Friday, December 26, 2014

GRATEFUL, AT LAST

Well, that's over.  It's December 26th.  My favorite day of the year--usually.  But I feel a little like I'm just getting started.

Christmas season was quite a struggle for me this year.  My family and friends must have tired of my grousing and groaning and rolling my eyes and outright being negative with me singing my many and varied melodies of "I hate Christmas".  My decorating, cooking, and gift buying was minimal.  I sent out our Christmas letter, finally, on Christmas Eve -- a "Happy New Year" greeting as it turned out. I missed my mom a lot.  I derided the expectations, traditions, and commercialism of the whole thing.  I resented having to play along, when I just wanted to ignore the whole event.  Bah Humbug, indeed.

Then came Christmas Eve.  My family took up a whole row at the candlelight service at my beloved Unitarian Universalist Fellowship -- me no doubt beaming with pride and also noticing how all of us grandmas were looking around at extended families gathered and saw we were ALL beaming with pride.  It touched  my heart.

Then we all came home for our traditional Christmas Eve buffet, gathered in our living room which is under-populated the rest of the year, but becomes Christmas Central for a few days of winter when the fireplace is lit, candles burn, the tree is vibrant with color and Manheim Steamroller Christmas music serenades the scene.  Angel wrote her letter to Santa, we all exchanged gifts with Son-Two's girlfriend, who wouldn't be with us on Christmas, we talked and talked about Son-One and DIL's new baby, due in March, who would be part of our family next Christmas.  I felt all warm and fuzzy.

Christmas morning was quiet and I sat alone in the living room, letting all my angst and sorrow and anger and resentments melt away into a long meditation on gratitude.

In the afternoon, the gang gathered again.  Son One and his family brought cookies and fudge and spiced cider and bags of gifts and one excited little Angel who had had herself a fine Christmas morning at home playing with her Santa toys.  We all took turns unloading our stockings and opening gifts and I noted the thoughtfulness that went into each one -- the perfect gift for the person receiving it, obviously sought and purchased or made with pride and love.

Dinner, puzzles, books, assembly of the new bird feeding station, several games of darts on the new dart board, conversation, games, crafts….  How is it that I forget, or can't appreciate, that these are practically "Rockwellian" tableaus being played out right here in my house?  Why do I think it should all be even more perfect?  Even more jolly or festive or, I don't know, entertaining somehow?

Note to self:  Next year just shut up about hating Christmas and have a little faith.  It will all be more than OK.  It will be perfect, just as it is.

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

THE NEEDING SEASON

A FICTION BASED ON REALITY:

I'll be so glad when the holidays are over!  The whole thing exhausts me.  So much to do, never enough time.  I am so distracted I often run out on some errand without my coat!  Coats are such a bother anyway, trying to get my seatbelt fastened over all that bulk!  I guess I could grab a lighter weight jacket, or my rain coat.  Crazy how we need about five different weights of clothing in the Northwest!
     Shirley shuffled along Hewitt Avenue.  The air was turning cold, night was not far off and she heard a man on the corner talk about snow coming.  She pulled her sweater around her a little tighter.  She'd walked the entire length of Hewitt ten times that day.  Killing time.  Trying to keep warm…

I'm getting so frustrated with shopping this year!  Toys are getting so expensive!  I must have made 20 trips to Toys R Us.  Every time I spent more than intended, but oh well.  Christmas only comes once a year and I don't want to disappoint the kids on Christmas morning.  The bills won't come in for a few weeks anyway.  Thank God for plastic!
     Carmin waited in line outside Santa's House on the first shopping day.  It was 7:00 a.m. and the doors didn't open until 9:00, but she knew she needed to get there early to get anything decent.  The good stuff went fast.  Donated toys were often broken or worn.  She spent Christmas Eve washing a dirty set of plastic play dishes last year -- a partial set.  She hoped to find a nice doll for Grace this year, but she knew she'd just have to take what she could get…

Of course there's also all the last minute shopping.  You know, those gifts you didn't intend to get, but you got one from them so now you feel obligated and there's always a last minute party invitation that requires a hostess gift.  Well, that's what the season is for, right?  Generosity and good will toward all!  Just like the Hallmark cards say!  I also see so much I just can't resist for me too!  And decorations!  So many cute things to make the house sparkle.  Oh, I love Christmas -- so beautiful!
     The van was crowded.  They'd kept moving it, to avoid suspicion.  It was getting cold at night, too.  The social worker said all the shelters were full.  Christmas was coming, but they could hardly put up a tree in the van!  Bill had been out looking for work all day.  Cindy and the kids had gone to the park early that morning to play, sit, and wait.  Finally she saw the van coming.  Bill climbed out and handed her a sprig of holly.  He wasn't smiling.  She tied the holly to the antenna with a piece of string she'd found on the ground.  They watched the kids swing.  Maybe they'd come back here on Christmas morning.  There was a big tree in the park, all lit up.  There wouldn't be any presents, or much food, or a warm fire, but at least they were still together….

I tell you though, family is what Christmas is really about!  Even though they can sure be annoying!  I mean, Uncle Hal is so boring!  And if I have to eat one more of Aunt Helen's "amazing jello salads" I'll choke.  And couldn't we just NOT watch sports all day on the holidays?  Sometimes I wish I could just go off by myself.  Now that would really be a special holiday!
     Rosa sat in the dark, holding her baby, both of them crying.  How had this happened to her?  In Mexico she was a bank executive.  Here she was a fugitive.  She'd come to this country with her American husband, but after all the beatings at his hand she ran from him.  Now the immigration service was looking for her.  She was not legal; she'd be deported and her baby would go to her husband or into foster care.  She missed her family in Mexico City.  What would she do?  Her tears continued to fall…©


We think of Christmas as the season of giving, but the season of giving never ends so long as the season of needing goes on and on and on.  I originally wrote this piece in 1991, based on stories I'd known of through the social service agency where I worked.  It's been published a couple of times since then, and still, not so much has changed in 2014.

May our Christmas be filled with blessings we appreciate  and generosity that we remember to demonstrate all through the year.

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


Sunday, December 21, 2014

MAMA


It's well documented (year after year) that I struggle with the Christmas season.  But the other day I just sat right down and cried.

Grief came calling out of the blue when I was cleaning my house, preparing to welcome dinner guests.  Thoughts of my mom came to me and my heart nearly burst with love and appreciation for her.  I wanted her back in my kitchen, sitting with me again, so I could tell her how much it all meant to me; how much she meant to me even when I didn't know it, rebelled against it, was too ego-centric or stubborn or just plain ignorant to tell her until she was well into her elder years and I was starting to have a glimmer of all she had accomplished as a wife, mother, and woman -- without complaint and with an admirable degree of good cheer.

I think of her most vividly at Christmas.  I know now the effort, work and worry that goes into "creating the magic".  She seemed to do it effortlessly, but nothing that memorable happens without effort.  My dad was a good father, but not a very helpful husband when it came to "women's work".  Jobs were definitely gender-specific and I don't believe I ever saw him get very close to the kitchen.  Or the vacuum cleaner.  Or the gift-wrap.  But it was all there, the Christmas magic, every year -- mostly a solo effort on her part.

Maybe some of my struggles with the season are about missing my mom.  My parents' home was always the family gathering place.  The tradition of hosting the holiday get-togethers was never passed down to my brothers or me.  We all went to Mom and Dad's, even when grandkids came along, even when I moved 2000 miles away and flew to Illinois for the holidays.   It wasn't until my dad died and my mom moved to the Northwest to live near me that I hosted the holidays.  It was a small gathering of just the four of us and mom.  The rest of the family was far-flung by that time.  Mom always brought coffee cake and fruit salad for early morning gift opening and always a dish to contribute the Christmas dinner too.  She carried bags of gifts wrapped and ready and was dressed in holiday finery with her fancy jewelry sparkling in the firelight.

