Happiness Cheerleaders

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m thankful for my very cool, very chill, big brother. His example of cheerfulness and optimism blows me away. I wish you could all meet him.  en joy not endureMy siblings and I have a running online discussion going. It started out as a handy way to keep tabs on Dad and Mom since Mom’s last hospitalization. It’s evolved into a kind of self-help group as well a way for keeping in touch with each other.

I know we’ve never communicated as well as we have this past year or so. We even include spouses in the discussions, so we get multiple points of view on things. It’s always supportive, educational and often funny. Yeah, we even disagree from time to time. And that’s okay, too. It’s real.

Not long ago, in answer to one of the sibs concerns, my oldest brother responded in a surprising rapid-fire response of images.

These very images, in fact, every image on this page today:

 

That’s only a few of them. Here’s some more:

Those showed up on the messenger feed bam, bam, bam, like he already had them right there ready to shoot out at any threatening negatives. Pretty impressive.

His wife, the most cheerful, energetic person I’ve ever met, chimed in on the discussion with this, “Just so you all know we have these gems and more posted ALL over our house!!!” I’d love to see the rest of them. I suppose I’m overdue for a visit.

talk about joys

This one had the biggest impact on me.

“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.” ~ Rita Schiano

Isn’t that mostly what you encounter when you watch, read or listen to the news? All these problems to be faced, figured out and fixed. It’s part of why I had to step away from so much input from the news media.

As part of this same conversation my brother also said, “I watch some news but counter it with at least 4X Disney or Pixar or Stupid People doing funny stuff.” He quotes animated movies all the time. “Put your hands up Maurice, it’s more fun that way!” I think that might count as his favorite, but I could be wrong.

water glass fullMy other favorite picture he posted looks like this:

I like the twist on the classic optimist versus pessimist question.

I personally tend to lean heavily toward a nearly-empty glass most of the time, which seems weird. If you knew me you’d be surprised to hear that. But Depression can do that to you.  So can hard times that follow seemingly one after another with little break in between.

I think it’s time to change that perspective.

Will a bunch of happy posters and memes, affirmations and positive thoughts cure depression. No, not likely. But, they could help. They’ve helped him through some really tough stuff. I suppose knowing how far he’s come to get where he is today makes me believe his take on things. Makes me want to try his angle out for a while and see where I end up.

After all, I’ve been working the gratitude thing for a while, (twenty years) but still find myself bogged down in some muck, unable to move forward or see light ahead some days. The negative gets the better of me from time to time and I have to work myself out of it.

Maybe I need to add to my arsenal. Maybe I simply need some direct, in my face, smile and wave reminders. Like small inanimate cheerleaders on the sidelines of my life. Go team!

I suppose this last one sums up what I’m thinking most accurately. I wonder if we, me specifically, expect life sometimes to present itself as happy. “Oh, look, happiness!” we’d say surprisingly as it skips towards us. I’m really sure that does NOT happen. There’s some decision making that goes on in the process of being happy.

happiness

Thanks, big brother, for your leadership, friendship and example. You rock!

So here goes. I’m making a conscious choice. I’m choosing happiness today. Call me Pollyanna. Call me Crazy. Call me Happy.

Categories: Happiness, Mental Health | Leave a comment
 
 

What Ghosts Really Long For

Friday Letter to My Kids – 9/26/14

Dear J, J, L and L,

They don't make them this tall or out of metal anymore.

They don’t make them this tall or out of metal anymore.

When telling stories or when remembering the past, the spectacular, fabulous, extraordinary and unusual stand out the most. Those stories get told over and over, those memories revisited again and again. If I’m not careful it’s easy to believe those out of the norm things represent the norm.

Really though, the normal, everyday stuff of life doesn’t usually get woven into a story we tell our kids or friends. The daily waxing and waning of life rarely gets a mention when the memories surface.

I wonder if some of the most precious of daily moments end up lost in the excitement of the rare odd encounters. I hope not. I came across this quote and let myself wonder about it for a while:

“It occurred to me that if I were a ghost, this ambiance was what I’d miss most: the ordinary, day-to-day bustle of the living. Ghosts long, I’m sure, for the … most unremarkable things.” ~ Banana Yoshimoto

I’m sure I have a few million of those daily moments pinging around my brain, waiting to be noticed, recalled and relived, however briefly.

I mention a few here:

"Skysof" by sof from Toronto, Canada - Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

“Skysof” by sof from Toronto, Canada – Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Shooting hoops on the driveway with Big J might not merit a long story, but those sweet HORSE playing times still feel priceless. Closing my eyes I can almost picture specific shots you made and I attempted. Never did get my lay-up mastered. You, however, grew much, much taller and could make any shot you want to now.

Seldom do I see a slippery slide without recalling climbing over a ladder full of kids waiting for their turn so that I could rescue Little J at the top. I smile as I remember your eyes bigger and legs stronger than your bravery at two-years old. You pulled that stunt more times than I remember. Your body kept growing and finally caught up to that daring spirit in you. Now I hear about you jumping out of airplanes just for fun and I’m not the least bit surprised.

By DavidMaisel (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

By DavidMaisel (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

Big L and Little L, could you guess how many times we ventured into the “woods” in Oklahoma to that odd little park hidden in the middle? It was like we were the only ones who knew it existed. That’s where we found that hunk of fool’s gold and invented a story or two about it. How many times did one or both of you puke from spinning on the tire swing too long and too fast? I can practically smell that sticky sweet sweaty kid scent on your tan little bodies if I think back on those ordinary days we shared. Now each of you have spun off into your own worlds of insanely busy lives that seem to you mundane and yet make up the stuff of memories and stories you’ll cherish.

Waking from bad dreams and middle of the night snuggles, countless bowls of cereal and plates of scrambled eggs, finding shoes and tying them, making and packing up peanut butter and jam, tunafish, or bologna sandwiches, thousands of cloth diapers and thousands of disposable diapers, laundry and dishes, tacos and spaghetti, chili and chicken pot pies, cookies and brownies and scotcheroos, TV transfixed or Lego obsessed, baby dolls and Barbies, balls and blocks, forts and fights, homework and housework, chores and board games, fireflies at dusk, picnics with ginormous squirrels, bath times and story times and bedtimes by the thousands, and so much more filled our ordinary days.

Rebecca Palmer. Crazy Quilt, 1884

Rebecca Palmer. Crazy Quilt, 1884

And yet, looking back from a distance, each day now seems extraordinary and magical and exhausting and exhilarating and boring and exciting. Those tiny scraps of daily this and that, threads of nightly here and there, became the cloth of our stunning, breathtaking, wonder-filled, average family life.

I like to wrap myself up in it some days, when life feels questionable or queasy or tired, and simply feel love.

Always loving you,

Mom

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

 

“To be really great in little things, to be truly nobel and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

Categories: Family, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments
 
 

Naked Crayons and Other Sunny Things

By Simsala111 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

By Simsala111 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Spending time lately with my favorite three-year old I picked up on some of her personalized words and phrases. She’s smart! And I’m not just biased.

Here’s proof.

I mean look at this first word. She says:

Hanitizer” instead of hand sanitizer 

That makes perfect sense and in fact ought to replace the two-word equivalent, don’t you agree?

She hasn’t quite mastered the art of “f” and “v” so she uses an “s” instead.  So, when she asks:

“Please can I have some Sruit Snacks?”

I try to remember to add an “f” or a “v” in place of an “s.” And, voila’ I know she really wants Fruit Snacks.

I think, again, she’s stumbled on something brilliant, since those little bite-sized pieces of candy-like substance have about as much to do with fruit as her version of the word does.

One of her favorite pastimes is watching videos or:

Mooies” also known as movies.

At my house she gets away with watching more than she does at her own house. I’m thinking of hiding “Aladdin” and “Bug’s Life” because I can’t seem to get them out of my head.

By Glamhag (Glass slippers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0]

By Glamhag (Glass slippers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0]

Oddly, she refuses to watch “Cinderella” or as she calls it:

“Cindergrilla.”

Sounds like a Planet of the Apes version of the glass slipper story, doesn’t it? It once served as her Mom’s favorite movie as a kid and led to the naming of a semi-adopted cat named “Suffer” (another appropriate word-twist.) Someday I’ll convince her to watch it.

When she colors with crayons she prefers the newer ones that haven’t had the paper wrappers ripped off of them. When I recently handed her an orange crayon without the paper around it she laughed and then she said:

You want this book!

You want this book!

“It’s a Naked Crayon!”

Then I laughed, too. Her Mom said she probably got the term from a book they’d read from the library called, “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Oliver Jeffers.

You’d like the book, too, even if you don’t hang out with three-year olds. Drop in to the library and look at it sometime, or buy a copy for your own favorite three-year old. And then next time you pick up a naked crayon, you’ll get to laugh as well.

What a great sense of humor this particular three-year old possesses. I’ve learned to see things with a twist when get to I spend time with her. When she thinks something’s hilarious she even says so:

“Haha, that’s sunny!”

Then I remember to replace the “s” with an “f” and I know she’s found something funny!

Funny and sunny definitely seem related. The more sun I include in my days, the funner my life feels. Likewise, the more fun I remember to schedule in, the sunnier my days.

See, isn’t she brilliant? I sure think so.

Naked Crayons!!!

Naked Crayons!!!

Categories: Family, Humor, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

They Couldn’t Carry a Tune in a Bucket

Friday Letter to My Kids -

Dear J, J, L and L,

I hesitate to bring up this particular subject. It makes me squeamish. And I tend to cringe automatically with even the thought of it.

But, if I’m going to stay honest with you in these letters I can’t put off this subject any longer. You probably already knew this but had buried it in the deep recesses of a closet somewhere.

Our family can’t sing to save our lives.

Oh, sure, individually some of us have beautiful voices, but combining them together constitutes a crime against nature.

Surely you remember “Jumbo Elephant” or “The Train Song.”

My favorite and most memorable of the songs we sang together, hands down, goes like this:

“When we’re helping we’re happy and we sing as we go,

For we like to help mother for we all love her so.

Tra la la la la la laa, Tra la la la la laa,

Tra la la la la la laa, Tra la la la la laa.” ~ Wallace F. Bennett

Dad and the four of you would sing those words with the enthusiasm of a cow giving birth to twin calves and in about the same pitch.

Even with the piano accompaniment some of us couldn’t hit the right notes. I’m not sure why that happened. Sad, though, since your Dad in particular loves good music. What we sang was not good and whether it counted as music is still up for debate. Even “Happy Birthday” sounded painful and more like a dirge than a celebratory song. Ah, well.

My selections, although I don't mind Dad's at all.

My selections, although I don’t mind Dad’s at all.

I used to get irritated by those huge families (think Osmonds, Pointer Sisters, Jackson 5, King Family, Everly Brothers, Celtic Spring and countless other local families) that performed publicly, singing or playing multiple musical instruments. I liked to envision their four a.m. wake up calls so the whole famdamily could practice for three hours before school. And then, surely, afternoons required another three or four hours of lessons and practicing. Oh sure, they smiled while they performed, but in real life, at home, I’ll bet it was sheer misery for all involved. Or not. Maybe they loved music so much and were so good at it that no sacrifice seemed too great. It could happen.

That was what I told myself at least. I suppose it made me feel better about our non-musical abilities as a family.

A bit tinny and not exactly in tune, kind of like our family.

A bit tinny and not exactly in tune, kind of like our family.

I think I also feel badly for never providing piano lessons, or singing lessons, or music lessons of any kind. We had a piano! (I blame money and my own laziness and too many moves.) I find it silly that we didn’t make music a bigger priority. Big L, you did learn to play clarinet in Junior High and went on to High School with it but then gave it up for more important and interesting things. And you taught yourself, with a few months help from Dad, how to play piano. You found success in spite of your parents being musical slackers. Good for you! And Big J, you also taught yourself a few songs and even memorized them.

We still have that ancient guitar, missing its strings, leaning on one side of the piano. And on the other side, a violin that needs serious work that no one has a clue how to play. We are a strange music loving, non-musical family.

A sampling of the Classics.

A sampling of the Classics.

You poor kids lacked exposure to most any other kind of music except Classical, movie soundtracks and easy listening (i.e. elevator music) when you were younger. How weird is that? Sure I own a few albums; Paul Simon, John Denver, Kenny Loggins and the like. But Dad’s LP collection spans the millennia from Beethoven and Bach, Holst to Haydn. He went out on a limb with Classical Gas and Moody Blues, but they had their roots in the Classics, so it made sense.

I’m glad you finally discovered the Beatles and Alternative Rock, and every other musical genre out there. I’m happy that you’ve wandered around and partaken of the musical menu and found ways to let many different kinds lift and enhance your life.

And I’m grateful that Big J, with your mega bass speaker taking up the entire trunk of your car, completely understands the importance of turning the volume down when you enter a neighborhood. Mothers everywhere thank you.

I like to think that you all have a sense of humor about music, too. It would be impossible not to after singing along with our family in six different keys at the same time.

Laughingly and lovingly yours,

Mom

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

 ~~~~~

 

“Ducks in the pond quack a happy song,

Mother hens cackle the whole day long,

Birds in their nests and wind in the treetops,

All join in singing a happy song.”

~ Music for Young Americans, Book 2, by Berg, Burns, Hooley, Pace and Wolverton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, Music, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

The Mosquito Host

Dinner time gorging.

Dinner time gorging.

With nearly a year’s worth of rain falling in less than one day our little desert morphed into a mosquito breeding factory.

Just answering the front door lately requires rapid-fire reflexes and a quicker than a kid selling wrapping paper open-shut technique.

The last thing you want is a mosquito or two wafting about the room you’re sitting in. Very seldom do you hear the high-pitched warning zzzzzzzzz as they move in for the kill. They’re usually silent as they sneak in for a landing behind your knee or elbow or ankle. By time you realize you’re losing blood it’s too late. The itching commences.

Growing a massive army. (Image: James Gathany, CDC) - A New Model for Predicting Outbreaks of West Nile Virus. Gross L, PLoS Biology Vol. 4/4/2006, e101.

Growing a massive army. (Image: James Gathany, CDC) – A New Model for Predicting Outbreaks of West Nile Virus. Gross L, PLoS Biology Vol. 4/4/2006, e101.

I’ve read books that describe swarms of mosquitos so thick in some regions of Alaska that an animal or a human can suffocate in a cloud of them. I kid you not! Relatives of those little monsters must have caught a jet stream and landed here, troops amassing by the millions daily.

I’ve wondered, ever so briefly, if they’re indirectly related to the flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz. Mean little things carrying off young girls and small dogs. Don’t laugh, it’s possible. Mutations in evil creatures take on hideous transformations. Think “Alien” or “The Green Hornet.”

Forget taking the littles with their oh-so-succulent-soft-skin to the park for swinging or sliding or building sand castles. That is unless they like pink Calamine lotion and you don’t mind them looking like they have the chicken pox.

When someone walks a dog around the park I now recognize the arm flailing they’re doing not as a frantic wave to a friend, or a signal for help, but an actual life-saving maneuver to keep from getting carried away by swarms of flying blood drinkers. Zombie apocalypse scenarios are so passe’ nowadays.

I have no idea who to give credit to for this amazingly accurate photo.

I have no idea who to give credit to for this amazingly accurate photo.

To guarantee total terror, I’m dressing up as a mosquito this year for Halloween. Even Dads will run screaming in fright. I expect that haunted houses will sport a few of the evil black winged buzzing terrors for that extra horror factor.

Oh sure, I soak myself in some top of the line brand of mosquito repellant before I venture out on my morning walks, which helps only slightly. I feel a bit like a movie star with miniature mosquito paparazzi in my face, and around every corner, waiting for a vulnerable bit of skin to show itself so they can go all crazy over it.

I also suspect they’ve developed a liking to citronella scented anything and actually use it as a way of pinpointing vulnerable human targets.

repellants

These just aren’t repulsive enough to the little terrors anymore.

What we really need is a new breed of mosquito repellant, Nuke Em Howitzer 4000 sounds ominous doesn’t it? I’m sure the military could come up with something sufficiently deadly and give it a great acronym: BSA: Blood Sucker Annihilator. Or maybe KILL: Kreepy Insect Life Limiter.

Costco could market their own brand of Mosquito repellant/poison and call it West Nile Begone Extra Lethal in gallon sized spray bottles. Sure you might feel a little woozy for a few minutes, but at least you’d be able to reach your car without inhaling more than three or four of the pests.

Where did the helicopters raining down insecticide overnight disappear to? I’ve heard them in years past. Probably grounded by mosquito hordes weighing down the wings or filling up the engine compartment and gumming up the gas tanks.

More menacing than Zombies and flying monkeys.

More menacing than Zombies and flying monkeys.

I just want to take the garbage out without “Jaws” theme music running through my head as I dodge the little blood suckers.

Never before have I wished for the dry heat to return like I have this year. I suspect the mosquitos have something to do with the trajectory of that hurricane that’s pumping even more moisture into our normally dry state. You laugh, but these little dudes have conniving and vicious written all over them. I wouldn’t rule out weather manipulation as part of their arsenal.

A mosquito’s been hovering around the room for a while now. Probably taken a half a pint out of me already. Too bad we can’t harness their evil powers for good and turn them into phlebotomists.

I’m itchy. I think I’ll go hide under a really thick blanket until mid October.

 ~~~~~

Joke of the day: “I sprayed a mosquito with mosquito repellent and now he’ll never have any friends.”

 

Categories: Humor, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Where My Heart Is

It’s Gratituesday!  I’m feeling grateful that I have a roof over my head, particularly with the looming remnants of yet another hurricane threatening a second deluge in the desert.

Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz whispered, “There’s no place like home.” And Pliny the Elder said, “Home is where the heart is.” If you combine those two ideas you could say, “There’s no place like where your heart is.”

photo-25 copy 8

It’s a tiny quilt. eight inches by sixteen inches or so.

I made this miniature wall quilt a while ago. I like to think that it symbolizes all my different homes.

No, I don’t own multiple homes. Let me explain.

The Home I Grew Up In

At seven years old our family moved from a two bedroom house into a much bigger home. I consider both of them as my childhood homes where so many memories happened. About a decade ago Dad and Mom built a house in the town Dad grew up in. I found out it isn’t the place, but the people who make it home.

“I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.” ~Maya Angelou

The “After I Left Home” Home

I had three or four different spots I called home after leaving my childhood home. Those all felt temporary, and I never really made those places homelike. Dorms and student apartments don’t have many homey touches, yet each still served as home. I hung my “hat” there, I slept there. Nearly everything I owned in the world fit into that tiny space. When they tore down one of those buildings years later I felt a twinge of melancholy, but nothing devastating.

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.” ~Robin Hobb

The “I’ve Lost Count of All the Moves We’ve Made” Homes

photo-24 copy 33

Is there an ideal home?

I’ve had more than a few addresses since marrying MSH. I’ve known some people who can’t wait to unpack after a move, feeling unsettled until they’re surrounded by their “stuff.” I always hesitated to unpack it all, wishing instead for a fresh start, for less stuff surrounding me, requiring attention, needing dusting, cleaning and maintenance.

We’ve lived in tiny and big places, in between places, hot and cold places, weird places, new and old places, remodeled and mobile places. We’ve also had a couple of spells where we didn’t have an address, semi-homeless, staying with a variety of relatives while the dust settled and life sorted itself out.

I do wonder what it’d be like to stay in one place for twenty or thirty years. Would I get restless? Would I wish for a change? Would I feel content or would I find a need to remodel every so often? Or would I be completely and totally delighted and settled?

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” ~Sarah Dessen

The Home I Carry With Me

I suppose that’s why my favorite home is the one I carry with me. I sometimes think of my body as the real home and the me inside it as its resident. I’m the one whose brain and heart feel twenty-ish years old, while the me everyone sees, this outer shell that looks and moves like someone much, much older, is just a house. I’m the turtle and this body is my shell.

Does that sound silly? Maybe it is. But it works for me. This home could probably use a new paint job, a bit of foundation work, and my plumbing isn’t always up to code. It definitely has some creaks and odd nuances. But it’s the house I’ve been blessed with and most of the time it doesn’t leak. So I think I’ll stick around in it and see what happens over the next few decades. The me that lives inside of it will always feel young and snarky.  At least, I hope so.

“Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.” ~ Tad Williams

The Nicest Word

The word Home feels warm and comfy, welcoming and wonderful. I feel lucky, blessed really, to have lived in so many places and enjoyed multiple sorts of lives in and around them. I’m a lucky woman. After all, “there’s no place like home.”

 

The Oz series talk of silver not ruby slippers, (which show up better on film.)

The Oz series of books talk of silver not ruby slippers, (which happen to show up better on film.)

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Only Contortionists Need Apply

“Why is the ground coming up to meet my face?” I remember thinking as I fainted one day while walking from one classroom to another at university during the Paleozoic Era.

 Fainting with dramatic flair.

Fainting with dramatic flair.

I had it backwards of course. The ground didn’t meet my face, my face met the ground. And it’s nothing whatsoever like that fake fainting you see in the movies or on television, swooning and conveniently falling backwards.

No warning signs preceded that strange experience. No dizziness, lightheadedness, tripping, wooziness or injury. Just “wham” and a face plant.

I compare it, oddly, to my two brief experiences of being in very minor earthquakes. (No I’m not a seasoned quake veteran like you Californians.) When something that’s normally solid and steady and unmoving begins to undulate and sway, nothing makes sense. It’s as if Left trades places with Right, or North wearies of being true and turns into South.

Something in between those two experiences happened to me Sunday evening. It also included that slow-motion effect you see in the movies. That, I can tell you, actually does happen.

stairs

Not the actual stairs, but very similar.

My favorite one-year old had woken from her afternoon nap cheerful and ready for play. While carrying her downstairs to the family room the ground under my right foot moved and I had suddenly had nothing underneath me except my left foot, which was behind me and still midair coming down from the last step I’d taken. The right leg sailed forward ahead of my body and the left leg did something the design of the human body never intended. It folded up behind me. My body had no choice but to attempt to follow both legs.

Did you know the laws of physics prohibit motion in two directions at once? There’s a hefty fine for violating that law. And I was about to pay big time.

Binkies really do make that thwapping sound if you listen. Think Maggie from the Simpsons.

Think Maggie from the Simpsons.

The only really important part of this whole slow motion scene is that my left arm continued to keep the one-year old secure and unharmed. I’m pretty certain an angel must have caught her because she ended up gently sitting on the stairs, thwap thwap thwapping on her pacifier, completely unphased and a bit curious as to why we were sitting down so suddenly.

Meanwhile I was attempting to make sense of the pain and odd location of various parts of my body. My toe felt turned inside out and resided somewhere under my back. My knee, I was certain based on signals being sent from it to my brain, had no more connections remaining to the leg above or below it. And my hip had skittered across the kitchen floor and lay huddled, whimpering behind the refrigerator.

Can you say OUCH!

Can you say OUCH!

I wasn’t sure if attempting to move anything seemed prudent. But pretending to be a Russian gymnast or one of those freaky contortionists didn’t seem like a good option either.

Very slowly and with great effort, I convinced my hip to talk to my knee, which coaxed my toe to remove itself from my backside. Then the pain really took hold. Fortunately, I remembered to breath and didn’t pass out or puke or get woozy.

After a few minutes I could move my knee a bit more. It miraculously didn’t seem to be broken or displaced and was, I could see clearly, still attached. The hip just seemed content once again in its normal position and orientation.

The toe felt like it might explode.

An hour later, after some icepacks on the toe, I felt almost normal. The swelling hadn’t gotten too bad and I thought perhaps I’d only sprained it. Eighteen hours later, after some ibuprofen and some restless sleep, the toe looks bruised but hopefully, just needs a few days of rest and elevation. I may end up needing an x-ray of the toe if it doesn’t cheer up in the next few days. But that might not need to happen. Sadly, no long meandering morning walks for this woman for a bit.

ibuprofenAs for breaking those laws of physics? Yeah, I’m paying the price. Parts of me I didn’t know existed hurt today. And parts I knew I had but didn’t know could experience pain, also ache.

I’m happy to pay such a price if the favorite one-year old escaped unscathed. We were both blessed not to break anything, not to hit our heads, not to have to deal with blood or mayhem.

Maybe I need the extra R&R&R. (Yes, three R’s.) Maybe it’s the only way I’ll slow down enough to do some reading and writing and resting. Maybe I’ll take a day and watch all three Lord of the Rings movies (extended version) or the entire BBC Sherlock series. Or I’ll just read. And sleep. And let MSH baby me. And take ibuprofen every four to six hours.

Happy Monday!

 

Categories: Family, physical health | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments
 
 

That Monstrous Mama Of Yours

Friday Letter to my Kids:

Dear J, J, L and L,

Parents want to leave a legacy for their children, something of themselves that lives on in future generations. I’m afraid I unintentionally passed on a not so stellar legacy to you four kids.

My temper.

As you know I’m just about the calmest person in the world.

Until I’m not.

Like me, more Looney than tunes.

Like me, more Looney than tunes.

Then I’m like some Tasmanian devil/nuclear bomb of emotional messy destruction.

Witness the dented pan, or two, in the kitchen cupboard, a defunct Scrabble game and the memory of a few holes in the wall from various projectiles. Not to mention a phone call or two I made to evil bullying spawn of Satan children or their parents. The rock/lawn chair/anything within reach launching into to the swimming pool incident needs to permanently self-destruct from all our memories. And, a few others I simply won’t elaborate on due to the statute of limitations time frame thingy. (kidding, kidding…)

No one will believe me if they read this. No one. I barely believe it myself sometimes.

The Incredibly Green Hulk, temper tantrum personified.

The Incredibly Green Hulk, temper tantrum personified.

That’s how calm I usually feel. That’s how cool and collected I come across. The idea of your mother, mild-mannered Clarkette Kent with glasses, turning into a raging, maniacal foaming at the mouth, bad words unleashed kind of person just won’t register as realistic in anyone’s brain matter. Unless they’ve experienced said transformation. Maybe Superman is pushing the metaphor, I should have compared myself with The Hulk, I suppose.

I’m going somewhere with this. Stay with me here.

Loving the illustrations!

Loving the illustrations!

Big L gifted me this children’s book a few years back, Monster Mama, written by Liz Rosenberg and delightfully illustrated by Stephen Gammell. It’s been a favorite of mine. (Second only to “Are You My Mother?”)

Why is it a favorite? Well, aside from the near perfect rendering of my likeness in astounding living color, it seems more realistic than most children’s books about how mothers really are. I love how accepting the son is of his mother’s differences. Also, the two sides of this particular “fictional” mother get equal billing.

Side One

She’s a tender-hearted, sensitive mother who teaches her sweet son profound lessons.

“Always use your powers for good, never for evil.” ~ Monster Mama 

Side Two

She has mother bear killer instincts to protect and defend. When Patrick Edward found himself dealing with some hoodlums

“Monster Mama heard the echoes of his roar. She zoomed out of her cave like a fast-moving freight train and sailed over the creek in one graceful leap.”

Howling, thundering, snapping and red-flamed eyes ensued and justice meted out.

The difference between Monster Mama and myself lies in the appropriateness of her response to stress, versus the often massive inappropriateness of my response to stress. Her lashing out seemed measured and appropriate in defense of her son.

tasmanian devil real

An actual Tasmanian Devil.

I, however, simply explode based on an uncontrolled amount of emotion and frustration not specifically aimed, usually, at anyone in particular. (Hence the wall damage instead of personal injury.) And, I wasn’t always defending or protecting, usually just venting in a rather loud, obnoxious and embarrassing way.

This isn’t the kind of legacy I wanted passed on to you. And yet, several, if not all of you, have this tendency to explosive projectile anger vomiting.

It’s not pretty. Remember?

A more productive, or at the least, a safer way to deal with stress and anger might be to let off a little pressure every day, or every hour, or when the need arises. Instead of doing what I do, which is holding it all in, keeping all emotions stuffed into some tiny box in the back of my brain somewhere, where the pressure builds and builds until nothing can hold it back. And BAM! Whoever unluckily resides in the vicinity when the last straw falls, last bean weighs in, last nerve gets stepped on, catches the wrath of Khan or Kami.

A cliche', I know. But still true.

A cliche’, I know. But still true.

I’m still, even all these years later, prone to monstrous explosions of stupidity and yelling. You’d think I’d have outgrown the temper tantrum thing by now.

Truly. If you can get a handle on the whole out-of-control temper thing, you’ll be waaaay better off.

I know. I know. It’s like having an alternate personality lurking in the dark spaces. It doesn’t feel like there’s anything you can do about it. Like trying to keep a teapot from screeching once the water starts boiling full steam ahead.

I hope you’re more successful at taming your anger demons than your mother.

The last page of this lovely book says what I have always felt for each of you.

“No matter where you go, or what you do,” she told him, “I will be there. Because I am your mother, even if I am a monster – and I love you.” ~ Monster Mama

I feel monstrous amounts of love for you. Beyond anything you can yet comprehend. Please know that.

All my love,

Your Monster Mama

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

 

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” ~ Ambrose Bierce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Whateverness

I skipped out on writing a Gratituesday post yesterday. Not that anyone would notice except me, really. It’s not like me. Even if I don’t write anything for a week I always, always, always post something I’m grateful for on Tuesdays. But nope. Not yesterday.

Part of me said to myself that Monday’s post about the “Twenties” could serve as my gratitude offering for the week. Part of me doesn’t want to think of things I’m grateful for lately.

Who could be uncheered by a sunrise like this?

Who could be uncheered by a sunrise like this?

Why would I do that? What is it about human nature that makes me want to wallow in whininess and self-pity rather than pay attention to the abundance surrounding me. Or maybe it isn’t human nature at all. Maybe it’s just my own personal nature, prone toward the negative. It’s an ongoing battle, most days holding my ground or even gaining some ground. Other days the foe pushes harder than my stamina and will power. Then I find myself mired in the old, all too familiar ground of smudged glasses, a fog in the air, stuck knee-deep in depression and meh.

Does it matter that I pushed through the tiredness and volunteered with MSH at a food bank for a few hours  yesterday? He thought it would do me good, give me some perspective. I’m sure it did somehow deep down. I tried, later, to compose a post about the experience, but found my heart had stayed closed off to the experience as well as any potential good I could have gained from it. Shelves got stocked, meals made available, families and individuals got served. Now my muscles ache and my back hurts. I should have felt a sense of satisfaction, of joy, but nope. Nada.

Veggies in my future?

Veggies in my future?

Does it matter that I dug out my seed collection and, in an act of extreme faith, even for a desert gardener, put seeds into the ground early in September? I try to envision radishes pushing up through the soil, imagine beets with their tiny red stems poking though, lettuces for future salads, carrots with their furry tops, pea vines winding up the wall. Do you think it will really happen? Or will I fail to keep the soil moist enough over the critical week or two of seedling spouting? Will the temperatures soar and bake the now saturated ground along with the tender shoots of my offering of faith?

Just after shaking off the pond water.

Just after shaking off the pond water.

Did today’s face to face encounter with a coyote stir something in me, make me feel more alive and lighter? As I said, “Oh, hello there!” and those gray eyes looked through me, judging, assessing, weighing the danger, did I wonder at such a confrontation? Perhaps, a bit.  And only minutes later, when the geese complained at the coyote’s invitation to breakfast, did anything stir in me as they flew overhead, the sunrise backlighting them just so? I took a photograph to share and smiled a little. That’s something. The whole day ought to have brightened at such an occurrence, my heart should have jumped and laughed out loud at the very least.

Maybe I’m behind on my sleep. Maybe I need to take vitamins, eat more fruits and vegetables, drink more water. Maybe I need some hours lost inside a book, oblivious to my surroundings. Maybe it’s time for some extreme sanctuary, silent meditation or exceptional prayers. Maybe I need a few days camping, saturating myself in pine-scented oxygen and unfettered starlight. Maybe I think too much. Maybe I think about the wrong things. Maybe I need some serious chocolate. Who knows.

Looking for calmer waters.

I’m just trying to make sense of my life, and some days honestly, there’s very little sense in it at all.

In my decades long war with depression, I’ve learned to remind myself that what I’m feeling is temporary. That I won’t feel like this forever. Days will get better, laughter will come easier, I’ll feel like being around people soon enough. There’s no need to give up hope.

I declare today a mental health day for myself. I’ll be gentle with and generous to myself. I’ll rest and renew and find a toehold to push myself back up to solid ground. I’ll reread some of my gratitude journals. I’ll push harder on the heavy door that’s shut everything out and open up my heart to the possibilities around me.

~~~~~

Turns out today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Far too many people have weeks and months and yes, even years of lassitude, depression, stress, trauma, the weight of the world on their shoulders, and general inability to cope or find help. It turns out hope does exist. Please educate yourself so that you can help someone who needs a light shining in their dark hours. Or educate yourself so that you can see your way to a source of light and hope and healing. God bless.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Hope, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

It’s Raining Twenties From Heaven

Pennies from Heaven?

Pennies from Heaven?

Thirteen years ago, this month, MSH had just landed a contract out-of-state at a facility that had something or other to do with the airplane industry. He’d had a ton of gigs that lasted various lengths of time and I seldom kept track of what exactly each involved. On the morning of September 11 he called me, told me to turn on the TV, and the world changed. A couple of weeks later he drove back home, his contract ended abruptly along with hundreds of other contractors and employees. A similar scene unfolded all over the country that fall and winter.

Months and months and months and months later, I forget now how long, no other contracts came available, no other work opened up. All our reserves siphoned away, all our options dried and cracked like a Phoenix river bed.

I took a sales position that brought in enough to cover a couple of the utilities. I took on other manual labor as well. MSH took what work he could get, but it utilized none of his decades of experience in the computer industry. Not a nice memory to look back on, I can assure you.

Surprisingly, a few bright spots shine through the dark, hopeless feeling of that time.

One ray of light in particular stays with me.

Occasionally, unpredictably, an envelope would show up taped to our door, a twenty-dollar bill tucked inside. No writing on the envelope. No clues whatsoever where it came from.

Twenties from Heaven

Twenties from Heaven

Twenty dollars bought a grocery cart full of fresh produce where I shopped. Gratefully that’s usually how we used that gift.

Tucked inside that envelope, along with the crisp or crinkled bill, a bit of hope and a sliver of love. I never had any way of thanking whoever thought to send such caring our way. The timing of it always caught me off guard, usually on a day of discouragement and exhaustion.

If I didn’t already believe in angels before those twenties started showing up on my door, I certainly became a believer afterwards.

Whoever sacrificed that amount for us and taped it to our door may not have had wings or known how to fly, but they most surely wore a halo shining with human kindness and glowing with sensitivity.

Almost every time I use a twenty-dollar bill all these years later, I’m reminded of those twenties that blessedly and magically came our way.

When I start to think that the world holds little of goodness in it, or I get discouraged by life in general, I simply remember back to those envelopes on my door and feel grateful for good people, the real gifts from heaven.

~~~

This song kept rolling through my head as I wrote today… Might have something to do with the record rainfall we’ve had today in the Phoenix area. Or it could have been a message I needed to hear. I’ve included the original version by Bing Crosby as well as a cover by more recent artists.

I’m wondering if it needs to make a comeback.

Enjoy.

Or if you prefer a more current rendition here’s the Paul Anka and Michael Buble cover of Pennies from Heaven.

(Here’s the lyrics.) 

A long time ago
A million years BC
The best things in life
Were absolutely free.
But no one appreciated
A sky that was always blue.
And no one congratulated
A moon that was always new.
So it was planned that they would vanish now and them
And you must pay before you get them back again.
That’s what storms were made for
And you shouldn’t be afraid for

Every time it rains it rains
Pennies from heaven.
Don’t you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven.
You’ll find yor fortune falling
All over town.
Be sure that your umbrella is upside down.
Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers.
If you want the things you love
You must have showers.
So when you hear it thunder
Don’t run under a tree.
There’ll be pennies from heaven for you and me

~Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke

Categories: Hope, Mondaze | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments
 
 

Found: The Music to Your Dance

“Humorous but very intelligent words to live by: Do not argue with a spouse who is packing your parachute.”

Friday Letter to My Kids – Sept. 5, 2014 -

Dear J, J, L and L,

I gotta tell you how happy it makes me that you’ve each found and married the perfect person for you.

You’ve found the music to your dance, the glove to your hand, the screen to your keyboard, the horizon to your sunrise and the ocean to your beach.

That’s so happifying!

A couple of you took a long and circuitous route in locating that person, but the journey seemed a necessary part of the finding for you. A couple of you found love early and without hesitation. Either way, I’m thrilled to see you each content and loved and cared for so well.

Original art by Kami

Original art by Kami

I lucked out too because I totally adore each of your spouses. They’re cool people, confident, calm, easy-going, and fun to hang out with. It’s like I got a set of bonus kids just for showing up.

I love seeing how your spouse loves, cares for, admires, helps and cherishes you. Even better I’ve observed a synergy where they make you a better person, a richer, more well-rounded, more vibrant human and you have the same effect on them. Your eyes light up around your sweetheart. Your whole countenance brightens. You seem more you.

I’m not delusional. I know marriage isn’t all roses, chocolate and champagne. Each of you and your spouses each seem well suited and well matched for the challenging and occasionally uphill path of the commitments you’ve made. That fact alone does my heart good and lets me rest easier. Knowing you’re loved and in love and in it for the long haul makes me smile.

Already it seems you’re light-years ahead of where your dad and I were even twenty years into our marriage. It’s like you figured out the right way to pull off a marriage by watching us stumble around like dingbats. From what I can tell, you’re doing an awesome job at this whole married thing.

I can’t seem to get this scene out of my head from the movie “Princess Bride.” Maybe it’s simply to remind me to laugh more often at and in my own marriage.

Here’s the quote:

“Mawage.

Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam…

And wuv, twue wuv, will fowow you foweva…

So tweasure your wuv.” ~Princess Bride

I hope you laugh often with each other. That’s definitely served as my saving grace over the past few decades of married life.

Here’s the one really great thing I figured out: it only gets better over time. You think you can’t love them any more than you do now, but you will. And in a ways that’ll surprise you.

I’m excited for what awaits each of you as couples. You’ve picked the scenic route and that will make all the difference in your travels together. Enjoy the ride!

Love found you all and in that finding life begins again and again and again.

