Facets of Lucy

Looking at the various side of a life


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Targeted!

I am one of approximately 110,000,000 people in the US “Targeted” this Christmas season.  That is, hackers installed malware and were able to get card information and more personal information such as addresses and such.  Anyone who shopped at Target roughly between November 15 and December 15 was violated the same way unless they paid cash.

Bullseye

This isn’t the first time its happened to me.  Years ago, BJ’s Warehouse was hit and then more recently, the chain that owns TJ Max, Marshalls and Home Goods was hit.  Both made me leery of those particular stores for awhile but I gradually came back.

It feels different this time.  The fact that I’m one of so many makes it worse not better.  We’ve also heard that customers at Neiman Marcus were “Marked” as well.  Large companies are not the ones I expect to have insufficient security on their systems.  I hold them responsible.  I have heard that there are class action suits filed already and I wish them well.  Its not that Target hasn’t tried to make amends.  They had discount days, they’ve offered account protection services, lots of emails and website postings have appeared.  Everything short of the CEO calling me to apologize has been tried.

I feel very vulnerable. One swipe of a credit or debit card to make any purchase puts my whole identity at risk.  Anywhere possible, I’ve been using cash since this happened.  I have found two pluses from using cash.  One, there are less receipts that I need to enter in Quicken to balance my checkbook (yeah, I still do that).  And, two, I spend less because I’m aware of how much money is in my wallet.  There are far less impulse buys or purchase of things  that I “will” need.  For now, I’m content to get them when they’re really needed.

Maybe the US will change credit cards to be more like the EU with the digital chips encoded in them.  Of course, by then hackers may have figured a way around those, too.

In the meantime, there’s a dichotomy between businesses and government who want us to do everything online and a nation that can’t protect us when we do.

I may be the only one in America who was shaken by this security breach.  I may, in time, break down and go back to trusting my cards.  Maybe I’ll even go back to Target (someone pointed out that they may be the safest place to shop at this point).  But for now, my greenbacks and I are making do.

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Glancing Back at the Past With an Eye to the Future

I’m going to try something new to me on this blog, if for no other reason that to get the blogging juices flowing again.  I’m going to try to really examine what I’m thankful for.  My daughter is very optimistic about 2014 and I am weary to the soul of  having so little to be optimistic about in the world around me.  So I start today with my first thankful mention:

Today, I entertained 16 people for Prediction Day.  At our house, on January 1st, we get together to eat New Year’s Day soup, made with black-eyed peas for luck.  Then, we read aloud our predictions for the outgoing year written a year ago and kept together in sealed envelopes  and enjoy laughing at how things actually turned out, or similarities in predictions.  For example, someone made a prediction last year about getting the troops out of Iraq but someone else predicted an engagement in the family.

In preparation for this, I was making a lot of corn bread and corn muffins.  I had 3 batches I was trying to prep simultaneously.  I had to continually remember which one needed 1 cup of flour and which needed 1 ½ and so on.   At one point, I panicked thinking I had put no baking powder in one and twice as much in another. Luckily, it worked out. Then, while the corn muffins were in the oven,  I was finishing prepping the corn bread when I looked down at the mix.  It looked as if I had put the milk and egg in there twice which was going to ruin one of the best parts of the meal.  There was no going back so that corn bread went into the oven as it was.  And it came out great! ( The recipe uses cream style corn which gives it moisture and texture and, served warm, can’t be beat.)

So I’m thankful that 16 people, some family, some as good as family, joined me in the fun of looking at the year ahead and back at the one just ended and also thankful for the blessing of the food. Most of all, I know, even if the cornbread had been ruined, all those people would still have been there for me.  How can you beat that?

Final thought:  A quote from Nelson Mandela I used as a theme for today’s celebration:

We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.

Happy New Year!


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Before the Catastrophe, Not After!

How do you bounce back from bad news, a lost job,  a broken heart or other of life’s crises?  Well, obviously it can be difficult.  And you can’t prepare for something you don’t know is coming, right?  There are some things we can all do: save money for an emergency, be sure we use security measures in our daily life,  watch our diets and exercise.  But these aren’t guarantees.

