Gratitude Sunday: Veteran’s Day: Remember The Ladies

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “I spent 22 years in the Navy, and sacrificed numerous holidays and birthdays so every American can hold tight to his own beliefs and to be able to speak his mind…even if I don’t agree with him!” My brother (name withheld for privacy)

Sunday Haiku
Fog dips, undulates
around camera, obscures
lens, reality.

Sunday Musings
I ran into an acquaintance this week as I was leaving the grocery store. Since we hadn’t seen each other for a while we chatted, caught up, shared a few opinions and a few minutes, checked to make sure we had each other’s phone numbers, and decided we’d find a time to get together for coffee. I’m a late riser. Since forced into early semi-retirement I go with the flow as far as my body goes: I go to bed when I’m tired, I get up when I have to.

She admitted to being a late riser also but it’s taken her years to learn how to do so. She spent thirty years in the military before her body gave out. In the military you learn a schedule. You get out of bed at the crack of dawn, and you work til after dark. You are scheduled, disciplined, regimented, obedient. No naps, no lollygagging, no dillydallying.

I know half a dozen ex-military women. They are women like any other. They fell in love and out of love. They married; they divorced; they became widowed. They birthed and raised children and dealt with bodily monthly cycles, theirs and their children’s. They helped their elders die. The career they chose was to serve our country in one of the hardest service jobs there is. Women make great leaders; if we had more women leaders in our world we’d have less war. It’s as if the biological imperative of the female body keeps us more grounded, more steady, more connected to others and reality.

For many in the United States today, military service is the pathway to a decent guaranteed living wage income and retirement income, with caveats of course. I’ve watched many young people finish and polish their educations while serving, improving themselves and the quality of service they can give at a living wage. My younger brother, for example, was able to get into NROTC, and during his more than twenty years of service in the Navy earned his Master’s degree while serving at Annapolis, along with other posts. Like other men, he fell in love, married, raised and educated children, he went where the military told him and took his family with him. His retirement pension is more than I was ever able to make while working. We have good-natured disputes about how my tax payments are part of his retirement pay (though he still pays taxes as well, that’s where it gets muddy), but that’s another essay. I do not begrudge his income because he served. He worked; he earned it.

I was never able to make that kind of commitment. I was the dissenter in our family. It’s their fault; they taught me to read and think for myself and then they didn’t know what to do with me when I did. Well, Mom did. Her solution was getting me a library card and introducing me to the local reference librarian. When Vietnam started I was already versed in the military industrial complex and objected to the political machinery, so from a moral and ethical standpoint I was not suited for military service, though I have always advocated mandatory civil service (another essay). While my self-education and academic education might not have earned me much money, I know how to research, think for myself, and draw my own conclusions. That’s something.

The brother I mentioned above told our mom several times he thought I would have made more money and had more opportunities if I’d gone to college right out of high school. He’s likely right. I didn’t have proper guidance; because I came from a poor family, was female, and already on the rounder side of traditional women’s bodies, I was abandoned. It may be hard for young people to believe but in those days young women were still only encouraged to college in order to find a husband. Yes, not that long ago. From the way men treated me I didn’t think a husband was realistic and prepared to support myself in a trade. Platitude: hindsight is sooo 20/20. Obviously the opportunities and adventures would have been different had I been guided and encouraged to the college path. It’s a “what if” rabbit hole; the past is the past; it is what it is, and one does the best one can with what one has in the moment, because for some of us the best laid plans seem forever thwarted.

I wanted to honor women in the military with this post, not whine about me. I’ve talked in past posts about how I think every American has served America, just in different ways than military service; this is connected to the civil service idea. Dad served in the Philippines as a rear tail gunner, he got that particular job because he was skinny enough to fit the little seats they put in the read end of the planes. When I was a pre-teen Mom and Dad served in the local Civil Defense Corps. Most of the volunteers were families, some of them were neighbors and friends. They trained in rescuing people from rubble after a bomb or destruction situation, how to apply first aid, and emergency preparation. Families took their children with them. We were often used as “models” made up with wound make-up or fake broken bones, and fake buried under piles of real rubble (we were perfectly safe), so our parents could “rescue” and “treat” us. I advocate now for a resurrection of Civil Defense programs, because none of us knows how close we really are to such tragedy. When Mom died I found her Red Cross First Aid books and gave them to her granddaughter whose career is in nursing, another service career.

I think about women who have served similarly to the way my mother felt about the pioneer women who came across the Oregon Trail. Every time we’d drive through the Baker City area Mom would start crying as she thought about the women who helped their families move across a continent. In a covered wagon. With wooden wheels. Dragging kids, and horses, and cows with you, all who need feeding and cleaning. Cooking over an open fire. Doing laundry on the run, if at all. Having discreet sex with your husband within earshot of fourteen other families, only bits of cloth and darkness separating you from them. Cleaning rags to catch the blood from your monthly menstrual cycle. Birthing babies. Nursing babies. Nursing the sick and injured. Leaving loved ones for the unknown. Throwing your stuff away along the trail because the horses no longer have the strength to pull the heavy wagon. Mom cried, and it took years for her to tell me why. Would I have understood more had she been able to tell me her thoughts earlier in our lives? Rhetorical, of course, as it is what it is.

I cry thinking of the service of women. We carry that extra biological burden. The one with the monthly reminder our bodies can make babies too. When we leave our babies or loved ones behind we grieve. I can’t say we grieve more than men because in this lifetime I’ll never know that, but I suspect we grieve differently. Men often don’t recognize the connection between us the way many women instantly do. Life comes out of our bodies after spending a significant amount of time inside us. The life coming out of a man’s body he experiences for a few seconds, and once freed it’s like that tiny sperm cell has its own program beyond its producer, a mind of its own, if you will.

I do not want to imagine being in a foreign country thousands of miles from home, serving in a military issue uniform with Kevlar, hauling around a 40 pound pack and a 30 pound weapon, where it’s 100 degrees every day and so dusty you can barely breathe, and surprise. Nature bleeds from you. Or the surprise of no bleeding when expected and knowing in the next few months you will have to change your form of service.

I am such a spoiled modest queen, I totally prefer dealing with those personal women things in the comfort and privacy of my own home. After menopause one still deals with personal women things. So much to look forward to!

Women do it every day. We deal. We serve. In uniform and out.

Why should any less be expected? We are human beings. Male, female, or whatever else you come equipped with, we come with the same basic parts. Some of us are average, some exceptional, others not so much. None of it matters. If we think we can accomplish something we should be enabled to try, and if we succeed we should be honored. If we fail, we should be encouraged to try again, or move on to the next adventure. If we are women who choose to make the commitment of military service we figure out how to deal. Or we don’t and choose another path.

In honor of my aunt (name withheld for privacy), who served a career in the Navy: Thank you. I want to thank you now, out loud, in public, while I am lucky to still have you in my life. I couldn’t have done it without you doing the part you did in protecting and serving our country. I wouldn’t have the freedom to do my own research, think for myself, and draw my own conclusions. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for serving.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – It’s the little things: from the smallest brown acorn cap cradled in green grass. To the burgundy shamrock shaped leaves and quarter-sized white flowers of oxalis defying the early frosts. To the complicated patterns of red berries and white starburst seeds backed by shiny green leaves. And the sage green and burgundy Fibonacci spirals of sedums against stone aggregate hosting gray lichens. To a wet webbed veil catching rain for another sedum. To the bigger pictures of translucent rain-dropped glass graying the autumn-fired day.

Photo by Sherri Mead

And a local walking trail caught on a foggy sunrise ever so like an impressionist painting.

Photo by Ashley Roth

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Committed (1985, not rated), a stylized black and white mockumentary style production about a period during the 1950s when Frances Farmer, a movie star of the time, was committed to a mental institution and her mental health status was questioned. I thought the production well done, but the littlest things about movies can bother me; continuity and details annoy me. Farmer was a heavy smoker, which is portrayed in the movie. Lighters were not so popular then and disposable lighters were a thing of the future; everybody used matches. Prior to 1973 the striker pad on the matchbook was on the front, same side you tear the matches from, and by law that year it was changed to be on the back, the opposite side you tear the matches from to prevent accidental combustion. The movie is a 1985 production about a 1950s time period and the strikers were on the back. So wah, bah, details. * Don’t Bother to Knock (1952, “passed”) with Marilyn Monroe, Anne Bancroft, and Richard Widmark. A film noir story about a young woman who is not entirely mentally stable. I think as an actress Marilyn had unrecognized depth.

Currently ReadingAdvice for Future Corpses (and those who love them):A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying (2018, death, terminal care) by Sallie Tisdale. Ms Tisdale isn’t kidding when she says practical: how we or our loved ones might change or be during the last days, during lingering and sudden deaths. This treatise is so frankly informative in such a dignified and respectful way, it should be required in every health class, and a reference item for anyone in health or nursing services, better yet it is in layman’s terms. * Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (2017, sleep science) by Matthew P. Walker. Frightening to know most of the folks driving on the road with you are sleep deprived, including truck drivers, and the occurrence of sleep deprived car crashes are higher than drunk driving crashes. If you add alcohol to sleep deprivation, it’s not additive, it’s multiplicative. That’s a sobering thought. What counts as sleep deprived? Anything less than eight hours of quality sleep every night. Elders included.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Veterans.
  • Still having my own home to take care of.
  • Still being able to do much of that taking care of.
  • Finding some old jewelry I had tucked away.
  • One of those days I stayed in my bathrobe all day. Headache.
  • Getting a box full of the past moved out of the living room into storage. Out of sight, out of mind. Still available if needed.
  • Setting small goals and getting them accomplished.
  • Those five minute work windows and the days that allow for more than one or two of them.
  • Our community having two neighborhood clean-up days a year, during which we can dispose of extra waste at no charge. They accept a limited number of mattresses and appliances per household as well. I finally decided I had a mattress and box spring that could not be used again and have waited all summer to get rid of them. Hubster made it happen before the son could get his shoes on. To prove he could. I’m grateful he could.
  • Getting rid of unusable stuff.
  • Little Christmas lights I can put around the house without having to go full-tree. Bright and cheery on these dark nights. So easy on remote controls.
  • How lights placed behind you give another dimension to light in the room.
  • Appliances. I am so happy they are working.
  • The magically abundant and magically disappearing qualities of my house, though I would prefer to find the stuff I know I have when I want to find it, not when the house decides to cough it back up.
  • Craving Oregon strawberries already.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in Aging, Careers, Education, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Dragons, Death, Dust

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “No dragon can resist the fascination of riddling talk and of wasting time trying to understand it.”
J.R.R. Tolkien from The Hobbit or There and Back Again

Sunday Haiku
Yellow sun blue sky,
cheats me outside, cold wind streaks
through my thinning bones.

