Time to Move to New Zealand?

26 May

“What the hell is going on in America, Linda? Time to come to NZ.” 

I haven’t been able to sleep for the past two nights. On Tuesday night I didn’t sleep at all. Last night I woke up three times with a nightmare. Each time I stopped shaking and managed to calm myself down and I finally went back to sleep the nightmare picked up exactly where it left off … like a bad movie you record on your DVR, you put on ‘pause’ and go back to watch later.

After stepping back into the nightmare a third time and waking up shaking, sweating and having palpitations, I simply gave up. I was still awake at 5:44 a.m. when I heard the trash collector’s truck nosily go down our street empting our cans from the curb.  

Lately I can’t watch television. If I do, I cry.

On Tuesday night I got the message from our friend in New Zealand, “What the hell is going on in America, Linda?

Still in shock from the events of Tuesday morning in a small Texas town, I had no answer for my far-away friend other than to tell him another school had been entered by a gunman that shot and killed 19 third grade students and 2 teachers.  That brief message responding to his was all I had.

There wasn’t enough screen space to tell him all that is going on in America. It was difficult to condense that for the past several years I no longer recognize the country I was born in, have loved and trusted my whole life. It is an unfamiliar landscape filled with division, hate, untruths, conspiracies and corruption. From my perspective, it is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave and my heart weeps at the loss.

How do you tell someone from the viewpoint of another country, who sees what transpires here daily, what it truly feels like to have those values and that security ripped from beneath you, leaving you hanging above a precipice so frightening and unfamiliar that you can’t get your breath?

How do you explain a government with hands so tied by an opposing party that simple gun laws cannot be enacted that might save the lives of school children, persons worshiping in their church, people shopping at a local grocery store  threatened by every teenage or enraged person with a social or psychological ax to grind?

How can I explain my own nightmares filled with visions of  9 and 10-year-old children facing down a gunman as he assaults them, their classmates and teachers with a high powered, rapid-fire, high magazine assault weapon so unforgiving that it leaves their young bodies unrecognizable and only identifiable through DNA?

How can I put into words the grief and anguish I cannot even imagine shared by 21 families in a small Texas town, by the families just burying their family members in New York and South Carolina and Florida and Anywhere, USA?

How can I tell him of my own anguish as we visit our 7-month-old precious grandson and I realize how fragile his life is, made even more so because he will be growing up in a country that gave so much, promised so much more, and has had that richness and promise ripped away as easily as the tissue paper his ½ year birthday presents were wrapped in?

There are no words.

I lamely responded to him, “The tragedy today was horrifying, yet sobering … as it is EVERY time, which is the saddest of commentaries.”

He tells me that in New Zealand such atrocities are extremely rare.  There is very little violence, they have fairly good control of COVID because the citizens WANT to be vaccinated, there are gun laws. He seriously suggests to me that it would be a good time for my husband and me to consider a move to New Zealand. From where I am, sitting at my computer, it sounds idyllic … and serene.

As with EVERY school shooting where children’s lives are so violently extinguished, every mall and theater shooting where lives are unnecessarily snuffed out, every church and grocery store and entertainment venue where lives are permanently disrupted and avoidably lost, I pray that THIS TIME politicians will put aside their personal interests in favor of all those lives that were needlessly lost and future lives that might be saved and finally see the light … get an epiphany … be overwhelmed with gifted insight and do the right thing. Otherwise I don’t believe this nasty, ever-widening stain will be allowed to fade from the history of this country that has so much potential if we can just get back on track.

We really can’t wait … again.  In my mind, something has to be done NOW. I am self-aware enough to understand that there is very little we can do as individuals but collectively we can move mountains. We have the POWER to change what we no longer can tolerate and not allow to continue to become simply memories gathering dust on a shelf in history.  

The blood of those 21 lost third grade students and their teachers, the worshipers in church, the shoppers in a grocery store and all that have gone before them is on us now. It is up to us to make sure their young lives and productive lives and old lives and lives in general were not lost in vain. We have the power to VOTE and bring about change and hopefully return our country to its rightful place as the land of the free and the home of the brave … and the safe and protected.

We don’t know what we can do until we try and we don’t know how strong we are until we HAVE to be. I think now is the time we have to be.

I will tell my New Zealand friend that I STILL believe there is hope for America because, if we only reach the realization of OUR power, we can change things. As long as there is still determination and HOPE, there’s still a chance that we … those of us who sincerely care … those of us that have no dog in the ‘personal gain’ department other than maintaining the belief and truth that all lives are precious, that all people are worthy, that no parent should take a child to school and not expect to pick him / her up that afternoon in the same physical condition as he / she was that morning, and that NO child should be afraid to go to school, we CAN make a difference.

