Sunday, June 19, 2022

Change is good

I have never been afraid of change. I have learned over the years that change is inevitable, and is good, well mostly good but definitely inevitable. What I was reminded of two weeks ago, is that change is happening all the time. Not just around us, but inside us, even if we are not aware.

When I first arrived in the US, I had absolutely no spare cash, so a gym membership was out of the question. There was a park next to my apartment. That park had a running track which I used regularly. Later I did join a gym and, because it was expensive, I went every morning before work for over a year. After that I purchased a treadmill and some weights and worked out at home. Sometimes I kept up a workout routine for months. Sadly there were also months of not working out. The one thing that has been consistent is that I do not enjoy working out; I do it for my health, in particular it helps to strengthen old bones and we all know, a body in motion stays in motion.

I used to run because it was the exercise I disliked least. I can't do that anymore due to a knee injury resulting in arthritis. My knee refuses to hold me up if I attempt to run, so I don't. In the last two years I have been working out diligently, one hour per day, five days a week, walking on the treadmill. A few months ago I added 30 minutes of yoga to that. I don't even think about it anymore. As soon as I wake up I am already heading for the treadmill, in both body and mind. I waited to develop a love for it but only found a tolerance and blind acceptance that it was worth it.

Two weeks ago I stubbed my toe. The toe in question, the second toe on my right foot, is slightly deformed as a result of surgery to correct a hammer toe, three actually plus a bunion. The surgery removed the hammered joints and fused the toes. However, during the healing process the toe turned slightly.

Demonstrated in these before and after photos:

When fully healed and the pin was removed, it was apparent that the toe was slightly longer than it had been. Well, obviously it was longer because it was no longer curled up with the hammered joint, but it was also longer than it was before the hammering issue, longer than the equivalent toe on the other foot. The change was fractional and not enough to require going up a shoe size. The biggest impact this had—apart from no longer being able to curl my toes—where the top of my toe would have been protected by the nail, because of the very slight twist in the toe, the nail only partially did it's job. Also, stubbing the toes on that foot meant stubbing that longer toe first and hardest.

The stubbing of the toe, that same deformed one, caused a slight inflammation, which in turn caused a small amount of swelling. Just enough for said toe to rub against my sneakers as I walked. So, an hour of walking every morning was a lot of rubbing on the already injured toe. Not only did a blister form on the soft skin that was now where the nail should have been, but the side of the nail was also taking some of the pressure. The nail quickly turned purple, well to be exact, the skin under the nail turned purple. I knew the nail was going to grow off at that point. The biggest problem was that the toe was very painful and continued to rub against the top of my sneakers. It looked absolutely gross also, and even worse in this photo where it is finally healing but the nail is beginning to lift.

I tried a few things in an effort to work around this. I tried wearing hiking sandals. They were uncomfortable and the straps rubbed my foot. I still had an old pair of sneakers—I never throw anything away if I can avoid it. I cut a hole in the top of the sneaker, where the toe was rubbing. That helped but the toe was not healing. Finally I decided I would have to rest it completely.

That was Tuesday, after my workout. I figured if I didn't workout at all for the rest of the week, perhaps it would heal by Monday. That is what I did. And it did heal. 

All that to explain what change I had discovered happening within. That week of not working out, resting my foot was an eye opener. My joints were stiff and I felt sluggish. I also felt guilty because I was being lazy. I realized that not only did that regular workout drastically improve my mobility and my emotional well being, I was actually missing it.

I might like working out! Who would have thought? I wonder how long that has been going on!? Or, if I don't enjoy the act of working out, I do love the benefits, now that I am aware of them. The end definitely justifies the means.


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Toilet Paper Origami

 I kid you not, that is a real thing!

We are all familiar with the folded point on a toilet roll in hotel bathrooms. I assumed that was done to convince you that the place had been cleaned. I never really saw the point because the first person to use the paper certainly doesn't replace the point before leaving the bathroom. I know I don't have time to waste on such a pointless exercise.

I consider it a waste of time, but never really felt very strongly about it until now. We gave up telling our cleaners that it was an unnecessary task and we didn't expect it. They still did it anyway and it didn't cost us extra, nor did it inconvenience us.