Sunday Musings
Did you remember to change your clocks back? Not you in Hawai’i or Arizona; you are probably the sanest people in America because you don’t have your body chemistry being mucked with twice a year. Since we are falling back it’s not too late unless you work today, and you might be early for the kick off on the Sunday football games. If you forgot, go change those clocks now so you won’t be early tomorrow. So many of our appliances are programmed to reset themselves it shouldn’t take long to find the clocks that need changing. A 40 year old clock-radio (still works, so why discard it?) at my bedside is the one I have to change manually.

During one of my five minute work windows this week I put on the new Dia de los Muertos bracelet I bought for my birthday month and dusted my dragons. This is a small family culled from the son’s little boy toy boxes. They are plastic, purple, silver, spiky, and horrible for small toys and small boys and big imaginations. Big imaginations don’t happen just in small boys. The dust made the dragons look like they were wearing velvet cloaks.

I also cleaned my mom-altar which sits next to the dragons. After my mom passed away I had this feeling of being haunted. Now her body was gone, Mom was everywhere and was always there looking over my shoulder, behind me, judging me, disappointed in me. A few days after mom’s memorial my aunt sent me a picture of Mom with sis and I. We were young; in the picture I’m wearing my first pair of glasses, which I got when I was eight. Sis is younger.

My sister took care of all the details of Mom’s estate. If you’ve not done this, it’s quite a job. I was the recipient of the wooden rosewood box mom’s ashes were originally in so there are minute traces of her body in the box. Part of what she was sits beside me all day. The box has her name on top, but I cover that with the burgundy velvet sack they put the metal urn in to transfer her ashes into the forever inurnment sanctuary (wooden box to metal urn placed in permanent niche). It all sits on the black velvet cover that came around the rosewood box. All of this needed cleaning and dusting. Halloween seemed appropriated. Dragons, death, dust.

When I first set up the mom-altar I placed the picture my aunt sent up against the rosewood cremains box. Suddenly Mom was facing me, instead of behind me. The haunted feeling stopped; now it feels we are having the same old civil discourse as before, speaking politely, sometimes disagreeing, me cussing, her cringing, but learning from each other nonetheless. She might not be here in her body, but I am still learning from her. The altar is next to my home work space so we are together every day.

Occasionally I have added to the altar and all those things needed cleaning as well. Some needed the trash bin, like the leaves that had disintegrated. Some needed the duster: the framed picture of Mom and her five siblings and their parents at Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary; the white and gold tassel angel that had decorated one of Mom’s memorial tables; a recycled cloth angel mom or sis had made from scraps or maybe it had been a practice piece but no less an angel, sis used it to beautify the top of a Christmas gift, she’s clever that way; a crystal hagstone found by my sister on one our beach adventures; a fingernail sized, jeweled owl pin encrusted with tiny pearls and emerald eyes from my mother-in-law’s jewelry box, both women smarter than one might know; an acorn picked up at the park where we held Mom’s memorial, so dry the cap has separated from the nut case. A heart pendant from my sis hangs from one side of the anniversary picture and from the other side an amethyst and shell bracelet from a beach trip with a childhood friend who loved my mom for nearly fifty years and opened Mom’s memorial service with a spiritual tribute. I almost tossed the sprig of lavender stolen from a neighbor’s bush, but it still smells nice, so it got a little dusting as well and back onto the altar.

The last things returned to the altar were two discarded claw husks and a whisker from my deeply mourned rescue kitty who died this last May. He came to us damaged and/or abused with open raw wounds; he was a long haired cat and when he choose us he hardly had any hair. He asked us if we’d love him and take care of him, and we said yes. He was the best. He’s buried in the yard so he will always be here with us.

I don’t have any physical parts of my mom. No fingernails, no hair. I have hair from both grandmothers. Maybe that’s morbid (William James would say I’m morbid-minded, but that’s another essay); I laugh when I think of what the people who go through my things after I die will think. The long thick auburn braid Grandma had cut off when she finally went to short hair, so long and thick it is stored in the cedar chest; how that hair was like copper and silver wire to wrap around a perm rod unless you left it long enough, and you had to soften the hair with perm solution just to get it to bend around the rod, and then re-saturate with more perm solution and hope half an hour later you had some kind of curl with the littlest rods you had. And Grammy’s soft white curls, yellowed now in their paper bag tucked into the corner of one of my cedar jewelry boxes, the last of the last perm cut before the next perm, angel hair so white and fine it took the curl in minutes and you didn’t dare look away. Muscle memories of touching the women who made me, the dragons, warriors, witches.

Neither mom nor I thought to save any of her hair, so I am grateful to own a bit of her ash. It was mostly short ends from trimming anyway. I don’t remember her with long hair, but I have pictures of her looking all glamorous in a Veronica Lake sort of style taken before I was born. I remember doing my mother’s hair before I was ten years old; she taught me how to wrap the rollers (still have some of those old creaky, early hard plastic, broken perm rollers – somewhere), how to apply the lotion, how to rinse the lotion from the rollers under a faucet using a small pitcher and tons of towels to keep the water out of her eyes, and how to apply and rinse off the neutralizer. I started beauty school when I was eighteen years old, and had a built-in model with her. She didn’t experiment with her style much but I could practice basic techniques. My grandmothers also allowed me to “do” their hair after I’d gotten my license. With the cost of professional hair care today, I know why; it wasn’t any cheaper for them back then when you live on the edge of money. How grateful I am to remember cutting and curling my grandmothers’ and mother’s hair.

I have many of Mom’s things, and most of the notes and cards she sent me over the years, odds and ends of her hand writing. I have things I know she touched and made especially for me, tiny stuffed rabbits, huge stuffed rabbits, medium sized stuffed rabbits, prayers she embroidered while she was pregnant with me I swear I made myself, the ones that hang on the wall over my bed. That connection will always be there.

Five minutes dusting, twenty minutes reminiscing, and the weight of my Dia de los Muertos bracelet was upon me. No, wait, it’s the dust. There’s so much dust, I can’t keep up. I have the hubster who complains about the dust being there breeding mouse-sized dust bunnies and when I try to remove the dust, he starts coughing and choking, complaining about stirring up the dust. Dusting must be done regardless. I break out in hives and then go have a good wash. It’s not so bad when I can open doors, but it’s cold here already. Cold does not affect dust. Dust still comes day and night, cold and light.

Six pm sunset Halloween night.
I notice an orange light
outside and step out to breathe fresh air after stirring up the dust.
Sun’s orb no longer visible;
cloudless sky alight with orange,
indigo and black streaking in around the edges;
between tree branches the sky jagged like a jack-o’-lantern,
carved, sharp, angular;
that time of night, crepuscular,
when shadows feel so much more real,
and yet, not real at all;
trees backlit like giants ready to step out of the earth the minute the light is gone.
car engines of moms and dads racing home before they take kids
to wherever the best trick or treating is;
local ghosties and goblins shrieking as they leave for treats or tricks,
and some households having parties all the party lights alive,
no spooks allowed,
shrill voices rise as each new ghoulish guest arrives;
the vibrating energy of excited painted costumed children,
the neighbor cat meowing to be let in,
not a single bird to be seen or heard,
air crisp in nose, on skin, underfoot.
Trees exchanging their fragrances with the night’s damp earth.
One croak from a lonely frog.
The scratch of a squirrel as it goes straight up the fence,
and disappears through a tree into another;
the cold coming through slippers through socks through feet;
dark climbing up your legs climbing the trees climbing the sky killing the light;
the cold the cold;
smiling crescent spotted through naked branches opposite the fading orange sky,
neon white yellow toothless;
the cold the dark.
I hear an echo, murrrph from past cat as I seek the warmth of the house,
as if he were still here.
the cold the dark the dust.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – A cascade of red berries getting ripe enough to feed winter birds. Lemon and lime colors depend on the angle of the light. Creamy clouds of pampas grass. Flaming oranges and reds brighten in the late autumn afternoon sun. A ginkgo sheds its pale yellow leaves to show off its gray trunk.

Photo by Kristinoel Ludwig

White milkweed seed rests in burgundy winter pansies.

Photo by Anya Doll

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Tale (2018, rated TV-MA) with Laura Dern. ***Trigger warning: rape and child sexual abuse)*** A middle-aged woman realizes the “unique and special relationship” she’d been forced into as a thirteen year old was actually child sexual abuse. Not for sensitive souls as it depicts an enactment of rape of a minor child, for which the writer and director received both kudos and scorn. From my point of view I don’t necessarily think having it right in front of my face enhances the art or artistry of the production; in fact, I don’t see anything artful in depictions of rape. * Grateful for the harmless “fun” of the last of season one of The Dukes of Hazzard (1979, rated PG), to lighten my mind after all the heavy movies of how people treat each other.

