Mind boggling

once again, I am amazed by the technology we have at our fingertips.  Truly amazed. I want to say those things like “kids these days don’t know how good they have it” and “when I was a kid we didn’t have (whatever)”

Mind you, I am not pining for the Good Old Days. I don’t miss the manual typewriter on which I learned to type. Nor the white-out, nor having to retype the entire paper because of one or two misspelled words in the first of 29 paragraphs. I do love me a computer with spell-check and the squiggly blue underline that questions the grammar of a sentence. Often it’s just as I want it to be and I tell the blue line to take a hike, but sometimes it is helpful.

I am amazed and delighted by very pedestrian appliances like the washing machine.  I know, everyone I know either has one or has access to one and they aren’t remarkable at all. But think about it…without them you’d be slapping your underwear in a river, or rubbing them up and down on a board in a bucket. Now? No. you throw them in a barrel, add a scoop of soap and punch a few buttons, and 45 minutes later you have clean clothes. You can even throw them in another barrel, punch a few buttons, and 45 minutes later have dry clothes. Having to fold them, in the grand scheme of things, is hardly even worth mentioning. Even if you have 19 kids. (if you have that many kids, let the older ones do it while you go do something else.)

We have (for most of us) access to food. Or we should. I have read about the Food Deserts in major cities and let me tell you, with as much as we have in this country, with trucks and farms and everything, there should not be a food desert anywhere. It shouldn’t exist. I read about people who were doing something about that here: Veggie Van.

But I have to tell you, the thing that amazes and delights me more than anything, is the ability to talk to people IN REAL TIME from places on the other side of the world! CRAAAZY! Ok, I had a pen pal for many years, I wrote about that a couple of posts ago.  And I wrote about looking for another one. I found several, and have some fantastic correspondence going on now. Some of it is on the website where I connected with them, a couple of them are via email, and one is snail mail (she collects stamps and loves the Art of the Written Letter).  Over the past few days’s I’ve had an ongoing conversation with a gentleman from Bhutan, who wants some help with his English grammar. Mind you, school is taught in English over there, but he has recognized that his grammar isn’t perfect, and as a teacher, he wants to improve it. In the mean time, I am trying to learn a couple of words in Dongzkha, but given that it is a very tonal language, and one tone wrong could mean a completely different word, it is very difficult for me. I will be happy to be able to say “hello” and not “you smell funny”  How amazing is it that I can converse about language, philosophy (he’s Buddhist) and child psychology with someone who’s 10 hours ahead of me? Nuts. that’s what it is. Beautiful mindboggling nuts.

A man in Brazil is teaching me very basic Portuguese in exchange for learning how to ask for directions and order from a menu in English.  A woman in Japan wants to know how to make tacos and I want to know how to make gyoza. Another woman in Siberia (Yakutsk) taught me about the Summer festival in her town, called Yssyakh, and showed me pictures of it. It looks a lot like our Native American pow-wows. A woman in Rotterdam and I talk abut our kids. My world has expanded outside of this little town in this small part of the country.  I have, of course, always known there was so much out there, and I love to read about it, but to get to talk to someone and learn that Tomar cafezinho, Café da manhã is the first thing I would say in the morning, if I lived in Sao Paolo, brings the world a little bit closer.

There is a degree of sifting through the sawdust required, in order to find some real people, but it doesn’t take long to figure out how.

One of my classes in school requires videos to be made, demonstrating particular types of management tasks- like disciplinary actions (they aren’t called that), or final warnings, before a firing (it’s not called that). Using the camera on my laptop, editing on the computer, and downloading onto Youtube are all part of it. Think about it. I can write a script on my computer, print it out, and then record it. Then I can tell my computer to save it someplace Out There, and my instructor can look at it, record the grade on his computer with comments, and I can look at that. All within an hour’s time, with him over there and me right here. Crazy and Amazing.

