Tag Archives: life

Status Update – Status Quo

Mar 15, 2017

Yeah, I’ve been really lazy about updating my blog lately. After I made such a big noise about wanting to post more often here so I can avoid the turmoil of FB. Well, the only excuse I can give is that nothing really exciting has been going on in my world. And you know, sometimes it’s nice when there’s just nothing to report.

Except maybe that snowstorm yesterday. We were forecast to get 12-16 inches. In the end, I think we got about 5 inches of snow with about a quarter inch of ice on top of that. I’m lucky that I didn’t lose power, but I did wake up in the middle of the night last night (which is normal) and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was worried about whether my car is frozen into its parking place, and the fact that I don’t have a shovel to dig it out. But looking out the window this morning, it looks like a couple cars that were in other parking spots had no trouble driving over the snow that was plowed against the backs of all of our cars.

See, that’s about as exciting as things have been lately. But for me, that’s actually a grand improvement. I think I’ve mentioned before that this has been a tough winter for me and my stress level. But in the last week or so, things have been looking up. I’ll admit, I started taking a bit of St. John’s Wart, which may or may be what’s contributing to the upward tick.

Kitten therapy or just having this grumpy old man yell at me to snap out of it?

Side Note: Back in the 90s, I worked for an herbalist at his health food store, and I learned a LOT about alternative medicine. I’m incredibly sensitive to pharmacology, if that’s the right way to say it, probably because Mom never gave us a lot of medicine when we were growing up. Not even aspirin. But then, we were really healthy and didn’t need it. Nowadays, I find that holistic medicine works just fine for me, even though it does nothing for other people. As my old boss taught me, that could be because my system hasn’t adapted to allopathic drugs. It could also be because he taught me which brands and preparations actually work and which are glorified grass clippings in capsules. The answer, by the way, is that liquid herbal preparations are a billion times more effective than capsules, and the brands Gaia Herbs and Herbalists & Alchemists are pretty much the most reliable brands on the markets.

But anyhow, the reason I mention this is because I’ve heard a lot of storied from friends of mine who have been having serious problems with depression this year. Like, VERY serious. It makes me grateful that my anxiety and depression is just annoying, and that I can handle it with herbs and kittens. My heart really goes out to those friends. And it makes me grateful that I’ve had nothing to report for a while. Sometimes smooth sailing and calm seas can be just what the doctor ordered.

Status Update – Grow WHEN You’re Planted?

Mar 08, 2017

Steppin’ out in my city, London, in the 1890s

So on Monday I wrote about how there are times when I think that I was totally born on the wrong continent. Or at least that my heart feels like is should be in England. Well, I would like to add a little twist to that. Because after earning two degrees in History and spending a lifetime reading history books for fun, I am going to go out on a limb and say I would not have minded living in the last part of the 19th century at all.

When I say that, I’ll specify that I would have liked to be born in the 1860s so that I would be in the prime of my life in the 1880s – 1910s. There’s just something about that time period—whether you call it the Late Victorian and Edwardian Age or the Gilded Age—that I absolutely love. The fashions were beautiful, the architecture was stunning, and technology was way, way more advanced than you’re thinking right now.

Because here’s the thing… I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 99 out of 100 people in the 21st century have no idea what the late 19th century was like, and in fact, they probably have a very, very warped and flat-out wrong view of how advanced it was. You! You’re wrong! Those 40 years between 1880 and 1920 were NOT dark times of dirty people with no hygiene or technology when women were considered property! You’re wrong, wrong, wrong! (Those days that you’re thinking of are the 1820s – 1860s)

I would TOTALLY have worn this costume to ride my bicycle!

The fact of the matter is, while we think life has changed and technology has developed super fast from the 1980s until now, we ain’t got nuthin’ on the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. Within those 40 years I mentioned, civilization saw the development of electricity and plumbing in homes, public sanitation, public transportation (including subways), automobiles, steam ships, refrigeration, movies, and gramophones, not to mention the bicycle craze, women being admitted to universities, holding offices, and voting, the development of germ theory and sterilization for surgeries of all kinds, and the importation of food from all over the world, which drastically improved public health and nutrition. In fact, I had an interesting discussion with a doctor once in which he agreed that people at the end of the 19th century were probably far healthier than people nowadays, because there was more physical activity and less processed food.

But still, a lot of people balk and cringe and continue to operate on the mistaken assumption that just because a few things weren’t as advanced (penicillin hadn’t been invented yet, so yes, people died of infection more…but hey, they die of diabetes and weight-related illnesses in equally as great numbers today, I’ve seen the hard data that proves that) the whole era was a morass of backwardness. That phenomenon has always baffled me. It’s very black and white thinking. Just because the infant mortality rate (among the lower classes, not the middle or upper classes, mind you…I’ve seen the data on that too) was higher 125 years ago MUST mean that the entire era was gross and nasty and horrible. It just isn’t true.

