Thursday, December 27, 2012

CHRISTMAS RECAP


Well.  I'm glad that's over!  There is perhaps something a little wrong with me that I don't adore Christmas as much as I think I should.  I blame Hallmark.  And Andy Williams (my mom's fave).  And Lawrence Welk (my grandma's fave).  And all those "very special episodes" of my favorite TV shows growing up.  How can something real possibly live up to the fiction that was so firmly embedded in my developing psyche, watching all those shows as a kid and imagining on some level of fantastical thinking that I could re-create what was portrayed with soundstages and costuming and traditional carols sung by choirs and cheerful holiday tunes played with full orchestration -- or with accordians.  Oh, but I tried.  For years and years, I certainly tried.

Actually, this year I had a pretty good holiday season, if somewhat different than usual.  For one, I cut back on socializing.  I hosted one small afternoon party -- a "housewarming" for a few women to help a friend with gifts to set up a new apartment.  I said no to several invitations and events.  I stayed home a lot more than usual.  I bought fewer gifts and decorated less.  I was not stressed, overwhelmed, resentful or exhausted.  And by Christmas night I had this thought:  "That was really nice, but not as festive as usual."  Now what does THAT mean?  Do I equate "festive" with the craziness of bygone holidays?  If I am calm and and not swirling in chaos, have I let something slip by that I should have attended to in order for the holiday to be more magical?   We did all the usual family traditions and everyone seemed to be in good spirits.  What more could I have asked for?  I just need to adjust to a new normal -- myself at peace.  Who knew how weird that would feel?!?

One disappointment, however, is my willingness to finally admit (denied for years in the face of all good evidence to the contrary) that the tradition of sending Christmas cards in the mail is just about completely obsolete.  I have been a hold-out -- I send out abut 40 Christmas greetings every year.  Over the past 3 years those I've received number about 15-20.  I don't sent them to people who I see all the time -- mostly to distant family, old friends, or "locals" who I don't see as often as I used to, or those I do, but for some reason we always still exchange cards.   I am pretty tenacious about friendships and I am usually the last to let go.  And at Christmas time I get sentimental when I go through my old address book and recall the memories attached to those names.  I've sent out a family photo for 27 years (since Son-One was born) and for the past 10 years, I've also sent a Christmas letter (with a personalized handwritten note) -- some too long, I'm sure, and this year's but a few sentences.  I suppose some people have hated them -- they seem to be universally dissed.  But I actually LOVE receiving them myself.  I love hearing the highlights of family life--trips, travels, moves, jobs, etc.

This year I got about 15 cards, (some signed with no personal note,  just names), one letter, and three family photos.  Paltry.  So, maybe I need to wake up to the fact that this tradition is on life support. Choosing a card, making a photo, writing a letter, addressing and stamping and mailing...some say they don't have time for all of that.   I guess...but it makes me sad.  It is a gift I have loved both as a giver and as a receiver.  I sit and read each card over and over, enjoying the scene, the note, the photo (bonus!), the feeling of connection over the years and the miles.  But I'm drastically trimming my card list for next year; I'm starting to feel embarrassed.

The highlight, absolute and unforgettable was the Christmas Eve service at my church.   We are Unitarian Universalists, and Christmas is our most Christian celebration of the year.  We decorate and sing carols and wish each other a hearty "Merry Christmas!"  Extended families come to the service and this year my family took up a whole row!  My favorite moment was at the end of the service, the lights dimmed and each hand-held candle lit person-to-person as we sang Silent Night together.  Angel was sitting next to me.  She, at three, was "iffy" for holding that candle unaided (as she insisted), but she was oh so careful and sat very still and looked around her with such wonder and delight.  I glanced left toward Hub to try to catch his eye at the end of the row, but he was staring straight ahead, no doubt lost in his own Christmas Eve memories and experiences.  I glanced the other way to the other end of the row and saw Son Two, Son One, and Future Daughter In Law all grinning ear to ear as they watched Angel with her candle in the dim light.  We smiled at each other and my eyes welled with tears of utter joy.  My family, on Christmas Eve, passing on the traditions that bind us together, through some years of chaos and some years of peace.

At least that's the view from here...©


Friday, December 21, 2012

SOLSTICE-LIGHT-WORLDEND-BIRTHDAY-CAKE-DOC

Happy Solstice!  The light is returning!  We are alive!  I had a birthday!   I love Costco Tuxedo Chocolate Mousse Cake!  I have a doctor's appointment today!

1.  When I was flirting with "Wiccanism" I latched onto all the Solstices and Equinoxes and pagan holidays of the earth-based spirituality that Wicca actually is, but  I was a "lone practitioner", so it was a lonely little foray into that flirtation with a personal spiritual practice that didn't have much staying power.  Yet the Winter Solstice stuck more than others -- I used to make the boys go outside with me, clippers in hand, and cut away at the fir branches, holly, ivy, and laurel and bring it all in to make swags and wreaths and "bouquets" for the house.  I thought it was great fun and really beautiful.  The kids went along with it when they were young (kids just want something novel and "fun" to do); not so much as they got older, but I still enjoy bringing the greens in and decorating with them by myself.  So, Happy Solstice!

2.  It has been raining sort of non-stop for ... I don't know... years?  Not really, but we have been enduring the usual winter wet and gray and gloom for weeks now.  It gets light about 8 a.m. and dark again at 4:30 p.m.  In between is a sort of light-to-dark gray "Twilight" (Yes!  Perfect for vampires!) that never feels like true daylight.  It is a challenging time of year for sun lovers like me.   But today marks the start of the (at first imperceptible) return of the sun.  Yay!  In 6 months it will be light at 4 a.m. and not dark until 10 p.m. and that will be so totally great!  Hello sunshine!

3.  I am confident that June will come again because the world didn't end today as predicted.  Studying the Mayan calendar has been all the rage for some time since the prediction of the Mayans, according to some interpretations, was that this was the day the world would end -- 12/21/12.  I didn't follow the prophesy closely enough to understand why...but I recall we've had many such predictions and somehow we keep on keepin' on, so there's that.   Plus, the Mayans should have been focusing their prediction closer to home and they maybe could have warded off the end of their own civilization...just sayin'.  World without end, amen!

4.  So now I'm 62.  That used to seem pretty old and significant in a way that had something to do with some people retiring then and collecting social security.  At least that's what I recall about conversations between my parents and their friends.  For me, I got to get into a musical performance at the local historic theater last week on the senior discount (begging to be given the $2.00 off a few days prior to my actual birthday...nice box office worker took pity on this senior citizen and agreed to honor it).  I also thought I'd get the Denny's discount now, only to be told by Son Two that Denny's starts their senior discount at age 55, so I've been eligible for YEARS.  Of course, 7 years of Grand Slam breakfast consumption might put one at risk of even making it to 62, so I guess it's a good thing I was confused.  That and I haven't been inside a Denny's restaurant in about 15 years.  But the lure of using my age to advantage is hard to resist.  Happy Birthday to ME!

The family was all here for my birthday dinner on Wednesday.  I loved that.  I am in love with my family.  Seriously.  Oh, there are individual irritations and worries and frustrations here and there, but when we gather for special occasions, we rock!  Best behavior abounds and smiles and laughs and good cheer usually prevail.  (Hmmm...now there's some sugar-coated wishful thinking...but it's MOSTLY true, honest!)

5.  We capped the festivities with a birthday cake, naturally.  We don't bake, but we do search for really good store-bought birthday cakes and this year's was stand out.  Costco Tuxedo Chocolate Mousse cake.  OMG!  Killer good.  Literally.  No one could finish their piece of cake after the lasagna dinner (calories be damned on birthdays!), it was so rich.  But I discovered yesterday...and today...that it is the perfect breakfast dessert.  Toast and mousse cake!  Yes!  The list of ingredients, starting with "sugar", goes on for a good long paragraph and I don't know, nor can I pronounce, all the words.  But I'm telling you, it is so good!  Once a year I indulge in this kind of thing and I trust my body to get to the detoxin' post-haste once consumption has ended.  Gnosh Pit!

