Secret Code Words of Sanity

Dear J, J, L and L,

It’s Friday. Time for another letter to the four of you. And I’m blank as a chalkboard on a Saturday morning. Do they even use chalkboards anymore, except as memes on Facebook and for coffee shop signs?

Oh, wait. I just thought of something.

There’s a few sayings or specific words we share as a family or at least as certain family members that almost always make my face bust open into a smile.

Not the actual hairbrush...

Not the actual hairbrush…

For instance:

Watch out for the hairbrush!

Tan Van.

The Grasshopper.

It’s a sign!

Tight!

Israel and Palestine.

Praying mantis.

Fabulous.

It makes you feel alive.

I’m FINE.

Is everyone in the car?

Apples to Apples, lots of laughs.

Apples to Apples, lots of laughs.

Inventory.

Remember the beanie baby.

Peace on earth, good will toward siblings.

It’s either men or a cheap motel.

This is the life.

Organize the garage.

Keep your hands and feet inside the ride…

And probably a couple dozen others you could add.

Not one of these phrases or words mean the same thing to other people that they mean to us. And I love that. They’re like code words that unlock secret doors of laughter.

No restrictions.

No restrictions.

They evoke, at times, noteworthy stories of endurance, hilarious memories and weird happenings that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. Some of them serve as coping mechanisms to keep insanity at a safe distance. All of them define our weird sense of humor and unique family chemistry.

I like us. I mean I really, really like us.

I like our family history, as painful, silly, nonsensical, weird and tragic as it occasionally turned out. If I wrote it out as a novel, no one would believe it. You had to live it to see how really strange a group we were/are.

And yet, if you look around you, and listen to a few people on occasion (or watch any reality TV at all) we have the most normal, boring, typical family on the block. Seriously.

And that’s a little frightening, don’t you think?

If we’re normal, is there any hope for the rest of the world?

I hope so.

I hope other families laugh as much as we tried to. I hope other families have their inside jokes and silly pranks or strange movie quotes. I know one family who has a plaque by the front door that reads, “Have fun storming the castle.” That’s a good sign…

I hope you have your own secret code words and phrases that no one else gets. If you do, you’ll be just fine.

Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.

I love you tons!

Mom

~~~~~

Remember...

Remember…

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

“Perhaps,” the Grinch Said, “I’ve A Few Questions For You”

I have a question for you...

I have a question for you…

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.”

What is it about Dr. Seuss’s classic tale that we all admire so much?

  • Do we secretly feel the same way the Grinch does? I have at times felt just that way.
  • Do we wish for a Christmas morning filled with nothing but simple joy in our hearts and a song on the breeze? Surely I have, or something like it.
  • Is there part of us that wants a something in our lives or hearts to undergo an instantaneous change? Of course, but reality doesn’t work that way, does it?

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” tugs at nearly every string we attach to the holiday. We read or watch then we laugh and feel all warm and fuzzy. And then we bust out our shopping lists, our baking lists, our to-do lists, our stress and our craziness.

But.

What if?

  • What if you woke to nothing? No tree, no gifts, no feast, no traditional anything? Would it still be Christmas?
  • Have you ever gone without Christmas? I mean, really had no Christmas. No tree. No gifts. No candy. No stocking. No great meal. No thing to mark the day as significant and distinct.

(And, no I’m not talking about a trip to some fun or exotic location in lieu of gifts and such.)

  • Did this happen on purpose, because you gave your Christmas to another family?
  • Or did it happen due to incredibly difficult circumstances in your life?
  • Or did the stuff of Christmas not happen for some other reason?

I’d really like to know.

(Please comment below, anonymously even if you want.)

“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

star-wallpapers-22

Categories: Holiday, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Pay Attention to the Signs: or My Grand Grand Adventure

Grand doesn't begin to describe it.

Grand doesn’t begin to describe it.

It’s Gratituesday! I found out that you CAN go home again, after a fashion, and I’m thankful for that.

At thirteen years old I experienced the grandeur that is Grand Canyon. At the time I had two less siblings than I do now. So Mom and Dad only had five of us to keep track of. It’s a good thing back then that my Momfear genes hadn’t kicked in gear yet or I’d have been a total wreck.

We visited the North Rim, the less traveled and higher side. Ponderosa Pines line the roads all the way in to the edge. I love, love, loved my experiences there. Sunrise and sunset at the canyon invites heavenly choirs and every other supernal hyperbole one can imagine.

And then I never went back.

Why? Fear of heights kicked in for one thing. And living on the other side of the country presented obstacles for a while. But for the past eighteen years, living a mere three or four-hour drive away, I had no good excuse. Except I didn’t think I could survive having my children standing on a precipice with a mile drop off. Nope. I’m pretty sure I’d have died of a heart attack or anxiety attack or both.

Dad and Mom, spring chickens on an adventure.

Dad and Mom, spring chickens on an adventure.

During Dad and Mom’s visit here in November they decided they wanted to take me to the Grand Canyon. “Of course!” I said. “What am I thinking? I must be nuts!” I thought to myself. I can’t say no to my parents. (Oddly, it wasn’t a problem when I was a kid.)

I found it a bit ironic that the first time I visited the Grand Canyon and the only other time I visited a few decades later involved my parents taking me there. I am a grownup, after all.

I didn’t feel so very grownup next to the edge of that massive, gaping fissure in the earth. Even with fences and railings my legs turned to jelly and my stomach did this rollercoaster thingy. That’s a perfectly legitimate guttural response to danger.

Do you see this sign?

Important sign.

Important sign.

Here, look closer!

Important sign.

Very Important sign.

Yes. This sign. It’s in multiple languages! For good reason! This is an important sign. (Oddly it’s only about twelve inches wide and sits low to the ground. You’d think it’d be the size of a billboard with flashing lights at eye level. Government operating at it’s best there, folks.)

And yet millions of visitors go hang out on the edge every single year. Why? Because this place defies AMAZING! And logic seems to vacate brains in the face of such wonders.

White-knuckling it even with a fence and railing to keep me safe.

White-knuckling it even with a fence and railing to keep me safe.

A couple of people there had brought their dogs on a leash, and the dogs, bless their little palpitating hearts, did not want to go anywhere near the edge of the canyon. Smart animals!

One of my coping mechanisms of dealing with the terror I felt involved noticing the people around me. I can’t tell you how many different languages I heard spoken. And this wasn’t even during tourist season. We’re talking a Monday in November! And still the place teamed with humans from all over the planet. This made me feel really silly for not taking advantage of this stunning world wonder in my backyard. People fly from Tibet and Russia and Argentina and literally everywhere across the globe to my little desert state to visit this hole in the ground.

Layers and colors galore.

Layers and colors galore.

It’s a bit more than a hole. It’s epic. It’s Grand. It’s stunning.

The Grand Canyon defies description. I know people have tried. I’ve read some of the attempts. The place boggles my brain. How did something like this come to be? Was it really some gradual etching away by a tiny river? I have a hard time believing that. Seems like some massive flood of an interior sea had to have carved out such intensity. Or perhaps a cataclysmic earthquake pulling and pushing from the very center of the earth birthed such a wonder and then, rain and wind and erosion worked its slow magic on the fissure.

Crayola has nothing on the color spectrum that Grand Canyon provides. Every hue of red, orange, tan, green, gray, brown, gold, black, white and yes, even blue and purple began its life there. I could spend a week or more in that place and not get saturated with all it offers in color, sight, sound and smell.

Look close and you can see the virga.

Look close and you can see the virga.

While we were there a thin veil of clouds hovered at eye level between the south side, where we were, and the north side. The cloud released raindrops that evaporated before falling very far. Meteorologists call that virga, I call it art. An hour later the temperatures had dropped enough that the virga turned to tiny pellets of snow dusting the heads of visitors while the sun shone bright through the thin clouds. It felt like a moment of magic.

That's MSH in the bright orange sweatshirt on the edge, no railing whatsoever.

That’s MSH in the bright orange sweatshirt on the edge, no railing whatsoever.

Then, breaking the spell, MSH wandered out past the danger sign on to a ledge with a few other foolish souls. I told him I’d kill him if he fell. He had previously been saying how jealous he was of the birds who could fly out over the edge, swooping around, riding the columns of air. So I was more than your average nervous at this point. I couldn’t breathe while he stood out there, no fence to stop him or others from oopsing off the edge.

Getting me a bit sidetracked, Dad took up a conversation with a small group who spoke something Spanish sounding. Nope, he doesn’t speak Spanish, but they managed to communicate nonetheless. One of them pointed to herself and said, “Machu Pichu.” We understood that to mean she’s from Peru! Dad also overheard someone talking in a Russian dialect and yes, he does know a little Russian, so he chatted briefly with them. Boy were they surprised that an American could do that!

Finally after what felt like hours, MSH wandered back from the edge of death-by-falling-four-thousand-feet and I could start breathing again. He joked that it wasn’t the fall that kills you, but the landing that does you in. Not funny in the least.

Elk are big animals.

Elk are big animals.

We almost literally ran into a herd of elk. I, of course, jumped out of the car and ran across the road to take a closer picture. Those critters stand really, really tall, and foolish me stood only ten feet away. I’m sure they had a conversation among themselves that involved the words, stupid, human, squash and extinct. But I don’t speak Elk so I didn’t worry too much. I did get some great photos of these magnificent creatures.

In my younger years a part of me wanted to hike the canyon to give me a different perspective. I had set what seemed like a reasonable goal date, which has sadly come and gone. Part of me knew I was crazy and being unrealistic. Part of me still wants the experience. Visiting there renewed that desire.

I plan on going back again soon and staying longer, exploring more. Wouldn’t a Colorado River trip give The Canyon a whole different feel? Sounds fun to me. No potential falls involved.

Thank you Dad and Mom for helping me experience the Grand Canyon, both times. I loved sharing something so spectacular with two of my favorite people!

 

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 ~~~~~

“The glories and the beauties of form, color, and sound unite in the Grand Canyon – forms unrivaled even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets, and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain.” ~ John Wesley Powell

 

 

Categories: Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

Santa’s Staff Reorganized this Year

Friday Letter to my Kids: December 12, 2014 ~

Dear J, J, L and L,

'Tis the Season!

‘Tis the Season!

One of the hardest things in life is giving up something you love. You’ll each have to or have had to face this in one way or another. I think this year is my big year for having to finally let go.

I tried about five or six years ago, but found out, with only hours to spare, that you’d all be disappointed if I let go of this one. How could I let my kids down? Sure, you were all in your late teens and twenties then, but reality doesn’t always want recognition.

“What they heck is she talking about?” I can hear you thinking already. It’s even difficult for me to talk about it. But I can do this. Here and now.

As you’ve known for some time now, I’m one of Santa’s helpers in this part of the country. He’s kept me busy over the years. It looks like last year was my final year. I had hoped for one more chance to strut my stuff at my speciality, but Santa had other ideas and didn’t really let me know I wasn’t officially on the team until a month or so ago. I suspected something like this, but have been in denial.

I loved my position as Chief Stocking Acquisition and Surprise Fulfillment Coördinator – CSASFC. I made it a personal quest for the entire year to locate some unexpected small trinkets and extra delicious treats for plumping out those stockings.

That one year where I tried the new and improved smaller stockings definitely backfired. I nearly lost my position over that one. But contrition won out and Santa kept me on, albeit with a slight cut in pay and no bonus that year. Sigh. Disappointment abounded, that’s for certain. The next year more than made up for it, at least I hope so.

Honestly, Santa probably should have let me go years ago, but I begged and pleaded. Made a great case for how very much-needed I thought I was. He has a tender heart and couldn’t break mine, so he let me hang on these past few years when the job should have passed on to younger associates. What a good guy!

I’ll be fine. Really.

See's, a day's dosage.

See’s, a day’s dosage.

Not sure I can bring myself to hang up a stocking for your Dad and I this year, since, as you now know, part of my job also included filling those stockings. But Santa assured me that I would weather this first year of retirement just fine. He recommended extra doses of hot chocolate, easy on the hazelnut creamer, heavy on the peppermint. So far, that’s helped quite a bit. I may have to resort to adding a prescription grade of chocolate orange sticks to the mix though. And I have a gift card from See’s, (thanks to the Valentine bunny, or is that Easter cupid?) Whatever. I can go with that good stuff if I have to. I’ve heard great things about Lindor Truffles too, but I’ll only resort to those if all else fails.

Anyway, I’m sorry to be the bearer of sad news. You probably saw this coming long before I did. Nothing sadder than an aging baseball player or arthritic basketball star pretending that they’re still at the top of their game. Nothing sadder except a Santa’s helper who won’t let go of the job when retirement age has come and gone.

You all probably have plenty to do with your own Santa assignments this year, so I’ll keep this short.

All I have left to say is this. It’s been a pleasure and a delight working with Santa all these years. I will miss this job, but I’ll probably get over it. Whatever shape your own Santa responsibilities take, just know this: the years fly by and before your know it you’re reluctantly passing the baton on to your successor. Enjoy every frazzled minute of it!

I’m gonna go bake up some sugar cookies and lick frosting from my fingers, right after I make a batch of divinity and a double batch of toffee. I’ll be just fine.

Merry Christmas!

Lots of love,

Mom

~~~~~

photo-25 copy 16

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” ~ Buddy

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

The Sound of Heavenly Peace

holly ivyHave you ever wished you could talk with someone who has died? How do you picture something like that coming about? An ethereal mist with somewhat human form? A tangible person appearing from nowhere? Simply hearing a voice? How about just a feeling?

A couple of times my friend Kathy has “spoken” to me, but only in a kind of “I know what she’d say in this situation if she were here” sort of way. Like the first time I got a diet Cherry Coke from Sonic without her in the seat beside me. The thought came to me that she’d say, “Girl! Open the sunroof, crank the tunes and enjoy that diet Coke!”

Nah, I didn’t hear her voice at all. Just the memory of her in my head.

Then there’s the times I’ve had a conversation and said something really negative or pessimistic. “Kathy would get after me for saying that,” I think to myself.

By Wle2 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Wle2 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Still, not what I’ve wanted, or hoped for or thought I needed. I’m pretty sure she said all she needed to say to me while she still lived and breathed. But this month I’m finding myself reliving and reviewing last December, since it was Kathy’s last month of this life. I can’t not do that.

So what does all that have to do with my Gratituesday today?

