BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Thanks, Elizabeth or God or whoever

**I will have to really make this fast.  I am babysitting today and my charge is on his way home with papa — may not make the full 300 words for the day!

“Ole to you none the less” (Elizabeth Gilbert — TED talk)

There are times when I am frustrated, sad, depressed, anxious and I feel at a total loss for how to pull myself up and, serendipitously, (is there such a word?) I will find my answer in a song, a conversation, a book, or the answer will just plink itself down in my mind.  Today, it happened to come in the form of a TED talk about creativity.  **See above link

I have been thinking about how much I love writing.  I have also been feeling like I have nothing to write about, nothing of import or consequence.  Silly to continue to pursue  the notion of writing – I certainly will never attain fame or fortune.  I am just kidding myself.

This morning, I opened my email and there is a new TED talk about creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert (author or Eat, Pray, Love).  I knew I was pressed for time so I decided I would listen to it and try to write later, perhaps during Ollie’s nap…or while he is watching a show.  As I listened…I could hear the anxiety begin to settle and drape at my feet, like a big shroud I had been wearing that finally fell free.  The Aha moment, the audible “plink” in my mind.

If you are a writer or artist or if you are just a person who feels a little bit of angst over something you must do or “create”.  Give this TED talk a listen.  Maybe it will plink for you too — maybe it won’t.  Ole to you none the less.  Toodles (made my 300!)

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I am now entering my 4th year of retirement.  Overall, I would say I do enjoy having so much free time and minimal commitments.  I spend time with my grandsons – which is fun.  I have a lot of leisure time — in the cold months, I spend way too much time watching TV – but in the warmer months it is GLORIOUS!  Retirement is reminiscent of summer vacation as a child.  No school and we could play all day, every day!

My husband and I enjoy traveling and during the wintry months, we try to plan trips to avoid the dreary, drawn-out snow and cold.  This year we will be going to Hawaii, Arizona and on a cruise to the Caribbean in January, February and March – respectively.

There is a small tug of guilt as I write of our travel plans.  For most of my life, because of lack of funds, travel was a real luxury.  If I try to remember travel from my childhood, it is very foggy at best.  I remember riding in a hot car, sleeping in a pop-up tent trailer and eating a lot of bologna sandwiches.  Our vacations were spent visiting family and entertainment was just playing in the yard or exploring the neighborhood and wilds of Lake Worth, Texas.  Don’t get me wrong – it was fun and as a child, I didn’t know any different (though my dream was to go to Disneyland and ride EVERY ride!).  But in those days, there were no plane trips, no cruises and certainly no European vacations!  We were lucky to go to kids’ day at the county fair!

My husbands childhood was similar to mine.  His family was large and they didn’t really travel either – they went to a cabin and camped on weekends.

When our kids were little, we tried to take them on entertaining “jaunts” each summer.  Usually, we would scrimp and save and choose a place to visit something historical and stay in a reasonable hotel with an indoor pool.  We would eat out, go to museums or on tours then come back and play in the pool.  It was affordable and we felt like we were really living large- at least I did.  Not having to cook was a treat in itself!

One year, we took a BIG trip across country to visit my step-daughter and her family in Kentucky.  I am so glad I took a lot of pictures because the memories of that trip are a blur!  I do feel a fondness about it so we must have had fun….I suppose my kids probably have a plethora of different memories, good and bad.  We saw a lot of country and a lot of the inside of our suburban!

At any rate, one of the reasons I retired early was so that we could travel while we are still physically able.  My husband is 10 years my senior and while we are both in good health, we are also very pragmatic – either of us could break a hip or develop a life debilitating illness at any moment (morbid, I know) and we may as well enjoy ourselves while we can.  There will be plenty of time to sit around the house and watch “our shows” and do crossword puzzles as the years proceed.

To be honest, as we are traveling to new places and seeing new things, I feel like a child again and it is summer – we can play ALL DAY!