This week I was astounded when I saw what the cleaners had done. Bear in mind that we have three full bathrooms and one half bath, so four toilet rolls in operation, or at least at the ready at all times. We also have three paper towel dispensers in the kitchen. No, it isn't a huge kitchen; in fact it is relatively small, but we are kind of obsessed with paper towel. I believe I mentioned before that I am a bit of a germaphobe. Paper towel instead of cloth wipes in the kitchen strikes me as being a lot cleaner. Okay, I know it is not very environmentally friendly, but I compensate for that by being overly friendly in other areas.

As I was saying, what the cleaners did this last week was beyond comprehension. One of the bathrooms was spared the worst, it just had the usual folded point. The other three had this incredibly pretty, but totally unnecessary creation.

If you look closely, you can see the center of the flower is what holds the entire thing together. The cleaners had just left when we got home, so I was able to see that this center was wet. Not just the flower, but the wet patch went at least an inch into the toilet roll, plus that wet patch was subjected to considerable pressure, this meshes the wet paper into a tight wad. Once dried, the paper becomes much harder than it was—so unnecessary!


One of the things that worried me was the that I didn't know where the water, and the pressure, came from. I couldn't be certain it was clean. I mean, what if they dipped the end of the mop handle into the bucket of water they had just washed the floors with? Applying toilet paper treated in this way, to the more private and sensitive parts of the body didn't seem like a good idea to me. And, as I said, this water, and pressure wad, went at least one inch into the roll. 

They didn't just do this to the toilet paper, they also did it to the paper towels, all three had a wet, deep, indentation—no flower, but the same degree of damage.

I might add, the paper napkins on the dining room table were not ignored, they were decorated with a bow, thankfully no water was applied there. Three boxes of tissues in various parts of the house also received a bow, again no water.

Consider how surprised I was, though I should not have been, when I googled 'toilet paper art'. I immediately found a book available on Amazon, Toilet Paper Origami. Searching further I found dozens of YouTube videos carefully detailing how to do this to your (or your client's) toilet paper. 


Fortunately, the YouTube video I watched (yes, I admit I watched it), did show how the water and pressure was applied. This made me feel a little better about the cleanliness, just a little.

I intend to request that the cleaners cease and desist from practicing their arts and crafts on my toilet paper. For some reason I find it extremely unsettling. The waste of time is not what bothers me most. I mean, it shouldn't because we don't pay by the hour, so it is not my dime, but it is my toilet paper. The amount of paper wasted on the flowers and the bows is not the issue, it is minimal. It is water and deep impression forcing the wet paper together that I do object to.

So, if you have an interest in wasting time and toilet paper, here are a couple of YouTube videos, and the book I mentioned is referenced above.




And here is just a little of what a Google search turns up:








Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Interesting question...

"How are you enjoying retirement?" 

I get asked that a lot, for obvious reasons, I retired just under a year ago. If you follow this blog, you will be aware of that, and the fact that I have been sort of obsessed with it—mainly because it was not planned. I was afraid that I would be bored and, as a result, I put a lot of effort into making sure that didn't happen.

Of course, working from home for a year before retirement helped a lot. I had an home office set up and as mentioned before more than once, I have a number of hobbies. Machine embroidery, fishing and writing—not just this blog, but also I am working on a novel—my god that is not easy! But then, neither was my job when I was working. Of course I also spend time on my continued education, Masterclass being my main source. I can't get enough of it, in particular the writing classes of course, but there are others that are interesting.

Some weeks I can't stop writing, that is usually blogging. Blogging, as I think I mentioned before too, is my therapy. Some weeks I don't blog at all; that is usually when I am working on my novel. When I am fishing I spend a lot of time thinking about my stories. Multi tasking!. I have not done any embroidery in a while, because I have more t-shirts with smart-ass expressions on, than anyone needs; besides it is more of a winter occupation, when I can't fish I can embroider. 

I do workout, but that is for health and most definitely not enjoyment. I reward myself for staying on the treadmill by reading; a good book will keep me walking for miles. Recently I added yoga to my workout routine. I wanted something that would help with strength and balance. I found it, and it is definitely challenging. 

