It Was Perfect!

I turned 65 years old yesterday. Although I’ve never really had an issue with the number/age of my birthday, I struggled with this number a bit. Somewhere, it’s ingrained in my brain that being “65” is significant. At 65, retirement is a viable option. At 65, you are officially considered as a senior citizen and you can take advantage of any and all senior citizen discounts (some places have lower age requirements, but 65 is standard everywhere).

When I was young, I always had to celebrate my birthday along with my older brother’s because we only had 12 days separating our birthdays. Being July birthdays, we often had cook-outs in the yard with the neighbors and their kids invited, and the only way anyone knew it was a ‘birthday’ party was because of the cake. Otherwise, it was just a neighborhood cook-out.

For my sweet 16th birthday, I did get my own celebration, but the “friends” that were invited were still just neighborhood friends. Honestly, that’s really the only actual birthday celebration I remember growing up.

Even after leaving home, birthdays were never a cause for great celebration. Maybe the immediate family got together, maybe we didn’t. Gifts came from mom and dad (most often $$$$) and significant others. I do remember that, for many years, I got a birthday card from my life insurance agent. I always sarcastically mentioned that I knew he was the one person I could count on, because the longer I was having birthdays, the insurance company didn’t have to pay out on my policy.

I remember my 25th birthday and the ‘celebration’. My friend Sue and I always hung out at a little bar, which was about 5 miles away, and when neither of us had a car, we’d actually walk there. It was totally cool there and everybody who hung out were fun to be with (think “Cheers”). We always knew we’d get a ride home from someone after last call. For my 25th birthday, the gang got together and bought me 25 shots – all lined up in front of me. It did take me a few hours to get through them, and needless to say, I was a long way away from sober at last call. Honestly, that was probably the most fun I ever had celebrating my birthday – including some time spent alone with my friend with fringe benefits (and that’s all I’m going to say about that!) – well, except for the massive hangover I had the next morning and the fact that the milk I drank to coat my sour stomach curdled and came back up!

When I was married, my (then) husband asked me one year what I wanted for my birthday. I told him I wanted the Trivial Pursuit game and a new set of silverstone (non-stick when it first came out) pots and pans. He got me a knock-off trivia game and a new set of amber colored glass pots and pans. I should have taken that as a clue for my birthday in the future – that I wasn’t going to get what I asked for but what someone else decided they wanted to give me. Unfortunately, at the time, I just thought it was just him.

For my 40th birthday party, since it was a ‘decade’ birthday, I decided to throw myself a birthday party. Mostly, it was people I knew from the place I hung out for karaoke and dance parties and that’s what we ended up doing.

For my 50th birthday, also a ‘decade’ occasion, I was ensconced in managing a brand new hotel and stressed out all of the time. My birthday fell on a Sunday and I begged the owner to allow me to have the day off. I told my three gal friends that all I wanted for my birthday was an afternoon movie and a quiet meal afterwards, just the four of us, so I could let go and relax. One of the gals, Bonnie, picked me up at my house and told me were going to Nancy’s house for a glass of wine before we left for the movie, and the other friend, Mel, would meet us there. We arrived at Nancy’s and Bonnie had me go in first. I opened the door, and a bunch of voices yelled, “Surprise!” I looked, saw all of the faces, turned around and walked back out the door crying. Bonnie, who was still outside, put her arms around me and asked, “Why are you crying?” How could I say, “Because I wanted a quiet time with a few friends, not a party with a bunch of people?” Honestly, if my own car had been there, I might well have walked to it and climbed inside. But no, that wasn’t an option and I didn’t want the flack for doing it, so I dried my tears and went back inside. I looked around at the people there. While I might call all of them ‘friends’, they were ‘friends’ from my professional life and none of them I ever spent time with except when we saw each other at a professional event. This compelled me to put on my ‘professional life’ mask, not be able to let my hair down and just relax and be my authentic self. I got through, despite the fact that I didn’t care for the food they’d prepared and the punch was spiked with rum, which I don’t like. And, of course, I had to write thank-you notes to everyone for coming to my party and bringing me a gift.

Since that ‘party’, I have not wanted to have a big fuss made over my birthday. I don’t post my birthday date on social media sites because I don’t want all of the people I’m connected with on them to send me a birthday message simply because they are reminded to do so. That feels, if nothing else, superficial and therefore, not genuine. I’m of the old school who still keeps important birthdays on my calendar so I don’t need those reminders. And if I do get reminders on social media of a connection’s birthday I’ve never celebrated, I seldom message them.

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Word.

