Trash Collectors ––An Underappreciated Profession

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In my last post I wrote about completing a daily gratitude list of a minimum of 20 items. Some things that I am most thankful for show up repeatedly, such as indoor plumbing. (See previous post for the reason I don’t take indoor plumbing for granted.)

 

Why purposely practice an attitude of gratitude? As it turns out, according to the Psychology Today website, author Amy Morin, claims there are seven scientifically proven reasons why one should practice gratitude. Gratitude improves one’s physical health, mental strength, psychological health, opens the door to more relationships, build’s self-esteem, reduces aggression and builds empathy. Interestingly enough, thankful people sleep better and longer. 

 (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude).

For the past couple of weeks, gratitude for garbage collectors has cropped up on my list a couple of times.  This also ties to my childhood, country living days when our household was responsible for hauling our trash to the local landfill­­ (or the dump as we called it­­), burning it, or sometimes Dad would even bury it. That’s country living.

In my country-living days, we children were responsible for getting trash outside of the house. Once outside, getting it off the property was up to Dad.  There was a special, sturdy barrel for burning. Once, a can of hairspray escaped our notice and it exploded sending shards that hit my younger sister near the eye. Dangers abound with this method. Some things were burned inside the woodstove, our only source of heat. 

Things that couldn’t or wouldn’t burn were piled up until a pickup truck bed was filled. Then it was off to the landfill. The few times I rode with Dad were father/daughter bonding moments until he began backing the truck to the edge of the stinky gorge. Panicked cries of warning­­––“Stop, Dad! You’re going too far!” and “We’ll fall in!” –– were met with chuckles. It didn’t occur to me that Dad didn’t want that to happen anymore than I did. 

I know some city dwellers who opt out and carry away their trash to the local waste disposal site thinking it will be cheaper. Tally up at least twice monthly trips at an expense of about $27 a load, it works out about the same amount of money as the city charges for curbside service.  Not to mention garbage sitting around stinking and attracting vermin for weeks at a time. EW! 

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I’m thankful that all I need to do these days is collect from the house, toss it a bin and wheel it out to the street curb and wait for man and machine to haul it far away.  Besides, I don’t quite   trust myself to stop the truck before it rolls into the reeking ravine. 

The Glory Days of Outhouses

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A few days after the turn of the new decade, I made a commitment to myself that I would beginning the first few minutes of my waking hour to write 20 things I am grateful for. 

Somedays I struggle with coming up with new and different things despite the fact that I have many, many things to be thankful for.  I have, however, noticed a recurring theme: several times a week I am thankful for indoor plumbing! 

As I began to explore why this may be, childhood memories began to stream like a Hulu Original through my mind.  Memories of creeping down a set of very steep stairs with no railings in the dark of the night and sneaking out onto the grass to take care of business. 

I grew up in the country. My father, with the help of relatives, built our first home. It was small but was adequate for our family of five. Although we had a washroom with a concrete floor, sink and shower, there was no indoor toilet. But my father happily provided our very own outhouse.

The problem was that it was located about 150 yards away from the house and around the side of the barn.  There are no streetlights, of course, in the country. I thought it­­––and I still do––very unreasonable to oblige a young child to trek unaccompanied in the dark to the facilities. If the occasion arose, I simply refused. Thus, the short journey. 

While I cannot recall being afraid of the dark as most young children are, I feared the country critters that reigned in the night, like a skunk or racoon, or possibly an escaped cow. (I had an irrational fear of cows.)  Without even a flashlight to guide my way, it was even more scary. Then there was the possibility I would stumble and fall in! EW!!

Having to endure the use of the outhouse for the first nine years of life until we got a “real” bathroom indoors, it’s no secret why I am continually thankful for indoor plumbing. 

Health Benefits of Being a Senior Corps Volunteer

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Non-profit and faith-based organizations rely heavily on the work and support of volunteers to bring relief a struggling population within local communities.  But a recent study of older adults ––55 years old and over––gives evidence that the volunteer who is consistent in volunteer work for two years or more also improve their own health.  

