a firefighter

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Today I am grateful for firefighters.  How can you watch the horrible fires in California without being grateful for every single one of them, no matter where you live?


I don’t know how you survive that trauma.  It’s one thing to have one house burned down, but entire cities?  When we would have a family from the school I worked at lose their home to fire, dozens of accommodations were made to help them cope.  Food chains, clothing drives, gift cards and special bus status came out of nowhere.  Everyone wanted to help.  Empathy was ratchetted up to high levels, because no one wanted to think about what it would be like to lose everything.


But when everyone loses everything, who is left to put an arm around you and tell you they will help?  The need is too great.  The scope is too huge.  While firefighters are out there beating the flames of Hell for everyone else, their homes are burning to the ground.  It is beyond comprehension for most of us.


To hear that the suicide rate among first responders is way up, while horrible, is not really surprising if you think about it.  The human spirit can only take so much.  People who enter the service industry as nurses, police, caretakers, first responders, firefighters, etc., etc., etc., do so because they want to help people.  Intellectually they might know that they do a lot, that they’ve done all they could, but it will often feel inadequate because of their natural character.  Emotionally nothing is worse for them than feeling helpless.  Suicide, to some of them, seems like their best option.  How sad. How very, very sad.


I have never witnessed a fire is so hot that the metal from cars melts and flows down the road like molten lava.  I have never heard about entire towns disappearing in the flames.  Even words are inadequate at times like this.  But they are all I have.


The mama hen in me wants to scoop up all the first responders, stroke their brows, hug their weary bodies and tell them I appreciate every single second of their efforts.  All of them.

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Greeting Cards

a card from a friend

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Today I am grateful for greeting cards.  I am absolutely terrible at sending cards.  These days I use the excuse that they are too expensive, often costing five bucks or more and then postage.  But I wasn’t any better at it when you could get a decent card for a buck.


It’s not that I don’t think of people, or remember them, or care deeply about them.  I do.  I just don’t send a card.  I THINK about sending a card. . .usually days after whatever event has them in my thoughts in the first place.  Then it goes away as I get caught up in something useless and probably way less important.


Because of this horrible failing in my character, our good friends and family have to endure the mandatory singing of “Happy Birthday” over the phone.  Himself has one note (someplace) and I used to have a few, but they have lessened over the years.  Our kids must have thought they can be saved by screening calls and letting us go to voicemail, but that backfires because we just keep leaving the same squawking message on everyone’s cell phones.


Since I’ve been lousy at sending cards for so many years, necessitating the aforementioned singing, they have now conditioned themselves into looking forward to our birthday calls.  Go figure.  This proves that anything can become “normal” if you force it enough.


Who doesn’t love getting a card in the mail?  No one.  We all love them.  Admit it, even the most curmudgeony among us loves them.  Because they are not bills.  Because they are often funny.  Or, like this one, because they tell you that someone misses you and values you in their life.  And that’s the best!  BING!  Heartprint!


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Properly Installed Toilet Paper Holders

a toilet paper holder

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Today I am grateful for properly installed toilet paper holders.  Seems appropriate after an election day, doesn’t it?  Let’s get rid of the blasted ads and talk about stuff that matters.  Toilet paper holders matter.


In our recent travels I’ve encountered every nimrod way a holder could be hung.  With my sciatica and now sore Achilles tendon and generous bottom, on road trips I will sometimes use the handicapped stalls.  They offer more room and a merciful grab bar.


Except for some reason that escapes me, no one who installs the toilet paper holder is human.  Could they please SIT on the toilet to decide where to put it?  And do we really need them to be the size of a tractor tire?  Or in some cases two tractor tires?  I don’t like being intimidated by the toilet paper holder.
And when you install said tractor tire on the wall underneath the merciful grab bar, how do you expect a human person, who needs the assistance of a grab bar in the first place, to reach three feet underneath the behemoth and actually connect with the toilet paper?  Impossible.


And if a person does make contact, with upturned wrist and clenched teeth and can manage to pinch fragile paper between two fingers, how do you expect her to get more than one torn square inch of it at a time off of a roll that has the tension of a compressor pulley?  Impossible.