Part of the challenge is working around the various inconveniences of old age. I injured my right knee a long time ago—possibly had I been born in the US I would have sued; it seems everyone here sues for the least little thing. I tripped at work. Coming out of the exercise room there was a long, narrow corridor, badly lit with an uneven floor. I caught my foot on one of the lumps of uneven concrete and twisted by knee in a way it was never designed to twist. Now, twenty five years on, it is proving to be challenging. I also have the left hand that was already weakened by arthritis and since has developed Dupuytren's Contracture, this prevents my hand from resting flat on any surface For yoga that surface is the ground, well, the yoga mat, but that is on the ground. Then I have this stupid shoulder. 

I have whined quite a bit about the shoulder. A rotator cuff related issue, which causes the long head bicep tendon to pop it's groove. Seriously, that is a thing. And I assure you, it is painful. Two separate rounds of Physical Therapy, twice a week for eight weeks each time, helped. But really what helped most was the PT physically manipulated my arm and shoulder to put the tendon back in it's groove. Towards the end of my last Physical Therapy treatment, she actually showed me how to manipulate the tendon back myself. It is not quite so dramatic as Riggs relocating his shoulder in the Lethal Weapon movies, but brings every bit as much relief. It also means that I do not have to return to PT if it pops out again, which it has done more than once. Each time I have been able to coax it back into it's groove. However, this ongoing problem and not only the pain associated with it, but the constant risk of popping the tendon again, makes some yoga positions, such as downward facing dog, seriously challenging. 

Finally, I had surgery on my right foot about fifteen years ago, to correct three hammer toes and a bunion. Hammer toe surgery requires removing the joint in the toe and fusing the bone, hence no more bending of the toes. Yes, you can bend at the joint where the toe meets the foot, but that middle joint that allows you to curl your toes—not happening, gone. Stubbing your toe is painful as everyone knows. Stubbing it when it has no joint is most definitely an added level of pain, but any exercises requiring bending of the toes, while not a non-starter without joints, is uncomfortable, so some of the yoga exercises have to be adjusted to take that into account.


To work around these various disabilities I have yoga blocks for my hand, I use hemp cream for my knee and shoulder and I bought a hand massager that does absolute wonders for my hands and a heating pad for my shoulder.

So, the answer to the question is: "I enjoy not working." The jury is still out on the retirement thing. I guess like every other condition, there are pros and cons and as always silver linings abound. 


I think it is not retirement that I get frustrated with, it is old age. Just as youth is wasted on the young, retirement is wasted on the elderly. 




Sunday, May 8, 2022

Edith Piaf

One of the many tips I picked up from my hours of listening to Masterclasses on writing, was the idea of listening to music while writing. The theory is that once you start the music it reproduces the state of mind you were last in when writing. My music of choice covers a very wide variety. I love Country & Western, in particular the classic C&W, I also like some show music, such as Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera, and of course the music of my teen years, late 1950s and early 1960s. But after some thought, I decided that Edith Piaf was the music I would be most likely to write to.



I shared a love of Edith Piaf with my mother. So it is appropriate that today, as I sit down to write, I plug into my Edith Piaf playlist. Today is Mother's Day in the US. It is also the 25th anniversary of my mother's death. 


I find it hard to decide which is my favorite. I think perhaps "Non, je ne regrette rien", No regrets. A close second is "La Vie En Rose", which essentially means looking at life through rose colored glasses: "Rosey Life".


My mother's favorite was "Milord"





About 30 years ago I was going to visit my daughter in France and spent a day in Paris catching up with an old friend there. He brought me to visit Père Lachaise Cemetery. I would highly recommend a visit if you are ever in Paris. Of course it was interesting to see Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde's graves but to stand beside Edith Piaf's grave, in the knowledge that she was born just a short distance from that spot, that was something I will never forget.






Mother's Day



Sunday, May 1, 2022

Journaling

I used to keep a diary when I was a teenager. I would be fascinated to read those now! I do currently carry a small notebook in my purse, to jot down ideas for my writing rather than my private thoughts, but is not a diary, it is not journaling. It occurred to me that this blog is very much like a journal. Of course, I don't share all of my thoughts, dreams and observations here. Some are best kept quiet.

Today I remembered a post I published, on the fear of my impending retirement. I thought it was probably almost exactly a year since I wrote it. Looking back, it was actually a year and a day. April 23rd 2021. Impending doom or a whole new lease on life? How interesting it would be to have a daily diary to look back on.