When I turned 60, my brother drove 2 hours to see me at work, and luckily caught me before I left town to go see my bestie. That was pretty special, since he doesn’t really make a big deal about birthdays, his or anyone elses. When I got to my bestie’s, she and I and the rest of the Wentling clan all went out to dinner at a restaurant/bar, and while it wasn’t some elegant kind of place, the food was really amazing. No servers to sing “Happy birthday” to me (I don’t like that unless it’s being done to someone else) – just a good dinner with people I can truly call friends, some small gifts from my bestie.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this year – 2021 – is the year I join the rank of being an “official senior citizen”. I’m still adjusting to the sound of that number because it’s sounds old. In a way, it feels like 65 is the top of the mountain and it’s all downhill from there. Since I’m struggling with the age, it is obvious that I don’t want any kind of celebration or notice about my birthday. Then again, I’ve had birthdays that have gone by unnoticed by anyone, and ones which have received such a little bit of fuss that I don’t know if that counted.

I don’t want a party of some kind for my birthday, even if I live to see my 100th birthday. But a little bit of fuss – some time with loved ones in a quiet celebration – would make me at least feel noticed. And yea, it makes me sad that so many people whose birthdays I choose to write on my calendar and do something, even if it’s just sending a card, don’t know/remember when my birthday is, which makes me feel like the relationship is very one-sided. And that hurts!

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That’s how it makes me feel…

Maybe it sounds to you like I want to have my cake and eat it too – that is, that I don’t want a celebration but I want a celebration – but that’s not true. I don’t want a party, I just don’t want to be forgotten by the people I make such a priority to never forget. I’ve never been someone who likes surprises, so a surprise party is definitely a no-no. And I certainly don’t want to have gifts I don’t necessarily like so that I have to pretend to like them, then take them home and immediately put them in my donation box.

Since my insurance agent retired many years ago, there are no annual cards coming my way from him. My bestie will make sure I know she’s remembered my birthday, and my brother might or might not remember it (I don’t expect him to, so that’s okay). The Prin remembers my birthday and makes it a point to make sure I know she does. And for all of the other people in my life about whom I care and who say they care about me, the day will go by unnoticed as just another day.

This is the part that bothers me, the part that makes my already fragile ego feel unworthy even more. I know it goes back to the fact that I’m such a giver and I wish others would be as well, even though intellectually I know that won’t happen. Sometimes I wonder why I repeatedly give to people who only take. Maybe that’s something I have to work on???

Apparently, I ask for too much.

I cannot bring this post to a close without saying a heartfelt and genuine thank you to my bestie, Joanne, for making my birthday exactly what I wanted it to be. A day trip together to our beloved Lancaster County to visit our favorite food and thrift stores, a new place to try for lunch, and no other big hoopla. I had told her that, for my birthday, I wanted experience and memories instead of any kind of tangible gifts, and she gave me exactly what I asked for. Considering my past experiences with asking for what I want for my birthday, from ill-wanted gifts to unwanted parties, it only took me 65 years to get exactly what I asked for! Seriously, this is the second happiest birthday ‘celebration’ I remember (second because, after all, I got “fringe benefits” on my 25th! HA HA HA) Joanne, if I forget to tell you later, I had a marvelous time with you and I am truly grateful!

Now I just have to get used to saying a new number if I am asked my age and try not to let a cringe in someone’s face or some comment about being old get to me!

Puttering

I’ve been puttering around the house for the past couple of weeks. No, I have not been playing indoor golf! (In case anyone was confused!). I assigned myself three major in-home projects for this year. The first one I decided to tackle was cleaning out my spare bedroom/office/storage room. I started with the closet, which went pretty smoothly. I had a couple of totes that had, inside them, things to sell at a future yard sale (or sales). Of course, these were packed pre-pandemic and not touched since then. I went through them and decided which items I thought had enough value to post (for free) on our local online yard sale group. That involved taking photos of each of them as well as descriptions and price. I’ve had some things listed now for about 2 months and I’ve managed to sell two of them. I have photos of things I haven’t posted yet – I plan to rotate the items listed so I always have something new to offer. I managed to pack up two totes of things to sell, organized so I know what is in each tote should I need to get something out, and found room to tuck them in the closet I’d just cleaned out.

Next came the shelves. I have 3 sets of shelves in this room, including a 4-shelf large bookcase and two 4-shelf metal racks. One of the metal racks is for my extra kitchen gadgets (crock pot, air fryer, 22-quart soup pot, cast iron skillet, etc.). These are things I use routinely but not often enough that I have to have them handy in my kitchen. The other metal rack holds extra personal hygiene products, cleaning products, extra paper products, extra boxes of coffee pods, etc. The wooden bookcase holds all things associated with crafting. I also have three totes of crafting stuff, and another project is to sort through all of that and decide what is reasonable to think I’ll use versus stuff I thought I might make some day. So that shelving is being ignored for now.