I can warm up food in the microwave, using the same bowl I’m going to eat it from, without dirtying up a pot.  I can go to the store and buy something by sticking a piece of plastic in a little box and it takes some numbers out of my bank account and put them in the store’s bank account.  (has it ever occurred to you our financial system is nothing but a bunch of numbers that get switched around and traded for eggs or gasoline?) (this is why I like to barter. It’s more concrete and I like concrete)

Even medical stuff! My little dog, Rusty, has back pain from time to time.  I can take him to the vet, where a technician gets a wand and waves a red light over his back. I swear that is all it looks like. I stuck my hand in the red light and didn’t feel a thing. But I could see him visibly relax. So I looked it up. And yes. There’s some science behind it. Amazing. Who figured that out?

Cell phones, bluetooth stuff, wireless internet, gracious…internet PERIOD…wireless or not. Think about it! We live in an amazing world.

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You know how sometimes it just HAPPENS? That sort of CLICK moment that has it all come together and takes a nebulous idea floating in your head and turns it into something with handles that you can actually develop into something real?

See, I’m in school studying Business Management. I like it but have been a little bit dissatisfied because it wasn’t teaching exactly what I was hoping for. That’s ok, it’s not their fault and I can see the value in what I’ve learned.  But, it wasn’t the precise thing that  fit the educational hole that needed to be filled.

However, (tell me you didn’t see that coming!) this morning, as I was sitting in the Dr’s office waiting to get some labwork, I was reading through the local city magazine. You know the kind, where someone’s recipe for watermelon pickles is featured, and the newest director of (whatever) is introduced.  So I was reading about the newest director, and amongst his credentials was listed “Certification in Non-Profit Management” and I was like…”BOINK” and decided to investigate such a thing because I was unaware it existed.  May God richly bless the inventor of the Internet (pretty sure it wasn’t Al Gore) because not only could I investigate, but should I choose, I can also take the classes at my leisure and in my pajamas.

you see, the non-profit arena is where I want to work when I move to The New Town.  I don’t KNOW if there will be such a job waiting for me, but I firmly believe that God has all this in hand, and He hasn’t messed me up yet.  I am pretty confident that I just got a God-boink on the head about this, because not only do such programs exist online, some of the really credible ones (Duke University, Cornell, etc) are also affordable for my budget.  Mind you, some of them are so unaffordable they might as well be offering gold plated dentures to go with, but whatever. I can get a certification from a credible source and wouldn’t that look nice on a resume!

I’m not interested in getting wealthy. I want to earn enough to pay the electric bill and eat sushi once a month.  I want to work with people who need some help, because inevitably doing that helps the helper as much or more than the helped is getting helped. And God knows I need some help.

I perused the curriculum at the Cornell program, and found that a great deal of what I’m learning now will be of great benefit toward what I would be learning there. How nice to know what I’m learning is useful!

I’m finding this all very exciting (if you can’t tell). After talking to the person there, and seeing how the program is set up, I can wait until determining if Accounting will kick my arse the way Algebra did before I take on any more courses. If I can manage it ok, I’ll start with it in the Fall. Because it’s online and a Con Ed course, it will be able to move to Alabama with me and I can keep going, or take a break in the middle of it to move, then pick back up, or whatever.

Just knowing that there is stuff I can do to progress in the education is exciting. Thanks, God! For the boink!

Sherchle art design illustration man GIF

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2 steps forward, one step sideways

…or maybe back…no, not really back. Just sideways.

Independence Day was Himself’s favorite holiday. Loud noises, grilled food, patriotic celebrations. He loved this country and with all it’s flaws, celebrated living here.  He said, since we had no daughters, that he knew our kids would be spending the major holidays with the wive’s families. That’s how it happens. Once someone gets married, the big ones tend to be at her family- Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter…and he and I would have to find our own way those days. No big deal, We Had Plans.  He was going to claim Independence Day as the one day that would be ours. Family Reunion Day, with everyone here, massive grill-out and grandkids blowing things up in the front yard. He had visions of sitting on the front porch in our rockers, benevolently supervising while sons grill the meats and daughter-in-law arrange the bowls of potato salad and cole slaw on the rows of picnic tables.  He had it all worked out, this idyllic scenario…Coleman coolers of sodas and beer, pitchers of iced tea, someone having to run up to the store now and then to get another bag of ice. Babies. All worked out and it was going to be Perfect.

