Use your inside voice

For the longest time, I thought it was me. Were my ears super sensitive? Was I just being an old fuddy duddy? (Isn’t that a great term?!) But it became clear to me that many people feel the way I do. Restaurants are just too LOUD!

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When I go out to eat with friends, I want to sit at the table and have a conversation. A conversation that everyone at the table can hear. A conversation that takes places without YELLING. But for many years now, this is almost impossible. I used to love going to certain restaurants for their fabulous food. But I don’t go now because it’s just not enjoyable anymore. Sure, the food is still great but the atmosphere…not so much. Everyone seems to need to be heard. And they need everyone within the restaurant to hear them. So they talk really LOUD. And more annoying is the laugher. You know, the guy that finds everything to be funny and has to let everyone know he thinks it’s funny by laughing really LOUD. And then his friends join in and everyone is really LOUD. And then there are the groups of women who scream to be heard, like fingernails on a chalk board. And all of this gets worse with every beverage that is consumed. And my head wants to burst from the NOISE.

There is no question that some restaurants are designed to enhance the noise…places like the Cheesecake Factory that have really high ceilings. I get it, there are places that should be LOUD. Places like a sports bar with 75 Jumbotron TV screens all around. And if I want that atmosphere, I will go to the sports bar and I will be LOUD like everyone else. But when I go to my local pub or to places like the Colonial Inn or Wayside Inn, I want it to be charming and peaceful and QUIET. I want to have a conversation, not a screaming match.

When did we become a society that lost control like this? Where did our manners go? I beg you all, please use your inside voice when you are inside a restaurant. Leave the outside voice at the door!

And don’t get me started on the parents that let the little ones run freely around the restaurant because they can’t sit still in their chairs….

A little goes a long way…

Everything in moderation. At least that’s the idea, especially when it comes to the use of perfume and cologne.

Last evening, friends and I attended a local production of the musical “Funny Girl”. As we filed into the theatre and took our seats, we settled in with expectations of a great show. And then he arrived. A seemingly wonderful gentleman and his wife (that’s an assumption but probably correct!) settled into the seats directly in front of us. He was in front of me. Within moments, I was caught in an invisible cloud of some seriously strong cologne. I was stunned really…this was some powerful stuff! And every time he moved, the cloud refreshed itself and settled over anyone within a 1/2 mile of him! Honestly, this was a hazmat situation.

I don’t know what brand of toxic chemical this was…but I’m sure it was expensive. And I’m sure he thought it made him more attractive. His wife must be used to it because she seemed unfazed by it as she occasionally snuggled up to him. Within a few minutes, the toxic cloud had permeated my nostrils…and it was only a few more minutes before I could actually taste this stuff. Really, it was that strong. There were times during the 3 hour evening when I pulled my shirt up over my mouth and nose in an attempt to filter the air. When the show was over, we could not wait to get outside and breathe fresh, cool air. But the fragrance lingered…

I got home and gave serious consideration to taking a shower before going to bed. I thought it might help wash away the toxic fumes. I was tired so I just went to bed. And I woke up this morning, still tasting and smelling the remnants of this guy’s cologne. I wondered if there was ever a time this guy thought maybe he was pouring it on too heavily. Did the designer that created this crap have any idea of how strong it was and how people in general use far too much? Does anyone realize just how bad this can be for some people? People like me….

I have asthma. It’s pretty serious and I take 3 different meds daily to keep it under control. Things that trigger my asthma are extreme heat and humidity, inhaling very cold air, breathing around the use of strong cleaning products and strong perfume and cologne. So today I spent about two hours dealing with an asthma flare up because this tool last night bathed in whatever expensive cologne he thought made him more manly.

Ladies and gents, please use whatever fragrance you choose sparingly and please consider the rest of the people in the world that can truly be harmed by your desire to smell fancy. Less is more…

Next on the blog topic list…..Use Your Inside Voice

Loss

My neighbor Jim is an elusive character. He’s in his mid 70’s, still very active. I’ve lived next door to him for 5 years. He’s a retired firefighter but that was his part time job! He was also a painting contractor. He keeps busy working odd jobs, mostly for friends. He golfs now and then. He does not talk much, just sort of grunts if you say hello to him. In the past year, he has engaged me in conversation once or twice. That means he likes me. At least those who know him well say that’s true.

