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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Minding My Own Business

“Mind your own business” is probably the best advice we can give ourselves. How long does it take us to learn that? In my case, and in most everyone’s I suspect, it takes a lifetime. I’m finding excellent help in that regard. First: Know who’s boss. 

Is it you? Is it God? Is it someone else or no one at all? That’s your decision, but whatever you decide, you do work for your boss. I call my boss “Good.” I think that name best represents what I can believe. Ask any atheist too, and I’ll wager he or she believes in some standard called good, (though not necessarily capitalized.) If not, then one must conclude that we’re all living this life as a host of loose canons. How can we make sense or safety out of it? Who really wants to believe that?

You may wonder what got me started on this subject. Well, a few minutes ago I heard something that made me worry for a minute or two. Then the MYOB hit me smack in the noggin. Like most worries, it was beyond my capability to do something about. So, I just said to myself, “Stop! That’s none of your business!” I got instant relief because I believed utterly that whatever I can do nothing about is not my business. Worrying about it is meddlesome. All things work together for Good is my faith so my business in any case is to trust the power of Good for one and all. I can’t find peace if I don’t believe that. No matter what difficulties confront us, the end of the story is good and if I don’t see it now, I just skip over in my mind and read the last page. It always comes out the same: ...”and they all lived happily ever after.”

My worry tonight? It was the sound of a siren. My daughter was on her way to see me. I worried that it might be her in an accident. I prayed for her, “Please, Good, not my child!” The answer, Well, it’s somebody’s child. So I prayed for Somebody’s child. Then I knew that no matter whose child, no matter how severe the problem, no matter even if someone died, Good will see everyone through. See, my Good is infinite and eternal. There’s no end in death, just change. Whether we believe that or not, Good is. Good does good, never bad. Good won’t let us fail forever. I skipped to the happy ending and put everyone there. In a minute I opened the door to see my daughter’s sweet smile. “Hi, Mom!”

That’s how my business runs. I’m minding my own business the best I can. I love my Boss, Good, and because I really believe that Good is sweeping through all creation throwing its light on the dark places to show us it’s all been OK. It’s OK now, and  it will always be OK. My business is to nurture this thought and watch the results.  I can truly say Thank Goodness I'm living longer so I can see my business prosper. I'll bet, my dear readers, you are doing that too and finding that your business is getting better every day.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Vacation Time to Change Your Mind

I’m on vacation. Did I tell you? Letting Katie and her hubby spend their honeymoon at my house. Two weeks with nothing to do! When I first set foot into this “Vanilla Cottage,” (told you about that in the last blog,) I was enchanted by it’s invitation to the simplified life. The last few days I’ve been seriously considering the idea of moving here, right into this little one-bed-roomer, if they’d let me. Then I could rent my condo and let the rent pay for my mortgage, taxes, insurance and home owners’ association fees. The rent here would amount to a wash. Have hardly thought about anything else since I got here and have scribbled ideas of how I’d place my furniture in these rooms. Pages and pages.

That’s me. I get excited about change. Got so used to moving when we were in the service. It was fun. Have been at it ever since too, even after Wally left for the great HA (hereafter.) I thought I’d never leave my dear Quail Creek but I was just on the edge of doing it when Robin said, “If that’s what you want, Mom, I’m all for it, but I think you could ask yourself first, What does The Willows have that you can’t have here? What am I really looking for?” She's like that. My boys too. They treat me like I have full use of my faculties and can think things out for myself and come to a good conclusion. I hate to hear the words, "What shall we do with Mom?" I think, I hope, my kids will never have occasion to utter them!