An independent study released on Feb. 5, 2019, by the Corporation for National and Community Service reflects that after a two-year check in, volunteers claim they are less depressed, healthier, and feel less isolated than before serving as a volunteer. According to Senior Corps, more than 200,000 serve through the Foster Grandparents Program (FGP), Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), and/or the Senior Companion Program (SCP). 

Deborah Cox-Roush, Director of of Senior Corps, writes ““I’m thrilled with the release of this independent study because it confirms what we have long believed to be true: Senior Corps volunteers are not only improving the lives of others, they are also improving their own,” … “These volunteers are feeling healthier and less depressed. What’s also exciting is they say they feel less socially isolated, which we know has important health benefits. Along the way, Senior Corps volunteers found a sense of accomplishment, opportunities for personal growth, and chances to form meaningful relationships.” https://www.nationalservice.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2019/volunteering-helps-keep-seniors-healthy-new-study-suggests

I chose to volunteer through the RSVP in Redding, CA. In November 2019, I began volunteering at the Mercy Oaks Senior Center where Senior Corps services are offered through Dignity Health Connected Living.  Although I have only just begun, I can report that my personal sense of well-being and fulfillment in life has improved.  I feel less isolated in general. I am making new connections and have been reconnected with long-time acquaintances.

Loneliness and physical isolation in all humans, especially in seniors, has a detrimental effect on health. Humans need social interaction. According to Hara Estroff Marano, “Psychologists find that humans have a fundamental need for inclusion for group life and for close relationships.”

In this same article, the author cites psychologist Joe Cacioppo of University of Chicago as per his findings that socially isolated and the lonely “experience higher levels of cumulative wear and tear. ”https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200307/the-dangers-loneliness

In short, consistently volunteering for a least  two years brings better physical and mental health to the volunteer and helps fill a variety of needs within the community: Everyone wins.

A Lot Like Seinfeld

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According to WordPress statistics, I posted here two times in 2019.  For someone who recently graduated with a BA in English with a Specialization in Writing, that fact is utterly abhorrent. The truth is that my inner monologue has been saying things such as “I don’t have anything to say that is worth reading.” It reminds me of the Seinfeld sitcom that often was self-described as a show about nothing.

It’s true that this is a personal blog with a handful of followers. It is also true that I have been tossing to and fro seeking solid ground since graduating.  I don’t know who I am if I am not a student. Because I was not in the typical age bracket of most college graduates, I face a different challenge of who I want to be when I “grow up” or what job can I get with the degree I worked so hard to achieve. I have had jobs, children, husbands, grandchildren and now I have great-grandchildren. 

 The summer months of 2019 found me in the kitchen making jellies and jams, breads, pies of all types; at the sewing machine making aprons; and traveling short distances to a beach; or visiting daughters and grandchildren. In short: floundering. One would think that at my age I would have found myself by now without that proverbial European backpacking trip.

Alas, it is not so. It seems that as new seasons of life roll around, I must begin anew.  Sure, some roles are the same: I’m still a mother, grandmother, etc., but as my family’s life -stages change, I must adapt. For example, being a mom to adult children is far different than being a mom to young children. 

Adaptation does not happen overnight: Sometimes we flounder in the process. That’s where I have been––in the floundering stage. I am beginning to equalize and find balance in my new role as a non-student. I recently began volunteering at a local Senior Center that has helped me find meaning, fulfillment, and purpose outside of my family.

In the past few weeks (21 days to be exact) I have been taking a closer look at my dreams and goals that I want to transpire in my remaining years. One goal is to revive this blog, even if it’s personal with a handful of followers. And yes, even it is a blog about nothing. 

This Old House

This Old House

yellow and white concrete building
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This old house rests in
obscurity at the elbow,
on the narrow, the dusty, tatty lane

Battle-scarred and war-weary,
shutters dangle at the windows,
fleshy- paint peeling, contorting.

