He’s Talking and Can’t Shut-up!

Just to set the record straight, I am not referring to people that love to have conversations.  I adore an intellectually or fun conversation. I am talking about people that really seem to lack the ability or perhaps self-control to stop themselves from talking.  I have known at least four of these folks very well and three are relatives. The key difference with the non-related gabbster is that, unlike family, I eventually chose to break ties with her.  I have also had a few dates with men that make others suffer from their talking affliction.

 I will start with a chatty guy whom I had the misfortune of spending an evening.  The scene played out something along these lines. I have never been out with a man named Zeke, so I will call this fictional, representative example dude,  Zeke. Zeke represents my loquacious dates from Hell.

 Zeke and I agree to meet for dinner since going to a movie or other type of show would not allow for conversation and a chance to get to know one another better.  The date starts normal enough with us greeting each other and he offers one of the standard compliments that men like to give to women. “You look great, or pretty or hot or some other meaningless adjective, but he is being polite and I appreciate that.  As the host walks us to our table Zeke engages him or her in a brief friendly chat asking them something along the lines of if they were having a good day or if they have worked long at this location. Thoughts  pop into my head that he is a friendly person that likes to be considerate to folks that work in the service industry. Zeke earns a brownie point. Initially, I don’t notice too much about how he doesn’t really wait for the host’s response but proceeds to tell them some kind of short tale about himself that lasts until after we are seated and doesn’t stop until the host finally spews out the name of our server and how they will be with us in just a moment as they make a quick escape.  I write the Chatty-Cathy verbalization off to first date nervousness and even appreciate the time to calm my own first date jitters.

 Zeke turns his attention to me and asks a question about something like my line of work, hobbies, interests, kids….typical get to know you inquiries that also imply genuine interest.  Zeke has just earned his final brownie point. My first cue should have been that I didn’t get to finish my first sentence because Zeke’s eye’s lit up as if new synapses in his brain have just found the cure for cancer.

  Before retiring I made my living as a professional counselor so I became quite adept in the art of active listening.  I didn’t even have to remind myself to focus and make mental notes about the things he enjoys, his accomplishments, his kids, his ex, his car, his job, his hobbies and all of his other stuff.  I briefly had thoughts of things that I could add to the conversation but would soon push those thoughts aside and return my focus to Zeke’s babble. Again, I blame part of this on my profession and training to focus on the other person.  Just because this was a date rather than a therapy session switching gears doesn’t come naturally. I think it is a lot like the way judges and cops don’t like to sit with their backs to the door and chefs can’t help but identify the seasoning and herbs swirled into dishes prepared by others.  Sometimes even random people at places like ball parks tell me all kinds of things that I didn’t need or want to know. My ex-husband used say I had a little neon sign over my head that I couldn’t see but the unstable of the world could clearly read as saying, “Free therapy.”

Most of us know the torture of feeling we are being held captive by an incessant talker

 By the time the check arrives Zeke wants to make plans for a second date while all I want to do is resist the overwhelming urge to poke myself repeatedly in the temple with a fork and escape to my own, very quiet home.  The best thing about Zeke is that, unlike family, I can avoid him. I have met more Zeke’s than I care to recall.

Back to relatives.   I don’t remember my sister being overly loquacious as a child.  But when she popped back into the family after disappearing for years (we later learned she was vacationing at “Club Fed”) she had developed a quite impressive talent for talking without the need of pause to inhale, chew, swallow or even drink.  Thank the Lord she lived 60 miles away and my parents knew to not share my address. Seriously, it was that bad.

 At first I would answer all her phone calls.  I still had landline back then and limited cell phone minutes so the call typically ended when my cordless handset was totally drained of battery and I felt equally lifeless.  All I had to say was hello and every twenty minutes or so bleat out an uh-huh or a hmm. I suppose she liked having me listen and the calls became more frequent.

Due to the inate human desire to survive I learned a few tactics to shorten the calls,  My favorite was to open my own front door and ring the doorbell. I could then blurt out, “There is someone at the door, I’ll talk to you later”.  She wouldn’t stop talking to say goodbye but it helped ease my guilt when I would click the off button and return the handset to it’s cradle.

 That,  along with a few other tricks, helped until she caught on and started returning the call just moments later.  Once in desperation I answered telling her that my husband and I were trying to have sex for the first time in a very long time and asked that she not call back for several hours.  She didn’t miss a beat and informed me that in twenty minutes not only would we be finished but I would be showered and making dinner while he either napped or sat like a toad in front of a football game.  I sadly realized that if we had actually been about to do the deed her time frame would have been spot on. That was when I quit answering her calls and praised the Lord for whoever invented caller I.D.

 About 2 months later I felt guilty for not talking to her.  I reasoned that she was lonely and I needed to be more compassionate and I answered the phone.  Had she asked why I had not been taking her calls I was prepared to sarcastically remind her that my husband and I were having sex.  She didn’t ask and immediately started to pour her verbal vomit into the airwaves. In desperation I put the phone down on the coffee table and went on with my house cleaning.  

 I truly felt bad when thirty minutes later I walked back into the living room and remembered the phone.  I picked it up to click it off and heard a voice. It wasn’t the Lord admonishing me for my rudeness it was my sister’s voice coming through the phone.  She had not even noticed that I wasn’t listening!

 I experienced an epiphany moment!  I said a quick mmm and put the phone back on the coffee table.  I got dressed to go to the gym, put the dishes in the dishwasher and after wiping down the countertops I again picked up the phone.  She was still going strong. I interrupted her announcing, “I need to go to the gym”. When she continued on as if I had said nothing I simply put the phone back on the table, picked up my gym bag and my car keys and went on with my life.  At some point while struggling on the stair climber I wondered how long she would talk before she would realize the battery on my phone had failed, or maybe she wouldn’t notice and would continue to relish the confabulation.

 I wonder if this could be hereditary.  An aunt from my father’s side of the family has tried to reconnect.  She sent a Facebook message letting me know she wanted me to tell her about how my niece had found her biological father.  This was more recent and I made the call from my cell phone while also walking my dog.

 She let me say two, possibly three sentences and then she opened the flood gates that must  have been holding back years, perhaps decades of words. After thirty minutes of not getting to say a word I tried to steer the conversation back to the story she had said she wanted to hear.  She didn’t even acknowledge the interuption and continued. I must say her lung capacity is amazing for an over 70 woman that smoked Camels for most of her life.

 I relaxed my bicep and let the hand clutching the phone glide down past my hip where it picked up the natural sway of walking.  I could still make out the words she was saying and a couple of times I even raised the phone back up to my ear because I thought she was going to let me speak but that didn’t happen.  Eighty-four minutes later when my pooch and I had made it back to our home I brought the phone up to my face and told her that I had go and clicked it off.

Before I retired I would occasionally find myself trapped in my office by a nonstop talker. Fortunately for me, the receptionist was amazing and usually saved me. She would call into my office or tap lightly on the door to tell me I had a call I needed to take or that my next appointment had arrived. Of course there wasn’t a call or person waiting she was just rescuing me.

 I decided this must be a type of mental illness but according to the DSM V it is just a symptom most likely frequently associated with anxiety or ADD.  I have a theory that it can be a symptom or indicator of narcissistic personality disorder.

