?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.

Found Time

I don’t where the term “found time” derives from, but I learned it from a friend one day while we were mall walking. Turns out a meeting I had with someone got cancelled, which meant I had a couple extra hours to devote to something else. I mentioned this to S, my mall walking companion.

“You’ve got found time,” she said. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

It’s not that I didn’t want to attend the meeting, but the thought of a couple extra hours in the day was just as appealing.  I’m one who makes lists for the day’s accomplishments; and more often than not the list doesn’t get done before the day goes down. So found time is special.

The thing is: How do I spend it?

Sometimes I tackle my To Do List and get further ahead than I would have otherwise.  Other times I revel in extra reading or gardening or playing piano. And then there are those occasions where I simply take a little nap.

Regardless, found time is a special gift. I hope you recognize it when it drops into your life, and I also hope you guard it well.

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Teeth . . . And Other Bothersome Things

The bad news is that I need some serious dental work if I want to enjoy eating for the rest of my life. The good news is that I have a wonderful dentist who is up to the job. The question is: Am I up to it?

Intellectually, of course I am.  But you have to understand that I had my first root canal at the age of ten, and dentistry wasn’t the painless profession it can be today. Memories of those early experiences make me almost fetal in a dentist’s chair. However, I’ll grit my teeth (No pun intended.) and think of what wonderful things I’ll eat when it’s over.

Then there’s the recent Town Hall Debate.  I didn’t see it and have no regrets. I only wish there were less than four weeks to go until this presidential election is over. I’m gritting my teeth about this too.

And Gordon Lightfoot, a musical idol of mine for years. Earl and I paid dearly to see him a couple nights ago, but we left at Intermission. I needed to do that to preserve my memories of his wonderful lyrics and his wonderful voice.  The first remained, but the second didn’t. I’ve made a vow not to pay to see aging rockers and balladeers anymore. After seeing Simon and Garfunkel, Eric Clapton, and now Gordon Lightfoot – and hoping they were as good now as they were then – I’ve learned my lesson.

Then there’s the University of Notre Dame football team and the Chicago Bears. Enough said!

Finally, we need to find a different supplemental health insurance plan for Earl.  It’s a long story, and it’s boring. But the bottom line is that this is a project that will take at least ten to twenty hours to solve before December rolls around.  It wouldn’t be that difficult, except that everyone we’ve spoken with wants to refer us to someone else for answers. Maybe there aren’t any.

Still, with Haiti having been devastated once again by a hurricane and political strife rampant in many countries, these are all First World problems. Thanks for listening anyway.

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Baseball in October

Last night, I watched the first game of many in the race for this year’s World Series. Not only are the Chicago Cubs in contention, but the team has a fighting chance to win its first World Series in over one hundred years.

When I was a young girl and living with a mother who adored baseball, I was regularly expected to listen to the Giants or the Cardinals depending on where we lived at the time.  Mother’s all-time favorite team was the Giants when they were located in New York. When they moved to the West Coast, she became a Cardinals fan. I still recall listening to the play-by-play on her tiny radio in our equally tiny apartment. We lived in St. Louis, MO, then and the heat index was formidable in September. But we ignored it for baseball.

There were only two leagues, and the winner of each league played the winner of the other in the World Series.  Whoever won four of the seven post-season games won the whole tamale.

Today there are still two leagues, but they are divided into divisions that are still sub-divided into wild cards when the World Series is on the line. All this means that there is a run-up similar to the football frenzy leading to the Super Bowl where certain teams qualify in post-regular season play.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m a Cub fan and want the team to reach the World Series as much as anyone. At the same time, I am disgruntled that the baseball playoffs are just starting and probably won’t end until next month.  I suspect the teams’ owners like an extended season and an even more extended play-off; and one reason is the money involved. Still, I wonder if it’s really good for the game.

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Off the Grid

For years the first thing I did upon waking was visit my computer to see what had transpired over the night. Were there personnel problems at the company I worked for? Were there banking issues? Was someone trying to reach me with a problem? I couldn’t resist taking a peek at the day’s challenges even before I brushed my teeth.

A couple months ago I tried something new. Before I went to bed, I closed my email program. And before I opened it in the morning I dressed, had a cup of coffee, and practiced piano, one of the loves of my life. I found my brain was more focused on the things in my personal life that are important. Previously, my brain concentrated on the emails that had come in overnight.

