Summer Time

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Summer Time

Today is Thursday, June 21st, the 172nd day of 2018, there are 193 days left in the year, officially it is summer and the song Summer Time, and its refrain, living is easy  repeatedly plays in my head.

I am remembering the time in my life when school was almost out and a Fourth of July Parade followed by fireworks signaled the start of endless summer days. Some mornings there were swimming lessons at one of the Levittown pools,  other mornings I would meet my friend, Vicki Love, under our weeping willow tree to play cards, search for a four-leaf clover or read Nancy Drew Mysteries.

It was not necessary to phone, text or email we made plans the night before as the streetlights went on signaling everyone to go home.

Lunch was either peanut butter and jelly, bologna or tuna fish on white mushy bread, then we walked once again to the pool for an afternoon swim. We may have watched cartoons before the Dinah Shore Show followed by dinner woven with family discussion. The girls did the dishes while the boys disposed of the trash.

We now live in Florida where the kids have been out of school and the days hot since the end of May. The sun is too strong, the humidity an albatross around my neck and I spend most of the day inside wearing a sweatshirt because air conditioning and I do not get along. We will head north to New Jersey in a couple of weeks to a cabin rental on Cozy Lake to visit family and friends and fend off mosquitoes.

I have a long list of books to read because I made a commitment to the Great American Read. So far, I read 1984, The Giver, neither of which was cheery, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a story of nonsense I returned because it made no sense, and Invisible Man, feels like homework, I will let you know.

 In between, I am reading books by Alexander McCall Smith, a favorite author of mine known for the PBS series The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

The song, Summer Time is still rumbling around my head causing me to wonder why the living was easy and  I have concluded it was not because I was a kid and times were simpler as much as, kids were not allowed to watch TV and did not read the newspaper.

I have news fatigue, so without naming names, decided to dust off my Nancy Drew collection.

Its summer time and living needs to get easy.

.  .  .  . just saying

Ask Alexa About the Big Read and 1984

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Today CBS Morning News reported a Portland, Oregon family’s claim their Amazon Echo recorded a conversation and sent it to a person on their contact list, unbeknownst to them.

“Winston Smith is rolling over in his grave,” I say to Mr. Wonderful, my husband, on the way to reheat a cup of coffee in the microwave.

“Who?” He mumbles.

“Winston Smith, the main character in George Orwell’s novel, ” 1984″, remember Big Brother, Newspeak, Thought Police, and the Telescreen.

“Right, Big Brother, the one with a mustache? and he continues work on a crossword puzzle. “What’s a four letter word for fabric that begins with L?”

“Linen? ”

“Linen is five letters, a four letter word.”

“Lace? Ask Alexa, she’s like Big Brother, knows everything.”

“You really think Alexa is like Big Brother? Let’s find out,” and speaking into air Mr. Wonderful says, “Alexa are you like Big Brother?”

Alexa answers, “I don’t have an opinion on that.”

“See! That’s what I’m talking about,” I start saying but Mr. Wonderful anticipating a rant announces, “I’m going fishing.”

I first read Orwell’s novel in high school, more than fifty years ago but never did the math, the year 1984 seemed so futuristic, I assumed I would be dead and besides at that time, depictions of being vaporized for thinking seemed as unlikely as Aliens arriving from outer space. But I have been rereading the book not only because it is on the Great American Read list but feel as though “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING US,” for real.

Well, Alexa may not be watching but she is definitely listening, ask the family in Portland, Oregon.

The Telescreen in the novel, “whose voice came from a metal plaque like a dulled mirror,” could hear Winston throughout his apartment and sense his every move.

Alexa is more attractive and invited.

Winston works for the Ministry of Truth but questions everything they tell him. He buys a diary, sits in a small alcove to remain outside the range of Telescreen to write, but is unable to formulate his thoughts because thinking is a crime, subject to vaporizing.

