Saturday, May 4, 2019

I Have My Garden Back!

     For years, at least five, the neighbor's fence directly behind our house has been falling down, mostly on my garden. It was only a couple of shrubs on our side of the fence that held it up, sort of. The falling, rotten fence also revealed the neighbor's dump of a back yard--all weeds, rotting play set, discarded mattress, you name it. Needless to say, there was no reason for me to enjoy being in our backyard, so my interest in gardening languished, and I did only the bare minimum.
     I have no idea what finally initiated the fence replacement, but it was completed several weeks ago, and we no longer have to look at their dump. Hallelujah! I had turned several areas of garden plots back to lawn over the years, due to too much shade for vegetable gardening, and it being more than I wanted to care for as I got older and also as I travel more. So now I have a manageable size garden that I want to play in.
     Alas, doing only the bare minimum has left me with many projects. A couple of landscape timbers edging the big backyard bed had rotted. I replaced those today, which included drilling holes for re-bar to hold them in place. Yes, I can still operate a drill. The drought of a couple winters ago killed both of my huge double-knockout rose shrubs, and those had to be dug out, no small challenge, but also "mission accomplished." Because of extensive tree-trimming we had done last fall, I now have enough sun again to grow herbs in my herb garden, and I planted a half-dozen varieties there this morning. I also planted peonies, ornamental grasses and a giant hosta.
     Multiple projects remain. Those include ongoing lawn restoration, weeding, debris (limbs, rotted lumber) removal, and several empty spots to plant, naturally, my favorite thing to do. It's time to get my fountain going again. I have a lot of nice rock with which I can do something creative.
     I am so excited to look out on the backyard with joy rather than disgust. My muscles ache with the pleasure of hands-in-the-dirt, manual-labor efforts. I'm good about pacing myself, knowing that it will all get done eventually. And for the first time in years, I want to go hang out in the backyard and enjoy the fruits of my labor.
     Hallelujah!
              Leta

Friday, April 26, 2019

Surprise!!!

     Do you like surprises? I love them. Of course, I'm not talking about the "you've got cancer" sort of surprise. I don't think anyone likes that sort of thing sprung on them.
     Our older son's partner, Caila, also likes surprises, and arranged this past weekend for Dennis and I to surprise Derek for his birthday on Sunday. On Saturday, Derek called me, and the conversation eventually meandered to him asking when we were coming out to see him, saying he could sure use some "mom and dad time." It does make one feel good when a 30-something offspring still yearns for some "mom and dad time." I had to tell him I didn't know for sure when we'd get out there again, knowing full well I'd see him in less than 24 hours. What fun!
     We drove to Colorado on Sunday, and via texting with Caila, agreed to meet up at the Crown Pub. Derek was seated with his back to the door, talking with Caila. I walked up behind him, put my hands over his eyes and started singing "Happy Birthday" in his ear. He was thrilled, especially when he saw that both Mom and Dad had joined in the surprise adventure. Thus began a fantastic visit, wherein Derek must have thanked us 50 times for coming to Fort Collins and surprising him.   
     I have noted in my lengthy marriage that my husband does not care for surprises being sprung on him, and that has made him unlikely to surprise me. I've learned to be OK with that. I don't have to plan surprise birthday parties for him, and I don't expect them for myself. The occasional surprises we do plan for each other have been great fun, probably because they are so rare. We joke that if he ever surprises me with flowers, I'll know he did something REALLY bad, as he is not at all the flower-giving sort of guy.
     Bringing joy and delight to another is part of the fun of living. The couple of weeks leading up to  Derek's surprise were full of planning and excited anticipation. Is there some way you can delight someone in a joyful way? Little surprises are just as fun as big ones.
     Life is good!
            Leta

