Sunday, December 29, 2013

MAXINE SPEAKS FOR ME

I saw this posted last year and again recently, updated for 2014.  I tried to find where it originated, but no luck.  So, not wanting to plagiarize, let me just issue a disclaimer:  THIS IS NOT SOMETHING ORIGINAL TO ME; I DON'T KNOW WHERE IT CAME FROM; I'VE SEEN IT ON OTHER BLOGS; DON'T SUE ME.

And this is often how I feel when I read all those forwarded emails and Facebook posts.  YIKES!  I haven't made any "resolutions" yet, but I think there might be one about STOP BEING AFRAID OF EVERY DAMN THING!

So….here's Maxine.  Long may she live.


As we progress into 2014, I want to thank you all for your educational e-mails over the past year. I am totally screwed up now and have little chance of recovery. 

I can no longer open a bathroom door without using a paper towel, nor let the waitress put lemon slices in my ice water without worrying about the bacteria on the lemon peel. 

I can't sit down on a hotel bedspread because I can only imagine what has happened on it since it was last washed. 

I have trouble shaking hands with someone who has been driving because the number one pastime while driving alone is picking one's nose. 

Eating a little snack sends me on a guilt trip because I can only imagine how many gallons of trans fats I have consumed over the years. 

I can't touch any woman's handbag for fear she has placed it on the floor of a public toilet. 

I must send my special thanks for the email about rat poo in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet sponge with every envelope that needs sealing. ALSO, now I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason. 

I can't use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.

Thanks to you I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.  

I no longer use plastic wrap in the microwave because it causes seven different types of cancer. 

And thanks for letting me know I can't boil a cup of water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face, disfiguring me for life. 

And thanks to your great advice I can't ever pick up a dime coin dropped in the car park because it was probably placed there by a sex molester waiting to grab me as I bend over. 

I can't do any gardening because I'm afraid I'll get bitten by the Violin Spider and my hand will fall off. 

If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, and the fleas from 120 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's best friend's beautician! 

Oh, and by the way... A German scientist from Argentina , after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain activity read their e-mails with their hand on the mouse Don't bother taking it off now, it's too late. 

P. S. I now keep my toothbrush in the living room, because I was told by e-mail that water splashes over 6 ft. out of the toilet... 

NOW YOU HAVE YOURSELF A VERY NEW YEAR.©

Friday, December 20, 2013

A PLACE TO CALL HOME

I've been thinking about home lately and the cocoon it provides to my introverted inner self.

I am a homebody.  I love being surrounded by familiar sights, sounds, and smells.   I feel comfortable and safe.  I feel alive and relaxed.  I feel, well, "at home".  Even when traveling, I tend to want to return to places I've loved before, places that feel like "home" to me.  Maybe that's why Hub and I have only moved 3 times in our 41 years of marriage (and have been in this house for the past 31) and go to Kauai'i every single year and to a nearby port town for our annual December romantic getaway every holiday season.  Naturally, we've visited other places, but we tend not to adventure much -- we tend to return, again and agin, to places we know and love.

That said, every once in a while I get a hankering…and a wondering.  Am I living where I am meant to live?  Is there someplace else I would love even more?  I once met a guy who helped people find their "place".  By the way, this is what happens when an introvert wanders outside the immediate friendship fold and meets a stranger at a Kirtan retreat who is a 30-something, bearded, geographical astrologer; after two days he isn't a stranger anymore and what he says starts to make sense.   This guy, for a fee of some many dollars, offered to do a reading for me (basically a lengthy interview), and from that and the way the stars lined up at my birth or something, would discern the geographic location best suited for me -- body and soul.  It is amazing, he said, how often people's lives fall into the right rhythm when they finally find their "place".  Health improves, spirits lift, wealth flows.  Wow.

But the skeptic in me wonders if any place is forever fabulous.  That port town Hub and I love so much has been the subject of many years' pondering -- should we move there?  "It would be so awesome to live there!", we think.  But would it?  Would its relative isolation and smallish-ness come to feel claustrophobic?  Would we miss the bustle of a more urban area?  Our many good friends?  Our family  10 minutes away (instead of 2-1/2 hours)?  Is "home" just a place on a map, no matter how geographically perfect, or is it, after many, many years of putting down roots also a place of friends, family, memories, familiarity, connection, and commitment?

We could move.  We could go anywhere.  We have always had a "grass is greener" wandering eye, wondering in each place we've visited, "Would we want to live here?"  But we always came back home.  Now, though, there is no job holding us; the kids are grown; the house is too big; the maintenance expensive and wearying.   We know many folks our age who have left it all….those who have acted upon the stereotypical retirement dream of relocating to a warmer climate or a smaller town and starting over.  There is a part of me that actually feels some excitement about that -- the possibilities of a new place, a new life, a new beginning.  Yet….

There is so much holding me here.  So much I still love and want in my life that is RIGHT HERE, in my house, in my community, in my little corner of the world.  It could be I am tempted by the"idea" of a new life, but tempered by the reality that I'd just be taking this life right along with me no matter where I go.

Creating a home, I think, is an act of commitment to place and to spirit.  When those align we've found where we are meant to be.  The trick is to recognize it when it happens and to stop looking over our shoulders or scanning the horizon.  The trick, for me, is to be "home" no matter where I am -- here in my big, old, beautiful comfortable house -- and there -- on Kalapaki Beach, or the Palace Hotel, or in the back of my truck camper on a high mountain highway.  I am home.  I am home.

At least, that's the view from here….

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

SANTA BABY

Well, once again, 'tis the season for me to wrestle with the bipolar roller coaster that is my Christmas thrill ride of holiday mental states.  I both love and loathe this season for many reasons.  It is the epitome of all that is right and wrong in our culture.  No need for me to illuminate this thought much.  You get it, I'm sure.  It's everywhere -- the commercial excess, the mean-spirited greed, the peace of a full moon-lit night and the open-hearted generosity we remember to act upon.

And unbidden memories often come a-calling that are not in keeping with the season at all.

Today as I was sipping my Starbucks Decaf Peppermint Mocha, inching my way in heavy traffic down a city thoroughfare through a commercial strip that runs north and south in my city, I noticed on my right an establishment called Lover's Package.  There was a mannequin in the window dressed in red, in a rather more skimpy Santa suit than you see at the Mall.  Oh, and the mannequin was a shapely woman.  Barbie figure shapely.  Her "suit" was of fur and lace, set off by patent leather knee high boots.  Very Christmasy.

I was suddenly boosted from my grumpy holiday gloom and let out a LOL chuckle.  (ChOL?)  I recalled the one time I actually went inside that store many years ago.  Hub and I had been at a fundraiser at a social service agency nearby.  Maybe we had a couple of little glasses of wine.  Or three.  On a lark, we said, "Hey! Let's go in there!  Could be fun!"  So we did, rather sheepishly.

We are not prudes, but it is still a bit unsettling to wander among the DVD shelves displaying titles like, 'You've Got Male", "On Golden Blonde", "Good Will Humping"…. not to mention the many and varied tools and toys of the trade so brazenly displayed.  One tries not to make eye contact with other customers.  One hesitates to ask the clerk for assistance or recommendations of any kind.  One refrains from standing too close to the window facing the street and wishes their car was parked in a less conspicuous location.  One just wants to get the hell out after only a relatively short time.

One does NOT want to look up from studiously purusing the Pocket Rocket options to see one's elementary school-aged son's male PE teacher walking through the door.  Especially when one is the PTA President that year.

