wisdom from the road

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
Will Rogers

“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.”
Lewis Carroll

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(somewhere along the road in County Kerry near Dingle, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Anyone who has ever spent any time on the road driving here, there and yon knows all too well that there is a real love–hate relationship between driving and journeying from the proverbial point A to point B.

Whether you spend time commuting each day to and from work or school, or you make your living driving, or you drive the roadways and the byways for recreation…or you simply have to get from one place to another…
I think most all of us would agree that there are many life lessons, as well as much wisdom, to be gleaned from the simple act of driving down any one of life’s many roads…

One of the most important lessons we can either learn the easy way or discover the hard way is to make certain that we know which direction we are to be headed because one thing is always certain…
Life is full of obstacles.

As there will always be those situations, issues and looming crises that will get in our way no matter how hard we try to avoid them…that’s just the way life is…

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(cows crossing somewhere on a road in County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Which in turn will give way to the fact that there will always be a need for patience…
For good or bad, patience will be necessary and it will be sorely tested along Life’s many traversed roads.
Blood pressures will rise and frustration will shoot through the roof…
And no matter how hard one tries, often times there will simply be no other way of getting around or avoiding certain troublesome moments in this thing called life, other than to resolutely meet it all head on…

Also we must be mindful that there will be those dark and lonely stretches of road when we will find ourselves unfortunately isolated and very much alone.

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(somewhere along the road near Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Maybe we’ll have hit a rough patch in the road… a bit of bad luck or have found that life does not discriminate when it want’s to be cruel and difficult. By keeping both hands on the wheel and eyes focused on the task at hand… will not only be required but most necessary as we labor to keep things steady and safely in the middle of the road as we avoid the ruts, soft shoulders and unavoidable potholes during those lonely and dark days.
During such times, our resolve will be greatly tried…keeping steady and focused on our journey, knowing that we indeed have an ultimate destination will help to keep us going forward.

Additionally we must be mindful that there be those times when we will find ourselves face to face with oncoming trouble.
As in it simply can’t be helped.

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(heading up the road somewhere in County Kerry near Dingle, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

Sometimes we are blindsided, not knowing what’s hit us…
Other times, we will see it coming, knowing that the inevitable is headed right for us… and that there’s no avoidance, no running, no hiding…for the colliding of two separate forces cannot always be helped.
Our only recourse is to simply square our shoulders, set our jaw, point the wheel straight ahead, put the pedal to the metal and face it all bravely head on…for the character of any man or woman is forged in the fiery trials of Life.

And just when we think we’re back to our mindless cruising, merrily scooting back down the road, there comes along the strange and unusual diversion…something most often out of the blue, which averts our attention…perhaps something very much unwelcomed…some sort of siren’s song luring us to an unnecessary demise…or perhaps it is something welcomed yet untimely in its arrival, only working to delay our progress….focus, we must remain focused!

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(a wandering sheep along the road somewhere in County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As once again, the important key is knowing how to handle any and all distractions…knowing how we will handle ourselves in all situations is best as it provides consistency even in the face of the unknown…
We mustn’t allow any of it to steal our focus, our determination, our resolve…
Rather, we must simply shift gears, turn our attention back to the task at hand and get back up to speed…

Yet no matter how harrowing a drive and or journey may be, we can never know with certainty, what waits around each bend or turn or curve…so preparation will be constantly tested…

So may we all remember that when it comes to heading out on one of Life’s many roads, even for just a quick sort of errand, being focused and prepared will make any sort of drive more bearable as well as enjoyable…
Happy travels one and all….

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(somewhere along the road in County Kerry near Killarney, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16

Stormy Weather

“I like to hear a storm at night. It is so cosy to snuggle down among the blankets and feel that it can’t get at you.”
― L.M. Montgomery

Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you’re aboard, there’s nothing you can do.
Golda Meir

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(ominous clouds as tornado sirens howl on a stormy Sunday Georgia morning / Julie Cook / 2015)

“. . .Life is bare
gloom and misery every where
Stormy weather
Just can’t get my poor self together
I’m weary all the time
The time
So weary all the time”

2nd stanza / Stormy Weather

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There’s nothing like listening to that beautifully melodic and mesmerizing voice of the one and only Lena Horne.
I loved / love Lena. . .
Ms Horne was born to a generation of singers who sadly have come and gone.
Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James. . .
Soulful storytellers whose beauty and life’s trials, as well as their gift of song, could stir the deepest of emotions in even the most casual of listeners.

