Not a Thing to Wear!

Perhaps I was always taught to dress in a ladylike way, both from my home and schools and further encouraged to dress with taste because I was a window trimmer’s assistant at nineteen, I was always interested in how people adorn themselves.  

It has always astonished me that a woman would knowingly appear on national television, even just as a game show contestant in a casual top and pants like she would wear to take out the trash or go to the grocery store, instead of seeing the opportunity to appear at her best in case a potential employer or a future spouse might be watching.  Men always wore suits like they were on job interviews.

Last night I was listening to an interview between Christian Amanpour, who always looks great, with a young woman who was speaking about Simone Biles.  This young woman appeared before the camera makeupless and wearing a drab pink sweat shirt on which the top of the left shoulder was torn revealing a good part of the shoulder.  She looked like she was going out to wash her car.

I have no problem with an exposed shoulder if the garment is designed to do that but this just looked sloppy, torn, as if the woman didn’t care that she was being interviewed on television for a world wide audience.  After awhile I could hardly focus on what she said for her careless look.

Local news anchors may not care what I think about their attire, but I do have my opinions about the ones I watch regularly.  Of them I would give the top award to Danita Harris of the local channel five news.  She is always dressed professionally and beautifully, like she cares about the image she has on her audience.  

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What Is a Nuisance?

As I was standing in my front doorway sifting through an accumulation of junk mail, my cousin Tom’s truck appeared in the driveway.  We exchanged greetings when he got to the door and then he told me he brought some vibration sound equipment which was supposed to drive the ground hogs out of the burrows they have constructed for their families over the last twenty years surrounding the foundation of my house.  The worst of their damage was on the windward side of the house where they managed to uproot a tall shrub.

After installing the equipment, Tom went home and called me to report the extensive damage he observed that the critters have caused and worried that there may be water seeping into the basement as a result.   While I have thought the concrete block basement walls have looked damp to me for years, Don, the contractor I hire to help with stuff around the house said no, there was no water coming in at that time.

Twenty years ago the city told me they do not help with ground hogs since they are not considered nuisance animals.  In this yard they are a serious nuisance.

Earlier this summer Tom thought the solution was to toss stink bombs down the holes, but I guess he couldn’t find them so he opted for the sound equipment.  Many years and some homes ago I tried some comparable gizmos to get rid of mice and that did not work, but we shall see.    

When I first saw coyotes in this neighborhood I was hopeful that groundhog was on their menu but apparently not.

 Tom said he will check back in about three weeks to see if the sound equipment has been effective.  That will take us to late August and the end of another span of time for getting this job done. 

Out of the Clear Blue…

One of my favorite British who dunnits is Father Brown on PBS.  Watching it this past Thursday evening I noticed the letters on the license plate of one of the cars was JRF.  Of course, for me this is a subtle greeting from my late long time friend, John Richard Foy.  

Funny how life is just moving along day to day and out of the clear blue there is a little reminder like that of my dear old friend. After reflecting on him and our times together, I begin to think about all of our connectedness.

Yesterday was a warm day, about 85 degrees, thankfully nothing like the heat out on the west coast, but a bit over my comfort level.  Since I had an appointment to get cortisone shots in both knees, I had to venture out. 

A kind lady in the receptionist office asked if I needed a wheelchair and I said I don’t know, I walked this far from my car and she said she had been watching me all the way.  So I agreed to have one on my way back to the car.

Once I was seated in the room where the doctor would see me, her assistant took the vitals and happily my blood pressure was good and then the Doctor came in and mentioned that it had been two years since my last visit.  Wow.  Well 2019 had been very busy for me and life in general came to a halt with Covid 19.  I had lost my little job and my water exercise class ended and I now feel like I am walking through a swamp and can’t see the other side.

I did remember to ask the doctor how often I should be getting the cortisone and she said it depends on each individual, but as often as every three of four months would be good.  That sounds like a good idea to me.  The young Assistant got a wheelchair and drove me out to my car and then I was glad to be returning home.

As I was looking at the weeds in one of my outdoor pots from just inside of the garage, the postal carrier arrived and said hello as she handed me a sheaf of papers.  The sack on her shoulder was so loaded I felt sorry for her shoulder and she had another large bundle in the crook of her arm and when I asked how she was, “hot!” was her response.  We both chuckled and she continued her trek.