Currently ReadingAdvice for Future Corpses (and those who love them):A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying (2018, death, terminal care) by Sallie Tisdale. I’m in the section about how to be and what to say while you are with dying people. It’s helpful. * Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (2017, sleep science) by Matthew P. Walker. Beginning the chapters about how sleep helps with memory, some of the science of brain function is a little above me, but that’s one of the reasons I keep reading. If I keep putting this stuff into my neural net, one day it will congeal.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Easy access to my salsa dance video. I’m getting it. Doing it every day helps.
  • Increasing my learning curve with technology. Because techno-ditz drags her feet, but always learns. Eventually.
  • After two days of five minute work windows I finished scrubbing my bathtub.
  • Ibuprofen.
  • Semi-retirement, as Daylight Saving Time change isn’t so important or as stressful.
  • The son helping to change the battery powered silent clocks I can’t reach.
  • Silent clocks.
  • Experiencing a whirlwind of confusion in my little brain as I tried to remember which way the clocks go until I figured it out.
  • Becoming aware of the sound of ice melting in my glass. It’s the little things.
  • Sister recovering slowly but well after her recent surgery. Sometimes it’s the big things.
  • Stretching, stretching, stretching my money so I can pay property tax. It might be a food bank month.
  • Food banks when needed.
  • Leftovers, which mean I always have a meal in the fridge I know the guys won’t eat.
  • Mute buttons.
  • Remote controls, in general.
  • Fully feeling grief. It comes when it comes.
  • Mom’s birthday, November 22, 1929. She would have been 90 this birthday. She never gave up on me.
  • A couple ripe red pears, served with a smear of mascarpone. Mmmmm.
  • A sweet yellow bell pepper at the farmers market. Hubster cooked pizza that night. Perfect pair.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Parenting, Photography, Poetry, Psychology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Beware The Time Of Change

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “You will never find anyone who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe Daylight Saving Time.” Dave Barry

Sunday Haiku
Wind shakes branches, mock
zombie tree walkers, ghoulish,
nature’s Halloween.

Sunday Musings
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. It’s thirteen days after my birthday. The whole month of October swings through the colors of the rainbow as nature sheds this year’s abundance and prepares for hibernation to get through the winter so she will have the strength to endure the next season.

As I grow older, however, I find this beginning of the holiday season, which lasts nearly three full months with barely a breath between events these days (thank you, capitalism), to be a challenge to manage.

We start with a whisper, then a bang. Nobody properly celebrates Columbus Day anymore. It used to always be October 12. We made hats, we studied a bit of American history, some schools even had plays or pageants; it wasn’t a day off school. Now the day is a debate about the name: Columbus Day versus Indigenous People’s Day. Frankly I don’t care what they call it but it irks me schools skip the history part, especially the truth of all perspectives of the history from both the “discovered” and the “discoverers,” none of the white washed crap they serve up in approved textbooks. Then it’s assigned to any convenient day close to October 12 so workers can have a three day weekend. I’m all for workers having three day weekends (Americans work too many hours anyway), though of course this only applies to workers whose employers provide paid federal holidays; many of us work every day we can because it’s the only way we can pretend to make the ends meet. An important historical day, whichever way you look at it and whatever you call it, has been oppressed into a whisper.

But then! Halloween, boisterous, creative, costuming fun. We can play roles and be characters we don’t have the courage to be; we can be creatures, critters, or non-humans; we can make costumes where no other costumer has gone before. We can be dramatic, scary, bloody, gory, funny, silly, or wild. We have parties and play tricks and beg for treats. We make noise to scare away the dark spirits of winter that threaten us with removal of the light.

In modern America the weekend after Halloween we play a clock game called Daylight Saving Time and we blame it on the poor farmers who say it’s the worst thing for their farms. We purposely interrupt the circadian rhythm of every American and expect them to proceed safely and productively the week after the clock game twice a year. Read my tips for easing the time change here.

And lo! Tuesday of the week after the time change is election day.

Halloween, clock game time change, voting day, triple big bang! All in fun, or able to be written off as no big deal. Many who grew up with Daylight Saving Time aren’t bothered by it, or think they aren’t. I’m old enough to remember a time when we didn’t have Daylight Saving Time. Messing with the brain chemistry through clock games is damaging to the neural systems. I will be so grateful when we finally stop playing with time. Please note as well: people who don’t bother to vote, don’t have a right to complain. Educate yourself, use your voice, do your civic duty. Vote!

Next comes the whimper. Veteran’s Day nearly gets buried in all the distraction hoopla. The opportunity to honor men and women who have stepped up to serve America, to make one of the most serious commitments to the safety and freedom for themselves and other Americans, has turned into one more day off work or school. If students are lucky, the week before Veteran’s Day they might get some history or even a few actual live human veterans who are willing to speak of the horrors they’ve seen, and answer the curious questions of those who haven’t served who might want to. Or not. Before Veteran’s Day became just another day off work, students used to have a whole day full of history, parades, veterans’ presentations of national colors, speeches delivered from those who had been in the trenches or at the front lines and survived. That’s back in the day when war was actually declared, not like these modern incursions where we battle for years and few Americans know what we battle for (follow the money, including the oil).

Then the insult. Property tax bill is due November 15. My taxes increase very year, yet I don’t see roads or water systems being repaired, I don’t see teachers being paid a living wage or classrooms with the latest in textbooks and technology. I don’t see improved parks or public transportation systems. Maybe I’m not paying enough attention, but the purported improvements seem so small as to be insignificant for the money. Funding for veterans is only one issue that comes up on ballots.

Nobody helps individuals maintain their property but all the machinations, good and otherwise, of government want the dollars of us individuals. I understand taxes. We have to help take care of each other and taxes are the price we pay for being a civilized and caring society. When the caring part disappears and people are left financially and housing insecure up to the point of homelessness, ill, and hungry for the sake of the wealth class becoming more wealthy, we need something to change.

Fortunately, tax bills usually arrive before or about the same time as ballots. In Oregon we have vote by mail, so one has ample time to study the voter’s pamphlet and the luxury of voting from one’s dining room table while still in one’s jammies, drinking one’s espresso. It is so easy Oregonians have no excuse not to vote. Every state should have vote by mail with paper ballots. Cheaper, easier, more secure.

Read the voter’s pamphlet. Read the actual ballot measure, the interpretation, and the supporters for and the dissenters against the bill or measure or candidate as well. Yes, it’s homework. If you read them a few times you become familiar with the language and it becomes easier to spot the spin, when the language is meant to confuse or obfuscate the issue in the name of getting your money. It’s ALL about money, even when voting for individuals.

Read your tax bill. If you don’t understand one of the abbreviations for where your money is going, you can try looking them up on the internet or call the county tax office. It may take a while to get through to a live human being, but they will answer your questions. It’s what they are paid to do. May as well keep the office workers busy since they are paid with our tax money. If any amounts seem unusual ask why or ask to be referred to someone who can give you an answer. Be brave, write a script if you have to; these people are paid to do a job and are not there to judge you for your questions.

You deserve to know where your money is going and why. Knowing will help you be more thankful handling the rest of the holiday season.

Happy Halloween! Remember To Change Your Clocks! Educated Voting! Pay Attention To History! Informed Tax Payments! Looking forward to a great start to the holidays. From the adult perspective.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – A neighbor caught her lacy-leaf maple throwing some flame.

photo by Kristinoel Ludwig

Maples come in shades of red. And pastels too, looking pretty against the blue spruce. A decomposer shows its cream and brown fruit. The colorful view across the street. More flame colors a few blocks south. Composition in Brown and Gray.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Dukes of Hazzard (1979, rated PG – 13), season one. I doubt I will watch the whole series; the stories are simple and the plots are predictable. Good thing for watching at 1.5 speed. The show was my maternal grandfather’s favorite TV show, and I see why. The patriarch, Uncle Jesse played by Denver Pyle, dresses exactly as my grandfather did though Grandma didn’t allow him to have whiskers of any kind (Grandpa managed orchards for other farm owners). Grandpa’s family back in Oklahoma did a little brewing and white lightning running as well so the stories likely felt familiar to him. There are fist fights, car chases, identity errors, situation errors, lots of young women who tell the young men “hand’s off!”, and lightning fast blue grass music. Looks like a whole bunch of trouble making and hell raising to me. Oh, wait. Guilty. It’s in my DNA. I can also brag about a cousin who worked at a wrecking yard who salvaged vehicles for the series which wrecked a couple cars per episode with the car stunts.

Currently ReadingWhat Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (2016, short stories) by Helen Oyeyemi. I know I’m hooked when I re-read a story or a book without waiting any time between, or when I want to read everything else the author has written. I’m hooked. * Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (2017, sleep science) by Matthew P. Walker. Quite a queue at the library for this, and it’s good to get it back. I am beginning the section on older people’s need for sleep. It is a myth older people need less, and sleep loss in older people can imitate dementia, or accelerate the dementia process. Frankly, doesn’t surprise me.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • My sister’s safe recovery from recent surgery.
  • My sister’s husband being a nurse, and is available to provide all her in-home recovery elements.
  • The time of day when it is acceptable to set all the body parts free from any clothing binding or creeping or chafing or rubbing against my skin.
  • Clothing loose enough to not annoy my extra-sensitive skin.
  • Practicing a new habit of opening and discarding all useless mail immediately while shredding pertinent information. I have a love/hate relationship with paper. I re-use blank sides to doodle on. But I don’t need/want to keep stacks of old mail around.
  • Quickly finding some paperwork I need to follow up on that I thought I had misplaced but it was in the first pile I looked.
  • Watching the back yard tree do a strip-tease tossing her little yellow accessories all over the lawn.
  • Extra clothing to layer up with as the cold creeps into the house.
  • Having some hot chocolate in the cupboard that hadn’t gone stale.
  • One more farmers market before the season ends.
  • The winter farmers markets coming up the next two months, all the lovely winter root vegetables and squashes.
  • A couple of the last garden grown tomatoes of the season.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Housing, Photography, Poetry, Politics, Psychology, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gratitude Sunday: Forest For The Trees

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the [wo]man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” William Blake

Sunday Haiku
Branches wave with wild
abandon, lacy leaves twist,
spinning far away.

Sunday Musings
Trees are my focus this fall. I watch the tree outside my kitchen window blustered into shedding its yellowed gems. Leaves that burst into green life each spring have faded into pale green-yellow only to fall beneath as mulch. The tree volunteered in the neighbor’s yard between the fence and the shed the year after Jack built the little shed, the year he was dying from cancer.

The tree has grown these many years. Jack and Mary raised three sons and were empty nesters by the time I bought the house behind them; the new family in their house is multi-generational, and it’s nice to have a tween-ager in the neighborhood again as there are few children. Hearing her play with friends in their large back yard is listening to joyful noise. She’s growing as fast as the tree.

