Pat Gerber — Mrs. Anglo Swiss, mother of Tabby the blogging cat and wife of Marcel Gerber — took a bad fall this past weekend and has been in the hospital with a broken thigh. Marcel says she is doing okay. At our age, I’m not exactly sure what that means, but hopefully, she will be home soon — at least, by the end of the week.
Growing wild by the river, a yellow daylily
Nearly perfect lily
Photo: Garry Armstrong
She and I are always in touch. Every day unless she was out of the country or I was too sick to talk, we always chat a little about something. Cats, dogs, flowers, life, and our world’s worst president.
Please, everyone, send her your best! I am sending virtual flowers in lieu of the real ones I would like to send!
She isn’t getting messages right now, except through her husband, but I bet she’ll be glad to see something from her many friends around the world when she comes home. Being a big far away to send bouquets, I thought I’d go wild and send a lot of flowers!
One Sunday in church, Pastor’s sermon was about forgiveness. He asked everyone in the church to stand up. Then he asked those who had any enemies to sit down. Everyone sat down but one very old woman.
“You have no enemies at all?” asked Pastor.
“Not a single one,” she answered, nodding her agreement.
“Please, come up here and tell everyone how you reached such a great age without having any enemies,” said Pastor. A deacon accompanied the elderly woman to the pulpit and everyone in church applauded as she slowly made her way up the steps. Pastor adjusted the microphone.
“You must have done a lot of forgiving,” said Pastor. “Please, tell us your secret.”
The old lady smiled beatifically.
“I outlived the bitches,” she said.
Life marches on. You get older and after a while, you realize all the people you used to obsess over, the people who hurt you, are mostly gone. By the time you pass 70, a lot of people have disappeared from your life. Good ones you loved and the evil ones you hated. The sickly ones with bad hearts.
Chickens come home to roost. Crazy drivers meet their maker on a dark highway. Heavy drinkers, smokers, drug users find a sad end. It turns out that hating them was a waste of energy. Cancer, heart attack, and other diseases weed out people, the best and the worst, remorselessly and without no regard for personal qualities. Meanwhile, the older generation passes away, one funeral at a time.
Time makes most of the fears and worries of life less important. It turns out, forgiveness is not about repairing relationships so you can be friends again. It’s all about letting go. Passing stuff to your “higher power,” whatever that means to you. Acknowledging you can’t fix everything.
Realizing it’s not your job to fix it.
Shit happens. Some of it — unfair and unforgivable — happens to you. You can make it the center of your world and spend your life brooding and obsessing over it. Or, you can decide you won’t be defined by the worst stuff that happened to you — or the worst stuff you’ve done.
I know people who had wonderful careers full of honor and respect who lost their jobs and promptly declared themselves failures, as if that one bad thing — getting fired — negated everything that had gone before.
I know men and women who were abused as children who still define themselves as victims — 50 or 60 years later.
If you like yourself, you can be pretty happy no matter what life throws at you. It’s that simple. And that difficult. When you start forgiving, forgive yourself first. For the mistakes you made. For the bad choices, the stupid decisions, the asshole(s) you married, almost married, allowed to mess with your head.
The jobs you screwed up, shouldn’t have taken, should have taken (but didn’t). The opportunities you blew. The unfinished manuscripts, the unpublished stories. The times you were wrong and didn’t apologize. Your failures as a parent, the books you didn’t read. All the “shoulda coulda woulda” you’ve accumulated.
If you throw it all out, you won’t eliminate all your problems. The money you don’t have won’t suddenly pop into your bank account. Youth and health won’t return. But, you don’t have to haul the past with you into the future and you can enjoy what you do have without obsessing over what you missed.
The sooner you do it, the better. Life isn’t forever, even if you live entirely on salad and never miss a day of exercise. Then, with a little luck, you’ll outlive the bitches.
My father was afraid of horses, so of course I had to learn how to ride. I was terrified of snakes, so my son has had a lifelong fascination with reptiles. Not surprising.
My father witnessed someone being kicked by a horse and killed. Needless to say, he became phobic about riding horses. When I expressed an interest in riding at around age 10, he forbade it. He was rarely this emphatic about anything.
My mother and grandfather didn’t think I should have to live by my father’s fears. So they went behind Dad’s back and took me for riding lessons near our summer-house in CT. I studied English style walk, trot and canter in a ring. Then I decided to follow my close friend into jumping classes. I never got very far. I was not a great rider. I was always a bit afraid of the horses and they always knew it. The result was that I had little control over the horses I rode.
