Gratitude Sunday: Radical Old Women

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.” Gloria Steinem

Sunday Haiku
Autumn’s last week of
brilliance, leaves color-glazed,
burnished by cold nights.

Sunday Musing
We are two old, white, hippie-type women watching the local farmers market take place around us. We sit upon a city bench, a city which both of us had served for more than 16 years, she as a city councilor and I as an over-the-counter service worker. Both of us are educated in college and in life. Both of us have an area of expertise, hers being environment and water knowledge, the science and dangers of fracking, what we are doing to our oceans, and the dangers of second hand drugs in our city treated water; my expertise being the construction of words into some form of reason and customer service expertise. Both of us have survived attempted death at the hands of men we loved. Both of us have scars, inside and out. Both of us have seen the uglier side of people; both of us know more than perhaps we’d like to know. Like the truth. Like lies. Like fear.

We know the truth. We know what big money powers are doing to our earth and what poisons they wreak in the name of profit and at the expense of working people, which is the greatest resource any nation has. We know that same big money has diverted education into a sham, and despite the illusion of Equal Opportunity, available only to the wealthy, which is no marker of intelligence or merit. We know why some women will never tell how they too have been violated, possibly by the very men they stand beside, because they are so invested and dependent on the patriarchal system to them it would be admitting they were tainted.

We know lies when we see them. We know liars when they lie. We know where to dig out the evidence if we need to. We know living with lies is no way to live. We were hesitant to speak of how ugly our country could get over the next two years after having gotten so ugly so fast in the last two years, yet both of us know enough history to see some truly vile possibilities.

We are afraid for our country. We are afraid for the future of our grandchildren. We are afraid for women. We are afraid of men and for men. We are afraid of poverty. We are afraid of having what we’ve worked for and earned taken away from us.

Both of us for the last few months have been trying to get out the vote any way we can. Neither of us have joined an organized group because we don’t have time or energy for that, but we are both of us talkers, and we ask everybody we know if they are registered to vote. Older people like us are more likely to vote. We’ve been around long enough to know the consequences of not voting. A good recent example is Trump, who is busy making all kinds of messes for the sake of his personal profit that will take us years to recover from. I’ve been concentrating on the 18-30 age group, the young lifeguards at my pool, the son’s friends, clerks who serve me over any counter. Shopping and service counters are not the place to have a discussion about the politics of the vote. A simple “Are you registered to vote?” or “Do you have a plan to vote?” suffices.

We are looking to our children and grandchildren to step up now and help. It’s time for another generation or two to start getting political experience and help change government into a model that works for Americans in the future as well as now. A model for all Americans, not just the wealthy or the ones now in power.

It’s a generational thing, politics. We must listen to the history our elders tell us about the past and what they lived, as well as read history books. When your elders tell you there was a time when America was prosperous and even working people felt like they were making enough to live on and be productive taxpayers, they will also tell you corporations and the upper classes paid a larger percent of tax investments. When the wealthy and corporations paid a share we had affordable housing, education, and we were on the way to affordable health care. People planned and saved money for vacations and retirements.

The friend who shared my bench told of the back room deals, the old boys network, the silencing of her (female) voice with over-talking and mansplaining though she was the expert who spent the time at the seminars and consortiums. Running with the pigs, she called it. No more, she said. I can’t blame her. Between the two of us, we had plans and projects and ideas for improving the homeless problem, hunger, education, employment, health care, secure and dignified retirement, and a myriad of others. We didn’t have a plan to impart our knowledge without people thinking we were wacky old women. We are radicals outside the system now.

I get it. As much as I dislike change, it must be done. Time passes. We learn new things, develop new technology, new techniques, new ideas change the way we live. We don’t build barns for our horses and cows any more; we build garages for our cars. We don’t send letters via Pony Express or even the United States Postal Service; we text or instant message on personal hand-held devices. Each generation takes the environment and political climate they get and improves. Or not. Nothing is ever perfect, but change might get us closer to excellence.

Like my friend and I sharing stories on that city bench, communication is the key. We must talk to each other. We don’t generally do that at church, where religion or spirituality is the accepted topic. Many of us don’t hang out in bars, there are no weekly town halls or social community gatherings any more. Getting people to attend a city council meeting is like offering a root canal. We have to find places where we can talk and feel safe about disagreeing until we reach a consensus.

Here’s the thing: You can’t tell the younger generation it’s time for them to step up and at the same time call them uneducated, lazy slackers. This is repeated history. I heard the same thing about my generation when I was a young adult and working my butt off to be a young adult.

It is time for younger people to step up because they are not slackers. Many of them are paying off student loans because they were sold higher education, which has been co-opted into a for-profit system with no job guarantees. Many younger people are working two or three jobs because the system is rigged against earning a living wage and inflation has created an environment of greed. Few younger people are able to, or able to choose to, have one parent home with the kids. Who is raising their kids? Who is home? Younger people are trying their best to do it all, but like the Red Queen’s Race in Alice Through the Looking Glass, the faster they run the further behind they get. And some elders have the nerve to tell them they are worthless.

We two old women had to part ways and get on with our day and leave the city bench we’d warmed for the last hour. We declared ourselves radicals, not radicals of violence or destruction, but radicals still, radicals always, radicals dedicated, as loving and caring people, to helping others learn and know and understand truth and lies. We are maybe even radical old women who encourage younger people to be involved in our communities and be radical.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – This time of year I am always trying to capture the yellows and light. Sun brightening the yellow in the tree of my neighbor that I get to enjoy. And the same tree casting its yellowed leaves on the shed roof. Stately yellowing tree across the street framed by picket fence. Golden globes of quince peaking between shining satiny green leaves.

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 Manchurian Candidate (1962, rated PG – 13) with Frank Sinatra. Somehow black and white makes these older movies seem creepier. Mind control is creepy enough as it is. Add politics to the mix. Creepier still. A classic that must be viewed at least once; junior year in high school would be good. Halloween is a good time for creepy movies. Recommended. * Life of the Party (2018, rated PG – 13), with Melissa McCarthy. McCarthy is cute as a button, but I often find her humor dull. A few witty lines and a feeble plot does not a comedy make. Meh. * Finished season 3 of DCI Banks, predictable cop stories.

Currently Reading – Finished The Little Paris Bookshop (2015, fiction) by Nina George. A few surprises at the end of this heart-sweet novel. Not a romance, but a love story for the heart; perfect summer read. * I think I have found a scary Halloween read. Alice (2015, fiction) by Christina Henry, an Alice in Wonderland story on methamphetamine, with an evil Rabbit and a monstrous Jabberwocky, begins in an asylum of a dystopian future. Alice is rescued from a fire in the hospital by the man she speaks to through a mouse hole in the wall. The asylum and the escape shows us a world of violence and the promise of more to come, where the sanity and ethics of every character is questioned. Sort of echoes current fears. * Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to do About It (2017, sociology, wealth) by Richard V. Reeves. This has been quite a tedious read for the information presented. I don’t know how to change the minds of wealthy people who might not even realize simple solutions to an over-advantaged system will not lose them any profit, income, or material goods. The author has ideas for change but not for changing the minds of the wealthy, though the author does suggest the wealthy lose some of their self-interest, think beyond themselves, and stop acting entitled to tax cuts and breaks when the system has already worked for them and made them wealthy.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Being able to still do some of my own housework.
  • How lovely it feels to have a freshly washed floor.
  • Another sunny and mild autumn week. I love the rain too, and it will be here soon enough.
  • Medical facilities that got us right in that day when I called to be seen.
  • The medical thing that happened was wildly ugly in appearance but nothing to be concerned about.
  • The veterinarian who got us right in the next day when I panicked after being up all night with Mister Kitty struggling to breathe.
  • Mister Kitty is better already. I had done the right things to get him through the night.
  • Grateful for instinct and the knowledge to back it up.
  • The nap I needed after stressing over Mister Kitty.
  • One last box of sweet cherry tomatoes. The nights are getting too cold.
  • A box of blackberries, more tart than sweet, but when mixed with strawberries the two sweet-tarts please my tongue.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Gratitude Sunday: My Medicare Birthday; or, Riding The Unicorn

Gratitude * Sunday

Quotes of the Week – “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedan

“Don’t underestimate the transition between farewell and new departure. Give yourself the time you need. Some thresholds are too wide to be taken in one stride.” Nina George in The Little Paris Bookshop

Sunday Haiku
Blue jay calls outside
my kitchen window. Squirrel
alert! Nut dispute.

Sunday Musings
I never wanted to be or to own a unicorn. I’m not a rainbows, sparkles, and fairy dust kind of girl, though I do believe in magic. I was never into horses either, they are too darn big. I like all those things, but as hard as I try to be up-beat and light-hearted, the struggles of my life and the world weigh heavily upon me and fairy dust doesn’t lift the weight. High school yearbooks have been in the news lately, and I dug mine out. From the comments made by other people I see I have been an opinionated, cranky, thought-provoking person for a long time.

It’s my Medicare birthday this week and I’m not sure what I expected. I often use my birthday for self-evaluation. I worked all my life. I learned how to save some of what I earned. I invested in a home I’m still paying for and the privilege of paying a property tax bill every year. I worked for the American dream even though I did not fit the stereotype of the breadwinner as male and middle-class. I’ve scratched my way forward each day as a female from a lower middle-class family. Only one person gets to be Oprah; she is an anomaly: the rags to riches myth doesn’t work for most of us lower income people in America, regardless of our skin color.

I wanted to support my family in comfort since I was the one who had to do the supporting. I wanted a secure home, an education for my child, and a comfortable and dignified retirement. I don’t need anything fancy, just decent, reliable, secure, you know, where the roof doesn’t leak, the car always runs, and the mortgage and bills are always paid on time. I don’t think that’s too much to ask after working for 50 years in the United States of America. For all those years of work all I earned and all I have to look forward to is the struggle of poverty, always being on the edge of collapse, of losing everything I worked for with one illness, injury, or faux pas. The American dream ends with my generation as so many of us are doing more poorly than our parents.

I used to amuse myself on my birthday by sending my mom a birth announcement that her baby girl had arrived. I created a different card every year with pretty, giggling, cooing babies on the front. I liked the ones with the lines on the inside for birth place and length and weight and I would make up weird or goofy answers to fill in the blanks. Weight:dis one fat baby. Length: two hands. Birthplace: between her mother’s legs. (Yes, I know. Weird.) I challenged myself to new answers every year and every year it would spark a phone call and a delightful conversation. Mom’s been gone five years now. If she heard me now I can hear her say, “Chin up, babe.”

