Color My World… Vivid

Vivid Plumeria

Like so many changes we experience as we age, this one occurred slowly, over time. I’ve worn corrective lenses for distance vision since I was in my twenties but was able to read even the tiniest fonts close-up, without glasses. Several years ago, I became aware that my corrected distance vision was becoming less clear. Driving at night, I saw starbursts from the lights of oncoming traffic and, even during the day, road signs were harder to read. I also started to have problems reading print. Type that had always been crisp and clear was now blurry. I tried cheaters but they just magnified the blurs.

A visit to my eye doctor confirmed my suspicions: like so many people of a certain age, I was developing cataracts. He said that there wasn’t much he could do by adjusting my prescription, but the cataracts weren’t quite bad enough to warrant surgery… yet. 

Surgery isn’t normally something I look forward to—I’ve had a few and none have been voluntary or enjoyable—but I was anxious for my vision to get bad enough to have my cataracts removed. I knew several people who had the surgery, and they told me it was no big deal. Painless. Almost instant improvement.

Finally, earlier this year, my sight was deemed sufficiently deficient. In late October, I had surgery on my right eye and, two weeks later, my left. Just like I was told, the surgery was quick and easy, and the results were immediate. My foggy vision was gone.

Here’s what they didn’t tell me: as my eyesight had gradually gotten more and more blurry, cataracts also impacted my perception of colors. Over the years, so slowly I didn’t even notice it, my world had taken on a yellowish hue.

After my initial surgery, the colors I saw through my corrected eye were much brighter and more vivid than what I saw through my other eye. The blues were bluer, the greens, greener. The white walls of our living room no longer looked like they needed re-painting. When I looked at the view from our back deck, it sparkled, just like it used to. Suddenly, I was seeing things as they are, not as they appeared through a dingy lens.

During the two weeks in between surgeries, I kept shutting one eye, then the other, marveling at the difference in color perception. I felt a bit like Dorothy opening the door in her sepia world and entering a technicolor Oz (okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but…wow!). 

Prior to my second surgery, I thought it would be interesting to document the before and after as best as I could so I wouldn’t forget what my washed-out vision looked like:

Vancouver, Canada, before and after cataract surgery.

Thanks to the miracle of cataract surgery, my world is vivid again.

Check out other examples of Vivid at Terri’s weekly Sunday Stills challenge.

Copyright © 2022 RetirementallyChallenged.com – All rights reserved.

The Long and Winding Path Towards the Right to Vote

This post was inspired by a recent article by historian, author, and Boston College professor, Heather Cox Richardson. My blog title reflects Terri Webster’s Sunday Stills theme this week, Paths and Trails.   

The path towards the right to vote in the United States has not been a straight one, nor without dangerous twists and turns along the way. But, like with so many of this country’s struggles, there were many brave advocates who risked their reputations, their freedom, and even their lives to secure the ability to have a say in how the government was run.

The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States—including former enslaved people—and guaranteed all citizens the right to vote. Except, “all citizens” didn’t include women, in fact the amendment was the first time the Constitution included the word “male.”

Again, in 1870, when the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, there was still no mention of women’s suffrage. The Amendment which states: “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” didn’t include a woman’s right to vote.

After years of advocating for their rights unsuccessfully, women suffragists attempted to vote in the 1872 presidential election, arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment recognized their citizenship. In fact, Susan B. Anthony was able to cast her vote but, three weeks later, she was arrested for voter fraud.

Not as well known as Anthony, but just as important to women’s suffrage, was Virginia Minor of St. Louis, Missouri. When she tried to register to vote in 1872, a registrar by the name of Reese Happersett refused because of her gender. As a woman, Minor was not able to sue, so her husband sued in the case (Minor v. Happersett) that eventually went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Court’s decision, handed down in 1875, acknowledged that women were citizens, but that fact didn’t mean they had the right to vote. According to the Supreme Court, state governments could discriminate against their citizens so long as that discrimination was not on the grounds of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

That ruling helped to usher in a multitude of voter eligibility limitations that skirted the Fourteenth Amendment, by imposing requirements like education, proof of tax payments, etc. As long as it could be demonstrated that the requirements weren’t based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude, they were allowed.  

It wasn’t until 1920—just over 100 years ago—that the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, giving women the constitutional right to vote. Sadly, it was another forty years before voting requirements such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and other rules designed to keep Black people from voting were found unconstitutional. The Supreme Court finally decided that voting was a fundamental right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Even today, barriers put in our path can make it harder to vote.

