Looking for Pollyanna

Most of the time, I am the epitome of optimism. I’ve been accused of being a “Pollyanna” a time or two. I find I’ve written about “hope” at least twenty times since starting this blog six years ago. Often I think I see the world “through rose colored glasses.”

But today I’m feeling mortal, fallible, vulnerable. I’m having surgery and maybe I’m just a little bit scared. Today I’m closer to a curmudgeon than a Pollyanna.

The problem is that I had too long to think about this. I got a diagnosis in early January, confirmation in early March and was scheduled to go under the knife right away. I decided to seek the opinion of another surgeon. He wasn’t in such a hurry.

So I Googled the proposed surgery and watched it on YouTube. That made me waffle every hour for a few days! I read medical websites and perused horror stories in chat rooms of people who’ve been through something similar.

I asked my friends. My doctor is going to do X, Y & Z. Oh, lots of them have had X and “it’s a piece of cake.” Several have had X and Y and “it’s not that bad, really.” Every last one of them said, “You’ll feel so much better!” Finally, last night, a friend told me her friend had X, Y & Z and “it was pretty rough.” Finally—an honest woman!

I’ve done all the last-minute housework I can think of. The laundry is all done. I’ve grocery shopped three times. The plants are over watered. The cat is in my husband’s capable hands. I have medicine and soup for recovery.

This morning I’m giving my sweet life partner last-minute instructions, should I not ever wake up. I’m getting weird and thinking I don’t have to sign the waivers; I could still back out.

At this last hour, I’m looking for my Pollyanna again. She is of the mind that Heaven is a better place, after all!

I do wonder what I’ll be writing about next time and how long before I’ll feel like sitting at a computer again.

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We are Hoarders, Pack Rats and Junk Collectors

I have too many shoes. That is, I have some shoes I can no longer wear and they are taking up space in my closet. When I have things that aren’t being useful, I like to dispose of them. I’ll put them on eBay and if they don’t sell like hotcakes, I’ll give them to charity. Someone needs to wear these shoes before they go out of style.

Other people seem to like to collect things that aren’t particularly useful. They say Imelda Marcos had over a thousand pairs of shoes. If a person wore a different pair each day, it would take almost three years to wear each pair once. I doubt she did that.

I know some people who have “collections” of certain things. One guy I know has, according to his own admission, 125 shirts. I know a fellow with (I’m guessing) about 40 hats. My sister collected frogs (figurines of ceramic, plastic, glass, etc.) for several years. She was forced to get rid of most of them when she downsized into a small apartment.

Collections can be fun as long as we have room to properly display them. Shirts can be worn if we rotate them and get good use from them.

What really concerns me is our tendency to keep “junk” because it might be useful again someday. Really? A computer monitor that died eight years ago? A plastic sour cream container? The unused bolt for attaching a bird feeder? Bits of cotton string? A broken tail light lens?

Or shoes that hurt one’s feet but they’re so pretty and we paid so much money for them we can’t bear to part with them?

Our inability to rid ourselves of “stuff” has led to the proliferation of several industries. Most obviously, there are the storage buildings, many of them now climate-controlled. Apparent, but not so obviously, are the houses with attached 2-car garages but with two cars parked in the driveway.

Colorful Totes

Pretty totes to store ugly junk

Then there are the containers for stuff. There is even a store for the containers now, even though every department store and hardware store and home improvement store sells storage totes. They are interlocking and stackable, so a person could conceivably stack them to the ceiling. They come in pretty colors so we can pretend they are decorative.

My mom collected Avon bottles, a hobby that started when she was an Avon dealer. She also collected junk for other people: newspapers and aluminum cans for recycling and egg cartons for country friends to reuse. Her house and back porch were small and kept her habit self-limiting. When she got older, had to move into an apartment, she got rid of all the junk.

As I get older, I am less apt to think I might make use of this stuff “someday” and more apt to think of it as cluttery junk taking up space and making life more cumbersome. (Besides I really hate rearranging things to dust.)

