DUST IN WHOSE WIND?

Dust in the Wind

Have you made your bucket list? Now’s the time — write about the things you want to do and see before you become dust in the wind.

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WordPress suggested we write about our bucket list (again). The subject alarmed me (again). I don’t have a bucket list. I’ve never had a bucket list. Until the movie of the same name came out in 2007, I’d never heard the expression.

Clearly I am and have always been out of touch with popular culture. When I was a kid, I always had my head in a book. When everyone else was dancing to the tunes on American Bandstand, I was practicing Chopin or Mozart on the piano. I didn’t have time or — if I want to be honest, the inclination — to spend afternoons watching something I found kind of dopey. I wouldn’t have admitted it under torture, but I never understood what they found so fascinating.

In elementary, junior high school, and even high school, I was so out of step that even amongst misfits I was a misfit. Yet by the time I got to college, there were enough people like me to form a sub-culture of oddballs who did their own thing. I finally fit in.

At some point in my life, I opted out of trends and fashions. I stopped reading reviews, cancelled subscriptions to fashion and home decorating magazines. I have no idea what’s in style. I’m wearing essentially the same clothing I wore in college. Or maybe high school. As for home furnishings, decisions are entirely based on back-friendly design and how well the upholstery can withstand and/or blend with dog hair.

Because I read a lot and enjoy movies, I poke around to see what’s coming out, but I have no idea what’s on any best-seller or most-popular list. I have favorite authors and genres. I listen to the same music I listened to 40 years ago. It wasn’t popular or fashionable then either, but I like it. Good thing my husband shares my lack of concern with what’s current, trendy, or “hot.”

The closest thing I have to involvement with The Latest Things is a passion for technology. From the day I first got my hands on a computer back in the early 1980s, a lightbulb went off and I said “This is a better way.” I never looked back. I’m not quite as on top of the techno wave as I was a decade ago when I was working in the development world, but I retain a keen interest and strong opinions about technology, operating systems, databases and software. My granddaughter makes fun of me … until her computer stops working and suddenly, I morph from granny to guru.

I enjoy donning my cape and mask and slaying computer demons. It is a rare Old Person who gets to be a heroic in the eyes of a teenager, even briefly.

I am most at home in the world of words. As much as I write, I read more. Obviously I don’t sleep much. This blog is my reward for spending my entire professional life writing about abstruse software and hardware. Now, finally, I get to write for fun.

Many of my favorite books and movies got lousy reviews. The books didn’t sell, the movies flopped at the box office. Garry still reads reviews and passes them to me if he thinks I’ll be interested. It is not uncommon for us to wonder if these reviewers watch or read the same stuff we do. It doesn’t sound like it.

Thus my lack of a bucket list. If I wanted to do something, I did it. If I didn’t do it, it was because it wasn’t all that important. Today I’m limited by money and health, but when I was younger, I did my own thing. I wanted adventure. A life composed of suburban predictability was much scarier than any risk I could take.

I wanted to live in another culture and I did. International moves with 10 year interruptions of career are not fiscally sound choices, but I wouldn’t trade that “lost” decade for anything. And who’s to say it would have turned out differently anyhow? I bet we wind up where we are supposed to be no matter what we do.

I don’t need to regret what I missed. I know it’s a cliché, but “at least we have memories” isn’t ridiculous or sentimental. It means you’ve lived. You can’t buy a life you missed. You have to be there, have been there. You had to choose the foolish, unsafe path to get the stuff that money can’t buy.

The whole idea of a bucket list bothers me. How can you codify life on a list? You get opportunities, see forks in the road. People come into your life. You choose to do it or not. If you say no, maybe you’ll get another chance, a different opportunity … but most people never accept any invitation to get off the path, even temporarily. They have lots of good reasons. Money, responsibilities, uncertainty. Fear.

They wind up with bucket lists which are a summary of regrets, organized statements of missed opportunities, paths not taken. Maybe that’s sensible, but I’d have hated it. So I don’t have a bucket list. Instead, I had a life.

MOSES, MOSES!

Last night was our annual viewing of Demille’s “The Ten Commandments.” It’s one of those epic movies that hasn’t held up well to time.

10 commandments

That being said, it is always fun to watch. We know the lines. Tonight’s best moment was when Moses is coming back from seeing God as The Burning Bush.

I was saying that God had taken Chuck’s nice hair and given him a bad rug – and just as I said it, his wife sees him and cries out: “OH MOSES! Your HAIR!”

Garry and I haven’t had such a good laugh in a while.