Some things I do know about Jim is that he was briefly married and got divorced many years ago. There were no kids. His house is big…really big for one single man. I’ve never been inside but I’m told it’s nice. He has a nice big deck on the back of the house that he never uses. Ever. And the one thing that always has me perplexed is that no matter the time of the year, the windows in the house are always closed. There is no air conditioning. The driveway is on the far side of the house so I can’t see if his car is at home. The only way I know he is home in the evening is by seeing the lights on in what is most likely his living room. I know that in the winter, he goes to Florida for a few weeks. I also know he had a horrible bout with throat cancer a few years ago but seems to have recovered fairly well.

This past winter was different. Jim did not go to Florida. I did not see him to speak to but would see him come and go from time to time. But then it seemed like he was gone for long stretches of time….days and into weeks. His normal routine would be to be out doing a painting job during the day. He would come home, clean up and then drive away to parts unknown, coming home later in the evening. But as I said, this past winter was different. His paint truck seemed to never leave the yard. His car was rarely at home. Days and sometimes a week or more would go by with no signs of life in the house. This went on into Spring and early Summer. I mentioned this to a mutual friend and was frankly shocked at what I was told. Apparently elusive Jim had a lady friend! And they had been a “thing” for many many years. Well, of course I would not have known that. Good for Jim!

Her name was Betty Lou. I know nothing about her or their life together. I suspect she was a great help to him when he was sick. And then she got sick. I am told it was some time this past winter that she was diagnosed with cancer. No idea what kind. But whatever it was, it was apparently aggressive. Jim was devoted to her care which now explains the lengthy periods of time he was away from home. He stayed with her day and night. He stayed with her up until she passed.  It was a big loss for Jim.

Several people have said Jim claims this was the worst year of his life. I suppose that’s probably true. I also know that Jim’s best friend of close to 50 years passed away this Spring, also of cancer. I think traditionally men are less equipped to manage a loss like this than women are. Loss is hard for everyone and Jim isn’t any different. But for some reason, his loss makes me extra sad. His life was wrapped up in her and their life and now it’s all gone. He is home now, every night. What now?

 

Impact weather day

 

We are having a heat wave. And I hate it. But I hate the media more for making it so much worse than it already is. They seem to thrive on weather extremes. And they really love to use specific words and phrases to hammer home their point.

So here is my list of words and phrases that should be banned in reference to this heat:

Excessive. Dangerous. Historic. Cooling centers. Hot. Really Hot. Splash Pads. Pools. Air conditioning. Shower. Ice cream. Humidity. Dew Points. Heat Index. Hydrate. Check on the elderly. Heat advisory. Extreme heat warning. Heat exhaustion. Heat stroke. Fry an egg. Pets. Kids. Power grid.

There are many more that could be added to the list. But my all-time least favorite (and actually it’s very new) is IMPACT WEATHER DAY.

Weather people…I beg you. Please stop! Thank you.

I’m going back into my air conditioned house where I plan to eat ice cream, take a cool shower, check on my elderly neighbors, ignore the dew point and hope the power grid does not give out!

 

 

Pssst…hey you. Yeah you! I’ve got a newsflash for you….

You are NOT Mark Spitz!

There is a public pool in my City. It opened 55 years ago and is still going strong. But it has limitations. It’s biggest problem is that it’s too small. It’s bigger problem is some of the people who come to use it. The pool does it’s best to cater to the needs of everyone who comes. There are hours for general swimming where anyone can do just about anything. There are always 2 lap lanes but the fact is that during general swim, these lanes are not immune to infiltration by non-competitive swimmers. There is a big shallow end that’s good for kids. At the other end is a diving board and slide. This part of the pool is very deep, mostly because there used to be a very high diving board! They took that away many years ago in the interest of safety. During the week, a mere 45 minutes is set aside from 12:15 to 1pm for “adult swim” only. On weekends, “adult swim” is from 11a-12p. And on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in July and half of August, early morning “adult swim” is from 7:30-8:15. Not much time for us “adults”. But we make the best of it.

