Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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Foggy

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.


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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.


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Brown sugar

I think about Aunt Vi nearly every morning. Some of you will remember she was my husband’s aunt who lived to be 102.5 years old.

She liked to use that extra .5, because at her age, every month counted. Kind of like a little girl who might answer the question about her age with “4 and a half!” eager to head to kindergarten when she turned five.

Back in her younger days

Anyway, I think about her most days as I make my morning oatmeal. During her last year of life she lived in a nursing home, where the only meal she would eat was her breakfast oatmeal. And the only thing that made that meal edible was the brown sugar she kept in a baggie in her nightstand drawer.

At her 100th birthday party.

She showed me that bag on one of my visits, a worn out baggie, opened and closed numerous times. The kind where you have to line up the two sides correctly to get the bag to seal.

At 101, still at home with her bird Charlie

It it wasn’t completely sealed, the tiny bits of brown sugar hardened at the bottom of the bag.

And I think about it now. Sprinkling that brown sugar on her oatmeal (which she said was often cold by the time it got to her) was the highlight of her day. Those bits of sweetness were like gold might be to someone else.

And it never occured to me to offer to bring her more. I could have shown up one visit with a fresh bag of brown sugar, sugar that was still soft, but more abundant. Sugar she wouldn’t have to ration so tightly.

Her 102nd birthday.

Every morning when I make my oatmeal, when I sprinkle it with brown sugar I think of her.

And I send up a silent apology that I was so blind.

“What are you doing?” she asked me when I took this with my phone


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Just too much

This morning when Katie-girl woke me at 4 a.m. to go outside I turned on the news to get the latest on hurricane Ida. I have a few friends in the path of the storm.

I watched a few minutes of roofs being torn off buildings and downed trees, utility poles snapped in half, blinding rain. My heart broke. Then the anchor turned to Afghanistan and the thirteen soldiers whose families are beginning their new normal and my heart broke again. And after that were images of the fires in the west. And then Corona virus hospitalization numbers.

After our storm last night.

I turned the television off.

Katie and I went back to bed. She fell asleep instantly, not burdened by worry. I lay there for awhile trying not to get sucked into despair.

But this morning, as I was fixing Katie’s breakfast (boiled chicken, white rice, Royal Canin kibble, green beans and pumpkin) I noted that the air felt fresher, the temperatures cooler than we’ve had in a very long time.

As she ate I went out to fill the birdfeeders.

Early morning of a fresh new day.

A little chickadee flitted around my head, waiting for his favorite feeder to be rehung. A hummingbird checked us both out, reminding me I needed to put fresh sugar water out too.

There was cool morning dew on the roses.

Ripe tomatoes were ready to be picked in the garden.

The sun was coming up and a kingfisher clattered through a beam of light, headed for the pond.

Yes, there are terrible, terrible things going on here at home and across the world. Yes today is a sad day, yesterday was a sad day, all of last week was terrible for so many people. Tomorrow might not be better.

But I am so lucky that when I take the time to look there is usually something good to find, even in the midst of just too much.

Watcha doing, mama?

And that makes me smile.


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Practice

This post is going to try to figure out how to insert other types of pictures. The old WordPress let you do collages, and small images, and place them to the left or right. The new blockhead WordPress, so far, hasn’t let me do any of that.

So here goes.

Nope that didn’t work….but I can make headings….

And I can add a picture and words in the same block…

And I found a sort of collage, see above on the right. I don’t know why it ended up there…or why it’s all crunched together when I preview it, it’s not that way in the edit mode…but that’s the way of WordPress’s blockhead new program. I wonder if I can find other things.

And you know what else? I can’t figure out how to eliinate an image I insert. Once something is there I can replace it with something else…but not eliminate it totally. Well. That’s odd. And annoying.

Forest.

Even a child knows how valuable the forest is. The fresh, breathtaking smell of trees. Echoing birds flying above that dense magnitude. A stable climate, a sustainable diverse life and a source of culture. Yet, forests and other ecosystems hang in the balance, threatened to become croplands, pasture, and plantations.

I can add an image inside an image, but I didn’t choose the forest, it got chosen for me.

I don’t know….all I’ve figured out is that there’s a lot more to find if I take the time. But not everything works the way I think it should.

I guess I need to keep digging.

The randomness is intentional, because that’s the way I feel about the “new” WordPress.