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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This Wide World

I just saw something a friend sent me in an e-mail about a young man who was born blind and crippled. He can play the piano so as to bring the most hardened stoic to tears. He claims not to be handicapped and he has a father whom only God could have sent. I won't go into his story here but I was so touched by it that I'm sitting here by the computer trying to express my feelings. I am in awe.

This friend, who often sends me inspiring videos on U Tube, is a gentle, quiet Korean Christian man I met in one of my writing classes. We're no longer in class together, but I'm getting to know him because of a book he's written. He too just started a blog.

Since I looked into the idea of blogs I've started following another by a middle-aged American couple, my former son-in-law and his new wife, who are spending a year in Italy. He writes in it every day. I'm hooked.

There are tines when I get stuck at the computer and have to tear myself away, but I try to avoid too many of those. Still, it is marvelous to be living in this age. Marvelous, yet scary. It seems to me that my quiet life can become overcrowded with options on this device sitting so passively on my desk. Between it and the other one across the room (the television) the world is closing in on me. I'm feeling almost like I'd graduated from kindergarten to being a space traveller. I can see the world, zoomed in or out,with the bare touch of a button or two. It makes me feel so small to know that what I see and all I have seen of life is a mere speck of all that exists!

Back to the young man I started this piece with. They say he is blind, but I think he sees better than many of the rest of us. He can't walk on his legs but he marches at half time with the college band, pushed in a wheelchair by his dad and playing the trumpet like the angel, Gabriel. Yes, his father? One look at him and you know this young man is blessed to have a father like that! Now, I'm thinking. If we all knew our Father, God better, how blessed we would be!

I've been sitting here for two hours and suddenly I need to escape into the refuge of sleep. There is a kind of bliss in sleep where I can rest my mind, and yet even there I'm apt to find other worlds, other people, other marvels. I'm still thinking of that young man whose eyes see, not as ours, and although they are made of marble, they look incredulous when he's asked what it feels like to be so handicapped. "Handicapped?" The word is foreign to him and he smiles broadly. You just know he is seeing something wonderful. How could he know the answer to that?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

To Be An Antique

What is it like to be an antique? You'll find out, if you're as fortunate as I am to become one. My granddaughter gave me a small decorative satin pillow with embroidered words on it. They say, "Grandmothers are antique little girls." The sentiment fits me. I feel like a little girl inside and look like an antique on the outside, (albeit, a rather well-preserved one, if I do say so.)

History was never my strong subject in school but now that I've lived through a goodly portion of it I find it more interesting. I'll read of something, say in the mid-20's of the last century, and think, Where was I then? Well, I was being born. Soon after that event someone took a picture of me, just the face. I wore a quizzical look common to newborns. Under the picture Mother wrote, "What is the little one thinking about? Very wonderful things, no doubt!"

I can't recall those "wonderful things," but I suspect they were carry-overs from my prior life. Perhaps I was trying to connect them with that new life in which I'd been so rudely catapulted. Maybe I'd been through a transition as drastic as the tree's when it turned into a table. Well, that didn't happen by itself. Something, someone, or many someones, made it happen. In the case of the tree, it was the logger and the craftsman. In my case, parents and their forebears had a lot to do with it. But there you have it. It happened, either by intent or accident. Take your pick. I choose the former.

Now, the mind or minds that brought about that change? That's a whole other story. And going back eons before the mid-20's, Who and What brought about the birth of the stars from which we're said to come? Could these changes have happened all by themselves, or did a grand Creator think them up? From stardust to an antique little girl, Who had a hand in all of this? And what drastic changes went on between then and now? Even more unfathomable is the question, What next? or what of the eons hence?

I'm still not a history student, but as the little girl I once was, resting on a blanket out on the lawn on a hot summer's night, looking up at the stars and wondering what it's all about, so here am I, still wondering. Incidentally, no matter if you're a little great grand-baby inside your mommy's womb, you're thinking about something. What, I don't know, but you are, and when you're born you'll need to get busy and think some more! "Very wonderful things, no doubt!"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Work Ethics

When I was a girl of fourteen my mother died. My dad owned a country gas station in Southern Minnesota where our house also stood. I had two younger brothers, eleven and five. Since my dad was literally at home every day he could carry on his business and be there for us kids. We had a housekeeper but I didn’t like her much and told my father that I’d like to take over her job. Mother had taught me well how to keep house, do the laundry, and cook. Daddy agreed and gave me the job. I missed my mother but kept her near in thought as an angel. As for me, I had a job!

