April Showers and Sunshine

April used to be a month of celebrations for my family. There were four April birthdays; my son, my husband and two brothers-in-law. It marked the end of  what passes for “the rainy season”  in California. Recently, one local weatherman commented that usually  the end of the rainy season in California is marked by “tax day” – April 15th.

In the past four years, two of my April birthday family members have passed away; my husband and one brother-in-law.  It is still a time to celebrate, but the sadness is there as well.

We don’t forget those we lost. The bitter-sweet memories return at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. No one can “replace” someone you lost, but they can add to your life and help you make new memories.  April does bring sunshine as well as showers.

 

Peace

 

The Rule of Two

 

Recently, my Best Friend In the Whole World (BFITWW) graciously helped me out of a tight situation by going into my closet to retrieve a specific pair of shoes. He then brought them to me.  (Thank you!) I wasn’t at home at the time, so we communicated by phone. Only then did it occur to me that my closet wasn’t the best organized place. I had violated  the spirit of the Rule of Two.

The Rule of Two states that you should always have at least two of certain necessary items on hand, but no more than two. For example, two packages of paper towels, two of toilet paper, maybe two of laundry detergent. For such necessities, the Rule of Two can help you avoid emergency trips to the store at 10:00 p.m.

The Rule of Two doesn’t apply so neatly to certain ares of the house – such as garages and clothes closets. I have heard that beautifully organized garages with a place for everything and everything in its place do exist. But it is hard to imagine even those garages having only two pairs of needle-nosed pliers and only two large flat-head screw drivers.

Clothes closets are even more complicated. The categories are not so easily defined, and the sub-categories are constantly expanding. There are dress shoes, dressy shoes, work shoes, grungy garden shoes, running shoes, and so on. Apply these sub-categories to other articles of clothing and you see why  a strict reading of the Rule of Two is not a good fit for clothes closets or garages.

I took a hard look at my closet and concluded it was over-crowded and non-functional. I decided to start by focusing on the shoes. An hour later, I had removed ten pairs of shoes that either no longer fit me, or were so outrageously out of style they should be in a shoe-history museum. They’re gone now. It was a bitter-sweet experience. Now I just have to resist replacing them with more shoes.

The unfortunate ten

Last week, I read an interview with Joan Baez. She has lived in the same house for fifty years. Recently she adjusted her home to fit her current interest, painting. As part of the de-cluttering of her living space, she mentioned she now has only three shirts hanging in her closet. I’ll never sing like Joan, and my closet will always be more crowded.

 

Peace

 

 

 

Remembrance

My brother-in-law passed away last month. He was a kind man. A retiree, he volunteered many hours with the Boy Scouts of America. The local Boy Scout District has honored his memory with a scholarship that will send two scouts to Boy Scout Camp.   He spent quality time with his step-children and grandchildren.  A good, kind man who believed in serving the community and taking care of his family, he did both with quiet dignity.

He worked for Pacific Gas and Electric before his retirement. He was the one they sent out late at night when there was a problem, traveling long distances and long hours.

He was a Vietnam Vet, serving as a machinist on a carrier. He died from Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer that affects the lungs and the lining of the chest. It is difficult to diagnose.  The first indication he had of the problem was a severe pain in his side. It took a while to arrive at a diagnosis. It is important to determine the type of cancer in order to plan an effect attack on the disease, and that requires several tests. He went through radiation therapy and chemotherapy in the hope that the disease could be slowed down. But it was not successful.

Mesothelioma is not curable. There hasn’t been any research on the disease for the past forty years. The on-set is quick. It often masquerades as other ailments making it hard to identify, but early detection does not stop the inevitable.  It is a painful disease. Pain medication helps, but it, too, takes a toll.

My brother-in-law had very high exposure to asbestos. On the carrier, the  mens’ quarters were directly under the asbestos-wrapped pipes. When the guns were fired, asbestos dust rained down on the men. The guns went off day and night, particularly in the Mekong Delta. The association between exposure to asbestos and Mesothelioma has been known by the companies that produced the product since 1935, and yet no action was taken to protect those who had to work with asbestos.

It is so sad that such a good man should have had such a terrible, unnecessary disease.

I’ve capitalized Mesothelioma, not out of respect, but out of fear.

 

Peace

 

Shopping with a Holiday-Fried Brain, Giants in the Hills and Cashew Moments

 

Like so many others during the holiday season, I find myself making multiple trips to the grocery store to buy that one  special ingredient for a recipe that I only make once a year.  As I wandered up and down the grocery store aisle, I literally ran into a display featuring “Entertainment Crackers.” That held my attention briefly as I wondered what type of entertainment crackers could supply. Do they sing, dance or tell jokes?