As the tree throws off its accessories it seems to be calling for a little trim. Her torso grows fatter over these past years and soon her trunk will be pushing the fence away or the roots will be tilting the floor of the shed. Branches hang so low from her now one must duck one’s head to mow the lawn. She knows her time here is limited. For a few years yet she can provide some shade from the evening sun for this home that relies on natural air conditioning and heat control.

Her branches hang low with the weight of growing in a space too small, forcing her to distort herself to fit. She is a misfit. Her roots are bound with mothers far away in the yard; they too know she will soon outgrow her space and reach an expiration date. For a short while yet the mothers will support her, while I lighten her load with my handy pruning shears before the wind rips in for the assist.

If I were a master recycler, like my beloved departed uncle, I would cut the branches and twigs into paper bag sizes and dry them in my shed to use as fire starters for the fireplace or woodstove. I don’t have a functional outside shed for the drying, nor a fireplace for the burning.

If I were an artist or a crafter I could find a way to recycle the twigs and branches into dolls or wreaths or some other creative Martha Stewart type gidgey. My mother would have made turkeys or gold sparkled Christmas ornaments with red lace and silver ribbons added.

I will fill the green bin with the bits and pieces of her that she is willing for me to trim, working with my five minute work windows, the rain, and the permission of the tree.

The neighbor in the house in front of me had a tree, some sort of maple I think, removed this spring. I waited through twenty years of anxiety about the wrong wind storm and the damage the tree might cause to several houses. It wasn’t “my” tree. The professional tree monkeys (no offense meant, as these guys were totally professional) had the tree down in two days. That’s a lot of tree. The maple was hugely too large for the space, it needed to go before it caused massive damage, but I miss filling my eyes with the green of her.

I haven’t identified the tree in the back yet. She gives me shade on the south end of the house in the summer, bursts of green in the spring, sweeps of yellow in October, the most brilliant month of the year. She’s not quite naked enough to endure the pruning yet; I’ll be cutting into her, so I expect her to tell me when she’s ready.

She is also a part of my squirrel highway. A neighbor up the block took out six trees about eight years ago, and the squirrel population increased in my neighbor’s trees. I will be aware of squirrels going freeway speed dodging my pruning shears.

One of my plums split a couple winters back when ice froze in a vee between trunks. Plum also needs a delicate trimming. I love the look and feel of entering the Batcave coming down my driveway with the tree arched over the entry, but if I don’t cut, Plum is going to commit suicide all over my driveway and the entire Batcave effect will be lost. She’ dying so fast she won’t care if I cut her enough to fill up the green bin every week.

I wait between rainstorms. With no rain boots, I wear a pair of need-to-be-discarded-anyway-sneakers. I grieve days past when I risked being barefoot, before being cut, stickered, scratched by blackberry vines, stung by bees, and ripped open by rocks. Now I protect my feet. The trees seem to mind less about being cut when it’s damp, or misty, or even when it’s raining. Skies are crying; trees are weeping colors; I’m sad. I’m grieving the tree that was, the change that is in progress; I’m sad for change but know it is as inevitable as growth.

I wait. I wait for the right day, the light rain. I wait for the trees’ permission, for their compliance. I wait for them to tell me now is the time. It’s up to the trees.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Autumn colors line the street by the local farmers market. Magenta and topaz gems lie on the wrought iron grate at the foot of the sidewalk tree. An autumn blooming azalea, pink and burgundy. Backyard tree enjoying her little wild space while carpeting the lawn with yellow.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Stephanie Daley (2006, rated R), with Amber Tamblyn and Tilda Swinton. ***Trigger warning: rape and stillbirth*** After reading Tamblyn recently I had to see her acting, and I like Swinton. I was not disappointed with the story or their performances. A sixteen year old woman who claims she didn’t know she was pregnant delivers at 23 weeks, is accused of concealing her pregnancy and murdering her infant. Alas, no subtitles, and indefinite sound quality. * Binged through the first season of Killing Eve (2018, rated TV – 14) with Sandra Oh as a detective who discovers a woman serial assassin and while tracking the assassin finds she becomes the prey. * Thousand Pieces of Gold (1990, rated PG – 13), directed by Nancy Kelly. In the 1880s a young Chinese woman is sold for marriage but instead finds herself shipped to America and fending for her life in Idaho mining towns. * Gun Crazy (1950, not rated), a black and white in the film noir style. A crack shot falls in love with a woman who coerces him into a life of crime.

Currently ReadingWhat’s Not Yours Is Not Yours (2016, short stories) by Helen Oyeyemi. Oyeyemi has an artist’s eye to wefting words and stories of culture into fantastic tapestries warped with everyday experiences with the supernatural in a way that feels entirely within the realm of reality. * Advice for Future Corpses (and those who love them):A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying (2018, death, terminal care) by Sallie Tisdale, a Portland, Oregon author. Tisdale has worked in the end-of-life health care professions and gives us some poetic prose for thought on the serious and profound topics of death and grief, which none of us escape.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • A birthday fairy who gifted and delivered new holiday dressings for my table.
  • A classic book by Cicely Mary Barker about flower fairies from my sis.
  • Discovering art I love.
  • Delighting in how much I don’t know and how much is out there to learn.
  • New fine point drawing pens.
  • Discovering how much I missed my drawing pens when they all died at once.
  • Knowing it’s just an anxiety attack and I will not die without art pens.
  • Knowing art pens are available any time I am able to buy them at several local stores.
  • Finding a couple like-new laundry bins at Goodwill for a quarter of retail.
  • The hubster taking down the hillbilly shade on the front window in a timely fashion, and now I get the lovely autumn light in the afternoon.
  • A box of fat figs with the most delicious shades of magenta and pink inside.
  • Buttery Comice pears.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Art, Entertainment, Gardening, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Homemaking, Nature, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Mathmagical Birthdays

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday Haiku
Raindrops rattle one
red leaf, shakes loose its fragile
connection to branch.

Sunday Musings
Not all birthdays are created equal. Or is it equally? Let us say some birthdays are more special than others. Birthdays track the number of years we’ve been alive so your first birthday means you’ve been alive one year. Certain birthdays have a mathmagical mystique around them. I was lucky to have my natural curiosity encouraged by my mother and to allow my imagination and thoughts to run their courses. I didn’t know I liked playing with numbers until I had the opportunity to go back to college when I was thirty-nine.

Math-phobes hang in here with me. Numbers can be fun when you are playing and we’re talking birthdays here; we don’t have to add anything up or take anything away or multiply or divide, though we could because, hwell, birthdays being what they are, the celebration of surviving another year and hopefully surviving another, contemplating our past and our future, what we added to our lives over the past year, what we might want to take away over the course of the next year. (That might be my best run-on sentence ever!)

All the first years are special, but one unique series of birthdays starts at age nine, which is your last single digit birthday. Ten is new because it is your first two digit birthday. Eleven follows as your first same digit birthday. Twelve is your last year of not being a teenager, and thirteen is your first teenage year.

Next series is eighteen, your first year as a legally responsible adult; then nineteen, your last year as a teenager. Twenty is your first year no longer being a teenager. Twenty-one is your first year being legally able to drink in many states (now, there’s a questionable landmark since one can be called to military service and vote at age eighteen! Note: I do NOT advocate lowering the drinking age.)

We could say twenty-two is significant as well. After all, it is your second same digit birthday. Let me jump back a half space. Eleven (11) is your first same digit birthday, in other words two of the same number, in this case two ones. Eleven is a prime number. A prime number cannot be divided by any number other than itself without the dividend being a decimal (aka a fraction, aka a percentage). Twenty-two (22) is not a prime number but it is built with prime numbers. Two is the only even prime number because it can only be divided by itself and one, so twenty-two is two times eleven, or one prime number multiplied by another prime number. Twenty-two is the most common and traditional age for people to graduate college.

This prime number pattern only continues through thirty-three (built from the prime numbers three and eleven), as the number four can be evenly divided by two. Thirty-three is the Christ year, the age of Jesus Christ when he was crucified. It feels significant to me to survive the thirty-third year. Forty-four seems to mark middle age (as if eighty-eight is the number to aim for?). Fifty-five is freeway speed in some states, we’re just cruising through life at that point. One gets to experience a same digit birthday every eleven years, so a prime number spans the years between same digit birthdays.

After celebrating my Beatles birthday (will you still need me, will you still feed me?), and my Medicare birthday (wait, what!?! I’m how old? And they are still charging me for poor quality health care after paying all my working life, sheesh!), I’m on my sixth same digit birthday. Sixty-six, one number short of the beast, and I don’t have personal knowledge of any one who lived more than six hundred and sixty years, though the premise might make a good fictional horror story.

I digress. I have survived sixty-six years on this planet earth during an interesting time in history. I was born the year Dwight D Eisenhower was inaugurated President of the United States of America and Queen Elizabeth was crowned as Queen of England. In early grade school, politics entered the living rooms of middle class American households in the form of television, and I remember the campaign between JFK and Nixon. Though I don’t recall hearing my parents discuss politics, I was pleased when JFK won. Their family seemed much like mine, a handsome dad, a beautiful mom, cute kids. So much one does not know about politics and wealth when one is young nor accustomed to wealth.

The Columbus Day Storm blew through our area, enough to scare us, cause some damage, and remind us Nature rules. Despite the best preparations of humans, She will and does prevail. We must care for the earth Her way, not our way.

I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news of JFK’s assassination which happened on my mother’s birthday. I cried when I learned about the atrocities of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Holocaust, and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I protested the Vietnam war as the politics of an undeclared war killed my classmates, and sent the rest of them home damaged. If you served, thank you. If you live with or know someone who served, tell them thank you. They didn’t get thanked for their service when they came home.

I listened to the 1969 moon landing on a transistor radio while lying in the middle of a forest. The hubster now has the live NASA cameras at the International Space Station on his computer at all times and can flip it to his big screen when he wants. We used to beg for a longer cord on the family rotary dial phone so we could take the phone into the garage to giggle girl talk with our friends or whisper to our boyfriends. Now everybody has a phone in their pocket or purse. Science rules.

