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…….

Ageless Wisdom

E6D3115D-C5C8-4E4E-B4AF-CC75B8DB084FI was dusting the spare bedroom the other day when I noticed a piece of paper sticking out from my grandmother’s old family Bible.  Curious, I pulled it out and discovered it was a reflection, neatly typed on a small piece of paper with my grandmother’s name signed at the bottom of it.  I have no idea if this is something she wrote herself, or if she found it somewhere and decided with was worth copying down and saving.  At any rate, it ended up in the same Bible where she kept a careful record of our family’s births, marriages, and deaths, so I believe it must have held some special meaning for her.  And after reading it, I can understand why.

It may be old, but I think in many ways that this reflection speaks just as well to today’s world.  And I thought that instead of writing my own post this week, I would simply share the words that my grandmother saved:

Just For Today

Just for today, I will try to to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life’s problems at once.  I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today, I will be happy.  This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that “most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Just for today, I will try to strengthen my mind.  I will study and I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer.  I will read something that requires effort, thought, and concentration.

Just for today, I will exercise my soul in three ways:  I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out.  If anybody knows about it, it will not count.  I will do at least two things I don’t want to do…just for exercise.  And if my feelings are hurt, today I will not show it.

Just for today, I will be agreeable.  I will look as well as I can, act courteously, criticize not one bit and not find fault with anything.  I will not try to improve or regulate anyone except myself.

Just for for today, I will have a program.  I may not follow it exactly, but I will try.  And I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.

Just for today, I will have a quiet half hour all by myself and relax.  During this half hour I will try to get a better perspective of my life.

Just for today, I will be unafraid.  Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

I always believed that my grandmother was a wise woman.  Turns out, I was right about that…..

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……

Unexpected Gifts

When I first began this blog, I kept to a strict schedule of publishing a new post at least every four days.  I worried that I wasn’t posting often enough, because I’d read that all successful blogs posted something new every single day, but I also knew that daily posting would be too much for me.  Eventually, I settled on my current blogging schedule of posting once a week or so, and that usually seems to work out just fine.

Usually, but not always. Because when it came time to write my most recent post, I found myself coming up with one excuse after another for not actually sitting down at my computer and writing.  I’m not exactly sure what my problem was, although life has been particularly hectic lately and I am easily distracted.  Still, I knew writing requires self discipline and I finally told myself, very firmly, that I was going to write a post on Thursday, come hell or high water.  I had made my plan, and I was going to stick to it, no excuses accepted.

But that didn’t happen.  Thursday flew by with visits from multiple repairmen and delivery services, all of which required some major rearranging of our house and furniture, and a couple of quick trips to the store.  And the evening was even more interesting, when we were hit with an unexpected storm that brought 70-miles per hour winds and heavy rains.  We lost both our power and our internet service, but counted ourselves lucky not to sustain any major property damage. 

By Friday morning our power had come back on but our internet was still out, so writing a blog post wasn’t an option.  But I wouldn’t have had time to write one anyway, because my son’s house and my granddaughter’s daycare center were still without power, and so I spent the day helping care for my granddaughter while my son and his wife worked from our home. 

I’m embarrassed to say that I actually felt guilty, just for a little while, for neglecting my blog after I had been so determined to write that overdo post.  (I’ve always been a little slow on the uptake, but this was a stretch, even for me.)  But finally I came to my senses and realized:  I wasn’t neglecting my blog at all.  I was simply taking care of things that needed my attention a bit more urgently and that were a lot more important.  Storms happen.  Grandchildren require care.  Washing machines break and need to be replaced as soon as possible. 

BWa7CwnUQ2aoDvsK6Di43QYes, my blog is important to me and I love the creative outlet (and self-discipline) it helps provide.  But there are going to be times when it takes a back seat to the other demands on my time and that’s perfectly okay.  Sometimes our normal routines are interrupted, but we get back to them eventually.   And in this case, the interruption meant I got to spend the day with one of my very favorite people in the world…..so I’m not about to complain.

 

What It Is

No one ever promised us that life would always be easy.  Or if someone did, they lied.  Because sometimes, no matter what we do, life is just plain hard.  And the older I get, the more I believe that the wisest thing to do is to simply accept that fact.

I read recently (I’d quote the source, but of course I can’t remember it) that one of the main sources of our frustration is the difference between what we expected and what we actually get.  That really resonated with me, because I’ve found that almost every time I’m frustrated and upset, it’s because the situation I find myself in is not the situation I was hoping for or expecting.  And it’s the gap between what I had anticipated and the reality of what actually occurred that often makes me feel so upset.  In other words, the more I think about “what should have been,” the more disappointed and bitter I become.

One way to ward off that frustration would be to simply stop planning or hoping for good things in our lives, because then we wouldn’t be disappointed when those good things didn’t actually materialize.  That philosophy might guarantee we’re never going to be disappointed again, (if you don’t ever plan that dream vacation, you never have to worry about it getting cancelled) but who wants to live like that?  I sure don’t.

I think, perhaps, that the key is to simply remember that nothing in this world is ever guaranteed, and that sometimes even our best-laid plans are going to veer wildly off course.  Challenges we never saw coming are going to pop up when we least expect them, and often when we’re least prepared to cope with them.  And when that happens, it’s natural to be upset and disappointed, at least for a while.  But eventually, we have to let go of our frustration and focus on dealing with the situation at hand.

My husband and I didn’t plan on spending our anniversary at the Emergency Room a mere five days after what was supposed to be a simple surgery, but we did.  And I didn’t plan on sitting at his bedside in the hospital for nine days after that either.  At first, I was bitter because this was not “how things were supposed to be.”  But eventually, I managed to let go of my frustration and simply accept what was.  My husband was in a good hospital, getting good medical care, and he was slowly but surely improving.  I was allowed to be with him, which wasn’t the case for hospital patients when the pandemic first hit.  I was even allowed to bring him food, which tasted a lot better than what the hospital cafeteria sent up.  In other words, I had reasons to be grateful, once I was willing to let go of my expectations and actually see them.

5oNQQuOjR1SkDZ6qfXaozAAnd the fact that life can be unexpectedly hard isn’t the only thing I accept.  I also accept, and even plan on, the fact that life can also be quite good.  Which is why I have every intention of making a dinner reservation at a very nice restaurant when next year’s anniversary rolls around, and I might even look into booking a weekend getaway as well.  That celebration may not actually happen, but I’m hoping it will, and that hope is enough for me.