Gratitude Sunday: Simple Excellence

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” Albert Schweitzer

Sunday Haiku
Summer heat breaks, wind
cools warmed skin, wet refreshment;
flowers glow, trees drip.

Sunday Musings
Are you perfect? I am absolutely not perfect. Never have been, never will be. You aren’t? Good for you, not judging. I don’t like to look at people looking for the wrongness of their flaws, instead I delight in our flaws and differences, how we each have personal strengths and beauties, paradoxically, sometimes a flaw is the beauty.

I don’t strive for perfection. These days I’m not so sure striving is even a good thing, however, when I do something, I like to do the best job I can do. Sometimes, I’m not happy with my work. When that happens I either work to make myself better or do the job better, or decide there are other people who can to that particular job better than me. Which leaves me being picky, because if I’m paying you to do a job, I want it done my way, and excellently so.

I like to recognize excellence and effort in every-day interactions. People’s reactions are so worth the effort of a few words.

To the woman with the sour face, obviously struggling with cart and child and bad day, but who looks fabulously hot in the dress she threw on that morning: “That dress looks so great on you!” brings a smile and the feeling like maybe the day’s challenges are worth it.

To the pre-schooler who minded what mommy said and stayed close to the car while in the parking lot: “Thank you for minding Mommy and staying next to her in the parking lot,” brings beaming faces from both mom and child and the child getting another compliment from mommy for job well done.

To the customer service person who made my return happen in under a minute while smiling and chatting with me: “Thank you for your smiling quick service,” brings a wider smile and a blush, because nobody thanks customer service people these days.

To the group of foul-mouthed, exuberant, early-teen boys who gave this old lady and her cane a wide berth on the sidewalk, when told: “Thank you for giving me plenty of room,” brought straightened backs, quieter voices, and a “How are you today,” and “How’s your day going so far?” back at me. Teaching polite society by being polite society: extend respect, expect respect, receive respect. It’s a feedback loop. At least it worked this time.

To the Social Security worker trying to blame the foul-ups in my account on computers: “Thank you for your patience with my questions. Please find out the answers why computers aren’t being properly programmed by people.” I’ll admit this one is primarily passive-aggressive; he doesn’t have the answers, he is a messenger, a cog in the oily machine. And if it is a glitch in the programming, get on fixing that stuff, dude. No matter what he said about my Social Security nothing made any sort of logical sense. No, I’m not losing my wit, just my patience. I always thought I was a simple, if opinionated, person; turns out I’m complicated. Who knew?

When my mom was alive she often said the problem with America was people don’t do their jobs. I often find that’s true. For whatever reason deadlines aren’t met, customer service smiles fail, snark prevails rather than kindness, simple accounts get bungled. I suspect people are realizing how much of our time is spent in mindless tasks and how little we are paid for our time. Then again we can all have a bad day, and it’s hard not to take it out on each other.

We are coming into a time of profound change in our global world. Folks are unsatisfied with their lives and their work. I see people both moving into the work world and out of it redefining what it means to be employed and what it means to be retired. Many of the jobs available to us today will not be defined as jobs for humans in the near future as we move toward a world of ever more automation and technology.

Maybe we could re-frame all our jobs as helping others, not perfectly, but excellently. Help each other. Help each other be better. Taking the time to tell each other when we appreciate the simple time or courtesy they’ve given us, or when they do something well or right, can improve a minute or an hour or a week. I’ve been known to hold onto the tiniest kudos until the next one is bestowed; I’m greedy that way.

When we teach our children not to run in front of cars we are helping them be safe, one of the jobs of parenting. When we tell the child how well they did minding mommy, it reinforces what mommy says, helps mommy feel good about parenting, and helps keep everybody safe.

When we don’t exhibit road rage when other drivers aren’t courteous or even reckless, we are helping extend peace and grace in a distressed world, one of the jobs of a responsible driver sharing the road.

When we smile at that distraught customer who thinks you overcharged her, and take the time to explain we are refunding per her request three times because she is so caught in her loop she is not hearing we are doing exactly as she is requesting because somehow she has the right and the need to be angry no matter what we do, all while knowing we are having our own personal bad day, that is one of our jobs as an employee helping both our employer and the overwrought customer.

When we take the time to say, I don’t know that answer, but allow me to find one and get back to you and it might take x amount of time before you hear back from me and this is what to do in the meantime, and then really do follow up and get back, you are helping people who aren’t familiar with a system you’ve been working with your whole career, and part of that job is having the patience to explain it kindly as many times as the person needs it explained even if the news isn’t so good and the person is upset because what you say doesn’t make sense.

None of it is perfect, but it can be done excellently. Most of it requires the same rules as civil discourse, meaning no name-calling, no expletives, no personal judgments (how many times have I heard, “well, that’s just stupid”? Not allowed.).

As we look forward to a changing future, changing work space and work force, it may make it simpler if we consider all our work, whether at home or employed elsewhere, to be about helping others, which is personally satisfying beyond the income aspect of working. Let’s use the simple tips format:

Simple helping tip number one: listening. We have two ears and one mouth; we should listen twice as much as we speak.

Simple helping tip number two: think beyond yourself.

Simple helping tip number three: strive for excellence.

Simple helping tip number four: patience, especially during any transaction or transition.

We’ll make it. We are in a weird blip in history right now, but we are better than this and we are legion. We are only as good as the least of us, so we must help raising up the least of us. Moving forward might not be easy, but it can be excellently simple.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – A friend’s artful raised garden with profusion of texture and color.

Photo by Julie Larson

Neighbor’s hedge of white jasmine, so fragrant. Yellow black-eyed Susans entangled with wild purple thistle.

Photo by Tina Carlson

Creamy white drifts of yucca flowers. Dahlias have started blooming, here’s a peachy one.

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 Seagull (2018, rated PG – 13) with Annette Benning. An actress visits her dying brother and an ugly backstory is revealed. Trigger warning: suicide attempts. * Miss You Already (2015, rated PG – 13) with Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore. Trigger warning: one of the characters dies from breast cancer. Difficult subject, talented and capable actors, mildly engaging plot. * Otherhood (2019, rated R) with Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett, and Felicty Huffman as friends with twenty-something sons who forget Mother’s Day. They decide to visit their sons in person. They surprise and are surprised.

Currently ReadingDifficult Women (2017, short story fiction) by Roxane Gay (American author). Ms Gay is one of my favorite contemporary authors. She goes there, to the edge, to the rawest pieces of your skin and the most delicate sensitivities of your emotions. She surprises, delights, and horrifies us with real women and real lives and alternate universes all in fantastically lyrical and chilling prose. * The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (2018, self-actualization) by Mark Manson (American author). He says happiness is over-rated. I tend to agree. The point is to focus on what to give a fuck about, and not about the rest of it all, sort of like picking your battles. It tickles me to think of so many library catalogs having this expletive in them; so many titles, so little time.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Patience.
  • The guy at Social Security who was as patient as I was trying to get my account straightened out.
  • Taking notes when I talk to people on the phone, making them repeat themselves when they talk fast.
  • Work-arounds that seem crazy and clumsy but might get the job done when the job hasn’t been done right in the first place.
  • Cranky gratefulness; being able to see both the good and the bad at the same time in many situations and events.
  • Ibuprofen, ice packs, my salsa dance video, and my local swimming pool when my back did an owie thing. Can’t just lie there and do nothing, gotta keep moving.
  • Pain. Reminds one of still being alive with every movement.
  • The neighbors getting home from work so their dog who has been outside lonely howling for them all day is finally quiet, inside, and loving on his family.
  • Schmist. That very fine summer rain that feels like sliding into the thinnest water glove, as the son says, “It’s almost cute.”
  • How much I love listening to a full-on refreshing summer rain.
  • Asking the son to clear out a patch of blackberries, which he did during the rain after a mild morning. His choice, job done.
  • Learning how to use my speaker phone.
  • The comparatively small amount of drama in my life; I’m really not wired for dealing with drama, I’m hardly even wired for average daily life.
  • A couple friends who still listen to my many opinions.
  • A mild Oregon summer so far. Just right, lots of sun, but not meltdown hot.
  • The son picking me a bowl of ripe blackberries from our yard.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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

Gratitude Sunday: What’s The Difference?

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday Haiku
Japanese pine, long
needles wind-riffled pompoms,
nature’s cheerleader.

Sunday Musings
When I entered first grade at the age of five back in 1959, I did not know the blind girl was different until the teacher explained she could not see with her eyes. I didn’t know the little girl with shiny straight black hair and slanted eyes came from a place far away known as Asia. As I grew older I was didn’t know the boy with the beautiful dark skin had been brought by his parents from a far away place called Cuba to escape the Castro political regime. One of my dad’s co-workers who lived in our neighborhood adopted a little boy with black skin who was developmentally delayed, though the word we used then was retarded and we didn’t think anything about it; he was just slower mentally than the rest of us. We thought he was the cutest thing ever, as all littler kids are cute.

By the time we got to high school we took turns reading for the new blind boy in our class and guiding him to his next class. These kids were just kids, classmates whose parents worked, dads mostly outside the home, moms inside the home and who also volunteered in the classroom as room mothers, and youth group leaders, who gardened, and canned, and made their kids’ clothes. Their families had interesting names like Shirashi and Enriquez and their families worked as hard as the Browns’ and the Jones’ (whose families were only a generation or two from their original Braunstein and Johann surnames) to have clean, peaceful neighborhoods free from crime and hate. We didn’t know from color or difference. We were all kids who grew up together and played together.

My suburban neighborhood was predominantly white. We were not a wealthy suburb, we were not even a middle class suburb. We were on the lower end of middle class, families who were enterprising, lived simply, and made do with what we had. Families who were working toward the American dream of home ownership in an America that supported the myth of hard work resulting in success regardless of difference. There were nicer neighborhoods in my community, but not near us. There were poorer neighborhoods as well and they were closer.

Here we are 60 years later and America is a hotbed of racial tension, worse than I’ve experienced in my adult life. Portland, Oregon history is not pristine. We have a legacy of isolating black families who came to help in the shipyards during WW2 on an island in the Columbia River assuring them they’d be safe during a flood, that there was an early warning system. When the levee broke, the system failed and killed hundreds of people. Portland then restricted which areas black people could live in, the loans they could(n’t) get, the jobs they could have, the kinds of businesses they could own. There was a firmly established KKK; it’s not a pretty history.

In the 1960s we were starting to be woke to the plight of people of color and the poor. The Vietnam War highlighted some differences, but in all the protests I stood in blacks and whites, rich and poor, male and female stood side by side to protest an illegal greedy war, just as our American young people, black and white and Asian and every other heritage, served in the military. We worked together, partied together, danced at the bars together, had potluck together. Neighborhoods began to integrate.

So this isn’t to say our neighborhood was so nice nothing ever happened. Bullying went on all the time. Usually the popular white girls would bully the less popular, that mean girls syndrome. Boys were rude to girls and got slapped for snapping our bra straps. Behind closed doors there was alcoholism, drug and sex abuse, incest, adultery, premarital pregnancies, and every other problem that plagues any low-to-middle income neighborhood. I remember being bullied for being friends with the blind girl in first grade, for being “fat” (round, plump, sturdy, whatever adjective you want to use, I wasn’t any bigger than 95 percent of the other kids), for being smart, for being uncoordinated, for getting glasses in 4th grade, for championing underdogs, for standing up for kids who had less, for crying in history class when I found out about Hiroshima and the Holocaust, for jumping with excitement when I was given an award.

