Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'll keep my torch for now, thank you

In a chat today with a couple of business professionals, I was caught up short by the realization that I am old by some societal standards.

Old as in pretty-much-over-the-hill old. Career-practically-over old. Remembers-vividly-stuff- from-40-years-ago old.

I heard myself talking about an internship I had in the summer of 1968 with my hometown newspapers. I wasn't out of college yet, but that summer was pivotal for me, not only because of all the things I learned about writing and journalism, but because the events changed the world: Bobby Kennedy was assassinated the first week I was in the newsroom; the Democratic National Convention saw protests from the Chicago Seven which brought unrest over the Vietnam war to a different level.

And then I explained "type lice" -- and I realized at that moment that billions of people have no memory of life without computers that handle things like typesetting and pagination and photo "developing." (Not to mention instant access to data formerly available only through libraries and the ability to shop 24/7, communicate with anyone in the world 24/7, and so on...)

The things we remember, that way of life, are merely trivia bits of fairly ancient history to them.

Geeze. I sounded like my parents, ferpetesake!

And I also realized that there's a lot left for me to do, to be. I ain't dead yet. And I'm not ready to be passing any torches to the next generation, to take whatever position one is supposed to take in your dotage.

There are experiences and events that should not be forgotten nor relegated to a musty footnote in some academic tome. Life has changed drastically from what it was when I was young, just as it did for my mother and father, my grandparents, their parents. It has not gotten easier; it has become more complicated, more frustrating, and also tremendously exciting.

I don't live in the past; I honor the past, I remember people who influenced me along my path -- like the crusty, green-eye-shade-wearing editor I worked for back in that amazing summer who taught me how to write headlines, edit copy, and write tight, to check my facts twice, and to be fair and objective in my writing.

Maybe what I do and say will be remembered some 40 years hence -- maybe there's already a legacy through all the years I taught school or mentored employees or led groups. And I'm not done living. I refuse to sit down and shut up, to take a back seat, as long as I have functioning brain cells that allow me to learn and grow and contribute to this world, to the people with whom I come in contact.

Yeah, I have some good stories about the past. But I live in today. And I'm hanging onto that torch for now.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Snippets here and there

Little bits of this and that for a Monday morning....

We went to see Peter Pan last week in Redding, part of the Broadway series for which we've had tickets for some four years. It has been a wonderful investment and we've seen some fabulous shows -- the first one in this series, The Producers, was one of the very best. We're also both very fond of Cats which we've seen twice in this venue.

Peter Pan is a cute show -- I remember seeing it on television, as a child, with Mary Martin as Peter Pan. It was first telecast live in 1955 and re-staged live (by popular demand) in 1956, and then was broadcast infrequently with the last one in 1989. There have been other Peter Pans over the years, including Mia Farrow in an all-new version in 1976 that never caught on.

I admit to being a little disappointed in this production, although it's still a delightful evening. But I didn't think the choreography was up to the standards usually seen from a touring production, and it just didn't sparkle.

There are still four plays left in this year's series, and I'm looking forward to them, but especially Gypsy in March and Chicago in May. Wish they had something similar in Chico -- it makes for very long days for Tony when he goes to Chico in the morning and Redding at night.


Lately I've just craved sugary stuff -- not a good thing. I want cookies...candies...cake...anything sweet. Of course sugar is addictive! I know this. And I really do try to resist the urge, and seldom keep any of the above in the house. My dad had a very sweet tooth, also not a good thing since he was diabetic, and while he did really well most of the time, he did love ice cream at night, or cookies. I dunno if such cravings are genetic, but if so, I got it. I'm trying to eat sensibly and control portion size -- and mostly I do. But it's really hard sometimes. Maybe it has something to do with winter and comfort foods?


What a wild ride the weather has given us lately, from our wind storms early in January to the more than 2.5 inches of rain we had in 24 hours this week! I'm now recording rainfall amounts for the Tehama County Resource Conservation District, and it's been quite fun to see the amounts we're getting. We need the rain, even after some good ones, and I'm glad to see it. However, I'm also glad (and surprised) to see sunshine today, even if it's a little chilly (45 degrees at this moment).

I like winter. I like the gray days and rain. We get so much sun and hot weather that I feel like I need to soak up the cool and wet days. I like having the woodstove radiating heat throughout the house, and making soups and stews and the occasional loaf of bread (nothing better than hot bread with butter...unless it's hot cookies -- which are NOT conducive to healthy eating). I love clean sweats and fresh flannel sheets, and sleeping in cold rooms when I'm snugged under the comforter next to my honey's warm body. (and why, oh why, are men always like little furnaces? The only time women are is when they get hot flashes.)

