Monthly Archives: January 2014

On Being a Guest

My friend, Robin, told me last night that I needed to “chill out” and learn how to accept others’ hospitality without guilt, thinking I am imposing, imagining that friends are somehow put out by my being here, that kind of thing. She knows me all too well! My cousin, Jill, invited me to stay for as long as I want (as long as I’m out by March 1st when she has another guest coming!). It was such a tempting invitation that I couldn’t resist and planned this trip to Tallahassee with no end date. This is VERY unusual for me. I typically plan to the max — all details covered, a schedule in place for meeting up with friends, and certainly an end date when I am going to be home. There were lots of reasons that I won’t go into here for not having an end date and I really thought it was rather brave of me. Still can’t get over the feeling of being an imposition, a bother, a pain in the butt, to my hosts.

Ridiculous! That’s what others say, but it’s still hard to be a long-term guest. So, I’ve tried to do a couple of things to ameliorate my pain-in-the-buttness! And, I am opinionated, think my way is best, do not hesitate to share my opinions, and am quite sure I am right most of the time anyway. So here are my suggestions for reducing guilt (not going to work for me, though, I’m quite sure) and for being a good guest.

1. When unpacking, try to put things away (if you are lucky enough as I am to have two drawers and a closet) so it’s not messy and you do not have things in public spaces.
2. Buy groceries that you like so your host (in this case my cousin who follows a MUCH healthier diet than I do!) doesn’t have to worry about breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Dinners together are a bonus of staying with friends and family.
3. Buy groceries that your host likes, too. And, snacks that she has mentioned. This will either result in great praise or great criticism for putting out something that she otherwise wouldn’t have eaten!! I am obviously a bad influence (another example of long-term guest guilt!).
4. Give your host a heads-up on your schedule — when will you be home and when will you not. After all it’s her house and she deserves to know when she can watch her programs, make a favorite meal, or just have peace and quiet (not quite achievable here with two birds and two dogs one of which barks a lot).
5. Make your bed. This is primarily for the dogs but creates the illusion of good guestness.
6. Make a couple of meals — I love being waited on, love not cooking, so I assume others do too.
7. THEN…relax and enjoy the wonderful opportunity to visit with friends and family. Let them show you how much they value you and appreciate that you came to visit.

Of course, this is all easier said than done. I’m trying to take my own advice but as most of my friends and family know this is very difficult for me. Perhaps putting it in writing will help. I’m certain that staying in Tallahassee for a good long visit will do the trick!

Driving South

After weeks of brutal cold and gray skies in Lords Valley, I asked myself “Why stay here when you are (1) missing friends; (2) sick of the weather; (3) obsessed with the weather; (4) driven by the weather; and (5) wanting to leave the cold, ice, and snow behind?” The answer was so simple. Nothing holding me back from loading up the car, making a few calls, and driving south. I decided to drive until there was no more white stuff on the ground and so Sydney and I stopped in Lumberton, NC, to spend the night, about 10 1/2 hours drive. It was the day after the big snowstorm, Janus, that dumped snow and ice on Washington, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, etc. You get the picture. I was a bit concerned about the roads in Pennsylvania — about 5 hours til I got to I95. (I was so looking forward to the signs for Pedro’s big sombrero! “You never sausage a place.” “Kids — start whining now to stop at Pedro’s.” Anyone that has ever driven I95 south knows these iconic signs. It’s a way of knowing that you are well on your way anywhere but Pedro’s!)

After walking Sydney at the hotel, retrieving stuff from the now all-white car, an elderly couple stopped me and asked where I had come from. “How were the roads,” they asked, “because we are going to New Jersey.” I assured them that travel was okay and they said, “Don’t pack up your winter gear — it was really cold in Florida!” Cold is relative, I thought, at least it’s not snow and ice! Besides, Tallahassee gets winter — just not the kind of winter I was fleeing! Or, so I thought.