That room does not have air conditioning, merely a ceiling fan. Once summer hit, it became obvious that I’d be working on things in there a bit at a time until I got all sweaty. I’m probably done with 90% of the two shelving units, but haven’t quite made a decision about where I want a couple of items to fit that is to my best advantage. Meanwhile, I had family photos propped up on one windowsill and a few stuffed bears propped up on the other. I finally took the time to research what I could use on the backs of the photos that would stick to my uneven, old plaster walls. I’d tried Command strips without success. I found this product called Alien Tape which is an amazing product! Well, of course it made sense to clean the glass of the photo frames before I hung them, so while I had the glass cleaner out, I went around and cleaned all of the glass on other items I had hanging throughout the place in other rooms, including mirrors. That side-tracked me for a bit. I finally decided how I wanted to arrange the family photos on my hallway wall, so that also side-tracked me from my organizational plans.

Then, of course, once one windowsill was empty, I needed to take care of the other one. I have, over the years, weaned my stuffed animals down to three bears, all of which matter to me. One is a small Koala bear with a sweater that has the flag and has AUS on it. I’d met a gal from Australia from playing the same Facebook game, and we became online friends. She and her hubby like to travel internationally, and I found out she was coming to the East Coast of America and would be spending a night in Lancaster County. Although all of her reservations were made before they even left for the trip and she wasn’t staying where I worked, she and Graham made the short trip to me from their hotel so we could meet and I bought them lunch. We only got to visit a little bit (I was at work, after all!) but we got a photo together and she gave me this keychain as a reminder of our meeting. The second one I have is a Boyd’s bear from my friend, Prin. It’s maybe 5 or 6 inches tall, and it holds a pillow that says, “Friends are never far away”. The third bear – whose name is Rusty – has been with me for 49 years. Rusty is a wind-up musical bear, and he was a gift from my Grandma and Grandpa Halbert for my sixteenth birthday. To make a long story short, they all needed a bath. I started with the smallest first and used carpet cleaner. Other than taking a while to be dried thoroughly and then vacuumed (my car vac came in handy), no problems. Then I got to Rusty. The poor thing, I discovered, had a gash at the pad of his paw, most likely dry-rot of the thread after all those years. I sewed him up there, discovered another gash on the inside of one leg and also sewed that up as well. After I’d done his entire body, in stages, with the carpet cleaner, I was blotting him and put my thumb right through the seam on his side. Yup, out came the needle and thread, and another few minutes for my weak eyes to be able to line up the thread with the eye of the needle and get it pulled through, and he got stitches for the third time. I treated him very gently and tenderly from then on, got him vacuumed, and put him in a safe place in my curio cabinet behind the clear door so he’d be less prone to getting dirty again. And the music still plays when I wind him up!

I have managed to go through a few more things that were stored on my metal shelving units and found a few more small things for the thrift store donation box. (Prin, the ravioli maker finally made it into the donation box!) I also changed a few things around to where I think they will work better. And since I seem stuck on getting that task completely done, I’ve grabbed all of the paper and booklets and letters regarding Medicare and my Aetna plan and am starting to sort through them. If you follow my blog, you remember the difficulties I was having with finding and getting a plan, so all of the paperwork both originally about Medicare and then, specifically about the Aetna plan, got put in a pile to sort through. This again becomes puttering, but it’s got to be done.

My other two tasks for the year are to, of course, sort through all of my crafting stuff and donate then reorganize, and to finish scanning photos into my computer and then putting them on a thumb drive so I can dispose of the actual tangible copies of the photos. If – and that feels like it’s a big if right now – I can get this all done by no later than the end of January (I’ve given up on being done by December 31, 2021!), then I can deep clean my living room, actually deep clean my spare room, and finish deep-cleaning my kitchen by the time spring is officially here in 2022.

So, I guess it’s best that I get back to puttering along! Or, as the new thing I’ve learned just now, I best return to JOMO!

Mindless Musings & Mutterings

I have had a bunch of ideas going through my head about potential blog posts, but none of them wanted to flesh themselves out to be a full post, so I’m just gonna throw stuff out there and let it land where it may.

Now that the 4th of July celebrations are over here in the US, there’s no real need to complain about that ‘one neighbor’ who feels the necessity to put off fireworks in their own back yard. This year, it was all about the noise – the booms and crashes – and not so much about lighting up the sky. For safety regulations, I appreciated that decision. However, they had apparently bought enough to be able to set them off on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and evening (two rounds) and Monday evening. While I try to be tolerable that the idea of fireworks is how some people wish to celebrate, three consecutive evenings was a bit much.

I’ve never been a prude about language and swear/cuss words. Trust me, if I want to, I can swear like a college-edjumacated drunken sailor! The one word I will not tolerate is the one where a female is called a c*nt. At no time do I find it appropriate to label someone with that word, no matter who that someone is. I quietly deleted someone from my social media for doing exactly that. I do not want to be associated with anyone who considers that appropriate. Likewise, I’m finding that I’m becoming more intolerable of people who drop “F” bombs simply because they can. It is a word I seldom use, even when I’m swearing about something, and to hear it come out several times in different forms within the same sentence just really turns me off! Again, I’m starting to choose to not associate much with those kinds of people these days. To me, it just seems to be overkill!

