Confirmations, Lessons Learned, Reflections, Resolutions
In my feeble attempts to make productive use of the much longer than expected downtime I’ve had in recovering from my Halloween hip replacement, I had an “aha” moment and figured that this would be a good time to write something about what I’ve learned from this experience. Given the timing, I decided to extend the subject matter to include some other thoughts that have gelled in my mind over the last few years. I hope to use this mental (and I still can’t do much physical) exercise to do what most people do at the turn of the new year and make a stab at setting out some directions I might follow in 2018.
I am more like my mother than I would have wanted to admit.
I could go into a LOT more detail about this revelation, but suffice to say that this experience has made it easier to order my husband around. I prefer to think of it as asking him to do things for me that I cannot easily or safely (in his eyes) do for myself. Both of us recall that Mom treated Dad the same way.
I am not as patient as I thought I was.
We have often accused Mom of having “instantitis.” When she would ask for something or think of something she wanted to do, she always had to get it or do it right at that same time. Spouse likes to say that I suffer from this condition, too, though when I find myself in the same situation, I generally don’t have to have it right then. I think he just does it right then so he doesn’t forget, though there have been more occasions where I have repeated a request because I wanted something done (that I can’t at the moment do for myself) pretty much instantly!
I can eat like a “normal” person
I have always been a slave to my scale, and more often than not skipped breakfast, which is really my favorite meal of the day. One of the steps that I have removed from my usual morning ritual since my surgery is the dreaded obligatory stop at the scale. The result, up or down from the prior day’s number, used to set the tone for the rest of my day. It hasn’t for the last two months and now I am enjoying my favorite meal every morning!
As long as I have something with which to entertain myself, I can just about live in the recliner in my “woman cave
This is what I call the room added to the back of our home before we bought it. It gets the morning light and overlooks the lake across the street. It has a separate HVAC system from the rest of the house so I can set and maintain the temp at a level that is comfortable for just me. My desks and computers and bookshelves and magazine rack have their places in this room, organized and maintained to my satisfaction alone. My bathroom, bedroom and kitchen are only steps away. Spouse has his similarly configured “man cave” on the basement level of our split-level retirement home, where he does the things that make him happy while I do the same over his head.
There is a tray next to my comfy seat for my food and recycled napkins and tissues, since I hate to throw any paper goods out before I get maximum use out of them. The tray also holds my oldest most comfy pair of glasses and the TV and satellite dish remote controls. I can easily reach a nearby desktop where I stack my current reading materials plus fresh napkins and tissues, because my recycled paper goods still have a limited life.
Before my current confinement, I often spent days at a time in this spot, where I could feel the warmth of the sun, read and write and learn, all in the comfort of my seasonally adjusted sleepwear, braless. I cannot, however, continue to confine my living to just this very small and limited comfort zone. I have essentially been forced to do for the last two months since I have not been able to drive in that period, or even steep comfortably in a bed (instead of the recliner) and I’m still not sure when I will regain those most essential of capabilities. I can only read so many books and magazines and watch only so many TV programs. I have to get out of the “woman cave” and DO SOMETHING/BE SOMEWHERE ELSE!
I cannot live without live and in person human interaction
I love my husband and I love my family but I have to be around other people to whom I am not related by blood or marriage. The visits I had from my sister and her daughter gave me more of a mental and emotional lift than I’d expected, but I really miss seeing my friends, anywhere and everywhere around town, in encounters planned or unplanned. I even miss just having the option of reading a book or writing something in someplace other than the woman cave. I miss “retail therapy” even if I don’t buy anything but just cruise up and down the aisles in any type of retail establishment whatsoever. I didn’t know how much I missed just being exposed to others of my fellow human beings, even if the only thing I do is make contact with someone else standing in front of a shelf or behind a counter, shopping alongside me, looking for a book in the library, or taking my order in any of those places that I still can’t get to on my own!