I always feel a little blue, perhaps even morbid, around my birthday as I say goodbye to another year. It’s not like I’ve ever celebrated much as there have never been any funds to do so. In my life, fixing the car means canceling Christmas. Replacing an unrepairable washer means negotiating a bill payment with somebody else, not just payments to the washer vendor. I also feel like I get less done each year. I have to remind myself I am a human being, not a human doing. Tasks get done as they get done; I’m slow.

Some years it’s been difficult to even scrape up the money for a cake. I know that sounds pathetic when a box cake and a couple eggs, and some butter and confectioner’s sugar for the frosting can be had for under five dollars. Five dollars can also buy enough bathroom tissue (toilet paper) for the three people in my immediate family for a week, and since we use that stuff every day, I’m buying the TP. We don’t need to eat cake every day. Do you know what that’s like? To be conscious of every five dollars and how far it will stretch, of the value of every refundable can and bottle, of whether you can afford TP this week?

Visual and social media wants us to feel even worse about ourselves if we live in poverty, making vivid movies and TV shows and magazine articles that we can compare ourselves with both ways. We don’t want to look like the poverty they portray, and yet many of us won’t ever achieve the middle-class standard depicted. At least I have a TV, a computer, and a phone to see all the consumer marketing thrown at us.

I am the dichotomy. I have, but I also don’t have. I want to enjoy unicorn thinking, for everything in my life to be sweetness and light because I still have my home and my abundance of stuff, but being a person of generational poverty, it is not in my DNA. Instead I am riding the unicorn, on the back of the unknown, into a future unlikely to be sprinkled with fairy dust. Then again, you never know. That’s one of the issues with being Libra born, always trying to achieve balance and never quite sure if you’re there, change being the only constant. You never know, because weird stuff happens in life. I have a great abundance of stuff; I merely lack financial security in which to relax and enjoy my abundance. Of all the stuff I have, the good stuff, the cool stuff, the maybe-worth-something stuff, the definitely-worth-nothing stuff, selling all that stuff would not give me enough to get that security, because the stuff mostly isn’t worth anything; the stuff that is worth big dollars people don’t want to pay what it’s worth, they want a deal. It’s OK; I’m still enjoying my stuff as it slowly goes away.

Perhaps I’m more morbid than usual this year as I grow less able, and as I see my legacy with open eyes, the son raised in poverty, anxiety, depression, and insecurity, and facing his own struggles in the daily fight against despair. His whole generation is working against a system rigged against the poor, who no matter how hard they work, can barely earn enough to live on and will have little to show for their contributions as decent, honest, hardworking, accountable Americans.

It hasn’t helped my mindset this year to be in the middle of a horrifying nightmare of political destruction with all the policies and progress we’ve made over the last 50 years being undermined and reversed for the sake of lining the pockets of the already wealthy. There I am again oddly unbalanced as I have this daunting feeling it is so much worse than we all think and praying decent, honest, hardworking, accountable Americans will prevail until the course changes. Hopefully soon.

It may be my Medicare birthday, but I am going to have to fight for what I already paid. Next year is my retirement birthday, and it looks like I’m going to have to fight for the Social Security money I invested in the American system, or there is the possibility I may have to bite the bullet and take Social Security earlier than planned which means I get less (though I’ve always lived with less). I didn’t have a choice to opt out and save that money on my own. And if I want to opt out of mandatory Medicare, the law says my Social Security earned income retirement payments will be denied. Social Security is not a “benefit”; it’s a fund we paid our earned income into, and the administration over the last 40 years has abused that fund and spent it on other things (read: stolen without our permission).

Enough of morbidity and being disconcerted with society and the administration of American government. I’m old enough now to be tired of fighting. I’m way past tired of being poor. I’m tired of having a government who steals my money. I’ve been fighting all my life. I’ve been poor all my life. I’ve lived with less all my life. I want that retirement tax investment I earned back.

So, I’m 65, my Beatles birthday year is history. So what? It’s one more day, one more battle, one more opportunity to define justice and use my words for it, one more unicorn to learn to feed and care for.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – I love the creamy white fronds of pampas grass, and it comes in several varieties. A maroon seed pod of unusual shape. Here’s some yellow leaves showing off their light. And a tree of many colors. A row of many trees and many colors.

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 Ghost and Mr Chicken (1966, rated G) with Don Knotts, master of faces. Sometimes you just have to lighten up, even with scary movies. * Peter Rabbit (2018, PG) the semi-animated one. Sometimes you have to lighten up altogether. * The Beguiled (1971, rated R) the original with Clint Eastwood. I saw this movie many years ago on TV, in black and white, cut up by commercials, and remember being spooked by the decisions of the women in an isolated plantation when a wounded Union soldier appears on their property during the end of the American Civil War. Now in this re-viewing, the soldier is not blameless and works the jealousies of the women against each other. The women exact some revenge. There is something very frightening about the passions of isolated, lonely women. * The Portrait of a Lady (1996, rated PG – 13), a Jane Campion film from the novel by Henry James. I’m not sure what is more frightening, being manipulated into marrying an abusive and controlling husband, or having several men fall in love with you while you are still married to him. Ms Campion usually brings unusual twists to her film-work and this period piece did not fail to deliver.

Currently ReadingThe Little Paris Bookshop (2015, fiction) by Nina George. We pick up a couple passengers as we float down the Seine in search of lost love. * Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to do About It (2017, sociology, wealth) by Richard V. Reeves. The author defines opportunity hoarding, explains which opportunities the wealthy think belongs only to them, such as exclusive neighborhoods with more well-funded schools, legacy college placements, and nepotistic corporate internships, and why the hoarding of opportunities are detrimental to a fully functioning society at all economic levels.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Being able to research and think critically for myself.
  • Having my eyes wide open.
  • Being able to determine truth from lies.
  • Having a social media platform to help encourage people to vote.
  • Understanding how much misunderstanding and misinformation is out there.
  • Having words to understand my crankiness.
  • Finding a difference between happiness and contentment.
  • Friends who tell me I am too hard on myself. I understand.
  • Some mild early autumn days and neighborhoods so quiet you can hear the wind music the leaves make.
  • Remembering I have a Halloween tablecloth and getting it on the table before Halloween.
  • Days with nothing on the schedule when you get other stuff done.
  • The last of the season’s green beans.
  • Three more weeks of the local farmers market.
  • 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, Nature, Parenting, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: The Theory Of Joy

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Khalil Gibran

Sunday Haiku
Rain enough between
sun showers to send cedar
scent through open doors.

Sunday Musings
The instructor swam over to me after the 5-6 year old class left the pool, her face gleaming.

“That was so cool,” she said.

She is 19, California blonde and lithe, off to her second year of college, and if her parents had named her Sunny they would have pegged it. Over the last three or four years we’ve talked and shared stories as she was lifeguard for me in the pool. She sometimes spoke of her concerns about the littles she taught, and I offered encouragement to her because I could see the progress she coached out of each child.

“What was cool?” I asked.

Sunny told of one of her littles who had always been afraid of the water, unsure of her ability, complaining and resistant to trying anything new. Suddenly today, the little girl gleefully demonstrated all the previous skills she had learned and joyfully tried everything new without argument or hesitation. At the end of class Sunny asked her what had happened, to change in a few days from afraid at the last class to her enjoyment of this class.

“I woke up this morning,” the little girl said to Sunny, “and told myself I was going to be brave. It’s been hard but I’ve had fun all day!”

She certainly impressed Sunny who couldn’t wait to share the story and I was the closest person. I enjoyed the story so much I asked her permission to share and she said of course. And of course I’ve changed her name for her privacy.

The child’s thought was so simple, yet she admitted it had been hard to do, and then it led to a fun day. Sunny mused why it didn’t seem to be that simple for most of us. And since I’m a hundred years or so older than Sunny and a worst-case scenario (read: hyper-vigilant) person, I was thrilled to find a moment of pure joy in the day, and I shared my theory about joy. Which is that joy is fleeting and when it happens you have to enjoy the feeling at the moment, in the moment, with every fiber of your being no matter where the moment of joy comes from, whether it’s a moment of nature appreciation, an epiphany of some sort, or the clicking of new knowledge into something retained. And sharing that moment of joy amplifies it exponentially if other people can share the joy as well.

That’s why it’s so satisfying to have a job you enjoy; you get moments of joy all day long. The best moments of joy come from sharing other people’s joy, like new babies, or tickling toddlers, or getting to watch little ones learn to swim when they thought they were afraid. Or watching an older person, still and always being the lovely person she’s grown into, imagining her as a younger, and all the parts it takes to make up the whole of a person. Taking a minute outside the local lending library because the beautiful large tree in the neighbor’s yard is bird friendly and with every exit from the library doors the birds twitter and whistle and sound so joyful; do birds experience joy? Can birds tell humans of their joy? Is thinking about birds a moment of joy? Or watching a spider weave his web. Critters are joy (as long as they are outside). Outside the door at my counselor’s office the blue spruce has cones the most beautiful soft shade of green. I want a room that color. Color is joy. The neighbor kids playing, their voices together sounding like music rippling through the yards. Finding a couple of words to fit together that makes your skin tingle. Doing something new even though you are afraid, or unsure, or shy, or sometimes because you have to, and you know by no stretch of the imagination it will be fun, and it’s joy merely because you pushed through the fear and did it. Life is joy. Wonder is joy. Marveling and thinking too much are joys.

Sunny kindly listened to my theory about joy, and bounced out of the pool to share the story with the other staff. The story was enough to cheer anybody’s day. But there was another kind of brief joy: somebody taking the time to share a story, and somebody taking the time to listen, and then it went back the other way as well. Sometimes the greatest kindness we can give to another is the gift of listening.

I’m lucky. I’m nosy and curious and I love listening to other people’s stories and thoughts. I love thinking I might learn something from them if we can talk long enough. I treat it like story time, but I’m not always the best listener, because if anything confuses me I interrupt; I have to have sense immediately. I’m learning to be more patience about that. It can scare people if you are easily confused or ask too many questions. I just like a complete story, and I like being able to tell the characters from each other. I confess to re-reading, and paging back in novels and non-fiction, or reviewing videos, when I feel I’ve lost the plot line or get characters confused.