I’ve done all kinds of work, from having the privilege of washing other people’s toilets and pulling their weeds and taking care of their babies, to gas jockey, newspaper delivery, office assistant, and retail sales, and on through two careers in hairdressing and library work. I’m on to my next adventure, which I will not call my last, because who knows? Life is full of adventures. I remember the stories of hardship from my parents and theirs. I raised a child and supported a disabled hubster. I studied the works of Billie Holiday, and Janis Joplin, and Virginia Woolf, and David Bowie, and Maya Angelou. I voted for women who ran for president and lived through eleven presidents. I’ve been appalled at the errors of every president, yet I was never embarrassed to be an American until the current president. I’ve participated in interesting times and left my legacy. I’ve run this marathon called life and I’m still running.

My sixty-six years haven’t been easy, but they have been mine. As you know my mantras are “think beyond yourself” and “change is the only constant.” These historically significant times will change. My life will progress through more changes. I will be living my sixty-seventh (sixty-seven is a prime number) year with the designation of the last birthday: a mathmagical number. Maybe mathmagical things will happen this year as I move toward my next prime number birthday.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – The vibrant colors of autumn in the Pacific Northwest are most brilliant in October, either in rain or sun. Yellow.

Photo by Sherri Mead


Photo by Sherri Mead

Red and yellow together. Emerald green sorrel.

Photo by Sherri Mead

Lime green and lemon yellow together.

Photo by Sherri Mead

A multitude of oranges, reds, and purples.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} RBG (2018, rated PG), a documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and how she changed America in the name of equal rights. Recommended. * Binged through Cloudstreet (2011, not rated), a TV mini-series about two very different Australian families who end up sharing a house for twenty years. I’m old fashioned, I prefer my stories tidy with all threads and ends tied up. This story did not quite do so, so you get to make up your own endings, like those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. * Under the Silver Lake (2018, rated R), another story with unanswered questions. For a mystery story I’m prissy enough to think I shouldn’t have to find a website titled “under the silver lake explained” to figure out the story. Just give me enough story so I can figure out the mystery puzzle myself. * Binged season one of Netflix’s The A List (2018, rated “thriller”), a group of popular young people are at summer camp, but something is not right. Memories are skewed, somebody is not who you think she is, whatever can go wrong between people does go wrong, and just when you think you have it figured out the season ends with another twist. * In the Blink of an Eye (2009, not rated), listed as a mystery/fantasy thriller, I got this movie because of Eric Roberts. It was a Christian movie, and while I have nothing against that genre, this was the most boring movie I’ve seen in I don’t know how long. I kept thinking there was some sort of saving grace; I mean, I understand it was about experiencing the Rapture, and this one character’s path to figure out what is going on and how to get to be included in the Rapture, but I had to watch it on 1.5 speed to make it tolerable. Neither the characters nor the actors were compelling, the dialogue was stilted and poorly delivered, and the plot so painfully slow it was a relief to finish. There are much better Christian movies available.

Currently ReadingDark Sparkler (2015, poems) by Amber Tamblyn. Tamblyn gathers her words into the form of poems but it is the darkest poetry I’ve read. Each poem is about the violent death, murder, suicide, suspected foul play, drug overdose, neglect or bullying or early death of an actress, actresses of all ages, shapes, colors, and sizes, and the author captures each voice. If I were teaching women’s studies or literature, this would be on my required reading list. The “poem” from Sharon Tate’s baby left me nearly non-functional from the despair. * Finished On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017, history and political science) by Timothy Snyder. We’ve gone through two or three generations now who haven’t been taught history (this was done purposely by the wealth class subverting the curriculum of higher education for their own greedy desires). Elders will have to share their stories of resistance and not blame youth for not stepping up, and youngers will have to want to do their part in saving the world from tyranny and not blame elders for leaving a mess to clean up. Every generation has left a mess; every generation must work toward egalitarianism. We can became our own students of history by observing what is happening today and look for correlations in the past, or to save time we can read those who have put pieces of the puzzle together already. Read this book. Read history. Resist tyranny. Don’t stand by and watch tyranny destroy democracy.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Cocoons of sheets and blankets.
  • Getting several pieces of work done.
  • My regular exercise routine.
  • My ability to read, do my own research, and think for myself.
  • Being able to understand prime numbers, and having the wit to teach myself about deficient numbers when I discovered them (nothing like boggling the brain to make sure brain processing is in good working order).
  • The wonder of concepts that seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with living a decent honest life as I cannot perceive any practical application of deficient numbers.
  • Not being a math expert, but enjoying playing with numbers and concepts.
  • Being entertained when the hubster, armchair coach that he is, calls the plays and errors on the game seconds before the TV announcers do.
  • Remembering a birthday is just another day.
  • Fingernails long enough to scratch with.
  • Birthday surprises showing up at my door.
  • A bag of spicy crispy greens from a local farmer. Farmers who maintain hoop houses so we can have locally grown greens year round.
  • Maryhill peaches still coming out of cold storage to the farmers market.
  • Boxes of sweet figs, juicy and crunchy.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Entertainment, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Healthful Addictions

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Addiction isn’t about substance – you aren’t addicted to the substance, you are addicted to the alteration of mood that the substance brings.”
Susan Cheever

Sunday Haiku
Cold sun today gone
tomorrow. Gray seems colder.
Winter is coming.

Sunday Musings
I have a couple addictions. Addictions don’t have to be about drugs or items with negative connotations; some can be strangely healthful, though addictions to certain rings might be especially problematic, my precious. I do feel fortunate my forays into abusive uses of altering substances have been battled with and overcome.

Reading and learning are addictive for me. Like breathing or blood pumping through my veins I cannot go all day without reading. Seriously, if no novels, books of poetry or non-fiction are available, I read food boxes, or ads from those noxious flyers constantly arriving in the mail. I read dictionaries, encyclopedias, road maps, and telephone books. There are worse addictions than filling my eyes and neural net with words.

My other addictions are pretty benign compared to some things one can be addicted to. I buy strawberries every week; I am dependent on my morning strawberry fix. Three days a week I spend an hour and a half in the swimming pool. The pool is such an embedded part of my schedule I frugally buy a year’s membership at a time so I can get the best deal with the most access. It’s so worth it. I feel more “me,” more connected between body and mind, in the pool than just about any other time during my day.

The hubster has his addictions too, which are not mine. His are innocuously benign as well: he loves to fish and he loves guitars and playing music, though both habits are a tad more expensive than mine. So when he came home with a new (to him) boat during my birthday month, I purposely did not go ballistic even though he thought he could get away with springing the news on me. He managed to save the money, got a good deal, and hopefully it will serve his purpose. I trusted him to save small amounts of money (like since his birthday in May), to search for exactly the right boat of the best quality for his money, and to wait until autumn when many people decide they are done with certain sporting-type items and sell at the lowest price. He deserves his small pleasures as much as I do even if it is my birthday month. Maybe he’s still celebrating his birthday month because he’s been saving since then. My benefit? If he catches fish, I don’t have to clean them and I get to eat them.

I take many of my cues for living a good, honest life from indications around me and within minutes of the boat arriving on our property, there were immediate signs which told me to not hold the purchase against him. A double rainbow arced over us as I helped him get the boat out of his truck, thus the boat was light enough for two older people with every-day owies to handle; a gang of hummingbirds flitted around the blackberries hanging from my lilacs (I know; I need to do some pruning) and normally few hummingbirds hang in my yard; as I drove to the pool a few blocks away a small murder of crows danced toward me in the neighbor’s yard where they don’t usually gather; and a first quarter moon framed in the picture window when I slid into the pool nodded agreement. Hubster thanked me later for not getting angry, though I had blurted out a few expletives because the expulsion of blue air felt necessary to relieve my annoyance.

I’m of the age I celebrate my birthday all month. Nothing lavish or expensive, just small things to treat myself every day. I’d love a new used car, but NOT in the budget. I’ll buy a beignet at the farmers market, which I normally deny myself. I got two pair of new slippers from a friend and I’m counting them as birthday booty. I turn on the heat this month because I deserve to be warm and sometimes an added sweater just doesn’t cut it. I’ll look for a winter lip gloss, and maybe a new nail polish. If I run across earrings that please me, I might decide to say yes. I might give myself a facial. I’ll think longingly of having a professional wax my legs and then do the job myself. More likely I’ll be looking for little treasures for the littles in my family with Christmas coming up so quickly. I won’t spend much money because property tax is due in November, and a tight budget remains in place.

I will treat myself well and into wellness. I will relish getting back into my regular exercise routine. I will spend judiciously for the security of knowing I can pay my property tax, mortgage, and other bills. I will watch sales, clip coupons, and find less expensive ways to feed my family well with less money because even though my income is slightly higher the loss of the pitiful amount of food stamps my family was receiving made a significant difference in my overall budget.

My birthday isn’t about money. It is, but it isn’t. It’s about the day a woman, who took a risk nine months earlier, delivered on that risk with a live birth, one of 25 percent of conceptions, statistically a miracle of cellular combination and development. With the donation of a cell from my father, my mother hosted the production of my body and my brain. She prepared for me in those first days of October 1953. She made room for me, a place to belong. Then she held me and nurtured me. She taught me courtesy, frugality, responsibility, and dignity during hardship. She taught me where to find information when I asked more questions than she had answers for. She taught me to work with what I have or figure out another way. She taught me as much about money as she knew and encouraged me to learn more as my financial circumstances were different from hers. She taught me about teaching myself, participated in civil discourse with me, and facilitated my formal education. She was my most critical supporter.

Mom was addicted to reading. She was addicted to creativity, arts and crafts, textile arts, and sewing, like her mother before her. I come by my addictions through my DNA, through nature and nurture. Maybe I’ll celebrate my birthday and my addictions with a small amount of high quality chocolate. Mom would have approved.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – A yellow rose; in this area roses bloom until first frost. A hellstrip tree flaming the sky. Two views of a very prolific pot of chrysanthemums in three color varieties. One of my favorite houses dressed for the holiday.