Mr. Wonderful interrupts my private rant tossing his car keys on the counter and announcing, “It’s raining.”

I shut my Kindle, get off the couch, and join him in the kitchen.

He inquires, “What are you reading?”

“The novel, “1984,” remember? It’s on the Big Read List.”

“Is David Baldacci on the list? You know he’s my favorite.”

“You should read it, it’s scary, many of the happenings are becoming real; President Trump has embraced Newspeak. Trump probably thinks the destruction of words is a beautiful thing, just like comrade Syme in the novel who questions, “Why do we need the words excellent or splendid when a stronger version of good i.e., plusgood or doubleplusgood works.”

How many times have we heard Trump’s description of things as big, really big, or really really big? Yes occasionally Trump says it is HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHuge! Otherwise he’s the King of a limited vocabulary.”

Mr. Wonderful rolls his eyes and heads to the bathroom to shower.

I follow him my voice escalating, “The party tried to convince Winston two plus two is five and changing old news to fake news is real but Winston couldn’t accept this, even Trump knows fake news is real.

Mr. Wonderful is now in the shower and past pretending he can hear me. When he is towelling off,  I change the subject and ask, “Did you hear about Roseanne Barr?, She shot herself in the foot.”

Mr. Wonderful answers, “I heard, with a tweet.”  Than continues, “Too bad the thought police didn’t vaporize her earlier, think of the jobs that could have been saved. What happens to Winston, I can’t remember.”

“You should read the book. Eventually Winston is sent to Room 101 where his brain is rebooted and he spends the rest of his life gulping gin, and playing chess with himself. He no longer laments about Fake News. Oh he has a job working on The Interim Report, the subject of which is not known.

Mr. Wonderful hangs up his damp towel, smiles and says, “refresh my memory again is ‘1984’  fiction or non-fiction?”

From the other room Alexa answers, “I have no opinion on that.”

                                                       .  .  .  .  just saying

Wikipedia 1984

PBS Great American Read

David Baldacci

Continue reading

Welcome to the ’70s

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Welcome to the seventies, not as in 1970, as in this year I will be seventy, and please do not attempt to console me by saying the seventies are the new fifties or sixties, because I have to de-stiff-i-tize when I stand and cannot move my thumbs.

De-stiff-i-tize? You know what I am talking about. It occurs upon rising from a sitting position and can barely stand, you moan and somehow crunch your back and neck into a marginalized upright position. Dining in public restaurants I have observed others replace the moan with an inconsequential laugh, grab the back of a chair then straightening.

Seriously, I cannot move my thumb, and now question what the seventies will be like, every day there is a different challenge, last week it was a hip, this week hands. Therefore, I took to vigorous hand exercises, which resulted in trigger thumb.

Surely, you do not want to hear the full medical prognosis, or perhaps you do, however I swore health would not be the topic of every conversation and yet it is.

Thinking I can nip this in the bud by glimpsing into successful seventy-year-old lives I have started watching “Grace and Frankie,” a Netflix comedy and it is a hoot! Perhaps laughter is the best medicine.

Grace, played by Jane Fonda and Frankie, played by Lilly Tomlin live together after their husbands, gay lovers secretly for the past twenty years, announce they want divorces.

Jane Fonda an eighty year old in real life, pays the part of a younger woman, Grace who is in her seventies and yes, we all wish we look as good as Jane Fonda does at any age and of course the place they are forced to live in is a beautiful beach front house. Actor Martin Sheen plays Robert,  Grace’s ex and Sam Waterson, Saul, Frankie’s.

The plot is fast pace, the cast constantly moves, and there is no on camara de-stiff-i-tizing, although Martin Sheen’s movement getting out of bed, reminds me of how the president got into his suit jacket in West Wing and wondering if his elbows ever could bend.

After falling neither Grace or Frankie can get up and crawl to a phone resulting in their children purchasing First Alert devices for them and Jane Fonda, Grace, smashing hers with her high heel.

My kind of woman, she plans on getting older but never old.

.  .  .  . just saying

 

 

Next Door Neighbors

american-gothic-grant-wood-art-institute-of-chicago-244I keep thinking today is Thursday and it is only 6:30 in the morning. I started thinking today was Thursday in the middle of the night, do not know why because yesterday definitely felt like Tuesday which it was, consequently I should have a feeling today is Wednesday but do not. However, what difference does it make if today is Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday? I am retired!

Nevertheless, I am happy today is Wednesday, not Thursday, because that gives me an extra day between Wednesday and Friday which I need since I opened my big mouth and invited the neighbors over because, although everyone appears to be happy standing in driveways with the sun beating down on our heads pretending not to sweat while we chat, I envision something else.

Well actually, what happened is Mr. Wonderful* came back from getting the mail and announced that the Smith’s house was for sale. Surprised, I asked where were they moving to, his response  “No one is moving “Mary died, that’s why all the cars were parked there last week.”

Stunned I expressed how terrible it is we did not know, and asked about her husband and if he will move closer to family, Mr. Wonderful said, “No her husband died six months ago.”

When we moved here, I joined Nextdoor ,  a private social network that will help find your dog or a plumber so I would be in the know but could not remember my password and instead started knocking on doors.

So we are getting together in two days.

There really is not much to do, neighbors said they would bring what they like to drink and a dish to pass but I need to dust and make sure the toilet is flushing properly which it started not doing the day before yesterday. I need to find that password.

In the mean time bits and pieces from a Chinese passage about neighbors and community are creeping into my head, and search online to find this;

Let there be a small country with a few people

Though neighboring communities overlook one another and the crowing of cocks and barking dogs can be heard

Yet the people there may grow old and die without ever visiting one another

Oh, now I remember what difference it makes if today is Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday; Wednesday morning the trash gets picked up.

                               .  .  .  .  Just saying

Painting by Grant Wood

*Mr. Wonderful is my husband of 47 years

 

 

 

 

Grant Wood Pitch Fork

Just Another Day

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The Fairchild Oak

Just Another Day

Today is just another day but not really. It is a day not to be anywhere, do anything, or explain why I changed my mind about doing nothing and did something. I was awake at 2am listening to the rain, thunder, and cracks of lightning like special effects from an Alfred Hitchcock film flash outside the bedroom window until 4am, when I got out of bed.

I was not going back to sleep.

Sprinkling cinnamon and sugar on a toasted piece of wheat bread smothered with real butter, I watch the mixture ooze into its crevices’, and ponder whether to brew a cup of coffee to dip its crust in, or walk to the Fairchild Oak, less than a mile from here, but consider how muddy the venture would be, and instead make beef barley soup from left over steak, adding frozen green peas, the petite ones.  

Today is just another day but not really. After watching an interview on CBS Morning News about Tom Hanks collection of short stories, “Uncommon Type” (the title reflects his fondness for and use of old typewriters) I am reading the book and now in love with him.

He laughs at himself, and likes writing because he knows what the prize is inside the box, or so he says.th

The book jacket describes Hank’s first work of fiction as one “that dissects, with great affection, humor, and insight, the human condition and all its foibles.”

I hear Tom’s voice as I pretend he is reading to me and sip beef broth standing up.

Today is just another day but not really, it is the first day of the rest of my life.

.  .  .  .  just saying

Can You Squat?

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 Can You Squat?

Rose joined her friend already seated outside at the Hudson Garden Grill. The restaurant known for its ambiance and gourmet menu was contained within the Bronx Botanical Gardens where they planned to attend the Orchid Show after lunch. Hugh clay pots dripping with colorful annuals decorated the patio and cardinals danced with the breeze.

“You’re late,” quipped Joan handing her a menu, “I ordered us drinks.”

Rose sighed and said, “How did you know what I wanted? I’m dieting.”