The sun is shining, birds are singing; I think it’s time for some Spring Cleaning!

 

There’s a pretty good article about the psychology of hoarding on the “Psychology Today” website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hope-relationships/201409/the-psychology-behind-hoarding

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Living Low Fat

I just found out a gallstone is what has been causing all my digestive upsets of late. While we are testing and investigating and deciding if further action is warranted, I have been advised to stick to a diet that is low-fat.

When the doctor gave me that advice, my inner response was, “Well, duh!” I didn’t voice it, of course, reasoning that he couldn’t possibly know how many hours I’ve spent researching the subject.

Two weeks before his diagnosis and before the results of a CT scan, I had come to the same conclusion. With or without surgery to remove my malfunctioning gallbladder, I realized my diet may be forever restricted to some degree. My most alarming thought? “I may never be able to eat cheesecake again!”

Slice of yummy

Never eat cheesecake again? Oh, my!

Even while I’m researching and trying out all the old home cures, even taking heed of folks who say they can “eat anything” after gallbladder removal, and in the midst of prayer for complete restoration, I am fully aware I may be living low-fat for the rest of my days. I am missing gastronomic indulgences already.

Fat is now become my enemy. No cream in my coffee. Ice cream is but a dream. Cheese-laden Tex-Mex dishes are out of the question. Ciao, alfredo sauce! No Micky-D’s French fries ever. How about a tiny two-ounce filet mignon?

Since I can’t eat what I crave anymore, I’ve swung the pendulum and gone on a very restrictive “elimination diet” to try to determine what has caused sluggish bile flow that lead to stones in this tiny but powerful gall bladder of mine.

I won’t dwell on my new findings about digestion, since this is not a health blog. Instead, I have some advice for people who don’t have gallstones. Eat the cheesecake!

If you don’t have arthritis in your ankles, put on those ice skates and try. If you don’t have a bad heart, go zip lining. No pain in your feet? Take long hikes in the woods. If carpal tunnel is not a problem, learn to play the piano. If your brain still works and you’re so inclined, write poetry. If you plan to wear purple when you are old, do it now!

Disabilities don’t come with a heads up. There is no warning bell to tell you there are only 30 days left to do that thing you’ve always thought you should do. Accidents happen suddenly and old-age creeps in slowly. Either way, we don’t expect to someday realize we can’t do stuff.

We deprive ourselves of the joys of life for various reasons: we want to be slim; we can’t do it with the children; we don’t have enough time; we need to save money; it’s too risky. Whatever the rationale, we should not let it stand in the way of experiencing all this Short Life has to offer.

When I get over the gallstones and everything is working properly again, I’m going to eat the cheesecake.

 

“So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.” ~ Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NKJV Holy Bible)

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The Happiness Factor

Traveling during Thanksgiving week, “people watching” at the airports and renewing family acquaintance, I was struck by the unhappiness and discontent around me. Oh, we had a great time, everyone was upbeat and full of smiles, but some faces in repose tell another story. I decided the world is full of discontent, anger, envy and bitter gall!

Some people would say the world is in worse shape than ever before but we forget about the World Wars 1 and 2: the bombings, food rations and concentration camps. What about the world-wide flood of early mankind? What about Mount Vesuvius? What about the depraved evil of the Roman Empire? The Inquisition? The Black Plague?

I would say a person’s own individual crises are what drives folks to depression, gloom and doom, suicide and mad attacks upon innocent bystanders. In October, 1929, people didn’t jump off buildings because the world was a mess. They despaired because their own personal finances had suddenly disappeared. The guy who went berserk in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a few weeks ago was angry with his ex-wife’s family, not the world.

So, lots of people lost their savings and their homes in the Great Depression. They buckled down, worked for pennies, scraped to get by, stood in soup lines. They kept up hope things would get better. It took a long time but eventually the economy recovered. Those who survived made a choice to struggle through and they were stronger because of it.

