Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What is Going on Here, People?

I haven’t much enjoyed looking at Facebook this past week. 

So much so that when I was trying to come up with a topic to discuss today, my mind kept leaning toward cute baby animals.  Like bunnies, maybe.  Yeah, I should write something about bunnies.  There’s nothing controversial about bunnies, is there? 

There has been so much rancor and discord on Facebook (and other social media outlets, too, I’m sure), that I have had to shut it down at times because I’m so tired of it all!

If you’re against the recent Supreme Court ruling, you may think I’m going to complain about all the rainbow-colored profile pictures.

And if you’re for the ruling, you may decide I’m complaining about all the bible references.

But you’d be wrong on both counts.  You see, my complaint is that people are so far left or so far right, there is no room to come together.  A little toward the middle, people – there’s lots of room in here!

There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy debate. After all, it’s how ideas are formed and opinions are made. Or maybe solidified.  But the rhetoric I’ve seen on Facebook does nothing to allow the possibility of seeing the other side.

Has anyone read someone’s post and said, “Hmmm. I never thought about it that way. I think I’ll change my mind.”  

Yeah, I sincerely doubt it.  I’ve never seen two people who are on opposite ends of the opinion spectrum on a topic change their minds after a debate.

But if we are able to keep an open mind, we may learn a little more tolerance. 

I have never personally identified with the LGBT community because I have never had sexual or romantic feelings toward a member of my own sex.  So I can’t really understand it.  But I know people who are gay and they tell me their lifestyle is not a choice - it's who they are. So who am I to condemn that? And is it my right to pass judgment?  I don't think so.

And I truly don’t see how two members of the same sex marrying could possibly harm me in any way. 

When someone argues that the purpose of marriage is to procreate and propagate the species, I personally can argue against that. 

When my husband and I married, it was simply because we loved each other.  I was nearly 50 and he was almost 51 and we sure weren’t marrying with the intention of procreating.  Yes, I had always wanted a child – and thought that I might even have one or two of them earlier in my life – but it simply wasn’t meant to be.  And, believe me, having a child after 50 was definitely not in the plan!

So should we not have been allowed to marry?

There are many things that I don’t personally identify with, but it doesn’t mean I can’t try to conjure up a little empathy.  Everyone in this life walks a different path.

I mean, I don’t “get” Caitlyn Jenner, either.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t support her quest for a little happiness. 

To each his own, I say. 

Nothing Caitlyn Jenner does is bothering me.  I don’t watch the Kardashians and I doubt I’ll watch Jenner's reality show, either. But that’s my choice – I can either be a viewer or I can switch the channel.

But I don’t have to write nasty comments all over Facebook about it, either.

By the same token, I don’t see why those who believe in a higher power and in organized religion are being condemned these days either.  

The beauty of our freedoms as Americans means that we are allowed to have an opinion.  I get that.  And I don’t believe anyone should be muzzled.

But I’d really like it if people could tone it down.  Just a little.

After all, I believe there are so many other, more important, issues going on in our world.  Like the friend who personally knew one of the victims of the shooting in Charleston.  She is in mourning for her friend right now, as are many, many people in that community.

There are people in hospitals fighting for their lives and others who have lost that battle and their family and friends are now grieving.  And it may sound trivial to some, but I also know a number of people who have lost a pet recently, too.  But to them, losing a four-legged family member is not a trivial matter. 
So it seems to me like there is a lot of sadness in this world. 

And it seems to me that this world could be a little brighter, a little happier and a lot less stressful if we were all a little more tolerant of one another.

Yes, that sounds simplistic.  And, no, I don’t have the answer because I don’t believe there is any one right way to believe and one wrong way.  

And in no way am I attempting to jump into the fray of controversy. 

I just wish that people could learn to practice a little more tolerance and patience with their fellow man. 

If not, then I’m going to start writing about cute bunnies from now on.  Just bunnies.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The End of an Era

I feel sad today. It’s as if an era has ended; only no one but me, and possibly my siblings, is aware of it.

Today I learned from my nearly 89-year-old father that he and my mother would not be traveling to their summer home on Cape Cod this year. Or ever again. Moreover, he and my mother have decided to put the cottage up for sale.

Almost as an afterthought, dad told me that he had failed the vision test when he went to the BMV to get his driver’s license renewed.

And then it became clear to me. Because dad has to give up his car keys, and mom no longer drives, they will never again be able to stay up at their summer cottage for months at a time as they had been doing every year since they retired more than twenty years ago. 