The next day, I drove the additional 7 1/2 hours and arrived at my cousin Jill’s house in Tallahassee mid-afternoon. Not only was it very cold, but it was supposed to get colder. Winter storm Leon (ironic — Tallahassee is in Leon County) was forecasted to bring ice, snow, and very cold temperatures to Tallahassee (albeit only for 2 days). Still I was skeptical. Friends set their alarms to get up to see the snow, people were set with winter gear to build snowmen and create snow angels. photo

My friend Kim took this picture of icicles on her beautiful tree, an unusual sight in Tallahassee for sure. Jill and I watched the Weather Channel for hours (isn’t this why I left the north?) and Tallahassee reacted. Schools and businesses were closed; Florida State University closed; dire warnings were posted about icy roads, and it became quickly apparent the the one dump truck/spreader that the City of Tallahassee had would be quite overworked. There were low temperatures, some ice, but no snow much to the disappointment of many. I10 was closed for a stretch west of Tallahassee because of icing on bridges and Tallahasseans had a snow day for the first time since 1989, even though there wasn’t any snow. It was cold, sleet fell and I stubbornly stuck to my schedule and went out to meet friends. Today it will be 65 and by tomorrow we will have temperatures for the next week in the mid to upper 70s. Crisis is over and I am happy to be here either way, but particularly to savor the warmth — temperature-wise and friendship-wise!

Footprints in the Snow

footprints1 In the late eighties/early nineties when I taught middle school science, I presented my students with an activity that challenged them to propose scenarios with only animal footprints as clues. The clues revealed themselves slowly with three different but related sets of prints all from the same location. When I started working with teachers through workshops, I used that same exercise to talk about perspective, how content knowledge affects how we view the world. After initiating the RET program at the Magnet Lab, I used that same exercise in afternoon sessions, then Jose continued the tradition putting his own spin on it. I say all this by way of explanation that I should be able to look at a series of footprints and figure out what went on. But… that just isn’t so. I am trying to unravel the mystery of the footprints that I’ll share here.

footprints2 These first two photos show what I found on Sunday morning after a significant snowfall on Saturday night. I opened the downstairs door to let Sydney out at about 7:00 AM and noticed these footprints that seemingly came from nowhere and went nowhere. (The human footprints are mine!) Fairly certain that no critters had entered the house, I was puzzled, looked up the driveway and up the side of the hill next to the house but saw no other footprints. Then, upon closer inspection, it looked like there were two animals. footprints2 If you look very closely you can see footprints coming from the driveway under the gate so it would appear there were two animals that converged at the outside of the house. Looking for warmth? Shelter? Following a path that was so ingrained that the animal keeps trying it even though there’s been a house here for 50 years? Was it disturbed en route and ran off? I have no idea what kind of animal although I’m fairly convinced that there are chipmunks that take shelter in the woodpile (or mice?). Here’s the last photo I took and I look to anyone out there to come up with your own theory. It would be somewhat comforting to latch onto an explanation that doesn’t end with some small creature living in my home! footprints3

I could say that I included my own footprint to provide perspective on the size of the prints, but that wouldn’t be truthful. Later on that day, I went up to the top of the stairs to check on my car and dig it out. In so doing, I noticed that there were similar footprints going up the stairs! None on either side of the stairs, just walking up (maybe down, I’m not sure!). The story ends there. I have no idea what it is or whether there was only one animal. Want to hazard a guess? You can email me or respond on Facebook but I’d love to hear your theories. I promise it’s not an academic exercise. Anyone who knows me well knows I am a city girl, certainly not cut out for country living, so when I say I have no idea it is genuine!! Good luck solving the mystery.

Everything Happens for a Reason?

I love this expression. It’s kind of like “being in the right place at the right time” or “it is what it is.” On New Year’s Day, I was trying to adjust my attitude, made a pot of coffee, set up the recliner, got out my new book, and set up my spot for the day. Up and down the steps many times, I never went further than the sitting room downstairs — no need to. But, before I sat down to watch six bowl games, I decided to check on the dog who likes to curl up between the guest room bed and the heater. I found myself sloshing through the carpet which was wet in the hall outside the bathroom, and had wicked into both bedrooms! I looked into the bathroom and the tub and toilet were full of dirt and grime and my first reaction was to go upstairs and ignore it! It’s New Year’s Day after all but I knew I had to do something. Naturally, I posted on Facebook! What a reaction that got and the best one of all was Ken, who messaged, “Call me now.” I did and the next thing I knew, Ken and Eileen, Nancy, her friend, Buffy and Buffy’s friend Greg were at my door checking up on me. Ken immediately went downstairs with me and assured me that it was a blockage in the septic tank, not something under the slab or more serious.

