Spooky, spooky

Big brother is watching you; the walls have ears; laptops can both watch and hear … we had proof today. We’ve all read sad stories where a husband or wife dies and the remaining spouse can’t access accounts, important information or even photos on an iPhone. In one of our favorite movies, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” Judi Dench is on the phone with the cable company and the customer care agent insists on talking to the account holder. “You can’t, he’s dead,” Judi says. It’s funny but actually, it’s not. We are pretty organized with our paperwork but I hadn’t given Cedric a list of my phone and computer passwords, so we sat down with a sheet of paper and I said, “OK, I’m switching off now and I’ll restart and show you how I get into my laptop.” HA HA SAID MY LAPTOP, I’LL SHOW THEM.

The screen invited me to enter my password like it does several times a day when I switch off or leave my laptop. I wrote out my password on the sheet and then typed it in. I got that rude wiggle which indicates it doesn’t like it. Hmmm, I must have typed too fast. I tried again. Another wiggle. I typed a third time really really slowly. More really fast wiggles and an invitation to reset my password. I followed the instructions but when you actually think about a password, it’s almost impossible to remember how many and where you had the numerals and uppercase letters you are forced to include. I finally reset my password and went back to square one. NOTHING … except I’m sure I heard a little giggle in the background. Round and round I went and the password hint reverted to the original – but I’d reset it three times by now with three new hints.

I called Apple. To cut a long story short, and two techies and 90 minutes later, I had a new password. The senior techie was impressed that I was in the middle of showing my husband how to access everything on a “just in case basis” but he couldn’t understand why my laptop had gone rogue at that exact moment. But don’t try and convince me my laptop wasn’t listening to our conversation.

Not all sneezes are equal

I took Savannah out for her evening perambulation. There’s a lovely walking path that meanders nowhere … it just stops at the top of the rise and you can look down the valley and up the other side. I saw a deer in the valley – meh, I’ve seen them on the path much nearer and that’s way more scary. On the way back, I went to the mail room. The mail for the 524 apartments goes to a central mail room where we have a box. The mail room is on one side of the central square and the building in which we live is on another side. It’s a large square with huge oak trees in the middle and a fountain – just want to give you a sense of scale. We are talking a LONG way from the mail room door and our apartment. Cedric was sitting on the balcony – the 4th floor balcony. So we are talking vertical distance as well as horizontal here.

I came out of the mail room and heard a gigantic explosion. I immediately recognized it. It was followed by another, and then one more. I took my phone out of my pocket and dialed Cedric. When he answered, I said, “Bless you, bless you, bless you!”

Yes, I recognized his sneeze. It’s a unique sneeze. The intake of breath is equally as loud as the exhalation. I’ve never heard anyone sneeze quite so loud in any country. In fact, long ago when we were living in London, we used to go to Holland Park regularly. It was only a five-minute walk from where we lived and Londoners do love their parks. It’s a tradition to buy an ice cream in the park and sit on a bench and quickly lick the soft serve before it drips all over your knees. The benches round the central flower bed were packed with Londoners soaking up the sun. And the pigeons were strutting around and enjoying the ice cream dripping on the ground and squabbling over bits of cone. Suddenly, Cedric inhaled and I knew what was coming: one of his enormous sneezes. Every pigeon squawked and alighted into the air. When everyone realized what had disturbed London pigeons that are used to noisy London traffic and crowds, the place erupted in laughter. That’s when I knew Cedric had a sneeze like no other.


The elevator doors opened to reveal my husband in a passionate embrace with a gorgeous blonde. And they didn’t even release each other when I started whooping – shame on them! Cedric had gone up ahead of me while I parked my Jeep. He was in the elevator lobby when his favorite blonde gal came out of her apartment. Tammy is gorgeous, there’s no getting away from it. And she has such an amazing personality that everyone loves her. She takes care of her special-needs son, works full-time and has a kind word to say to everyone. But the hugs she dispenses to my husband are bigger and more expansive than to anyone else – and I’m delighted. It’s a mutual admiration society – they gaze at each other with love and she makes him feel special. She is dating a new beau and Cedric teases her endlessly. Today, he asked her when the wedding would be – she smiled and said, “Soon, I hope. And you will walk me down the aisle.” And you know what, he will – and with honor.