Daddy wasn’t one to give us allowances. The country was still in the Great Depression and money was tight, but we had an agreement. He would leave a few bills under the scarf on top of the piano. When I needed money for any reason I’d go there. (The boys didn’t know about that!) Soon I was old enough to drive and felt proud that I could shop for the family and still have enough to treat myself to a few girly purchases. That was the beginning of my work ethic and it served me well all my life. When I married at nineteen it was quite the same. Through the years I rarely worked outside the home but family finances were worked out between my husband and me. I may have looked longingly at the Help Wanted section of the paper once in a while but found home and children to be quite enough to handle. I developed hobbies along the way, did some reading, and gardening. All in all, I was quite content to be my own boss at home and my home was my castle. I loved it. Still do.

My husband had worked as a bus boy in a famous Minneapolis restaurant when he went to high school and college but the war drew him into the service and he became a career Marine officer and fighter pilot. He took great pride in being “One of a Few Good Men” and retired after 23 years to go into a twenty year second career as a minister for the armed forces.

Wally G., as we called him, had a bit of the private enterprise bug in him that showed up in his fatherly advice to the children. His policy, when they asked for things that cost money, was this: “Sure, you can have it. Just as soon as you earn the money to pay for it.” He was not being stingy. It was a matter of making ends meet on retired pay and the minimal pay he got for his ministerial work. But he was delighted to help the kids get started working and even set them up in a little business that eventually grew to provide most of their college expenses.

I’ll never forget the time Wally K. wanted to mow the lawn. He was about ten then and we lived on a country estate which we’d got for the bargain sum of $150. a month. It was a big house put together with two other houses during the building halt during the war. The landlord had let us have it with this stipulation: “You treat it like your own. I want the rent, but you pay for all the upkeep, fix-its, and lawn care." The latter was quite a deal because the “lawn” was about two acres! Still, the job was made palatable by the fact that the owner provided a sit-down mower.

At breakfast one morning, Wally K. said, “Dad, can I drive the mower by myself today?” Wally G. had been letting our elder son ride with him and even steer the mower, but he could barely reach the gas pedal and hadn’t done the job alone.

Wally G. took a sip of coffee and said. “Do you think you’re ready, son?” The little boy’s eyes lit up and he practically popped out of his chair. “You bet, Dad!”

“Would you be willing to pay me 10 cents to do it?”

“Sure!” There hadn’t been a moment’s hesitation.

“OK,” Wally G. said, “but here’s the deal: 1. once you start you don’t get off the mower until you’ve finished. 2. you do a good job, no fooling around going in circles and such. 3. you pay me 10 cents out of your allowance for the first five times and then, if you want to keep the job, I’ll give you back your 50 cents and fifty cents to boot. After that you get one dollar per job so long as you abide by the rules.”

“Wow! Can I start today?” Thus began an exemplary career ending in a six figure salary, but starting with jobs like taking orders in a hamburger stand, bell hop at a high class hotel, renting binoculars business, college, a 28 year career as an Air Force pilot, several more years in commercial piloting, and finally as an official in the FAA.

Second son, David, always tried the one-up-man-ship game with Wally K. but soon proved himself by becoming a Naval officer, an inventor, and a high tech computer designer. He’s still at it and doing exceedingly well.

Our daughter, Robin, wanted to be an artist. “Well,” her dad said, “You may learn that a lot of artists are what they call ‘starving artists,’ but if that’s what you want to do, go for it, and be one of the best!” Robin, too, had her share of menial jobs, like cleaning out horse stalls, sweeping the floor at a beauty shop, and a short stint as a chamber maid at a hotel. When she got fired from that, her boss said, “Robin, you are made for better things than this. You are a natural artist. Give it a try.” And she did. She is today a well-known water colorist and she’s not starving!

Others I’ve known have given their kids all they want, or as much as they can afford. It’s one way, and I’m not saying it’s wrong. Had we had the money, we may have gone that route too, but as it was, we and our children have done things the good old American way, by hard work, humility, imagination and ambition. So much for “Work “Ethics, 101.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Inching Along

You're probably familiar with the old saying, "Yard by yard life is hard; but inch by inch it's a cinch!" We've also been told not to forget to "stop and smell the roses." More recently, Simon & Garfunkel reminded us to "Slow down, you go too fast; you've got to make the morning last."

