Wednesday, March 04, 2020

What We Choose to Follow

For the sake of wonder, frustration and HOLY COW!, years ago I began snapping phone photos of surprising things we by happenstance travel behind on the highway. Well, “travel behind” at least for a split second until we careen past them, or for several minutes as we poke along blind to everything but that which was in front of us due to its enormity. (Curses. Reaches for phone to snap a photo…)

Sure, we follow road signs and GPS instructions. Let's not forget lead cars through construction. And globs of scrambling people to another changed gate. 

But what we choose to follow throughout life is a bigger topic. For instance:

  • Tweeple on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram 
  •  The recommended food pyramid and the “new” upside down version of same 
  •  The person in front of us in the restroom line  
  •   Fashions. (I wear Crocs almost every day, so file that where you will) 
  •  Trending diets 
  •  Pill bottle instructions 
  •   Our spouses and significant others across the country 
  •   Musicians 
  •   News channels 
  •   Bad advice 
  •  Hollywood types and the movies …

Case in point. In an attempt to slowly crank my slothy rigid body back to life again, I began following a gentle online yoga instructor. In a further attempt to bribe myself into actual participation, I paid for the series. FOR PETE’S SAKE YOU PAID FOR IT SO DO IT! It’s only ten minutes a day and the instructor’s mother sits next to her in a chair. (Chair yoga. It’s a thing. They offer it at senior centers and it is also in the title of this particular course.) Mom engages in the same poses but in a modified version due to lack of agility/mobility/youth.

For instance there is the Warrior Pose. Young Instructor (that’s not “my” course or instructor in previous hyperlink but a good illustration--and also I assure you I look NOTHING like that slim young poised woman) stands with one bent leg forward, the other leg outstretched behind. Mom carefully perches (careful Mom!) on the front side edge (-ish) of a chair, one leg forward, the other stretched back. There are arm and breath movements involved. Although I stand for this one, I sometimes LOL since I look anything but a warrior while weebly-wobbling in my ginormous sweat pants, sans warrior weapons, while occasionally grunting from the strain. 
Anyway, mom has a bum knee (one of mine replaced, the other sometimes moody) and she’s not very seasoned at yoga. **raises hand**  I waffle between following the mom or daughter based upon trust in my balance on any given day. 

Sometimes this decision intersects and changes directions depending on how long Younger Woman decides to blather on between poses after instructing us to Iiiinhale … Reeeach to the ceiling… then forgets to instruct us to exxxxxxxhale because she gets distracted by her own storytelling, at which point if standing, I crash into a nearby chair on my desperate near-death exhale after holding my breath too long.

This freaked us out until we realized it was being towed

But back to questionable following choices as they relate to travel. One incident in particular springs to mind: the day I road shotgun with a guy.

[TRUE CONFESSION INTERJECTION: Okay, there were dozens of those times and guys, but this One Particular Case In Point the guy I was riding with was lost and would not stop for directions. Okay, that one particular time and dozens of others. My marrying choice was partially based on a dude humble enough in spirit to not waste large portions of our lives lost. Thank you George Baumbich!]

We were in St. Louis MO in an unfamiliar area trying to return home to Illinois. He deduced that if we “followed that guy over there with the Illinois license plates” we’d find our way. And so we cut lanes and followed him.

We ended up at a zoo.


DISCLAIMER: Following can be hazardous to your relationships.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Retiree versus Business Person: Travel Choices

Many retirees are booked solid with volunteer work and babysitting, sometimes raising grandchildren, toting them from here and there via sundry car seats and strollers.

Or their dance cards are filled with golf and/or pickleball and/or tennis and/or bowling… Whatever sports float a person’s boat and—and this is key—don’t cause us to fall down and break something, or keel over from dehydration, or dizzy us due to inexplicable vertigo because we stood up too quickly.

Many retirees are vacationing their way around the world, or at least to our kids’ and cousins’ homes due to free lodging. We’re cruising, bus tripping and adding to lines through airport security, causing Business Persons great duress.

Of course breakfast, lunch, diner, cocktails or coffee dates (raises hand to all) catapult seniors (gross exaggeration [refer to the Slow Rise]) toward travel. Not to mention the lure of Bridge or Euchre, casinos, Mahjong and/or other gaming enticers.

Oh, and doctor appointments. Sigh.

Most aforementioned activities are a choice compared to the confines of a 9-5 job that pays the rent, the price of Susie’s braces and that fancy latte. Plus car repairs, child care, electronics and counseling to learn how to deal with their aging parents.

In other words, The Retiree could schedule a Bridge game for 4 p.m. at Frank’s house but if it’s sleeting or looks like it might, bow out.



“Frank, I won’t …”

Frank, “I know. Everyone else has already canceled. Don’t know what I’m going to do with the giant punch bowl of  rum drinks. Lois has already warned me about too many dips into that pool."

Or say The Retiree (okay, me) has a lunch date scheduled and by ten there’s already three new inches of snow on the ground and it’s still near white-out conditions. Depending on my desperation for either the listening ear of a dear friend or chicken fried steak, I have the decadent choice to cancel or bundle up and fire up the ol’ Subaru whereby I tighten that seat belt, pat the dashboard and say, “Let’s go, Greyhound!” which is what, yes, I’ve named my Minnesota-ready vehicle since, well, I have time for such folderol.

