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Peace and quiet are what I yearn for,

even more so in the golden years.

Instead the phone is ringing “off the hook”

with fake people scams and phishing,

so who has time to read a book?

Yesterday FedX and UPS came twice,

and sent the dog into a fit of barking

calculated to excite.

And others came to dig a trench and add a cable

for high speed internet to bring us up-to-date

that sent the dog a-running and a-barking

and the phone kept a-ringing

so peace and quiet have to wait.

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I love Spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. ‘Tis really the season for beautiful color and the clean clear beauty of nature’s reawakening. Even the deer begin boasting their new babies. And I feel happy and productive and eager to think about planting more flowers. But thinking is not doing and since I am still a slow motion walker waiting for a hip replacement I have not injected myself into the wild.

Photo taken by Daughter-in-Law, Emmy – Virginia Redbud

Spring is is also a time of imminent threat from the wild. Whether you go outside to feel your toes in the grass or not.

Three days ago I felt an itchy place on my back just below the left shoulder. A hot shower helped and I thought nothing of it.

Two days ago, the itch was back so I took a look with the help of a hand mirror and saw a red place with a slightly dark center. I asked Bill to take a look with a magnifying glass and he did. He said, there was nothing there…. maybe a little raised mole. So I put some anti-itch gel on it and went to a peaceful slumber.

Yesterday the itch was back in full force and when I looked at it with the hand mirror there was a pronounced dark center, much larger. Bill took a look too and said “it” (the dark center) was kind of hanging loose so he removed it. In my opinion it was a well fed deer tick! And I was immediately off to the doctor.

Results:

  1. It was probably a tick. An adult deer tick is the size of a poppy seed. There are no charts or photos I know of that show a well fed deer tick as opposed to a hungry one.
  2. The doctor said if you check yourself all over each day and you happen to take off a tick, no medication is necessary.
  3. Because I came in early, I only had to have two antibiotics immediately… no more.
  4. Evidently, if you have a tick bite and remove it within 34 hours, you will not need meds.

I am still confused over all of this.

Seems to me, you should report a tick bite no matter what. My niece contracted Lyme and suffered with it for many years.

Anyway, in addition to gimpy walking I now have the remains of a bite on my back. The culprit escaped a plastic bag I swear I sealed. He was a major escape artist.

The doctor’s answer for this latter issue was to put a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover in the bag with the tick. He will then suffocate and die but his body will stay in tact for identification! More than I want to know.

I dislike ticks and other bugs, but do I hate them enough to become a wanton murderer?

‘Tis the season all right.

Spring has sprung in all its glory.

But there is a downside to living in paradise.

Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

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Sometimes I feel like Rapunzel or Snow White from a mythical fairytale. Only I have short white hair and never sleep less than 7 or 8 hours even if there were a pea under the mattress. There is no wolf either, nor 7 dwarfs, nor 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or even one.

The fact is though, I may have kissed a frog who turned into a wizard who freed me from a melancholy spell where I was comatose and jailed in a tower indefinitely (with not enough hair to weave a long braid to escape) and only one way to break the spell – a froggy/turned into a prince kiss.

Phew! Now there was a long sentence!

But all along it was the Covid-19 corona virus that sent me into solitary confinement and a stupor for over a year. Well, not entirely solitary. Bill was here trying to be the frog prince all along. But it was an evil spell for sure and much like when all the members of the kingdom were caused to fall into a deep sleep and then nothing in the kingdom worked.

Now suddenly the frog became prince and we are free! The spell seems to have been broken. I have been given a twice injected magic elixir that rendered me immune. And even Bill, the froggy prince, has had his magic elixir injections and will soon be immune too.

People are escaping,

meeting,

dining,

talking

and sharing almost like pre-cursed days in the happy kingdom.

Yes, there is joy in the kingdom but there are remnants of the spell threatening to reconstitute and reignite.

And as I jump for joy (well, not really since I have a bad hip) and begin to harbor ideas of entertaining friends and family, there is a dark foreboding that this Once-Upon-a-Time fairytale story may not be over until it is well, over.

Thus, since he is handy and immune, I am keeping the froggy prince around to guarantee awakening.

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My father was a painting contractor in that long-ago time when houses were done with oil paint. I understand oil is still available but mostly folks use Latex now. Dad taught me to use a brush up and down with quality oil paint and then side to side to avoid visible brush marks! He had his own business, carried his ladders on a truck, and was much like the painters today in our little rural community in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I thought I knew it all about how to choose a house painter because talking to them would be like talking to Dad again. I would join the world of estimates, numbers of men on the crew, gallons of paint needed, scheduling, etc. I knew it all.

I wonder though, what Dad would say to this story of trial and error in the selection process.