6.  Speaking of health...I have my annual physical today.  I think I'm holding up rather well.  I had that bout of fainting episodes for no reason a while back that landed me in the hospital and caused me near constant "queasy" nausea and anxiety for about a year, but hey, small price to pay for the ability to finally lose the 25 pounds of flab I'd accumulated over time.   My last trip to Hawaii I finally stopped obsessing about how I looked in my swimsuit and didn't even delete all the photos we took!  But since I've been feeling better, I've been back "on my feed" as they say and the scale is starting to be my enemy again.  So, I did think for a moment this morning about wearing a cotton blouse rather than a wool sweater for the weigh-in at the doctor's office.  Yes, that's my "old familiar" way of thinking about how to cheat the  truth.  But then I thought... Really???  I'm 62 flippin' years old!  I'm done lying to myself.  I'm gonna eat some mousse cake, wear whatever I like, and read the numbers on that scale with acceptance and gratitude.

The world did not end, the light is returning, and I'm still alive!  Halleluja!

At least, that's the view from here....©

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

LET IT SNOW?

It's 6 a.m. and there's a dusting of snow on the ground.  I'm a little annoyed.  I have a coffee date this morning with one of my gal-pals and a haircut appointment this afternoon.  I drive a Prius...not known for great handling in snowy conditions.  And I live at the top of a hill in the Pacific Northwest....not known for timely, or even adequate, snow removal.

Around here a dusting of snow gets everybody all worked up.  There was a huge headline in this morning's paper just to announce the possibility of snow in the lowlands (anywhere not in the mountains, where it belongs).  We have a love/hate relationship with snow where I live.  Skiiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers pour over snow reports daily (hourly!), trying to time the best 'powder' at the resorts.  On snowy days, the rest of us just try to guess whether we will make it to work and back.  Or to the grocery store, where we need to stock up on supplies in case we can't get out again for a day or so.  And no one really knows how to drive in the snow here.  It's bumper car time.

I used to find all of this laughable.  Hello!  I grew up in northern Illinois.  Snow falling and snow plowing went hand-in-hand.  Salt trucks dumped de-icer in quantities huge enough to immediately turn snow and ice into slush to be scooped away by the plows.   Of course there were times when the snow fell so fast and so heavy and so thick that things sort of came to a standstill there too -- but we are talking like 6-12-18-24 inches of snow, not one inch, which is all it takes to cancel schools and panic people here.

I moved from the Chicago area in 1980, first to South Carolina and the relative balmy Christmases of sunshine and beach walks; then moved here to the damp, drizzly, and green, green, green Christmases of the Evergreen State.  I still miss a white Christmas season, so if it's going to snow, this would be the week to do it.

As long as it doesn't interfere with my holiday haircut.

At least, that's the view from here....©

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN TO COME UNTO ME..."

Here we are, right in the middle of the fa-la-la-la-la Christmas season, caught up in shopping, baking, decorating, planning, organizing, socializing....a time when our hearts sometimes have a hard time finding "Christmas Spirit" amidst the "to do" lists that this holiday has become.  And then an act so unspeakable and at odds with the season of peace and love shakes us to the core and focuses our attention away from ourselves and our petty troubles.

On Friday, a crisp blue sky day in Newtown, Connecticut, a troubled young man, carrying at least two rapid-fire weapons, entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and started shooting.  Within only a couple of minutes, 6 adults and 20 children, between the ages of 5-10, were dead, as was the shooter, who took his own life.

Facts are slowly emerging of acts of heroism by teachers and school staff, whose first thoughts were to keep their students safe.  Facts are slowly emerging about the perpetrator, who had also killed his mother in their home before descending upon the school, who seems to have suffered his whole life with significant mental health issues; as we so often hear, he was intellectually brilliant but socially withdrawn, even pathologically "shy" and reclusive; a loner.

My first thought, as is my first thought every time there is an eruption of gun violence (which is frequent), is that troubled people with access to guns leave more carnage in their wakes than those who do not have a readily available gun.  I am an unequivocal proponent of gun control.   Within hours of the shooting, I re-joined the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence and wrote to my Senators and Congressman.  I might finally be giving in to my frequent impulse to "get involved" in an issue or cause again.  I've always known this would be the one.  For me, it's the only action I can take to try to mediate the overwhelming sadness and frustration I feel when something like this happens, something I believe could be prevented.

But right now, I don't have any energy for "organizing".   Instead, I am reminded of a saying that comforts me:  "We are spiritual beings having a human experience."  Humans are flawed, vulnerable, confused, loving, compassionate, violent, crazy, amazing creatures.  So, my energy is going into creating havens of peace for the human experiences in my little world. My energy is going into advocating for "radical kindness" within myself and others I know.  My meditation practice teaches me to "stay in the moment", to be aware of the vast cosmic consciousness that exists in and around us, connecting us all, and that the only answer to the troubles of the human experience is to be kind, to love, to act with compassion.

There is a meditation in the Tibetan tradition called Tonglen, where one invites on the in-breath the suffering of another into our consciousness and on the out-breath sends out love, peace, and healing to that person.  I have been practicing this meditation since Friday, both in sitting silently and at random times during the day when I am going about my life's busy-ness.   Meeting violent, unspeakable acts with compassion for those impacted (which on one level is all of us) is the only response I know right now.

For Christians, this is the season celebrating Jesus' birth.  He was an example of love and acceptance and also acted to upset the status quo.  His example might be one we can  emulate in the days and months ahead, beginning as we gather around our Christmas trees holding those we love with special care.

So, my prayer is this:  May all those little children and the adults who gave their lives for them, the families left to mourn, and the person who fired the gun, all find peace in the compassionate, loving presence of Divine Consciousness.

At least, that's the view from here....©







Wednesday, December 12, 2012

MAKIN' A LIST...

I guess the obvious theme of this month's posts will be "Christmas/Holidays".  Today's topic, Dear Readers, is my continuing attempt to create some modicum of magic...with lowered standards.

But here's the thing.  So far my decorating consists of a kitchen countertop covered with scraps of paper upon which I've started various lists:  gifts to buy, groceries to shop for and prep, guests to invite, cleaning to do,  RSVPs that need a response.... And there are duplicates, naturally, of lists I started and lost and re-wrote...

Without my lists, I would get nothing done.  But today I feel like the ONLY thing I am doing is writing more lists!  This is the point where my inner Scrooge is screaming, "IT'S NOT WORTH IT!"

Yesterday I had a long talk with Hub about this annual struggle of mine.  He pointed out that, while he didn't love being out in the rain and the wind stringing festive holiday lights on the bushes and house, he just kept visualizing how great it would look when he was done.  He said I get stuck in the "hassle-factor" processes of things and lose sight of the goal.

Bingo!  I've never been much of a goal-setter.  I react more often than act...at least in some places in my life.  I have a vague notion of an end result of some endeavor, fantasizing a soft focus magical feat of perfection, but to back up and  figure out how to make that happen, then do all the work required (some of it no fun!), and know it will NOT be perfect, I just conclude, "Not worth it!"

Writing this sort of stuns me.  I am known as a pretty organized and responsible person.  I take leadership in lots of things.  One might mistake me for being mature.  But what I wrote in the previous paragraph is anything but.  It's lazy, whiny, and damned immature, in my judgment ... and I am EXCELLENT at judging myself!

So, now I am making a list of all the events (goals) of the coming weeks:  Parties to host and to attend, dinner out with friends, family birthday party (mine!), Christmas Eve/Christmas Day family festivities, church services and emcee-ing a retirement program for our minister.  All of them are going to require planning, purchasing, organizing, and prepping in a myriad of ways.

But I will keep my eyes on the "prize" of being there, with family and friends, the work of it all behind me.   And once at my goal, I will be present with what is....not critiquing the imperfection of the end result, but appreciating the perfection of being blessed enough to have such an abundance of love and connection in my life.