The videos on the televised news about the raging fires in Oregon and California are certainly horrifying.  I sent a couple of e-mails to my daughter on the coast of Oregon that if she needed to drive south I am sure she would be welcome by my life long friend in California.  Her response was simply that she is not driving south any time soon, or anywhere else.  Okay, I’ll try to mind my own business.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Comfortably perched on a cushioned outdoor chair on Bernadette’s deck, I watched the slight sway of the magnificent hardwood trees that line her backyard which butts up against Big Creek Parkway, and listened as they whispered just under the high chirps of cicada. 

Barb had already been there when I arrived and we were still waiting for Glenda.  The few of us were part of a larger group which met for Zumba at St. Marc’s Lutheran Church in Parma for several years.  After I switched to water exercise because it was probably less stress on my knees, we wanted to stay in touch and Glenda suggested doing dinners and that worked unless she was too busy working her third job.

With the stretch of lockdown and social distancing during the official pandemic  timeline we were limited to what we saw of each other on social media – not a lot.

I took a few photos and in short order Barb and I were sipping pinot noir and sharing our experiences from general mailaise to frustrations with the postal system.

Bernadette bought this house from her parents’ estate after they both passed on.  After her father died she left her teaching job in Columbus to stay with her mother and got a position teaching math in the Mayfield Heights School system.

Barb is an ombudsman advocating for patients rights somewhere in the health system and drives from county to county to invistigate cases.  She and I have always related because of a mutual love of poetry and she has given me some of her duplicate poetry books.  She calls me “Poetry Lady” but has now renamed me, “Retired Poet Lady.”  

The smoke from the grill blew through the open door and set off the indoor smoke alarm.  When Bernadette went into the kitchen, Barb volunteered, “Retired Poet Lady will help you!”

Bernadette arranged the hot dogs from the Westside Market and the burgers (made of???) as well as condiments, a light pasta salad and little bags of baked chips.  Glenda brought an assortment of very rich looking cupcakes and Bernadette also baked lemon squares. 

The afternoon slipped away as we ate and visited and the soft breeze made us lazy.  When Glenda told us she had had a mini stroke I immediately  lanched into my “You are working too hard!” response as she relayed the story – it happened as she was driving home from work – downtown and she managed to get to her daughter’s home nearby and then on to emergency.  After she left to go on to her mom’s Barb mentioned and I agreed that the little stroke was a wake up call.

Bernadette said we should get one more of these gatherings in maybe in September before the weather starts to cool down and then Barb and I gathered our belongings, thanked our hostess and filed down the steps back into the yard.   

…and the point is…

Having arrived into that realm designated as “elderly” or for some reason, called “The Golden Years” I find myself wondering what exactly was the point of it all.  The journey has been interesting but arduous and I feel drained to the core.  

As the product of twelve years of Catholic education, I do believe and understand the business of life being a preparation and testing ground for whatever comes next.  I also have a glimmer of hope that all that we do and learn in this dimension is building toward what we will be doing in the next dimension.  

While I have always aimed at learning, building, saving for rainy days and anticipating future choices and designations, I now find that the accumulation of worldly goods I fully expected to leave to children and grandchildren have no place to go.  

My adult, now approaching middle years, offspring have neither married, nor procreated.  

Another stark realization has been that wth the eruption of the 2020 pandemic and subsequent loss of a little job that kept me in lunch money for the last sixteen years, it seems retirement from the work-a-day world has landed on me and there is no need for me to keep the dresses I used to wear to work.  Sigh.

As the stiffness and mobility issues of Arthritis continue to constrict my daily life, I have begun to sort through closets and boxes to thin out the multitude of clothes and kitchen things that, while they are all good, need new owners. 

My favorite charity over the years has been St. Vincent de Paul Society, which I believe does help people who are in need and they have never stuck me onto a mailing list.

The church I am a member of just happens to have a wooden box at each entry, marked for this charity.  While they are designated for food, I just deposit my latest contributions into these boxes and donate checks once in awhile for groceries. 

Occupying my spare time with this chore has really kept me busy over the last year.  I am happy to sit down and read for awhile, so in some convoluted way I suppose it has been good for me.  

Embraced by a Memory

Slowly trudging up the steep driveway of my late cousin Jerry’s daughter’s home, I was immersed in thought of my last visit . It may have been for the celebration of Wendy and Michael’s elder daughter’s college graduation and acceptance into law school.  

The memory that embraced me as I walked was of Michael thanking me for coming and asking where my car was and offering to have their son, Adam, go and get it  for me.  I remember saying that it wasn’t that far, but thank you anyway and that he then took my hand and walked me up the street to my little vehicle.  

