For the Love of Friends

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God gave us memories so we might have roses in December – James M. Barrie

Last week I traveled a relatively short distance to visit my oldest and one of my dearest friends. From second grade, we have shared our lives even over great distances and when she met her husband at age 17 and 3 years later tied the marriage knot, he too became a part of my life. Time passed and, oh so many years ago, we kept in contact by writing letters. With the advent of email, we have stayed in touch and we have never missed the annual ritual of sending a birthday card to each other. We both have two daughters and grandchildren now and have lived out dreams and fulfilled most of our aspirations.

So many wonderful childhood memories and so many lifelong events have shaped our lives. And through those many years we have watched each other grow old and witnessed the inevitable scourges of time…the patterns of wrinkles and fading scars paint a picture of lives well lived.

Bí mật giật mình trong quả sung và nước sốt cà chua
A private message

I cried most of the way home that day because illness and age has ripped a familiar loved one from the person I once knew and twisted him into a shell of his former self. He was there inside that shell yet a light had flickered out somewhere within. My friends epitomize what true and lasting love is. Through good times and bad, fortune, fame, loss and tragedy, they have weathered every storm with grace and dignity…stood by each other and through those years they have woven the fabric of a beautiful family. They have lived what most people eternally seek…days and days filled with love in the Spring, Summer and now Winter of their lives.

Witnessing the changes in people we love brings us face to face with the reality that each of us will one day step through life into death to the unknown beauty of what we hope awaits us. Most everyone at one time or another has heard the analogy of a fetus in utero…safe, warm with all of its needs constantly and fully met and the fear that ensues when the birthing process begins. A fetus is thrust into an unknown world and this is scary, just as we are afraid to face the reality of our own eventual demise.

I am so thankful that my life has been blessed with these special friends and I hope I will have many more days/years with them. There is a peaceful comfort now in just being around old friends. They know me. My strengths, my weaknesses, my very inner self. We have history. I love them both and each time we reconnect, it is as yesterday, nary a missed beat. I think of you both each and every day.

Be well dear friends.

Oh, By The Way… Home Warranty Hell!!

For the past six weeks I have been without a refrigerator. Trust me this is NOT a pleasant experience and if you have experienced it then you know how frustrated I am right now.

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Background…I purchased a home warranty policy for the first time this year because I was worried that my ac was 20 years old and might kick the bucket. Well, so far (and I am holding my breath) the ac is still cranking but my refrigerator conked out. No worries, file a claim with the home warranty company, right? Only a $45.00 service call charge for me and it will be all fixed. In my dreams! Easier said than done.

After a couple of days the first (yes there has been more than one!) service company came out to diagnosis the problem. He determined that the compressor was bad and ordered a new one. One week passed and he came to install the new compressor. Next I received a text from him saying the new compressor blew the mother board and oh by the way it will be two-five weeks before the parts are here. After I flipped out, he said the mother board had to come from China. I yelled that I knew there were planes flying out of China each day and I was willing to pay for overnight shipping. Didn’t happen and the home warranty company said they don’t offer overnight shipping of parts.

So I waited and waited and waited.  After another two weeks, I called the first service person for an update. He told me that the new compressor was in but he was still waiting for the Mother board and oh by the way (starting to get the feeling in my gut that this is a living nightmare and something isn’t just right moment) three different supply places said this compressor is the right one but LG says it isn’t and oh by the way…the home warranty company wants to send out another company for a second opinion. And oh by the way, can first repair person come by and pull the compressor that he put it that blew the Mother board. I said it was inconvenient and no way in hell am I letting him take away what could be evidence that he installed the wrong compressor which caused the mother board to fry!! I don’t know that for a fact, but count me seriously suspicious at this point in time.

So I wait again for the second company to come and diagnosis the problem. And oh by the way, please pay this company another $45.00 service call fee.This one unscrewed the plates behind the refrigerator looked at it (no diagnostic tools) replaced cover plates and left and I haven’t heard from him since. And oh by the way…he isn’t authorized to work on LG products. Question??? Then why did said home warranty company send him out to diagnosis it??

So I wait and eventually fire off another angry email to people on the other end of cyberspace and receive a notice that a third company will be coming out a week from now to diagnose the problem. And oh by the way…that will be another $45.00 please. By this time I am blowing a gasket and am at my “breaking point”. And oh by the way the name of the third company scheduled for next week is…wait for it…Breaking Point!!! Is this kharma or what???

I called and eventually get hold of a manager who only succeeded in making me angrier if that is even possible. And adding insult to an already old, tired, frustrated, angry woman, she had the audacity to offer me $389.00 to resolve the whole issue. This on a refrigerator that originally cost $3000. She must have though I was brain-dead or just maybe this is the run around scam that they pull on everyone. I have no way of knowing, but count myself wiser and more knowledgeable at this point in time after digging further on the internet into this company. Turns out that all those glowing reviews that enticed me to choose this home warranty company may have been falsely secured by them offering incentives to previous customers to write nice things. At least that is what the BBB and a judge determined when they fined this company over $800,000 in a class action lawsuit for a breach of rules that clearly state you can’t solicit new customers with lies from previous customers.