Something to add to the Gratitude List.

At least, that's the view from here...©



Monday, December 10, 2012

CHRISTMAS FAIL



I am already thinking this post should probably be in my personal pity-party journal, rather than here to be endured by my readers.  But since this blog is about honesty and maybe validating the thoughts and feelings of others, here goes:

I am a failure at Christmas.  Take this morning.  Hub headed up to the mountain for a day of snowboarding.  I pretended I was going to clean the house. (He should have seen through that).  But, no!  Sneaky girl that I am, I saw it as a day to go out there and do some Christmas gift shopping!  I had a couple of ideas in mind, a couple of little things for Hub, as well as this's and thats for the rest of the clan.   I brushed my hair out of my face, put on a cute little outfit and sensible shoes and timed my drive to the "big mall" 20 minutes south of where I live to arrive not long after opening so I could park within 1/2 mile of the entrance.  It went swimmingly.

Then I went directly to the store where I just knew I'd have success with the items for Hub.  That's where it went wrong.  (I can't be specific here, cuz Hub reads this blog regularly, bless his heart -- "Hub, close your eyes!")   The items in question are not exotic; they should have had them.  The first, nada.  The second, a dumb and crazy-expensive version of what I wanted.  And the clerk was rude, so I left...right after purchasing the cute, cuddly jacket for myself which I found on the sale rack.  And a pair of gloves I've been wanting.  The dress didn't fit, so I vowed again to cut back on sweets and to hop on the treadmill when I got home.

I was a little flustered with my lack of success at what was supposed to be the easy part of this shopping expedition.  I got outside that store and started heading to the department store across the mall to shop for others, and with each step, visualizing that huge store, my unfamiliarity with where things were there, the plethora of overwhelming choices I would face....my steps slowed.  I stopped, closing my eyes as happy shoppers streamed around me, and decided I just couldn't do it.  I did an about-face and headed for the parking lot.

By the time I got back to my town I had thoroughly chastised myself for wimping out.  I decided to give it another go at a smaller version of the same store north of my town.   (Yes, that's a lot of miles, gas, time....Shush!)  But first I had to do something, I don't know, comforting.  Hello Starbucks!  (Forgetting that lose weight vow of only 20 minutes earlier).  Eggnog Latte and Cranberry Bliss Bar in hand I was back in the car and heading north....for 2 blocks.  Again, the store loomed in my imagination, parking, going in, choices, indecision, expense....grrr...I turned and headed home, kicking myself for not being more creative about gift-planning the other 11 months of the year.

That's where I go wrong.  I detest shopping in general.  I'm OK at specific things at specific stores, but to "go shopping" just for fun, or "nose around" for no particular reason, or "I'll find something eventually" adventures do not appeal to me.  So every December I am in this same predicament.  I didn't plan ahead, I didn't "craft" anything appropriate, any imagination or brilliance I might have had, say, in July is now as soggy and wet and inhospitable as this morning's weather.

Oh, I'll figure it out and pull it together.  I always do.  But I am not a fan of the season.  I think it's because, like with so many things as I look back, I did not pace myself.  I used to be really good at this. I was the friggin' Christmas Fairy around here, creating holiday magic and rituals and traditions, as if my children's childhoods would be bereft without them.  Then they grew up and I grew tired.

Yes, I know it's not about gifts.  But I don't even feel like decorating this year.  I'm slowly turning into the biggest Scrooge ever, if scored on the "Outward Displays of Christmas Spirit" scale.

What I want and what I will get, for sure, (gifts or not, decor or not) is... time with my beautiful family, a fire in the fireplace, yummy food, board games, jigsaw puzzles, holiday music, special gatherings and services at my church, parties with friends....

As for something to open on Christmas morning, I wish I could just wrap my heart, so full of love and devotion and pride and compassion, and offer it to everyone I care about as a talisman to keep them safe, content, and in love with life forever.  That's what I wish.  No shopping required.

At least, that's the view from here....©


Friday, November 30, 2012

HANDS DOWN

Son-One recently became engaged to a most wonderful young woman.  They met through mutual friends of co-workers at Starbucks.  (Another reason I love Starbucks, actually.)   To announce their engagement to friends and family near and far, my future daughter-in-law (DIL) posted a photo on Facebook (naturally) of the two of them, her hand prominently featured to show off her glittering new engagement ring.

And her hand is beautiful.  Her fingers long and slender.  Her skin flawless.  Her nails beautifully shaped and natural.  I am in awe of beautiful hands.  I notice.  I envy.

Somehow, upon my father's death...and later my mother's...my hands turned into his/hers/theirs.    Farmer hands.  Factory worker hands.  Beautician hands ravaged by harsh chemicals.  Genetically rather short and stubby, ruddy of complexion, dry, wrinkled, now a bit blotchy and splotchy, thinning skin, prominent veins.  Nails that never grow evenly and cuticles that encroach readily.

Admittedly I don't pay much attention to my hands, so mainly I am to blame for the results of this lifetime of neglect.  I really dislike getting professional manicures (I've had maybe 3 in my life).  It seems a crazy waste of money to me.  (Not to mention feeling so silly sitting there while a bored manicurist tends to my fingernails, as if this has any impact on world peace!)  And while I love buying lotions and cremes that smell heavenly, I mostly forget to use them.  Also, my health-nut friends tell me I don't drink enough water to hydrate my skin adequately (I'm working on that one).

Often, when I am aware of them at all, I feel embarrassed by my hands.  I have been known to "hide" them strategically at times inside pockets, folded demurely in my lap, snuggled in gloves.  But sometimes I gaze at them, often on the Yoga mat where my hands are RIGHT THERE UNDER MY NOSE, and I feel a grudging sense of pride and familial connection.

My parents were hard workers.  They grew up with their hands in the soil and on a plow handle in rural areas of Illinois and Indiana in the 1930's where, with their parents and siblings, they toiled to literally scrape a life out of the dirt.  They moved to the city as a young married couple and went to work in the textile industry -- Dad dyeing canvas cloth for manufacturing awnings and tennis shoes (Keds!) and Mom sewing Maidenform bras and girdles in near sweatshop conditions (occasional needles through fingers a workplace hazard).  Later she opened her own beauty shop, exposing those hands to the chemicals needed to color and curl other women's hair.  They used their hands to cradle babies, lay wood flooring, remodel houses, work on cars, repair, paint, wallpaper, cook, clean, wash, landscape.....

The hands I see on the ends of my arms are a history of my parents... and of me.  They may not be pretty, but they represent a nobility of character, I think.  A history of toil, of experience, of love.

Still, I will encourage DIL to drink plenty of water, use lots of lotion, wear protective gloves and try to take care of those lovely hands better than I have mine, but to also know they will not be perfect forever.  She has already bathed her child hundreds of times, washed stacks of dishes, wielded a hammer in their new home, planted a flower garden, steamed espresso, carried trays of food to waiting customers, and now works in a clinic where hand-washing rituals are obsessive....time will take it's toll.  And her hands will tell a story, too.

At least, that's the view from here....©


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FROM TEA CAKES TO STARBUCKS

My maternal grandmother lived with us while I was growing up, having lost her husband to heart disease two years before I was born.  When I was a kid, I recall her sisters and often their daughters (my mom's aunts and cousins) occasionally coming for a weekday afternoon visit.  My maternal relatives all were of Norwegian descent and devoutly Lutheran.  So there was no foolishness, swearing, or outrageous behavior.  There was, however, genuine delight in being together, chatting about family and health and the fate of that summer's crops, this being rural northern Illinois and a family of current and former farm folk.  