 

Lots of love,

Mom

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

(Happymess with an “M” – not a typo.)

~~~~~

“A good marriage is where both people feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal.” ~ Anne Lamott

 

 


			
Categories: Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

A Certain Angle of Light

photo 3-5 copy 4Moisture pushes ahead of the straggling remnants of hurricanes limping far inland from the Pacific, bumping up against the northern and eastern mountains.

photo 1-5 copy 6A traffic jam of clouds fills the sky with swirling masses of whites, grays and blues.

photo 4-3 copy 10Cloud sculptures twist and swirl while light plays a melody in concert with the sound of distant geese calling out their imminent arrival.

photo 2-4 copy 3Dozens upon dozens of rabbits rush around drawing too much attention to themselves,  making use of the cooler morning hours.

photo 1-6 copy 3Sun breaks through the tangled muss of fluff with bits of light but little color.

photo 2-3 copy 5

Small birds twitter, tap, chatter, sing, peep, mimic, flit, flutter, flap, hum and tweet.

photo 4-5 copyLarger birds sit in silent patience.

photo 3-6 copy

A pair of hawks sweep low and silent along a path searching for the unaware and unwarned.

photo 1-5 copy 6I walk, finding more than animals, birds, sky, water, shades of green.

photo 2-2 copy 22I listen for solace and a different kind of silence.

photo 5 copy 4I look for something within myself as I walk the dawn.

photo 1-4 copy 20Thoughts clarify with each step I travel through this oasis.

photo-24 copy 29I gather courage and hope as I pass the creosote, palo verde and acacia.

photo 4-4 copy 2Each morning I claim sanctuary, and emboldened, face the day.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Pumpkin Spice Zombie Apocalypse

latte

Pumpkin spiced whipped cream.

There. I got your attention just by typing two words: Pumpkin Spice.

What a silly thing.

I feel like that person who pretends to throw a ball to a dog and laughs maniacally when the pup runs off after nothing.

Or worse, like the weather forecasters here in the Phoenix area who throw out these few words before a commercial break, “Is there rain in our forecast?” We get so excited when there’s even a ten percent chance of rain. Bump those odds up to fifty percent and we’re deliriously happy. Actual rain produces a state of nirvana and brainlessness causing people to drive into flooded washes.

So it is with Pumpkin Spice. Now that it’s September everyone goes gaga for the stuff.

Last week I could have gotten your attention with three words: Ice Bucket Challenge. But that was so last week or the week before. Now everyone’s just tired and morphing the thing to unrecognizable configurations. Cool though that it generated so much information and donations.

Maybe to take it up a notch and generate a bit more interest someone could do a Pumpkin Spice Ice Bucket Challenge. What do you say, Letterman? Kimmel? Fallon? Brangelina? POTUS?

I’ll send you a free Pumpkin Spice candle if you do. (You’ll just need to pay a small shipping and handling fee.) But totally worth it. Really.

It’s EVERYWHERE!! It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers only with pumpkins and spice. A quick search will result in pumpkin spice everything: donuts, pudding, cookies, cupcakes, peanuts, mousse, seltzer water, marshmallows, coffee creamer, brownies, cream cheese, Hershey’s kisses, smoothies, malted milk balls, syrup, potato chips, granola bars, ale, pancakes, Oreos, and yes, even (heaven help us) pumpkin spice butter. Butter? What has the world come to?

zombie pumpkins

Pumpkin Spice Zombie Apocalypse! Run!!!

How do we know it’s not a Zombie Apocalypse disguised as pumpkin spice?

Just as a side note, I’m also not a fan of the FALL SALE especially since the temperatures are still over 105 and no way in heck am I donning boots or a scarf for at least another three months. Maybe I’m just slightly bitter that I live where there are only two seasons,”broil” and “toast.”

I do kind of miss the autumn thing, but I try not to dwell on it. That’s why all this PUMPKIN SPICE stuff is driving me crazy, you can’t not see it, hear it, smell it, read about it.

Whatever happened to apple? Yes, Apple. I wrote about that last year and you can read it here if you want a more reasonable approach to alternate fall flavors and scents, such as Apple and Caramel perhaps.

To prove that I’m not a total pumpkin Grinch, for your reading and laughing pleasure, I’ll insert a pumpkin joke (which I found here if you want to look up more.)

One day two pumpkins, who were best friends, were walking together down the street. They stepped off the curb and a speeding car came around the corner and ran one of them over. The uninjured pumpkin called 911 and helped his injured friend as best he was able. The injured pumpkin was taken to emergency at the hospital and rushed into surgery. After a long and agonizing wait, the doctor finally appeared. He told the uninjured pumpkin, “I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that your friend is going to pull through. The bad news is that he’s going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life”.

I apologize.

Great pumpkin jokes don’t seem to exist. This was the best I could manage.

If I had a phenomenal pumpkin spice recipe I’d insert it here. But, alas, I have none. Feel free to submit yours in the comment section. I can’t promise I’ll do anything with it, but you never know.

Autumn leaves. (NOT pumpkin spiced)

Autumn leaves. (NOT pumpkin spiced)

I’m hoping to go camping some time next week, in the actual mountains to get a real taste of Autumn! Maybe, just maybe, a few leaves will have considered changing colors and I’ll snap some pictures or bring home a twig or two filled with autumn hues.

In the meantime, I’m trying to block out all things Pumpkin Spice and moving on with my life in spite of such niggling little things.

On the bright side, I won’t have to shovel snow in four months! Take that, Pumpkin Spice!

 

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

The Stories I Tell Myself

“Two old friends met by chance on the street. After chatting for some time, one said to the other, “I’m terribly sorry, but I’ve forgotten your name. You’ll need to tell me.” The other stared at him thoughtfully for a long time, then replied, “How soon do you need to know?”

It’s Gratituesday! Today’s gratitude is brought to you courtesy of the word “Memories.”

Memory morphs. It changes. It softens and fades. Certain aspects take on larger dimensions while other seemingly significant details diminish.

I love how I can close my eyes and be in a moment that occurred weeks or months or years ago. I also love how I don’t even have to close my eyes for a memory to play itself out in my head, tiny detail by tiny detail.

Sometimes I don’t love it so much. Not all memories carry pleasant and soothing gift wrapped packages. Nope, some carry regret, sorrow, heartache, stupidity, shame. The potential hazards of a ride down memory lane can trip a person up and send them reeling.

Who I Am

Either way, happy or sad, delightful or melancholy, ridiculous or sublime, memory feels like part of who I am. Memory makes up the marrow in my bones. It keeps my heart beating. It gives meaning to every single thing I do, every choice I make.

I can’t imagine losing memories, like a person with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Huntington’s, or any number of other disorders or diseases.  I’d be no one anymore. I’d not be me at least, without my memories. So much of my joy in life comes from my ability at will to conjure visions of holding my babies, or remembered dances in the moonlight, or crazy things I’ve done like belting out an early morning wakeup song in the middle of nowhere.

"While we live, let us live."

“While we live, let us live.”

As life can often weigh me down with gradually sneaking age and circumstance, having a memory to recall an adventurous few years of climbing cliffs as the world falls away below me reminds me I am not just this aching back, this tired woman, this struggling human. Recalling my years as a young mother when I feel all a bit lost among those with vibrant families remind me I’m more than I appear to others. Chance encounters with my past in fleeting thoughts often brighten a day heavy with worry. Memories remind me that I consist of all that I’ve done and experienced. I’m so much more than what I see in the mirror.

The ratio of good to bad memories isn’t balanced. I’m not sure where the ratio falls. My answer depends on what day you ask me. Today the scale tips heaviest on the abrasive side of things, the hard roads, the thorns, the losses, the mistakes. But give me a few days with a few night’s full sleep and I may say just the opposite. I try not to whitewash things, but I also don’t want to muck about in negativity and regret. Maybe that’s where fiction first found its birth. Hmmm.

Maybe That’s Why

I suppose that’s part of what drives me to write. I write my memories, both good stuff and bad, along with my changing view of those memories, as a way to re-acquaint myself with me. It would be a shame to let all those years of work and learning and experience just slip away as I inevitably fade away.

Hopefully, writing the memories down in various forms will let me live a little longer, but not just as a legacy or in a personal history.

As I write my memories, I relive them and in that living, love again and laugh again.

 

~~~~~

The title for today’s post grew out of this quote: “How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.” ~Julian Barnes

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

“Goodbye to Yesterday”

Friday Letter to my Kids  -August 29, 2014-

Dear J, J, L and L,

I hate goodbyes.

Doesn’t matter what kind. Short, long-term, temporary, indefinite. They all bite. Some goodbyes leave a gaping wound that take what feels like forever to heal. Others keep hurting even after all evidence of injury disappears.

I’ve had my fill of goodbyes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep getting another serving glopped on my plate. Whatever. Let’s shift gears a little. Here’s a song to start off my thoughts today.

Your Dad started traveling for work back when you were just tiny things. In fact his first stint away from home occurred when Big J was only three months old. We’re not talking a week away. Month’s after saying “see ya later” I finally saw him again, around Christmas time. He’d grown this full-on hideous beard that looked like he’d been standing in the wind for too long, all growing to one side. Then he had to go again, and again and again.

You’d think I’d have gotten used to goodbyes. He’d be gone for weeks. Or months. Or just a few days. But every time carried its share of empty yuck, sadness and loneliness. Even just last year when he drove off for Sacramento, I felt a part of me drop away and sink to the floor in wracking sobs, as the physical part of me stood there waving cheerfully.

Oh sure, I learned independence and self-reliance. My coping muscles as a semi-single parent surely rippled with six-pack abs and bulging biceps. Hahahaha, there’s an odd image for you, huh?

Why do I bring this up?

One of you says “adios” to your spouse today for three months. My heart aches for you. I may not feel your pain, but I remember all too clearly what mine felt like. Knowing you feel something like that makes me hurt for you and with you. It’s a mom thing, I suppose.

You’ll do fine. You’ll rock this challenge. You’ll find strength you didn’t know you had. Sure, there will be long nights, long days, emptiness and exhaustion, but you’ll be okay. I promise.

Another one of you is the one who leaves on those long business trips. That can’t be easy. I have no idea how it must feel stuck in a boring hotel room night after night, to be the one in another city away from your sweetheart. How you both manage without each other boggles my mind, especially since it’s been this way since a month or two into your marriage.

Bronze figures, Fleetwood, Lancs. Photo By P Smith (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

Bronze figures, Fleetwood, Lancs. Photo By P Smith (Own work)  http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html

Add in that this weekend I’m helping another one of you pack up for your big move out-of-state. I try not to think about when I’ll have to say goodbye to you in a few more days. I’m happy beyond reason for your new adventures, but so sad to know you won’t be at our table on random evenings, won’t be playing “Settlers” with us, may not make it back for holidays for a while. I’ll miss our random lunch dates and having you hang out on the couch for mom time. I don’t even know when I’ll see you next in real life. I’m trying not to think about it.

Yesterday I got this sweet video text that brought one of your lives smack dab into the middle of my living room. Just for a few moments the distance between here and where you are shrunk to almost nothing. But then, I found my arms aching for holding, my chest pounding for a hug, my need for immediate access to an airplane like a drug addiction withdrawal. No matter how long you live far away I don’t get used to it. I still miss you every single day.

Thank goodness for the internet and social media. Back when Dad first started traveling that stuff hadn’t evolved yet. We racked up huge long distance phone bills, mailed handwritten letters. Weird to imagine now.

Lucky you with your skyping, texting, Facebook, instant messaging and email. Lucky me, since I can utilize those things to stay in touch with each of you as well. Makes the world smaller and goodbyes more manageable.

Buddhist prayer beads By Аркадий Зарубин (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Buddhist prayer beads By Аркадий Зарубин (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

I’m praying for each one of you. Not that there’s anything new there. My heart has this sort of constant litany of recitations for your safety, your happiness, your health. You are all, each of you, always on my mind. I always miss you, wonder about you, wish the best for you. That’s true even if you’re only a couple of miles away, and certainly when you’re hundred of miles or more in the distance.

The word goodbye has its origins in the phrase “God be with you,” and serves as a contraction, a shortened version of that blessing. When I say Goodbye, often that’s what I’m really feeling. God be with you carries more power and serves as a kind of incantation or benediction over the leave-taking. You’d think I’d gone stark raving nuts if I started saying “God be with you,” so I’ll just quietly think those words in my head as my mouth says a regular goodbye. How does that sound?

Sure they cut those umbilical cords ages ago. And certainly the apron strings also severed years back. But heart-strings remain attached forever no matter what you do or how far you go.

God be with you in whatever life offers you this week and beyond.

All my love,

Mom

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

 

 ~~~~~

“Remember me and smile, for it’s better to forget than to remember me and cry.” ~ Dr. Seuss

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, Love | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

I’m Walking on Sunshine: Going Solar (part 1)

BY JOEL PETT, Herald-Leader Cartoonist, used with permission.

BY JOEL PETT,
Herald-Leader Cartoonist, used with permission.

Sunshine.

It’s everywhere, especially here in Arizona,. The sun shines two hundred ninety-six days of the year. Yes, that’s 296.

By contrast, the Seattle area, where I lived a quarter of a century ago, gets a mere fifty-eight, yes only 58, sunny days a year. Shiver. 

You’d think, with so much sunshine we’d be completely solar friendly in our state. You’d be correct. Following close behind, surprisingly, is Hawaii. And not so surprisingly, Nevada.

Why do I bring this up?

We had solar panels installed recently. The whole back side of the roof full of the things. No, we didn’t win the lottery, or take out a home equity loan. Nor did we inherit money from some long-lost rich relative. (Sigh.) We’re leasing the panels for less than what we pay the Power Company.

Here’s what our roof looks like now…

photo 1-4 copy 19

8 a.m. and the sun is already tickling the panels which face WSW.

I’m not going to try to explain how it all works, because, frankly Scarlett, I don’t give my husband dealt with the business and science part of all this. I signed some paperwork, read a bit of fine print, and cleaned up the side yard enough so the installation guys wouldn’t trip over the mess.

All I know is the sun shines on our roof, those black panels turn it into electricity somehow, and we have all the juice we need to run our little household.

What I’m really interested in involves a reversal. Yup. A reversal.

Whatever we don’t use of our solar generated electricity gets sold to The Power Company.* Does that sound cool, or what?

I think so.

Instead of us receiving electricity from and paying out money to the Electric Company, in vast enough quantities to fund a small nation, they will start paying us with an annual check. Sounds like a great plan to me!

Whether or not it pans out gets me all excited and curious and a little giddy. Okay, maybe not giddy, but definitely curious. I’ll be watching those meters, reading the bills, comparing this year and last year. And instead of feeling forlorn at another in a long series of unending sun-swathed days I’ll feel happier than a pig in mud on a sunny day.

There’s an 85% chance this will work out in our favor. I like that. Those are good odds, don’t you think?

Saving Money? Yes, Please.

Saving money lights up my happy neurons. And yet we’ll still have enough electricity to keep the house cool in these desert nonsense temperatures, run the frillion computers MSH has amassed, keep the oven baking bread and keep the six-body** deep freeze icy cold. If the power goes out, the entire neighborhood can come on over and charge their phones to their heart’s delight.

We’re waiting for an inspection and paperwork and insurance stuff to happen in the next few days. And then, voilà. We’ll be cooking and cooling with solar.

Now I feel all green and tingly and earth friendly. Come September I’ll kick my desert gardening hiney into high gear and get every one of my raised beds planted with happy little vegetable seeds for an even greener sense of self-sustaining karma.

I’ll keep you updated on how it goes. Good or not so good.

Here’s to the sunshine!

 ~~~~~

Here’s some info you can read if you want to:

Not a solar company -  Will Buying Solar Panels Really Save Money?

Also not a solar company - Do Solar Panels Really Save Money?

Or you can do your own research easily enough, right?

~~~

*Well, almost all. MSH tells me that The Powers That Be work a lot of fine print into the contract, but still… looks and sounds great to me. Like I said, I didn’t read the details and I don’t get the math or the science at all. Over a twenty-year span, we come out ahead.

**When MSH brought home the deep freeze (I thought we were buying a small one) it turned out to be this massive monstrosity nearly the same size as our Toyota truck. I like to say it’s big enough to hold six bodies. So really, we could have a bit of a sideline helping out the morgue if needed. Normally, though, we keep ice cream, roasts, a ham, a turkey and freezer jams in there.

Categories: good ideas, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

“Sleep…the Best Meditation”

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.”

 ~ Anthony Burgess ~

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for sleep.

Sometimes sleep eludes me. My body weary and eyes bleary, my brain an emotional maze of nonsense, and yet that gentle slide into oblivion simply refuses to happen.

At other times I just don’t manage to squeeze in enough sleep to fully rest my frazzled nerves and the frayed edges of ache and age.

In fact, I recently summed up my life since age twenty in four words:

I need more sleep.

Original art by Adolph Menzel - http://www.villa-grisebach.de/

Original art by Adolph Menzel – http://www.villa-grisebach.de/

Years, no decades, of my journal entries lay peppered with the phrase, “I’m so tired,” or “I’m so exhausted,” and, “If I could just get a nap.” What boring journals.

Some of that I lay at the feet of parenting babies and toddlers and teens. It’s a given, for parenting requires our all. But sadly, some of the constant fatigue I can lay at the feet of depression and its insidious energy sucking vortex of gloom and misery. No amount of sleep cures that kind of tired.

Lately, though, I’ve waged a daily battle against exhaustion –  emotional, spiritual and physical. When my head meets the pillow I feel such incredible gratitude to be horizontal, to be resting, to have sleep waiting to take me somewhere far away.

Exhausted Beyond All Reason

Last night I called it done at 7:45 p.m. Astounding! Normally it’s eleven or midnight.

No I didn’t drag myself around the house doing this and that. You know that wasted time of “getting ready for bed” that takes an eternity? Nope. I felt such lassitude I don’t really even remember pulling my pajamas over my head or pulling the chain on my bedside lamp. I do know the clock hadn’t yet rolled over to eight when I set my alarm and pulled the covers up around my chin.

photo 2.PNG

Every morning, except Sunday!

Six hours later, at two a.m. my body woke up. Not for any noise or nightmare. No. Six hours equals how much sleep I normally get and my body knows it, so it woke up. Calmly I reassured my brain and body that it could rest another three hours. Three more hours!!! Imagine a snooze button that does that!

I woke still groggy but rested and thrilled, yes thrilled, at having gotten so much sleep. The pace of my morning walk surprised me, less strolling and more actual forward momentum. Surprising what a little (fifty percent more) sleep will do for a person.

There’s a solution to that…

I know I should go to bed earlier. And I’ve literally been telling myself that every single day for years, “Tonight, I am going to bed early.” And nada. Nope. I get sidetracked, waylaid, pulled in, tricked by a series of just-one-more-things.

I wish sleep didn’t feel like such a luxury.

Naps fall in that decadence category, too, don’t they? And yet, twenty minutes with my eyes closed mid-afternoon can make the difference between a moody unproductive evening and a cheerful, pleasant one. That’s not decadence, that’s survival!

Everything seems more manageable after some decent sleep. Doesn’t it? Yes. Yes, it does.

This sums it up nicely:

“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” ~ John Steinbeck

Yes. Today I’m particularly grateful for sleep and its restorative, sanity-keeping, energizing, blissful escape. I’m guessing you are too.

~~~~~

The title of today’s post comes from a quote by the Dalai Lama, “Sleep is the best meditation.”

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments
 
 

A Few Fab Finds and Some Fun

Found myself in serious need of ramping up my energy levels and changing the mood this past week. So I’ve tried a few different things to shake up the routine and shake off the blues.

DANCE

First, I mixed in more music with my days. The best way I know to ramp up the tunes involves that lovely free app called Pandora. I tapped on something new called Bossa Nova. Much more than the simple label Brazilian Jazz, it’s music that makes you want to dance but leaves you feeling mellow and laid back. Perfect while prepping or eating dinner. I think MSH and I need to learn some new dance steps.

ROAD TRIP

Turns out Pandora also has this thing called “Browse All Genre Stations.” It lists thirty-six genres, or types, of music you can explore. So I tapped on Road Trips. That gave me some options like Country Road TripFamily Road Trip, Road Trippin’ and Classic Commute.

So far I’ve only tried out Family Road Trip. Instantly addicted! I didn’t want to try any of the other stations because this had EVERYTHING!  Fifties to this year, Elvis to One Republic, Billy Joel to Rascal Flatt.

Can’t wait to explore the rest of the Road Trip stations. Then I plan on making my way through the other thirty-six genres and all those possibilities.

TAYLOR

Taylor Swift doesn’t fill everyone’s teacup, but I stumbled on her latest music video. What a bunch of fun! She dances and sings her way through all sorts of trends in “Shake It Off.” Mostly she’s laughing at herself, not taking things too seriously. But there are some seriously good dancers highlighted in the video. Made me want to dance, and  I laughed out loud. My favorite thirteen-year old laughed, too. That’s a good sign. Best of all it kind of makes me feel younger, which I consider a major plus!

DOG POETRY

Have you heard of Billy Collins? If you’re the kind of person who says they don’t like poetry, then you just need to spend four minutes with this video of Billy Collins in a TED talk sharing two poems (the second one is my favorite) about dogs. Yes. Dogs. Hearing his dry wit makes all the difference if you’re iffy about poetry at all.  Turns out I checked out one of his collections last week at the library without realizing who I’d stumbled on. What a great find!

TWITTERPATED

I think I might have gotten hooked. For those of you still fresh from the womb, i.e. forty years or younger, you might not recognize the term twitterpated. It’s a word that debuted in the Disney movie “Bambi.” It means infatuated or obsessed or smitten. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Twitter, the social media app.

Although, oddly, it’s how I’ve found myself feeling about Twitter recently. There’s something about “tweeting” that feels different from posting status updates. Maybe it’s the challenge of a limited number of characters. There’s a sense of immediacy on Twitter that I find fascinating as well. Whatever it is, I’m tweeting, like a newborn baby bird, uncertain of my wings and voice, but willing to learn to fly.

