Keeping The Faith

I was hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, so when I first heard the news reports of predicted turkey shortages, I was concerned.  I hurried to my local grocery store early in November to place my order for a fresh turkey, just to make sure I would have one.  But the clerk at the meat counter told me that they weren’t taking orders for turkey or anything else this year, and that he wasn’t sure they would have any fresh turkeys for sale at all.  He told me that if I wanted to be sure to have a turkey for my Thanksgiving dinner, I should buy one of their frozen ones right now, before they ran out. 

I thanked him and went over to the inspect the frozen turkeys.  They were covered with frost, and when I scraped off the label in order to read the price, I was shocked to see that it would cost $37 for a 14-pound turkey.  Call me cheap, but I just couldn’t make myself pay that much for what looked suspiciously like a turkey left over from last year.  I decided to keep looking, and that if I came up empty-handed, we could always celebrate Thanksgiving with a nice lasagna instead.

Luckily, I found a store that was happy to take my order for a fresh turkey, and while it wasn’t exactly cheap, it was free-range, so that made the price easier to accept.  Much harder to accept was the sight of the literally dozens of turkeys, both fresh and frozen, available in every grocery store in the days just before Thanksgiving.  All that worry, all that schlepping from store to store searching for turkeys, and it turned out that there were more than enough for everyone.  I haven’t felt quite that conned since the days after the Beanie Baby craze, and I could blame that one on my kids.

No one who knows me well would ever call me an optimist, but even I have had enough of the doom and gloom predictions that seem so relentless these days.  Yes, there are very real issues to worry about and I’m quite sure that there really are bad things coming our way.  But I also know that not every dire prediction comes true (the predicted turkey shortage certainly didn’t) and that perhaps the time has come for me to be a little more discerning when I decide how I respond to the constant reports of how “the sky is falling.”  Because maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t.

IMG_1069 2We actually had a rather nice Thanksgiving this year.  The vaccines allowed us to gather as an extended family, and for that I was thankful.  I was even more thankful that my husband’s long battle with cancer finally seems to be over, and that we will soon be welcoming another grandchild into our family.  Also, I managed to cook the turkey without setting off the smoke alarm, which doesn’t always happen.  All of which is to say that, even in these troubled times, there is still a whole lot of good going on.  We just have to be willing to see it….

Home At Last

IMG_0344When Mom and Dad first brought me home from the animal shelter, I was still young and very naive.  I didn’t realize that people have tons of rules, and that I was expected to memorize and obey all those rules if I wanted to live in peace with my human family.  I had to learn where I was allowed to sleep (my dog bed, my crate, or the floor) and where I wasn’t allowed to sleep (everywhere else, apparently).  I had to distinguish between the dog toys that I was encouraged to play with and the children’s toys that I was forbidden to chew on.  Most importantly, I discovered that while it’s perfectly acceptable for humans to “potty” inside the house and that they even have designated rooms for it, I am expected to go outside every single time I have to relieve myself.  (And if you think squatting in the yard first thing in the morning when it’s ten degrees outside is easy, you’ve obviously never had to do it.)

Luckily for me, I’m a pretty smart dog.  I’ve memorized almost all of the rules, and I’ve also figured out that if I do need to break one or two, it’s best not to let Mom or Dad know.  Take my sleeping arrangements, for instance.  I know for a fact that the most comfortable place to sleep is the living room couch, but Mom and Dad don’t like to see me on it.  So I make sure they never do.  I wait until they are out of the house before I climb on the couch for a nap, and when I hear them returning, I just jump off and run to the door to greet them.  It’s a great system that keeps all of us happy.

I’ve also figured out that if I’m a little hungry, all I have to do is go stand by the back door until someone lets me outside.  Because every time I come back inside, I get a dog biscuit.  Mom and Dad argue all the time over who started that tradition, but it doesn’t really matter, because it’s set in stone now.  So whenever I want a snack, I just “ask to go outside.”  Then I stand on the back porch for a few seconds, scratch at the door to let them know I’m ready to come back in, and voila!  I get a dog biscuit.

