Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Weekend Project

We collect vegetable and fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea bags to use in our compost bin in the backyard.  The event that preceded this weekend project was my stepping in Walter's "Easter eggs" on my way to the compost bin.  Ugh!  So I asked my husband if he would make a stepping stone path to the compost bin - that way, I could see where I was stepping and not be surprised.

Wayne asked me where I wanted the path, and I showed him.  Then he asked me to walk to the compost bin.  I did, and he counted the steps it took me to reach it.  That's how he knew how many stepping stones to buy.  Something so easy, but I wouldn't have thought of that!

Here's a picture of the finished product:
 No more stepping in poop - yay!

New Birdfeeder

We have lots of birds that grace us with their presence, and it's been entertaining for us as well as providing "kitty TV" for our four inside cats.
I found a new bird feeder that's ideal for the smaller birds.  We left the other birdfeeder up, so the larger birds can still use that one.
The other thing that's cool about the new birdfeeder is that we don't have to fill it every day. It holds about a week's worth of birdseed.

A Shave & a Haircut, Two Bits

Here is Walter's "before" picture:
Then I went to a DIY Grooming workshop sponsored by the SPCA.  I was really more interested in the "One Picture Saves a Life" portion of the workshop, but the speaker, Jorge Bendersky, was first on the agenda.  Jorge suggested Wahl products were inexpensive, but good, and could be found in Wal-Mart.  Lo and behold, I found a grooming kit as well, and so began my adventures in do-it-yourself animal grooming....

Here are Walter's "after" pictures:

It's not that big of a difference - but I trimmed his "mohawk," eyebrows, and beard.  When Wayne saw him, he commiserated with Walter, and said, 
"Poor Walter!  I told you to run!"

On the other hand, there is a huge difference in Violet's before and after pictures, however, it's not evident until she turns around.  Violet is my long-haired cat who gets "dingleberries" - for those of you who don't know what those are, you are so lucky!  When she uses the litter box, sometimes bits of kitty litter and other things (ahem) stick to to the fur on the back of her legs.  I decided to give her a modified Brazilian...just kidding - no wax was used.  But she wasn't going to be easy to convince for this procedure.  First, here's Violet's "before" picture: 

And here is her "after" picture 
(without being too graphic):
Voila!  No more dingleberry potential!

As I said, it took some maneuvering to pull this off  - I had to put her food in the corner and shave the back of her legs while she was occupied with eating, as illustrated in the following picture:
Yes, all that fur came from the back of her legs!

Hirsute people, beware!

The End of My Life

I've been reading a book called, Through Black Spruce, by Joseph Boyden.  I read The Orenda, and liked it so much, that I searched for what other books he'd written.  He is an excellent writer, and he tells a story in a way I wish I could write.

Anyway, there's a story about how the main character is in a canoe when he spots a moose.  He slowly takes out his rifle to shoot the moose, which he needs to be able to survive the winter.

Strangely, that got me thinking about the moose.  Here she is, in the middle of the woods, maybe never having seen a human being in her entire two years of moose life, and with two bullets, her life is ended.  I made a connection to the moose with my own life.  We don't know how our own lives will end.  We may never see the end of our lives coming.  And then it happens.  

When I was younger, I don't think I had many thoughts about the end of my life.  Now that I'm 60, and after having experienced the deaths of so many family members and friends, I can't say I think of it constantly, but I'm aware of it almost every day.  We don't get to choose, any more than we get to choose what illnesses afflict our bodies.  

In my early teens, I used to think to myself, "I'm never getting cramps."  But then in my 20's, I had pretty miserable cramps.  In my 20's, I used to say to myself, "I'm never having back problems."  Ah, the arrogance and ignorance of youth.  I've had back problems galore, especially for the last 30 years.  

Last year, I had some blood work done, and it showed that I had metabolic syndrome, which is the precursor to diabetes.  I had always thought, "I'm never going to have diabetes," as if it were something I could will away from myself.  My doctor told me that I could prevent it from happening if I lost weight and exercised more.  That pronouncement was the only thing that made me determined to lose weight, something I hadn't even tried to do seriously since 2008.  

I've never enjoyed cooking very much.  In fact, for most of my married life, my husband has done the greater part of the cooking in our home.  Then I retired, and although I had never been a fan of cooking shows, I started watching The Chew.  I'd print out those recipes from their website, go shopping for all the ingredients, and cook up a storm.  I wasn't worried about my weight.  I figured, "Hey, life is short, and I'm going to enjoy myself!"  

My cardiologist had a fit when he saw my cholesterol numbers.  I told him I was retired and cooking a lot now, and he said, "I bet you're watching those cooking shows and using butter."  I emphatically said, "Yes!"

Even with two surgeries to repair the torn meniscus in each knee, I didn't lose weight.  Even when the doctor grabbed at the area above my knee and said, "That's fat!" I wasn't motivated to lose weight.

But when my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic, that did it for me, so in the past three months, I've lost 35 pounds.  And yet, I still think about the end of my life.  

