Modern communication method

Married couples often don’t communicate verbally. A raised eyebrow, a flared nostril, a tightening in a shoulder speak volumes. Men get “the look” and they know exactly what it means! Women get the “huh?” grunt – don’t ask!
Cedric and I, after 40 years of marriage, have discovered a new non-verbal way of communicating: the trusty flashlight (torch for my one foreign reader).
When I take Savannah out, the driveway curves gently down to the main road. There’s a nice wide sidewalk and plenty of sniffing material. I turn right out of our building, through an archway on the corner and under five huge fir trees that drip nicely on us if it’s been raining. Another 20 yards or so, and the curve brings us into Cedric’s line of sight from his study window. He picks up a hefty flashlight and when I turn and wave and Savannah wags her tail, he waves the flashlight from side to side. We continue walking. Depending on the temperature, if I decide to walk all the way to the road, I raise my arm overhead palm open and indicate “forward we go.” I look back and Cedric acknowledges with an up-and-down movement. We continue walking.
En route, Savannah hopefully does her business (sorry, too much information here) and I duly pick up her offering in a green poop bag. Refer to blog post a long time back on poop bags if you are interested. We turn round at the road and make our way back up the driveway. Once in Cedric’s line of sight again, I see the flashlight and wave the green bag. He acknowledges “what a good girl” with a huge up-and-down arc. Just before the fir trees remove us from the sightline, we both wave happily. I’m not sure why we derive so much pleasure from our flashlight semaphoring but after 40 years, it’s just as meaningful as talking.

An unexpected blessing

I’m back in the saddle and anticipate updating my blog a little more regularly now that it’s colder and I won’t be spending so much time on the porch watching the hummingbirds. They have come and gone this year with nary a blog mention – not a lot else has got a mention actually. I’m too busy being retired.

I had an unexpected blessing last week when I went to a class at the quilt shop located directly across from our favorite French bakery, Douceur de France. En route, I stopped into the bakery to get some croissants and other delights to take home. I came out clutching several bags and boxes went round to the passenger side of my Jeep, managing to get the door unlocked and open without dropping anything. When I got into the driver’s side, it wasn’t my keys I couldn’t find, it was my sunglasses. And not just any sunglasses – these are prescription Ray-Bans and include every available bell and whistle: bifocal, non-glare etc. I automatically patted my head but they weren’t parked there. I got out, locked the doors, and went back into the bakery to ask if I’d left my sunglasses at the register while paying. Nope. The nice young man helped me look on the counters, but I said they must be in the Jeep somewhere. Outside, I emptied my purse and had a good hunt. Nope. I went back into the bakery. I’d been to the ladies room and although unlikely, thought perhaps they had been parked on my head and dropped off. Of course, there was a line for the loo. I had a quick look round. Nope. I told the cashier I was going to a class across the street and would call him later to see if anyone had handed them in. I got back into the Jeep, backed out of the parking space, drove through the potholed parking lot and onto a very busy three-lane road, turning left at the intersection and down the very bumpy residential road that leads to the quilt shop. There, I greeted the instructor who had just parked, moaned about losing my sunglasses, opened the back of my Jeep and unpacked the paraphernalia that accompanies every quilter to quilt class. I walked round to the passenger side to grab my bottle of water and, as I reached for the door handle, there were my sunglasses hooked onto the handle, saying, “Hi there!”

I can’t even recreate how they got caught there when I opened the door to put the croissants on the passenger seat. I must have had them in my hand when I unlocked the door. But, bless their heart, they clung on to that door handle for dear life the whole way over to the quilt shop. An unexpected blessing indeed!

Singularly unhelpful

Not many positive things came out of my years at boarding school. I do credit lights out at a certain time and no talking in the dorm to my skill at consistently getting a really good night’s sleep. I also obey the rules. I never exceed the speed limit; immediately get into the correct lane when I see the “right lane merges FOUR MILES ahead” sign; walk through customs at the airport shaking, just in case, although I don’t have anything illegal in my bags. This all stems from being terrified of my math teacher, Mrs. McFee, and trying my best to become invisible in her class and not doing anything wrong. I also try my best to avoid school-like experiences although recently I have been walking Savannah through the lovely grounds of a posh school nearby and am learning to relax on campus and hope the children there are not scared of their teachers.
But right now I feel like my 12-year-old self who has just been admonished by Mrs. McFee and told not to sit in the back looking like the Mona Lisa. To understand how dreadful that sounded way back then, you have to imagine the tweed suit, the brogue shoes and the thick Scottish accent. I’ve written before how I blame Mrs. McFee for my fear of numbers. The Mrs. McFee equivalent was the woman who answered the phone at our local post office. Briefly, our USPS (United States Postal Service for my one foreign reader) mail is delivered to a central mail room because there are more than 500 apartments on campus. We each have a small mailbox and a key. Large parcels are placed in another room that has medium and large lockers and there’s a very efficient system that sends you an email or text with a code to open the locker door. Until a few months ago, large parcels were delivered to an unlocked room and dumped on the shelves. So I was surprised to find a USPS card telling me I had a large parcel that had to be picked up at the post office. I know what it is: a yard of fabric shipped from Taiwan. Don’t ask – no, I couldn’t find what I wanted online in the U.S. But large parcel? It can be folded into a 6-inch square. I called the post office and explained my dilemma – that large parcels get placed in the special locker room that was constructed especially for large parcels. Oh boy, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that our address has experienced mail being stolen from the boxes. Again, I tried to explain that my delivery wouldn’t go in the mail box but in the LARGE locker. She didn’t exactly hang up on me, but said I would have to come to the post office myself, before indicating plainly that our conversation was over.
I thought I was going to cry. And to add insult to injury – the post office is located on a horrible road, filled with potholes and totally out of my way. The famous columnist, Mary McGrory, who terrorized politicians for four decades and is known as The First Queen of Journalism, once wrote a column complaining about the surly service she had received at her local post office. She received  a phone call from the Postmaster General himself. I’m standing by …