My father never found out about my riding and I eventually stopped. But when I was in college, I had a wonderful riding experience in, of all places, New York City. A friend of my mother’s rode in Central Park and asked me to join her. There is a large reservoir in Central Park that goes from the East side to the West side of town. There is also a long bridal path that goes around the entire perimeter of the reservoir.
Most horseback riding in the Eastern U.S. is ring riding or trail riding, which is basically a walk in the woods but on a horse. The NYC bridal path gave you the opportunity to just ride on a straightaway for miles. As an added treat, once the horses reached the halfway point and realized they were heading home, they would break into a gallop. What a treat! It was awesome.
I pretty much stopped riding after college. I did enjoy it but it wasn’t a real passion for me. I think my father’s fear rubbed off enough on me to dampen my enthusiasm for the sport.
When it came to my turn as a parent, I got to expose my kids to a different animal phobia – snakes. When I was about ten years old, I stepped on a snake and gave myself a scare. I started having nightmares about snakes and a full-blown phobia was born. I would scream and run if I saw even a photo of a snake.
From a very early age, my son, David, was fascinated by snakes and other reptiles. I obviously couldn’t share that interest with him. Then in 1989, when David was nine, I started taking the anti-depressant Prozac. I first realized that the medication was working when I suddenly came across a live snake and realized that I wasn’t afraid anymore. I even petted a boa constrictor my kids and I saw at a local mall. My son was stunned but ecstatic. My phobia was gone. It had been part of my anxiety based depression.
David and I started reading about snakes together and soon David asked to have one as a pet. Once we made sure David understood how to take care of it (because I certainly wasn’t going to), we got our first of several pythons, Turbo. At 37, David now has two snakes, one a python, three Geckos and a Bearded Dragon lizard. He has become quite a reptile expert and sometimes even goes to herpetology meetings with breeders and other aficionados.
My mother and grandmother were terrified of cats but, while I loved cats, I prefer dogs and never became a true cat person. However, my fear of snakes inspired a real passion in my son. So I guess it served a purpose – the creation of a positive and gratifying hobby for David.
Usually, my Christmas cactus blooms like mad around Thanksgiving, but this year, they looked limp and miserable.
I realized I had done the one single thing that you can’t do to a cactus: I over-watered it. Not by a lot, mind you. A little bit. I let the earth stay moist instead of letting it get dusty dry, which is what you need to do to bring them into flower.
When they failed to flower at Christmas, I stood in front of my mirror and yelled at me. I told me to “PUT DOWN THE WATERING CAN.” I did.
For the past week, I’ve been watching the buds come out on the cactus. Red and dark pink — on the same plant. That’s new. Usually I get just one color per blooming. Most of them are still unopened, but we’re going away for the next few days. I’m afraid i may miss the main blooming, so I shot pictures today, just in case.
I should have used my macro lens, but I didn’t … just a more or less standard f1.7 “normal.” They are still pretty. I’ll try to grab a few more shots tomorrow.
Sometimes, being human depresses me. There’s so much that needs fixing. Not just climate change. Not just animal extinction. No single thing. It’s many things and mainly …
It’s us. People.
We’ve poisoned the oceans and many of our rivers. Here in New England, the very first massively polluted river was our own Blackstone. From Worcester to Slatersville, Rhode Island, we built mills. Cotton and wool. Dye and weaving. Tanneries. We built dams and behind those dams were — and still are — tons and tons of hazardous waste. If you think pollution is a 20th century problem, it isn’t.
We’ve been poisoning our planet for hundreds of years and we aren’t done yet. It’s the reason we can’t remove many of the dams on the Blackstone. Removing dams would release massive amounts of poisoned earth into the rivers, effectively undoing decades of effort put into cleaning the river.
California has mudslides and perhaps has always had them … but I’m pretty sure all the building on the cliffs has weakened many areas. Trees and grass hold the earth and when you remove the trees and the grasses, the earth falls apart. There’s nothing to hold it.
We have built houses practically in the water. Destroyed the dunes where the birds nested. We drive dune buggies through fragile shoreline. It kills the birds, their nests, and adds more pollution.
The ocean is full of floating plastic garbage and worse.
If climate change were our only problem, that would probably be an improvement. But we are still drilling and creating trash as if there’s a giant hole where we can put all of our garbage. With President Shithead in power, there will be more drilling, more exploding oil rigs. More tons of oil pouring into what were healthy waters full of fish and plants. Not all that long ago, George’s Banks was the breeding ground for north Atlantic fish … and now, it has been fished out. It will be years — if left in peace — before the fish begin breeding again.
