In the Company of Astronauts

17 Feb

It was still early but already a small crowd was gathering in the gallery on Main Street. Lovely photographs on canvas adorned all 4 walls; pictures in vivid colors of a snow fence in a field in summer & a second of the same fence on a snowy winter day; a church steeple & many pictures taken from the vantage point of the space shuttle or the International Space Station.

A man stood by holding a picture of himself with 2 other people. One was a woman who had previously autographed the photo & the other was the man the gathering crowd was waiting to see & hear when the program began at 5:30. I assumed that the man with the photo was hoping to get the other side of the picture autographed before the evening ended.

We stood at the front of the crowd. We’d gotten there first & I wasn’t about to lose that front row seat … well, stand, since there was no seating at the event.

I’ve been a part of science fiction for many years; starting a local club 33 years ago that is still going strong & having been to conventions & conferences in numbers too great to remember over the years. My husband & I have even seen & met at least 2 astronauts but tonight was different & so was the astronaut we were about to see.

52-year-old NASA astronaut, Leland Melvin was showing a collection of his photography at the gallery & speaking about his life as part of Black History Month. It was an event that was quietly publicized, which led to fewer than 100 people attending, but that was good.  There was no push of the crowd to get closer so we were comfortable, even though standing, & the event took on a more personal feeling.

Melvin came into the gallery right on time. He was tall & smiling & seemed like someone we’d known for at least a decade.

He began by telling us about his life … growing up & some of the hardships he faced as a young black man. He told us about playing football for the local high school & his career as an athlete (he is the only person drafted into the National Football League to have flown in space). He showed us pictures, including the cover for his new book that will be released in May; Chasing Space. He charmed us with tales of how he became an astronaut & the many joys of that part of his life. He said he would volunteer in a heartbeat to be part of a Mars mission.

Melvin was serious & nostalgic & he was funny. The hour passed much too quickly.

I had an opportunity to tell him that our science fiction club, through an inordinate amount of fundraising, has sent 9 local middle school kids to Space Camp. This year we will be sending student number 10. He seemed very excited about that, as we are, & said Space Camp is a great beginning for young people who may eventually become the astronauts of tomorrow.

What sets Leland Melvin apart from all the other NASA astronauts that are & have been part of our nation’s space program is that Melvin was born & raised right here at home. He played football at our local high school & went to the same movie theaters, skating rinks & restaurants that we did. He isn’t just a visiting celebrity passing through town, showing his photography at a local gallery & speaking during Black History Month. He is home folks. He is US. And that’s what made this night at the gallery so very special.

After Melvin’s presentation ended, I did see the man with the picture approach Melvin & I saw him autograph it. The picture was of Melvin standing on the left side of the man & on the right side stood a woman who had already autographed the picture. She holds a very special place in our nation’s space history as a recruiter of minorities. Years ago she recruited Sally Ride.

For me it was especially exciting seeing the picture & seeing it to completion. I’d met that special woman on several occasions & understood how important it was to the man to have Leland Melvin complete the picture with his autograph added to that of Nichelle Nichols – Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura. It somehow made the evening more than special.  It made it MAGICAL.

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Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, dog  nichelle

Fifty Shades of Grey(s)

5 Feb

After we made a definite decision to make our house our “forever home;” to do away with any notion we entertained when we were younger of building a home for our retirement on 5 acres of property that we own & that is paid for, I went methodically ahead at planned intervals with adding a new & upgraded master bath, doing a total renovation of our outdated kitchen &, our most recent project, adding a large sunroom. If we were, indeed, going to stay here literally until the end of time … or until the end of OUR time anyway, I wanted to make our home as user friendly as possible while continuing to be the one place in this world I truly preferred to be. As it’s turned out, the sunroom addition in 2014 has become one of my happiest places.

The sunroom is large … big enough for a recumbent bicycle, an elliptical trainer, & an assortment of plants. The room also accommodates a full-sized sofa, 2 leather chairs, an occasional chair & a bar-height dining table & 4 tall chairs. The table & chairs are directly in front of a large expanse of glass & give diners the best seat in the house.

Most days when I’m home & on weekends when we’re both here we have breakfast & lunch in the sunroom. It overlooks the back yard & the woods & we have private stadium-like seating watching wildlife, & especially deer wandering through the yard, unaware of our presence in the grandstand. We have even watched, to my amazement, a family of deer lie down in the snow in the woods on a wintery afternoon.