Well, I did think about it in that light. Deliciously prepared main meals is one plus. But for about the same money I could do pretty well going out to eat and have the chance to pick my own menu, a restaurant of my choice, and ...well, that might be fun too. Social life? Yes, they have lots of opportunities for that. Nice people live here. People who have had interesting lives and there are interesting things to do with them. But do I really want any more of that than I already have? If so, I could easily take steps. Bus transportation so I could give up my car (not that I’d have to.) Am I ready to give up my car? When I am, maybe then? I finally figured out that my initial thrill was simply about the change of decor and a more simple way of life. Although this place is like living in a garden, it doesn't have my little creek.

I’ve let myself accumulate too many things I don’t need or use. I'd get rid of them if I moved. But I can fix that problem right where I am. Sort it all out and dispose of the excess. Take a “vacation” in my own home. Then too, I love to change furniture around, try new styles, new colors. I can do that at home too. I LOVE to move furniture! That is, I love to watch it being moved.

It became a mental tug of war between #125 (home,) and #117 (The Willows.) Well, I have been sketching out options in both places until I get them all mixed up in my mind, but now I think I’ve come to the end of the game. I’m going to stay where I am at home, not here on vacation. #125 won. #117 or a look-alike will no doubt be here down the line, if I want it.

There are unlimited opportunities to change right at home. I can thin out, send tons of stuff to the Good Will, replace certain pieces of furniture for something better. That might be cheaper than the cost of a moving truck and truckers. In my head and on paper I have plans for a whole new home with the same old address. I’m really excited about that! I can just see it, and I’m rarin’ to go!

Now I have a question for you. Why, oh why, do I know that Robin and I will be going to thrift shops, consignment shops, and gift shops and big box stores and find ourselves having a ball shopping? We could both be wiser to not go. But we don't overdo it, and we’re careful buyers too, often save money that way. What would it be like to not enjoy shopping, to be misers? I just thought of a book we all read in junior high school. It was my first encounter with that word “miser.” I think I’ll go to the library and get it again. (Note, I didn’t say I’d buy it!} The name of it is Silas Marner. Remember him? He was a miser. I wouldn’t want to be a miser, would I? Would you? 

Vacations should be like this. I’m having a ball not doing any of the things I’d planned. Just rambling around in my mind about all I’m going to do when I get home. It’s fun to get out of my skin. And I’m not even half way through this two weeks yet! Going to strange places, busying myself looking for new sights, new experiences. That’s fun too, but right now I’m delighted to be doing nearly nothing! Do you envy me? Well, take Robin’s advice. Visualize it! Then do it!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Staying in the Vanilla Cottage

Last Friday I moved out of my house so Katie and Jeff can have their two week honeymoon there. Some might say it is a sacrifice on my part but I’m seeing it as a great chance to step aside and view my home, even my life, from a distant hill. I’ve rented an apartment here at the retirement community nearby where I was the receptionist back in the late ’80’s. It’s a lovely place with a “campus” full of flowers, orange trees, green lawns and sunshine. I see many advantages to living full time here. There are three buses that take you shopping. Markets and malls on certain days, theaters, symphonies, and to a choice of three churches on Sundays. I wouldn’t need to have a car. Delicious meals are served and you can have them delivered or eat in the dining room. I could name a host of other amenities these people enjoy and I’m thinking I could move here, but right now may not be the time and may never be. The more plausible step for me is to view the place I own from this mental hillside and think of how I can make it better. It’s too crowded, for one thing and Robin is going to help me clear out the things I don’t need when I get home. That will be like moving without the expense or hassle. I think to stay where I am is the better choice right now. And I can keep my little creek!

My daughter, Robin, is a practical girl. She’s in tune to helping both herself and others. And she’s been telling me something of a thing called “feng shui.” All I know, so far, is that it makes one’s environment open and inviting and peaceful. For instance, not arranging furniture in such a way that it blocks the path or the view. I’m the kind that can take a simple idea like that and use it to meet my need without studying the whole book. My home needs to be pared down, uncluttered, simplified. I’m thinking of ways to make it so.

