The Toilet Paper Chronicles, Part 2

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We all know from the Toilet Paper Chronicles, Part 1, that people who have experienced homelessness or scarcity in life typically fall into one of two camps. You either end up as a minimalist or as  hoarder. For me, I am mostly a minimalist, but have a tendency to hoard toilet paper. I know what it is like to have to go without toilet paper for long periods of time. 

I was very surprised when I went to the grocery store this week and all of the toilet paper was gone. The shelves were bare. Now, I have enough toilet paper at home already to last me a few weeks. Yet I found the lack of toilet paper on store shelves to be downright alarming.

I still do not completely understand – why are people hoarding toilet paper? 

There were three things on my grocery list this week that I was unable to obtain because the shelf was empty. One of those items is a can of pineapple chunks. When I stood in the canned goods aisle, there was plenty of food on the shelves. The only hole in the entire row was the pineapple area. There was not a single can of pineapple at the grocery store. 

What gives? Why are people hoarding pineapple of all things? Don’t you want peaches or green beans or something? Why pineapple? I just wanted one can for a ham dish I am making this week. It does not make sense for me to buy an entire pineapple for one person, so I figured one can of pineapple chunks would be sufficient. Now, I can live without that can of pineapple. I am just amazed at what people are hoarding during this health crisis.

Emergency preparedness officials have been telling us for years that we should be prepared to shelter in place in the event of an emergency for 7-10 days. This would be for a snowstorm, hurricane, some sort of crisis. If the current health scare is requiring people to shelter in place for 14 days, then we should not need much extra to go from a 7-10 day supply to a 14 day supply.

The problem is, most people, myself included, never prepared to shelter in place for 7-10 days to begin with. Quite honestly, my home emergency kit was only stocked for us to shelter in place for 3-5 days, which is the average length of time we are typically home bound due to snowstorms in central New York. 

With multiple food allergies, I thought I was ahead of the game being prepped for 5 days in case the specialty items I need become hard to obtain in an emergency. 

That said, the second item on my grocery list that I was unable to obtain this week is flour. With duhring disease, I can’t just have “flour.” I use a special 1:1 gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free flour. There was none on the shelf.

I can live without flour. I was going to make some apple muffins. I have plenty of other things to eat without muffins. I was just surprised there was no flour. Now, if I did not have multiple food allergies, I would have been able to get a sack of traditional flour with no problems. 

However, in an emergency, living life with multiple food allergies is even more challenging when all of my specialty items are gone and I am physically unable to eat what is there unless I have a death wish.

Luckily, I have enough food to accommodate my food allergies. I can always order online if need be.

Which brings me to the next point – this health scare is highlighting people who have and people who have not. There are some people who need to shelter in place for 14 days. Yet these people are in the comfort of their homes, with electricity and running water. You can order food and other supplies to be delivered to your door. However, this means that there are people out there who are still working and unable to shelter in place because they are delivering supplies to your home.

Just something to think about how interdependent we are as a society.

This brings me back to toilet paper. Not only are all the shelves bare. But when I just checked Amazon, you cannot even order toilet paper online. It is out of stock.

I guess people are going to find out what it was like for me growing up with no toilet paper. When you scrimp to save a quarter to buy a roll or go without. Of course, a roll of toilet paper today is generally $1. I’ve heard that with the empty store shelves, some people are selling toilet paper for $20 a roll.

There are alternatives to toilet paper. I am going to start hanging onto my newspapers instead of recycling them. Is it ideal? No, but in a pinch, newspapers make great toilet paper. It’s better than nothing. I do not anticipate having to use the newspaper, but with my childhood history of toilet paper scarcity, lack of toilet paper is what makes me the most antsy. I’m sure I will be fine. 

I wonder if we go into a hardware store if all of the bidet toilet seats will be gone as well? Bidets are an alternative to toilet paper. I’ve never used one and the idea does freak me out a little, but I hear they are popular in Europe. Maybe it’s time for the bidet to catch on here. 

Being able to stock up on supplies is an economic privilege. There are many people on fixed incomes who are unable to buy an extra week or two of groceries. Sure, they may buy an extra can or item here or there. But if you have been to the store this week and come out with a full cart, consider yourself privileged. If you have 2 packages of toilet paper in your house, think of people who are going just for their weekly groceries hoping to buy a few rolls. We need to be sure that we are taking care of everyone in this health crisis.