Around 3:00 Mom would set out "lunch" which was really an afternoon snack, consisting of maybe little tuna sandwiches (no crust), a relish tray, crackers, cheese, and of course, a pot of coffee (Folger's or Maxwell House, brewed) to go with the tea cakes.  This was the best part of the visit from my perspective.  A tablecloth appeared, the good dishes were used, and a small vase of flowers or greens sat as a centerpiece.  Everyone was in jolly humor, joking and laughing about old times and people I didn't know and complimenting Mom on her "lunch".   It felt very feminine -- like a tea party.  It was a time out of time, a break from housework and routine -- a dress-up day for accepting visitors.  I haven't thought about that in years.

But today at Starbucks, it all came flooding back for some reason.  I think it had something to do with the Elder man in front of me in line.  He had the most engaging smile and intense curiosity about this place he found himself frequenting at 2:00 on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.  He had a million questions about the "menu" and some difficulty hearing the young woman who was working the espresso machine.  By the way, these "youngers" need to speak up!  The machine was noisy, the overhead Muzak was loud, other conversations were going on all around us....

Anyway, he ordered a mocha, but wasn't quite sure what he actually received once the drink was in his hand.  He asked what the difference was between an "Espresso Mocha" and "Frappacino Mocha" and did they have both chocolate and coffee in them and why did they come with whipped cream?  The barista was less patient with his questions than she was eager to find out if he also wanted a pastry or something from the cold case.

I guess that's when the vision of my mom's old percolator popped into my head.  I can just imagine Aunt Amy or Aunt Ellen standing at Starbucks in their sensible shoes and cotton print dresses, little straw and net hats perched on their blue/gray heads wondering what in the world had become of "lunch" time?

Now the afternoon respite is a quick meet-up with a friend at a chain store coffee shop, all basically with the same decor, the same menu, the same barista staff trained to ask the same questions, the same hubbub going on as some semblance of conversation takes place in fits and starts amid environmental distractions and cell phone interruptions.  It's what we call "normal"now -- even pleasant.

I don't really harken back to those summer afternoons at my mom's dining room table.  I love Starbucks, actually.  But I could understand the gentleman's confusion and could imagine myself in his shoes.  Actually this is exactly how I feel in the Apple computer store, shopping for the latest technology -- friendly, eager to learn, slightly confused, yet willing to give it a try, and having a hard time hearing and understanding as the young expert at the "Genius Bar" glosses over my questions with a burst of jargon that sometimes sounds like Swahili to my 60+ year-old ears.

So, seeing this fellow ready to leave without ever understanding the difference between a hot mocha and a mocha frap, I stepped forward to explain it to him.   He was most appreciative.  We both decided the occasional addition of "whip" is a good thing.

At least, that's the view from here....©

PRETTY IN PINK

Trucks, cars, Legos, balls, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, jumping, punching, slamming doors, hurling stuff.....

I raised boys.  Two of them, although at times it felt like twenty.  The house was always a whirlwind of toys and noise and half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches smeared on the upholstery.

So when Son-One grew up and started dating a beautiful young woman who had a beautiful 10-month old daughter, I felt we'd both hit the jackpot.  Him for falling in love and me for finally getting the chance to experience life with A LITTLE GIRL!!!

It has been fabulous.  She's three now.  She loves to jump, run, play hide-and-seek, sing songs, and color.  She sets out dishes for tea parties and takes tender good care of her "babies".  She builds amazing towers with blocks, writes her name, counts to 20, and remembers EVERYTHING!

She also dances.  There's the usual "Ring Around the Rosie", and spontaneous "dance parties" in the living room when a song with a good beat comes on the stereo.  But now, well, she has advanced beyond all that.

She is a ballerina.

Being social and smart and obviously uniquely talented, her parents decided to sign her up for a beginning ballet class through the park district.  Problem, it starts at 5:00 -- just a smidge too early for them to get her there on time after they get off work.  Ivy to the rescue!  "I'll take her!"  I declared, hardly able to contain my pleasure at the prospect.  I assumed all was ready last week, for her first class.

Then I got a text mid-day...."We just realized she needs a leotard, tights, and ballet slippers...do you think you could pick those up and we'll pay you back?"

What sort of language was this?  Leotard?  Slippers?  Tights?  That sounds nothing at all like cleats, balls, and batting gloves!  Where does one even start to shop for this stuff????  I had a moment of panic before coming to my senses and signing onto Facebook.  Soon I had a string of comments from moms of girls telling me where to go and what to buy.  Easy, breezy.

Angel and I had a terrific shopping expedition.  She was happy to try things on, but not as thrilled with the simple black leotard as she was with pointing to a multitude of bright, sparkly tutus she wanted as well.  ("Another time, sweetie....maybe next time....").

At class, she was shy at first.  And why not?  She and another little girl were the only "new girls" -- the other six girls had already been together for one previous session.  But brilliant child and phenomenal dancer that she is, she soon joined in and was the star of the class!  Yes, indeed, she pirouetted and plie'ed, and grand jete'ed with abandon.  Perhaps she was a bit eager to "beat" the other girls across the room -- we will discuss the non-racing aspects of ballet with her.  And we will suggest that going potty half-way through the 45 minute class (with the requisite completely disrobing to do so) is maybe not the best use of her time or her parents' money...but it seemed to be a trend with about half the girls, so maybe she just didn't want to feel left out.

As for me, I didn't cry, which is my usual response to uncontrollable waves of joy and delight.  I just watched her with a smile full of pride and a heart full of gratitude for this little Angel in my life.  And when her parents arrived,  my heart swelled even more to see the love and pride they took in watching their little girl take first steps into a new, bigger world.

Just like when I watched Angel's daddy take his first swing at a ball on a tee.  OK.  Now I'm crying....and it feels so good.

At least, that's the view from here....©



Thursday, November 8, 2012

CARROTS AND COWS AND SNICKERS, OH MY!

Here are some random thoughts on food:

1.  Hub brought home a FULL-SIZED (no Halloween whimpy mini) Snickers bar from work a week ago.  That's right...A WEEK AGO!  It is still sitting on the kitchen counter.  Just goes to show, my respect for what belongs to another person trumps my usual very poor willpower over chocolate and nuts.  For a week anyway.  I think beyond that, come Saturday, I am declaring it abandoned and available.
2.  I've never felt right about eating animals.  At least those that walk on land.  I do eat mussels, shrimp, oysters and clams with abandon, although shrimp do sort of have a face.  I also eat fish.  I'm sorry, but I just do and I love it.  Chickens and turkeys are technically "foul" and have wings, so I guess I don't count them totally in the land animal category, but of course they are most of time.  I only eat them very occasionally.  Cows and pigs:  Now those are really difficult for me to eat so I very, very rarely do. (Well, unless in the form of extra crisp bacon every once in awhile).  You see the problem here -- I'm obviously not a strict vegetarian, so the whole thing causes me some angst, because I really like the idea of being a vegetarian.  I once was -- didn't any eat meat at all for over a year back in the 70's.  Then I slipped up with a killer Klondike burger at the infamous Come Back Inn in Melrose Park, Illinois.  It was all over.  These days, you can offer me a smoke or a drink and the answer is an automatic no.  No thought required.  But this land animal meat food still gives me pause, especially when a guest in someone's home.  I will eat what they serve.  In my own home I mostly don't eat land animal meat.  Also not in restaurants.  I'm not sure what this means....just that I'm doing my best to be healthy and ethical.  And I worry about Karma.  One of those poor beasts may be holding the Karmic soul of someone potentially great and they deserve to live out this life fully without my intervention just cuz I had a hankerin' for a Rib-Eye.

3.  I anthropomorphize vegetables.  If an animal's Karma keeps me from eating it, veggie Karma seems to insist I devour it as its highest calling.  I'm afraid to even admit this, but I have rescued errant hunks of diced carrot from the lip of the garbage disposal in an effort to "save" them and allow them to be eaten.  I think I hear them calling, "Don't leave me behind!" when all the other little carrot hunks are already swirling in the pot happily ready to be cooked.
Anyone else share this slightly OCD predilection?  No?

Hmmmmm.....now I just feel weird.

