Monday, December 21, 2009

Foggy, foggy morning

Thick, pea-soupy fog blankets everything this morning and Tony just called to caution me to leave extra time on my way to an appointment this morning. He said it's just as foggy in town as out.

I'm grateful it's not inches of white stuff as they've had on the East Coast. I can deal with fog better.

The Daily Om has an interesting perspective on fog: stopping to listen carefully, moving forward with caution, paying attention to what is around you even if you cannot see it clearly. Eventually it lifts, revealing what it has hidden and making plain the shadows and obstacles.

One thing I know for sure: nothing lasts. Everything, even fog, will change and lift and become more clear. Everything changes.

We photographed the funeral of a young man this weekend who had served in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then in the Honor Guard on the East Coast. (His mother had asked for photographers to come, to document the ceremony.) He had begun a career after his honorable military discharge doing something he absolutely adored doing, and then, out of nowhere, came problems, big hairy ones, that dragged on and on, and eventually cost him his beloved jobs. Although the issues were finally resolved, there was a cloud that trailed him, and he killed himself.

So area veterans sent him to God with full military honors, a gun salute, and an extremely moving flag ceremony performed by two young men who had traveled to a tiny Tehama County cemetery to do this one last ritual for a fellow soldier who had done it for so many others.

There is no doubt that he was loved and cherished by his family and friends. But he didn't have the maturity, I think, to understand that everything changes, that nothing stays the same, that if he had made just another phone call, perhaps someone would have helped him to understand that, to see that even though his life was not the same, it could be good again in a direction a little differently than what he had planned.

I know it isn't that simple, of course. And I wasn't in his shoes, nor even an acquaintance. I know he left life too young. I know he left a mother who will forever have a hole in her heart, people who loved him dearly. I know he will never have a second chance.

Life throws us all curve balls now and then. But as long as we are breathing, we have a second chance. The path we thought we were on may swerve and go a different direction. It may be hard to see the way through the fog and the curves and the detritus that often accompany such change. But it WILL clear. It always, always does.

People around me, near and dear to me, are struggling with health issues and financial woes this year -- not because of mismanagement of money or neglect of health, but just because it was their turn, I guess. It's hard to feel so helpless, and also hard to feel very 'Christmas-y" in the midst of such life-changing moments. I guess part of that is how I've always felt about Christmas: a magical holiday where, for one brief period of time in a year, people get along, are happy, enjoy family and friends, and feel good about themselves and where they are, and grateful. I do feel grateful. I am immensely, hugely, tremendously, always grateful to be where I am and with Tony. That overrides everything else.

I wish the young man had been able to find just one thing to be grateful for in his life, just one reason not to do what he did. I wish he could have been able to find the inner assurance that his fog would indeed lift and that his path -- a new path -- would be revealed, one step at a time.

We live our lives day by day, not year by year. We do all we can today -- with all the tools we have right now -- to do what it is we think we must. But in so doing, we proceed knowing that as we journey we will see another part of the path, and that while it may go a direction we hadn't planned for, nor even want, we are only as alone as we choose to be. If we ask for help, someone may show us a part of the path we hadn't seen, or help us to walk out of the fog. Sometimes all we have to do is to extend a hand, reaching for someone, something, and we will connect.

I can't fix the health problems or money woes that my loved ones are having, but I am here to hold a hand, to cry with them, to just BE here so they are not alone in the fog. They do the same for me. And in the larger scheme of things, that is what matters most.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In a mood

Not in THE mood, in A mood.

No real reason, either -- nothing catastrophic has happened, far as I know people are safe and okay, reasonably, and I just got back from our Bunco Christmas party which was a fun night of way too many carbs, interesting gifts, and good women who are compassionate and caring.

But right now I feel like I could just sit here and cry until I'm stuffy-nosed, drained, and exhausted.

Maybe it's just the time of year when memories overtake common sense and flood in. I miss my parents. I got cards from two aunts today, and puddled up thinking about the Dahl sisters and how much fun they had over the years. Three of the four sisters are still here; my mother and her two brothers have all died since 2005. My dad has been gone 10 years.

Maybe it's remembering Christmases when I did a lot of singing and loved it -- I still remember some of the choral arrangements of favorite carols, plus other, more difficult Christmas music that was so fun to sing. Or when R was little and we always had a houseful over Christmas, did soup and sandwich suppers on Christmas Eve with my best friend and her family before we sang at the late church service where candles lighted the sanctuary and illuminated everybody's face into beauty.

Maybe it's sadness over how difficult life is on some days for R, especially, dealing with voices and visions that are unsettling, if not downright scary, and not knowing either cause or cure, or even if there will ever be a life again without them for her. The last two days especially have been hard for her, and I even went with her to the grocery store today because it was just too much for her to handle by herself. Sadness that another daughter simply chooses not to communicate with us for reasons we probably will never know. And while we have a relationship with our youngest child and our only grandchild, it is cautious on both fronts and likely will never be the flat-out love affair that I see some of my friends having with their grandchildren -- for lots of reasons, many of which have been outlined in this blog over the past several years.

Life is not quite a Norman Rockwell painting for us as a family, nor, I suspect, is it for most families. We all have our skeletons hidden in closets, attics, basements, and it seems the holidays are a time when those ghosts loom large. It's shoulda-coulda-wouldas piled on top of a pot full of present-day reality for most people, I think.

And yet we are most fortunate too: we have a wonderful home in a good community, we have many friends and acquaintances, we are as busy as we want to be, we have enough resources to take care of ourselves (at least, god willing, at this point). We have each other and find support and love and acceptance in that every single day -- a HUGE blessing and gift, especially if you've known a past relationship that hasn't been all that great. Far as we know, we are free from life-altering disease or conditions. We are limited more by our own motivation or lack thereof than by exterior issues.

Acknowledging that holidays and events and mood swings sometimes throw us for a loop is a good thing, I think. Dwelling on things I cannot change or over which I have little or no control is not a good thing. Accepting that it is okay to feel sad sometimes, to feel a little cheated in some respects is okay. Remembering and accepting that I am neither perfect nor do I have to appear to be perfect to anyone is especially a good thing.

Susan Elliott, whom I have quoted before in these posts, writes in "Getting Past Your Past,"
"Don’t distort the holidays. It’s approximately 35 days between Thanksgiving and New Years. And there is always a January 2nd. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Yes, you need to grieve what was and what will never be, but it’s not quite the giant bundle of greatness that many people are thinking it is. Don’t distort what was.

You can read the whole post here.

It's a good thing to read now. And re-read again. And remember that this, too, shall pass.

Life is short. It is too short to put up with people or things that bring you down. It is too short not to be grateful for it every moment, every day, to be glad for some wee part of your life that is good -- and everyone, EVERYONE, has something.

Monday, December 07, 2009

How did December get here so fast?

Here we are, a week into December and Christmas, and I'm not quite sure what happened to the fall. Oh. Wait. It was summer until practically November.

So the windmill nativity is up, the stockings are out, the little white ceramic lighted Christmas tree that I bought so many years ago in Fayette is sitting in its alcove on the buffet. No tree yet, but that'll come this next weekend.

And I've started shopping some -- both brick-and-mortar and online, and will do a bunch more tomorrow when a friend and I go to Chico for the afternoon.

We attended A Cascade Christmas in Redding the day after T-day, and it was a marvelous way to kickoff the season -- such talent and music and fast pacing and just FUN. We watched the Red Bluff Christmas parade with its lights and music and scads of kids on floats or marching in groups. I've listened to a bit of music.

Mostly I'm just grateful to see this one come. Last year was so hard, living in the midst of addiction and denial and drama, and I'm glad we've come through this last 18 months with no more scars than we've had. There is still drama, but not as much and not as intense.

I'm grateful for another Christmas, for another memory-filled holiday, and for friends and family to share it with. I'm grateful to be where I am.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and with my newly-fixed oven, I'm cooking turkey for the first T-day in several years. With the bread stuffing my mother taught me to make. Yum.

Not an elaborate menu -- green beans flash-sauteed in butter and garlic, orange-cranberry sauce, maybe some fruit salad, relishes, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls. R is making pumpkin, pecan and mincemeat pies.

Comfort food, to be sure. Easy day of preparation. Easy day, period. I plan to watch the parade, stuff the bird, read the paper and maybe get caught up on some magazines. Visit with R and her BF when they come over later in the day. Eat rationally and healthily. except for pie and whipped cream

Mostly I intend to be grateful for family, for friends near and far, for our wonderful house and land, for enough of everything. I'm grateful for health and birthdays and sight and hearing and taste and touch. I'm grateful for music and books to read. I'm grateful that I am living such a blessed, good life with a husband whom I adore and who adores me back.

Thank you, universe. Thank you, god and goddess. Thank you, higher power. Thank you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Managing time

With another birth year celebrated this past weekend, I have been a bit introspective about life in general, my life specifically, and what I want for this coming year.

It's not for lack of subjects that I haven't written since Oct. 30. And it's really not even for lack of time. I'm examining time management -- what I do with the time I have every day, the same 24 hours we all have.

Back in my late 30s and 40s, I managed time rather well, between managing a household, a school age child, a job and half hour commute each way, chorus rehearsals, church meetings and rehearsals, grocery shopping, and the usual household stuff.

