A Happy Celebration

hugsToday I’m celebrating my 401st post on the Word Press site. When I told a friend that I had written so many posts, she replied, “You’re a wordy bitch, aren’t you?”

I answered, “You’re just realizing that now?’ Then we both laughed and went on to talk about the weather.

I must admit it has become harder to come up with something interesting nowadays than it was three years ago when I set out into the blogosphere. Then I was teaching at the local community college, designing and selling jewelry, and having fun painting–so one of those topics could inspire a conversation. Now, I primarily write and wonder what to write.

My inspiration doesn’t strike as often, but still makes an appearance from time to time. When it does, I try to pass it along to you. Like this morning when I watched my favorite CBS Sunday Morning program. This is the one 90 minutes of “news” I never miss. Today they presented a story about a man who suffers from ALS (Lou Gehring’s disease) and has dedicated the time he has left to bringing a smile to others and making them happy.

At first, he bought dozens of glazed donuts and went to chemo wards, children’s hospitals, parks, and other places where people might need a smile and he passed out his donuts. After he did that for a year, he put a challenge out to others to come up with creative ways to make strangers happy, send in a video of their project, and after a time he sponsored a premiere showing for those who rose to the challenge.

He made the celebration a night to remember with a red carpet going from the street to the theater where the show would be presented. He welcomed everyone in the audience and thanked them for their creativity. Then before the show started, he passed out — wait for it — donuts!

What a wonderful, feel good story, huh? I love to hear about people doing things just to make someone else’s life a bit better. I do try always to be thoughtful and giving, but sometimes I wish my creativity would lend itself to something as great as this. Just think how many smiles one man has given to the world. Incredible.

Here’s my advice. If you’ve read this complete post, go out there and do an act of kindness everyday. It can be as simple as smiling at someone and wishing them a good morning as you open the door for them. That’s not hard, right? And who knows, you might just turn around a crumby day to one that has a little joy in it because of a simple kindness.

We can all do that.

It’s Thursday? Really?

Which wayThis morning I awoke at seven o’clock and looked forward to turning on the television to watch Lester Holt on NBC’s weekend “news” program. I was totally convinced that it was Saturday, so I made coffee and settled into my cushy recliner, picked up the “zapper” (my pet name for the TV remote) only to learn that it was Thursday. Damn.

That’s the trouble with being retired. Every day is pretty much the same. No weekend anticipation like there was when I worked nine to five. No. It was just Thursday.

Retirement for me wasn’t a fanfare. It was more like a fart. You know, those silent but deadly ones that seek up on you and nobody takes credit for the stink. It all started in 2009 when I left my job and then couldn’t find work closer to home. I wanted to continue working because I wasn’t even 59-1/2 and not ready to retire. But I had become that magic age when businesses don’t want to invest in somebody who is seasoned and actually knows something.

But by 2011, I had papered the landscape with resumes and frankly I just gave up. By now, Ken also needed me to be home, so here I am. Oh, I kept myself busy designing costume jewelry, painting,  and getting several novels published, but I did miss the camaraderie of workmates and going out to lunch.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love not having to fight traffic every morning. I like the fact that I don’t have to shower, dress in a business suit, and rush out of the house with a pop tart in my left hand and my briefcase, keys, and purse in the other. I do not miss having an alarm clock catapult me out of a sound slumber either. I don’t miss having to take orders from somebody dumber than me, sitting in a “cube” as small as a phone booth, and interfacing all day with computer keyboard.

But not realizing it is Thursday troubles me. Has my world shrunk to such a small size that I don’t even know what day it is? I think it must have. But when did that happen? And why?

A shrinking world seems to be another part of being a caretaker and having to stay home most days. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change things—at least not until I can’t properly take care of Ken any longer, but what does a person do for inspiration when nine to five is not possible any more?

I’ve come to the conclusion that time is a curious critter. It goes too fast when you’re young, and it slows down to a turtle’s crawl when you retire. I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not.

A True Confession

Yesterday was my 63rd birthday. I usually don’t tell people how old I am because I’ve always looked ten years younger. In fact, when I went to college at 35, one of my young contemporaries called me a “well preserved old broad.” (laugh here) At the time I accepted the compliment, and now, I hope it’s still true. (you can laugh again)

I really don’t mind getting older, but I do mind the changes it brings. Instead of presents, now I get phone calls. It’s not like I need anything, but I still revel when I’m surprised. Ken used to always surprise me, but now his illness doesn’t allow him to shower me with his special thoughtful gifts. It hurts. It’s another reminder of how much MS has taken from us.