I’ve been bullied by bosses, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, teachers, doctors, strangers, and friends. I have a feeling this is a common experience for most Americans. Wealth does not isolate one from being bullied though it can perhaps give one more tools for being a bully and for retaliation. In many cases people are not believed when they tell of being bullied, and the bullies prevail. I can only imagine the stories of others, as we each have one to tell. How do we begin to try to understand if we cannot even share our stories without anger or hate?

Sitting in 5th grade class in 1963 a boy burst into our classroom yelling JFK had been killed. This boy was from a poor home, wore threadbare ragged clothing, and sometimes smelled like his own body fluids. He was a “trouble-maker,” meaning he didn’t always do as the teacher said, and when she said it. He was routinely bullied because of his clothes, his body odor, his slowness in learning to read, his frantic behavior; we might call this dyslexia or ADHD or poverty these days. He wasn’t in the class where he belonged at that moment and nobody believed what he said. I had spent some time knowing this boy, reading with him and encouraging him to read, and I believed him right away because I knew he had neither the wits nor the imagination to invent such a story. For once in his life he had the privilege of departing exciting new information and everybody paid attention to him only to scoff at him. I’m not sure he even understood the impact or importance of the news he delivered. Though he told the truth, teacher sent another student to the office to report the behavior of this young man, and before that student returned the principal came on the intercom to ask for a moment of silence on this shocking news. Maybe this boy didn’t always follow the rules, but I will always remember him as a messenger.

I recently had a woman of color (a stranger who does not know me in any way) tell me my concerns about social justice are worthless and to butt out because I will never understand. Racism goes both ways as does resolution of differences. The difference between us is I was willing to listen to a stranger without judgment and she dismissed me out of hand. I think she’s wrong in thinking I won’t ever understand, but that part might be eminently irrelevant. Be that as it may, I may not know her story, but neither does she know mine, and I can say the same to her: you might never understand my story, especially if you pre-judge me. No one story is “right” or “wrong”; your story doesn’t carry more or less weight than mine. Not understanding does not preclude social justice. I know what is right; I know what is wrong. If it is wrong, it doesn’t matter who you do it to, it’s wrong. No matter the differences between people, if it is wrong to do it to one person, it is wrong to do it to the next. Another difference between us is I don’t have to know her to stand up for her, and she isn’t thinking any further than herself when she dismisses me.

It’s wrong to bully people or to treat them as inferior. It’s wrong to not believe people because they are different, whatever the difference. It’s wrong to dismiss people because their stories vary from yours. It’s wrong to use your difference as an excuse to perpetuate difference. It’s wrong to refuse allies because you judge them unworthy by their difference; you could be losing great value through dismissal.

It’s not wrong for me to stand up for you, whether you think I understand you, or whether I think I understand you. It’s not wrong to want to hear your story. I don’t want to compare or contrast (the ghost of English literature essays, I know). We are only as good as the least of us, and the more we share the more we know we are more similar than different.

Like Martin Luther King Jr, I have a dream, and mine is similar to his. I want our differences to not matter. I want our similarities to prevail. I want people to respect each other. I want us to think beyond ourselves, to help and care for each other. I want elders to be revered and I want young men and women to grow into adults who experience love, and making and supporting families of their own with less struggle than my generation. I want it to be easier for each generation to achieve success in living a comfortable life, to have roofs, and beds, and food, and warmth, and satisfying employment however that looks in the future. I want it to make no difference how our names are spelled or pronounced, what color our skin is, how much money we make, or whatever spirituality we espouse. I want us to know history and to work together toward better communities. I want to celebrate the difference of our strengths and how our individual strengths can come together to make a stronger community and global world.

America is a wealthy nation. We are capable of making a life better for all of us. With technology and progress such as it is, we best be thinking this through and look past our differences toward how we are going to live this comfortable future.

I don’t get to control the nation. I don’t get to control others. I control me, and only me, so I get to be curious; I can listen because my story is different; I can imagine and empathize with the pain or joy of your story if you share. I don’t have to listen to or condone the current stream of divisive racist vitriol coming from the mouth of an ignorant fraud in the highest office of the United States of America; I see his story, I understand his difference, and a story and a difference doesn’t give anyone the right to hurt other people. I can stand up for you, stand beside you, take a knee in solidarity, tip a hat to you, or give you a two fingered peace sign. Thanks to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, with a nod to civil discourse, I get to say.

And if that offends you, go f… (deep breath, gasp, expletive), I mean, hwell, thanks for reading.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Soft sagey green of lamb’s ear. Pretty pink rose. Roses going to green hip already. Creamy white sweetly fragranced jasmine. Hot pink and purple fuchsia shares space with purple starbursts.

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 Dead Zone (1983, rated R), from the novel by Stephen King. A man wakes from a coma with an unusual power. I like to test horror films in the summer to see if they are benign enough for me to watch during the dead of winter, and though this is an older film, I’ve not seen it before. Stamped safe for Halloween or dead of winter viewing. * Deliver Us From Eva (2003, rated R), a rom-com from the school of over-acting. An older sister, who has been responsible for her three younger sisters after the death of their parents, is a bit too controlling for the men in all their lives.

Currently ReadingThis Side of Home (2015, fiction) by Renée Watson (American author). Set in Portland, Oregon, twin teens entering their senior year of high school contemplate changing their long-established plans for the future after gentrification of the neighborhood they’ve grown up in. I don’t like to differentiate colors of characters (people are people, skin is skin), as I think it creates more division but the experiences of people of color are still to this day different than the white experience and I found this novel to be pertinent to current discussions regarding race. If I were a 7th or 8th grade English teacher I would use this as a required text. Quick young adult summer read. * All the Single Ladies (2016, women’s studies) by Rebecca Traister (American author). A study of unmarried women and the force of nature they are.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • That odd little thrill every time I walk into my room and I remember I have a new bed. And a few clean corners.
  • The brain trying to make me think the fragrance in my new mattress is dissipating. Probably just going nose-blind to it.
  • Maxfield Parrish and William Henry Margetson.
  • The treasures I’ve forgotten I own that I find while looking for other treasures I know I own and put away so well I cannot find.
  • A neighbor from years past who stopped in to say hello and is doing well for himself, in a steady job, lost weight, purchased eyeglasses for the first time, and drinking less. All pluses for him, and grateful he is taking better care of himself.
  • The two young men of alternate appearance, tattoos everywhere, scruffy beards, missing teeth, sharing my hot tub who were regular, decent, honest, hardworking, accountable, American family men. My heart was all fuzzy squishy watching them when they moved to the pool to play with their wives and babies. The pure love look on their faces when holding their children. Priceless.
  • Skin. Everybody has it. Everybody needs it. It comes in so many luscious shades. Some of us even mark our skin for the difference of it.
  • Having faith we will have and use the science to keep our oceans clean.
  • Summer salads.
  • Cold, creamy cottage cheese and fresh cherry tomatoes when it’s too hot to cook.
  • Another satisfying batch of tzatziki, boosted both the garlic and the mint. Yum.
  • Fresh Oregon strawberries.
  • 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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gratitude Sunday: The Queen’s New Bed: Part Deux

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday Haiku
Summer full and bright,
day’s light and embracing night,
make my veggies ripe!

Sunday Musings
Sassy queen’s new-to-me bed is installed. Queen has been ensconced in said bed for a week. Queen would like to wake up one day without pain. That might be asking too much from the universe. Hope springs eternal.

Having a new bed at least distracts me from the current state of political affairs, which I admit I become so easily distracted by. Guilty pleasure, perhaps, watching crime on the news every night by the highest government offices in the United States of America. Not that I can do much about politics other than pestering my legislators to do the work they are paid to do, and voting. And encouraging others to vote.

Hubster and son ran out of steam after all the heavy moving and son called a friend to help move the final piece. I’m grateful for son’s friends, who still have the youth and muscle to help.

Vacuuming went better than expected. Hubster allowed me to use the vacuum all by myself like a big girl after cleaning the vac part he hates to clean. Even after finding every pushpin (notorious vacuum killers) I’ve ever dropped in this house, all of which rolled their way into the edges between the carpet and the wall in my room, I did not manage to kill the vacuum this time. Not as much dust as I suspected, but I still could have knitted a scarf with the abundant dust bunnies the vac sucked up. Not proud. Not bragging.

I discovered the mattress and bedding smells like the oil based fragrances sis uses in her home. The bedding I didn’t think about until the last minute (organized brain, right?) and finally tossed them into the washer at midnight. Between mattress pad and sheets it meant two loads, and I was making the bed at 3:00 AM. My bad. Forgot about my sensitivity to odors and fragrances, forgot about employing my brain. The Queen may be picky and sensitive, but she is nonetheless poor, and grateful for gifts when she has not the funds to purchase and choose her own.

Washing the bedding is the easy part. I tackled the mattress with baking soda to see if that will leech the odors out. It might take more than one baking soda application, and I was pleased at how well the upholstery attachment on my vac worked to remove it. I’d love to take it outside and let it sit in the sun for several hours, but I don’t have a safe space to do so. The neighbor cats consider my yard to be theirs and while they do keep it mouse free, I fret they would mark the mattress with their urine the same way they’ve done with every tent I’ve tried to use in my yard. If the fragrance doesn’t come out with other methods I will figure out a way to let it air in the sun. I need communication, planning, and help from the son to do so.

My old twin sized bed was more than 22 years old. I forget it has been that long because the mattress looks like new. I kept it on a regular schedule of flipping and turning every season, but when a queen-sized body is flipping and turning on it every night, the spring coils are bound the break down and the padding settles. The new mattress is only lightly used enough so the settling hasn’t happened yet.

The new bed is, of course, bigger than my old bed. That was the point. It means, however, the relationship of the bed and my body to the window, the door, and the light are different. I am disoriented. Pretty easy to achieve these days, as nothing seems quite normal here in semi-retirement, all is askew including my room and my bed and my window and my door, like a Picasso painting. It’s a matter of time; studies show getting used to a new routine takes an average of 30 days.

So much to be grateful for when old things move along and new things come to you. Change is the only constant, and it flows like water, one little eddy, one little wave at a time, sometimes flooding, sometimes trickling, sometimes tsunami.

Now the bed is in place, I can move other pieces of abundance around so I can move more freely in the room as I decide about some discards. I’ve found all kinds of lovely corners that needed cleaning. I’m grateful the bed is on wheels as, for now, I have to push it up against a wall and will have to pull it out to change the sheets every week. I am trying to figure out how to make changes so I can have free access to both sides of the bed. The Game of Fourteen is still afoot.

In the meantime, when I roll over in bed there is still more bed. When I flop an arm out, or stretch a leg, there is still bed there. No more tempting under-bed nightmare monsters to chomp on my exposed tootsies or fingers dangled over the edge of the bed. Those childish fears don’t always die; sometimes they live on forever in the minds of adults whose brains never stop.

When I’m too hot I can roll over to the cool zone, and when I’m too hot again, there’s yet another cool zone. When I throw a blanket or sheet off, it’s still on the bed instead of landing on the floor or wedging between the bed and the wall.

With the bed frame on wheels, until I figure out how to make space on both sides, at least I can pull it out and vacuum around it in the future which means fewer dust bunnies and a cleaner room. I have until winter to find a solution to the room on both sides issue as Christmas is a great excuse for a purchase if I find the right headboard. Also a great excuse to research and purchase some luxury sheets; I’ve always found having two sets of sheets for the bed a luxury in itself. Martha Stewart likes to change her sheets (“have her sheets changed” is how she put it, so I doubt she does it herself) every day, so maybe I’ll up my game and go for twice a week on the clean sheets. Clean sheets do feel so good. Another change in the constant flow of the Queen’s river journey.