Later, when her dementia set in, she seemed more confused than festive.  At her last Christmas with us she has a haunted look in her eyes, even as she is half-smiling in the photos and trying to remain present with the event.  I see my own haunted look of desperation -- the too-wide smile, the kneeling-at-her-side, arm-around-her-shoulders attentiveness,  the attempt to cheer her going so wide of the mark that now I  find the red boa and fuzzy Santa hat I adorned her in to be less fun than humiliating.

Christmas is a time of remembering and my memories of Mom are vivid and joyous; vivid and sad.

So I sat right down and cried the other day, tears streaming down my cheeks, dust cloth in hand, and murmured, "mama".    But she would not have wanted me to feel so bereft.  I can hear her, as I did so many times, say, "Oh, honey, don't cry.  I just want you to be happy."

Maybe me making peace with Christmas would be a way to honor her.  Maybe finding happiness in this supposed "Season of Joy" could be a healing practice.  And maybe a 64-year-old woman can just miss her mom...and that can be OK too.

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

ADJUSTMENTS MUST BE MADE

Once a month I facilitate a group called WISE -- Women Investigating, Supporting, and Exploring -- a gathering at my Unitarian Universalist church for women over 60.  We investigate what it is to be an "elder", how our culture views us, and what we can do to bust a few myths of aging. We support each other with sharing of  joys and sorrows, challenges and victories. We explore where we are and where we are going next, setting goals, making plans, making peace, and still raising our fists, fighting to the end for a better world.  We laugh a lot too.  

Yesterday we exchanged recipes, which is about the most traditionally "old lady" thing we've ever done.  We had a blast, each pulling a recipe out of a passed basket, then listening as the person who brought the recipe told the story behind it; why it was special to her.  We also talked about what kind of Christmas we are having this year:  Joyous, Lonely, Cranky, Broke, Sick…  there are all kinds of responses to this season, not all of them Merry and Bright.  Our minister gave a really good sermon on this topic right before our WISE gathering.

Something that came up for one woman was acknowledged by many.  There comes a time, often, when we are no longer the hub of the magic.  We are "retired" from being at the center of the festivities, as kids marry and move away, go to the in-laws instead, or just decide they don't really like Christmas.  Maybe we've lost a spouse, or have moved to a smaller house, or just don't feel like continuing with all the hoopla.  Sometimes Christmas sucks.

We decided there is a degree of freedom in stepping back, but there is also the possibility of a great deal of grief when our role changes, often not of our choosing.

My "kids" still come to our home for the holidays and I am grateful for that.  Yet there are times when I feel sad about losing the place of importance and primacy in my grown sons lives.  We were so close when they were young and my life pretty much revolved around them.  Gladly so.  Yet, the successful outcome of all of those years of dedication is bittersweet…they grew strong, independent, and capable of creating families and lives of their own.  

There are times when I miss the "old days" and indulge in a bit of longing for more closeness and intimacy at times.  I feel a little sorry for myself and that feels good -- to acknowledge my sadness and aloneness.  Then I dust myself off and realize the days of holding them in my arms, tousling their hair, hearing their most secret hopes, dreams, frustrations and griefs may be gone, but...

My job isn't really finished.  I continue to teach and show them the way, just as I always have.  I continue to model for them what I hope for them to experience as "elders" -- a life that is lived at a slower pace, but one still filled with passion and purpose.  

I can still reach out to them in ways they can accept now -- with a text or a phone call or a Facebook post, a small gift, a word of encouragement, a reminiscence, a loving hug, a weekly family dinner.  I am there for them, a constant in their busy lives, even when they don't notice.

I am there, just as they will be for their own kids, in some far-off future Christmas season when they will shed a tear, too, for what has passed, what has changed when they are no longer the Center of the Universe for their grown children.

And that's as it should be; it's just hard sometimes.  Our work is to acknowledge new realities and adjust accordingly, with love for them…and ourselves…at Christmas and always.

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



Saturday, December 13, 2014

SCROOGE YOU, CHRISTMAS!

Oh, Christmas Season…you old foe.  I've largely given up the urge to run from adversity, having gained skill in "being with what is" and filling my emotional toolbox with a wide selection of just the right gadgets to get me through most anything, eventually.  But you….you….you still get to me.

One of my BFFs is jetting off to Kona this weekend for a month-long stay and I am still holding out hope she will kidnap me and make me go along.  And when I say "make me" I mean, my bag is packed.  But more likely I will be here for the duration of the Falalala-ing with December 26th circled in red on my calendar -- my favorite day of the time period from Thanksgiving to New Year's.  What some call a let-down, I call relief.

Relief from the traditions, expectations, "to-do" lists, socializing, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, last minute shopping, lists, lists, lists, socializing, socializing, socializing, socializing….

I hear your advice, so don't even bother.  You would be amazed at how little I do for the season compared to when my kids were young and I ran around like a friggin' Martha Stewart clone.  To look at how I do the season now, comparatively, you'd think I was comatose.  Still…

I don't think it is entirely my own doing that causes me to fall into a Christmas Season funk.  I think it's the whole craziness that has grown up around it and this culture of commercialism that has influenced even the ways in which we think we are rebelling against it all.  As if the pressure weren't great enough to create a meaningful, festive holiday I now am asked to "walk my talk" at an even brisker pace.

The pressure to "shop local" means no gifts or gift cards from stores my family loves.  (I must have been a terrible mom to raise children to adulthood who go the mall for clothing -- where's your sewing machine???  And buy their lumber at Lowe's -- grow your own!!!)  No bulk items from Costco that would make food and drink more affordable (even if I only buy organic, free trade, uncaged cheesecake?).   No new Christmas music downloaded from I Tunes (get out the old clarinet; make your own music!), No new books (and every single other thing I can imagine) from Amazon  (Fine…I'll write a book and impose it upon my unsuspecting loved ones).   It's just a different version of the quest for perfection.

So, yeah.  I'd like to be sitting on a beach about now and on Christmas morning,  papaya juice running down my chin, Mai Tai in hand, I'd raise my glass to shield the sun.  My BFF and her hub would then serenade me on their dual ukeleles plunking out a little "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", as the waves kiss the shoreline.   Yep, that sounds about right.

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




Monday, December 1, 2014

LIFE LESSONS FROM THE NUTCRACKER

I may finally be making progress on a part of myself that I have not loved for a long, long time -- the part that rears its ugly head most prominently around the holidays and has caused me so much frustration and angst: trying to create a perfect experience.

I love the "idea" of many things, but especially the Thanksgiving to New Years season of festivities, so when the reality of said activities falls far short of the ideal (Hallmark cards, "very special Christmas episodes", etc.) I am sad and depressed and feel a failure at something others seem to pull off effortlessly. (At least that's the story I make up.)

So this past Saturday I felt a wee bit of anxiety about my storybook-perfect idea of taking my 5 year old granddaughter, "Angel", and her mom (my beautiful daughter-in-law) to the Pacific NW Ballet production of The Nutcracker.  This is a fairly big deal thing around these parts -- a big, bold, beautiful professional ballet of the holiday classic.  The tickets are pricey.  Everyone dresses in holiday finery.  It's a highlight of the holiday season and all declare it "magical", making it a prime target for a big letdown when all doesn't go according to the fantasy-laden plan, right?

So I woke up to a blanket of snow.  Snow.  It almost never snows in the lowlands here in Puget Sound.  And when it does people freak out and driving becomes a snarled mess, especially on the hills of downtown Seattle -- where we were headed.  Add that to a massive street reconfiguration construction project blocks from our destination and I figured we'd just be sitting in traffic listening to the soundtrack all afternoon.  But amazingly (!) I didn't panic.  We were leaving in plenty of time and my new Suburu Outback was up to the snow-driving task.  Unusually cold, unusually sunny -- a gorgeous winter day.  Perfect for The Nutcracker.   Son-Two gave me some alternate route driving tips and we were there in no time.  Easy-breezy.  So glad I didn't stress about it!