Passers-by seem indifferent,
or of a detached curiosity,
Some dismissive,
deemed not worth a second glance.

Yet a second glance is warranted,
look past the pummeled shell
that once housed a celebrated belle.

Few rarely glance to discern an occupant.

Old Robert’s road diverged I’m told
my travel does not have the pleasure,
but a path, straight and narrow,
briar-patched, imperfect measure.

The beautiful ones, shallow;
proffer pity. In secret thank God
the battle-scarred, war-weary, dilapidated
is not their coating.

The Maker sees what lies beneath,
my Darling, glimmering glow.
Few discern the occupant.
See, my Darling?

Look past the pummeled shell,
for what exists within the crust.
I am human.

To some, it doesn’t matter.

 

So, This Happened.

Now what?

It’s been an arduous journey, but I now have a BA in English/Writing  Specialization and a minor in Journalism. Notice it’s Writing Specialization, not Writing Expert! 🤓

BedPans and Walther P38s

(The conclusion)

The families were leaving, and I was informed by unanimous consensus I was to send a screenshot prior to all purchases for their children. My four-year-old self’s inner monologue screamed, “You’re not the boss of me.”

Instead, I shouted that I wasn’t in an assisted living home yet and asked, “What’s next? Taking car keys away?  Don’t forget who will be having to taxi me around town, if that’s what you’re thinking!” 

I stopped just short of threatening to have an appointment every day when I remembered the party scheduled the next day and abruptly changed my tone to be as sweet as Royal Icing on a sugar cookie. I reminded them to drop the littles off at 4:00 p.m. They weren’t sure if that would happen.

“But we always have a Mad Hatter’s Tea party on Christmas Day,” I implored, “Since you were knee high to a grasshopper. It’s a thirty-something-year tradition.” 

They weren’t convinced. I slammed the door. I heard engines roar and tires squeal. 

Four o’clock Christmas Day came, and grandkids filed into the house, all in smiles and costumes appropriate for the Mad Hatter. But I suspected their attendance had more to do with quiet time and free babysitting––their parents looked quite disgruntled and no one spoke. 

“Don’t mind them,” Holliss, a precocious child, piped up and hugged me with the strength of a baboon and within a split second I was cocooned in a group hug, “You’re the best Gram ever. Parents just don’t understand.” 

Bedpans and Walther P38s Part 3

Part Three of a Family Christmas Past

The moment the kids had waited for 365 days arrived. I beamed at my family­­–– mostly for the expectant joy on all faces. I donned my Santa hat and began dispersing gifts. The family rule was to wait until everyone had all their gifts piled at their side. The teenagers offered to play Santa’s elves to speed things up. 

I gave the traditional secret Santa signal and madness ensued. The neat freak son-in-law trailed behind, best he could, crumbling shreds of wrapping paper into large, black trash bags. 

Holliss, seven, shrieked, “How did Santa know I like red foxes?” 

Her mother, Rebecca, the family baby, gave me the look that she was famous for and I asked what was wrong. 

“Really, Mom? You gave my daughter a water bottle that reads “‘What the Fox’?’’ 

I couldn’t answer. 

“Mother!” 

It was Christa, my second-born and mother to seventeen-year-old Janessa, who screamed, “What are you thinking? The Kama Sutra? A book on sex? She’s seventeen!” 

Oh boy, I thought, I know I’m in BIG trouble. Still, I said nothing.

“Gram-Gram.”

I turned toward the voice. It was Nathan––his face was as white as Christmas snow.  He told the room that Cohen had just opened his present. As he spoke, he twirled what looked like a toy gun in his hands. Nathan, 15, was a sharp shooter whose goal was to become a Special Ops sniper. 

“Did you know this gun is real? It’s a Walther P38. You bought a five-year-old a gun?”

The room was still, not-a-creature-was-stirring, not-even-a-mouse kind of still. And quiet.

I felt the blood drain from my face as I stammered, “I-I-I.”