The closest of their children is nearly four hours away from the cottage so no one can make a quick run to the grocery store for them. We cannot take their dirty towels and clothes to the laundromat since the cottage doesn’t have the modern convenience of a washer and dryer. And we can’t easily check on them to make sure they are okay and their needs are being met.

My siblings and I are relieved to hear that our parents will not attempt to stay so far away for so many months this year. And we are relieved that there won’t be a repeat episode like last year when my father’s sudden hospitalization left us scrambling to get up there to take care of them.
But it still seems like the end of an era to me. 

No longer will we have family gatherings at the cottage that my grandparents built back in the early '50s. 

No longer will we get together for milestone events such as our parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, which we celebrated only three short years ago. 

And no longer will we hold our annual “Lobster Fests” – that one fun evening where we all sit around the table talking and laughing and dunking succulent pieces of lobster in little bowls of butter.
My siblings and I grew up in this cottage. We can remember days long ago when summers seemed carefree and endless. We couldn’t wait until our annual two-week August vacation at Parkwood Beach when we would dig our toes in the sand and jump in the ocean and play in the waves.

When we were young and our grandparents were alive and doted on us. When they gave us coins from Nanna’s change purse and allowed us to race down the street after the ice cream truck to buy ourselves a frosty treat. And when we showed off our swimming and diving skills – or our exemplary sand castle-building skills – to much applause.  To kids with grandparents such as ours, we were talented and unstoppable. And we were well loved.

Eventually, Grandpa passed and Nanna was alone at the cottage. Visiting her was still magical, but we were growing up and some of the carefree sense of our youth was diminishing. Our parents would take a much-needed break from the four of us kids and leave us in the care of our grandmother.  We can recall the times Nanna would pile us all into her big green monster of a car for a road trip.  With her head barely clearing the dashboard, she would shakily drive three hours to Provincetown so that by the time we arrived, the three of us in the back seat were queasy and a bit car sick.

But that didn't stop our adventures. I remember bits and pieces of those road trips, including a stop one afternoon in a Provincetown bar where a bartender sporting colorful tattoos up and down his arms tried to bully the little old white-haired lady into taking her four charges out of his bar. Our diminutive 4'11" tall Nanna stood her ground and eventually the four of us sat at a table picking at the hamburgers he grudgingly fixed for us.

Years later, I wondered about this. Were there no other, more suitable, restaurants open just then? Or did Nanna, once she realized she had taken us to a bar and not a restaurant, refuse to allow the burly bartender to intimidate her?  Either way, it has become one of those fond memories etched deep in my arsenal of “Nanna stories.”
And it makes me smile whenever I think about it.

Our trips to the cottage included an annual Deep Sea fishing excursion with our dad. It was a rite of passage and when we turned 9, we were allowed to join the party. I was so excited when I was finally of age to join my dad and older brother, that I forgot to be squeamish about things like threading the fish hook with raw pieces of clam and about squirming fish on the end of my fishing pole and about smelly fish guts.  Or about having to be ready to walk out the door by 6 a.m.

Driving to Plymouth to board one of Captain John’s party boats was a bonding experience with my dad that lasted until a few years ago when Dad was a bit too frail and his eyesight too bad to continue.

The end of that tradition made me sad, too.

As young adults, I remember a time or two when my siblings and I stayed at the cottage by ourselves. It felt odd sitting on the porch having a drink before dinner without grandparents or parents there to supervise, but considering we were of legal drinking age, we quickly got over that and had a wonderful time.

And in my 20s, I remember bringing friends a couple different times to explore the Cape, which was a learning experience for me as well, since my family tended to stick closer to the cottage during our vacations and we didn’t often do the “tourist” thing.

One of my favorite trips was in 2009 when I brought my newly-minted husband to the cottage after our wedding. We hadn’t planned an immediate honeymoon and my parents suggested we take a few days off and drive back with them. I think my dad simply didn’t want to make the long drive on his own and he was grateful for Vince’s driving expertise at getting us there safe and sound (and fast).

We also didn’t relish the thought of sharing our “honeymoon” with my parents. But Vince and I were able to take a couple days to drive down the Cape and explore the area. And we had some wonderful experiences and have some great memories of our time there.