We would like to get the outside of our house painted/stained ASAP so the question was, “How do we find someone to do a good job and show up when expected?” In other words, we were looking for a professional, trustworthy painter like my Dad.

First we learned over time to go to friends for shared names and experiences. I did that and got two prospect numbers from a trusted friend who had work done a few years ago.

Neither telephone number worked.

Next I went online and got a name and an immediate response! Wow! Impressive. And Wow! We had an appointment with “Ambrose” (fictitious name) to come to our house the next day.

Meanwhile I remembered a company who did some minor painting for us years ago and although the crew were the biggest scariest looking men I have ever met, they had done a stellar job. So I called that number too. Again, a quick response and an appointment for them to come out the next day.

Finally, my son did a little digging and came up with another name we shall call “John”, who was just as responsive as the first two! And we had another appointment for the day after the first day of appointments.

None of this is very scientific but what the hay, this is country living right? They say three is a crowd but in the case of obtaining bids, I figured three was a reasonable number.

APPOINTMENT DAY

Ambrose showed up and was great to talk to and not only said he did painting but he also does handyman work! We were excited. He went around the house, took pictures and measurements and then said he would get an estimate back to us in a week. That was Monday. Bill liked Ambrose. We were both leaning toward Ambrose but needed to see the other two.

John (another fictitious name) was supposed to come Tuesday but arrived on Monday so he was eager. He is a friendly extroverted talker who quickly convinced us he knows what he is doing, but we were still leaning toward Ambrose. Nevertheless, John produced a detailed estimate by email on the same day. We are definitely not used to this level of professionalism in this heavenly place my Mom called “No Man’s Land.”

Finally, the big big guys who had once done some work for us came out and remembered us and our place. We were hopeful and were leaning toward them since we already had a record of their great work in our house. These fine fellows are what people around here call “locals” and of course they, in private, call the rest of us “foreigners” since we were not born here. True locals have a Virginia dialect that is sometimes difficult for us foreigners to understand but we all managed to communicate and they promised to produce an estimate next day.

This they did.

But their quote was twice as high as John’s. Their quote was very very high.

Nix the Big Guys because they were just too expensive.

Ambrose waited a whole week to contact us again. He did call in precisely seven days to let us know he had not done an estimate and to announce that he was too booked up to take on this project. Huh?

Nix Ambrose because he said he was not available.

And so we are now committed/contracted to have our house painted in late May by John.

We trust John,

we think.

I will keep you posted on this yet-to-be-begun project but at least you know some dubious steps to find a house painter :

  • Call friends.
  • Look online.
  • Remember good workers from the past.
  • Enlist family members to help.
  • Or you may have figured out that if you live in No Man’s Land, it will be just plain luck if you find a painter as good as my Dad. On the other hand, you may not want to paint your house with oil paint either.

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I have decided to quit. 

I am tired of progress.

This gift is another very special thing that must be learned.

And I am tired of learning.

The school room was the place for that along with a younger more receptive mind.  And if you learned something well and once, it was good for a lifetime.  Well mostly.

When I was 17 I had a job as a gopher (go-fer this and go-fer that) and they told me if I learned to clean and operate an Ozalid machine, I would have some invaluable knowledge for life.  Noone I know today has ever heard of an Ozalid machine, have you?

Nowadays, however, if you learn a thing and think you have it stored and always ready to draw upon “you have another think coming.”  Nope.  If you learn one part of a computer it may be useless in a matter of hours.

Here I am with a shiny new computer I am calling Ogar (short for Ogre) that was given to me for Christmas with great love by my whole family.  I am truly grateful since the old object of their affection, which I had partially learned after 5 years of struggling was showing signs of ultimate collapse.

Groan.  How can I disparage such a thoughtful wonderful gift? 

Well, the process of transferring all the old stuff to the new Ogar may sound easy but HA!  Not so.  The process is more like a pulling a tooth.  You mindlessly explore with the tongue for a ghostly apparition of what might still be there, but in the end all the exploration yields only a gaping empty space.

My sweet family saw this sleek new marvel would not only replace the 5 year old relic, but it would  also keep me busy whilst waiting for a Covid-19 vaccine.  In addition to proving how warm hearted my family is, there is also an element of logic there.

Ogar is definitely a time guzzler.

And better Ogar than Covid right?

Ogar is certainly keeping me busy too, creating a roadmap of wrinkles upon my brow.   Thankfully I call upon my son to guide me through all the myriad options chasing an insane cursor through a maze of intricate maneuvers over an increasingly insane canvas. And only my son really knows where the mercurial sensor is going or why.

“You see that thing that looks like a cog?” he asks in his effort to guide me through all the symbols.

A cog? 

How do I know what a cog looks like? 

Where on this page of icons, symbols and totems is there a cog?

 “Settings?”  “Oh, you mean SETTINGS!”

I am definitely retiring from Progress.