We’ve made it through our second heat wave now, and since it’s early July, I’m anticipating that it may not be the last one. I have made the temporary move to bring my laptop to a usable space in my living room where I have a window air conditioner. I have chosen not to go outside on those days unless absolutely necessary. I think I’m faring even worse with the humidity as I age, since I now can have a sweating episode while sitting in an air-conditioned room!

I’m “officially” on Medicare! Honestly, that was such a fiasco to get there! I had to make one small change, since my Medicare Advantage plan assigned me to a doctor and my current one also accepts this coverage. I can change in-network doctors pretty easily, so I’m giving my current practice one more chance because I’ve been scheduled with a newer staff member I haven’t seen yet. I refuse to return to the one who is always 30 or more minutes late and too slow to get past reviewing lab results to discuss anything more. I will be seeing this new person for what is called a “Wellness Check”. I’m not sure what that means, but I hope it means I get a chance to talk about other issues that Keith either ignored or had no time to discuss with me. I’m giving the practice one more chance because they have all of my records, from my previous PCP as well as the 5 years I’ve been going there, and I hate to start with someplace totally new. However, I accepted having to do that while I was on the Medicare hamster wheel, so it doesn’t bring up any anxiety anymore.

I haven’t spent much time in my kitchen this summer, again, because there is no air-conditioning in the back of my apartment. I did, however, try out one hack I’d learned. I have a friend who makes the most gorgeously brown turkeys for the holidays, and my skins never get like hers. She told me her trick was to make sure the skin was dry, and then rub the entire skin with olive oil. (She also has a convection oven which, I’m sure, helps.) I did that with a small turkey breast in my toaster oven on a cooler day, and although it didn’t have to cook as long as a huge whole turkey, it did brown the skin enough to make it enjoyable to eat. I love the skin when it’s brown and crispy, so that was a nice treat!

I was thinking the other day about an older neighbor back when my (ex and now deceased) husband and I lived in the other half of the double home. I was in my mid-30s and while I never asked, I know she was at least in her 70s. I remember thinking often, while living there, that I wondered what she did to fill her days. She did not drive and I never saw visitors coming or going from her side of the front porch. Occasionally, when weather was cooperative, she would come out and sit in the rocker on her porch for 30 minutes or so, but otherwise, you never saw her nor heard a sound. Like I said, I used to wonder what she did all day – and now, I look at myself and ask myself what I did all day! My energy level, even though I’ve gotten my iron and Vitamin D levels back up to where they should be, continues to be less and less. I putter almost every day, and I’ve been doing some of the ‘oddest’ jobs around my house that I normally never think of as needing done, but bigger projects can sometimes take several starts and stops before being completed. Again, it might be because it’s hot in most parts of my apartment and I need to have cool-off breaks more often, but I’m not certain. Meanwhile, my ‘puttering’ includes things like cleaning the glass on all pictures and wall items that have glass throughout the apartment, giving what few stuffed animals I still have (I’m down to three, not counting my Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls) a ‘bath’ by using carpet cleaner on their fur, etc. Weird things that I don’t usually ever think about doing (and which obviously needed done!).

The test will be next week, when my bestie, Joanne, and I are headed to our beloved Lancaster County, PA for a day trip. Usually we leave around 9 AM and it’s mid-afternoon when we return, which means my energy is spent for the day. This time we’re actually leaving at 7 AM (works for me since I’m such an early riser!) and will wander our way through our favorite places and then try someplace new for lunch. Lancaster County is becoming ‘ripe’ with produce, and I’m planning to get some fresh fruits to make a fresh fruit salad. I made one last year (of fruits from my local grocery store) and I enjoyed the heck out of it! I’m also looking to see which of our foodie-shopping places might have cup cheese. Cup cheese is definitely a Lancaster County item, and people either hate it or love it! (Google it if you’ve never heard of it!) Cup cheese was always in my grandma’s fridge and was a treat when she gave us some! I actually looked at having some shipped by the only place in Lancaster County that makes it, but the shipping costs were pretty outlandish, what with having to keep it cold and all. I could drive to and from Lancaster County twice and the gasoline wouldn’t cost as much as those shipping costs!

Meanwhile, my life consists mostly of some puttering around the house and/or working in pieces on bigger projects, listening to music online and reading. I’ll continue to travel vicariously through my amazing friend, Prin (aka Marnette) and count down the days until I get to visit my brother again in early September. And, of course, I’ll continue to read some amazing blogs here, even if I don’t write much on my own.

So, how are YOU keeping busy?

C E N

As many of us know and experience personally, people tend to look back into their own histories and recall things that happened to them as a child that impacted who they have become. But Jonice Webb, Ph.D., has written a book called “Running on Empty” which focuses, instead on what she calls “Childhood Emotional Neglect (C.E.N.)”, what we as children didn’t get or have happen to us that we needed as children.

