Monday, October 24, 2016

The Man Who Came to Dinner - letter 117

    Remember me talking about giving up cooking by end of year? Well, guess it ain't gonna happen: I made a pot of spaghetti and a dozen of us gathered in community room to share a meal. My notion of gathering weekly during fall and winter, was met with enthusiasm so guess time was right. I chose Monday because local soup kitchen serves meals Tuesday through Friday. Another neighbor would like to do a weekend breakfast once a month, putting out a donation basket so people could put in a dollar or two to defray costs. Neighbors acting neighborly - how about that? Even one of the new residents came but brought her own food because she's vegetarian. Camaraderie enhances any meal. One woman said she was so glad our dinner was tonight because she really did not feel like cooking.
   After we ate, smokers stepped outside to burn one while dishes were gathered and placed in dishwasher. When they came in, we played cards. Two hours later, having unloaded machine and put plates and utensils away, we dispersed. I brought my pots and pans home, poured a drink and called my youngest sibling to thank her for package that arrived today.
   Reason I am certain this notion will take hold is because next two Mondays are already covered. Sometimes a *nudge* is required to get people moving. November through March in regions this far north [of equator] are cold and dark and inclement weather keeps many people indoors. It can get tiresome cooking for one and dining alone; communal meals can alleviate some unpleasant circumstances and financial burdens shared are not so heavy. Anyway, I'm not running for Perle Mesta here, ["hostess with the mostest"], I just like to see people enjoy themselves. Oh, and there was one guy - although a lot of the time we say he's just *one of the girls.*
   Tuesday I shall go to Tecumseh Senior Center for tai-chi. Have it on good authority soup kitchen will be serving ham tomorrow evening, so may have supper there. Then again, may just reheat some cabbage soup; plenty of time to decide.

Goodnight and sweet dreams,

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Remnants - letter 116

Good day dearest,
   When I woke this morning sky was clear, though I was aware local forecast called for rain before day was out. It did not take long and by the time I got home from breakfast, a cold rain was coming down steadily. While waiting for my weekend dining companion to call, listened to a program on Michigan Radio. Made mention of this in letter to a correspondent in the heart of midwestern United States. I'm kind of glad the rain came early, as it suits the mood of my composition.
   I did not catch all the details from this morning's show but enough to start this letter. Kevin Adler is founder of Miracle Messages, started in 2014. Program goal is to reunite one million homeless individuals with loved ones by 2021. It is estimated that these one million people account for one percent of the world's homeless; or as Jeffery, a reunited individual, phrased it "houseless." Jeffery went on to describe *homelessness* as a state of mind, adding 'wherever you lay your head - be it car, crate, or doorway, is home.'
   This state of not having a permanent dwelling is familiar, in some degree, to all of us. At the very least, we know the condition exists - even if we don't know anyone personally affected. For some the knowledge is more immediate: touching acquaintances, family members, self. The ubiquitous "they"(quasi-sociologists, mental health *experts,* what have you) offer reasons/excuses from laziness, to drug use, to personal choice. These scenarios offer *absolution,* giving permission to turn our backs, walk away. ["Am I my brother's keeper?" Genesis 4:9]
   But how can we, and still sleep at night, or look ourselves in the mirror next morning? After yesterday's letter, a friend expressed gladness that I had made inquiry into identity of "Kayla." I want to acknowledge everyone's validity by word or action. We are all a *thread in the tapestry, a scrap in the quilt* - by uniting remnants, wholeness is produced. I encourage you to Google Kevin Adler and read the backstory of Miracle Messages.

Love always,
Jo Ann

Saturday, October 15, 2016

By any other name [letter 115]

Hello dear one,
   Hope you are doing well and have managed to avoid dire consequences of natural disaster. Your last letter was a riot: *We're all gonna die! Oops, never mind.* I read it to Little Sister and we were both laughing so hard we 'bout peed our pants.
   This being third weekend of the month, went to alumni lunch with couple other graduates of Tecumseh (Michigan) High School. Our server manifested attributes of masculine gender but I observed *his* name tag read "Kayla." Asked my dining companions if they had seen name tag, which they had not. Proceeded to inform them it bore name "Kayla." Kayla? they queried, wondering if he had carelessly grabbed wrong tag. I proposed alternate scenarios: perhaps he'd lost a bet; maybe it was a social experiment to determine whether people actually paid attention; possibly this person had come out as trans-gender.
   When server, sans tag, returned to clear away dishes, I posed my question - stating my theories. None of the above: he was filling in for Kayla and had worn her name tag to let patrons know he was acting as replacement. I asked, "Now we know you aren't 'Kayla,' what's your name?" "Shane." I assured him some people do pay attention and that he as an individual was important. Upon leaving I addressed Shane by name and he seemed genuinely pleased, telling us to 'have a good evening.'
   More I pondered, decided subject merited further consideration. A lot of people seem hesitant to engage wait staff, store clerks, and other persons who are apparently deemed nonentities. I'm sure there have been times in my life that I have been class conscious, but I hope I've outgrown it. Individuals need to be acknowledged as human beings. Period. Don't give me your list of buts, because I don't care if (s)he is undocumented, infirm, incarcerated, Pagan, non-white, does not conform to "typical" gender roles, or whatever else - living breathing beings have souls and that must be respected. Should it eventually be proven that one's immortal soul is not "a real thing," have you really lost anything by being kind? Life is short; take a chance. Wouldn't you want somebody else to do the same for you?

