. Surely there was a more sensible way to handle things. 

The next time that his parents came to dinner, his father started his nonsense again. I set my fork down and said, "We're trying to make a family here. You will not sit down at my table and eat my food, and speak to the head of this house like that in front of his children. You choose your words carefully because every single time you are disrespectful to my husband, I'm going to call you out on it. EVERY time. I don't care who is sitting there to hear it."

I don't think anyone had ever spoken back to the man before, and he left the house and did not come back for a lot of years. This also pissed off Tim's sisters. Their father was a MINISTER! A man of God! It was blasphemy! Everyone had an opinion. I'd like to say it didn't matter, but it did matter. It mattered a lot. A lot of doors shut during those years. Most of them have not re-opened. 

It is what it is. 

Tim and I have been married for 23 years. It hasn't been all roses, because we are two people who have had hard times and sometimes old ghosts rise up to trouble us. 

Something else that has also happened in those 23 years is that Tim has become an empowered soul. He has learned to put himself out there, to trust his judgement, to do hard things. We have a successful side business and he has taught himself to do many things. His latest thing is changing an old house over to forced air heating, creating the duct work himself, cutting the holes. Next step? He's rewiring the whole house. These are things he's taught himself to do, because it is cheaper that way. Plus he knows that he will do the job right. 

As he gained confidence, something troubling began to happen. He was not satisfied. One house was not enough. Two houses. Three houses. He began selling renovated houses, and spending that money on more houses. It is a lot of work and we do that work together. 

In these last years, we have been debating this issue a lot. Our retirement years are upon us. We have a comfortable nest egg. We have a monthly income. In just one year and 4 months, we'll both be free. We can travel. We can do what we want. Except that what I want and what Tim wants seems poles apart on some days. He sees these retirement years as a chance to really get some work done, really get into the buying and renovating and building a comfortable financial cushion for ourselves. I'm comfortable with what we have. 

We argue about it in our quiet way from time to time. He can reasonably expect to live into his nineties. His family is very long lived. I see life as not guaranteed me, something that occurs to you  quite naturally when you are sitting in a chemo chair for weeks. I don't want to postpone anything, because I feel as if I've been postponing things for all of my life. 

I say to him, very firmly, "Tim, I'm not going to wait. If you are going to keep tying yourself down to projects, I'm going to do the things that I want to do by myself. I'm going to see Cara and Colin. I'm going to Australia to see Sophie and Amanda and their mother, and I'm going to drink wine with them in the wine glasses I bought 8 years ago for that very purpose."

He thinks on it seriously. Some days he seems to believe we have enough. On others days, he seems to think we have to work harder, to take on one more project, to add just a bit more. I understand that extreme poverty marks a person, that he has a determination that never again will life be that hard, but I can't set my life aside until he decides that we're ready.

So I tell him what I am going to do. I make it perfectly clear.  I am, after all, a very plain spoken woman. I wait to see what he is going to do, because in the end, that determines what we are going to do. 



Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Spring

 Once again, it is gray, and it is snowing. 

And in the kitchen, I set up the wash basins I use to start my plants. I have saved empty toilet paper and paper towel tubes. I cut them to size (about 3 inches in length), pack them standing on end into the basins and fill them with potting soil. It's too early to actually plant the seeds, but I go through them once again, planning, hopeful, excited. 

I'm adding a new project this year: mushrooms, and I'm so very excited about that, I cannot even tell you.

And every year, I say to myself, "This will be the best garden ever!"

Every year, I am right. 

In 20 years or so, I should know what I'm doing!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Sweet




I had a dream about little Iris. It was nothing big or dramatic. She was sitting on my lap, with her head on my shoulder and we were watching the moon. That's all. But it was such a sweet dream and when I woke, remembering it made me smile in the dark before falling back asleep. 

The next day, I got a phone call from Brittani. Iris wanted to video chat with 'Ama, During the course of the chat, I told Iris how much I missed her, and told Brittani about my dream. She said, "Last night she wanted to look at the moon, and so we went outside for a little bit."

Typing this is another sweet moment, and once again, I am smiling in the dark.




Sunday, February 7, 2021

Floored

 We are, as usual, in the middle of a rehab. This was the weekend of refinishing the hardwood floors. We rented the sander and got at it bright and early this morning, a large living room, a dining room, a hall, and a bedroom. 

It's hard work and every bone in my body is killing me tonight. I know that I will sleep like a rock. 

But you know what I love? I love when you put that stain down, and the wood grain just 'pops'. Makes all that hard work totally worth it. Those floors are gorgeous. 

