Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


A tale of customer service

Some of you know that I spent most of my career in banking. The last 13 years of it were spent in mortgage banking, but the before that, for about 7 years I was management in retail banking. IE, a branch manager.

I managed different sized offices during that stint, some really small, some really big. All of them were busy, back in the days before electronic paychecks and even before ATM machines.

I remember lines out the door on General Motor’s weekly paydays. And cars constantly lined up in the drive-throughs on Friday evening when we stayed open late.

Working with the public can be stressful. I get that. But somewhere along the line customers got cut out of the service equation.

This week I realized my credit card was expiring at the end of May and I hadn’t received a replacement card. I’ve had this card since 1980. It says so right there on the plastic, and I’ve never had an issue like this.

So I figured I’d just call in and find out when I might expect the card. It wasn’t like I had any grand purchases planned, but it’s handy to have. I called the 800 number on the back of my card, the number for Customer Service.

After listening to several instructions to push 1 or say yes or no, I listened to a few advertisements for things they could do for me, none of which I was interested in. And interspersed between the ads, were suggestions about how much easier it could be if I’d just download the mobile app. Or perhaps I’d like to go to their website where surely I could solve all my problems.

All of this repeated for many long excruciating minutes, with ugly background noise disguised as music enhancing my enjoyment. They were experiencing a ‘high volume’ of calls and the wait time might be unusually long.

Huh. On a Tuesday night at 6:30 they were experiencing a high volume of calls? OK, I needed to go to band rehearsal, so after waiting for 15 minutes I decided to try again on another day.

Early Wednesday morning I called again. The same irritating music, the same ‘high volume of calls.’ I waited almost 20 minutes and hung up in disgust. It was obvious they were not interested in talking to me.

So I decided, what the heck, I’ll just drive to my local branch with my expired card and have them help me figure out what to do. Seemed so simple I don’t know why I didn’t think to do that from the start.

This afternoon I stopped by my branch.

There was nobody sitting at any of the customer service desks. The lights on that side of the building weren’t even on. There was a stock broker in a suit sitting in his office, but he wasn’t the appropriate person to fix my credit card issue.

Behind the teller line was one man, talking to a customer about a problem. It seemed quite complicated. At the far end of the teller line counter was another man running money through a counting machine. I couldn’t see it, but I’ve been around equipment like that enough to recognize the sound.

He never looked up.

I waited at the “enter here” sign for the employee to finish with the only other customer in the building. I waited a long time. And I noted he did not provide a solution to the customer’s problem.

Finally the man with the problem left and I approached the teller window. “You’ll need to go down there,” said the employee, nodding his head at the man on the end, still busy counting money. “I don’t have any money.” And he began to walk away.

“I don’t need money.” I said.

“Then what do you want?” he asked.

Yep, I’m feeling really weird about this whole place now. No customers, no staff, not even a teller working the drive-through, the curtains there are drawn, there’s no equipment on the counters, something seems off.

“Are you still a full service bank?” I asked.

“Why do you ask,” said the guy still counting money.

“Because there’s no one here.” I responded.

“We just had a bunch of people call in sick.” he replied.


Anyway, I told the employee about my expired credit card and he said he couldn’t do anything from the branch and gave me a phone number to call.

An 800 number.

Apparently it’s my responsibility to fix this problem. And I’m not going to get any help from my local branch. If they’re even a branch at all.

I know I’m not alone, but when did customer service stop being a thing? And why must we only deal with people far away in call centers which must be so understaffed that exceptionally high call volume is really the norm and not an exception at all.

Maybe I’m just an old baby boomer who likes to reminisce about the way things used to be. But you youngsters should have been around when customer service ruled. When you got to talk to people face to face. And when they did their best to solve a problem rather than pass it on.

Or back to the customer.

Yep, those were the days. You’d have been amazed.

Note: images are from a walk last month at my favorite park. I never got them into a post, so I figure even if you don’t want to read about banking, and who would, you might enjoy the birds.