I call this place where I’m staying the “Vanilla Cottage.” I call it that because it is so simple, so clean, so utterly comfortable, so thoughtfully arranged but yet, well, can I say tastefully ordinary?  Maybe that’s an oxymoron. A perfect guest house. It’s the kind of place that could not be nicer for a “hillside” view of life, but well, it’s just not home. Still, I can visualize it as home if I could move my own furnishings in, or even trade those for a shopping spree decor. My Pennsylvania House solid oak furniture has been hauled to seven new places over the 30+ years since we bought it. Still looks good. It probably always will if it’s cared for, but it’s getting old to me. I’d like something lighter, brighter, but that is not practical on my budget. And it would not have familiar memories. So, I’ll lighten up in other ways. 

Lightening up mentally is a must at any age and that’s getting to be a harder task. Not that I feel down much of the time. I just sense that I need to give my mental household some feng shui too. Clear out of mind the things I don’t need, things that are not useful anymore, things that get in the way of my footsteps and views. I need to do a better job of sticking to my theme about older is better when more and more it would seem otherwise. If I were another kind of writer I could go into my personal problems and health issues and bring them into 3D, but that’s not me. It’s not that I wish to hide from these, pretend things are better than they are, but I guess I’m of the mind that health and personal problems should be addressed with the least advertisement possible. In fact, when I was growing up it was considered bad manners to unload on others. People didn’t talk about their problems much, or if they did it would be in a lighter vein, something to laugh about. “How are you?” “I’m fine, thank you, except for the weather. Darn near froze my eye-balls yesterday!” Gossiping was considered a sin, at least in my family. By those standards today’s world, especially television, would be ever so different!

All I really wanted to say today is that I’m away from home, comfortably settled, sticking to a somewhat solitary life. It’s unusual to be alone with oneself. Good too, because it’s by choice. I hope the young newlyweds are enjoying my place. It’s been Katie’s home for some time so it should be a great start in playing house, in married life, to them.This “Vanilla Cottage” I'm in will be my home for another ten days and nights. I should be able to say when I go home to my creekside condo-cottage that I’m a better person. Vacations should do that for us, shouldn’t they?

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Four Veterans

I’d like you to meet my two veteran husbands. You’ve met them perhaps through glimpses in some of my former posts but today in honor of Veterans’ Day I’ll tell briefly of the roles they played as veterans. 

First, Lt. Col. Wallace Ginder Wethe USMC.
Wally hadn’t intended to join the military but, like most young men at the approach of WW2, he would soon be drafted if he did not enlist. A college buddy said to him, “Want to go with me while I sign up?” Wally said, “Sure.” He thought it would be interesting to see how it was done but he had no idea that he, himself, would be enlisting that day. The enlisting officer said, "Here are the papers. Just fill them out and we'll tell you what to do next." OK, I'll take the exam and see what it will be like when I get around to it, he thought, but when he'd finished going through with his friend he heard the words, “You’re in!” He could hardly believe he’d  actually enlisted! On that crucial day he was set to become a Navy cadet in flight school while his last year of college would have to wait. 

From the Navy he was transferred to the Marine Corps where he went through officers’ training, then completed flight school and became a fighter pilot. “I’d never aspired to be a pilot like a lot of young guys did,” he said later. “My idea was to be a journalist or maybe the tympani player in a symphony orchestra, but I grew to love flying for the Marines, and when I was offered a commission to stay for a full twenty years or more after making Major, I took it."

Soon after enlistment came Pearl Harbor and Wally was sent to the South Pacific and Henderson Field at Guadalcanal. He flew the Grumman Wildcat fighter plane and took down five enemy Zeros. The fifth one he had to share credit for with another pilot, thus missing the title of “Ace” by one-half, but he earned the high regard of his fellows and senior officers. Later he flew the Corsair and then the F8. Other than some shrapnel which he carried in his right shoulder all his life and the traces of a bout with malaria he came home without injury.

