At School In Your Underwear?

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

~Friday Letter to my Kids~

Dear J, J, L and L,

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

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

“I will not give my grown children advice.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-Advice Advice

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

 

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

You’re all waaaaaay better than me at:

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

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

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

Love ya tons,

Mom

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

 

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

~~~~~

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

~~~~~

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

 

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

Who Let the Doggie Out?

Last week I dog sat. Yes. Me.

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

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

Sweet lil Blondie.

Sweet lil Blondie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smiling lovingly at her "mommy."

Smiling lovingly at her “mommy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering Paradise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This quote captures how I began to feel about libraries:

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

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

Because proper reading requires feet up.

Because proper reading requires feet up.

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

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

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

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

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

Today's hopeful pile.

Today’s hopeful pile.

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

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

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

 ~~~~~

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

An eternity of reading? Sounds nice.

An eternity of reading? Sounds nice.

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

What Do You Need?

Imagine it.

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

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

A strange house for such a powerful entity.

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

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

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

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

What

Do

You

Need

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

Once more the words echo around you.

What do you need?”

Finally, after some stunned silence a small explanation:

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

What do you need?

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

photo-24 copy 20

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

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

What do you need?

Give it some thought.

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

Hold it!!!

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

Gak!

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

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

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

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

How will you respond?

Give yourself an hour. Think it over.

What do you need?

 

~~~~~

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

“They Say It’s Your Birthday”

Birthstone bracelet with all four of you.

Birthstone bracelet with all four of you.

Not Just Another Friday Letter To My Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

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

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

Big J

Big J

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

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

Little J

Little J

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

Absolute truth.

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

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

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

Big L

Big L

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

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

Little L

Little L

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

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

All my love,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

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

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

Life Hack: How to Eat a Cupcake

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

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

photo.PNG copy

Look I even asked his permission!

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

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

Cupcake

Cupcake

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

Cupcake Sandwich

Cupcake Sandwich

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

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

Tear the cupcake in half.

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

Press gently together.

Voila.

(Now you eat it.)

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

Happy eating.

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

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

There is No Measure for Sorrow

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

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

Bizarre.

That’s what I thought at the time.

What more is there to say?

What more is there to say?

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

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

"Hennes Grave" by Picasa.

“Hennes Grave” by Picasa.

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

It took a while.

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

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

If only.

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

Hardly.

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

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

There is no measure for grief, loss or sorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

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

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

Ain’t No Sunshine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me take a different angle.

cloudy

Cloudy.

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

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

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

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

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

Or maybe that’s just my life.

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

Change is inevitable.

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

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~

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

 

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

 

 

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

A World of #cultureofcharacter

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

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

Vegas was meh. I’m not a big fan.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windblown

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

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

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

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

That’s doable. We’d survive. Yay!

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

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

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

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

JACKPOT!!

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

Wow!

Lucky, huh?

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

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

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

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

A person of character and class? Absolutely.

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

I’d like to hear about it more.

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

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

#cultureofcharacter

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

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

It’s certainly works that way in my world.

How about yours?

I’ll be watching for your tweets.

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

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

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

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

“A Little Nonsense Now and Then”

Friday Letter to My Kids – August 8, 2014

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

Dear J, J, L and L,

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

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

Homemade sidewalk chalk in process.

Homemade sidewalk chalk in process.

Seems like we did more than a few projects.

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

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

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

A basic blanket fort. Photo by Chris Barr

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

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

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

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

Pretty and yummy!

Pretty and yummy!

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

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

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

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

I surely do love you,

Mom

 

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

~~~~~

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

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

Love is the Main Ingredient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Perfection on a baking sheet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A much-loved, well used recipe card.

Here’s the translation and one small adjustment:

Mom’s Banana Bread

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

1 cup sugar 

Mix together then stir in:

2 eggs

Then add:

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

Mash 3 ripe bananas 

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

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

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

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

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

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Gospel truth. More important than yeast.

 

 

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

It Pays to Look a Little Closer

What in the world?

What in the world?

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

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

Weird!

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

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

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

Leonardo's sketch of a flying machine.

Leonardo’s sketch of a flying machine.

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

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

 ~~~

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

 ~~~~~

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

This Night Heron is about a foot tall.

This Night Heron is about a foot tall.

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

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

Looking up through the sculpture's wings.

Looking up through the sculpture’s wings.

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

Draw your own conclusions and metaphors.

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

 

The attribution, cemented in.

The attribution, cemented in.

 

 

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

The Best Thing Ever to Cross Your Lips

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

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

I’m not talking Wonder here either.

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

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

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

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

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

Other favorites? Oh, let me name a few.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bread for everyone, please.

Bread for everyone, please.

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

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

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

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

You’ll thank me. Really. You will.

You’re welcome.

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

Still Crazy After All These Months

Seven months today.

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

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

Sounds stupidly dramatic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s where I insert the jokes.

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

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

Alright already, I’ll stop now.

Laughter? Really?

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

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

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

“Love ya, Kathy. See ya later.”

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

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

 

 

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

Wisdom from an Almost One-Year Old

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

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

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

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

Toddlers. Who knew?

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

Midnight? What's that?

Midnight? What’s that?

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

Car Talk

Friday Letter to My Kids (yup, on Saturday)

Dear J, J, L and L,

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

I loved those talks.

Well, mostly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All my love,

Mom

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

~~~~~

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

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

The Story of a Lifetime?

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

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

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

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

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

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

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

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

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

hang ten

Hands even speak…

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

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

Kind of handy, wouldn’t you say?

 

 

 

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

Just Joking Around As Usual

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

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

Hope you get a laugh or two. 

 

iamyourfather

 

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

fonts

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

laugh 3

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

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

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

He yelled back, “Arizona State University.”

 

washing

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity.

It’s impossible to put down.

earth

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

 

lemon

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

melons

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

question mark

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

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

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

laughing2

Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini.

The bartender asks,”Olive or twist?”

oliver twist

 

 

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

pig-01

Two parrots were sitting on a perch.

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

perch

 

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

 

marley jamming

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

“Are you sure?” asks the second atom.

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

 + + + 

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

peanuts

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

Wife: I clean the toilet bowl.

Husband: How does that help?

Wife: I use your toothbrush.

toothbrush

 

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

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

He now works for Microsoft, writing error messages.

blue screen

 

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

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

note

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

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

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

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

dalmation

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

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

She was having contractions.  ~ Garrison Keillor

 

laugh 3

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

 

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

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

cockroaches

Normal around here is just a setting on the dryer.

smile

 

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

The Smell of Hope

 

Nothing.

Nothing surpasses the scent of rain in the desert.

Raindrops meeting ground smell like hope.

Each droplet washes dust from the air.

Those first tentative splashes

hold every scent the sky has held.

Millions of them combine

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

Life pours out of the sky

washing

renewing

cooling

calming.

As clouds loosen their purse strings,

Heaven sighs,

Earth relaxes,

and the two settle into each others arms

like a long married couple.

 

Paths fill with every scent washed from the air,

puddles grow and overflow with evaporated life,

temporary ponds hold every drop of love the sky bestows.

And the land

savors this elixir,

love potion extraordinaire.

Flooded water retention basin after a desert rainstorm.

Flooded water retention basin after a desert rainstorm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Lately the scale tips more toward the disconnect side.

What’s the tipping point?

image by Smurfy.

image by Smurfy.

Fierce, unchecked, unscreened, hate-filled anger.

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

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

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

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

Crazed, illogical, uncaring.

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

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

Who says such things about other human beings?

I feel such dismay.

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

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

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

What I do instead

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

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

I’m a hypocrite

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

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

Point taken. Resolved to do better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can we disagree without being disagreeable? 

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

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

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

 *~*

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

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

Who Me? Afraid of the Dark?

Another Friday Letter to my Kids

 

Dear J, J, L and L,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not quite an actual photo of my childhood cellar stairs.

Not quite an actual photo of my childhood cellar stairs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What potential this view affords.

What potential this view affords.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I sure do love you all.

 

Neurotically yours,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

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

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

Lucy: The fear of Everything.

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t mind either.

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

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

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

And I shared a bedroom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sweet, yes?

Sweet, yes?

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

 

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

Banded Together

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

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

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

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

What a surprising moment in the middle of my day.

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

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

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

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

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

Which document is that, you ask?

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

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

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

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

20071018_declaration

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

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

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

flag

A Word You Might Not Know But Will Now

un·alien·able

adjective \ˌən-ˈāl-yə-nə-bəl

: impossible to take away or give up

 

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

Unicorns and Happiness

image by ChristerD

image by ChristerD

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

I sure do.

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

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

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

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

So, why am I so adamant that you watch?

Because I want you to have more happiness in your life. If you’re happier, people around you are happier. And if they’re happier, then others are, too. And eventually, those ripples reach me. Theoretically, anyway.

Here’s info from one of the visuals he pops up on the screen for us.

Creating lasting positive change

  • 3 Gratitudes

  • Journaling

  • Exercise

  • Meditation

  • Random Acts of Kindness

That first item?  Well, it’s made a difference in my life over the past twenty years. I’ve been paying attention and keeping a gratitude journal, mostly, over the past twenty years.

Yes. Twenty.

I’m my own study. And the results rock!

And that’s just with item one on the list.

  • Shawn recommends taking two minutes every day and listing three things you’re grateful for.
  • “Journaling about one positive thing from the past twenty-four hours allows you to relive the positive emotions.”
  • Exercise floods our system with endorphins which are the happiness chemicals that we could all use more of.
  • Meditation allows us to briefly focus on one thing in a world where we’re constantly multitasking.
  • A random act of kindness is as simple as sitting at your desk and writing one positive email to someone in your social support network, thanking them, praising them, encouraging them.

Do we have time for any of this?

YES!

Can we afford not to make time for it?

No.

In just twenty-one days, studies show a marked difference in happiness level. And consequently, they experience greater productivity and enhanced learning ability of people who implement the five steps outlined above.

Please watch and put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step.

Here’s the link again, in case you missed it.

 

 

Categories: Happiness, Mondaze | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Who-Hair and Other Facts of Life

A few of the Who Ville folk.

A few of the Who Ville folk.

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

I love your Dad. Three decades plus of being together grows Lego-like connections that only fit each other, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, mentally. I can talk to him about ANY thing and he doesn’t go ballistic or get out of whack. He’s a great listener and so very caring and concerned and generous.

MSH, also known as Dad or Pa at our house, loves you more than you can ever know. It’s one of those things you only understand when you’re halfway through your life and have gone through a few things. So just trust me on this one.

I preface today’s letter with those reassurances for lots of reasons, some of them having to do with thongs, hair brushes, speedos, who-hair, corduroy, delegation, advice and perfectionism. Not necessarily in that order. It’s all kind of a twisty mess.

Dad's alter ego?

Dad’s alter ego?

Yes, a twisty mess, kind of like Dad’s hair. I affectionately call it “Who-hair,” as in Dr. Seuss’s amazing little creatures. When your Dad wakes up who knows what his hair will have formed itself into. Bedhead hair is normal for most people. The name who-hair stuck because he so often simply doesn’t bother to comb his hair at all. That’s one of those benefits/dangers of working from home most of the time. All day long he sports a pillow-designed coif, answering the door, sometimes running errands, looking every bit like he just woke up. It’s kind of endearing, don’t you think? A little Einstein-ish.

Funny thing is when I met your father he, quite frankly, was a little vain. He took a lot of pride in how he looked. Always had a comb in his pocket. Checked the mirror frequently. He had this brown velvet jacket that he looked stunning in. Oh my! Takes my breath away even thinking about it this many years later. Yes. Your father cared how he presented himself to the world. I’m not sure when that changed, but it surely did, from day to night. I will add, the corduroy pants have been and will always be part of who he is.

