Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fashing, fretting and baking !

It is a well known truism that everyone else seems to have a normal family, except for the person considering his or her own.  You know who you are.

I always say that every family has a crazy Aunt Sally or a nutty Uncle Harry.  And if you read many biographies, as I sometimes do, you soon realize that many families have a whole slew of oddballs.

As I heard someone say recently, "This is just getting to be crazy."

To which her companion archly replied, "Oh, we passed crazy quite a while ago."

Maybe you did, too.  Maybe your whole familial construct was a little off-kilter.  If so, fret not.  Or as the Scottish poet Robert Burns said, "Don't fash yourself."  Meaning don't fret about it.  It is actually fairly normal ... whatever that is.

Humor writer Patsy Clairmont wrote, "Normal is just a setting on your clothes dryer."

Well, don't I just wish someone had mentioned this to me about fifty years ago, before I spent so much energy "fashing myself" about how abnormal my own family was.

For example, my grandfather never cooked breakfast for my grandmother once in his entire life.  But he had a trio of pure bred hunting dogs, for which he would step lively on most mornings to cook them their favorite mash, and then humbly serve it to them out back in their kennel.

I mean, who does that?  Perhaps my arms-length attitude toward cooking is rooted in this memory.  I have long had a love/hate relationship with food and cooking.  Love to eat, hate to cook.  It is a dilemma.

Recently I read a book by John Ortberg entitled, Everybody's Normal, Till You Get to Know Them.

Well, hallelujah!

We can all relax - except for one thing.  The holidays are almost upon us.  Oh, rats.  And here I thought that I just about had this "it is okay that our situation isn't typical" thing handled.

The holidays, however, often bring out the worst in all of us, don't they?  Some of us are wont to go into fashing, fretting, baking overload.  You know who you are.       
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Sis likes pepper in her mashed potatoes.  Okay, so she can just pepper her portion after it is on her plate. Right? Oh no.  She stoutly maintains that the flavors do not blend enough, unless the pepper has been added at the same time you put in the butter, salt, and milk.

So then later Uncle Joe asks with indignation, "Who was the idiot that put pepper in these mashed potatoes?"

And so it goes. One year I experimented with white pepper, foolishly thinking Sis would get her pepper-fix and Judgmental Joe would never know the difference.

Clearly, I live in fantasy land.  Sis claimed there was no pepper in the potatoes, because she could not see it.  And Joe complained that a mysterious something in the potatoes had given him heartburn.

Sometimes you just cannot win for losing.

My mother-in-law loved giblets in her turkey stuffing.  Such "giblets" - for those who may not be so informed - included the chopped up liver of the turkey.  Yuuuccckk!

All I am going to say on that aberration is, thank goodness for Stove Top Stuffing.

Still, I naively thought that everyone liked chopped celery in the stuffing (or "dressing" if you prefer).  I was quickly made aware of the error of my thinking, when someone, could that have been my own son, asked what was the green, stringy stuff in the stuffing?

There is just no pleasing some folks.

And don't get me started on those who put cloves in their pumpkin pie recipe.  Cloves?  Really?  Yes, yes, I know many recipes do call for this.  I, however, would just as soon put mustard in the cranberry sauce.
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So 'tis the season of unlimited opportunities for comparisons.  Uhhh, nope. I refuse to play that game anymore. 

The few people who know me well, and still like me, are some of the sanest people I know.  Either that, or they must be as crazy as I am.

Well, at least we are comfortable with our own company.  The normal folks will just have to fend for themselves.
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Hope your Thanksgiving is filled with good people enjoying good food and one another's company. 

I try to be thankful every day of the year; but I am truly grateful that I do not have to cook to demonstrate gratitude too often. :) Happy Thanksgiving!   ~ Marsha

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On Mending and Musing

Sitting here doing a little mending, while listening to James Taylor on the old Bose.  Carolina is still on his mind.  And he is still advising that we "shower the people [we] love with love".

I am not much of a sewer as my mother did not sew and what little I ever knew of the skill, I learned the hard way.  There are few domestic activities wherein self-stabbing is fairly routine; but mending is one of them, at least in my experience.  And yes, I do own a thimble, but have generally found it more useful for illustrative purposes than for actual sewing.

Nevertheless, hems do fray and buttons pop off.  These two tasks represent nearly the entire range of my mending skills.  Actually "skill" is too fine a word for what I do with needle and thread. A more accurate description would be that I make rough repairs.

I do not really sew, I just take a stab at it now and then, and usually end up stabbing myself.
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As I was performing my basic mending tasks I thought about the word itself - mending.  It is only found twice in the New Testament:  Matthew 4:21 and Mark 1:19.  (And then only in the King James Version.  The NIV uses the word "preparing".) These verses are two different authors' accounts of the same event. Jesus, when he was first calling his disciples, came upon James and John who were mending their fishing nets at the time.

They were fishermen repairing the tools of their trade since it is pretty hard to catch many fish using nets full of holes.  Their nets were valuable, useful and costly to replace.  So they mended.

Mending involves taking something that has already been used extensively, so much so that it is now ripped, torn, worn through, or missing something.  It no longer "works" if you will.  

Wearing socks with holes in them can give you a blister. Wearing a shirt or a blouse with missing buttons will be uncomfortable. Cuffs  flap open, plackets gap.  Other things may show which were meant to remain covered.  Mending is in order.

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I have not always been skillful in mending other things in my life either.  Relationships have sometimes been frayed or even torn.  Some have been used so extensively that they have worn thin.  Others definitely have something missing - and things flap around, or things which should have remained covered are suddenly on display.

However, as clumsy as my mending efforts are with needle and thread, I do, nevertheless, make the attempt to mend.  But I only mend things which are still too valuable, too useful, too needful to discard or give away.

So it is with relationships.  One may need a new button of understanding, while another requires some darning, perhaps notes of appreciation or a gesture of kindness, where holes of over use have left the connection threadbare.

Mending is not my favorite thing.  I am not very good at it.  But I do it because to not do so means that items which would otherwise be lost to me are regained for use and enjoyment.