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I have been coming to this pool since day 1. As a kid, I spent many summer days camped out with my friends, keeping an eye on all the cute boys and making plans for what we all were going to do that night in the park. Simpler times for sure. I grew up and grew away from the pool as life took me in different directions and working for a living took over for summering in the pool. Close to 20 years ago, I re-discovered the pool and began going every day for adult swim. I worked nights at the time and a nice dip in the cool pool before bed was the perfect thing for a good day’s sleep.

I don’t swim. I can, for the most part but I just don’t. I run in the pool and do some variations of aerobic exercises as I run back and forth in the lane. It’s a great workout. No impact on the joints, gets your heart rate up and gives you great resistance in the water as you move back and forth. I simply love it. The lane closest to the shallow end is PERFECT for me and my exercise routine. The water comes to mid-chest and provides the absolute best possible combination of depth and resistance. But I don’t own the lane. And neither do you!

Over the years, there is a core group of people who come to adult swim. We all know each other and we all know where we prefer to “swim”. There is a flow to the pool and you kinda need to go with it.  But then Mark Spitz shows up. You know, the guy with the tiny Speedo, the skin tight swim cap, the flippers and hand flippers, goggles, stop watch and several additional swim aides. Mark is not a regular. In fact, he is often a day swimmer…obvious by the wrist band you get when you pay by the day.

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Mark arrives after everyone else is in the pool, deep into their routines. And then Mark’s routine begins. He stretches, he adjusts his Speedo. stretches, adjusts, stretches, adjusts….and then despite HUGE letters of the pool deck saying “No Diving”, he dives in to a lane regardless of who else might be there. Every so often, Mark stands at the head of the lane I’m in and tells me in no uncertain terms, that the lane is for “lap swimming” and I need to get out of it and move over to the shallow end of the pool. I am polite and simply say that the pool is for whatever you want it to be and that I am happy to have him swim around me if he’d like. Mark tells me again the lanes are for swimming….and so I stop running and break into a breast stroke and ask, “Is this better?”. And I refuse to move. There have been times when Mark has approached the pool staff asking them to have me move. And he is told this will not happen. So Mark finds a space…adjusts his goggles, starts his timer and off he goes. One lap. Check timer. Readjust goggles. Put on flippers. Swim. One lap. Check timer. Fuss with goggles. Swim. Take off flippers. Drink flavored power water. Fuss with goggles. Swim. Flip turn. Breast stroke. Flip. Stop to adjust goggles. Butterfly stroke….because we ALL need to be impressed. Except nobody is impressed. Finally someone will vacate one of the two roped off lanes and Mark will make his way over to it. And then he fusses with all his stuff all over again. So much times is wasted on all this stuff….just swim! But no…..you are Mark Spitz! When your time is up, off you go and we likely will never see you again. We are oaky with that. Maybe you can find a pool somewhere that caters to the Mark Spitz type. Good luck with that. Because I have a newsflash for you….you are NOT Mark Spitz!

 

And for those of you of a younger generation…omit Mark Spitz and insert Michael Phelps!

Mr.Mouse takes a vacation…with Abigail

 

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It was only a matter of time. The elusive and very private Mr.Mouse was finally dragged on vacation by the ever charming Abigail. There is romance in her heart…but can we say the same for Mr.Mouse?

They boarded the boat and found their way to their bunks…separate accommodations to be sure. Once settled, they made their way to the decks to mingle with the other guests and get to know people. Some folks may have been a little skittish seeing two mice on board but it was quickly apparent these were not THOSE kind of mice. Mr.Mouse was familiar with several guests as he is a seasoned sailor aboard the schooner. He quickly renewed friendships with his crew friends….Sean and Ben, Nick, Elli and AB. And of course Capt’s Doug and Linda. There were several folks he has sailed with in prior years. Always nice to see John and Betsey, Betty and Ralph and of course buddies Harry and Gary!