For every person buying enough toilet paper to last a year right now, there is someone going without because they can only afford to buy one 4-roll package per month, and that package just ran out.

I will say that I am glad I made the transition back to cloth handkerchiefs and to microfiber cleaning cloths. I do not need to buy facial tissue or paper towels.

But if you see me next in the hardware store buying a bidet seat, you’ll all know why.  

 

Minimalist Cleaning

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The easiest way to clean as a minimalist would be to live in as small of a space as possible with as few belongings as possible. Is this feasible? I’m sure there are people doing it, but it is definitely not for me. Everyone’s version, journey and definition of minimalism is different according to what works for them and their family.

Even though I live in a large house that is challenging for me, I like the idea of open space. I live with three indoor only cats, and they have plenty of room to play or just to be alone from each other. I have a great big world to be in, but for my cats, this house is their world. So we have a large house with a few things. My goal is always to maximize open spaces. 

So far, on my minimalist journey, I have been doing a decent job of paring down items so that I only have what I need and things that I may not necessarily need, but enrich my life and make me happy. Over the past year or so, I have written about my transition to handkerchiefs to reduce the amount of facial tissues I purchase. I have also made the transition to cloth napkins. I can tell you right now, that I have not bought a single paper napkin since. 

I have significantly reduced my paper towel use, saving paper towels for only the most unsavory of cleaning jobs. An example is that I use paper towels to wipe out the cat pan after having soaked it in hot water with a little bit of vinegar. By my estimate, I have reduced my paper towel usage to about four rolls per year. Actually, I think it is slightly over three rolls, but I rounded up to four. 

I have been using cotton cleaning cloths for dusting and washing windows. I do also use disinfectant cleaning wipes for some areas. 

Cleaning is not my favorite activity. Is it your’s? If so, why? I try to spend as little time cleaning as possible while still living in a clean, organized and sanitary home. I feel that I have more valuable things to do with my time like being with the people I love doing things I enjoy.

My next step in trying to minimize my cleaning is going to be the introduction of microfiber cloths. I recently had to dispose of an empty can of Pledge and discovered that is a difficult thing to dispose of in my area. I also dislike dusting and cleaning windows. I realized that one of the cleaning cloths I have been using is a microfiber cloth. I did not think anything of it. 

I decided to google microfiber cleaning cloths to learn more about them. The one that I have been using seems to be less effective. I have had it about 2 years and was thinking it was time to buy a new one. So it piqued my curiosity to research cleaning cloths. I had bought the microfiber cloth to reduce my paper towel usage.

Researching microfiber cloths was eye opening. I learned that while it is okay that I have been using the microfiber cloth with windex, that windex is not technically necessary. If I had two microfiber cloths, I could use one slightly damp and one dry to achieve the same effect. Or, I could simply just use one and go around wiping absolutely everything in sight with no cleaners whatsoever.

This is definitely a game-changing idea. I have a set of cleaning supplies upstairs. I have a set of cleaning supplies downstairs. We all know I have challenges with stairs. By having a complete set of cleaning supplies on each floor of the house, then I am not having to haul things up and down on a regular basis. 

If I can reduce my usage of cleaning supplies, not only will I save money but also time. I can just go around wiping everything with a cloth.

Since my one microfiber cloth needs to be replaced, I have actually ordered a package of multiple microfiber cloths in a set of three colors. This way, when they arrive, I can have one color for the bathroom, one color for the kitchen, and the third for windows, dusting, and everything else. 

I will let you know how things go once I make the full transition to microfiber cleaning cloths. I am currently waiting for my order to arrive. Do any of you use microfiber cloths for cleaning? Does it simplify your cleaning routine? 

 The introduction of microfiber cloths carries with it the same challenges as the introduction of handkerchiefs and paper napkins. The initial outlay of money for these items can be hard for working class people. However, if you can afford the initial payment to purchase these items, it will save money in the long run because you will be purchasing less disposable paper products. 

