Happy Birthday Mom

 Mom III (489x640)

Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday. She would be 86 years old. She died from lung cancer at 73. I miss her. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I guess that’s pretty true of almost anyone that has lost a parent. No matter when. No matter the age. The age of the child or the age of the parent. Doesn’t matter. Parents are greatly missed when they aren’t there anymore.

My mom was what writer’s call a complex character. She would be charming and civil one minute and downright mean the next. But she never meant to be mean, I know that. Most people don’t, it just happens sometimes.

My mom’s mother could be a handful too. Maybe that’s why Mom became a little like my grandmother. Grandma took in laundry to make money to raise three kids. Her husband had left her when my mom was twelve. He came back, but not until Mom was twenty-five and had a child of her own. A little too late you might say. Mom had to hold on to herself in the midst of a depression and a time that wouldn’t tolerate fools or anyone remotely resembling a soft character. I suppose that’s part of it.

So Mom was hard on Dad sometimes. And hard on me and my brother sometimes too. But she made up for it with her dry sense of humor and her quick retorts, her fast comebacks to sass or smart words that I would dish out to her.

And she loved being with people. This seems to be a contradiction to her sometimes melancholy ways. I think she thought of people as her saving grace. I know they thought of her that way.

She was quick to make fun of herself. She made fun of her big hair, her inaptitude at housekeeping and cooking. Her driving skills were somewhat questionable and she knew it.

Her sense of self was very strong. She knew what she wanted and when. Lord help anyone that tried to get in her way, including my dad. She was stubborn that way.

When she died it was on her terms. She told my daughter she would be there for her high school graduation and she was. She made it to her 73rd birthday and had a great time with a lot of friends and relatives where she joked about not having a hat big enough to cover her large bald head. Eleven days later she died. She wasn’t supposed to go that soon. Even hospice said she had a good two or more months to go. But she wouldn’t allow it. She was stubborn that way. And I miss her.

The World and All That

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I get to travel once in a while. I guess you could say if I could travel all the time I think I would and wouldn’t get tired of it. Maybe. Gary and I travel some, but when we do we tend to loop the same places. We love cruising and the Carribbean is the best in our humble opinion. St. Martin’s happens to be one of my happy places. As is St. John’s, St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, Grand Caymen’s…..

I have also been to parts of countries that give me pause. I really don’t know how to express what I see except for the knowledge that for some strange reason (which in my opinion is no reason at all) I drew the lottery. I can’t say how that happened. I think some people believe they drew the winning ticket because they are entitled, pre-ordained, or have some type of purpose. I just feel lucky. And when we all queued at the starting gate, well, we were on equal footing. No one started sooner or later. And it didn’t matter how hard we ran, how fast, or where, we didn’t really have a say in where we landed. We just did.

I hope I get to travel more. I want to see all this planet has to offer. I’m older now and not sure that I can see as much as I would like but I am going to try. If for any other reason than it makes me realize how crazy, wonderful, and special life really is. And I hope to see you along the way!

In Search of Dragons

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Last night I watched Game of Thrones. Yes, current season’s Episode 9. I plummeted to the depths watching Shireen Baratheon die as she was sacrificed to the Lord of Lights and later I soared along with Daenerys Targaryen on the back of her dragon.  

This is what “Game” does.  The unexpected.  Okay, sometimes they lay the groundwork (as in the case of Shireen) and sometimes, more often than not, I find myself saying “I didn’t see that coming”, as in the case of Daenerys and her dragon or as I watched the Red Wedding.

Life is so much like that. Some days are very predictable. Or unpredictable as we find ourselves chasing dragons and not flying with them.  Some days we can’t catch a break and find ourselves thrown into prison like Cersei. Maybe not literally but it can seem like it.

And some days we triumph, we soar. 