This summer’s project plods along through the joy of five minute work windows. It’s a good thing.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Brown squirrels who live in the trees in my back yard. They keep about three feet away from the fence dandelion free, that’s the green leaf he’s eating. They dig up the roots too. Love these feathery white poker plants. Purple starbursts of deadly nightshade. Blackberries creamy white flower so beautiful, but they have to stop eating my house. The bright pinks and blues of the versatile hydrangea.

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.} With the distraction of the new bed and all the cleaning that’s gone along with it I haven’t had much brain for viewing so I’ve been mindlessly reviewing the Showtime series, Shameless (2011 – present, rated TV – MA) which has eight crazy seasons, also prepping for when season nine is available on Netflix, season ten just got approved so more waiting to come. I like the half hour or one hour format of TV series for viewing choice when my mind is elsewhere as it seems easier to stop in the middle or view one episode or even backtrack if needed, than to sit down to a full length feature. * Paris Is Burning (1990, rated R), recently selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Institute as a film of “historical, cultural, or aesthetic significance,” this movie is a documentary about the ball culture in New York City and the gay, trans, African-American, and Latin communities’ involvement. Balls are dress-up events, and participants are given awards similar to Oscar awards. The balls are all named; the movie takes its name from one of the balls in 1986 from which the majority of the film was made. Fascinating to see how much is out there I haven’t seen from my tiny little poor white woman view. Fascinating how fascinating it all is. People in all their beautiful colors and ways. I like to play dress-up sometimes.

Currently ReadingThe Last Time I Lied (2019, mystery fiction) by Riley Sager (pseudonym, American author). A predictable mystery with a twist or two. Summer reading wise? A mystery about a summer camp, an insane asylum, missing girls, and a whole cast of possible suspects. Good summer reading. * Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2017, African-American feminism) by Brittney Cooper (American author, associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University). Anger, eloquent or otherwise, is off-putting. I get that. I’m angry. It shows. People don’t like it. If you are not a person of color, Ms Cooper’s words might be frightening if you take them in an adversarial way. They are still a bit scary when you read them in effort to educate yourself. Culturally our experiences are so vastly different it might be impossible to understand what they went through and vice versa. Her eloquence is important because of that difference, no matter the tone. Communication is key; we must say the words, open the dialogue, and go forward whatever the topic, even painful ones like generational race biases. Every story helps us understand each other.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The son having friends who will come help move furniture.
  • A surprise overnight guest, which made the hubster clean off his couch so his step-daughter would have a place to sleep. Lovely to see her.
  • The son resolving some insurance issues that were hanging over his head.
  • My still functioning clothes washer and dryer, hot water and unscented laundry detergents.
  • My automatic ice maker for the warmer summer days and being able to turn it off when the bin is full.
  • The look on a teenager’s face when I told him I’ve lived through eleven presidents. Priceless.
  • Baking soda for getting the cucumber odor out of the fridge and freezer.
  • Another satisfying batch of tzatziki, used more mint, will use more garlic next time, waiting to try fresh dill in a batch when it comes to the farmers market.
  • Learning how not to flavor the entire freezer and refrigerator contents with eau d’cucumber. Let salted cucumber drain its water in bowl on counter, doesn’t take long and then take the few minutes it takes to squeeze the rest of the water out. Store in a tightly sealed container.
  • Hands that smell like cucumber.
  • Sweet Oregon strawberries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Homemaking, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gratitude Sunday: Grief’s Summer Project 2.0

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “We should feel sorrow, but not sink under its oppression.” Confucius

Sunday Haiku
Overcast morn brings
afternoon’s humidity,
evening’s soggy heat.

Sunday Musings
As hard as I try not to dwell, summers are hard for me. I’m still working on shutting that brain off. Temporarily, at least.

For most people summers are about sunshine, graduations, weddings, picnics, vacations, home remodels, swimming pools, summer camps, and beaches. For me, summers are about sorrow. Other times of the year are sorrowful as well; I wear my grief like a pelt of thick, matted fur. Sorrow is harder to bear in the summer because you are supposed to be celebrating summer and sun and fun.

Sometimes I feel like a victim to my own memories. I know it’s not good to constantly re-live and re-play them in my mind. As time passes between the sorrowful events and now, I am distracted by the elements of living a daily life. Then suddenly when I least expect it I am awash in grief again, a mess of hot tears, heartsick memories, and sorrow.

I used to be able to talk these feelings through with my mom. I was lucky to have a mom who would listen and even in her judgments of me she supported my feelings. She didn’t always approve and she wasn’t always careful about showing her disapproval. That part was what it was; still she listened and mostly honored my opinions, offering both solicited and unsolicited advice.

Now, she is part of my sorrow having been gone these last six years. A summer death. Another to add to the long list of sorrowful summer deaths.

I have invested in professional counseling as I have no other safe place to talk about sorrow. Neither the hubster nor the son understand; they are uncomfortable listening; perhaps they are too close. Sister does as well as she can dealing with me and with our shared history. My brothers could not care less, or if they do they hide within their maleness and don’t say. My newly found bio-in-laws have known me barely a year because of the hubster’s adoption at three days old, so are still strangers even though I’ve been with their brother for 43 years. I don’t want to dump all this on friends or family, I’m far too intense for them as it is.

For the last three years in semi-retirement, I approach summers tentatively. The summer of 2016, when I lost my long-term, 20-year-career-goaled, take-me-into-retirement job, I was still in denial. At the age of 62, I thought I could still work and be back to work in a flash. I had skills, experience, abilities, despite the body failing. It took me more than nine months of job hunting and professional advice to realize it was unlikely I’d ever return to a full time job and a regular paycheck, or perhaps to any earned income despite my years of self-employment experience previous to becoming accustomed to a paycheck. In this employment climate competing against twenty-somethings who are more physically qualified, without Spanish as a second language, employers didn’t want to pay me the value of my experience, preferring to train up a newbie at a lesser salary and fewer benefits. Which says ugly things about both ends of the employment process.

Summer of 2017 I took the cure after becoming more ill while job hunting. I medicated for all three summer months to clear my body of the hepatitis virus that had plagued me for more than 40 years of my adult life. I gave up looking for work recognizing the toll the stress was taking on me. It was just as well because I slept so much that summer, the cure being as hard as the disease. Then I learned the application was too little, too late: though the virus is now undetectable, the liver damage remains and will not improve. Fatigue and pain will be my forever companions.

For good little ants, summer is the time for changes, for cleaning, for getting ready for the winter, as winter is always coming. I am, however, the best grasshopper. I can fritter away time and not even know what I’ve done with it. Good thing grasshoppers can work on emulating ant-like behavior.

I began, in the summer of 2018, to make some changes to my home, my belongings, and all my abundant stuff. I wanted a little more space in my living area to have a guest or two if I wanted (people rarely visit me, but change is the only constant so who knows about the future). I wanted easier access to my cooking tools. I slowly weeded a few items out, and moved a few other items around. The simple change of putting mixing bowls I use constantly on a lower shelf instead of climbing onto the step stool every time I needed them resulted in more easily preparing healthful fresh foods. Logic can be a good thing.

At Christmas sister said she wanted to give me one of her beds. I wanted to clean first, and then I became overwhelmed with what to put where. To resolve that issue, my sister and her hubby delivered the new-to-me, barely used bed this week. It is a queen size bed, and I’m pretty excited because I am a queen sized woman. If it’s in my way it rather forces the issue of moving it to where it will live. Since the new bed is bigger having it in place will make it easier to figure out where the other stuff in the room can go.

If you are a regular reader, you know for me this once again begins the Game of Fourteen in which at least fourteen things will have to be moved to get the old bed out and the new bed in. This is a major project for me so the game could grow exponentially. My sister and her hubby are 100 percent tidier than I am, and they admitted they were going home to their own Game of Fourteen. The difference is they have a plan and a whole lot more room to effect their projects. Plus they are able to work together, though that perception could be in my mind. If the hubster and I tackle a project together it usually ends up about a quarter done before we are spitting fire at each other which leads to many unfinished projects. Love doesn’t always mean agreeing with each other.

For now the bed is propped against walls in the hall and living room. In a day or two we will all be so disgusted at tripping over it we will find a way to get the project finished. It’s blocking my TV so I might have to suffer being outside my comfort zone for a day or so. The biggest challenge I see is vacuuming the space while the bed is out of the way as it’s not been vacuumed for oh, probably fifteen years because it’s an adjustable bed and all the mechanics are too low to vacuum under. I’m not allowed to use the vacuum as every time I do the thing misbehaves and stops working, and par for Murphy’s Law it happens to be disassembled at the moment.

I am limited by my five and ten minute work windows. As hard as I try I cannot deal with pain any longer than that. Persistence and patience is the key; five minutes here, five minutes there, and so what if I’m putting sheets on at 2:00 in the morning. The rest of the day – the laundry, the cooking, the dishes, and this sassy post which doesn’t write itself – doesn’t magically go away when you have a special project. One still needs to eat and take care of oneself. Of course, today was the day my tiniest pets chose to stage another outbreak, meaning taking the time put out anti-ant treatments. Maybe as John Lennon says in Strawberry Fields nothing is real and nothing to get hung about. It gets done when it gets done.

Having a project I cannot do alone is challenging. I have neither the tools nor the skills. Even with the three of us we might require the assistance of a stronger person to move the mechanical part of my old bed; it is one heavy expletive. I am forced to be interdependent, another spear through the myth of self-sufficiency.

I find myself wondering what’s going to happen this summer, who will I lose, what will I lose. I turn to summer projects as a valid and productive way to keep my mind from dwelling on my losses, on the grief of previous summers, while preparing for winter, it’s always going to be winter. They are good projects for aging as well as we naturally down-size, preparing for the latest chapter in this crazy novel life. The benefits outweigh the costs.

The Game of Fourteen is afoot. So far trying to get the old bed out, I’ve died a couple times, rested, recovered, and repeated. I’m hoping to report by this time next week that the queen sassy is well ensconced in her new bed.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Caught some dark blue and bright pink sky this week just over my roof line. Found this patch of wild white summer daisies alongside the road a couple weeks back when doing Quilt Hunt 3 with sis. One of my favorite quilt blocks on this year’s tour was the Sunflower Block. The farm’s owners were so gracious, letting us tromp through their well-kept event site to get pictures. This one shows part of the prolific farm; the cast iron rail is guarding a swimming pool. Here’s a closer view of the block with artichoke blooms below. The Sunflower farm had beautiful pink and blue multi-colored hydrangeas. The front porch of this large Victorian style farmhouse was even more romantic and welcoming with these pale pink hydrangeas around the entry.

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 Rider (2018, rated R), about a rodeo cowboy who is kicked after being bucked off by a bronc and suffers a head injury resulting in seizures, and how he fights the consensus that he should stop rodeo-ing. * Boundaries (2018, rated R) with Vera Farmiga and Christopher Plummer. A free spirited elderly man gets kicked out of his senior living apartment for misbehavior, leaving his daughter and grandson to pick up the pieces. Many comic scenes as the old man coerces the grandson to engage in his antics.