You do what you gotta do, I suppose, and mostly I think I did pretty well. Yes, I probably immersed myself in lots and lots of 'doing' but that's what was required at the time.

I don't seem to be as efficient these days. I know I spent more time than I should on the computer, poking around, reading blogs, writing a bit, researching, playing a stupid game or two. I still have the grocery shopping and assorted errands, and I help daughter #1 manage things that she has trouble with or is hesitant to do by herself.

My mother always seemed to have a clean house (of course we helped by cleaning our rooms without fail every Saturday, as well as other chores), things organized, cupboards and drawers that weren't jumbled, and still had time to play bridge, walk, and for many years, she was a teacher and still did all that. She and Daddy square-danced for years, attended church every Sunday where she worked in the library and he sang in the choir, had an active social life with a couple of groups.

So why are my cupboards and drawers jumbled, many with stray crumbs in the corners? Why is my office desk covered with papers and piles of source material for stories? There are two or three baskets full of magazines -- Cooking Light, Bon Appetit, Sunset -- that I am sure I'll go through one of these days. I have a box with old Christmas cards stashed under the desk, and my laundry basket always, ALWAYS has a dozen socks whose mates have gone on vacation -- but you can be assured that if I throw them away, I'll find the mate the next day.

My house is not dirty. I dust, vacuum, keep counters clean, and -- okay, I'll confess that sometimes I do leave dirty pots or dishes from a late evening dessert snack soaking in the sink overnight -- but I do try to keep the kitchen reasonably tidy. My bed is made every day, but there is always a stack of magazines on the floor and books on the table next to my side. We always have newspapers and magazines on the ottoman in the living room, although I try to put them in the recycling bin every night or at least straighten the stack.

Somehow I'd assumed that by the time I got to be this age that I'd be an excellent housekeeper and that it would all be effortless.

But it isn't. And I'm not.

The office is right now a catch-all for stuff I intend to sell on eBay, the aforementioned source materials and notebooks filled with interview notes, mail that needs shredding or answering, scraps of paper that have phone numbers or Web sites on them. I have a beautiful new workbench waiting to be assembled, but first I have to clean everything else up and rearrange my desk and computer station, and hopefully eliminate at least one or two pieces that are currently holding printers or files. I LIVE in the office most days. It's where the treadmill is, the computers, the photo equipment, the eBay goodies. But it's a mess.

It should have been cleaned by now, my inner critic says. I should manage myself better and not spend so much time reading stuff online or playing that stupid Facebook Bejeweled Blitz. I'm an ADULT, ferpetesake, an old one at that! I ought to know better. Priorities!

Sixty used to feel pretty old to me when I was in my 30s and 40s. Oh, I knew plenty of 60-somethings who were very active and had a really good time with life, and they seemed to have life pretty well figured out. Yeah, issues sometimes threw curveballs at them, but overall, life was good.

And I guess that's where I am. Overall, life is good. Yes, I need to work on time managment and getting the office cleaned up and crumbs out of my silverware drawers. But what I also know is that life is short. Spending time writing notes to a friend who is sick is more important. Reading something that inspires me and makes me smile is important. Walking on that treadmill and watching a tv show on while I do it is important. Being there for my daughter is important, and being there for my husband is important. Taking care of me is really important, even if papers clutter the desk.

Meanwhile, I'd sure love to ask my mother how she did it, why she managed her time the way she did, and what she'd change if she could. I wonder if she felt like she had it all together when she was my age. I wonder what age she felt inside when she was in her 60s. I wonder if she liked her life the way it was.

Friday, October 30, 2009

And four years ago....

My mother died late in the evening. I arrived mid-afternoon; Jimmy and Liz didn't get there until about 10:30 or so, and she died about an hour later, with us holding her hands and talking quietly to her, remembering childhood things, her favorite places, fun memories. It was very peaceful, very gentle: one wavering breath more and then nothing. Just silence.

We'd known it was coming, but it was still hard to lose her. Her body just plain wore out. She knew we were there, though, and I'd talked with her a bit every night that last week.

It's hard to think that she's been gone that long: that's going from a freshman to a senior in high school or college, going from a twinkle in someone's eye to a pre-schooler.

Time goes on despite our losses, despite the holes in our lives that death leaves.

"The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost." ~Arthur Schopenhauer

Since my mother died, two of her six siblings also have joined her and my father, who died 10 years ago this December, but who I miss still every day, especially when I see an older man with fine, white hair blowing a bit in the wind, or one who walks with a bit of a hitch in his git-along.

They both are with me not only because of the genetic heritage, but in Daddy's fishing tackle box that I have recently raided for bits to become part of a collage necklace I'm making, in the handwritten recipes from Mother that she gave me when I got married so many years ago, in the pictures that smile at me every morning from the dining room buffet chest. They're with me when I sing little songs to our grandson -- my father had a song for every occasion, for every turn of a phrase. They're with me when I read a book or see a movie or television program that I know they would have enjoyed.

It's gone beyond raw, hurting grief into a soft place, a gentle, warm place that even now makes me feel loved by them every day. Doesn't mean I don't puddle up sometimes, unaccountably, unpredictably, when something zings a memory. But time and life have moved on, moved ahead, as it should.

"Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color."
~W.S. Merwin, "Separation"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Five years

I've been writing this blog for five years as of Oct. 11. Not counting this one, I have 334 posts, only around 66 or so a year, which is not impressive, although it averages out to a little more than one a week.

I've ranted and raved. I've whined. I've reminisced. I've preached. I've told stories. I've enjoyed myself immensely.

Someone asked me recently what I most like to write, and without even giving it a thought, I said, "My blog. It is all for me -- whatever I want to say, whatever I want to write, however many words I choose. It's my therapy, my safety valve, my journal."

As I was skimming back over the most recent posts, I did cringe a bit at some of the sentence structure -- sometimes I will go back and edit, but mostly I don't. Whatever comes out of my brain through my fingers is what you get. If I ever organize these posts into some sort of book, I'll edit then. Otherwise, you're stuck with my brain dumps.

I love interviewing people, learning about their stories and how they got to where they are. But writing the subsequent story is hard work, and I sweat out every paragraph, sometimes every word. I let their stories perk in my head for -- oh, let's just say that I usually wait until the deadline is looming large. And then I MUST write it, must tell the story to make that deadline.

Yes, it would be better to just write it immediately and not sweat the deadline along with how to best tell the story. But I bet nearly every writer does the same thing I do -- waits until the eleventh hour. I have tried to do it differently. Doesn't work.

I can dash off a news release about an event with no trouble at all -- years of experience in writing them. But a feature -- you can take so many different angles with most stories, and I want to be very careful to be true to the subject's words and intent. So I agonize.

But this blog -- I never lack for subjects. I never lack for a lede. It simply comes pouring out, sometimes faster than I can type. The only thing I must be careful about is saving my work, pausing occasionally to select and copy, even with the auto-save, because I've found the hard way that one little slip of a finger will delete AND save the document, and my profound words are...gone.

Not that I have any illusions about their profundity (is that a word?) This is my story. I get to write what I want. You get to choose whether or not you want to read it.

I love that you do, those faithful few of you. I love it when something I say strikes a chord in your story, and you tell me about it. For those few moments, my words have connected us, even if I don't know you.

There are a lot of words in the archives, and many of the posts have not been tagged (an ongoing project). Thank you for reading them for the past five years. Let's see where this next one takes us.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Live today: tomorrow is not promised

One of my oldest and dearest friends has cancer. While I have every reason to believe she will get better -- and she believes it too -- it is scary.

She actually had it last year too in a cancerous colon polyp, but didn't have to endure chemo or radiation. It was an amazingly easy and swift recovery, and none of us really worried much because it was so contained.

But she has stage IIIa uterine cancer that spread to an ovary, although not any lymph nodes (blessings!), and we are waiting to hear about a teensy spot on her lung that was biopsied yesterday. Surgery is done and she'll do chemo, radiation, then more chemo, and tells me she expects to lose her hair.

She's more than 2,000 miles away from me, and I want to make it better. I want to give her hugs, to take her to the doctor, to fix food for her, to laugh at silly things with her, to visit the apple orchard we used to go to when I lived there, to enjoy the leaves that are turning.

Unlike me, who researches a subject until I know as much as I can possibly learn, she is okay with knowing enough about what to expect, but not too much. She is positive and while she says that she really doesn't want to play this game, she'll do whatever she's told to do in order to get it gone. And she will, too.

I'll go visit her when she needs me to come, whether that is sooner or later. She'll know. So will I.

Meanwhile, she has marvelous friends there who are taking care of her, and children who do too. She is well loved, and I tell her that's because she is such a good friend back to them. When we lived in the same town some 20 plus years ago, I went through a really rough patch and pretty much shut down emotionally, doing what I needed to do -- take care of my daughter, go to work, make sure things were running smoothly -- but I couldn't take anyone expressing sympathy or caring and would dissolve into puddles, so I just didn't listen to that, wouldn't hear it. I didn't go to choir, to church, or anywhere I might be with people who cared about me.

