‘You’ll shoot your eye out!’

Before you read this, please note:
1) The following is NOT about my husband; but, just as in reading a great work of literature or studying a famous painting, you are free to draw whatever conclusions you like.
2) It may sound “sexist.” It is.

A hospital stay can really knock it out of you even when you’re not the patient. Running back and forth to the hospital is in itself exhausting even without the associated stress. When you get home, you still have to walk the dog, put the trash out, go to the store, and—worse case scenario–water the lawn or shovel the snow, depending on the time of year. All you want to do is sleep, but you are wide-eyed at 2 AM, watching Frazier reruns. You seek distraction in oddly considered chores. All things considered, however, this is not the best time to sharpen your knives or climb a ladder to dust the top of the refrigerator. No household needs two recovering patients.

You think you will be so much better off when your patient is discharged, but going home is even more challenging if your patient is a male.

You’ve seen those cartoons of the “ER for men with colds” circulating on Facebook. Annoying though a whiner may be, you are actually in more trouble if your patient is one of those stalwart soldier types. If you’ve twisted your face in chagrin to scream, “WHY ARE YOU LIFTING THAT?” to a husband recovering from hernia surgery, you will understand why I’ve adopted that priceless line from A Christmas Story, borrowed for the title of this post, as my own code for, “What are you, nuts?” Sometimes, it even works.

You may be accused of sounding like a broken record (does anyone under 50 even know what that is?) or being a shrew, nag, or know-it-all. If he’s too polite and considerate to say any of those things (which the men in my life, fortunately, have always been), you will still see that sentiment very clearly written across his face. If you firmly believe you are always right in such circumstances, you are.

The behavior I’m describing has nothing to do with how smart they are; in fact, the smarter they are, the worse they are at applying common sense to situations involving their own well-being. They may tell you they just want to feel normal again, which I agree is understandable, or—much worse—they still think they can do everything they did at 17. Sadly, the restoration of health after illness or injury does not include time travel.

Fighting this battle does wear you down. After all, you are watching someone do exactly what sound reason and people who know better have said he shouldn’t do. As a result, you imagine one worst-case scenario after another—for example, checking repeatedly to see if he’s still alive when he falls asleep in the middle of The Ballad of Josie Wales. (Clue: If he falls asleep, it’s probably because he’s seen it 75 times.)

The only possibility of an end to this frustration is that at some point in the far distant future, your husband, father, or any other recuperating male in your care, may turn to you and say, “You were right.” And to a woman who knew she was right all along, that’s almost—mind you, I said almost—as good as jewelry.

Photo: One of the hospitals in our area. Sadly, even the Fourth of July dress can’t compensate for the fact that it looks like a computer card.

 

 

 

 

Dutch country ‘Roots’

Even when you’re not completely #retired, there’s more time for spur-of-the-moment adventures.

Finding ourselves with an obligation-less day, on Tuesday we set out for the legendary Root’s Market in Pennsylvania Dutch country. There were other possibilities, of course, but Root’s is open ONLY on Tuesdays, and we knew it would be an easy ride that wouldn’t consumer the entire day.

Farmers’ markets are ubiquitous in this part of the world. Central Pennsylvania, once you get out of its small cities, is still replete with farmland even though much of it, sadly, has been sold off for development. In the summer months, we never buy fruit or vegetables in the supermarket—we go right to the source. There’s a farm market not too far away that has been in the same family for more than a century. More about that one on another day as it deserves its own post!

People have been telling us about the wonders of Root’s for years. Even though the best of the summer bounty is still a few weeks away, we thought that it might have something unique to offer.

And, in a way, it did: a cast of thousands. Shoppers, that is, purchasing everything from $1 boxes of assorted school supplies to fruits and vegetables to locally smoked meats  to flowering plants… and then some. Although disbursed through several buildings and the outdoor areas between them, the crowd was thick and slow-moving. And it was hot.

I made a few discoveries:

One is that even the Amish have discovered the selling power of designer coffee.

Another is that if you have a grandchild who likes matchbox vehicles, you can find them there, “at a good price.”

The third is that the larger the market, the larger the crowd, the more overwhelming the display, the less inclined we are to buy anything. Hubby and I are very much alike in that respect.

And so, we’ve done Root’s. Our next fruit-and-veggie buy will be at one of our local farm stands. And our next spontaneous day trip will probably be to a rose garden.

 

 

Right under your nose

When I was a kid burying my feet (thankfully, not my head, although I’ve been accused of that on occasion) in the sand in Ocean City NJ, I used to love watching for the banner-towing planes that flew back and forth over the crowded beaches.  The sky banner I remember most vividly advertised a nightclub in “wet” Somer’s Point, just outside “dry” Ocean City:

Your Father’s Mustache… where the time of your life is right under your nose.

I’ve pilfered that versatile slogan time and time again. So many treasures and curiosities lie just beneath the visible surface of our everyday lives—just under your nose, in fact. When you’re #retired, you have time to search them out. And so I did today.

