Toby

He’s been gone 3 years today. Still miss him every day.

J.E.M. Wildfire

During a massive downpour one afternoon in November of 2004, I opened my door to a scrawny little stray cat that I had been feeding. For months he had played hard-to-get. Hiding under my deck, waiting for me to leave before creeping out to eat. Gradually becoming used to me after I decided to just sit on the steps waiting for him. At some point, his hunger overcame his fear of me, and he came out to eat as long as I wasn’t TOO close to the food dish. Eventually, he came up to the deck to eat and meet my other two cats, who had decidedly different reactions to him. The big one ignored him, while the little one was VERY territorial, hissing and challenging the interloper. All that ended on that stormy afternoon when I opened the door.

Toby darted inside, ran through kitchen and family room, then…

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“V” is for “‘Vette”

When I was very young, the only thing I knew about cars was, my father had a Ford and my next-door friend’s father had a Chevrolet. The Chevy was much snazzier than our Ford. Their car was bought for its flash; ours, for safety. The Ford’s back doors could be locked with a latch on the outside, so if a child pulled up the inside lock and pulled the handle, the door couldn’t be opened. (In fact, I’m not even sure the back doors had inside handles.) Apparently, in those days, no one considered how we’d get out in the case of a real emergency.

Cars remained mere transportation for me until I was in my early teens. I had been visiting Rhode Island relatives and, unbeknownst to me, my mother and aunt arranged for a cousin’s fiance to drive me home to Connecticut on his way back to New York. When he pulled up in his white Corvette, I fell in love. With the car, of course. Black leather bucket seats. Barely muffled powerful engine. For the entire two hour drive, I asked him to go faster, and he repeatedly explained the promises he had made to my mother and to his future mother-in-law that he would drive safely. He informed me that, despite the ‘Vette’s well-earned reputation for speed and power, its fiberglass body actually made it quite fragile. He assured me if we were to have an accident, the car would split in two. We’d die instantly; if not, however, my parents would kill him. Ah well.

The romance of a ‘Vette was still with me when I married my first husband. Our only car was an old Buick he inherited from his grandfather, who had cherished it. My husband planned to carry on the tradition, treating it lovingly. When we decided we needed a second car so I could get a job, naturally I assumed the new car would be mine to drive. Wonder of wonders, the car he had his sights on was a brand-new Opel GT. That car looked like a baby ‘Vette, with its low stance, streamlined body, and a relatively big engine for a compact sports car. I was thrilled that he chose my favorite color, blue, and black leather seats just for me. Imagine my disappointment when he handed me the keys to the allegedly cherished ancient Buick, claiming he needed the smaller car with the better mileage.

A year or so later, the Buick finally gave up the ghost. He couldn’t bear to part with it as a trade-in, so it sat on blocks in our yard while we shopped for a used car for me. My only stipulation was that our next car had to be an Opel GT. We found one a little older than his, a little more beat up, a disgusting shade of mustard yellow, with dirty cream(ish) leather seats. But, it was mine, and I loved it. It was the only thing I took when I left him.

In honor of my love for ‘Vettes big and small, here’s Prince with “Little Red Corvette.” Ironically, today is first husband’s birthday. Enjoy!

 

 

“O” is for “Orange”

“O” is for “orange” and also for “honor” and other words that begin with a silent “h”. I say “honor” is included because I intend to honor my commitment to myself and the blog community to publish daily, except Sunday, focusing on the letter of the day. Equally important, I’m honoring my commitment to myself to write something daily, published or not.

What came first, the color orange or the fruit orange? Ordinarily, I’d research that question but not today.  Today I plan to write in stream of consciousness style in “homage” (French pronunciation) to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday (SoCS) challenge. On the other hand, I’ll be snubbing my nose at #SoCS because I’m writing about “O” and not about her prompt “mash.” On a third hand, though, SoC is essentially a mish-mash of thought trails, so I’m also following the prompt. I didn’t say this post would be interesting, just committed.

But I digress. Today is not the day to discover what came first, orange fruit or orange color. My guess is the color came first. So many other edibles are orange but aren’t named orange: nectarines, carrots, pumpkins, some squashes, nasturtiums. Nasturtiums are little orange flowers that add a zing to salads. Quite tasty.

Again on another hand, orangutans (NOT edible) are orange and have the color in their name. Right off the bat, I can’t think of any other orange animals. Oh…foxes! Clearly not called “orange.”

