Monday, November 5, 2018

A Blast from the Past

Several months ago, I wrote about hoping to have a 50th high school reunion. I then commented that I wasn't as much interested in the accomplishments of my classmates as who they are today. I'm happy to say that both of my desires were met this past weekend.

Shortly after my blog post, I received an email about our reunion − indeed, there would be one thanks to three special alumni along with a number of others. Of course, I had to do my part of contributing to the event and promptly volunteered to do a reunion yearbook. Creating and distributing a questionnaire allowed me to ask the obligatory questions like family and past career/jobs, but it also presented the opportunity to ask my fellow alums to describe themselves today. Although there were not as many responses as I had hoped, the book was a hit and very much worth all my time and effort.

I was especially proud of the prevailing attitudes of my former classmates. Many chose altruistic careers, lived adventurous lives, and had impressive accomplishments whether professional or personal, but the true test of knowing who we were came when I asked their philosophy of life, favorite quote, or words they live by.

Perhaps because we are getting older and well past half our life span, most cited living and enjoying the present, and valuing family. Many also indicated their faith as a factor in how they perceive and live in this world. It all made me grateful.

As a person of faith, I don't see most things as coincidences; I see them as blessings or even interruptions in our normal lives that make us pay attention.  Whatever comes our way in the future, the reunion was a small glimpse of what we share on a more global scale − our humanity. That was greatly exemplified by how happy we were to see each other, even those with whom we weren't particularly close to in high school. What was not common to us then, is now.

We are older, and I dare say, better versions of our younger selves. We have learned many of life's lessons, and are keenly aware we are just a small (although important) part of this big, beautiful  world. Yes, it was a blast from the last and I am grateful.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Reflections on the Past Twelve Years

Twelve years ago today, the life I had known for 37 years came abruptly to an end − my husband's physical presence was no longer a part of it. Soon after we began dating in 1969, I knew no matter what the future held, he would always be a part of me. As I reflect on the years since, several things stand out:

  • I still grieve and miss Steve every minute of every day, but I've learned that life continues to have good moments
  • Loneliness doesn't have the same meaning. I do not get lonely when by myself, but I yearn for Steve's company
  • The only real cure for sadness is to concentrate on others and try to make this world a better place, something we all should do
  • Writing to Steve on important dates in our lives is cathartic, and I still continue to journal daily
  • Writing has been God's gift to me. Although I've always written fairly well, my genre and focus has changed from business and formal to inspirational and warm and fuzzy
  • Although there is nothing personal I wouldn't trade to have Steve in my life again, I realize there are  positives which would not have occurred otherwise such as starting a senior social group at my church. (God  really does help us to make lemonade out of lemons)
  • My independence has grown. I've always been capable of functioning on my own, but I am capable of more than I might have ever guessed  
Steve always said we made each other better people, and he is still influencing me toward that end. And even though life certainly didn't turn out the way we expected − only one of us to enjoy seeing our sons married and settled in life, and delighting in becoming a grandparent; taking trips in our retirement; and just growing old together − I live somewhat vicariously through others who are lucky to have what we could not. That too is one of those moments that still brings a little unexpected happiness into my life. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Saying Goodbye to Old Friends

It's strange to think of  those who own a business as friends, but that's what made Saffees special. Last week, it was announced they were closing all of their stores at the end of the year due to health problems in the family, and no desire by the fourth generation to take over the business.

Businesses come and go, and that's a fact of life, but not many can equal Saffees. For four decades, I have shopped at and loved this store. My husband and I even became friends with members of the third generation when Saffees opened its doors in my city, and before they assumed ownership from their parents. They knew what I liked and how to fit me, but that's not all.

In Chicken Soup for the Soul: Random Acts of Kindness, I wrote a story relating how they carried on a tradition begun by my husband to always have a gift from Saffees for me under the Christmas tree. They knew how devastated I was at the loss of my husband just a few short months before the holiday, and wanted to make certain that I had a gift from Saffees under my tree at least one more time.

