January 21, 2015

  • Looking for Pen Pals

    I usually avoid making New Year’s resolutions and instead focus on a few achievable goals for the coming year. One of my goals for last year was to not eat any fast food hamburgers in 2014. I failed that one within about ten days. I then amended that goal to no more than one fast food hamburger per month. I’m not sure how long it took me to fail the amended goal, but I did become more aware of the amount of fast food I eat and when I eat it (usually when I’m in the middle of a busy day of appointments and errands and only have a short time to grab lunch).  If Culver’s would just go away and Arby’s would show up in our area, I know I’d do much better with the hamburger goal. I made other goals last year; some I achieved and some I failed, but I feel that I’m better for at least making an attempt at self-improvement.

    This year, I wasn’t going to make any goals or resolutions; I thought I’d just keep plugging away at last year’s goals and that would be enough to keep me busy. And then one day I was writing a letter to my uncle (well, technically I was typing the letter because these days when I write a letter by hand it must be followed by a pain pill) and it occurred to me that I don’t write letters to people very often anymore. I’ve fallen into the habit of keeping in touch with people through Facebook and email, even my uncle, whose email address I don’t know and who isn’t on Facebook. I was sending messages to my cousin on Facebook and asking him to pass them on to his father for me. How pathetically lazy is that? I know I could call, but I get anxiety attacks about calling people. I worry that I’m calling at an inconvenient time, or that the person I’m calling doesn’t like to talk on the phone (like me), or that I’ll get caught up in catching up and forget the reason for my call and have to call again right after hanging up. I know I’m neurotic, but feel free to point it out in the comments.

    So anyway, I was writing this letter to my uncle and the thought occurred to me that I used to write a lot of letters to family and friends and I almost never write real, physical letters anymore except my weekly missive to my mother. Maybe I should set a goal to write more letters to more people this year. No, it should be more than a goal, it should be a resolution! And so I made my first New Year’s resolution in many years. I will need some dedicated pen pals to help me keep my resolution; friends who will also resolve to write and mail physical letters to me. Imagine the fun of finding a letter from a friend in your mailbox instead of a 12-word text in your phone’s message box or a five-sentence email in your inbox; a real letter you have to unfold and hold in your hand, or a greeting card with a handwritten message inside, or a postcard from some cool or obscure or weird place. Wouldn’t that be fun to find tucked in among the bills and flyers and catalogs?

    I’m pretty sure I can count on a few of my Xanga and Facebook friends to step up to the plate and be my pen pals. It would be really fun if we had a sort of circle of pen pals with everyone writing to everyone else once a month. Is anyone interested in doing this with me? Will you be my pen pal?

     

January 14, 2015

  • Proof that I'm not the biggest idiot out there!

    Yesterday when I woke up, I said to myself, "Self, you are not going to need the pain pills today." After Monday, when I was in so much pain already and then my van got stuck in the bottom of the driveway and I had to shovel enough of the wet, heavy snow out from under it to rock it back forward and fishtail to the top of the driveway, then walk where I needed to go in the bitter cold, I was determined to think positive about Tuesday and started giving myself a pep talk the second I opened my eyes. And then I rolled over and the pain in my back made me groan. I pushed myself up to a sitting position and the pain in my wrist made me wince. I stood up and the pain in my foot made me say a word I don't usually use. I picked up the water bottle on my nightstand and the pain in my thumb made me question why I was even bothering to get up. I took my first step and the pain in my big toe made me stop and say, "REALLY? MY BIG TOE?!"

    I hobbled downstairs and looked at the thermometer, which showed ZERO degrees which, Brett told me later, was much warmer than when he got up. That was the first thing I did downstairs; the second thing I did was take a pain pill because I am willing to admit defeat when that much is stacked against me. The pill makes me drowsy, so I spent the morning writing a letter to my Mom, taking a shower, washing my hair, and cleaning out a cupboard. My laptop... well, perhaps I should back up before I tell this part.

