“Old” Normal vs “New” Normal

As shelter-in-place/stay-at-home policies here in the US have begun to be lifted, I’ve talked with several people about returning to “normal“. So far, I’m in the minority of not wanting to go back to the “old” normal, but adapting to a “new” normal.

I understand where the majority are coming from. We had so many freedoms and luxuries that were taken from us when this pandemic struck, and we all want them back. But there were true positives that came from it too, that I, for one, want to remain!

Mother Earth, whom we take for granted, has had a chance to regain some health. Ozone layers are healing, smog has become non-existent in most areas. This is a GOOD thing, and I’d prefer that we continue to treat our earth with respect.

Relationships between children and parents has changed. Parents are spending time with their children – the one thing many of us craved in our childhoods was time and attention from our parents!

An understanding of the toils and struggles that our teachers face has come to the awareness of all parents involved in home-schooling. I’ve heard several parents comment that teachers are underpaid, because they finally understand what teachers deal with every day. And, to be honest, that discovery has been made while teaching their own children (angels or brats they may be!). A teacher deals with a classroom full of these same angels and brats, yours as well as other parents’!

As a child, a meal out – whether at McDonald’s or a nice restaurant – was a treat! There were no delivery options in my childhood, either! We went out to eat at a nice place for special occasions, like Mother’s Day. McDonald’s was a special occasion for things like good report cards. We didn’t go because mom (a schoolteacher herself) was too tired to cook at the end of the day.

And we’ve all had to learn how to handle frustration and become more patient (patience is not one of my strong suits, by the way!). Except for the few entitled souls who feel like rules don’t apply to them, we’ve practiced social distancing, which, in essence, is giving someone their own personal space. I’m a big advocate of giving people their own personal space, which is why I often ask for a hug rather than simply reach in and make it happen. We’ve all learned to wait a week – or more – for an item from Amazon with our Prime accounts which used to only take two days.

I hope that some of us – many of us – now go into essential businesses with a more respectful view of the people working there, and appreciate the fact that they take risks every day in order to make the business that is deemed essential available to us. From grocery and drug stores to our police, firefighters and ambulance personnel to the many in the medical field, they deserve our grateful thanks for making what we need possible. (I’ve taken to saying, “Thank you for being here” to every worker I encounter during my essential contact.)

Yes, I want the “old” normal in terms of the freedom to go where I want to go when I want to go. I want the luxuries of hair cuts and nails manicured and trips to my favorite thrift stores. But I also want a “new” normal in becoming and staying more appreciative of the people who provide services to us that we always take for granted. I want families to continue to spend more time as families. I want teachers to be more respected for what they do. And I want Mother Earth not to return to its “old” normal of being abused, carelessly, by all of us.

Is that too much to ask? Or maybe we need a ‘mashup’ of the two?

Are you a melter or a chewer?

The topic is chocolate. Plain old milk or dark chocolate, even white chocolate.

Imagine yourself with a plain candy bar in the chocolate of your choice. Over the years, just through whimsical study, I’ve made a discovery about eating chocolate that largely differentiates men and women. As late as today, I’ve had yet another confirmation

My chiropractor is a self-admitted chocoholic. I’ve even tested his tolerance for chocolate and he managed to eat 4 servings of my infamous “Death by Chocolate” dessert recipe before he pushed the 2 remaining servings away, patted his bloated midsection and declared, “No more!”. Every once in a while I’ll take him a little treat that is something chocolatey. Today it was a plain, store brand, dark chocolate bar.

I almost always have 2 (or more) of these bars stashed in the door of my fridge. I like dark chocolate more, though I’ll never turn down milk chocolate! When I want something that tastes indulgent, I’ll break a block off from the bar, which has 8 blocks. A single bar usually lasts me 3 or more weeks. (The bar I purchase is very similar to the one in the feature photo.)

I bought an extra one during my (horrifyingly worst ever) grocery shopping trip last week. It was kept in my fridge until this morning, when I headed to his office. I gave it to him as he called me back for treatment and saw him put it in his scrubs top pocket. I know he opened it because I heard him offer the departing client a piece as she was leaving. I relaxed on the roller massage table and forgot about it!

After Dr. Craig was done torturing me (I have the bruises to prove it!) and we headed back up to the desk, he reached down for the chocolate bar and I watched him put the last piece in his mouth, crumple up the wrapper and toss it in the trash, and begin chewing. Seeing that reminded me of the just-for-fun study I’d done about how people eat chocolate, so I thought I’d write about it.

In general, when it comes to chocolate, men are chewers and women are melters. A man will just eat from the bar, chew it up and swallow it, and move in for another bite. A woman will break off a piece, gently lay it on her tongue and let it melt, allowing the melting chocolate to touch all of her taste buds, savoring it slowly.