How would you or do you handle family or others that just won’t stop talking?  Maybe the talker should start a blog. Hmmm, uh-huh, ok.

I will hush now before you label me as I have labeled others! Have a blessed day that includes some peaceful silence.

Thanks to Jason Rosewell, Corey Hearne, Cristen Hume, Kristina flour and Wynand Van Poo from Unsplash.com for allowing the use of their photographs.

Pack Hacks for Your Vacation

Have you ever known anyone that packs three large bags for a two night trip?  I admit I used to be that person. I would pack outfits and back up outfits for every day, shoes out the wazoo, hairdryer (cause I like mine better than the ones at the hotel) and an insane amount of toiletries. I didn’t stop packing until it took at least two people, sometimes three to close the suitcase. Crazy!

Unless this guy has the luggage for the entire family of 4 or more it is safe to say he has drastically over-packed

Being a little bit like a squirrel preparing for winter,  I usually have enough food tucked into one of those bags to survive a week in the unlikely event that every restaurant and pizza delivery in such cities as Denver or Chicago suddenly offer nothing to eat.  Good heavens, travel is supposed to be a chance to explore new things, places and FOOD.

For those of you that remember back when the airlines allowed two carry on items I would have the largest bag possible that was still within the guidelines, my large purse and my full size pillow.  I know that is three items but I got away with it for years and if a fuss was made I reasoned I could shove my purse into the pillowcase and deem it one item.

I am proud to say that I have completed a full 360 degree turn around when it comes to packing and as a result I enjoy traveling more than I did when I was weighed down with all my stuff.  Several years ago I flew to Chicago for a half marathon and mini vacation of 4 days and 3 nights. My traveling companions and I decided we would not rent a car and would use the L (Chicago’s train/subway) and our feet to get from the airport to our downtown hotel.  I knew whatever I took I would carry or roll for a good distance. Fellow runners will understand that this trip required me to pack bulky items like running shoes, a hydration belt and gels. I used a carry-on considerably smaller than what is allowed and I managed to take not only everything I needed for race day but everything else I needed to be comfy cozy including my lightweight house slippers (I get germophobic about hotel carpet among other things).

Imagine this bag in bright yellow and you will have a good idea of the size of the lemon I lugged all over Europe.

That trip made me realize that some extra time spent carefully packing the proper items for the trip’s activities added the the enjoyment during my hard earned vacation.  I wish I had learned this lesson before my trip through Europe when I packed a ginormous (bright Yellow) suitcase. I didn’t think past getting it from the car to the airport check-in and ended up lugging the heavy, over-sized “lemon” up and down escalators, on and off the Metro and the bullet train I even had to tote the monster on and off a Ferry.  When I got home I gave the lemon away so that I would never make that mistake again.

Here are some hacks to help you pack light, yet have what you need:

There are various brands space saving bags. I like the ones that you roll to remove the air. They are easy and can be reused multiple times.

If you are not using the bags that compress and push or suck out all the air then you must stop reading right this minute and go buy some.  Yes, go now! They are that good and if you fold everything carefully your clothes will have far fewer wrinkles than if you just fold or roll the items and didn’t use the bags. 

First print out your itinerary.  Place it one your bed then pick out a full outfit for each day.  You should only have one outfit per day except rare exceptions when the days activities demand certain attire such as a formal dinner or an athletic activity.  For example; Once while in Puerto Vallarata I spent an amazing day zip-lining, hiking and even repelling down a waterfall. That day half way qualified for two outfits. What I mean by half-way is that by the time the adventure ended and I showered and went to dinner I only had outfit number two on for a few hours and in air-conditioning. I wore outfit number two again for the trip back home a few days later.

Group clothes by outfit and take extra care in folding before placing them into space saving bags. Comfy shoes that coordinate with all the outfits are another space saving perk.

Don’t group your clothes into stacks of shirts, shorts, socks etc, group them by what will be worn together. See the example in the picture. Here is three day’s worth of outfits including my fav denim jacket. Note that the outfit on the right is a Tunic/dress that will work with or without the leggings (leggings are a great versatile piece that can multiply your choice of outfit while taking up very little space in your bag) depending on the weather and if needed that denim jacket can be layered on too.

For my fellow runners and other folks that can’t fathom a vacation that doesn’t allow time for their favorite sport or exercise, consider taking running/athletic clothes that have seen better days. You know the ones I am talking about.  The shorts that never ride up or cause chaffing that you have loved for a long time, but are, if your honest, worn out. Take them on a final vacation run and then throw the nasty stinky things into the trash. Viola! You have just made a little extra room in your bag and the sweaty mess won’t stink up your bag for the remainder of your trip.  This also works with socks, undies or whatever you decide.

Next, pick out your shoes.  Shoes take up a lot of space in you bag so be very discerning.  Perhaps your peach colored sandals look great with one of your outfits but your brown sandals match every outfit. Put the peach ones away to wear when you get home.  The brown sandals go into your bag. The same concept applies to jackets and sweaters, for me the denim jacket is a go to piece.

Athletic shoes take a lot of space and are heavy.  Consider wearing them on your travel day instead of packing them.  If you must pack them utilize the space inside the shoe for things like electronic chargers, socks or items that need extra protection to avoid being damaged.  I have had baggage bruttaly abused by various airlines but have never had anything damaged that was packed inside my shoes.

I like to save up trial size toiletries for travel, but you can also buy these just before the trip if you aren’t pinching pennies.

You can save space and reduce the weight of your bags by limiting your toiletries.  You don’t have to take every lipstick and eyeshadow you own. Pick a color of each that goes with everything and leave the rest behind.  I like my hairdryer better than the ones the hotels provide but I can make do with their dryer for a week or so ond not lug mine around. Besides, if you are going out of the country there is a good chance yours won’t work there anyway.  

I save the little tubes of toothpaste, floss and the toothbrush the dentist gives to me when I have my cleanings for travel.  They are the right size for a trip up to ten days and if there is a smidgen left when it is time to go home I can throw out what is left with only a little guilt about being wasteful.

Leave fragrances at home.  Besides that you don’t want to risk having a bottle of cologne break or explode inside your bag the people seated around you may have allergies and will be glad they don’t have to breathe in the perfume you love.

Make sure you have the necessary documents, passport, government issued ID, plane tickets…then go through your wallet and remove unnecessary cards.  Two credit cards at most. If your wallet is lost or stolen it is much easier to cancel and replace two cards than it is 15.

I recommend a small to medium cross body bag while traveling.  It frees up your hands to deal with luggage and is less tempting to pick pockets and purse snatchers.

A flipbelt holds more than an old fashioned fanny pack and is 100x cooler and much more secure.

Sometimes I opt for a tour package rather than staying in the same place for the entire vacation.  This fall I will finally see the colors of New England. It will be my first journey to this part of the country and I want to take in as much as I can in the eight days. By booking a guided tour I only have to fly to Boston International and then someone else will drive the luxury bus, ferry and train while I relax. This also means that what ever luggage I take will move with me every day as I travel Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. There will be no lemon this trip! I will take a slightly larger than carry on size bag to check and my carry-on will be a back pack.  They are super handy for this kind of travel because I can have my journal, snacks (limited quantity), water bottle (empty of liquid for the plane but flavor packs such as Crystal Light tucked inside) and other comfort items, including a compressed travel pillow while leaving room for whatever I decide to buy along the way. The backpack can go along with me when I explore the towns and sites and I will still have both hands free. A small combination lock (TSA approved) helps deter pick-pockets but my credit cards, ID and cash will either be in a cross body bag or my flip belt.

