Something New

When some friends invited my husband and I to join them on their trip to Las Vegas, we happily accepted.  My husband had only been there on business trips, spending his time in meetings on the outskirts of the city, and I hadn’t been there at all.  Las Vegas wasn’t a place we had a special interest in visiting, but getting out of town with friends seemed like a great idea, so we decided to give it a try.  And we ended up having a wonderful time.

One advantage of traveling with friends is that they encourage us to try new things.  Not only did we spend a few days in Vegas, but my husband (who is very uncomfortable with heights) actually joined us on the giant, 550-foot tall, ferris wheel on the strip.  The first time we saw it, my husband said there was no way he was getting on that thing.  But our friends assured us that each “pod” is huge and completely enclosed, and said the wheel moved so slowly that you don’t even feel it or realize how high up you are.  To my surprise, my husband agreed to try it.  It could have been peer pressure…even at our age, that’s a thing…or it could have been the glass of wine he drank at dinner.  But for whatever reason, we all boarded the “High Roller,”  and it turned out that they were right.  It wasn’t scary at all, and offered a fabulous view of the city.

Talking about it later, my husband and I agreed we probably wouldn’t have visited Las Vegas at all if our friends hadn’t invited us.  And I know for a fact that if the two of us had made that trip alone, there is no way we would have ridden that ferris wheel.  I’m not as uncomfortable with heights as my husband is, but I tend to avoid them just the same.  At age 64, I’ve reached a point in my life where I believe I already know what I like and what I don’t like, which is okay.  But what is not okay is that sometimes I allow that knowledge to stop me from trying something new.

And that’s where friends and family come in.  They can invite us to try something for the first time, or to venture somewhere we’ve never even considered going.  I like to think of myself as a creature of habit, because that sounds so much nicer than “stuck in a rut.”  Left to my own devices, I rarely wander out of my comfort zone.  But when someone I know and trust suggests something brand new, that opens a door for me to expand my horizons, to experience somewhere brand new, and to realize that I can do more than I ever thought possible.

I guess sometimes peer pressure, from the right people and for the right reasons, can be a very good thing indeed….

Picture Perfect

I was at a photography shop yesterday, uploading my photos in order to make prints of them.   A woman was sitting at the at the kiosk next to me, being helped by a young man who worked at the store.  She was trying to make 5×7 inch prints of her photos, and it wasn’t going well.  The woman (who looked only slightly older than me) kept apologizing for her ignorance of the system, and for needing the employee to help her.  “Sorry I’m taking up so much of your time!  But this is hard for someone my age,” she said, “it was so much easier when all we had to do was bring in our photo card and insert it into the computer.”

The more I listened to their conversation, the more I was struck by the woman’s attitude.  Why did she keep apologizing?  Because she was right: it was so much easier to print our photos a few years ago.  We didn’t have to worry about uploads and file compatibility, retaining original resolution or any of the other stuff she was struggling to understand.  We just inserted our photo card into the kiosk, the pictures popped up on the screen, and we selected the number and size was wanted of each.  It was quick and easy.  

But in these past few years, printing photos has become a real struggle.  I can’t get my photos to upload properly to the online sites anymore (apparently, they’re not compatible), so I go to the shop and sync my phone with their device and upload them there.  Even that takes a very long time unless I use their Wi-Fi, which my phone informs me isn’t secure, and every once in a while the upload simply stops for reasons no one can explain.  These days, it takes real determination and lots of patience to make a print of a photo.  

I believe that woman had no need to apologize, and yet I understood why she did.  If you’re over fifty and struggling with any type of technology, often the immediate assumption is that you’re not quite smart enough to, say, actually print a photo.  The young man who was helping her was patient and kind, but not once did he agree with her that the new system is harder than the old.  Nor did he contradict her when she kept repeating that the problem was her age.  But the truth is, if a system has become complicated and doesn’t work properly, the problem might not be the age of the person trying to use it.  As radical as it sounds, the problem just could be that the system is flawed.

I know I’m one of the few people who still likes to print my photos, so I soldier on.  I’ve learned the difference between a “jpeg” and a “HEIC” photo file, and how to convert one to the other.  I schlepp to the photo shop to use their kiosk because if I try to use the shop’s website, it takes approximately five minutes for each photo to upload.  And when I’m really stymied, I’ll ask for help from the staff.  But no matter how difficult the process becomes, I have vowed that I will NOT utter the words,  “I’m sorry, but I’m just too old to understand……..”