Oh Moses, Moses. In their cruelty, they made you wear a bad rug and always say your name twice. Oh Moses, Moses …

So shall it be written. So shall it be done.

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PAH-TEE!

Saturday Night!

That’s the way I always thought Saturday Night was supposed to be. It never has been for me. I was an intellectually wild child, but other more popular kinds of wildness – dancing, drinking, drugging and clubbing – never were my scene. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t much of a dancer … or because too-loud music makes my head ache.

I don’t like booze and the kind of drugs I liked were more likely to incline one to listening to music in front of a crackling fire than getting dressed and heading for a club scene.

These days, of course, I know it’s Saturday night only because there’s nothing on TV worth watching except (if we are lucky) old movies or reruns of JAG. I miss quiet evenings with old friends by a fire, but I don’t miss parties. I made good parties, but they weren’t central to my life or a major part of my fun.

Any day of the week, give me a good friend, maybe a nice meal and a long conversation with a lot of laughter. Saturday night or any night of the week, that’ll do it for me.

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JUST ANOTHER UPDATE

I’m getting back into life. Progress feels rather glacial from my perspective but it’s undeniably progress.

foyer and lightI can write, as long as I keep stuff short. I still can’t focus long enough to read much but I’m getting there. Close, very close. Finding a comfortable position in bed remains a major challenge because I can’t yet lie on my side without feeling like my chest is being crushed. I’ve been assured it will come, but not yet. Soon-ish.

I tire quickly but each day is a little better than the one before. I have bursts of energy early in the day then I wear down. By 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I’m beat and I hurt. Still, last week I was exhausted by noon. Change comes and I guess one needs to take the long view.

I did I lot of stuff yesterday. We went to the grocery store and the pharmacy. I did the stairs — both flights — three times. I hiked up and down the driveway — our own bunny slope. It was a lot for me. And I was released from physical therapy ’cause I’m doing so fantastically. I have photographic plans for today.

Except I don’t feel well. Or not well enough, whatever that means.

I guess how one feels is a matter of “compared to what.” Compared to two weeks ago, I’m feeling great. Compared to last year, I’m a puddle of misery, a complete disaster.

It just depends on how you look at it … and whose body in which you are living.

 

TOSSING THE DICE OF LIFE

Take a Chance on Me

What’s the biggest chance you ever took? Did it work out? Do tell!

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My life has been so full of chances taken, some of which worked out very well indeed … and others which left me digging my way out of the smoldering wreckage of my life. They all had one thing in common: they seemed like a good idea at the time.

And maybe they all were. That’s the thing about risk-taking. You don’t know whether it will work out. That’s what makes it risky. If it were a sure thing (Question: Is anything in life a sure thing? If so, what might it be?), there would be no risk, no chance.

Life itself is chancy. Full of risk. Every single decision, every little choice can ultimately leave you wondering “what if?”

The biggest chance with the most risk I ever took was being born. Since then, it’s just been one thing after another.

I call it life, but you can call it Harry, if you prefer.

ADVENTURES IN HEALTH CARE OR LACK THEREOF

It snowed Wednesday. Just an icing but it prompted a lot of people who actually had to get their cars rolling first thing in the morning to say “This is a joke, right?” A New England joke. The day before, temps had been in the high 70s, I had turned the heat off, so Wednesday saw me and Garry huddled on the sofa in sweatshirts and blankets. Would the cold last long enough to justify revving up the oil burner? Or should we gut it out and shiver until more seasonal weather prevailed? Medicare-Payment-Methods-1024x768 Being so recently sliced and diced, I was not in fighting trim. By evening, I went for heat. Shivering was bad, but sneezing? Wow. That’s a killer. I’m still fighting the battle of no PCP. Technically, I’ve got one. I’ve just haven’t met him. Yet. I’ve got a date, May 2. Not so far away, but far enough. I hope this one’s a keeper.

In the meantime, I’m self-medicating everything including my blood pressure. I’m not doing anything crazy, mind you. I’m merely taking the BP meds I was taking before the surgery because I don’t have anyone to monitor me, no one to call or consult.  Other than the visiting nurses. They are wonderful and deserve medals.

Except they are all leaving because I’m doing so well. Ironies piled on ironies. My self-medication program is working. I’ve got my BP back into the “good” range from the “outta sight” levels of last week. Adventures in health care indeed. This is closer to adventures in lack of health care. How weird I’ve got medical coverage — good coverage — but no doctors. What a world, eh?

GINGER!!