I saw this on a social media post and it immediately resonated with me. I am going to copy and paste what the author herself wrote on social media – with apologies to the author – because it tells you what this book is all about:

Do you really think you have to settle for feeling “invisible” or “empty”, like you don’t really belong or feel valued as a person? NO, YOU DON’T! In fact, it’s just the opposite! You can find your voice and connect with the things that make you uniquely yourself…Getting to know who you are at your core… instead of trying to meet everyone else’s expectations! If you’re thinking, “Okay… how can I actually do that?” It all starts with acknowledging how “what didn’t happen for you as a child” has deeply influenced your life. Most people point to things that “happened” to them as children for why they feel dissatisfied or disconnected in their adult life. But it’s not necessarily because of what happened to you as a child. It’s about what failed to happen for you as you were growing up.

I call it Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN. CEN is a parent’s failure to respond enough to a child’s emotional needs. It’s a failure to notice, attend to or respond appropriately to a child’s feelings. And as an adult, this can cause us to have difficulty understanding and trusting our own emotions and feelings as well as others’. And that is what my book, Running on Empty, is all about. It’s about discovering how our parents, even well-intentioned ones, can leave our emotional tank empty and how that impacts our lives as adults. It also gives you life-changing tools to reconnect with your feelings to become the connected, whole and fulfilled person you were meant to be. I lay the entire process out for you in my national bestselling book, Running on Empty, for only $10 instead of the normal $19.99 + I’ll ship it to you for FREE. And If you pick up this book now, for a limited time I am also giving you $200 in free bonuses: Bonus #1: Childhood Emotional Neglect Questionnaire Bonus #2: Emotion Words Cheat Sheet Bonus #3: Pandemic Survival Guide for the Emotionally Neglected It’s time to get past feeling “invisible” or “empty” and start expressing varied emotions and having fulfilling, long-lasting relationships with those you care about.

I’m past the age (long past) of reading self-help books, but if you’re still adrenalized about your own self-growth journey, this may be a good choice to pick up. On my own, I will process the idea of CEN in my head and use what it teaches me on my own. So, if you want to consider the book, here’s the link:

https://www.cenrecovery.com/roe-us-ord-2step

If you choose to read this book, please share with me how it helped you!

Return to “Dorm” Life

Going to college and living in a dormitory was a new experience when the time came to do so. Although there were five of us in our house, it was usually quiet (except for the rare flare-up of an argument between our parents and, of course, the loud discipline to one of us who had misbehaved). “Living” as it were took place in the dining area and our basement rec room, and the bi-level where our bedrooms all were was always a quiet area. Suddenly, I find myself in a room, shared with another (I was the only girl and had my own bedroom) that is bedroom and study room and ‘living’ in room. It was in a long hallway filled with similar rooms, two persons per room. There was a communal large bathroom/shower room which wasn’t far from where my room was located in the hall. And way back then, there was a phone booth where we could make and receive calls.

I had to get used to the noise that comes with a group of girls who would travel the hall, the sound of the door leading to the shower/bath room opening (the room had a hollow sound) and closing, and someone answering the ringing telephone and then shouting down the hallway to get whomever the incoming call was for. Although I didn’t really have a friendly relationship with my roommate, she was a very quiet girl who seemed to be constantly studying or reading when she was in our shared room.

At 18, it’s easy to adapt to that sudden seemingly constant noise, and of course, I was sometimes one of the people making the noise as well if, for example, I meandered down the hall to knock on the door of another room for any reason. At 18, I could also fall asleep when there was noise around me.

When I first looked at the apartment I now live in, I noticed and remarked on how quiet the building seemed. There are 6 apartments, 3 on each floor. My apartment is #1, meaning everyone who lives here will pass by my door to get to their own apartments. Occasionally, I’d hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs, most often from the two teenage girls who lived with their mom on the second floor directly above me when they were going in or out. And because they were traveling in a pair, I could sometimes hear their voices when they were talking to each other.

Now, it’s 5 years later. The two teenage girls are both graduated from high school, and apparently spend as much time at their dad’s place as they do here with their mom. Because it’s gotten quiet without them, it feels extra noisy when they return.

But that’s not the worst part. With only 6 units, we’ve gotten to know each other well. Other than the mom of the two teenage girls, every other resident lives alone and our ages range from (almost) 65 to somewhere in the 70s. The nice lady in apartment #6 likes to visit and “check in” on all of the tenants every now and then, and so conversations take place at open doorways when she does. The ‘oldest’ tenant is very hard of hearing and, as a result, talks very loudly. He is on my floor. He’s also a friendly sort, meaning he’ll stop and talk to anyone he sees coming or going. So there is often chatter on the stairs or on the landing where my door is. With this building being over 200 years old, there isn’t much in the way of insulation other than on the outside walls, so the noise travels easily. My living room wall faces the stairway, and my bedroom door is just off the entrance to my apartment, so there is a lot of noise and commotion throughout the day.