The point is, I guess, it doesn't do a lot of good to wonder what it will be that takes us out of this life.    We live our lives the best we can.  I like the saying by John Wesley, "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."  That doesn't mean I live my life as a Pollyanna, without any character flaws.  I have many flaws, I assure you.  And I've grown very cautious in my older age.  But I still hope to have adventures.

Yesterday, I spent about five hours weeding the herb garden in my back yard.  My knees don't work as well as they used to, and and so I sat on my little rolling garden caddy, to be closer to the ground.  I pulled and hacked and cut until I could barely move.  I didn't realize how long I'd been at the task until I came inside and saw the clock.  I was so enervated, I could hardly make it through my shower without collapsing.  

That got me thinking, as it usually does after these marathon gardening sessions, about how long I'd be able to keep up my gardens.  Would I still be able to do this in five years, ten years, or even next year?  I have no clue, but I will keep on going as long as I'm able, and try not to think about the end of my life too much...

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I've been going through boxes of old letters, cards, and photographs.  Why?  Because my husband wants more room in the garage.  So I have found myself sitting for hours, looking through all these things, reminiscing about the past.  

The boxes were up in the attic, but it was my husband's idea to try to clear out clutter, so he brought some of the boxes down from the attic and put them in the garage.  They sat there for several months.  Finally, on the Fourth of July, he prodded me to get started going through them.

I don't have any children, and I don't think any of my nieces or nephews would  be interested in going through this stuff.  I figure, I'm making it easier on Wayne or whoever has the job of cleaning out the house after I die, so I'm throwing stuff out.  

I've given away all my work clothes.  It's been almost three years since I've retired, and I haven't worn one of my "work outfits" once in all that time, so if I don't need them, I want to give them to someone else who can use them.  It's been very cathartic.  I've been giving stuff away since my 50's.  I gave my niece and nephew so much stuff, they asked me, "Aunt Debbie, are you dying?"  

My mom started giving stuff away in her 60's.  It's funny.  You don't have much when you first start out on your own, and then you accumulate things along the way.  Finally, you get to the point that you realize you don't need all this stuff.  

I think Hurricane Katrina emphasized that point to me.  I had friends who lost everything in the storm.  Afterwards, I didn't want to buy anything.  "What's the point?" I thought.  It's just going to be taken away in the storm.

At this stage of my life, I'm streamlining.  If I have something and I'm not using it, I want to give it away to someone who can.

Which brings me back to the boxes of cards, letters, and photographs....I can't just throw out the letters and cards without reading them.  So that's what I've been doing for the past few days.  I'm touched by all the sentiments expressed in the letters and cards.  I cannot bring myself to throw the photographs away.  When I die, someone is going to find all these pictures and wonder who these people are, and who are all the babies.  I've written on the back of the photos, but still, whoever is going to be looking at these pictures will wonder.....

At times, I've wanted to bust out crying as I'm reading the letters.  So many emotions...
My mom was so funny, and it all comes back to me as I read her letters.  She loved jokes, and she passed on her sense of humor to me.  I used to give my students extra points if they got up in front of the class and told jokes.  I did that to give them confidence and to prepare them for having to speak in public.  I told them, "The jokes have to be clean - I'm sharing them with my mom."  My mom loved all those jokes.  She'd enclose cartoons when she wrote to me, along with pictures she thought I'd like.  

It was sad reading through the letters, how many of the letter writers have died: my mom, my dad, Wayne's mom, Auntie Lil, my cousin, Richie,  Auntie Esther, my friend from work, James Miller, my friend, Cormel, who showed me how to turn on the computer(!), Jimmy McGeehee, the Youth for Christ leader...  I've lost touch with some of the people, and I don't even know if some of them are still alive.  

I have lots of letter from students I taught at college.  They were full of praise and make me think I wasn't as good as they thought I was, but it's nice to read anyway.  Some of my students wrote to let me know what jobs they had, when they got married, when they had babies, what graduate schools they were attending.  There were letters from fellow professors/colleagues, telling me the latest news in the department and in their lives.  

I have thank you letters from nieces and nephews - accompanied by pictures they drew for me.  So many of the letters were from my cousins, one in particular with whom I've been corresponding since I was about 7 years old.  We used to say that we were cousins who were separated at birth because we were so much on the same wavelength.  

There were Christmas letters from friends and family accompanied by pictures, and I could see their children growing before my eyes.  I don't know why I've lost touch with so many of them.  I even kept the cards marked, "Return to Sender" because they'd moved without leaving a forwarding address.  When I opened those cards, I could read the first Christmas letter I'd ever composed.  

There were condolence cards from friends who wrote consoling words when my "autistic" cat, Minimax, died.  There were thank you notes of all sorts.  There were letters from my friends I corresponded with on a regular basis.

And then there were the cards Wayne and I sent each other through the years: Valentine's Day cards, Christmas cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, just because cards....

All those cards, letters, and photographs mean something to me, but I will not be here forever, so I am keeping the memories, and throwing out the material...except for the pictures.  Let whoever comes upon them wonder.....