November 2011

I am thankful for having a family I can be thankful for. Some people didn’t get the same wonderful family I did. Sometimes I am amazed at how smart I was when I was 20 years old. How could I have been so good at picking a husband when I didn’t know anything about life yet?

I know that 20 year olds all think they are “smart beyond the years” and know all sorts of things. But we who are older, especially we parents of 20 year olds, know just how much they don’t know. And if we try to impart some of that missing information, there is nothing good going to be happening.

So, without willing to accept the guidance of those older and wiser than me, I married the guy. He has turned out to be the perfect husband – at least for me. I am thankful.

My kids came along and were perfect babies because they couldn’t help it. All babies are perfect. They haven’t had time to learn to sass yet. The boys grew out of the perfect phase and into the sass phase and it was a bit questionable there for a while. But things moved past the sass phase and into the how-in-the-hell-did-they-turn-out-this-good phase.

They have turned into amazing men even though they will always be my boys. I think the funniest part of watching my family grow is that I thought Dick and I were fully adult when we got married and began our life together. The boys are both much older now than we were back then and yet I still think of them as my boys. Ah, the tricks time plays.

Another thing I learned with time is that grandchildren are cute and perfect even in the sass phase. Some of our grandchildren are still in that perfect baby phase, some in the sass phase. Actually, all of them are in both phases and switch back and forth with lightning speed.

When a grandchild sasses, it doesn’t hold the same angst as when a child sasses. Perhaps that is because you know your own children did that and look at the amazing people they turned out to be. So there isn’t the desperation of doing a bad job and ending up with crappy adults. Or maybe it is just that no one would blame the grandparents for the way the kids turn out.

Either way, even when the next generation gets a bit on the sassy side, it is rather cute. And of course, they are perfect because they are ours.

I hear so often about mothers of sons who are excluded from the families and I know I am blessed that it has never happened to me. The women in my sons’ lives have always treated me with openness and kindness. They have shared their precious babies with me and given me the opportunity to love and cherish these  perfect babies. I know that is difficult to do and I am grateful for the spirit of acceptance from women who didn’t ever have to be nice to me.

I’m delighted with any number of other things in my life. My sisters and in-laws bring me happiness. I enjoy my little sports car. I have a whole raft of technological toys that keep me connected and amused. I have a job that is interesting without being overly stressful. I have a great house that isn’t too big to keep clean or too small so we get in each other’s way.

I also am grateful for the esoteric things. I think my brain is just too much fun. I love learning and teaching. I enjoy the writing I do and appreciate the people who read what I’ve written. I thrill to creativity and am often amazed at the products.

I have much to be thankful for. I wish I remembered that more often than once a year.

I’ve not written for a while. Well, I’ve written plenty, but I haven’t written here. I wrote an entire novel, if a novel is only 50,000 words. I think they are supposed to be more words, but what the heck. I didn’t really think I could write the 50K. Since I was done so early in the month, if I had wanted to keep writing, I could have.

Even though I didn’t actually want to keep writing, I have. I need to get back to writing the histories for Little Bits of History, since I’m not done with December yet. I probably won’t be done with December before the month starts, but I have a couple weeks’ worth, so I’m not too panicked about that.

I’ve been preparing for the holidays, such as I usually prepare. I finally went shopping for the first time yesterday and managed to at least get started on the present buying. That was nice. At least I have a start.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find one toy to buy yesterday. I guess the grandkids will get only socks and underwear for Christmas.

Dick’s retirement is looming closer and closer. It is making me very nervous. All the years of putting money aside has made it possible to retire in something akin to comfort. However, in order to do that, we have to start spending some of the money we have put aside for this. That’s where I’m having a problem.

I have never, ever liked taking money out of a savings account of any kind. I know how difficult it is to get it in there and so, to take it out seems just wrong. Especially since there doesn’t look like we will be able to replace it should that be needed. As my wise and patient and tired of my whining husband has pointed out, the money is there for this expressed purpose.

The reason we didn’t take lots of fancy vacations over the years was so that we could continue to save for our retirement years.

The reason we didn’t buy the biggest house we “could afford” each time we moved was so that we could save money to retire on later.

The reason we didn’t buy the fanciest cars, the priciest clothing, the most luxurious of anything was so that we didn’t have to worry about the last years of our lives.

In my kinder moments, I’m frugal. In reality, I’m cheap. We don’t go out to eat very often because I look at the bill and think we could have eaten dinner for a week for that much. I’m a good cook and it isn’t really that hard. It doesn’t even take that much time or energy.

But thanks to all these money saving strategies, we are going to have someone in the house all retired. He might go get a part time job later or he might not. I think he is going to be very bored later and might need to either volunteer somewhere or get a small job.

