It’s been eight years since I first signed on with WordPress, and I’ve spent each of those Christmas Days by myself, watching my favorite Christmas movies and cuddling with my cats. My family is spread across the country, and winter makes it impractical to travel. At least for me and my elderly parents. My brother has his traditions in New York, so he doesn’t travel either.
But I’m not lonely. For any of you who are, I say a little prayer for you and wish you comfort. And for all of you, I wish you a Merry Christmas.
Two weeks ago my dad’s wife of 21 years, Jeanne, died of Alzheimer’s. She had been going downhill for sometime, and he’d finally arranged for her to enter a memory care center. This one only houses six residents at a time, so the care is constant and personal. On Monday morning she entered the facility, and by late Monday morning she was dead.
I’ll be honest–I didn’t know her that well. What I knew of her I liked, and I know she made my dad happy. They got together a short time after my stepmom died, and I don’t believe they ever regretted the decision.
Since she died I’ve called my dad nearly every day. He seems to be doing well, although we don’t delve into too much that’s particularly personal. That’s the nature of our relationship. I thought he might be getting tired of hearing from me every day, but we almost always talk for at least 30 minutes. He was Jeanne’s sole caregiver for months and months so I imagine he’s somewhat starved for conversation. Plus, I’m his daughter, so he likes talking to me. I’m lucky in that way.
I’m reminded of all the people experiencing deep loneliness during the holiday season, whether or not they’re actually alone. My mom is one of them, and despite his efforts to get out and about, I imagine now my dad is, too. I have a friend whose husband of 68 years died the day after their anniversary, which happened to land on Christmas. She has family, but freely admits that getting through the holidays is a chore.
So say a little prayer and spread a little kindness this holiday season. Your smile could make a difference. People who live alone may be reluctant to join your family for festivities, but a quiet lunch can be its own kind of celebration. Do it your way, but reach out.
Like any of us need an excuse to eat more cookies this month. I celebrated by helping myself to a few Christmas cookies a neighbor brought over (they were rejects from the batches she made, but taste just as good).
Growing up, my mom always made hundreds of Christmas cookies and mailed them to all our relatives, far and wide. Then she’d freeze a bunch–no room in the freezer for anything else at that point–so we’d have plenty to get us through the winter months. Okay, December. We’re a sweet tooth family so sugary goods never lasted long in our house.
I remember my mom had a cookie press for those fancy Christmas cookies. She usually died the dough green as well (not red, because the red dye in use up to that point had been discovered to be cancer causing). She made the round balls dipped in powdered sugar and we gobbled those down. We all helped ice the sugar cookies, and somewhere along the line we discovered you could make stained glass sugar cookies with the use of crumbled up Life Savers. I don’t think they turned out very well because we only made them for a year or two.
I plan to celebrate National Cookie Day as often as I can this Christmas season, although I doubt I bake too many of my own. It’s hard to bake for one and already there are so many cookies at work I’m afraid mine might go stale before anyone ate them.
Well, winter weather is upon us, even if it isn’t officially winter yet. So I’m once again forced to deal with one of the more foolish laws in my state, and that is, if you shovel the sidewalk or put some sort of ice melt on it–or anything like that–you can and probably will be held liable if someone slips and falls. So my apartment complex understandably does nothing to clear the way for those of us who have to go to work or simply want to take the trash out. Let me say this again–you clear the ice or snow off the sidewalk or stair steps or what-have-you and someone slips and falls, you will be held liable.
I’ve listened to our esteemed lawmakers try to explain this, and their excuses sound as lame as the law itself. Frankly, I don’t understand clearly what they’re saying so I won’t try to repeat it here. I just know that in a majority of the states, the law either requires you to clear the sidewalks in front of your home or at the very least won’t punish you if you do and someone falls.
Which led me to wonder, what laws do other states have that surpass understanding? I looked this up and decided against sharing too many. Instead, I’m asking you, my fellow bloggers, to tell me about absurd laws in your state, or any other state, for that matter. Did you know that in Massachusetts you’re breaking the law if you’re over 16 and you swear at players or officials at a sporting event? Two things struck me there, first, I guess if you’re 16 or under you can say what you like, and second, seriously? Is anybody enforcing this law?
So let me know about the laws in your state. I could use a good laugh!
We all need a little security. For children, it may be a blanket or a favorite stuffed toy. For Walter, it’s this scratching pole. It’s supposed to hang on a string over a doorknob, but the string broke off long ago. Now nobody scratches on it, but Walter hugs it close.
