Bloganuary: Favorite Photo(s), A Note on Today’s Prompt

Yesterday’s prompt was “what was your favorite photo you’ve ever taken?” Despite the prompt’s clunky language, and because I can’t choose, I’ve picked a couple of favorites. Not taking the time to dig into files for the original jpegs, just a couple of shots that you can see have been framed and at some point will go back onto a wall. (Since we moved in June it’s taking a very long time to get art hung up, partly because this house is smaller, and I have to be more selective about what goes up, and where.)

Nelson Lake National Park, South Island, New Zealand (not only a great lucky shot, but a wonderful memory of our visit to my cousin Joy in 2009.)
This shot of Edinburgh Harbor is the companion piece to my blog image at the top of your screen. Another wonderful memory, this time of our visit to Scotland in 2013. Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities.

The prompt for today is “If you could, what year would you time travel to and why?” I am not going there! But if I were to speculate on that dangerous mission, I would have questions: would you go as just a spectator, or would you be able to effect change? Would you be able to stay if you wanted? Would you arrive knowing what you know now? If I did actually do this, I would probably choose 1961, when I was 16, because I think that’s the age when a person begins to have agency in her life choices: education, relationships, career and so forth. And would you go knowing that one different step might change every other event in your life: choices of partners, jobs, kids, where you live? No, thank you, not going there!

Bloganuary, two days

Once again I’m a day late and a dollar short, but here’s a makeup. Yesterday’s prompt was “What is a superpower you’d love to have?”

This was a no-brainer: Restore my husband and granddaughter to perfect health. Make the Parkinson’s and the granddaughter’s bundle of problems (today it’s another migraine) disappear. As they say at Servpro: “Like it never even happened.”

Today’s prompt is “What book is next on your reading list?” When I finish Bill Bryson’s “The Body,” I have another Bill Bryson, “Neither Here nor There,” and someday I may actually read all of his books, a way to learn and laugh at the same time! His brick I have yet to read is “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” Anyway, “The Body” is a library book, so when I finish that my next choice was recommended by Laurie Graves, blogger at “From the Hinterlands.” It’s called “The Path: A One-mile Walk through the Universe,” by Chet Raymo. It’s just my kind of reading, and I can see it as a good bedside book. I have also ordered, and am looking forward to reading, “Godless for God’s Sake: Nontheism in Contemporary Quakerism,” edited by David Boulton. Part of the introductory essay was read at our Sunday Zoom church service. I found it absolutely fascinating and immediately ordered the book!

Not to mention the ever-growing, never-shrinking pile of to-read books on a shelf in the living room. Happiness is a pile of unread books, in my opinion.

Image today is just a beautiful sky, shot on a dog walk, something that keeps me sane (the dog and the walks).

Sky near sunset, Elm Creek Park, January 2022

Bloganuary: Ideal day and greatest challenges

Getting behind on the daily prompts, so I’m combining two days.* My “ideal day” would probably be so boring to a reader there’s no point in going into much details. It involves a lot of reading, knitting, dog-walking, napping, some art, a nice dinner with wine, a Netflix movie and early bed. Are you still awake?

Today’s prompt is to write about a challenge I’ve faced and how I overcame it. My biggest challenge is ongoing and I can’t say I have done much overcoming. But I slog on.

I am raising a granddaughter at the age of 76. Along with typical teen drama, there are many other issues that complicate our lives. If she graduates on time, I’ll be turning 80 around graduation time. I only hope to continue to have good health and mobility in 2025. But two things about getting a kid off to school five days a week: once again I appreciate weekends and again hate getting up with an alarm. So much for the best thing about retirement.

