Friday, September 29, 2006

Family: Love 'em, hate 'em -- we're all connected

They can be frustrating, aggravating, irritating. They can be funny, loving, interesting. They can be different shapes and sizes. They can be devious, hypocritical, selfish. You can look just like them, remember stuff that they remember too, and share personality traits.

They're family.

I spent a day with my three aunties and three cousins this week in a spur-of-the-moment mini-reunion. We'd had a first-time, big family reunion five years ago with around 55 of us attending, including five of the six siblings (my mother wasn't able to travel), out of some 70 cousins and families. Not many of us live near each other -- we're spread mostly in the West, with a sprinkling in other parts of the country, and it was fun to see my cousins with their families, some of whom I'd not seen since they were small.

But this week was more fun. And a little sad. When I hugged my oldest aunt, she cried for my mother, and I did too. I see Mom in each of her sisters -- the nose in one, the eyes in another, the smile in a couple of them. My cousins all look different, although each of us has a few characteristics of our parents. But we share many memories.

We spent the afternoon looking through photo albums and scrapbooks from the reunion, laughing at the BIG hair of the '60s and '70s, remembering trips and holidays when we were together, seeing our parents at younger ages. It was good to connect like that, to remember.

We cousins are in the late 40s-to-early-60s age -- the up and coming matriarchs of the family. Three of us have lost a parent; I've lost both. We have children who are grown; one is still raising children at home. We've had health issues. Our mothers and grandmother have osteoporosis, and we check with each other, a little anxiously, about our bone density tests. We have or had parents whose health is failing, and we share that, silently, but it's there.

It is a connectedness that doesn't exist in any other relationship -- not with friends, siblings, parents, spouses.

We don't wholly agree with each other politically or spiritually, not that it was discussed in this reunion, but I know that from letters and previous discussions. We don't really *know* each other, not in our day-t0-day lives like our local friends and immediate family do, and I'm not sure we'd be best friends if we weren't relatives. Our personal styles are very different. Our careers have led us on separate paths. And it didn't matter, at least this day.

We each fix special breakfasts with bacon and wild rice, just like we ate at our grandparents' in Duluth, Minn. We know what lutefisk is, and remember our parents drinking Tom and Jerrys at Christmas. We remember our grandmother's beautiful flower beds, and our grandfather's way of gentling any animal.

Despite our distances and differences, we are connected. And I am grateful.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Getting's patch, patch, patch

I'm slowly un-numbing from another session with the dentist, and this temporary crown may be a little off because it's starting to hurt a bit. I'm nice and mellow, but his office is closed tomorrow, so I want to call today if it's going to give me problems.
UPDATE: Spent another hour and a half getting the temporary corrected, but it feels much better, although the gum is raw. Guess I'll just have to drink milkshakes, hm.

And I've got new contacts that let me see the street signs again. I've got the beginnings of cataracts (how can I be THAT OLD) and the doc has warned me that within the next 3-5 years I'll need surgery, and until then, we'll have prescription changes each year. I'll get new glasses ordered tomorrow. But when he tested my vision and proclaimed, "you can still pass your driver's test with that vision," I had one of those "who is he talking about?" moments. The thought of my not being able to pass a driver's vision test had NEVER occurred to me.

I'll tell ya, getting older has some disadvantages, and the user's manual doesn't tell you about these glitches -- actually, I'm still trying to find my copy, which I'm sure must be around here somewhere. I am increasingly in awe of the 80-90-somethings who keep going and doing, and I am trying to keep things running well enough that I can be one of them eventually. My great aunt Fran just celebrated her 100th birthday, and while she has some problems, she's in reasonably good shape.

The achey-breakeys also get worse as you get older, and things just aren't as flexible as they were, which is my biggest motivation for yoga. My balance is terrible, and that's certainly a state of age. Yoga may help with that too.

It's ironic that as you get wiser and better able to see things as they are, and to care a lot less about what others think -- in short, to become who you really are and be happy with that -- physical stuff starts to deteriorate. Now I know that a lot of that can be staved off with exercise, diet, attitude -- but some of it you just plain don't have any control over: it's in your genes.

And once again, it's back to doing all you can, where you are, with what you've got.

Looking good at 80

We saw Tim Conway and Harvey Korman last week, and while they may be older (Korman is nearly 80 and Conway is 73), they still have the ability to put an audience into stitches with their comedy. There is no show on tv -- for the past many years -- that compares at all with the Carol Burnett Show, Laugh In, and other shows of that era. I don't know if it's because the variety comedy show is too passe' for the demographics, or because there simply isn't a comic who has the versatility to perform week in and week out the way Carol and Harvey and Tim and Vickie Lawrence did.

