Friday, January 22, 2021

My Baking Addiction

With my Pumpkin Bread Kerfuffle, I became addicted to making quick bread. So much so, I bought a stand-mixer to mess things up easier and faster. 

My new Hamilton Beach 4 quart mixer does just what I want. It's a sturdy, solid stand mixer with a wire whisk, paddle, and dough hook. I'm not interested in grinding meat or making sausage, so I don't need the other attachments of the fancy Kitchen Aid mixers. I make quick bread and give the loaves away to my friends and family. 

After the pumpkin bread, I made two types of beer bread and some Melt In Your Mouth Banana Bread. My next attempt was baking with Hain Featherweight Baking Powder because it's sodium-free. Years ago, I used it for my partner after his open-heart surgery.

Attempting to maintaining my weight, I don't eat my baking creations. I steal a slice from a loaf's end, a tax for my efforts, and to learn how well my craft is progressing. (I didn't do that with my pumpkin gift loaves.)

After several baking attempts, I reorganized my kitchen to give me more room for baking. That's what I've been doing since my last post. It's part of why I'm tardy posting this. 

I down-sized my old utensils and bowls, some I've had for 50 years (That's scary.) and I spoiled myself by buying a new set of stacking bowls and Rachel Ray bakeware. They all stack well, one inside the other. The bowls and lids within each other and the bakeware inside themselves, if you do it right. 

I now have my dining room table full of things to donate to a thrift shop or return to my daughter. If an item doesn't bring me joy or isn't useful out it goes. It's incredible how discarding things brings fulfillment.  

To finish things off, under the cabinets I added battery-powered LED Puck Lights, to better see the spices I'm using and the amount to measure. 

My quick bread testers (my daughter, stepdaughters, and SCA apprentice) have been helpful. I've had to teach them I don't want to be told what they think I want to hear. People are afraid to hurt the feels of others. But how do you learn without knowing the truth?

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Pumpkin Bread Kerfuffle

 My neighbors are generous. Every year they gift me holiday cookies and fancy quick bread. This year for Christmas, I returned the favor and baked homemade pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin bread is easy to make, but I've baked nothing in five years. I even downsized my spices, because they were decades old. So I had to start from the beginning. Besides eggs, butter, and canned pumpkin, I needed flour, baking powder, and ground cloves. After I got home, I realized the recipe made two loaves. I'd purchased double helpings.

I began by mixing the flour, spices and salt together, and put the sugar, butter, and eggs in a bigger, second bowl. Trying to use my electric mixer for the sugar concoction, I couldn't get the beaters to stay in the sockets. After struggling for 10 minutes, I drove to Target and bought a new mixer. 

This was a big afternoon concession because with the pandemic I always shop as soon as a store opens for the day. There are fewer shoppers then. At the store, I selected a hand mixer and was lucky to find a clerk looking for people to help. With no lines and no waiting, I paid and was out the door in fifteen minutes. 

Back home, I sanitized the mixer and beaters with Clorox wipes then finished the cooking process. The recipe made more than I expected. I really bought too much stuff.

Washing the bowls and utensils, I started a second batch. When I got to the sugar mixture, I couldn't get the second beater to go in the new mixer. Frustrated, I took a "time out". Looking around my kitchen drawers, I found another set of beaters. Wondering why they were there, I tried them on my old mixer and they worked. So I finished the second batch of pumpkin bread with my old mixer.

The next morning, with more quick bread to make, I put the beaters in the new mixer with only a little effort. Now I have two hand mixers that work. I like the new one because its beaters' shape fits the bowl better than the old one. But - there's always a "but" - the new mixer's vibration is annoying.

At the end of my baking, I had 9 pumpkin loaves, three unopened cans of pumpkin, six eggs, plus assorted fresh staples. The day before Christmas, I wrapped three loaves and drove them to my daughter and stepkids' houses. Like a reverse trick-or-treat, I left them on their doorstep, rang the bell, and left. A homemade surprise for the morning.

