Thursday, March 29, 2007

Stringing words together

I've been writing pretty much all day -- it has been really fun, too.

Until the last four years when we moved to Red Bluff and began to sell real estate, I'd made a living writing and editing and marketing for various sectors -- nonprofit, public, corporate, church. I wrote marketing brochures, direct mail pieces, product instruction booklets, news releases, radio and video scripts, newsletters... even phone scripts and speeches. I named products. I came up with cutesy tag lines and slogans. Wrote packaging copy.

I can write about anything, pretty much any way.

So I've been working on policies and procedures for the new Real Estate Digest that our REALTOR association is about to publish, and I'm also the editor, so I wrote and polished the first editorial copy for the publication, which hopefully will be distributed around Round Up in a few weeks.

I love the whole writing process: consulting with whoever is requesting it (that could be a product manager, a division, a department, or a client), figuring out what format and style and tone will best deliver the message, perhaps working with a graphics department or simply creating design myself to enhance delivery, and then cogitating.

When I'm working on most projects, I often will do the research and then let it perk for a few days. It appears in my dreams. I talk parts of it through when I'm driving or gardening or cleaning. And finally I'll sit at the computer and most of the time the piece flows from my brain to my fingers without a lot of angst and contemplation because I've organized it and plotted it in my head.

I love finding just exactly the right word to express a feeling or a concept or an action. I use Merriam-Webster's online dictionary a lot -- just as I used to use the paper version. I still have some great reference books that jog creative thought, too.

Even in real estate I've done a good bit of writing -- our Web site, for instance, and weekly ads in both print and online publications. Direct marketing pieces, postcards (design too), and the mostly-monthly newsletter we do for the Chamber of Commerce's Good Morning Red Bluff meeting. (Plus lots of Arts Council newsletters and columns.) It's always a challenge to get inside the head of whoever my audience is and try to find just the right approach.

And then there's this blog -- a completely different kind of writing, one that is just fun, often therapeutic, and solely for me. It's made me think more seriously about writing a book, something I've always thought I'd do eventually. It may be that 'eventually' is turning into 'now.'

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Last of the season

That would be Redding's Broadway series season...the last play of this series was tonight. It was Cats, that wonderful Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on TS Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

I think I've seen this play about five times now and each time it's been a little different. It was in Redding a few years ago too, and we agreed that that production was better than the one tonight. It seemed like there were a lot of glitches -- slight, but there -- and the actors simply didn't transform well into cats through their mannerisms and expressions, with a couple of notable exceptions.

The Growltiger sequence is one of my favorites, and Growltiger and Griddlebone were simply wonderful, posturing all over the stage, singing fake Italian opera beautifully. But the attack by the Siamese just didn't have much effect -- no bright blue eyes, no sampans and junks. It seemed fairly unchoreographed.

Mr. Mistoffelees, the magical cat, wasn't very. Oh, he was glittery and could dance, but I've seen productions where he does magic tricks, entertaining the audience far more than merely spinning and jumping.

All that taken into account, I still just loved it. It is imaginative, the music is wonderful and tells these cute stories, the singing is marvelous-- and Grisabella's Memory was just knock-your-socks-off tonight.

The lithe, flexible, young bodies that prance and pounce and slide and slink all over the stage send a youthful energy into the audience, and while you know they're not cats, they ARE young people having a wonderful time.

Some of the cats tonight reminded me very much of my own cats -- especially Grizabella, who limps, is tattered and tired. Our little grey Hermione -- always the most fragile of the kitties -- is not doing well. Her back legs don't work right, she's lost weight, her eyes are nearly blind, and she valiantly goes from one place to another, simply resting where she is when her legs fail. I cuddle her daily and talk to her, and she responds -- and just when I think I'll find her dead, she appears at the back door, stretching up on the screen and asking for her wet food (she's the only one who gets it). Both Grizabella and Hermione are little fighters, survivors in spite of difficulty.