Not familiar with a flip belt? Runners use them to hold things like keys, lip balm, ID and more.  You can purchase one from a specialty store or online from any number of places. They can be worn over or under your clothes (for those that are trying to not look like a tourist).

Finally, check out the pictures above which show three plus days worth of clothes, carefully folded and sealed up in compressed bags.

Bon Voyage, Happy Trails and Godspeed, until we meet again. Please share your packing hacks or a few lines about your favorite vacation spot.

Thank you to those that graciously provided pictures; Anastasia Ostapovych, Nicole Harrington, Jason Leung and yours truly, Suzanne Pogue.

They’re Back

I was telling Kelly about how an old boyfriend from over twenty years ago had reached out to me. She didn’t seem surprised and between  bites of chicken salad and slurps of Diet Coke she shrugged, “They always come back.”

   Now, another twenty years further down the road I think she may be right. I can’t decide if that is good or just another proverbial splash of gasoline on my stress inferno. The older I get the smaller the world becomes. 

   A few months ago I was in Kroger at time not typical for my shopping. I had just pushed my cart through the  entrance when I heard my ex-husband, the one I call #2, calling out my name from the fruity area of the produce aisle. Most often when #2 and I end up at the the same place at the same time I choose to ignore him. I responded with a wave and moved on with my quest for the perfect avocado. He must have thought my wave was an invitation.  A few moments later as I was bent over searching for green bananas in the boxes stashed under the display, he bumped his cart into my backside. 

He was always, and I assume still is, a very shallow man with an ego that would make Donald Trump envious. He was quick to criticize and control. If I gained a pound he noticed it two days before the scales confirmed it. Back then I had a winter coat that I loved but he hated so while I was out of town on business he gave it to Goodwill. I’m sure this helps clear up any misconception of why I now call him #2.

     As he stood there, surrounded by fruit, I observed the 30 more or less pounds he had put on kind of made me think of a peach that was past it’s prime; plump yet the skin was wrinkled and rather saggy, even the smell was a little sour.

“You’ve gained weight” I commented and intentionally cast a judgmental glance at his mid-section.

“It happens” he grumbled and swirled quickly away as if I had just pulled the flush lever.

     I went on about my shopping and was leaving the produce section to check out the discounted flowers when someone banged their cart into mine. Ex-husband #3 looked up and was about to apologize when he recognized me.  The words, “Excuse me” were also formed on my tongue yet neither of us said anything. I think we were both in shock. For all I know he had just had an encounter with his #2 over in the deli-section. This sort of thing is a small town hazard.  Both of us turned our carts to go around the other and by the grace of God we turned opposite directions and didn’t end up doing that awkward, Perhaps we should just dance , left then right turn thing.

I decided I had experienced enough fading flowers for one day as I tossed some fresh carnations into my cart without so much as a glance at the price. Next I pulled my cell phone out and called my son.

“Hello” came my adult baby’s bored voice.

“Hey Tyler, It’s your Mom. Crazy question, Does your Dad ever come to Kroger to buy groceries?”

“Uh, I don’t think so.”

“Oh good, because if he does I need to make a run for the parking lot and start buying all my food and household supplies from Amazon.” (I think I just figured out why grocery delivery is becoming so popular). 

Tyler doesn’t appreciate my weird sense of humor so I didn’t get the chuckle I had hoped for when I explained that if all 3 ex’s and I were at Kroger at the same time the place would certainly implode.

     Last week I bee bopped into the post office to pick up a passport application.  I looked like warmed over crap and as luck would have it, there stood one of my former flings.  Steve is a very nice looking bad boy with a slightly crooked smile that makes him irresistible. I hoped he wouldn’t notice me because while I don’t want to get involved with him again, I like the idea of him wanting to get back together with me. I was almost out door when he called out my name. We talked for a few minutes and then when I was about to back out of parking space he was at my window and I could either talk again or hit him with my car.  It gets harder to hide in world that keeps shrinking.

     Just last night I got a friend request on Facebook from my high school, on again off again, boyfriend. I have some knowledge about where life has taken Max because his sister and I were friends and she and I have maintained contact through social media and even met for lunch a few years back. Still, I was more than a little surprised by Max’s friend request since I had not talked to or laid eyes on him  in well over 30 years. In my head I heard Kelly’s taunting voice singing, they always come back.  I didn’t accept the friend request immediately and instead looked at his page. His profile picture was of both him and his wife. After debating for a minute or two I clicked accept. I figured if he started trying to reconnect in any way that his wife would not appreciate I could always delete and block him. I decided he must have seen my comment on one of his sisters posts and was just curious about where life had taken me on this loopy, crisscross journey. Thirty years ago Max could melt my heart and make knees weak.  The guy that looked back at me from the screen of my Android was nothing like the senior portrait that sat atop his parents console television and is still burned into my memory. Now he just looks like an almost 60 year old geeky guy on a bike and I suspect the helmet was concealing a bald head.

     All of this prompted me try to recall the ones that had not come back and to my knowledge had not crossed my path.  I say to my knowledge because, as evidenced by Max, most of them could have been in Kroger along with me and my ex’s and I wouldn’t have even given them a second glance.  I spent several minutes searching Facebook for the boy that gave me my first kiss. I think I found him. I had no luck at all in finding Tyrone, my crush from second grade. 

     Finally I searched for Tim, the sweet guy from high school that was either a freshman or sophomore when I was a senior.  Surprisingly, I easily found him and immediately recognized him. Even without his gorgeous, dark, naturally curly hair which was completely gone I knew his smile. If he had been a few years older we would have dated, of that I am sure. I was 17 and he was a 14 so it was out of the question no matter how mature he may have been. That isn’t so bad, he will always have the honor of being my “If Only”.

His profile says he is a “Christian, Husband, Father, Soldier and Nurse Anesthetist in that order”. I smiled knowing that he was and still is a good human being. There is, of course, a small possibility that he is a jerk, but I will happily never know. I won’t message him or send a friend request, I prefer to keep the faded memory free from blemish.  I don’t have to cross his path again. It is enough to believe that life has been kind to him and that he is a good man and that I might also be on his “If Only” list.

Have a great week, I’ll see you at the grocery store!

Photos provided by: Adam Stefanca, Christian Buehner, Matthew T. Rader and Daniel Jenson.

Dum, Dum, Da, Dumb

 Dum Dum Da Dum (imagine traditional wedding march music).  It is June and for reasons I don’t understand, it is wedding season. This gets lots of folks very excited and into a mood of festivity.  It’s particularly true for wedding planners, florists, caterers ($) and I suppose some brides, grooms and their families.

  I reluctantly admit that I do not enjoy weddings, never have, probably never will.  They rate right up there with funerals. I attend both only when it is what needs to happen.

  Hang on, don’t go jumping to conclusions that I am anti-marriage or even anti-love because that isn’t true. When I observe a couple that is clearly in love and you can see it in the way they look at each other and how they respect one another, it warms my heart.  When the couple has been together for many years it’s even more endearing because it is rare and special.

