My Mind Is Made Up

How often have you heard someone say "my mind is made up"?  This can be a good thing, if it means they've looked at the facts and considered all the options, and have reached what they believe is a sound conclusion.  But too often it actually means don't confuse me with the facts. I've already decided what I'm going to believe.  To be confident about where you stand on the issues in life is fine, as long as that doesn't mean that you've closed your mind to reconsideration if new information is brought to light.

One of my favorite expressions back when I was younger and more radical was "Some solid concrete people are mixed up and set in their ways."  Think about it... if you are going to stand firm in your ways and beliefs, you'd better be darned sure that you are standing for or against the right thing.  Your convictions should change and evolve along with you as you grow and mature. What I understood of life from a child's perspective, or even as a young adult in my 20's, is far different from the way I see things now.  My stance on some issues is much the same as it was back then... such as how people should be valued and treated at work, in their homes, and in society.  But other views have changed along the way... things about liberation, faith, marriage, even guns.  :-) 

It's not only what you believe that is important, but also that you have good reasons for the beliefs you hold. Here's an example... I had a boss who refused to let our human services agency be actively involved in Special Olympics because he had been a supporter at one time and had a negative personal experience with some of the folks involved in leadership roles in the local organization.  Ok, his feelings got hurt, but is that really a good reason from completely backing away from supporting all the good things that Special Olympics can be? Was he letting his emotions cloud his thinking?  Wouldn't it have been better if he had decided to step back from it if he chose, but permit other staff to go on being actively involved?

It is said that older people become set in their ways.  If that means I do things routinely in the same manner with the same choices,  yes I most often do.  It helps me to keep order in my life.  But I hope it can also be said that I remain open to new insights and ideas, to new ways of doing things that just might prove to be more enlightened or advanced than the way I see or do things now.  When I first met Papa Bear he thought texting was silly and didn't have it on his phone. Now he wouldn't give up his iPhone anymore than I would mine. Old dogs can learn new tricks! :-)

Many years ago I lived communally and I believed in that way of life. In some ways I still do, and I think it has possibilities that got overshadowed by the dark side of the sixties.  I believed that monogamy was an outdated concept that made little sense in today's society.  Now, years later, after much more experience with relationships and marriage, I have to conclude that monogamy works. The "free love" concept was great as a concept, but realistically it presents a host of problems, the least of which is that most people are not emotionally equipped to handle open relationships. Insecurities, doubts, and needs get in the way, it gets complicated. People get hurt, even if they swear that won't happen.  So my beliefs about that subject have changed. I am in a monogamous relationship with Papa Bear because it's what I want for my life now... and it works, it works wonderfully for us! :-)

If you had told me ten years ago, or even five years ago that I would be advocating gun ownership, I'd have laughed you out of the room, maybe even tossed you out angrily.  I had STRONG feelings about this issue.  Based on my experiences, along with what I'd seen and read, I believed guns were bad news. John and I have talked long and hard about that and I've come around to his way of thinking about guns (though not necessarily about politics :-).  I am big enough to say my opinion has changed, and I feel just as strongly that I am making a good decision for my life now... for who, what and where I am now.  (It would not have been a good idea in my previous marriage.  His drug use and my eventual desperation probably would have left one or the other of us in the morgue.) 

The moral of the this meandering blog post is to "never say never" when it comes to what you might think, say or do, given another situation.  Always keep your mind open to at least considering new possibilities, new ways of looking at things, be willing to re-evaluate the situation. What was right for you then, might not be right now.  Don't close your mind.... let it expand and grow!

Guns and Geraniums

What a good weekend it's been! Can't say as I got much of anything done inside the house, but we planted two flats of flowers outside, a box of red and white petunias and a box of moss roses.  My mom had a bed of moss roses when I was small and I was fascinated by all the brightly colored tiny flowers... and the bees that loved them as much as I did! Her mother always grew them too. So I plant them now in mom's memory, and because they thrive in our hot, dry climate.

My husband filled a pail with concrete to support a metal  post so we could put up the rural delivery box for our local newspaper.  We put the pail inside a large planter, filled it with good planting soil and then some beautiful pink and white striped "fiesta" geraniums.  It looks so cute sitting next to the road near our driveway, and I pity anyone who thinks they might like to take off with it, it weighs a lot with the cement and then all the dirt!  So what does the above photo have to do with flowers?  Absolutely nothing! 

John has to take his concealed hand gun permit recertification test next week, so we set up a target out back for practice.  I had a great time with the torso targets, naming them appropriately.  Suffice it to say I took out a few old archenemies, or at least I fantasized about it. LOL  However, John's 9 mm automatic is a little large and heavy for my hand, so when we went over to Academy Sporting Goods to pick up more ammo, I kinda, sorta steered him over to the gun counter to look at what they had in stock. :-)  Found an awesome Smith & Wesson 9mm automatic M&P Shield - a brand new model they've just come out with, that was the perfect size and weight. It followed me home, so I got to keep it! hehe

We had a great time target shooting this evening after it cooled down a bit, I really love the gun! It amazes and amuses my children that their Mom now owns both a hand gun and a Remington 22 automatic rifle - an earlier gift from Papa Bear, and can actually shoot quite well with both of them!  Not bad for a confirmed hippie girl who NEVER, EVER allowed guns of any kind in her home.  But this is Texas, and it is a way of life here, I guess it's kind of rubbed off on me.  I am not a game hunter, couldn't kill an animal unless I was starving, and have no intention to try.  I enjoy the challenge of target shooting, and living as we do out here in the country, it makes good sense to have protection when John is away, though I hope to God I never have to use it. 

This is the first time John has ever lived in a place where he could shoot on his own property!  When the oil company was out here drilling their well last year, we had them use their loader to scrape up a huge mound of dirt out back by the shipping container.  It makes the perfect backdrop for a shooting range, and facing south keeps us from aiming in the general direction of where other folks reside.  My biggest complaint before was owning a collection of  guns we had to take somewhere to fire. Now we can take aim in our own back yard!

I think I'll be suggesting my kids send Academy gift cards for Mother's Day... mama needs more ammo!  I tell you it's a great form of therapy... just blow your troubles away!  We share a lot of laughter too, like when John aimed a little low and effectively neutered the green guy torso he was aiming at!  I've also noticed that he takes great care to always be behind me when I shoot... smart man! :-)  (He says it's either that or in the next county! LOL) So the hippie girl likes to play with guns... one never knows where life is going to take you!  I hope you all had a great weekend too!

The Power to Choose

Here are my thoughts for Six Word Saturday:

We have the power to choose!

"Make good choices" is something you will often hear me say. It's another thing I feel passionate about. Why? Because every choice you make affects your relationships, your life, and your future - what doors will be open to you and which ones will be closed. Even the smallest choices about right and wrong become habits that will affect you for a life time. I have made many lousy questionable choices in my life, and have had to struggle much more because of them.  Yes, they were learning experiences, but I could have made the learning process much less painful if I would have put more thought into the consequences of my choices.  Choose wisely... think it through!

Years ago I was given a small paperback book entitled The Greatest Miracle in the World, by Og Mendino.  It's an amazing story that will uplift the life of anyone who reads it!  Contained within the book is one of the most beautiful and powerful affirmations I have ever read, entitled The God Memorandum.  In fact this chapter  became so popular that it has since been published as a book of it's own.

What follows is an excerpt from The God Memorandum. I have it printed, matted and framed - hanging on my wall to serve as a constant reminder that we were not created as weak beings with lives tossed to and fro by the winds of fate, but rather we were given the power to chose how we will live our lives.   Read it... believe it... live it! 

I gave you the power to think.
I gave you the power to love
I gave you the power to will.
I gave you the power to laugh.
I gave you the power to imagine.
I gave you the power to create.
I gave you the power to plan.
I gave you the power to speak.
I gave you the power to pray
I gave you the power to choose...

