Thursday, July 31, 2008

How Long Till It's Over?

There is a gentle quietness about my life these days that I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate -- that is until I make the mistake of turning on the TV! And then there is all the madness, the idiocy, the insanity as we approach the conventions, the Olympics, and the elections. So, I tell myself, turn off the TV, go back to writing, reading – go ride the stationery bike, do something constructive instead sitting in front of the tube frothing at the mouth! And I do, talking to myself all the time, mumbling under my breath about how many idiots there are in politics today. But is it just today? Has there always been this madness? Have I forgotten how bad things have been before? Well, I certainly haven’t forgotten the outrageous mess of 2000 that got all of this started in the first place, but what about before that? Was I so involved with earning a living, raising four kids, working, that somehow I just didn’t pay that much attention? Well, for one thing there is so much more media coverage, scrutiny than there was “back then” and that’s what it seems like – way back then!

Right now I just want it all to be over, I want the Republicans thrown off the highest cliff, I want to see our country recover from the past eight years, I want to see the huge gap closed between the very, very wealthy and the rest of us. I don’t want to have to try and count the zeros in the amount of money made by Exxon in another quarter. I don’t want to have to continue looking at Dick Cheney’s sneer or George Bush’s smirk.

I know, this probably sounds so foolish and childish – after all, it is politics! What do you expect? I’ll tell you what I expect and that is to have leaders that care about the people of this country, the school systems, the economy, the environment, of finding ways to reduce our dependency on oil. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so.

I Wish I Had Said That

I didn't, but thankfully, there's someone who did.

The two party system????

Remember Lee Iacocca, the VP at Ford credited with the birth of the Mustang, the man who rescued Chrysler, C orporation from their death throes, and the owner of the famous quote "Lead, follow, or get out of the way"? Well, he's back! He has a new book, and here are some excerpts.

Lee Iacocca writes:

'Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff , we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay the course'

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned 'Titanic' I'll give you a sound bite: 'Throw all the bums out!'

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore.

The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving 'pom-poms' instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of the 'America' my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

The Biggest 'C' is Crisis !

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down. George Bush, Dick Chaney and who it this Bozo
coming up next? One of the most Liberal Idiots in the U. S. Senate and he is talking about disarming America. I can't believe the A merican people are seeing what he is about to do to this country. May God have mercy on us all.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. A Hell of a Mess. So here's where we stand. We're immers ed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great Companies are all moving offshore. We're getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy Our schools are the worst in the world. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership and we are getting ready to put the most Liberal Senator in the U. S. Senate in as our next President because we want to be fair and elect someone just because of his race. We don't have time to be fair, we need a strong leader.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: 'Where have all the leaders gone?' Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I hope you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Well guess what people? We are having more floods right now. What are we doing to help these people out. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time. Why are we allowing people to build in flood plains anyway? If you build in a flood area, expect to be flooded and deal with it. Don't expect the Government to bail you out.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. All they seem to be thinking now-days is getting themselves bigger salaries and bonuses. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when 'The Big Three' referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it? likely nothing!

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for th e gang in Congress and the Senate. We did n't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bonehead on Fox N ews will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change? I honestly don't think any of you have one!

Had Enough?

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope; I believe in America .... In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments I've also experienced some of our worst crises: the 'Great Depression', 'World War II', the 'Korean War', the 'Kennedy Assassination', the 'Vietnam War', the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11 If I've learned one thing, it's this:

'You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to 'Action' for people who, like me, believe in America . It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the crap and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had 'enough.'

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

And The Beat Goes On

Well at least the negative ones do. The latest hit on Obama, and it’s a repeat, is that he has become too arrogant and too confident. The Washington Post claims he told House Democrats yesterday that, “I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.” But that was only half of what he said, The Post left out the important first half of the sentence, which was: “It has become increasingly clear in my travels, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol.” There is a considerable difference in the two statements. Again, the media chooses to dissect comments, using only what promotes their particular view.

What has happened to civility? Why is it that people, and most particularly politicians, seem to feel the only way to win or get their point across is to destroy the opponent with whatever means possible? When so many people depend on what they read in newspapers or see on television to help them determine who would be best fit to run the country, how can they be sure they know the whole truth? Or do they really care? Do they just read or listen to whatever will confirm their own reasons in voting for or against a candidate? How many people actually research what is put out as “gospel truth”? How many really care about the real truth?

We have so much to be thankful for in this country and, for the most part, I’m very proud of my country, but on days like these, when negativity discolors everything, I find it hard to remain positive or hopeful. And what does the negativity really get us? Does it insure that we’ll get “the best, most saintly, most honest, most reliable” candidate? Not necessarily. All I can say is, look past the hype, read, research, find out the truth for yourselves. Of course, that will take time and effort and who has time for that? Or who is willing to take the time for that? After all, it's only the future of our country that's at stake.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How Time Flies When We’re Having Fun!