I found myself in this kind of situation.  I received news that wasn’t good.  After processing the news and facing my new reality, I looked for a path or plan to move forward. Unexpectedly It was unexpected when it appeared.  My two daughters had both read a book they really enjoyed and they shared it with me. One day when I was on the exercise bike reading the book, I found this quote which moved me.

The book was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Ms. Rubin’s book was based on a blog she still maintains which shares the name.  The quote, actually from a reader’s comment on her blog as I recall was as follows:

I had no life of my own, I didn’t have the first clue as to who I was or what I wanted.  It really never occurred to me in all those years of marriage that I needed to have a little tiny place for me to have my own things going on in life.  Before the catastrophe, not after!  After was too late.  I was waiting to die, but I didn’t die, God isn’t ready for what little there is of me yet.  w I see that it’s like saving money, you can’t save for when you get laid off, after you get laid off; rather, you have to save while you have a job and the money is still coming in.    Life is like that, you have to DO while you are able to think of what you want, what you like, what needs it will fill, how it will enhance your life, how it will help you to maintain you, so that you have some reserves when crunch time comes.

The writer was obviously dealing with a broken marriage.  But  the rest of the quote provided me with inspiration for my  direction.  While the writer was looking at the more practical preparations, I took away the value of doing now things that I might regret missing later.  I love the line, “Before the catastrophe, not after!” I want to spend time now with the people I love,  I want to send little notes to my children so that they have hand-written proof of how they were valued.  I want to make sure my husband has no regrets and that we build a life that is strong enough to stand against the storm.  I’m trying new activities.  I laugh with joy as much as possible. I’ve quizzed God on the why and then quickly balanced it against what he’s else he’s given me and continue to pray in grateful thanksgiving.  These are the reserves I want when crunch time comes. Thanks, Ms. Rubin, for including this message which has helped me build a path forward that will be uniquely mine.


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A Daycation – Making the Most of a 24 Hour Getaway

For reasons too varied and boring to explain, we’ve not had a summer vacation.

What we have had are a few long weekends.  Some of them have involved traveling to visit or help family, some were spent doing errands or household tasks.  But we had one wonderful “daycation” and I’d recommend it highly.

One late evening, my husband and I drove to a little town an hour away.  We did an errand or two and stopped at an inexpensive restaurant for a light dinner.  While there, we had a good laugh at one trucker’s parking job.,

Parking a Truck at a Strip Mall

Parking a Truck at a Strip Mall

After waiting out a sudden downpour, we made it to the car and headed to the next town over where we stayed the night.  What a nice beginning for our daycation!  There’s a little ice cream shop in the second town which makes THE best chocolate malts ( a kind of milkshake).  We each enjoyed one while we walked around, appreciating the varied home designs and gardens.  It was a lovely night, post-rain shower and the walk was a happy ending to the first few hours of our getaway.

The next morning, we were up and out!  Breakfast came from a not so unique little place – McDonalds.  When you want a fast and hot breakfast along with drinkable coffee, McDonalds does the trick. Once we were fed and caffeinated, we were off to ….go fishing!

Fishing

The spot we fished at was in a beautiful local park. Since it was a Friday morning, we had the place to ourselves.  It was so peaceful there.  The fact that we caught nothing didn’t take away from the fun.  We stayed just as long as we wanted and then packed up our gear.  Although I enjoyed the fishing, I was excited to move on to our next activity – antiquing.  This little town has a delightfully large antique “mall”, representing many antique dealers in that area.  Prices are more than reasonable, dealers are willing to dicker and the stock turns over often enough to check it out frequently. All I bought this trip was a Steve Miller record album (I’ll wait if you want to go look those words up) but we both had a good laugh at a collection of transistor radios (same offer), a wooden baby walker and so many other treasures.