Often, we are surrounded by angels – some are blonde and gorgeous. Heaven will be a sight for sore eyes.

More than the sum of its parts

We’ve all done it – forgotten to remove the Kleenex, or other brand of paper tissue, (I use Puffs myself) from a pocket or sleeve and into the washing machine it goes. Out of the machine come shreds, more shreds and even more shreds. If you could piece them together, you’d have a bedsheet-size Kleenex quilt. How does this happen? And is it just me being dramatic? I’ve read about school projects that study whether Kansas is in fact as flat as a pancake, or if the five-second rule applies scientifically. Could someone direct scholarly attention to measuring the surface area of a washed and dried Kleenex compared to one that comes out of the box. I’d just like to know. Meanwhile, I’m putting a huge sign above the washing machine to remind me to check every pocket every time.

Must try harder …

I dreaded reading the words “Amanda must try harder” on my report card, usually appearing in the math section. But I really must try harder and update my blog at least monthly. When I posted last night, the website looked entirely different after an update and I had to search for my password. But I just paid $$ to continue my website subscription and that hurts for a static screen. I mentioned before that when I started blogging and researched other retirement-themed sites, I couldn’t figure out why some hadn’t been updated for several years. Now I understand totally – the retirement fog descends and blankets several hours in the day so there are really only six hours in my waking day. And those hours are filled with yoga, piano, Bible journaling, reading, baking and getting involved in a new church that we’ve recently joined. And, of course, there are endless hours spent walking, combing, bathing, brushing teeth and counseling Savannah on the correct way to behave.

So, just to update you:

Yoga: I continue to enjoy daily practice with free online classes. I know I’ll never be able to twist myself into a pretzel, but it’s fun saluting the sun, folding in half, becoming conscious of my breath, standing like a tree and trying to spread my toes. Look at any yoga video paying close attention to the teacher’s toes. They can spread those toes giving them a far wider platform to balance on than a normal person. With my narrow feet, I just keep toppling over.

Piano: I’m still playing daily. I’ve taken a short hiatus from lessons but will start those again next month. One way I know I’m improving is to play a piece from Book 1 and it seems so easy now. I remember the first piece where I had to play two notes together with one hand. There was an annotation that said, “Play those two notes at the same time.” It’s laughable now, but I recall finding it very challenging. Now, I can play three notes with both hands – not necessarily the correct ones – and it’s still a source of wonder and amazement that I can read the notes on the score. I can also play a couple of two octave scales with the correct fingers. But then I watch You Tube videos of child prodigies and feel very discouraged.

Bible journaling: My journaling Bible is full of paint, stickers and drawings. It’s great fun and there’s no wrong way or mistake. I made a terrible blotch with watercolor paint yesterday, but simply added more paint, let it dry and drew free-flowing flower shapes round the blotches. You’d never know it wasn’t by design.

Reading: A couple of neighbors started a Book Club. We meet once a month over wine and appetizers and take turns to select the book. Next month, it’s my selection: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. There’s also a wonderful film, worth looking for. And, big drum roll – I finished reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, albeit in translation. It’s 1,300 pages and took me about 18 months. My goal was a chapter a day, but sometimes it was so depressing a tale that I just couldn’t face it and gave myself a day off. We are now watching the six-episode television special and they have done a wonderful job of condensing the story into six hours.

Baking: My three-layer chocolate cake is always requested and becoming famous. I made it for a neighbor’s 75th birthday party this week and am making it again today for a church function tomorrow.

Church: We have joined Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church. We felt it was time to return to the Anglican community in which we were both baptized. We had to find our baptism details for our membership forms. Cedric was baptized in France in 1931 and I was baptized in London in 1998. I’m already on the Prayer Shawl Ministry, where we knit blankets and shawls for parishioners who need to be wrapped in prayer. The church blesses the items during a Sunday service. I’m on a committee helping put together classes/Sunday school for the next year and Pontius Pilate had a British accent during the Passion narrative on Palm Sunday.

