Thursday, January 24, 2013

COLOR ME HAPPY

I was all aglow on Monday.    All my work and worry and obsessive Facebook posting last fall had finally come to fruition at the election after-party that is Inauguration Day.  Only a million people showed up on the National Mall this time, unlike the nearly 2 million in 2009, but most I heard interviewed (the "just folks" interviews) said President Obama's Second Inaugural was even more meaningful.  It proved that 2008 was not a "fluke", a 15-minutes-of-fame sort of celebrity wave of novelty.  Re-electing Barack Obama made him legit.  We like him; we really like him.

So Monday was a moment in history -- the moment when a black man (well, biracial, but no one really sees that) is sworn in for a second time, this year falling on the national holiday that is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It does seem nearly impossible, given the brief span of time (well within my lifetime) since the days of attack dogs and fire hoses.  MLK taught us to dream, and this President is a dream come true.

I had the TV on all day.  But in spite of my delight and interest in the proceedings, I was distracted.   "Angel's" mom dropped her off at 7:30 a.m. for a day of "childcare" with us.

Here's more good news, if sometimes inconvenient.  Angel's regular childcare provider had a paid holiday.  Yep.  She has operated her own in-home childcare for many years and has a reputation for being a caring and skilled provider with a preschool teacher background.   Angel is very happy there, has learned to print her name, sing songs, count, recite her ABCs, and color amazingly detailed pictures.  And her provider runs a very professional business.  She takes paid holidays, meaning Angel's parents paid for the day, but did not receive childcare.  At first we were all frustrated with this occasional inconvenience (and expense), but the more I thought about it the more I admired this provider/business woman for valuing herself and her profession enough to run it like a real workplace.  She is doing extremely important, demanding, and stressful work -- why not treat her with the respect she deserves?

That said, it was rather startling in October when she announced that she was taking 2 months off to visit family in her native Pakistan!  She was one part thrilled/one part anxious, as a naturalized American citizen, a woman, and YIKES!, a Christian, any or all of which she feared carried more weight at this point in history than being native born Pakistani.   Her brother installed security cameras around the perimeter of his home in preparation for her visit.  But now she's back and the smell of curry wafts through the door when I sometimes fetch Angel from childcare.  We all think it is funny that Angel, when the scent of curry finds her in some random place, says, "Mmmmm, that smells good!"  We think she has imprinted an olafactory memory that will last a lifetime -- like me with bread baking in the ovens of my childhood.

So, as we played tea party, dollhouse, blocks, race cars, and bouncy ball, ate snacks, gave our Toby-dog treats, petted the cat, made a fort, whipped up blueberry smoothies, danced, sang, read stories, and colored endless pages in the Christmas coloring book that we didn't get to over the holidays, and drew a notebook's worth of pictures of ever more elaborate birthday cakes (not sure why...), we also had the Hail to the Chief festivities going in the background.

Occasionally I would call Angel's attention to the TV, expounding, "That is our President, Angel!  He is the leader of our country!  His name is President Obama!  When he was little he lived in Hawaii where you visit your grandma and grandpa!"  I was full of enthusiasm, trying to draw her attention to politics, geography, and American history.  At one point she mimicked, "That's our President!  Can we color now?"  I could tell she was largely unimpressed.

As it should be.  She's 3-1/2.  And by the time she's old enough to care, a black (or any other race or ethnicity) President, a woman President, a gay President...all may be unremarkable.  I hope so.  I pray so.  As I watched her navigate her play-world in the warmth and love of our home,  I thought of the very different world I saw around me growing up, where white men were the only people who held positions of privilege and power and I didn't even realize I could find my voice, as a woman, to protest that fact until I was 24 years old.

Angel will find her own battles to wage to make our world a better one, but she won't be invisible or silenced or ridiculed just for being female and multi-ethnic herself.  Her mother is caucasian, her father is Native American, her soon-to-be step-father, my son, is Caucasian/Hispanic, she has a Hawaiian middle name to honor the state in which she was born.  She is a 21st century child; the face of our changing America.   Thank God.

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

Friday, January 18, 2013

FOOD FIGHT



This one is for the galz.

Is it just me or does junk food seem even more delicious when your man is out of town?

