Category Archives: Personal

Stories about my life.

Electricity

slice of lifeI am a very thankful Floridian who felt the effects of Hurricane Matthew but was only mildly inconvenienced.  I was without power for about a day and a half but it was amazingly enlightening.

First, during my preparations I noticed the new LED flashlight, complete with batteries, had a belt clip which is a great feature so I wasn’t constantly wondering where the flashlight was when it got dark.  But I could still walk into the windowless bathroom, with the flashlight in one hand and flip the switch with the other.  At which point again, I wondered what part of the electric being out didn’t my poor dear brain comprehend.  I didn’t just do this once, I did it repeatedly!

Once the curfew was lifted I ventured out for ice.  Again, I have become so used to all the things electric that it seemed around each corner was another ah ha moment of, oh, that doesn’t work either, that I really should have anticipated.  The neighbors had told me where to get coffee and turned right out of the condo but I turned left and to my horror saw the traffic light wasn’t operating.  Again – this comes as a shock to none of the rest of you but my brain had not thought that far ahead.  Okay, if the light is out, you treat it as a four way stop.  Okay, I need to make a left turn.  Get in the right lane and go right.  I refuse to try to make a left turn from a two lane road onto a six lane road with a 50 mph speed limit without a light.  After a while I made a left into a nice little plaza, and exited and found another light with people directing traffic and eventually after meandering about five miles out of my way arrived at a grocery store with power and food and ice!  By this point I realized I had to get back home, across that same six lane road but was able to map out a plan.  A plan where I had to turn right at that intersection, not cross it.

Again, against all the advice, I opened the freezer door.  But my freezer isn’t that good anyway, so I quickly came to the conclusion, I needed to throw away the contents of my freezer.  I really wish it was New Year’s so I could make a New Year’s resolution to be mindful of what I put into the freezer.  Some was well labeled.  Other things, no.  Living alone I cook a lot of dishes with ground meat, and I usually freeze what I have left-over.  I need to make a plan to use what I freeze.  Also, I don’t need to keep things I am not going to use.  The real fruit popsicles are a good example.  They aren’t ice cream and I am not seven years old so no one is being fooled.  Once I went out and purchased Klondike bars they should have gone into the trash.

The most interesting find was a snack size ziploc bag with three ginger cookies inside.  I guess I was being good and making portions and I suppose for whatever diet/health kick I was on at the time it worked, because they were lost in the mad pile of frozen veggies and Lean Cuisines but I felt bad for the three little cookies.

Electricity has been restored, I go back to school tomorrow after four school days off and the neighbor’s tree was just tall enough to hit my kitchen window but not do any damage.  I am truly thankful for wifi and cable and people with chainsaws but mostly grateful for traffic lights!

Summer Camp

Did you go to summer camp?  I didn’t.  I had no desire and I really don’t think it was an option.  I have never been one to make friends quickly so I can’t imagine being forced to sleep in a cabin with girls I didn’t know.

And then there is the bathroom situation.  I still recall when the roadside rest areas in Pennsylvania had outhouses.  I can just imagine going someplace with less than pristine rest rooms.  No Thank You!

And the food?  I don’t eat eggs or mayo so I am seemingly impossible to please for breakfast or at any picnic.  And I used to be super picky about the hotdogs I ate.  I would have starved.  It is so sad to think about.  And before you suggest it, I ate peanut butter sandwiches, or jelly sandwiches, but never the two mixed.

Oh yes, and swimming is usually featured at camp, right?  I can swim.  But I won’t jump into a pool or off of a dock.  It is that fear of falling.  So even though I took seven – yes seven- years of swimming in school plus lessons at the YWCA at least twice I never progressed beyond basic because I couldn’t pass the test because I would not jump in the pool and swim a lap.  So images of fun in the water don’t really appeal.

The one time I went camping with girl scouts my mom went too.  That way I didn’t actually have to talk to anyone else.    We didn’t have sleeping bags which embarrassed me.  And all the girls in our cabin had pajamas.  I had a night gown.  That was just so embarrassing I don’t think I got past it.  And the food should have been OK.  We made the traditional foil packets of potatoes and carrots and chicken to leave in the fire before going on a hike.  Mine just wasn’t cooked after the hike.   No more camping after that.

