Becoming Clarence

Our family might be facing a crossroad soon. My father was hospitalized a week ago for pneumonia. We discovered this condition after he fell in his apartment.  My sister Tami found him and called the ambulance. She monitored his progress and visited him in the hospital all that week. I live away, but I made plans to arrive in time for Tami to take a weekend trip she had planned. I would assume her role for a few days.

On Saturday, my second full day in Pennsylvania, I arrived at the hospital. I would facilitate exercises left by the therapy department. Plus, I might have a chance to get the doctor’s report. Every day, my dad, who turns 89 in September, seems incrementally better and stronger than the previous day. The heart monitor was removed, his lungs are clearing, and his vital signs improve.

I had carted some gardening tools from home on the chance that I might steal a few hours to purchase and plant flowers on the graves of my mom and Paul’s parents. Although well ahead of Memorial Day, the sunshine encouraged me to pursue the task today.  I left Dad to his hospital lunch. I would grab steamed chili dog and root-beer float at Polly’s, the well-known ice-cream shop which sat conveniently between the greenhouse and the St. Patrick’s cemetery.

A Portentous Encounter

For cemetery plants, I always go to The Wyattville Gardens. At least that is what this thriving garden center and greenhouse has grown into. Linda, another hometown girl, is a third-generation florist. Her grandparents established the premier greenhouse and florist business in Franklin. Her parents continued in the business, and her siblings still own and operate the thriving flower center. Linda returned to town with a degree and branched out on her own. She and her husband took over a rural convenience store and gas station. After decades the place has expanded into a full blown nursery with a country store packed with home décor, gifts, plants, and tasteful accents for the house and garden. I have rarely been to the Gardens when I have not seen Linda. She is a dynamo, always digging, planting, arranging, hauling, and advising. Even with a large staff, Linda is hands-on.

Everyone in the county was there that Saturday. Shoppers pulled wagons filled with arrays of color up and down the aisles of bedding plants. I walked into an impressionist painting. Sprays of yellow and purple blanketed the ground. All shades of red, pink and orange burst at eye-level.  Hundreds of blooming baskets dangled overhead.  Shades of green enveloped everything. The scent of flowers and soil in the warmth of the seasonal building provided a long-awaited balm.  Above the voices, somewhat muffled under the greenhouse canopy, the bubbling of fountains beat a contented rhythm. The pleasure-filled experience was evident on all the faces.

I headed straight to the multi-colored section of dahlias and lifted nine pots onto my wagon.  I selected a flat of white-bloomed begonias. They will serve as fillers and border around the dahlias. Just as I pull my cart over the gravel heading toward my car Linda approaches.

She greets me with a smile, “I have two mandevillas set aside for your dad.”

Every year my dad sets pots of this blooming tropical vine alongside his two wrought iron porch posts. The plants go wild there and climb the poles creating a lush fuchsia welcome on his small porch. He’s followed this ritual ever since my mom died; preserving a custom she started years ago.

“I’m not sure that’s going to happen this year. My dad’s in the hospital with pneumonia,” I explained.

“I heard that. My mom told me,” she replied. Small town news spreads instantly. “Tell him I will have them if and when he is ready.”

“Thanks Linda. This place is incredible, as always. Plus, I used your website to get your hours. What a success,” I said.

Linda put her hands out toward all the vibrancy around us, grinned, and said, “Yes. And just when I’m about ready to retire.”

“That’s how it goes. Just when you reach your peak, it’s time to choose a different path. But it all works out,” I offered.

“You would know,” she replied as she disappeared into a curtain of blooming fruit trees.

Linda’s fortuitous comment set some mystical wheels in motion.

Mystical Encounter One

After my nostalgic stop for lunch, I drove Patchel Run to the first crossroad, took a right and headed up Oak Hill.  I pulled through the open iron gate of the Catholic cemetery and navigated a few lanes to the section where the Findlans rest. I placed my tools and flowers near the stones, Paul’s parents, Paul’s brothers, Jim and Joe, and our own tiny son, Zack.  Other ancestral stones stood nearby.

