Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday's Words for November 28, 2018

I didn’t mean to do it, but somehow last week, I accidentally started my Christmas shopping. Yes, every year I swear that next year, I’ll get an early start on this annual chore.

I guess this year is last year’s next year, for real this time.

We were in Walmart on Friday, with a specific list of things to get, including some shirts and pj bottoms for my husband—but we also needed light bulbs. Now lately, we’ve been going to one of those big box stores that deals in everything you need to fix your house or supply it with appliances. We’ve been getting our light bulbs there because they have such a huge selection, even if they are a bit pricey. Since my husband wanted to go to Walmart to get a few things, I thought it would be smart to get our light bulbs there, too. After all, it would save us a fifteen-minute drive and save us a fair bit of money.

Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll be going back to the big box store for light bulbs, because we didn’t find the ones we needed at our local Walmart. With that item off our list, we headed down that large aisle past the computer supplies toward the grocery section and there, right there in a display on that aisle was a selection of arts & crafts sets for kids with over 300 pieces each! They were sparkly and shiny, and I thought that would be a really good gift for our oldest great-granddaughter. This particular child is, chronologically speaking only five and a half years old, but attitude-wise she’s much older. I texted my daughter and asked her what she thought. She confirmed her granddaughter would love the set. Into the cart that big, though not fat box went, and yes, maybe I chuckled a tiny bit about all those pieces that someone else would have to worry about.

This gift would be given at and would stay at that little angel’s home.

We’d decided this year that for all the older folks—our kids, and our grandkids—we’d once again just give them some money. We had been giving gift cards, but each one costs about six dollars just to buy, and that is an expense that we don’t need. Now, if I had the energy, I could probably simply buy gifts for each of them that would cost less money than what we’re gifting. But I don’t have that energy or, frankly, the patience—the patience to wade through several stores. Our kids & grands are all of an age (my grandchildren range from 16 to 26) to prefer to get their own treasures.

But we do have three great-grandchildren with a fourth on the way, and for those little tykes, it’s gifts.
Another milestone reached: last Friday marked the one-year anniversary of my husband’s retirement. Time flies when you’re having fun. And since he’s retired, we are on a fixed income now, so we need to watch our nickels and dimes. And I must confess that we have reduced our Christmas shopping list somewhat from a couple years ago. Just gifting our kids, grandkids (including significant others) and great-grandkids, we’re talking more than 15 people. We’ve reluctantly given up buying for nieces and nephews and the greats in that category, which actually cut about 20 people from our list.

We do give what we can to the Salvation Army each year and to the local toy drive, knowing in those cases the gifts are sorely needed.

I enjoy giving and have been told I’m a little too generous. That’s not really a bad flaw to have. I don’t particularly care about receiving gifts myself. I’d rather just have visits with my family.

It’s been a very long time since all of my kids and grandkids have been together under my roof. The last time they were all of them together with us was at that retirement party the company had for my husband in October of last year. There are always issues between one’s children. One would think that being in their forties would mean my son and daughter were mature adults and capable of getting along.

The key words in the previous paragraph were, “one would think”.

My beloved reminds me that we didn’t really hit maturity until we were in our fifties, and he has a point. In the mean time, I will be content with what I can get vis-à-vis time spent with my loved ones. I keep in touch with my grandchildren by texting them regularly, and sometimes that even works with their parents!

And I’ll (hopefully) always have my memories of family gatherings past to visit whenever I feel the need to feel them close.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday's Words for November 21, 2018

My husband is nearly finished the renovations he began several weeks ago on our front entrance hallway and the staircase leading to the second story.

I’m going to be glad to see the completed result. As I mentioned a couple of essays back, he went with our granddaughter’s suggestion of a satin-finish white for the trim, to match the satin-finish beige. He agrees that the two together look quite elegant. Once he has installed the trim this week, all that will remain will be to bring down the bamboo and glass shelving unit and then reinstall the coat-hooks onto the wall (this is a piece of 2x4 upon which are affixed 6 metal coat hooks).

We have a boot tray we get out once the weather turns, and a mat we put down just inside the door—far enough away from it that the mat doesn’t catch on the door, but close enough so you don’t have to walk too far with wet boots/shoes on the linoleum tile.

I need to be really careful, because that floor is very slippery when wet. But since I am careful with every step I take, that’s not a difficult thing to remember.

My husband was rubbing his hands together at the prospect of starting his next project—the living room. I asked him to please hold off for a few weeks. The truth is, I want a bit of time without things being topsy-turvy and out of place.