Taking the time, and making the effort, to mend a relationship can mean that something which may otherwise be lost to you, can be regained for mutual comfort and enjoyment.
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If you need to do a little mending, there is no time like the present. Some things are too important to leave frayed and torn.  Does mending work every time?  No, but it is still worth a try.

Hope your mending efforts are rewarded with good results.  Until next time ~ Marsha

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

No One Teaches Us How To ...

So there we were, two ladies of a certain age, sitting on a nice patio having a delectable brunch.  I had the eggs Benedict and she had some kind of fruit compote thingy with fresh crusty bread.

We chatted about this and that, in a desultory sort of way; most of our energy was being directed at the food which was being consumed with a good bit of energy.

After covering the weather, recent political events, mutual acquaintances, kids, grand kids, and the like, she mentioned a recent discovery she had made about her person.

"Marsha", she said a bit plaintively, "I am getting bumps on my fingers."  And with this declaration she held up both hands for my inspection.

I just smiled at her sympathetically and held up both of my own hands for her to see.

"Hon, we all get bumps on our fingers if we live long enough."

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Here is a thought that struck me recently. I recall it distinctly only because I don't get a new thought all that often and it almost made me twinge.

We teach babies to walk and toddlers to how to hold a spoon.  We teach youngsters how to become adolescents and then, a few short years later, try to teach those same teens how to become responsible young adults.

There is a veritable publishing bonanza of material on becoming parents, early career choices, and then dealing with a middle-aged crisis.

And yet, no one teaches us how to grow old.  (Oh, yes, there is the redoubtable AARP, but I don't really find their literature all that helpful.  It is more like pablum for the geriatric set.)

Art Linkletter, of "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" fame, once observed that "Growing older isn't for sissies."

In my opinion, old Art knew whereof he spoke.

I am not just referring to well-known challenges like the fact that you cannot see to apply your makeup without your glasses, but you cannot apply your makeup while wearing them either.  That old cabbage has been cooked before.

Therefore, in case no one has mentioned the following to you, and you happen to be interested in the topic, here are a few things to watch out for:

No matter how dexterous, ambi or otherwise, you may have been, there will come a time when your fingers no longer do just what you want them to do.  They may point in directions you had no desire to point toward; and they may, indeed, develop certain anomalies (like my friend's bumps for example) which catch you unawares.

It can be disconcerting.

Upon close examination of your other set of extremities, you may discover that all ten of them are no longer marching in quite the same direction.

That can be confusing.

And do not get me started on finding a comfortable set of shoes that do not look like you need corrective orthopedic surgery.

Furthermore, no one informed me that your feet keep growing,  as long as you live.  For several decades I wore a size 6 1/2 but in recent years realized that, while I might choose to continue to wear that size, I would do so at my own peril.  I relented and went to a size 7.

Few people have anyone in their life brave enough to tell them when it is time to turn in their driver's license.  Certainly no one told my stepfather, until after he rear-ended a stopped vehicle at a rail road crossing; and oh, by the way, it happened to be a local police officer's patrol car.  He was about eighty-six at the time, and had just recently purchased a brand new pickup.  What was he thinking?

Of course, toward the end, he also spent considerable time petting a dog that had died forty years earlier. That is to say, he spent a lot of time stroking thin air, thinking old Fido was still there.

Talk about unnerving!
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So what am I saying?

Just that it comes to all of us, one day at a time, this business of growing older.  For some it sneaks up on them and catches them completely unaware.

Some of us need lessons on how to age with some dignity.  And hopefully with a shred or two of sanity in tact. 

Still, for those who are paying attention, they may learn that despite the bumps and lumps and the odd hair here and there, or no longer any hair at all, there is still joy to be had in a sunrise, or a bird song, or the smile on an old friend's face.

For rest of it, here are two pieces of advice that shouldn't go amiss;
a)   use plenty of lotion on anything and nearly everything, and
b)   for Pete's sake, eat your fruits and vegetables. (But don't put lotion on them.)
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Hope you have not been surprised this week by the face looking at you in the mirror.  Herein ends this lesson - until next time, your older, but still learning, fellow traveler ~ Marsha

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Grumpier Old Ladies

Folks, I am just going to have to admit, up front, that the *LOC has had a rough couple of mornings already this week, and it is only Wednesday. (He could use some prayer, if you're a mind to ...)

Yesterday, we each had to go to the lab for routine blood draws.  It has never happened before, that we each needed to go on the same day, but yesterday we did.

To be clear, we are not sick, just old enough that, much like older vehicles that need a little more maintenance after a 100K on the old engine, we need a little more maintenance /upkeep.

So here was the rough part.  These were those dratted "fasting" blood tests; no food, no water for twelve hours before the test.  This meant that we got up yesterday and had to actually figure out how to get ourselves washed, teeth brushed, and dressed - find the garage, where we hoped the car was still parked- and all manner of incredibly complex efforts had to be undertaken without the aid of either hot tea or hot coffee. 

I don't mind going twelve hours without food, but tea or coffee?  Come on.

Well, let me tell you, it was a madhouse around here yesterday morning.  It is a blinking miracle that one of us didn't wind up in the hospital.  Just saying ...

"Where's the toothpaste?"

"How would I know?"  (I frankly don't know my own middle name when I have not yet had a cup of tea to get the old synapse firing.)

"Is the back door locked?"  (I am not even sure where the back door is - remember - I have had no tea!)

To make matters worse, the faucet on my sink - we have a dual sink vanity in the master bathroom - is not working, the plumber is not due for another day or two, so the LOC had turned off the water under that sink.  I am schlepping stuff back and forth between the master bathroom and the hall bath where the faucet is working.

I may be only half-awake; but even in that pitiable state I have better sense than to try to share one little sink with a guy over six feet tall, with shoulders the size of small boulders.

In the midst of my somnambulant schlepping, the LOC asks kindly, "Would it help if I turned the water back on at your sink?"