I noticed that the high grass around the family stones had just been trimmed. I heard the whirr of a gasoline weed trimmer and looked to see a man with ear and eye protectors making his way from stone to stone. I proceeded to pull old roots and debris as I dug the holes for the flowers. In a few minutes the worker approached headstones in the row in front of me. He turned off the motor and stepped toward me in greeting. I smiled and said hello, plus something about how difficult it is to keep the grass under control this spring.

He pulled off his head gear and explained that the regular caretaker can’t keep up, so he was hired to do twenty hours of trimming. He seemed doubtful he could cover the entire cemetery in twenty hours. We both gazed around, especially at the section toward the apartment complex. “You probably remember when that was just grass,” he said.

“I do.” I pondered the vague idea that the rate of cemetery growth never slows.

“You look familiar,” He said. I gave him my maiden name, which seemed to ring a bell. It’s more likely he would remember Tami, who is five years younger. He gave me his name and his father’s. Of course, his father was a teacher in the district where my husband and I taught. Small town connections never cease.

He elaborated on his life, “I lost my job when the Joy plant closed. I’ve been in manufacturing all my life. But I always wanted to work outdoors.” Clearly, he put a positive spin on this career turn.

I saw him look at my car and its New York plate. I explained that we had lived here until just a couple years ago. We moved north to be near our son and granddaughters. He opened up a bit more. He and his wife have talked about relocating, maybe in the Carolinas. He doesn’t have grandchildren yet, but he has children who are not likely to settle in Franklin. Then he walked around to look at the completed flower beds.

“That looks real nice,” he said.

“We loved Franklin,” I told him. Perhaps he needed to hear from a local that leaving our idyllic town might work out just as well.  “Our move has been a terrific adventure. If you are thinking about relocating, you should try it.”

“I just might,” he said. He readjusted his goggles and headset and pulled the crank on the trimmer. I gathered my supplies, loaded them in my car and headed to Bully Hill where my mom’s ashes are buried. I never saw another vehicle belonging to the fellow. As the only two in the cemetery, I suspected our meeting wasn’t by chance.

Mystical Encounter Two

Graham Cemetery is even smaller than St. Patrick’s. I drove up the gravel road to the top of the hill where the lane turns right, the final access to the newest plots. The grass here was just as long. With two weeks until Memorial Day, caretakers had time to wait for a dry spell. Just as before, no one else appeared to be planting this early. I pulled my car off into the grass just slightly and exited. I opened the hatch. A pick-up truck, perhaps a Toyota, pulled up behind me. A tall white-haired man stepped out of the truck and moved toward me. I had heard a rumor that the older caretaker may have been ousted and replaced.  Even when my mom was first buried here, the exchanges with the caretaker had been a bit bizarre. When we chose the plot we peered at an ancient yellowed cemetery map, upon which the caretaker recorded our name. Days later we had a call that the old records were not accurate. We had to reselect a spot because our first choice seemed to already have been occupied.

I expected this man to introduce himself as the new caretaker.

“Hi. I’m John K——-,” he said, politely extending his hand.

I introduced myself as I pointed off toward the perimeter. “I’m here to put in flowers on my mom’s stone.”

“I have my mower here. I’ll be happy to mow the plot for you,” he offered.

I could see that a few stones had mowed rectangles in front. Elsewhere the grass was getting out of control.

“Oh, that’s not necessary,” I said. I felt a veil surround us as if we conversed in a pleasant void.

“I don’t mind at all,” this agreeable man insisted. “I have my mower here and nothing else to do.”

He said my name sounded familiar and with a bit more conversation we established that I was Paul’s wife. Of course, he knew Paul.  He had played on the Elks Little League when Paul played on Dolson and Beith. He elaborated that when Bud Henderson coached Dolson and Beith, he had been recruited to join the team for travel games after the regular season. Well, I had heard legendary stories of Bud Henderson all my life from Paul. So I could even recount some of them with which he identified. We chuckled and shared that kind of bond hometown history creates.

He pointed to a mound of top soil and said it was for anyone’s use. He indicated that he would be tending to his wife’s stone if I needed anything. I walked over to where he gestured. I had an uncanny thought that we were characters in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.  I almost expected to see his name, birth and death on the stone. But no, just his wife’s documentation was recorded. On either side of the stone, extensions held large urns at least a foot tall. He had them beautifully planted. I expressed my condolences and he opened up a bit about his wife’s death just one year ago this week. I sympathized, hoping to ease his sadness just by listening. No wonder he had nowhere else to be.

