Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May 25, 2016

I have discovered, since heading back to the gym/pool complex in the next city, that five years when you’re talking 56 to 61 is a whole lot bigger difference in age, than when you’re talking 30 to 35—or even 40 to 45.

I was 56 when I had to give up my daily trips to the pool. At that time, I was swimming 50 lengths of 25 meters for a total of 1,250 meters. Five days a week. It took me roughly an hour to do this. I had to pause briefly at the halfway mark. Otherwise, I just swam. Up and down, up and down, always on my back because I am too ill-coordinated to swim any other way. I loved it then, that time in the pool. I felt younger. I believed this was the secret to getting more fit, easing my arthritis, and guaranteeing my health. I devoted two hours all told out of my day to this endeavor, usually very early in the morning. 

I still love it, but it’s sure not the same experience as it was. First, I’m going later in the day—mid morning. I have no choice in this, because I have to give my body time to wake up, to ensure I won’t have any plumbing issues that day. Yes, I still have a few of those, although they’re nowhere near as severe or debilitating as they were.

 I’m aiming for three days a week, not five. I really have too much on my plate to go every day. So Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are my target days. My first day was February 29th, and it completely shocked me that I was only able to swim 100 meters. Now, in my defence, that was after 10 minutes on the treadmill and 10 minutes on the recumbent bike. But still. 4 measly lengths of 25 meters? What a wimp!

I had intended to make up for not going every day by making it a full workout. During my previous regimen, I didn’t even visit that workout area, called the “weight room”. So going forward from my new beginning in February I defined a full workout to mean treadmill and bike, maybe even eventually the elliptical, as well as swimming. However, my arthritis did not like those first two options at all. At the one-month mark, I gave up the treadmill. At the two-month mark, I gave up the bike. It just hurt too darn much to continue. After visiting my doctor this past week, I am going to go back to the recumbent bike for just 2 minutes per visit. It doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve been assured that just two minutes of that different motion from swimming will benefit me. We shall see.

It’s nearly three months since I began this process, and I haven’t gone every single Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Aside from the vacation we took last month, I’ve missed a few days due to being under the weather. But I decided I wasn’t going to fret about the occasional missed day. If I do, I’ll just end up focusing on what I haven’t accomplished, instead of celebrating what I have.

I’m up to 28 lengths of 25 meters, or 700 meters per swim. And that’s taking me more than forty-five minutes to accomplish. I’ve just increased my lengths from 26 to 28. I need to hold to that new benchmark for a few visits before I’m not really straining hard to achieve the goal. So it’ll be another week before I increase the length count to 30.

The most frustrating thing in all of this is that when I get home I have to rest. Like, lying down and closing my eyes kind of rest. I had hoped it wouldn’t take all that long for my body to adjust its level of stamina to the new activity. That’s actually a partial lie. I was certain that it wouldn’t take long for my stamina to increase, to get to the point that I could just do this little thing, then come home, and buzz around like usual and perform my daily “multi-tasking”—that unique blend of housework and writing that is so me.

Unfortunately, it’s looking like I’m going to have to completely restructure my days. Go to bed extra early the night before, and get up extra early the day of, so that I can be certain to get some writing done before the pool. If I don’t do that, the chances of my getting any writing done those days are slim to none, and yes, Slim just left town.

This whole getting older business sure as hell isn’t for the weak of spirit—but it does, truly, beat the alternative. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

May 18, 2016

I’m at that point in my life when I realize that some of my perceptions may be skewed by my age. Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason: they reflect aspects of reality. So the image of the older person mumbling “I don’t understand young people today! Why, back in my day…”

Ah, the power of that “dot dot dot”. Back in my day, a lot of things were different than they are today. I’ve been trying to figure out what the major difference is—could those differences really be nothing more than my own perceptions, or are they real?

That’s a serious question, because one of the things that’s not as sharp as it once was, is my memory. I’ve unloaded a lot of stuff from my mental main frame. Some of that unloading was deliberate. It made no sense to me to hang onto memories that left me stinging. It’s truly a waste of time reliving hurtful moments, when they are over and done with and there is nothing that can ever be done to change them. Except, of course, taking away their power to hurt me over and over again by getting rid of them.

So I want to ask y’all, is it just my perception that people don’t seem to care anymore about the quality of the work they do for the wages they’re paid?

My daughter has a continuous hassle with her employer. They keep making mistakes on her pay check. Aside from putting in a full day seeing clients, she is also “on call” nearly every day from about 5:30am to 9 am—one of the places she goes in the community is a long term care facility for the aged. Inevitably co-workers will call in sick on any given day. Whether she fills in for others or not, the on-call is a bonus that she’s to be paid on every pay check. There is also a mileage bonus, because she is a PSW (Personal Support Worker in Canada, Nurses’ Aide in the U. S.) in the community and must use her vehicle to get from client to client. On a regular basis, one or both of these are missing from her pay, because the one person who’s in charge of forwarding the payroll information to head office repeatedly forgets to include them.