At least, that's the view from here....©

MONEY CAN'T BUY ME GOV

It's over.  Most of the people I know are happy, relieved, and hopeful again.  No one is gloating.  For all of the vitriol that was flung this way and that, it seems no one really wants to live that way.  There are scores of Facebook posts, blog entries, op-ed pieces all calling for unity and an end to lies, distortions, and blame.  Can't we all get along?  I guess time will tell.

As for me, I think the president was re-elected due to my silent 3-day Obamathon on Facebook.  I had every intention of backing off political posts when it got to the point that people were begging for it to stop in general.  But no one could really stop.  I thought, "I can!"   Yet I couldn't either.  But I also saw no reason to continue to post the obvious with charts, graphs, outrageous quotes, reasonable lines of thinking....it had all been said ad nauseum.  So I took to posting different photos of President Obama every few hours for 3 days pre-election day, with the status update, "Obamathon".  Many of my FB friends thought it was great and I got lots of "Likes".  Son-Two, however, threatened to "un-friend" me (he is the "not political" one in our family).  It was fun to just silently and visually state my support for President Obama, over and over, like a FB mantra.

Election night was sort of stunning.  Many are stating it more eloquently than I, but basically....Holy Shit!  Romney got 61% of the white vote.  He lost.  Our politicians can no longer play the "race card" and expect to win.  (Take that! you who made attempts at voter suppression in swing states with large non-white populations, and those who want Hispanics to "self-deport").   Women surged in the Senate -- including an openly lesbian woman (Take that! all of you with the stupid talk about what is and isn't rape, and what is and isn't equal pay, and what is and isn't a woman's right to choose, and what is and isn't "natural").  Bazillions of dollars and distortions and outright lies were hurled back in the faces of those who were cynical enough to believe that a majority of Americans would allow buying and lying to win an American presidential election.

In 2008 I was elated beyond any sort of reasonableness that Barack Obama won the presidency.  I remember sobbing almost uncontrollably when it was announced, so happy was I to have witnessed it. In 2012, I was more quietly happy, shedding some tears, but mostly relieved, rapidly commenting on FB and answering texts with friends across the nation as we had watched "together" via our now ubiquitous internet connections.  It is only now, a couple of days later, that I feel a swell of pride.  I feel that sense of patriotism that always brings a lump to my throat when I realize, again, that good people will do the right thing and that our system, no matter how battered and broken, will prevail.

I know that millions of people who voted for Romney and embrace that world view are feeling bereft.  But even so, their fight will continue to be a war of words, protected under our constitution; there is no threat of military insurrection in our democracy.  We will continue to disagree and that is a good thing, if done with civility.  Because we are sick to death of name-calling, conspiracy theories, and lies.  My hope, my prayer, my mantra is that this election has shown that "we the people" want to move forward with leadership that is steady, focused, compassionate, and inclusive.

At least, that's the view from here....©

"We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America.. . . What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared -- that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.”  -- Barack Obama 11/6/12





Friday, October 26, 2012

THE SACRAMENT



We are 11 days away from the 2012 Presidential election.  Everybody is pretty much sick of politics at this point.  Me included, even though presidential election years are like Mardi Gras to me.  Spectacle, tradition, ritual, absurdity, and at base deeply important – even “religious”.  I treat voting like a Sacrament.

Our state has gone to an all mail-in ballot voting system, which I really dislike.  I LOVED going to the polls on Election Day.  It was high school civics class come to life.  My polling place was the local elementary school where my boys were students.  I saw familiar kids, teachers, neighbors, and poll-workers – a true sense of community.  I loved being handed my ballot and walking to the booth to cast my votes amid the hubbub of activity around me in the school cafeteria.  It reminded me why I was voting at all.  I loved getting my “I VOTED” sticker, which I wore proudly the rest of the day, like ashes on my forehead.

Now I have a different voting experience.  My ballot arrives in the mail about 2 weeks before the election.  I don’t open it until the day I set aside for voting.  At that point I sit at the dining room table with my Voter’s Pamphlet and a cup of coffee.  I become quiet, focused, and intent on making my final decisions.  I might read once more about each initiative, the “for” and “against” arguments.  I might read once more the candidates statements.  And then I draw my line next to the name of the one I’ve chosen to vote for with great care, ensuring the black line is neither too thin nor too thick.  I feel like the altar guild ladies preparing for communion.  Everything just so.  Because I want to be sure my vote will count – no errors.  Then I put the ballot in the envelope and sign my name carefully where indicated and drive to the post office to mail it.  I absolutely don’t trust leaving it at my door for the mail carrier to pick up.  I must see it slide into the slot of the huge mail box outside the post office, left there by my own hand.  Amen.

This may sound seriously neurotic.  To me it feels seriously patriotic.  Voting is a right, a responsibility, and above all, a privilege.  I think it is the most amazing thing, this representative form of government of ours.  It’s broken now, I know that.  Money, lies, betrayals, “fixes”, apathy, cynicism…it’s all in stark evidence this year.  That makes me sad for our country, for our democracy.  But I won’t give up.  I still believe my vote counts.  The only way we lose this grand experiment, this model of democracy that people in other lands are literally dying to emulate, is to stop voting.

My vote is my prayer of thanks for those who fought so that I’d have this privilege – our nation’s founders, the soldiers who fought for independence and freedom, the women who marched and were jailed and tortured to win me, their sister, the right to cast a ballot alongside men, the Freedom Riders who stood shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters to desegregate the south and eventually win the right to vote for all.  Our history is about preserving – and serving – this big, messy, majestic United States of America.

My vote is also my prayer for hope for the future.  It really does matter who is in the White House and what that person’s vision and leadership will manifest.  It really does matter who is in the Legislature and whether their positions on issues (that will become the laws we must all obey) are those which will benefit all Americans.  It really does matter who sits on the Supreme Court and is the final arbiter of dispute, interpretation, and enactment of those laws.

How can we do anything less than to cast a vote for those who are most likely to embrace the inherent humanity of every American and set policy that will respect, uplift, and benefit every citizen?  How can we do anything less than to take this right seriously, cast our vote joyfully, and shout “Halleluja!” on Election Day? 

At least, that’s the view from here…©

Thursday, October 25, 2012

WITHOUT THIS, WHO AM I?


Turns out I do have a career.

I've spent my entire adult life explaining that I never really had a career -- I got that degree in Sociology at age 33 after supporting Hub through a bazillion years of school and training programs, then when I was all set to go to grad school (Women's Studies/Communications) we got notice that our adoption was about to happen.  I literally walked out of the class registration line at UW and never looked back.

I stayed home with my boys until the youngest started middle school.  Then one of my best friends talked me into applying for a job in her foster care program at a local social service agency.  I worked there for the next 10 years.  Was that a "career"?  I always just felt it was  'job' I lucked into and that I loved mostly because of the people I was working with.

It takes me awhile to wake up to my own reality sometimes.  I so often fail to see my own gifts, talents, and skills as meaningful in "real world" vernacular or valued by "real world" criteria.  But the other night, as I made the pronouncement to Hub that I make periodically:  "I'm taking a hiatus from organizing anything for 6 months!  I'm going on Sabbatical!"  Sabbatical?  This is something career people do; not people like me who just volunteer their time.  And why, lately, do I feel an almost desperate need to just STOP inventing, organizing, facilitating, planning???

Maybe because this has been my career for nearly 40 years.  I started being an "organizer" in 1973, at age 23, when I woke up to the Women's Rights movement and took to the streets in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, with other feminist friends formed a Consciousness Raising group, helped organize the first ever Women's Conference at Triton Community College outside Chicago where we were able to entice Germaine Greer to be our keynote speaker....

And it went on from there.  I have ALWAYS organized and facilitated something for some cause or personal growth issue near and dear to me.  Peace actions, clubs, political campaigns, women's issues, co-op preschool and PTA, foster care, intentional community, men's and women's personal growth workshops, retreats, and support groups, meditation Sangha, ecstatic dance, elder awareness, church services, parties, benefits....

