Neighbors

Neighbors—we all have them.  This is true whether we live in the city, the burbs, or the countryside. When I grew up, most people knew their neighbors and were on friendly terms with them. But I grew up in a smaller community and in a different era.  For example, all of the neighborhood kids went to the same schools, and their parents met up at school events or frequented the same handful of local businesses.  There was really no escaping it. For better or worse, neighbors knew each other.

However, this isn’t really true anymore.  I know I’m making a very broad statement. So, perhaps I should dial it back a bit, and just say that in my case, I am happy with not knowing my neighbors.

A few years back, a family member was describing her new neighbors and complaining about how unfriendly they were. Apparently, the new neighbors had fenced in their yard and seldom chatted over the fence. I remained quiet and nodded politely, but inside I was screaming, “Are you crazy! Those are the perfect neighbors.”

Maybe I feel that way because I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert.  I sincerely prefer a quiet evening at home to a wild party.  I have just never been the dance on the bar sort of girl. I’m more the stay at home and read a book sort of girl. 

But the introvert vs. extrovert thing doesn’t really explain the overall trend of folks not knowing their neighbors. I think there is more to it than that. The world has gotten rougher around the edges over the decades—becoming more chaotic and stressful. So, is it wrong to want to escape into our homes and apartments and not interact with our neighbors? I hope not.

For instance, most of my life I have worked in places like office cubicles, dealing with ever-shifting office politics and demands. And for the last many, many years, I used public transit (a bus or train) to get to and from work. As a result, by the end of the day, I had suffered through more than sufficient human contact, and all I wanted was to get to my apartment and close the door to the stressful world outside.

But apartments only provide some relief from other humans.  Over the years, I have had many different types of neighbors. There have been ones who played music louder than a tavern on a Friday night.  And others who I would say had boundary issues. Case in point, I lived in an apartment where a somewhat strange guy lived down the hallway. Too often, he would just appear in the laundry room next to me. Or he would pop out of his apartment when the cleaning lady was vacuuming the hallway and follow her, chatting endlessly as she tried to work. He was probably just lonely, but it was unnerving. 

However, most of the time over the years, my neighbors have been decent and much like me, they kept to themselves. And this is very true of where I currently live.  My neighbors all seem like good folks. Of course, I don’t know their names, and I doubt if they know mine. 

Anyhow, as far as I know, there are no serial killers here.  And although one can never be certain of that, I feel pretty confident. Simply put, there are no strange guys lurking in the laundry room. Like I said, my current crop of neighbors is pretty decent.

By the way, since I don’t actually know most of their names, I have sort of assigned them descriptive names. There is the lady who owns a red car, the lady who smokes, the quiet guy at the end of the hall, and the young couple who bicker like they have been married twenty years. There is also the guy in the baggy shorts, and the new couple with the dog. 

Well, I am not sure if it is actually a dog. I guess so because it barks. When they first moved in, it darted out of their unit and sort of jumped up on me.  I say sort of because the dog is about the size of a very small cat. So, there was no harm done. But regardless, I rather not run into it again. I worry about stepping on it by accident and squashing it like a bug. 

I hope that I’m not offending any small dog lovers out there. That is not my intention. I have a friend who owns a small dog. She adores it and spends lots of loot on its clothes. In fairness, her husband died a few years ago, and this dog has brought her much happiness. Therefore, I take my hat off to all dogs—small or large. One should never doubt the power of a dog’s wagging tail—even if it is very tiny.  But I’m getting off topic. 

Anyhow, there seems to be an unspoken agreement in my apartment building. We are friendly but not friends. For instance, I will stop and exchange pleasantries from time to time, such as with the lady who lives two doors down from me. She seems quite nice. I will also hurry ahead and open a door for a fellow tenant if their arms are full. And when the elderly lady on the first floor fell near her patio one day, another tenant and I helped her back up on her feet.  After all, it would have been rude to step over her.

