Monday, December 29, 2008

Full house

Both the princesses and the little princeling are living under our roof at present, and I'm doing pretty well in keeping my cool, if I do say so.

It's not that there is no drama. We brought Princess V and the princeling from Redding very late Saturday night after her BF came home smashed and got belligerent, and she called 911. She and Princess R went up there today to collect most of the rest of her stuff. And I got to babysit....which I also did yesterday.

A side note: amazing how those skills never leave. I'm changing diapers, feeding, and hoisting him around on my hip like I haven't had a 30-year gap between babies...

All of them are moving out this week to live together in a little house R found about a month ago. Do I have my doubts? Oh yeah. Am I worrying about how it will work? Nope. Really.

About a month-six weeks ago I made a very conscious decision to stop trying to manage anything except my own life, and I've done a good job with it with only a few slips. Both girls have spoken to me, worried that "something was wrong" because I seemed so "fragile."

Makes me laugh! I am anything but fragile, and Tony told both of them that too. I'm just not asking as many questions nor offering much advice, and I told them both that, and that the lack of questioning was probably what they were noticing! I'm watching it unfold, watching as they make choices and decisions, and trying to be passively supportive. Which I am -- not necessarily with the choices or decisions, but I am about THEIR RIGHT TO DO SO.

In other words, folks, what I'm doing is practicing actively what I preach so often: we make our own destiny. Nobody else can determine the course of our lives except we ourselves.

If it works and nothing catastrophic happens, I'll be thrilled. Am I skeptical? You betcha. But I'm trying not to project that out, either. I'm just trying to enjoy having our grandson here to play with and rock and feed (and give to his mama to change the stinkies). And enjoy having both girls here too, for the bit of time left. I'm offering help in finding stuff for the house and a bit of money to help, but it's up to them to accept it or not, and I'm not offended if they don't want the help.

So next weekend we should be back to two of us with two cats. Sounds good to me.

I'm glad they're both here and safe for the moment, and I hope things will work out for them, but I am no longer interested in managing the process. That's good growth for me, and also for them.

Meanwhile, we're going to see Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours tonight at the State Theatre -- just Tony and me. Ought to be a great way to unwind!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ghosts of Christmases Past

Christmas Eve and it's raining outside -- which we've badly needed, so I'm not complaining. We aren't going far afield this Christmas -- mostly home, with a couple of gettogethers with our great neighbors and friends.

But my Christmases past always are with me on this eve, most of them sweet and poignant, some very memorable.

Like the year in Zionsville that I was singing in the choir, and we had not only an early service especially for the kids, but also an 11 p.m. service with a choir concert beginning at 10:30.

My folks were in from their winter place in the Rio Grande Valley, my brother was in from Nashville, and baby, it was cold. Indiana winters are not for the thin of blood.

We'd had our usual Christmas Eve dinner, probably with my friend Julie and her family, and I think we'd gone to the early service with the kids. I headed back to church about 9:45 or so, in time to warm up my voice before the service. I remember it was slippery in patches -- snow on the ground. R was headed to bed, and everyone else decided to stay home too, which was fine.

But they didn't. We were singing the first hymn, probably "O Come All Ye Faithful," and who should I see hurrying down the side aisle but my husband, my brother, and my dad, all grinning like Cheshire cats. They sat in the second or third row -- the church was packed, as usual for Christmas Eve, and they grinned at me (and Julie) for the entire service.

One of the hymns was, of course, "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," to which my husband had altered the words to be "Hark, the hare-lipped angels sing." Which he was singing.

My rubber face, which shows every emotion, was taxed to the max that night as I struggled to maintain some composure in the choir loft.

It was a sweet night. They'd decided I shouldn't be alone (never mind that the church was full and I was surrounded by choir friends), and lifted their various whiskey tenors in song, probably with whiskey fumes wafting over the nearby pews.

Another Christmas, same church: Julie's dog Oreo had had puppies a few days earlier -- and they were all dead or dying of parvo virus, including Oreo. She, our friends Nancy and Marcia, and I all cried all the way through the service.

I loved the 11 p.m. candlelight services there, and also in my church in Birmingham. There's not a late service to be found here, however -- they're all done by 9 p.m.

My parents are close by every Christmas Eve -- I spent only a few without being with them until their deaths. Most are filled with warm, fuzzy memories, of filling stockings and going to church and singing and watching lights twinkle on the tree. We often had guests at our table -- people who were alone, or traveling, or neighbors, or friends. Sometimes we'd do big dinners, other times it was wonderful soups, breads, cheeses, and decadent desserts, and always cookies baked both by me and my mother.

I miss them. I miss some of that warmth of those years, some of the fun of having a younger child in the house.

And yet there's joy these days as well, for close friends and neighbors, for each other, for being where we are, and for being so blessed. I don't sing in a choir anymore (although I may eventually again -- I do miss that), and we don't belong to a church. But we belong here, and we are grateful for the love and caring with which we are surrounded, and for the peace of the land.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another goodbye

It's not that there's a dearth of things to write about, it's just busy writing stories, doing shopping, and planning menus, among just the day-to-day stuff.

And then last night I got a call from my second cousin Charlie who told me that my great-aunt Fran died in her sleep Sunday night.

She was 102 in September, the last and the baby of four sisters and -- I think -- two or three brothers. She was ten years older than my father, who she supposedly dropped on his head when he was a baby -- at least they always told that story and laughed about it. None of her sisters lived as long as she did. I only vaguely remember one brother, but her sister Florence was my grandmother -- she was the second oldest. Then there was Rae, short for Rachel, who died young, and Betty who died sometime in the 1970s. Grandma died in 1980-something.

We saw Aunt Fran fairly often when we were growing up since she lived in Tulsa and we were in Springfield, Mo. I remember Easters there, and some Christmases. Her dear husband died when he was just in his 50s, and she was alone for some years before she remarried. It was at her cabin -- actually, it was her second husband's -- in Estes Park that my parents spent so many wonderful summers with her, and it is also where their ashes are scattered, forever looking at the mountains they both loved so much.

I got to spend extended time with her both as a teenager, when I stayed with her shortly after her husband died, and then as a college student when I worked a summer at the YMCA of the Rockies where she also spent summers as a hostess for one of the lodges (until she reconnected there with Sam, her second husband). We'd also spent some vacations visiting, most especially one in about 1992 or 93 when we were there for a week (at a nearby cabin) and also spent time with Charlie and his wife.
We called her "dum ant" -- the roots of the story are long ago, and I don't even recall the details anymore, but it was a silly pet name that she enjoyed too.

Most of her friends and family are long dead, although she leaves various great-nieces and nephews, only a few of whom remember her very well, I think. I have one remaining aunt, and I think there may be another niece too, but I'm not sure, as well as her son and grandchildren.

I'll bet there was a grand reunion Friday morning -- with her sisters, my parents, her husbands -- and all those who left us so long ago. After 102 years, she deserves this final rest.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Counting down

It's December 1, and in the Christian tradition, Advent started yesterday. Shopping season started Friday, in case you have been somewhere without any electronic communication.

So how this year to feel the joy of the season, to become immersed in the celebration without going overboard on spending or jaded by the commercialism and "must-do" stuff?

Joanna Powell Colbert, one of my favorite bloggers, has a lovely post today with suggestions for observing Advent, or the Return of the Light.

As you may know, we are counting down not only the days until Christmas, but also until the winter solstice -- the shortest day of the year. You've noticed that sunset comes earlier and earlier -- and if you're a morning person, which I admittedly am not, you know the sunrise comes later and later. Fewer hours of sun. Or, if you're in Indiana, of gray.

While I was raised a United Methodist and have worked for the church on local levels, but also have more than a passing acquaintance with the conference and general church levels, I haven't actively attended for at least 12 years. Before that, I was active not only as an employee, but also a participant on various committees and boards, and sang regularly in the choir.

It was mostly a big social outlet for me: I met some wonderful people there, some with whom I am still friends after more than 25 years. I loved singing. I grew up singing in the choirs, singing at home, and knew all the arias and recitatives to Messiah, regardless of vocal range and voice part. I knew most of the choruses too, and as I sang the oratorio for many years in various choirs, learned the alto parts to nearly all of them.

It's still not quite Christmas for me until I play the CD and sing along.

And I have lots of Christmas CDs with various choral arrangements of old favorites as well as not as well known carols and hymns, and I love to listen to them and sing with them while I'm baking or decorating.

But I digress....that is another whole post.

My core beliefs have redirected a bit, however. I am a very spiritual person, but I have not been wholly comfortable with Christian beliefs for some years, and yet, I find great comfort in that community of music and ritual. I'm not sure what I am, actually, but I do know I've gained comfort and blessing from more earth-centered beliefs, drawing on the land, the sun, the stars, the moon, and those great core beliefs central to the world's major religions: be kind, be thoughtful, treat others as you wish to be treated yourself, be honest, give thanks always, speak truth to yourself and to others.

From Joanna's post, I found this lovely suggestion for incorporating an Advent observance, and it is one I plan to do this year.