T.T.F.N. [Ta-Ta For Now (Tigger)]

p.s. I made font larger, hope it helps. xoxo

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Long and *wine-ding* road [letter 114]

Greetings and salubrious salutations,
   No matter where you are, it's five o'clock somewhere. Just as well, as I spent the day on a winery tour and had first sample at 10:00 A.M. This was at Obstbaum Winery, somewhere between Tecumseh and Detroit, Michigan. I believe we were one of their first groups and more than one person commented on "medicinal" taste of the cherry wine. One lady in my little group bought cinnamon doughnuts, which was highlight of that stop. Heading back to main thoroughfare, passed a cute clever sign for a greenhouse/nursery: We're OPEN ... and so excited, we WET OUR PLANTS!
   Back on the bus, we headed northeast to Rochester, where we stopped at Fieldstone Winery. These folks really know what they're doing and it was here we got our complimentary glass, included in price of tour. I chose my four samples from their specialty wines: Black Cherry Blast, Apple Riesling, Pomegranate Zinfandel, and Dragon Fruit Blush. We left our glasses on table to be boxed and put on bus, then walked a block to Kruse and Muer, for lunch.  Ladies room was a tight fit but sufficiently served its purpose. A prominent feature was a gallon of Cool Mint Listerine with pump dispenser and stacks of little paper cups. We had lunch, which we had chosen when registering for tour. Because I had opted for chicken Caesar salad, I chose soup instead of salad before meal. I smelled before it reached the table: fish. This would not have been an issue under most circumstances but woman next to me has severe fish allergy. She just said, "Don't breathe on me and be sure to use the mouthwash." Benadryl was on hand, just in case, but was not needed.
   Herded once again onto bus, we set off for Fenton, where we eventually turned off onto Tinsman Road. Previous roadway might as well have been called Beaten Path, because this was definitely *off* it - wild tangles of trees and other vegetation grew right up to edge of road. At Seven Lakes Winery, we hit a bit of a snag; due to a breakdown in communication, staff did not have our group on schedule, so we got back on the bus. It was at this stop that Sandy, our bus driver, distinguished herself as an expert in her chosen profession by making some really tight turns without incident: we all applauded.
   Last stop we made was at De Angelis Cantino de Vino in Ann Arbor, where wine is made without addition of sugars or sulfites. Plates of cheese, meat, and olives were brought out. We later learned our tour guide had purchased the appetizers with her winnings from 50/50 drawing - what a gal!
   At dusk, bus pulled in to employee parking lot of Bixby Medical Center. As we got off, we picked up our wine glasses, dug out our keys and made our individual  ways home. Upon entering my apartment, unloaded my goodies, turned on a light, and looked up "salubrious" to make sure it would fit - because I really wanted to use it. It didn't not fit, so went ahead, which brings us to here. Oh yeah, also stopped at mailbox and found a package from best girlfriend Angelina and a note from dear lady known affectionately as Momma Norma.
   Now I'm ready to put this in your *cyber mailbox* and call it a day.

'Til next time,
Jo Ann

Thursday, October 6, 2016

'Tis to laugh [letter 113]

Greetings my dear,
   Although it has been less than twenty-four hours since last letter, felt need to write again just to say I really love being me! Some may believe my head is *in the sand* or another dark place, but there is undeniable value in an attitude of contentment.
   With senior center closed for in-service, had opportunity to meet with older cousins, one of whom turned 90 today. They go to same place every Thursday, have coffee and visit. As people came and went, one person stopped near our table, asking me, "Is that your laugh?" Acknowledged in affirmative, she added how much she enjoyed it. I get that a lot - and am pleased that my laugh makes others happy. Everyone in Orchard Terrace apartment complex knows my laugh; several have commented how pleasant and uplifting they find it. One former classmate calls every month or two, primarily to hear my laugh.
   Laughter has long been called "the best medicine:" it is also cheap and in most cases, readily available. In extreme situations, laughter may cause breathing difficulty but usually there are no adverse side effects. Some studies indicate that even forced laughter can be aerobically and mentally beneficial. There are, of course, those people whose faces would probably break if they so much as cracked a grin - poor miserable sods. In places with inadequate healthcare, there should at least be a regional comic who goes around making people laugh. As with anything else, funding would be the major hurdle. Meanwhile, those of us who enjoy vocal merriment should consider it a sacred duty to share our mirth. Sharing chemical drugs is decidedly frowned upon, as is prescribing medicine without a license but until the day I am locked up for making people happy, I shall continue to do so. If I ever do find myself incarcerated, will just have to make bail, then go *underground.*
   If your laughter is *infectious,* start an epidemic. The world will thank you - if not, you always have the option of becoming part of the problem.

