Purple Reign

In many areas of the world, changing foliage colors signal seasonal transitions. Even if we don’t experience it where we live, we’ve all seen pictures of maples, oaks, and dogwoods showing off their gorgeous autumn leaves. Although I’m happy enough not to have to deal with ice and snow, I do envy those who get to enjoy the glorious reds, oranges, and yellows that signal the coming of winter.

Here in Southern California, our autumn foliage doesn’t look that different from our summer or winter foliage, but we do get a magical burst of color this time of year. As spring transitions into early summer, the purple blossoms of the jacaranda tree begins to appear on the skyline and light up our streets. At first, just a few bell-shaped flowers dot the bare branches but, seemingly overnight, the tree’s canopy is covered in a vibrant violet-blue cloud.

Although the jacaranda is our city’s official urban tree, it is not native to our area.  Originally from South America, they are said to have been introduced here in the early 20th century by the locally renowned horticulturist, Kate Sessions.  Fortunately for us, our climate proved ideal for the jacaranda and it has flourished here ever since.

Jacarandas can be found all over San Diego, including downtown, La Jolla, and in Balboa Park. We are lucky to have several beautiful jacarandas on our block and, not too far away, a whole neighborhood is lined with the trees. I don’t know the history behind the mass planting, but it appears that every house on the street has at least one of the trees in its yard.

As spring warms into summer, the tree’s ephemeral blossoms start to fall, creating a lavender carpet on the lawns and sidewalks below. Pretty soon, green fern-like leaves begin to appear on the branches, and the once vibrant tree starts to blend into its surroundings again. If we are lucky, we may get a smaller bloom in the fall but, most likely, we will have to wait until the following spring, when the magic of the jacaranda tree reigns again.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Good thing I have a lot of time on my hands.

My computer had been hinting at its eventual demise for a while. I chose to ignore it. Then, two days ago, it finally decided to give it up. I guess 9 years of service, which included a major operating system update, was about all I could expect.

The bad news (if the blue screen of death wasn’t bad enough) is that, nowadays, getting a replacement quickly isn’t going to happen. I’m not sure where all the components are coming from, but I’ve been told not to expect anything before the first of July. The good news is that I have a laptop that I can use in the interim. My document and photo files are (fingers crossed) backed up on an external hard dive and sprinkled around on various cloud services.

Although I like to think of myself as pretty flexible (I like to think of myself as much younger and fitter too), this new state of affairs is making me nervous. I was perfectly happy with my old desktop. It was set up in a – to me, anyway – logical fashion. When I get the replacement, I’ll have to find someone to transfer everything over and hope that any changes will be minor.

And, speaking of changes…

Another change that I haven’t embraced is WordPress’s new Gutenberg block editing system. Many bloggers have already made the switch. Not me. Just like the death rattles from my computer, I’ve chosen to ignore the multiple and increasingly less subtle urgings from WordPress. The Classic Editor has worked perfectly fine for years.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Oh, wait…

So, here I am, on my laptop, trying out the new editor. If you aren’t a blogger or if you use a different blogging platform, this may not seem like a big deal. But think back to the 90s, when you may have made the transition from WordPerfect to Word. Both were word processing applications, but they were very different. Although I’m sure I struggled a bit when my company made the switch to Word, I worked through it and have never looked back. I’m hoping for a similar result.

If you are reading this, the change was a success!

GratiTuesday: A Chance to Reassess

I just paid our latest credit card balance online. Nothing unusual about that. The balance was a little less than normal, but then it normally fluctuates throughout the year, depending on travel, annual payment due dates, and household purchases. What caught my eye was the line-by-line list of credits and expenses.

First, the credits. In addition to last month’s payment, there were two credits for events that we had signed-up for but were cancelled.  Both were annual gatherings we had been looking forward to, but each fell victim to the virus. Although I am grateful that we received full refunds, I feel sorry for all the people who had put so much time, effort, and money planning the events only to have them cancelled.

Please don’t judge us by the relative size of the boxes.

Now, the purchases. Almost every one of them were for items that were delivered to our home – either electronically (like Netflix and our digital subscription to the New York Times), or were brought by truck. Amazon made the bulk of the deliveries, but food items were a close second. There also may have been a few deliveries of wine.

Our credit card statements from just a few months prior look completely different. I guess I had never really examined the statements before; once I verified all charges, I paid the balanced and moved on. Now, looking closer, I can see some interesting patterns.