I carried on planting flowers next to my mom’s stone, where my dad’s name and birthdate are already inscribed. Communing with my mom, I felt assured that my dad is not ready to join her yet. I hustled back to the hospital to spend a few more hours with my dad.

That evening I recounted the day’s experiences to Paul, and he remembered John perfectly as a “nice guy.” I admitted to Paul that the day’s events outside the hospital felt a bit Dickensian, as if I had been visited by spirits of the past, present and future. He admitted the encounters were unusual.

Mystical Encounter Three

On weekdays, the hospital outpatient area on the first floor is bustling, all the offices are busy, the information desk is staffed, the coffee bar is operating, and the gift shop is open and well-lit.  Saturday and Sunday the hospital lobby is dim and quiet. The gift shop, coffee bar, and information desk all closed. Patient visitors quietly navigate to the elevators to access the higher floors where the admitted patients reside.

Having grown sluggish with all the sitting in a chair by my dad’s bed, I decided to stretch my legs. It was about three o’clock Sunday afternoon, Mother’s Day. I rode the elevator to the first floor.  I strolled toward the main entrance, intending to step outside for some fresh air, even though light rain fell. Not a soul besides me appeared on the first floor. As I neared the gift shop, I detected a light in the back over the check-out counter. Sure enough, I saw a volunteer with whom I am acquainted. I entered.

“Hi Jeannie,” I greeted. Another life-long Franklin resident, she had retired from elementary teaching. As with the previous hometown acquaintances, we had many connections. Before she even asked I offered that I was here visiting my dad, and gave her a quick rundown of the situation. Next, I asked how she had been.

Jeannie lamented that she had been trying to sell her house. At first, everything transpired as planned. She had a buyer. She found an older home she loved in Erie. Then, the buyer had backed out of the sale, which was supposed to have been closed this week. The Erie house is no longer available. Plus, she is wondering if she should make a few landscape changes to entice buyers. She is now questioning whether to sell or not. I could tell the quandary had taken over her life.

The empty shop and dim corridor beyond, we conversed under the light that shone over the counter, as if following a script. This was the longest conversation I had ever had with Jeannie.  I could feel her readiness to find life’s next adventure. I described to her the almost miraculous way our house sold when we hadn’t even advertised it yet. I guaranteed her that things work out in amazing happenstances. I made a small purchase and reassured her that things will work out as they should.

She admitted, “It helps to vent.” I nodded my head and bid a good-bye. She turned out the light and the curtain closed on that ghostly scene.

I pondered the encounters from Saturday and Sunday. I had misinterpreted.  This wasn’t Dickens, after all. This was It’s a Wonderful Life and I was Clarence. I had my chance to visit three people at a crossroads. I can look back over the course of my life and identify specific people who assisted me at such junctures. Particular phrases even come to mind. “Do you want to sell this place?” “Nothing is impossible.” “You passed.” “We want to buy your house.” Perhaps I provided the phrase these individuals needed to find their path.

Later that evening I returned to my dad’s empty apartment for the night. One mandevilla, already two and a-half feet tall rested on dad’s porch. Linda from Wyattville would have left two. Who other than Tami or me would understand the importance of the spring mandevilla ritual? This was a talisman, a confirmation that I had been operating on a mystic level that weekend.

tombstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out-fluffed

My first ever book signing. Denise, a reliable supporter, invites me to hold my signing at an important community event that she coordinates. I purchase a case of books.  I pack extra pens, plenty of change, and throw in my pocket dictionary. Someone might ask me to use a difficult word in the inscription.  Paul comes along for moral support and to handle the sales if I get busy signing covers.

The night before, Wendy, a book club friend, texts me. She would like me to hold four copies for her. Wow. I pack them in a gift bag. I dash to the dollar store for more gift bags in case other customers want multiple copies. Perhaps I’ll need to take orders.  I toss in a yellow legal pad. I lay out the clothes I will wear. No jeans for my coming-out event.