Good thing people come in all shades of fear. I suspect we all have fear, some of us have learned not to show it, for better or worse. Some people have no fear, no problem with trying new things, or at least it looks like that to the rest of us. Some people seem confident with all they do, hesitating only briefly to prepare for the next step. Other people seem overly confident and then don’t deliver. Others are so afraid they can’t even lift their eyes from the ground or get a job when they might be able. Like Sunny’s little girl said: it’s hard.

If we were kinder to each other and celebrated each others’ success I suspect we would have less fear in this world. People could feel free to try new things because they would know nobody would make fun of them or put them down, and might even make it easier for them to achieve what they want. A bit of competition can be good, but in America I fear we are seeing the results of too much of that “good” thing.

I still vote for being brave. To wake up each day and say, “I will be brave today” and then go about your day with that mantra in your mind, it could make your day a little more fun. It’s worth a try, like when we were kids before our spirits got broken and being brave was just what we did. If it’s hard it makes the joy all that more dear; one must know darkness to appreciate the light. If enough of us approach each day that way perhaps we could change the world, by sharing our joy in being brave.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – My favorite hot pink fuchsia is loaded this year. I keep trying to capture the blue of this spruce tree, and I love the contrast with the other shades of green. I found a small patch of lavender with its lovely gray foliage. Love the wine-burgundy tones the leaves of my coral bells take on. Trying to capture the multiple shades of green, pinks, and yellows as this bush puts on its autumn dress. Because I love critters, a bumble bee butt is all we see as he wiggles deep into a purple mallow.

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.} (My internet was down for five days this week, that’s why I didn’t post on September 30, and it gave me some time to watch a few extra items.) * Black Panther (2018, rated R), a Marvel Comics production. Despite the gratuitous sex and violence, these Marvel productions employ witty dialogue and make me laugh. * Genius: Einstein (2017, rated TV – MA) a dramatized BBC series about the life and times of Albert Einstein. He had challenges many of us have, the ones of us who have trouble following rules or who question the way it’s always been done before. As a man of his time he also benefited from the brilliance of his wife while giving her no credit as she cared for his home and raised his children, as many men of our time do and have done as well. The production portrays Einstein’s struggle to maintain science separate from politics, and both the characters and the dialogue echo what we are living through in today’s political climate of science deniers. Rhyming history, which we can learn from if we will. * And now we move into the Halloween scary movies for October. 15 Minutes (2001, rated R), with Robert de Niro, a cop thriller, with de Niro trying to stop two killers who are videotaping their murders in an attempt to claim video fame. Chilling, quirky, and unpredictable. * Hereditary (2018, rated R) with Toni Collette who is one of my favorite actors. The trailers on this were deceptive. I thought I was going to get a psychological thriller, instead it disappointingly sank to the level of the typical gory-bloody demonic possession horror movie. While Collette demonstrates a wide range of emotions and facial expressions, I felt this was beneath her to lower herself to the blood and guts level. * The chillingest I’ve watched this week was season one of The Handmaid’s Tale (2017, rated TV- MA). I remember reading this novel many years ago and being disconcerted at the futuristic world novelist Margaret Atwood created where we’ve damaged our world so much we lose human fertility, and it comes across even more bluntly on film to think that a few people can subvert the politics of America to control the bodies of women. Oh, wait. That’s what we are fighting against right now, in America, in 2018. Vampires and zombies and witches will never frighten me as much as men and women who seek power over other people. * The Florida Project (2017, rated R) about a six year old girl living in poverty in the shadow of Disney World. I may have to think about this movie for a couple weeks to get its point. To start, we all have difficult lives and hard stories behind them.

Currently ReadingThe Little Paris Bookshop (2015, fiction) by Nina George. The plot thickens as Monsieur Perdu casts free from the harbor and glides down the Seine. I read cinematically and with the tidbits of humor the author writes I can easily see this as a fun movie. We’ll see what the ending reveals. * Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to do About It (2017, sociology, wealth) by Richard V. Reeves. Money comparisons disturb me, as it indicates competition rather than cooperation, especially where the wealth of the wealthy drives consumerism by the lower income classes in an attempt to keep up, the keeping up of which cannot happen in the society we currently have. The capitalist game and the American myth of anybody achieving the rags to riches wealth is rigged in America from birth on, and mere wealth is a poor marker of intelligence or merit. We will need to make changes.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Some lovely, mild, fake summer days with the doors open and soft breezes.
  • Being overcome by the feeling to take a short walk, which unfortunately isn’t more than a couple blocks these day, but was treated to the delight of finding an older neighbor whom I haven’t talked to for a couple years, crawling around weeding her lovely front garden, and a friendly discussion.
  • Her invitation to crawl around and help her weed. I declined. We laughed.
  • Her cute little dog who minded me when I told him he had to go be by his mom as we were standing right next to the street.
  • Having the opportunity to thank her for sharing her garden with the rest of us in the neighborhood.
  • The moon bright and clear peeking in the corner of my open door while I work.
  • That feeling of missing someone you haven’t talked to in a long time, because it’s still not likely you’ll get to talk to them anytime soon, and knowing your heart and soul is still intact because you feel the missing.
  • Getting some housework done I’ve been wanting to do when internet service crashed for a few days.
  • Flashlight at the ready when I had a nightmare.
  • A day of scattered rain showers after the nightmare which felt like a cleansing.
  • A bag of pears from a friend which I put into the fridge to ripen and have been perfect as I pull each one out to eat.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Gratitude Sunday: September Season

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow, and oh so mellow…” Tom Jones

Sunday Haiku
Soft autumn sun heats
skin thirsty for radiant
bone soothing comfort.

Sunday Musings
September is a special month and always seems a little sad to me. When the harvest is almost done, food preservation almost completed as well, pumpkins and winter squashes lie fat and orange in the fields next to corn stalks chopped into stubbled plots, it feels like the end of the year as we prepare to celebrate the work of our summer labors. The harvest celebrations last three months these days, from Halloween through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and are only over when we welcome winter in at the New Year. Other cultures celebrate other holidays during these times as well, and while I won’t pretend to know enough to name them, I honor them along with “American/Christian” holidays. As if it makes any difference to differentiate: a celebration is (any excuse to) party is a celebration. All good.

September brings changes. We start a new school year, and we establish a new/newer version of a household routine to accommodate outside events we want to attend for the season. September recalls all those other beginnings, all the first days at school and new schools, all the new jobs, all the new routines and new teachers and strange classmates and co-workers, friendly and otherwise. We have a new sports season; suddenly football is upon us and all weekend long cheers of team spirit erupt from living rooms and high school and university stadiums across the nation.

September bodes the transitions we are looking forward to for the season. We receive our property tax bills right before election day, and they are due just after election day. How’s that for timing? And Daylight Saving Time changes the weekend before election day as well, so we will all still be acclimating to the time change as we are asked to make political decisions. Prevent any despair by preparing ahead of time and know your vote well before the time change and election day. (Oregonians, who can vote by mail, you can vote before Halloween and have it all done before the holiday!) This could be the most important mid-term vote of our lifetimes, so be good scouts and be prepared. Halloween is only one day but is so much fun it can be a distraction to real life, and we live life 365 days a year so multi-task: celebrate and prepare to vote.

September says goodbye to the last heat of summer, the last warm days of the year. Colorful flowers give way to the parade of leaves dying, dying with every burst of color they have left in them, kicking their chlorophyll deprived bodies into the unknown as their umbilical-stems shrivel and dry, released precipitously from the branches that gave them life, filling the streets and gutters with their water-clogging leafy carcasses. The light and the heat from the sun softens as the earth orbits on its inevitable journey; the days grow short and the dark of night grows longer.

In September the sun visits less, and the rains return from their summer vacation. Rain (blue) plus sun (yellow) equals grass (green). I know, math, complicated by color theory and stream of consciousness, right? Sometimes hard to follow, especially when there is no basis in hard science, and some basis in thinking too much.

When September is over, the rush of holidays will be upon us and we will fly from one event to another in a hurry to end another year and begin a new one. We will cook, and eat, and laugh, and visit people we don’t get to see most of the year. We will giggle and goo-goo over the new babies and the toddlers, we will invite older children into adult conversations as they are the future of our world. We will carefully share information because differences of opinion are nothing to lose friends and family over. We will listen to the stories of our elders who remember history, and to our contemporaries who have valid experiences to share we all might benefit from, and to our teens and twenty-somethings who are lighting the way in a new world with their energy. If we listen to each other we might learn how much alike we are, even when our opinions and ages differ.

September is the beginning of closing out the year, beginnings and endings, the ultimate transition with both occurring at the same time. We say goodbye to a productive summer and get ready to bundle in for the winter. If we can, we spend a little time taking stock, maybe discard a few things (which might be another person’s treasure – avoid consumerism and re-gift, re-gift, re-gift!), clear the summer’s dust we were too busy to clean because it was time to play and work outside.

As the nights grow longer there are more evening hours to reflect and contemplate. I’m at that time in my life where I take the luxury of just sitting and thinking, because I’m not as able to be as active as I used to be. One could say I’m entering the September of my life, and I want to be only entering as I want many good long days to come. It’s a good thing. As I’ve already said September is beginnings and endings. Old routines give way to new, and old skills can improve or change. Some things we leave behind as we learn to adapt or accommodate to a different position when we still want to get our work done. The same old way might not be the best way forever, it’s good to try new ways as well. September is an excellent example of change being the only constant. I may be sad at what we leave behind, but I am grateful for the opportunity of every day to keep learning and moving forward.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – I try to capture the soft autumn light and the parade of leafy tree color. Here are some reds and oranges. Still green but tinged with fiery yellow and orange. Purple autumn crocuses confuse me, makes me think I’m still in spring not entering autumn. Yellow leaves muted by shadow. I love these layers of contrast between greens in the evergreen trees against the flame colors of the deciduous. An autumn rose pink-ishly, peach-ishly clinging to summer.

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 First Wives Club (1996, rated PG) with Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton. I didn’t see this movie when it first came out at a time when VHS and DVDs were costly even when rented. Thanks to our tax investments I can use the local lending library to see these old movies for free now. I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for this one. As much as I generally love the work of these women, this was entirely a fluff movie. Meh * Started the DCI Banks (2010-2016, rated TV – 14) BBC series. Cop show, old school male cop, female co-worker, assorted supporting cast, intriguing plot lines. Sometimes I can figure out who-dun-it before the end of the show rolls around. * Wild Oats (2016, rated PG – 13) with Shirley McClain and Jessica Lange. After her husband dies, the insurance company sends the wife a check much larger than the policy had been purchased for. She deposits the check in the bank for safe-keeping and takes her friend on an adventure. Chaos ensues. I love movies with women of significant age.