I guess my true feelings boil down to one thing. Whether a person feels the need to be highly sociable or not with one’s neighbors is a personal choice. But for some of us, our homes and apartments are our havens from a stressful world. They are our quiet zones. No neighbors allowed.

Dancing With the Bees

I have been dancing with the bees lately.  And no doubt, I have danced with a few hornets and wasps also. 

Yup, I know that sounds strange, but that is what it seems like at times.  Case in point, yesterday my sister and I were parked outside of a local burger joint.  We had decided to grab a burger and eat in the car.  Our windows were down so that we could enjoy the breeze. However, as we ate, a pesty bee flew into the car.  Actually, it might have been a hornet or wasp. I honestly don’t know, but at that moment I also didn’t care. 

Anyhow, the bee zoomed in, and I jumped out, holding my burger in one hand and my pop in the other. Of course, the bee followed me. My sister laughed, telling me to get back into the car. I muttered a few salty words before explaining that the “darn” bee would not let me.

Each time I attempted to get back into the car, the bee raced ahead of me, blocking my path. As I darted about, zigging and zagging around my car, the bee followed. I repeatedly took two steps back, one to the side, and twirled once or twice. But the bee shadowed each of my frantic movements, seemingly dancing with me.

And yes, I know that one shouldn’t run from a bee. It only makes things worse as they perceive sudden movements as a threat and will respond accordingly.  But when my inner child screams RUN, I run.  I can’t really explain it, but I have always been extremely afraid of bees, hornets, and wasps. Perhaps I was stung as a child, but I don’t remember that happening.

To be sure, I consider myself very lucky that the authorities were not called as I certainly must have looked like a crazy woman, having some sort of mental health episode. After what seemed like an hour but was probably only a minute or so, I was finally able to hop in the car and escape the attentions of my unwanted dance partner. 

Needless to say, I will not frequent that particular burger joint anytime soon. 

Despite my dislike of bees,  I realize that bees and other pollinators are extremely important, and unfortunately, their populations are shrinking.  This is a true crisis. Food crops require pollinators almost as much as they need water.  I read somewhere that well over half of the world’s food crops require pollinators or at the very least, greatly benefits from them.

This might seem like a minor issue to many people—much less important than other environmental concerns.  But the environment is like a sinking boat. One must address all of the leaks, small or large, to keep the boat afloat. 

Anyhow, I applaud those brave souls who have taken up the cause and have become urban, backyard beekeepers. I remember a middle-aged man from a few years ago, who rode the same bus to work that I did. He shared many stories about his backyard beehive hobby. He often bragged about the number of stings he received and his trove of honey. His stories were interesting but did little to endear me to bees.  In fact, as a child, my name for honey was bee poop.  I know this isn’t true, but the image still lingers in the back of my mind.

Also, there are several initiatives around in my area, encouraging home owners to create more bee-friendly habitats, such as planting gardens with a wide array of flowers.

Although I am not a huge fan of bees and other similar flying creatures, I fully encourage all of these types of things. I believe that we need to fix some of the environmental problems the collective “we” have caused.

I am not suggesting that everyone become a backyard beekeeper. But all of us can help out at least a little with this issue, such as donating to local nature reserves or planting flowers in your backyard. With a little luck, the bee and other pollinators will make a comeback.

And remember, the next time you notice someone running around a car in a crazed manner, please don’t judge. Maybe they are just dancing with the bees.

Out of Time

The summer is over, and I’m a little pissed at myself. I won’t bore you with the details, but I missed several of the goals I had set. I ran out of time.

Time, or the lack thereof, has become an issue to me lately. There was so much that I wanted to accomplish this summer. But time raced by so fast, I was left behind knee-deep in unfinished business.

I realize that time is just time. An hour is 60 minutes, and a day is 24 hours. It is a fixed measurement.

Yet, time ignores the fixed nature of its existence. It seems able to shapeshift from the measured ticking of a clock into a taunting creature, capable of controlling every element of our lives. At least that is how I have come to perceive time.