The fight for suffrage did not follow a path that was easy or smooth and this right should never be taken lightly. I sometimes wonder if I would have been as brave as those who struggled so many years ago. Would I risk going to jail to have my voice heard? I hope so but I don’t know. What I do know is that I will always value this fundamental right and never miss the opportunity to cast my ballot.

I hope you will to.   

Copyright © 2022 RetirementallyChallenged.com – All rights reserved.

Constructive Musings

The theme for Terri’s Sunday Stills challenge this week is “Under Construction. It seems as good an excuse as any to dip my toes back into blogging after taking much of the summer off. Part of my absence was construction-related, but lazy summer days and lack of inspiration are mostly to blame. Although I have continued to enjoy reading other blogs, I couldn’t manage more than three posts of my own since mid-May.

Deck Construction

We actually did have a rather large construction project this summer, which took a lot of my time (full disclosure: it took much more of my husband’s time). Our 20-year-old deck was starting to show its age, so we decided—just when costs ramped up, and supply chains broke down—it was time to repair and re-surface it. The good news is that we found a nice young couple who wanted the old material, so we avoided sending it to the landfill. The bad news (besides cost and availability) is that the project was more work than expected (more full disclosure: it’s still not 100% done).

During and (almost) After deck construction

We are happy with the way it turned out, though, and hope it will last at least another 20 years (seeing as we’d be in our 80s then, I imagine that we will decide to ignore any flaws and grow old with it). In the meantime, we are enjoying our new deck and slowly forgetting the effort it took to build it.

Blog Construction

Even though I haven’t been writing many posts lately, I have made a few minor adjustments to my blog.

One that I should have done a while ago: after reading a head’s up on Hugh’s News and Views, I added some copyright verbiage at the end of my posts and made it a recurring block. I also plan to routinely watermark certain photos. I doubt if this will stop anyone determined to steal my words or images, but I hope it will stop some. I am not happy when I find what I’ve shared on my blog appearing elsewhere.

It was great to see Terri in June

Another change was suggested by Terri when we had a blogger meet-up a few months ago. I believe that I “may” have been whining about all the spam comments my blog was getting. WordPress does a good job filtering them out, but I still look at each one before deleting to assure that a diamond hasn’t gotten swept up with the dregs. Her suggestion of turning off comments after a post is over 120 days old has helped immensely (thank you, Terri).

Travel Plan Construction

My husband and I are planning a road trip later this year and we are looking forward to getting away for more than a few days. Although our itinerary won’t take us anywhere we haven’t been before, what will be different is that we are driving our electric car. We’ve driven the EV on some mini-trips that have required one mid-point stop for re-charging, but this will be the first trip where charging will be part of the planning process.

We love our electric car, and it is perfect for our day-to-day driving needs, but its 260-mile range won’t get us to our destination on a single charge. Driving an EV on an extended trip will take a bit of planning but there are a lot of online tools and fast charging stations available, so we see it as adding to our adventure. Since there is an increase interest in electric cars—including, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation—I plan to share our experience after we return.  

Thanks for the inspiration, Terri, it’s good to be posting again.  

Copyright © 2022 RetirementallyChallenged.com – All rights reserved.

Sunday Stills: Looking Back at 2021

One of my favorite times to scroll through the photos on my phone is at the end of each year. I find that it’s a great way to remind myself of things that I’ve done, the fun I’ve had, and what I’ve accomplished (and, if taking a lot of pictures is an accomplishment, I’m a rockstar) over the past year.

For this week’s Sunday Stills theme, Rear-View Mirror, I chose one picture from each month in 2021 to remember what brought me joy – and there was a lot – during this very strange year.

January

Our first vaccinations! It felt monumental… like we were really, really going to beat this thing.  

February

Despite some activities being curtailed, we still enjoyed getting out to explore our beautiful city.

March

Less actual grocery shopping and more experimentation with kit meals shipped to our home.

April

Good times and interesting conversations when friends Kathy (SMART Living 365) and her husband Thom came for a visit.

May

Our blueberries begin to ripen.

June

More good times and interesting conversations when we visited Kathy and Thom at their mountain get-a-way.

July

Sunflowers and bees with pollen booties… is there anything better?

August

We crossed the Canadian border the first day it opened. A month of blogger buddy meet-ups, hiking, and experiencing the beauty of Vancouver Island commenced.  

September

After our stay on the Island, we ferried over to the city of Vancouver for more exploration and fun.