Late Edit



Note to people who actually are interested in taking this on as a project: We tried, for the first time, a product called Cabot One Step. In theory, it sounds like quite a good idea. You have your stain and finish application done in one step. It is certainly quicker. But we prefer to rub the stain in by hand and then seal the floor as a second step. When you apply sealer, you put it on thick and it flattens out to a good thick protective coating. The applicator 'tracks' smooth out. When you use a one step process, the sealer itself flattens down smoothly, but we wound up with uneven coloration. We applied the second coat, and hopefully that will even things out a bit more, color wise, but right now, we both give this product two thumbs down. 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Tim's Phone.

Tim has had a cell phone for a lot longer than I have. He carried Dylan's flip phone from high school for probably 10 years before it finally fritzed out and died. He briefly tried a phone that was not a flip phone and that was a disaster. He was constantly butt dialing people. Since we don't have a plan (we buy minutes every other month for him, because we really don't use a phone all that much...unless of course, you call your wife on a butt call, over and over, and over, well...)

In any case, Tim got quite fed up with his phone and switched back to a flip phone to avoid wasting the minutes. He can put it in his pocket and forget about it. 

I've had a smart phone for about a year, an android, nothing fancy, but it is nice to have access to the computer when we are at the retirement property. I do not have a plan either. I buy a card on the 26th of every month. We spend about $45. a month on our phones, and that's good enough. 

Anyways I was talking to Tim when suddenly in midsentence, his phone went dead. I tried to call him back, but got the message. I figured his phone was out of minutes and made a note to go out and get some and get them added. Except that I got sidetracked and forgot about it until his daughter called the house saying she couldn't get hold of her dad. 

I texted Tim. "I think you're out of minutes." Tim does not like to text. His brother sums it up like this "Us H-------- boys can't spell. We have to take out our driver's license to make sure we spell our name right." It's true, too. Tim is a very intelligent man, don't get me wrong. He just doesn't like writing and spelling. So he never runs out of text minutes. 

Anyways, I texted Tim to let him know that he was out of minutes. "Can you stop and pick some up on your way home?" 

And his answer came. "Y." 

A little befuddled, I texted back. "Because you're out of minutes and you'll pass right by the store on your way home." 

"Y." came the answer.

"What? I don't understand what the big deal is. You need minutes for your phone and you're passing by the damn store. Just get stop in and get them."

"OK." 

Not content to let sleeping dogs lie, I texted one more time. "You remember which minutes you need, right." 

The answer came. "Y." 

That made me mad, and I just typed in one word. "Cripes!"

Tim got home, and I was still a little grumpy. I didn't understand why such a simple request had to turn into such a big deal. 

He handed me the card and asked me to add his minutes to his phone. I grumbled. "I don't get what the big deal was about all of this." 

He looked at me. "It wasn't a big deal at all." 

"It sure was. I told you your phone was out of minutes and asked you to stop and get some. You ask "Why?" I tell you the phone  is out of minutes, and you're passing by the store, so just get the minutes." You ask 'Why?" What the heck was that all about?!!! Gees!"

He laughed and laughed. Then he said, "Y means 'yes' and N means 'no'. 

I looked at him. "I thought you were asking why?" 

'No, I  was telling you yes."

I shook my head. "Tim..."

Curiously, he said, "what's 'crispy'?"

"What?" 

"You texted 'crispy'."

"No I didn't!"

He pulled out his phone. "Right here...c-r-i-p-e-s."

"Are you joking?" The man reads all sorts of manuals. Teaches himself everything. This is a very intelligent man. But I could tell from the look on his face that he wasn't joking. I felt mean. So I explained. "You were making me mad. That says 'cripes'."

"Oh." He said. "Well, I bought Doritos."


The Hobbit

It feels like I have been holed up forever. 

I'm starting to feel like a hobbit.

I drink my morning coffee and work out the cryptogram in the newspaper every morning in my comfortable hobbit house. I usually do the crossword too. I clean my hobbit house. I tend to our hobbit stomachs by making carefully thought out meals, I putz around with my houseplants. I read. I write. I have a zoom class once a week. I go a couple blocks to think out food pantry ideas on Wednesdays. Once a week, I zip out to the grocery store for milk and perishables. 

Now, mind you, I'm not complaining. I know that I'm a lucky woman. It's just that my comfortable life has gotten very, very small.

Today, I'm going to pick up 80 lbs of fresh chicken to be repackaged into single servings and popped into the freezer. It involves driving 30 minutes to a neighboring town. On the way, I need to stop to pick up freezer bags. 

My God. I feel like the hobbit leaving his comfortable hobbit hole, setting out on a quest. 