I can’t do justice to Wally’s career but he fought and commanded a base in Korea during that war also. He spent five months on a cruise to Liberia to represent the Navy at the 100th anniversary of that nation. And he also served with the Marines on a fourteen month tour in Japan. Maybe our son, Wally K. Wethe can fill in a bit with a comment. He has his dad’s ribbons to show the family. 

When I married Dr. Forbes Smith Robertson PhD twelve years after becoming a widow I learned about his contribution to WW2 too. He never told me how it was that he did not get drafted into military service during WW2 and I didn’t ask, but I gathered that Uncle Sam found him equally valuable as one of the main team of geographic survey personnel that was sent to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic to discover sources of bauxite. It was a tour of separation from his family too and a highly successful mission in providing the sources for that much needed material to build airplanes during WW2. So, I think “Robby,” as I called him, deserves to be given much credit for his contribution to the war. I’d call him a veteran.

My other two veterans are my two sons, Wally K. and David. Both enlisted during the Vietnamese War. Wally K. became a flyer for the US Air Force. He stayed in for over 27 years and missed going into combat because of the war's end. I can't relate all the tours he had, but he served admirably and achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel.  David became an officer in the Navy but got out of the service in about a year when the military was paring down after the war. They are here to tell their own stories so I won't try but I am proud of both my sons on this Veterans' Day!

Now that I think of it, I should mention my brother, Daniel J. Hahn, who served over twenty five years in the Air Force and my younger brother Kenny, who spent a few years in the US Air Force during and after WW2. My step-brother, Robert Pooler, also served in WW2. Oh, I can see I must be leaving out more relatives. I salute all veterans with unmeasured gratitude.  Their supreme sacrifices for the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness we share at their expense can never be fully compensated. Today we’ll enjoy the bands, the marching parades, and feasts. We’ll listen to speeches, salute the flag and carry in our hearts the remembrances of all who gave so much and are still doing so. God bless them, every one!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Moving Can Be A Way of Life

It's really just a vacation but today it feels like I'm moving again. It's only for two weeks and a day.Why? Well, I’ll tell you.

My youngest granddaughter, Katie, and her husband, Jeff, didn’t get to have a honeymoon. They haven’t been able to be together except for Katie’s weekly visits at the jail since their wedding day in May. Tonight, actually in the small hours of tomorrow morning, Jeff will come home and they will start life as Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Where? In this little condo-home of mine which I’ve been sharing with Katie while Jeff was away. For two weeks they’ll have the place to themselves. And they’ll have my car for that time. My wedding present to them.

And I? I’ll be staying in a guest apartment at the retirement community nearby where I used to work as the receptionist and secretary back in the late eighties. I think I shall enjoy this time to collect my thoughts, read, maybe sew a little, (I love to sew by hand,) work a jig saw puzzle, keep on blogging, resting, and resting and resting. No gadding about, just staying put, alone with my thoughts, my Muse.

Of course my daughter, Robin, will be nearby. She always takes me places whenever I need to go out. She's the best of company. And maybe my son David will stop by on the weekends. I always have an hour or so on Skype once a week with my son, Wally, who lives in Virginia. The only difference is that I won’t be in my own home. That will belong to the young couple then and I’m glad for them. Katie has been cleaning house like her heart is in it, because it is.

I have supported this young couple in their decision to be married, even though it was anything but a conventional affair. I told you about it in another blog but now I’ll leave that for her to tell her children someday. Soon we’ll be celebrating the holidays with a new member of the family, our Mr Jeffrey Smith, and his bride, our own Kate Smith.

Moving out is not an easy task. What to take? Basic needs, but it’s a logistics challenge. It feels like I’m going for good, but I’m not. (At least, I hope not!) One day before too long the young couple will be on their own and I’ll be alone again in my little corner of heaven.

When I moved down here from Santa Barbara about four years ago I was in a similar position. My household goods came a week later and I lived here with only a blow-up bed, a basic wardrobe and a few groceries. Along with some books, of course, and a card table and folding chair. I saw how simply I could live if I had to. I loved it!