Let me give you an example. Throughout my working life, time was either moving at breakneck speeds or excruciatingly slow. It controlled everything at work. An employee arrived on time, completed assignments on time, and left work at a certain time. In fact, time management was a category on my annual work appraisals. Yup, time was very important on the job. Isn’t there an old saying that time is money?

Anyhow, as you can probably guess, whenever there was a hard deadline approaching, time took on an especially ominous nature. The office clock became the enemy. A week suddenly seemed shorter. An hour seemingly flew by in what felt like seconds rather than minutes. And then when the deadline was met, we would all sigh, grateful to have beat the clock.

However, time was also capable of taunting in another equally cruel way—slowly and mercilessly. During the last hour of the workday, especially on Fridays, the clock barely moved at all. Or at least, it appeared that way. I worked once in an office where there was a very large, old-fashioned wall clock directly above my desk. Generally I was too busy to pay much attention to it.

But near the end of the workday, the clock seized control of my thoughts. I stole constant looks at it. Each of its slow, merciless tick-tocks became a cruel reminder that quitting time had not yet arrived. I must admit there were many days in which I wanted to throw that darn clock out of the window. Of course, I never did. I needed the job.  

But like I said above, time is just time. I can’t really blame time itself for my lack of time. I have a tendency to misuse or waste time. I have taken time management classes and applied many of the principles during the workday. And to brag a bit, I got pretty good time management scores on my work appraisals.

But that is my working life. My personal life is another matter. This summer I had set some lofty goals. Some I met; some I did not. Why? I wasted time. For instance, there were too many days when I decided to watch TV or take a walk rather than tackle something more important. In the simplest of terms, I procrastinated.

With that said, I don’t believe that we should allow time and our commitments to control us completely. It is really okay to kickback and take a day off. Such a thing is not a waste of time but rather a good use of time. We must all recharge ourselves.

But it is equally important not to completely ignore time. Time touches everything in this world and the universe—living or not. All things age: flowers, people, buildings, and even the stars in the sky. Time is relentless. There is no defense against it.

As I grow older, time has become more important to me. Yes, it is true that the years tend to go faster as we age. Of course, the years do not. It is just how we perceive time. I feel time differently now. At an almost cellular level, I understand that time is not a never-ending thing. It is a simple truth that at some point, a person’s time on earth will run out.

Um, just to be clear, I am not expecting to pass on to the Great Beyond any time soon. I’m planning on hanging around for a very long time. Frankly, the angels will need to take me kicking and screaming.

I’m not going to waste any more time worrying about the time I wasted this summer. Rather, I’m going to set some new goals and get a move on! 

***

“Regret for wasted time is more wasted time.” Mason Cooley, American Aphorist

Orbs

Have you ever snapped a photo and later noticed an orb in it, wondering what the heck that round thing was? I have to admit that I have. And this does not seem to be unique only to me or a handful of others. In fact, if one does a quick internet search, it will yield countless stories of orbs showing up in the background of photos.   

At this point, I should probably explain what an orb is.  An orb is generally a whiteish, spherical shape—something similar to a ball.  However, they do not need to be round nor white in color. In fact, orbs can appear in a variety of colors and shapes.

But this explanation does not fully explain what an orb is.  Many people (myself included) feel orbs are spirits or otherworldly beings. Common beliefs include that orbs are our loved ones just popping in for a visit, angels bringing a message, or perhaps a spirit attached to a particular location.   

I realize that many dismiss orbs (like much of the paranormal) as nonsense.  And I’m not going to try to change anyone’s belief system.  I honestly feel that one can believe what they want—especially with regard to the paranormal.  In fact, many people only start believing in this nonsense after they have had a paranormal experience, such as a ghostly visit.  