I will tell my friend that the possibility of my husband and me relocating to New Zealand will stay always in the front of my mind but that for today, as heart-wrenching as it currently is, I believe we will stay in America and put all our energy towards making change and making a positive difference accompanied by those like us that miss “our’ America and truly love this country.

It’s not yet time to move to New Zealand.

All Miracles Great and Small

4 May

Over three decades ago I met Tab. He was a local television personality at the time and I was looking for a guest speaker for a club meeting. Tab accepted my invitation. He graciously spoke to the meeting and that was the beginning of our decades-long friendship.

During the next 30 years I got Tab an interview with Star Trek’s Jimmy Doohan (Scotty) when I was Doohan’s host at a convention and Tab had me as a guest on his TV show many times for a multitude of reasons. As the years passed and I began hosting my own TV talk show, Tab went on to open an art gallery and I interviewed HIM several times on MY show.  

My husband and I became friends with Tab and his wife, Nancy and the rest, as they say is history. Additionally, we stay in touch on Facebook.

Tab and I both have soft spots in our hearts for cats. Those soft spots are not just small areas of cardiac real estate. They are huge landscapes. In the years since I’ve known him, Tab has had some pretty amazing cats … we both have. He has rescued whole families consisting of feral mom cats and their fresh litters of kittens. He has saved them and loved them and made sure they all found good and loving homes. He’s also kept several, which is hard not to do when you watch them grow and become unique feline personalities. 

In April 2015 Tab went outside to move his riding lawn mower and discovered 3 two-day-old kittens underneath. He relocated them to another part of the yard so he could move the mower. The mother cat returned and moved two of the kittens. Believing she would return to relocate the third, he left it where it was.

The following morning he found the kitten abandoned by the mom. It was 32 degrees on that April Virginia morning and Tab believed the kitten was dead until he heard a kitten-squeak meow. He immediately took the kitten to his veterinarian. Returning home with the abandoned kitten, Tab began bottle feeding him …. getting up multiple times during the night to warm up the bottle and keep the little one alive.

He continued his special care, undaunted. It was a combination of care and love basic to existence. When the tiny black and white kitten opened his eyes, his first sight was Tab and from that point, a unique and significant bond developed between the members of two species … feline and human … one pouring out love and care to sustain the life of the other.

Tab named the kitten Puck and Puck, I am convinced, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Tab was his mother.

Puck’s personality and intellect developed several rungs above that of most cats because of Tab’s treatment of him. I truly believe that an animal raised with an abundance of love and human contact will become more intelligent and interactive. 

Puck played and chased imaginary mice and thrived. In addition to doing cat stuff, he slept on Tab’s chest and took naps on his lap and wrapped a paw around Tab’s finger as he slept. He also developed a special interest in watching television … he seemed inclined towards specific shows … and became a special entity.

Tab began posting wonderful and funny and delightful photos and videos of Puck on Facebook, sometimes accompanied by Tab’s inspiring poetry.

Before long Puck developed a fan following of not just a few, but of hundreds. I loved Tab’s Puck posts, waited for the next ones, always commented about them and started ending my comments with, “I LOVE Puck,” and I, like his many fans, truly did. He was a bright spot in many days and  a refreshing change from all that is bad in this world that fills our television screens and the ‘walls’ of Facebook and all social media.

In the background behind Tab’s Puck posts was always that obvious bond that existed between him and Puck. It was heart-warming to witness and phenomenal in its depth and facets.

At the end of April, as Puck turned 7 years old, Tab posted about his trip to the vet for his check-up. While all was good, Puck was not brimming with enthusiasm at the trip and was glad to be back home.

A few happy Puck posts later and suddenly Tab posted that he was at the Emergency Vet with Puck who was not doing well. He was suddenly unable to move one back leg at all and the other only with difficulty. They were waiting for the doctor to see them.

Those of us that were Puck fans immediately began posting on Tab’s Facebook page, offering support, asking for updates, expressing deepest concern, offering prayers. The outpouring was immediate and sincere and those of us invested in the life of that special black and white cat were worried … for Puck, and for Tab and his wife, Nancy … and for all of us that had come to depend on the bright spot that Puck was … watching his favorite TV channels and sleeping on Tab’s shoulder.

We wept for Puck.

The following morning I went immediately to the computer to see if there was a progress report from Tab. Like many of Puck’s fans, I had said prayers for that small soul that had become more than a cat to so many … that had become an icon and a symbol of resilience, feline intelligence, cat antics and the amazing bond that CAN and DOES develop between the members of two species. In some way, Puck offered a possibility of better days for humanity or whatever his fans found within him that was delightful and inspiring for them … for us.

Tab posted a short video of Puck lying down and Tab stroking his head in some sort of attitude of acceptance. Puck had a blood clot that was blocking the blood flow to his leg.