    New paragraph for a back story. My laptop has given me nothing but trouble since the day I got it. I've been very disappointed in it and I absolutely HATE Windows 8. Shortly after I got this laptop, Windows 8.1 came out and was offered as a free download to all the angry Windows 8 users. I immediately tried to download it, but my laptop would never complete the download, or it would not install the download, or whatever else it could throw in the way of making itself a useful tool instead of just a Tool. This has been going on for almost a year. Last Friday our wireless printer suddenly decided it would no longer print, so I bought a new one on Saturday and Brett set it up and, of course, my laptop wouldn't work with it. Brett spent most of a day tinkering with my laptop and finally got it to work with the printer. Whatever he did, it made the Windows 8.1 download finally finish. Yesterday morning it began to install, which I discovered as I was typing that letter to Mom and a window popped up warning me that my computer would restart in 14 minutes. Nothing like a deadline to get me to finish rambling... Anyone want to break in here?

    So I finished the letter with about a minute to spare before my computer shut down and restarted. It was grinding away, slowly updating the software, so I went and took a shower, washed my hair, dried it, got dressed, put on makeup, came back downstairs and it was grinding away slowly installing the updates, so I put on my boots, coat and gloves and went out into the cold to clear the snow off my van, scrape the ice off the windows, clear ice buildup off the windshield wipers and warm up the engine. I came back inside to check on progress and the laptop was still grinding away slowly setting up the software. So I drove to the post office, the grocery store, and since the sun was shining and it wasn't very windy, I decided to go to the pier in St. Joseph and see if the lighthouse was still frozen.

    Short answer: Yes. But when did I ever do a short post? I walked out on the south pier to get a view of the lighthouse across the river channel on the north pier. Here are the two things I'd forgotten since last time I walked on the frozen pier. 1. There is snow on the pier - several inches - but it's laying on top of several inches of sheer ice. I'd forgotten that I needed to stay in the snowy footprints of whoever had walked the pier before me, and I had to walk very slowly and keep my eyes on where I was placing my feet because there were also balls of ice like huge marbles underfoot and I wanted to avoid them as much as possible. Here are some photos of the level of ice I was dealing with on this little walk on the pier.

    DSC08095

     

    DSC08092

    DSC08093

    That wall of ice at the top of the last photo was my destination. That is where the safety railing ends on the pier and I was going no further. I didn't realize somebody was behind me as I minced and stumbled down the pier, but I had reached about the point where I took that last photo when a voice behind me said, "Excuse me, my name is Kyle. Would you take my picture?" We walked the rest of the way to the icy safety railing and he posed like a GQ model while I took photos with his phone. When he wandered off, I took a few photos with my poor dying camera and a couple with my phone.

     

    1.13 nav beacon

    The ice coated navigation beacon at the end of the pier, and some insane people.

    1.13 lighthouse

    The lighthouse on the north pier.

    1.13 outer light

    Closeup of the ice encased outer light.

    I didn't waste much time taking the photos. The sun was so bright, it was hard to see what I was shooting; I was pretty much aiming and hoping for the best. I then headed back up the pier toward the parking lot and this is when I discovered that there was a breeze blowing. I hadn't felt it on the way down the pier because my back was to it and it wasn't strong enough to feel through my coat and all the layers of clothing I was wearing. By this time, it might have been up to 13 degrees and this was when I remembered the second thing about last time I walked on the pier in the winter. 2. My hair froze. Okay, a snow squall had blown in about the time we got to the pier on that occasion; Tuesday was sunny and clear, so my hair should be okay. But the cold breeze blowing into my face was making my eyes water and my tears were freezing. Not like glass covering my eyes and cheeks, more like my eyes getting gummed up and a thick mucous impairing my vision. I had to stop every few steps, remove a glove, push up my glasses and clear my eyes. It was a long trip back to the beginning of the pier. I knew when I passed the buried benches that I was finally getting close to the parking lot.

    1.13 south pier

    I stopped on my way home to grab some lunch and arrived home feeling quite tired, but surprisingly in less pain than that with which I'd begun the day. I was pleased that I'd had the courage to walk out on the icy pier alone, that I didn't fall, and that there were bigger idiots than me out there who ventured past the safety railing and onto the part of the pier that is indistinguishable from the ice covered lake. It's always nice to know you're not the biggest idiot in the room... or on the pier.