Returning home after my Santa Claus distribution effort, I put bows on the remaining six loaf pans and wrote cards to go with them. After the sun was up Christmas day I carried each to my cul d sac's six generous neighbors, hoping they're found before they freeze.

There should be a moral to this story. Please, tell me what you think it is.

What I learned is ...  I enjoy baking for friends and family. It keeps me on my feet and moving, lowers my blood pressure. I look forward to more.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Christmas Present To Myself

When I was a young single parent, I always bought myself a gift for Christmas. It was a way to extend Christmas time with my daughter before she went to her Dad’s house. Nan was too young to buy gifts and my parents lived in a nursing home, so I did the shopping for us all. 

I bought myself a Christmas present because I could afford it and I wanted to. I know myself best, and what I buy is always the right size and color. Now that I have grandkids, do I have to stop? Why shouldn’t I buy myself presents? Why shouldn’t you?

Who cares if it feels silly. You’re the only one who sees it unless you share. You’re the only person who knows the gift is for you. Plus, treating yourself as important is good for your mental health. Psychology Today points out gifting yourself gives you double the benefit because you take pleasure in being both the giver and the receiver. 

This year buying for yourself is extra important because of COVID-19 isolation. There’s less reason to please others because they won’t be visiting this holiday. And if you’re an older single woman, you have the ability and responsibility to give yourself what you want. Ask yourself, “What do you want your Christmas to be?” 

I could create my single Christmas and fill it with glimmering customs and countdown to the big day, knowing the new toy I bought to play with. But that’s not me. Making a special Christmas just for myself doesn’t feel right. The holiday magic I have is deciding what special thing to buy. And usually, I don’t wait until December 25th to use it. 

In the past, I bought myself a fur coat - before they weren’t a no-no - and sometimes a high-value art supply. Now I buy new digital gadgets like the Fitbit Charge 3 I bought last year. This Christmas what I bought you might not consider a real “Christmas present” because it’s just a game app I use on my tablet. It is Township. A fun time-filling city/farm simulation game great for Carona-isolation. It’s also the gift that keeps on costing because of its in-app purchases. 

This year there’s one more thing to figure out. How do I give “Christmas” to my family? For several years I slept over Christmas Eve to wake up in the morning with my grandkids. I love watching them open presents. The whole point of the holiday is to give, share, and celebrate. But not this year will be different, because of COVID.

It would be fun to make a little extra magic for the people I love most. I plan to be Santa’s elf. I’ll leave Nan and her kids’ presents in an enormous pile on their stoop, ring the doorbell, then run and hide. All to see the look on one person’s face when they open the door and see the surprise.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Finding My Mojo

SCA Participation
I’ve lost my creative mojo. For years I searched for it and want it back. When you have mojo, your worldview is positive, optimistic, and hopeful. You’re energetic and motivated. I miss that spirit.

The reality is people lose their passion. How long you’re without it depends on the time you take to work out getting it back. I tried multiple activities, searching for renewed energy. 

Returning to my SCA roots, I took on a local office, organized a gathering of classes, and created a few award scrolls. I researched more about 15th century Bruges, embroidery, and historic homemaking skills. Each task performed with devotion minus enthusiasm. 
My Handsewn
Dotee Dolls

With modern crafts, I got inspired by projects. I bought the supplies, made one or three, and stopped. I tried needle felting, Dotee Doll making, beading, crocheting, mask sewing, journal painting, essential oil crafts, and more. My house is overflowing with their essential stores. 

Looking for broader topics in creative passion, I googled articles and read books. Although relevant and interesting, none were the answer.

In the meantime, I took Road Scholar tours to Philadelphia and St. Augustin, FL, checking items off my travel bucket list. The event’s lifelong learning style is amazing. You see history while eating scrumptious local gourmet foods and photographing scenic walks and ocean sites. I want more of them.

Puppy Inka

Now, stuck at home because of the pandemic, I realize there is a connection between all my crafts, travels, hobbies, and even my new puppy. It’s learning. 