Thus, the reason why it has taken me a few years to make the transitions to handkerchiefs, paper napkins and microfiber cleaning cloths. 

I am definitely seeing cost savings in that I am purchasing zero paper napkins, significantly less paper towels, and significantly less paper facial tissue. Let’s hope that the switch to microfiber will save me not only money, but time as well. 

Do you have any other minimalist cleaning tips to offer? Or time savers? My greatest nemesis is mopping. Personally, I would rather vacuum than sweep or mop. But you cannot have carpeting everywhere. Any mopping or floor cleaning hacks? 

Four Years Without Facebook

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It has now been four years since I completely deleted my Facebook account, and I have no regrets. Every so often, there will be a story on the news of how people will try to go a year or without Facebook as an experiment. Or, you will hear tips on how to decrease your usage, such as putting an app on your phone that will only allow you to browse for so many minutes a day.

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when living without Facebook is the fear of missing out, or FOMO. I will admit, that I have had maybe one or two instances of FOMO over the past year or so. However, when I sit there and seriously think about whether I want to rejoin Facebook, the negatives of the social media platform far outweigh the positives for me. 

Most of what I want to know I can find in other ways. I listen to the radio and read the newspaper. I live in an extremely rural community, where over half of our population physically lacks internet access, so I am not missing anything by not being online.

If there is something I want to see “on Facebook,” most pages have a public setting and I can still see them. Examples are businesses. Without a Facebook, I cannot interact with the pages. However, one of my biggest complaints about Facebook is the sheer number of people who just lurk without doing anything. So by not having an account and viewing public pages without interacting, I guess I am just doing the same as everyone else.

For people with whom I used to interact with on Facebook, I now communicate by either text message or written letters. Yes, there is still such a thing as putting a stamp on a letter and putting it in those blue boxes you see in places. There is also such a thing as printing a few select photos of importance. You can mail them to your friends and they can put them on their refrigerator with a magnet. Old school or ground breaking? 

The one or two times when I felt like I was missing out in the past year did not have to do with news or existing friends. Living in a rural area tends to be lonely and I would like to meet people. So sometimes I do get FOMO, thinking that if I was online I could meet new people.

However, I can tell you that after one very disastrous attempt with a dating app that meeting new people online is horrid. First, there is this thing called catfishing, where people you meet on the internet are not real. That is a scary thing. Second, many of the people that I would meet on the internet are far away. It’s not like we can get together for a cup of coffee or tea. I do like pen pals, but it is also nice to be able to see people in person every once in while.

Loneliness in a rural area is an age-old problem that has yet to be solved. Most people just move to a city to meet more people and be less lonely. Unfortunately, that is not an option for me, so I need to focus on my family and the people I do have around me. This is where I live, and m ability to travel has been curtailed by my disability, so this is where I am.

I definitely do not miss Facebook drama. 

I have enough drama in real life being a home owner. I do not need online drama to add to it.

In the novel I am reading for book club this month, there is a comment about people being so in tune with their phone screens and computer screens that they fail to notice real life that is going on around them. Then, when their screens break, people die from an overload of life.

I can definitely tell you, that I have a full life. I may be lonely, but I have plenty of things to do that keep me busy. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. I do not need to add online drama to my already full plate.

However the concept that people would die from an overload of life if their screens break is an interesting one. People are so used to the fake world they create online that they no longer have the skills to deal with real life in person. This may be why people lack job skills and we see more violence. People no longer have the skills to navigate life because they are stuck in a fake online world.

Four years after Facebook, I still have no regrets. I live in the moment, experiencing my life and my emotions fully. I am fully present for my family and the people in my life. I am not distracted by phone notifications and do not sit for hours in front of a little screen while there are so many things to be experienced around me.

Some people experiment going without Facebook for a year. For me, it has now been four years. I do not anticipate going back. It is such a waste of my time and creates more stress than it does help.

What about you? Do you live without Facebook? Do you find any positives in it? 

Introducing Jolene

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Jude, Simon and I are happy to announce the arrival of Jolene! In over 20 years of being a cat mom, Jolene is my first girl, so she got my baby name. Jude has my boy name.

