THE SATURDAY SCHEDULE

Another Perfect Plan by Harold, A Truly Organized Man

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As usual, Harold awoke before the alarm announced the new day. He laid in bed awaiting the arrival of a new dawn and a new beginning for his perfect schedule.

When the ringing began, Harold looked up and noticed the sun was not attacking the window as usual, but when he went to open the curtains and look out, he discovered it was just a stray cloud that had blocked the sun. It looked like the weather would be better than even Harold, Perfect Predictor of Organizational Outcomes, could imagine .

Mr. CoffeeHe went through his normal routine smoothly. Everything was laid out and prepared the night before to allow for maximum efficiency, so Harold was able to move through each task effortlessly, just as he had planned. When he reached the kitchen, he was pleased to see that the coffee maker was just completing its chore. He had been a bit worried about the coffee since his well used coffee maker had seemed a little sluggish in recent days, but today it was working just like it was new. Harold was certain that it only needed a minor cleaning to be as good as the day he bought it.

When his breakfast was prepared, Harold went to the front door to retrieve the morning paper.  He was ready to hunt around for it as was usually the case, but when he opened the door he found the paper lying at his feet.

“The paper boy must have improved his aim,” Harold thought to himself.  In reality, the “paper boy” was actually a college student at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota where he aspired to greatness at the Van Wetzel Performing Arts Hall.  Harold would never learn this little detail of something that intersected with his daily routine.

As the morning hours passed, Harold began to look forward to his twice weekly trip to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar. He considered this an important part of his Wednesday and Saturday schedules. He dressed in his best, old-fashioned, sports shirt and slacks, found his favorite baseball cap, and made his way to the door in time to make his arrival exactly at the appointed hour.

When he reached his car in the drive way he heard a bit of a commotion down the street. He shot a quick glance down the street fearing his neighbor was headed his way to derail his perfect plan. It was just two old timers, however, talking about the weather or some such time killer and of no importance to Harold. He got into his dependable car and drove away.

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There was no trouble finding a nice parking spot and Harold was able to reach the door way of his favorite eating establishment at the exact moment called for by his schedule.

“Hello Harold,” each staff member called out as he looked for his favorite seat in view of a television screen where sports headlines could be seen all through lunch. He was pleased at his good fortune as he waited for someone to come take his order.

“Why, hello there,” a man bellowed behind Harold. Instantly he feared it was his neighbor, Bill, about to disrupt his well-ordered day. But as the person walked by toward another table, Harold discovered it was no one that he knew. There was no Bill to kill off some of his allotted time at the Sports Bar. Harold smiled at his good fortune.

Soon a waitress arrived at his table. “Hello, Harold,” the familiar voice announced. Much to Harold’s surprise, his favorite waitress was looking right at him, pencil and order pad at the ready.

“Tiffany!” Harold exclaimed. “What happened to the girl with the maroon hair?”

“She didn’t work out,” Tiffany said. “So they asked me to come back. I had been working for them at another restaurant.” Harold was all smiles at this news. As he started to order, Tiffany cut him off.

“I know, you want the soup and sandwich special, and iced tea,” Tiffany said with a smile. At that she headed off to take his order to the kitchen.

When the meal was over, Tiffany brought the check to the table. On the back was a big smiley face drawn by the favorite waitress. As she set it down before Harold, she planted a light peck on his check and declared, “It was good to see you again.” And Harold was happy to see her.

He left a more generous tip than was his custom as he was pleased as to the perfect outcome of his regular lunch. When he got up to leave, every staff member shouted out to Harold, as if he was some sort of celebrity. “See you soon!” And they would see him soon, on Wednesday for the next Soup and Sandwich Special.

As Harold walked to his car he congratulated himself on scheduling the perfect Saturday.

WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK

Share Your World – 2014 Week 42

What would be your preference, awake before dawn or awake before noon?

I wake up, whether or not I want to, before dawn almost every day. Then I diligently put myself back to sleep if I can. Today, I didn’t bother because we are on the road and I can use the extra time to write before we are out of here. I wouldn’t mind being an early riser — sunrise is a delicious time of day — if there were a few more hours between going to sleep and getting up. But apparently that is how my body likes it. My opinion is neither here nor there.

As long as there is coffee when I stumble out of the bedroom, I can deal with the earliness, though if I had my druthers, it would be closer to noon than dawn.

Bonnie - 1

While we are discussing morning — we are discussing morning, right? — I want to mention that Bonnie stole my breakfast cookies this morning. She not only stole them, she took the napkin in which they were wrapped and she made a clean getaway in a matter of just a few minutes while I readied my coffee.  I bet she thinks she got away with it, the little terrorist, but I know the truth …

If you could choose between Wisdom and Luck, which one would you pick?

I’ve given wisdom my best shot and look where it’s gotten me? So now, a change of pace is in order. I no longer am seeking to improve my soul. This round, I want cash. A nice fat lottery win. I’m going with luck, this time. There’s nothing which says I can’t be wise and rich.

Wisdom is all well and good, in its place … but luck is fun.

If you were given the opportunity for free skydiving lessons would you take them? Why or why not?