Upon arrival we discovered they offered padded seat cushions to younger audience members -- a "booster" of sorts so they could see better.  Another concern of mine averted.  I had sprung for some close up seats, but still, it's hard to see over adult heads.  Again, a problem I'd created in my mind, solved.

The lobby was teeming with families and children dressed in party finery.  Little girls in lace, ruffles and frills.  Boys in dress-up clothes.  There were larger-than-life figures of characters from the ballet to stand beside for photos, even a miniature "set" of Marie's bedroom, and several large and ornately decorated Christmas trees.  My fantasy was that I'd take a Christmas-card worthy photo of Angel at each of these and she would be resplendent in her pink lace party dress and beautifully styled hair.  Reality:  there were lines a mile long of families with the same idea in front of each "photo-op station" and we'd be lucky to get even one photo taken before the curtain.  We opted to hit the restroom then saw a long table full of coloring books and Angel did what she loves -- colored for about 10 minutes.  I let go of my photo fantasy and enjoyed her pleasure in coloring a ballerina picture.

As we took our seats, Angel started to struggle with her hair -- it had picked up some static electricity and was flying about and into her face and very annoying, so her mom pulled it back into a messy pony tail secured with a hair tie.  There went the perfectly coifed fancy "do".  I loved how relaxed she looked and happy to have that annoying problem solved without stressing over the degradation of her dressed up "look".  Relaxing into reality and letting go of perfection felt good to me too.

Angel seemed to really enjoy the first half of the ballet.  She was attentive and joyful.  At the intermission she wanted a Rat King cookie, which her mom stood in line forever to secure for her.  Many families had pre-ordered their intermission snacks, and I guess some secured them along with prime seating near the Christmas trees (photo op!), but some families were annoyed that their pre-order refreshments were no where to be seen!  Oh dear.  So, our wait in line did result in a cookie for Angel, and she got to have several hurried bites and one sip of apple juice, sitting on the floor, against a wall with an electrical outlet over her head (not picturesque), before the bells rang to warn us the second act was about to begin.

Back in our seats, I could tell Angel was losing some of her rapt attention.  She was a little squirmy and distracted by wanting to talk to me about the ballet ("shhh….shhh…shhh"), rather than watch quietly with deep appreciation for the classic beauty of the ballet art form, the beautiful and rousing Tchaikovsky score, and the creative and unique set design by Maurice Sendak.  Instead, she took great pleasure in continuing to applaud long after everyone else had ceased, her little hands clapping an echo throughout the acoustically perfect McCaw Hall.   Her mom and I gave her about 5-6 claps, then reached over to silence her by gently putting our hands over hers.  Instead of being annoyed, I was sort of amused by her delight in breaking this little social etiquette rule.

After the ballet, we had hoped to have a backstage tour.  A man from my church works PNB and other big concert venues and had offered to take us backstage.  His wife emailed me his phone number and I'd already sent him two texts and left two voice mail messages, but had not heard back.  I called home and had Hub recheck the number I'd written down and the one I had was the one she gave me.  But finally, I got a text from a stranger telling me he received all my contacts but he was not who I was looking for.  Darn!  Disappointed, but oh well….it was a bonus add-on to the event and I was able to just let it go with barely a ripple of regret.  Maybe next year.

I later found out his wife had transposed a number; she felt badly, but I was still fine with the outcome especially given the fact that Angel seemed to need to let go of the little girl in lace persona and proceeded to yell, run, jump, and throw sticks all the way back to the parking garage.  Enough of this "all dressed up, acting oh so mature" stuff!  She also had a bit of a meltdown about her mom not letting her eat the Peppermint Rocha sample candies that were being passed out as we exited and the traffic getting out of the parking garage was at a standstill and all she wanted at that point was to just Go Home!  When we tried to ask if she'd enjoyed the ballet she pouted, "No!"  I just smiled.  I knew she'd have a different story the next day, and she did.  ("It was so fun!")

The point of recounting all of this is to say…..I saw within myself a transformation that has been years in the making.  After the ballet fewer people were hanging around to have pictures taken, so we did get to have one in front of one of the characters.  I asked a woman to take it of the three of us, but we already had our coats on so our pretty dress-up clothes are hidden, Angel's hair was in her impromptu ponytail, and the woman stood a bit too far away -- but we are there and I will treasure that photo as a reminder that perfection isn't real, that memories aren't made of  Hallmark soft-focus portraits, that sharing that day and that experience just as it was was more important than trying to create a storybook moment.  I'll leave that to the professionals at PNB.

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




Sunday, November 23, 2014

KISS A SHEEP

So, I'm sitting here with nipple cream on my lips…..  (The image you have in your mind right now says a lot about you, don't you think?)

I've noticed my body seems to be drying up, as if I've spent a year trudging the Mojave Desert.  I wonder how bad it would be if I wasn't taking that little 'smidge of estrogen replacement every day to allow me to live a normal-ish life?  Here's an aside some of you ladies might be able to identify with:  After my hysterectomy I was thrown immediately into menopause.  I started to have hot flashes that were so frequent I couldn't sleep at night.  My doctor told me to keep track -- I was having a "flash" about every hour 'round the clock.  It would start with chills -- like put on two sweaters type of feeling cold -- then within a minute or two I'd start to feel nauseated and soon was glistening in perspiration and shedding those sweaters, and everything else, to find relief from the heat.  'Round the clock.  No fun.  And exhausting.  My doc prescribed just enough estrogen to keep the hot flashes at bay.  I worry that I shouldn't be taking it, but my risk factors are low and she thinks the sleep cycle interruption is likely a greater health hazard.  I'm going with this plan for now.  I'm taking half of the lowest dose possible every other day and that doesn't stop the flashes completely, but it helps and I'm not constantly disrobing.  Plus, a little HRT keeps one from drying up completely, if you get my drift.

Anyhoo…A few years ago I noticed my skin seemed so much dryer than usual and often a little itchy. I went to the dermatologist and she said it was "age" (I hate that explanation) and environmental effects of winter.  She recommended slathering a goodly portion of Cetaphil lotion all over once a day. It helped! For years I used the lotion version, but here's a tip -- the cream is MUCH better (both available at Costco, the lotion in a two-pack and the cream in big tubs).

Two years ago I started to struggle with a "weepy" eye and occasionally blurring vision after long reading or writing sessions.  At my ophthalmologist visit I learned that in spite of the tears that stream from that eye, the diagnosis was "dry eye" and a bottle of lubricating "tears"was recommended.  So now I dose my eyes as needed.  (I use Systane Ultra, also available at Costco in a multi-pack).

Last winter I was literally in pain with severely chapped lips.  I tried coconut oil from the pantry, bought a bushelful of drugstore lip balms (Carmex and Burt's Bees Hydrating helped best in a losing battle), one of my BFFs gave me a pricey and terrific cream that was the best of the lot, but this year none of those gave me relief when my lips started to flake, crack, and bleed about 3 weeks ago -- when we had that cold, dry spell and my furnace kicked on every day.  I was miserable and a trip to the dermatologist seemed to be in order; I didn't want another chapped lip season like last winter.  But I decided to troll the Internet one more time, looking for a solution that didn't involve a co-pay.

I happened upon a stream of conversation on the topic of "severely chapped lips" (don't you LOVE Google?!?) where people were recommending Lansinoh -- a 100% natural, no preservatives added, "#1 recommended brand by lactation consultants" pure lanolin, used by breastfeeding moms to soothe sore nipples.  The testimonials said within 3 days their severely chapped lips were healed.  I hightailed it to Rite Aid.

Yep, there it was in the baby food/formula/breast pump aisle in a pretty purple tube.  About $12.00 for 1.41 ounces, but when I figured how much I'd spent on worthless lip balms, I decided it was worth it.  I coated my lips every couple of hours.  The first day I didn't see any difference, but it felt soothing.  The second day, I noticed my lips were a bit smoother.  By the third day -- MIRACLE!  Just as promised by the Internet posters, my lips had no more scaly skin, the soreness was relieved, and my lips looked and felt healthy!  I'm continuing the regimen a few times a day and really loading up at night.  (I will have to see if Costco carries it.  You would think I'm getting a Costco kick-back.  I'm not; just trying to pass on the benefit of my research.)

