Time Well Spent

I’ll be the first to admit that I messed up.  I’ve never had a good memory, so I usually write all my commitments down on the calendar on our refrigerator.  It’s old fashioned, but using a real calendar usually works best for me.  But from early May on, I somehow managed to get myself very over-scheduled.

You would think that someone who is in the habit of writing things down on the calendar would look at previous commitments before adding another one, but apparently I didn’t.  The end result was that the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity with no real downtime.  The things I had scheduled weren’t the problem:  a trip, a house-guest, a long-term babysitting stint, hosting a few family events, volunteering for a fund-raiser, meetings, dinners, lunches, etc.  They were all things I enjoy—just not all in the such a compact time period.

As an introvert who values having some quiet time on a regular basis, I was a little daunted when I realized just how crowded my schedule had become.  I considered backing out of a few things, but in the end I decided to simply soldier on.  I was the one who had created this situation, and it seemed unfair for me to cancel at the last minute.  Besides, there wasn’t really anything on the calendar I didn’t want to do.  I just wished I had managed to work a few breaks into the schedule.

In any event, my “busy time” seems to be winding down, and my husband and I are enjoying a three-day weekend with almost nothing on the schedule.  I say almost nothing, because I did promise to take my granddaughter to the zoo on Saturday morning.  (Actually, one morning I had told her I was taking her to school and she thought I said I was taking her to the zoo, and she very much wanted to go.  We couldn’t go to the zoo that morning, but I promised to take her as soon as possible.)

It would have been easy to cancel our visit to the zoo, but I’m not in the habit of disappointing a three-year old.  And besides, I knew it would be fun.  So we picked her up bright and early and spent a beautiful Saturday morning showing our granddaughter the local zoo.  She was thrilled by everything.  She loved seeing the animals, riding the carousel, watching the zoo train go by, and even took the time to literally smell the flowers along the path.  Honestly, it couldn’t have been a nicer experience.

Looking back on the past few weeks, I’m actually glad that I didn’t cancel any of the things I had scheduled.  I got to spend time with old and new friends, help support some worthwhile causes and spend quality time with my family.  Yes, I was busier than I’d prefer to be, and I’ll be more careful with my schedule in the future.  But sometimes in life, I think we just have to “go for it.”

Recharged

This morning I was driving home after a morning spent running errands when I got the bright idea to stop by our neighborhood bakery and deli.  It makes delicious bread that my grandchildren love, and I wanted to replenish my supply.  (I always keep a couple of loaves in my freezer.)  The parking lot wasn’t very full, so I figured it would be a quick stop and I’d be home in plenty of time to meet my husband for lunch and then tackle my afternoon chores.

Once inside the shop, I decided to also order a sandwich for my husband and I to share.  We both love their sandwiches and I’m always a fan of any food I don’t actually have to prepare.  Everything was going great until I got back in my car and tried to start it.  The key word in that sentence is “tried” because, despite repeated efforts, the car refused to start.

I muttered a few things I shouldn’t have, called my husband to let him know why I wouldn’t be home, and then called the number on my AAA roadside assistance card.  After a long and complicated process involving an automated answering machine, time on hold waiting for the next available operator, and repeatedly spelling the address of my location, I was informed that an assistant would be arriving in an hour or two.

If only I hadn’t stopped at the bakery,  I thought.  If I’d been home when my car battery died, I could get all sorts of things done while I was waiting for help to arrive.  Instead I was stuck in a now-crowded parking lot, hungry and thirsty, and far from confident that the operator had given the roadside assistant the right address.  This seemed like just one more thing that had gone wrong in a week where nothing seemed to go right, and a good time for a pity party.

I sat down at a recently-vacated outdoor table to wait.  My husband, who had arrived with his own key in the hope that it might start the car (it didn’t) joined me and we decided to go ahead and eat our sandwich while it was still good.  It was actually kind of nice sitting in the warm Spring sun, eating and watching the cars drive by.  Then the owner of the bakery, who had come out earlier to check that we were okay, brought us out some water and extra napkins, along with an offer for anything else we might need while we waited.  We ended up chatting with the people at the table next to us, and what had started out as a major inconvenience turned into a very pleasant lunch experience.

Which, of course, just goes to show how important it is to be willing to let go of our own agendas and expectations from time to time and be prepared to not only accept what happens instead, but to be willing to see the good in a situation we weren’t expecting and didn’t want.  The roadside assistant showed up shortly after we were done eating, my car has a new battery, and I (thankfully) have a much better attitude today…..