Geeze. I sound like a geezer in training, don't I ... "they just don't make 'em like they usta, sonnyboy..."

But there's some new tricks left for this old dog
Just a year ago we started a photo club with a core group of nine who met in our living room. Today we number between 20 and 35 regulars at our meetings, which have outgrown most living rooms and are now held at a local agency.

And many of us submitted photos to our district fair which opened today. We had to check out the exhibit, of course, and ran into several fellow photographers in search of the prize winners. I'm thrilled to report that out of our 30 entries, we ribboned on EIGHT, including two blues -- one each. They'll be posted on our photo site.

I've taken photos over the years as part of various jobs, but never like I've been taking them since I got my own camera this past year. We're having a great time, learning new stuff (keeps the mind sharp, we're told), and wooing the creative muses.

A while back I found a bumper sticker that I liked: CRONE.
That's not necessarily considered a complimentary term, but it is the third of three stages in a woman's life -- the first two being maiden and mother. Usually associated with pagan/wiccan traditions, it also has roots in Native American, Norse, Celtic, Egyptian and Greek lore.

This bumper sticker, though, was an acronym.
C= Creative

I like it. I don't mind being a Crone in that respect. May I never stop seeking new experiences and creativity!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More thoughts on "The Path"

Tony's written a really good analysis of "The Path to 9/11" on his blog, and mentions Clinton's role and the fact that he was shown in the program to be too preoccupied with the impeachment proceedings to really focus on the Bin Laden situation.

My take on that whole thing, which the Clinton folks were furious about, is that BOTH parties come off extremely poorly. The Republicans were so busy being morally righteous and hypocritically outraged durng that whole embarrassing process that they are just as guilty of neglecting the country's security as the Clinton folks are. Had Clinton not been so chastised and denigrated in the stupid impeachment proceedings, he might have actually taken action in the Bin Laden case.

Neither party can throw stones here. It is a time in our country's history that does not reflect well on our priorities nor our moral fiber.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 2001

We've watched most of the ABC program "The Path to 911" and were impressed. While there are moments that are dramatized, they stuck primarily to documented and factual events and conversations. It was less emotional than we were afraid it would be, although very impactful.

Tony woke me that morning five years ago, saying "Terrorists have flown a plane into the World Trade Center." He'd been reading news on the Internet, as was his habit in the mornings, and saw a trailer across the screen. We sat, stunned along with the rest of America, and watched it happen. Over. And Over. And Over.

Although I went to work, the company let us take the day off. Tony's company did not, and it was only much later that a reasonable explanation was given: it is a huge international company and business and communications would be relying on it even in crisis.

I didn't know anyone personally who died that day, but it haunted my waking and sleeping hours for months, and I cried daily. Tony had spoken in the past with Todd Beamer, an employee colleague, who forever will be remembered by his "Let's roll." Other employees based in the WTC died that day too. It felt personal.

Two of my aunts and their daughters were stranded with my mother in Missouri. They'd come to visit her a few days earlier, and were supposed to fly out on Sept. 11.

I called the girls that morning to see if they'd heard -- and mostly just to hear their voices -- and woke them. Daughter #1 dashed to the radio station where she worked and didn't come home for days: it was nonstop news and more news.

Every time I fly I think of those United and American passengers who boarded that morning thinking of meetings to attend or already over, of reunions anticipated or enjoyed, of vacations long awaited, and the anticipation of going home to loved ones.

I never leave the house anymore without telling my husband that I love him with all my heart.

Life is uncertain. Shattering change can come upon us without notice or preparation. If we have learned nothing else, we must remember this. At the end, all that really matters is love -- love of family, love of friends, that we loved and were loved. Cherish that. Honor that. We may only have this moment to do so.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bowling Profit? Exercise? whatever

We're bowling in a league this year -- last year both of us ended up in a league by becoming subs, and we've decided to continue this year. So I've got my own shoes and a new ball, as does Tony. Not wanting to make the first night our first time with the new balls, we went this afternoon to test 'em out. Fun!

Not bad. Definitely an improvement over last year, and that's just with practice today. We'll see how we do tomorrow night, when we will establish our respective handicaps. I don't think mine will be the 120! it was last year.

On the for profit front, it is still exceptionally quiet in the market these days, which is what gives us the time to be able to go play at the bowling alley and to be able to go to the air and wheels show at our local airport yesterday. Downside is that profit is not nearly as regular; upside is that we have time to do things we enjoy (just not money!)