I’m late, I’m late!

Actually, I’m a punctual person and rarely late. I’m not sure if it’s a character trait or a skill that’s learned. I was talking to someone recently about the skill of getting a good night’s sleep. Many of my friends don’t sleep well. I’m blessed. I consistently get eight hours’ uninterrupted sleep a night and I wonder if it’s the one positive result of going to boarding school. But back to the skill of being punctual. Although I’m not late, I often feel a bit frantic like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. It’s all self imposed. Now, in addition to all my retirement projects, I’m taking two free online yoga classes; leading a weekly Bible study on the book of Jeremiah; and making ricotta cheese. I also bought an annual subscription to the High Museum, which means I must go several times to get my money’s worth. It was worth it already, though – I saw the Winnie the Pooh exhibition, on loan from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. It was wonderful. I came home and pulled out all our Winnie the Pooh books. It was amazing to look at the pictures and know that I’d seen the originals that morning, some with the perforations down the side of the paper that had been pulled out of a notebook. On several images, you could see the faint outline of the original draft.
And I bought TWO, yes, TWO new sewing machines.
Let’s start with yoga. I’m terrible. I think I’m more pitiful at yoga than I am at playing the piano, so that means I am actually improving at the latter. My dear teacher, Nancy, comes every two weeks and says she can see improvement although my timing is abysmal and I might have to buy a metronome. She has so far avoided slapping my wrists, but I can see her hands twitch when I play a crochet instead of a quaver or whatever. But it is sort of miraculous that I am playing recognizable tunes and, more important, I am absolutely loving it and practice every single day – scales, arpeggios and even Beethoven – albeit, very very simple arrangements. But the yoga is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and that’s probably why I’ve never taken it up. I regret not having taken more interest in the yoga classes offered at school – goodness, I could be an instructor after all these years. I have never been very flexible, so the poses are very challenging, but I will persevere and the classes are for a month, so we’ll see. Jeremiah is also challenging. Perhaps if he’d done yoga, he wouldn’t have been so miserable all the time. I keep telling the Women’s Bible Study Group that I am leading not teaching, which lets me off the hook a bit. And that will be completed at the end of August, although I have a sneaking suspicion I will get volunteered to lead another study. They all think I know everything about the Old Testament and I keep telling them that I rely totally on my Study Bibles and the Internet. I think it’s my British accent – they think I know what I’m talking about! The ricotta cheese is brilliant – the hardest part is bringing a half-gallon of milk to almost boiling without scalding the bottom. Then add a quarter cup lemon juice. Let sit about five minutes; strain; and that’s it. And then the sewing. I traded in one sick machine for a super duper new one and then I saw an amazing tote bag on display in the store, made on a serger – so I came out with two machines. Sewing machines are like shoes – you can never have enough.
So, retirement is not slowing down at all. I had lofty ideas of updating this blog frequently and often. Then I thought, maybe every week … then once a month. Goodness, at this rate, it’s going to be annual so I might just rely on my Christmas newsletter. When I was researching a name for my blog, every catchy name with the word retirement as part of the blog name was already taken. But the last entry on almost every blog I looked at was at least one or two years old. I couldn’t figure it out – why start a blog and then have it fizzle out? Ha, now I understand totally – who has the time?

The power of prayer

If you are not a Christian or don’t, can’t or won’t pray, feel free to skip this post: My feelings won’t be hurt.

There’s a lovely walking trail on our apartment campus. It winds up and down for a mile or so with plenty of space each side for dogs to run. It doesn’t go anywhere – there’s a bench at the top where we turn and head back. It’s a great gathering place for anyone walking their dogs and we send group texts when we head out. Savannah and I rarely walk alone.