The memory was so strong I felt like I was re-living it.  I told the story to the young man who walked me up the driveway and deposited me on level ground where I was greeted and hugged by Wendy and then all three children in turn.

We got me up the steps and into the house where I filled a plate and sat in the dining room with Debbie and Maryann who were finishing their meals. 

I didn’t ask but was sure they felt our sparse group as much as I did.  How many times had we sat at this table surrounded by Aunt Elizabeth, my cousin Jerry, Maryann’s son, Mark, and Michael.  All of them within a few years of each other are gone and only vacant chairs are around the table.  

Maryann, Debbie and I talked, catching up on what little news there was since the pandemic of Covid19 called for little or no social gatherings. 

After the clock chimed seven p.m. my two companions cleared their plates and bid their goodbyes.  

I was munching a cookie at the table alone when Wendy came back into the house.  It was good to have a chance to talk with her away from the others.  She was smiling and I was glad she was doing well enough to enjoy celebrating her younger daughter’s graduation from high school. 

I asked her if she has dreams of Michael and she said sometimes, but it seems like he is actually present.  I said I do draw a distinction between a dream and a visit which seems like a dream but is more intense and stays with the dreamer much more clearly and longer.

Then she said some of her friends dream for her.  One in particular said she dreams that Michael is sitting by the fire pit smoking cigars and looking into the house at Wendy.  This is very interesting because nobody knew that sitting by the firepit smoking cigars was one of Michael’s favorite passtimes. 

Child Proof Caps

The childproof cap, now a pretty universally used method of assuring that very small children do not open prescription drugs or other things that could fatally harm them if they ingested the contents of the jars or bottles has no doubt been a boon to the well-being of small children. 

The smart and strong slightly older children are not stopped by much.. However, the elderly are stopped from easily opening everything from prescription drugs to jars of pickles. So many food products have plastic around the rims of these containers and then the jars are so tightly closed that they are impossible for arthritic hands to open.   

For Jelly I have found that using a hand held can opener to pry the lid slowly going around the jar until there is a pop as the pressure releases usually means the jar will open with an easy twist. However, that does not always work and I have once broken a plastic lid on a pink anti-acid bottle – now I buy the tablets in a box.   

My favorite peanut butter comes in glass jars with metal lids and a band of plastic wrapped around that.  When I could not open one I tried the second which I wanted to store for later use.  Both lids were seriously mangled but would not open at all. My next door neighbor’s son stopped by a couple of weeks later to deliver some of his mother’s homemade humus and while he was there I asked him to open both jars, which he easily did and gave me a couple of tips on how to do it.  It does not matter because my hurting hands cannot do what he did. 

I have also found that cans with the lift off lids are hard for me to open so I avoid buying them as often as possible.  My method for them is to take a bottle opener and pull the tab back with that and then a long chisel edged screw driver to pull the tab back opening the can. 

When I could not open a small jar of sweet pickles I set it aside for the visit of my cousin from Colorado. She opened it; I ate the pickles and now I have no more pickles and am hesitant to buy more, not because I don’t want them. 

Every time I get a prescription refill I try to remember to ask the pharmacist to open the jar slightly for me and I never remember to actually ask.  What seems to work for now is taking the bottle opener and prying the lids enough to pop the pressure, then I can turn them open.  In the past I have put the jars topside down on the floor and put as much weight on my right foot on top of the jar as I am able without having the jar fly across the floor or me falling. 

With the elderly population growing, it would seem to me that I am not alone with this difficulty.

Easter Sunday 2021

Easter Sunday with my cousin, Maryann and her daughter, Rebecca, was a quiet and pleasant afternoon.  It was our first holiday event together since before the precautions and lockdowns for the Covid19 virus.  

Like the year before, I brought a pie from Drug Mart.  Their pies are really nice.  Last year I brought a berry pie; this year by the time I got there only two choices remained: rhubarb and peach.  I took the rhubarb since last year I bought that one for myself and knew it was good.  Rebecca had never had rhubarb.  The first time I ever had it was when I visited my friends, Geoann and Ken when they still lived  in the suburbs of Seattle and she made one.  It was a success, so I was content. 

Rebecca bought a Honey-Baked ham and Maryann made potato salad and her famous baked beans which have 2 kinds of beans and kielbasa as well.  Of course, everything was delicious and Maryann packed leftovers for me to take home. 

