Friday, March 28, 2014

HAPPY HUMMING

I'm feeling antsy.  It's a spring fever thing even though our wet, gray, windy "spring" is not very conducive to outdoor frolicking.  I drive by my blooming daffodils and hyacinths along the driveway and note the azalea buds growing more plump each day, but I'm not out there tending them, or anything else.  It has been established that I am a totally fair weather gardener.

So, anyway, I am antsy for something to tend.  Our sweet Toby-dog died a year ago February and my Cooper-cat followed month later.  I miss those members of the family, of course, but not their respective species' sharing space with me.  No dog "doo" in the yard or mounds of shedded retriever hair on the carpet; no litter pans to clean or embedded cat fur on all the furniture.  No pet food to buy and/or make (we cooked for allergy-prone Toby for years), no vet bills, no worrying about getting home to walk or feed, no sitters or boarding fees while we are away for vacation.  It's been freeing, for the first time in over 35 years, to not have an animal companion in our home.

Hub reminded me of all of this the other day when I mused that I was sort of thinking of getting a dog or a cat again.  He turned a bit pale and spoke to me very slowly, trying to gently recall my addled brain back to some contact with reality with the reminder of all the ways in which we have had a worry-free existence in the past year.  It didn't take me long to agree with him…but still….

I tried a bird feeder on the front porch late last summer, and enjoyed all the sweet little birdies, but boy, it was a mess.  Seed hulls everywhere and more wildlife than I knew we had started to hang out right outside the door -- squirrels, chipmunks, mice -- too many rodents for my taste.  Also the neighbor's cats seemed happy that I'd baited the birds for them.  So down came the feeder.

In the frigid days of this past winter I noticed a hummingbird under the neighbor's eaves.  I love hummingbirds, but have not been too successful at attracting them.  I figured this one was desperate enough, so I hung a feeder on that front porch hook and sure enough, the little guy found his way to my house and brought some friends.  I've been keeping them well stocked with nectar ever since.  But I can't really see them from inside the house, so it's not a very satisfying relationship.  Feeder full, feeder empty.  I feel mostly like a waitress.

So today, I made a trip to Wild Birds Unlimited to see if I could find a hummer-feeder that would attach to my deck rail off the kitchen sitting area, where we spend most of our time.  A bank of windows there looks out on a green ravine behind our house -- bird heaven!  Wild Birds Unlimited is like a toy store for bird and nature lovers.  I just like going in there -- dozens of bird and squirrel feeders of all types,  huge bags of specialty seeds, suets, wind chimes, door decals, gardener's hats and gloves and clothing, books, books, books!  Kids toys and games.  Photos and wind socks and the big 'old mellow store cat who lives to be petted.  Love it!  The big drawback is the price.  But I guess you pay for the ambiance?

I looked everything over, priced the various items I thought would work for my deck, and ended up going the simple economy route:  A suction-cupped window feeder with four feeding "stations" and a raised mount.  Very sweet.  I came home and assembled it, cooked up a batch of nectar, and mounted the feeder on my back window.  I assume it will take awhile for the hummers to find their new food source, so I am being patient, but hopeful.  (I was assured they won't smack themselves against our window to get to it.)

I realize hummers are a pretty low level "pet" to have, but it seems to be satisfying my desire to attract and care for a living being without too much fuss and muss.  Plus, I estimate the feeder was made with about 50-cents worth of plastic and only cost me $24.99!  Cheaper than a lifetime of vet bills and Purina Pet Chow!  Win-Win!

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SEEKING PEACE

I'm thinking about the fragility of life today.  I'm thinking of the little burst of optimism most of us demonstrate just by saying,  "See ya later!" when we depart from family or friends.  Because lately it feels like the odds are against that being the case.

Two and a half weeks ago, on March 8, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared into thin air; or landed on a remote strip of island, or crashed into the wilderness, or flew straight into the Indian Ocean -- no one quite knows since all communication was lost (seemingly purposefully) and the jet veered dramatically off course and continued on to "somewhere" for several hours undetected.  Searchers are still trying to find Flight #370.