400 words

New Rules.  No Pinterest, Facebook or Youtube until you write your blog.  I feel like a 10 year old who is being grounded for not finishing my homework.  Okay, okay!  Next, I’ll lose my bathroom privileges!

I have a dozen or so books about writing.  They are part of my “self-help” library.  In addition, I’ve wasted countless hours online “researching” about HOW to write; how to break a writing block; how to journal; how to write an essay; and studying websites full of writing prompts that might spur my creative energy.  Throughout all of these resources, there is a common theme: In order to write, you must write.  Hmmmmm.  It is not as easy as it sounds.  Oh, but don’t despair, there is a plethora of blogs with from 3 to 20 point plans for developing a writing habit which is paramount if you want to succeed as a writer.

I awaken in the morning and my mind begins churning with possible writing topics.  Usually, it is something personal; something that is going on close to home/me and I want to write about it.  The internal quarrel begins.  Can’t write about that based on my audience.  Can’t write that because it will make you sound like a whiner or negative or vulnerable or crazy.   Can’t write that lest you be judged and shunned.  By the time my feet hit the floor and my ass hits the chair, I’ve lost all steam or desire and I spend all of my designated writing time looking at Pinterest, Facebook and Youtube – under the ruse of seeking a writing idea…  (And by the way, if you want to really feel bad about yourself – just peruse Pinterest for a couple of hours.  You’ll realize very quickly that you truly AREN’T “crafty” when you know in your heart that you could NEVER make a cute little Christmas tree out of coffee filters and colored beads!  You’ll sink deeper and deeper into a dark hole – which is why you move on to Youtube and watch funny fails! Nothing can cheer me up faster than watching someone trip and fall.)  But I digress and, clearly, you can understand why there is to be no Pinterest, Facebook or Youtube before writing!

So, here is my own 1 point plan – my new rules:

  1. Get up and write at LEAST 300 words.  Doesn’t matter if it is beautiful, funny or earth-shattering.  Just write the damn words.

Luck

A conversation with my grandson, Ollie, last week (while looking at a portrait of Grandpa Sarge):

me: He was a cowboy just like you.

Ollie: But why?

me: Oh he just liked to ride horses and feed cows.

Ollie: But why?

me: oh, he just liked it.  Did you know he was my dad?

Ollie: But why?

me:  I was just really lucky…

Monday the 13th would have been my dad’s 85th birthday.  I often wonder what he would be like now – if he had lived.  I believe he would be thrilled to have his children all living on the same road, within a mile of each other.  He would absolutely love seeing all of his grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.   It has been almost 16 years since he passed away.  Doesn’t seem possible.

As time goes by, I think of him less and less.  It is a natural part of the process.  But there are still things that remind me of him.  Red flannel shirts. Tobasco sauce.   Seeing my uncle Pat who looks JUST like him from a distance.  Seeing a sorrel horse.  Hearing a tuneless whistle.  Seeing the age spots on my own hands.

Dad loved to talk and he was a great story teller.  He had a very soothing voice and a colorful vocabulary.  I still miss hearing his voice.  I have very vivid memories of times when he knew I was hurting and he tried to talk me “out” of it or when there was a point he wanted to make, a lesson to teach.  I don’t always remember the specific things he said but then his message was usually relatively covert.  He would start talking about how to chop wood and the conversation would morph into being proud of a specific talent you might have or how to avoid a certain type of boy.  How did he manage that?  It was a gift.

After his heart surgery, and the subsequent staph infection, the doctor had to reconstruct dad’s sternum using the muscles in his chest.  We were told that dad would have to wear a shield over his chest for extra protection.  He would also be limited with some of his activities after his recovery.  Unfortunately, he didn’t survive the infection.  He was 69 years old.  That was in 2002.

I am so grateful that he was my dad.  I’m grateful for all of his camouflaged life lessons.  He was a wonderful grandpa.  He was so good to all of us.  He was a cowboy.  And I was just really lucky.