Currently ReadingThe Last Time I Lied (2019, mystery fiction) by Riley Sager (American author). Holy Summer Reading, Batman! A mystery about a summer camp! Sager is a psuedonym for the Batman who writes other mysteries. * Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2017, African-American feminism) by Brittney Cooper (American author, associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University). Cooper’s work helps me understand how little I know about cultural differences. I understand some of the horror of what people of color are subjected to. It’s good to know more about the why and the how.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • My sister and her hubby who did the work of bringing my bed to me and then thanked me as it gave them room to get on with their own summer project.
  • The proper sized bedding accompanying the bed.
  • Gifts and gratitude.
  • Help from the hubster and the son with a project that only benefits me.
  • The guys allowing me to clean a part of the vacuum cleaner they don’t like cleaning.
  • My it-happens-when-it happens attitude.
  • Fans and natural air conditioning.
  • Wind chimes hung indoors when the summer fans are on.
  • Saline solution for dusty nasal passages.
  • Soap and hot water.
  • Five minute work windows.
  • Ibuprofen.
  • A box of sugar snap peas, likely the last of the season.
  • Fried zucchini.
  • Oregon strawberries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Careers, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gratitude Sunday: This Very Now

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Meanwhile time flies; it flies never to be regained.” Virgil

Sunday Haiku
Clouds obscure morning
sun, afternoon clears, lighting
bright robust roses.

Sunday Musings
Time is an odd thing. You can’t hold onto it. It passes whether you want it to or not, moment into moment, day into night into day. When you are in the present moment time can feel like forever, or it can feel like it’s gone in the blink of an eye. We spend time together or alone. We save time by bundling errands, or we fool ourselves with clock games twice a year as if we can withdraw it from a bank to use another time.

We remember times past and we imagine times in the future. As we age time becomes strangely fluid, as if the years coexist side by side, and when we put our minds to it we ask each other, “Was that ’76 or ’77 when we did that?” and we have to remember other events that took place near the event we are focusing on to remember what time it all took place.

Often as not, we apply judgments to those past events when, of course, in reality there are no re-dos. And we apply this curious language to past events that have no possibility of being changed now. We should have done this instead of what we did. We could have done that but we didn’t. What would have happened if we had done it another way?

It’s a long process but I am trying to re-train my brain in how I think about things. I am a fabulous over-thinker, the best over-thinker, I can over-think anybody. There are times I want to shut off the brain and not think, especially to stop over-thinking. Over-thinking usually applies to re-living past events and trying to improve the story. I want to stop that, to remember the story is the story, the memory is the memory. The story can be embellished or changed but that’s not what happened.

Here’s the thing. That story is in the past. Can’t be changed. Sometimes the story just needs to be complete. As is. Done. Over. Finito. The End.

Shouldas, and wouldas, and couldas are all fantasies. They don’t change the story.

Whether that story was good or bad, whether we made the right or wrong choice, whatever the consequences which may very well have been beyond our control, the story took place in its own time and space. We may have learned something from the story. Or not. We may be able to apply what we learned to a future event. Or not.

I recently got to spend time with a friend from my childhood, and another day with my sister. I say I “got to” because I do so little, constrained by tightly budgeted finances. These were carefully planned for events. I’ve learned from past events to manage my travel anxiety I make a list of what I need to take for personal comforts, pack the list with check offs, take the list with me, and then check the list again when returning. Sometimes I am able to pack the list in my head if it’s only a day trip. Other times it’s pen to paper, and the paper then tucked into my wallet or a pocket.

Then I have to stop thinking about the upcoming event or the thinking turns to dread. I play through all the what-if scenarios. I’ve learned what-if scenarios are fine if you are visualizing for success in some situation like a job interview or a court appearance, but what-if-ing for jury service or a fun event is a waste of time. The event will fall out as it does when it is happening. No manner of what-if-ing will provide any control over the situation as it is happening. I’m teaching myself to shut off the what-ifs that weigh so much before the fact, focus on the moment of the day, and then when the event begins be willing to go with the flow even when/if it’s a bit uncomfortable. In both cases, the events with my friend and my sister were lovely, time well and gratefully spent.

What-if-ing is as counter-productive as woulda, shoulda, couldas. Remembering both are mind tricks helps. Remembering the past can’t be changed helps. Remembering the future can be fluid, unpredictable, or beyond our control helps. Sometimes what happens to us comes out of the blue and blindsides us.

The key is to remain in the moment. Be in this very now. This one right here, where you can hear your eyelids blinking. Feel your fingers hitting the keyboard. Breathe the fresh air through the open door, your lungs inflating, deflating, the sound of your breathing annoying to your ears. Feel the effort of swallowing, and consciously stop grinding your teeth. Stretch your shoulders back, arms wide open when your shoulder and neck cramps from leaning over a lukewarm keyboard. Note the movement of thoughts as they progress like bubbles from the back of the brain to the front where the synapses send nerve signals down your fingers to convert them into words on a screen.

This is all harder when you feel every tiny bit of it and harder still when the feelings dissociate between mind and body. The thoughts jump and jolt before they compile and comply into some sort of order. The fingers dysgraphically translate the thoughts through keyboard to screen, occasionally as far as paper. The obsequious coherence of words somehow prevail upon the page, a creative miracle of brain and muscle cells.

Hard does not mean not doable. Hard means it’s hard. It takes work or practice or repetition. So, it’s hard, so what? Take time and do it, learn it, plan it, experience it, repeat it. Hard takes time and the only real time we have is the gift we know as now, the present.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Pink rose with critter visitor. Enchanting soft sagey green and brown bark top of the poppy seed pod. Muted greens, burgundies, and blues in this perennial bed, like a river of plants. Vivid orange and red day lilies. The soft fuzzy beige of this little weed. Happy yellow nasturtiums.

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.} A Serious Man (2009, rated R), a dark comedy by the award winning Coen brothers. One of those movies where I’m not sure I got the point other than the weird humor. * Aquaman (2018, rated PG – 13) with Jason Momoa in the title role. Fun, over the top DC Comics presentation, with lots of flash, flare, and color. I’d love to know the science of how they can breath both water and air (yes, I know it’s a movie), but this is as much science fiction as it is fantasy. Even if the science is wrong, or we eventually learn a way to make this happen, the imaginative conjecture is fun to contemplate. Plus if Atlantean technology is so advanced why do they still destroy with explosives and blowing things up? The answer is for cinematic effect, but I could imagine sonar dispersals and disintegrations, or given enough time I might imagine other ways to destroy without explosives, like trained sea life with brain implantations programmed for destruction or forced volcanic eruptions. Give me more time; I’ll come up with more.

Currently ReadingI Know Who You Are (2019, fiction) by Alice Feeney (British author), a murder mystery with an unreliable narrator, and an interesting twist of the clues in the end. * Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2017, African-American feminism) by Brittney Cooper (American author, associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University). I’m a woman of generational poverty who has experienced limited mobility, both social and financial, whose access to learning is through reading and vicariously experiencing the lives and worlds of others through their memoirs, autobiographies, biographies, and other stories. It’s a constricted experience, controlled by the environment of words rather than lived experience, but it is what it is. Ms Cooper is sharing the intimate journey of her path in this world, of a world where white and black are not likely to become gray. Her world and view has been different than mine, delightfully unique, and I am admiring her eloquent skill in sharing her words and her world.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Getting a small patch of weeding done.
  • Spending a day with my sister doing our annual Quilt Barn Tour in honor of our master quilter mom’s passing.
  • A couple of pictures sister found of times past, one of the hubster and I when we were still young together more than 40 years ago.
  • Air just warm enough for open doors. Air sans scented laundry stuff.
  • Being gifted new technology (a used Kindle Fire!) to increase my learning curve and connection to the electronic world.
  • Making progress with my salsa dance. Step by step.
  • My own homemade tzatziki. Much better than the tub I bought at farmers market.
  • Baking soda for getting the smell of cucumber out of the fridge.
  • Learning to let the cucumber set on the counter to drain out instead of in the fridge.
  • Fresh Oregon cherries.
  • Fresh Oregon strawberries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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

Gratitude Sunday: Independence? It’s All Political

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political, and religious. All act and react upon one another.” Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday Haiku
Unstable weather:
extreme summers and winters,
blighted climate change.

Sunday Musings
I was beyond middle age before I realized the significance of the personal being political. I dislike politics; all kinds of promises, so little action. Seeing activism produce little change for the last fifty years is distressing. As I got older and the small amount of money I earned flew out of my hands no matter how hard I worked or how much I budgeted, no matter what corners I cut, or how low I chose to live so I could stay within my budget, I started looking at what my money paid for. If you say you are not political your eyes are closed and democracy will die with you. Money makes us political by default, and everybody uses money. So far I still get to refuse to choose to live under a bridge.

Do you pay rent or own a mortgage? You pay additional tax (beyond income tax) because of housing called property tax; if you rent, property tax is included in your rent amount. Do you purchase groceries, gasoline, or use a phone? You pay additional tax for these items. Do you own a car, an RV, a boat? You pay an additional tax to use these items. Do you go fishing, camping, or travel by plane? You pay an additional tax to participate in these activities. Does your community enjoy public parks, a lending library, or an aquatic center? You pay for these community amenities with your additional property tax, and likely you still have to pay a fee to use the facilities. Do you live in a state that charges you a sales tax just for shopping? Sales tax is not much incentive to be a “good” consumer.

Everything we do is not only taxed, it’s connected, interdependent. That’s the price of living in a society. The myth of self-sufficiency fails us as it denies that connection. Nobody makes it on their own; even entrepreneurs use tax-paid streets, bridges, schools, banks, water, and sewer systems. Taxes are physical proof in the USA we are already in this together. The challenge is how society works for some of us and fails for others. It’s not about a level playing field; I doubt this can ever be effected. We can, however, be supportive of the ones for whom the system doesn’t quite work so well.

We are beginning the 2020 round of presidential candidates. For the next year and a half most of the news will be political. In my personal life, I get jealous when I hear Elizabeth Warren’s life story, about a working class family and a girl with a dream, how she made that dream happen and though there were bumps along the way, with some help she made that dream succeed in America and today she stands on a stage as a presidential candidate for 2020. Perhaps jealous isn’t exactly the right word; I’m not jealous she succeeded, I’m jealous because I didn’t, or in other words, I’m happy for her success, and sad for my failure. We are both fairly smart women, so why did the system work for her and not for me? Don’t tell me about the myth called choices; we are two different persons who did not have the same choices, abilities, intelligence, geographic location, and the few years age difference between us are enough to make a cohort difference as well. We’re not supposed to do it, but it is really hard not to compare oneself with others. How else do we know if we are succeeding? I don’t have to have the same or be the same, I just want a certain (comparable?) level of comfort. I’m greedy enough to want similar comforts for other people as well.

My ambitions have never been as big nor as clearly defined as Warren’s, but that doesn’t matter. I’m glad our system worked for her; it does for some people. I’m one of those who despite hard work, time, and money invested, constant curiosity and research notwithstanding, the abysses and mountains in the way have made it insufferably difficult to make this capitalistic system work successfully. Even into retirement, for which I planned, all those feeble plans flew out the window, and a new tentative plan has been implemented, with limited success. I have learned lessons along the way. One of my lessons: if you have to have mental health counseling to remain in a job, likely that job, no matter how much you like the job, is the wrong job for you. It might not be about you. Which is an even more disturbing thing to say about the job (or the state of the working world in the United States of America, as this happens more than we want to think) than if it was you.

I bear the weight of my own choices, but I didn’t have great choices. I own the burden of my own behavior, but do not claim the guilt of lies about me. I am responsible for my own actions, but I cannot control the actions of others. I don’t read minds, and in trying to be my most authentic self, I often don’t read people well, or present myself well; in fact, I understand my intensity is off-putting. It also aids in societal failure. How does my intensity differ from Elizabeth Warren? We are both passionate about helping others, but my words and actions seem crankier than hers, could be the tone of my voice, the burn in my eyes, the twist of my mouth.