Junk Food Junkie

What’s your biggest junk food weakness? Tell us all about it in its sugary, salty, glory.

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I’m not much of a junk food eater. My stomach doesn’t appreciate it and the rest of my system isn’t happy about it either. But I’m human, so I nibble. And when I nibble, I have favorites, the biggest one being crystallized ginger.

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What’s that? Preserved, sugared ginger. You can buy it in most grocery stores in the dried fruit section. It’s a common ingredient in many Chinese dishes … ginger in all forms is very common in Asian recipes.

Crystallized ginger is an adult taste. You either love it or hate it. I love it and try to keep some in the house in case I have a sudden need for that sharp, sweet taste. Try it. You might like it. A little goes a long way.

Note to WordPress:

I feel obliged to mention — this prompt is uninspiring … dull stuff. How about you folks at WordPress do some thinking about creating some interesting topics for the Daily Prompt? Because this goes beyond bland. It’s boring.

MY BRIEF CAREER IN ANIMAL CONTROL

I live in a small town. Just under 13,000 people call Uxbridge home. The village, or as we say around here, “downtown,” has a classic brick town hall, circa 1879, an elegant old library, and several other historic buildings.

1893 Thayer Library Photo: Garry Armstrong

1893 Thayer Library Photo: Garry Armstrong

Our closest neighboring town, Millville, makes Uxbridge look like Metropolis.

Their town hall is a unit in an old condo building. The center of town is a sub shop. There’s no sign to indicate you are in Millville, so it’s easy to miss. When you get there, it will be closed anyway. The following notice is posted on Millville’s website:

Due to budget constraints, effective immediately the Town Clerk’s office will only be open on Mondays from 9am-1pm and Wednesday evenings from 6pm-8pm for public assistance.  If you cannot be at the Municipal Center during these scheduled hours, please call the Town Clerk’s Office to schedule an appointment.

There are approximately 3100 people living in Millville, spread out thinly.

Downtown Millville.

Perhaps 7 years ago — I don’t remember exactly — the town of Millville decided they needed a Deputy Animal Control Officer. I don’t remember how I heard about the job. It may have been a tip from our local animal control officer who knew I liked animals and needed part-time work.

This was about as part-time as a job could be. The pay was $1200 per year, payable semi-annually. Before taxes.

Millville already had a Senior Animal Control Officer who was theoretically in charge, but passionately fond of golf. I suspect he also had a full-time job elsewhere too. So, in exchange for $600 every 6 months, I would have the official title of Deputy Animal Control Officer and would be on call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

I’m basically an optimist. I figured Millville is tiny. How many calls could there be? I took the job. I was sworn in, just like in the movies, hand on the Bible. I promised to protect and serve.

A mere couple of hours later, I got my first call. A homeowner had found an almost dead skunk by their trash bin and wanted it taken away. Since it was my first call — and a weekend — my “senior officer” thought maybe he should come along, show me the ropes as it were. Luckily, the skunk did the right thing and went from nearly dead to absolutely dead while I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I was informed by my erstwhile boss that the skunk had probably been rabid and I should not touch it. If the skunk had not died on his own, I would have been obliged to shoot it.

Me: “Shoot it?”

Boss: “Yes, shoot it. With the rifle.”

Me: “Rifle? What rifle?”

Boss: “Oh, didn’t I mention that? We have a couple of rifles in the office. When an animal is behaving suspiciously, you have to shoot it.”

Me: “Behaving suspiciously?”

Boss: “You know, approaching people rather than running away. Acting weird. Most of the animals you’ll get calls about are rabid. There’s a lotta rabies around here so you don’t want to get close. Just shoot’em.”

Rabies. Shoot the animals. $100 a month. I was getting that creepy feeling I get when I think maybe I’ve signed up for something, the implications of which I had failed to fully grasp.

After we bagged the skunk — literally, using gloves and shovels provided by the town of Millville — to send to the Worcester county animal medical examiner, I promised to go to city hall as soon as they reopened to discuss guns and the other equipment I would need, like shovels, leather gloves, heavy-duty plastic trash bags (the non-human version of body bags), tags for the medical examiner. Forms to fill out. Oh, and where to put the corpses. Turns out, you can’t just stack them up in city hall.