 

Shine On

I lost a blogging friend last week.  It’s odd how the people we meet only through their blogs can seem like friends, but I guess that’s what happens when people write about their own lives, honestly and openly.  Those who read and comment on their posts really do feel as if they actually know the person who wrote them.  And few people wrote more openly and honestly than Martha, the late author of .https://whitehairgrace.com/

When I first started following her blog, Martha was writing about striving to live her remaining years as fully as possible.  I’m about 15 years younger, but her words still spoke to me.  We live in a society that values youth, and it can be a challenge to look for the blessings that come when we have more years behind us than we do ahead.  Then she was diagnosed with cancer, and that became the topic of most of her writing. Still, her spirit shone through in every post, despite the struggles with treatment, the brief remission and finally the acceptance of her upcoming death.  I won’t even try to explain how much I valued her blog, because I don’t have her eloquence.  I’ll only say her posts were a gift that I very much appreciated.

My regular readers know that I volunteer as a dog walker at our local shelter three times a week.  It’s very satisfying to help shelter dogs, but it can also be very draining, both physically and emotionally.  Those of us who spend a lot of time in shelters develop close friendships, probably because we support each other through the hard times.  One of the people I leaned on the most was an adoption counselor named Sherry.  She always listened to us, answered our questions, and offered comfort and encouragement when we needed it.  She was usually cheerful and upbeat, and known to break into an impromptu dance when she thought the occasion warranted it…and the occasion almost always did.

Sherry was in the middle of her own battle with cancer when my husband was diagnosed.  And even though she’d retired from the shelter and was undergoing very difficult treatments, she called me at least once a week to ask how my husband was doing.  They had the same kind of cancer, so her advice was on target and very helpful.  The many, many, people who knew her were devastated when Sherry passed away.   I was amazed at the sheer number of heartfelt tributes that appeared on social media, and I’m suer that was just a fraction of the people she’d helped in her life.

I honestly believe that people like Martha and Sherry are examples to us all.  They weren’t perfect, and didn’t pretend to be.  But they shared the best of themselves with others, each in her own way.  Whether it was  in the blogging world or the shelter world, they helped others with their openness, their wisdom and most of all their generous spirits.  They were the kind of people who light the way for others who are sometimes still stumbling in the dark.  May their light shine on forever…….

Vindication

I’ve been telling Mom and Dad for years that rain and storms are dangerous, but they wouldn’t believe me.  They think they know better, just because I’m a dog.  Whenever I felt the atmosphere begin to change (and like most dogs, I can sense that well before the first raindrop appears), I’d whine, shake and pace anxiously to warn them of the impending danger.  When that didn’t work, I’d jump up on the couch next to them, or even on the table if that’s where they were sitting, in an effort to get their attention.  All that got me was a sharp, “Get down!” while they pushed me off.

Even when the storms actually hit, they’d pretend everything was okay.  It could be pouring rain outside, with the sky lit up with lightening and deafening booms of thunder, and Mom and Dad would basically just go about their business, ignoring it all.  Even worse, they wanted ME to ignore it!  “You’ll be fine, Finn,” they’d say.  “It’s nothing but a little rain and thunder.”  Now I know that my parents are mostly smart people, but when it comes to bad weather, they have absolutely no clue.

So I have to admit that I feel just a little bit vindicated after the past week.  We had THREE bad storms in the past seven days, and all of them resulted in some rather serious flooding in our area.  Unlike many others, our house escaped damage, so we were lucky.  But our driveway turned into a raging river with several inches of rain pouring down it, and we even had white caps where it meets the street.  Trash cans floated by and disappeared behind a neighbor’s house, and all the while the water crept closer and closer to us.

Mom says we’re lucky that our house sits up high, but even that didn’t help last night, when fifty-mile an hour winds drove the rain right against our house and the upstairs bathroom window started leaking all over the floor.  Mom seemed very unhappy about that, but not nearly as unhappy as she was later, when Dad used her best towels to stuff into the window to keep more water from coming in.  And today there are many streets in our neighborhood that are still closed because of the flooding damage and the trees that blew down in the high winds.

“See?” I want to tell my parents. “I was right!  Storms are VERY dangerous!”  I’d like to believe that when the next storm comes, they’ll be a bit more sympathetic to my fear.  And then maybe they’ll join me when I take precautionary measures, like going to high ground in case of flooding.  (The dining room table is ideal for that, and there’s room for all three of us on it.)  I know perfectly well that being frightened out of your wits and trying to find a safe place is the only logical response to bad weather, and maybe, just maybe, Mom and Dad have figured that out now too.