Well, we all know how that’s working out.  Yesterday was kind of…not that at all. And I missed him. I know #4 did as well. He said as much and had to leave the house to spend time with his brothers. For all I know they all missed him, but #4 was the only one who said anything. I spent most of the day with a friend. We had brunch (mimosas!) and went to see Wonder Woman, and then a nice long girl-chat. I came home to #4 griping that I wasn’t grilling anything, so he and I scrounged up chicken and corn on the cob, and #2 found some sad potatoes and made a potato salad. Together the 3 of us cobbled together a semblance of a July 4 meal, and then they left. I got a text apology from one of them for abandoning me, but I understood. I’m not the only one feeling the loss around here.

Today feels heavy with the loss, but I’ll be fine. In a little while I’m going into town to help tend some children. Hopefully there will be a baby there I can squish, but if not, there will be others to play with. Little kids just want to play and be loved, and I can do that. Then there will be the ubiquitous schoolwork, which is stellar at gettting my mind out of the gloom.  I am helping to write a Manager’s Training Manual, and today the work involves how to work with Unions and Other Protected Groups. I haven’t even started the research on that, but Google Is My Friend.

So, that’s today, folks. July 5, and a whole different form of independence. It’s unwelcome, but I have to deal with it, because it’s reality.

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Some Are Silver and the Others Gold

Remember that song everyone sang in childhood “Make new friends, and keep the old, some are silver and the others gold”?

Well, back in November, the pen pal I’d had for 40+ years passed away. I still miss her. 40+ years of letters back and forth from Australia, growing up, being teenagers (and all that misery), jobs turn to careers, getting married, I had kids, she became a Professional Extra (no seriously, in movies, she’d be one of those in the background, or maybe have one line), we’d send each other interesting stuff…well, after she passed away I felt like something was really missing. Not a giant hole like the one Himself left, but a hole nonetheless.

I’d found her address through a Pen Pal service set up by National Georgraphic, for kids like me to find kids like her and learn more about the world. Of course this was all pre-internet, and even after internet and emails, we continued to write letters, with stamps, that took a month to get there.  We both enjoyed getting those letters so much.  I kind of think we grew up together, even 10,000 miles apart.

So, in the interest of meeting new people from other parts of the world, I’ve joined a pen pal service. Now, lest you get all worried about The Vulnerable Widow Being Taken Advantage Of By Predatory Men, I’m not stupid about it.My privacy is soundly protected and I’m good at figuring out who’s worth my time.

So far, I’ve talked to people from Australia, Switzerland, Bangladesh, a couple of women in Canada, a retired train engineer from England,and several VERY brief conversations with men claiming to be Generals In the Army of America.

That’s right. I’ve been contacted by 3 Generals who don’t know English grammar nor spell properly.   When they claim to be a General, I look up the Department of Defense records of who’s what,  and wouldn’t you know it, twice the said General didn’t exist, and once he did exist (and profile picture matched on one on the penpal page) but since the one who existed is the Commander of the Korean forces, and he was claiming to he all lonely in Afghanistan, he got a brief lecture on lying and the felony that was impersonating an officer. I haven’t hear back from him. I did hear from someone military (who wasn’t claiming to be someone special) and asked him about it. He was alarmed that it was happening and said something about “Stolen Valor” I learned something new that day, but I don’t think the impersonators were American as their syntax was off.

