Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reverb11 -- Day 31 -- Reflect and Choice

#1 Prompt: Reflect - Take a moment to think back on your reverb11 responses.  Have you learned anything?  What surprised you about this experience?  Which of your responses was your favourite?

#2 Prompt: Choice: What can you choose in 2012 to make your life better?

#1 -- When you take the time and make the effort to reflect on past experiences -- not to beat yourself up or to think about ways things coulda-should-woulda been handled differently, but truly examine the experience in the clear light of after-the-fact, it should always end up being a learning experience.

With Reverb, the year is up for review -- something I don't know I'd do so introspectively otherwise. I've learned that there were too many sad moments in 2011, too many mucky bogs to slog through a step at a time. I've learned that there were too few joyful moments, too little laughter, not enough fun.

I was most surprised, I guess, by the revelation that Mary Oliver's poem "The Journey" turned out to be the defining moment of 2011 for me -- a real 'Road to Damascus' moment that has shaped most of my actions since that dark night. I knew it was important; it is in the looking-back that the impact becomes noticeable in what my life has  been since, and in the direction that I've been at pains to continue walking towards.

In that poem, that revelation, I was able to release my fears (mostly) and desperate need to make things better for someone else -- to 'fix' them. I was able to let go and turn towards my own life, and I've stayed on that path since.

What a strange place to find the light -- an issue of O Magazine, reading late on a dark and stormy night.

I like the honesty in my responses this year: I've put a lot out there for people to see, and yet I felt I was writing these letters to myself alone. I liked especially this post because it was a revelation to me as I was writing it, at least the part about forgiveness (I knew I liked food ;>}}}.

Reverb is a powerful writing tool and a revelation if approached with a willingness to examine oneself candidly and honestly. I think there will be additional Reverb-related e-mails this year and I'm also planning to seek out other writing prompts. That really helps with the discipline -- the 'doing the work' part -- of writing daily.

#2 -- What can I choose to make my life better? Being proactive about health issues, losing weight, easing stress will go a long way towards making my life better. I'm mostly doing that now, well, maybe except for losing weight. But I don't want to wait until some big health crisis looms large (like I'm in the emergency room) before I address issues that I know I have some control over -- and all too many of us do.

I can choose to do things I enjoy doing and to be with people who are positive, easy to be with, and who care about me as much as I care about them. I can choose to avoid groups and individuals whose negative energy and attitude are spirit-suckers -- you know, sort of like the Dementor's Kiss in Harry Potter?

I believe that even in the darkest of times there is always a glimmer of hope (reinforced by our current viewing of the entire extended edition of The Lord of the Rings, where the blacks are pretty darned dark and it's hard to see much hope, unless you're Arwen, who always finds it). I choose to be with people who share that outlook, and to ask them for help if I find myself falling into the pit of despair.

I can choose to make my days meaningful, whether that is cleaning out clutter or spending time with a friend or simply sitting and reading a book. And always I can choose gratitude: it helps prolong life and makes even difficult issues easier to bear (I know that is a very Pollyanna-ish attitude and there will be some who scoff. I've tried it both ways. Gratitude is a lot better, lemme tell you. And it is your own perception of any situation that makes the difference as to how easy or difficult it is.)

I am grateful for the writers who took the time and made the effort to formulate and e-mail Reverb prompts this year. It makes a difference to my own life.

Happy New Year to all tonight. May 2012 bring you blessings you didn't know you needed, joy you never visualized, and love you always hoped for.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Reverb11 -- Day 30 -- 3 Wishes & Showing Up

#1 Prompt: 3 Wishes - If a genie could grant you 3 wishes for 2012, what would they be?

#2 Prompt: Showing Up: Where (online) do you want to show up in 2012?  What does showing up look + feel like to you?  How often do you plan on committing to showing up in 2012?
#1 -- I'd wish first for good health, because health issues color every other facet of one's life and can limit experiences. If I can't bundle Tony's good health in my first wish, then I'd use my second wish for him to also have good health. And my third wish is for us to always have enough: enough energy, enough money to do the things we'd like most to do, enough love, enough friendships, enough food and shelter, enough of everything. That doesn't mean excesses of anything, and it doesn't mean that we would have time and money to spend on whatever it is we want. It means that we have enough. That is a blessing that I am grateful for.
#2 -- Not quite sure about this one, unless it would be to show up on a best-selling books list! And brings it back to doing the work to get there, one little bitty baby step at a time. I will commit to writing something every day, whether in the blog or elsewhere, and to moving forward with expanding and organizing my writing. That is all the showing up I intend to do this year, and that is a good beginning. If it leads elsewhere, that's good too. But you gotta show up to do the work in order to get anywhere or do anything.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reverb11 -- Day 29 -- Shake it up, baby!

#1 Prompt: Shaking Things Up - Looking towards 2012, what can you do to shake things up a little next year?

#2 Prompt: Expectation: What is on expectation you fiercely held for 2011 that you wish to let go of before 2012? What steps are required to putting it to rest?

#1 -- Hooyeah. I think retirement is gonna shake stuff up pretty good without any effort on my part at all. For the first time since August 2007, Tony will be home with me every day, all day, and neither of us will have a J.O.B. We can sculpt our own days, our trips, our routines, we can go to matinees in the middle of the week, we can be couch potatoes whenever we want.  

I expect the year to be interesting, exciting, enjoyable, and joyful. Even the parts about washing windows and putting down gallons of RoundUp -- because we don't have to wait for a decent weekend! Yay for retirement!

#2 -- Generally I try not to have big expectations about much of anything but to try to watch events unfold the way they will. Especially as a 20-30-something, and beyond too, I would plan out events in my head and anticipate them with great delight, and then be bitterly disappointed (and a bit of a martyr, too, if I'm honest) when things didn't work out the way I'd expected them to. I remember, for instance, a visit to the Maine coast many, many years ago (I was in my mid-20s), and we'd planned to have a picnic on a beach and then go for a dip in the ocean -- something I had never done, much less in Maine. The day dawned cloudy and quite cool with threatening rain, and the ocean was every bit as frigid as our northern Pacific coast, and I was soooo disappointed that I whined and complained for the rest of the day, endearing myself so greatly to my husband and parents, of course. 

Some years later I read a horoscope book that discussed in depth the characteristics of the Scorpio-Sagittarius cusp, and was smacked upside the head by the 'martyr' description that was included in some undesirable traits. Ever since then, I've tried to keep my expectations in check and to squelch the inner martyr. 

The biggest expectation I can think of for 2011 was Tony's retirement date which for several years we'd anticipated happening first in May (which got changed in August 2010) , and then in mid-August, which didn't happen. Then it was going to be July 31, 2012, but after a couple of months of wrapping our heads around that date, the Universe intervened once again. It might actually have been today, but he agreed to stay on a bit longer, so at this writing it will be March 31 at the latest. I don't think that will get pushed out again. 

We were able to let go of the different dates as the situation changed, and I'm proud of that. We worked together to talk it out and work through the different scenarios, and once it was past, we let it be and didn't revisit it. 

That's really how I try to live my life these days -- kind of like being on a ship on the ocean and needing to keep your balance depending on the size of the swells. Some swells ask a little effort more from us, but everything changes from moment to moment. We can anticipate, but we must remain flexible and ready to move quickly. Not a bad way to live, I think.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reverb11 -- Day 28 -- Forgiveness and thought

#1 Prompt: Forgiveness - What one thing do you need to forgive yourself for this year?

#2 Prompt:  Thought: What new thought, idea or action have you taken this year that gave you a true sense of freedom?

#1 -- I need to forgive myself for those blasted 20 lbs that have slowly gone back on over the last several years, despite my being able to lose 10 of them (and gain 'em back) more than once this year. And a few other things...