January 12, 2015

  • Je Suis Francais

    I am not a huge fan of President Obama, but I am not a rabid Obama hater, either. It seems that no matter what he does or doesn’t do, he will be vilified by the extreme right, just as Bush was by the extreme left, just as Clinton was by the extreme right, and so on all the way back to George Washington who was probably the only universally loved President of these United States. I don’t believe Obama is the Antichrist (everyone knows Clinton was the Antichrist and there can be only one). I don’t believe he forged his birth certificate. I don’t believe he hates America. I have many conservative friends and family members who do believe most of those things and I still love them because I do not allow politics to affect my fondness for family and friends. I am confident that all of my friends and family are just as tolerant of me and my centrist opinions.

    So the latest complaint against our President is that he did not attend the rally in Paris. So far I’ve only heard Americans complaining about that, in all likelihood the same Americans who would be outraged that he ran off to Paris on the taxpayer’s dime if he’d gone. Here’s what I think.

    1. France is on high alert for more terrorist attacks. The situation there is still chaotic. The rally looks chaotic. I would be leery about sending the U.S. head of state into that chaos and potential danger.
    2. The catchphrase “Je Suis Charlie” may be part of the problem. A motto for freedom, a motto for patriotism, a motto for nationalism, a motto for humanitarianism… any would have worked, but for our President to stand with the people of France and proclaim with them, “I Am Charlie,” would be asking a lot. From what I’ve seen and read about the Charlie Hebdo publication, to identify with them is to identify as hating Islam, Christianity, Judaism and all other religions. It’s to accept with indulgence the mocking of victims of mass murder and the deaths of world leaders. The magazine’s official motto was “Stupid and Nasty” (at least in its early incarnation), and its current name “Charlie” is a sly reference to Charles de Gaulle, whose death the magazine mocked resulting in the magazine being banned under its old name.

    The magazine may have been stupid and nasty, but the murder of its staff was violent and stupid and self-defeating. I fell in love with France when I was there for a few days in 2008. I fell in love with the French countryside, French food, the French people,  and this city-hating small town girl even fell in love with Paris. It breaks my heart that the people of that beautiful country are experiencing the violence and fear of terrorism, but as a person of conscience I cannot say, “Je suis Charlie.” I will say instead, “Je suis francais.” And I will abstain from criticizing our President for anything more than being too quick to react to criticism.

January 11, 2015

  • Same old stuff, and a big wreck

    Well, winter finally found us after a rainy December. The temperature has been reminiscent of last winter's polar vortex, but I'm happy to say the snow is not six feet deep. There is snow several inches deep and the extreme cold is keeping the roads icy, but if you are reading this on Sunday, chances are we got all the way up into the upper 20s today and the road salt is finally able to do its job.

    I'm sure most of you have seen photos and videos of the huge accident that happened in Battle Creek, about an hour northeast of our area. (Here's a LINK to a video of the end of the pileup if you haven't seen it.) The last number I heard was 193 vehicles in that one. There were several other large chain-reaction crashes on interstates and highways throughout the southern half of Michigan on the same day (Friday), but that was the largest and, with the fireworks exploding, the most spectacular and, with the formic acid spill, the messiest. Last I heard the acid had not been pumped out of the tanker due to the pump freezing. Because the hazardous material was still there, that section of the interstate hadn't been cleared of wrecked vehicles yet and was still closed. That may have changed in the past few hours. (EDIT: Just saw on the news it's still closed.)

    There were a couple of pileups right here in our area, one just about 10 miles south of us on I-94 and one about the same distance south of us on U.S. 31. There were a couple on I-80 just over the border in Indiana, and one over in the Ann Arbor area that would have been the big story if not for the Battle Creek wreck with the fireworks and acid. After following all those updates all day, I opted to postpone grocery shopping in the next village and only left the house to walk to the post office. I'm glad I had a fistful of bills and a couple of letters to mail, because all I found in my mailbox were two invitations from Lifescan to have my body cavities probed (I'm assuming... I never actually open those letters).