NOT INTERNET ADDICTED, HONEST

Lest you think all I do involves the internet, here’s evidence to the contrary.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Thursday I danced with my favorite three-year old and favorite one-year old while MSH played the piano. We’ve all got some sweet moves. Really!
  • The desert sage burst into bloom overnight! Check out those purples in my slideshow above. And while you’re at it, take in the yellow blossoms, too. And don’t forget the neon orange Bird of Paradise that brightens the view outside one of my windows.
  • The sunrises this past week left me breathless and glad I got out of bed more than a few times.
  • Enjoyed a candlelight dinner in the cool (yes, cool) evening air outdoors with MSH, music wafting out to the patio from the stereo inside. Tasted better than any five-star restaurant. Nothing tops the view of the night sky either.
  • Did I mention the mile and a half walk home last week in a rare morning rainstorm? I’d recommend it the next time you have a chance. Ditch the umbrella, point your face towards the clouds and let the sky wash life’s dust from your shoulders.
The view just before the downpour.

The view just before the downpour.

Hoping for more rain later today and tomorrow. Either way, dancing’s gonna happen because I’ve got my new tunes on.

~~~~~

Have you found anything new and fun that adds energy to your day?

Categories: Fun, Music, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

At School In Your Underwear?

“Always follow your dream! Unless it’s the one where you’re at school in your underwear during a fire drill.”

~Friday Letter to my Kids~

Dear J, J, L and L,

That joke illustrates how I feel about advice. I’ve never liked the one about following your dreams especially. I have some pretty bizarre dreams!

When you started fleeing the nest I promised myself one thing:

“I will not give my grown children advice.”

Maybe, if you asked for it, then I would venture an opinion. Maybe. Otherwise, my lips stay sealed, my tongue unmoved, my pen silent.

If my parenting served you well at all, my advice got hardwired into you as you grew. Any nagging, suggestions or ideas I might throw out at this point in the game act as so much dust on the wind.

Honestly, y’all outdo me so far as parents, as spouses, as decent people in general. By time I was your age, clueless and flailing best describe how I navigated life. Scary thought.

What little advice or tidbits I’ve gleaned and could pass on over the years hang on the walls in my house or I simply live it.

(Except for the bit about you getting adequate education and being fully prepared to support yourself and your family, male or female. Maybe you learned that more from life’s hard knocks. I’m certain I also hammered it in verbally during particularly trying seasons and episodes of our ongoing dramedy.)

Y’all already get it. I think I just need to reassure myself that I actually taught you something. So here’s some of the advice I’m hoping you learned before rocketing into the jetstream of adulthood, in no particular order:

Non-Advice Advice

  1. Laugh every single day if you can.photo 5 copy 3
  2. Sing often and off-key if necessary.photo-26 copy 2
  3. Kindness matters more than you know.photo 2-2 copy 19
  4. Back door friends are the best and necessary.photo 3-4 copy 10
  5. Learn to say no if you need to, and yet…
  6. Pay attention to and follow that gut instinct you get about certain things.photo-24 copy 23
  7. Say yes when you can…photo 1-4 copy 17
  8. Mom loves you forever and always.photo-24 copy 24
  9. Family comes first.photo 2-4 copy 2
  10. Count blessings daily.photo 3-5 copy 3
  11. Learn as much as you can.photo 2-5
  12. Read, read, read.photo 1-7
  13. People outrank stuff every time.photo 1-5 copy 5
  14. When you’re lost or uncertain, look at a map.photo 1-6 copy 2 
  15. Love much and deeply.photo-25 copy 5

 

I’m glad you’ve busted free of some of the not so good behaviors (i.e. bad advice) you could have picked up from growing up as a child of mine. For instance…

You’re all waaaaaay better than me at:

  • living organized
  • having less clutter
  • managing your money
  • getting educated
  • making friends
  • working as a team with your spouse
  • kindness and generosity
  • being like a duck (little things stay little things)
  • sticking to your goals
  • stability
  • optimism

Basically you’re exceeding my wildest hopes and expectations. I couldn’t be prouder of or happier for each of you.

You make my promise to never give advice an easy one to keep. You don’t need any advice. You’ve got this. No worries.

Love ya tons,

Mom

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

 

 “I always advise people never to give advice.” ~ P.G. Wodehouse

~~~~~

 “The quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead.” ~ Douglas Adams

~~~~~

“I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Who Let the Doggie Out?

Last week I dog sat. Yes. Me.

MSH even agreed to it, which in itself constitutes an incredible miracle of stellar proportions.

Look at this face. Who could say no to this face?

Sweet lil Blondie.

Sweet lil Blondie.

A fluffy curling tail that wags faster than a hummingbirds wing, this sweet little doggie grabs your heart and won’t let go. Kind of how she grabs her squeaker toy for a game of throw, fetch and keep away.

She’s new to the extended family, but not a puppy. She’s about eight years old and obviously not used to children. Her disposition lies somewhere along the realm of a pampered princess with little use for sticky little grabbing hands and unpredictability and loudness that comes with the territory of small children.

She’s playful, just not in a kid-friendly or other dog friendly way. She’s been the center of attention, the ruler of all things household.

She sports a blingy collar to match her bleach blond fur and mincing little steps. I took her along on my walk at the Rip one morning and had a tough time keeping up with those short legs. She’s fast and curious and doesn’t waste any time doddling, except over certain bushes and taller grasses. She loved the rabbits and if not on a leash would certainly have managed to catch one or at least give it a good run.

Y’know that ankle-biter dog bark? Yeah, that one. She’s got it down. Thing is, she’s got the razor-sharp chops and the chutzpah to back it up. I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side. No way.

We had a great time. Except for the fact that I worried about her when away from the house. I didn’t want to stay away too long. I felt bad leaving her at all, especially when she’d get so excited when I prepped to go.

Honestly, I felt like a brand new mom all over again. Completely clueless about what I should do with this little bundle. How much attention to give? How much to let her just do her own thing? Is she eating enough? Drinking enough? What about potty issues? How much is enough, too much? All those looks, barks, growls, yips, non-verbal communication that I can’t interpret no matter how much I want to.

Smiling lovingly at her "mommy."

Smiling lovingly at her “mommy.”

And there’s surely some doggie etiquette I didn’t get while out in public. Is there a book about that? And I didn’t remember what mix of breeds she is, (akin to cluelessness about your own child’s age.)

All that worry melted away when she sat on my lap or lay at my feet.

See? Just like a kid! They look so sweet and adorable and problem-free when they sleep.

When her mommy/owner picked her up I felt both relief and sadness. Relief because someone who knew what to do and understood her language could meet her needs better than I. And sadness because she brought an energy and joy into our home I hadn’t expected. Hopefully she’ll come visit soon.

Don’t get too excited. No potential doggie adoption here. Nope. MSH’s heart wasn’t captured, snuggled or charmed. Not a chance.

Categories: Fun | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Discovering Paradise

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~ Cicero

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for libraries.

Elementary school provided my first introduction to a library. Ours resided on the stage attached to the gymnasium. We entered via stairs on one side and exited via the stairs on the other. I recall waist-high shelves, closely stacked and poor lighting. Books all grouped together in one room made me feel kind of giddy, even back then.

Empty space on the shelf? Say it isn't so!

Empty space on the shelf? Say it isn’t so!

An old house served as a community library in the town next-door.What once served as bedrooms, a kitchen, a family room, transformed into meandering corridors of books. The open hours posted seemed almost random and hardly long enough to wander, pick some books and check them out. By then Mom knew enough to screen what books I picked, ten and eleven is a bit young for Clockwork Orange, don’t you think?

A few years later I discovered the city library. (How long had that been there? And why wasn’t I told about it sooner?) A proper building, several stories, iconic, white stone and temple-like, complete with hushed tones inside. Stepping inside I felt worshipful and closer to the reading Gods if there exists such a thing. Every book I’ve read since then that has a library as a character/place, I picture as this edifice, this homage to the written word.

This quote captures how I began to feel about libraries:

“I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book.” ~Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

At University I stood in awe before a complete set of the Oxford English Dictionary. I knew I’d arrived at the mecca of knowledge and wisdom. Endless stacks ran maze-like and beckoned me to lose myself in there. An entirely separate building housed the law library, the place a serious student wanting no distractions whatsoever would retire to for study and contemplation.

Because proper reading requires feet up.

Because proper reading requires feet up.

Now we live less than a mile away from our town library, an architecturally beautiful building that dwarfs the books and shelves they live on. Huge windows look out on my beloved Riparian Preserve, instilling a sense of sanctuary in this noisy and echoing chamber. Seldom does quiet reside there. Libraries now serve more as community gathering places, media centers, toddler racetracks, an escape from home, a place to come in out of the heat. Books seem almost an afterthought. Maybe the librarians simply want to draw people in with a kind of “if you build it they will come,” idea. Offer all sorts of tempting tidbits mixed in with the m eat and potatoes of books and hopefully reading and learning will occur and keep the world sane.

Maybe that’s what T.S. Eliot meant on saying:

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”

I seldom wander the stacks, choosing instead to “place my order” online for books I want that get shipped in from libraries around the valley for my convenience.

Occasionally I’ll grab a couple of current months magazines and sit, my feet propped on the lovely log footrests to relax, perusing gardening tips, recipes and travel suggestions. But I get restless, the stack of books I reserved whisper my name, anxious to become acquainted in stolen moments, late night hours of lost sleep, waiting in lines, when other pressing matters linger.

Today's hopeful pile.

Today’s hopeful pile.

Today I did browse and picked up a volume of poetry and a second Alice Munroe volume. I have three weeks, and three weeks more, up to five renewals unless someone requests one of them. I’d like to think I’ll read two or three a week, it’s been such a drought of reading these past few months. But I have one book from our personal shelves I started, one online book I promised to proof months ago, and a few gifted tomes I’d also like to delve into.

Such a decadent life I lead, surrounded by my own books, stories swirled throughout my childhood, novels seasoning every month and year, libraries making words available for free. FOR FREE!!! Amazing!

Grateful doesn’t begin to describe the feeling for today. Graced, blessed, rich beyond compare, for I have libraries in my life.

 ~~~~~

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ~Jorge Luis Borges

An eternity of reading? Sounds nice.

An eternity of reading? Sounds nice.

Categories: Books, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

What Do You Need?

Imagine it.

You’re walking along a beach and trip over something unmoving wedged in the sand. Bending over to sooth your ankle, which feels like you might have twisted it, you see the offending bit of flotsam that disturbed your stroll. Shiny and apparently metal, you dig a little and discover an object shaped somewhat like a gravy tureen with a lid. The Antiques Roadshow side of you sees potential in this odd object.

genie-in-the-bottle-place=card-holder

A strange house for such a powerful entity.

You step into the surf, rinse off the sand. Rub the sides with your shirt tale to dry it off.

Some smoke swirls around you and then, POOF! There’s a genie standing there.

Your mind races with the possibilities of what this means for your life. Every cliché’ you’ve ever read or heard or seen about granted wishes swirls around you.

Finally, you stop drooling and dreaming long enough to pay attention to the genie’s words, spoken slowly with an emphasis on each individual word as if it isn’t even a sentence.

What

Do

You

Need

No explanation about three wishes. No limitations expressed. No clues beyond those four words.

Once more the words echo around you.

What do you need?”

Finally, after some stunned silence a small explanation:

“You have one hour for contemplation and then you must answer or go without.”

What do you need?

Love. Compassion. Friendship. Wisdom. Integrity. Peace. Strength. Courage. Patience. Faith. Perseverance. Kindness. Hope. Generosity. Vision. Passion. Concern. Motivation. Healing. Forgiveness. Self-worth. Acceptance. Knowledge. Understanding. Energy. Ambition. Trust. Contentment.

photo-24 copy 20

Who knows what you’ll stumble on. Or wish for.

The possibilities stretch before you like the beach, like the ocean, like the sky. Limitless and overwhelming if you think too long and hard.

What do you need?

Give it some thought.

Then ask. Yes. Ask for what you need. Put it out into the universe, pray, meditate, write a message and put it in a bottle, visualize it, focus. However you ask, just ask.

Hold it!!!

I feel like I’m starting to sound like one of those late night insomniac focused infomercials for how-to-think-yourself-rich-thin-or-somehow-more-desirable.

Gak!

Okay. Let’s change direction. Don’t ask. Just think about it. What Do You Need?

A couple of clues here: sleep, food, money, fame, sex and time travel don’t cut it here. Seriously. Go read some other blog if that’s how you answer. (Of course, I’m tempted to answer with SLEEP, but then, it’s a Monday morning and I had a birthday partying sort of weekend.)

Also tempting answers, but no bueno: a maid, a personal assistant, a vacation, anything acquired with money, basically. Let’s attempt to lift our thoughts to a different plane today, shall we?

I’m not even sure what my answer will turn out to look like. Probably A) all of the above. Of course, the imaginary scenario leaves us with the requirement to give merely one answer.

How will you respond?

Give yourself an hour. Think it over.

What do you need?

 

~~~~~

“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.”~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Happiness, Mondaze, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

“They Say It’s Your Birthday”

Birthstone bracelet with all four of you.

Birthstone bracelet with all four of you.

Not Just Another Friday Letter To My Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

It’s my birthday today, which I’m not much thrilled about. I don’t mind adding another year to my rap sheet; it’s just that I don’t like all the hullaballoo and attention.

Sounds contradictory coming from a writer, who’d really like to have her work read and noticed and published. But that’s different.

Big J

Big J

I used to make a big deal about your birthdays when you were younger, remember? Nearly always the streamers would go up after you’d dropped off to sleep. Balloons festooned the room and maybe a little confetti. Sometimes I’d even decorate your bedroom door so the first thing you’d see in the morning was evidence that you were loved and cared about on your birthday. Always, always, a homemade birthday cake with some sprinkles and candles at the very least, or Lego men rappelling at my most creative and silly.

I know since you’ve gotten older I’ve really slacked off on the birthday recognition department. It’s important that you know that no correlation whatsoever exists between how important you are to me and if and when you get a gift or card or even a call on your birthday.

Little J

Little J

You see, here’s the thing. Those four days in my life, the days each of you came into my life, top the Best Days Ever Chart.

Absolute truth.

I can think of little else that tops the days each one of you were born. Felt like Heaven landed in my arms each time!

Makes my heart race just thinking about it, even this many years later.

No one else quite understands the priceless and precious quality of the day of your birth quite like I do. Even your Dad doesn’t get it like I get it.

Big L

Big L

You each made me a mother. You’ve each made me into the slightly crazy, laughing maniacally, tender-hearted, sarcastic, praying, sleep-deprived person that I’ve become. For that, I thank you.

Can’t imagine life without each one of you. Can’t imagine a life without you having graced my days and laced my nights. “Blessed am I among women” to have the privilege of mothering you.

Little L

Little L

So, sure, today is the day I was born a zillion years ago, but your birthdays, oh my. Your birthdays are the days I really began to become who I am. Your lives have brought me joy unmatched. I celebrate you!

Today I want you to know you are loved and cherished. You are each the best gifts I ever got, hands down!

All my love,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

P.S. Today’s title was borrowed from a Beatle’s song which I, sadly, never introduced to you as children. Here, to make up for my indiscretion and for your listening pleasure is a classic birthday song everyone should be familiar with. Enjoy!

Categories: Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Life Hack: How to Eat a Cupcake

My son invented this amazing life hack that you’ll be grateful for from now until eternity. I’m simply passing it on to alleviate a bit of stress from your world.

As a little side note, it’s his birthday today. (Happy Birthday Big J.)

photo.PNG copy

Look I even asked his permission!

Sorry, I don’t have any flashy ads to jump out at you as I dispense this information, or another site you have to click to and then search to find the info I so tantalizingly promised you. I don’t even have fifty other less than stellar hacks for your to wade through. Just this one.

Without further delay, here’s the promised information in photo form:

Cupcake

Cupcake

Here you see a basic peanut butter chip and chocolate cupcake, with a mountain of creamy frosting too big to get your mouth around. (Expertly created by my DIL, a master chef.)

Cupcake Sandwich

Cupcake Sandwich

And here you behold the cupcake transformed into a delectable cupcake sandwich, easy to eat and much less messy.

If you don’t get how I did that here’s the written directions:

Tear the cupcake in half.

Turn the bottom half upside-down and place it on top of the frosting.

Press gently together.

Voila.

(Now you eat it.)

There now. Doesn’t that transform your life just a little? It at least makes you want to go out and buy a cupcake or bake up a batch just to try it out.

Happy eating.

“You’re welcome,” says my brilliant engineering son.

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

There is No Measure for Sorrow

Mom used to do this thing that I found a bit creepy. But then, I was quite young and had half a lifetime yet to live before I’d begin a journey of understanding.  It’s been half a lifetime at this point and I think I’m starting to understand her behavior.

The first thing Mom looked at when the afternoon newspaper arrived, oddly wasn’t the comics, which I went for. Nope. Mom looked up the obituaries. First thing. Every day.

Bizarre.

That’s what I thought at the time.

What more is there to say?

What more is there to say?

I know now that she didn’t want to miss an opportunity to express condolence to someone she might know who could use the support and love. An old classmate, a church friend, a distant relative, a former neighbor, parents of her friends.

My second older brother died before he’d reached a year.  The support and love Mom received after Brian passed away must have been invaluable. She saw the value of others reaching out to comfort her. It stuck with her, this desire to give strength and support to the broken-hearted.

"Hennes Grave" by Picasa.

“Hennes Grave” by Picasa.

You’d expect I’d naturally have picked up her empathy and kindness, since not long after that, I was born. Born into grief, born to lift and cheer, born being needed, born to fill an unfillable space.

It took a while.

I went through a phase when my own babies were tiny where I scanned the obits briefly, looking for children that had died. I think it served as a kind of mental inoculation or talisman against the possibility that my own little ones might wander into print in such a horrible way. Strange thinking, I know. We do odd things as mothers to protect our brood.

Then I passed through a phase where I’d skip that page of the newspaper as quickly as possible, as if not acknowledging it made it unreal, an un-possibility.

If only.

I simply don’t read a print newspaper anymore. Solved that problem, didn’t I?

Hardly.

I’ve been to far too many funerals in the past ten years. And not just older people either. Babies, young men, mothers, fathers, young adults, college students, children, teens. Disease or accident, anticipated or sudden, self-inflicted or battled, tragedies every one.

Oddly, older people dying doesn’t carry the same tragic heft and horror for many of us. Although the loss feels every bit as painful, I would think, for those closest to the departed. But who am I to say?

There is no measure for grief, loss or sorrow.

I’ve been at crowded standing room only funerals and those with barely anyone in a tiny room. I’ve felt comforted and I’ve felt bereft. I’ve been strangers to the grieving and close friends with the heartbroken. I’ve been one whose heart went missing when the death occurred. And, I’ve held my own tears in check for later as I offered a hug and spoke what little one can say.

Photo: "Belmont Cemetery (1809218994)" by Natalie Maynor

Photo: “Belmont Cemetery (1809218994)” by Natalie Maynor

Obituaries, along with the newspapers they used to appear in, are dying their own slow death. For whatever reason fewer and fewer obituaries get published. Facebook and other social media now serve, rather inadequately, as death announcement venues. I’m not so sure I’d want the notice of my death to run squeezed between a “stay calm” meme and a “you won’t believe what this cat and dog did” video. Lacks dignity and appropriateness wouldn’t you say?

But then, whose to say what’s appropriate nowadays?

We celebrate births and weddings. We mail out invitations and announcements and ask others to join us in our happiness. The only other significant major life event, death, has been left to dangle precipitously like so much bad press we want to avoid reading, let alone acknowledge.

I hope we figure out a better way to help the grieving. I hope we don’t simply hold our breath waiting for their response to our queries of “How are you?” to become “Oh, I’m fine.” I hope we don’t believe that pat answer. I hope we pray for them, handle with care and know that all is not well, not for a very long time.

Mortality reaches us all eventually, no matter how we try to dodge it. How we cope, how we grieve, how we celebrate a life, how we avoid its ending. It’s all part and parcel of the whole life experience.

I, for one, want to help ease whatever pain I can. After all, I was born to it.

 

~~~~~

“My father always read obituaries to me out loud, not because he was maudlin or morbid, but because they were mini biographies.” ~ Bill Paxton

Categories: Death | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Ain’t No Sunshine

It’s Gratituesday! Variety and consistency. Yup. That’s what I’m grateful for today. I know those two things seem to contradict each other but you’ll get over it and so will I.