  I am a person that can keep a secret and I am not overly judgmental. I suppose that is why lots of friends confide in me regarding the true state of their union (marriage). In my best estimate, 45% are not even in love, another 45% love their spouse but are seldom happy with him/her.  The remaining 10% includes the people that squelch their urge to share their less joyous marriage details and those that are married to someone that brings more happiness than heart-ache into their life. That is rather depressing, no wonder so many people like to use social media to imply that they have successfully landed in a Utopian life. You know the ones.

   For no other reason than it is that season, here is my wedding story.  If you find yourself wanting to giggle, don’t hold back. Seriously, go ahead and cackle if you like.  Like many stories, it wasn’t funny at that time but looking back now it is more like recalling a wrecked up version of a sappy Julia Roberts movie than to think it is part of my history.  

  The year was 1985.  I was 23 and he was 24 and we were silly enough to believe that we were smarter than some of our friends that had married before they were old enough to have a legal drink or in some cases vote.  We thought we were mature. Ha!

    We were first introduced by a mutual friend that wanted to fix us up (I forgive you Joe). I quickly decided the man was an ignorant redneck and he pegged me as a stuck-up bitch.  I know this because we laughed about our first impressions of each other while on our honeymoon. Ten years later, while we sat on our front porch discussing property settlements and child support we found that we had come full circle and each of us had returned to our first impression of the other.

  Two nights before the big day my soon to be husband was partying with his best buddies and getting so drunk that he didn’t make it to the church the next afternoon to help set things up.  The process included moving some very heavy pieces of furniture. Without help from him or his friends, it was up to my father and me to do. I was furious, but my dad talked me down and convinced me to let it slide.  Why, I will never know since they had not previously met.

Part of being human is sometimes knowing we are screwing up yet we keep going

    The night before the ceremony, in my apartment with my two best friends we watched the movie, Against All Odds.  The movie was only semi-romantic but the song by the same name was the one I had cried to during the past three three years since the break-up with the man that I thought I was supposed to be with. It was my way of trying to finally let him go. He had clearly moved on long time ago as evidenced by his marriage and move to another country. I know, I know, go ahead and shout, How crazy! I should have realized that thinking that much about some other man the night before my wedding was a darn good indicator that it shouldn’t happen.

 The next day I stood at the back of the small church clutching my father’s arm as I watched my niece drop flower petals from a basket as she made her way up the aisle.  She was soon followed by bridesmaids. The vestibule was tiny, my back pressed against the door to allow them enough room to go around and not step on my dress or train.

The world was moving in fast forward and they were all suddenly at the front of the church.  Just Dad and I remained and I was consumed with panic. The pianist lifted her hands to the keyboard and played the chords that told everyone to stand. I wanted to bolt out of the door and run!  I think the only thing that stopped me was the fact that I had no car keys tucked into my blue garter belt and it would be another twelve years before I became a serious runner. Maybe Dad would have helped me escape but I wasn’t sure. Thought about how everyone would react swirled in my head making me queasy. Wasted time, wasted money… People had traveled, another friend and a volunteer pianist had spent time preparing the music. I had given up the lease on my apartment and my belongings were sitting in boxes at the apartment rented in both our names. The two second pause that precedes the brides descent down the aisle is sufficient for a thousand doubts but far too fleeting for proper consideration

  A little voice in my head told me it was too late and my feet started moving me down the aisle.  

We can never know the consequences of the choices we didn’t claim. I can say that I don’t fully regret the marriage, after all, six years later I gave birth to my son and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

There are things much worse than being alone.

Somewhere along my journey I stopped beating myself up for mistakes and wrong choices.  We do the best we can based on our experiences and knowledge. To those that tell me they envy my single independent life they should know that it has it’s down side. I am seldom included in get togethers for couples and often holidays are spent alone. At times the silence is deafening. On the other hand, given the chance to trade places I wouldn’t. Despite past mistakes, even some that were completely foolish, I think that I am exactly where I am supposed to be on this day in this moment and my hope is that you are too.

Thanks for reading and as always please feel free to leave comments on this post and suggestions for future topics.

Thanks to the following for the use of their photographs; Christian Bowen, Dan Meyers, Dylan Nolte and Brook Cagle.

It’s Just a Bad Day

There is an extraordinary children’s book titled, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  If you that have children anywhere from 5 to 35 you are likely familiar with this classic story. Alexander has all kinds of things go wrong such as having to wear his railroad train pajamas. Readers quickly realize that Alexander’s stressors are not so horrible when considered individually, it is in their culmination that they mount up and make him want to move to Australia.

The photo albums of my relatives and my childhood are priceless to me.

  Today was one of those days. I confirmed that a close relative committed a lie of omission regarding the family photo albums. It really bummed me out because I can’t for the life of me figure out any reasoning behind this hurtful act. That was the catalyst.

  I had several errands and appointments to take care of which started with the doctor. He gave me a good report, well kind of, but suggested a five day script and said if it didn’t help that I should see and orthopedic. Yeah, kind of passive aggressive good news.

  As I went to my next stop my mind wandered to several people that I love that are dealing with some really serious stuff. Granted, their stuff is the kind of stuff that I can’t do anything about or help them find solutions, but that is frustrating. I have always been a helper/fixer and it is tough when I know that people I love are struggling and there is nothing I can do beyond listening.

  The next stop was at Lowe’s. In November I had purchased a battery powered blower and weed clipper. They were used only a few times since winter was coming on but I liked both of them and it was super convenient that they both used identical batteries allowing me to have one battery charging while I used the other.  Now it is early June and one of the batteries will no longer take a charge. GRRR! The customer service rep told me that they couldn’t replace the battery but if I brought in either the blower or trimmer I could get a whole new unit. Cool beans, even it is meant going back with the blower.

  A few hours later I went back and a different rep informed me that they could not exchange the blower as I had been told because the model had been discontinued. I wasn’t happy but I was kind and polite as I explained that I had now made two trips into the store with no results. In the end I walked out with a battery for the blower which was what I had hoped for when I first went in. That is the highlight of the day thus far.

  I am in need of some traps for wood bees as they are buzzing around my deck.  It seems that no one has informed the wood bees that they are not supposed to enjoy boring holes into pressure treated lumber. I had arranged through Facebook Marketplace to meet up with a local guy that makes and sells the traps.  I had about 40 minutes to spare and decided I would go by my gym and use the time for my weekly dose of carcinogens by spending 15 minutes in the tanning bed. No problems there other than I would have to come back for my workout after the purchase of the bee traps.

The sound of metal crunching into metal was sickening.

  As I waited in the turn lane to leave the highway and enter the Walmart parking lot I was suddenly jolted forward and heard the sickening sound of vehicle crunching. The lady behind me had just hit me.  I put my SUV into park and got out. She inspected her bumper and informed me it wasn’t hurt (I resisted saying, yeah so…) I was pleasantly surprised to see that my SUV had only a small dent and a scratch in the bumper. She did not apologize or ask if I was ok.  I suggested that we go ahead and pull into the parking lot and that I would call for a police report. She was quite indignant and spoke as if I were evil. “You are going to report that little scratch?” I informed her it was a dent and that I wanted a police report. I also walked behind her truck and snapped a photo of her license plate figuring with her attitude that she might very well drive off.