Ours is not to reason why

It is hard to imagine what you would be like today if this disease hadn’t stolen you away.  In many ways, you have already passed but, unlike being in heaven, we can still see you but you can’t see us.  It is heartbreaking to see you in that place, in this state.  Your beautiful blue eyes are vacant.  Your face is relaxed and absent of emotion.  Each day your body is thinner, more emaciated.  You sleep, you sit in a chair with your head in your hands, you eat, you walk, you wait.  What are you thinking?  Are you thinking?

My wish for you is that you will fall asleep – sideways on your bed, as you always do – and peacefully find your final rest.  Though I didn’t know you as well as some daughters know their mothers, I do know that this is not what you would want.

I know you were lonely most of your life.  You were torn from your core family as a young woman and moved across the country to a small town where winter and your in-laws were equally unyielding.  You were in a relationship void of day-to-day intimacy.  I always like to believe that you and dad loved each other – but your timing was always off.  Neither of you understood how to communicate in a loving relationship – or how to belong.  Poverty was not new to you but it was something you abhorred.  Who doesn’t?  We can all withstand poverty if we have steadfast love and friendship.  That was just another thing that was in short supply.

Resentful.  That is the word I would choose to describe what I knew of you.

And now, I am to come visit you.  We had nothing to talk about when you were you.  Now, it is all I can do to stay a full 5 minutes.  The heartbreak is the loss of you but visiting isn’t much different than most of my visits to you throughout my life – except you can’t speak to infer an offhanded criticism.  I know you loved me – but you didn’t really like me and it hurts me to this day.

When the time comes, I will help write your obituary and I suspect that I will learn things about you that I never knew while you were living.  I will always remember and appreciate the love you gave to my children.  I will remember the life you gave me. But I will also struggle with the neglect and resentment I have felt from you in my lifetime.  And I will never know why.

Ramblings

It’s a good thing I don’t write a blog for a living.  I would be destitute.  I have been in a “blog” slump for awhile now.

Lots of topics to write about but none that grab me enough to actually complete a thought.  Political things depress and aggravate me — I avoid reading the paper or watching the news.  Yes, my head is in the sand.  Inequality for women is maddening – sexual harassment; disparity in wages compared to men; life’s general inequity between men and women in the family setting; the list is endless.  All of those topics touch me – but just barely.

I have never been very involved in politics.  I don’t really feel qualified to debate any political issues because I will readily admit, I am unversed in current affairs.  I get most of my information from Facebook, Last Week Tonight or headlines in the paper.  I have chosen to remain ignorant because knowing is just too frightening.  I stay in the periphery of knowledge and keep my own sanity.  I feel silly and a little bit guilty as I admit that and see it written in black and white — but it is what it is.

As for the issue of sexual harassment, I am no longer in the work environment but I can recall a few occasions of being sexually harassed.  I minimized them at the time – just like every other woman who needed a job.  Do I wish I had spoken up?  Yes.  Would it have made a difference?  No.  In the later years of my career, I experienced some periods of “harassment” that were not sexual in nature but gender based.  In one instance, I was demeaned by a couple of men in a meeting.  It was a frustrating experience because it was done to “put me in my place” as a woman – and the other men present, while they may have disapproved,  said nothing in my defense.  I still feel the burn of shame and anger of that day.   It was the day I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to change their view of me, no matter how successful or smart I proved myself to be.  In their eyes, I was a pushy uneducated woman.  End of story.

Being retired removes you from the real world.  I think that is what makes it harder to retire young.  If you are in your mid-60’s or early 70’s, you have truly reached the age of majority.  You are ready for codger-dom.  Every aspect of life is meant to be getting slower, older, less active.  Your body is losing elasticity and strength – your mind is losing clarity. (**Side-bar: I am generalizing, not everyone reaches codger-dom at the same time…). For those of us in our late 50’s or early 60’s, we’re not quite there yet.  We are the mid’s.  Too young to be retired but, in the view of our cohorts, too old to be part of the mainstream.