We had only two scheduled activities.  One, to visit my sister and her family occurred around lunch time. Her son, “little man”, is a precocious 4 year old who is always fun.  (An example:  He called the other day to say he had a new joke.  We said  that was great, that we were ready.  So he said, “Knock, knock!” Then he cracked up,  laughing so hard at his own joke that he couldn’t even tell it.)  So a happy hour or so was spent with them, hearing about their actual vacation and catching up.

The last scheduled event is one we both looked forward to – dinner with our son.  Having graduated from college this year, he accepted a job at a firm about 2 hours away from home.  Thanks to the GPS, we took a route from my sister’s town to his.  What a surprise!  The route took us zig-zag across the state, by some incredible farms, some horse country and lovely small towns.  That trip alone was worth the travel.  We made it our son’s city in plenty of time to meet up with him.  The three of us enjoyed a delicious dinner at a nearby restaurant.  It’s lovely to raise children but the real pay-off is to get to know the adult versions and watch them evolve into wonderful men and women.  We so enjoyed our conversation that we lingered awhile at dinner.  Regretfully, we hugged our son and headed to the car.  It was time to head home.

Believe it or not, we weren’t horribly late getting home but even returning late added to the sense that we had been somewhere, that we had really gotten away.  The variety of activities with visits, and no drive too far made this really feel like a vacation.  If you haven’t gotten away and are lucky enough to have places you can visit not too far away, give it a try.  If money is tight, you can eliminate the overnight and aim for public parks, scenic spots and anything that intrigues you or that you know you enjoy.

According to the news, more and more people  in the U.S. and the U.K. are having stay-cations instead of long getaways because of the economy.   Consider trying the daycation as an alternative or another way to break up your summer without going broke.  Happy Travels!


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The Ultimate Gift

As I write this blog post, there is a group of gifted surgeons, nurses and other support staff replacing the heart of my cousin with the heart of someone no longer with us.  This heart is such an amazing gift from a family you know is grieving.  Victor’s immediate family is gathered around at the hospital and praying like crazy for a successful outcome.

These are the cousins I wrote about a few posts ago,” The Good Cousins”.  Please keep all of them as well as the donor’s family and the medical personnel making this miracle happen in your thoughts and prayers.

Are you an organ donor?  Go to www.http://donatelife.net/  or www.organdonor.govin the United States to find out how to make another miracle happen.  Then be sure your family and friends know your intentions.

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Lesson on a Snowy Day

It’s a snowy day today and they’re encouraging everyone to stay off the road.  I’ve been thinking about my grandmother lately and this cozy day inspires me to write about her.

My daughter, my grandmother and I

My daughter, my grandmother and I

I really only had one grandmother.  My other grandmother left the family when my father was only five.  He was raised by a step-mother who was our grandmother, until my parents divorced.  Apparently, that also concluded my grandparent’s relationship with us as well.

My mother’s mother was always there, however.  When my parents split, my mother did what a lot of women would do, she drove us to her parents’ house.  I hadn’t been there in a long time, if ever.  We walked into the kitchen where my grandparents sat playing cards with my great uncle and aunt and, I’m sure enjoying a drink or two.  My grandmother showed us around the house, helped us see where we would sleep and to settle in.

I adored my grandfather.  I have written about him time and again.  He was the best person I still have ever met.  My grandmother, who had 7 children and 31 grandchildren, was always on the move but never unkind.  She was just busy and didn’t enjoy children underfoot where my grandfather delighted in having grandchildren in his lap and willing to be taught.

Things I remember about my grandmother:  My grandfather didn’t think she knew how to handle money, so he made her save for things she wanted or needed via cards that banks used to offer that would hold dimes or other coins.  You saved your money on these cards and then used them.  I remember she got a new winter coat that way. Granddad even named someone else his estate’s executor, so sure he was that she would spend wildly or be misled.  I remember my grandfather did not like her to smoke, so she never smoked in the house but would often return home from errands or visits smelling like a chimney.  I remember she came to visit me in my college dorm and, after my mother left, sit back and lit up  (when one could still do such a thing). While he may seem harsh, my grandfather was actually very respectful and loving to “the Mrs.”, and expected the same from everyone else.