When you’re older you wonder, - is this going to be my last home? It has felt like that nearly every time I’ve moved, but one day it will be so.There’s a favorite hymn of mine that goes, “Pilgrim on earth, home and heaven are before you...” I have not always seen the home that is before me until just before I’ve moved into it and out of my last home. Moving has been a way of life for me.

I woke up at 1:00 a.m. this morning. It’s now 3:00 a.m. Still not sleepy. I’m all packed and nearly ready to head out the door. I’ll keep in touch with you, my blog reader friends, if I can, but in the meantime, Goodbye! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

When We Were Loved

Too bad we can’t remember our earliest days when, if we were so blessed, we enjoyed the love, care and comfort of our parents and grandparents. Why is it the mind can’t recall those days when our eyes were first opened to a new world? I’m thinking of that because of all the pictures I find on Facebook of the new children in our families. They will be able to see what their lives were like in those early days. I, on the other hand, have only a few faded colorless photographs. Joycie in her baby carriage. Joycie posing with Daddy in their Sunday best, her hand in his. Then the beginnings of memory, - a new tricycle, my legs not quite long enough to reach the pedal on the down curve. I managed to make it work by kicking the top pedal. Oh, how wheels become an early fascination! And I do remember that.

I have my baby book too. In it are the first pictures of me. One, {no doubt the first,) wide-eyed little face has beneath it a small clipping that Mother cut out from some periodical. It says, 
What is the little one thinking about?
Very wonderful things, no doubt!
My mother gave me credit for having thoughts, even though I was not yet able to express them in a new language. How I cherish the idea that we can think at any age. And our thoughts are ours, although the modern Facebook fans like to share them with the world. Even in our years of dotage this is true. We can’t escape the business of thinking, though too often we may want to let our thoughts fade away in sleep and dreams.

I must confess, the coming generation of babies who are related to me, near or distant, are sweet to see, but they also give me a sense of distance. I feel loved and appreciated by my children but they and their own offspring, just a few years hence, make me feel aged. “Watch out for the step, Grandma!” “Drive carefully, Grandma!” “What can I get for you, Grandma?” And some even read my blogs and comment on them. I willingly soak up their attentions.

Wally G. hated old age with a passion. Maybe that’s why he only lived to the age of 66. If he had stayed, what stories he could tell! If only he had written a blog! And Robby too. He did live to be nearly 91 and I loved to listen to his stories. But when we’d go to family dinner parties the table would be buzzing with the chatter of young people at one end, talking about what interested them. Robby used to come home in a shadow of sadness. He’d say, “We are loved, I know, but after they’ve kissed me on the way in I become a fixture at the end of the table, or in an armchair off to one side. No one comes over to ask me about my life, and even though it’s not much to talk about now, I could tell them so much about years past! It’s all interesting too, and I can tell it well because I was a teacher. But I can’t capture their attention now like I could my students.” His voice would drift off, and again he’d say softly, “I have so much I’d like to share with them, but they’re too busy with their own lives, and...well, that’s understandable.”

I too was guilty. I would give anything now to be able to sit down with my grandparents and great grandparents and ply them with questions! I am grateful for certain people in the family who shared bits and pieces of their lives on paper. Thank goodness for the few historians in a family! I have a few old photographs, even fewer of ones I can’t place, but they tell so little! I want to hear the particulars, like when Great Grandpa Thomas Pulford at the age of eight came across the Atlantic Ocean from England with his family. I did get to sit by his rocking chair and hear things like that when I was a young child, but there’s so much more I want to know! Most of the things in my house have a history too. I dread thinking that they’ll end up in the Good Will shop and no one will know how they figured into my life.