Now I’ve taken this a step farther. I don’t keep my email program – that would be Outlook – open all the time. Instead, I read my incoming messages, send responses or add items to my daily To Do list, and then log off. So I don’t hear the gentle “ding” of an incoming message and don’t have to resist the urge to see who sent it. You’d be amazed at how much time this has freed for other pursuits.

I can practice piano for an hour and then log back on. Those people in my inbox haven’t waited that long.  I can log off and finish my work before checking in again.  It might be a couple hours, but I’m still responding promptly. I can even have lunch without feeling I should be at my desk.

The Internet is a wonderful thing, but we need to use it for our own benefit and not the other way around.

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The VP Debate

Last night’s debate between the two vice-presidential candidates convinced me that such a program is a waste of time. First, it wasn’t really a debate.

A real debate is a formal activity where one side expresses all the reasons for advocating something – for instance, allowing automobile dealerships to be open on Sunday – while the other side argues against the issue in question. The speakers have researched the topic extensively and do not interject their own personal opinions.  Nor do they interrupt each other. Or call each other liars.

The history of televised presidential and vice-presidential debates in our country has leaned less toward true debate and more toward yelling matches over which the moderator seems to have little control.

Last night’s program, for instance, had the moderator and candidates all talking at the same time more than once.  It also offered nothing new in terms of what we, the audience, already know since most of the questions were ignored in favor of party line sound-bites.

Frankly, I’m tired of all this faux debating.  And in the case of the vice presidents, is there anyone who votes for the head of the ticket because the possible second-in-command is so charismatic? Is there anyone who hopes misfortune will befall the President so that Number Two gets a chance?  I hope not.

So could someone please tell me why we need the vice-presidential candidates’ debate in the first place?

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month Returns

Perhaps you don’t know, but I survived ovarian cancer. Which is part of the reason I wish October were not designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And this is my annual rant on the topic.

I have the greatest respect for anyone – female or male – who has survived breast cancer. But I think it’s fair to say it isn’t the scourge or the death sentence it once was.

Ovarian cancer still is. And so are other types. Shouldn’t they have a color or a month? Better yet, could we rename October to acknowledge cancers of all types?

Let me share my heroes.

My husband’s cousin Lillian has battled ovarian cancer for more years than I did.  It was discovered when it was further along, and it’s a miracle she’s still with us.

Dr. Michael Rodriguez was the oncological gynecologist associated with Michiana Hematology in South Bend, IN who operated on me and most likely saved my life six years ago. And yet, still in his early fifties, he succumbed to cancer that had nothing to do with breasts or ovaries.

Several members of Earl’s church have also confronted various cancers. Some have won; some have not. But all need to be honored for their fight.  One way to do this is to eliminate pink and proclaim October as a month where all kinds of cancers are given public recognition.

As for me, I’d want the color for this movement to be lavender. But I’d give that up if we could just rename the month.

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Making a Plan

I’ve done it hundreds of times: made a plan. I’ve made plans for parties, plans for trips, plans for getting work done, and – yes – plans for self-improvement. And, once again, I’m making a plan for this last category.

I want to increase my exercise program to where it was in the spring; hopefully, that will result in my returning to the fitness level I had then.  It’s not particularly ambitious; rather it’s more practical. Things like lifting my luggage above my head to store it in one of those impossible airplane racks. Or asking the bagger at the grocery store to “make the bags” heavy, so I can practice my weight training.  Or parking in the farthest spot from the store. Or getting down on the floor and up again without holding on or asking for help. Or standing on one leg, Yoga-style, without toppling over. And doing it for a long time too.

The real issue is: How shall I accomplish these things, since I don’t do any of them every day. Should I focus on Yoga for flexibility and balance? Or general stretching – I have several books on this – or five pound weights with repetitions? Should I consider another trainer? Or join Zumba?

Years ago, Earl told me to find something sport-oriented that I really liked and then pursue it.  “The rest will come,” he said. At the time he was heavy into working out, and I wasn’t.  But I followed his advice and took up inline skating. And he was right. The rest did come, especially after I broke my leg skating. Six months on crutches gave me an upper body strength gymnasts would envy. And the cast on my right leg certainly made me think twice about hobbling to the kitchen for snacks. I lost ten pounds without thinking about it.

So my current plan certainly gave a nod to skating, but with winter coming it doesn’t seem like a great option. Swimming, a year-round sport, has possibilities; but I have issues with the three local swimming pools after having been a member at all of them.