But one of the nicest things I’ve learned is what happens when the holidays roll around.  Thanksgiving is next week, and already Mom is bringing home tons groceries in preparation for the big feast.  There will be lots of food I know some of the leftovers will go in my supper dish.  And this year there will be two little ones at the table who I can count on to toss some tasty tidbits my way during the meal itself!  A few weeks after Thanksgiving comes Christmas, which is even better because Christmas means extra food AND presents.  What more could a dog ask for?

51A4A3C2-A7FE-49C0-B318-67D49D6D1DB5I’m actually pretty proud of myself for how well I’ve adapted and I know that I’m lucky to have found a loving family. Because there are lots of dogs still living in shelters who would give their right paw for a chance to finally have a real home.  Just something to think about, for those of you who might have room in your hearts and home for one more…….

Walk Away

4C65EDDE-AE5D-497A-8094-C6A3821D6AE7A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to make prints of the photos from our recent family vacation, but the local camera store’s site which I often use wouldn’t upload over half of them.  Frustrated, I called the store and asked for help.  The man I spoke to was very nice, but said that the site must be acting up and suggested I come into the store and load them directly onto their equipment from my phone.  

I drove to the store and asked the young woman behind the counter for directions on using their equipment.  She told me bluntly there was no point in doing that, because obviously the files for my photos were corrupted.  Which was annoying enough, but the little smirk that accompanied her words made the situation worse.  I wondered aloud how some of my photos could be corrupted when others, taken at the same time and with the same phone, seemed to be just fine.  She began a long explanation of the many ways photo files can be damaged, but none of them pertained to my situation.  When I tried to tell her so, she told me, sharply, not to interrupt her before she was done speaking.  

And that was when I realized there was absolutely no point in continuing our conversation.  She was not going to admit that the problem could be on their end, and I was not prepared to believe there was anything wrong with the photos that wouldn’t upload to their site.  I would have asked to speak to a manager, but I knew that I was very, very close to completely losing my temper and I didn’t want to take my anger out on someone else.  So I simply turned away and walked out of the store.

The older I get, the more I believe that simply walking away from confrontations is often the best way.  There is rarely any good that comes out of arguing with people who have already made their mind up, or trying to negotiate with those who treat others like idiots.  While I will always believe that being in relationship with people who are different from me is a good thing and that the world needs more, not less, communication, I also know that true communication can’t be one-sided.  Both parties have to be willing to respectfully engage, which means that there is no point in trying to talk to someone who refuses to listen.

So I went home and logged into the site of a company I’ve used many times to make photo books.  And you know what?  All of my photos uploaded successfully, even the supposedly “corrupted” ones.  I didn’t even have to wait for my prints to be mailed to me, as I was able to pick them up at a local drug store about two hours after I ordered them.  I’ll admit that there’s a part of me that wanted to take the prints back to the original store and show them to the rude clerk, saying,  “See?  I was right!”  But I resisted that urge, because I know it would be both petty and pointless.   I have my vacation photos, neatly displayed in an album, and that’s good enough for me.

Lost and Found

I thought I lost my wedding ring this morning.  I had just finished walking a dog at the animal shelter where I volunteer when I noticed that the ring wasn’t on my finger.  The dog I’d been walking seemed to pride herself on pulling very hard throughout our walk, so it was very possible that it had somehow slipped off my finger while I was clutching my end of the leash.  I searched for my ring diligently, carefully retracing our steps and even doing a thorough, if rather disgusting, search through two trash cans full of used doggie poop bags.  But I didn’t find it.

My wedding ring is a plain gold band that’s not particularly valuable, and not a family heirloom.  But it has obvious sentimental value to me, and I wasn’t happy about the thought of it being lost forever.  A couple of my fellow volunteers suggested renting a metal detector to look for it, and while I thought that was a good idea, I wanted to go home and search my house and car first.  And lo and behold, we found the ring hiding in my jewelry box.  How it got in there I’ll never know, because it’s the one piece of jewelry I always wear.  I never put it in my jewelry box, as far as I can remember.  But it’s a mystery I can live with because it has a happy ending.

I’ll admit that while I was looking for my ring I didn’t really believe I’d find it.  There were so many places where it could have slipped off my finger that I thought the chances of finding it again were very small, even if I used a metal detector.  I had resigned myself to the fact that the ring I’ve worn for decades was well and truly gone, and thought that I just needed to accept that fact.  But it was found, and now it’s back on my finger, where it belongs.