Good Old Summertime

I shouldn’t complain, because this is exactly what I had yearned for all Winter long.  I wanted Summer to come, that lovely season when I could go outside without putting on a coat, or even shoes.  I wanted to wake up in the morning when the sun had already risen, and I wanted my yard to be filled with colorful flowers.  I wanted dinner on the patio, long days and short nights, and nightly weather reports that never once mentioned the words “sleet” or “snow.” The problem is, this Summer I got just a bit more than I bargained for.

Yes, I wanted warm weather, but no, I didn’t want the temperatures to climb into the triple digits and stay there.  I didn’t want it to be so hot that when I came home from walking shelter dogs all morning I had to take a cool shower and a two-hour nap.  I didn’t want humidity so high that my sun glasses fog up when I walk outside, and I didn’t want to see my flowers withering in the sun.  And most of all, I didn’t want weather reports that used the words “excessive heat warning” several days in a row.  But sadly, that’s exactly what I got, and I don’t like it one bit.

So it’s hot—really hot–outside, and I’m a little cranky. (My husband would probably tell you that I’m a lot cranky, but what does he know?)   And the heat wave is supposed to extend into next week, so there’s not any relief in sight.  Which means I have two choices:  I can hole up inside my air-conditioned house wait it out, or I can put on my “big girl panties” and just accept the nasty weather.

I was leaning toward the first choice, but as so often happens, outside influences pulled me in the other direction, challenging me to live my life as fully as I can even in the midst of a heat wave.  It may be miserable outside, but the dogs living in the shelter where I volunteer still need regular potty breaks.  So I go and help walk them, just for short walk and keeping on the grass as much as possible.  Although I could stand to lose a few pounds, my husband most definitely can’t, so that means regular trips to the grocery store and restaurants are in order.  There are still meetings, chores, errands and all of the usual things that keep us busy no matter what the weather happens to be up to.

IMG_2119 2And sometimes there are those moments when we are lucky enough to move from simply “enduring” to actually “enjoying” our circumstances.  I asked my oldest grandson yesterday if he wanted to help me set up the sprinkler to water the back yard.  He did, and he also wanted to know if he could play in said sprinkler.  Long story short, he put on his swim suit and had a great time jumping through the water, while I stood by and watched him, getting almost as wet as he was even if I didn’t have the good sense to put on my suit.

It was the longest time I had spent in our yard in the afternoon sun in a long time, but I didn’t mind at all.  The water kept me cool and my grandson kept me entertained, and best of all, I finally remembered just exactly why I had been so anxious for Summer to arrive……

Up and Down

If I ever had any doubts about the truth of the saying, “Life is like a roller coaster, full of ups and downs,” the events of the past couple of weeks have put them to rest.  Approximately four weeks ago, I was sitting in my favorite restaurant, celebrating an early birthday dinner with my immediate family.  I distinctly remember sitting with my oldest two grandchildren on my lap, looking over at the baby and thinking, “I am so blessed.”

IMG_1923The reason we were celebrating my birthday early was that my husband and I were going to be on Sanibel Island for my actual birthday, and Florida’s Sanibel Island is one of my very favorite places.  Even better, the trip was all I had hoped it would be:  we had great weather, were joined for a few days by good friends, found some fun shells and even had the chance to get up close and personal with manatees.  It was, honestly, the highlight of my year so far.

But what goes up must come down, as we all know.  Early last week, I started to feel a bit sick.  I figured it was my usual allergic reaction to the green tree pollen that’s coating everything here, but I took a Covid test and got a negative result.  I stayed home even so, resting and drinking lots of water.  After a couple of days I felt much better, but decided to take another Covid test before I ventured out in public, just to be sure.  And it was positive.

I know I still have lots to be thankful for.  My symptoms were extremely mild, and my husband was out of town on business while I got sick, and he tested negative when he returned.  Unfortunately, the difference in our Covid status means we can’t share living space, so I’m upstairs in the primary bedroom of our story-and-a-half house while my husband is staying downstairs and sleeping in the guest room.  And as nice as our primary suite is, it was designed for sleeping, not living in 24/7.  Especially not in the heat we’ve been enduring this past week, because our upstairs depends on the additional cooling provided by the window AC unit my husband would install if he were allowed to be in the same space as me.

Sometimes as I’m sitting on my bed, watching yet another HGTV rerun or reading yet another book and trying not to sweat on the pages, I can’t help but feel just a little bit sorry for myself.  Boredom and loneliness aren’t fun companions.  It’s a little off-putting when I don my N95 mask and go downstairs to replenish my ice water, and my husband gives me a horrified look and quickly darts into another room.  He’s being sensible, I know, but it still takes getting used to.  And it didn’t help when, safely back upstairs, the strap broke as I was removing the mask, snapping me sharply just below the left eye.  You know you’re in an unlucky phase when you get attacked by your face mask.