There were bits and pieces of McMurphy and Cheswick, the much loved, very pampered inside boys, in various of the characters. And we recognized character traits of Weasley, the affable ginger manx, and staid Lulu too, along with skittish little Muggle who has become even more of a recluse.

It was a nice evening. We will look forward to the new season in September -- it's always a treat to go.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Disappointment... and beyond

Such a mixed few days -- roller coaster emotions. Not fun.

We spent some time this weekend with a former colleague in Davis -- talking, eating (of course), laughing, visiting on Sunday with other former colleagues.

But in the middle of an interesting tour of the UC-Davis campus, we got a phone call from daughter number 1 telling us that she could not find daughter number 3 -- yes, the one who went just a week ago to Birmingham. R was very worried and went to the apartment where V was staying, to a friend's house to see if they knew, and then, we found out, had a policeman friend check out the accidents and hospitals. Nada.

Today we found out that V has returned to CA to be with her boyfriend. The same one she left just two weeks ago, claiming she was done, couldn't stand this and that, etc.

Oh, it's got lots of twists and tangles and dark corners. Bottom line: we still believe this is not in her best interests and that it will come off the rails again at some point.

Parents, do not make the mistake of thinking that once your kid hits 18 and is out of high school that you can stop worrying about them. What happens is that stakes in the MIStakes are much higher, and they haven't held your hand crossing the street for a long time. In fact, they tend to snarl a bit if the hand is offered -- unless, of course, it is holding money.

Ours won't be extended nor offering money any more.

Grown children are entitled to make their own mistakes and find their way out of the tangles without interference from their parents. In fact, if they are to grow in maturity and figure out who they are and what they want, parents need to let them fall.

It's just hard to watch. Especially when it happens over and over and over.

We hope things work out. But I don't think we'll be asking many questions, nor do I think there will be much communication for a while at all.

Disappointment is too mild a word for this feeling. Heartsick is closer.

An anniversary week
Seems the last week in March isn't very good for my family. Three years ago one uncle died this week after a long illness. A year ago my Uncle Tom died after an accidental fall. Yesterday another uncle died, also after a long illness.

There is still much sadness about Tom. When a loved one dies, as did my mother, from complications of a long illness, it is almost a relief -- and certainly a blessing that they are not in pain or suffering any longer. Oh, I don't mean to understate the grief, for it is certainly difficult to lose anyone you love, but I've often said in this venue and others that I wouldn't wish Mother back for a single day as she was -- I am so glad she doesn't suffer anymore. In that regard, death is a blessing and a natural end to a live well lived.

Tom's death, though, is much harder to reconcile. He died from such a freaky accident and at far too young and vigorous an age. There is no blessing that I can see in it, other than he died doing what he loved and believed in. I don't know what to say to my cousins and aunt except how sorry I am and that this, too, shall pass (which it WILL. Eventually pain becomes manageable, if not gone. This is the blessing of time and one's mind.)

So another March is going out with a death in the family. I pray that April will bring healing.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Health insurance is expensive...IF you can get it at all

The state of healthcare insurance is just dismal unless you're around 20 years old, don't drink, don't smoke, have never been sick or seen a doctor for anything other than routine vaccinations and checkups, are perfectly proportioned height and weight, and have an incredibly perfect genetic background. And you make tons of money doing something you simply adore doing.

Otherwise you're gonna get hit with a big bill -- unless you work for a large enough company that your healthcare benefits are great and the employer portion foots most of the bill. And then, of course, there's always a good chance you'll eventually get laid off and have to find new insurance or choose expensive COBRA. And if you choose self-employment ... well, prepare yourself.

Blue Shield has notified the group with which we have our (self-employed) health insurance that it will not renew the contract. While the association is seeking an injunction to buy some time to find other insurance options for the 8000+ members who are going to be dumped, there's no guarantee that'll happen. So we've been looking at other options.