The report from Tab a little later was defeating. Two veterinarians and his own research all stated that cats with blood clots like Pucks simply did not survive and Tab said, “I am making arrangements for Puck’s next adventure.” I, like so many others, sent messages to Tab and Nancy assuring them that I … we shared their deep and abiding grief.

I checked Tab and Nancy’s Facebook page frequently for updates but none were forthcoming.

Yesterday, again, I checked Tab’s Facebook page all day long.  In the evening there was a picture of Puck looking perturbed with his ears laid down and an impatient look on his face (yes, cats DO have facial expressions). Accompanying the picture Tab had written:

 “Puck is a miracle cat! Yesterday he had all the symptoms of a deadly blood clot. As of today at 5 p.m., he does not. His vet has never seen a blood clot case resolve like this. It is possible something else happened. Maybe a dislocated hip.

Puck is alive and goofy on pain meds! Thanks for the prayers. This has been a roller coaster.”

I, like Puck’s entire fan club sent immediate messages of relief and thanks and love to Tab and Nancy, and especially to Puck.

I agree with Tab … Puck is a MIRACLE CAT. He always has been, from his survival at two days old alone all night in 32 degree weather, to his amazing personality, his unquestionable intellect, and his unabashed love for his human Mom Cat, Tab. He has inspired not only Tab and Nancy, he has inspired his fans that number in the hundreds. He has given us a chance to laugh when the world was going mad, a reason to believe that life can be pretty cool if you have the TV on the right channel, and that communication and an amazing bond IS possible between the members of different species. Puck just gave us hope.

The power of prayer is the most amazing power in the universe. So many of us prayed for Puck because over the past seven years he has become not just Tab and Nancy’s cat … he has become OURS.

God heard us.

Miracles come in all forms and packages … small and large … and are rare. As with Puck, small, personal and powerful miracles are the best miracles of all.

None of us really know what tomorrow will bring. If we are given a beautiful “today” we should do everything we can to enjoy every minute,  every person , every living creature and every catnip mouse  that brings us joy.  Puck taught me that.

I’m Doing a Book Signing….

16 Apr

Just wanted to SHARE this because it’s very exciting. I had a story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses in 2015 & it is super exciting to have a second story in one of their books.

BARNES AND NOBLE IN STORE | SATURDAY, APRIL 30, 2022 3:00 PM ET

Author Event

Chicken Soup for the Soul signing with Local Author, Linda Smith

ABOUT THIS EVENT

Join Local Contributing Author, Linda Smith as she signs copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Too Funny!: 101 Hilarious Stories to Brighten Your Days

EVENT LOCATION:

Barnes and Noble

Lynchburg

Wards Crossing

4024-C Wards Road

Lynchburg, VA 24502

(434) 239-8688

Ringo, John and a Tribute to the Band

6 Apr

The Anniversary Party was WONDERFUL! I’m so glad we were FINALLY able to have it … to slip it in between active COVID variants during a COVID lull.

Way back in February 2020 the party was set for April 18. As president of a local non-profit that donates to multiple charities and annually sends a local student to NASA’s Space Camp, I give this party to our club with funds of my own every year so our members can enjoy a night of fun and entertainment without having to ask anyone for a donation.

The favor bags my husband and I made from scratch were just cool and were stuffed with the neatest things, including a mustache-shaped sucker, candy and a pair of Beatles wire-rimmed glasses of different shades and colors. The hotel ballroom was booked and the door prizes were boxed and ready to go.

The theme of the costume party was Be Your Favorite Beatle, Beatles Song or Beatles Album so the costume possibilities were endless. Willy and I had our costumes … we were going to be Ringo (me) and John (Willy) from the Sargent Pepper album. We had spent days wrapping Hershey’s Minis candy in special order candy wrappers with pictures of the Beatles, their album covers, and special group and single shots of them on the tiny paper wrappers. I’d hired a spectacular Beatles Tribute Band to entertain us. EVERYTHING was GO … except ……………

…….there was a virus ‘out there.’ Some weird thing we’d just started hearing about. COVID-19 was killing people in other countries and a case had been reported in this country on the west coast. In our innocence we could NOT have imagined what was coming. But it came anyway.

By March the whole world had slipped into a COVID black hole, everything was locked down and it was necessary to postpone the party. Never imagining that COVID would become a killer of thousands that would go on and on for over two years, I postponed the party until August. By August we were no longer locked down but the death toll was rising and every familiar thing is our lives was unfamiliar. I couldn’t risk the health and safety of our members and friends so I postponed the party again, bought a kazillion masks and seldom ventured ‘out there’ where COVID was spreading and out of control.