I have been wanting a dog for the past 3-4 years, but was not able to have a dog in my apartment. Since moving into the house, I started visiting the shelter about once a month to try to connect with a dog to adopt. I have been on the approved adopter list for about 6 months. As we know by my experience last spring in Dog Gone Down, I definitely can not handle a larger dog. Yet I was still visiting the shelter hoping to find either a smaller dog, or an older, more calm one. 

Each time I visit the shelter, I spend a few hours visiting all of the animals. I have been reading to and playing with cats to help socialize them. If they are more friendly, they are more likely to be adopted. In over 20 years as a cat mom, I have never wanted a third cat. I have been fine with two.

This month, I went to the shelter specifically to visit a 15 pound dog that I thought I could handle. I really liked him. He was hesitant about me, which is completely understandable in a shelter situation. There was another person there to visit the same dog. As soon as the other person came into the room, the dog got all excited and jumped into the person’s lap. That dog chose his family. It was not me, and that was okay. I was just glad to see that he would be adopted and have a happy ending.

I then proceeded to visit with the cats, as I usually do. There are three rooms of cats. After the first room, I went into the second room. Way in the corner was this little orange cat begging for attention. I typically avoid orange cats. Kip was orange, and I was so upset after he died, that I have difficulty sometimes interacting with other orange cats without getting upset. They just remind me of Kip.

Well, this little 6 pound wonder was a girl, which in some ways made it different. I am able to mentally separate her from Kip because even though she is orange, she is a girl. It is extremely rare for an orange cat to be female. Over 80% of orange cats are male, which has something to do with the genetics for orange fur.

As soon as I took this little girl out of the cage for some attention, she immediately crawled up my shoulder, hugged me, and would not let go. She chose me.

This 5 year old wonder had been dumped last summer with a box full of kittens. She was a wonderful mother. Of course, kittens get adopted because they are cute and fluffy. The moms are often left in the shelters un-adopted, as they are typically older. 

This girl loved me and reacted to me in a way that cats rarely do. Keep in mind, I have made numerous visits to the shelter to socialize cats. None of them reacted to me the way she did.

I never wanted a third cat, but you know, I was looking at getting a dog, which would have been a third pet. Did it matter if it was a dog or a cat? She had chosen me.

Jolene came home a few weeks ago and has been fitting right in. She is the Queen of the castle, Jude is the man of the house, and Simon will always be my baby. Jolene is so tiny – she is 6 pounds, whereas the boys are 10 pounds each.

Jolene has of course been spayed and also had dental work done. I found out that she has some genetic disorder that causes all of her teeth to rot from the inside out. Apparently, when she was dumped with her kittens last summer, she was already missing half of her teeth. She had to have 8 infected teeth extracted right before adoption. She currently has 5 teeth left. She will probably be a toothless cat and is special needs in that she needs to be soft food only. But, hey, that’s genetics. She is the most loving and precious cat ever.

She gets along well with the boys and is so smart. She is constantly learning from them and is already getting used to our home routine. I still have to keep her separate when I am not home for her own safety. She is still healing from her surgeries and needs time to heal. 

I am definitely not getting a dog now. There is no way I can handle a fourth pet. Having three right now, is a little juggling act, but definitely do-able. Jolene is the perfect addition to our little family. I just could not say no when she chose me.

Sometimes love just finds you – and it is wonderful.

Return to Minimalism

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As the snow flies, life seems to slow down. My fall was busy preparing for winter. I had put minimalism on hold. Since winter equates to being stuck inside the house, I have the opportunity to return to my minimalism journey again. I had put things on hold briefly trying to get settled into the house for the past year and half.

Everyone’s minimalist journey looks different and may change over time. My current location on this journey is that I am trying to get as much of my belongings on the first floor of my house as possible, as I have difficulty doing stairs. In the upstairs of my house is the bathroom and the spare bedroom. Aside from those two spaces, my goal is to have everything downstairs on the first floor so that it is easily accessible to me.

I currently have one closet of items upstairs to go through to achieve this goal. I have about 3 boxes of items to leave the house and go to donation centers as soon as the weather clears. It amazes me that no matter how much I remove and donate, I still come up with more items to leave the house each year.

Of course, the number of items coming into the house has decreased, so that is helpful. There is no area in the house that feels particularly cluttered or overwhelming. I am trying to make things as easy for myself as possible.

