Today is my birthday

Today is my birthday. It makes me think back to all the birthdays, (so many, many birthdays) I’ve had in the past. I’ve always loved birthdays, because no matter the number of times I have one, or which number it is, the day usually involves being around people I love and who love me and getting a lot of very cool presents.  What’s not to like?

               My birthday is in the summer, too, so it stretches a long time. In my school days, I would start getting presents in late May and end up having birthday “events” all summer long. Not a bad deal, in my opinion.

               There was only one birthday that was memorable for bad reasons. Every summer until I was 12, we spent summers either in our cabin in Pennsylvania or in Texas. My dad and grandfather built the cabin the year I was born. (Let me digress to say that this cabin was a two-story, 4-bedroom brick and block structure that had indoor plumbing, a fireplace, and a furnace). It was situated on a big lake and 4+ acres of woodland. I loved that place. The year I turned 11, we had moved in April from Pennsylvania to Ohio and hadn’t been to the cabin that year. We planned a couple of weeks’ stay and arrived late on the night of my birthday. Vandals had been inside the cabin, knifing couches and chairs, throwing eggs and ketchup at the walls, and breaking dishes and pictures. I spent my birthday helping clean up and wondering if the cabin would ever be the same for me again.

               It wasn’t. But mostly my birthdays – at the cabin and everywhere else I’ve been – have been wonderful.

               Today is my birthday. Amidst the background of a worldwide pandemic that is turning America on its ear and the peaceful, but impactful protests of Black Lives Matter, I am celebrating another year of age. It won’t be without fanfare, but it won’t be typical by any means. I won’t have a big party or have the whole family gather to swim and eat and laugh. I won’t go to restaurants with friends and eat too many chips and salsa. I won’t see a movie at a theatre, or go to a play, or go to the Fraze as I have in years gone by. I will be praying for many near and dear who are ill, or recovering, or who have lost loved ones recently. I’ll be working to help others in smaller and less visible ways, and hoping that we all help people get through these turbulent times. I’ll be celebrating with my husband and my son and eating fried chicken – a treat I’ve not had in six months (but this dieting thing is working!).  And I’ll be so grateful for family and friends who are well, for the people who love me, and for my health.

               Today is my birthday, and I’m looking forward to many more in my future. My goal is to reach a healthy and mentally intact three-figure age, so hopefully these future days will include people I love, activities of fun and laughter, and less stress about health and politics. Whatever these birthdays bring, good or bad, I am hoping they come a bit more slowly.

In any event, I’ve been blessed to share my journey with so many kind, smart, thoughtful, and selfless people. They make every day a birthday of joy and love.

               I hope today is your birthday, too.

Creature Comfort

When I first moved to the country, well over 34 years ago now, I was a stereotypical city gal (though not as bad as Lisa in Green Acres). For the first part of my life, I could easily sleep through busses, trolley cars, and loud honking on the streets outside my window. My first weeks in the country, found me leaping out of bed from a sound sleep to grab my baseball bat and run frantically through the house due to the “noise.” Turns out, the noise was just a squirrel jumping onto the roof.

               My next hurdle was spiders. I’ve never been fond of them, but in the country they are terrifying. I found one in the laundry basket that was the size of a softball! My usual response to this was to scream (which never really brought my husband at a very fast pace) and let him deal with it. Because, after all, (a) I wasn’t going near it and (b) he’s the one who kept saying “spiders are our friends.”  I did think for many years that he had strange friends. If he wasn’t home, I just dropped a large Webster’s dictionary on the critter and left a note – “large bug here.”

               Years passed, and I got over the spider thing. I mean, I still don’t like them, but the screaming has stopped. Possibly bats are the reason for this. They are bigger than spiders, fly, and occasionally come in for an uninvited visit.

               I really, really hate bats. The first time one got in our house was about six years after we moved here. Matt told me it was “a bird.” He was trying to prevent the screaming, I’m sure. We didn’t see one for a long time after that, until 2017. Then, they appeared to be having some kind of bat-conference. In our house.

               We noticed the first one when we were watching television and there was a swirling shadow in the hallway. I immediately said to Matt, “there’s a bat in here.” A calm response, I thought, as I made a bound into the bathroom and slammed the door.