Last Tuesday, March 18th, a news helicopter fell out of the sky on a busy Seattle street next to the Space Needle at 7:30 in the morning.  It landed on cars sitting at a stoplight, yet some people were able to escape before the crashsite was engulfed in flames.  It was a miracle there weren't more casualties, but the deaths of the pilot and photojournalist aboard and the severe burns suffered by a driver in the wrong place at the wrong time were sobering enough.

At 10:45 this past Saturday morning, March 22, an enormous hillside slid down onto a whole neighborhood along the Stillaguamish River, a beautiful, rural, small-town area north of where I live, burying everything in its muddy path in a one-square mile slurry of mud and debris.  They say it took only seconds to sweep everything away, to bury everything and everyone in its path under 40-50 feet of mud; no time to run.  Twenty-four bodies have been recovered so far; scores still missing.

Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados have all been top story news with seeming regularity.  People with guns wreck havoc in schools, on campuses, in movie theaters and on street corners so often we have almost come to expect it -- saddened but not shocked anymore.  Drunk drivers are so commonplace I am almost amazed we make it home most nights at all, grateful to have avoided the carnage that has come to so many so senselessly.

I realize all of these incidents are echoed through the news media 24/7, creating the sense that they happen over and over, when in truth the odds really are still with us.  Yet, no matter the odds, we are vulnerable every day to an untimely, unexpected departure from this life, leaving those behind to mourn, pray, and question fate.

Still, aren't we always, every minute, in a time of transition?  We are here for such a brief moment, then we are gone, whether we live in these bodies for one year or one-hundred.  It's a quick stop in the grand scheme of things.  Maybe the surprise should be that we get the gift of another day at all.

I have a spiritual teacher who stops everything she is doing whenever she hears a siren on the city streets.  She spends a moment, not turning away from whatever tragedy may have befallen a stranger, but turning toward that pain and opening her heart with compassion.  She chants "Om Namah Shivaya", honoring Shiva the Destroyer, who makes the way clear for rebirth, for regeneration, who represents transition of all kinds.

Perhaps the best we can do is to embrace each of our days with gratitude, send loving compassion to those who suffer and mourn, and know that transition is life and, as my teacher says, "Capital 'L' Love" is really all we have to count on.   Om Shanti Om  (Peace to all Humankind).

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






Saturday, March 15, 2014

TECHNO-NERD Q&A


Dear Genius Bar Boys & Girls,
I just finished trying to "clean up" my mess of a MacBook Pro desktop, which was just as cluttered as my physical world oak desk in my home office.  I moved a bunch of folders and files into my "documents" only to find duplicates and various drafts of poems and essays and a ton of old, obsolete junk already in there to drag to the trash.  It took forever.  And I haven't even started on emails.  Question: Should I delete emails or just leave thousands of them just sitting there?  Are they taking up valuable space or are they a benign mass of electronic data?

I also haven't started cleaning things up on my iMac Desktop computer, upon which desktop and documents storage I will find yet more duplicates of those items on the laptop.  The Cloud is supposed to fix all of this, but my Cloud now has it's own set of duplicate crap at this point.  Plus, my annoyance about the Cloud is that if I am without WiFi, I can't access the document!  So I keep moving things out to the desktop or making duplicates and there you have it….  The genesis of an ongoing mess!  What gives???

Also, is OS X Mavericks as awful as the "just folks" reviews make it sound?  I'm a hold out.  Get it right.

Signed,
Not as easy and time-saving as promised.

P.S.  I just downloaded the iOS 7.1 to my iPhone and have to AGAIN adjust to a few new "upgrades" in user-interfacing.  Thank you for keeping my brain active.  Who needs Lumosity when we have you Apple Nerds devilishly thinking up ways to challenge us?

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Dear Little Blue Bird,
I just signed up for a Twitter account.  I love to say the word "Tweet" and I think you are cute.  I just have no idea what to do with you.  I heeded some of your suggestions for who to "follow", but now I am inundated with 'tweets' that seem to come every 20 seconds about not much at all, and even if I cared, my life would become nothing more than reading these 140 character messages and clicking on #relatedstories that would keep me from living any semblance of a life in the real world.  I have discovered a few friends are on Twitter and we have vowed to "follow" each other, but most of our Tweets consist of exchanging puzzled queries as to why we are doing this and what is the point?    Please enlighten.