I need some external affirmation
I used to think that, no matter what, as long as I enjoyed whatever I might be doing, whatever contribution I might be making to my fellow man, I could continue to do it without knowing that it was appreciated by others. I loved I writing and sending messages of encouragement to the students I mentored last year (2016) and what kept me going this year (2017) was receiving replies from last year’s students when I sent them something. I have not heard a peep from this year’s students so have not been inspired to continue to reach out to them for the remainder of this school year or to continue with a new set next year. My own forgetfulness in missing the online training for repeat mentors may have contributed to this decision, but still… I will also admit that I like hearing from my fellow Oak Ridge Institute for Continued Learning (ORICL) members when they have enjoyed a discussion that I led, a trip I organized, or a class from an instructor I recruited.
I spend too much time on details and peripherals and don’t pay attention to the bigger picture right in front of me
This is true with my writing, my research, my politics, my sporadic cleaning and organizing, even my attempts to get around places that I know well without injuring myself for the time being. Over these past two months I haven’t been able to sit at my desk comfortably for long periods due to the continued swelling which gets worse if I don’t have it elevated. I’ve also fallen way too many times when I was thinking about where I was going and what I would do when I got there when I should have been concentrating on stepping up with my good leg! I couldn’t even begin to count the numerous pieces of writing I’ve done which could and should have been only a page or two, and often less than that, but ended up being much much much longer. I guess I think anyone who reads them wants to know all the background and ins and outs and possibilities like I do. Or the number of people I’ve reached out to for advice in writing my first grant proposals for the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association (ORHPA). All of them have told me it’s not that difficult. Or the hours I’ve spent on several occasions over the last few years, trying to improve the appearance of this blog although, come to think of it, most of the blogs that I follow have kept the same look over all that time. Maybe this will be one instance where I stop wasting time on details!
Especially since retirement, Spouse and I have come to appreciate the fact that, since each of us is left with only half a brain at this point in life, the only way we can function is to put those two halves together!
These clocks, and many others, along with candle holders, signs, weather stations, desk sets and now tables, are overrunning all the spaces on the lower level of our split level home. Spouse has been creating these works of art at least since I retired two and a half years ago. Actually he has made more beautiful things and has been making them longer than that.
He made the clock with the San Francisco skyline before we met. This, along with a beautiful large and heavy clock made from burl wood and a game table made from a large spool which previously had carried electric cables wrapped around it, were part of the decor of his Long Beach bachelor pad. Making things like this out of wood was a hobby he had developed when he had first struck out on his own, and he’d made a little money off it by selling them at the swap meet. He had been salivating to get back to it in retirement, and went at it with an enthusiastic vengeance as soon as we were permanently settled in our retirement home.
He still gets a lot of enjoyment out of making this stuff, but that has been unfortunately tempered by our inability to sell any of it. We didn’t really try to sell them for the first year. During that time he was having more fun getting wood from our new neighbors, two or three other retired gentlemen, working to return the raw material to them as finished products. We tried to place them for consignment sale in some local craft shops, but the reception of the owners there was tepid at best. Finally, at the end of last year, we made a sale at an annual holiday arts show. We learned from other craftspeople at that show that the place to move this sort of locally produced natural product was in the Great Smoky Mountains town of Gatlinburg, which, like its neighboring cities of Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, is kind of a rustic yet sophisticated, woodsy yet modern, eclectic and airy “mountain resort” in a beautiful natural area that is now, more often than not, crowded with vehicles and amusements of all types. This gateway to America’s most popular (probably since entry is free) national park boasts an aquarium, an indoor ice rink and a distillery, as well as a “historic beautiful and peaceful craft crawl” on an 8-mile loop of local roads which has been designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail.
It was there, as we walked in and out of half a dozen or so stores that included wood products in their guidebook descriptions, that we were joltingly reminded that nobody uses clocks any more to tell the time; we all do that on our cell phones now. Still, the clocks that Spouse has made in the past remain beautiful works of art, and I think the tables he is slaving over and investing in now, are even more beautiful and, perhaps now that our eyes have been opened to the facts of modern life, possibly even more functional and salable. That, at least, is our hope, as we prepare to bring our wares to the local holiday craft show again later this year, and to really and finally join the 21st century sales force, by taking a class together at the local library so we can learn how to etsy, which I think could probably be a verb like google and facebook.