I got caught in the poverty trap. As I read and research I suspect I might have been in the sexist trap as well, but I don’t know enough about that detail yet, only that I was a woman supporting a disabled husband who never qualified for Social Security assistance trying to raise a child on a low income. I just never made enough money to keep up let alone get ahead, and now I’m aging out; nobody wants to hire old, fat women who walk with canes. I’m like so many of my neighbors and family and friends who aren’t able to earn more than they earned forty years ago. One has only to drive through any town in America, whether large or small, to see whom the system has worked for and whom it has not. When people are not able to care for their homes and property or afford help to care for them, the physical evidence is clearly in front of us, but debt is not a sustainable way to keep up with the Joneses, either.

We throw money at the problems, but often they are the wrong solutions. Instead of building modest affordable single or two-family homes we build huge ugly fishbowls called public housing, shove hundreds of bodies into spaces meant for dozens with no green space for children to play, charge almost as much as the regular market, and we call that public assistance. While speculators build mini-McMansions on the cheap and market them at exorbitant rates throwing the whole real estate market kay-wonky.

Capitalism has only worked for a few people, the ones who own the corporations. There is nothing inherently wrong with capitalism, but it is a two-way street and requires consumers who can afford the goods to make capitalism work in a society. Capitalists and corporation owners shoot their own feet off if they rig the economy through low wages so consumers can’t afford what they produce. Corporations have forgotten the principles of Henry Ford who believed you have to pay workers enough to afford to buy what they are making, that means a living wage plus enough extra financial fluidity to be an active consumer as well. Can today’s construction worker afford the house he is building, or wiring, or plumbing? Can today’s technology manufacturing worker afford the technology she is making? Can today’s nurses afford the health care services they are providing? Can today’s teachers afford the education they are giving our youth? Can today’s artists afford anything? Do we even have any car manufacturers left in the USA?

I don’t know the answers. I know we are better than the lies and atrocities taking place in the USA in 2019. I know our tax dollars are being mismanaged and stolen from us. I know no one person can “fix” all this. I know it’s all political because many people of my generation have been working all our lives to make life better for decent, honest, hardworking, accountable American workers, as did the generations who came before us. We are all connected, person to person, generation to generation.

Since politics are personal, think about where you live. Do you love your bed, your home, your neighborhood, you community, your family, any of these? Think about what you have. Do you have enough, too much, too little? Think about why you have what you do, if you need or want it, how you take care of what you have, and what value it has to you. Think about how other people might think about owning the same kinds of stuff, or better. Don’t think about doing anything with your stuff or doing anything differently, just think about your stuff. Some of us are comfortable with more or less stuff and that’s OK, but greed at the expense of others is unjust; a rigged economy is greed at the highest level.

I’m not implying a guilt trip here, unless you want to take that on. I used to feel guilty about what I had or what I did or didn’t do. A friend kindly cued me in to the definition of guilt. She said guilt is avoiding responsibility. That’s the gauge. If you did the responsible thing, you should not take on guilt. I’ve done plenty of things in my lifetime for which I still carry guilt and regret, and I’m trying to not beat myself up for those past mistakes, which is hard for the truly responsible person. Other things I did let go of my guilt because I had done the responsible thing, but still felt bad about the situation. If you are not paying your share as a wealthy American or corporation you should be taking on guilt or pay your share. Gavel tap times three. So say I.

I am saying if you enjoy your home, your work/job, your stuff, your ways of relaxing, other people might as well. I don’t mean other people want your stuff, they want similar stuff. Most people enjoy working and like to pay their way; they might be doing jobs you would prefer not to do, but their work has value just the same. American needs to work both ways, it needs to work for those who succeed easily and well with only a few bumps in the road, and it needs to work for those who struggle with challenges like generational poverty, lack of job skills, mental or physical health, unique personality, or people who have been marginalized for any reason.

We can do this. We have to redefine the value of work, define new kinds of jobs and new ways to pay workers understanding there are all kinds of work and all kinds of jobs and all kinds of people who might like those jobs, we need to open our minds to the future to make sure this planet can still exist for our grandchildren’s great-grandchildren. It takes work and because we are a society who shares the same physical space it’s all political. We gotta be political.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – The neighborhood’s 4th of July house with blue hydrangeas and red door. It was mostly a purple week. Three clematis varieties in shade of purple owned and photographed by Mary Drew. A neighbor’s pile of wild vetch, invasive, but forgiven because it is some much like sweet peas. A mass of lavender. I still do not know what this vibrant yellow spike of flowers is. Vermilion crocosmia makes me think of the work of van Gogh.

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.} At Eternity’s Gate (2018, rated PG – 13), with Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh, his struggles with his art and his mental health, and his death at a young age. Slow moving, arty movie. * Re-viewing the Showtime series Shameless (2011 – present, rated TV – MA), in preparation for the latest season. To remind myself I live a fairly quiet and routine life. Comparatively.

Currently ReadingDangerous Minds (2018, mystery fiction) by Janet Evanovich (American author). I’ve long enjoyed her Stephanie Plum series starting with One for the Money (1994, mystery fiction), but I find all the other series she has written are some version of Stephanie 2.0 with different names and sometimes genders. I still admire her writing and she’s always good for a light summer read or two especially if you like a series. * Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2017, African-American feminism) by Brittney Cooper (American author, associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University). She comes by her black feminism by way of other women, especially white women. Her connecting with other women have made her the strong intelligent voice she is today. It’s a good thing. Also I am naïve about how much more violence women of color experience in their lives than white women. I understand self-defense, but I generally fail to understand violence at all.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The one take-away I got from the tidying up book: how to fold clothes to save space.
  • Winning the prize for week two of Summer Reading at my local lending library. A new book bag and a new drinking glass. My entry prize was a new book, now I can relax with a glass of iced tea while reading it. Maybe your local lending library has a Summer Reading Program. Not only is it fun to encourage people of all ages to read, you can win prizes. So much abundance!
  • Little birds singing, singing, singing, sounding so bright and happy when the rain stopped. Maybe their favorite bugs come out after the rain and they were singing their “Yums!” out loud.
  • Getting a couple more corners cleaned out.
  • Random and irregular OCD.
  • Five minute work windows, both a blessing and a curse.
  • The little things that make my small town a community. We have so many informed and involved local citizens.
  • Listening carefully.
  • People who take the time to answer as thoughtfully as my questions are. That sentence is poor grammar but you know what I mean.
  • How delightfully messy and crazy people’s lives are. You gotta either laugh or cry.
  • Recently having my first experience with Lebanese food. Loved the saffron rice and tzatziki sauce, which may become my new addictions. I’ve made my own kabobs with different spices.
  • Finding a tzatziki sauce at the local farmers market and how it has inspired me to make my own to get closer to that first heavenly experience.
  • Zucchini, carrots, and sugar snap peas dipped in tzatziki with a little hummus on the side.
  • Fresh Oregon strawberries. Edible sweet/tart sunshine.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Careers, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics, Work and Labor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: The Village Auntie

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “So you start one person at a time. Change one person, you can change a village.” Robin Quivers

Sunday Haiku
Mild summer solstice,
sun creeps inexorably
southward once again.

Sunday Musings
Sometimes you just get it right. I love the idea of being the guru auntie everybody seeks out for profound advice, but that’s not my reality. More often than not I am the one who dredges up deep piles of whatsnot and then slips sideways and knee deep into said piles. I’m the auntie of the cranky sounding voice, the one whose tone (of solicited and unsolicited advice) is often mistaken as judgment.

I believe in the village. The suburb I grew up in we didn’t have fences between yards. Kids played in the common area and when somebody’s mom said something everybody listened. We didn’t get away with “you’re not my mom” or “you’re not the boss of me,” because if your mom hadn’t overheard the whole thing, that mom would call your mom before you got inside the house and if you hadn’t done what any mom had told you, you were in deep yogurt.

In the pool this week I was doing my exercises on the entry/exit steps. In front of the steps, I do twenty push ups, twenty squats and twenty tiptoe squats using the rails for balance, and sitting on the steps I do sixty leg/tummy crunches, all of which takes about five minutes.

At the same time a little five or six year old mermaid was having her five minutes playtime after swim lesson. I didn’t recognize her, but a new session of lessons started this week and she might have been a new student.

“Will you get off the stairs so I can jump on them?” she said to me.

“No. Thank you for asking, but I’m still exercising,” I said. There were plenty of other things she could play with and on. Had an adult needed the steps to enter or exit the pool I would have promptly moved.

She swims over in front of me, with her face twisted and in a sharp voice she said, “You’re fat!”

It was everything I could do not to laugh, because first, as soon as the words left her mouth she looked like she surprised herself that she dared to say such a thing to a fat, grandma-aged stranger. My face did not blow up in shock at what she said, because second, she was right. I am fat. I see nothing wrong with fat; your body is your body and whatever your body shape or size it is not a marker of worthiness or health, nor always within our control. But to her she wasn’t stating fact; from her body language and tone of voice she was doing her little girl best to try to insult me off the stairs. I kept my face as neutral as possible.

Her instructor standing behind her heard what the child said and her face did that “O” thing people do with their mouth and eyes when they are shocked or embarrassed or appalled.

It was a village auntie moment.

“I am fat, that’s true. But it’s not a nice thing to say to people. It hurts some people’s feelings,” I said, in a softened voice, not an angry voice, but in my best village auntie teaching voice. I find most people don’t respond at all well to a harsh voice; mine is harsh by default; it’s an intensity thing and the older I get, the more I think it’s also a hearing thing. A quiet voice, respect for the other person, and courtesy works most times to convey necessary village messages. Like how we treat each other messages.

Swim teacher said to the girl, “That isn’t nice. Please apologize,” which the little mermaid promptly did. With a big smile I thanked her for her apology and we were done with it as swim time for her was over.

When the child had gone I told her instructor how hard it had been not to laugh in the child’s face when she stated the obvious about my fat, and the instructor told me the girl needed to be told no as she was the kind who did just what she wanted and often disregarded instructions. The swim instructors are well tuned-in to their students as the usual ratio is one instructor to six students.

One of the life guards had witnessed the whole thing and surprised me when he came over to me with a big beaming smile on his face and told me he thought I was awesome and had handled the situation brilliantly. I thought I had heard him wrong, saying, “Wait, what?” and he repeated himself. I told him I appreciated his validation and kindness as many people would have told me I was wrong to have corrected the child.

I’ve loved my pool and its staff for many years, through a decade of swim classes and twice fishing out toddlers who’d lost their grip and went under while the pool was busy, and I was so appreciative they weren’t upset because I corrected the child’s behavior. I might not have been so lucky with the parents. Who knows where she learned the behavior from. I’ve been at the pool long enough and I’m so comfortable with all the staff I feel free to ask if my behavior is acceptable, and what to do with the behavior of children who are having challenges following the rules of the water. Because of our free and open communications we are all on the same page and it centers around safety.

As I age perhaps my skin is thicker. No need to be insulted by the truth. It’s not like I could deny being fat. What if she’d said I was ugly? That’s a little more difficult because beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Some people who fit the standard of physical beauty I find quite ugly because they are not kind and caring people or they are unable to think beyond themselves. Other people without physical beauty I find to be the most beautiful people because of the kindness with which they treat others. Me? I think I’m OK to look at; the beauty of the love inside me is harder to see; you have to look beyond my fat unruly body and saggy grimace-y face and passionate cranky voice.