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Full Circle

     This is a story of my life as an addict, a food addict to be specific and name my substance of choice. I came by the addiction "honestly," as I was raised in an addictive household by a mother who was, herself, a food addict. I spent all of my elementary and secondary school days in a very obese state, and was the brunt of much cruelty as a result.
     Assorted diets offered me varying success over the years, depending on my motivation. I have lost literally hundreds of pounds in my life. I have weighed as much as 100 pounds more than I do now. No method of self-abuse with food surprises me. I've probably done 'em all.
     One thing about food addicts--we have an extreme love-hate relationship with food. Food was my best friend from an early age. It calmed me down, enabled me to stuff down feelings, and thereby get through each day of craziness. Truly it was my survival mechanism growing up. It's not a good idea to try and come between a food addict and her food. Just so you know, commenting about what a food addict is eating puts one in a very precarious position. Even a questioning look at an addict's full plate can set her off. It's a very volatile situation, dealing with an addict. Such was my early married life, and my poor husband never knew what he was faced with as I tried without success to control my eating behaviors. 
     The catalyst for change was the birth of our first child. I gained 50 pounds during the pregnancy with unbridled eating, and much to my surprise, I did not have a 50-pound baby. I was rapidly becoming aware that food and excess weight were symptoms of the problem, not the core issue. Then a friend of mine talked with me about his addictive behavior with food. I was stunned to learn that there was someone else on the planet that was as nuts about and with food as I was. He also offered a solution, which I latched onto like a drowning person grabbing a life preserver. I was committed not to pass addiction on to yet another generation.
     Fast-forward through three decades plus of recovery from compulsive eating. The efforts involved in recovery are totally worth it, as they have enabled me to create a great life and have great relationships with people, rather than with food. My most important relationship, with my husband, is what brings me to the "full circle" focus of this post.
     My husband was telling me recently about a friend who is a great cook, but his wife doesn't much care for food in general, or for his fine cooking. My husband said, "I'm so glad you love food and continue to enjoy my cooking." It would be way less fun for him to make his many wonderful dishes if I didn't much care about them. Instead, I love them, and I truly appreciate his efforts. 
     Lastly, to follow up on the previous post, I was successful, in huge part due to my husband's supportive cooking efforts, to not only keep my weight steady during tax season, but to actually lose a few pounds. Unlike the previous three tax seasons, I feel great physically, and I'm so glad I don't need to lose the "tax season 10."
     Food addiction--blessing or curse? It's been both for me, but the full circle is one that is mostly filled with blessings.
     Grateful for the journey,
          Leta



Sunday, March 17, 2019

Random Thoughts

     We are 2/3 of the way through tax season, four weeks to go. While the six-day-a-week grind of getting up very early to get to work (with possibly a lap-swim workout before) is getting old, I'm still digging the mental challenge, and happily making lots of overtime pay. I keep going by regularly reminding myself of all the fun I'm going to have the rest of the year with the funds I've made doing taxes.
     I did take a break last weekend to visit my sons in Fort Collins. I drove there Saturday and returned Monday. I had a great time and a much-needed mental break.
     One of my biggest challenges in life has been to let go of my kids. They are quite successful adults and have their own lives. I do pretty well when I am away from them--I don't call a lot and I try hard not to be pushy or nosy. I think they would say that I do OK not being nosy. On this most recent visit, however, I feel I overstepped my "mom boundaries." No details are necessary here, but it left me feeling not quite right, and I made amends and apologized. As usual, it was a bigger deal to me than to them. Because I miss the sons so much, it's really hard when I get to be with them not to go into excess-mom-mode. 
     The other challenge is that it is a 9-10 hour drive to get to Fort Collins from Wichita. While I can do it myself, and have done it many times, it's not my favorite thing to do. That long drive home after a great visit is really a downer. Flying would take almost as much time and create additional inconveniences for the sons. I know options and solutions will develop over time. We shall see...
     Back to tax season... I committed this year not to gain the "tax season 10," weight I had put on in previous years due to stress-eating. My husband is supporting me tremendously in this effort by cooking lots of healthy food for my lunches and dinners. I've also avoided eating out at lunch, which was a big contributing factor to the weight gain. So far so good--I've stayed steady at my starting weight, and I feel so much better than in tax-seasons past. I keep reminding myself that this is not just for tax season, that this is how I want to eat for life. Occasionally my sweet-tooth gets a bit too wound up, and I've noticed that more sugar in my diet makes for more aches in my body. It's a good connection to make, because the hurting is not worth the sweet treats.
      Lastly, oh joy, Opening Day of baseball season is March 28. As John Fogerty wrote in "Centerfield," "We're born again, there's new grass on the field." I already have tickets to the Cubs-Rockies game in Denver, and I have a spot reserved in the California five-stadium baseball tour. Go, Cubs!!!!
      Thanks for reading my random thoughts,
                     Leta
     