Like nearly everyone who is baby boomer age, we have our health issues -- they're fortunately not terribly scary ones, but we've seen doctors faithfully for years and continue to be successfully treated. About five years ago, I came down with a gangrenous gall bladder that was misdiagnosed as a cardiac incident -- and that lurks in my healthcare file like some bomb waiting for the hair trigger to be tripped. I defy you to find anyone in my age group whose arteries DON'T show *some* plaque.... it's just that mine happen to have been investigated and documented.

Oh, it had an enormous effect on me (fear will do that). I eat healthily, I lost weight, I walk, I'm careful about stress. I get regular checkups. Far as we know, the doc tells me, I'm healthy. The couple of issues I have are controlled and cause no problems long as I'm continuing to do the right stuff.

But it's fairly unlikely, I'm told, that an underwriter will approve my application for health insurance because of this, and because it's happened within the last five years == I'm three months shy of that fifth anniversary.

I know I'm not alone in this. Millions of Americans are uninsured because the premiums are so high -- if they can get it at all -- that they can't afford to have it AND have things like food, shelter, transportation, clothing. Every political candidate agrees that something MUST be done about healthcare, about the high cost of insurance, about the difficulty in getting insured. But nobody seems to be able to come up with a plan that will stand up to the deep pockets of the insurance lobbyists.

Pardon my cynicism, but our Congressional representatives don't see this from the same perspective as do their constituents. Our elected representatives are set with health insurance for life. And it's GOOD insurance... no $7500 deductible for them -- at least from what I understand. Oh, they know their districts may be concerned about the high costs of healthcare and want them to support legislation that will reform the industry -- and okay, okay, some of them are very proactive about it and really have tried to make a difference.

But it doesn't hit them where they live. It doesn't affect them personally. Politically, yes. But they have insurance.

We'll get insured one way or another, although our premiums may soar and we may have higher out-of-pocket expenses. But some serious illness or accident without insurance would wipe us out otherwise -- just as it has so many, many thousands of Americans.

It ain't right. It's not fair. It's depressing to work hard at keeping yourself healthy and then get slapped with a rejection of coverage.

I suppose I'm anticipating gloom and doom -- it hasn't happened yet (this time). I'm trying to think positively and find that nugget of gratitude -- but it's covered right now under piles of medical records, I think. Maybe tomorrow I can see more clearly. On my two-mile walk...after my high fiber oatmeal and skim milk breakfast...because I'm trying to stay healthy and live long (and prosper...)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

When have you had enough?

I got really, REALLY angry today -- something I rarely do. Oh, I get peeved and even testy, but that doesn't stick long, and it isn't something that causes much of a physical reaction.

Really truly angry takes a while to grab hold of me...a slow burn. And I sidestep it at first, and then feel it build and build and build, and then I get shaky and leaky-faced (angry tears), and it lasts for hours, and leaves me just worn out from the intensity.

It was primarily because of a phone bill we got today in the mail -- except it wasn't entirely about the amount of money owed (which was significant), but rather that I felt used, disrespected, blown off, and greatly taken advantage of. And there is not one single thing that can recover any of the money -- and there is nothing -- NOTHING -- to show for it -- NO benefit anywhere to us. Just a big, fat bill.

What is most painful, though, is that the usage privilege that was extended was so carelessly -- and willfully -- abused, with no appreciation shown and no notice taken of a couple of warnings we'd issued over the past couple of months.

It's not the first time this has happened, either -- not the same situation, but with another gift, a privilege given that was blown off and squandered, and then lied about.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned -- I guess I am. I was taught to appreciate what was given to me because I knew that someone had worked hard to receive that money. I was taught that having material things is not a right; it is a privilege, whether you earn the money or someone else has. I'm a pretty frugal consumer -- I've always had enough, but there have been years when I've pinched many pennies and made do with what I had, or found creative ways to recycle things. I shop sale racks and grocery specials. I've fallen out of some of those habits in more recent years, but I'm picking them back up these days.

So it just blows me away when privileges are taken as a right, when monetary gifts intended to help build a solid foundation are spent not on necessities, but on cigarettes or a night out or cute shoes or new purses.

