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.