It would be a very discerning observer to be able to determine which face turned the most crimson as eyes met between PTA Mom and Mr. P.E., or to determine which did the most stammering, stalling, and making of excuses for being there.  PTA Mom finally just busted out the truth -- "I'm maybe a little tipsy and just thought this would be a lark; didn't expect to see anyone I knew."  Mr. P.E. claimed to be searching for a Stag Party gift and they didn't have what he wanted, so, "I'm leaving now."   PTA Mom challenged that lame excuse with a huge guffaw and wondered aloud…"What is that you could possibly want that they do not have in here???"  Then we both laughed and swore each other to secrecy.

On Monday morning,  when Mr. P.E. and PTA Mom met in the school hallway, there was a cordial nod.  Maybe there was even a slight smirk, but nothing was ever said of it again.   Ever.

And that is my happy Christmas tale for today.  I'm going to put Eartha Kitt's slightly racy rendition of Santa Baby on the stereo, and find solace that the Spirit works in mysterious ways to lift one from the doldrums.

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

CIRCLES OF HELL

In a crisis-type situation, I'm not that courageous.  Mostly I fall apart.  For awhile anyway, then I can buck up and get relatively brave and do what has to be done with some resolve.

So when, after an entire adult lifetime of normal mammograms, I got called back for "further imaging due to changes since last mammogram" I did not take it in stride.  Nope.  Not at all.  I have a couple of teeny tiny risk factors and I always hold my breath just a smidge about it anyway.

I had a long few days of of bouncing from "Awww….I'm sure it's nothing" to vivid scenes of surgery, chemo, hair loss, and death bed farewells.  And lots of heart-racing, sweaty-palm anxiety, and crying; yes, lots of crying.  I hid out in my house for 24 hours, not even getting dressed.  I do not believe I have ever not gotten dressed; lazing 'round in PJ's and robe is just not my thing.  That's when I knew I was seriously freaked.

I do wish I wasn't like that.  I see it as a weakness of character.  I so admire those who can, you know, just soldier on, or barely give something like this another thought; actually believing the idea that "it's probably nothing."  But not me.   I go from zero to worst case scenario in far less than sixty seconds.  Six is more like it.

So, today I got nicely dressed, did my hair, put on a bit of make up (because damn it! fear can be pretty!)  and made my way to the Comprehensive Breast Center for another round of tests, possibly to include:  more imaging (tit in a wringer time again), ultrasound, and MRI.  In that order.

The first thing I saw upon entering the waiting room was a giant inflatable pink ribbon hanging from the ceiling like it got lost from the Macy's Day Parade.  I wanted to pop it.  The waiting room was jammed and I tried not to look at the other women.   I didn't want to wonder, to see, to connect about this thing.  I AM NOT ONE OF YOU!

I got checked in and sat down.  Long wait. So I started to look up from my nervous "reading" of the newspaper (without really concentrating on one word) and look around.  A few women were reading and looking quite calm.  One sat next to her husband and he occasionally helped her take a few sips of something from a cup with a straw.  Another sat near the door, weeping a bit.  Another sat next to me, legs crossed, foot swinging in the air, gulping deep breaths.  She, too, occasionally wiped a tear.

I don't believe I was wrong in my assessment that the energy in the room was fairly intense with terror.  I wiped some tears too.  But bravery was also on display.  The silent journey each woman was walking may have been telescoped to the close observer, but the casual passerby only saw a roomful of women, each patiently waiting for her name to be called.

Mine finally was.  I went back to another waiting room, after disrobing from the waist up and being handed a flimsy (but flowery feminine) little short-sleeved gown to wear, "open to the front, please".  The room was freezing and I noticed all of us from the first waiting room were now in the second circle of hell together and all hunched up against the chill.  Then I saw a sign that said "Gowns for Your Use" with an arrow pointing to a rack of still flimsy, but long-sleeved gowns.  I stood up to retrieve one, setting off a line up of other women grabbing them as well.  I said it wasn't as plush as I'd like, breaking the silent tension, I guess.  We laughed.  We joked about being half-naked in an ice box.  We agreed we'd rather be at the spa.  We were bonding, smiling at each other, holding our respective copies of Women's Day and Oprah and Living magazines on our laps, again waiting for our names to be called.

When it was my turn,  I was ushered into the mammography room for more imaging.  Five more 'pictures' of my errant left breast.  The technician mentioned she wouldn't be surprised if I also would get a sonogram while I was there.  I did not take this as encouraging news.  Then I was led to yet another waiting room.  I saw there, again, the woman from the first waiting room, the one who I'd first noticed crying.  She and I smiled at each other and wondered aloud how many waiting rooms we'd share that day.

In a jiffy my name was called again.  No sooner was I in the hallway than the technician said, "OK, you can go.  It's all clear this time…just some tissue folds or something that now are all flattened out.  Thanks for your patience."

WHAT?????  THANKS FOR COMING?????  The floodgates sort of opened then, shocking her, I think.  I didn't wail, but the tears of relief flowed freely.  She said she was sorry I had been scared; was sorry I had to wait to get in; sorry this is such an anxiety-producing, heart-wrenching thing.  She dropped the professional, "all in a day's work" facade and we hugged.

I love that the Comprehensive Breast Center does the work it does.  I am grateful for 21st century medical technology.  I am grateful for my healthy breasts.  And grateful for my life.

And I wonder how many Circles of Hell my sister travelers endured today... and will in the days ahead.  If I ever have to go again, I won't avoid their eyes.  Because I am one of them.  We all are.  So, I'll look right at those women waiting and try to convey, "Yeah, I'm scared too, sister.  Let's do this together."

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


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

PAPERS AND POPES

Earlier today I posted a bit of a rant.  In contrast, here is an update on my newspaper delivery saga (see post from 11/17/13):

I finally found email addresses for the supervisors of the Circulation and Delivery Departments of the local paper and sent them my complaint.  I was articulate and reasonable.  I got an answer the same day and starting the next day and each day since, my newspaper has been delivered consistently just where the old route driver used to leave it.  So, I wrote another email, thanking everybody.  I got an answer that the driver would be given a Certificate of Appreciation.  I felt good about that.  I also gave the guy a nice tip this month.    See?  Happy ending!

Also, I just read on a FB post someone referred to the new, popular, and surprisingly candid Pope Francis  as "Frankie P".   That made me smile.

Remember, our crazy monkey minds love to create realities.  Let's give them something good to chew on….like people want to do good and good will prevail.  Smiling helps.  Laughter heals.

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


RATINGS AND RANTINGS

I'm not a big fan of Katie Couric, except the time she took Sarah Palin to task (although I wanted her to push much, much harder).  
So, today when I read her mea culpa about airing a diatribe about the dangers of the HPV vaccine on a recent episode of her TV program, I felt both pleased (thanks for the apology) and disgusted (what were you thinking in the first place?!)

Her show, an afternoon talk-fest much like all the rest, is on at "prime time" for daytime TV watchers.  Sexist as it sounds, that audience is mostly women.  I think there are more guys home during the day than there used to be, but my guess is they are not tuned in to Katie.

Katie said she regrets not presenting a more balanced view and admitted that her own daughters have received the vaccine.  But in my mind the damage was done.  All the afternoon viewers already watched a grieving mother blame the vaccine for her daughter's death; another blame it for her daughter's ongoing, intractable health challenges.  How many took these emotional stories, designed to scare, to heart?  Where was the science?  Where were the stories of lives saved?

What was up, surely, is it must have been ratings month.  I noticed a strong uptick, as always, in advertising for local news broadcast "Undercover Stories" as the month of November unfolded.  I don't really follow the TV industry and their seasonal push for ratings too much, but I know there are still monitors and measures by which advertisers decide which shows to throw money behind.  And traditionally November is a "ratings" month.