But if I’m a thirty-five-year-old with a 2 p.m. meeting with my boss at the office when, according to Very Excited early morning weather persons, ten inches of snow are piling up, it’s pretty clear I won’t feel a choice. I’ll throw kitty litter in my trunk, pack a snow shovel, make sure I have my AAA card in my wallet, fill my coffee tumbler, leave early and white-knuckle my way to the office.

Now that my husband and I live near a bridge over the Mississippi River connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin, I find looking out the window a better barometer of roads than staring at one of my three phone weather apps, two complete with radar. If a steady flow of cars continues moving over the bridge at a decent pace, I figure Mother Nature is civil. Yup, I will absolutely head to Frank and Lois’s to help them with that rum punch. But should there only be an occasional creeper up there on the bridge—and no sedans, just giant pickup trucks that populate this area, some with snow plows—I’ll stay put. Even though George’s Lounge (several televisions, slot machines, deep fried hot dogs, good whiskey brands and Shake of the Day) is just across that bridge. If I’m thirsty enough for company or a libation, I can always walk one block south or east of our condo to a nearby watering hole.

Since the theme of this post is travel among Worker Bees vs Retirees and all I can seem to talk about is booze—and especially since it’s five o’clock not just “somewhere” but here—I find I’ve now chosen to travel from my office to my liquor cabinet to make me a cocktail!

If you’re a Retiree, please join me in a toast to those who are still working. We shall safely stay put and clinky-clinky to their One Day.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

For Better or for Worse: The Traveling Life

After my Great Went-Septic Appendix Eruption in 2017.

A recent post by bloggers Dan and Cassie Cramer got me to thinking about all the times I’ve traveled sick. Or sickly. Or feeling like I’m about to become that way—you know what I mean.

We also just rendered a big “Happy vacationing!” to two condo neighbors, one who’d been hacking for two weeks, enough so to send him to the doc AND get me washing my hands after each condo elevator ride, once sneakily (HA!) covering my nose and mouth and holding my breath for two whole floors when he hopped in the elevator and began chatting with me. (Hey, it’s FLU SEASON!) He said he was feeling much better and was ready for his adventure, I hoped enough better to avoid airline head compression severe enough to explode his nostrils.

All together now in a grand chorus of Eeuuuuuyuckysnotbucket.

Decades ago, in the dead of winter and under my first book deadline, I packed up my Portable Vectra (pre laptop days, weighed nearly twenty pounds and used a 5-1/4” boot disc—picture HERE) and road-tripped up to a friend’s cabin in Wisconsin where I became wildly ill. Fever. Twenty-four/seven chesty cough. I sought out an emergency room where I was given bold amounts of drugs. Which I took while soldiering on with the writing since, well, book deadline. (Read payment after manuscript was turned in.) The only thing I had energy to cook was frozen pizza, which sat on the counter as I nibbled from it for two days. All alone. No neighbor to bring me soup. Out of my own home state.. No room service or husband to field my bitchety-bitch demands.

In all cases, we do what we must to survive.

Which circles me back to Dan and Cassie’s most recent post about vacationing when one of you is living with noncurable stage four metastatic breast cancer. Their post reminds us we never know what someone’s going through, so BE NICE to strangers on the road, including those who seem whiny and self absorbed. Including cranky security folks, tired parents and snooty gate peeps. Perhaps even check yourself from overreacting to a slightly bungled hotel reservation or a luke-warm baked potato. Dan and Cassie’s entire blog, Meaning & Stuff, is dedicated to the down-and-gritty real thoughts and trials and celebrations one must live with after a terminal diagnosis.

No, we never know what the person next to us is going through, or what we might soon be enduring. I repeat: BE NICE. Karma and all that.

Since we lost our daughter-in-law to the same illness last May Day (for two months we helped our son care for her in home hospice) and I adore Cassie and understand her journey from the shoes of a helpmate, I read every post. She and Dan make us think. Our son and DIL posted their entire journey—hilarious and gut-smacking--on Caring Bridges. People with terminal illnesses have some important stuff to say, something for each of us! Among all the truth and horrors the Internet wields our way, it also delivers the opportunity for us to know what’s happening in the lives of those we care about, and gives those walking through tough times one singular place to dispense updated news without having to repeat it fifty times a day via exhausting phone calls.

To all you road warriors out there, and to those feeling no warrior vibes but who simply enjoy wandering, I send you wishes for that old Irish Blessing about the road rising up to meet you, which means "May your journey succeed", or "May you succeed [in the journey of life]" or even simply "Good luck!"  Through good health and bad, I know you’ll travel on until one day that Great Road will come to a Dead End, which, who knows, might eventually lead to a brilliant new Rising Up Road the likes of which you could never ever imagine, even after reading every travel brochure on this planet.

Every day in which you’re on the road with nothing major happening in your health or the health of those you care most about, give thanks. Gratitude makes any trip oh so much more enjoyable. Let that gratitude spread from your inner being to your face until your lips give a few strangers a smile. That little chard of bright might be just the thing that helps them push through their next trying moment.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

...Beautiful day for a neighbor, won't you be mine?