Kathy finally spoke to me, indirectly, but as directly as she could. Consider this quote before you read on: “If it weren’t for music, I would think that love is mortal.” ~Mark Helprin

Kathy’s husband woke in the middle of the night a month or so ago with the thought that “Kami needs to go to this Christmas concert I’m singing in.” He tried to ignore the thought and go back to sleep, but the it persisted. So he messaged me and then, a few weeks later, gifted me these tickets.

Saturday night MSH and I attended the concert. I tried not to have high expectations. It’s just a big two hundred and fifty member choir and an orchestra. Nothing professional. And I didn’t want to be disappointed by, I don’t know, Kathy not walking across the stage and waving hello to me or some such ridiculous incarnation like that.

And yet, life can surprise you.

The Christmas song Stille Nacht (ca. 1860) by Franz Xaver Gruber (1787–1863).

The Christmas song Stille Nacht (ca. 1860) by Franz Xaver Gruber (1787–1863).

The title of the concert? “Heavenly Peace.”

From the first note my heart opened up and tears dripped from my eyes like a faucet left on. Why? Because the music communicated peace right to the middle of me. I felt cradled and comforted by the harmonies. Oddly, the lyrics didn’t matter as much as the warmth that radiated through sound waves swirling around me.

Songs of delight and child-like frivolity also danced across my heart. A sweet preschool choir communicated the innocence and excitement of the holidays. A tonal poem of one word repeated drew a colored sound picture so exquisite.

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

Photo by nosyme (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

The final number, though, gave new meaning to the word breathtaking. Bagpipes and dancers, chimes, singers in the balconies, singers overflowing the stage, every single participant pouring their everything in to each note! I literally had to catch my breath multiple times to keep my emotions in check. The sheer joy of the Christmas season with generosity and fun, lights and song, focus and tradition, shot through my heart like lasers swooshing about the room. I felt lifted and renewed and saturated with incredible hope.

I felt Kathy communicating, “Feel that? That’s how I feel now! I feel relief and joy and freedom and incomprehensible love.”

I’m thankful today for music’s power to transcend ordinary communication. I’m grateful for musical artists who give with such abandon to their craft. I’m indebted to people who pay attention and respond promptly to nudges and thoughts and then follow through with generosity and love. I thank Kathy for getting through to me and showering down blessings from heaven. I’m overwhelmed with the joy of this Christmas season.

Thank you to any and all who had a part in this singularly magnificent Christmas gift.

musical notes

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

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

Black Inner Tubes and Snowy Hills: Or How I Survived Childhood Winters and Lived then to Learn to Ski

“Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.”  ~Dave Barry

Photo by MHBowden

Photo by MHBowden

I grew up practically on a mountain, with snow five feet deep in our front yard every winter. (Except for that one inversion year when nothing but fog accumulated.) On the other side of the mountain lived a ski resort. A tiny one, but a place to ski nonetheless. The closest I ever came to skiing as a child or a teen involved black rubber inner tubes, defective ones apparently, because they always inflated lopsided.

Have you ever ridden an inner tube down the side of a mountain on the snow? If not, I have just given you a perfect bucket list item. You might want to save it as the very last item on your bucket list, though, as possibility of severe injury seems rather high.

On an inner tube you have absolutely no control over where you go, how fast you go or if/when you stop. (Why does it feel like I just described life? Hmmm.) The most likely outcome involves bodies splayed across the snow or wedged against objects or perched atop bushes and rocks with the inner tube still rocketing off into the distance another half mile or so. (Life metaphor again? Weird.)

Death Spiral

Photo by Iain Laurence

Photo by Iain Laurence

The advantage of having to hike so far to retrieve the inner tube comes in the contemplative time one has to reconsider the wisdom of perching atop the tube once more for another possibly life threatening ride to infinity and beyond. Unfortunately, screams of joy and terror, (which sound eerily alike to a youngster) push all logic and sanity out of ones frozen head and you find yourself yelling “COWABUNGA” as you leap on  the tube and launch yourself once more into a death spiral of epic proportions.

For that extra measure of danger we often careened in the dark, which added a sense of insanity to an already thrilling adventure. Surprisingly I and my siblings survived many winters participating in this sport.  Oddly, tubing hasn’t risen to the stature of an Olympic event yet. I suppose scoring could present a problem. Highest points for furthest launch from a tube? Extra points for landing in a tree? Bonus points for spinning more than ten times on the way down? It ought to rank in the X-games at least.

Back on Topic Now

But I meant to speak of skiing. My first time. Oddly enough riding an inner tube and using a set of skis and poles have frighteningly similar outcomes, especially those first few times down the hill.

Having slippery sticks attached to cement encased feet does not provide one with a sense of security or control. Neither, surprisingly, does having sharp pointy objects in either hand lend a sense of comfort or assurance. In fact, I wondered at first if MSH had grown tired of marriage after only four months of “bliss” and had found an easy way to dispose of me, à la Robert Redford in a mafia. Whoops, there she goes off a cliff. “I told her not to go down that black diamond run, but she insisted.”

Nah. MSH just wanted to share something he loved with the love of his life. Little did he know what an adventure he’d signed up for. (Life metaphor again?)

Evil Trees

Much like tubing down a snow-covered hill, my most vivid memory of my first day skiing involved a people-eating tree and my limbs hopelessly entangled in the branches of said tree. One leg pointed north while the other leg seemed wedged more south-southeast. Meanwhile one ski pointed down. The other ski had somehow become one with the snow. The poles, miraculously, didn’t shishkabob me, for which I was ever so thankful.

I tried my best to untangle and disengage to no avail. MSH “helped” by explaining which leg to move where, which didn’t help at all since I’d lost most feeling in my legs and couldn’t identify left from right. If I recall correctly I threw my poles his general direction along with a few select words, which I won’t share here. He finally helped by physically moving one of the skis. Once both legs aimed approximately in the same direction, after five minutes of struggle I managed to reach an upright position.

I think I threw a tantrum after that. Or maybe during that. In no uncertain terms, I let MSH know how unimpressed I felt with this sport of skiing. I also may have mentioned that I’d never, ever participate in such nonsense again.

Chocolate Saves the Day

Photo by By Baileypalblue

Photo by By Baileypalblue

Of course, after some hot chocolate in the lodge, and watching people shoosh and swoosh effortlessly for an hour, and getting bored beyond reason I found myself attempting to hitch a ride on a lift, all skiwampus, with my pride firmly buried in a snowdrift.

I eventually, somewhat mastered the art of something beyond the pie wedge style of beginners. I’m happy to report that as a family we enjoyed some great times on the mountains in the snow over the years.

To this day my son (who learned to ski with no effort whatsoever at age three) still puts himself to sleep at night by imagining snowboarding down his favorite ski run at his favorite resort. He says it’s the most relaxing thing he can think of, as natural as walking but way more fun.

It’s been a few years (a decade?) since I last threatened my poor knees with such reckless behavior as skiing. All for the best I’m sure. I’m satisfied to have the occasional falling dream and waking to memories of my youth careening down the side of a mountain on a black inner tube.

Ah. Those were the days.

Photo by Dbenbenn

Photo by Dbenbenn

~~~

There are really only three things to learn in skiing:  how to put on your skis, how to slide downhill, and how to walk along the hospital corridor.  ~Lord Mancroft

Categories: Fun, Humor, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…Autumn?

Woke to the sounds of rain this morning. Second only to the hush and muffle of snowfall, rain makes me want to put on my raincoat, grab an umbrella and get outside.

Rainy skies, golden trees, no people. Perfect.

Rainy skies, golden trees, no people. Perfect.

Given than I think of this place as my Riparian Preserve, I loved that the place appeared abandoned when I arrived. I didn’t cross paths with a single person until the last five minutes. A photographer with a tripod making his way toward some wonderful scenery to shoot seemed a bit put off by seeing another human, as was I. We successfully ignored the existence of each other and went our separate routes.

How can I possibly describe the scene today? The diffused light through low clouds muted and highlighted colors. Today’s cloud filtered light particularly played up the yellows and enhanced the grayish brown of everything else. Greens, of course, seemed greener, but golds sang out in the rain-light like a soprano in a choir.

Don’t take my words for it. They’re inadequate today. Stroll along with me, imagining the sound and feel of rain on your raincoat and the not particularly cold water seeping through to your wool socks.

Today's stand-in for the sun.

Today’s stand-in for the sun.

Here in the desert autumn isn’t. We don’t really get to experience that particular season. At best we usually get a hard freeze for a night or two in late December or January which turns the deciduous leaves dark brown and drops them to the ground a day later. Nothing pretty about that. But this year serves as a delicious exception. Lows in the high thirties and low forties have kissed the leaves and made them blush red or brighten to a golden hue.

Most of the water birds stayed quieter than usual today. I’m not sure what’s up with that. Why would rain shush them? The ducks stayed tucked in, beaks nestled under a wing while they sat or floated quietly. The night herons seemed more stoic than normal not flying off when I approached. Jumpy best describes a few of the shore birds, as if they don’t know how to behave when it rains. Not a hummingbird or yellow finch in sight, snuggled up inside their tight little nests, I’m sure.

At times the trail was more puddle than path, but I managed. No speed walking or jogging going on here. Just a slow meander. Sure my toes got wet as I knew they would so I’d put on wool socks and didn’t mind the damp at all.

I’m glad I ignored the to-do list this morning, threw on a hat over my sleep scruffy hair and spent an hour under rainy skies. Such moments happen rarely here and want savoring. Desert Autumn or Winter rains, whatever name it goes by suits me just fine.

The gold up close, seems a bit worn and ready to drop.

The gold up close, seems a bit worn and ready to drop.

~~~~~

“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” ~Roger Miller

Categories: Nature, photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

Zoned Out But Still Laughing

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m thankful for sleep when it comes easily. Last night it played hide and seek all over the house and I didn’t find it until two hours before the alarm went off.

As a result my thinking cells called in a vacation day. An unfortunate outcome since I needed to use those particular neurons for a little while at least.

When all else fails, turn to humor. At least that what I tell myself, often. So, I found some funny quotes about gratitude and decided to share. (I used my new Photofy app. Fun huh? Easy even for the sleep-deprived to use.)

 

Pretty self explanatory.

Pretty self explanatory.

*****

I love Will Rogers folksy humor and insight.

I love Will Rogers folksy humor and insight.

***

Sometimes you have to lie to yourself to keep on keeping on...

Sometimes you have to lie to yourself to keep on keeping on…

 

That’s all my brain cells let me do today. Here’s hoping you’re finding plenty to keep you laughing and grateful. Here’s hoping I can sleep tonight.

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Seeing Through the Eyes of a Child Circa the 1960’s

By Noël Zia Lee (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Noël Zia Lee (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Do you remember how exciting December was when you were six or seven years old? Not quite old enough to stop believing in Santa, and still young enough to take in the fun, food and crazy excitement in the air. No pressures, just sheer anticipation and a long month of counting down ‘how many days left until school let out for the holidays.’

I loved going down town in our little city and walking the slushy sidewalks, seeing and hearing the bell ringers on the street corners, peeking in the windows of the shops. My feet still remember that sudden whoosh of surprise at catching an extra sloshy pile of snow and having it slip inside my shoe. I’d stand at the corner, my gloved hand in Mom’s, stamping my foot while waiting for the police officer with his whistle to make certain the road was clear before we crossed the street. I loved the crowds of people, the decorated light poles, the bustle of it all.

The Five and Dime store held my interest even more than the candy counter and the elevator at the department store during that time of year. Slowly making my way down each aisle I’d look at all the treasures I could possibly buy to give as gifts to my siblings and parents. I imagined their surprise at opening up a wrapped package with such wonders tucked inside. I pictured their happy faces and knew I’d absolutely have to buy this item or that trinket. At least, until I happened upon the next perfect gift. Choosing among such possibilities seemed beyond my abilities at such a young age. Back then I think I’m certain that price held little meaning and the decision process probably involved my mother ruling out the overpriced items.

Occasionally I’d see some toy that spoke to my soul. I knew I’d stumbled on the gift that surely Santa would leave for me under the tree. I didn’t always tell Mom about it, though, since I didn’t recognize her important role in making certain Santa knew what I dreamed of receiving.

By Dough4872 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Dough4872 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We’d also make a separate trek downtown with the entire family to visit the Christmas Village with those traditional lighted walkways and glittering trees. It seemed as though nothing ever changed; the same lights and displays in the same place each year lent continuity and stability to my young life. And, of course, it seemed we always picked the coldest night of the year for this endeavor, for no amount of bundling kept me warm enough. Fortunately hot chocolate waited for us in a thermos in the car and sleep usually overtook me on the drive back home. Is there anything to compare with being carried inside from the car to the bed, sleep barely nudged by the removing of boots and gloves and coat? I think not. I felt so very loved in that act.

I also recall walking door to door with a small group of neighbors, carrying plates of goodies and decorated boxes filled with fruit and treats. We’d stop at the homes of mostly widows and elderly people. We’d sing some Christmas carols, with me mangling the words as I tried my best to sing along. As we’d leave each house we’d belt out “we WISH you a merry Christmas” which I knew well and could sing loudly and with confidence. I don’t recall feeling particularly cold, in spite of trudging through snow, while singing and treating. I think being in a group kept me warm, but it could have been some warmth within from the joy of it all that kept me toasty.

Dave Hitchborne [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Dave Hitchborne [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On Christmas eve we’d ask Dad (since he had the biggest foot size) if we could borrow one of his socks to set out for Santa to fill. We didn’t have a fireplace, so we set them on the floor next to the furnace knowing full well that we’d find an orange, some nuts and some candy plumping up each sock.

I’m sure I’m idealizing what I remember. But isn’t that what we do with our childhood?

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m remembering it all exactly as I experienced it. After all, I didn’t have glasses yet and the world still came across as a bit hazy and foggy. My focus, being nearsighted, always zeroed in on nearby and up close things. The rest of the world melted to the background while I lived in a bubble. What a wonderful world, too!

I like to imagine I could put all those memories in a sort of snow globe that I shake up several times during the month of December. The flakes fall around that idyllic distant scene and I look on with child-like yearning for a Christmas long past.

Categories: Holidays | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Learning to Share Again and Again

Friday Letter to my Kids – Nov 28, 2014

Dear J, J, L and L,

Your Dad and I just spent the quietest Thanksgiving Day ever. Just the two of us, here at home, no big dinner, no outings, no football. I don’t say that with any negativity whatsoever! No, I actually really enjoyed it. We slept in. I wrote some, made homemade caramels, listened to an audio book, went on an evening walk, put up the outside Christmas lights with your Dad and generally enjoyed a slow day sitting in my porch swing every chance I got.