So all the salacious stories are trotted out:  child prostitution, identify theft, secret lives of Happy Hooker wives; bullying unto death,  airbag asphyxiation, cell phones causing brain cancer…all of it.  Apparently the very worst of humanity's foibles, and all of our worst fears, are fodder for ratings.

The thing is, even when I turn off the tube, I'm still bombarded by fear and destruction.  Facebook, a place where I find much that is fun and good, a place where I stay in touch and exchange good wishes and condolences and clever repartee with my friends,  is also a forum for some for near constant barrages of "doom and gloom".  I'm very, very tired of finding posts of warning about all sundry of personal, political, and global maladies.  I KNOW IT!  I KNOW EVERYTHING SUCKS!  Like most people I am doing what I can, when I can, how I can, to make my little bitty corner of this big awful world better.  That's my response, offered with some defensiveness, I know.  But damn it, if I wanted to feel guilty all the time I'd go back to being a Lutheran.  (Sorry to all the nice Christians I know.  But really, there is that thing about us all being sinners that's a little hard to feel good about.)

But I guess I am guilty too of posting on my own pet issues.  My "thing" is gun control and I occasionally post about that.  My "thing" is being a liberal Democrat outraged at times by the craziness that is the Tea Party.  But do I really think I am changing any minds with my posts?  No, I'm just preaching to the choir, and folks, so are you.  This choir member would like to take a time out.

Yes, I'm feeling grumpy today and it's not fun, really, in this season of merry and bright.  I just wanna know, can we please take a break from scaring, berating, and shaming?  Can we just stop hating the Right or the Left or The Man or whoever is the 'bad guy' du jour?  I would like that.

At least, that's the view from here….

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

TUTORIAL ON POSTING COMMENTS ETC

I've had people ask me, "Hey, how do I leave a comment on your blog?"  Hmmm…you want me to figure that out for you, huh?  Well, I'll try.  (Let me know if this is unhelpful and I'll try again.)

Here's what I think you do:  At the end of each post there's a gray box that looks like this:


See where it says No comments: ?  It says that because no one has posted a comment.  (If someone does post a comment, it will say how many comments.)  To post a comment just click on the words No comment (or 2 comments or whatever) and it will  open a box for you to write your comment, hit "post" and then your comment will be sent to me for review (so I can weed out the ones I don't like hahahahaha) and I will post it (promise) and there ya have it!

The caveat is that if you don't have a "google account" or something, it will ask you to create one.  I avoided this for a long time when looking at other blogs, but then finally I just did it and my world has not shifted off its axis and I do not get unwanted googling.  I think you'll be fine.

If you don't want to actually write anything but have some vague reaction to the post, you can just click those Reaction boxes and there will appear a tally of how many people reacted in a certain way to the post.

That pencil icon is not for you -- it's for me to click on to edit a post.  You may think I never use this tool, but I actually do.  A lot.  Like right now, I'm back in fixing a couple of typos.

Also, the Labels notation you see are the keywords in each post so that if you want to see all my posts that have some political content, for example, you would click on "politics" and boom!  all my posts about, or mentioning, politics are at your disposal.  Fun, huh?

Thanks to you who send comments via email too.  I often remove identifying info about you and post those comments here myself to entice more discussion among readers.   That rarely happens, but I feel sort of good about at least a couple of comments showing up on my post.

I hope this helps.  Give it a try!

PS  I have no idea why the banner heading on the blog has the text all crunched up on the left and no text at all across the banner.  I have tried, believe me, I have tried to remedy this.  If you can offer me a tutorial on fixing that, I'd appreciate it.  In the meantime, I blame Blogspot.

At least, that's the view from here….

Sunday, November 24, 2013

WHERE WERE YOU?

Everyone who was of an age to remember, remembers where they were.  I was a few weeks shy of 13 years old, in 7th grade Earth Science class, my first class after lunch period.  We were settling at our desks when the principal's voice came  over the intercom.  President Kennedy had been shot. Our president was dead.  I remember the stunned silence.

The school day went on.  In German class next period, our teacher (a man) was weeping.  The last class of the day was band.  The girl in front of me was sobbing.  It started to sink in. I want to say I had genuine sadness too.  But frankly, I was oblivious to politics at that age, and while I knew this was a terrible thing, I didn't feel sad; just a little scared and confused.  Still, I tried to make myself cry, wanting to feel something other than numb.

At home, my mom and my grandma, who lived with us, were grim-faced.  When my dad came home from work they all sat glued to the TV all evening and for the next couple of days.  On Sunday, my mom and I were in the kitchen, my dad watching TV in the living room.  Suddenly he shouted out, "Oh my god!  Now they've shot Oswald!"  My mom and I ran to the TV and watched as more mayhem unfolded in Dallas.  After that I remember bits and pieces about the funeral march through Washington and seeing the now iconic scene of Jackie and her children, with John-John saluting his father's casket.

I remember thinking something had changed; my safe and predictable world was not so secure anymore.  Years passed, the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights marches were staples on nightly news. In April of the year I was 17 another bulletin interrupted our lives with news of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.   Stunned again and this time legitimately sad.  I had awakened to the Civil Rights Movement and the craziness of the Viet Nam War; I was starting to take sides.  Still, it seemed that somehow the world would right itself, wouldn't it?

I wasn't completely done in until 2 months later, when my alarm went off before school.  It was to be a fun day at the end of the year when our yearbooks would be delivered and we'd spend the day running around getting signatures and good wishes from our friends.  But what I heard, when the clock radio clicked on, devastated me.  Robert Kennedy was dead.   I remember running downstairs to my mother in the kitchen, sobbing, "Someone shot Robert Kennedy!"  She clicked on her radio and we listened together.  And then it was another vigil, more days of sadness, confusion, funeral trains, and a shocked nation in mourning.

It went on from there, of course; more war, more protests, a President resigning in disgrace, Hawks vs Doves, dissension, a few political victories and many defeats, and the complete shock and dismay of 2001.  All of it made many of us cynical and disillusioned and I was no exception.  My bright spots were the Clinton years and most recently, Barack Obama's presidency.  But the vitriol from the conservatives, the rise of the Tea Party, the intractable ideological gridlock that has Congress reduced to impotence, are disheartening at a time that should be full of progress and good-will.  Every victory is hard-fought, and barely noticed above the shouting.

This has been my personal political journey, starting with that day in November 50 years ago.  For me politics is always singed with sadness, even when I'm at my most joyful; because I know that in the blink of an eye, the world I count on can once again shift off its axis into the abyss of grief and confusion.

Every generation has its shocks and setbacks.  We Boomers tend to think ours are the biggest or worst, but that's not true.  Each generation experiences its own challenges and seen through our own lens each feels monumental.

And still….I believe.  I believe in good winning out.  I believe that people of courage and love and brilliance will always come together and do the right thing -- no matter how hard, or how long it takes.  That crazy and contagious optimism was there in 1960 and again in 2008.  And it will come again.  And we will continue, hopefully with fewer heartaches and with collective committed determination to get it right.  Every time.

It's the least we can do to honor them all…the ones who died trying.

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

LISTEN HERE, YOU LITTLE PIPSQUEAK!

Old people stereotypes include the curmudgeonly old lady waving a cane at some kid or an old man shouting "Get off my lawn".  I am that curmudgeon.  But like all of us, I feel justified in my ire.

I'm squabbling with the local newspaper circulation department.  It's been going on for over a month now, since the paper was sold to another publisher and our long-time delivery guy decided to pack it in, since he had to drive so far to the new distribution center to gather up his store of papers in the middle of the night for early morning delivery.