The other enormous challenge is having a husband with Parkinson’s. I have never hated anything as much as I hate this disease. It’s cruel and insidious. It causes physical, emotional and cognitive decline. You never know from one day to the next when there will be another crisis, catastrophe, doctor visit or trip to the ER. We’re into our fourth year, but people say you should go back 10 years for the probable onset of the disease. It’s hard, it’s sad, it’s depressing, it’s scary. The biggest challenges, after the daily tasks of medication management, safety and other caregiver tasks, are maintaining a positive attitude with him, being patient, and tapping into humor, which is not easy.

The second part of the prompt was how a challenge was overcome. I’m not going to overcome these. I just hope to survive them.

Sorry for the Debbie Downer post, so I’ll close with a file picture of a happy memory.

Us at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens’ Japanese Garden at a happy time.

* The fact that this is yet another day later than when it was started is a perfect example of my days going off the rails.

Bloganuary: Five gratitudes

Finally, a prompt that inspires me to write for the WordPress #bloganuary challenge. Five things I’m grateful for today, on the tenth day:

  1. My family: husband and his family, my daughters, grandson and granddaughter, and extended family members all over the world (England, France, New Zealand, Australia). And, of course, Junior.
  2. My good health and strength. For 76 years old, I’m pretty vigorous and healthy, walking two or three miles a day, swimming at the gym, and doing regular physical therapy.
  3. Friends, our church community, my “arty” women friends, and long-held friendships going back to my childhood.
  4. Reading: the daily New York Times, our “daily” rag that comes three times a week (good only to keep up with local events); magazines; and an ever-growing stack of books I plan to read. Right now I’m reading “There is Nothing for Your Here,” by Fiona Hill. What a remarkable woman, and she makes me grateful our family left England when we did, because there was probably nothing for me there, either.
  5. Knitting, stitching, art, puzzles, movies, TV–ways to stay busy and entertained, all at my fingertips.
  6. Bonus, because I can’t stop at five: living in a really beautiful part of the world, while there are fires, storms and horrible weather around much of the country. We are having a fairly “normal,” (i.e. mild) winter in the Texas Hill Country. We have the beautiful Guadalupe River, parks, a pretty downtown with galleries and shops; I’m happy we moved here from Austin nearly five years ago.
Junior sleeping next to me, with his Wild Thing toy, and my husband dozing and watching ESPN on a fine January Monday morning.

Happy Bloganuary to everyone else who is participating!

2022: Regroup, Recharge, Renew

The past year was so difficult and challenging for everyone in the world, but ours would have been tough even without the pandemic (from which we are so far mercifully spared, fully vaccinated and very careful). Starting with the Big Texas Freeze (again, we were lucky to have water, some power every day and a fireplace with enough wood); house-hunting; moving in June; getting the other house ready to sell, and closing in late July; then the unexpected (and expensive) bathroom renovation; followed by an auto accident and all the health and insurance issues that entailed; and finally a health crisis for a family member resulting in four days in a San Antonio hospital, taking me away from care-giving for my husband with Parkinson’s.

But the year ended on some high notes: we had my family here for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve (the latter of which included the grandson who goes to school in England), then a pleasant visit with friends and family in the Dallas-Fort Worth area after Christmas.

The new year brings us to the granddaughter’s decision to return to in-person school (after a semester online), stepping into the stream of being a freshman in the middle of her first year in high school. At the end of the first week, things are going well and I’m hopeful that continues. The six years she has lived with us have had their ups and downs, but she seems to have matured since she turned 15. Fingers crossed this continues. The worst part is the driving back and forth. The bus-ride is about an hour and a half each way (the buses wend their way all around town), so I drive her the eight miles to the high school on the other side of town. High school students drive, so it’s much busier than middle school. The first day it took 20 minutes to get out of the parking lot. Tweaking my strategy, I’ve winnowed it down to about 10, but that may be the minimum (and I have to get there early and sit in the car–not running the engine–and read, for this “saving” of time).