“You always order a Bloody Mary with lunch. Joan argued, “If you prefer, I’ll drink yours. Really Rose, this is when you thank me, apologize for being late, and explain why . . . . . like, maybe your cat threw up.”

Rose leaned forward and lowered her voice, “Can you Squat?”

Stunned Joan shook her head then blurted out, “Can I squat? Have you lost your mind? I can’t put on my underwear standing up,” as the server appeared with their drinks and interrupted the conversation saying, “Hi, I’m Chantal and I will be your server.” Dressed in a v-neck black tee and a tan khaki skirt she wore a smile from ear to ear, a pen was tucked inside her hair bun.

Rose was hungry. She had not eaten before the incident than did not have time after, but nevertheless asked the server to give them a few minutes.

Chantal said, “It’s a beautiful day, take your time.”

They discussed the menu choices and after deciding Rose would have Chicken Paillaid, Joan the Lobster Bolognese, raised their glasses to toast the occasion. Joan’s first grandchild had been born on her seventieth birthday and she had been busy attending CPR classes for infants and signed up for the course on installing child car seats.

When Joan paused, Rose attempted once again to get a response to her question, “Can you squat?”

“Squat? You mean squat as in the late 1970’s so men couldn’t see up our miniskirt or squat as in squatter’s rights from the 1800’s?”

Rose rubbed the back of her head reminded of the morning’s incident, “Squat as in your butt is nearer to the floor than your knees. It’s concerning, things are going downhill fast, soon we won’t be able to fix our own meals.”

“That’s why there is take out Rose, and surely you have heard of Meals on Wheels. I can open a jar of olives now that I have that rubber thing,” Joan offered with pride.

Again, Rose leaned forward and whispered, “This is serious, can you squat? I can no longer squat. Well that’s not totally true, I can squat just not get up from the squat.” Her voice faded as the server arrived with their entrees.

Joan suctioned her glass with a straw and motioned the server they would have two more drinks.

Nursing the celery topped Bloody Mary’s Rose explained, “I have this vertigo thing going on, and bending over causes dizziness. Today I said to myself, ‘self don’t bend over, squat’ and did. But I couldn’t get up and when my thighs were screaming with pain let go of the counter and fell hitting the back of my head on the floor.”

Joan asked, “Where was Tom, did he call 911?”

“Tom was playing golf. I crawled into the dining room and leaned on a chair to get upright. It was exhausting and reason I was late.”

A patron on their way to the restroom stopped to comment, “The same thing happened to my husband, on the golf course. He forgot he wasn’t twenty-four and squatted to line up his putt, it wasn’t pretty.”

Joan attempted to offer condolences, saying, “You poor thing. You must have a bump.” But giggled instead, putting her hand over her mouth and apologized for laughing. Rose not knowing whether to laugh or cry joined her. Soon their laughter was drawing attention.

Chantal rolled her eyes delivering the check.

After paying, they toured the orchid show, took the train ride to see the azaleas, and visited the gift shop.

On the ride home, Rose wished she were young again.

.  .  .  .   just saying

Poem

                                               To Be Young Once More

Wiggles and giggles galore

Remember we’d drop to the floor

Get up and dance, afraid of wetting our pants and giggle some more

Our faces would ache as spirits soared

Oh to be young once more

 

Now it’s difficult to stand and everything is sore

Not just back, knees, and feet, but ear lobes, eyebrows and seat.

We can no longer squat to pickup something dropped

But bend deep at the waist .  .  .   .  disgraced by a moan

Not  the “When Harry Met Sally” type even though our eyes are shut tight

We linger then limp to a chair wondering, when did we get this old?

 

Happy As A Clam

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Happy as a Clam

It is 7:52 AM; I am in the kitchen having a first cup of coffee when a ding-dong alerts me a door has been opened.

In walks Mr. Wonderful, my husband of 47 years carrying an empty McDonald’s brown bag, showered, shaved, and dressed returning from lab work. I say, “Good Morning Husband” and stretch to kiss his cheek as he whizzes by dumping his cell phone and car keys on the counter exclaiming a need “to PEE.”