As I always do, I called Tim from Homer’s Construction and he sent Kenny to take care of things. Kenny used a shop vac to get up some of the water in the carpets and then thought he could clear the blockage. Of course Ken had already tried plunger, etc., so Tim came with a pick axe to get to the septic tank top and see what was going on. In the darkening cold, they fixed it apparently, and left a giant blower to dry out the carpets and the shop vac for some reason that I don’t understand.

shopvac

blower

When I heard the bootsteps on the stairs and saw everyone at my door, I was surprised to see Ken, Eileen, Nancy, Buffy and Greg, but it was so good to have someone else to look at the problem, to talk to about it, to commisserate with, to get support from, all those things. I didn’t realize that and thought I was happy feeling sorry for myself about it all and bemoaning the fact that I was alone and had to deal with issue after issue associated with owning a home. So, I had a good feeling that when something like this happens, there are people who care and are willing to come in person to check. Love Facebook for providing the forum. Ashby weighed in with advice; Earl did through Beth; my high school friends, Corinne, Barbara, and Janet, all had advice; Robin suggested bloody mary’s and Wanda agreed. How can you feel alone with all this going on? So in my convulated way of thinking about this, the overflow happened so I could realize that I’m not as alone as I think I am!! Thanks everyone. Now if Tim would only return my plunger!!

Don’t Do It!!

Happy New Year to all my Pocono Scribbler friends. I imagine most of us are reflecting on 2013 and imagining what wonderful things we will experience in 2014. Reflection is something I have a lot (perhaps too much) time for so I am going to share a few things about retiring, selling, moving, and adjusting. The impetus for this is a Skype call on New Year’s Eve with my friend, Beth. She was telling me about her good friend who is going through many the same things that I went through when making decisions about where I would live and how I would live (widowhood, retirement, fixed income, relocation). My response? “Tell her not to rush into anything!” so this blog post is for her.

Yesterday, my good friend Kim and I had a wonderful Skype conversation and we laughed long and hard over the fact that I was questioning how quickly I made decisions in the spring of 2012. We laughed because I said, “Why didn’t someone stop me from doing everything at once and so quickly?” Kim replied, “I tried, believe me, but you were stubborn and sure that you needed to do it all.” So true. If I had it to do over again, I probably would end up in the same place with the same issues, but I would have done everything more slowly, with more thought and I would have been better informed about what to expect.

I looked towards retirement that spring and felt like I had to make other changes as well. So, I sold my home of 37 years, threw out and gave away lots of stuff, packed up what was left and moved to the mountains of Pennsylvania. That’s three major decisions made quickly. Looking back, I wonder why it felt so necessary to do it all at the same time. The three events seemed to be related in some eway that I cannot articulate and I couldn’t envision doing one at a time. Don’t ask me why — or ask me why but I have no good answer! Now, don’t get me wrong — the result is fine, I am many hours closer to my children and have the option to visit Tallahassee whenever I want to. I wouldn’t trade the experience of the challenge of getting things done in the mountains, the strange address — one for mail and another for packages, all the blog-worthy diner visits, and being close to New York City. Would trade the winters of course, but that’s another story for another time. So my advice to my good friend’s friend is to take it slowly, maybe downsize before selling up and moving away, and adjust to not working before doing anything drastic. And any one of those decisions is drastic, believe me! It’s one thing to be alone but close to good friends and most definitely another to be alone and 1000 miles away. Take it from one who did it and knows (at least I think I do!!), take it slowly and weigh each decision carefully. Sounds simple doesn’t it?