    I did need to get to the grocery store today and had to wait until noon for the temperature to get into double digits before I went out and cleared the snow and ice off my van. It was ridiculously cold, but the sun was shining which makes the ridiculous cold a bit more bearable. The grocery store was a complete madhouse. After three days of snow, bitter cold, icy roads and closed schools, everybody in the county was buying groceries to be prepared for the next onslaught. After two hours of battling bodies and carts and employees stocking shelves, I got in the slowest checkout lane in the universe and, because I'd been too busy and distracted all morning to remember to eat breakfast or lunch, I spent my time pondering the irony of dying of starvation with a cartload of groceries. I am too painfully honest to open anything until I've paid for it, or I'd have been munching on pita chips and roasted garlic hummus while I waited. There was a very annoying family in front of me; the husband and wife too loud, too jolly and too indulgent with their son. The little boy too bratty. As the cashier was finally finishing up with them, the boy parked himself in front of the candy and refused to budge. I was tired and in a considerable amount of pain which was making me very cranky and while the parents tried to cajole the brat to join them so they could leave, I slowly pushed my cart forward to force him to move. He was trying to make his parents buy him candy, but I thwarted him. He then stood in front of my cart and taunted me, so I started picking up candy to put in my cart. Yes, I'm mean to young children, but usually only when they deserve it.

    My evil techno mojo has struck again. First my camera began to die. I've had trouble with the zoom on it for quite a while now. Just before Christmas I tried to shoot some video of the too-tacky-to-not-be-on-purpose Christmas decorations around the corner from us and when I watched the video I could hear the camera motor, and when I zoomed there was a clicking sound. I think it's going to completely die before long. Then yesterday, right after I printed a four-page letter, our wireless printer decided it would no longer print with black ink. Brett tried everything to fix it, but nothing worked. The black ink cartridge was almost brand new, and the three color cartridges are still half full so if you use HP 564 ink in your printer, let me know and I'll mail them to you. I bought a new printer today. I was able to return an unopened package of color ink cartridges for a store card, so that was $30 less out of pocket which was nice. Brett set the printer up and it worked with his tablet and his PC in the basement and my Kindle, but not with my laptop. It took about four hours of him tinkering with it before he got it to work. Stupid Windows 8. I had the same sort of problem with the old printer. I don't think the solution was the same, but I remember it was a major hassle to get it to work with my stupid laptop with stupid Windows 8. Brett has heard good things about Windows 10, so we are hoping my evil techno mojo doesn't kill my laptop before Windows 10 is standard. And when the time comes to replace this rotten laptop, rest assured I will not be getting another Dell. As Brett was struggling to find what was causing the problem, he quoted that old commercial, "Dude... you got a Dell!"

    So, back to my update. I bought a half tank of gas for under $20 today. That was nice. With a printer added to two weeks' worth of groceries, I limped out of Meijer quite a bit poorer than I limped into it and was glad I'd filled my gas tank on the way there. I am not taking arthritis medication anymore, but have some non-narcotic pain pills which I take very sparingly. I took two today and still hurt. After a month of attempting to grow my hair out a bit, I gave up and had it chopped off. I'm just too impatient to spend more than five minutes a day on my hair and it was inching up toward 10 minutes to dry it and was threatening to need some curling iron action. Ain't nobody got time for that.

    That pretty much catches you up on my life. Whining about winter, whining about technology problems, whining about getting old... yep that about covers it. Ow... now I'm having muscle spasms in my foot. If it's not better by Monday, I may have to get a pedicure. The things we have to endure as we age.

January 1, 2015

  • 2014 Movie Review

    It’s time for my annual wrap-up of the past year. It probably won’t be much of a wrap-up this time; I kind of stopped keeping track of some of the stuff I usually blog about, like the books I read and my favorite photos. I may be able to scrape up a few photos to share later. One thing I did keep up with was movies I saw at the theater in 2014. I even wrote little five-words-or-less reviews on the ticket stubs. It was not a great year for new movies; luckily, our theater showed a series of “classics” over the summer and I went to several of them. Those were my favorite movies this year, but there were a few new ones that weren’t too bad. Following is a list of the movies I saw and the reviews I wrote on the ticket stubs.