Lena Horne defined both class and grace.
Although being born in Brooklyn and spending most of her life in New York and Pennsylvania, Ms Horne spent a good bit of her childhood living in Fort Valley, Georgia—of which I suppose lead her to acquire that markedly distinct sultry southernesque drawl she’d call upon for wooing audiences and movie producers alike.

Today’s weather is a fitting tribute to the woeful lament Ms. Horne made famous, Stormy Weather.
First performed at the famous New York Cotton Club in 1933 yet a song made immortal when performed by Ms Horne in 1943 in the movie of the same name. . .

“. . .don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky. . .
Stormy Weather. . .”

I didn’t need Ms Horne however, to remind me of the current weather condition as the early morning wail of the tornado sirens was sign enough.
The sirens wailed, the phones buzzed with alerts and the television was rife with the warnings of impending doom. . .as in “SEEK SHELTER NOW!!!”

Luckily the “rotation” the doppler radar was indicating was remanning up in the clouds and thankfully had not descended to the ground.

It was to be on this tumultuous Sunday morning, as it is on many Sunday mornings, my husband was to treat me to breakfast out. As in I wasn’t going to have to cook it. It’s the only morning he’s not at work. As in he’s actually home. And of all the little treats in life. . . it’s breakfast out that I enjoy most. There’s just something special about heading out on a lazy stress free morning to some inviting little restaurant or tiny cafe, as the heady scent of bacon mingling with fresh coffee greets all at the door.

And so it was on this stormy, springtime morning I was to be treated to a nice breakfast out. The only problem was that an impending tornado was in the middle of my path to bacon and pancakes.
UGH!

The weatherman on the news was zooming in on a fierce looking storm hovering about 5 miles south down the road from our house. It’s amazing how they can pinpoint storms with such vivid accuracy. A Tornado Warning had been issued, the sirens were wailing and my stomach was growling.
We waited.
I peered out the windows.
The rain beat down.
No lightning thank goodness.
I hate lightning.
No winds.
Just black skies with torrential rains.

All of which got me thinking. . .
How often in life are we excited, full of anticipation, looking forward to something special, when suddenly, out of the blue, we get blindsided, we’re thrown a curve ball, we hit the proverbial bump in the road, we hit the wall? There’s a glitch that rears its ugly head in our best laid plans. Our assumptions for a complete follow-through are not what we had expected or anticipated.

Rather than savoring the smooth sailing toward a treat, a reward, a trip, a special event, a magnanimous moment we’re faced with an impending storm, a train wreck, a disaster, a detour. Our attentions shift, our guard gets up, plan B must be implemented, and we hunker down.
We wait.

And as it so happens with the worst of storms–the rains fall, the clouds lighten, the winds shift, the energies exhaust and the dangers pass.
With or without repercussions.
At which time we emerge bleary eyed, nerves shaken, but resolve in tact.
We’re ready to proceed, to continue, forward.
Maybe we have to pick up a few pieces along the way, maybe our plans are delayed. . .
yet nevertheless our eyes remain fixed. . .fixed on our hopes and dreams which remain down the road where we had yearned to travel in the first place.

So on this new morning to this new week, may you keep your eyes on the prize. . .
whatever that prize may be for you. . .
May you remain prepared for what life may throw in the middle of your travels
And may you remember that we all have stormy weather at some point in our lives
but that the storms will always, eventually, pass. . .

Birthdays, Ice Makers, and Medicare? part II

“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
Thomas Jefferson

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Okay, so yesterday we left off with the rant of a poor husband who had just turned 65 and found out he had to pay for something he was forced to sign up for, against his better wishes, with no option of opting out–aka–Medicare.
The whole choice but no choice scenario
And we were left with the laughter of a thousand far off voices when he mentioned he thought Medicare was something the Government did for free for it’s “seniors”—not that he’s a senior.

And just as we begin to recover from his near apoplexy over receiving the initial Medicare bill, we pick up right where we left off. . .

I quickly call me aunt.
When all else fails, always call Martha. . .

“Yep, you pay”
“If he was drawing Social Security, it would come out of that, but since he’s not, hence the bill.”
We thought it was a free service.
Hysterical laughter now from the receiver of the phone.