Learning is why I love the SCA. Finding a persona, sewing t-tunics, recreating courtly graces, and commonplace crafts. All inspired me. After discovering manuscript illumination, I couldn’t wait to experience and experiment with each technique. Lost in painting the details, my time slipped away. 

Illumination held my passion the longest because it was a sequence of challenges. Each recreation pulled me forward, setting up my fire for the next test. It’s not the recent modern crafts I tried were boring, I just want to solve the next puzzle. This explains why activities lose my interest and I move on. 

Perhaps my mojo isn’t lost. What I enjoy is varied learning. I hope changing my thoughts will find my mojo and bring back energy, purpose and joy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Why I Blog

Why blog? The simple truth, it’s something to do. But there’s more. Arranging and rearranging words clarify the partial notions in my head. It helps answer my many “why” and “what if” questions. 

A blogger is a unique writer. We spend hours composing notes, hoping google influences you to read them. What’s the point? What do I write about?

Before I retired as a Dental Hygienist, I spent years composing medical notes. And my SCA hobby encouraged this too. The challenge now is to loosen up my style. To change from a proper writing promenade to a light fandango. But it’s difficult to avoid the old school style, easier to yield to it.

I also write to interpret the curious impressions I notice. The elderly Belarus couple on their daily walk. The Ford truck flying political flags. The sidewalk surgical mask trash. Personal interests that touch me: crochet, pets, history, audiobooks, friends, and family. And striving to be a better blogger. 

Whether I crow or squawk, blogging lets me share information, opinions, and experiences I don’t want you to miss. Would you write something trivial to a friend? Plus I blog to keep my sanity, to stay happy. It's my personal battery charger. By writing, I feel helpful and if I’m honest, it lets me enjoy feeling clever. Plus
it’s fun.

I don’t wish to change your mind. I just love sharing my two cents or two dollars. But the biggest reason I blog is for you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Call Him Charlie

Monday I had “Grandma Duties”. I got up early, dressed, and drove across town to take my two grandkids to school. My daughter Nan told me Ben had his clothes and backpack ready, but Charlotte needed up a little early. She had a new short haircut and might want extra time to primp. And so I did. 

Later that day, Nan texted me the news. Charlotte’s teacher sent her a message that her daughter came out to the class as a transgender boy. 

I’d wondered about the short haircut and the athletic clothes. I wrote it off to kids growing fast and fresh interests developing. The rest of the day I mulled over what I’d said that morning, puzzling what I got wrong. I remember teasing about the short haircut being cute because it is. Later I told her she was getting too tall. (I still didn’t know about the transition.) What will I say next time I drive my barely 10-year-old to school in athletic pants and a t-shirt toting a giant backpack? To break the ice, I sent a simple message, “I love you, Charlie.” 

Charlotte now prefers the name “Charlie”. The shift won’t be tough for me because re-enactors like me take an alias. I’ve switched mine twice and my SCA friends sometimes still get it wrong. Changing the pronoun is tougher.

Gender awareness is not new to my family. My oldest brother was against labels, but we all knew he was gay. I have two gay nephews and a niece living in Minneapolis. And Charlie’s stepmother has a trans grandson in college. He’s quite the holiday activity planner and I still misstate his pronouns. I love all with warmth and kindness. 

We all struggle to understand while knowing for certain we love our children and grandchildren. To help them both Charlie and his mom went to counseling. I’m sure that’s how he got the nerve to come out. 

But I am bothered. Outside the family, acceptance may be tough. Did you know the suicide rate for transgender people is above 40%? That’s about 34% above the general population. Did you know trans teens are at greater risk for self-harm, drug use, and ending up on the street?