Fishermen were warned repeatedly. You can’t fish forever and without giving the fish a chance to breed and grow to full size. But they all said they couldn’t afford to not fish there … and now, no one can fish there. Smart, right?
Not every change in the earth is the result of climate change. A lot of what is wrong with the world is us. Humans. Digging and drilling and killing. Plowing grassland until it becomes a dust-bowl.
So don’t fear that climate change is the only terrible thing occurring in our world. We are capable of far more destruction than that. We’ve got lots more garbage and filth to spread around.
Before we’re done, we can totally trash the planet. I have faith in us.
We all have friends who do stuff we can’t do. They make a perfect pie crust and the filling is damned good too. They build their own furniture. Tune the car and reupholster the furniture. They do a little painting, a bit of carving. Frame their own pictures. Repair anything that breaks. They are never worried about any problem because they know exactly what to do about it.
These are the woman who breezily raise two kids after dad left while working full-time and never seemed overwhelmed … or even tired. Men who build companies, sell them, build another and don’t know why you can’t do the same. It’s so easy.
They throw great dinner parties where the food is delicious. The dishes match or are delightfully casual yet coördinated to look casual,– but you know they are designed to look that way. Because the casual look takes work.
When you ask about that wonderful pie crust, they say “Oh, it’s so easy. It’s just a bit of butter and flour. A bit of sugar. Cut everything up with a couple of butter knives, roll it out, and there you are.” If you are lucky, you get a demonstration and it does look easy. So, you go home, get all the ingredients together and give it a try. Which results in an unusable lump of muck which ultimately, you toss in the trash.
After which you buy a pie crust or better yet, buy the whole pie. Because it isn’t so easy. Not for you, anyway.
Modest, humble people who do brilliant stuff about which they are completely offhand. They seem baffled why you would think any of it is a big deal. Apparently, it isn’t. To them.
To you, it would be a minor miracle if you could accomplish one little piece of it. Yet they will always say “It’s so easy. Anyone could do it.”
If you had an unlimited shopping spree at only one store, which one would you choose? Why?
Can I make that Amazon please? I would head for the cameras and computers and possibly automobiles. Maybe pick up a couple of trikes for Garry and I. I could spend a lot of money at Amazon. I’ve got some serious wish lists going.
It’s also the only place I know that has pretty much everything I want — other than repairs for the house, though it does have parts I need to fix the house. And they deliver in 2 days! It doesn’t get better than that.
What is the worst thing you ate recently?
I do all the cooking and I cook pretty well. I can’t remember the last bad meal I’ve had.
So I have to say there really isn’t any worst thing. I didn’t like the ginger jelly I bought, but it wasn’t terrible, just not as good as I had hoped.
Name five things you like watching …
We are truly watchers of so many things it really would be impossible to name. But we are very fond of late night comedy — Colbert and Trevor Noah, for two. John Oliver for three. NCIS. We’ve been re-watching the entire “Blue Bloods” series.
Intermittently watching Voyager, but we aren’t finding it truly mesmerizing. We watch baseball in season. Football right now because there’s Tom Brady and even though we are more baseball than football fans, Brady is something to watch.
Lots of stuff on Acorn — “Doc Martin,” “A Place to Call Home.” “Rake” and “Murdoch’s Mysteries.” Too much to mention, but if it was made in New Zealand, Canada, or Australia, we are probably watching it now — or already did.
What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?
Went to the doctor and discovered I’m alive! That’s right folks. I’m still here. It turns out those pains in my hand are (gasp) arthritis AND carpal tunnel syndrome. Considering I’ve been playing the piano since I was four and touch-typing since I was 10, it’s amazing my hands have lasted this long. We’re going to try braces and see if that helps. Otherwise, I suppose I’ll have to get the carpal tunnel surgery, but that won’t solve the arthritis problem.
Mostly, though, I’m doing okay. For me. Given one thing and another. This is as healthy as I’ve been in a few years.
Not exactly ready to run the marathon, but most of my parts are working pretty well, all things considered. I can’t remember anything — which is apparently perfectly normal. I have a chronic sinus thing — since forever — and it will never go away. I can usually breathe . My blood pressure with medication is within acceptable limits. And I got back the reflexes in both feet and knees after years of not having reflexes there. Remitting, recurring, remitting …
So, I’ll probably be annoying you with my posts for years to come. You’re not going to get rid of me that quickly!