Darkness has certainly been present in our lives this year, many of us, because of economics, illness, family circumstances. It has brought fear to us and uncertainty about the future. What better way to help our emotions and give us hope than lighting candles, waiting for the Light to return to us, in a regular ritual!

I need the light in my life. I need to have something to look forward to, that I KNOW without doubt will happen. The return of the sun -- the gradual lengthening of the days beginning on the solstice Dec. 21 -- is one such event. This WILL happen. Things WILL become brighter.

May your Advent be filled with anticipation and light.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being thankful

Another wonderful Thanksgiving today, spent with our circle of friends and neighbors, where we ate too many carbs and I KNOW there was too much butter in everything. We laughed. We cried. We played a silly game and answered silly questions. We ate pie.

It was a fun day, spent with people we love. It doesn't get much better than that.

I'm so grateful that we live here and that we have wonderful friends and neighbors who care about us and who we care about in return.

I'm grateful for second chances and new beginnings. Living here was one of those. Being with Tony was another. There are things in my life right now that I wish were a little better, but those two could NOT be better than they are.

I hope your day was filled with good food and friends, and that you have a gratitude list too. It makes everything easier when we keep in mind our joys and our happinesses.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Marking another year

Today is my birthday, my 61st, another year into this seventh decade of my life.

It feels like such a short time since I turned 60 last year, and THAT is one of the great lessons of aging: as we age, time speeds up. I want time for this birthday. I want good, quality time. And I guess it's up to me to make my minutes and hours and days to be just that, hm.

In this last year my hair is longer, greyer. My face has more lines in it. The texture of my skin is changing, although it smooths when I slather on rich moisturizing cream (lesson for those of you who may be under 40 -- always, always moisturize your face and neck and arms and legs).

My braces are off. My smile is big.

We spent time with extended family in Nashville and in Ashland. We watched movies, TV, read. We survived several days without electricity and a summer of smoke and fires. We got mad and we got over it. We laughed with our wonderful Red Bluff circle of friends.

We have an adult child living with us again.

Through it all there is a common thread: we create our own destiny. We are responsible for the choices we make and the consequences of those choices. We get to choose whether to be happy or sad, to be grateful or to be angry, to change or to stagnate.

There are days when that is the only thing that makes sense to me -- that we have a choice about our actions. It isn't that I always like the alternatives, but there ARE choices, even in harsh economic situations and unsettling times.

We do all we can, where we are, with what we've got.

That'll get me through this next year too, with the hope and many prayers that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep a grateful heart and stay open to the goodness of the Universe, we will be all right.

Can't speak for anyone else: what they do is THEIRS, not mine, to manage.

But I will be okay.

I am so grateful to see all those grey hairs and life-lines in my mirror, and to begin another year. I am grateful to have second chances and new beginnings at life. I am HUGELY blessed by a wonderful circle of friends and girlfriends in this little town, who have already honored me with wonderful food and parties and gifts, and who continue to hold me close in their hearts with love and kindness.

I hope I return to them some of the joy and love they give to me.

May I never lose sight of the gratitude of this moment, this day. It is all we have, right now.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Watch for the angels

The Daily Om, which I've mentioned before in these posts, today had a really lovely piece about angels among us. Basically, it says that "their words or actions may help us see ourselves more clearly or remind us that our situations will turn out the way they should, or they help us cope with with difficult situations.

And I needed the reminder that things can change quickly, that all is not angst and worry, and that the only constant is change.


Nothing stays the same. Everything changes. Nothing lasts forever. I know this is true.

It also reminded me that people come into and go out of our lives for reasons, and that our lives touch others either to learn or to teach. I've learned from and been sustained by the caring of so many friends over the years, most recently these past three months by my wonderful girlfriends (and some of their husbands too) in my little town. (Never in my life have I had so many friends who have been so supportive and caring! How blessed is that!)

I believe I've been put into situations in the past to teach. I've also learned a lot from others who I've encountered, some of them in such unlikely places! But I believe in the old saying: when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

I need to remember that there ARE angels around me and open my eyes to see them, to listen to them, to accept their caring and love. I need to remember to keep asking the universe for what I need for ME, and to be aware of the teachers who appear in my life to help me.

I need to have faith that my children have angels around them as well, and that when they are ready to see them, the teachers (angels) will be there for them.

When we ask the universe for what we need and want (for ourselves) -- I believe that we get answers: yes, no, or not yet. One of my teachers told me once that we should ask for "this, or something better" when we ask -- and I do. It works. Sometimes the answers come in ways you don't expect, but they do come. And I have always been okay.

Tonight I ask for clarity, for acceptance, and I offer gratitude for my friends and family, who surround me, flood me, with love and concern and caring. I feel it. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quietly contemplating choices

After a couple of days of turmoil on all fronts, lots of fear and ice weasels, lots of reading about coping and consequences, we are in a place of relative calm tonight.

Our child is safe and okay, and has made some decisions about where she wants to be. For my part, I am determined to give her back the power I've assumed on her behalf over the last few months, and to stop treating her as though she were an errant teenager.

For this moment, I believe what she is saying is the truth.

And if it is not, that too will eventually come out. Truth always does.

But everyone deserves at least a couple of do-overs, y'know? So this is one.

I do have a problem with control: I like knowing what is going on and alllllll the details -- always have, and that has caused problems in my relationships with my daughters in the past. If I really get honest about it, I think I see the "right" thing to do, and I push and push to have it go in that direction.

For me, the hardest thing is to let go of that control. While I say "I am powerless over people, places, and things," I often don't actually ACT it. or believe it, I suppose

My brother would agree that I am and always have been fairly bossy. (ooo...that is SO hard to admit, especially where I know he's going to see it)

And I also have to admit that my own life has not always been a textbook of the best or the right way to live. I've screwed things up pretty well any number of times. No, I never suffered horrible consequences like getting thrown in jail, getting arrested, gravely serious injury (although I bear a few scars here and there, and there are a few instances I really don't like remembering), or doing injury to others, at least injuries that are visible.

But I'm sure I gave my mother and father more than a few sleepless nights, and caused my ex some major heartburn. I'm sure I lost a few friends -- although I'm not sure that they were all that great a friend to begin with.

So the lesson I need to find in this is to accept the consequences of my own behavior, of my own choices, and to let go of the need and the desire to direct the choices and lives of others -- my daughters, my dear husband, or my greater family and friends.

It simply is NOT MINE TO DO. Not mine to manage.

Whatever my daughters choose to do in their lives are theirs to manage and to live with. I will never, ever stop loving them. But I am not responsible for their choices. I cannot control their mistakes. And we ALL make mistakes.

Mine in this instance was probably in jumping a bit too quickly to conclusions, and trying too hard to control things.

If there is risky behavior from either child, it is they who will bear the consequences. I cannot save them from that, try as I might. And to jump in to either condemn or rescue is equally as bad.

So tonight I will turn my attention to myself, and ask for the serenity to accept those things I cannot change. And for the wisdom to know the difference. I don't lack for courage, but wisdom to know has definitely been an issue in the past. I just didn't realize how great an issue it still was.

And I am grateful that she is safe and okay for now, that she has made a CHOICE to be where she is, and that her people radar has kicked in enough, at least, to override her stubborn nature and allowed her to see the danger.

I will turn my worries and fears and control over to the care of God/dess, and try to keep myself on the path to serenity. This is a journey. It matters what I do every day. But neither will I beat myself up unnecessarily. It is about progress, not perfection, and I am working on my own issues.

Thank you for your prayers and your love. It is all that which has brought this to be where it is tonight, of that I am sure. Keep them coming -- and I will hold you close in my heart and in my prayers as well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another line

We're in the process of drawing another line with yet another daughter.

A reader just today left a comment on this post, which certainly fits with our current situation although circumstances are a bit different.

Boundaries are necessary in our lives, else we end up doing everything for others and leave ourselves high and dry. Or we compromise deeply held values and beliefs. Or we expose ourselves to dangerous situations.

Unfortunately our daughter doesn't know how to draw good boundaries for herself and we believe she may have chosen to engage in extremely risky behavior, jeopardizing her already precarious mental health, her physical health (which is also already compromised), and our home and safety.

All of this stems from long-ago issues that were most clearly not her fault; however, her subsequent choices have led her to this moment, and she has to take at least some responsbility for making those choices. At this moment, she seems to have chosen a path that will lead to serious consequences.

I can pray that she will decide she doesn't want that and that she is willing to take the hard journey back to sanity and to health, and I will support her -- we ALL will -- to the extent that she will allow us. Until then, just as with our other child, we must pull back and stop enabling.

It's the hardest thing I've ever done.

Please light a candle for her. Say a prayer that God and Goddess and all the angels will bless and keep her safe. And please say one for me too. Throughout these past three months I have felt the collective support and love from friends near and far supporting me and loving me. Please don't stop now...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What I know for sure

.... you know with certainty the following 3 things:
(1) if you are living and breathing, you will pay taxes;
(2) someday you will die and meet your maker; and
(3) there are more slimeballs in this world than rats in a NYC tenement.

