We are back from a two-week vacation in Europe! I have not had time to work on my blog since we got back. But as soon as I came to my blog, I looked for Melanie’s Share Your World!
Here are her questions for this week, some of which, I must say, require some pondering!
Do you become discouraged by the annual “Blogging Ennui” phenomenon that comes around every year? (it’s early this year IMO) (blogging ennui means (to me) a distinct slow down in writing and participation, which lasts an indefinite period of time). I’ve had blog ennui for many months now, actually. Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s worth writing, and I’m often busy with other things. There are a few challenges that I like to do, and wish I did on a more regular basis. I have gotten to the point that I mostly ONLY do challenges, because the posts I do on my own get few readers. I wish I could say (as I used to) that I only do it for myself, but I have an ego and like to be recognized, so that is why I stick to challenges that get a lot of readers, some of whom will read my posts.
If you were in a room filled with you and your doppelganger (someone who looks exactly like you do. Supposedly everyone has at least one out there in the world) and 2 billion dollars, what would you do? What do you think your doppelganger would do?
I’d invite my other me to take a trip around the world with me. Then I’d keep enough to have a comfortable life and give the rest away to friends, charities, or political candidates (since there is no limit to what I can donate to get my candidate elected – I would fill the Congress with solid Democratic majorities, as well as the presidency!) The charities I would donate to would include those that help those suffering from poverty, war, and climate change. And organizations working on climate change and saving environments around the world! As for my look-alike, I can’t say what she’d do with the money, since we only look alike but don’t necessarily think alike. Maybe after we’ve traveled the world together…
A building is burning. You have time to either save a child trapped inside or a valuable painting which you would then sell, using the money to save 20 children from starvation. What would you do and why?
I have a terrible phobia of fire – I can’t even light a regular-sized match! – so I would not go into a burning building under any circumstances (or if I were in the building, I’d save myself and get as far away from the fire as possible). I’d rather save starving children with some of the 2 billion dollars I am getting to share with my doppelganger!
What’s your opinion of yams or sweet potatoes? I love them, and they are a healthier option than regular potatoes. I especially like mashed sweet potatoes and sweet potato fries!
Please feel free to share an image of something that makes you smile!
It’s a new week, and here are Melanie’s new (?) questions for Share Your World. I do feel as though I’ve answered some of these before, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
What are you most proud of in the last year?
The artwork I have done. I wish I could say that during the pandemic lock-down, I did artwork every day, but that would not be true. I meant to, but didn’t do it…
Even so, I have produced a number of drawings and watercolors during the past several months, as the rules loosened and we could form a small art group again. I even gave my niece one of my watercolors for her birthday! She had actually asked me to paint “something green and with a waterfall in it,” so that’s what I did.
As a result, I am accumulating a decent portfolio of my artwork. The pieces I am most proud of I will gladly display for viewing if an opportunity arises.
Besides these free-hand works, I did a lot of really nice coloring pages. Maybe that sounds silly, but there are coloring books for adults and I set myself high standards! I’ve had many of the books for several years, but didn’t do much with them until this past year. I used gel pens, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, or markers, depending on the picture.
If you see a puddle on the ground, do you walk around it or give in to the child within and splash about?
I walk around it, although right now the rain puddles are welcome because we really need rain! We need enough rain to make puddles impossible to avoid! We have been down 8 inches of rain this spring compared to last year, and normal would be 6 inches more than we’ve had. It finally rained last night and today the sprinklers are on!
Do you feel free? Why or why not?
I do benefit from the freedoms afforded to me as a U.S. citizen, good health, and enough money to live on and to travel. So I do consider myself to be “free.” However, we all have our burdens, which hamper our freedom because they tie us down in some way. It’s very liberating when a burden is lifted from my shoulders!
I also feel that the freedoms given to us in the Bill of Rights are not completely unlimited. My freedom ends where another person’s begins. It is not a “freedom” issue, for example, to disobey a mask mandate, just as one has to obey traffic laws, or suffer consequences. Part of living in a society that provides us with many benefits is being responsible to other people living in that society. They have the same freedoms the rest of us do. I don’t have a problem with accepting these responsibilities nor do I think I am not free as a result.
To be totally “free”, perhaps one would have to live alone with no one around to impose rules. I don’t want to live like that.
What life skills are rarely taught but are extremely useful?
Money management. My dad tried to teach us how to manage money, but he didn’t succeed very well with me – probably because I wasn’t listening! However, I did learn on my own how to make a budget and make sure I had enough income to pay my expenses. Even so, I wasted a lot of savings because I didn’t plan for the future.