With this nipple cream on board I plan to remain smoochable throughout this winter season.  On Thanksgiving I'm giving thanks for sheep.

At least that's the view from here… ©



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

TIME FLIES AND IT'S THANKSGIVING

Hoo-Boy.  I'm suffering a pretty good case of writer's block this month!  I can't believe I haven't written even one blog post until now.  But in fairness to me, I think I've fallen into a Black Hole where time is running at a pace much accelerated than is typical.  (Does that happen in Black Holes?  I don't really have the science down on that, but you get my drift.)  How in the world did it get to be November 19th?  And what happened to October?   At breakfast with a BFF yesterday we agreed that the days seem to fly by in some strange otherworld zone where it's even hard to recall what we did from day to day.  I noticed this happening more and more after I retired just over 4 years ago -- there were no real "markers" for the passing days -- they all sort of look alike in that I get to plan and organize them at my own pace and with activities of my own choosing.  But my friend still works and even she is having trouble hanging on to a sense of order and any ability to "slow" things down enough to understand that a new month is over half gone.  I feel like I'm in a Time Machine traveling at warp speed.

So, anyway, looking at my calendar, I see that (Wow! Already!)  next week is Thanksgiving.  We had our weekly family dinner last night and DIL offered to bring her fabulous homemade pies again this year -- salted carmel apple and pumpkin cheesecake.  I so appreciate that -- one less thing to buy at Costco.  (What?  Me bake???  Nah….)

I'm really a hopeless cook.  I've probably written about this before, but every Thanksgiving I'm reminded how stressful cooking is for me.  Of course everyone knows this by now and to avoid my meltdowns (there have even been tears!) for several years I've had lots of help -- well, let's be honest.  I'm not sure anyone is "helping" me anymore, since so many parts of the meal have been taken on by others.  Typically Hub does the turkey and gravy; Son-Two does the mashed potatoes; I do the stuffing and candied yams and cranberry/orange sauce; someone gets some veggies going (green bean casserole and/or brussel sprouts); I get the rolls in the oven.  Everyone helps dish things up and carry food to the table.  Somehow it all gets done pretty much on time and we sit to eat together in gratitude for my mom -- from whose recipes the entire meal emanates.

I think about my mom every year.  She didn't like cooking either, yet every Thanksgiving or Christmas (she and her sister traded hosting the holidays) she would shop, prep, and cook the entire extravaganza all by herself.  No one pitched in.  She didn't ask for (or demand) any help, seeing it as her job.  And it was all finished on time, all hot to the table, all served on her "good" china on a beautifully set table.  I'm sort of in awe of that.  That's a true talent, if you ask me.

Living so far from our extended families, for years our Thanksgiving was just the four of us -- Hub, me and our kids.  Then Son-One started to bring his girlfriend and her daughter, who his now our lovely DIL and our little Angel.  Next year we will have a new family member when our new granddaughter will be at the table in her high chair.   I like the tradition of family gathering for Thanksgiving.  I love the tradition of everyone helping with the meal.

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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Is anyone else out there a little afraid of the dark?   I hate to admit this but several weeks ago I had a pretty horrific, adrenaline pumping sleepless night because I was awakened at 1:00 a.m. by what sounded just like the door to our side yard slamming shut in the room just below our bedroom.  I know that sound, even thought I'd felt the vibration of the slam.  I sat straight up in bed, heart pounding.  I was home alone.  Immediately I felt very vulnerable in this big 'ol house.

Also, I felt silly.  We had an alarm system installed in 1986 after a bad guy broke in to our basement while I was home with infant Son One.  He fled when he heard me calling 911 from upstairs.  Still, that was enough to keep me in "fight or flight" mode for a good long time.

Even now, I guess, I still have a high alert response to unusual noises in the night.  I'm always overly self-protective when I'm sleeping here alone.  Alarm on; all doors double locked; maybe a little light burning in the kitchen.  But once those compulsive security measures are taken I usually sleep great, enjoying the bed to myself for a day or two.

But not this time.  I lay awake and alert for a good half hour, hearing every creak and moan of the house.  Finally,  I got up and tiptoed to the window.  All dark and quiet.  No cars on the street.  The wind was calm.  Nothing moving.  I shuffled over to the phone to ensure the lines hadn't been cut.  Nope.  I heard a strong, steady dial tone, so the alarm was working.  (I never should have watched that TV movie some years ago where the bad guys came in during the unprotected daytime open door and hid inside until night when the family was asleep.  I mean, really!  Who thinks this stuff up?)

I stood at the top of the stairs and peered down, trying to determine if anything looked different from when I went to bed.  No; everything was the same.  Still…I kept thinking I heard "something" down there.  I stood motionless for probably 15 minutes.  Then I slowly descended the stairs, clutching my cell phone and my weapon of choice: the deadly sewing shears.  (Don't worry; I've been trained in their use, which generally involves fabric, but I figured I could improvise.)  I did a cautious walk-through and nothing was amiss.  Still….I couldn't relax completely.

Eventually, I got so tired of feeling frightened that I nearly decided to check into a hotel, just to make the anxiety stop.  Quickly I decided against that extreme measure.  I thought of calling Son One to see if I could crash on their couch, but the thought of his heart racing when he saw me on the caller ID at two in morning stopped me from doing that too. Why bring him into this craziness?  Besides, both of those choices would also require me to go into the garage…an area I had not checked in my walk-through.

So, I moved from room to room over and over, peering out, listening, wondering what I might have heard, telling myself how foolish this was and how once the sun came up I'd feel better and this would all seem so unnecessary.

Still, I couldn't imagine going back upstairs and expecting to sleep.  I sat erect on the sofa, checked the mass distribution emails that always come in the middle of the night; flipped over to Facebook and noted which of my friends was up and posting at 2 a.m. (a new mom, of course, and my night owl friend who works all night on producing a monthly arts magazine in South Carolina).

Finally, by 3:00 I lay down on the sofa and soon was asleep, awakening to the sunrise at 5:00 with stiff shoulders and a sore neck. I got another hour of dozing in before being up for the day.

And sure enough, it all seemed so very over-wrought in the daylight.  I am quite certain I didn't dream the sound, but I certainly can't account for it either.  But I shouldn't be surprised, really.  I have had that experience in this house on and off ever since we moved in….the phantom door slamming thing.

I thought we had evicted our resident ghost.  Maybe she's back.  Anyone want to come by for a sleepover?  We'll have tons of fun!

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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

CHOOSE HOPE

This morning, watching the spectacular sunrise, I find my emotions walking the tightrope between despair and hope.  Life is so precious and so sad.  It's hard not to sound like a cliche-writing hack when one contemplates the fleeting nature of this human existence.  So, I'm not going to put many words to the swirling emotions I am feeling, shared by a community in shock and grief.

You've likely heard.  Our community was the "top story" yesterday across the nation.  Another school shooting, this one ten miles from my home, in a neighboring town where many of my friends live, where their children go to school, where some of their children go to that school.

I went to a candlelight vigil last night at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  We sang songs of comfort and strength, lit candles, held each other in love as grief washed over us.

This morning one girl is dead; the boy (who was by all accounts a popular well-liked athlete and leader) who used a gun on his classmates, and then himself, is also dead.  One boy is in serious condition, one boy and two girls in critical condition in area hospitals.  For all of them I feel such sorrow; for their families I feel such anguish; for all of us I feel such pain, numbed by disbelief.

And numbed by the almost commonplace nature of the event.  Our local first responders were remarkable -- but then they had trained for this.  The school teachers and students themselves were remarkable -- but then they had trained for this.  We now train ourselves for how to react to school shootings, so common have they become.