The following morning, the bill was gone. My hope was that he carried it to work in order to pay it, otherwise I suppose I should be looking for us a new home, say in, Argentina or Bolivia. Isn’t that where you go when you need to hide out?

Let’s switch gears for a minute.
Since there was indeed a birthday and a rather memorable one at that, we need a present right?
A good present.
Enter the ice maker.

We have an LG refrigerator. LG refrigerators are known for having notorious dysfunctional ice makers. I even wrote the president of LG, just after we got the fridge, complaining. I was told we could call in a service order to request a replacement, of which I did. Number two ice maker was equally as poor.

Each evening I hear the same litany regarding “that sorry ice maker” and how a refrigerator he had back in 1920 made better ice then “that sorry thing over there”
Over there is against the wall in the kitchen and as for 1920, I exaggerate just a tad

When I was mulling what to get for his birthday, I had an ingenious thought!
A marvelous thought!
As in the best present ever sort of thought!
Enter the small portable ice maker!
Genius!

I did my homework.
I researched all the little ice makers I could find information on, reading reviews and consumer reports. I settled on a Smart Plus (Smart + )
I ordered it from Amazon.
I love Amazon but that’s for another day.

In a couple of days FedX pulls up to deliver the ice maker.
I put a bow on the box and wait for the big day.

On that special day marking the 65th year on the planet, I bring out the big box with the big bow.
“I told you not to get me anything, we need to save money and here you are buying presents. . .what is it?” as a smile forms on now a childlike face.

He digs into the box like only any kid would and could.
He finally realizes what it is . . “OH WOW–AN ICE MAKER” (you should be hearing childlike glee as you are reading)
We read the instructions and I explain that I’ll need to thoroughly wash it out and run a couple of test batches first in order to get that “made in China” smell and taste out of the machine—as in yes, it is indeed made in China.
He’s happy.
I’m happy.
It’s a good birthday.

The following day, I run out to the store in order to buy a couple of gallons of distilled water as I understand that distilled water makes for clear cubes. And yes, this machine is to make the round tube like cubes, not the half moon things he hates out of the refrigerator.

I plug it in, add the water, set the controls, wait a tad—then woosh, the little machine churns out water.
Ok, maybe it’s not cold enough yet.
Again Woosh, again water.
I feel around inside the little ice making tubes.
They are not cold.
Hummmmm. . .
Not cold at all.
Aren’t things like refrigerators, freezers and ice makers suppose to be cold?
Again, I reset the numbers.
Woosh, water.
Again, woosh, water.

WHAT??
AAAGGGGHHHH!

Wait a minute.
When you plug in a refrigerator, large or small, aren’t you suppose to hear a motor? A motor like in a compressor??
The freaking compressor is not coming on.
Are you freaking kidding me!!!?
At this point I think I kicked the open drawer by my foot which was open and housed my mixing bowls. I now have 4 less mixing bowls.

When my husband comes home, I break the bad news hoping that he’ll know how to make it work. Maybe I’m not plugging it in correctly?
He pittles with it and declares it to be indeed a dud.
The compressor will not come on.

AAAGGGGHHHHHHH!!!

I’m furious.
“Can you get your money back” he asks almost pleading for the affirmative.
“Yes danmnit” as I sadly put the thing back in the packing styrofoam and into the big box.
I contact Amazon.
They issue a packing mailer and I proceed to write a “to whom it may concern” letter to Smart +
lambasting an ice maker made in China. . .why can’t an American Company produce a product in America, using American ingenuity, putting Americans to work, where American workers take pride in producing quality American products???? What’s happened to this country???!!!!

UGH!!!

The perfect present goes back from whence it came via UPS.
The following day, I go to the mall in order to buy a back up present–the standard boring dress pants and shirts. Same ol same ol birthday goods–with these high end dress clothes, from a very reputable and long established high end American men’s clothier–with their very high end clothes being made in. . .wait for it. . . Malaysia.

(Picture my head hung very low) UGH!

Oh and did I mention that the insurance company sent out a giant booklet regarding the birthday boy now being a part of Medicare. And no, I couldn’t tell you if it is A, B, C, D, E, or F. . .
Seems that since he is now enrolled in Medicare, he’s no longer to use the doctor, his primary healthcare doctor, here in our town, he’s been using for almost the past 25 years–as Medicare says he must go elsewhere.

AAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Bolivia eh???

Lessons learned at the Post Office

“Life is a succesion of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
Helen Keller

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Ok so here it was a late Monday morning.
It should be noted that it is indeed the first of the month and the week following Snow Jam 2014.
Silly of me to have simply assumed that today’s visit to the Post Office would be a quick trip of in and out?
or
A trip of no consequence?
or
The running of a mere errand?

My aunt’s birthday was yesterday. Yes a groundhog child. We won’t go there as I am currently nonplussed with Punxsutawney Phil. As far as General Beauregard Lee is concerned, I am still on speaking terms with him—but let’s not digress shall we. . .

The first clue, that this trip was not to be ordinary, should have come to my attention when I approached the parking lot, at 11:30 AM, noticing the lot to be quiet full. Shades of the Christmas package mailings season came flooding back sending my heart racing. . .”Calm thy self, self, this is February” I reassured myself.

I pull into the first vacant space. There is a lady sitting in the car next to me with a legal pad in hand, writing who knows what, rather feverishly. I grab the big brown box bound for Florida from the passenger seat of my car, as well as a bill and a small plastic mailing envelope with a shirt I wanted to return. The picture looked turquoise, the actual shirt was more like a yellow green—ugh, OK no digressing remember?!

I head across the parking lot, toward the door. Maneuvering the pull door while carrying a rather cumbersome package is a fine art of feet, elbows and hips. There was a little gentleman who went in directly in front of me but we’ll assume he just didn’t see me directly behind him as he let the door slam in my face.

Lesson #1 Assume they didn’t see you coming. I believe we call that. . .the benefit of the doubt.

Ugh, the line is right at the door—anyone coming in behind me is stuck out in the lobby. Gees, this shouldn’t be the lunch crowd quite yet. What in the heck is going on?! I maneuver the other door open from the lobby leading into the main post office now, with the long snakelike line, once agin working the elbows, feet and hip—making my way just inside the door, behind the gentleman who keeps pretending he doesn’t notice a woman directly behind him fumbling for the door with an arm load. . .

Lesson #2 Assume they still don’t see you coming, or hear you or have any sort of periphery vision, or never learned anything about manners or common sense. . .

I begin my servitude of line standing wondering why I had not gone to UPS as I like “Brown” and what Brown can do for me, but I also needed stamps. Oh you mustn’t forget stamps went up again. I can remember when they—-oh, alright, I won’t play grandpa with the remember when of stamps costing a nickel. . .digressing. . .

The Post Office now employs a member of its staff to wander about, weaving through the throng of customers, asking if anyone needs to merely drop off some sort of prepaid this or that, pick up a package or if anyone needs a label or other unsundrie. . .a nice touch of appearing people friendly with the ulterior motive being a weak attempt at efficiency.

Lesson #3 Government facilities and agencies will never conquer efficiency.

Toward the front of this snakelike line of humanity is our community’s local colorful “artist”—a tiny sort of older man with a very large persona. He’s on a cain wearing a leather cowboy hat and suspenders. I always see him wearing the same white shirt, jeans, hat and suspenders. He is speaking so loudly that all of us hear that he’s “making it ok, just still trying to live life being an artist and keeping up with taxes” but now that his wife has retired things are really different. . .all this as he shrugs and sadly shakes his head.

Lesson #4 Some folks just need to vent and / or just need someone else to listen to them.

The post office lady asks a woman towards the front of the line is she’s there to just drop off a package. The woman has on a green back-pack and has her phone held out with something obviously pulled up on the phone attempting to show it to the Postal assistant—kind of like being at the airpot with those using their phones in order to scan the ticket info verses a paper ticket.

She announces to the entire post office that she needs a stamp and a money order and suddenly jumps past two other customers ahead of her in line, as she proceeds to ask for a stamp. “I’m just trying to expedite this line here for everyone” she announces.
“Oh you want me to pay for the stamp now? Oh I need the stamp but I need to put it on a money order, see. . .”
All this as she flashes her phone at the Postal worker at the counter.
“Here I was just trying to hurry all this up and not make these poor people have to wait behind me.” The Postal worker at the counter tells the woman with the green back pack that she needs to pay for the stamp then get back in line for the money order. Remember she has jumped over two other customers—as if she was playing checkers thinking she could jump ahead.