The first thought that came to my mind when the Daily Prompt – Depth showed up in my email (and is now two days old) was related to a story I saw just last night on this month old episode of Botched. The title, Seeing Double, actually refers to ” the world’s most identical twins”, who clearly have no depth, like many of the “eccentric” i.e. crazy people who appear on these “reality” shows. Personally, I think they all have way too much money and not a care about how they throw it away on stuff, like plastic surgery, that all of us sane people would consider to be more than wasteful, especially when there are so many unemployed, homeless, bankrupted because they couldn’t pay their medical bills people among us. See my other post today Happiness is being a carefree Old Fart to see why I don’t care about not keeping up with this and other time filling activities.
No, the part of this episode where the word “depth” really meant something for me was the story about the fitness enthusiast and nasal spray addict, who needed to have her nose fixed for the past 36 years, since she had broken it diving into a pool at a depth of only four feet as a stupidly carefree seventeen year old. Even at that age, and probably younger, I at least had the sense not to do something dangerous and risky like that. What was she thinking?!
As I was catching up on emails today, I came across this prompt from yesterday. In the bad old days, when I was working on my last job, being this far behind on emails would have caused a great deal of stress, both internal and probably also coming from Twit and Princess Fairy Dust. I am so fortunate to be out of that situation and to not feel like I’m required to stay consistently current with friends and family, because they are all generally healthy, happy and content as possible given the possibility of a Republican takeover of the federal government. I can say this knowing that most of them are Democrats like me, and if they’re not we’ve already forgiven each other for mutual political lapses, and the RNC ended just last night.
Spouse and I live under the same roof and are generally carefree, content and happy in our retirement home. One reason for this current state of bliss is that, although we keep different schedules and pursue different activities as individuals, we both seem to feel that it’s part of our “marriage contract” to monitor each others’ well being on a daily basis, and to act accordingly. Our daily interactions start when he joins me in my “woman cave”, usually bringing his morning wake-up beverage with him. He’ll come through the door and ask, every day, “Whatcha doin’ dear?” knowing full well that I will be either sitting in front of my computer or reading in my grandma’s pink upholstered rocking chair. He’ll then sit down on the my other grandma’s pink flower covered couch and we’ll begin our mutual morning status checks on sleep pattern and quality of the previous night and the expected aches and pains of old age.
The pattern this morning, however, was very different. I got up and initiated my usual morning routine but, after plowing through the second fifty pages of The Big Sleep, I started to feel a little sleepy myself, and realized that I had hauled my buns out of bed an hour or so earlier than usual. So, I decided to mix things up a bit and go back to bed where, if I was able to catch a few more Z’s, I would probably be a little more energized for all the additional reading and computing I expected to do today. I did fall back to sleep, and when I woke up I simply restarted my morning routine where I had left off, back in the woman cave.
In the interim, unbeknownst to me, my poor caring Spouse had come up to join me and became a bit concerned to find me not upright in a chair but quietly prone back in my bed. When he returned to restart his usual morning routine he made a point to tell me that he really to make sure that I was OK since it was so unlike me to sleep during the day, unlike him and most other husbands I know who, for some reason, as a group, feel that a midday nap is a right and requirement to keep their grizzly bear grumpiness in check, especially if if they have been cooped up in the house with their wives all day i.e. every weekend while they were working.
Or is it sometimes OK is good enough? Either way, that’s the best bit of wisdom I’ve ever received. I even remember approximately when and how this sanity-saving advice came under my purview. I believe it was when I had two small children, a near-absentee husband, a full time job and a large new-to-me house. It came in a rather unique format – a Beetle Bailey comic strip, and it must have been a Sunday one because, although I can’t remember the word order or the situation in which it was offered, I recall noticing the vivid colors when I would occasionally catch a reassuring glimpse of it, pinned to the bulletin board above the kitchen trash cans.
Since I so love to reveal my age, and for those of you who have never been exposed to the Sunday funnies in a printed newspaper, I can tell you that Beetle Bailey is an American comic strip created by cartoonist Mort Walker, who still writes it today, at age 92. Today, after more than six decades, Mort Walker’s creation is still one of the most popular comic strips in the world, and is among the oldest comic strips still being produced by the original creator.