In earlier days, it was thought that chocolate might be an aphrodisiac to rev the sexual appetite. However, nowadays, scientists ascribe the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate, if any, to two chemicals it contains. One, tryptophan, is a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal. The other, phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamine, is released in the brain when people fall in love.

Still, women tend to want to savor the creamy texture and sweet flavor as though having a piece is an indulgence meant to be savored and lingered over.

So, which are you? Do you fit into these generalizations?

Definitely a chewer!

I wasn’t kidding about the bruises!

Around-the-House Hacks – I

Because I’m a big fan of “reuse, reimagine, recycle”, I’ve developed not only hacks for my happy place (aka kitchen) but hacks to reuse many items that people consider easily disposable. I tell myself I’m ‘thrifty’, not cheap, but heck, why not get more than one use from something?

For this post, I thought I might talk about how many uses and reuses there are for fabric softener sheets. No disrespect to those who still use liquid fabric softener. I mean, if you want to lug around a heavy plastic bottle that is at least 35% water, hover near your washer so you can make sure to add it at just the right time, and fill your recycling bin with the bulky bottle when it’s empty, that’s your prerogative! But for most of us, the sheets provide more convenience, cost less per use, don’t fill our recycle bins and, there’s so much more!

Do you know how fabric softener works? Whether in liquid or sheet form, fabric softener contains chemical components that are positively charged, which attracts them to the negatively charged electricity in your clothes. By softening your clothes with this chemical lubricant, less friction and less static are caused as they rub against each other. Because fabric softener is attracted to moisture, the slightly damp surface of the clothes makes them electrical conductors; the electricity then travels through the clothes instead of staying on the surface, which is what causes static and sparks. The lubricant also fills the teeny-tiny pores in the fabric, making the fabric feel softer

Most of you probably already know about putting a fabric softener sheet in luggage to keep it from smelling musty, or that they will absorb some of the stink from inside a pair of sweaty sneakers or shoes. Some people tuck one away inside their vehicles, put them in dresser drawers or in clothes hampers and wastebaskets, gym bags, anywhere their is an opportunity to erase/absorb unpleasant odors, even under furniture cushions!

But fabric softener sheets can do more than just help with odors or help soften your clothes and prevent static cling in the dryer!

Fabric softener sheets make good dusters! Whether it’s cleaning up sawdust in the workshop, or using them as a duster instead of a cloth, the sheet’s positive charges will grab and cling onto particles rather than just pushing them around or into the air! (This is really great when dusting the paddles of a ceiling fan!)

And believe it or not, when tasked with a sewing project, running a threaded needle through a fabric softener sheet will coat the thread enough to keep it from tangling while you sew!

Did you know that there are lots of ways to reuse a fabric softener once it’s been used in the dryer? A used fabric softener sheet will pull pet hair right off of the fabric of your clothes or furniture. It will help remove soap scum from a shower door. Dusting electronics with a used sheet will pull away the dust plus leave an invisible shield that will help repel future dust. Wipe down your wet pet with a used sheet, which will help wick away the moisture and keep its fur from getting a musty smell. It will also buff chrome when it’s clean but still looks dull and/or streaky. Use them on your non-material blinds to dust and add the same invisible shield that will help repel future dust. Carry a used fabric softener sheet in your purse or pocket. If you develop static cling while out in public, simply dampen it and run it lightly over your staticky clothing and the static will disappear. (Note: you can use it on your hair for the same purpose!)

Sooner or later, the fabric softener sheet will end up in the trash bin, but getting more use from it with all of the ways you can use a used sheet makes it an even greater value for the money! So get out there and try these great tips!

The Fear of God

My earliest recollections of who I thought God was were that of a man (who looked like the pictures of Jesus, only older) who sat on a throne high up in the sky and who was looking down with a fiercely scorning face, waiting to punish any one of us who dared defy his orders. I was young when I was taught the story of Adam and Eve, and young when I learned all about Noah and the ark. Each of these stories were taught to me in a way that propelled my belief that punishment would befall upon those of us who sinned against him. Somewhere in my childhood – I honestly can’t remember when, where or by whom – I remember hearing the threat, when misbehaving, that “I will put the fear of God into you” as a way to attempt to change the behavior.

Although I had a maternal uncle who was a preacher and who did often have sermons about “fire and brimstone”, that wasn’t necessarily true in the church where I grew up. But neither did we hear about a kind, benevolent, loving God. My mother was active within the church – organist and choir director and serving for some time as treasurer, as well as different committees – and as kids, we went to Sunday School and church and Vacation Bible School, and, without choice, always.

I have memories of thinking that when something bad happened to me, it was God’s way of punishing me for some sin I’d committed. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t recall the sin – my belief was concrete that the simplest thing, from hurting myself falling off my bike to the most traumatic things that could happen to a child, were all punishments that I deserved, and all handed down from God.