And even that may not be the worst part. The laundry room area is directly beneath my apartment, and there is ZERO insulation in the ceiling of that room/the floor of my apartment. When it is quiet, I can hear the coin slots being slid into the washer and dryer to engage the machines. If there is more than one person downstairs at one time (the teenage girls did their laundry together), I hear the conversations. And our dear hard-of-hearing tenant always takes his cell phone and his support dog downstairs when he goes down, so his voice is loud if he’s commanding the dog or talking on his phone.

At 18, I might have been able to get used to that kind of noise and learn to block it out. At (almost) 65, that’s not so easy. I can’t fall asleep if the TV is on, have only fallen asleep once when people were talking (on the couch of a friend’s house, New Year’s Eve, and alcohol was involved). I sleep with a fan on for the white noise. If I’m in a hotel, I turn on the fan in the bathroom to run all night to help block the noise. And living alone, I’m quite content with quiet around me, so I’m more sensitive to the noise.

In a way, I feel like I’m once again living in a dormitory like I did in college – people in the halls, voices here, there and everywhere. When I’m really tired, I hear voices and get frustrated. And when everyone seems to be inside and settled down, I can almost count on the guy across the street who has been working on his truck for seemingly forever to start working on it and revving the engine repeatedly. Now that we are getting more daylight, this goes on until it’s completely dark.

While I am not in any way a proponent of segregation, sometimes I’d like to be segregated away with other quiet people!

Catfish

When I was a younger adult, I learned to go catfishing in the Juaniata River (a tributary of the Susquehanna River). My (ex) husband and I camped there and had a ‘permanent’ site in our campground, where we were almost every weekend from May through October (earlier or later, depending upon the weather). There was a boat dock within walking distance from the campground, and we were regular night fishers from that dock. Now, I have to let you know that I like catching fish and I was decent at it. I, however, have never touched a worm, never put a single finger inside any fish’s mouth once it was on my line, never gutted and never cleaned a fish. I could, however, after a catfish was beheaded, gutted and cleaned, learn how to use a filet knife to separate it from its skin. To this day, I still think channel cat (not the farm-raised stuff you can find sometimes in stores or restaurants) was good eatin’!

But, there is now a totally different meaning to the word “catfish”. Now a catfish is defined as “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.” Unfortunately, I’ve been exposed to these types of catfish as well.

When dating sites had begun to popularize, I succumbed to the temptation of them. For the questions that were asked, I used genuine and authentic answers (because that’s who I am). And silly me, of course, assumed that everyone did the same! Because my photo was also authentic (and I’m not a blonde, svelte bombshell!), I didn’t get a lot of interest. Hey, we all have our types – looks that are pleasing to our own eyes – so I didn’t let that bum me out too much. I even remember trying out Harmony, which advertises itself to be about finding compatibility with another person, and out of over 500 people who met my criteria, there wasn’t a single match for me – that is, someone’s criteria who I met! Talk about being stung! I remember telling my mentor about that and how it felt, and he told me words to the effect of, “It’s not that you’re not good enough for them, it’s that they aren’t good enough for you.” Because I was so stung, I chose to believe that while knowing it wasn’t true.

Eventually, I initiated contact on the Plenty of Fish (POF) website with a guy. We seemed to hit it off pretty well and, after over two months of correspondence, I brought up meeting. He lived in northern Virginia, about a 5-hour drive from me, but I was willing to go there. However, when I brought it up, he gave me some excuse about how he couldn’t commit to that right now because there was a ‘situation’ at work and everyone was supposed to be available 24/7 for the next couple of months. I accepted that (hey, in the hotel industry, I KNEW how tough it was to get time off to make plans!). Shortly after that, he shared with me that he was in a custody battle over his son and that the lawyer’s fees were eating up every cent he was making. He mentioned that he was $200 short for his next month’s rent. I saw the red flag out in the distance, but I’ve been in tight financial circumstances, too, so I ignored the red flag. Eventually, he asked if I could help him out and I said yes, but only that I would pay the missing rent direct to his landlord, not give it to him. Initially, that didn’t sit well with him, but eventually he acquiesced and gave me the name and address of his alleged landlord (a female in Ohio) and I mailed that check.

Correspondence quickly became less common between us, and he insisted that it was because he was so busy with work and his custody case. Well, communicator is high on my list of priorities in a partner, and when he had less and less time for me and only a few short lines when he did find time, I called it quits, telling him that when he wanted a person IN his life, not hanging out at the sidelines, to let me know.

So, I dropped off the dating site routine for quite a while. Eventually, also on POF, I saw a photo of a really attractive guy, who said he lived in Philadelphia. After several days of going back to look at his photo and profile again, I initiated contact. He responded, telling me that he was about to put his profile “on vacation” because he was leaving the country to go oversee the build of a brand new hotel for his company, and that hotel was in Turkey. But he liked my profile as well, and we exchanged email addresses and phone numbers so we would keep in touch. This was in August, and he expected to be back home by Thanksgiving.

