Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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What would you take?

TexasStrongIt was hard to tear myself away from watching Hurricane Harvey coverage. It went on forever and every day had more stories of damaged buildings, flooded streets and homes, injuries and deaths. But it also had heartfelt stories of the Cajun Navy and strangers rescuing stranded people in boats, of shelters in unlikely places such as furniture stores, of social media helping stranded people be found and brought to safety. All they had with them was what they could grab in a few minutes before they got out.

I can’t do anything about Houston except send prayers and give money to organizations doing feet-on-the-ground disaster relief assistance. Those I have done and continue to do. But I’ve been thinking about what I would do if faced with the same situation here. Where would I go? What would I take with me?

I’ll be honest – I’d probably be one of the people who evacuated ahead of the storm, even if no one told me to go. I’m not very agile and climbing onto a roof or into a boat would be problematic. I’m good at hunkering down for something like a blizzard but a hurricane is a different animal altogether.

My house is full of things, and they’re just things. While I love and would mourn the loss of things with family history ties, they’re still just things. I’ve looked around and thought about what’s in different rooms and what I would take, given the chance. In no particular order (well, yeah, the genealogy stuff came first), here are some:

  • Genealogy files and old photos
  • Purse with wallet and credit cards
  • Medicine
  • Cell phone
  • Laptop and backup portable hard drive
  • Kindle
  • Charging cords
  • Insurance papers
  • Car title
  • House deed
  • Good jewelry
  • Clothes

KeepCalmMy mom had what she called the “Boy Scout Folder” that she put on the kitchen counter when she and Dad would go out of town. In it she had copies of insurance papers, social security cards and drivers’ licenses, bank information, list of account numbers, list of people to notify (family, medical, bank, insurance), obituaries and pictures to use with them. She would have grabbed that folder if she needed to leave in a hurry and know that what she needed was there.

I can do that but mine will also be digital on a flash drive – actually, a copy for me and one for my brother so it’s available outside the house if something happens here. Scanning documents won’t take long and the peace of mind will be worth it.

My genealogy scanning hasn’t been a huge priority for me but it needs to be. Many of the records and photos are one of a kind. They need to be scanned as high-quality images and saved in multiple places so they can be preserved and shared. Bottom line is they are just things, however precious to me. I have the power to make sure they are digitally preserved. It’s time to map out a plan to scan and add metadata so what I know stays with them.

Hurricanes happen. Tornadoes happen. Floods happen. Fires happen. Earthquakes happen. Everything we have could be gone in a heartbeat. We owe it to ourselves and to our families to be as prepared as possible. Do it now.

Texas strong!

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Have You Written Your Obituary?

There are three things that you can do now to make things easier for your family when you die. You don’t need to be sick to do them – in fact, it’s better to do these while you’re healthy and have time to think and plan. You can do them in any order. But trust me on this: taking the time to do these three things is a gift to your loved ones.

In Memory OfFirst, write your obituary. You’ve read many of them and if you haven’t, just pull up any local paper and read a bunch. Some of them are boring and just have name, birth and death dates, spouse, children. My favorite obituaries, though, tell me who the person was, what their passions were, what made their lives better. My dad read to first graders for over 20 years and you can bet that will be in his obituary. I read a wonderful one years ago about a 102-year old woman known for her pie baking – I knew who she was after reading it. Include basic information but go beyond it to tell people who you are and why you mattered. Pick a good picture for the obituary, too, preferably one that looks like you as a mature person and not the army picture if you are in your 70’s.

Second, plan your funeral or memorial service and give a copy of what you decide to your church office as well as your own files. A funeral service is conducted when the body is present; when it’s not, as in the case with cremation, there is a memorial service. Different religious faiths and denominations have structure or liturgy for their services, but it’s up to the family – to you – to select scriptures or readings to be included, and to decide on music that’s significant.

This doesn’t have to be hard! There are websites with ideas, such as 30 Top Funeral Bible Verses. Hymnals and prayer books also have suggested music and scripture that’s appropriate. Do you want to have a choir sing, or maybe someone sing a solo? Write it down!  Nothing is written in stone and it can be changed as you change and want something else. Also remember that a memorial service is for the living, so if your family decides on something else, that’s okay, too. But at least they will know what you want, and that will help enormously.

TombstoneFinally, plan what happens to your body. Do you want to be cremated or buried? Do you know where the body/ashes will be interred?  Sit down with a funeral home (or several, to decide on one), and make plans. Even better, prepay it to lock in prices (they call this “pre-need arrangements”).  Your family won’t have to do anything when you die except call the funeral home and meet to review what has already been arranged.

I work in a church office and deal with memorial services and grieving families all the time. I’ve seen what a difference it is for them when these three things have been planned in advance. Make thoughtful decisions about what you want, write them down, and make sure your family and your religious home have copies. It might be the best gift you can leave them.


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Not my circus, not my monkeys

circusmonkeyLast year at this time I was up to my eyeballs working on closing out a fiscal year, balancing the budget, sending endowment reports to the development office, and groaning that somehow the library also wanted performance appraisals done at the same time. This year that’s not my circus, not my monkeys. It feels good.

I was good at it. That budget was spent down to .01% of the total. But I don’t miss doing it. I do, however, miss some of my colleagues. I don’t know how or if things would be different had I retired and stayed put, but certainly moving 1600 miles away made it impossible to get together for lunch. I hadn’t really thought that I’d be dropped like a hot potato, though. That’s what it feels like.


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Sudden loss

One of my friends died suddenly yesterday, on the golf course in New Mexico while traveling with a group from our community. Although death is always a reality when you live in a place that has mostly 55+ residents, this one hit extra hard because it was so unexpected, because of where he was at the time, but mostly because he was so beloved by all. He had been a leader in the community and the church, but was also just a fun person who brought a smile to our faces.

