Archive for the 'reflections on life' Category

Knob and Tube Wiring

IMG_8493In the last few years of my home-ownership, I have discovered 2 things I would change if I could go back in time and make different decisions. The first mistake, that seemed absolutely correct at the time, was putting down that horrible black ground cover underneath the mulch that was all around my deck. Why was there mulch all around my deck? Because my deck is several feet off the ground, and I envisioned active children climbing about and falling. I wanted a nice soft cushion (or comparatively soft) in case of someone falling off the railing. (Always plan for the worst-case scenario.) The irony is that the mulch disintegrated, became dirt, became weeds, became a few inches deep of landscaping I don’t want. I tried to plant a morning glory and could not figure out why I could not dig more deeply. Upon closer inspection I found the black fabric. I had to take a scissors and hack away at it to create an opening wide enough for the plant and dig down so the roots could extend. I’ve hit the same issue with everything else I have tried to plant in the back. I will NEVER use black fabric again.

IMG_8507I was born in an old town – here since before 1776. My parents’ house was not that old, but it wasn’t new. It must have been built back in the 1930s or so. At that time gas lights were out and the new fangled electricity was in. And you got your electricity through your house with knob and tube wiring. We never had an issue with electricity in that house. Over time my father had the main panel upgraded from those little round glass thingies (fuses?) to circuit breakers, added a subpanel, but all of that was hooked to the K&T and everything was fine. We bought our house in the same town over 30 years ago and knew that there was K&T. Our homeowners insurance company knew there was K&T and we got insurance with no problem. We too have upgraded our panel, added a subpanel, rewired to modern standards whenever we had any electrical work done, but the core of the original house still has K&T. Even in places where we bypassed the K&T it was often left in place, disconnected, because of the mess and inconvenience of removing it. Let me also point out that the core of the house has plaster walls, not sheet rock. That’s just how things were done in those days.

Flash forward to selling our parents’ house 3 years ago. We learned then that we would have to rip apart the (plaster) walls and remove and replace all of the K&T because any new homeowner would not be able to get insurance on the house with K&T in existence. Yes, read that again. A perfectly working, reliable electrical system that never failed is uninsurable. I think one estimate we got was $10k to do the work. We couldn’t even find anyone to call us back with a solid estimate.

IMG_8508Asbestos. Did I forget to tell you about asbestos? All the hot water pipes way back when were wrapped in asbestos. When I was a teenager having parties in the basement, Daddy had wrapped red tape around the white asbestos so that people would not hit their heads (it was a low ceiling). My father, may his memory be for a blessing, was oh so smart. Daddy (wrongfully) removed most of the asbestos in HIS house by cutting it off himself (wearing a little cloth face mask) and bagging it up and tossing it in the garbage. But there was still some left. When we bought OUR house, of course there was asbestos. I’d grown up with asbestos, so what. At that time an ACCEPTED TREATMENT was to wrap the pipes with something such as heavy-duty aluminum foil, sealing them up completely. My husband donned his little respirator and dutifully wrapped every single pipe he could reach, wrapping them with the heavy-duty foil and miles of duct tape. We can’t sell the house with that either.

IMG_8504Knowing all this now, I’d have ripped apart my house before I moved in, and upgraded all the electrical (which I couldn’t have afforded – not the electrical part, not the repairing the ripped apart walls and ceilings) and had the asbestos removed “by professionals”. Maybe I’d have even removed the zillion layers of flooring you can see under the kitchen radiator. Of course all the horrible wallpaper would have been dealt with then too. As it stands now, I plan to burn my house to the ground before I’m ready to sell. Then no one can give me grief about my pipes, my electricity, my probably-not-current-grade water pipes and I can just sell a plot of land. It will cut down on a lot of inspections. And think how easy it will be to til that plot and rip up the stupid black fabric if there is no house in the way.