I love watching the hills turn green from the rains -- something that after 10 years in California I've finally gotten used to, after a lifetime of brown, dead vegetation during Midwest winters. I like the stark sculptures of bare tree limbs against that green.

And the snow! We're not high enough to get it (although snow flurries have been forecast for this week at times and Redding has been snowed on several days this winter), but it's lower on the surrounding hills than we remember seeing since we've been up here. The mountains are gorgeous on these sunny days -- they sparkle with the white stuff! And the mountain mama Mt. Shasta rises high above everything on the landscape, covered with her pristine mantle.

Mind you, I don't want to live in it, but I like to see it.


My desk is still piled high with Christmas cards, papers, newspaper clips, and various reminder lists, and I'm slowly working through the piles. I did get the office pretty much sorted out and cleaned up, and these are the last bits. I admit that I did not send holiday letters -- several years ago I started sending them just after New Year's, but partly because the power outage threw everything off kilter, I didn't get them out, although it's written. I'm thinking that maybe I'll send out a few for Valentine's day -- just to the friends and relatives who wrote us nice notes and letters. I swear I don't know where the time goes. It's nearly February already.


I'm working this year (again) on being where I am: not anticipating the future nor worrying about things I can't change, not obsessing on irritating or worrisome behaviors of other people, but just trying hard to savor the moment of where I am, and being positive. Life is short as it is, and seems to go faster the older I get. I'm trying not to waste a moment getting wrapped around the axle by other people's actions and choices, and negative outlooks. If that makes me a big Pollyanna, then so be it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A noteworthy anniversary

It is worth noting that today is the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v Wade decision -- I'm not sure how far we've really come since then, but the numbers are declining.

Nearly that far back I was involved with the issue -- then an extremely volatile, emotionally-charged one, especially as I worked with a coalition of religious organizations who believed in and supported choice.

It is still a highly emotional, politically-charged issue, but this article points out that it has opened the door over these past 35 years to other healthcare and medical rights debates that are no less critical to our rights to make medical choices for ourselves.

I once knew committed, hardworking, moral people on both sides who tried hard to discuss as rationally as possible what might be done to reduce the number of abortions, and to help those women who felt they had no other options. The extremists on either side, however, tend to outshout and overshadow with their blanket condemnations those who truly, lovingly, want to make a difference in women's health and safety, and who work to make that happen.

This is not a new issue; it is not going away, ever.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Nattering nabob of negativity -- or just nincompoop?

William Safire first penned that phrase, "Nattering nabobs of negativity," for a speech given by Spiro Agnew. It referred to members of the press, especially the liberal, anti-war media of the time.

Technically it means chattering by persons of great wealth or prominence that is marked by features of hostility, withdrawal, or pessimism that hinder or oppose constructive treatment or development.

I encountered -- again -- one such example the other night during a meeting of arts advocates. It wasn't anyone present; rather it is someone in the community who has decided to attack and belittle rather than to partner and build. We'll refer to that person as 3N -- Nattering Nabab of Negativity.

doesn't really fit the "nabob" category -- more like a 'wannabe' nabob, who because of the individual's approach to problem-solving, will likely fail in endeavors to be either wealthy or prominent. (Perhaps we could refer to this individual as a 'nattering nincompoop of negativity.')

But it sure made my blood boil briefly -- probably a result that was desired by 3N, actually, as I believe s/he rather enjoys stirring the pot and watching others hop.

When people partner to achieve common goals, everyone benefits and programs are strengthened. Especially in a small town, negativism divides, rumors fly, and nothing -- NOTHING -- is accomplished that actually has long-term benefits.

There is no hugely divisive issue at stake here, no radical philosophical differences that would preclude rapprochement. Far as I can tell, 3N is relishing the mean-spirited roadblocks s/he is throwing up, enjoying the discomfiture of those who would rather try to partner for causes that benefit everyone.

There are actually a couple of 3Ns around these parts. And it's a pity. Their superior attitude and contempt for the arts in Tehama County ultimately will hurt themselves most by alienating people who might otherwise support them. I don't want to nurture elitist and negative attitudes with my money and attendance and patronage. Bet you don't either.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A look back, continued

More 2007 observations:

More of looking back at 2007:

6. What was your biggest surprise? The universe provides what we need, and this summer we found new opportunities there for the taking, resulting in closing our real estate office.

7. What was the meanest thing you did? I told an old, meddling, nasty man,"F**% You!" In a meeting where there were people present who I don't know very well, if at all. I didn't whisper it, either. It bothers me only that I'm sure some of those people have a very negative impression of me now, when that is not the way I am. Hardly ever. But I'm also not sorry.