The fact that I am a bit nervous about how he plans to partially move things around the room as he goes (which would have him on a ladder behind the very expensive television) has nothing to do with my reticence. Honest. Well, mostly not.

I understand that at the moment, I’m being more than a little contrary. For the last several years, my husband has had travel as his priority. That began before I became a published author. Each year, that’s where his vacation pay went. A part of me wished, at the time, that we could travel a little less and engage in at least some home improvements. But I understood how difficult it was going to be for him to turn that corner. He’d begun the renovations by putting a new roof on our house—well, he didn’t do it, but he stood by and watched as our younger son, Anthony, did. Then Anthony died and that was the end of anything resembling renovations.

In the years following, David could lay a floor—and he did a couple. But he would consider nothing connected to the renovations he’d worked on with his son. I never nagged him about this, because I believed that the time would come when he’d be able to move on.

And now my husband has finally turned that corner. His priorities have shifted, and that’s a good thing…except I find the disruption of his working on renovations that have the house in upheaval puts me in upheaval. I’m suspecting, with a kind of dazed shock, that I might be one of those women I used to scorn in my thoughts—the sort who is a miserable old biddy, impossible to please no matter what.

We did have one more budding “situation” arise just a couple of days ago, with regard to a kind of trim called “corner molding”. The plan was to put this vital piece of trim over the corners, where drywall met drywall, in order to protect it from being damaged—you know, leaned against, brushed against, bumped against, etc. We went into the city to our local Lowe's to purchase all the trim. When we got home, my husband, after he organized things, sought my opinion—something for which I am very grateful.

He held a piece of this special trim where it would go in the living room….and it went just a bit above the height of the door frames. He asked me what I thought of it. I told him it would look good, and, because I know him, I added, “if you plan to install it floor to ceiling.”

He frowned at me and said, “no, I was just going to take it to the height of the door frame.” The door frame in question, by the way, is on the adjacent wall. When I just looked at him, he said, “What? I’ve seen it done like that in lots of places.”

Now, my beloved is not above telling a teeny weenie white lie on occasion. My response was to simply shake my head. Then he admitted that he had been planning to take it to the ceiling, but the darn stuff was just so expensive! If you think my husband is parsimonious, you’re on the right track, just keep going. There’s no help for it and he completely agrees: he’s cheap.

I say that here because when we went back to the store to get the rest of the trim that he would need to reach the ceiling? Yeah, that was a whole extra twenty dollars.

I’m counting down the days to project completion. All this haggling over decisions has taken a lot out of me. 

Maybe I need a vacation.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday's Words for November 14, 2018

Hellscape. It’s a word that has entered our lexicon and is used far too often of late. It’s a word that brings to mind the ruins of an obliterated, ended world—a place with no life, no future. Barren, empty, leeched of color, bled of life.

As my husband and I have sat each evening watching the news, taking in the horror of the fires raging in California, our hearts have hurt for the affliction before us. Being both of us writers, seeing footage filmed via cell phones of those driving through the fires of hell raging on either side of them as in their vehicles, they flee for their lives, begging God to guide them….

It makes it all too vivid, imaging the last moments of those poor souls who didn’t escape, whose remains are, even now and one by one, being discovered in the burnt-out vehicles melted into the roadside. Who among us does not feel heartsick at the testimony of this carnage left behind? I think a person would have to be a complete and utter sociopath not to feel compassion for the lives ruined or lost, for homes leveled—for a reality just gone.

One would have to be devoid of humanity not to feel for the futures devastated by the miasma of uncertainty and the scars inflicted by the reality of these wildfires.

I look at the devastation before me, entire neighborhoods—hell, entire towns—wiped from the face of the earth, nothing left but ash and rubble, and I wonder how anyone can ever recover from such loss, such damage. And yet…

We know, from all the examples we have seen over the course of our lives that little is, in the end, totally insurmountable for the human spirit. I don’t know how to describe the sense of wonder I feel in the aftermath of such heartsickness, when I see people rolling up their sleeves and diving in. People beginning to build not only their own lives, but helping neighbors rebuild theirs. Be it fire or flood or deadly winds, when the calm returns, so do the people. And out of the ashes, out of the rubble, new lives arise.

Sometimes things happen, and we think that the future is ruined, that we’ll never recover or get over this horrible thing that has befallen us. Be it natural disasters or man-made ones, we are hit with these catastrophes and for a time we can’t imagine how we can possibly overcome them.