In America, there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds*. Divorce is hard; it’s tragic and painful and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, yet all those people generally get through it without killing anyone. They make a choice to fight back through the pain and they are wiser because of it.

Those examples are big things; they are huge! But I think we prepare for the big things by the way we handle the little things—bad traffic on the freeway, misbehaving kids, bad bosses, lost luggage.

Angry-face

We can choose to let something make us unhappy!

This week I’ve seen people frowning and growling because the shuttle bus was overcrowded and late. One guy got all upside down because his wife danced with someone besides him. Someone on Facebook unfriended an old friend over something embarrassing. A woman was crying in the ladies’ room because her husband bought something she thought was frivolous. She had $10k worth of jewelry on her hands.

It’s not that these things are easy. It’s a trial when we simply don’t get our way. Trials aren’t ever fun. We can choose to take it hard. But if we choose to be happy in spite of rough times, we can be downright ecstatic when things are going well. We might even bubble over with the giggles.

* Source of divorce stats: http://1.usa.gov/1dMPvI2

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Memory Lane

The geese fly south and the hummingbirds abandon the blooms of the scarlet sage. It’s time, according to their light-sensitive eyes, no matter North Texas had some record-breaking heat this November.

They were right, we remark, as the cool weather finally creeps in. Suddenly, it’s autumn. We notice when it gets chilly enough to start the heaters in the morning.

On a rare day when the temps are perfect and fireplace smoke wafts in the damp air, I remember living in a primitive place in the Ouachita Mountains. Burning wood for heat and opening windows for cooler air, I would celebrate those “just right” days when neither was required.

When it was almost cool enough for heating fires, I’d get in the mood to make bread. The cook stove warmed up our little house just the right amount.

We celebrated Thanksgivings in the mountain cabin with pumpkin pie baked in a wood-fired oven that added a touch of smoke aroma to everything, even store-bought dinner rolls.

 

Walkway at cabin

Rain meant the leaves lost their crunch

Rain, which came often to the yellow-green forest, meant the leaves lost their crunch and the woods got quieter. Or perhaps it wasn’t quiet at all, simply different. In summer there was a constant ki-ki-ki of tiny creatures eating plants, crawling through leaves, dropping miniscule things from the canopy to the floor. That sound disappeared in the cool damp, as did the nightly serenade of tree frogs.

Autumn brought new sounds: wild turkeys gobbling, a mountain stream rushing with fresh water, coyotes setting up their frantic howl and the distant growling of a chainsaw getting the woodpile caught up for winter.

There would be new chores: lots of sweeping as the floor tracked with wet hickory leaves, wood to split, brush to burn, kindling to gather, winter clothing to unpack. I would need to cover tomato plants at night so the green fruit could finish maturing.

The oppressive heat was over and that was worth celebrating when we lived in a place with no fans and no air conditioners. We swapped tank tops for sweaters and got out heavy boots.

I would get excited about the new birds come to feed at our bounty: black-capped chickadees, purple finches and juncos. The phoebes, cardinals and titmice thought a continuous source of seed was a good reason to hang around and they were welcome.

The birds on my feeder bring me back from retrospection. I love walking down that memory lane. There are no regrets for having walked it and no desire to go back, except from the comfort of my centrally heated, all-electric home of the present. We still have birds in the city.

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Two Dollar Shoes

 

Two Dollar Shoes

Everywhere I go, I get compliments on my unique shoes

While Dan and I were on a weekend excursion last year, I picked up some cool-looking, wildly colored casual shoes I thought might be handy on a winter cruise vacation we had planned. They were made of elastic strips, with memory foam insoles, brand new and only two dollars at the second-hand store!

I wore them on a shore excursion in The Bahamas and made memories flipping a Segway machine in the sand, twisting my ankle and wounding my pride.

I found out my little two-dollar investment was a good one. The shoes are exceptionally comfortable, easy to slip on, and the multiple colors make them versatile enough to wear with all my summer outfits.

