Wednesday, May 29, 2013

LOOKIN' FOR FUN...AND FEELIN' GRUMPY

It is the time of year when I can't believe I've lived in the Pacific Northwest for 31 years and not gone mad.

It is June-uary Eve (almost) and the hints at summer that we had in early May have been drowned out by the seemingly nearly non-stop rains of the past couple of weeks.  Oh, it is amazingly green and the rhodies are putting on a show of color that is breathtaking.  And everything is growing crazy fast (grass, weeds, vines...)  But it is WET.  And chilly (60-degrees on a warm day).  It's still sweater and socks weather...as it usually is in June.  When it is SUMMER everywhere else!  This makes me nuts.

Son-Two just got back from a long weekend with his cousins at their sunny Sedona home.  He posted many photos on Facebook of them partying on their patio, floating in their pool...  Maybe that made me colder and grumpier.

Also I have a sports injury.  Hub and I went on a 4-mile "urban nature walk" last Friday.  My plantar fasciitis flare-up necessitated getting some supportive insoles for my shoes, so I stuck them in my hiking boots, thinking I was being oh so conscientious about caring for my feet.  The insoles took up too much space and I ended up with nickel-sized blisters on the TIPS of both of my big toes!  Finally, on Monday, Hub lanced them to relieve the pressure.  So, now they are bandaged and so sore I can barely tolerate socks, let alone shoes.

The news is also overwhelming me.  Wars and rumors of wars.  Chemical fertilizers poisoning our food supply.  Violent weather patterns causing enormous tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts.  People shooting each other with stunning regularity. Short-sighted, anti-intellectual, ideologue politicians blocking any attempt at progressive legislation.  Child abuse -- some asshate put his infant daughter in the freezer because she wouldn't stop crying, then he fell asleep!  (She was found by her mother an hour later, cold, but alive).  I could go on and on.  It's too much to take in sometimes.

This is a bummer post.  But my promise is to be honest.  And honestly, sometimes grousing for a minute helps.

We used to do an exercise in my women's group called "Poor me!"where we named every frustration, irritation, and bad thing in our lives, large and small, and after each, said, "Poor me!"  Sometimes tears would flow as we acknowledged a truly rough patch of life; sometimes after a bit of "poor-me'ing", laughter would erupt as we realized it was all pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  I guess this is a "poor me" kind of morning.

So, now I'm gonna plug in some Magical Strings, read a bit of Billy Collins, sip a cup of Madagascar Vanilla Rooibos, and look forward to lunch with friends.  Poor, poor pitiful me!

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




Monday, May 20, 2013

YOU SAY TOMATO, I SAY DISASTER

A while back I wrote about the fact that both of my parents, having grown up on "grow it or starve" farms in the 30's, had little desire to continue with the 'grow your own' life once they fled to the city and found the Kroger store.  My mom, however, did grow the occasional tomato and I recall them being huge, red, juicy and delicious.

I have tried to grow tomatoes too.  Unsuccessfully.  Dreadfully.  Discouragingly.

So, when Hub went to a plant sale yesterday and came home with several tomato plants of different varieties, I was not thrilled; dismayed, actually.  The pressure, once again, was on to see if we could coax any one of them to give up even one ripe tomato at harvest time.  Stressful!

Let me say this:  My house plants are healthy, happy, and thriving.  I just can't seem to duplicate my "inner" green thumb in the "outer" world of my yard.  Oh, anyone can beat back the usual insanely prolific number of species of shrub, bush, and weed here in the Northwest.  But anything I plant on purpose, especially if it is meant to end up as food on my table, usually ends up droopy, brown, and dead, in spite of my fussing and worrying and reading a library-full of gardening books.

But it's all the craze these days to grow some of your own food and believe me, I LOVE that idea.  It's just that I'm so awful at it.  And I admit, some of the awfulness is that I sort of lose interest in the science of the whole enterprise....soil chemical analysis, compost structure, watering methods, various fertilizer options (organic, of course!) and pest control (organic, of course!)  It is a botany lab that this liberal arts major flunks every time!