He was a gem; I miss him.  He would tuck little typed notes (typos, questionable grammar, and misspellings, notwithstanding) into the paper whenever he went on vacation to let us know we'd have a substitute and he hoped all would go well in his absence.  In December we'd get a holiday card from him with a note about it being his pleasure to serve us.  The cynical may have seen this as a thinly veiled plea for a Christmas tip, but I just thought it was a sweet, old-fashioned thing to do.  And I always sent him a hefty tip anyway, because he truly deserved it.

Our house is on a hill.  We have a steep driveway and about 1/3 of the way up a set of 15 cement stairs arches up to a short sidewalk, then 8 more stairs to our front porch.  It's a work-out, as our visitors can attest.  Our former delivery guy somehow managed to get our paper, without fail, to the top of those 15 stairs and onto the sidewalk along the front of our house.  I thought that was remarkable.  I never expected porch delivery and would have compromised with just getting it on the stairs somewhere.  But he always had it all the up and easy to grab -- even on those rare winter mornings when the whole driveway and stairway might be covered in snow.

So, the new guy….the first 2 weeks I went on a morning scavenger hunt as he seemed to unclear and inaccurate about where to toss the paper from his moving car (that's my best guess as to the silly places I found my paper).  I called to issue a little complaint and offer some helpful hints.  Circulation said they'd pass my comments on.  I was super nice and understanding of the learning curve of a new driver.

The next week I found my paper at the very top of my driveway outside the garage door.  Not the most obvious place (not at our house, anyway), but acceptable.  So, I thought, OK…new plan.  Fine.  But one morning I went out to find that the guy had had a bit of trouble backing down our steep, narrow drive and had veered off into the azaleas, smashing a couple to the ground and leaving tire tread in the drive where he must have had to spin his wheels to get traction with all that shrubbery he was dragging along holding him back.   I made another call, recommending that coming all the way up our driveway was treacherous and unnecessary.  I was pretty nice about the azaleas.  I'm an understanding and patient person, in general.

Every day since then, the paper has barely made it onto our property.  The guy must have decided he was jinxed by the azalea episode and now won't set his wheels or feet anywhere closer than dropping the paper out the window as he drives by.  I've called on this unacceptable practice twice now.  For a few days this week he did manage to toss it up the drive in the vicinity of the bottom of those 15 stairs and I was ready to live with this, thinking it is good exercise.  But this morning, again, I found the fat Sunday paper hovering just at the property line between driveway and street.

Last time I called I was not so kind and asked for a call-back from the delivery supervisor.  Never heard from him. I also made a modest threat that I might have to cancel my paper.  But I know I don't want to.

I love sitting down with the morning paper.  I've been a home delivery subscriber since 1982, when we moved into this house.  I don't like reading the on-line version (which they just announced will become a subscription and not free anymore).  But I am at the mercy of a confused, stubborn, lazy delivery guy and it pisses me off.  I don't like feeling ignored and helpless.  And I realize I'm just talking about a silly little newspaper….

I realize there are huge systems in place these days that ignore the truly helpless and my little foray into the relatively trivial abyss of this situation is more comical than tragic.  Still.  Some morning I might just lie in wait to wave my broom at him as he does his shoddy drive-by.

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

Saturday, October 26, 2013

LET YOUR HEART SING

White tulips, yellow roses, Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, 6 archipelago black forest candles, a large animal print (cheetah or leopard) throw rug, white drapes, lavender drapes, one avocado, a stick of butter, Yves veggies dogs with toothpicks, a cheese plate (non-sweaty, non-stinky), one case Smart Water (12 cold, 12 warm)....

These are a few real-life celebrity dressing room demands which will give me some good ideas with which to start my own list.  Because I am a singer.  As in stand at the microphone and sing into it.  Last weekend I went from zero singing experience to performer in less than 24 hours.  Now I am in high demand.  I can tell by how no one is contacting me.  No phone calls, or emails, or social media posts or trending on Twitter.  The pubic is obviously intimidated.  And who can blame them?  I am awesome.

I am unsure why I was so hesitant to take the "Let Your Heart Sing" voice workshop last week.  Maybe it was because all previous attempts to sing were met with underwhelming response.  OK, so I'm a little flat and can't carry a tune.  OK, so I can't conjure up the melody to any song beyond Happy Birthday all on my own.  I am fine at "singing along", especially when Adele is singing lead.  But I struggle a bit when it's only my voice attempting to belt out a number.  Still...a voice workshop?  How hard can that be?

How hard can it be to walk into a room with 13 other people, mostly friends and acquaintances, but some strangers too, with a sweet, encouraging teacher whose musical talents and amazing singing voice are legend?  How hard can it be to be led through a 3-hour journey of learning about how our hearts want to sing our own "heart song" if only we can feel our bodies, touch our emotions, find the images that come before words, and let Spirit push us out of our own way to let our song come through?

I'll tell you how hard that can be...damn hard!  There was a lot of nervous laughter, an enormous amount of vulnerability and fear,  and a cacophony of "inner critic" voices screaming inside 14 heads that we should each turn tail and run or at least sit down and shut up.  But we persevered and eventually were led on a guided imagery journey culminating in an exercise where we wandered off to  quiet, alone places in the building to "compose" our own heart song of longing, or questioning, or finding answers.  We were instructed to reconvene after about 20 minutes to share our songs...

Imagine.  Yes.  Stand up and sing your "heart song"; the song in your heart that only you could know.  Everybody did it.  The room was electric with joy, tears, courage, and triumph!  Whoa!

And that's not all.  The very next morning workshop participants were invited to be in the "Heartsong Choir" at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  We thought we'd be singing back-up to our workshop facilitator who was the special guest.  We thought maybe we'd be singing along with the congregation.  We didn't think a few of us, only an  hour ahead of the service, would be asked to sing our OWN heart song all alone into the microphone in front of all those gathered!!!

Saying "no thanks" was a option, but where is the courage in that?  Each of us who was asked, stepped up.  Hub, myself, and two other women each took our turn.  We stood there in front of 80-90 people and SANG OUT LOUD.  We were nervous, with quivery voices, sometimes slightly off-key, hitting some notes and missing others, but singing from our hearts.

And isn't that what art really is?  An expression of creativity, of heart, of soul?  We can all improve on technique and breath control and pitch.  We can all work on stage presence and friendly banter.  We can wear cooler outfits.  But when we step through fear, take a risk, show our vulnerable soft bellies to others, we are already awesome.  We, each of us, however or whenever we take risks at any juncture in our lives, and "sing" our truth, are already breaking through the barriers that hold us back from being fully engaged and fully engaging.

I hope some of the tears I saw among the assembled were tears of recognition and appreciation and not the pain of referred embarrassment.  Whatever.  This was my brave act.  What's yours?  Give me a call...I'll cheer you on....and outfit your dressing room with caviar and chocolates.

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






Wednesday, October 23, 2013

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL

Angel's childcare provider up and left for 2-1/2 months to visit her family in Pakistan, so Hub and I volunteered to help out last week until another provider stepped in this week.  It was a week when semi-retired Hub was scheduled to work 3 out of the 5 days -- wouldn't you know it?!

I decided that to keep both Angel and I sane during our 10-hour days together, I would schedule "theme days" with outings each day.

Last Monday was "Art and Nature Day".  Most of the morning was spent with art supplies, primarily focused on Angel's idea to create a Halloween mask.  Hub took over in the afternoon with a "hike" through a local park on wooded trails leading to the playground.  Then, naturally, they went to Costco since Hub can't get in the car without ending up a Costco.  They scored big time, since it was "sample day" and returned with Food Court frozen yogurts for everyone!  Yay!