So in this summer season, I have to ask myself, why are you leading camp starting Tuesday?  OK – it isn’t a “real” camp.  It is day camp, at a school, focused on science but still.  Or maybe that is really why I am doing camp now, because I didn’t way way way back when.

 

So Long

I can’t believe how long it has been since I have posted.

And the school year really hasn’t been that insane.  I need to return to the habit of writing.  Otherwise I will never improve!  And tonight is the perfect night.  It is raining.  I can hear the water running out of the gutters.  I will try to not dwell on the fact I should hire someone to clean out the gutters, and enjoy the restful dripping sounds.

I think I will just ask questions into the ether, tonight.

Why does the cat walk on the keyboard?

Do other people suddenly hate their entire wardrobe and want a new one?

How do you get rid of an old computer?

How early is too early to go to bed?

Why do I never know the answer when someone asks what my favorite movie is?

Do other people watch parts of movies on TV repeatedly without having to see the entire thing?  Movies beside Harry Potter?

I will watch any part of You’ve Got Mail, Shawshank Redemption, or Remember the Titans.

As long as I see,, “Get in the car” from the Blindside and “My name is Maximus…”from Gladiator I don’t need to see the rest.

Why wasn’t I allowed to have pink as a favorite color as a child, just because Lisa’s favorite color is pink?

Is there an “organized” gene?  I don’t seem to have one.

Do Sharpies make you sneeze?

If I were taller, would I appreciate it as much as I think I would?

Why is my email always full?

OK, enough silly questions for now.  Off to watch boring British TV.  Thank you Netflix.  I really like it much more than anything shown in the US right now.

 

Love Snapshot

I left work a touch after 6pm and my tired, whiny, entitled self couldn’t envision heating up the leftovers in the fridge so I drove to a nearby restaurant.  I could hardly make it into the place, the wait time was 15 to 20 minutes, but isn’t that what they always say?

“Can I sit at the bar?”

I sat at the bar.  Wasn’t even too unhappy when she asked a second time was that salad no cheese and ranch?  No, it was no cheese and honey mustard.  Of course I got no cheese and ranch but I was hungry enough, and they are good enough that it didn’t matter.  Nor did the fact that my bread had still not appeared as I scarfed the last of the lettuce but the nice lady next to me offered their left over one, so then bread  magically appeared from the kitchen.

But by then the bar almost emptied, the news show didn’t hold my interest and my phone was completely dead.  Just as I ate my first forkful of pasta I noticed a man, and a woman, shuffling out of the woman’s rest room.  They looked about 80 and she held tight to him as they walked.  I scooted in, expecting them to walk by, but he settled her in the yet uncleaned spot by me.  Wow, to have a guy who will help you in the ladies room.

He ordered coffee, cream and an extra cup.  Then an iced tea.  He made her coffee with cream and sweet-n-lo with an ice cube or two.  Then poured half of it into the empty cup.  He gave her the coffee, now a manageable amount and temperature.  Then he took napkins from the bar stack and cleaned up his mess.  They split a piece of chocolate pie.  She didn’t plan on desert, but ate once he put the spoon in her hand.  That is when I noticed her purse was across his body for safe keeping.

The bartender said she wanted a guy just like him, when she got to be their age.  The woman made a face and he said they would be together 67 years on Thursday.  He added that she still hadn’t decided if she would keep him forever.  The humor between them almost made me forget his level of care for her, until she said something quietly to her husband, and he told her the thing behind the bar was a refrigerator without any irritation in his voice.

If only we could all be so blessed as to have someone to care for us the way this man did for his wife.  And what a wonderful end to my day.

Gratitude List – in no particular order

  1.  Freedom of religion
  2. Pets, specifically my cats to keep me company
  3. A job I mostly enjoy
  4. A job that is not physically taxing
  5. Coffee – hot and cold
  6. Pretty things, pink or shiny
  7. Extra space
  8. Vacation time
  9. Sleep, good dreams, soft blankets and pillows
  10. Great story tellers
  11. Great preachers, especially ones who don’t take the message in a predictable way.  Thank you for making me think!
  12. Friends, near, far, sort of related, not related at all.
  13. A running car.
  14. Internet
  15. Life milestones to look forward to or to look back upon
  16. Books
  17. Electricity
  18. Heat and AC, running water, indoor plumbing and garbage service.
  19. Being the master of my schedule
  20. Great food!