I think at this stage of the game I should stop being a child about my birthday, but somehow I can’t turn off the fact that July 31 was the one day out of the year that I was the big cheese. My mother allowed all of us to pick what kind of cake we could have and what special outing we’d like for our special day. For me, it was poppyseed cake and an afternoon swimming at Brown’s Lake. On top of that, people sang to me and I got to make a wish before I blew out the candles on the cake. Then there was always the presents people picked out just for me. What a head rush! Who wouldn’t be crazy about a day like that?

So, maybe you can see now that taking Ken to the doctor and going out for lunch isn’t quite the same thing. However, it was very special when his doc sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Wasn’t that great?

A good blogging friend once wrote a comment to one of my writings about accepting change, which I came across this morning. Here it is:

The principles of the Buddhist philosophy is that it’s our expectations that cause suffering. When we release expectation and enjoy what is, suffering ends.

Makes sense doesn’t it? So why is it so hard to do?


Life Goes By When You’re Living It

Blog 3-31 003This week has been a trial and a triumph.

The trial happened on Monday, I said goodbye to a dear friend. Patrick became my friend when we were both working for the same magazine. He was an ad salesman, and I was a writer. That was over twenty years ago.

Eventually, the four of us — Patrick and his wife Linda and me and Ken enjoyed a cup of coffee every Saturday at a quaint coffee house or we splurged on breakfast at a restaurant that was housed in an old building on Main Street downtown. This place had few tables and the best omlets in the world! Besides that, the background music was jazz, and I pretended we were all in Manhattan starting our weekend on a high note.

As the years went by, the four of us became very close. Patrick stood in for my brother who moved to California. Linda became another girlfriend and even proofread a couple of my books. A year ago, they moved into an apartment, which was right up the street from my house.

Unfortunately, Patrick suffered from diabetes,and the past five years had been a trial. And about three months ago, he went into the hospital and never went home. He was so sick, and as I gazed at him as he slept from the infections and drugs, I knew intellectually the end was near.

But my heart didn’t accept the fact that he was gone until we went through the funeral ceremony. Never again would he call every morning just to wish us a good day. Never again would we solve world problems over a cup of coffee, or challenge each other over a hot Scrabble game. He still is close, though. He’s buried him in the cemetery across the street from my house. Monday was a hard day.

A couple of days later, triumph picked up my spirits. My publisher took action on my complaint letter stating my feelings about the haphazard way the reviews on my books were messed up.

They agreed to rewrite the reviews so they represented the appropriate book, and they gave a full page for these reviews for the Frankfurt book show, which is one of the largest ones in the world. When I wrote my complaint letter to the president of the company, I never thought it would be answered. I’m glad to see the company took action. That made a lousy week a little better.

And life goes on. We live it everyday without any thought we are making impressions on everyone we meet. That’s why I smile through the tears and eventually remember all the wonderful people who have crossed my path. Every one of them are special.

A Quiet 4th of July

world_spinningKen’s Multiple Sclerosis is a puzzling disease. Everyday is a surprise. Neither of us know whether he’ll have a day free of fatigue or one that is full of it. We hope the different holidays throughout the year will end  up being good days, but as time goes on, we’ve learned MS doesn’t care if we have plans or not.

The Fourth of July this year was a particularly bad day for him. In fact, he fought to keep his eyes open–literally. Not that he was tired. The muscles in his eye lids refused to work, no matter how hard he tried to fight them.

Needless to say, the downtown parade was out. He made me go to lunch at a friend’s home because we are invited every year, and she was expecting us. By evening, he still wasn’t feeling well enough to watch the fireworks–not even on television.

The day was a wash for him. I found myself very angry at the cruelness of his disease because no matter what he feels or thinks, the disease calls the shots. I suppose any serious diseases has the say-so too, but I’m not living with them. I am living with this. I want to shout, “It’s unfair!”

But this thing we call the human condition is not fair. We both accept this fact, so when these days come along, he rests, and I keep quiet and read. It’s called coping. It’s called love.Blog 3-31 003

Dependency on Electronics

Yesterday I swear the ELECTRONIC GODS put a curse on me. It started when we were watching a morning television show that Ken and I both enjoy. All of a sudden, we had no sound. The television worked fine. The cable worked fine, but the Bose speaker system, not so much–at least that’s what I thought.

I examined all of the cords and plugs and everything seemed fine. But still no sound. Heaven forbid! We’d have to watch television in our bedroom — where everything was working. Not a hardship really. But a damned inconvenience. It felt strange laying in bed in the middle of the afternoon to catch the latest shenanigans of the  “General Hospital” cast of characters. Okay. I admit it. I am a soap opera junkie. Let’s go on.