Anyway, I’m meeting some people around the world and it is interesting.  The Australian is a retired American who immigrated there and is traveling all over, taking pictures.  The Swiss person is an inventor (I’ve looked him up), The Bangladeshi is a Human Rights attorney (he’s telling me hair-curling things, and says people in the US complain too much).  The high-speed train engineer is a self described “old goat who likes to talk to people and wants something to do in the afternoons while his wife watches her stories”  We talk gardening.  There are a couple of women who are fairly recent widows (about the same time as me), and we talk our walk, and it’s lovely to have someone to discuss things with, and possibly share ideas and solutions.  There’s a Japanese woman my age with whom I exchange recipes, and an Indian woman who likes to talk about kids.

You can tell when someone’s faking it. So don’t worry about me.  I’m having a great time and collecting a long list of “People Blocked”.  As long as they respect my privacy, and don’t get pushy for imformation, I will respect their situations and ask questions, learn new things, and get to connect with people all over the world.

My boundaries are expanding, and I love that. There are so many people, cultures, ideas, languages (the Japanese woman is teaching me some stuff), and yet, most of us are regular people who are interested in other people and places. The internet is an amazing thing.

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Today’s list of good things

Because who doesn’t love a good list, and I need to remind myself of them anyway.

  • A comfortable bed with many pillows. I share it with the cat now. She’s not as big as Himself (a good thing) but having a presence there with me is comforting.
  • A timer thing for the coffee maker. Getting up with the coffee made and waiting is one of the great modern conveniences.
  • Recliners. Sitting in a comfortable chair, legs propped, while drinking that first cup of coffee is another great modern convenience
  • Hard floors, no rugs. Because 4 dachshunds and rain don’t mix and they are brats about peeing in the corner when it’s wet outside
  • At least the corner is predictable #whatsthatsmell
  • Modern medicine. I woke up with a painful eye that isn’t red or swollen. Last time this happened it was a viral thing, and I still have the bottle of drops from that.
  • I’ve been teaching a few women how to do simple baking. First it was biscuits, and yesterday is was 750,000 calories worth of cobblers. You know the kind: butter, sugar, lots of fruit. Someone had the presence of mind to show up with vanilla ice cream, too. Next week: blueberry muffins and quiche. There’s 2 ovens where we’re doing it,  so we will have a ball and make a massive mess.
  • I’m still having trouble recognizing my size. I’ve lost 40 pounds over the past 2 years, going from a size 20 down to what appears to be a size 12, even though my mind has trouble with anything less than 16 so I keep getting clothes that are too big. Good thing I know how to do alterations because I like these pretty clothes and I’m not taking them back
  • My penpal from the last 40 years (we started writing when we were 9!) recently passed away from ovarian cancer. I miss her, and miss having someone to write to. Getting a letter from her was a sweet treasure. I signed up with a new service, and have found a few people from assorted parts of the world: Netherlands, UK, Switzerland, Australia, Siberia, and Japan. Email is an amazing thing, and once a decent bond of trust is established, I’m hoping to go the snail-mail route because who doesn’t love a letter in the mail!
  • The cat is loudly informing me that   A) she’s out of food and  B) it’s wet outside and she disapproves because it’s on purpose to make her uncomfortable and  C) she’s out of food and  D) she’s out of food.

and that’s all for today.

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There’s a vibe in the Summer, a casual relaxation of standards developed since early childhood.  Food goes from being something carefully crafted and meant to be eaten sitting down, with a properly set table and napkins, to stuff that’s sloppy and sticks to your face, or thrown together with the vegetables someone left in your car (because it’s how it happens here. We don’t lock our cars out of fear of theft, we lock them because someone might leave us zucchini.)

Even though I’m in school this Summer, and have all these adult responsibilities, my standards have relaxed. I’m staying up late (past 9! So carefree!), and actually sleeping past 5!  I know by August, the relaxed standards will get old, and I’ll be ready to return to a strict schedule. Only, now that #4 is a Graduate, and has a Real Job and all that, the whole thing is going to have to get figured out all over again.