I was well into my 40s before I began to meet people who saw God as a kind and loving figure. At first, I was extremely envious that these people were so good at Christianity that they had never felt what I understood to be the wrath of God. I felt unworthy to be in their mere presence, much less have them like and want to be around me. I didn’t think that it was because I was likeable and fun to be around…instead, I saw it as a further step of their faith in the Christian belief of “love thy neighbor as thyself” based on the tenet that God loved all of us, including the sinners.

One of my earliest blogs was about the “shades of gray” and the fact that my thinking tends to be in black and white. This is never more true when it comes to things about Christianity. For me, God is either a kind and benevolent and loving figure, or he’s a tyrant. There is no in between! I still struggle with this – and this whole pandemic makes we wonder how benevolence is being shown to the people and the families dealing with sickness and death due to Covid-19! Why has God chosen to make people across the earth suffer? How is that kind? How is that benevolent? How is that loving?

In addition, I have seen people that I sense of being ‘good and faithful Christians’ suffer through horrible things. Why are those ‘good and faithful Christians’ losing their fight with illness despite prayers and unceasing faith? I mean, we all have a limited life span, but wouldn’t a kind God let these people come home to Him in a gentler way?

I honestly don’t know that I’ll ever find a place where this black and white can meet and become gray. It remains an either/or in my mind no matter how I try to look at things. I’ve had too much experience in knowing alleged Christians who tout their Bible knowledge and faith and still speak and act in ways that exemplify how I think Christians aren’t supposed to be! I’ve seen alleged Christians repeatedly commit the same sins because they believe that they can simply ask for forgiveness and they’ll be granted it. I’ve heard alleged Christians boast about their faith and then easily take the Lord’s name in vain.

I just don’t get it! And I don’t know how to get over the fact that I don’t get it! For now, I’m getting by simply by not believing that anyone is a Christian until their actions prove it. I’ve been disappointed by too many who have loudly crowed of their faith by words but don’t live up to it by action.

I don’t know if I qualify as a Christian. When asked, I say I’m spiritual but not necessarily religious. I have a basic belief in a higher power that I call God, and I believe in always trying to act morally and think about other people when I’m saying or doing something. Sometimes I fail, but I think I succeed more often than not. But I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason I do those things comes from ‘the fear of God’. I believe in the concept of heaven and hell but I’m not 100% sure I believe in an afterlife.

And I can’t help but wonder if my writing this blog is, in some way, committing a sin by questioning God. Ah well, it isn’t the first time I’ve sinned and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. The one thing I do know for certain is that I’m being honest about my faith and not leading anyone to believe I’m an amazing Christian!

This makes sense to me!

The Full Extent of Exhaustion

I’ve made it no secret that I have medical issues that cause me to become easily physically fatigued. I’ve made it no secret that I have strong empathic strains that can cause me to be mentally fatigued. These are ongoing facts on any given day in my life.

I’ve concluded that I have reached very near the full extent of exhaustion. I believe this is due largely to the continued bombardment of media which never has any good news to report. I don’t have to go into detail for anyone – the COVID-19 issue is worldwide and only someone living under a rock doesn’t know about it. Add to that the large amount of political dissonance here in the US since President Trump was elected into, and took office. That dissonance has reached an all-time volume of cacophony during this pandemic. To make matters worse, I have a very dear friend who suffers endlessly with anxiety and panic so that every little possibility for the chance of contracting the virus becomes a personal assurance to her that she will get it (despite the fact that she is the most pro-active person I know to make certain she and her family stay safe!). Pulling her back from the edge of the cliff she sees herself on, time and time again, has taken its toll on me as well.

I have prescription sleeping pills. I have issues with getting sound sleep or even long periods of uninterrupted sleep past three to four hours maximum. The prescription is intended for use when several nights of poor sleep leave me feeling sleep deprived. With them, I fall into a much deeper sleep, and my body is grateful for it. I’ve never abused them, fearing an addiction to them. Having said that, I’ve taken one the last five nights in a row. Logically, I know that I need to go a few nights with poor sleep to let them get out of my system.

I drink three large (15 oz.) cups of coffee each morning. Sometimes, I have a fourth cup. That much caffeine no longer gets me past early afternoon. I now have a sugar-free energy drink that I drink around lunch time if I want to try and have energy to do anything past noontime.

Unless it is raining into my porch, regardless of the temperature, I go outside with that third cup of coffee and drink it sitting on the porch. I can see Main Street and whatever traffic goes by, or I can turn my head and watch birds and squirrels among the spring blooms of the trees across the street. I figure the change of scenery from the inside to the outside, plus the fresh air, certainly can’t hurt, right?