  Once in the parking lot she proceeded to tell me about the times that her vehicle had been hit and yet she had not made the person pay or get an accident report. When that didn’t work she told me that she had lived a hard life. I tried to be compassionate but I didn’t waiver from wanting the police report and I didn’t tell her but I was realizing my back was hurting a little.

  As the police officer was giving us both back our licenses and proof of insurance another car pulled in and she announced it was her son. A large angry man got out and proceeded to look at my dent. He started to rant but I decided that Mr. Policeman could deal with him and I left.  I was able to finish the bee trap mission since while I waited for the police I called the bee trap craftsman who agreed to drive over and sell me a trap.

  I am home and I have no intention of going back out today.  I think my back will be fine in the morning and my dog was as happy as ever to see me return.  It is not just 5 o’clock somewhere, it is 5:25 p.m. right here and I am having a glass of wine as I remind myself that it isn’t a bad life, it’s just a bad day and those happen (even in Australia). Perhaps I should rethink Australia as a travel destination.  It is a crazy long flight but it is a long way from here and today that sounds good. It was just a bad day, it isn’t a bad life.

Wishing all of you a Good Day and a Good Life!

Thanks to the following for use of their photos; Keith Zhu, Serge Esteve, Laura Fuhurman, Daniel Watson and Benny Jackson

My Anti-Bucket List

Lots of people talk about bucket lists; things that one would like to see, do or accomplish before it’s too late. Twenty years ago if I had created such a list it would have been filled with oodles of adventures, accomplishments and stellar moments. Now that I am closer to 60 than I am to 50 it is difficult to think of things to put on my bucket list.

    That fact got me to begin thinking about an anti-bucket list; things that I hope and pray I never endure or face.  Here is my top ten:

Without God I would find no purpose in life

Lose My Faith in God – I am a Catholic Christian and make no apology for it. I believe that God has blessed me and carried me through the darkest times in my life and shared my joy during the best parts.

Live longer than my child – Not much explanation is needed here. Out living ones children goes against nature and I have great sympathy for all who have had to walk that road.

Alzheimer’s – I fear cancer, strokes, loss of vision and/or hearing but the possibility of losing my mind is terrifying. I don’t know, but I think the worst would be when you brain is still strong enough that you realize you are fading into an empty shell of who you are supposed to be.  I recently read the book Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It was the best book I hated reading.

There are things worse than death

Experience a war on American soil – I never served in the military but have great appreciation for those that have. I can’t claim first hand knowledge of the horrors of war. I can’t begin to comprehend being surrounded by hate and death but I also know it may happen.

Be the last one standing – My grandmother lived to be 102 years old. Like most kids I used to think it would be great to live to be 100 or even forever. Now I think how lonely it would be to live when all your friends and close in age relatives to have already passed away.  I don’t want to be last.

Become bitter – Life is hard and it would be easy to focus on the painful experiences and the hurtful people.  I want to always remember to look for the good in others and to do what I can to sprinkle joy into the lives of others.

Laughter is natural, Babies laugh long before they talk.

Forget how to laugh – Laughing in a way that is hurtful or insulting to others is never appropriate. However, seeing the humor in our everyday lives and sharing a giggle or a full belly laugh with others creates positive connections, something we all need. I especially hope I keep and embrace the ability to laugh at myself.

Stop learning – There is so much that I simply won’t have time to learn so I must learn as much as I can while I can.

Refuse to stop driving when I should – If I live long enough there will come a time when I will need to stop driving. If that happens I know I will struggle to give up that independence but I pray I will gracefully give my son my keys and wait until after he leaves with the car before I cry.

Waste precious time on superficial people – The clock is ticking and time is running out. I don’t want to waste time with people that don’t really care about me or I about them. I can choose to not answer certain calls and I can say no to some requests.

    I would love to know what you have on your anti-bucket list. It’s your list so there are no wrong answers.  Do we have any list items in common?

Thanks for reading, have a blessed week!

Who Do You Love?

My Darling,

    Oh how I adore you.  You understand my needs like no other.
Alas, I am not a morning person. There are those that like to hit the snooze button or cuddle with their bed partner. I am not that woman.

I will never give you reason to be jealous my beloved. Even though I make a quick trip to the loo and let the dog out first, it is you that touches my soul.  It is you that I long to embrace and to give a good morning kiss. You are the reason I get out of bed each morning.

    Any other lover wouldn’t likely tolerate my unbrushed teeth and foul morning breath, but you don’t mind that my appointment with Colgate and Listerine will wait. You graciously accept that I don’t want to talk just yet and you give me sweet silence.

      My daily grind is selected after a bit of thought. If I feel the day may hold adventure I might begin with Dark Magic. A tough day may call for Jet Fuel or No Surrender while if I feel the need to escape I may select Ethiopian or Sumatra.

    We first entered into our relationship when I was a mere 16 and was working 20-30 hours a week after school to save for college. You stuck with me even though back then I only used you to keep my body stimulated and alert. Sorry about that.

    You are the one that stayed true through college, grad school and all the men that passed through my life.  It was you that I could always count on and you never once complained. When I was in need you were never far away.

    The grunting and whirring that erupts from the machine as it gives birth to you is music to my ears and I can hardly wait to hold you in my hands.  First, I inhale you and pull your rising steam and rich aroma into both my nose and mouth. You fill up my senses more than a night in a forest could ever even attempt (Sorry, John Denver).  Sometimes I wrap both of my hands around you and cradle you close to my heart. Oh I love you so!

    Certain others try to change you, they add things; sweeteners, sugar, milk, cream or some kind of powdery crap. They don’t understand your depth and complexity.  I respect you far too much to pollute you, my darling dear. You are perfect for my palate without any qualification or accessories. Screw the latte, frappe, cappuccino crowd! You and I understand each other; we are not wimps or fragile flowers.

    When it comes to you, once is never enough and I trudge a bit more easily back to the kitchen to select my second dose. There you are, waiting for me with patience and robust devotion.

    You and I and know each other well but we like to change things up and keep it hot.  My stash is full of the exotic blends we that meld together.

  I have no stash of bottled water and non-perishable food in case of emergency.   I will remain faithful to you my steamy, hot, aromatic, dark, liquid inamorata. I love, love, love you! My coffee.

Thanks for stopping in. Take a few seconds to tell us what goes into your your morning cup. What other things have become so much a part of your daily rituals that they feel a little bit like family?

Copyright: Suzanne Pogue May, 2019

Thanks to the following who provided photos through unsplash: Mae-mu, Clay Banks, Tyler Nix, Devin Avery, Nathan Dumlao, Mike Kinneally and Danielle Maccines

Mom’s Last Gift

My maternal grandmother lived 102 years and my maternal great grand-parents were each in their late 90’s when they passed away from natural causes.  As my mother, a 19-year colon cancer survivor, approached her 83rd birthday she seemed to be in incredible health.  She had mowed her almost two-acre yard all summer with a little push mower.  When I tried to hire someone to take care of it for her she scoffed that she needed the exercise.   I didn’t expect that she would not be alive to see her hundreds of flowers bloom in 2018.  I thought I had time.   She did too.