The thing that makes me the most nervous is some of my own choices. We would be a far better position if I hadn’t stopped being a nurse. I know I couldn’t have continued to work in OR for health reasons. Those migraines were daunting. But I could have worked some other department.

But since I opted to work at low-level, low-pay job (when I worked at all), we have less money stockpiled away. Maybe I wouldn’t be so nervous if there was a greater pile of cash or if I was earning a living wage. Neither of those things are true. Of course, if I was still working as a nurse, especially outside OR, I would be in the whole every-other-weekend and half-the-holidays ruined by work group instead of in the Monday through Friday, weekends and holidays free group.

There is a downside to every job. The hours a hospital is open is the biggest downside to nursing. Of course, I could have gotten other nursing jobs, like in a dialysis unit or doctor’s office. But I didn’t do that, either.

Instead, I got a business degree in computer networking and put myself into a “woman’s” job where pay is low and weekends are free. I know nursing is still sometimes thought of as a woman’s field, but more and more men have entered the field and as they have, the pay has risen.

I know how valuable I am at work. I know how valuable every secretary is at work. I know what we do and how much, if it was still a man’s job, we would make. But that isn’t how the world works. I’m clerical and “untrained” and so, I don’t need as much money.

Which leads me back to the whole being nervous about retirement. We are supposed to be fine. We should never have to eat cat food for dinner. We should be able to do some of the travel we put off back then. We should have a wonderful future.

I’m scared.

I went to Wal-Mart. I never expect a trip to Wal-Mart to be an intellectual experience. That isn’t what Wal-Mart is. I expect a trip to Wal-Mart to be an excursion to pick up cheap stuff and to pick up so much of it that I spend too much money.

In that, my trip was successful. I did get everything on my list. But, of course, I didn’t stop with just the things on my list. I got seven or eight bags of stuff. But when one shops at Wal-Mart, one gets bags that aren’t even remotely full. They are just bags not full of stuff.

My oven cleaner (for the toaster oven – I slopped cheese all over it the other night) was in the bag with the napkins. There would have been plenty of room in there for a few more items, but they didn’t go in there.

No bag had more than four items in it. The food items were in one bag – peanut butter, hash brown potatoes in a box, instant mashed potatoes (I use that to thicken soups), and a box of caramel hot chocolate mix. It was the closest to a full bag I had and yet, I could have gotten a lot more in it myself.

My refrigerator stuff (shredded cheddar cheese and crappy bologna for LC) were in a bag by themselves.

There were a couple more bags. I got some stuff to crochet with – alone in a bag. Two bags of half price Halloween candy – alone in a bag.

My pomegranate (no price anywhere near the two separate four foot square displays of pomegranates, so I had to ask – $1.88 each) and my bag of loose nuts in the shell were all that were in the very bottom of another bag.

It is this that I want to talk about. There were several two foot square displays of nuts in the shell all packaged and ready for sale in one pound bags. Then there were four two foot square bins of loose nuts in the shell that were available for sale. I love this time of year. I love cracking the shells and making a mess with the shells.

I thought I would just get a few, not as many as when I was younger and calories weren’t an issue. So, I needed a bag. I looked. No bags. No bags anywhere near this entire aisle. I walked to the next aisle and got a bag. I came back to the nuts. No scoop. I managed to scoop the nuts into the bag and tie it up.

I’m not sure if Wal-Mart gives their employees an IQ test or not. But I think that maybe they might. And if your IQ is too high, they don’t hire you. At least they don’t hire you to stock shelves or walk the floor.

Last time I was there, I was looking for sesame sticks. The unhelpful clerk told me they might be over there. I knew I had gotten them from here the last time I bought them. He told me then they must not have any. I found them myself. Instead of a round clear plastic container, they were now in a square green bag. But they were, in fact, right there.

So today, I looked around the produce department to see if there were any Wal-Mart workers. I was in luck. There was a guy at least my age working with the apples. I went over to him and pointed to the loose nuts in a shell place.

“You have loose, shelled nuts for sale over there. But we really need bags to put them in and it would really help if there was a scoop provided so we could buy some.”

Blank look from the guy.

“Maybe you could go and find a scoop and grab a roll of bags and put both over there with the nuts.”

Guy thought long and hard while I looked at him, trying to give away my emotional state. Perhaps I should have shared my thoughts with him since he didn’t seem to have many of his own. He stood there and looked back at me and then … he had a brilliant idea.

“I will see if I can find some.”

I have no idea who set up this display for our shopping convenience. But really. Did they expect me to select one walnut and place it in the wire cart and see if it would fall through?

Shopping at Wal-Mart, the lowest – always.