While I’m going there, if a stall is for “handicapped” that can mean all manner of issues.  Is it really necessary to hang a razor sharp trash can and the aforementioned toilet paper tire under the grab bar, so close that it almost overhangs the actual toilet?  Why not put them above, where lacerations can be avoided and a person can see what they are reaching for?  It’s maddening.


Don’t get me started on the toilet paper roll being empty or having one of those slide bars to start a new roll. . .that stopped sliding in 1998.  Or what it feels like to reach up and grab something, anything, only to realize that you’ve now got two rolls going and have just pulled off enough paper to play pranks on an entire neighborhood.  Ridiculous.


When we were on the road recently Himself hated it when I went to the bathroom at a rest area, because I was always sharing the bathroom nightmares with him.  So imagine his joy when I came out of a mini-mart rest stop and showed him the picture of this toilet paper holder. I can easily imagine the conversation between the woman working at the store and the man hired to hang it.


Man:  The templet for the franchise says to hang it right here.

Woman:  No one will be able to reach the paper.  Can’t you move it up?

Man:  I can’t do that ma’am.  I have to hang it according to the standard of the franchise.

Woman:  Is there anything in the standard that says you have to hang it straight? (Now the man is confused and thinking about it.)

Man:  No, there isn’t.

Woman:  Good.  Then hang it lopsided so a person sitting on the toilet can actually reach the paper!


I love a properly installed toilet paper holder.  Don’t you?

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Labors of Love

a apples for pie

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Today I am grateful for labors of love.  I believe that the true test of any relationship is the little things that people do for each other.  I’m not just talking about those in permanent relationships, but also those between friends, children and the elderly.


For instance, Himself loves MY apple pie.  It’s probably not any more special than anyone else’s apple pie, but every single time he eats a piece that I did not make he says, “. . .second best piece of apple pie I’ve ever tasted.”  Meaning, of course, that mine is the best.


Smart man!  Because every year he gets an apple pie in lieu of a birthday cake.  I bake them for Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas, too, but the birthday one is just for him and he guards it like a starving beagle, with an admirable growl if anyone goes near it.


I find it humorous what people think of as their favorite treat. . .their special birthday “cake”.  My dad’s was lemon merengue pie and he guarded it like Himself does his apple.  My mom likes white (wedding cakeish) like I do.  I know people who like cheesecake or baklava or even cookies for their birthday.


What about you?  What is your go-to-all-time-favorite-most-special birthday treat?

And I am curious for whom you perform these labors of love. . .and who does them for you?

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a pic of John in the Dells (2)

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Today I am grateful for Himself.  Yes, the actual, now almost-at least-locally-famous guy turns 83 today and I am so glad that I’ve been a part of half of that time.  Look at the recent picture, taken at our late Anniversary dinner in Wisconsin Dells.  I mean, really, does that look like an 83 year old guy?  I say nope!  I keep him young.  Just ask me! Or him.


He’s been blessed/cursed with translucent, fish-belly-white Irish skin that needs constant attention by the dermatologist.  His kids asked him if it doesn’t bother him that he has to keep having little things carved off?  “No,” he says.  “I figure if I gotta leave this world one square inch at a time it isn’t a bad way to go.”


The man cannot remember to push in his chair at the table, turn off the closet light, or close the medicine cabinet, but he literally remembers ever single joke, story, anecdote he’s ever heard.  Don’t believe me?  Ask him for one.  Pick any topic, willy-nilly, clear out of the blue and that guy will pop up with a story or joke that is completely applicable.  Accept the challenge, then stand back, because if you’re in our circle you’ve probably heard it before.  A hundred times.


He also has total recall of landmarks and roads and bridges and tunnels and what is where and how it’s changed since the last time we passed that area.  For the last few years, whenever we go anywhere together, including many trips to Wisconsin, I drive.  But I couldn’t get there by myself without a GPS.  I swear.  So he’s it.


We’ll be driving along and he’ll say, “Soon you’re going to hit that part of the road where the highways divide and you have to stay left and then get on a hard right to be on the road to wherever.  Really?  I’ve done it dozens of times, yet don’t recall that at all.  Not one bit.  But he does.  Even when we travel someplace where we have only been once or twice. . .maybe 10 years ago. . .he knows what road turns into what and what bridge we need to take.  Amazing.