Oh, I could rant and rave more. But you get the idea.

For me, this last is truly the end of my support and willingness to help -- at least until the recipient is capable of making choices that will build a foundation for self-sufficiency and an eye to future growth. And can show respect for the gift as well as the giver, and honor the gift by using it well.

There's a little part of me that says that a gift should be given without strings, without any anticipation of thanks or appreciation, but simply because the giver chooses to give it lovingly.

And in a perfect world, I suppose it is a noble and honorable and admirable intention to give without asking for anything in return. A good Christian thing to do; an honorable Buddhist way of right behavior; a part of giving back from the gifts I've been given by the universe.

But I'm not perfect, and I don't feel very noble or selfless. I just feel drained and tired of giving and giving and giving without any return on investment. And I feel resentful -- not a good way to be.

I think it's time to step back and watch. Lovingly. But not enabling anymore. It clearly hasn't helped any of us. And I've had enough.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Courage and convictions

We saw 300 today -- a movie I was a little leery about seeing. It's filmed using very grainy film -- either that, or it's been added as an effect. The lighting is heavily red/black/sepia-toned, the shots unique, the effects interesting. It's done in the style, I'm told, of a graphic novel -- and the story is based on such a work.

It's an epic film, joining others such as Troy, Gladiator, Ben Hur and the like, dramatizing an historic event. And it is a story of remarkable courage and conviction -- albeit quite bloody -- but then, courage and conviction in the face of unreasonable demands and actions will draw blood somewhere, seen or unseen. It reminded me a little of Masada, the epic miniseries of 1981 that also portrayed deep conviction and courage.

It was sobering, too. It made me think of our present day situation in the Middle East where young (and some not so young) men and women act with courage and conviction -- and even if they have doubts about the wisdom of their leaders in fighting this war, simply to follow orders is a courageous act.

Courage is defined as "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty." And the etymology stems from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

Courage, then, is strength from the heart.

I think courage is a gift from the universe that enables us to do what we MUST do even when reason says we can't/shouldn't/don't want to. (There are some days when getting out of bed to face the day takes courage -- not anymore for me, but I've had a few like that in the past. ) I honor that --

I am grateful for the gift of courage that landed me in California. I'm grateful for the gift of courage that brought us to Red Bluff.

I recommend the movie.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Pat's

Well, it's the annual drink green beer and kiss everyone because everyone is Irish today...St. Patrick's Day.

I've got my non-alcoholic, non-green beer in hand and am letting all the stress of the last few months go...Missoula is done for another year. It remains to be seen if the Arts Council actually makes some money from it this year -- but there were several of us who worked hard to make it happen.

The kids were cute. They did well. The storyline was a little weak and perhaps reached a little too hard for laughs. But I heard over and over again from parents and grandparents how much they appreciated us bringing it here, how their kids/grandkids loved it and look forward to it every year. That makes it worth the work. We're accomplishing something here.

AND, I'm happy to report, the Chickie Trucker is safely in Birmingham. She left Sacramento Thursday morning and just drove. It helped that the weather was unseasonably cooperative! But she pulled in this evening and is safe, the car did fine, and we're grateful. Hopefully she can take what she's learned over the last two years and make a better life for herself.

So it's onto the next thing for us all.

I'm aware of the anniversary of my uncle's death creeping forward...every day I think of it and think of his family, knowing a little too freshly what it feels like to go through. There are two dates, really -- March 28 when he fell and March 30 when it was all over. It doesn't feel like a whole year has gone by since then, but here it is.

These mile markers -- anniversary dates, birth dates, death dates, other days of significance -- come faster now. It's like watching signs from a car window -- you can read them easily and slowly when you're cruising at 20, 30, 40 mph. When you get up to 50, nearing 60, the words start to blur a little and it goes by maybe even before you've read the whole sign.