My initial goal was to locate a photo of the restoration of a historic church in Harrisburg, PA, where I was raised but not born (that was Boston, remember?). My uncle, an Old World-worthy stonemason, had rebuilt the brickwork some 50 years ago. While my search for the photo proved fruitless, in the process I stumbled on an interesting website—The Historical Markers Database, “an illustrated searchable online catalog of historical information viewed through the filter of roadside and other permanent outdoor markers, monuments, and plaques” produced and maintained by an “organization of self-directed volunteers” and over 500 “contributing correspondents.”

Within the database listing for “Old Salem Church,” I found nothing about the  church’s restoration, but I did find links to other historic sites in Harrisburg, including “The Peanut House.” My mother had often talked about the little store at 2nd and Chestnut Streets, run by  Italian immigrant Salvatore Magaro, and for years I’d thought the owners were cousins. The digging I did today leads me to believe that they probably were not. What I did discover, however, is that “The Peanut House,” in a prior incarnation, figured in the genesis of our National Anthem. Here are excerpts from the inscription on the marker:

On this site for nearly 180 years stood a two and a-half story brick building with ties to local, state and national history. Initially the home of early settler John Frey, the house was sold in 1817 to a noted clockmaker, Frederick Heisley, whose son George is linked to the National Anthem. George Heisley, during the War of 1812, was a member of Pennsylvania’s First Regiment. At the siege of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, September 1814, he reportedly provided Francis Scott Key with music for the Star Spangled Banner.

The house later was owned by the Boyd Family, then a succession of merchants. At various times it was an oyster house, a dry cleaning business and a restaurant. Its nickname, “The Peanut House,” comes from Salvatore Magaro, an Italian immigrant who came to America as a stowaway at age 17 in 1889. In 1921 he leased the building and turned it into a grocery store and living quarters. His store, “The Buzy Corner,” lasted 70 years and earned a reputation and a name for its fresh vegetables and its nickel-a-bag fresh-roasted peanuts.

Considering that I’ve lived in Central Pennsylvania for so much of my life, it’s pretty sad that I know so little local history, and that local history as a discipline gets so little attention. So—here’s an idea for those summer days when you’re looking for something to do with your partner, your pals, or your grands. Go to the Historical Marker Database, pick a location near you, and head out the door. You may be pleasantly surprised at what’s been right under your nose all along.

Sweet distractions

I’ve been lean on writing  this last week; sometimes, real life just intervenes. In this case, in a good way. Here is where my time usually devoted to writing has gone…

The kitchen cabinets
I set out determined to clean both pantry cabinets and all the kitchen drawers, and I did. They are beautifully organized, old stuff has been pitched, and some goodies I’d forgotten I had have been used or scheduled for use in dinners or other delights. Some of you will no doubt think I’m sick, but cleaning closets and cabinets is really the only household task, apart from cooking and baking, that I truly enjoy, perhaps because it fairly screams, “Fresh start!”

The garden
We’ve spent considerable time enjoying our backyard garden and the roses and clematis that give our house the look of a little cottage on the Maine coast. Everything we planted, moved, replaced is thriving this year; all we need do is take the time to savor it. We added a climbing rose this week and hope it will be happy in the place we chose.

Long walks with Miss Pup
Our walks have been extra pleasurable on the sunny days that followed what seemed like ages of damp and dreariness. One of the things I love most about our neighborhood is that people are always out and about—kids playing on the green, mamas and papas walking their babies, and lots of other doggies taking their constitutionals. Everyone smiles; everyone waves. The world needs that.

My first Tana French
Faithful Place is a dark crime novel set in Dublin. Oh, my goodness, what skill with voice! This one is really hard to put down.

Strawberries
Our local berries, the real ones, bear no relationship to those big, tasteless California imports in the grocery stores. We’ve been devouring our local berries for over a week, both in biscuit shortcake mounded with real whipped cream and just out of the dish, unfettered.

Every now and then, I catch myself frustrated with how few tasks I’ve completed in the course of a day. Sometimes, I still feel unproductive or even a bit guilty. But really enjoying your #retired life isn’t about changing the sheets, is it?

Photo: In my history with azaleas, which goes back to childhood, this may be the fullest and most beautiful. I take no credit for planting or feeding it—that all goes to our “tree whisperer,” Don. I would have posted a photo of the strawberries, but they disappeared before I could say, “Cheese.” I did include a link to my favorite shortcake recipe, just in case you’re interested.

Sibling revelry

I may have mentioned in a previous post that I’m an only child; my history is absent the dramas of siblings one-upping each other, swiping each other’s toys or clothes, falling out over a girl/boyfriend, fighting over who-did-what-to-whom. In a word, my childhood was boring by all obvious measures.

