Well, it may be my intention for 2022, not sure I can live up to the demands of it. There is something in my brain that always jumps to the next idea long before the first is finished.
To FOCUS is to pay attention to the task at hand. That's all well and good until the task at hand gets a bit boring, or needs more elbow grease or requires lots of further planning to bring all the bits into being. At that point I have to realign and get on with the job at hand.
To Lose FOCUS is to be scattered. For me that translates into being easily distracted. As in wandering through Whitfill's Nursery and planning the next steps in building my Sansevieria collection. Being unfocused can also wind up with me being impulsive and getting "free puppies", like my cute CooCoo Clock.
This is especially silly since Sansevieria all look mostly plastic and it's hard to tell if they are really alive!
To FOCUS also leads to mindfulness. For me that means that my mind and my body are doing the same things at the same time. So if it's time to do the dishes, I'm not wandering off and having to come back and finish later.
By being focused I will pay more attention to the daily blessings in our lives. Maybe also see the funny side of so many of the things that go on in our world.
In 2021 my word was FUDCIARY. i choose it because money makes me nervous and numbers are not my friends. It was a partial success in that it helped me realize that "Stuff" equals "Money". More stuff = less money. I'm in a position to release stuff to new homes now. If something new wants to move in, something of the same size has to leave. It's getting easier all the time to let stuff go! Those items that don't bring joy are out the door.
Learning to live with the lessons of FUDCIARY responsibility, and with FOCUS getting my attention on the needs of our daily life, I'm hoping for smooth sailing in 2022.
When Jan told us about her essay being published in "Story Circle Network: Real Women Write" I immediately ordered a copy! it was such fun to see an essay by a real person I know in a real book! But then as I read other women's stories, poems and experiences of the Pandemic I was surprised. It brought home to me, in a new way, the magnitude of this event.
I thought I'd write about my experience of the Pandemic. I really wanted to write about the Pandemic; but it wasn't the major shift in my world. The shift for me was Chris's slide into dementia.
Early in 2020 the VA outpatient clinics shut down to contain the virus and protect the hospital and patients. So, while I could see changes in Chris I could not find an answer to the "why" of it. A friend encouraged me to get in touch with a hospice group to at least have a nurse coming to check vitals once a week. That weekly visit gave me a base line to keep up with Chris's health. When the VA started seeing patients in the outpatient clinics again, Chris was on their list because of the hospice affiliation. Then he was given practically every test known to medicine to look for the root cause of his decline. In the Spring of 2021, he had a Zoom appointment with a neurology psychologist who gave him an hour and a half testing session. We were both in the session, and at the end she gave us her diagnosis: Vascular Dementia.
According to the PA who is acting as Chris's primary care provider, it all links back to Agent Orange in Viet Nam. That means that we have thousands of vets dealing with the same issues. And caregivers/spouses like me, trying to care for these guys at home.
The ongoing fallout of the Pandemic (masks, social distancing, wiping down my shopping carts, etc.) are still very much a part of my life, but not what concerns me. What concerns me is how long I can continue to care for Chris in our home safely. And how do I let him go to someone else's care?
I've been considering tackling a second memoir lately. The first is so...DONE. I'm working on a few essays about teaching pregnant and parenting teen girls at the Margaret Hudson Program in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Meanwhile, I'll assess whether I have enough material for a book-length collection. One topic popped up lately, and while I'm not sure there's enough for a full essay, I think it's worth noting. Having taught hundreds of students during that eight-year period, I've heard a lot of excuses or reasons for getting pregnant at 12 or 14 or 16. Here are some of the most common:
Three months ago, we adopted a cat we named Ollie. We didn't start out to adopt a cat, not really. I'd read a plea in the local newspaper from the county animal shelter for foster families to help overcrowding at the shelter. They had taken in 150 animals in the previous week. I was astounded! I first simply mentioned this amazing fact to my husband, who didn't respond. The next day, I suggested that we should help. Still no response. It took a couple more mentions for him to finally agree to my completing the foster application--It was complete within hours. That Saturday we took a trip out to the Williamson County shelter "just to look" at the kitties.
After taking three adult cats to the meet and greet room for a few minutes, we zeroed in on a gray male tabby about two years old, which the shelter staff had named "Ronnie" (Shudder! What an awful name for a cat!). We completed the foster agreement and left with our temporary charge and a two-week commitment. We faithfully discharged our contract but refused to call him Ronnie. We didn't let him go outside; we fed him the dry food they provided. Nearly two weeks in, we finally allowed ourselves to think of more fitting names, and when I called the shelter to say we'd decided to keep Ollie, they weren't really surprised. I suspect the whole "foster" (wink, wink) thing is a front for their adoption program.