You know, I am so proud of him! He gets himself up at 5:30, I hear the shower, and him and his steel-toed boots clomping down the stairs. There’s the clattering and banging of a skillet and maybe the grinding whir of a blender as he fixes his own breakfast, and then he leaves. Like a real grown up.  I guess he IS a real grown up now, just like his brothers. My word, what happened?

I don’t think the reality of it will set in until Fall, when he would be going to school. (24 years of sending people to school, folks. Can you believe it?)  And that’s when I’m going to establish yet another New Normal.  While I will never be childless, (Lord willing!), my responsibilities are rapidly shifting from other people to..well. Myself.

Learning how to care for myself is a challenge. Realizing it’s ok to think about my own needs and desires is coming painfully, because Moms are supposed to put everyone else’s needs before their own and having done that for so long, changing the thinking is slow and almost painful. Now I am starting to understand the Empty Nest thing. Not only are the kids gone, (ish…#4 still lives here but he is so darn independent), I don’t have Himself to cook for. I mean, the nest is TOTALLY EMPTY.

It makes me think…I actually really could decide to take a road trip somewhere. Just pick a place and go. How novel! I could pin a map on the wall and throw a dart at it. Or I could do the New Google Way and let Google pick a place, and simply go there. Without consulting anyone. And if someone protested, making noises about delicate women or whatever, I could ignore them because ain’t no one the boss of me!

Of course, I’m unlikely to do that. Uncertainty and all…But just thinking about it, knowing I could, if I wanted to has a certain excitement to it. Summertime means RoadTrips. Maybe I can do the rest of Route 66. We never did get from Joplin to Chicago. Or Amarillo to San Diego. I do still have the convertible. It could be fun. But who would go with me? Trips like that require 2 people, a Thelma and a Louise (well ok, maybe without the crime).

I went to a friend’s house last night, and upon leaving around midnight (SEE? I never do that…or never did, but apparently now I do), realized how completely Summer it felt. Here, it gets humid and heavy, even with the sun down a few hours, the air was warm, still, and kind of dense.  She has spanish moss in her trees, and with all those bits, it was  so very Southern.  My mind immediately fell back to Summers of my childhood in North Georgia, with nighttime neighborhood games of Spotlight Tag and sitting around talking about (whatever it is 14 year old girls talk about). There were spontaneous spend-the-nights, and cicada-shell hunts. We had lightning bugs to collect, too. I remember falling asleep to the thrum of the attic fan, or the sound of a whippoorwill in the woods behind the house.  I grew up in the era of mothers shooing their kids outside in the Summer, with instructions to not return until we were called in for supper.  The heavy heat and humidity at midnight last night wrapped me in the blanket of memories, and I savored them for a while. I feel very privileged to have experienced those things.

Now, it’s time to make some new memories. I’m not sure how those will unfold, but I am grateful to have friends with whom I can make them.  Summer seems exactly the right time for that. I can concentrate on this, instead of tending to a bunch of people, all regimented with responsibilities of school and that ingrained sense of what Motherhood is supposed to be like. Now I can be…whatever. I’ll let you know when I get that figured out.

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And on the plus side…

Yesterday I got a text from a friend, “El Som!” to which I replied “When?” and she answered “NOW!” so, because it was 8pm and that’s practically bedtime, I told #4 I was going out because I could, and didn’t know when I’d be back. I felt so…I’m not sure of the word…FREE (? is that it? It felt strange to not consult with anyone about it). El Som is the local name for a local Mexican place called El Sombrero. It has 3 incarnations: RailRoad Tracks, Little, and Taj Mahal. The first is the Original El Som, located…yes, by railroad tracks. Little is in a strip mall, and is…right. Very small. Taj Mahal is Very Fancy with a big copper dome and terrible acoustics.