October

Our local Dia de los Muertos celebration. Maybe not as elaborate as in Oaxaca, but very colorful and no plane trip required.

November

Fall sunsets are glorious.

December

A trip to the Zoo to see my favorite birds.

Metallic Bonbons

‘Tis the season for festive blog link ups. Two of my favorites are Terri’s Sunday Stills photography color challenge, Metallic, and Festive Bonbons holiday question challenge hosted by Donna, Deb, Sue, and Jo. I am going to do my best to combine them both into a single post.

  • Christmas Tree? We haven’t had a Christmas tree for years, mostly because there isn’t a good place in our house to put one. At first, I missed the tradition, but now I’m relieved not to have the mess and bother. Even without a tree, we decorate to make the house look Christmassy. I don’t particularly like the traditional red and green combo, favoring instead blues and silvers.
I love how the late afternoon sun adds a golden glow to the silver ornaments and copper deer.
Bronze deer with a metallic bow.
  • Christmas Carols?  My all-time favorite is O Holy Night. Even though I’m not religious, it never fails to bring tears to my eyes when the singer hits those lovely high notes.
  • Christmas Books?  I love A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch StoIe Christmas, although I admit not having read either of them for many years. 
  • Christmas MoviesLove Actually, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Bad Santa come to mind but I’m sure there are more.
  • Fruit Cake?  A friend and I passed one – yes, the same one – back and forth as a gag gift for many years. Do people actually eat them?
  • Chocolate, Nuts or Fruit?  Yes.
  • Christmas Traditions?  So many throughout the years (do they count as traditions if they change?). Boat Parade of Lights, my father’s springerle cookies, Grandpa’s Eggnog (not my grandpa, but a much-loved holiday contribution from a friend), nighttime strolls to enjoy the lights and decorations, to name just a few.
A family of silver deer decorate this front yard.
  • What’s on your Table?  Tamales on Christmas morning. Most likely a roast of some sort, potatoes, and roasted veggies for dinner. Our tree is bursting with oranges, so maybe a citrus dessert or cocktail… or both?
Golden (that’s metallic, right?) oranges ready to be picked.
  • Christmas Memories?  I have so many great memories, many from when I was young. My parents always made a big deal about Christmas for my two brothers and me.   
Lots of silver tinsel carefully placed in individual strands by my mother.
Visiting Santa and his reindeer with my brothers.
  • All I want for Christmas Is?  For everyone – across the globe – to get vaccinated. Let’s get this done!   

Welcoming the Spirits Home

At this time in 2019, my husband and I traveled to Oaxaca City, Mexico to experience the celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

We’ve never been very good at taking selfies.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday where the souls of deceased relatives join their families for a brief reunion. From October 31 through November 2, the border between the spirit world and the living world opens, allowing the spirits to cross over. The holiday is filled with beautiful symbols, traditions, and imagery. It is a joyful time: the spirits are treated as honored guests as they feast, drink, dance, and play music with their families. Many believe that if you remember them, they never cease to exist.

One of the most recognizable symbols are the alters or “ofrendas” (offerings) that can be found in public places and private homes. Although each colorful alter is unique, they all are decorated with specific components that honor loved ones and provide what they need on the journey to rejoin their families.

Every ofrenda includes the four elements: water, air, earth, and fire. Water is provided so the spirits can quench their thirst after their journey. Air is represented by colorful paper banners.  Earth is represented by food, especially bread. The light from candles helps the spirits find their way. In addition, alters are decorated with pictures of the departed, their favorite foods and drinks, sugar skulls, and marigolds (whose scent and bright orange color help attract souls to the alter).

All of these pictures were taken of ofrendas in public places. The alters created in private homes tend to be much less elaborate, but equally beautiful.

I’m sharing these images from our trip as part of Terri’s Sunday Stills photo challenge, whose theme this week is Indoor/Outdoor Decorations.

Sunday Stills: The Pink Side of Muertos  

Two years ago this month, my husband and I were in Oaxaca, Mexico. It was our second visit to this vibrant and colorful city, but this time we were there to experience the celebration of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Although the official holiday spans just three days (October 31 – November 2), Oaxaca starts to prepare for the big event early. By arriving in mid-October and staying until the end of November we had plenty of time to not only enjoy the celebration but to experience Oaxaca before and after the crowds descended.

Templo de Santo Domingo under a sky blue pink sunset.

Images of skeletons could be found all over the city, many of them adorned in pink.

Some were whimsically pink.