Well, he was very good at communication, more by text than email, and his texts were so romantic (pushed exactly the right button!) that I was sharing them with my colleagues and friends! I would send him photos of me, sometimes with a coworker or friend, and he would always text back with something like, “Oh, isn’t my baby looking fine today?” or “Honestly, how did I get so lucky to find you?”. Yep, I fell in, hook, line and sinker!

One day, he asked me if I could do him a favor. I said I’d try, and he explained that he needed to get a software program for work and it was available on iTunes and he couldn’t buy it there because he didn’t have any American currency, plus he was waiting on a refund for expenses from the company for his credit card and he was close to maxing it out. He asked me to buy him a $25 iTune card. Because it was such a small amount, and he wasn’t asking me to give money directly to him, I didn’t hesitate. I had to take a photo of the account information on the back of the card and send it to him. And that was that! We continued on, much at the same pace – he was sending me links to romantic tunes, his texts were insanely romantic, he wasn’t asking for phone/text sex, we texted several times a day, and I began to think this could work out. Meanwhile, I told him I had an invitation to a Christmas party in early December and asked him if he would be my plus one, thinking that it would help us feel less awkward about meeting the first time if we went to a party where people were mingling. He said he’d love to!

The week before Thanksgiving, he let me know that the job was behind and he would still be there through Thanksgiving but he hoped to be back in Philadelphia for the party and to meet me. My fingers were crossed tight – the party was being hosted by a friend who had read many of his text messages to me and was so excited for me to find someone.

To make a long story short (this is getting long, I know), right after Thanksgiving, he told me that he couldn’t leave the country because he was behind on the charges for the hotel he was staying at while doing the job and had to surrender his passport to the hotel manager while they waited for his payment. He said he was behind a little over $2,000 USD. I saw the red flag – quite clearly – but I did not let on. I didn’t make any offers and he didn’t ask for any help. I knew in my heart what was happening, and I was disappointed in myself for not seeing it sooner, but I wasn’t heartbroken. Every text now included his worry about paying the fees so he could come back to Philadelphia. I chose consciously to not indulge in a conversation about it when he mentioned it. Finally, after about three days, he asked if I could do him a favor, and I said, “I can try.” I knew what was coming, of course. He asked if I could send him $2,000 so he could pay the hotel bill and get his passport back and come home. I took a few (intentional) moments to consider this, and then told him that I would not send him $2,000 but if he gave me the hotel’s information, I would contact them and make arrangements for the bill to be paid. He made up an excuse that the hotel staff barely spoke English and it was better for me to send it to him and let him handle it. I reiterated that I would not send him the money, but I would pay the hotel direct. This went round and round and I could sense he was getting frustrated and unhappy. After about the fourth time around, I ended the communication by repeating what I had been saying each time and that I was going to “hang up” because I didn’t want to keep going over and over it and I was not willing to change my mind to send him the money. I disconnected the text and erased it.

Five minutes later, he texted me and asked, “Well, can you at least get me another iTunes card?” I didn’t respond. And that was the last I heard from him.

Needless to say, I’m not proud to share how naive and gullible I was. It’s how I’ve always operated through life – in a sense, believing that people are innocent until proven guilty, that people are authentic until proven not to be. Maybe that is why I enjoy reading so many blogs on WordPress – those I enjoy are ones in which the writer is willing to be open and exposed about who they are and where they struggle. In fact, this blog post was brought to mind after reading another blog of someone’s experience on a dating site.

I don’t need a man in my life to be happy. I would like to have a man in my life to take out the trash, clean the snow off my car, help me move furniture and occasionally do some cleaning, but the elements of good in living alone are worth more than sharing the space simply to have someone do some ‘chores’. I’ve tried that once too – sharing space with a friend as a roommate who did not live up to the division of chores that was decided before the lease was ever signed.

But for anyone else out there who has ever been “taken in” by a stranger who wasn’t at all who he/she said and appeared to be, have peace in knowing that YOU were authentic and true to yourself and peace in believing that Karma does bite!

Gotta love Karma!

Reflection

These are the lyrics to the song “Reflection” from the movie, “Mulan”. There is never a time I don’t have a reaction to these lyrics. On one side, they make me sad. I spent – no, wasted – too many years trying to mold myself into whom I thought others wanted or expected me to be. On the other side, these lyrics bring me peace because they validate that this many years’ struggle wasn’t unique to only me.