Hey. Bowling gets us into the community and hopefully people will recognize us from our ads, at least. It's a way of marketing.

And exercise. I guess bowling is exercise -- my arm sure feels like it's had a workout. I'll get more of that tomorrow too, with the first yoga class just prior to the league. I'm looking forward to it even though I know I'll feel it on Tuesday. Yoga mellows me out a lot, and makes me feel so righteous, too.

So we're down to whatever. Random thoughts and resolutions in all this extra time...

I've thought a lot lately about my parents and how they accepted me as an adult, and when that started... I was barely 21 when I came home from my senior year at college for Thanksgiving and pretty much announced that I was probably getting married the following summer to a man I'd been dating about a month. Mother said, "Has he asked you yet?" I said, "No, but he will."

A couple of weeks later they met him, and Mother gave him the third degree. She also apologized for that in a sweet note she sent him that week, saying that I was her only daughter and she just wanted to know more about the man I was marrying. And for the next 27+ years they treated him as family, and only very rarely made any comments. Even after our divorce Mother was welcoming on those occasions we all were together for a holiday or other event. In short, she kept her opinions to herself (and to Daddy).

I've resolved to do just that from now on: to keep my counsel when it comes to decisions or situations in which my children find themselves, and to acknowledge that they are adults capable of making their own choices and finding their own ways.

I have friends who are around their age or just a bit older, and I certainly don't step in to rescue them when they are distressed or in trouble. Yes, I'm there to listen and to advise when and if they ask, and to help however I can when and if they ask for my help. I care about them and what happens to them, but their lives are theirs, not mine.

I need to do the same for the girls.

Regardless of how I may feel about their decisions and their problems, I need to simply be there when they seek me, and to shut up unless asked for an opinion. I will not rescue anymore: they don't need it, and it is not healthy for either of us. I need to accept that I do not know everything despite my age and experiences, and that they indeed may have far more experience in many, many areas than I ever will (or would want to have).

I want to be able to accept their choices as theirs to make, to permit them to make their own mistakes without my interference, advice, or disappointment evident in any way including body language, and never again to allow my vision of who they are and what I see as their potential to overshadow my acceptance (and their vision) of who they really are and what they themselves want for their futures. And I want them to feel loved and acknowledged as adults.

It's not that I think I'm a completely interfering old biddy who always thinks she's right (and I don't believe they see me that way, either, at least mostly), but y'know, you never stop becoming, and I think I'm in a growth spurt!

My head's there, anyway. It'll take some wrangling to get my heart and emotions to fall in line every time, but I'll get there too.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A little snarl with my whine

I spent the morning in the dentist's chair. I have, like so many others, a real phobia about dentists and am a wuss about going, although I've had very good dental care with some dentists that I really like. When they come at me in a white coat and they intend to peer into my mouth and use the drill, however, they are not my friends.

I have braces, nearly two years now, and regular orthodontic visits are part of that. They are not traumatic, probably because there's not a drill in sight. Mostly they take the little donut ligatures off and replace them, and sometimes replace a wire. It doesn't hurt. It's in and out. (Okay, so I don't look forward to having the brackets pried off my teeth. But that's not happening real soon. And it won't involve a drill.)

So while I was brushing my teeth before I left the house, my temporary crown fell out. Now that "hour of fun" as my dentist calls it happened a couple of weeks ago, when he'd decided that two crowns just couldn't wait for the braces to come off -- they happen to be the far back ones that aren't bracketed, so no problem, right?

Drills don't come near these pearly whites unless their owner is drugged. And I was more or less relaxed thanks to some nice valium that my very understanding dentist had prescribed. I had my CD player, fresh batteries, and an assortment of music that could be turned up to drown out the sound of the drill. Loreena McKennitt did a great job that day, and the drilling was vicious as it ground through a gold crown that was some 25+ years old. I just turned up the volume and closed my eyes. Not bad.

I was not prepared for the chair this morning, though, where I went as soon as I was properly donutted by the orthodontist. I wasn't drugged, for one. I had no music with me, only a book.

And to be honest, it wasn't bad. They'd gotten my new crown in and tried to fit it -- but it was too tight, so that'll come in another week or two. The drill didn't come near me. The dentist did deaden the area, though, which isn't great fun, but he is careful and thorough, which I do appreciate. And for the record, he is very good, very pleasant, and I like him. Except when he has a drill in his hand.

I'll go back in two weeks to get another crown drilled off, and you can be sure I'll be medicated with CDs in hand. And I'll have plenty of time to get myself prepared, unlike this morning.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fresh month, renewed activities, new season!