Rebecca had selected the movie Let Him Go starring Kevin Kostner and Diane Lane.  All the acting was excellent but I found the story very disturbing and it clung to me like a nightmare that won’t fade away for several weeks.  In one of the most gruesome scenes I left to use the restroom and when I heard Rebecca say “Pause it” I called out, “No, don’t pause it!”   

The movie finally played it’s tragic self out and we watched the evening news before I decided to head home.

Postage

The cost of first-class mail is now $.55 for the first ounce and been announced to increase to $.58 for the first ounce later this summer.  As a lifelong (since age 11) stamp collector, I have watched the price of the first-class stamps go from three cents to the current rate. 

Of course, with our current levels of inflation, as cereal boxes get thinner and candy bars take up less space in their wrappers, I suppose it is to be expected as we grapple with filling grocery carts though there are no increases in income.    

For some reason I feel that services rendered or goods purchased should be the best that the increased prices imply the consumer is getting for each hard- earned dollar. 

When I sat down to pay bills for May I was alarmed to find that my lawn care bill included the April bill, which I had paid a month earlier.  I called the gentleman who does the work and he verified that he had still not received the payment.  Next, I called the bank to find that while checks right before and after that number had cleared, this one had not. 

I called the lawn care service back to say I would like to wait a few more days – the cost for stopping payment on a check is a whopping $36.00 – a little less than half the value of the check. Now the time has passed and I will have to re-issue the payment.  As the lawn care address is all the way over in the next town, there is no excuse for this delay. 

About a year ago I had written a letter to my daughter and about two weeks after mailing it half of it came back to me.  It had been torn exactly in half.  When I talked with my daughter, I learned that she received the other half.   

Somehow, I do not find that the U.S. Postal Service continues to merit regular increases for its work.

To Fly or Not to Fly

My cousin, Theresa was really concerned by my isolation during the pandemic of 2020.  In spite of the fact that isolation is a way of life for me, she was increasingly concerned because she had asked a doctor what was worse, getting covid19 or being isolated and his answer was that they are about equally bad. 

Since my part time job ended with the onslaught of the virus and the recreation centers closed, so the water exercise class I attended for a few years was also ended, my isolation was all the more intense.  An outing for me was going for groceries, or going to the socially distant, masked gatherings for weekly Mass. 

She found that Southwest Airlines were honoring the no passenger in any of the middle seats policy through the last day of October. She booked a flight for me to Denver for the last 10 days of that month and she organized an assortment of activities for us which we could be both masked and socially distant doing and sent me a couple of the medical level masks to wear on the trip.  She said if I had any serious concerns about making the trip, it could be cancelled any time since the airline waived cancellation fees for this time. 

Once I decided to go, I did not change my mind.  On the airplane with the snug mask, I did not get up, eat or drink anything nor leave my seat to go to the bathroom.  I did not read or do anything.  I kept my arms inside the arm rests and once I was in the wheelchair in Denver, I recognixed the kind gentleman pushing me as the same one who helped me the last time I was there. 

Not yet at the baggage carosaul, Ana and Theresa came bursting through the crowd.  Annie already collected my bag and off we headed toward the exit with me still in the chair.  The good man insisted on pushing me all the way to Theresa’s car and she was good enough to add to the tip I had already given him. Once I was hustled into the car we all waved goodbye to him and thanked him again for his service. 

We stopped for some fast food for Ana and dropped her off at the home she stays at and then we went on to Theresa and Ken’s home, de-masked and relaxed.  In the evening we had good homemade dinner and watched television. 

One of our activities was to go to the Denver Museum of Art to see a pretty extensive collection of the work of Frida Kahlo, wife of the artist Diego Rivera.  They are getting better known now but when I was studying art, very little was published about their work because they were active communists. 

Theresa let me use her smart phone to take pictures for the whole day. Since this was a new experience for me there were many photos which had from ten to seventeen duplicates I later had the fun of deleting. 

A few days later she drove us down to Colorado Springs where we arrived at the Garden of the Gods just on time for me to buy a tee shirt souviner,  get in line and board an open sort of trolley and climb into the last two seats for a driving tour of the amazing geological structures.  This time I had my own camera and took many photos. 

She made chicken paprikas for our dinner one night and on the day we planned to drive out to see the carved figures in the mountainside, it snowed and Ken said it would not be safe for us to be driving out there and back a day later.  Sure enough there was shovelable snow and of course I took pictures from various windows of the scenery. 

We watched movies in the evenings and the three of us ate all the good things from the refrigerator as well as all the ice cream, potato chips, a cake, a package of cookies, wine, apple juice with vodka creations that Theresa made up.  Then I went home.