These particular footwear were known as thongs (made in the 70s and 80's)

These set of footwear are called thongs (made in the 70s and 80’s)

That said, he doesn’t change very much. Doesn’t want to. That’s a big part of why flip-flops, those sandal-like shoe things we wear on our feet, will always and forever be thongs in his vocabulary. Known as thongs back in the day, he will call them that to his dying breath. Ironic that his one surviving pair that he loves are, yes, rainbow colors. I find it sad that the world has changed so much that basic innocent words and other things have taken on such odd and disconnected meanings from their origins.

Here’s two things you must remember. And this isn’t just your Dad, it’s most Dads.

Advice = Love

You need to… = I love you

When a sentence from his mouth begins with the words, “you need to,” just know those are really the three little words everyone longs to hear, just in Dad language.

All Dads see part of their role as a fixer, a repairer and an answer man.

If you actually ask for his advice on a topic you’ll make his day. You’re light years ahead if you can simply accept his advice knowing that it really means that he loves you. You don’t have to go along with the advice, but thank him for it, sincerely.  Appreciate the meaning behind what he says. I know that’s a really tough pill for some of you to swallow, but truth nonetheless.

The other Dad-unique thing he’s done is spend time with us watching TV or movies. Just being in the room together, sharing some popcorn or a snack, for him says Love. Dad isn’t  alone in that. I’ve heard of other men who are the same way. It’s not a disconnect in their minds, it’s an indirect way of sharing time and space. And shared time and space equals Love.

Shared Time and Space = Love

One of my most cherished memories is of Big J as a three-year old coming out of your bedroom after an hour of pretend sleeping. Dad would say, “do you need some time with your Dad?” And J, you’d say, “yeah,” in your sleepy voice, trying to hide a grin.

Best reruns ever.

Best reruns ever.

So Dad would break out the chips and salsa and the two of your would sit on the ugly orange plaid sofa munching while watching M*A*S*H reruns. Then you’d snuggle up. Dad would be in his classic pose of lying sideways, legs taking up most of the room on the couch, and Big J would perch on top of him in perfect imitation and fall instantly to sleep.

If that wasn’t love, I don’t know what is.

And girls, those times when your Dad went along with your idea to play beauty parlor, shows his sense of humor as well as his love. He even posed for photos with those bobby pins, barrettes, curlers and bows all over his head. Yet another example of his looking every bit the part of a Who from Who Ville. What a good sport he was. And still is.

I’m rethinking sharing the speedo and hairbrush stories, for now. And the delegation, perfectionism and creativity can wait for another day, too.

If I could sum up your Dad, it’d be in an equation that looks like this.

Dad = Love

It’s true. He’s not like any other Dad on the planet or in the galaxy. He hasn’t ever been a sports dude, or a nine to five guy, but he’s got a ton of love for each of you. More than you’ll ever know. Believe me, that’s the reality of it.

Tons of Love from,

Mom

and

from your Dad

photo-23 copy 5
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ~ Umberto Eco

 

 

 

 

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

We Get By with a Little Help from our Friends

My sister-in-law, Cheri Mitchell, a super-star woman with incredible energy and optimism who’s also a nurse, took off for Nairobi, Kenya a month ago to see what she could do to help lighten the load and smooth the path for a few people there.

The photos she’s sent and the status updates she’s posted have added perspective and angst to my life. I feel so decadent here in America when I see and read about life in the orphanage where she’s volunteering.

Today, I’m sharing a tiny part of what she’s experienced so far, gleaned with her permission, from her Facebook page.

 

 

“Some of the very happy sweet kids at the KCC Slum project. Also a pic of their water supply. Volunteers built a filtration system to clean it. Some previous volunteers started a school there and are doing amazing work. Living conditions are below poverty level yet they are all smiling. I don’t think I have a thing to complain about…Feeling grateful.” 
tents“Same day Thursday, we also visited an IDP camp (internally displaced persons), they live in “tents” made of what ever they can find, old rice bags, plastic sacks, sticks, cardboard, tin, etc. It was truly heartbreaking for me. Overwhelmed with the cycle of poverty, yet again, smiling. The children were so happy to see volunteers and have new people to play with. We played soccer, and some of them taught us some songs.”

“We brought flour with us for the families, bagged it and distributed it to them. They were very grateful and appreciative, some of them did little dances of joy.  Wish we could have brought more… Very humbling day.”
“A clean pit latrine…”
pit latrine

“First day at Wakimai children home.. with Jorge. They need lots of love and play time…there was also puppies and kittens, and baby chickens.”

mortuary sign“Today was the funeral service and burial for a baby boy from the orphanage we are at, he died on Tuesday at the hospital. Somber experience, and very close to home. Heaven has another Angel — feeling sad.”

 

“Today we did some good.  Yesterday we bought cleaning supplies, blankets, diapers and baby goods and we went back to the house today to clean and organize. We swept and mopped and got rid of all the broken and destroyed shoes that didn’t have mates and reorganize their shoe shelves. Folded laundry, hung laundry, fed and played with the kids. Then we went to market… what an awesome experience. Purchased huge bags of corn, beans and an enormous bag of potatoes for the orphanage. It is pictured in the back of the truck.”

“Water tank project..gutters on, tank plot cleared, now waiting on tank..hmmm. african standard time.”

 

doctors and clinic workers“Another help for the wonderful people who selflessly serve at the Uthiru dispensary. They were in need of a foetal heart Doppler. Thanks to donations, the doctor, nurses as well as the expectant mothers can now hear their babies heartbeats in utero. This will help them feel closer to their newborns and encourage them to seek proper prenatal care. God bless contributors. And THANK YOU!!!”

 

Dr. Ester and the wonderful staff at Uthiru dispensary free clinic, with the fetal heart doppler that donations paid for, and medications received from NVS. Thank you so much contributors. God Bless you.”

“They could really benefit from some more donations, quickly. There are some incredible stories here, some miraculous, mostly sad tho. The kids range from 2 months to 14 yrs. There’s 62 kids and one sweet woman with a helper to run the place. It isn’t funded by government and relies on volunteer help and donations.”

Cheri and Stephi

Cheri and Stefi

“We have done some things here to greatly increase the quality of life for these children.”

“So much more can be done. Winter is here and not all children have blankets. Our donations even helped get a little boy, who was hit by an angry neighbor, a CT Scan. He has been ill since the incident.”
“Thank you again for all who have donated and if you still want to, and can, here is the site again. God bless you, we only have a couple more weeks here and I really want to make a difference for these sweet children.”
I hope you can help her to help these sweet children. 
Maybe we could skip one morning’s latte’ this week, or go without an afternoon smoothie, forego tomorrow’s burger and fries and brown bag it, or rent a movie instead of going out and send the difference. Just that much can go so far. Every bit helps Cheri to help them immediately and directly.

 

 

Categories: Love, People, The World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

Blooming in a Drought

My Poinciana tree.

My Poinciana tree.

It’s Gratituesday! See this tree? Yes, it’s a tree, not a bush. It’s called a Poinciana. It’s died twice, well, practically died, I suppose. It’s very frost sensitive. When we get our one or two hard frosts each winter, regardless of my heroic efforts to cover it in sheets, water it deeply and protect it from the damaging freeze, it takes a major hit. Two years ago it certainly had died. All those lush leaves turned brown and fell off, while the branches also kind of curled up at the ends. I pruned when Spring arrived, not terribly hopeful of anything coming of it. When, lo and behold, a second trunk shot out of the ground beside the first dead one, produced copious branches and became a full leafed six foot tree by summer. Amazing.

This past winter, in spite of my best efforts, it froze again, although not as badly. The center and underside stayed green and leafy, only the tops froze. So the tree got shorter, but fuller. Even with a mild spring and plenty of water it hasnt gotten any taller. It really looks like a massive bush now.

What does any of this have to do with what I’m grateful for this Tuesday?

I’ve been looking out my back window every day for a week now, watching the branches and leaves on this stunning tree wave in the breeze. Reminds me of a long green velvet robe undulating behind someone running across an expanse.

Look closer at the bottom of the photo. See my nearly dead grass. That’s with regular watering. Nothing I do will revive it. I hope it makes it through the summer.

This tree, thriving and surviving and growing and showing off in the breeze, does so in the midst of a desert. Rocks, harsh temperatures, the driest of dry humidity,  and very little care. I wonder if it knows how rare and beautiful it is. I wonder if it recognizes how rich and abundant its life appears.

I feel that way about my own life. I live, by any measurable standard, a rich, wildly free, abundant life. In spite of a drought I have water available.

That joke people are always throwing out about “first world problems” isn’t really funny. It’s meant to shine some perspective on our ridiculously abundant lifestyle.

I have nothing to whine or complain about. Nothing.

I have all I need. I have most of what I want. I have more than enough and then some. Lately, I’m almost ashamed at how rich my life is.

But instead of shame, I feel immense gratitude. And naturally, along with that feeling rides a desire to give back, to share, to help, to spread the wealth.

 

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

Mondaze: Thoughts of a Turtle Wannabe

MSH has this dream of buying a motor home and living in it, as in a permanent residence. Me, not so much. A very small point of contention, really, in the grand scheme of things.

Anyway, I suppose that’s the ultimate way for a human to emulate turtle behavior. One could also argue that living out of a backpack would qualify more as turtle-like living. But that’s a whole different idea completely, if you ask me. Although there was a time, thirty odd years ago when that sounded completely rad and doable. (rad= seventies speak for radical, cool, awesome, epic, sick)

Me, I’m more like a turtle without a shell, so my unmovable house has to serve as my protective casing. That poses a problem for someone who needs outdoor time every single day.

photo-23 copy 9Family, I’m okay with. We can hang out and I don’t feel like I have to be “up” or pretend cheerfulness or some other mood when I’m just feeling “meh.” Even better when we’re all feeling the same kind of summer-heat-has-sucked-the-life-out-of-our-energy-reserves blahness.

Mostly, I just want to be left alone to do my thing.

When I go walking in the wee hours of the a.m., if I pass by and say “morning” to five people, that’s about, oh, five people too many. Ten people and I consider the place overrun by a crowd. Sheesh, you’d think they’d all stay in bed that early in the morning, but no, they all have to converge on MY walking place at MY private walking meditation hour.

I’m not always so acerbic and bitter sounding. Just lately I’ve felt that way. I blame it on the summer heat and probably something else that I haven’t figured out yet. Not feeling particularly motivated to analyze myself either.

photo-24 copy 5I ran across this turtle a couple of mornings ago while on my walk. He’s a pretty substantial size for around here. Of course, when it heard my steps on the gravel it pulled its head and legs in and hunkered down waiting for me to go away. I didn’t. Nope. I sat down on a nearby bench and pretended to not be interested in him. A bad plan, I have to admit. The turtle wasn’t fooled by my ploy.

I imagined, after a while, bad words in some turtle tongue racing about inside its little green head. “Stupid human, why won’t she just go away and leave me alone. Can’t she see I just want to be left in peace to enjoy the scenery by myself?”

I felt connected to this semi-animate-pretend-rock. I understood its need for solitude, simply wanting freedom to wander alone and ponder, unhindered by morning niceties and unspoken rules of trail etiquette. So I apologized and left.

Shuffling off down the trail I looked back hopefully, only once. The turtle felt not the least bit accommodating in showing its tail, feet or head even from a distance.

I’m afraid I do that myself lately. If my garage had any spare space I’d seldom show my face outside my house, except at ultra early, ultra late hours when interaction with other humans remains least likely.

What’s up with that?

Maybe I’m trying to keep reality at bay after my two weeks off from life. Maybe my brain feels too cluttered to allow in any outsider input from conversation.

Can you say vacation to recover from a vacation?

Nah.

Maybe Arizona summer psychologically demands something akin to bears hibernating and I’m secretly part bear.

Rawr.

Um. No.

Let’s just say I’m slightly anti-social lately. I think I’ll just roll with it.

It’ll pass in a day or so.

Or when the mercury dips back down into the nineties again.