Thankfully, pioneers in gender differences understood we are not all the same. Just because my grandchild wants to dress differently or use an unfamiliar name doesn’t mean he is a different person. He still is smart, is great at art, and loves riding horses. Charlie just wants to live as his true self. I'm the one who must get used to his wishes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

My Low Salt Detached Life

Life feels uncertain, doesn’t it? COVID-19 is real and news updates every day. The numbers are climbing sharply. School closures, job losses, and social distancing. There's so much to arrange. 

Where I live, we are not in absolute quarantine. But I am serious about social distancing and mask-wearing by choice. I have been careful ever since this began in March 2020. I stay home, except for medical appointments, necessary shopping, and occasionally driving grandkids to school. I don't dine in restaurants, go to events, or hang out with people. 

Does it feel weird? Am I bored? Yes, especially as other people go on with life as they lived last year. 

Instead of my normal group activities, I go for walks, listen to audiobooks, watch TV and Netflix, play with my dogs Pippa and Inka, and write to you. That's it for the future. My goal is to be around in a year to enjoy my family and friends again. To be healthy enough to take more Road Scholar tours and do SCA reenactments again.

One thing is undeniable, you need to eat. Food connects you to the actual world, not some vague probability. We each live with our own situations. My reality includes dining alone, cooking for one, and watching my sodium intake

At the grocery store today, I spent half my time reading labels. Until I learn the foods matching my reality, it will be that way. 

Previously I bought several low salt canned soups to try. I gave my emergency stash to a neighbor's church pantry. With the pandemic numbers rising, I stocked up with more, even though I haven't tried them all yet. I hope they're palatable. If they're ok, I can enhance their saltless taste with some potassium-based NoSalt.  

I eat most of my protein at a drive-thru lunch, so I bought a small Mediterranean party platter with veggies, pita chips, and a dip. It lasted for three dinners. The salt per serving is tolerable. Thankfully, I'm not on a no-sodium diet. I just need to control the salt

This is how my freezer looks until I empty the boxes out. I bought enough today to last for two weeks. The fewer times I shop, the safer it is. Birds Eye steamed vegetables. Eggo waffles. A few Healthy Choice bowls to give me a dining-out adventure without going to a restaurant. Yasso Chocolate yogurt bars provide both milk and fun. And my favorite dessert is Outshine dark chocolate dipped raspberry puree bars. 

My pantry is a repurposed closet. It mostly holds excess from my kitchen cabinet. Low salt soups, prepackaged tuna/chicken salad kits, and sanitizing supplies.

I’m not an expert. Not even on TV. Anything I write, it’s just me sharing my ideas and experiences. I write this post hoping to connect with others in a similar circumstance. We can learn from each other.

What is happening in your life relating to COVID-19?

What changes are you making? 

Things might be different each day, but I look forward to sharing with you in good times and the peculiar times. 

Take care out there!  

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Titan Football Warrior

Grandkids present memorable moments. Watching Ben learn life through sports is a continual thrill, even when I don’t understand the sport. He puts tremendous effort into football, his favorite activity. And loves the rush of being in the zone. He's a great team player. 

Sunday was his football championship game. After making it through their playoffs, the Titans competed for the title. They battled the biggest guys I’ve seen in youth sports. They played their best, but the win was not for them. 

After the game, the league presented the 2020 season’s trophies. The Titans received Second Place. An admirable accomplishment. Ben of course wanted them to receive first. What Ben doesn’t realize is he earned rewards all year long. Self-discovered things about himself, team playing, and sports.

Grandmas go to games and sit on hard backless benches to share the gains their grandkid makes. First place enjoyable moments are fun but don’t last long. The joy is watching them take on ever-challenging opponents. That's what I enjoy watching Ben learn and thrive in football. I may not understand the game, but I see Ben's participation, progress and enjoyment.

It's not the first place pleasurable moment that is the best, although they're fun too. It's the pride in your grandchild's growth. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Tears For America

I’ve never cried over an election, but I did this time. The minute I heard Biden-Harris exceeded 270 electoral votes, I shed joyful tears. My heart burst with gratitude, pride, and hope. Four years of stress unleashed. 