Watching the seasons change through those sunroom windows while having breakfast has become one of my truest joys. Recently I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast watching the snow fall outside those windows. With no television & no radio in that lovely room, it literally was as quiet as falling snow.

This morning, just 8 days away from Valentine’s Day & a little less than 30 degrees outside, I took my breakfast to the sunroom table & sat in the warmth of the room watching puffy white clouds streaming past the bluest morning sky at the highest window point in the room. No deer this morning, but the yard was alive with squirrels; another section of the wildlife spectrum that charms us, with the possible exception of the 2 years a family of them lived in our attic, defying us daily & all through the night to evict them.

What caught my attention on this brisk & beautiful morning were a couple of grey squirrels balancing on a twig of a branch extending from the limb of a large, leafless poplar tree. Instead of their usual gymnastics, the pair was engaged in a dance ritual as old as time. They were mating … & I was mesmerized.

While it wasn’t entirely the squirrel biology that fascinated me, the unstable logistics of the exercise WAS. There was a lot of scampering & twirling & hang-gliding off that spindly branch &, in turn, a lot of flexing of the bark. The branch seemed to be precariously attached by a thread to the limb & there was a heck of a lot of movement. It boggled the mind just how any creature could carry such an important biological mission to completion under those tentative circumstances. And it was very cold this morning.

So, yes, I DID watch until the grey squirrels had completed their mission, against the many odds of nature on this crisp morning.  It was a lesson in tenacity, determination, danger, possibly love & maybe a rite of early spring.

When I went back into the kitchen, breakfast dishes in hand, Willy asked why I was in the sunroom so long when we were obviously going to be late for church if I didn’t hurry. When I told him about the squirrel play, he accused me of being a “Squirrel Voyeur,” even though I explained it was not the act that kept my attention but the many impediments the squirrels faced in accomplishing it. Ever the romantic, I explained it was sort of like a novel of forbidden love that leads the characters down many twisted arteries & limbs but somehow they manage to consummate the relationship … no matter how weird, aberrant, deviant & against all odds.

Willy just looked at me ……….

He googled, “Grey Squirrel Reproduction” & found out February is one of their most prolific months for “getting it on,” so this morning’s squirrels were right on time & apparently, right on target.

Willy & I have a checkered history with our neighborhood squirrels. We’ve fed them in winter & reluctantly housed them in our attic for 2 years while exterminators came & went, unable to find a humane means of evicting them. They’ve made attic nesting places among the limbs of our artificial Christmas tree to store their nuts & scratched the attic sheet rock to shreds in several places. Now I have witnessed their mating ritual & was blown away … not by the act, but by how, with a little ingenuity, they overcame pretty tremendous odds. My respect for them ebbs & flows …

In the world of the grey squirrels, we’ve witnessed at least 50 Shades of Grey(s) …

juvenilegraysquirrel

 

Encouragement

17 Jan

I mostly enjoy writing blog entries that are amusing in some way if not downright funny. I like making people laugh. I especially enjoy recalling events & incidents that have made ME laugh & sharing them  … but occasionally something serious comes along that really makes me think & I want to share it.

Just inside the large double doors of our church, the “greeter” Sunday morning handed us the bulletin with a smile. On the front of the bulletin in large bold letters were the words, “Encouragement is Awesome” & the message, “It can actually change the course of another person’s day.”

The minister’s message was also, “Encouragement.”

During the message that touched on many kinds of “encouragement” & how it can affect our lives, he also mentioned how negative messages can also change our lives. But his main message was about how encouragement affects us & he asked the congregation to think about personal encouragement we have received & how it may have been life changing. While he engaged us, he wasn’t actually asking for individual responses to his question but, instead, encouraged us all to reflect on those specific personal moments of encouragement that have been a large part of who we are.

The very first thing that popped into my mind was being told, “You have breast cancer.”

It’s unlikely that such negative news could hold anything even vaguely connected to encouragement, yet for me, it did. It wasn’t immediate, though, & not for a while.

After receiving the diagnosis & that awful news, I was totally overwhelmed. The first few months that included breast conserving surgery & my first 2 chemotherapy treatments I was existing in a fog that included confusion, disbelief & fear. It was a very dark time.

Two months following my first chemo treatment & the loss of my hair I began working on putting together my club’s 24th. Anniversary Party. Even with my husband’s help I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that around chemo treatments & my continuing confusion.