So, on that note, here is a list of life lessons I have learned from watching GOT:

  • Appreciate good weather.
  • Watch your back, especially with royalty.
  • Don’t be a hypocrite, you just might end up in jail.
  • In battle find a nice big giant. Believe me, they are a must have this season.
  • Do not accept food from a stranger.
  • Have your wedding in a public place. During the daylight hours. Have a weapons scanner at the entrance.
  • And most important, if you come across very large eggs, incubate them!

OVERWHELMED

Overwhelmed

Here are just a few things I would like to do as of now: 

  • book a trip to Argentina
  • book a trip to New Orleans
  • help my daughters in every way possible
  • help my daughters without bugging them
  • book a trip anywhere
  • lose ten pounds
  • mow the lawn
  • fix a good dinner – for a nice change of pace
  • finish my book
  • eat a good dinner elsewhere
  • get the laundry done
  • volunteer
  • volunteer
  • volunteer, yeah three times – once for each organization
  • make a mean salad with crabmeat, greens, gruyere, and honey balsamic  vinaigrette
  • oh, and volunteer
  • makeover my bedroom
  • be there for my husband
  • be there for my friends
  • know when to be there for my friends
  • know when to be there for my husband – I know when that is – after 40 years we both can make that perfectly clear
  • shred the pounds of stuff in my office that needs shredding
  • read “Anna Karenina” once and for all
  • go on another wine trip with my daughters
  • bake healthy cookies

And this is just the start!  A few years ago I retired – well, semi anyway.  I thought I would have some time to do things.  Hah!  Maybe it’s because I do things that I don’t have time…or something like that. 

I am overwhelmed.  Google’s definition of overwhelmed involves three interpretations of the word:

  • bury or drown beneath a huge mass
  • defeat completely
  • give too much of a thing to (someone); inundate

Being buried or drowned is not a good thing.  Nor is being defeated, completely defeated.

We are all guilty of it.  At least most of the people I know.  The first thing a person says when you see them again after a long period and you ask how they are has to do with being busy. “I am just so busy” or “Life is crazy right now.”  We never stop.  We always have lists, plans, agendas, to-do lists, goals, and schedules.  But after all that stuff, the rushing, the planning, the doing, where are we?  Have we gotten what we wanted?  Or even more of a question – did we know what it actually was that we wanted.  Or right now – do we know what it is that we want?

Oh sure, when I finally get to visit my daughter in Argentina after I make the plans to do so I will be very happy.  And when I finally finish my book I will feel a great sense of accomplishment.  But then, after Argentina will I sit back and enjoy the memories? Or will I rush to the next thing?  After my last sentence is complete in my story what then?  Will I let myself enjoy the achievement of finishing an actual book?  Or will I be hard on myself and criticize every little sentence I wrote?

Therefore, I choose the last definition of overwhelmed.  “Give too much of a thing to (someone), inundated.”  I interpret “someone” as being me.  I also withdraw the “too” from “Give much of a thing”. And in this instance I narrow “a thing” to the most important thing, life.  This makes the definition “Give much of life to me.” 

So, let’s make that the new definition of overwhelm, give much of life to me.  I want to stop feeling buried or drowned by all these things to do.  I choose to feel inundated, overwhelmed by much of life – given to me.

Cowboys and Quicksand

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There used to be a childhood fear among my set when I was growing up.  The fear of quicksand.  For some reason, many of the television shows, especially Westerns, during that period included at least one scene where a villain or a hero was up to his (always his) waist in quicksand and sinking fast.  If the fast sinking character was lucky the star of the show (most of the time) would grab a thick tree limb, a rifle, or a rope and drag them out in time.  If the scared person wasn’t lucky the quicksand would swallow them whole, but slowly so that the viewer would see the top of the head as the sand overtook them and they sank to the depths of god knows what.