Saturday morning Paul and I arrive twenty minutes early to set up my station for the Egg-Stravaganza, a family event.  The library has a table all ready for me. I brought ceramic chicks and eggs to accessorize. I hang my sign to blend with the theme: The Chicken or and the Egg. I fill a basket with chocolate eggs and arrange sheets of scented stickers. I had Staples print shiny book markers featuring the book’s cover.  I will place one in each edition, page 241, my story. What can be more family-friendly than a book titled Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents?

The doors open. Parents and children stream in. Denise has placed my table along the busiest line of traffic. No one can access the live rabbits without passing my station. Strollers push by me, as do all ages of children making a beeline to the rabbits. A crowd gathers around the cottony creatures.  All sizes of munchkins hug, stroke, and pet the fluffy bunnies. As promised, Wendy walks in the door and approaches my table. She gives me names so I can inscribe the four books. I grin the whole time. What fun to sign my name inside each edition. Wendy exits, but no other adults look my way. More families arrive to adore the six bunny rabbits.

“Would you like a chocolate egg?” I invite as youngsters cruise by heading the other direction for photos with the Easter Bunny.  If parents give a disapproving look, I counter with, “How about a scented sticker?”  A few young ones cover their eyes in fear of the Easter Bunny. At least I don’t scare anyone. Decorating a cupcake and creating a craft rank ahead of me, as well.  Paul consoles, “Consider the demographic. Face it; the rabbits are stealing the show.”  I should have worn ears instead of an invisibility cloak.

Another friend, Melissa, enters and heads directly to my table. She purchases three copies for new-grandma friends and does not give a sideways glance toward the bunnies. That’s loyalty. I sign the books and use a gift bag. I’m thrilled. She salutes me with a cupcake as she departs.

Everyone smiles. Babies scoot on all-fours among the book stacks. One toddler pushes his stroller into my table, toppling the book display.  I give away dozens of aromatic stickers. One middle grader comes back to my table four times for fistfuls of Hershey eggs. Munga, her grandma name, has her hands full with a teething infant and a pre-schooler. I help the little guy open a plastic egg and figure out how to use his ink stamper on a piece of my yellow paper at a near-by table. By now I’ve almost abandoned my station.

A photographer for the local paper snaps plenty of shots at the petting station. She glances my way a couple of times and I try to catch her eye. Perhaps a bit more publicity could help later book sales.

The event nears its close, and the rabbits are still mobbed by doting fans. Munga goes to her car and returns, both of the grandchildren in tow.  She buys a copy of the book. I inscribe it honestly, “For a patient, dedicated grandma.”  The newspaper photographer does not take a photo, but asks me to sign a book for her mother.  As if she hasn’t done enough, Denise buys a book.

I pack up plenty of leftover books. They may come in handy at the Mother’s Day Tea. When I came in the door today, I had a special billing: bunnies, author,  crafts, Easter bunny. Before today I was a mere writer. The Egg-Stravaganza elevated me to author.  I may have been out-fluffed, but I was in good company.

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100%

“Some years are questions, and others are answers,” said Marion Lee, an eloquent writer and role-model of mine.  My 65th year turned out to be a year of answers.  Yet I had not explicitly asked any questions. Delving into the routines of my daily life through PowerAgers revealed more than I ever expected. Just for fun I’m going to take the final exam. No sweat…I have all the answers.

True and False

Even without the answers anyone has a 50/50 chance.

  1. I go on more inward journeys than actual ones. True
  2. Everything has deeper meaning. True
  3. Nothing goes awry in my life. False
  4. My hair has no bearing on my self-image. False
  5. The girlfriends root everything. True

Multiple Choice

Designed to confound the test-taker, but I ace it.

If you had to join a club/group, it would be

A. Poets & Writers, INK

B. Macsherry Library Book Club

C. Donna Hammond Painting Classes

D. Coyote Moon Wine Club

E. a and b

F. c and d

G. all of the above

H. none of the above

Matching

Let’s skip matching.  One mismatch and everything gets out of whack. (There’s a life lesson.)

Completion

My completion comes with a word bank at the top. No statements required.

My Word Bank

retire     relocate     the river     the boat     read     write     paint

Essay

Finally, the most relevant essay question ever: “What have you learned?”