As I got into working on the party & attempting to be creative I decided that we needed to build a backdrop related to the theme of the party for people to stand in front of to have their pictures taken at the event.  Building the party around a Star Trek theme, from there I had an idea & told my husband, “We’re going to build a Holodeck!”  And so on the weekends when I didn’t have a chemo treatment, we DID build it.

As the Holodeck took shape so did my determination NOT to let the cancer change me or stop me from doing the things that made my life the joy that it was & had been before that awful diagnosis.

So how did that awful, negative statement, “You have breast cancer” become the huge encouragement that it was?

After completing the Holodeck & enjoying the party my determination grew. While completing chemo & 33 radiation treatments I had a bit of time to do a lot of serious thinking. I thought about all the things I’d hoped to do with my life; a number of them that I had put off, telling myself I could do them later. That frightful diagnosis brought home to me the fact that we really aren’t promised tomorrow & if there is something we’d like to do, we need to do it now. We may not have second chances.

Consciously & perhaps a bit unconsciously I made a mental list of things I still wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t anything I called a “Bucket List” because it really wasn’t like wanting to fly a helicopter or wrestle an anaconda or see the Northern Lights while standing at the top of the North Pole. My mental list consisted of using the talents I’d been given & enjoying them while I still had time.

Some of what I was able to accomplish & check off my list simply fell into my lap. I was offered a chance to host a local television talk show on an independent Comcast channel. For years people had told me I should be doing a TV talk show because of my sense of humor & ease in interacting with people, so when the opportunity came along I only had to think about it a few days before I signed the contract.

With the help & encouragement of a published author from New Zealand that I met through a friend on Facebook, I wrote a book. It took me 2 years but I did it & included another seldom used talent. I did the illustrations for the book & laid out the cover myself. It was a labor of love shared with my author friend from New Zealand who guided me through the process until the book was published.

I began speaking to seminars & groups about breast cancer, hoping I could make the journey through that darkness somehow easier for those facing their own dark journey.

Today I have realized most of what was on my list & have done just about everything I’ve ever hoped to do with my life. I am blessed.

I was especially blessed to host the Lynchburg Live television talk show for 6 years until the studio closed its doors due to increasing production costs. I realized that dream &, in the process, met some amazing people & brought attention to causes & concerns locally that eventually, & in some cases, made life more fulfilling for many of my viewers. It was one of the most exciting & rewarding times of my life.

Today I am a freelance writer. I’ve been published in several magazines, in our local newspaper & in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses. I’m writing this blog & it’s the most enjoyable writing that I do. Even though I don’t get paid for it, it’s an opportunity to share my thoughts & experiences with those who wish to read it. I am able to share MYSELF.

My book was remarkably well received. I received notes & emails from readers that brought me to tears. My goal for the book was never to make a specific amount of money but was, instead, that it resonated in some personal way with my readers & touched them on some personal level that we shared.

Not only do I still speak to seminars & groups about breast cancer, I also speak about fundraising, being a professional woman & various nursing topics. No longer afraid to speak publicly, I’ve found joy in speaking about those things about which I am passionate.

Because of that terrifying news, “You have breast cancer” & an unexpected determination, I have been able to do all those things I’d wanted to do but never really thought I could. It was a negative ‘kick in the pants’ that opened my eyes to the joys of using my talents. It also opened my eyes to the joys around me … the beauty of spring & fall, the quiet of a rainy day, the joys of having breakfast in the sun room on a snowy morning. I saw those things before but not with the depth & appreciation I see them now.

So when our minister asked us to reflect about our most positive encouragement & my first thought was being given the frightening news that I had cancer, it made me think back to how those events unfolded. I wanted to share how sometimes the most unexpected, terrifying negative news can be our greatest encouragement. It goes hand-in-hand with, “Never give up …”

Our minister is new with us this year & he is young but sometime when he has a moment I want to tell him this story & tell him how his sermon led to my response & eventually this blog entry.

We never know what we can do until we try. And we never know how strong we are until we HAVE to be …

 

conference psych may 2016 14

Building Character

7 Jan

If drama, like adversity, builds character, then I’ve got enough “character” to last a lifetime. When you get a sustained bunch of both at the same time, well, I’m not sure what that builds, but I’ll let you know.

I think it all started when I didn’t get my flu shot. I haven’t gotten the flu but I think not getting the shot is when things started to go south & this winter became “The Winter of My Discontent.”