"No, thanks.  More trouble than its worth", I mumble.

Two more trips back and forth, got the moisturizer, but forgot the Revitalift - and believe me, today I need all the "lift" that face cream can give me.

"Are you sure it wouldn't be better if I just turned that faucet back on for a few minutes?  It's not leaking that badly."

"No, thank you."  Somehow "thank you" didn't sound very grateful.

Two more trips, got the brush, forgot the hand-mirror.

"I'd be glad to turn that faucet .."

"For crying out loud, would you just forget about that faucet and let's get going."  No gratitude at all, this time.

He made some sotto voce comment about "grumpy old women" - I offered a rejoinder about people who "can't take no for an answer" and so it went.

Well, we got to the lab, they drained our veins, and we repaired to the Kalico Kitchen - and none too soon.  I grabbed a stray coffee carafe on our way to our table and just chugged it straight down without a cup.  (Well, I thought about doing that.)

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Then came this morning.  After yesterday's bumpy - not to say grumpy - start, I was determined to be well organized, on-task and on time.  Places to go, people to see, etc.

I was in the shower (more or less on time after two really good cups of tea) and humming with satisfaction at how smoothly the day had begun.

"Not so fast", says the imp assigned to our address.

Is that the phone I hear ringing?

"Marsha, you're wanted on the phone."

I thought to myself, "What, exactly, am I supposed to do about it right this second?"  But the LOC only hears me half the time when I am standing right next to him, so there is no point in shouting this through the bathroom door.

I jumped out of the shower, dried off and robed quickly, and asked "What?"  As if the phone call were his planned interruption to my little humming episode. He is "0h-for-two" these two mornings.

He said M. called and would I call her back right away.
Made the call and learned she has the flu-bug and could I fill-in for her today. I was glad to help, but so much for a smooth start.
A few minutes later, as I went flying out the door, and peeling down the driveway, there stood the LOC, smiling and waving me off.                                             
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They talk about grumpy and grumpier old men, and they even made a couple of movies about them, as I recall.  But not many people have the strength of character to deal with a truly grumpy little old lady.  Fortunately, I happen to be married to one - the Lovable Old Coot.
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Hope you haven't had your caffeine supply cut off, or been called out of the shower, or just felt irritated at the stray hang nail or pinched toes - or whatever.  But if you have, I hope someone showed you some patience today. 

Until next time - your recently grumpy, but now recovered - little old lady blogger ~ Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Walking Away with Good Reason

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
~ George Bernard Shaw

A friend, and former colleague of mine, sent me an email the other day.  He was requesting a professional reference from me, as his former boss.

I was surprised, not because such a request is unusual, but because I recalled that I had received a similar request from the same person a little over a year ago. And, as I recalled, he had gotten the job he was seeking, which was that of a mid-level manager in a sizable biotech company.

So my surprise was that he had only "lasted" a year in the new position.   I was assuming, incorrectly, that he had been let go, perhaps the victim of another downsizing.

It turned out, however, that he left.  Quit.  Walked away.

And I am proud of him for doing so.
He ran into a corporate "drama", complete with all the usual intrigue, conflicts, and ultimately the strong suggestion that he "go along to get along."  But what they were pressuring him to do was wrong, and he knew it.  He decided instead to just go.  Period.

He said to me recently, "I am glad I was in a position to be able to walk away, rather than compromise my integrity." He was willing to deal with unemployment and the challenges that entails in order to walk away for the right reasons.
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An old Kenny Rogers song advises that we should "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em"; but few of us seem to know when to do either.

Sometimes in life, we seem almost equally torn between "hanging on" in situations where it would be healthier to simply walk away, and walking away from challenges, when it would have been wise, and ultimately more beneficial, had we been able to hold on a little longer.

What to do?

How to know whether to let go or hold on in any given situation?

Do I quit the job and walk away, or ignore the office politics and hold on awhile longer?

Do I sell the house now or settle down and deal with my dissatisfaction about it?

Do I invest more time and effort in a relationship or do I admit that I have done all I know to do and it is time to let it go?

The right answer for me may be the wrong answer for you.  Sometimes we make unhealthy promises - to ourselves.  For example, my mother was determined to work until she was sixty-five and then retire.  In the two years before her sixty-fifth birthday, her work responsibilities increased dramatically, and not in a good way.

Additionally, during those two years, she had recurring bouts of dizziness, weakness in her right arm, and bronchitis.  Finally, she was hospitalized with a serious bout of bronchial pneumonia.

I talked with her, more than once, during that time urging her to retire rather than wait.  After the pneumonia episode, her own doctor spoke with her about the fact that she was pushing herself too hard, and perhaps should consider retiring.  She refused.

She had saved and planned well, so it was not really about finances.  It was that she could not or would not change her mind.  She had made herself a promise that she was going to work until she was sixty-five and then retire.

It didn't work out that way.  One month before her sixty-fifth birthday she suffered a major stroke and was left with a paralyzed right arm and right leg. The last seventeen years of her life, instead of playing piano, working in her rose garden, and doing things she loved, she spent dealing with life as a hemiplegic.

There is a difference between honoring a promise - even to oneself - and clinging stubbornly to an idea or stance we have taken that no longer makes any sense.

We all make promises and commitments which we plan to keep.  And in most cases we should do everything within our power to honor those promises.  But sometimes ... yes, sometimes, we need to admit that we must walk away.  Not out of negligence, or indifference, but because it is the right thing, the wiser thing to do.
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Hope you are in a healthy place today, with good choices all around you.  But if you need to walk away - I encourage you to do it with your head high and your heart full of hope.  Until next time - your fellow traveler ~ Marsha

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Mugo Bit the Dust

The drought continues to plague Northern California.  Our lakes are down to one-third of normal, our lawns are dead, and in a clear example of "the law of unintended consequences", many of our trees are dying, too.  I recently read an article stating that as many as five thousand mature trees in a nearby town are dead or dying.

Five thousand!  And some of them are over two hundred years old.