If,  we as neighbor kids that loved those old shows were lucky, right after one of those action packed, trigger happy episodes, it may have rained.  We then looked for the deepest mud we could find and one of us would be the fortunate or unfortunate depending upon how you looked at it, one to leap into the ‘quicksand’ or mud.  Of course one of the rest of us would be the hero of the day and lend a broomstick (always a broomstick, we couldn’t get our rifles dirty) and help the poor fella out of the situation.  But it would take a while as we acted out all sorts of crazy drama before the heroic scene.  Unless it was dinner time, then we’d hurry and get the crazy sucker out.

My husband and I watched a documentary last night on public television, “Rich Hill”.  The doc was about three boys living in a small town and their day-to-day lives.  Their living conditions were not good, their parents or guardians either brought down by hard times or health concerns, their isolation in their situations almost too much to witness.  But at times during the film a glimpse could be gathered of a smile, a laugh, kind gestures, and even love. 

It was a very sad yet poignant portrayal of a cataclysmic problem that doesn’t only exist in this small town.  This scene is played out over and over again in small and large towns throughout the states and of course, the world.  Caught up in a gathering multi layered thickness of quicksand children everywhere experience an endless cycle of poverty, loneliness, misunderstanding, and dismissal.  The only way to pull them out is to lend something to hold on to.  And not get stuck with them in the process.  Is society up to the task?  And if so, how long will it take?  Can we get them out before they, and consequently, we are consumed by the sand?

My Bucket List Fell Over

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I had a bucket list.  It was full of great stuff.  Like eating ice cream while I swam the English Channel.  Making an igloo in my backyard, which can only be accomplished during one of two of the really frozen tundra days we have here in the Midwest.  Memorizing the constitution.  Now, before it is changed.  Then, there is my favorite, sky gliding while eating ice cream (ice cream is in there a lot), and at the same time taking a selfie for my Facebook post. 

That leads me to how my bucket list fell over.  I was just getting to number 23 on my list, jogging through the Grand Canyon while eating ice cream, when I had an overwhelming thought.  Well, actually, a one-word thought.  STOP!  And then, following that word came this:

Isn’t life just one huge bucket list?  Every day we have some sort of bucket we have to carry or take something from.  Like today, my bucket list consisted of talking to roofers, unloading the dishwasher, reading the paper and news reports online.  Charging my phone, going to a meeting – no two, and fixing chicken fajitas for dinner.  But it also included talking to my daughters about their days over the phone, listening to a friend’s predicament – just listening, chatting over dinner with my husband, drinking some very good wine and reading a chapter or two in a great book.  Also watching a hawk soar and dive in the sky right outside my back window.  So, yeah, my bucket list fell over.  I suppose at the end of every day my bucket list falls over.  And I’m pretty glad that it does.  Because the next day it’s empty and ready to be filled again.

Class

Class

Certain circumstances in life cause many to go back in time to a quote, a movie scene, or dialogue in a novel.  For me, right now, I remember something the advice columnist Ann Landers wrote many years ago.  She addressed the issue of class with this (pardon me) classic column:

 Class by Ann Landers:

 Class never runs scared. It is surefooted and confident that it can handle whatever comes  along.

 Class has a sense of humor.  It knows that a good laugh is the best lubricant for oiling the  machinery of human relations.

 Class never makes excuses. It takes it lumps and learns from past mistakes.

 Class knows good manners are nothing more than a series of petty sacrifices.

 Class bespeaks an aristocracy unrelated to ancestors or money.  A blueblood can be  totally without class while the son of a Welsh miner may ooze class from every pore.

 Class can “walk with kings and keep its virtue and talk with crowds and keep the common  touch.” Everyone is comfortable with the person who has class because he/she is  comfortable with him/herself.

  I love this definition of class.  I also have my own version:

 As stated in the first description class is strength.  A person with class stands tall in the face of adversity.  They may be jello on the inside, but to all but their closest friends and family you would never know it.

Class builds up.  A person with class can see the better part of another person and relate from there.

Class admits mistakes. A person with class is not afraid to tell someone that she/he was wrong, no matter the cost. 

Class does not use its influence for selfish gain.  A person with class gives to their community, their friends and family.  I’m not talking about financially, but giving of themselves with genuine empathy and understanding.