On Tuesday I was on my own.  "Library Day"!  Angel's first library visit delighted her, starting with the huge aquarium at the entrance to the children's section and finding little Nemo swimming around in the coral.  She was overcome with excitement at the amazing numbers of books and DVD's, kicking off her shoes and settling in for a lengthy perusal.  She played with some toys and the dollhouse,then we retired to the Library Coffee Shop for a hot coco and a mini lemon scone, paging through the books and chatting about art.  We stopped at the park on the way home.

Wednesday was "Girls Go Shopping" day, when we met up with a friend of mine for browsing antiques, gifts, and bookstores in a nearby town.  Angel's favorite store, also my own favorite, had so many wondrous things to touch!!!  And tiny purses that just fit a 4 year old's hands.  I try to not encourage impulse buys, but she did, in the end, walk out with a little purse.  We also stopped for coco and croissants and a joint coloring project as my friend and I talked and colored with Angel for over an hour.

Thursday Hub helped plan a day-long "Public Transportation Day".  We took the bus from the bus/train station to the ferry landing, then hopped on the ferry for the crossing to a nearby island where we spent two hours playing on the beach, building sand castles, collecting seashells and exploring a "cave".  We also stopped at a coffee kiosk for coco and cookies.  Late in the afternoon we took the ferry back to the mainland, had a bite of lunch, watched a guy crabbing off the pier,  then boarded the train for a ride back to the station.

Friday, on my own again, and OK, maybe dragging a bit, I declared it "Halloween Day".  We went shopping for a costume.  I was delighted she wanted to be "Spiderman Girl" and was all set to find a terrific super hero costume for her, but once in the store the fairy princess sparkle took hold and we came home with a winged pink and purple sequined frock.  We stopped at Starbucks for coco and bought a small pumpkin to carve, saving the seeds for roasting, and then made sugar cookies shaped like pumpkins and ghosts, frosting them in orange and white and black.

I think we had a pretty good week.  I do have to wonder if Angel was as exhausted at the end of each day as I was.  Probably not.  Her creativity and imagination seem to power her through each day with constant enthusiasm.  I love being with her.  And I get tired.  Friday night I sort of collapsed in gratitude -- for the time spent together and for her aunt, who would be taking over care this week.

But I think I did a good job teaching her a few new things -- her first trip to the library and her first bus and train rides, how to make a mask, roast pumpkin seeds and make cookies.  And other stuff too I'm sure; things that kids just absorb with no effort or recognition by the adults around them.

Most importantly, though, I taught her that no day is complete without a brief respite over coffee, coco, and a sweet treat, best enjoyed with a good friend.  And since she has declared me her "best friend", I look forward to many more cups and conversations in the years to come.  This Gramma thing is awesome.

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




Wednesday, October 9, 2013

FOUR HUGS A DAY...

Son One is a champion hugger.  Always has been.  He should give lessons.  Tender, yet firm.  Loving, not suffocating.  Just the right length of time to be meaningful without getting creepy or smarmy.  And perfectly reciprocal...it's as much for hugger as for the huggee.  Everybody feels good when it ends.

(I take credit, since this Charlotte Diamond song was our theme song when he was in preschool!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI7JzSW7PJ0)

Still, hugging is something I continue to find interesting and slightly startling.  Strange, given that a lot of people would consider me a huggy type too.  It's been an acquired taste, a learned skill.

I didn't grow up in a huggy family.  Oh, within the family we were all quite affectionate -- my parents were huggers of us kids.  But I don't believe I EVER saw either of them hug an adult -- not a friend, not another adult family member.  Just wasn't done -- until my sister-in-law came along.  My brother's wife was/is such a friendly, loving force of nature that to deny her sweet hugs would be to deny everything good in the world.  Still, I came to understand the pre-sister-in-law "no hug zone" as a cultural thing, in my mom's case especially, being of the Norwegian persuasion.  Pure, undiluted joy was mainly expressed with a half smile.  In my dad's case hugging was not, no not at all, macho.  Guys don't touch guys.  And guys only touch most women with one goal in mind, otherwise why bother?  End of story.

So, when I met Hub's family for the first time I was startled and overwhelmed by the hugginess that was part of every greeting and parting.  At first I was quite uncomfortable with it, but with time I came to look forward to the big smiles and open arms at their front door.  I felt welcomed and loved.  I felt wanted.  And my own family's more refined greetings felt devoid of emotion by comparison.  I was learning a new way.

Much later, when Hub and I started to do our personal growth work, hugging was a given, almost a requirement.  The men were all about embracing their newfound freedom in emotional expression and  brotherhood.  Men hugging men was a common ritual everywhere we went.  The women were set free to hug away too, without restraint, in expression of our deep and abiding female...femaleness, I guess.  We even started to judge those for whom hugging was not the di rigueur greeting as less emotionally and psychologically evolved.  Oh, give people a little learnin' and they will lord it over the uneducated!

On the other hand, I have been the victim of unwanted hugs.  A woman of my acquaintance some years ago would barrel at me with arms wide every time she saw me, which was rather frequently, engulfing me in her clutches, murmuring "great to see yous" while I struggled to breathe into her ample bosom as she towered a good 8 inches over me, thinking to myself, "But I don't even like you!"  Finally I had to set a boundary with her and say, "If I want a hug, I'll ask for one; otherwise, um, no."

Another memorable and decidedly uncomfortable hug came from a man who's father had just died.  For some reason, he sought me out for solace, and naturally I felt a nice sympathetic hug was in order. He proceeded to cling to me far, far, far beyond good sense and good taste.  He wasn't crying or talking or doing anything other than embracing me with a vice grip that felt assaultive after awhile.  I lost most of my compassion for him and avoided his physical approaches thereafter.  I felt he took advantage, or was just weird.  I know I felt violated.

So, I've become a little selective about my hugs -- both getting and giving.  There are friends and family for whom a hug is a given.  It feels good and expresses warmth and caring.  There are others where a smile, a handshake, or a high five are more appropriate.  I try to not assume anything.   I protect my boundaries and respect those of others.

I love that Son One, his wife, and their daughter are all great huggers -- all three able to make that warm embrace feel like a non-verbal expression of caring, freely given without any agenda other than to make a meaningful loving connection.

Same as the Scandinavian half smile, only softer.

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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?

Obviously I have a little writer's block.  My son's beautiful wedding and all the prep and hoopla around that last month occupied almost all my time and energy.  Writing, and everything else, took a back seat.

I wonder if that would have been the case if this blog was "about" something?  I took a writing seminar last spring and my instructor took a look at this blog.  She was complementary about the writing, but questioned my purpose.  "What's your blog about?"  She said if I just wanted it to be something for family and friends, it was fine as far as it goes.  But if I wanted a wider audience it should be "about" something.  Like crafts, or cooking, or gardening, or politics or...something!  I felt a little discouraged.  I thought it was about something.

I thought it was a way to connect, to relate, to express what others might also be experiencing or point out what others may have missed or not appreciated about their own lives.  That's what I love -- the connection of, "Wow, me too!" when I write something that others find familiar.  I thought it might be about a woman in her 60's looking back, looking forward, reflecting and anticipating, at a time in life when a little perspective on history can inform a better future.

I don't know...

I guess this exercise really is just about me reflecting on my life. Yet, maybe that's not enough.  Maybe that puts it in the too-close-for-comfort "journal" genre.  Who else really cares about the thoughts in my head or the people and events that I come across everyday that make me pause and reflect?