During the pandemic, Americans voted in record numbers. Their combined choices elected Joe Biden and rescued the USA. But 70 million people voted for Trump. An administration filled with corruption, incompetence, and uncontrolled pandemic. 

In his remaining days as president, Trump will disrupt the government. Calling for unnecessary recounts is already encouraging his administration to not comply with the transition of power. In revenge, he could do more. He could fire quality individuals like Dr. Fauci. Pardon miscreants like he did Joe Arpaio. (Remember him?) And issue harmful Executive Orders. 

I don’t wish my life away. But January 20th can’t come fast enough. America will again have competent leaders to face its challenges. 
  • once-in-a-century pandemic
  • unbalanced economic disaster
  • growing climate crisis
  • racial justice reckoning 
  • a divided country
But there’s more to appreciate than leadership. I look forward to role models in the White House we can share with our kids. People who read books and papers, love pets, and enjoy music, humor, and honesty. It feels good once again to write “I’m an American” and be proud.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

My New Recumbent Stationary Bike

Inside the shipping box
My exercise bike arrived. Another tactic for helping my senior citizen cardio system stay healthy and maintain my muscle mass. And its low-impact puts a limited strain on my joints. That's why I now own a recumbent stationary bike. 

I chose a recumbent bike because they are safer to use than the upright format. And it places even less stress on my lower body's joints. 

To move a big bike through my house, I ordered it online. Once the box was in the door, I separated the parts and took them downstairs individually to the room where I'd use them later. 

All the bike parts and my two assistants

The box came with easy directions and the tools for assembling. It wasn't difficult, although it took several hours. 

Up to this point, I had no problem. 

Supports and joining collar
The challenge came when I single-handedly joined the upper support to the lower one. The alignment had to be perfect both horizontally and vertically. And then I had to raise the connecting collar to line up with holes accepting the screws. 

After working with it, I realized the collar wasn't broad enough. It seemed to be just the size of the two "tubes" and no bigger.

I wanted my bike now. I needed it to help bring down my blood pressure. So I made a choice to sacrifice the warranty and enlarge the collar myself. Using a large sturdy screwdriver, I forced the collar open on both sides. And it worked.

I now have a comfortable eight-tension exercise bike that tells me all I need to know about my workouts. The electronics show the time I've spent, the calories I've burned, and my pulse. It also gives me a few details I don't need, along with a place to rest my tablet if I want to watch a video or listen to a book. 

There are fancier bikes you could purchase, but for my use, this bike works well. All my doctor wants is for me to use it in an easy setting for 15 minutes every day. That only burns 50 calories. My plan is to increase the time each week, so it helps me lose a few pounds.

I am happy with my new bike. The only reason I haven't given you the make and model is because of the misfitting collar, I suspect a mismatched part. If I wanted to wait, I could contact the maker to get the proper part. That would take another week. Not in my plan.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

It's Finished

I finished this beautiful afghan as a Christmas present for my daughter Nan. It's my biggest crochet project yet. And I'm very proud of it.

Blue crochet afghan on a chair
"Just for Her" afghan

I used the easy "Just for Her" crochet pattern from the Leisure Arts book Make in a Weekend Afghans to crochet. It took me much longer than a weekend because I only worked for a few hours at a time.

The bright blue yarn is "pool", one of Red Heart's Super Saver Yarns. A perfect accent for Nan's living room. (I hope 😅.)

This yarn choice turned out more important than expected. I didn't buy enough all at once and had to buy more. Super Saver yarn has a consistent color between dye lots. Something they call "no-dye-lot".

While crafters tout the Super Saver yarn for its economy and durability, I love how soft it is after washing. Something I always do before gifting them because I have three shedding pets.

I'm no crochet expert (yet), but I recommend both this easy-to-read pattern and yarn for your afghan project. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Time to Go

Every fall I declutter my garage to make way for a friend’s convertible. This year I must also squeeze in two giant trash bins the city expects me to use. And the garage has gotten no bigger. 