And then there were the “newbies”…Helen and Fred and daughter Jennifer, Derek and Karyn, Lu and Ira, Jonathan and Ann and their friend Gina, Dee and last but not least Michael. All very nice folks, some who have sailed the schooner before and others making their maiden voyage. Everyone settled in and waited for morning and the thrill of pushing off the dock.

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We were treated to the shipyard osprey in the nest, watching over the 3 eggs waiting to burst open at any moment. These birds are great hunters, flying off the nest and frequently returning with a tasty fish in it’s talons. We sailed away on Tuesday morning at “10:30” and headed out into the bay. The weather looked a little gray with some rain possible but any day on the water is a good day. We made our way across the bay and through the Fox Island Thoroughfare and found ourselves a beautiful spot on Calderwood Island to go ashore and have lobster!

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On many previous trips, lots of pictures were taken. This trip, the camera was set aside for the most part and we all just enjoyed what we were seeing in the moment. But one never gets tired of seeing the beautiful Schooner Heritage at anchor in the cove.

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And then again, seeing her under sail is most impressive…

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The weather was not necessarily the best on this trip…rain was our companion more than we may have wanted. But on our last morning, the skies cleared and the winds came and across the Bay we sailed, past the hills of Camden and back to port.

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Another fabulous trip came to an end far too quickly. So I guess that means I have to go back again….soon! Will Mr.Mouse and Abigail be aboard? Time will tell…

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The tale of Squeaky the cat

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It’s hard to recall exactly when he came into our lives. Was it 10 years ago? 15? More?

He first appeared in L’s yard. He was a big boy and looked strong and healthy. A beautiful black and white tuxedo cat, he was not friendly or approachable. He was very aware of his surroundings and knew every escape route. He kept coming back to the yard so of course he must need food. L first put food in a dish and placed it in the back driveway. He was alway wary, ever cautious of anything that might get too close to him. This dance of the food dish went on for awhile as this mysterious feline kept coming back to the yard. Slowly over time, L was able to move the food dish off the ground and up on the back porch. It was then she heard that little squeaking noise he spoke when looking for a handout. Thus the name Squeaky was bestowed upon him.

Every so often, Squeaky would wander over into my yard and of course I fed him. But still, he remained aloof. He would hang out in my yard and exchange conversations with my cat Schroeder thru the screen windows. It was a chatter fest and often amusing to listen to. What were they talking about? I imagine Squeaky was telling Schroeder all about the outside world while Schroeder spoke of the joys of human pampering.

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Squeaky loved to roam the neighborhood and we would see him in other yards and crossing the busy street on many occasions. He was very street smart and was always safe. More than once I saw him in the overnight hours roaming the streets of the village square, some quarter mile away from “home”. I would yell at him and tell him to go home but he carried on his route and surveyed his territory as he saw fit. He was not one to be told what to do! He was truly the king of his territory.

More and more, Squeaky seemed to regard L’s back yard as his home territory. He even found himself a nice little corner in the yard where leaves would pile up in the winds of Fall. Knowing he favored this corner and these leaves, L and her husband C would rake the yard, fill the corner with leaves and and save a barrel full of leaves to use throughout the winter months to help fluff up the pile. What a life!IMG_3995.JPG

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And then one year Squeaky disappeared and did not come back. We looked for him every day for a while but it was clear he had moved on. We hoped that was the story rather than thinking he met a more ominous fate. So L put away his dishes and we went about life without our special friend. It was probably a year or so later, during the winter and after a very large snowstorm that Squeaky returned. C was in their yard shoveling out cars and adding snow to the giant pile that had already been plowed in the back yard. I was doing the same in my yard. I turned at one moment and saw a flash of black on top of the snow white pile. And there, sitting on top as if he was king of the world, was Squeaky!