By Rennett Stowe from USA (Walking in Yosemite  Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Rennett Stowe from USA (Walking in Yosemite Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

All that was okay because we had our Thanksgiving Dinner/Day last Friday with little J and family in town for a visit. The day felt every single bit like all of our other Thanksgiving days. I spent the day before baking more pies than we can eat. I planned out a schedule for getting all the food cooked and hot at the same time. Littles ran around and fussed and napped. We hung out and talked and reminisced and laughed and snacked until the food finally, finally, finally was ready for the table.

With all that perfection six days early, we didn’t need some imitation version with just the two of us, or some random group of people. I felt such immense gratitude that day that it’s carried me through an entire week.

My only regret found purchase on the niggling fact of little L’s absence. We should have Skyped with you. But I worried it might make you feel a little sad to not be part of things. I should have done it anyway.

It’s part of the sharing thing I seem to have to keep learning, I suppose.

You all used to feel like mine, all mine. I didn’t have to share you with anyone. Which I really liked. But then each of you fell in love, got whisked away by it and began your own families. Which I always dreamed you’d do.

I find it ironic that what we really want for someone often carries with it a kind of backwash of sorrow.

I love that you’re each so loved and so in love. That some of you have started sharing that love with little ones of your own makes my life exponentially grander, brighter and so joyous I can hardly contain it. Nothing makes a parent happier than to see their children truly happy.

Part of that happiness means I have to share you with that person you fell in love with. And, even more so, I get to share you with your beloved’s family. In fact, you became part of their family as much as you’re part of ours.

That all means sharing you for holidays, without being insistent or demanding or childish about where you choose to spend that time. I accept whatever arrangements your life requires because of love. But my acceptance doesn’t make me miss you less, or make all our shared times from the past any less valued.

Apparently, that’s the way it’s all supposed to happen.

This photo is part of National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress)

This photo is part of National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress)

We start out learning to share our toys, our dolls or dump trucks, moving on to sharing a bedroom and clothes and parental love with siblings. As we grow we learn the hard lessons of sharing among friends and that girl boy messiness. We learn to share our time, our means, our dreams. We share what gifts we came with and those gifts we’ve learned so we can see joy on others faces. Hopefully the learning curve of sharing lets us give within a marriage sufficient to meld two souls into something stunning. And then, after raising a family with all its requisite sharing, you think you’re done, you’ve shared enough. But the sharing goes on as you give away those precious ones to a life separate from your own.

I never would have guessed at the abundance that comes from sharing. Even coming from what often seems like almost nothing, sharing happens and leaves in its place an exquisite gift.

Yes. I miss you when you aren’t here for holidays, or family dinners, or any of the other whatevers. But knowing that you’re happy makes all the difference. Know that I’m happy even in the missing of you.

I hope you find the holiday season extra bright this year.

All my love,

Mom

~~~~~

 “Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” ~Charlotte Bronte

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

Attempting to Let Go of the Scrappy Turkey

I’d like to introduce you to our turkey, born almost twenty years ago in Oklahoma. He’s looking worn around the edges and the middle. As you can see, he’s experienced better days.

Scrappy Turkey's seen better days.

Scrappy Turkey’s seen better days.

Born into an impoverished life, this turkey brightened one or two Thanksgivings in spite of his motley appearance and bedraggled state.

This multi-kid-crafted guy sat on the kitchen table for the month of November, or part of the month if I remembered too late. Scraps of paper and a pencil or pen sat nearby for scribbling down a daily something each of us in the family felt grateful for. Inconsistent at best, we all threw in a few thoughts during the month. Running up to the actual day of thanks we might’ve thrown in a few extra to make up for what we didn’t contribute during the busy month preceding.

Then sometime during the day, that fourth Thursday in November, we’d reach in to the turkey’s cavernous gallon sized innards and pull out those scraps of paper. And someone would read what our family felt counted as blessings, gratitudes, good things. We’d have a few brief moments of thoughtful gratitude or laughter and then get on to the pie or leftovers.

Some of the actual scraps of paper with blessings written down.

Some of the actual scraps of paper with blessings written down.

Some of those scraps I’ve saved all these years in the cardboard box labeled Thanksgiving decor. Every year when I pull out that box and set out my little scarecrows, faux fall leaves, and wicker pumpkins, I think about finally setting this poor old turkey free. But I can’t make myself do it. Sure, he’s too scraggly and chintzy to set out as a decoration, so he stays in the box. He long ago exceeded his usefulness and cuteness. But memories hover in and on and around the fowl little guy. How do I let him go?

Maybe this can count as a memorial of that brief span that our homemade turkey spent time on the table reminding us of the blessed life we lived. Especially since that life, at times, seemed held together by paper bits and cardboard tubes and empty milk cartons. Sometimes life still feels that way, taped and glued together, barely holding on, scrunched and crumpled and not so magnificent as in other, better days.

How do you let go of symbols? At what point can you say goodbye and let that be good enough?You’d think it’d be easy to toss this barely recognizable turkey. But nope. Can’t quite do it.

Maybe it just isn’t time to say adieu. Not yet. Not this year. Maybe next November.

I’ll try to remember to set him out on the kitchen table next year, albeit rougher and scrunchier. And then, I’ll set some scraps of paper nearby and a pencil. I’ll toss in my gratitude, and ask MSH to do the same, and visitors, too. And then, after reading all those scraps on Thanksgiving day, maybe then, I can let him go.

We’ll see.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

Short Days, Cold Nights

Nothing brings more joy and light into my home than a visit from one of my children. When they bring along their littles and a spouse, even better. The house nearly sings with baby giggles and cries, bubbles over with stories reminisced and glows with the warmth of family relationships rekindled and renewed.

And then all too soon, the vacation time ends. Farewells, hugs, goodbyes all around.

On the very day that lovely family visit draws to a close I feel a bit like a candle blown out, wisps of grey smoke trailing off in the chill morning air. I grasp hold of sweet moments, memories made, review photos snapped, hold close a blanket that snuggled a little one.

Winter light.

Winter light.

But warmth and joy elude me today. It’s like winter sun shining through a screened window. All light and no heat. Odd angles and too much brightness.

photo 3-4 copy 21

Bright but not very warm.

Instead I want to close the blinds and wallow in the shadows for just one day. One day to wish for lost days from years ago. One day to dream of living close to all the birds that have flown. One day to compare the silence to the noise and cherish both, oddly juxtaposed at strange angles.

A glass table adding dimension to the shadow.

A glass table adding dimension to the shadow.

Just for today I’ll mourn all my yesterdays. Tomorrow I’ll be glad again that I’m on this side of it all. I will. I’m certain of it.

At least, I hope so.

Categories: Family, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

Not Giving Up On Us: The Middle of A Strange Love Story

Friday letter to My Kids – 11/21/14

Dear J, J, L and L,

Remember the New Mexico camping misadventure? (Okay, I suppose little L wouldn’t remember since she was still in utero then, but you’ve heard the tale.) I’ve concluded that New Mexico, from what little I recall of it, makes Arizona deserts seem like lush tropical rainforests in comparison. Remember the windblown rock covered weird ramada reservoir campground we stayed at? Remember the scrambled egg in the dirt fiasco? Well guess what? I found a photo of those very eggs.

Trying again.

Trying again.

I’m only sorry there’s no video or audio to include. The dialogue and sound effects of cursing, tears, yelling and incessant forty-mile an hour winds would add so much to the scene. The lesson I learned? Don’t use lightweight backpacking equipment when the winds exceed most speed limits. Oh. And never, ever, no never, go camping in New Mexico.

That’s the only time I remember a camp breakfast going completely south. Normally, your Dad produced cuisine worthy of kings on that tiny burner. He always managed to keep all the food warm when cooking over a fire, too. He’s got some skill on the grill!

Another talent your Dad possesses, quite frankly, probably acted as the hook that pulled me in initially. The way he could spin me around on the dance floor, ultra-klutz that I am, left me feeling graceful and dizzy. I was giddy with the high he got me on swirling, swinging, and moving that night. (If guys knew the real way to a girl’s heart was on the dance floor, really dancing, they’d be lining up to take lessons. But they’re slow to learn this one important detail.)

Each of you girls have enjoyed Dad and Daughter dates, with that same thrill of being led around a dance floor, feeling every bit like a princess. Not too many Dad’s can do that, so count yourselves extra blessed for those experiences.

Of course there was that one time he wasn’t so graceful and debonair. I came home to a story about a failed grand j’ete over the couch. That horrid bruised toe left him limping for weeks afterwards. Luckily he laughs about it now.

To look at him you’d never guess at his wry sense of humor. He loves to laugh. That’s something he’s refined over the years. I think it’s one of the good ways I influenced him. I certainly gave him plenty to laugh about. And cry about. But then, the reverse proves true as well. We make interesting music together.

Your Dad’s piano playing, I hope, holds a sweet place in your heart. Beethoven’s Fur Elise always reminds me of him since it’s a song he played often over the years. And his version of Mason Williams’ Classical Gas still lights up the house with energy and fun. Just a couple of months ago two of my favorite little people danced up a storm while your Dad rocked the piano with some fun tunes.

His love of music drew me in when we first got to know each other. I’d never met anyone who preferred classical music to rock or pop. That placed him high on my list of classy guys. Imagine my surprise when I found out he liked The Moody Blues. Once I learned more about that group and their classical beginnings I understood his selection.

One of our backpacking adventures in North Carolina, I think.

One of our backpacking adventures in North Carolina, I think.

Your Dad mellowed in some big ways over the years. A little less perfectionistic, more flexible and way more fun. I like to think I influenced him in those good ways, but I’m afraid I wasn’t always good for him. The guy I met in college never cursed, that’s for sure. But then, the guy I met wouldn’t have gone camping or rock climbing either. So I suppose it balances out some.

We’re still a major work in progress, your Dad and I.  And that’s okay. At least the work still happens. I mostly credit your Dad with the fact that we’ve stuck it out. You know that Jason Mraz song, “I Won’t Give Up”? Yup, that one. It caught me by surprise when I heard it. Why? Because it sounded like something the two of us might say to each other if we were poetic and musical. We’re an odd team sometimes, polar opposites I often think, but we keep plugging away together anyway.

He’s a good, honest, kind, generous man. I’m a lucky woman.

Here’s a little secret I’ll let you in on. Each of you started out light years ahead of us in your own marriages, which means I have high expectations of marital bliss for you and your sweethearts. I envy that in you. I know you’ll hold on tight and enjoy the ride when it’s good, just as I know that you’ll make the best of things when the road’s scary and hard.

I just wanted you to know this one thing for certain because you saw it in writing: I love your Dad.

Yup, dirty scrambled eggs and all, I love that guy.

 

With love,

Mom

*~~~*~~~*

This is a link to that Jason Mraz tune I mentioned. It’s not the studio release version, but a pre-release of the song done in the UK. Just him and a couple of backup singers and a box. Yes, a box.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturevideo/musicvideo/live-music-sessions/10938389/Jason-Mraz-performs-I-Wont-Give-Up-music-session.html

Or, you can click on this one. But I think the video gives the song a different flavor and feel. So, close your eyes and listen. How about that?

 

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

It’s Probably for the Best

A little something for you to ponder.

Photo by Kettie Olsen

Photo by Kettie Olsen

“The most precipitous chapter of life always begins before we quite know it is under way.” ~ Ivan Doig, Worksong

 

(If you aren’t familiar with Ivan Doig’s writings, you’ll want to avail yourself of the privilege. He’s a master wordsmith able to leap large mountains with a single word.)

Categories: Books, Nature | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

The Happy Side of the Airport

I hung out today on the happy side of the airport.

Which side is that you ask?

Why the arrival side, of course.

By MSgt Mark C. Olsen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By MSgt Mark C. Olsen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

People pour down the walkway like milk from a tipped over gallon in little wavelets. Finally, blessedly, released from the tube of recycled air and far too intimate perimeters I could practically see bruised personal space bubbles fluff up and stretch. As they walked toward luggage, toward loved ones, toward whatever they flew here for, a sort of relaxation visibly enveloped nearly every person.

Hey, i even saw two smiling TSA agents. They must have just ended their shifts, because I’m fairly certain they aren’t allowed to smile on the job. At least, I’ve seen very few who do. (Can’t be an easy job, not sure I’d smile either.)

Three dogs also walked up from the deplaning area. Not by themselves. No, humans’ accompanied them. One rode very stylishly on a faux leopard skin doggie suitcase, its little head peeking out at the crowds. Oddly, all three dogs I saw were small white poodle-ish pups. Made me wonder why. I suppose bigger dogs either aren’t allowed or the owner would have to pay full fare for a seat just for the pooch.

I wondered what you’d do if you have doggie allergies and you get on a plane with one of these unusual passengers? Can you request a no doggie flight, like some people can request a no peanut flight?

Just curious. But not curious enough to research it.

By CPT William Carraway [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By CPT William Carraway [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The happy side of the airport most often involves hellos, hugs, kisses, smiles, laughter and cheering. Lots of good stuff going on there. Homecomings almost always feel like a blanket settling on your shoulders. I like that.

Of course, not every passenger gets a greeting in the terminal by someone they know. Some rush past all the mushiness like it’s a disease they might catch. Others dodge the huddled groups and couples with little notice or concern. And often, there’s a taxi, bus, shuttle, another flight, or a car waiting to take them away from this odd place of comings and goings. I would never refer to the arrival lanes outside as a happy place, even though happiness surely happens. It’s private and sheltered, not public. Plus, there’s too much exhaust, too much cigarette smoke, too much noise, too much rushing. it doesn’t feel happy. Not like inside feels happy.

I meant to take pictures, to better illustrate what I experienced as I waited almost an hour. ( I was a little overly excited to get there, and I also overestimated how long it would take to navigate rush hour traffic.) But somehow, even taking iPhone photos seemed intrusive and kind of, I don’t know, rude, I suppose. I attempted a photo of the dog/leopard skin bag but it was blurry and I felt sheepish afterwards. I don’t think I’m very stealthy. And I know I don’t want some stranger snapping my photo at an airport, or any public place for that matter.

I’ve always enjoyed people watching. I find it exceptionally rewarding at an airport both for the variety and the amount of people. Today’s excursion provided some vicarious joy while I waited. And then, my own giddy greetings and hugs made the day completely wondrous.

If you ever find yourself in need of a boost and an airport’s handy, I’d recommend a visit to the happy side.

Categories: Happiness | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Hey, Where Ya’ Going?

photo-33It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m thankful for toilets, indoor plumbing, sanitation systems and privacy! When the classic white porcelain seat isn’t available there’s almost always a portapotty nearby, at the fair, at an outdoor concert, out camping, at a family reunion. It’s been something I take for granted. It’s something I’m very thankful for.

Tomorrow, November 19 is World Toilet Day I think we need to celebrate in a big way. Seriously! But first, let’s start here.

Hot pink at a construction site.

Yup, Hot pink!

A couple years ago I started noticing port a potties. I shot a few photos of them when I’d see them in random spots. The first one to catch my eye? Pink. Yup. Pink at a construction site. I got a chuckle out of that one.

At the cell phone lot.

At the cell phone lot.

Not long after that I noticed an oversized blue “honey wagon” at the airport near the cell phone lot. I wasn’t sure if that was for people waiting for incoming flights, or for construction workers who needed a little extra room. Personally, I’d have to be really desperate to sidle over to that place, slip inside and get my work done. Airplanes overhead, traffic on either side, cars filled with people just sitting there bored.

Going on the go?

Going on the go?

Which brings up this one I saw, and others like it, that get towed along for road construction jobs. Cars whizzing past at fifty-five or sixty-five miles an hour and you sitting down roadside. I just don’t see it happening. But I guess you gotta do what you gotta do when you gotta do it. Right?

Speechless.

Speechless.

I wondered about this other moveable “honey bucket” as it rode on the back of a regular pickup truck. How did it get there? And how, pray tell, does one get it down off of there once it’s, um, filled the measure of its creation? Some things are just difficult to think about.

Grape scented, maybe?

Grape scented, maybe?

This newish looking purple portapotty stood sentry as a crew set up for some outdoor weekend event in downtown Phoenix. I wondered if they included grape scented air fresheners with that one. It’d be a nice touch, don’t you think?

Blue and orange dominate the color spectrum for these things. I never saw any yellow ones, which I find really really surprising. And red. Nada. Maybe because it’s too much like a big stop sign. No one needs that kind of mental blockage. You’d think green would get the go ahead but I never saw a green one either.

A little tipsy.

A little tipsy.

People get creative with naming these icons of regularity and sanitation. I liked these company logos: Port a John, Johnny on the Spot, Porta Loo, Sani Privy, Butt Hut, Outhouse, Moon Hut, Doodie Calls. And my favorite has a french sounding name, Oui Oui. (For you non-french speakers, that’s wee wee.)

Quite a variety of nomenclature for identifying toilets exists as well. Surely you’ve heard most of these: lavatory, bathroom, the little boy’s room, powder room, commode, restroom, facilities, latrine, ladies room, little girl’s room, washroom, the loo, men’s room, the reading room, WC, water closet, the john, urinal, the throne room, the head, comfort station, can, potty, privy and the porcelain throne.

A nice soothing blue.

A nice soothing blue.

On a wilderness trek we had a japanese style latrine. I felt bad for the guy who had to explain how to use it to us newbies. A couple people dug a deep narrow hole one could easily straddle,  leaving a pile of dirt and a shovel next to it. Turns out that it worked really well. But generally, going au natural, sheets to the wind and all, ain’t much fun. It’s most people’s least favorite part about camping or hunting.

That gratitude I feel about my indoor plumbing increased a few weeks ago when I read about World Toilet Day. Sounds hilarious, doesn’t it? It is! And it isn’t. It’s one of those subjects that people aren’t comfortable discussing except in a humorous way. Which gets in the way of solutions to big problems. For instance, this strange fact:

“Did you know that more people own a mobile phone than have access to a toilet?” ~ worldtoilet.org

What the heck? How is this possible? Yup. One third, yes, ONE THIRD of the world’s population still lack access to adequate sanitation. That’s over two billion people! That’s not a small problem. That’s a huge problem. Two billion people without a pot to squat on, a private place to go, a sanitized way to dispose of a daily necessity. Two billion!

How about this little known fact?

“1,000 children died per day from diarrheal diseases due to poor sanitation in 2013.”~worldtoilet.org

There’s nothing funny there. Not a single thing. The CDC puts those numbers even higher, in fact they estimate 2200 children under the age of five die each day. That’s 803,000 children per year dying because they and the people they live among have inadequate access to toilets and sanitation.

What a relief!

What a relief!

Surely there’s something we can do as people living in first world countries!

Good news. There is something we can do!

Please click over to worldtoilet.org and find a quick list of ten things you can do that will make a difference in the health and safety of men, women and children who lack this most fundamental of needs.

There’s lots of stupid stuff we spend our time on. Can’t we take a few minutes and pay attention to something of critical importance? Tweet or Facebook about this important issue using these hashtags:

#wecantwait #worldtoiletday #opendefecation #sanitation

What a convenience and a necessity!

What a convenience and a necessity!

Sometimes you have to laugh or else you’ll cry. Maybe we can do a little of both to get the ball rolling and get some people the help and facilities they need.

You could also watch and share the video below. Get people talking, break the code of silence and let’s get things moving!

“Clean and safe toilets are fundamental for health, dignity, privacy, equality and education.” ~worldtoilet.org

The next time you sit down to take care of your business, I hope you feel more than relieved, I hope you feel grateful. I know I do. Hopefully with a little help and attention from you and I, more people around the world can experience a cleaner, safer world.