I am so very critical of myself in so many ways: I know the weight must come off in order to keep this body physically in better shape and to better control the things I actually have some power over; I still have that too-big-too-tall-too-loud-too-opinionated image of myself, although every year some of that goes away as I accept more about who I am and how I look (you'd think I'd be so over that by now, hm....); and dredging up past embarrassments and shoulda-coulda-wouldas is so totally pointless, since it's a damned sure thing that nobody but me remembers them. I've actually forgiven myself  this year for those, and given myself permission to never think of them again. Or, as my angelic counselor Jessie would tell me, I've 'thanked them, blessed them, and sent them to God' to deal with.

Good idea for 2012 too.

#2 -- Well, this keeps coming back to that Mary Oliver poem and 'aha' moment, doesn't it! Finally realizing that the only life I can save is my own was a HUGE step forward for me. I suppose that sounds a little silly -- but it's one thing to understand something intellectually, and quite another to actually 'get' and accept the truth in one's heart and gut.

Actually absorbing  that truth down to the very marrow of my bones has given me the freedom to not only stop putting off enjoying my own life, despite the troubles and issues of those I dearly love, but also to be more proactive about taking steps to make my life better, healthier, and happier. I've been able to do all of these things this year, one step at a time, and I do feel that I'm in a better place all the way around this year because of these choices.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reverb11 - Day 27 - Ah, more time. And the name of that know, the one I should be writing?

#1 Prompt: Time: If you had 3 more hours in the day what would you do with them?  How do you want to spend your time in 2012?
#2 Prompt: Author! Author! - Share with us the title and inside jacket cover of the book you'd most like to write
#1 -- What would I do with more time? Read more. Maybe sleep one more hour. And maybe, sort of, use it to de-clutter one of the areas that needs it. Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

This year I really began to get into a routine for my days, and I'm sure 2012 will involve finding some new ones as Tony retires. I'd like to spend less time just putzing on the computer: I can spend hours going from link to link and reading blogs, news, shopping (although not necessarily buying anything), finding new sites. It is a time-sucker and there have been a few days when I've been fairly horrified at the amount of time I've spent online. I love the Internet, but sometimes I need better self-control, especially when I'm procrastinating doing something. So I'd like to be a little more discplined about how I choose to use my time, and make sure that I'm spending it on things that I love doing or that are necessary for the good of the order, and not squandering it.

#2. Oh, they WOULD ask this one. Okay. Title: "Old Musings and a Few Opinions".
Inside jacket copy: Some life lessons keep coming back for a reprise -- things like learning patience, seeing situations as they really are, and dealing with such issues as addiction, dysfunction, and trust. Mix all that with stories about family, children, friends, neighbors, and middle-of-the-night revelations, and you'll find universal truths and wisdom found through trial and error."
And there probably would be a bit more description. This might turn into a daily reading book with the quote/story of the day, or more of an Anne Lamott-style narrative story. I don't know yet. And I don't know if anyone would even want to read it. But that's the book I would probably work on first.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reverb11 - Day 26 - Gifts and music

#1 Prompt: Gift: Name one gift that 2011 gave you; what treasure came your way gift wrapped in experience, that (maybe in hindsight) you want to hold onto and place on display?

#2 Prompt: Music is powerful - Think of one song that you turn to time and again, and describe why it's important to you.

#1 -- I've already told you about reading Mary Oliver's poem "The Journey" late one dark and stormy night, and having its message hit me squarely in the head -- and in the heart. That's the gift I most treasure about 2011, the clear message that mine is the only life I can save. 

It's a gift that has two sides, however. It exempts me from the responsibility that I've tried so hard to assume of trying desperately to save my child , especially these last three+ years, because it is an impossible task. But it also frees me to look at what is left of my life and decide how I want to spend it without feeling guilty or responsible for the outcome of other people's choices -- hers or anybody else's.

(I suppose a more enlightened person would have figured all this out years ago, right?) While I understood intellectually that I am 'powerless over people, places and things,'  I still felt that somehow, if I worked hard at controlling her choices and monitoring her treatment and recovery, I could 'save' my child from a road she'd set out on through a combination of a few bad things happening to her, genetic predisposition, and some bad life choices.

The poem gobsmacked me upside the head, however, and since that amazing 'aha' moment, I have been able to let go of that need to control, and to allow her to travel whatever path she will. That doesn't mean I am not involved, but I finally accept that her life is not my responsibility, and I have been able to set boundaries for myself.

#2 -- Music. Indeed, it is powerful, evoking sadness, joy, beauty, power -- but I'll confess that I don't have a song that I turn to in crisis moments anymore.

 I often choose something classical -- I love the Saint Saens "Organ Symphony" (Symphony #3 in C Minor) with a really powerful pipe organ, for instance, and I also love parts of "The Planets" by Gustav Holst, especially the center section of "Jupiter" which was adapted as a hymn tune and is the melody to "I Vow to Thee, My Country," a very popular English hymn. I love that melody and can just get lost in the cello's voice as it sings. It is melancholy and sad and soaringly positive at the same time.

But there are times when I want the familiarity of the Grateful Dead -- the unique blend of drum, guitar, mandolin, bass, and raspy vocals that let me lose the moment and go back in time. I'm especially fond of "Terrapin Station," with the image of the 'spiral light of Venus rising first and shining best' and its 'rare and different tune.' But I also love other Robert Hunter lyrics with all his images of dark and light. One of them always speaks to where I find myself when I'm listening.

And then there is the high choral music that I love to listen to and used to love to sing:  from John Rutter arrangements and originals to Thomas Tallis and his 16th century anthems. Most choirs I sang with had a message somewhere in the choir room to the effect that 'He who sings prays twice,' and I found that to be so.

These choices are nothing new: they've been with me for many years now. Most new music -- at least that I've heard --  doesn't seem to have the profound messages of these (moldy oldie?) choices of mine.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Reverb11 - Day 25 - Who I love and the best gift ever

#1 Prompt: Love: Who do you love + why do you love them?  What does it feel like to be around these people?

#2 Prompt: The reason for the season - What's the most memorable gift you've ever received?

#1 -- The person I most love is my husband Tony, who has always on Christmas Day given me either a beautifully sentimental card or written me a letter. He opted for the latter this year and although I love the cards, the letters are the most special, and yes, they get kept.

In it, he writes of the Christmases we've spent together (this is the 15th), how he feels about that and about me and about the myriad of things that I do to make the day special for us, and, well -- a lot of wonderfully loving language that you don't need to hear because it's meant just for me.

How could I not love that? But I knew I loved him and that we were right together almost from the very first day I met him. Every day, every hug, every kiss reaffirms that for me, over and over. And my gratitude for him simply overflows my heart. After all these years, I love his touch, I love it when I see him coming towards me in a group, I love watching his face when he doesn't know I'm watching him. He is my rock, my calm center, my home, no matter where I am. How lucky I am to have this. How lucky we are to have found each other.

There are others whom I love dearly -- brother, sister-in-law, daughters, friends -- but I think the ability to love comes from first being shown great love: the more love you receive, the more you have to give to others. When your own well runs dry, it's hard to find a drop for others. I am grateful to those who love me so well, and I hope you receive back from me that gift.  

#2 -- There have been some wonderful gifts in my past, and a few maybe not so much (think Crock Pot...from my husband ... ex)

The one that I best remember is a personal life album (scrapbook) and family history made by my mother and father in 1997, I think, or maybe 1996. She had been so painfully sick with osteoporosis and heart issues that year that their traveling days had to stop, and she had quite a lot of time at home. She had gone through decades of newspaper clippings, photographs, school records, and the other  keepsake papers, written a family tree geneology for each side of our family. She'd made a collage of pictures for the cover -- and this was not only for me, but she also put ones together for my brother and for my daughter, so each was different, with a few of the same elements.