Even though the house is about twice as large as my former apartment, square footage wise, most of the largese is on the second floor of the house. The first floor of the house is in fact 100 square feet smaller than the apartment we previously occupied. So I am technically trying to get rid of 100 square feet worth of stuff in order to fit everything on the first floor. Of course, some of that 100 square feet of stuff is in the spare bedroom on the second floor. I just need to be sure that it actually is set up as a spare bedroom and that there is not anything in there that I need on a daily basis. 

Typically, when I go about minimalism, I do one room or one area at a time. For example, I recently went through the closet in the spare bedroom. I emptied the entire closet, then I only put things back in there that I knew I was keeping and would not need on a daily basis. The closet in the spare bedroom now contains the Christmas tree and Christmas box, the summer/camping boxes, and the upstairs vacuum cleaner. 

My goal this winter is to get the closet in the third bedroom up there completely empty. That could mean that the items in that closet completely leave or it could mean that the items in that closet find a place somewhere else in the house. Once I achieve the goal of emptying that closet, then I will work on the downstairs of the house one room at a time. The downstairs is my main living area.

Downsizing the upstairs is practical in that I cannot do the stairs well to get up there. If I have so many things that I need to have daily items upstairs, then I have way too many items. Everything needs to be downstairs with me, so I need to make it work down here. If my upstairs is relatively empty, then I do not have to worry about going up the stairs to take care of anything. If something ever happens to me, then it is less for other people to have to deal with as well.

For me, minimalism has practical applications in that I am using it to enhance my functioning. Having clear floor space downstairs is an accessibility issue for me. I need the space to be able to get around and the cats need space to play.

Do you have minimalism goals for the winter? This seems to be the time of year I work more on inside projects and save the outside projects for better weather. 

Stay warm.

Goals of Life and Good Death

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With everything that has happened the past few years, I am a little behind on goals. I finally completed a New Year’s resolution that I had back in 2016. I have read the Bible in it’s entirety this year. It had been awhile since I have read the Bible completely.

Following the Our Daily Bread plan, I read a passage from the Old Testament and from the New Testament each day. Breaking it up into chunks with passages from both Old and New made it much more manageable, especially when going through books such as Numbers. Numbers basically consists of long lists of incomprehensible names. 

I have yet to meet a person whose favorite book of the Bible is Numbers. However, if your favorite book is Numbers, let me know. I would like to know why and to hear your viewpoint so that I can learn something. 

Reading through the Bible in its entirety again was calming yet challenging. We all have our favorite books to which we gravitate and return to again and again. Some books like Numbers were more challenging. 

For the record, I would say that Nehemiah is my favorite book of the Bible. Although, my favorite verses, that are my life verses and will be read at my funeral,  are 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT). 

In 2020, I am hoping to accomplish a goal that I had set for myself last year and did not yet achieve. Since buying the house and turning 40, I decided I need to be a responsible adult and plan my funeral. Well, I should at least have a Will. I now have a significant asset, so decisions should be made. Yes, I know it sounds morbid, but hear me out. 

First, I have no family. This means that when I die, my body and possessions would become a ward of the state. Since I spent about half of my childhood as a ward of the state, I have no desire for my dead body to become one as well. I know someone else who died with no family and saw what that looks like. It is the most undignified and disrespectful way to die. I am appalled at what happens to dead bodies that are wards of the state in New York State. 

Given that I have no family, there is no one to carry the burden to make arrangements and decisions when I am gone. There are no friends close enough that I would ask to bear the burden that should be carried by a spouse or child. If I pre-plan everything, then the only thing that would need to be asked of a friend would be final signing of paperwork to carry out my pre-planned wishes.

Second, I have discovered that a pre-planned and pre-paid funeral is exempt from both asset calculations and from all legal proceedings that may take something from you. As an example, if I end up in need of Medicaid in the future, a pre-planned and pre-paid funeral would not be considered an asset for Medicaid determination purposes. Also, when I die, all my assets would currently be seized by the federal government to be put towards my student loan debt. Nothing would be able to be sold or saved to put towards my funeral; it would all go to student loans. A pre-planned and pre-paid funeral would be exempt from seizure to satisfy my student loan debt.