That's a quote from a fellow freelancer written in response to another list member's story about not getting paid for work done.

But it's a pretty accurate way to see things, I think.

Wish it weren't so -- that #3.

There are a lot of good people, too, who will help you, give you good advice, stand by you when you're hurting, and give you a shoulder to cry on.

I'm grateful for those. It's not easy for me to let them in when I'm hurting, but I've tried, and it's their collective supportive energies that have sustained me over these past months. I try to surround myself with good people who are the kind of friend to me that I try to be to them.

That's what it's about: giving back and also being able to receive kindness and generosity. Loving your family and friends. The rest of it has some importance, but it's not what will sustain you in hard times.

Y'know what I mean?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Art! in our town, tonight!

Tonight is the sixth annual ArtWalk in our little town, sponsored by the Tehama County Arts Council of which I am a member and past president.

It is just a wonderful event in downtown Red Bluff, with 21 stores opening their doors to local artists and the public, and featuring wine tasting, food, music, and wonderful, wonderful artworks of all mediums.

I'll have four photos at Heartfelt Designs as will my honey, and there are three floors of art in that venue -- not only are there lots of wonderful photographs from the Tehama County Photo Club, but there are vibrant paintings, imaginative sculptures by Jay Murphy (who I interviewed earlier this year), and fiber art -- soft alpaca socks, hats and vests, gorgeous yarns, rugs, clothing and more.

But what is really great is how so many people come to downtown and walk up and down, dipping into each venue to see the art, sample food, and talk with the artists. It brings people together to celebrate the creativity in this county.

Redding has a similar event once a month -- the ArtHop -- which is tomorrow night. I wrote another story about one exhibit in this month's event which celebrates Shasta County veterans and their service. I'm hoping to get there for that reception.

Life is richer when you have art in your life. If you don't create it, then go see it. Buy it. Surround yourself with things you like to look at or music you love to hear. It makes a huge difference in your mood and your overall wellbeing.

See you tonight?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Passages through time

The third anniversary of my mother's death was Thursday -- Oct. 30 -- and according to pagan tradition, the "veil" between the worlds thins on Oct. 31, so the spirits of those who have left this earth are closer to us.

I spent much of the day thinking about her, about those last hours of her life and her peaceful passage into the next dimension. While I miss her, the raw grief has diminished. Time heals. And I've also come to better accept death as a part of the life cycle, I suppose.

While I am spiritual, I'm not sure what I really believe about spirits. I have, however, felt loving spirits around me from time to time. Those presences have comforted and helped me through some difficult moments. If it's just my overactive imagination, I don't care -- it's sort of whatever works.

There are churches who believe in "spirits" and explain bad things or actions as a "demon" being in you -- actually, we had that experience not long ago when a mental health professional attributed a demon with the source of unhealthy behavior. THAT was scary to me, frankly -- not because I believed there was a demon, but because the professional blamed the demon for inappropriate actions -- as if you can absolve yourself of responsibility for your actions because of a demon?

But the title of this post is Passages, not spirits. I'll leave more of that to another day.


And we are in November -- our birth month, the transition month from autumn into winter, of losing the leaves as the earth prepares to sleep for some months. I like November. I like the rain, the blustery winds, the promise of hot chocolate and cider, the preparation of feasts for Thanksgiving, the sharing of lives and gratitudes.

I don't like that we're seeing lots of ads for Christmas already, and that seems to be the focus for any retail store. This month is the gratitude month, and I like to savor it first. Christmas will come in all its gimme-gimme-buy-spend-expectancy all too soon.


Both Tony and I have now had cataracts removed from our eyes, and we each see better than we have in years -- me since early childhood (if even then), and him for at least 20 years. While I know it is not so easy for everyone, we are tremendously grateful for renewed clarity of sight. I still cannot get over the fact that I wear neither contacts nor glasses at the moment, other than occasionally using cheaters to see fine print. Yes, I'll probably have something for driving. But for normal sight -- especially for computer work -- I see better than I ever have without any correction. That is truly a miracle, and I am grateful to doctors and nurses who performed the operation, and for those who have worked through hundreds of years to perfect this procedure.


Election Day is tomorrow. We all voted by mail this time, and will watch along with the rest of the country to see what happens tomorrow. I confess to being very nervous that another election will be determined by hanging chads and Supreme Courts. And while I can't wholeheartedly support either candidate, I believe Obama may offer my generation better healthcare options than McCain. And I'll tell you, that's a HUGE factor in our lives right now, as it is for the millions of other babyboomers as we count down to Medicare and Social Security.


We entertained my ex and his new wife this weekend -- they were here to see our daughter, and it was a very pleasant visit. Actually, his wife, Susan, was a high school student of mine when I taught in a tiny Missouri town back in the early 1970s! I liked her very much then -- she was a good student, loved literature (I taught English), and enjoyed analyzing words. We also knew her in college -- she attended the college where my ex and I both worked at that point. They reconnected last winter and it was practically love at first sight. I'm very happy for them both, and I still like her very much. And I'm grateful that he and I are friends and that we both want to do the best we can for our daughter.


Each 24 hours is a gift: it is all we have, this moment, this day. We get to determine how we spend it, what we do in it, how we look at it. In this day we get to choose if we want things to remain the same, or if we want to take steps to change a part of our lives that we don't like. Change - meaningful change -- doesn't happen in just 24 hours (generally anyway), but we can take a step to help move it along the path. That's what I tell my daughter. That's what I tell my brother. And that's what I tell myself. Every day.

What do I want to change? What can I do in this moment, this day, to help that happen?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Time flies....and thoughts about books and newspapers

I got busy. That's not a bad thing: I've been writing stories for Enjoy magazine and the Record Searchlight, and they've been interesting to do.

And I've been taking a photography class, although I've not been the best student by a long shot -- my cataract surgeries knocked me out of two class sessions, and the strong north wind kept me from the sunrise outdoor shoot (aw KNOW how I love getting up in the morning....not....) But I have learned despite myself and even shot the last two stories' pictures on manual settings.

We're still in caretaker mode with Princess #1, too, which means taking her to various appointments and to her new part-time job. While I don't mind the time, and indeed am grateful that I have the ability to be so present for her, it does take some scheduling.

This afternoon, however, she's with a friend, I finished the last assignment, and I spent the rest of the afternoon polishing my nails and catching up on Oprahs that have been DVRed -- even though I've deleted a bunch of them. It was thoroughly indulgent and relaxing. And my toes look much better.

Today's show featured the Amazon Kindle, an electronic bookreader that Oprah is just crazy about. She had Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO and creator of the Kindle, on the show to talk about it. I'll admit that it DOES sound enticing -- to carry around all the books or newspapers you want to read in a 10", thin volume -- and to be able to download them without a computer.

(And by the way, for this next week you can get $50 off the Amazon price with the code: OPRAHWINFREY ...)

But I have to admit that I'm not ready for that.

I love to read. I have always loved to read, and my earliest memories are of being read to and of reading myself. My favorite gifts have always been books. I love the type fonts, the thick pages, the heft of hardback books. I love the portability and affordability of paperbacks.

I love my red room that has crisp white floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on one whole long wall, and I love that the non-fiction is roughly categorized on one shelf and the fiction is all alphabetical by author on the rest of them, and that I have room for some little treasures, some photos, and my old high school and college yearbooks as well as all the photo albums I got from my folks' estate. I love sitting in the rocker there and feeling the enticing warmth of the stories float all around me.

And I love newspapers. I love the ink smell, the feel of the newsprint. I've read at least one daily paper most of my life, ever since elementary school, and I cannot imagine not having one, even though every newspaper in the country is struggling for its life and thousands of employees are being laid off and solid journalists and designers are out of work. And those remaining on staff are forced to do far more with less time and fewer dollars.

Tony reads newpapers and magazines online. I read blogs, but only read magazine or newspaper specific articles that are linked to from other sources. I like not being tied to the screen.

Which is probably why I'd like the Kindle. I could take it with me and be able to read most anything....


How would you clip articles or ideas? How could you highlight or make margin notes? Tear out pages and send them to a friend or save them in an idea file, or use them to make collages? Share a loved book with a friend, recycling them over and over? Or just randomly leaving a good book for a fellow booklover to find through Bookcrossing?

Yes, it would save trees (which would also cost people their jobs). It would cut down on waste, even though paper is recyclable (but the junk mail we all get would certainly keep the recyclers in business).

I'm just not ready to lose the comfort of the paper and of a book in my hand. Maybe someday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Four years -- happy blog-iversary!

This blog is four years old, believe it or not. I wrote the first post on Oct. 11, 2004, wondering if I would even like this medium for my thoughts and words. After four years and 276 posts, I think it's obvious that I do.

I'll never have the readership of some of the blogs I read, it's not likely to get a lot of referrals from other blogs, and I don't care. There is a little group of regulars who check this site most days -- I know who some of you are because you've told me, and I can take a guess at who others are based on location. And then there are those who just find it because of a key word search.

