Monday, January 30, 2023

Getting My Ears On

My hearing aid is past it's warranty period and basically worn out.  I have needed a new one for the past couple of years but I have been putting it off. With Covid-19 restrictions I wasn't going anywhere anyway and really only had one person to annoy by making him repeat eveything. 

I found myself tuning into the radio news several times in a day to try to catch what was being said. I'm not sure if that's a hearing problem or if I have just lost my listening skills. I gave in last fall and went for a hearing test. That's when I found out things had changed. Not only had the prices gone up but the warranty period had dropped from five years to just three. You get a trial period with new hearing aids in case that style or model turns out not to be the right one for you.  But I still was not getting to places where it could be tested properly so I decided, once again, to wait. I saw no point in wasting my warranty period when there was little to hear anyway.

But hey people, dispite the fact that there is a new Covid varient speading rapidly normal life seems to be making a comeback. I have been to visit family and friends and attended both the Legion Senior's Lunch and the Ladies Club dinner this past month.  I couldn't follow conversations in any of those situations so I went back to the audiologist. 

My last hearing test had apparently expired so I had to do it over again. There was no change and though I felt like I was not hearing as well, I just need to learn to listen again. People think that comes naturally but really, it's a skill. I need to practice.

I will be getting my new aid just in time for an upcoming event where I may get to talk more than I have to listen. There will be a small crowd there and I expect a lot more noise than at the meals I have attended. This will be an excellent testing ground to see what adjustments will be needed to my new assistive device. I do expect I will still need some people to repeat things but maybe I will at least be able to watch tv without closed captions.  One can only hope....

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Busy Ladies

I told you recently that I had not been blogging much in recent years because the pandemic put an end to my rambles. Well, it looks like things are about to change. This little tiny village now has a very active Ladies Club.  Last summer they formed a walking group, a kayaking  group and occasionally met for a meal. I joined the group during the summer but failed to take part in anything until now.

This past week I joined them for what will become a monthly dinner at a local restaurant. Fifteen of us gathered and got to know one another a little better by talking about our various hobbies.  The group now actually has 279 members (by the latest figures) but even among the small dinner gathering we found several things many of us like to do. 

In just this one short week, individual groups are currently in the planning stages.  There will definitely be a darts group, a knitting group and an art group. Spaces have already been secured at the local Legion and Library.  I, of course, will join the art group. I imagine it will be informal but some of the ladies have recently gathered to do a paint along and some paint pouring events that were also organized by members of the Ladies Club. I know there is also a lady among us who teaches card making so maybe there will be some actual lessons of one sort or another over time. I will happily encourage some urban sketching expeditions once the weather is suitable again.

There was also some talk of a story telling session, a trail walking group and a visit to a farm to see some mini horses.  I think the group is large enough that if there is anything anyone wants to do she will have no trouble finding others who will do it with her.

I am already looking forward to next month's meal. Who knows what that may spark.


Sunday, January 1, 2023

New Beginnings.....Fresh Start....Again


Happy New Year!

As I turn the page on the calendar to a new year I am also hoping to turn a leaf or two in my life and get some fresh starts. I am not making resolutions but just starting over. There are many things in my life that I have fallen away from during the pandemic, and though that's not over, I have decided that it's time to try a little harder than I have been to get things done.

I don't tend to walk as much during the winter, but with all the treats over the holiday season, I now suddenly weigh more than I have for the past three months. I don't want to diet but I can pick up the pace with the walking. I am lucky enough to have been gifted a treadmill this past fall by a dear friend who is moving. The main reason I don't walk as much in the winter is that I have this tendency to fall on ice, so I avoid it. Now I don't have that excuse but over the holidays it's been rather hit-and-miss. I will pick a specific time of day, and if I don't go out, I'll hop on there.

I have not been painting as much in recent years either. I have been trying to learn to draw and I seem to take a lot of online courses. That's good because it actually gets me to practice my art, but I do miss doing my own. Also, when people ask to buy what I've done, I can't sell it because it's not really mine. I did sell a few small paintings this past year and had a commission, so I do think it's time to get back to doing my own thing. Step one is to unsubscribe from some of the artist newsletters I get. I can't even find time to read them all let alone try what they tell me about. I will join a couple of art Zoom groups where they work on their own projects and that will at least give me a scheduled time to paint.