I kept forgetting to make an appointment with my doctor’s office to get a flu shot & I definitely was NOT going to the same local pharmacy where I got the shot last year. The pharmacist who “administered” my shot also administered to me, as his captive audience, tales of his divorce, child support & what lessons he learned from his dad as a growing boy. It wasn’t that his stories were dull. On the contrary, they might have been spell-binding were he not sticking a needle in my arm. At the end of the injection he removed the needle & kept talking while continuing to squeeze my arm. I quickly stuck my finger over the injection site & applied pressure to keep the serum from leaking out & running down my arm … as it had started to do just as the pharmacist began wrapping up his tale. I didn’t want to run the risk of getting THAT particular pharmacist again unless I had a free afternoon & most of an evening.

November was a flurry of activity. Our club was planning, & eventually constructing our float entry for the local Christmas Parade. As club president, I was right there “constructing” while also planning the Annual Christmas Party for our chapter & I was looking forward to an early December cocktail party.  I’d bought a fabulous new dress.

So I didn’t get the flu shot but the last of November, when I’d planned to make an appointment to GET the flu shot & didn’t, what I DID get instead was a month-long attack of a G.I. condition that started in 2009 … way back when I was getting chemo for breast cancer. I’m used to getting those attacks several times a year but this one started on November 30 & lasted the entire month of December.

Fortunately, as truly miserable as the attacks are, they were spaced so I was able to be in the parade, go to our club’s Christmas Party & eat a wonderful Christmas dinner, minus my homemade pecan pie that would have had Martha Stuart drool with envy. Missing the cocktail party was disappointing but one out of several wasn’t bad.

To make a long story short, I’ve spent a lot of quality time recently with my gastroenterologist. He has had a thoughtful look at all of my bloodwork (normal), biopsies (normal) & my anatomy literally from the inside out. With one more test left to do I’m hoping to find a resolution to this on-going problem because I simply don’t have another body part or square inch of flesh … inside or out … to be examined. I can only hope …

I’ve lost 12 pounds during this on-going experience & my diet has mostly consisted of BLAND  … grits, potatoes, rice, oyster crackers, green beans, Jello & an occasional chicken breast baked in the oven – no seasoning, no marinade. I wouldn’t recommend this as a weight loss program. I’m starving! I hope the “babbling pharmacist” is having a better month.

So things settled down to a routine … kind of bland like my diet … until last weekend when I was standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window. I noticed our neighbor walking what looked like a new white, kind of fat dog on a leash. The animal took off at a trot past the mailbox, pulling on the leash, headed across the street seemingly intent on terrorizing our across-the-street neighbor’s dog. She yelled, ran into the yard & scooped up her dog while the woman next door pulled on the leash. I was thinking how our next door neighbors really didn’t need to add yet another animal to their menagerie. Their 2 dogs (that seem more like 10) have not stopped barking since they bought the house next door a year & a half ago.

I kept watching & noticed that the animal on the leash was not a dog at all … wasn’t even vaguely canine, but was, instead a white pig. Yes, of course I blinked to see if I was seeing what I was seeing … you don’t even have to ask me that question.

I called Willy on the intercom & told him about the pig. His response was, “You’ve been sick a long time & I’m sorry it’s affecting you like this.” I told him to come upstairs & see for himself, which he did & eventually admitted that it was, indeed, a pig. For at least 30 minutes we went from window to window with cameras trying to get a photo of the porcine pet, but to no avail. That pig is way talented at staying behind the shrubbery & avoiding the paparazzi.

I’m not really sure, even considering the shock value, that a neighbor walking a pig on a leash is “drama,” but it does speak volumes about how little it takes to amuse Willy & me. I’m blaming that mostly on my being sick for a while & us not getting out much lately. Mostly I’m blaming it on that pharmacist & his rather annoying stories that have kept me from getting my flu shot & probably included a pig on a leash somehow.

Jumping ahead to our biggest drama lately … Last night Willy started a fire in the woodstove in our family room. It snowed all night last night & half of today so the air was heavy & dense & a gusty downdraft forced a rather huge cloud of smoke out of the stove around the closed door. It was a freaky thing. I started closing doors to keep the smoke from reaching our smoke alarms but was too late & that awful alarm went off, piercing the night & sending the cat as far under the bed as she could go. We have ADT Security & Fire Alarm Protection but with no call from ADT I figured I’d disarmed the system in time.  Willy had turned on ceiling fans & opened a window.