~~~*~~~

Please, watch and share this video.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Humor, The World | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Panivorous? Then This Holiday’s Made Just For You

Today is Homemade Bread Day!

Luscious!

Luscious!

There’s nothing more comforting than the aroma of bread baking, unless it’s actually putting your lips around a warm slice slathered in butter. It’s one of the topics I write about frequently; all too often, I’m afraid. Like this one where I sing the praises of bread. And then I posted these recipes that I adore. And there’s more, which is silly, but not, since bread serves as both metaphor and sustenance in so many different forms.

Doesn't look that great to start, but just wait.

Doesn’t look that great to start, but just wait.

I plan on baking twice as many loaves as normal today as a way of celebrating this delightful little known holiday.

I love sharing my bread. I love the way someone’s eyes light up when I hand them a warm loaf. They all but hug it to their chest. They always lift it toward their face to catch the intoxicating scent. Their eyes almost glaze with a sort of nostalgia, even if they never had homemade bread while growing up.

I’d like to bake a fresh loaf every single morning, but that’s not realistic with only two of us in the house.

Maybe I ought to take up baking for a living, or at least as a little side job. It’s nice to imagine that a plethora of people want to experience the wonder of an imperfectly shaped but exquisitely flavored loaf on a regular basis. And I’d get the side benefit of a house that always smells like freshly baked bread. Mmmm.

photo 2-2 copy 30

Kneading sometimes provides therapy.

I could bake up six loaves every morning five days a week. That’s thirty extremely happy households regularly. Imagine the transformation in a neighborhood if more lips met more fresh-baked dough. Smiles would surely appear unbidden. Forgiveness would  spring forth almost instantaneously. Love would definitely find expression more frequently. Random acts of kindness might even become the norm and not even make the nightly news as something amazing and different. And, who knows, maybe even peace on earth might break out for an hour or two on occasion.

You laugh. But the power of bread exceeds the power of all other food groups combined. Even (gasp) chocolate! I kid you not.

Seriously, if you’re offered a hot loaf of homemade bread or some kind of chocolate, which would you choose? Be honest!

If you’re male you most likely picked the bread. Female, you probably chose chocolate covered bread. Am I right?

Wait some more.

Wait some more.

If it’s been a long while since you had a truly home-baked loaf of bread, fresh from the oven, still emanating warmth and goodwill when you laid hands on it, then you’ll have forgotten the joy and true power of bread. You’re overdue for a slice or two.

Man may not live by bread alone, but it’s certainly a staple of nearly every culture.

Even people with gluten intolerance or celiac’s disease search out replacements for that perfect mix of crusty crunchiness and inner softness. There’s little that can reproduce the oh-so-marvelous sensation of home-baked bread.

My favorite one-year old refuses almost all other sustenance aside from bread. Her mother makes a wondrous variety of breads and the child has decided she’s found manna and the promised land all in one food group. Oh sure, she’ll eat the random banana, or a green smoothie sometimes,  and she’s okay with pasta drenched in red sauce. But otherwise, it’s bread, or nothing. Smart kid.

Her mother learned that there’s a word for such people: panivorous. It means “subsisting on bread.”

Done rising and ready to bake!

Done rising and ready to bake!

I think I share the same trait. Muffins for breakfast. Bread with butter and cheese for lunch. A fresh loaf, just sliced and buttered, with a few spoonfuls of soup on the side for dinner. I guess I’m not quite a purist. But I could be. Just call me Super Panivore! Surely there’s a cape and tights to go with that, snug fitting but stretchy enough for the bit of tummy bulge sure to accompany such a super hero.

You could probably talk me into a loaf if you live locally. Or I might trade you something for it. For instance, I’m getting my lawn mowed for a loaf this week. Really! Hard to say who’s getting the better deal out of it. Someone brought me a Diet Coke yesterday when a headache threatened to take me down, so they’re probably getting some bread this week, too. Kind acts deserve kindness in return, don’t you think?

Bread’s not a difficult thing to learn to bake. Usually there’s five ingredients. Water, yeast, sugar, salt, flour. Occasionally a bit of oil or butter, or you leave out the sugar, or milk instead of water. Easy peasey. Really.

Can't wait to dive in!

Can’t wait to dive in!

I’ve promised a bread making lesson to a couple of friends a while ago. I need to follow through with that soon.

If you’re curious or feeling adventurous I found two YouTube videos that walk you through the basics of bread baking. I’ve included those links below. Be brave. Be daring. Treat yourself to some love and bake yourself a loaf or two. You’ll thank me or rather, you’ll thank yourself.

If all else fails, at least go buy a fresh loaf from a bakery. It won’t fill your house with loveliness, but your mouth will thank you, and so will anyone you share with.

Happy Homemade Bread Day!

***

Three minutes on the basics of homemade bread.