Holiday Dinner

What are your holiday memories?  Here are mine.

Grandma served dinner on Thanksgiving and Christmas as 1:00.  Or at least that was the plan.  Uncle George would be sitting at the table, even if the bird still wasn’t cooked.  Grandma had something against turkey, so it was usually chicken.  The day before we went to the bakery to pick up two pies.  One was always pumpkin and the other was sometimes mince (ewwww) or apple or cherry.  The night before she cut up the onions and celery for the stuffing.  One mason jar of each, stored in the fridge for morning.

This was all a mystery to me before Mom got sick and I went to live with my grandparents.  After that, I got to see the traditions first hand.

Grandma made sage and bread stuffing.  She never liked the dried packaged cubes so once it became impossible to buy fresh cubed bread for stuffing we also had to cut up a loaf of bread the night before.  I was allowed to do that job.  The onions and celery had to be done just so, so it wasn’t until a year Grandma had the stomach bug that I took over.

Once I lived with them, I would wake up to the smell of cooking onions.  Grandma was very particular that the onions and celery were fully cooked, but not browned before adding it to the bread cubes, sage (out of a 10 year old bottle, used twice a year), milk and an egg.  Then into the bird it went.

Once the bird was is in the oven, breakfast could progress then we could get dressed and work on the rest of the meal.

Menu

  • chicken
  • pale yellow gravy, too thin some years, often thicker than the jello
  • mashed potatoes
  • squash, frozen cooked in a double boiler
  • a vegetable for Anne (me)
  • rolls – from a tube of course
  • olives and pickles
  • jell cranberry sauce straight from the can
  • jello
  • pie and cool whip in the afternoon

These were the only days of the year we said grace.  That was Grandma’s job.  I once saw the grace she said printed on a place mat and was amazed she said the Catholic version,  not Protestant.

And then we ate leftovers for days and days.  Not the creative casseroles you see on the cooking shows.  Exactly the menu above reheated again and again.  Plus a chicken sandwich for lunch.   Thanksgiving and Christmas, just the same.  So that is what a holiday meal is to me.

Online Course

I want to share a secret with you.  I’m taking an online writing course.  You may have noticed I don’t post to the blog a lot.  I thought a writing course might help.  One of the ongoing assignments is to write in your journal at least an hour a day.  Perfect, I thought.  But this has not helped me post to my blog.  You see, I have been too busy to blog.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t learned many valuable skills during the online course which is two weeks shy of being over.   But the most important thing I have learned is empathy for my students.

One of the first things I have learned is that sometimes life gets in the way of doing homework.  This specific course has standing assignments due every Wednesday and Sunday.  That seems so easy, until you have to do that and have a life.  You may have heard, that earlier this summer a tree fell on my car.  And I needed to get it off.  But that was the evening I planned to do my homework.  So much for that.  Then I had to put it off another day.  Wait, this isn’t easy!  Or you are driving home after a perfectly fun day of movie and a dinner with friends and it hits you, wait, it is almost 7:00 pm.  And while you have five hours to complete your homework by midnight, was that really what you planned to do Sunday night?

I have also learned the importance of reading directions and it is really easy to miss one word in the directions, completely changing the meaning.  So that assignment I worked so hard on that was in third person that had to be written in first person.  And luckily I saw my mistake before hitting submit.  What if I hadn’t seen that word at that moment?  Hopefully I can be more compassionate and realize how easy it can be to misread and put in work, but not answer the question posed.

But today tops it all.  I so felt like one of my sophomore chemistry students.  You see, I lost my text book.  I have a reading assignment due tomorrow and we have two text books.  But I read ahead and hadn’t needed one of the two books for three weeks now.  And I couldn’t find it.  Seriously.  I am an adult and I bought this paperback for nearly $30 you would think I wouldn’t lose it.  But alas, it was hiding from me.  So, I cleaned the living room.  But it wasn’t there.  But an hour went by.  Thankfully, in the next place I looked I found it covered by a pile of laundry that needed folding.  Hopefully I will remember this the next time a kid tells me they can’t find their book, or the more common story of “I was at Dad’s house and my book is at Mom’s,” or vice versa.

And lastly, we are eight weeks into a ten week summer online course and the instructor hasn’t posted grades.  Any grades.  Did I mention we have assignments due every Wednesday and Sunday at midnight?  Yup, no grades yet. I’m over the anxiety but I’m not a 16 year old who could get grounded if the grade isn’t good.