Choose to love. . .rather than hate 
Choose to laugh. . .rather than cry.
Choose to create. . .rather than destroy.
Choose to persevere. . .rather than quit.
Choose to praise. . .rather than gossip.
Choose to heal. . .rather than wound.
Choose to give. . .rather than steal.
Choose to act…rather than procrastinate.
Choose to grow. . .rather than rot.
Choose to pray. . .rather than curse.
Choose to live. . .rather than die.

  I encourage you to read The God Memorandum in it's entirety, and even better... The Greatest Miracle in the World - it's a book you will never forget!

Five Last Names - Five Chapters of My Life

I love Friday evenings, all the stress of the week falls away as you walk to your car, and by the time you are home you feel a hundred pounds lighter. It's the weekend, and it's Five on Friday time! Join me if you like - make a list of any five things, any topic that comes to mind. 

On my ankled there is a tattooed bracelet bearing the initials WJHBHT.  Now it is a testimony to my past, a statement of who I was and where I've come from. 

The first letter - W, represents my real-life given name.  It's common, but unimportant to us here, since I go by Josie.

The second letter - J is for my middle name which is actually Jo - hence Josie :-)  It is interesting to note that Papa Bear's mother was also called Jo!

Then comes a series of last names, five to be exact....

H - my family name.  A family name, a name coming from my German ancestry and bearing ten letters.  It was cumbersome, didn't fit in the blanks on school papers, and took to long to write.  Where I grew up in the Midwest, German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Polish last names were common, so it wasn't thought all that strange.  For anyone not familiar with those cultures it was  a mouthful.  I don't want to include it here, since this is a public blog and it's already easy enough to identify me, but if you are totally curious, drop me an email and I'll share.

At nineteen I married my first husband, in part to escape the control of my father, and also to acquire a shorter last name. :-) The B stands for Bruhn.  Also of German origin, obviously. My daughter was born of this marriage.

The next H is for Hammond, my second husband's last name. An English name, though he was half-Italian and carried those traits strongly. He was born and raised in Philadelphia, but I actually met him in Germany.  My son was born of this relationship.

The next last name I  acquired was Trevino, more correctly written with a tilde over the n, and pronounced with the Hispanic rolling of the n-o.  My ex was raised in a Spanish speaking home by his grandparents, and learned English as a second language in school, though he rarely spoke Spanish as an adult.  A very common name in these parts, but not where I was raised. My parents thought it very foreign, but I liked it.

Now I have a new last name, and curiously enough it's come back to H, in the form of a common name of Scottish/Irish origin that I love as much as I do the man who gave it to me! So once again, as they were in the beginning, my initials have come full circle back to WJH, and that way they shall remain for the rest of my days!  :-)

Papa Bear's initial is not on the ankle bracelet, it was done before his appearance in my life. I am glad, as he is so different from the men whose initials are included there, and he has changed my life so dramatically.  That is the past, he is my future!  I have a special place reserved for his name to be inscribed, it has remained untouched, a clean slate waiting for it's ink to come, on my upper left arm, very close to my heart!

A Little Sunshine

Arriving home after a long, hectic day in the office, I was delighted to find a little bit of sunshine waiting for me.  My friend McGuffy Ann over at McGuffy's Reader presented me with The Sunshine Award - just what I needed to perk up my droopy spirits.  Thanks McGuffy Ann!  She and I share a love for critters, and especially cats. McGuffy also does some wonderful book reviews, my reading list grows everytime I stop by her blog!

The rules of the Sunshine Award require me to answer the following questions.  Knowing how I love questions, how could I resist? :-)
1. Favorite color - royal purple, followed closely by bright lemon yellow
2. Favorite animal - cats! If you didn't know that by now, you haven't been here long.
3. Favorite number - seven and thirteen, both have always been lucky for me
4. Favorite non-alcoholic drink - Southern style sweet tea - iced, no lemon
5. Facebook or Twitter - Facebook only to keep in touch with a lot of folks. I have a Twitter account, haven't looked at it in months.  Some folks take it to the extreme, noting everything they do all day and night.  I mean really, who cares?!  Same goes for turning Facebook into a personal diary. The whole world doesn't need to know your issues!
6. My passion - my husband, my children, my cats, and  preaching the gospel of hope!
7. Giving presents or getting presents - Definitely giving.  While I love to be surprised by small romantic gestures, and my husband is the master of that, watching someone's eyes light up because you surprised them with the perfect gift when they aren't expecting one... that's priceless!
8. Favorite pattern - Anything bright and colorful -  floral is fun, pieced star quilts such as my Lakota friends make are amazing, and  I love tie-dyed stuff too - that's no surprise, is it? :-)
9. Favorite day of the week - Saturday - a day all to myself until about 4 PM, then it's date night with Papa Bear!
10. Favorite flower - Bright yellow roses, Sterling Silver roses, canna lilies, calla lilies, Asiatic lilies, tulips, pansies and mossroses.  I can't pick just one!

Now I'm supposed to tag some others with this award, but I'm not much of a tagger, so if you like it, grab it, and answer the questions that go along with it! It's fun to read what other folks favorite things are.  Another endeavor in my never ending quest to know all about you! :-)

TGIF coming up tomorrow, and it' couldn't happen any sooner, it's been one hell of a week! I am happy to report that as of this morning we  FINALLY have a scanner up and working in the office, two of them in fact. Now to start with the mountain-size backlog of paperwork to be scanned and attached.  If I don't show up here by tomorrow night, come quick with shovels, it means I'm buried under a paper avalanche and didn't have time to grab my iPhone before it hit!

Questions and Answers - #7

 It's One Question Wednesday, and indeed there is just one question for me to answer today.  Thank you Ken for giving me something to blog about! :-) 

Ken asked... If you could do a different job and it paid all the bills you had and gave you a comfortable lifestyle, what you choose to do?

First off let me just say, that if I would have payed more attention to that tiny voice of reason in my head back in my younger days, I would have stayed in college it would have resulted in a career that would have been far more lucrative and personally rewarding than what I have ended up doing. I completed part of a nursing degree, part of a teaching degree, and part of a social work degree. I finished none of them.  As it was, there was a commonly held belief in the cult group I was a member of at that time, that the world as we knew it was going to end or undergo a profound transformation within a few years, so there wasn't a lot of point in investing time in extended formal education.  You don't have to tell me how ridiculous this seems in retrospect, I guess it's one of those things you had to be there, to be part of the movement, to understand. Suffice it to say that I was married at 19 to a very charismatic crazy man (think along the lines of Jim Jones), and his thinking influenced me heavily.  In feeling a sense of belonging, after a lifetime (yes, all 18 years of it) of thinking I might have been dropped off by an alien spaceship, I put aside the teachings I was raised with and opted for something radically different.  I was an experience, let's just leave it at that for now.  The only other plausible explanation is temporary insanity (which is how I justify many of the not-terribly-brilliant decisions I've made in my life)!

What followed is 20 years of me trailing along after husbands as they rambled and bumbled their way thru life. I have worked in various clerical positions for nearly all of the past 30 years, one of which I held for 19 years and rose to mid-management level with a decent income and multiple weeks of annual vacation.  Then I divorced my last ex (yes, there's been three of those... another story for another day for you new folks), and a year later, in May of 2008, I was thrilled to resign from the long-term job and relocate to Texas to be with Papa Bear, the new love of my life!  I hated to give up the pay and benefits, and the freedom that position afforded, but I also had grown to hate it there, largely due to mis-management and one person who was intent on making my life hell.

When moving here, I opted not to pursue another supervisory/management position, because I was worn out to the point of mental and emotional exhaustion from the previous job and was also still recovering from the toxic and near deadly relationship with my ex. I wanted a simple answer the phones job, and that's what I got. I took the first job I applied for when it was offered.  It worked out ok, more or less, with the exception of going thru seven supervisors in three years time.  (No, it wasn't because I was that hard on them! Geesh folks, give me a little credit here!) 