This is in marked contrast to a life insurance policy. One of my friends suggested just getting a life insurance policy that would pay for everything. Well, a life insurance policy is considered an asset and would disqualify me from receiving Medicaid if I should need that in the future. A life insurance policy would also be seized to fulfill my student loan requirement in the event of my death, with none of the money going to my funeral or anything else. My house would be seized for student loans also.

You know, I keep saying student loans in America are a form of indentured servitude. Student loans are a rant for another day. Or, you can check out my slam poetry piece from #Occupy to jog your memory on student loans. I digress.

It is my goal in 2020 to pre-plan and pre-pay my funeral, so that when I die, I just need a person to sign off on all my arrangements. For example, I want to be cremated. You cannot sign the paperwork to be cremated until you have a dead body. If you are dead, you cannot sign for yourself, so someone will have to sign for me.

As gloom and doom as this may sound, the planning I have started has actually been quite fun and exciting. For some reason, I attended a few funerals in 2019, and while each was beautiful in its own way and befitting the deceased, none of them are what I want. 

In the words of Monty Python, I want “one mother of a blowout.”

I am planning a 2 hour celebration of life party. Instead of everyone singing church hymns and sitting through a service that may have meaning to me, but not to them, I am designing a play list. I have chosen 26.2 songs that have multiple meanings in my life. 26.2 is the length of a marathon. There are 26 songs, one by a different artist. The point 2 portion are my two favorite Christmas songs. 

It has been so much fun working on my funeral play list. I am going through songs and very carefully choosing ones that have had significant meaning for my life for decades. 

There is the play list of songs in the key of life, then there is the annotated play list. The annotated play list is basically the Celebration of Life program. In the annotation, I have 2-3 sentences that explain why the chosen song was so significant in my life. 

This way, people can listen to the play list and maybe learn things about me in death that they did not know in life. They can also listen to songs from the play list whenever they miss me and want to remember me after I’m gone (if there is anyone who misses me like that). 

Some people have asked what is the purpose in pre-planning one’s funeral ? You will be dead, who cares? For me, the purpose in pre-planning my own funeral is so that hopefully I can have in death what I never got in life.

And that there is another story entirely.

But I think even without giving you the back story, simply stating that I want to pre-plan my funeral so that I can have in death what I do not have in life to be impactful and meaningful enough. 

Given that I am now a home owner, creating a Will, doing legal paperwork and all of this pre-planning is the “responsible adult” thing to do. With my disability, I want to be sure that I put these provisions in place now while I am of sound mind and body. No one knows the course this disability takes. I have good days and bad days. I may be with it today, and completely gone tomorrow. I want to make my own choices while I have the ability to make them.

With 2020 coming, the year is going to be about life and the good death. On a less morbid note, I am in the process of planning my 2020 running season and am looking forward to my next race and to achieving medal #18 in 2020. Every step I run is a celebration of the beauty of life and makes me so grateful to be on the planet. Running = Life. 

 

Four Coffee Dates

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Whether you love or hate the 12 Days of Christmas song, most everyone knows it and will belt out “Five golden rings.” I like to think of the 12 days of Christmas in terms of Christmas vacation. Those are 12 days when I get a little bit of respite from some of the enormous amount of responsibility I shoulder.

When I was a student, I would try to cram as much leisure time into Christmas break as possible. It was the only time when I had the time to read a novel not associated with my degree field. I would schedule game nights, soirees with wine and food, coffee dates, movie dates, and would pretty much say yes to any party to which I was invited. Spending 20 years working 2 or 3 jobs while being a full time student on the Dean’s List left little time for socialization, so I lived Christmas break to the fullest. Even though I still had work and home obligations, at least I had a break from school.

We have had about a week and a half holiday break from my work, and it has been awesome. It is nice to be home and not have to worry about work. I have time to rest, time to read, run, and attempt some of the items on my to-do list. I just wish it would snow. Of course, when I have off from work the roads are bare. Mother Nature waits until work days to make the roads impassable, causing me to use all my vacation time on snow days.