Anyhow, these days when my sister or myself sense that a spirit is nearby, I will often grab my phone and snap a photo or two . . . or more.  So, how do we sense that a spirit is nearby anyhow?  With us, there are several things that tend to happen. One of the most common for us is a strong, unexplained perfume-like scent that comes out of nowhere. Other times, I will suddenly feel a coolness next to me.  In all instances, we look around to ascertain if there is a rational explanation.  Usually, there is not.

I know that some will say that we are bonkers. But again, I will not attempt to change anyone’s mind with regard to the paranormal.  I’m only sharing my experiences. In fact, whenever I snap one of these photos, I am hoping to capture evidence to support that we are not bonkers.  Mostly, I do not get anything. But sometimes, I do, and there will be an orb in the photo.  This was the case in the photo above that I took a while back.

There are some, even those who believe in the paranormal, who feel orbs in photos are more likely to be things like dust particles or insects rather than spirits.  And to be fair, I’m sure that in many instances, this is very true. I actually give much credence to the insect or dust theories in photos taken outside or in places like abandon buildings.

However, I have become a believer in spirit-type orbs for two main reasons. First, the only times that I have captured an orb in a photo is when we sensed that a spirit is nearby. I have tried just snapping a photo or two at random times, and the photos have been decidedly orb-less.  If I was merely capturing insects or dust, wouldn’t these appear even in my random photos?  Yet, they do not. Secondly, I have only tried snapping these photos inside my apartment, not outside, which greatly reduces the likelihood of at least flying insects.

Although no one can say with complete certainty what orbs are or where they come from, I take some comfort in believing that orbs are spirits, perhaps loved ones popping in from the other side, either to give a message or just say hello. It is nice to feel that loved ones on the other side are still with us.  Perhaps this is because I have lost quite a few people in my life, starting with my grandmother when I was a child, my father when I was a teen, my mother a few years later, and three siblings over the last couple of decades. 

So, anyhow, I’m not trying to change your deeply held beliefs. You can certainly believe what you want.  But if you spot an orb, maybe say howdy and thank them for visiting! 

Crazy Drivers!

Have you noticed the growing problem of speed these days? I don’t mean the drug, but rather vehicles racing along the roads at breakneck speeds. I have.

My sister and I recently decided to take a short drive to a nearby community. Unfortunately, the closest route is a divided highway. Although we are familiar with this route having taking it many times, we are still frequently stunned by the death-defying nature of it. You might think that I’m exaggerating, and I wish that too. Unfortunately, I am not.

Let me explain. Our drive that day was much like other ones we have taken. My sister (who tends to do the driving) and I were chatting as the car rolled along, discussing our plans for the day. She was maintaining the proper highway speed as she drove, meaning driving at the speed limit or slightly above it.

As usual, we soon spotted a speck far in the distance behind us. It was another car. As if shot out of a cannon, the car was upon us in what seemed like only seconds. The car almost slammed into us, its speed only easing up within inches from our bumper. We cringed at how fast and reckless the driver was. The car then darted into the other lane, racing pass us and narrowly missing our car’s side mirror. We looked at each other, grateful that the crazed driver had quickly zoomed far ahead of us.

I must give credit to my sister, who is an excellent driver. She held onto the steering wheel during this incident, keeping us on the road and out of the ditch. Sadly, she needed to do the same thing several more times that day.

You are probably wondering why we just don’t take another route. To be honest, we often do take other less busy routes or more rural byways. But the less busy routes often turn what should be a short drive into a long, meandering adventure. We don’t always have time for such things. And of course, the so-called quiet two-lane byways are not really much better these days. Crazy drivers are everywhere.

I’m in my sixties, and I suppose some folks will assume I’m complaining about fast drivers because of my age. But I can assure you that there are plenty of excessively fast driving old folks out there as well. And I complain about them too!

This is not a young versus old issue. Rather, it is a safety issue. The simple truth is that too many people are driving more like unhinged adrenaline-junkies than responsible drivers.