The title character started as a college student when he debuted in 1950, before I was born, but was converted to an Army Private, as he supposedly enlisted during the Korean War. Most of the humor in Beetle Bailey revolves around the inept characters stationed at Camp Swampy, a fictional US Army military post. Private Bailey is a lazy insubordinate goof-off and straggler who usually naps and avoids work, and thus is often the subject of verbal and physical chastising from his superivisor and nemesis, Sergeant 1st Class Orville P. Snorkel. The characters never seem to see combat themselves, though Sarge is known to frequently beat up Beetle for any excuse he can think of, leaving Beetle a shapeless pulp (one of the most iconic images in the strip) . Sarge is too lovable to be a villain, however.
Sarge and Beetle seem to share an uneasy alliance that sometimes borders on genuine (albeit unequal) friendship. In this vein, in an exchange between these two comical characters, that is where I first read these memorable and valuable words, though I can’t remember which one said it. Nevertheless, in one brief shining moment, sometime in the mid-1990’s, I adopted this simple five word phrase as my mantra and guiding principle for all endeavors. What a relief that was! Clearly, while neither Beetle Bailey nor Sergeant Snorkel would have excessively high standards or expectations of themselves or others or certainly of the Army, I was struggling to live up to my own unattainable, if not clearly defined, standards as a mom, wife, career professional and neighbor as well as cook and housekeeper and quintessential California girl, which most of my new neighbors were.
Until then, as the eldest and golden child, the first in my family to have received not just one college degree but two, and the sole producer of grandchildren for my mom and dad, I had generally felt a constant striving for perfection. Then, suddenly, after therapy, yo-yo dieting, uncertain dating results and periods as a self-hating recluse, I was miraculously saved by this thought: Why? Why spend all that time and effort to achieve the perfect result when good enough was in fact enough for nearly everybody else but me. It had only taken forty years for me to accept that most of the people I cared about could and would accept what I did as the best I could do and that, therefore, I didn’t have to beat myself to do more or to accept that fact myself.
In my recent research into this topic, I came across an article titled Why It’s Healthy to Sometimes Settle for What’s Good Enough which hit the nail on the head with this statement. “People who tend to obsess over decisions, big or small, and then fret about their choices just cause themselves a lot of unnecessary grief. People who have trouble making the everyday decisions in their lives cause themselves a lot of extra stress and grief. A study from Florida State University suggests that some of their problem comes from an inability to commit. Even after making a choice, some people are never truly committed to it.” OMG, that was nearly me!
The article did cut me a little slack, though, by noting that there’s a little bit of perfectionist in all of us but some people take it to an extreme when making choices. This is what I used to do all the time, and still catch myself doing occasionally. “People who tend to obsess (or in my case stress) over decisions — big or small — and then fret about their choices afterwards are sometimes called maximizers, while those who make decisions and simply live with them are sometimes called satisficers, a portmanteau combining satisfy with suffice.” Thank God, I can now call myself a semi-satisficer. “Whether these differences are a central and stable part of personality or simply a frame of mind isn’t clear. What is clear is that indecisive people cause themselves a lot of grief that those who are more satisfied with their decisions don’t.” What a revelation!
A study of Florida State undergraduates produced results that were interpreted to show that maximizers still could not commit to their choices, even after were finalized. Their decision didn’t bring them happiness, it brought them doubt and caused them to second-guess themselves. The study also found that maximizers place a high premium on the option of being able to change their mind, even after making a decision. They want to avoid commitment.
“What this all suggests is that maximizers would be happier if they brought a little more perspective into their life and learned to accept minor decisions as final after they’ve been made.” Well, there it is. Sometimes good enough is OK, and sometimes OK is good enough for me these days.
Thanks to AGMA, a fellow Old Fart blogger, I have reblogged her multi-faceted post Under the sink strategery on which I can expound for what I hope will be a thoughtful and thought-provoking Independence Day Old Fart Friday, even though I didn’t actually do it till Sunday. Old Farts hate schedules.