However, with the nice weather, I have had the opportunity to connect in ways that I usually do not have energy for given my disability. I have been on two coffee/tea dates so far with two more scheduled. I am scheduling my coffee dates around my running schedule to reduce the amount of driving I am doing into town. I have had at least three days this week that have been completely home days and it has been awesome.

So while I may not be living it up with house parties, game nights, and nights out dancing like I was ten or more years ago, I am making meaningful connections. Coffee dates allow me to spend an hour with a person in meaningful conversation. Or, sometimes just silently enjoying someone else’s company while people watching out the coffee house window. 

As I get older, I am discovering that spending quality time with people is more important than the quantity of time you spend with them. I may be spending an hour with someone. That hour of quality time sustains me through three subsequent days alone with the cats. I have to admit, I am thoroughly looking forward to the time when I can finally retire completely (not just from my career as a student) and my time is my own. 

The most important part of Christmas is the gift of time, which you cannot buy in a store. I have been enjoying taking time to see people outside of work. I am looking forward to more positive, relaxed interactions. 

How are you spending time with people this holiday season? 

Unplowed Side of the Street

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We’ve all heard the phrase “the wrong side of the tracks.” It is usually used to indicate that a person has grown up in a rough part of town – typically one that is high in poverty, and sometimes high in crime. I have no problem owning the fact that I am one who definitely grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.

Now, as a homeowner, I apparently live on the unplowed side of the street. We had a snowstorm last week that dumped about a foot or so of snow. What made the storm even more challenging was that I was home sick at the moment with a fever and a few other nasty symptoms. Spending an hour or more outside trying to shovel 12 inches of wet, heavy snow was challenging to say the least. 

I used the snow sleigh that I got last winter, which is way easier than a normal shovel. With the snow sleigh, I only have to push the snow. I do not have to pick the snow up and throw it as you do with a shovel. The only challenge is that the snow sleigh is rough on my knees. After pushing the snow, I have to get it off the snow sleigh. Both knees were bruised on both sides of each knee and I had trouble walking the week after. Not great for an athlete that is a runner.

I will admit I am missing my neighbor who helped me last year with the snowblower. They moved, so I am on my own.

Shoveling the sidewalk and the driveway are not too awful bad. The biggest problem is that I also have to shovel the road.

Yes, you read that right. I had to shovel the road.

Welcome to America, where I live on the unplowed side of the street. 

Even though the village snowplow has to drive both up the street and down the street, they have decided to only plow one side of the road, and it is not the side I live on. So not only does the mail carrier and the newspaper carrier have to try to get through half a street’s worth of snow to get to my mailbox, but I have to try to get through half a street’s worth of snow to get to my driveway.

This happened last year. The village had me in tears. When I called to complain, they said they would come out and plow my side of the street, but if they had to do it again, they would charge me. Charge me to plow the street? I’m a homeowner! Isn’t this why I pay taxes?

This fight is not over, as I will be attending a village board meeting and doing everything possible to become a major pain in the ass until my side of the street is plowed.

Hey, just because I am low income, does not mean I should have to live on the unplowed side of the street. In fact, I need to be able to get to work more than some of the higher income people on the plowed side of the street. I need the income! But, I supposed that people in American society who earn more money must do more meaningful work, so even though we pay the same taxes, they must be more deserving of snow plowing. 

Right?

That’s how the village seems to think.

I thought that by purchasing a home when I have never even lived in a house before was a sign that I was moving up in the world. I guess the only place I moved was from the wrong side of the tracks to the unplowed side of the street.

For the record, I have also now contracted someone to plow my driveway this winter. I cannot physically take care of the snow. I thought that snow was easier than grass/lawn maintenance. I was wrong. I am not cut out for homeownership, but it is better than being homeless. Owning a home is definitely cheaper than rent in my area.

Anyone else live on the the unplowed side of the street? Welcome to the neighborhood. 

Hopefully by the end of this winter, I will be able to convince the village that my side of the road is as worthy of snow plowing as the opposite side. 

 

Magic Wands

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There are times in life when we all just wish we could wave a magic wand and make something better. Times when we all want a fairy godmother a la Cinderella to bippity boppity boo something to smithereens. I’ve had the magic wand moment this whole week.