Some were a worrisome pink.

Some were cute-as-a-button pink.

Speaking of pink, the City Centro Hotel located in the barrio of Jalatlaco, is all about pink. Because we weren’t paying guests, I was only able to access the ground floor, but I had so much fun poking around and taking pictures. The next time we visit Oaxaca, I would be tickled pink to book a room for at least a night so we can explore more of the hotel, including its colorful rooftop pool.   

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge is The Pink Side of Life. Click here to enjoy Terri’s photos and see how others responded to the theme.

Sunday Stills: Summer Bugs

We’re lucky to live in an area that doesn’t have too many bugs… at least the type of bugs that bug us.

We have insects:

… and we have arachnids:

But buggy bugs? Not so much.

I was at a loss when I saw that this week’s Sunday Still photo prompt was Summer Bugs, until I thought of my first car: a 1972, chartreuse, Volkswagen Super Beetle. I loved that car, not only because it was as cute as a bug, but because of the sense of freedom it gave me.

Cool car, unfortunate perm

Although that car is long gone, I still love VW Bugs, as my photo archives will attest. Here are just a few pictures of VDubs that I have taken over the years while traveling.  

Bugs found along Route 66

The Bug Farm in Conway, Texas has a permanent crop of five Volkswagen beetles planted nose-down in the ground. It is a parody of the more famous Cadillac Ranch in nearby Amarillo.

In Holbrook, Arizona, just down the street from the Wigwam Motel (yes, each “room” is shaped like a teepee, and, yes, we stayed there), is Kester’s Bug Shop. where they have bugs of unique shapes and sizes.

Bugs of Mexico

Vintage VW Bugs are everywhere on the streets of Mexico… some are in better shape than others.

Hometown Bugs

These bugs were discovered in our neighborhood.

A shy bug hiding behind a plumeria bush
A neighbor is restoring a 1971 Super Beetle

This week’s theme for Terri Webster Schrandt’s Sunday Stills photo prompt is Summer Bugs. See Terri’s photographs on her blog, Second Wind Leisure. If you have some favorite bug images, please join in!

Sunday Stills: A Change of Altitude

It’s almost as if Terri (Second Wind Leisure) knew that my husband and I would be spending a few days up in the mountains when she came up with The Great Outdoors as this week’s Sunday Stills photo topic. Although I often have to search my files for images when I join in on one of her photo challenges, this time all I did was walk out the door of our little cabin and there it was… the great outdoors!

We were delighted when our friends, Kathy (Smart Living 365) and Thom, invited us to join them for a few days at their mountain retreat in nearby Idyllwild. The cabin they have rented for a number of years has a mini-cabin situated just a few steps away. It’s perfect for the hosts and the guests – lots of opportunities to connect, but enough separation so that everyone can have some privacy and alone time.

We hiked:

We hugged trees (and each other):

Kathy and Thom showing a tree some love.

We moved boulders:

Full disclosure: it didn’t budge (thank goodness!).

We watched the sunset… :

A fire a couple of years ago left these trees bare, but still beautiful.

… just before the full strawberry moon rose:

We enjoyed great conversations:

There may have been some adult beverages involved.

And, we marveled at nature’s artistry:

I loved how the bark’s texture changed closer to the soil.

The red bark of the Manzanita starts to peel, reveling the new growth below.
I think I saw a mountain gorilla on the trail… or not.

The few days that we were able to enjoy the clear mountain air and expansive vistas were just what we needed. There is nothing quite like spending time in the great outdoors to reduce stress, encourage reflection, and help us appreciate the gifts of Mother Nature.

Sunday Stills: Black and White… and Shades of Gray

Although I almost never photograph anything in black and white, sometimes I find that certain images become more interesting when they are stripped of their color. Patterns, shapes, and textures become more pronounced, and the mood of the photograph can change once the color isn’t competing for the attention of the viewer.

Succulents and other plants that have interesting structure and contrasting lights and darks work well in black and white.

Black and white can emphasize the bold, straight lines of architecture.

You can change the mood of a photograph by removing – or fading back – the color.

Strong shapes and textures translate well into black and white. Pronounced shadows can add even more interesting patterns to your image.

And, not all black and white photographs are really black and white. Although these are color images, the blacks and whites are what first caught my eye.    

I think most of us love photographs that are rich in color. Every once in a while, though, try adding shades of gray to some of your images and see if you like the results.

Do you have black and white images? Join the fun on Terri’s Sunday Stills photo prompt and see what others have shared.