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Selectric

     I took typing class in high school. I don't remember if it was required, but in hindsight, I'm glad I took the class because it has been a very-much-used skill my entire lifetime. I'm using it now to write this.
     I'm not sure what brand of typewriters we had back then at Huntingdon High School, but I think they were IBM Selectrics. This was back in the mid-1970s, and yes, they had been invented by then. The electric typewriter was quite the hot item. The Selectric has this awesome auto-correct ability where you press a certain key and it backs up and whites-out the mistake so you can retype it correctly. No more gunky white-out.
     I went through several decades of life without touching a typewriter, as computers developed into tools of everyday use. Then several years ago, I acquired a bookkeeping gig that required me to type one 1099 form and one 1096 form each January. Because I was only doing one of each, I didn't want to invest in costly software and bulk packages of the forms. That left me with needing an "old-fashioned" typewriter to successfully handle the multi-part 1099 form.
     The old downtown Wichita Public Library had typewriters in the business section for public use. I went there for several years to do my annual ten minutes of typing. Once the new library was completed, I learned that the typewriters were not included, and that the new library doesn't even have a business section. Where could I find a typewriter? Meanwhile, my way-into-new-technology husband is trying to come up with ways for me to not ever need a typewriter again.
     Fortunately the office I work in during tax season is attached to a bank that has an electric typewriter. I used that one this past January to type my 2018 forms. We also use it occasionally to type an envelope or mailing label. It is quick, handy and useful.
     My co-worker and I set out this year to clean up our office space of old computer equipment and assorted ancient junk that had been sitting around for years. In one corner that I had truly never paid attention to, we discovered an IBM Selectric. Literally, I had worked there for a full nine months (over three tax seasons) and never noticed this typewriter in the corner underneath an old fax machine.
     Woohoo! Our very own Selectric! We moved it near an outlet, plugged it in, turned it on, and... nothing. It wouldn't start. Dang. Could it be fixed? The quest was on.
     I googled "typewriter repair in Wichita." Needless to say, there were not a lot of options. One phone number was disconnected, the second said "closed," and at the last option, the person who answered the phone said, "No one fixes Selectrics any more, you can't get parts."
     But I'm determined. I asked Joe, the CPA I work for, if he knows anyone who fixes typewriters, because Joe seems to know everyone. I kid you not, his several-times-a-week workout buddy, George (not his real name), used to work for the premier typewriter repair company in Wichita, still fixes them and "has a garage full of Selectric parts." (This stock was later confirmed in person with George.)
     Off the Selectric went for George to resurrect. Fortunately George is a determined soul also, and he and Joe are good friends, because this was a lengthy job, mainly to de-gunk the ancient thing. This past Tuesday the Selectric returned to our office in perfect working order. By the way, I did George's tax return, and he makes enough money servicing typewriters that he gets some 1099s for it (that means he makes at least $600/year from an organization for the repair work). I'm not the only person around who finds a typewriter to be a handy tool.
     I've used the Selectric several times already. It works great. It feels like "my baby." It makes me giggle that it was able to be resurrected and restored to working order. George says it will work better the more we use it. If you are one of my letter-writing partners, you just may get a Selectric-typed letter from me next time. Albums and turntables have made a comeback, why not typewriters?!?!? 
     Merrily typing away,
         Leta
   