Signed,
#youjustpoopedonmyshoulderthanksalot

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Dear Comcast,
Son-One is thrilled with his new job with your little start-up company (thanks for hiring him!) and is all aglow about your new X1 interactive TV platform.  To hear him describe it, one will never need to leave their home for any reason whatsoever, ever again.  Well, unless one wants to step away from a TV screen.  But if that's your thing, Comcast X1 is your God.  I actually love TV and I am ready to ditch DISH, which took me about a year to learn to use and I still don't quite get it, over 3 years later.  (Not user friendly, DISH!)  But X-1 is supposed to be dummy proof, so I'm your gal.  Plus, I will be able to search with ease and record up to 5 programs while watching a 6th!  Perfection!  However exciting this sounds at first blush, I do expect it to be rather more confusing than anticipated.  Things like this always are.  (Like love affairs, or new babies, I suppose.)   Still, since you are now an almost official monopoly, I feel I should just submit and learn your ways.  Right?

Signed,
Looking forward to your introductory offer, then doing a re-fi on my home once hooked.

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Dear Mark Zuckerberg,
Maybe it was the movie, and my affection for that cutie-nerd Jesse Eisnenberg who played you, but I want to believe you are good guy.  I know you are regularly accused of all manner of evil, but I do love your Facebook invention.  Yes, all of us seniors are now taking over and it's no longer cool at all to be on it, but wow, quite the cultural revolution, huh?  One question:  WHY do you keep changing the look of my news feed?   Now it seems all the posts sort of run together and my eyesight is not so far gone that the photos have to be that big.  Just sayin'.  Other than that, keep up the good work.

Signed,
Loves Kittens

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I went to a lecture yesterday on "How Technology Changed Our Culture".  The average age was about 70.  (It was a class for "over 50's").  The instructor's first slide was of a test pattern.  Everyone chuckled in recognition.  We know a frozen screen when we see one.

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




Thursday, March 13, 2014

ACCEPTANCE, RELEASE, AND SURRENDER

I had a tough time at Yoga today.  No, it wasn't Shoulder Stand Day, or Headstand Day, Stay in Plank for an Hour Day, or doing that crazy Half Moon pose I wrote about previously (1/2/14 post)…

Mostly we just lay there today, not doing much of anything except practicing "acceptance, release, and surrender".  Like I said, tough stuff.

I'm sure there are some who love these "restorative" classes.  I'm not generally one of them.  For some reason the less I am called upon to do, the harder it is.  I have a hard time finding comfort and ease in these poses of relaxation.  My head sort of hurts from resting it on the floor, my back sort of hurts from draping myself back over a bolster, my hips sort of hurt from putting the soles of my feet together, knees bent, splayed on the floor in Supine Goddess pose or Supported Frog pose.

Give me a class where I am challenged to be strong, to be in perfect alignment, to find my "edge", to balance on one toe… something to DO!  This hit me about 2/3 of the way through the class today because I realized I'd been impatient for the first 30 minutes, which was restorative, then relieved and happy for next 30 minutes of more active flow poses, and rather grumpy at the start of the last 30 minutes of more restorative poses.

But, when my always wise and funny teacher continued repeating the "acceptance, release, surrender" mantra as she guided us in the last simple, restorative poses, I suddenly felt tears sting my eyes.  I thought about all the things in my life that I describe as "work" -- I "work" on a draft of a poem, I do "yard work" and "housework" and I "work" on my relationships.  I do personal growth "work" and committee "work".  I "work out".   Before I retired, I used to get up every morning and "go to work".  Can you relate?

When we describe almost every aspect of our lives as "work", no wonder it's a little hard to get to release.  No wonder acceptance feels like giving up.  No wonder surrender sounds like defeat.

As is always true, even the simplest lessons can be hard won.  Breathing helps.  Awareness helps.  The "a-ha" moment, when it comes, is its own feeling of release -- release from the bonds of habit into the wisdom of self-knowledge and the ability to change what no longer serves.