So in conclusion, I think the greatest thing that I have learned over choosing to take an online course, is the reminder of what it is like to be a student.

UPDATE:  Just that week an assignment was graded as was the final portfolio, but still…I feel for you students!

Smoking

I can’t believe it.  They are smoking.  Grumble.  Stomp.  Hello – fake smile.

All of this because my neighbors had stepped out into the coolish evening air to have a cigarette while I was trying to finish a little yard work.  My,  but things have changed.

I grew up with two smoking parents, who smoked in the house, in the car, and if we went out we sat in the smoking section of the restaurant so they could, you guessed it, smoke.   I often had the job of digging the pack of cigarettes out of Mom’s purse while she drove (pre-seatbelts), removing a cigarette and handing it to her.  I recall being scandalized when I was in fifth or sixth grade and she suggested I light it for her.  She was either testing me or more likely trying to loosen me up a little.  I was required to make mudpies  probably only  the previous year when she found I hadn’t ever done that.

Cigarette smoke really bothers me now whenever I am around it.  I don’t know if it is psychosomatic or a real reaction now that I am no longer exposed to smoke on a daily basis.  After Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and died I seem to be much more sensitive to smoke.  Beside just being annoyed at the smell, my chest seems to tighten if I breath even a little smoke.  But this really isn’t an issue.  Even NASCAR races are smoke free and it is easier to find the spot to curb your service dog at a theme park than a place to smoke.

I have to confess.  I have never smoked a single cigarette.  The yearly anti-smoking campaign in elementary school worked for me.  The black lungs we passed around, which by the way look nothing like what I saw on Dr. Oz today, you don’t think they were just a model do you?  And the cost analysis.  Did you have to calculate the cost of smoking each year?  We did.  I know this because I took the number to my mother with the toy catalog and showed her what she could buy me if she just stopped smoking.  And this was in the early 1970’s.  She was not impressed.  But as much as both of my parents smoked, and as much as I liked the smell of that freshly opened pack of cigarettes, I knew if I just smoked one I would be hooked.  One bullet dodged!

I will admit that I learned a lot hanging out in the smoking teachers’ lounge when I student taught and later when I subbed.  There was a camaraderie that didn’t exist in the non-smoking teaching lounge.   Plus the Pepsi machine was in there.  Now teachers have to drive off campus and smoke a cigarette during lunch to carry them through the day and the rest of us pretend not to know why they are zooming out of the parking lot.

This year I listened to a talk that mentioned third hand smoke, the harmful residue left behind when someone smokes and they made the statement that research has found that one is not safe from smoking residue in a hotel if any rooms are designated smoking rooms.   It makes you think.

But smoking was on my mind today I guess.   First Whoopie Goldberg on Dr. Oz having finally kicked the habit, then the neighbors, although I really wish they wouldn’t throw the butts on the ground but that is a different rant entirely and finally Final Jeopardy.  So, now you know where I stand, in the middle of the non-smoking section!

The Princess

Meet Princess.  I inherited her from my dad.  Sadly she only was able to retire to Florida for a short time before cancer took her life.  I hope she saw her time in Florida as her retirement.  I have a feeling she thought I kidnapped her.

My dad called and said he wanted me to go visit him for his birthday.  That was in the middle of October.  There are no school breaks in October.  Uh, no.  That won’t work.  A few days later I see Sidney on my caller ID.  Oh no.  Sidney was my dad’s neighbor and friend.  If Sidney called it wasn’t good news.  We had been through Dad’s ambulance ride to the ER when he had a heart attack, transfer to another hospital, quadruple bypass and subsequent infection.  With dread, I answered.  Dad had lung cancer.  Well, he smoked for his entire life.  A lot.  In fact, after his heart attack the cardiologist said he would not treat him if he didn’t quit smoking.  So Dad quit going to the cardiologist.  I think that is how it got so bad without being caught.  I took off work and made the 12 hour drive.

“Have you been to the house yet?”  asked Dad.

“No, your house is passed the hospital. ”

“There is Pepsi in the fridge.  I had Sidney buy it last week.  I knew you were coming. ”

Never was one to miss an opportunity to say, I told you so.   At some point in that visit, he asked me to take his cat when he died.  Of course I said yes.  And I was really relieved.  Dad also had three outside dogs.  I could not imagine even one of the dogs in my condo.  Okay, I can add a cat into my family.