We began having monthly meetings on ZOOM and being inventive. We made ZOOM a permanent part of our club and kept us all entertained for two years … together … stronger … growing and prospering against the odds.

We got vaccinated.

Finally, to make a very long story a little shorter, following more people being vaccinated and a predicted COVID lull, we moved forward with plans for the party on April 2 this year, knowing that if we DIDN’T have it now it was likely that we never would.

Alarmingly, just five weeks before the party, the band that had hung in there with me for over two years canceled. I understood the reason but it put me in a huge scramble to find another Beatles Tribute band. And there simply aren’t that many around.

 I went through a talent-locating agency and contacted a band in Greensboro, NC and one in Charlotte … and another in Charlottesville, VA among others but everyone was either booked or did not reply. In desperation I sent out a plea on a Facebook page of local musicians. Within a few days I got a reply from a band guy who told me he had a small band that did NOT play Beatles music but they were willing to try and would give me their very best shot.

And so began a month-long communication and relationship with the band leader. It turned into a lot of hard work for the band and a deep and abiding respect from me for how hard they worked to learn and play 21 Beatles songs, many of which they had never attempted to play. They videoed their attempts and sent the videos to me. I was AMAZED at their progress and their talent.

By party evening, the Gold Beatles Band was tired but pleased with what they had accomplished in so short a time. They also said they ENJOYED it. When they performed they were phenomenal. Party guests sang along and clapped and dug their phones out of their pockets and gave the band a ‘flashlight ovation.’ It was amazing to watch, knowing where the band had been only four short weeks before.

Working with them restored my faith in the goodness of people … the desire STILL of people who want to do a good job and give their best because, well, they are just good and honest people. Not only did they MAKE the party for us all, they have become friends. I am blessed to have found them, pleased beyond words to have worked with them and honored to know them.

The costume contest was so much fun. Willy & I were Ringo (me) and John (Willy) and our friends and club members stepped out of their element with us and became Uncle Albert, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Lovely Rita – Meter Maid, Twist and Shout, Strawberry Fields, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney and anything and everyone Beatles. It was nostalgically wonderful. And it was even more wonderful that for an evening we stepped way outside our usual boxes and became part of the legacy that is the Beatles. You don’t have to stop playing just because you’re an adult. I learned that from Peter Pan.

The moral of this blog post has to be that people are STILL good people and will do their very best for you if given the chance. If you respect their efforts they automatically become even better because someone has faith in them without question. Working with the Gold Beatles (a new name they adopted for our party) was the best experience I have had in a very long time.

After a while I got use to my huge Ringo mustache …. talking and eating around it …  and sort of settled into the persona and the role. And I learned something very special about that magical mustache … when wearing it I felt very different … almost man and Ringo-like. I was so into the role that when I ventured into the restroom for a bladder call I almost felt like I should remain standing for the event. Then Mother Nature jerked me back to reality and reminded me that my plumbing just wasn’t designed for that. But I considered trying it.

The much awaited party ended all too soon and back at home I attempted to remove my Ringo magical mustache. So well taped to my lip was it that I almost needed a chisel to get it off. When the last of the tape reluctantly gave up my flesh, my fantasy as Ringo ended but left me with a life-long memory of an incredible evening. My only regret is that I didn’t try playing the drums. I’ll bet I would have been phenomenal.

Faith of the Heart …

23 Mar

My husband and I have been working literally for days … many of them … putting together a video slide show.  The slide show is for a long overdue anniversary party for the non-profit science fiction club I’m president of and my husband is vice president.

Every year I give an anniversary party to our members. There’s a fun theme, sometimes it’s a costume event, there are funny and exciting items in party favor bags for everyone that attends and we have some truly amazing entertainment.

The party is my way of thanking our members who work so hard all year long to put together a huge public charity auction that funds the many charities we support AND sends a local middle school student to NASA’s Space Camp in Huntsville, AL annually for a week. The funds we raise come from a lot of tiring canvassing for auction donations, long hours of donated personal time and gallons of gas, now as precious as liquid gold, being used to make the auction happen. Our people deserve an evening of fun that only costs them the price of their meal at the party.

Our party was planned for April 2020 but by the end of February we were all confused by the arrival of the killer, COVID and by March the whole world was sucked into a terrifying black hole and locked down.

Never imagining that COVID would still be in high gear, raging across the land, killing thousands in its wake, I postponed the anniversary party until later in the year. Later in the year, however, saw COVID completely out of control and the population of the world wearing masks and staying away from each other. It also saw groups of people refusing to comply, for political reasons and conspiracy theories, with the strong suggestions for public health and safety from the medical and scientific community. Suddenly our country and a number of its citizens were as unrecognizable as our friends and family with faces hidden behind masks.

As the death toll continued to mount I postponed the party again and rescheduled.