As I watched the kids rehearse this week, and talked with their parents, I remembered my daughter's first role -- at three years old, she was a lamb in the Christmas pageant. She had a line even. There were roles and plays throughout school, at different ages. One year she was Dorothy, cute in her braids and ruby slippers, in maybe fifth grade. She was serious, earnestly learning her lines, learning how to act. I saw every play at least once. And nearly every one in college (she was a theatre major!)

I remembered juggling my job and after school care and summer care and church meetings and my choir stuff, and keeping the house reasonably neat, and still having time to sew for her and for me. I remember watching her with such pride, such delight in what she was doing. I remember the feel of her sitting in my lap or with my arm around her, encouraging, supportive, delighted to have her at all! I loved reading out loud to her at night and answering her questions and giggling at silly things we'd make up.

It makes me so very aware of time and ages and stages.

There is more I need to do in this life. I want to make my time filled with fewer of the 'ought to' or 'hard to say no' things, and a lot more of the 'feeding the soul' and the joy-filled things, the creative, delight-full moments and projects.

And only I can make that happen. Starting tomorrow.


Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, "Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torchwhich I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

And for this St. Patrick's Day, this blessing to you: "May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you're going, and the insight to know when you're going too far."


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Ides of March

Okay, so it's tomorrow, not today. The Ides, that is.

It is the day, so legend goes, that Julius Caesar was murdered in BC 44. A soothsayer cautioned him to "Beware the Ides of March," but he ignored the warning, and was murdered by his close friend Brutus.

You, of course, remember that from Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, which you likely studied during your freshman or sophomore year in high school. Right?

I don't expect assassination: physical, character or otherwise. But it is an auspicious day. First of all, it is the middle of March, and spring is barely a week away. Second, our daughter departed this evening, heading for Alabama and new adventures. The Ides will be her first full day of travel, and our thoughts are with her every mile of the way -- we've driven it at least as far as Oklahoma City. We hope for clear weather and easy travels, and a better chance at finding herself.

This week is filled with activity -- little of it money-making, alas. Our Arts Council sponsors the Missoula Children's Theatre, and this is the Residency Week, so about 60 kids are singing and dancing and learning lines for "Robin Hood" every day after school. It'll be performed Saturday -- is that amazing or what! I've been laying out the program, the tickets, re-creating business cards for ads, and so on --all volunteer work. And when I'm not doing that, I've been in meetings for our local Realtor Association's new magazine, of which I will be editor -- also a "good of the order" volunteer job. It's an interesting venture and one which I hope will be successful.

Nonetheless, it's left little time for me to promote our own business. That'll change next week.

Spring is here...
ready or not. The little tree that always leafs out first is full of leaves. When you look across the land, the treetops shimmer with new green. Tiny curled leaves are unfolding hour by hour. All the daffodils I've planted are blooming, noses sniffing the very warm (86 degrees today on our porch) spring air, and they dot the still-green grass all around the house and stretching up the driveway. I'd like to plant about 50 new ones every year until the property is full of them in the spring.

I don't feel like there was enough winter, though, and it feels more like May than March. I'm hoping we have a wet April.

Where did it go, all those days since Jan. 1?

Of course we lost an hour this week, and I'm still trying to catch up. I think spring forward is much harder to get used to than fall back -- sort of like flying east is harder than flying west.

I'm not pondering much of anything, either, although there's stuff stirring around in my head -- but there isn't time this week to BE -- just DO. It's a new season, a rebirth of something, and I'm trying to figure out just what. Change is definitely in the air.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The more things change...

the more they stay the same.

Well, not really the same. But the saga of our youngest daughter's stay in California is coming full circle as she prepares to travel back east to live, and there are many elements in this whole story that are very familiar --

Oh, certainly the circumstances are mostly different. She's changed and is older, certainly some wiser, and with more job potential than she had when she arrived. Other things, like making choices that weren't necessarily well thought out and waiting until just before things start tanking big time to make decisions, have overtones of previous situations -- some of which we helped rescue her from.

And yet. She's our kid. We want good things for her. We agree that her choice to leave a relationship and move is probably the best for her. We just want her to be well, to be happy, to have enough.