They began with old pictures of each family -- our grandparents and great-grandparents, along with their names and a brief history. Where there were appropriate photos of us interacting with them, they were included -- like the four generation one of me, my father, my grandmother and my great-grandmother, taken when I was maybe 2 or 3.  She'd chosen photos of me at all the stages (to that point) of my life: child, teen, college student, young married woman, young mother, middle-aged working mom, etc., and of the people who have been so important in my life, along with other little news clips or keepsakes from her treasure box (her wedding hankie, for instance, was in my daughter's album).

It was a beautiful gift and we all three looked at them all day, sharing memories, sharing some of the different elements of each book, telling stories, and listening to my mother and dad tell theirs. I have custody of the albums from which the life album photos were chosen, but none is more precious to me than the one she spent that year putting together for me.

What they cost was time, her time and my dad's, because he was there helping her choose photos, pasting them in, remembering stories along with her. That gift of time and memory is still the best one I've ever received.

How blessed I am!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reverb11 - Day 24 - More on travel and a free-for-all prompt

#1 Prompt: Travel: Where did you travel to in 2011?  Where would you like to visit in 2012?  What does traveling mean to you?
#2 Prompt: Somebody Has to Say It…

#1 -- Already answered this in yesterday's post -- remember, I'm working off two different lists, and sometimes they overlap. But the part about 'what does traveling mean to you' is new, so let's give that a crack.

As a child, I traveled quite a bit with my parents in the back seat of whatever station wagon we had at the time. Since all our relatives were in other states, that meant trips to Minnesota, New Mexico, or Colorado, and all we had to amuse us were books and puzzles, and lots of singing -- my dad had a song for every occasion. More than once I was told to get my nose out of my book and look at the scenery. More than once I whined that my brother was taking up all the back seat, or that he was hitting me, or something. More than once we heard " don't make me stop this car."

But those trips were my travel foundation, and I love road trips best of any travel. It's an adventure getting to the destination (which often is less interesting than the journey) and I especially love taking back roads, which my folks also did. Nothing beats the Interstate system for expediency, but give me back roads for adventure.

Fortunately my husband shares my love of road trips, and I expect there will be several as we enter  into self-directed time in 2012. 
Travel usually includes a lot of eye candy, some interesting and historic places, good food, a few fascinating people if we're lucky, and a great appreciation of our own home. I'm looking forward to our next trip anywhere.

#2 -- Somebody has to say it: life is much shorter than we ever believe it is going to be. Spending that brief time remembering or regretting past actions is a complete waste of one's brief time. Look to the joys, be where you are each moment, love who you can and be kind to the rest.

Merry Christmas, wherever you find yourself. May you feel blessed and content regardless of what you may have waiting under the tree.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reverb11 - Day 23 - Who I'm missing and Travels

#1 Prompt: Who did you miss?

#2 Prompt: Travel - Did you visit anywhere new this year?  Any plans to travel next year?

#1 -- Who did I miss? My parents, often, and never more than at Christmas time when my memories of Christmases past are so wrapped up in their presence. When I first married, we invited our parents and my brother (my ex was an only child) to come to us for Christmas, and they did for years, modifying that first when my in-laws divorced (after nearly 50 years) and he remarried, and then when my mother-in-law could no longer travel, and finally when my dad died and we went to Missouri every year to be with my mother until 2005 when she died.

That's a lot of years and memories: of putting together the Christmas jigsaw puzzle, usually primarily by my dad, with help here and there from all of us; of playing games -- Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly or Michigan Rummy or Screw your Neighbor -- eating nuts and candy and laughing. Going to church on Christmas Eve, and especially the year that my dad, brother, and husband all slipped in to the late service at the last moment on a very cold Indiana night -- I was already there in the choir loft and we'd all gone to an earlier, child-friendly service. The three of them lifted slightly whiskey-scented voices to the holy candle-lit atmosphere, and none of us could stop smiling.

I miss my friend Julia, again never more than at Christmas. For nine years we sang together at Christmas and other times, we laughed and cried and shopped and worked and shared stories and children. We are growing old together, although we see each other only every few years for maybe a week. I've no doubt that we'll sing again in that great celestial chorus, her short, round, red-haired frame next to my much taller and longer one, smiling all the way, even through our tears.

I miss my daughter, the person she was before illness and other things so clouded and distorted her mind. I still see flashes of that person, but it makes me sad to see such potential and intelligence and charm largely gone, and I am still trying to wrap my arms around who she is now, and who I am when I'm with her.

Always at special times of the year I miss my brother and sister-in-law, who I would like to know better as we grow older and hopefully wiser, and who become increasingly important as I age. And we miss our daughter and grandson, miss being able to know who they are becoming, and especially Gabe as he changes so much as he grows from a toddler into a pre-schooler.

I'm grateful that there are so many people that I miss, though, because it indicates that I am capable of great love, and also that I am the recipient of great love in return. It just doesn't get better than that.

#2 -- Travel is something that is on our minds for this coming year as Tony retires and our time is not bound by paid time off accrual. While I don't know that we'll do any long-distance trips in 2012, we are planning time in the LA area for a cousin's wedding, and also anticipate a trip to Seattle to see our daughter and her family.
Both trips also put us by our beloved ocean, where we've spent our vacations nearly every year since we've been together. Perhaps we'll make a trip further into the interior US to see my brother and other friends, but we'll see how time and money play out. For now, Tony is happy to think about staying home and working on projects that have piled up and that he is eager to begin. And I'm happy to have him here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reverb11 -- Day 22 -- Changing views and passion

#1 Prompt: YouView:  What video or show changed your view on something this year?  What did it teach you about your life or experience?
#2 Prompt:Passion - If you could quit your day job and your quality of life wouldn't change, what would you do?

#1 -- Huh. A video or show, hm? I'm going to have to take a pass on this one for the time being. While I watched plenty of shows, and some of them made me happy or made me cry, I really can't think of one that actually changed my view on something. There were a couple of theater performances that were pretty awesome -- but didn't change my view, unless it is that when you put good actors with meaty scripts, magic is made. But i knew that already. 

Will think on it more.

#2-- Quit my day job? Did that already. The quality of my life went up dramatically. Actually, the last 'day job' I had where I was salaried was over in late 2002 when the company included me in what had become semi-annual layoffs. I was on medical disability at the time too, and not planning to go back to work until after the first of the year -- actually, that wouldn't have happened either, because we were moving to Red Bluff in mid-January. But they fired me. I was SO glad. 

Right now I'm doing what  I want to be doing for the most part, which is taking care of house, garden, cooking, and doing a fair bit of reading and putzing and some writing. I want more of all of it. I'm RETIRED! 

But I don't have a grand passion right now. I'm keeping an eye out for something that fits that particular niche, and working hard on taking care of ME. That's something fairly new for me, so it still feels odd and rather selfish. I'm working on that too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reverb11 - Day 21 - What do I believe

#1 Prompt: BelieveWhat did you believe in this year?   Did your faith help propel you forward?  What do you want to believe in throughout 2012?
#2 Prompt: Party Time - Tell us about the "best" party you attended this year.
#1  -- I believe in the power each of us has to transform our own lives. I believe that there is more to the Universe than is visible to our eyes. I believe that I am loved and cherished by at least one other person in this world. I believe that the only life I can save is mine. (I don't think I believe anymore that people are basically good at heart, however.)

And yes, each of these beliefs helped me to move forward this year and to change some attitudes and  behaviors, and each of them gave me strength to move through adversity. I want to keep believing in these things for 2012 because they all give me hope, and honestly, there were times this year when I found hope hard to see, at least in a few situations.

You really don't want the details.