I was genuinely very worried about how retirement would work out for me, because I was not emotionally ready for it. Because my husband and I are not social animals at the best of times, but in the midst of the COVID crises we were even more isolated. Work was not only a distraction and a challenge, it was regular human interaction, albeit virtually. Many of my posts approaching my retirement, and since then, have dealt with the dilemma I found myself in. 

However, COVID had also given me a year of testing out what it would be like to be stuck at home all day every day. One thing we discovered that year was that we, Larry and I, get along very well, even when exposed to highly concentrated doses of each other. That was good to know. Of course, as mentioned before—many times—I do have a long list of hobbies, and still I had space to fill with more, new activities.

Rereading my post written prior to retirement, things seem to have panned out exactly as expected. Of course, we didn't expect COVID to last quite as long as it did, in fact it is still not gone. However, according to most sources, it won't ever be gone but will remain around just as influenza has. 

I have been exercising regularly. I have been writing every day. Some days I blog, most days my writing is not for my blog. I have not been as productive as anticipated. I get distracted by my husband calling out "Let's go fishing." Or by researching some point in my story that needs clarification, and of course by Masterclass. 

I have written a lot, but so far completed only one short story. I have at least five that are in various stages of completion. Perhaps I need to go back to keeping a journal, the discipline would be good and keeping track of all those mundane events and reactions to them, could spark more ideas. I particularly like the bulleted journal idea and think I just might try that.

As for retirement. I am enjoying it. I am looking forward to being able to travel again, while cost is obviously a consideration due to reduced income, time is most definitely no longer a consideration.






Thursday, April 28, 2022

Cleaning for the cleaners

For years I swore that I never would use a cleaning service, I was sure no one could clean my house to my satisfaction; plus, I really didn't like the idea of strangers in my home. About fifteen years ago I developed arthritis in my hands and one Saturday, after spending the full day cleaning the house, I was tired and my hands were really sore. I finally gave in and started searching for a good cleaning service. 

Since then we went through three or four different services but one thing remained the same. We cleaned up for the cleaners. Well, to be exact, we tidied up. I felt foolish doing it, but that didn't stop me. Since then I have discovered that it is actually normal and a good idea. The less clutter the cleaners have to deal with the better, and quicker, they will clean. As time passed our preparation for the cleaners expanded.

At first we just cleared surfaces. Now we empty all the waste baskets and put the trash and recycle out. This is because we discovered that our cleaning service didn't bother to discriminate between trash and recycle. 

Our current cleaning service has a large number of clients who have Airbnbs. As a result the cleaners are used to clearing all surfaces and emptying the dishwasher, they even wanted to wash our sheets and towels. We managed to convince them to leave that to us. Even still after a cleaning, we had to search for the remote controls and table mats which had been stuck away out of sight. 

At first I stripped the beds on cleaning day, and left fresh sheets for them. But I am very fussy about how my bed is made and after a few occasions having to totally remake the bed I changed the sheets before they came and we left the bed made up. A number of times that didn't stop them from remaking the bed to suit themselves and I had to remake it yet again. So now, before they come, I make sure the bed is picture perfect and they leave it alone. 

One time recently, I left the dishwasher going—we always leave the house when they come. When we got home I noticed that the dishwasher door was not closed completely. They had emptied it. The problem with that was twofold, One, the cycle had not completed and two, they had no clue where to put anything. Sure enough, it took me all day to find the items they had removed from the dishwasher.  So, wash dishes and empty the dishwasher was added to our list of prep work. Perhaps I could get a sign to put on the dishwasher; they would probably take it off and put it somewhere I would never find it.

If this goes on much longer it will be easier to clean the house myself. Perhaps not, they do wash all the floors and dust and vacuum, plus most of all, clean the bathrooms. That alone is worth all the effort on our part. And it is only once a month.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

What you say and what kids hear




As I was writing a previous post, about being active, I thought to myself that it was a shame I was never athletic; that thought conjured up a memory from way back when I was about seven years old. Sports Day at the Loreto Convent Beaufort in Rathfarnham Dublin. I went on my own. The school was about half a mile from where we lived and in those days it was perfectly normal for kids to wander the streets unsupervised, including crossing streets. 