So, now I have these tomato plants lined up on our back deck (where they will get the most sun and reflected warmth from the wall) and already I feel they are mocking me a little.  But I have adopted a new tactic.  I am naming them.  They are going to be my little babies and I am going to anthropomorphize them into healthy growth and full fruited harvest!   I'm sure it will work.  If I think I am "feeding them breakfast" and "giving them a drink of water" and making sure they get their "booster shots" on time, and chasing away the "bully bugs"...that should work, right?

Meet Patte, Tony, Manny, Blossom, and Osue.  We also have Apollo, an independent spirit hanging out on the other side of the deck.  (Names loosely attached to the varietal, in case you were wondering.)

 I'm sure we are going to have a lovely bonding experience over the summer.

Then I will slice, dice, and devour them just like a good mommy should.

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

BIRTHING CREATIVITY

Annually I partner with our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship's music coordinator to create a Sunday service of Music, Movement and Spoken Word.  This past Sunday, Mother's Day, was that service.  I wrote a "testimonial" for it.  Here it is:


Mother’s Day.  I have an ambivalent relationship with this day.  For many years, this day meant a reminder of something I didn’t have and desperately wanted -- children.  

Then, finally, I became a mother through adoption and during the most exhausting of those years of caring for young children I decided Mother’s Day should be a day set aside for NOT having to be with my children.  Shouldn’t it be a day when mom gets to go to the spa?  Or read a book?  Or see a matinee alone?  

On this day we hold up the ideal of mother -- that mythical being who is full of self-sacrifice and unconditional love, not the mom who doesn’t have a clue, gets it wrong most of the time, or who through bad luck, lousy choices, or impossible circumstances seems to love any number of things more than her own children.

For some of us this day is one tinged with grief.  Maybe we have lost a mother, or lost a child, and when everyone else is celebrating, we are sad.  

Any day set aside to honor can also be a day that is just tough to get through, since one size (or one commemorative day) does not fit all.

Yet, mother or not, perfect or not, grieving or not, we can reclaim this day with a shift in focus, using the best of the mother archetype and making it our own in our own way.  

The energy that goes into mothering a child is the energy that also goes into birthing a dream, igniting the spark of creativity, holding a vision of completion. 

Mothering energy is powerfully present when you love and care for a cat or a dog or a horse or a coop full of chickens...tending, feeding, doctoring, comforting -- knowing each in their own way, giving to each just what it needs, enjoying the sweet innocence of give and take between you and this precious creature you love.  

Mothering energy is powerfully present when you plant a tiny seed in fertile soil you have prepared, waiting patiently for it to sprout, then coaxing it to grow by providing nutrients, water, light, and a sturdy stake upon which to lean until it bursts into full flower, or provides food for your table, in the fullness of the harvest.

Mothering energy is powerfully present when you stand before the blank canvas, or sit before the blank page, and a germ of an idea -- a color or a word -- sparks its way from your creative source to find expression in your art.  Day by day you add, delete, expand, re-imagine, until, finally there is a painting or a poem -- gestated in your quiet, private moments, ready to be shared with the world.  You may never know how many lives you will touch by sharing this song of the heart.

Just as a mother holds her infant close, letting go bit by bit as her child grows into being herself, independent and ready to take his own place on the planet, so too does a mother of creativity hold close her idea, manifesting bit by bit a vision, growing it to fruition, to take its own place in the great fabric of creation.

To be a mother is to find that place of creation within, that place of selfless discipline, that place of overwhelming love, that place of exhausted frustration followed by heart driven re-commitment to that which we love, to that which we have no choice but to birth, nurture, and then, eventually, to let go. 

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

Monday, May 13, 2013

FEAR OF FLYING

It's a good damn thing I'm the vigilant type.  Otherwise that plane would have gone down.  I'm sure of
it.

Flying the red-eye home from Kaua'i on Friday night, I was on high alert.  Well, nearly every time I fly I try to get my adrenaline level pumped to the max, not so much ready for "fight" as I am for "flight".

I had a most horrific air travel experience 30 years ago and my body likes to remind me of it every time I walk through an airport, get a whiff of jet fuel fumes, or settle into my coach class sardine can-sized seat on any flight.   Friday night was no exception and flying in the pitch dark over thousands of miles of open ocean really gets the old juices flowing.  Throw in a little (nearly constant) light turbulence and we have the makings of a really dramatic plot line.  Have you seen the movie "Flight"?  Uh-huh.