Judy Blume reconnects

Friday I took myself to see Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I read the book more than 50 years ago, and I just had to see the movie. Like most people I usually like the books better than the movies that are made based on them.

So you may ask? What about this one?

First let me set the stage. The movie theater I went to is at a mall, and I haven’t been to the mall in a very long time. I used to go each morning and walk around and around, looking at the windows, watching people, hardly ever buying anything. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I bought anything at the mall. Which makes me wonder how they survive.

There’s a Leggo Land and a SeaWorld type thing and even something experiential that involves a pig named Pippa at the mall these days. I don’t get it.

It felt like a parallel universe when I walked inside on a Friday afternoon. Lots of people, most of them with little kids were walking around. It was noisy in a way I don’t remember. Teens wandering, which seemed odd on a school day. But frankly I have no sense of age, so maybe these were young adults, long out of high school.

I was early, so I walked part way around the mall, noting stores that were new, the loss of stores that used to be. OK. Let’s be honest. I walked part way around the mall to use the restroom.

I’m that age now.

Anyway, eventually I made my way back to the theater and stood in a short line to buy tickets. Everyone in line was an older woman. My age, actually.

The young man selling the tickets was slightly overweight, scraggly beard, a bit of a mustache, greasy hair. When I asked for a ticket to Are You There God, he smiled and said he remembered when he was a young girl growing up in the 70s always giggling with his friends about boys.

That set me back a moment.

I didn’t want to be judgmental, or reactionary, or inappropriate so I just smiled and nodded as I waited for my ticket. I took a second glance at him, trying to figure out if he was once a girl. Maybe. But then he started to laugh, and I was startled out of my musings. Just kidding he said, and I smiled and took my ticket and said, well, you never know…and he said no you don’t and I went to find my assigned seat.

And hours later I thought….You’re an idiot, he was much too young to be anything in the 70s! Why would you focus only on the fact he said he was a girl and not see how unreasonable the whole scenario was?

Anyway. The movie.

I thought the movie was marvelous. I don’t know how long it was because I never once checked my watch, which is something I almost always do in movies. I have such a short attention span. I smiled to myself through almost all of it. It was a gentle, sweet, thought provoking movie. I recommend it.

If you’re a woman of a certain age you probably read the book. Even if you haven’t, you should take yourself to this movie.

Tonight I watched a tape of an interview of Judy Blume on the Tonight Show. It’s short….take the time and see what she thinks about her book being made into a movie 50+ years after she wrote it.

I guess growing up in the 70s wasn’t so bad, even if the hairstyles and clothes were. Go see the movie and be reminded.


Other things…

Lest you think our days are completely filled with puppy, let me tell you about my Saturday afternoon spent learning CPR. I’ve always thought I should learn it, I’ve always meant to learn it, and this year, when I saw it offered by our local fire department I decided to just do it.

Of course I registered for the class weeks ago, long before I knew there would be a Penny in my life. It was hard to leave her but she was in good hands with my husband and sister who is visiting. So I drove off into the snow to see what there was to learn.

There were 7 students total, 4 women, three men, all of us past middle age, with assorted creaking knees and backs, though one of us (not me!) was a long time yoga instructor and she was much more nimble than me getting up off the floor, and stronger doing the compressions too.

She made me want to try yoga again.

Anyway, I was kind of nervous, hoping I would catch on, and I did, but let me tell you, it’s harder than I imagined it would be to do compressions. 30 compressions, two breaths on adults, then 30 more compressions, two breaths and continue like that until trained help arrives. You can skip the breaths if you don’t have a mask and are uncomfortable, but the patient has the best chance if you can do both. The compressions are the most important, though, so don’t stop for more than 10 seconds.

It’s not easy.

We practiced on the dummies, down on the floor and I had a hard time getting the two green lights, located in the dummy’s shoulder to stay lit. Yellow was too fast, red was too slow, no lights meant you weren’t compressing far enough into the chest. I bounced around between yellow, red and green.

I’m pretty sure my dummy would have died.