It's a challenge, but I'm up to the task. I just have to dispose of more stuff than usual. The carts must have room next to the cars. 

I began gathering the obvious unnecessary things. I refolded the humongous RV-cover and hunted down the old skis, ancient golf clubs, miles of coaxial cable, and metal awning frame. A full load crammed into my car for the thrift store. But none of the things were mine. Why were they even in my house? My garage was storage for other people’s neglected stuff.

Two days later, I sorted and merged antiques, mementos, pictures in frames, and elderly assistive devices into well-labeled boxes. The emptied shelves made space for the shuffled belongings. A trickle-down effect happening as the updated KonMari method absolved me of guilt for what I kept.

The next step removed two CRT TVs. One was mine, the other my daughter’s. (I looked at them as a slipped disc waiting to happen.) Nan and her son came and put them in my car. Packing boxes of unusable cell phones, power cords, a non-functioning drummel, and two scanners with the TVs I drove to an electronics recycling company. At last, those humongous space-hogs were gone.

Getting rid of the junk, I now saw how to use the garage storage. Moving a few shelves, I created a makeshift closet on the far end. Then crammed them with filled containers from other places. 

I'm proud of the results. The encloser corralled my stuff, making room for the trash bins by the cars. And the things I took to charities will be useful for someone else.

I still need to go through the remaining chaos of framed family photos, trinkets, Christmas decorations, and a long-overlooked cache of cloth. But that boxed mess is not mere stuff. It’s my history. The trove shows who I am and what I’ve done with my life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Pippa Finds Gold

Pippa and Inka
You know my dog, Pippa? The Cairn Terrier. 
She isn't just a dog. She's my mentor and confidant.

The other day we did our neighborhood walk again. Sniffing around, she grabbed something white from the tall grass. I bent down to take it from her. She clamped onto it and wouldn't let me have it. With effort, I determined it was a roasted chicken breast. Probably boneless. It didn't even feel rotten. I gave up trying and let her have it. She carried her prize with her head held high for the rest of our walk. And didn't stop for the next five blocks. At home, she ate her find with great joy.

The older Pippa and I get, the more I realize she's my trainer as much as I am hers. I'm decisive, but nothing like her. She has distinct requirements.

Know quality when you see it. Unearthing her prize, she made several snap choices. Does it pass the smell test? Can I use it? Do I want it? In no time she knew she had struck gold. 

Don't give up when you find what you desire. Clench your treasure in your teeth if you must, but hold on with all your strength.

Take pride in your discoveries. Raise your head high, even show off a little. Wasn't that cool? Look what I did. The things you do for yourself are important.

Enjoy your discovery to the max. You uncovered it. You deserve it.

It's a beautiful thing to be mindful of each moment, like Pippa. To have a strong sense of what you want, how valuable it is, and what you plan to do with it.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

High Blood Pressure Makes You Question Everything

Here's a cautionary tale for you. My blood pressure shot up. At my doctor’s appointment, it was 173/62.

High blood pressure is sneaky. It risks your health often without warning signs. I'm a prime candidate because I am overweight, and my parents and siblings had HBP. My mother died from a stroke. So I have several risk factors.

As a Dental Hygienist, I learned the prevention rules. I never smoked. Pippa walks me twice a day. I eat more chicken and tuna than red meat. I don’t add salt to anything but fresh tomatoes. I use herbs to lower my cholesterol. I thought I had things under control with an ACE inhibiting drug. I even passed a cardiac stress test a few weeks ago. 

The elevated BP is a surprise. If I don't lower it, I face a stroke with inflamed blood vessels leaking fluid or blood, and my heart unable to pump well. This situation might kill me. I have to up my game.

My doctor added a second blood pressure medicine, a beta-blocker. The next day I felt worse than I had in months. The path I walked twice a day was now a struggle. My head was woozy. That night my heart beat faster than ever. All common side effects of my new drug.

