Saturday, December 3, 2022

Someone to watch over me . . .

I added a label to this post from 2009 and inadvertently transformed it into a new post. Obviously, it isn't Easter and this is not my now-sixteen-year-old granddaughter running after a kite. 

What a poster for Spring! A small child running carefree into the wind, triumphantly keeping her tiny kite aloft and her papa following behind to keep her safe. What a lovely visual expression for those who of us who believe in a Higher Power, a Loving Spirit, a Creator, a Guardian Angel, or a Savior who lovingly watches over us. Happy Easter. The child is Mae, the father Phil. I hope you like the picture.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Who Am I?

The prompt for my bimonthly poetry group that meets in two weeks is: "If you were a bird, what would you be?"

It only took me ten seconds to know the bird, but what to write about it had me stumped. To me, a true poem wrenches something from within that hasn't necessarily ever been articulated before. Not only does it convey something to others, but it helps identify within something that maybe hasn't ever been considered or realized by the person who creates the work.

So while I knew the bird, I didn't know how to write the poem. Until Thanksgiving morning. Something triggered the phrase, "snooping is my cup-o-tea," and I began to write. Often when I write a poem I revise and revise. This one, not so much. In fact, I changed only a couple of words. Only occasionally do I write silly poems, but that's the compelling reason to share it. Smile away, please. The verses spilled out; the rhymes flowed; it pretty wrote itself. Enjoy!

                WHO AM I? 

Helping, oh, how I adore it
And snooping is my cup-o-tea
Nothing is more fun than teasing
Except for counting . . . beyond just 3.
Finding treats upon the streets
Bumping friends up in the air
Yowling, calling, chatting, brawling
My mama taught me how to share.
I love crowds and I love herds
Safety comes in lotsa ways
Loud sometimes, sneaky others
My life is filled with raucous days.
But nighttime is the best there is
Scuffle, shuffle, trade jokes and tease
We laugh and chat comparing notes
Then settle into night with ease.
You think I’m evil scavenging
Berate me for my taste in food
But shame on you for all your scorn
My cleaning up does lotsa good.
We get movies made about us
We get stories written, too,
Yeah, we are a part of Poe-land
Ravens are our cousins, too.
So flap away your nasty thoughts
Caw your blessings when we flock
Murder may be how we gather
But never, never, do us mock.

                                                                            Copyright © 2022 by Sara J. Glerum
This drawing I did at an art session a few months
ago at my retirement community based on a 
photo provided. I drew the foot from a photo online.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Gratitude Expressed

Today I'm sharing something I've been doing lately that makes me happy. It seems a bit in keeping with Thanksgiving, as well. Basically, it's how I acknowledge random people I'm thankful for.

Today's episode is what triggered this post. I had occasion to shop at a grocery store I'd never been in before. I thought it would be easy because I needed just three things: butter, whipping cream, and a ready-to-bake pie crust. Yes, you know the reason. I'm going to be the (butterscotch--yummy) pie maker for Thanksgiving. 

I made my way to the dairy wall, but could not find whipping cream in the section where logically I thought it would be. After looking for what was probably one minute (but felt like five), I stopped a young man who'd burst his way through the 'back room' double doors with a cart loaded with produce. First he pointed to the shelf, then scurried ahead of me to the area . . . and noticed himself there didn't seem to be whipping cream in the case. Excusing himself, he returned to the 'back room' to ask, and reappeared a couple minutes later to help me again. We had both been looking for the wrong thing. Seems there were no cartons this year, just tiny plastic bottles instead, an incognito look for whipping cream. 

After thanking him for his help, I rounded the corner to get butter, but then became stymied at where to find the pie-crust. The same young man was unloading his cart in the next area over, and I apologetically interrupted him again. He smiled and marched over to the area--within sight of where I was standing. 

"What is your name?" I asked. "Dante," he replied. "Well, Dante, if you don't mind, I'm going to find your manager and tell him how helpful you are." Do I need to say that he broke out in a wide, melting smile? The manager was at lunch, so I called when I got home and left a message for him. The person who answered was smiling through the phone and sounded upbeat and happy at the reason for the call. 

Last week I did the same thing for a man at a nearby hospital where my sister was having surgery. Her husband and I were having a tough time finding her status on the board where patients are listed by initials and medical case-numbers only. An incredibly gracious man, Paul, solved our problem. I called his manager the next day to commend Paul as an employee who went out of his way to help people. Even though Paul's job was to assist from behind the 'Surgical Information Desk,' I saw him came out from behind his desk repeatedly whenever he noticed someone in any state of confusion regarding the information published on the status board. When I asked him for his manager's name in order to commend his diligence, he couldn't stop smiling.