So, right off I tried to project with my white knuckle, racing heart, outwardly calm but inwardly roiling countenance that all was well...or not.  It was hard to tell.  There were "a few bumps" climbing to cruising altitude at 35,000 feet, but it became apparent the bumps up there were about the same as the bumps down lower.  Were these towering thunderclouds previously unknown to aviators anywhere?  Was this a freak weather system of Biblical proportions? Obviously!  Everyone else, however, seemed ignorant of the danger about to befall us -- flight attendants were serving beverages, "Oz, the Great and Powerful" was playing on the movie screen, and a fair number of passengers were settling in for an overnight sleep.  Like sheep to the slaughter.

As for me, well, I was only too aware of the impending plummet from that towering height into the depths of the great Pacific sea, wondering how long it would take -- sort of a gliding loss of altitude or maybe a nosediving jackknife?  Hard to tell.  I was convinced it would be due to engine failure -- or maybe loss of a wing -- since the flight crew arrived far too late to do an adequate pre-flight safety check.  The pilot basically got on the plane with the rest of us!

I wondered how long I could cling to my seat cushion and whether my life vest light really would deploy in the water or whether the battery would be dead (as is true of all my flashlights at home) and everyone but me would be rescued bobbing around out there in the dark.

I wondered if there were any little islands out there, previously unmapped, that might welcome a packed Boeing-737 in distress, but then figured probably not, or if so, then there would be the whole "Lost" "Survivor" thing to contend with after landing.  The Others were most certainly waiting...

I wondered why other people were contentedly reading, messing with computers, chatting or sleeping -- seemingly unaware of the many disasters we'd all already endured.  I mean, really, did I have to do all the work?  Apparently.

I tried to imagine Denzel in the cockpit.  Drunk or not, I'd trust him with my life.  He was so cool and calm in that movie.  But I thought I recalled a 55-ish, graying, slightly paunchy white guy crouching into the cockpit as we boarded.  He looked more like he should be at Gleneagle lining up a 4-foot putt than saving us with any heroic inverted flying maneuvers.

As it turns out, the plane stayed in the air, my seat cushion and life vest were still stowed upon landing, and everyone woke up sort of dazed, but somewhat refreshed from their naps.

No one acknowledged me for doing the heavy lifting of imagining, and meditating away, all the death and destruction scenarios they were too distracted by their own selfish need for a calm flight to help with.  Whatever.  Air travel vigilance is my speciality.  It's a thankless job, but someone has to do it.

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

Sunday, May 5, 2013

MURDER AND MAYHEM AT THE MARRIOTT


James Patterson, John Grisholm, Robert North Patterson, Sue Grafton, J.D. Robb, Lee Child....  Poolside reading of the mindless, page-turner variety, seems to lean toward murder and mayhem.  I have to include myself in this cohort -- I've been following the escapades of Jack Reacher and Eve Dallas myself.  (I should include Nicholas Sparks here, being read by one young woman who apparently enjoys the "murder of the novel" genre.)

But the greatest mystery to be solved is what is going on in the dark digital world of all those Kindles, I-Pads, and Smartphones!  It took several days of floating around the pool spying on the readers in lounge chairs to come up with the list above, which were actually few and far between.  Mostly I see people holding E-readers of various brand.  I have no idea what they are reading!  And that totally screws up the survey I have taken each year to determine "most popular" pop-literature.

Not long ago it was easy to see what was at the top of the paperback best seller list, because the majority of the poolside community were reading the same book!  The last time I found consensus was in the "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" days.  Those bright yellow book covers were blinding in the Kaua'i sunshine!  Now we are all hiding in the digital world and who knows what's going on in there????  I hate to speculate...

The other "downside"of the digital reader age is the dearth of used paperbacks in the resort lending library.  We readers used to power through a stack of books on our trip, then leave them behind for others to enjoy.  No more.  I checked out the library the first day here and found a paltry selection of about 20 books, most of them titles no one has ever heard of, along with a couple of Harlequin romances, and a few religious tracts.  Humph!

I mourn the passing of vacations past, of holding a book in my hands, turning its pages, perhaps getting it a little waterlogged and then back home finding some sand in the seams along with memories of those windswept days of reading on the beaches of Hawaii.  I walk past my bookcases at home and the mere sight of some of those spines takes me back to another time in my life, remembering where (and who) I was when I read that book....