Everywhere I go, I get compliments on my unique shoes. It’s very tempting to say, “They were only two dollars!” But I resist. Especially since I stumbled across a pair on the Internet and found out they retail for over fifty bucks!

If I had paid $50 for my shoes, I probably would not have worn them to ride Segways on the beach. For sure I would not have dipped my bruised foot into the cool ocean and gotten salt water all over my new shoes! I would have saved them for strolling around on the deck of the ship. If I had known I was wearing fifty-dollar shoes, I might not have put them on in the rain or to go shopping at Wal-Mart. For $50, I would have been trying harder to make them last two seasons, or maybe three.

I see pros and cons here. I’ve really enjoyed my shoes more for having put little monetary value on them. But that may be due to a character flaw of mine. Having been trained by parents who suffered through the Great Depression, I am frugal to a fault. If I spend a great deal of money (or time or effort) on a thing, I tend to want to save it. It is only when a thing is cheap (or free or easy) that I feel like I can simply use it up.

But then I see other people who were “born with a silver spoon in their mouth” who waste wantonly. I consider that a character flaw also.

Little kids will ruin their Nike shoes just as quickly as shoes from the dollar store because they don’t know the difference in value.

Children in the U.S. sometimes waste their public education years because it is “free.” Young, immature college kids often waste their opportunity for higher education because it didn’t cost them anything.

I see people at the grocery store wasting money on junk food and then paying with a government-issued EBT card. Because it’s free food, it doesn’t have to be nutritious or worth what they’re “paying.”

It’s the same way with medical expenses. I find that I’m more cautious about running to the doctor or authorizing tests because I have to pay for it. Families with government-provided or employer-provided health insurance seem to have less caution about spending health care dollars.

Having lived so many years, in so many situations, I suppose I can see both sides of the coin. I think buying fifty-dollar shoes for two dollars is the best!

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A Murder of Crows

In the American South, sometimes it is hard to discern the seasons. The calendar can be a loose guide, but it is seldom ever right on time with the weather. There is a meteorological way of naming the seasons but even that has proved unreliable this year.

September is supposed to be a month of low-pressure cells, cool fronts, sporadic rain and yellow leaves. It is the meteorological beginning of autumn.

This year, however, has been the year of exception in Texas. July and August are typically dry but it rained all summer. Hurricane Harvey flooded half the state. September has been completely dry and exceptionally hot. I’m confused.

I don’t know if I still need to buy BT dunks for the pond and bird bath to kill mosquito larvae. I’m not sure if the hummingbirds need nectar. It’s almost October but I’m still carrying a summer purse.

The first day of autumn has come and gone but I keep looking for clues. Wal-Mart has Halloween costumes but they put those out on Labor Day. The morning glories have started blooming again but the roses still look dormant. The neighbor’s cottonwood is losing leaves but our cypress is not. The state fair starts this week and our lawn needs water. The Japanese maple is not even tinged with red.

When I know that it is fall, I will want to work in the flower beds, clean my oven and buy canned pumpkin. Until I’m sure, I’m not putting my swimsuit away or trading out sleeveless shirts for sweaters in the closet. I’m keeping my flip-flops handy. The gold and orange door wreath remains in the attic.

I had a significant clue this week. When I stuck my nose out the door one morning to test the humidity, I heard a newly formed murder of crows talking about winter accommodations. Crows are to autumn what the robin is to spring.

A Murder of Crows

Like a noisy crowd gathered for a spectacle

Texas Crows don’t move south for the winter but they do change their roosting habits. After a summer of pairing up and fighting for territory, a large group will get together in one area that provides food, water and shelter. They share during hard times.

They can be seen in large congregations in trees barren of leaves. They sound like a noisy crowd gathered for a spectacle. When I see crows gathering and hear them talking, I know that autumn has arrived, even if it is close to 100 degrees F. today.

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