Yep, this would totally have been my 1890s attitude!

Yes, there have been a lot of advances in the 20th century. There’ve been a lot in the 21st century too. But we’ve also lost things. To me, it’s not so much that life has gotten better as the years go by, it’s just that it’s changed. And I think I would have gotten along just fine 130 years ago. IF! And here’s my big, big, IF… IF I had the same family I do now and/or I had married a nice guy. Because the one thing that I can’t excuse away is that if I had lived 130 years ago, my brother Stewart would have been responsible for me if I’d never married. But Stewart would have been super cool about that, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have cared if I still wanted to be an author or live independently. Because by that era, women did. And I wouldn’t have been part of the upper classes anyhow, so who cares what the rules—which fewer and fewer people were following in that era—said.


(All images came from Pinterest and are public domain)

Status Update – Grow Where You’re Planted?

Mar 06, 2017

Me where I belong

Over the weekend, I had an interesting experience. I’ve been watching this amazing documentary series called Chef’s Table on Netflix, where they profile a big-time chef each episode. I was watching the one about Ivan Orkin, a gritty Jewish guy from Brooklyn…who runs a top-class ramen joint and has lived in Japan for 20 years. He talked about how the very first time he landed in Tokyo, he knew in his soul that he had come home.

Dude! That’s exactly how I felt about London! Well, I loved England when I went there in 2010, but when I spent 10 days in London last summer, I knew that London—specifically the Earl’s Court area of Kensington—was where my soul belonged. Something about it just sings to me. I feel completely comfortable there and at peace.

Now with me, I assumed it was because of the known ancestors I have who were from London. I have it in my DNA. But watching this show about Ivan Orkin…he’s Jewish. I don’t think he’s got Japanese ancestors. So to listen to him talking about how much his soul felt like it belonged in Japan really had me thinking.

This looks like a street where I should be spending more time!

What is it that makes us feel as though we belong in a place? Especially when it’s a place that is thousands of miles from where we were born and raised. Is it a DNA thing? Is it a spiritual thing or something that has to do with all of those layers and layers of stuff that I believe exists on some plane other than the physical/natural one for each of us? And have you ever felt as though you belonged in a place that was not where you were?

The other odd part of my weekend experience was that every time I told someone about how I feel about London, like at church, their initial reaction was to laugh. Yep, everyone. Not mean laughter, mind you, but the kind that suggests they think I’m joking or exaggerating. Actually, one woman, after laughing at first, then confessed to me that when she traveled to Europe for the first time, she absolutely loved it and felt as though it was incredibly special.

And that led me to wonder if this sense of displacement, of being born in the wrong place (or maybe the wrong time?) is much more universal than we think. Are we, perhaps, at least some of us, not born where we’re supposed to be? And is it then our life’s work to figure out a way to get ourselves to our true homes or to bring that essence to where we are?

I know there are some people who think exactly the opposite of the way I think. When I was living in Alabama, I had a co-worker/friend who I think was a little incredulous that I had moved down from the North in the first place. She called me out for being a Yankee all the time. And when I announced that I was moving back to Philly, she gave me a parting gift: a plaque painted with the words “Grow where you’re planted.” I found that plaque offensive, actually (though not the giving of it—that was done in good faith).

This is just one of hundreds of pics I took of the architecture of Kensington, my favorite part of London.

Because as long as I can remember, I haven’t felt as though I belonged where I was born. In fact, my love of England and the yearning to go there (and stay) isn’t new. It didn’t suddenly sprout up during that first trip in 2010. I’ve had a fascination with England as long as I can remember. I mean, tiny, tiny Merry used to dream of it. Maybe it was because my grandparents did a lot of traveling when I was young. Or maybe it’s because they had guests come to stay with them from all over the world…. Like my friend Janina, who I remember staying with my grandparents when I was about 8. I thought she was amazing then, and I still think she’s amazing now (and not just because she takes care of my cats when I go away and I take care of hers when she does the same).

Anyhow, it makes me wonder about belonging and nationality and what might be happening with us on all those unseen levels. So do you feel deep in your heart like you belong somewhere else?

Status Update – Why I Rent

Feb 27, 2017

There was a time, not so long ago, when people always said to me, “Merry, why are you still renting? You should buy a house.” Well, my answer has always been that I owned a house once, and I really hated raking, mowing, shoveling, weeding, and paying for that tree that fell down in my yard after a storm. I’m good with renting so that someone else can take care of all that, and last night I had a vivid reminder of that!