Just now I remember that I signed up for racquetball lessons early in the summer, but never followed up. Maybe it’s time I did. They’re paid for, which is a good thing because Earl and I are going to trim our budgets for this quarter; and maybe – just maybe – I can find the cornerstone to my current self-improvement plan.

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Slugdom Persists

On September 20, I wrote about becoming an athletic slug. No, it’s not an oxymoron; what I mean was that my former interest is staying fit had all but abandoned me and I was giving up exercise.

But now it’s worse than that. It’s been over ten days since I last blogged; almost a week and I’m still doing the most recent batch of ironing, and at least four days since I helped Earl finish the daily crossword puzzle. And forget my email inbox; it’s on steroids while I’m not.

Instead I’m succumbing to inertia, and this isn’t really like me. It’s true I’m not a bundle of energy first thing in the morning, but as the day wears on I gather momentum. Or at least I once did.

I’ve considered the usual reasons for such malaise.  Maybe I’m sick and don’t know it. Maybe I’m depressed and don’t know it (although I’m pretty certain I would know it). Maybe I’ve had a busy summer and am just resting before autumn’s activities and travels kick in. Or maybe I’m getting used to being a slug.

There is one quarter of the year left, and I’ve decided October 1 is the perfect day to begin combatting slugdom. I haven’t gone swimming, nor have I tackled my inbox. But I did finish the ironing and am returning to my blog with a confession of my condition. I’m hoping that being accountable publicly will help. Is there anyone out there who wants to form a support group?

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Becoming a Slug

My personal trainer moved away the beginning of May, and it was the beginning of my personal downslide into slugdom. (No, that’s not a word; I made it up.)

I did look up “slug” in the dictionary.  In the first place, it is a mollusk without a shell but with a serious ability to pester your plants.  In the second place, it is a slow, lazy person. I don’t believe any of my family or friends would characterize me as slow and lazy; so maybe “slug” isn’t the right term. But that’s what I feel like.

I’ve almost given up swimming; don’t go to Yoga; and don’t do weights.  Friends and I mall walk two to three times a week, but that isn’t really enough to offset a thickening middle and creaky limbs. Nor does it make me happy when I step on the scale.

How to motivate myself is the real problem. My trainer Dylan made working out such fun that I actually looked forward to going to the gym. For someone who went all the way through graduate school without attending a gym class, that’s remarkable.

At first when Dylan moved, I told myself he’d taught me so much that I’d be foolish not to continue working out.  I didn’t need him, since I’d learned much in the two years we’d been together. I had the tools.

But I didn’t factor in motivation. And, frankly, I don’t seem to have any.  Dylan, if you read this, please get in touch.  Otherwise I may forevermore be a slug. Do you want that on your conscience?

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Flying High

Tomorrow I’m heading to O’Hare Airport and flying for the third time this year. And each time, I’ve found the online check-in process to be more and more difficult.

You know the routine.  Inside twenty-four hours of your flight you can go online and print your boarding pass, thus avoiding a stop at the airline’s kiosk to check in. So today, I waited until twenty-three hours before my flight to check in.  Turns out I didn’t have a seat assignment, and to get one for me and another for Earl cost an addition $33 per person.  Really?

No, I mean REALLY!

I called my travel agent who said this is becoming typical procedure. Airlines want you to pony up for a seat, even though you already have purchased one when you purchased your ticket. My agent said to sit tight, that seats would be released eventually and I wouldn’t have to pay for them. She said it’s a way the airlines hope you’ll fall for paying extra for a seat.

The thing is, we all know airlines overbook.  So Earl and I could get to O’Hare tomorrow and learn that, without paying extra for a guaranteed seat, we could possibly not be on the flight at all.  However, my agent has more information than I do; and she was able to research the flight and learn it was not overbooked.

So I waited. I waited six hours, and finally seats were released.  Turns out my husband and I are not sitting together, but at least we’re on the same plane.  So I went ahead and wandered through the maze that is now online check-in.  First, I was asked if I wanted to pre-board for an additional $30 a person. Then I was asked if I wanted to change seats.

You’ve got to be kidding!

I said “No” to all the added incentives I was offered and finally printed our boarding passes. But it doesn’t end there.  Once on board, we’ll be asked if we want to purchase snacks or a cocktail. And, if we were flying in October, we’d be asked to support Susan G. Komen’s breast cancer organization.

I guess I should be grateful we’re flying in September.

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