Needless to say, having a cat in the house again presents some logistical challenges, especially where our dog Bella is concerned. When we brought Bella home from Chouteau Pound Pals in 2015, she was joyously welcomed by our cat Zelda, who just loved her. I suspect when we lost Zelda in 2019 Bella expected to live out her life as an only pet. A feline treat and affection competitor wasn't on her agenda. She's a sweet girl, though, and she yields to Ollie in many ways. When he noses up to her bowl of kibble, she simply tries to get it all down faster (as if that were possible), but she doesn't growl. When he positions himself at her side to beg for scraps in the kitchen, she waits patiently for the chance to clean up his leavings. She tolerates his licking her paws, her face, and her ears--but only for so long! A dog has her standards, and being bathed by a pesky cat is a no-no. But oooh, right there, under my ear flap, yeah, that's okay...
For the most part, we've settled into the new routine and Ollie has wormed his way into two (and a half) hearts at our house. Ollie and Bella keep us both exercised and entertained; we, in turn, keep them well fed and well loved. A peaceable kingdom in the time of Covid.
Oh, ye jigs and julips, daffodils and tulips,
Evening stars and brilliant nights!
Oh, ye Angels and other creatures of light!
Sing with me,
Celebrate the safe passing of another day!
The Blue Fish are fed, their night has begun and they are happy.
The dog is fed, treated man times and now settled and happy.
The canary, Mario, is quiet, tucked in for the night and happy.
The cockatiel, Bubba, is finally whistled out, finally quiet, tucked in for the night and happy.
The Husband is comfortably settled and tucked in for the night with his CPAP in place and happy.
Now the tv is off, and the silence is better than golden.
Now I sit with a cup of hot tea, a slice of fruitcake and
I am happy.
These are words that have been paraphrased, ridiculed and prayed with great hope by many people.
"God, grant me the Serenity to accept things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference."
Reinhold Niebuhr, the author, then continued with: "living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. Accepting hardship as a path to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonable happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen"
In 1984 I was gifted with a beautiful calligraphy of this poem for Christmas. The friend who wrote this poem/prayer out for me was making his decision to go into an Episcopal monastery as a monk. I was in the throes of a divorce. We both felt that life was in an upheaval that we were a bit frightened of how it would turn out.
Actually, we have both landed on our feet and in good places.
This prayer has hung in my home (usually in the bathroom) where I see it daily, a reminder that so much is not in my control, and I need to trust the path in front of me. Reinhold Niebuhr also reminds me that Courage and Wisdom can be mine if I ask and wait for answers. Being my impulsive self, asking and waiting are not my strong suits so I struggle daily to stay my course and control the one thing I actually can: my attitude.
I would like to say I have aged into a sweet, kindly old lady, but no point in lying to you all. I manage to keep my façade up for strangers, deal kindly with store clerks (when I can find one) and treat our neighbors to Southern friendliness, but I do let my hair down in the car on occasion and have a good old screaming fit, with profanity if needed. It kind of cleans out my spleen and gives me room for a fresh start. Then I go back to the basics and request my share of wisdom, courage and serenity with faith that my needs will be met.
Crazy stuff happens to me regularly and it's often a source of laughter.
Chris's dog ,Skipper, is a barker, early, late, reason or none, he just barks! So Fredrick asked that I shut his doggie door when we go to bed at night. The other night, Skipper wakes me up about 12;30am to go out. I get up, let him out & back in, get his "good dog teat" & I'm back in bed and trying to go to sleep again. 10 minutes later: same song- second verse. Then after that round (no treat this time) but in & out. Back to bed for me and 20 minutes later, barking dog! Suddenly, I'm ballistic! Crazy dog, crazy me! I run into the living room and grab a magazine to smack the dog! Get back, miss the dog, get back to my bed, drop the magazine, It flips open and the title is "CALM".
I've told y'all how much I love Estate Sales. The hunt for a great little treasure that no one else has noticed. At the last sale I attended I found one: a really sweet little CooCoo Clock from Germany. I don't know how old it is, but probably manufactured 40 or 50 years ago. It is a blond clock which are not made any more. I made an appointment with a clock repair guy to see if the little clock could work again. The Clock Maker is so knowledgeable and explained all the things he could tell by the damage the little clock had suffered; fell off the wall, has had parts glued that shouldn't have been, it's bellows are dried out, and on and on. And I just kept nodding "yes" as he explained how the works will come from a small factory in Germany, and may be sitting in a shipping container in a port for months before it gets to my clock. He starts adding up the repair costs and I'm still agreeing. So the clock that cost @20.00 at the Estate Sale, will wind up being many times that to get it running!!
I have to realize that my impulsive behaviors and short fuse will always be a source of amusement for the Powers That Be! Maybe that is my calling in life to keep a stream of
laughter flowing through my world.
I don't think I was elected as the Pollyanna of this Blog but since I choose to live a life of Rainbows and Unicorns, the shoe seems to fit.
I'm so grateful for online banking! How easy it is to transfer money, pay bills, make donations to good causes, and check to see if I have over-spent at the same time. What fun! I used to think money was a SERIOUS BUSINESS. turns out it isn't, just a way to get what we need and keep
our ships afloat.