At some point over the years, the speed limit on roads became more a suggestion than a rule. But it isn’t just speed, it is reckless, rude, and aggressive drivers as well. I’m sure that we have all seen people texting or talking on phones while driving, tailgating, running red lights, or passing in a clearly marked no-passing zone.

Since I live in a cold weather state, I also cringe at the sight of someone driving way too fast for the weather conditions. Despite what some drivers must believe, no one can stop on a dime when the street is covered with ice.

As a result, I have grown to hate driving. I know that is very un-American of me. After all, cars are a very American thing. We are a land of highways and byways. But I have grown too nervous for today’s roads. So, I mostly leave the driving to others.

I have not always hated driving nor my fellow drivers. I spent years commuting to work, driving 40+ miles one-way. There was a time also when I really enjoyed peaceful country drives, and I have many fond memories of long road trips.

I also have fond memories of learning to drive in high school. As a teenager back in the seventies, it was a BIG deal to get your driving license, a true rite of passage.

Anyhow, my driver’s ed teacher placed a carton of eggs on the front seat of the car and said if the carton flew off the seat, we (my fellow student drivers and myself) would fail the class. Of course, he also said that we would be required to clean up the mess, which would not have been a pleasant task.

Well, we were very mindful of the eggs as we drove. In other words, we made every effort to accelerate smoothly and apply the brakes with a light touch. As I look back, I sincerely doubt if there were any eggs in the carton, but it did the trick.

I honestly don’t know why there seems to be such a prevalence of rude, leadfoot drivers out there. (By the way, a leadfoot is one who floors the accelerator and drives crazy fast.)

The reason might be as simple as the fact that vehicles are now more powerful and capable of going insane speeds. Or maybe, it is related to the ever-increasing day-to-day stresses of modern life. Or maybe both? I don’t know the answer.

To be honest, I still enjoy a nice road trip from time to time. Not every road, or I should say, road trip is something out of a horror movie. And I honestly wish every road was as scenic and peaceful as the one in my photo above. But too many are not.

So these days, I cross my fingers and hope for the best whenever I’m riding in a car.

Please remember to drive safely out there!

Darn it, I didn’t win the lottery!

I didn’t win the $1 billion plus Mega Millions jackpot. What can I say? I was not happy to wake up to the news this morning that someone else won.

I almost never get caught up in the lotto craze. But this time, it seemed that every TV station kept reporting that the jackpot had grown to one of the biggest ever. Over and over, the stations blared out this news. But even though it was a big jackpot, it was unlikely that I would buy a ticket. I seldom did.

However, like so many others, I started to daydream about what I would do with the winnings—maybe buy a cottage by a lake, share it with my family, and donate to good causes.

Well, this past Thursday, I found myself standing in front of a self-serve lottery machine at a local store. I hesitated for a few seconds and nervously looked around. Were there others eyeing me, waiting for their turn? No, thankfully, I stood alone in front of the machine. I had time to ponder the unlikeliness of winning the lottery. But I kept asking myself if I should cave and buy a ticket.

Suddenly an old saying popped into my mind. Nothing ventured; nothing gained.

I dug into my purse and pulled out a few crumpled dollars. As I inserted the dollars into the slot, the lottery machine quickly snatched them like a greedy villain in an old movie. In return for my money, a lotto ticket popped out. I shook my head slightly and walked away with my ticket, wondering if I had just wasted my money.

The drawing of the winning numbers was done last night (Friday at 11:00 pm ET), but I had fallen asleep on the couch well before this. So, it was not until this morning that I learned the awful truth. I was not the winner.

Not a surprise, I know. The odds of winning a lottery is really slim. Of course, I knew this before I bought my ticket.

But I learned something else too. Sure, I didn’t win, but at least I had a chance to win. And it was fun to daydream about it for a day or so.

Not everything in life works out, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least give it a try. Please don’t let fear stop you. If nothing else, you might have fun while trying something new.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not promoting gambling. It is never a good idea to waste a lot of money on lottery tickets—or any sort of gambling. The odds are always against you, and gambling can be addicting. A few dollars here or there is fine but never your whole paycheck!