We have a lot of memorial services here over the course of a year but most come after a lingering illness or simply from complications of age. This death was different and has made us stop in our tracks. Bob was a member of the choir and last night, instead of rehearsal, we spent time talking out the facts and reactions, and praying together.

It’s too soon to know anything else now. Logistics get complicated when a body needs to be moved across state lines and there are too many unknowns. What we do know is that we lost someone who mattered.


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Does Customer Support really support?

My computer is 3 years old and so is most of the software I use, which these days actually isn’t all that much. But I’m working with images more than usual now that I’m church webmaster and I decided to upgrade my Adobe Photoshop Elements to the current version. Even bought a helpful book and everything. They arrived yesterday.

I sat down to install the product and immediately ran into problems. Adobe made me be a registered user before I could install and register my software, so I did that. But when the installation got to the part where I was to put in the serial number – I couldn’t find one! There were lots of numbers and even one that looked like a serial number, but it wasn’t. What to do?

Being a savvy geekette, I went to the Adobe customer service forums to see if anyone else had the problem. Several different entries but no real resolution. So next step was to open a chat conversation with tech support. It was, to put it mildly, annoying. I sent a picture of the label on the back of the box with all the numbers. I typed the numbers. I explained the problem. He told me he couldn’t get a serial number out of it. Well, duh.

Then he told me to look at the inner sleeve of the “box” that the disc came in and said the 24-digit serial number was on the sleeve. I took it apart, people, and there was nothing on that sleeve. Nothing. So naturally he told me I needed to report this to Amazon, where I purchased the product. It was Amazon’s fault that the Adobe product they sold didn’t have a serial number on it?  I don’t think so.

But I contacted them anyway. Finding Amazon chat is a little hidden but it’s always been productive and today was no exception. The lovely Christina told me to just send it all back and I would have a replacement tomorrow. Even though I’d dismantled the inner sleeve of the box?  Yes, she said, that’s not a problem.

 

This is why I will buy from Amazon. Because they support their sales and treat me like someone with a problem, not someone who IS a problem.


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Too Busy to Work

I thought I would be spending my retirement working on genealogy and doing house things. Hah. The genealogy, much as I love it and want to do it, has taken a back seat to the more important things like Mah Jongg. It’s very popular here in the Bay and I’m playing today for the third time this week. mahjong-2I’ve never really been a games-playing person but this just appeals to me. The tiles make such a lovely sound when they click together and the images are colorful and pretty. Bams, cracks, dots, dragons, jokers, winds are mixed into different specified combinations in order to make mah jongg. We use official cards from the National Mah Jongg League that show us what hands of tiles are valid each year for scoring. The new 2016 cards just arrived so we’re all equally confused about how to make them work. In any case, this is keeping me busy.

So is having taken on the role of webmaster for my church. Honestly, I need a 12-Step program for this stuff. The site is in WordPress, which I’ve been working with for 8 years, including this blog, and I’m having a grand time updating contents and playing with changes to navigation. The site needs a redesign to make it responsive and generally less green. But it’s doable and uses a different part of my brain that’s been missing the chance to play with familiar toys.


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Four weeks to go

Four weeks from yesterday is my last day at Yale and in five weeks, I will be on my way to Texas. It’s real now, after months of knowing and thinking and starting to do things only to realize/recognize/remember that many steps can’t be taken until the time grew closer. Well, now it’s closer.

As of Sept. 1, I no longer am in charge of anything except time cards at work. There’s a big spreadsheet of “Stuff Anne Did” with names next to each task. My position hasn’t even been posted yet, much less filled, so colleagues will be picking up additional responsibilities for a while. We’ve done lots of shadowing, training, and documenting – and now it’s their turn to actually do the work while I’m around to help answer questions, offer advice, and document further as needed. My office is starting to look empty.

Most of my furniture, and indeed, my stuff, isn’t going with me. I’m moving into my dad’s house which is already fully furnished. But I don’t want to give up everything because, well, this is MY stuff and I selected it and lived with it for years and I like it. So there’s been a long stretch here of sorting through clothes, weeding books, letting go of kitchen pots and doodads. Almost every weekend has had a trip to Goodwill with something.

There’s a table in the main entrance of my building that we call the “give away table.” People put out things they no longer want or need and others can just pick up and take. Since I live in a building with many people on fixed incomes, this can provide a way to add some pretty and/or useful new things, and I’ve taken advantage of the convenience to share my stuff with my neighbors.

Most of the “stuff” has been pared down but there’s still furniture. The bookcases are gone but there’s more. I maybe could have sold the couch, table and chairs, and dresser to students hitting town for the semester but couldn’t stand the idea of living in such bare-ness for weeks. So I’m going to donate everything to Habitat for Humanity and am hoping they can pick up two days before the movers come. That will keep things normal as long as possible which will be good for both me and Tessie.

Although moving is my idea, it’s stressful. I’m giving up my life, my career, my profession, my home, my normal. My IBS is flaring up and it’s still so hot that I’m having problems with edema in my feet – plus i have Achilles tendonitis in one foot, which slows me down. Tessie is picking up on my stress and having some of her own. She knows something is up and it’s unsettling. Little does she know that a 1600 mile road trip is in her future.

Today’s tasks include closing the safe deposit box at the bank, buying a Garmin, ordering new glasses (eye exam was Thursday), weeding out plastic containers and bowls in the kitchen, and mailing a box of stuff to myself at the new house. Tomorrow I’m making a trip to the office to pick up book boxes and some personal stuff. Monday I want to just be a vegetable for a day.

I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m ready, I’m scared, and I’m tired.