But I confess:  I now tote around an I-Pad and mostly download e-books from the library.  I no longer turn a page, I tap it.  I set the font for "large" and eye strain is relieved.  Instead of a suitcase full of bulky books, I have one device where I have thousands of books available at any given moment.  Yep, it's convenient.  And a little sad.

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


Saturday, May 4, 2013

YA SPOT IT, YA GOT IT


Hub told me my last post, about the cruise ship crowd, was a bit "snarky".  Pshaw.  I wasn't even close to as snarky as I could have been.  Plus, we all know humor (or an attempt at it) is really ultimately at our own expense.  Ya spot it, ya got it...as in the points I made in that other post:  I am not so spry nor am I super thin; I used to both drink and smoke; I burn easily in the sun; I wear dorky clothes sometimes and I am among the least well-traveled people I know, hence "foreign" really is foreign to me.   Are we all  happy now?

So, let's try this -- a snarky post about me.

I suck at hiking.  I wrote about this last year in Kaua'i, too, so I won't go into detail.  Suffice to say, there may be beauty all around me, but I mostly stare at the ground when I'm moving, willing the death march to be over.  Yesterday, though, I was on one of my fave Kaua'i hikes (the one I like) and I wish I'd switched on my I-Phone video so I could post for you the Jurassic Park jungle beauty around me and the brilliant, varied, and beautiful birdsong that was the soundtrack.  Pretty amazing.

I also suck at water sports, except for my favorite, which is sitting at water's edge in the sand for a few minutes, until the sun becomes too intense and I scurry for the shade of a palm tree.  I have friends at home who are strongly encouraging me to try snorkeling.  They are full of gentle urging and handy tips -- float with a floaty Noodle under my chest; practice in the pool; get a tight-fitting mask...  Putting my face in the water on purpose feels like anti-survival.  I did not evolve with gills.  But I did work up the courage to stick my face in the water in the pool today and blow bubbles through my nose.  I held Hub's hand the whole time (5 seconds) and he cheered enthusiastically and offered "Good job!" congratulations.  I  am now on par with all the three-year-olds in my class.

I do not like to "party all night long".  It is our habit to leave our lounge chairs at around 5:00 and head for our unit.  I shower, throw on a loose fitting sundress, pour a Club Soda and watch the waves from our deck until Hub is ready to grill some fish for dinner.  He takes off to do that, while I prepare a salad (open the Costco container) and set the table.  Soon he is back with tales of grilling adventures from the courtyard, where he meets and talks to strangers.  We eat; I clean up; we each grab a book and lie back to read until we fall asleep.  Or, we might turn on the TV.  There are limited channels here, but we do get Comedy Central so our beloved Daily Show and Colbert Report are available.  We also brought some Netflix discs of Homeland with us, but dispensed with those within the first few days of our vacation.  Hub forgot to pack Game of Thrones, so we are currently at a DVD-watching handicap.

So, you see, one could make a snarky comment about how absolutely NO FUN I am.  But that depends on your perspective, right?  I make terrific fodder for writing snarky blog posts, which is EXTREME fun!

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

Thursday, May 2, 2013

SO JOIN US HERE EACH WEEK MY FRIENDS, YOU'RE SURE TO GET A SMILE...

Aloha!  When I started this blog a little over a year ago, some of my first posts were from Kaua'i -- our annual respite from the Northwest drizzle.  We're back.

When we first started coming here 14 years ago, there were no cruise ships docking in Nawiliwili Bay. Then after a time, we noticed that Thursdays saw the dawn arrival of a huge ship and the swarm of "boat people", with their blue and white striped Norwegian Cruise Line towels, spread body-to-sweating-body upon "our" Kalapaki Beach.

 I don't begrudge anyone the pleasure of this sweet little beach.  But the operative word here is little.  It's just a crescent of sand on a small bay.  So all those extra people made me a feel a bit crowded in.  They seemed to have no qualms about spreading those towels out about 3 feet from my lounge chair.  We took to leaving for other parts of the island on Thursdays.