But much like that old familiar, recently read story, “The Night Before Christmas,”  I disarmed the alarm & was turning around when a fireman landed on our porch with a bound.

ADT had called the fire department & they responded immediately.

We invited the fireman in, told him our story & while he was in the family room checking out the stove, a second fire department vehicle arrived followed by the hook & ladder truck; lights twirling & blazing, lighting up the neighborhood. Thankfully, there was no siren. That would have certainly disturbed our neighbor’s new pig.

Everything checked out, we apologized & the fire department (half of them were in front of our house) said they would rather respond to something like that than a real fire.

I finally coaxed the cat out from under the bed with cat treats. She’s a pussy for a treat.

This morning I heard from a couple of neighbors who realized what had happened & who let me know they were glad there wasn’t a real fire. I told them it was the pharmacist’s fault & advised them never to let him give them a flu shot.

So I’ve been thinking about drama & character-building & here are the conclusions I’ve come up with:

  1. My glass is half FULL – we didn’t have a fire
  2. ADT really ROCKS!
  3. I got to do most of what I wanted to do at Christmas, even though I was sick
  4. My beautiful cocktail dress will look even better on my 12 pounds slimmer body even though my face looks like a refugee
  5. If you THINK you see someone walking a pig on a leash, even if you can’t get a picture & you’re not drunk, it probably IS a pig on a leash
  6. Most cats are pussies for treats
  7. I have enough character to last several lifetimes
  8. AND … Never EVER get a flu shot from a pharmacist who is a story-teller, even if he’s walking a pig on a leash at the time.

pharmacist

Christmas Nostalgia & the Pig

4 Dec

It’s been an unusual few weeks. Our club has been working on our float entry into the local Christmas Parade; a project very close to my heart. It gives our members an opportunity to be creative TOGETHER … to laugh & even curse a little during moments of frustration as the project takes shape. It’s all good.

On Wednesday before the parade on Friday night, I got sick with a debilitating GI bug. Fortunately I was better by Friday & was able to be in the parade & enjoy that special, freezing moment on the float with friends when you just know all that effort making the float … well, float … was worth it.

Saturday morning I woke up sick again. I remarked to Willy that God must have understood just how important it was to me to be in the parade on that special float. I was grateful for that small miracle.

I so enjoy going to church during the Christmas season. Last Sunday, at our minister’s request, Willy & I lit the first advent candle. Even though I still felt bad today, I struggled to go to church … because that’s where I wanted to be.

The sanctuary is lovely during December. Wreaths with red ribbons hang on windows & doors & this morning the Chrismon Tree had been decorated & was brought to lighted life just before the second Advent Candle was lit by Betty & Bill. The sanctuary smelled of Christmas & cookies … truly a gift of the season.

We sang an old Christmas carol; a favorite from my childhood & I not only got rows of chills on my arms, I had to swallow back tears. They weren’t tears of sadness but tears of remembrance of being a child at Christmas in my great grandfather’s old church in North Carolina. I never knew him & was born many years after his passing but he founded that church & it was as much “home” to me as the house we shared with my grandmother.

Singing that carol flashed many a Christmas memory through my mind’s eye of Christmases in that old church, the smells of baking & real Christmas trees, the “visceral feeling” of joy at having family come from several states to share that special time.

Sometimes a song & especially a hymn in church will bring back that kind of emotional nostalgia that is so personal & beautiful. I’m glad whatever is necessary to bring about that kind of reaction is part of who I am.

There was a small girl in church with her grandparents this morning with big eyes nestled in a sweet face that was haunting. I told my husband she looked like a waif & should be selling matches somewhere on a corner. He didn’t know the Little Match Girl story & ‘Goggled” it during communion. The female Google voice began speaking, telling him matter-of-factly the Hans Christian Anderson story while he frantically attempted to silence it as the wine was passed during that familiar ritual. A friend later commented that the Google voice was fairly unexpected at that particular time. She laughed & so did we. It was an unexpected mingling of nostalgia & technology shared this morning with our church family during communion in a church filled with the sweet aroma of holiday smells.

On the way home I tried to remember just how The Little Match Girl story went so I could tell my husband.  It was such a poignant story because of its mixture of beauty & tragedy & I wanted to get it right. I loved that story as a child because, even though it has a tragic end, there is such beauty in it. Remembering it today made me cry all over again & I remembered asking my mom to read it to me many times when I was a child. I hadn’t thought of that little match girl in years until this morning.