Currently ReadingThe Little Paris Bookshop (2015, fiction) by Nina George, originally written in German; I’m reading the English translation, recommended by a friend. Monsieur Perdu owns a “literary apothecary” and prescribes literature for what ails you from his book barge on the Seine as he hides his own “ailment”. * Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to do About It (2017, sociology, wealth) by Richard V. Reeves. The author explains why the American upper middle class is trying to distance itself and insulate itself from the lower classes of American working society. I’d like to understand this, as from my point of view, I worked just as hard in my life and had nowhere near the success; for me the American dream of home ownership and the privilege of a property tax bill, a college education, bills paid, and a comfortable and secure retirement is dead, as it is for 80% of Americans. As the author begins to explain, it’s somewhat a case of who you know to help you climb that legacy ladder to success. * I got to spend several days with Pete Souza’s picture book Obama: An Intimate Portrait (2017, presidential photography) loaned to me by a trusting friend. I was terrified the whole time I had it that I would spill something on it, so I was extra careful. The queue at the local lending library remains around 50 people and has been since the book came out. My friend thought I shouldn’t wait. The pictures weren’t all perfect composition-wise, many were notable only for capturing those candid moments. The book was hard to look at for several reasons including nostalgia for a time when I could sleep feeling somewhat safe in my bed, and I found myself crying at many of the pictures: remembering the unwarranted racial abuse the Obama family endured while serving the nation; the obvious love Obama has for his family; the sheer humanity in Obama’s face and deeds; the horrible attempt at dismantling democracy we are enduring now in the wake of Obama’s service and the hope that reason and compassion will prevail.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • A friend who got an eviction notice because her landlord wanted to sell the house (the landlord offered to sell her the house but it wasn’t quite the right size for the family), who found another house to buy and less than six weeks later holds the key to her new house, avoiding the scramble for storage and/or temporary housing. Loving how sometimes the universe cooperates abundantly.
  • The days. Every day. And how they go by. Laughing at myself.
  • Looking forward to my Medicare birthday next month.
  • Wanting something cozy to wear to hang around the house in that didn’t look like a bathrobe, and finding an extra long, extra large hoodie. Using my birthday to justify the purchase.
  • Noticing the changes of aging. I used to be the one who was always hot, and now I have many times I can’t get warm even though I carry around my own heater with me (read: insulated by fat, which doesn’t seem to be working that way any more.)
  • Freely sharing my aging experiences with youngers so they know what they have to look forward to. No rose colored glasses or graceful aging here. Just cold hard facts about the body.
  • The son helping me put up a string of orange Halloween lights, because I just couldn’t wait any longer.
  • Replacing my old worn out (read: glove fingers torn to shreds, so, useless) garden gloves, and getting a start on a small overgrown spot. A little bit at a time.
  • Ten minute work windows.
  • The last of the summer’s heat; open doors; the soft susurrus of breezes in tree leaves.
  • Fat Oregon figs and a chunk of locally made raw milk alpine cheddar. Num.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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

Gratitude Sunday: Truth, Lies, And The American Way

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “It is difficult for the common good to prevail against the intense concentration of those who have a special interest, especially if the decisions are made behind locked doors.” Jimmy Carter

Sunday Haiku
Weather disregards
the calendar, autumn weighs
upon our shoulders.

Sunday Musings
Truth is truth. Facts are facts. Truth can be twisted. Facts can be skewed. Repeating the same lie will never make it true regardless of how many times the lie is repeated.

In any study of psychology studies show truth is often a matter of perception. We do not always see or perceive the same things. The shade of red I see may not be the same shade of red you see. Even though we have similar equipment (vision, rods, cones, brain cells to interpret what we see), the experience of red can be different between the two of us. Two people witnessing the same car accident will have two different stories of what they saw.

As Americans, we have choices as to how we want to be governed, whom we want to represent us, and how we parse out the facts and truth from the propaganda and the lies.

For example, when a woman says she has been violated we have to believe her. I expect men not to believe us, as they are generally the perpetrators of violation and are invested in maintaining that power (perceived or real) over women. But I am often startled when other women blame the victim, saying she must have done something to warrant the violation. I see this as jealousy and competition. It is tempting to be jealous. Somebody may have more than you, or think themselves better than you, may be prettier than you, or younger that you. So? It’s likely every one of us think that about every other one of us. Would we have a better world if we celebrated the success of others? Would we have more personal success if we celebrated the success of others? Would we be stronger individuals by building each other up?

When a candidate for any office lies under oath at a congressional hearing, as another example, that should be evidence the person is not fit to serve. Over the last two years, though, lying to get what you want seems to be normalized, even though lying should not be tolerated even from toddlers who can be taught from the very first how to tell the truth and own their own behavior. This was my experience in the workplace. Lying was normalized and the truth was discounted aided by the power of numbers; the truth carried no weight and was not honored. As a volunteer I’ve seen this happen in almost every group I’ve worked with from the classroom at the son’s school to youth groups.

As a group, Americans have the power to stand up for the truth, to define facts as facts. We have the power to make life better for all of us, not just for a handful of elite wealth holders. We have the power to protect women and children, to keep the poor from being blamed for circumstances thrust upon them through no cause of their own. We have the power to end fossil fuel consumption and to create sustainable energy technologies. We have the power to create safe spaces for men and women of all types, shapes, and sizes, to create a stronger society by elevating each individual through education.

As it is, Americans, many of us anyway, are pretty darn smart. We can see through the lies. The hard part is trusting our elected representatives to stand up for the truth. If they don’t, our recourse is to elect other representatives. The length of service by any representative should not prevent them from being changed out when they are not working for their constituents.

As citizens we help our representatives by telling them what we want and who we want to represent us. That’s called voting. Voting is an important part of being a contributing citizen in America. We don’t get to vote on national or state policy so we must carefully choose our representatives, whom we pay our tax investments to, to decide policy in our name and for our sake.

We must vote responsibly. Take a little time to read about candidates and the issues presented us to vote upon. Read whole articles, not just headlines. Read from more than one source. Read a foreign source to see what they are saying. If reading isn’t your thing, listen to the news on the radio or TV, and choose more than one source for information.

Most states require you to register to vote. Some states have requirements like age or length of residence. Each state has details for registration. In Oregon, for example, you must be registered 21 days before election day. This year October 16 is the deadline for registration, and if you will be eighteen years old on or before November 6, 2018 you can pre-register to vote (before October 16), and vote in the November 6 election. Each state posts their election and registration requirements on-line these days and lists a phone number in case you need help. If you need help, just ask, and do it when you have lots of time to be patient with the volunteers and interns who may help you. Then register to vote.

Last step: Vote. You’ve studied the measures and the candidates. You’ve ignored the propaganda and the mudslinging. You might have called to find out how your representative voted on the last policy you were interested in. Don’t vote because somebody tells you whom to vote for. Do your research, listen to other peoples’ opinions, but make your own decision. The result might turn out to be good or not so good, but you did your citizen’s duty, and you get to have a say. Occasionally we will be disappointed with the way a vote turns out. That means we must be more vigilant than ever next vote around. That’s called progress.

What else can we do? We can help other people vote. We can take them to the polls, or deliver their mail-in ballots when we are taking ours. We can help people who don’t have computers register and check their current registrations. We can ask people if they are registered or if they checked to make sure the registration is current. (This is not the time to talk about whom we are voting for.) We can encourage young voters who may be shy or uncertain because it’s the first time they’ve voted. We can encourage voters who think their vote doesn’t count, which isn’t true; don’t fall into that rabbit hole.

We can stand for an America where truth is still truth, and facts are facts. The current administration will not get us there. They are in it for profit for themselves, not for the average decent, honest, hardworking, accountable American. Whether we claim the label of republican, democrat, independent, socialist, democratic socialist, green party, or whatever, when we sit down to talk face to face, friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor, we have more common beliefs than not, and there are many ways to make improvements and progress when we share our common beliefs. Now is the time to share (talk, research, ask), prepare (register, check for correct registration), decide (it’s up to us), and vote. November is just around the corner. Register. Vote.

Color Watch
– colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week
– Creamy white pampas grass, and plant neighbors in gray and green. Bright surprising orange of the Chinese lantern bush. Many shades of gray, green moss overlay, and other natural color notes at the local labyrinth. A speck of yellow leaf and gray lichen on the smooth aggregate sidewalk. Brown, green, and gray textures of the season, composed upon soft red brick.

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.} Two movies arrived from my local lending library and the way they fit together was entirely serendipitous. Because of the waiting queue and the due dates I watched them back to back. I don’t know nearly enough about history and this was enough to tantalize my curiosity. I don’t do war. I don’t understand the strategies, machinations, mechanizations, and coordinations of land, sea, and air. I can’t tell a plane from a plane, and can barely see the difference between a ship and a boat. In uniform all the soldiers look alike, even if one side is red and the other blue. I’ve never set my mind to study war because I don’t understand why: why you would need to have power over other people for whatever reason, or take their resources for your own. That said, Darkest Hour (2018, rated PG – 13) dramatizes the first month Winston Churchill served in the position of prime minister of the UK in May of 1940, during which he ordered Operation Dynamo, by calling out a civilian flotilla of volunteers to rescue hundreds of thousands of British and French soldiers from Dunkirk where the Royal Navy could not reach them. * Follow with Dunkirk (2017, rated PG – 13) about how Operation Dynamo was deployed with a threefold strategy on land, sea, and in the air. I was grateful Dunkirk was not terribly gory as so many war movies are. There was enough shooting and exploding and fire to make me know I would be a crazy screaming blubbering mess if I had to serve in battle of this sort. * Woohoo, finished the fifth and final season of Dr Kildare (1961-1966, TV series not rated). The last four half hour episodes addressed the elephant in the room: abortion, and not just medical necessity, but a woman’s right to choose, and have the procedure safely administered by a doctor in a medical facility. The debate then was much the same as now, and it’s such a confusing subject with so many details to think of. The dialogue handles the debate rather delicately but all the real world implications of death in botched unprofessional abortions or self abortion, and the right of a man or the law to have the say over a woman’s body are there. I suspect this subject matter may have been the reason the series was not renewed, rather than the change from one hour to half hour format.