Few people like to think about end of life, the less severe term for death.  Call it what you will, we all know it will happen, even one day to us.  Unlike most, my mother was a realist and she tried very hard to have her documents in order.   She talked frequently to me about her requests for the end of her life and her estate.  I had the original forms of her Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney and Living Will.  I had keys to her house and safe deposit box.  She often emphasized how these had to be kept in a secure place where they would not be forgotten.  Fortunately, I had them tucked away in my own safe deposit box. 

My mother was a very private person but I think she would approve of what I am about to share because it may help you when you face some of life’s most difficult decisions.  I hope I am right.

My parents at my grandmother’s 100th birthday party

My mother and I had always shared a good relationship, but it grew much stronger after dad was gone.  She became my best friend and we talked daily, often for over an hour.  I tried relentlessly to convince her to move in with me.  She insisted that she was quite capable of taking care of herself.  She was very strong and active but lived in a remote location. I knew that if she fell or got hurt and couldn’t reach the phone there would be no one to hear her calls for help.  She lived well over an hour away, so even if she would have accepted my offers to drive her to appointments and such it would have been difficult.  She was too independent and insisted on staying put in her little country home.  I understood, after all, that was where she had friends, and a house and yard she could tend the way she pleased.   It was home.  She enjoyed doing things her way on a schedule that she monitored herself.

As I said, Mom (and Dad too when he was alive), tried very hard to have documents in order to make things as easy as possible for me.  Both had gone through the process to donate their bodies to U.K. Medical Center for research purposes.  They always looked for ways to help others.  It turned out that neither of them had their body accepted due to various factors.  They would have been disappointed to know that.

Both had made it known they preferred cremation to being buried and neither wanted any kind of funeral or memorial service.  I am told this is becoming a more common practice.  When Dad passed away my mother seemed fine with there being no service but I found it difficult.  I needed closure and to be reminded by friends and family that he was loved.  Months later Mom told me she was hurt that so few people sent sympathy cards.  I explained that I suspected people didn’t know what to do since there was no visitation or service to attend.  I appreciate that sentiment even more now since only a few cards of sympathy came to me after Mom’s passing.   I have made a mental note to myself to be sure to send a card to the families of those that I love even if there is no service for me to attend where people sign a book or send flowers.  I have told my son that I don’t feel the need for there to be a funeral for me either, but if he wants me to have one that is ok too.  Like my parents, I want to make that time as easy for him as I can.

June 1957, before they were anyone’s Mom and Dad.

They probably put more thought into their Last Will and Testaments than most people who have wealth.  My parents were simple, honest people.  They worked very hard for what little they had and were proud to be debt free.  I think that is why it was important to them to be specific and fair in how their estate would be settled.  I have one child so along with my niece and nephew we would be the four heirs (my sister had passed away 7 years prior).  My parents talked openly with all of us about how things would be handled because they didn’t want anyone to be angry or surprised.  They would be very proud at how the four of us are took care of things in the manner we know they wanted.

My mother was diagnosed with cecum colon cancer on December 5th, 2017 and surgery was scheduled for the 7th.  This was a different type of cancer than what she had previously battled 19 years prior.  We were relieved when the surgeon told us that it had been caught early and that the surgery to remove the cancer would be the treatment.  We were told that cecum cancer does not respond to chemo or radiation, which I think Mom would have refused anyway having had such a hard time with it during her first battle.  The plan was that she would spend about a week in the hospital and then another week at my house for recovery.  Her surgeon assured us she would be ready to push her lawn mower again by spring.

Plans. The surgeon reported everything during surgery went as planned and that she felt certain that all the cancer had been removed.    I like plans, they let me know what is coming and I can prepare.  Nothing could have prepared me for what was coming.  Complications started in less than 48 hours.  Mom spent almost 2 weeks in the ICU of the small hospital she had selected.   It was not close to either of our homes, but she felt confident in the facility and staff from previous her experience.  Even after she had left the ICU, for what is called a swing bed, her health seemed to take one step forward two steps back.  My routine became spending two days and nights with her then going home for clean clothes and a night’s sleep in my own bed. 

I gave them a copy of her living will and was thankful that it was easy to find.   Besides taking care of Mom my house was under contract to sell and I was packing boxes any time I could find a few minutes.  If she hadn’t hounded me to keep her documents in a safe, easy to access place they might have been in no particular box. 

A safe deposit box is the most secure place for important documents. Be sure the person named as your power of attorney has access

She had made decisions ahead of time and her Living Will dictated there was to be no life support or feeding tubes and included an order for Do Not Resuscitate, DNR.  I was not in any kind of emotional state to make these decisions and her cognitive abilities seemed to come and go effected by both her pain and the medications.  I am so grateful that she had already made these decisions.

On Christmas morning my plans, (Crazy, but I was still trying to plan.) were to go for a quick run then shower and go spend the day with my mother in the hospital.  I forgot to take my phone with me while running and when I realized that fact I cut the course short.  I hurried home to find that my intuition was right.   My phone flashed announcing two missed calls from the hospital.  When I picked it up it started ringing again.  “Your mother has taken a sudden turn for the worse, you need to get here.  Drive carefully but come immediately.”  All of her vital signs were quickly dropping.  I was afraid she would be gone before I could get there.

I arrived to find 4 nurses and 3 doctors in the room with my mother.  They seemed to all be talking to me at once, some asking questions others asking for information.  She needed to be transported to a Lexington hospital where she could receive a higher level of care, but they were also doubtful that she could survive the trip.  I was the one named in her durable Power of Attorney, P.O.A. so I was the one who had to make the call on if she would stay or go. 

Because of her pain, my mother thought she was hooked up to life support. In reality all she had was a blood pressure cuff, heart rate monitor and I.V. nutrition.  I know this is what she thought because in the midst of all the chaos she mustered the energy to lightly pat the side of her bed motioning me to sit by her.  She begged me in a weak whisper to make them turn off everything and to let her die.  In that moment I understood and if that had been possible I would have granted her wish. 

They found an open bed and arranged for the transport while I signed papers as P.O.A.  One of the papers I signed was an ambulance DNR.  Even though they had her living will I didn’t question signing because I didn’t want to waste precious minutes.  I would learn much later that a regular Living Will does not cover measures that may be used in an ambulance.  If you or your loved one wants assurance that there will be no CPR, shocks or intubation in an ambulance then an additional document must be signed.  As difficult as it was to sign the form I was so appreciative that Mom had already had conversations with me about this and I knew I was following her wishes.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of conversations.  Even the best made plans encounter unanticipated circumstances.

She was approaching a month in the hospital so it was also time to activate her P.O.A. at her bank so that I could pay her bills and handle financial matters.  I was surprised that as P.O.A. I could write checks or close accounts but I could not add my name to them to make them joint accounts. 

Mom had set up almost every payment as an auto-draft.   I learned that I couldn’t just tell the bank to stop such payments, rather, I would have to contact every biller.  Some were easy to work with and others were beyond difficult.  To make things easier for my own child in the future I will not have payments auto-drafted from my checking account.