In 2021 we were blessed with a vaccine. Those of us unaffected by conspiracies, political reasons NOT to get vaccinated and a belief that vaccination was a means of reducing our civil rights and freedoms, took advantage of the vaccine, rolled up our sleeves and got it.

COVID numbers dropped rapidly after a surge of vaccinations, we took off our masks, and I rescheduled the party. After a year there seemed to be some kind of normal light, although still filtered through an uncertain haze, at the end of the tunnel. We were hopeful and optimistic and felt that life as we’d known it was just at the end of our finger tips … taunting us with the promise of  the return of “life in the before times.”

Amazingly, thousands refused the life-saving vaccine, COVID variants reared their ugly heads and hopped into the nearest unvaccinated host. There was a surge of COVID and those unpredictable variant members of its family. We were back in masks, and although protected, even those of us that chose to do the right thing and get vaccinated became mildly ill due to the mutations of the variants.

The anniversary party took a back seat and was postponed again. We lost the band contracted for the event due to other commitments. In a world gone mad, the party lost significance.

But here we are in early 2022, finally more concerned and caring people have been vaccinated and boosted, and we’re falling into a respectable lull in the ravages of COVID. I’ve scheduled the party for the first weekend in April because I know if we don’t have it now, we may never have it.

I’m excited.

Our club is Heimdal Science Fiction. The title of our slide show in Heimdal in the Time of COVID.  What started out as a funny video has turned into a documentary of sorts, chronicling our club’s hard work for the past two years keeping things interesting, holding us together as the caring people we are who are so geared to helping our community, and our ability to STILL send two local students to Space Camp.

Our slide show documents how we found ZOOM, learned to use that fantastic tool, and made it a forever part of our club – uniting us with those that live out-of-town.

It takes our members from a strange and different world of masked, drive-in meetings (STARTING OVER) through the joys of meeting on ZOOM, meeting finally again face-to-face, how one of our members kept paintball games going throughout COVID (masked, socially distanced and outside), how we came together at Christmas in 2020 and 2021, entered floats in our local Christmas Parade and WON the Grand Champion Award for our floats BOTH YEARS.

We’ve ended our slide show with congratulations for our chapter and our members winning 8 out of 17 annual regional awards.

When I speak at seminars about breast cancer (I’m a survivor) I always end my presentation by saying, “We never know what we can do until we try and we never know how strong we are until we HAVE to be.” I think that also applies to us, a small community non-profit club with a love for science fiction.  We have proven that we can weather almost anything productively because we have a goal and we have each other.

Upon thinking about it, we, our club and its members these past two years are just like the theme song from Star Trek: EnterpriseFaith of the Heart. It’s been a long time getting from there to here …

My husband and I are still having difficulty finalizing our slide show.  It’s been quite a while … it seems like a lifetime … since we put a video together and things have changed. We’ve had glitches. While we’re hoping to make it work, there’s a possibility that it won’t and we won’t be able to share it at the up-coming long overdue anniversary party, which would be such a shame.

We’ve watched our slide show several times and every time I cry, remembering the difficulties, stresses, rewards and happiness depicted in Heimdal in the Time of COVID.  It makes me cry remembering all the positives we’ve gained during the worst time I can remember in my years upon this planet.

I so hope we can work out the video glitches and share this amateur, yet beautiful 11 minute video with people who have shared the events it recalls. Amid the unexpected tears this video may bring from all of us, I am convinced we will realize we have been truly blessed with Faith of the Heart.

Office Safari Adventure

15 Feb

Fellow blogger and friend, Jane Fritz recently offered a post that was a ‘challenge;’ a February Decluttering Challenge. Her post urged me into the bowels of my cluttered office to meet that challenge. This led me on a two week pilgrimage to tackle the mess and find some stuff that was missing and vital to my existence.

In all honesty and in consideration of Jane and her wonderful post, it was NOT the number one reason I donned a dust mask, rubber gloves and a snorkel to meet the office challenge. By the way, locating masks and gloves are no big deal these days. With COVID still dangling around our necks (along with a mask) we have those things instantly available. So I got all dressed up to tackle the office NOT just because of Jane’s post, although it DID strongly nudge me in that direction.  There were two OTHER reasons that I vowed to begin and complete the office decluttering challenge with the utmost haste.

I have a leather credit card holder that stays in my office at the back of that slidy shelf that holds the computer keyboard. I keep it there because it holds the only credit card I use for ordering stuff on-line and it’s handy when I need it. My original Social Security card is in that leather card holder as is my nurse’s license and some other stuff I don’t like to carry around in my purse. Sometimes the card holder falls off the slidy shelf and ends up under the desk behind my printer.