We all have fantasies……

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Cats and Carrots

I wanted to call this Carnivorous Cat Carrot Confessions, but decided that even for me that was a long title. As a total aside – part of me was terrified to use the word “confessions” in the title. Years ago, in what I think might have been my 4th or 5th blog post ever, I used the word “seducing” in the title. I’m not even going to give you the whole phrase. I was APPALLED at the hits on my blog and the URLs that sent people to my post. EUWWW. I changed the name of that post and it took weeks for all of the cached hits to finally vanish. As part of my TRUE CONFESSION (I’m sooooo daring!) I actually called this Cat Carrot Confessions. I then took a phone call, came back, looked at the title, shuddered, and changed the title. Ah, the power of the internet to ruin perfectly good words.

ANYWAY….

Cats are, so says the internet, obligate carnivores. I found a very interesting article that may or may not be accurate (the problem with the internet) but it supports my point of view so I’m using it. 🙂 Now I’ll pick and choose the facts that *I* find important. The author described the term “obligate carnivore” as an animal that MUST eat meat for survival. Cats –> eat meat. The author also states that cats have lost certain metabolic functions because the cats don’t NEED that function. Her example was on carbohydrates – you don’t need to break down carbohydrates if you are not eating carbohydrates. She (the author) goes on with some great examples of other meat-eating creatures and how no one would dream of feeding them vegetables but somehow we think it is okay to give carbs to our cats. Another article on “Vegetarian Cat?” put it even more succinctly: cats eat meat and if their health will be in trouble if you try to turn them into herbivores.

This brings us to carrots. According to Wikipedia, “Carrots are 88% water, 4.7% sugar, 0.9% protein, 2.8% dietary fiber, 1% ash and 0.2% fat.” See that 4.7% sugar 2.8% dietary fiber? There are carbs in them thar sugars and fibers.

Meat –> no carbohydrates.
Carrots –> carbohydrates.
Cats –> NEED meat.
Cats –> do NOT need carrots.
WHY ARE THERE CARROTS IN THE CANNED CAT FOOD??????

MY cats live a very good life and are very spoiled. My vet always says she wants to come back as one of my cats. I try to feed them well. Okay – I don’t take anywhere near as wonderful care of MY cats as @catsherdyou does of HER cats, but I’m pretty good. There are 3 of them now and they get wet food in the morning and evening. I use a mixture of prescription kidney diet and an over-the-counter (very expensive) brand. One of my girls has kidney and thyroid issues and that means I need to get medicine into her morning and night. Some people have cats that you can pick up and hold and cuddle, but my 2 big girls missed that memo. I cannot hold those cats. That means the medicine is delivered ground up and in the wet food. Which means I stand there watching the 3 of them eat and making sure that each eats from the correct dish (at least until all the treated food has been consumed). 3 cats. Two are over 15 years old, one is nearly 5. Not ONE of those cats eats the stupid carrots that are in the food. Even the PRESCRIPTION food has carrots in it!!!! (and potatoes!!!) Cats excel at pushing food around on the plate and picking only the preferred morsels from the middle of the dish. Once the food is pushed to the sides, it as if the dish was completely empty. Sad/accusing eyes implore me to “fix it”. I push all the food back to the center of the dish, add more warm water and replace the dish. The carrots are NEVER a preferred morsel. There are always carrots left on the plates.

Cats. Carrots. Where is the confession? I’ve begun picking out the carrots before I even put the dishes down. I don’t know who in canned cat food land or prescription cat food land thought carrots belonged in cat food, but I’m here to tell you that my cats don’t agree. Me-euwww.

I confess, your Honor – I remove the offending carrots.

Tomato, Tomahto

tissuesI do like going into the office. It’s good to see people, chat, find out what’s happening in other departments. I really enjoy the drive to the office these days. After decades of commutes on rush-hour packed roads, I now have a commute of 6.7 miles (yes, I measured). It goes through the outskirts of an ecological preserve, past a farm where there are horses grazing in the field, past a lovely little lake and even has the convenience of my bank and favorite grocery store before I reach the office. On the way home I have a great view of the river as well (only in the winter – in other seasons the trees in the park along the river block that view).

I also love having the flexibility to work from home. That’s so helpful if there are contractors coming, or if I need to run errands that are closer to home than the office, or if the weather is terrible and I don’t feel like driving even that short distance.