First, let me confirm by Old Fart bona fides by confessing that (1) I knew what NPR was before AGMA explained it and (2) I am comfortable in concurring that Walter Cronkite, who has been off the air since 1981, would indeed have been proud of this masterful reportage. I must also confess that my Old Fart bona fides may be somewhat tarnished as I have been remiss in embellishing my aged intellect; I don’t even know what the local NPR station is, let alone listen to it. Perhaps that will be a 2017 New Year’s resolution, if I remember it six months from now.
I am also in agreement with AGMA’s attitude towards “expiration date control” and the efficacy of the multiple meds stashed in my bathroom drawers as well as under the sink. I have practical proof, though, that expired (by at least a few years) Benadryl, still works on my allergy to horses and other furry creatures to which I am not exposed on a consistent basis. We’d dragged our kids to a rodeo from which I emerged barely able to breathe. May have been mind over matter or just distance from the source, but I contend to this day that the expired Benadryl I downed ASAP after leaving the rodeo saved my life and now I don’t leave home without them even if I’m just going to visit my sister and her dog or my daughter and her cat.
Where this post really got me, though, is right where I live, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, AKA The Secret City or, more appropriately here, The Atomic City. My safety concern would of course center around radiation hazards in addition to biohazards. That’s in addition to as opposed to instead of. As I’ve learned in the five years that I’ve lived here, if the potential exposure to uranium and other radioactive materials stockpiled in nearby federal facilities wasn’t a big enough concern, then potential exposure to chemicals and other byproducts of research and development projects undertaken at any of the local government facilities certainly could be.
I won’t bore, or frighten on my behalf, any of my very few but hopefully also very interested readers, by providing ALL the gory history and details here, but suffice to say you all should be able to get the picture from this summary.
In 1942, the federal government established the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) in Anderson and Roane Counties in Tennessee as part of the Manhattan Project to research, develop, and produce special nuclear materials for nuclear weapons. In 1989, the ORR was added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) National Priorities List because over the years, ORR operations have generated a variety of radioactive and nonradioactive wastes that are present in old waste sites or that have been released to the environment. Since 1992, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has responded to requests and addressed health concerns of community members, civic organizations, and other government agencies by working extensively to determine whether levels of environmental contamination at and near the ORR present a public health hazard to communities surrounding the ORR. ATSDR scientists have completed or are conducting public health assessments (PHAs) on iodine 131 releases from the X-10 site, mercury releases from the Y-12 plant, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), radionuclide releases from White Oak Creek, uranium releases from the Y-12 plant, uranium and fluoride releases from the K-25 site, and other topics such as contaminant releases from the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Incinerator and contaminated off-site groundwater.
AGMA, bless her little Southern (lives in Atlanta, I think) heart, also expressed concerns about which antidotes to stockpile in the National Stockpile. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no antidote for any of the nasty things that could occur in a body if exposed to unduly high levels of radiation. That’s a potential concern for as there are only ten miles between this Old Fart’s retirement home overlooking beautiful Melton Hill Lake and Y-12. What, you may ask, is Y-12? It is part of a National Nuclear Security Complex and is, among other things, responsible for the maintenance and production of all uranium parts for every nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal.
Located somewhere on the west side (the side closest to me, of course) of Y-12’s 810 acres is this lovely and inviting building, the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF), a 110,000-square-foot, fortress-like storage facility which may very well house the world’s largest inventory of bomb-grade uranium at a single location.
According to a local scribe who for the last thirty five years has been, in his own words at Atomic City Underground, “Piecing together information from multiple sources until a story took shape. Challenging the system — the federal government — to do what’s right…given its size and the scope of work and the security that surrounds it (and he should know since he’s actually been inside and lived to tell the tale), the HEUMF has maintained a fairly low profile over the years.” Many thanks to the very recently retired Frank Munger for that bit of reassuring news, along with this bit from one of his last articles summarizing the results of a Department of Energy (Y-12’s owner) assessment of the site’s, especially its WWII era buildings, criticality accident alarm system.