#2 -- I pretty much answered this in yesterday's post about gatherings. I'm not a big party person, honestly. I like getting together with friends, but not necessarily in large groups. The RB Murder Mystery Dinner was a great party because of the atmosphere, the expectations, and the great people I got to work with.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reverb11 - Day 20 - Gatherings and Friends

#1 Prompt: Gathering:  What was your favorite party or gathering (large or small) in 2011?  Who would you like to gather with in 2012?

#2 Prompt: Friendship - What kind of a friend were you in 2011? What kind of a friend do you want to be in 2012?

#1 -- There are a couple of gatherings that always feel extra special: anytime my Redding friend L and I get together for lunch or tea or chocolate and just to enjoy talking with each other, and when we go to brunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Los Mariachis, with our long-time friends, neighbors and mentors, T&G. (There were many others, all good fun and pleasant, especially doing lunch at Tremont and just hanging together with another friend, L.)

The best large gathering was the Red Bluff Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, even though I was part of the cast. It was such a party for our guests, from the old cars and picket lines outside the Elks Club to the speakeasy atmosphere inside, and then to the dinner and show.  There was good food, plenty of wine, and if the plot was a little thin, the comedy bits made up for it. 

In 2012, I'd like to expand our circle of friends and the opportunity to learn more about them in a relaxed setting, and to spend more time with some current friends too, also in a fun setting. That's going to mean we need to be more proactive about seeking such contact, and get over my need to have everything so 'perfect' when I have people here. I can do that!

#2 -- Well, this sort of ties into the above prompt, doesn't it!  Yeah. That need to have everything just so in order to entertain people here is something I need to dump. If someone is judging my housekeeping or cooking skills, then do I really want them around anyway? 

I deepened a couple of friendships this year, and  let another couple go into the past tense (mostly). In 2012 I'd like to continue those friendships and invite some new ones into my life too, and that means making an effort to be with them. 

Over the past two years of doing Reverb, I have become more aware that I simply do not want to be around people -- even some friends -- who make me feel like I need to keep my mouth shut when I'm with them, and not to discuss certain topics lest they cause a heated conversation that will result in hurt feelings. I'm very willing to expand my knowledge and keep an open mind in discussion, but I don't want to be around abrasive people who ARE *RIGHT*, dammit. I'm going to work on letting those go, or at the least, reducing my contact.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reverb11 - Day 19 - Lessons and Generosity

#1 Prompt: Lessons: What lessons did you learn about yourself this year?

#2 Prompt Being Moved - tell us about a time this year that you were moved by the generosity of another.

#1 -- What did I learn about myself? Hm.

I learned that I try too hard to control an outcome, especially for others (like my daughters), and that it is not only impossible to do (at least consistently) but also very hard on me. I learned that I need to take care of myself FIRST, not last or even somewhere in the middle -- and yes, I really did learn this one and have actively been practicing that. I learned that letting something go doesn't mean that you are abandoning it/them and being cruel and heartless, but that you are accepting your own inability to change the situation. You can still love someone and let go of them.

I learned that I really do like yoga and that its benefits are visible for me.

I learned to say no more often, especially to activities or people who I don't especially enjoy being around.

I learned that if I'm going to write, it needs to become a daily practice.

And I'm sure there were a bunch of other things in there too -- certainly there were lessons like that old patience thing that kept coming back.

#2 -- Generosity. I've already written in Reverb11 about generosity and how it moved me. I am always moved by the selfless actions of others -- for instance, there is a store in downtown Red Bluff that consistently holds drawings and drives for food and clothing, and the owner works hard to give back to the community. Thank you, Jessie and The Gold Exchange, for all you do and for showing me and so many others how to give  back.

There are many others in our community who generously volunteer time and service and goods, however: The Big Picture and We Shoot Ya Photography, the volunteers with PATH, and those who serve on boards and committees of organizations that help our town and county, to name a few.

Thank you for showing me generosity and kindness.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reverb11 -- Day 18 -- Family Time and Lunching

#1 Prompt: Family: Recall a special moment with your family from 2011.  Describe in detail what you want to remember about this memory forever. 

#2 Prompt: Let's do lunch! - If you could have lunch with anybody, who would it be and what would you like to discuss?

#1 -- Family .My family is scattered, both immediate and extended, and the latter is not especially close: I've written some about that this year. Our girls are in Red Bluff and Kent now (and one who has been intentionally silent for several years is, we believe, on the other coast). When my mother was living, we gathered in Missouri for Christmas, my brother coming from Nashville, the girls from Birmingham (and once from Ohio), and we spent some fun times there, although it was never without some drama and anxiety. These days any family gatherings are few and far between.

This year, one special moment was a celebration of our grandson's third birthday. It was just Tony and me with V, her three older step-children, and Gabe, at a little picnic area near their apartment. We'd brought KFC,  watermelon and other side dishes, and some gifts for Gabe. They'd put up a badminton net and spread some blankets under a big tree, and for once the June weather was warm but not hot. Tony'd brought his video camera and captured images of Gabe riding his new Plasmacar and the other children and even V taking turns on it. We got to talk more to the older children than we had in the past, and really enjoyed the day with all of them: it was precious to see the love the kids have for each other. And it was a real joy to see V efficiently mothering them all, wiping faces, serving up watermelon and chicken, pouring drinks.

Never frequent for a bunch of reasons, such moments will be even fewer with them now in Washington, but we hope to visit them in 2012 and look forward to another picnic, perhaps on the shores of Puget Sound.

#2 -- Lunch. Anybody? Living or dead? Famous or not? The possibilities!

If I chose someone famous --  say, Oprah, or Hilary Clinton, or the poet Mary Oliver -- I'd probably be too nervous to enjoy the experience, and I'd expect they'd see it more as just another obligation to get through and be pleasant. So no thanks.

There are some long-ago friends I would like to see again, if only to find out how their lives have gone and what they've learned. And a handful of family members to share memories and figure out our similarities.

But I'd most like to have lunch with my parents. I'd like to know what getting older was like for them, what lessons they learned in their lives and what they'd do differently. I'd like to know how they figured out how to parent as well as they did, knowing something of how they each grew up. I'd like to know what they were most grateful for, and what their best memories were. I'd like to make sure they know how grateful I am for their love and support and non-judgmental acceptance (even when I'm sure they had doubts!), and how I miss them and think of them, especially at this time of year. I want to watch my daddy savor the good barbecued ribs he loved, and my mother taste the rich coconut cake from that little Victorian tea room she so enjoyed. I'd like once more to drink in the sound of their voices and their facial expressions and feel the touch of their hands on my face.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reverb11 -- Day 17 -- Saying No and Loathing

#1 Prompt: Saying "No":  Recall a moment when you said "yes" to something but felt you probably should have said "no".  How did you feel?  Why did you choose to rollover your intuition?  In 2012, how can you choose to only do things that serve you?

#2 Loathing - Who or what do you loathe and how have you expressed that in 2011?

 #1 -- No. I actually got pretty good about saying no in 2011, or saying that "I'll think about it" at least. I am no longer involved in anything where I think I've outlasted my useful contributions, I don't volunteer to do things I really don't want to do, and I make a conscious effort not to be around people who are nasty or otherwise unpleasant. I plan to continue this policy in 2012! 

This is a sea-change from the people-pleasing behaviors I've exhibited in much of my past, and I'm proud of myself.  While I still sometimes want to open my mouth and express an opinion about something that needs doing in a group setting, or that could be done better (how arrogant is THAT!), I have managed to SHUT UP and smile because most of the time I don't want to get involved in doing it (usually something related to publicity or graphic design). It's not that I won't volunteer; it's just that I want to spend my volunteer time on something I feel passionate about, and right now there isn't much that I'm finding.

