Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wednesday's Words for November 27, 2019

From everything I’ve seen posted by and heard in conversations with my American friends over the last few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that today—the day before Thanksgiving—is one of the busiest days of the year for y’all.

It’s busy because so many people plan to go home for this celebration. There are more people flying and driving the Interstate system in the United States in preparation for this holiday this week than for any other.

And it’s busy because, with so many people heading home for the Thanksgiving Day feast, there are more turkeys being purchased and cooked, more yams, more green bean casseroles, more stuffing, and more pumpkin pie than at any other time during the year. That food doesn’t cook itself. Moms and Dads across America will be cooking up a storm today and tomorrow.

And lately, it’s been busy because of “Black Friday” - the big every-where-you-look retail sales events that draw in those wishing to find the perfect bargain, and those who are wanting to get a jump on their Christmas shopping.

I have a friend who does all of her Christmas shopping on Black Friday. Most of the time she avoids big cities and shopping like the plague. She loves the quiet of her rural Indiana life and the absence of crowds from her daily experience. She prefers to stay at home, really not enjoying traveling at all. But her own personal family tradition sees her and her two daughters heading off to the malls for a huge shopping blitz the day after Turkey Day.

Yes, we here in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving (a month earlier than you) and have even begun to have our own Black Friday sales. But despite that, I consider Thanksgiving to be a uniquely American holiday. Our sharing a continent as well as a language and a popular culture, and a history up until the Revolution—all of which has been entwined like a giant licorice Twizzler—means that we naturally assume some of your customs. I hope you don’t mind, since they do say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

From where I’m sitting, here north of the 49th, it appears that Thanksgiving Day in the United States is also the unofficial start of the Christmas season. I wonder if that has anything to do with the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York City? Santa is always at the end of that event, which suggests a natural segue from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

I know that I’ve observed in the past that our two countries do uphold similar traditions when it comes to Thanksgiving. The ones I’ve cited have mostly been related to food. But there is another tradition that I’ve seen evidence of this past year, especially, and on both sides of our border.

I do a fair bit of lurking on social media, and there are many people who take the opportunity to write, at this time of year, about the things for which they’re most grateful. Some people take to blogs, and some just to Face Book to post one thing every day that they’re thankful for. That is one Thanksgiving tradition I hope lasts far into the future, for the people of both our countries.

It’s fitting, from time to time, to take a few moments, and to meditate on the things we have in our lives for which we should give thanks. Like most of you, I put my family and friends at the top of that list. I’m grateful for the house I live in, and the heat that keeps me warm as the winter winds howl outside. I’m grateful for the life I live. We’re not wealthy, my husband and I, but we have enough. We have some independence, and can pretty much do most of what we choose. I’m grateful for the ability to write, and for the joy I receive when I hear from those who read my books, or my essays. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’m given to reach out and touch others, to give a hand, or a hug, or a heartfelt word of encouragement.

I’m grateful for each new dawn, for each new sunset, and for every breath I draw. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, not for any of us. So while I am here, and I can do so, I will continue to be grateful.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wednesday's Words for November 20, 2019

I promised y’all a report on our new bed. I didn’t forget, but I did want to give it more than a week before I reported in. We’ve had our new bed now for 13 nights. It arrived on the Thursday, just three days after we traveled to the really big city (population over 5 million) and tested the Casper mattresses out.

We knew it was coming that morning. So my husband had already pulled the old mattress and box spring out of the bedroom and taken down the old bed frame—a frame meant for a boxed spring. Our new frame doesn’t need a boxed spring, which made it perfect for our new mattress. We did discover in this dismantling process that our headboard, consisting of gold colored metal made to resemble a brass-style headboard, could not, as I’d hoped, be used with the new frame. It was, in fact, and like the rest of the old bed set, done. Some of the vertical bars were broken, and so it, too, went the way of the mattress and boxed spring, to the town dump.

We did salvage our latest memory-foam bed topper which was under a year old. I washed the bamboo cover, and then asked our second daughter if she would like it. She not only was happy to take it, she loves it.

No sooner had the bedroom been cleared, and the new frame assembled than the UPS driver arrived. The mattress came, as advertised, in a box. Our daughter was on hand to help David unpack that box. They’d never done this before, but they had a plan going in. Now folks, just because I am not physically able to do the things I used to do, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t involved in the process.

I, dear friends, was the peanut gallery. And it was the most fun I’d had in a while.

They opened the box, and I reminded them not to use the box cutter on the plastic binding the rolled up tighter-than-a-spring mattress - in case they damaged the mattress. Oh, did I forget to mention to them that it was likely rolled up tighter than a spring? I didn’t forget, that was a test. We received the last bed topper via UPS, it came tightly rolled, and that was kind of fun to open. David opened it, so therefore, I just assumed he knew what to expect. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. He should have known what was coming. Queen sized mattress in a box that is much, much smaller looking than a queen-sized mattress—well, you do the math.