Since then, they've occasionally delivered clothing to my house, and most recently, a selection of "mother of the groom" dresses from which to choose. Three bulging discs prevented my going to the store so Steve, who operates Saffees in Lawrence, picked out five or six formal dresses from another location and had one of their staff bring them to me to try on at home.

All of the gowns would have worked, but there was a stand-out. Since I'd previously done a little panicking and had another dress in reserve, they told me to keep it until I decided if I wanted the extra dress.  No brainier − it was perfect! The dress was gorgeous and I could even wear my lumbar brace underneath without detection. I just needed to justify having a second dress, but this was clearly the one.

My husband could always pick out clothes for me, and so could the owners Steve, his sister Marie and her husband Ronnie. I'm going to miss having people who knew me so well, but most of all, I'm going to miss their caring, and the integrity and personalization with which they operated their business...they were truly friends.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Feeling Like a Modern-Day Job and Homeless

Not to make light of Job's ordeal, but I was beginning to feel a little like a modern-day Job from the Old Testament. While my situation was nothing like his, I did feel a bit challenged.

It all started with 3 bulging discs which worsened to the point I could barely walk, couldn't stand erect, and the pain became enough to send me to the doctors. Yes, as in plural.

Two rounds of epidurals of 4 shots in my lumbar spine (1 to numb and 3 in each disc) and 7 weeks (soon to be 9) of physical therapy at least have me walking again. But then there was another set-back not related to my back issues.

My HOA paints our townhomes every 7 years, and this is my year. We owners are responsible beforehand for any needed maintenance which means repairing any problems with siding or patio fences. My repairs just happened to be extensive this year, but that isn't a real part of my ordeal.

The siding contractor I chose did not do the best job. In fact, the dormer on my home had to be redone upon my insistence − it was awful. Then several other issues arose before I discovered my air conditioner stopped working. Calling a repairman after 5pm didn't fix the problem because we determined a nail behind the new siding punctured the Freon line. 

To make a long story short, a fix the next day didn't work because the puncture created a bigger problem in the coils, meaning an almost $1400 coil replacement or new system (mine was definitely of retirement age although it had been working fine). The contractor was out $650, but after weighing options, it was a no-brainer to replace the AC and furnace together. That was on me, but I couldn't get estimates until Monday and this was late Friday.  

Unlike Job, I was lucky enough to have family and friends who offered me a place to sleep. Unfortunately, all but one had stairs to their extra bedrooms, and my back issues prevented navigating those. 

My younger son and almost daughter-in-law offered me "the mother-in-law suite" at night, and let me hang-out there anytime I couldn't stand doing my necessary things at home where the inside temp reached up to 89 degrees. I felt a bit homeless in having to spend time elsewhere, but I thank God for providing me with a son who had accommodations to meet my needs. And, although I didn't like spending the unplanned extra money for the new system, I at least had it available to do so.

So what did my challenges teach me? It taught me how fortunate I really am. I didn't like the trials, but I discovered I could overcome them. I also gained, through experience, a deeper understanding of what those in need face. Regrettably, they don't have places to go when it's hot or money to make repairs as I did. 

Ultimately, God designed a way to take care of me through it all − family, friends, doctors, physical therapy, and a retirement fund courtesy of my late husband. While I know there are still obstacles to face, I do so knowing I am blessed.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Robocalls, Scams and Email Extortion − Oh, My!

I'm used to getting robo and scam calls which I don't answer − it's easy to tell when they don't leave a message. After a search for the number confirms the not wanted call, I block it or try to do so.

Recently I received a number of calls from "Out of Area" with no number displayed so I could not block it. I finally answered the call to learn it was from "IT Services." My response: "I don't want or need this call. Please (I try to be polite, even if it is a scam) take me off your list." I haven't gotten another call from them.

I'm also used to the emails from some benevolent soul from another country who wants me to share in his/her bounty. All I need to do is share my bank account information and contribute good-faith money. Yeah, I'm really going to do that, just like I'm going to give an unsolicited caller my credit card information to lower my rates!