She wouldn't let me isolate. She literally banged on my front door until I opened it and let her in, and dissolved more than once into sobs on her shoulders. And she protected me from making a public display of my emotions too -- she stayed close by when we were with others who knew I was having a hard time, and kept things light.

She has gone through some of her own dark nights too, and I was there for her, although by then I lived that 2000 miles away, but I sent cards and letters, and she couldn't respond back for several years because it was too painful. And when we reconnected, when she finally wrote me all about it, it was like no time had passed.

It's like that when we see each other. We grow older, we grow wiser, we experience things (and tell each other about them), via e-mail and phone calls, but when we're together for our brief, every-few-years visits, it's like we saw each other only yesterday. I am so grateful for her long years of friendship and love.

She forwarded me an e-mail yesterday. I've done a bit of editing, but it says the same things I've so often said in these posts -- life is short. Life is uncertain. Tell people you love them NOW. Read on:

One day a woman's husband died, and on that clear, cold morning, in the warmth of their bedroom, the wife was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't “anymore.” No more hugs, no more special moments to celebrate together, no more phone calls just to chat, no more "just one minute." Sometimes what we care about the most gets all used up and goes away, never to return before we can say good-bye, say "I love you."

So while we have it, it's best we love it, care for it, fix it when it's broken and heal it when it's sick. This is true for marriage.....And old cars.... And children with bad report cards, and dogs with bad hips, and aging parents and grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it.

So I was thinking...I could die today, tomorrow or next week, and I wondered if I had any wounds needing to be healed, friendships that needed rekindling or three words needing to be said.

Let every one of your friends know you love them. Even if you think they don't love you back, you would be amazed at what those three little words and a smile can do.And just in case I'm gone tomorrow, I love you. Live today because tomorrow is not promised.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A trip back in time -- Homecoming in a small Missouri town

It's hard to believe that this week is the last one in October, and that our trip to little Fayette was nearly a month ago already.

As I'd mentioned before, we traveled back to this little central Missouri town, home of Central Methodist University, to attend my 40th year class reunion. Tony had never been there although he's met some of the folks from the college, and has read the Fayette newspapers for years, which my ex owns and edits.

So it was a long trip -- two hours by car to Sacramento, two hours by air to Denver and another two to St. Louis where we rented a car and drove another couple plus to Fayette. And then did it again two days later.

It was interesting to walk the campus and see how things have changed. For one, the old Eyrie (Eagle's Nest) student center that was once a WWII barracks has been demolished and an incredible four-story student center stands in its place, with the cafeteria, study rooms, pool tables, television, and much more. Another big change was in the athletic facility. Not only do they now have the EE Rich Memorial Swimming Pool (for some years now) that prospective students (including me) were promised for years before it was finally built, they officially opened a new athletic training center adjacent to the field house. It has state-of-the-art equipment and is a real boon for the campus.

The trees in Stedman Gulch -- a wide ravine in front of the science building which was almost new when I went there 40 years ago and had had little trees planted then -- have grown up, and the campus is the forest-y, shady, lovely traditional college campus that I remembered. Established in 1856 or so, there are many historic buildings, old traditional stone and turreted classroom buildings that have been renovated, and the improvements continue -- the old Classic Hall where I spent many hours in English, language and speech/drama classes but which has not been in use for some years is undergoing a capital campaign to renovate it into a music center.

The college has long been known for its music program and has turned out some of the finest band directors in Missouri. When you walk on campus in the afternoon, you usually can hear both instrumental and vocal students practicing, their voices and instrument tones floating on the Missouri breezes. Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia pledges still sing "Hail Sinfonia" as they pass under the old clock tower which dominates the main campus.

So I saw people I hadn't seen in 40 years, most of them gray and with faces full of character (nicer way of saying wrinkles). One woman asked why I'd come all the way from California to attend, and I told her it was important to honor what I was and had become on that campus, and the memory of the excellent teachers (not a lot, but a truly great handful) who taught me. It was such an historic time in our history -- 1965-69! And while our campus, numbering around 1,000 students in my last year there, was fairly isolated from the race riots, the demonstrations and the summer of love mentality (much of that hit in the next several years, after I had graduated), it was still an important factor in shaping who I am.

For one thing, it is a liberal arts college. That means, basically, that I know a little about a lot of things. I had a good grounding in the arts especially, and opportunities that a larger campus would not have given me, although I might have had some coursework that would have helped me more in a larger university. I was involved with the college radio station and learned news writing there -- a skill that I have used throughout my working life. I had the opportunity to know many people from many disciplines rather than only those in my major field.

I also got to see some folks who graduated after I did, but who I knew because my husband and I had moved back there just a year after I graduated (he is five years older than me, also an alumnus) and he began working for the college in public relations. I also worked there eventually and started the seeds for a career development center which now has a featured place in the new student center and lots of programs to help kids decide how to choose a career and how to figure out what they might be happiest doing. But I knew a lot of students in later classes because of that, and also a lot of faculty and staff members, a few of whom I also got to see again this trip.

It stirred up emotions I hadn't been prepared for. I remembered my 17-year-old self as a freshman, the 21-year-old graduate. I remembered some heartbreaking moments as well as some warm fuzzy ones. I missed some of the women, especially, who I knew so well -- at that point, we all lived in the dorm for all four years, although only a few years later, women were allowed to move off campus. I remembered sitting in the library -- a wonderful stone building that has a big four-story addition now in back of it -- when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. I remembered watching streakers at some of the pep rallies!

At a couple of different receptions and parties, I got to watch professors I knew or had in class talk about the old times, listen to them discuss current books or plays, hear some sad stories about others who have died. I hugged a close friend from 40 years ago and exchanged e-mail addresses with her, although neither of us have written at this point. I listened to the huge pipe organ in the church fill the traditional gothic sanctuary with power and awe as an alumnus practiced for Sunday's church service (which I didn't attend as we were on our way back to the airport -- not that I probably would have anyway).

We enjoyed a hint of fall color as we drove around town, which reminded Tony of the little Tennessee town he grew up in. The traditional courthouse sits in a traditional square, which sadly has many empty storefronts now, but also has a really good restaurant -- Emmet's Kitchen -- along with the Dollar Store and various antique and craft stores, and the old Peacock Beauty Salon where I used to get my hair cut. Sadly, almost none of the long-time stores have survived: the town, like so many, is losing population to larger areas like nearby Columbia or Boonville.

I'll likely not go back until my 50th. The 50th reunion class of 1959 showed up en masse this year, but they were a close-knit group from the beginning. Ours is not that way, but it was still good to see people with whom I shared such a formative time, to honor that time and who we were then, to remember.

The best times of my life were not then. The best time is now. But I'm glad to have had those years there, to be influenced and challenged and encouraged by so many good people and teachers and counselors and peers. It was good to be there.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm still around

Thank you for checking for new blog posts... I have not deserted this site! I did write a LONG post about our trip to Fayette, Mo., for my 40th college reunion, and then hit a wrong key and deleted it before it was posted. So I'm still re-creating that post.

Our weather has turned at last and we got nearly two inches of rain on a blustery Monday, although it wasn't cold -- highs in the 60s. Works for me.

But I'm on a deadline for three stories this week and should not be spending time here until they're done and off.

Just wanted you to know...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Seeing the future

I watched the Miss Tehama County competition last night at the Tehama District Fair. Six young -- young -- women answered questions and demonstrated talent and poise on an outdoor stage right on the fair's midway, supported by friends and family and a host of onlookers.

And I puddled right up as they came out, one by one, escorted by their fathers or family friends.

They are so beautiful, each of them, in their youth, their optimism, their courage, their hopefulness. They are the up-and-comers, the next generation, the ones who, in another couple of decades, will be the lawmakers, the parents, the CEOs, the cornerstones of the business world.

Maybe that makes me officially "old." But I can see this passage of time so clearly, almost physically feel it move from my generation to theirs.

I remember feeling that way when I was young, like there wasn't anything I couldn't do if I wanted to do it. I remember a time when my hair wasn't grey, my face was unlined, nothing hurt, my muscles were stretchable and lithe and strong, when life was full of possibilities, and I could pick from everything.

I don't think I really understood my potential then. And I'm not sure I ever reached it, the highest I might achieve, looking back at my life now.

Maybe that is the source of the tears: both the beauty of youth and the yet untapped potential each holds within herself, and the understanding now that we have all these choices available to us in our youth and that we ourselves are responsible for determining our own destiny as we choose, as we act over the years.

It's not that I don't still have choices and options and potential: I know I do until I take my last breath. But I had no real idea how much power I did have back then; I'm not sure any of us do until much later in life when we have made the choices that have determined our futures.

Perhaps it is always that way: the older generation realizes what a gift the younger generation has in front of them, but young seldom listens with to old with any real comprehension of what we're trying to say. And the curse of the older generation is that we have this knowledge within us, but it is rarely recognized for the insight that it is.

I'm sure I'll continue to puddle up at weddings and graduations as I grow older. And I hope I will gain wisdom and more insight along with the years. And what I truly hope is that somehow I will be able to communicate that through my words so that someone, some time, will understand what a gift youth is, what an incredible opportunity we have in time, what thoughtful care we should take in making our choices and decisions. And how we always have second chances, even when we find them hard to see.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Responsible pet ownership: a sad kitty and a starved horse

Weather is still unseasonably hot with little relief expected from temperatures in the triple digits until next week. Everyone is sick of it, and I'm sure you're tired of me talking about it. Tough.