#2 --  Loathing. The dictionary definition is "verb (used with object), loathed, loath·ing.

to feel disgust or intense aversion for; abhor: I loathe people who spread malicious gossip."
I loathe what the Tea Party has manifested itself to be in our country, especially those Congressional legislators who have as their primary goal the ouster of President Obama AT ANY COST. Programs which aid the poor, the elderly, the sick, and the mentally ill have dramatically suffered because of their votes or unwillingness to compromise. Our financial stability has this year been gravely threatened even further by their refusal to extend the debt ceiling. Their rigid stand on women's rights and conservative views of marriage and equality is simply unacceptable to me, and I don't understand how they justify such positions from a Christian point of view.
I loathe lying. Nothing breaks my trust more quickly than lies. The truth is always more acceptable even if it is hard to hear. (Okay, little white lies about where I've hidden the chocolate or the Christmas gifts being the exception...)

I loathe deliberate cruelty, especially to animals and children. The sick tickets who think it's funny to light a cat on fire or chain a dog with water and food just out of reach (or not available) have a special place reserved for them in hell. And those who molest children deserve castration, preferably without anesthetic. (While I realize that such sick adults were also probably abused as children, there IS help available for them. Well, unless the Tea Party has their way, I guess, and eliminates all mental health programs.)
That clear enough?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reverb 11--Day 16--Writing and Community

#1 Prompt: Passion: How has writing helped you grow in 2011? In what ways would you like to invite more writing into your life in 2012?
#2 Prompt: A Community I Love - Online & IRL we're all part of a multitude of communities.  Tell us about one that moves you.

#1 -- After Reverb10, I was inspired to move the writing up a notch and begin to think about what kind of book I want to write. Well, that fizzled out, and I did not even write in the blog as much as I'd intended, at least until Dec. 1 when I began Reverb11. Clearly I need to have a better plan. Better intention Better execution. 

Nonetheless, I'm a writer, no matter how often or not I post something here. And I'm a reader too-- actually, I can't imagine being a writer without being a reader -- and I did read a lot more this year, intentionally. By thinking of how a story flows together, what works and what doesn't, how I respond to dialogue and description, I become a better writer myself. 
We joined the Redding Writers Forum in January and learn from the monthly programs as well as just hearing about who is publishing and where. And we both read some of our work aloud during Read-Around sessions -- inviting comments from the audience. 

 We'll keep going to the Writers Forum in 2012 and reading the two writing magazines we now subscribe to, plus several books about writing I've got on my iPad and also in paper. I'll keep writing in my blog, perhaps using prompts of some sort at least weekly -- there are so many out there to choose among, and that is good discipline. And I'll keep reading.

#2 -- I really love my Facebook community, trite as that may seem. Through FB, I've learned more about some newer friends, and we've made a conscious effort to connect at least monthly in person as a result, bringing some real treasures into my life. It's deepened connections to other friends because I get to see and hear what's in their lives more regularly than phone calls or even getting together can do,  and expanded at least a little my contact with friends from long ago. (Disclaimer: I'm pretty selective about who I choose to see my information and pictures and posts, and that makes a big difference in how I use FB, to be sure.)
I've reconnected with several cousins on both sides of my family who for years have been mostly fading memories and addresses in my Christmas card list. While I still can't say that I 'know' them, at least there are some pictures of them now (I'm talking decades of not seeing a couple of them, and now that our parents are gone, I don't even get the bits of news my mother used to tell me.) So I get to share a little about what their lives are, and they get to see some of mine. That's a big step towards a family reunion one of these days. 

Certainly that connection was what alerted to me that one cousin was in a life crisis back in April, and even though I'd seen him a handful of times since we were children, I really don't know him. But there is this family bond, a connection of shared memories. (I wrote about that time here and here.) And I've sent him a brief e-mail most days ever since, just a few sentences, usually with some kind of quotation. I don't hear back from him much, but I understand from another cousin that he's doing better.  That makes me so grateful for him and for our strange, interesting family ties.

FB has its share of criticism and problems. Any community does, virtual or face-to-face. But it sure works for me.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reverb 11--Day 15-- Passion and Teachers

#1 Prompt: Passion: What did you become/continue to be sincerely passionate about in 2011? When you are in the moment doing something you love what does look + feel like? 

#2 Prompt: Teaching Moment - Sometimes we find teachers in the most unexpected places. Who surprised you as a teacher this year, and what did you learn?

#1 -- There was not much passion in much of anything that I did in 2011 -- this last year has been one more of just getting through it. I don't like feeling so uncreative and stagnant, so am planning to rev that up in 2012.

I was able to get onstage a couple of times, though -- two Vagina Monologues performances ("The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy" -- I adore doing that one with all the fun moans and the fabulous audience response) and two Red Bluff mystery dinner theater productions of "What You Seize is What You Get."  And one read-through of "Night, Mother," a dark play about suicide that I'd hoped to do with a wonderful Redding actress and friend, but the producer decided it was too much of a downer. Our read-through had everyone in tears, however, and I think we would have rocked it. Ah, well.

When I'm onstage, however, everything else disappears and I'm just THERE, right THERE, and totally focused on what is. The words and actions and character just flow through me (assuming adequate preparation and rehearsal, that is) and out into the audience. I love, LOVE, that feeling, and when the audience responds, it is an enormous rush of joy and power. I've been told by others that I bring an energy to the stage that boosts not only my performance, but that of the whole production, and if that's true, it makes my heart glad. A live performance is thrilling (and scary too) because you get THAT ONE shot at it for that particular audience. Every show is different.

I love writing when I'm in the zone and all I'm thinking of is words on screen, but that is never, ever a one-shot best performance deal. It's totally different energy.

#2 -- I've believed for years in the Buddhist proverb: "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Understanding who the teacher is isn't always quite so simple, however, which makes me think of a quote from Robert Hunter's lyrics "Scarlet Begonias: "Once in a while/you get shown the light/in the strangest of places/if you look at it right."

One of my teachers this year was very evident: my yoga instructor, who is also a wonderful, very intuitive massage therapist, and an energetic, insightful, spiritual friend to boot. I learn from her with nearly every class, but also have enjoyed her company in other venues this year. She is straightforward, kind, open, and I so appreciate her presence in my life and the things I continue to learn from her.

Another teacher  -- categorized perhaps 'in the strangest of places' -- was an actor in the murder mystery production who showed me why I was where I needed to be this year and what really matters about it. I admit that sometimes my attitude in rehearsal was way less than positive, and the role was not particularly challenging, the play was  -- well, let's say it was, um, not meaty, and the director likes to direct on the fly, changing things right up to the dress rehearsal -- and beyond --. 

We talked at some length over several weeks, and I finally understood that the important part was the relationships with the cast members (even though it was a fund-raiser, and a very successful one at that): meeting and working with people of all ages and stages, and nurturing friendships, not the play itself, really. Most of the actors have done little, if any, theater in the past and aren't likely to do much more than another mystery dinner, but they are enthusiastic and talented and committed, with schedules that are far busier than my own. He definitely showed me the light, and I value his friendship and perspective.

Another 'teacher' this year was the April issue of O Magazine that featured poetry by Mary Oliver. That dark and stormy night when I read her poem "The Journey" was a life-changing moment for me, and I've been able to see more clearly what I must do ever since. I wrote about that 'aha' moment.

I am grateful for such teachers and I hope that I have the clarity of thought to recognize them when they are there for me. 