I had already reached the point where I was ready to start looking for something else when the family-owned company announced it was selling out to a large corporation. I knew I didn't want to be part of that, so I stuck with them thru the transition as promised and collected the bonus offered for doing so, then turned in my resignation, packed my box of belongings, and walked out the door.  You can read about that in this post... A Leap of Faith.

I took the rest of December 2011 off, knowing it was going to be a year or more before I saw another day of earned vacation, and basically did nothing but sit on my butt and veg out. I needed that, I really did.  At the beginning of January I put out resumes and once again accepted the first job I was offered because it felt right.  And it is... for the most  part.  The people there are friendly, the work is bearable, and the hours are better.  The pay is still crappy. I'm used to crappy pay by now.  A little more than half of what I was making five years ago.  I miss those big  paychecks, but I don't miss the job that went with them, or should I say the side effects and politics of that job.

So anyway, now you have my work history in a nutshell. The reality is... I HATE CLERICAL WORK!  I am so damned sick of pushing papers and spending eight  hours a day attached to a telephone and keyboard. I am tired of being a 58 year old peon working for and with people half my age. Yet I have no one to blame for that but myself.  What I DO like about my job is talking to and working with the clients we assist.  I am good at that, I am caring and compassionate and I treat them with respect. They like me. I wish that was all I had to do, and work-wise it would be plenty. 

There seems to be a trend in today's economy to run office workers into the ground, to overload them with tasks so that they don't know their head from the ass by the end of most days, after chasing their tails for eight hours. I like to stay busy and I know how to be productive. I'm not attached to my cellphone or computer  games as some coworkers are. But I sure would love a few minutes to breathe now and then, especially as the day wraps up. By then I am feeling every bit of my 58 years and I am brain dead and tired.  I know that paperwork has to be done for any business to function, but lordy, how I wish it wasn't me doing it! If "some dumb ass" had stayed in school, she could be running the business and loading the work on other peons (just kidding, I would be a better boss than that, knowing how it feels on the bottom rung of the ladder).  When I took this job, my tentative employer asked me how I felt about accepting a position I was over-qualified for.  I answered that doing so teaches me humility... and it certainly does.  

It is hard to find jobs at 58, employers would much rather hire someone young, preferably Barbie. They don't want to take a chance on older folks, even though we are proven to be more dependable, stable, responsible employees.  Physically, I am no longer able to do what I once could and that limits my options greatly too.  I won't be able to fully retire at 65, Papa Bear and I will be lucky if we can manage to semi-retire and work 3 days a week, as many of our friends do. We fantasize about how nice that would be!  When I think of his job, I really feel guilty complaining about mine.  He has been working ON HIS FEET, six days a week, at his job for the last 31 years. He weary and worn out too.  We hope we will live long enough to enjoy being retired... someday.... maybe... God willing.

Ok, all that being said, back to Ken's question. (You thought I was never going to get there, didn't you?) If I could do any job in the world, my fantasy job would be to operate a no-kill cat sanctuary.  There are some amazing ones in various places around the country, and I can't think of anything more enjoyable or rewarding that making sure abandoned cats are safe, cared for, and loved forever!  I far prefer cats to most people, and I'm certain I could handle the supervisory/management end of the business.  I'm not as dumb as I may sometimes appear here.  Now how I expect to make that kind of job a financial reality is anyone's guess.  Maybe a rich benefactor out there somewhere who is as crazy in love with cats as I am?  Hey, don't laugh... a girl can have her dreams!

Whew, I think that's the longest answer I've ever written... aren't you glad there was only one question? :-)

One Question Wednesday #7

It's time for another round of One Question Wednesday?  Are you going to be brave and play along with us this week?  Do you have a question you'd like to ask me?  Any topic is fair game!  :-)  Just leave your question in the comments below anytime between now and Wednesday evening, and I'll answer them in a post on Wednesday night.

Of course that means I get to ask you a question too!  You can answer your question in a post on your own blog, or in the comments section below, and if you'd really rather not answer your question, or just don't have the time, that's ok too - feel free to leave me a question anyway - I love questions... the more the merrier!

Want to know more about One Question Wednesday?  Check out this handy OQW FAQ guide on The Ranting Monkey's blog.  I encourage you to get your blog friends involved... Put a post on your page where they can ask you questions, and leave a comment here so we can come and check out your answers.

Disclaimer:  I am known the master of the multi-part question. My philosophy is that as long as I string it all together with commas and only use one question mark at the finish, it counts??! Actually, the extra parts are to get you to elaborate a little bit on your answer. :-) 

The Lost Art of Parenting

There are times when I wonder if the art of parenting has been lost, if common sense has become extremely uncommon, or maybe a little of both. 

This evening we were in town to buy garden supplies, and stopped at Fuddruckers in the mall for supper. It's a casual burger place, with a relaxed atmosphere and good food. Your stand in line to order and pick your food up at the counter when they call out your name. So we're not talking about a high class establishment, but....

Sitting at a table near us was a group of four adults and a couple young children, one being a young toddler in a booster chair.  During the course of our dinner we watched as the little one was first allowed to pour the contents of the salt shaker onto the table while no one moved to stop him or take the shaker away.  Then he picked up the pepper shaker and licked the top of it! Obviously the spicy taste didn't bother him a bit as he continued to play with it and lick it.  Once again not a single at adult at the table moved to take the pepper shaker away.  And I can guarantee you that when the left, the young people responsible for clearing tables did little more than refill the salt shaker and return the pair to it's holder on the table, with no awareness that this child had just smeared saliva all over it.  YUCK!!  

I saw the same thing happen once with a young child and a squeeze bottle of honey.  In that case I actually informed the waitress in the small  restaurant we were at, so that the bottle could be replaced (hopefully).  Once again the mother who was present did nothing. She was busy talking with her friend while the child was left to entertain herself.  In the "olden days" mothers packed toys and finger foods in their diaper/tote bag or purse to keep little ones occupied while the adults were conversing.  Apparently they are on their own nowdays!  And if they're a bit older they can most likely be found running around between the tables at the restaurant causing general commotion and getting in the way. 

A short while later we headed to WalMart to pick up a few items.  WalMart is famous for it's nasty much-used restrooms.  The store was busy and the condition of the restroom was as expected.  In the stall adjacent to the one I occupied, a young child of maybe three was being allowed to crawl around on hands and knees on the filthy floor while the mother was using the facilities but was fully aware of what the child at her feet was doing since they were engaging in conversation.  Then she picks up the child to leave, washes her own hands, but never even thinks about a good dose of soap and water for her child!  Just thinking about it made me feel sick!

I've seen the same situation where a little one will drop a pacifier and the parent will pick it up off a questionably clean floor in a public place and pop it right back into the child's mouth!  Considering that the pacifier was covered with saliva when it hit the floor, what are the odds of it returning in sanitary condition?  Disgusting... and stupid!

Then there is the mom out dressed to the hilt, or the dad doing his weekend stint with the kids, who brings a child out in public without shoes, a jacket for the cold, or sometimes even in clothing other than their pajamas.  Good grief!  How hard is it to dress the kid appropriately?  The obviously do pretty well with their own attire. 

Another issue is children who are left in the toy department of large chain stores to "entertain" themselves while the parents shop.  The children wreck havoc strewing items everywhere, and playing with toys in the aisles. Some unfortunate store worker has to put all that stuff back in order again.  It's not a playroom or drop off daycare, parents... keep your child with you and under control!!

These are just a few of the examples that come to mind.  Some days I have to really work to restrain myself from walking up to parents such as these and saying "What the hell is wrong with you?"  Yeah, I know that wouldn't meet with a good response, and would not likely have the desired result of a wake up call, but you just have to wonder if they give any thought to the HUGE responsibility of bringing up a child.  Is it anywhere in their list of important things to do??  Lets hope all of these kids have good guardian angels, 'cuz I think they're going to need them.  I try not to think about the generation of children they will grow up to raise!