“This is a mistake, Amazon doesn’t sell guns,” I yelled, and I snatched the gun away, “You all how Amazon is, remember the fuzzy elf slipper incident?” The details are best left unknown. 

I proffered a weak defense that I knew nothing.

Dylan started blubbering. His mother clutched him at the elbow and escorted him into a bedroom. 

Everyone began gathering their things. The grandkids begged to stay and be entertained by the annual reading of The Night Before Christmas, and the parents acquiesced. They helped themselves to a glass full of my home-brewed eggnog. I was thankful this year’s batch was alcohol-light. (The cook may –– or may not have––consumed the 32 ounces of rum the recipe called for.)  I noticed a flask being extracted from Rebecca’s pocket. 

I was called into the bedroom and Dylan tearfully told me the tale. He noticed my Amazon page open and thought he was being helpful. When questioned about the book he said he added that to the cart because Janessa likes to exercise, and the book cover looked like people were exercising.

He admitted he looked at toy guns for his cousin because he knew Cohen wanted to be a policeman, but insisted that he didn’t order one. I knew he was being truthful, making the mysterious appearance of a real gun even more puzzling. 

“How did you order?”

“Easy. Buy now with one-click, Gram-Gram.” 

“What about your mother’s stack of ten road signs that read ‘Drive like your kids live here’?”

“I have little sisters.” 

I was thankful he didn’t order a sleigh full of toys. Or an Oozie. 

Gram,” Dylan added, “When I was playing Minecraft, you got an email attachment that I clicked on. They might have downloaded spyware.”

“It’s O.K., Dylan. I’m not mad and you’re not in trouble,” I comforted, “I’ll get to the bottom of this after Christmas.”

 I remembered getting a package that didn’t quite look like it came from Amazon, but the gift inside was in wrapped in Santa Claus paper so I shrugged it off.  My imagination exploded like gas on flames and visions of ruthless arms dealers in Nigeria popped into my mind. 

As I turned to the hopeful crowd waiting for their story, memories of my own childhood prank streamed like an Amazon Prime movie. When I was nine, my little sister, Lisa, and I walked across the field to Gramma’s house. She was outside hanging clothes on the line and unaware of our presence. I had a flash of brilliance and coerced Lisa (so she claims) into making the house appear ransacked. Then we hid while waiting for Gramma’s reaction. 

No one laughed at that either. 

Bedpans and Walther P38s–Part Two

BedPans and Walther P38s
(Part Two of a Christmas Past)

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Photo Credit: Jessica McCollam jessicasvisionsphotography.com

It was seven days before Christmas, and I still had to purchase gifts for 21 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and 10 adults. Technically, Christmas was eight days away, but our family gathers for dinner on Christmas Eve, opening gifts after the grandchildren wash the dishes.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Oh, here I go. I snuggled into my favorite love-seat position: blanket; feather-pillow; pajamas; steaming mug of coffee latte at the ready, with the Amazon page brightly shining and resting on my lap. Christmas / Saravejo 12/24 by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra transmitted via Apple TV. The music  was so loud that I thought I heard the neighbors singing along.

I read that Amazon Prime members were extended an offer-of-the-day to have purchases gift- wrapped for free. I started to clap my hands. I had forgotten I was holding the latte, and nearly doused my shopping cart.

The doorbell rang. I was greeted by a small crowd; my third-born daughter, Angela, her six-month-old twin daughters, Annakate and Adeline, and her ten-year-old son, Dylan. I welcomed them in, and as they were seated, Dylan spied my computer and asked if he could play Minecraft on it.

“Of course,” I said with a wink at the platinum-haired boy, “That’s why I downloaded it, silly Dilly.”

He carried the laptop to the dining table and I set my attention to oohing and awing over the twins.

They left. I returned to my Amazon shopping, made my selections and set about washing dishes, making the bed, and tossing clothes into the washing machine.  As I cleaned, I made a mental grocery list for the big dinner. Then, it came to me; a jolting revelation, so jolting I swear I heard the angels sing. I could order all my groceries on Amazon.