  • I’m not as funny as I thought I’d be.
  • The Earth’s natural cycles affect me more than ever.
  • My family’s needs and moods affect me more than the Earth’s cycles.
  • Things keep going wrong, but some things can be righted.
  • I have a reliable and loyal life-partner.
  • Like-minders provide restorative therapy.
  • The granddaughters keep my priorities straight.
  • I’m on a quest and everything is a signpost.
  • A small group of followers apparently travels on my wavelength.
  • Answers reveal themselves without articulated questions.

Thanks to all who followed me on PowerAgers through my 65th year.  I intend to continue posting about once every month. Sixty-six will be a year of questions starting with “What’s next?”

 

Break-downs and Muck-ups

“I’m sorry to say so

But, sadly, it’s true

That Bang-ups

And Hang-ups

                             can happen to you.”  (Dr. Seuss, 1990)

Trouble-shooting

  • Trouble-shooting is often applied to repair failed products or processes on a machine or a system.
  • It is a logical, systematic search for the source of a problem in order to solve it and make the product or process operational again.
  • Frequently the symptom is a failure of the product or process to produce any results.
  • Corrective action can then be taken to prevent further failures of a similar kind.
  • Finally troubleshooting requires confirmation that the solution restores the product or process to its working state.

 A Process Failure

Last week we got the truck stuck in two feet of ice and snow while attempting to drive to the woodpile. Our four-wheel-drive Toyota Tundra fails us just when winter hits its stride up here? Paul shoveled and dug around the tires.  He rocked in forward and reverse.  The tires whirled in place. No results.  We have a process failure.  Time for corrective action: Call AAA.

The tow-truck driver scoffed at this minor incident. He winched the truck out of a solid snow pack in less than five minutes. We confirmed the solution by driving straight to J.K.’s Roadhouse for beer and sandwiches, with a stop by the Big M for bundles of firewood. Aren’t we clever?

 A Product Malfunction

Not so fast. The next morning my Subaru engine refused to turn over. A product malfunction this time. The sub-zero nights had been too much for the eight-year-old battery. Paul pulled out the jumper cables and made the proper connections to the Toyota Tundra, which now proved exceedingly reliable. Corrective action: Drive to Fucillo Subaru for a replacement battery.

Troubleshooters eliminate potential causes of a problem, so I approve replacement spark plugs, new brake pads, flushing of the transmission fluid, plus installation of a new passenger-side airbag so that metal fragments will not pose a “threat of injury or death.” Two problems solved in two days.

A Systematic Search

These successes spur me on to tackle another problem, the loss of our NETFLIX connection. Until last week, NETFLIX worked perfectly.  Streaming I think it is called. One evening a price increase notice popped up on the screen. Now hooked on NETFLIX, we clicked Accept.

The next day…no NETFLIX.  Large white font announces: Connection Failure. Four error codes follow. We select the Try Again option. Nothing. We hit the Cancel message and restart. Nothing. From past glitches we know to turn off all power and reboot the whole system, TV, Internet, cable box. Still no go.

I set up our NETFLIX account a year ago, and have no recollection how I did it or why I used HDMI 2 through our DVD player. My technology skills are scant, so my success was pure accident.  Granted, my method requires bothersome steps. Turn on the TV, then the cable, switch the source, power on the DVD player, at last the NETFLIX box usually appears. Not this time.

Where in the heck is McCandless TV from the old days? One call and the friendly neighborhood man who knows my parents shows up to jiggle the antennae or replace the old tube. For two days we revert to network television.

Today I dedicate the afternoon to troubleshooting. First, I log on to the computer and access my NETFLIX account…everything checks out, password, billing, etc. I find a help line and punch in the numbers on my phone. A melodic voice, Mary, answers the call. I concisely describe the problem. She checks for my account and says I don’t have one.  I succinctly repeat the spelling of my e-mail.

“There it is,” she says.

I volunteer the error-code. She patiently explains that the code indicates a problem at my end. Of course. I detect a bit of patronizing in her tone, as if she thinks I am a senior who forgot to turn on the power button. Okay, so I am a senior.

Her tone turns a bit superior.  “I am going to ask you to switch off the power to your device and restart it.”  There it is.  I told her I had tried that, but I would try again just for her.

I switched all the circuit breakers to off. The screen shut down, so did the cable box, as well as Mary. Oops.  I forgot the house line was part of the TV bundled to Spectrum Internet. I dialed the help line once again from my cell phone. A polite, perky Nate answers. He cannot reconnect me to Mary, but we will start where Mary left off.  Even better.