It’s National Homemade Bread Day, and I would love to celebrate this one the right way–with a freshly baked load of bread and a glass of white grape juice (my drink of choice this days). However, I need to be able to fit into the jeans I’m wearing right now for a little while longer. I could probably eat a whole loaf, well, maybe half a loaf, in the course of one day. That’s not healthy.
But what could be better than a moderate portion of homemade bread? Whether it’s white bread, banana nut bread, zucchini bread or any other kind you crave, it’s one of life’s simple pleasures. Okay, eating it is a simple pleasure. Making it, especially yeast breads, takes a little practice and know-how. Unless you cheat and use a bread maker.
All this in anticipation of Thanksgiving, where my homemade Parkerhouse rolls were famous in my family. I made them every year. One year I was late because I forgot to turn the oven on, and my grandma was furious. I’d messed up the timing for everything for her. But my uncles, cousins, mom and stepdad just laughed it off and ate heartily.
You just never know when something bad can happen. Two weeks ago I got to work (which is to say I walked from my bedroom to what I loosely call my office) and there was a cheery message from my colleague. This is the woman who trained me, and she takes the lead in assigning me work. Anyway, I sent a message to her saying I was ready for my assignments. I didn’t hear and didn’t hear. My manager was late, and it turns out with good reason–she’d gotten a message from Rita, my co-worker, saying she (Rita) had fallen and broken her femur. Hip replacement surgery was necessary.
I was shaking the rest of the morning. Not because of what happened to Rita (although I felt terrible for her), but what it means for me. The brunt of the workload is going to fall on me now, and I still don’t know how to do everything. I expect Rita will be out at least a month and I’m scared. Yes, it’s a chance to prove myself, and I’m trying to focus on that, but it’s scary asking questions my manager might expect me to know the answers to by now.
But things have started to come together. It’s still scary, and I’d be concerned if it wasn’t. But all I can do is all I can do, and leave it at that. I’m learning a lot and that’s worth it all.
Of course in the middle of this newly-added pressure at work, my TV completely poops out. Doesn’t even power on. I had to resort to watching my streaming channels on my laptop, which has its limitations. I looked online at what was available in the way of new TVs and realized I’m still in the 20th century when it comes to television sets. Okay, maybe not completely. But close to the turn of the century. I mean, what is a smart TV?
I got lucky, though. I mentioned what had happened to my co-worker Bre, and she offered to give me one of her extra television sets. Of course I planned to pay, but she brushed that aside and gave it to me outright. Yes, it’s a smart TV–with Roku–and it fits perfectly on the little dresser I use as a TV stand.
The really cool thing about this is that I’d just gotten a brand-new Roku, and now I can give that to a friend who’s limping by with one of the originals. She’s on a fixed income and is barely getting by, so I know she’ll appreciate this gift. I feel good.
And the last good/bad thing to happen? I had a health scare, which forced me to confront some of my bad eating habits. I’ve changed and lost five pounds–I’m close to my goal weight, which is a good thing since losing that weight was a New Year’s resolution and I’ve struggled every day with it. I just couldn’t get it together until I had a concrete reason to do so.
Yes, you never know when something bad is going to happen, but you never know when that something bad might turn into something good.
If, like me, you can do without the deluge of horror stories that arrive every October, here are three classic films with charm and style–and ghosts. I’ve reviewed each in my other blog, Classic for a Reason, and include a link so you can read the full review.
A headstrong, independent widow goes against her late husband’s family’s wishes and strikes out on her own, young daughter and loyal maid by her side. Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney), no longer wishing to be under the thumb of her mother-in-law, decides to move to the coast. She finds an affordable cottage that would be perfect, except it is haunted by the ghost of sea captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison), who wants nothing more than to scare the young woman away.
Instead, there is an immediate attraction, which takes an interesting turn when Lucy learns her investment income has dried up and she has nothing to live on. Captain Gregg comes to the rescue with his idea to write a book, a memoir of his life at sea, salty language and racy stories included.
Death has come about 50 years too soon for boxer Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery) when novice Angel 7013 (Edward Everett Horton) takes his soul early. Pendleton’s untimely arrival in heaven is confirmed to be a mistake by Angel 7013’s superior, Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains), but by the time they arrive on earth to place Joe back in his body, he’s been cremated.