As the toilet flushes, he returns calmer to greet me, I ask, “How are you today?”

His reply, “Happy as a clam.”

I ponder how happy a clam might be and why . . . . then ask, “Happy as a clam because you remembered where you parked the car?”

“No,” he states emphatically and drains a dribble of coffee from an empty paper cup before tossing the used paper product in a recycling bin under the sink.

My curiosity is mounting, “Happy as a clam because you didn’t leave the engine running while you were inside Lab-Core?”

“No . . . . Happy as a clam because I didn’t have to wait.”

“Really, you had the first appointment, 6:30AM.”

“Right, but when I arrived at 6:20 the doors weren’t open, so I decided to hunt for that loose golf ball that rumbles around the car and drives you crazy.”

“You said you didn’t know what caused the sound, the car might need brakes.”

Ignoring my comment and concern, he exhales heavily, “My head was under the front seat searching, before I knew it, a van pulls up, and this aid is helping some grey hair pony tailed old goat into a wheel chair. Other people are getting out of parked cars and headed toward the door, you know tinted windows make it near impossible to see who is waiting in their cars, a line was about to form. ”

“What difference would it make if you had an appointment?”

“Claudia, be serious, if the old goat in the wheel chair is first in line they are going to take him! So I fast walked, got ahead of everyone, and when the doors opened said, Good Morning, I have the first appointment at 6:30. The nurse asked if I was fasting, I said yes, but first I had to PEE! That’s why I’m happy as a clam; I was out of there and having breakfast at McDonald’s, lickidy split”

My Mr. Wonderful is wearing a look of glee as I recap the situation, “So you are feeling happy as a clam because at the crack of dawn, you beat out an older than you senior in a wheel chair to have blood work.”

His good mood is alluringly infectious, but I question, “Can a clam be happy, really?”

Mr. Wonderful’s response . . . . “Sure at high tide, with their shell closed they’re smiling,” and proceeds to demonstrate his own delight with a tight lipped grin.

.  .  .  . just saying

Stop Complaining

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Stop Complaining 

Stop Complaining 

My New Year’s Resolution is to start writing and stop complaining, in other words, stop complaining about not writing and start. That was sixty-five days ago, I have not done either, which leaves me on the brink of becoming a statistic, joining the  92% of people making resolutions who fail to keep them, or since we are in the first week of March, part of the 80% who give up. Sounds grim.

But let’s think this through, if there are 365 days in a year and we are sixty-five days into the year that leaves 300 days to turn things around, so too early to give up.  Right?

On the up side, although I have done no writing, zero, zip, zilch, twenty-one days have passed and I am not complaining about it, well at least not aloud.

Twenty-one days is considered a benchmark in establishing a habit, good or bad.

Sounds like progress, but maybe not really, the complaints stay in my head, and find visual outlets, strong ones.

For example, when my husband (aka Mr. Wonderful) reminded me for the third time to return a friend’s phone call; rather than my ranting he had already reminded me several times, and that I had NOT forgotten but plan to do it later; I smiled and said, “Thanks for the reminder,” then envisioned stuffing ten indoor snowballs in his mouth.

Not the best outcome, but I am not complaining, well not aloud.

Will Bowen author of “A Complaint Free World” deviates from traditional views about complaining and touts this popular American pastime as being helpful. I agree but have failed to convince Mr. Wonderful complaining has value.

Bowen says the first step to a complaint free world is to define complaining. The dictionary definition is “to express grief, pain and discontent,” his; a complaint is “an energetic statement focusing on a problem rather than the solution,” and if we stick to the facts, and remain neutral eliminating negative attitudes, we will engage in healthy communication.