Has this terrible thought ever crossed your mind while you were sitting on a plane trying to relax? The chance of this happening is pretty slim. But, if you have seen movies like Final Destination or Non-Stop, you get the idea of what would happen.
Garry felt we should leave the hallway gate open, or, to put it another way — stop closing the gate. He is worried that one of these days, Duke will get hurt leaping the gate although to be fair, I see no evidence of this.
Nonetheless, Garry has a point. Duke has grown up. He isn’t quite as much of a flyer as he was when he arrived. He has filled out. His chest is deeper. He’s got jowls. He’s a dog, no longer a puppy.
A couple of nights ago, I decided to leave the gate open when I went to bed. I gave the furry ones their last biscuit of the night. Grabbed my bag of medications and my drink, and headed for the bedroom. I turned around and started to say “Good night, fur persons,” which I say every night, but instead, all I started to laugh.
All three dogs were lined up at the place where the gate normally would close. Not in the hallway, but on the other side. They stood there looking at me, then looking at each other. I could hear their conversation in my mind.
“The gate is open. Why is the gate open? Is this a trick?”
“I don’t know Gibbs. Duke, what do you think?”
“I don’t know either. This seems so … wrong.”
“It’s got to be a trick,” says Gibbs. “I bet she’s going to come back and yell at us. I’m going back to the sofa for a nap.”
“I better do that too,” says Bonnie.
“Yeah,” says Duke. “A nap. Good idea. When we wake up, the gate will be closed.”
“Good night, fur people,” I say. They wrinkle their foreheads. They are worried. Something is weird. A night’s sleep will fix everything.
There is nothing more hilarious than dogs who are dealing with … change. Change is not something welcomed by dogs. They want everything to always be the same. Except dinner. They want dinner to be a delightful, ever-changing selection of yummy things. Leftover steak. Remaindered meat loaf. Spare chicken parts.
Change? Stifle that. Do not move the furniture. Do not move the water dish. And now that you mention it, close the gates like you always have. Today needs to be just like yesterday and the day before.
Without thinking, I briefly closed the gate yesterday. They seemed relieved. Life was back to normal. But then, I remembered and reopened it. My last look at the dogs last night was the three of them, all lined up in front of the open gate looking forlornly at me. Why was I changing something?
I know it’s a bit demented on my part, but I might change something else — just to watch them fret about it!
Yesterday I decided to put a new header on my template. I do this regularly and there doesn’t need to be a special reason. I just feel like it. I used to put up a new one daily, but that got old after a while, so now it happens when the spirit moves me.
In the beginning of January, I re-upped my “customization package” with WordPress. This package gives me more space for photographs (I need it!), my own domain, no advertisements and recently, unbeknownst to me, access to all the templates. This was not true in the past, so I was delighted to discover it.
It didn’t change anything for me because I’m always looking for the same basic shape and format, mainly because the material I’ve created fits easily into that format. I don’t have to start reformatting the entire template. But you never know. I might decide I want to try something really different. Anything is possible.
Little did I know that much more change was on the way. This time, when I went to change the Header Image, the design format for my template had changed. Big time.
All my previously embedded headers were gone. What had been my header image (including my site information) had transformed into a logo which seemed etched in virtual stone and was part of the format of the theme.
I couldn’t find any way to remove it. If I put in another pictures in the header image area, my old image was glued in the middle of it — not what I was trying to accomplish. But I was sure there had to be a way to dislodge the old image and I stuck to messing around with it. I am nothing if not tenacious.
Finally, I tried a different (not very different) format, but it had the same problem. Next I returned to “Plane,” my previous format. Having move to different theme in the middle, then coming back, I hoped that might have dislodged the old header image.
It hadn’t. But I kept messing around with it until finally, hosanna, the old image went away. I’m not sure exactly what I did that was different. It seemed I was just repeating the same stuff, but this time, it worked.
This was my existing theme, called “Plane” and no, I have no idea why they name them what they name them. Even though it’s the same theme, it looks quite different.
On my computer, it is wider. The pictures are wider too. Both important pluses for me where how a pictures displays on-screen is a big deal.
As far as typeface issues go, WordPress added some newfonts. Oh yay! Excellent! The site’s title now appears on top of the picture, so I don’t have to keep creating special headers and can use any picture and my site name with tagline will appear above (on top of) it.
