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. 

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

"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


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.