But I guess only time will tell if they’ll react appropriately when the next storm hits.  And the one thing that all  of us agree on is that we don’t want the chance to find that out for a long, long time.

Love, Finn

Travel Plans

I had such high hopes for this Summer.  Last year’s Summer was a bit of a dud, what with my husband spending most of it recovering from two surgeries.  The weather had been good and the Covid numbers down, but we simply couldn’t take advantage of it.  I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m just explaining why my expectations for this year were so high.  I wanted to truly enjoy this Summer, spending as much time as possible outside and taking several trips to exciting new destinations.  I wanted to make up for everything we missed out on last year, and then some.

But that isn’t what happened.  It’s not fun to be outside when the temperatures creep above 100 degrees, especially when that’s coupled with high humidity.  Sometimes it cools down enough that we can be outside later in the evening, but it’s often rather brutal during the day .  And while we did schedule a few trips, none of them are to places I haven’t already been.

At first I was a little put out when I realized that this wasn’t going to be the Summer I finally got to explore the Pacific Northwest, visit the Grand Canyon, or discover some charming New England coastal towns.  I really wanted to go to all those places, and more, but by the time we had scheduled our trips to Iowa, Kansas and Indianapolis, our schedule was full.  I’ll admit that I had a, “what the heck happened to my plans?” moment when I realized our travel calendar had filled up without including any new destinations.  But then I thought about it some more and realized that we had some very good reasons for our choices.

We were not going anywhere new or exciting, but our destinations were still important.  We went to Iowa to visit my husband’s family, and it have been over two years since we’d been there, what with Covid and health issues.  We spent time with almost all of our relatives there, and few things are more important than spending time with family.  Then we went to Kansas to visit dear friends and I was also able to reconnect with old classmates in the small town where I went to Middle School and High School.  After the challenges of the last two years, catching up with old friends and classmates just felt right.

I think it was ten years ago when my daughter gave me a mother/daughter trip to Indianapolis for my birthday gift, and while I was there, I realized my husband would enjoy the attractions of downtown Indianapolis very much.  I gave him a coupon for a couple’s weekend there several Christmases ago, but we never found the time for it.  So that’s where we’re going next month, because we’ve put it off long enough. It will be a new destination for him, and a relaxing weekend for both of us.

I still have a huge list of places I want to visit.  But sometimes, it’s more important to use our vacation days traveling to spend time with the people, both family and friends, who mean the most to us.  And it’s especially important after two years when getting together with those people has been almost impossible.  Of course I still want to visit all the fun destinations on my list, but I also know that when it comes right down to it, people are more important than places….and I know we made the right choice.

Try Again…

My mother turned 90 two years ago, but we never did have the big party we’d planned to celebrate. We were going to invite all her family and friends, because we believed that reaching 90 years of age was a big deal, and should be celebrated in a big way.  But then Covid showed up, and Mom’s birthday celebration was added to the long list of things the pandemic ruined.  We thought we’d just wait a year and throw her a big 91st birthday party instead.  But that didn’t happen either, because my husband was in the hospital on her birthday, and for many days afterwards.

Sadly, Mom has now reached the point where the big celebration we had hoped to throw would just overwhelm her.  So last Sunday,  I was going to host a birthday party for immediate family and a few close friends.  But then a family member was exposed to Covid, and we knew that having the party as scheduled was not a good idea.  Mom settled for dinner with two of her daughters and son-in-laws, and she seemed fine with that.

Yesterday, I was planning to go to a metro book fair that I hadn’t been to in three years.  It’s an excellent source for good books at very reasonable prices.  But as I was pulling out of our driveway I noticed that our dog was outside in our yard.  At first I wasn’t worried, since my husband was home and I figured he’d let Finn back inside soon.  But it was 102 degrees outside, and our yard doesn’t have much shade.  The further I got from home, the more I worried, so I finally pulled over and called my husband, just to be sure he’d brought Finn in.  My husband didn’t answer, not that time or the five other times I called. I even called some neighbors, but no one was home.

I know my husband is very responsible, and I really wanted to go to this book fair.  But I was also worried about my dog.  By the time I got to the book fair, I knew I couldn’t stay, so I simply drove back home.  The dog, of course, was inside the house, sleeping peacefully.  I almost decided to just stay home and forget the whole thing, but I didn’t.  I drove all the way back to the fair, and spent a very pleasant afternoon browsing through the books.