I won't go on my rant, my deeply-held belief that our national fascination with readily available firearms is partly to blame.  I know it's complicated -- not long ago another small local community endured the stabbing death of a student at school.  I know it's complicated -- funding for mental health services is so often on the chopping block when it's time to balance the budget.  I know it's complicated -- we model violence as conflict resolution for our kids with entertainments like video games, TV dramas, and outrageously gratuitously violent movies; we model it in our real-life wars and even with the specter of angry discourse in our political debates where anger and fear and intractable positioning seem to be the order of the day.

Still….what I see mostly around me everywhere are people of good intentions, who love their families, work hard, laugh together and want to find peace, happiness, and meaning in their lives.  This we share and this we must elevate to a cause for celebration of our shared humanity, even in the face of tragedy.

I won't fall into despair.  I choose hope.

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

UPDATE:  One of the girls in critical condition died October 26, 2014.  Her parents chose to give the gift of life to others through organ donation.  And the grief goes on….

UPDATE:  On October 31, 2014, the other girl in critical condition died.

UPDATE:  On November 6, 2014, the shooting victim who was wounded, but recovering, went home from the hospital.

UPDATE:  On November 7, 2014, the last victim who had remained in critical condition died.

Friday, October 17, 2014

GIVE IT THE AXE!

So, one thing about having an adult male "child" live with you is knowing when he leaves for work by the scent of his Axe cologne spray permeating every square inch of breathable air space in our home for about 15 minutes post exit.  Who makes this stuff?  And why?  Ohmygod!  It's not unpleasant, really, but it is insistent.

The description:  "A unique all over body spray with a premium fragrance to keep you smelling great all day or all night."  The directions:  "Just hold the can six inches from your body and spray it on your chest and neck."

I've seen him spray it -- usually more than six inches away from his body, with far less than full coverage of chest and neck.  I mean, for as little as he uses, the residual odor would seem to indicate he'd just filled the tub with the stuff.  I have to wonder if it's the aerosol that distributes it so widely.  Can't they make it in a nice little liquid that he could dab behind his ears?

Hub doesn't use cologne; never has that I recall.  And I don't use perfumes or colognes either.  They sort of choke me and give me a headache.  I'm not sure when this started to be the case.

I remember rather fondly the smell of my dad's Old Spice After Shave.   As a little girl I would sit on the edge of the tub and watch him at the sink, lathering up his shaving cream and dabbing it all over his beard with a fluffy brush.  Then he'd take his Gillette and in smooth, sure strokes remove all those prickly whiskers until he was clean-shaven.  He finished by shaking his Old Spice from that smooth cream-color container with the exotic sailing ship (exotic for us in landlocked Illinois corn country), and rub it between his hands, then all over his face.  It was a ritual I never tired of observing.

I also remember when Brute and English Leather colognes were all the rage for adolescent boys.  In 8th grade I was mad for a boy nicknamed Bo.  He was a bit of a bad boy -- in fact, the first in a long line of bad boys I seemed to be attracted to for some time.  (I did end up with a decidedly stalwart "good boy" for which I am most grateful and which likely explains our 42 year and counting marriage.)  Bo and I ended up at a party together in some kid's basement and then gravitated to a big cushy chair in the corner where we commenced to "making out".    (Thinking about this now I am appalled at how young I was for such activity, although at the time I felt oh so mature.)    The whole little session really amounted to only a lot of kissing, and the happy transfer of his English Leather cologne onto the collar and shoulders of my groovy new Madras plaid blouse.  When I got home I could still smell it.  That shirt hung on the back of the chair in my room for a week's worth of olfactory reminiscence.  Then my mom decided to wash it.

During my hippie period Patchouli, of course, was the ubiquitous scent, mixed with a healthy wafting dose of Nag Champa incense.   So whenever I (rarely) get a whiff of Patchouli these days, I'm right back there lazing about in some black-lit room doing the things we did then…. 'nuff said.

Isn't it funny how our noses are often better historians than our brains?  They say the sense of smell is the most powerful of all our senses and governs way more than we realize in how we decide, love, attract and repel experiences.

It could very well be that years from now, I'll catch a whiff of Axe while walking down the street and suddenly I'll be stopped in my tracks with a longing for Son-Two to fill the house once again with the odorous overtones of his morning body spray ritual.

But probably not.

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

POCKET RANT

What ever happened to pockets?  I just came from a little shopping expedition and I saw a cute cardigan that would have been super comfy and cuddly and warm for winter.  But I wanted it to have pockets. It didn't, so I passed it up.  Just like I pass up skirts, pants, and dresses of a certain casual style because they are pocketless.  Come on!  A little seam pocket (my fave) is easy and cheap to make!  I love pockets!  I love to stick my hands in pockets, to store my phone in pockets, to stash a tissue or a mint in pockets…what's the deal with NO pockets????

DO NOT make me take up sewing again!  You know it didn't always go so smoothly last time.  Sure, my mother was a professional seamstress and could make draperies, a woman's suit, a prom dress, and any sort of skirt, dress, slacks, top, and coat -- all with pockets! -- and upholster a set of furniture seemingly in all in a day's work.  I did not inherit that talent, nor the patience to pursue it.  And she's not here anymore to bail my project out of the dumpster. So WHY CAN'T STORE-BOUGHT CLOTHING INCLUDE POCKETS???

It should.

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


Saturday, October 11, 2014

EASE ON DOWN THE ROAD

The word "exercise" is synonymous with high school PE to me.  I sucked at PE.  I was not athletic and didn't care to be.  I was not strong or coordinated and had no natural inclination for sports or games. I had no endurance.  It was torture.  And embarrassing.  I still feel that way.

Maybe that's why I was drawn to Hub.  I have a "jock" husband -- star pitcher (ask him about his no-hitter), game winning quarterback (ask about the quarterback sneak against cross-town rivals).  He still absolutely owns the double-diamond runs on his snowboard, at 64 years old.   He's a natural at most sports stuff.  For years he wanted me to like physical activity too.  He was patient and encouraging and unfailingly persistent. We tried hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, jogging, walking, biking...I would start out with good intentions, then at his urging to go "just a little further" there would inevitably be that point where I was frustrated, ashamed, and in tears, vowing, "never again".

He has learned over the decades together that I will no more leap at the chance to do a challenging hike or take to the snow-covered mountains with him, than he will ever want to sit with a cup of coffee and write a poem or read for hours on end with a purring cat on his lap.  We've made our peace with this divide.  I will go for the occasional hike or walk or bike ride or kayak paddle -- at a slower, more leisurely pace than he would if he were alone.  But we are companionable about it now and I don't cry.  He will also often go off on his adventures alone while I read and write and sip my coffee (alas, no more kitties).

Yet, I know a bit more physical activity that gets the heart pumping would be a good thing for me.  How can I motivate myself?  This is a question I've been asking for most of my sedentary-leaning life.  The other day I decided to boil it down to what I like:  Pleasure, Ease, and Beauty.  So, how can those be part of my movement practice?

Pleasure:  Music -- I could listen to I-Tunes while walking.  Movies and TV -- I could watch while on my treadmill.  Coffee Shops, Art Galleries, Book Stores, Libraries -- I could make these destinations for my walks.  Peacefulness -- I could take a flow Yoga class that is a bit more aerobic.

Ease & Comfort:  I could walk/ride on flat terrain, eschewing the hills.  I could use hiking poles on (gently sloping) trails.  I could do outdoor activities only in pleasant weather.

Beauty:  I could do my walking/riding in arboretums, through pretty neighborhoods, along waterfronts and in forests.

I could dance -- a winning combination of heart-pumping movement, pleasure, ease, comfort and beauty.  I've gotten away from my Ecstatic Dance practice since I stopped facilitating this for other people.  But tonight is Ecstatic Dance night and the gal who took over for me will be leading folks in an hour of joyful, meditative movement to a playlist that will both rock and sooth the soul.