I'm going to focus on changing my language, seeing where I can replace the word "work" with some other word that describes the activity in a positive way -- the word "create" comes to mind.  To me being creative means being in the flow of something larger than myself that I can only access through surrendering my Ego to the moment, to the greatest good, to the unknown.  In that moment, space is opened to be restored to health, vitality, and grace.

Again, Yoga is my teacher.

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




Monday, March 10, 2014

MY STINT AS FIRST LADY

Had breakfast with a BFF this morning and told her, "I'm even sick of myself…I can't imagine how everyone else must feel!"  And then I went on to compare myself to Hilary Clinton.  Because we have both been First Ladies…she was and I am.

Well, I gave myself the moniker when Hub became President of the Board of Trustees at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship last summer.   As First Lady I have no official duties, but I do feel it is my job to support the President and not schedule our weekly Family Dinner with our grown sons on Board meeting nights.  I also help write his monthly newsletter column because I can do in 20 minutes what would take him hours, so it's in my own self-interest, really.  I prefer to hang out with him rather than have him hunched over the computer.  I serve as a sounding board when he has a challenge or the germ of an idea.  We talk and talk and plan and organize and prepare and brainstorm and try to find consensus and middle ground with any plan or problem, keeping in mind the policies already in place, the interested parties and who will be effected, those who will be pleased, those who will be disappointed or angry.  We try to be patient and set aside our own agendas for the greater good of the whole.  He works hard at his Presidential tasks, some part of every day, and it seems we both spend an inordinate amount of time on Fellowship business.  It's all rather exhausting sometimes and I have taken to wondering what we will do and talk about when we don't do and talk about "the Fellowship"so much anymore.

I do find my own ongoing activities are consuming me at the Fellowship too.  I could list all the things I'm deeply involved in, organize and facilitate regularly or occasionally, and some where I dabble at the edges.  There are the long-term commitments and the ad hoc committees.  There are the one-time deals and the once in a while tasks.  Really, I feel I could fill a page with it all.  Which is the problem….and the reason I (and others, no doubt) are a bit sick of me.

I'm of two minds about this. Sometimes I feel way out of balance; like I've taken on too much and the feelings of frustration that creep up at times are a good indicator that this is so.  I get all control-y and piss-y when I just want to get the job done, forgetting the delicate interplay between the task we may all agree upon (if we've gotten to consensus at all) and the "right" way to accomplish it and when.  I feel way out of balance; like when I wake in the middle of the night worried about a comment I made, how someone might be miffed with me, what color to paint the meditation room, or which playlist to prepare for the Ecstatic Dance group.  I feel way out of balance, when I find myself making six 20 minute one-way driving trips to the Fellowship within 4 days all for legitimate reasons to show up for things I was committed to.  I feel way out of balance, as stated earlier, when Hub and I cannot spend more than 15 minutes in conversation without some mention of our church life.

On the other hand, I truly love this community.  I am retired from paid work. I have ample time, some skill, an obvious interest -- indeed, a passion for making our Fellowship as welcoming, vibrant, and  challenging (in a good way) and spirit-filled as I can.  I feel an obligation during this season in my life to take my turn doing this work.

I think back to those who were in this position when we first came to the Fellowship 23 years ago.  They were then at the age and stage of life that we are now.  I was so impressed with their creative energy, their dedication and tireless work.  As they eased somewhat out of that season of their lives, we've grown into it.  Others will come after us….I am certain.  Part of my motivation is to help ensure that this special Fellowship that means so much to so many of us will continue to grow and prosper and when I am an elder (even more elder than now) others will be ready to lead.

So, I thought of the "you get two for the price of one" partnership that has been Bill and Hilary Clinton and understood on a comparatively teeny-tiny scale that when two people are dedicated to the same cause, the same community, the same hope for the future, there will occur times of annoyance and impatience and over-exposure on all sides.  When Hub's presidency year ends, and his past-president duties are complete after next year, we may have to take a bit of a Sabbatical to get this all back in balance.  But for now, sick of me or not, here I am.  I'll just try my best to be nice about it.  And hope I see more people walk toward me on Sunday mornings than away.