I love knowing that if I get myself out the door before sunrise everything else will work out somehow.

I keep telling myself I’ll change where I go walking, but I crave the solitude and the surroundings. I take different paths, from different directions, I change it up in small ways and that’s all it takes.

sunshineThe predictability of the sun coming up each day keeps the world on track. The unpredictability of the colors, the clouds, the angle of light, the shift in shadow all make each morning a pallet of infinite variety. A paradox of consistency and change all in one for you to ponder every twenty-four hours.

Studies show that predictability and consistency contribute to productivity and contentment. But we also know that such things contribute to boredom and dissatisfaction.

And then other studies show that happiness more often manifests itself when change is a constant. What? Not major change, just variety, tiny differences make all the difference in happiness levels.

Some days, weeks and months in my life at least, it feels as if nothing is consistent or predictable except change. I can tell you from my own completely unscientific experience that such situations lead to feelings of high anxiety and unhealthy levels of stress.

I’m trying to embrace the variety and unpredictable state of my life. I’ve worked at that for a while now. Hence my daily gratitude journaling and weekly Gratituesday posts.

I’m also rather desperately trying to incorporate consistency and a regular schedule and other nice things like that into a chaotic life.

I’m having more luck embracing change than instilling predictability.

Balance seems the key word. And the most elusive quality. Gratitude sounds elusive today as well.

Let me take a different angle.

cloudy

Cloudy.

The sun shines here a zillion days a year. Okay, something like 287 days out of 365. That, my friends, adds up to a heckuva lotta sunlight. A glorious thing in the winter if you don’t like the cold. An unending series of boredom and heat in the summer if you don’t find some variety.

Sure we desert dwellers love the rain for its moisture and life-giving sustenance, but we also love it for the sheer difference in weather. Not sunny equals a nice change.

I’ve also lived in the Northwest where clouds and rain sang the same song every single day. Or so it seemed. Unending blue sky and sunlight, when it rarely occurred, felt heavenly for the sheer change in melody.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and ordered the same thing you got last time because you know you’ll like it? Of course! But that can get so boring! Try something new next time and appreciate the difference even if you like the same old thing better.

A PBJ for lunch every single day might give you a sense of security, of all’s right with the world, but that, dear reader, is an illusion.

Or maybe that’s just my life.

Maybe your life consists of predictable, on time, on schedule, knowing what’s ahead for the next year wonderfulness. I’m incredibly jealous happy for you. If that’s the case this whole post must come off as the strangest bunch of rambling you’ve ever read in your life and it’s a wonder that you’re even still reading. The following statement won’t even register on your reality meter.

Change is inevitable.

Change is the only constant. We’ve had this conversation before, I’m sure of it.

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

I’m glad and grateful for differences, variety, something new, unpredictability, the wonder of what’s around the corner. Really I am. Really.

I’m also ready for some stability, some unmoving earth beneath my feet, a calendar with a schedule I can count on, a checkbook with reasonable numbers, a sun I know will rise in the east every single morning.

I just got done texting my cousin the following message: “Variety is the spice of life, or so I’ve heard. Unless variety is all you ever have.”

I’m just aiming for a little balance. Call me crazy. Call me nuts. Call me weird. I don’t care.

I’m still grateful for the whole mixed up mess of it all.

Not buying it huh? Well, then just listen to this song. Enjoy a classic.

~~~~~

Here’s Bill Withers from way back in 1971 totally getting it and giving it. His song says more in two minutes than anything I’ve managed to write today.

 

“Variety may be the spice of life, but consistency pays the bills.” ~ Doug Cooper

 

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Happiness | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

A World of #cultureofcharacter

Before the housing bubble implosion, I worked with a real estate appraiser as an apprentice. My boss and I drove in her new hybrid car to Las Vegas for an appraisers convention.

I wouldn’t describe the drive as scenic. Far from it. The one highlight I remember appeared in a yard just on the outskirts of a tiny town that boasted life-sized rusty metal sculptures of animals, a giraffe being the most memorable.

Vegas was meh. I’m not a big fan.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

By Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Pretty much this was the view. By Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA [CC-BY-SA-2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

On the way home from Vegas, about forty-five miles either way to a town, in the middle of desert and sagebrush, my boss looked at her gas gauge, gasped and said, “We forgot to get gas before leaving Vegas!” She all but slammed on the brakes mid road.

I leaned over to look at the gauge, thinking she was overreacting and saw the needle pointed solidly at the “Empty” side.

“Oh, crap,” I replied. Or something along those lines.

Nowadays, you’d just whip out your smart phone, find the nearest gas station and turn around or head forward. Or your car tells you how many miles you have left before you run out of gas.

All we had eight years ago was a map book, a cell phone and no cell coverage. We weren’t really sure where on the map we were. We’d also, apparently brought along some overconfidence it had just flown out the window.

My boss wanted to turn around and go back. I voted we keep moving forward. Either way we were surely going to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, in the heat. And when we ran out of gas we’d be on a two lane road with almost no shoulder.

Windblown

A few miles ahead we pulled into a sad excuse for a rest area. “Better to stop here, than be stuck on the side of the road,” my boss explained. There was one other car parked there. “I’m going to go have a chat with the person in that car,” she said as she climbed out.

My boss never shied away from a situation, but I thought she might be pushing her luck. She talked for about five minutes. When she got back in the car here’s the story she told me.

The person in the car was a younger woman. She was at the rest area because it was a half-way point between where her ex-husband dropped off her son at her Dad’s place and her home near Vegas. Her Dad drove her son to the rest area and that’s where mom and child reunited.

The young woman said her Dad owned a tow-truck but he’d probably be just in his regular car and that he could go get gas and bring it back to us after he dropped her son off.

That’s doable. We’d survive. Yay!

Still it’d be a long time waiting in the car in the desert. I got out, wandered around. Sitting in the partial shade on a rickety over-painted picnic table, the wind sucking the moisture out of my skin, I wished for Star Trek transporter technology and wondered what my kids were doing.

We sat waiting another half-hour or so when in pulls a tow-truck.

Not the actual tow truck, just a photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Not the actual tow truck, just a photo from Wikimedia Commons.

JACKPOT!!

The truck pulled up next to the other car and the young woman hops out, gets a huge hug from a cute little blond boy and then hefts him on her hip as she chats with the guy behind the steering wheel. She points over at us, talks a bit more and then puts her son in her car. As the tow-truck pulls past us she walks over and says, “That’s my Dad. He decided to drive the tow-truck today. Lucky, huh? He’s just going to turn around and back in, then you can just drive up to the ramp, he’ll winch the car on, lock ‘er down and he’ll give you a ride to the gas station.”

Wow!

Lucky, huh?

Felt like more than luck. Felt like hitting the jackpot.

Apparently, we’d stopped about sixty miles from the nearest gas station. Glad my boss had pulled over. Turned out she wasn’t nuts, just inspired.

And the tow-truck driver? Nice guy, pleasant to chat with. He hadn’t had a lot of business lately and thought maybe if he drove the truck, even though it cost more in gas to drive it without a call to respond to, he might get lucky and run into someone who needed a tow or get a call while on the road. “Every little bit helps,” he said.

And yet, as he dropped us off right in front of a gas pump, he refused to accept the money my boss offered him. “I was in the area and I’m just glad I could help you ladies out today.” And off he drove, into the sunset, every bit a knight in shining armor. It wasn’t really sunset, but that’s how I chose to remember it anyway.

A person of character and class? Absolutely.

People like that restore my faith in the human race. It happens more often than we hear about.

I’d like to hear about it more.

What do they call that? Random Acts of Kindness? Tender Mercies? Karma? Grace? Charity? Selflessness?

Whatever name you give it the effect remains the same. Troubles alleviated, hearts lifted, humanity redeemed a little more.

#cultureofcharacter

I have a friend who tweets #cultureofcharacter followed by a description of kind acts and observations. I’d love for that to go viral. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t it be something to log on and see a massive list at the end of every day of things people saw or did or heard about that showed class and character in the actions and words of the people around them?

Small moves, tiny acts, they make all the difference in a world run amok.

It’s certainly works that way in my world.

How about yours?

I’ll be watching for your tweets.

This book will surprise you. It's where the phrase "culture of character" originated.

This is where the phrase “culture of character” originated.

#cultureofcharacter: an idea from the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Categories: good ideas, Hope, People, The World | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

“A Little Nonsense Now and Then”

Friday Letter to My Kids – August 8, 2014

“Time is a game played beautifully by children.” ~ Heraclitus 

Dear J, J, L and L,

Good times, good times. That’s what I mostly remember.

Oh sure, I have my regrets, quite a few, but I choose to keep those filed away in a locked cabinet somewhere to the left and south in my head. There’s not much I can do about the not so stellar moments and coulda, woulda, shouda things. I prefer to recall the fun stuff that made us laugh.

Homemade sidewalk chalk in process.

Homemade sidewalk chalk in process.

Seems like we did more than a few projects.

Remember making homemade sidewalk chalk? More vibrant than the store-bought stuff, those chunks lasted forever no matter how much you colored, drew, scraped, mixed with water and rechalked. Watching your artwork blossom on the cement as your knees and hands and clothes got covered in colored dust made me smile.

Not quite as creative, but still a grand idea, that four by eight foot white board Dad brought home and set up kept you busy for hours. Pretend school, artwork, self portraits, math homework, countless hangman games, it turned out as a smart and fairly inexpensive investment.

Photo by  Chris Barr from the valley, bat (IMAGE_359) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

A basic blanket fort. Photo by Chris Barr

I’ve never seen blanket forts as great as those you all constructed. Seems like I recall a huge one in the living room at the Saint Elena house. Didn’t it have several “rooms” and small hallways? I think you might have even slept in that one. And the nook at the top of the stairs seemed designed specifically for building blanket forts. I still run across a blanket or two now and then with a few holes strategically cut to fit over posts or some other “construction” idea you had as you built your hideaways.

I had a friend growing up whose brother built a tree fort that you guys would have loved. My friend Jori and I spent time up there when we could get away with it. What a perfect way for kids to spend a summer day. I feel all relaxed and young again just thinking about it.

The “sunroom” in the Oklahoma house served a similar purpose. Seems you spent time out there year round despite the fact that it got almost no sun except about an hour in the morning. That screened in room saw every kind of sport imaginable reinvented by you and your friends. The tent even got set up out there to dry off after a couple of rained out camping trips.

That whole house, with it’s strange added on section and odd closets, was a weird crazy hide and seek haven which you made full use of. Now there’s a game you never, ever tired of. Whole boring afternoons could pass in one ginormous hide and seek game. You got pretty good at squeezing into the smallest most unsuspecting spaces and staying incredibly quiet.

Pretty and yummy!

Pretty and yummy!

Rainbow Jello keeps popping into my head. An all day project that I’d never attempt on my own, one of you kept at it every half hour for five or six hours, mixing and adding each layer as the last layer set up. Tasted great and got made several more times after that, a work of love and art all in one.

One of the best birthday parties ever happened at the Saint Elena house. We filled a zillion water balloons and tossed them in the pool. It looked like confetti in there. The nine-year-old party guests had a riot. And just before getting out of the pool for cake and ice cream all the balloons got tossed at targets sidewalk chalked on the cement brick wall.

I’m sure if I thought longer I’d scrounge up more good times. Shoot me an email or a text with other fun stuff you remember. It’d be nice to compile all of them. I don’t want to forget a single memory or happy time we shared.

Thanks for the laughs and giggles. Thanks for sharing your joy with me.

I surely do love you,

Mom

 

photo-23 copy 5

“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” ~ Roald Dahl 

~~~~~

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, Fun | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Love is the Main Ingredient

So on Gratituesday this week I waxed poetic about all things bread which you can read here if you missed it. A few recipe requests came my way and I decided that I could definitely oblige.

Here, then is my contribution to the carbohydrate section of your recipe collection.

Yes, I’ve been lazy and didn’t retype them, except for the last, beyond well-loved and over-used, recipe card.

Does anyone know if there’s an app out there for a digital recipe box?

photo-24 copy 15

English Muffin Bread. It’s a bit messy thanks to the cornmeal, but delish.

Here’s the recipe that my middle daughter gifted me:

photo 1-4 copy 11

You’ll thank me for this one once you’ve made it.

 

I’ve tried to give credit where it’s due, but sometimes I have no idea where I found the recipe or who gave it to me, or if it’s their original creation or from a friend of a friend of a friend’s relative. Y’know how that goes.

photo 2-2 copy 14

Perfection on a baking sheet.

The important thing about the above Braided Bread recipe is to combine the ingredients in order, like it says. I should highlight that in my book. I love this recipe for three reasons: 1) It’s fast. Two hours from “mmm, I want bread to oh, my this is delectable, pass me more butter, please.” 2) It only takes one bowl. I cheater knead it in the bowl and let it raise in the bowl I mixed it in. 3) It tastes like I imagine heaven will taste, if it has a taste.

Just as lovely as a food can be. I've tried it as a cinnamon and brown sugar braid with icing drizzled over it. Equally delightful.

Just as lovely as a food can be. I’ve tried it as a cinnamon and brown sugar braid with icing drizzled over it. Equally delightful.

This one, as noted, is from my friend Susan. She’s the kind of cook I’d like to be when I grow up. Anything she sets her hand to makes a person feel loved, comforted and completely at home.

photo 4-3 copy 5

Just reading this can improve your mood. Imagine actually eating it.

No matter what’s been going wrong in your life, if you whip up a batch of these and eat a few you’ll be able to carry on with hope in your heart and a smile on your sticky face. (Also a Susan recipe. At least, it’s very similar to one she makes.)

Mom and Dad had a house fire thirty something years ago and one of the casualties was Mom’s recipe box. Ouch! This banana bread recipe is as close as I’ve ever been able to get to what she made. (It only looks like it’s been through a fire. Lots of lovely drips, splatters and messes go into making a recipe card look this loved.)

photo-25 copy 3

A much-loved, well used recipe card.

Here’s the translation and one small adjustment:

Mom’s Banana Bread

1/2 cup shortening or margarine (I use real butter instead)

1 cup sugar 

Mix together then stir in:

2 eggs

Then add:

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

Mash 3 ripe bananas 

(if you must you can add 1/2 cup, more or less, of chopped walnuts.) 

Bake in a greased and floured loaf pan at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

MSH prefers his with nuts, I don’t. Guess who wins? I’m the baker. Actually, I make two loaves, one with nuts, one without.)

So, there you have it. Five of my most beloved recipes. Go forth and bake something for yourself or for someone you care about.

Oh, and remember, “Love is the main ingredient.”

photo-24 copy 16

Gospel truth. More important than yeast.

 

 

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments
 
 

It Pays to Look a Little Closer

What in the world?

What in the world?

I’ve driven past this sculpture countless times in the past few years since it went up,  baffled and only slightly curious. I’ve even walked under or around it in the past few weeks, but that doesn’t mean I really saw it.

It’s about twenty feet off a main road and fronts a canal with its two paved walking/biking trails. A cop parks there some mornings, either for a donut break or to catch speeders. It’s not really a spot that encourages visitors to sit or slow down long enough to pay attention to it.

Weird!

That’s what I’d think to myself. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I slowed down, wandered around it and took a few photos. I also read the inscriptions.

Turns out it’s a representation of an invention drawn up by Leonardo da Vinci called an Airscrew, kind of an early concept of the helicopter. You can read more about it here and here if you want more details.

Leonardo's sketch of a flying machine.

Leonardo’s sketch of a flying machine.

Several quotes encircle the base of the sculpture. A fun spiral word mirror for the “wings” above the inscriptions. To read each quote I had to walk all around the base. An interesting interactive twist, wouldn’t you say? Here are the three masterfully chosen quotes.

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them.” – Leonardo da Vinci

 ~~~

“The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder.” -Isaac Newton

 ~~~~~

“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” – Leonard da Vinci

This Night Heron is about a foot tall.

This Night Heron is about a foot tall.

Did I fail to mention the sculpture also sits at the northeast corner of the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch? That’s an important detail, I suppose, in coming to an understanding. You see, The Rip, as I affectionately call it, is a renowned birding location. Several rare birds hang out there.  I suspect Leonardo’s curiously odd drawing (and now work of art) of a way to achieve flight serves as an homage to the bird refuge that the riparian preserve has become.

Not only that, but I think it serves as an invitation to discovery and wonder. I’ve logged a bunch of miles over the 110 acre plot of land and have never become bored. I’m always seeing something new or in a different light, always surprised, delighted or refreshed as I round each curve in the trail.

Looking up through the sculpture's wings.

Looking up through the sculpture’s wings.

On researching a bit more, I found out that this sculpture is considered “the crown jewel” in the city’s evolving trail system. Meant to provide shade, a place to rest, and a chance to refill a water bottle at the fountain there, it also invites curiosity and contemplation for those willing to take the time to wonder and pay attention.

Draw your own conclusions and metaphors.

I regret that it took me so long to look closer at this work of art. Driving or walking past, this spiral can now remind me of the possibilities waiting for me along my path, wherever that might lead.

 

The attribution, cemented in.

The attribution, cemented in.

 

 

Categories: Outdoors, phoenix, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

The Best Thing Ever to Cross Your Lips

“All sorrows are less with bread. ” ~ Miquel de Cervantes Saavedra 

It’s Gratituesday! Today I obsess about and express thanks for and praise the powers that be for the miraculous marvel called bread.

I’m not talking Wonder here either.

This morning I’m enjoying the delightful stylings of a new recipe I’d never tried until now; English Muffin Bread. It’s what you’d imagine given the name. Nooks and crannies, slightly chewy but crisp where the toaster has caressed it. Real butter, some grape jelly and the day can’t get much better.

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” ~ James Beard

Well, the day could get better if I bake my standard bread loaves, a white bread recipe I’ve modified some by tossing in some fresh ground wheat. Mmmm. A slice of that stuff not ten minutes out of the oven atones for most anything I may have gotten wrong throughout the past twenty-four hours.

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” ~M.F.K. Fisher (Author of “The Art of Eating”)

A braided loaf, from flour to finished only takes two hours, and disappears in less than ten minutes when family flocks around.

Other favorites? Oh, let me name a few.

  • Orange bow knots
  • Parker house rolls
  • A cinnamon bagel
  • Donuts, almost any kind
  • Artisan bread
  • Sour dough
  • Cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing
  • French bread
  • Challah
  • Pita with hummus
  • Garlic Naan
  • Scones
  • Biscuits – with sausage gravy
  • Corn bread
  • Banana bread
  • Indian Fry bread
  • Breadsticks
  • Rye
  • Sopapillas
  • Waffles
  • Tortillas
  • Pretzels – the big soft ones
  • Focaccia
  • Hush puppies
  • Pancakes
  • Croissant
  • Muffins
  • Ciabatta

No. I don’t personally bake all of those, although I’m happy to imbibe. You could almost call my love and adoration of bread an addiction, but we won’t go that far. I will say a meal seems most complete when bread hums a melody alongside the vegetables and meat.

I consider far too many meals complete with bread alone, unaccompanied by any other food, except perhaps butter or some honey. The bread-only meal provides most satisfaction when it’s warm and filling the place with the scent of heaven.

Is it any wonder that the last meal many people partake of is bread? Not to me.

“I’ve heard it said that when you die you enter a room of bright light, and that you can smell bread baking just around the corner.” ~ Rick Bass

I’ve always envisioned the manna spoken of in the Bible as bread. Freshly baked by angels in bakers hats, to sustain and lift the bodies and souls of the children of Israel. That’s just my spin on it. I couldn’t quote scripture on it. Hardly so. But it’s a nice thought. What else could you eat day in and day out for so long without getting tired of it?

My Dad has Celiac’s disease, which means, among a bunch of other not so thrilling things, he can’t eat regular bread. If I end up with that malady just put me out to pasture and let me go the way of all the earth. Oh, sure, he’s adjusted his diet to avoid gluten, but it’s just not the same thing as the breads I know and adore.

I shouldn’t be choosy though. I’m filled with gratitude as I eat each morsel and crumb. I recognize the beauty and the bounty of my life and try desperately not to take it for granted that bread will always grace my table.

 “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

That quote takes my breath away. Makes me want to put on the habit of a missionary and distribute bread wherever I can.

Bread for everyone, please.

