Return to Dignity

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Today I am grateful for the return of dignity.  While I am thrilled with the new changes in our government, I am also very, very sad.  But not just sad because of the horrible insurrection, or the unnecessary loss of human life to Covid-19, or the fact that Washington DC looks like a war zone.  I’m sad because I have lost so many people who wanted to see this day, but didn’t live long enough.

In watching the news on the inauguration of responsible grown-ups, there is a lot of talk about the lack of a crowd.  The blatant insurrection by followers of the past lunatic is, of course, one reason.  Security can barely deal with the safety of the dignitaries involved, not to mention a “crowd”.  But Biden and Harris also encouraged people to stay home for their own safety from Covid.

Imagine that?  Sacrificing the adulation of thousands in order to keep people healthy and safe.  At this point that alone gives me hope.  The flags lining the grounds are representative of the people who would usually be attending.  And they are representative of you and me, the citizens of the United States.

But today I’m not thinking about you, or me.  I’m thinking about the friends I have lost in the last four years.  Some of them despised 45, some were on the fence, some supported him, at least at first.  But I’m certain, that after the events of the last two weeks, all would be glad he’s gone. 

But I’ll never know for sure because they aren’t here to tell me.  My heart is going out to those we’ve lost. . .from those innocent black people shot down or choked in the streets, or their homes; to the dignitaries who had marched with Martin Luther King Jr.; to the elected government officials, including in our courts, who prayed for change but didn’t live to see it happen.  Then there are the 400,000 victims of Covid, many of whom wouldn’t have died.  Horrible and unnecessary waste of human life.

But as I watch historic events unfold, I’m mostly thinking of my lost friends.  I fear I might leave someone out, but if I do, please add them to my list.  Also feel free to add your own as well.  I honor them. . .

Beth, who in early days, would call or text me every single time 45 did something stupid.  We communicated a lot.

Jude, who followed and commented on every single one of my blog stories and messaged me often, when she wasn’t comfortable sending her strong opinions into the world.

Roberta, my friend from a billion years ago, who always thought I was so special, never realizing that it wasn’t me, it was her who was special!  She didn’t like to get into public politics, either, but boy, those private messages burned and always ended with hope.

Gordon, the quadriplegic brother of a friend I lost years ago to Alzheimer’s.  Though faced with enormous daily obstacles, he always found something to be grateful for.  Every single day. 

Stephani, my little peanut friend from water aerobics, who probably voted for 45, because she had hope, but I’m sure would have kicked him to the curb a long time ago, because she was too smart to not see him for what he was.  I miss her sass every single day.

Bernie, a friend from my theater days forty years ago, who died of Covid not long ago.  We hadn’t been in touch too much in these last years, but it wasn’t necessary to know what his feelings would be on this historic day.

Sylvia, my dear, dear friend and the very first person who was kind to me when we moved to Pennsylvania 35 years ago.  When something horrific happened in the news, she called me to discuss.  We discussed a lot until her confusion intercepted and made it difficult.  I wish she was here today so we could talk.

Jim, who I leave for last, because while I think of him every day, today is when I need his gentle spirit and kind comments to fill my soul.  Even though he could rant, he always concluded with kindness and a peaceful, even countenance.  A proud navy veteran, I have wanted to talk with him every day for the last month.  How horrified he would have been at the insurrection and breech of the Capital building.  And how proud he would be today. And calm.

While I am sad, happy, ecstatic, terrified and grateful for change, I remember my friends, now gone, who would have loved witnessing today.  I witness it for them.  We are long overdue for a return to dignity. 

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What Ever it Takes

Friday, January 15, 2021

Today I am grateful for what it takes.  We have been a clown-car of events in our house this morning.  I’m calling it “How-many-German/Russian/Polish-Irish-people-does-it-take-to-change-a-light-bulb?”  Or three light bulbs.  Or defrost a cranky ice maker?  Or clean a drawer of melted, science project lettuce?  Yeah, it’s been fun.