Anyhow, there are lots of other things out there. Go for a hot air balloon ride. Hike across the country. Climb a mountain. Vacation in some exotic location. Quit your job and open a bookstore or restaurant. Dye your hair blue. Get a tattoo. Or as in my photo above, buy numerous cutesy fridge magnets.

Of course, you don’t need to do anything as over the top as some of the above suggestions. I just recommend that you take a chance once in a while. Do something that makes you smile or that you really want to do. Don’t worry if you succeed or not. So what if you don’t succeed? The world certainly will not end, and you might have a good tale to tell one day.

My suggestion is simple. Whether big or small, please take a chance once in a while. Sometimes, it is a good idea to play it safe. But sometimes, it is not. After all, nothing ventured; nothing gained.

***

As a disclaimer, if you have a gambling problem or know someone that does, please don’t hesitate to get help. In Wisconsin, you can call the Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-426-2535 or TEXT (850) 888-HOPE. Or you can also call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700. I hope that wherever you live, there are resources that you can reach out to. Please do so if you need help.  

Baby, It’s Hot Outside!

It’s hot outside and has been for a number of days now.  Although Wisconsin is probably “cooler” right now than some other areas in the country (and the world for that matter), it was still brutally hot and humid today. And I’m getting tired of the excessive heat, and as this morning proved, it’s making me grumpy.

Let me explain, in hopes of avoiding the worst heat of the day, my sister and I decided to head out early in order to run a few errands.  By midday, we were heading home, but unfortunately, it was already hot by then and expected to get hotter as the day went on. And the prospect of yet another hot day was not a pleasing thought.  Needless to say, my disposition was not as sunny as the day.

As we drove along in our little economy car, I spotted a jogger running, and I rolled my eyes, fighting the urge to yell out my car window that it was too darn hot to jog!  A few minutes later, I rolled my eyes again when I noticed an older gent mowing his lawn. His shirt was wet with sweat. And I wanted to stop the car and angrily tell him that a well-maintained lawn was not worth heat stroke.

To be truthful, I rolled my eyes so many times on the way home that they almost fell out. Good grief, I was grumpy, but I refrained from offering my advice to the unfortunate souls that I passed by. There is an old saying about giving advice—if a person doesn’t ask for advice, don’t give any.  Simply put, I’m sure that my unsolicited (and grumpy) advice would not have been warmly received today—no pun intended.

When we got back home, I trudged up the stairs to our second floor flat, carrying several bags of groceries. I instantly dropped the bags on our table, kicked off my shoes, and turned on the AC hoping for some quick relief from the heat.  Although our apartment has air conditioning, we don’t have central air. Rather our apartment is equipped with an annoyingly loud window unit.  Actually, the AC unit is set into the wall, but I don’t know what to call it. A wall unit?  Anyhow, it is a vintage unit to be sure—no doubt original to the building.  However, it will cool off the immediate area, and that is welcomed on hot days.   

I must admit that I have certainly lived through many heatwaves in my life, some with air conditioning and some without.  And believe me, it is better with air conditioning—even if it is a noisy, vintage unit. 

But somehow this heatwave seems different to me. It’s more a worldwide heatwave than just a Wisconsin thing. And this is alarming for several reasons.  It isn’t just the record-breaking heat, but all of the other worldwide climate-related issues, such as prolonged droughts, shrinking reservoirs, and forest fires. And we can’t ignore the fact that the extreme heat is actually killing hundreds of people around the world right now. 

The simple truth is the world’s climate is changing and not for the better. What I don’t understand is why some people don’t believe this. I can guess some likely reasons, including an onslaught of social media bots that are designed to spread disinformation, ratings-hungry TV hosts, conspiracy-spreading podcasts, and so on.   