It’s hard to plan things these days and, it can sometimes seem almost pointless to count on anything happening when we want it to.  It can be tempting to simply stop trying.  But that’s no way to live.  Sometimes we need to be both stubborn and flexible, willing to reschedule and be patient in order to get what we want.  Sometimes, persistence really is the key.

We have a new date set for Mom’s birthday party, but if we have to, we’ll reschedule again, until it happens.  And it took a lot of time and effort to get to the book fair this year, but it was worth it.  I had fun, and came home with a big bag of new books to read.  As the old saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again……”

Thanks and an Update

I’m sorry to clutter your readers and inboxes, but I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to let me know they could see my published “test” post.  For some reason, I am logged into my stats page and can write a new post, but once it is published, I am no longer recognized as the administrator of my blog, so I can’t like your comments or answer them without logging in as a guest (including password) each and every time.

I’ve exchanged 29 emails with Word Press “Happiness Engineers” over this issue, but none have identified or solved the problem, and to say I am frustrated would be an understatement.  My son, who works in IT, checked out my browser and assured me that’s not the problem.  He suggested I log out of my blog completely and log back in and see if that helps.  The reason for this post is I’m afraid that after I do that, I may not even be able to write posts anymore and didn’t want to just disappear without explaining that I really wasn’t planning to end my blog right now.

So, hopefully the problem will be resolved and I’ll continue blogging.  But if it’s not, please know that I have appreciated each and every person who read, liked, and/or commented on my posts more than you’ll ever know.  And (if Word Press allows it) I’ll still be following and commenting on your blogs.

Thanks again for all the advice!  It is a gift I will always treasure.  You gave hope and cheer when it was desperately needed, which is one of the many things I’ve loved about being part of the Word Press community!

Testing

I’m having major problems with my blog, so I’m just testing to see if this post is actually published.  If you see it, at least that’s one less problem!

But if you comment and I don’t respond, please know that I can’t respond.  Word Press is allowing me to post, but not recognizing me as the author of my own blog.  Does anyone else use the Word Press app to blog?  Their techs as suggesting the problem is my browser and telling me to use that.  Any advice would be appreciated, even if it is not recognized (only because I can’t respond!)

Thanks so much!!!

Vital Connections

DSC03900The last of my tomatoes is gone, and I didn’t get to eat any of them.  I absolutely love the taste of home-grown tomatoes, so over the past several years I’ve made several attempts to grow them myself.  Sadly, all that work and effort produced only one bumper crop of cherry tomatoes.  I was happy and proud, but it only happened once.  Some years I grew enormous tomato plants that didn’t actually produce tomatoes, other years my plants were infected with “white flies” which meant the tomatoes never ripened, and one year something ate my entire tomato plant.  All that was left was a sad little gnawed-off stump.

Hope springs eternal, so this Spring when I saw a healthy little plant that was labeled as an “early producer,” I thought I would give it a try.  I was heartened to see five tomatoes growing shortly after I planted it, and since there was no sign of the dreaded white flies, I thought this was going to be my year, tomato-wise.  But then the tomatoes began disappearing, one by one.  I asked my husband to surround the plant with a protective barrier.  That worked for three days, but this morning, all that was left of my tomato crop was a single tomato with a huge bite taken out of it.  I know when I’m beat, so I left it on the ground so some critter could finish its meal.

I think the time has come for me to admit that growing my own tomatoes is not in my skill set.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy home-grown tomatoes, it just means I have to eat tomatoes that other people have grown.  For now, I buy them at the local farmer’s market.  Later this Summer, my friends and family who can successfully grow tomatoes will most likely share their extras with me.  And I’ve decided that I’m okay with that.

The truth is, sometimes we have to rely on other people.  When the shower head in our main bathroom started dripping, my husband and I made several attempts to fix it ourselves, but finally gave up and called a plumber.  The plumber fixed it in less than an hour.  When my dog managed to snag my necklace and I heard a loud “twang,” I thought it was broken.  It wasn’t, but the chain was suddenly several inches longer.  I couldn’t figure out how a sterling silver chain suddenly lengthened, but a friend took one look at it and told me that the chain had “sprung,” which did indeed make it longer.  Sometimes other people know the answers that elude us.

I am, by nature, a somewhat independent person and I don’t apologize for that.  But I also know just how connected I am to other people, and how much we all rely on each other to get through our day-to-day lives.  And I hope I can always remember just how much I need others, even those people who don’t think, vote, believe, or look just like I do.  Because when I can remember how connected we all truly are, it’s a whole lot easier to treat others the way I want them to treat me.  And that results in a better world for everyone…..

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……