    The Lego Movie - “Awesome!”
    Monuments Men - “Weird”
    Jack Ryan: Shadow Agent - “Uneven. Didn’t like Keira Knightly.”
    Casablanca - “Beautiful”
    North By Northwest - “Loved”
    The Muppets Most Wanted - “Funny”
    Noah - “Not sure what to think.”
    Captain America: The Winter Soldier - “Very enjoyable”
    The Princess Bride - “Wonderful!”
    Roman Holiday - “Loved”
    Maleficent - “Good”
    Jersey Boys - “Fun”
    Earth to Echo - “Terrible movie”
    Guardians of the Galaxy - “Fun”
    The Hundred Foot Journey - “Too long”
    The Box Trolls - “Good - not great”
    Big Hero 6 - “Cute - okay”
    The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies - “Disappointing”
    Into the Woods - “Enchanting”

    My favorite for the year, not counting the classics, is probably a tie between The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy and Into the Woods. All were good movies with solid performances and enjoyable story lines.

    I was disappointed with The Hobbit movies overall. The acting and CG effects were all good, but I didn’t like the cartoon feel to some of the dwarves, I hated the bizarre portrayal of the elf king (which admittedly could be at least partially because every time he was onscreen I was thinking “Pie Man”)*, and mostly I was sad that Peter Jackson did not treat this story with the same care that he bestowed on the Lord of the Rings movies.

    The worst hands down was Earth to Echo. I would have walked out of the theater, but we were at a Drive In. Coming home covered with mosquito bites and reeking of Off just added insult to injury.

    Did you see any of these movies? What did you think of them?

    *For the record, I love the Pie Man.

December 13, 2014

  • Tempting Fate

    It's been a challenging couple of weeks culminating in a spectacularly craptastic day yesterday.

    On the bright side, I think I finished my Christmas shopping, got the last of the packages mailed, and the grocery shopping done.

    On the craptastic side, all that involved visits to Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Meijer, Postal Connections, and two trips to the post office.

    On the bright side, it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be at any of those places and I made sure to make eye contact and smile at all the employees whom I encountered, which resulted in smiles and pleasant encounters.

    On the craptastic side, I've had to stop taking my arthritis meds and I was exhausted and in pain (and for some reason one of my fingers was swollen and painful) by the time I returned to The 'Duh, made the last stop at the post office and unloaded the groceries.

    On the REALLY craptastic side, I had my yearly mammogram scheduled for 5:00 that evening. I'd had to postpone it because I've been struggling with tendonitis and couldn't raise my arms over my head for several weeks. I put away the stuff that needed to be refrigerated and left the rest for later so I could remove my shoes and put my feet up for 20 minutes before I had to leave for that appointment. And then, after getting pushed and prodded and squished, I went and tempted fate by posting on Facebook that my long day was finally over. Little did I know, it was only half over.

    I went home, warmed up some leftovers for supper, and Bookmark61 and I watched Elf. At 9:00, I had just put on my pajamas and was reveling in the freedom from clothes and shoes and errands when my phone vibrated. It was Joyouswind. She was sick, laying on the floor and too weak to get up. So I did what any mother would do and put my clothes and shoes back on, told my husband what was going on and that I would get the daughter to bed, take her puppy out for his end of the day business, and stay until I was sure everything would be okay.

    Two hours later, my husband was helping the daughter down three flights of stairs and into my van, a friend of hers was picking up the puppy, and I was trying to figure out where I'd put down my cell phone before heading to the ER. At midnight I told Brett he might as well go home and get some sleep. They'd started an IV on Joyouswind to get her hydrated, pumped her full of anti-nausea meds and taken blood samples.

     

    K at ERCurled up into a ball of misery under a pile of heated blankets.