Then I’ll be like:

 

tmnt 2

 

 

 

 

or something along those lines.

 

Categories: Mental Health, Mondaze, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Baffled by the White Van of Life

Friday Letter to My Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

Do you remember that white van we owned? The gutless wonder that could barely make it up an overpass without overheating? The one little L christened on our first road trip by barfing all over the middle seat? The same van big J ran over the high school parking lot curbing with and blew out two, or was it three, tires in.

Ours didn't look this bad on the outside. The problems were all mechanical.

Ours didn’t look this bad. The problems were all mechanical.

Yeah, that one.

It had all sorts of fun problems. The muffler issue comes to mind lately. The world could hear us coming in that vehicle from a good half mile away. Not sure why we didn’t replace or repair the muffler. Actually, I’m pretty sure we didn’t have the money to fix it for a while.

When either of the J’s would finally come home from wherever you’d been, work, a friend’s house, an unapproved “date,” we’d definitely hear the van coming. That is until one of you thought you’d figured out we wouldn’t hear the unmuffled engine if you turned it off before coasting around the corner and into the driveway.

Problem was we’d still hear the van coming from further out in the neighborhood, before the engine was turned off. Also, that sort of parking style raised some eyebrows from neighbors who were out and about late at night who mentioned it to us. We should have come down harder on you, grounded you from driving. Seems like most discipline had little to no effect on you.

Go figure.

The most infamous sneaking about done by any of you came from little J.

You climbed out your second story window onto the strategically placed garbage bins below the roofline and out to frolic in the middle of the night. The funny part happened when you couldn’t climb back the way you climbed out and had to ring the doorbell to get inside the house at, what was it, three a.m. Your story that you forgot your key after “going for a walk to be alone” missed the fact that we had a deadbolt lock on that door that could only be locked with a key.

You gotta love the logic of teenagers whose brains haven’t quite yet fully developed.

Honestly, you all know at this point that true logic doesn’t really even exist in a teenage brain. It’s all hormone driven coupled with the “logic” of a three-year old.

I’ve been hanging out with our favorite three-year old lately and she reminds me so much of each of you as teenagers. The main themes are as follows:

  1. I want it.
  2. I want it now.
  3. No I can’t wait.
  4. I need to go pout and feel sorry for myself if I can’t have items one through three and I’ll make your life miserable until I get what I want.
  5. The way I see the world is reality and nothing you say will change that. If I say a dinosaur lives behind the desk that’s the truth of the matter.
  6. Why?
  7. Why not?

Pam, from Oklahoma, used to say about teenagers. “You don’t like them very much for about five years, but you still somehow manage to love them.”

That stage lasted longer for some of you than others.

Honestly, you all weren’t horrific all the time. You each seemed to need to take your turn being difficult to live with in one way or another. And I hate to lump you all together in one crowd because you’ve each behaved so differently from each other.

speed bumpsI remember big J saying you’d bring your friends over to the house if only we had a VCR and a decent TV. So we scrounged and sprung for both and you still didn’t bring your friends over. Much later we learned the real reason you didn’t bring your friends over. Still shaking my head over that stuff.

Little J had such charm and charisma I’m afraid she got away with way too much on cuteness alone. Changing clothes after leaving the house and “losing” your pager come to mind as just a couple of minor sneaky things you did.

Big L used to purposely incite skirmishes with little L out of sheer boredom or revenge. It didn’t matter than I begged you not to bother the sleeping giant, you did it anyway. And yes, I can still hear your revengeful heh heh hehhing in my head.

Little L you provided the final exam to my parenting experiences with the other three. Since I’d learned a few things by then, you had to pull out some never before seen situations that I’m still reeling a bit from. Your need for TIGHT bed covers that never were tight enough and your other need for an always spotlessly clean and organized house, which I failed to provide, come to mind.

Sorry, I didn’t measure up.

Most of what I feel about all of your teen angst and rebellion and mistakes is regret that I couldn’t save you from going through it. I’d have given anything to keep you safe from your own teen dingbattedness. Somewhere I fell short with each of you and that, oh man, that really stings.

And yet, what makes me smile, other than the fact that I somehow managed to get through those parenting years without scarring any of you too badly, lies in the promise that each of you will get to experience parenting teens yourself.

Heh, heh, heh.

I was no saint as a teen. Oh my. Not. At. All. So I probably, well okay, definitely, deserved the thrashing I got from parenting all of you through those same years. You’d think I’d have done better, seen the warning signs, been harder on you, or gentler, as needed. My own experiences should have taught me to be a better parent than I managed.

Didn’t work out that way. Dang. Turns out being a teenager does little to prepare you for raising one.

To quote Pumbaa who’s misquoting Timon, “Ya gotta put your behind in the past.”

So what did I learn from not applying what I’d learned as a teen to my parenting career?

  • I wish I’d been more direct with each of you.
  • There’s no such thing as balance between parents. There needs to be agreement. One parent’s hardness can’t be softened by the other parent’s squishiness. And vice versa. Bad cop, good cop only works on TV shows and the movies.
  • I’m the grownup in the relationship with my kids.
  • It’s okay to expect the best, but I should have been more eyes-wide-open about reality. It’s not easy reconciling the two. It can hurt, big time.

If all parents learned from the mistakes they made as teens, we’d have a perfected society by now. Obviously, we’re all slow learners.

I take heart in seeing what kind, patient (mostly), generous, optimistic and loving adults you each have turned into. Ya’ll came preprogrammed with some great stuff that sat latent for a while. Now look at you.

I couldn’t be more proud.

engine interior

It may as well be Greek, engines baffle me.

That white van reminds me of teenage life. It got us where we ultimately needed to get to, most of the time, but not without some bumpiness and noise, breakdowns and mind-boggling struggles. I can’t tell you how often I stood before the open hood of that van completely snookered as to what went wrong and what I could do to fix it. Same goes for each of you. I’d stand there looking into your face and wonder “what the flippin’ heck can I do to make this work?”

I wish you well in your personal parenting adventures, especially the teen-fraught years. I hope your own version of a white van serves you better than mine did.

Good luck with that. I’ll be praying for you.

 

All my love,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

 “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” ~ Robert Fulghum

 

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

Safe, Secure and Sleeping Like a Baby

It’s Gratituesday! I’m grateful today for a sense of security and safety.

By Zuzu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

By Zuzu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Early this morning, four a.m. or so, MSH asks, “What’s that sound?”

A sort of low rumbling reverberated through the walls of the house and vibrated just so. I replied, “That’s just a car stereo.”

“Oh, right, of course,” he mumbled in his half-sleep.

“Or,” I said, jokingly, “someone’s doing some bombing not too far off.”

His sleepy non-chuckle left me smiling in my less drowsy state.

I know in many areas of the world that’s not a laughing matter, and more likely than not the disturbing sound that wakes a person isn’t something that someone shrugs off. I recognize, but not always, that I live an incredibly sheltered, safe life in the way-out suburbs of a fairly decent sized city, and I seldom worry about such things.

My sister-in-law and niece are in Kenya volunteering in a medical capacity. When I read “Kenya” in a news headline yesterday, my radar buzzed and hummed and worried. Fortunately they aren’t anywhere near Kenya’s coastal town of Mpeketoni. They’re in Nairobi, an inland city ten hours away. Here’s the thing. Kenya’s coastal towns used to be some of the most stable and secure areas in East Africa. Tourists flocked there with abandon. Do you think that’s changed now? Yeah, me too.

But that’s Africa, is what I want to tell myself. That continent has always been unstable, uncertain, scary. Uh huh.

I can just keep telling myself that. Or I can face reality.

Is it just a matter of time before my safe little pocket of suburbia becomes unstable? Or am I worrying about nothing? Fifteen years ago we boarded planes without a thought about safety or security. Less than twenty years ago, schools seemed like bastions of stability and safety, where we blithely left our children in the care and keeping of school staff. Malls, post offices, movie theaters, buses, cafes, on the road, at work, in your home. All seem safe but haven’t always been for everybody.

I wish, I wish, I wish it were so. Safety, security, peace, lack of fear.

Here’s the thing I find weird about today’s topic. I hesitated posting it. In fact, it’s after eight in the evening and I’m still hanging back.

Why?

I don’t want to jinx things. Kind of like praying for patience, you end up having to practice it to get it. I’m not wanting anything like that today. I’m simply grateful that I feel safe, that I live in circumstances where I’m not holding my breath at loud noises, sudden movements, scary things.

I know it can change. Suddenly, irrevocably. But for today, for now, for what I’ve had so far, I’m so aware of how rare and rich and free I feel in my safe little coccoon.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Climbing, Shredding and Burning

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

I’ve been “on vacation” for the past two weeks. As you know from personal experience that means, (ninety-five percent chance) staying with relatives. That’s not a bad thing; it simply means that most of our vacations involve family, not visiting Europe or going on a cruise or hitting the slopes or the beach.

We did do some of that. We had some good times on the slopes for a few years. In fact big J practically emerged from the womb skiing, and little J took to skiing like a seed to dirt. I still get this ache in my stomach about J breaking his collarbone on the first day of a four-day ski trip. No more snowboarding that season. The pain of the break, I’m guessing, felt like nothing compared to the pain of watching everyone else racing down the mountain while you had to lounge around at the lodge every day.

Ouch! I hope you’ve made up in quality what you missed in quantity on that trip.

Given that you put yourself to sleep at night by boarding down a specific run makes me feel pretty good about all the days you managed to get in on the mountain after that.

We never made it to the ocean with all of us together. L and L enjoyed that singular experience. Spring break, we found out the hard way, isn’t really the ideal time to hang out in the Pacific. Chilly, fierce waves, a strong undertow, but plenty of space on the beach. We managed to get a sunburn, sand stuck in every imaginable and unimaginable spot including the sleeping bags. One of my other favorite photos ever? The sun setting orange over the ocean in a thirty mile an hour breeze, and L and L silhouetted just so. Good times, good times.

More than a few of our camping trips involved rain, a couple of them fairly significant amounts. North Carolina rains pale only in comparison to Oklahoma rains. Either way, we ended up soaked, clothes hanging everywhere inside the tent, muddy boots, big smiles, flooded lakes or streams. Good thing we cooked over a backpacking stove or we’d have eaten cold food all those times. I loved big L’s computer drawing, back in the dark ages of computer graphics, of one of our camping in the rain events. Wish we could find that. It’d make a great children’s book. Especially the mud monster part.

Let’s not forget, L and L, Queen of the Flame and Little Muddy Foot. Those two young girls will forever be tender spots in my heart of camping hearts.

Rock climbing and rappelling figure prominently in our getaways. Little did I know what I set in motion when I took that wilderness adventure course. I look back now and shake my head in amazement that I looked on as your Dad roped you in and let you climb at Index or scrambled all over Spire Rock or swing suspended from whatever boulder, cliff or mountain happened to be handy. Dad still refers to little J as “our Arachnid” for your epic climbing abilities.

Yes, most of our vacations involved camping in a tent, which isn’t bad at all.

You also got plenty of experience with airline travel, surprisingly, which has come in handy tons of times, and has become old hat for others. Little J had the chutzpah to backpack Europe once and visit Paris another time. Big J now travels regularly for work, getting around airports and big cities as if they’re simply different runs at a ski resort.

Many of our vacations involved road trips as well. But that, oh my, that is another story or ten for another day and another letter.

Wish we’d taken you to Yellowstone. And I’m sorry, but I never could make myself feel comfortable with taking you to Grand Canyon, even though it’s been less than half a day’s drive for the past eighteen years. My heart couldn’t bear the thought of you anywhere near the edge of an impossible precipice. And Disneyland remains elusive as a family getaway, even though most of you have managed to get there on your own.

I’d like to think we’ll somehow manage one last ginormous family vacation with all the spouses and *babygrands. Maybe that’s why family reunions happen; attempts at reliving or making up for the past.