Bread for everyone, please.

When we were dating my not-quite-yet-sweet husband planned a picnic that surely sealed the deal and made me fall in love just a little more. French bread, butter, summer sausage, cheese, complete with glass wine goblets and some bubbly. Not your ordinary picnic faire. But then, this man fell way outside the ordinary spectrum. Impressive. Delicious. Delectable. 

“For less than the cost of a Big Mac, fries and a Coke, you can buy a loaf of fresh bread and some good cheese or roast beef, which you will enjoy much more.” ~Steve Albini

It’s true. Sure, it isn’t quick. It’ll require that you get out of your car and walk into a store or a deli, but it’s worth a try just this once. Stop in at the deli counter, get a few slices of a cheese that sound interesting and if you must, a few slices of ham or roast or pastrami. Then look at the lovely loaves sitting in their paper wrappers or tucked behind the counter. You can’t go wrong with any one of them. And to make the meal completely decadent, swing by the dairy case and put real butter in your basket. You’ll have a meal you don’t want to eat while watching the evening news or perusing Facebook or email.

No, you’ll want to give your full attention to the bread.

You’ll thank me. Really. You will.

You’re welcome.

Categories: Food, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments
 
 

Still Crazy After All These Months

Seven months today.

I thought by now I’d feel better, be on the upswing.

But no. If anything the cycle of grief leaves me reeling from an upside down outside loop (is that even possible?) and rockets into this cavernous roiling flame-filled pit of wild emotion I don’t even recognize. Anger, tears, blame, sorrow, regret; those words only skim the surface some days.

Sounds stupidly dramatic.

Kathy would say, “Oh, get over yourself woman.” Then we’d drive over to Freddie’s for their super skinny fries and epic fry sauce and a concrete mixer with caramel and nuts and fudge and two days worth of calories in one sitdown whine fest.

What an awesome listener. The world needs more listeners like her. What an honest, straightforward tell it like it really is talker. We need more of that, too.

If I were to follow her example when someone asks how I’m doing I would NOT say, “Oh, I’m fine!” Instead I’d say, “I’m a wreck!”

I miss her like crazy. I miss us. Our friendship. Our uniquely bizarre mix of humor, life’s experience and often wordless communication created five years of something beyond special.

Now, months later, there’s still this gaping hole of her absence. And I keep tripping and falling into it. Hurts every time. I just can’t seem to navigate away from the edge, yet.

Maybe someday. Maybe at the one year point. Y’think? I don’t know.

She’d be mad at me if I left this post hanging on a negative note. She’d be mad at me for the whole post, honestly. Oh well, she’ll have to come haunt me to shut me up. So there.

Here’s where I insert the jokes.

But just to be safe, (I don’t really want her haunting me) here’s a few fairly good, clean George Carlin one liners. (Hint: it helps to say them out loud in your best comedian voice, with a nice pause at the end for a rim shot, pa da, pum! )

  • If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is he homeless or naked?
  • Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?
  • Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?
  • How do they get the deer to cross at that yellow road sign?
  • Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?
  • Is it true that cannibals don’t eat clowns because they taste funny?
  • If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

Alright already, I’ll stop now.

Laughter? Really?

I’ve found salvation and solace in laughter the past few months. It’s cathartic. It’s healing. It’s like medicine, without the weird side effects.

I’m fine. Really. Most of the time I am. I just have these moments that last a day or two or three. It helps to write it out loud, kinda gets it out of my system.

I’ll sign off today the same way I used to tell her goodbye. The same way I said goodbye for the last time.

“Love ya, Kathy. See ya later.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The title for today’s post is a take off on a song by Paul Simon, “Still Crazy After All These Years.” It speaks to me on so many different levels. You can listen to it here.

 

 

Categories: Cancer, Death, Friendship, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Wisdom from an Almost One-Year Old

photo 4-3 copy 4

I could do this all day. That’s my plan.

I spent some quality and quantity time recently with an almost one-year old. I recommend it to nearly everyone. I learned some profound and not so profound lessons I think I could apply to my life, if I’d just loosen up a little bit.

  1. Water is JOY! Put it in a plastic five-foot circle, a sippy cup, a bath tub or running out of a faucet or hose. It’s the best toy ever! It surprises, cools, splashes, runs, makes music I can dance to. It also has the magical ability to clean everything or transform it into a giant mess
  2. I’ll stop everything if there’s an animal to observe.
  3. Except eating, I won’t stop for anything if I’m in the middle of eating. I probably wouldn’t notice a Tasmanian devil and an animated rabbit in the room if I had food in front of me. I want it. I need it. And I need it fast! Don’t be lollygagging around once you’ve decided it’s time to eat. Oh, and what I loved yesterday, or even at lunchtime, I might turn my head away so it ends up in my ear.
  4. I just need one little foothold to expand my play space from the floor to everywhere else. Chairs, pillows, toys, people, all count as legitimate means to upward mobility and access to all things taller than me. You’ve been warned.
  5. If you want an honest, unrestrained belly laugh just tickle me under my chin. Or kiss me there.
  6. Clocks – schmocks. Nonsense.
  7. I’ll insist I’m not the least bit sleepy even when every indicator for exhaustion is blinking red and making warning noises. If someone can just help me slow down long enough to pay attention to the tired meters I’d probably start snoring before my head reaches the pillow. If you want to hum a soothing tune or gently brush your hand across my forehead for a few minutes I might just fall asleep in your arms. I’ll try not to drool.
  8. Dirty toes, sticky fingers, splotches on my face and spills on my shirt mean I’ve simply been exploring, learning and having an all around lovely time of it.
  9. My smile is all about you and has very little to do with me. I’m happy to see you, I love being in your company. As much time as you want to hang out with me, I’ll take it. All I have to offer you in return in my undying devotion and this smile.
  10. When you go away, even if it is just down the hall or into a small square room with a lock on the door, I’ll feel forlorn and lonely and think the world has come to end. At least temporarily. I’ll probably cry, loudly and with gusto. But when I see you again, all is instantly forgiven and life is good.
  11. My big bulging belly is part of my beautiful physique. It isn’t who I am though. No matter how much exercise I get, or how healthy I eat, my belly insists on being a prominent part of what everyone sees.
  12. I want to move to everything that sounds like music. I may break into dance without any warning whatsoever. If I’m moving around in silly ways that not everyone will interpret as dancing, you’re welcome to move to another part of the room and pretend you don’t know me, or you can laugh. But please, don’t try to video the experience because it’ll just ruin my groove.
  13. I love being snuggled, and held, and hugged and patted on the back. But I need my space. Don’t crowd me. How will you know when to hold me and when to let me go? I have no idea. Go with the flow and take a chance.
  14. I’m going to fall down a heckuva lot. It’ll look like failure, but it’s not. I may whine and cry about it. But mostly, I’ll just get myself up off the floor no matter how awkward it might look, and, if I can remember what I was doing before I fell, I’ll try again. Obstacles abound. Oh, well.

That’s not everything I learned. But it’s a piece of it.

Toddlers. Who knew?

Those little people possess a boggling amount of wisdom for having just barely learned to walk.

Midnight? What's that?

Midnight? What’s that?

Categories: Fun, Happiness, Humor, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

Car Talk

Friday Letter to My Kids (yup, on Saturday)

Dear J, J, L and L,

Ya’ll remember the Datsun, right? Or as someone used to call it, the Grasshopper, due to it’s non-functioning shocks. Well, at one point in its colorful existence, it was a brand new baby car, fresh off the showroom floor. Hard to believe, I know. Okay, maybe not totally fresh, it’d been on some test drives, so it had one thousand miles on the odometer.

Two doors, yes. Can you say "clueless future parents?"

Two doors, yes. Can you say “clueless future parents?”

I only bring this up because so many happy things occurred in that car. Conversations being the chief among them.

When Little J first found her voice she told stories that would start at Grandma’s house and not end until we arrived at our place thirty minutes later. Big J and I didn’t get a word in edgewise. Unless Whitney Houston came on the radio, then Little J would stop talking long enough to sing along with the lyrics to “The Greatest Love of All.” She loved, loved, loved that song. (She was three years old.)

But I digress.

Something about sitting in the confines of a vehicle brings out the conversationalist in each of you. Or at least, it did.

Maybe being side by side but without eye contact did the trick. Or perhaps the steady hum of the engine and scenery rolling past triggered some reflex in the larynx. It’s even possible that some chemical in the car interior prompted a letting down of emotional defenses.

It didn’t always work that way, but when we got a good one on one conversation going, it usually happened in a car with just two of us going somewhere.

I’d guess some of us logged more miles together than others. Daily drives to and from school, and fairly regular trips back and forth from lessons, sports, church stuff, doctor appointments, errands, performances and more. Some of you even endured/enjoyed a few just-one-of-you and me road trips. Maybe it all balances out to the same mileage for each of you.

I loved those talks.

Well, mostly.

To be honest a few arguments and screaming matches happened, too. We won’t pretend that never happened.

Some pretty loud silences filled the car on occasion as well.

There’s definitely conversations we should have had that never happened. And probably a few discussions that shouldn’t have occurred, although I can’t think of anything specific. And I ought to have been much more direct and less wishy-washy on more than a few occasions.

If you can learn anything from my mistakes that’d be great. I’m guessing you’ll make your own unique set of communication errors as a parent or as a spouse.

Not our actual car. Ours had a sunroof, remember?

Not our actual car. Ours had a sunroof, remember?

One thing I try to do when I look back at those good times and at those dang-it-I-shoulda-done-better times, I liken myself to our fresh-off-the-showroom-floor Datsun. The first ten to fifteen years of parenting I had hardly any miles worth noting. Not until I’d experienced  *frillions of bumps, detours, twists, construction zones, shortcuts, hills, side roads and breakdowns did I even begin to know what I was doing.  Even then, well, I’m an imperfect and many splendored flawed person grasshoppering down the freeway.

Having your good company has made all the difference as the numbers have skyrocketed on my odometer o’life.

I look forward to many more conversations with each of you in years to come. Here’s hoping you enjoy the many chats you get to have with your own little traveling companions.