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reverb 11--Day 14-- Gratitude

Both Prompts: Gratitude: What are the 5 things, people and moments you are grateful for in 2011?  What would you like to be grateful for in 2012?
1. Every time I get a negative result on a mammogram or PAP smear, or stay below 100 on a blood glucose test, I am immensely and deeply grateful. While my own actions can certainly affect the last test, the other two are beyond any control of mine.
2. After being with Tony for 14 years this fall, I continue to actively say gratitude prayers for his loving, steady presence in my life. The relationship we have is the one I asked for so many years ago (before I met him) and it still amazes me. The honesty, deep love, attraction, and fun that we experience is a gift that not everyone receives, and I am so grateful that I do. 
3. Every time we go to a play or a concert or a special event or to the ocean or mountains, I'm grateful that we CAN. I'm grateful for having enough money to attend these events or go on these trips, grateful for the talent and beauty that is shared, grateful for our own health and presence of mind to enjoy and appreciate them.
4. I have more really good friends than  I've had since I was a teenager. While I can be fairly social, I am by nature more introverted which doesn't always mesh well with cultivating strong friendships. Some have grown strong in the past few years, some are a bit older but have become more important to each of us, and at least one goes back nearly 30 years and two ex-husbands (one each). I hope I give as good as I get: being with each friend strengthens me and delights me every time, and I am always slightly surprised that they seem to be grateful for me too!
5. While our day-to-day routine sometimes seems pretty unexciting, I am grateful for that stability: no big scary health issues, no ginormous financial crises, no unexpected relationship train wrecks. Life is good: we have enough of everything to sustain body, mind, and spirit, and I love the rhythm of our days. 
Even when we're feeling out of sorts or fretful, it is very rarely because of something that we have control over, other than our feelings, but because of external issues created by people we love, political or social issues that impact us in some way, or events/situations because of where and how we live.Our own inner stability and foundation is solid and comforting, and for that, I am always, immeasurably, grateful.

If I can write this same list in 2012, I will indeed feel blessed. There is nothing more that I could want.

Reverb 11--Day 13-- Discovery and Fear

#1  Discovery: What is one thing that you discovered in 2011 that you use to make you happy even when you are having a bad day? A "Cookie moment" if you will. It can be a person, a song, a video, a book or something else completely!

#2 Fear - What scared you this year more than anything else? Did you learn anything new about yourself? 

#1 --When I'm having a bad day, it's usually a choice to wallow in it. There aren't many, really, but I can throw a really good pity party. And it's best enjoyed all by my miserable self. So when I allow my husband to hug and pet me, and talk gently to me, or when I actually reach out to a trusted friend to talk about what is bothering me, it totally ruins the bad mood that I've gotten myself into!

Allowing someone to actually help me is still fairly new to me, although I didn't just discover this in 2011. I've always been a 'I can handle this all by myself just fine, thankyouverymuch' kind of person, even when it was evident to everyone including me that I wasn't handling it very well at all. So allowing someone into my self-imposed dungeon is new, very positive change. While the underlying issue may still be around, letting love in changes my perspective on it. I'm very grateful for people who love me enough to take care of me even when I'm surly and snarly.

#2 -- Death scares me: my own or that of someone whom I love. It creeps into my thoughts, sneaking through the 'being in the moment' barriers I try to cultivate daily. It's happened to me when I have one of the heart-racing episodes I wrote about earlier. It happens when I've discovered that my daughter is seeing people or doing activities that jeopardize her already compromised health and mental stability. It can happen when Tony is a little later than I'd expected him, or when he doesn't feel good.

The fear is especially bad at night when the ice weasels come out of the darkness and start partying in my head. It doesn't even have to be a full-fledged party: just one or two will make my mind race with possibilities, few of them positive, and sleep becomes restless at best.

I know nobody is getting out of this alive. But I'm not ready for that final stage. I want to do more with my life and with my loved ones, and the possibility of not getting that opportunity is paralyzing sometimes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reverb 11 -- Day 12 -- 12 Things

Prompt: 12 Things - What are 12 things your life doesn’t need in 2012?
How will you go about eliminating them?
How will getting rid of these 12 things change your life?
If you did Reverb10, how are you making out on your 11 Things from last year?
Both lists had this as today's prompt. So what don't I need?

1. Stress. In so many ways my life is pretty UN-stressful, really, and I know how lucky I am. Nonetheless, I have stress associated with paperwork for R, her disability and how she is coping (nobody wants this for their child, believe me), and making sure things are in order to keep Social Security, Medicare, MediCal, and the county happy. (It amuses me no end that there is so much paperwork associated with disability, and yet the disabled person is expected to complete lengthy, confusing forms!) There is always a residual worry about Tony traveling that awful highway between Red Bluff and Chico, although that has been considerably reduced and will end completely within a few months. So things will lighten up soon.
2. Clutter. This was on my 2010 list too, and I've made progress this year. There still is the attic to tackle, and I just  was looking in my desk drawers for Christmas cards which I'm sure are somewhere: Not, however, in the drawer, although there is way too much old stuff that needs sorting through.  I've cleaned out bathroom drawers and cupboards, eliminated stacks of old magazines, and I've been fairly ruthless about sorting through clothes that no longer work for me. We'll just keep sorting and recycling and pitching this next year!
3. Illness or injury. Also on my 2010 list, these are things I definitely do not want, and that keeps me going to the doctors and dentist for checkups.We eat healthily, take supplements, and I've been faithfully doing yoga nearly every week, usually twice a week, or using either the treadmill or the whole body vibration. That's real progress over last year.
4. Self-criticism. Nobody can wrap me around the axle about my faults and deficiencies more than I can. My talent for self-flagellation is still entirely too present too often. I know I have wonderful friends and family who support and love me. Why is it still so hard to lighten up on my own expectations?
5. 20 lbs. It's still there, although I lost the same 10 lbs several times this year and then let it creep back. It's there now. It needs to leave permanently in 2012.
6. Negative people. I don't like being around them and I don't have to be. Same goes for mean, untrustworthy people.
7. Bad habits. Spending too much time on the computer jumping from link to link, for instance -- I can putz away hours just reading blogs or websites or browsing online shoe stores! Eating too much because it tastes good instead of stopping when I am satisfied. Putting off things like sorting through papers and cleaning off my desk.
8. Self-imposed limits. Sometimes these are good; for instance, when eating M&Ms or gummy bears. But when I begin to question my abilities or claim I'm 'too old' to do something, I need to figure out what's really going on and deal with it. I should have no limits on what I want to do and am able to do!
9. Over-performance when it isn't necessary. I do not have to pass a white glove test of my house (good thing, too!) I am competing with absolutely nobody in how I choose to look, what I wear, how much I get done in any given day, if and when I volunteer for something, or how I want to spend my time. Lighten up.
10. Guilt. This is induced by the acts as described above and a few thrown in from way long ago past crap. A stupid, unnecessary emotion. You'd think I'd been raised Catholic or Jewish, ferpetessake -- all that guilt is just wasted on a Protestant! Get over it.
11. People who make me feel uncomfortable. I don't care if this is someone I've known for a long time or a clerk in a store or someone in a group that I belong to: if I'm uncomfortable being around them, I need to seriously look at why I'm there. Life is too short to waste time in such situations. I want to be with people who are interesting and intelligent and who like me and who I like in return.
12. Old files. I am never going to need my old teaching files again. Ditto my college essays and papers, or -- oh yes -- even some of my high school ones. Somehow I think my long-ago attempts at poetry are not likely to be published posthumously and I do not think my children will want them either. I have old bills and paperwork files stored in the attic  -- as does Tony -- and we need to shred or burn them this year!
Here's my list from last year -- actually quite similar. These issues didn't just arise this year, and I just keep working on them. I know I will benefit from allowing these things to fade away and not be so present in my life. Life is short. I want to love what I have left of it!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reverb 11 -- Day 11

#1 Prompt: People: Who surprised you?

#2 Prompt:  What do you wish you had done more of in 2011?

#1 -- I really can't think of just one person who surprised me this year, but I have been surprised and humbled by several people. Compliments are hard for me to accept, I guess, and I am always surprised when I'm told how much I mean to someone, or how I've helped them, or how 'wise' someone thinks I am. I am so grateful for the friends that I have, and those whose actions I so admire and aspire to, so when someone tells me that I am a good friend to them, or I have offered advice that helps them, I sort of look around to see who it is they are talking to! 