I’m pretty sure we made good use of our weekends, summers and holidays. I hope you feel the same. Those rank as some of my favorite memories together.

Would surely love some more evenings by a campfire with ya’ll again sometime.

All my love,

Mom

 

*babygrands = grandbabies or grandchildren

photo-23 copy 5

 

 

“…there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some.”

~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

 

 

 

Categories: Friday Letters, Fun, Memory Lane, Outdoors, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Rode Hard and Put Away Wet

While visiting my parents recently, I attended church with them. Much to my surprise I heard the following statement: “Some of you look like you’ve been rode hard and put away wet.”

The wordsmith in me immediately pulled out my phone and tapped in the phrase to look up later. Turns out it’s a horseman’s term that refers to someone not taking care of a horse after a hard day.

Long day?

Long day?

So we looked like we’d not been properly cared for, huh? Tuckered out, bedraggled, ragtag, worn down, scruffy. It had probably been a tough week for a few people there. In any large group there’s a high probability that more than a few were run ragged that week either physically or emotionally.

The last time I threw my leg over a horse to go riding I hadn’t graduated from high school yet. Now, what feels like nearly a hundred years later, I still remember the sway and roll of sitting in that saddle. The muscles of the horse under me felt powerful and yet, somehow, very gentle. My friend, whose family owned the horses, led the way on her horse through open fields and along the foothills. I could have sat up there all day, feeling like a queen surveying the world.

If you’ve never ridden a horse you’re missing out on one of life’s most eloquent pleasures.

That phrase, “rode hard and put away wet” has stuck with me for days now. Curiosity pushed me to research a bit more about how to care for a horse after a ride or a day of hard work. A few basic steps, about twenty to thirty minutes, and a horse can relax and rejuvenate after a days work.

Loosening the saddle some, pulling up the stirrups so they don’t bang around, letting it walk a bit to cool down are the first things to do. Following that you’d take off the bridle and put on a halter and tie the horse off. Loosen the cinch and take the saddle off being careful not to hit the horse’s back. Remove the blanket, clean off dirt and sweat with a wet sponge and brush and then dry off with a towel. While doing so check for cuts, nicks, and scratches. Check the hooves for stones and mud and use a hoof pick to clean. Lead the horse to pasture, take off the halter and let the horse cool down a bit more before feeding.

Here, let me pose for you.

Here, let me pose for you.

I wondered why someone wouldn’t take care of horse when the steps are basic common sense and fairly simple. If it keeps the horse happy and healthy and you care about the animal wouldn’t you do this every time?

What happens when these basic steps aren’t taken? A horse can develop saddle sores, or have untended wounds, become lame or simply be dirty and unkempt and uncomfortable.

I wondered why we don’t do this for ourselves. After a long day working or caring for others do we take basic measures to make sure we’re healthy and cared for?

At the end of the day do we loosen up a bit, set aside worries so they aren’t banging around, cool down a bit and shake off the weight of the day? Is there some basic self-care we could engage in that’s equivalent to having a brush down and our hoofs checked?

More than likely we push ourselves nonstop from the minute we wake up until our head hits the pillow at bedtime. Sure we might turn on the TV or browse the Internet some. For me that’s not much different from wandering into the stall untended. I need a more active, conscientious and deliberate effort to relax and care for my physical and mental well-being.

Reading or writing after a long day works wonders to wipe away the “sweat and dirt” of my day’s ride. Other times, having a conversation with MSH helps me lift the saddle weight of worry from my shoulders. Sometimes simply sitting and doing nothing, staring, thinking or meditating can wash away a day’s stress. If you’re the praying sort, that might be your emotional and spiritual grooming time to work out the kinks of life’s demands. Or maybe a literal washing in the shower or a soak in the tub serves as an emotional cleansing in your day.

Whatever we need to do to avoid being “rode hard and put away wet” seems like a good plan to me.

Well, hello there!

Sounds like basic horse sense to me!

 

“A horse loves freedom, and the weariest old work horse will roll on the ground or break into a lumbering gallop when he is turned loose into the open.” ~Gerald Raftery

 

 

 

 

Categories: good ideas, Mental Health, physical health, Wondering | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Vacation Bubble

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful. Yes. That’s it.

I’m grateful.

Sometimes life just stuns me with so much, yes I’m going to use the word, AWESOME.

I’m in awe.

Three months ago I got this app on my smart phone that’s basically a gratitude journal. I can write in one thing I’m grateful for or a whole long list of them. I can even add a photo for the day.

Family reunion fun!

Family reunion fun!

Maybe for today I’ll simply list what I’ve written down in that app over the past week.

  • Air travel
  • Seeing one of my sisters
  • Earphones for my own personal soundtrack to block out the world as needed
  • A good book to read
  • A chance to visit Mom and Dad
  • Lulu the cat’s magical ways with my parents
  • Walks with Mom
  • Bright yellow birds in the fields
  • Cool temperatures
  • Amazing views that keep changing
  • Relaxing
  • Life slowing down to a summer’s pace
  • Seeing Mom succeed at sewing
  • Emotional renewal
  • Writing
  • Happy chubby baby pictures
  • Stroking the cat and enjoying her purring
  • My Grandparent’s phenomenal legacy
  • Chilling with my older brother
  • Meeting my newest nephew
  • An early morning solitary walk in the mountains, twice
  • Kickball
  • Ultimate
  • Family Reunions
  • Hugs from my other two brothers
  • Flush toilets
  • Campfires
  • Early bedtimes
  • Meeting my newest niece
  • A warm shower
  • A soft bed
  • Salmon for dinner
  • Hanging out with my other sisters
  • Nature’s amazing offerings

I could go on and on and on. But I won’t. If I could use words to convey this overflowing feeling in my chest I’d find them, but for today words don’t come close.

To anyone I’ve come in contact with this past ten days I want to say, “How sweet it is to be loved by you.” (yup it’s a James Taylor song) You’ve made my life phenomenal and filled it with joy.

I’m blessed and very aware of it.

All week long I've enjoyed views like this.

All week long I’ve enjoyed views like this.

Sure, I’m living in a kind of vacation bubble for almost two weeks. But, it’s not one of those vacations that involve hitting all the sights or spending tons of money or eating exotic foods. These past days revolve around family and nature. Love and beauty serve as foundations and structure for each day here.

How many vacations can you describe that way?

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

Friday letter to My Kids: Going, Going, Gone?

Dear J, J, L and L,

About a year from now all four of you will live in a different state from each other. Already I’m in mourning.

I’d like to think that life will coöperate with my plans to visit one of you at least every other month. I promise I’d keep them short visits, if they’re frequent.

We all know how that plan will work out.

There’s so very little anyone can do to prepare for the experience of parenting. And then after eighteen or more years of figuring it out there’s also nothing that prepares anyone for when those kids leave home, or when they leave the state, or the country.

I need to get me one of these bikes.

I need to get me one of these bikes.

You know that scene in the movie ET? Oh yeah, I forget, some of you haven’t even seen ET. (I truly have failed in your cultural development. We won’t even mention that one of you didn’t recognize a Beatles song when you were old enough to date.)

Here’s my condensed version of the movie, skipping all the exciting but less essential parts and getting to the heart of the matter of whatever this is I’m trying to understand and/or explain.

Forget what anyone tells you about Reese’s Pieces, or frogs, or getting drunk vicariously.

The important scene is the one when ET has phoned home and they send a megaship from the home galaxy to pick him up. He’s way past curfew by, I don’t know, a few weeks. He’ll be grounded for light-years. Anyway, he and Elliott, the main character, have bonded in a Spock mind meld kind of way, ish, and now they are best buddies. Elliot doesn’t want ET to go home. ET wants Elliott to go with him. Elliott wants ET to stay.

Now, pay attention, this is the point of this rambling story.

ET has this glowing heart that he points to and says, “Ouch” as he points to Elliott. Then Elliott points to his heart and says, “Ouch.” Of course, everyone except the dog is crying. And then ET gets that magical glowing fingertip and points to Elliott’s forehead and says, “I’ll be right here.”

I don’t know if I’m ET or if I’m Elliott, but either way, tears and “Ouch” and “I’ll be right here” seem to say what I feel about any one of you being farther away than a twenty-minute drive. A two-hour flight is about all I can tolerate. Don’t even consider space travel.

How will I manage?

You all will be just fine. Your lives will go on. Mine will feel like a train leaving the tracks.

Of course it sounds like you’re all leaving en masse, when the truth of the matter is one of you has been out-of-state for a few years now and somehow I keep breathing. And you’ve all left for a while, and come back and left and come back, ish.

I might have to book a cruise, or an Antarctic expedition, followed by a trip to anywhere that doesn’t involve reality or getting on with my life without all or most of you nearby. Or just as real a possibility as any of those, maybe I can get a flying bicycle…

Let me try a different medium.

We’ll leave science fiction and fantasy and try music.

The Phillip Phillips song “Gone, Gone, Gone” seems to capture some of what I feel about the future and the now.

Sure, it’s a love song, but then, so is being a mother.

I already miss you.

 

Love forever,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

Have a listen, the lyrics follow:

 

“Gone, Gone, Gone”

When life leaves you high and dry

I’ll be at your door tonight

If you need help, if you need help.

I’ll shut down the city lights,

I’ll lie, cheat, I’ll beg and bribe

To make you well, to make you well.

 

When enemies are at your door

I’ll carry you away from war

If you need help, if you need help.

Your hope dangling by a string

I’ll share in your suffering

To make you well, to make you well.

 

Give me reasons to believe

That you would do the same for me.

 

And I would do it for you, for you.

Baby, I’m not moving on

I’ll love you long after you’re gone.

For you, for you.

You will never sleep alone.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone

And long after you’re gone, gone, gone.

 

When you fall like a statue

I’m gon’ be there to catch you

Put you on your feet, you on your feet.

And if your well is empty

Not a thing will prevent me.

Tell me what you need, what do you need?

 

I surrender honestly.

You’ve always done the same for me.

 

So I would do it for you, for you.

Baby, I’m not moving on,

I’ll love you long after you’re gone.

For you, for you.

You will never sleep alone.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone

And long after you’re gone, gone, gone.

 

You’re my back bone.

You’re my cornerstone.

You’re my crutch when my legs stop moving.

You’re my head start.

You’re my rugged heart.

You’re the pulse that I’ve always needed.

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum my heart never stops beating…

 

For you, for you.

Baby, I’m not moving on.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone.

For you, for you.

You will never sleep alone.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone.

For you, for you.

Baby, I’m not moving on,

I’ll love you long after you’re gone.

For you, for you.

You will never sleep alone.

I’ll love you long, long after you’re gone.

 

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum my heart never stops beating for you.

 

And long after you’re gone, gone, gone.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone, gone, gone.

 

~ This song was co-written by Derek Fuhrmann, Todd Clark and Gregg Wattenberg.

 

 

 

 

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

A Cat Tuner Changes his Tune

I didn’t plan this, but a year ago today I wrote this post about my Dad, the cat tuner extraordinaire. Strange, sometimes, how life circles back around.

Dad brought their cat inside the house (it’s definitely an outdoor cat) shortly after I arrived here and told me a story.

A week or two ago Dad says their cat went missing. When Lulu finally showed up her back right leg was dragging behind her and she acted out of sorts. Dad looked for obvious injuries and found none. No bleeding, no cuts, no scrapes, no missing fur. After a bit of thinking it over and talking with Mom, he decided to take the cat to the a local vet. The estimated wait time seemed too long, so Dad headed to another vet in the next town or two over who could see the cat right away.

After an exam and some tests and X-rays the vet determined the cat’s ligaments and tendons in that back leg had torn somehow. He could repair it with some surgery. After talking it over with Mom, (who is not a cat person, nor a pet person of any kind) Dad agreed to the surgery.

What?

Who are you and what did you do with my real Dad? 