I got up with the plan to make soup, so I went in the veggie bin at the bottom of our fridge to get out the celery and carrots.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Except when I reached in, the first thing I grabbed was a small head of lettuce that squeezed out it’s rank juices like a soggy sponge.  Swell.  That meant that everything else was floating in the bilge-filled drawer.  So, what.  Just take it out, right?  Not so easy.

When we bought the fridge Himself (and me, too) wanted to get water in the door, so we got a side-by-side.  It looked great in the space.  Until we tried to open it.  The fridge door bangs on the dishwasher handle, so it won’t open far enough to get the drawers all the way out.  I know it sounds like a major pain in the ass, which it was, but we’re used to it.  Sort of.  If I buy a cabbage too big, I have to chop it in half to get it into the drawer. If I go to someone else’s house and pull out a vegetable drawer on their fridge, I’m likely to send it flying across the room.

But this mess couldn’t be cleaned without getting that drawer out.  There I was, still in my night shirt, strong-arming that bastard refrigerator out of its spot, both doors open and me yanking and swearing and pulling.  Then I’d stop to see if I could get the drawer out.  Nope.  More tugging and swearing.  Finally, I had it out enough, dragged that skanky drawer out and washed it in the sink.

I went to put it back and noticed the sludge from Chernobyl stuck in the bottom of the fridge.  Short of a jack-hammer, it wasn’t coming off.  I had to soak it with a hot towel for a long time so I figured I’d start chopping stuff for the soup.  See what a multi-tasker I am?

Soup cooking on the stove, I made my tea water, then tried to put ice cubes in the measuring cup so it wouldn’t be too hot for Himself when he wanted to use it.   EHRRR-EHRRR-EHRRR.  But no cubes.  The ice maker had seized up, or the line froze or something.  A week ago, “someone” left the door ajar and there was frost on stuff in the freezer.  I have been down this road before, but the maker seemed to be working so I figured I dodged the bullet this time.  Nope.

Himself got up and I asked him to get the cooler up from the basement, after his breakfast and told him why.  We were both sooooo happy.  Not! 

I dumped the stuff from the freezer into the cooler (as much as it would hold), laid down the towels, got the hair dryer and set to work.  Himself decided he’d put the new lightbulbs I bought yesterday into the light above the table.  Three bulbs.  Easy peasy.

The first ladder didn’t work.  The second was better, but then he thought it would be easier if he moved the table a little.  Ya think?  I propped the dryer on the aforementioned measuring cup and let it blast in the freezer without me and went to help him.  Someone has to hand lightbulbs to the guy on the ladder.  Handing light bulbs is my specialty.  I have a certificate.

He took the old ones out and was ready to put new in, but sitting below the light, I could see we should wipe out the fixture.  Was he happy about that?  Oh yeah.  He was further happy when I pointed from underneath to show where he missed spots.  Yeah, right.  But he refused to pop the whole thing out so I could wash it in the sink so it was on him to get it right.

He put the three bulbs in, I checked to be sure the hairdryer wasn’t melting the inside of the freezer, then turned his light on.  Flicker.  Flicker.  Flicker.  Back up on the ladder he went to tighten the bulbs.  Flicker.  Flicker.  Only two this time.

“Why are they flickering?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” he said.

“Are they always going to flicker?”

“They might,” he said.  “Because you bought LED lights this time.”

“Well, that was really stupid of me!”

“Maybe we’ll get used to it,” he said.

“No, not in THIS lifetime!  Just like I could never get used to a fork sticking out of my eyeball, I will never get used to flickering lights over the kitchen table.  Don’t we have other bulbs in the basement?” 

What a fun morning.  He went down and got some while I moved the hairdryer again.  Repeat the ladder-light-bulb-handing part mentioned above.  We held our breath when I flicked on the switch.  Success.