Nellie as a Young Woman

Nellie as a Young Woman

I didn’t know what made my grandmother “tick”.  She wasn’t a woman prone to long conversations – she always had too much to do.  She enjoyed crocheting.  She cooked a lot, but that may have been just because there were always mouths to feed. They had a small farm which every spring featured a huge strawberry patch.  She would use us grandchildren to pick the ripened fruit, one of my fondest childhood memories (Hello!  Pick two, eat one…)  Well, it was one of my fondest memories until I mentioned it to her in her later years and she said, “You damn kids only took the easy ones on top and I had to go back over them again”.  Crushed.   One thing she and I had in common was our love of old things – especially old photographs and books.  I inherited some of both when she passed in 1992.

Nellie (Back, Middle) and Family

I never knew my grandmother’s “people” as country folk might say.  I did hear she had relatives of some sort in a larger city about 4 hours away but I didn’t know who they were and they never visited.  So one day recently, I started digging through materials I have at home which is predominantly genealogy about my grandfather’s family.  Finally, I hit paydirt.  I found a letter from the Children’s’ Home Society of Virginia, dated March 13, 1958, addressed to her.  It said:

Dear Lucy’s Grandmother,

We have your letter of February 27 requesting help in getting a birth certificate.  You were born during the period when births were not   in this state and we do not have sufficient information in our records to have a delayed certificate filed for you.  However, I am enclosing a notarized statement which I believe will serve in most instances where a birth certificate is required.

Well, that was a kicker!  I had no idea she was ever in a “home”.   Behind it was the notarized statement which said, in part, “[She] came into the care of said Society at the age of six years and six months, and was said to have been born on November, 8, 1909 in Nelson County, Virginia.”  Six years old!  My heart ached for my grandmother.  Because I know this, too:  During the depression, my grandparents couldn’t provide for their children, so my mother and her siblings were also placed in a children’s home for a few years.  It must have broken her heart to have to do that to her own kids.

I dug deeper, needing to know more and wishing I knew enough when she was still alive to ask her questions.  But this is something she never mentioned.  Finally, I hit paydirt.  Well, it doesn’t fill in the softer questions but it certainly answered my main questions.  My mother had gone through a genealogy phase years ago and she had written up some information on my grandmother.  Let me tell you, you could flesh out a novel from this story.

Nellie (Grandma, can I call you Nellie?), was born to Samuel, age 49, who worked as a laborer at a nearby stone quarry and to his wife, Mary, age 46.  I was surprised by their ages until I saw the list of her siblings:

Samuel , born 7/18/1895
William Raymond, born 8/20/1897
Mary Elizabeth , born 8/18/1900
Lulu Mae, born 9/4/1902
Ellen, born 9/29/1904
Marie, born 9/23/1906
Walter, born 9/11/1911, died 9/21/1911

To remind  you, Nellie was born in 1909, making her the baby of a family of seven (not counting Walter who passed away  as an infant).

Tragedy struck the family, when Mary passed away on February 24, 1914.  But the final blow was when their father, Samuel, passed away on August 8th, just seven months afterwards.   I don’t know if there was any extended family but it doesn’t seem so because Nellie, six and a half years old and the youngest, and the others were put in the care of the Children’s Home Society of Virginia.  Nellie was placed in the Methodist Children’s Home in Roanoke, VA, and from there was placed in foster care with a family in a small town about 150 miles away.  Very little information is available but it seems unlikely  that they’d have been able to place seven children together.  It seems that Nellie remained with this family until she was 18.  At that point, she went to live with her sister, Mary Elizabeth who was 27 by that time, and brother-in-law  who lived about 45 minutes from the foster family.