But the most disturbing scam I've seen is the extortion email. But before I tell you about the one I received (which I think will amuse anyone who knows me), I will explain why it is disturbing. The hacker referenced a decade old password on an old email account. I don't know how they obtained it, and that part is a bit upsetting.

Now to the content of the email, it was a sexploitation extortion/blackmail attempt that claimed to have proof of me watching porn on my computer! The sender stated he would ruin my reputation with the video (showing my embarrassing acts in response which were captured via my web cam) if I didn't send $3600 in bit coin. Two problems with this scenario: I don't visit porn sites (I hope that wasn't a surprise to anyone), and my computer does not have a built in web cam. Nevertheless, I worry about others who may not be savvy to this kind of intrusion, even if they are as innocent as I.

Part of me wanted to respond and express my feelings toward the person who sent the email. (I may try to live by Christian principles, but I am human!) I know the email was foreign-generated, and after reading an article on this same extortion attempt, I'm sure they covered their tracks pretty well.

Still, I immediately contacted my Internet provider and will file a complaint with the Kansas Attorney General and FBI. Even better, I'll go to a higher authority. Matthew 5:44 states: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,..." so I will say a prayer for the penitence of individuals who make a living by hurting their fellowman in addition to all those who have been victimized by them. Scammers certainly don't make the world a better place, but we can.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Life and Regrets

Is it possible to live life without regrets? I hear a few people say that, but it's difficult to think one might not want a do-over on at least a few things. Of course, those without regrets will often add they wouldn't change any mistakes because it's made them who they are today.

For me, two recent events brought into perspective how regrets are different. Regretting what you had no control over is futile; it's what you can do to change what might become a regret that is important.

My friend Diane recently lost her mother, someone whom I also considered a friend. They rode with me on trips to an annual writers convention so I became well acquainted with them outside of monthly meetings. Jean was a lovely lady and very independent despite her children's concern for her health and safety. Diane and I hoped to get the three of us together for lunch, but something also arose − now she is gone. This I regret because we might have gotten together before things interfered.

In talking with my sister in California, she again expressed how much she wished they had sought different medical treatment for my brother-in-law. My response to her was something I've said before: If you prayed about it and asked for healing, then you did what you could, and the direction to do something different would have prevailed. Simply put, if God's plan was to have our husbands live, then nothing we did or didn't do would have affected the outcome...period. Changing what I didn't and couldn't know, I can't regret.

My regrets stem from things I had control over, but hindsight is always 20/20. I think of the times I could have been a little nicer, been a little more generous, showed a little more caring. And I don't mean just for my late husband so I'll continue trying to live my life with as few regrets as I can by being a little kinder, a little more generous, and a little more caring toward everyone. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Ouch! Maybe I Am a Material Girl

I'd like to think I've come a long way in putting less emphasis on the material world, but there are some things simply too difficult to part with or do without. I'm not talking about designer clothes, granite table tops, or a lavish estate; I thinking about sentimental items.

A few weeks ago, I had to replace a 3-seater swing with a smaller version. I would not have done so, except after 13 years, the mesh attached to the frame came unstitched and there was no way to fix it. You may wonder what's the big deal about replacing an old swing, and how could I be so attached to an object? The answer is simple − my husband.

In the last year of his life, it was time for Steve to give up his continuous list of  projects and enjoy what he had done. That included beautiful landscaping in our backyard and an added brick patio at the base of the deck he built years before. The area became a restful place where he could enjoy the outdoors, take a nap, or contemplate what was about to happen. We bought the swing for him.

Matthew 6:19-20 (NIV) states: 19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasurers in heaven..."  I understand the difference of what we should treasure, but it's so hard to give up things associated with a loved one.

Memories cannot be taken away unless something like dementia or amnesia occurs, but still I cling to objects which are associated with those memories that keep my husband close. I suppose most of us do something similar as I recall, after our mother's passing, my sister not wanting to throw away any scrap of paper on which our mother had written something. 

Granted, these sentimental items are not associated with greed or envy so I think there is some leniency in applying the aforementioned scripture. But it just shows that some materialism is impossible for most of us.