I think there are a lot of young people who never had a class on money management. But what if they win the lottery or get hired to be on a major league sports team? Suddenly they have a lot of money, but not necessarily the skills to make sure they don’t lose it! Some lucky people take having money for granted, and they blow it all on get-richer schemes or lavish entertainment. Tales of riches-to-rags are as prevalent as tales of rags-to-riches! For most people, having enough money takes hard work and sacrifices.
GRATITUDE SECTION (always optional)
Please share some gratitude with everyone! There are lots of reasons just now I think!
I am grateful for my legs. Although I have arthritis pain in my knees, my legs can still take me where I want to go. I am grateful for my arms, which finally can be used to hug people again! I am grateful for my hands, which are used to take photos or create nice pictures, and to write. I am grateful for my eyes, which, although severely myopic, let me read books and see the world. I am grateful for my brain, befuddled as it is. I have put it to great use in all the intellectual pursuits of my life. Since I am expressing gratitude, I will not list its shortcomings! I am grateful for my ears, which can listen to music, such as one of my favorite songs performed by Cat Stevens…
When it comes to giving money, do you view it as a thoughtful gift, or as a sign that the giver didn’t care enough to think about a “real” gift?
For years, my parents gave us money for Christmas and birthdays, and I looked forward to it! Usually I needed it to pay off credit cards, or for bills. So it was always welcome. My mother, however, would always give a wrapped gift also, which usually wasn’t fancy or expensive, so we’d “have something to open.”
I have followed basically the same custom with our kids which makes life much easier, instead of having to think of something cute or clever to give them. And this year, our daughter & son-in-law said all they want is money. I’m sure our son will appreciate a check also. But I will get them a few other things so that they’ll have “something to open” and also because Dec. 25 is our daughter’s birthday as well as Christmas! Since my husband and daughter (she’s really my stepdaughter) are Jewish, I always give them some little thing for Hanukkah also – they say socks and underwear are standard Hanukkah gifts! This year they are literally getting socks for Hanukkah!!
Although it makes life easier to write out a check (and as you said, I usually give more than a gift would be worth), I do like to shop, but I don’t want to buy just anything. I have been known to give a friend a gift when it’s not their birthday or Christmas because I happen to find something I know they will like. Sometimes a gift card is the solution when I don’t know what to get somebody. Gift cards are a bit of a cop-out but it’s better that they get an Amazon gift card to buy something they want than to go to the trouble of trying to find something I think they might like.
So with our kids I just follow my mother’s tradition, because they know they can rely on getting money from us but we always have a wrapped gift or two for them as well! I do usually get gift cards for my nieces and nephews, and this year especially, because mailing a gift card when you can’t get together because of Covid-19 just makes more sense!
And now for some related entertainment from the great musical Cabaret!
It’s Monday once again and time for Melanie’s Share Your World! Her questions this week are all about criminal behavior we may have engaged in. (No, not serious stuff – just petty crime!)
Have you ever ‘dined and dashed” (i.e. eaten the meal and then run out the restaurant door without paying)?
Yes, but only by accident! My husband and I were eating at our favorite local Mexican restaurant. The proprietors there knew us because we ate there so often. My husband had to leave to go somewhere – I don’t remember where – and left me to pay the bill. At this place, usually we’d just go up to the cashier and they’d find our bill and we’d pay – rarely in those days did they bring the bill to the table ahead of time. I was finished eating and just lingering over the dregs of a margarita and no one was paying attention to me at that point. I was distracted, and just got up and left. Maybe I went to the restroom first, I don’t remember. I went home and forgot all about it until the next morning, when I woke up and realized, I had never paid for our meal!
So I dashed over there and confessed my sin sheepishly as I handed over my credit card. The young woman we knew pretty well must have realized I’d left without paying, because she had no trouble finding our bill – probably it had been found at the end of the evening when they reconciled the money and the receipts. She wasn’t mad at all – in fact, she laughed! We were regular customers and she knew we weren’t the kind of people to leave without paying so there were no hard feelings.
Have you ever been in a car accident and either left the scene of the accident (providing it was a fender bender and not serious) or denied culpability for causing it when you did, (if it were minor or serious)? Not exactly. I did leave the scene when I had to bump a couple of cars purposely to maneuver my way out of a tight spot.
I was substitute teaching in Chicago and was leaving the elementary school I had worked at that day, intending to drive to my tutoring job several miles farther into the city. That particular school had a fairly large parking lot, but even though I always arrived at least a half an hour early, there were usually very few parking spaces left – in fact, that day I got the last one. I did briefly wonder where latecomers were going to park, but that wasn’t my problem.
I got back to my car at the end of the day and saw that there was an SUV parked directly behind my car, blocking me in, because there were also cars parked on both sides of me. The SUV was illegally parked. I didn’t want to go back inside, so I called the office to tell them someone was blocking me in and could they please make an announcement for the person whose vehicle it was (I gave her the type of car, color, and license plate number) to come out and remove it? The office secretary said she would do so. I hung up and waited.