After considerable grunting and a little cussing, the wrapped mattress was out of the box, looking like an over-sized, cylindrical marshmallow. I helped by taking the box out of our bedroom (where this exercise was taking place).

They decided—my husband and my daughter—that they would begin to take the plastic off the mattress on top of the bed frame. They began to carefully cut the white plastic, and then realized it could be unrolled. With each tug, the mattress rolled away from them. And so, they tugged, then re-positioned the mattress, and they tugged and re-positioned. Several times. I, being clever, stood back. As far back as I could without leaving the room.

Husband: “There sure is a lot of plastic on this.”
Daughter: “Don’t they know about the global plastic pollution crisis?”
Me: I didn’t say a word, I just waited.

It didn’t take long. There always has to be a point of no return. They reached it. Yes, before the plastic was completely removed, it had been reduced enough that what remained of it could not hold that mattress from trying to free itself from its earthly bonds.

Drama was called for, so I said, “Oh my! Look out! There it goes!”

The tugging became decidedly more energetic, and slightly frantic, but of course it’s hard for people to work with alacrity when they’re laughing hard. The last of the plastic had to be tugged from around the completely unbound, almost at full thirteen-inch height mattress. At that point David remembered there were adhesive strips on the bed frame. That was worth a chuckle, too, because they had to lift the mattress and tug the protective plastic off those strips one-by-one. With the mattress still on the bed.

It took only minutes for the mattress to be ready for linens. There had been a lot of plastic, and it did go out into the trash. The box has made a wonderful dog-den for one of my daughter’s chihuahuas who loves boxes. And I have a comedic encore to look forward to. I look forward to that time, six months in the future when it is time to rotate the mattress—they recommend every six months re-positioning it, so that where your head was is where your feet will be. We’ll see how good those adhesive strips are then, won’t we?

As for our new bed? What a joy it was for me to wake up the next morning without a sore and aching back. David also loves it. He, too, is sleeping better, and waking up much less sore. With the level of arthritis that I have, no bed is going to let me wake up completely pain free. When one joint flares up, well, that’s that for however long it lasts. At the moment my left hip isn’t playing nice, but that will ease off. In the meantime, this bed is proving to be all that we’d hoped it would be.

It’s low enough that I don’t have to “climb in” and high enough that I can transition from sitting to standing with no effort at all. And when I do get into it, I can move, up or down, side to side, without feeling as if I need a handle to hang on to, for support.

So far, each night has been a bit better than the last as we grow accustomed to what soon will be our new normal. Sleeping is better, deeper, and far and away more comfortable than it’s been in years.

And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday's Words for November 13, 2019

It’s altogether too easy, sometimes, to forget the hard-learned lessons humanity has faced throughout history. In our own lifetimes, we’ve witnessed the repetition of some of those lessons because they weren’t, obviously, learned the first or even second go-round.

We read that there will be wars, and rumors of wars, and indeed, that is one lesson that we seem fated to repeat over and over again. From the most ancient of times until today, we’ve not yet learned the art of living in society while curbing our greedy or aggressive tendencies. War is aggression, and whether we’re the one’s being belligerent or the ones fighting against the hostility, aggression and/or the thirst for power, another form of greed right up there with the craving for ideological supremacy, tends to be what’s at the heart of nearly every war in recorded history.

On Monday just passed we paused to celebrate our veterans and to commemorate the lives lost in the wars of the last two centuries—this one, and the one in which I was born. For until we as humans stop producing other humans who are aggressive and/or greedy—for power, for money or for ideological supremacy—wars will inevitably be waged. Those who had attempted to subvert our democracy in the 1930s and 1940s needed to be defeated in order to preserve the freedom they challenged. As to the first Great War—World War 1, the war for which the date of armistice was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, that began as a European conflict that, as the name implies, went global. A family feud, some historians have said, that simply got out of hand.

There might be some who believe that the transgression of the First World War wherein 15 to 19 million people died was punished by the appearance the Spanish Influenza pandemic that occurred in 1918—the last year of that war. Of the estimated 500 million people who were infected by that disease, an estimated 20 to 50 million people died. More than likely, since it was the first time there had been a great movement of humans globally, the disease was spread further and wider than it might otherwise have been.

At the time, those infected represented fully one third of the population of this planet. That’s jaw-dropping, as is the statistic that potentially 69 million people died in the four year span from 1914-1918.