I simply love being able to pay for my gas at the pump. No rubbing elbows with the riffraff at the Q.T. Just gas up and on my way! I remember gas wars in the 60s, when I paid $0.25 a gallon and had to talk to the guys at the station. Maybe for that price I would be willing to go inside and pay?
And then there is Amazon Prime!! Oh joy, talk about the world at our fingertips!! Books, art supplies, car parts and clothes all there, at any time, late night shopping at its best. I got new supplies delivered overnight!!! it was great!
The levels of convenience foods would shock my Grandmothers. In our 3 meals a day life now, having prepared foods in the freezer is such a treat. Amy's Bowls are gluten free and have lots of varieties, most of them not the ordinary stuff I usually fix. And Costco makes a great meatloaf that just has to be baked at home. Not to mention all the food delivery services: Grubhub and DoorDash are my favorites.
It is a strange world we live in, now. With threats from so many forces in our world and internal terrorist hiding in plain sight in our cities, it is hard to feel safe. The added possibility of Covid or one of its variations does add an element of stress to my everyday life. Maybe I like these services because they allow me to stay in my cocoon and not have to get out into the broader world. But fear doesn't keep me from emergency trips to the Starbucks down the street for my
Ices Venti Latte with non-fat milk and sugar free vanilla and an extra shot.
I have chosen to embrace the decadence of this world full force.
“Hey Google” knows what music I like. This morning I asked for “Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens. Wow, so gorgeous! A great way to start the day. But after that it continues to play music similar to the requested song. John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, all emotional songs from our teen years. But listening to them again with old ears is incredible. The poetry, the philosophy, the expressions of real life, are so accurate.
S and G’s “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls, and whispered in the wells of silence. And the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made.”
J. Mitchell’s “I’ve looked at love from both sides now, from give and take and still somehow, it’s love’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know love at all. I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s life’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know life at all.”
And I remember attending my Aunt Jeune’s funeral 5 years ago in Manhattan, Kansas, where the only music was a woman singing Joni Mitchell’s “Send in the Clowns.” That tells you something about my aunt. “Send in the clowns, there ought to be clowns . . . don’t bother, they’re here.” She attended and voiced her opinion at every school board meeting for over 40 years. The superintendent spoke at the funeral, and announced that the board room would be named after her.
Bob Dylan was not the only musical poet of our day. We filled our heads with the philosophy of Pete Seeger, the tunes of Paul Simon, the unforgettable voices of Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins, and their acoustic music.
Thank you “Hey Google” for knowing what can make me happy. “Don’t worry, be happy!”
What you don’t know, until you’ve scored the last 18-roll Mega pack of Charmin on the shelf at your local HEB, is how divine a pandemic shutdown will be. For the mathematically challenged, a Mega-pack is the equivalent of 72 regular rolls, which haven’t been available for purchase since 1983. But no matter. For introverts like me, the toilet paper quest notwithstanding, early and heroic efforts to waylay Covid-19 via barricading myself behind a tower of Clorox Wipes canisters and a double-bolted front door proved oddly invigorating.
I don’t mean to minimize a ghastly disease. Even when the virus isn’t lethal, lingering effects are pernicious. Coronavirus doesn’t respect where you fall on the extraversion scale. At the same time, I reveled in all that sudden quiet. I realize I’m fortunate in that I have a front door to double lock, no job to truck to, and I was sequestered with a couple of companions: my husband and our canine fur factory. I did miss indoor visits with our son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, a half-hour’s drive away, but we managed backyard visits when the weather cooperated. I can’t recommend conducting the annual gift exchange amidst the wafting automotive smells of the garage on Christmas morning, masked and six feet apart, but the red tablecloth and miniature Christmas tree on the air hockey table was a nice touch. We’re a creative family; we found ways to be together.
I’m fortunate in other ways, too. My extravert friends suffered from in-person interaction withdrawal that didn’t afflict me. Instead, we connected digitally. One close friend refused to communicate outside two-hour telephone conversations—an introvert’s kryptonite. The rest, all residing in other states, settled for shorter virtual gatherings. For a somewhat obsessive, solitary-minded brooder like me, in between enjoying brief congenial exchanges, I was free to create my own diversions, on my own timetable. As 2020 dragged on, additional areas of advantage presented themselves as well.
Despite unexpected bonuses of the Covid pandemic, and post-vaccine, I’m eager for the freedom of ordinary comings and goings. I sincerely want this virus vanquished. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the reflection time and accomplishments the pandemic bubble afforded. This introvert will miss social distancing from strangers. I’ll miss mumbling softly into my mask as I recite my grocery list and wander the aisles (one way) at H.E.B. without self-consciousness. I’ll stock up on Charmin while I can and prepare myself for the end of this semi-solitary interlude with resignation and guilty regret.
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