Probably the words that show up most often in a search have to do with getting out of life what you put into it -- words I've used over and over in this four years of writing. I know this to be true: life is what you make of it, good or bad. How you react to problems and issues determines the course your life takes and how happy or unhappy you may be.

Not that there aren't things beyond our control. But it's our reaction to those things that determine what course our lives take.

The other thing I know is true: this too shall pass. Nothing lasts. Everything changes.

That goes for everything. Savor the good, learn from the not so good.

Thank you for reading my words, all of you. I hope you find a few nuggets in the stories and memories that help you along your path. In writing, I often find renewed energy and hope to continue along mine.

My brother came through his surgery very well, although I haven't talked to him yet, but it sounds as though he will have the best possible outcome. I am grateful for prayers and energy that have been sent to him and to me, and to my dear sister-in-law. I am grateful for surgeons who are skillful and compassionate, and for ever-advancing techniques in cancer treatment.

One day at a time is all we can ever live. Today I am grateful for my life and for those who I love.

Like a duck

...I'm trying to float on the stream, but underneath I'm paddling like mad.

There are a lot of things up in the air, some of which won't be resolved anytime soon. My brother's surgery is today, so part of me is there with him, feeling anxious, and trying not to be. There are challenges with work for both Tony and me, and again, part of me feels assured that we will be okay, but there is still anxiety. We continue to see problems with our daughter come up, and it's disruptive and a little frightening.

When you've lived a fairly low-key life for a time, it's hard to get dropped back into drama and uncertainty.

And I sure don't need to talk about the global economy. Money that was there (on paper, at least) a few months ago has disappeared. That's for everyone. These are unsettling times, tight times, anxiety-ridden times.

I don't like not knowing. I can cope with whatever a known issue is, but I have problems with the what-ifs and the wait-and-see ones. I want to know NOW.....whine......

I feel like there are so many loose ends, so many threads that are unraveling, and no time to really complete anything, not that it could be completed anyway. That extends to chores around the house and yard as well: we need to get rock and gravel and then spread it, but when? I need to yank out the summer garden and till. I'm nearly done with changing out closets, but part of it is still sitting in my bedroom. And then there are stories that need doing, if I can ever get hold of the people I need to talk to.

Too many what-ifs. Too much up in the air. And it's not just me. Nearly everyone I know feels much the same way.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


My second eye surgery was yesterday -- the other cataract was removed, this time in eight minutes (it was earlier -- maybe he hadn't quite gotten into the groove).

I can read the computer screen while actually leaning back in my chair, not hunched over the keyboard with my nose 8 inches from the screen.

I can watch TV and actually see the characters from my favorite chair.

With one of the many pairs of readers I have from when I needed to wear them with my contacts, I can read the newspaper and books at a reasonable distance, not held way up to my face.

My eyesight this morning tested 20/20 without correction of any kind.

And all this is with my eye still dilated some from the surgery. I am in awe of this miracle. I am grateful to those who have invented ways of doing it -- one nurse told me that not all that many years ago cataract patients had their heads immobilized with blocks and had to be flat on their backs for 10 days. I am grateful to be able to see again, better, actually, than I've ever seen.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

October's transitions

It's October 1 -- the beginning of the all-too-rapid slide down to the new year. And it appears that our summer weather may be over, with a forecast of highs on Friday and Saturday only in the 60s. Looks like we may well go from swamp cooler to wood stove in the same week once more.

And I'm so glad. I am so tired of hot weather, of dry, dusty roads and ground and air, of fire threats with every lightning strike. I'm tired of hot weather food and clothing. It's been a very long summer this year.

Change is all around us today, and we're truly at a crossroads with the economy. Our lives, what we buy, what we eat, how we work depends on what happens with the economy in the next few days. While we must take personal responsibility for our own choices and deal with those consequences, much of this mess is fallout from the decisions of big business. And yes, what happens to these big companies impacts our ability to purchase ANYTHING. Our economy revolves around credit.

October is one of my favorite months. The weather is cooler, days are often spectacularly bright blue, local festivals are nearly every weekend, gardens yield up the last veggies, trees turn brilliant colors.

My little brother was born this month and celebrates a birthday next week. Not that big 6-o, but he's not far away either. *snicker*

Mind you, when he was born, I wasn't particularly thrilled about it. I was not quite three -- two years and 11 months older than him, he'd tell people throughout our school days -- and rather enjoyed being the only child. I remember the day we brought him and my mother home from the hospital. I think my dad's mother had come to help out, because I remember being in the back seat of our car with her when we picked up my mother from the hospital, and peering over her shoulder to see this squawky red thing that looked not at ALL like my cute babydolls.

I'm told, although I don't remember it, that I used to pop him and then go helpfully tell my mother that "Jimmy has a bloody nose!" He has blamed me all his life for his propensity toward bloody noses, although *I* think it has much more to do with the blood vessels in his nose being very close to the skin's surface. (I never get bloody noses.)

But he was my playmate. We'd play house. We'd play dolls. We'd play trucks and cars sometimes, and conduct pretend orchestras with chopstick batons while we listened to LPs that our parents had, and our own "Lemmerlemmer Street" and others. We knew all the words to "Oklahoma." We could recite and sing the whole monologue from "It's in the Book." And sang gibberish German with some boys' choir recording -- can't remember the name. We knew the all the Smothers Brothers routines from their recordings too.

And we fought. I remember chasing him around and around the house, angry about something or other, and trying to hit him but only rarely succeeding. I took a slug at the neighborhood bully when he was in first grade and I was in fourth, and the bully was trying to beat up on MY BROTHER. *I* could beat up on him, but nobody else was gonna, by god. I got a chipped front tooth for my efforts, and we moved out of that neighborhood shortly thereafter, but I'd protected my little brother. By the time I was in high school he was pretty much of a pest.

And we've been friends for years now. When our dad died, we were in a mind-meld about what needed to be done for our mother. When our mother was failing and died -- three years ago at the end of this month -- we spent time together, just us, for the first time in many years, and were reminded just how much we treasure each other. We did what we needed to do, and we leaned on each other for strength to do it.

October is a transition month: you'll remember the Greek story of Persephone, where she prepares to return to the underworld for four months. When she and her mother Demeter are reunited, the earth flourishes with growth, but when she returns to Hades, it becomes barren. It's the myth explaining the changing of the seasons. We have this month yet of life, and then the barren time comes.

Only partly, of course, in northern California, where the hills and fields green up with the rains. But hey, it's a good story.

It's a transition month for the elections too, where all the candidates make their platforms clear (we hope), and campaigns and publicity heat up, and the fireworks and mudslinging start (yuk). By the end of the month we'll all be sick of hearing it and ready to vote.

Be sure to watch Palin and Biden go at it tomorrow night, by the way. It should be on all the networks as well as CNN, and on radio. Doesn't matter who you're for -- just be informed.

Anyway, happy almost fall. I know the calendar shows that fall began more than a week ago, but for me, this is its beginning. And days are getting so short -- barely 12 hours of light these days, with the sun setting by 7 p.m. Remember that daylight savings time doesn't change (fall back) until Nov. 2.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Seeing clearly

Clarity of sight is foremost in my thoughts today, as it has been for the last few days. I mean that both literally and figuratively.

I had a cataract removed from my left eye on Tuesday, and will have one removed from the right eye Oct. 7. Tony had one removed last week -- at this point he doesn't need to do the other.

It took six minutes.

I was at the day surgery center maybe an hour and a half. No pain, no discomfort even. I felt pretty woozy from the don't-give-a-crap meds that they relax you with, but remember quite a lot of what went on. Tony saw colors, I remember a little of that, but also seeing just white, sort of like the old test pattern on the black and white tvs.

'But I can see thing with my left eye, unaided by correction, that I have never seen as well with that eye. Things close and midrange are still fuzzy, but even that is improving, and I can finally pretty much see the computer screen with that eye.

It's downright miraculous.

And yes, I AM too young to have cataracts.

They may be a result of meds I've been on for years, it may be some genetic thing, whatever. But I got 'em early. And once replaced, I won't ever have to have it done again. If cloudiness returns, it can be clarified with a simple laser treatment in the doc's office.

Coping with wildly disparate sight is a bit unnerving and strains my eyes, but I can handle this for another couple of weeks, and then I'll work with getting both eyes focusing together. I should come out of this needing only reading glasses.

And then there is clarity of thought and action and insight, and I've been trying to wrap my head around several different things.

I'm using the old Serenity prayer a lot, both as regards the volatile state of the economy (egad! what a FUBAR that is!), and for some of the people I love or care about who are struggling right now with depression and anger and fear.

What do I say? How much do I say? How strongly can I push? Will it even make a difference?

These are old patterns at work, I think, in all cases: methods of coping with pain and anger, and how to work through it. I believe my dear ones need help doing it, but I'm also so well aware that they have to drive that decision. As much as I can point out that it would be beneficial, it means nothing unless the individual wants to make that change. The old "you can lead a horse to water" theory....