Though this child’s physical beauty was average, her spirit was still bright and clear as a brand new shiny penny. She needed a little guidance in social skills at that moment from a kindly (or cranky depending on how you see me) old village auntie. Auntie goals do not include killing the fresh spirit of youth.

Though I have a feeling the event flew right by this child and she will never give it another thought (she is still so young), perhaps the girl will one day think about the “nice, old, fat lady,” who didn’t let her play on the stairs, when she is swimming with her grandchildren. Perhaps she will remember the incident when she is older and rounder as happens when we age, as she is a solidly built, stocky girl and this village auntie foresees a curvaceous body in her future.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – A friend caught these yellow daisies being busied by a bee.

Photo by Tina Carlson

A neighbor has a whole row of these marbled purple hollyhocks. My sedums are blooming these creamy white blossoms. An old fashioned pale pink climbing rose entertaining another busy bee. Bright yellow nebula of Saint John’s Wort.

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 Ballad of Little Jo (1993, rated R) with Suzy Amis, Bo Hopkins, and Ian McKellen. Trying to escape the stigma of bearing a child out of wedlock, a young woman disguises herself as a man in post-Civil War western America. This is one of those significant movies that I recommend to all people over the age of 14. * Puzzle (2018, rated R), an introspective mother discovers she is a skilled jigsaw puzzler, secretly enters a competition and a friendship, then leaves both her family and her new love for a new start.

Currently ReadingThe Keeper of Lost Things (2017, fiction) by Ruth Hogan (British author). What a delight this read has been. I’ve read several reviews and was surprised at how many reviewers didn’t care for this book, thought the characters and the plot trite. I enjoyed the character Sunshine, who is a 19 year old girl with Down’s Syndrome who is psychic as well; I thought the character was carefully and tastefully drawn, though many reviewers didn’t like the character. I’ve worked with diverse populations, maybe that’s the difference in our reviews. Plus, for those literary types out there, the prose reads like a semi-sestina in that, for most of the chapters, a word or phrase in the last few sentences of the chapter are repeated in the first few sentences of the next chapter. Charming. * Plan Your Prosperity: The Only Retirement Guide You’ll Ever Need (2013, personal finance) by Ken Fisher (American author). I won’t finish this book, one of the few. So many financial terms I don’t understand, I won’t spend time researching enough to understand; I’m not an investor anywhere near this level. This book is for upper-middle class people who already have money. The author annoyed me when he wrote: let’s say you are a beginning investor and have $100,000.00 to invest. Clue to author: many beginning investors are people with their first jobs who might have five bucks a paycheck to begin their investing career. The author completely lost me when he said: let’s say you are 62 with 2 million dollars saved and you want to invest. What upper middle class people don’t seem to understand is if I (an average poor person with a bit of wit) had 2 million dollars in my pocket at 62 years of age I could make that last the rest of my life even without other investment advice, because my needs are few and simple, and I have a minimal grasp of the beginning basics of investing. This is NOT a book for beginning investors. I’ve found Elizabeth Warren’s (yes, that Elizabeth Warren) book All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan (2005, money management) to be the best beginning money management and investment book ever. All the basics, simple language, simple plan. If I taught real world math in schools I would use this as a text because it works whether you are making $100.00 a week from your first after school job or if you are retired and on a limited budget. * Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2017, African-American feminism) by Brittney Cooper (American author, associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University). I’ve long admired Cooper’s interviews on various news shows. I know little about black women’s experience in our culture and I appreciate her sharing her experience.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • A freshly swept and mopped kitchen floor. So calming.
  • Hot packs for after the pain of doing.
  • Empty, clean kitchen counters.
  • The pathway to my bed amid all the abundance.
  • A lovely long weekend with a friend from grade school who has known me long enough and loves me enough to tolerate my cranky, bossy mouth for more than a few hours.
  • The long weekend above, which I’m going to count as a semi-vacation. I certainly made lots of work for her and she accommodated it all.
  • Fine point pens and paper. Doodling.
  • My aquatic center. I’m so spoiled with the luxury of private family dressing rooms available to anyone who needs them, always hot showers and plenty of soap in the dispensers, the choice of regular temp or warm temp pools, and a comfortable hot tub where the jets don’t blow you out of the water. Being able to see the bottom of the pool without chlorine burns. Awesome staff who always honor my “observations” as we call them.
  • Witnessing the grand-sonning of my friend who is a single, child-free woman, as her younger friend claimed her as his official adopted grandmother. Witnessed, so officially grand-sonned, so say I.
  • The fun of my first ever henna tattoo.
  • Semi-controlled chaos. Or semi-random control. Depending on point of view.
  • The hubster being flexible during a change of plan.
  • That cool little seam ripper tool. And the gentle tug that releases a few stitches all at once.
  • Finally appreciating that the gratitude for my material abundance does not cancel out my grief. Gratitude and grief live side by side.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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

Gratitude Sunday: A Wild Variety Of Abundance

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
Joni Mitchell

Sunday Haiku
Light so bright it hurts
eyes accustomed to leafy
green graceful branches.

Sunday Musings
Abundance is such a lovely word. On so many levels. And yet, abundance is a dichotomy, a paradox, an oxymoron.

People can have an abundance of cash, enough not to have to earn a living because the cash makes its own money.

People can have an abundance of house, more house than they can take care of without help.

People can have an abundance of stuff; some stuff might be of fine quality, some stuff not so much.

People can have an abundance of time when they can’t find work to earn a living.

People can have an abundance of body, being tall or voluptuous.

People can have an abundance of pain.

An abundance of trash or garbage.

An abundance of challenges.

An abundance of indecision.

An abundance of troubles.

An abundance of weeds.

My neighbor had an abundance of tree. This tree was large enough when we moved in but trees, by their very nature, don’t necessarily stay small even when they are dwarf varieties. Over the last twenty years it’s far outgrown the space it was in and could have wreaked damage on a half dozen houses if it had decided to cast its branches to the wind.

I have an abundance of patience. Sometimes it is forced patience, as in I have no control and there is nothing I can do about it. I’ve waited through twenty years and four owners of the property with the tree. This owner finally decided the abundance of tree was too much abundance.

This last Friday we watched the tree come down. It took an abundance of professional tree removers to do so. One skilled fellow climbed the tree, tied off branches, chain-sawed through them, and lowered the cut branches to the ground with the guide ropes. A team of four or five men caught the tree chunks, cut the branches into manageable sections, and hauled the sections out to the chipper parked on the street. They kept up an abundant stream of communication as they did so, my Spanish just good enough to be able to laugh when I heard them cheerfully cussing at each other.

Teamwork: yellow hard hat above, orange below standing on patio roof.

I enjoyed the show abundantly. Took my breakfast and coffee outside to watch. Spent the day. Caught a few pictures. I was abundantly fascinated by the process and abundantly amazed at the skill of the workers.

The rain sprinkled abundantly while I watched. The sun came out as well. One downpour came at the perfect time for the workers to take a well earned break. The universe shed some tears on us mourning the passing of the tree.

The tree was in a dangerous place. It was precariously out of proportion with its space. The trunk had divided into eight stumps each with its own wild meander of branches. It was so abundantly unruly it was self-destructively growing into itself, unattended for so long branches were growing through trunks eating its own bark off. It has been needing removal for twenty years. It was a matter of time until the tree and nature would fling some part down upon the earth. In most cases I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees. This tree outgrew its space and became a victim of safety and progress.

The little family of squirrels that live in my yard vacated the tree quite early on. The tree wasn’t their main home so no worries there. They weren’t displaced, but it was a major part of their yard-to-yard highway, so they will be establishing a new furry rodent route soon after the chain saws go away. The crows have an abundance of neighboring trees to choose from, and since they enjoy an abundance of mobility they will choose new trees in which to perch to alert me to the morning light. A few smaller black birds kept circling the tree as it was coming down like they could not believe what was happening.

Using the sides of his feet to hold on and using a chainsaw in mid-air.

The tree climber had an abundance of safety ropes and harnesses. He had an abundance of knowledge, skill, and confidence. He had an abundance of time to do the job safely, and he used those minutes wisely tying himself off, tying the branches securely before he cut, gauging his next steps carefully. It’s quite a skill to balance on the sides of your feet from the spikes strapped to your boots, to swing from branch to branch when your safety rope is tied only to a six inch diameter branch, to wield different sizes of chainsaw in mid-air because the diameter of this stump requires a much larger saw than the last. Many of the trunks were as big around as the cutter; one of the trunks was at least twice his width. He created an abundance of sawdust.

Swinging between trunks.

The helpers had an abundance of energy as they kept up with the cutter, hauling the branches through the side yard and out to the chipper, cleaning as they worked picking up the odd little limbs and raking leaves; they were steady workers and did not dawdle. I could see the largest branches over the top of the fence as they were dragged through the yard looking ever so much like an endless parade of leaf dragons marching toward an unknown enemy. They created an abundance of wood chips.

Some of his work was parallel to the earth.

In an effort to control nature a human decided the tree was more a danger than a joy. I knew exactly what the tree was, but it wasn’t my tree to make a choice for. As the tree came down I thanked it for its shade and wished it relief from its own weight. Now in that part of my yard I see an abundance of sky. At the end of the day the tree was removed the sky carried a peculiar shade of sickly muted peachy-pink color reflecting from the bit of sun on the clouds over the area, a sort of softly angry color against the pale blue of late spring evening skies.

One of the last bites.

The light is vast, open, chilling, naked.

Spider webbed in the last of his prey.

Now I have an abundance of sadness for the life of a living thing which no longer exists.

I saw it. I believe it. Abundance is a hard thing. Like grief.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Shiny pink and gold of honeysuckle. Subtle blending of pale pink and white morning glory. Not so subtle blend from yellow to pink edges of this rose. I love how this purple violet defies the aggregate every year by blooming through the crack. A golden yellow rose against the gray concrete wall.

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 Wanda Sykes comedy special on Netflix Not Normal (2019, rated R). I do love me some good stand-up comedy. * The Women on the 6th Floor (2011, not rated), in French with English subtitles, a man in 1960 Paris finds empathy with the maids who live in the rooms above.