Taking care of her bills was surprisingly emotional.   For the first time in my life I knew everything about my parent’s finances and assumed control.  Uncomfortable is too mild of a word to describe how I felt.  My parents had never been ones to share information about finances, it just wasn’t done in our family.  I imagine that having P.O.A. documents ready was a hard decision for Mom but taking care of bills and banking would have been ten times more difficult had she not trusted and cared enough for me to have this in place.

I’m sure everyone finds different things to be the most difficult.  When my mom was first admitted to the hospital I took her purse home with me to keep it secure.  Even then, when I thought I would be returning it to her in a week, it felt odd to have her most personal possession in my care.  I sat it on the bed in the guest room where it would be ready for her when she arrived.  Her purse, with it’s contents, is still on a shelf in my closet.  I am just not ready to completely empty it. 

There is much that could be told about how I hope you or your loved ones never find yourself in a hospital in need of critical care during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but that is its own story.  On January 5th additional scans were conducted to determine why Mom was not getting better.  The next day, while I had stepped out of the room to stretch my legs, Mom was informed that the cancer had metastasized and that she would probably live one to two months. 

She took the news much better than I did.  Before I got back to her room she had already talked to Joyce, her favorite cousin and told her, “I have good news and bad news, which do you want to hear first?”  When told to share the good news first Mom replied, “The good news is that I get to go to heaven soon.  The bad news is that I am dying.”

When her pain was at a 7 or higher, and it often was, she would think that she saw cats or dogs in the room.   Sometimes she would think she had conversations with her mother or my father.  I tried to prepare myself mentally for the time she would not recognize me or talk in harsh tones.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen.  I learned to assess her pain level by the look on her face.  When it was a 9 or ten she would not respond to questions and I would give the nurses the number.

Her weight dropped well below 100 pounds.  She was no longer able to get out of bed without assistance from at least one, often two, nurses or assistants.  Morphine was given every 12 hours and oxycodone every two hours.  One of her many complications was a fistula, a non-surgical colostomy, the bag had to be changed daily.  Most of the time she was unable to turn herself in her bed.  Still yet, I was informed that she would be released from the hospital into my care. 

There was no other family that lived close or was able to help with care so we had to select a care facility.  It’s easier for me to call it a care facility instead of a nursing home, even though I know, a rose is a rose is a rose.  It was a small blessing that when we were asked to select our top 3 choices for a facility that she was having a day where she could think clearly.  The reason we couldn’t pick just one facility was because they might not have an open bed.   They would not be able to delay her discharge so we would have to go with which ever one of the three had an opening.  We studied Medicare and Health Department ratings for the facilities that could provide the care she needed. 

I wish I could tell you that they were able to make her comfortable, but her disease was spreading at such a wildfire pace that by the time her medications were increased to lower her pain the intensity of the pain had multiplied too.  I believe they tried, medications were increased about every other day. 

In mid-February the social worker asked me if I wanted to consider Hospice.  I knew that was my “hint”. They had told me during admission that they were not allowed to make a Hospice recommendation.  I told them that I wanted any and all measures that might help take away some of her pain.  A meeting was set up for the next day and Hospice took charge of her medical treatment after I signed what felt like dozens more forms.

She hadn’t eaten in a long time and eventually reached the point that she couldn’t swallow to drink.  I gave her drops of water from the end of a straw and even with that she sometimes couldn’t get it down.  The slightest touch caused pain and I had to remind well-meaning friends to not touch her.  During her final 2-3 days it seemed her pain was more under control and I could again hold her hand.  She was too weak to talk and only opened her eyes for a second or two when I first came in the room and spoke to her.  The nurses said that hearing was the last sense to stop working so I talked to her.  I talked about anything I could think of.  At one point I laughed and told her that I bet she wished she could tell me to hush.  When I ran out of things to say I would either read aloud from her devotion book or just hold her hand.  Every time I walked into her room the changes in her appearance were shocking.  I took a final picture of her less than 48 hours before she passed, I can’t share that one.

The Social Worker told me during the admission process that once Hospice took control of her care that Medicare and her supplemental insurance would no longer pay for her room and board or therapy.  I was glad they had gone over that ahead of time.  I am sure it varies from place to place, but for us the out of pocket cost to the care facility was about $230 per day not including therapy.  They had also explained that if the combination of her personal finances and the value of her land went below $2000 that we would be able to apply for Medicaid to cover expenses.  When it comes to care for your family you don’t want to have to think about cost, yet for many families, it is another source of great stress when life is already extremely difficult.  Mom lived 15 days after Hospice took over her care.  The out of pocket cost for those days was about $6000 even though Medicare and her private insurance were still paying for the medical part of her care.  Various bills continued to filter in for payment for the next 8 months.

My family in 2010

My parents had decided that they wanted their estate divided equally among their 3 grand-children and me.  They had stated that my niece and nephew would split what would have been my sister’s share and that instead of giving me the other half they would split it giving my only child a fourth.  All of us were 100% fine with their decision and agreed it really was their decision anyway.  The Last Will and Testament named the four of us and used the words, “share and share alike”.  The only problem is that my parents must have thought that their wills would override names on deeds, which of course it didn’t.  My name was the only one listed on the deed to my mother’s property where she lived with a life estate.  If I wanted to be greedy I could claim it for myself.  I won’t be doing that.  The deed to another property that was given to my mother by my grand- mother lists me, my niece and nephew as heirs without any mention of my son, the youngest child.  I think my grand-mother gave the land to my mother before my son was born and that is why he wasn’t named.  Again, they must have thought the Last Will and Testament would prevail.  Because of their open conversations we know they wanted each of us to have an equal share. We will honor their wishes, that is simply how it will be.

Again, my parents led a simple life and their modest home was not full of expensive furnishings.  The antiques were family items that had been handed down through generations.  Their value was more sentimental than it was monetary.  Still yet, I already knew from things they had said who was to get many of these items.  For example, the old communion table that my sister had rescued from the family church before it was demolished was to go to my nephew, the butter-churn that my great grandmother had used was for my niece.  There was not a comprehensive list of every household item but as I packed up the contents of the house there were several items that either on the back or the bottom of the object I found a little paper with one of our names on it. 

Even though Mom didn’t have everything perfectly in order she had tried and her efforts made things much easier for me to make decisions and take care of her finances and estate.  If she had put this off until it was needed she would have been too ill and unable to do so.  I am also glad that she verbally made her wishes known to me and her grandchildren while she was still healthy and there was no doubt that she was thinking clearly.

Getting you documents in order doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Hospice has forms for power of attorney and living will. They are easy to complete but must be notarized. Notary service is typically available at your local public library among other places.

Many people opt to create their Last Will and Testament from online sources such as Legal Zoom or Office Depot if their wishes are not complex.  If you are more comfortable or your estate is complex using an attorney is always an option. 

As for me, I am trying to pay Mom’s gift forward by sharing this information and encouraging you to take care of preparing these documents and making your family members aware of your wishes for end of life.   Regarding my personal documents, I used the forms from Hospice for my P.O.A. and Living Will.  I used an online service for my Last Will and Testament.  I only have one child so it is very basic.  I had these forms notarized and appropriately filed.  The originals are in a large envelope that I keep at the top of the stack in my safe deposit box at the bank, my son knows this.   He is listed on the card so that he can have access when he needs it.  Now I must give him the key, he will need it at some point.  I want to think I have time; but none of us know that for certain.

