I’m Not a Cynic!

Photo by Nik on Unsplash

Yesterday, while dutifully scrambling to transfer my groceries from the cart to the belt, dig my credit card out of my purse, search for an empty space on which to place my bags in the bagging area, poke multiple buttons on the pin pad to decline this membership and that donation, AND bag my own groceries, I was flummoxed by the impatient clerk who irritably told me to move my bag. I had mistakenly set my bag in the place where the bags-for-purchase would have received my purchases had I not provided my own reusable bags.

“Would you move your bag; you’re in…”, she snarled.

“I’m in your way?” I finished for her brightly, as she fumbled around her cranky brain for an acceptable finish to her impolite request.

“Don’t mince words, I’m not overly sensitive”, I followed as she sheepishly nodded. I moved my bags further down the counter and proceeded to place my groceries in my bags, reaching over the various and sundry items that stores have deemed the last ditch place to get one to part with yet another donation or make an impulse purchase. The clerk shifted impatiently as she waited for me to remove my card from the card reader so she could begin shoving the next customer’s comestibles into the items I hadn’t yet had time to bag.

I remember a time, and here I flagrantly make a display of my age, when one wheeled the cart to within reach of the checker, then stood back to fill out the check (that’s a slip of paper with one’s banking information on it, with spaces to fill in the amount of money one wishes to transfer to the vendor) in anticipation of paying for the groceries, while the pleasant staff removed purchases from the cart, rang them up by hand (no scanner), and conveyed them down the line to a clean-cut young person (known as a box boy) who carefully sorted one’s items into bags (provided at no additional cost), and placed them into one’s now-empty cart. The check-out clerk dutifully compared one’s driver’s license to the information on the check and then kindly asked if the customer would like help out with her order.

Do I sound old and crabby? Have I become cynical, fondly remembering the good old days? Probably but I prefer to believe that, “Those people we identify as cynics are idealists whose feelings are hurt every single day by the world being not what they hoped it would be.”*

*Bob Odenkirk in Lucky Hank

A Healthy Immune System

Waiting in line at Sprouts yesterday, I was entertained by the family in front of me, a woman with a girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, and a younger boy, perhaps 5. The woman, an obviously thrifty shopper, was negotiating her discount coupons with the cashier while her daughter carefully moved her groceries from the cart to the belt. The arrangement of the groceries to most productively make use of the discounts, entailed separating her purchases into two orders, which took a bit more time than the little boy had patience for. His boredom was expressed, “Mom, mom, mom!” until eventually he was given a sucker to occupy his overactive mouth.

Both children were uncommonly beautiful and better behaved than average, so I was content to let them entertain me while mom held up the line. The little boy exclaimed how good the sucker was to his still preoccupied mom. But then, he accidentally dropped the treat on the floor. Glancing up to see that Mom hadn’t seen the slip, he quickly retrieved it and popped it back into his mouth.

The woman waiting behind me and I burst into laughter simultaneously. I turned to her and she said what I was thinking, “Good for the immune system”.

Photo by i Abrar on Unsplash

On Friendship and Loss

I stumbled upon this in my drafts folder, and being freshly injured by the news that Michel Fauquet had died, I decided to go ahead and post it. I had been reading Michel’s posts since about 2003, and he actually felt like a real friend. The following has nothing to do with Michel except that long-term friendships all share something in common, even if they are with virtual friends on a distant continent.

My family moved from Michigan to California when I was ten years old. I had enjoyed a large circle of friends in Michigan, being naturally gregarious, and by virtue of the fact that my house had a large basement that was the ideal play area during the long winters. That, despite my mom being the terror of all the neighborhood kids after she swatted the butt of my friend Kimmie, as she scuttled out the door, after we had painted the storm windows (literally painted the windows), when we had been expressly told NOT to touch that work in progress in the basement.

Approaching puberty could be the most difficult time to make new friends, especially when one “talked funny”. My Midwestern hard vowels sounded odd to the Southern California drawling kids and my vocabulary, inculcated by my brilliant sister and mother, made me an oddity. And then there were the geeky knee socks I wore to conceal the oozing rash on my leg. So, to make matters even more difficult, my folks moved me from one school to another, just when I was beginning to impress the Mentone Elementary kids with my hidden charm.

In my new neighborhood, I again claimed my rightful place as queen of the gang games because we had the only house with a thick, forgiving lawn. Ever the astute linguist, I quickly adopted the slang and cadence of a native Californian, and toned down the vocabulary from”cease and desist”, as my sister frequently growled at me, to a more age-appropriate, “Shut up!”

Puberty brought a whole new dimension to my popularity. Being the first in my class to sprout female appendages, oops, I mean boobies, I suddenly had the attention of boys who had never before noticed my athletic prowess. Now, they were intent on testing my wrestling skills. Being as naive as any thirteen-year-old, I was nonplussed when one of my would-be suitors “took it out”. Bear in mind, this was long before anyone knew there was such a thing as inappropriate behavior or sexual harassment. But with as much aplomb as I could muster, I rose from the aforementioned grass where we were seated, and informed him that I had heard my mother calling. I did not entertain that boy again though a few years later I had to marvel at his forthright behavior.

“He took IT out”

When in junior high, now called middle school, I met a girl who had two horses. I could tell we would become best of friends as soon as I learned that detail about her. And we did. The horses eventually died, they were old when they were given to her, but our friendship grew. Her parents moved her to a place nobody in their right mind would visit in the summer, much less LIVE there. Suffice it to say, we carried oven mitts in our purse to use on door handles that were in the sun. I would ride the bus down to visit her, and her folks occasionally came back to town to visit family, so we kept in touch throughout high school. We both married young men who loved to drink and party, so the friendship continued with the four of us.

When I had grown weary of the party life and left my husband, my friends decided that my husband would get custody of them in the divorce. He didn’t really want custody and allowed the relationship to languish, so I got them back by default. Since Mary and I both loved to travel, we went on several trips together but as time went on, I couldn’t keep up with her. She was an accomplished drinker who could start the day with bloody Marys and shift seamlessly to wine, then vodka tonics, and still hail a taxi to a Broadway play. So, by the time she died of liver disease, we had drifted apart enough that her untimely death didn’t wreck me as much as it should have.

But this morning, I was gobsmacked by the realization that there was nobody left on earth who “got” me in the same way that she did. What we shared was unique because she was unique. We could commiserate and laugh about the vagaries of aging. I always imagined that we would live together in our dotage, our men having died ahead of us. So, now when a fart struggles for freedom from the flabby cheeks of my septuagenarian gluteus maximus, oops, I mean “butt”, I have nobody to appreciate the low-brow humor.

First Do No Harm

One of our mountain bike rides takes us through an open space conservancy that has been generously left open to the public to enjoy sans motorized vehicles. A few years ago some of the hillsides were seeded with gazania seeds (a particularly hardy type of daisy) so, when we get winter showers, at the perfect time of year, the bloom is breathtaking.

The sanctuary is bisected by a busy road and the flower display is visible to passing motorists. Lovely! But no, viewing them from the road, or walking up the dirt path that allows a closer look, doesn’t satisfy the narcissists who are compelled to tramp with the entire family to the middle of the slope, to take images of themselves. By the end of this three-day weekend, the hillside will be a mess of trampled flowers, never to go to seed, never to bloom again.

I try ever so hard to keep my mouth shut, knowing that the type of person who so cluelessly and selfishly despoils such a wonder doesn’t want to hear my opinion. But…yesterday, with Sally egging me on, I approached a family who was wading through the blooms. I gently suggested that their foray into the field made it less likely there would be subsequent mass blooms next year and other visitors would not enjoy the trampled flowers.

The man of the family took umbrage at my intrusion into his rightful enjoyment. His initial retort was that I didn’t own the hillside and I couldn’t tell him what to do. I agreed that I did not. He followed with the argument that the flowers had been here for thousands of years with no help from me. When I pointed out that this was conservancy property and that the flowers had been seeded, he countered with his erudite opinion that he paid more taxes than I did. It was obvious that reason was not his strong suit, so I bid him farewell and pedaled away.

I returned that way again today, and again found hoards of people following the paths made by their predecessors, looking for an undisturbed area where they could pose for their own selfie. Undaunted, I reminded several groups that the flowers were fragile and wouldn’t return if they were trampled. To my pleasure, most of the people acted truly grateful to have been enlightened. Being an eternal optimist, I take hope. We friends of the earth must speak up, even if we are not always heard.

Both of the above images were taken from the dirt road. No flowers were injured in the making of this post.

It’s the Least I Could Do

With natural gas prices being what they are, I’ve taken to doing household chores in the morning to warm up. I can keep the thermostat set at 64 degrees if I remain active, dressed in layers.

Photo by Hannah Gullixson on Unsplash

So, this morning I was cleaning the blinds. I started out just dusting them with a microfiber cloth and they looked pretty good. But then, I rinsed the cloth and tried a little detergent and found they fairly glowed after being washed. I mentioned to Mike that while it was more work, the soap and water WAS far more effective.

He replied, “Yeah, I’ve been thinking about doing that for a while.”

I said, “I appreciate the thought.”

“It’s the least I could do,” he answered.

Home Is Where Your Peeps Are

iampeacenow’s post about her mom’s passing and her brother’s disposal of her worldly possessions got me thinking about my own dad’s death. I used to go back to Michigan every July to visit my dad, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces, and great niece & nephew. But now I don’t. Admittedly, Covid got me out of the habit, but when I look at why I haven’t resumed the annual pilgrimage, I have to wonder if unbeknownst to my conscious mind, the pull to return “home” was my dad.

Babs paddles by De Zwaan, imported piece by piece from the Netherlands in 1964

With so many family activities, it was sometimes hard to carve out a lot of time to visit with my dad. Kayaking with cousins, hiking with nieces, biking to the beach and the culmination of the week with a huge family reunion, all served to push quality time with Dad to the fringes. And as he grew more infirm, I wasn’t eager to take him out for the long, shore-line drives and beach-side lunches he so enjoyed when he could no longer drive. He had to pee often and just getting in and out of the car was fraught with the danger of him falling. He was a big man, over 200 lbs. and I feared that I wouldn’t be able to right him if he ever toppled over on my watch. So, our visits consisted of me visiting him in the depressing assisted-living facility where he spent his last few years.

My Favorite Aunt Mary Jane, me, Dad, and sister Babs July, 2008

Thankfully, his memory remained as sharp as his ever-ready sense of humor so our visits were interesting and funny. He was a great story teller and could always surprise me with a tale I hadn’t heard before. I always parted from him with a vague sense of guilt that I didn’t spend more time with him, and as he grew more enfeebled, I feared that each good-bye might be the last.

His failing health gave us ample warning of his imminent demise and I was lucky to be able to make one final visit, a month ahead of my regular, annual journey, to say our final good-byes. Weak but still of sound mind, he entertained me with more stories of my grandparents and great-grandfather. He told how in The Great War (WWI) his dad’s commanding officer advised him to take good care of the mules because they were more valuable than the poor soldier who tended them. The admonition was not necessary, dad said, as my grandpa loved those beasts like his own children. What a poignant illustration of the connection of family! I had come by my passion for horses through my dad’s genes.

So, Dad’s been gone a couple of years now and for a variety of reasons, I have stopped returning to the place of my birth on an annual basis. Though the cousins and nieces are still there, and the places of childhood memories remain, there’s one missing piece. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the one missing piece spoils the picture.

https://iampeacenow.wordpress.com/ is right, you probably can’t ever go home again once the people who made it home are gone.

Kitchen Help?

Recently, my one and only, decided that our expensive, non-stick Scan Pans were poisoning our food with plastic chemicals and that we would return to using only my lovely set of aluminum-clad, stainless pans. When I complained that my clean-up time would be quadrupled, he agreed to be my pan washer. Fair enough.

Now I have to bite my tongue to keep from suggesting that his pan-washing methods don’t meet my standards, mostly because of his profligate use of paper towels. I recognize that my feeble efforts to minimize my footprint on this earth don’t make even a wee bit of difference, but yet I try to be conservative in the use of resources if only to make myself feel holier-than-thou.

Acres of Astral Coffee granite with white, porcelain sink

Also, as you who cook know, washing the pans is only small part of the kitchen clean-up job. I have acres of granite counter tops that camouflage every thing, of every color, including cat food, screws, rubber bands, even phones (placed screen side up), that need to be wiped down to prevent runaway science project growth and large scale ant farms. Couple those discreet counter tops with a gas range, diabolically designed by someone who has never in his life cleaned a stove top, that cradles every speck of oil, oatmeal, and pasta sauce in its maze of ridges and cracks, and you have an idea of the scope of routine “pan washing”. Then add to all of that, my white porcelain sink is anal retentive about hanging on to each bit of cat food and vegetable matter, making every effort to incorporate their myriad colors into its pristine, white finish.

My American-made, Blue Star range, designed by Bubba in …. insert the pejorative state name of your choice.

So, yesterday, he was facing the job of cleaning a pan in which he had cooked eggs at too high a temperature and made the oil and egg residue a permanent part of the pan. He suggested taking it out to his workshop to clean it with a wire brush attachment on his drill and asked my thoughts about it. I offered the idea of using the Kleen King Stainless Steel and Copper Cleaner that I keep under the sink for such emergencies.

“Where do you keep that? he asked and I pointed under the sink.

“Oh, it does require some elbow grease as it’s a very fine abrasive.”, I warned, knowing his attention deficit when it comes to cleaning.

After a couple of minutes he asked, “Where do you keep the elbow grease?”

40 Days and 40 Nights

We Southern Californians aren’t very good at telling time when it comes to cold, rainy weather. It goes something like this:

Day 1 – Okay, the weather report said it would rain by noon today so we had better get a bike ride in early.

Baby it’s cold outside!

Day 2 – Ah, a rainy day, perfect for baking cookies, except the previously unopened jar of all natural peanut butter has a layer of oil, inch-deep on the top and the ground peanuts below are hard as clay. The “best by” date says July 2021 but I’m not one to demand the best so I generate some much-needed body heat by stirring it into a lumpy form of “butter”. While I wait for the dough to chill, I check the weather report. Yup, more rain to come;

Day 3 – Well, actually, it’s still day 2 but it’s now 3:00 in the afternoon and my laundry is folded and put away, there’s bread rising in the bread machine, the house has been cleaned (more or less) and I’ve completed my prescribed exercises for my geriatric hip/back pain;

Day 4 – I check the calendar to confirm that it’s still January 15th, then I check the weather report again. It’s the same as it was yesterday which was really this morning, or was it yesterday morning?

In the last 2 days (or has it been 4?), I’ve finished two books that I’d been reading long enough that I had to renew them. The Orphan Master’s Son (good read despite the torture) and The Four Winds (think Grapes of Wrath Lite), neither of which did much to lighten my mood.

Now, here I sit, in my jammies, eating potato chips and waiting for my subscriptions on Word Press to post something. I’m only half way through the predicted 40 days and 40 nights of rain. It would be hard to take if not for the promise of green hills and superlative traction to come.

Painted with a Broad Brush

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

I went to the doctor the other day for an annual wellness exam. I’m not sure why my insurance company insists that I have a wellness exam but they pay me $50 to do it so, I comply.

The visit consisted of a fully clothed interview with a physician’s assistant who asked me what I wanted to discuss today. I had just come from a particularly fun mountain bike ride so I told her all about it.

She listened to my heart and lungs and stomach with a stethoscope placed over my down jacket. Her subsequent report said we had discussed: Mild brain atrophy and chronic kidney disease. I’ll have to concede the brain atrophy part because I have no recollection of having discussed either of those things. There was nary a mention of the stimulating bike ride.

The physician’s assistant’s assistant administered a cognitive test, asking me to remember three words and draw the face of a clock. Banana, sunrise and chair weren’t that difficult to keep in mind but it was difficult to resist responding, “It’s, uh, like, person, woman, man, camera, TV,” but feared she wouldn’t get the humor. She proceeded to take my blood pressure, 98/72, and checked my oxygen saturation 97%, weighed me, 121.8 (still fully clothed including jacket).

I was sent home with three pages of instructions. Here is a sampling:

  1. To prevent falls, take up throw rugs at home; use a walker or cane for instability and hold onto railings when going up or down stairs. Nary a mention of training wheels!

2. Please be sure to get some regular physical activity at whatever level you are able. I am also encouraging the following; Annual Flu vaccine (we had already determined that I was current on this), improving physical health, improve mental health.

I was super impressed that she was able to diagnose the fact that I needed to improve my mental health. Usually it takes getting to know me to learn that I need to work on that.

The last recommendation was to not drink any fluids after 6:00 P.M. to improve bladder control. That imposes a pretty narrow window since I’ve been told one shouldn’t start drinking until after 5:00 P.M. Gotta go now as it’s 4:48 P.M. and I need to roll up my throw rugs. Cheers!

Photo by Enis Yavuz on Unsplash

Let’s See, Now Where Was I?

Oh, yeah, the trip from Denver. Well, after Sedona everything paled by comparison.We drove home through desert scenery that would flabbergast anyone who had never seen saguaro forests, desiccated wadis, brooding mountains, or untenable cities sprawling over a hellish wasteland. Well, to be honest, we skirted Phoenix by traveling a new freeway that was built with the expectation of Colorado River water being infinite.

We stopped in Indio at El Mexicali Cafe to grab some breakfast/lunch/dinner, knowing that the fridge at home would be as bleak a wasteland as the aforementioned desert.

El Mexicali is squeezed into a strip of land between the railroad tracks and heavily-trafficked Indio Blvd. which makes the outside dining patio about as inviting as a table in the infield of the Indy 500.

But the dining room was as warm and hospitable as your abuela’s kitchen and your tio’s favorite cantina. Seriously, if you’re ever hungry in Indio, skip all the chain restaurants and try the fish tacos here. Heck, the chips and salsa and guacamole are worth the price of admission.

I spent the next two days preparing food to take to Carlsbad for the family Christmas event. My traditional dishes are rum cake and zucchini appetizer pie.

Sadie gave me this reproachful look when I informed her that I was leaving again.

The time at the beach flew by as we hiked, ate, drank and generally behaved, or more accurately, misbehaved like children.

Like good little Dutch people, we leave our shoes at the door…even in a rental.

And then it was all over but the journaling, blogging, and remembering.