I thought as long as I couldn’t watch television, I would finish “The Fault of My Stars,” by John Greene. (In case you don’t know, this book has been turned into a screen play that came in first at the box office last week. An author’s dream!) It’s a well-written story about two teenagers who meet at a cancer support group. One is terminally ill, the other has lost a leg and is in remission. It’s a beautiful account of young love when falling in love is most pure.

I was almost finished, coming down the stretch with only a dozen pages to go when my Kindle decided it needed a break. It shutdown and refused to turn on again.

My last resort was to pick up my smart phone, feeling totally electronically inept to call my young friend Eric for some advice about everything electronic, only to find out, my phone needed a charge!

Now, I’m down to one electronic toy and that’s my old faithful laptop. Thank goodness the ELECTRONIC GODS didn’t wave their “magic” wands over it. At least I could write a couple of chapters on the new novel, check email, play a couple of games, and pay a couple of bills to fill my time.

I never thought I had become so dependent on my electronic gadgets, but alas, I’m like most everybody else–I need them. I enjoy them. I have to have them. When they don’t work, life sucks. If the power grid ever goes down, we may as well die.

Today, I still haven’t heard from Eric, so I went into Best Buy to talk with a member of the Geek Squad. I told her my sad Kindle tale before she took my baby into the back room, did some Geek stuff, and voila! It worked. She saved me! I was so elated I could finish the last few pages of my novel, I wanted to hug her.

After my exhilaration calmed itself, I asked if she made house calls. She laughed and asked what problem I was having at home. I explained the television fiasco, and she said she had a similar problem yesterday too. It turned out our carrier was the same, so she suggested to turn everything off and reboot the system. No surprise. Whenever you call tech support, their first question is, “Did you reboot?” Right?

So, I went home. Disconnected the power. Left the mess of tangled cords, plugs, and other paraphernalia alone for about an hour, then turned everything back on. The ATT Uverse software did its thing, and I’m happy to report it worked! I’m back in business! We can watch NCIS in the living room tonight!

Needless to say, I felt empowered as I conquered the ELECTRONIC GODS (with a little help from a female Geek.) I not only can cook a decent meal and get it on the table hot, I can reboot! A good day.

How was your day?

Did you Miss Me?

Hi Everybody! I’m back. I went to Florida for three days about a month ago to see a good friend who moved there. It took some preparation to make sure Ken had the care he needed while I was absent, but the trip really happened. I came back home relaxed and ready for summer.

I had a great time. Kay and I have found our separation difficult, but once we were together again it was like old times. We made each other laugh and just had fun being together.

During my short respite, I thought I would use the camera on  my new smart phone. My pictures turned out nice, but when Kay took control of the device, she pushed the wrong button, and alas, no pictures of me. Oh well, I usually hate the way I look in pictures anyhow.

Oh wait a minute . . . that’s not entirely true. I didn’t know the camera had a setting for “selfies” and when we were at the beach, I tried to take pictures of Kay flying her kite, but only got pictures of me in my beach hat.

Barb's selfie

Technology . . . got to love it!

To prove life goes on without you, there was a tornado warning while I was gone that brought hail large enough to damage our roof and gutters. So for the past couple of weeks, we’ve been putting the needed pieces in place to get the repair work done. Shingles sit in our front yard as we speak. (Along with vents, tar paper, ice shield, etc. etc.) Not the prettiest lawn ornament, but at least it’s temporary.

Roofing Supplies

We also had a fence installed along one side of our property. It was built while I was gone, so I had a beautiful surprise waiting for me. (The other areas had been fenced in by neighbors.) The funny thing about this fence is it’s called “The Lacrosse.” Lacrosse, Wisconsin is the setting for most of my books!

The other time-eating activity, which has kept me away from you, has been to go through the edits for my latest novel. I’ve been busy correcting my grammatical and spelling boo-boos, as well as rewriting small sections because my editor’s inquiring mind asked questions that needed answers. The book is now two chapters longer than when it went out to her.

In between my trip and putting the finishing touches on the novel, I’ve been digging, weed-waking, cutting down stubborn buckthorn bushes, and planting pots to bring our yard into a good-looking, park-like space we can enjoy for the rest of the summer. I’ve added some pictures below so you can see the fruits of my efforts.

Happy Summer Everybody! I hope it’s warmer where you are than where I am.

Maybe next time I might have some life-changing topics to discuss. Or maybe not. We’ll just have to see.