I entered almost every event and got a first in the sprint, I have no idea what the distance was; second in the sack race and third in the egg and spoon race. I entered but was not placed in the three legged race. I couldn't wait to show my mother my prizes, three books! I knew she would be impressed and I lived to impress my mother. There were six of us, three boys and three girls; I was number three, plus the middle girl. It wasn't easy to get my share of the spotlight.

When I got home and showed my mother my prizes, waiting expectantly for her praise, all she said was "Stop showing off dear." I was devastated. I never took part in any form of sport at school from that day. Of course, I don't blame my mother. As I said, she had six children and a husband who was worse than useless. She was probably exhausted and unhappy. I never spoke to her about it and I am sure that if I had she would have no memory of the occasion. 


At the time, I heard so much more than she said. At least I am pretty sure that all she said was "Stop showing off dear." She hated showing off. But what I heard was, "You are trying to be better than your sisters." Of course, that was because I believed I could never be as good as my sisters. They were both beautiful and outgoing while I was awkward and painfully shy and I knew she would never love me as much as she did them. Although I didn't speak to her about that particular incident, many years later I did mention to her that I always thought my sisters were so much better than me. Her response was "I know what you mean! I often looked at them and wondered to myself 'Where did I get those swans from'." Confirming my childhood feelings of being the ugly duckling were not misplaced. But also giving me insight into the fact that she also felt like the ugly duckling.

And yes, I do realize that the story of the ugly duckling is backwards.

Don't get me wrong, I got over all that rubbish many years ago. Months of psychotherapy helped me to let go of past hurts, real and imagined, and find my own self worth. But not everyone is as lucky as I was, so please, even if you are exhausted and miserable, fighting your own demons, be careful what you say and even more important, what you leave unsaid—at least where children are concerned. Who knows how different my life would have been if my mother had told me she was proud of me, or even just said "Well done." 

On the other hand, I am very happy with who and where I am today. Looking back, I wouldn't change anything


Monday, April 25, 2022

A body in motion


I recently finished up a second round of physical therapy on my shoulder. I referred to this issue in a number of previous posts, the issue being long head bicep tendon dislocation to be exact. 

I left the clinic after my last appointment with a sheet of exercises to be practiced daily—forever. These exercises add weight/resistance work to my program. 
Spine

I am aware that exercise is important for everyone, the older you get the more important it becomes. As you age, joints wear out and arthritis sets in. Bones thin and osteoporosis starts the slow dissolving of the skeleton. It is true that regular exercise reduces the impact of both of these inevitable deteriorations. 

It is as important to keep muscles strong and working, this reduces the risk of falls. Falls frequently are the death knell for the elderly, breaking hips which no longer have the capacity to heal is a big cause of death. Here is a scary statistic from theconversation.com:

"One in three adults aged 50 and over dies within 12 months of suffering a hip fracture. Older adults have a five-to-eight times higher risk of dying within the first three months of a hip fracture compared to those without a hip fracture. This increased risk of death remains for almost ten years."


I suffer from both osteoporosis and arthritis in various joints, including my knees, so I am aware that exercise is important and for the last twenty-eight years, since moving to the US with only myself to consider and take care of, I have exercised, just not consistently. At first I had gym memberships and later I purchased a treadmill and weights machine and had my own mini gym at home.  When I met and married my husband, the home gym was replaced with a bedroom for my stepson and I started running in the early morning, outside. That didn't last long as the weather in Texas is not very supportive of outdoor activities, at least during the Summer, and the Spring—and often the Fall. Eventually I got another home gym setup and did use the treadmill for long periods, unfortunately these were punctuated by, also long, periods of excuses—the demands of work mainly. 

In the last two years however, I have hit the treadmill five mornings per week, for a full hour. Four months ago I added thirty minutes of Yoga to my schedule. Two months ago, twenty minutes of weights/resistance training was added—a result of the shoulder injury. You have to be retired to fit all of that into a day! And I don't even like working out.