We are about to put down a new floor in my office/studio so at the moment there are lots of boxes piled up in various rooms. I'm starting to feel like I'm living in a hoarder's house. I need to feel like I have some control over this mess so I have already downloaded a decluttering schedule and will start to tackle the chores on that. It starts in the kitchen, which is good as there are no boxes piled there, but my cupboards certainly do need sorting out.

I have acquired a large number of unread books over time and though I like to read, I seem to spend more time trying to keep up with my e-mail. Apparently, the art newsletters are not the only things I need to unsubscribe from. My Fitbit tells me when it's time to settle down at night so I'll be ready to go to sleep on time. I will make a point of reading for at least that half hour before I go to sleep. That likely won't dent the book pile much, but it's still worth doing. I especially feel the need to get the books I win read in a timely matter so that I can review them. The latest one that arrived a couple of days ago is called "After Its Over" by Hunter Chadwick. It is an apocalyptic story of what could have happened to our world after Covid if even more people had died and there was an even bigger supply chain problem. It was originally written as a series for Kindle Vella. That's kind of like the old radio shows where you tuned in on a regular basis to hear the next installment. I never knew they were doing that in a written form before Mr. Chadwick released his story in book form.

Another thing I really need to do is get back to this blog. I miss it. I didn't feel I was out rambling around enough to have anything to say. But hey, I miss just talking to those of you that manage to find me so I'll try to get on here more often this year. I have cat stories to tell you if nothing else.  We got a kitten this past summer and she's certainly different from any other cat I've ever had.

I need to pick up my usual daytimer like planner from Staples so I can schedule things properly. That could hopefully keep me on track, or at least tell me what it is I'm supposed to be doing each day. Wish me luck. 

Nice talking to you.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Getting Personal

While bra shopping in The Bay recently I found myself hunting for the elusive fit. There were a couple of other ladies there doing the same thing.  I said something about this being one of the most frustrating things we ever have to do, and they immediately agreed. One said the same thing I always say: if you do find something that fits they quit making it shortly thereafter and that leaves you with this constant problem of not being able to find a good fit.  And yes, I have been professionally sized in the past and practically had to mortgage the house to purchase the product I fit into there. The thing is, I know my size. I have three bras from one brand and two from another and though they are all different styles (because, as I said, they keep changing things). Those are all the same size and they fit well.  I had no luck on this particular day. I tried on several that day and several a couple of other times. I gave up and left in disgust.

I like underwire bras but the wires have been replaced in recent years by plastic strips that dry out and break. Warners had one that had a fabric support shaped like an underwire but soft and flexible and best of all, not breakable. It was quite comfortable and fit well. I thought my problem was solved and I could just go get more of those. Nope. I found no sign of such a thing. 

I kept seeing this ad for Shapermint. They make bras, among other things and they guarantee they will fit. I kept ignoring these ads because, if I can't find something that fits when I try it on, how on earth will something that comes in the mail ever going to fit, guarantee or not. The ads looked good. The products looked comfortable. I kept dismissing them.  Okay, so I admit I checked out the website after a while, and even got to the point where I put something in my shopping cart before shutting down the website once again. At home, another plastic piece broke and I was down to just two wearable bras and getting rather desperate.

An interesting thing often happens when you leave a site with something in your shopping basket. They send you an e-mail to remind you and often offer you a discount code if you use it right away. I went back to the site but once I converted the cost plus shipping into Canadian dollars, I backed out again. Then I got an offer for 70% off and free shipping. Well, hey, I have money in my Pay Pal account that I got for doing some surveys. I decided I would take the chance at losing that found money and buy the darn bra I kept looking at. After all, it's guaranteed to fit (meaning you can send it back and try again, probably at your own shipping expense) and by using Pay Pal, if there was a problem dealing with this unknown company, they are supposed to be good at helping you recover your funds. 