It's an addiction, these old ways of dealing with pain and confusion and fear and grief and anger. You numb them with substances or you act out in your behavior, or your life teeters on the edge of unmanageable, and none of it is fun. NOTHING seems fun. Except when you're doing whatever you do to stop thinking about it, and even then it's not fun because you know you're going to feel crappy later.

I know a thing or two about addiction and how to deal with it. I recognize it. I know a few things about denial, too, which -- have to say it -- is not just a river in Egypt.

There's a quote attributed to George Carlin: "Just 'cause you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town.”

Merely stopping an addiction, be it behavior or substances, is not going to make you recover. It takes constant, lifelong work of adjusting and readjusting your thinking, being scrupulously honest with yourself about what is going on, and admitting when you need help to work it out.

Ah. Life can be so damned hard.

So I'm also working on clarity for myself: to know when to talk, to know what to say, and to know when to shut up -- the last being the hardest thing for me. Bottom line: we create our own destiny through our choices. The only destiny I have any control over is MINE. And today I am taking care of me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cherish the moments

First, a quick note about the previous post with the political fun stuff: this year's election is not fun and must not be taken lightly. Unless you're living in a sterile room without exterior communication of any kind, you have to be aware of the serious financial problems that have surfaced this week on Wall Street. These are not fun times.

I wish there was a clear choice for president, someone who clearly could lead the country out of the muddle we're in. Each candidate has some serious drawbacks. Please. Watch the debates, read the newspapers and news magazines. Tony has links to a number of good Internet resources on his blog. Read. Listen. Watch. And then vote. Whatever your choice, make it an informed one. (Remember that it is Obama and McCain, not Obama and Palin.)

Okay, enough.

I read a lot of blogs daily, none of them political. I found Getting Past Your Past recently and have just begun to dig into some of the author's previous posts. For anyone trying to resolve past issues and dig into a deeper understanding of what motivates us to make the choices we do, this is a wonderful resource. The comments, often in the hundreds, so clearly show that so many others have also traveled this route. Youc an read about the author, Susan J. Elliott, here.

Her poignant and shocking story yesterday about her husband's very sudden plunge into a life and death struggle reminded me yet again that today is all we ever have, regardless of our age or stage in life.

Last fall, my only brother had a major seizure that threw his whole life into a state of turmoil and angst. It was the first and only time this had happened to him (and may it always be so), but in the seizure's ferocity, both shoulders were damaged and one required surgery to fix. Because he travels in his work, he had to rearrange his entire work flow and life rhythm. Of course my dear sister-in-law was worried sick, as we all were, and that takes its toll in how we live each day as well. He has pretty much recovered from that, but I can see in his face what it did to him emotionally.

He's had another big life blow lately too -- the big C word. We are of the generation that remembers a death sentence being handed down with the diagnosis, and while this is emphatically NOT the case here -- his is tremendously curable, treatable, and has not metasticized -- you can never quite shake off that fear. It is a reminder, not a gentle one either, that none of us are going to get out of this alive, and that some of us go more quickly than others.

He is in treatment and will, I am sure to my core, come out of it cancer-free. But it will change him. I know his ice weasels must be partying like a fraternity on spring break, and I pray he will find a place of peace as he walks through this valley. We walk beside him and are holding him in our hearts, but ultimately we each have to face our own fears and griefs by ourselves.

One of my college classmates, a very well-known businessman, died a few weeks ago at only 60 years old. I hadn't seen him in years, and we were never close, but his death is another reminder that life is short, often too short. I am sad for his wife, who I also knew, and for his children who are about my children's ages.

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie-Mellon professor who is famous for "The Last Lecture," died a few months ago at age 47. In his last months, he left a legacy to his children, and to everyone who will read his little book. It isn't profound truth -- it is simply to treasure your days, try to remember and realize your dreams, and cherish what you have and the people you love.

I'll tell you, at 60 I am SO not ready to contemplate dying. I feel like there are so many things left that I want to do -- places I want to see, that book to write, lots more fun and parties to attend, photos to take.

And in all of it there is the overarching lesson: CHERISH THIS DAY. Do all you can where you are with what you've got. Tell people you love them. Be gentle with yourself. Be loving to your friends and family. Tell them the things you want them to know NOW. Let go of anger and resentment. Treat each day kindly, and seek help to get through the hard times.

We never know what the day may bring. Give thanks for everything you experience, even the hard stuff. You're still alive to deal with it. You have second chances and new beginnings. Again. Thanks be. Blessed be.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A little bit political -- a whole lotta funny

I don't generally do politics here. You can find lots of commentary elsewhere, including on my dearest hubby's Cat-E-Whompus, but I don't often climb on that particular soapbox, at least here.

But here's some fun stuff floating around the virtual world.

Want to know what YOUR Palin name would be? I'm Geese Whalebone Palin. Who are YOU?

And are your views closer to McCain's or to Obama's? Take this little test. Might surprise you.

And everyone's favorite JibJab has a new one about this year's presidential campaign. No matter which way you're leaning, you gotta love it.

Oh. My disclaimer.

My political views rarely parallel those of my dear husband. When the Republican National Party calls seeking funds, I always answer them: "You've got the wrong Maxey" and hang up.

We have interesting discussions during elections. Neither of us has changed the other's mind, but we at least listen to each other's viewpoints. And usually learn something.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A quick weather whine

I can't help it. I just HAVE to whine about the weather. If you don't want to hear it, don't read this.

It's been over 100 degrees on our front porch, regardless of what the "official" temps were, for days and days, and the expected high is 100. Yeah, yeah, it is supposed to drop down into the 80s and low 90s later this week, and temps hovering around 60 at night.

But I am.

of this. I don't want to wear shorts and tees and sweat whenever I go outside -- and sweat like a pig whenever I dry my hair, for pete's sake! -- I don't want more dust and baking heat and crispy grass that disintegrates under your feet. Yeah, we use the swamp cooler daily, and AC when it is too humid to use the swamp cooler, or when the forecast is for much hotter temps, like 106 and up. But still...

I want the crisp days of fall with temps barely reaching 70, maybe a touch higher, but where longer pants and a sweater feel good if it's breezy. I want crunchy fresh apples to bite into, and cold apple cider, unfiltered, and gingerbread. And stew and chili. I'm tired of salads and hot weather food, trying to think of things to fix that won't heat up the kitchen.

I want the wheel to turn just a bit into fall, into harvest. The moon last night was stunning in the sky, lighting up everything. It's a harvest moon, a fall moon. Not a late summer moon!

I want cool, cloudy days with rain every few days -- enough slow, fat drops to really sink into the scorched earth and feed the roots of the oaks -- which have been losing leaves since early this summer and dropped their acorns fully a month early, which means the deer are very hungry right now. I want things washed and fresh instead of dusty and worn out.

No, I'm not ready for wood stove. That can wait at least another month. I just want to have windows open and cool breezes blowing through the house, and to wear capri pants and longer sleeved shirts, and maybe some socks during the day instead of putting on things that touch only at the shoulders because it's too hot to wear anything else.

I don't want to sweat while I'm trying to put on foundation and have it slide right off my face.

Yuk. Double yuk

I knew it would get hot when we decided to move here, and mostly I tolderate it well. But, as my honey has patiently pointed out, I get like this EVERY fall. Well, this one is no exception.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled blog. Thanks for indulging me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Snippets here and there

Those of you who are observant will note the addition of my photo at the top of this blog. My honey was actually the catalyst for this: his photo now adorns his blog, and I figured if he was gonna put it out there, then I could too.

It's not like I'm not already visible: the photo also appears in Enjoy magazine, a wonderful north state glossy magazine for which I've had the privilege of writing for more than a year, and a similar shot also has appeared with my some-time real estate column in the Redding Record Searchlight's Sunday Homes section, although the column hasn't been in there lately for various reasons.

But it's a decent photo of me, taken by Tony on our back porch, before the wonderful ivy geraniums got nibbled to nubbins by the deer, and before the scorching north winds of a couple of weeks ago blew down the other plant that was hanging from our porch roof.

"Why no -- there hasn't been ANY retouching," she said guilelessly.

So now you know the face behind the words.


September 11 came and went although not without ceremonies of remembrance. I wrote about our experiences on that horrible day a few years ago.

I don't believe we've ever recovered from it, although I think that our collective attitudes have reverted back to the largely self-centered ones that preceded it. I so clearly remember the connectedness that pervaded the country in the days and months after the tragedy. I wish there was some way to regain that without another disaster.