And I guess that says more about how I regard myself than anything else. Maybe I need to work on that, hm?

#2 -- I wish I had played more, done more things that were just plain fun to do and worried about people and situations less. I wish I had done more writing in this blog, and also in planning what my book is going to be. I wish I had worked more outside in my garden and on landscaping for the yard. I wish I had done more theater. I get another chance in 2012.

Reverb 11 -- Day 10

#1 Prompt: Energy: Where are you losing energy in your life? When/where are you most drained? What energizes you? What jolts you, lifts you up, gets you giddy? Makes you relax? What has you feeling better immediately no matter what? 
#2 Prompt: Beauty - Describe a moment of beauty that you witnessed this year.
#1 -- Oh, gosh. Energy. My biggest energy drain is probably handling the paperwork for my daughter's disability. It looms over me every time I walk into the office: receipts need filing, correspondence needs filing; and they pile up easily. It isn't that it is such a huge task when done consistently, but I tend to allow them to pile up. Actually, I'm that way with any paperwork, as my wonderful husband can attest: my desk and surrounding area has many papers and bits of notes scattered across it. I do make headway, but not regularly enough to make it stop.
What energizes me is  -- well, aside from a good dose of something chocolate -- doing something I enjoy doing: acting, or reading for fun, or yoga, for instance. I love gardening, but right now the garden needs to be tilled, compost worked into the soil, and topped with a leaf and newspaper and manure sandwich, and that is just sheer work. 
I'm too good at avoiding such tasks, actually: I'd rather go to lunch with a friend or putter in the kitchen or read blogs online, for instance, or browse  for that fabulous shoe bargain that I'm sure is there somewhere if I look long enough. 
I always feel better immediately if I sit still, sip a cup of good tea, and pet a cat. There are always kitties to pet around here. 
#2 -- Beauty. I love seeing the moon rise over our land, smiling down at the deer and the kitties and the trees and making it all look magical, every single month. I always take time to step outside and open my arms wide to her benevolent beauty, and remember a long-ago moon family, think of faraway friends and family members, and ask for enlightening energy. 
But true beauty came recently during a performance of "A Cascade Christmas" when I watched the granddaughter of a dear friend dance a dream. The young woman is in her early teens, just bursting with vulnerable youth on the cusp. That achingly precious anticipation of life and all it has to bring her was so evident as she twirled joyfully across the stage, those smooth young limbs easily rising and stretching gracefully to embrace her future. I puddled up immediately, watching that amazing dance, and I hope it is a long, long time before someone/thing interrupts that hopeful enthusiasm. There is nothing more beautiful than watching young people start out on their life's path with trust and faith that their lives will be incredible and wonderful. 
And yes, I realize that not every young person has the benefit of supportive, loving parents as this young lady has had. Yet I think most still have some measure of trust and confidence that their life will be good, that they can achieve a goal, be better and different from what they know. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Reverb11 - Day 9 -- Disappointment and Music

#1 - Disappointment - What was the one disappointment that has turned out to be a blessing in the last 12 months? How will this affect how you deal with disappointment in the future?

#2 - Music:  What song did you fall in love with this year? Was it an entire album? Did you listen to it on repeat? Share you relationship with the song and what it meant to you + made you feel

#1 --  Honestly, I don't remember a disappointment this year that was in fact a blessing, although I remember a bunch of disappointments.

The disappointment I DO remember best that turned out like this was 14 years ago when I was looking for a place to live in the SF Bay area, most especially somewhere on the coast because I wanted to be close to the ocean. On a long weekend visit from Birmingham, Ala., I'd searched for houses and apartments in Pacifica, Moss Beach, El Granada, Montara. That was during the height of the dot-com boom, and housing was spendy and hard to find, and I had a definite budget.

I found one, a big apartment in the back of a house that was surrounded by fragrant eucalyptus trees and even had a glimpse of the ocean. I wanted that house. And I didn't get it and was so devastated by that. What I did get was a sight-unseen one-bedroom  in a 12-unit building (the tenant was moving out but it couldn't be shown) with a big window that faced the ocean. As it turned out, that place was three blocks from where Tony, who I did not know existed, had just moved. Yeah, we 'might' have met if I'd gotten the other place, but not like we did -- a quick phone call and a walk down the street to the beach steps. What a  life-changing blessing that was!

When I am disappointed now, I try to just let it roll and trust that things will work out the way they should. We don't always see reasons for disappointments until long after they have happened. (And there are some I'm still waiting to discover...)

#2 -- Much as I love music, I don't think I discovered anything 'new' this year. When I listen, which honestly is mostly either in the car or in the dental chair (thank god for ipods and valium), I choose from the eclectic mix that I love: from Grateful Dead to John Rutter choral to the Organ Symphony by Saint-Saens to ABBA. Right now I'm listening to Christmas music, and I can't get enough of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas trilogy.

When I'm home, I rarely listen to music. My mother used to tell me she loved the silence, and I could NOT understand that -- I always had music on or the radio. I get it now: I love the leaves rustling and the birds chirping and the foot-falls of the deer on crunchy grass and the occasional 'mew' of one of the outdoor cats as they look through the sliding door screen. That's music for my soul.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Reverb 11 -- Day 8 -- Labels and Joy

#1 -- Prompt: What label/story/box/belief clipped your wings this year? How can you flip the script in 2012? What’s your new story?

#2 -- Prompt: Joy. Take us back to a moment in 2011 when you experienced pure, unadulterated joy.

#1 -- I'm pretty sure of myself: a strong woman, reasonably confident in who I am, what I love, what I believe. I believe in change and in growth. But my belief in who I am and what I can do was shaken substantially recently by a casual comment made by a friend during a committee meeting.

For three years I have participated in an annual theater performance benefit. I've performed the same role -- an outrageously funny, bawdy, even slightly shocking monologue that had audiences -- and the cast -- rolling with laughter. I love acting and am eager to do this piece again as well as more theater in 2012. I think I'm pretty good at it -- I've been told that by people whose opinions I respect, and the audience seems to respond well to my characters, both this one and others..

So. During the course of the meeting, as we were discussing how to get more people involved in the production, my friend commented, nudging me,  that …”we’re getting too old to do this.” I gave her a long look of – I don’t know – surprise? Shock? Denial? – and she added, “Well, I’m getting too old.”

Much later, the ice weasels started their partying, eventually settling into a steady chant of "You’re too old! You’re too old!”  It woke me up this morning an hour before I normally am conscious. And I began questioning whether or not I was indeed ‘too old’ to do not only this particular event, but pretty much anything in theater.

“You’re 64 years old!” they taunted. “You look ridiculous up there, saying such age-inappropriate things and making a total FOOL of yourself! Stick a fork in it, tootsie, you’re done! You’re too OLD to act anymore, honey, and nobody is brave enough to tell you!”

We don’t see ourselves as others see us. I see from INSIDE looking out at the world, and while that ‘me’ is not only perfectly capable of doing pretty much anything she wants to do, she also doesn’t feel ‘old’ (mostly). But I began questioning how OTHERS, especially those who don’t know me, might see me on stage, and concluded that perhaps I AM ‘too old.’ The idea just completely flipped my whole impression of who I am and what I should be doing with the rest of my life, and I didn't like what I was feeling or thinking.

I’ve talked since with a few people who I knew would be honest with me, and I’m not ready to throw it all in just yet. As long as directors cast me in roles and I’m capable of memorizing lines and blocking, I’m staying onstage.  I’ve never done well with labels since I never quite fit into societal or corporate boxes. TOO OLD is not going to be one I allow in my life either, not yet.

#2 – We vacationed on the Oregon coast this fall in a lovely rental apartment that had a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the mighty, mighty ocean endlessly washing over the little beach below our deck. It had been raining and blowing for a couple of days, and we had snugged in with plenty of food, snacks, and reading material.

