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.

In this time…

I confess that I haven’t read Gabriel García Márquez’s Nobel Prize winning novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. The synopsis I found online said that it is about love, longing, heartbreak, redemption… and cholera. For some reason, the title of this book popped into my head as my husband and I prepare to spend a lot more time at home together.

The good news is that we like each other’s company. Since we both retired several years ago, we’ve balanced time spent together and time spent on our own or with others. While we enjoy many of the same interests and activities, we also are comfortable doing our own thing: reading, gardening, house projects, hobbies, etc. Having separate home offices and respecting each other’s need for “me time” has gone a long way to create a happy, healthy post-work relationship.

Unfortunately, in this time of the coronavirus, several events that we looked forward to attending have been cancelled. Museums and parks have been closed. Going out to lunch together – something we both enjoy – has become worrisome. Plans to get together with friends are being reconsidered. As the medical community and local governments ramp up their warnings, we find ourselves ramping down our interactions with others.

In this time of the coronavirus, we will need to depend on each other more. Lots of people will need support. Small business owners will struggle. Not everyone has the privilege of staying home from work with no negative financial impact. Many don’t have health insurance. Those who live alone will need someone to check in on them. Neighbors, especially those who are high risk, may need someone to get groceries for them.

In this time of the coronavirus, even as we hear more negative news, it’s important to savor the positive. Outside my office window, a gentle rain is falling. The trees are starting to bud and, just yesterday, I saw a bright yellow oriole – my first sighting of our seasonal visitor – perched on a branch. If I must stay home for a while, I have a stack of books that I look forward to reading and there are a few unfinished projects that I might actually get to.

In this time of the coronavirus, while we limit exposure, we can still affirm our love, welcome spring, plant some vegetables, watch a sunset, go for a walk, read a good book, listen to music, write a letter, call a friend, organize a closet, bake cookies, and enjoy the beauty around us.  We may have to practice social distancing, but we don’t have to distance ourselves from much that nourishes us.

Hoping for the best…

… but preparing for the worst.

I’ve lived in Southern California just about my whole life. Although the threat of earthquakes has always been “out there,” I doubt if many Californians have bothered to put together even a basic earthquake preparedness kit. Even though natural disasters occur in all parts of the world, they are easy to ignore in our day-to-day lives. We don’t deny the reality of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, or giant wildfires, we just would rather not think about them.

Now, with the latest threat to our health and safety – the Coronavirus – all over the news, a lot of people are starting to pay attention. Maybe it does makes sense to collect some important items just in case we find ourselves quarantined in our homes for several weeks. Californians have long been encouraged to make personal preparations for “The Big One,” but this virus has prompted many people to finally act.

There are already reports of shortages of canned food, disinfecting products, toilet paper, and water storage containers as more and more people realize that, in fact, it can happen here. As the news reports more people being infected – and dying – even greater panic buying will ensue. Those who wait until the last minute could face empty shelves, back orders and, sadly, price gouging.

Looking for hand wipes? Sorry, many stores are already out.

Recently, on the front page of our local newspaper, among articles about election results and the latest CONVID-19 reports, was another earthquake warning. A large fault, which is located very close to where we live, could produce a quake of 6.9 or greater. An earthquake that large could not only damage or destroy thousands of structures, but also cut gas and water service and cause widespread road and bridge failures.

We are not worriers by nature, and we don’t consume media that peddle wall-to-wall, end-of-days, scary “news,” but we also think that taking some precautions is warranted. We have taken seriously the admonitions to wash our hands frequently, avoid touching our faces, and dodge crowds and anyone who shows signs of a cold. Fortunately, since we are retired, we don’t have to worry about ill co-workers. We think our chances of avoiding the virus are pretty good. That being said, we’ve purchased a few things “just in case” and I feel that we are better prepared than we were.

Sometimes it takes something actual – as opposed to just possible – to prompt action. After many years of “meaning to” put together a disaster preparedness kit, we finally have.

Taking a Few Leaps

Meeting someone new often takes a leap of faith; Will they like me? Will I like them? Will we find enough in common, so there aren’t long stretches of uncomfortable silence? Because I am a bit of an introvert, small talk doesn’t come easy to me. I’m much better one-on-one than I am in large groups, but one-on-one means that I have to carry an equal load of the conversation.

Over the six plus years that I’ve been blogging, I have met eight fellow bloggers in real life. Prior to each initial get together, I wondered how the meeting would go. Every time, I took the leap of faith, and I have been please that I did. What I’ve learned about meeting each of these bloggers is that it feels more like catching up with an old friend than meeting someone new.

When I learned that Tracey Stubbs, whose blog, Artistic Pension, I follow, was going to be visiting my city, I leaped at the chance to get together. After some schedule coordination, we managed to arrange a coffee date earlier this afternoon. Just like my other blogger meet-ups, the conversation was comfortable and easy. She is just as nice in person as she is on her blog.

Photo taken by Tracey’s new husband, Mark.

Tracey and I both have been a bit off our blogs lately. Travel, Tracey’s new marriage and a possible relocation, an illness (mine: bad cold, nothing serious), and life in general has taken precedence. We agreed that our blogs are important to us and we missed posting. Yes, we enjoy writing and sharing our stories but, most of all, we love how our blogs link us with others. Writing makes us happy; the connections bring us joy.

Today, Leap Day, seems like the perfect opportunity for me to jump into writing again. Time to finish the posts that are half-completed and come up with new ideas for others. It’s time to leap back in.

New Year, New Age

The Beatles song, When I’m 64, appeared on the Sgt. Pepper’s album in 1967. Each of the four band members were in their twenties at the time. This year, Paul and Ringo – the two who are still with us – will turn 78 and 80, respectively. They may be losing their hair but, as far as I know, they aren’t filling their days mending fuses and digging weeds, nor are they scrimping and saving so they can rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight.

I was eleven when the album was released, and 64 sounded ancient to me. Now that I’m that age, I’ve discovered that it isn’t so old after all. I’m happy to say that, yes, they still need me and, yes, they still feed me, when I’m 64.

Thank goodness they still feed me: my dear husband makes me this yummy caramelized orange cheesecake every year for my birthday. Isn’t it beautiful?

A few days ago, as I was thinking about my birthday, this poem started to write itself in my head. It’s about how the way we think of ourselves matters, and it is often our choice.

We Get to Choose
I am old
I am young
I see the finish line
I’ve just begun

I’ve seen it all
So much to see
I’ve set my limits
I am free

I’ve lived my life
I haven’t yet
My options are few
Nothing is set

Each is different
Both are true
It’s up to me
Which one I choose