Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wednesday's Words for January 30, 2019

We’re getting ready to take our first trip out of the country in a couple of years. In February, we’ll be flying to San Antonio, Texas. I’ll be appearing at a reader/author event called “Wild Wicked Weekend”. The event is hosted by author Cate Beaumont, and I gave my word two years ago I’d be there.

There will be a lot of my friends attending this event, some friends who are readers and some who are authors. Friends I’ve missed and haven’t seen in person for a very long time. So, I am very much looking forward to this—but it’s not a trek I undertake lightly, and it will require a fair bit more than my last book event in the U.S., which was quite some time ago.

Getting older is not for the faint of heart. It’s been, as I said, a couple of years since we’ve gone beyond our border. My last trip out of the country was a drive to visit friends outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana in the early fall of 2016. I managed the drive in less than eight hours and stayed with them for a few days. Prior to that, we’d gone to Pennsylvania to visit our friends in the eastern part of the state. That trip we’d taken in early July. It, too, is a single day’s drive.

In the last couple of years, we attended only one writer/reader event, and that was in 2017 and just down the road from us - a thirty-five mile drive to one of our neighboring cities. It was hosted by American author Kallypso Masters. I’ve actually never attended a Canadian event hosted by a Canadian group as a published author. The stars just never quite aligned for me.

This trip is different from the one in 2017. I have “swag” to get ready, though I’m not taking a lot, because we’re flying. I have some new pens and note pads, and I also have some book “covers”. I had wanted to take some actual print books with me for the book signing, but this whole going across the border thing makes that challenging.

When I used to go to the RT Booklover’s convention, I could arrange with the organizers of the book fair to have them get the books for me. I just had to guarantee my sales. I didn’t have to lug them and fill out forms and pay extra freight for them.

This event is a smaller a scale event than RT, and there is no bookstore organizing the signing. Most of the authors attending are self-published. That’s not a complaint by any means. It’s just the way it is. Each author is responsible for their own appearance at the venue, and for me that calls for a creative approach. So I’ve announced, several times, I won’t have books there, but that readers should feel free to bring whatever books they’d like me to sign.

The event itself is scheduled to last a few days, Thursday through Sunday. The schedule looks like fun and provides a lot of interaction between authors and readers. It doesn’t sound too overwhelming.
Ah, but there’s a catch.

For the last two years, I’ve let my age catch up with me a bit. My pace has been steady around the house, and I’ve had a routine of sorts, and I’ve kept moving, more or less. But I’m not really busy. Busy and I don’t seem get along as well as once we did. I’m really looking forward to this trip. At the same time, I know it’s going to be a challenge for me, and for David, too.

Of course, I’ve reserved a mobility scooter for myself, for the period of time I’ll be at the hotel in San Antonio. After the event, we’ll be traveling a small distance away from the major city to see friends for a few more days. We fly back to Buffalo on March first.

I’ve got my lists started, but again, I’m moving much slower than in the past. I never thought it would happen, but I strongly suspect that I’m mellowing out, where my anal tendencies are concerned.

I’m trying to decide if that’s a good thing, or not. I guess I’ll know for certain, after this event is over.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wednesday's Words for January 23, 2019

Last Saturday—all day and into the night—we finally got some snow. It was the kind of snowfall that looks innocuous. You know the kind of snowfall I mean. You peer out the window and can barely make out that snow is actually falling. The flakes don’t look like flakes, but like nearly-microscopic specks. Because the wind is blowing, you’re almost lulled into the sense that, yes, it’s sort of coming down, but the wind is carrying it away…very far away.

The sun sets, and it gets dark out. Is it still snowing? You have to look at the street light to tell. In that small circle of light you once more see those same nearly-microscopic specks. So technically, you know it is snowing. Then you look at the ground and the car, and you begin to comprehend what’s happening. It’s a silent but getting deep invasion.

Of course, you are slow to this realization because, while you looked out every hour or so, you really didn’t see much change in accumulation between the first hour and the second. But by Sunday morning—well, it was enough for me to alert our sixteen-year-old grandson that we were going to need his assistance in the “digging out” department. His mother assured me he’d be by on Sunday at some point to take care of that for us.

I like snow, if I can stay safe and warm indoors and simply peer at it outside the window. I like snow in the Christmas season especially, because, well, all those Christmas cards showing cozy cottages covered with snow, and of course the city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style…. However, Christmas is past. Mother Nature gave us a green Christmas this year, and that’s not a complaint, just an observation.

So snow is pretty to look at and I don’t mind this snowfall, as long as it doesn’t last too long.