From there, I supervised the process of removing the bat. This included my usual helpful behavior from behind the closed door, such as yelling “get it out.” Fortunately, the bat got so tired of flying around, seemingly unable to find the wide-open door, that he fell to the floor. Matt quickly covered him in a large towel, took him outside, and showed him the woods. After that, a bat was swooping around our house several nights in a row.

               Finally, one evening Matt pointed out an incredibly large bat hanging in the corner of the stairwell. We took our usual paths to this disaster. He stood, quietly assessing how to best approach the creature. I scurried to the upstairs bathroom, again anxiously saying, “get it out. Get it out, get it out, get it out!”

               For many long moments, I heard nothing. Then, Matt said that he was going to need my help.

               My help? Was he kidding?

               As it turns out, Matt had the bat in a box with a file folder on top.  He needed both hands to keep the file folder on top of the open box. My help was needed to open the back door.  This meant that for several long seconds I was downstairs with the possibility of a winged beast escaping and finding me. I was brave. I stood by the door, ready and willing to leap outside into the pouring rain if need be.

               Without incident, Matt escorted our unwelcome guest to the woods. Then he called a wildlife removal service and we got our house bat-proofed.  Matt’s my hero.

               Until one night we came home and found a little bat, sleeping on the hinge to our back door. On the inside. Again, I employed my usual tactics when a flying, furry creature is inside our home. I bolted for the bathroom. Matt prevailed and took the bat outside to release him.

               A few weeks later, another bat was swooping around our kitchen. This one was much bigger than the sleeping one, or so it appeared to me. I started to run into the bathroom off the family room, but as I opened the door, I realized I could go open the back door and help Matt get the thing outside.

               Matt stood, bravely attempting to herd the bat toward the open door, but it flew into the bathroom instead. Matt shut the door, blocking it in, so that the next day our removal team could come do their work. 

They team came to confiscate the winged creature and assured us that now that it was warmer, it likely wouldn’t come back.  It’s been over two years, and in fact, we have been batless.

So you can imagine my delight when we found a herd of raccoons swarming our bird feeders last week. At last count, there were ten. Raccoons.  Twenty feet from my back door.

Oy, vey!

Good Ideas Gone Bad

My husband usually has great ideas. He is a man of exceptional vision and a talent for creating and building things, like springhouse roofs and fences. Sometimes, I don’t get the picture as easily.

For example, years ago we remodeled our kitchen. He wanted to recess the refrigerator into what – at the time – was a wall between the kitchen and a hallway. I didn’t understand what he was describing and insisted that this would not look good at all. He showed me diagrams and I still shook my head and was pretty adamant that this would not work. But since typically Matt has good ideas, I told him I would trust his judgment.

               When the project was done, the recessed refrigerator created more floor area for our kitchen table and made the kitchen a lot more user-friendly. It really was a good idea and I always credit him for yet another inspiration.

               Every once in a while, though, he has an idea that’s not so great.  One year, Matt wanted me to accompany him to California on a business trip. I have been to California and I knew two things: first, I hate to fly and secondly, I didn’t much care for California. There were a variety of reasons for this that I will not go into at this time, but it didn’t leave me with a lot of good memories.

               He listed all the wonderful things we would do, and eventually I succumbed and flew to San Francisco with him and he was absolutely right. I loved almost every minute of our stay there, even when he had to attend work functions. I was thrilled with the food, the shopping, the coffee, the wharf, the trolley cars, and our mini-trips to Sausalito and Alcatraz. And the wine!  That was amazing, too.

               Once again, he was right in dragging me into his idea. What he didn’t mention until the last minute was that the trip included a 5K charity event for which he had signed both of us up. Both of us. Meaning, me, too. Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound like a bad idea to you, but if you know me, you know that for me, running a 5K ranks right up there with things like root canals and gall bladder attacks.  In other words, I hate and avoid them.  While I have supported many 5K events, I have never actually participated in one.