Current View
– {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Binged through the Netflix series The Politician (2019, rated TV – 14) a dark comedy about a young man who begins his political career running for student body president in his senior year in high school. I watched because of Bette Midler who only shows up in the last episode of the first season. The character development is compelling; I found myself curious about what antics they would be up to next and staying up much too late to watch the next episode. * Also binged Godless (2017, rated TV – MA), a western drama from Netflix about an area of multiple mining towns in New Mexico around 1885, with Jeff Daniels as the bad guy (he’s a really good bad guy) and Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey fame as a woman willing to shoot first and ask questions later. Merritt Wever delivers an outstanding performance as a widow who becomes the leading voice in the town. So much violence when everybody is armed, carrying weapons, and survival depends on who shoots first.

Currently Reading – Finished White is for Witching (2017, fiction) by Helen Oyeyemi. A must read for anybody interested in contemporary experimental novel construction, the supernatural juxtaposing with mental health, and innovative fiction. * Taking a short respite from Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (2017, sleep science) by Matthew P. Walker to read a smaller book: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017, political science) by Timothy Snyder, an important guidebook to avoiding the fall of democracy, particularly pertinent now America is being subjected to an ignorant, unqualified, TV show host in the highest position in American politics whose only interest in the American people and the rest of the world is how they can advance his individual political agenda to pad his own pockets. We must resist. We must hold him accountable.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • My aquatic center re-opening after a month closed for maintenance.
  • Being over my upper respiratory infection enough to enjoy the pool.
  • Finding a couple books for my littles at the local lending library used book sale for Christmas presents.
  • Successfully erasing some ink from the books mentioned above.
  • Splurging on new, much needed undergarments for my birthday month.
  • Saving discarded unwearable undergarments to use as dust rags.
  • Knowing how to budget money.
  • Frugality.
  • Five minute work windows and enjoying the clean spots.
  • Remote controls for my assortment of holiday lights.
  • How a few colored lights and the expense of some electricity brightens my mood during the darker days of the year.
  • The treasure from the community church garden next to the farmers market which is open to the public. I found two fat green tomatoes, perfect because I’ve been craving fried green tomatoes like my mom used to make. They are almost ripe enough.
  • Snagging the only three baskets of fresh strawberries at the farmers market.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Gratitude Sunday: To Town And Back

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Hell is other people.” Jean-Paul Sartre

Sunday Haiku
Cold sun shines without
warmth, chilling autumn into
crisp early winter.

Sunday Musings
The wind blew a winter chill into the Pacific Northwest this week. The sun is shining but it is merely a tease with little heat. After several years of summer-like weather well into October, I wonder if this indicates a hard winter after the mild summer we’ve just had.

Returning from a week visiting a friend who lives two hours away on the other side of the metro area, I bring home an upper respiratory infection. I forget how isolated I am. I live with two people, only one of whom works outside the house. I have only a few places I go, and then as rarely as I have to. The only place I go with regularity is the swimming pool and there is so much chlorine there I doubt few viruses survive. I try to shop as little as possible stocking up when I go out, same at the library. I religiously wash my hands and face after going out.

During this visit with a childhood friend (we’ve know each other 54 years!), we were out and about every day. Of course, because of the nature of living in a society, there were people everywhere we went. We went shopping in stores all over town, we were in pharmacies, restaurants, a dental office, grocery stores, clothing stores, junk stores, stuff stores, a bank, a candy store, a library, a car rental office, the bottle return store, Goodwill, and church. We had a visit from the cable guy who fixed several issues for her as well. I spent some time alone at the local farmers market and at the town’s museum which was the town’s original Carnegie library. I love my friend dearly; we had a lovely visit and we got many things done.

Unfortunately several issues weren’t addressed for her and remain for the next visit to resolve. I’m not the best traveler, and perhaps not the best guest; I get cranky and nervous easily when out of my routine. I’m also trying a new medicine which was sending me to the bathroom randomly. It’s no wonder I came home with a cold. I am experiencing eating issues as I age and since food is my medicine I’ve been thankful for salsa, garlic, horseradish, ginger, Chinese hot mustard, chicken soup, judicious medicinal applications of caffeine and Coca-cola, and water, water, water, water. I fail to believe the efficacy of all the “cold medicines” available on the commercial market; they have never worked for me and often make me feel worse.

So, short post today; I’m going back to bed. I’m fairly good at sleeping, napping, and just lying there to rest when the sleep won’t come while I’m sick, which is exactly what the body is telling one when one is sick: get some rest; repair yourself. The take away? Help other people when you can. And take care of yourself too.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Pretty pink in the mallow family. Green strawberry runners reaching out for next year’s berries. A neighbor’s personal pumpkin patch. Blue periwinkle, maybe, and lovely against its green leaves. The myriad subtle color changes of autumn, pinks, soft yellows, pale oranges on a green base, so lovely.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2019, not rated) from a Shirley Jackson story, two young women remain in the family home after a tragedy, and when a cousin arrives the dark family secret is revealed. Psychological thriller with minimal violence. * Binged Unbelievable (2019, rated TV-MA), a Netflix limited series. **Trigger warning – intense series about rape ** I realize have a high threshold for watching a certain amount of violence on TV from the comfort of my own home; I suspect it comes from surviving my own ordeals of violence out there in the real world. Toni Collette stars in this cop mystery about a teenage woman who is attacked in her own home and few people believe her. The victim is vindicated in the end because of the diligence of the female police detectives who find she was attacked by a serial rapist. * The Misfits (1961, not rated), a black and white classic starring Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, and Montgomery Clift, stars many young people know nothing about these days. An unusual love story about people who don’t fit standard societal expectations with some difficult rodeo scenes and wild Mustang capture scenes that looks like animal abuse. The sound quality on the DVD I checked out was iffy, and no subtitles available.

Currently ReadingWhite is for Witching (2017, fiction) by Helen Oyeyemi. Once in a while I come across an author who writes something truly unique and remarkable. This novel came to me highly recommended and is a haunting experience: beautiful prose, a bit of the supernatural that seems to cross over into mental health issues, innovative paragraph and story construction that lends itself to a novel one only wants more of, and a house that becomes aware of itself and is part of the narration and pivotal to the story. A breath-taking ride, which may need to be re-read for full appreciation. * Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (2017, sleep science) by Matthew P. Walker. I have a feeling this may be a revelatory work. Walker began his scientific career studying dementia and went on to neuroscience. I’m only a couple chapters in, but when he revealed certain brain scans can tell what kind of dementia one has (there is a spectrum of dementias – who knew? Now I do), I was hooked. Then to learn melatonin does not help you sleep, it is merely a trigger to the system that says it is time to sleep, but does not activate the mechanisms of sleep so it is worthless as a sleep aid. Very excited to learn this information and looking forward to learning the effects of sleep on mental and physical health.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Spending a week with my heart sister. Being able to help with a few issues while I was there.
  • Getting to try homemade pozole for the first time. So good!
  • Coming home to my own bed.
  • Knowing how to treat myself to get well quickly.
  • Having some editing work to come home to.
  • My sister receiving some easing news about a distressing diagnosis she’s had.
  • My sister providing me with a couple of rides when I needed them.
  • The son getting back to work. He feels so much better about himself when he’s working.
  • Lovely early autumn days.
  • The light, oh, the light of the four o’clock hour, golden through the slats of the blinds, marking time on my walls.
  • The exquisite feelings of physical pain which I experience, that let me know I am alive.
  • Not experiencing the profound mental pain of loneliness I see in others.
  • The vast array of fruits and veggies offered at my local farmers market, not all farmers markets being created equal. Some markets are heavy on the vendors who sell goods rather than fresh produce.
  • A box of fat sweet vanilla tasting figs.
  • Getting the last two boxes of Oregon Albion strawberries at my local farmers market this week.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Gratitude Sunday: Of Mice And Men

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Stephen Hawking

Sunday Haiku
Light through tree branches
waving, undulating, wild,
scattered refractions.

Sunday Musings
It’s such a human thing to make plans. To have a goal. Perhaps wanting to see the plan through even when all other indicators might lead one to think maybe the plan needs changing. Robbie Burns knew a thing or two when he said the best laid plans of mice or men often go awry.

I don’t know if Robbie knew about monkey wrenches, or spanners, or sabots, or wet blankets. He was as human as any of us so I suspect he had his own moments or he would not have spoken so poetically about change. As we know, as hard as we work against it or try to deny it, change is the only constant.

Some plans and changes are in our control. Others are not. That’s another human thing: wanting to be in control. If I exercise and eat right, my body will be slender, strong, and toned. If I follow this educational path, I am assured success. If I take this well-paying job, I can take care of myself financially. If I buy this business, I get to be the boss and people will do as I say.

Yet, none of the above is true, in the strictest sense of truth. Plans and goals might work out or they might not. Yes, we can eat well and exercise, but the body does its own thing and can betray us at any moment. Yes, we can plot an educational line and achieve success in academia, but that does not ensure success in the work world. Yes, we can take that well paying job, only to have the business fold and leave us without an income. Yes, we can buy a business and be the boss but that doesn’t mean our employees will be clones of us and perform exactly as we want them to.

I’ve heard the advice “make a plan, then work the plan” is the formula for success. This hasn’t always worked for me. I’m not the best planner or goal setter or traveler. I have both tendencies, I over-plan and under-plan at the same time. I go with the flow and yet consistently swim upstream. And if plans go awry they aren’t carved in stone or set in gold. Plans can change. Often that’s the part of the journey we are likely to forget. Change is the only constant.

Needless to say, I had made a plan, it was a good plan, and things went awry. I was packed and ready to go, but my body had different ideas. Plan changes had to include a cancellation, a visit to the doctor and the pharmacy, a visit to my counselor, and a new plan.

Because that’s what we do when plans go awry. We make a new plan. Sometimes those new plans can happen daily or even minute by minute. We must be like trees, resilient, flexible enough to sway with the wind and hopefully not break from the force of the gale.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – I found a pot full of color and had to take shots of different views trying to capture all the textures and shades of green. A fat pink dahlia.

Photo by Sherri Mead

White and golden spear held in place with gossamer web and glistening rain drops.

Photo by Sherri Mead

Rosy golden globe of ripe pear.

Photo by Sherri Mead

Love the pink and white blossoms of this unknown shrub.