The governor said "cut water use by 25%" and many of us did, that and more.  Some people went nuts, though, and just turned off all their outside water and said, "Phooey with it.  I'll just wait until the drought is over and then I'll water things again."

Allowing a lawn to dry up and die is one thing.  It can be brought back in a matter of months.  But allowing trees that are hundreds of years old to die, when the drought is "only" four years old is pretty short-sighted. Now they are urging us to "water your trees." 

You don't say.

The weather gurus are predicting an El Nino winter, often meaning pouring rain for months on end.  By next spring, my dead lawn may look like a putting green for all I know.  (Well, I can hope, can't I?)

But those dead trees ... well, I won't see their replacements grow up, and neither will my children or their great - great - great grandchildren.  Stupid.  And sad.
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How often in life do we set something in motion that creates results or develops consequences which we simply did not foresee?  The "law of unintended consequences" is alive and operational on many levels.

Proverbs tells us that a "word fitly spoken is like apples of silver or pictures of gold".  But what about the words hastily spoken in anger or cruelty that create bitterness and harbor rancor for years to come, lasting sometimes even from generation to generation? (Think Hatfields and McCoys.)
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We planted a small mugo (pronounced mew-go) pine almost four years ago.  It was a little decorative tree, only three feet tall, but completely symmetrically round, and which generally grows only one or two inches each year.  It is a prized plant for specific spots where you want a visual impact, but limited growth.

I watered it faithfully, and then when we were placed on water-rationing, I watered it as often as I was allowed to do.  Three times per week for fifteen minutes each time.  We have very hot summers here in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and around August it began to look pretty pitiful.  I hand carried extra water in a watering can to it.

I mulched around the base of that little mugo.  I pinched off the dead bits, in the hopes that it wouldn't waste it's water trying to feed dead stuff.  All in vain.  It died.  Four years of pampering down the old drought-drain.

But only four years.

What of a lifetime wasted in dry barren regret?  What have we done to address the consequences we may have caused however unintentionally?

I hope El Nino comes.  Oh, how I how and pray that it does.

But more importantly, I hope I am learning to carefully address those barren places in my life, where bitterness and resentment stifle growth.  There are many healthy mugo pines - somewhere.  It can be replaced, replanted.

But we only have one life to live.  Let's work on watering hope, irrigating dreams and splashing a little happiness around whenever we can.  What do you say?
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Hope you are wading in creeks of cheer, and lakes of laughter in your life this evening.  But if you have "hit a dry patch" - try to do something about it, sooner rather than later.  You have seldom seen anything sadder than a dead mugo. But dry regrets over unintended consequences are pretty sad, too.

Until next time, your drought-stricken, but still watering where allowed, neighborhood gardener ~ Marsha

Monday, October 5, 2015

Waiting for the Rat to Die

Now before you go all aghast on me, I am not referring to a person, or at least not any one specific person.  The title of this post refers to a quote from a book I am currently reading by John Ortberg.

The book is entitled Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them.  And isn't that just the truth?  I have said for years that every family has a nutty Aunt Sally or a Crazy Uncle Harry.  Some of us have - or have had - several, not just one or two.

When speaking to an audience about family dynamics, I have often used the saying (I do not recall the source):  Four out of five families are dysfunctional ... and the other one doesn't work very well.

 And isn't that just the truth? ( It also sounds a little like a Yogi Berra saying, doesn't it?)

So, while reading the aforementioned book, I ran across an older quote from Anne Lamott in her signature book Traveling Mercies. I had read Lamott's book many years ago, but had forgotten this pointed statement. She wrote:  "In fact, not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die."

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For many of us, forgiveness is something we crave for ourselves, but are reluctant to give to others.  But God says it works just the opposite of this.  It is only as we forgive others, that we ourselves are eligible for divine forgiveness.

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" - that is a non-negotiable truth.  Straight from the mouth of the One who had the most to forgive, and nothing to be forgiven for, and yet offered each of us forgiveness freely. 

Some people refuse to even contemplate forgiving someone who has hurt them deeply, taking the position that:
a) they aren't sorry for what they did to me,
b) they haven't apologized,
c) they haven't asked for my forgiveness.

While a, b, and c may be true, this is still not grounds for refusing to forgive.  How many of us are drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die?

Remember the old Rolling Stones song, "sometimes you're the bug, sometimes you're windshield'?  Yes, well, sometimes I'm the rat, and sometimes I'm just waiting for the other rat to die.  You know what I mean?

Waiting for the rat to die can be dangerous.  Sometimes the rat outlives us.  C.S. Lewis said once that he had only recently forgiven someone who had been dead for thirty years! Yikes.
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Hope there is no stray bottle of rat poison (unforgiveness) in your life-cupboard today; but if you spot one, throw it out!  I beseech you, as one who has, upon occasion, partaken of the poison and lived (and been forgiven) to tell the tale.  You will be glad you did. Until next time, your fellow traveler ~ Marsha

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cruising Toward Contentment

I have been absent for a bit, not because I did not think of you, but because I have been "out of touch".  Such a quaint phrase.  It used to simply mean that one did not have the thread of the current situation.

Now, in this day of 24/7 connectivity, it generally implies that one has been disconnected from social media and ordinary contact.  It is difficult to find a place on the planet that is cut-off from such communication, but we managed. 

We spent the past eight days aboard a cruise ship, and while Wi-Fi was available, the cost was so ridiculous that we stoutly abstained from using it for the duration of the trip.  You could send a student to university for an entire year for what one week's worth of connectivity would set you back on that overgrown dinghy.  Okay, so that is hyperbole, but not by a whole lot.

I somewhat enjoyed the "unplugged" experience.  But the *LOC was pretty twitchy, and it took him the first three days to realize that he could not reprogram the remote for the TV. Then, to add insult to injury, he discovered that four of the ten measly, pre-set, channels were sales pitches from the cruise line, run on a continuous loop, and, well, I had to exit the cabin while he regained control of his attitude.

Frankly, we have been wined and dined - ad infinitum ad nauseum - such that I have sworn off of all sauces, gravy, drizzles, and toppings for the rest of my natural life.  I kid you not.  I am now permanently topped off.