I definitely don’t radiate class.  I know that.  I try as do most people I know. We try.  And it’s in the trying that you reach some sort of achievement.  The epitome of class eludes me.  The sincere relentless and resolute attempt is ongoing.

What’s Your BEST?

lasagna

One of my favorite movies is “The Way We Were.”  I don’t believe there is a scene in that movie that I dislike.  I love Hubbell (who wouldn’t? It’s Redford for Christ’s sake).  And I adore K-K-K-Katie (have to know this move to get that). Streisand and Redford shoot sparks in each scene.  Their onscreen chemistry is evident from the first time you see Katie watching Hubbell nap while he’s leaning on a bar during a cocktail party. But one scene that stands out in my mind involves Redford as Hubbell and Bradford Dillman as J.J.  They banter back and forth using the topic ‘best’, as in best year. The game ends when Hubbell suggests through the ‘bests’ his love for Katie.

My daughters and I used to play a game similar to this quite often.  When we were traveling by car for instance or when they were sick.  Or just hanging out. Our ‘best’ would be best cookie or best Sesame Street character.  I’m sure everybody has a version of this game.  It’s fun.  And pretty simple.  But it does sometimes reveal things about someone that we never knew.  That is what makes the game interesting.

I don’t know that any of my ‘bests’ would be considered that interesting but I’m willing to find out.  Or, to see if I can get a list going of bests.  That being said, as some of my posts from now on I am going to feature a best.  Be it BEST cookie, BEST year, or BEST selfie.  So, c’mon readers (amazingly I do have a few!) please comment by telling me your bests and tell us why.

My first BEST is going to be food.  That’s right.  Food across the board – doesn’t matter what type. I am a food junkie.  And a lot of my favorites are greasy, fattening, or completely boring.  Keep in mind I am married to a wonderful man from the Midwest.  We have the best foods here.  Some are very healthy but a lot are just really bad for you.  Who cares?  If eaten with discriminate taste buds, bad foods can be good! This favorite food is not sweet – that will come later.  Because believe me, sugar is one of the six food groups (yeah, not five in my book!).

My BEST food is LASAGNA! I love it!  And it is one of about three dishes that I can make.  And do well.  I load it with cheese; ricotta (full not skim), parmesan, gobs of mozzarella. Of course ground beef and hot breakfast sausage and plenty of noodles.  The thing weighs about ten pounds when it is ready for the oven. I like to order lasagna in restaurants but I don’t very often.  After all, it is tremendously fattening and I happen to like my own pretty well anyway.  There’s just something about tomato-y Italian seasoned sauce, all that cheese and really good greasy hamburger and sausage.  What better way to clog your arteries is there?

So, what is your favorite food?  And, what would you like to see as a BEST category for future posts? Meanwhile, get out there and make your own BEST.  After all, that’s what it’s all about, right?

 

Windows

 window blog

Sometimes when I write I am perched upstairs at a desk in our second story home office.  Outside my window I can see quite a distance. And also, in very close view is a – what I think of as beautiful – tree.  It’s not really big or grand, but it has a beautiful shape to it and spreads out across the neighbor’s yard yielding quite a bit of shade.  The tree is just a part of a picture that is calming and tranquil.  And I love it.

When I am in a plane on my way to any place I always want the window seat.  I love looking out at the sky, clouds, and down at the world.  Wondering where the tiny cars are going, who lives in the cul de sacs, farmhouses, and tall apartment buildings.  At night the scene is even more brilliant or dark depending upon if we are over a large city or country.  And as we approach our destination be it home or some great vacation spot it’s with anticipation that I view the world from the tiny window.

When going to visit our youngest daughter in approaching her house and pulling into her driveway; her dog, our grandpup, always thrusts her front paws upon the window sill and she looks out at us.  Prejudiced maybe but she is the cutest dog in the world and although you can’t see it you know her tail is wagging like crazy.