    At 1 AM they wheeled her away for an ultrasound. At 2:30 AM they said everything looked pretty good and she'd probably picked up "something viral" (but blood tests ruled out influenza). At 3 AM the IV bag was empty and they were all set to release her until she sat up and got violently ill again. At 3:15 AM they gave her a shot that stopped the nausea and knocked her silly. At 3:30 AM they tried to release her but she was knocked so silly she couldn't stand up. At 4 AM we finally managed to get her into a wheelchair and loaded into the van. At 4:30 AM I got back to The 'Duh and helped her up the stairs to her old bedroom. At 5 AM I finally went to bed and catnapped for about three hours, but my back and knees and blasted finger were hurting too badly for me to sleep.

    This morning was spent back at Meijer getting prescriptions filled and buying food she can eat - bananas, Jello, applesauce, apple juice - all things I generally have on hand, but of course the bananas were overripe and I was completely out of everything else and hadn't restocked when I did the big two-weeks' grocery shopping.

    The daughter is sleeping off her long night. I'm washing every single thing both of us were wearing last night. Gotta get rid of those hospital cooties. Fighting to stay awake... must put up Christmas tree today! We've gotten two gifts in the mail and no tree to put them under.

    So what do we take away from this? Never tempt fate by declaring your day long, exhausting, or finished because fate loves to serve up a big, steaming plate of your own words for you to eat. Lesson learned. Today has just begun... it will be an average day... no expectations good or bad today... no-sir-ee!

    My finger is still swollen. Not that I'm complaining.

     

December 6, 2014

  • Name the Christmas Movie!

    I've been watching some of my favorite Christmas movies. In fact, I'm watching one now and a character just said one of the lines from this Christmas movie quiz I posted last year... and the year before that... and I don't know how many times. Luckily, nobody ever remembers this stuff from year to year. Here it is again, with my usual disclaimer: Not all of the movies are actual Christmas movies; some are just set at Christmastime. How many can you recognize without Googling?

     

    1. “Only one thing in the world could have dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.”

    2. “I’m sorry I ruined your lives, and crammed eleven cookies into the VCR.”

    3. “I been savin’ this money for a divorce, if I ever got a husband.”

    4. “Oh, well, now I'm off to get my life-sustaining supplies: cornmeal and gun powder and hamhocks and guitar strings.”

    5. “Think nasty, think nasty, think nasty!”

    6. “We’re gonna die! We’re gonna die! I’m going to throw up, and then I’m gonna die!”

    7.“In some ways you’re far superior to my cocker spaniel.”

    8. “I never liked a girl well enough to give her twelve sharp knives.”

    9. “Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

    10. “Let me drive.” “No, you’re drunk.” “You always get to drive.” “That’s because I’m the sheriff, a**hole.”

    11. “Hey, we’re flexible. Pearl Harbor didn’t work out, so we got you with tape decks.”

    12. “The only thing you need to worry about is where you’re going to buy your sweaters when the circus pulls out of town.”

    13. “Light the lamp, not the rat! Light the lamp, not the rat! Put me out! Put me out! Put me out!”

    14. “I’m only an elected official here, I can’t make decisions by myself!”

    15. “Hiya kids. Here’s an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don’t buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they give you them for free!”

    16. “Guys, I’m eating junk and watching rubbish! You better come out and stop me!”

    17. “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”

    18. “But… but maybe he’s only a little crazy like painters or composers or… or some of those men in Washington.”

    19. “There is no such thing as rich enough; only poor enough.”

    20. “You mustn’t mind the tree monsters. Their bark is worse than their bite.”

November 28, 2014

  • Good Black Friday

    I've been reading the usual accounts of Black Friday that make me want to find that cave I keep talking about moving into when life gets overwhelming. My husband and daughter enjoy going out on Black Friday to "see what's out there." They don't leave early and for the past few years they haven't looked up the sales. They just go to South Bend or Kalamazoo and walk around the mall, looking and talking and enjoying each other's company. Occasionally they will stumble upon a bargain like the awesome tower speaker I got for Christmas a few years ago. That's been a well-used gift. We have it plugged into the TV for stereo sound, my iPod docks to it, I can connect my Kindle and my laptop to it for playing music, we can use it as a radio which we've only done to listen to the high school football games... and it was an unlooked for Black Friday bargain.