The next day I called my doctor and was told to stick with the drug. My numbers meant he might even increase the dose. I wasn’t happy. 😞 How could I walk any distance as bad as I felt? How could I improve my situation now?

So I made an action plan. I called my acupuncturist and got an appointment the next morning. Then ordered a recumbent exercise bike online. I changed the TV news channel to stream funny videos. And swore off of caffeine. 

At my appointment the next morning, I talked with my acupuncturist about ways to reduce Metoprolol’s unpleasant side effects. 

Later at home, I reviewed the DASH Diet my long-time partner followed years ago. It promotes eating:

  • fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods
  • unsaturated fats
  • whole-grain products, fish, poultry, and nuts 
  • foods rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium
I already prefer low-fat dairy foods and whole-grain bread. There's little room for me to improve there. Since drinking green or oolong teas are beneficial, I'll switch from coffee and diet soda to unsweetened tea. The test will be to manage the salt in the commercial foods I eat, having stocked up weeks ahead because of COVID-19. And there's my favorite pass time, eating out.

My immediate plan is: Eliminate coffee and cola drinks. Add my exercise bike to my walking routine when it arrives. Lose 10 lbs. And turn off cable news TV more.

I’ve worked very hard to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. To let hypertension defeat me isn’t an option. This is my plan and I’m sticking to it. For now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020


My brother Gene, my remaining sibling, passed away Wednesday from a heart condition. He took a piece of my soul when he left this earth. 

Gene loved people. Each time I visited, he introduced me to new friends. His mall-walking pals. The donut store regulars. And his buddy, Heinen. He taught me how to be a social Senior Citizen where people gathered and the coffee was cheap. I admire his talent for collecting friends. 

He also loved fishing and traveling. At 88 years those days were memories, but he still enjoyed visiting with his family and the tenants in his assisted living facility. Until the COVID-19 hit. The restrictions meant he only saw one person a day, the moment the attendant brought his daily meal to his door. For a man who cherished people, it was a hard way to live.

My first memory of my brother was us driving to get the family’s mail. I was four years old. We lived in the country with a long, rutted lane between the house and the mailbox. On our way, he let me drive the car. Sitting on his lap, I was too short to reach the pedals, so he “helped me out” by working them. But I steered the car down the ruts all by myself.

That is me now, guided unseen by my brother down life’s bumpy road.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

First Mindful Photo-Walk

After last week’s photo walk with Pippa, I found an interesting mindful photography blog post on Sixty and Me. As you know mindfulness is about being fully present at the moment. That’s also true about photography. Even a selfie takes intent and careful aim to look your best. 

So I did a small experiment. I went back to the same walkway just to take pictures. My plan was to study what I was about to photograph before I clicked the pic. 

After the first two photos, I saw a yellow theme emerging among the fading green fall leaves. It wasn’t the elements I noticed first. My eye found the color first wherever I looked. 

Looking at my photos now, some are unappealing. Their style wasn't my intent. The purpose was to raise my awareness and enjoy what I shot. To notice the special things that bring me pleasure and record them. But I learned something. If you don't prejudge a view for its beauty, looking at the photo later it may seem unpleasant. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Who Else Wants A Walk?

After lunch yesterday, I took Pippa for a walk. Often we go mid-morning, but I couldn’t get moving that day. She was good about it, but I knew she missed her outing. 

Once we were out the front door the sunny, mild, crisp weather drew us to our chosen spot. A small treed green space that separates opposing back-yards, where the grass is trim and the few flowers are wild. 

Earlier in the day many people workout here. An elderly couple from Belarus walks together. She totters along, covered even when it’s warm. He works out in shorts, adding exercises in with his steps. Another lady walks up and down the route, four times each direction, listening to an audiobook. Sometimes kids are running to school on the East end. Most days a neighbor comes with us, and we talk while wearing our masks. 

Now the solitude touched my essence, a sanctuary all to myself. To preserve the moment, I clicked pictures with my phone. No squirrels or rabbits were scampering around. They prefer dawn or dusk. But my favorite gnarled redbud stood steady between the fork in the trail. 