               Including this one in beautiful San Fransicso. I went to the event, dressed in my best running gear (or at least, the best I could find in a whirlwind shopping trip) and got my number pinned to my clothing. We started off and I was walking, naturally. I tried to walk at a quick pace, but I was soon losing many of the group as they jogged away. Matt gamely walked with me and we got about a half K (whatever that is, it felt like ten miles) when he said he had to use a bathroom.

               In San Francisco, there are lots of public toilets, but they are all pay-toilets.  It was a Sunday morning, so very little was open, but there was (of course) a Starbucks. I had wisely tucked a twenty into the pocket of the new running shorts, so I went in to ask for change. Naturally, you had to purchase something, so I bought a latte, gave him two quarters from the change and found a bench to wait.

               While I sat, sipping coffee and contemplating the beautiful city scape, runners and walkers were passing me by – going both ways. Apparently some of them had finished the first half and were on their way back. I was rather conspicuous, sitting with the large number on my chest and back, sipping from a Starbucks cup. A few (who still had breath to speak) yelled encouraging words, like “way to go!”

               Matt emerged from the public toilet and we decided it was too late to walk the entire 5K (just how long is that, anyway?), so we turned and walked back to the start/finish line.

               When we approached, me clutching my now-empty coffee cup, a small group began applauding and I heard “there’s the coffee lady” several times.  My one and only 5K run was actually a half-K coffee walk. And, believe it or not, I actually got a blister on my heel from the morning’s stroll.

               Matt admitted that signing me up for the run had been a not-so-good idea. But he’s quick to point out that without that event, I wouldn’t have gained notoriety as a coffee-swilling non-runner.

Mask Musings

Last week, I had an incident at home, and one to which I was very, very happy had no witnesses. I had found these dark chocolate wafers at the grocery a few months back. You melt them in the microwave, and they are perfect for dipping fruit. They actually harden on the fruit – like a dipped cone – and taste wonderful. Best of all, they are very low in carbs, so they fit my 2020 diet plan really nicely.

               I had a little box of blueberries in the fridge. So that morning after my hubby went off to work, I melted those wafers, got out the blueberries and enjoyed a breakfast that was not only healthy, but also very tasty.

               Then I went out to weed and water the vegetable and flower gardens. This tasks takes about an  hour, especially if the weeding is prolonged. I was hot and tired and came in after my workout to take a shower. Standing in the bathroom, at first I thought I had smeared garden dirt all over my chin. Closer inspection in the mirror revealed that it was not dirt…it was drops of hardened chocolate creating a goatee of color on my pale face. How absolutely appalling!  I was certainly grateful that no one had seen me, but honestly, have I now reached an age at which I don’t feel food on my chin?  Even hardened drips of chocolate?  

               So, there’s a bit of a controversy lately over the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of a nasty virus that’s killing a lot of us, and making a lot more of us ill.  Okay, I’m not wild about controversy. But my story of the chocolate chin has nothing – and everything – to do with wearing a mask.

               Because it occurred to me that wearing a mask has several advantages, even beyond the obvious one of protecting people from deadly disease. 

               First of all, I’ve been wearing a mask in public since early March.  This means I have not worn lipstick, blush, or foundation for over four months. Do you know how much money that has saved me? These make-up items are pretty expensive and you have to replace them when they run out. I’ve had no make-up, save a little mascara, on my face for months!  Hooray!  I’m estimating a savings of close to sixty bucks, just from wearing a mask. Also, the mask helps keep that double chin tucked up. The creams and lotions that supposedly tighten your skin, especially under the chin area, are really exorbitant!  I’ve saved another sixty bucks on those things, too.

               Second benefit?  No gum or breath mints needed. I always dreaded meeting people for lunch and then walking around wondering if my breath smelled like coffee, or onions, or something worse.  Same for dinner dates.  Now?  Just pop on that mask and don’t worry. I like to wash my masks with a little scented oil, too. That means that the aroma emanating from me after onion rings and garlic mashed potatoes is a little light lavender.

               There’s a fourth benefit, too.  People drive through the intersection right before you’re about to step out?  People litter in front of you on the sidewalk?  People use foul language in front of children in public?  Now you can whisper some sarcastic comment or tell them off, but they won’t see your lips move or know you’re zinging them!  It’s a great way to keep animosity at a low level, and honestly, we really could profit from less animosity these days!