But for the past 2-3 years, there is no escape.  One of these behemoths arrives nearly every morning with the sunrise, making their "Kaua'i" stop on the Hawaiian Island cruise itinerary.  The shore tour buses caravan to the dock, picking up full loads of passengers to ferry to the many wondrous locales of the Garden Isle:  Wiamea Canyon (the "Grand Canyon" of Kaua'i); Hanalei (of Puff the Magic Dragon fame); Spouting Horn (the island's very own "Old Faithful"); Coconut Marketplace (tourist mall)...on and on.

But some people don't hop on the party buses. (We've heard group sing-alongs as they drive by -- oh such good cheer!)  Instead they make their way on shuttles or by foot (a couple miles) to Kalapaki Bay beach.  My beach.  Nearly every day.

We still stake out our palm-shaded lounge chairs early in the morning, an introvert's distance away from other people, and settle in for a day of ... nothing much.  But we know now to expect that we will soon be sharing space with cruisers of various stripe. (We've discovered the parts of the beach that are relatively less populous, so our quiet is usually fairly preserved, but still....).

I have written before about my anti-cruise bias.  I have never been on a cruise ship, which naturally makes me uniquely qualified to have a strong opinion.  I don't need to clutter my mind with facts based on actual experience.

So, here are my thoughts, based on my annual observations:

1.  I'm really, really delighted that cruise ships are ADA and senior-friendly.  Judging by the number of geriatric and variously-abled folks I see rolling and shuffling down the bricked walking path along the beach, I am grateful for them (and impressed, really) that they and their canes, walkers, and wheelchairs must be so well accommodated by cruise ships.  I truly admire these folks, really.  I think traveling is a pain in the butt even when strong and mobile.

2.  I am also INCREDIBLY happy that the cruise lines are doing something about the American obesity epidemic!   To presumably be hosting an enormous number of contestants on what must be "Biggest Loser" cruises, these ships offer a chance for folks to, you know, get in shape.  I believe the motto must be: "MORE VOLLEYBALL!!!  LESS BUFFET!!!"  At least, that's what I'm hoping, cuz there really is an over-representation of, well, "heavy-set" folk plopping down next to my chair.  I do admire their lack of body-image-shame.  Who says bikinis and speedos are just for the svelte?   (Also they have no fear of the sun -- the redder the better!)

3.  Carnival really is the "party line"!  Oh my!  Large groups of 20-30-somethings with nothing but beer and cigarettes to consume on shore day sure looks like capital "F" Fun!  Lots of laughter!  Lots of horseplay!  A little public amorous adventuring!  You can sleep when you are dead!  Party on!  (Carnival hardly ever stops here -- Kaua'i is far too tame for that crowd).

4.  Cruises are a boon to the resort wear industry.   Island cruise = new wardrobe!  Red, white, blue! Stripes!  Stripes! Stripes! Nautical!  Tropical!  Impossibly white tennis shoes!  Rhinestone-studded ball caps!  Home team logo T's!  Gaudy florals!!!  Inspiring!

5.  I get an international relations education.  Lots of different languages and customs abound.  Like just the other day, I watched as a foursome, speaking a language I did not recognize, spread out a dozen feet from me.  An attractive enough young man, wearing perfectly sensible board shorts, stood flexing and preening for a few moments, then reached toward his waistline, untied his shorts and let them descend to his ankles, exposing a most skimpy and REVEALING Speedo!  Emblazoned across his behind were the letters SRBIJA.  Smartphone at the ready, I did a quick Google search and discovered the origin of this mysterious language and predilection for an unusual display of national pride -- Serbia!  Da!

So, all in all, I guess the cruise lines are doing good in the world.  They are veritable floating cities, a cross-section of peoples and cultures and inter-generational good times.   We are the world!  We are the people!  But for some reason, I am still not convinced I'd be a happy cruiser.

I looked up the cost of one of these Hawaiian Island cruises -- about $2300 for 10 days.  I guess it's a good enough deal, if your idea of fun is sharing a floating barge of non-stop stimulation and distraction in the middle of the ocean with 2000-3000 people you don't know, won't meet, and many of whom you don't care to know anyway, with occasional stops for dash-about sightseeing (at extra cost), then back up the gangplank for another jaunt to more of the same....

Everyone has a price.  If it costs $2300 to buy a spot on one of these voyages, I might accept $5000 to agree to go.

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