Friday, December 31, 2010

Reverb 10 -- Writing my stories

Core story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world?

My core story is about strength, loyalty, fierce independence, recovery, resilience, and creativity. It is who I am, all I've been through (some of it not pretty). It is what I am learning, what I have learned, because of what I've lived and what I've done. It is foolhardy youth and experienced crone. It is still developing, every day.

I share through this blog. I tell my stories and what I have learned in living them. I tell what I see.

And this year I will write a book. Over the past month of Reverb, I have realized how important it is to me to do so, although it's been a vague "someday" thing for some years. But I'm ready to do the work it will take, ready to figure out the form, the story, and to begin to put in the time and the word count.

I don't know if it will be 'good enough' to publish, I don't know if anyone will read it or even want to, but I will write it down. Because I need to do so.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reverb 10: Gifting

For Dec. 30 -- Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What's the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

Every day of my life I receive the gift of deep love from my husband. Every day he tells me he loves me dearly. (Every day I tell him I love him dearly.) He shows me in so many different ways, from being my 'kitchen elf' in the mornings and putting away clean dishes from the dishwasher before I get up to telling me to warm up my freezing cold feet or hands on his warm ones at night in bed. When I had my accident in January he was right there for me during that whole horrible week before surgery, taking time off work, getting prescriptions, heating soup and making mint tea for me. He was there all day for the surgery and wheeled me to the car after they released me to go home. He took care of me in every way.

He rubs my feet when I plop them in his lap. He always asks what I want to watch on television, or what I want to see at the movies. (Of course I do the same back to him, which sometimes means a stalemate while we both try to make sure the other is happy with whatever choice there is to make! And yes, we know we can be somewhat co-dependent...) At least daily he tells me he loves my eyes or my hair, or tells me I am pretty, and smiles so lovingly at me.

I have received many thoughtful gifts from him this year as in years past, and he chooses wonderful, meaningful cards for special occasions, cards that sometimes make tears come to my eyes because of their sincere sweetness.

Before I met him, back when I was contemplating a move to California and turning my life upside down because I never wanted to 'wonder what would have happened if...', I knew that I wanted to be cherished, to be adored, if I was ever to love and be loved again. I knew I would never, ever, 'settle' for a relationship.

His love is a gift to me over these past 13 years that trumps all others. It is all that I dreamt it would be; all that I yearned for; all that I asked the Universe for and more.

No matter what else is going on in our lives, this love makes everything else manageable. When I am with him, I am home, no matter where our bodies actually are. It simply does not get better than this.

Thank you, honey.

Reverb 10: what defined this year

For Dec. 29 -- Defining moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

Oh, hands down (pun intended) it was Jan. 4 when I fell sideways onto the pavement at the Redding Convention Center parking lot and when I sat up, my wrist was in an 'S' curve. It was not just a little break either -- but one that required surgery, a plate, and seven screws to fix. And some six months to recover from.

It changed everything for me this year.

I 'retired' -- at least I began to draw Social Security, although I'm busy doing many things. I stopped freelancing because I couldn't type and couldn't take interview notes, and my head wasn't in a good place to be able to do that anyway.

I was dependent on others to help me drive, wash, cook, even dress myself, and I learned to use my left hand, sortakinda, to eat, to operate my trackball, to sign my name, to dry my hair, to apply makeup. I hated it. I felt awkward and old and wobbly and mortal.

All of the other stresses were still there, too -- providing support for R on her bad days, finding an attorney to help with her disability claim, taking care of the house and kitties and so on. I did most of it pretty well after the first month or so, and while the physical injury healed and I was done with physical therapy by mid-April, it left me with a fear of falling, a wariness that has yet to leave me, and an awareness of how very fragile we really are; how quickly life can change in a moment.

It left me tired. Weary. Not energized. Afraid of something else happening.

That, and dealing with R's ongoing illness -- appointments, phone calls, ER visits, doctor visits, etc. -- were the overwhelming thoughts and feelings I lived with this year. There were some good times, some nice moments. But mostly it was one day at a time, one month at a time, just getting through as best I could.

I do not want 2011 to be a re-run in any way. Things are looking better and I'm feeling more optimism than I have all year. I'm glad to see the end of 2010.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reverb 10 -- Achieving health

For Dec. 28 -- Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

  • Healthier. More balanced, both mentally and physically. Fewer pounds that I'm carrying around on my amazonian frame. Meeting those goals will take care of the niggling health concerns I have right now -- nothing big but with potential to turn into big if I don't take steps to minimize their effects.
I will feel more free, more relaxed, more in tune, without stiffness and discomfort when I move. I will like better the way I look in my clothes (and without them, for that matter)... I will not walk like an elderly person!

And I think that with that goal, my other hopes for 2011 will be more readily attained -- like writing my book. If I am in better shape physically, I will have more energy to put towards things I want to be doing.

To get there:
+At least 10 minutes a day on the treadmill
+Seek out a yoga class; maybe try Zumba: once a week minimum
+Stop thinking 'I can't' and start thinking 'I must': this is no longer optional behavior
+Cut out the candy. Not the one piece a day dark chocolate; the other stuff that makes its way into your cart at the store and that you nibble on the way home.
+Serve smaller portions than I think you want. Take home half of my restaurant meal.
+Drink water -- two glasses before each meal.
+For snackiness: some nuts, or celery or carrots or jicama with a little FF yogurt and dill dip
+Eat the ice cream at Tremont: once a month, not once a week
+Stretch for five minutes daily
+Read something I love besides when I'm ready for bed: a book, a magazine for 20-30 minutes. Yes, I CAN take the time to treat myself to this activity that I so enjoy.

Reverb 10 -- Touching my soul with joy

For Dec. 26 -- Soul food. What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?

I honestly can't think of one thing I ate that was that marvelous.

But what I do remember is eating chocolate peanut butter chunk ice cream from a glass dish and watching people go by downtown, with my honey sitting across from me eating his dish, and just grinning at each other like it was our first date. More of those moments, please...

The first bite of wild rice and the first bite of Jule Kage on Christmas morning bring back memories of my mother and dad, of family celebrations and get-togethers, with this special occasion meal. It stems from Dahl family roots in Minnesota when we each got a huge plate of wild rice and bacon on Christmas mornings. When my mother was teaching school in rural Wisconsin and Minnesota, she would actually go out in the boat and help gather it. When I fix it at Christmas, I know that my cousins are also fixing theirs, and for a little moment, I'm united with them in spirit.


For Dec. 27 - Ordinary joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

Every night when I crawl into our lovely bed, I look to my left to see two big brown eyes looking back at me over a very sweet smile. I've been loving those same big brown eyes for more than 13 years now, and it never fails to just melt my heart when I am settled in for the night. Our bed is the most wonderful place in the world to me, with kitties nestling close and my honey settled in next to me. It is the one moment of absolute contentment and joy that I can count on every day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Reverb 10 -- A picture

For Dec. 25 -- Photo - a present to yourself. Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

This is me with four of the people I love best in the world: missing is my wonderful husband, and my sister-in-law Liz is taking the photo.

I had just finished lunch in Redding ( October) with my daughter Vanessa, my brother Jimmy, my daughter Rachel, and our grandson Gabriel. Jimmy and Liz were visiting from Nashville, Tenn., before heading to the Bay Area for business. We hadn't been all together as a family for years and they'd not met Gabe.

This is a role I relish: mother, nonna, sister -- family matriarch, actually. It was so good to see my brother, who had just turned 60, and to see how much he resembles our father as he ages. It made tears come to my eyes a time or two.

My daughters continue on their separate journeys, and it is good to see how they support each other. In this moment, we were content to just be with each other.

Reverb 10 -- A name by any other....and Gratitude

For Dec. 23 -- New name. Let's meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

I've been Beth for more than 63 years now.

As a child, I did not like my name because it calls to mind the delicate, generous, charming Beth of Little Women, and I am far more like Jo than like Beth, not to mention that whole dying thing.

I'm not an Elizabeth either, so no chance to change it to something different. I'm straight Beth.

I tossed around the idea of Tallulah, the name of a tall, eccentric actress (Tallulah Bankhead) whom I admired once upon a time. I thought about another favorite name, Hannah. Rejected them, and a bunch of others.