Photo by Sherri Mead

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Sometimes, when one is feeling down, watching others who are more aberrant or have more challenges than oneself helps one to feel slightly better about one’s own challenges. Sid and Nancy (1986, rated R) is a biopic about Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, a British punk rock band, and his American groupie girlfriend Nancy Spungen, both people who were mired in the body, in sex, in drugs, in mental health crises, in all manner of risky and addictive behavior. * Pride (2014, rated R), about the 1984 coal miners’ strike in the U.K. and the gay and lesbian group who fund-raise money for the miners to live on. After some initial difficulties these two disparate groups find common ground. As it should be. * Bingeing season 9 of Shameless (2011 – , rated TV – MA), a series that shows family dysfunction baldly, an oddly comforting feeling to know my life is not as on the edge as this fictional presentation.

Currently ReadingThe Most Fun We Ever Had (2018, fiction) by Claire Lombardo. Family secrets run deep. Occasionally the author is a bit hard to follow with so many characters intertwined. * Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness (2009, crows) by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Have you watched a crow today? Or any wild life beyond human? It’s right outside your door. So much to see and hear when you step outside.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Being able to get in right away to see the doctor once I made the decision I needed to consult a professional.
  • How willing my doctor is to work with me as the owner of my own body.
  • My counselor being able to give me an “emergency” appointment.
  • How fun it is to type the word “appointment”. It’s the little things.
  • My own personal modicum of health.
  • The light, the angle of late summer light coming through the windows and the shadows on the walls and table.
  • Safety behind closed doors.
  • The natural world beyond my door.
  • The son getting a good surprise from the IRS.
  • The son getting a job after more than a year and countless applications.
  • Having a decent simple roof over my head when it is raining.
  • Fat juicy peaches.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Gratitude Sunday: Miracles And Vulnerability

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “To be alive is to be vulnerable.” Madeleine L’Engle

Sunday Haiku
Rain foreshadows full
harvest moon, Friday. Thirteenth.
Presaging autumn.

Sunday Musings
What delicate and fragile creatures humans beings are. What an intricate organic network of systems we are. We are truly a marvel of biological engineering.

The tiniest parts, cells and neurons (and the even smaller parts in those things!), work together to build complex organs, which in turn form this breathing, walking, talking unit called our body. At any step of the way, from the point of conception when those two smallest cells of the body combine to make a new organism to death whether that occurs in utero or anywhere else along the individual’s natural lifeline, everything can go right or anything can go wrong.

We can think and learn because of those little neuron cells and the way they work together. We can over-think when those cells work over-time or when the cells go awry from over-stimulation, or fatigue, or emotional distress like anxiety. We experience emotions and feelings through those cells.

Or not. Sometimes the whole thing goes haywire and the brain doesn’t think any more, or remember what it used to, or react in the same old ways, but surprises us instead with non-function, or un-function, or duh-function. The body doesn’t cooperate, or feelings do a weird kind of override of the normal physical functions, an emotional hijacking, so to speak.

For all our science we are giving mostly educated guesses about how most of the human organism works. We have a subtly basic idea but the details are still escaping us. Science in all its beauty changes everyday with each new revelation.

The body is as vulnerable as the brain. If we are lucky we are one of the 25 percent of conceptions that actually make it to a live birth. Isn’t that interesting? That 75 percent of conceptions fail? Meaning 75 percent of successful cellular combinations fail either to implant in the endometrial lining that’s been prepared for it and spontaneously abort, or they fail to thrive in the uterine environment and spontaneously abort, or they die and stick around in their construction space until they are an infected mess and have to be removed, and some of them make it as far as escaping the uterus and die on the way out. Twenty-five percent of us make it.

We are miracles. Our babies are miracles. We are so vulnerable at any moment we might succumb to the final miracle of life, the end, the ultimate: death.

If we get so far as to be born, it’s pretty dicey out here. Not only can the body betray or rebel at any time with physical changes of full functionality to complete paralysis, the tragedy of outside influences can be inflicted as well. The heart that functioned perfectly well yesterday can have a blow out today (was that a weird flutter?). The eyes that showed us the way into the kitchen yesterday may be clouded and dim today (as she leaves the computer to apply eye drops). The tiniest speck of pollen causes an massive disruption in the breathing system (as she erupts with a sneeze). The legs that carried us all over town shopping yesterday can suddenly be entirely out of commission today (as she insists on practicing that salsa dancefit video despite the pain). The brain that was clear as a bell yesterday might remember nothing today (where the hell are my glasses?).

That’s just the body and its physical parts. The body and its physical parts also have experiences and reactions to those experiences, and those feelings can have an effect on the physical parts. It is an oddly intricate weaving; one cannot look at or measure feelings nor can one measure exactly how feelings affect physical body parts. One might be able to see beta waves and auras, but these are amorphous and no real measure of the benefit or damage feelings can do to the physical organism.

We are so vulnerable, the physical body, the brain that lets us function, the emotions that can affect function of body or brain, a failure at any point in the system is alarming. And because we are human, because we can think, we think we want to fix any anomaly in how the systems function, as if all our bodies and brains and emotions should fit into one small box, all the same. I’m hearing echoes of an old folk song: “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes make of ticky tacky, little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same.”

We often forget to celebrate systems that function a bit differently. We stare at people who have to use wheels to move, or cannot move on their own, or who look or walk differently from us. We shy away from faces and bodies that do not have a uniform symmetry, or do not fit a cultural concept of beauty. We shun people who are not neuro-typical but who are nonetheless brilliant in their way, but we don’t bother to find out because they are different. We are often afraid of difference and afraid to show the vulnerability fear causes: What if that were me? Or mine?

Even if you are neuro-typical and all your physical body and brain function and emotional well-health is in place, in the blink of an eye all that could change. You could meet a wayward car at 70 miles per hour, or an active shooter when you are at the concert with your pals, or your whole town could go up in flames, or a hurricane could set a house down on top of you. In less than a second everything about the body and brain and emotions can change.

We are so vulnerable. We walk around the world like we know what we are doing while most of us are suffering. Our bodies are failing, we struggle to make our brains work, and we are so anxious about keeping it all together it exacerbates the whole issue. We are so vulnerable we often put on this facade, especially here in the United States where the myth of self-sufficiency rules, that we are well. We may be as well as we can be for us, and details are unnecessary. We might be just struggling a bit where time spent with a friend and a giggle can lighten us. We might be so freaking unwell we need “professional” help, whatever that is because I think our medical professionals are often doing their best to give educated and sometimes uneducated help; they are, after all, only human too.

As far as knowing what we are doing, I’m going to hazard a guess that most of us are winging it, making it up as we go along because humaning doesn’t come with a user’s manual. Because we aren’t given a user’s manual at birth I’m going to say winging it is the thing to do. If we don’t come with instructions we only learn what we see, what is modeled before us. Some of that modeling isn’t so great depending on their models and so forth. Which adds one more layer of vulnerability on us humans: we are our ancestors. We may not know the sins of our forebears, but they are with us, in us, in our DNA and our cells.

Many of us know how vulnerable we are. We must extend that understanding to every person we meet. We may look hale and hardy (or is it hearty? I’m implying both), but everyone we meet and know carries a challenge or a struggle, be it generational, physical, mental, or emotional.

With another holiday season approaching and in the spirit of the blink of an eye, let us take time through the year to be patient, and gentle, and kind. Step outside your personal box and take time to accept and celebrate difference, to embrace each other. We are all, every one of us, delicate fragile creatures, vulnerable, and as a community, a society, we are only as good as the least of us.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – I forgot to give photo credit on last week’s pictures: the two sunflowers and the pumpkins were thanks to Tina Carlson. The entrance to the university is always dressed up for orientation and beginning of classes this time of year. I love the contrasting textures of bright flowers against the brick wall and next to the cobbled walkway. The soft pinks in this spirea (?). Magic infused green air under the umbrella canopy of the catalpa with its long beans and leaves. Enchanted every year by the bright colors of rainbow chard. Mesmerizing yellow sunflower face.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria (2005, not rated), a documentary about San Francisco’s gay scene in the Tenderloin district and the 1966 riot at Compton’s, a well attended 24-hour eatery, a few years before the Stonewall riot in New York City. I found the title provocative, as there was little screaming in the documentary, but there was a whole lot of people asking for simple human rights to live their lives. * Mom’s Night Out (2014, rated PG), an overwhelmed mother of three arranges a much needed night out with the girls. Chaos ensues. For those of you who like labels when choosing movies this is an “affirming Christian” movie. I didn’t know that was even a thing, but then I’m usually behind the cultural speed by several years on movie stuff. Regardless, the movie was so meh I only watched to the end thinking they had to tie up the pieces neatly; they did, and still meh. * Heaven’s Prisoner (1995, rated R), with Alex Baldwin, Eric Roberts, and several recognizable women in a feeble action thriller. I’m not terribly dense but I couldn’t figure out what the title meant pertaining to the movie. * Binged through a season of Safe (2018, rated TV – MA), the secrets of a gated community are revealed after a teenaged boy is murdered. A bit on the predictable side but still an intriguing British mystery with a twist (that sounds like a tasty cocktail!) * King of the Gypsies (1978, rated R) with a cast of big names from the past: Sterling Hayden, Shelley Winters, Judd Hirsch, Susan Sarandon, Annie Potts, Brooke Shields, and an introductory role for Eric Roberts. A twelve year old boy raised in the old thieving, cheating, and conniving ways of the traditional Gypsy culture runs away from home for ten years to establish a more ordinary lifestyle only to be thwarted by his dying grandfather who names him the new King of the Gypsies.