It's September. That means Labor Day is near, back to school is here, weather will start the slow slide towards our rainy winters, and the days are definitely getting shorter.

A new month. I like beginnings.

Some updates from August:
  • Muggle is healing. She resides mostly in the undercarriage of the RV and comes out at night to devour a can of tuna cat food while I gently pet her. She'd had an infection on one ear that caused a hard, scaly crust on the edge; that has come off and it looks like that part of the ear came with it. I captured her long enough last night to clean it a little and dab some Neosporin on it. But the hitch in her getalong seems much better.
  • Our fair entries are in and between us we'll have 30 photos displayed, many that already are on our photo Web site.
  • I've met deadlines: an ad for a program and a column for the newspaper. Yay me.
  • It's not so hot. Temps peak usually in the upper 90s, but with the low humidity, that's bearable. Swamp cooler has been our cooling source since the hot spell of July broke, meaning electric bills that don't make us gasp in horror.
Stuff is starting up again this month:
  • The Redding Broadway series kicks off with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway on Sept. 15 -- a holdover from last season's schedule, but one we are gleefully anticipating. Watching the two of them on Carol Burnett used to be one of the best belly-laugh opportunities ever. I expect this program to be much the same.
  • Bowling starts in a week. Yes, we're in a league this year, starting out with folks we bowled with -- as permanent subs -- last year. I'm getting my first ever bowling ball and shoes; Tony has a new ball, too (he got shoes last year). His old rubber ball was pronounced a relic by our resident pro shop specialist. We'll see if our scores improve. It's fun, though, and gets us out in the community.
  • Yoga starts the same night as bowling. I'm signing up for the first 6-week series and will just hightail it from yoga mat to bowling alley every Monday night. I love the focus of yoga and concentrating on muscles that don't otherwise get stretched.
I like the anticipation of fall, too, even though the falls here are pretty much hot and dry until it rains, and then it's cold and wet. One long range forecast, though, is calling for a good rain sometime in mid-September, which certainly ought to help the fire danger. Perhaps that would hasten cooler weather -- I'm ready for windows open and a nip in the morning air.

And I've got a trip planned next month, too, back to Indiana. It'll be the first visit since the early '90s, and fun to see what's changed. I'm hoping for a good taste of crisp fall weather, bright blue October skies, and apples like you don't get in California. I already know I'll have wonderful talks, lots of chocolate, laughing until I hurt, and some puddly moments.

Until the mid-'90s or so, fall always meant new pencils, notebooks, new clothes and shoes, and a new-year-in-school attitude. Part of that was that I was in school, I was working in or around schools, or my daughter was in school. But September still feels like a new start to me -- even though schools start around here in August.

Advice (with or without consent)

I've been a regular Ann Landers this week, although maybe it's been more like the proverbial Jewish momma, since the advice wasn't quite solicited!

Two of my wonderful daughters, however, are in situations with the men in their lives that could have very far-reaching consequences to their own options and choices in life. And I, always being the mother hen to my baby chicks, wanted to make sure they are looking out for themselves first.

It's not that I don't like the respective men, either -- I do, and I think they are far superior choices to anyone either of them have brought home in the past, and I believe they truly love my daughters. That's what we hope for our children, that they are partnered with people they love who love them in return.


Both men have some issues -- health and/or familial responsibility -- that have had serious impacts upon their personal goals and capabilities. These directly affect my girls and their personal goals and capabilities simply because they love these men.

The girls, by their own admission, have made past choices that were not in their best interests and that have caused them some serious emotional and financial heartburn.

Yes, I realize both are plenty old enough to make their own choices and decisions without Momma's interference. But when I see them struggling with the realities and they talk to me about their frustrations, I figure I have a responsibility to point out what I see -- which is not always what they want me to see (or that I want to see), but which also sometimes are points they've not thought about.

The trick is for me to say it, love on them, and then shut up. I'll have pointed out the cliffs and the bottomless pits, but it is up to them to choose which path they want to take.

Oh, that is hard -- to shut up.

My folks did it many times, I realize, and it wasn't because they didn't have insight or opinions! Somehow, though, in their love and wisdom, they managed to support me and my choices, even when they worried about them. They were always my most loyal, most loving supporters.

And that's the challenge: to love and always support my girls, to accept their choices, and to never, ever say "I told you so."

Daddy once said to me after I'd spent a week or so with them helping out, that "...You have no idea how much..." he loved me.

I do.

My girls have no idea how much we love them.

I hope they will, some day (when they are themselves parents of grown children).