The light works well, but we weren’t sure about the ice maker.  I didn’t hear any water running into it and Himself wouldn’t hear Niagara Falls, so I guess we had to wait.  

I had a lane reserved at the Y so I went to the pool.  This time he didn’t ask if I was going when he saw me in the bathing suit.  I think he was glad to get rid of me.  And I was sure glad to be in the water! 

“I was sitting at the kitchen table and heard a crashing sound,” he said the second I walked back in the door.  “The ice maker is working!”  Oh happy day!

And the answer to the question, “How-many-German/Russian/Polish-Irish-people-does-it-take-to-change-a-light-bulb?”  TWO old geezers some foul language and bad attitudes.  If that’s what it takes, I’m good.

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The Obvious

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 – 2nd blog today

Today I’m grateful for the obvious.  Himself is standing at the sink after his shower, shaving.  All of his spare parts are in various locations, so I know he won’t hear a word I say, so I don’t say anything.  I buzz in, then struggle to get into my bathing suit.

He says:  Are you going to the pool?

I THINK:  No. . . I thought I’d sit around watching Netflix today wearing my one-piece bathing suit because trying to get to the bathroom before a tsunami comes ashore all over the rug is just not exciting enough for me.  I need to complicate it with spandex!

I SAY:  Yes.

Then I leave.  And that folks, is how you stay married.  Refrain from verbalizing your annoyance at the obvious.  Stay home.  Stay safe.  Be kind.

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Done Painting Gnomes

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Today I am grateful to be done painting gnomes!  I loved doing it, but now I’m done.  At least for a while.  If you have nasty looking guys that need sprucing up, don’t even tell me about them until at least Spring!

This little guy was a disaster!  He was so eroded and gnarly that I barely knew where to begin.  Even after I started priming and painting, parts were flaking off.  Yikes.  He got more attention with emery boards than my fingers or toes have gotten for months.

I was given free reign on colors and design, so I took it.  Be careful how much power you give me.  I understand that how he’s dressed might indicate he’s a bit gender confused, but I’m okay with that and so is he.   I’d say the beard gives him away as male, but hey, I’m a post-menopausal woman and my little shavers and tweezers know how that isn’t a solid clue!

In summer he sits under a bench near a neighborhood reading box on my friend’s lawn.  Every little girl, and maybe some little boys, will love those sparkly pink shoes as much as I do.

First, I did some research, then I wrote the phrase, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” on a tiny piece of paper.  Holding that paper upside down I had to “write” upside down on the book with a fine-point sharpie.  The space was so rough and hard to reach that there was no other way.  Yikes!  Again!  But my friend wanted me to “consider” using The Hobbit as the book, so I did. 

Himself has been having his breakfast with gnomes for months.  I think he’s even been chatting with them, but he’s not admitting it.  But now we get the kitchen table back because I’m done.  No more gnome painting.  At least for a while.  So, please don’t tell me about others in need!

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Exercising Himself

Monday, January 11, 2021

Today I am grateful to exercise Himself.  The last time I wrote anything substantial was eleven days ago.  I did a small bit on January 6th, but soon after I wrote, Billy-Hell broke out at our nations capital and I’ve been too emotionally destroyed and devastated to even comment on it in a big way.  I still am, so this isn’t about that nightmare.  But notice I didn’t say I was shocked, because I’m not.  Many of us knew we were headed towards something like this as much as four years ago.  See how I get distracted?  Anyhoooo, to my point of gratitude for today. . .

I have laryngitis.  It’s gotten a little better, but it’s still not great.  My voice is mouse-like, which if you know me at all, you know is so far from me that I might as well be invisible, or a size two, which is never going to happen, either.

I’m not sure how I got this silly lack of physical voice, because through the entire thing I’ve felt fantastic!  No fever, no illness of any kind.  Just silenced vocal cords.  I guess maybe, if I’m being honest, screaming at the news on TV is not so good for me.  At least not my voice.  It seems very good for my soul.  I know gargling with salt water (which is disgusting and nowhere near as fun as eating salty Lays, Sour Cream and Cheddar chips), moist air (which feels like being on the bow of  a boat in Alaska) and shutting up (ha-ha, as if I can comply to my worst thing) will help. 