Ok, done ranting... stepping off my soapbox now. :-)

Happy Birthday Mr. Monkey!

Today is The Ranting Monkey's Birthday!  He is one of my best buddies in blogville and things would be ever so much less fun around here with out him. Happy Birthday Mr. Monkey, may the gods that smiled on the day you were born bring you a year of love and laughter, and the inspiration to start on that book!  It is my pleasure to blog with you here. I am honored to call you my friend.  Thank you for all the wonderful rants, outrageous humor, and glimpses of your marshmallow center. You are a true treasure, one of a kind, and seriously - one of the best of the best!  I so hope you've escaped work duty today and have celebration on the agenda. I know the gods are still smiling at what they unleashed on the world so many years ago.   Love ya!

How Far I've Come

It's time for Six Word Saturday and here's what I'm thinking about today...

Look How Far I Have Come!

I get a lot of feedback from friends and people who read my blog, noting how lucky I am to have such a wonderful and loving relationship with my husband. Believe me, I couldn't agree with you more.  There is not a day I don't wake up and realize how very blessed I am! 

I've often referred to my life pre-Papa Bear, and just how difficult and unhappy it was.  Last night I was reading thru some of the older blog posts I've written, contemplating adding some of them to the archives here.  I found this one, and it amazed me - not because it's particularly profound, but because it was written just two days before I met the Papa Bear online!  I had intended to cancel my Yahoo Personals account at the end of December, but something told me to try it one more month, to give it one more chance before giving up.  I had little expectation of anything changing.

My message to people now is always that LIFE CAN CHANGE! It can change in a moment... or in just a few days, weeks or months; it can change in ways you never dreamed were possible!  Here it is folks, the proof in written words.  This post was written on December 31st, 2007.  The first exchange of messages with my beloved Papa Bear took place on January 2nd, 2008... and the rest is history.  The fact that I met him just two days later still gives me goosebumps!  I wonder how differently my life might be if I would have cancelled that subscription as I originally planned.  Listen to that little voice within you... always LISTEN!

Never give up hope of finding love in your life, never give up on life!

Five Things that Go to Hell after Fifty

You're probably familiar with the expression in the above photo, and for the most part I have to agree. At forty I was in the best physical shape ever, having lost a bunch of weight thru diet and walking every day. I didn't get sick with even a cold for an entire year! It seems like once I rolled past that magic number my body began to fall apart, and after 50 it only got worse.  In the spirit of Five on Friday I present five ways my body has turned on me in recent years...

1.  I've worn glasses since I was 17 so I'm used to them, despite them being a pain in the butt cuz they seem to attract dirt, dust, and fingerprints thus frequently requiring cleaning. Somewhere around 40 I "graduated" to bi-focals so I could continue to read voraciously without going blind.  By 50 I was needing tri-focals so that I could drive, read and spend hours staring at the computer screen. When you first get bi-focals they drive you nuts, but you soon adjust. Tri-focals are no different. The only problem is when you are walking and look down, such as on steps - they tend to distort your  depth perception and I have very little of that to begin with. Steps are now a scary adventure! I've tried the "Invisiline" versions and although they look great, they don't work worth a damn, so I settle for the "uber-glam" kind with obvious lens divisions, but what the hell, I wasn't planning to try out for covergirl anyway.  I've tried having different pairs for driving/reading/computer too, but constantly changing glasses throughout the day drove me nuts. Now it's gotten to the point that I can't read the tiny squiggles of text on my iPhone without my glasses, so they have to be on the bedside table at night in case I receive a very important text... or want to check the latest blog updates as they pop in! :-)

2.  Most people's ability to hear well diminishes as they get older, but mine was obviously not cutting it in my early 40's.  I worked with a bunch of women who tend to gossip in whispers and I'm a lousy lip reader so often ended up smiling or laughing along with the group, though I had no idea what they said. It was probably about me! The doctor told me my hearing loss is quite possibly the result of chemical poisoning. More about that later.  I got hearing aids, and hated them, more background noise than I could stand. So I tossed them in the drawer for a few years. 

By 55 it got to the point that I couldn't understand phone calls or conversations clearly enough to perform my job duties so I swallowed my pride and back to the audiologist I went. I now sport hi-tech hearing aids that cost well over $5000, and live in fear that some dumb ass will push me in a pool and short them out! They are insured of course, but being without them for any period of time is torturous. It's like living in a muffled world similar to having stopped up ears when you have a cold.  Every now and then one of them experiences problems and has to be sent in for repairs, for that week I have to function with one "good" ear at work,  and it's maddening and so very frustrating! 

I didn't realize how much I couldn't hear anymore until I got them.  When they are out at night I can't hear the cats meowing at the door, and probably wouldn't hear someone who broke in and removed half of our possessions.  I don't have them in on Saturdays when I am home alone, since I don't need to hear well then, I can enjoy my quiet world. Being dependent on them is another blow to the ego and another pain in the arse.  Hearing aids aren't a perfect answer either - sharp sounds, whistling, and loud background noises like a blaring tv make me cover my ears! Not being able to hear clearly in noisy situations doesn't help my social anxieties either.

3. I don't recall having allergies as a child, although my older sister was plagued with them. But by my thirties I began to experience problems with strong perfumes and hairspray - much to the delight of my teenage daughter who would bomb her room and the car with said aerosols.  Surprising she lived to see 20, but karma happens, and now she has the same problem with people wearing perfume at work! 

By 40 I was experiencing problems with plant pollen, dust mites, and cleaning chemicals, and by 50 I was breaking out in hives from external chemical exposure and an array of food substances, not yet completely identified.  Chocolate makes my throat itch, but no - that doesn't stop  me from eating it. Probably not until I end up in an emergency room from overdoing it someday! I am also allergic to black and white pepper which are in many things, and we're still trying to figure out the rest. When I eat something "wrong" it not only makes me cough and itch, it makes my ears block up, gives me indigestion, and intestinal issues and sometimes increases my heart rate - really "fun".  We use fragrance free/dry free everything at home, and my beloved Papa Bear must put on his wonderful Armani Code cologne after I leave for work. By nighttime it has worn off enough for me to enjoy just a whiff left on his skin but at first it gives me terrible headaches if I'm near it.  I can actually taste fragrances, and they don't taste good!

Not surprisingly, asthma came on the heals of increased allergic reactions. Allergies are one of the common asthma attack triggers, along with stress, excitement, exercise, and cold. I now take a high-powered asthma medication that costs $300 per month without insurance.  My health insurance for my new job kicks in May 1st, thankfully!! In the mean time I've been reducing the amount I take cuz that is beyond our budget. I can sympathize now with elders on fixed incomes who can't afford their meds.

4.  There there is the sore, creaky joints caused by osteoarthritis, and the painful muscles and chronic fatigue of fibromyalgia. When I walk down the hallway at work you can hear my knees and ankles going snap-snap-snap!  If I push a vacuum cleaner for 30 minutes, or get down  on my knees to scrub a floor, I'll barely be able to move the next day.  Thread crochet and writing letters by hand are now out of the question, but thankfully my hands and fingers still tolerate the hours spent daily at the keyboard fairly well!  Walking the half-block across the slightly inclined parking lot to our office building in the morning is a slow process, it takes awhile for my  joints to get moving, and I feel like a snail as the young folks pass me by.

5. Last but not the least of the indignities suffered in my 50's is waking up one day to find my mom's hands attached to my arms, and my dad's drooping eyelids looking back at me in the mirror!!  I remember those features so well in their older years and now I see that I look exactly the same. The aging process is gradual so you don't really notice it until one day and the shock hits you.  My skin has lost it's elasticity and is getting that crepe paper feel.  Just lovely!