That flexibility combined with the short commute also means that should I start sneezing and blowing my nose non-stop, I can pack up my stuff and leave the office and head back home. That was Monday. I was all set to enjoy the last week at the office for this year. I bought coffee supplies and donuts for the coffee room. I made myself my coffee sat down at my desk and….. the sneezing started. teapotAnd never stopped. I used up all my tissues. Note to self: remember to bring in new box. After 45 minutes of this I decided that NO one needed or wanted me to stay in the office. We even get lovely emails from HR reminding us to keep away if we are ill. I shut down the machines, packed up and went home (12 minutes door to door. yes, I’m gloating). I drank copious amounts of hot tea, had tissues right to hand, even made the training session I had to lead without sneezing into the microphone. Tomato.

fireplaceTuesday I woke up and felt better, but not well. Obvious decision – work from home again. The sneezing and nose-blowing was over, but the headache and general meh feeling was there. Again, more cups of tea. Another reason to work from home that – I prefer the rest rooms at my house. 🙂

It’s Wednesday and I’m still home, because I thought oh why bother packing up and going in, so many people were planning to take off this week anyway. There weren’t many folk in the office on Monday and I’m sure there will be fewer today.

I’m still home. doorOMG, I’m still HOME. I am going stir-crazy. I know that there are people who like to ‘nest’, burrow in as it were and do…. heck, I don’t know what they do. It’s been over 50 hours straight and I am soooooo tired of this view!!!! I neeeeeeed to get out. The sun is shining. I’m not sick. The cats are terrible conversationalists. Every where I look I see ‘things that need doing’. I want my office. I want OUT. Tomahto.

Anyone interested in meeting for a cup of coffee??????

Walk Along the River

ready to motor Sometimes the obvious stares me in the face for ages and ages before I see it. I enjoy taking pictures of flowers and water and scenery. If you were reading the Transcontinental Tales posts, you have probably figured that out already. I like to take pictures, I like to share them, I have a blog where I can post…. Well okay, I can post my photos to my blog!!! Major revelation. *grin*

The week after I returned home there was a festival in the neighboring town. My husband and I walked there and walked along the Raritan River to the festival. canal during festivalPart of the old Delaware Canal is still in existence here and we walked back along the towpath. There were ducks and a heron and seagulls and fish. I tried to take pictures of the heron but it was on the far side of the river and my camera (my iPhone) was insufficient to the task. Or perhaps it was the photographer. Always a possibility. 🙂 I am sparing you the blurred pics of a white against brown.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day with bright sunshine and warmth and people were smiling and having a great time. Oh, well, except for the man on the stage at the festival who was spouting hate and rage. I didn’t hear him (I’m getting quite good at selective hearing) but my husband listened (of course) and he pointed out to me what was being said. beside a rockSigh. Looking at the faces we passed, I think most people were in much too good a mood to be roused to anger at that moment.

It was a good walk – maybe 2 miles all told. We’ve walked into town before to go to dinner. It feels like “oh my what a long walk” but everytime we actually walk the trip we are surprised by how close it is. *smile* NOT in bad weather, however. Then it IS too far too walk. Especially over the bridge. Have I ever told you about my bridge phobia? The Delaware Memorial bridge is the “bridge of my nightmares” for one set of bridge-nightmare. The Raritan River bridge is yet another. *grin* But I’ll leave those details for another time.

I hope you enjoy these photos. They are nothing spectacular, only happy memories of a lovely walk along the river.
ducks on a shady river

calm river

river flower

reflections on the water

OOTD20150925

There are times when the world sends you a message. Everything aligns and it’s very clear to you what you must do. Your question is answered. I got such a message the other day, the end of Yom Kippur.

There’s a lot of back story to this so it maybe yet another tl;dr. I am affiliated with a congregation where I pay dues, celebrate all my life events, all my family and many of my friends are there and it is “my” congregation. But on the High Holidays, for many many years, I davened elsewhere, at a only-for-the-High-Holidays congregation. Long story why, but I did and my son and I loved it there. Not only did we belong, we were integral to the functioning. But as many things do, it ended. No more congregation. My son and I went to “our” congregation for the next HH. But to our dismay we found although we loved being with our friends and family, we did NOT like the liturgy, not at all. What to do? So we went to another HH congregation that used the liturgy we preferred. We had no friends, no family there. Just each other. It was okay. Not great. But we had each other so we continued. This year my son lives in another state and could not come back for the holidays. I went alone. I was lonely. I GO to services in part to “belong”, to feel a part of the community. This year I was lonely and realized it wasn’t working for me. I had a few choices. “My” congregation. The congregation in town where I know lots of people and they use the similar liturgy but…. not so fond of other things. The minyan congregation – a break-away from the in-town one where I probably know a lot of people. I sat at services and missed my old congregation. Really really missed it. Trying to figure out what to do, where I should turn.