The truth is, sometimes things that we believe are lost forever can be found again.  And as we are starting to cautiously move out of a time when the pandemic dictated so much of our lives, I’m hoping that some of what we lost during the past several months can also be found again.  I’m hoping that we can find the patience and compassion that has been sorely missing as we deal with people whose reactions to the pandemic were not exactly the same as ours.  I’m hoping that we can find our sense of community again, and remember that we really are “all in this together” and that what affects one of us often affects all of us.

45E59CA4-A803-44A6-B235-04E02D8E44EFThere is no doubt that we have been through some very trying times,  and that some of us have faced devastating losses.  It’s easy to believe that most of the good things we took for granted before the pandemic have been lost forever, but I honestly don’t believe that’s true.  There are still so many reasons to be hopeful….we just have to keep looking until we find them.

All Together Now

If the past couple of years have taught me anything, it’s the importance of being flexible.  So even though I’d been very much looking forward to a Florida getaway with my family, I kept telling myself that there was always a possibility that the trip wouldn’t actually happen.  I told myself this even as I arranged for our house/dog sitter, packed my bags, arrived at at the airport and all the way up to the moment when our plane actually took off.  It was only once we were safely in the air that I finally drew a sigh of relief and allowed myself to believe that this much-anticipated vacation was truly beginning.

It’s not that there was anything particularly special about our trip.  We weren’t heading to an exotic destination, or checking something big off our “bucket list” or even treating ourselves to something new and different.  We were just renting a vacation home for a week and our only plan was to relax and spend time with our family.  I know it may sound boring to some people, but at this point in my life, it struck me as the perfect vacation plan and I was more than ready for it.

3859E432-F548-4257-89B5-54F1E547F1AB_1_201_aAnd things went mostly according to plan.  As we settled into our house, I soon realized that relaxation is a rare commodity when you’re vacationing with a three-year old and a one-year old.  (I’d count myself lucky if I could muster up just one-tenth of their energy and stamina.)  But that was just fine, because I also realized that although sharing a house with active little people may not be relaxing, it sure is fun and entertaining, especially if they happen to be your grandchildren.  There’s something pretty special about stumbling out of bed in the morning and being greeted with big smiles, hugs, and an enthusiastic, “Yea!  Grandma’s up!” I mean, my husband and I love each other dearly, but mostly we just grunt at each other first thing in the morning.

Sharing a house with our kids and their families for the week also gave us a chance to reconnect in ways that just don’t happen in our normal, day-to-day life.  Late night conversations around the hot tub when the little ones were safely tucked in bed, working on a jigsaw puzzle together, or even just sharing a meal as a family were gifts to be savored.  Even sitting back and watching others interact was special, because I knew those interactions were strengthening family bonds that should last long after my husband and I are gone. 

Now it’s over, and I’m slowly adjusting back to a life that is both more solitary and hectic than the one I enjoyed while on vacation.  I’m actually a bit more tired than before I went, but that’s normal because travel is wearing and so is catching up on all the chores that waited patiently for my return.  The weariness will pass but the memories of our time together aren’t going anywhere, and wouldn’t trade those for anything in the world…..

Obsolete

My grandson has discovered “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the original cartoon version) and it quickly became a favorite.  It’s not offered on the streaming service my daughter uses, so I offered to get him his very own copy.  I went to my local Barnes and Noble because I knew it had a huge DVD section, including tons of selections for the holidays.  Sadly, the key word turned out to be “had,” because when I arrived, all I saw was a big empty space where the DVDs and CDs used to be displayed.

I don’t know why I was surprised.  I have heard that “no one uses DVD or CD players anymore,” so it stood to reason that stores were going to quit stocking them.  And since I still have and use both devices, I guess that proves what I have long suspected:  these days, I’m a nobody.  That doesn’t particularly bother me, but thinking about the thousands of obsolete players and millions of useless DVDs and CDs destined for a landfill bothers me a lot.

When I first began using a digital camera, I kept the photo cards for all my pictures so I could always make more prints of them.  Later, I learned to upload photos onto my computer, and then to the “cloud” for safe keeping.  But my earlier digital photos are still stored on those little photo cards, and when I tried to upload them onto my new computer, I searched in vain for a slot to insert a photo card.  Yes, I discovered I can buy an adapter that will help, but why in the world couldn’t the people who design new computers have simply included a slot for photo cards?  If they had, I wouldn’t have to buy yet another gadget.