I am not suggesting that the nonbelievers are horrible, selfish, nor foolish people. In fact, many are our neighbors, family members, and co-workers. And I refuse to give in to the ugly and divisive trend of demeaning and insulting name-calling.  It does little good to demonize our fellow human beings. So, I will not label those who disagree with me anything other than to politely say they are nonbelievers. As a note, I am less charitable with regard to public figures who promote and profit off misinformation.

Fortunately, there are also many reliable and trustworthy sources that are easily found. I sincerely hope that more people put their faith in these sources rather than the more dubious ones. Once such source is NASA, whose website states, “There is unequivocal evidence that Earth is warming at an unprecedented rate. Human activity is the principal cause.” 

The weather forecast here for tonight is one of thunderstorms and damaging winds. This is not a totally unexpected event after an exceedingly hot and humid day. And though I don’t wish for any storm damage to occur, I sincerely hope the rain comes down in buckets tonight, and the heat is broken for a while.

I also sincerely hope that everyone (governments, industry, and individuals) starts to realize it is time to take action. I honestly don’t know how many more record-breaking heatwaves the world can handle.   

Craft Fairs & The Risk of Mass Shootings

The weather was nice yesterday, sunny and not too humid. It seemed like a good day to be outside. So, my sister and I decided to go to a craft fair that was being held at a local park.

To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of craft fairs as I tend to just wander around without buying anything. It’s not that the vendors aren’t selling lots of interesting stuff.  Rather, it is that they are. It is sort of like information overload to me, leaving me unable to decide what to buy. As a result, I buy nothing.

Anyhow, we got there mid-morning, and the craft fair was already getting busy. After parking our car, it took only a few minutes to walk to the park. And it took even less time to get swept up by the crowd, pulled along in the flow of people as they maneuvered down the pathways lined by vendors. 

As we moved along, we stopped from time to time to gawk at a vendor’s table but then rejoined the flow of the crowd until another table caught our attention. Without a doubt, there was a wide array of items for sale—from knitted whatnots to handmade jewelry and from quilts to artwork.

As we walked around, the crowd continued to grow. At lunchtime, we purchased a couple of hotdogs and pop. We sat on one of the picnic tables, watching the crowd as we ate. There were families with baby strollers and seniors with canes. We saw shoppers loaded down with their purchases, and others idly enjoying a bag of popcorn or an ice cream treat.  Kids yelled and ran around. Adults mingled and chatted.  It was a peaceful, idyllic scene.

We left shortly after lunch, emptyhanded but having enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. The rest of the day was spent doing the normal everyday things that we all do—buying groceries, washing clothes, and such.

It wasn’t until the end of the day, that something occurred to me.  I had been at a crowded outdoor event, and not once did I even consider the possibility of a mass shooting happening.  The possibility just didn’t occur to me.  I don’t know why.  It had only been a few days since the deadly 4th of July mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, and it hadn’t been terribly long since the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

I’m currently living in a small, safe community, and that is probably part of the reason. It is easy to feel that things like that just don’t happen in places like this.  But gun violence also happens in supposedly safe communities. The Highland Park shooting proves that.

However, I strongly feel that we can’t hide, afraid to attend events because of mass shootings and other gun violence.  If we do that, fear wins; evil wins.  However, we also must guard against becoming desensitized to gun violence—not just the high-profile mass shootings but also to all types of senseless gun violence. 

My greatest wish is that this country will find a balance between the rights of gun owners and the right of people not to be murdered while attending a parade or sitting in a classroom. This is something that must be done. Our lives depend on it.

The Winds of Change

I can’t help feeling that the world is being assaulted on all fronts by the winds of change.  Unfortunately, these winds are fierce, angry, and life-threatening. We are facing a storm of reckoning. One only needs to turn on the news to know what I mean—deadly wars, famine, corrupt politicians, hate crimes, mass shootings, social inequalities, and environmental disasters. I could name more examples, but I don’t feel it is necessary.  I’m sure you get my point.