So where’s the world-message? I had a friend, Victor, at our HH congregation. Victor taught me a lot about prayer, customs. He too was integral to that congregation. We’d not seen him for years. He’d been in very poor health. I searched his name and found his obituary. Four years ago. Sigh. It’s the first time, however, in all these years that I actually took the action to try to find him. Then, just before the holiday started I stopped at the store for some bread and there was Lucille – another integral member of the HH congregation. That’s two messages coming through the ether.

I went to the morning services and the one person I knew there since my childhood did not come. 😦 So the one bit of ‘family’ I was anticipating wasn’t there. I sat on my porch in the afternoon and debated returning for the closing services. A woman walked by, turned back, walked up my walk. It was Susan, also a member of the HH team. 🙂 We chatted and laughed and reminisced and agreed we missed the “old team”. She was going to the minyan service. On impulse I asked “can I go with you?” She said of course! And off we walked. When I walked in, there was yet another member of the “old team” – Alice. Susan had told me Alice would be there. The message, however, was WHERE Alice was sitting. She was next to my very good friend Amy!!!!! They were sitting in front of my friend Judy. As I sat down, and looked across the room, there was Pam. *smile* The liturgy was familiar and friends were there. I was HOME. I was so happy and so comforted. For me, it completed the holiday.

The world sent its message. It was very clear. It’s time to move to the minyan and find the community and comfort I used to have. I don’t have to be told twice. Isn’t it satisfying when you find what you sought? Thanks, world!!!

OOTD20150922

It’s Erev Yom Kippur. This is a holiday I have always loved, despite all the traditional jokes about fasting = suffering. I have always tried to reflect and repent of things I’ve done wrong in the last year. I resolve to do better – and I think of specific behaviors and relationships where there is a lot of room for “better” and what “better” entails. I love the feeling of cleansing my spirit of negativity, hate, anger, cruelty. I try to embrace a positive outlook, a commitment to acting in a way that brings about tikkun olam, not just to the world as a whole, but specifically to the micro world about me. *smile* Because of course, the world DOES revolve about me, right? Oops. Back to reflection and repentance. And a warning to you, dear reader. This post will probably be in the too-long-didn’t-read category. Yom Kippur does that to me. 🙂

I read a post this year that captured SO MUCH of how I feel about the holiday, and what I’ve tried to do. I don’t think I was ever quite as “obnoxious” as the author (“Eventually I grew into a slightly less earnest, hopefully less obnoxious human, but the rituals of Yom Kippur still held a special place in my heart.“) but I certainly have sent many an email in the last several years asking for forgiveness for any harm or wrong I may have done that person.

This year, however, much like the cited post, I find that I am not quite ready to forgive everybody. Perhaps more accurately, I find that I am not ready to BE forgiven. I have 2 friendships that went on the rocks. In one case, I feel that I am the wronged party. In the other, I have been told that I erred grievously.