Merrily yours,
Jo Ann

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A pleasant stroll [letter 112]

Hello dear friend,
   What a lovely day this has been - and who better to share it with, than you? It really started Sunday evening, when I answered phone and heard,"Hello, Jo Ann, this is S," - a dear friend I had not seen in several years. A couple phone calls and text messages ensued, leading to breakfast and a delightful visit this morning. Went to lobby a few minutes prior to appointed time; within ten minutes a minivan pulled to a stop and the other person waiting asked, "Is that your ride?" I went to see, and indeed it was. We greeted each other warmly, with laughter and hugs - noticing there was more wobble than wiggle in our walk.
   Our breakfasts appeared substantial and we were certain we would be taking home leftovers. Apparently lapsed time, shared memories, and good conversation whets appetites and we were astonished to find we had devoured every last morsel! We made plans to meet again Sunday and I was taken to Tecumseh Senior Center, where I met up with another Orchard Terrace resident. Still full from morning repast, I chose to bring my lunch home: this worked out well, as all Lenawee County Department on Aging nutrition sites will be closed Thursday, 6 October, for in-service meeting.
   Magnum Care, an assisted living facility, sponsored bingo at center and both Mary, other O.T. resident present, and I got the prizes we wanted: seasonal door decoration. What can I say? Our wants are simple and we are easily pleased.
      Spent sometime checking Facebook and acquired postal address for another former classmate. A couple hours later, it was time to walk to soup kitchen for dinner, which turned out to be sandwiches and chips - a fine meal for a mild autumn evening. Along my way, saw a child's bike in sidewalk, and was pleased when a tyke of about five years of age asked  if I would like it moved. Since child was polite and agreeable, I opted not to remonstrate that bike should have not been left as an obstacle in first place. I may be *old* but saw no need to be cantankerous.
   Arrived home well in advance of rain storm, which has perfumed air with its cleansing scent. Open window admits enough breeze to sway chimes, coaxing their sweet voice. A number of birds," illustrated postcards and letters, have *left the nest* recently, winging their divergent ways to greet friends, keeping me in mind when I cannot be there. And so I bid a fond farewell for now.
Warmest regards,
Jo Ann

Monday, September 26, 2016

Holding fast, letting go [letter 111]

Dear one,
   Had several dreams a few nights ago, all featuring absent-minded noshing; probably because I was scheduled to have fasting blood levels drawn following morning. The mind is a curious animal. Is it not? When I woke, realizing all systems were Go, relaxed and let my mind wander. Before long, it came to you and I so longed to hug you, smell your hair, brush my lips against your warm cheek, twine my fingers in yours. Did you feel it too? Maybe you thought it was just a wish or a dream: perhaps it was - but it was shared.
   I believe we do ourselves a grave disservice when we deny our minds a chance to meander. It seems so few people anymore know the pleasures of daydreaming - much less thinking. Is cerebral activity so formidable? Perhaps we feel constricted by societal pressures to *not waste time.* That's just a shame.
   This letter has taken a few days to write: without access to writing materials when certain thoughts occur, I must rely on recapturing the mood at a time when action can be taken. so many ideas occur during first waking moments but dissipate as day's activities commence. Still, those which have deep impact eventually resurface.
   Something we are encouraged to do is to *be comfortable in our own skins.* Mine has been stretched out and is showing the wear of six decades. Levity aside, the person in my bathroom mirror is someone whose company I enjoy. Sure, actuarial tables define me as "morbidly obese" but that is a number, not *who I am.* Kindness and other intangibles matter more than surface appearances.
   Don't get me wrong: I have treasured personal possessions just like everybody else. One of my dresser drawers is filled with letters written to me - earliest being from 1957. Many things from my son's childhood have been given him already. This is so when I die, he can mourn my death more than my leaving him a bunch of stuff to clear out. Mostly, I try to "hold fast" to loved ones and memories we've made, while 'letting go' of stuff.
   One must make one's way as one sees fit; just keep the path clear and don't get bogged down. That's all for now.