What’s really important is not the history. Memories cling too fast to us. They must have the immediacy of feelings to go with them. Yet, I’ll try. I’m working on a book for my children and theirs, to tell what I do know of our forebears, but my days go by and seem crowded with other interests. Time is running out. There should be balance between the past and present, even though the future remains in front of us like a huge question mark.

Today I feel loved. What is this no-longer-a-“little one” thinking about? Well, if you’ve read this far, you know.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Child On a Swing

The darndest things come out of a pen. All my life I’ve been a writer, and yet I’ve never experienced what many writers call “writers’ block.” Getting started is the obstacle they face. With me, I make myself no promises as to what I’ll write. I just get an idea and go for it. Pity anything that stands in my way!

That’s how it worked when an idea came to me a few minutes ago. I was writing in my journal, remembering how it used to be in my childhood when I’d get onto a swing. Robert Lewis Stevenson’s verse in the little book of his poems I loved as a child says it well.

How do you like to go up in a swing, 
Up in the air so blue? 
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing 
Ever a child can do! 

That child in me literally yearns sometimes to get into some of the swings I’ve known and fly away. If I had my way, it’s how I’d like to depart from this life. On one of my favorite swings!

In this day of instant photography, our experiences and memories can be graphically portrayed. I wish, for my own sake and yours, that I could shoot you photographs of my favorite swings, with me in them as I was then, of course. Since I can’t, I’ll have to try in words.

Picture me as a child between the ages of five and eleven. I knew two swings then, any one of the four on the school playground and the other at my country home. The ones at school were a recess thing you had to get to fast before the others. Then you’d pump hard to see how high you could go. I used to aspire to flying over the top bar and coming down the other side. I never made it. 

My home swing was entirely different. I was usually alone there. Daddy had hung the ropes from an over-branching limb of a big tree at the edge of the woods about a stone’s throw from our back door yet down a slope and out of sight of the house. Here I was alone with my thoughts, my dreams, the sheer pleasure of the slow back and forth "die down" after I’d quit pumping. Leaning back to watch tree tops and sky hold hands and dance, my mind would let go of all childish worries. Fancy, bliss and abandon accompanied by the soft straining sound of  the ropes sang to me. If these were punctuated by wild bird songs and squirrel chatter, all the better. This was all that mattered. I knew the meaning of the word bliss on my swing long before I knew of the word itself.

I can’t remember much about that swing down in the woods when I was in high school. Even my younger brothers had grown out of it by then. I had more urgent pursuits at that age. No time to "do nothing."  But when I went to live with my grandmother in Riverside, California, during my college days I loved the canopied sofa swing in her back yard that stood under a huge pepper tree and overlooked an arroyo between me and Mount Pachapa.That was my refuge at a time of my life when I needed the security and peace it offered. You know, that hiatus between adolescence and adulthood?

Years later Wally G. and I hung three swings on our ranch. My favorite of these was a one rope swing with a wooden seat secured by a large knot underneath in the middle. It hung from a high, high branch of a tall tree which stood on a steep hillside. Straddling the rope, I could back up to a point high enough to let go and fly out over the dropping slope toward Mt. Brushy across the river. That swing was the most thrilling of all my swings, the nearest thing to actual bird flight I've ever imagined. But the coziest swing was in the safety of our grassy yard under the huge Sequoia tree. Only a few steps from the porch door, I could run out any time of day or night and let myself go.

I haven’t had a swing since the ranch days to call my own. The nearest I can get to the feeling of one is in the big Amish rocker on my patio. There’s something about rocking and swinging that sets one in tune with the motions of the universe and lets the mind go free. The questions of life, the pros and cons, the struggles, all these fade away when we rock or swing. No wonder babies know the feeling. No wonder children keep it up. No wonder the primal motion of our last days on earth can still resonate on a good swing. Or a rocking chair. Even the thought of them is settling, safe.

It was still dark when I started this blog. I can see the sun peeking through the patio curtains now. The rocking chair is out there. Waiting for someone. Me? 

Bye for now!