But the human spirit is indomitable. There is a time for mourning, a time for grieving, a time for letting ourselves fully absorb and process the horrible thing that has happened. And then…

The sun rises, the air blows clean, and we emerge, renewed by our faith, by our life force, by our newly refurbished appreciation not only for the fragility of life, but for the beauty of it. We behold anew not only the fallacy of humanity, but its nobility, too.

 We began our existence in caves. We lived, adapted and evolved. We connected with our God, received his Grace, and began to see the world beyond our own bodies, our own narrow existence. We reached out our hands to help our fellow humans, and in so doing, opened up the possibilities of all that, together, humanity can achieve.

There are charities dedicated to helping people whose lives have been impacted by these fires. I hope you’ll give what you can. Five dollars is five dollars, yes. By itself it’s lonely. But if one hundred million people each give only five dollars, that’s five hundred million dollars, and that is a good beginning.

Thank you to all the first responders who have been working non-stop to fight these wildfires. These are men and women who turned their focus outward, instead of inward, and they are our heroes. 


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wednesday's Words for November 7, 2018

As I told one of my good friends very recently, modern technology is a wonderful thing—until it isn’t.

Over the last few months, my cell phone had been acting up. Freezing so that I would have to turn it off and then on again and turning itself off for no apparent reason. If you know me personally, you might scoff at the concept that I’m a patient person. I suppose, since I do believe in transparency, that I need to confess that I’m not that patient at all when it comes to people. Inanimate objects are another story altogether.

My beloved maintains that’s because most people I can best, but inanimate objects clean my clock every single time. His point has merit.

Finally, however, the foibles of my phone hit the breaking point. I woke up on the 29th of October unable to turn the phone on. It had been on with a full charge when I went to bed. The next morning, nothing. I plugged it into my computer, and got the instructions on the Apple site that I needed to either update the phone, or, if that wasn’t possible, restore my phone to factory settings.

It wouldn’t update, and so restore it was—losing all my contacts in the process. And no, I did not know the contacts could be stored on the cloud. Y’all know a techie, I am not.

On Tuesday, we went to the mall, to the kiosk that represented our cell network, to get me a new phone. I expected I might have to pay for a new phone, and I was prepared for that. I never expected the process to take more than two hours.

Now, back in my day…. yeah, I hate starting a sentence with those five words, but there are times when there simply is no choice. Let me begin this stroll down memory lane by saying that my first full time position in the working world was as an accounts clerk in the credit office of a department store—one that is now defunct. This was in the day before computers were a thing in the work place. Along one wall in our office stood a line of card index files, marked A to Z. These held all the files that represented all the credit cards issued by this department store. Between each cabinet were places we could insert our headphone jacks—so that when a sales clerk called up to us from the sales floor in order to get authorization for a sales purchase, we could quickly go to the appropriate cabinet, plug in, find the customer’s ‘file’ and either approve or disapprove the purchase.

The key word in that entire paragraph was “quickly”. Customer service was to be polite, efficient, and above all, speedy.

Ah, the good old days. In those days we worked with paper, and it was a manual, painstaking activity. We’d receive the “filing” each morning, which were the credit card slips from the purchases the day before. Those were to be filed immediately to the correct accounts, so that when we were looking at a customer’s file, we could mentally add up what they’d spent so far that month and know if they had room in their credit limit for the purchase being authorized.

Now we’re in the computer age. The Internet age! The age that is beyond the space age! Calculations are performed at the speed of light…and everything, yes everything, seems to take longer.

At the thirty-minute mark, the entire time during which my husband leaned on the sales counter while I was relatively comfortable in my wheelchair, he looked at me and said, “You know, we’ve bought houses in less time than this.”

He’s a swift one, is my beloved. I giggled. The polite clerk (for he surely was that if not efficient or speedy) finally said it was just a matter of updating the new phone—which was new only in the sense it had never been used. It was an older iPhone, which was absolutely fine by me. He asked us if we could come back in forty-five minutes?

We agreed and went for lunch at one of the restaurants across the way. We luxuriated in the experience because we seriously don’t do that very much at all. We came back in an hour and a half…and still had to wait. Apparently, they were having issues with their internet reception in the mall. Imagine that. Finally, I asked the clerk to give me the phone and I would update it at home on my so-called high-speed internet. The clerk displayed speedy for the first time and had that phone, plus all my free gifts—a new case and a new portable storage unit—in the bag faster than you could say customer service.

As we were leaving the mall David said, “We must remember, next time, when one of us needs a new phone, to bring camping equipment—tent, Coleman stove, sleeping bags, air mattresses, food—and our Kindles.”

The twists and turns of life are much easier to deal with when one lives with a comedian.