Furthermore, I have made the intimate acquaintance of people I had no wish to know.  You cannot remain strangers when twenty plus members of humanity are crammed into one glass-encased elevator.

The invasion of my personal space was annoying enough; but inevitably one of my fellow "crammees" thought they should attempt to tell me their life story in the three point two seconds it took to rise from Deck X to Deck Y.

These mini-bios were generally routine, but occasionally turned terrifyingly bizarre.  In such moments I was faced with the stark reality that there was no place to run. Land was a distant memory and the experience at sea was not proving to be particularly rewarding. 
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We do have perfectly sane friends who have taken quite a number of cruises and generally report their experience was wonderful.

Good for them.

We were asked, not infrequently, if this was our first cruise.  (I do not know if we were giving off some oddly confused vibe or not, but it is entirely possible, as I was admittedly disoriented much of the time.)

Whenever we admitted that it was, indeed, our first cruise, we were treated to titters and smirks as though the group had just unwittingly stumbled across the proverbial "40-year old virgin."

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We have concluded that we are just not cruise people.  We do not cruise.  It just isn't for us.

For us, the whole "a sailing we shall go" thing was a "one and done." 

So last evening we heaved two, simultaneous, huge sighs of blessed relief.  We were home.  The floor was firm beneath our tread.  The windows could all be flung wide open. And our respective recliners were right where we had left them.  Hooray!

We do not begrudge those who love to cruise their fun.  We, however, have cruised right into our very own little safe harbor.  And we are content.
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Hope your harbor is peaceful this evening.  Until next time, your fellow traveler (but not your fellow sailor) ~ Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Healthy - Happy - and only mildly irrirated

The phone rang - shrilly, as it always seems to do.  I do not know why, with all our advanced technology, we cannot seem to invent a less annoying ring.  After all, my mobile phone allows me to choose from among numerous jaunty little ditties, but the landline still sounds too much like a dental drill.  

It was the local pharmacy, the one closest to our house, calling to let my husband know that his flu shot was available.  He should "please come in as soon as possible" and they would be waiting for him with a smile ... and a needle, obviously.

Further, in recognition of his advanced ... er, eh, that is, at this season of his life, they would graciously set aside for him a "high dose" flu shot.  Well, bless their little pointy heads.

Not my idea of an appealing invitation; but still I was bemused.  Only a few years ago ,we used to call ahead to schedule flu shots with the doctor.  That call - from us to them - was treated with a patience that seemed a little strained; but I always tried to bear in mind that at this season of the year they were probably getting about a kajillion such calls every hour.
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When flu shots first became readily available, I bravely stuck my arm out to be jabbed and felt pretty virtuous being so proactive.(Sure it is routine - but for someone who is needle-phobic it is the equivalent of putting my arm into a steel trap.... well, almost.)

There was a bit of a problem, though, back in the day.  They were using live viruses and for the hyper-sensitive types it could produce mild, "flu-like", symptoms.  Maybe ... perhaps.

Baloney!  About twenty-four hours after taking that first flu injection, I began to ache all over, ran a fever for two days, and generally felt miserable for about three or four days.  So I prudently avoided flu-shots for years.  Fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me. Uh, huh.
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That was, of course, a few decades ago and they haven't used live viruses in flu vaccines since the first Bush was in the White House.

Then came the era, wherein I was working for a health care company and they stronnnnggly encouraged (read: put the pressure on you and your supervisor, if you dawdled on this) every one who worked there to get their flu shot!  Sooner rather than later - as in now - today. And no appointment was necessary. Alright, already.

At the time, the *LOC and I were members of the largest HMO in California, and no, they were not the evil spawn of Satan.  We got excellent care there for over twenty years.  No complaints at all.

Well, except for the teeny-tiny little thing about getting a flu shot.  First, it was true that there were no appointments - you simply lined up around a building the size of an ocean liner, and slowly shuffled forward until you reached an interior hallway.  There, it turned out, was also a line, which extended up one hallway and down another, until you had circumnavigated the entire building from the inside.

While lapping the perimeter, they had cunningly set up various "stations" where you could a) fill out questionnaires about your health status, b) disclose whether you had ever experienced a "negative reaction to a flu shot" - oh, just wait until I reached a live human being - and c) peruse cheery little reminders that unless you had both a photo ID and your insurance card, you would not, they deeply regretted to have to inform you, be eligible to receive your very own jab. 
Well, darn.

I could not help but wonder whether some people were so thrilled to obtain their very own pin prick, that they were dressing up, disguised as someone else, and going through the line more than once?  Really?  Photo ID?
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One year the nurse said to me, "You sure look different in person than in that photo."

I didn't know whether to thank her or smack her.

Another year, after a quick and nearly painless poke, the nurse commented, "Oh, so you're a bleeder. Guess we'd better use a little bigger band aid."  (Thank you?)

On another occasion a male nurse asked if I was ok, as I limped forward to take my turn.

I nearly responded, "Well, not too bad considering I just spent the last hour and fifteen minutes standing around on a concrete sidewalk, waiting for the privilege of making your acquaintance. No, you dolt, my feet hurt!"

But I refrained.
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Thus, you can only imagine my surprise, nay, my utter astonishment that no longer must one line up, fill out forms, and take a number.  One does not even have to bother to call ahead. Au contraire, they will initiate said call and charmingly induce you to come on down to where they will be waiting for you.

There was only one small glitch - the *LOC had already gotten his shot two days earlier.  At that very same place!

Guess their left-hand doesn't know what their right-hand is doing.  So believe you me, when I go down there this week to get my flu shot, I am going to be watching them.  They might try to give me a shot in both arms - just to be on the safe side.
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Hope no one jabs you in the wrong spot this week.  Until next time, I'll be the one in line right behind you~ Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)                                         

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Garments of Joy !

Last week we took an elderly minister to a neighboring town for a couple of doctor's appointments.  He was unable to drive due to some medical issues he had been having, although as he stoutly assured us, it had nothing to do with the fact that he was 84!