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Bill and I live on top of a hill with a grand view of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a steep 15 acre slope down which I call The South 40. The South 40 requires “bush hogging.” And when I began to see the forest primeval slowly encroaching I realized we were facing an upkeep challenge.

In the beginning we had two horses (Lucy and Martini). There was also Martini’s friend, Rossi, but he was too wild for us equestrian novices. We were told grazing horses would take care of keeping the grass/weeds down but that was “fake news.”

The horses did love grazing but the grass grew faster than they could chew and soon everything became weeds and trees in an overgrown pasture.

We decided to hire a bush hogger person to keep things trim. That was only successful off and on since not too many people have their own equipment who are willing to risk life and limb to clear our formidable hillside.

Finally Bill bought a John Deere – a big but not the biggest John Deere – so he could mow the slope himself. He had to go straight down to the bottom and then straight back up (no sideways trimming due to the danger of tipping over).

I had visions of Bill lying on the slope with the bush hogger machine on top! Twice a year Bill would do the slope and it would take him four or five days each time to complete the job and that long for me to worriedly chew my nails down too.

Note of interest: Bill was halfway up/down the slope when I ran out to tell him about the 9-11 Disaster. This should give you an idea of how long he has been dedicated to bushhogging our slope.

As Bill grew older – and older, and less interested in risking his own life and limb, a Miracle Man arrived. Dennis came from Texas and said he noticed many folks around here have steep slopes that need trimming. He then bought a special mower that allows him to mow across slopes instead of up and down.

Dennis named his new company Slope Goat!

Dennis the Slope Goat finishes mowing our South 40 in three to four hours instead of days. Now we are duly impressed and looking forward to retiring the big John Deere.

Lest I sound too cynical about our steep incline/decline, the slope has some desirable attributes:

  • There is an old forest and a gurgling stream at the bottom. This is great for horses since they must go down to the bottom to drink and come back up for food (lots of great exercise). The problem is, we outlived our horses who were 28 and 32 and had become longtime lawn ornaments grazing on our parklike slope. Our urge to ride slowly receded when it was too hot, too cold, too buggy or we didn’t feel quite like it.
  • The horses did look beautiful grazing though and our three grandgirls loved pony rides.
  • I used to take walks down to the bottom of the slope (but not for long since it’s a killer huffing and puffing back up).
  • When Elsa-the-dog was new and we turned her loose for the first time, she ran down to the bottom, back up, and down and up again. That was the first and last time she ever tried to make a break for it.

And here we sit, atop our hill. It is 30+ years later as we admire the ever-changing mountain view. But if we look down for a moment at the land, we can see all the way to where we know the stream is. And though we may be a bit too rickety to make our way down there nowadays, the memory is fond.

We smile because we are so happy to have found Slope Goat and hope that Dennis keeps at it through 2021.

Blue Ridge Beautiful

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No, I never was one to party on New Year’s Eve.

Not Anti-Social. I like people but not crowds. Perhaps this is an Advantage in the Time of Covid?

However, Bill and I remember many years of “partying” with good friends. And many years ago, in this rural area of Virginia where we settled for over 30 years, we made friends with a retired couple in Camelot. Except for 2020, we four had regular dinners together and rejoiced in differing opinions on most every topic. Mostly we loved sharing laughter.

And many years ago we created our own traditional New Year’s Eves together, following the same plan each year. We met around 6:00 PM, dined amid happy teasing conversation, and then returned to our place to watch a movie. And some of us were already yawning.

By 11:00 PM or sooner, we began checking up on Pete, who would begin snoring even if we had purchased a wildly exciting action film.

The snoring was Bill’s cue to gather glasses and champagne.

And the yearly agreement was this:

  • If we cannot make it to midnight, we will have champagne and wish each other well and our friends can go home.
  • If we do make it to midnight, then there will be something to tell the family about for the next year. “Guess what? We stayed awake until midnight!”
  • We rarely make it to midnight on New Year’s Eve, but we always create fond memories.

In favor of self shut downs and thanks to the threat of the Nasty Virus Covid for most of 2020, we will miss our two laughing friends this New Year’s Eve. At any rate, we forgot to get the champagne. But, at the stroke of midnight I know Bill and I will drift back together from our different movies in different rooms to wish each other good health and good luck in the coming year. And we will call or be called by our beautiful family. And if it’s not too late before midnight we will call our old pals here in Camelot!

I wish you well too, and even without champagne.

“Happy New Year my friends out there in Cyberspace. And Here’s to making and maintaining great connections!”

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It was ccccold when I opened my eyes this morning. I was looking at the ceiling where we can immediately know the time and the temp all lit up like a starry sky above.  Who needs to know the time and temp that early anyway?  In fact, knowing made me want to go back to sleep.

But I had to get up to put chicken in the crock pot. 