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We all rejoiced that our old friend had returned, looking none the worse for wear. Out came his special dishes and there he was, sauntering up on the porch, ever cautious, and enjoyed the meal that was presented. He was back! And he hung around for awhile. Every morning he would appear and wait for the food to be put out for him. After breakfast, he would settle in his leaf pile and enjoy the warmth of the sun while he dozed. He would return in the evening and after dinner, off he went to parts unknown. We often commented how much fun it would have been to have a “Squeaky Cam” to see where he went! One of the oddest things was that Squeaky would never show up to eat on Sunday. Ever! Where did he go on Sunday…was there cat church? Did he go visit family? We will never know. The years went by and the routine stayed the same. Leaf pile, eating on the porch, napping under the bushes in the heat of the Summer. Once in awhile he would be gone for a few days but always turned up again, looking for his dinner. One year, about two weeks before Christmas, he did not come back. We worried terribly for him because by now, we were all attached to “our” cat. The sad part about feral cats is you never know what happens to them. Once again, we thought he was gone for good. I went away to Maine for the holiday and on Christmas Eve, L texted me saying he showed up for dinner! A Christmas miracle! We asked him where he had been but he just looked at us and smiled….and said nothing.

A few years ago, Squeaky finally started to let his guard down and would walk up on the porch while L sat there next to his dishes. She could not touch him but he felt safe enough to be that close to her. This turned into moving his dishes inside on the porch where he would go but would not stay. L had gotten him a little bed and placed it out on the porch for him. She lined the bed with an old cashmere sweater…what a life! Squeaky loved his bed and would curl up and enjoy the warm cashmere under the sun.

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And then my Schroeder died. I buried him in the yard close to the lilac bushes he could always smell but never touch. We would often see Squeaky sitting by the burial spot. I believe he knew his friend Schroeder was here and he would sit quietly by the grave at times throughout the year.

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As the years went by, we noticed that Squeaky was limping, was always batting at his ears and had some big patches of matted fur. In what can only be described as a matter of patience, Squeaky was trapped and taken to a vet for care. His first visit was very interesting. L had always believed that Squeaky was a “she”. Imagine the fun when the vet called to say “she” was a “he”! Lucky that Squeaky is a good name either way. At this trip to the vet, all the matted fur was shaved off, his ears were treated for mites and he was neutered and had his ear tipped. Since then, he has returned to the vet many times for updated shots, dental work and tooth extractions and other various issues. It was never easy to trap him but he was so very lucky that his humans cared enough about him to get him treated when he was sick.

Over the last three years, Squeaky has aged. His hearing and eyesight were not as sharp as they used to be. He actually started going into L and C’s house to eat. His bed was moved into the enclosed porch area and he would spend his nights curled up safe and warm. In the winter months, a space heater was placed by his bed to keep him warm. Over this time, Squeaky even started to allow us to touch him and pat him. He loved to have his ears scratched. As he ventured more and more into the house, he seemed to enjoy being inside. He remained cautious but eventually succumbed to the joy of human contact. He would get up on the couch and enjoy being patted and pampered for the evening. Who would have thought this would ever happen?!

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Over these last few months, it was clear Squeaks was not well. He lost weight. His eating was sporadic. There were several trips to the vet. He went willingly, no trap was needed now. Many things were tried….medications, special diets, anything that might make him better. But it was only borrowed time.

On Thursday June 27, L and C took Squeaky to the vet for the last time. He was taken, peacefully and painlessly over the rainbow bridge. It was as it should be.

What a life this beautiful gentleman lived. He far exceeded the average lifespan of a feral cat. He did so because he was smart and crafty and knew how to survive all the things that could harm him. He was smart enough in his golden years to finally let his guard down and the humans who loved and cared for him for so long into his life. He trusted us to be kind. We would not betray that trust. He  gave us endless moments of joy and laughter and mostly awe at his ability to survive and thrive. Squeaky will be greatly missed.

In a few weeks, his ashes will be returned to L and C and we will spread them in his yard, by his leaf pile, where he was most at home. Fare well and farewell Squeaks.

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