I think the lack of the white stuff so far this year has spoiled me. Basically, I believe this is just one of those off winters. The usual situation in our neck of the woods is that we get a lot of snow, that it comes sometimes as early as October and is still here into March. I say it’s an off year because I am hearing of some places in the U.S. that are getting hammered, that usually see no snow and ice at all. I guess that’s where our snow went this season. Of course I know with global warming, everything is in flux. It would be handy if those who are deniers would wake the heck up. I’ll stop there as I don’t want to digress.

Fortunately, I don’t actually have to leave the house until later in the week, though we had planned to nip out and pick up a few things on Monday. That was easy enough to cancel. Waiting until late in the week leaves plenty of time for snow plows and shovels to come into play.

But while the snow stopped falling, the temperatures didn’t. The bone-eating cold that came on the weekend was a surprise. Yes, I check the forecast each day, and I register that it’s going down to the minus digits, Fahrenheit—but it’s a shock to the system when one actually opens the door and a block of ice tries to enter your lungs.

I don’t mind imitating a hermit. Actually, the older I get the more comfortable that state becomes. One of the questions I get asked at my doctor’s appointment every three months is this: “Do you still enjoy going out?”

That’s not a good question to ask me, because I don’t believe I’ve ever enjoyed going out. I especially don’t relish the act in winter, when I have to dress carefully for warmth, wear my boots which I sometimes need help to get on, ensure the ice claw is extended on my cane (but not until I’m at the door), and then step outside as cautiously as if I have vials of nitroglycerin strapped to the bottom of my boots and the teeniest tiniest wrong step will result in—kaboom!

Seriously, who can enjoy that? But I usually answer “yes”, because once I’m where I’m going, I always find a way to have a good time—despicable winter weather notwithstanding.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday's Words for January 16, 2019

It’s already the middle of January! And, I’m kind of sorry to have to confess this because I know what a lot of you are going through, weather-wise. But as I post this essay (January 16) we do not have any snow on the ground.

Not one bit. Zip. Zilch.

This is so not normal for where I live. You know that place, the TRUE NORTH (a phrase from our national anthem). Oh, it’s cold enough. At the moment, at eight-thirty in the morning, the temperature (in Fahrenheit) is 28 but “feels like” 18. We just don’t have any snow.

When I think back to the winters of my childhood, they featured snow mounded so high on the side of the road, after the plows went down, that those banks towered over the cars so you couldn’t see over them. We’re not talking the sleek little cars of today, either. Think 1959 Studebaker, and you know I’m referring to a heavy, steel, behemoth.

We used to make snow forts. The kids in the neighborhood—our rural neighborhood had about six counting me—would divide into two groups and build the snow forts and then we would have snowball fights. Or, if the snow was deep enough, we would make tunnels between the forts. Oh yes, we did, in the open field beside my house and, no, we didn’t know at the time how dangerous that was! We just did it and had fun.

The other winter fun thing was the natural skating area right across from my house that extended more than a quarter of a mile. In those days the land on the other side of the road was very boggy, and if the water had been deep enough when it froze, you could skate from my house to the last neighbor’s house, no problem. Of course, we had to clear off the ice, and keep it maintained (repairing any ice divots created when one of us was clumsy—but hey, that was a small price to pay for free, unlimited skating.)

I mourn the loss of those carefree times. I mourn the loss of the joy that seemed to be just there for the plucking, as you roamed and explored and did. I’d leave the house some days right after breakfast and not come back until dusk. To my knowledge, my mother never worried where I was, nor did anyone’s mother worry about them. That thought is taking me slightly off topic. But y’all are used to that, aren’t you?

Were we na├»ve? Yes, most definitely. Bad things happened to kids back then, it was just never broadcast. It isn’t that things are “worse” in the current time than in the “good old days”, necessarily. It’s that back then, no one spoke of the dangers that were lurking in the shadows for kids. Back then, there was no such thing as the twenty-four-hour news cycle. The news came on as 6 p.m. for a half hour, and that was that.

If you saw the words “Breaking News Alert” or “Special Bulletin” on your television screen, something very bad—or really exceptional—had happened.

I’m not sure why it was, that we weren’t more up front with kids in those days about the dangers they faced. As kids, we were warned “don’t talk to strangers” – but that was it. No details were offered about what dangers lay in wait if we did. There was a vague sense that a stranger might take you and you’d never see home again. Certainly, there was no warning about private space and inappropriate touching. A part of me feels as if that failure to alert and prepare kids for the dangers they could encounter was a kind of complicity—because we know today that a lot of the sexual abuse crimes committed against children are not committed by strangers, but by “trusted adults”. And not knowing of the dangers that non-strangers posed gave us all a sense of well being. It also gives a shading to the phrase and concept of “good old days” that’s completely false.