Currently Reading – Finished The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017, fiction) by Taylor Jenkins Reid (American author), and the love of her life was not one of her seven husbands. No other spoilers as this is a great summer read with a couple twists at the end. * The Keeper of Lost Things (2017, fiction) by Ruth Hogan (British author), starts with a slower pace about an older man who picks up found objects, and catalogs them, and the young woman he hires to help him. * Plan Your Prosperity: The only Retirement Guide You’ll Ever Need (2013, personal finance) by Ken Fisher (American author). Money isn’t easy if you’ve never had much. I’m not familiar with many of these financial terms (I know what investing means I’ve just never had money to invest), but I’m always learning. Understanding more about money, how it works, and how to save it even when poor has its own value.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The hubster getting our low-cost, ugly, make-do sun screen in place on the east facing front window. Hubster says it’s OK to call it our hillbilly screen as we both have ancestors from the south so we are not mis-appropriating.
  • Natural air conditioning. Windows and doors on opposite sides of the house and the luxury of being home to open and close them as needed.
  • The son getting some blackberries cut back.
  • Hearing and seeing the vibrational energy of Mister Kitty haunting the house. His little murphs and snores; his paws on the carpet; his scratch on my door; the weight of him jumping on my bed to wake me when I’m asleep; his body walking between rooms out of the corner of my eye; the curtain moving the way he flicked it out of the way but the window is not open and there is no breeze; his shadow in places he used to sleep and I pull back so I don’t step on him; from the kitchen the little clinking sound his food dish used to make as he pushed his food around though all the dishes have been picked up and packed away; and my pant leg moving making me jump just the way I used to when he would tap my pants or my leg telling me he wanted attention.
  • The beautiful Mother’s Day card from my sister that I had thrown into a box because I was so in grief from Mister Kitty’s death. Finding it two weeks later when I was ready and the joy it brings me viewing it on my card display clip at my work desk.
  • The sweet first grader at the pool who told me she loved my dress, which is the style of swimsuit I wear.
  • When the neighbor fellow stopped by to talk about the tree and he apologized for his crying babies, and overhearing the hubster telling him they sounded like joy. Laughing when hubster came inside and telling me he didn’t have a problem with the crying because it was in their house, not ours.
  • A free book and a free ice cream cone for signing up for the Summer Reading program at my local lending library. Maybe I’ll win one of the prizes as well. Fun to play either way.
  • The encouragement of my last physical therapist who gave me the idea: sore but safe. Work out (walk, dance, whatever, your choice) a little, OK to be sore, be sure you are safe.
  • No mishaps during tree removal.
  • A secret pleasure: watching men doing physical labor.
  • The hubster not making fun of me when I started crying because I missed a tree I wanted gone for twenty years. I am my own paradox.
  • Being able to grieve a tree.
  • Ginger biscuits made from grain grown less than ten miles from my home.
  • Oregon strawberries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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

Gratutude Sunday: Living La No Bootstrap Loca

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday Haiku

Orange poppies line
roads beside purple lupines;
nature’s Picasso.

Sunday Musings
My boots are gone. Bootstraps gave out in 2016 when I was forced into early retirement. The boots went the way of the carefully constructed small savings cushion meant for after I officially retired at age 66. The forced early retirement took it all away just trying to survive, keeping my mortgage, property tax, and bills paid. Gone. Nary a boot to pull the straps up on, and no youth nor vigor left with which to find new employment or re-make another start in this crazy life of opportunity and choices .

And yet, I still live. I still have to eat, and sleep, and shower. Cash poor, I fake it through every day just praying no other unforeseen event will occur and knowing life well enough to know it’s only a matter of time before more shit hits the fan. Knowing I am unlikely to be able to fix or replace anything broken. Unable to invest or donate or even treat myself or a friend if I wanted to.

And yet, I have so much abundance. So much stuff that means nothing to any one but me. That has no value to anyone but me. It’s all I have. The effort to attempt to sell off some of the abundance seems to have less value when I want more for the item than any one is willing to pay.

And yet, it’s all so freaking complicated. The automatic raises I get in my limited income are never enough to cover the rising costs of food, utilities, gasoline. Who needs clothing? I can wear rags around the house and save my few nice pieces of clothing for being in public. Nobody comes to visit me so they don’t see my glad-home-rags. The only item I need to regularly replace is my swimsuit, which lasts about four or five months because of my addiction to three nights a week in a heavily chlorinated public pool. Indecent exposure at the pool will result in not being welcomed back, and I must feed my water addiction, so I cover the private parts of my body according to rules.

And yet, I still cry for justice. Not fairness, though that would be OK, but I’m not sure fairness exists or we might have eliminated poverty already. I don’t think we necessarily need to eliminate wealth, but poverty can be changed. We can pursue what is right, moral, ethical, and just for all of us. And none of this two or more levels of justice business where the wealthy can buy legal-esed fake justice, and the poor serve real punishments.

Don’t tell me I made poor choices. First, no re-dos, the past is past. Second, the choices were few and limited and hard. Recent example: I chose to try to extend the life of a living creature who gave three humans all kinds of snuggles and purrs, who left this earth anyway after the food the veterinarian wanted him changed to gave him diarrhea and in three weeks he lost half his body weight and began having a series of strokes. There are no guarantees in life, but it was complicated and I wonder if we should have listened to the professional in this case, as kitty didn’t have issues with the other food or if we should have even given him the tooth surgery recommended. I know, no guarantees; I didn’t fix my car, choosing the life of my cat instead. But the universe foxed me, no kitty, no fixed car, depleted savings. Triple whammy.

Don’t tell me I didn’t work hard enough. I did work I guarantee some of you wouldn’t do to feed myself and my family. I worked hours and schedules many people wouldn’t choose. I’ve washed toilets, and pulled weeds, and delivered newspapers at 3:00 AM to put food on my table.

Don’t tell me I should have divorced the hubster because he was unable to work. I took a vow, which I honored. You don’t throw away a husband because he’s broken.

Don’t tell me I should cut my loses. There are no loses to cut. I don’t live any kind of extravagant lifestyle, never have. I don’t buy cable TV, I don’t go out to breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or coffee. I don’t vacation (what’s that word?). I never go anywhere without making four or five stops on one tour to make sure I don’t waste gas. No first run movies at the theater for this girl, I’m behind the cultural curve until the movie or cable TV series is available to borrow from my local lending library. My joy of live theater is totally sublimated because I can’t even afford the senior discount. My twenty year old car needs a thousand dollars of work, my modest sufficient house is falling apart around me, and my yard will soon consume my house. I am blessed with the luxury of having one friend who loves me so much she buys my annual membership to the pool, otherwise I would have to re-prioritize funds, being addicted to pool time as I am (there are worse things to be addicted to). I am so selfishly focused (read that facetiously) I dare to think I deserve basic comforts after working in service to my country and family for the last 50 years because I tried so hard to make it happen by myself.

Bootstraps are worthless when they don’t exist. Even more so when the boots have worn so far down as to be non-existent as well. No boots, no bootstraps. I’m not blameless; I made my choices, but in a society where the myth of self-sufficiency rules, I haven’t been able to manage by myself. I needed help; I need a village. I needed stronger bootstraps. What I got was more crazy.

When you’ve worn out your bootstraps through job changes whether of your own making or the wishes of others, or relocation, or mishap, you start grabbing hold of the edges of your boots. Once illness, injury, or mayhem wear the boots through, bare feet don’t get you far. They burn and blister easily, they are cut by every slender shard of glass or sharp rock, they are stuck by random thistles or blackberry prickles lying around. They are stung by bees and bitten by fleas. They peel and rot because they are exposed, instead of protected in cozy, clean, warm, well-fitted socks and boots. Callouses take a long time to form and make it difficult to perform.

What do we do without boots or bootstraps? I’ve seen folks give up, and others who resign themselves. I’ve seen others thrive making the best with what they have and some just survive. I’ve seen people walk on hot coals and wade through cold muddy water. Others are satisfied with the status quo and still others learn to adapt and find new ways. Like being satisfied to kick ass in slippers instead of boots. Like getting more satisfaction out of mastering a dance move or new water exercise, than seeing the number on the scale. Like being more comfortable asking for help for those who have less because I know their stories; they are me. Like accepting the notion that opportunities and choices are not always under one’s control in this crazy life. Like recognizing the luxury of noticing joyful moments every day that seldom got noticed when working full-time.

Those moments are more precious as we age. Joyful moment: I woke up, I can see, I am walking without pain, I have my own teeth to brush, I still have some hair. Honestly the older we get the more joyful moments there are, or the more we notice because we might have bare feet.

Looking at joyful moments or, in a word, gratefulness, when one’s boots are gone one celebrates one’s feet. Because one has feet and some people don’t. One lavishes a little more care on them because it is what we have. One takes the time to scrape the rough spots off, to massage lotion into them, to paint the nails some bright cheerful color (reminiscent of those purple boots, of course), and decorate at least one toe with a pretty silver ring.

Then you put one foot in front of the other and you start walking. Again. You have no choice. However equipped you are at the moment, forward is the only direction. You can choose to stagnate, or not. You can try something new, or not. Either way you create a crazy, no boot, no bootstrap life. One that works for you.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – A creamy white striped clematis entertaining a local busy bee. I don’t know the name of this lacy pink and I love the way it looks naturalized against the white fence. Weeds are pretty too; purple shooting stars are deadly nightshade. The darkest purple shade of rhododendron cultivar; my uncle called it Blue Peter. Vibrant purple clematis with a neon pink stripe.

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 Hippopotamus (2017, not rated), a poet is sent to investigate miracle healings purportedly done by his godson, only to reveal the mundane truth to the family. Quirky and funny. * Wine Country (2019, rated R), left a taste of sour wine in my mouth. Personally, I don’t like the smell of wine (full disclosure: I had to quit drinking 40 years ago because of liver disease; I get sick before I get a buzz so why bother), nor do I enjoy being around really drunk people. I know it’s a lifestyle for some people and there is a huge difference between the glass-or-two person, and the bottle-a-day person, and the more-than-that person. An almost two-hour-movie-weekend of long time friends getting drunk and questioning their friendship was uncomfortable comedy despite a couple funny lines (“Things we say now”), and even though I know the challenges we face as real women, the movie came off more like Whine Country. Yet this is one of those movies I feel I’m being too judgey on because I understand where whininess and crankiness comes from; I’m really glad this group of women made this movie, and you might like it. I’ll try it again in three or four years. * Philadelphia (1993, rated PG – 13) with Tom Hanks in the fight for dignity for those suffering from AIDS. I needed to watch this for the cultural references I run into about the movie. I didn’t watch it back in the day because I was involved watching a beloved cousin die from AIDS. * Re-viewed 50 First Dates (2004, rated PG – 13) with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. I remember enjoying this the first time around. Sandler’s signature humor is crude, with potty and body jokes at the 7th grade boy level, but this is one of the few movies Sandler kept the crude humor reined in to a minimally tolerable quantity and was entertaining despite the smattering of crudeness. Barrymore saves the day with her performance.

Currently Reading
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017, fiction) by Taylor Jenkins Reid (American author), a biographical approach to Evelyn’s seven and her true love, with a bit of humor, psychology, and fashion on top of the love stories which relieves it from the tedium of a romance. * Just Give Money to the Poor: The Development Revolution from the Global South (2010, world social development) by Armando Barrientos, David Hulme, and Joseph Hanlon. I’ve learned a small piece about global finance and global poverty, and am so very glad to be done with this dry statistical study. Clarity will be revealed when I write out the notes I took. Author’s final conclusion: giving cash to the poor and trusting them to know how to spend it to make the biggest difference in their lives actually works, in individual families and to the benefit of the community and nation. The major premise is one must trust the poor to know themselves, and not blame the poor for circumstance beyond their control, such as generational poverty.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The abundance of stuff I find when I clean. Recently unearthed a small bottle of wedding theme colored M&Ms from a nephew’s marriage. The M&Ms weren’t even stale, but since nephew and wife have been married five or six years now and expecting their second baby, I’m going to toss the candy and keep the cute little bottle.
  • Still being able to twist into the positions it takes to wax my own legs. Even when I miss a few hairs.
  • Having fun wearing ankle bracelets while my legs are sleek and hairless. I like the ones that make tinkly noises when I walk.
  • Turning off the heater again. Had a cooler spell for a couple weeks and had turned it on again. I’m usually all about bundling up, but I’m ready to un-bundle.
  • People who manage English as a second language, because of how hard it has been as an English speaker to gain fluency in French or Spanish. English isn’t exactly straightforward.
  • Refunds for all the cat food left after Mister Kitty’s demise.
  • My I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it attitude. I don’t get my hopes up so when it doesn’t happen I’m not so terribly disappointed. And delightfully surprised if all goes per plan or better than.
  • Getting some math straightened out with Social Security after an hour on the phone with them, though I don’t understand why they have to make simple things so complicated. All about proper communication. We have to wait and see if the call communicated properly.
  • Not being surprised when the neighbor’s tree hasn’t come down per stated schedule.
  • Being able to view all the Portland Rose Festival parades on TV.
  • Being picky.
  • Being flexible within a range.
  • Having a range.
  • Oregon Hood strawberries.
  • 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, Vacations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gratitude Sunday: A Memorial Day For All

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Service is the rent you pay for room on this earth.”
Shirley Chisholm

Sunday Haiku

One freaky warm week
belies cooler spring days to
follow; shawl weather.