That’s it for now. I’ve got the bit between my teeth and if you follow this blog, you’ll be inundated with new posts … until I get too busy. Enjoy the spring!

Mary Poppins with a bite

The other evening, a neighbor and I walked into our building together. As we walked up the steps toward the elevator lobby, we were almost mowed down by three impossibly tall, impossibly boisterous and impossibly entitled high school seniors coming in through a side door from the parking deck. They charged into the elevator lobby ahead of us. The elevator doors opened and they stampeded in. That got my dander up. Not only had they almost run us down, but this was plain bad manners. I held out my arm to stop the doors from closing, pointed at each boy in turn and said, “Out, out, out!” Good as gold they all filed out. I continued to hold the door, gestured for Lora to get in, followed her, then turned around and said to the three boys, “OK, come on. Just remember, ladies first, next time.” They looked horrified. One boy said, “Is it OK to ride with you?” I repeated they could get in and the doors closed.

For them, the two-floor ride must have been interminable. I continued my lecture. “Don’t forget, ladies first always. All you have to do is pause for a moment and think.” When the doors opened on the second floor, which was where Lora was getting off, one of the boys made a forward movement. His friend pulled him back when he saw Lora was getting off. They all had the good grace to laugh and said, “Ladies first!”

I wondered if the lesson would stick, and got my answer two days later. I had taken Savannah out and was waiting at the back door elevator when I heard kids coming down the hall. Round the corner, came one of the impossibly tall, impossibly boisterous and impossibly entitled boys, followed by at least six impossibly pretty young girls. The elevator doors opened and I said, “I’ll wait for the next one – it’s too crowded with Savannah.” The girls trooped on, followed by the boy. He turned and grinned. I said, “Nice manners, letting all the girls on first.” “Yes, Ma’am,” he replied. “I heard what you said and I remembered.”

Year in Review

This should be titled “Retirement in Review.” Since I retired, the months have blurred. The year has passed in seasons rather than time, but I looked back at my retirement bucket list and see that almost every project has a check mark against it. For a list maker, this is an awesome feeling!


Pruning and purging: This is a never-ending project, and it’s therapeutic. Drawers are tidy, the locker is accessible and my dolls house, which needed more love, has a new home. It is giving much pleasure to the three daughters of my friend, Heather. She says the elaborate stories they make up sometimes last for days and the photos she sends make me smile with delight.
Piano lessons: My piano teacher, Nancy, visits every two weeks, which gives me more time to practice in between. I can hardly believe I am able to read most of the musical notes – albeit, not always correctly – and play a somewhat recognizable tune. I call every song the “hesitation” version, but I am more than thrilled to be taking piano lessons at this stage in my life. You really are never too old to do anything.
Yoga: If I have any regret in my life, it would be that I didn’t take up yoga earlier. I have tried vaguely over the years but could never still my mind long enough. Perhaps I needed to retire to be able to concentrate on the breathing. I have found free online classes and rarely miss a day. Savannah often joins me on the mat and lies under me when I do a down dog. Now I understand why yogis love yoga. It’s not always a tangible benefit, but I think I am standing taller and breathing deeper and more consciously throughout the day.
Miscellaneous quilting projects: She who dies with the most fabric wins. I used a lot of my fabric in my Gypsy Wife Quilt, but there’s plenty more left in my sewing room. My latest project is a portrait of Savannah that turned out really nicely.
Italian refresher: Use it or lose it. I’m listening to Italian Talk Radio which is hilarious because although I understand the words, I have no idea what they are talking about. And they talk SO fast! You’ll be pleased to know the news anchors interrupt the people they are interviewing as much in Italian as they do in English and the questions are three minutes long and the answer is often a simple “Si.” The weather and traffic reports sound so romantic!
2019 Projects:
Hula hooping: It’s been either too cold, too wet, or too hot, and I haven’t done as much as I planned. I’ll review my online lessons as soon as it’s not too cold, too wet or too hot! Yep!
Less screen time: Oh dear, I’ve failed. But in 2019, if I don’t respond to a text immediately, it’s because I’ve hidden my iPhone for an hour or so.
Merry Christmas from Cedric and me and a happy and healthy New Year.