Look at me
I will never pass for a perfect bride
Or a perfect daughter
Can it be

I’m not meant to play this part?
Now I see
That if I were truly to be myself
I would break my family’s heart

Who is that girl I see
Staring straight
Back at me?
Why is my reflection someone

I don’t know?
Somehow I cannot hide
Who I am
Though I’ve tried

When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

Worry versus Anxiety

I have a best friend who is a worrier. She worries to the point that she loses sleep from worrying. I’ve been thinking about ways I could help her with that, and since she reads my blog, I thought maybe I’d share an exercise here that I use on myself. Because, as I’m fond of saying, “Worry is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” So here is what I do in my head, using a real-life example:

Question: What is the worst thing that could happen if you get the vaccine? Answer: I could die from it.

Question: Is that a realistic worry? Answer: No.

Question: What is the worst thing realistically that could happen if you get the vaccine? Answer: I could have the same thing that happens when I get an intramuscular shot and my arm will not only be sore but be swollen and reddened and hot.

Question: What is the worst thing that will happen if you arm reacts like that? Answer: I will be in moderate pain for up to three days with very limited use of my arm.

Question: What is the worst thing that will happen if you are in that kind of pain for that amount of time? Answer: I will not be able to do anything but lay down and feel sorry for myself.

Question: What is the worst thing that will happen if you lay down and feel sorry for yourself? Answer: I will waste time that I could be using to do other things.

Question: What is the worst thing that will happen if you waste time you could spend doing other things? Answer: Things won’t get done, plus I’ll get behind on my reading goal.

Question: What is the worst thing that will happen if you don’t get things done or fall behind on your reading goal? Answer: To be honest, it will be like those days when my energy level is depleted to the level that I just lay around.

Question: So what is it that are you worried about… again?

See how that works? I’m still anxious about the shot and the effects of it, because I know what that pain is like and would rather not experience it, but in the scheme of things, it’s not really something I need to be worked up about so much than it consumes my thoughts and keeps me from getting rest! And as a result of this exercise, I will be at an appointment in 5 hours’ time for the first shot. Now, I’m much more anxious about the second shot because I’ve heard a myriad of different experiences from people after receiving it, but even if it puts me down for a couple of days, I already know that in the big picture, it’s not something to worry about. I don’t like being down (I had bronchitis about 7 years ago that had me in bed for two weeks) but this isn’t anything that’s going to affect my life long-term. And the pride I will feel having faced the anxiety and fear and having conquered it will bring its own reward.

So, next time you are feeling worried (especially you, bestie!), work it out this way and let go of the worry that something drastic will happen. All of your worry isn’t going to change the fact that what will be, will be!

Around-the-House Hacks – VIII

Kitchen sinks and faucets come in all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, not all of them accommodate filling a bucket. Here is an easy solution: Buy an inexpensive pool noodle, slide one end up onto your faucet head, let the other end fall into your bucket, and turn on the water! A side benefit is that it will be so much easier to lift the bucket from the floor than it will be to lift the bucket out of the sink to place it on the floor!

Speaking of inexpensive pool noodle uses, if you live in an area where the winter season brings below freezing temperatures, snow and ice, cut a pool noodle into the approximate sized pieces and place a piece over each of your windshield wipers. Not only will you protect your wipers from getting frozen onto your windshield, requiring lots of muscle to scrape and move while the defroster is kicking in, it will keep the ice/snow from freezing onto the thin rubber of the wiper itself.

So, you’ve got left-over pieces of pool noodle after you make your windshield wiper covers? If you’ve got a green thumb and like to do a lot of pot planting, cut the pieces into equal sized rings (1 inch or less) and use them to line the bottom of your pot before adding dirt! This will allow extra water to seep below the surface of the dirt, so it doesn’t get too wet and prevents root rot, and the dirt will soak up the water as it dries.

Have a pair of boots which tend to fall over when you put them away? Slip a piece of pool noodle the height of the boot’s leg inside and they will stand up straight!

Pool noodles make great bumpers for a child’s bed to help keep him/her from rolling off the side of the bed. Just slip one under the fitted sheet on both sides and tautly finish tucking the sheet in. It will create an instant barrier to keep the child from rolling off the edge.

The uses for this inexpensive piece of foam can be endless. From using them for cable management to putting a piece on hangers over which you drape pants/slacks/etc. to avoid a crease to using a piece on top of your mouse pad where your wrist rests when you’re using the mouse, when you’re looking for an inexpensive solution to a problem, you might want to stop and ask yourself, “Hmmm, could a pool noodle be the solution?”

So, use your noodle and use a noodle!!

And here’s a little bonus that has nothing to do with pool noodles:

Who actually likes the task of cleaning the filter of the clothes dryer after each load? (Me, neither!) But… if you have a wood fireplace or enjoy camping with an evening campfire, or even use a charcoal grill, don’t just toss those balls of lint into the trash! Save them in a plastic bag for when you want to start a fire. It turns out that lint is extremely flammable, so spreading some out in the space where you want to start a fire assures that it will start burning with the touch of a flame. It’s easy to store a bag of lint (doesn’t take up much room, either) and will be especially helpful if you’re dealing with damp wood or charcoal!