My boss was unconcerned I’d never handled a weapon other than a Red Ryder Daisy BB rifle. I’d never shot anything currently or previously alive. I was puzzled about what I was supposed to do if I got a call, actually needed a rifle, but it was locked up at city hall which was pretty much always closed. Would the offending animal make an appointment for a more convenient time? Or wait for me to call someone, get them to unlock the gun cabinet, then hang around while I drove over to get it, then drove back to shoot him? Are the rabid animals of Millville that cooperative? Was I supposed to keep the big hunting rifle in my house in case I needed it? The rabies thing had me spooked, too.

When I was finally able to get to city hall, I demanded a rabies vaccination. No way was I going to handle rabid animals without a vaccination. They pointed out rabies vaccinations are expensive and I was only the deputy. They suggested I pay for it myself.

Me: “How much will it cost?”

Clerk: “Around $450.”

Me: “That’s four and a half months pay.”

Clerk: “Well, we don’t normally pay for it.”

Me: “I’m not doing this unless I’m vaccinated.”

It turned out that the animal medical examiner could provide me with the appropriate vaccination, so Garry — who had begun to look alarmed – drove me to the doctor. While the doctor prepared the inoculation, we got a rundown of exactly how common rabies is in our neck of the woods. “Why,” he said, “Just the previous week they found a deer with rabies. Chipmunks, skunk, fox, coyotes, squirrels, deer … even possums get rabies.” The only exceptions are rabbits who are naturally immune. Go figure.

The following day, I got another call. A really big snapping turtle had wandered into the road and was blocking traffic. It didn’t sound too threatening, so armed with my shoulder-high heavy leather gauntlets (no rifle), I drove to the site and met the snapping turtle from Hell.

A common snapping turtle.

Keep in mind that there is water everywhere in the valley. Not only the Blackstone, but all its tributaries, feeder creeks, lakes, brooks, ponds, pools, and swamps. Snapping turtles are called common for good reason. They live just about everywhere you find water. Undoubtedly, the big snapper had wandered into the road, lost his bearings. Someone needed to grab the turtle and carry him back on the river side of the road. That someone was me.

This turtle was not in the water, not docile. His beak was sharp. His neck was extremely flexible. Not my kind of nature pal.

So there I was, by the side of the road, trying to figure out how I could grab him. He was approximately 30 pounds of pissed turtle. He seemed pretty agile to me. He could move. Okay, maybe he’d lose a footrace to a rabbit, but he could trundle along at a nice pace. And he had that snaky neck and was determined to bite me.

Meanwhile, an entire construction crew, these big brawny guys who supposedly repairing the bridge, were watching. They didn’t seem eager to help. In fact, they were the ones who called in the first place.

I eventually herded him across the road. I looked at those jaws, looked at my leather gloves, did a quick mental calculation as to strength of gloves versus power of turtle’s jaws, decided the gloves weren’t all that sturdy.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Have you ever tried herding a turtle? Of course not. You can’t herd a turtle, but I did. I don’t know exactly how I got him across the road. I know there was a big shovel involved, but otherwise, it’s a blur. The next thing I remember doing after getting the turtle over to the river side of the road, was calling the clerk and resigning.

The turtle was enough for me. I figured if I didn’t get out quick, they’d have me hunting rabid coyotes with a large gun and I’d shoot my foot off.

They tried to bill me for the rabies shot. We settled for not paying me. I think I got the better part of the deal.

WAITING FOR YOUTH TO OVERTAKE ME

Only Sixteen

Tell us all about the person you were when you were sixteen. If you haven’t yet hit sixteen yet, tell us about the person you want to be at sixteen. 

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Like Merlin in some old Arthurian tales, I am living backwards in time.

Right now, I’m entirely too old and most days, including today, I feel at least 100 years old.

And I’m pretty sure I was never truly sixteen and definitely never Sweet Sixteen. I wasn’t that kind of kid. I was old when I was young, so my reasoning is that as I get older, I will finally be young, like I should have been first time ’round.

Life’s been getting up my nose recently anyhow, so I’m fully prepared for youth — at long last.

It could happen, right?

So what do I want to be when I finally slide into youth? I want to be healthy. No drama, no teenage angst. I will be smart. I will find other smart kids to hang with. I will laugh at the bullies as the losers they are. I will enjoy the freedom of being young with all original body parts working properly for however long it lasts. Magic? Sure, why not.

Going backwards in time has got to give one a few advantages. Life and Karma owe me that much.

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SHINY STUFF

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Shiny

There are so many kinds of shiny. The reflections on glass, water and steel. The shine of the sun, shiny headlights in the night. Shining rivers and lakes, the shine of a sunrise on the sand on the shore. Here’s a selection. The motorcycles are my favorites :-)