Well, of course not.

While we were sitting in the pleasantly appointed waiting room I looked around enjoying the good landscape reproductions on the walls, the well-tended real plants (none of those odious plastic things in this upscale establishment, thank you very much) and the general air of good taste.

That is, unless I allowed my eyes to dwell upon the patients coming and going through the main lobby.  What were these people thinking?

Most of the jeans had holes in the knees - at a minimum - and some seemed to be absolutely shredded from the thighs to the knees.  More than one fellow had on some kind of T-shirt, baggy shorts, and flip-flops, while the women seemed to have lost their elan' altogether. 

More than one lady had apparently dashed out the door in such a hurry to be treated that she had donned her knit top inside-out.  Why else would seams be on the outside of the garment?

I almost felt sorry for those who had forgotten to button their shirts; but at least they had worn some kind of undershirt that was almost covering their, ahem ... their upper torso.

I suppose they could not help it, if they could not afford an iron, but one had to ask oneself whether, at least, they could have mended the rips and tears in their outfits before dashing off to the doctor's office.  Just wondering.

Never being one to keep my opinions strictly to myself, I leaned over and whispered to the *LOC, "Did these folks all just fall out of bed and come straight over here, do you suppose?"

"What do you mean?" he asked, clueless and with very little interest.  He was engrossed in his book.

"Well, I mean they all either look like they just got out of bed and didn't bother to put on something besides what they slept in, or they came here directly from working out at the gym.  I'm sorry, but they look a little tacky to me."

"Marsha", he said with a weary air "It is summer, and it is hot.  Not everyone feels the need to dress like they are going to a tea."

Now I was wearing simple slacks, a decent blouse (ironed) and sandals.  Trust me, I have never "gone to tea" dressed like that in my entire life!

But I knew what he was implying, so I replied, archly, "Well, this is just the way I was raised."

"Yes, but that was a hundred years ago."

I have to admit, I had to laugh.  This is the guy that is usually telling me that I look at least twenty years younger than my real age; so I knew he really was saying "Jiggs, mind your own business."

He had a point.
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About forty-five minutes later, we had returned to the car as our passenger had appeared in the lobby and was about ready to leave.  We thought we would get the car started and have the air-conditioning going by the time he made it through the lobby, down the steps, across the side walk, and into the parking lot.

A few minutes later we watched as our older friend attempted to open the door of a nearby vehicle, of a similar color and make as our own, parked about two spaces from us.  The lady in the driver's seat, who had just started her engine looked quite startled, I must say.

The LOC jumped out of our car and called out, "We're over here."

That saintly old man snatched his hand back from the car door handle as though he had been scalded, and as quickly as his mobility allowed, scuttled over to us and got in.

"Whew.  That could have been really embarrassing.  I thought that lady was you, Marsha."

I looked over at her again, and just began to chuckle to myself.  She was at least twenty years younger than I am, and was not much more than oh.... well, let's just say she was a tad thin, and I am not.

I might have been complimented, except for one thing.  The appointment he had just come from was with the eye doctor!
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Times change, don't they?  Fashions are nothing like the ones I was raised with, and no one wants to listen to me get snippy about how standards have fallen. Particularly not the LOC.

And this little incident reminded me that what we wear on the outside matters very little.  However, what we wear around our spirits, what we choose to wrap our hearts in, now that is another matter altogether.

If we choose, He will give us "garments of joy"(Psalm 30:11) and those are much better than anything a tailor or seamstress in this world can ever come up with. 
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Hope your Labor Day weekend is healthy, happy, and not too hot.
Until next time - your old-fashioned, but smiling fellow traveler ~ Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A happy goodbye

So far, it has been a productive day.  I sent the minutes of a recent meeting to all concerned.  I wrote a few pages of a manuscript I have been slogging along on. The house is in fairly decent shape, so no need to scurry around on that just now.

So I popped over to check emails, and there it was ... a message I had been half-expecting for nearly a week.  She is gone, for now. My friend and fellow laborer in Christ has been called home.  And good for her!  I am happy for her, really I am.

She had been ill for some months now, and she hated being dependent upon anyone, except Jesus.  She insisted upon still attending committee meetings, even after her lungs could no longer give her all she needed; she lugged her little oxygen tank up the steps to the second story conference room where we had always met.  Our leader was perfectly willing to move downstairs to make it a little easier on her, but no, she said she was getting along just fine, thanks.

Her smile, and jokey - poke you with a stick - repartee' were one of the first things that greeted me when I joined this group of women a few years ago to work with them in women's Bible classes here at my local church.

She was not your typical "little church lady" - she was feisty and she could be tart.  She brooked no nonsense and she definitely did not suffer fools gladly.  I liked her so much.

So I write this happy goodbye with tears in my eyes.  So glad for her, but cannot help but be sad for her family who will miss her so much.  And yes, sad for those of us who only knew her for awhile, but observed how she served faithfully, without complaint (okay, maybe a little griping once in a while, but very little) and was an encouragement to others.

Here is the thing I will remember about Effie - she was real.  A real believer, a real helper, a real worker, a real person - who really loved the Lord.

So as He bids you "welcome home" the rest of us offer you our very best efforts at a happy goodbye.  Please excuse our sniffling.  I know you had no use for snifflers.
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Hope your week is full of happy hellos. Until next time ~ Marsha

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Adventures in Reclining

As I mentioned in the prior post, the LOC* recently decided that his recliner had done its duty by him, and he was ready to let it go retire in the great living room in the sky.

It was not that it was exactly old and worn out;  as it was less than five years old, and I had had it regularly professionally steam cleaned.  No, rather it was no longer quite as comfy/cozy as he wished it to be. He may think the same thing about me, but I have not yet decided whether to put the question to him.  Frankly, I am not sure I really want to know.