Some people sit silently with their ears, eyes, and mind firmly shut off from reality, hoping that the storm with pass and all will be as it once was. They hope that life will return to a fable time of innocence that never really existed, a time of sock hops and ice cream socials.

Others rage and scream, battling the storm, hoping that their pleas and deeds will be enough to diminish the ill-effects of change.  Unfortunately, others fall victim to the storm and get pulled into the madness and darkness of the times. 

I only speak for myself, but I feel that there are three things that we need to do in order to survive these violent winds of change. First, no one should ever close their ears, eyes, and mind to what is happening around them. After all, one must be aware of a problem before it can be solved.

Secondly, I think that all of us in one way or another need to rage against the storm—use our minds, words, and deeds in order to solve our problems. Whether you believe in a divine source or merely in evolution, humans have been given the ability to think, and this ability is essential to solving and surviving the life-threatening issues facing the world. 

And the third thing? We can’t let ourselves lose our sanity, our humanity, and our souls. We can’t get pulled into the darkness.  And this is really the scariest thing to me. It is so easy to get swept up in the craziness, the lies, and the evil.  I believe that if left unchecked, evil spreads like a weed—or perhaps more accurately, it contaminates those exposed to it.  As an old saying suggests, one bad apple spoils the bunch.

I offer no simple solutions.  But I tend to feel that one has to sit quietly on a bench by a lake once in a while, remembering that there are good things in the world and believing that the world is worth fighting for.  

The winds of change are not necessarily a bad thing; it really depends on what we allow the wind to blow in.

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“When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, others build windmills.” Old Chinese proverb

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Maya Angelou

I’m Cheap.

I’m frugal. Actually, that is a nice way of saying that I’m cheap. Just as a clarification, I’m not cheap with everything.  If it is something really important or necessary, I will get out my debit card and pay for it.  Of course, this is usually after endless days of fretting about the expense.

For instance, prior to last winter, I knew that my car needed tires. They were in pretty bad shape, and no one wants crappy tires on slippery winter roads.  I fretted over the cost for days and days. Finally, I booked an appointment with a local garage.  Although I didn’t buy the most expensive set of tires, I also didn’t buy the least expensive either. In other words, I paid for a decent set of tires.

So, why am I cheap?  Well, I have spent a lifetime of counting pennies as they say. I have lived in expensive areas (translation—large metro areas) because that was where the jobs were.  Unfortunately, rents and other expenses were terribly high in those areas. So, I lived paycheck to paycheck. Basically, I wasted very little money because there was little to waste. 

And now, these same metro areas are even more expensive. I honestly don’t know how people these days afford their rent and other necessities. 

As background, I started my working life as a secretary and worked my way up to assistant. In there somewhere, I took college classes at night and worked my way up to a financial analyst (which turned out to be a fancy way of saying accounts payable). The jobs paid okay but not great.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about my life. I had a pretty good one.  Well, I still have a pretty good one as I plan on causing trouble for years to come.  Anyhow, I have no complaints, except for turning into a cheapo.    

I don’t usually dwell on this trait of mine.  But once in a while, it hits me.  I’m cheap. 

For instance, a few weeks or so ago, I stopped by a local store which sells a variety of things—new and used items, collectibles, local crafts, and other artsy stuff.  Well, I walked around the store, looking at one knickknack or another, checking the price, rolling my eyes, and walking away.  My cheapness was on full display. 

Finally my eyes landed on a little green gnome. I looked it over, decided that I loved it, looked at the price, rolled my eyes once again, and walked away.  Then I walked back to it.  Darn it, I thought, it was so cute.  However, the price seemed sort of high.

But my inner child whispered to me and told me to splurge.  Now, I’m the proud owner of a tiny, overpriced gnome.  And I smile every time I glance over at it.

Anyhow, I strongly advise that once in a while, you should foolishly waste money on something frivolous. After all, a smile is worth a few bucks!