The first thing that happened was the free shipping turned out to be for those in the States only so I had another $9.95 USD added to my bill. I left the site again.  Then they sent me a discount code to finish the deal that would give me back $7 USD. Okay, so I'm still paying for the shipping but not much. I put the order through. The $7 discount disappeared!  I looked around the site for how to reach customer service and found a chat box.  The chatter turned out to be the most unintelligent piece of AI I've ever run into so I asked for a human.  Oh wow, that worked and I got one!!!  She was very nice and once I told her the discount had disappeared, she asked for my e-mail address and checked to see that it was indeed a valid code and applied the discount. But, she said, since it was going through Pay Pal, it could take up to 10 days for the refund to show up.  It showed up the very next day and I was pleased with the customer service at Shapermint.

I discovered they had a page on Facebook but when I got there I saw nothing but complaints. People were complaining about customer service, non-delivery, false advertising, and things that didn't fit but had no way to deal with the problem. I immediately thought that my first instincts were correct and I should never have dealt with a company I didn't know to buy an unknown product I cannot get a decent fit for in person. I got in on one of the discussions and mentioned that I often tend to review products and would do so when this one arrived. Good or bad, I'd have something to say. So, here I am.  

I had a couple of surprises when ordering but customer service (the live person, at least) was good at solving those. The product could have taken a full month to show up but arrived in a timely manner, well ahead of the end date given. And hey, the darn thing not only fits but is comfortable. It doesn't have an underwire, but the soft flexible band at the bottom does tend to roll up and give me the same sort of support the Warners bra had built-in. Shapermint also supplied an extender so I have now added that and found the best fit for comfort that keeps the band from rolling up. I would happily go back and buy a package of three, but now I'm leery about the delivery problems others have had.  Looking into it, I see that while this product was designed in the USA, it is manufactured in China, and sometimes even seems to ship from there. That's likely why they are having problems.  I see I could become an ambassador for this company and since I am, personally happy with the product, that might be the best way to get more without worrying I'm just throwing cash in the wind.  I think I'll look into that a bit more since I'm already hesitating to try getting another successful order through.  

I like the Shapermint product. I like the customer service. Maybe I should not read anything else on the Facebook page and just go put in another order before this style disappears too.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Nature's Blessings

There is a trail through a patch of woodland close to my home that I helped create years ago. In more recent years crushed stone has been added to the paths and wooden stairs have been built to ease passage on the steeper slopes. This somehow bothered me when it was done as it took away the wilderness effect.

I love to walk in the woods. It cures my ills and recharges my soul. I forget about my achy joints and just enjoy the sights and smells around me. The play of the shadows on the forest floor and the sight of any animal tracks I come across fill me with delight. 

I live in a tiny village but on the edge so I can see a wide-open field lined by the trees through which this trail passes. My own piece of land, where my house sits, is just an 80 by 120-foot lot. (Excuse me if I don't convert to meters. I have never heard of lot sizes expressed that way). There are no real fences between my property and my neighbours and I enjoy that openness. 

Over the years the town council has downsized the allowable property frontage from 80 to just 55 feet. That put new houses closer together and gave people less breathing room. Now there is a housing development that will contain an apartment building and row houses with less than an 18-foot frontage. That is city living, as far as I'm concerned, and will change the very nature of my village.  As this bit of wilderness is destroyed to pack in so many new homes it is displacing the creatures that lived there and driving many of them into town. 

I am currently reading a book called Black Lion by Sicelo Mbatha (with Bridget Pitt) which has the subtitle Alive in the Wilderness. It is an autobiography of a Zulu wilderness tour guide and tells of the life lessons he learned over the years from the animals and from spending so much time in the natural wilderness.  This book reminds us of how important the wilderness is to our lives, not only to the plant and animal species that live there but also to our own emotional and spiritual wellbeing. We all need a quiet natural spot where we can find the solace and comfort nature offers us.