Hub and I are healthy eaters.  Except in December, we almost never have chips, crackers (except those little rice cracker discs), candy or desserts in the house.  We rarely eat white starches -- pasta, rice, potatoes, or crusty breads... hot from the oven... slathered in butter... Oh! I digress!

But the minute he leaves town for some reason, I am all about the "forbidden fruit"-- light on fruit, heavy on forbidden.   Recently, within 2 hours of his departure, I ate a large slice of carrot cake I impulsively bought at the store, while shopping for kale. That was at 10:00 in the morning.  Then I made a batch of popcorn for lunch.  Dinner was pizza and a salad ("I'm not completely crazed", I thought to myself, munching on a forkful of sweet pepper and romaine between cheesy bites of 'za).  Later in the evening I was kicking myself for not grabbing a small container of ice cream while shopping that morning.  I had Greek yogurt and blueberries instead, with granola and walnut topping.  And a cherry.

It might have to do with what I observed as a child.  (Yes!!!  Let's continue to blame my mother for my life-choices!)   My dad was a meat and potatoes guy.  The meat and potatoes should never touch each other.  Sometimes a scoop of corn or beans could also find a spot on the plate, but nothing exotic like broccoli or cauliflower.  So when Dad went to his company conference for one summer weekend each year, we ate.... wait for it.... SPAGHETTI!  CASSEROLES!!!  And sometimes, HUGE TUBS OF BUTTERY POPCORN -- FOR SUPPER!!!!  And my FAVORITE!  CHOCOLATE CAKE AND POTATO CHIPS!  (The absolute perfect combination of sweet goo and salt crunch!  Mmmmm...my mouth is watering.)

So, maybe it's just me and my mom still hanging out when Hub is away.  She's not in this realm anymore, but I do smile remembering those rare days of eating any damn thing we wanted to eat, whenever we wanted to eat it.  It was fun!  Hub's not so fussy as my dad, not at all.  We eat a large variety of really yummy stuff.  But not much 'junk'.  So the Rebel Ivy reaches for the Snickers and throws caution to the wind...

Here's to us, Mom!  The kale will keep.

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

Thursday, January 17, 2013

JACK WAS NIMBLE

I am having people over on Saturday.   I should be cleaning, shopping, getting ready.  But that's not what Jack would do if he could be writing instead.  That's what I tell myself.  I don't really know what Jack would do.  I didn't know him that well.  I didn't know him much at all, really, other than the "public" Jack who stood on stage and mesmerized us with his words.

Jack McCarthy, Stand-Up Poet.  That's what he called himself.  He showed up at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship a number of years ago and hung out.  Sat sort of towards the back, slouching a bit at the end of the row, when he came to Sunday service.  Didn't say much.  I heard he was some sort of poet, so I was immediately intimidated and bestowed upon him all sorts of magical powers he probably didn't possess.

Then he started performing his poetry at local coffee houses.  And organized Invitational Poetry Slams at our Fellowship -- got all the best local poets to come and compete.  Local poets who had already made names for themselves in National and International Slam Poetry competitions.  I was completely and utterly blown away.  The raw power, the amazing stringing together of words that created image and emotion, told a 3 minute story that often stayed with me for days and weeks.  I became a FanGirl of Slam Poetry.

What I later learned about Jack was that he was legend in the Slam community, first at his home base in Boston, then the Northwest and points in between.  He was the "old guy" who hung with the 20-somethings and mentored them, shared space with them, competed with them.  And they loved him.  We all did.  He could make you laugh until you cried, then cry only because the next three lines of his poem were so poignant there was no other choice.  Following the flow of his words was like watching a kite fly in a blue sky, swirling, soaring, diving, reviving.

When he decided to teach a performance poetry class at our Fellowship I was the first to sign up.  I was elated.  I wanted to see if I could in any way produce that magic too.  I used to have dreams of writing. Not "daydreams", actual nighttime lucid dreams in which I wrote the most amazing things -- all kinds of writing -- and I'd know in my dream that it was real, that I was doing it, but the moment I came back to this world, the words drifted slowly away and were lost.   Still, I had never thought of myself as a writer.  I wrote. Yet to say "I'm a writer" was too big.  But Jack taught me otherwise.