Dad was always a dog person.  The fact that this blue-eyed, mouthy cat won him over amazed everyone who knew him.  On one of our weekly phone calls Dad mentioned his friend Mike wanted him to take this cat.  Her family, parents and two little girls, had moved away and left the cat.  Another week passed, and Mike was still trying to talk him into the cat.  Eventually he picked the cat up, put her in his car and brought her home without any thought of actually taking care of the cat.  He opened the car door and let her out in the yard.  Problem solved.

I was talking to Dad on the phone and he is making all sorts of distress noises.  Hold on,  Princess wants out.  Princess?  Dad was married six times, never to take anything for granted, I needed more information.  When Princess, the cat, wanted outside she jumped on the arm of his recliner, then batted his face or bit his ears.  She also did this every day at 4am to go outside.  Isn’t that cute.

Who was I talking to?  Cute?  And when she wanted back in she sat at one of the two sliding glass doors and glared until you let her in.  And at 4am he would wait for her to come back for breakfast.  Nuts!

I first met Princess after Dad’s heart attack.  Sidney had called and I made the trip.  A word about my dad’s house.  It was a one bedroom on stilts in a flood plain.  I often said you drove to the middle of no where and kept going for another half an hour.   The first time I visited he insisted I take the bedroom.  The bed was the most uncomfortable thing ever and in the morning he mentioned the squirrel that was chewing holes in the ceiling.  The chewing sounds had worked their way into my nightmares.  There was a hole in the bathroom floor near the toilet and you could see daylight through it.  This was dad’s house.

Flash back a couple of years.  My dad wakes up while having a heart attack, calls 911, walks out back and turns the gas off to the house and sits on the steps and has a cigarette while waiting for the ambulance.  We found this out two days after I was there and he was with it enough to explain why the heat and the stove didn’t work in a very chilly November.  Thankfully Princess was not adverse to being a blanket at night and she and I sat 3 feet away from the space heater (I read the safety warnings) the rest of the time.  And of course I fed her so Princess and I were friends.

The hospital stabilized dad and were trying to find him a rehab facility.  There was never any discussion of treating the cancer, just ways to manage the pain.  I went home.

Less than two weeks after that first phone call, as I left school I got a message from the hospital.  They had been trying to call all day.  There was no way I could make it before he died but I could try.  I drove home, threw stuff in the car and made the 12 hour drive in 10 hours.  It was just after 1 am and I sent Sidney home.  He had managed to get this very lapsed Catholic last rights.  He never woke up but I think he knew I was there.  He passed away around 6am.  After making the funeral arrangements and starting the nightmare of settling the estate, I put Princess in a carrier and brought her back to Florida.   More on the Princess later, I am sure.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Princess_in_chair

You Are Not the General Manager of the Universe!

When I moved into my condo eight years ago the first thing I did was paint the kitchen yellow.  The second thing was to paint most of one wall in the computer/spare room with chalkboard paint.  And at some point while painting I decided I really needed the water turned on, but I digress, as usual.

For future reference, if you have textured walls like I do throughout the condo everywhere except the bathrooms, I wouldn’t recommend chalkboard paint.  The paint is fine, it is the writing and making it look good that leaves a little something to be desired.  So, my wall of quotes is permanent, not subject to change due to the annoyance of trying to write on the textured surface.  This makes the fact that it is chalkboard paint irrelevant.  I could have just gotten a giant bulletin board and posted things I like.

I was reminded of one of these quotes as I read Proverbs 10:8.

“The wise do what they are told,

but a talkative fool will be ruined.”  (NCV)

The quote is, “You are not the general manager of the Universe!” I don’t like doing what I am told.  My first response is usually, but why can’t we do such and such or it would be better to do this or that.  I am happy to be reminded that the wise do what they are told.  I am not the general manager of the Universe.  I am responsible for me.  That is it.  I am not recommending becoming a blind sheep but I do believe in the chain of command.  God put, or allowed certain people to be in positions over mine at church, school and throughout the community.  They each have an area of expertise.  I cannot play my role effectively if I am trying to do everyone else’s job.  Thank you for the reminder!