So what is one to do, but to grow old gracefully, accepting that these things are part of the cycle of life... we are born, we live, we age, we die.  No amount of plastic wizardry can erase the tell-tale signs, and they have yet to discover the famed fountain of youth.  Those who try too hard to retain their 30-something appearance often overdo it end up looking totally ridiculous.  I don't mind aging really, I have no desire to be 21 again, and I do realize how blessed I am that these are the worst of my complaints and problems, it could be so so much worse!  I'm not throwing a pity party here, just stating the facts... after 50 the body goes to hell! It sure is too bad we can't requisition factory replacement parts!! I was going to add that my mind remains sharp and fully functional, but I fear there are some who would beg to disagree! :-)

Happy Friday everyone, I'm headed out to Cracker Barrel with the Papa Bear to enjoy our traditional Friday night fare.  Have a great weekend, and remember to count your blessings!  No matter how many things in your life aren't exactly as you wish they were, look around and see that you still have some wonderful blessings to be thankful for!

Questions and Answers - #6

After much contemplation, and supper, and scooping the cat boxes, here are my Questions and Answers to Round #6 of One Question Wednesday

From The Ranting Monkey - As people get to know you, what about you seems to surprise them the most? 
Well, I thought I would be lazy brilliant and survey my "many" friends to get to the bottom of this.  Not surprisingly, some of them failed to submit an answer, thus leaving me to ponder if the surprises of getting to know me are not something one wants to declare. Oh well, what can I say? I am what I am! Some of the responses I did get were not terribly surprising - things such as that I have several tattoos; that I was involved with men in the past who brought me down and seemed to be such opposites of me, and that I remarried again after those experiences; that I am a crazy cat lady; that I'm intelligent and seem to know about a lot of things; that I have "adopted" a bunch of rez kids, and that I have retained my hippie mindset. 

Along with that I've been told by more than one person in the past that they are surprised to learn that I am more liberal than I might appear, and have experienced a little more than one would think.  Yes, that's true, I have been around the block a few times in 58 years! :-)   The first impression I give people probably isn't all that awe- inspiring since I am just your plain-jane, middle aged, office worker in the comfy clothes, long flying hair and little make-up. If I don't know someone I am taken as shy, and maybe even as judgemental because of that. (Note - silence doesn't always signify displeasure, for the most part I just enjoy being a passive observer.)  However, I think if folks stick around and get to know me they will find me to be a devoted friend, and a lover of long, deep conversations! :-)  Now I'd like to hear from the rest of you, what about me surprised you as you got to know me??

From Louise - What is your biggest fear? 
Well, I have three that kind of loom in the background, It would be hard to state which of those is biggest.  The first would be the loss of my husband.  He is my rock, my joy, my love, my life.  He is by far the best man I've ever known. Before him my life was nothing like it is today, and without him it would be much less. Love is knowing that you belong, and that's such a good feeling! I would survive if something happened to him, it isn't that I can't function on my own, it's that life wouldn't be nearly as fulfilling or fun, and I wouldn't feel safe and cared for. He is irreplaceable and I wouldn't even try. 

The second big fear would be loss of my/our ability to support myself/ourselves. Things get more and more expensive while income never increases proportionately. When you are looking at retirement age, a fixed income is a frightening thing. Every single day I deal with people who have lost their cars, their homes, their ability to pay for needed medications/medical care, or even put food on the table, etc. because of debilitating illness or injury. I see their desperation and how little our country offers in the way of resources to help them. It is truly terrifying.

The third thing I fear is my daughter giving up on life. I try hard to instill the "survivor" mentality in her and most days she does pretty well with it. She has come so far from where she was a few years ago, but at times she still gets so depressed and despondent that I worry she will lose her way, or I will lose her altogether.  That's a parent's worst nightmare.

From Ken - What was your best day?
Obviously my wedding to John, and the births of my two children  are happiest days in my memory. Also high up there is the time I first visited Red Cloud Indian School, that I talked about a few weeks back.  I am going to go with a different angle here and say that my "best day" was the day I told my ex I was leaving after developing a plan of action to make that happen.  It wasn't a fun day, it was a heart-breaking day, but it was still my best day because it was the day I finally said "ENOUGH" to the abuse. It was the day I took back control of my life, it was the first day of the rest of my life! As is said by many people in those kinds of situations, I wish I would have done it ten years earlier.  But at last I did it, and I am so grateful that God gave me the strength to go!

From Jo-Anne - When you see someone when out and about who is looking like a misery guts do you ever get the urge to go up to them and poke them in the ribs and say it can't be that bad cheer up?
I do get fed up with people who are chronic whiners, such as a coworker who starts out nearly every morning bemoaning how tired she is, or the person who chronically complains about their spouse, their kids, their job, or their life, and especially the "why me, woe is me" folks who always find a reason to be gloomy.  I want to "enlighten" them with the reality that they have the power to do something about it so "just do it or shut up about it already"!  Of course I'm not really that mean, and I don't say it, at least not in those words or that way.  But folks who are chronically dumpy or grumpy are wearing.  Attitudes are so very contagious.  I am a morning person and don't like my morning dragged down!  Most often if it's a chronic problem I will pretty much ignore that person and learn to tune them out.

On the other hand, if someone who is not usually miserable, or some stranger I don't know appears to be sad or struggling, that brings out an entirely different reaction in my. I want to help, I want to make it better, I want to find a kind word to say, or at least offer a hug or a smile.  I don't like to see people hurting.  Usually that's when we tend to feel most alone.  I try to reach out whenever I can find a way to do that. Not always with answers, we don't really have the answers for anyone but ourselves, but at least with listening or a gesture that says I care.

From Bozo - What makes you the most excited? (I mean positive excitement... not anger.)
I get excited about doing something fun with my husband, he only gets one Saturday off a month, so we really look forward to that. We fantasize about what it would be like to be retired and plan our day's activities together. 

I get excited about the rare times I get to be with my kids, and even more so when I manage to have both of them in the same room together with me, such as when we visited them in Tennessee last fall.  I don't get to see them nearly often enough.

I get excited about vacations... going new places and seeing/doing new things. I especially love quiet beautiful places such as the beach at sunset! Noisy crowds are not my thing. 

Not surprisingly, I also get excited when I have the time and opportunity to engage in long conversations either in person, on the phone, or even via text, email, blog or Facebook about real subjects and interesting stuff. 

I get excited when I get to ask questions... lots of questions, probing questions!  I could easily keep everyone going with daily questions to answer for years and years! Curiosity should be my middle name.  I think it's an Aquarian thing!  

Do you have a question about me that I haven't answered?  Feel free to leave me any question anytime on my blog. Answering questions is almost as much fun as asking them! :-)


McGuffy Ann just tossed another question my way... she asked What is your favorite song?
There are so many songs of different types I love for different reasons, McGuffy Ann, either the lyrics, the memories connected, or the way they make me feel.  If I had to choose just one to represent my life, it would be Bette Midler's The Rose. It says it all, perfectly. Her Wind Beneath My Wings, comes in a close second!  I love ethnic music as well, such as songs by Enya and the late Ofra Haza. Then there are the 60's/70's classics... always a trip down memory lane! :-)  This will probably seem weird, but I don't play a lot of music, and haven't in several years.  Why? It reaches me too much, too many emotional connections,and usually makes me cry. 

One Question Wednesday #6 - Here's Your Chance!

It's time for another round of One Question Wednesday?  Are you going to be brave and join us this week?  Do you have a question you'd like to ask me?  Any topic is fair game!  :-)  Just leave your question in the comments below anytime between now and Wednesday evening, and I'll answer them in a post on Wednesday night.

Of course that means I get to ask you a question too!  You can answer your question in a post on your own blog, or in the comments section below, and if you'd really rather not answer your question, or just don't have the time, that's ok too - feel free to leave me a question anyway - I love questions... the more the merrier!