Well, morning, noon or night I've instinctively heeded those adages. Yet, like the majority of us, I haven't made history. Is that good or bad? I'm not sure. I think that we of the older generation would do well just to keep moving in the right direction, only slower.

Yesterday I went to a baby shower for my granddaughter, Jennifer, and her husband, Luis, who are due to have a baby boy in a couple of weeks or so. Their young friends who sat at the table next to me asked if I had joined any senior clubs. "No, not yet," I said, "I'm reluctant to join anything in which the only thing I'd have in common with the others would be age." Thinking I should defend that statement, I went on. "It's hard to feel special in a group of oldsters. They often talk too much about their ailments, as if that were the most interesting thing they can share. Who needs to hear about that? It seems to prompt a game of one-up-man-ship, and before long there's a whole buffet of medical miseries on the table. Nothing, to me, could be more down-ish!" They agreed, and then, to re-enforce the idea, I added, "On the other hand, some like to recount their former exalted positions in life. I suppose that too is a downer for me because I can't begin to compete." Then I turned the conversation to them. "Tell me about yourselves," I said. Both working. No children yet. Families? Yes, always a good topic.I couldn't help admiring their youth, intelligence and wholesome good looks. It's refreshing to be with young people.

My social life is rather limited these days. It's the way I like it. I get to stay at home and putz around doing what I like. Still, occasionally a class with the emeritus program at Saddleback College is fun. Just finished one in clay slipcasting. Robin and I love our writing class on Thursdays. And I do enjoy the once a week bridge game over at the senior center. On Sundays I usher at the front door of church and that's pleasant.

I enjoy a motherly, grandmotherly and great-grandmotherly position in my family, and can keep up a decent conversation with the younger generations. It makes me feel special. As for work? Since I'm not a joiner I keep in touch with the world with a couple of daily newspapers and TV. When I feel like it, I do a bit of clay sculpting, sewing, and, of course, there's the ever-present job of keeping house. I used to enjoy reading novels but now-a-days I read more non-fiction. And I write blogs as well as keep a journal. It's enough.

There's a good deal to be said for believing that life is eternal and that every day is a taste of eternity. My choices are wide but not demanding. I feel connected, appreciated and grateful. Now, if I joined a seniors' club? I don't know how I could work that in. But options are always open, and, in the meantime I am a happy inch-worm just inching along day by day. To me, that's the only way to go.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Conception Is An Everyday Thing

It's happening all the time, this thing called conception. We take what's given to us and make something of it. Those two postulates form the basis of all life's conditions.

Now that I've said this, my "other" self is saying, "Yeah, so what?" Well, starting with myself, I have a fairly good idea of what and who I am, my strong points and shortcomings. Others may think what they will about me but there's no one who knows me better than myself. In a sense, every moment of my life I am conceiving myself, my feelings, my place, my intentions, my very being. I can't help it. I'm gestating a new/old "me" every minute of my life. This is not as in human reproduction where a mother and father have much to do with it. I graduated from that stage as I grew up and became my own person.

To continue, I'm looking around my house and thinking how like my mental house it is. I try to keep it clean but there are hidden corners that need to be exposed, purged, re-arranged. This happened day before yesterday. I'd engaged some rug cleaners to come in and clean my bedroom carpet and the living room area rug. That meant I needed to pull everything occupying the floor of my closet out as well as all moveable objects on the rest of the carpet and rug. The house looked like chaos had struck! Two guys burst in the door with their big equipment, a sales pitch for up-grading, a clip-board to sign away the agreed payment, and in a half hour the place had been "sanitized, steam cleaned, and Scotch guarded." I had to live in a mess until the rugs dried and this was not pleasant. I need to be able to look around my dwelling and be pleased by what I see as much as any artist needs to look at his work and like it. Yesterday, putting things away again was a slow process, but now that it's done and things are in better order than before, I'm happy.

One change that took place was this: a three-way dressing table mirror, not too large, was sitting way back in the closet. I got it out and put it on my desk. Now as I work at the computer I can see the living room as if I were looking through a window. I always have enjoyed mirror views of things. A grocery bag full of old photographs, also found on the closet floor, reminded me that I need to get busy on my memoir with pictures that Wally K. has been urging me to write. I've brought it out near the desk so it will jog me into action. A couple of smaller area rugs have been put in different places. Now I see them in a new light.