8. What was something you worried about that you don't worry about now? I worried about being able to get health insurance when ours -- and that of 8000 other Realtors -- was cancelled willynilly by Blue Shield. With Tony's job, we now have better and less expensive coverage. But I don't know that I'll ever really stop worrying about it -- I believe that health insurance companies are not our friends, ever.

9. What made you proud? My husband. With this career transition, he is traveling 500 miles a week back and forth to Chico, working hard and mostly cheerfully for a good company. It was quite a change from our four and a half years working together in our home office, and he's handled it like the professional he is.

10. Finally, describe a moment you want to remember. Last summer we visited Tony's hometown in Tennessee where he hadn't visited since the mid-'70s. It was full of nostaglic moments: visiting the graves of his grandparents and mother, seeing the houses he lived in, and the pines he'd planted some 40 years ago that are now towering over one of the homesteads. But a highlight was watching him talk with his high school debate coach and seeing the emotion ripple over his face first as the coach remembered Tony -- a thin, tall boy with lots of hair -- and then as he heard about long-ago friends, one of them at rest in the cemetery. It was very sweet-bittersweet.

So what was memorable about your 2007? Anything worth keeping?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Round 2? And a look back at 2007

It appears that the wind has calmed somewhat now, but I think everyone was a little nervous about today's forecast of high winds -- not as high as Friday's, but with gusts up to 40mph -- and more rain. I know I filled a tub and several water jugs just in case, and started thinking about batteries and candles again. The forecast calls for clouds and sun, though, for the next week.

We need more rain, to be sure, but it'd be nice to space it out some, and let PG&E finish up restoring power from last week's big blow. Of course that's about as controllable as ... um ... a teenager's moods.

But I can wish, can't I.

Sharon Randall writes the kind of columns that I'd love to do, and often try to emulate in this space, although my words are mostly much more undisciplined and tangential.

In today's writing, she asks about 2007 -- what did you do?

Some of these I have to contemplate; others are easier. But here are my answers to the first few questions:

1. What was the hardest thing you had to do this year? Let go of our daughters -- more precisely, to accept that their choices are theirs to make, their lives to live the way they choose, and that those choices will not necessarily be ones that we like or are comfortable with. It's an ongoing process, as is figuring out our own boundaries -- which they may not always like either.

2. What was the most fun? Being with our group of friends and neighbors -- like the Soprano Nights that we did for the final episodes of HBO's hit series. We'd share a meal or dessert, then watch the episode. Any time we get together, it's a party. We are very blessed!

3. What were the milestones? 60th birthdays for both of us. Closing the real estate agency.

4. What was your biggest accomplishment? Coming back to freelance writing and not only enjoying it, but pleasing those who are hiring me!

5. What's something you wanted to do, but didn't? Write a book...still. Lose the extra 15 lbs, and maybe even 20. Get some exercise more regularly. Same ol' stuff.

To be continued....

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Electricity is my friend

Like thousands of other north state residents, we lost power in the second of three winter storms that swept through the state. There were hurricane force winds on Friday that closed Tony's office in Chico, city halls in nearly every city north of Sacramento (at least), and shut down I-5 for some time.

Power went off here at about 7 a.m. Friday and came back on about 12:45 p.m. today.

We were warm, thanks to the wood stove. I could cook, thanks to the gas stove. We had bottled water, and I'd filled tubs and a deep sink with water on Thursday evening, fully expecting that we'd lose power, so we could flush and at least wash our faces (we're in the country and our well pump works on electricity -- so no electricity, no water). We have a pair of oil lamps and lots of candles. Tony made coffee in the motor home using its generator, so we had good, hot coffee.

But this storm was longer and harder than anything we've experienced here so far. The wind had the kitties stalking nervously from living room to bedroom, from door to door, and they didn't settle in until it calmed down around noon or so. It rained more than an inch and a half on our land -- we've got a rain gauge. The sliding door in the office was vibrating from the wind, and the tarp covering the woodpile nearly blew off although it's well strapped down with bungee cords. The wrought iron swing outside the office door blew over.

We were lucky. We didn't lose trees, nothing blew off the house except the drain pipe for the swamp cooler -- but I heard of a house in town that lost the swamp cooler along with a signficiant portion of the roof. Trees blocked roadways and hit power lines and fell onto homes.