Fifteen minutes of bread making instruction, if you need a little hand holding.

~~~*~~~

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight… [Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” ~M.F. K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

 

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Best Advice I’ve Gotten In the Past Year? “Practice Radical Self-Care”

Great recs found here.

Great recs found here.

The best advice I got during the past twelve months wasn’t directed at me. And it arrived through an unlikely source, a Goodreads question and answer session.

I don’t usually follow or sign up for these sorts of things. I think the author’s work normally speaks for itself. But I made an exception this one time.  When Anne Lamott, the author of “Help! Thanks! Wow!” among other hilarious, heartfelt and honest books, accepted a stint on the Featured Author Chat over at Goodreads, I jumped on board eager to pick up some writerly advice and a few laughs.

The directness in Anne’s writing reminds me of my best friend who passed away early this year. They both have a no-holds-barred approach to communication. Say it like it is. Don’t worry about offending anyone. Speak truth. Let it all fall where it ought to.

Feels like I get an infusion of new oxygen in my blood after reading Anne’s books. I figured I’d more than enjoy reading what she has to say in a different medium.

Little did I know how helpful it would be.

Sure, she answered queries about writing and about her personal life. But then, a surprise question and an even more surprising answer came through.

In response to a reader’s question about how to deal with depression and discouragement, Anne Lamott’s answer jumped out at me as if it’d been highlighted with fluorescent green marker.

“Depressed and discouraged is really hard, and plenty to deal with. My response, if it was me, was to practice radical self-care, by being exquisitely kind and gentle and patient with myself, exactly as I would be with a friend. Love and gentleness are always the answer. “ – Anne Lamott, from a Goodreads discussion 12/12/13

“Practice radical self-care.”

I’ve said that to myself over and over ever since I read it. Even more so since a funeral and burial and the ensuing grief that’s hovered all year.

So we’ve all heard that “self-care” part of the equation over the years, right? But “radical?” And how do you care for yourself in a radical way?

I turn to my usual sources. I like the third Merriam-Webster definition of radical.

“Radical: very different from the usual or traditional : extreme.”

So I’ve looked at how I normally care for myself and I attempt to do the opposite, or at least a ninety degree shift.

Sounds difficult. But I’ve given it a try anyway.

So how do I “practice radical self-care”?

  • Letting myself ignore all my lists occasionally and the usual side of guilt they’re served with
  • I say “not right now” instead of “sure, anytime, anything”
  • Simply sitting and letting my mind go blank, often
  • Crying when the tears want to leak out
  • Laughing even if it goes against all reason or feels wrong
  • Planning something unprecedented, like getting a manicure, or a spur of the moment trip
  • Saying “No”
  • Reminding MSH that I’m not depressed, just grieving
  • Practicing my depression treatment steps, just in case
  • Accepting that sorrow and faith can coexist in the same brain
  • Journaling, several times a day if necessary, letting words carry some of the weight
  • Napping, earlier bedtimes, later wake times
  • Talking about how I’m feeling

The other part of what Anne said, I’d applied in situations involving others, but rarely with myself.

“Being exquisitely kind and gentle and patient with myself.

The key word there: “exquisitely,” as in “acutely perceptive, discriminating, intense.”

Kind, patient and gentle with myself. How could I go wrong? That was easier the first month or two after my friend died. But then I hit some preconceived notion of “times up” on the grieving thing and stopped being so easy on myself.
Photo by Kettie Olsen

Photo by Kettie Olsen

So I try again and again. And I remind myself again, as Anne said, “Love and gentleness are always the answer.”

I get radical. I care for myself. Practice exquisite patience and gentleness. I apply the concepts of love and kindness to myself. Kind of extreme ideas for me.

It’s a daily, sometimes hourly process working through depression, discouragement and grief.

I owe big thanks for such unusually worded advice from someone who’s been there to someone still wandering the path toward a new normal.

*~~*~~*

Categories: Cancer, Death, Hope | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Finding Words Everywhere

Being a fan of words I look for and read them everywhere. I think it all started ages ago while reading the backs of cereal boxes. Now I read everything: signs, plaques, memorials, directions, chalkboards, menus, whiteboards, magnets, carvings, raised metal, blocks, imprints, impressions, sidewalk chalk, train graffiti, book spines, air fresheners, notices, refrigerators, headlines. Even the occasional book.

Words hang out everywhere and in some surprising places. Some even smell good.

Here’s a few words I’ve run into lately:

The good and the bad.

The good and the bad.

“There are places I remember all my life, Though some have changed, Some forever, not for better, Some have gone and some remain.” ~ From the Beatles”In My Life.” 

 

Such a tiny word...

Such a tiny word…

“Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.” But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” ~Khalil Gibran

Life began here.

Life began here.

“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” ~Bill Mollison

 

Don't ask me to choose just one kind.

Don’t ask me to choose just one kind.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” ~ David Mamet

 

A concrete idea.

A concrete idea.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” ~ Michelangelo

 

I believe I can fly, somedays.

Wings, roots, reasons.

“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.” ~ Dalai Lama 

 

Such a big word.

Such a big word.

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

~*~~*~~*~

Categories: Communication, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Vortex, S’mortex

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful to live in the desert.

I don’t often feel terribly thankful for that. Brutal best describes summers here, and sometimes Spring and Autumn, as well.

Feeling grateful for mild warmth, not blasting heat or mean cold.

Feeling grateful!

But today, while most of the country dug out, or slid around or hunkered down in the onslaught of another polar vortex, we desert rats enjoyed eighty degrees. The windows stayed open all day, a breeze tickled the wind chimes, I watered my garden, walked the grand dog after dark without a sweater on and generally enjoyed perfectly pleasant weather.

I don’t say that to brag or to make others feel jealous. I really, truly do feel thankful that I don’t have to endure the meanness of temperatures in the teens. I couldn’t feel more happy that I’m not digging out a car from a snowdrift, or attempting to navigate roads covered in ice and snow.

Photo By Sage Ross (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Sage Ross  [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I spent a few decades in weather like that and it got old. Sometimes I fantasize about living somewhere with four distinct seasons. And then I visit somewhere that leaves me shivering regardless of how many layers I put on and the fantasy goes away for a while.

The icy chill that runs down my spine as I watch the news and weather reports about the rest of the country reminds me how thin my blood runs now that I’ve lived in the desert nearly twenty years. Once I liked the idea of shoveling for the exercise, or building snowmen, or the muffled sounds when snow falls. Now it simply makes me wince.

I planted radish, carrot and lettuce seeds on Saturday. Tiny green fruits grace the four-foot tall tomato plant in my garden. Jalapeno and green peppers ripen for salsa making. The oranges are just now turning from green to orange. And the flowers, oh my,  seem to double in size and amount almost every day.

A day like today serves as compensation and grand prize for enduring the onslaught of summer’s temper tantrum.  A few months of perfection with a few days of chilly and a Phoenix winter sounds just fine to me. Thank you, Typhoon Nuri, or God, or Mother Nature or all three! I appreciate the sweetness of the desert today.

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

Entertaining Loyalty

I always wanted to be Snoopy. I envied his doghouse rooftop adventures. His mastery of any and every skill ever needed by man or dog boggled my mind. Snoopy embodied football captain, homecoming king, movie star, spy, master chef and beach bum all in one neat package of smooth and debonair. He acquired the nickname Joe Cool for good reason.

Snoopy

But Joe Cool eluded my abilities and station in life. I identified best, unfortunately, with Charlie Brown. I still do.  – Sigh – But, I still dream of one day morphing into Snoopy. Suave, sophisticated, and multi-talented with a great laugh.

Something about animated dogs defines the words Loyal, Optimistic and Resourceful. The cartoon world occasionally personifies some of the most admirable qualities anyone could hope to attain. When that happens, it’s usually a canine that takes on those traits.

Max

Look at Max from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Such a happy dog in spite of spending his life with someone whose heart ran “three sizes too small.” His tail wags throughout most of the story even while suffering abuse and meanness. And when he gets worried or scared, he bounces back with excitement for each new adventure. What a good doggie!

If you really think about it, many cartoon dogs play the same role as joker or jester in kingly tales. While appearing silly and nonsensical, and providing comic relief, a fool often plays the most honest and insightful character. And a fool’s common sense out runs nearly all others around him.

Grommit

In the claymation style of animation, Grommit plays this role particularly well. As his witless owner Wallace carries out a bizarre series of plans, Grommit provides the brains as well as the braun in this duo. If not for Grommit, Wallace would hardly survive a typical day without serious injury.

Wishbone

While admittedly not animated, I count Wishbone among cartoon dogs because he “talked” and “acted.”  He usually played a key character in each tale he told and made otherwise out-of-reach stories and classic novels come alive for my kids (and for me, as well.) Don’t take my word for it. You can watch watch Wishbone in action in this video I’ve uploaded for you. (It’s only fourteen minutes, you know you want to.) 

Odie

Cartoon Dogs also play the fool in the everyday sense of the word. Witness Odie of “Garfield” fame. Apparently as airheaded as they come, Odie endures the onslaught of Garfield’s teasing and harassment with never a complaint. Oh sure, there’s the occasional mischievous twinkle in his eye when Garfield catches karma, but otherwise, Odie simply accepts his fate as the fall guy. You can’t help but take his side and hope he gets a jab in occasionally.

Scooby

I never cared much for Scooby Doo. His brainless bumbling irritated me for some reason.I’ve never been of fan of airheaded anything. I’ve wondered lately if Scooby’s and Shaggy’s constant munchies meant more than your average innocent school age kid knew. His weird “ruh roh” language also drove me nuts. Give me a witty Velma any day over “blonde” big dogs.

Dug

Dug, from the movie “UP!” wins the most loyal award. His line, “I hid under the porch because I love you!” gets me every time. I suppose he reminds me of family, where we all mess up, allow ourselves be at our worst and still find that we’re loved and accepted regardless. Dug does what comes naturally to a dog, obedience, excitement, wonder and a protective nature. That he gets so easily sidetracked by [Squirrel!] little things only endears him more in my mind. I’m an easily sidetracked person but my heart’s ready to love and give whatever’s asked. At least, I try to do that.

Underdog

How could I talk of cartoon dogs without mentioning “Underdog”? Watch the opening credits and tell me that doesn’t prompt some superhero envy. (Probably only works if you watched it as a kid.)

What a mild-mannered, kind creature with super powers beyond compare. I would have given almost anything as a kid to wisk on a cape and fly through the air righting wrongs and giving crooks and bullies what they deserved. I had my private list of bad guys in elementary school I’d have swooped up and dropped into a prison yard given the chance.

Dogs.

Man’s best friend. Or so they say.

Maybe, in a few cases, cartoon dogs serve as man’s best example of what a good person can aspire to.

Did I miss any of your favorites?

 ~~~

“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.” ~ Johnny Depp

Categories: Fun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

A Joke A Day Keeps the Doctor at Bay

“Laughter is internal jogging.”

Feels like it might be time for some laughter. Are you feeling it too?

It’s nice, occasionally, to group a few of the funnier things I’ve read or seen, into one post. I run into crack me up stuff all the time. Friends and family also send me jokes and puns. And, occasionally, I go looking for something to brighten the day.

I take no credit for any one of these. If I knew who to thank I’d surely give them kudos and recognition.

So, here goes:

What do you call a camel without a hump?
Humphrey!

 

Funny if you understand or attempt to understand math.

Funny if you understand or attempt to understand math.

 

A guy walks into a bar after a long day at work and orders a drink. After his first sip, he hears a high-pitched voice.
“Hey mister! Nice pants!” it says.
He looks around, doesn’t see anything, and quickly shrugs it off. After a little bit, he takes another sip and hears the voice again.
“Hey mister! Sweet shoes!”
Again, he looks around, sees nothing but a bartender who is busy attending to other customers. Shaking his head, he sips once more.
“Hey mister! Cool shirt!”
He puts down his drink, frustrated at this phantom voice, and signals to the bartender, who comes over.
“Hey barkeep,” he begins, “what is that high-pitched voice I keep hearing?”
“Oh, those are the peanuts,” he replies. “They’re complimentary.”

 

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered…

 

If you’re Russian when you go into the bathroom, and you’re Finnish when you come out of the bathroom, what are you while you’re in the bathroom?

European.

 

alligator purse

I wish I knew who to give credit to for this gem! If you know, please shoot me a comment!

 

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

 

A sweet little boy surprised his grandmother one morning and brought her a cup of coffee. He made it himself and was so proud. He anxiously waited to hear the verdict on the quality of the coffee. The grandmother had never in her life had such a bad cup of coffee, and as she forced down the last sip she noticed three of those little green army guys in the bottom of the cup.
She asked, “Honey, why would three little green army guys be in the bottom of my cup?”
Her grandson replied, “You know grandma, it’s like on TV, ‘The best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup.”

 

A hole has been found in the nudist-camp wall. 
The police are looking into it.

 

A new word and its definition:

Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

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

The Real Reason Cows Exist

 

Photo by Evelyn Simak [CC-BY-SA-2.0

Photo by Evelyn Simak [CC-BY-SA-2.0

It’s that glorious time of year when the perfect pairing of Mother Nature and Enhanced Mother Nature collide in a state of bliss. My taste buds sing, my lips smack, my happy vibes light up.

What the heck?

Apples

It’s the season for Apples. The perfect all purpose self contained fruit. Colorful, crunchy, sweet and juicy all in one self-contained orb. Perfection.

Cows

And Cows.

Yes. Cows.

Stay with me.

Don’t tell me you’ve never read this Robert Frost poem! It practically proves my point.

The Cow in Apple Time

Something inspires the only cow of late
To make no more of a wall than an open gate,
And think no more of wall-builders than fools.
Her face is flecked with pomace and she drools
A cider syrup. Having tasted fruit,
She scores a pasture withering to the root.
She runs from tree to tree where lie and sweeten
The windfalls spiked with stubble and worm-eaten.
She leaves them bitten when she has to fly.
She bellows on a knoll against the sky
Her udder shrivels and the milk goes dry.

There’s good reason cows love apples. It’s a natural pairing. Really!

Photo by Joy (Caramel apple) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Photo by Joy (Caramel apple) [CC-BY-2.0 )

Cows produce milk, cream and ultimately, butter. Add some sugar to those ingredients, boil, simmer, pour and cool. And you have the real reason cows exist: Carmel!

Combine warm, melted carmel with an Apple and you’ve arrived at the true taste of Autumn.

Oh sure, Apple Pies taste nice. And Apple Fritters deserve mentioning. Apple Crisp tops the list of delectable fruit desserts. But nothing beats a carmel apple for pure delight and comfort.

 

 

 

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

Haunted by Dinosaurs and Other Big Scary Things

Illustration by Charles R Knight - http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/history/extras.

Illustration by Charles R Knight – http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/history/extras. (No, this isn’t from the movie, sorry.)

Friday Letter to My Kids -

Dear J, J, L and L,

You’re gonna think I lost my mind.

I’m haunted today by the movie “Land Before Time.”

I tried to drive it out by singing my super-shortened version of “The Wizard of Oz” soundtrack, but it wouldn’t leave. I tried eating chocolate, but that didn’t help. Homemade french fries might drown out the image. Maybe I can exorcise it by watching all three extended versions of “Lord of the Rings.” (That’d probably do it, but it would take all night and half of tomorrow.)

I think I just have to face the music and the script and see where it leads us.

I’m fairly certain that L and L have the dialogue and the songs committed to memory. In fact, a mini-soundtrack probably resides in every cell in your bodies. Or at least in your bones. You watched that movie so much I think we very nearly wore the tape out.

The main melody, the very first time, sounds nice and sweet. The four-hundredth time grates a little. I kept  getting bits of that song sneaking into my head today.

Then I could hear Little Foot yelling, “Mother, mother!!” like he does, in that happy I’ve-found-my-mother-after-thinking-I’d-lost-her-forever way he has. And then I’d hear her answering him by simply saying his name, “Little Foot,” with a lilt to her voice that any child would cherish. But that was all I got all day. No other dialogue. No words beyond them calling each other.

So I had to look up some quotes and figure out what I’m supposed to get from this little haunting from your young past.

And there, as one of the first few lines of dialogue,  my answer presented itself. I’ll share.

Littlefoot’s mother: Dear, sweet, Littlefoot, do you remember the way to the Great Valley?

Littlefoot: I guess so. But why do I have to know if you’re going to be with me?

Littlefoot’s mother: I’ll be with you. Even if you can’t see me.

Littlefoot: What do you mean I can’t see you? I can always see you.

And then, I understood why this little animated film from 1988 dragged itself out of the dusty recesses of my gray matter and danced around on the surface of my brain all day.

My mom, your grandma, just finished a weeklong visit here and, as you know, on the drive home had another stroke or something very much like it. When I got the call my heart stopped. Oh, she’s okay now, but once again I had to face that void, that inevitable nothingness. I don’t like that.

The Great Valley, for me anyway, serves as a metaphor for everything my Mom taught me and hoped for me. The directions for getting there, a symbol of her caring, all that she’s given me and her enduring love in spite of it all.

Poor Little Foot, so young and naïve. Oh, to be like that, completely oblivious to the possibility of loss, of death, of sorrow so deep you’re sure you can’t ever climb out.

“Why do I have to know if you’re going to be with me?”

Mom has always been with me. She’s in my bones, in my skin, in the way I hesitate before I answer. Even though I moved away from home a zillion years ago, she’s still a vital part of my life. Yes, she really is, even if we don’t talk on the phone very often or see each other more than once or twice a year. Just knowing she’s a phone call or a day’s drive away makes life okay. Some day things won’t be okay. Ouch.

I guess what I want to say is this:

“I’ll be with you. Even if you can’t see me.”

That’s what I want to feel and believe about my own Mom. That’s what I hope you feel and believe about me. Although, I plan on sticking around and haunting you, in real life, for a long, long time.

Also, be careful what movies you let your kids watch a gazillion times over, it’ll probably come back to haunt you in some very strange ways.