It looks so harmless now, but last night…

This is actually a short story. I got up at 1:30am to use the potty… Climbed back in bed… Noticed my upstairs neighbors walking around a little… Then all of a sudden, I hear this sound that my half-asleep brain couldn’t identify. At first I thought it was the kitten playing with something. Whenever I hear strange noises in my house, I immediately assume it’s the cats. But no, it was coming from my en suite master bathroom.

So I get up again, go to take a look, and… WATER WAS POURING OUT OF THE LIGHT FIXTURE! Not dripping, mind you, pouring. I threw down my towel and ran to get the bucket from the guest room. And why do I have a bucket in my guest room, you ask? Because a couple of weeks ago when we had a little snow and it started to melt, the ceiling in my guest room started leaking. They figured that one out, fixed the gutter outside, and will come make the guest room ceiling pretty again at some point, so that’s all well and good.

But back to the middle of last night and my master bath. I plunked the bucket under the leak—which was already slowing down at that point—and just stood there and stared at it for a moment. Because really, what could I do? Nothing. So I went back to bed (and took an hour and a half to fall asleep again). This morning I put in a maintenance request online. In it, I mentioned that my washing machine still hasn’t been fixed yet.

Ain’t my problem.

Oh yeah, my washing machine broke about two weeks ago. It doesn’t spin at the end of the load, so the clothes don’t drain and come out of the washer sopping wet. But they’re scheduled to deal with that at some point.

AND THIS IS WHY I RENT. Because none of this is my problem. I don’t have to pay for any of it. I don’t own anything that was damaged. I don’t have to do anything more than call the office to have maintenance come deal with it. I don’t even have to be home when they come. Woo hoo!

I should also just mention that where some people might freak out at all these problems, it doesn’t really bother me too much. This is still an awesome apartment which I love, and I wouldn’t think of moving out, unless maybe the ceilings started caving in. I guess I’m just easy to please.

Status Update – Worry

Feb 24, 2017

Yes, even this version of Merry was a worrier.

Okay, raise your hand if you’ve ever had a moment in life where worry suddenly (or not so suddenly) overwhelmed you. … Yeah, I’m pretty sure that everyone is raising their hand right now. I think worry is an unfortunately common part of being a human. Because we have so much to worry about!

Personally, I’m worried about money—because I had my taxes done yesterday and I owe so, so, so very much, and because there’s some drama with my financial advising—I’m worried about books and book deadlines and the fact that sales have been down at the time of year when they’re supposed to be up (it’s not just me, it’s across the board, and I have strong theories about why), and I’m worried about the state of our country, the high level of stress and conflict with people close and far, and where we’re going. So basically, I’m worried about all the standard, ordinary, normal things that people worry about: Money, Career, and The Future. I’m lucky I’m not in a relationship, or I’d be worrying about that too!

And that’s sort of the point. We all worry about the same things, more or less. I think if you asked any person anywhere to make a list of the top five categories of things they worry about, we’d all end up with the same five things, only in different orders. But what gets me is that in the midst of our own, personal worry, we always seem to think that we’re alone, that we’re the only one worried about those particular things.

I mean, how can I worry, knowing that I grew this one year? The Lord brings us miracles in the smallest and biggest ways!

Fortunately, we’re not. We’re all in the worry boat together. And as I deal with all of the things that are winding me up and stressing me out, I keep telling myself that. My worries about money seem big to me, but I will not have a problem getting through them. Other people might, and while that doesn’t invalidate the worry I feel, it puts things into perspective. Taxes slapped me upside the head this year, but I planned and prepared for it. Others might not be so lucky.

The same goes for my career. I am always going to be a writer, and I will always continue to write. The market may be down right now, due to outside forces, but those forces will resolve themselves and people will be more interested in reading than watching TV once there’s less drama to focus on. Not to mention that I have some super fun and exciting books coming down the line! Plus, it’s not like my catalog of books will get smaller. So that problem will resolve itself too.

As for the future of this country? If there’s one thing that being a historian has taught me, it’s that life, the universe, and everything goes on. Whatever state we’re in at any given point, it changes. That’s just the nature of the game. Also important to remember is that it’s not my job to worry about the big picture. I can do my little part, then leave it up to others, and ultimately the Big Guy upstairs.

So does that stop worry? Heck no! Of course not! *LOL* But it regulates the flow, so to speak. Although I may back off of the internet for the weekend. We’re never going to stop being worriers, but we are allowed to take vacations from worrying, if only for a moment here and there.