Currently Reading – Finished The Little Stranger (2009, fiction) by Sarah Waters. The best kind of ghost story: an old English country house in the early years after World War 2 when aristocracies are falling apart, a distressed family, the country doctor, the hint of romance, a bit of terror, tons of suspense and tension, a tiny bit of gore (thank goodness, don’t enjoy lots of gore), and the “ghost” is never quite revealed in the end. Recommended. * The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Stronger Societies (2011, sociology) by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. So close to the end of this arid statistical book; it’s hard to make your point through numbers and keep your audience. Numbers don’t lie, but the way we use them can be skewed; the numbers show we would all, from the richest to the poorest, have better lives beginning with trust issues between citizens and going right on through to basic health outcomes and gaining wealth for all of us, if our society was more equal.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Petrichor.
  • Rain.
  • The fragrance of wet cedars.
  • A cousin who had gone into hospital is home and a bit better. Still praying for her better health.
  • A safe journey to the Social Security office an hour away while the engine light was on.
  • Getting my Medicare straightened out. Glad to have it, but not impressed.
  • The interns who listen to my concerns as I call my representatives’ offices twice a week.
  • Young people, who are smarter than they know and smarter than olders give them credit for.
  • Olders, because we are living libraries of history and we’re still pretty darn smart ourselves.
  • Generations talking together.
  • People who grant me the kindness of listening to my thoughts and observations (I can get a little intense) without freaking out.
  • Crushing a cinnamon stick into a beautiful old glass ashtray for the beauty and comfort of the fragrance. I love the look of old heavy art glass ashtrays, whether clear or colored glass, even though I don’t smoke. They are perfect for potpourris and other fragrance delivery as whatever leafy or earthy oil is in the product is captured in the glass and won’t stain furniture and is easily wiped away.
  • Living in the same house for 19 years, longer than my baby house I was raised in.
  • Splurging on steak, bake, and cake for the son’s birthday.
  • The best, sweetest cherry tomatoes and getting to know the farmer who grows them.
  • 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, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Put On A Happy Face

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Those who never change their minds, never change anything.” Winston Churchill

Sunday Haiku
Summer’s last hot day
whipped through my dusty valley.
Still waiting for rain.

Sunday Musings
I want to be happy. I do. I’m just not sure what that word means. According to the news, magazines, TV shows and commercials, and social media that’s what I’m supposed to be. And happiness is my choice. I can choose to be happy!

There’s the revelation. It’s my choice. I don’t need to wallow in self-pity about how strange my life is, and how hard all the processes of living are every day. I don’t need to be afraid of dealing with every day through a veil of anxiety and panic. It makes no matter all the distresses inside my body and outside my body I deal with. Empathy weighs heavy on me, knowing my distress is symptomatic of the distress of others as well. According to the myth about choice, I can force myself to be happy.

Self-help books say fake it till you make it. The Bible says practice cheerfulness, regardless of circumstance. Both these solutions feel false to me as they suggest you present as a deception. Is that being true to yourself? But if happiness doesn’t come naturally and you don’t put on the facade, you are judged to be not fun, or not worthy, or just not one others want to spend their time around. Does that make being falsely cheerful preferable to being oneself? In our society the simple answer is yes. False cheerfulness is required for acceptance and in all cases fake happiness is preferred as well. How awful to be sucked into the whirlwind of unhappiness of your friends and family or to bring them down into yours.

I can fake it. Sounding cheerful about (or discounting, like self-deprecating humor) the bad stuff that happens to one is as easy as skating on thin ice. One must only be aware of the surface and how easily broken it can be. Silence is more often the best option. Better to seem intelligent through silence than to open one’s mouth and inadvertently disprove the notion.

You know why I can fake it? My distresses are mostly about money. About paying for and keeping my house, keeping the mortgage and calamity insurance and property taxes paid. About scraping up the extra dollars to keep the house from falling in around my ears and the blackberries and and thistles (why do all my weeds have thorns?) and other weeds at bay. About keeping the heat and lights on in the winter and the little air conditioner and fans running in the summer. About keeping a 20 year old car running, and insured, and registered, with enough gas to get me to the grocery store and my local lending library. About paying for a modicum of technology, like internet service so I can work, a pre-paid cell phone, and a TV that works. About replacing appliances and water heaters as they wear out. Those are some of the basics.

What about the extras many of us get to take for granted? About the money to go to lunch or dinner with a spouse or a gal pal once in a while? Or out to a movie or live theater? Or a new shirt, even if it’s new-to-me from Goodwill? Or taking a real vacation (what’s that word mean?) or a day trip to the beach that’s only an hour away and not worry about the home front falling apart while I’m gone or the car breaking while I am traveling?

Here’s why I can fake being happy. It’s all nothing. It’s money; it’s a house, a car, a shirt, a pedicure, a beach. It’s nothing. When I’m gone from this life it will be less than nothing to me. My anxiety about it all is for naught as well. It is what it is.

What I want is contentment and security. The security of knowing there is enough, that home and livelihood are comfortably covered in perpetuity, never the thought of a landlord or tax collector at one’s door. Knowing the electricity and water won’t be shut off by the utility company. Knowing if something major like a car or appliance breaks, one doesn’t have to go into debt (which means you pay MORE, because interest) to replace it. Knowing if a pal calls and wants to do lunch, one can pay one’s way and maybe even treat this time without having to cash in cans and bottles, or even not thinking about the cans and bottles other than donating them to a local fundraiser. It’s cash flow and the bottom line.

I have more abundance than so many people. I have a home and it’s warm or cool as needed; I have tons of clothing to choose from; I have healthful food; I have running water (both kinds: hot and cold!). I have stuff I can (and should, and will, I’m slow) sell. I have more years in this wacky unruly body (thank you, Roxane Gay).

Remember my mantra: Change is the only constant. If you you fake it till you make it, it might make the journey easier, or more interesting, or more entertaining. Going from faking it to making it is one of those changes. I can practice cheerfulness (and practice, and practice, and practice); it’s like developing a habit such as meditation or mindfulness or doing tai chi routinely. Pretending to be cheerful can never hurt you. Why not change to being cheerful when around other people? Maybe it will make you feel good (or better, better is good, and the best part is being around people you enjoy) to be cheerful, just making the change of putting on that mask. My guess is few people will know it’s a mask. Maybe a day will come when I change enough to feel I have enough, it is enough, I am enough. In the meantime, I’ll employ the myth of choice, and choose to pretend I’m happy.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Yellow buddleia garners as many moths and butterflies as the purple. I don’t know the name of this floofy plant with burgundy foliage that grows taller than my head. Neon pinkish orange rose. Beautiful and edible rainbow chard. Lily reveals its autumn oranges, yellows, and stripes.

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.} Almost done with the last season of Dr Kildare (1961-1966, TV series not rated) with Richard Chamberlain. It’s been fun spending the summer revisiting a youthful favorite, but I’m ready to move to more seasonal movies, as I am fond of psychological thrillers for the Halloween season.



Currently Reading
The Little Stranger (2009, fiction) by Sarah Waters. The best kind of spooky book is full of suspense and tension and the monster/entity is not revealed until the end. I have my suspicions as to who the ghost entity is, and I’m on the edge of my proverbial seat. * The Spirit Level: Why Great Equality Makes Stronger Societies (2011, sociology) by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. I am hoping the authors will eventually offer suggestions on how to remedy the pervasive and growing American inequality, though they are British. They plainly state the UK and the USA, though the richest nations, are doing the worst on taking care of the poorest people of our nations. I say: What good is wealth if it doesn’t take care of us?

This week I have been grateful for:

  • A friend I haven’t seen in ages finding me at farmers market. A great long hug, and tears of friendship.
  • Maintenance week at my local aquatic center is almost over.
  • A murder of crows announcing their flight across my yard. I am particularly fond of crows. Inordinately fond.
  • Cleaning a corner cabinet in the kitchen that was growing seven dimensional beggar’s velvet. Sparkles now.
  • Getting my range hood scrubbed.
  • Tackling a patch of overgrown ivy to get a bin of cans and bottles out to cash in, just in time before the ivy had grown into many of the bottles.
  • Ten minute work windows.
  • Remembering to check the sink and the tub before use so I can surprise the spiders rather than the other way around, since September is spider season.
  • Listening to Obama’s Illinois speech, someone who eloquently says what I say so clumsily.
  • The way my hair is going whiter and crazier and wilder over the last two years.
  • Noticing the light leaving earlier in the evenings. The noticing.
  • How quiet the evenings are in the neighborhood now school is back in session.
  • Living in a multi-generational neighborhood.
  • Oregon strawberries all summer long.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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

Gratitude Sunday: The Dignity Of Being

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Believe in yourself. Have faith in your abilities. Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Norman Vincent Peale

Sunday Haiku
Pleasant afternoon
for dizzy bees to help eat
my sandwich. Be gone!

Sunday Musings
I’m supposed to hate myself. It’s in all the media, TV shows and commercials, movies, the news. It’s in the print media as well, magazines and books. It’s in doctor’s offices and group gatherings when people subtly or not so subtly say disparaging things about others. It’s a societal thing called imposed shame and it’s a technique to manipulate and control people and their thinking. It’s about capitalism, advertising, marketing, politics, and power.

I can’t do it. I didn’t learn how to play the game. I know what’s in me and nobody else does. My treasures are hidden deep inside, both physically and intellectually, in the dignity of being.

I am a woman. I am told I am lesser than because I don’t have a penis, that appendage that sticks out and can get in the way of so many things. I can’t impregnate anybody. I don’t have strength or physical power. I’m assumed to be less intelligent because my brain is smaller than a man’s. I spent 40 years of my life grossly bleeding every month. I spent five of those years with an embarrassing fattening pregnancy, a messy bloody delivery, naked breasts feeding an infant, and dealing with the bodily issues of a toddler and pre-schooler.

Yet, because I am a woman, I am fierce. I can create humans with my body (whether I choose to or not is my business, and my business only); it’s the price I pay for bleeding every month. I might not be strong physically, but I can bring forth life in a burst of energy and water and blood. I’m smarter than the next ten men put together; my smaller brain is simply more efficient. I can deal with years of sleep deprivation and stress and not kill anybody. Sadly, per my training as an American female, my default response is to blame myself even when I am not at fault. While it happens that I am occasionally at fault, as often as not I am not, but I’m supposed to be.