The point of all this is that getting older is getting better because I have time to ponder the insignificant and make it significant enough to feature it in print. In the process I've conceived of a fresher and newer me. I feel obliged now to let my little mirror prove that.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Shadowy Encounter

When I go walking with Katie’s little Chihuahua dog I enjoy the sniffing stops Dolce makes in our way along Quail Creek. They give me a time to take in the incredible beauty of our midtown retreat. The other day I saw my shadow on the path. It loomed tall and I thought, How often I don’t see my shadow because I don’t think about it. This time I paused to take a better look.

Nothing much to say about it except that it got me to thinking. What if, on any sunny day, I were to look for and not see my shadow? That could be disconcerting, to say the least! It would be a case of noonday or doomsday. My shadow expresses the "real" me inaccurately, but at least it says that I am there.

If all I knew about my shape, size and substance, were what the shadow tells me, I’d be in a sorry fix! As it is, my shadow is just a friendly companion who gets little attention, even though it changes, gets distorted, and lies about the “real” me all the time. I don’t get disturbed over that temporary misrepresentation of me. It doesn’t hurt me a bit. It can’t even exist as a shadow except when my body is present.

I’ve been told that my fleshly body is not the real me but a kind of shadow of me. That’s a thought I’ve pondered often. So, does that mean I am so engrossed in this shadow-body I can’t see my true embodiment? Could these three dimensions be giving me as limited and false an idea of myself as the two-dimensional shadow? Could it be that educated beliefs are all that stand in the way of seeing myself in another dimension that is closer to the truth?

Now, if it is true that my present sense of body is a mere shadow of me, then I’ve got some figuring to do. I ask myself, What if everything I’ve ever learned about my body is as false as the shadow of it? What if my body is only a temporal representation of my presence rather than my true substance? What if it is a mere phenomenon, such as my shadow?

Here is a real stickler of a question: What if it isn't a case of "mind over matter," but rather, Mind instead of matter? How out of the box is that?

Now, I’m just postulating here, but we can see how often in the past humanity has got it wrong as to the truth of things. In major ways too, like the flat earth, the rotations of sun and planets, all the superstitions and follies of the ages. Is it so hard to imagine that we may outgrow this amazing, but false, concept of body we think of as our fleshly identity?

These thoughts are not new to me, but it's time I lift them up to a more practical application. I've cherished them as theory, now I need to give practicality and proof more priority. That time comes with every theory. Letting go of old beliefs can be painful, but hanging on would be like a living death, the death that is sometimes described as "a long rut."

I read and think, and read some more. I find clues in some of the books I’m reading. I talk it over with a few close ones. We speculate, imagine, try on ideas like garments, wonder. Alone in the early morning hours when the world is still asleep and there’s not much my shadow-body can do, I read and think again. It's like a new world I'm exploring and trying to understand just as an infant must do. I pick up The Holy Bible and, as always, it speaks to me. The Psalmist is singing on a distant hillside as he watches his sheep. I sit down beside him to listen and like what he says:

“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”
Psalms 17:15

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bloggers' Bog, or Bloggers' Boost?

Nobody told me when I started blogging that it might become an addiction. That’s a popular word these days and it rarely means something good. Bog is not a good word either, but it goes with blog. I like alliteration. Since few people are addicted to reading my blogs, I feel free to ramble on about nothing in particular just to amuse myself.

I’m sitting at my new desk. It’s new only in the change of position I’ve given it. Now I’m not facing into the room but I have a couple of mirrors that enable me to see some of the room behind me as I type. One is a hand mirror I brought in specifically to capture the view of my little glass-top coffee table with three lit candles on it. They look so cheery with the red curtains keeping out the California sunshine. This way I’m not tempted to be drawn out to the patio.

Once I get this blog off my chest I’ll likely start my housekeeping chores. I am in love with my “Robatta” (see earlier chapter,) but she’s still a dream waiting to come true. I am my own robot these days. I cannot simply snap my fingers and order a robot around. Would that she could be like our cabin boy aboard ship. Never had to tell him what to do. And he always came when we were out, so that was an added perk. My robot, once I’ve bought her and trained her, could be quite invisible too. I’d provide a closet for her lined with mirrors and fresh books to read. Anything to keep her happy. I’d not like to come home and find her sipping coffee in my favorite chair! One shouldn’t become too friendly with the “help.” (The mere mention of that politically incorrect word sends up red flags of discontent in the future world. Can’t you just see it now? “Robotic Liberation!” Then “Robots for Domination,” then I’d be supporting “Human Liberation.” Oh, my! What will the future bring?)