But I know that this, too, shall pass.  My husband continues to test negative, and every day brings me closer to the end of my isolation period.  I know the time will come when all I remember about this time is how grateful I am that it wasn’t much, much worse.  And meanwhile, I’ll just sit tight and dream about the next time I get to visit Sanibel…….

Little Things

I got a letter from the gas company today, threatening to turn our gas off if we didn’t contact them immediately to schedule a safety inspection for our gas meter.  I had already scheduled the inspection and it was completed three days ago.  According to the inspector, our meter passed.  I don’t know if the inspector failed to turn his report in, or if the gas company sent the letter before he did so, but the upshot was that I called the gas company’s customer service department and was on hold for a long time before getting a recording saying, “All our representatives are busy now, please leave a voice mail and we’ll get back to you soon.”  That was three hours ago, and I’m still waiting.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not a huge problem.  I’m sure it will get sorted out eventually, and even if they do turn our gas off temporarily, we have electric space heaters and I can cook in our electric toaster oven.  But it is annoying and something I’d rather not deal with.

Lately, I’ve found myself getting far too annoyed at “the little things.”  When a neighbor decided to keep her trash cans at the curb next to our driveway, I was really offended, and not just because it’s against the city ordinances.  It bothered me to look out my window and see them there.  I got upset when there was only one checker working in the store on a busy Saturday morning, resulting in a long wait to check out with my groceries.  It seemed that the little things were adding up, and I was reacting with both anger and impatience.

Which meant that it was time for a good old-fashioned “attitude adjustment.”  Yes, life has been difficult for the past two years and continues to be in many ways.  But the reality is that if I can pay enough attention to the little things to become annoyed by them, then I can also pay enough attention to the little things to react in a more positive way.  The trick is simply to pay attention to different little things.

fullsizeoutput_507dRather than look out my window and see ugly trash cans, I can focus on the beautiful daffodils or the lovely purple buds on our young tree.  Instead of being frustrated by how hard it is to schedule family gatherings at holidays, I can be thankful that my son and daughter live close enough that we always get to celebrate the holidays with them and their families.  I can be thankful that my husband and I are able to eat inside our favorite restaurants again, be grateful that today’s storms didn’t cause any damage in our area, and thrilled that one of my favorite shelter dogs was finally adopted.

Yes, the little things do count, and they do have a very real effect on our moods.  But the good news is that the positive little things add up just as quickly as the negative ones, and they produce a much, much better result.  And the choice of which little things we pay attention to is ours……

Let It Shine

When I first heard that my granddaughter was going to be born six weeks early, I was very worried.  Two of my sisters were born too early and hadn’t survived, and a close friend also lost her son who was born prematurely, so I suppose it was only natural that I was scared.  But as I told friends and family about my granddaughter’s birth, I was surprised by how many of them took the time to assure me that my fears were probably misplaced.  I heard story after story from people who had either been preemies themselves, or had a friends or family members whose premature babies grew up to be perfectly healthy children and adults.  I can’t tell you how much those stories helped me, and how much I needed that support.

There’s a popular meme on social media that says something along the line of “everyone is dealing with some kind of hardship, so please be kind.”  And that is so true.  I told people about my granddaughter’s early birth, but there are times when we don’t feel comfortable sharing our problems with others, for whatever reason.  Which means that all of us are almost constantly interacting with people who are hurting, and how we treat them can either help lighten their load or make them feel even worse.  In other words, how we treat others really is a big deal.

It’s especially a big deal right now, as our world seems to face one huge challenge after another and the number of people suffering seems to grow larger every day.  I have no idea what the answers to all these problems are, but I do know that my actions and my words matter.  I may be only one person with zero influence on world affairs, but I can still try to make things just a little bit easier on those around me.

As a blogger, I can use my posts and comments to encourage other bloggers and readers. As a wife, daughter, mother and grandmother, I can give my time and energy to help my family when they’re struggling.  And while I may not have the strength I once did, I can still walk most shelter dogs who desperately need a break from the isolation of their runs.  My personal gifts may be few and not particularly impressive, but I can still choose to use them as much as possible.  And that’s true, I believe, for all of us.

DA56F645-3AF5-4B06-94B8-F2460D5CDBC3In these dark times, all of us have the choice of either spreading the darkness even further, or being a light for those around us.  I hope that we choose to be the ones who encourage and support each other, just as those people helped me when I was so worried about my granddaughter being born too soon.  I’ll always be so grateful to those who assured me she would be just fine, because as it turns out, they were right…..

Like A Child

Sometimes I enjoy a good snowfall.  My living room has a gas fireplace and a large picture window, which makes it especially nice for sitting in a cozy armchair and watching the big fluffy snowflakes gently falling to the ground.  It’s an incredibly relaxing experience, and almost always leaves me with a lovely feeling of comfort and peace.