Image result for el sombrero statesboro ga buckhead


I showed up before everyone else because I had a 10 minute drive and they had a 20 minute one including children and a fluid sense of time, and secured a table for 8, right after which I received a text and was informed a few others were showing up. No problem,said the Hostess, “those people will be leaving soon and we could slide one of their tables over.” “Those people” were 4 Europeans sprawled all over a table for 8, and they were obviously indulging in that delightful European style evening repast thing that lasts for hours. I was pretty sure they weren’t leaving soon, and my inherent Scottish pragmatism was mildly uncomfortable with the uncertainty, so I ordered a margarita while waiting for everyone else.

Eventually everyone showed up, and one of them (who is more of a Free Thinker than I am, and unafraid to demand the extra table) secured that extra table, complete with irritated looks from Europeans. One of the extra people about whom I was informed after getting there was a tall and attractive blonde woman who was explaining her embarrasment at an event in the grocery store earlier that day. Apparently she’d been not paying attention and had cut someone off in the aisle. (I’ve done that, one gets deep into one’s head and doesn’t see the people.) I looked at her, Shocked and Disapproving, and said “THAT WAS YOU”. She returned the shocked look and stuttered “I thought you looked familiar!” to which I replied “not really…I wasn’t at the store.”  Himself used to hate it when I did that…but my filter left when he did.  And she took it with good humor, with her husband and niece thinking it was pretty funny.

Afterward we went to a house Far, Far Away and enjoyed a bonfire, young-ish boys (8 and 9) waving burning sticks around and attempting to set each other on fire (ok not really, but it nearly happened a couple of times), and hammock hi-jinks. (Ok I haven’t seen or heard that term “hi-jinks” since the ’80’s). Getting home at 1 meant #4 was standing by the gate at the driveway, looking at me. He didn’t say it but I felt it. “Young lady, where have you been?” (You’re not the boss of me)  “Are you sober?” (Duh.)  And I thought “Oh my word. I had a good time. I wasn’t accountable to anyone but myself and even if something did happen to me, my kids are all old enough to take care of themselves.”

That’s the thing…my kids are all old enough to take care of themselves. I can go out and do (whatever) without checking with anyone. I even have clothes that I can throw on and look halfway decent.  I can sleep late the next morning (it’s Saturday anyway), eat leftover Brunswick stew for breakfast, and decide what to do, whether it’s go sew something (I need a new skirt), or chuck it all and go to the beach (not gonna but just knowing I could is nice). It has been since 1985 that I haven’t needed to check or coordinate or consider ramifications before going out at 8pm and staying out until 1. And while I didn’t do anything to be embarrassed or ashamed of, I’m feeling a certain frisson about it.  Even with #4 acting like the local Pater Familias, I’m still the boss of this house and can do what I want.

Himself wasn’t an autocrat, insisting I consult with him before doing anything, but when you’re married, it’s what you do: consult with the other one. There were plenty of times he’d tell me on short notice “I have a thing (it could be a late meeting, or a dinner with colleagues) and won’t be home.” He nearly always prefaced it with “Are you fixing anything special for supper tonight?” It was his very thoughtful way of leading up to the information about the dinner meeting.  Generally I thought “Ok” knowing that was Life with a husband who was in Industry.  But I never felt the particular freedom of simply going out, without asking or consulting or in some way running it by him. He never once complained when I did want to go out, but I was uncomfortable with the idea. But now? Well, what a difference. It’s a whole new thing. It’s not a BETTER thing, it’s just a different thing. Plusses and Minuses, you know.  Just the other day I was whining about not having my Person with whom I shared memories and could travel. Definitely a minus. Going where and when and how I want, no consultation, certainly a plus but not as big as the minus. I don’t think anything will ever be big enough a plus to balance that giant Minus. But, I’m going to look for plusses where I can find them, and midnight bonfires and watching people in hammocks startle small dogs, and young boys playing with dangerous flaming sticks are sweet little plusses.

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