               Finally, the best reason of all.  If you drip chocolate, or anything else (salsa comes to mind) on your chin, you are not going to embarrass yourself when you go outside.  Just put that little mask on your face and roll on with your day.

               Honestly, there are just no reasons not to wear a mask. And many, many reasons it will help us all stay safe, feel better, and look better.

Losing the Technology War

Those who know me well are aware that I have an ongoing war with technology; one in which I often lose battles. I frequently have to call our son for help with what appear to be very minor issues. As times goes by, you’d think I’d get better at solving my own problems in this area, but sadly, I’m not.

For example, earlier this winter I had a scuffle with my car and though I prevailed, I did so only with the assistance of my husband. It all started when I wanted to go into town to put a teddy bear or two in the Hospice gift shop window. Not to worry — I was following all the social distancing guidelines! The store was not open at the time, but was participating in the “go find a bear hunt” activity that happened in some neighborhoods and downtown. I went into the deserted town, wiped down the door handle, grabbed a few teddy bears from our storeroom, and placed them in the window. Then I locked up and posted a picture on Instragram, planning to go straight home.

Except when I got in the car and pressed the keyless ignition button, the car did not start. I heard clicking noises and lights all over began to flash. Messages appeared on my dashboard saying things like “open and close passenger window” and “theft deterrent system error.” I got out of the car to look at the battery, which did not help explain if it was a digital or mechanical issue. I tried to get back in the car, but it had locked. My remote would not unlock it. It wouldn’t open the trunk. Pushing it repeatedly made the lights inside the car blink frenziedly, but the door wouldn’t open.

I did the sensible thing and called my husband who drove in to rescue me. I had time to ponder my predicament. Was the battery dead? Was the digital system broken? Was God telling me to stay home? I dreaded the idea that my husband would arrive and the car would start immediately because I was inept. I tried to read the owner’s manual, but discovered it was written by the same people who write instructions for assembling furniture, rendering this task useless.

Matt arrived, charged up the battery with this truck, and saved the day.

A second battle with technology happened during the stay-at-home, while I was cleaning out our junkroom. This long overdue task resulted in the creation of piles of boxes and bags filled with (a) items for donation, (b) items for the trash, and (c) items I thought other family members might want. I was going to take a picture of those last items to send to various nieces and nephews when the camera function on my phone froze.

               Having had some training from afore-mentioned son, I went to the internet and searched what to do. It was fairly easy – just reset my settings. After a few trials, I was able to do that and – voila! – my phone camera once again functioned well.

               I snapped several pictures of stuffed animals and sent them to loved ones. Slipping my phone into my pocket, I continued sorting stacks of items. I heard the front door bell. Our front door is very old and the doorbell itself is dated in the 1860’s. It’s a metal half dome with a crank on it. When you rotate the crank, a lovely little sequence of peals ding throughout the house.

               Our front door isn’t used much, typically only by delivery people. I heard the dinging and jogged down the stairs to the door. Looking out, I saw no one and no packages on the stoop. I jogged back upstairs and resumed work.

               A few minutes later, the bell chimed again. I walked down the stairs and looked out – nothing. I prowled around the house to each of the other doors to peer out. The dog was snoozing quietly and no one appeared to be around.

               I trudged up the stairs and resumed my sorting. The tingle of the bell sounded a third time. This time, I picked up my baseball bat and stomped down the stairs. Something was afoot!

               While I was staring out the door window, the chime sounded again, but not from the door. It was my phone!  The pre-set text notification sound is the same little chime as our antique door bell.

               And that’s when I realized that I had lost all my preset notifications.  I had to stop my sorting and boxing and reset every one of them. Of course, first I had to go the internet and look up how to do that.

               Technology – 2, Sue – 0. I’m already prepping for my next scuffle with technology.

People, get here on time

My husband, Matt, and I enjoy going to Ohio State football games (and basketball, volleyball, and baseball, for that matter). He goes to football games once or twice a season and each time it is an event in our house.  Whether the game is home or away, we get to the designated stadium early enough to watch the band make its entry.  We check our seat numbers, double check them and then wait for the big squeeze of all the people in our row.