I’ll start with my sin. I was visiting friends. At dinner, after having shared a bottle of wine, I told the husband my dumb blonde joke while the wife was away from the table. I’d just done something “dumb”, which reminded me of the joke, and it is a very vaguely off-color joke, and I knew my friend (the wife) wouldn’t like it anyway, so I told it to the husband. I prefaced it by saying “oh let me tell you my dirty joke”. It’s NOT really a dirty joke. The punch-line carries an implication (if you “get it”) that is sexual in nature but it’s NOT dirty. It’s a “dumb blonde” joke. (I’m blonde, by the way. Neither husband nor wife are blonde.) The husband may have laughed, or smiled, I don’t even remember. It was a non-event to me. Jump ahead a week or so. I returned home. I sent the wife (my friend since we were 6 years old) an email telling her how much I enjoyed the visit, thanking her and her husband for such a wonderful wonderful time, telling her more about the stress and craziness in my life (which is why I fled to visit them in the first place). No response. A week later I sent an email wishing the husband a happy birthday. No response. Two days later I received an email from her, addressed to my son, wishing my son a happy birthday. That was it. No other message. I picked up the phone and called. She sounded taken aback to hear my voice. I asked what was wrong, what had happened between us. She told me that she and her husband were offended by the dirty joke I had told (please keep in mind SHE never heard it). That my behavior was inappropriate and out of line. That they did not understand why I would tell such a joke. I must tell you now that NO ONE to whom I have related the joke thinks it’s a “dirty joke”. Everyone ELSE has laughed and said – that’s not a dirty joke. It’s a DUMB BLONDE JOKE. Sigh. I apologized profusely. I explained it was never my intent to offend or insult them. That I’d told him the joke because I’d just done something ‘dumb’ and so was being a ‘dumb blonde’ and told him the joke. She was still cool and cold and repeating that they could not understand why I’d ever tell that kind of joke. We ended the call. Immediately I composed a truly sincere apology email, restating I’d never intended to hurt, offend or otherwise insult them. No reply. About 6 weeks later, next Jewish holiday, I received an email. It said “Apology received. Happy holiday.” Apology “received”. NOT accepted. At that point, still deep in the craziness that was my life at that time, something in me broke. Decades of friendship were tossed aside by her because of one 2 line joke. No allowance for my life was crazy, maybe that was why I told such an “inappropriate” joke. No allowance for a bottle of wine at dinner. No allowance for forgiveness. No, my crime was so heinous that I could not be forgiven.

So it’s Yom Kippur. Tradition says that I must ask 3 times for forgiveness from those whom I have wronged. “The Shulhan Aruch writes that if the victim does not grant forgiveness when the offender first approaches him, the offender should return to him, as many as three times. He then earns atonement even if the victim still refuses to forgive. “ Here’s the problem. I no longer want to be forgiven. I have asked for forgiveness. I’m not even listing all the times I feel she has wronged me in major life events and yet I forgave her and moved on. I am obviously still in disgrace as my birthday came and went and no birthday greeting. I don’t want her forgiveness. But I’m torn here between how I try to live, and how I feel. My coworker (also Jewish) has said that what I need to do is forgive myself.

I think, having written this, that I have reached a decision. I AM sorry that I offended her so deeply that she can’t forgive me. I no longer care if she forgives me. But I think that I will write again today, asking for forgiveness. I will be clean, and perhaps she can begin the process of forgiving me as well.

Because my other Yom Kippur story is about learning to heal once you begin to forgive. (I did warn you this would be a tl;dr.)

I had a friend. I thought we were very very close. We shared many interests. We discussed family, work, relationships. Then he stopped talking to me. No emails, no chats, no nothing. No response when I tried to reach him. (We are not co-located.) I was hurt. Extremely hurt. I did not know what had happened, why he stopped talking to me. Over the course of 18 months, we had email interaction perhaps 4 times, each time when I initiated it because of business with/from mutual friends. His responses were terse, to the point, no indication of any former closeness. I was angry. I was hurt. I was confused. I did a lot of thinking.

I thought about friends to whom perhaps I had done this very behavior myself. I tried to think what I might have done to warrant this reaction. I tried to think of ways to let go of the hurt and blow to my self-esteem so that I could heal and move on. I hurt. And hurt. Finally last Yom Kippur I decided I would send him an email, asking for forgiveness. I spent WEEKS composing that email to make sure it said exactly what it was meant to say, and not an emotion more. It was to clear the slate. If I had indeed done something so egregious, I needed to apologize and be forgiven even if I did not know what I had done. If I had not done anything and it was HIS mishegas, then I would be clear as well. I sent the email. It is a year. I’ve had no response. But I finally began to heal. I can think of him without wincing. Even better – mostly I don’t think about him at all. When I think I might be slipping into worrying and fretting about what I did or didn’t do or WHY???, I am able to take a deep breath and say, I have moved on, that is in the past. I have tried sincerely to make amends. I have forgiven myself for whatever I have done or not done. I have forgiven HIM. I do not know why things happened as they did, but I do not blame him anymore, I have let go of the anger for the hurt. I am healing, because I have forgiven him. “Finally, the Sages also emphasize the importance of granting forgiveness to others. The Rabbis teach that one should not be “cruel” by refusing to grant forgiveness to somebody who offended him. A person who willingly grants forgiveness to others will earn God’s forgiveness for whatever sins he may have committed.”