I was in Petco the other day to get the indoor boys some kitty food -- they seem to be doing very well (meaning no barfing) on one brand for indoor cats especially. Of course there were the animal cages holding kitties who are adoptable, most of them young, cute, playful. Mostly they sleep -- I don't know if that is simply because they are cats (who sleep some 20 hours a day anyway) or because they're bored or drugged.

But in a bottom cage there was a large Siamese (picture may not be the same cat, but was similar), all tucked in like a sizeable loaf of bread, just sitting there. The sign said he was about nine months old -- around there. You could tell he was stressed. He didn't react to me at all. And I thought who is going to adopt this big boy? How did he even get here -- he is a beautiful cat with beautiful markings? Where did he live before? And will someone take him home before he gets killed?

I puddled up right there in the store and hastily went to the cat food aisle, where I picked out the cat food and wiped my eyes.

So then I was eating lunch and reading our local paper, and here is a story about a horribly starved horse (caution: this link is only good for about seven days but by that time the Safe Haven Horse Rescue hopefully will have info on its site). I'm thinking about how someone can allow an animal to starve to death right before their eyes? To let it wander on its own and try to keep from starving by eating pine needles and dirt, as did another horse saved by Safe Haven?

I know part of it is the economy. Many cannot afford their pets. Craigslist is full of listings from people who must move and cannot take pets with them (although the ones who try to "rehome" said pets with fees of $50 and up seem to be doing that more for the money than for concern about the animal's welfare). But there are always people who collect pets because they're cute and then don't take care of them.

And part of the big problem is, of course, that people do not spay and neuter their animals. Yes, it costs money, although there are organizations nation-wide who offer help. Our local PAWS group gives certificates to help with the costs, available on a first-call, first-given basis every month.

We are so attached to our kitties, especially the inside boys, that it makes us both puddle up a little when we see unwanted animals who are abused and tossed aside. I regularly look at the pets section of our Craigslist -- not that I'm in the market for more cats right now -- and there are so many kittens and puppies available. Lots of pit bulls and older animals too --

Puppies and kittens are cute, no denying that. But they grow up quickly into mature animals, and some of the cuteness wears off (although our indoor boys, at the ripe age of five years, still exhibit the occasional "awwwwww" moments). They are dependent upon us for shelter, food, water, and care. If you can't afford to take care of yourself, you can't afford to take care of a pet. I realize I'm preaching to the choir here, but here is a checklist of pet owner responsibilities.

I don't know that I'll stop by the kitty adoption area the next time I'm in Petco. I can't take them all home and love them. We have seven cats right now, all cared for, fed, vaccinated, and sheltered. I figure any others we're meant to have will find us eventually, pretty much the way all of ours did. But that sad Siamese will haunt me for a long time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

And the days keep rolling on...

It's been hot again here in Lake Woebegone -- er, Red Bluff.... gusting to 106 yesterday. It is supposed to plunge tonight to a high of only 82 tomorrow, and a possibility of showers for Monday. We'll see.

This is the time of year when everyone is sick to death of brown crunchy landscapes and hot temperatures. The trees have turned that desperate blue-green color of late summer, those that haven't already dropped their leaves and turned up their twigs in despair -- I worry about the pair at the front of the house because they look dead-dead-dead right now. Acorns are dropping, a good thing, since the deer don't have much left to eat and are looking mighty slender.

A family group visits around suppertime every day and includes a pair of twin fawns who largely have lost their spots now. When I come out to water the herbs and plants on the back patio, they prick up their ears and step closer in hopes that I'll toss out some peelings or past-their-prime veggies, not that I have a lot of those this year. I always worry about them too at this time of year, wondering if they'll make it until the rains come and grass starts growing again.

The vacation glow has worn off, although it stayed mostly through the first week back. Tony said while he was processing all the photos we shot that it made him want to go back to Bandon! Wish we were a little closer to the coast and the beautiful ocean. Even in the fog and rain, it is a wondrous sight, a reassuring constancy that no matter what else happens, it will be there, rolling in, rolling out.

You can see the coast pictures here -- taken by both of us.

Did I mention that the vacation rental we stayed in had 57 steps from the parking area to the door? Did I mention how our legs quivered after we climbed up them every day (and had to stop at least twice along the way?)

We were out and about every day, and made an excursion to Shore Acres State Park near Coos Bay. Gorgeous gardens with the ocean right there. Tony has a new lens and had a ball shooting pix; I used my trusty 18-200mm and got some nice ones too.

My flowers at Shore Acres, Tony's flowers.

Next foray will involve a trip back to Fayette, MO, the home of Central Methodist University, for my -- gasp -- 40th college graduation reunion. It oughta be an experience seeing all those old people, hm.

I'm hoping for a taste of fall weather there, and also that by some miracle the weather will change in the few days we'll be gone and that we'll be into fall weather here by the time we get back. (delusional, I know...)

We got to see our cutie-pie grandson last weekend for a few hours, and just marvel at how quickly children change, how quickly time passes as we age. All the time in the world that we had when we were young has now shrunk to something far too finite for comfort in some ways, and it makes us talk seriously of retirement and of doing things we hope to do, like more travel and more play. Not yet, we think, but not too far off either.

We have always felt that the Universe presents us with choices and options at the appropriate times, and that doesn't feel right just yet. Nonetheless, we are keeping our eyes and ears and minds open and watching. I feel a bit at loose ends right now about the "right" things for me to do, and seem to be reacting by not doing much of anything substantial. Little bits of writing here and there, little spurts of cleaning and refurbishing and weeding out stuff. We shall see what comes of it.

Meanwhile, we are in transition yet again from late summer into early fall, anticipating the rains and change, whatever it brings. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time, doing all we can to be where we are....

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Taking time

We spent last week in Bandon, Ore., in a charming beach house with windows that looked like picture frames because of the beach and ocean views from every one of them. We had no agendas, nothing that had to get done or places we had to go. It was marvelous.

The weather was cool -- a few days we actually got slightly above 70 -- and mostly sunny: one morning of fog that lifted by afternoon; another morning with rain showers (loved it) that also lifted later in the day. We walked on the beach, picking up agates, taking pictures of waves and gulls and starfish. We visited a couple of lighthouses. I spent an afternoon poking around the stores in historic old town and came home with several tops that I adore, plus gifties for various people. We read, we watched mindless television and movies. We slept with the roar of the waves echoing through our place. It was wonderful.

The only complaint about the whole week was that the house is 57 steps below street level, and they are steep steps, the kind you want to hang onto the railing to go down. But going up -- wow. What a workout for the legs! Cardio workout for sure. I never made it up there without stopping at least twice. The beach was only about 15 or so steps down, not nearly as steep.

We needed the time away. It has been a hard year in so many ways: emotionally, physically, spiritually, probably mostly emotionally. And it did what we'd hoped it would -- gave us a welcome respite from day-to-day life and stresses.

I think the trick is to create more of those moments within day-to-day life -- to declare a phone-free day, or sit and read a book, or watch mindless television, or cook from the freezer case instead of from scratch. Because there was no cell service in the house, our phone contact was limited to either when we'd go out on an excursion, ending up usually at the grocery store to buy that evening's dinner, or to the cumbersome phone card which we had purchased in anticipation of no service. It was lovely, actually.

We had internet -- and had brought the laptop, mainly so Tony could upload pictures as we took them -- and did check e-mails, but did little corresponding. We did keep up with an unfolding drama that infested the local art community here via e-mail, but did not respond to it, having taken a vow some time ago to stay out of that particular crock of manure. Well, okay, we did correspond briefly with a few of our friends who got spattered, just to offer our support and concern....

It was good to have that much time together, though -- with Tony working and out of the house so long five days a week, we really treasure what little time we do have. When we first came here and were in real estate, we were together pretty much all the time -- actually, that was one of our primary goals when we moved here -- and we have missed that. We know the current situation will end eventually, but right now it works...

When it is so hot outside, which it is here pretty much at least four months of the year, you don't really want to go out and about much, so we tend to cocoon indoors in the summer where it is cool. But that is not necessarily healthy either -- it's good to get out and do something interesting, even just taking a drive, or going to the mountains where it is at least cooler. Heat tires one out, too, and there is never a lack of things that need doing around here, although in the summer most of them are indoors. In the winter, my favorite time actually, it can be too cold or rainy to do stuff outside, and then we cocoon inside with the wood stove and pots of soup!

I guess my lesson in our little vacation by the sea is that we need to find some mini-breaks at least a couple of times a month, and get away from the house and the to-do lists, and just be with each other. Life goes by so quickly, and the most important part of it is our relationship with each other, not all the things that need doing. It's that balance lesson again, hm.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Watching the hummers and the stars

We're being entertained at meals by the platoon of hummingbirds at our back porch feeder. Lately I've been filling the quart-sized container at a minimum of every other day, but this morning it was going down so rapidly (from filling it yesterday morning) that I've got a fresh batch ready.

I have another by the office sliding door, but it doesn't get quite as much traffic as the back one does.