The first thing he said at the first class was, "If you say you are a poet, you're a poet."  And with that out of the way, he showed us how to be better poets.  And encouraged us to keep learning, practicing, just doing it.  He was a "performance poet" where the verbalization of the words he wrote were as important as the words themselves.  I loved that.

Every class we were asked to come up to the front and read/perform a poem.   Being externally motivated and used to "teacher-pleasing" I always read with the hope of getting Jack's "atta-girl".  I was usually disappointed.  His response to a reading was usually a non-committal comment, but nothing like accolade, although he was very kind to one very bad poet and I loved him for that.  Once he even pointed out to the group that one poem I read was a good example of spotting a beginner poet, those who always seem to write about the craft of writing poems.  Grrr...  Another time, after what I still consider to be among my 2-3 very best poems, he said this:  "Sometimes you just know when you get it right."  I took that as high praise.

And I learned from his stingy compliments that my heart-song was my own to sing, whether anyone else liked it or not.  So I just kept going.  Kept writing.  Started going to Open Mics and Talent Nights and organizing readings with my women's poetry group.  People responded to my poems with laughter, tears, and applause.  It's a fabulous feeling to get that approval.  But that pales in comparison to the few who came up afterward to tell me they were touched, could relate, I spoke their own experience.  Writing, for me, is about connection.  The highest praise I can hear is that someone felt their own experience reflected and validated in my words.

And maybe that's ultimately what Jack taught us.  That each person's particular experience has universal appeal when we speak it out loud, sometimes on stage, under the lights...allowing our own vulnerability to give permission to another to touch theirs.

Jack died today.  He's one of those people who touched many lives.  I'm sure his memorial service will be packed with all sorts of people who will be a reflection of his amazing life.  I will sit towards the back, slouching a bit, remembering a man whose poems will never die.

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


Jack McCarthy  May 23, 1939 - January 17, 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

ROCKIN' in my chair N' ROLLIN' my yarn ball

This is what it comes to, I guess.  I am 62.  Do the math.  I was in my 20's in the 70's -- the days of sex and drugs and rock n' roll.  I did some damage.  And OK, looking back, I could have been a wee bit more cautious.

In the intervening years, I did grow up, learned to be responsible and accountable, and loving of those other than myself.  I had a job, raised kids, took care of aging parents and nurtured a marriage.  Settled down, in other words.

Settled WAY down, as it turns out.

On Monday I decided to curtail the sweet tooth I'd indulged over the holidays and cut back on my mochas too.  I did great for 3 days.  But today I was out shopping mid-day for yarn to crochet a "throw" for an upcoming fundraiser at my church.    And I got hungry.  I should not leave the house on an empty stomach because I tend to get a little shaky when my blood sugar plummets.  So, what to do?

Well, you know what is on every corner, luring me like the Sirens in the Odyssey....that wily green-haired mermaid!  Walking through the door of Starbucks, my reusable cup in hand (save the earth!), I looked furtively about (as if anyone cared), feeling like I was walking into a crack house.  Ashamed.  Desperate.  Eager.

Here's what I ordered, my usual:  Tall, decaf, non-fat, no-whip, extra hot mocha.  Look at that!!!  There is absolutely nothing in that thing!  How could it be so wrong?!?  Right?  And I got the oatmeal cookie, because oatmeal is a health food.  So there!

But still, all the way out to the mall I felt guilty as I munched and sipped my indulgent lunch.  Oh, failure that I am!  Oh, weak-willed woman!

And as if that wasn't bad enough, I got to the check-out stand and discovered I'd forgotten my 1/2-off coupon!  Drats!!!  I actually thought of putting my yarn back, going home for the coupon and returning, which would have saved me a whopping $4.00!!!  (Um, about what I spent on the 'speed-free' coffee).  But I thought, no, it's OK.  The carbon footprint I would leave to make another trip probably is offset by the $4.00 overpayment....

Oh, it all gets so complicated!  Oh, for the carefree days of hip-hugger bellbottoms, the Doors, and a doobie!

And even more so when I re-read this post.  Let's find the key words of a changed woman:
"yarn", "crochet", "fundraiser", "church", "blood sugar", "decaf", "non-fat", "no whip", "oatmeal", "health food", "coupon", "Drats!" "carbon footprint".