She'll be back with her sister, my daughter, although not living with her. And they do support each other and lean on each other -- I hope this will be good for them both. Again. (They lived together in 2001 when we moved the youngest from Chicago to the South -- but they aren't good roommates.)


it's just always something, isn't it.

She'll be under our roof this week as she wraps up loose ends and prepares for this long trip, so there will be a little adjusting for all of us...and yet, things are different. She came here a little more than a year and a half ago and lived here, mostly, until about a year ago when she started truck driving school. Since then we've seen her a few times every month, usually for just a few hours.

But she comes back to us for advice (not that she takes it, at least at the moment)....and this time, she was hearing the same advice and concern that we'd expressed from some friends back east.

Y'know how you plant seeds in the garden and hope that some of them will bear fruit if you tend and water them? Well, giving advice to children is similar, although the tending and watering generally were done in their younger years. We throw out these little tidbits here and there, and sometimes we get to see that they've taken root.

That's how we feel tonight, listening to her. Some of our words rooted in her 20-something brain, and she's making choices that are more true to who she is and what she wants. It's gratifying.

And I suppose we'd best savor that feeling in this moment only, because we both know things will change. For this week, though, she's safe and fed and being nurtured.

I'm reading various magazines, and Sanctuary by Nora Roberts.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Between the lines

It feels like everything is on hold, waiting...

Waiting for rain. Waiting for spring. Waiting for the real estate market to get better. Waiting for the next holiday (which isn't until MAY!!! for those of you who have regular jobs where you get days off).

I am so totally right here and now about everything -- not that it's a bad way to be, but I don't seem to be able to think about stuff in either the past or the future other than to note it on the calendar.

It's been one of those nose-to-the-grindstone weeks, where I'm working on the computer for hours, doing layouts, designs, twiddling and fiddling with elements, comparing, revising. And investigating some freelance writing possibilities, which of course entailed completely revising my resume. And always checking out real estate and working on marketing our listings and searching for places to advertise some of them. I feel very focused...okay, somewhat obsessed. I dream about my to-do list when I finally manage to get to sleep (but if I take a Tylenol PM, I'm just a zombie until after noon). My neck is stiff, my joints are creaky, I need to walk in the mornings but I'm also trying to get things done and checked off.


The little tree that always leafs out first is leafing...just barely, but there are definitely leaves popping. And while we may have more rain, the real winter weather is likely over. In fact, I bought seeds the other day -- lettuce, sugar snap peas, spinach, onion -- and would like to get part of the garden prepped this weekend maybe so I can start the cooler weather crops even though the last frost date is not until April 15. By the time I got the garden in last year, it was too late for peas and onions, and just borderline for lettuce.

I'm still planning to make those curtains, maybe replace the chair cushions, finish framing and hanging photos, cleaning parts of the house that haven't been touched in too long, and going through my closet to take to either Act II or Salvation Army. That's after I finish all the computer work. The freelance ops. Cleaning my hideously messy desk.

I'm living these days between the lines -- fully focused, but not mindfully moving. I'm doing, not being. I'm getting a little tired of it, but I also can't stop....

My favorite time of day is bedtime, when I ease into the flannel sheets, sink into the bed, and pick up my book. I love having Tony snug against my side, and the cats in their usual sleeping places on the bed. It's quiet, warm, and I can indulge in my favorite activity -- reading-- without feeling like I should be doing something else.

I hate not going to sleep quickly and hearing the clock hit 2 a.m. or even 3....

This too shall pass.

May you sleep peacefully. May you find a joyous moment in every day. May you be grateful for your blessings.

Me too.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Can you hear me now?

My past came calling today in two separate but connected phone calls.

First one-- as I was talking to a friend in her office -- was my ex who asked if I knew what was up with our daughter's cell phone (we all live in different states) which was indicating that she was "not accepting calls." I told him it was probably that she hadn't paid her bill...(which turned out to be true).