After we practiced we watched some more videos about heart attacks and cardiac arrests, and how to use the AED if one is available. Then we broke up into 2 groups and role played an actual event. I was up first and with the aid of another student counting, I was able to do 2 sets of 30 compressions, another student simulated the breaths in between, and a third student simulated putting on the pads from the AED.

It felt good to keep those green lights glowing in that dummy’s shoulder, but it was really hard work, and I don’t know how long I’d be able to keep it going while waiting for the paramedics and EMTs to arrive.

I guess, when it comes down to it I’d just do the best I could.

That was the take-away from the class, other than the factual information and practice, that doing something is better than doing nothing and waiting for help to arrive. Imperfect CPR is better than no CPR, and people have the best chance of surviving if someone steps in and begins CPR right away.

If you have a CPR certification class near you I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and enroll. You’re going to learn a lot. You’re going to feel better about your abilities to help in an emergency, even outside a cardiac event. And you’re going to meet some of your neighbors.

Can’t see how you could go wrong.

Here’s a puppy picture just because she demands the attention. Can’t go wrong with her either.


Grocery blues

I thought a lot about my mom this morning.

I’d put off going to the grocery store as long as I could. We were out of everything. Cereal, bananas, Kleenex (DARN I forgot that this trip!!) meat, lettuce, tomatoes, lemon juice, frozen peas, everything! I stalled earlier in the morning, doing other little tasks, waiting for it to be late enough that the store might have a cashier working. I hate scanning my groceries when I have a full cart.

Anyway, I was thinking about my mom and how she shopped for a family of 6 on a much smaller budget than mine. I don’t remember her complaining about it, though I don’t remember her complaining about much of anything. I do remember her hollering when she pulled into the garage for those of us home to come help her put the groceries away. And her lament about how much it was, on average, per paper paper bag filled with groceries. Seemed like it was always more than the week before.

I hate going grocery shopping. First there’s the list making, which involves pulling out cookbooks and determining a menu for the week. That alone makes me want to wait at least another day.

Then there’s the traipsing around the store, dodging those big carts pushed by the professional shoppers, mostly teenagers, who are picking groceries for those smart enough to order online, and the pallets of food sitting in the aisles waiting to be put on shelves, and the little old folk comparing prices while their cart sits in the middle of traffic, (I’m not one of those!) and the preschool kids hanging onto an adults hand while whining. No, the grocery store is not somewhere I want to be.

I try to organize my shopping list in the order of the store so I don’t miss something (like Kleenex) or have to backtrack too often. That kind of works to get me in and out fast, even with a longer list like today. But by the time I get to the frozen vegetables I’m usually in a decision overload mental crisis, and just grab a couple bags of something and hurry over to checkout.

Where I wait.

If I’m lucky there is one lane open, usually a new person is running the register. I feel bad for them. Today there was a customer finishing up an order, a total of $300+ who was paying for it with assorted gift cards some of which didn’t work. It took awhile. Then she was getting $20 back. The clerk handed over the receipt and the $20 and the customer decided she didn’t want a $20 bill. She wanted 3 fives and 5 ones. The new clerk didn’t know how to open her cashdrawer once the transaction was over. It took awhile longer.

The woman ahead of me, with her full cart on the conveyer just smiled at me and rolled her eyes. It’s good to be retired.

By the time I got out of there with my order and loaded it into the back of the car, then unloaded it onto my kitchen counter I was feeling really sorry for my mom. In fact, on one of my many trips from the garage to the kitchen, while passing the back bathroom I noticed my reflection in the mirror. Mom looked back at me. Neither of us seemed happy.

I don’t know how my mother did it, shopping and cooking for a big family night after night. After night. I have it easy in comparison. I know I could order online, and I have, though what I get isn’t always related to what I thought I ordered. And I could even have the groceries delivered. But I’d miss the inspiration of seeing something on sale and figuring out another meal on the fly, or that impulsive quart of Ben and Jerry’s. (No, I didn’t even go down the ice cream aisle today, I faded out at frozen tortellini.)