And I re-read last year's September posts: it was not a particularly fun month, and this hasn't been either. I always am interested to note the changes, however.
  • We are happily communicating with daughter #3, and in fact, have a 3-month-old grandson who is a charmer. She is in a better place, I think, although this year has been hard for her health-wise. She and her boyfriend are in the process of making some changes to their lives -- again -- and we hope it will be better for all concerned. She has matured tremendously over this past year, and it is indeed gratifying to see her emerge into a mostly sensible young mother -- she even described herself the other day as a "soccer mom" -- she also is "stepmom" to his three children, a huge undertaking all by itself. We're proud of her and grateful for the improvement in communication.
  • No change as far as communication with daughter #2, and we only hope that she is okay. One day, perhaps, we'll know more. Until then, she is in our prayers and has our love around her, even if she doesn't choose to acknowledge it.
  • The biggest change is that daughter #1 is living with us after a difficult year and some very scary events. She is trying to adapt to small town life after living all her adult life in a substantially-sized city; she is enduring medication changes and subsequent side effects that have mostly sapped her natural energy; and she is adjusting to living with mom again after being independent for years. We're in a one-day-at-a-time existence, all of us. I am so grateful to have her where I can touch her and talk to her, and to know that she is safe, fed, and that she has resources to help her. Mostly those ice weasels have gone quiet, but I'd sure like to help her find some friends around her age who share some of her interests. It's just a huge, hard life change for her, on top of all the other issues.
We've just completed a couple of major projects for our property -- a start on some landscaping with a beautifully engineered and finished retaining wall, and an enormous shop-garage that will shelter not only the vehicles but also provide lots of work room and storage. It's being wired at this writing, but with all the lights and outlets, I'm sure you'll be able to see it from space -- sort of like "Deck the Halls," the Danny Devito movie of a couple of years ago. I'm told it's a "guy" thing. Whatever.

I'm still working on getting back into the full writing swing though -- the cross-country trip and settling in took a lot of energy and time, and I'm just now beginning to come back up to something like normal. I'm trying to get enough sleep and take a little time for me, but so far what that's involved is eating a lot more candy than I have eaten in months. I'm going to Bunco this month, however, and that will give me a really great girlfriend fix. I'm also hoping the Cowgirls will get together again soon -- I miss that connection.

This is our surgery month, too -- both Tony and I get cataracts removed and new lenses implanted -- he on one eye, me on both. We're both looking forward to better eyesight and easy recovery from this very simple procedure. That's coming up...

Last year's note about 57 degrees and rain on Sept. 22 gives me hope: it's been over 100 for days, although nights are cooling to lower 60s-upper 50s, and we keep windows open then. But I'm so tired of dust and heat and sweat and crispy crunchy grass, and the garden is just pathetic -- fruit doesn't set well with very hot temps, so the tomatoes look worn out and ready for the compost heap on top, although there's green at the roots. We're nearly at mid-September though, and it won't last too much longer.

We all long for change, don't we, at this time of year: the bountiful harvest of our hard labors in our homes, our jobs, our gardens. We long for new opportunities and fresh starts, for cooler days and renewing rains, and for the feeling that the great wheel is indeed turning as it should. It doesn't feel like that yet -- it feels stuck in place, like a little pebble is preventing the wheel from moving much -- but yet I know that it soon will move on. Life is short enough -- I don't want to waste my days and wish them away -- and yet, I am ready for something to change for the better.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Missing my folks

I don't know why the memory came to me exactly, but I have had the strongest memories in the last couple of days of the house where I grew up in Springfield, Missouri.

And specifically, oddly, of my parents' bedroom, which was at the back of the first floor of the house, a two-story Tudor-style dwelling. Their room was an add-on, I think, before we bought it when I was in the fifth grade, and could have been used as a family room. Two other bedrooms were upstairs -- mine and my brother's.

Their room had a door to the back yard and a window opening to the kitchen, in addition to the door from the small hall between kitchen and living room that also had the door to the basement. My mother, a neatnik, always kept the room immaculately neat and tidy. There was a tall bookshelf in their room, which was fairly large, and built-in drawers and a countertop near their large closet. They had a bath off a dressing area.

But my memory is of my mother taking a nap, probably on a Sunday afternoon, which was the only time she really allowed herself that luxury unless she was sick, which she hardly ever was (at least until the last several years of her life).

I can see the drawn drapes, the partly closed shuttered window into the kitchen, the soft glow of an afternoon. I can see her on her side of the bed, curled on one side, with the bedspread pulled back and neatly covering her.

It makes me puddle to remember that, somehow. Maybe it was the sense that all was well.

Daddy would likely be dozing in his big swivel rocker with golf, or maybe football or basketball, flickering quietly on the television and the newspaper's crossword puzzle in his hand. The Sunday papers would be on the brown leather hassock that sat in front of the other two rockers in the room. There might be a hint of pot roast in the air, or of spicy apple pie, reminders of the good Sunday dinner we had enjoyed after church.

It was quiet, peaceful, and all was right with the world.

It makes me miss them so much, though -- or maybe it is simply nostalgia for a time when my world was predictable, safe, calm, and pretty much without stress. I knew I was loved, I was safe and taken care of. My responsibilities were pretty minor -- clean my room, help with housework and laundry, keep up my grades, tell the truth. The only other person who ever saw my parents nap like that on a Sunday afternoon is my brother -- and I don't know if he remembers it as I do.

I'd welcome a little more simplicity right now, a little more predictability, a little less stress, a lot less worry about those I love. It seems like such a different life, this one, and so very far removed from that time.

I nap -- on those rare occasions when I DO nap -- much the same way as did my mother, curled under the bedspread or maybe with an afghan covering my legs. It is one of the sweetest sleeps I know, napping like that on a quiet, lazy Sunday afternoon. It doesn't happen often enough. Maybe it should.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Making choices

I had a conversation today about right choices -- what IS the right choice? What makes a choice right? How do you know the choice you make is the right one for you?

Short answer: Don't know.

What I DO know is that life is full of choices, a whole bunch of them ones that will dramatically alter how your life goes from that point onward, and that you usually don't recognize them as such when you're at that crossroads.

Or at least I didn't for a lot of my own choices. As I've gotten older, I'm much more aware of those converging and diverging paths, and tend to dither a bit more about which one I pick.

But I sure didn't do that when I was younger.

College was a biggie, for instance: I went to Central Methodist College-now-University mostly because I'd attended a United Methodist camp thingy there as a high schooler. My parents liked it because I could get good financial aid. We all liked it because it was fairly small, yet still in Missouri where I grew up, so I could see my folks often enough to satisfy all of us.

In my sophomore year, I was bound and determined to go elsewhere for the last two years, believing then that I was not getting the kind of education I should be (never mind that my grades, while adequate, were hardly stellar, and reflected more my studying habits than my basic intelligence).

Indeed, my English major coursework was largely As -- and I say largely only because there were two classes in which I made a C and was okay with it, one of them at the ungodly (even then) hour of 7:40 a.m. and even the professor had trouble making it (snore). I didn't even read all the books --faked my way through the essay tests, and still came out with a C+/B-. (Learned the fine art of B-S in that class, I did....)

The other one was actually an interesting class but was taught by a Greek prof, gorgeous to look at and listen to, but who reserved his As for those who (a) read the complex five-act English plays on time every time, even when we would meet in the morning to finish one and in the afternoon to begin another (his wacky schedule, not the one according to the registrar), and (b) wrote papers according to some formula or style that I never figured out. The Rat actually gave me a D on a paper -- the one and only D I had EVER received on a paper! And bled all over it with his red pen to boot. While I never made another D from him, I never made an A either, and even my wonderful advisor admitted she was puzzled over his methods.

But anyway.

I vividly recall a conversation with my parents about wanting to go to my then-boyfriend's rather unusual school in North Carolina, and being told in no uncertain terms that it wasn't going to happen. They were okay with me applying to more traditional schools closer to home, which I did during my sophomore year, determined that this podunk town was absolutely no place for progressive, liberal me.

Well, I got talked into staying there by several friends whose opinions I valued, including one guy a couple of years older than me who was known for his cynical attitude even then. What they all said eventually made sense to me, and I decided to stay put. (And then got acceptance letters to two schools, including the Unversity of Kansas, which REALLY would have been a shock.)

And therein changed my destiny.

I met my first husband at CMU the first semester of my senior year, although I'd actually met him during one of the previous years when he came back as an alumnus of the campus radio station in which I worked, and did some guest speaker stuff for the staff. But we began dating that senior year and married the June after I graduated.

Was it the "right" choice for me? I don't know. What I do know is that because of that choice and subsequently others, I am where I am today, and I like who and where I am, thankyouverymuch.

We make choices. Choices have consequences, both good and not so good. You then choose how to handle the choices from those consequences: this job or that, stay or go, make it work or let it go.

Or you can drift along, remembering how good it used to be in the good old days (which it really probably wasn't, but our bodies generate hormones that help us forget the bad stuff and remember the good, or at least the not-bad). You can allow life to happen to you rather than taking control, even as much control as most of us may get, given jobs and spouses and income and locations.

Clearly there are choices we all face along that road that are a little more clearcut -- choices about things illegal, immoral, unethical, harmful to us or our loved ones. "Right" becomes a little more obvious then, although we still have choices to make about how we deal with such problems. I've made a few of those too. Change is always hard; this kind is harder.

And then some situations can sometimes offer either win-win or lose-lose dilemmas, and it's not easy to see what to do.