In recent years, my trips to the Cape have been more of a task and responsibility rather than simply a pleasurable vacation. As dad’s vision has steadily diminished, he has gratefully accepted our offer to make the drive for them. Thus, I have either driven my parents to the cottage in June or have driven them back to Ohio in October. Neither of these stays at the cottage is long enough to allow me time to sink my toes in the sand at the beach. Not that I’d particularly want to sink my toes in the sand in mid-October, but you get the idea.
So, while I know that every beginning has an end, I am still a little sad that this is the end of an era.

Yet, I have a lifetime of incredible experiences and happy memories to sustain me when I get sad about it. 

And I hope the memories they share also comfort my mom and dad as they say goodbye to a place that has been a part of their lives for so many decades.

Saying goodbye is easy, said no one ever.  But here's one last toast to you, little cottage at Parkwood Beach. Thank you for the decades you protected us and kept us safe and happy. 

And, as Bob Hope (apropros for my folks my parents' age!) once sang, "Thanks for the memories!"

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Wonderful (?) World of Garage Sales

A couple weeks ago I participated in a two-day community garage sale.  It was both fun and painful.  Fun because I got rid of stuff that has been collecting dust in the basement for years.  And fun because I made a few dollars.

But painful because it’s hot, sweaty work sitting in a humid garage for hours on end practically giving my treasures away for free. 

And let me just tell you – Garage Sale Regulars are ruthless!

They will dicker until you give in and meet their price just to get rid of them. And, frankly, I thought my prices were more than reasonable to begin with.  I priced my items to move since I did not want to have a garage full of junk after it was all over simply because I couldn’t sell something for a dollar that originally cost me $100.

But did that stop the Garage Sale Regulars (aka GSRs) from haggling with me?  No, it did not.

After the first day, I learned much about the art of Garage Selling.  Well, not actually selling the garage. Oh, you know what I mean! 

I learned that I can’t sell things for the lowest amount I would accept or I’d get ripped off completely. I may as well have just given my stuff away for free to those heartless GSRs who didn’t give a hoot that I was hot and sweaty and my hair was frizzing at an alarming rate while I was hanging out in my garage for hours on end. Believe me, hanging out in the garage is not my idea of a good time. And frizzy hair as a byproduct is even less so.

So I marked some things up a bit to give me a little wiggle room. And I marked some things down because there was no way I was going to get ten dollars for, well, anything.

That designer purse marked 5 bucks? They wanted to give me $2 for it. 

Those expensive window sheers that were only used a few months and were in pristine condition? The GSRs didn’t want to pay $3 for all six, but were willing to take them off my hands for fifty cents.  Come on, people, gimme a break.  You can’t buy new ones at Walmart for three bucks, let alone fifty cents!

But after the first day, I added up my sales, and got jazzed about selling even more stuff the next day.  So I started rooting around my closets trying to find even more unused “treasures.”  I went through my jewelry armoire for all those baubles that hadn’t been worn in a while and were simply taking up prime real estate. (Every so often you’ve gotta make room for new stuff, you see?!)

So I added a lot of new “inventory” for the next day’s sales.

I learned that costume jewelry sells. Quickly.  But I also learned that it’s imperative to make sure no coveted earrings are in the mix. Once someone picks them up and hands you a dollar for the pair, you’re out of luck.  Goodbye, cute earrings that I didn’t really intend to sell!

On the whole, though, it was a relief to bid goodbye to most things on the tables.  When we moved to this house, I had many items that didn’t fit into our new color scheme or layout. I wanted to give them new homes and was willing to sell them for a song. 

But when a woman picked up one of my handbags to purchase, I felt a real pang of regret.  Huh, I wondered.  Where did that come from?  I didn’t think I was going to carry that purse again, so I was surprised by my reaction.  She even paid me for it – and then at the last moment, asked if it was okay if she traded it for another purse.  I said, “Absolutely!” with perhaps a tad bit too much enthusiasm. 

And as soon as she walked away, I grabbed that handbag and stashed it inside the house and slammed the door. Whew. Crisis averted. 

And I’ve been carrying that purse ever since.

So I guess I also learned that you need to carefully evaluate the items you put out for sale. If you’re not quite done with an item, don’t sell it.

I am sure there are folks out there who are complete pros at the art of Garage Sales, but I learned a few things on this, my first foray.

Like, for instance, have lots of small bills. People bring $20 bills to garage sales and expect you to give them change when they are buying something for a buck or two.  One woman even tried to give me a $20 bill for a fifty cent item. And she expected me to be able to make change! 

Have that happen a couple times and you could be out of all the 1s and 5s in your stash.  Unless you have someone who can run to the bank for more change, you’re out of luck.