Adventure awaits! 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Shutdown

 It was announced that Siemens plans to permanently shut down the Olean operations in the summer of 2022. If Tim is able to work right up to the end, he will be 65. Insurance will not be a worry. 

We both breathed a sign of relief. 

It is possible that he might be laid off before that time, but it is hopeful and it gives us breathing space to figure out what happens next. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Sad

The last four years of our nation's history has really highlighted a rift that probably was always there, just a bit...but somehow, opinions got stronger, more unforgiving, more 'for', more 'against'. Things that used to be gray areas are no longer gray in many people's minds. The rhetoric is stronger, the words meaner, the judgements harsher. 

One of the rifts that has caused me great pain personally is a friendship that I've had for over 50 years. I try never to discuss politics, because I know that we will disagree. What made it hard is that sometimes there were topics that started off not being political at all, but managed to turn the conversation in that direction. The very hardest thing for me is that she believes things that simply are not true. Conspiracies. Lying media. Easily disproven things. 

She will state her opinion on something, but when I say anything to the effect of "But..." she comes back with a sharply worded, "I've done my research, and you're not going to change my mind." 

I've tried listening without comment.

What I feel is choked, and as if each word has to be checked. I imagine that she probably feels the very same way. 

This is something that I have been tossing over for a very long time. 

Yesterday, she called me. During the course of our conversation, she asked a question. It wasn't an innocent question. It was something that she wanted to know that would 'check a box' in her mind. I knew that she was making a decision. I answered the question honestly. I felt her judgement, although she did not say the words. 

It was a short conversation, and when I hung up, I knew something for certain. I wasn't going to hear from her for a long time. Perhaps never.

It was a strange feeling and once again, I was reminded of Rumi: "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there."

Maybe. It could happen. 

But, you know, I remember another field, before the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing. We were 12, and she was my very best friend. I miss that.




Monday, February 1, 2021

That's Life

My poor daughter-in-law has had her hands full between a husband with covid and a darling two year old who has chosen this particular moment in history to give up her afternoon nap. Now they're in the middle of a snow event from the nor'easter bearing down on the east coast. They will have more than two feet of snow on the ground before the storm ends tomorrow afternoon/evening. They've already lost power briefly. 

She's a cheerful person who seems to be making the best of things despite the fact that when a two year old gives up her naps, it does not necessarily mean that she's ready to give up that afternoon nap. Often by the evening, Iris is exhausted. overwrought, and prone to tempers and meltdowns. 

These difficult evenings are made more difficult by the fact that Brittani is doing it on her own, Dylan being quarantined upstairs, confined to his office, the guest bedroom and guest bathroom. By the end of the day, she's understandably frazzled.

I'm trying to be helpful from afar, and there is nothing I can do, really. I know she's worried about Dylan who seems to have moved into a more concerning phase of covid. She's also dealing with Iris. Alone. 

Video chats, encouraging messages, Books. That's it. All I can offer from this side of the state. 

When I talked to her on Sunday, she was giving me latest on Dylan. I was trying to be encouraging, because really, she's doing a marvelous job. "Perhaps, Iris will have an afternoon nap..." In the background, a small, sing song voice piped up, sweetly: "no nap for meeeeeeeeeee....'"

We both laughed, but...really...ay yi yi!

Today, Tim will find out from the company exactly what Siemens has in store for the Olean operation. We are hopeful of some sort of time line, so that we can get our ducks in a row. The plant is a huge one, covering acres. If they finish out the work they've got, and then start moving all the machinery out, we're looking at a good amount of time. If we get that one year, the insurance will probably not be an issue. 

We're working on another house, but today I will keep myself home. The hardwood floors will wait. until the weather settles down. The driveway is a steep one.

My sister is on call, and so she is spending the night here. We'll have supper and she's promised to cut my hair (and oh! how I do need a trim) Maybe we'll even have time for a scrabble game. 

I have really been enjoying watching the classic movie channel. I saw the Miracle Worker a couple weeks ago. I saw My Fair Lady Sunday. I recognize the names of the movies, but I haven't seen the majority of them before. How sad is that?

I got a yogurt maker coming. I also have a recipe for honey Greek yogurt , which I'm pretty excited to try.

Deadly dull stuff, I know. It's winter. It's a pandemic. Not a lot going on, but we know that spring is coming. 

And speaking of spring....we get a plague of locusts. 2021 is just full of promise!

(And yes, I know that they are not quite the same.)

Music to our Ears.

 Well, the concert was good fun. It was not nearly as loud as the last event we went to, which was a bit of a relief to my poor ears. Tim en...