Nellie's Wedding Day

Nellie’s Wedding . Day

This is the happily ever after part:  My grandfather was a good friend of Nellie’s brother-in-law.  He said that the first time he went over to his friend’s house after Nellie had moved in, he fell for her hard and right away.  But he was 10 years older than her and that was a big gap for an 18 year old.  So he was patient.  Well, he said he was patient but they were married on October 2nd, 1929 when she was almost 20 years old.  They were married until Granddad passed in 1991 at the age of 93.  Nellie passed on New Year’s Eve in 1992 at the age of 83.  Together, they raised seven children of their own, and had enjoyed 31 grandchildren and were getting to know all their great-grandchildren.

Discovering the loss and separation my grandmother faced in her early years gives me reason for more empathy for her and more respect for how she grew up and led her life.  I’d love to be able to contact the foster family to learn about her as a girl but doubt anyone who knew her would still be around.  I continue to be amazed by the people I know and meet.  We need to be gentle with one another because we all have baggage and backgrounds that others can’t know.  Nellie’s story may be a tragic one but she’s not alone in having sorrows to bear and most of us don’t wear them where they’re easily known.  And that’s my lesson on a snowy day.


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Pride Goeth Before the Fall

Ginger 7

“Who’s teaching who?”, Ginger asks.

Who needs an alarm when you have a cat?  Awake at dawn or the first sound of morning outside and your cat is ready to go.  You feel your covers pull back a little at a time as he kneads the bedding like a ball of dough.  No response from you?  He creeps up the covers,  purring with contentment in his task.  Is it the paw he kneads into your neck?  Does he climb on your pillow only to settle in with that same happy purr as he begins to part your hair for you?  Yes, there’s nothing like a cat to get you out of bed.

Well, after 16 years of these glorious awakenings, my husband and I taught our cat to sleep outside our door.  How do you teach a 16-year-old cat?  I think we just got lucky. We’re not that smart.  Proof to follow.

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Ginger preparing for bed.

We fell into this lucky change of fortune.  One night, a Saturday night, one when we planned to sleep in, the cat was relentless.  As I moved through the next day, I saw a fleece blanket we weren’t using.  A light bulb went off, and I folded it nicely and put it outside our bedroom door.  That night, Ginger jumped on our bed as usual, tucked us in – well actually, he was climbing around us, kneading us so that we buried ourselves under the covers- then walked to the middle of the bed, bathed and called it a night.  I was still reading so let him stay a bit.  Then before I went to bed, I picked him up and put him on the fleece blanket outside the door, said good night and shut our door.  He stayed!  And he didn’t scratch at the door or begin his pitiful “meows” until the alarm went off.  We couldn’t believe it. We repeated the process the next night, and the next and it held!  Only when College Girl and College Boy came home for the holidays did it not fail – their biorhythms didn’t support our bedtimes.  But as soon as they went back to school, Ginger went back to his bed.

Ginger and Quilt cropped

Even Ginger is laughing at us.

Okay, I suppose we got a little cocky, having taught an old cat new tricks.  Maybe it was that, maybe we were just sleepy.  But yesterday morning, Ginger woke with the alarm and began scratching the door to come in (we’re still working on that).  I told him to stop and he did.  But then, I heard it, the knock of the familiar.  You know the one when you arrive at family’s or a good friend’s house?  “Knock, knock, knock-knock-knock, pause, KNOCK, KNOCK.”  I couldn’t believe it.  Now that’s a cool trick.  My husband who was prepping for work, popped his head around the corner to ask, “Did you hear that?”.  “Well”, I said, “If he learned that cool trick, we should let him in”.  So my husband opened the door, only to find our adult son, a married homeowner who lives 20 minutes away, standing there.  He had dropped by to pick something up on the way to work, let himself in, but knocked so as not to scare us.  We looked at each other and burst out laughing.  Of course, the damn cat hadn’t learned that fancy knock!  My husband said, “This doesn’t have to leave this room”.   But I disagreed.  In the light of day, no one would think their cat was that smart.  Just remember not to ask either one of us to make any vital decisions before 6:15 am.

But hey, did I tell you we taught our cat to sleep outside our door?  Pretty cool, huh?