Sunday Musings
As we come to another Memorial Day weekend I want to extend a note of love and caution to all. Memorial Day acts as the semi-official start of summer though summer solstice is still a month away. Some folks get so overly enthusiastic they might be willing to take more risks to celebrate summer and summerish weather. Please enjoy yourselves but err on the side of caution. Be safe having fun!

On a more serious note, I don’t say Happy Memorial Day. It seems an oxymoron as we take some time to think about our forebears who served this country. Since they are gone I’m not happy, I’m grieving. This weekend we are supposed to honor people who served in the military who have left us behind. That’s where I start. Serving in the military is a special kind of service to the country. Not everybody is built for this kind of service, but everybody can serve, and everybody does serve their country; we just haven’t codified it or made it official like military service is. We could decide to have national service for everybody if we wanted to formalize a program of service; that’s about imagination and progress. I find the more people know about their country, the more people are asked or expected to take care of their country, to take stewardship of our communities and country, the more invested we are, and the stronger we are.

My dad served overseas in the Philippines in the late 1940s, not an “official” war. He’s been gone now since 2001 and I regret I don’t know his whole story. He didn’t talk about his years of military service much. In his day, a man was expected to serve unless there were extreme circumstances, and somehow men seemed more willing to serve, or perhaps it was a different kind of social pressure then. I find many people who served in the military don’t talk much about their service. Maybe they should. Those of us who haven’t served in the military might understand more about its rewards and horrors. Honesty is the best policy, right?

Dad was a rear tail gunner in the army air force. I know that sounds confusing: he served in the army on a plane. He got the job because he was thin as a rail and his tiny butt fit on the tiny seat at the rear of the plane. He never said what he shot or shot at. He developed an ulcer in his middle age and did not stay thin.

Dad didn’t talk about his army buddies and I don’t remember him being in touch with any of them. I remember only one story he told about sleeping in tents on the beach, how large the beach crabs were, and how the crabs would walk across the bodies of sleeping soldiers, waking them in the middle of the night. I’m not much of a rough sleeper as it is, but this would have given me screaming night terrors.

Besides the memories, Dad brought something home from the Philippines that remained with him the rest of his life. He called it “jungle rot” though I think it was some sort of fungal infection on his feet. He was constantly tending to his feet, making sure they were clean, the “rot” inspected and scrapped off daily, and he insisted on white cotton socks with everything he wore, which he sometimes changed several times a day depending on his comfort level. An unfortunate medal of honor to wear for your years of service that Dad blamed on many months of wet feet, wet socks, and wet boots during his time of service. One of my boyfriends was totally fascinated by Dad’s feet and would make sure I was home from our dates when Dad got home from his swing shift work schedule, easy to do with a midnight curfew. He loved to watch Dad tend his feet so much I was surprised he didn’t go into medicine as a career. I have sensitive feet and challenges with my feet make me more than average cranky. It was a relief to be able to solve my plantar fasciitis pain by switching from flip-flops to supportive sport shoes. I can only imagine Dad’s daily foot pain.

There is no one left to ask. All of his generation in my family are gone now. I would like to know if he used the GI Bill to finance the house he raised his family in. I’d like to know if he had any assistance from the Veteran’s Administration other than the one instance I know where he had a little occupational therapy. I would like to know more of his stories. The nurses in attendance to the men in the room during OT told the men they didn’t want to hear their stories. I pitched a fit and gave them a piece of my mind: that even if you’ve heard the story a million times, you listen again politely and patiently. I went to the supervisor as well. I’d love to hear one of his stories now. In his last years he had suffered a stroke and struggled with aphasia, so he couldn’t have told the stories again without the most exhausting effort.

I have a few pictures of the plane he served in. My sis located some of his military entrance and exit papers and the cap he wore while he served still survives. Our kids could not care less about family history, and I see this in so many families I’ve come to believe history might die completely with my generation.

I like to remind Americans though we may not have served in the military, we are in service to our country every day. Military service is complicated, and I would never belittle or denigrate people who have made that hard choice to serve our country in that way; military service people have served in a capacity I never could.

Every-day citizens are in service to our country every day, right here in our neighborhoods and communities; every-day service looks simpler but it’s complicated in its own way because we don’t always recognize it as service. We don’t exist in a vacuum. Everything we do and touch, touches other people when we live in a multi-generational household, a neighborhood, a community, a village, or a society.

When we drive down the road in a responsible manner, following the rules, resisting road rage even when surrounded by other inconsiderate drivers, we are in service to our country.

When we get up and go to work every day we are in service to our country, no matter the type of work.

When we pay taxes for our property, our income, our gasoline, our phones, our roads, our cars, airplane travel, our medicines, and for recreation we are in service to our country.

When we pay our bills, our rent and mortgages, and buy consumer goods we are in service to our country. When we take care of our homes and property we are in service to our country.

When we send our children to public schools we are in service to our country as we support both building/facility investment and human capital investment in teachers, and as we support children who are the future of our country.

When we invest ourselves in higher education whether it be academic or traditional skilled trades like electricians, plumbers, mechanics, and carpenters, we are in service to our country.

When we vote in every election we are in service to our country. When we run for office in school, at city and county and state and federal levels, whether we win or not, we are in service to our country.

When we shop at a farmers market and put our money directly into the hands of the people who grew and harvested and made our food we are acting in service to our country.

When we volunteer with a youth group, or a school, or a non-profit organization we are in service to our country.

When we donate to the local food bank, a community blessing box, a little free library, or a non-profit organization we are in service to our country.

When we offer the lady who was served before us at the food bank a ride home as we see her pack her food into a series of backpacks so she can carry it home if she can wait until we are done with our own food box selection because we have a car and she doesn’t, we are in service to our country. The poor helping the poorer.

When we walk the beaches, or trails, or parks, or city sidewalks and pick up other people’s trash we are in service to our country. When we leave no trace after our picnic or hike or camp-out we are in service to our country.

When we yell at neighbor kids to not bully each other we are in service to our country.

When we listen to the histories of our elders we are in service to our country.

When we listen to the struggles of our young people we are in service to our country.

When we mow the neighbor’s lawn because it needs to be done and we have a few extra minutes to do so without a thought that he will owe us something, we are in service to our country.

When we pay attention to local, national, and world news after a hard day’s work we are in service to our country.

When we stand up for what is right, for human rights, for the health and wealth of all of us we are in service to our country.

Like I told my dad as often as I could after we got older, thank you. I’m grateful for your service. If it weren’t for all we do, we wouldn’t be as good as we are. With all our service, I know we can get better, because we know we are better than the ugly American underbelly that is showing itself in plain sight now.

This Memorial Day spend a few minutes thinking about and remembering the people who have served who have already left this earth. Honor the people who made the tough choice of military service. And honor the rest of those who served every day, on home soil, the ones our soldiers came home to.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Wetlands lupines in Monet shades of pink and blue.

Photo by Sherri Mead

The O’Keefe view of a fully opened pink peony. A pink and orange sherbet rose, valley roses coming on strong right on schedule for the Portland Rose Festival. We called these flame colored spears Indian fire bush when I was a kid and we pretended they were weapons that would burn when tagged with them. So many patches of bright orange California poppies in hellstrips and road dividers.

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.} Gigi (1958, rated G) with Maurice Chevalier, Leslie Caron, and Louis Jourdan, from the novel by Colette, directed by Vincente Minnelli. A period piece about 1890s Paris, I loved the Art Nouveau detailing of the sets, and the Victorian designs of the costumes. The novel was considered radical in its time (1944), the movie was innovative with new Technicolor technology. In 2019, viewed through the #metoo and #timesup lens, it’s creepy and disturbing that both grandma and great-auntie approve a mistress relationship for teen-aged Gigi in the name of money, as the mother is on-site yet vacant, while Gigi holds out for the real prize. 1890, 1944, and 1958 are all past now and indeed they were different times. I’m all about choice, my choice, your choice, without coercion and the only approval needed is mine, but I’m also about dignity. * Rim of the World (2019, rated TV-14), about a group of misfit teens who go to summer camp and the earth is invaded by extraterrestrial aliens. Formulaic and predictable, as the kids learn to work together MacGyver style to defeat the inevitable Hollywood scary version of an alien with spewing goo and millions of teeth and the ability to regenerate, and the good guys prevail in the end. I do like a happy ending. * Once again in need of nearly mindless viewing I find the British Baking shows to be the most calming; there are several versions out now. The garden shows are fun but they represent too much possible, real, and needed work. Baking shows are fun because I don’t eat a lot of sugar or pastry or bread, so when I do I have a better knowledge on which to judge the quality, and no pressure because I’m unlikely to make the treats they do. Since I don’t eat much I want the best for my treat when I do.

Currently ReadingThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017, fiction) by Taylor Jenkins Reid, just started, about an aging glamorous Hollywood star and a young New York writer, and so far seems like good summer reading. Off to a good reading start for the summer. * I am nothing if not persistent and I’m stubborn about finishing so I don’t miss anything. With Just Give Money to the Poor: The Development Revolution from the Global South (2010, world social development) by Armando Barrientos, David Hulme, and Joseph Hanlon, I feel like I’ve read the same dry statistical sentence hundreds of times. It all makes sense but it also feels like so much gobbledygook. Yargh, statistics and my crazy curiosity.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Persistence.
  • The abundance of cleaning. The more I clean the more I find to clean.
  • How comforting it is to hear birds tweeting outside my window every morning to make sure I know the light is changing. Yes, I know they are talking to themselves, but I eavesdrop.
  • The staff at my aquatic center who honor my “old-timers” status (12 plus years) and allow me to work around them and vice versa. More than once they have come to my rescue when I had a leg cramp or a coughing fit. Staff does this for everybody from the smallest crying baby to the least abled of us.
  • My aquatic center being funded through local property taxes so my tax investment stays in my community; that is a tax investment well spent.
  • The neighbor’s seal point Siamese cat who seems to be guarding Mister Kitty’s grave. He’s been sitting there the last couple weeks since Mister has been gone. They were pals, on territorial growling terms at any rate, so perhaps he’s grieving as well.
  • Listening to a heavy spring storm rain through from the coast and knowing my roof doesn’t leak.
  • The son getting some blackberry vines cut back. Such an abundance of vines, and they all need to go.
  • Not my favorite choice because the choices are limited, but when I need it having access to the local food bank sure is helpful to my family’s need to eat every day. At least I have that choice.
  • The hubster who asks before tossing pickle juice (saved for flavoring potato and macaroni salads!).
  • Little green scallions for salads and baked potatoes. I like green onions raw, chopped fine.
  • My first two pints of fresh Oregon strawberries for the season. Sweet Ann variety. Hoods aren’t quite ripe yet. These were picked a day too early but we’ve had rain and they are molding fast. Strawberries are such a delicate, fickle weather fruit. But I’ll take the slight tartness of picked too early to have berries grown within my local area. With them fresh I can afford to have a few more during the summer.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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