So for the past week he’s been giving doses of antibiotic to Lulu and babying her like I’ve never seen before. Even Mom has let the cat sit on her lap and rubs its soft gray head until the purring vibrates some inner chord of contentment. That purr soothes Mom in return. And voila, a calmer Mom makes for a calmer Dad.

The stitches came out yesterday. The vet’s assistant commented that she’d never worked with a calmer, more well-behaved cat. No hissing, no scratching, no meowing, just Dad and Mom holding the trembling mass of fur while the stitches got snipped.

Not enjoying the car ride.

Not happy about the car ride.

The three of them make an interesting group.

  • Long haired Lulu with her back leg shaved, limps along like every movement hurts beyond contemplation, and yet she can carefully jump up on a chair or climb the stairs.
  • Mom who’s got the usual aches and pains of her age along with the effects of her stroke and seizures, sitting on the porch swing with Dad.
  • And Dad who last year didn’t like the porch swing swinging, but now doesn’t seem to mind it, who used to hobble about like an old man just for laughs, now hobbling about like an old man, but taking on some of Mom’s tasks, and keeping up with his own.

It’s almost as if the cat’s injury endeared them to it and made them all feel more connected. They’ve had to slow down and become content to stay put a bit more.

I asked Dad if his cat-tuning ways had changed tune. He denied it. He said something akin to, I’ve still got plenty of other cats to tune, or something like that. He’s just a mischievous twelve-year old at heart. But he’s also become more tender-hearted this past year, more attentive to Mom, more in tune with her and what she needs. It’s as if her injuries, and consequently her dependence on him, have endeared her to him more.

And Dad’s ministrations and attention to Mom have made her more affectionate and appreciative toward him.

Interesting turn of events, wouldn’t you say?

I think so.

None of them are the same as they were a year ago. In big, drastic ways. Mostly for the better in spite of, or maybe because of, the tough road. Who would have thought?

Sounds like a harmonious song to me.

 

 (For Twitch, who went to kitty heaven yesterday.)

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Categories: Family, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

More Vocabulary Lessons for Me

It’s Gratituesday! I’m thankful today for a chance to visit my parents. The need to get here  nagged at me for nearly two months. Now I’m finally standing in their home and seeing their faces, giving hugs, talking, basking. My heart can relax a little.

At last, I can put experience together with all the information I’ve gotten by phone, text and messaging about Mom’s latest medical adventures and get a full picture. Part of me feels relieved and part of me feels more worry.

Mostly, I find I’m becoming better acquainted with another medical phrase I thought I could put behind us.

  • Expressive aphasia – you know what you want to say, but you have trouble saying or writing what you mean

For a writer that would be called a massive writer’s block.

For someone who’s had a stroke it means not being able to communicate as well as you’d like, if at all. It can lead to frustration and depression and anxiety. But it can also be a source of laughter and bonding. I suppose it depends on the attitude of all involved as well as the medication cocktail the patient taking.

My mother manages to laugh about most of her verbal roadblocks. But frustration and perseverance work themselves into the picture as well. She’s human, after all. (Even though I’ve often thought she was wonder woman.)

A few days ago one of my sisters and I decided that carrying on a conversation with Mom, sometimes, is like playing the game of “Catchphrase” or “Charades.” Lots of gesturing, guessing, backtracking and logic leaps. When communication becomes clear and we all understand what’s been said I feel like cheering, or ringing a bell, or declaring a winner.

Some violas growing in a sidewalk crack. Amazing what nature can do when obstacles are in the way.

Violas growing in a sidewalk crack. Amazing what nature can do when obstacles are in the way.

But when words won’t materialize in spite of how much her brain knows what it wants to say you can cry or you can laugh or you can hope the words show up eventually. My sister and I still aren’t sure what the flowers in the front yard have to do with the piano in the living room, but in Mom’s mind they are somehow connected.

The thing is, those connections got rerouted, detoured, and dead-ended last summer with her first stroke. Then a couple of months ago, with her seizure that occurred in the same area as the stroke, all those connections experienced even more deconstruction and rerouting. All the repairs and healing that happened over the past nine months took a sideways step or two, if not a step backwards as well.

  • Post-stroke seizures – When stroke injures part of the brain, it leaves a scar, which can then trigger abnormal electrical activity that can start a seizure. Up to twenty-two percent of stroke patients experience these types of seizures.

Reminds me of a pothole repaired over and over again. Extra bumpy and almost as bad as the pothole itself.

Sometimes it’s not merely communication that takes a hit. In Mom’s case there’s also some memory loss.  All sorts of traffic jams happen just within her own brain. Fixing lunch can take a long time because each step of the process requires incredible focus and follow-through. Her mind gets sidetracked between the silverware drawer and the refrigerator two feet away from each other.

Breakfast this morning, cereal and some fruit, ended up involving six or seven spoons of various sizes. I think my presence in the room threw off her routine, or made her nervous.

I suppose it’s like watching a young child learn to walk. Part of you wants to take their hand, catch every fall, help every step, even though you know the process of figuring it out builds neural pathways and muscles that make real walking possible. Letting Mom thrash through some of the mental tangle helps connections reform, gives her a sense of accomplishment and courage to try again, and develops new pathways for logic and sequencing. Eventually the communication will improve more. At least, that’s the hope.

But oh, my heart hurts watching this woman who once took care of me, and all my siblings, struggle so much with basic tasks. Tasks she already relearned last year.

And yet today, between the two of us, she sewed two simple aprons. Mostly I watched, threaded the machine, made a few suggestions, pointed out where the scissors were hiding. It took much longer for her to do it herself. I could have whipped them out in fifteen minutes. But the sense of satisfaction she gained from the effort did us both good.

There’s a house for sale next door to them. I would buy it up and move in if resources made it possible. But, as usual, real life intervenes with wishes and dreams. They have good neighbors and friends who check in often. And I have a brother and his wife who live in town, thank goodness! But part of my heart will now always hang out here, worrying and wondering.

I’m afraid I’d be a “helicopter daughter,” hovering and not letting her do for herself.

Mostly, I’m simply grateful and I’m enjoying the few days I have to hang out here. It’s a peaceful, calming, mountain view spot. But best of all it’s where Mom and Dad continue learn and love.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Communication, Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Friday Letter to My Kids: Self-Made, Home Made, Lemonade

Dear J, J, L and L,

Picture an eleven/twelve-year-old girl, dressed for winter weather, a makeshift backpack on her back, trudging down a snow packed street toward an open expanse of hilly snow and frosted over trees. A gray ceiling of clouds make the skies seem ominous, but the air is dry and so cold the nose hairs freeze, eyeballs sting.

The girl knows this kind of weather. She’s lived it every winter of her life.

That girl is me.

I’d decided one day to hike down to the park, three houses away and build myself an igloo and then spend the day inside its peaceful and quiet interior. I’d brought a blanket, a couple of books, some snacks and a small school sized thermos of hot chocolate. I even had a bucket to press the snow into “blocks” to stack on each other.

Turns out the temperatures were colder than anticipated and the dryness of the air also meant a dry crusty snow. That snow wouldn’t stick together. Not even a decent snowball could form from its crystalline structure. It wasn’t the fluffy wet stuff we usually had piling up all winter. I could barely break through the crust of the snow with my bucket to fill it up.

Fifteen minutes into my adventure I was done.

I sat down in the snow, contemplated drinking the hot chocolate and reading for a few minutes out in the open, but it just wasn’t what I’d planned. I trudged back home to the noise of younger siblings, mom teaching piano lessons, chores, warm house and everyday boring life.

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I’ll let you guess which one is me.

I loved adventure as a kid. I especially loved invention and making do with the materials at hand.

  • Tree huts and forts made from found materials.
  • A drawstring bag sewn from leftover fabric and a shoelace.
  • A made up game, a cross between four square and tennis.
  • Pottery made from clayish mud, even if it fell apart when it dried.
  • Climbing out my second story bedroom window early on a Saturday before chores got assigned, so I could have some quiet time to myself.
  • Getting something from the almost nothing of a seed planted.
  • Hiking. The steeper and more challenging, made it all the better.
  • Riding my bike to get where I needed to go, instead of relying on someone else.
Yup.

Yup.

I never dreamed I’d use such “skills” and desires as a mother. And yet, the adventure of raising children utilized those things in ways I wasn’t even really aware of until recently.

  • I’ve lost track of how many times we “remade” home as we moved, and moved, and moved again.
  • Sewing came in handy using scraps to make clothes from a very versatile pattern for J and J when you were little.
  • Finding new ways to entertain and teach and cajole good behavior required invention and creativity.
  • As often as money got tight or nearly nonexistent we made do with what we had in surprising, although not necessarily successful, ways.
  • Rock climbing with you when you were younger turned my daredevil climbing skills into a pastime we loved and shared. Which led to lots of hiking and camping, adventures in their own right.
  • And a few years ago, my bike became my main means of transportation when we got down to only one car and four drivers.
photo by imoni

photo by imoni

I’d still like to live where I don’t need to rely on a car.

And I’d love living a completely self reliant life. Build a small rustic cabin, use solar, have a generator, get our water from a well, plant a massive garden and fruit trees, get around on a motorbike and a jeep or better yet, a mountain bike. Wouldn’t it be something to wake every morning to mountain views and the smell of pine or snow or crunchy leaves? One trip into town once a month for supplies.

I suppose you could say I’ve lived parts of my dream in some convoluted ways. We’ve relied on each other, which made us closer, crazier, and cozier. We own some wonderful memories don’t we? All crafted out of making do, making it up, making our own fun, making the best of things. It’s that whole making lemonade out of life’s lemons thing you’ve heard about.

'nuff said

’nuff said

I often picture the past thirty odd years as a roller coaster ride with all of us in the cars, hands in the air, screaming, eyes popping, certain that the next ninety degree turn or steep drop will do us in. And yet we survived, and had some fun, and learned a ton of stuff. Feels like now that you’re all married that particular roller coaster ride came to a stop. (Did you keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times? I think not! hehehehe)

Now, you’re all off on your own adventures.

My life of adventure so far has surprised me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I’m thinking there’s more adventure ahead, too. I’m just hoping the snow isn’t iced over and that I’m dressed warm enough for whatever happens next.

Here’s praying that your adventures turn out better than you can imagine.

Mine have, so far.

 

All my love,

Mom

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      “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” ~G. K. Chesterton

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments
 
 

Color My World

I bring my binoculars out walking lately hoping for some fun sightings. I saw a coyote frolicking in one of the ponds last week, but that was twelve feet away. And I’ve heard there’s a bobcat in the area. That’d be fun to see from a distance. And you never know when some odd or unfamiliar bird will be flitting about.

All of today’s delights were up close and colorful. That’s surprising because the high temperatures have crossed the century mark. I think of summer here in the desert as drab black and white and gray. Even the color of sand seems to bleach out in the heat after a month or two. This morning’s walk through the local riparian preserve proved me wrong.

When I saw these tiny bursts of yellow with their brown buttons looking perky and bright I caught myself smiling.

photo 2-2 copy 9These fuchsia blooms won’t last much more than another day in such heat.

photo 4-4 copyLike pearls on a vine, these puff-balls diffuse the sunlight and capture the eye with a humorous elegance.

photo 1-5 copy 3A smallish black bird with christmas red markings under its wings showed up along the trail, but flew off before I could get my camera focused.