We have more this year than ever, and more in the last few days than we've had all summer. I don't know if they're migrating, or if they've just put out the signal that fresh food is available at our house!

Makes me think of the symbols used by hobos during the 1920s and '30s! There must be some sort of language that these tiny birds use.

Cheswick and Macmurphy sit at the door watching them, poised in pounce mode, and do the chattering that is typical of cats who are stalking prey. Once in a while, another little bird -- the ubiquitous "little brown bird" -- will perch on the edge of the water dish I keep on the porch for the outside cats, and that really drives them wild.

Occasionally the outside cats will lounge under the hummingbird feeder just in case the gods decide to drop a bird into their paws, but mostly they know there is not a chance they're going to capture one. I think they lay there just to send the birds into a bit of a tizzy.

A pair of mama deer and their faws, including a set of twins, usually pass by daily just to see if there's anything I've tossed out for them, and to nibble acorns that are falling under the big oak.

Last night around 11-ish, we sat outside and watched the Perseid meteor showers, although we should have gone out earlier in the week -- we didn't see very many. But we've watched the stars from our land ever since we bought it in 2001, just enjoying the quiet, the bright stars, the Milky Way stretching across the sky, and seeing the old familiar pole constellations as they rotate around the north star.

Tony has never lived where he could see them like this, and it had been a long time since I had. I took astronomy when I was in college, and we made the weekly trek out to the observatory for night viewing in our little rural community, which is mostly where I learned about stars and constellations. I don't remember most of it and can identify only a handful, but I remember a lot of myths from reading about them as a child.

Hummers and stars -- some of the best things about living where we do!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Setting boundaries

Learning to set reasonable boundaries is one of the hardest lessons we have to learn, especially if you are a 'giver' -- someone who helps (or enables) loved ones and friends, often without regard for your own needs.

In fact, givers often give because it's easier to help another to solve the problems in his/her life rather than dealing with the issues in your own life. It's easy to slip into co-dependency -- not a healthy situation for either party.

When the other person has an illness, an addiction, or has a lot of life stuff going on, it is so tempting to make excuses for them and to bend over backwards to accommodate their behavior -- usually at your expense in time, money, and anguish.

We all do that. "He's been going through a rough time at work." "She is taking care of her mom plus her kids, and it's been hard for her lately." "He's trying to quit drinking (smoking, drugs, etc.)"

I'd heard such excuses made about an acquaintance with whom I've had limited but necessary contact because of work or volunteer responsibilities. The few exchanges we've had have been unpleasant, never face-t0-face, but rather through e-mail where the individual impugned my motives, my knowledge, my work ethic, my journalistic ability, and my character, and also insulted through a separate-but-related e-mail a person with whom I work and for whom I have great respect.

I had done nothing to 'deserve' the attack. I had simply asked for information, politely and professionally.

I didn't answer the e-mail, much as I wanted to defend and explain myself. I learned some years ago that if you get down in the mud with the pigs, you get dirty and the pig loves it.

But I decided then and there that I would have nothing more to do with the person. Ever. No matter what.

Others have talked to me over the last few years about similar exchanges they've experienced, always adding that the person is (take your choice) mentally ill, unstable, like that to everyone... I'm definitely not the only target here. The point is that people always, ALWAYS add an 'explanation' for the attacker's behavior -- as though that somehow excuses the person's abusive words.

And then I learned that a group I care very much about is planning an event that directly involves the individual and is one from which the person might well profit. The planners are good friends -- people for whom I have great respect and admiration and who have done much work to see the activity come to fruition.

I won't be participating or attending. They know why and respect my choice.

Susan J. Elliott, in her blog Getting Past Your Past, writes about taking care of yourself in these kinds of situations:

She begins:

"I have to say that lately I’ve been hearing A LOT about people taking WAY too much responsibility for not being “understanding” enough because their partner had some sort of “condition” (ADHD, depression, grief, mental illness, alcoholism, etc etc etc).

People who are suffering from any one thing have two responsibilities: 1) to get help for it and 2) to not abuse or use or mistreat anyone while they are suffering.

There are NO excuses for abusing or mistreating anyone. I don’t care who you are or what your affliction is. You have no right. Not for a day, an hour, or a second...." Read more here.

And there it is -- setting boundaries for yourself: Respecting who you are and what you bring to the table, and not allowing anyone to take that dignity away.

I have never played these kinds of games very well, either in my work or in my personal life. And as I get older, I am determined not to do them at all. So I step back or step out of situations that compromise my own values or dignity. I don't want to get sucked into drama because of another person's inability to cope with and resolve his/her own issues.

The Desiderata -- a philosophical poem that was popular in the 1960s and '70s, and which won a spoken word Grammy for radio announcer Les Crane -- hangs on my wall. Among other things, it instructs:
"...Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit..."

I've taken that to heart.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

What we do comes back

A friend sent me the e-mail about the teacher who has her students write something good about each student in the class -- you've probably received it.

If you haven't seen it, the story -- the TRUE story -- is here.

The takeaway is the message that the Universe seems to be sending me a lot lately: life is short and you never know when your time may be up, so tell people you love them now, today.

And I think the sub-message is that we need to spend our time doing things that we want to have in our lives, with people we want to be with and care about.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the nature of friendship. She was going through a stressful situation and had asked for support from a group of friends, and I offered to do whatever she needed -- be with her, speak in her support, whatever. And I did. (She did not ask for money, mind you, or shelter, or wasn't that kind of "support.")

She'd asked another 'friend' with whom she'd done many activities for some years, and the person refused, saying that was not the kind of friendship they had.

So I thought about the nature of friendship and the kind of friend that I try to be, and the people to whom I look for friendship and support.

I'd be very surprised if I asked any of my close friends to do something and they refused because "that was not the kind of friendship" we have.

And that person would not really be my friend any longer. The trust you bring into a relationship would have been shattered.

Of course we all have some friends to whom we are closer than others -- the "BBF"s, if we're lucky enough to have one or more. They are the ones who WOULD give you shelter or money or whatever you needed, as you would for them... the ones who will always be there for you, no matter what....the ones who will give you a swift kick in the butt if you need it, and then be there to give you a big hug when you wake up!

If I am your friend, I stay that way until we've both outgrown the friendship (and even then I tend to hang on to friendships probably too long) or something happens to break the trust we share, if that even happens.

That doesn't mean that everyone I meet is my best friend and that I would do anything for any of them: I have many acquaintances, many who are 'friends,' but not friends who know my secrets and share good times and bad. And I have those, too. They're the ones who I can cry with, who listen and don't judge, who offer advice sometimes, who won't let me isolate inside my deep dark holes, but come and find me and drag me out. I am grateful for that handful of people every single day, and I try to tell them often.

What we give comes back to us. Who we are shows in what kind of people we care about. What we do has a ripple effect: it may seem small and confined in the beginning, but it can reach places we never realized it might, for far longer than we could ever guess.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Living it -- all we have

I received word last night of my friend's death yesterday afternoon -- "swift and painless" is how it was described, a blessing in such illness. She's been on my mind so much, she and her family, and the hole she will leave in the world.

I also received news yesterday of another death, the handicapped son of friends, who simply died in his sleep. An accident long before I ever knew him left him in a wheelchair and with brain damage; yet he had ambitions and dreams, some of which he tried to fulfill. I know his passing will leave a huge hole in his mother's heart.

I always, ALWAYS say gratitude prayers morning and night for my wonderful husband, for the blessings of friendships, and because we have "enough" to sustain and nourish our minds, bodies, and spirits. But I also am so aware of our fragile natures, and how quickly things can change.

A recent post in "Getting Past Your Past," a blog about relationships that I read daily, reinforced that yet again.

The author, Susan J. Elliott, writes: "We must live life the best we can for as long as we can. Because you never know when it all stops.

Long story short: Your life is now. Live it."

It's a fine balance between responsibly planning for the future and living your life here and now. Tony and I were talking about that just last night, and I have no answers -- other than just doing what you see needs to be done until the Universe presents other options. The trick, then, is to be aware of what you are seeing.

I'm seizing the day -- taking advantage of unseasonably cool temps to replace the soaker hose in the garden and do some weeding, and maybe even some planting for fall (and I think the black junk that's sapped the life out of my pumpkin, watermelon and a cuke plant may be aphids....) I like digging in the dirt, feeling that earth energy, seeing life come out of earth and sun and water and seed. It rejuvenates my spirit.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Life is short. Plan accordingly.

I was reminded again last night that life is unpredictable and that it can be so fragile. Every single day is a gift for us to use.

I received a medical update on a friend who unexpectedly had a heart attack about three weeks ago, but other issues have been uncovered during the course of treatment, and she is not expected to recover. This is a woman who acknowledged to me a few months ago that her life had been all about miracles. I don't know that there is going to be one this time.

I still have a message on my voice mail from her.

We seldom know when something is going to change our lives forever, be it an illness, a death, an event. Oh, yeah, there are predictable things that will change lives, like marriage, divorce, pregnancy, but I'm talking about things largely uncontrollable that happen.

I am so grateful for what I have, for the people in my life who I love and who love me back. Once again I am trying to make the most of every day, to do what I can to move things in a good direction and to expand my horizons, to provide for 'the order' of our household. I try to actively practice gratitude and right living.

That's really all I can do. All anyone can do. Just be aware.


It's just been too hot to even think, much less write. July temps shot up to 116 on our front porch recently, and we had a streak of 100-degree-plus days where I felt like a mole with blinds drawn and the air conditioner running full tilt. Because the humidity was more than 20 percent and the temps were over 105-106, the swamp cooler just wasn't adequate to cool things down in here -- that happens most every July and into August.

But we've got a rare cool snap right now and my windows are open. It's not even supposed to make 80 tomorrow, with a good possibility of storms -- which, of course, bring with them the fear of lightning-started fires.

It is a welcome respite and a reminder that summer is on the way out. It'll be October, likely, before things cool and rain comes back, but come it will, and there are reports of an El Nino year, which would increase the likelihood of adequate rainfall this winter. I don't want floods, but rain would be great.

My poor little garden doesn't much like the heat, and has really struggled between deer-munching, water service employees not turning the water back on, and a broken soaker hose, and also some sort of black bug or disease that leaves a black, sticky residue and kills the plants. My cost per tomato may be pretty high this year! But I'm already planning to cover the garden in manure and newspaper over the winter, which should give the soil a boost for next year. The rhubarb is looking great -- but the rest of it seems stressed.

I've gotten things cleared out inside, mostly, and have been walking at least a mile most days on our new treadmill -- yes, once we realized that 6 a.m. was going to be pretty dark in the winter and during our heat wave was still pretty warm for exercise, we broke down and bought a treadmill. Actually it works well -- Tony gets on it before he goes to work, and I walk sometime during the day. I've watched a dvd and also listened to some podcasts, so it goes quickly. And it's helping. My hips, back and knees don't hurt anymore and I don't feel so creaky. It also is helping my poor balance. (and how I hate to admit that exercise DOES help...)

Now to just keep it up.


I don't feel very profound these days. I'm just focused on each day, doing something for the good of the order, tending the things I need to do, meeting the few deadlines that I still have, cooking good-for-us food, doing something to sort out the clutter most days. The girls still have their individual issues, but largely I'm uninvolved, since I know I can't really do anything to either move them ahead or solve them permanently. I've cut way back on asking questions (pat on my back!), partly because it does me no good to worry about things I can't do anything about. I'm trying to be open to new possibilities, but mostly I'm just taking care of old business. That's okay for now, I think.

I still read every day, but nothing that just grabs me by the throat -- newspapers, magazines mostly. I want a couple of books that capture me with their plots and make me want to read all day long, and I can't even find anything on Amazon that seems to meet that criteria right now.

We're watching movies and tv series most nights -- but the series are on HBO and Showtime, mostly. Mindless stuff, tv, for the most part, especially the stuff we're watching. That too is not necessarily bad.

I don't like summer very much -- never have. It's hot, it's sticky, it's something to get through until the weather turns cool again and we can be outside without feeling so uncomfortable, and the nights call for blankets to snuggle into. No, I don't want snow either....


A year ago this week R and I were driving from Alabama to California. She said yesterday that it didn't seem that long ago, but when I think about this year, it has been a long, hard haul for both of us, and some of the issues are still very present. I hope this second year will be better.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ask for what you want

The Daily Om seems to be on a roll this week. Today's tidbit is about asking for what you want and being very intentional, very detailed about the specifics.

Over and over, we have found this to be true and often caution each other to be careful about what we ask for! Perhaps if we visualized more details, it might help -- but some years ago it was suggested to me that I ask for 'this...or something better' and trust that the Universe will provide what we need.

Not that it happens instantly, mind you, nor are we without responsibility for acting on what we want. But when you align the mind and spirit to focus on what you want an outcome to be, you begin to take actions, often unconsciously, that will lead you in that direction.

And not that it always happens exactly as you planned, although -- thinking back just now -- we planned our house here in very specific detail, our move very intently, the timetable just so. All that happened just about exactly as we'd asked. What threw a bit of a loop in the plans was my getting sick about six months before we were to execute the plan, and ending up on disability, and then getting laid off. However, I had hated that job so much and was so desperately unhappy and stressed, and yet determined to stick it out until the move (nah--nothing stubborn about me), that it is no surprise, really, that I did get sick.

But we got what we asked for, even with the layoff. It just didn't happen quite as we'd envisioned.

Similarly, we asked for a job here, for something that would allow us to be together pretty much all the time, and that happened, although in ways we could never have anticipated -- I mean, selling real estate was never a career choice I'd have chosen previously, but I enjoyed it and wasn't bad at it!

And when that no longer was working for us, we asked the Universe for something else that would give us health insurance and some income, and we got it. Is it perfect? No. Does it do what we asked for? Definitely.

So I'm a believer in asking, in planning, in visualizing what you want. Even when you don't know exactly what you want, if you put out a plea for help, for clarity to see possibilities, it happens. Sometimes you have to pay very close attention to see it -- but it's always there.

What do you want? I'm still asking for what I want -- but I'm also taking steps to make it happen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Puzzlements and information sources

I've spoken here previously about watching our loved ones walk their own paths, and how one thing I've learned this year is that we cannot love someone out of their life lessons.

Today's Daily Om talks of walking one's own path and honoring their right to do so.

And I'd been pondering -- again -- how to balance the acceptance of that right and our support for the person, partially prompted by the story of a young relative who has made some choices that are going to impact her in ways she hasn't even begun to think about.

It is not easy to do.

As a parent, I want to love my children unconditionally, to always be there for them. But the implementation of "being there for them" is where I am hanging up: what does that mean? How can I lovingly watch them walk their own path when I am fearful of where it is leading and without putting myself in the 'rescue' mode again? Does unconditional mean being willing to rescue over and over and over again with money and resources? But how do you watch someone you love struggle with the consequences of their own choices, not offering financial aid or getting caught up in yet another drama, without seeming cold and callous?

We live a largely drama-free life, and yes, we know we are lucky. So when exterior drama comes into our world, it impacts us through lost sleep, anxiety, worry, and always those scary ice weasels -- not so much for ourselves as for those we love. We know we are powerless over people, places and things. But how do you 'be there' for someone when they are in crisis without getting sucked into it yourself? How do you balance being in someone's life when they are in a place where you are so uncomfortable being with wanting them to know that you love and care for them? (yeah, so that sentence construction could use some work....)

Is a puzzlement.


Most newspapers are struggling to stay afloat, most are cutting costs and staff anywhere they can, including my own two daily papers, and that also means that my opportunities to write for them have been drastically reduced.

I found this post interesting. It was mentioned in a daily news feed I get about the industry -- all aspects. I know at least one little newspaper in Fayette, Mo., is considering an online subscription model; I'm really amazed that there are still so many out there that are free.

I understand that advertising dollars are tight with the state of our economy, and I know there are a lot of other places to put them that may be more effective. I know that newspaper subscriptions are dropping -- folks think they can get more news on the Internet or through TV, or that they can get anything they want to find online, and they don't need a newspaper.

Newspapers staffs are struggling to manage with fewer reporters, with doing more and more of the pagination and processing themselves, and with meeting the dollar figures demanded by parent companies. There aren't a lot of independent papers left, alas.

We all suffer, however. TV news gives us only kernels of information, not the whole ear. The news magazines, while they can go in-depth about some issues, often show a bias -- and I'll admit that newspapers do sometimes as well, even by the things they choose to cover. The Internet is full of 'news,' but sorting through it to learn what the issues really are, what the whole story is, can be daunting, especially if you aren't a die-hard news junkie and don't want to dig. There are reputable sources, but there are a lot of opinions labeled as news too.

I love the feel of the physical paper in my hands, I like the smell of the ink. I'm sure it's rooted in my childhood -- I do not remember ever not having a daily newspaper in the house. But I like browsing through the paper and reading bits of things that I would never think to search for online, or finding unusual stories in my own community, or reading an account of state or national news that then piques my interest enough that I'll go searching for more information.

It gets me out of my head, for one thing.

It helps me be an informed citizen, to make better voting choices, to know where my tax dollars go, to decide which issues to support and which to fight, to know what my friends and neighbors are involved with.

I hope you subscribe to a paper. It's a very small amount of money to pay for information that comes to your home every day, and that helps your community.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And moving ahead, with gratitude

Definitely a new beginnings-second chances sort of week....

One of last week's blessings was reasonably, unseasonably cool weather -- by that I mean highs in the lower 90s, as opposed to this week's 100+ temps. I did a lot of work inthe garden, hacking and pulling the stupid grasses out, although they spring back overnight almost. Got in three new tomato plants, a Japanese eggplant, another bell pepper, and put some mint and cilantro in pots to go with my back porch herb garden -- I have basil, thyme, sage, parsley, oregano already.

We loved sleeping with windows open and cool breezes. That's gone for now, but the swamp cooler -- good until it hits around 106, usually -- adds moisture to the air and cools very well. Right now outside temp is 104, but humidity is only 9 percent....

Tony built a great cat food protective box for the porch -- the deer were helping themselves all day long to the cat food, and I'd juryrigged a maze of string, scrap posts and plastic fencing to help keep them out, which really made the place look classy.....NOT. Can't say that the big box exactly adds to the outdoor decor, but it serves the purpose and allows the cats to eat, but not the deer. Let's face it: we live in the country. Our lawn is red dirt and rocks. There may eventually be some landscaping, but it won't be green lawn: we get too little water for that and it's too hot.

And I've gotten out of my ennui and am getting off my ample posterior and moving it. Yes, I'm actually getting up an hour earlier and we're walking on weekday mornings, around two miles. It's helped with the achey-breakys quite a bit, actually, and I feel very righteous. It's right out of bed and into the tennies -- I fix breakfast when we get back. But it's cool (as it's likely to get) at that hour, and quiet, and I usually wake up by the time we get back. Tony, the morning person, is tolerant of my unresponsiveness during the walk. It will help.

The universe has, once again, taken care of us when we've asked for 'this, or something better,' and we are very grateful for the fortune and blessing. Actually, we are grateful every day for each other, for our home and our kitties, for our friends, for so many things. Lunaea Weatherstone wrote such a wonderful post about that subject yesterday -- and I'm adopting her slogan as my new mantra: "All this, every day."

The bedroom remains to be dealt with; I'm slowly shredding accumulated office papers that then go into the garden as mulch, and have been cleaning off my incredibly messy desk. But I'm moving ahead, not standing still anymore -- literally or figuratively. It's a better place to be in.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Note to self: Get on with it already!

I feel like I've been in a sort of limbo since the play ended and my freelance jobs have dropped to so few. I've been tired, to be sure -- probably a psychic kind of tired more than a real physical tired. And I've slept. Last night was the best -- the weather has cooled from highs last week in the 100s to projected highs only in the low 90s, and things cooled overnight to the low 60s.

It's not for lack of things to do. The garden always needs weeding -- and we shall see if the tomatoes come back after the stupid water system guy turned off the water to the garden while he was doing his maintenance and then did not turn it back on -- which I discovered only yesterday morning, two days later. The bushes were loaded with green tomatoes. By afternoon, everything else had perked up. I am SO not happy.

There's still a ton of clothes and linens and such in my spare room that are waiting on me to put them away and sort through them. Drawers still need cleaning in every room. There's the matter of choosing what color rock to put out in front, and which drought-and-deer-resistant plants to plant in the areas so neatly defined by the retaining walls we had put in a year ago. And then, of course, doing it.

Mostly it's finding a new direction. Will it be an eBay store? Should I pursue new freelance opportunity in hopes of finding something a little more lucrative (not that it would take much to be more!) Should I concentrate on fixing up what I've needed to do around here, and not worry about making money just now? Should I really and truly start investigating and planning a book project?

Definitely on my list is doing something physical. I feel like a giant slug. I can tell muscle tone is poor, my balance (never great) is shaky, I feel loggy. We eat very healthily, despite our propensity for sweets which we control pretty well with low- or no-sugar things, and I only use salt when it's necessary for something to cook or bake properly. I grow veggies -- well, when I'm not foiled by deer or careless maintenance people. It's in the physical exercise that I am very lax, partly because I do not like exercise, partly because there are a million and one things I'd rather do. But I also know that lack of exercise will eventually contribute to a much earlier death than I hope to have, and that is a motivator.

So. New month, full moon, new beginning. We celebrate a friend's birthday tonight with ritual and lovely fresh food and gifties. It's time to leave the out-of-sorts feelings and get on with life.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Our weather is simply perfect today: high projected at only about 83, humidity only around 25 percent, sunshine. Breezes, not wind.

Unusual for June. Last evening on our way to our final Steel Magnolias performance we ran into a deluge: water poured over the car and the Interstate. We ran out of it fortunately, but this June has been wetter than many, and also cooler. Next week we head upwards into the 100s -- far more typical summer pattern.

The garden likes it, though, and I cut a bunch of lettuces yesterday, including the arugula that is my current favorite. Soon as the temps head up, it'll all bolt, so we're enjoying fresh greens. The RB Farmers Market yesterday has cukes, zucchini, mounds of green beans, and melons -- I have blossoms but no fruit yet, although the tomatoes have clusters of little green orbs that will ripen nicely in the heat. If it gets too hot, however, the blossoms won't I'm hoping for reasonable temps.

We're being very lazy today, this Father's Day. I'm thinking a nap might be good, maybe some steak on the barbecue later, a big salad, then watching our favorite Sunday night shows and even catching up on some of those we've DVR-ed and saved.

It's back to life as usual tomorrow. No rehearsals, no performances, no lines. It will seem odd, I know. And I've got a couple of deadlines, plus many areas that need sorting and cleaning out since I've put stuff off over this last three months.

But I will enjoy today -- the summer solstice, with the longest day of the year and the shortest night. I remember being in Sweden for the solstice many years ago, seeing Maypoles everywhere, sprigs of green adorning cars and boats and homes and even people, to celebrate the return of the sun.

Hope yours is good, wherever you are, whatever you are doing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

He's back....

in blogland.

Tony, that is, my dearly beloved, is writing a multi-part story on his blog Cat-E-Whompus about his attitude adjustment over the last several months, and what has contributed to it.

Believe me when I say that it has definitely been a sea-change. You'll want to scroll down to part 1. He posted part 2 last night.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Whose life is more valuable?

I seldom wax political on these pages, although if you browse a bit through past posts you'll find a few. There are others who relish the flapping of the red cape at the bull far more than I.

But the recent murder of George Tiller as he was ushering during a church service got to me. He was cold-bloodedly murdered because he performed late-term abortions in his Kansas clinic. Despite other attempts to shut the clinic down and intimidate both the doctor and his staff, Tiller kept it open to help the desperate women from around the world who seek the procedure.

Reasons for late-term abortions are usually because of some horrible genetic problem in the fetus, and they are rare. More than 90 percent of the abortions performed in the US are first trimester. The decision to have an abortion after that is not easy, nor is it simple to find a facility.

There are many well-known columnists who have opined about the killing, including Ellen Goodman, Deborah King on the Huffington Post, even Time Magazine. As always in abortion-related violence and acts of terrorism against providers and even clients, the pro-life folks are claiming shock at the act, saying that there are other ways to bring providers to justice. But one must wonder if there isn't also some jumping up and down with glee.

I'm not expressing anything new here. Simply put, I am completely baffled by how such an act of violence and murder can be justified by anyone, most especially by groups who claim that ending a pregnancy for any reason, including to save the life of the mother, is wrong. Period.

I do not understand how to justify putting an unborn fetus first in the life of a family -- a mother, certainly, a father, perhaps other children, an extended family -- over the health of either the mother or the fetus, over economic hardship caused to all as a result of a gravely impaired fetus, over certain extensive medical expenses, and over the grief and pain and suffering of all, including what would be a drastically handicapped infant.

Do the other lives then count for nothing? Once born, are we then disposable? Are our lives useful only to the extent that we become incubators for fetuses, no matter how handicapped or how grave a prognosis there might be for it if carried to term? What of the existing lives of the mother, the other children? Are they inconsequential when measured against the life of one yet unborn?

If life is sacred, how does one equivocate the existence of a fetus with the life of a person? Which is the more valuable? And who makes that call?

Pro-choice does not mean proabortion. I have actively been prochoice for years, marching in picket lines, testifying before a state legislature, even lobbying on Capital Hill. Long ago in Missouri, I represented the prochoice viewpoints of various Christian denominations to legislators, voters, and the public. Does that mean I favor abortion? No. Nor did anyone with whom I worked or met during that time.

Tiller provided a compassionate, legal service to desperate women and their families, one which he knew was risky at the least. That he would be gunned down during his own time of worship is -- indeed, MUST be -- intolerable to anyone who believes in love, who believes in a compassionate, caring God, and who values all life.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Crocs on sale again

If you missed it the first time around, the Mary Jane Crocs are on sale again, with 50 percent off if you buy two pair. Use the code MALINDI09 to get free shipping.

I bought two pair, one in silver, the other in cotton candy, and already had one in black. I love them -- you can get them wet, they're cool, they're comfy like slippers.

The sale is good for both women's and girls shoes.

I got this alert from Brad's Deals, a daily shopping e-mail. Most of the time there's nothing I'm looking for, but you just hit delete if that's the case. On the other hand, you can save a bunch if you find a deal.

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Time flies, whether you're having fun or not

As if it wasn't enough to perform "Steel Magnolias" five times a week, I watched the movie yesterday. I have always loved that movie. Even though I knew what was coming, I sobbed anyway.

But since we're well into production, I wanted to see how the six women stars played their characters. It'd been a long time since I watched it. And it holds up well.

One of the things that touched me greatly, though, was in the features section of the DVD, seeing playwright Robert Harling speak about why he wrote the play in the first place. I knew it was a form of grief therapy for him when his beloved sister Susan died, much the same way that Shelby does. But he elaborates some, and I could feel the anguish of the brother at losing her at such a young age. He wanted his nephew to know a little more about his mother, to understand what she did in choosing to have him.

That, and seeing all those actresses 20 years younger, made me think of my own age, my own stage in life now, and all the things I missed out on as a younger person -- all the wasted time, the ill-thought choices.

Not that there weren't some great times and some good choices, mind you. And I wouldn't go back and do it again, not really.

But for some reason seeing the movie made me aware -- again -- of how brief our life here really is, and how unaware we are of that when we are young(er).

In our 20s and 30s, and yes, even the 40s, the awareness of our own mortality is usually non-existent, barring life-threatening illness, accident, or the early deaths of those we love. I, at least, plowed through any number of days without appreciating what I had, even squandering them by not taking care of myself physically (or mentally), just sort of meandering through years without a lot of focus on who I am and what I wanted.

I was a "good" girl, pretty much doing what others expected me to do and be, with a few stubborn streaks thrown in and a couple of fairly bad habits, including smoking and drinking to excess. It wasn't until I was into my 30s that I began to cut those out of my life and to think about what I really wanted and to discover who I really was. And it took another 13-14 or so years to be able to decide what I wanted to do about it.

And while I don't spend time mulling over my past mistakes, I am aware now of how unaware I was -- how unaware my friends and acquaintances were -- of how precious time is. How you can not get back one single day, no matter how much money or love or wishing.

The conundrum, of course, is that you have to get older to really understand this. And then it's too late.

Not that life is over, mind you! No, as Shelby tells Clairee in the play, "There are still good times to be had!" And I do believe that. Life is what you choose to make of it, every day, one day at a time.

But my prime time is over. The 40-something generation is in the power years now -- this is their time now, their time to make the world different, to change their lives, to realize their potential. And the 30s are right on their heels.

I remember those years so clearly that it feels very odd to realize they are over and that part of my life is finished. It still startles me sometimes to catch a glimpse of myself in a window or a mirror and see the mantel of age draped over my hair and my skin and my posture. It's not unattractive, just not always in sync with how I think of myself.

But what really resonates is time: how quickly it goes, what I do with it. There is not a day that I don't say gratitude prayers -- many times a day -- for my husband, our home and friends, for my life as it is and the opportunities that I have and that present themselves so frequently. I didn't do that when I was younger, at least not often. I didn't cherish each day. I wasn't aware that I didn't have all the time I needed to effect whatever change I wanted to make.

I wasn't aware.

I don't know how to help my children understand that, if indeed it is even possible to make them understand it. Perhaps it takes age and perspective.

I can only hope that they will live long enough to see and to understand. I'm grateful that I have and do now.

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. ~Carl Sandburg

Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things; the past is gone, the future is not come, and the present becomes the past even while we attempt to define it, and, like the flash of lightning, at once exists and expires. ~Charles Caleb Colton

Time is what we want most, but... what we use worst. ~William Penn

Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can't buy more hours. Scientists can't invent new minutes. And you can't save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you've wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow. ~Denis Waitely

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

All will be well, and all will be well....

The Steel Magnolias opening was spectacular. We had a great audience, helped, no doubt, by the wonderful food that Riverfront volunteers had prepared for them, and free champagne. They laughed at everything. They cried. One person said she'd been coming to openings for 30 years, and ours was the BEST (of course she could say that to every cast and we wouldn't know).

Nonetheless, we were pleased. Tonight starts the round of buy-out performances. We'll be doing the play five times a week -- three for the public, two for groups who have paid for private performances. Until June 20. I expect we'll all be sick of the characters by that time. I can't imagine doing a play for years on end.

But I do like Miss Clairee. I rather think there is more of her in me than I'd once thought.


My brother and sister-in-law celebrate their third anniversary today. I wrote about it here, although not nearly as indepth as it might have been, but I was still reeling from both my mother's and my uncle's deaths and hadn't written much of anything since the previous October.

But it was a lovely day, a blessing in the midst of all that pain. And they've gone through some hard times since, with health issues and concerns over work that are the result of the recession -- just like so many people.

It's not the good times that make us strong, it's the tough ones and how we handle stress, pressure, uncertainty, fear. The good times may give us the knowledge that this, too, shall pass, however, and that there are still good things to come. But it's in the fire that we are shaped and tempered and glazed.

Today's Daily Om has a wonderful meditation on marriage. Among other bits of wisdom and observation are these:

If your relationship is not secure, marriage will not make it so. Likewise, if your partner is not as attentive, loving, or kind as you would like, your becoming spouses will not change that. Marriage has no power to permanently fill any emotional or spiritual gaps in your life. Before you choose to marry, ask yourself whether you and your partner are adept at resolving conflict, can speak openly to one another, and fully respect one another."

In this day and age, it is common to live together before marriage -- indeed, my mother surprised the heck outta me in her later years when she proclaimed that she thought living together was a good idea! Even a committed relationship is not marriage -- although people stay in them for years and years. It changes things somehow, in addition to the legal matters -- or at least it did for us. It brought the sacred into our commitment, I think, and expanded our relationship.

(Maybe I haven't had enough coffee to wax eloquently this morning! I seem to be struggling for adequate words....)

At any rate, I wish them a happy anniversary and hope that "
All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well. " -- Julian of Norwich

Summer is here, no matter the calendar. Triple digits forecast for today; swamp cooler is in full blast mode; north wind is keeping the humidity well below 20 percent. The garden grows measurably each day (as do the grasses in it, blast and damn). Memorial Day always marks summer's grand entrance, and the groceries were full of hot dogs and hamburgers and watermelon. Next is Independence Day. Time goes so quickly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Playing catch-up

Damage to the garden was not disastrous as I'd first thought. Most of the plants are coming back, and the deer nicely thinned the seedlings. I should have lettuce by the end of the week, although with the hot weather we're having now it may bolt before I ever get it to the table.

So we planted tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and are experimenting with cantaloupe, watermelon and pumpkins. I've replaced soaker hoses and hung prayer flags which flutter nicely in the breezes. We'll hope for a generous bounty.

Mother's Day came and went without a post from me, although I'd started a draft. I'd put a photo of mother, my brother and me on my Facebook page that was taken just three weeks before she died in 2005. It is hard to believe she's been gone for going on four years now, and that this winter, my dad will have been dead for 10 years.

But I see them in my own reflection: in my fine, greying hair, in my hands that show a delicate network of aging skin and a few arthritic lumps, in my smile. I hear them in my head -- how mother always said she liked listening to the silence rather than music or television (as do I these days), how they preferred ice water to sodas or lemonade, for instance.

I think of them at my age: mother retired at 60 from teaching because daddy had retired at 65, and they spent the next 10 or so years traveling and playing. More than that, too, but those were probably the prime years, although even those saw some health issues for both of them.

That's not quite in the cards for us yet. Tony is in full hammer-down mode as he goes in early and stays late working on a new product release. I've finished up a few stories, but so much of what I was doing has dried up, at least for now, for various reasons -- the main publication I was working on has ended, and I'm just not sure what I want to do next. This last week or so the play has begun to take most of my energy, although that will ease some with opening on Saturday night.

But I'm trying to stay open to opportunity and possibility. I need to make some money doing something, whether it's selling on eBay or pursuing more writing. Doesn't have to be a lot of money -- although I certainly have no objection to money, mind you!

I've asked the universe yet again to provide and to help me be open. We shall see where this next step takes us.
Summer is upon us, early this year. We've already had triple digit temps, much to my disgust. I just didn't get enough rain this year, and the early heat had me scrambling in my closet for something that wasn't long-sleeved and cozy. I'm still organizing everything, but at least the linen and cotton things are readily available now.

The last few nights have been wonderful, though, with cool breezes making for sound sleeping conditions. I do love our location, but the early heat is a little frightening: it will be with us well into October in all likelihood. We're all fearful of another summer of fires and unhealthy air because it is so dry.

We celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary yesterday by going out to breakfast, since I had rehearsal last night and he worked late again. We'll go to the ocean for a little R&R later this summer.

But we always remember that day in the Bay Area -- which was unseasonably warm for San Francisco, but gorgeous. We laughed, we cried through parts of the ceremony (which we wrote) and at which my Uncle Tom officiated, aboard a yacht on the Bay. We ate. We played and talked and enjoyed the boat ride all around our favorite landmarks, and there were Oracle and Kensington colleagues as well as family with us to mark the day.

We both feel incredibly blessed to have found each other, and to continue to be so much in love at this age. It's not that we don't have trials and some hard stuff to deal with -- but it's never with each other -- it's issues with the girls or with work or health or property or something like that. How rare that is to have such a relationship! I am so grateful.

In the midst of all the busy-ness it is sometimes hard to remember that THIS is our life, each day. Time doesn't stop because we are too busy to notice what is happening every day, every moment. When the product is released and the play is over, our lives will change again -- not really back to what they were a few months ago, but to where they are going every day with every moment and every experience.

It is essential to find even a few moments to appreciate what we have THIS DAY, to ask for what we need, to reflect on and remember how precious time really is. One thing that becomes increasingly evident as we age is that everything can change in a moment, with a heartbeat. it is up to us to choose how we spend our time, who we touch, what we do and say, how we express our gratitude. We have that choice every day.

Steel Magnolias is in preview tonight and we open Saturday. The play is about the fragility of life, I believe, and the relationships with others that can help us deal with the uncertainty and the choices we all have. I'm grateful to be in it once again, for the third time, to be forging a bond with the five other actresses who are in the cast. I hope our audiences take home with them the blessing of friendship and the appreciation for each day we are given.