So, I've tried to come up with a specific topic to write about regularly, but the thought of that makes me claustrophobic.  I don't think there is anything I want to devote my writing to that I can sustain for more than a few posts.  So, what this blog is, and will continue to be, is just a bunch of essays on whatever I feel like writing about.

If you're still with me on this, I'm still here, for now -- puzzling out my life and hoping a few of you are along for the ride.  We're in this human thing together, ya know.

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

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

MEET THE FOCKERS?

I'm going to sleep for a week or so.  11 months of planning and fretting and focused attention culminated in Son One's wedding last Friday night.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Not a dry eye during the moving ceremony and heartfelt toasts at the reception.

 Son One and his gorgeous wife are so obviously in love and so incredibly happy...yet with the the realistic groundedness that comes from having been together for 3 years, raising a child together from DIL's previous marriage, buying and fixing up a home together, and working full-time in jobs that do not reflect their professional capabilities. (But they feel lucky to have employment at all.) These "kids" are starting their marriage with love in their hearts, but not necessarily stars in their eyes.   This should work out.

We've been the onsite parents for wedding support and planning since DIL's family lives far away from here.  All were in town for the wedding, we in-laws meeting for the first time.  They are friendly,  generous people who obviously love their daughter and their other 4 grown children who were here also.  I loved how much they all smiled!  We hosted everyone for the rehearsal, day of wedding bride and bridesmaids prep, and day after wedding get-together for gift opening, so we saw quite a lot of each other even outside the wedding itself.

It was a bit like "Meet the Fockers" at times, but with a twist.  Hub and I are Unitarian Universalist, Buddhist-leaning, meditation-sitting, Yoga-posturing, Kirtan-chanting, Obama-loving Liberal Democrats, but with a bent toward agendas and organization and punctuality, especially where event planning comes in.  They seemed to be Catholic Christian, FOX-news watching, Tea Party-leaning Republican Conservatives, but with a free floating, free spirit, go-with-the-flow attitude toward organization and timeframes.  Just imagine.

Those differences were interesting to note, and I am certain they were duly noted by our counterparts as well.  Yet also true is that we are all good, caring people who love our kids beyond reason.  We all had a lovely time at the wedding.  And that is what was important this week -- more important than politics or differences in personal style.

And now, if you'll excuse me, my inner Introvert is screaming for solitude and quiet.   I have a bag full of yarn, a DVR full of favorite TV show season premiers, and a 'fridge full of leftovers.  I will come out of hibernation in a few days.  Maybe.

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

LIMPS AND SWAGGERS

It's raining.  A good day for cocooning in and being quiet.  I've been busy, busy, busy with home projects and social events.  My dear, sweet, brave, beautiful, hilarious friend from Boulder, Co. just left after a short visit and I miss her already.  Our long talks about life, personal work, and spiritual growth has put me in a contemplative state.

That, and reading a book called "A Year to Live" by Stephen Levine, in preparation for a monthly class I'll be taking with 7 other intrepid seekers over the coming year.  We are going to explore how to live fully in this moment as if we only have a year to live...and to face that end time without fear, whenever it comes.

I read this morning in Chapter 5 about the importance of doing both our deep personal psychological work as well as the mindful spiritual work of focused awareness.  Levine says this:  "When one level is fostered to the detriment of the other we develop a psychological limp or a spiritual swagger." Oh, how I have seen (and experienced) both!

For almost 15 years I've done deep personal work based on a Jungian psychology of archetypes and shadows.  I have gone away for a number of weekend experiential "initiations" and "trainings", that are really like intensive counseling sessions.  With skilled, loving leadership and facilitation I have uncovered many psychological keys to understanding my core psychological wounds, what behaviors continue to prevent my full expression of Self, and how to break through barriers and become more fully expressive of my own nature.  My twice monthly women's group continues to support and challenge me in this awareness, keeping me on track and reminded of where I came from and where I'm going.

I could go on and on and you are either right there with me now, or you've already tuned me out.  Suffice to say, I know myself pretty damned well and the whys and hows of my psyche's dance steps.  I still sometimes lose the beat, but more often these days, I get right back in the groove without too much anguish and sometimes with a fair amount of laughter at my 'backsliding' into a less aware state of being in the world.

But for a long while I was so focused on the psychological work, and "healing my wounded Self" that I walked with that psychological limp like a badge of courage, obvious to all.  I AM DOING MY WORK!  I HURT!  That eventually went away and my walk became whole again.   For others, I've seen them move into "wound worship", limping along on a constant path of "healing" that never seems to conclude, always seeking another training or workshop to be the "be all, end all" for their suffering.

And I've seen the opposite -- the spiritual swagger of those (me too, sometimes) who "transcend" the mundane woundedness of the human psyche and move right into assumed higher planes of existence by focusing on a constant "feel good" spiritual high, as if to say, "This incarnation of the human experience is full of pain...let's not go there."  Let's go instead to the Zafu or the mat or the ashram or the temple, church, or mountaintop where I can just be At One With the Cosmos and not have to muck around in figuring out why my earthly life is such a friggin' mess...why I'm lonely, or angry, or afraid a lot of the time.

There is such satisfaction and relief in the ah-ha moment of a psychological breakthrough.  There is such euphoria in spiritual transcendence.  But in my judgement, as Levine says, there is something incomplete in choosing the duality of one or the other.  Integration is key.

As I move more inevitably into my eldering years, with mortality on the horizon and more real, there are times I feel the terror of impending death.  I love this life and what I've made of it.  I want more of it; I am so curious about the future and what the world, and me in it, will be.

Yet, reality is that it is our nature to die.  Gotta do it.  So, the work of this age and stage is to get ready; to fully embrace what this human life has been, is, and will be, and to remove the obstacles to living it freely and without constraint of old patterns, wounds, and inner voices that hold me back and keep me down.  It is also a time to turn inward; yes, to sit in quiet contemplation in those places of calm and to connect with a consciousness greater than I am; to know that whenever the end comes, whatever awaits, I am ready to take that step without fear, with peace, with love.

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

Monday, August 19, 2013

SO PROUD

Just a quick update on the "kids".... (See posts from May 20 and July 3)

All are growing into maturity, at varying rates.   Our first two little beauties were harvested with great fanfare, cut delicately, and arranged onto a serving plate to be shared 6 ways at a family dinner.   Magnifico!

I'm pretty proud of nurturing tomatoes into redness.  It's a first for me, as I come late to the gardening craze.  I want to take all the credit, but I'm seeing that growing things is a fine balance of so many factors that I feel I am the least of them.  It's actually a small miracle, isn't it?  Dirt and seeds and good weather....a delicate and powerful push toward life.

May that Force be with us all.

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


Thursday, August 15, 2013

A "HOODIE" DOES NOT A CRIMINAL MAKE...

Well.  I write having just committed a crime against nature.  I am ashamed.  I am humbled.  I am an idiot.

We have a gas boiler hot water radiator heat system in our house.  The boiler died last spring and we are just now getting around to replacing it, noticing the barely perceptible shift in light and temperature that signals fall...and chilly days and nights ahead.  I like heat.

This morning, Hub went down to the garage, where the old boiler is sitting after having been removed from the furnace room.  Pretty soon I heard him shouting, "Wow!  This is a HUGE spider!" and I went running to have a look.  I am not afraid of spiders.  I don't necessarily like them crawling on me, but I don't have the same freak-out fear that some people do.  In fact, I sort of find them fascinating.  I am loathe to kill spiders...I think they do more good than harm, so I am not their natural enemy.  I love August and September when they start to spin their webs outside my windows.   I watch them with awe as they weave their magic, and the morning dew catches on the intricate patterns making nature-art right at my door.