Nate must have grandparents, because he could not have been more sensitive. In the final analysis, he insisted the problem was at my end with the Internet connection. He so kindly provided the number I should call for a Spectrum expert and clicked off. Well!

Streaming Restored

Using the confidence gained from the truck rescue and the battery jump, I carry on by myself. Our Internet works perfectly fine to power our television, phone, I-Pad, and I-phone. Wikipedia says that “even in simple systems the troubleshooter must always consider the possibility that there is more than one fault.”

I open a drawer and pull out a slim controller that came with our television, one we seldom use. I press the home symbol and a menu magically pops up along the bottom of the television screen. Among other apps, is the familiar NETFLIX icon. I toggle over to it, press enter.

Our emojis pop up. Who’s watching NETFLIX?

Presto! Just like that I fix NETFLIX.

“Despite wisdom or age

You cannot dispute

Break-downs

And Muck-ups

                                     Call for trouble-shoot.”  (Dr. Findlan, 2019)

 

Privileged Passes

The Genie granted three wishes. Three wishes every day for four days. Reed and I get to choose three fast-passes per day during our trip with his daughters to Walt Disney World. The passes allow us to avoid long lines to the most popular attractions in each Theme Park. We have conferred, consulted others, and checked out a virtual tour of the Magic Kingdom.  Our day-one selections include the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride. Plus, over the four days we have access to all the water parks and any other rides we are willing to wait for.  What a privilege to have such an opportunity.

During the past seven years, passes of one kind or another have played a key role in my life. After Reed moved to Ontario, Paul and I traveled the New York Thruway regularly, the fifth busiest toll road in the United States. A trip to and from Ontario took us through a dozen toll plazas. Near Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse the lines of vehicles often halted as each driver stopped to hand over cash to the collector.  Even in the lanes in which coins were tossed into a basket, delays occurred as the travelers searched for exact change.

For a year or so, I looked to the E-ZPass lanes with envy. No lines or stopping, an electronic eye scanned a device mounted on windshields. Once I signed up for our own E-ZPass account, we sailed through those toll booths with glee. It’s a heady feeling to cruise past the vehicles inching toward a lowered gate, when ours lifts magically, a green signal for go-ahead.

Now residing on Wellesley Island, accessible only by bridge (or boat), we keep a Bridge Pass in each vehicle. The discount card is scanned at a booth on the U.S. or Canadian mainland when crossing to the island.  In 2018 we crossed the St. Lawrence by bridge 576 times, the card saving us almost $1,000. Of all the gatekeepers, the Thousand Island Bridge Authority Staff provide the most welcome greeting.  Aside from the required fee, no restrictions apply to the number of passengers, citizenship, destination, or possessions on board. Just a friendly “Have a great day.”

To us, the most vital pass we hold is our U. S. Passport.  Those we love and hold dear, our son and his daughters are only accessible with that document.  In stark contrast to the cheerful welcome ambassadors at the T.I. Bridge, the customs officers at the Canadian border assume a solemn martial demeanor.

We pull up to the customs booth with all windows down to reveal what goods we carry. We state the destination, purpose, and length of our Canadian visit without hesitation. If asked, we explain Reed’s status and employment in Canada. We give direct eye-contact as we respond to the following:

Do you have any alcohol or tobacco?

Do you have any weapons or self-defense items, such as mace?

Do you have any gifts?

Do you have any meat or produce?

Do you have cash in the amount of $10,000 or more?

An affirmative answer to any of the above could result in a complete vehicle inspection. Every single time we are approved for entry, I emit a sigh of relief.

In the microcosm of my life I observe how guards, gatekeepers, and exclusive groups wield power to admit or bar. Often, money grants access to privileges some forty-million impoverished Americans will never have. Seldom am I openly restricted because of ethnicity, gender, age, or beliefs. Not so for all or in other places.

If only a benevolent Genie existed to award the passes each individual deserves for a full-privileged, unrestricted life-experience.

 

 

Northern Language Primer

Learn language the Northern way,

Master the nouns you need every day.

     Snow, sleet, squall,

            Wind, warning, watch.