A niece of mine is flying out from Maryland to be here for my birthday next Monday and she sent me her flight information this morning. I’m excited about seeing her and realized that it’s been nearly three and a half years since we got together in Dallas at my son, David’s house. Suddenly, I found myself wondering, where does the time go? I’m sure I must have been having two birthdays a year – how else could I have gotten this old, this fast?

But there’s a gentleness to the days, a quietness, an almost dreamlike quality to them sometimes as I get so involved in one project or another – things I didn’t have time for before, that it’s easy to lose track of time. And sometimes it’s not that I’m doing so many things, it’s having the time to take my time, with whatever I’m doing! How new is that?

Learning to slow down and not go at a dead run from morning till night has been my big challenge since I retired eight years ago. It was hard at first, but I’m getting the hang of it now and it feels good. Since I’ve taken up blogging, I not only enjoy putting my own site together, I love having time to read and respond to other people’s blogs.

It is a new adventure and it fills in the time between the latest stack of books from the library, the various classes that I take and spending time with our two dogs, occasionally cooking something special for my son – or me, or both.

And as the soft music fills the room this evening I find myself back at the computer and thinking just how very fortunate and blessed I am to have so much and what a pleasure it is to be able to share it with so many seen and unseen friends.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It's Bad for Ya

That's the title of a new George Carlin album that will come out on Tuesday and his daughter says it’s the best thing he’s ever done because he returns to his “playful goofiness”. I was glad to hear that because I’ve always been a George Carlin fan, but over the past several years it seemed he had gotten darker and angrier and his daughter, Kelly, noted the same thing. I had stopped watching him on HBO because I found his routine depressing and not funny. He always had such an incredible way with words and could make us laugh at ourselves. I’m glad he seemed to have gotten to a better space before he died of a heart attack on June 22 at the age of 71 and I look forward to the album which is poking fun at us old folks – him included, but this time he’s not angry, he’s goofy. His love for his craft together with an intolerance for stupidity at the highest levels of government and society influenced generations of new funnymen and was probably one of the real reasons he was one of my favorite comics. He influenced a whole era of comics much as the Beatles influenced a whole new era of musicians. I can appreciate the goofy, sometimes it’s the best way to deal with situations – the questionable joys of old age might be one of those. Not that there aren’t joys related to age – I know and make the most of a lot of joyful things about my age, but lets face it, there are things that aren’t particularly fun. Still, I’m gradually realizing that this is a very good time in my life, but that doesn't mean that I can't still make fun of it from time to time and I do.

But it seems George is still going to be around for some of us – his daughter and his brother, Patrick, scattered his ashes around all his favorite haunts – literally and I'd be willing to bet George is enjoying every moment.

Our Need for a New Vision

I took the day off yesterday to re-work my blogspot and it was fun and kept me up until almost midnight! I must be losing it all together, but I can always blame it on old age, that’s become a great excuse for almost everything. But then I got up this morning determined to pay some attention to what is happening in the “other” world out there. That, however, may have been a mistake. The first article that caught my eye is how our faltering, sagging economy is particularly hard on seniors. Then, the 2008 deficit will set a new record – why am I not surprised at that??? Then the shootout in the Tennessee church! and this because of their liberal views? These types of shootings seem to have become a common headline in the past eight to ten years and that is truly disturbing. Then the latest report that there have been 22,000 veterans who have called the suicide crisis lines. This is heartbreaking and also very disturbing and says a lot about this war that this administration and John McCain continue to support.

I believe that we are desperately in need of a serious change in course and I also believe that John McCain is no where near the person we need to bring about that change. I do believe that Obama has the best chance to do just that. I think most of the country feels the same way. There will always be those who are terrified of anything new or different and who would rather stick with something they think they know – but probably don’t, in place of reaching for something, someone that offers a new vision, a new plan, a new dream for our country. It was those types of men that founded this country in the first place. So, if we really believe in the American dream, lets have the courage to be willing to try a different course when it is so frightfully obvious that this one is not working!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Time to Look Forward

"Looking back" seems to be what I've been doing a lot of these days and I think I've finally revisited enough, but it does help to put things in perspective. It's like doing some major house cleaning after which you can sit down and enjoy "today" without those shadows of regrets, guilt and disappointments hiding all that you have, all that you've accomplished and the hopes you have for the future. It's kind of like getting on the scales in the morning and discovering you've lost ten pounds! And it feels good.