I need a shot of tequila!                          

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


SLIP OUT THE BACK, JACK...MAKE A NEW PLAN, STAN...*

I can totally tell it's the new year because I see lists of helpful hints for being a better ME everywhere.  Here are few that have shown up in my inbox, newspaper, magazines, etc.:

10 Things You Should Do Every Day
5 Ways to Get What You Really Want
3 Books You Must Read NOW
20 Things I Learned Last Year -- and Still Ring True for 2013
12 Tips for Self Care
6 Steps to Realizing Your Deepest Desire
6 Steps to Staying Happy
5 Keys to Working Effectively with People
5 Things You Should Eat to Lower Your Cholesterol
10 Superfoods to Eat Every Day
9 Nutrients You Can't Live Without
12 Places You Should See This Year
5 Road Trips Within 100 Miles of Home

And on and on....

I know each of these is supposed to entice me into thinking how absolutely effortless it is to be happy, healthy, well-informed, and stimulated.  But the constant barrage of "you can do it...feel good now...do this...do that" just makes me want to give up already and watch more TV.  I'm even losing my enthusiasm for the personal lists I referred to in my previous post.  Because all these "easy" ways to be better are collectively a bit overwhelming.  Screw it.

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

I also hear there are 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover*, but I just don't have the energy.  Hub's safe for another 40 years.

*Paul Simon - 1975

1/14/13 ADDENDUM:
Just today...the tips just keep coming:
1.  11 Tips for Restorative Rest
2.  How to Overcome an Eating Disorder in 6 Steps
3.  3 Paths to Happy Healthy Peaceful Real Authentic
4.  10 Simple Rules for Ladies and Gentlemen
STOP STOP STOP!!!!©


Friday, January 4, 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR


2013....  2013????  Here's me in 5th grade (1961) when I woke up to the fact that the "1900's" would be over at some point....I sat at my desk, counting on my fingers (I got left behind in 4th grade long-division, so my fingers still act as my  personal abacus) to determine if possibly I'd still be alive in the year 2000.  I accurately determined I'd be 50 years old and I might actually live that long since I knew my grandma was over 50 at the time....
Well, I did live that long and then some.  In fact I'm still here and occasionally sit and count ahead as I did then, wondering how far into this millennium I might expect to get.   I try to be optimistic.

And then I remind myself that "the future" is pretty irrelevant and TODAY is the only thing I have.  In fact, THIS MOMENT, is really the only thing I can count on.   Still, we are sort of programmed to plan ahead, set goals, project into the future, and this is all necessary if we want to live in chronos world, so, every New Year feels like a clean slate, a time to start over, to make plans, to anticipate.
This year is no different for me.  I find that on this, Day 4 of 2013, I am nearly manic with enthusiasm for the possibilities that lie ahead.  I am filled with "clutter-busting", cleaning out, getting organized energy.  List upon list of "things I want to do" are materializing -- classes to take, trips and travels to undertake, family times to plan, socializing to do, movies to see, recipes to try, projects to begin (and accomplish!)  And weight to lose. (It is obligatory to throw that in.)

This is a time of transition in my life, as the last decade has been, actually.  But this feels different.  Something has shifted again within me and I feel a movement toward more peace, less stress, more acceptance, less judgement, more equanimity, less anxiety.  I am incredibly eager to see if I am right about this. My life always surprises me and I'm never actually sure if what I think is happening really is. All of this positive thinking and eager anticipation could fly right out the window with the first emotional trauma, bout of unexplained depression (hello, old friend), or disaster of any origin.  Still, something ...something...something that feels like confidence in my ability to lean into whatever comes my way is wriggling itself into my psyche.

2013.  Could this be the year when my life feels like something I own, am responsible for, and embrace  instead of something I am enduring, fighting, and utterly confused about?

Some of the elder women mentors I've known, those in their 60's and beyond, tell me there is a definite shift in thinking/ feeling/being that occurs after 60.   Could that be what this is?  Oh, how delightful!  That is not to say there won't be pain, loss, fear, more confusion.  But there may just be a calm, peaceful, loving embrace of EVERYTHING that is life and the knowing that nothing is forever.  "This too shall pass" may be the wisest words ever spoken, as each moment passes into another and another and another....

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