I do have to admit that I am noticing the advantages to all of this. For one thing I have a wonderful feeling of achievement. Secondly, my muscles do feel stronger and joints are less painful. The biggest obvious benefit is that I find it a lot easier to get up off the floor. You might wonder why I would be on the floor in the first place—yoga is practiced on the floor, well on a mat, but the mat is on the floor. It is remarkably difficult to get to your feet from the floor, or for that matter, down to the floor, as you get older. After four months of yoga, this morning I sat on the floor, cross legged, without thinking about how to get there, and without remembering how I did it. In other words, it was not an effort. That makes it all worthwhile.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in older adults. Plus, serious complications from falls, like pressure sores, dehydration and pneumonia, are more likely if you aren't able to get into an upright position. Older adults who maintain muscle strength and flexibility through regular physical activity are less likely to fall. 


My advice is don't wait until you are old. A body in motion stays in motion according to Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein agrees with him. 



Saturday, April 23, 2022

Eleven months later

I find it hard to believe that I have now been retired for eleven months. I keep waiting for it to feel normal, for that Monday morning feeling to stop appearing and for the TGIF feeling to occur every day. It still has not happened.

Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying being retired. I am loving being removed from the toxic politics that is part of every large, and some small, corporations. The hypocrisy of lip service to valuing employees while never demonstrating that care when the need arises. But, I wonder would I have settled into retirement more easily had it been my choice to do so? Of course, it was my choice to retire but only because that was the lesser of two evils.

As I saw it, my situation was very much like walking the plank, stay and suffer multiple stab wounds with a long sword or step off into the unknown. Well, not entirely unknown. I knew that my salary would cease to arrive every month and my health care would be reduced to what the US considers sufficient for old people, don't want to waste too much money on them. I gave myself four months to get used to the idea before I finally departed Amazon, without a ripple and without an exit interview—that is something I am still angry about. The only good wishes were from my direct reports who did make a huge fuss over me and did express deep regret at my departure. In fact, almost all of them have since left that group themselves. During those last four months I trained my senior engineer to take over from me and I planned how I would fill the time once my gainful employment was no longer. 

I have always had a number of hobbies, and we had recently moved to the lake so fishing and boating had been added to that list. I knew that I would not get bored, but I was not so sure about being challenged. That is what appealed to me so much about my work. Admittedly, my writing does challenge me though not in the same way. My work presented a constant need to learn; technology changes and Amazon is quick to adopt the latest and greatest. Writing requires discipline. Fortunately I don't write to find myself on the best seller list. I write for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I can't not write. And of course, I do have my retirement obsession, Masterclass.

On a good day, and to be fair most days are good, I will tell you I am no longer bitter about how I was treated. My one brush with depression was a very long time ago; fueled by a broken marriage, menopause and a car accident that permanently damaged a number of vertebrae in my neck. Since then I rarely have a bad day but on occasion I will admit that I am still bitter about it. Bitter and angry that I was treated so very badly. (Yes, I did blog about it here.) Frustrated because the recourse I thought existed to protect me, was a lie. Amazon didn't value me and didn't care if I stayed or left. By the time I did leave I think they were very glad to be rid of that squeaky wheel. No grease was forthcoming.

Whatever the reason, on Sunday evening I still find myself getting organized for the coming week. But Monday is no different to Sunday now. I also still get that feeling of relief on Friday morning in anticipation of the coming weekend, again no different to any other day in reality. I wonder if it is that way for every retiree? perhaps it just takes time to adjust no matter how much you planned, no matter whether retirement was a choice or was forced upon you. After all, forced retirement was ended in 1986; before that the only people who retired by choice were those who had the means to retire early. Even then, it wasn't unexpected—there was no plank walking to be done.



So I will continue to try to let go of my bitterness and continue to enjoy my retirement for as long as the Universe allows.




Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Computers and Utility Bills

At the beginning of this month, April, I wrote about my Friday; the day my computer fell sick. I have not written anything since then for a number of reasons. Sometimes I don't post to this blog for days because I am busy working on my other writing, sometimes it is because I have nothing to say of interest—though you might think from some of my posts that would not stop me! This time it was computer related, combined with the physical therapy which is ongoing, for my rotator cuff problems.

After spending an entire weekend attempting to cure my computer without success; all diagnostics pointing to dementia—memory issues. As the computer was three years old and apparently these days that is obsolete as it would not support an update to Windows 11, we decided not to mess with replacing the memory and just bite the bullet and buy another computer. 