The soon-to-be-donated chair had lots of features, to be sure.  It vibrated, it heated up, it rocked and of course, it reclined. But it had lost "that lovin' feeling" - it no longer offered that lofty, plush for the tush.  Ask me if this guy is spoiled rotten.
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So we betook ourselves to a couple of furniture stores and ended up at the national chain mostly known for whiz-bang, hot-dog, can't live without 'em recliners.

Times had changed, however, and the model that once made my husband's heart go pitter-pat was no longer in vogue.  Yep, sounds familiar. 

The massage feature, with which he formerly soothed his tired legs and back (or backside) was no longer available.  At least not in the color he liked, in the fabric he wanted, in the size he preferred, in combination with the power features he desired.

Oh, please.  We are not talking rocket science here; it is a chair for crying out loud. 

Finally, he located one that was not too hard, and not too soft, and while it was not necessarily "jussssst riiight" it was apparently as close as he was going to get - so Goldilocks ponied up an amount of money that was more than we paid for a car in years past.

A date was set for the great delivery, and we anxiously awaited the new addition to the family.  It came, it went, and the LOC still had no chair.  Oh, they brought us one; but it didn't work.  We were told that this virtually never happens, but it did.  The thing did not go together properly; so they used a little muscled persuasion.  Finally he sat in it and tried to recline, and it nearly threw him into the next room.  Not good.

So they asked us to sign an affidavit, or some such document, attesting that they had attempted delivery, but that we had declined to accept the product as presented. ( I guess they had to be able to prove that they actually drove the delivery van up the hill and tried to give us the darned thing, rather than having their supervisor think they had been lolling at the lake all afternoon.)

 It was, alas they admitted, a manufacturer's defect.  Just our luck.  But the good news was that it would only be another week, before they could bring a replacement.  Great.
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Well, it finally arrived and now sits in all its glory, with its LED lit power-button device always at the ready.  It has a power back, a power seat, and a power-foot rest, all of which operate independently of one another.

Oh, and it also boasts a power-lumbar adjustment feature (don't I just wish I had one of those - not the chair, but on me) and a power-headrest.  Seriously?  A power headrest?  Yes.

The LOC used to wrestle a faded blue pillow into this and that shape until he got it just right behind his head.  No more.  Now with a flick of the switch, the whole hot-dog headrest hums forward and backward -oooh, ooh, another inch forward, no, noooo, just a half-inch back - ahhhh - that's it!

So for just the cost of a small yacht, I am able to discard a worn pillow purchased at K-Mart for $12.99.  What a deal!

Of course, this whole acquisition has not been without its challenges, for the poor unfortunate LOC.  As he sits royally humming his back forward, and his head backward, and his lower limbs up and down, he gazes over toward me in my - wait for it - my plain Jane recliner and asks archly, "Honey, does it took to you like my feet are higher than my heart?"

I was uncertain as to whether this was something to be avoided or a greatly-to-be-desired result.  Thus, I was not sure how to respond to that question. 

"You would know better than I", I say with feigned interest.

But one thing I do know, the cost was certainly higher-than common sense would indicate was necessary.  

Oh well, what is our life, but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes?  Right?  At least when his time comes to disappear, he will have known the thrill of a really good recliner.  You cannot ask for a whole lot more; and at our time of life, it will have to be enough.
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Hope you have a comfy place to recline this evening.  Until next time - Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot  )

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Whining Old Gray Mare

While I am often a practical realist, there are times when I have deluded myself into thinking I am still thirty ... or forty ... or well, you get the idea.

This week has been a foot race, and now my feet hurt.

We had a call to go to a friend's home to meet a repairman for them, because they had to work.  (When you are retired, some people assume you have nothing to do....just saying.)

We had unexpected overnight company.  He called a few hours before arriving asking if it would be ok to "crash at our place" for the night.  What could we say?

He's a nice young man, but unbeknownst to him, we already had company coming the following day, so now it was to be back-to-back guests, with no time to recoup in between.

Sheets to be laundered, the roof to be polished, the garage to be mopped, sidewalks to vacuum.  (Sort of joking.)

Then another friend called from out of state, to say the local water company had called them to tell them to check for a leak here at their home.  Around here the drought is so bad we save saliva, and use spit to water our favorite plants.  Everything else has already bitten the dust.  So off went the LOC* to check on their forbidden water waste. ( I hope the "spring in his step" was not because I was left to do the polishing and shining without his participation.)

Then I attended a meeting wherein I am the "minute taker" - and my minutes were in short supply this week.

Then we had guests for dinner - roast beast with alllll the fixin's.  By now I was seriously limping.  But oh how we laughed at the tales our guest from overseas regaled us with. (I know my modifier is dangling and I am too tired to care.)

Finally, phone calls, emails, and to-do lists for a family event that I am in the midst of planning.

Here was the result of all that hectivity.  Yesterday, I could hardly get up out of my recliner.  But at least I had a recliner.  Thank heavens for small mercies.  Earlier this month the LOC's recliner had given out, was disposed of, and the new one had not yet been delivered. 

Thus, I was without a chair for two weeks, as I graciously loaned him mine. (Graciousness can be faked for two weeks, I have discovered.  Beyond that, I may have been tempted to kick him to the curb, or forced to flop onto his lap.  Either would have been difficult, but I was getting desperate for a comfortable place to sit.)
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So here is my plan for tomorrow - Sunday.  I am going to rest - and rest - and rest - and thank the Lord that, in all His wisdom, He thought to create a special "day of rest" for those of us who do not always have sense enough to pace ourselves.

Of course, that could be because it has temporarily slipped what used to pass for my mind that I am not as young as I used to be. 
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Hope you are resting comfortably this evening and that tomorrow offers you more of the same.  I am shuffling over to my reclaimed recliner where I shall be for the next day, except for a brief trip to church in the morning.  Have a wonderful day of rest - until next time . Your not-so-young gray filly - Marsha
*LOC (Lovable Old Coot - to whom I am married)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Circle of Quiet

We live in a noisy world.  This is not "new information" I realize.  However, I am lately more and more aware of how clamorous our world has become.

Was it always like this and I have, perhaps, only become more sensitive to it of late?  I doubt it.