   

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Be Kind to Your Tax Preparer

     I'm beginning my fourth consecutive year of working as a tax preparer. While things start out slowly in mid-January, by February, things get crazy and keep getting crazier till the filing deadline (not necessarily April 15). I'm a "numbers nerd," I learn a lot, I enjoy the folks I work with, and I love the job. The work matches my skills nicely. Plus this job supports my travel habit during the other nine months of the year.
     In general, I would offer that the folks who write and pass tax legislation don't have a clue what they are actually doing. All political parties are equally clueless. When a tax preparer hears the word "simplify," we know automatically that the tax code and systems to support it will become infinitely more complicated. The whole "file on a postcard" thing is a silly fantasy.
     The CPA I work for attends a weekly tax luncheon, wherein tax accountants and attorneys discuss the latest changes. There is an extraordinary amount of detail relative to the tax bill that Trump was able to get passed that is still not defined enough to be programmed properly in the tax software. Many questions remain. If these pros don't know what's going on, there's little hope for the rest of us. Then there are the changes which are made retroactive, which adds on a whole 'nother layer of complication, because where records should have been kept, they probably were not.
     Then there is the government shutdown to contend with. Effects of that are still becoming known. We don't know if the filing deadline will be extended. Deadlines for forms being mailed have been relaxed somewhat, pushing even more work toward the already busy end-of-season.
     So be kind to your tax person when he says, "I don't know the answer to that right now." Or when she asks for more details. Or when he says that the software isn't complete enough yet to actually file the return with the IRS. Or when the refund you were expecting turns into an amount owed. You are working with folks who are in a nearly constant state of trying to hit a moving target. Please be kind. We truly are doing our best in each moment.
     Digging the numbers,
                 Leta

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Much-Bigger Perspective

     I've been watching a series on Netflix called "Nature's Weirdest Events." One was an ice tsunami that came ashore and destroyed a bunch of homes. There are several instances of bug and bird invasions. There is a frog that is metabolically built to freeze solid in the winter and come back to life with the spring thaw. It's very interesting stuff. While it would not be my first thing to study, there is at least one fire ant expert out there, and it was fascinating to learn how those tiny vicious creatures operate. There's a tiny parasitic moth that preys on the fire ants, a glimmer of hope in controlling their invasion.
     I am also very fond of the Astronomy Picture of the Day (click here). These are fabulous photos of earthlings looking skyward, or into deep space, or from space back at our magnificent planet. I love seeing our planet from space because 1) there are no border lines, 2) I know I have no concept of how big Earth is, 3) something bigger than me did an outstanding job of making this extremely unusual world that supports such a huge variety of life. If you look at photos of Mars and Earth, the difference is mind-boggling. How did this amazing, water-based, rich-with-life planet happen?!?!
     Two important life reminders come to me through these sources. The first is that our planet is a living, intelligent system that is perfectly capable of taking care of itself. While I believe we should take excellent care of our earthly home, I don't buy into all the fuss about global warming and such. The planet will simply have cycles of change, and one human lifetime is a minuscule speck of time in its long-term existence. Certainly human life and property may be damaged along the way, but Earth will do what it needs to do to sustain life, or if necessary, wipe it out and start over. That's happened in the past.
     The other life reminder is "there's nothing to worry about." The Intelligence that has created our planet and the mind-boggling variety of life on it, much still undiscovered, is way bigger and smarter than me. If It can do such a great job with our planet, then I can rest assured that I don't really have to worry about much. Live well, feel good, do good, have fun, love. I believe in the goodness of all things, and the magnificence of planet Earth is a pretty fine indicator that we are eternally loved and cared for. What a glorious playground!
     I encourage you to find some ways to reach beyond your day-to-day, limited perspective and get a bigger view of the glorious world we live on. Learn. Travel. Hang out in nature. Hug a tree. 😊😊😊
     Appreciating life,
                  Leta