Once more, I digress.

So here we are, mid-January, no appreciable snow fall—and I’m okay with that, for this year. I know there were green Christmases here and there all through my life. And I’d rather not have to fight my way through snow and ice, thank you. Walking is difficult enough without Mother Nature’s hissy fits thrown in.

But nothing is really all good. We’re reasonably pleased, because we haven’t had to worry about digging out the car or clearing our walk as yet. However, those who make extra money in the winter by plowing are having a lean time. Those who count on snow to have their leisure activities via winter sports are also likely feeling glum about now.

I try not to be selfish when it comes to my wishes for specific weather. Sure, I’d love to see it about seventy-seven degrees the year round, with maybe a week or two of cool, crisp temps in three of our four seasons—and maybe one hot summer day. But that would be selfish. So, I’m content with however much snow we need to have in order to provide extra money for the part-time entrepreneurs and to put as much moisture in the ground as the farmers need for spring.

But beyond that? Mother Nature can keep the deep piles of that white stuff—I call it kaka (and I don’t mean the Brazilian ‘football’ player, either)—and she can take some anger management for those hissy fits, too.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wednesday's Words for January 9, 2019

I recall watching an ABC news special, a few years ago, about the amazing medical recovery of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As you may recall, Representative Giffords was attacked in January of 2011 when a man opened fire at a mall where she held a “Congress on Your Corner” event, meeting and greeting her constituents. Eighteen people in all were shot, and six people—one of whom was a nine-year-old girl—died.

After having taken a bullet to the brain, initially it was believed that if Miss Giffords did survive, she would spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state.

Of course, now we see how well recovered she is, and while she’s not back to where she was before the attack, she walks and talks and understands her world, and now, her new role in making it a better world than it had been. She didn’t let this attack send her into hiding but used her experiences to help her chart a new path.

Two of the major factors cited by many in her recovery are pure force of will—and the use of music therapy.

I have heard it said that music is a universal language, and I believe that’s true. I also believe that music accomplishes more to the benefit of our bodies, our minds and our spirits than we truly know right now. The science isn’t there yet, but I believe that music is as fundamentally necessary to a healthy and happy existence as is food, air, water, and shelter.

I’m at that point in my life when sometimes, words escape me. I have to really think to remember things that a few years ago, I had no problem recalling. Our brains do change as we age, and that is something I’ve long known. The fact that I’m pushing 65, and that I do have several health issues means I’m not surprised to have a few lapses here and there. It doesn’t really bother me, at least not overly much.

A couple of weeks ago, I was going through my iTunes library. I wanted to make a Christmas play list on my PC. As I looked down the list of songs that I had purchased over the last several years, I saw that I had music I’d forgotten that I had (my library consists of more than 800 songs, a realization that left me a little slack-jawed).

There was a girl-group that was quite popular in 1990, when they came out with their debut album. They were active for a few years, and then fell off the radar, returned in 2004, and then made a comeback again in 2010 and are, according to what I can tell, still performing on stage.

The group’s name is Wilson Phillips, and their first big hit, Hold On, hit so many non-musical chords for me, that it quickly became my favorite song of all time. Well, until it was superseded by the next one.

That’s my usual relationship with music. I love so much of it and times change, and my favorite song, if I have one, depends on the moment I’m in. Right now, I have two: This Is Me, from the Greatest Showman, and Baba Yetu (The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili), by Christopher Tin.

So, there I was, in the last two weeks of 2018, doing a mental fist-pump because I had discovered that I have two Wilson-Phillips songs in my iTunes library: Hold On, and Release Me.

Task at hand completely forgotten (and that does happen fairly often), I put on the headphones, turned up the volume, and listened to the opening chords of that first hit. And then…I began to sing when the group did. To my astonishment, I remembered ever word, every pause, every extra little “uh-huh” along the way.

It was the most wonderful moment for me, because it was a moment when I realized that, as much as I focus on moving, and playing a couple of strategy games each day to keep my body and mind active, I realized there was one more thing I should be doing at least once a week, too. Something that really lifted me up and made me feel younger.

I need to do this more often—put on those headphones and reconnect with songs I have loved in the past…and maybe, who knows, it might prove to be the tonic I need, if not physiologically, then at least emotionally.

If you have access to music and a few minutes to yourself every day, I recommend that you do the same. Music not only soothes the savage beast; it can give us respite, and calm our busy, modern-day souls.