Currently ReadingThe Most Fun We Ever Had (2018, fiction) by Claire Lombardo. A contemporary, multi-generational story, familial secrets are revealed. * Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness (2009, crows) by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Anecdotes about urban wild life observation. Mostly crows.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Getting to snuggle with a sweet baby, who gave me a full five minutes before she let me know she was unsure how she felt about this old lady stranger.
  • Knowing how vulnerable babies are and not being offended when they don’t want me as I refuse to add to the distress of a little.
  • How soft baby skin is.
  • Every five minutes a baby will give me.
  • Loving littles. No matter how old they are.
  • The miracle of being born.
  • The vulnerability of being human.
  • The ability to think and have a bit of wit.
  • Taking three bags to Goodwill and resisting the brain loop that insisted I go through everything again and quadruple-guess myself, embarrassingly, while I was in line at the drop-off and two cars waiting behind me. My vulnerability.
  • Having time at the farmers market for a frivolous henna tattoo (the pool is closed and normally I swim right after market so henna would be wasted), and the chat with the young woman I’ve had the fortune to watch grow up, who is creating her own enterprising business, making and creating items for sale, and doing loving temporary tattoos at different venues like our local farmers market.
  • Delicious bread at the farmers market made from wheat grown and ground within five miles of my home and baked less than half a mile from my house. I don’t eat much bread; this was toothsome and soft at the same time – not Wonder-bread soft where it collapses the minute it gets into your mouth – and crusted with a variety of seeds, just a hint of sourdough flavor, and was so, so good smeared with butter. A real treat. Even stale. I couldn’t eat it fast enough to beat the stale.
  • My house being magically abundant. I wanted some binoculars to look at the crows in the neighbor’s trees, and the idea was nascent, new to floating around in my brain, I hadn’t said anything to anybody yet. Hubster walks in, opens a drawer behind me looking for something else, and lo, binoculars.
  • Hand picked Oregon strawberries. Hopelessly addicted. There are worse things.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Gratitude Sunday: Crow Song

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark when neither is attended.”
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act V, scene 1, line 102

Sunday Haiku
Shiny black feather,
raven or crow fallen, wild
altar offering.

Sunday Musings
The son called me “crazy crow lady” this week. I was standing in the back yard trying to imitate the caw sound they make. I don’t sound much like them; I will, however, accept the moniker. It’s as good as any. Maybe he bestowed me with my native name, though his emphasis was likely on the “crazy” part. I was born on land a few miles from here as the crow flies, so I am a native oregonian-american.

I am fond of crows. Crows, being crows, aren’t fond of me. I’m big, and slow, and ruffly, and clumsy, so very un-crow-like. Hwell, perhaps the loud strident voice is similar.

I have this little corner of earth I call mine. I pay for it. I throw money at it with the frequency of dust and rainwater and sun radiation. This space, this place, just short of a quarter acre, every wild and messy inch of it, is mine to navigate, to nurture, or to neglect. I’m a natural woman in that I don’t use many chemicals in my household, on my body, or my land, but while I’m nature oriented, I’m not particularly nature savvy. I’m haphazardly natural with a random regard to hazard.

I’m not much of a nature girl in the outdoor world. I don’t care for horses, have my reservations about cows, goats, and chickens, turkeys and geese are absolutely scary, and I use caution even with my own “domesticated” cats and dogs as I’ve been hurt by both. It’s not like any of these critters can tell you in so many words you are doing something they don’t like.

I dislike spiders and snakes, and can’t garden without gloves for fear of touching something creepy or crawly or slimy or something that will sting or bite. I love to walk barefoot but have had so many bee stings, wood slivers, blackberry prickles, stone bruises, and cuts from sharp rocks, I fear to tread any path unshod. I don’t like pain.

I do like green. And fresh air. And light breezes. And the smell of freshly dug soil, or newly mowed grass. And caressing misty rain, even downpours. Sitting under a tree, opening oneself to the sights and sounds of nature, can be soothing if not healing. If nothing else nature can, at least momentarily, take one outside oneself to connect with the largess of the universe around us, the universe that is just outside our door, and the galaxies it contains and in which we are contained.

I’m not convinced healing takes place once trauma has been experienced. What is healing, exactly? One can move past, or beyond, or forward, but one carries trauma forever; some of us never forget. A significant trauma happened for me three years ago, the culmination of a years-long trauma situation. It was not a physical violation, but mental abuses have their own special quality of damage, like having to re-develop an ability to trust, which might not ever happen. I don’t know what I am working on: healing, forgetting, letting go, trusting; it’s complicated and confusing; sometimes it’s just about getting through the day. Only time passes, and perhaps there is no healing that takes place, merely the distance of time between the distressing event and this current moment. So many things in this current moment can trigger all the feelings of that original trauma as if the past event is here right now again. That doesn’t sound or feel much like healing.

Forgiveness is another elemental question of healing. Is it really important to forgive the person/s who caused a trauma for you? I’m not sure they should be forgiven; they did a bad thing and they need to own what they did; I have no control over their delusions of what they think they did. I can change my attitude or understanding or surmising about why they did that bad thing, but I’m not sure they are worthy of being forgiven for their destructive actions.

Part of healing is forgiving oneself. That part I can control. If you did something wrong or bad forgiving yourself might go pretty easily or not, depending on how you accept responsibility. If you didn’t do anything wrong, you might struggle more with self-forgiving, and one must avoid the “Why me?” trap. One might have to change one’s perception, if the situation was not your fault, or responsibility. I’ve mastered owning my own behavior and actions; I still cannot fathom the behavior and actions of others.

I doubt crows think about fault or responsibility or healing.

To change my perceptions, which are being aggravated right now by an incompetent, ignorant, illegitimate president whose behavior is much like the aggressors who caused me damage, I’ve been trying to focus on what matters in this life, in my life.

Next to my local aquatic center is a residence hall for our local university which can be viewed through large south-facing picture windows. The hall has a steeply pitched, ridged metal roof with a wide gutter at the bottom edge of the roof. Around the aquatic center is a small park-like area with a varied dozen trees next to a small splash pad, a lovely area for parties. The center thoughtfully installed nearly floor to ceiling windows on three sides of the building; it gives the illusion of swimming outside with the luxury of a protected year-round indoor facility.

A family of crows finds the trees and the gutter of the residence hall to be rich pickings. As I exercise in the pool I watch them fly between gutter and trees, sometimes as pairs, synchronized. In the autumn when we have more rain, the gutters thrive with smaller wild life and the crows eat their fill. The last two years when the roof is wet I’ve seen the crows fly about half way up the roof, land on the wet metal, then slippery slide down the slope of the roof, and fly back up. They are not eating anything on the slide down; you know they are playing because they repeat the action many times. Then again, maybe they are sharpening their talons. It’s hard to say who is having more fun, them playing or me watching.

Summer helps, and except for a handful of hot days, it’s been a mild, tolerable summer here. I can open my doors and windows to let fresh air flow through my house. I step outside every morning and several times a day, especially when I’m having a day when I can’t walk around the block. I stand outside and fill my eyes with green: the grass, the moss on the fence, the neighbor’s trees. Each has a different smell, and I take that in as well. One can smell the time of day: morning, noon, and night have different odors; rain, lightning, and snow have their own individual fragrances, and it’s oddly comforting to be able to identify these things. Reminds me of my gram who would lift her nose to the sky, declare “Rain’s comin’!” and twenty minutes later lo, there was rain.

I listen. I hear a western-scrub jay who likes the rhododendron just outside my bedroom window. It calls for about a half hour every morning before it moves to the back yard. I have a couple resident crows who maintain and monitor a triangulate of trees between my house and the neighbors’. I recognize the voices of the family of fat squirrels, whose cries I mistook for many years as bird song, as they run their squirrel highway from plum tree in the front yard through the wealth of a tunnel of wild blackberries to the back fence beside the dandelion laced yard.

I found an Audubon site where I can hear recordings of bird songs. Crow caws are “songs”. I am startled and amazed, though not shocked, when I play these recordings my back yard begins responding with a cacophony of bird songs, not just crows. Perhaps the current residents think they are being invaded by new neighbors or competition. They are certainly annoyed and yell at me when my feeble imitations interrupt their avian conversations.

I am so grateful to have been able to work to have and keep this little place I am using while my body is here on this planet. To be able to sit in my own yard just a few miles from rabid urbanity and have such a variety of wild life outside my door. To hear an array of voices, from the most raucous caws of the crows to the scolding squawks of the squirrels to the sweetest little tweetle songs of birds I haven’t identified yet, reminds me despite all the ills of the cultural world nature prevails. If you pay attention the crows tell you all about it.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – I love the symmetry of flowers grown against a fence, any fence, and I’m enchanted by these paper white delphiniums against the silver-gray grid of chain link. I’m guessing it looks ethereally haunting in the twilight. A couple bright orange nasturtiums presaging the colors of the coming season. A friend’s pumpkin harvest, perfect number for all her kids and grandkids. Sunny golden face of sunflower in the field. Still as sunny, bee-fully brilliant sunflower comforts at home.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Game Night (2018, rated R); a group of friends who regularly gather to play games together find one of their role playing games goes wildly awry. * Binged through two seasons of The Sinner (2017 – , rated TV – 14); a detective, who has his own secret, helps traumatized people who are accused of crimes. * Brewster McCloud (1970, rated R); this old movie has several recognizable names and a twisted plot with – wait for it – crows. * Bingeing In the Dark (2019, rated TV – MA); a blind woman, Murphy Mason, was mugged two years ago and becomes friends with the boy who saved her from the perpetrator beating her to death. When the boy is murdered, Murphy is determined to find his killer, with or without the help of authorities. Her methods are unique.

Currently ReadingCrow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness (2009, crows) by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Observations of crow behavior and activity in the wilds of the urban setting. I am particularly fond of crows. * The Harvard Medical Special Report on Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (2014, health) which gives an overview of the disease, its progression, and how to help those who suffer. It’s good to be prepared.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Having the wit to help a friend in need.
  • Patience while waiting for Social Security to get things straightened out. I found out it is my responsibility as a citizen to make sure they get my account set up the way it needs to be for me.
  • My local lending library assisting with getting old movies and documentaries the library system doesn’t own. I might have to wait, but I usually get to watch what I want.
  • Coffee.
  • Heavy cream.
  • The son scheduling a job interview.
  • A new grand-nephew who was safely delivered, and mother and babe are home with daddy and big brother already.
  • Pen. Paper. Doodling.
  • Bird song. Cricket choruses.
  • Mastering tzatziki this summer.
  • Cucumbers and garlic grown within five miles of my home for my tzatziki. Mint from my yard.
  • Having a bit of extra fruit on hand to finish up when it was too hot to go to farmers market this week.
  • Farmers market happening every week through the end of October, so I can get strawberries next Wednesday. Hopelessly addicted.
  • Oregon strawberries that ripen clear up til first frost.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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