My neurological condition is still pending an official diagnosis. I am being referred to a MS clinic in a nearby larger city. In the meantime, my doctor this week gave me a MS medication to help alleviate some of my symptoms as a trial. If I have MS, this drug will help me. If I don’t then it won’t do anything.

I have not felt this good in years and I am insanely happy. I feel like I want to do as much as I possibly can this week. I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt this good, and when I finish the medication, I’m sure that I will never feel this good again.

Once the medication is out of my system, I’ll go back to how I was. But for right now, my symptoms are reduced and manageable. The symptoms are not gone. Their severity is lessened.

I didn’t realize how impaired my functioning has become until I entered this period of respite that the medication has afforded me.

It’s like someone has waived a magic wand and made me almost normal again for a week. How many people ever get a chance to say they have had a magic wand moment in life?

I still don’t have an official diagnosis. However, three different doctors all think the same thing. I’m pretty sure if the MS drug is acting like a magic wand … it might be MS. I’m no doctor, but …

I’m going to enjoy my magic wand moment for as long as I can. I want to cram as much life and living into these moments as possible.

I’m just hoping that when my magic wand moment is over that I do not completely crash down into reality.

For right now, I’m just going to say thank you for giving me my life back. Even if it’s only temporary.

Unfortunately, the drug trial I am on is not something that can be sustained long term. But I’ll take the week of respite. It’s the best week I’ve had in years. Sure, the cooling vest gives me moments of normalcy too, but those typically only last minutes or hours. This is an entire week of my life in which I feel amazing.

The weather outside is indeed frightful. We have a few inches of snow and a layer of ice. I wish I could take advantage of this situation and do something fun like surfing. I have been running, of course. Running is awesome. 

I have mostly been spending this week getting everything done that I have been behind on. In a way, I feel like it’s kind of a waste. I really want to do something fun, but other life circumstances are not cooperating right now no matter how good I feel. At least I can check a bunch of things off from the never ending to-do list so I can have a moment to say “it’s done” before everything in life becomes so much harder to do again. 

Now if only this magic wand thing could also result in the entire house being clean without me cleaning it …even for Cinderella, midnight has to strike eventually. 

Nights at CC Cafe

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On a chilly Sunday November morning, I sit in the window at the local coffee house sipping on peppermint tea and working on my online class through UC Berkeley. The coffee house has some memorable and remarkable mix of popular 90s tunes on heavy rotation that instantly take me back to the days of my freshman year of college. Suddenly, I remember what it’s like to be 17 in all it’s glory yet complete with challenges.

Part of these memories include nights at a place called CC Cafe. This was an on campus coffee house type atmosphere. I remember sitting in very dim lighting on an extremely comfortable couch with some band or comedian in the background that I had been there to hear but was unable to pay attention to over the easy-going banter of my crowd of friends. 

Whether an attempt to reclaim my 20 years as a college student or simply out of boredom, I decided to take a class this fall. I know, I know. I’m supposed to be retired from the whole college student gig. I couldn’t help myself. I love to learn and needed an intellectual challenge.

Taking an online course provides other challenges. I do not have internet access at home, so I am constantly trying to find places in the community with free wifi. That was part of the point in taking a class this fall. I am trying to meet new people. I figured an online class would force me out into the community more, which would result in meeting people. I have met a few people in passing. I know none of their names and have not had more than two or three interactions with the same individual.

The exception is the woman who works the counter at the coffee house who always smiles when I ask for my order and seems to know that I will always ask for the internet password as I slip a dollar into the tip jar. 

While I may not be meeting my goal of meeting new people, there are morning such as these that allow me to relive some pretty awesome memories of being a student. That alone, is worth the frustration. It has been hard doing an online class – always trying to find internet, taking time away from my house, my cats, my life to work on this. However, I will readily admit that I need a break from the overwhelming responsibilities I carry, and so, this online class has at least provided me with respite from some of my obligations. 

Challenges in life do not seem to change. It doesn’t matter if I am 17 or 40, I’m still dealing with the same crap no matter what my age. I am trying to work, pay the bills, and somehow find a way not only to survive but to thrive.

I think back to all those nights at CC Cafe and realize that, really, I do have the ability to thrive. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to do that again in real life today.