Red Penstemon tempt the hummingbirds and brighten the landscape.

photo-24 copy 2This gray rabbit dug a trench in the gravel and cradled himself in its coolness. His coloring and the rock colors match almost perfectly. If not for his face twitching and his dark distinctive ears I’d have missed him lying there. For all the hundreds of bunnies I see every time I walk here, I’ve never seen this behavior before. Reminded me of how a dog will splay out flat on tile to chill its body down on a warm day.

photo 4-3 copy 3Orange makes it mark among pale greenery, showing off in a concentrated saturation of color.

photo 2-3 copy 3The Saguaro are blooming with bright white flowers, still open even in the bright light of day.

photo 3-4 copy 4And here a tree sports yellow puff-balls, like dollops of paint splattered about by a rambunctious child.

photo 5 copy 2I nearly stumbled into a white Egret looking every bit as angry at being spotted as I delighted in sighting him. He stayed put for my photo, so I figure he must have had his eye on a juicy fish or he’d have flown off the minute I walked along.

photo 3-5 copy 2These brown cattails seem so foreign in a desert environment. But then, I have to remember I’m walking in a riparian area, with an abundant and consistent water supply. What a brilliant and delightful way to reclaim water and refill an aquifer.

photo-23 copy 3Green, of course, plays a dominate role along my entire route. Thank goodness for that. I’m not sure what I’d do without green growing things in my world.

photo 1-4 copy 6I didn’t expect to see blue, except for the sky, while on my walk. Blue flowers just don’t occur very often. But then, wandering down to the water’s edge, two fluorescent blue dragonflies chased each other across the water’s surface. Not much bigger than an inch in length, a photo of them wasn’t a realistic possibility. But, I did capture the scene where they played among the reeds and rocks and water.

Every color I could hope for showed up today as I walked. I’d call that a promising start to my day, wouldn’t you?


“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” ~ e.e. cummings

Categories: Nature, Outdoors, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

What’s Your Superpower?

It’s Gratituesday! I’m blessed to rub shoulders with a huge variety of women.

There’s something you should know about them that I suspect they don’t know about themselves. Most of the women I know wear a secret clothing item.

It’s an invisible cape.

Yes. A superpowers cape.

You can't always see the Wonder Woman logo, but the wonderful is always in the woman!

You can’t always see the Wonder Woman logo, but the wonderful is always in the woman!

Some of them don’t notice that they daily fly, soar, leap tall buildings with a single bound, stop bullets, prevent disasters, keep the peace. It’s just what they do every day. They don’t notice the cape flapping in the breeze as they rush about doing their every day amazing things. Naturally, inherently creative and innovative, women rarely stop to really look into the mirror and see that cape, or see the determination in their own eyes. They don’t see how they create something from almost nothing, pull rabbits out of hats, make magical things happen.

You can hardly expect them to admit to having any superpowers.

A little known code word for superpowers is the word CREATIVITY.

Creativity expresses itself in phenomenal ways and places. It’s not merely the painters, the writers and the musicians that produce work worthy of adulation and honor. My mouth hangs open in astonishment at times at some of the things women create, at the superpowers they quite unknowingly display.

For instance:

  • A single working woman I know puts in a full forty hours or more all week at a difficult job and then comes home each night to care for her aging father. Someday, she hopes to have time to write her novels. In the meantime, she creates a real-life story of love, patience and sacrifice.
  • DSC03027[1]My daughter crafted this poem, then painted a background and the words to hang beside a priceless photo of her daughter sleeping. Those naps, however rare, give her time to replenish her superpowers and use her creativity in many other ways.
  • My sister has a unique relationship with her daughter, chiseled out of moments in a breathlessly busy single-mom teachers life of twelve-hour days and etched in during a few brief weeks of summer.
  • My cousin captured the beauty and serenity of Arches and Canyonlands in a home redecorating project, most of it done on her own or with the help of other women. What a peaceful place to visit, rest and rejuvenate.
  • An inner city high school teacher creates relationships with her students whose only personal contact with a stable adult might be herself or one of her collegues.
  • An artistic blog by another woman features her artwork, recipes, photographs, book reviews and personal stories, providing fun, inspiration and beauty.
  • A young woman cares for her siblings as surrogate mother, meanwhile holding down a job, attending university fulltime, remodeling, running a household with her dad and making furniture just for fun.
  • A tutor/parental support person for special needs children, who also cares for her own special needs child at home.
  • On Mother’s Day a friend of mine honored countless women in her life with praise and personalized hashtag shoutouts on Facebook.
  • Another woman I know writes masterful stories from history snippets she reads about.
  • A widowed young mom helped another woman with a major renovation project, going shopping, giving advice, adding just-so touches that make all the difference.

The women I know daily surprise me with their stamina and cheerfulness, and examples of endurance, creativity and grace. I could heap praises on many women I know and admire; nurses, dispatchers, teachers, mothers, musicians, grandmothers, volunteers, caterers and bartenders, sisters, saleswomen, den mothers, girl scout moms, coaches, accountants, students, online business owners, seamstresses, mentors, hair stylists, aunts, engineers, receptionists, caregivers, friends, musicians, and mentors.

From a running tshirt my daughter gave me.

From a running tshirt my daughter gave me.

From the relentless demands of every kind of work women do, from stay at home mothers, to those who work outside the home, to those who earn a living at home, I’m privileged to know and rub shoulders with superstars. Cradle rocking, impact making, non-quitters who give of themselves, produce smiles, provide compassion and meals and hugs, pay bills, exercise creativity, work miracles, dig deep and make the world stunning, wonderful and worthwhile.

You all take my breath away!

If you don’t know what your superpowers are, ask someone who knows you. You might be surprised at what they see in you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, People, self-image | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments
 
 

The Serendipity of Your Birthday On Memorial Day

Dear Kathy,

I find it interesting that your birthday this year also happens to fall on Memorial Day. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you had planned it that way.

I’d really wanted to visit you on your birthday but I’m afraid it’ll be crowded and noisy and I just wanted some quiet one on one time with you. I’d even thought of bringing along some hummus and pita bread to munch. And, of course, a forty-four ounce diet coke, easy ice, with diet cherry flavoring and handful of real cherries.

Instead, I think I’ll come by for a visit in a few weeks, when the crowds have died down (no pun intended) and it’s quiet and peaceful. Hoping it isn’t too hot by then, or too windy. I suppose if your geraniums survive the summer at “your Sarah’s” house nearby then I’d do okay with the summer heat on “the mountain.”

pieces-of-the-puzzleI have to say I have mixed feelings about visiting you. It just won’t be how it was. Of course, what is anymore? Seems like someone took the puzzle that was my life in January, threw it up in the air and let the pieces fall wherever. I think the wind caught a few pieces and carried them away.

Can I also admit something horrible? I’m kinda angry. That sounds really stupid as I write it. All those conversations we had for years about what “now” would look and feel like, all those assignments you gave me, all those things in the far distant future actually happened. At the time of those conversations none of it felt real.

Surreal, yes.

Real, never.

“Now” is here and more real than I imagined and I don’t like it one bit.

See the paisley shape in each one? Not as cool all by itself.

See the paisley shape in each one? Not as cool all by itself.

I’m also a bit aggravated because you set this gold standard for the perfect friendship. Nothing else will ever measure up to that. That’s not really your fault. You couldn’t help it that you were the friendship yin to my yang. Now I’m just a funky looking squiggle, a paisley shape. Dumb and boring.

I keep expecting to run into you. And yet, I avoid going to your house. I’m not following through with those assignments you gave me. I’m a slacker.

Truth is, it hurts too dang much to go over to your place now. Even driving past twists this pain through my back and into my heart and makes an ache that takes days to breath away. I should get over that. Eventually.

I also expect to see you in dreams. I did, a couple of weeks ago. I wrote the dream down in my journal. Reread it a few times. Gave up trying to understand it. Too much like real life. I was hoping for revelation, insight, wisdom, healing, and yes, maybe even laughter. This dream didn’t have any of that in it. But I did see you, your face, that light you have in your eyes. And I heard your bossy, take charge voice, sort of. It had softened some.

This letter probably gets your dander up. You’d tell me to suck it up. You’d say…I don’t know. What would you say?

I can’t remember now. I don’t want to remember. And I do want to remember.

photo-24 copy

translation: quit your belly aching

Actually, now that I’ve thought about it, you’d say, “Kwitchurbelyakn!” Just like that little sign on your stove said.

This was meant as a perky, happy letter. One to let you know I’m okay, even though I miss you. I’d planned it out in my head to start with a great joke, share a couple of funny memories, finish with another good joke and then sign off with some witty remark.

You know me better than that. You’d see through the smoke and mirrors and would call BS when you got done reading a letter like that.

What advice would you give me? Can you just drop me a line somehow? You’re one of the most resourceful, innovative women I know. Surely you can do a workaround to get word to me. A mystery text. A phrase in a book I’m reading jumping out at me. A glimpse of your big smile on someone’s face. Be creative, I’m pretty open-minded about however you reach me.

Tall order, I know. Plus, you’re probably pretty busy reorganizing heaven so it runs more efficiently.

Just so you aren’t completely irritated by my whiney letter I’ll let you know I’ve trolled the internet for jokes and I share them, almost every day. Just trying to stay on the sanity side of the grief thing. It seems to help, some.

This quote by Bill Cosby caught my eye and, of course, I thought of you.

“You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive. it.” ~ Bill Cosby

You did that really well, so I’m trying to keep up the tradition. Laughter, even in the crappy times. So here’s a parting joke, or a party joke. Whichever.

Little Johnny’s new baby brother was screaming up a storm. He asked his mom, “Where’d we get him?”

His mother replied, “He came from heaven, Johnny.”

Johnny says, “WOW! I can see why they threw him out!”

You’re a keeper, no matter how demanding you might get. Try to stay out of trouble, if you can. I know you like to stir things up, have things your way. Try to remember you aren’t the one in charge anymore.

This was probably two years ago or more. An eternity and just yesterday.

This was two years ago or more. An eternity and just yesterday.

Here’s that picture I took a couple of years ago that you photoshopped and sent back to me. I should frame it to remind me of your sense of humor, your ability to laugh in life’s toughest situations. Not to mention, I’d get to see that mischievousness in your eyes. And it’d remind me to be happy anyway.

I miss you a ton.

Happy Birthday!

With love from your bestie,

Kami

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Death, Holiday, Humor | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

A Simple Solution in a Latin Phrase

I ran across a most interesting Latin phrase yesterday.

Solvitur ambulando: “it is solved by walking.”

Stumbling on that phrase coincided with conversations I’d had with two different people hours and miles apart. All three converged into a kind of signpost toward an answer.

photo 5 copy“Exercise isn’t always the answer. Sometimes it’s rest. But I can think of few situations that wouldn’t be improved by a nice walk outside.” ~Kettie Olsen

photo 4-3 copy 2“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

photo 1-4 copy 4“If you seek creative ideas go walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” ~ Raymond I. Myers

If you can’t find me, I’m probably out walking.

Categories: Exercise, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Friday Letter: Aliens and Velcro

Dear J, J, L and L,

I keep thinking about what little clingons you were.

You all know I’m not talking about the Star Trek alien race. Although sometimes it did feel like I had an alien life form(s) attached to my body on a semi-permanent basis. Such clingy kids, you hated being out of sight or out of touch from me for any amount of time.

UnknownTrying to do aerobics in front of the twelve-inch black and white TV seemed like an exercise in futility more than an effort to get my heart rate up for a specific amount of time. Either I’d have a kid holding to one of my legs while I attempted to run or jump in place, or I’d have two kids crying while trying to escape the kitchen chair fence I’d created to keep you away from me for twenty-eight precious minutes.

Even funnier was attempting to get a workout done on the mini-trampoline. Remember that thing? You all spent more time “working out” on it than I ever did.

Playing softball with a women’s league seemed an innocent enough pastime. Other kids played on the sidelines and behind the backstop while their mothers batted, threw, caught and ran. But no, J and J, my two oldest and mostly independent kids, you stood there, fingers wrapped around the chain link fence sobbing uncontrollably as I tried to bat. You screamed in unison as I took to the outfield. You were only happy if I sat waiting for my turn at bat. Then, of course, you’d play with the other kids.

Did I do something to make you think I’d abandon you if I were more than five feet away with a clear path between us? Or was I just so irresistible that you couldn’t bear being apart from me? I hope you didn’t feel I was somehow pushing you away. Maybe that’s just normal behavior. I had no idea what normal was.