When we drove into town yesterday afternoon in quest of batteries, everything on the south end was dark including the venerable WalMart. Raleys had generators that allowed them to open for business. The True Value was dark but open, accepting cash or checks only, and staff greeted you at the door at Tractor Supply, asking what you needed. Shops downtown all had lights on and power, as did another shopping center towards the Interstate, but east of I-5 was completely shut down -- McDonalds, gas stations, businesses, and all -- except for one or two which clearly had generators.

We listened to the radio last night and heard about the hundreds of thousands who had lost power and the snows that were closing highways through the mountains. We listened to NPR's "This American Life" and felt a little like we were back in the '40s or '50s when families gathered around the radio to hear their favorite shows.

It was not a relaxing day, however. The winds were unsettling, and every thump startled us as we hoped it wasn't something damaging. In the back of our minds were the freezers full of our summer garden produce and the good Tehama county beef we'd bought last summer, now without power to keep them frozen. We worried about the various electronic devices that drive our business and leisure: were they damaged by the brownouts that occurred as the electricity went off? How long would the outage last?

We called PG&E, of course, to report the outage, and at regular intervals during the day and evening, speaking optimistically when an automated call informed us that power would be restored between 8 and 10 last night, and then a later update said betwen midnight and 2 a.m. Neither happened. Another call this morning got Tony on the line with a real person who basically said she had no idea when we'd get it, and we were beginning to think about taking frozen food into town to put it in a friend-with-power's freezer -- and maybe grabbing a shower there as well (we're used to showering daily, and were beginning to feel a little grungy around the edges).

And then it was on again. And nearly everything worked -- the internet is not quite what it was yet, but it's there. We're clean and our food is safe.

I'd have made a lousy pioneer.

I tried to read last night by oil and candlelight, and found it hard on my eyes, and tiring. I missed hot water and showers, and clean hair. I missed the easy access to the Internet and its vast library of information.

I'm very grateful for PG&E crews who worked long hard hours in the rain and wind and cold to restore power to 30-some thousand homes in Tehama County, not to mention the others throughout the area. Yeah, their communication was full of glitches and not terribly helpful, but they tried -- at least you could get through to the report line and even to a real person: they didn't simply shut everything off.

We learned something from this storm: we did not prepare enough. I think a portable generator may be in our future. Definitely battery-powered lanterns and some big collapsible water containers are on my list, as well as plenty of batteries in assorted sizes. I bought more lamp oil this afternoon. This was a once-in-10-years storm according to the forecasters and a couple of long-time residents. We've lost electricity before, but only for hours -- maybe 6-8 at most -- and not recently. I'm grateful we came through this as easily as we did.

We'll sleep better tonight.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Down time

Winter is raging outside today and will be, according to forecasts, for several more days. We need the rain.

But I have a fire in the stove, hot tea, and we still have power, so I'm watching movies and mindless stuff on our new DISH system, which was our Christmas present to each other this year. We feel like we went from zero to 100 mph with it, since we'd had only rabbit ears for the last nearly five years -- by choice, I might add. But we're thoroughly enjoying HD movies and shows, and the variety of programming that is available.

I'll get back to work soon, but for now, a little down time feels very good. It was a very busy December for work, a wonderful trip to Tennessee for Christmas, and then a New Year's Day gathering here that was great fun. And even fun things necessitate some work -- shopping, cooking, prepping, etc. -- so it is nice to sip tea and be still for a while without any 'gotta-dos' on the immediate horizon. I've realized I seldom allow myself a day off -- completely off --

I've been flirting with a cold though, one that Tony brought back home with him, and so I'm trying to ward it off through regular doses of Airborne (the generic equivalent, at least), and my favorite Wellness Formula that really does work. For some seven or so years we've taken it at the first glimmer of illness, and it's saved us from bad colds and flu many times.

With this latest cold, Tony had begun taking it before we flew, and upped the dose a bit when he got a scratchy throat. As a result, he never really felt bad nor did the cold go into his chest. It's just been drippy nose alternating with stuffy nose, and that's pretty much all. I'm popping it now in hopes of similar results, although I've said for years that I rarely get sick because I'm too mean to get sick -- the germs leave me alone.

I've given some thought to new year intentions -- not resolutions, for they almost invariably get unresolved -- and so far they're not much different from last year's. Mostly I want to be where I am -- to savor each day for whatever it brings me, to find joy and gratitude every single day. I still work on kindness both to myself and to others, and patience (ditto). More about listening than speaking. More acceptance of what is, less judgment. (I am not very tolerant of people who are judgmental, either, nor of those who think their opinion is the only one that matters. So I guess that makes ME judgmental, hm...)

Time for more Wellness formula. And Oprah.

May you have some downtime without being sick to get it!