These days, we are constantly being urged to reuse and recycle as much as we possibly can, and with good reason.  Wouldn’t it be nice if that applied to our tech devices as well?  I understand that there will always be a “new and improved” version of everything we use, and that’s fine.  But does making way for the new version always have to mean getting rid of the old?  Yet all too often, that’s exactly what happens.  A case in point being that my new computer is not only lacking a slot for my photo cards, but it also can’t seem to communicate with my (older, but still working) printer.  So now I have to buy a new printer and figure out what to do with the old one.

Ann's BaptismI hate to admit it, but it does seem to me as if sometimes the old ways were a whole lot easier.  My mother never worried about how she was going to store her photos, because she had a simple system: print them and stick them in a photo album.  And even though they were taken many decades ago, I can still get out my baby photos and look at them any time I please, with no worries about compatibility, adapters or unnecessary waste.  Apparently, back in 1958, they knew how make things last…….

Ready or Not

Fall has finally arrived, but I’m not ready for it.  I’m not ready yet to say goodbye to Summer, with its long, hot days and warm nights.  I don’t want to pack away all my Summer clothes and exchange my sandals for shoes and socks.  I hate the way the flowers in the pots around my patio are beginning to wilt and wither no matter how much I water them, and the way the daylight is fading just a bit earlier with each passing week.  Yes, I know the calendar says Summer officially ended over a week ago, but in my mind, there should be at least another month of it to go.

Part of the problem is that my husband and I didn’t get to have much of a Summer this year.  He had a bad reaction to surgery in early July, and his extended hospitalization and recovery period meant we had to abandon our plans for a Summer getaway trip.  And it seemed as if by the time my husband was finally feeling well enough to enjoy Summer activities, the season was practically over.  I think it’s hard to move on to a new season when you don’t feel as if you really experienced the old one.

My guess is that a lot of people are feeling that way these days, even though their personal situation isn’t exactly the same as ours.  We’ve been living through some very strange times, mostly due to the horrible pandemic that refuses to go away, and also because of the many natural disasters that have occurred and what feels like more than our usual share of political upheaval.  So many of us have felt the loss of the things that we hold dear about our normal lives, and it’s only natural to have trouble letting go of our expectations and moving forward.

The trouble is, we don’t really have a choice.  Time marches steadily on, usually faster than we would prefer, and there’s not a darn thing we can do about it.  Clinging to our ideas of “what should have been” doesn’t get us anywhere we want to be, and it actually makes it harder to move into the future with any hope or sense of purpose.  The only thing to do is move forward, appreciating what we have and anticipating what is to come.  Because there will always be something to enjoy and treasure if we can just open our eyes and see it.

IMG_4023So I’m dragging out my Fall decorations, placing pumpkins and mums on my front porch, and pretty soon I’ll bake the traditional pumpkin pie that, to me, always signals the beginning of this season.  I know that the leaves on the trees will soon be exploding in beautiful colors and that the shorter days mean cooler nights, which are perfect for enjoying on our patio.  No, I didn’t get the Summer I had hoped for, but who knows?  This Fall might just make up for it.  It’s worth a try, anyway.

Progressively Worse

fullsizeoutput_5d20The other day I was driving happily along, when suddenly the emergency brakes slammed on and my dashboard lit up with warning signs.  This has happened a few times when I pull into my garage a little too quickly, but never on the street.  I was confused and alarmed, wondering what on earth had triggered the emergency brake system.  And then I spotted it:  a small twig with about seven leaves that had blown across the street, directly in front of my car.

I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if there had been a car behind me when my brakes slammed on.  Would my car have caused an accident in its attempt to avoid driving over a little twig?  I’ll never know, but the thought makes me distinctly uneasy.