Aside from that glitch where it didn’t want to say good-bye to the old image, this is an excellent set of improvements for those of us who with a customization package. It would have been a nice touch had someone mentioned to me that this was going to happen, however.
What is it with WordPress that they can’t bother to tell you anything before they do it? For a company deep in communications, they really don’t communicate well.
I’m happy with the changes. Very happy. I can only imagine what less computer savvy customers are making of the changes, though. I hope they’ve put some explanations online for us to read.
I don’t know what they did or why they did it, but it’s a major improvement and one for which I’ve hoped for a while. They’ve been removing pieces of the customization package for years. This is the first time they have ever expanded it and done it well. The wider stretch on the computer screen is a major improvement for photography. The text is also a slightly bigger and my eyes are saying “thank you.”
I like the new fonts, one of which I’m using for my headings and a different new typeface for writing.
Well done, WordPress. Next time, you think you might consider sending a notification? Please?
I didn’t know it growing up, but I have several learning disabilities, including ADD. I was actually diagnosed with ADD in my sixties. The medication works wonderfully but it keeps me from sleeping, so I can only take it once in a while.
I learned of my other learning disabilities when my son was diagnosed in college. I realized that I have been plagued by the same disabilities that he has. When I was young, I was just considered anxious and a slow learner.
From high school on, through college and law school, I had to put in way more time than my peers did to learn class material and do well in school. Here’s what I had to do to master the material I needed to know for exams. I had to underline the reading material when I read it for the first time. Then I had to go back and reread the underlining, highlighting the most important parts. Then I had to reread the highlighting and turn it into an extensive outline. That detailed outline then had to be condensed into a shorter outline that I would read over and over until I had it memorized.
I also had to take copious notes during classes. I filled several notebooks by the end of each semester. It puzzled me that often, when I read over my notes, it was as if I was reading the material for the first time. I often had no memory of parts of the class lectures.
It turns out that this is a symptom of a learning disability. I forget what it’s called. But it basically means that I can’t aurally absorb the content of the lecture while I’m physically taking notes on it. The act of note taking itself cancels out my ability to learn and retain what I am hearing. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time – and remember what I was doing.
To study for a test, I went through a similar process with my notes than I did with the reading material. I had to read over my notes and highlight the key passages. I then had to go back and reread the highlighting and incorporate the information into my voluminous outline from the reading material. My master outlines were often 20-30 pages long.
It turns out that there’s a physiological reason why I had to go through that laborious process just to learn what I needed to know for a test. Another learning disability involves short term and long term memory. Some people only need to hear or read something once or twice before that piece of information is transferred from the short term memory section of the brain to the long term memory section. For me and for my son, we have to be exposed to that piece of information maybe four or five times before our brains move it from short term to long term memory.
The good news for us, is that people like us are often better able to use the information and integrate it with other information in our brains. But it takes us longer to remember it in the first place.
My first husband, Larry, was at the opposite end of the spectrum learning wise. He had a mind like a sponge. He heard or read something once and he knew it. It was very frustrating for me to watch him study when we were in law school together.
Larry just listened in class. He took minimal notes, usually only jotting down a word or two to remind himself of the subject matter discussed that day. When he studied for a test, he just flipped through the text book, refreshing his memory of the material covered. He used to urge me to stop taking notes – to just listen and absorb in class. He didn’t understand that I couldn’t. I would never remember what had been discussed unless I wrote it all down.
Larry’s quick study abilities got him into trouble with his first year study group. Study groups are an essential part of the first year of law school. Five people get together and study for tests. Each person outlines one of the five first year classes for the other four. One person would have a hard time outlining all five classes. There was just too much material.
Larry was assigned Torts as his subject to outline for his study group. When they met around exam time, everyone brought their ten or so page typed outlines. Everyone except Larry. He brought a single legal sheet of paper with, basically the chapter headings of the text book hand written on it. That was all he needed to study for the exam. He had ‘learned’ the material as he went along during the semester.
His fellow classmates were livid. Larry didn’t understand what their problem was. He didn’t even know how to write a detailed outline. The four other study group members had to divide up the Torts material between them and go home and outline the class themselves. Larry got an A in Torts. None of the others did. They were not happy with Larry!
So I have first hand experience with the wide range of learning styles that people can have. I am, unfortunately, on the slow end of the learning curve. But at least I now understand why. It’s not my ‘fault’. That’s just the way my brain works. I don’t beat myself up about it any more or feel bad because of it. I’m jealous of faster learners, but I accept that this is just who I am.
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.