Speaking of doing the garage sale alone – be prepared to “hold it” – unless you want to close the garage door and lose out on potential sales while you can dash inside for a potty break. Fortunately, I had some friends stop by and I was able to make a quick pit stop while they held down the fort.

Have lots of plastic grocery bags handy to hold your customers’ newly purchased treasures. I had a couple ladies buy even more things after they were able to free up their hands to look over even more merchandise.

Be willing to sell things for less than expected. It doesn’t matter if you paid a lot of money for something. If you’re selling it at a garage sale, understand that the GSRs won’t pay big bucks for anything. Heck, they don’t even bring a lot of money to these things. I heard some woman say her “budget” for the day was $5. And there were a lot of neighbors selling things, so she certainly wasn’t going to buy any big-ticket items.

If you have something really valuable and want to make more money on it, you’d be better off selling it on eBay.

Move stuff around. I had a couple nice candlesticks for sale and I was surprised that they didn’t get picked up right away. I moved them to another, more visible, spot and they were purchased almost instantly.

Know when to close the garage door. Even though the community sale was going on for a few more hours, I realized it was time to close up shop when I hadn’t made a sale in about 40 minutes. There weren’t many items left on the tables, so latecomers would walk up the driveway and see the few things left and gave them only a cursory glance before walking away.

In the end, I made a decent amount of money that made the effort worthwhile and I only had one small box left over that went in the Charity Donation pile.

So I’d have to say that my first effort at holding a garage sale was a success.  But it’s one that I don’t intend to repeat anytime soon.

After all, I really don’t like hanging out in my garage for hours on end.

And I really don’t like frizzy hair. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Survived the Bubonic Plague of 2015

Well, I think I’ve survived the Bubonic Plague of 2015. Or maybe it was just a nasty cold. Either way, it has been a crappy couple weeks.

It started out with a sore throat and then it all went downhill from there. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk without coughing. Or sneezing. Or blowing my nose. My glands were swollen. My eyes were red and puffy and my tear ducts went into overdrive.  In the morning, I couldn’t even open my right eye because it was glued shut with all the nasty Bubonic Plague-like germs that were circling my head like vultures.

And then I got really sick.

My fever spiked to a soaring 100 degrees.

What’s that, you say? A hundred degree temperature isn’t “soaring”? 

Well, yeah, okay, you’re right.  I admit that a 100 degree temperature isn’t a big deal.  Especially not for me. There have been a number of times in my life when my fever was in the 105 degree range, edging toward 106 and, well, death, I believe. And, yes, fevers of this magnitude have necessitated more than one trip to the Emergency Room in my lifetime.

But, interestingly, as I’ve gotten older, any little bump in the internal thermostat and I feel miserable.  Wonder why that is? Is it because we are older and wiser and we know that the Bubonic Plague can actually kill a person, while a spiking fever to a kid merely means getting out of a dreaded Math class?

I don’t know. But as an adult, I would gladly trade the germs for that dreaded Math class.  And you should know that I really dreaded Math class.

I was surprised when I went to the doctor and heard that patients were coming to the office in droves with the same symptoms. Usually I’m aware when germs are on the rise and I know enough to step away from the sneezing, sniffling, stuffy-head-type people.

Not this time.  Maybe it was because it was late May and I figured I had dodged the whole winter cold thing.

The worst part about it all was the coughing. I mean, I can deal with a sore throat. And I can – despite my complaining about it – deal with a slight spike in my temperature. But what I can’t deal with is the constant coughing.  I’d just get settled into bed after having taken my shot glass full of Nyquil, when suddenly I’d sit straight up in bed wracked with a cough that seemed like it would never stop. Or I’d wake up from a sound sleep in a fit of coughing that made it hard to catch my breath.

Fortunately, the worst of it seems to be over. Now I just have a lingering cough that only occasionally wakes me up from a sound sleep.

So, thankfully, I’m on the mend from the Bubonic Plague of 2015.

…except that there are six more months in 2015 and there is always a chance that the New and Improved Fall Version of the Bubonic Plague of 2015 will introduce itself to a sinus cavity near you.

Hmm. Perhaps I need to make a drug store run. The medicine cabinet is looking a little bare these days. And I’m completely out of Nyquil.

Oh, and PS. I DID look up the definition of Bubonic Plague. Ewww. Maybe I shouldn’t exaggerate so much.

Yeah, right.

Speaking of which…don’t forget to tune in tomorrow when I discuss the spider I discovered in the bathroom. It was the size of a puppy...

...I swear!