When I was probably about six years old my mom decided that she, my brother, and I would take the train to visit my grandma out of town for a couple of weeks.  My dad took us to the train station and I remember hugging him really hard thinking about how much I would miss him while we were gone.  As the train left the city, my mom, brother, and I saw him through our train seat window.  He had drove to a nearby parking lot at which he knew the route would take us.  Standing outside the car he waved and blew kisses at us as the train went by.  That scene plays out in my mind from time to time when I miss him now.  Once in a while we still drive by that parking lot for whatever reason and I remember the train window and his standing there waving goodbye. And blowing kisses.

My oldest daughter decided to go away to college.  I was delighted for her and we helped her move to the college town as it was only about 100 miles away.  She came back home to stay the weekend after we got all her things placed in her dorm room.  Then Sunday came along and it was time for her to go.  We hugged and I was fine.  She said I’ll see you soon and I was fine.  She got in her car and waved from inside.  Seeing her through the car window waving and driving gave me a pain that felt like a sharp large woodsman’s axe just cut my heart in two.  I wasn’t fine.

Windows are a way to see the world and what’s in it while waiting to participate.  Windows provide a sanctuary though only temporarily.  In looking through windows we can anticipate, dream, or just take it all in.  Windows are like pictures.  They provide a story.  We fill in the blanks.

One more window.  That is the fast food window at my local drive-in restaurant.  I know.  It’s not good for you, chockfull of fat and calories, etc., etc. However, on some given days seeking that smiling face handing me god knows what kind of concoction I ordered (popcorn chicken, jalapeno poppers, fried chicken snack wrap) in a cheery white sack is all I need. That and a clear car windshield window to see out of as I drive home to snack and watch quality TV, The Real Housewives of Whatever from the window of all windows, the television set.

Shopping the Perimeter

Grocery cart

It is a well-known fact that in order to lead a healthy life one must eat fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish.  Okay, maybe some legumes/nuts, certain grains (quinoa is currently having its fifteen minutes), and well, tea – black, green, maybe burnt sienna. 

 In the arena of grocery store shopping those health enthusiasts tell us to shop the perimeter of the store.  There you will find the fresh vegetables and fruits.  You will also find the fish and meat counter where all varieties of protein-laden foods are displayed and easily purchased.

 Oh, but stay away from the middle.  Do not venture into the land of crackers, cookies, chips, and cake mixes.  You will only find decadence and folly there.  And, you will not come out of the place unscathed.  Because you see, you will be forever sullied and will live a life of regret, with chocolate or peanut butter smeared on your face.  Like the mark of the Little Debbie God, or Goddess I suppose.

 Okay, you know where I’m going with this don’t you?  That’s right, a bad analogy.  But that is what I do best, bad analogies.  So, here goes.  Consider life as a grocery store.  Auntie Mame had a much better analogy, “Life is a banquet!”  Right?  So, I am not too far off.

 Besides, grocery store shopping is a great experience.  One of life’s best.  There are so many foods, drinks, people, choices, and paper goods.  Life IS like that.  Full of choices, foods, people, and all kinds of paper; red tape, forms, mail, paper towels. 

 In this grocery store called life you grab your cart, never a basket, because you have so much to load up on.  If life is a banquet I want color from the salad bar, saltiness from the salsa and chips, seasoning from the jerk chicken, and variety from the cheese station.  I must have a bit of sour taste from oil and vinegar and I most definitely want sweet from the desserts.  I dare say I am not going to only shop the perimeter. 

 So, don’t make me choose between cauliflower and gelato.  I know I need balance.  But a balanced diet for me is a balance between the stuff that is good for me and the stuff that is just good.  It’s that way in life.  Auntie Mame also said after “Life is a banquet” this gem; “and most poor suckers are starving to death.”  You won’t starve to death by shopping the perimeter of a store or life for that matter, but you definitely will be missing out.  On ice cream and living.