So now I have some freedom and flexibility (plus the omicron variant has canceled many activities I would normally participate in), I’m achieving some goals set last year: Catching up on duties I had as church board secretary and planning for my new position as Communications Chair (which will draw on my professional roots in public information); doing some household organizing while putting away Christmas decorations; knitting (and giving away knitted hats and scarves while it’s cold); reading (right now, Fiona Hill”s fascinating book, “There Is Nothing for You Here,” and “The Body,” by Bill Bryson, recommended by Joy, my 91-year-old cousin in New Zealand), plus an online subscription to the New York Times, which I am way behind on, and many other publications; and getting back to unpacking from the move (eight months later!). Yesterday I unpacked a box marked “1st packed,” containing seldom-used items like vases and candlesticks. First packed, last unpacked, except for boxes of art, family photos, canvases and similar items that need to be sorted, culled or re-packed. This house doesn’t have the wall space to hang all the art and photos displayed in previous houses.

I am nearly finished with physical therapy, which is fulfilling its intended purpose of improving strength, balance and flexibility, and I may be able to hold off hip replacement for a while longer. I was taking two or three naproxen daily, and haven’t taken any at all recently. Once my sessions run out I will continue doing what the therapist taught me, at home and in the gym.

Meanwhile, my art closet beckons, and I soon will answer the siren call. I need to make some art!

One of the things I love about this house is the built-in art closet (probably originally intended for an office). It’s a mini-studio.

P.S. I signed up for the WordPress “Bloganuary,” but so far have not been inspired by any of the prompts.

Good News, Bad News

Hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas (or whatever holiday you observe) this year. We had a nice time with friends and family. Even with the surge of omicron, we were glad to be able to get together with people a bit more than we have in a past two years. I had my arty friends group over for cookies and conversation on the 23rd, and my family had our annual Christmas Eve gathering. Then we traveled to Fort Worth on Christmas.

The good news is that we were able to travel at all. I had concerns about a five or six hour drive, with husband’s Parkinsons, but we shared driving and did all right. After dropping the dog off with my daughter and her family (and Junior’s doggy pal, Bo), we took mostly back roads to the DFW spaghetti-bowl of freeways.

We stayed in a hotel in Bedford, conveniently located near our dear friends Linda and Kenneth, and visited Gary’s brother and his family Christmas evening, and again on Sunday evening. The weather was so mild we sat on their back patio (which was good because not everyone there was vaccinated). We got to meet the eight-month-old grand-nephew, whose parents we last saw at their wedding in New York in 2019.

We had the great joy of spending Sunday with Linda and Kenneth and went to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Again, with temperatures so warm roses were blooming (actually this weather in late December is kind of scary, but it was still pleasant). We had a nice lunch in the gardens’ cafĂ©, and Kenneth drove us around downtown Fort Worth to see the big tree in Sundance Square.

Beautiful blooming Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Gary and Kenneth in the distance
Lovely Linda
December roses
Kenneth, Gary and Linda
Gary and I in “Stickwork,” an art installation by Peter Dougherty

We took a walk Monday morning, then watched “Don’t Look Up” (on Netflix) in our room. Talk about scary, but great satire and very funny. Then we went to an actual movie theater with L and K and saw “Nightmare Alley,” which we all thought was excellent. Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara, David Strathairn, Cate Blanchett, Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins all gave terrific performances in a dark and gripping story. Afterwards we had dinner in a real restaurant! After two years of staying home, this was all very special. Afterwards we went to L and K’s house for dessert and watched the documentary about Four Seasons Total Landscaping–funny and heartwarming, how the family made lemonade out of a ridiculous situation created by Rudy Giuliani and the Trump campaign.

We returned home Tuesday, another six-plus hours, having to get through Austin traffic to pick up the dog, who had such a wonderful time with Bo and my grandson I think he’s a bit bored being home. But L and K gave him a squeaky llama, which he is now fiercely guarding.

“No, I won’t give you my llama!”

The bad news: this short trip was the best possible way to learn how difficult travel has become, and it may be our last trip. We told family and friends that they will have to come and see us next time. We have a European river cruise planned for May, which we will cancel. Just four days away from home, sharing a room and a bed, seeing how exhausting the days were for him, and for me worrying about him, proved we need to just stay home. He was an absolute trouper, driving around the DFW area (which I just hate), driving his share up and back, missing his usual daily naps. But it took so much out of both of us it’s no longer worth the effort.

In other good news: I have been doing physical therapy to try to hold off needed hip replacement. It’s working well: I’m feeling stronger, have less pain, and I plan to be diligent in doing the work after the insurance for PT runs out. The New Year will bring more gym time, long dog walks (pain-free, I hope), and emphasis on healthy living for both of us. Granddaughter has been with her mom; she starts back to school (after a semester online) next week, meaning another whole adjustment to our daily routines.

Wishing everyone a safe, happy and heathy 2022!

Living My Perfect Life

A commenter on my last post complimented me on having a positive attitude through many recent challenges. The truth is I’ve been wallowing in a ditch of self-pity in my own private thoughts.

The past few weeks I would wake up not wanting to get up (the dog usually nudges me awake just before dawn) and I’d struggle out of bed saying to myself, “Welcome to another day in hell.” I have not been the most pleasant person to live with, dutifully but not always cheerfully filling my family’s needs

Then two things happened. I heard a talk by someone who had recently spent time in an impoverished, dictator-led country in Central Asia. She remarked on how hard people worked, how they strove to do better; that women received very little education and were often forced into arranged marriages at a young age. Yet, she said, they were kind, friendly, eager to learn English and very hospitable.

Everyone who heard the talk reacted as I did: we are so privileged, and we take our easy and comfortable lives for granted.

That afternoon I tried to nap, but as often happens I had difficulty falling asleep and fell into a routine pattern of visualizing my other “perfect” life. Imagining alternate lives is the stuff of fiction and fantasy (e.g. “The Midnight Library” and a short-lived TV show about a guy who is living three different lives simultaneously; plus Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”). I have thought back over the various decision points in my life, and how different my life would have been if I had taken another path, starting at about age 16, an age we begin to have some agency in our life choices: what if I’d chosen a different college? What if I hadn’t dropped out after Freshman year, but accepted the offer of full scholarships in the university’s elite seminar program? What if I hadn’t moved to Washington, D.C., after I dropped out? What if I hadn’t met or married my first husband? Or hadn’t divorced him? Or had no children, or different children? If he had accepted the job offer in Florida instead of Austin? Gone back for my degree at UT or Texas State instead of St. Edward’s? Had not met my current husband, or hadn’t married him? There are a thousand, a million, maybe an infinite number of inflection points that change the direction of our lives. (One of my “fantasy” lives had me working in the State Department, marrying a diplomat named Stephen, retiring to Bucks County, Pennsylvania; working as an artist; and having a son named Matthew, who works on boats in Annapolis, and a daughter, Jennifer, a speech pathologist, married, mother of two sons, living in Connecticut.)

So while trying to think of this “perfect” alternative life, I sort of slapped myself in the face and said: “You are living your perfect life, because it’s the only one you have!”

As Byron Katie would say, “Fall in love with reality.” So that is what I am doing. Embracing the days as they come, knowing that whatever challenges I face today may be easier, or worse, tomorrow, and roll with it.

It does make it easier waking up. The mantra is no longer “welcome to another day in hell,” it is “I am living my perfect life.”

The view from our front porch a few days ago. We are having a very mild December. The tree on the left is full of hummingbirds in summer, and I hang a feeder on the porch and just watch (and sometimes feel) the hummingbirds come and go.
I had the incredible privilege of sharing my poetry in a church service in October, and I created the display for the table to include, along with poetry, some of my other loves: knitting and art. It was so much fun, and I love the support and caring I get from this congregation.

Handholds of Joy

This post was supposed to be written in early November, but there was yet another crisis in our already beset household, literally life-and-death (but for the privacy of the person involved I can say no more).

A friend had asked me, privately, how things were really going, as opposed to my normally upbeat Facebook posts.

I told her the truth about how difficult my life has been this year, but added that I have found handholds of joy that help me through each day.

I really liked that idea, of hanging on by way of small saving graces, and decided to make a list:

  • Walking the dog, especially at the beautiful off-leash park along the Guadalupe River. Junior himself is a comfort, as well as keeping me active.
My happy place
Junior loves the park, too.
My pink Nike Renew Arenas. I go through a couple of pairs a year, always the same style, but whatever color is available in my size. I lucked out with pink this time!
  • A circle of supportive friends and caregivers: my arty friends, our church community, neighbors, family and my therapist and medical caregivers.
  • Reading: Once the stressful and difficult move was behind us, I have made a point to get back to one of my great loves, reading. Since the move I’ve read 14 books. Favorites include “The Midnight Library,” by Matt Haig, “Project Hail Mary,” by Andy Weir, and “Shades of Grey,” (not 50) by Jasper Fforde.
  • Knitting: it’s just meditative and relaxing, yet produces something useful. Here are some recent projects:
A scarf using Lion brand “Hometown” yarn and a pattern I made up myself.
Current projects, including another scarf with the Hometown yarn. The sparkly blue will be a stole.
  • Art, of course, has always been a satisfying creative outlet. I managed to make 10 cards for the fall iHanna postcard swap, which can be seen at my art blog, jillybeanswiggins.wordpress.com.
  • Finally, although I don’t watch much TV, I do follow Jeopardy! daily and enjoy watching movies. It’s companionable time with my husband, and I can knit! We’ve seen one movie in a theater, “No Time to Die,” and I decided I prefer to watch movies at home–I need the captioning, not for hearing but for understanding heavy accents and fast dialogue. (We also both hated “No Time to Die.”) And I can’t knit in a movie theater. We mostly watch TCM, Netflix and Amazon Prime. “Cabaret” was on TCM last night, and I can’t believe I had never seen it. It was wonderful! Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey were fabulous.

After such an awful year I am hopeful for more joy and less stress, but given the ongoing family issues I’m just going to try to hang onto my small handholds of joy.

My Life in Accidents

I have had three cars totaled in the past 21 years. The last one, my little Hyundai Accent I called “Butterscotch,” was in three wrecks, including the one that finished it off. My social media and local friends have already heard this sad tale, so I’ll leave it to the end so they can skip it.

I’ve had a a ridiculous number of auto accidents in my life. I think it’s my greatest fear, and I often say that if people died in commercial airplanes at the rate they die in cars, there would be no commercial air travel.

When I was 17, I was in the back seat of an Olds Cutlass with my best friend, going to an out-of-town basketball game. Another friend was driving, and her father was in the front passenger seat. It was sleeting, and we hit an icy spot. The car rolled over into a field and landed right-side-up. The dad got out and hailed a passerby, who took us three girls to the hospital. In this era before cell phones, I have no idea what the dad did next, but he probably asked our Good Samaritan to contact the police when he got to town.

We were treated for minor injuries–I had four stitches over my left eye–and asked another stranger to take us to the school where the game was. (This was small-town northern Ohio in the early 1960s, when we trusted strangers.) We knew we would be able to get rides home from there. The game was a blur, but my optometrist was there and he straightened my glasses out. I assume someone had called our parents. We were able to catch rides home. I took the SAT the next day, and the principal stopped at my desk and asked how I was. A rollover, when back seats didn’t have seat belts, was like being tumbled in a cement mixer, and I hurt all over. I must have done ok on the test because I got into college. (The Cutlass was totaled, but we think its sturdiness saved us from more serious injury.)

Other than a few minor fender-benders and rear-enders, my vehicular life went well for many years after that. Then on New Year’s Eve, 2000, we were on our way home from a gig (my husband, Gary, did comedy murder mysteries, and I had accompanied him to a private party, since it was New Year’s Eve). Going down a long slope on Loop 360 near Barton Creek Mall in Austin, light mist, green light ahead, Gary driving, we entered the intersection, as did a tan pickup, with which we collided. We spun and finally stopped. Gary got out an called 911. Several witnesses gave us their names. We rode an ambulance to the hospital and greeted the millennium on adjoining gurneys. Gary had air bag injuries and we were both very banged up. I missed nearly a week of work. Gary also had PTSD and didn’t really recover until well into 2001. My 1994 Saturn, the first car I’d ever bought on my own, was totaled. I replaced it with a 1999 Toyota Corolla, which I loved. We had a lengthy battle with the other guy’s insurance company (USAA, to name names), got a lawyer and ended up with a small settlement. I don’t think the cops even tested the perp for alcohol, at 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve!

A few years later there was another red-light runner, but the damage was minimal and I got to keep my Corolla.

In 2009, a few blocks from our house on my way home from work, I stopped at a four-way stop, took my turn into the intersection, when a vehicle flew at me out of nowhere over a slight rise, nearly t-boning me, and took off. I spun out, stopped, and was shaking so badly a witness called 911. By the time the police arrived, a motorcyclist had pursued the other driver and brought him back. He was unlicensed, uninsured, and spoke no English. He was arrested, but I never heard the outcome. I had recently decided that car was like Birkenstocks–boring, beige, but utterly comfortable and totally reliable. Totaled.

Under stress, I made a terrible choice of a Chrysler Cirrus. It was a very pretty lemon and the last time it broke down we decided it was time for me to have a new car. Hating car shopping, I asked Gary to do the research and take me for a test-drive. We went to a couple of dealerships and were talked down to by a Ford salesman. We ended up with the Hyundai Accent, which was the best car ever. Small, easy to drive, easy on gas, and utterly reliable. In nine years, the only time Butterscotch failed me was when I stupidly left a light on and the battery died. Again, I had thought about keeping her “forever.”

Within two years she had a couple of major crashes–one when she was parked, the other when Gary was driving and someone changed lanes into him while turning a corner, both of which cost many thousands of dollars and a lot of time at body shops while I drove rentals. Then a few bumps and scrapes over the years, so she was a little worse for wear. Also pretty grungy inside from the dog and the teenager, so I had her detailed a couple of weeks ago (which came in handy when we went to the wrecking yard to get everything out, since I had taken almost everything out for the detailing).

On September 20, headed to our favorite off-leash dog park at 7:30 a.m. (the river and park are beautiful as the sun comes up), I started through a busy intersection with a green light and–BAM–a pickup truck reared like a great white shark, slammed into us and, yes, took off.

I got through the intersection and pulled to the curb. Got out, called 911, and a woman passerby stopped, even though she had not seen the accident. No witnesses stopped. The police arrived and encouraged us to have them call the EMTs, and we agreed. The nice lady took Gary and the dog (who was fine) back to our house and Gary got his car and came back, following the ambulance to the hospital. We were both checked out with X-rays, CT, EKG (for me because I had chest pain). While we were there the police officer came in and told me they had found the guy. I guess they put out a call to look for a white pickup with extensive front-end damage. It was a Ford F-150, against which Butterscotch had no chance.

Butterscotch is, of course, totaled. The jerk’s insurance company (AAA) has been responsive and cooperative, and I’m just waiting to find out how much payout we’ll get. I just want a later model Hyundai, either an Accent or possibly an Elantra or Sonata. At least online research makes the process similar, but the nearest Hyundai dealer is in a town about 30 miles away. And I have way more important (and interesting) things to do than car shop.

I am traumatized; I back-seat drive when a passenger and drive like an old lady. Which I guess I am but didn’t drive like one.