I finished my shopping and returned to my car. I couldn’t help but notice that the inside of the windshield was still coated with  a slightly-oily mystery substance. I told my son I had tried cleaning the windshield with the cleaner the manufacture recommended, but it hadn’t work. He suggested I use crumpled newspaper and glass cleaner. I hadn’t done that yet, but I would.

Given the state of my fried brain, I began to wonder about the cleaning process. I read that newspaper subscriptions are down and very few people actually buy newspapers with any regularity. I also read that most people now rely on social media for news, especially their smart phones. Did that mean that these newspaper- deprived, smart-phone users would have to use their smart phones to clean the windshield? Does Siri do windows?

One of the best things about the holidays is spending time with family and friends, reliving memories and sharing stories. Coming back from one  family gathering, we drove through an area of California that has low, rounded hills. In the Spring the hills are bright green, but now they are covered with a low brown growth that looks like suede from a distance. There are no deep canyons, only  soft, undulating bumps. Our family knows the area well. During the drive, my son reminded me that  when he was little, he thought the hills were sleeping giants and the brown growth was a blanket covering the giants.

My beautiful daughter-in-law and handsome son visited from out-of-state. They are wonderful to talk to. They shared a story about cashews. They discovered that they really liked cashews and had a supply on hand at home. When my daughter-in-law’s parents visited from Korea, they asked the name of the curiously shaped nuts.

Neither my son nor daughter-in-law could remember the name. They decided to avoid that problem in the future by spending a day when they referred to everything as a cashew; e.g. “Oh, my cashew (phone) is ringing.”  This apparently worked.

We now refer to those times when a word is not on the tip of your tongue as a “Cashew moment.”

I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Best wishes for the new year.

Peace

 

 

Travel Tips – The 15 Day Cruise

My Best Friend in the World and I recently returned from a fifteen day cruise to Hawaii. Hawaii is a uniquely beautiful place – everything I thought it would be. The photo above was taken in Hilo. We toured a tropical botanical garden in Hilo, visited The Arizona and Mighty Mo  at Pearl Harbor, went on a fantastic helicopter ride over Kauai, and dove 130 feet down in a submarine off Maui.

I’ve learned that there are certain essentials you should remember when going on a such a long cruise. They are:

  1. pack as much patience as you can, then add a little more.
  2. take a large supply of compassion.
  3. pack  lots of underwear.

You will need patience traveling with a large group. There is a certain amount of “hurry up and wait.” It helps to remind yourself that this is a vacation and you are there to break out of your usual routine. It is not meant to be just like home. You can have good conversations with your fellow “waiters”. They often have interesting stories and you may never have the opportunity to talk to them again.

Be understanding. Show compassion for those you meet. Realize that staff members work hard. Don’t expect perfection every minute. It really isn’t evident of moral failing if the Steward forgot to leave mints on your pillow Wednesday night. If the toilet leaks, report it to guest services and let them take care of it. Don’t complain bitterly that the staff “let the toilet leak.” Things happen – even on a vacation.

If you are on a ship for fifteen days, adequate clean underwear is a must. You do not want to do a load of laundry  on the ship. Let’s just say, people are not always at their best standing in a cramped laundry mat for an hour and a half waiting to use a drying. This can be  drain on your supply of patience and compassion.

A close-up of one of the 1,500 species of orchids in Hawaii.

After we  returned from our tour on the submarine, we were given a chance to film the submarine as it submerged with  the next group of visitors.  Here is a short video.

 

 

Fleet Week – San Francisco, CA

On October 8th,  I was in  San Francisco to see the Canadian Snow Birds and the Blue Angels perform in honor of Fleet Week. Both performances were breath-taking. It is hard to imagine how much training the pilots go through.  We watched them fly in formation, disappearing from the sky, then suddenly coming up behind us.

The finale for the Blue Angels had them flying under the bridge, smoke trails tracing their seemingly impossible flight paths.

We were on a ship anchored in the bay, surrounded by other boats ranging from elegant yachts, other converted paddle- wheelers like the one we were on, small sailing boats and even kayaks.

I would have liked to show you the magnificent pictures I took of the planes as they flew by; but once again, I discovered that taking pictures of supersonic planes on a crowded ship deck with an iPhone results in pictures of your fellow passengers heads, your finger over the lens, or the clear sky.

It was a beautiful day, even in San Francisco, with brilliant blue skies and a slight wind.

I did get some pictures (see below), but you will have to imagine the planes.