So I guess I’m writing this as a sort of rant, and now that I’m done I should feel better. But you’d think after spending $150+ my fridge would be more full. I don’t know how big families survive these days.

I’m sorry, mom, for not appreciating you more back in those days. Grocery shopping is exhausting, I think I’ll go take a nap.

Something you never got to do.


A Man called Ove

I read the book in the summer of 2016. It remains one of my favorite books, though now in 2022 I remember the feelings I had reading it more than the details of the story itself.

Just this week, while noting the buzz about the new Tom Hanks movie, I learned there had been a movie made in Sweden based on the book, back in 2016, and that that version is available through Amazon Prime right now.

We have Amazon Prime.

But before I get ahead of myself, here’s the review I wrote after reading this lovely book six years ago:

I loved it. Every bit of it, and especially the crotchety old man Ove. Little by little, baby step by baby step the author explains why Ove is as he is by revealing bits of his past. His relationship with his parents. His love for his wife. The bits of drama and tragedy that shaped him. He is sullen and moody and angry but all of that seems reasonable in an unreasonable sort of way.

I can’t tell you more or it would spoil it for you. Just know that under that gruff exterior is a gentle and loving man who just didn’t know what to do with himself until a crazy neighbor moved into his neighborhood.

The writing is gentle and profound and simple and true.

“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead.”

“It is difficult to admit that one is wrong. Particularly when one has been wrong for a very long time.”

“But we are always optimists when it comes to time; we think there will be time to do things with other people. And time to say things to them.”

I didn’t want this one to end. But I knew it had to…everything does, and Ove had been trying to end things for a very long time. It’s just that the neighbors interfered with his plans, and in the process gave him a reason to postpone the inevitable.

Ove had a heart that was too large. You’d never know it when you first met him. But if you let him in you’d know that truth for sure.

So anyway, with vague memories of a book I loved, my husband and I sat down last night to watch the original movie complete with English subtitles. Some small bits I didn’t remember, but the gist was all there. I remember sighing with tears in my eyes at the end of the book. The tears were running down my face at the end of the movie.

I knew it would be that way…but I was surprised about why my eyes filled with tears. It wasn’t the ending, which I knew, but the fact that I suddenly saw my own parents in Ove and his wife, and I truly, madly, hope that what I saw at the end of the movie is true.

But I can’t tell you what that is, because I don’t want to spoil it for you.

I’ll probably go see the Hanks version, set in the US instead of Sweden. No need for subtitles. I’ll probably enjoy it, maybe even love it. But I doubt it will pack the emotional punch I experienced last night.

Because when you’re expecting it, it’s just not the same.


Finishing up 2022

I’m sitting here watching my birds at our feeders. We have a lot of feeders, starting out with one we thought they could all share…then realizing that some birds aren’t sharers at heart.

Waiting his turn.

Now I fill 4 feeders every morning, and hope I can go the rest of the day without heading out to fill them again. But with the weather this week, all the wind and cold and snow, the birds were ravenous and I ended up out there more than once on each cold, nasty day.

Make room for one more!

Anyway, the year is winding down and I feel like I should be reflecting on 2022. But, in our family, it was a difficult year and one that might best be let go without any formality.

Grab a seed and go, little buddy, before that big woodpecker comes back!

Best, maybe, to anticipate next year. I am very hopeful about 2023.

It’s hard to wait your turn when you’ve got snow melting on your beak.

I’m hoping there are camping adventures waiting in the woods, perhaps even near a dark sky park.

A fluffy downy woodpecker checks out the inventory.

I am hopeful for clear warm summer nights when the moon is new, and wild stormy cloud filled skies during afternoon barn searches.

A hairy woodpecker wants to know who ate all the peanuts.

I’m hopeful for lush gardens of vibrant flowers filled with fat buzzing bees and the whisper of hummingbird wings.

A nuthatch keeps watch while grabbing a snack.

I’m hopeful for red ripe tomatoes warmed by the afternoon sun, and bluebirds nesting in their boxes way out in the yard.

Mr. Cardinal enjoys a peaceful lunch.