My husband got me a new keyboard for Christmas and set it up for me on that slidy shelf. After that I couldn’t find the credit card wallet and went on a deep dive to retrieve it from behind the printer under the computer desk. When it wasn’t there and I needed the credit card number to place an order I knew I had to at least declutter the stuff under the desk. That was my first reason for planning the decluttering task, with apologies to Jane.

My second incentive for actually plunging headlong into decluttering my office was this: the last time I did a major decluttering I found dozens of health insurance postal mailings that I’d never opened. We all get those and they are always the same and somehow they just pile up in a stack and I never open them. The last time I decluttered, my husband joined me on the office floor and we opened and tossed away 99.9% of them as the junk and statements (THIS IS NOT A BILL) I expected them to be. BUT … and this is important … my husband opened one that contained a $600 reimbursement check from the insurance company to me for overpayment on prescription drugs. WOW! If THAT doesn’t get you in a decluttering mood I don’t know what will. Anyway, the check was so stale and moldy you could almost smell it and I began moaning about the loss of $600 that I could have used at the time … or any time.

Several calls to the insurance company later, they cut me a new check and all was right with the world of stale checks and prescription drug over charges. I vowed NEVER to ignore another insurance company letter again … but things happen and I had a second unopened pile. The possibility of yet another unexpected windfall incentivized me to open those unopened mailings while I was on the scavenger hunt for the credit card wallet. One thing leads to another.

Then along comes Jane’s post … a February Decluttering Challenge … and I began the task. Her post WAS the thing that actually MOVED me into that office maze of dust, crumbs and the crumbling carcass of a small lizard our inside cat had caught two summers ago when it accidentally wandered inside the house through a crack under the living room storm door. When the cat stopped looking for it we assumed it had died somewhere. Finding it trapped in the office mire was another PLUS associated with this recent decluttering. The missing lizard mystery was finally solved.

So many good things can come from one gargantuan task that needed tackling a while ago.

For two weeks I put off almost everything while I rambled through the treasures in my office that were most recently trash. I bagged and shredded and sneezed my way through the clutter and ended up with enough “starter paper” for our family room wood stove to sustain us through the next several really harsh winters (or another toilet paper shortage). Sucked into our vacuum was enough dust to have made a planet-sized dust ball or perhaps the dust of  several lost souls transitioning into the afterlife, although we don’t remember misplacing any house guests.  

We finally understood the final days in the life of one unfortunate lizard at the paws of our cat and laid his crumbling carcass to rest in the “outside” from whence he had accidentally come on a sunny summer day two years ago.

Unfortunately, although my husband spent an entire day helping me, neither of us found a stale dated check that might have paid for a luxury cruise or a hot foreign automobile that would have made our neighbors envious for years to come.  You can’t have everything.

But thanks to the well written blog challenge from Jane, I girded up my loins, met her February Decluttering Challenge and found my leather credit card wallet. It was nestled in the center of a thousand shredded papers in my paper shredder under my desk where it must have fallen off that slidy shelf where my keyboard sets.  I can’t imagine how it got inside the shredder since the top was securely on. Go figure…

While most everybody else has spent a dull, snow-bound February, house-bound and miserable, with many thanks to a fellow blogger that made DECLUTTERING sound like an adventure, I have just come back from an office safari where I waded through years of accumulated dust, found a number of forgotten and misplaced treasures, re-homed several, filed lost documents into folders, relocated some stuff I should have tossed, found my credit card holder AND reverently gave last rites to a missing lizard, ending the mystery of a two-year-old cold case.

Thank you, Jane … it was a rewarding and productive challenge.

When a Tree Dies …

24 Jan

For the past few months at the end of Sunday morning services a few of us gravitate to the circle in front of the church, regardless of the weather. Once there we check on the dogwood tree. It’s pretty much the same few of us every Sunday.

The tree hasn’t seemed well for some time and those of us that make that short pilgrimage to the circle mostly go to check on it. We feel a special tug at our hearts at the prospect of that old dogwood dying. It’s been such a part of the church and a part of the circle where it stands. But we all agree it’s probably dying. It breaks my heart.

Betty and I recently had a brief conversation about how sad it is when a tree dies. There’s even more sadness associated with it when the tree is that special old dogwood in the circle in front of the church. I’ve taken pictures of it at every season, from every angle and have used them in the church newsletter.

It has been the backdrop for fall festivals, car shows, bake sales and the craziness of Trunk or Treats. It stood watch as our minister, several ministers ago, dug a hole close by and retrieved the box, a time capsule, that had been buried 30 years before, filled with memories and treasures of the church all those years ago when the tree was young and healthy … full of life.

That old tree has weathered storms, unfurled its leaves towards the warmth of the sun, and stood quietly with its limbs outstretched as a haven for shivering birds in the snow. It has watched the children of the church grow up and move on.