So I am waiting. Waiting for my refrigerator to be fixed, waiting for a company to do the responsible good faith thing, basically waiting for hell to freeze over in Texas on a 102 degree day. And oh by the way, I never paid a second or third service fee!  And on the plus side…I have become the refrigerator police and now know that I can manage with very little and not starve to death.

I think I’ll have a cup of tea and try to zen my way to being more tranquil. It appears I am at the mercy of powers of which I have no control, so Ommmmmm.

Addenda: Finally reached the owner of said company and we settled with them giving me $1000.00 for a new refrigerator and as Lady Luck finally returned, the one I want was on sale for $999.99! I am finally free of refrigerator hell!! I’m chilling now!!!

Keep your cool!!!

 

The Great American Read

Image result for pbs logoPBS offers some spectacular programs of great interest and of tremendous educational value. It recently launched a summer program designed to encourage reading as a summer activity. Yes good old-fashioned reading. Through a national survey, they selected America’s top 100 favorite books as voted by readers just like you and me, placed them on a list and encouraged watchers to vote for the book that they believe should be crowned the Best American Read.

My lifetime romance and love of books led me to watch this special and I was delighted to discover some books that I had not yet read as well as some books that were so intriguing that I just had to read them now! Books give me comfort. Books are my crack cocaine. I can’t get enough of them, I am addicted to them and my love extends beyond the words written on pages…words that paint magnificent pictures of colorful characters, intriguing places, and roller coaster adventures in far away places. I am a hopeless Bibliophile who gets a rush from the texture and feel of the paper used within a book, the graphics of the book jacket, the smell of the ink on the paper, the feel of the book in my hands and their sheer presence in my world. A bookcase stuffed with books, a bed with novels resting haphazardly within the folds of a comforter, or a stack of books placed close at hand on an end table, take me back to my childhood where books were some of my best friends, a way to travel and have great adventures within the security of home sweet home.

PBS is encouraging us to vote for the book that each of us believes should hold the distinct honor of being the #1 best American read out of the listed one hundred. And there are no limits on how many times or how many books you can choose as your #1.

So take a moment and check out this PBS special summer attraction at (http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read) and you may be surprised to find some old book familiars and excited to discover some new biblio friends.

What is your Number 1? Vote!!!

And VOTE again in November!!! Your rights and freedoms depend on it!

 

Rites of Passage

This past weekend I jetted my way to San Diego to witness a rite of passage for my youngest granddaughter…high school graduation. Last week I enjoyed a similar experience with my oldest grandson as he too began a new journey into college. Rites of passage are launching pads for young people. Whether they are being pitched into the work environment, academic advancement through college studies, entering the military or taking a gap year to explore the world and all its wonders, it is a new beginning.

New beginnings give us second chances. A second chance to be better, to change attitudes, to become acquainted with the “real” world and all of its problems, speed bumps, rewards and excesses requiring the use of judgement and intelligent thinking to navigate the pitfalls along the way. In their journey, they will have successes and failures and the best we can hope for is that each of these will be learning experiences that will benefit them when they arrive at the next “new beginning”.

Some of us take the long road to reach an ultimate goal and some of us are more goal oriented and driven to pursue those dreams in the shortest period of time. And then some of us make mistakes that slow our journey. Whatever our path, reaching the end of each journey is a joyous occasion and cause for celebration. Balloons, flowers, leis, graduation cards stuffed with cash and filled with encouraging expressions for the future, celebratory food and drink, elaborately decorated sugary cakes, the clicking of many cameras recording the momentous occasion are planned and implemented as a reward for a job well done and an enticement to forge onward to the next life goal.

Goals may change for that is the fluidity of life. A child’s dreams build castles in the air only to become more focused when life itself may force the adjustment of life’s dreams. Most of my dreams have passed now. Many have been realized but a host of others remain unfulfilled. I am learning to accept that many of my dreams, wants, gotta haves may never be, but that really doesn’t matter anymore. I have sweet memories of the many rites of passages of my life and feel blessed to have had the plethora of my dreams reach fruition.

Dream on !!!!

 

 

Shorebird Etiquette

 

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Marbled Godwit

Shore birds are a delight and provide entertainment for beach wanderers just wanting to lounge in a beach chair listening to the surf, sipping a cold beverage and feeling the wind playfully dance across suntan oiled skin. Shorebirds were easy targets for me and my BFF when we first started birding…easy because they stayed relatively still or in sight allowing us to study and identify them.

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Least Tern

But shorebirds are usually out foraging for food and we would do well to remember that we are the visitors to their home territory and there are some rules that can make us good guests as well as protect the large variety of birds that make their home along the coast.

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American Oystercatcher

At the following link there are helpful hints to assure the bird’s safety as well as enhance enjoyment of their beauty and antics.

https://www.audubon.org/news/how-become-bird-friendly-beachgoer?ms=digital-eng-email-ea-x-20180523_shorebirds_medium&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20180523_shorebirds&utm_content=medium

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Black-bellied Plover

Enjoy!! And don’t forget the fried chicken!!!