I'm not unique in this.  Not by a long shot.  I just never have given my work the title "career".  But that's what it feels like; something I've learned to do through study, trial, error, mentoring, and experience.  Mostly I do it well.  And it's hard for me to say no, so I do still have passion for it.  I just get tired and sometimes just want to "show up"; not plan and/or be the show.

Having said that, I also have a fear that without this work I will have no connection to community, no friends, no social life.  And that's when it hit me that my fear of "retiring" is much the same as that experienced by those who retire from a more clearly defined career in their chosen and more identifiable fields (teacher, doctor, CEO).  If I don't do this work anymore, who am I?

Pondering, not yet ready to draw my pension, but feeling the tug of letting go of some of the responsibility and stress of my self-employed, and unpaid, career.  Ambivalence reigns and I'm just looking at this with warm curious attention for now.  Not gone yet, but maybe cutting back to quarter-time.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Saturday, October 20, 2012

CRUISING SPEED

Aware that the "voice" of this blog is fairly upbeat has contributed to there being no posts this far into October.  Every morning this month I've gotten up with the best of intentions to write.  Every morning I make coffee, glance at Facebook, read a few emails, pour some more coffee, make my day's "to do" list, page through the newspaper (yes, a real one, delivered to my door), give Facebook another look, chat with Hub, sit down and crochet, add something to the "to do" list, drink some more coffee, wash a few dishes, look at a magazine.....you get the idea.  Stuck in Neutral, idling.  And that's on a good day.

At least I'm not usually in Low.  Low is a gear with which I have some familiarity.  Low is where I sometimes plug along, trying not to break down completely by the side of the road, especially after a particularly long stretch of road taken in Overdrive.  So, while Neutral doesn't advance me to any destination, it's better than Low -- cuz Low is mostly sitting in a chair crying.  Low is mostly feeling like the pull on the engine is more than I can take anymore.  Low is a chugging, clanking, near death rattle that seems endless and overwhelming.  But what I've learned -- hard lessons aplenty -- is that no matter how low my Low gets, I know I will somehow, sometimes with Herculean effort, jam that clutch in and reach ever so tentatively for the gearshift and knock it at least back into Neutral.  

Last Friday I did slip into Low, then stalled.  Hub, my mechanic extraordinaire, rushed in with patient diagnostics, just the right tools, and the sweet whisper of his confidence in my ability to self-correct and get back on the road.  I cancelled a few things jammed up on my calendar, saved energy for a couple of things I felt I still wanted to do at least marginally well, and took the rest of this week off.  Needed repair.  Lots of self care, quiet time, cocooning.  And touching my own heart.  Listening, in meditation, to that inner voice that tells me I am not that Ego that lets this crazy life make me a crazy person.  

I lose my way sometimes. My brain chemistry freaks out on me.  But I have big heart, healthy body, sound mind, and a Soul that dances.  I am shifting back into Drive, the winding road in front of me and adventures that await.

Soon re-approaching cruising speed, but with a light foot on the accelerator.

At least, that's the view from here....©



Friday, September 28, 2012

LIFE AND DEATH

Well.  Damn.

You know it is inevitable when you have aging pets.  You see the slower pace, the stamina waning, the  resting time increasing.  And still our Toby, at 10 years old, has retained his tail-wagging, ball-chasing, paper-fetching, food-scarfing, biscuit-begging, human-loving enthusiasm for life -- melting our hearts as only a Golden Retriever can.

In late-May we noticed he was sort of coughing; sort of panting a lot for no reason; sort of hacking as if something was caught in his throat.  A vet visit in early June didn't reveal anything much on exam or x-ray.  We tried some "what not?" antibiotics and something for respiratory issues.  We thought we saw some improvement, at first.   We were sure that if it was the heat and maybe an allergy, the changing season would make it all go away.  But no, in fact, lately it was getting a bit worse again.

Last week we saw our regular vet, who recommended a specialist who could do an endoscopy (tube looking down the trachea and esophagus) and see what might be going on down there.  Couldn't see or feel a thing from the outside.  So on Wednesday we took him in for an early morning procedure, sure that a quick and easy test would reveal a fixable problem.

Ninety minutes later Hub, our two sons (who had rushed from their jobs) and I huddled around the cage where Toby lay as he slowly came out of anesthesia.  We were struggling with the news and what to do.  A tumorous mass on Toby's trachea was the "throat problem".  It was inoperable and likely fast-growing.  One option was to pre-empt what would likely be eventual suffering and choose to let him go then and there, before the anesthesia had fully worn off.

We were all in shock.  Hadn't he been perfectly fine (so far as we knew) just a couple of hours earlier?  Hadn't our lives, and his, been typical for a Wednesday morning?  What were we doing there, holding each other's shock and grief, listening to a stranger tell us our precious Toby was not going to get better?

But we are a pragmatic and compassionate family.  We will not prolong the suffering of an animal companion just to avoid our own grief.  We have been here before, with two other dogs and cats.  It is always heart-wrenching and incredibly sad.  We have always known when it was time and that it was right.

But this time....the longer Hub talked to the vet the more I could read shades of doubt on Hub's face.  One advantage of Hub's profession in medicine is his ability to discern the many layers of truth that can accompany a diagnosis.  I could read concern/skepticsm/doubt on his face as the vet talked about what he saw, what he guessed, what he was unsure of.  There were just too many unanswered questions to risk losing our Toby without another shot at saving him.

We are not inclined toward heroics.  We won't spend untold thousands of dollars on cancer treatment.  But we decided we would bring him home and try to reduce the inflammation, run another course of heavy-duty antibiotics, and pray to some canine diety that this could possibly be something else.

Are we in denial?  Sure, maybe.  But it's not time yet and it's not right yet.  Toby is still Toby, with a cough (which has actually calmed a bit in the two days since his procedure).  He ran down the stairs this morning and straight to the front door to trot out and retrieve our morning paper, as he does every morning.  He ran to the treat cabinet waiting for his reward.  He wiggled and wagged when we bent to pet him.  He lay in his doggie bed in the kitchen, his perch from which he keeps tabs on us all day.

If that thing in his throat really is a tumor, it will grow.  When it reaches a size that even just a little bit starts to interfere with his breathing, it will be time.  We will not watch him struggle or suffer.  We will know and we will do what has to be done.  For now he is loving the TLC we are showering upon him, blissfully unaware of the reason for our newly dedicated devotion to him.  We are holding our grief at bay.  We are grateful for his Golden spirit and how it has shone upon us, and will for as long as he lives.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Friday, September 21, 2012

SOUNDS OF FREEDOM


“The Sound of Freedom”.  That's what they call it over near Oak Harbor, home of the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island.  This area is also home to Deception Pass State Park, one of the most beautiful natural wonders of Washington State.  We were there "camper-ing" for a few days.  While beautiful, it was not tranquil.  Park rangers told us troops from NAS Whidbey Island will be deploying soon. They can tell by the increased training maneuvers overhead, nearly continuous at all hours of the day and night.  The rumble of the cargo planes and fighter jet engines sound from far off, coming closer until at times deafening overhead, then just as quickly receding, only to be repeated over and over.  By our third day, I could actually tune most of it out except for the roar directly over us.

Believe me, I feel pretty petty complaining about this.  I am proud of our military expertise.  I like that we are good at what we do and I know that getting good takes practice.  It's just that I never realized the practicing was so constant.  

That's because I don't have much history with the military.  Mine was not a military family.  My dad was rejected for WWII service on a medical deferment (which caused him great shame, that being the war all the men wanted to be part of).  My brother joined the Army on the "buddy system" in the early 70's but I was married and gone by then, and paid little attention.  Plus they split the buddies up and it seemed soon they were all home.  I never bothered to understand the whole story behind that.  (Oh, yes, I do regret how completely self-absorbed I was as a young woman.) And that's the extent of my personal knowledge of how the military works.  