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

Not familiar with Unitarian Universalism?  Check out the UUA website:  http://www.uua.org

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

NEEDING A SHOWER

I need a shower.  No, not the clean my body wash my hair kind.  And not the kind that waters my garden.  I need the kind where people bring beautifully wrapped gifts to my door and we have a sweet little party with petit fours and champagne flutes.

I need a bridal shower for the woman who has been married 42 years and never really got very domesticated.  If there is anything that makes me feel not quite a grown up (except my lack of appreciation for, or knowledge of, classical composers and jazz musicians) it's the kitchen.

I had a wedding shower in 1972 and have a half-dozen items still in my possession from it.  I actually LOVE my stoneware canister set which has sat on every countertop of every home I've had since then.  I kept my olive green stacked mixing bowls, surface color well faded, just for nostalgia sake.  I have two or three silver serving pieces I don't believe I've ever used.  And I have my original Oneida flatware, dated and worn, and now serving as my "back up" set when needing extra pieces.  But really, I am hard pressed to set a nice table, or have enough of anything that matches or didn't come to me on sale or in a piecemeal fashion.

We had a group of 13 here on Sunday and I used my old everyday JC Penney plates that came in a big box with bowls and dessert plates about 20 years ago.  The pretty edging and painted vegetables that dance around the rim are worn and faded, the center white area cracked into gray lines.  I bought some cheap stainless flatware somewhere some years ago and noted that they come out of the dishwasher with water and rust stains fairly regularly, but I've never replaced it, only kicking myself for the poor showing whenever I set the table for company.   I used a few tumblers I bought at Fred Meyer and filled in with a few of Hub's pint beer glass collection.  The coffee service was an old sugar bowl, a stainless steel pitcher that came with my espresso maker and a mish-mash of unmatched coffee mugs collected from here and there over the years.  I was little embarrassed.

Every once in a while we do buy a new set of knives or some pots and pans, mostly because Hub does most of the cooking and he knows what he wants.  Our baking pans, however, are warped and worn and a little rusty at the edges.  I don't have too many "gadgets" because I don't know what they are for. I don't have a decent salad bowl -- I just use mixing bowls.  Really, I'm just a mess at this.

I didn't grow up in a "fancy" house.  My parents were farm folk who moved in the great exodus from farm to city after WWII.  My mother's kitchen was well stocked with practical items for every day and one set of "fancy" dishes for holidays (including a gravy boat which we still get out for Thanksgiving, about which we seem to be unnaturally delighted, like it's a cool toy we get to play with).  It may have been a modest home, but everything matched and Mom set a beautiful table.

When I was in my most stridently feminist period, I rejected all things traditional and "girly"  and never bothered to learn many of the womanly arts of cooking, cleaning, sewing, or entertaining.  My life was going to be oh so much more important and oh so much more bohemian than that!  Over the years I've regretted that naive rebellion.  There are things I wish came easier to me now that I really am a grown up and can see that a meal cooked with some aplomb (without the hyperventilating stress that I bring to the task) and served upon a nicely set table is not selling out to the patriarchy.

I want a do-over.  I'd like to do it like the kids do nowadays -- go around Macy's with a scanner aiming it all the things I'd love to have for my kitchen and then someone can throw me a little party where my friends bring me those things and show me how to use them.    Now, wouldn't that be fun?!?  I think so.

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



Saturday, March 1, 2014

RARE TRAITS

Last month I wrote a blog post about "gingers" -- those of us with red hair.  It was a post that was sort of sad and mad about the stereotypes, prejudices, and  negative connotations.

(Family Note:  When discussing this with Son-Two, a redhead, he revealed to me that his school years were often rather tortured, socially, all the way from elementary through high school by the teasing and taunting he got as a redheaded boy.  I wish I had known he was suffering in silence over this -- I would have kicked some 10 year old butt on his behalf!)

Anyway, Son-Two brought the following article to my attention and we high-fived in solidarity and a hint of smugness, especially since we two are the rarest of rare with our red hair and blue eyes.
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/emmakelly/redhead-facts_b_4781153.html

So, now we feel better and will take to teasing all of you blondes and brunettes about your Vitamin D deficiencies.

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