And waited. I kept looking at my watch – time passed and no one appeared. When there were only 15 minutes left before my tutoring session, I was really mad. The SUV was directly behind my car, but not behind the car to my left. So I started my car, turned the steering wheel, backed a little, then went forward a little, inching my way out of the tight spot. (It did cross my mind to slash the SUV’s tires or at least leave a note, but I didn’t.) In order to get out of the spot it was necessary for me to hit the cars on either side of me, which I did very gently, as well as the SUV, which I hit several times and made no effort to prevent damage – although it scratched my car too, I didn’t care by that point.
I felt proud of myself for figuring out how to maneuver my car out of that spot as I sped down the street toward my waiting tutoring students. I eventually gifted that car to my daughter and son-in-law, who still use it and it still runs beautifully. Every time I see the telltale scratches on the lower right hand side of the bumper, I still think about that day!
(Oldie which has been asked many times before) Have you ever found a wallet or purse or some money (over $20) in the street and just taken it, thinking ‘finders keepers, losers weepers? Or would you be ‘good’ and hand it in? Fortunately, I have only found cash which most likely fell out of someone’s pocket. Impossible to trace – therefore, it was mine! The first time it happened, I was feeling poor after paying the exorbitant entrance fee to Six Flags Great America for me, my son and his friend. I was walking along thinking that I was surely going to spend every remaining cent I had for snacks and rides, when I spied some greenbacks on the ground! Three 5-dollar bills! That really made my day – and it was long enough ago that $15 could actually buy stuff at amusement parks and have a bit left over. More recently, I found a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk near my home. I looked around – no one was around to claim it.
But no, I’ve never found a wallet and if I did, yes, I would return it with its contents intact. I say this because I have ADHD and that means I tend to lose things. Once I left a credit card at a national park – and got it back! True, I did notice it missing and called the park, which located it and sent it back to me via UPS. My husband also lost his wallet once and it was returned, sans cash. He didn’t really care about the cash – it wasn’t much and more important were his driver’s license and other important documents. So I would do the same for someone else (except I wouldn’t keep the cash). With modern technology, it’s terrible to lose IDs and debit cards which are easily forged and in these pandemic times, not so easy to replace.
Recently my son and a friend were in downtown Chicago in the middle of the night – the streets were mostly deserted because of the Covid-19 lockdown, so it was very foolish of them to be hanging around down there. Anyhow, some gangbangers came along, beat them up, and took everything they had, including my son’s phone, debit card, and passport (he was using it as an ID having had his license suspended a few months before) and even now, more than a month later, my son is still trying to recoup his losses. And God knows what someone could do with a passport, valid for nine more years! Easily forged, I’m sure. His social security card was also in there, so there’s a danger someone will steal his identity. The debit card wasn’t too bad – the bank reversed the charges that had been made illegally, but only after he got a new phone because the old one was stolen.
What was the last thing you stole or shoplifted? If you never ever considered doing that, tell us your secret! I never did this, really. I mean, doesn’t everyone pilfer a few cheap office supplies – pens, rubber bands, etc. – from their workplace? I also stole my mother’s cigarettes and hid them because I wanted her to quit smoking, but she always bought more and eventually found my hiding places.
I never considered shoplifting, but there’s no secret. I was brought up not to steal. My family wasn’t poor and I never lacked what I needed. I even felt guilty about taking boxes of paper clips or post-it notes from the supply room at work, although I did occasionally do that – and no one missed them because there were stacks of those little boxes in the supply room.
Gratitude! I’m grateful for new life in the world around me!
If you were given $22 million tax free dollars (any currency), what is the first thing you would do? (This is just a dream question, remember anything can happen in SYW.)
I would give a good chunk of it to causes or charities – which ones would depend on what was concerning me at the time, but it would be things that could contribute to the wellbeing of others.
I would take about half of the remainder and invest it as inheritance for my descendants. The rest I would use for traveling and spend much of the year going somewhere!
In what do you find the simplest of joys?
Nature, from watching a robin hopping along the ground, admiring blooming flowers, seeing a beautiful sunset, or appreciating a landscape, to observing wildlife on a safari or in the Alaskan wilderness. The good thing about nature is that you can find it anywhere. Even in the middle of a city, I might see a flower growing out of a crack in the sidewalk, a cat in somebody’s window, or the perfect autumn leaf lying on the ground.
Music is another joy – I love music of all genres. Here’s one of my all-time favorites, a Bossa Nova tune, “Wave” , by Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Photography and writing – especially when I’ve taken a particularly good photo or written something inspiring enough for others to take notice and comment on it.