Include in my laryngitis, Himself, who has a hearing issue.  Yeah, you know where I’m going with this.  It is not unusual for me to enlighten him by shouting from the living room, when I hear something on the news or just want to tell him something, before I forget what it was.  Ask me how well that’s working these days.

Me: (in small voice) Hey, did you know that. . .

Himself:  What?  I can’t hear you.

Me: (Mustering up a stronger, non-existent voice) I was saying that I just heard on the news. . .

Himself:  You said, what?  I still can’t hear you! (Grumbling under his breath)

Me: (Still no voice) It was something about some sporting event I thought you would want to know, but it’s not important.  Never mind.

Himself: (Deep sigh) Don’t talk!  I’m coming in!

Sometimes he even clicks his heels, stands at attention and salutes, saying, “Himself reporting for duty, suh!”  Cracks me up!

Multiply all of this by 20 times a day.  Oh, he’s been great and has taken it upon himself to plant the vaporizer in front of my face wherever I happen to be sitting.  That blowing vapor is grating on my nerves, but Himself sure isn’t.  This time.  That’s a shocker.  Usually by now we’d be clawing at each other. But no.  Maybe I just don’t have enough voice for a good battle.

And as much as he’s probably wanted me to shut up in the past, I think he now wants me to be able to speak without the Minnie Mouse impersonation.  My lack of a solid voice is grating on his nerves as much as it is mine. 

Plus, I think he might be on to me.  In the future when I feel he’s been sitting around too much, enjoying the paper, or sports on TV, I might quietly mumble at him.  He’ll get frustrated because he can’t hear and come-a-running.  It’s a perfect way to “exercise” Himself!

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Stacey Abrams

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Today I am grateful for Stacey Abrams.  If you ever wonder if a single person can make a difference, just read her story!  She is the one responsible for leading the charge in Georgia elections, getting people to register and vote who never have before.  That’s it for today!  So thank you Stacey Abrams and thank you, Georgia!

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Good Sign

Friday, January 1, 2021

Today I am grateful for good signs.  I had a restless night, not in part to the over indulgence of spicy food combined with the never-ending fireworks that exploded far past midnight.  It’s not good to wake up cranky the first day of a new year, but there I was, ornery and irritated.

I took a shower, pretending it was the pool to try to brighten my spirits and to get the stink of 2020 off, but it didn’t really help.  Neither did the clouds, rain and general gloom outside.

When Himself got up he was crankier than usual, too, and even insisted on watching a “Twilight Zone” episode that he got hooked on while I was in the shower and he was waiting his turn.  I don’t have to watch that show because I’ve lived in the twilight zone the last four years.  Especially this last one!

I made the bed, emptied the dishwasher, got my breakfast and was just sitting down to eat when he came in, sparkly clean, newly shaven and looking cranky.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing!” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked, never one to just let it go, mostly because I don’t want Irish ire pointing at me as the catalyst.  “You don’t look happy.”

“I’m having serious Covid Fatigue!” he confessed.  “I’m just sick of it!  I want to go somewhere, see people, stop worrying about this every minute of every day.” 

Join the club.  If anyone says they don’t feel that way, at least sometimes, don’t buy a car from them because they are lying and will cheat you and rob you blind.  I let him alone, which in itself is way out of my comfort zone.

Then I noticed my Christmas cactus in the sunroom, blooming away like the world as we know it wasn’t distorted into something unrecognizable. 

I’m taking its bright pink blossoms as a good sign. They give me hope for 2021! Lame?  I don’t care.  I’m setting my bar pretty low these days and I’ll take it.