I recall afternoons walking along tree shaded sidewalks, listening to the birds chirp; occasionally the hum of a bee would make its way into my consciousness.  It was a serene experience; one which I savored.

Try finding a quiet sidewalk these days.  Horns honk, people shout at one another.  We go into a restaurant to enjoy a bite to eat, and conversation is pretty much drowned out by the various TV screens all around the place.  And, no, this is not a sports bar, but a family restaurant that we formerly enjoyed in peace.  

Management only installed the TVs last year. Why, I do not know, given that every second person in the place is busy texting, tweeting, or watching something on the tiny screens with which they are so engrossed. 
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How blessed the man you train, God, the woman you instruct in your Word.  Providing a circle of quiet within the clamor ...
Psalm 94: 12-13 (MSG)

God gave us the gift of hearing as one of the five wonderful senses through which we experience the world.  Who would want to miss a baby's chuckling laugh?  A Beethoven symphony?  Or a snappy jazz riff, for that matter? Personally, I like the sound of a good solid thwack when Buster Posey hits another home run. 

In my corporate days we actually paid a service to provide "white noise" throughout our offices; a kind of muffled sushing sound that swept perpetually through the hallways and cubicles, the conference rooms and executive suites.  This was in addition to the "elevator music" piped ubiquitously throughout.  The music and white noise were a subliminal duet meant to soothe our pressured psyches, I suppose.

Heaven forbid we should actually have silence.

I love the fact that God is willing to provide us with a circle of quiet amid the raucous, jolting, cacophony of today's society.  A quiet place in which to reflect, meditate, pray, or just think a thought or two.

A circle of quiet ... it reminds me of an old song we used to sing once in awhile.  I do not recall the author, but it went something like -

There's a place, filled with grace
I can see my Savior's face,
Within the circle of his love.

There I find,
Peace of mind,
I'm so happy all the time
Within the circle of his love.

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Hope you have a fine moment or two today within a "circle of quiet" with Him.  Until next time ~ Marsha

Monday, August 3, 2015

AWWWWkward !!

Victims of technology ... we alllll know what that feels like.

Or if you do not, yet, you will sooner or later.

This week we have been struck, assaulted, as it were. 

No, it was not the massive decline of the Dow Jones, while experts watched helplessly for hours trying to figure out what was wrong with the stock market, while it fell three hundred and fifty points, before they shut it down.  Our own 401(k)s held hostage right along with those of everyone else.

Oh, no.  It was not that.

No, we were not standing in one of the endless lines at an airline counter, trying to rebook a flight, while the entire airline's network collapsed, and no one could figure out why.

But that's okay, because, after all, they apologized for "any inconvenience."  They are such polite numbskulls, aren't they?

Why what could be inconvenient about missing family events like a wedding or a graduation?  Or perhaps, sleeping on a filthy boarding area carpet all night, or a hundred and one other indignities, while they tried to figure out why their own systems were backfiring.

Oh, no.  It was not that.

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No, here at the old scatter, the LOC was proudly in possession of a brand new, handy-dandy, voice-activated entertainment system remote device.

And thus, our very own personal technological nightmare began.  Although civilization did not come to a end, our union was a near thing there for a few hours.

They are known, actually, as recurring nightmares around here.  That is because each time one of us buys a new thinga-majig, or orders a new whatcha-ma-callit, we have this whole terrifying experience to try to survive.

This one was worse than most.  

He is, or so he claims, both an intuitive and a tactile tech user.


Translated, this means a) he does not need to read the manual - why waste the time, when you have intuition on your side? - and b) it means he is going to continue to push buttons until something does what he thinks it is supposed to do.

Meanwhile, chaos ensued.

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He located the "listening" button on the new remote, right away, which I must say is more than I have ever been easily able to locate on him.  Just saying ...

He already knew the command menus by heart, so he began to speak his truth to this life-aid, without which, the makers tell us we will soon not know how we ever survived.  Yes, well, we may not survive with it, either.

"Forward" - he said authoritatively - as it told us it was listening carefully. 

Sorry, I didn't understand. (The VA -voice activated text on the screen displayed.)


Can you say that again, please?


Did you say Forward"?


And suddenly the DVR took off like a bat out of a hot cave.  And it kept right on going.

STOP  - STOP - STOP !  (Shouted the *LOC,  not the remote.)

Honey, I said, trying to sound reasonable during the early going, "What button do you hit when it has gone as far forward as you want it to?"

He glanced at me, clearly irritated, and said, "The play button, of course."

"Well, you might try saying "Play" then.  Just a thought.

PLAY - he shouted at the device.

Like magic, our program resumed, albeit about a half an hour ahead of where we wanted to be.

He grimly, but manually, hit the rewind button for a few seconds and tried again.

Holding the remote at arms length, and speaking directly to it, as thought it were hearing impaired, he stated emphatically,

But our program disappeared altogether, and a new menu came into view, inviting us to select among several video selections.

One appeared to be a streaming movie entitled "Awkward."


No, not awkward.  FORRRRWAAARRRD !!!

Meanwhile in an aside, he says to me conversationally, "Have you heard of a movie called Awkward?"

No, and I don't want to. I'm living that movie.  I'd like to watch the ballgame, thank you.

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Eventually he figured out that he didn't need to shout, hold the dratted thing at arm's length, or exxxaggggerate his pronunciation.

At least that is he what he reported to me the following morning.  I personally would not know, since I had long since gone to bed.

I had to read about the game in the next morning's newspaper sport section.  So, we have come full circle - we may begin with a high-tech voice-activated device; but we will end by reading the information in a paper.

My current opinion of evolving - or devolving - high-technology is not printable.  Fortunately, they are still printing newspapers.  For now.  I am told their days are numbered, however, so you may want to grab one while you still can.
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Hope you are not being held hostage to a high-tech gadget this evening.  If one is currently threatening your well-being, RUN !
Until next time ~ your friendly neighborhood techno-peasant - and proud of it.
*Lovable Old Coot