What would be your ideal birthday present, and why?
I prefer unexpected gifts and like to give or receive gifts when inspired by something I (or they) think the other person would like. I don’t want people to feel obligated to give me a gift just because it’s my birthday.
My son at a seafood restaurant with friends
However, the ideal gift would be to see my son working a steady job he’s happy with, falling in love, and settling down. I would love to have a grandchild someday, but I’m not holding my breath. Wouldn’t it be cool, though, if my first (or only) grandchild were born on my birthday? That would be the greatest gift of all!
What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?
(Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.)
Watching my tulips blooming and my garden growing!
I should have remembered: doing routine errands in Brazil is much more complicated than back home!
We had a couple of pressing priorities today: 1. Replenishing our rapidly dwindling supply of reais, and 2. fixing our phones to be able to make calls within Brazil. Our host suggested we go to Santa Cruz mall, about a 10-minute walk from the apartment building, where we could take care of both of these things.
Santa Cruz mall was bustling with Christmas excitement, as young long-haired women dressed in mini-skirted Santa outfits handed our blue balloons to everyone who walked by.
Some balloons ended up on the ceiling!
There was a large glittering Christmas tree festooned with shiny balls and bows and a Santa’s Village where the old man himself was taking children – both young and grown up! – onto his knee. The man in the suit was just as I pictured Santa: a kindly man with white whiskers and round, wire-framed glasses.
We went to the electronics store, Saraiva, to take care of our phones where we were attended by a tall young employee who bent over backwards to help us, to the point of making me suspicious of him! He took our phones and began clicking here and there and looked things up and I didn’t know what all. I worried later that somehow he stole information from us that he would use in the future…but so far (five months later), nothing has happened!
Here’s what we found out:
Using your cell phone in Brazil:
If you have Sprint as your cell phone carrier, you are in luck! You do not have to buy a SIM card or as the Brazilians call it, “chip” (pronounced “sheepee”). Before you leave the U.S., have your phone “unlocked” and check to see what plan you have. If it’s an international all inclusive plan, you can dial from your phone directly while you are abroad. Start by pressing the zero key on your phone and hold it down until the plus sign (+) comes up. You must do this or it will not work! Then dial the country code (even to dial a Brazilian number, because remember your phone is from the U.S.), city code and number. (Needless to say, we didn’t know that Sprint offered this service until my husband called them later that day.)
These chips are easy to obtain in Brazil and only cost R$16 (as of Nov. 2016) which is R$1 for the actual chip and R$15 for credits that allow you to make fee-based calls. The problem most people run into is that the vendors will ask you for your CPF number (sort of like a Social Security number in Brazil). You may have to rely on the generosity of a Brazilian friend to let you use theirs. When you get the chip, (which generally they will install for you) it will come with its own phone number. That is the phone number assigned to you as long as the chip is installed in your phone. When giving out your phone number, that’s the one you should use. Having the chip installed in your phone, however, might cause you to lose your Internet service, as it did my husband.
Our next task was to withdraw money from an ATM or currency exchange. Our friendly Saraiva employee took us downstairs to show us where the currency exchange place was. We had no cash, and they would not exchange using a credit card, so we were obliged to return to the apartment to get some, as well as our debit cards…
Church on Rua Domingo de Moraes, en route to Santa Cruz mall and metro station
The apartment building where we stayed
Left: Church on Rua Domingos de Moraes en route to Santa Cruz mall and metro. Right: The apartment building where we stayed in São Paulo
Withdrawing money from Brazilian ATMs:
You should use your debit card whenever possible. In Brazil, the ATMs ask for a PIN number for both debit and credit cards. Since as far as we know, we don’t even have PINs for our credit cards, we had to return to the apartment to get my debit card in order to withdraw cash, which wasted about half an hour. There are also currency exchanges, but the rate of exchange is not favorable, usually R$1-3 per dollar under what it should be.
Because we spent practically the whole day on these errands, there wasn’t time to go downtown as I had planned. We’d have to do that on Monday, and go to Av. Paulista on Sunday, when it was closed to traffic. The weather forecast for Sunday was sunshine and warm temperatures.
That night we went to a sensational pizza place for dinner. Quintal do Braz is famous because of the variety and creativity of its pizzas. The one we ordered and shared had an egg sunny side up and asparagus, among other ingredients! It was also just a short walk from the apartment building.
The pizza was excellent and full of good things, like asparagus and an egg!
Quintal do Braz ovens
This is sangria, I think…not very good, weak.
Quintal do Braz is always crowded. The first night we went, there was a line of people waiting for a table. It was about 8 pm! One way to find out if a restaurant is good is to see how crowded it is with locals. This popular pizzeria definitely passed the test!