There’s a couple who own a home not far from our subdivision. They have a HUGE combined sense of humor & have a life-sized concrete pig at the end of their driveway that they dress in seasonal piggy clothing throughout the year, EVERY year since their new home was completed & they moved in … lock, stock & piggy, about 10 years ago. Those of us who live in the area have not only come to LOVE that pig, we depend on it … & WAIT for each holiday & seasonal wardrobe change.

Wrapped in the cocoon of my Christmas carol induced nostalgia at church, I hadn’t given a thought to the neighbor’s concrete pig until we drove past their driveway. From the corner of my eye I noticed she’d had a costume change & begged my husband to go back & take some pictures of her. For several years I’ve been posting pictures on Facebook of every costume change Miss Piggy graces us with & I wanted to add new pictures today. Since Willy is also fairly invested in that pig, he went back & took 6 pictures of the newly dressed piggy in her Holiday attire.

When I saw Miss Piggy my heart leapt. I laughed out loud & clapped my hands, releasing a childish joy I wasn’t aware I still possessed & making me feel better than I had in a week.

Miss Piggy, even as I write this, is wearing antlers, Christmas sunglasses & a big red ball on her nose. Behind her she is pulling a small sleigh that is carrying a jolly, white-bearded elf waving to us & our neighbors as we drive by. Miss Piggy is Rudolph the Red Nosed Piggy … to my pure & un-watered down delight, the delight of our neighbors & now also to the delight of my Facebook friends from around the world.

This morning has been an emotional roller coaster ride but it took a concrete pig wearing antlers & a red nose pulling a sleigh full of Santa to bring me back to the present … & to make me realize the multitude of joys of this holiday season.

Christmas isn’t just for the young. It’s for us ALL … kids, adults, kids at heart & those who love that concrete pink pig that brings such pure, childish, hand-clapping delight to all who know, appreciate & love her.

 

little-match-girl

Dust

15 Nov

What the heck IS dust, anyway? And where does it come from? I know it’s all over everything most of the time & no matter how often I “dust,” the doggone stuff is always back before I’ve had a chance to shake my mop.  It’s kinda like washing your car right before a storm. I believe FUTILE is the word I’m looking for.

I’ve thought a lot about dust. We know we HAVE it. The issue is what to DO about it. Mostly, in the scientific world, if you know what something is or where it comes from you can do something about it, even though sometimes it takes a while. In the case of dust, the drawback is that while we’re trying to discover just how to tame it, we could be buried alive in it.

Those TV ads for the Dusty Ducts guys tell us they can rid us of the heartbreak & social stigma of dust with one simple call & an afternoon spent in our homes sucking out our ducts. The ad even shows us a hose that has a diameter the size of Cleveland with which they perform their miracle act. They also show us a nice, well-uniformed young man in their commercials who enters our home, removes the vent cover from one of our heat ducts & shows us that disgusting, possibly pulsating mass just inside. Heck, he even picks some of it up to show it to us so we can get a clearer view. ( I believe he’s wearing shoe covers, which makes me wonder, “Why is he wearing shoe covers???”)

Heat duct dust seems to be a different sub-species or phylum of regular dust because what he picks up in that commercial is, as HE says, “Disgusting.” He even squishes a chunk of it between his fingers & shows us clumps & tendrils weaving their way through that mess & comments that he doesn’t know why he is TOUCHING it. I always want to scream, “Then put it DOWN!!!”

We’ve seen the commercial & now we all know what it LOOKS like but we still don’t know where it comes from, & if we’re honest, we still don’t know exactly what it is. Willy says it includes, in part, layers of dead skin we’ve been sloughing off … but that falls into that TMI category that I do NOT want to consider. And I’m not even going to MENTION dust mites because I don’t want to know what they are or if they’re a component of household dust.

We’re BREATHING that stuff!

We know it builds up on furniture in our homes in great quantities, apparently faster than it’s falling from wherever it falls … if it falls … or possibly swirls. Every now & then we even see, in the glint of sunlight, a few little floaty things drifting in the air but they are definitely NOT enough to cover furniture or make it necessary to send out a search party for your pet if you happen to have a small dog. But while I really don’t know where it comes from & what it is, I’m glad I’m not the only one who has it. There’s comfort in numbers.

OMG! Maybe it’s contagious!