Want to know more about One Question Wednesday?  Check out this handy OQW FAQ guide on The Ranting Monkey's blog.  I encourage you to get your blog friends involved, they can ask you questions, and they are welcome to leave me one here too!

Gut Check

I AM _____________________.   Quick, don't contemplate, just give the first answer that comes to mind!  Was your statement about yourself positive or negative?  This is a new self-awareness tool I've started using to become more aware of my attitude and mindset throughout the day:

Sunday 10 PM
I AM depressed.   The weekend is over and it's back to work in the moring.
I AM defeated.   I accomplished several tasks but I didn't get as much done as I needed to.
I AM lazy.  I should have worked harder and gotten more done instead of slacking.
I AM frustrated.  I didn't write a blog post today. The Sunday Scribblings prompt posted way late, and it didn't interest me. Nothing else struck me as a good topic either.
I AM - not going to blog.  A gloomy frame of mind results gloomy in posts.
I AM going to bed early.
Monday 7:30 AM
I AM not ready for Monday.  I dread the backlog of paperwork at the office.
I AM tired. I just slept eight hours and I still feel tired. 
I AM betting I wonder if I would feel more energetic - if I knew the day was mine to do with as I please.
I AM going make a concious effort to change my attitude!
I AM please with the nice job my husband did mowing the front yard yesterday. Weeds look much better when they are short! :-)
I AM happy that my daughter went out on a date this weekend. At least she got out of the house!
I AM enjoying the beautiful sky on the way to work.
I AM going to count my blessings today instead of my burdens.
I AM not going to drag my coworkers down by being negative.  Attitudes are contagious.
I AM going to walk in with a smile.  Smiles are contagious too.
I AM going to put in my best effort and refrain from bitching. 

Monday 1:00 PM
I AM more than half way thru the workday. The scanner is working off and on, that's better than not at all!
I AM making progress on the paper pile.
I AM in a peaceful state of mind.
I AM blessed to have a job that I can handle physically.  I talk to people all day long that can't work.
I AM ok!

See how that works??  I tend to be a cup half-empty person, and it's one thing I want to work on. People who are always looking at the dark side are depressing to be around.  If I remain aware of what my mindset is, I can change it.  I have the power to change what I think and what I feel! 


"Forty Questions Everyone Is Afraid To Ask"

My friend Sid often posts links from the blog  Marc and Angel Hack Life on her Facebook page.  One article called Forty Questions Everyone Is Afraid to Ask caught my attention, and if you'll take a moment to check it out, I think you'll find it interesting too. There are many thought-provoking questions listed that would make for great blog topics.  I'll probably be picking up a few of them myself and I welcome you to do the same.  There is nothing I love more than a good thought-provoking question! :-)

Update:  I just discovered that there 775 more of of these questions on their sister site Thought Questions and a bunch of other excellent articles on their blog Marc and Angel Hack Life. Check it out when you have some time, much food for thought here!

It's the Little Things

It's time for another round of Six Word Saturday - here's my thought for the day...

It's the little things that count!

Every Friday morning I get to sleep in an extra hour.  This is because I stop at the local Social Security Administration office on my way in to work, and they don't open until nine. It's also jeans (and in my case pony-tail) day at work, so it doesn't take long to get ready to go.  I am tired by the end of the week, so needless to say, this extra hour to sleep in feels like such a blessing.  I think if I ran a business we'd start an hour late on Fridays, just for fun!  Would the economy crash and the world really come to an end if everything started an hour later one day each week?

I get to the Social Security office with plenty of time to spare, as the line usually starts forming outside the door long before nine. If the weather is cold everyone sits in their cars until just a few seconds before they open, then there's a mad dash and jockeying for position as the line snakes it way thru the entrance.  On warmer days, we all line up on the sidewalk as we arrive. Most folks are in a good mood first thing in the morning, and it's fun to visit with the people standing next. (I am often amazed at how people will stand in long lines or groups like stone soldiers not looking left or right or uttering a word to the people standing next to them.  This is a golden opportunity to spread a few words of kindness... reach out... at least say good morning!)

Moving on... as we enter the building we are greeted by the same female security officer every day. She repeats the usual warnings about silencing our cellphones and leaving pocket knives, etc in the car. (Sadly, they deal with some pretty desperate people at times and things can get out of hand quickly in such situations.)  Since I am one of their few "regulars" she knows me by now and we always exchange greetings.

Once inside the entrance, we enter the main office waiting area.  Someone from the office stands at the doorway to assist people in making their selection on the computer screen that will print a numbered ticket depending on the reason they are there. The purpose of my visit is to drop off  the paper copies of the online applications and forms required to apply for Disability and SSI, which is what our law office assists people in obtaining.  We drop them off with a duplicate "top copy" for a clerk to stamp and initial as proof of receipt.  (This is the only SSA office we need to do this with, apps previously had a tendency to get lost there.)

Back to the story... nearly every Friday  morning, the person assisting us as we enter is a tall blond woman in her 40's. She is friendly, and never needs to ask me what I want because I've been there so often she knows it's "Option 3 - other business."  Sometimes I am first in line, some days like yesterday the line is long when I arrive, and I can be several numbers back.  I don't mind waiting, but I have plenty of office work to do upon my arrival, so loitering isn't ideal.  (Yes, it's that old fashioned work ethic thing, rather rare now days, I know. The person from our office who used to go before I started working there said she always used to arrive right at 9 so that she was assured to have at least 30 minutes wait time.)  

Now that the lady at the door knows the purpose of my visit she has started coming over to me in the waiting area once she gets everyone checked in, and taking my notebook of apps to the back to sign and stamp, then return them to me so  I no longer have to wait for my turn.  A week ago when I arrived she didn't even give me a number, just smiled and took my notebook and motioned for me to have a chair.  I was in and out in less than five minutes.

Yesterday, as I noted, the line was long. Maybe it was the beautiful Spring weather that drew everyone out early.  As we neared the door, I could see there was a gentleman assisting people with check in and I inwardly groaned, thinking I was sure to have a long wait.

I took my Option 3 number, then stopped at the restroom, since I'd already enjoyed my mug of morning tea on the ride to work.  As I exited the restroom and headed for the chairs in the waiting area, from one of the windows I heard a friendly "Hey!"  I turned to see the blond woman who usually helps me motioning me over to her window.  I can take you now, she said.  Wow! How cool is that? She was actually watching for me I guess!  

As she returned my book to me thru the window and I prepared to leave, she smiled and said "What's your name, so I don't have to just yell 'Hey' at you?"  I smiled back and told her my name was Josie, and I asked for hers in return. "I'm Paula," she said.  The SSA Office is a typical government agency and friendly first-name assistance isn't their typical mode of operation, it's usually all business, no nonsense.  though I always  make a point of saying something friendly to the person behind the window before I leave. After all, they are people too, and probably get tired of  being so serious. 

From now on Paula and I will be watching for each other, and greeting each other by name... just another reason to look forward to Fridays!  I'd like to send a letter to her supervisor commending her, but who knows, that might get her in trouble for letting me cut the line, so I'll just make sure she knows I appreciate her and my new "frequent flyer" status. 

In life, it IS the little things that count, make sure you spread a little sunshine each day!

Still More About Me

I was adding tags to my blog posts the other night, and I started to tag some as "About Me".  I soon realized that 95% of what I write is about me.  I guess that's ok, since it's my blog and all, but I have to wonder if anyone really has a burning desire to know all this, or if I just like rambling on about myself.  Now my good friend Bozo has tagged me with this meme.  Once again, it's all about me, and I am happy to oblige :-)

1. Book or movie or TV show and why? I like them all, for different reasons. Show are a short and sweet distraction, movies a bit longer and sometimes worth the watch, and nothing beats spending an afternoon curled up with a cat or two and a good book!