Amazon may have discarded me but I still enjoy being able to get fast delivery of just about anything. The new computer arrived within a couple of days. Naturally there was some work to be done on it before it was ready to use. Updates applied to the OS and software installations, such as my embroidery design software and of course our virus protection. That was where things got messy. The virus protection, Bit Defender, refused to cooperate. Eventually Larry contacted them for assistance. They said the reason the software would not install was because our network was infected with a virus, or more accurately, a trojan. How could that be? we have used Bit Defender for years, on all our machines. In fact we had successfully installed it on a new laptop only a few weeks previously. "Well," the support tech said, "it is because your network doesn't have the firewall installed and it has been infected within the last few weeks." We were passed along to their security tech.

This resulted in three full days coordinating with that tech, not to mention calling our bank and credit card companies to block access to our accounts and request new cards. The security tech installed Bit Defender firewall on our network, then cleaned all of our devices, two desktop computers, two laptops and a network storage device. Needless to say we were somewhat stressed and definitely annoyed with ourselves for missing such an important protection. Once the network was secured and cleaned, we set about updating all of our passwords and securing our accounts and our new cards.

Of course, the problem with new passwords is that you tend to forget them and just days later Larry locked himself out of our electric supplier account. He asked me to try to access it. In order to do that we needed our account number. At this point I need to go back a bit to give you some background. When I met Larry I was incredibly anal about keep my household accounts, and files. When I first came to the US I knew that I must have seven years income tax records at all times. And I did. But I also kept every scrap of paper associated with every penny owed, paid or spent. Receipts, bills, statements; you name it, I had it all filed away. Larry told me this was not necessary. He was completely the opposite. He believed in keeping nothing, other than the tax records of course. He convinced me to get rid of it and to stop 'hoarding'. I did, up to a point.

Back in 2015 I wrote here about a crazy experience I had attempting to close a bank account, in an Irish bank. The bank manager required identification before he would let me close the account, which had a grand total of EURO 59. I happily produced my Irish passport. Not good enough he told me. Had to be either an Irish driving license or—wait for it—a utility bill. I pulled out my Texas drivers license. No, that wouldn't do. I explained that I had been living in the US for over twenty years and didn't maintain an Irish drivers license and never thought to travel with a utility bill. Read my post if you want the full details of that debacle. However, the result is that I always keep at least one utility bill with my current address on, just in case.

Larry shreds all of the bills once they are paid. He used to not shred anything, so at least I got him to do that—the reason why you should is covered in this post. Luckily, the utility bill that I had saved was an electric bill and we were able to get our account number from it, logged into the account and updated the password again.

The good news is, apart from accessing our electric account online, our network and computers are safe, clean and healthy, my shoulder is improving and I have that precious utility bill in case I ever need it. Also, we got rid of the Trojan before it did any damage.






Sunday, April 3, 2022

Today

Friday was a strange day.

It started as normal. Friday is my 'day off', that is I do not work out on Friday. I usually try to get a little extra time in bed and often manage to stay there until 5.0 a.m. This Friday I got up shortly after 5.00 and as I headed to my office, I noticed that my computer screen was displaying a blue screen instead of the usual cycle of photographs. A closer look confirmed that the computer was sick. It had apparently attempted to heal itself but had failed and was displaying a miserable message: "Automatic Repair Couldn’t Repair Your PC"

I tried a few things to see if I could get it working. No luck, so I decided to wait for Larry to get up and see if he could figure it out. 

We had an appointment to get our second booster / fourth COVID vaccination at 10.00 so the computer would have to wait till we returned from that. It didn't take long, But, after the shots Larry had a few things he needed to do so it was midday before we got home. Under Larry's supervision—he is better with hardware than I am—I tried a number of things to try to fix the problem. I had my laptop to google the various error messages. Tried running chkdsk, that failed due to read only issues. Luckily, I am very comfortable with the command line and was able to access that. Nothing Google suggested worked.

We do run a background process which backs up our computers and saves the image to our server, so we tried restoring one of these. Still no luck. Despite the fact that I had a double backup of my important files, my writing, on OneDrive and on a USB flash drive, still I was getting more and more stressed by the frustrating failure to solve the issue. 