When I worked in payroll, if you screwed up a person’s pay, you made it right on pay day with a check. That was people’s rent, and their groceries, and shoes for their children. They counted on that money and if I screwed it up, I was expected to make it right.

The reaction my daughter gets is a shrug, and “oh well”, and she has to wait until the next pay day to get what they missed on the last pay day—oh, and yes, that makes that week’s tax deductions higher which of course, they say, will all balance out, eventually, at tax time in the spring…

Y’all recall the fiasco of my television repair a couple of years ago? I forget how long we fought for that (I let most of that stuff go, see above). Now we’ve had a similar experience with that new furnace/AC unit we got last winter.

When they installed it all in December, they discovered they brought the wrong breaker for the power box for the air conditioner. The furnace was good to go, and has done a wonderful job keeping us warm for less money, just as advertised. The installers said they would be back the next day, two at most, with the right part, to finish the installation of the Central Air unit.

They didn’t come back. Not that week, not the next…

I called in February and the person to whom I spoke was SHOCKED that no one had gotten back to me. She put me on hold and then came back on the line, and assured me the service manager himself was going to order that part today. It would either come here, or there, at the office. If we received the part, I was to call immediately and they would send someone out to install it…

On April 19th I called and relayed the activity to date with regard to that missing part that had never shown up. They promised to send someone out on April 21. They did. That gentleman went downstairs and took pictures of the panel, so that the office would know what part to order. He assured me the service manager (and here he actually gave me the man’s name) would be in contact with me. I informed him at the time that the next week we were going out of the country for a few days. “Oh, don’t worry,” said that service man. “He’ll contact you tomorrow, the next day at the latest” …

When we returned from Vegas, I checked my phone messages, and nada. So I called them immediately, and they apologized, and promised to send someone out Monday May 9, between 8 and 11; at 11:10 I called because no one had shown up or called, they apologized, said the service team was running behind, but someone would be there shortly. However, ten minutes later when I checked my e-mail I found a confirmation of my appointment in a new time window: 8 am to 5 pm (this was just after noon hour).

I got a call an hour later from the service manager himself, apologizing and promising to be out next day (Tuesday May 10th) between 2 and 4 pm…

This story has a happy ending. After no shows and no calls to me on Tuesday, and my calls and their assurances on Wednesday for Thursday with again, a no show, the technicians finally arrived…on Friday, May 13th.

Note the date. It’s always been a relatively lucky one for me. And yes, the a/c is in working order. Now, if only the weather would co-operate so I could enjoy it.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May 11, 2016

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything, anywhere, like the wildfire eating it’s way across the northern part of the western Canadian province of Alberta. Approximately 90,000 people were evacuated from the city of Fort McMurray and its surrounding area. Thousands of homes and businesses have been destroyed.

The videos taken by those passing through what was the Beacon Hill neighborhood of the city are surreal to watch. Streets are lined with concrete driveways leading to nowhere and ending in unrecognizable piles of charred debris. Some vehicles left parked along the street in this residential neighbourhood are nothing more than burned out shells of metal. Later videos show a line of demarcation of sorts—houses on one side of a street virtually untouched while on the other side of the street, lays complete devastation.

Families fled, most with only the clothes on their backs. To escape the conflagration, residents had to run a fiery gauntlet along Provincial highway 63—the only route south out of town—the trees and grass ablaze on both sides of the road. I can’t imagine the terror they experienced as they started out on their quest for safety. Some cars and trucks were abandoned on the side of the road, because they ran out of gas. The fire is still burning, still enormous and out of control, although it appears to be moving away from the city. The temperatures have dropped and some rain has fallen, both of which are blessings. It’s still too soon for people to be allowed back into the city of course, so for now Fort McMurray—which had been completely evacuated—resembles the abandoned set of a disaster movie.

In a news release yesterday, the fire chief reported that about 85 percent of the city was intact. While there has been no fire related deaths or serious injuries, two young people were killed in an automobile accident, as the pair were driving to flee the area. The young woman who lost her life, a ninth grade student, was the daughter of a firefighter, a man on duty battling the flames.

It really could have been much, much worse, and I guess until that fire is out, it still could be.

Eventually the time will come for people to return to Fort McMurray and then the real work will begin—and the reality will settle in for some that all they owned, all they’ve spent their lives building, is now gone.

The Canadian Red Cross has sent out an urgent appeal for donations, and people here have responded in a magnificent way. I believe it is important for everyone who can, to give something. You might not think your ten dollars or even five dollars can make a difference: but thousands of people who can only give five or ten dollars, together contribute millions. Already more than 30 million dollars have been raised, but much more is and will be needed.