And then he talked. He calls every few months, sometimes to ask a question, sometimes to relay news, sometimes just to chat and catch up. We were married for a long time and parted amicably about 10 years ago.

So he told me news about people I knew, and I told him news about people he knew. He told me about a couple of trips he's taken or wants to take. I told him about ... well, no, I didn't. He's always been more interested in telling me what is going on in his life than he is in hearing about what's going on in mine. That hasn't changed. But it doesn't bother me anymore because I'm not in that life!

I genuinely hope he is happy...but suspect at least parts of his life are not quite what he'd hoped for. And I also hope -- small-minded though it may sound -- that he appreciates what I did for him and with him more than he did when we were married.

There were good times and many good memories in that life. AND. I'm very glad I'm not in that life anymore: where I am now is who I truly am, and my life with Tony is what I'd imagined so very long ago -- long before I ever contemplated any such change and certainly long before I'd ever thought of moving to California! The universe gives you what you ask for (and work towards). I am always filled with gratitude for Tony and our relationship after I speak with my ex.

The second call came in WalMart and was from said cell-phoneless daughter, who was actually calling on her work cell phone (which I didn't know she had). So I sat on a bench in the shoe department and we talked. It wasn't long enough to suit me, but oh boy...she was full of news.

Most interesting is that she's kicked her fiance out and is living alone (if you can call living with three cats "alone"). He has had serious physical problems almost since they've been together and she's seen him through four surgeries, some rehab, a lot of pain, and a lot of meds. She's paid for it all too, with a little help from his family, but she's supported him for the past two-plus years -- or maybe it's longer.

This is not what any mom wants for her child. You want your kid to be happy, to have enough money, enough love, enough work ... just enough of everything. Y'know?

But I struggled with keeping my mouth shut and tried to stay positive. I'd pretty much accepted that he was part of our family, and it wasn't that I didn't like him -- I just had hoped for more for her, a loving partnership, children, stability...

So she's back in the city where we moved when she was a freshman in high school, and is reconnecting with friends she'd missed while she lived in another city, and also because she's been so confined to home and work with her fiance's disabilities (and no, he hasn't yet been approved to receive disability benefits, although if ever there was a good case, he's it). And also for the first time in her adult life, I think she's okay with living alone. Okay, alone with three cats. She says she's fine, that she's spending time with a high school friend who was one of her closest friends back then...

I'm glad. I hope very much that she'll be able to take a look at what SHE truly wants to do and who she is. She's been such a caretaker for all her boyfriends and has given up a lot for every single one of them. I hope that perhaps this time -- a little older and wiser -- she can look at her own needs and figure out how to see herself without a man attached to her life.

Of course it took me a lot longer to do that! But she's not me.

And there is always a decent possibility that they'll get back together. And if they do, I hope they each bring some lessons learned back to the relationship. but i sortakindareally hope they don't get back together...that's between you and me....

Funny how life works. Funny how you hear things differently on a phone call than you do face-to-face. And it's clearer. I can hear better. Hellooooo....this is the universe calling....

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Living longer

There was an article in this weekend's USA magazine about longevity, featuring two Web sites you can visit to determine how long you'll live (barring accidents, catastrophic events, etc.). That's the one for folks over 50, and this is the one for the under-50 crowd.

According to that I'll get 89 years in. That's about right, I think....although my great-aunt Fran turned 100 last September, but she seems to have escaped some of the physical ailments that have afflicted others on that side of the family -- other than some dementia, anyway.

There are, of course, things they recommend doing that will help extend my life even more -- like cutting out those sweets to just once or twice a week and exercising more than four times a week.

But I'm not too bad. We seldom eat white anything -- bread, rice, potatoes, pasta -- and use the whole wheat or brown versions of rice and pasta, or substitute whole barley which is full of fiber and low on the glycemic index. Probably eat red meat too often, although not daily by any means. No smoking, no booze.