I retired young – at 56 – because my husband was retired and is ten years my senior.  We knew that if we wanted to travel and experience the best of  “retirement” years, we should do it while he was still young-er.  Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying my retirement – but there are days when I feel a bit adrift.  I don’t have a particular purpose and certainly have only rare moments of feeling accomplished.  With ALL of this free time – why aren’t I writing?

Good question.  For one thing, I watch too much television.  Damn you Netflix!   I don’t read enough.  If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader too.  I let myself sink into old habits and old insecurities.  Like most people who write, I procrastinate.  I find something else to occupy my time and mind.  Most of all, I listen to that voice in my head that tells me I’m really not a writer….

More fear

Another mass shooting.  A crazy guy with a bunch of guns.  A cry for better gun control laws.  Another media frenzy.  We all buy into it; the panic, the anger, the deep seated fear.  We listen to report and dreaded report, on multiple channels and over a multitude of media forums.  Our world seems to get crazier and crazier by the minute.

What can we do as an individual?  How can we live amid this madness?  How do we avoid joining the frenzy?  How do we prevent depression, anger and doom from ruling the day when we feel so powerless?

In truth, no matter how many mass shootings there are, no matter how inept our rulers are, no matter how ruthless our “enemies” are; as individuals our power is limited to our minuscule corner of existence.  We CAN remain informed and mindful of how we are governed. We CAN contact our representatives and let our voices be heard.  We CAN teach our children to be good, caring, strong citizens.   We CAN be good citizens ourselves.  We CAN make right any wrong within our purview and not turn a blind eye.

In times like these, we may feel so powerless, we withdraw, throw up our hands and change the channel. We become apathethic, complacent and hopeless.  Conversely, it is easy to buy into the mayhem; to join the ranks of twitterpaters.  The sky is, indeed, falling.  We become angry, inflexible, verging on hysterical. In both cases, depression and anxiety prevail.

In the paper today, one of the articles I read said the FBI is investigating whether or not the gunman had been “radicalized” by someone.  Aren’t we all at risk of being radicalized on a daily basis?  Watch or listen to the news for 10 minutes and feel the fear mongering sink in.  We have to pay attention to our world, we can’t bury our heads in the sand. BUT we don’t have to join the herd.  Turn OFF the news, set your phone aside.  Walk outside. TALK face to face to someone about something other than the chaos.  Remind yourself that the one thing you can do as an individual is to live your best life beyond and in spite of the frenzy.  Have courage, as often as you can.

 

Etiquette

Time goes by unfettered.  You certainly can’t slow it down or hold onto it – even if you want to.  When you are young and in the thick of living, time is your rival.  You must keep up with that ticking clock – it rules the day.  As you age, the clock becomes a different kind of rival.  The focus isn’t trying to fit as much into that little face of hours and minutes but to keep that little face from bowling you over.  (In this modern day of technology, the clock no longer has a face….but a digital readout.  I’m outdated in my analogies…)

I recently attended the celebration of life for one of my high school teachers.  It was interesting to see the ensemble of retired teachers in attendance.  They looked so old.  Made me feel young-er, sort of.  Stepping into the old school and sitting in the gym, where I played basketball and sang in concerts and played french horn in the band – I began to feel old again.

The teacher we were celebrating was the business teacher from 1972 until approx 2001.  He coached basketball, football, wrestling and was involved in several other extracurricular business class organizations.  He had a daughter, a son and several grandsons.  When he retired from our school, he moved to another larger city to be near his daughter and son.  He continued to work as a teacher until he was diagnosed with liver cancer a couple of years ago.  By all accounts, he was a very fun-loving, caring and giving person. He loved his wife, his family, playing golf and teaching.  He died in July but they arranged this little celebration for those of us who could attend his funeral in July.

I grew up in a small town and attended a small, rural high school.  My graduating class had 26 students.  Most of us had attended all twelve years of school together.  In those days,  the teachers lived and raised their families in the community as well.  Because they were a part of the community, they were committed to the school and to teaching.  They certainly weren’t there to make money!