I can not watch TV shows longer than 1/2 hour anymore; in fact, I’m quite antsy before the 30 minutes is up. As much as I love to read, I tend to only make it through a chapter plus a few pages until it becomes tiring to keep my eyelids open. I find myself laying in bed, eyes closed, not sleeping but simply resting. Once in a while, I fall asleep but then wake up feeling groggy and grumpy.

The task of grocery shopping, which I’ve always enjoyed, now becomes a race to get what I “need” so I can get outside again and take my mask off. Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful to have a mask, but, to me, it’s like wearing high heels to a fancy occasion – necessary but not comfortable. Cooking (from scratch) doesn’t even hold any appeal to me – – – and that is perhaps the most prominent sense that I’m not myself!

It doesn’t help that I am still nursing the last of the pain radiating down my right arm from having pinched a nerve between my clavicle and my right shoulder. Certain ways I move it will cause that pain. It’s no longer severe, but it’s still uncomfortable.

Favorite pastimes on the computer means I have to first get through all of the news blurbs. I scan them, because I don’t want to risk not knowing something important, but it’s very rare I actually bother to read past the headline. The numbers of those infected by and/or died from this virus are too staggeringly high for me to comprehend – strike that – are too high for me to want to comprehend.

I’m exhausted. I’m physically exhausted, even though I push myself to do a chore every day. I’m mentally exhausted by the amount of news that may or may not be accurate that is being shoved at my brain. I’m emotionally exhausted by my own concerns for my well-being and the well-being of those I love and hold dear. I’m emotionally exhausted, as well, by combatting the negativity of others’ fears rather than embracing it and letting it eat at me as well.

And so, I take a sleeping pill. It’s not an automatic routine. I lay down to sleep and give myself time to fall asleep, but when it seems I can’t do so without assistance, I sit up and take one with the water I keep at my bedside. And each time, I think to myself, “Maybe I won’t need this tomorrow night.”

But for right now, I need the escape….

Death Day

This is not a story for the weak, nor is it a pleasant one. But maybe, if enough people put it out into the universe, somehow, someway, this author can find peace in knowing she’s not alone in her battle.

Grief and Starting Over

I hate death day. It can’t be just a day. It is a marker on your soul. Its a day you remember death. Not life. Like a birthday. But death. The end. Where was I? What was I doing? How it all went down plays over and over. Even if I watch movies, or tv or go on a walk.

I just got caught down in a rabbit hole of Savannah’s medical records. Reading about someone’s life in medically scripted therapy-ese in little paragraphs is disconcerting and cold and very sad. ‘She did this. She said that.’ Her life of pain in typed out documents and intake paperwork. Her questionnaires of her life answered by typed out sentences, no voice. From 17 on she used prescription drugs. First time with heroin was at 19. Dead at 23. There are 536 pages of her last seven months of life where she…

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I’m not Switzerland…

…and I don’t claim to be. My readers know that I’m quite opinionated, and have no difficulty expressing my opinions. Just because I’ve never written a post about political views, doesn’t mean I don’t have them. Those of you who actually know me know where I sit on that fence, but most of you could only make an educated guess.

Twenty-four hours later, after I’d written that paragraph and a few more in addition, I’ve deleted all but the first paragraph. I was really frustrated yesterday, feeling the need to rant about some totally inappropriate comments people are spreading on social media. Today, I’m choosing to ask for patience in myself (not a strong suit in me, to be sure!) to breathe in and breathe out.

My buttons get pushed the most by close-minded people and by the fact that so many are expending so much energy on the “blame game”. I have my ideas about that, certainly, but as the Pennsylvania Dutch would say, it’s like “closing the gate after the horse has gotten out.” The virus is here. It is affecting millions of people’s health. It is causing a financial depression for all businesses, big and small. No matter whose fault it is, it is here! Our energy needs to be spent in following common sense safety rules, not sitting behind our computer screens lamenting whose fault that is. We, as a people of this world, need more than ever to band together for a common good, not divide ourselves further apart.

I don’t know why this pandemic has become such a political sore point here in the US. It has affected countries across the globe, and social media lets us reach across that same globe, yet I’m not seeing posts from people in those countries fuming about why they are dealing with this virus. They have the ability to look past that and focus on how they can affect changes to deal with, survive, and hopefully overcome this crisis. As a country, the US has always touted itself to be a ‘leader’ and ‘ahead of the times’. Right now, we aren’t walking the walk that proves that.

I’m frightened. I’ve become more frightened for the future of our country than I have about catching COVID-19! This fear for our country from a political standpoint is mentally draining.

Regardless of where you sit on the political fence, I believe you must surely agree that we need to take the politics out of the equation and put our energy into a resolution for all people, despite their political persuasion. You know, the way we did almost nineteen years ago when the events of 9/11 showed that we could band and work together for our fellow beings, period.

I am going to attempt not to let my buttons get pushed by this anymore. Realistically, I’ll be satisfied if I can just move past it without comment.

Wish me luck!