Photo credits Bence Boros, Alex Smyntyna, Artem Maltsev and piron guillaume on unsplash

This is a shorter version of my story originally published in Southern Kentucky Health and Family Journal, May 2018. Copyright Suzanne Pogue, 2018.

Kermit Wasn’t Always Right

Dear little Kermit the Frog. I love his humbleness and easy going manner. Remember his ditty, “It Ain’t Easy Being Green?” He was talking about being different and I agree, that isn’t easy but when we are talking about being more environmentally conscious we can do lots of little things that make little differences and lots of little differences equal something significant

I have a challenge for you. Read the following ten easy things. If you already do all of them then hats off to you and you need to share at least one more tip in the comments that the rest of us can put into practice. If you don’t do all of them pick a few to turn into new habits. The earth will thank you.

Every cow releases 70 -120 kg of methane gas each year. Can I get an excuse me!

Eat More Chicken – Even if you just can’t commit to Meatless Monday consider cutting back on the amount of beef that you eat. Beef consumption is at an all time high and this equals more cattle. Cows burp and fart, they burp and fart a lot and that releases methane gas which is a serious risk to the ozone. If we cut back on eating beef farmers will not need to increase the number cattle that they raise for this purpose.

Raising the deck of your mower will not cause you to need to mow more often.

Raise the Deck on Your Lawn Mower – I used to think that mowing my grass short would allow me to not mow as often but it always looked shaggy in a few days. A friend of mine that has a lawn mowing service told me that raising the blade will reduce the growth of weeds and the lawn will look more even. I was skeptical at first but now I keep the deck raised high and my lawn looks better. I also do not need to use as many chemicals and that is earth and budget friendly

Hanging your clothes to dry saves energy, saves money and clothes will look newer longer

Give you clothes dryer a break – Purchase drying rack (if you can’t install a clothesline) Put your clothes in the dryer for just a few minutes to remove the wrinkles then hang them up to dry. Besides the reduction in energy you will be surprised how much longer your clothes stay looking new.

Reusable shopping bags It takes a little practice to teach yourself to remember to take and reuse your own shopping bags but stick with it and you will bet the hang of it. When self check out stations were new I found that bringing my own bag always slowed things down because the camera thought my shopping bag was something that I was trying to get around scanning. They have made many improvements and that rarely happens now. I know some people that will not use self check out because they say that eliminates a job. Maybe but at least the automated system says things like welcome, please and thank you.

Never, ever, never leave your pets waste behind. It is called being a good neighbor!

Pick up trash –When you go for a walk around your neighborhood take along some sort of bag. I suggest one that came with a product that you had to purchase such as bread or produce. Look for litter as you walk and grab it up. Cleaner earth and a little extra stretching from bending and picking. Win/Win.

Use your Public Library – Years ago I used to purchase every book I read. Now I wish I had that money back. I love books but have matured to the place that I no longer have to own so many. More recently I enjoyed reading on a Kindle. For the first few years it saved a lot of money. Not so much these days. I am one of those people that takes really good care of their stuff so when my 3rd Kindle stopped working even though it had been treated with TLC I was finished. Besides books most public libraries offer many other activities and events and either low or no cost.

It will taste better on a real plate and eaten with real cutlery that gets washed and used over and over.

Paper Plates and plastic cutlery – I know a man that almost never washes dishes. The first reason is that he eats out or gets carry out about 4 to 5 times a week. The other reason is that he uses paper plates and plastic cutlery all the time. I keep a stash of paper plates but a package of 50 will last well over a year. I also like eating from a real dish. I am not a big fan of take-out but on those rare occasions I often find that they have added 3x the number of napkins I will need and a little sealed up bag with plastic cutlery. I add the napkins to my holder and I tuck the plastic away for traveling or other times when dish washing is not an easy option.

Make your own window cleaner. 2 cups water, 1 cup rubbing alcohol and a tablespoon of ammonia in a spray bottle

Use cleaning rags not paper towels – I have noticed while visiting others or when they visit me that most people use a crazy number of paper towels. Try to look to paper towels for things like emergency spills or for jobs where if a cleaning cloth was used it would have to be thrown away instead of washed. For most jobs you will find that a good old cotton rag or microfiber cloth will work much better. When you wash them do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets. Besides saving on softeners they will clean better and without streaks.

Plan meals to avoid waste –If you have a large family this probably isn’t an issue but cooking for just one or two makes not wasting a little more of a challenge. A few of my favorite ways to reduce cooking and wasted food is when a roast or grill chicken I make several pieces. The left overs are good to use in casseroles, salads or just reheated. There are lots of little left over tid-bits that make yummy salad additions. If you have just a few berries, or other fruits throw them into the salad bowl. The same idea works with other salads with a mayo or oil and vinegar base. Pizza is another good place to add small amounts of left over meats and vegetables.

Not sure if it is should go into compost or the garbage? Google or Alexa will be happy to help you out.

Compost – I don’t live in a location where a backyard compost heap is practical. However a few years ago my church created a community compost. I simply save vegetable peels and other compostables in a sealed tub I store in the freezer. After church each week I just empty it into the community compost and start again. Easy Peasy.

Little things mean a lot, not just in our relationships with people but also in how we respect this beautiful planet the Lord has provided to us and trusted in our care. Have a blessed day!

He is Risen!

Easter Reflections!

I wanted today’s post to be special for Easter yet my own thoughts weren’t coming together in an organized fashion. Special thanks to simpledimple for giving me permission to reblog one of their posts. Today and every day let us give thanks to our savior. We are blessed beyond measure.

This is the Lenten Season.

A period of time where Christians especially the Catholics observe lent and engage in fasting as they reflect upon the teachings of Christ. His death and what it signifies to the body of Christ – The Church.

Easter signifies the victory over death by our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s a defining moment to ponder on the climactic events leading to the crucifixion of our Lord.
Easter is the reason we are Christians in the first place.

If Christ did not rise from the dead, if there was no resurrection, there wouldn’t be any Easter to celebrate because He would have been considered just another teacher or a mere scholar.

However, the resurrection power changed the narrative and it is the irrefutable proof that Jesus Christ was really the Son of God.

So as we celebrate this symbolism of our Faith for those of us who believe in Him, it is a time to reflect on our Christian ethics and values.

As Christians, this is the period when we ask ourselves pertinent questions regarding our Christian walk and work.
It’s a sobering time for self-examination.
Are we really for real? I mean, are we really Christians in the real sense?
Do our beliefs tally with our actions?
Are we practising what we preach or the word of God that we read?
In other words, does our lifestyle reflect good moral values as they ought to be?
Are we shinning the lights and tenets of Christianity the way it ought to be or are we just pretenders and hypocrites, calling the name of God in vain? 

Do we do what we preach or we preach the word and turn around to act otherwise?

Perhaps, we should spend some solitary moments to answer these questions sincerely in our hearts before we celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Good Friday is the commemoration of his crucifixion.
And Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection with glee.

So can I call you a true Christian? 

This season calls for introspections and inner search of our humanity
A time dedicated to prayers and fasting too.

A time to reach out to people with LOVE!

May God hear and answer our supplications even as we pray in this Lenten season.

God bless you.

Peace and Love!

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Photo credit to Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash