Sunday, April 23, 2017


My last post must have jinxed me, as things have NOT settled down. I should point out that the bad stuff is not happening to ME but to those around me. I'm fine, just in constant support mode and vaguely unsettled much of the time.

I don't want to tell stories that really belong to others, but one recent event was my ex had a heart attack. It could have been The Big One - in fact, it was The Big One, the doctors were surprised he survived - but through the miracle of modern medicine, he not only is alive but should be kicking, for a while at least.

My ex is not the first of my "cohorts" to have a health crisis, but he is the closest. The natural reaction is to try to pinpoint why HIM and not ME (easy, he's a smoker). Another reaction is, What if I were still married to him? (Thank goodness I don't have to be his caretaker through this.) And of course, there is the reminder that everything can change in a heartbeat, literally.

I try to prepare for the worst while also hoping for the best. What is "the best" at this stage of life, though? How do I want to live going forward, knowing there is only so much forward to go toward?

I have lived in this house over twenty years. When I retired, it was with the expectation I would remain in this house for another twenty. I joke that I cannot move until Finn, my indoor/outdoor cat, gives up his roaming ways. Most days I like my house, but there are times when I don't want a house or a yard or even a car anymore.

When in the anti-house mood, I declutter. Sometimes I apply Marie Kondo's methodology (keep what gives me joy), sometimes I simply wander through the house, looking for things to get rid of. I also rearrange what remains, to suit ME. These changes are prioritizing my possessions. Theoretically, when I do decide to downsize (or the decision is made for me), figuring out what to take may be easier than it might otherwise be.

I'm also trying to simplify the yard and garden chores. This summer I purchased a riding mower. My yard is not quite large enough to justify it, but it preserves my energy for the more fun aspects of yardening. And now mowing is FUN. In fact, I wish my lawn were larger. And that is happening somewhat, as I decrease the garden's footprint. I'm losing interest in growing food.

Until those jet packs become available, it looks like I am going to have to replace my Honda CRV. Soon. It has over 100k miles on it, and while it is still going strong, I am hesitant to take it out of town. A couple of days ago, I test drove the 2017 Honda CRV, and oh-my-goodness, the thing practically drives itself. Maybe all new cars are like this now - I'll have to test drive a couple more to see - but the technology has really advanced in the last 12 years. So even though I would like to magically be transported hither and yon, just as TV is more enjoyable with Netflix and Amazon Prime, driving may be more fun with a new vehicle.

Hanging onto old stuff mindlessly is actually stressful in a backwards sort of way. Yes, car shopping is stressful, but a new car would make my day-to-day life less so. Yes, learning to drive a zero-turn mower is challenging, but it is worth the time and energy saved. Yes, I may throw out something I later wish I hadn't, but I'm fortunate to be in a position financially where I can replace it if need be, so why worry about it?

Just as stuff gets prioritized, activities are dropped and added on an as-needed basis. Do I like doing X? If not, perhaps it should go. What about Y? Maybe I'll try it and see. Oh, gotta do Z, it's important to ME.

It's not that I don't still struggle with the SHOULDs that rattle around in the back of my brain. Sometimes I don't know if I truly like doing something or if I am just doing it because I always have or believe I have no other options. The events of the past year have driven home the truth that there is very little under our control. We still need to make wise choices, but after that, life is a crap shoot. So get rid of the crap.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spending my children's inheritance

Wow. It has been a while since I posted here. The past year or so has been crazy-making challenging, but I am cautiously optimistic things will settle down a bit in the personal realm. To paraphrase someone, life is meaningless, but here we are, so we might as well make the best of it.

About two years ago, Betsy Beagle went to doggy heaven. I still get teary eyed missing her, but decided to wait a while before finding a replacement. Well, recently I found that the time had come.

This is Watson, former resident of Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control. I picked him out from the pix they post online, he was still available when I arrived at the shelter a day or two later, and I was able to bring him home right away. There was an adoption fee, but since I am a "senior", the lifetime registration with the city was only $5.

I had given my daughter most of the doggy things left over from Betsy, but I was able to get some back, including the crate. Multiple trips to Pet Supplies Plus and Petco resulted in the purchase of new dishes, a new leash-collar set, a waterproof cover for the backseat (which prevented my newly detailed car from suffering the indignities of dog pee and dog vomit), a fleece coat (for the dog, not me), poop bags, etc. I eyeballed the toys, but fortunately Watson likes the resident cat toys.

Speaking of the resident cats, they are not amused. Although Watson was described as an English pointer-beagle mix, I have yet to see him point at anything. Instead, he wants to chase. Finn is smart enough to not run, but Beau totally freaks out. Consequently, I bought a tall gate and installed it between the kitchen and the mudroom, converting the den and laundry into a "safe room" for the cats.

As a shelter dog, Watson received a complimentary vet check. Unfortunately, the shots, nail trim, anal sac expression, and heartworm meds were not complimentary. Yes, I have another dog with anal sac issues. I'm trying a grain-free, double-the-cost dog food to help mitigate that. Also, coconut.

My last two dogs were pretty laid back, but Watson is on high alert and barks a fair amount, usually at nothing. My SO's home was burgled recently, so I don't discourage the barking, especially when directed at Jehovah Witnesses. There have been other behavior issues, though, so I invested in a Mini Educator eCollar. Also, we just started obedience school.

I didn't intend to get a dog that needed a lot of exercise, but I did. It is easy for me to talk myself out of outdoor activity, especially when the weather is icky, but now I am greeted each day by an enthusiastic walking companion. Our routine is two poop walks a day (less poop to pick up in my own yard), covering between two-to-three miles total, on a hard surface (eliminating the need for nail trimming). The activity keeps both of us healthy and sane. Theoretically, that will save money in the long run, right?

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Obsessed with fungi

At Metea County Park this time.

(See the slug?)

And a white hickory tussock caterpillar (poisonous!)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

More fungi

This time it was my son and I (and no dog), at Lindenwood Nature Preserve. Once in the dense woods, the traffic noises were far away, so even though the park is within the city, it was very quiet. Almost all the flowering plants were asters of one sort or another. Otherwise, it was fungus, fungus, fungus. Again, my phone camera was not quite up to the task, but the fuzzy pix we will describe as "arty".

After visiting a friend who owns a (mostly) English lab, I am leaning toward getting a dog, a puppy even. All my dogs up to this point have been mutts, mostly hound mixes, of limited intelligence. It might be nice to have a smart dog for a change. I've been waiting for the urge to go away, but so far, it has not. S/he would not be able to accompany me to Lindenwood, though, as no pets are allowed.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fall = fungi

My daughter, her dog Kingsley, and I took a walk at Kokiwanee Nature Preserve this morning, the first relatively cool day of this endless season. I had forgotten how great fall is for fungus spotting. Unfortunately, I had only my phone camera, which ordinarily takes halfway decent photos. Not so this time, maybe because the white of most of the fungi contrasted sharply with the surrounding detritus and it was an overcast day. A few pics came out okay, though.

I don't know much about mushrooms or fungus other than I can recognize the puffball. I'm too lazy to look up the rest. Or not interested enough, at least not right this minute.

I know a little bit about wild flowers. Above, we have goldenrod, below a (presumably native) hydrangea. There were also asters of various sizes and colors, jewelweed, boneset, lobelia.

Walking in the woods is definitely preferably to hoofing it around the addition or across a golf course. With more moderate temperatures, I will have to get out more. The great outdoors will be even better once the bugs are gone.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Interval training for walkers

Once upon a time, I averaged four miles an hour when I walked. This was based on a treadmill's calculation, but from experience, this seemed accurate. I even maintained this pace when shopping at the mall, embarrassing my then teenage children. It's not cool to walk briskly.

Then I aged. And picked up some sedentary hobbies. And grew lazy and complacent. Enter my Fitbit and RunKeeper, an app on my phone that tracks my outdoor exercise. Between the two, the fantasy that I was exercising enough was dispelled. The FitBit ticks off my steps, while RunKeeper coughs up all kinds of data, including miles/hour. The news was, four miles an hour was ancient history.

The NYTimes recently published an article headlined "1 Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion". As a retiree, one would think I had all the time in the world to exercise, but I don't. There are just too many other (more fun) things to do than slog around the neighborhood for an hour a day. So this article caught my attention.

While athletes have used interval training to improve performance, there were no scientific studies to support this practice. The NYTimes article described a study that not only supported interval training but also demonstrated that short bursts of intense exercise have benefits comparable to longer workouts. Hmmm.

I bought an elliptical trainer a while back. This was shortly before my month of illness, which interrupted my post-purchase motivation. Consequently, as is common with exercise equipment, the elliptical has been rather neglected.

After reading that NYTimes article, though, I started jumping on the machine and going hell-bent for leather, for (less than) a minute at a time. I don't do this every day, but often enough, apparently. Today, while walking the nabe (and perhaps spurred on by imminent rainfall), I neared the four mph mark for the first time in years. And my hips did not hurt while doing so.

I wouldn't recommend one-minute intervals of intense exercise as one's only activity. I will still walk, preferably outside, and do yoga and, if it ever snows again in these parts, cross country ski. But those bursts feel like they make a difference and are boosting my overall fitness. Not a bad cost/benefit ratio.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Eat like a bachelor

When I first retired, I went on a cooking spree. All those recipes that pile up and never get tested got tested. And then suddenly, I was done. I discovered better things to do than cook and wash dishes.

Here is a typical day's worth of meals for me now:

Breakfast: (paleo) bacon and egg and vegetables, plus OJ
Lunch: meat and vegetables
Snack: popcorn with a little butter and Parmesan
Supper: yogurt, fruit, nuts
Bedtime snack: Cheerios, banana, nuts, milk

The source of my midday serving of meat is the freezer. I bake about eight boneless, skinless chicken thighs, then freeze them individually. Or I cook a 4-lb pork roast in the slow cooker and freeze that in individual sizes. Or I might fry up four quarter-pound hamburgers and freeze those. Or I eat a (paleo) hot dog.

The veggies are also cooked in batches, but not frozen. For example, I'll nuke a baking potato, but get three meals out of it. Or I'll cook a whole package of green beans or peas and eat them a serving at a time, until they are gone.

I don't mind eating the same thing for several days in a row. Since I live alone, there is no one else here to complain. And since I mix up the meats and veggies, it doesn't seem all that monotonous to me. It's just plain.

I do eat out two or three times a week, usually at Panera or Freshii or Penn Station or Culvers or even McDonalds, so rest assured I am getting some SAD (Standard American Diet) food stuffs, too. Today I went wild and crazy and substituted a ciabatta roll and cheddar cheese for my snack and supper. I even had a beer last Saturday, with Lays potato chips and a Snickers bar.

So now I have a kitchen full of equipment that rarely sees the light of day. If I were downsizing, most of it would probably go, but there is a chance that some time in the next 20 years, the cooking bug will resurface. I still make my own yogurt, after all.