Thus begins the search for the perfect new body. Despite his reservations, Joe ends up being placed in the physique of an unscrupulous millionaire, Bruce Farnsworth, who has been cheating thousands out of their hard-earned money. Joe sets out to right the situation, and falls in love in the meantime.
In 17th century Salem, two witches, Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and her father Daniel (Cecil Kellaway), are burned at the stake, and an oak tree is planted over their ashes to trap their spirits. In revenge, Jennifer casts a spell on the man responsible for their demise, Jonathan Wooley. He and all his male descendants will find misery rather than love.
That spell’s magic is worked in the lives of all Wooley men over the next 270 years, and it looks like it’s about happen again. Gubernatorial candidate Wallace Wooley (Fredric March) is about to marry Estelle Masterson (Susan Hayward), whose father, J.B. (Robert Warwick), is Wallace’s biggest political supporter.
The day before the wedding (and two days before the election), lightning strikes the oak tree trapping Daniel and Jennifer, and their spirits are released. They soon find Wallace, and Jennifer is gleeful about the thought of further revenge. Against his better judgment, Daniel allows Jennifer to talk him into letting her take human form once again.
My last few cat posts have featured Walter, which is easy to do since he’s so much more expressive than Mimi. Today, however, I caught my little bean looking a little anxious, a little inquisitive, with a little, “say what?” expression on her sweet face. So I’m sharing Mimi with you, which is a good thing, seeing as how she’s such a love.
I’m betting most of you know someone with Cerebral Palsy (CP). I know several people as a result of formerly being a case manager for those with developmental disabilities, not to mention a friend in high school and the daughter of a co-worker now. It’s a disorder that runs the gamut in how much disability it causes, but all with CP have challenges with movement and posture.
They also have challenges with public perception.
Children, we all know, can be cruel, especially when presented with a classmate who is different in some way. My friend Leigh and my co-worker’s daughter Anna (not her real name) were teased so much all through school that they became reclusive and had difficulty making friends. Leigh found a church group and Anna relates well to adults, but not people her own age.
Anna’s mom talked to Anna’s teachers, who allegedly all said the same thing: “we’ll just make it worse by punishing the children who tease.” (Maybe that’s true, maybe not–I’m not entirely sure Anna’s mom is telling me everything there.) Many schools have a zero tolerance policy with bullying now, and hopefully that helps children with disabilities survive the turmoil of their youth.
Then there’s the opposite reaction of too much sympathy. When I worked in a bookstore, a boy using a walker came in once and headed straight to the children’s section. He asked for help once getting a book down that he couldn’t reach, and aside from my usual can-I-help-you-find-anything, that was all he needed from me. When he was ready to check out, he put his selections in the walker, and we headed up the cash register, where an older woman gushed all over him.
“Oh, you brave little angel,” she said. “You remind me of my granddaughter, and I love her so much.”
She turned to me and said, “Poor thing. His life must be so hard.” This right in front of the boy.
“I think he does just fine,” I snapped, and checked him out. I was impressed that he handled his own finances–he was probably 11 or 12–and when his mom showed up seconds later (she’d been looking for books in another section) I told her as much.
She beamed and he smiled. “He insists. He’s pretty independent.”
So there you go.
I think most of those reading this blog already know this, but I’ll say it anyway. Children and adults with disabilities, CP and otherwise, need help with the things they can’t manage because of the limitations of their disability. That’s it. The rest of it is the life stuff we all face (okay, we all need help with that from time to time) and you can’t coddle or patronize them.
Last week, while getting ready to turn at a busy intersection, I found myself growing a bit impatient with the car in front of me. He wasn’t moving, even though we had the green light and there was no oncoming traffic. Turns out he was keeping us both safe, for several long seconds into that green light a minivan, going east-west to my north-south, tore across traffic, ran into a car crossing the intersection and spun out of control, nearly tipping over in the process. I can only guess that they seriously misjudged the yellow light and chose to speed up rather than slam on their brakes.
It scared the bejeebers out of me. I got home and thought, what if they had hit me? I drive a small car; I could easily have been hurt in a collision like that (and no, I don’t know if there were any injuries). Who would take care of my cats if I were in the hospital? I quickly texted a friend and asked if I could leave my keys with her for just such an emergency.