At the sidewalk’s end, we turned and retraced our steps. Pippa had more scents to explore. And I discovered details I missed. 

I snapped another photo of the old knobby-trunk tree. The twisted limbs and rough wood appearing original to me. 

Pippa and I have walked this green space twice a day for three years. Each time is like an unfamiliar experience for us.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Eyes Have It

"Not now, but I use my eyes a lot". That was the answer I gave the doc at my annual eye checkup when he asked me how cataracts affect my life. I enjoy watching TV, driving, using digital devices, and crocheting. He replied without hesitation, "Your left eye is lazy. If something goes wrong because of the surgery, you’d be blind."

I knew about the apathetic eye. It’s been with me for over 70 years. I didn’t realize the one only received a hint of help. I’ll wait for the operation-thank you-until the halo-streaming lights make what I love doing impossible.

For most people, cataract surgery is a safe, effective procedure. For me, it’s playing craps with the rent money. If I lose, there’s no second chance.


Gone are the days Granny sat by the fireplace rocking and telling stories when her vision went. I don’t want to be that old lady. And I haven’t got a fireplace.

After leaving the office, I figured out questions I didn’t ask the doc. (Why don’t they pop up when useful?) So, I googled “cataract surgery alternatives”. It turns out scientists are working on it. Studies show a potential eyedrop treatment. That’s expert-speak for check back later.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Brain Fog

Talk about brain fog. There are days I wonder where my neurons went.

As a kid, they taught me people use just 10% of their brains. Now neurologists say we use every part, all the time. But not me. Mental lapses crop up oftener than I care to say, suggesting mine operates with less power. 

Remember, I started An Itinerant Scribe in March 2019 and wrote my last post here. I transported the old contents to the new one. And let Create Me 365 go dormant.

In mid-August this year, I repurposed this blog. I wanted to tell you about current things, medieval reenactment. So I gave it a fresh look and a different focus. After writing a recent note, I checked the layout using Blogger’s program. They looked perfect. I expected them to publish. But they didn’t. 

I tried to fix the glitch. But couldn't get it done using Blogger. 

So, I googled the blog’s name. And guess what? You could buy the domain. I hadn’t renewed the service. Don’t know when I paid the last bill. 

Thankfully, it was available. So I bought it and all is well.

The results. A few posts upload together. I saved a year’s subscription money. And felt foolish for forgetting to renew.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Summer Recap

Can you believe it? There’s only three weeks of Summer before the Equinox. It can’t be true, can it?

Summer is vacations, museums, outdoor sports, and cook-outs. This is the time I planned to recap them. Camping with my SCA allies, spending time with my 80-something Minnesota brother, and visiting my long-time Missouri friends. 

None happened.

My last trip was in October, a 10 day Road Scholar tour to Philadelphia. An incredible experience. Now many states expect outsiders to self-quarantine for 14 days. There’s no way to take that same trip now. Plus, Nebraska expects you to quarantine upon returning. (How privileged travel has become!) When I travel again, I’ll be careful to seek healthy measures.

I am not a medical authority, but I listen to those who are. Their guidance is valuable, even if I’m unhappy with their report. Ignoring the experts’ instructions and mask principles compromises my health and future. And yours, too.

This Summer I preferred seeing closer places. Neighborhood walks with Pippa. Driving grandson Ben to his sports workouts. Park visits with friends. Virtual discussions and a Zoom wedding. My riskiest trips were grocery and craft-store shopping excursions.

You can be both distraught and thankful at once. Living alone means there’s less chance to connect with someone having Covid-19. (That’s good, right?) Stopping indoor group activities protects me, too. I’m safe inside my comfort zone, but bored and lonely. The pandemic replaced the Summer’s joy with dread.

Hopefully next year the ordeal will end. Later the pandemic lasts the longer before I travel any distance or gather in a crowd. I yearn for tours, trips, and long sunny Summer days side by side.