2. Real book or e-book or audio book?  I don't have a Kindle, and although I can download Kindle on my notebook, I haven't done so yet.  I love the feel and smell of real books, but of course they are more cumbersome to tote and require two hands to hold and read.  My daughter reads books on her Iphone, that would drive me crazy, the screen is just too small!  I love audio books for long road trips. They make the time pass much faster.

3. Funniest thing you've done in the last five years?  Being so unaware of my surroundings that I attempted to get in the wrong vehicle when coming out of a convenience store. Thankfully, the door was locked, or I surely would have plunked down in the passenger seat.  The lady in the driver's seat was certainly surprised, and probably thought they'd let me out of the home for the day! When I got to our truck my husband was laughing so hard tears were rolling down his face.  I had hoped he hadn't noticed.... no chance. I'd like to say it's the only time I've done that, but it's not.  I also handed a complete stranger a cup of iced tea thru the truck window once... I thought that was my husband and our truck too.  Doing things like this is the reason my friend calls me Sister Josie Oblivious. Yup that's me, in my own little world!

4. Do you put yourself into the books you read/write or the movies you watch?  No, I am  more of a life observer than an active participant.  I use them to transport me to other places and times, and other ways of life, but I don't see myself in the story.  I don't do a lot of fantasizing, other than to imagine what life would be like if I was wealthy and didn't have to work.

5. How would your best friend describe you?  He would tell you that I'm the strangest woman he's ever met, also that I am kind and caring,  and that I "have really big boobs".  This is what happens when you ask your husband to describe you!  He is my best friend, none the less. :-)

6. Favorite kind of car and why?  If I was wealthy I'd own a Mercedes, I fell in love with  them when I lived in Germany.  I like my Escape just fine, and my hubby's new Ford truck.  Of course if I had my way they would all be purple! I don't like low-to the road sports cars, too hard for this old woman to get in and out of, and they slide too easily under a moving semi-truck.  I've seen it happen.

7. Would your choice for a party be a catered meal or a barbecue out back?  A full-moon barbecue out back, ribeye steaks and chicken on the grill, with all the fixin's catered! I don't need white linens and candles, though they add a romantic touch now and then!

8. What's your favorite season and why?  Spring - life returns flowers appear, and everything smells fresh and new, and it isn't so damn hot yet!  Summers in Texas mean triple-digit temps more days than not.  The heat and I don't get along well, so I end up spending most of my time inside.

9. What specific lesson have you learned - Spiritual, educational, occupational Spiritual - that life continues after death and that love is the most powerful force in the universe.  Educational - Stay in school so you'll have more opportunities in your life. Never stop learning.  Make good choices.  Occupational - Keep your work life and your personal life separate, don't let work become your life, and don't bring  your homelife issues to work!

10. Besides writing, what's your favorite thing to do when you get some extra time?  Reading and commenting on other blogs, riding the backroads in our Polaris Ranger, target shooting, counted cross-stitch, baking up something wonderful!

11.  What's one place you can be found at least one time every week? Relaxing with Papa Bear in the hot tub on the deck underneath the moon and stars!  We actually do this most nights, and we find that we sleep so much better when we do!

Ok, there you have it folks, now I'm supposed to assign this meme to eleven more folks, but I'll pass on that.  If the spirit moves you, feel free to copy, paste, and share your own answers! 

Papa Bear is on the way  home with supper from the deli.  Time to wind down, settle in with the furkids, cuddle up, watch some tv and relax! He actually has tomorrow off, his once a month two-day weekend.  Our plan is to do some yard work and plant some flowers, but you can bet I'll squeeze in a little blog time too.  Enjoy your weekend!

Technical Torture

If you came here hoping for an S&M for Dummies manual, sorry - not this time. :-)  This post is about insanity in the workplace.  (No, not just when I'm there... this has little or nothing to do with my mental stability either, that post would take pages, and I know you aren't up for that!)  What I'm talking about it what happens when a "paperless office" (yes we do have plenty of t.p. - no worries there) has it's scanner go on the blink... and remain inoperative for the great majority of the past two weeks!

Keep in mind that I work for a law firm. We get paper, lots and lots of paper - from the court system, from the Social Security Administration, from Disability Determination Services, from doctors, and from the clients themselves.  Every document arriving at or departing from our offices gets scanned into the system, and then attached to the appropriate client's file.  There are distinct advantages to this - along with eliminating the need to maintain huge paper files, everything one needs to know about a client's social security/disability claim is at our fingertips and can easily be accessed. It saves time and labor, and increases the odds of documents being filed accurately and not being misplaced.

Now let me explain how it works at our office... we are a satellite branch of the firm's main office located in a city about 100 miles away.  The main server to our network resides with them.  This means, that when I walk down the hall to the office where the copier/scanner/fax machine is located and scan a document to my files, it does not travel thru the cables back to the computer in my office.  No, that would be too simple. Instead, it travels 100 miles away to the home office, and then makes the return trip back to my computer.  I don't have to tell you how "speedy" this process is.  The same happens when I print an envelope on my computer.  The request first travels to the home office, then returns to the printer in my office less than 3 feet away from the computer. It's not so bad, gives me time to check my phone, update my blog and Facebook, and play a few rounds of Words with Friends and DrawSomething. :-)  But seriously, if you're processing the mountain of paperwork we do, and it has to be done in a timely manner due to filing deadlines, court hearings, etc. - the waiting game can be maddening.

Now imagine what happens when the high dollar copy/scan/fax machine crashes.  Paper begins to pile up, information to respond to client callers can't be accessed, and nerves get short.  Then we have the "pass the blame" game, with our company's IT people, The ATT ISP people, and the  Xerox machine people all pointing the finger at each other as they "strive" to troubleshoot the problem and get us up and running.  This goes on for over a week with lots of name calling and very little progress.  Finally our IT folks admit it might be they put in some numbers wrong, this after we about killed the Xerox guy because everyone but him believed the problem was with the equipment. So finally our IT folks get their part fixed, and once again we are up and running... for about fifteen glorious minutes.  More heated phone calls, return visits from the Xerox guy who then has our machine in 30 pieces on the floor, and finally, God Bless them all, at about 1 PM today we were finally back online and stable!

Add to this comedy of errors, the fact that the Xerox guy brought out a small loaner machine last week that worked, randomly, for a couple days, then required a toner cartridge that they had to order, and then stopped working altogether. Great backup plan!  Would it take a genius to suggest that just maybe the firm should spring for an additional copier/fax/scanner so that we could not only get things done more quickly overall, but would have at least one machine up and running when the other is having a nervous breakdown? I can't begin to tell you how much fun it's been... not.

Needless to say, we will all be scrambling for the next several days to reduce the backlog of paper and get everything once again moving. Keeping up is a nearly impossible task as it is.  There is a bright note though, the attorney who owns our company agreed to the request to hire an additional part-time person to help us with scanning.  She/he will work 3-4 hours a day and will be a real blessing, since we all have felt very pressured, and at times defeated in trying to get everything done in a timely manner.  I am overjoyed, since being the newbie means much of the grunt work err - I mean scan/attach process - falls to me. 

Another highlight of the day - I finally completed my 90 days of probation, scored 5 out of a possible 5 on every item on my performance eval, and am now a salaried employee, with an accompanying pay increase.  No more time sheets, no more short/long paychecks.  Yeah me!

And on that note... just last night I was grumbling to my husband that  my next paycheck would be short because we closed at noon on Good Friday. Salaried staff weren't affected of course.  So this morning I opened a stack of mail that had been sitting on our kitchen counter for a couple days, among which was an envelope that I thought contained the pay report from my last paycheck.  (Since we all use direct deposit, they mail out the the check "stubs".)   Sure is a good thing I opened it instead of tossing it in the drawer... it contained an unexpected 5 hour bonus check due to a major increase in business in the past quarter that our boss decided to pass onto employees.  That took care of the short-paycheck concern, and certainly was a day brightener.  Life is full of good surprises!