I am fat. I’m supposed to hate my body. It does not look like what other people think it should look. Operatives: “other people” and “should”. Fashion magazines, news and entertainment medias, the beauty and diet industry, even the medical industry thinks they have the right to dictate how bodies should look. Bodies are bodies. People cannot control how they look; one cannot control how the body looks any more than one can control how the body works. If you think you are in control of how your body looks, you are only kidding yourself. If you think other people can control how their bodies look, you need to mind your own business.

I’m poor. In the capitalistic consumer society, I am lesser than because I have less in the way of cash, capital, and assets. I own very few status symbols: my home is modest and in need of maintenance, my car is 20 years old, I am not coiffed, painted, polished, or the owner of designer clothing. This point might have merit if we had equal opportunities and advantages. There are different kinds of poor and different kinds of wealth. I was able to work most of my adult years, I’m buying a home and have the privilege of a property tax bill which I pay by not going out, anywhere, ever; the money I earned supported a disabled hubster who never qualified for any Social Security assistance; I raised a young man who is a voting and contributing citizen. I don’t own cash, and the small savings I had for retirement is almost entirely diminished because of some untoward circumstances and because I like to pay my bills in a timely manner. Then there’s this silly thing about food, I don’t like to do it but it must be done.

I’m older now. I’m no longer as able or willing. I’m no longer as productive as I once was. I am suddenly worthless, worth less, de-valued, invisible. My words mean little because I’m not “in touch” with the changes in the world around me. My experience and knowledge of history are past news.

I don’t think as well as I used to. I’m as smart as some, smarter than others, and not as smart as even more. But I know how to learn, and I read, and I write, and fight to keep my wit about me.

How society wants me to hate myself is bunk. They want me to hate myself so they can sell me cosmetics and beauty aids; diet aids, exercise equipment, diet programs, and gym memberships; medicines and doctor visits and health insurance policies; cars and bigger cars and more cars; houses and remodels and maintenance; furniture and gardens and pools; TVs, iPhones, iPads, laptops, and other electronic equipment; work clothes, sleep clothes, exercise clothes, swim clothes, night clothes, casual clothes, going-out clothes, baby clothes, kid’s clothes, and new styles every season, not just once a year; breakfast, lunch, and dinner out; sell me stuff, stuff, and more stuff. If I don’t have this stuff I am not cool, with-it, in touch. I’m not as good as people who have this stuff.

Christmas is promoted for four months of the year. That’s one third of the year (I know, math). Christmas is not four months worth of important. Providing the “perfect Christmas” is even less important. We are supposed to hate ourselves if we fail at the perfect Christmas or perfect life.

I don’t believe any of it. I don’t have to. I don’t need stuff to prove my worth. I don’t need to prove my worth at all. Neither do you.

Despite the blood, it’s been an interesting experience being female, and creating life with my body. It’s interesting being round and soft and squishy; I’ve also experienced toned and taut and firm muscles, that was interesting too. I’ve been able and unable and found ways within both capabilities to be a contributing member of society. I’m older now and I’m a library of experience and my particular history, if anybody would bother to listen. (I can imagine being a man, and slender – though I’ve done that already, and smarter, and younger – and I’ve done that as well, and having more cash flow are interesting, too).

I don’t buy the hate, that I’m supposed to think less of myself. Life is not about comparison, or keeping up with the Jones, though our society wants us to think it is. Life is about living life, about experiencing the body and brain you have. We don’t have value because of what we do, we have value because of who we are. Of course, good works and good deeds are worthy and worthwhile, but this is what you do with yourself, perhaps a reflection of who you are, but not who you are. Just being has value too. I am what I am.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Yellow rose bud still strong in late summer. I love this fluffy pink whatever-it-is. Can you see the busy bee loving it as well? I spy with my little eyes the beginning of fall color changes with yellow tucked in between the green. Pink mallow capturing a few sprinkled raindrops. Twin bright yellow sunny sunflower faces.

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.} I’m ending my summer viewing with the 5th and final season of Dr Kildare (1961-1966, TV series not rated). It’s a bit disconcerting: we’ve changed colors and formats. The stories are two or three hour stories divided into half hour segments, which just end (not in a logical place), and then pick up again in the next episode, and fortunately only the occasional recap. And we have switched from black and white to color. Interesting how the increase of production and sales of color TV sets from 1961 to 1965 meant so many more TV shows were filmed in color. At the beginning you can tell the producers were still experimenting with lighting and make-up (pancake make-up designed for live theater fails on the TV screen especially with hot stage lights). Somehow these changes seem to predict the demise of the show, Kildare seems somehow more and less “real” in color. The black and white seemed to give more weight to the drama of the stories. Perhaps the producers thought the half hour episodes would keep viewers tuning in for the next chapter of the story but, the half hour format leaves one disconnected from the full drama of the episode having to wait for the next segment.

Currently ReadingThe Little Stranger (2009, fiction) by Sarah Waters. ‘Tis the season for a haunted house book. Late 1940s postwar England when the old class structures were being questioned and torn apart, a family tries to hold on to its old way of life in the country manor house. I haven’t met the ghost yet, but the suspense is ramping up. This is the first novel I’ve read by Ms Waters. * Trying to finish The Spirit Level: Why Great Equality Makes Stronger Societies (2011, sociology) by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Much information between the dry, droll statistics. Inequality affects teen pregnancy rates, infant death rates, mental health and physical health rates, obesity, violence and crime rates, number of prisons and people incarcerated, and of course, poverty in general. The more surprising thing is inequality affects people at all levels of the society, not just the poor, i.e., even the wealthier classes benefit when wealth is more evenly distributed in a society.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Getting to spend an afternoon with my sister, sitting by the creek, being buzzed by bees while we ate our sandwiches, and talked without interruptions.
  • A warm, mild day to sit creekside.
  • Finding a purple tank top at Goodwill, and though a smaller size than I usually get, it fit well.
  • Spending an hour in my favorite local junk store, and finding lots of cool stuff, but not finding any cool stuff I absolutely needed to add to my collection of cool stuff.
  • Money not burning holes in my pockets anymore.
  • Valuing non-consumerism.
  • Always looking to buy used first when I think I desire something or have that unwarranted desire to spend money.
  • Being able to resist the urge to spend just because it’s there.
  • Understanding the effects of marketing and advertising.
  • Getting back to the farmers market.
  • A bag of fat juicy green beans.
  • Sweet corn, dripping with real butter and sea salt.
  • 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, Medicine, Nature, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Civil Discourse 101

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “I call the discourse of power any discourse that engenders blame, hence guilt, in its recipient.” Roland Barthes

Sunday Haiku
Chrysanthemum blooms,
bright face cheers late summer
warm days as nights chill.

Sunday Musings
I occasionally have exchanges with people who have no idea what civil discourse is. Many of these people default or resort to name-calling, derisive language, deflection, and demeaning labels, rather than expressing what drives the poor choice of words. I know expressing oneself is hard. I struggle with expression every day. Either I say too much or I say too little or as hard as I try to say it right I say it wrong.

Why are labels or names so divisive? We hear so much these days, words like republican, democrat, independent, progressive, socialist, conservative, and liberal, perfectly normal average everyday words, used like they are slurs in the same vein as the n-word. All these words imply blame and shame and guilt, and are hurtful when used in a misguided attempt to have or show status through words. Especially when there are so many words available in our vocabulary.

It’s easy to understand why words like idiot, moron, stupid, retard, and blowhard, or expletives are disparaging. They reflect a value judgment that may or may not have any basis in fact, or the fact may only be one-event specific to the individual using the word. I’d rather hear why the word should be applied rather than the word itself. Expletives are adjectives used for frightening effect because of the connotations they imply. I think I don’t mind dropping an f-bomb occasionally until I remember how I feel when the word is over- or inappropriately used; expletives resonate with violence. We don’t need more of that. I keep re-reading my copy of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (1999, interpersonal communications) by Marshall Rosenberg, as repetition enhances learning (as one of my favorite professors used to say), hoping the information will stick. I also try to be gentle and forgiving of others who have likely never been taught at home or at school or even at work how important civil and compassionate communication is.

Here’s an example of one word. Idiot used to mean a person who did not have the typical full complement of wit about him/herself. (See how I didn’t just say “stupid” or “brain-dead” there?) Saying “he’s an idiot” says nothing about the person being talked about and says so very much about the speaker’s biases. It says the speaker has issues with the person being talked about. I want to know why you use that word about this person. Now if one said, “he came to my house to visit and kicked my dog” that would give me more understanding. I would understand the person who kicked the dog is not necessarily an idiot, but the speaker who called him that thinks dog-kickers are idiots. I would think the dog-kicker is unnecessarily cruel, unless or until I found out the dog aggressively charged his crotch so he kicked the dog away in self defense to protect his body. And then I might be tempted to think (though not say out loud) the dog owner was an idiot for not training his dog not to charge at friends and strangers, but of course, he isn’t an idiot, he is merely a negligent and unconscientious dog owner.

See how complicated that all is? The joy of an essay is one can sit down with the words and work them and rework them until the proper tone is achieved. It’s a matter of time and application. With verbal discourse it’s much harder because as you are listening and absorbing the words and attitudes of the other speaker, your mind is ripping right along its own path in preparation of a response. Those good old neurotransmitters work at lightning speed and before you can blink or put a filter on the mouth there the word sits out in the open air for all to hear. I admire people who are able to always have a filter and know when to keep quiet. I keep working on that skill, though in my older age I’m tempted to give up and say whatever I want, which I’ve never found to be particularly helpful to my cause, no matter what age.

On social media, many people feel free to show every bit of anger in the form of name-calling and expletives. Instead of taking a few minutes thinking about what they are writing, they act like it is a face to face verbal battle in which they have to fire back a response at lightning speed no matter the quality of the response. Unfortunately, one of our current role models, a person who is supposed to perform the job with dignity and wisdom, the person who holds the highest political office in the United States of America, is the biggest offender and violator of Civil Discourse. We must not take our cues from him.

I like to practice Civil Discourse when I use social media. It’s hard, but it’s not hard. It’s OK to take a minute (or more) to think before you write. In fact, you may gain respect for your thoughtful and kind use of words. I’m still practicing, still polishing that rough diamond.