Maybe I was ahead of my time. Was I practicing attachment parenting without intentionally trying to?

velcroAnd then my second set of kidlets…ah, my little velcro babies. You were always attached at the hip. For.Ev.Er. Nonstop. Day in and day out.

I’m not sure why you found me so indispensable. A food source, sure. But beyond that, I’m certain I’d never heard of children being quite so attached as the two of you. Detaching your little warm bodies from me felt very much like separating velcro from itself. I swear I could even hear that familiar ripping sound of millions of little hooks and loops pull away from each other whenever I tried to set you down somewhere.

To this day I still sleep on the very edge of the kingsized bed. A habit I got into when Little L couldn’t sleep unless some part of her was touching some part of me. So I compromised and let my arm dangle down to the mattress on the floor where you slept. You calmed and settled in for a restful sleep as long as you felt my touch, all night long.

A super upclose view of Velcro. Looks kind of like an alien life form, huh?

Microscopic view of Velcro. Looks kind of like an alien life form…

I wonder how I survived all those early years of constant companionship, constant touching, constant needing.

I also wonder if I could have given you something more.

Or something different.

I guess we’ll never know.

Here’s the ironic thing. It’s all reversed now. I miss you when you’re gone, want to hang out longer than I should when I’m with you, can’t seem to get enough of your smiles, conversation, hugs and friendship.

If I start acting like an alien or seem overly attached, just tell me and I’ll back off.

I sure love you!

Mom

klingon

 

 

 

 

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

Stuff in the Closet Sees the Light of Day

My to-do list resembles my junk drawer. Do you have a junk drawer? Mine seems related to Mary Poppins’ purse, bottomless and full of fascinating things.

Mary's magical bag of tricks.

Mary’s magical bag of tricks.

For instance, I received, quite by accident and through no fault of my own, a duplicate package of a birthday gift I had ordered back in December. It’s now May and I have not yet repackaged and mailed back the duplicate. It’s reached embarrassment stage. In fact it’s gone beyond embarrassment to silliness.

And two dresses I ordered online also need returning to two separate vendors but still sit gathering dust, getting buried under more recent things I’ll get to later. My bank account will even get credited when those go back, but even a cash bonus doesn’t seem provide enough incentive for some tasks.

What I need is a good dose of inspiration and follow-through. I wonder if I can order that through Amazon prime? No shipping charges that way.

I did get my bedroom closet cleaned up and organized after only four years of procrastination. That was accidental though. A couple of weeks ago I was leaving for the day and left a note for MSH…

photo-22 copy 4I really didn’t think he’d choose the closet option. He’d always rather get dinner and go to a movie than almost anything else. But when I arrived home six hours later he had emptied out the entire contents of our closet, every box, every single item, into the bedroom and on the bed. We would not be getting any decent sleep until we dealt with the deranged mess.

Halfway through the process I reminded him I’d only been joking about cleaning out the closet, then I suggested we stop and finish on Monday morning first thing. But he persisted, thank goodness. We went to bed by eleven that night with an orderly, clean closet, clothes sorted by color and type on my side and his by whatever method he functions by.

In all honesty seven or eight of those boxes from the closet ended up in the spare bedroom. Papers. Boxes of papers and stuff. Like giant junk drawers with papers added. Ninety percent of each box will end up in the recycle bin. But ten percent will be something priceless, a photo, a critical document, memorabilia.

So I’m going to deal with those by setting a timer for thirty minutes each day. I only have to deal with the contents of those boxes for thirty minutes. Not a box a day, not a box per week. Just thirty minutes every day. In a week or two the boxes would be all sorted and organized and that room could be useful again. I could do that, couldn’t I?

Sometimes I think we just play box roulette. A box starts out in the garage, gets moved inside to find something, ends up in a closet, moves from closet to bedroom, from bedroom to another bedroom, and then in a fit of panic ends up in the garage again. Sigh.

Silliness.

postage

The post office in only two miles away…

But, not the funny, haha, this’ll make you laugh kind of silliness. Nope, not that.

Honestly, if I can write a decent blog post for the day I feel pretty dang good about my accomplishments. If I cook dinner, I feel even better. Dishes done afterwards? I’m a rock star!

Maybe my bar’s set to low. Maybe not, maybe right now I’m reaching as far as I can. And dagnabit! That’s good enough. Some days, heck, some weeks and months, are like that, and I’m learning to roll with it.

Will today be the day the packages finally go to the post office?

It could happen.

To be honest, more than likely it’ll be tomorrow.

 

 

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

Friday Letters: Water Babies

“Always be like a water. Float in the times of pain or dance like waves along the wind which touches its surface.” ~Santosh Kalwar

Dear J, J, L and L,

One hundred four degrees. That’s the forecast high temperature here today. Makes me wish we still had a backyard pool like we had at the Saint Elena house. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have survived our first year or two here in Arizona without it, especially since we arrived in late August. Your ages then: sixteen, fourteen, nine, and five. I think it bridged the age gap between big kids and little kids quite effectively.

photo by: The High Fin Sperm Whale (really)

photo by: The High Fin Sperm Whale (really)

I think it’s really true that water is the stuff of life. If I think about it even a little, water plays an integral part in most of my memories of raising the four of you.

J and J, that little sandbox you played in nearly always ended up filled with water after hours of building roads or tunnels or castles. And the blue plastic play pool? Less than a foot of water and maybe six feet across, it got so hot some days even I sat down in it with you. You even managed to add water to the bouncy times at Grandpa’s and Grandma’s on the trampoline, turning on the sprinkler underneath and getting totally soaked.

Hour long baths highlighted most days and brought them to a stellar, soggy end for you two oldest when you were toddlers. Do you remember the big garden tub that we filled with bubbles and containers? You made it into your personal wave pool and played until the water cooled and you both shivered. I sat nearby on the toilet seat or counter top, usually reading a book, out of reach of your splashing and waterfalls and container experiments. It was my hour of mental escape.

Then when we made the move to the Northwest, about the time L came along, we hung out occasionally at Puget Sound, mucking about along the rocky shore. Once you brought home a pail of barnacles that we set out on the balcony. Nothing else smells quite as bad as dead sea life in a bucket.

Mostly we spent about three hours a day or more at the pool all summer long. You two older kids each wore a red tank top with a built-in inner tube. Fearless, as usual, you launched off the diving board about a hundred times an hour. We often brought lunch and lots and lots of snacks and juice boxes. Poor little L would get tuckered out and we’d put her in the shade in her stroller and let her sleep while we swam even longer. You had the brownest bodies, with tan lines that latest until Christmas.

Camping up near Index we always set up our tent beside that creek which you three oldest kids spent hours splashing and playing in. I think you even attempted to build a small dam to pool the water so you could swim. Too bad the water temperature always hovered near freezing as it flowed down out of the Cascades.

photo by: Michael Conti

photo by: Michael Conti

When we finally landed in the midwest, with its humidity and ever changeable weather, our summer days revolved around the local swimming pool hours and what times our friends would also arrive.

By then the red swim shirt inner tubes fit big L and little L or “fish girl” as we should have called her. At two and half, our golden blond baby leapt off the diving board into twelve feet of water like she was born to do just that. Meanwhile, poor big L hunkered at the edge of the pool, hands in prayer form, tipping herself gingerly into the water in her year-long attempt at mastering diving.

By then J spent his time trying to make his enormous splashes off the diving board land on the life guard. And J, like most teenage girls her age, spent her time working on her tan, chatting with her friends and catching the eye of a few too many guys. Ah, those were the days, huh?

When the diving board lost its entertainment value, I recall sitting in the baby pool, while L and L played beauty salon with me acting the role of the hapless customer. Pretend perms, shampoos and styles seem to last for hours.

The smell of sunscreen conjures such sweet remembrances in me. To drive past a public swimming pool all but makes me laugh. Rarely do I add bubbles to a bath without recalling countless bare bums and smiling faces poking out of mountains of white foam. It seems at least half my memories of each of you involve water somehow.

DaVinci once said, “Water is the driving force in nature.” That’s true on many levels. I know it’s especially true for your growing up years. If ever you feel an emotional drought in your life, I hope you remember as I so often do, the wonderful, water filled memories we shared.

With love and laughter,

Mom

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

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.” ~ Margaret Atwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Sweet Somethings

It’s Gratituesday! Occasionally, I’m paying attention and notice detail in a mundane task that transforms the experience. Today I’m sharing the fun and gratitude of such a moment.

Sweet memories.

Sweet memories.

Cutting up a bunch of fruit for a salad recently, I sliced into the first cantaloupe of the season and felt a rush of images fill my head. As a child I only knew this fruit with a bit of salt and didn’t appreciate it so much until I was older and enjoyed it unsalted. Every picnic I’d ever gone on, every campout, too, seemed flavored in the memory of this particular smell.

I moved on to a small watermelon and cut into the thick rind releasing the heady summer scent. Even the sound of the rind giving way, the sudden rush of juice on the countertop added to the sweetness of the moment. Then the colors caught the light just so and I reached for my camera.

Mouth fireworks.

Mouth fireworks.

The berries, blue, red, black, each held within their compact little packages a burst, a pop, a firework of taste memory. Although I must admit there’s nothing like a berry just picked off the vine and slipped between your lips. Oh, my. Nothing at all. But these store-bought beauties still tingled the senses.

Even the grapes seemed to shine in the kitchen light and bask in the bouquet of other scents mingling in the air.

Sweet-tart!

Sweet-tart!

A squeeze of half a lemon, and another of a quartered lime over the glass bowl of color, memory and anticipation, and my artwork, ahem, I mean, my salad, stood ready for a quick snack.

I’m stunned at the variety of fruit available to me when I walk into the grocery store.

“Incroyable!”

I love the sound of the French word for “incredible.” The very pronunciation of it expresses incredulity, surprise, and appreciation. That’s how I felt making a simple fruit salad.

That’s how I’d like to feel every time I experience the bounty in an American grocery store, the providence of my refrigerator, and the blessings of my own sweet life.

 

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

Twenty-five Jokes to Liven Up Your Day

My cousin texted this photo to me this morning. It’s her view out the front door.

Colorado, May, Northern Hemisphere.

Colorado, May, Northern Hemisphere.

Did I mention that it’s May? In the Northern Hemisphere? The high temperature there today? Thirty-nine. Brrr.

Now here’s the view from my front door.

I think I prefer my view today.

May, Arizona, Northern Hemisphere.

The high temperature here? We’re shooting for eighty-six. Mmm. Not too bad.

I think the joke is on my cousin today.

Don’t worry, she’ll get her revenge in a month or two when it’s one hundred sixteen degrees here and she’s basking in the seventies.

In an attempt to lighten up, I’ve been posting jokes on one of my other social media sites this past month. I thought I ought to share the love a little and post some of those jokes here on my blog. I’ve even thrown in a few new ones that haven’t seen the light of day yet.

Enjoy.

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

What do you get if you cross a Cocker Spaniel, a poodle and a rooster?

A Cockerpoodledoo.

 

What do you call a camel with a hump?

Humphrey.

 

Why do mother kangaroos hate rainy days?

Because their kids have to play inside.

 

A man walked into the doctors, he said, “I’ve hurt my arm in several places.”

The doctor said, “well, stay away from those places.”

 

Larry’s mother had four children. Three were named North, South and West. What was her other child’s name?

 

I went to buy some camouflage pants the other day…

but I couldn’t find any.

 

What did the mother rope say to her child?

Don’t be knotty.

 

“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?”

― Milton Berle

 

What did one frog say to the other?

Time’s sure fun when you’re having flies!

 

What did the mother bullet say to the daddy bullet?

We’re gonna have a BB!

 

Why do French people eat snails?

Because they don’t like fast food.

 

Did you hear about the Frenchman who jumped into the river in Paris?