RIP sweet Butterscotch.

Tire-d

On the rocky road that has been my life this summer, I have developed a couple of flat tires. My normal high-energy pace has slowed to a slog. Husband says it’s the heat, but I try to limit outdoor activity to around dawn and dusk. I was actually ill the other night, after a slightly spicy Chinese dinner, a too-early walk in the heat, while being followed by a friendly stray female Pitbull that attracted way too much of Junior’s attention. Lesson learned: walk later in the evening. No idea what to do about stray dogs.

Now that the focus is my #1 job of being granddaughter’s “Learning Coach” for her online school, part of every day is spent reviewing her lessons, watching webinars and communicating with faculty by email and phone. I am very impressed with the quality of the curriculum and the responsiveness of faculty. Except for algebra, she seems to be handling the work easily, and the algebra teacher is going out of his way to help. (The school is Texas Connections Academy at Houston, part of the Pearson system. It’s a free accredited charter school that complies with all state academic requirements.)

Except for school, I just about have energy for taking the dog to the off-leash park every couple of mornings and a neighborhood walk in the evening, plus light housework and cooking. I swim at the gym when I have the energy to get there. Shopping happens when we’re nearly out of some necessity (you know, wine, chocolate, toilet paper).

Junior in the off-leash dog park on the Guadalupe River.

So what have I been doing? A lot of reading: Since our move I have read: Nomadland (Jessica Bruder), which I loved, then watched the movie, which I thought was a travesty and bore no resemblance to the book; The Silent Traveller in London (Chiang Yee), a fascinating perspective on pre-war England, by a Chinese man living in London in the mid-1930s; The Brooklyn Follies (Paul Auster), a funny and heartwarming novel by one of my favorite authors; Draft No. 4 (John McPhee), about both the writing process and a memoir of his life as a writer and teacher (and he was my late brother’s favorite author); The Midnight Library (Matt Haig), the intriguing best-selling novel about alternative lives; Breath (James Nestor), both a memoir and a how-to on best breathing practices, which most of us are doing wrong. Now I’m reading The Doctor Who Fooled the World (Brian Deer), about the notorious, lying, dangerous anti-vaxxer who started the modern anti-vaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield. I’m also trying to re-read Justine (Lawrence Durrell), the first volume of The Alexandria Quartet, and I’m remembering why my first reading of it was such a slog. Next in my queue is Loving What Is (Byron Katie), which my therapist recommended: “fall in love with realty.”

I’m also knitting a bit, just scraps, and getting back to a needlework piece that I’ve been at for about 10 years and which I would really love to finish. I tried to teach myself how to crochet a circle. I have scrap cotton yarn, which makes great coasters, but square knitted coasters are… well, square. But my hand hurt after too many attempts and I put that aside for now.

All those tiny lilacs! On a black background! No wonder it’s taken me 10 years to get this far.

Watching movies on TCM: “The Best Years of Our Lives,” which is a classic post-war film, and quite compelling. The young man who played the sailor with no hands, Harold Russell, was so interesting I read up on him, and what a biography! He spent much of his life supporting and helping veterans. My favorite quote about him was that he got so adept with his hooks that he could “pick up anything but a dinner check.” Last night was a Fred-and-Ginger movie, my go-to when I want to chill out, the Barkleys of Broadway, surprisingly the only color movie Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made, as if it makes any difference, when he’s in white tie, top hat and tails and she’s in flowing white chiffon! Another actor in that movie, whom I find appealing with his snarkiness and his incredible talent, is Oscar Levant. He was so talented, funny and snarky, and mostly unknown today. I’m going to look for more of his movies, starting with him playing the title music in Rhapsody in Blue, the biopic of George Gershwin.

So now we’re just looking toward fall (which comes around Thanksgiving in these parts) and getting through the school year. Or maybe just one day at a time. I do feel a bit better having written this: finishing something mildly creative.

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