For your edification and amusement I use only a few rules for Civil Discourse 101, which is to say what we say and how we say it:

1. No expletives. Even when it is part of making a point it’s distracting.
2. No name-calling, or labels of any kind used in a purposely divisive way.
3. Total inclusion for all people regardless of difference.
4. Apply extra caution if you decide to express anger or frustration.
5. Every one of us has our own story of hurt and hardship in this life. Choose kindness whenever you can.

I could go on, but the I like the KIS (keep it simple) principle as well. I’m good at mucking stuff up with saying too much instead of saying the right enough stuff. It’s easier to keep a few guidelines in mind than a long list of rules. I could also go on with lengthy explanations of why these rules are important, but if you are taking some of your precious time to read this post, I’d like you to think about your own explanations why these rules should apply to how we talk to each other.

I’m not the best role model, but I’m a great advocate. I pop off f-bombs with the best of them, usually in the privacy of my own car, and hopefully with the windows rolled up. Everybody needs to vent at sometime or another, but social media might not be the safest place to do so because people shoot back. Responders don’t have to look you in the eye and tell you what for, their anger and biases can be hidden behind an electronic format. I have an easy personal policy, I don’t respond to stuff that’s divisive, or I delete it. I been accused of just deleting stuff because I don’t like what they say and if it’s on my page, that’s my right. I don’t have to justify anything I post on my own page, but you don’t have the right to make my page ugly, or violent. I have enough restraint to not post that kind of stuff (note: I didn’t say crap or garbage. See? Word choice. “Stuff” isn’t definitive, and there’s that.) on your page. Sometimes it means using many more words, sometimes it’s OK to take the long road.

Are you writing? Do you write letters to your local newspaper editor or your local state or federal representative? Do you respond to e-mails, texts, or social media posts? Choose kindness. Express yourself and use your words well and carefully.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – August golden porch at Knight Hall, the university’s haunted Admission’s Office. A neighbor grows lovely dahlias, here’s one in pink. Another dahlia with pale yellow petals and peach colored tips. I still have not identified this amazing magenta wonder. I wonder what it is. A light purple cosmos.

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 Post (2017, rated PG – 13) with Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, one of the first women to own a major newspaper, and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, her executive editor, and pertains to their decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1973. During that time I was busy learning to be adult, how to work full time, pay bills, keep house, party occasionally, and politics was a peripheral notion. I knew Nixon made a mess and was impeached. I knew Vietnam was deplorable. I appreciated looking back on what happened then from the perspective of more than four decades of adult experience with which to evaluate the information. I take movies with salt because I know how to use theatrical license, and this Spielberg production was made to feel as if it was happening in real time. I was so intrigued I watched the movie twice and if it wasn’t waiting in a queue at my local lending library, I’d have likely watched it again. * Kicking Bird (2005, not rated) is a Kelley Baker film, made here in Portland, Oregon, about dysfunctional families, and one boy, Bird, who runs as a way to get away from all the stress. He is discovered by a coach, who grooms him for college and a track scholarship, only for Bird to discover the coach to using him to get a job. Bird stands up to the coach and increases his self-confidence. An independent film (read: no big Hollywood money), with a well written story, well presented. Being filmed in Portland, my home town, I also had the fun of trying to recognize local landmarks and streets. Recommended. * Season 4 of Dr Kildare (1961 – 1966, TV series, not rated) made its way back to my DVD player and I get to spend the end of summer with him. My least favorite repeated phrase in the series is “We did everything we could.” For some reason that phrase makes me want to scream and argue; I must look for the deep underlying causes of distress this phrase raises in me.

Currently Reading – I finished The House on Pooh Corner (1928, juvenile fiction) this week and I haven’t stopped crying. It’s been a while since a novel did that to me. The word poignant is a such an odd sounding word, but it is the word that comes to my mind about the feeling I have after reading the end of the last chapter. So, * spoiler alert * in the final chapter Christopher Robin recognizes he is growing up and tries to share with his friend Winnie-the-Pooh, a Bear of Little Brain, in the way growing up people and Bears of Little Brains do, where everything is not quite said but everything is said. I’m still crying. If I was an actor, I would have only to read this chapter before a crying scene, and I’d be right there. Now I’m glad I didn’t read this to the son when he was small, because I would have been blubbering and crying out the last few paragraphs. * And I finished Raising Trump (2017, autobiography) by Ivana Trump. I don’t begrudge her the fact she maintains how hard her life was being a working mom; she did work hard, but she had a vast array of advantages and opportunities not available to most average Americans. I also don’t begrudge her bragging about how well she has aged, good for her, though I’m lying, I do begrudge her, I do, because she has a vast array of advantages and opportunities (the best food money can buy, servants to do the household work, highest quality health care, few financial worries, access to personal trainers and exercise equipment, restful and relaxing vacation time) not available to the average working person in America. But it’s not up to me or anyone else to make that value judgment on her. She gets to live with herself, as I do with myself.

This week I have been grateful for:

    • Missing the dime sized spider that ran across my carpet the first time and surprising him with a prompt dispatch when he dared the great escape across the carpet the second time.
    • The fat blue jay who enjoyed the bird bath hubster set up who called and called for his family though they never showed up to share the bath.
    • The smoke clearing from our area so I could go out and do some errands and breathe at the same time.
    • Surviving a short grocery store run where it seemed like every car had a demented driver.
    • Changing a few settings on my new washer to get rid of an awful smell my clothes were having even after being washed. Now they smell clean when done.
    • Not filling my newly cleaned “pathway”.
    • Getting another box emptied out of the living room.
    • Getting the car registered for another two years. Sad about the hit on my budget.
    • Talking politics in the pool with my eighty-wonderful-year-old gal pal.
    • Talking education and voting with the young lifeguards at my pool.
    • How much I learn listening to young people.
    • Hearing the children in my neighborhood playing outside in the evening in the last throes of summer.
    • Hearing the neighbor turn up “We Are The Champions” and all her kids yelling/singing along at the top of their lungs.
    • The confidence of youth.
    • I am a happy girl with doors and windows open and a soft fresh breeze blowing across my skin.
    • 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, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: The Light Of Letting Go

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday Haiku
Ripe apple scent drifts
on lazy late summer breeze,
sweetly fills my house.

Sunday Musings

I’ve written about letting go in this weekly series before. Whether it is things; people; memories; especially memories of traumatic events (which sometimes won’t go no matter how hard you work at it); grief; or habits, letting go is hard for some of us. So is leaving things behind.

The last time I moved households was 19 years ago. At one point in my adult life I had moved 24 times in 20 years. No, I was not military, and none of it was my choice. All of these moves were at the whims of the landlords from whom I rented. I wasn’t the best renter, but I also wasn’t the worst. I definitely was not destructive, I just always struggled to keep everything paid, including rent. With the last move I was finally able to buy a house on a personal contract. I’m hoping to retire and die here. Wouldn’t matter any way. One more move will kill me.

The son was too small to remember the couple of moves we’d made when he was still a baby and toddler before this last move just after he turned seven. He had “helped” pack, yet when it came time to physically move stuff I had him stay at my mom’s for a weekend so we could get the bulk of it done. Our things were going into storage because we needed to be out of one house before the next was ready. We had to live in our 1965 GMC school bus for a few months waiting for paperwork and keys on the new house. Because of the space in the bus, toys were limited.

We moved into the new (to us) house. When the son got into his room and started unpacking, he came to me in tears asking where a certain Lego creation had gone. He had put it together in the old house and thought it got packed. We pulled out all his Legos and decided he must have taken the creation apart. He cried so hard, “but Mom, it was there, in that house, we need to go back and get it,” he stammered trying to find the words to describe his feelings of loss, and as if there was something magic about there and the creation only existed there. We’d moved into that house when he was four so most of his early memories start there. I had to remind him his old room was empty when we left. We could not get access to the old house to show him his old room with nothing in it.

One thing I’ve always done when I move is go through everything one last time to make sure no little thing is left behind. I’d had him go look through his old room, guided by me, when we were done packing and schlepping stuff out of his room, so the memory of the empty room would be there. Now we have the joys of digital photography and that would make things a lot easier when you have photographic proof. I coached him through his memory and taught him how to look at the room in his memory, and while he was thinking about the corners and closet of the old room he finally settled down. I suggested it would be a good time to try making the Lego creation again. It was hard for him to let go of the idea of leaving something behind, until he knew he hadn’t left it behind at all; he hadn’t left it behind, but other things had changed. So we set to building something new. He never let me build very long; he said I did it wrong. Perhaps I did; they were his toys. I doubt if he remembers this; I hope he has happier memories, so I am hesitant to bring it up to him because it was a sad and stressful time; he already has a history of anxiety, he doesn’t need more. Big surprise there. Generational poverty generally comes with anxiety.

This week I finally gave up on a plant I’d had for more than fifteen years. When I first started work at my last place of employment the organization decided it was not a good place to have plants that needed water, in case the water somehow escaped and caused damage, and they could draw bugs, not good for our paper items. We had five very large area plants, three umbrella trees, and two rubber plants. The supervisor wanted to set them out on the street to die or be collected by some scavenger. I offered to relieve the building of the four plants to be immediately dispatched, two of the umbrella trees and both rubber trees, and arrangements were made.

Oh, these plants were beautiful in my home. Filled so much lovely space, so green, so full of carbon dioxide, so lush. For a while. I have this oddly deadly knack with plants that utterly baffles me coming from a long line of gardeners and farmers on both sides of my family. It is a fluke if plants live under my tender loving care. Don’t hate me; I try.

I am lucky to have two of my paternal grandmother’s Christmas cacti, they are 32 years old in my care, who knows how old they were when I got them. Every time they bloom she is in my house. I have one plant left from my mother-in-law; it’s hanging on after 17 years with me. We’ll see how it goes. And when Mom died my brother sent me home with most of her plants; two of them struggle for life still on my window-side tables.

The last rubber tree kept telling me it wasn’t happy. I gave it water, I turned it in the sun, I fed it with plant fertilizer, but it was way too big for me to transplant it into a bigger pot, and I think that is what it wanted. In protest it would throw its crispy brown leaves onto the floor with great noise and clamor. The leaves dropping were so loud I checked more than once to see if we had uninvited critters in the house, or a resident critter where he wasn’t supposed to be.