I’m hopeful for a long bike ride or two, and more than a couple kayak trips down a river or across a lake.

Mrs. Redbelly asks who failed to clean the snow off the suet?

I’m hopeful I’ll see Alabama again after too long away, that I’ll get to float again in the warm southern waters talking with neighbors and family until the sun slides down in a glorious sunset.

The bluejay is not known for waiting patiently.

And I’m hopeful I’ll get to see my Lake Michigan in all it’s moods a few times too, maybe even Lake Superior if I’m extra lucky.

The mourning dove is almost always the last bird in to eat.

I hope I’ll be able to roam further from home too, perhaps even to dark skies in other states. I’ve heard Michigan does not hold a monopoly on the stars.

Mr. Redbelly decides what his next snack should be.

And I’m hoping I’ll get to share it all with you. And maybe, just maybe if we’re exceptionally lucky, I’ll be able to share it with a new puppy.

A bit of peaceful coexistence.

But that’s a story that has to wait to be told.

Eating as fast as he can.

Meanwhile I’ll sit in my chair near the window and watch my birds as they devour their lunch and dream about another, happier, year.

Mrs. Cardinal eats her fill.

May you all have dreams for 2023, and may the best of those come true.

A house finch chews on an after-dinner stem.


Wildflower musings

The wildflower seed my husband planted this spring has produced hundreds of plants, all about knee high now, and just beginning to bloom.

They will continue to grow taller as they bloom from now until the first heavy frost, hopefully months away.

It feels like summer has just begun when you look at these fresh green leaves reaching for the sky.

But walking in the woods this morning, in mid-July, it feels like fall is on the way.

How can both things be possible at the same time?

I guess the same way I wish this summer would be over and I hope it’s never over.

It’s the summer my girl moved on and I wonder if I will feel as close to her once the season changes.

It’s the summer my girl moved on and I want the pain to ease and hope it does once the season changes.

Meanwhile, summer marches on, one day at a time, slipping away while I watch.

Just like she did.

Notice the tongue action in anticipation of her one picture one treat rule implementation. Taken summer of 2021.


Rendezvous with a chickadee

Waking early to another cold morning here in Michigan, Katie and I wandered out to the backyard to fill the feeders. I knew the birds would be hungry. Katie waited up on the deck as I went down to get seed from our metal storage bin.

As I was pouring seed into a flat feeder several yards away a little chickadee dropped down to the rim of the bin, checking to see if there was anything good within reach. I waited quietly for him to decide. Noticing me, he flew up into a nearby tree to wait.

I slowly walked over and he hopped down a few branches. Watching.

I reached into the bin, grabbed a handful of oilers and offered them, hand outstretched, to him. He dropped down a couple more branches. I stood still.

From another encounter. This morning I had no camera and little light.

Closer, closer, he skipped from branch to branch, clearly fixated on the oilers in my hand. Inches away he considered how to get breakfast, but wasn’t quite brave enough to make that last hop.

I moved my hand closer to him. We were at eye level and he looked at me. I looked at him and moved my hand a fraction of an inch closer.

He stretched out and delicately chose an oiler from my palm, then hopped up to a higher branch to enjoy it.

I had a rendezvous with a chickadee this morning, and I liked it.



I was participating in a group of truck crash families and survivors a few weeks ago and one of the topics that came up was foggy brain. Many of those in the group that day were brand new to the reality of coping with life after a traumatic event.

A local park, early this foggy morning.

A discussion about living in a never ending nightmare morphed into a discussion about foggy brains. How hard it was to concentrate. How the memory wasn’t as sharp as it once was.

I didn’t bring it up in the meeting, not to discourage any of the new families, but my dad died in a crash caused by a sleepy semi driver more than seventeen years ago, and my brain is more foggy today than it was way back then.

A sentinel stands strong in the fog.

On the other hand, I doubt my fog is related to Dad’s death. It might be menopause. It might be covid. It might be something else, still to be diagnosed.