When I had no gray hair and our kiddos were young rather than their current 50+ and mid forties, our good neighbors and swell friends sold their house to move to a larger one a town over. We were sad and a tad worried. Handy-dandy neighborly proximity had treated us well. Would it continue to do so?

Then we met the new owners: she a lovely very fair-skinned redhead with freckles, he with dark eyes and dark thinning hair. Both wore welcoming smiles. It took us exactly one get-to-know-you cocktail hour to feel at home with them, desire to see them again. Real soon. Which we often did. Nicknames the likes of Sherbert, Baum and Norb quickly evolved. Gatherings ranged from cookouts to bouts of soap-opera watching (just the girls), rousing card-game nights, dinner outings, sporting events … You name it, they were ready. One of my favorite Christmas photos is the four of us in our living room, Carolyn and me wearing small stuffed Reindeer, their soft legs splayed across the crowns of our heads. Don’t ask.

We helped each other out, the way excellent friends and neighbors do.

Some time in we learned they were Muslim, she converting earlier in their relationship. Since we were friends with a Lutheran married to a Jew, a black married to a white, lived in a culturally diverse neighborhood and also enjoyed atheist friends, we viewed their religion as an opportunity to learn. Throughout the years we engaged in many conversations about their faith, watched them observe Ramadan, were blessed to imbibe in fabulous Iranian dishes and continued to always—always—be grateful for their abundant goodness. Over time, we met all the extended members of their family including the non US citizen relatives who annually visited from Iran. So much excitement for everyone’s vacation arrival. Same as families everywhere. We looked forward to their jovial and smart company.

As years marched on, our friendship deepened and flourished. Best. Friends Matter. I’m not sure we ever laughed harder and longer with any two people. I couldn’t imagine getting through some trying times with a member of my family without the steady, caring and tender guidance of Carolyn, a mental health therapist. A white-collar dude with a brilliant job, Norb volunteered to chauffeur our youngest son and his date to senior prom using his shiny blue convertible, complete with a fancy chauffeurs' hat to fully play the part. Oh, the pictures, memories and joy!

Eventually they sold their house next door (the people who bought it couldn’t say enough about their kindnesses and outreach during ongoing financial glitches) and moved into their first custom-built home a few towns away. Next they moved back to Colorado, from whence they’d originally arrived in Illinois. No matter, we still kept in touch, visited them there, and they us when they were in town. Eventually there came long stretches of time when we didn’t speak, but when we did, cliché-ville: it was as though no time at all had passed. “Our pet rabbit chewed our telephone lines in the family room,” they told us. “I’m heading to a convention in your neck of the woods,” I told them. At which point Carolyn and I wrangled a way for her to come stay in the hotel room with me for a night where we resurrected a few zany fun antics peculiar to us, swapped stories and laughter late into the night.

Then came 9/11.

Oh, how I worried about them, prayed over them. I’d talk myself hoarse defending our dear-heart friends over careless blind prejudiced statements about race or religion. My heart crushed when they reported receiving scary phone calls from strangers trolling phone books looking for last names that sounded like “something”. (I view such actions nothing short of home-grown terrorism.) More prayers. More leaning on my faith. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT) Did you know Muslim’s believe in the genuine divine revelation of the Psalms? Norbs prayed for us too.

Time passed and public hostile talk settled down. I quit worrying about them, at least over that kind of heinous treatment. We all aged into retirement, swapped travel stories, shared a few heartaches, more laughter, and news of our eventual move to Minnesota. “Come visit us on the river!” “We will. We WILL!”

Then … There we were again in the midst of presidential debates and political wranglings filled with blanket prejudiced religious statements. Again I prayed to the One True God (God of all) for their protection from such broad suspicions and fear-based spewing. Prayed that people’s land of origin and religion would not be held against them as a matter of political platform—as though any of us have control over where in the world we’re born. I ask, should springing to life from your mother’s womb automatically make you The Enemy, to anyone?!

Now we have the temporary (Lord, hear our prayers!) travel ban directed by our president. On that list, Iran. “No!” I shouted to the cosmos. “You mean to tell me that Norb’s family cannot come and visit them because … because … What? Why?

Because I said so?

Because we've let fear hijack us rather than standing strong and positive?

Because too many (or just one) misguidedly believe all Muslims are evil?

Because we are impatient?

Because in the midst of building a sand castle one believes it’s easier to pan for a bad grain by putting mountains of sand into a sieve and shaking? Or it’s determined we’ll just protect our imaginary castle by leaving all of the sand “over there” so that bad grain stays put?

Or … and I believe this is the answer: because too many never question their assumptions. And people in power who are afraid, who’ve built political platforms on fear, act on those assumptions.

In the meantime, homegrown brutality continues to strike from within. To list acts of horrid violence against children and our neighbors by our very own would be a list unending.

Instead, I prefer to write about just two people: a redhead with freckles and a gentle man. Goodness. US Citizens with dear family and forever friends, all who long to simply be in each others company.