Letting go of plants is a different kind of hard. They are living things we tend to, take care of, nurture to the best of our ability and knowledge. Like any living thing they can die, despite our best efforts; it might not have any thing at all to do with us and our care, or not. We might never know. However, there comes a day when you have to admit to yourself no matter what you do for this particular plant it is never again going to be a green and thriving thing. For me by then, the plant is usually shriveled up into a brown ball or reduced to a pot of sticks, way beyond the definition of plant death. I’m ever hopeful that this dose of water will do the trick. I let the plant tell me when it’s out of tricks.

The rubber tree looked like a Tim Burton Halloween. Dead, brown twisted branches went every direction. Tiny single brown leaves clung to the ends of branches. Cobwebs draped like Christmas garlands from the dried up branches, more cobwebs than leaves. Any clusters of dead leaves were held together with cobwebs and dust. When I brought it home the tree, as tall as me, had been covered with double hand sized, thick green succulent leaves. One dime sized speck of green remained in a cluster of little finger sized yellowish leaves.

I had to let it go. Time to reclaim that space and start over. But the task at hand. In my house moving any thing is a game of 14, where you must move 14 items before you can do the planned project. Then you have to piece it all together again rather like recreating a Lego creation. I love so much stuff. Slowly working on letting go of that too.

The Halloween rubber tree traveled out to the back patio this week after a little indoor pruning to make sure the journeying branches didn’t take any loses or wreak any other havoc along the way. The son helped, in fact, the son did most of the work with me as consultant and extra hands. Then the carpet had to be swept before vacuuming. It had become three-dimensional, fortunately still far from leaf mold, thankful for that, and it swept up nice and dry. Spiders were fleeing for their lives. The vacuum had to do a tour of duty, and everybody cussed at how poorly designed the crease tool is. We persisted.

Since the rubber tree lived by the front window, light being necessary to its existence, there is now a nice new open sun space in my living room next to my work space. And (wait for it) * gasp * a new pathway! One I can walk through and around behind the chair with easy access to water the plants in the window. The son asked me to not fill it up again. My goal as well. It just means three boxes that were hiding/stored back there are now sitting in the open part of the living room waiting for emptying and disbursement, which needed to be done anyway as they should not have been living there. Those boxes will take another week or so of work because of the ten minute work window I am capable of.

I worked really hard at letting the plant go and a friend recommended cutting it back to the soil to see if anything still flows down there and putting it into a different pot. It might be beyond me now to function that when I worked for months in my brilliant little brain to let it go. Who knows? I could change my mind. Change being the only constant, as it is.

We didn’t leave the Lego creation behind and the son learned a new method of memory storage and access in this human experience. If he put his mind to it he can go back to that room any time he wants. He learned a new memory skill. Did I learn a new skill? I let go of the rubber tree as I did the other three trees I brought home with it when they told me they were done with me. Letting go of a plant is a form of grief, the nurturing failed, thriving didn’t happen either. Self-accusations and self-blame occur; if it dies despite my best efforts, did I kill it?

Guilt is often a part of grief. Was there something I could have done to prevent the worst from happening? Did I give it my best effort? Years ago a heart sister told me the definition of guilt is avoiding responsibility. I’ve tried to apply that to my guilt feelings for not meeting the needs of these plants, and letting go of those feelings as well. Did I honestly do everything in my power to act responsibly in whatever situation I’m grieving, and if I did, I need to let go of feeling of the guilt.

Did I do everything for my son? As best I knew how with what I had. He’s fine, he’s an empathetic, honest adult who thinks critically, best that can be said for the circumstances of raising him. Did I do everything for the rubber tree? As best I knew how. The rubber tree told me I didn’t know how to care for it despite my efforts. I will miss the old beautiful rubber tree I brought home, but I doubt I will miss the Halloween version I finally let go of.

While I ponder this change and loss, I also look at my gain and planning my next cleaning project. I am focusing on enjoying the open space. Focusing on not filling the space up again as I unpack the three boxes waiting for new real estate. Focusing on mostly empty surfaces. Reveling in clean. Finding delight in seeing light.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Hoping this is the humble honeybee feasting on pale lavender. I love the bright clean purple and hot pink of fuchsias. My dad loved fuchsias and every summer had a hanging basket or two on the back patio. The particular shade of green of the catalpa tree. The long beans/seeds fascinate me, and the color of the light through the huge leaves gives me goosebumps. Spotted a late patch of pink and yellow honeysuckle. This bright sunflower head was wildly abuzz with critter business.

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.} Bingeing on random Netflix series. Raced through season 6 of Orange is the New Black (2018, rated TV – MA), a guilty pleasure because prison is so chillingly repugnant, but the characters and the stories are compelling. * Also binged through Kim’s Convenience (2016, TV – not rated), about a Korean family who runs a convenience store in Toronto, Canada, and the dynamics within the family and within the community. Much of the comedy centers on miscommunications.

Currently Reading – I am remiss in my education as holder of a bachelor’s degree in English Literature/Creative Writing. I’ve never read any Winnie-the-Pooh. As a child I read more contemporary stories like the Bobbsey Twins, the Nancy Drew mystery series, and later Agatha Christie. I didn’t read Pooh to my son when he was little, he much preferred sci-fi Star Wars kind of stories. I’m spending a few dog days with Winnie-the-Pooh, the original novel, technically the copy I have is The World of Pooh: The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh and House at Pooh Corner (1957, juvenile fiction) by A. A. Milne. The original Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926, when Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, was 6, and The House on Pooh Corner shortly after in 1928. The timeless simplicity of the work and the thought patterns of the characters are superb, but imagine my surprise, when in the first chapter, we are told Christopher Robin always carries a gun. Now in all likelihood it is a toy gun or a pretend gun, but it struck me as such a boy thing (and in our current climate, maybe an alarming thing). For example, I limited the son’s exposure to guns when he was a child, but by the time he was two he was chewing his sandwiches or toast or slices of cheese into gun shapes and pretending to shoot. I had to teach him early on we never point guns at other people or animals even if it’s a pretend gun; maybe we’ve evolved now so the knowledge of guns and gun use is in our generational memory DNA. I am enjoying the simplicity and humility of the writing, and the simple logic of the characters is the perfect antidote to the non-fiction I am concurrently reading. * Raising Trump (2017, autobiography) by Ivana Trump. I am totally disconnected from the lifestyle the author describes, in which she and her family travel by plane as often as by car, who have five homes to choose from at any time of the year with nary an eviction notice at hand, and a whole world of extravagant vacation choices. Her definition of work involves deciding to apply gold leaf gilt and silks and brocades to furniture for her multi-million dollar businesses (mine involves washing toilets and sweeping floors; we are on vastly different levels). I understand wealth has its own set of challenges that average Americans never face, but her access and use of money is a concept most of us will never have a chance to embrace.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The son helping with a project I was dreading.
  • We didn’t yell at each other while we worked on the project.
  • Patience, even when the calm I am projecting is forced and hiding anxiety.
  • Persisting with an open conversation until the core concern is revealed, with no bad feelings on either side.
  • Getting another box emptied and all items finding good real estate.
  • Old cardboard boxes going out to the recycle.
  • Getting some good suggestions on natural cleaning sources for my new clothes washer to prevent odors, considering all my skin sensitivities.
  • The smoke clearing in our area for a few days so I could go out and get some errands done.
  • The evening aromas portending the coming autumn.
  • Fat red Oregon strawberries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Gratitude Sunday: De-Mused

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Vacation? What does that word mean?” Sassy Kas

Sunday Haiku
Sun rises, sun sets,
day passes in between trees,
burns fields and forests.

Sunday Musings
The muse’s brain went on a heat induced melt down vacation this week even though the muse’s body did not. I even quoted myself. Whew! The muse plans to be in better form next week. I’m sure we all can use the break. You’re welcome.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week –A potful of assorted color between front steps and hosta. The mighty creamy white yucca. Humble bumblebee in pink mallow. I wonder what he sees? Gladiolas are starting, this purple in a neighbor’s yard. A river of pale pink old fashioned roses.

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.} Once upon a time there was an independent film maker who learned how to make films on a limited budget. It was very hard, and harder still because he couldn’t live in California because of health issues, so he worked out of his hometown, which is Portland, Oregon, and he earned a nickname: the Angry Filmmaker. I’m not sure why Kelley Baker is angry, but he’s an innovative filmmaker with a quirky sense of humor, who is also willing to share what he’s learned about film making in The Angry Filmmaker’s Survival Guide (2008, not rated) and I enjoyed the DVD compilation of his Short Films, which were made over the last three decades and aren’t rated.

Currently Reading * The Truth According to Us (2015, fiction) by Annie Barrows. We are closer to the truth and the end. The revelations have been fun and not entirely predictable. Recommended summer reading. * The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger (2010, sociology, health outcomes) by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Still spelunking for nuggets, the cave of statistics is dark, the surface will show soon. * Raising Trump (2017, autobiography) by Ivana Trump. Because I’m nosy. It fascinates me to read how rich people think they have made their millions or their reputations by themselves with no help, when in fact they have had help all along the way, even as immigrants from dictatorship countries, whether the help came from others or themselves. Interesting so far: her children (all sired by Donald Trump) were born in 1977, 1981, and 1984, and she became a naturalized citizen in 1988. She chose to not breastfeed her children.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Another one of the babies I was waiting for this year has arrived safely, baby, mother, and family are all doing well.
  • Making the last payment on my new clothes washer. Now that it’s four months used.
  • A couple of cooler days after days of heat.
  • Weather. I can’t do anything to change it so I just have to go with the flow, and glad at least it’s variable and not just blasting hot or icy cold all the time.
  • Being able to have a lie down during the hottest part of the day.
  • Discovering all I have to do to get time alone in my house is to announce a project involving them for the next day. My guys suddenly have all kinds of things they need to do away from the house. How did I not discover that earlier?
  • Ice.
  • The kind assistants at my local lending library who are patient with me when I request some obscure movie or TV show from the past as sometimes they have to be acquired from a source outside my immediate library system.
  • Receiving a small stipend plus gas mileage for serving jury duty. I had no idea. I felt like a kid when it arrived. It’s fun to receive unexpected money in the mail.
  • The golden colors of the light.
  • Memories. Indulging in time to think about the past, and remembering what happened instead of the story I told myself to be able to live with it.
  • People. Who they really are, not how I think they are.
  • Hermiston watermelon.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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