The Canadian government, led by Prime Minister Trudeau, has pledged to match donations dollar for dollar, which means your five dollars immediately becomes ten, and your ten, twenty.

I happen to know that Americans who are so inclined can also contribute to the Canadian Red Cross, because several of my friends south of the border have already done so. One friend reminded me that she’d been aware of Canadian donations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and she said she wanted to return the favor.

Cynics would have us believe that during apocalyptic events, humanity shows itself at it’s worst. That has never been my view. Yes, in moments of crises, there might be some people who take advantage, who steal and loot, but that’s not the most of us. It’s only some of us. Most of us, if given the opportunity, will reach out to our fellow human beings and offer a hand up. Most of us respond when asked to help, knowing that all of us are at risk of being in need. Fate is capricious and no respecter of gender, age, or environment. None of us can state with any kind of assurance that tragedy or crises will never happen to us.

Please keep the people of Fort McMurray, and the firefighters—some whom are now there from other towns and provinces—in your thoughts and prayers.

Prayers work, and are as necessary for recovery and survival as are donations.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May 4, 2016

We’re back home from our five-day vacation in Las Vegas.

My husband had warned me before we left that I wouldn’t recognize the place when I got there, and boy, was he ever right. I’d expected the city to be more than it had been the last time I was there, in 2002. I hadn’t realized that it would also be less.

The first more, of course, was the airport. The last time I was there, it was a much smaller enterprise. It only makes sense that if the city had grown, the airport would have had to grow, too. Without a doubt there are more hotels and casinos in Vegas than I’d imagined. The first time I ever walked down Las Vegas Boulevard, there was actually space between the hotels, and empty lots to boot. We watched them building the Mirage and the Excalibur—the latter looking like a real palace set on majestic grounds. I remember telling David that I so wanted to stay there, next time.

That beautiful hotel, so unique, seemed dwarfed by all the massive structures surrounding it.

We rented his and her matching scooters and went up and down the strip a few times. We could have been in nearly any tourist city in the United States, except for the very occasional glimpse of the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance.

Our first visit there, you could view the mountains all around you. To me, who’d never seen a mountain before, it was a stunning sight, far more stunning than the neon lights could ever be. It was one of my best memories of that trip, mountains in every direction. I’m so glad I have that memory, still.

The casinos were a lot less noisy than they used to be since the advent of modern technology. I was told there were a couple of old style casinos down on Fremont Street that still used coins, but we didn’t check it out when we were down there. Along with being less noisy, the casinos on the strip were a hell of a lot less busy. There was no searching and searching for a 25 cent slot machine that was available. They mostly all were.

When we visited Fremont Street, to take in the Fremont Street Experience, my sensory receptors were overwhelmed. But what an amazing time! The overhead light show, the pounding music, the overhead zip lines with people soaring past, the street performers, and yes, the crazies! I was so glad we went there. Those casinos, by the way, were a lot busier than the ones on “The Strip”.

I don’t want you to think even for one minute, that these less crowded hotel-casinos aren’t making money. The price of the food and sundries surely made up for whatever gaming revenues might be lacking.

We found only one casino where they still had live Keno, although we heard there was a second. It was a nice blast from the past to sit there, my beloved and I, for a couple of hours, just as we had done on that long ago honeymoon trip. Turned out to be profitable for us, too. We left that lounge with more than we’d spent there.

The biggest “less” I discovered could likely be considered subjective. As we roamed here and there it struck me that Las Vegas was less charming than it had been. Oh, the staff of the hotels and casinos tried, but how can you give a personal touch, in such an impersonal, and blatantly commercialized environment? The slots and table games were always there to take your money with no apology—but you felt you were a winner when you could grab a 99 cent breakfast, morning, noon or night. In today’s Las Vegas, everyone and everything is there to take your money, and not only that, they want you to say thank-you for the experience.

If you’re older and planning to go to Sin City, do get yourself a mobility cart. We rented ours right at the hotel, and they make going up and down the Boulevard, or even navigating your hotel, much easier. And by the way, I meant up and down, literally, as there are several pedestrian “bridges” to navigate along Las Vegas Boulevard, accessible thanks to the many elevators.

I was able to meet with the readers I’d promised to meet, and that was pure joy for me. I cherish that more than anything else we did here, and as that was the main reason we traveled to Nevada in the first place, I feel this vacation was a resounding success.

Will I ever go back there? At this moment, as my head is still reeling with the people, the sights, the sounds, and the smells, I’m inclined to say, probably not. Las Vegas may indeed be touted as a city for people of all ages, and that’s true as far as it goes.

But this 61-year-old woman really believes it’s a destination meant for a younger generation.