When I noticed that my shoulder was starting to ache, I removed myself from the office and sat with a heating pad on my shoulder for a while. No, this was not the booster causing the pain, it was that same shoulder that necessitated two months of Physical Therapy. Two weeks previously I had gone back to the PT and she discovered that the large bicep had once again popped out of its groove. Some expert manipulation had forced it back into the groove, and two visits a week for 4 weeks would be required to strengthen the muscles and retrain me to use my back muscles to support any shoulder movement. I certainly didn't want to impact the progress so far. I was aware that stress causes me to tense up my shoulders in a way that might cause more damage. The heat helped and I forced myself to relax and pay attention to my shoulder.

We had planned to meet with my stepson and his wife for dinner. I was looking forward to a dine out experience. Something that was a regular occurrence before COVID was now extremely rare. That fell through but we decided to go out to eat anyway. We have a restaurant just over a mile from our home and it is reasonably good. That was where we went. 


When we returned, as we pulled through the gates into our community, I looked at the familiar street, lined with town houses to our left, against the backdrop of the lake behind them, and a steep incline to our right with the backs of small row cottages that once had a clear open view of the lake and now looked down on the town houses that were built across their view. The slope is scattered with small Spanish Oak trees clinging precariously to the sloping rock face—it seems that all of Texas is solid rock. The trees are interspersed with small rock walls, I presume to stop the cottages from sliding down the rocky slope into the roadway. Home again, I thought to myself, with a feeling of nostalgia. 

In that moment, I realized that there might come a day when that roadway in front of me would become a memory. Something I would look back on with that feeling of nostalgia I just experienced. This was exactly the here and now that I had promised myself I would soak in and enjoy as it happened, not relegating it to be remembered fondly sometime in the future, with a knowledge that I had not enjoyed it enough at the time. 

I need to keep working on living in the moment. I even blogged about it here. Today is the yesterday I will be nostalgic about tomorrow

Larry is still working on the computer and I am using my laptop while that is happening. We are fully boosted. And my shoulder is improving. Life is good.








Thursday, March 31, 2022

What I miss about working...

 —and what I love about being retired.


Now that I have been retired for almost a year, ten months to be exact—I retired on 31st May 2021—I can see more clearly what I miss most about working.

Human interaction. But at a professional level. I am an introvert. I was painfully shy as a child and into my teens. I still do not enjoy large social gatherings, except with family. I hate small talk, talking for absolutely no reason. Since I retired, my husband and I will go for days without seeing other human beings. Fine with me, as I said, I don't enjoy idle conversation, particularly with strangers. But I find I miss the work related discussions where the team worked through challenging problems to come up with innovative solutions. 


Daily challenges
. I loved my job and found the challenges stimulating and very satisfying, even when they were equally frustrating. I particularly loved coding. Coming up with automated ways to minimize manual intervention and then writing the code to implement these tools.

Management. Watching and guiding my team to grow their careers. That was probably the most difficult, and the most rewarding part of my job. Difficult because Amazon made it so. There was a very demanding set of requirements for anyone within Amazon to achieve promotion. And so rewarding managing to meet those requirements and see a talented engineer achieve their well deserved goal.

Independence. I am not sure if that word fully encompasses what I mean. I miss having places to go, such as the office or to conferences; things to do, deadlines to meet and meetings to attend. All of it seemed very mundane at the time—apart from the conferences which I loved—but now, looking back, it represented independence and a mission that I was on. Of course, my car was also a big part of my independence. (Mentioned here).


Of course I do also miss that regular paycheck.




What I love about being retired. I have blogged about this a few times as I became more familiar with the idea. As retirement was forced on me, it was difficult to adjust at first. But I think I am getting the hang of it. The best thing about being retired is time.

Time to spend on me. I never have to cut my workout short, if I get up a little later in the morning, I can still do a full hour on the treadmill, plus 30 minutes Yoga. I am probably a lot healthier now. When I was working, I often had to skip my workout or cut it short.

Time to write. I haven't done much blogging this month because I have been working on writing short stories, and on my book. I can, and sometimes do, write for hours each day.

Time to shop when the stores are quiet. I don't like shopping and when ever possible I do it online, but grocery shopping I prefer to do in person. The stores are almost empty mid week, during the morning. 

Time for my other hobbies, fishing, boating, embroidery and reading.




Of course I do love that I no longer have to tolerate being bullied by bad managers.