My impersonal knowledge has been a knee-jerk uneducated bias based on distrust due to military excursions that, in my judgment, we had no business making.  But that has everything to do with politicians and little to do with the military itself.  I've learned to lay blame on those who make decisions, not those who carry them out.

All of this may be why I was so moved by a "military action" taken during a time of peace.  There is an unassuming and, unfortunately, nearly invisible museum at the Bowman Bay side of Deception Pass State Park near the campground --- a Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretative Center.  I spent a little over an hour there Wednesday afternoon, plenty of time to see the exhibits and view the short video explaining the CCC and what amazing work those men did in nine short years to clear, plant, build, and create a lasting legacy of nature conservation and state and national park infrastructure.  

In a time that was worse, but sounds mighty familiar lately, our country was in a deep economic depression.  Jobs were scarce, people were losing their homes, bread lines were long.  For young people at that time, opportunity was non-existent; a huge number had no high school education, some were illiterate.  Lacking in education and job skills, they were the most unemployable of the unemployed.  

FDR instituted a program whereby these young men, aged 18-25, would work on civilian conservation projects to earn money for their families back home while getting an education with on-the-job training in a variety of skills.  They would work at shoring up the neglected natural lands across the country, notably "out west", building roads, trails, bridges, and parks, fighting fires and planting seedlings.  

At the Interpretive Center, I read the first-person accounts of CCC camp life, looked at artifacts from the camps, saw photos of these men and their work.  Soon, I realized I was looking at all of it through a haze of tears.  I don't know why I was so moved by this exhibit.  Maybe it has something to do with these young men all looking like my dad, who was their age in 1935, and even a bit younger than my own boys are now.  Maybe it was the gratitude they all seemed to express for having been given this opportunity to help their families and learn a skill.  Maybe it was the appreciation for craftsmanship I've always felt whenever I've seen characteristically CCC-constructed structures in National and State Parks, so sturdy and so part of the natural setting in which they sit.

Maybe it's the idea that millions of people were helped by a huge government program that initially brought together four cooperating federal agencies -- The Departments of Labor, War, Agriculture, and Interior -- to oversee various aspects of the Civilian Conservation Corps. This peacetime initiative improved our access to and experience of the natural world for generations and showed that government has a role in creating programs that help its country's citizens.   The Republican candidate for president this election season was recently recorded stating his distaste for those who rely on government for assistance.  He apparently would not have been a proponent of the CCC, an idea which still seems like a good one (and in this day would also include women and integration of people of color).

As I took in the exhibit, with fighter jets running practice missions over the solid CCC structure which houses it, I thought about the ease with which we have used our government's resources to wage war, yet how vociferously we have argued about using those resources to help those in need.  I hope when you have a chance to visit this little gem of an exhibit, you will be inspired by this time of peaceful military might -- and then send a prayer for the safe return of those flying overhead.   There are many Sounds of Freedom.

 
At least, that's the view from here....©

Monday, September 17, 2012

TP WARS


Fall is a beautiful time of year.  My favorite, really.  Crisp, cool nights.  Bright, sunny days.  Memories of back-to-school activities -- new clothes, sharpened pencils, high school football games, Homecoming floats...

...And the strange and quaint ritual of TP'ing each other's houses.  This is what passed for edgy fun in my girlfriend circles in the late 60's in northern Illinois.

It's Friday night.  The plan is made.  We raid our linen closets of several rolls of toilet paper, gather at one of the girls' houses with our stash, and decide who would "get it" tonight!  Then we pile into a car, drive to the victim's residence, surreptitiously parking a block or so away (so sneaky!), and make our Ninja-like approach.  Taking up various posts, rolls of TP in hand, we proceed to decorate bushes, shrubs, sidewalks, and porches with flowing rivers of tissue.  For the piece de resistance, we fling entire rolls into the air, allowing streamers of TP to hook around tall tree branches, the roll falling to the ground, to be flung again, over and over, until the trees shimmered with streamers of white.  Then barely unable to contain our naughty glee, we race back to the car and speed away.  Laughing hysterically or dramatically recalling the thrill of almost getting caught when Mrs. Jones stood up from her recliner and walked across the living room and glanced out the window!  Oh my!

My TP skirmishes are very different these days.   They revolve around the "nearly empty roll".    I've become convinced that there is some strategy employed in ensuring the user before me will NOT be the one to put on a new roll of paper on the holder.  How is it possible that they could take care of their business and leave about 6 squares still on the roll?  Really?  Had just enough -- didn't need even a teensy bit more?  I feel there is a conspiracy afoot that guarantees I am the one who changes the rolls of toilet paper.  I have 3 bathrooms in my home.  No matter which one I use, it seems I'm there just in time to change the roll.  This also used to happen at work -- two restrooms -- two nearly empty rolls when I got there.  (And recently even at my Yoga studio!)  It's just weird.

I'm thinking a little payback may be in store.  I'm experienced at this.  So watch out all you leavers of empty rolls -- I've got a stash and I know where you sleep!  I'm justified.

At least, that's the view from here....©

Friday, August 31, 2012

"PLEASE ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF..."

I'm an obituary reader.  Always have been.  Probably for the same reason I love memoir.  I relish the glimpse into others' lives -- who they loved, where they lived, what they did for a living and for the world, what they learned and leave as a legacy.

Lately, I've noticed something a little startling.  Since publishing a photo with the obituary is now "en vogue", I immediately scan the photos before going back to read the "stories" and with nearly each obit I think I recognize the person!  I rarely do know them, but at first glance everyone looks familiar!  I realize this is because most are around my age or a little older...."elders" over 60.

The lie I tell myself is that I don't look my age ... certainly don't look as old as those people who regularly show up at high school reunions, Class of '68 for Hub and Class of '69 for me (yes, we were high school sweethearts).  And I want to believe I don't look the age of the people in the obits.  But the reality is, I certainly identify them as my age cohorts, or those of my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins -- people I know!

I also always look for a clue as to the cause of death.  I like it when they say what caused the deceased demise right in the first paragraph, especially if the deceased is my age or younger.  I like to think "Well, that couldn't happen to ME!"  I want to be reassured that I am living in a land where death doesn't visit.

But I also notice lately that I'm relating more and more to what did them in.  I know people with heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's!  I know people who died unexpectedly, or in an accident, or on a trip.  Death visits all the lands in which I roam.

One time I was on a visit to see my parents when they were probably in their 70's.  My mom took a phone call and turned to my dad and said, "Honey, we lost another friend...."  I will never forget the look of grief on her face, shock and sadness on his.  I will never forget the phrase, "....another friend."  At a certain age, death comes calling with frightening regularity.

When an acquaintance around my age died suddenly a few years ago, it was a wake-up call of sorts.  So a couple of gal-pals and I got together to plan our own funerals.  It was a lark.  It was fun.  We laughed a lot and made elaborate plans for our funeral/memorial services.  Music, flowers, eulogies.  All of that needs updating now.  (I no longer think it would be "cool" to play "Sympathy for the Devil" to end the service,  no matter that I'm still a Stones fan.)

We also wrote our own obituaries.  One common thread of the obituaries I read every day is that they are relentlessly positive.  Each person was the greatest person who ever lived.  I'm sure they could also be total "shits" but who wants to remember someone's flaws and foibles?  I love that in memory, only the best traits survive -- at least in print.  I have a boxful of yellowed newspaper clippings, obituaries saved by my grandmother and then my mother, of relatives who died.  They are a treasure of family history.  They, too, were the best people who ever lived.

I also want to be remembered fondly, for being a loving wife, amazing mother, cherished grandmother, exemplary friend, devoted to my spiritual practices and my community.  (Please leave out the parts about me being a little neurotic, meddlesome, self-centered, anxiety-prone, and whiney).

Finally, I want my cause of death to be "excessive dancing" at age 106.   And if you want to throw in a little Rolling Stones tune at the memorial, well, that might be OK after all.