All my love,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

* Frillion: a psychological/mathematical term combining an astronomically high number with near insanity level nonsense and stress

~~~~~

“Sometimes I wish that I was the weather, you’d bring me up in conversation forever. And when it rained, I’d be the talk of the day.” ~ John Mayer

Categories: Communication, Family, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

The Story of a Lifetime?

“Eyes may be the window of the soul…but hands tell the story of a lifetime.”

It’s Gratituesday! Have you ever given much consideration to what your hands do in a day? I got thinking about that this morning as I tied the laces on my walking shoes. The more I thought, the more my gratitude grew.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

Brushing a finger lightly across a small child’s brow and around their eyes can lull them past their resistance to sleep. Tickling under a chin, applying a band-aid, wiping a nose and best of all, holding a tiny hand in my bigger hand all fall under some of the most important things and fleeting things my hands have done.

The delicate but firm grasp of fingers holding a needle and thread as I secure a hem brings a singular satisfaction. Likewise slipping buttons through buttonholes while dressing, or grasping a zipper and pulling up, scratching an itch, all provide a sense of self-reliance.

An acquaintance of mine had a massive stroke a month or so ago and now she can’t use her hands at all, for anything. She’s completely and utterly dependent on others for the most basic of tasks. Knowing such possibilities loom for any of us makes me all the more grateful as I hold a hose to add fresh water to the bird bath, or pull a weed, or trim a low hanging branch from my tree, or set a table, hold a fork, turn a knob, or brush my hair.

Cutting an onion, stirring a simmering pan on the stove, washing dishes, scooping ice cream all give pleasure and provoke thankfulness. Kneading bread on the counter, slowly working flour into dough until it gives way with just the right amount of resistance reminds me of the mixed strength and softness my hands possess.

I love that I can put my hands on a piano or organ keyboard and produce music. Equally surprising, a tap from my fingers on a screen that grabs tunes from midair and plays music.

I love even more the feel of a pen in my hand as it writes words on paper. I’m still amazed at how my fingers move across a computer keyboard, automatically knowing where each key is, how hard to press, how to combine two keys for a capital letter, all with barely thinking the words. Who knew hands had memory? But they most certainly perform many tasks repeatedly and with little thought.

hang ten

Hands even speak…

Folding towels, pressing a wrinkle from a collar, wiping fingerprints from a window, pressing a doorbell, turning a key, pushing a stroller, holding a grass trimmer, picking up a penny off the floor. Every movement of my hands so common, so phenomenal, so blessed.

My hands have callouses, short nails, wrinkles, freckles, big knuckles, funny outward curving middle fingers, an occasional slight twitch in the right thumb and rough skin. They also have muscles and strength, a gentle touch, sensitivity to heat and cold, softness and sharpness. They lift, carry, push, pull, hold, caress, smooth, wash, ease, point, repair, plant, perform, clap, rub, press, write, draw, mend, work and bless. And so much more.

Kind of handy, wouldn’t you say?

 

 

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments
 
 

Just Joking Around As Usual

After three months I’m still posting a joke or two a day as my status update on Facebook. I’ve read through a passel of really lame ones to winnow out a few chuckle worthy ones to share. Wish I were naturally funny and could just make them up on my own.

For nothing other than your sheer enjoyment, here’s a random bunch I gleaned from the pack.

Hope you get a laugh or two. 

 

iamyourfather

 

Four fonts walk into a bar. The barman says, “Get out! We don’t want your type in here!”

fonts

This morning I went to the bank and asked a teller to check my balance, so she pushed me.

laugh 3

One day a housework-challenged husband decided to wash his Sweatshirt.

Seconds after he stepped into the laundry room, he shouted to his wife, “What setting do I use on the washing machine?”

“It depends,” his wife replied. “What does it say on your shirt?”

He yelled back, “Arizona State University.”

 

washing

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity.

It’s impossible to put down.

earth

Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath….This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

 

lemon

If life gives you melons, you’re probably dyslexic.

melons

A husband said to his wife, “No, I don’t hate your relatives. In fact, I like YOUR mother-in-law better than I like mine!”

question mark

An amnesiac walks into a bar. He goes up to a beautiful blonde and says, “So, do I come here often?

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

An acquaintance told me that her husband and she divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and she didn’t.

laughing2

Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini.

The bartender asks,”Olive or twist?”

oliver twist

 

 

Ham and eggs. A day’s work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.

pig-01

Two parrots were sitting on a perch.

One says to the other, ‘Can you smell fish?’

perch

 

“I can hear music coming out of my printer. I think the paper’s jammin’ again.”

 

marley jamming

Two atoms are walking down the street together. The first atom turns and says, “Hey, you just stole an electron from me!”

“Are you sure?” asks the second atom.

To which the first atom replies, “Yeah, I’m positive!”

 + + + 

“Two peanuts walk into a really rough bar. Unfortunately, one was a salted.”

peanuts

Husband to wife: When I get mad at you, you never fight back. How do you control your anger?

Wife: I clean the toilet bowl.

Husband: How does that help?

Wife: I use your toothbrush.

toothbrush

 

There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer.

When asked to define “great” he replied, ‘I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!’

He now works for Microsoft, writing error messages.

blue screen

 

Middle C, E Flat and G walk into a bar.

The bartender says, “sorry, we don’t serve minors.”

note

A nursery school teacher was delivering a station wagon full of kids home one day when a fire truck zoomed past. Sitting in the front seat of the fire truck was a Dalmatian dog. The children began discussing the dog’s duties.

“They use him to keep crowds back, “said one youngster.

“No,” said another, “he’s just for good luck.”

A third child brought the argument to a close. “They use the dogs,” she said firmly, “to find the fire hydrants.”

dalmation

Conjunctivitis.com – that’s a site for sore eyes. wink

A pregnant woman went into labor and began to yell, “Couldn’t! Wouldn’t! Shouldn’t! Didn’t! Can’t!”

She was having contractions.  ~ Garrison Keillor

 

laugh 3

Two fish are in a tank. One turns to the other and asks “How do you drive this thing?”

 

lightbulbHow many politicians does it take to change a light bulb?

Two. One to assure the public that everything possible is being done while the other screws the lightbulb into a water faucet.

cockroaches

Normal around here is just a setting on the dryer.

smile

 

Categories: Fun, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

The Smell of Hope

 

Nothing.

Nothing surpasses the scent of rain in the desert.

Raindrops meeting ground smell like hope.

Each droplet washes dust from the air.

Those first tentative splashes

hold every scent the sky has held.

Millions of them combine

to baptize a world hazy with heat and baked too long.

Life pours out of the sky

washing

renewing

cooling

calming.

As clouds loosen their purse strings,

Heaven sighs,

Earth relaxes,

and the two settle into each others arms

like a long married couple.

 

Paths fill with every scent washed from the air,

puddles grow and overflow with evaporated life,

temporary ponds hold every drop of love the sky bestows.

And the land

savors this elixir,

love potion extraordinaire.

Flooded water retention basin after a desert rainstorm.

Flooded water retention basin after a desert rainstorm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I created this poem in response to a writing prompt from WordPress: “What’s your favorite smell?”

The photo I took earlier this week after far too many months of no rain here in the Phoenix area. Normally, this scene is an open expanse of grass, but after an hour of rain, it became a temporary pond, drawing out every desert dweller in the neighborhood.

 

Categories: Hope, Nature, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments
 
 

“I’d Agree With You But Then We’d Both Be Wrong.”

I’ve debated off and on over the past six months about disconnecting from most social media. There’s plenty of reasons out there for doing so, and you’ve heard them all and perhaps even considered doing so yourself.

Plenty of great reasons remain for staying connected; improved distant family communication, getting to know other people outside my normal sphere, information to learn and share, great laughs, instant news.

Lately the scale tips more toward the disconnect side.

What’s the tipping point?

image by Smurfy.

image by Smurfy.

Fierce, unchecked, unscreened, hate-filled anger.

I’ve been surprised by the anger expressed about certain issues. Oh sure, I expect to run into differing opinions as my online social circle expands. I’m not talking about simple differences. I’m referring to vehemence, vitriol, spite, meanness, wrath and fury.

Those sorts of emotions aren’t directed at some mass murderer, nor at people who traffic in slavery. Surprisingly, even terrorists and child killers aren’t catching this kind of heat.

Just your average Jane or Joe are catching heck for expressing an opinion. Or attempting to live their religion. Or for making a choice. Or for a simple mistake.

It doesn’t seem to matter which side of which issue anyone is on, the predominate response can only be described as furious. Both sides respond with a frenzy likened to sharks with blood in the water.

Crazed, illogical, uncaring.

People I thought I knew and shared basic common beliefs with suddenly appear as strangers to me.

I don’t comment. I simply read, my mouth hanging open in shock, disbelief and horror.

Who says such things about other human beings?

I feel such dismay.

MSH pointed out that I get that way when I’m behind the wheel of a car. Hmmm. Let’s say he’s correct about that, even if I don’t completely agree. I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment.

If the behavior I exhibit while I drive mimics the comments and rants I read on social media and elsewhere then:

  • I’d be throwing angry hand gestures out my open window. I definitely don’t do that.
  • I’d yell out loud through an open window at the person whose driving irritated me. I wouldn’t dream of doing that.
  • I’d pull up as close to their bumper as I could without actually touching the “Vote for” stickers. Do you think I’m crazy? No way would I do that.

What I do instead

What I do instead is talk out loud with the windows up and tightly closed. “Dude!! What are you thinking?” Or perhaps, “Had a little too much beer with your burger earlier I see.” And more frequently, “Get off the phone and drive, lady!” and more, “Hello! Texting and driving don’t mix.” And the infamous, “I know I’m desirable and all, but get off my butt.”

If other people ride along with me they definitely hear what I’m saying. It’s as automatic as signaling, or putting my foot on the break to slow down.

I’m a hypocrite

I’m not proud of it. I could do better. It isn’t nice. It’s not consistent with one of my core beliefs of being kind to others.

I like myself better when I treat others with respect. I’m happier when I think the best of others. “They’re doing the best they can in their circumstances which I know nothing about,” should always underscore my thoughts about the behavior I see around me.

Point taken. Resolved to do better.

But there’s still this thing out there I just don’t understand.

Verbal and literary pummeling everywhere I read. Image by Giulio del Torre Zwei raufende Buben 1927Public Domain Giulio del Torre (1856–1932)

Verbal and literary anger and pummeling everywhere I read. Image by Giulio del Torre.  Zwei raufende Buben.

I suppose what’s most upsetting about much of the anger I’m reading and hearing falls into that same category. Hypocritical. The hate and vitriol seem so out of line with these people I’m hearing it from. People I thought I shared values with. People I thought employed compassion and caring as their central tenants.

The rest of it is simply unsettling and scary. Why are so many so angry?

Do they see how out of proportion and vicious they sound? Do they care?

What happened to reasoned debate? What’s happened to compromise? What happened to agreeing to disagree without hate as part of the equation?

Maybe that never really existed. Maybe I imaged it was once that way.

Can we disagree without being disagreeable? 

Do you have any insight for me? Can you explain what’s going on? Should I move to the wilderness and erect thirty-foot high razor wire fencing with attack dogs to protect myself?

Should I pretend it all away and disconnect from social media and the internet?

Pretty tempting to adopt a hermit’s way of life.

 *~*

“In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.”  ~Buddha

Categories: People, The World, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments
 
 

Who Me? Afraid of the Dark?

Another Friday Letter to my Kids

 

Dear J, J, L and L,

You all know I’m a bit afraid of the dark. And tight spaces. And heights.

You also ought to know that wasn’t always the case.

I’m the one who introduced your Dad to rock-climbing and let him haul you kids around on ropes and figure eights yelling, “on belay!” in your webbing knotted seat harnesses.

Now I Shake My Head at myself for letting such stuff happen. What a strange mother you had back then. I didn’t become afraid of heights until a hysterectomy happened. Massive hormone changes, no more testosterone, no more risky behavior from me. (Part of why we never visited the Grand Canyon, only a five-hour drive from here. Sorry, just couldn’t risk it.)

The tight spaces and dark neurosis I earned through childhood trauma.

The first house I ever lived in had a cellar. Basically a small cement encased room with a steep staircase and one dusty swinging light bulb with a tenuous barely reachable string hanging from it.

Not quite an actual photo of my childhood cellar stairs.

Not quite an actual photo of my childhood cellar stairs.

In order to have light on to find a quart of peaches or a pint of green beans I had to walk down into the darkness, reach up and find the string somewhere above me and pull hard to get it to turn on. Poorly lit at best, distinguishing between peaches, cherries, raspberries, beans, beets and jellies was a crapshoot.

I’d grab a couple of jars as fast as I could, before the infamous creature of the dark grabbed me and pulled me back in underneath the shelves forever. Then I’d run to the stairs. With one foot on the bottom step, an arm reaching for the string to turn the light off, and another foot ready to launch, I pulled the string then ran as hard and as fast as I could manage.

It’s a wonder I didn’t have a heart attack before the scary thing that loves the darkness grabbed me.

Then there was the second house we moved to. Sure it had another bedroom, but a vastly different kind of storage area.

My crawl space was darker and not so luxurious as this one.

My crawl space was darker and not so luxurious as this one.

Do any of you remember the crawl space under Grandpa and Grandma M’s house? It looked like any ordinary door to another room in the basement, but on opening the door one saw that it quickly squeezed down into a very small space, literally only high enough to crawl around in. The heater for the house was in that area. So were the jars of bottled fruit and veggies Mom had squirreled away from the previous summer, along with bunch of small storage items.

Grandpa M had a “path” of plywood that reached all across the length of the house and various items on either side of the path. He had a mental map, and probably a physical one, of what was where along that stretch of precious storage space. (Seven kids, three bedrooms, remember?)

Sure, there was a pull string light bulb a few steps into the dark space and a drop light somewhere halfway back, but that was all.

Felt like I got nominated more often than not to be the one to shimmy on my stomach to get some needed item from under there. Sure I got directions, “it’s probably on the right side three-fourths of the way back.” Aside from the very real possibility of snakes, mice and spiders, under there, I was sure I would die by being crushed from the house above me. Or worse yet, I knew the boogeyman was going to reach over from the rest of the unlit dark recesses and carry me off never to see sunlight or my family again.

Obviously, I survived and lived to marry and have children. But the scars remain. Dark spaces and tiny places all but suffocate and terrify me to this day.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t force any of you to go through such trauma. No cellars, no crawl spaces, no attics. Lucky you.

There was, however, that one time that still makes me chuckle and probably makes Little J still nearly jump out of her skin.

What potential this view affords.

What potential this view affords.

Back in Oklahoma, Little J liked to hang her leg over the side of the bed and let it swing as she read. Relaxing, chilling, totally into the book.

Big J spent a good hour or two hiding under little J’s bed while she was reading, probably a mystery, I forget now. (Maybe one of you can fill me in on details.) I’d never heard of a prank requiring so much patience. He may have even fallen asleep under the bed he waited so long.

And then, with no warning a hand reaches out and grabs her foot while simultaneously roaring a bone-chilling sound of doom.

It’s a wonder big J lived to tell the tale.

Poor little J. Do you still peek under your bed before getting in at night or before getting out in the morning? I hope you’ve moved beyond that. If you need therapy you should send the bill to your big brother.

At least it only happened once. But I suppose once, is all it takes, if it’s done right, to cement a phobia solidly in place.

Life is full of fears and surprises. I hope most of yours are good surprises and that all of your fears are unfounded and needless. (No I didn’t say needles, little L.)

I sure do love you all.

 

Neurotically yours,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

“Lucy: Do you think you have Pantophobia, Charlie Brown?

Charlie: I don’t know, what is pantophobia?

Lucy: The fear of Everything.

Charlie: THAT’S IT!!!” ~ Charles M Schulz

 

 

 

Categories: Friday Letters, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Don’t Use Your Words, At Least, Not Just Yet

It’s Gratituesday! Silence. Yes, silence. That’s my grateful thought today.

From what I can tell, not a lot of people are out and about at the real beginning of the day. Not too many get to see such sights as this, live and in person.

Ya gotta get out of bed pretty dang early to see this kind of thing.

Ya gotta get out of bed pretty dang early to see this kind of thing.

I don’t mind either.

I love, love, love my morning quiet. My ME time. I love not having to engage my vocal cords until I’ve been awake a few hours.

This isn’t a recent development either. I recall as a teen, back in the dark ages just after the dinosaurs died off, snarking at my Mom for having the audacity to speak to me before I’d been awake a full hour. I just wanted quiet. I wanted nothing more than silence and a non-requirement for speech, until I felt fully awake, all gears turning, internal meters running.

Thing is, with so many siblings, three sisters, three brothers, plus the requisite two parental units, I didn’t get much quiet time. Ever. Especially not in the morning. My parents apparently rose before the sun, went to bed sometime after midnight. In fact, I wonder if they ever slept.

And I shared a bedroom.

My entire life, I have shared a bedroom with someone. At home, sisters. At college, dorm mates and room mates. Then married, a husband.

I kinda want to know what it’s like to have my own room.

Luckily MSH seems allergic to mornings, so, now that the fledglings have flown, I have mornings to myself. Long, quiet, uninterrupted stretches of silence, solitude, and general perfection.

I hate to waste a second of it on the mundane tasks of the day, like sleeping in,  or eating, or chores or errands.

Why do such ordinary things when I can think uninterrupted, or write, or walk, or bike, or simply sit and observe the day unfolding.

Yes, early rising required for a live viewing of such sights.

Yes, early rising required for a live viewing of such sights.

I revel in my mornings, the sun just peeking out, tentative and sometimes even colorful. I love the different sort of silence of bird chatter. I love that traffic hasn’t reached a fever pitch and I can still hear the leaves rustling when a slight breeze ruffles through. I love the melodic and distant sounding wind chimes adding their bits to the silence.

The light inside the house so early in the day, a soft, reflected, easy on the eyes glow prods the senses awake gently, slowly. Don’t we all deserve such tenderness at the beginning of a day?

Days that start with long silences and soft light, that require no spoken words for a while, always result in more calm throughout, regardless of what’s thrown at me once the talking starts.

Am I spoiled? Heck no. I earned this quiet, this time of me-ness. And I’ll defend it to the death. Although, from what I’ve seen, few want to claim these hours as their own. So I anticipate no battles.

I know there are households with young tots where such luxuries reside only in dreams. Where sleep is what one does with the beginning and ending edges of the night. I know insistent hungry voices clamber on to beds and snuggle under warm blankets and push and shove and disturb peace at all hours.

And such knowledge makes me all the more grateful for my early uninterrupted hours.

If I’d known such mercies existed, I’d have looked to the future with more hope than I did. Ah, sweet mornings. How I love thee.

The rest of you, please, just keep sleeping in so I can have my silence and my alone time.

 

Sweet, yes?

Sweet, yes?

“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” ~ Francis Bacon

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Mental Health, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

Banded Together

It’s Gratituesday! The radio normally doesn’t play in the car when I’m driving by myself. Yesterday I turned it on and heard the most surprising sound coming from my speakers. It  sounded like a high school band playing The Star Spangled Banner.

I expected some advertisement to start blaring in the middle of it, but nothing like that happened.

I checked the station setting, expecting it to be NPR doing some patriotic piece about something to do with the upcoming American holiday. Nope. Not National Public Radio.

I turned the volume up some and listened to the rest of the anthem. Meanwhile tears came to my eyes as I drove.

What a surprising moment in the middle of my day.

That song, played not with perfection but with feeling and obvious hours of practice, spoke volumes in those few brief measures.

I felt so lucky to have won the lottery that let me be born here, a place that millions have dreamed of and worked at and sacrificed to come to and to live.

I felt gratitude for so many who’ve defended the freedom I so richly and probably undeservedly enjoy.

I felt reverence for the wisdom of those who first wrote the words and signed their names to the document that begins:

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for a people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”

Which document is that, you ask?

It’s the one whose second paragraph begins with these more famous words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It’s time to read that inspired bit of history and of foundational concrete. A reminder I know I need more often.

Here’s a copy for you to read as well. (It’s 1137 words long – five minutes to read, maybe a bit more.)

20071018_declaration

Just kidding. It’s too tiny. Click here to read a copy.

Also, if you can find some way to let yourself hear the national anthem sometime this week, I’d encourage you to make that happen, too.

My thanks also goes out to a local radio station, 94.5 FM for reminding me how blessed I am as a citizen of these United States of America.

flag

A Word You Might Not Know But Will Now

un·alien·able

adjective \ˌən-ˈāl-yə-nə-bəl

: impossible to take away or give up

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Holiday | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Unicorns and Happiness

image by ChristerD

image by ChristerD

Don’t you get a buzz when you run across something the confirms and validates something you already believe or do?

I sure do.

My buzz started humming last week when I watched this TED Talk by Shawn Achor from May 2011 about Happiness.

I’ll wait while you watch it if you want.

Or you can click on it to open it in a second window and watch it or listen to it later. It’s only about twelve minutes long and worth every second. You’ll laugh. You’ll have a smile on your face when you’re done watching.

(You could even listen while you’re eating your cereal tomorrow morning, or while you do your hair or your makeup, or while you’re driving somewhere. Please, just watch or listen to it.)

So, why am I so adamant that you watch?

Because I want you to have more happiness in your life. If you’re happier, people around you are happier. And if they’re happier, then others are, too. And eventually, those ripples reach me. Theoretically, anyway.

Here’s info from one of the visuals he pops up on the screen for us.

Creating lasting positive change

  • 3 Gratitudes

  • Journaling

  • Exercise

  • Meditation

  • Random Acts of Kindness

That first item?  Well, it’s made a difference in my life over the past twenty years. I’ve been paying attention and keeping a gratitude journal, mostly, over the past twenty years.

Yes. Twenty.

I’m my own study. And the results rock!

And that’s just with item one on the list.

  • Shawn recommends taking two minutes every day and listing three things you’re grateful for.
  • “Journaling about one positive thing from the past twenty-four hours allows you to relive the positive emotions.”
  • Exercise floods our system with endorphins which are the happiness chemicals that we could all use more of.
  • Meditation allows us to briefly focus on one thing in a world where we’re constantly multitasking.
  • A random act of kindness is as simple as sitting at your desk and writing one positive email to someone in your social support network, thanking them, praising them, encouraging them.

Do we have time for any of this?

YES!

Can we afford not to make time for it?

No.

In just twenty-one days, studies show a marked difference in happiness level. And consequently, they experience greater productivity and enhanced learning ability of people who implement the five steps outlined above.

Please watch and put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step.

Here’s the link again, in case you missed it.

 

 

Categories: Happiness, Mondaze | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Who-Hair and Other Facts of Life

A few of the Who Ville folk.

A few of the Who Ville folk.

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

I love your Dad. Three decades plus of being together grows Lego-like connections that only fit each other, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, mentally. I can talk to him about ANY thing and he doesn’t go ballistic or get out of whack. He’s a great listener and so very caring and concerned and generous.

MSH, also known as Dad or Pa at our house, loves you more than you can ever know. It’s one of those things you only understand when you’re halfway through your life and have gone through a few things. So just trust me on this one.

I preface today’s letter with those reassurances for lots of reasons, some of them having to do with thongs, hair brushes, speedos, who-hair, corduroy, delegation, advice and perfectionism. Not necessarily in that order. It’s all kind of a twisty mess.

Dad's alter ego?

Dad’s alter ego?

Yes, a twisty mess, kind of like Dad’s hair. I affectionately call it “Who-hair,” as in Dr. Seuss’s amazing little creatures. When your Dad wakes up who knows what his hair will have formed itself into. Bedhead hair is normal for most people. The name who-hair stuck because he so often simply doesn’t bother to comb his hair at all. That’s one of those benefits/dangers of working from home most of the time. All day long he sports a pillow-designed coif, answering the door, sometimes running errands, looking every bit like he just woke up. It’s kind of endearing, don’t you think? A little Einstein-ish.

Funny thing is when I met your father he, quite frankly, was a little vain. He took a lot of pride in how he looked. Always had a comb in his pocket. Checked the mirror frequently. He had this brown velvet jacket that he looked stunning in. Oh my! Takes my breath away even thinking about it this many years later. Yes. Your father cared how he presented himself to the world. I’m not sure when that changed, but it surely did, from day to night. I will add, the corduroy pants have been and will always be part of who he is.

These particular footwear were known as thongs (made in the 70s and 80's)

These set of footwear are called thongs (made in the 70s and 80’s)

That said, he doesn’t change very much. Doesn’t want to. That’s a big part of why flip-flops, those sandal-like shoe things we wear on our feet, will always and forever be thongs in his vocabulary. Known as thongs back in the day, he will call them that to his dying breath. Ironic that his one surviving pair that he loves are, yes, rainbow colors. I find it sad that the world has changed so much that basic innocent words and other things have taken on such odd and disconnected meanings from their origins.

Here’s two things you must remember. And this isn’t just your Dad, it’s most Dads.

Advice = Love

You need to… = I love you

When a sentence from his mouth begins with the words, “you need to,” just know those are really the three little words everyone longs to hear, just in Dad language.

All Dads see part of their role as a fixer, a repairer and an answer man.