Maybe it's time I started to look at exercise differently; maybe it can be pleasurable, easy, and beautiful. Hmmmm….we'll see….

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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

RANDOM GRATITUDE



Today the sun is shining in its perfect October way, giving us a bright and beautiful landscape after days of fog, hinting at the rains and clouds to come soon to this part of the country.  Maybe that's why my heart is full of gratitude and happiness.

Here are some random things that make me happy today:

Son-One and his wife, our beautiful DIL, are expecting a BABY GIRL!!!  Yep, little 5-year old Angel will be a big sister.  (There will be other posts about this, of course (!), but we just found out the sex of the baby, so we are floating like this pink balloon!)

YAY!  SEE YOU IN MARCH, SWEET GIRL!


Our Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, who absolutely everyone loves because he is such an amazing athlete with an almost unshakable positivity about everything in life and is an articulate and caring person as well, has started a Foundation to combat Domestic Violence, which I think is pretty great.  Watch him here and Pass the Peace:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPqGbALs_Y0


My all-time very favorite singer/songwriter, Jackson Browne, is 66 today and how the hell does that happen anyway, when I am still 26 and I thought he was 28.  Oh well, here he is singing the anthem of my mid-20's.  He has more poignant socially relevant music, but this one rocks the world I inhabited in 1977:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdHg4QEmBvk


Also on the VIP music hit parade today is this iconic song by the great John Lennon, who would have been 74 today.  (Just imagine that while you are imagining!)  This is another song that puts me right back in a certain time of my life, but the message is timeless:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRhq-yO1KN8

I love this picture I got from somewhere on Facebook (not sure who to attribute it to, but it's not mine) to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  So funny.  It reminds me that back in December, after my most recent mammogram, I was so scared when I had to go back for another look due to an "abnormality" in the initial image.  I wrote about that in this blog (12/11/13).  I am grateful it turned out fine for me; I send love to my sisters everywhere who are battling this disease (which is not funny at all).


Also, the upside (I guess) of my recent car accident is that the loss of my beloved Prius meant the gain of a new car, a Suburu Outback.  I am told I now belong to the "Subie Nation" -- some sort of cult, apparently headquartered in Boulder, Colorado judging by the massive number of Outbacks I saw during a visit there last weekend.  Mine is a beauty.  Her Venetian Red Pearl color has led to me calling her just "Pearl".  I think we will make a nice couple.

I deserve none of this joy, of course; it is all grace.  It feels good to find open-hearted appreciation for so much light after a little stretch of darkness.  Hallelujah!

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

TUTORIAL ABOUT COMMENTS


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.  I think doing this also allows you to be a "Follower" which sounds sort of cult-like; it's not, but it makes the blogger feel popular. :)

If you don't want to actually write anything (or have to joint Google), but have some 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.  It lets me know you are out there and have made some connection with what I wrote.

Also, the Labels notation you see are the keywords in each post so that if you want to see all my posts that have something to do with that same topic, click on the "label" word and boom!  all my posts about, or mentioning, that topic 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!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WALMART AND PUBIC STYLES

First, I'm very, very sorry I went to Walmart yesterday.  It was a moment of weakness which prompted me to add $10.12 to the considerable coffers of the Walton family when, yes, there were other store choices relatively near by.  It was a moment of weakness for convenience and curiosity.

I was parked about 100 yards from the big new Walmart Super Store while (speaking of greedy little fists)  I stopped into the Verizon store to check out the rebate offer on my "old" (2 years) I-Phone if I got the new I-Phone 6.  (Decent offer, but I can't get a new phone until December when my current contract runs out with Verizon, or pay a huge penalty, and don't worry, he said, the "6" is on back order anyway and you wouldn't get it until November….  Sheesh.)

So, when I left Verizon, shopping list in hand, I realized I could get all the items I needed right over there at that new Walmart.  Plus, I'd see if it had the ugly, crowded, poorly lit decor of the others I'd ever been to, or whether it was an upscale version that actually felt welcoming and attractive while it exploited its employees and foisted cheap merchandize manufactured by children in Third World countries into the waiting plastic shopping bags of True-Blue Americans.

I needed to buy a pillbox, one of the twice a day 7-day plastic things that had trays large enough to hold all the supplements my Grain Brain book said I should be taking to ensure health and happiness well into the next decades of my life.   I am a terrible pill-taker.  Hub, the doctor, calls me "non-compliant."  I just hate taking pills and I always forget completely or I take them and then forget if I did or I didn't so I don't in fear of overdosing, which means I skip lots of doses…it's an ongoing struggle. So I thought I needed this container.   Also I wanted a funny birthday card for Son-One, and a can of "lady" shave cream.

It was this last that gave me pause.  I realize the pink-topped "lady shave" is likely the exact same shaving cream in the black containers sold to men.  But I just feel more feminine using the shaving cream from a pink can, which is a new-ish thing for me and one that I'm sort of exploring with bemusement.

I sometimes think I just don't know how to be a girl.  I don't know "girl stuff".  I mostly just used bath soap for most of my life when I shaved.  (Did you catch that?  "when I shaved"?  I am blessed with fair skin and fairer body hair -- you can barely see it!  Why bother, I wondered.)  Plus, my feminist ire was raised back in the early 70's which gave me a socio-political reason to feel a sense of relief about being inadequate in the "girl stuff" categories of make up, hair (both body and head), and undergarments.    So at the ripe old age of (almost) 64, I realize I am suffering from arrested development of all things "girl".

I still don't do mani-pedis or color my hair or fix it in any ways that require braids or pins or updos.

I missed the entire debate about current trends in pubic hair.  I know that Brazilian waxes were all the rage for awhile (leaving one shiny and bare -- like a newborn babe! -- but all I could imagine was the pain of getting there.)   Just to check in with the current thinking, just now (with some trepidation) I Googled "pubic hair styles" and found dozens of websites that were NOT pornographic, but highly educational.  Here's one:  http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/style/470716/Pubic-hair-trends-2014-The-full-waxed-look-is-out-the-bush-is-back  Take that to the stylist next time you go in.

I have found that my remedial education in catching up with the girly arts has had some surprising results.   I LIKE smoothly shaved legs and the thick, aromatic creams I use to get them.  I LIKE a really nicely fitted bra, to give "the girls" a boost now that they seem to want to move south.  I LIKE a hairdo that is both easy to care for and attractive.  I LIKE the Clinique counter at Macy's where I buy the 4 items of make up I wear most days (base, blush, brown shadow and mascara), from kindly women in white lab coats (it's SCIENCE!)   I like being a girl, exploring the feminine arts of body care.

I also like earning a living wage, speaking my mind, being treated with respect, having equal access to any and all educational, professional, social, and political avenues open to men.  I guess shave cream and feminism don't have to be mutually exclusive.

I just wish the Lady Waltons would put a bit of the old feminine decorative arts to work in their stores.  The new one is just as soul deadening as the rest.  They might also grab some feminist gusto and insist on  providing better pay and working conditions for their employees and look into the labor practices of the countries from which they import their cheap stuff.  Just sayin'.

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

BACK FROM THE BRINK

Well, the morning started with rain which was just fine by me.  No amount of dark cloud cover could be any darker than the mood I've been in since….well, since…

Do you ever get depressed?  Most feel "blue" on occasion, or as my mom used to say, "I'm sorta down in the dumps today."  Me?  Oh, I get full-on depressed.  Depressed like nothing matters.  Depressed like I despise myself and my life.  Depressed like it will never, ever end.  Depressed like I'd just be doing everyone a favor by not being here.  Depressed like being exhausted and so sick of myself and my moods that I just want someone to take charge of everything and admit me to one of those good kind of psych wards where there is soft light,  fresh flowers, and a kindly older woman in sensible shoes paid to listen to my woes and hand me tissues.

And that last part is what saves me and reminds me this is a temporary state. I don't get so depressed that I don't still crave creature comforts, someone to care about me, and some sense of beauty in my surroundings.