So I walked right up on the specimen Hub noticed on a cinder block in the garage.  It was really big!  And it had an interesting pattern and coloring, which I appreciated aesthetically.  We did decide, however, that it should be moved outside, so Hub carried the cinder block a distance from the house and I ran back inside to Google it, of course.

I found a really good site, telling how to identify venomous spiders, which of course I checked as a precaution.  I looked at a few photos and none matched our specimen, until.....

OHMYGOD!  There was one, the infamous Hobo Spider, looking exactly like the one currently stationed in my driveway!!!  Now it WAS time for me to have a freak-out moment.  That killer was just sitting there, waiting for us gullible humans to get close enough, then it would strike.  No doubt it would lay in wait for the most innocent of us, our little Angel, who is curious and fearless.  Surely it would attack her with vicious abandon at the least provocation!

I knew I had to KILL IT NOW!  I ran for the garden shovel and took a swipe.  My aim was off and it suddenly sprung from its perch on the cinderblock and took off, all eight legs running for its life.  There was nothing to it but for me to PURSUE it, striking over and over the ground around it with my shovel until finally I struck the fatal blow.  Whew!

Feeling the rush of adrenaline subsiding, pretty proud of my courage, I came back inside to find the website still open on my laptop.  As I reached to close it, I realized there was more to read after I had stopped at hobo spider, so I scrolled down.

Gulp.  Here is what I would have read, had I not panicked 10 minutes earlier:  "The giant house spider gets a horrible reputation and causes a lot of panic in Northwestern homes because it is easily mistaken for the hobo spider."

Easily, indeed.  

Much has been made of the tragic and terrible profiling of an African American teen who was killed by a man who judged this young man on little more than the clothing he was wearing (a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over his head), assuming he was up to no good in a neighborhood where he "didn't belong".  I am no apologist for this man.  I am appalled that a jury acquitted him.   But I feel just as guilty in this case of the mistaken spider.  I made a snap judgement based on some similar coloring, not taking the time to investigate further, or look for other data that would have proven helpful in judging whether there really was call for alarm, in this case a huge discrepancy in size.

Fear can be a powerful motivator and often can save us.  Panic is different.  Panic is reactionary and irrational.  I panicked today.  Spidey, you taught your lesson well;  I won't forget.  And I'm sorry.

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




Wednesday, August 7, 2013

RIPPLE EFFECT

I get a lot of inspirational posts on my Facebook newsfeed.  Sometimes they make me grumpy.

There is a fine line, I think, between inspired and discouraged.  And I don't need much encouragement to feel discouraged, because the other frequent posts are dire warnings about the earth, our country, city, and neighborhood going to hell in a handbasket.  Our politicians are corrupt, our environment on a warming path to ruin, our food is mostly poison, our neighborhoods riddled with crime, and everybody seems to despair.

So, one would think that the inspirational stuff would uplift.  Yet, often I feel it rings a false note of an oversimplified "Pollyanna" approach to problem solving; or a lament of "everybody does it better than we (the U.S.) do", then trying to encourage an unrealistic sea change in public/private behavior to do better ourselves; or encouragement to just love ourselves into a Nirvana of heaven on earth.  Or look at these cute kittens -- always with the kittens.

I do my fair share of forwarding what I think are important, interesting, funny, or inspiring tidbits too.   I want to inform, educate, and entertain.  But when I do that, what I'm really doing is showing you what's important to me without telling you why.  My son's employer doesn't provide health insurance and he can't afford it on his own; my brother lost his job and medical coverage one month before he was diagnosed with cancer.  I might send you a link to Obamacare, not only because I support it as an important public policy, but because it will help those I love.  Maybe I could just say that.  "I'm posting this because...."

I think the posts I find truly inspirational are not those that are forwarded over and over, but those that are little glimpses into lives being lived to the best of a person's ability, with honesty, integrity, optimism, and humor.  One day at a time.  One person at a time.   I like hearing about how Jim grew his own beans, Sue cares for her elder mother, Jim hosted a fundraiser,  Sue baked an apple pie for a new neighbor, Jim faces cancer with determination, Sue sang a solo at her son's wedding, Jim helped his neighbor build a garage, Sue was at the birth of her granddaughter, Jim missed his putt and made everyone laugh... You get the idea; real stuff.  The stuff of life.

I like knowing that each in my FB family of friends is out there living full-on, making a small and important difference in their worlds, just by trying, by being fully human, by challenging themselves to grow into a more compassionate, abundant Self.  There is a ripple effect.  Show us the pebble you are dropping into the great sea of humanity.  We'll all be inspired.

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

HERE COMES THE BRIDE?

Weddings are a curious phenomenon.  I'm not a big fan.  Give me a smiling bride in a simple dress with some lace on it, a groom not wearing jeans, a small bouquet, a friendly and optimistic officiant, immediate family and the closest of close friends gathered in a vacuumed living room, or weeded garden, and maybe one or more musician friends playing instruments or singing a song; afterwards, a little party that someone else plans.  Done.

But the Wedding Industry frowns on such simplicity.  The W.I. wants you to attend a Wedding Show at a huge convention center and be inundated with:  Invitation Designs, Venue Options, Gown Choices, Catering Samples, Photographers and Videographers, Florists, Wedding Planners, Limo Services, Honeymoon Hotel and Travel Destinations, Cake Concoctions, Tux Rentals, Musicians, DJ's, Decorating Ideas, Wedding Favors, Attendants Gifts,  Dance Lessons.... I'm sure I'm leaving something out.  But you get the idea.  "Simple" it's not, if you want a "wedding to remember."

Our family is in the throes of wedding planning.  Son One and Future DIL are a little over 6 weeks away from the Big Day.  It started out simple enough....and as these things go, it's still relatively low-key.  But it HAS snowballed just a tad.  Early ideas for venue were a picnic shelter or a tent in our side yard.  We now have a rented "venue" on the waterfront with an amazing view and a sound system and a kitchen for the caterers.  What started out as "pizza and beer" for the reception is now salmon and baron of beef.   We are, however, sticking with Farmer's Market flowers (making our own centerpieces and bouquets), friends doing the photography and wedding cake (both pros, thankfully), and an I-Pod playlist instead of a DJ or a band.  There's been some stressing over decorations and set up issues for changing from the ceremony to the reception, seating arrangements, and some consternation over who will cue the music and announce the various transitions of events.

But. There will be a beautiful bride in a knock-out gown, the most handsome groom ever, and undoubtedly the most precious flower girl to ever walk a wedding aisle, our Angel.  There will be some family and friends, although it remains to be seen how many -- RSVPs are slow to arrive, so there is some tension now about that (see previous post on July 29).  Yet, when all is said and done it will surely be a lovely evening.

And there will be reviews.  Here's what I'm learning:  everybody has an opinion about weddings.  I have heard from various people completely conflicting, strongly held ideas about:  bridesmaid's dresses (most are reviled),  decorations, types of flowers, whether children should attend or not, host or no-host bar, length of ceremony, seating arrangements, music, bring a gift or have it sent from the store to the bride's home, gifts themselves -- like or dislike what the bride and groom registered for, cake flavors, sit down dinner or buffet, menu selection, and how to do "the send off".    

I hate to be sexist here, but most of these very opinionated comments have been from women.  One man asked me if he had to wear a suit and if there would be bourbon.  That is the sole male commentary so far.  When I mentioned to Hub last night that between now and the wedding there would be a lot to attend to, he said, "Like what?"