To me, this is what Yom Kippur brings. It is my chance to repair the rips and tears in my life. It is my time to let go of anger. It is my time to accept people for who and what they are, and free myself from my expectations of how they should behave. It is my time to clear my slate as best I can and to hope for a better year to come.

An easy fast and Chag Sameach! And to everyone, member of the tribe or not, G’mar Hatimah Tovah (May You Be Sealed for a Good Year in the Book of Life).

Note: quotes on halacha:© Copyright 2010 Torah Learning Resources.
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OOTD20150921

I read an article in the paper yesterday. The header was “A Toxic Work World“. As I skimmed the first few paragraphs, it appeared that the article was going to talk about how the workplace has become extremely stressful for EVERYONE, not just this segment or that group. The first few paragraphs talked about how everyone, no matter where they are on the socioeconomic spectrum, works well over 8 hours a day, often without overtime pay. There is talk that stress is an epidemic. The people best suited for survival in such a “toxic work world” are those who are young, healthy, wealthy and not responsible for caring for any other family members who can’t care for themselves.

I thought “YES! Here is an article that describes me, my friends, my coworkers, and just about everyone I know. Maybe there will also be a suggested solution.” Not so much, unfortunately. The article did state that the working day model in this country is built on an out-dated social structure. As I understood it, we need to change how we structure “going to work”. The article also stated that the upper management and executives to whom these results and suggestions were made had no interest in that report. They wanted to hear something that said keep the status quo but throw some sympathetic-sounding amelioration program into place.

I was annoyed by that article. Very annoyed. At that moment I devised the Ahuva-presidential-campaign-platform. I offer it to any candidate. 🙂

Let’s start with the premise of “less”. CEO’s, presidents, and other high-flyers can take a pay cut. I’m not talking about the perquisites. Those are what put the “fun” in being “on top”. I mean basic salary. How much? I don’t know – 5%? Because your perks undoubtedly cost way more than 5%. Take that 5% and HIRE MORE PEOPLE. Gee. If we had more people doing the work that needed to be done, wouldn’t that actually solve a lot of other problems too? Think about it. Stop hoarding the money at the top in salaries and in dividends to investors, and hire more people. The great 99% more people. Yes – I’m personally willing to make less in my investments if it meant more people got to work, got to have income, got to have health coverage, got to have self-esteem, got to work fewer hours so they could be with family.

Let’s earn less income individually. (Been there, done that, know I can do it again.) HIRE MORE PEOPLE. Having more people in the workforce will do a LOT to reduce toxicity. People could go home at the end of the “official” work day. People wouldn’t have to come in an hour early to get work done. Sure, the downside will be a lot more people all trying to cross that wretched 8 lane double-decker bridge at rush hour, but maybe – another “radical” thought – maybe we could also stagger work hours.

I have nothing against CEOs. I have nothing against money. Truth be told, I’m very appreciative of money. *smile* But I am getting very tired of a work environment where people routinely work an hour past the end-of-day, where everyone is harried and exhausted because their workload is so extreme. I’m tired of a work environment where dollars are “being saved” at the expense of human health and happiness. I know – “if you don’t like it quit and get another job”. Hellooooooo. It’s not about not liking one’s work. It’s about wanting more to life than just work. It’s about being able to savor and enjoy the work being done because it’s not always rush-crisis-hysteria-rush.

There is probably some “ism” that states my proposal more clearly. Maybe there ISN’T such an ‘ism’. It seems so simple to me. Earn less. Heal the world. Heal YOUR workforce. Earn MORE.

/me smiles and steps off the soap box

Update: I don’t know how long this link will last, but someone posted to Facebook about the CEO of a company pulling in a $21 Million salary, while outsourcing 600 jobs to Mexico. Surely she could take $1 M of that and hire a a dozen employees????


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