It is necessary for us to remember that men and women have died, fighting those who would impose their will upon us. That’s the big picture, looking at it from thirty-thousand feet. But let’s not forget, ever, to look at history up close and personal. Let’s open our eyes, and our hearts, and see the families affected—the armchair that Father always sat in after supper as he read the paper. A chair forever after vacant and wanting. A family grieving for sons or daughters, mothers or fathers, families ripped apart, forever bleeding, forever grieving, never completely whole again, because of the fatalities of war.

Sacrifice, in all it’s horrific and holy forms, leaves an indelible mark, demanding remembrance.

We must never forget; but more, we must always remember. Not just on Veterans or Remembrance Day, and on Memorial Day. No, we must remember every day. 

When we listen to the debates of our parliaments and legislatures, we must remember. When our leaders tell us that we need to send our blood and treasure into harms way, we must remember. Let’s take the words of the British poet, Laurence Binyon, in his most famous work, “For the Fallen” to heart:

                    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
                                     We will remember them.

 As long as we never forget, as long as we strive to always remember the awful toll of war, we at least stand a chance of maybe, finally, someday, learning this lesson that history serves us on a continuous, solemn and never-ending loop. 


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Wednesday's Words for November 6, 2019

Time, that heartless being, marches on without a single “by your leave” or “thank you very much.” It’s beyond frustrating, sometimes. In fact, it can be downright scary.

My beloved and I continue to punish ourselves each evening by watching way too much news and talking-head type shows. We never knew we had these masochistic tendencies until just a few years back when all hell broke loose. Only a few years, you ask. I know. It feels like for-ev-er!

Meanwhile, our walnut tree has finished dropping its leaves and its walnuts. We can now park and walk beneath it without fear of being hit by a fat green falling missile. There are a lot of leaves to be dealt with, of course. Now if it would only dry out some, just for a few days, David would get his handy blower going and we would bag those suckers for the town to carry away.

Every year this time, we have a race between us and Mother Nature. Will those leaves get bagged and tagged before the snow flies? Or will we wake up to a deep, white blanket covering nature’s refuse? It’s such a tough question and such a close call that Vegas doesn’t even post odds on it! My husband declares he really doesn’t care, one way or the other.

Whether he blows ‘em and bags ‘em or good old M.N. dumps snow on ‘em, the immediate result is the same: they are out of sight. And that, for him, is the bottom line.

Back in 2003, my beloved and I went shopping for a new mattress. We’d always just bought what was on sale and once, in a move I am still proud of, lucked into a feather mattress that someone had put out for spring collection. It must have been a gift, and something the person tossing it hadn’t liked as it was still in plastic. Feather mattresses are different, but for us? We could not believe our luck.

That feather mattress was amazing, and it lasted well, but it was time for us to buy something substantial, something that would guarantee good sleep. Since I was no longer working outside the home, I told David we would get whatever worked for him.

He chose the mattress, and it was the most expensive one we’d ever purchased—over one thousand dollars! But the money had been part of a wonderful and unexpected thank-you gift from his employer who’d sold his family business to a big company, and so we got the mattress without a second thought.

After about five months, David decided it was too hard. Then began a series of different bed toppers and then, finally, memory foam pads. We fared well, replacing the memory foam a couple of times. We love that foam.

Now the thing about memory foam is that it works really well as long as the mattress beneath it is in good shape.

Finally, the day came that we realized we just weren’t that comfortable anymore. The bed let us know it was near to being done. The box spring had become broken, and when we discovered that in July, our daughter gave us her queen sized one, because she couldn’t get it up the stairs. We thought we’d solved the problem, but alas, no. The mattress was also, as the saying goes, “pooched”. And so followed the discussion—what will we do? Now that discussion began at about the same time we began to really notice those commercials for the mattresses that come in a box. The adds swore that it would be the most comfortable bed you’ve ever owned. We were intrigued and wanted to know if it could be true. They’re guaranteed for ten years which is, by the way, about how long a mattress is supposed to last.

The mattresses could be ordered online, but while I might buy some things that way, a mattress is not one of them. How do I know if it’s as good as advertised? And they’re not cheap, by the way! In fact, they’re more than the one expensive one we bought sixteen years ago.

So this past Monday we traveled an hour and a half away to the very big city of Toronto and visited a store that sells these mattresses. They had four different models set up to try, and we did. We found the one we wanted on the second try, and seriously, it was the one we’d thought we would get. How did it feel?

Here is my considered, word-smith honed response to that question: Oh. My. Goodness.

We bought the bed and they promised it would be delivered within the week. I received the shipping notice yesterday: it arrives today! I’m certain that in next week’s essay, I’ll let you know how it is.

I believe there is nothing more important, at any age but especially at mine, as a really good night’s sleep. I am so looking forward to that!