I am making a point of letting the people know who help me just how much I appreciate them by telling their manager-boss. Even though simple a 'thank you' is appreciated, to have a boss hear about an employee can make a difference. I can recall from my own manager days how happy I was when a customer made the effort to tell me one of my employees had gone above and beyond. Once at a grocery store when I asked to speak to the manager, I learned that the employee I had commended had been on probation because of some less-than-skillful ways he interacted with customers. The manager told me it meant more to him than I'd ever know because it meant his extensive coaching of the employee was successful.

I hope I will never take for granted receiving help in its many forms. It is so easy to take a minute to tell a 'higher-up' about a good interaction. I hope everyone will try it. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Life in the city

stump with sprout
Trees run along the block of the sidewalk where this photo was taken. Only one tree has been cut down, some time ago, judging from its appearance. But even though it appears to be dead, it has somehow managed a comeback. Talk about resilience! 

And then there's the Halloween outfitted leaf shown below. Really? Is it trying to masquerade as another species? I looked around at the shrubbery growing in the adjacent garden and didn't spot this shape of leaf on any of them. Most were still attached to their mother-plants and hadn't begun to turn color or drop. Maybe this one is trying on a new look because of climate change or because some insect is seeking only plain green leaves for breakfast. Whatever, I walked past it and then turned around to retrace my steps, just so I could look at it again and take this photo. Will wonders never cease.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Day-tight Compartments

Recently I've had cause to reread a tiny book someone gave me in 1959 when I was nineteen, called A Way of Life by William Osler. It's a book I last read in 2005, the year I retired. It so struck me then that I wrote a personal essay in response a month after my retirement. My essay was subsequently published by Prime Time, which was then a monthly physical newspaper targeting older readers, and was carried on the front page--an honor I've had only one other time in my writing career.

The gist of this little book is how important it is to live in the moment and not be mired down into the past or future. It's the verbatim publication of a speech made to Yale students, April 20, 1913, by Osler--a medical doctor whom Yale hired to deliver the Silliman Lectures. He called the advice a 'lay sermon' and apparently it was mostly written on the steamer he took to America from Great Britain where he was employed by Oxford. I still find much to admire about this speech--even after I looked at information about him on Wikipedia to discover some of his personal views repellant--and I find much to cling to in his advice: 

"Now the way of life that I preach is a habit to be acquired gradually by long and steady repetition. It is the practice of living for the day only, and for the day's work, Life in day-tight compartments." He goes on to say,

The quiet life in day-tight compartments will help you to bear your own and others' burdens with a light heart. . . . .

Touch a button and hear, at every level of your life, the iron doors shutting out the Past--the dead yesterdays. Touch another and shut off, with a metal curtain, the Future--the unborn tomorrows. Then you are safe--safe for today! . . . 

The load of tomorrow added to that of yesterday, carried today, makes the strongest falter. . . . .

Shut off the future as tightly as the past. No dreams, no visions, no delicious fantasies, no castles in the air . . .. The future is today--there is no tomorrow. Let the limit of your horizon be a twenty-four-hour circle. . . .

Look heavenward, if you wish, but never to the horizon--that way danger lies. . . .

You get the gist. I've just copied these phrases from various parts of his essay that continue to resonate for me. I underlined them in 1959 and again in 2005. Osler's approach to living in the 'now,' the 'moment,' the 'present' are all are rooted in good mental health practice. From Mindfulness Meditation to the adages about the futility of reliving the past or the anxiety brought about by worrying about unknown events of the future,  no one is going to argue the wisdom of staying in the present moment. 

Especially I love the imagery of the phrase, "day-tight compartment." It's OK to look up to the heavens, and occasionally glance at the horizon, but so healthy to pull back into the moment and enjoy the only thing we know we have: this day. I circled today on the calendar as a visual of the compartment. Envisioning a red circle drawn around today help me figuratively 'stay put.'

Personally, I have discovered how much less anxiety I feel when I can let go of future angst and worry. That's one BIG plus for moving to a retirement community. I'm much more apt to enjoy the moment when I have no looming home ownership issues or even have to think about what's for dinner.  Day-tight compartments are easier to come by in my new situation.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Urban vs. Sub-urban

Swedish Hospital Construction
I'm probably never not going to miss the birds, the trees, and looking passers-by in the eye while on my daily walks in urban Seattle. 

St. James Cathedral

But there are lots of things to engage the mind and a variety of activities and sights available when I'm walking in my new neighborhood, things never seen on a suburban bike/walking trail in Bothell. 