Trying to find the answer to those 2 questions seems to be that exercise in futility I mentioned earlier. So maybe I’ll put those questions on “hold” & tell you what I’ve tried to do to get rid of dust.

In the grocery store on the cleaning aisle there’s a product called ENDUST. When I first saw it I thought my prayers had been answered. It was one of those “Ah-Ha” moments when you hear a distant choir humming & sunlight bathes the shelf upon which that can is resting. The moment is broken, however … for me anyway … when I notice little previously unseen particles floating in that glint of sunlight &, deep down, I know they’re dust.

Anyway, I have faith. I purchased a can of ENDUST hoping for salvation & took it home. I sprayed it onto a clean cloth as instructed &, as promised, all that dust was gathered onto the cloth … temporarily.  Having read the can label I was hoping for a Force Field that would hover for months over my dining room table & repel future dust when it reared its ugly head from wherever it comes; possibly from our dusty ducts.

I was very disappointed to find out ENDUST simply scatters the surface dust, rather than eliminating it at its source, wherever that is.  It clears the way for more dust & it’s only effective in the moment. If we were invested in absolute “truth in labeling,” we would insist that the product name be changed to reflect what it actually does … SCATTERHDUST. Sigh …

I recognize defeat when it smacks me in the face with a loaded dust mop, so my next step has been to try to REHOME my dust. The thing that makes that almost a laughing matter as well as an impossibility is that everyone has dust of their own &, like a box full of unwanted hamsters, there haven’t been any takers.

SO … if I can’t rehome it, maybe I can REPURPOSE it.

I’ve thought about using it in flower pots to transplant some of my houseplants. The problem with that is it would take massive amounts to fill even one medium-sized planter, which doesn’t really make sense. If we have so MUCH of it, why can’t we collect ENOUGH of it to plant one small geranium? Where’s the LOGIC????

I’m supposing that my suggestion in the last paragraph would also preclude a possible vegetable garden or even a simple row of potatoes, though I heard my grandmother proclaim once, “There’s so much dust on this piano you could plant a hill of potatoes in it.” I believed her but now I think she exaggerated.

If we could save enough dust maybe we could scatter it on our porch & walkways to help melt ice & snow. It certainly sounds possible but in actuality, the stuff would turn to mush & render itself useless … until it dried out & a puff of wind blew it back into my house.

I suppose it would also be useless as cat litter. Even though we now use lightweight cat litter I believe mounds of household dust would be too soft to do the job. A healthy-weighted cat would sink to the bottom & be smothered, & I doubt that it would clump. And clumping is VERY important to me.

After giving this a whole lot of thought, I’ve decided to go with my mom’s wisdom, which has gotten me through many of life’s more challenging moments.

My mother was the granddaughter of a well-known & well-respected North Carolina Baptist minister. From her birth, he & her family had ingrained in her passages & messages from the Bible &, in her later years when she was confronted with the heartbreak of household dust, she literally blew it off this way: … she said the Bible teaches us that in life we begin as dust & end as dust. She would quote, “Ashes to ashes & dust to dust” with fair reliability & would use that as an excuse to ignore the dust that sometimes built up on our furniture.

When I asked her about it she would tell me, “That’s either somebody coming or going &, out of respect, I’m just going to leave them alone …”

 

B0BJTX Butler with duster, arms crossed, portrait

 

The Secret Life of Pets

6 Nov

Our club just spent two days doing a promotional thing at a new theater that opened locally & held its Grand Opening this weekend. One of the movies showing there was the latest Star Trek film, Star Trek: BEYOND. We appeared in Star Trek costumes, had an eye-catching display & signed up 14 people who were very interested in us & want to receive our newsletter. It was a productive weekend.

On Friday we were at the theater from 11:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Our members worked in shifts for the 4 Star Trek movie showings during the Grand Opening day. Being the club president & vice president has its perks but also has its pitfalls, one of which was staying with the display the full 8 hours we were at the theater. My husband, Willy is our Second Officer & stayed the course with us because of his position but also because of being married to the club president. He said, “I’m married to you so I am here by default.” Regardless, I’m pretty sure he had a good time.

Most of us enjoy interacting with the public; telling them about our good works within the community & attempting to interest them in membership with our club. It’s one of the things we do best but I have to admit that 8 straight hours of that on Friday wore us out, plus returning on Saturday to pick up where we left off.