The currently used suite of accident detectors located in the building were uranium is still actively processed, as opposed to just stored, at Y-12 were purchased and installed in the 1990s, according to the DOE’s report, which went on to say that “Overall, the operability of CAAS (criticality accident alarm system) is adequately being maintained and is verified through routine completion of surveillance testing requirements defined in (safety documents)”, though there were “deficiencies that indicate that there is some amount of uncertainty in the CAAS detectors’ ability to perform its functional requirements specified in the safety basis.”
“The coverage area for the installed criticality accident detectors in Building 9212 — the main processing center for bomb-grade uranium — is not in compliance because of the shielding inside 9212 and possibly some adjoining buildings.” Fortunately, the “intervening shielding” in some Y-12 buildings is greater than what’s assumed in the safety documents that establish the area covered by the accident detectors. The report said the assessment team also identified other deficiencies “with a lower level of significance.” Among those was that Consolidated Nuclear Security — the government’s managing contractor at Y-12 — has not adequately responded to issues related to a backlog of maintenance on the criticality accident alarm system. That backlog is reportedly growing.
You might guess that, like AGMA, this Old Fart has some concerns about the efficacy of our government’s stockpile for this radioactive stuff, especially since our feuding representatives up there in Washington, D.C. can’t even agree that terrorists who can’t fly here should not be allowed to purchase guns here. As she is concerned about deployment plans for some good stuff- getting the stuff from the warehouse to the people who need it – I might be equally concerned about the contractors who let three protesters — including an 82-year-old nun — make a mockery of Y-12’s security by cutting through multiple fences to reach the uranium storehouse in the plant’s forbidden zone, if they hadn’t already been replaced. I might also give a small thought to other, occasional news stories about the uranium storehouse, including a report that cracks had developed in the exterior of the mammoth concrete structure.
In conclusion, like AGMA, at this point this Old Fart has already decided that, in the event of local momentous bad news, I would probably kiss my sweet Aging Gracefully ass goodbye, get a bottle or can of beer of something-or-other from Spouse’s beer fridge, as opposed to AGMA’s bottle of champagne from the wine fridge, dive under the bathroom sink and start popping open expired bottles (or cans) of whatever I’d found. AGMA gave and accepted for herself a 50-50 chance. This Old Fart will also take those odds.
Photo from Google Images courtesy of Steven Spielberg and Indiana Jones
Yesterday, AGMA heard about her worst nightmare. Okay, that may be a bit dramatic. Redo. I heard about something that caused my head to pound and my eye’s to glaze over.
Not that far off of a typical morning for AGMA.
NPR’s Morning Edition reporter Nell Greenfieldboyce did a segment on the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).
Does that sound like an oxymoron to anybody else?
For AGMA friends across the globe, NPR stands for National Public Radio. It’s non-commercial, not for profit, as close to unbiased media as you can get in the U.S. It relies on a combination of listener contributions, corporate donations and some public monies for funding. In other words, it’s independent, fact-based journalism at it’s best. Old school stuff.
Walter Cronkite would be proud.
So evidently there are these six huge (double super WalMart sized)…
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“A sweet old lady takes time to enjoy life.
A grumpy old grouch is too busy complaining.”
– Marilynn Webber
It’s on my “to do” list to write a post in response to Daily Post One Word tag “South.” Now I can check that off thanks once again to one of my favorite bloggers! Note that this post also contains a “funny” for my sort of weekly feature, Old Fart Friday. Look for it as you read these thoughts about the dual meaning of “Heading South.” For me currently, South means the part of the US where I now live, in Tennessee. This state, however, is not in what we would call “the Deep South” for which I am forever grateful as otherwise I might be more openly attacked for my continuing support for Democrats in general and Hillary Clinton in particular. I still want to head farther south from here on vacation sometime, as I’ve yet to dip my toes in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and see for myself the trendy Florida Gulf Coast beaches I’ve heard so much about since I moved out here from the West Coast.
Interesting what very different meanings the word “South” can have. Meaning in the sense of how it can make us feel depending on how it is used. For one there is the “let’s head South” thing. Most probably for all of us related to go on a vacation. For me it most definitely was when I was living in Switzerland.
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