Love always,

Mom

~~~~~

p.s. Here’s the song “If We Hold On Together” if you want to listen to it.

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

“Let your heart guide you. It whispers so listen closely.” ~Land Before Time

Categories: Death, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments
 
 

Take a Look at my Etchings

My grandmother kept toys for the grandkids on the attic staircase. We only got these out when the weather disagreed with our plans for outdoor play, or if the cousins, heaven forbid, weren’t around for creating adventures with.

The toys she owned weren’t like any toys we had at our house, so they kept our interest longer than most. My favorite sported a red plastic cover and two white knobs and a gray screen.

From that briefest of descriptions you might assume I favored some early version of a computer game. Not quite.

photo-25 copy 12

A classic!

One knob moved a cursor-like dot up and down. The other knob moved the dot left and right. When the dot moved it left a line in its tiny wake. By moving the knobs I could draw a picture or a design. No colors. Just gray and black. No noises, except the background of my siblings fighting over the other toys.

I never did master the up and down, left and right twists very well.

Such a simple concept, drawing without paper and pencil. For some reason this little device resonated with children. Now, I’m sure to most people, it seems almost laughable and archaic.

Surprisingly, young children today still find it fascinating. At least some of the kids I hang out with sure do.

I had a gaggle of little boys fighting over who got to play with it during a party at my house earlier this year. These boys had a fire to roast marshmallows in, rocks to throw, water to play in and soda and snacks galore. And what did they choose to do? Watch each other draw things on the Etch-A-Sketch! I could hardly believe what I saw.

Don't bother me, I'm busy!

Don’t bother me, I’m busy!

My favorite three-year old, an Angry Birds aficionado, also likes to wield the knobs from time to time. Her attention unwavering and steady as she attempts control of the elusive tiny black dot, little can lure her away.

Why such fascination with such a simple thing? This seems so strange to me.

I suppose it shouldn’t seem odd. I prefer to hold solid words printed on tangible paper bound together in a battery-free device called a book, over the electric limitations of a Kindle or other recently upgraded device. I love the feel of a pen looping and scrolling as I write sentences in cursive. A grocery list or to-do list on a slip of paper tucked inside my pocket feels secure and somehow comforting. I’d rather lift and roll an actual bowling ball than pretend to do so on a Wii. I’d rather walk outdoors than stand in place and aerobicize in air-conditioned comfort.

Call me a luddite. Call these toddlers and children the same. For whatever reason the simple and the basic seem to satisfy something in some of us.

I wonder what other ways in life I could downgrade to simple.

Rather than breathlessly waiting for the next version of the best thing ever, could I simply content myself with something classic and timeless and wonder-filled?

Could you?

An experiment couldn’t hurt. We might even have some fun.

Categories: Family, Memory Lane | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Life’s Agenda and Mine Don’t Sync

Monday at Grand Canyon.

Monday at Grand Canyon.

Three days ago MSH and I took a day trip to the Grand Canyon with my Dad and Mom.

After taking a few days to allow the experience some time to settle in and process a bit, I thought that’s what I’d post about today. I figured it’d be a good way to work through my goodbye blues after Dad and Mom left this morning to drive back home.

But, LIFE has its own agenda sometimes. 

Nine hours after pulling out of my driveway this morning, Dad called with news that he’d taken Mom to the hospital in a tiny town just outside of the middle of nowhere. From there they flew her to a bigger hospital in a bigger town.

The doctor’s are saying Ischemic Stroke. That’s what they said in April and it turned out to be seizures in the area around her first stroke. Dad says she’s already doing better than she was this afternoon, so that’s something to hang on to.

Dad sounds optimistic and calm.

I’m just a puddled mess of tears and fears. Praying lots. Staying in touch with the siblings and relatives. Trying to feel some peace. At a complete loss for words now.

The next twenty-four hours will tell us more.

Any prayers you want to add to the mix surely garner my appreciation.

~~~

“We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.” ~Helen Keller

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Feeding the Fire and Keeping my Hands Warm

A man goes up to a politician at a fundraising dinner and says, ‘I’ve heard a lot about you.’ The politician replies, ‘But you can’t prove any of it.’

It’s Gratituesday! Here in the United States we’ve had an election day.

Image may actually be more significant than it appears.

Image may be more significant than it appears.

I voted!

I tossed in my say on several different positions up for grabs as well as some initiatives and strange ideas and other stuff too numerous to go into here. Today I’m thankful for that right to vote. I’m also grateful that I took advantage of that right.

And now, I’m thankful that I can keep the news off and ignore the dissecting, parsing, analyzing, moaning, crying and threatenings as the results rise to the surface of the muddied waters.

Call me naïve, but I like to think that what I did today counted for something. I like to believe that my one vote meant something, along with every other voter who chose to throw in an opinion at the ballot box.

Sure, I know there’s not so happy stuff involved in the political process from one end to the other. But just for today, I allow myself to believe that the democratic process somehow makes things better.

Read his wise quote below, you'll thank me.

Read his wise quote, you’ll thank me.

The alternatives just seem unthinkable.

So, for today, I’m grateful for the power of one voice, joined like drops of rain into a stream, then a river, and a lake and an ocean.

What will tomorrow bring?

I have no idea.

But today, ah yes, today felt amazingly free.

***

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” ~Abraham Lincoln

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Turn on the Slow Cooker and Let It Simmer a While

While hanging out at this service thing with a bunch of people a couple of  weekends ago I witnessed tons of hugs, hellos, smiles and general all around friendliness. Maybe even a bit too much chattiness and not enough getting-er’done going on. But that’s okay.

photo-25 copy 9I’m near two women when one leans over to the other and says, “I love how everyone’s so friendly even though we all come from so many different walks of life.”

The other woman replies, “That’s so right! It’s like this place works like a great big crock-pot.”

The other woman agreed wholeheartedly.

I had to perform some mental gymnastics to stop myself from correcting her metaphor. I’m sure she actually meant to say “melting pot” not “crock-pot.”

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say about that metaphor:

melting pot 

1 a place (such as a city or country) where different types of people live together and gradually create one community

2  a place where a variety of races, cultures, or individuals assimilate into a cohesive whole

3 a process of blending that often results in invigoration or novelty

That term was first used around 1887 about immigrants to the United States as they assimilated, contributed and became part of the culture here.

To clarify, a crock-pot, or slow cooker, simmers or cooks at a very low temperature over many hours. This process tenderizes meats, rarely burns the food, and simplifies meal preparation and cleanup. It’s one of my favorite appliances.

Can you see why I felt a little queasy at the mixed up metaphor?

Imagine a big pot of melted cheese (with a side of tortilla chips please.) Mmm. I could go for some Queso about now, couldn’t you? That’s how I picture a melting pot. Everything blends together into one big indistinguishable gooey mass of deliciousness. There’s nothing that really stands out or looks different. It’s all good, but it’s all one flavor.

Photo By jeffreyw (mmm...veggie beef soup  Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-2.0

Photo By jeffreyw (mmm…veggie beef soup Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-2.0

I like the crock-pot image better for what my friend observed and tried to put into words.

After a day of simmering, whatever ingredients thrown into the pot in the morning still seem familiar and beckoning in the evening. Carrots, meat, potatoes, onions, peas, celery have spent enough time together enduring the heat that they’ve sort of shared flavors with each other along with the spices and broth in the pot. Lifting the lid on such a concoction sends out such an aroma of comfort.

Or maybe what you throw in the crock-pot is beans, rice, corn, meat, tomatoes, green or red chili peppers, onion and garlic. Ten hours of basking in the heat makes for melt in your mouth, warm up your belly wonderful nuances of shared flavors and mixed tastes. Nothing beats a big bowl of chili this time of year, with autumn singing its promising song.

Isn’t that what we want when interacting with people different from us? A little something of them rubbing off on us and maybe a bit of us making them a bit sweeter or spicier? Spending time together, even if only metaphorically, ought to make everything better.

Expecting a kind of total agreement and sameness sounds so boring and sad. Imagine cheese dip every single day, all year long, every year.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to these wise words:

“Just as the natural environment depends on biodiversity, so the human environment depends on cultural diversity, because no one civilization encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind.” ~ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

I love that idea! Pluralism really does define how society naturally works best. In case you were wondering the Oxford English Dictionary defines pluralism this way:

Pluralism

1 A condition or system in which two or more states, groups, principles, sources of authority etc. coexist.

2 form of society in which the members of minority groups maintain their independent cultural traditions. 

Reasonable, right? That’s what I think, too!

imagesWhat worries me happens when political correctness or peer pressure or social media onslaught demands conformity from everyone. Seems to me that insisting on complete and total agreement, drowning out differences of opinion actually takes away from the idea of unity that all those louder, bigger voices say they want.

Tension and repression and discord become the norm and actually kill off unity.

Some days I feel like I’m watching this country attempting to force a giant stew into a blender and turn it into baby food. Ick! Nothing delectable there.

Can’t we just simmer down and enjoy each other’s differences and work together somehow for a happy outcome?

The crock-pot’s set on low for a while.

I’ll bring a few loaves of fresh-baked bread, if you’ll bring along some butter.

 

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Priceless Moment Captured

While walking this afternoon with Mom and Dad at the Riparian Preserve I snapped this photo of them.

Sweet moment.

Sweet moment.

At the time I didn’t think much of it. Just clicked the shutter and pocketed my phone. It wasn’t until hours later that I looked at it. Honestly it caught my breath. With dusk approaching and trees overhead the light framed this scene with a patina I find so appropriate.

Mom’s head inclined just so toward Dad says more than pages of words could ever achieve.

If you look really close you’ll see a bunny that allowed the two of them to get within mere feet to take its photo. Kind of magical, if you ask me.

I’m loving every moment I get to hang out with them. So glad they made the long drive to visit. I’m feeling loved, reassured and enveloped in a sort of peaceful bubble. I’m pretty sure it’s due to the presence of angels they surely have attending them. They definitely deserve that extra attention and care.

I love these two people beyond words.

That’s all.

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Thirty Days to More Sanity

As if life isn’t already busy enough.

You too?

Yeah. I know. I’m surely crazy!

I’ve decided to accept the challenge this November.

No, I am not going to grow a mustache or beard, as easy as that would be now that I’m over a certain age. Not sure a female can really man up the same way. And I’m certain I don’t want to grow facial hair.

No, no. I am not attempting to write a novel in one month like participants in NaNoWriMo commit to.

Photo by joergens.mi

Pomegranates! Photo by joergens.mi

No, no, no. Neither am I celebrating or becoming more aware of pomegranates, veganism, pancreatic cancer, sweet potatoes, pet diabetes, sponges, manatees, gluten-freeness, inspirational role models, banana pudding, impotency, peanut butter lovers, entrepreneurship, healthy skin or thirty-plus other possible November commemorations.

I don’t even want to get my Christmas shopping done in the month of November. — Gasp! Get this woman some oxygen, STAT! — (Questioning my sanity at this point, aren’t you?)  In fact, I don’t want to purchase a single Christmas related item at all during this singular lunar phase of the year 2014.

My only goal for November?

Survive with my sanity intact through the end of the month.

You think I jest.

I jest not.

Juggling complete with theme music in the background!

Juggling complete with theme music in the background!

In case you haven’t noticed there’s this trend, obsession, thing monstrous idea that involves packing the months of October, November and December so full with causes, goals, events and busyness that a person can hardly breathe.

I refuse to participate in such nonsense. I just want to enjoy life, and be with people I love or at least like a lot. I don’t want to recreate some Pinterest-worthy scene to photograph and share on various social media platforms.

Of course, along with the added busyness, life throws its usual and not-so-usual curve balls and flaming batons and razor-sharp knives and expects you to juggle them while it sets you down on a cliff edge when it darn well knows you’re deathly afraid of heights.

And yet.

And yet, I have decided to jump in on NaBloPoMo.

Sounds almost obscene, I know. But in reality I think it’s a link to my sanity. Let me explain.

NaBloPoMo otherwise known as National Blog Post Month encourages, nay, offers prizes and incentives to, bloggers to post every single day during the month of November.

Why would I do such a thing? Most months of the year I barely post three times a week to my blog.

writing photoWhy indeed.

Because Writing (capital W) keeps me sane. Because Writing lets me download the contents of my swirling mass of thoughts and chaos to a manageable medium. Writing softens life’s blows. Writing helps me make sense of so much senseless nonsense. Writing helps me breathe better. Writing acts like nasal strips for the soul. (too much?)

Taking on the daily blog post challenge increases my writing time and hence, (yes, hence) my sanity.

If no one else reads what I write, that’s okay. It’s all for me all the time anyway. I’m just being selfish. I’m claiming the month of November for myself, come what may. Well, I’m claiming at least five hundred words a day for myself.

It’s a big step, but I feel empowered and excited and overly sleepy already.

Have I taken on more than I should? Will I feel saner in thirty-one days? Will the universe conspire against me?

No. Maybe. Yes, most certainly.

I’m standing on the cliff edge and taking the leap toward sanity.  I sure hope my parachute opens when it’s supposed to.

Wish me luck!

NaBloPoMo_November_0

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” ~Ray Bradbury

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Dressing Up and Letting Your Hair Down

Boo!

Boo!

Dear J, J, L and L,

All week I’ve had mini-flashbacks of various versions of each of you in costume over the years.

I recall a Frankenstein’s monster, a beauty queen, tiny witches, cute witches, a leopard, a black cat, an epic version of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, a ninja, a devil, a wizard, superheroes, insects and Indians and dozens of others long past.

Of the non-holiday version I recall Wilbur the pig, Tatiana from Midsummer Night’s Dream, a pilgrim, an egyptian queen, poodle-skirted teens a pioneer and a cowboy.

I’m pretty certain we came up with costumes for school projects, spirit weeks and other odd events at least three times a year. Multiply that times the four of you. Add in Halloween and we had the drama department at the high school outgunned in costuming paraphernalia.

The sewing machine got a great workout every October, as I attempted to make reality of who you wanted to transform into that year. Lucky for me sewing costumes don’t require great skill, just adequate knowledge.

I miss those days of dressing you up for so many different events. Perhaps that why I started dressing up myself for Halloween a few years ago. Or maybe I’ve just acquired a need to be someone else for a day once or twice a year.

Last year’s witch costume on Halloween night, scared a few children away from the candy bowl. Perhaps it was the green face, or more likely the cackling, high-pitched, evil sounding voice that involuntarily took over who I was under the costume. Strange how that happens.

A couple years ago my Biker Chick outfit, complete with pleather pants and a real leather biker jacket, felt wild and empowering. So opposite to my recognizable personality, that costume rocked a few people’s perceptions of me. I enjoyed it though, for that one night.

Being a pirate wench the year or two before taught me that I probably ought to be careful what sort of characters I choose to become. It’s easy to do and say things that aren’t your usual fare when you’re somewhat disguised.

This year, sadly, I have other obligations during the Trick or Treat hours. And surprisingly, I wasn’t invited to any Halloween parties where I could take on the persona of some other creature for a while.

I suppose it’s best that you’ve missed this side of my odd personality, this need or desire to dress up and play pretend. I guess I’ve never really grown up in some ways.