I recently bought a new computer, and while setting it up I made the mistake of answering “yes” when asked if I wanted to upload all my photos to “The Cloud.”  I was already paying a small fee to use I-Cloud storage, so that seemed to be the sensible answer.  Sadly, it wasn’t, because it resulted in all my photos being uploaded twice, even the ones that I had previously stored only on my desktop.  Even worse, I got a notice from I-Cloud saying that I had used up almost all my storage and inviting me to pay more to increase it.  It also loaded all the photos (including the duplicates) onto my I-phone, which took a big chunk of that storage too.  And I found that if I deleted the photos from my I-phone, it automatically deleted them from my computer as well.  Since I prefer to keep most of my photos on my computer and just my favorites on my phone, that’s a problem.

The point of these stories is that new isn’t always better.  I know that these days almost any annoying new thing seems to be justified by either calling it progress or claiming it’s a “matter of safety,” but that doesn’t make it true.  I’ve had to spend hours deleting extra photos from my computer and still have no idea how to delete them from my phone while still storing the ones I want on my computer.  And I’ll never be convinced that a car hitting its emergency brakes because a few leaves blow across the road is keeping anyone safe.

In far too many ways, the progress from our technology has made our lives more complicated and stressful.  It may be more convenient to store all of our personal information, including medical and financial records, online but it also means we have to constantly worry about hackers stealing our identity and our money.  Say what you will, but identity theft wasn’t a big thing before the internet.  And remember the days when real people answered the phones if you called your doctor, bank, or just about any other company?  Now we just get an automated voice listing various options, and none of them are ever the reason why I actually called.

Yes, I know, technology is mostly a good thing and we must “embrace change” and “go with the flow” and all the other pat phrases that people trot out whenever anyone dares to question the infallibility of progress.  I’m just saying that in my opinion, change isn’t truly progress unless it’s a change for the better.  And I believe that it’s perfectly okay to point out the difference between good change and bad change, and pick and choose (as much as we are able) which of the new technologies we embrace and which ones we reject….

Let It Go

About a month ago, we learned that the big, old oak tree in our back yard was diseased and dying.  We’d been worried about its health for a while.  We also knew that if the tree fell down of its own accord it would fall either directly on our garage or the neighbor’s garage, and probably also hit one of our houses.  Safety comes first, so we called a local tree company and arranged to have the tree taken down.

Last week the removal crew showed up, positioned a big crane in our driveway and went to work.  The job took about five hours, and I was impressed with the way they worked until the the foreman announced that they were done for the day, casually adding, “You’re going to have some wood in your yard for a while.”  He explained that they could only remove the limbs small enough to fit in their chipper and that another crew would be along later to collect the trunk and bigger limbs.   When I inquired as to exactly what he meant by “later” he assured me that it was usually only a couple of days, but added that he couldn’t guarantee that timeline.

61CAD860-FB5D-463A-A574-94E3070DD4B9_1_201_aA quick survey of the yard revealed a stack of logs in the grass between our house and driveway, more stacks in the back yard, some of which were laying across the sidewalk, and finally, the huge trunk of the tree spanning the area behind the garage to the middle of the yard.  I asked him how long it usually took logs left on a lawn to kill the grass underneath them, and he said about seven days.

Five days later, the logs were still there and my husband and I were not happy.  We’re not the sort of people who pride ourselves on a perfect lawn, but we’re also not the sort who enjoy paying to have their lawn re-sodded just because a tree company left big logs strewn about.  We called and complained to the manager, and were assured that they should get to it within “a couple of days.”  That was when I made the transition from unhappy to frustrated and angry.

I fretted and stewed about it for most of the morning, which meant that I was in an awful mood as I went about my daily chores.  It’s not fun to tackle even the simplest tasks when you’re all worked up in righteous indignation, and walking shelter dogs while being TERRIBLY ANNOYED is also not pleasant.  But there really wasn’t anything else we could do about the situation, and eventually I realized that being so upset was doing nothing but making a bad situation worse.

And so I decided to let my anger and frustration go.  I knew that they would eventually show up and move the logs, and that we would deal with the damage to our yard then.  Meanwhile, I didn’t want to waste any more energy fretting about something that I couldn’t fix, especially since the more I thought about, the more I realized that a damaged lawn and a blocked sidewalk weren’t the worst thing in the world.

I know I’ll never be happy when problems arise, especially problems that I believe could have been prevented.  (How about not taking down the tree until  the clean-up crew is available?)  But I’m finally learning that there’s nothing to be gained by getting all worked up about situations that I can’t control.  Sometimes, if only for my peace of mind, I just need to let things go…….