This comes on the heels of a horrific home fire I recently heard of, in which one woman was killed. I need to say here she did everything right, but fires are unpredictable. But it did prompt me to buy an emergency ladder for my second floor apartment. I know all the ways out of my apartment–there aren’t many–but some of you live in bigger homes. I encourage you to map out multiple escape routes for yourself and your family members. It’s easy to say you’re going to do it, and just as easy to forget. Invest in emergency ladders if you live in a multi-story building. You can buy them on Amazon and I’d bet a myriad of other places, depending on where you live.
Hurricane Ian reminds all of us to have a plan for a power failure. I live substantially inland and hurricanes generally travel east of me, so they’re not my worry, but there can be a lot of reasons for a power failure. Keep a flashlight handy (I’ve heard they don’t recommend you rely on your cell phone as a flashlight in the event your electricity goes out. You should be saving your phone’s power for phone calls). Keep some Nutella and crackers or whatever around at all times (of course that stuff will go bad so you have to eat and replenish!).
And as I hinted above, give a spare key to a trusted friend or family member if you live alone and have pets so someone will be available to care for them in the event of an accident. In fact, even if you don’t live alone, make sure someone is always available to care for your pets.
There are so many things we can do to be prepared for life’s surprises. Not paranoid, but prepared. Be prepared. Save a life.
I’m committing to making a conscious effort to be grateful for what I have. It’s not that I haven’t been grateful in the past, but I have taken a lot for granted. What a luxury! With a bit of irony, I find myself being thankful that I have been able to take so much for granted.
It’s not that I want to live a life of paranoia that I may lose what I treasure, but rather, I want to lift my eyes skyward and say, “thank you, God, for continued good health. I know that as I age, things will go wrong, but remind me about what I still have, and remind me to be grateful for your continued care, no matter what happens.”
Not just my health is involved here, of course, although the older I get the more aware I become of what can go wrong. And I don’t want to imply that I won’t grieve losses or feel fear or frustration in the future (sorry for the alliteration). But the overriding feeling should be gratitude.
I am grateful for my friends, past and present, online and in person. I thank God for my parents and my brother and sister and all the work they do on my behalf when the situation calls for it.
Why gratitude now, you ask? I’ve come very close to losing a few things I value, and I’m grateful to have had them, whether or not they stay in my life. I’ve had gratitude journals in the past and they didn’t really work for me, but I do want to daily be grateful for the good things in my life.
So I’m holding on to gratitude. I think it makes the heart beat stronger, literally and figuratively.
The first thought that came to me when I heard today is National Day of Encouragement was a baby learning to walk. Parents and others in the baby’s life are coaxing and saying things like “come on, we know you can do it!” In most cases, that’s true. The baby can learn to walk. But she may not know it quite yet.
In the same way, there are times when someone in your life needs a sincere “I know you can do it!” That friend may not believe in their own strength, but you’ve seen it. And the closer they get to the goal, the more encouragement they may need, just until that first step is taken.
And when they fall, help them pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again.
Of course, babies need encouragement for more than just learning to walk. It’s more than a one-time thing for the people in your life as well. Keep an eye out for the times when someone needs an example demonstrating why you believe in them, something you’ve seen in them that lets you know more is possible.
Many of you have already seen this post, but it’s worth reblogging. Four years ago we lost fashion designer Kate Spade to suicide, and since then many others have also taken their lives. It’s Suicide Prevention Month, and I want you to know, help is available if you are suicidal or in crisis.
It was practical and stylish, two words common to describing her designs. I was lucky — I got it half-off, something the snide sales person had no problem disdainfully pointing out when I paid for it (a story for another day). Never mind him. I had my Kate Spade handbag.
I carried it for years, until the wear and tear made it too embarassing to use any more. That’s my sole connection to Kate Spade. But when I heard about her death today, I was moved to tears. The story is coming out that she committed suicide, and that breaks my heart.
A friend who was at one time suicidal described to me what she felt in this way:
“It was like there was weight on my body, an outside pressure that made it hard to breathe. All the sorrow and pain I’d felt…
Okay, I need to say a little more. Today’s a day to celebrate books. Pick up that novel or biography you’ve been longing to read, and make room for a few chapters. Not a big reader? Find a book that appeals to you–it doesn’t have to be big or complex, just something you want to find out a little more about.
So many bloggers are also novel writers. Maybe you know of someone who recently published their first book. Be sure to support them and buy a copy!
Books make us happy. They also broaden our world, widen our perspectives and give us something to talk about with others. In other words, they make us better people.
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