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

 

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.

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

GratiTuesday: Showing Up

As most of you know, the U.S. midterm elections take place next Tuesday, November 6. I have voted in every election since I first became eligible in 1974, and I’m shocked at the number of people who don’t even bother. Of all the excuses given for sitting out an election, only one is valid: … oh, wait, none of them are valid.

Marty, who writes the terrific blog, Snakes in the Grass, recently related his experience taking part in a get-out-the-vote phone bank. Although his post mostly dealt with the humorous side of making calls in an often phone-adverse world, it reminded me that, as important as our vote is, we can all do more to encourage others to vote as well.

In addition to being grateful for all those who make the effort to understand the issues and cast their vote, volunteers who walk precincts, make phone calls, and send text messages to boost voter participation get a special dose of my gratitude.

And, if you can, please encourage a young person to vote. If they don’t think their vote matters, remind them their non-vote hands their power to someone else… and that person may not have their best interests at heart.

We all need to show up and be counted.

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As I wrote in my last post, Realigning My Retirement, my blog will be going into hibernation during the months of November and December. While on my blogging break, I won’t be visiting or commenting on the blogs that I follow and, beginning with this post, comments will be closed on my blog. It will be a challenge to stay away but I look forward to spending time on other areas of my life.

I’m truly grateful for all the kind words my post generated. I’m not surprised that many others said they are feeling a bit overwhelmed and are considering taking a break too. Blogging is a passion, but it is also time-consuming.

Enjoy the holiday season with your friends and families. I look forward to connecting back again in the new year.

GratiTuesday: Couple Friends

Enjoying the friendship of other couples is a delightful part of our marriage. I have female friends that I do gal things with and my husband has male friends he does guy things with. Although we like each other’s friends, sometimes when we’ve introduced a friend’s spouse to the mix, things haven’t clicked as well as we’d like. The spouse may be a delightful person on his or her own, but, for whatever reason, the group dynamic just doesn’t work.

When my husband and I discover a couple whose company we enjoy equally, we feel as if we’ve won the lottery. We know that when we get together as a foursome, the conversation will flow, and the time we spend together will be fun and engaging.

This past weekend, two blogging friends and I met up to discuss – what else? – blogging. This was not the first time I have gotten together with Donna from Retirement Reflections and Kathy from Smart Living 365, and I consider them good friends as well as fellow bloggers. I knew that the three of us would have plenty to talk about and I had been looking forward to our gathering for quite a while.

Kathy and her husband live in the community where we met, and Donna and her husband were staying close by in a home exchange. My husband and I drove a few hours from our home to join them for the weekend.

Knowing what wonderful husbands my friends have and knowing that my husband is pretty terrific too, I had no doubt that we’d enjoy each other’s company. What I didn’t anticipate – and was thrilled to discover – is how well all six of us meshed together. Even though blogging brought the three of us women together, I was delighted that our husbands enjoyed commonalities and mutual interests too.

Kathy and Thom, Donna and Richard, me and Paul enjoying a warm desert evening… oh, and wine.

I came away from our weekend together with much to be grateful for. I am grateful that Donna, Kathy and I were able to meet and talk about a subject that means a lot to us (more about that later). I am grateful for the generous hospitality that my husband and I were shown. Most of all, I am grateful that the six of us – husbands and wives – were able to break bread together, share our stories, and enjoy the bond of friendship.

GratiTuesday: Flu Vaccinations

The last time I had the flu was over 15 years ago. I experienced a combination of feeling like I was going to die… and thinking that dying might be a better alternative to how horrible I felt. After going through that pain and misery, I swore that I would never miss getting my flu shot again… and I haven’t.

I was shocked to read recently the over 80,000 Americans died of flu last winter… and that was a “normal” – although severe – flu season. A vast majority of those deaths – over 90 percent – were people over 65.

According to a 2015 NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll, 62 percent of people either had been or intended to be vaccinated for the flu that year. Those who didn’t plan to be immunized cited a variety of reasons, including:

• 48 percent believed that a flu shot was unnecessary for them
• 16 percent were concerned about side effects or risks
• 14 percent worried that the vaccine could infect them with the flu
• 8 percent believed that the vaccination was ineffective

Each February, vaccine manufacturers make their best guess about what strains of flu will be most prevalent the following winter. Because of this, the vaccines that are shipped out in September aren’t perfect. They have ranged from a high of 60 percent effective (in 2010-11) to a low of 19 percent (2014-15). But even imperfect vaccines are better than none at all. The strains identified back in February may not be 100 percent accurate but getting vaccinated could still lessen the impact of the influenza that infects you or a loved one.

Last year, flu-related complications sent about 200,000 people to the hospital. I’m not sure how many of these people had been vaccinated but my guess is the percentage is low. Studies have shown that flu vaccinations reduce children’s risk of pediatric intensive care unit admission by 74 percent, and adults of all ages by 71 percent.

It didn’t hurt a bit!

If you or your loved one is among the almost 40 percent of those who are reluctant to get vaccinated, I hope you will reconsider. Even if the flu has never made you particularly ill, it is possible to pass it on to someone who could experience much more severe symptoms. I’ve had those symptoms. I would be most grateful never to have them again.