For instance, a huge construction project that is currently a deconstruction site. The scale of this picture isn't graspable in this photo--it needs a human standing in front of it. The height of the chunks of concrete is well over two stories!  

The gathering of what appeared to be many bridesmaids at the side door of Seattle's cathedral is something I would never see on the Burke Gilman Trail. And just one block away, I noticed something I don't remember seeing before, even as a long-time patron of the Frye Museum. The plaque explains this was a hitching post once positioned in front of the Frye family residence just a short distance from the museum. 

Hitching post
from a century earlier

Driver was unloading, gave
me permission to photo,
but stepped out of the picture

All of these items mark the interesting contrast of my daily walks from a few months ago and my life today.

Please excuse the reversed order of photos. My host for BTTM, Google's blogger, isn't being cooperative today. Oh, and there's one more picture I'll include. Who says there aren't flowers on dense city streets? These were being unloaded for the event happening in the Cathedral. 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

My Excessive Rap about UPS Excessive Wrap

If I didn't know better, I'd think that UPS store clerks get paid bonuses for using as much tape and bubble wrap as the item to be shipped can possibly accommodate. If I knew how, I'd be tempted to start an internet rumor to that effect and accuse UPS of doing its utmost to pollute the planet with excessive plastic film. The amount of bubble wrap and TAPE on a package I received today is worthy of disgust. 
After the unwrapping ordeal,
I needed a break before I
removed the inner covers.

It's one thing to protect flat items, i.e., relatively small framed pictures, with a layer or two of bubble wrap, and it's one thing to fill the crevices between them, as well as the spaces between them and the carboard shipping box with something to prevent shifting in transit. Crumbled newsprint or brown paper works GREAT and needs very little tape.

In my opinion, the package I received today could have been dropped from the top of my twenty-four story building and the contents would have survived (although it could have fatally injured a pedestrian walking below). After cutting through thick tape to open the cardboard box, it took me forty-five minutes to cut and break apart the tape and bubble wrap just to get down to the newsprint covering the five frames so I could finally unwrap them. When the person who sent them to me presented them to the clerk at the UPS store, each ktem was wrapped in paper (see the photo above). When I received them, each picture was encased in plastic--layers of bubble wrap then wrapped by tape and more tape and more tape. AND cushioned in Styrofoam peanuts.

I ended up rolling the salvageable bubble
wrap, which I will return to a UPS store.

Yes, you read that right. It took 45 MINUTES to cut/tear/pull apart the tape from the bubble wrap to release the items from their UPS wrapping. It's a good thing I'm not a troll or a nasty person who loves making negative comments on social media. Hey, I'm being nice by merely posting this snarky commentary on my blog. Maybe everyone who reads this could challenge UPS when asking it to pack something for shipping by inquiring: 

What's wrong with using newsprint (recycled newspapers would be fine once a layer of clean paper protects the item to be shipped)? What's wrong with using just enough tape to hold the wrapping in place?

PS There's an ugly ending to this tale, which occurred Sunday, September 4: UPS refused to accept the bubble wrap and the Styrofoam peanuts for reuse. When I asked incredulously how I could dispose of them responsibly if they wouldn't reuse them, the shrugged response with its implied 'duh' was simply, "in the garbage." Whether it was the words themselves or the 'who cares' tone of voice, something inside me ignited, and once the fire took over a few minutes later while transacting a withdrawal at a nearby ATM, I came up with what I thought was the ideal solution. I would simply pay to ship the packing materials back to the California UPS store that packaged the items shipped to me. My rationale was that these items are all completely reusable, they weighed practically nothing and would require no additional packing materials. 

I stood in line with the two large bags and when I was asked for the recipient's address, I gave the store number--the only identifying location on the shipping receipt. But no, that wasn't sufficient. The clerk was unable to provide the address, so I looked up the address on my phone. My inner fire had, by then, consumed my sensibility, so when I was told it would cost me $160 to ship the packing materials from Seattle Area to Marin County, I said "SURE," and continued to fume. When I got home, I looked at the description on the receipt. It described the shipment as weighing 2 lbs. 1.4 oz. with a billable weight of 95 pounds. 

Will I ever use UPS again? I hope not. 

PPS  On Thursday, September 8, I received a phone call from the originating UPS store in Marin County, inquiring why I had sent it a large box filled only with packing materials. (Obviously, I hadn't enclosed a gift card.) When I told the caller I was hoping it would be recycled, the response was, "Oh, that's great! We are happy to reuse clean packaging materials, yes. Thank you." From this hoped-for response I must conclude that not all UPS stores are as unwilling to accept packing materials for reuse as the one I patronized until last week in the Seattle area.