Well, OK.  I guess it is not really non-stop activity, but there is a lot that needs to happen and my feeling is that we need to do more than sit on the sidelines.  Future DIL's parents live in Hawaii so we are "it" in terms of on-site parental support.  We are (mostly) retired and the bride and groom work full time and then some on side jobs and  home projects.  I know there is an arbor to build, some table decorations to assemble, bouquets to make, follow ups on RSVPs to do, seating arrangements to figure out, a dress alteration (to cover the 'it's too scratchy' waistline on Angel's dress), meetings with the cake baker and caterer, help make wedding favors, plan a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, get the house "company ready" for guests and gatherings, and whatever else I can't recall or foresee right now.   (What happened to beer and pizza in a tent?)

I have been losing sleep, but then I tend to perseverate.  The bride and groom are totally chill about it yet.  "It will all work out" is their mantra.  And seeing them so happy and excited really is part of the joy for me.  So I'm trying to focus on that, except for those 3 a.m. awakenings when I am wondering if the mics will work and if the sunset will create a problem for the photographer and if the right music will play at the right time and whether will I trip out of my new shoes during the Mother-Son dance (for which I refused lessons -- will I regret that?  Oh dear.)  "It will all work out...."

At least, that's the (OK, a little stressed at the moment) view from here...©.

Friday, August 2, 2013

MARY, MARY QUITE CONTRARY....

How does MY garden grow?  Well, typically not that great.  But this year, I don't know, something has taken root within me and I am A GARDENING ADDICT!

I think it was the slow water torture of many years of observing friends devoting themselves to flower and vegetable gardening so vocally and passionately.  Or maybe it's me (at last!) putting down all the gardening magazines, articles, newspaper clippings, and Pintrest posts showing lush and beautiful gardens, and deciding, YES I CAN!

My previous attempts have not been pretty.  But then, I didn't try very hard.  This year we've begun to implement the "30-years on the to-do list" landscaping plan in our side yard.  We cut out part of the vast expanse of lawn on one side of the house and created berms that are the Phase I of a multi-phase plan for re-imagining that part of our property.

I've called in the experts -- a small team friends, gardening veterans all, who have come over to see my  empty dirt and make recommendations about what to plant where.  I've made a new friend at a local nursery who has agreed to be "on call" for me (and probably hundreds of others who frequent her nursery and value her knowledge).

I am so delighted by all of this that I got seriously motivated and started to plant trees, shrubs and perennials that I actually hope will grow.  I am watering and feeding, tending, and fretting.  I also have a little raised bed vegetable garden and those afore-posted-about tomato plants on the back deck (update coming soon!)

And, I have a suspicion there is more going on here than just a sudden wake-up call to the joys and challenges of gardening.  It just feels different.... I feel different.

First, how long was I planning to get to this "someday"?  I'm not gettin' any younger!  All those years of pouring over gardening magazines and books was not going to get the job done.  I had to admit it; I wanted a garden, not just a lot of pretty pictures.

Next, I am aware that I have a need to "mother" something in my home.  My children are grown, the dog and cat are dead, the bird feeder at the front porch was fun but way too messy and drew critters I DID NOT want hanging around, my houseplants are healthy, happy, and not very needy anymore -- but an outdoor garden?  Now there was something I could take under my maternal wing and NURTURE!

And then there is the whole mortality thing that is never far from my mind.  I feel like planting the trees, especially, is planting something that will live on after I am gone.  I am planting something the earth will nourish and will be nourished by.  I am leaving a legacy.  I am creating something beautiful.  I am intimately involved in the circle of the seasons -- the life and death cycle of which everything is a part.  It feels calming and comforting; a reminder that I am just a cog in big, giant wheel that will go on and on in one way or another.... the Grand Garden of Life, Death, and Rebirth.

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


Monday, July 29, 2013

THREE SUMMER SHORTS




1.  HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME

Ah.  Summer.  I have not been much at the computer lately.  Instead, I have been trying to soak up as much sun and warmth and blue skies and gentle breezes and sunrises and sunsets as I can.  We are having an epic summer here in the Northwest.  Outstanding.  Exemplary.  Scary.

Yes, we are acting like the teammates of a pitcher with a no-hitter going into the 7th inning, score tied 0-0.  We. Will. Not. Speak. Of. It.  We cherish each day the sun continues to shine so brilliantly upon our gardens and outdoor activities.  We act as if this is normal; no big deal.  We act as if this will last forever.  We act as if we will shut out this summer with a walk-off home-run into the the upper reaches of October at the end of this sun-soaked season.

May it be so.
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2.  NIETHER RAIN NOR SLEET

I feel sorry for Doug.  He professes to log 8 miles a day walking his mail route largely in the neighborhood where we live, which is nothing but up and down streets on a hillside, some very steep.  To add insult to injury, he trudges another 23 stair-steps up to our front door to leave (on most days), credit card solicitations, Netflix DVDs, Sunset or Entertainment Weekly magazines, or a few bills that I haven't switched to online.  One day last week he left one lonely postcard reminding me of a dental appointment.

The US Postal Service is going broke and frequently threatens to cut service.  I read recently that in some new neighborhoods, door to door mail delivery will not occur at all.  Instead there will be a central "mail drop " location, as seen in apartment complexes.  I have to say, this makes some sense.  I think door to door delivery is a bit antiquated.  But I do appreciate it and I know not everyone has the mobility to get to a central location.  It's a quandary, for sure.

Personally, I love getting mail.  I look at it as a gift that gets delivered right to my door every day.  Mostly, now, it's a disappointing gift -- like socks.  But the anticipation is the best part anyway.  "I wonder what's in the mail today?!?"

Years ago I would get, like clockwork, a weekly letter from my mom after we moved from the Illinois "homeland".  And she would get the same from me -- often with photos of our boys included (after buying film, using up the roll, taking it to be developed, sorting out the duds, labeling the backs with date and place, and then mailing them).  I loved getting those letters between twice-monthly phone calls.  I also used to love getting birthday cards -- or any kind of personal correspondence at all, really.  Now that is so rare as to be almost shocking.

Well, enough reminiscing and lamenting.  I just hope Doug keeps up the route.  He has been our mailman for 21 years.  I have a photo of my boys, when they were about 4 and 6, sitting at the bottom of the driveway at their card table lemonade stand, and there's Doug, sipping a cool one on a hot summer day.  It's such a "Mayberry" moment.

I don't want some things to come to an end.
**********************

3.  RESPONDEZ SIL VOUS PLAIT


Son One and Future DIL are moving into the full frontal assault on their wedding the end of September.  They race to the mailbox every day to see if they've received any response cards.  Usually they are disappointed.

People are loathe to RSVP these days.  I've been told people think it's a silly, old-fashioned notion and besides, how can one plan that far ahead?  I think it's just inconsiderate, but then I'm a little "notion-y" myself about how much work it is to put an event together, asking to be let known if a guest is coming, and then hearing nothing.  It seems the least they could do on their end is respond.  And in this case we have a caterer breathing down our necks and a "per plate" fee hanging out there.

Well, our deadline is 8/17, so there's still time;  I'm sure all the response cards will flood in that week.  I'm just impatient and I see that part of the fun for Son One and Future DIL is the anticipation of a response; they are starting to think no one is coming.

Plus, I think there is a bit of Karma at play here.  I am the Queen of RSVP.  I nearly always ask for one for parties we host and always offer one when invited by another.....until last summer, when the wedding invitation for a friend's daughter got buried on my desk. I had to take the embarrassing phone call from the bride's father, who had been given "follow up" duty, to inquire if we were coming.  Oh dear!  I was profoundly mortified. So, I will try to go easy when I make the the follow-up calls myself next month.  I SAID I will TRY....

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