I was thinking, “How can I rise, dress in something warm and cozy,  find my cane, and then hobble out to the kitchen with nary a sound?

Should I just go back to sleep and forget the crock pot?

“No”, I answered.  “You have to stay on plan.  So, it’s cold.  You will survive.”

Now I am aware it is colder elsewhere in the country.  And wetter.  And snowier.  So feeling sorry for myself and broadcasting the woe-is-me attitude is self serving. 

“Stay in bed”, I thought. “You are entitled to selfish self-serving pampering.”

“No, get up!” 

“Get going.”

The internal struggle continued and jumped to other concerns about the cold temperatures.

Do the lights go out just because it’s cold?

Ooooh!  I almost forgot we now have a whole-house generator so the crock pot would theoretically keep on “crocking” and no need for me to find candles or store water.

No visitors expected here anyway due to the nasty Covid-19 virus, so why am I keeping to a regular dining schedule?  We could eat late or early or even in the middle of the night.

But the sun is rising in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  And by golly it’s cold!

The chicken dish is in the crock pot at last, and if you are interested, here’s the complicated recipe:

DOR’S CROCK POT YUMMY CHICKEN

GOOD ON A COLD DAY NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE

WORTH GETTING OUT OF A WARM BED FOR

Ingredients:  Chicken, a can of black beans, and a jar of salsa.

Directions:

Put however many pieces of chicken in the crock pot

Dump in a can of black beans and a jar of salsa.

Put on “Low” for about 8 or 9 hours and plan to serve over noodles or rice.

And go back to bed!

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I am an expert at waiting:

  • Always the one who is dressed and ready to go first,
  • Always early to arrive for appointments,
  • Always flexible about time constraints,
  • I usually wait double time since I arrive early and others arrive late

Imagine all the waiting required over a lifetime – a half hour here, an hour there, etc.

Turns out even I (the expert at waiting) can be surprised stunned.

The general concensus among orthopedic experts is that I need a hip replacement. Yes, another complaint has emerged about one of two lower extremeties.

Yesterday I went to a highly recommended surgeon who, after double XRays, agreed that the hip on the opposite side of BigFoot needs replacing.

“You could get in for surgery soon with one of my partners. But I am booked through the summer of 2021,” he said.

What?

Did I hear that right?

A year?

2021?

I would have to wait a year?

In bewildered shock I answered, “It seems you are the best surgeon for this and of course I want the best. Maybe I could tough things out.”

The doc did not seem surprised as he outlined the plan. “My nurse will call you with a date,” said he. And then they gave me a folder on exercises to do post surgery as well as what to expect in the hospital.

Are they serious?

In a year there may be technological advances that would call for exercise instead of surgery!

In a year I might be DOA from Covid-19. Notice how I can talk in initials now?

In a year I may be too old for surgery.

In a year ANYTHING could happen.

I still cannot imagine WAITING A YEAR for a date with a surgeon can you?

On the other hand, I am an expert at waiting.

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I am so envious of my friends here and my friends out there in the blog-us-fear who manage to organize closets and drawers and even garages during this evil Pandemic.

How clever you are to use your time away from society so wisely.

I must say I think about organizing things.

I have thought about the closet now for at least four months.  In fact, I stand in it every day and assess the situation.  There are the shoes in haphazard piles and the winter clothes still not packed away.

It’s almost winter again anyway right?  I have forgotten since I do not frequent the stores anymore who used to let me know about the changing seasons.

Oh yes, there was a catalog reminding about Halloween.

Is it Halloween yet?

I think about all our 40 Photo albums too.

There is a whole big cabinet dedicated to the old non-digital touchy-feely photographs collected over my own lifetime and the lifetimes of my parents and Bill’s siblings who have all since passed.  There are many shots of roads or trees or other unidentified scenery.  And lots of unrecognizable people and many with no dates. 

My inherent need to organize draws me to that cabinet over and over again but I never open the doors.  The job is simply too overwhelming to contemplate.

I also think about the garage alot.  I have to go through the garage to take Elsa-the-dog for a walk and we pause en route so I can think about how to organize things.

There are all those leaves that blew in last Autumn and maybe I should get the leaf blower out and take care of that first.

But then there are all those loose things and tools we never use anymore, and rusty stuff.  Maybe we should look into renting a big rubbish bin.  Never mind, “Come on Elsa.  Let’s go this way.”  And off we go out of the garage.

Uh oh!  I find myself out in the green green world.  But the green is not always well manicured lawns.  The green is really enormous weeds that have taken over every flower bed and the gravel driveway.  If I think too much about the work to be done in my green green world, I tend to hurry home with Elsa after she has done her bit to fertilize the earth.

There is so much to do.

There is so much to think about doing.

To do or not to do is the question.

But I prefer to think about it.

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