Today I talked with my son, Wally, and his wife, Nancy, who live in Virginia. We are thinking of arranging a vacation in Williamsburg in April on my time share plan. Robin and Paul may come too. I seem to have got beyond my stay-at-home phobia and am raring to go, so long as it isn’t tomorrow. Feeling well again is making me new again.

Well, you see, you out there who bother to read my blogs, blogging might bog you down for a time, but I think I’ve just proved that it can also boost you up. So right now I’m re-naming this piece as you will see in its title. Hurray, Happy Fellow Bloggers!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

One Way to Extend a Vacation

Extend a vacation? It's not the easiest way, but it can be rather nice. Catch a cold. If I wanted to start the year out as a lazy lump I could think of better ways, but this one makes it excusable. Last Friday my bridge partner was obviously struggling with a cold. I felt sorry for him. So sorry, in fact, that I must have unconsciously tried to "help" him by taking on the burden. I know better than this, but I was lazy about it and that's all those little bugs needed to barnstorm my mental and physical domain. All week I've been suffering symptoms I'd rather not name. At the same time, however, I've found myself free to take an at-home vacation from usual obligations. That part is rather nice.

One other pleasant part is the weather. Sunny, and in the high seventies. Chamber of Commerce weather for a Southern California winter. When I was a seven year old living in Minnesota, I remember getting a Christmas card from my grandmother who lived in California. It had a picture of Santa Claus wading in the surf wearing a one-piece red bathing suit! I was both shocked and delighted. Bare and boney legs, but big tummy and white beard and mustache. It was Santa, all right. Then when I was eleven we moved to Laguna Beach and I saw for myself how winter can be a most pleasant time of year. I was sitting out on my patio a few minutes ago, soaking up the sun and basking beside our burbling creek. Even with a sniffly nose I was nearly envious of myself!

Inside now, I'm glad that my neighbors here are not the kind that drop in willy nilly. So I can still be comfy in sweat pants and sweat shirt, my hair uncombed and sans make-up. I'm due for a shower and shampoo but there's no one around to tell me that should have happened this morning. In my more advanced years I've finally tamed that conscience of mine. She has become almost like lazy old me and I love her for it!

Lest I slide into complete decadence I have been curtailing my appetite for chocolates. The candy bar counter in my kitchen allows me to go wild with choices of my favorites but one piece a day is my limit and I'm quite good at sticking to that. Not my conscience, but the spectre of FAT keeps me disciplined there.

Now I'm wondering who really cares about all this. Is it worth a blog? Someday, no doubt, I'll range through these blogs and in a school teacher mode I'll grade them. If this one gets an "F" I know now how to delete it. Who knows, I may even delete them all! But before I get to feeling too reckless I'd better sign off. I'll tackle those dishes in the kitchen sink, run the vacuum over the living room rug and make my bed. Then I'll shower and shampoo, get dressed and feel almost human again. I'm feeling grateful and good and glad. Even normal. I do believe the cold is giving up on me! No more excuses, girl, your home vacation is about over.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!


I used to make long lists of resolutions on New Year’s Day. It felt so good, transferring those unfinished aims of the old year to a new year. Now I’ve discovered that it’s more fun to let resolutions hang around my mind like friends who give me leeway and don’t hassle. When resolutions stare at me on paper they foster guilt trips and end up in the trash. One day’s good intentions, written on the mind, are easier to handle.

Now it’s New Year’s Day and I’m ready to tuck my Christmas decorations into the old suitcase where I found them. I’ve decided to leave a few decorations up, at least for a while to remind me to keep the spirit of Christmas in the new year. A music box clock chiming out Christmas carols on the stroke of every hour. A garland of greenery on top of the china cabinet with its string of lights creeping through it. But my beautiful little tree has to go out to the dumpster. It’s sad to think how carefully it was nurtured only to give up its young life for the joy of others.

Holidays, once the stress of preparing for them and the cleaning up afterward is over, give a special afterglow when they’ve been spent in the spirit of “Peace on earth, good will to all.” Today I’ve met several strangers who wished me a “Happy New Year!” Would it seem any less special to think of every day as a New Year’s Day?