Unfortunately, not all Winter weather delivers in the comfort and peace department.  Early last week, the local weather forecasters predicted what could be our worst snow storm in over a decade, if not a century.  Depending on which TV channel I watched, I learned that we could get up to four hours of freezing rain, followed by several inches of sleet, topped off with twenty-plus inches of snow.  Like almost everyone else, I dutifully trotted off to the grocery store to stock up on supplies.  Then I checked that my emergency stash of candles and flashlight batteries was adequate and asked my husband to make sure we had gasoline for the generator,  (And tried not to worry too much when he told me he wasn’t even sure our generator still worked.)

When it finally hit, the Winter storm wasn’t nearly as bad as predicted.  We managed to skip the freezing rain altogether, and had only about an inch of sleet.  Sleet can be dangerous, but it’s not nearly as slippery as ice and it also doesn’t bring down power lines.  And while we did get plenty of snow, eight inches is a lot better than twenty.

I was happy that we were spared the “storm of the decade,” but I can’t say that I managed to enjoy this snowfall.  We never did get big fluffy snowflakes, but we did get lots of wind, very cold temperatures and stiff muscles from shoveling our sidewalks and driveway.  And I can only say that I must have had my mind on other things when I stocked up on groceries, because once we were snowed in I discovered that I was missing a few essentials.  (It’s really hard to make tuna casserole without tuna, or home-made pizza without cheese.)  As far as I was concerned, this snowstorm was just something to be endured.

981CD5CD-BD3A-43F4-BD75-A6FA657AC41ABut then I started getting texts from my daughter, complete with pictures of my grandson out enjoying the snow, as children do.  He went sledding, built a snowman and even “helped” with the shoveling.  At four, he’s far too young to listen to weather reports, but he sure knows how to have fun in the snow.  And thankfully, that reminded me that not everyone saw the recent snowfall through my jaded eyes.

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I hope I can always remember just how much it helps to see the world from someone else’s point of view now and then.  I hope I can remember that what’s an inconvenience to me might also my granddaughter’s first chance to play in the snow.  Because sometimes, all we need to do to brighten our mood is try to see things through the eyes of a child……

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….

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…….

Reasonably Nice

It’s been very hot and humid here for the past few days, and I don’t seem to be coping with it very well.  Part of the problem is that I walk dogs at a local animal shelter, which means that I’m outside a lot, no matter what the weather.  (The fact that I’m no longer a “spring chicken” probably also has something to do with it, but I prefer not to think about that.)  The upshot is that by the time I was done with my walking shift yesterday morning, I was hot, tired, and and sore.   All I wanted to do was go home, take a cool shower, and lie down.

Then I discovered that there were some dogs in another part of the shelter still waiting to be walked, and that I was the only person still around to walk them.  I’d like to say that I accepted the situation and did my duty cheerfully, but I did not.  I was angry, because now I was faced with two unpleasant choices:  either stay and walk some more dogs, or go home, knowing those dogs wouldn’t get walked that morning.  And like most angry people, I immediately looked for someone to blame:  Why hadn’t someone else walked those dogs?  Why had they “saved them” for me to take care of?   Obviously, someone wasn’t doing their job, or so I told myself.

Luckily, I shared my frustrations with a staff person I trust, because venting sometimes helps.  She listened calmly to my rant, and then gently pointed out that sometimes there just aren’t enough people to get everything done, no matter how hard they try.  No one had “saved” any dogs for me to walk, they just hadn’t been able to get to them all.  Everyone, she reminded me, was just doing the best they could.

It took me a few minutes to stop feeling sorry for myself and to realize the truth in what she said.  It took a few more minutes to actually be grateful for her honesty, because it was something I needed to hear.  When times are hard, it’s only natural for us to react with disappointment and anger, and to look for someone to blame for all our troubles.  But doing so doesn’t help anyone or anything.

I think it’s especially good for us to remember that now, because in these crazy and turbulent times we’re all struggling, one way or another.  And the last thing struggling people need is someone lashing out at them in anger.  What struggling people need, which means what all of us need, is a little bit of patience, kindness, and acceptance, I think.

Or at least that’s what I needed yesterday when I complained to that staff person.  She could have taken my rant personally and reacted in anger, but she didn’t.  Her calm and reasoned response was a gift to me, because it helped me calm down and look at the situation much more rationally.  And you know what?  I did stay and walk those dogs, and while I was doing so, someone else came along to help.  I may have been even more tired by the time I finally got home, but I wasn’t angry anymore.  Instead, all I felt was gratitude……