He was declared to be in Seine.

 

What happens if you eat yeast and shoe polish?

Every morning you’ll rise and shine.

 

What do you call an alligator in a vest?

An investigator.

 

What do you call a fake noodle?

An impasta.

(Two of my friends had alternate answers: Fauxguini and Lyinguini)

 

What did the baby corn say to the mama corn?

Where’s Popcorn?

 

What did the digital clock say to its mother?

“Look Ma, no hands!”

(Alternate answer: Was my father a Cuckoo?)

 

What do spiders eat in Paris?

French flies.

 

What do you call a French guy in sandals?

Phillipe Phloppe

 

If runners get athlete’s foot what do astronauts get?

Mistletoe

 

It was a sad and disappointing day when I discovered my Universal Remote Control did not, in fact, control the Universe. (Not even remotely.)

 

How do you know carrots are good for your eyes?

Have you ever seen a rabbit wearing glasses?

 

Why did the Easter Egg hide?

Because he was a little chicken.

 

What did Snow White the photographer say?

Some day my prints will come.

 

What did the math book say to the other math book?

Boy do I have problems.

 

Okay, I promise, I’ll stop now. Feel free to share one or two of your favorite jokes in the comments section. I could, obviously, use a little help in the humor department.

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

Giving In and Saying It Anyway

The earth somehow keeps spinning.

The earth somehow keeps spinning.

I’ve resisted as long as I can.

The voices have occupied my head for a day or more now. Ignoring them makes them grow louder. Sometimes what you want and what you need oppose each other like two big scary dogs, teeth bared, back hunched, a low growl, narrowed eyes, hackles up.

Fine. I give in. Here it is. The thoughts that have raced through my head the past twenty-four hours.

I’m not a Mother’s Day fan.

There. I said it.

What?

You want an explanation? Do I really need to give one?

Seriously, this year I decided to let go of that whiney, complaining, high expectations, nonsense that surrounds a holiday to celebrate motherhood. I had determined to embrace the joy, the beauty, the gift of life attitude of this greeting card holiday.

I nearly lost my Mom this past year. Twice. Heart stopping in its possibility, that thought has haunted me the past day. Haunted me since last July the first time it happened.

I’m sorry, but I can’t let my mother die. That can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t ever never ever never happen. My life would come to an end if that happened. You see, there’s this spiritual umbilical cord-like thing that attaches her life to mine and mine to hers. Her blood beats in my body. I’m part of her and she is part of me, in more ways than the merely physical.

We might go a week or two or even a month without talking on the phone and six months or more without seeing one another, but the connection of daughter to mother is strong and undeniable and filled with comfort and power and this undefinable somethingness I can’t find a word for.

How does anyone survive the death of their own mother? And then, how much more pain is there on Mother’s Day when your mother isn’t there to call on the phone, or have over for dinner, or send a card to?

I don’t ever want to find out.

When my best friend died five months ago part of me broke loose and has rattled around inside me trying to find a landing-place. So far it just keeps banging around, running into things, pinching, jabbing, stabbing, clanging about.

She left behind four children who today celebrate, mourn, cry, thrash, scream, yowl, sob, pretend, remember, deny, cherish, ache. My heart hurts for them, for their unspeakable pain and loss.

Then I think about all the mother’s that might have passed away this year, last year, all the years and such sorrow washes over me. How does the world keep spinning in the face of such things?

I have no idea.

I do know that Mothers possess a singular sort of magic.

Maybe it’s sort of like this. Some thing in the power of motherhood pushes life forward, keeps this impossible ball spinning on its axis, gives us strength and will to put one foot ahead of the other, and whispers in our ears, “Live!”

 

 

Categories: Death, parenting, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

Sibling Rivalry? Never…

Dear J, J, L and L,

Do you remember how I’d always answer when you asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day?

“Peace on earth, good will toward siblings.”

You all hated that answer. Or at least, you’d groan and say,” MoooOOOoooooooommmmmmm” in a whine of exasperation. I don’t blame you. It’s nearly impossible to run to Target or JC Penney and buy a cute box of good will. Even Wal-Mart, surprisingly, doesn’t carry either generic good or ill will in a bag. And wrapping up peace has so far proven unmanageable to even the biggest big wigs in the world.

It wasn’t that you guys never got along. (That was a double negative, which in math means a positive, right?) Let me rephrase that.

Ummm.

Okay, try this.

You guys didn’t fight constantly. I’ve seen worse. Much worse. And you didn’t come close to some the shtuff I’ve witnessed in other families.

Well, except for the Palestine and Israel years but we’re going to ignore that for the moment. Of course there was the infamous Scrabble incident but I blame myself for that one, in that I responded disproportionately to the constant volley of incoming fire between said “countries” during the game.

“I think this clearly shows that we spend far too much on fancy charts and graphs.” ~ attribution ??

“I think this clearly shows that we spend far too much on fancy charts and graphs.” ~ attribution ??

From what I’ve heard and seen, our family did pretty dang good on the siblings cooperating and getting along well ‘scale of warfare and petty grievances.’

I can tell you’re thinking, “has Mom really lost her mind now?” And you’d be partly correct, but I blame your dad for that more than you four. What you’re seeing and experiencing here is selective memory, and the fog that distance and time provides.

I’m not pretending there weren’t some all out brawls between you, because we all know there were some intense moments, days and weeks, yeah, and months and years. And yet, look at you now. You still speak to each other, you stay in touch, there’s no lasting damage to anyone’s psyche. We can get together as a whole family and there isn’t any major drama. How many families do YOU know that can say that?

I feel pretty dang lucky that it all turned out okay. And that it was more good than bad on the grand scale of things as far as sibling rivalry, conflict and combat goes.

You spent endless hours yelling “Marco” and “Polo” without any bloodshed or maimings. (Whining, yes. Cheating, probably.) Constructing hundreds of blanket forts without any broken bones, stitches, clawing or biting seems noteworthy. We even camped together without accidentally on purpose losing anybody. (We won’t bring up losing J at the gas station that one time, that was entirely my fault, nothing to do with sibling rivalry.)

Hot Wheels. Only the beginning of many thrills to follow.

Hot Wheels. Only the beginning of many thrills to follow.

J and J, you were each others best buddies for the longest time. I considered that the biggest benefit of your birth dates occurring only sixteen months apart. You worked together so well in so many ways. The most infamous example being when one of you, sleepless and bored during nap time, broke several slats off the end of the crib so the other one could crawl out and play trampoline on the bed with you. Evil genius right there, and great teamwork.

One of my most cherished pictures is big bro J with little sis J riding on the back of the Hot Wheel. You two were, even then, extreme thrill junkies zipping and zooming around like speed demons. Happiness personified!

Look how sweet and adorable! Amazing!

Look how sweet and adorable! Amazing!

And then Big L, you had this amazing gift of tongues when it came to Little L’s mangled language those first few years. What would I have done if you weren’t so in tune with what she said in body language and in words? What a great sister you were providing translations so that she and I weren’t so confused and frustrated in the communications department.

And then, few years later, as you patiently, every night for months, read Harry Potter out loud, until little L decided she couldn’t wait until bedtime and started reading alone as if it were oxygen.

What great siblings you all were and still are to each other. Pretty impressive!

I look back on those years and feel, relief, yes, but mostly JOY for the gift you gave me of motherhood. You continue to present me with delightful surprises and elation beyond anything you could buy at a store.

YOU four are my Mother’s Day gifts. Nothing can top that.

Thank you!

All my love,

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

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

My Favorite Thing of the Month

Cleaning up after making bread the other day, I pulled out my cleaning spray for a final once over of the counters. As I spritzed and wiped I felt a sense of satisfaction at a task already tidied. I also felt, oddly, that all was right with the world. Funny how such basic chores as mixing, kneading, cleaning and straightening, can instill a sense of wellness.

Part of the cleanup process I’ve adopted recently involves a gift I received from a friend at Christmas. Every year, instead of delivering dozens of plates of home-baked goodies to her friends, she gifts a favorite find from the past year. Once it was a wonderful spice she had discovered, another time a cool grout cleaning tool. This year it was a cleaning product she adored.

I was a bit taken aback by the scent it claimed to carry.

Radish.

Yes, radish.

Who would have thought something like this could bring such delight into my day?

Who would have thought something like this could bring such delight into my day?

I had the same reaction as you. Seriously? I didn’t even think radishes had a smell, only a biting crunch and tang. I tucked the bottle under my sink, and honestly, kind of forgot about it. It wasn’t until sometime in February, while cleaning under the kitchen sink that I thought of that gift. What an ingrate I was.

I looked at it and wondered what some cleaning company thought radish smelled like. So I turned the knob on the sprayer and pulled the trigger, letting a fine mist of the stuff settle into my sink.

Not bad. Not necessarily radishy, but still a nice, clean scent. I left the bottle on the counter and finished organizing under the sink. That task out of the way I moved on to the rest of the kitchen.

I spritzed the countertops and wiped them clean. Then I moved on to the table.

Nice.

I liked the clean smell. And, bonus! It cleaned really well!

Anything smelled better than bleach or orange oil or ammonia or lemon. I sound kind of snooty don’t I?

Don’t get me wrong. I used to love the smell of bleach after a good cleaning of the bathroom, or a thorough scrubbing of the kitchen sink.

I loved it until it became a paying job.

Yup. I cleaned houses for a living a decade or so ago. I cleaned vacant model homes and I cleaned regular lived-in houses. Both required hard work that took its toll on me. Grateful for the work and the fairly decent pay, I kept at it for several years.

I fell into bed most nights thoroughly spent and certain I had earned every penny. Unfortunately, the smell of bleach haunted my dreams, as did the scent of orange oil and lemon oil, ammonia  and dust.

After several years I eased myself out of that profession and into real estate appraisal, which I thought would pay off big time. Can you say “housing bubble?” The joke was on me.

Sigh.

Looks like I just made a short story very long. I only meant to explain why I love my new radish scented cleaner.

It smells clean, not soapy, not bleachy, not orangey, not lemony.  Now when I clean, I only smell happy memories of my own tidy home, not hundreds of other homes.

For that I thank my sweet friend, Susan.

As my bottle ran low I asked for her secret supplier of this decadent cleaner. She told me it was on sale that week at, of all places, Target! And that it also comes in basil scent. I’m easily amused and just as easily satisfied with simple pleasures. I guess that’s a good thing.

 

 

 

Categories: Fun, Gratitude | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

A Disturbance in the Force

Did you feel it?

I’m sure I did. My heart did this fluttery, skipping a beat, then a rushing to catch up weird sensation earlier this week. Like a balloon deflating there was suddenly no energy in the room.

My cousin, Darrin Olsen, almost thirty-three years old, passed away.

Darrin lights up a room when he walks in. He’s one of those people everyone is so happy to have show up. The vibe around him is upbeat and pulsing with life and excitement.

Whether he’s telling a joke, goofing off in front of a camera, or playing Ultimate Frisbee, he is all in, one hundred percent going for it. Talk about infectious laughter and smiles! Just saying the name Darrin puts a smile on the face of anyone who knows him.

Clearing skies over Morgan, Utah

(Photo credit: coty creighton)

I’d like to think he’s had a nice visit with Grandpa and Grandma Olsen and a couple of other cousins. Then, I envision him on a phenomenal hike in the heavens with a view unmatched here on earth.

I’m thinking he’s figuring out if he can do an ultimate bungee jump from there to here, just for the thrill of it. He’ll be able to talk whoever is in charge into it, no doubt, with that charming smile of his. I can here it now. “Sure, Gumpers, for you, I’ll bend the rules a bit. Here’s the bungee cord. Have fun!”

Ah, Darrin, you are already missed so much by so many.

Get a team together for a game of Ultimate for the rest of us when we get there. It’ll be epic!

In the meantime, feel the love we’re all sending your way.

Categories: Death, Hope, Memory Lane, People | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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