Where’s the fun in that, anyway? I like having a childlike part of myself that I can access when the need for silliness arises. I only regret there’s only one time every year that I can let my hair down like that.

I’ll spend the next twelve months with an occasional question about how to dress up next year. Just the planning of such nonsense brings a smile to my face.

I highly recommend accessing your inner child when the opportunity arises.

Happy Halloween my little goblins!

Love always,

Mom

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It’s Really Gratituesday Every Day

One of a hundred sunrises I enjoyed.

One of a hundred sunrises I enjoyed.

It’s Gratituesday! I wrote this a while ago hoping to sneak in a quick write before a certain one-year old woke up from a late nap and before a three-year old moved on to a noisier, less productive project. Turns out I abandoned this and just today, a month later I picked it up again. Now it’s nearly November, but I still feel thankful for a Summer enjoyed.

One month snapshot of from my Gratitude App.

One month snapshot of from my Gratitude App.

Favorites

Looking back over the summer in my Gratitude App, it turns out I’m often grateful for those two little people. Also turns out I’m frequently thankful for a favorite six-month old and a favorite thirteen-year old, too.

Walks

And walks. I took a bunch of those this summer, in spite of the heat. And because of the heat I went early enough that I ended up grateful for sunrises nearly every day. Pretty much any activity that took me outside made my gratitude list, family reunion, camping, time on a porch swing, swimming, picnics, outdoor dining, gardening, yard work.

That's a lot of rain for the Sahuaros to drink up.

That’s a lot of rain for the Sahuaros to drink up.

Rain, Oh My

The rain made itself known more than a few times and I’m always grateful for that, even when it comes four inches at a time. But then, my house didn’t get flooded like others in nearby towns did.

Sleep

Not the least bit surprising, sleep came in as a big winner in the frequently appearing in my gratitude list contest. Probably number one if I took the time to actually count. Right after food, bread and chocolate.

Work, the Volunteer Variety

The surprise that showed up often as something that adds light to my life falls in the volunteer work category. You’d think that wouldn’t get mentioned, but I always find myself helped more by helping someone than any amount of help I’ve given.

Quaking Aspen. I like to think of it as a family tree.

Quaking Aspen. A family tree.

Family

Time with family topped the summer gratitude list. Extended family, my kids and their spouses, my four favorites, their pets and of course, MSH.

What didn’t land on the lists very often? Things.

Things.

Should I be more grateful for STUFF? I don’t know. Probably, yes.

I don’t often list as Gratitudes all the luxuries I live with like a washer, dryer, electricity, a home, a safe neighborhood, a working air-conditioned vehicle, a soft bed, plenty of food, clean and copious amounts of drinking water. Do I take them for granted? I hope not. Maybe I view them as background to what seems really important like people or experiences. Maybe I should verbalize some gratitude for those as well.

Proof

Surely I basked in a summer of blessings. I’m glad I kept track of those daily joys. Otherwise, I might have looked back over what looks from this distance, like merely another hot summer endured. Instead I have months worth of happy thoughts and proof that life smiled on me.

And I smiled back.

Condensed sunshine.

Condensed sunshine.

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Hot Pink on a Harley

Friday Letter to my Kids-

Dear J, J, L and L,

This weekend marks year four of Big J’s big Harley ride with his hot woman for the annual “Bikers for Boobies” event.

Makes me laugh every time to say that out loud.

Makes me proud that you’re doing something to help raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

Makes me terrified that your charitable inclination involves a Harley.

I have nothing personally against Harley’s, or Honda’s or any other brand of motorcycle. I just get a little woozy when I think of people I love out on the road with other maniacal drivers who might not pay much attention to the loud roar and flash of chrome.

To quote your Grandma M from my teenage years:

“It’s not you I don’t trust, it’s everybody else.”

I’ve had a little experience with motorcycles in my past life, believe it or not. My first ever chance driving one on my own happened in our back yard. At eleven years old I may or may not have been a little too young for the attempt. The tiny Honda 50 was so cute and fun looking. “Nothing to it,” my Dad said.

honda 50

Vrooooom!

I threw my leg over the seat, sat down and grasped the handlebars. My dad explained the gears, first, second, third. He talked about the clutch. He reminded me I had to pull in the clutch when I braked. I said, “Okay, I got it,” when I really didn’t understand about ninety percent of what he’d told me. Mostly what I heard was, “pull in the clutch when you want to brake.”

So I let out the clutch in first gear and the thing almost left me behind. I remember hearing yelling, with grass and dirt flying. I was so busy trying to figure out why pulling  in the clutch wouldn’t stop the bike that I failed to turn. Next thing I know the bike and my flailing body launched off a foot high drop off into the garden and then across the garden down another small drop off. Luckily a chain link fence finally stopped the bike and what was left of my quivering body.

Dad ran over and caught the bike before it fell over on me and said, “Why didn’t you push on the brake?”

And that’s when I realized that braking involved more than simply pulling in the clutch. Ding, ding, ding!!! Light bulb!!! I needed to push the brake with my foot at the same time as pulling in the clutch.

My ego took a far bigger hit than my jostled and bounced around butt ever did.

You can bet that the next time Dad let me ride I paid attention to every single detail he told me. Luckily, I had other chances a year later and soon became a fairly brave rider when we’d take the bikes up to the mountains and ride around the dirt roads and wide trails. Those were some fun years buzzing around free and fast.

Can you picture G and G M on one of these? Cool!

Can you picture G and G M on one of these?

My dad went on several weekend long trail rides on various motorcycles. The trails he rode scared me even back then before I developed my fear of all things high and dangerous. (He also did a multi-day cattle drive on horseback once, but that’s a different story you’ll have to ask him to tell you about.)

Here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know about your Grandpa M. He had said back then that when he retired he wanted to buy a Honda Goldwing and tour the country with Grandma. Sadly, that never happened. I think all us kids took the oomph out of his get-up-and-go. Not to mention, priorities change as life morphs and lengthens.

The Happy Harley couple last year…or the year before.

The happy Harley couple last year…

That crotch rocket you drove for a while, Big J, just about wore holes in my knees for how hard and often I prayed that you’d be safe out there.

When you and your newly christened Mrs. left the reception for your wedding night roaring away on that Harley, I thought my heart would bust wide open for joy and fear at the same time. I know you couldn’t hear me but I yelled, “where’s your helmets?” That would have spoiled the effect, I know.

I’m glad you’re living your life and taking measured chances and enjoying your youth. Don’t let my worries hold you back.

You other three, don’t be thinking I’m giving you permission to take up motorcycles. Not that it would matter what I thought at this point, right?

Have a fun ride this weekend, my sweet son, with your blonde bombshell wife on the back holding on tight. You’ll always be my little guy no matter how old you get, so I’ll always worry. I’ll also always be happy knowing you’re happy.

All my love,

Mom

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

p.s. Just wondering if you’ll wear sunscreen this year… ;)

 

~~~~~

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” ~ Edward Abbey ~~

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Like A Ride on the Vomit Comet, But Not

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

Something felt off before I ever opened my eyes. A light-headed sensation perhaps? Awake but still dreaming maybe? Or, dang it, not again.

This last weekend I woke up to a raging case of vertigo. That isn’t terribly uncommon, but it’s been a few years since the house rocked and rolled and pitched like that.

For those of you personally unexperienced with this particular malady from the *book “Weird Things Your Body Does To You Just To Mess With Your Head” you can read up on vertigo at your leisure.

A little known tidbit: I woke up with vertigo on my wedding day. (Sorry, no one gets to hear that story today.) I think in my case vertigo also comes on when I’m under extreme stress. But that’s just a guess based on certain undisclosed files hidden in a closet somewhere.

Whoa, Nelly er… Kami

In the past when vertigo has hit, I’ve often seen it as God’s way of telling me to slow down and get some much-needed rest. I’ve come to that conclusion because when vertigo happens nothing else in my life happens, no matter how important. Everything comes to a dead stop, especially your body. Any movement, no matter how slight sets the world spinning again and this time my stomach joined the game.

Oh sure drugs exist that I could take. They’re usually named some weird word that ends in “-ine” which translates into an extremely buzzed and sleepy me. The result turns out the same. I get nothing done that day except either sleep or lying around trying not to move.

Is It Like Insanity in that You Get It From Your Kids?

My dad recently started experiencing frequent bouts of vertigo. The doctor he saw recommended head manipulation therapy a newer idea in treatment options. Now, anytime he feels vertigo coming on he simply goes through these exercises and his dizziness problem dissipates quickly.

Image By marcello from potenza, italy (Dizzy thorns)

Image By marcello from potenza, italy (Dizzy thorns)

You see, vertigo happens because…all sorts of complicated details…but basically the mechanism that keeps you balanced gets out of whack. The current very sound (pun not intended) medical theory says moving your head in very specific ways and sequences resets or removes problems in that mechanism.

They taught Dad some home remedy treatments, movements and exercises to do when he feels the onset of the dizziness. Now he’s in control of his equilibrium again. Pretty cool stuff!

Trained Professional, Do Not Attempt

Knowing this, when I woke up on Saturday with my world spinning, I Googled “how to do head manipulations to self-treat vertigo.” (Yay for Siri and YouTube, because reading wasn’t happening with all that whirling and spinning.)

Too many videos to choose from! I wanted fast results since I had a full day ahead of me and I felt lousy! In my hurry I kind of skipped over one very important detail and took a shortcut I shouldn’t have.

Don’t Shake the Soda Bottle

Photo by Michael Murphy (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

Photo by Michael Murphy

The most critical part in doing one particular exercise, I learned the hard way, is knowing which ear is unbalanced. (You tend to feel dizzier while laying down on one side or the other.) Obviously I guessed wrong on which side needed resetting. When I finished the exercises my results were similar to what happens when you shake a bottle of Coke and then open the lid.  I immediately started puking my guts out all over a handy-dandy i.e. washable, throw rug.

That’s not the results my dad gets when he treats his vertigo.

I’d never had any dizziness this bad!

When I finally recovered enough to pull myself off the floor I moaned for MSH. He helped me get settled in to where I didn’t have to move my head or body. He placed himself at my every whim all day. What a sainted husband I have. He even stood by as I puked what was left of my insides into a garbage can.

I Would Make a Lousy Astronaut

Does NOT look fun to me! (Nasa File Photo)

Does NOT look fun to me! (Nasa File Photo)

After a day of doing nothing but sleeping and eating the occasional saltine cracker, and a few Otter Pops, my world began to stop spinning in multiple directions. The nausea stuck around another eighteen hours as a reminder of what I’d just gone through.

There’s good reason they call that plane NASA uses for anti-gravity training and experiments “the vomit comet.” I have newfound respect for what those people go through.

I decided later that day I would make a lousy astronaut. I definitely need gravity and my inner ear working in tandem to keep my balance recognizing up from down and left from right. Not to mention to keep my lunch where it belongs.

Thank goodness the world spins the way it’s supposed to, creating that magical thing called gravity, so that I can keep my two feet solidly planted and my head on straight.

~~~~~

* not an actual book, but makes for a catchy title don’t you think?

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Lost in the Translation or Perfectly Rendered?

photo 1-5 copy 9

Yesterday my favorite three-year old gifted me some drawings from pages of her “books.” These books of hers consist simply of a nine by twelve sheet of paper folded in half, then folded again, creating a four page book. Not bad work for a budding artist. I admit to some partiality.

I didn’t take the time to ask her about each drawing, which I should have done. I suspect one is a ghost and another a pumpkin since she’s been into Halloween stuff recently. I like that her people are smiling. That’s a good sign.

photo 3-4 copy 16Do people really look like that when she sees them through her young eyes? I doubt it. Round orbs with sticks for legs and arms. No. I’m sure she sees what you and I see, a fully fleshed out body with nuances and structure and complexity. But with her raw young skills with crayon and pencil the translation of what she sees into what ends up on paper captures only the barest essentials. Eyes, a smile, stick limbs, a scratched scruff of hair convert successfully, for her anyway, into a person.

It struck me this morning as I looked over her drawings, that we all lose something in the translation of what we see and think and feel as we try to communicate it. We also stumble in translating and converting desires and dreams into reality.

I often have ideas I want to convey but try as I might the words fall short in giving skin, bones and muscles to an idea sufficiently so that anyone else can understand. Or I might get the gist of it, but not the whole as I thought of it. That can frustrate an artist, a writer, a musician, a human.

If as an adult I struggle with this translating process, imagine how frustrating it is for young children to try to convey thoughts and feelings into understandable ideas and words.

The secret, I would guess, lies in not giving up too soon. Not giving up in conveying the ideas, as well as not giving up in trying to understand them.

Her momma, perhaps, since she has long flowing hair.

Her momma maybe, who has long flowing hair.

In fifteen years my favorite three-year old will look at these drawings of hers and scoff at their simplicity, and that’s a shame. She’ll compare it to her artistic abilities after years of practice and lessons and laugh at her young self. I would hope she’d also see the purity in her efforts.

We all struggle to translate what’s inside our heads and hearts into understandable terms that forge relationships and communicate ideas. We’re all at different ages and stages of skill at making sense of the world. We wrestle making tangible the visions of who we are or want to be.

A secret life-decoder ring would come in handy wouldn’t it? Dial a few codes in, and read an outcome, carry out the instructions and voilà. But, that’s not how it works. Ever.

We explain, puzzle out, infer, deduce, interpret all the time. And so often, so very often, the messages end up lost in translation.

My take on all this?

1. We’re all drawing the best we can, with what we have, where we are.

If that isn’t true, if we aren’t putting our best efforts into being and doing what’s before us then we sharpen our colored pencils, or peel back some paper on our crayons. Then we pull out a sheet of paper, and see what sort of drawing we can come up with when we try a little harder.

2. Everyone else’s drawing means something to them and probably something slightly different to us. Maybe I ought to ask what their drawing, words, music or actions mean so I can understand better.

It shouldn’t hurt to ask. It only takes a second. “So tell me about this,” you could say. Or maybe, “I like your color choice, any particular reason you picked that color?” A thousand other questions could clarify, untangle and help us understand better.

That’s all.

Maybe I’ve overthought this whole thing. That’s certainly a strong possibility.