“Don’t you worry I’m not trying to steal your 42 cent stamp”
The postal worker corrects her that stamps are now actually 49 cents.
“Well I’m not trying to steal 49 cents!”
This as she makes her way back to her original position in line continuing the litany to all of us that she was merely trying to speed things along for the rest of us.
Uh hun.

Lesson #5 Some people are a bit slower than others in processing information and never learned what taking turns is all about.

Suddenly behind me I hear some sort of robotic sound. Oh me, the man behind me is having to speak using one of those vibration devices used by people who have throat issues such as throat cancers, trach troubles, etc. He tries to explain something to the lady who came in with him but she keeps asking for him to repeat each question. I’m standing in front of him and understood him quite clear the first explanation.
Suddenly I’m feeling as if I’m having an out of body experience.

Lesson #6 Life is often a rerun of a Twilight Zone episode, just know that this too shall pass.

By now, two of the five postal workers at the counter, are whispering to one another and laughing. I just know it’s over the woman with the green back pack and phone who is still telling anyone who will listen how she’s just trying to make things faster for us all.

Lesson #7 Some people are simply delusional

Suddenly an older man walks directly past the still very long snakelike line, right up to one of the counters which is closed as it has a sign reading “NEXT WINDOW PLEASE” There is a postal worker standing at the closed window having a conversation with the neighboring clerk, so perhaps this man decided if she was going to stand there, she was going to be made to work.
Are you freaking kidding me?!!! Are you hearing the screaming in my head—aaaagggghhhhh!!
The older man, who has just by passed 20 people in the snakelike line continues to stand at the counter until the postal clerk acknowledges him.

Lesson #8 Some people think they can manipulate those around them by using age, sex, color, religion, size and health to their advantage. It’s one thing if there is an obvious need, but when the obvious appears to be simply that this individual doesn’t want to wait like everyone else, then a lesson in patience and forgiveness is paramount.

Finally my turn is at hand. I walk up the the waiting clerk wearing a bright smile. My postal clerk smiles kindly in return. I hoist my box up on the counter and make light of the craziness that has been now going on for the past 20 minutes by telling the postal clerk, “ya’ll certainly have your share of a Monday!” at which the postal worker chuckles telling me that I “simply don’t know the half of it” as he almost breaks out into full laughter.

Lesson #9 always smile, always make light—for pleasantness usually produces more pleasantness. And always remember it is better to laugh than cry.

Finally, freed of my cumbersome box I head back the the car. Once back out on the road, I come to a stop at a four way stop just past the Post Office, waiting my turn to proceed. As the car on my left proceeds through the stop, the car immediately behind him suddenly shoots through the stop hot on his heels—totally forgoing the waiting of his turn, just barreling through the stop sign. He was driving a brand new Land Rover. Hummmm. The other three cars, which were all still waiting their turns at the 3 other signs, merely shook their heads.

Lesson #10 Road rage is alive and well—proceed always with caution. And if you insist on being ignorant of the law, arrogant, stupid or clueless, be careful, especially if you’re driving a brand new expensive car.

I quickly reevaluate my position and options as a near sense of urgency begins to rise up form no where.
HOME, I MUST GET HOME.
My intentions had been that of running several more errands, but in mid stream, I decide that it might be the wiser choice to point my car in the direction toward home. . . away from this Monday’s particular madness. Hoping that at some later point in time, the planets may finally align in my favor and that perhaps the more eccentric, clueless, selfish, odd, among us might finally get to wherever it is they were going and it will then be safe for me to reemerge from the protection of my abode.

Lesson # 11 Whereas on certain Monday mornings, it may be best to avoid all human contact. . .
. . . the greatest of lessons to be gleaned from this most odd of days, that which is truly important to take away from the lunacy of the day, is to always remember to maintain a sense of humor—to be able to laugh rather than curse. To smile rather than frown.
The other most essential lesson, or the true moral of the story, in which to take away from this most odd of days is to remember that it is equally as important to have empathy in one’s heart when dealing with one’s fellow man—We simply never know –whereas we may fancy that we are here to offer “blessings” to those who cross our paths—it may just be that it is the others, those odd fringe members of our society, who may actually be the ones who are intended to bless us.

“Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Hebrews 13:1-3