*     *      *     *     *

I opened the door to the UPS delivery truck driver asking for my signature and I happily signed, although I wasn’t sure why this particular delivery required a signature; she didn’t look happy. She must have made 12 jaunts––truck to doorstep, using a dolly–– getting more red-faced each time, as I gawped. Her parting words were something about why I thought I needed 42 Christmas hams and concluded with a caustic Merry Christmas as she offered a hand signal that may or may not have signified her IQ level.

I smiled, dripping with saccharine to shield my consternation, I called out something about her job security. I ogled (my face as frozen as the hams) for a few minutes at the mass covering the front porch and decided the Amazon SNAFU could be dealt with in the morning and began dragging the boxes inside.

The new day arrived; the sun shining in a clear blue sky despite putting my order with the Big Guy for snow. I wondered if I should have checked for availability with Amazon Prime.  I hoped and prayed that the one special gift would arrive before dinner as I baked all day for the expectant, hungry horde.  The gift was delivered at last, and I placed it upon the swollen mound that exceeded the ‘under the tree’ notion.

I rang the Amazon office contact number only to reach an automated response: closed for the holidays, please try again December 26, 2017.

Walther P38s and Bedpans

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Photo Credit: jessicasvisionsphotography.com (Jessica McCollam)

Bedpans and Walther P38s

(A Christmas to Remember)

Part One
*A short story that is loosely based on true events of Christmases past: 90 percent pure fiction.

Many people escape via expensive out-of-the-country vacations or by weekend get-a-ways. Some escape by watching movies or by playing games. Me? I Amazon. I’m addicted to seeing that brown box (the box with a questionable phallic logo) resting on my front porch as if to say, “Pick me! Open me!”

Amazon’s intrusion began several years ago. My ‘old-school’ wariness would not release me to commit such sin as shopping online. The realization that I could stay in my pajamas and get the all the grandkids their Christmas presents convinced me to risk everything.

True joy begins from that moment I see a screen-full of possibilities on my lap-top or iPhone, items to feed my addiction. The beautiful (sometimes ruinous) journey is afoot.

It didn’t take Amazon long before they offered the best marketing scheme ever: Buy Now With 1-Click? If ever a sentence could be described as delectable as hot chocolate topped with marshmallows this would qualify. But they didn’t stop there ––Prime Delivery––why, you can have this in two days for “free.” Free for an annual fee––ingenious. A recent addition is the all-you-have-to-do-is-tap-it button, ‘buy again’ red circle. Extremely convenient. What will they think of next? Telepathy?
I mesmerize.

As I sit pondering potential deliveries, I remember past disastrous purchases: the Christmas ornaments that looked huge on-screen but arrived a mere one-eighth inch diameter; the children’s farm-animal book that failed to pique interest of a one-year old; weirdly (and putrid) colored shoes; wall décor, museum-sized, for the 12 x 18 inch empty spot near the window, so large it could have covered the entire window. I have learned to read with care (and read between the lines) as my hand hovers over the keyboard ENTER key, I think twice¬¬––three times––before making the final click. That is, unless I have a Freudian tap.

I choose my items, and proceed through the steps: would you like the arrival date to be this Tuesday, postage-free; for $3.99 more you could have this on Monday; add to your dash (just tap it) button? It would be ever so easy to reorder. Thanks, Amazon!

I’m always eager to help family find just what they are looking for.

“Gram, you need a bedpan? Let me look for you.” I’m giddy.

If only hindsight had been my guide. I now have a bedpan in my Face Book feed; subject lines of countless emails read: because you bought a bedpan; just click here or tap to buy again; people who have purchased a bedpan have also purchased the following items; and finally (although, I’m sure it won’t be) I have a picture of Gram’s bright, shiny––thankfully still unused––bedpan in that blasted buy again? button. Or just tap it.

*Stay tuned for part two, coming soon.