 

A view of the San Francisco skyline from the ship deck.

 

One of our fellow travelers watching the planes.

 

A neighboring ship.

 

Peace

The Invasion of the Time Snatchers

I was taught that a ringing phone deserved to be answered. It meant that someone, usually someone you knew, was asking to talk to you. The civilized response required you to pick up the phone and be polite. if you were truly in he middle of something that required your immediate attention, you briefly explained that to the caller and arranged to call them back.

Then the phone message machine appeared, allowing you to “screen” your calls. If your gossipy neighbor called, she (or he)  could leave a message on the machine and you could return the call at your leisure. This was still socially acceptable phone behavior.

Of course, there were those who never checked their messages, or worse yet, never deleted any messages, so no new messages could be recorded. This behavior was down right anti-social!

And then the inter-net arrived. A wonderous  invention, but like most human endeavors, not without unforseen consequences. One of those consequences is the emergence of the robocall.

My phone rings five to six times a day.  The caller ID on many of those calls is “Not Available” or a destination. (Scranton? Really?- the city of Scranton is calling?) The number may be the same area code and prefix as mine, but I do not recognize that number. These calls are usually someone (or something) trying to sell you something you don’t want and don’t need, out right scams, or both.

It isn’t possible to block the numbers. There are too many and they change minute by minute. The usual methods of dealing with them are ineffective. The Do Not Call list is essentially non-functioning. Even picking up the phone opens you to even more unwanted calls. You can’t reason with a robocaller, and the people behind the calls are no more susceptible to reason that the robocaller.

What to do? Consumer Reports magazine’s October issue features a short article entitled The Robocall Resistance. They are conducting an End Robocalls Campaign. You can sign a petition, joining almost 750,000 others,  by going to EndRobocalls.org, and get more information at ConsumersUnion.org/end-robocalls/solutions.

Good luck to us all.

Phone peace

 

 

  Self Pity and KFAT

I’m at one of those places in life referred to as a “cross road.” After completing the three-hundred-fiftieth revision of my children’s book manuscript, I have a decision to make: do I continue to search for the elusive agent/publishers using the normal process (writing endless letters pleading for someone to at least read my manuscript before rejecting it) or, do I self-publish?

Both routes require hard work, patience and time. Neither guarantee success or satisfaction. This might be one of those situations where the only reasonable choice is “none of the above.” “None of the above” means making a large bowl of popcorn and settling down in front of the TV to binge watch bad movies. That’s right – a full-scale Pity Party!

When I’m tempted to do this, I remember KFAT. Back in the olden days (before 2000), KFAT was a small FM radio station that could be heard in some parts of Santa Clara County, California. Like most FM stations, it had a very short broadcast range. We could pick it up while traveling north on highway 101 for just a few minutes before driving out of range.

It had a large library of satirical  country western songs. The music was great, the voices were outrageously twangy and the lyrics were positively silly. You couldn’t help but smile and sing along when you heard it. My favorite was Boney Fingers. The chorus was “Work your fingers to the bone, and what da ya get? Boney fingers!”

I think I’ll save the popcorn for later.

 

Peace

The Secret Lives of Lost Socks and Other Misplaced Items

 

 

Most of us have had the experience of misplacing something. We usually start the search for the missing item by looking for it in all of the usual, logical places. If you always leave your keys on the shelf by the door, that’s the first place you look. But, if the item is truly lost, it won’t be in the usual place. It will be somewhere else. Somewhere unexpected, somewhere mysterious, somewhere unknown to you.

In some cases, you may not even realize the item was missing. One day you help your child clean his room. You reach into the very bottom of the toy box and feel something slightly furry. You pick up the Frisbee and discover a long-discarded peanut butter sandwich, completely covered with dark fuzz, lurking underneath.

Then there is the sad story of one half of a pair of a particularly nice socks which disappears somewhere in the laundry. Logically, you search the washer, the dryer, the clothes basket, the hallway and any laundry that recently shared space with the missing sock. After an unsuccessful search, you set the sock aside and wait for the missing sock to reveal itself. Two months later, you give up and toss the sock.

The next week, you find the missing sock deep in the pocket of a king-sized bottom sheet. Too late for a reunion, you toss the second sock.

I have misplaced other, more valuable items including the tie belt to a bathrobe found wound around the front roller of an old up-right vacuum cleaner and a credit card hidden in the zippered pocket of a rarely used wallet.

While it is sometimes a delight and sometimes a relief to recover a lost item,  it is also a reminder that life is not a matter of collecting and keeping “things.”

 

Peace