Sometimes a stick person is just a stick person.

~~~~~

“Art is as natural as sunshine and as vital as nourishment.”

-MaryAnn F. Kohl

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My Window Escapades

Friday Letter to my Kids -

Dear J, J, L and L,

I used to climb out of my bedroom window when I was younger.

It’s not what you think at all. I didn’t slink out when grounded, or try go with friends late at night, or to sneak off with some guy. Nope.

I climbed out in the early morning hours around sunrise, usually on a Saturday.

Unlike my siblings, I loved early mornings. I loved the quiet before everyone was awake. Seemed like a natural thing to lean towards with three brothers and three sisters. Our house seldom knew the meaning of silence.

Problem was, Mom and Dad rose early as well. No way could anyone wake up earlier than they did. I just wanted silence and the freedom to think and be and ease into my day. On emerging from my bedroom one of them would hear me, or see me or speak to me and the magic of the morning shattered and fell like so much crystal around my feet.

So, I learned to climb out of my bedroom window. We had windows with a crank that opened like a door. And fortunately for me, a small brick ledge circled that part of the house under my bedroom window. Then I lowered myself so I could reach that ledge with my toes, just barely. Then holding to the woodwork on the house, I’d ease my way around to the side and shimmy down a drain pipe.

When I got a little older and braver I’d just jump from the ledge. (I’ve looked at that ledge as an adult and it isn’t that high, five feet up at the most. )

Free from the possibility of running into family, I often wandered to the park down the street, or over to the apricot orchard. It just felt good to not have anyone know what I was doing or where I was going.

Sounds scary and dangerous in today’s world, but back then, in the Jurassic period, I felt safe enough. I wasn’t usually gone very long. Mostly I just wanted time to wake up with my own thoughts to wander among. I loved, even way back then, to watch the day begin. I especially liked watching the shadow of the mountain near us grow shorter as the sun rose higher.

As you can imagine, getting back in the house through my open window wasn’t as easy as getting out. Usually there was a woodpile, or a wheelbarrow, or some contraption leaning against the house that I could use to boost myself to the ledge. A quick side stepping got me back to the window and inside easy enough.

I wonder now if the neighbors ever mentioned seeing me climbing out or in to my parents. Probably not, or I’d have heard about it.

Having enjoyed my morning and some quiet, I could cheerfully enter the household fray. (My mom would say I wasn’t very cheerful, especially as a teenager, and that’s true, but that was mostly on school days.)

What you see isn’t always what you think you’re seeing.

I’m not sure I could have put that into words as a kid. I’d have probably really caught some flak if I’d have gotten caught. It would’ve been worth whatever punishment I’d have earned. Luckily that never happened.

I’m still very much a morning person. If your Dad wakes up early it can throw my whole day out of kilter. Poor guy. Poor aggravated me. But, that doesn’t happen too often. Good thing.

So, now you know one of my childhood secrets.

Lots of Love,

Mom

~~~~~

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

“People could behave how they liked, but Allan considered that in general it was quite unnecessary to be grumpy if you had the chance not to.” ~Jonas Jonasson

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

The Bunny Hop, Hop, Hop

By Masteruk (Own work)

Contemplative Bunny Photo by Masteruk (Own work)

I’ve observed this fun play at the Riparian on my morning walks over the past few months. Two rabbits face each other, then one hops straight up while the other one runs under it. The hopper turns midair and lands facing the other rabbit who turns almost immediately upon running under. They repeat this behavior taking turns on who hops and who runs. It’s a bit like watching popcorn popping when several pairs are hopping and running in the same general area.

This fun behavior seems to have ramped up with the cooler weather. I’ve wondered what it all means.

At first I thought it was some form of Bunny Jousting. Or perhaps it’s where the name of the popular wedding reception dance “The Bunny Hop” came from. (Could be.) But I did what any self-respecting blogger would and engaged in a bit of research before making a fool of myself online.

Turns out it’s part of the mating ritual between a male and a female. Looks fun!

Since my video attempts came out grainy and unclear, I’ve included video someone else shot of the same behavior.

Given the amount of such frolicking and the frequency of the hopping going on over at the Riparian a bumper crop of bunnies ought to make a huge showing in about a month.

Apparently there’s good reason for the anonymous saying, “Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.”

~.~.~.~.~

(If you’re really into Bunnies and all their nuances, this website has more information than the average person would ever need or want to know. But if you’ve got a son working on his rabbit raising merit badge, it’d come in really handy.)

Categories: Mondaze, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

What’s Missing?

I wrote this post on Tuesday. Specifically for Gratituesday. And then I couldn’t make myself finish it, or push the publish button. I suppose because it’s the kind of irritating writing I don’t like to read, especially when my day-to-day life seems composed of nothing but uphill struggles and crap to muck through.

Let’s be honest here, shall we?

It’s not always easy to see past difficulties and troubles in life and count blessings or feel grateful. Why is that? Lack of perspective? Lack of sleep? Lack of understanding?

The inability to feel gratitude, to notice and appreciate the good and great things about my life occasionally overtakes me and then I feel miserable.

Sometimes, on Tuesdays I feel almost like I’m bragging, although I don’t mean to. Sometimes on Tuesdays I feel embarrassed by the abundance I have in my life.

And then sometimes on Tuesdays I struggle to find something I feel grateful for. And then I feel ashamed that I could feel that way.

Just one tiny spot on the planet where poverty thrives.

One tiny spot on the planet where poverty thrives.

By any measure, particularly on a global scale, my life is one of riches, comfort, ease, wonders and glorious blessings. Even the poorest person in my city is better off than most of the world. Compared to eighty percent of the people on this planet I am a wealthy person.

Maybe I need to convince myself when I’m having a bad day, when the bills pile up, when the troubles I face feel extra daunting. If that’s the case maybe I should look at what’s missing and what’s not missing in my life.

Missing:

  • I’m not homeless.
  • I’m not hungry.
  • I don’t wonder about fuel to cook with or light at night.
  • I don’t fear reprisals if I voice my opinions or disagree with authority.
  • The air I breathe isn’t contaminated or polluted or making me ill.
  • Little restricts me if I choose to travel.
  • No major disease riddles my body or challenges my health or life.
  • Access to all sorts of information isn’t restricted or filtered.
  • I’m not persecuted for my religious beliefs.

Not Missing:

  •  I have food in the pantry.
  • Clothing choices abound, as do shoes.
  • Clean running water comes into my house with ease.
  • I’m safe in my neighborhood and in my city.
  • A variety of transportation is readily available.
  • If I really need medical care I can find a way to get it.
  • I’m able to communicate with extended family easily and quickly.
  • I can read and write, and so can my children.
  • Growing up I had two parents and siblings and everything I needed.
Not my neighborhood.

Not my neighborhood.

All of that reads like fairly basic, and almost silly stuff that just seems commonplace and ordinary. It’s only basic in some limited parts of the world, and even then only in some parts of some cities. The whole world isn’t like where I live and work and play and write. Hardly. I live in a utopia, a wonderland, a bubble.

I’ve heard people say things like, “Oh, real poverty could never happen here in America, not now, not anymore.”

I cringe when I hear such isolated and naïve talk.

To those who think such thoughts I say this:

Drop by a food pantry sometime. Volunteer for a day or two. Talk to a few of the people who come in for help. Open your eyes.

Google this term: “Countries at War.” Enjoy that reading. Or look up “Global Poverty” then look around you. Want a more realistic comparison? Then just ask your search engine to look at  “Poverty in the U.S.”

Sometimes we just don’t see the gloriously green forest all around us because the tree we’re banging our sad little head on gets in the way of our view. I’m one of those most guilty of such behavior.

Blessed beyond measure. That’s me!

Grateful for it all? You’re dang right!

I hope your view turns out as spectacular or better than mine.

~~~~~

“May our effort, confidence and concern for others be the altar from which we pray for personal abundance.” ~Laura Teresa Marquez

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, The World | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

Home Again

After my acrobatic stair performance and subsequent recovery, coupled with a too long battle against Zombie’s taking over my lungs, I’m finally back to my morning walks.  I had missed that quiet time, I just didn’t realize how much I’d missed it until I stepped out of the car and set foot on the trail this morning.

Stunning, yes?

Stunning, yes?

The biggest difference? Twenty degrees cooler! Last time I went for a walk the pre-sunrise temps hovered at eighty-three. This morning? Sixty-three! Glorious! Even once the sun’s southern-leaning rays reached my skin I didn’t feel overly warm or wish for a water bottle. Summer seems almost behind us now. (It still hits ninety-something during the day.)

Other differences I noticed included:

'Shrooms!

‘Shrooms!

Mushrooms? Not normally in the desert! But yeah, two major rainstorms, nearly five inches the first time and two inches the second. A year’s worth of rain in one month did a number on our little dry patch of earth. Fungi popping up all over the place.

Green! More than normal. Every plant seems intent on growing faster and bigger than its neighbor.

Fewer rabbits. Not sure why. Too cold? Coyotes perfecting their hunting technique? They’re sleeping in and waiting for warmer late morning temperatures?

Three little birds…singing a sweet song…a melody pure and true.

Three little birds…singing a sweet song…a melody pure and true.

The birds seemed extra cheerful and more willing to sing out. Maybe that’s just a result of being away so long I’ve forgotten their sounds. I think they’re every bit as happy about the cooler weather as any other desert dweller, human or otherwise.

More night herons out and about. I had wondered all summer long if they’d moved on to other feeding grounds forever, but I saw more this morning than I’ve seen in the past four months combined.

Things that stayed the same:

My coyote friend still frolics in the tall brush of the dry ponds and watches from a distance as I watch back. I’d like to think we share a sort of connection, but I’m not fooling myself with that idea.

Yellow hollered for attention, too.

Yellow hollered for attention, too.

That creosote and mingled dust smell still permeates the air. Some people don’t care for it, but to me it’s the scent of wildness and quiet. Some days I go out of my way in the car to drive past with my windows open just to get a whiff of one of my favorite places.

Peace abounds and wraps itself around me as I walk. That, more than any other aspect of my morning ritual summarizes best what I missed the most this past month. Lacking a brush with nature, I stumble around off-kilter and unfocused. It’s not something I ought to neglect.

 

 “This early piece of the morning is mine.” 
~Wallace Stegner 

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

Hidey Holes and Other Scary Times

Friday Letter to My Kids – October 3, 2014 -

Dear J, J, L and L,

When we moved to Oklahoma one of the first things anyone said to us was, “Welcome to Oklahoma. If you don’t like the weather just wait ten minutes.” That sure proved true. Blue skies could change to threatening wall clouds and potential destruction in just a matter of minutes. Then sirens could start blasting and we’d tune in to the local news to see where the radar signature of a tornado might be traveling.

Luckily we never saw one in person.

Luckily we never saw one in person.

Do you remember hidey holes?

The first time we had to crouch and hide from a tornado it was in a one and a half-story home with that odd loft. The smallest and most central room in the house was the bathroom. That’s where we hid out when the tornado sirens blasted.  I had all four of you climb into the tub where I covered you with a big  quilt. Then I hunkered down beside you. Dad must have been out-of-town or at work.

Lucky for us the sirens proved unnecessary and no tornado touched down anywhere. I imagine the adrenaline of that first time kept us all awake late that night.

There’s an odd sensation of wanting to stand at a window and try to see this phenomenon live and in person. It seems to outweigh the logic of hiding out in a closet or bathtub. Nowadays with smart phones, weather cameras and non-stop storm chasers we could snuggle safe in our hidey hole and still see what’s going on.

Our second home in Oklahoma had a bigger, better sheltering spot, in that big weird closet that wrapped around the back of the rock fireplace. Remember that closet? It could have served as an extra bedroom it was so big.

I have to admit I’m glad we didn’t have a storm shelter. The idea of crawling into a glorified hole in the ground and waiting out a fierce storm scares the heck outta me. Remember how I don’t like basements, dark places or small spaces? But we’d have had a better chance if our house had taken a direct hit by a twister if we were underground.

The closest we ever came to real danger was a cluster of tiny tornadoes that sort of skipped over our neighborhood, tickled a few rooftops, took out a few small trees and then dissipated. And once a gas station in the town just north of ours took a direct hit. Phew.

I see news footage of some of the havoc from big storms that sweep through towns and feel grateful we never saw anything like that firsthand. Moving to “tornado alley” turned out okay for us, but the idea sure sounded ominous at the time.

Fairly self-explanatory.

Fairly self-explanatory.

Even in Wyoming you’ve encountered scary stuff. How could you ever forget the time you were staying at Grandpa and Grandma’s house Big J? Lightning hit in the middle of the night and blew the TV out. Grandpa said you made the leap from your bedroom to theirs in one bound.

I suppose anywhere you live there’s some kind of danger. Some areas habitually rock and roll with earthquakes. Others experience frequent flooding. Then there’s the coastal threats of hurricanes and tsunamis. Not to mention volcanoes, drought, landslides, ice storms, sinkholes, dust storms, hail, blizzards. There’s always something.

Life itself plays out as a risky undertaking. Knowing that, we brace ourselves for uncertainty and bumpy roads while enjoying the ride and scenery as much as we can in the meantime.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself less willing to risk even simple things. I’m sure I’m missing out, I’m just not sure how to combat that inherent fear.

Jarek Tuszynski [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Jarek Tuszynski [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Hard to believe this now deathly-scared-of-heights woman, your very own mother,  is the same one who introduced you to rock climbing and rappelling you when were four and five years old. Who was that woman and where did she disappear to? (Remember days spent at Spire Rock?) Little J picked up the nickname Arachnid for her mad climbing skills back then.

Maybe it’s a hormone thing. Maybe it’s insanity, or maybe it’s actually sanity finally settling in. Staying safe, avoiding risk and searching for a solid footing seem to make up a significant portion of my daily efforts. Feels a bit like I’ve taken up permanent residence in a hidey hole.

That’s silly.

So far, each of you have braved new adventures with eyes wide and anticipating what’s next. Fortunately, I can also see your wisdom in “setting protection,” like a smart rock climber would. You’re on belay and working your way up to new, fun and spectacular vistas.

It’s scary and exciting to see you progressing. I want to save you from rock fall, wild weather, and anything that might prevent your happiness. But I can’t. Even if I could it’d be unfair of me to deprive you of the learning opportunity of hardship. (Have I mentioned how much I hate learning from hardship? You should at least know that much about me by now.)

About all that I can do involves praying for you which I do daily and fervently! Wherever you go and whatever you do I wish you courage, calm winds, safe passage, sturdy shelter, and plenty of joy.

 

Love Always,

Mom

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

 

“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

 

 

 

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

And So It Starts

IMG_2994.JPG

Categories: Uncategorized | 10 Comments
 
 

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: , , , , | 10 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

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