It doesn't make sense to me how this black cloud descends, then lifts for a bit, then comes rolling in again and again and again over a period of days or weeks or months, until one morning (today) I wake up and feel alive and happy and funny and free again.

This has been a pattern of mine for as long as I can recall.  I always think it's recent and due to some external circumstance until I trace back and back and back and see it play out over and over in my adult life.  (Perhaps born of the anxieties I can trace back into childhood?)  Sometimes it does seem to come from nowhere, but sometimes I do see how a specific event (my accident, recently) or allowing myself to become depleted by a ''go and do" schedule of commitments and concerns (over the past year, yep.)

I try to comfort myself by saying everyone is a little crazy, right?  We all have our neuroses, our struggles, our private doomsday scenarios.  But I just know my own and know that every time I am in it, it sucks, and when I come out I sort of forget about the lessons that were there to learn and go back to thinking, "Well.  That was weird.  I'm sure that will never happen again.  I feel great!"

You may be sitting around now, coffee cup in hand, ready with an armchair diagnosis.  Bipolar comes to mind.  But those with degrees have already been there and declared this one a no-go.  I just have the old run of the mill feeling like crap depression with none of the invincible, erratic, impulsive manic episodes.  I'm either super sad or super normal.

Thankfully, my toolbox is now chock full of hammers and chisels and wrenches that I take to the job of "dealing with my depression."  I can "fix" it in much shorter order than in the days of overwhelm and hopelessness and total fear and loathing.  (That took meds and counseling, for which I was most grateful, believe me.)  Now, med-free, I have lots of "counselors", chief among them Hub and a few close friends, who see me through.  I have meditation and Yoga and the strength to say "no" to outside commitments for the time it takes for me to just move through the morass of darkness, knowing there is light ahead.

So, thanks to all who have allowed me space, wiped my tears, and offered gentle encouragements over the past three weeks.  And for those who didn't even notice…it's one of my best traits.  I can get through most normal, everyday social exchanges now without faltering, even in my depression.  You helped too, by treating me normally and allowing me to access the healthier part of me, even when I was sad on the inside.

My hugest gratitude goes to Hub, who sees and understands and supports me in my collapse in the privacy of our own lives.  He is my rock.  My love.  My life partner.  I don't know what he gets out of loving an occasionally morose woman who can't even cook (even on my best days), but I'm glad it's keeping him around.

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

TWO NEAR MISSES AND A COUPLE OF FULL-ON FAILS

No, this post is not another one about my accident….well, unless you call my supreme lack of sophistication a train wreck of sorts.

Looking for things to laugh about lately, I really have to go no further than memories of social fails I've committed that really stand out (from those that are merely daily doofus moments).

1.  When we first moved to our city when my husband was starting his career we were fortunate to find a lovely old home in a lovely old neighborhood with a killer view and full of professional families rather well known in these parts.  We sort of felt like pretenders, coming from much more modest beginnings (oh, the stories I could tell about that….someday, maybe), but we were "movin' on up" and I, at least, was determined to fit in.  So when I was invited to have tea with some of the neighbor ladies, I accepted, with gratitude and some anxiety.  What would I talk with them about???

Well, all went pretty well.  I held my own with these women who were of my mother's generation and listened to stories of soirees and trips and private schools and clubs…  not anything of my experience, but I watched a lot of soap opera TV, so I knew how to say a few of the right things to keep them talking and let myself off the hook.  When the tea ended and goodbyes were being exchanged, I turned to say one last goodbye to my three hostesses and out of my mouth came,  "Wow, thanks, you guys!"  You guys????  These pillars of community with their perfectly coiffed gray hair, dress-up clothes on a Tuesday afternoon, and a silver tea service?!?  You guys???  Fail.

2.  Hub's career afforded us the opportunity to travel a bit and stay in fancy-schmancy resorts.  I loved it after I got over being intimidated.  I'd learned to do a better job of being appropriate in what I still thought of as "grown-up" situations, so I was rarely thrown off my game.  I also learned that me just being me gave others permission to let down the pretension guard as well, and usually that's when the real conversations began.

But during a stay at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Honolulu I nearly blew it big time!  I was sitting poolside, lost in my novel and feeling fat and white amidst the beautiful people, when a muscular "pool steward" approached me with a bottle of Evian water.  I had not been paying attention to his ministrations prior to stopping at my lounge chair.  He kneeled to make eye contact with me and held up his bottle with a funny nozzle thing on top and asked if I'd like a "spritz".  I was puzzled, not understanding, and THANK YOU GOD, I smiled and declined, thinking in my head, "How weird…is he going around shooting that water into everyone's mouth?"  I even saw in my mind's eye me sitting there with my mouth agape choking on the spray of water hitting my tonsils.  But no.  He moved on and I soon saw that "a spritz" meant a light spray of cooling Evian over one's face and neck.  WHAT THE HELL?  WHO DOES THAT?!?  I'm still thankful I didn't say yes and show him an open mouth waiting for a drink of water.  Near miss.

3.  Hub had a friend years ago who was a vintner.  He had his own winery, his own label, his own tasting room.  On a trip south one year we stopped in to say hi and sample some of his better wines.  It was a beautiful afternoon, sunny and hot, with a view over the valley to die for.  He greeted us in the tasting room and commenced to pour for us.  I wasn't too sure of the protocol, but I knew one didn't just guzzle the small samples down and you didn't even have to finish the glass if you didn't like it (sort of unheard of in my earlier circles -- who didn't like a wine…any wine?)  He left the room at one point and others were involved in conversation.  My glass was empty and I thought, well, I think I'd like a bit more.  So I reached for what I thought was a lovely ceramic decanter and poured from it into my glass.  Now there was a wine I definitely DID NOT like!  What could that be, I wondered?  Soon he came back, picked up the very decanter I'd poured from and took it to the sink and poured it out.  OMYGOD!  I'd just drunk the dregs of everyone's discarded wine samples!  Fail.

4.  I wish I could tell you that in the years since these incidents, all a very long time ago, I'd upped my sophistication level by several degrees, but I guess not.  On our recent cruise (like a month ago recent) we had dinner in a very fancy on-board restaurant where the servers equaled the number of diners at any give table.  There was a lot of attentiveness to our every need, napkins unfurled and placed in our laps, dishes disappearing with the last bite taken, clean silverware and napkins replaced if ever one left the table to visit the restroom, etc.  But I was still surprised when at the beginning of our entree course multiple waiters approached our table to place our covered dishes in front of each of us.  Then, in a choreographed move, they all reached out to….

Well, at our house before meals we all join hands and go around the table saying something we are thankful for.  Those hands reaching out next to me triggered an automatic assumption that I should take their hands.  I thought maybe there was a similar ritual about to unfold.  I felt my arms begin to rise from my lap when their hands reached toward our dishes and with a flourish the plate covers were removed to reveal our immaculately and creatively presented meals.  THANK GOD AGAIN I didn't interrupt their little show by grabbing a server's hand mid-flourish.  Near miss.

You just can't take me anywhere.

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

NOT FUNNY

"I ran into an old friend the other day….literally!"  ("Ba-Boom"-- rim-shot sound).

Nope, too soon.  Not funny yet.  Probably not funny ever.

I was in a car accident a week ago today.   One minute I was driving on a familiar city street a couple miles from my house, looking for the laundromat I knew was around that stretch of road somewhere. Our washer had broken down and I had about two weeks worth of laundry in my trunk.  I spied the laundromat on my left, just one building in on the cross street.  I must have started my turn….