    I would rather go to the dentist than go shopping on Black Friday, but today I ventured out of the house and into one business establishment. I have a friend who is always the first person to help when there is a need. She's one of those people with a gift of mercy and compassion. So when she needed a favor, I was happy to help her out. She is out of town, spending the holiday with her kids and grandkids, but wanted to take advantage of a great Black Friday offer at a locally owned restaurant. They were offering a gift card promotion for five hours: Buy one gift card in any amount, get one for half that amount free. Since I had to drop off a tap shoe and pick up a dog in St. Joe today, it wasn't even much out of my way to run by the restaurant.

    I'm so glad I offered to do this for my friend because I witnessed a moment of Black Friday craziness you won't believe! The restaurant has a narrow driveway leading to a long, narrow parking lot behind the building. The narrowness is further complicated by the construction where they are adding onto the back of the building. The car entering the parking lot in front of me got to the construction area and stopped, and I admit I felt a little impatient as they sat there talking through the window to one of the construction workers who stopped what he was doing to walk over to the car. He looked back at me and gave a little apologetic wave and I checked my impatience. I really wasn't in a hurry anyway.

    Then... and I can't even believe what I'm about to tell you... the construction worker who had already had to walk away from what he was doing, opened the passenger door of the car and HELPED AN ELDERLY WOMAN GET OUT!!! But wait, that's not all! He then offered her his arm and ESCORTED HER TO THE DOOR OF THE RESTAURANT!!!Can you believe this Black Friday insanity?

    What's the world coming to?

November 25, 2014

  • Life & Stuff

    It's been awhile since I did a life update blog. I've spent a lot of time in the past few months working on my dad's memoir, and on Halloween day I finished typing up and published my Mom's poetry. I Remember: Poems About Life can be found at lulu.com and is a memoir in verse of a childhood spent in devastating poverty and back-breaking labor in the cotton fields of Arizona and Arkansas.

    Mom book cover

    The last few poems deal with Mom's struggles as the mother of five boisterous children, her bouts of depression and thoughts of death. You would think this book would ooze sadness, but it is surprisingly uplifting. All proceeds from the sale of both this book and Dad's memoir will go toward Mom's care.

    I had a list of things to get done today and I haven't accomplished any of them yet, but it was a productive day nonetheless. My lovely daughter called this morning; she wasn't feeling well, was just leaving the doctor's office and needed some Mom time. She came over and I took her to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription, ran by her apartment to pick up her dog, and came back to my place where I put her to work. Not strenuous work, but something that's been on my to-do list for about ten years and I didn't want to waste the opportunity to get it done.

    When we moved into this house more than 22 years ago, there were nails in the walls of the living room and I hung our pictures on them thinking, "I'll move everything around once all the boxes are unpacked." About twelve years later, I convinced Krysten to help me take everything off the walls, pull out all the nails so I wouldn't be tempted to rehang stuff in the same place, and rehang the pictures in a more pleasing arrangement. A few months later, I rearranged the furniture and the stuff on the walls was off balance again.

    Today we repeated what we did ten years ago. Everything came off the walls, the nails came out, I brought down a couple of framed photos from upstairs and pulled out some framed prints I've been meaning to hang. We pulled the furniture away from the walls, put the artwork on the floor in various arrangements and rehung it. It's really weird to sit on the couch and look at the Renoir prints and the sketch of Paris across the room. It's a good weird, though. The room feels balanced again. It must be almost time to rearrange the furniture.

    While we were busy in the living room, Krysten's dog Jack and my Boo were playing rough and getting underfoot, so we put Jack in the kitchen with a baby gate to keep him out of the living room. He ripped through on of Boo's ghost toys. It has joined the pile of toys above the washing machine waiting for me to replace the stuffing and sew up the rips. There may be a liberated squeaker that needs to be repatriated as well. I'll be glad when Jack gets past the puppy chewing phase.