One particular afternoon, I was propped with numerous pillows on the cushy chaise end of a sectional sofa that faced that glassed wall, and had an afghan covering my legs and feet while I read my lusciously long and detailed novel. Most afternoons I’d close my eyes for 15 or 20 minutes, dozing a little, relishing the quiet, the solitude, and pleasure of just being by the ocean and doing exactly what we wanted to do.

This afternoon, though, Tony had moved from a nearby chair where he had settled with his laptop to the sofa next to me, and put his head on my lap, the rest of him covered with another fleecy afghan. The ocean’s constant roar – louder that usual because of the storm – was soothing, the light was soft, and we were warm and together. With my hand lightly stroking Tony’s head, I closed my eyes and gave thanks for such a perfect moment of joy.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Reverb 11 -- Day 7 -- Forgiveness and Food

#1 Prompt: Forgiveness - Who have you forgiven this year and what was the journey like that brought you to forgive them?

#2 Prompt: Food: What did you eat this year that stayed with you?  Did you experiment with a new meal?  Try a new restaurant? Reflect on your good (or less desirable) eats with detail and explain why it stayed with you!

#1: Well, this certainly sparked some soul-searching on my part, and a lunch-long conversation with Tony as we discussed forgiveness. 

In 2005, before my mother died, I had a long conversation about forgiveness with my uncle when we were both in Springfield visiting her. I'd read something recently that included a variation of the Lily Tomlin quote "Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past." He liked that, and we talked at length about a family situation that clearly was going to require some forgiveness on both sides.

When I was contemplating who I've forgiven this year, or IF I'd forgiven anyone this year, I realized that I don't actually forgive. I move through a situation, I can move past and move on from a situation, but my relationship with that person is forever after colored by the experience requiring forgiveness. I may continue a friendship or relationship, but I'm a little more guarded, a less less trusting, much more aware of what I say and share and do with that person. I'm rarely without a filter after that point.

Something requiring forgiveness is an event which is going to change how I relate thereafter to that person, and therefore change my life path, even slightly. By forgiving, I still can't undo that change. It happened. It caused whatever reaction it caused. I can choose to include or not that person in my life, or to change the level of involvement, but the solid fact is that the event still happened. 

(Disclosure: I am a Scorpio. It has been said that Scorpios don't forget or forgive, they get even. There is some truth to that, even though it may take years to do so.) 

I'm pretty good at moving through and on, except when it comes to forgiving myself, probably the most important act of forgiveness any of us ever perform. While I've grown through a lot of events I've done to myself, there are still those that linger in the depths of my memory, and occasionally -- usually when I'm feeling down anyway -- I drag them out yet again and continue the flogging. This year I've made some progress on a couple -- at least I recognize when the cat-o-nine-tails is about to come out, and I can usually put it away. But there is still forgiveness that needs to be generously applied to some of the other memories in that dungeon.

#2:  Oh me. I like to eat. I love sweets. And pasta. And fresh bread. And, to be fair, fresh veggies and crisp, fresh salads. I like to eat good food, too. I'm not big on junk food, although I'll admit to a strong craving a few months ago for potato chips, and while I did not break down and buy a bag, I did indulge most heartily in the big bowl of them that was present at a picnic gathering. 

I'm not instantly recalling a stand-out meal or dessert this year, however. I enjoyed many such foods, in fact. I think the first, perfectly ripe watermelon of the season, or a fresh, juicy tangerine at Christmas is a delight to taste buds and memory alike. Or a still-warm tomato sliced on good sourdough bread spread with real mayonnaise and topped with a fresh basil leaf is a thrill to the senses. An overflowing black and white sundae, dripping with chocolate and real whipping cream, answered my sweet tooth's plea for deliciousness. 

Sometimes a bowl of just-made hot vegetable soup and a slice of fresh bread and butter is perfect for the moment, or a plate of spaghetti with homemade meat sauce and fresh parmesan. 

A few years ago -- gasp, in 2007! --  a friend made a birthday cake for Tony and me that was seriously amazing. I wrote about it at the time. It remains in my memory one of the most delectable things I've ever eaten. (Although that group no longer is together and sharing wonderful food (at least with us, anyway!), it was a precious time.)

I'd love to find that to-die-for taste again in 2012. (But I'd also like to get rid of the extra pounds that have slowly crept on this year before they do lasting damage. Right now it's not too many, but if I keep writing about food, it definitely will continue climbing.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Reverb 11 -- Day 6 -- Laughter

Both prompts this morning ask about laughing -- what made me laugh this year. I had to think about this too much, unfortunately.

Prompt: Laughter: Reflect on the last time you laughed so hard your sides hurt, your mascara ran down your face, or you wet your pants?

I *think* there was one such moment back in March when my little group of Cowgirls -- four of us who have been getting together at least every few months for nearly seven years now -- were celebrating a birthday. We had gone to Redding to the Marinello School for facials, manicures, and pedicures (my daughter Vanessa was a student there at the time, and she handpicked three other friends to tend to us). We'd started with a wonderful brunch at the home of our Redding Cowgirl, and enjoyed being pampered for several hours. And we ended up at Leatherby's Ice Cream where we got outrageously caloric sundaes. And we laughed and talked and laughed some more. I no longer remember what was said that set me off, but I remember giggling and belly-laughing until my sides ached and I had tears in my eyes. It felt so good!

There is laughter in my life often, although not often like that. Some of the television shows we watch are fun and funny, and we both erupt into laughter in our darkened great room, startling the kitties out of their naps. I read magazines and books that often have amusing bits in them, and I've been known to lay in bed cackling over some such story, inadvertently rousing Tony from his early sleep.  

More laughing in 2012, please.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Reverb 11- Day 5

 #1 Prompt: 5 on 5:
  1. What are 5 things you have done for yourself in 2011?
  2. What are 5 things you have done for others in 2011?
  3. What are 5 things that held you back from doing things for others?
  4. What are 5 things that you want to do for yourself in 2012?
  5. What are 5 things you want to do for others in 2012? 
#2 Prompt: 5 Things - Describe 5 guilty pleasures
#1: Five fives 
 1. ** Massage every month. ** Yoga class every week, usually two, with only a few exceptions. **Let my hair grow: it hasn't been this long for decades, although it's just barely at the top of my shoulders now. ** Read more books for fun.** Monthly housekeeper visit
      2. **Continue to act as R's representative payee -- no small task, and not without angst. **Tried to be available and open to V to listen, to soothe, to counsel when asked, and not to opine (at least too much!). **Been a good friend to at least a couple of people. **Listened to and talked with Tony as he's worked through work issues. ** Fulfilled commitments that I'd agreed to do.
      3. ** Burn-out: I was just tired. ** Working on my own projects. ** Energy. ** Health issues ** Lack of motivation
      4. **Keep up the things I did in 2011, the good things, like yoga and massage ** Read more **Ditch the guilt ** Write more ** Cultivate friendships
     5. **Listen more ** Talk less **Find a cause that I'm passionate about and volunteer ** Be kinder ** Be honest with my words and my actions

#2: Guilty pleasures
     1. Gummy bears or gummy worms that leap off the grocery shelves into my cart and come home with me
     2. Nora Roberts  (or JD Robb) paperbacks
     3. Ice cream at lunch
     4. Sentimental movies on Lifetime or Hallmark channel
     5. Shoe porn (that's what Tony calls it) -- I like shoes, and can spend hours browsing online shoe stores and reading reviews

I hope that as you share my Reverb11 writings that you're thinking about the topics for yourself, if not writing about them yourself. I always learn things from looking back at the year just passed, sometimes things I didn't realize at the time -- for instance, when I realized that the moment I will never forget -- see Day 3 -- was such a sad, painful memory. I am determined to change that in 2012: I want an unforgettable moment to be a good one, not one like that.