They are not me. I have imbued this name with my own flair, my own style, my wit, my outspokeness, my loving heart, my loyalty, my honesty, me

My parents called me Beth; my brother and sister-in-law call me Beth. My friends and my beloved husband call me Beth. My cousins and aunts and uncles know me as Beth, or perhaps BethKay. I know them; I love them. They know me by this name, and I hope they have a good feeling when they think of Beth.

Shakespeare wrote: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

So I'll stick with Beth. I don't want to be anyone else.


For Dec. 24 -- Everything's OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

You know what? Sometimes everything is NOT all right. Sometimes there is no 'best moment' that you can point to in a year and say it all will be okay. Sometimes bad things just happen, without warning, and not because of anything you did or didn't do.

I wrote here about hard times, and said, "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."

This has been a year of fear and uncertainty and stress, of angst and drama, of days upon days of just walking through all of that. There have been good times too -- being with friends, enjoying family visits, laughing at plays and movies and stories, being by the ocean and with my wonderful husband. Those moments have been cherished, each as they came, and recognized as good, as peaceful and with contentment.

But this year I do not remember one single defining moment when I 'knew' everything would be okay. What I did learn was to walk through each day with some measure of serenity, on most days (not all), grateful that I was alive and okay and that those I love and cherish are alive and trying hard to make it work.

What I did learn is to be grateful every day, to say out loud those gratitudes even when situations are not ideal and emotions are tumbling over and around me. In enumerating my blessings, I can find a moment of 'all right' every day, and that has been enough for this year.

For 2011, I hope to find more 'best moments' -- but I will always count my blessings, every single day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reverb 10 -- Down the road

For Dec. 22 -- Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

Most of my traveling was by car, and a lot of it was going to doctors' appointments or physical therapy or shopping. I wouldn't exactly call that traveling, and yet when you are five miles out of t0wn, you travel if you want to go anywhere.

We went by car for a week by the ocean; a journey over the mountains and through tall redwood forests and by the rocky beaches of the Pacific.

I flew to Indianapolis for a week in autumn to be with my best friend and to visit places and people I'd known there some 20+ years ago. There, we traveled by car to see an old friend who was dying of cancer: she left this earth not long ago, just tired out.

For 2011, I hope to go back to the ocean again, to renew and to let go. Perhaps next fall will find us traveling further afield, although I think longer trips will wait until 2012.

These days I far prefer car travel: it is more interesting, it is easier. Airline travel means long lines at security gates, limitations on what and how much you can bring with you, hours of being crammed into narrow seats with too many people nearby. The airports do make for interesting people-watching, but so does car travel.

I'm always delighted to get home after any travel. This is a peaceful place, one infused with love and calm, and I appreciate it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reverb 10: Move it, move it, move it

For Dec. 20 -- Beyond avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn't because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

Recurring themes, here: writing and exercise.

I want to write a book. I have known this for years now. I do not know what form it needs to take: fiction? Memoir? Essay?

I have many vague ideas for stories but have not taken time to sketch them out. I hear my critic saying, "It's all been done, Beth. Yours is nothing special. It's not anything anyone is going to want to read. It's been written already by all those writers you enjoy reading. Your stories aren't new and they're not that interesting. Hackneyed. Trite."

So I haven't started.

And last night I was reading in O Magazine (January issue) about exercise and why this coming year is the year that I must do this -- for my health. If I want to live longer and healthier, exercise is no longer an option. I am getting older; I would like to continue to get older. Ergo, I must exercise.

Find a yoga class and do at least 10 minutes a day on the treadmill. I WILL do that.


For Dec. 21 -- Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?

In five years I will be 68.

I do not want to be using a cane because my balance is so unsteady, or on insulin for diabetes (if there is a way I can prevent that, and I think there is). I do not want to be taking a boatload of medicine for ailments which I can help to prevent.

I already eat healthily for the most part, with occasional indulgences like ice cream or other sweets. But my overall diet is good.

But I fail miserably at the 'move it' portion that will help to keep me healthy.

"MOVE it, Beth. You WILL lose it if you don't.

If you just do that ONE thing in 2011, other things will fall into place for you."


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reverb 10 -- There is no try. And healing is in process.

For Dec. 18 -- Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn't go for it?

Well, it won't be skydiving or bungee jumping, I can assure you of that. Heights are not my thing. Neither is reckless adventuring. And yes, I know it can be perfectly safe if done correctly.

I'd like to try to do the same things I've not succeeded in doing in 2010 -- exercise some daily, or at least more days a week than not -- treadmill or yoga. Lose 20 pounds. Finish organizing the office and clean out the closets and drawers. Get rid of the stuff in the attic that is just there because I didn't do anything else with it.

Start the book. Figure out what it should be and just write.

2010 was not my year for trying things. It was a year for patience, for perseverance, for resolution, at least in some areas.

It would be good to expand that in 2011 to include try.

However, Yoda says, "Do or do not...there is no try."

Maybe that's a better way to approach this new year.

For Dec. 19 -- Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

I was physically healed (my wrist) through patience, through persistance, through just putting one foot in front of the other and showing up. It was definitely drip-by-drip, and it took a good six months.

I don't know that my psyche was healed. It was definitely skewed by that accident and the subsequent change it brought to my life, among other events. I think I've been in a slow healing ever since, actually, and as I approach this new year, I know more about me and where I am in this life journey than I did last year at this time. It's definitely been a year of change and transition.

There are scars I bear from wounds not fresh but which still need some healing from the inside out. There are disappointments and sadnesses that need further soothing, continued healing. I make progress; I am not done with them. But I am learning to release.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reverb 10 -- Friends and learning lessons

For Dec. 16 -- Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

I spent a lot of time thinking about friendship this year, and also have been blessed to spend time with many friends.

One dear woman who I've known since 1982, through our divorces, through our children's trials and growing pains, through grandchildren, through cancer and surgeries, lives some 2000 miles away; yet when we do see each other every three or so years, it's always like we were never apart.

Despite fighting two different cancers over the last two years, her outlook is positive, grateful, and very down-to-earth. She inspires me to see the glass as half-full, and to just move through whatever comes along.

My husband is also my best friend, and there is nothing I cannot talk to him about. I am so grateful for that bond and the love which wraps us up daily. There is nowhere I'd rather be than with him, no matter where that takes us. He helps me to be grounded in what is real and now, and calms me if I get 'wrapped around the axle' about something. I adore him...

I've learned -- again -- that there are seasons for friendships, and that sometimes you 'outgrow' people who were important in your life at one time. Or they outgrow you. It is hard for me to let go of a friendship, even one that has clearly cooled. This year I've spent far too much time trying to accept that, questioning myself (as I tend to do) for a possible cause. The simple fact is that sometimes people move onto other things -- I've done it too -- and it isn't anyone's fault but simply is time to bless it and let the relationship drift.

For Dec. 17 -- Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

I believe that I have finally learned patience and that all things will change, given time. That lesson has been given to me over and over and over for years. But this year brought healing the broken bones in my wrist, listening to what my gut is telling me to do, accepting changing friendships, and moving through a long and tedious process to help Princess #1 with her illness and disability claim. I did it without having a nervous breakdown, going on medication, crying every day, or wishing my life away by saying ...'when this happens, then I will be happy-glad-okay-.' That is progress. I hope I can keep that outlook.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reverb 10 - 2010 encapsulated

5 minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

  • Broken wrist led to re-evaluation of what I want and don't want to do, how I want to live, realization of how quickly life can change, and what a strong mind-body connection there is in us, especially as we age ...
  • I love the ocean. I love the ocean especially when I'm there with my honey. I need the ocean.
  • Princess #1 finally has received aid to help with expenses; her illness continues to color our lives...
  • Some friendships eroded for unknown reasons; new friendships sprang to life or were rejuvenated; long-time friendships were celebrated and honored. Grateful, so grateful, for friends who are loyal, who are honest, who are THERE through good times and bad, who truly care.
  • There was plenty of anxiety, doubt, uncertainty, fear, and frustration; lessons of patience and one day at a time; but also extreme gratitude for each other, for what we have in our home and our community. Grateful, grateful, grateful that we are together.
This was not one of our better years. It was not mind-numbingly bad; it just crept along with unremarkable days and months. This is not how we want to continue to live.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reverb 10 -- Appreciation

Appreciate. What's the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

I appreciate that my body gets me where I need to go, keeps me upright and allows me to do gardening, cleaning, shopping, cooking, reading, thinking, watching, listening, talking, etc., without struggle.

It could be in better shape, I'll grant you.

But it works pretty well. I am grateful every day to have legs that get me up and moving, that I can type easily and without pain, that I can think and speak with ease, that I can move what needs moving or carry what needs carrying or pet what needs petting.

And I need to take care of it -- what I put into it, where I go with it, what demands I am making of it. It will not last forever. I must treasure what I have now.

That can be said of so much in my life -- treasure what I have now. Life is short. It can change completely in an instant. Take nothing for granted; be aware, be awake, be grateful.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reverb 10 - Action!

For Dec. 13 -- Action. When it comes to aspirations, its not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen. What's your next step?

THE BOOK. It's time to put up or squelch the inner voice that says 'write, write, write that book.'

Doing Reverb 10 daily is a good practice. Writing every day is a good practice, whether here or elsewhere more privately.

My next step is to figure out what this book needs to be about: memoir, fiction, essay. And then begin a rough outline of what I think it should say.


Reverb 10 -- Body and soul

For Dec. 12 -- Body integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn't mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

It wasn't a particularly good experience, actually, but what I remember the best about this year, about my body and my mind, was the moment I woke from surgery on my wrist, swimming up from the anesthetically-induced fog into the recovery room.

My first thought was 'I'm alive -- thank you God. I made it through.' I felt alive, I felt 'right' again, I was so, so grateful to just be there.

I had gone into surgery with great trepidation, mostly because a couple of the doctors who were in the pre-op process were questioning some of my test results, iterating out loud that 'well, it could mean this' and 'it's a possibility' and bringing me back to a bad experience that happened in 2002 when I was misdiagnosed in the emergency room. I was scared and my heart rate and blood pressure reflected that.

So when I knew I was alive, that everything was all right, that my wrist was fixed, and that I just needed to breathe deeply and then I could go home, I was so filled with gratitude for that instant that nothing else mattered or registered.

Awareness set in shortly about the cumbersome bandage, my dry mouth and swimmy head, and when Tony appeared in the post-surgery area to take me home, I burst into huge sobs of relief at seeing him and at being okay, surviving.

The worst week of that whole injury was already over when I came out of the surgery -- it was between the accident and the surgery itself, and filled with pain meds and their icky side effects, and I was very aware then of the connection between body and mind but was dealing primarily with the body's unhappiness that week.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reverb 10 - Things to get rid of in 2011

For Dec. 11 -- Things. What are 11 things your life doesn't need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

So I'm a little late getting this up. Party, chores, thinking thinking thinking....

1. There is too much clutter in drawers, desks, closets. This morning I noted at least three bottles of nearly-empty hand and body lotion near my sink. At the least I need to consolidate things. And I need to bite back the urge to save bits of old makeup, old hair product, clothing I no longer like or that has just a tiny hole but is perfectly useable, jeans that I never really liked the fit of, and paper. Paper. PAPER. Receipts. Old magazines that maybe I'll go through and cut out recipes. Cards and letters (some, anyway) that I've saved in a drawer. Product manuals to things long since discarded. Padded used envelopes that I could reuse (but seldom do).

Who knew I was such a hoarder? (I'm not, really, but I do find it hard to get rid of these bits of paper and clothing...I might use them someday! Not.)

2. Shoulda-coulda-woulda. I do not need to be second-guessing my choices and questioning my decisions. I take a lot of time and do a lot of research in making purchases or decisions. That needs to be my final answer.

3. Bad-for-me food. I've been pretty good about not buying foods high in carbs or sugars for some time, and you'll find lots of veggies and fruits and fat-free yogurt and milk in my fridge, and no-or-low sugar things in my pantry. I need to scold the gummy bears that jump into my grocery cart, though, and send them packing; ditto anything that isn't plain dark chocolate.

4. Critical, whiny or mean people. No more, no how. I simply do not choose to populate my life with these people any more, even to be polite.

5. Inactivity. I need to be intentional about getting some exercise every day, even if it's just getting down on the floor and doing some stretches. I am walking like a far more elderly person than I am.

6. Excuses. Step up to the plate. If I don't want to do something, I must say I don't want to do it -- without making excuses. If I haven't done something I agreed to do, then I must examine my reasons why I haven't -- and change something.

7. Denial. I suppose #6 is similar but it's not identical. Denial is just sticking your head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge something that is plain as daylight. I can't deny any longer that I need to lose about 20 lbs in order to make my health better, for instance. It's either that or accept the consequences -- and I don't like them.

8. Accidents and illnesses, insofar as they are preventable. After my January accident, I've been very careful to watch where I'm walking and not to put myself in situations or places where I'm unsteady (exercise will help that, I know). We take a bunch of supplements to help keep us well and healthy, and I wash-wash-wash my hands if I'm in a crowd. I go to the doctors and stay current on tests. I take appropriate meds and take care of my body.

9. Grief. No deaths this year, please. No life-shattering situations that involve mourning and depression. That goes for all of us.

10. Isolation. Some of that is indicative of my introverted nature -- yes, I am an introvert by nature but sometimes need to be an extrovert in activities. But I also tend to close ranks and stay to myself if things are stressful or upsetting instead of asking a friend for help or to talk. That is not particularly healthy because there is no other input except my own imagination and rationale -- and that can be overactive and irrational.

11. Self-deprecation. I would like to see myself more as others see me -- as an attractive, talented, wise woman -- rather than the not-quite-good-pretty-smart-personable-energetic-enough person I usually see in my mirror. I feel quite ordinary and adequate in most things. I'd like to feel extraordinary more often.

If I re-read -- even post on my bulletin board -- this list somewhere where I can see it every day, that will help manifest it. It takes reminding of what I don't like to change to something I can like, that is better for me in this life. I will be happier with myself and my home, happier with my health and my body, if I can remember this.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reverb 10 -- Wise actions

Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

When I broke my wrist and needed surgery, it was immediately obvious to me that I could not continue to freelance -- I couldn't take notes (right hand) and typing/mousing, while not impossible, was difficult and tedious. My head was fuzzy from meds -- and I'll confess that my heart had not been in it for some time and I'd struggled with writing the stories, as I've mentioned here previously.

I had to do something immediately, too, with deadlines fast approaching. And practically the morning after my fall, I woke knowing who I wanted to recommend as my replacement.

I had a friend who I knew was a better writer than she realized, who knew lots of people in the county, and who needed a boost. So I talked to her, talked to my editors, and a new freelancer was born. And it has proven to be a wonderful choice all the way around: both of us are happy with it. I am so grateful!

The second wisest decision I made this year was to get an attorney to help with Princess #1's disability case instead of again trying to pursue this on our own, after two denials. And it worked: she was approved just recently. Both Princess #1 and I have commented on how much better we both feel with that burden lifted, even though we still have work to do to get it fully implemented. Again, I am sooooo grateful for help, admitting that there are some things that I MUST ask for help in doing, reluctant as I usually am to do so.

I hope the lesson I've learned is just that: to ask for help rather than to try to slog through the mire by myself. People are generous, I've learned, and are willing to help carry a load, or at least show me the way through the swamp, if I only ask.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Reverb 10 -- Party hearty? Not much...

Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

The idea of a social gathering rocking my socks off is cause for some amusement. Although I did a good bit of hearty-partying when I was , oh, some 30 or more years younger, I've not seen that kind of action recently -- either as observer or participant, actually. I'm not fond of watching people get plastered, and it's been years since I woke up with any kind of hangover or that awful feeling of 'what did I do last night?'

No, the parties I attended this year were mostly transition parties: a retirement party, a couple of parties marking big 'decade' birthdays, a high school graduation. While I knew the honorees, of course, there were many others I did not know, but who I enjoyed talking to. Sat with some good friends at a couple of them and that's always enjoyable.

Food was generally yummy -- tri tip, barbecue, lots of sides and salads and cakes (what's there not to like about cake?), although I don't remember anything specific, really. And no shenanigans that I knew about.

A smaller one was a reunion of the cast of 2009's Steel Magnolias, still with great food, but I do love those women. They are strong, talented, outspoken, honest and open, and we had a great time laughing and talking. I'd do any play with any one of them in a heartbeat.

And every month at Bunco is a party with another group of fun women playing a stupid game and getting such a kick out of it -- I mean, who knew counting out loud could be so stress-relieving and such a fun time?

But I think that just a simple lunch out with a friend can be a party all by itself: I don't think you need invitations or fancy food or music or activities to count it as a party. My party time is when I'm with people who are interesting and witty, people who help me learn something about myself or show me more about who they are. I treasure each lunch, each event that I choose to attend as much as the 'big' parties, if not more, because the real party is within each of us and in how we learn more about each other.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

More than just a writing prompt....

I'm finding Reverb 10 to be far more than merely a one-word writing prompt to help me write something daily.

What it has done is to help me truly look back at this past year and assess what happened to me, what effect it has had on me and mine, and to try to figure out where I want things to change so that I don't find myself at this time next year wondering where all that time went and to what end.

It's created some insightful and interesting conversations between me and my honey. It's enabling me to better know a girlfriend and to meet another through our daily exchanges.

And it's created another online community. And a spiritual practice.

Read this post for more about what it is, and this one for a wonderfully creative take on how it is impacting people.

See. We CAN change the world with just a small act.

Reverb 10 -- Community and being different

Two in one today -- yesterday's prompt:

Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

Facebook has been a developing source of community for me this year, but what it's done is to deepen friendships with people I met elsewhere (not online) because we comment back and forth nearly daily, or 'like' each other's comments, and then when we do see each other, we know more and feel more comfortable with each other. That online presence is growing into more regular face-to-face friendship.

I've also reconnected at least some with family members who I've not laid eyes on in decades, and a few long-ago friends from school or past jobs, and it's been fun to get a glimpse of where they are now. I'd hestitate to say that I 'know' them anymore; yet, through their comments, photos, even the games they choose to play, I can get the flavor, if not the substance.

For the coming year, I'd like to join/deepen a spiritual community, but not necessarily one based in a physical church/building. I am drawn to those who find spiritual nourishment in the earth, the moon, the heavens, and in support of each other.

And today's:

Beautifully different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different - you'll find they're what make you beautiful.

Man, this is hard for me. I see myself as different, but not often as beautiful. And yet my husband and some of my friends are so affirming of me and of who I am, and it helps me to see myself a little more through their eyes.

I do not play headgames or corporate political games very well at all, never have, and that has earned me the 'difficult to work with' label on occasion. I pretty much either say what I think or I shut up completely. I work to control my body language and my rubber face, because it's easy to see what I think or feel about something and I don't always want to advertise that.

As I age, I see that as a positive thing. I no longer need to be around people I don't like and don't trust just because it's the 'nice' thing to do, and I don't work with any of 'em anymore either. So I avoid being in situations where I encounter such folk.

I don't tolerate lying and meanness and bullsh*t well. At. All. Lying to me destroys trust quicker than anything else.

I work at being kind and compassionate, at being a loyal and true friend (I value loyalty very highly), at speaking my truth through my words both written and spoken, but not abrasively, at least deliberately. I try to listen with both my ears and my heart.

I have lots of experience with patience, with waiting, and although I chafe internally against it, I know that all things change eventually -- nothing lasts. I think I project calm assurance, generally, and people respond to that. It's sort of the 'fake it 'til you make it' attitude sometimes, but it usually works.

I sometimes have insights and intuitions about situations and ideas that are so clear and logical to me but which often strike others as innovative and creative. I'm told that I'm wise -- which I love -- but don't necessarily see it as wisdom, but rather opinion born from practicality and life experience. Perhaps that IS wisdom?

I have a wicked sense of humor and will find that nugget even in fairly grim-looking situations, sometimes to the exasperation of my daughters who have claimed I make a joke out of everything. I think that's better than falling to the ground sobbing in despair, however. I try to see the positive spin to every situation and to nearly every person (although there are a couple who I believe are just plain EVIL and beyond redemption at least in this life).

Although in the past I longed to be NOT tall with great hair that would curl gently around my shoulders, a body that was curvy but not plush, and a voice that didn't carry everywhere, I gave that up years ago. I like my eyes, my hair, my expressive face, my voice. I can see parades and performers over crowds of people, and in a hat and cape, I can wow a room.

I can soothe a crying baby or a troubled adult with my arms and my voice and my words. I can tell a story or play a part that keeps the audience hanging on my every word. I can reach most ears in a crowded room without benefit of a microphone. And I project confidence and calm. Mostly I like who I am; most importantly I've made peace with who I am.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Making it -- Reverb #10

Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

Well, today I've made dinner (bbq ribs, yum). I still need to make the bed with fresh sheets. Tonight I will also make the piles of clean laundry go where they belong. I've been making the house look a little more seasonal and also making some of the dust disappear. (This year, however, I won't be making many cookies or candies: everyone I know is on a diet and we sure don't need the temptation.)

I'm constantly making things, making friends, making something happen through my actions.

I get tired of making all these things, frankly.

I want to make some jewelry out of the piles of old stuff I have sitting on my beautiful jewelry bench. But until I get stuff sorted through in the office, I don't feel that I can: the clutter stares at me reproachfully until I do something, anything, to make it go where it belongs (which, increasingly, is in the trash).

There are some 84 meanings of the word make as verb, noun, phrase and idiom. I suspect we all make use of the word multiple times a day, if not many times in an hour.

Now I am going to make haste and finish tidying up the countertop and make a salad to go with the ribs. And tomorrow I'll make a new post with a new word!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Reverb 10 -- letting go of a career path

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

I'm not a freelance writer anymore. My wrist accident in January pretty much ended that part of my career, at least temporarily because I couldn't take notes or type with any accuracy for about seven weeks, but I'd been feeling some angst about it before then anyway.

I've loved hearing people's stories and learning about new places and things and events all around Tehama County, but putting them into a story with a limited word count has frustrated me for some time. I worry about doing the stories justice, about being faithful to the words and the emotions behind them, about telling the stories accurately but compassionately. And for the most part I think I managed that pretty well, but it was usually like opening a vein for me and dripping the words onto the keyboard.

So I let go of that part of my life, and not unhappily, especially since I was able to start a friend on a freelance path, and I left still being friends with my editors. Could I do it again? Definitely. Do I want to? No. I have other things I need to be doing, at least right now.

That doesn't mean I don't write, obviously. I'm just telling my stories, with however many words it takes. And I know there is a book coming, although I don't know yet what form it will take: fiction, memoir, essay?

Actually, I let go of my working life completely in 2010, since I filed for Social Security in January. No more job hunting, interviews, kowtowing to corporate rules, dealing with office politics. No more trying to fit this round peg into that square hole -- something I've done for most of my working life. I've always been too outspoken and too ethical to thrive in a corporate setting, although I tried (and I did a good job for them too). I did better in nonprofits which better suited my ethics and desire to make a difference in people's lives, but salaries were always pitifully low, alas.

So I'm now a former teacher, former public relations director, former communications director, former marcom writer/manager, former content manager, former Realtor, former freelance writer. There won't be another job like those. Ever.

But I don't feel retired either. That'll come, maybe, when Tony retires. And I am not unhappy to let these jobs go, end my 'working for pay' careers. If I ever make money on something again, it will be doing what I want to do. That's a good way to end that part of my life.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Living in Wonder - Reverb 10

Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

I didn't cultivate wonder this year, alas. So much of my year was spent in just living one day at a time, getting through the muck and the worry and the fears and the gotta-dos. It was not a year of depression and angst, mind you (and I've had those), but it was one of just getting through and making do.

But there were wonderous moments nonetheless.

As I have for many years, I did plant a garden again this year. It was not the biggest nor most prolific I've done, but I never fail to marvel at how those tiny, shriveled-up seeds result in little green shoots poking above my rocky soil, and then how they grow into bushy, big-leaved zucchini plants that offer slender green fruits, or into leafy vines that wander where they will and give me long, pale ribbed cucumbers, or bright orange marigolds that not only protect the veggies but survive the early frosts and keep their perky bright heads nodding in the wind and despite the baking sun in our hot summers.

I give them dirt (fed by compost) and water, Mother Nature gives them sun, and they grow into food that sustains me. That is miraculous. That never fails to thrill my soul.

I am my best self when I'm by the ocean, that rocking cradle of life that has lapped at shores since earth was formed and will be there long after my essence is returned to the Universe. I know where I am when I'm standing on her wondrous shore; I feel her heartbeat inside me. More than anywhere else, the ocean awes me, calms me, stimulates me, scares me with its power and feeds me with its changeable constancy.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Reverb 10 -- feeling alive!

Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

What came first to mind was our vacation week in Brookings, Ore., in a charming house right where the Pacific and the Winchuck River meet. And in particular, the second full day of the week-long respite, when we woke to foggy skies and brisk, cool winds.

The great room of the one-bedroom house was all windows on the ocean end so we could see the driftwood-studded beach and the river mouth widen and narrow as the tides came in and out during the day. There were some 30 steps off the narrow back deck to the lower yard, which had tall trees, a lawn, and a short path out onto the beach, plus a fish-cleaning station and some of the ocean treasures others had brought from the sand -- buoys, shells, long driftwood poles, and an interesting assortment of oddly-shaped pieces of driftwood, for instance.

On this day we could barely see the beach. The ocean, of course, never ceases its wavery voice, first whooshing into the beach, then withdrawing with a sibilant purr. That was the constant background music for our whole week (and we slept with the sliding door and windows cracked so we could hear it all night long).

With the heat warming the room and lamps brightening corners, we ate a hot breakfast, then made a second pot of coffee. I snuggled into the chaise lounge part of the big, overstuffed sofa, afghan over my legs, and Tony settled in one of the big leather recliners with his laptop. And I cracked open a new book, The Help, and began reading.

Eventually I moved to another chair, propping my legs on the matching ottoman, because it had a better reading light. And read. All morning.

A quiet lunch, and I was back in the chair, this time with hot tea, and continued to read. All afternoon. I finished the book shortly before dusk: the fog never dissipated.

I don't remember the last time I just read a book all day long, blissfully lost in the word-created world. Occasionally I'd look at Tony, who was intent on reading news and blogs and video editing software, and sometimes he'd look back and me and we'd smile at each other, both of us utterly content to be exactly where we were, doing exactly what we were doing.

I have always, always been a reader. I'd read walking to or from school. I'd read in the bathroom. I figured out how to wash dishes with a book propped up in front of me. I'd read while drying my hair, while waiting in a line or for appointments; everywhere I went I had a book with me.

I've lost that in the busy-ness of the years and endless chores that need attention -- and there are always chores that need attention. Oh, I still read every day -- always the newspaper -- but usually a book only when I'm tucked into bed at night, before I turn out the light.

But I found it that day, again, that lovely soft grey day when there was nothing more important for me to do than sit there and just read. I found again the essence of who I am in that day and remembered how important it is for me to connect with my own story every day, to make time for that even with everything else beating on my door.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

So I'm a little late...

...but I've signed up for #Reverb10, a daily blog prompt to help me reflect on this past year and "...manifest what's next..." whatever that may end up. (thank you, Melissa!)

It started yesterday, but I was enroute to pick up Princess #1 at the airport who was coming back home from visiting her dad, and also playing Elizabeth in a 'Journey to Bethlehem' event at the local Presbyterian church (for you local readers, it continues Wednesdays from 12-1 in December, and is well worth taking half an hour at lunch to remember Christmas's message).

So, that said, on to the first prompt of Dec. 1:

One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you're choosing that word. Now, imagine it's one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

My word for 2010 is Transition. Almost from the first day in January, much of my life was disrupted this year because of a fall that broke my right wrist, which meant that I couldn't take notes or type (very efficiently at least) to continue on the freelancing path I've been on these past two+ years. It meant that I couldn't do the simplest chores, like folding clothes or washing dishes, without some major creativity. It meant that I spent the first three weeks of January in a pain-and-medicine-induced fog, with side effects that were in themselves very unpleasant -- like urpy nausea every time I needed one of the narcotic pain meds, or not being able to pee even though I badly needed to, or nightmarish dreams and restless sleep, with my right arm propped up on pillows.

The week between the accident and the surgery to repair the bad break was the worst: the body-mind connection is very real and gets stronger as we age, I believe, and my body knew that things were not right.

I came out of it all eventually and have most of my strength and movement back, thank you universe, but it took a very long time -- most of the year -- to find myself again, and actually I'm still working on becoming who I am supposed to be at this point in my life, and figuring out how to do what I need to do (whatever that is). I'm no longer freelancing, but was able to turn that over to a dear friend who loves the writing and meets the deadlines without the anxiety that they were provoking in me anyway. Clearly I was meant to give that up -- and I don't miss the deadlines, although I loved hearing the stories!

Top that off with some stresses and angst about other loved ones' issues and problems, and it made for a year in transit.

For 2011, I'd like my word to be Renewal. I want to move ahead, to put things to rest and to clean out the old (literally as well as figuratively), to remember every day that this is not a dress rehearsal and that every day is a new beginning if I so choose.

For Dec. 2:
Writing. What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing -- and can you eliminate it?

I get bogged down in little things, mostly, but also spend too much time putzing on Facebook, on e-mail, on Internet browsing about things that aren't really all that important. I do read several blogs every day but I think that's a GOOD thing, like reading the newspapers. But I do procrastinate -- always have, or at least to the point where I'm down to the eleventh hour and 58th minute before I get going -- and I'd like to NOT do that. I'm working on trying to allow a certain time period for putzing, and then doing at least ONE thing for the good of the order -- like vaccuuming a rug or dusting a table or cleaning a drawer or a closet -- every day. I also need to plan to spend at least an hour a day writing or working on a plan for a book. Progress, not perfection.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November is my favorite month

November is a big month for me: not only is it my birth month (21st), but also Tony's birth month (15th). It's my sister-in-law's birthday on the 9th, and my dad would have been 94 yesterday. My ex's mother died 14 years ago today. And my daughter Vanessa's birthday is the 24th.

It always has marked the beginning of winter for me. I remember a birthday, either my sixth or seventh, in Wayzata, Minn., and watching the flurries outside the window as I unwrapped a big book of stories from my grandmother, who usually sent me books for Christmas and birthdays. I would anticipate the first snow of the winter on my birthday -- of course more often than not it didn't happen quite that way, but I liked to think it did. (And for the record, I don't miss snow...just sayin'.)

It's Thanksgiving month too, with a four-day weekend, and then countdown to Christmas -- lots of food, lots of shopping, lots of activity everywhere, with concerts and fall plays and bazaars and the last of the fall festivals.

Weather is more unpredictable than October, colder than September, but without the surety of cold and rain that mark the early winter days of December. We usually get our first frost this month, and definitely some rain, but leaves still cling stubbornly to the trees. Out here it also means the greening begins, since our 'green' season is winter, and the ground springs to life a little more after each bit of rain. The deer begin to fatten up again with the bounty of acorns on the ground and the new grass, and the big six-point buck that's been roaming our property is looking for nookie as the does hustle out of his way.

It's nearly 70 degrees today -- hardly wintery -- and mild temps are predicted for several more days. It's a good time to get the last red tomatoes out of the garden, pick the peppers, and start cleaning out the spent vines. We'll insulate the water spigots and outdoor pipes on one of these mild days so that we're not out there in cold wind at the last minute.

The outdoor kitties have been preparing for weeks: the twins, Snitch and Squib, are fat and furry, with thick tails that they wrap around their noses as they snooze in the kitty beds on the front porch. Harry Potter, Weasley and even little Minnie have their winter coats on too, although they aren't as chunky -- the twins like to periodically chow down on lizard, mouse or bird tartare, (fur, feathers and all) usually on the front sidewalk where they demonstrate to the other cats the fine art of decapitation on their unfortunately slow victims. crunchcrunchcrunch

The gutters are clean, the chimney likewise, the wood rack is stacked, and the flannel sheets are on the bed. The kettle is on the woodstove ready to humidify the air and the AC and swamp cooler are shut down for the season. I've already made one big pot of veggie soup and have broth ready for another. It's comfort food time: perhaps my Minnesota roots are showing, but I love the stews and soups and roasted meats and warm breads perfuming the house with their aromas. Salad -- our typical summer fare -- simply doesn't smell, y'know?

And I prefer the cozy sweats and fleece of winter to the linen and thin cotton of summer as well: alpaca socks on my feet on the coldest days, fuzzy slippers ready for my cold feet. I like the darker colors, the rich jewel tones punctuated by black, more than I like the whitewashed pastels of warmer weather.

So I'm finishing up the closet changes today, tucking away the summer clothes and light-colored rugs, and winter-fying the decor. I'm ready for the change, ready for whatever the new season will bring me, ready to do something different.

“Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils” -- Cyril Connelly

Friday, October 29, 2010

Five weeks later, another five on Friday!

Yegods. I wrote last on Oct. 1. And while I've been gone, been busy getting ready for and hosting my brother and sister-in-law, going to doctors and meetings and taking kitty boy McMurphy to the vet, my mind hasn't stopped churning -- until this week, anyway, when I just stopped everything. I've been doing stuff, just not on anyone else's timetable. I've loved it.

So let's go back to the Friday Five today, since it's FIVE weeks later and approaching Halloween.

What gives you the heebie-jeebies?
Heights, hands-down. I get queasy and light-headed from practically any height and always have. I could never stand on the back row of risers in choir because I'd be too afraid of falling to think about singing. I don't do glass elevators either, unless I'm huddled close to the door and facing it, vast expanse of bottomless pit at my back. I can paint from a stepladder, oddly, but not a tall one.

I'm not fond of snakes, spiders, rodents, etc., but nothing in the animal realm truly makes me shudder with fear just because they are in sight. My daughter V, on the other hand, can't even bear to see PICTURES of snakes because they terrify her so.

And then there are the unseen fears, the mental gymnastics of 'what if' that nearly everyone deals with, usually in the middle of a dark night. Those can truly give me the heebie-jeebies, even when I know there is nothing I can do about whatever situation I'm obsessing over.

When were you most recently in double trouble?

I'm practically perfect in every way, so am never in trouble. Well, rarely. Hardly ever. Really.

What puts you in the mood for some hanky-panky?
Sometimes just snuggling up to my honey in bed will do it because it feels so good to touch him and be so close. Sometimes it's reading (or watching) something particularly romantic or, um, lustful. Sometimes it is just thinking about past hanky-pankys...

What easy-breezy task is still a pain in the neck to accomplish?
Dusting and vacuuming the floors. It's not a hard chore, but I just don't get it done as often as I ought to-need to-want to. I swear we could make a fur coat for another whole cat with the cat hair I vacuum up when I do.

What area in your life seems especially rife with mumbo-jumbo?
Probably the biggest unknown in my life is my daughter's health, especially emotional health. Helping her deal with mumbo-jumbo providers and uncertain financial aid and the issues all of them encompass is akin to winding your way through a dark, vast, and scary maze, and you don't know when it will end nor what will be the reward if you find your way out. And if *I* feel this way, reasonably healthy and sane, I can only guess at how very unsettling and distressful it is for her.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Five on Friday

Before I leave town for a week with my BFF Julie in Indianapolis, I want to do the 'Friday Five' -- starting out this new month with something written, this 10th month of the year, this countdown to the end of the year. (Today is also my cousin Joy's 60th birthday -- which means that my little brother's 60th birthday is next Friday. Welcome to a new decade!)

What was the last thing you dropped on the kitchen floor?
That would be a piece of mushroom as I was chopping it to go in this morning's omelet. I picked it up and yes, I threw it in the compost pot. If it had been chocolate, I would have invoked the 'if I saw it fall it's fine' rule and eaten it.

What cough drops do you like, and do they work very well?
I don't like cough drops because that means if I'm using them, I probably have a cold that has gone into my chest. Yuk. I prefer to ward off a cold with Wellness Formula first, if I'm feeling tickly-in-the-throat, or, if it does erupt into that stuffy sort-of-sick feeling that indicates something is going on, I start on Cold FX. Both of those remedies usually ward off a full-blown cold. And that said, if I MUST use a cough drop, I like Fisherman's Friend because they sort of explode their menthol-y taste into my (stuffy) nose and down my (scratchy) throat. Do they work? Eh. They help in that they generate saliva to combat the dryness and menthol to help the stuffies. Don't know that any of them work all that well.

Who was the last person you dropped off somewhere?

Probably Princess #1. When we need to do errands in town, I usually pick her up and I drive.

When were you ever dropped like a bad habit?
Friendships take on many roles during our lives. There is an e-mail that has made the rounds -- I believe I've written about it previously -- about 'reason-season-lifetime' friendships. It's not usually until you look back at the friendship that you can identify the kind that it is/was.

I've had 'reason' friendships that I recognized as such pretty quickly -- especially those who were in my life as teachers to learn something I needed to know -- or to teach them something -- at that time in my life. I still wonder about some of those people (I like to know the whole story!), but they are no longer active participants in my life. I am grateful for what I learned, for the experience of knowing them, for the part I played in their lives and them in mine.

The 'season' friendships can also be a learning experience, a time to grow, to laugh, to play, to cherish the moments that are there. Sometimes these can grow into 'lifetime' friendships, but that takes time and track.

I've been part of social groups in the past that were close, had a great time together, shared some experiences, and then just drifted apart for no discernible reason -- the people involved found new interests, had additional responsibilities, were not available to get together because of family or travel or ... whatever.

That's been the source of some hurt feelings in the past, too, because I always tend to blame myself when a friendship drifts into an acquaintance state (what did I say to cause this? what did I do? can I make it better? yikes!), and I have to re-learn the lesson that I am not responsible for other people's actions or feelings, and accept that I probably had nothing to do with the reasons the friendship has waned, and that a friendship requires both sides to engage and nurture it if it is to continue or grow. If just one person wants it, it ain't gonna happen no matter what you say or do. And that hurts, at least for a while.

The 'lifetime' friends are the ones who are there no matter what, and if you have more than one of these, you are indeed lucky. I'm going to see Julie, my lifetime friend, although we haven't been together for four years. But we both have nurtured the relationship through letters, e-mails, and phone calls for around 28 years now, despite divorces, surgeries, illnesses, and traumatic and horrifying revelations. We have a bond that has lasted through the whole mess and will until the end of our lives, I believe.

What are your favorite kind of raindrops?
I like ANY kind of raindrops in this neck of the woods where we get rain only from November-April most years. I miss the daily thunderstorms and warm rains of the Deep South, the smell of rain that cleanses and refreshes everything, the almost iridescent green glow of the leaves and grasses when the sun comes back out. In northern California, we get the rain smell, sorta, but it is the smell of the dirt sucking it in like a dying man in the desert finding an oasis. Thunderstorms are a bit scary because of the extreme fire danger during the late spring and fall, until the rains begin again and the earth comes back to life. I love the lazy rain, the one that soaks in and caresses each brown blade of grass, nurtures and coaxes it back to green. I'm looking forward to what I hope will be another wet, cold winter here. (The kitty forecast says it will be: our outside boys are fattening up and their fur coats are thick and heavy already.)

It is a new beginning again, this day, another month, one that will see us transition between the hot days of summer into the cool, wetter fall. I love October.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Letting go -- again

Today's Daily Om is about control...just as in riding a roller coaster, you can either sit gripping tightly to the crossbar, teeth clenched in apprehension, or you can throw your hands in the air, let your body move to the curves, and enjoy the ride.

I'm really good at holding on. REALLY good. For far too long.

I admit that I do like to control things. I hate, even more than being lied to, being blindsided. And those things that blindside you are seldom pleasant ones, alas.

So I try to steer wherever I can, try to keep things on a level that I can manage, and pretty much try to see where they're going, and deter them if at all possible, without throwing myself directly in front of the bus that's about to hit them.

Nothing has gone off the rails lately, knock wood, but the Daily Om certainly did conjure some memories of not-so-pleasant experiences that I'm not anxious to repeat.

That said, because I DO like to manage things, I create a lot of stress for myself, a lot of pressure, and more than a little angst. Not healthy. Not even productive. Completely unnecessary and actually pretty stupid behavior. I'm supposed to be wiser than that at my age.

So I'm still (again) working on letting go: agreeing that I am powerless over people, places and things, and that I do NOT know better than anyone how to run things, especially the lives of other people.

Friends and family (and formerly co-workers) do have the right to their own choices and to make decisions for themselves that are -- from my lofty viewpoint -- fairly nigh on to stupid, if not downright destructive.

God knows -- oh, She does -- that my choices have not always been the best possible ones. Why, then, do I take on the burden of worry and action (when possible) that are not mine to manage? Maybe I think that I can do better with someone else's life than I have with mine?

(Actually, mine is a very good life, and I am grateful every day, multiple times every day. And that is despite some not very good choices in the past. I count my blessings, I ask for help for myself and also for those I love, and I try to be kind and to let people know that I care about them. I am very lucky to have what I do.)

So the only thing I really need to do is to let go: throw my hands up in the air and enjoy the ride on this coaster. See the views from the top of my own ride, and stop worrying about whether or not anyone else will be able to see the same views as I do. Their ride may be completely different, with even better views. I'd like to think so.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Supporting the arts in Tehama County

For the first time in six years, the third (or, in the beginning, the second) Tuesday of the month is here and I am not attending an arts council meeting. I don't have to feel guilty about NOT going either. I'm no longer on the board, having termed out (two elected three-year terms is the limit).

It feels a little weird, to be honest.

I'm still working with a three-person committee to finalize the group's new website which should be up and live maybe sometime this week, and I'll probably still be involved in updating copy or doing some blog posting. I wrote the copy for the new one, with input from the other committee members.

But I'm merely a member of the group now, not on the board. I'm a passionate arts supporter, but then I was that long before I joined this board, and that won't stop. I'll still attend Artwalk and other sponsored events, I'll still talk to anyone who will listen about the importance of the arts in schools and for our children, I'll happily attend and support most other artsy events in our county and beyond. I create art.

For six years, though, I've had a hand in helping the local arts community to grow, to be recognized and publicized, to offer financial and in-kind support for events and artists. I've had the good fortune to meet so many of the simply outstanding local artists here and to get to know some of them better. I've gotten to write some of their stories for others to read and to help them get the publicity that they need to have but that so many of them are so shy about doing for themselves. It's been a joy, mostly.

The last six years have been difficult ones personally, too. I lost my mother in 2005, just a year after I came on the board and only a month into my first term as chairman of the group. It was a hard, hard year. The group faced some growing pains too, with people rotating off the board or not being able (for a variety of reasons) to participate the way they'd hoped to when they were elected. It left the board -- capped through bylaws at just 15 -- short of people to help vision and then follow through with the work. We had some personality conflicts that caused some hurt feelings and misunderstandings, and it was part of my job to try to help resolution. We lost people to relocation and jobs that ended.

But we also set some guidelines for our ongoing projects that have made those much easier to do. We managed to financially support a number of wonderful programs for the children in our county who are so underserved by arts opportunities, and to help out some artists who needed a boost.

And the new 2010-2011 board is simply stellar. A full 15 members, for the first time since 2004. And members who have business acumen, who are passionate about the arts, who are knowledgeable about the community, and a good mix of artist and supporter.

Thanks largely to one very devoted board member, the group has grant money to help them plan and strategize long range, to create a sustainable, growing organization. And this last year the group was able to offer some $6000 to more than 20 groups and artists to fund projects and events.

And there's a new website about to go live, one that not only looks professional and inviting, but will offer ALL organizations and artists free calendar listings that will spread the word about events and exhibits and classes not only in our own county, but beyond. And FREE artist registry listings that will offer a new way for our marvelous local artists to advertise their talents and services not only locally, but throughout all of northern California.

We think it'll grow into a wonderful artistic resource for Tehama County, one that will help put art and artists right up their with other local products like prunes, walnuts, olives, cattle, and horses.

It'll be live soon. Please keep checking back if you don't see a gallery of art on a background of green.

And no matter where you are, I hope you support the arts in your community.

"Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one."- Stella Adler

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A quiet weekend

Tony's captured the essence of the road warrior in his new Cat-E-Whompus post, Roadrunnin'. Be sure to take a look.


I'm feeling very thrifty this morning: I've managed to turn a $4.99 rotisserie chicken from the grocery store into a number of meals, the latest of which is bubbling away in my crockpot.

We had it sliced accompanied by fresh corn on the cob and steamed broccoli the first night.

A couple nights later I mixed more of the chicken with my garden zucchini, a sauce and some homemade sourdough stuffing to create a yummy casserole -- I did it in the crockpot but prefer it baked in the oven, actually. There's enough left to give us another meal at least and possibly a serving to go in the freezer.

And then yesterday I threw bones, skin, water and seasoning in the crockpot and let it simmer all day, resulting in a lovely rich broth. I skimmed off the bones and skin (then chopped up some of the bits and gave it to the outside kitties, who scarfed it right down), then put a pound of great northern beans in the broth along with a few spices and let them cook all night. I've added the rest of the chicken, onion, celery, hot peppers, and more spices to it this morning and we'll enjoy it as white chicken chili either tonight or tomorrow. And there will be plenty leftover to freeze or eat as lunches this week.

Weather is in transition today: mostly cloudy and warm-ish, but not really enough for air conditioning and too humid for swamp cooler. We're expecting rain tonight and tomorrow, and temps very mild through the coming week. I'm hoping we're done with the 90s, but also am not stupid -- we've had 100-degree days into October in past years. Alas, with the weather changes also come achey-breakys, and my joints are creaky this morning.

Based on kitty behaviors, I'm predicting another early, cold winter this year. The outside kitties have porked up considerably from their summer slim-down, and their fur has thickened and is very plush. Even Minnie, our tiny old little girl, has a tummy and her mottled black long hair is fluffing out. Not a lot of acorns, however, although there are enough that the deer have mostly lost their starved look. Leaves are already falling too, although there are plenty on the trees.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Friday Five

The Friday Five:

What kinds of nagging injuries do you have?

My wrist is the most immediate one, of course: I realized that it's hard for me to get on all fours to do any yoga moves because it just doesn't quite bend all the way, and it's still weak. Maybe a few yoga moves and using it that way will actually strengthen it. And then there are my 'collapsed' feet -- have NO idea how that happened -- that require good arch support in any shoes, often with my custom orthotics, darn it. And my achey shoulder, and then there's this left hip that occasionally catches when I sit for too long in one position. Getting older is such an interesting journey.

What long-procrastinated task is nagging at you lately?

Oh come on. It's the stupid office, of course, and finishing the cleaning that I started way, WAY too long ago. I'm so close to being done though. Which means that then I'll have no excuses left to procrastinate starting that novel, or making jewelry...

In what way have you been a nag to someone else?

Ask my daughters what a wonderful nag I am about attending to something I think should be done -- like making dentist appointments. Or my beloved husband, especially this week when I think he should be going to bed earlier than he has because he has been so jet-lagged. I ask way too many questions, I know. But I want to KNOW stuff. I want DETAILS. I know it comes across as nagging, but it's just because I'm really nosy.

Who in your life is a world-class nag?

I don't really have anyone nagging me except myself. I'm really good at it too, especially when it comes to getting on the treadmill or -- surprise -- cleaning the office. Or getting off the computer and doing something that is actually for the good of the order instead of wasting time on Facebook or that stupid, awful, addictive game, Bejeweled Blitz.

Nag is such an ugly word. What would be a nicer way to describe someone who exhibits nagging tendencies?

Hmm. Encourage is a nice word instead of nag. Or cajole, or coax. Perhaps entreat. I don't nag, I encourage. I'm entreating you to come to bed, honey, because you're so tired and you need your sleep. I like it.

I got these questions here although I'm sure there are a bunch of similar sites out there. Play along if you'd like -- maybe post a comment linking to your answers?

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Well, I did better with a meme, didn't I, as far as posting regularly goes!

Tony has gone on and come home from his first trip to China, thanks to his company's being purchased by Alibaba, and shot lots of video and stills which he still needs to edit. He's still jetlagged a bit but that takes time and sleep to get over. The purchase will certainly create change for him and others. While he's told me lots of stories already, his main takeaway is that China is not what he'd thought it would be and is far more capitalistic than he'd ever imagined.

I'm sure he'll eventually write about some of his experiences on his blog, Cat-E-Whompus, and I'll link to it when he does.

In the meantime, if you're interested, you can read about the trip here, and soon there will be post-trip entries from him and others. Check back often -- new entries will be added.

I'm glad to have him home. China is a 14-hour trip at best, and a 15 hour time difference. I was always aware of what time it was there and looked forward to the 15 minute phone calls I'd make every afternoon around 4-5 pm; early morning there.

I did spend time getting things organized in the home office and finally moved my jewelry bench into position and put away all the tools I bought nearly a year ago. Just a few more piles to deal with and it'll look and be easy to come in here. I have lots of old jewelry to recycle into something 'new' and some new beads and baubles to play with too.

This stemmed from a class I took last fall given by Troy Hawkins, artiste extraordinaire, who has some truly unusual pieces that he's made from recycled bits and pieces. This weekend he's teaching a two-day class on jewelry-making -- last year's was a four-week, one day a week, class and included a field trip to some of his favorite thrift stores.

Like so many people, I have lots of costume jewelry that I never wear anymore. Partly that's because of the far more casual life we lead in California; partly it's because the styles change. The jewelry I own is from my life in Indiana and Alabama, both of which also involved jobs which required a level of professional dress. What's stylish also varies hugely from region to region: Alabama, for instance, was the home of the big earring, at least in the early-mid 1990s. I have some danglies and big pieces that I'll never wear like that again, unless it's dressup at Halloween.

So I'm looking forward to creating and mixing things. The project I began in class is to create a necklace incorporating all of the charms from my high school charm bracelets plus a few other meaningful pieces -- an honor brooch from an organization I belonged to, a very old charm from my mother, an enameled pin from my junior high days, my high school ring.

Don't know if all of that will make it into the necklace -- it might evolve into a zipper pull or a pin too. It'll be fun to play, though.

Of course in cleaning out, throwing away and filing tons of papers -- I am such a paper hoarder -- I've also realized that every drawer and cabinet and closet in the house needs cleaning out. We've been here for nearly eight years -- the longest I've lived in any house as an adult -- and it's either move (because everything gets sorted out as you pack) or clean. So my next ongoing project is to move through the house, taking a closet or drawer every few days and reorganizing, recycling, or donating what's there. I know there are expired meds; I know there are sheets that no longer fit my beds that someone else can use. It's time.

And then there are the ginormous cucumbers I've been blessed with in the garden: I'm giving them away, but I'd also like to make a vat of pickles -- refrigerator or freezer pickles -- which I've never done. Tomatoes are in a bit of a lull; the zucchini are coming just enough to be enjoyable; peppers also. Our days are currently warmish -- in the low 90s to high 80s, but nights are cooling into the low 60s and even 50s, which is wonderful. We're to get rain this weekend and much cooler temperatures: still unusual for this time of year in the Sacramento valley. I'll take it though.

I love this transition from hot summer into fall, with hints of winter rains now and then. While we just don't get the fall color that rainier areas do -- we are brown and crunchy -- we do have the falling leaves, deer munching on acorns, and the cool evenings that speak of change. I'm hoping for another wet and cold winter: last year's replenished ponds and lakes and water tables so well, and we need another like it. I'd even be up for a few flurries.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Days 26-30 -- Better late than never

While I did really well with the beginning of this meme, I've slipped on the job lately. I'm going to wrap this up as much as I can today, and will perhaps search for another such meme. It's been good to write most days -- well, the last week being a notable exception -- and I've enjoyed, mostly, the topic, although there were some questions that were a bit off-putting.

So to the end...

Day 26 – OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending

Actually the book I just finished, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler's Wife) had an ending that was rather WTF.

I don't know that it was awful, mind you, but it felt abrupt. While it wound the story into some semblance of resolution in some respects, there was a huge gap between the story as it had developed and the hasty ending. I'm still pondering. No question that her character development was engaging and quirky, and there were some interesting twists to the plot. I'm just not sure that the ending fit the rest of the book.

Day 27 – If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!
I'm not sure I can categorize my reading habits quite this way: I'm an eclectic reader and always have been. While I like some romances, I don't especially enjoy the 'happily ever after' ones unless there is some quirkiness thrown in there -- Nora Roberts has some trilogies, for instance, that are certainly 'happily ever after' types, but with some enjoyable occult turns...for instance,
the three sisters island trilogy, the garden trilogy, and the key trilogy are pretty similar stories but with nice touches of magic. They're easy, beach-y-type reads, total escape novels. Now that I think about it, these trilogies are pretty formulaic, but they are fun reads.

I like magic. That's one of the appeals for me of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I think -- all the lovely magic and fantasy thrown in there, the amazing development of the cultures.

Day 28 – First favorite book or series obsession
I'd have to say that one of my favorite series is the Kushiel series, beginning with Kushiel's Dart, by Jacqueline Carey. A friend recommended these books several years ago, and they aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I was hooked from the first chapter and obsessively read my way through them. Carey develops an interesting world that has elements of ours, but a completely different culture -- several cultures, actually. It's erotic, it's entertaining, it's surprising, with lots of action and some royalty thrown in to boot.

Day 29 – Saddest character death OR best/most satisfying character death (or both!)
Of the more recent books I've read, hands down it is Dumbledore's death in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

I've written more about that elsewhere in this meme.

Definitely the saddest.

Day 30 – What book are you reading right now?
Just last night I finished Her Fearful Symmetry.

I've got an Oprah magazine I have barely touched, a Writer's magazine that I haven't even cracked, and a few others around here that will do for a while. I'll probably start in on the pile next to my bed, perhaps beginning with Crichton's Next.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Books, Days 24-25

Day 24 – Best quote from a novel

The very best: Snoopy's quintessential opening line: "It was a dark and stormy night."

But another really great quote, from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . ."

Sounds like present times, doesn't it.

and the book's close:
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

Day 25 – Any five books from your “to be read” stack

Among the 20 or so books that have been sitting on my nightstand for, oh, about two years:

A Thousand Splendid Suns
A History of God by Karen Armstrong
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (which I've read a good bit of but it is so not riveting and more often just confusing)
Next by Michael Crichton (which we've had for a long time -- just haven't read it yet)
Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie McDonald (also started reading but haven't finished)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Books -- Days 21, 22, 23

Day 21 – Favorite romantic/sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)

There have been many such relationships in books I've read over the years, and I know I will never remember most. I wish I remembered something stunningly literary -- something that would so clearly demonstrate my amazing memory, my intelligent reading choices, but you know what? I don't. Most of what I've read in the last 30+ years has been stuff more aptly categorized as 'beach reads.'

Nora Roberts, she of the quintessential beach reads, also writes as JD Robb, and her character Eve Dallas is usually great fun to read. Dallas' husband is Roarke, an wealthy businessman who dabbles in nearly everything. The novels are futuristic, quick reads, and entertaining. Their relationship is passionate and humorous. They are, of course, beautiful people.

I don't know that I'd call it my 'favorite relationship,' but it's the only one I can think of right now.

Day 22 – Favorite non-sexual relationship

I'll get back to you.

Day 23 – Most annoying character ever


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 20 -- kissyface!

Day 20 – Favorite kiss

I've read my share of erotica and other scenes in various books that left me, uh, hungry. If you catch my drift.

But two kisses stand out for me from classic literature that are simply wonderful.

First is the scene from Romeo and Juliet where they first kiss.

Romeo: If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine, the gentle sin is this. My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Juliet: Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, which mannerly devotion shows in this. For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
Romeo: Have not saints lips, and holy palmers, too?
Juliet: Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
Romeo: Well, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do. They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Juliet: Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.
Romeo: Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
Romeo: [They kiss] Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged.
Juliet: Then have my lips the sin that they have took?
Romeo: Sin from my lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again.
Juliet: [they kiss again] You kiss by the book.

So wonderfully flirtatious. With its references to Christianity, it sets up their love, their passion, as being true and pure -- and as we know, doomed.

The other, and I'm probably remembering more of the movie than the book, is Rhett's initial refusal to kiss Scarlett in Gone with the Wind: "I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how."

And eventually, of course, he does kiss her, their on-off passion is almost palpable, and she, spoiled brat that she is, only finally realizes how well they are matched at the very end of the book.

For a young teenager loaded with raging hormones, as I was when I first read the book and then saw the movie, it was the quintessential romance. I remember longing for someone to adore me the way he did her, to kiss me with that degree of passion and wanting.**

I happen to think that kissing is an incredible skill that can, done correctly, practically bring a person to the big O without ever touching any other part of the body. It is the most intimate and delicate of touches between people.

**I found him. Took me a long time. It was worth the wait and all the frogs I kissed looking.