          Sports arena builders allocate 12 full inches for each individual butt. This means sitting sideways, sitting forward or backward depending on what the person next to you is doing, and sometimes having someone’s leg rest on your own for several hours. We always hope that there’s so much scoring and defense from our team that we spend most of the event standing and cheering. It’s better emotionally and physically!

          Last year my husband and his brother went to a home game. They got there early and within a few minutes were safely ensconced in their double-checked, 12-inch seats. Both of these men are well over six feet tall and while they can fit into those 12 inches, there’s not much room to spare.

          After a little while, a couple came in and, after looking down at their ticket stubs and back up several times, politely inquired of the boys if they were in the right seats. This required them to get up, check their tickets, look at the seat numbers again (for the third time) and verify that yes, they were. Turns out this couple was in the wrong section.

          Meanwhile, seats were filling up and the band was about to enter the stadium. At this time, four large men – according to my husband, they were each the size of a sumo wrestler – came in and sat adjacent to Matt. They were so large and the row was so crowded, that Matt had nowhere to put his right arm. He could hold it straight up in the air or put his arm around the very big man next to him.

          As it turns out, the large man was quite friendly and didn’t mind this at all. It wasn’t his first time at an Ohio State game, and he understood.  Matt took to calling him “Bubba.”

          The game started!  Although this is an outdoor event, watching games is serious business. Just as people don’t clamber in to a play late and climb all over you to get to their seats, common courtesy dictates that if you are late to a game, you wait until there’s a break in the action to crawl over people to get to your seat.

          Right in the middle of a down – not at a time out, or even a squad change – a foursome came in and began to scramble over people. In so doing, they were blocking the view of the game action. This was enough to annoy Matt, but then one of the women turned to him and said, “Are you in the right seats?”  Before he could respond, his brother snarled, “Yes, we are,” and stood up to his full 6 foot, 3 inches to peer at the game over her head.  She continued to stand around, bobbling while she checked her ticket (she was in the row two ahead), and blocking the view.  Finally, Matt could stand it no longer and said, “People, get here on time.”

          She looked aghast and her husband asked her what Matt had said. She responded, “He said we should get here on time.”  Her husband glanced back and saw Matt, with his arm around his new friend Bubba, and decided it wasn’t an issue.  He sat down, the girl sat down, and there were no further problems for Matt watching the game.

          So now, whenever anything annoys either of us, we simply sigh and say, “People, get here on time!” It seems to cover any eventuality, time-related or otherwise, at least for us.

One of Life’s Perfect Storms

Every once in a while, a perfect storm brews into one’s life. I’m not talking about a big tsunami, now, like protests and pandemics. I mean just the accumulation of life’s little disasters that make us wish we’d stayed in bed and just skipped that day.

We had one of life’s perfect storms last week. It started innocently, as freakish things usually do.

               Both of us had been gone most of the day and after dinner it seemed like a good idea to take our dog for his daily walk. We were tired and didn’t really want to do this, but honestly, the dog just insisted.  It was hot and muggy and a storm was likely brewing, but we thought we could take a quick stroll through our woods and then go check out our field.  A big tree had fallen across the street from our field and the county had piled up the wood on both sides of the road. These piles were perilously close to our drain pipe, so we wanted to cut through the field to look at it.

               It had rained earlier that day, so our trail might be a little damp.  I snagged my keys, quickly put on my boots that Matt handed me from the closet, and off we went. Halfway through the woods, we cut down to the field to inspect the pile of logs. Around the pile were at least five or six handfuls of sticks, which we picked up and threw into the ravine.

               We noticed the skies getting darker and figured the rain was about to return. It was as we were heading toward our house that I found my keys were not in my pocket.

               No worry! We simply retraced our steps: up the hill, past the barn, into the woods, down through the field, and all around the wood pile. The key ring has my car remote on it, three keys, plus two charms. It should stick out like a big shiny clump, but we didn’t see it anywhere.

The skies were getting ominous now. There was a slim possibility that the keys had fallen out of my pocket in the house, so we went to the hiding place for our spare door key and the hiding place was…empty.