So on Sunday when Mr. Wonderful questions, before noon, for the fifth time, if Ellen is coming on Saturday, I correct him without the “tude” and say, “remember we discussed going to the Funky Pelican for Happy Hour on Friday and the Bass Sports Store on Saturday, there is a free lecture on Fly Fishing. She is coming on Friday afternoon,”  feeling I am making progress and understand he has been distracted by the Daytona 500, and Phil Mickleson’s one point off the lead golf performance.

In his lectures, Bowen delivers a strong case that once engaged in discussion that focuses on the solution rather than the problem we will discover how we want the world to really be.

I like his point and realize we do not have to keep quiet about Donald Trump’s tweets nor resort to a strong visual, as Kathy Griffin did, what was she thinking.

The next morning Mr. Wonderful asks again if Ellen is coming on Saturday, I focus on the solution, not the problem and suggest we write her arrival on his calendar.

.  .  .  .  just saying

 

Father’s Day 2017 “Pedaling Father’s Day”

 

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Aging & Attitude

The pedaling of an old man riding a wide-tire bicycle grabs my attention as I drive Acoma road. The methodical around and around of the bike’s wheels is mesmerizing.  I press the car brakes, slow to a crawl and drop back, to give the senior space, as we approach the corner stop.

He wears red Ked shoes and a large droopy straw hat shades his face from the morning sun.  He sports a long sleeve plaid shirt and hazardous baggy Dockers.  The blue and chrome fender bike has no basket or hand brakes.

Behind him rides a man in a metallic Speedo shirt and black skin-tight shorts.  He wears a helmet and mustache, and he does not pass abruptly. Instead, he moves to coast gently beside the elder, a solid traffic barrier.  They ease the corner together, dance a Minuet synchronized to Chopin.

I stop at the corner, turn right, and follow, absorbing their relationship.

It is paternal; head, back and shoulders are an older/younger version of each other.  The son peddles ahead deliberate not to look back, allows his father to ride independently while protected. The old man’s bike wheel does not wobble and the handlebars do not shake. There is an air of pride accompanying his movement. I drive by and see his wrinkled face, guess he is eighty. A full head of peppered gray hair surround a son’s face with minimal expression lines and suggest he  is sixty.

My mind conjures a past Father’s Day,

Imagine it is 1958, the father wearing the same plaid shirt, Dockers and Ked shoes, the son, jeans and a white t-shirt, both much younger. The father, teaching, leads the way with subtle protectiveness and allows the son to celebrate his newly acquired skill, riding a bike.

“Daddy, look at me!” He yells with a big smile.

Today is Father’s Day 2012. I watch the pair celebrate with a simple act of being there if needed, pedaling their bicycles.

 . . . . just saying

Second Thoughts

 

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Photo Title Curious

Aging & Attitude

Mr. Wonderful* put down the newspaper, returned his glasses to the soft fabric case and sighed.

I asked, “What are you thinking?”

He responded, “Nothing, I’m thinking about nothing” and left the room to pee.

His matter of fact statement got me thinking.

My first thought, Is that possible? My second, would he be considered brain dead? My first and second thoughts were followed by third and fourth thoughts that I would rather not share.

Not that the first thought was better than the second thought, or third, or fourth, but, the first, stimulated more thought.  I could not stop thinking.

When he returned I inquired, “Is it really possible to think about nothing?”

He said, “Anything is possible, ” then turned on the television.

I was impressed. His one and only thought ended in no more thought, However I kept thinking;

  • 1st Thought          Was he always a one-thought thinker or is this a sign of aging?
  • 2nd Thought        If you have only one thought do you assume it is the right thought?
  • 3rd  Thought        Does a first thought carry more weight than following thoughts?
  • 4th  Thought        How does one acquire the confidence to have only one thought?

 

My thoughts turned to President Trump and  wondering whether he is a one-thought thinker. My first thought, he tweets like one. My second, third and fourth thoughts, well I would rather not share.

. . . . just saying

Do You Tweet?

*Mr. Wonderful is my husband of forty-six years, Bob.