When I was younger and had a functional spine, I’d have done it. Garry enjoyed it and we could have done it together. Sadly, it’s not in the cards at this point.

Is the glass half empty or half full? What is in the glass?

It’s always half full. Of either coffee or Power Zero. Because that’s what all I’m allowed to drink and I quite literally have a “go cup” of one of these with me all the time. Okay, sometimes I sneak in an illicit coca cola. Does anyone besides me wish they’d put the coca back in the cola? Talk about your fun times …

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Grateful the weather held for our entire vacation. Grateful for the friends who invited us to stay with them and enjoy some of the best company and most magnificent countryside I’ve ever seen … or am likely to see again. Grateful for cars that don’t break down, computers that warn you before they fold their proverbial tent.

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Grateful that funny noise the yellow car is making remained just a noise and didn’t prevent us from getting home. And deeply grateful to Dwight D. Eisenhower for building nice roads on which we can drive.

Next week? I’m looking forward to the end of the ongoing well and water crisis because I’m running out of places to haul my laundry. And I would really like a bath.

DON’T PRESS YOUR LUCK

Daily Prompt: Against All Odds

Against all odds I’m alive. Technically, I died the first time in 1967 when I had that spinal fusion and laminectomy. The spine infected, but with a little supernatural intervention, I got to throw the dice again. Next, there was a burst ovarian cyst and septicemia. No doctor would treat me because they said it was just a delayed menstrual cycle (not). I had to check myself into the hospital for a prepaid abortion (I wasn’t pregnant) before anyone paid any attention.

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Then oh let’s see … the viral meningitis. That was fun. Talk about your really bad headaches. That was the granddaddy of all headaches!

There was the botched gastric bypass followed by losing my medical insurance and five years of malnutrition. Saved by the skin of my teeth and a great doctor who realized if I didn’t get immediate care, I’d be dead by the end of the week. Took me in without insurance. I was well along on my trip to the Other Side, but the Brigham called in the Plastic Surgery Swat team to dismantle and rebuild my septic abdomen plus another supernatural intervention and voilà! I made it out the other side, two surgeries and two codes later.

Then came breast cancer. Diagnosed the right breast and I suggested they take a look at the left one, too. Nah. Waste of time they said. That never happens.

Finally, they were persuaded to check it out and guess what? A second tumor. So I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction two years ago and now, whoa! What’s that? Your heart? You’ve got extremely serious cardiomyopathy! And a non-working mitral valve! Where the devil did that come from? It was fine last we looked and it wasn’t that long ago!

AGAINST ALL ODDS — I’m alive. I’m supposed to go get a cardiac catheterization followed by a cardio-myectomy to redesign my left ventricle and more surgery to repair (hopefully not replace) the mitral valve — except … double whoa … it looks like maybe I’ve got the flu. Or pneumonia. I don’t think it’s pneumonia yet.

My husband won’t let me have heart surgery when I’m already sick. I see his point. It’s possible I’ve had all the supernatural interventions I’m going to get this side of the grave, so maybe it would be better to not press my luck. I want to sleep for a long time and wake to everything being all better. Is that too much to ask? Yeah, it is. But gee, it sounds awfully good to me.

Alternatively, I will take the advice of several of my commenters. Paint myself blue with weird symbols and organize a pillaging raid on the local Walmart. I need to strike a blow for freedom!!

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What else could go wrong?

“What else could go wrong? How much worse could things get?”

My husband and I have an agreement. NEVER say those lines. Ever. Never say them, don’t even think them.

No matter how bad things are, no matter how dark life looks, there is always something else that can go wrong. If you are alive, you are already money ahead. You could be not alive. Many were and no longer are.

A fair number of people I counted as friends and loved ones are long gone and many more are on that final leg of life’s journey, in the immortal words of Tom Lehrer “Soon we’ll all be sliding down that razor blade of life.” Ouch.

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Yesterday, when I was deep in the miasma of self-pity … my least favorite place to be except in a hospital bed waking up to realize “Oh shit, this is going to be really bad …” I thought to myself, “Hell, you really ARE going to die.”

Then I said out loud. “Asshole. Of course you are going to die. Was there ever the least bit of doubt about it? It was never an “if.” We are all going to die. When and how remain the only questions, but that’s a journey we are all taking.”

None of the people I know have gone gently into that good night, if indeed it is a good night. No one has come back to tell me about it. I’ve been waiting for at least one of them to drop by and give me the word, let me in on the biggest secret of all. Is there anything after? Is there an after? And if there is … how and what is it?

Despite the ever-increasing number of close friends and family who have gone to there — wherever that may be — no one has reported back.

Yesterday, I was counting all the things that could go wrong that have not gone wrong yet. I could be dead instead of whining about how I might be dead. I could be living on the street instead of wondering how I will meet the next mortgage payment. The car, running fine, could stop working. The boiler could blow. The deck could collapse. The electrical system could fry.

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More friends, more loved ones, could be sick, could die, could disappear. The television could stop working (no, not that, anything but that) or worse — be still my ailing heart — we could lose our high-speed Internet connection. Talk about a heart attack — that idea could do me in.

So what could go wrong? You think things couldn’t get worse?