It stood quietly and reverently by as lost members of the congregation were honored with funerals and it basked in the glow and promise of so many weddings.

It graced us with the beauty of its flowers and never apologized because it offered little shade.

Bill says he is pretty sure it HAS to be 30 years old or maybe older. Two were planted originally but only this one survived.

It was there when the congregation was delighted on Sunday mornings by a three-legged cat that religiously came to Sunday morning services. When the cat abruptly stopped coming to church the minister of that day found out the cat was OK and said, “We can assume he’s going to another church.”

Those of us that silently form a club of sorts and visit that dying old tree after services on Sunday mornings feel the sense of loss already. It is like the impending death of an old and cherished friend; one we share so many memories with … one that is part of all those memories.

I hope somehow beneath its peeling bark and withering branches it knows that it is loved and that we, those few that visit it on Sunday mornings, will miss it.

Betty said, “It is so sad when a tree dies ….”

Artificial Intelligence and Intellect

29 Dec

Several years ago at Christmas my husband bought me one of those desk things that answers your questions, checks facts, monitors your Blink outside cameras and keeps you from having to look up anything ever again. He misplaced it so it wasn’t under our tree but the thought was appreciated. It would have been a really swell gift and addition to my office.

The following Christmas a relative gave my husband a similar device as a gift, he loved it and he replaced the original one he’d bought me and lost. Shortly after THAT Christmas my husband found the original he’d bought for me but misplaced so we suddenly had three of the devices … manufactured by the two most popular companies. It was too late to return any of them so my husband installed two in my office … one on my desk and one on an end table … from different manufacturers. If I didn’t get a satisfactory answer from one, I could ask the other.

Both devices were very polite. If I said, “THANK YOU” at the end of an inquiry both responded with, “You’re welcome” or “I’m glad you found this information helpful.” If I got lonesome I could ask one or both of the devices a question. And one even told me jokes when I said, “Tell me a joke” … very corny jokes … but nobody is perfect, not even a question-answering desk device of artificial intelligence.

Over the course of a couple years ownership it became apparent that one device (I’m purposely NOT mentioning manufacturer because it isn’t really relative to the story) most often had a satisfactory answer while the other did not. It was no inconvenience at all because I was owner of two resource devices and a computer to back up any answer I wasn’t satisfied with. But it DID raise a question about the intellect of the less knowledgeable device and where the information actually originated. BUT … it was fairly insignificant and I didn’t pursue it.

So recently there was a story on the local news about a person charged with ‘sexual battery.’ My husband was in my office when the story was reported on the NEWS at Six and asked exactly what the definition of ‘battery’ was … specifically ‘sexual battery’ as in this case. I told him to ask my two office companions, Alexa and Google (alphabetical order and not necessarily in order of intelligence) … and so he did.

The dependable device reported exactly what ‘sexual battery’ is and included specific references including state laws, codes and specific cases.

The device with less dependable answers responded, “I don’t have an answer for that. I don’t know how it is made.”

So now I’m wondering where the actual INTELLECT comes from behind these devices … who programs them? … how do the doggone things actually work? … is there really a little old grandma  or grandpa from Duluth sitting there answering these questions to the best of their ability, telling corny jokes, making minimum wage so as not to interfere with Social Security benefits, keeping him or her just two steps away from being a Walmart greeter but giving him or her something productive and kind of fun to do???

If it’s really just two supposedly wise computers managing the whole question and answer thing AND monitoring our outside Blink cameras I’d suggest one of them needs a tune-up or at the very least a battery change. NOT a ‘sexual battery,’ though. That might be too confusing …

Remembering a Life … and Part of Mine

9 Dec

I sat down on the unmade bed, intent on the television in the bedroom. It was tuned to a news station more for company than content.  I stopped putting away clean laundry and obviously put aside making the bed when I sat down on it … leaning back against the mountain of pillows and eventually pulling up the covers. I was also postponing breakfast, but even that was forgotten as I watched a tribute in our nation’s Capitol to the late Bob Dole.

Mr. Dole was a politician, a war hero, an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency and vice presidential position, a republican, devoted husband and father … and an example of a good and decent man who put country ahead of party, was able to work with both republicans and democrats for the common good, and remained devoted to the people he represented in Kansas during his years in the Senate. He had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.

It seems Mr. Dole had been around my entire adult life and the memorial service in his honor … he died recently at age 98 … was riveting for all those reasons, including tweaking my memory of my own political history.