Until I read this book I knew I could never be comfortable living in a city but I had never had the reason why so clearly express to me before. A simple walk in the woods always makes me feel better, renews my energy and fulfills my soul.  Sicelo Mbatha spent a lifetime trying to teach others this simple but forgotten lesson.  Undisturbed places are important not only to the plants and animals that live there but also to us.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Digital Motivation

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows that my art practice has been motivated by various online seminars, courses, and Facebook pages for quite a while now. All this digital motivation has caused me to see a gradual, but steady improvement in the work I produce.  I have recently found that a digital gadget is going to help me be motivated to move more often and improve my well-being as a result.

A couple of years ago I bought my husband a Fitbit and have frequently teased him whenever he decided he needed to go for a walk late in the day because otherwise, he wasn't going to make his goal of 10,000 steps.  A couple of weeks ago he gave me an early birthday present and bought me a Fitbit Charge 5.

I found that I had become less active and spent entirely too much time sitting while using the computer, playing with the tablet, reading, or doing art projects. Sitting too much is not good for me, or anyone else for that matter. The Fitbit has a function that is supposed to warn you to get up and move if you have not managed to put in a minimum of 250 steps by ten minutes before the hour is up. I have not succeeded in getting that function to work yet, so I decided the best thing to do was to make sure I got those steps in at the beginning of the hour as often as I could. Anything after that would be a bonus. 

250 steps are easy enough to accomplish just doing simple housework like making the bed and putting away laundry. But there are times when I hear the words, "Have you got your steps in yet?" from my dear hubby. He's good at noticing when I have become glued to a chair these days.

It didn't take long before I learned a few tricks. I discovered how I could walk around the inside of my home to gather any remaining needed steps and I can put things away while I'm at it. Or, I could go to the basement and quickly walk from one end to the other a couple of times without anyone noticing and teasing me about it.  That being said, my hubby now also suddenly decides it's time for a random stroll from room to room all over the house.  He didn't use to worry about the hourly goal as he was more focused on the end target. He likely gets in more steps than ever now that he is following my lead, though he has always been more active than I am anyway.  It gets really funny if we both suddenly get up to accomplish those missing steps at the same time and pass each other going in opposite directions. 

Yes, this gadget has provided motivation to move and now it also has me watching the calories I take in compared to how many I burn. I am already starting to lose weight, slowly but surely. Digital motivation is a real thing and it does work. I might just have to get one of those apps that let me go on a virtual tour of some far-off land using the steps I accomplish here at home.  That may really get me walking!

Thursday, February 24, 2022

I Surrender

 I am a bookaholic. I have admitted that before.  I love to read and have always preferred physical books over digital ones. At least that was how I felt up until this past week.

There was a little Kindle on sale on Amazon before Christmas.  It was calling to me and I was so tempted.  I had enough gift cards from the surveys I do to cover the cost but I talked myself out of it. I prefer real books, as I said, and can read Kindle books on my tablet anyway. The problem is, the tablet is not as comfortable to hold as a real book. A bigger problem is that my tablet is already overly full and though I dump the cache and clean it several times a day, it still malfunctions often. Downloading another book would only add to the problem.

It was only after that amazing sale price was gone that I regretted not taking advantage of it.  So, last week, when I saw the sale reappear I jumped on it.

This cute little Kindle arrived at my door a few days later. I wondered at first if I would be able to read such a tiny screen. My tablet is a 10-inch version and actually bigger than some books.

A friend suddenly sent me a link to a free e-book she thought I would enjoy. I figured it would be a good way to test out this new gadget.

The text was clear and easy to read with none of the glare a tablet screen produces. This Kindle has a matt screen that doesn't reflect light from my surroundings, and it's not backlit either. It's like reading a regular book page and very easy on the eyes. The Kindle weighs nothing and is easy to hold, even in bed.  It is small enough I can easily tuck it in my purse and take it anywhere. I used it while waiting in the car twice already this week.  I have already finished reading that first book and written the review. Now I have another one lined up and ready to go. I caught myself saying, "I love this thing!" more than once this week.

I still have a lot of physical paper books to read. I also realize that they are filling up my house just as apps and files are filling up my tablet. Buying the Kindle was a good decision after all, and I no longer hate e-books.