Since the onset of normal male aging and all that implies to the prostate, he also knows the location of every McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s in a two county area.  Maybe the entire United States, but I could be exaggerating with that.  “Can we stop at the next McDonald’s so I can pee?” he’ll ask.  I remind him we are in the countryside and there is nary a McDonald’s in sight so he better hold his water or find a tree.  Then, as if by magic, a McDonald’s pops up like Xanadu right in the middle of nowhere.  “How did you know that was there?” I ask.  He must have an internal GPS for fast-food-pee-places, too.


In the 36 years we are married I have never had to pick up one article of his clothing or complain about his shoes lying around.  He always hangs things up and puts his shoes on the rack.  Always.  Every night! Even in the high-party days where he might have been over-served, everything was either folded or put back on a hanger.  It was fun to watch him maneuver that hanger in a state of inebriation, as I was tossing my stuff on chairs all over the house and tripping over my shoes strewn everywhere.


Himself doesn’t have the energy level he once had.  His fingers are gnarly and point every which-a-way.  He jokes about being a series of extra parts and expensive additions, but his attitude and sense of humor are great.  And that’s more important than all the rest, so I’ll take it.  So will he.  So has he.  For 83 years!

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Subconscious Caution

a mail truck

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Today I am grateful for subconscious caution.  You know how after the horrible incidents on September 11th, we were told to be super vigilant?  Then after every school, movie theater, mall shooting we were told the same thing.  And when people were blown up during marathons, parades, demonstrations, we are again told to remain vigilant, report any suspicious behavior.


I don’t want to be stupid, but I don’t want to remain super vigilant, either.  I want to just live and not be afraid, looking around every corner all the time.  It’s exhausting to live in this world.  Some days I’m so confused I can’t remember if I brushed my teeth in the morning.  Therein lays the reason why I haven’t written in so long.  But I should.  Because it might not help you, but it sure does help me.


I would love for one minute to have relief in my brain from all of the horrendous events of the day.  People getting sent bombs?  Others blown away in Temple?  Vitriol and vile words telling us that those in the media, whom we have trusted to deliver us facts, whether or not the powers that be like it, are “fake news”.  And there are people who support those ideas.  I don’t.  I won’t.  I can’t let bullies rule.  I am way too smart for that.  So are you.


I was so busy with my mom and friends in Wisconsin that I was able to let some of it go for a while.  Not completely, but at least it didn’t consume every moment.  Buried and forgotten.  Or so I thought.


I do all of the driving on road trips.  On the drive home I was more aware of recent events than I thought.  I hit pedal to the metal, pushing speed as much as I can within reason and passing when necessary.  Cruise control is my best friend because it keeps me in check.  But I am also the most defensive driver I know, checking mirrors often and aware of what’s going on not only in front of me but also behind me.  So it was odd to Himself when I tapped the brake to turn off cruise control and held back, far away from a truck who was traveling well under the speed limit, before deciding if I should pass.


“Why are you slowing down?” he asked, confused.

“Look at the words on that truck,” I said.  “US Mail.  I’m a little scared to get too close.  There are probably more pipe-bomb-letters out there.  One could be in that truck.  If I’m twitchy, how does that driver feel?”  Himself admitted that he never thought of that.


But I did, because even when I didn’t want to be, I was being subconsciously cautious.  And that’s one reason why I’m so exhausted these days.  Is it only me?

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Car Packed for Home

a truck packed full

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Today I am grateful to get everything in the car for our trip home.  It isn’t going to be pretty.  Picture Ma Joad and her gang in “The Grapes of Wrath”.  I probably will not blog again until after we are back and the contents of the car have burst onto the driveway.  Might see me on Facebook.


We are sad to leave our family and friends here and more than a little frustrated by how quickly the time went and how scattered everyone is.  We just couldn’t continue to do the two hour treks and hour treks to see everyone again and survive.  I guess we are not getting any younger, either.  The best is that ALL are doing so well.  We are leaving happy and joyous, but after 7 weeks, we are more than anxious to get home.


I wonder how many new friends we’ll make on the road home?  One is silver and the other gold.

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