If you actually ask for his advice on a topic you’ll make his day. You’re light years ahead if you can simply accept his advice knowing that it really means that he loves you. You don’t have to go along with the advice, but thank him for it, sincerely.  Appreciate the meaning behind what he says. I know that’s a really tough pill for some of you to swallow, but truth nonetheless.

The other Dad-unique thing he’s done is spend time with us watching TV or movies. Just being in the room together, sharing some popcorn or a snack, for him says Love. Dad isn’t  alone in that. I’ve heard of other men who are the same way. It’s not a disconnect in their minds, it’s an indirect way of sharing time and space. And shared time and space equals Love.

Shared Time and Space = Love

One of my most cherished memories is of Big J as a three-year old coming out of your bedroom after an hour of pretend sleeping. Dad would say, “do you need some time with your Dad?” And J, you’d say, “yeah,” in your sleepy voice, trying to hide a grin.

Best reruns ever.

Best reruns ever.

So Dad would break out the chips and salsa and the two of your would sit on the ugly orange plaid sofa munching while watching M*A*S*H reruns. Then you’d snuggle up. Dad would be in his classic pose of lying sideways, legs taking up most of the room on the couch, and Big J would perch on top of him in perfect imitation and fall instantly to sleep.

If that wasn’t love, I don’t know what is.

And girls, those times when your Dad went along with your idea to play beauty parlor, shows his sense of humor as well as his love. He even posed for photos with those bobby pins, barrettes, curlers and bows all over his head. Yet another example of his looking every bit the part of a Who from Who Ville. What a good sport he was. And still is.

I’m rethinking sharing the speedo and hairbrush stories, for now. And the delegation, perfectionism and creativity can wait for another day, too.

If I could sum up your Dad, it’d be in an equation that looks like this.

Dad = Love

It’s true. He’s not like any other Dad on the planet or in the galaxy. He hasn’t ever been a sports dude, or a nine to five guy, but he’s got a ton of love for each of you. More than you’ll ever know. Believe me, that’s the reality of it.

Tons of Love from,

Mom

and

from your Dad

photo-23 copy 5
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ~ Umberto Eco

 

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

We Get By with a Little Help from our Friends

My sister-in-law, Cheri Mitchell, a super-star woman with incredible energy and optimism who’s also a nurse, took off for Nairobi, Kenya a month ago to see what she could do to help lighten the load and smooth the path for a few people there.

The photos she’s sent and the status updates she’s posted have added perspective and angst to my life. I feel so decadent here in America when I see and read about life in the orphanage where she’s volunteering.

Today, I’m sharing a tiny part of what she’s experienced so far, gleaned with her permission, from her Facebook page.

 

 

“Some of the very happy sweet kids at the KCC Slum project. Also a pic of their water supply. Volunteers built a filtration system to clean it. Some previous volunteers started a school there and are doing amazing work. Living conditions are below poverty level yet they are all smiling. I don’t think I have a thing to complain about…Feeling grateful.” 
tents“Same day Thursday, we also visited an IDP camp (internally displaced persons), they live in “tents” made of what ever they can find, old rice bags, plastic sacks, sticks, cardboard, tin, etc. It was truly heartbreaking for me. Overwhelmed with the cycle of poverty, yet again, smiling. The children were so happy to see volunteers and have new people to play with. We played soccer, and some of them taught us some songs.”

“We brought flour with us for the families, bagged it and distributed it to them. They were very grateful and appreciative, some of them did little dances of joy.  Wish we could have brought more… Very humbling day.”
“A clean pit latrine…”
pit latrine

“First day at Wakimai children home.. with Jorge. They need lots of love and play time…there was also puppies and kittens, and baby chickens.”

mortuary sign“Today was the funeral service and burial for a baby boy from the orphanage we are at, he died on Tuesday at the hospital. Somber experience, and very close to home. Heaven has another Angel — feeling sad.”

 

“Today we did some good.  Yesterday we bought cleaning supplies, blankets, diapers and baby goods and we went back to the house today to clean and organize. We swept and mopped and got rid of all the broken and destroyed shoes that didn’t have mates and reorganize their shoe shelves. Folded laundry, hung laundry, fed and played with the kids. Then we went to market… what an awesome experience. Purchased huge bags of corn, beans and an enormous bag of potatoes for the orphanage. It is pictured in the back of the truck.”

“Water tank project..gutters on, tank plot cleared, now waiting on tank..hmmm. african standard time.”

 

doctors and clinic workers“Another help for the wonderful people who selflessly serve at the Uthiru dispensary. They were in need of a foetal heart Doppler. Thanks to donations, the doctor, nurses as well as the expectant mothers can now hear their babies heartbeats in utero. This will help them feel closer to their newborns and encourage them to seek proper prenatal care. God bless contributors. And THANK YOU!!!”

 

Dr. Ester and the wonderful staff at Uthiru dispensary free clinic, with the fetal heart doppler that donations paid for, and medications received from NVS. Thank you so much contributors. God Bless you.”

“They could really benefit from some more donations, quickly. There are some incredible stories here, some miraculous, mostly sad tho. The kids range from 2 months to 14 yrs. There’s 62 kids and one sweet woman with a helper to run the place. It isn’t funded by government and relies on volunteer help and donations.”

Cheri and Stephi

Cheri and Stefi

“We have done some things here to greatly increase the quality of life for these children.”

“So much more can be done. Winter is here and not all children have blankets. Our donations even helped get a little boy, who was hit by an angry neighbor, a CT Scan. He has been ill since the incident.”
“Thank you again for all who have donated and if you still want to, and can, here is the site again. God bless you, we only have a couple more weeks here and I really want to make a difference for these sweet children.”
I hope you can help her to help these sweet children. 
Maybe we could skip one morning’s latte’ this week, or go without an afternoon smoothie, forego tomorrow’s burger and fries and brown bag it, or rent a movie instead of going out and send the difference. Just that much can go so far. Every bit helps Cheri to help them immediately and directly.

 

 

Categories: Love, People, The World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

Blooming in a Drought

My Poinciana tree.

My Poinciana tree.

It’s Gratituesday! See this tree? Yes, it’s a tree, not a bush. It’s called a Poinciana. It’s died twice, well, practically died, I suppose. It’s very frost sensitive. When we get our one or two hard frosts each winter, regardless of my heroic efforts to cover it in sheets, water it deeply and protect it from the damaging freeze, it takes a major hit. Two years ago it certainly had died. All those lush leaves turned brown and fell off, while the branches also kind of curled up at the ends. I pruned when Spring arrived, not terribly hopeful of anything coming of it. When, lo and behold, a second trunk shot out of the ground beside the first dead one, produced copious branches and became a full leafed six foot tree by summer. Amazing.

This past winter, in spite of my best efforts, it froze again, although not as badly. The center and underside stayed green and leafy, only the tops froze. So the tree got shorter, but fuller. Even with a mild spring and plenty of water it hasnt gotten any taller. It really looks like a massive bush now.

What does any of this have to do with what I’m grateful for this Tuesday?

I’ve been looking out my back window every day for a week now, watching the branches and leaves on this stunning tree wave in the breeze. Reminds me of a long green velvet robe undulating behind someone running across an expanse.

Look closer at the bottom of the photo. See my nearly dead grass. That’s with regular watering. Nothing I do will revive it. I hope it makes it through the summer.

This tree, thriving and surviving and growing and showing off in the breeze, does so in the midst of a desert. Rocks, harsh temperatures, the driest of dry humidity,  and very little care. I wonder if it knows how rare and beautiful it is. I wonder if it recognizes how rich and abundant its life appears.

I feel that way about my own life. I live, by any measurable standard, a rich, wildly free, abundant life. In spite of a drought I have water available.

That joke people are always throwing out about “first world problems” isn’t really funny. It’s meant to shine some perspective on our ridiculously abundant lifestyle.

I have nothing to whine or complain about. Nothing.

I have all I need. I have most of what I want. I have more than enough and then some. Lately, I’m almost ashamed at how rich my life is.

But instead of shame, I feel immense gratitude. And naturally, along with that feeling rides a desire to give back, to share, to help, to spread the wealth.

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Mondaze: Thoughts of a Turtle Wannabe

MSH has this dream of buying a motor home and living in it, as in a permanent residence. Me, not so much. A very small point of contention, really, in the grand scheme of things.

Anyway, I suppose that’s the ultimate way for a human to emulate turtle behavior. One could also argue that living out of a backpack would qualify more as turtle-like living. But that’s a whole different idea completely, if you ask me. Although there was a time, thirty odd years ago when that sounded completely rad and doable. (rad= seventies speak for radical, cool, awesome, epic, sick)

Me, I’m more like a turtle without a shell, so my unmovable house has to serve as my protective casing. That poses a problem for someone who needs outdoor time every single day.

photo-23 copy 9Family, I’m okay with. We can hang out and I don’t feel like I have to be “up” or pretend cheerfulness or some other mood when I’m just feeling “meh.” Even better when we’re all feeling the same kind of summer-heat-has-sucked-the-life-out-of-our-energy-reserves blahness.

Mostly, I just want to be left alone to do my thing.

When I go walking in the wee hours of the a.m., if I pass by and say “morning” to five people, that’s about, oh, five people too many. Ten people and I consider the place overrun by a crowd. Sheesh, you’d think they’d all stay in bed that early in the morning, but no, they all have to converge on MY walking place at MY private walking meditation hour.

I’m not always so acerbic and bitter sounding. Just lately I’ve felt that way. I blame it on the summer heat and probably something else that I haven’t figured out yet. Not feeling particularly motivated to analyze myself either.

photo-24 copy 5I ran across this turtle a couple of mornings ago while on my walk. He’s a pretty substantial size for around here. Of course, when it heard my steps on the gravel it pulled its head and legs in and hunkered down waiting for me to go away. I didn’t. Nope. I sat down on a nearby bench and pretended to not be interested in him. A bad plan, I have to admit. The turtle wasn’t fooled by my ploy.

I imagined, after a while, bad words in some turtle tongue racing about inside its little green head. “Stupid human, why won’t she just go away and leave me alone. Can’t she see I just want to be left in peace to enjoy the scenery by myself?”

I felt connected to this semi-animate-pretend-rock. I understood its need for solitude, simply wanting freedom to wander alone and ponder, unhindered by morning niceties and unspoken rules of trail etiquette. So I apologized and left.

Shuffling off down the trail I looked back hopefully, only once. The turtle felt not the least bit accommodating in showing its tail, feet or head even from a distance.

I’m afraid I do that myself lately. If my garage had any spare space I’d seldom show my face outside my house, except at ultra early, ultra late hours when interaction with other humans remains least likely.

What’s up with that?

Maybe I’m trying to keep reality at bay after my two weeks off from life. Maybe my brain feels too cluttered to allow in any outsider input from conversation.

Can you say vacation to recover from a vacation?

Nah.

Maybe Arizona summer psychologically demands something akin to bears hibernating and I’m secretly part bear.

Rawr.

Um. No.

Let’s just say I’m slightly anti-social lately. I think I’ll just roll with it.

It’ll pass in a day or so.

Or when the mercury dips back down into the nineties again.

Then I’ll be like:

 

tmnt 2

 

 

 

 

or something along those lines.

 

Categories: Mental Health, Mondaze, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Baffled by the White Van of Life

Friday Letter to My Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

Do you remember that white van we owned? The gutless wonder that could barely make it up an overpass without overheating? The one little L christened on our first road trip by barfing all over the middle seat? The same van big J ran over the high school parking lot curbing with and blew out two, or was it three, tires in.

Ours didn't look this bad on the outside. The problems were all mechanical.

Ours didn’t look this bad. The problems were all mechanical.

Yeah, that one.

It had all sorts of fun problems. The muffler issue comes to mind lately. The world could hear us coming in that vehicle from a good half mile away. Not sure why we didn’t replace or repair the muffler. Actually, I’m pretty sure we didn’t have the money to fix it for a while.

When either of the J’s would finally come home from wherever you’d been, work, a friend’s house, an unapproved “date,” we’d definitely hear the van coming. That is until one of you thought you’d figured out we wouldn’t hear the unmuffled engine if you turned it off before coasting around the corner and into the driveway.

Problem was we’d still hear the van coming from further out in the neighborhood, before the engine was turned off. Also, that sort of parking style raised some eyebrows from neighbors who were out and about late at night who mentioned it to us. We should have come down harder on you, grounded you from driving. Seems like most discipline had little to no effect on you.

Go figure.

The most infamous sneaking about done by any of you came from little J.

You climbed out your second story window onto the strategically placed garbage bins below the roofline and out to frolic in the middle of the night. The funny part happened when you couldn’t climb back the way you climbed out and had to ring the doorbell to get inside the house at, what was it, three a.m. Your story that you forgot your key after “going for a walk to be alone” missed the fact that we had a deadbolt lock on that door that could only be locked with a key.

You gotta love the logic of teenagers whose brains haven’t quite yet fully developed.

Honestly, you all know at this point that true logic doesn’t really even exist in a teenage brain. It’s all hormone driven coupled with the “logic” of a three-year old.

I’ve been hanging out with our favorite three-year old lately and she reminds me so much of each of you as teenagers. The main themes are as follows:

  1. I want it.
  2. I want it now.
  3. No I can’t wait.
  4. I need to go pout and feel sorry for myself if I can’t have items one through three and I’ll make your life miserable until I get what I want.
  5. The way I see the world is reality and nothing you say will change that. If I say a dinosaur lives behind the desk that’s the truth of the matter.
  6. Why?
  7. Why not?

Pam, from Oklahoma, used to say about teenagers. “You don’t like them very much for about five years, but you still somehow manage to love them.”

That stage lasted longer for some of you than others.

Honestly, you all weren’t horrific all the time. You each seemed to need to take your turn being difficult to live with in one way or another. And I hate to lump you all together in one crowd because you’ve each behaved so differently from each other.

speed bumpsI remember big J saying you’d bring your friends over to the house if only we had a VCR and a decent TV. So we scrounged and sprung for both and you still didn’t bring your friends over. Much later we learned the real reason you didn’t bring your friends over. Still shaking my head over that stuff.

Little J had such charm and charisma I’m afraid she got away with way too much on cuteness alone. Changing clothes after leaving the house and “losing” your pager come to mind as just a couple of minor sneaky things you did.

Big L used to purposely incite skirmishes with little L out of sheer boredom or revenge. It didn’t matter than I begged you not to bother the sleeping giant, you did it anyway. And yes, I can still hear your revengeful heh heh hehhing in my head.

Little L you provided the final exam to my parenting experiences with the other three. Since I’d learned a few things by then, you had to pull out some never before seen situations that I’m still reeling a bit from. Your need for TIGHT bed covers that never were tight enough and your other need for an always spotlessly clean and organized house, which I failed to provide, come to mind.

Sorry, I didn’t measure up.

Most of what I feel about all of your teen angst and rebellion and mistakes is regret that I couldn’t save you from going through it. I’d have given anything to keep you safe from your own teen dingbattedness. Somewhere I fell short with each of you and that, oh man, that really stings.

And yet, what makes me smile, other than the fact that I somehow managed to get through those parenting years without scarring any of you too badly, lies in the promise that each of you will get to experience parenting teens yourself.

Heh, heh, heh.

I was no saint as a teen. Oh my. Not. At. All. So I probably, well okay, definitely, deserved the thrashing I got from parenting all of you through those same years. You’d think I’d have done better, seen the warning signs, been harder on you, or gentler, as needed. My own experiences should have taught me to be a better parent than I managed.

Didn’t work out that way. Dang. Turns out being a teenager does little to prepare you for raising one.

To quote Pumbaa who’s misquoting Timon, “Ya gotta put your behind in the past.”

So what did I learn from not applying what I’d learned as a teen to my parenting career?

  • I wish I’d been more direct with each of you.
  • There’s no such thing as balance between parents. There needs to be agreement. One parent’s hardness can’t be softened by the other parent’s squishiness. And vice versa. Bad cop, good cop only works on TV shows and the movies.
  • I’m the grownup in the relationship with my kids.
  • It’s okay to expect the best, but I should have been more eyes-wide-open about reality. It’s not easy reconciling the two. It can hurt, big time.

If all parents learned from the mistakes they made as teens, we’d have a perfected society by now. Obviously, we’re all slow learners.

I take heart in seeing what kind, patient (mostly), generous, optimistic and loving adults you each have turned into. Ya’ll came preprogrammed with some great stuff that sat latent for a while. Now look at you.

I couldn’t be more proud.

engine interior

It may as well be Greek, engines baffle me.

That white van reminds me of teenage life. It got us where we ultimately needed to get to, most of the time, but not without some bumpiness and noise, breakdowns and mind-boggling struggles. I can’t tell you how often I stood before the open hood of that van completely snookered as to what went wrong and what I could do to fix it. Same goes for each of you. I’d stand there looking into your face and wonder “what the flippin’ heck can I do to make this work?”

I wish you well in your personal parenting adventures, especially the teen-fraught years. I hope your own version of a white van serves you better than mine did.

Good luck with that. I’ll be praying for you.

 

All my love,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

 “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” ~ Robert Fulghum

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Safe, Secure and Sleeping Like a Baby

It’s Gratituesday! I’m grateful today for a sense of security and safety.

By Zuzu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

By Zuzu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Early this morning, four a.m. or so, MSH asks, “What’s that sound?”

A sort of low rumbling reverberated through the walls of the house and vibrated just so. I replied, “That’s just a car stereo.”

“Oh, right, of course,” he mumbled in his half-sleep.

“Or,” I said, jokingly, “someone’s doing some bombing not too far off.”

His sleepy non-chuckle left me smiling in my less drowsy state.

I know in many areas of the world that’s not a laughing matter, and more likely than not the disturbing sound that wakes a person isn’t something that someone shrugs off. I recognize, but not always, that I live an incredibly sheltered, safe life in the way-out suburbs of a fairly decent sized city, and I seldom worry about such things.

My sister-in-law and niece are in Kenya volunteering in a medical capacity. When I read “Kenya” in a news headline yesterday, my radar buzzed and hummed and worried. Fortunately they aren’t anywhere near Kenya’s coastal town of Mpeketoni. They’re in Nairobi, an inland city ten hours away. Here’s the thing. Kenya’s coastal towns used to be some of the most stable and secure areas in East Africa. Tourists flocked there with abandon. Do you think that’s changed now? Yeah, me too.

But that’s Africa, is what I want to tell myself. That continent has always been unstable, uncertain, scary. Uh huh.

I can just keep telling myself that. Or I can face reality.

Is it just a matter of time before my safe little pocket of suburbia becomes unstable? Or am I worrying about nothing? Fifteen years ago we boarded planes without a thought about safety or security. Less than twenty years ago, schools seemed like bastions of stability and safety, where we blithely left our children in the care and keeping of school staff. Malls, post offices, movie theaters, buses, cafes, on the road, at work, in your home. All seem safe but haven’t always been for everybody.

I wish, I wish, I wish it were so. Safety, security, peace, lack of fear.

Here’s the thing I find weird about today’s topic. I hesitated posting it. In fact, it’s after eight in the evening and I’m still hanging back.

Why?

I don’t want to jinx things. Kind of like praying for patience, you end up having to practice it to get it. I’m not wanting anything like that today. I’m simply grateful that I feel safe, that I live in circumstances where I’m not holding my breath at loud noises, sudden movements, scary things.

I know it can change. Suddenly, irrevocably. But for today, for now, for what I’ve had so far, I’m so aware of how rare and rich and free I feel in my safe little coccoon.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

Climbing, Shredding and Burning

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

I’ve been “on vacation” for the past two weeks. As you know from personal experience that means, (ninety-five percent chance) staying with relatives. That’s not a bad thing; it simply means that most of our vacations involve family, not visiting Europe or going on a cruise or hitting the slopes or the beach.

We did do some of that. We had some good times on the slopes for a few years. In fact big J practically emerged from the womb skiing, and little J took to skiing like a seed to dirt. I still get this ache in my stomach about J breaking his collarbone on the first day of a four-day ski trip. No more snowboarding that season. The pain of the break, I’m guessing, felt like nothing compared to the pain of watching everyone else racing down the mountain while you had to lounge around at the lodge every day.

Ouch! I hope you’ve made up in quality what you missed in quantity on that trip.

Given that you put yourself to sleep at night by boarding down a specific run makes me feel pretty good about all the days you managed to get in on the mountain after that.

We never made it to the ocean with all of us together. L and L enjoyed that singular experience. Spring break, we found out the hard way, isn’t really the ideal time to hang out in the Pacific. Chilly, fierce waves, a strong undertow, but plenty of space on the beach. We managed to get a sunburn, sand stuck in every imaginable and unimaginable spot including the sleeping bags. One of my other favorite photos ever? The sun setting orange over the ocean in a thirty mile an hour breeze, and L and L silhouetted just so. Good times, good times.

More than a few of our camping trips involved rain, a couple of them fairly significant amounts. North Carolina rains pale only in comparison to Oklahoma rains. Either way, we ended up soaked, clothes hanging everywhere inside the tent, muddy boots, big smiles, flooded lakes or streams. Good thing we cooked over a backpacking stove or we’d have eaten cold food all those times. I loved big L’s computer drawing, back in the dark ages of computer graphics, of one of our camping in the rain events. Wish we could find that. It’d make a great children’s book. Especially the mud monster part.

Let’s not forget, L and L, Queen of the Flame and Little Muddy Foot. Those two young girls will forever be tender spots in my heart of camping hearts.

Rock climbing and rappelling figure prominently in our getaways. Little did I know what I set in motion when I took that wilderness adventure course. I look back now and shake my head in amazement that I looked on as your Dad roped you in and let you climb at Index or scrambled all over Spire Rock or swing suspended from whatever boulder, cliff or mountain happened to be handy. Dad still refers to little J as “our Arachnid” for your epic climbing abilities.

Yes, most of our vacations involved camping in a tent, which isn’t bad at all.

You also got plenty of experience with airline travel, surprisingly, which has come in handy tons of times, and has become old hat for others. Little J had the chutzpah to backpack Europe once and visit Paris another time. Big J now travels regularly for work, getting around airports and big cities as if they’re simply different runs at a ski resort.

Many of our vacations involved road trips as well. But that, oh my, that is another story or ten for another day and another letter.

Wish we’d taken you to Yellowstone. And I’m sorry, but I never could make myself feel comfortable with taking you to Grand Canyon, even though it’s been less than half a day’s drive for the past eighteen years. My heart couldn’t bear the thought of you anywhere near the edge of an impossible precipice. And Disneyland remains elusive as a family getaway, even though most of you have managed to get there on your own.

I’d like to think we’ll somehow manage one last ginormous family vacation with all the spouses and *babygrands. Maybe that’s why family reunions happen; attempts at reliving or making up for the past.

I’m pretty sure we made good use of our weekends, summers and holidays. I hope you feel the same. Those rank as some of my favorite memories together.

Would surely love some more evenings by a campfire with ya’ll again sometime.

All my love,

Mom

 

*babygrands = grandbabies or grandchildren

photo-23 copy 5

 

 

“…there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some.”

~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

 

 

 

Categories: Friday Letters, Fun, Memory Lane, Outdoors, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

A Disturbance in the Force

Did you feel it?

I’m sure I did. My heart did this fluttery, skipping a beat, then a rushing to catch up weird sensation earlier this week. Like a balloon deflating there was suddenly no energy in the room.

My cousin, Darrin Olsen, almost thirty-three years old, passed away.

Darrin lights up a room when he walks in. He’s one of those people everyone is so happy to have show up. The vibe around him is upbeat and pulsing with life and excitement.

Whether he’s telling a joke, goofing off in front of a camera, or playing Ultimate Frisbee, he is all in, one hundred percent going for it. Talk about infectious laughter and smiles! Just saying the name Darrin puts a smile on the face of anyone who knows him.

Clearing skies over Morgan, Utah

(Photo credit: coty creighton)

I’d like to think he’s had a nice visit with Grandpa and Grandma Olsen and a couple of other cousins. Then, I envision him on a phenomenal hike in the heavens with a view unmatched here on earth.

I’m thinking he’s figuring out if he can do an ultimate bungee jump from there to here, just for the thrill of it. He’ll be able to talk whoever is in charge into it, no doubt, with that charming smile of his. I can here it now. “Sure, Gumpers, for you, I’ll bend the rules a bit. Here’s the bungee cord. Have fun!”

Ah, Darrin, you are already missed so much by so many.

Get a team together for a game of Ultimate for the rest of us when we get there. It’ll be epic!

In the meantime, feel the love we’re all sending your way.

Categories: Death, Hope, Memory Lane, People | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I Have Never

Kami:

Here’s a throwback to a year and a half ago. It still seems very relevant. Hope you enjoy it.

Originally posted on Kami's Beautiful Morning:

Grand Canyon, Arizona. The canyon, created by ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have never been to Disneyland, or Disneyworld.  I have been inside the Disney store at the mall.

I have never visited the Grand Canyon in the fifteen years we’ve lived in Arizona.  I saw it when I was thirteen and not yet afraid of heights.  I wrote poetry about it, even.

I have never jumped out of an airplane and never intend to.

I have never ridden in a hot air balloon.  Not so sure I want to do that. Although it looks peaceful, the height thing might get to me.

I have never traveled outside of the United States.  Unless you count British Columbia on a day trip.  I guess you could, it’s Canada, after all, right?  You’d think I’d have made it to Mexico by now, but haven’t had much reason, money or desire to do that.

I have never been overseas either.  That’d…

View original 383 more words

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 747 other followers

%d bloggers like this: