Things I want to keep in mind.

Category: Miscellaneous

Sunshine and camping

I love the summer.  Warm sun, warm breezes, clear blue sky, total comfort.  It. Is. Glorious.  I wonder if I lived in a warm place, like Phoenix, if I would feel this good all the time?  Who knows.

To my memory, summer has always meant freedom.  No school, vacation, fun outdoor activities.  When you are an adult, it doesn’t have quite the same connotation (unless you are a school teacher) but you still seem to squeeze more fun things into the summer than you do any other season.

When our children were little, we used to go camping as often as we could.  First we had a pop-up tent trailer, then we bought a used camper trailer with a bathroom!  Several years later, we splurged and bought a brand new camper with microwave, air conditioning and a slide out! (For me the most IMPORTANT luxury was the bathroom!)

We used to go up into the Jocko Canyon, to a nice quiet place we aptly named, “Paraiso” (paradise).  It took about a half hour to get the camper setup and the kids could ride their bikes and play – running wild and free.  We would go for walks and bike rides, fishing, hiking, or just sitting and visiting while the kids play. My mom and dad had a camper also and we would camp together.

Everything was planned around the meals we would make – dad would call me the day before we left and tell me what he was bringing for food, and I would know what I needed to bring to subsidize his menu.  When we arrived in the early evening we would have chili flavored fritos with chili, sour cream and nacho cheese.  For breakfast, pancakes, eggs and bacon.  Lunch was sandwiches, dinner was steak or burgers, depending on what my dad decided to bring.  I would usually bring either apple crisp or rhubarb crisp for dessert.

We always spent part of the day at the river or at Twin Lakes – so the kids could play in the water.  When it started to cool off and get dark, we would sit by the campfire, the kids in their pajamas, and watch the stars light up the sky.

I have wonderful memories of those camping trips.  Wonderful times spent with my mom and dad – and the kids always had so much fun.  I hope they have good memories too.

As the kids grew up and moved out, we camped less and less.  Our camper sat on the pad and started to deteriorate with exposure to weather and time.  We finally sold it a few years ago and were sad to see it go.  A young family bought it with big plans for repairs and lots of camping trips to come.  I hope they enjoy it as much as we did.

(**Side bar — just trying to get back into the routine of writing…..)


Run, Forrest, Run

I’ve always hated running.  So many people find it therapeutic and say it is a wonderful way to stay fit.  But I’ve never gotten into running — I can think of no more torturous activity!

When I was a young girl, I was very sickly, small, weak, anemic.  I could never keep up with my siblings or cousins.  They were always running, jumping, climbing, wrestling.  I was always coming from behind begging them to wait for me or to help me.  It was annoying to them and, eventually, they just ran off, leaving me with the younger cousins who also could not keep up.  As I got older, I continued to TRY to keep up – to compete with everyone else;  jump higher, ride faster, climb farther.  I developed a very competitive nature but, sadly, was never quite as athletic as I wanted to be.

However, I am the champion of running on the inside.  As I’ve grown into adulthood, and now as I grow into “senior” adulthood, I have learned much from different counselors, self-help books and articles about facing your fears, allowing yourself to feel, confronting things head on, etc. etc.  But when you know how to run, its so much easier to run.

Running on the inside is not physically strenuous, you don’t have to monitor your heart rate, it isn’t hard on your knees or back.  Although, after a long period of running from emotions – your body will begin to show signs of fatigue and depletion.  Emotional running is automatic.  It is part of our “fight or flight” hormonal response.  When in the midst of some emotional upheaval that we know we cannot “fight”, we take flight.  We’re off and out of the blocks; running INSIDE our heads.  We start searching for something tangible to DO with our hands, our minds.  We busy ourselves with something, anything.  Eating, cooking, cleaning, drinking, Pinterest, Facebook, and most of us will find someone or something that needs our attention MORE than whatever we are trying to avoid.  We will throw ourselves headlong into something ELSE and give it 110%.

Conversely, running may involve isolating ourselves, sleeping a lot, “zombie-ing” our way through our daily lives.  Laughter and enjoyment are a distant memory.  We trudge along and think only about the fact that we are trudging along.

For some of us, running is second nature.  Even if we have learned the skills needed to stop or slow that internal fleeing – it is our first and most dominant response. I understand meditation is a good method to overcome the need/desire to run.  I have yet to accomplish this particular method of countering that predominant need to flee.  Frankly, I can’t sit still long enough to meditate!  Just like the character in “Eat, Pray, Love”, I watch the clock and my mind is racing from topic to topic, coming back to the fact that I can’t stand just sitting there!

At some point in running that suppression marathon, perhaps when there is a need for hydration or to catch your breath, you can begin to intercede with some of your “learned” coping skills — begin to process WHY you are running, where does it HURT, how can you slow this race and begin to slowly FEEL, let yourself touch the surface of the fear.

This is the point at which I have finally arrived.  Writing about it is the first step.  Next up – breathing, slowing my internal pace.  If only I felt this much like actually running on the OUTSIDE….

Just ruminating…..

Guilt.  Pure Catholic?  OR Female based?  Or, heaven forbid, a combination of the two!!!  I’ve always wished that, for just one day, I could be a man and think like they do, make decisions based solely on my own notion without considering the feelings and judgments of others or the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” I carry with me or any of the usual worries I have in making most of my decisions!

I have always wondered – is it nature or nurture?  Were we born with this innate desire to please, to mold ourselves into whatever is needed by the situation?  Or did the situation mold us into this caretaking creature?  I suppose it is a combination of both — exacerbated by a lifelong history of male domination, female submissiveness.

Here is my take: in the beginning, it WAS nature.  Women had the gift of reproduction – they needed to be protected, fed, valued for their contribution of keeping the species going.  Somehow as life transpired, instead of being valued they suddenly became demeaned as weak, helpless, useful only as a sexual gratifier and child “rearer” as if they had no other contribution, no intelligence or strength.  Women became a commodity, like breeders.  They were bargaining pieces, for sale or trade.  In turn, women became reliant on men out of necessity.  They had to modify their behavior constantly, to maintain the status quo or to be desirable on the open market.  They had little choice or liberty.  Sometimes, they were given for marriage to a far-older man – the highest bidder with the best offer.  Often times, they were given over into cruelty and abuse.  Bear in mind, these were women of intelligence.  They had to use their wits to survive in the worst of conditions.

Conversely, there were women during the same period who lived easier lives.  Those who were given over to more comfortable surroundings and significantly better financial means.  However, they were under a different lock and key – limited to “female” pursuits; child bearing, sewing, taking tea and dressing for dinner.

Gratefully, through time, women have evolved.  Women began to take a stand, to exert their will.  It was a long hard climb and it was fraught with much difficulty.  To this day, there is no clear path for most women.  True, we are now more likely to be educated, strong, intelligent and many have specific and fulfilling careers.  But we are still the breeders.  We still WANT and LOVE our children.  In most cases, what has happened is that women have merely taken on an additional role – breeder and bread winner.  And despite our best efforts – we can’t do it all.  Who would want to?

Women evolved and took on whatever we were given.  Men sat back and let us do it, waiting for us to fail.  In other words, the men DIDN’T EVOLVE.  (Side bar: I must qualify that statement. Some men did evolve.  Some only partially.  There are men who DO fully support their partners, who are present and focused on making an equal contribution to a familial relationship.  Some men “try” but are still men, after all…).  There were men who didn’t believe that women could ever be capable or “equal”.  They were perfectly happy to sit back and let them roll in, work hard and sometimes surpass them because they knew they were in control of the purse strings and that is all that mattered.  The glass ceiling is their secret weapon and secures their dominance for eternity.  This is their way of thinking.

Even in the best of times, as women, we continue to modify our behavior to accommodate our situation.  As a gender, we will always be encumbered by our traditional roles.  Motherhood, caretaking, teaching, guiding…these are our strong suits.  It isn’t that men are not capable or can’t excel in those suits, if the need arises. But to their way of thinking, the need never arises.  SOMEONE has to step up, 9 times out of 10 it will be the woman.

As an example, I will site my own case.  My husband is a good man.  He is strong and loving.  He loves children and is good with babies.  When our children were little, he fed them, changed them and took care of them while I worked or had other pursuits.  When we met, we were both working at jobs that we enjoyed, our dream “career” jobs.  As our family grew, it became more and more difficult to work these jobs because we were both working shifts.  Finding babysitters became difficult and we were struggling to keep a decent schedule.  We decided that I should get a “day” job so that at least one of us had a steady, reasonable schedule.  The truth is, I had no choice in the matter because he was making twice as much money as I was and it made more sense for me to take a cut in pay and work as a secretary.  This also meant that I would now take on 85% of all household duties, and childrearing responsibilities because he continued to work shifts and was either working or sleeping during regular family “living” hours.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t willing to help and participate, he did what most men do in that situation — he figured if I needed his help I would ask him.  I did what most women do — I figured, if he were paying attention, he would see that I needed help without request or instruction.  Therein lies the rub.

If you are in a partner relationship – married or no — you know that there are definite differences in the thought processes of the gender roles.  (I wonder what it is like in gay relationships?  Is it the role or the gender that defines the process?)  Men don’t worry.  They don’t watch, listen or ruminate.  Women wear down the carpet of worry.  We read body language like a romantic novel, absorbing every detail.  Not only do we listen, we rehash every sound, word, inflection.  The focus for each gender and the means of dealing with each circumstance is, by nature, very different.  It becomes far more obvious in a relationship when childbearing and childrearing begins.

“It’s not right for a woman to read.  Soon she starts getting ideas and thinking….” Gaston, Beauty and the Beast   Women think so much.  Too much really, because we are ruminating over the SHOULDS, feeling judged, judging ourselves (far too harshly), anticipating a need….frankly, it is exhausting.  At any given moment, you can ask any man, “What are you thinking?”  He will never respond with a worry or any thought in connection with an emotion.  It will be a thought about a mechanical process or about the weather (what is their obsession with the weather?) or a physical process — calculating or building something inside their head.

Logically, we have to be different.  In any relationship, there is never a 50/50 split of duties and responsibilities.  We each have different strengths and weaknesses.  Generally, one partner provides more income.  One partner is responsible for keeping the finances.  One partner vacuums, the other one mows. One partner remembers to send birthday greetings.  So on and so forth.  Each partnership will execute the dance of compromise, deciding who will undertake which duties.  As the partnership evolves and transitions into various stages of growth, the dance changes as well.  It is the responsibility of each partner to clearly state their needs and desires AND they must be willing to compromise or there will be resentment and balance will be lost.

Awareness is key.  It is too easy to fall back into traditional roles — men will pull back and wait to be “told” what to do and women will let them, feeling angry that they still aren’t mindreaders even after all this time….  While there are times that I do wish I could think like a man, cast aside all of this guilt and insecurity; most of the time I am glad that I don’t.  Who would take care of all those little details, feelings, and sustain life as we know it?


This morning, I dreamed about dying.  In the dream, I was crossing over an ice-filled river and fell in.  There were several of us in the water (for some reason) and we were all floating toward the falls (of course, there was a waterfall).  We were all trying to climb on to the larger ice chunks toward the side of the river.  Interestingly enough, the water was not cold.  Also, there were people along the banks of the river watching us struggle.  Just as I was making my way to the edge of the river to climb out onto dry land, one of the onlookers said, “It doesn’t matter, you’re going over” and I went over the falls.  In the dream, I said to myself — this is a dream and you never hit bottom in dreams.  Sure enough, I didn’t but as I transitioned into the next scene of the dream, I began to realize that I had, indeed, died.  People could see me but didn’t know me as me.  They were talking about my passing.  I began to wonder how long I would walk on the earth as this other being, watching my finale as an observer.  Probably the most striking occurrence in the dream is that I KNEW it was a dream and kept a running voiceover in my mind, something like, “It’s OKAY, this is just a dream”.

Many parts of the dream were obvious rationalization of things going on in my head.  My mother’s death, floating in the current – trying to get back on land, realizing others are struggling in the water and in life, as well.  Feeling as though I am watching the world go by without my participation.  Keeping my head above water.  And of course, the most obvious, thinking of my own mortality.

When I was about ten years old, I went through a phase of fearing death.  Each night, as I went to bed, I would begin to panic that I was going to die in my sleep.  I would experience shortness of breath and it would escalate into a full-on panic attack.  At some point, either my mom or dad (I honestly can’t remember which) told me that none of us ever know when we will die so we can’t look for it or try to hide from it.  When the shortness of breath comes, relax and slow your breathing.  Say the Lord’s prayer and it will help calm you.  Naturally, I’m paraphrasing, I don’t remember exactly how they told me I just know that when I am really worried or afraid, I automatically start saying the Lord’s prayer and breathing very slowly.

I don’t FEEL as though I am upset about my mother’s passing.  I’ve already been grieving for the last few years.  But even though it isn’t in the forefront, it is like a program running in the background.  Every now and then, the little “throbber” (an animated graphical element used to show that a computer program is running in the background) comes up and spins to remind me.


In 2014 when I retired, a gaggle of old friends (strike that — we aren’t old just long-time friends) decided we should meet monthly and have a few drinks, dinner and visit.  We agreed to meeting on the second Thursday of the month, at 4pm at a “happy hour” of our choosing.  We have been faithfully meeting ever since.

There are four of us, we met and worked together at 911 dispatch in the 80’s.  This was back in the glory days when the quality of our service to the public was job 1.  Working as a 911 dispatcher was stressful, but we were proficient, intelligent, sensible and dedicated.  We could hear and talk at the same time – something that is important when you need to remain aware of what is going on around you.  We worked together like a well-oiled machine – most of the time.

Of course, there were more than four of us working at the 911 center at the time, and the majority of dispatchers were of the same mind and skills.  We rotated shifts so you learned to work with a wide variety of personality types but, in many ways, we were like a family.  We spent countless hours talking and sharing details of our lives.  We celebrated and mourned together.  We grew up together – even though we were all well into adulthood when we began.  And there was always that one crazy aunt, bitter cousin, ditzy sister and cranky grandmother that we had to contend with in our dispatcher family.

We have great memories of those working days and this week we reminisced about quite a few of them.  One of our Funco gals has retired and we took a mini-vacay to Leavenworth, WA to celebrate.  We stayed in a lovely Air BnB near the center of town within walking distance to everything.  The weather was perfect, sunny and warm – with clear skies and gorgeous views.  We ate out, did a little shopping (didn’t buy much?) and enjoyed several happy hours.  We also watched Frozen and threw grapes at patrons of a brewery across the street from the deck of our rental (how old are we?).   **No injuries were reported….

This has been a year of change for all of us.  We’ve had health issues to deal with, either our own or that of a family member.  One of us has moved.  One of us has retired.  One lost the family dog but eventually got a new puppy.  One of us recently lost her mother.  One of us has a sister who is gravely ill.  One of us is expecting her first grandchild.  Time marches on.  It is lovely to share it with these friends.  Even though we may not see each other as often as we used to – we still share a common bond.  To the Funco Gals – many happy returns.

Waiting and watching

It is pouring rain as it often does in May.  The rivers are rising as the rain comes down, the temperature heats up and the snow begins to melt in the higher elevations.  There are people who live near a water source, in the flood plain, who are pacing, fretting, praying…as the muddy water rises.

Water has some significance to me although I’ve never been able to identify why.  If I have a nightmare, it usually involves water.  I am either falling in water, under water or avoiding rushing water as it eats away at a road I am traveling in the dream.  I suppose water represents some angst I am feeling in my waking hours.  Perhaps, I’m trying to keep my head above water.

Today, while the waters rise, my mother is sinking.  She has taken a turn for the worst.  For months now, she has been steadily losing weight and losing her ability/desire to eat.  She doesn’t speak and rarely makes eye contact – at least that has been my experience on my visits.

Mom has been under hospice care for the last six months although it was more of an extra care type of hospice, where they monitor her a little more carefully than the attendants at the memory care facility.  As of yesterday afternoon, she is under true hospice care.  They will begin giving her “bed baths” instead of getting her up to shower.  She will receive comfort care.  They will keep her comfortable.

Knowing my mom, she would never have wanted to linger.  She would have hated being in the “home” and having anyone see her in this condition.  Her best “end” would have been in her own home, lying down and just not waking up with the morning sun.  We don’t always get to choose our own ending.

For the last few years, I have thought that I was working through the grief, preparing for the end.  We have known it was coming – the doctor and hospice people will very kindly and graciously reveal the signs.  You learn the key words and catchphrases for the “end of life” scenario.  Loss of appetite, difficulty walking, eating, breathing.  It is a gradual process but it does proceed.  You think you’ve cried all the tears you can cry.  You think you are ready.  But how can you be?

We wait and watch.  And the river rises.

Turn off the tv?

I watch too much television.  There I said it.  My confession of the day.  Damn Netflix and Amazon Prime!

Normally, I crochet while watching so that, at least, it feels as though I am accomplishing something while I watch.  Recently though, I have been watching foreign movies or series and I have to read the subtitles so I can’t do both!

Television is entertainment, an escape, a way of passing the time.  I do enjoy it but I try to limit myself because at the end of the evening – after I have flipped through multiple channels and movie menus – only to watch something ridiculous (should have turned it off after the first 15 minutes) and I realize that it is time for bed already!  What a waste of an evening!  I don’t feel quite so bad IF I’m binge-watching a good series because at least I felt entertained!  (Still, it was such a waste of time…)

My latest rule (more of a guideline really) is not to watch anything below a three star rating.  And if after the first 15 minutes, the show doesn’t grab me or seems ridiculous or questionable, then I should turn it off.  My original guideline was to turn off the television altogether but in the last 6 months, I’ve just turned off the program and continued searching for something better.

Now.  I do have a hobby.  Writing.  I could easily turn off the television and not-so-easily sit down and write something.  Therein lies the rub.  If I sit at the computer – the old procrastination troll comes weaseling in and I start watching youtube, looking at pinterest, perusing facebook — all in the name of research or looking for inspiration.  I am fooling no one, least of all, myself.

There is one small justification.  I am retired.  I have worked in one capacity or another since I was 18.  It really isn’t necessary to be moving and doing something every minute of the day.  And it is okay for things to slow down a little.  My concern is that I will turn into a little bowl of jello, sitting in my recliner, eating crackers and cream cheese and watching one BBC series after another.  The only thing missing is a house full of cats!

I was never stupid

This morning, as I sat at my computer looking for inspiration, I had a flashback to doing homework as a teenager.  I felt the urge to run.  (Which, these days running actually means looking at facebook, pinterest or youtube!)  Avoiding the pressure and anxiety by distracting myself with nonsense.

I realized it was for that reason that I was never a very good student.  It was so much easier to procrastinate, to find something else to think about and do – anything to avoid that feeling of dread and failure. I didn’t really learn how to make myself “finish” anything, or even put forth an effort, until I was in my mid-twenties.

As an “older” adult, I now realize that I was smarter than I believed.  I used being “stupid” as an excuse not to try.  I was never stupid.  I was immature, insecure and indolent (triple-threat!).

I was 26 years old when I finally began to realize that I was capable.  Oh, I had detected little snippets of intellect along the way but, at 26, I really began to believe there was intelligent life somewhere in the depth of my psyche.

At the time, I was working as a 911 dispatcher.  Up until that point, it was just a job.  One day my training supervisor gave me my yearly evaluation.  I was told the usual – all of my marks were average (translation: C to C- with an occasional C+).  Then she said something that caught my attention.  I don’t remember the exact words but the gist was this: you have a lot of potential.  It is possible that with a little extra effort, you would be great as a trainer.  Ding, ding, ding.  I could?  Really?

That was the launch.  I began putting more effort into learning about the job – I made friends with my co-workers.  We were a team and worked very well together.  I became a trainer and with the daily experience of different situations – different calls and dispatching under various stressful conditions – I realized that this was something at which I could excel.  Not only that, I loved doing the work and after a time, it seemed effortless.  Being a dispatcher remains the most enjoyable, challenging and fulfilling job I’ve ever had.  To this day, I still have dreams about it and I often miss it.  I haven’t worked there for 28 years but I can still remember the 10 codes, incident codes and most of the officers numbers.  I can also remember the feeling of satisfaction.

It was a great job.  The people I worked with are still very dear to me (some of them anyway).  I will always remember that time in my life fondly and with pride – it was my coming of age.  The time and place where I learned that I was never stupid.

Grabbing hold

Spring.  The grass is getting so green and the leaves are popping out.  The birds are nesting and doing their “mating” flights, with the males fighting over the available females.  The hummingbirds have returned.

All of this I can witness if I just look over the top of my computer screen.  I have strategically placed my desk so that I have a gorgeous view.  If money were no object, I would replace my window with a beautiful picture window so that nothing would obstruct that beautiful scenery.  I feel so very fortunate.


It is so easy to overlook the changes of spring, to disregard the beauty as it unfurls around us.  But most of the time, spring will just grab hold.  The sun will come in with genuine warmth and we won’t be able to resist stopping and turning our face to those glorious rays.  We will begin to “feel” spring.  Our steps will be lighter, we will feel more like cleaning, exercising, walking, playing, (mating?).

I watch as the horses sprawl out in the warm morning sun.  I can almost hear their sigh of pleasure.  The baby calves run and play around their mothers and on days like today, the mothers join them.

I promised myself when I retired that I would slow my pace.  I would enjoy days like today and not let my need for order and perfection get in the way.  I have a hard time sitting still.  Luckily, spring has grabbed me – I will sit quietly and just watch.


“The calves don’t have any teeth, so they have to drink milk from their mothers”.


“Because they are just babies.  They suck on the teets and get milk from the cow there.  That’s where we get our milk too – from the cow.   The farmer can milk the cow.”

“Is the cow going to pee again?”

“No, not for awhile”.


“Just because she won’t need to go for awhile”.

This is the conversation from my walk yesterday – with my three year old grandson.  As with all children that age, he asks a million questions and the follow-up question is always, “why”.

As I am walking and talking, I remind myself of my dad.  I talk in his tone and tell my stories as he would have.  I wish he was here.  He would be thrilled to spend time with all of his great-grandchildren.  He would be so proud.


I didn’t have a relationship with my grandparents.  Certainly not like my relationship with my grandsons.  My paternal grandparents lived about three miles away and my maternal grandparents lived in Texas.  It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized grandparents sometimes get very involved with their grandchildren.  Several friends from school wrote to their grandparents frequently and actually called them to chat sometimes!

Circumstances in my family were such, that we didn’t have much contact with our paternal grandparents.  They were friendly, but we didn’t really spend much time with them.  I also found out later in life that this was unusual – my other cousins were very close to our grandparents.

The relationship between my mom and her mother-in-law was very strained and contentious – consequently, we rarely spent time with them even though they lived close by.  The first time I remember seeing my grandparents in Texas, I was 12 years old.  We took a family vacation to Texas and we spent about a week there.  My memory of them on that trip was that they were loving but seemed very old.

My mom and dad were very loving and involved grandparents.  They worked hard to spend time with all of their grandchildren.  They also attended as many concerts, games, track meets and activities as they could.  All of their grandchildren have fond memories of grandma and grandpa.

To me, being a grandmother is the best.  I love hearing them squeal my name (Gawee) when they see me.  They run to give me a hug!  Nothing better. I can be silly and talk in voices and accents, I can fall dramatically, play pretend and laugh and giggle to my hearts content.

I have said this before but it bears repeating, being a grandparent is so much easier than being a parent because you have more “free” time, you don’t have to worry about the daily toils of life.  You just get to “be” with them.  And they are so happy to see you, they just want to “be” with you.  At no other time in your life will you have that kind of relationship.  If we are very lucky, that bond will carry over into those pre-teen and teen years when they usually get embarrassed about everything.  I will do my best to evolve into a different type of grandmotherly entertainment (no more dramatic falls) but I will always be there talk and listen and laugh with them.