Then I felt the impact, heard the metal-on-metal crash, felt my car spinning in the street and landing 180 degrees in the opposite direction, airbag deflating in front of me emitting the powdery propellent that in my dazed state I assumed might be smoke which might mean fire which might mean my car would explode.  This thought was formed in slow motion, as I pondered so amazingly calmly, "Maybe I should get out of the car"…but my body sat perfectly still sort of mulling over this suggestion.  I reached in slow motion for my cell phone and tried to push the numbers to call 911, but I noticed my hand was shaking and I couldn't put my fingers on the right numbers.  Then I heard someone screaming behind me and noticed people rushing from houses and businesses and soon a woman standing next to my window asking me to open my door.

I did.  And this calm presence, a woman I now call Angel Sarah, took charge.  She assured me 911 had been called.  She took my phone and called my husband, called my insurance company, and never left my side, reassuring me and telling me the other car's driver and passenger were OK, letting me know everything was fine, fine, fine.

But I didn't feel so fine.  I was stunned, but aware.  Time seemed to have slowed down, but I was oriented, answered all the questions appropriately.  I had bumped my head on something, but not badly.  My chest was sore and raw from the seat belt and airbag which had done their jobs.  I was told an airbag hitting the body is like being punched.  It felt like it.

Hub showed up and took charge of the tow truck decisions and the hospital decision (we decided against -- he would monitor me at home).  He cleaned out my car thinking it might have been totaled and I'd never see my precious Prius again.  He also talked to the investigating officer, who said no tickets needed to be issued; it was simply an accident.  I didn't see the oncoming little VW bug in the rain; maybe he was in my blind spot; maybe he had just pulled out from the curb….lots of "maybes" still hanging out there a week later and the insurance companies are figuring it all out.

My body is mostly recovered, I think.  Still a sore chest and bruising there and a little back tweak now and then.

My heart is slower to recover.  I want that split second back, that moment of not seeing his car.   Then there was the shock of looking at the driver information and realizing I knew the driver of the VW -- he is a childhood friend of Son-One.  He is the little boy I met when his mom and I stood in line on the first day of Kindergarten, weepy and happy, and started a friendship that would last all the way through middle school, and while not as close, still with fondness and caring, through high school.  But I've not seen him or his mom in 10 years.  Still….

I had to reach out to him, so the next day I did.  His compassion for me was equal to mine for him and our brief exchange was healing.

Yet, I am still reliving the moment.  The shock of the impact, the sound of the crash, the surreal aftermath of a sudden jolt from the mundane to the extraordinary.  I have spent a week in deep sadness, lots of tears, roaring anxieties, some moments of calm and grace, a lot of introspection and newfound compassion for anyone who experiences trauma of any kind.

I also notice I feel embarrassed, even ashamed, about my part in this accident.  I am truly fuzzy on the details even yet, but I know I was turning left and he would have had the right of way.  If there is "fault" to be laid, it has to be at my feet, right?  It's hard to get past this.

I have been driving for 47 years.  I can remember only three traffic tickets - running a yellow light; going 40 in a 30 MPH zone; turning up a street in my neighborhood closed to turning traffic between 7 a.m. - 9a.m.  I've been in three traffic accidents -- one going so slowly in a parking lot that no damage was done, one consisting of hitting a pole in a parking lot, and this one.  I'm a safe and cautious driver.

But now I don't trust myself.  Every other car looks like a missile to be avoided.  I'm jumpy and tense. Hub has been doing "ride-a-longs" with me in our rental car and I am getting better.  Yesterday we drove back to that laundromat, taking the same route.  I felt pretty calm and actually curious about what could possibly have happened.  At the intersection we noticed there is a huge blind spot where a car could get lost and I was grateful, again, that my rate of speed on impact was likely about 10 MPH as I slowed to turn.

But ultimately none of that matters.  It matters that it happened.  It matters that thankfully no one was seriously injured.  It matters that I have some work to do now to regain my confidence, to feel the same compassion for myself that I would offer to others in my situation, to look at what I can learn about myself, about life, about grace.

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THINGS I LEARNED ON MY SUMMER VACATION, PART 3

Southeast Alaska looks a lot like Washington and other places we've visited in the west.  On our cruise, the Inside Passage route from Vancouver to Skagway afforded some stunning scenery.  Beautiful blue waters, emerald green hills and craggy mountains, waterfalls galore. Yet, we often said, "This looks like the San Juan Islands."  Or, "This reminds me of Lake Chelan."  Rafters on the river looked like they were shooting the Tieton.

Once in Denali National Park, the scenery changed to wide open spaces and enormous vistas -- reminding us of Glacier National Park or Yosemite.

It's funny how the brain makes sense of things by comparing them to other known things.  That's why meeting someone often prompts one to say, "She reminds me of my sister"..or friend..or co-worker.  When I met Alaska it reminded me of other places I already know, which surprised me.  I had expected the National Geographic Channel "TV version" of Alaska -- all herds of wildlife and calving glaciers, fields of wildflowers, and salmon jumping upstream with grizzlies patrolling the riverbank while fly fishers hauled in record-setting fishes.

I know those travelogues are real and even if I didn't see it, it was happening somewhere.  (Our travel companions did go fly fishing.)  But I realized on some naive level I expected to see all of it up close and personal at every turn.

We saw very little wildlife:  a few bald eagles, a caribou from about a mile away and a few moose -- one up close and 2-3 just outside of Wasilla along the train tracks.  We were lucky enough to see a black bear up close catching salmon in a stream near the Mendenhall Glacier.  We were on a boardwalk adjacent to the parking lot and the stream ran under a footbridge which is where the bear was.  Hoards of tourists 3-4 deep jostled with cameras.  Hub got a nice video.  I was too short to see it "in person" over all the other people crammed onto the rail of the bridge.   Not a postcard sort of sighting.

Once I settled into expecting the familiar, I could appreciate the nuances of Alaska that are different.  Tundra for one.  It's bouncy.  We stuck our hands into a hole and only a few inches below the surface soil it was frigid cold, though warm enough for us to be wearing T-shirts that day in the sun.



Glaciers are another.   We saw the Mendenhall Glacier first, which terminates into a lovely lake fed by a pounding waterfall.


Yet, it was the Hubbard Glacier that was the highlight of the trip for me.  Our ship got to within 1/2 mile, which I understand is the closest it has ever been able to go.  The early morning was calm as we floated through beautiful ice floes.  The captain was able to turn the ship in slooooow 360-degree circles so all got a view, no matter where you stood.  We saw and heard the calving ice.  Most observers were silent as we absorbed the enormity of this amazing natural phenomenon.







And Denali (Mt. McKinley) itself is something to see -- if you can.  It is often shrouded in fog and clouds - only 30% of visitors ever see it.  We were lucky.  We were 60 miles away, but there it was and there is no denying its majesty and enormity.










The other thing I loved was the domed train we rode from Denali National Park back to Anchorage.  It was an all-day trip as the bus had been, but there was no comparison.  It was so much fun to sit "up top" and have the panoramic view.  The service was excellent, the intermittent narration just enough, the trip to the dining car downstairs for a light lunch felt elegant (white table cloths, leather bound menus!) and fun.

Back in Anchorage, we had another 24 hours before flying to Seattle.  We found a couple of great restaurants and coffee shops and visited two breweries (for Hub's microbrew-tasting hobby).  We found a waterfront bike and walking trail that was quiet and lovely.  A nice, mellow end to the trip.

And this, my friends, ends the summer vacation series.

The biggest lesson I learned was to appreciate exactly where I live.  After 32 years of living in this vacationland of two mountain ranges, an enormous Sound, dozens of rivers, the Pacific Ocean, lakes, lakes, lakes and a big metropolitan city along with picturesque small towns, it's easy to take it a bit for granted.  I am always appreciative of where I live, but I do expect I'll see mountains when I wake up and the waterfront of our town, and the river I drive next to on the way to my Yoga studio.  It's just the backdrop to my life.  After this trip, I see it all with the eyes of a tourist and can feel the amazement I felt in 1982 when we decided to settle in this part of the country.  Two young "kids" from flat cornfield country Illinois looked at each other and said, "Can you believe we get to live HERE?!?"  Yep, we do.  And we are blessed.

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