Attending the celebration of life was a walk down memory lane.  Of course, there was talk about his life, what he loved, how kind he was and there were funny stories about different points in his lifetime in our valley.  It was sad and funny – as it should be.  Seeing my old teachers, talking about those old days, made me ruminate about my life as a teenager.  I have always known that I have limited memories of those years.  Of course, my focus at the time was about my appearance, my peers and my nonexistent love-life.  In addition to pondering those old days, I also observed the crowd and considered the celebration ceremony itself and how I would do things differently at my own funeral/memorial.

In recent years, I have attended more funerals than in my younger years.  Stands to reason, I am getting older.  Parents, friends, and other family members, are reaching the age of mortality.  These things come to the forefront, not only as we age, but as we lose friends, family or acquaintances through illness or accidental death.  It just feels more prevalent as you consider your own age in the process.  And since my mother is ill and in a memory care facility, I am always thinking about preparations for her funeral.

This was a celebration of life, well after death.  While it was still a bit raw for his immediate family, it wasn’t as difficult or as emotional as it was two months ago at his funeral service.  This ceremony was meant for those of us who couldn’t attend his funeral but still wanted to have a chance to say our good-byes.  There were several speakers, music was played and there was a reading of an open letter written by him a couple of months prior to his actual death.  All very touching and heart-felt.  Then the family requested any comments or stories from the audience (an “open mic” as it were).  Several people shared stories or memories about the teacher, mostly funny little anecdotes or expressing gratitude for his work as a teacher or coach.  Then – hobbling up to the microphone, came a retired teacher – who decided to tell her own life’s story about the horrors of teaching.  She said very little about the man we were honoring.  She was talking to hear the sound of her own voice.  It. was. painful.  And far too long.

This made me question the logic of having an open mic at a memorial/funeral service – it seems there is ALWAYS someone who takes advantage of the opportunity for a captive audience.  I’ve been to several funerals where this has occurred.  So I’ve decided that at my mother’s funeral (and at my own) there will be a precept for the open microphone – something along these lines: “We have limited time so please only share stories ABOUT the deceased.  No need to try to convert anyone to your religious beliefs or to discuss your own life history.  AND if you can’t say it in 10 sentences or less, you really should write it down and send it to the family as a personal message.  Better yet, write it in your journal and have it read at your own funeral.   Thank you for your cooperation.”

Of course, I am being facetious – we really wouldn’t say that but we would want to….  A funeral/memorial should be about the person you are honoring.  Stories about THEM.  Stories that generates a pleasant sensation and something that will bring peace to the family as they remember the person they’ve lost.

Be amazed

The clouds are a very dark gray this morning.  Looks like we’ll be getting more rain.  It has been an interesting summer here in Montana.  It was hot and dry and we experienced a plethora of forest fires – all over the state.  In our area, we had more than our fair share.  From mid-July until a few days ago, we endured very smoky days.  Air Quality was listed as hazardous for the entire month of August.  And then — it snowed in the high mountains and poured rain in the valleys.  The smoke is gone, fires have burned out and everything is very “fall” like.  Nature turned the page to the next season.

I often dream of living in a warm, moderate climate – where the temps occasionally get high or low but for the most part, remain the same year round. But I think I would miss the seasons.  Each season has its own beauty and unpleasantness – the transition period from one to the other is usually the very best time.  You know something different (possibly better) is coming.  Just about the time you think you can’t tolerate one more snow storm, the sun rises and you see the beginning of new life; green grass, trees blooming and flowers poking their heads above the slushy snow.  Last week, when we had reached our limit with the smoke and heat — the rain and snow arrived.  A special gift.  We’ll get weary of all this rain but indian summer will fall into place – warm sun, beautiful fall colors and breezy days.  If I lived in mild weather – would I long for the seasons?

In truth, our lives are like the seasons.  We dream of mild days with no disruptions, no barometric changes.  Could we live in a Utopian world where everything was “fine” every single moment of every single day?  That would be lovely, wouldn’t it?  No one would be sad or lonely; we wouldn’t compete with each other or fight over ridiculous differences; there would be no need for using mood changing medications/alcohol and such; everyone would feel loved and cared for.  Of course, we COULD live in that dreamland – but it is just that; a dream, “never-never land”.

The disruptions and transitions of life are often difficult.  Most of us fumble through trying to find a way out of the gray clouds or a way to stay in the sliver-like ray of sunshine.  Sometimes, we need help but never ask and wallow in our desolation.  Other times, we ask and have great expectations for deliverance from our misery and fear – only to find it short-lived.  We lament our misery and wonder why we can’t find peace.  We internalize our pain and envy others who seem so much more content.

Our lives are wrought with changing seasons; clearing our path of old growth in preparation for the new.   We tire of the same old routine but fear starting over yet again.  We prefer staying in our comfy clothes, on our comfy couches and beds and staying inside – out of the elements.  Change often means a loss of some kind and we wonder if we will survive the conversion.  (Close your eyes and think of the times you thought you would never get through a particularly difficult time.  Be amazed at the realization that you DID get through it.)

Somehow, we manage.  We move on, adjust, re-align our delineation of security and comfort.  We prepare for the coming season of our life — put on an extra layer of clothing for warmth or find a cool stretch of shade; knowing there will be rain or snow – we hunker down and wait for the worst to pass.  If we didn’t have the storms, fires, rain, snow, dry heat – we wouldn’t have the sun, shade, grass, flowers and new-trees.  The same applies to our lives – we lose people we love; we feel lost ourselves, at one time or another; we feel sad and lonely; the old growth is destroyed and the new growth appears with little notice, but it does appear.  Without fail, the next season does appear.

Silliness is essential

Boogers.  Co-sleeping on just 12″ of bed.  Running.  Hiding.  Laughing.  Speaking with a british accent or a very high, strawberry shortcake voice.  The joys of gawee-hood.  Seeing those happy little faces and hearing them squeal your name in delight is beyond precious.  Even before they can speak your name, they wrinkle their noses and smile, waving their arms in glee.  And when those arms reach for you….priceless.

Being a gawee is so much easier than being a mother ever was…there aren’t the competing impediments and anxieties of household chores, jobs, daycare issues, school necessities, clothing inadequacies, financial balancing and just sheer exhaustion from keeping all those balls in the air – day in and day out.  When you are the gawee, you can just PLAY.

I am a very silly gawee.  I am still young (or so I like to think) and I will run, jump and do goofy things just to hear them giggle.  I don’t mind climbing into small areas and pretending it is a cave or that a bed is a boat or that playdoh is dinner.  I will sing off key, making up the words as I go; and holler at the imaginary lions.   But that isn’t half the fun – the true joy is in how they react and join-in.  Watching them use their imaginations, when they stare at my face and try to match my enthusiasm.  Together, we will quote important lines from Disney movies or we will talk about wild animals on the trails as we walk.  When they get tired and ask me to carry them, I ask if they can carry me instead.  I try, unsuccessfully, to crawl into their arms while they laugh and do their best to lift me.  We also tell stories in the bathroom – as a practice routine for potty training.  They will be on the commode and I will sit on the footstool and tell them exaggerated stories while they relax and go “poo”.  They always offer to do the same for me – but I have a pretty well-established routine by now.

As they get older, I know they won’t have the same reactions and desires for frolic and imaginary games.  Life happens and other influences come into play.  The thought of them out-growing Gawee is heartbreaking.  Oh, I know, they will always love me and we will always have a fond, heartfelt relationship but there will eventually be other friends, activities, interests, peers, and the need for independence from old, sillier days as they grow older and go to school.  The most important part of that shift, from giggly toddler to school-age child, is for them to know that I will always be in their corner.  (I don’t HAVE to be silly, but I can be at a moments’ notice).

For now, I will bask in the joy of their adoration.  We will play, laugh, wrestle and run.  I hope to teach them that playing is a lifelong enchantment, one for which they should never feel shame.   And when those sweet and sticky little hands encircle my neck – I know I am living the best life.