Music lifts us up and leaves us better than it found us—and that’s a wondrous thing.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Wednesday's Words for January 2, 2019

Happy New Year!

Thinking back, I’m willing to admit I may have grown up with some “different” notions on things—notions that in this day and age may not make any sense. For example, when I was a kid, it was held that Christmas was for children but New Year’s? Oh, baby, that was all about the grown-ups. I thought that meant, you know, adults partying along with Guy Lombardo at the Waldorf Astoria on their TVs, dancing at a club, the big ball at Times Square…and the endless toasts, the silly hats, and the noisemakers and confetti. You can’t forget the noisemakers and the confetti!

Now that I’m one of those grown-ups, I have come to the conclusion that this really is an amazing time of year for adults. For a few brief hours, we adults can let go of our sour moods, our cares, and the weight of the world that is constantly dragging us down. For just a breath of time, we can believe once more that anything is possible. It’s a time of new beginnings, and as we enter the New Year, as that clock chimes and the sound of Auld Lang Syne rings in our ears, we can once more feel that everything is new again—yes, even if only for a brief moment.

We’re not indulging in silly pipe dreams or flights of fancy, we’re simply celebrating the New Year!

I always feel that way, every New Year’s—and I don’t go out anywhere in order to feel it. It’s a right here in my humble home kind of feeling—likely a right here inside my mind sort of thing. This is not a logical thing, it’s completely emotional and subjective and yes, I know that in many cases it’s not based on any facts what-so-ever. Nope, it’s an off-shoot of pure living, made of pure emotion, and in thinking about the fact that it is both of those things, I have come to another conclusion.

If some people can avow with a serious looking face that truth is not truth, or that truth is unknowable, then I can say any conclusion I may draw based purely on emotion is valid and true.

This sense of new beginnings is the reason I’ve always considered spring to be my favorite season. The air smells fresh and new, there are new buds on the trees, and new flower shoots poking above the ground. It doesn’t matter how bad the winter just past has been, that sense of newness abounds.

With spring comes nature’s new birth, a sign that life does indeed carry on and the future is waiting for us to make it.

That said, I do not make any New Year’s resolutions. Yes, I know it’s a tradition, but not all traditions are necessarily good ones, as far as I’m concerned. And this one is just a giant trap, in my humble opinion, waiting to gobble me up. Created, no doubt, by someone who believed that where there is hope, there must also be disappointment.

And should anyone press me about this failure on my part, I have the perfect answer. I do not need to make resolutions for the New Year as I am asked to make them on a regular enough basis as it is. 

Allow me to explain: Every three months, I go to the doctor. I’m a diabetic, type 2, and so this is my quarterly diabetic check up. I go for blood work a few days before my appointment, so that when I get there, the doctor and nurse can see all my important medical information, including what they call a “six-month sugar” level. And every three months, at this appointment, I am asked what my goals are for the next three months.

I don’t want to portray myself as a difficult patient. I’m really not. But this is silly. I’m not a person who makes new goals every three months; I’m a long-game sort of gal. So I give them the same two goals, every three months—to keep moving, and to stay alive. They’ve also encouraged me to have a “minimum step per day” target, since I do in fact wear a step-counter.

It’s a Fitbit these days, but in past days I had a step counter pinned to the waist of my slacks. Healthy adults should aim for ten thousand steps a day. My stated goal at the moment is four thousand, but in fact I am managing between four and six thousand most days, depending. I even, every once in a while, hit that magical ten-thousand step count, but not while my arthritis is in flare-up mode.

By anyone’s definition, four to six thousand steps a day is moving, even if it isn’t at a “brisk walk”. At this point in my life I’m not capable of a brisk anything. So it’s one foot in front of the other, and I ensure I get up every hour, and I take whatever progress I can get.

I always keep “staying alive” as a goal because—well, who wouldn’t? I usually call it “staying on top of the grass”. Those were words said to me in a chat/bingo room when I first went on line in the aftermath of my open-heart surgery, back in December 2002. The “room” was filled with women, older women, most of whom had health issues. I disclosed my sad story—yes I did feel sorry for myself for a few months as I coped with this major life change at the ripe old age of 48—and one sweet lady, who was a paraplegic and also a shut-in, typed, “Morgan! Stay on top of the grass!”

Her command made me laugh and was the moment I began to not feel so sorry for myself. She gave me good advice, don’t you think? So I keep that as a non-negotiable resolution the year round, and consider that it, along with the determination to keep moving, are really the only two all year’s resolutions I really need.

I hope this new year of 2019 is a good year for your and yours. And I hope all y’all keep moving and stay on top of the grass.