I remember one of those: I had been offered a new job in a different environment that was likely going to give me management experience and better career potential. The job I was in gave me a lot of autonomy -- I was a one-person department, but it was also grant-funded, and those positions are always politically vulnerable. The pay was the same, exactly.

I dithered for several days. I remember crying over it, making lists of pros and cons, talking with my husband, talking with my friends, even seeking advice from my current boss (a wonderful man and great boss for me). I was going to stay in the same field whichever I chose and would keep the same colleagues and friends, but would work for a different institution (this was during my public sector days).

I finally decided to take the new job. As with most choices, it proved to be a mixed bag. I did get management experience, but I also eventually worked for a boss who had the compassion of a cobra. I learned a lot, and I'm not sorry I chose it. But was it 'right'? Yeah. But it was because I MADE it right.

Eventually that experience helped me get a job in Birmingham for an industry-related company, and that company brought me to California. And in California I met my beloved Tony, and ended up where I am now.

We make our own destiny through the choices we make, and what we do with the choices we make. No single choice is exclusively "right" or "wrong" -- it is a choice. And it is up to us to make it work, or change it, or even to do nothing and let others make the choices for us. Not to decide is to decide.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I am working hard to accept that I am powerless over people, places, and things. As always, it is hard to do. I want to fix it.

Okay, okay. I'll admit I can be a bit of a control freak. I want things the way I want them -- which is to say I want the people I love to have a good life, to be free from undue suffering, to have the ability to bring themselves out of a funk and to cope with the big lumps life sometimes deals us.

And some things that have been problems for my loved ones seem to be smoothing out a bit, not that there still aren't issues. But one I thing I know is true: everything changes. Nothing stays the same.

I'm grateful for time and persistance, just slogging through the day sometimes, and doing the next right thing as it comes up, whatever it is. It's hard to do, but it usually pays off eventually, with some easing of the anxiety and fear and anger and grief. Not gone, but eased. That's where two of my loved ones are this day.

But when we're looking at major depression and the side effects of medicine, that's a whole 'nuther kettle of fish. How long do you give it a shot before you call the doctor? And how far do you push the person -- especially since I want to keep communication as open as possible?

I want it to be better. I want it NOW. (or in the near future...) I want progress.

A friend told me once that I was too analytical when it came to my own behavior and also that of others. I do analyze a lot -- maybe it's rationalization -- maybe it's the result of years of reading and self-analysis. I don't know how to turn it off, and am not sure I want to. It does help me to understand behavior and why people act as they do, mostly.

I do know that I need to try to let go the things that I can't change or fix. I guess that dealing with my own emotions is as involved as I need to be, and to once again try to accept that I can't fix other people's problems. (I bet I get obnoxious, too, when I offer "helpful" suggestions.....)


On another note, I'm reading Randy Paush's The Last Lecture. He's the professor who has left this legacy for his children and his students, and who was featured a couple of times on Oprah. He died July 25 of pancreatic cancer.

It's about living with a death sentence, and it has the truths in it that I deeply believe: life is what you make it, and you can only live it one day at a time. But you treasure each of those days: none of us knows what day will be our last one. Tell people if you care about them. Mend relationships with people you love. Be good to yourself. Give thanks for what you have. Play. Pray. Laugh. Hug someone.

We are so busy "doing" what we have to do so much of the time that we forget about our inner selves that need nurturing and encouragement to just "be." I think that's one of the things that bothers me so about depression -- you can't SEE the disability, and it is frustrating both to not care what you do with your day and to watch someone you love spend their precious time like that.


I am grateful for September. That means that cool weather and rain isn't so far off. I am really done with summer, not that I ever do it very well. I want more cool nights with covers tucked up under my chin, and rain....settling the dirt and dust, and washing things clean.

And I'm powerless over that too, darn it. Patience and time will change it. Meanwhile, I have a life to live, one day at a time.

I am grateful for friends and for birthdays -- we celebrated another birthday in our little neighborhood circle this weekend, full of good food, good talk and laughter, and blessings. It is good to mark the years like this -- with people you care about and who care about you. That is truly the blessing of aging, to find that and cherish it. I hope my actions reflect how much I care about these people, and how important they are to me.

And life goes on today...another day, one day at a time. I am grateful for whatever it brings me, for I am still here to experience it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Keeping the faith

The Universe continues to stir the pot with various nastinesses rising to the top, alas. I still have no clue what's going on; I know that we are not alone in feeling its effects.

We are working in our family's house to keep our power, to take it back from those who would reduce our effectiveness, our talents and gifts, our self-esteem, our control over our own destiny.
Part of it is learning to feel empowered even when roadblocks are put in your path. Part of it is learning to be patient with circumstances beyond your control, and to try to maintain a balanced mind, to focus on clarity and calm in the midst of troubling thoughts and feelings.

Take a breath. Another. A third.

Purposeful breathing helps to break the hold of troubled thoughts, of fear and anger, and refocus your attention. I've been doing a lot of that. Probably will be doing a lot more.

We are dealing with illnesses right now -- cancers of the mind and body that want to take control over what is not theirs, but into which they have moved anyway, not because of anything we did or didn't do. It simply is what it is.

Those of us who love them would gladly share the burden of the illness, but you can't take some things onto yourself. So we hold their hands, we walk beside, we offer strong, loving words and voluminous prayers and encouragement and steadfast optimism for a positive result.

And we hope it is enough. We can't know what they think and feel other than what they choose to share, but we can guess -- we guess at how we ourselves would feel if in the same place -- but it is not the same.

All that's left to do is love them as much as we can, and to ask for the prayers of other family and friends and prayer chains and readers and strangers that pass them and us as we walk on this new journey.

We pray for healing. We pray for patience. We pray for strength and courage and faith that all will be well.

One of my mother's favorite hymns was "It is Well with My Soul." The lyrics, in part, are:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I suppose that's the goal: to be able to be well in your soul, in your deepest self, with whatever is going on outside that. That's a hard goal.

So we breathe. Again. And a third time.

And focus on being all right there, in that moment, with these circumstances. We are keeping the faith that all will be well.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Claiming your power

Boyoboy, the universe is certainly busily stirring the pot these days, not just in our lives, but from what I've heard from friends and family, it's pretty much everywhere.

Not sure what astrological things are happening to exacerbate the disturbance -- Mercury, my favorite culprit, is direct for another month. I know there's been a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse, and the Perseid meteor shower has been going on the last couple of weeks, but there's gotta be something else.

Much of the turmoil is about power: who we are, what we are about, how we are sometimes challenged to remember that, especially when we are treated poorly or belittled or our contributions are not acknowledged to be of value.

Been there, done that. Numerous times in previous lives, and even some in this one.

Ethical people with a strong work ethic are not perpetrators here, but especially in the corporate world, there are all too many management types who have eyes only on the money and don't really care how they treat customers, employees, or vendors.

I believe you either have ethics or you don't. If you don't, it's not likely you're suddenly going to acquire them, unless you're Paul on the road to Damascus and God speaks to you.

That kind of management type probably wouldn't listen even if God did speak. Or would dismiss Him/Her. The kind of manager -- or person -- I'm referring to believes in just one thing: him/herself...Oh. Yeah... and money.

In my last corporate job, we had a big reorganization where some 25 or so were let go in one day. The few remaining marketing/creative types were kept because management thought we had the skill set to make a transition to a new organizational style. I'd made the cut.

My directive? My one and only directive was to "take marketing to the next level."

What was that "next level'? Nobody defined it. None of us in marketing knew what they wanted. Nobody in management could explain beyond that.

The result was that for the better part of a year, we all duplicated efforts rather than teaming up, we had different styles for different departments rather than creating an overall brand for the entire product line, resulting in confusion about what was used when and where. We tried to meet and discuss things, but it never worked because nobody would rock the "next level" boat.

In one meeting, I remember vividly, I let my frustration show at all of us going in such wildly different directions. And then I was accused by my manager of being difficult to work with and inflammatory (he had heard this third hand from someone who WASN'T EVEN IN THE MEETING.)

Oh, I tried to stick it out there until the end of the year. The goals I had to set as part of the review process were belittled, even though I took them from what management had said they wanted (the little bit that they did). I was plunked into a job that didn't remotely use my strengths with people who didn't respect me and who went behind my back to vendors with whom I was dealing. When I questioned --very strongly -- the ethics of using a package logo that was from a VERY POWERFUL SOFTWARE COMPANY on a product that had NOT been tested or certified as compliant with that software (and the process and consequences were clearly outlined on VERY POWERFUL SOFTWARE COMPANY'S Web site), I was ignored and my concerns were laughed at (even though I was the one who signed off on the package design and who would be the first one they came after).

I got sick. Really sick, physically, but I believe a great deal of it was because I was so mentally worn down and stressed out from trying to function ethically in an unethical place. Went on disability for the rest of the year. And they canned me about a month and a half into it, along with another 20 or so people in yet another reorg.

I was SO happy that I did not have to go back for anything more than to clean out my desk (which I'd mostly cleaned out before I got sick).