    Wednesday will be spent doing all the stuff I didn't get to today. First on the list: pie dough. At some point before I go to bed, I'll make the pies and get some of the other dishes started. We'll eat our feast at noon on Thursday, then go to a movie. We'll thank every theater employee with whom we come in contact for working on Thanksgiving so we can enjoy our tradition of a Thanksgiving movie.

    On Friday, Brett and Krysten will make their annual foray into the Black Friday madness, where they will look at all the "great deals" in the stores, check them against amazon.com and come home without spending any money, but with a better idea of what they want to order online. I will most likely stay home on Friday, unless Val or Dan want to get together in Indiana for a little geocaching. I was hoping to have Val's scarf finished by now. Maybe, if I really work hard and skip the blocking, I can get it finished by Friday.

    Saturday will be our usual activities. Sunday is the annual Messiah sing-along in Kalamazoo. We look forward to that all year. Which reminds me that Brett and I haven't practiced in the past week. We need to sing through the choruses a couple more times before Sunday. Especially Brett; he's switching from tenor to bass this year. We've been going to the singalong since they began it in 1995, missing only one year when Krysten had a college band concert on the same day.

    My joints have been very painful lately and the arthritis medication I take has been causing constant heartburn and indigestion.  Getting old is not for sissies. I try to focus on what I can still do, like typing, rather than what I've lost, like playing the piano.

    Okay, it's bedtime and I can't think of much more to write about. Consider yourself updated. If I don't make it back on here before Thanksgiving, have a good one!

November 23, 2014

  • The Spirit of Christmas

    Ugly Christmas Tree

    Residents of Reading, Pennsylvania are in a kerfuffle over the city’s “ugly” Christmas tree, with some claiming that the tree is ruining their Christmas spirit. It’s sad that anyone’s Christmas spirit is reliant on whatever decorations the city puts up. As many commenters have said, those people are missing the point. The city has already planned to replace the tree, which was itself a last minute replacement for the tree they had tagged at a local farm, but were unable to pick up because the ground was too wet to drive a heavy truck in for it. I’m not sure why there was such a rush to put up the tree before Thanksgiving, but that’s a pet peeve of mine that I won’t go into here.

    Let’s talk instead about Christmas spirit. When I was a child, Christmas spirit was Santa Claus. As soon as Thanksgiving was over, we were admonished to be good because Santa was watching. Our good behavior during the weeks leading up to Christmas was redeemed with oranges and nuts and hard candy in our stockings and a couple of presents under the tree.

    As adults, Christmas spirit is about friends, family, generosity, volunteering, and showing love to those whose lives we judge to be less blessed than ours. I say that in a non-judgmental way… it’s a good thing to feel blessed whatever your circumstances and to strive to redeem the circumstances of others. Even those who celebrate only the secular aspects of Christmas, or don’t acknowledge Christmas at all, often take the opportunity to redeem their busyness or self-involvement with acts of charity during the holidays.

    For Christians, Christmas spirit is about a savior sent by God to redeem mankind. We focus on the arrival of this God-gift at Christmas with candles and lights, trees and wreaths, carols and gift-giving. We celebrate the birth of the redeemer and put off for a little while thinking about the terrible price he would pay for our redemption, but it’s there lurking in the shape of the tree, the gifts of the magi, and the fourth verse of the carols.

    The true spirit of Christmas is redemption. We come into this world as beautiful, innocent babies and spend most of our lives piling ugliness into our thoughts and souls and bodies. Christianity embraces a savior who redeems us, transforming something ugly into something beautiful.

    And so, citizens of Reading, whether you celebrate the birth of a redeeming savior, seek to redeem your time with charitable acts, or redeem your children’s good behavior with filled stockings and gifts under the tree, I ask you to show the true spirit of Christmas by looking past the ugliness somebody has piled onto that poor tree and finding a way to redeem it instead of whining about how it’s ruining your Christmas spirit. That’s the problem with rushing into the Christmas season; people are not ready to love, serve, transform and redeem until after they’re stuffed with turkey and all the trimmings.

    Oops! I went where I said I wasn’t going to go. Mea culpa.