Whatever it is, it’s tiring. I know from months, maybe years, of experience that I can’t remember anything that I don’t write down. And that often, if too much time goes by, I won’t know what I meant by the scribbles I find on random pieces of paper.

Trying to pick out the clarity amidst the fog.

I have never been able to remember people’s names. Now I can’t remember conversations, or finishing tasks, or whether or not I took the clothes out of the dryer.

For several days this week I couldn’t find the remote that moves our adjustable bed until it was found, out in the living room, on a table next to the sofa. I am constantly looking for my phone. And my shoes.

Sometimes it’s so hard to see.

More scary, I don’t always understand what people are saying. Not just the concept, but the actual words. Sometimes it all sounds like noise, with only an occasional word I recognize. Other times there are words but their combination doesn’t make sense to me. Lots of times, after the fact, I’ll figure it out, and usually it’s just words that sound like other words confusing me. Ah, I think, that’s what they meant.

Trying to focus.

Most of the time my confusion happens while watching tv, often while doing something else, and not concentrating on one thing or the other, and, as it turns out, not hearing with context.

But other times it happens when people are speaking live and I try to slow my brain down and concentrate. That often works, but sometimes I have to ask questions, where I risk appearing dense. Other times I just let it go. Pick your battles, that’s my rule.

Foggy brain. Is it age, life experiences, past traumatic events, illness, stress, or just a lack of concentration? I don’t know, but I’m beginning wondering if the drugs they’re peddling on television to forgetful seniors really work.

Walking through the fog.

And I’m wondering when I turned into a senior anyway. Looking back, it’s all turning into a foggy blur.


Plastic wrap flashback

Today I’ve been busy cleaning the house and cooking in preparation for Thanksgiving tomorrow. It’s one of the days I’m glad Katie gets me up early, I have so much to do. Katie, on the other hand, is less than happy, following me around from bedrooms to bathrooms to kitchen and back again as I alternate cleaning with putting something on the stove or in the oven or downstairs in the spare fridge.

Up and down, back and forth. She didn’t even bark at her personal nemesis the vacuum cleaner. By the time I got to that she was all but exhausted. Me too.

But there was one moment this morning when I was suddenly transported back to Thanksgiving 2004, and I had to stop and catch my breath. And then grin sadly.

You see, in the summer of 2004 my mom died suddenly, and by Thanksgiving of that year the entire family recognized that we couldn’t take family for granted. And so both sides of my family, people on my mom’s side, and people on my dad’s, from all over the country, were arriving for Thanksgiving dinner, to be eaten on Friday, at my house.

Dad and my siblings got there a day or so early and were helping me prepare. And wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of plastic wrap. It’s certifiably impossible to cook massive amounts of food without plastic wrap. So even though it was Thanksgiving morning, a time I would generally avoid going to the store, my dad volunteered to run out and pick some up for me. And of course all he and one of my brothers could find was some funky colored sticky plastic wrap which I used that day but never used again. In fact I think I still have that roll at the back of the pantry.

Today I was making vegetable lasagna for dinner tonight and needed to cover the pan with foil before it went into the oven. I had a new roll of it waiting in the drawer. But darn it all, Kroger, do you have to glue the edge down so that I can’t get it started? Does everyone have to yank the foil including the cardboard core out of the box and use scissors in order to get a piece of foil? I should just go buy another brand.

And then I envisioned going to the store the afternoon before Thanksgiving. The chaos that would be there. Just for some tinfoil. Even though I know for a fact that it’s certifiably impossible to cook massive amounts of food without tinfoil, I wasn’t going to head to the store for anything. And then I remembered sending dad out into the craziness for plastic wrap.

And I stopped tugging the tinfoil and I took a deep breath and I smiled.

Memories on this Thanksgiving about Thanksgivings long past. I guess that’s what the holidays are supposed to be about. And I should probably just stop worrying about all that food. It will get done or it won’t, Thanksgiving will be here either way, and I’m grateful to be spending it with some of my family this year.

I hope you are all in a happy place as well. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

At my wedding, 1990.