Being told you are worthless, that you can't do anything right, never being given a compliment about your work, never having your hard work acknowledged in any way -- never even being spoken to pleasantly, even to say "good morning" does a number on your emotions, on your own feelings of self-worth and value.

You begin to feel that "they" are out to get you, when in truth, they probably rarely notice you. You begin to question your own competence and even skills you know are rock solid.

That's abuse of a sort, folks. That's giving away your power to people who are NOT WORTH it, who don't value you.

Take it back.

There are some good links about power and abuse that I've found...and I'm not done with this topic.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Telling the story 2

We accelerated the plan to last week -- Aug. 4 -- when several other details came to light about Princess #1's living situation in Alabama. Scary stuff including abuse and denial of food, among other things. And it already was pretty scary anyway.

So I met her dad there a week ago, and as soon as the jerk left for work, we got busy. R had prepared for this -- determining what we could pack into her car and her dad's van, and had weeded through clothing, made lists, and done as much as she could without arousing suspicion -- which she's not sure she quite managed, but came pretty close.

We loaded stuff in, including her two kitties, with the help of a couple of friends who I knew when I lived there, and eventually headed north to Missouri, where her dad lives. The little pile of possessions that made it out of there is not large -- but you know, the only irreplaceable things are people (and kitties).

The next day we headed for California, driving through Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, on I-80. It took all week, and we probably averaged over 600 miles a day. We got here about 5 p.m. Friday, after hitting most of the rest areas in all five states -- um, six including Missouri. Or actually more, when you count Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois, which we went through to get to central Missouri.

We played at a casino one night in Nevada, shopped a Walmart in Nebraska, had our cell phones squeal and lose signal in Wyoming. We drove through rain, a little lightning, dust devils and wind, and amazingly found the last room available at a hotel in Rock Springs, Wyoming -- which is seeing most hotels full most nights because of a gas and oil boom that has workers staying in the lodging from there to Evanston, Wy. If you're headed that way, make reservations EARLY...

And the kitties were great, except for the last two days when one of them cried for most of the mornings -- we think the altitude might have hurt his ears.

Played the iPod -- he likes Enya, apparently, and finally curled up and went to sleep between us. The other, much mellower, kitty was fine and slept her days away curled in little places.

What an enormous change for R, especially.... and it has not been easy, but we're trying to stay in the moment and deal with one day at a time. Please continue your prayers for her especially as she deals with the stress of coming out of a terrible situation into safety, and leaving a place she's known as home since 1990.

I am so grateful for the seemingly unending strength and patience I've had this week -- I drove nearly all the way, and talked a blue streak. I know this is from the prayers and loving energy of my friends and family -- there is no other explanation. While I am reasonably patient and pretty strong, the deep wells of both qualities have been amazing to me --

So we begin a new chapter with an adult child living with us again. Princess #3 is thrilled and showed up at our door barely 10 minutes after we drove in, and the girls have really bonded again, which pleases us all. This is a good place, a calming place, and I pray for serenity, strength, and more patience for each of us to see this through.

Change is afoot -- I'm not sure what is going on in the universe, but it's hit more than just us. It remains to be seen what happens -- but last year, a little earlier than now, we asked the universe for help, for what we wanted, and we were gifted with what we asked for. We're doing the same now. This, or something better....

Blessings to you. Thank you.

Telling the story....

We have a plan

NOTE: this is what I wrote several weeks ago, but did not want to post lest the offender somehow see it. So here's what was going to happen....

And sometime in the next month, give or take, we will have two daughters living in the North State.

It's time to bring her close before she sinks even further. Her dad is good with it, we're greatly relieved, her sister is over the moon, and she can't wait. And I .... I have wanted her closer for a very long time, and she has wanted to be closer to me.

It'll work.

Now she just has to be a very good actor until we can get there.

Keep the prayers coming, my dears. I am filled with gratitude and relief, and am bone tired tonight.

Happiest moment of the day: when I asked and she said 'Oh yes, momma."

And then there was my "I need a girlfriend" moment, and dear Lucy was right there for me.
It was a good day. Not an easy day. But I am blessed with wonderful friends who have lots of good ideas and who offer help without being asked even. It just doesn't get better than that.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Patience. Again.

I can tell you up front that there won't be any new posts this coming week. I'm not going to have Internet access to do so, and while I know people use their cell phones or pdas to post, I use my cell phone only as a phone and I don't have a pda.

So tune in next weekend when I can tell you the rest of the story....

It's been another lesson in patience. And in living one day at a time. And in letting go. And using the Serenity Prayer over and over and over.

But I will ask for your prayers and your kind thoughts.

I am very grateful for the love and support of friends and colleagues -- I've been moved to tears more than once this week in gratitude. There are good people here. And elsewhere. Thank you.

Stay cool. Stay well. Hug your spouses and your children, and pet your dogs and kitties. Show your gratitude and your love, and be kind. Thanks for reading my musings...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One day at a time

Thanks to my honey, I was able to make that paragraph a normal font. ;>@

I'm living one day at a time, sometimes a few hours, trying to stay in the moment and keep working normally. It's taking effort that I haven't expended like this in a long time, trying to do what I need to do without getting wrapped up in the what-ifs and going out in the ozone, as we like to call it, picturing worst-case scenarios. Some of those are pretty awful and scary.

Details will come, but not for a while. Just keep positive energy flowing, please, for both me and my daughter.

Meanwhile, the garden is yielding good zucchini but poor tomatoes. Better green and other peppers than I've had before, but green beans aren't great. The grasses from the manue topping we gave it last spring are growing like what they are -- weeds -- and I pluck handfuls every time I'm there and toss it over the fence for the deer, but it comes right back. Because of the soaker hose winding through the garden, that won't stop until I disconnect the hose this fall. Otherwise I'll lose my marigolds and beans. Maybe I can reconfigure it better though.

I have sunflowers that finally caught on and are reaching high -- I do love seeing them when they're in bloom. We've gotten some good chard, but not nearly as prolific as previous years. I think that side of the garden needs more compost and manure this fall.

The days are milder -- only in the 90s this week, mostly -- and it's swamp cooler time since there is no smoke, thank god. We open windows at night, and by morning we've pulled up the covers and are chilly. It's great, and I'm very grateful, especially for blue skies and no smoke.

Abrupt change and worrisome stress are unwelcome intruders these days -- I am a little surprised at how much I love the relatively routine days, the same-old, same-old patterns we have fallen into over this year. I appreciate going outside just before bed and saying thank you to the starry skies, listening to the rustle of the kitties as they investigate night sounds, and the quiet footfalls of the deer as they go across the property. I can't see them, but I know they are there.

Sort of like faith, I guess. I can't see clearly in this darkness, but I know that I am loved and supported, and I trust that I will place my foot squarely on the right path for me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Frustration and fear

Frustration on many levels. Partly because I can't figure out why the post below insists on publishing in that large size. Partly because I'm concerned for my daughter and feel very powerless.

Which brings on the fear. And boy, it is there.

I am hesitant to say too much right now in this venue.

But I can ask for your prayers, your most fervent, loving prayers for her. And for me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Trying to let it go

The anger, fear, and conflicting emotions of that last post have come and gone in waves this week, but are still very much occupying my mind. I learn things every few days that make my stomach churn uneasily, and I have no real idea how this mess can be resolved without a full-scale rescue.

Pray for clarity of thought, I guess, and remember that I am powerless over people, places and things. Pray that she will be safe and somehow will find the strength and resources to get out of the situation before she is further harmed by it. Keep talking.

I've had some nice moments this week though in spite of the ice weasels, on their quieter days. We've enjoyed some time with friends, and I got to wander through the Farmer's Market ogling all the peaches, tomatoes, beans, squash, and flowers. Bought some lovely fresh raspberries which we ate on our steel-cut oats this morning, and just the taste made me think of my Duluth, Minn. grandparents and the raspberry bushes that we'd pick, braving bees and briars.

The smoke is back, though. We opened windows the other night to let cool, fresh air in and got to use the swamp cooler instead of AC for a day -- but the second night we woke to smoke in the air, even though it was cool. So AC went back on and has remained so. Yesterday the sun was dimly orange in a whitish-yellow-gray sky and the smoke never really went away. Today was some better. This is still fires from the west and north of us, although many of the others have been contained. Even the locals don't remember such a smoky summer.

I'm reading Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes and I can't say it's a fun read. The subject is school shootings and bullying, and it is so sad for all the characters. Her books aren't light reading anyway, but this one really is both riveting and repugnant.

I think I need a little laughter tonight. Maybe I'll see what's on TV...

This morning was my happiest moment of the day -- eating fresh, luscious raspberries on hot oatmeal with good honey drizzled over it -- or maybe it was just waking up with my honey snugged next to me and a large-and-in-charge gray cat draping himself over both of us to be petted.

Ask the universe for what you want. Be grateful every day, for at least one thing in your life. Be kind to someone you don't know--just because he or she is someone's child and may need a smile or a kind word.