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Long-billed Curlew

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Finding Peace and Comfort in What We Have

I recently visited Half-Price Books in search of some tomes on silk screening. In my younger years, one of my projects with the young girls in my girl scout troop, was silk screening and/or printmaking. Nearing my nursing retirement, I have turned to exploring ways to supplement my income doing some of the things I have loved and pursued my entire life…art is one of those many things. In my search for books on silk screening, I ran across a delightful, gotta-have-it book written by Australian Sibella Court and entitled “Etcetera etc, creating beautiful interiors with the things you love.” Her book was a reinforcement that it is time for me to let go of 40 years of a nursing career and reinvent myself in a different persona.

This book filled every one of my bibliomania quirks…earthy tones, crinkly paper, different types and weights of papers and packed full of beautiful photographs depicting the author’s design style using the many things she has loved and collected from childhood to adulthood. Things like shells, beads, paper, ribbons…using objects in new and different ways so when a new friend walks into her abode, they instantly have a sense of who she is, what she loves, interests she has pursued.

I have no “need” for additional things in the winter of my life. I have been drawn to certain objects throughout my entire existence and arranging and rearranging those things in new and different ways throughout my home, gives me a fresh perspective and renewed love of all of my treasures. Bird feathers, an abandoned bird nest, sand dollars, shells, carved birds, books galore, various papers, paint tubes, palettes, brushes, plants, walls covered with paintings, a mermaid vase, candles, empty clay pots, easels. A stroll throughout my living space gives insight into who I am as a person.

Just by adding a few empty two dollar Goodwill wooden frames to the three paintings already hanging on my living room wall, had me falling in love again with a portion of my living space. Walking through my front door became a fresh exciting experience. Using what I have in new and different ways is pleasurable and gives new appreciation for why those found objects were cherished in the first place.

I ponder the emotions that drive me to surround myself with things that appeal to me both visually and emotionally. I derive peace and feelings of well-being from having loved objects around me. My bed is often piled high with several books or other reading materials. Books close by, permitting me to reach for one, open it and enjoy reading excerpts as day by day I weave my way through their contents. Each cherished object brings with it a flood of memories…the bird nest discovered on a sidewalk outside Alamo Drafthouse when a girlfriend and I were going in for a movie; the giant brain coral I literally stumbled across when walking the rack line on a Matagorda beach; a funky vase purchased at a restaurant in Fredericksburg  where my daughter and I shared a sumptuous lunch; a giant pair of scissors that belonged to my Mother and each and every time I use them my memory takes me to the beauty of her hands; a baking stone thrust upon me by a sister so every loaf of bread that bakes itself on its hot surface carries a thought of her; a beautiful shell encased memory box filled with sweet memories from another sister and another wooden box filled with loving thoughts from a daughter; a Barack Obama coffee mug, a gift from a daughter who shared my passion for #44; postcards lounging in a woven basket on a coffee table, and birding and junk journals that sweep me into the past when I flip through their pages, overwhelming me with emotional memories of exciting times shared with people I dearly love.

Life is short. What a oxymoranic statement that is. I recently completed my 72nd trip around the sun and it has been a great ride! A long ride. I find myself being more nostalgic with each trip now. My memories of a life well spent are important. There is little doubt that my children will wonder why “Mom kept that silly fossil” or why some of my journals have pages missing leaving blanks in my story that they will never know which brings to mind one of my favorite movies of all time…The Bridges of Madison County… A story of a full life, unrequited love, regrets, successes and a myriad of moments turned into memories of a beautiful existence.

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Rent the movie, watch it if you haven’t, and live your life to the fullest!!!

 

Betty

Poolish

Last night I took the sour dough starter given to me by a friend and made my poolish in anticipation of making bread this morning. Each sour dough starter has a character all its own and today’s baking will determine if Betty is as good as Boris. Boris resides in my fridge with occasional feedings and regular use in the appearance of delicious loaves of bread. I imagine he is anxiously awaiting the verdict to know if he needs to worry about the competition.

My bread baking adventure continues and I have fallen into a routine of making bread most weekends for my own consumption or to share with friends and neighbors. So this morning I took the poolish from Betty and was pleased to see that overnight she had bubbled and foamed into a nice sourdough base. I added oil, salt and more flour to the poolish and after some vigorous kneading placed it in a bowl to rise while I went for a morning walk along Lady Bird Lake.

Mr. White-wing Dove
Cormorant and Mr. Turtle catching some rays
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Al Weiwei sculpture “Forever Bicycles” is made from 1200 bicycles.

When I returned, I popped Betty’s baby into the oven and an hour later had a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread. Taste delicious but not quite as sour as Boris. This loaf had a nice chewy crumb, but the outer crust was not hard and crackly.

Betty’s newborn

All in all a lovely Saturday morning filled with birds, art and bread baking!