They can go wronger and they can get worser. And given the shit-storm life is, it probably will. Go wronger. Get worser. So I should shut up and enjoy whatever there is to enjoy because … wow. You never know, right? Well, actually, you do know. You just don’t want to think about it. And I don’t blame you one little bit.

Tom Lehrer always cheers me up.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Papa Says Get Economical – Destiny in Under 500 Words

The Path

Life happens. We plan. We’re psyched. Announce our upcoming adventure! Oops. Sickness. Financing falls through. The place we were sure was ours sells to someone else. Job offer dissolves; budget cancelled. Harvard said what? Who’s writing this script?

People (who ARE those people?) say “everything happens for a reason.” I’m not so sanguine, but I know we follow our destiny, like it or not. The longer I live, the louder I hear that drumbeat. Plans go awry. If fate decrees we aren’t doing it, discussion over. Make new plans? They fall apart too. Different reasons, same result. Another plan anyone?

Years pass. The you making plans has changed. If you get what you want, it won’t be what you expect. Could be better, might be worse. Surely different.

Take it easy, go with the flow. Bring energy, enthusiasm and a sense of wonder to everything,  planned or not. Life’s unexpected, but needn’t be dull.

From womb to tomb, it’s a journey. We are forever becoming. The only thing we can always count on is us. Wherever, whatever, we bring ourselves to the party. The unplanned things were the most important. Never entirely fun. Rarely easy, but critical. Meaningful.

From 13 years old I wanted to go to Israel to live. Not visit. I had no interest in tourism. I wanted to live there, experience culture shock, be enveloped by foreignness. My first attempt to move there — with mom’s collusion — got cancelled when I chose college, a special B.A. program I thought wouldn’t let me in. I planned to study nursing in Israel. I was 16, just out of high school.

Twelve years later, I did move to Israel — on my own with my 9-year old son. No plans to study. I’d gotten my chance 5 years earlier, accepted into an exclusive Master’s program for administrative nursing. I dreamed of running free clinics for people without insurance.

Along came life. My first husband got cancer at 34. After I got up off the floor, I figured I needed an income, not a master’s. I found work as a writer; remained a writer my entire professional life. How would the lives entwined with mine have been changed if I’d moved to Israel in 1963? My son might not exist — or my granddaughter. I’d never have met Garry. I can’t imagine such a life.

This is where I should be. I know it, though not why. If I’d chosen, I’d be richer, healthier, living with better weather and no mortgage. But I wouldn’t trade for what I’ve got. Life’s not what I planned. It’s a challenge. But it’s good. I am where I should be. Destiny.

My dogs are happy. They never plan, except for the next biscuit. I’m with the dogs.

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The Backstretch – Life in the Slow Lane

It’s the backstretch of the year. My endless project will be over, good or ill, at the end of the month. So will Christmas. As for the insanity with which I live, that, I fear, will accompany me into the glad New Year and quite possibly to the end of time, or at least … MY time.

I thought retirement might be dull. I thought it would be … maybe … slower-paced than working was. I was certainly convinced I would have much more time to do stuff, all kinds of stuff, that I didn’t get to do when I was working. Hah!

Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848,...

Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848.

A year ago last August, I was at a retirement party for a friend. Early retirement, I should add. In a rare act of sanity, he hit 60, his pension vested, and he said “Lemme outta here!!!!” and due to actually having at some point done some financial planning, plus a bit of good luck, he could. And did.

So I said, this being a very good friend of many long years standing (and sitting, and falling over, laughing, eating, and whatevering), let’s see if we can fit some time to actually visit a bit more often.

He said, and this is a quote: “Now that I’m retiring, I’ll have plenty of time.” He didn’t know yet, but he sure found out fast enough.

I didn’t stop laughing for days. He hasn’t had a moment to breathe since he quit working. Neither he nor I can figure out how he managed to fit a fulltime job into his life.

Retirement Ceremony

Retirement Ceremony (Photo credit: born1945)

Retirement … a misnomer if ever I heard one … is like jumping into a pool of still water. For a brief few moment, you will see the rings spreading out from where your body went under. Then, the surface will again flatten out into a mirror of smoothness. Life, the waters thereof, have taken you in.

Beneath that silken surface is a roiling mass of tasks, catastrophes, obligations, incomplete projects and Lord only knows what else … much of which has been waiting for your arrival for many long years. As you slide under the surface, hands begin to grab at you, voices come in every direction. Your parents need your help. Your children, grandchildren, the house, the cars, volunteer projects all bang you over the head.

When did I volunteer for that? you ask … but you won’t remember. Don’t bother trying. “You’re making that up,” you mumble, convinced that everyone has lost their minds, that you have slipped down a rabbit hole or through wormhole into an alternate universe. No, just retirement. It’s like that.

You don’t have spare time. You don’t have any time. You’re lucky if you have the time to get a little nap now and then.

Analyze the word and it will make more sense. Re (to repeat); tire (exhaustion and lack of sleep); ment (whatever). You are becoming tired again. Just when you thought you were going to have all that free time, leisure, naps in the warm summer afternoons … hah!

Getting old is definitely not for the faint of heart.