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New Years Eve

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Today I am grateful for New Years Eve.  Boy, 2020 challenged even the most stoic of us and nearly destroyed we sensitive types.  When I heard that the Wisconsin Badgers dropped their Lennox crystal trophy and it shattered in a million pieces all over the floor, it seemed a perfect symbol for the end of this year.  Smashed to bits!

The government, election, Covid 19, stupid people, angry people, frustrating people, isolation, social distancing, lack of smiles, missing hugs, closed businesses, financial ruin for many, so many sick, senseless deaths. . .man, the list of bad crap that happened is endless.

But when I really got to thinking about it, I realized that it wasn’t ALL bad and I confess I was little shocked to realize that.  There were some bright clouds to come out of this year-long nightmare.

Even though we couldn’t attend, we had a wedding in the family and are soon getting another granddaughter in February! 

My sons family was in our bubble and I’m retired, so I was able to spend a lot more time with my youngest granddaughter than I ever could have with the others because I was working when they were young.

My other grandchildren and I have probably communicated more in the last year than we ever have before, through messenger, calls to check in, and Facetime.

Zoom has been a game changer.  A life changer!  We had such a blast on group Zoom calls with all of the kids and that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t all been desperate to communicate.  After the last one, my youngest son who lives here said, “It’s so great to see the Wisconsin siblings so much and nice to stay in touch.”  I agree.  And laugh. Because while each one is funny in their own right, when you throw them all together, they could take over Saturday Night Live!  We do not have boring children.  Not one of them!

I learned through long-ago therapy how to be alone with myself.  It wasn’t easy.  But I’m okay being with me.  I like me.  I’m interesting, if not a bit emotional and cranky sometimes.

People who lose spouses learn to be alone the hard way.  I have way too many friends new to that position this year. I know how much people who live alone count on going out for lunch, dinner, or trips with friends.  That all came to a screeching halt in 2020 and maybe into 2021, too.  Who knows when you can plan your next cruise or vacation?  Who knows when we’ll be able to drive out to Wisconsin to see my 94-year-old mom?  Who knows when we’ll be able to see the new baby, due in February?  It’s been difficult.  It will continue to be difficult.

But through all of that difficulty, Himself and I realize we are a pretty good match.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a few cloud bursts of tears and shouts of rage, but all have been justified and the flare-ups don’t last.  We get along.  We play games and sometimes I even win.  Sometimes.

We’ve learned what shows we can binge-watch together and which ones we have to go our separate ways for.  We’ve struggled into technology realms we never even dreamed of and will continue to order our groceries on line for a while.  Himself has even learned how to run his own on-line medical portal for his doctors.  Who knew that was possible?

We’ve learned that while “virtual” visits with doctors, friends, family members will never replace actual fact-to-face visits, but they are a close second and far better than nothing at all.  Oh, how I wish this technology had been available when we spent three, often lonely, years in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Until they can become a regular part of my life again, I will miss hugs every second of every day. That’s not going away.  Be prepared because I WILL be hugging strangers.  You’ve been warned. I can’t wait to kick 2020 to the curb.  But, just like Queen Elizabeth back in the day, I’m finding gratitude for some portions of this “annus horribilis” year.  I hope that this New Year’s Eve, you can, too.

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Shutting the Hell Up!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Today I am grateful for getting the hell out.  No, not out of the house.  Except for a quick pop-in for a mammogram and a walk in a park, I haven’t been out.  One of those counts, the other not so much.  I’m talking about getting out of the kitchen.

A few years ago, I got a recipe for Taco Soup.  It’s pretty much a dump shit out of cans recipe, frying lean ground beef with chopped onions and throwing it in the crock pot.  Easy peazy. 

Since I was still working at the time, I “suggested” that maybe Himself could “make” this while I was at work.  Of course, he wouldn’t eat it if he was starving, but he has now become the official Taco Soup maker and he’s quite proud of it.  Opening cans and all.