This evening, as I headed up the first curve, one of my favorite neighbors overtook me. He’s young, very handsome, which is neither here nor there of course, and a member of the Atlanta Police Department. He’s the complex courtesy officer so we can call on him if we are concerned about anything on site.

I asked Justin where Jack was. Jack is a young pure white German Shepherd – a pet, not a K-9 officer. Justin waved a key fob at me and said he had just walked Jack and had dropped a similar fob on the path. The fob was attached to an orange cartoon character key chain about two inches long. He was on his way back up the path hoping to find it. I promised to keep an eye out and started to pray. Although I knew that a trained police officer was much more likely to find anything that small than I was, I asked that I be of help to this fine young man who gives so much every day to our community. I asked that my eyes and hands be of help to him.

Justin was soon way ahead, walking from side to side and I met him on his way back as he ventured onto the grassy bank where he said he had been throwing a ball for Jack. I prayed harder. Suddenly, right there on the edge of the grass the orange key chain almost leaped into the air. I reached down and grabbed it and yelled for Justin. When I handed the fob to him, I told him I had prayed about it and he said he had been praying, too! Neither of us needed any more explanations – just the Power of Prayer at work again.

Have you ever tasted hippopotamus pee?

No, neither have I, but today I tried something that tasted remarkably similar to what I’m sure hippopotamus pee tastes like. I bought a can of Matcha Green Tea from Trader Joe’s. I love Trader Joe’s and the tea sounded healthy. It promised a bold, smooth flavor and when I read that it was produced in Japan, I was sucked in. I poured it into a nice clear glass. The color was a dingy greenish brown, the color of a river where hippopotami play. It was murky with bits in it – maybe tea leaves? I took a sip. Yuk. I was too mean not to drink the whole glass but when Cedric asked me what it tasted like, I said the only way to describe it is hippopotamus pee. The description was perfect and he didn’t question me further. I guess he used to drink hippopotamus pee when he was young … all Englishmen do.

Halfway up, I met the barrel coming down …

If you haven’t read The Bricklayer’s Story by Gerard Hoffnung, do look it up. I had my own encounter with a barrel of sorts this morning, and Hoffnung’s monologue immediately came to mind.

I woke early especially for a Sunday morning, which is neither here nor there since every morning is ostensibly Sunday morning. My routine never varies: shuffle into the kitchen, press the brew switch on the coffee machine, pour milk into the milk frother, unload the dishwasher while waiting. My timing is impeccable. I also look cute. I have new pajamas. My husband, who never criticizes me, the love, gently suggested that I buy some pajamas and forsake the Home Depot T-shirt that has been my nightwear recently. Now I have some adorable cotton PJs – a pin-tucked top with spaghetti straps and cute billowy pants that make me feel like I am wafting through the Arabian Nights.

This morning, I had an extra task. I made yogurt last night. I know you are not surprised to learn that I make my own yogurt, but don’t be too impressed. All I do is pour milk into the container, add yogurt and press the button. It takes 10 hours and even has a chill cycle in case I sleep more than 10 hours. I feel about making yogurt much as I feel about using the slow cooker. I always tell people that slow cooking is not cooking, it’s just putting … you put the ingredients in the cooker and press start.

The yogurt maker sits on the shelf above the washer/dryer. It’s not very heavy and the shelf is not very high but it was definitely too early to be doing anything more strenuous than lifting a coffee mug. I stretched up to put the yogurt maker back in its spot, dislodging the pack of 10 paper towels balanced on the slow cooker that also sits on the shelf. Shielding my head as I let go of the yogurt maker, mercifully onto the shelf, I knocked off four packets of table napkins … bump, bump, bump, bump. Yes, I buy several packets at once. Again, mercifully, they were not heavy but the act of hitting my head made each of them drop over the edge of the washing machine. 170 disposable wipes followed – I buy in bulk on Amazon as it’s much cheaper!

So now I have a problem. I can’t reach over the machine because the sliding doors won’t let me and the angle prevents me from using a long wooden spoon or hanger to nudge the items up. I grab some tongs … remember, I’m still in my cute PJs and not feeling cute as I lie on top of the washing machine and gaze over the edge. I manage to get most of the wipes by judiciously grabbing them with the tongs. But all my lovely packets of table napkins are stuck. I have a beautiful beechwood 15-inch long dough whisk. It’s made in Poland, which is why I paid so much for it. Why can’t we make dough whisks here? Never mind, that’s a discussion for another time. I lean over and use the whisk to push one packet close to the tiny gap between the washing machine and the sliding door. Then I grab a large two-pronged fork from a carving set. I poke the plastic wrap with the sharp prongs and slowly inch the packet up until I can grab it. I do the same with the other three packets.

By this time, my coffee is cold. Cedric and Savannah are still blissfully asleep.