Although I feign a yawn when Hubby and his two brothers retell the same childhood stories we wives have been hearing for lo! these many years, I’m a little envious deep-down. All last week, my husband and his brothers engaged in sibling “revelry,” laughing themselves silly over secret “Apple Club” meetings, being chased around the house by Grandma Sadie, late night noshing with their dad, or engaging in various exploits with a neighborhood full of mischievous chums. But to say that their storytelling is only about enjoying a mutual laugh would be to sell it way too short.

Reams have been written on the importance of storytelling. The drawings on the caves affirm that it’s an occupation as old as time itself,  an integral part of our eternal quest for understanding ourselves and the world around us. My husband and his brothers, like most of us, are still putting together the jigsawed pieces of their personhood. Our parents’ generation—and I believe this is true across ethnic boundaries—was far more private, even secretive, about “personal” matters; little of significance was discussed in the presence of the kids. Thus, there will always be some question marks about what shaped them and why they behaved as or did what they did. The nature of our speculation changes over time, given our vastly different trajectories, but the curiosity never ceases. The storytelling helps.

 

 

Stepping it up

Nobody talks about just going for a walk any more. Now, we talk about steps.

Early this afternoon, I set up the Fitbit my son gave me for my birthday, per my request. This after saying that I would NEVER, under any circumstances, wear “one of those things” that turn steps, and all that other stuff, like drinking water and how long you stand or sit, into a veritable obsession. Yes, I ate my words.

What pushed me over the edge was that the kids gave Hubby a Fitbit for Christmas, and he took to it like the proverbial duck to water. Before long, he was announcing the receipt of badges with silly names not for meeting the goals he’d set, but for far exceeding them. Months later, competitive fellow that he is, he’s still setting that gizmo on fire. I clearly had to “step” up to the plate. Why should he get all the attention?

I’d been using my phone to track steps for several years, but it’s a pain to carry the phone with you constantly, and beyond annoying if you forget it and then don’t get credit for your efforts. The last straw was the day I left the phone in my purse, put the purse in the grocery cart, then spent an hour tramping up and down the supermarket aisles, only to discover later that my phone was totally oblivious. It could almost hear it saying, “Sure, you walked 7,000 steps today. Where’s the proof?”

That’s when I crossed over and asked for the Fitbit. I’m happy to report that I exceeded my admittedly modest goal of 4000 steps today. I know that’s not nearly good enough. We’ll see.

 

Photo: My cousin Liz getting her steps in on Old Orchard Beach, ME.

 

Old dogs can, in fact, learn new tricks

UPDATE: Notice the goof in paragraph 2, where I wrote “spring” instead of “string.” Wishful thinking if not a Freudian slip, so I’m going to leave it as is!

I launched my blog with the New Year after months of tossing the idea, well seeded by my daughter,  around in my head. Finally, around Christmas time, I plowed headfirst into WordPress to see if I could figure it out on my own. Some aspects were fairly intuitive; others, virtually inscrutable. I’m no techno-dummy, but at times I felt completely intimidated by all the techno-speak.

I plodded along, going back again and again to try to unravel what seemed like that gigantic ball of spring that sits along a roadside in Kansas. With each small victory, my confidence grew. Sometimes, it took four or five tries. Sometimes, I hit a brick wall and needed professional help (probably in more ways than one). My son pitched in when he could. One of my new younger friends, whom I like to call my techno-angel, has been very gracious and helpful. Little by little, it’s coming together. I try very hard not to get discouraged—after all, this is supposed to be fun—but there are moments when I long for a resident 10-year-old. LOL.

Happily, I’m making progress with each passing week. Now, thanks to the wise counsel and assistance of my techno-angel, I even have a Gravitar… a “globally recognizable avatar” that shows up online whenever I do, in my #HashTagRetired persona. As my irrepressible Uncle Sam used to say, “Who’da thunk it?”

I’m determined that this blog will always be not only informative and entertaining but also lovely to look at. I know a striking, user-friendly website when I see one, but it was a revelation to learn, thanks to my kids and my techno-angel, that my initial notion of a beautiful look wasn’t necessarily the most effective for a blog.

It had never crossed my mind, for example, that I should be more concerned about how format and photos look on a cell phone than on my laptop screen. That was an Aha! moment for sure. I write on my laptop every morning, but I use the phone all day long to check email, the sites I follow, the weather, yadda, yadda, yadda. Most of us do. And even though I agree that we’re overly dependent on our electronic devices, if you resist keeping up with technology, you risk losing your social context. And just like sitting in front of the TV in a recliner, being out of context can make you feel old and out of touch long before your time.

You may have noticed that I started out with #retired and then migrated to #HashTagRetired, which, if you’re techno-savvy, you probably think is redundant. I’m not 100% sure where that will land. If you’ve followed the blog from the start, thanks for your patience with the changes thus far. There will be more; there’s no room for complacency in the faster-than-Superman online universe. Tweets, Instagram, maybe even Pinterest—they’re all on the horizon. A blog, I’ve discovered, needs to be just as organic as the thought process that produces it.

Photo: Miss Puppy Clouseau visits her friends at the solar farm.