               Now we could hear faint thunder. The dog was getting antsy. I began to panic. Matt thought he could likely break into a window and get us into the house, but what in the world were we going to do about the missing keys? Plus then we’d have to fix the window that we’d broken. Our son (who lives next door) was helping us search and he said, “I used the hidden key in February, but I swear I put it back.”

I had used it as well, a month or so ago, when I went to get the mail and locked myself out of the house. But certainly I had put it back. Hadn’t I? Just then, the tornado warning went off on my phone and sirens could be heard.

Our son came out of his house, having ransacked his drawers and cupboards. He had found a key that looked like ours and we tried it. Success!  It was an old key that we didn’t know existed, but we were thrilled – and inside.

As the winds kicked up and the rain began to pelt, we found my keys hanging on the key rack, safe and sound, just where I’d left them. Apparently, when I was putting on my boots, I hung them up instead of putting them in my pocket. Hanging next to them was the spare key that was supposed to be hidden outside.  As we huddled in the tornado-safe area, I was delighted all was well and mortified that our latest “adventure” had been all my own doing!

First Blog – Hello 2020!

            It’s amazing how much difference a year can make. I was looking up (yep, on Google) the ten top things that were searched out on the internet in 2019.  They included one cable channel (Disney Plus), a film (Avengers Endgame), a television show (Game of Thrones), 2 actors who died young (Cameron Boyce and Luke Perry), a rapper (Nipsey Hussle), and the latest iphone. The top ten list also included two actual news stories – one about Jussie Smollet, who apparently perpetrated a false police report. The other? Well, it was about Hurricane Dorian, the endless storm that caused a lot of damage and took lives.

            As I read this list (and I had to look up several of the items to even know what/who they were), I realized that internet searches may be conducted much more often by younger people than I. The other thing that struck me was that, with the exception of the big storm, the items being searched were either gossip or fluff. In other words, not really helpful to our daily lives – unless we plan to watch a channel, a show, or a movie based on our search. But even so…

            Compare that to this year!  The tallies aren’t in yet for 2020, but I’m betting that our list of searches includes more important things to our well-being than those we looked up in 2019. USA Today provided a list of 100 things to do during the pandemic of 2020. I looked at that list and was actually quite impressed. Except for a couple of fluffy items (like “sleep more,” which annoys me only because who can make themselves sleep more? Is that even possible?), the list included things that could not only make a difference in our lives during the pandemic stay-at-home order, but possibly for much longer.

            I’ve taken the ten that struck my fancy the most. But if you want to look up all 100, the article is on the following website:

            Based on the USA Today article, here were my top ten searches for 2020 (so far)!

  1.  Look up how to play an instrument and practice. I already know a couple of instruments, so I used the time to watch some experts teach me new tricks.
  2.  Teach yourself yoga or stretching from youtube. I actually ordered a DVD on Tai Chi and have learned some basic routines. Very soothing!
  3. Learn how to meditate .Try lying down with your eyes closed, palms up, while focusing on your breath. This is also very soothing.
  4. Look up videos on how to knit or crochet. I tried knitting. I wasn’t very good at it, but I did try.
  5. Find out how to have an indoor scavenger hunt. I have one ready for the next time we are with real people who would enjoy this activity.  This one was fun to research.
  6. Write poetry. I wrote some and posted it, too (on Reddit).
  7. Learn a new style of dance via youtube, possibly bellydancing or breaking. I tried to learn tap dancing, but ended up just doing the watusi.
  8. Learn the words to “Tung Twista.” Get them so ingrained in your brain that you can rap them as fast as Twista can. Impress everyone.  I’m still working on it. If rap doesn’t thrill you, try to memorize the lyrics of “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” by Billy Joel. Same kind of impressive work there!
  9.  Learn origami. Make cranes for your loved ones.  I haven’t mastered this yet. My cranes look like folded squares, sadly.
  10. Finally, study the art of beatboxing. Don’t know what that is? Watch “13 levels of beatboxing: easy to complex” on youtube. This features an amazing young woman named Butterscotch who will fascinate you with beatboxing!

So…what did you search for on the internet during the pandemic?

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