Oddly, another prompt I’ve been looking at, Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt #272, can fit into the subject of “orange.” The photo shows a carnival ride called, I think, a “whirligig.” It looks like a big canopy with colored bucket seats suspended from it. People strap themselves into the seats, and the whirligig whirls around, the acceleration giving the riders the rides of their lives. Or getting them sick. In this particular photo, the two most prominent seats are, respectively, yellow and red. Combined, yellow and red make orange. The canopy colors include mustardy yellow, red, blue, and blue-green. I imagine those colors mashing together into an orange haze if the ride spins fast enough. (Rebel that I am, I’m opting out of writing an actual three line tale.)

I can’t think of orange without thinking of an “orangy sky” at sunset or in the lyrics of The Cars’ “Bye Bye Love.”

“O” is also for “Okay,” as in “okay, I’ve had enough of this, haven’t you?” This stream of consciousness is boring me. No wonder I’ve never been able to read James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” (I stuck to stream of consciousness and didn’t research, only enough to satisfy my nerd by including citations.)

“H” is for “Habit”

Habits are those recurring things you do, often without even thinking about it. Get up in the morning and brush your teeth. Turn right at the intersection, even though turning left would get you there faster. Forks on the left; knives, right. After a few repetitions, you’re pretty much on autopilot. Common wisdom says you’ll have created a habit and turned on autopilot after repeating the same behavior for 21 days. Common wisdom is trite and not always right.

A 2019 article on Healthline.com points out: “According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.” That’s not to say no one develops a habit in 21 days. When you got your first job and had to be there by 9:00 a.m., you likely developed that habit far sooner than in 21 days. On the other hand, years of New Year’s Resolutions broken by February 1 tend to support the postulation that habit development generally takes more than 21 days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about habits lately, probably because I’ve developed so many bad ones. Well, let’s say “unproductive.” For example, I’m a night person. Always have been. I never quite got the hang of the “get to work by 9:00 a.m.” habit. Mine was more like “as long as I’m there by 9:30 I probably won’t get fired.” That seems to have worked, since I retired under my own steam six years ago. Not only did I no longer have to even try to get anywhere by 9:00 a.m., I didn’t even need to get out of bed before 9:00 a.m. That also meant I didn’t need a fixed bedtime. Yay, me! My natural sleep patterns kicked in and kicked me out of whack with most of the rest of world, even other retirees. I got so used to my new habits, I was always surprised to discover how much people did before noon — going to the gym, out to breakfast, to doctor’s appointments, shopping. And since my days started later and later, I had fewer hours left to fit in all the stuff other people did before noon.

Then came 2020 bringing “senior hours.” When going to the grocery store became a potential matter of life and death, I had to get up even earlier than when I was working if I wanted to shop with fewer potentially contagious people. It was a struggle and definitely didn’t become a habit after 21 days. However, I found that, once up and caffeinated, I was less stressed and got a lot done before noon. Most important, I wrote more on those days, earlier in the day, than on the days I slept to … well, let’s say “close to noon.”

Writing makes me feel good, like a whole person. And I need to figure out a way to have more of those days. It has finally dawned on me that being retired doesn’t really mean I can do whatever, whenever, I want. Without some sort of schedule, the days just drift along, and I realistically don’t have an awful lot of days left to waste. I need to develop some better habits, starting with a set sleep schedule. I just hope it doesn’t take any longer than 21 days to get to autopilot.

 

written to include Your Daily Word Prompt “trite”

 

“C” is for “Caledonia”

Caledonia is the name the Romans gave to the northern part of what was then called Britannia. Although that land is now officially Scotland, Caledonia is still used in a poetic, sentimental sense. When I think of Caledonia, I am engulfed by emotion. I think of my Scottish grandmother, who passed away when my mother was only 13. I think of singer-songwriter Dougie McLean’s beautiful song “Caledonia,” written in his early 20s when he was living in France and homesick for Scotland. The first notes of the song always bring tears for other reasons as well.

I first heard “Caledonia” when the Irish group, Celtic Thunder, first appeared on PBS early in 2008. My husband found them when channel surfing one night, and we were hooked. We saw them live for the first time later that year and at least once every year until my husband passed in 2012. A staple of their show, “Caledonia” was a fan favorite both for the kilts and because the only Scotsman in the group, George Donaldson, was beloved by all. Naturally, he had a central role whenever Celtic Thunder performed it. George tragically passed away suddenly in 2014 at the age of 46, leaving his wife and young daughter.

In the first video that follows, Dougie McLean performs the song that some consider to be Scotland’s unofficial national anthem. The second is George Donaldson performing a solo acoustic version of “Caledonia.” Enjoy!