I celebrated the successful revival of the copy machine with a long soak in the hot tub after work and an icy cold beer.  Ahhhhhhhhh!  And tomorrow is Friday, I go in an hour late, appointments are few, and the day passes quickly.  Looks like I'm going to survive the new job; it's one hell of a lot better than some I've had, and if I have to work - and I do - then I guess this will do just fine.  I love the wall of windows in  my office too - the view from the 9th floor isn't too bad!  Though I must admit if feels weird to have a 34 year old attorney/supervisor reviewing my performance eval with me... she and her husband are the same age as my children!  To their credit, they are both super-friendly and easy to work with.  Well of course I did a great job... did you expect anything less?! :-)

Questions and Answers - #5

Here they are... my questions and answers to this week's round of One Question Wednesday!  (Haven't had a chance to play yet? It's not too late, leave a question in the comments section and I'll answer it and update this post.)  
    1.  From Kristy - How do you motivate yourself to do the things you don't want to do?  The honest answer is "not very well", Kristy. The older I get the worse I've become at procrastinating right down to the last possible moment, and then stressing because I do. Really dumb!  Some things I opt not to do at all, and the things I really must do I generally set up a reward for myself... When you get this finished you can have this or do this.  The trick, as we know, is to just get started on it, one little piece of it. Once the task is underway I have no problem getting thru it, I just have trouble organizing the start. But it feels SO GOOD when I can cross something off my way-to-long "To Do List"! 

    2. From McGuffy Ann - What is your biggest pet peeve with others, & with yourself?  It's hard to narrow it down to one McGuffy Ann! The thing that probably bugs me most, because it affects me the most strongly is people who wear TOO MUCH perfume or cologne. It's intended to be part of your personal space, not a 30 foot cloud spreading out in all directions! Due to allergies and asthma these folks unintentionally make life miserable for me - I get bad headaches, watering eyes, asthma attacks, and can even taste the stuff long after the person wearing it has left the room!  Hell is getting stuck sitting next to someone in a public situation that has bathed in perfume. It honestly makes me physically ill, and stresses me out badly. Along with that is the annoyance of people who don't try to understand the situation and assume I'm stating an opinion on their choice of perfume. It's not that it smells bad, sometimes it smells good - it's just that any strong smell affects me adversely.

    My pet peeve with myself, hmmm -  another long list, but I'd have to say my bad habit of talking too much in a conversation, of being so excited and eager to communicate with someone on a level higher than "nice shoes", that I tend to bubble over and ramble on and they have a hard time getting a word in. I do listen too, but sometimes I'm rather like the dam that burst under too much pressure!

    3. From The Ranting Monkey - What one thing turns you on more than anything else?  Well, I suppose I could be graphic here and say a well-skilled tongue, but that might be TMI, so I'll go with something that will make all the younger readers go "ewwww"... I find hairy men VERY sexy!  (The Papa Bear says I have a fur fettish. LOL)  I am not into the waxed, buffed, meterosexual look of today's young men. Give me a real man, big and strong and furry! Facial hair is a big plus, and long hair is to die for! (Yes Monkey, it's that hippie thing coming out again :-)

    4. From Jo-Anne - If you only had months to live would you rather know or be left in the dark?  This one was easy Jo-Anne, I'd definitely want to know. I like to deal with life head-on as it comes, and I don't like bad surprises.  If I knew my time was short, I'd do all the fun things I love most and go to all my favorite places, and say goodbye to everyone that matters to me one last time... and I'd do it all with my beloved Papa Bear right beside me.  This is a situation he sadly knows too well, as his previous died of breast cancer. She opted to forgo invasive treatment in it's late stages so that they could spend her remaining time together, and they did,  right down to her very last breath.  That's real love, and I wouldn't want it any other way!

    5. From Kristi - You talked about your daughter and her divorce and how devastated she was. How is she doing now and is she doing better emotionally/mentally? Is your son in a relationship?  This is a hard one, Kristi. I've started to blog about it several times and I always end up deleting what I write.  My daughter's husband left her for "the other woman, a younger co-worker" two years ago. It truly broke her heart.  The way he went about it  left her believing that it was all her fault, which compounded her already very low self-esteem.   She mourned the loss of their relationship deeply and is just now coming to terms with life on her own.  She finally moved to a new city and state last year and that's been good, no memory connections every place you go, but the bottom line is that she is terribly lonely.  She's been in several short-term relationships but not to anyone that is a good match for her, and most are either too old or unstable.  She also continues to deal with depression, but has done amazingly well at her job as an RN and makes a very good income. It takes all her energy to get thru those long 12 hour shifts though, and doesn't leave a lot of motivation left for getting out of her apartment.  She is house hunting and I pray she finds something she likes, she really misses having a nice home of her own. I pray even more that God will send a nice guy her way, it would make all the difference in her life.  She is emotionally fragile, full of self-doubt and deals with other issues as well, including Type 1 diabetes. It isn't easy when you are dating.

    As the weather warms into a beautiful green Spring in her new state I'm hoping she will also perk up and try getting out a bit. I give her all kinds of suggestions, but you know how that goes when it's mom's advice! I remind her that the only guy who is going to show up on her doorstep is a plumber with droopy pants! :-)  At least she has proven to herself that she can survive and she can take care of herself without depending on someone else.  That in itself is a major improvement. The last two years have brought her and I very close together, and that is one blessing that has come out of the storm. I assure her that she won't always be alone, I just wish it would happen sooner instead of later.  She is 37 and feeling so old.  It breaks my heart to hear the sadness in her voice.

    My son lives about sixty miles from my daughter and is doing great, though he remains single at 34 by choice.  He was in one longer live-in relationship several years ago and wisely decided it wasn't right for him, also a few shorter relationships here and there, but nothing he was ready to commit to. He says he "enjoys his freedom and his money" too much!  He also has seen how poorly most marriages fare, and wants to wait until he finds someone that feels just right. Wise kid! And here I thought he'd get stolen by the first hot blonde that flashed him a smile in his early 20's. Shows you what I know!  He is also very private and always has been, so I don't hear a lot of his dating stories, but do get some details and occasional pictures. He has lots of friends and is happy with his career as an air traffic controller for the DOD and his life. He owns a beautiful home there. 

    Sadly, I have no grandbabies of my own to spoil, and it doesn't look like I will have anytime soon.  John has six grandchildren, with the youngest being ten and the oldest 22. They are all great kids, though they don't live here so we don't get to spend much time with them. 

    6. From Cheryl - What impact has the friendships you've made through blogging had on your life?  Impact isn't nearly a strong enough word when it comes to what effect my blogging buddies have had on me, Cheryl.  It is not an exaggeration to say that several of you are responsible for saving my life!  I started blogging at a time when my life was in a very dark and dangerous place and I no longer had any will to survive.  Then when I finally found the courage and determination to move out on my own, the drama continued for months, along with a lot of loneliness from living in a small town with few ways to meet new people.  I literally lived in blogland some weeks/months, and poured my heart out all over my posts.  Thank God for the amazing patience and encouragement from the people I was blogging with at that time.  It made ALL the difference in my life!  Since then I've drifted away from blogging now and then, because I have a wonderful husband and new life, but I truly missed keeping up with the friends I have here and making new ones, so I'm back, writing away, wearing out people's eyes with my long-winded posts, and enjoying every minute of it.  I love to write, but even more I love the interaction and discovering so many people that actually make sense to me and seem to "get" me. I didn't know that was even possible! :-) 
    That about wraps up my Q&A for this week.  Many thanks to each of you for playing along. I totally enjoy tossing questions your way too, and getting to know you better. And, as my friend The Ranting Monkey also noted, feel free to leave a question in my comments anytime, not just for One Question Wednesdays. It gives me something new to ramble on about. Asking and answering questions are two of my most favorite things to do!  Hmmm, I can see my Five on Friday list starting there!!  :-)