Sometime during that first day there was a popcorn machine malfunction, the air filled with smoke & we all came home smelling like burnt popcorn.  It was in our clothes, in our hair & in the items we had on display. We may NEVER eat popcorn again.

But it was all just part of those 2 days this weekend.

So at the end of Saturday … Day 2 … one of our friends suggested that those of us who were there go see a movie. After we beamed the last wave of Star Trek fans into the dark recesses of Theater 3, we took down our display, bought our tickets & … believe it or not … popcorn, & we went to see our movie.

You might expect that we went to see Star Trek: BEYOND. Someone actually commented, as we were beaming into our own dark theater, that we must be going to see the Star Trek movie. Our friend, Glenda replied, “Nope. We’ve seen it.” And of course we had … several times.

The movie we unanimously decided to see after many hours working in the lobby of the theater promoting our club, the movie & the theater ( my vice president commented that the past 2 days had seemed more like a JOB) was The Secret Life of Pets. It just seemed appropriate somehow. Among the 6 of us we collectively share our lives with 8 cats & 1 very loveable boxer. It mattered not a whit that it was a children’s animated film & that we were way taller … & more mature … than the general population of the audience entering the theater with us.

I sort of rationalize our movie choice this way … we’re all animal lovers. We all share our lives with pets. We have spent WAY too much time recently being bombarded with politics … & not just tedious election year politics but some VERY STRANGE election year politics. We’ve grown weary of it. We needed a fairly drastic change & an animated children’s movie about pets just seemed to be what would fill that need. A SPECIAL “thank you” to Beth for suggesting it.

Sometimes you just need to get away; to step out of whatever zone we revolve in & take a less strenuous swing at life. So we did.

The 6 of us, loaded down with popcorn, drinks & tacos took up almost an entire theater row. We watched the “Previews of Coming Attractions,” which were all animated children’s movies, under the watchful & curious eyes of the parents who were there with their children. Perhaps they found us, well, unusual if not downright suspicious; 6 adults loaded down with food, attending a children’s movie while wearing Star Trek costumes. I believe I saw several parents pull their toddlers closer to them as we sat down.

The Secret Life of Pets was a relaxing 90 minute romp into the world of fantasy & a glimpse of what our own pets just MIGHT be doing while left alone in our homes many hours during the day.

Mainly, the movie was funny. We laughed & laughed; deep belly laughs that go along with enjoying something fun with very special friends; an unspoken appreciation & acknowledgement of the moment.

The thing about our laughing that soon became apparent was that WE were the ONLY people in the theater doing that as loud & with so much gusto. Several times our row of 6 was the ONLY row laughing at all … & that was very special to us but may have seemed peculiar to the parents sharing the theater with us.  Kenny said later that he didn’t care & Beth said that made it even MORE fun … regardless of those frequently more suspicious looks coming from parents seated with their kids very close around us.

The end of the movie was touching. I love a movie that ends right & apparently so does Glenda who was seated to my right. Wiping away a few tears I heard her sniffling & said to her, “Are you CRYING?”  She sniffled again & replied, Of course not. Are YOU?”

We stayed in our seats as everyone else was leaving because we just didn’t want the movie to end. We were glad we did because as the credits were rolling there was an extra funny little snippet that added even more delight to the film we’d just seen.

We left together feeling a special camaraderie & the enhanced sense of friendship you feel when you’ve shared something special with special people. We felt not only relaxed & entertained, we felt REFRESHED & there’s a lot to be said for that. Maybe, just maybe it will help us deal with our current real world of disharmony & politics.

While I’m sitting here writing all this down I can’t help wondering if somewhere there’s a mom or dad who was at The Secret Life of Pets tonight who went home, called, emailed, texted or tweeted friends & relatives about the strange group of people (were they actually adults?) they encountered at the movie when they took their kids tonight. I can’t help but think that one of them, at least, is sharing his or her concern about the fact that those same people (adults?) were wearing Star Trek clothes. Because of our age, our clothes & our BEHAVIOR (it may have seemed a bit erratic), I hope that SOMEONE is wondering, but not daring to voice that concern to anyone (texting OR tweeting) that maybe, just MAYBE those people were aliens.

If someone IS having those thoughts then our evening has had a PERFECT twist & a perfect ending. Not only did going to see The Secret Life of Pets relax, refresh & rejuvenate US, I hope our unexpected presence in Theater 6 had the very same effect on someone else. If it did, our weekend is complete …

secret-life-of-pets