You’ll soon be ready for the compound kind,

These appear daily you’ll quickly find.

     Lake-enhanced, snow-squall, wintry-mix,

            White-out, wind-chill, area-wide.

Should you desire to form a complete thought?

Simply add a verb to what you’ve got.

     Burst, barge, charge,

            Impact, hammer, slam.

An array of messages can be hewn,

Like those one hears on TV at noon.

     Every road will be impacted.

            Travel bans due to blizzard enacted.

Negative and positive advice you’ll hear,

Either way your schedule will be clear.

     No school, no meetings, no driving.

            Stay in, stay home, stay put.

Adjectives give the message some flair,

Place them with nouns so they work as a pair.

     Menacing mix, blustery gusts, ominous outages,

            Hazardous highways, treacherous travel, accumulation amounts.

Meteorologists have mastered the vernacular,

Of the present participle which is quite spectacular.

     Incoming, kicking-up, picking-up, 

            Charging, crippling, firing-up.

Usage and word choice might confuse,

But those from the North are simply bemused.

     Musicians have no part in an organizing band.

             Pockets conceal Arctic air not frigid hands.

Commuters, forecasters, especially highway crews,

Must have understanding of technical terms used.

     Storm prep, road salt, electronic alert,

             Cancelled or canceled, either spelling works.

Omit needless words for effective communication,

The same examples suffice for safe transportation.

     Steer clear of Adams, Lowville, Mexico.

              In winter avoid the Tug Hill Plateau.

Learn language the Northern way,

Master the dialect you need every day.

snow nature sky trees

 

 

 

 

The Hourglass

Before and After

Today I set an intention for balance. I visited the Rapunzel Salon in Gananoque, Ontario to update my hair style and color. I chose to abandon the asymmetrical cut.  My annual milestone is a month away and what is more uniform than the age of 66? (well….88 is perfect symmetry!)  Just as I did one year ago, I called upon Melissa to assist with this symbolism. She snipped and trimmed until both sides matched in length. Next, she added the artistic flair of deep red accents. What these vibrant highlights represent, I am curious to discover. Naturally, we took before and after pictures to record the transformation.
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Before and After

Paul and I recently engaged in a makeover of our living space. We had put off our largest interior painting project for over two years. Once the holiday season passed, we set our minds to the task.  I noted that on Pinterest DIYs take before and after pictures to document interior improvements.  So I snapped photos of our off-white walls.

Next, we pulled the paintings, antlers and fish mounts down; spread them throughout the guest room and in corners of closets. We had to shift furniture into the room’s center. I emptied a four-shelf hutch filled with glassware and mementos; stacked it all on the kitchen island. We draped tarps and plastic over the remaining furniture and floors.  We set up two step ladders, spread out the paint cans, brushes, and roller pans onto the dining table. Three and one-half days later, we finished, vowing never to paint this room again. Painting paraphernalia boxed and hauled to the basement. Finally, I snapped after shots.

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Before and After

These two words describe a state of affairs prior to and following some kind of intervention.  I notice that on media before and after pictures persuade us to invest in miracle facial serums, exercise equipment, or weight-loss plans. On  HGTV it is the satisfaction of watching a weekend home remodeling crew transform an outdated mid-century house to the updated after version. Lately, I’ve been fascinated with the before and after stories on Marie Condo’s show Tidying Up. During the transitions, the process is sometimes messy and uncomfortable. But the final results reward the effort. Documenting before and after affirms that we have the power to improve a particular situation.

Before and After

Literature’s before and after goes by prologue and afterward. In fantasy, once- upon-a-time equates with before, followed by the happily-ever-after.  In more somber situations, such as misfortune or disaster, the before condition is followed not by the after, but by the aftermath: 911, wildfires, a mass shooting, and so many more tragedies. Before and after images cruelly show us how powerless we are in many catastrophes. Conceivably, all of time consists of a perpetual series of before and after.  Does every after eventually become a before? 

Now

My friend, Clarissa, reminded me that the only power we really have lies in the now. Time for us unfolds instant by instant.  Only in the present moment might we make a decision, set a course, or take a new view.  We determine whether personal circumstances become the before or the after.  Perhaps we should focus less on the before and after and more on now, the most precious thing we have.

To quote a vintage daytime drama: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

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