At least, that's the view from here....©


Thursday, August 30, 2012

STEPFORD SISTER-WIFE

I only meant to tune in briefly.  Just a glimpse.  I knew I wouldn't like what I'd hear.  But curiosity overcame common sense.  And I am practicing equanimity.  I thought this might be a good test.

There she was, Ann Romney, resplendent in patriotic red.  Matching lipstick.  Perfectly coiffed blonde hair.  She talked about the early days of their head-over-heels-in-love courtship and of how they just couldn't wait to get married.  They moved into a basement apartment and used a door on sawhorses for a desk and an ironing board for a dinner table.  Who can't relate to those kinds of "we were just a couple of crazy kids" tales?

It went on....and on....and on....the humble beginnings, the hard work, the rise to prominence.  She said her husband had never been handed success.  Unless you count the help they got from Mitt's daddy, who "ran a car company".  (Not exactly the Ford dealership on the edge of town, however; more like American Motor Company in Detroit).  I guess Mitt and Ann were The American Dream come true.

Just like us.  My dad worked in a textile factory for 40 years, dying cloth to exacting color specifications, often coming home with the after-effects of chemical exposure that created respiratory issues most of his life.  My mom worked as a seamstress in a factory making Formfit bras (rows and rows of women at sewing machines) until she was able to go to beauty school and open a little shop in a converted porch in our home.  Hub's parents were schoolteachers in the Lutheran Parochial School system, serving at "God's calling" for His love, certainly not money.  I went to work in an office just out of high school, not going to college until I was 23 years old and then only part-time while I worked to support us as Hub continued his education.  Hub worked his way through college loading and driving moving vans on weekends and school vacations.  We grew up and started our married life humble and struggling, just like the Romney's.

"Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time," Ann Romney said in an interview with the Boston Globe when Mr. Romney was running for the Senate.  "We had no income except the stock we were chipping away at.  We were living on the edge, not entertaining."  (She didn't mention this hardship in her convention speech.)

So, while the "facts" of her marriage biography may be subject to investigation, she did come across as a woman who at least knew how to relate (pander, some said) to other women. She did raise all those boys (with help, no doubt, and money, and status and private schools....) and seemed to at least be conversant with the joys and sorrows a mom experiences.   So I listened and tried to keep an open mind with a compassionate heart.

Ann Romney is doing what she was raised to do:  be a wife, a mother, a grandmother, hold the family together, support her husband, work tirelessly for her Mormon faith, look good, love her country, and assume success is a "given" for everyone who tries hard.  She is who she is.  I accept that.  (And she says one of her favorite TV shows is "Modern Family"!  Mine too!  I bet her favorite characters are the gay couple, Mitchell and Cam and their little girl Lily!  I'm sure she sees in this portrayal that allowing real couples/parents like them to marry would be the only loving and sensible thing to do!)

After the speech, I turned the TV off and thought no more about any of the Republicans at their convention.

But I woke up the next day full of enthusiastic energy for homemaking!!!!  This is a VERY uncharacteristic thing for me to do.  Hub does 95% of the cooking around our house.  I haven't baked anything in over 2 years.  I have been crocheting lately, but mostly so I don't feel so badly about watching TV; it's OK if I'm multi-tasking.  But the day after the speech, I got up and made a batch of blueberry muffins (FROM SCRATCH!), a bowl of egg salad, and 6 pints of raspberry freezer jam -- by 10:30 a.m.!  Then I cleaned off my desk, paid a stack of bills, balanced my checkbook, did a couple loads of laundry, learned a new crochet stitch by making a 10" x 10" dishcloth, prepared supper, took muffins and jam to Son-One's family, came home and finished a scarf that had been in the bottom of my yarn basket since last winter, and watched a little TV with Hub before going to bed at 10:00.  WHAT??????

A friend suggested there was but one wifely duty still to be performed....Let's just say Hub is in a state of shock and wonders where he can get his hands on a DVD of that speech.

As for me...a warning:  DO NOT LOOK INTO ANN ROMNEY'S EYES!  She will take possession of your soul and turn you into a perfectly groomed, muffin-bakin', jam-makin' Stepford Sister-Wife! (Mitt?  Noooooo.......)

At least, that's the view from here....©



Thursday, August 23, 2012

MAKE MY DAY

Cabela's moved into a shopping mall near us recently.  Whenever I drive by, the parking lot is jammed, so I've been curious.  This morning's newspaper contained a 30-page advertising section produced by this store, so I was eager to take a look.

The first 10 pages were devoted to firearms.  So my introduction to Cabela's raison d'etre was swift and shocking. (I was only on my first cup of coffee!)  Both rifles and handguns were featured.  I recognized some of the brand names from my childhood spent watching Westerns on TV with my dad -- Remington, Winchester, Smith and Wesson.  I'd also heard of a few more:  Beretta, Sig Sauer, Browning.  I had never heard of the Savage Arms brand, but was interested to note "Youth Models Also Available".  How nice.  There were "hog hunters" and "bear hunters", "bull whisperer" and "varmit stalker", "tactical" and "home defense" models.  Some had scopes, and some were ready to add your own high powered scope accessory.

The circular's pages continued then with an astonishing variety of "camo" stuff -- stalker cameras; binoculars; walkie-talkies; tent-like things called "blinds"; backpacks; shirts, jackets, pants, boots, gloves, hats -- my favorite was the True Timber Packable "Leafy Suit" made with 3-D leafy cut fabric including hooded jacket, pants, mitts, and MASK!  You could wear that while perched up in a tree on a mesh chair apparatus that attaches right to the trunk -- handy!  Why, that buck would walk right up to you and never be the wiser until your Savage Arms rifle popped him right in the heart!

Oops, did I just reveal my bias against hunting?  Actually, hunting, while not something I could personally do (those doe eyes!), I can at least understand on some level.  I guess.  Well, not really.  But if I was really hungry, I'd do what I had to do, just like my ancestors did.  It just seems like all the high-tech gear involved now gives all the advantage to the human.  Where's the sport in that?  Or the respect?

But back to the handguns.  My favorite, being a woman and all, was the Charter Arms "Lavender Lady" (with pink case!)  What girl wouldn't want a .38 special + P with five-shot cylinder  and 2" stainless barrel?   It is ultra-lightweight and is part of their "duo-tone" collection!  And on sale for only $449.99 -- $30.00 off the regular price!  Shoppin' the sales feels so good!

I'm actually anti-gun.  (You didn't see that coming, did you?)  The  damage, destruction, and death we reign down on each other in this country due to gun violence is astounding and terrifying.   I think guns provide an "easy" way to kill lots of people when used by the insane and the insanely violent.  Guns in the hands of us "good folk" give us a false sense of security, because it is only very rarely that any "bad guy" is stopped by an armed and righteous citizen who has an unambiguous claim that his action was justified.

At this juncture, I'm feeling a responsibility to look up statistics to prove my point.  But this isn't a scholarly piece where I need to cite facts and figures.  (Unless you are going to challenge me to do so, then we'll see).   I just need to listen to my heart to know that a gun in my Christmas stocking would not be a welcome gift, even though Cabela's would like me to start thinking along those lines.

In fact, a gun in my hands would surely be a lethal weapon, likely accidently aimed at myself, klutz that I am.  I'm not sure I really could pull the trigger on someone else anyway, even if for some unfathomable reason I would want to.  I'd be so freaked out I'd never be able to get off a round before the bad guy had the gun out of my hand, adding to his own arsenal.

Now that I think of it, though, when I worked in foster care I was astounded at the number of children who had been sexually abused, even tortured, by adult men in their lives.  Were I to come upon a situation like that taking place, I might be tempted to reach for my Lavender Lady, badass that I am when Mother Bear takes over my more mild-mannered sensibilities.  I'd mean only to shoot to maime, but I'm not a very good shot.   And that would land me in the defendant's chair at the inevitable trial. Playing with guns never ends well, for man or beast.  

At least, that's the view from here....©