We do try to keep things healthy--well, maybe except for that stash of sweets. I made granola today which is full of healthy fiber and very low in fat and sugar. It's Adelle Davis's recipe, adapted somewhat.

Here's hers:

5 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick)
1 cup each of sliced or chopped almonds, sesame seeds, raw sunflower seeds, shredded coconut (unsweetened, preferably not the fancy kind), soy flour, powered milk (preferably non-instant), and wheat germ.
1 cup honey
1 cup oil

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Combine dry ingredients; mix honey and oil and drizzle over dry ingredients, tossing and coating. Spread the mixture on 2 cookie sheets and bake for approximately 1 1/2 or 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, until toasty brown. Makes 12 cups depending on what you add or leave out.

Now *I* use about half a cup of sesame seeds and half a cup of whole flaxseeds, and I've substituted wheat or oat bran for the wheat germ depending on what I have. I add about a tablespoon or a little more of cinnamon, maybe a splash of vanilla, and I use sugar-free pancake syrup in place of the honey (or mix it, using less honey than syrup), and use about half unsweetened applesauce and half canola oil, or even more applesauce than oil. It always turns out crispy and tasty, and it's very good for you.

I usually get my ingredients at Winco in their wonderful bulk food department and keep them in the freezer or tightly sealed.

Usually we eat it with a sprinkle of dried blueberries, Craisins, or goji berries, or fresh fruit -- strawberries and peaches are wonderful. You don't need much to fill you up, and it stays with you a long time. Of course it is superb with half and half....but it works with nonfat milk too.

And I feel so *virtuous* eating it!

The longevity quiz is interesting though, and the eons Web site also looks interesting. The more knowledge about this aging stuff, the better. I need to stick around long enough to teach my grandchildren how to irritate their mothers...(that is, when I have grandchildren. I'm in no hurry, and the girls aren't either).

Mother was right: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I'll take granola tomorrow, thank you!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Spring back to healthy intentions

Spring is springing all over the place here and it's hard to believe that in the Midwest, snow and ice are everywhere and it's frigid. Brrrr. As one who was raised in the Midwest and lived there most of my life, I remember all too well. What spring?... it was usually between 2:05 and 2:08 on one May day, right after the snow melts and just before it turns hot and humid.

It was over 70 degrees here today and we're expecting more of the same for much of this next week. Actually, I'd like temps to stay in the 60s for a while...I'm not quite willing to let go of sweats and sweaters and snuggly comforters at night. I like it cooler more than I like hotter.

And with thoughts of spring comes those rebirth-renewal kinds of thoughts: clean everything! Wash windows! Spruce up the house! Think about spring clothes! Look at the fat that winter weather has left on that very pale, white body!

Oh, that last one. Those15 pounds have crept on sloooowwwlly over these past four years and I can feel them I can see them in that not-so-spare tire flopping over the slightly too tight jeans. Oh, my clothes still fit -- but they are bordering on too tight, and I simply refuse to buy larger sizes again. Been there, done that.

It's this sweet tooth. My dad had one too -- he always had ice cream or cookies or something after dinner, before bedtime. My brother has cookies and milk as his bedtime snack. And I am addicted to sugar. There. I confessed.

I'm fairly good about not eating stuff that is bad, including sugar, but I neeeeeeed a little bit every day, sometimes more than once a day. Just a small piece of chocolate. A little ice cream bar, low fat and no sugar added.


That coupled with no consistent exercise is why I'm feeling fat.

When I was doing yoga twice a week, I could really tell in my abs and arms. I walk, but not consistently -- at least once a week, tryng for 3 times a week. That helps overall. But I haven't done either lately.

So I guess it's time for another new beginning, another intention. I cannot put on any more weight. I need to have less sugar, more exercise, smaller portions of food. I KNOW how to do it. I just yield too easily to temptation, at least when it comes to sugar. Back to one day at a time, hm?

I'm reading Salem Falls by Jodi Piccoult in addition to half a dozen magazines: Cooking Light, Sunset, Women's Day, Family Circle, Newsweek, Realtor...