But that was then, when I was gone and not privy to his process.  This is now, when we are in each other’s shorts twenty-four-seven!  I ordered all of the ingredients in my last on-line shopping excursion and left the cans on the counter.  I asked him to make the soup early today, so it would have time to crockpot itself to death and I could eat before midnight.

He was up before me, at 7:15!  I heard him banging away in the kitchen, swearing at cans that didn’t want to open correctly and cursing at spilled things.  Sorting laundry in the living room, while he was “cooking”, I waited for it.  I swear to God I knew it was coming!

“Where is the ground beef?” he shouted to me, my sarcastic tendency fighting all urges to tell him it was in the waste basket in the bathroom, or in his sock drawer and where else would it be?

“In the fridge!” I answered.  See what control I can have if I really want to?

Before heading to the shower, I wanted to put a quiche in the oven so I entered the kitchen and noticed the half-dumped cans in the trash.

“You left a lot inside those cans,” I said, knowing when I did, that I was on thin ice, but that didn’t stop me.  “You can use a rubber scraper and get all of that out of there.”

He pulled a can out of the trash and used a spoon.  On the can contents, not my head.  Then, never one to back-off, laryngitis or not, I said, “And you don’t have to constantly stir those onions and meat.  Just let it cook for a while.”

“GET THE HELL OUT!” he shouted.

Geeze.  Testy!  Would he shout at Paul Hollywood from The Great British Baking show like that?  Taco Soup is yummy.  I just can’t watch the process when he makes it!  So what did I do?  I got the hell out without saying another word. . .that he could hear! 

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Monday, December 28, 2020

Today I am grateful for restaurants.  Remember those?  They are places where you go and sit at a table among other people, mostly strangers and someone waits on you, bringing you whatever food or drinks you want.  Yeah, I remember that.  But it’s been a while.

It should be a while for all of us.  Order take out/curb side, but please don’t be going and sitting in crowded restaurants until this Covid-19 crisis is over, or at least under better control.  We’ll never get past this if people don’t stop being selfish babies.  Harsh?  Deal with it.

We needed to get some stuff to one of our sons yesterday and he had stuff for us, too, so we met in the parking lot of a restaurant, a half-way spot for each of us.  As Himself and I waited in the car, we watched dozens of people going into the place.  It was packed!  Yes, people wore masks on the way in, but you can’t eat with a mask on. 

Many were seated “outside”, except there were tight plastic walls surrounding the outside area.  What’s the point?   Do you think that helps?  Don’t you know that all germs are now contained in the plastic bubble and you get to freeze your toes off, too?  I repeat, what’s the point?

When our son arrived, I mentioned to him my opinion on the stupidity of people insisting they go to restaurants.  He’s been very, very careful from the beginning, so he agreed.  “What an entitled society we are that we can’t be disappointed for the health of everyone for a year or so,” he said.  Profound, but true!

Look, everything that you miss, I miss.  I’m not made of stone.  I’m sick of cooking and reheating take-out because it doesn’t stay hot, now that it’s winter.  But if you get sick because you needed to sit in that restaurant so you could have that special burger and fries, will it be worth it?  No, it won’t.

When this nightmare is over, Himself and I are going to meet his sister at this favorite restaurant.  We haven’t seen her in almost a year and that year has included the death of her husband and our friend.  The four of us enjoyed many happy times sitting across from each other over lunch or dinner.  But not lately.

We all miss it.  But it’s winter, with no outdoor dining.  Hermetically sealed, plastic tents and bubbles don’t count.  It’s not safe. So, we’ll continue to do take-out whenever possible in hopes that the restaurants we love will survive.  I hope you do, too.  My heart breaks for all of the businesses that are struggling to stay afloat.

Please think twice about eating in a public restaurant right now, especially if it’s crowded.  And if you decide to go anyway, even at off-hours, throwing your health and the health of others to the non-existent wind, then please don’t tell me about it.  With Covid cases and hospitalizations increasing and deaths rising at astronomical rates, I already have too much to worry about!

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