Until the past five years I really had NO political history to speak of. I have always voted in presidential elections, not only because it was my right, but I also have felt it was my responsibility. Unlike my mother who remained a staunch democrat and a Baptist until the day of her death … refusing to vote republican and refusing to vote at all if the democratic candidate was not of her liking, I have had no real political affiliation. I’ve voted all over the place … for the candidate I felt best reflected my hopes for our country and never the party. My way of doing things confused my mother just as her way confounded me. And while she remained a Baptist until the end, she mostly went to the same Methodist church for the last several decades of her life. I may not have always understood her logic, nor she mine, but I loved her more than I can put into words.

While the presidential candidates of my choice have not always been winners , I never felt apprehensive about the winner because, in the days since I was legally able to vote, I felt secure in the fact that even if my candidate did not win the election, our country was still in capable hands. The politicians of the day … both democrats and republicans … held the good of our country first and foremost  … ahead of party and personal gain. It’s just the way it was … mostly good people running for the highest office because they felt they could make a difference and make the wonder that was our country, even with its shortcomings, a better place. Things have changed recently and I fear that reassurance and security have been lost as surely as Mr. Dole may sadly have been the last of a dying breed.

Especially with the division in this country, the televised service for Mr. Dole in the Capitol rotunda, so recently seen being ravaged and damaged by the events of January 6, witnessed members from both parties coming together, no matter how briefly, to pay tribute to a special hero, patriot and politician out of respect if for no other reason.

My wish is that the events of this morning’s memorial and the temporary joining of hands, and possibly hearts across the aisle might have sparked something that seems lost. My wish is that the moment of joining together for a common purpose may possibly have held some flicker of comradery and the common goal of love for our country ahead of party deep down in the hearts of those attending.

The bed is made, the laundry put away and I treated myself to a breakfast of eggs, pancakes, orange juice, diced peaches and a moment of thought and contemplation while sitting at the table in the sunroom enjoying the pleasant company of our cat.

My politics haven’t changed.  I’m still fact checking things for truth and wisdom, picking candidates with morals, honesty, decency, dedication  and  the genuine goal of seeing to it that our country meets the challenges of our times in the most productive way, inclusive for all.

Rest in peace, Mr. Dole. May your legacy be an inspiration to politicians and people everywhere. You were an example of the ability to agree and disagree  with civility and aplomb and still maintain the vision of a better world for us all.

Granny Smith … Not Just an Apple

3 Nov

Way back in early 2021 my husband and I received a phone call from our daughter-in-law and son. They shared the exciting news that she was pregnant and the baby would be arriving in the fall. We were overjoyed.

There have been so many things that delayed the possibility of us becoming grandparents; their growing business that took up so much of their time, COVID-19 and its variants sucking us all into a black hole. So that phone call had a lot of power behind it and was met by so much excitement, love, emotion and anticipation.

On October 26, 2021 our grandson came into this world, weighing in at 6 pounds, 14 ounces. He was the amazing culmination of 9 months of eager anticipation, ultrasounds, showers, anxiety, and me going nuts one afternoon shopping for as many adorable baby clothes as I could find. I understand that’s part of the “Granny phenomenon” associated with being a first-time grandmother.

No matter how many words and adjectives and descriptions I write here, I believe what my husband wrote in our science fiction club’s newsletter sums it up best … for both of us. He had begun his article with a funny paragraph about discovering his state automobile inspection was due, trying to make an appointment to get it done and being scheduled for an appointment one week AFTER his sticker expired. He has a quirky sense of humor so it was a funny paragraph. But his next paragraph was serious and sobering and from his heart. Here it is …

“… My next surprise was becoming a first-time grandfather. We’ve known for 9 months that was going to happen but the reality of it all didn’t really HIT me until I held that tiny baby in my arms and suddenly everything changed.

I felt sad that he was born during a pandemic when there is so much division in this world. But then I put on my rose-colored Roddenberry glasses and decided that maybe this small Smith could grow up to change the world … to somehow make a difference … maybe explore strange new worlds and go where no one has gone before. I decided he, and all those who were born on October 26, 2021 are our future. I hope he will be leading the way to a more perfect world like Gene Roddenberry envisioned.

   You know … it’s just cool being a grand dad.”

I couldn’t have said it better and that pretty much speaks for us both. The feelings we have for that small baby defy words or lengthy descriptions.

So THIS is what it means to be grandparents …

For many of you that follow my blog, you only know me as Heimdalco, which is the name I use on WordPress with my blog. My name is actually Linda Smith and you need to know that to understand my husband’s comment to me. I asked him how it felt to be a grandad and he answered me with a question of his own, “And how does it feel to be a grandma???” In all the excitement I hadn’t really thought about it. My husband continued, “Granny Smith isn’t just an apple, you know,” which was just funny.

When our daughter-in-law asked us what we’d like our new grandson to call us, my husband responded that whatever the little one decided to call him would be just fine, but then, looking at me, he added, “Maybe he could call you ‘Granny Apple’ …”