As expected, most of our purchases from before were made in person. I was surprised, though, how often we went to various grocery and big box stores. Missing a specific ingredient for a meal or need an item for a project? No problem. Because most of these stores are just a few miles away, it was easy to get in the car and pop over. And, if these errands happened to occur around lunchtime (which they often did for some incomprehensible reason) why not stop for a bite to eat?

Although I don’t consider myself a big clothes shopper – especially since I retired – I apparently liked to visit those types of stores now and then ( 🙂 ). Not a lot – and the purchases were fairly moderate – but enough that it made me wonder what exactly I was buying things for. It’s not like my closet is in danger of emptying out anytime soon.

There has been a lot of discussion about possible positive changes our society might make after all this is over. Although I don’t hold out a lot of hope for world peace and the end of greed and corruption, I am grateful that our credit card bill has revealed a few personal changes I’d like to make.

I don’t miss all the running around doing errands, but I do miss the lunches out. But, rather than grabbing a quick bite in between, I’d like to make that time together the focus. And with better food. Too many of the lunches involved ordering at a counter.

I’m a little surprised that I don’t miss shopping for clothes. With the weather warming up, I would have visited the mall at least once over the last two months. The fact that I haven’t missed that particular indulgence makes me think maybe it wasn’t the clothes. Maybe it was getting out for a few hours to be alone with my thoughts. Going to a park or visiting a museum or gallery would provide the same “me time” without the price tag.

Everything being cancelled this year has brought home the importance of taking advantage of opportunities when I can. There were more than a few things I meant to do but had put off… until it was too late. I don’t want to feel those regrets again.

How about you? Do you anticipate any personal long-term changes based on your experience over the last few months? Is there anything you hope to do more of – or less of – in the future?

GratiTuesday: Simple Pleasures

Despite the current global crisis, it wasn’t too difficult to find things to be grateful for this week. Although I’d love to snap my fingers and make this all go away, I have found that – just like before – it’s often the simple pleasures that give me the greatest joy.

Masks Made

I am not an accomplished seamstress, but I do have a sewing machine and plenty of unused fabric. After watching a few YouTube tutorials, I was able to make several cloth masks for my husband and me, as well as for friends who don’t have the same resources.

Food Delivered

We recently signed up for home delivery of produce and other food items and had our first box delivered to our doorstep today. It’s not the cheapest way to go, but these regular deliveries will cut down on our need to go to grocery stores.

Smiles Provided

Like a lot of people, I’ve been spending way too much time on my computer. Fortunately, in between the worry and stress, I’ve found moments of laughter and reasons to smile. Here are a couple of my favorites (with links), in case you’ve missed them:

John Krasinski, the actor, delivers good news from around the world via his in-home Some Good News “studio.” He has recorded two episodes so far and they are delightful. I guarantee his news will make you smile.

Although the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles may be closed, they have found a way to encourage people to remain engaged with art by challenging their social media followers to recreate a work of art with objects found around their homes. The submissions are wonderful and often hilarious.  You can find the results all over social media, but here are a couple of links with examples.

The Iris (J. Paul Getty Museum blog)

My Modern Met

 

Sunday Stills: Spring Flowers

It seems like it has been spring here in Southern California for several months. I started to notice buds on trees back in February and then the March rains brought forth even more. Now, in early April, just about everywhere I look, Mother Nature is showing off with displays of colorful blossoms and heady scents.

For her weekly Sunday Stills photo challenge, Terri Webster Schrandt has asked us to “blow up WordPress and the rest of the Internet with gorgeous flowers!” Since most of us are sticking much closer to home, this week’s theme encourages us to find beauty in our neighborhoods, in our yards, or on our balconies.

The pictures that I’m sharing are from my yard and from walks around my neighborhood.

Lemon tree blossoms

Grevillea

Pineapple Guava

Aloe arborescens

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If you have images of your own, please share them with us by linking to your post on Terri’s blog. As she said, it “will be like we are sending each other wonderful bouquets.”

Sitting on the Deck of Bidet*

This is a reblog of a post from back in 2015. In light of the current toilet paper shortages, I thought I’d rerun it as a public service. You are welcome.

Like many Americans, I was first introduced to bidets when I traveled through Europe. It took me awhile to gain the required coordination and I never felt completely comfortable using one. The challenge was, after using the “regular’ toilet, I had to, with pants still down around my ankles, shuffle over to the bidet to experience the cleansing wash of water focused on my nether-regions.  I remember feeling rather silly but certainly fresher and cleaner. Once back home, I don’t think I gave bidets a second thought. I was 28, what did I know?

None of the bathrooms on my European travels 30 years ago were this nice, but you get the idea. Image from archiproducts.com

Over the years I would see them in higher-end homes, but, even if I was tempted, I certainly didn’t have a bathroom big enough to hold two toilet-sized fixtures. Besides, bidets really seemed like an extravagance that was unnecessary in my life.

Then, several things happened that helped to change my mind:

  • As I’ve gotten older there have been things other than just my skin that have, let’s just say, loosened up.
  • Unlike the bidets I found in Europe, there are now toilet seat-integrated bidets — sort of a “one-stop-shop” on which to plop. What used to require not only a bathroom large enough for two fixtures, but also extensive re-plumbing, now takes up no extra room and can be installed in a few hours by a handy homeowner.
  • A dear friend whose opinion I value greatly speaks of her integrated bidet in terms that can only be described as worshipful adulation.
  • And, well, Costco.

After doing some, um, product testing at my friend’s house and a bit of online research, my husband and I began to think that getting a bidet might not be a bad idea. When we saw the integrated seats for sale at Costco, we figured the time had come to shit or get off the pot buy one. Now, we are converts.

Do you still have a conventional toilet? I shake my head in pity for you.

Is your toilet seat as cold as ice when you first sit down? My naked bum is welcomed by a soothingly warmed seat (especially nice for those middle-of-the-night sojourns).

When you are finished doing the deed, do you reach for dry toilet paper that (let’s be honest here) doesn’t do the job very well? Then, you use more and more tissue (at the risk of clogging up your plumbing) trying to remove all evidence? My tush is treated to a cleansing warm-water spray that leaves me feeling fresh and clean.

Ah-ha, you say, at least I don’t end up with a wet end! Well, actually, neither do I: after my bidet completes the rinse cycle, it finishes up by gently blow-drying my derriere with warmed air.

Oh, did I mention that it has a remote control?

I admit that our bidet has totally ruined me for regular toilet seats. Although not a fan of using public restrooms anyway, I now have an even stronger incentive to keep it together until I get home. If these things were portable, we would take ours with us on our travels. Having to use conventional toilets for an extended period is almost too much for my tush to tolerate.

Sales in America are tiny compared to the rest of the world but these integrated bidet seats are slowly gaining acceptance. There are several manufacturers (Kohler, Toto and Brondell are just three) and a variety of features available in different price ranges. As consumers start to appreciate the advantages of bidets (including better hygiene care for the disabled and elderly), I’m confident that they will become mainstream here too.

In the meantime, to those of you who haven’t promoted your potty yet, what are you waiting for? Relieve yourself of that seat that just sits there and treat your gluteus to maximus luxury. I guarantee that your bum won’t be bummed.

The seat of power in our house.

* Sincere apologies to the ghost of Otis Redding.

GratiTuesday: Blugging

I have been thinking about bringing back regular GratiTuesday posts for a while. Not only do I have much to be grateful for, I firmly believe that maintaining an attitude of gratitude improves mental health. And, frankly, who couldn’t use a bit of a mental health boast right about now?

I entered this special community of bloggers a little over six years ago. At that time, I was mainly focused on coming up with interesting topics, writing clearly and concisely, and trying not to embarrass myself too much with typos and grammar fails. Never did I envision the tremendous riches that I would get back. Through this community, I have learned about life in various parts of the world, discovered fascinatingly different lifestyles, been introduced to talented writers and artists, and – most of all – I’ve met the most kind, welcoming, engaging, and generous group of people.

Now, as we hunker down all over the world and do what we can to flatten the curve, I’ve come to appreciate my blogging community even more. Through what we write on our blogs and in our comments to each other, we show our concern for each other’s safety, we share our worry and challenges, we help each other remain positive, and we connect in ways that makes us feel less alone.

Whether we write about the topic du jour or we help take everyone’s mind off it by writing about anything but, the virtual connection is what’s important. Through our blogs, we are saying: “we’re here,” “we’re OK,” “I hope you are doing well,” “we’ll get through this.”

It’s easy to feel unmoored right now, but the blugs I’ve received from the bloggers I follow have made me feel less adrift. Blogging has always been a great way to connect with others, now blugging has made those connections even stronger.