Now the question is, okay you've taken care of the past, where do you go from here? what do you have to write about now? I suspect I'll be pondering this for a while. It's not as easy to look forward sometimes at this age because we're still somewhat inclined to think, what can I do now, what's left for me to do or I've already done everything I want to do. Well, those are loser thoughts if I ever heard them and I really don't want to go there. So, as of today, I'm going on a challenge hunt, to see what other mountains I can find to climb, what other rivers and streams of thought I can explore. And even as I write these words, I can feel all the excuse mongers gathering in the back of my mind, flashing all the reasons why I'm obviously losing it or have already lost it and asking, just when do you plan to grow up and accept things as they are?
Mmmmm, probably never.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sometimes I Wonder -- Which Would I Choose?

I love it when the house is suddenly quiet after a busy day -- weekends, my son is home and he and the dogs are off to the dog park for a long hike, there's laundry to do and dinner to plan. Then the sun goes down, the street outside the house is quiet, Adam and Mojo are visiting a neighbor and their dog across the street and Sam Schnauzer and I have the house to ourselves. I look back over the week and feel a sense of accomplishment -- in other words, I got through it without incident, I did the shopping and restocked the cupboards and the fridge, I went to Tai Chi class, I worked on the blog, I corresponded with friends both old and new. So, yes, it's been a good week.

There was a time when I would have considered such a week as somewhat of a drag, but needless to say that was before retirement. The weeks were always busy from dawn until whenever. Because of the position I held at the Japanese silicon wafer manufacturing plant before I retired, my days weren't restricted to eight hours. There was the eight to ten hours in my office, but then there were frequently visitors from Japan, and that meant taking them to dinner -- whatever. But it was fun, I enjoyed the contact, the chance to practice my Japanese.

So, I look at my days now and I look back and wonder. If I could choose which life to follow, would it be my life today with its quiet, predictable rhythm or would I choose the other? And I guess the answer depends on my mood. Tonight I'm quite happy with my life as it is -- tomorrow, well, who knows??

Sunset at the Sound

It doesn't get any more beautiful than this and it's
a five minute drive from our house.
Try feeling morose and sad in the presence of this!

Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 25, 2008

Three of the best things I ever did


Posted by PicasaThese are my three musketeers plus Mojo! How can you look at a photo like this and not get goosebumps -- well, if they were yours? Just wish my oldest and her husband could have been here, too.

What Would I Have Said?

Sometimes as night begins to fall, the activities of the day completed, the house suddenly quiet, I find myself looking back over the years -- not in a bad or negative way at all, but just with a certain curiosity. I wonder if anyone would have told me fifty years ago when I was twenty-five and working in Dallas, Texas that when I would be getting ready to celebrate my seventy-fifth birthday I would be the mother of four grown children, that I would be living in Seattle, Washington with one of them -- what would I have said? I suddenly found myself laughing out loud and thinking that was exactly what I would have done then -- laughed. "Me, get married? Have kids? You've got to be kidding, right? I mean, Seattle wouldn't be bad, but no thanks, to the rest of it." And yet here I am, seventy-five in a little over a week and I am the mother of four and I am living with one of them in Seattle, Washington and it's working well for both of us. And the others have done well, too. We're scattered all over the country, but thanks to the internet and cell phones etc. etc. we stay in close touch.

I frequently wonder if other people look back over their lives and wonder how they ended up where they are now -- not in a bad way, but just curious. What were the dreams, hopes, plans? How many lives turned out just as they had planned them in their late teens or early twenties? How many find themselves in amazingly different settings than they would have thought possible fifty years ago?

Maybe it's how we begin our journey into our future that determines how far that journey takes us from where we started. Maybe we've become a very different person from the twenty something woman or man that we were. Do we even really remember who we were then? Are there many, who like me, played another role for so many years that we're not sure which one is the real one? I believe that I do know who the real me is now and she isn't that twenty-five year old from Dallas, Texas. For one thing, I've made peace with who I am, who I was and who I hope to be on the other side of seventy-five and that's a very, very good feeling. Still, sometimes I wonder how many lifetimes it took me to finally reach this place?

Well, whatever, it's been a great journey and I'm happy to be where I am. I have so much to be thankful for and happy about. I still have an enormous amount of curiosity about so many things, I still get excited about things that happen every day and I can laugh and have my breath taken away at the sight of a full moon, a bouquet of flowers, a piece of music, a beautiful piece of art, the mountains that surround us here and the water! And I have my health. Oh, I know, I get stirred up over politics, I worry about the country, about the enviornment and grit my teeth over the Republicans, but at the end of the day when I get very still, I know what's real and what matters.

Yes, it's been a marvelous journey in spite of some bumpy roads and it's not over yet. Who knows how many more lovely surprises are waiting along the way?

Tidbits of Wisdom Wrapped in Humor

If this doesn't prove that humor, particularly political humor is timeless , I'm not sure what can!

"If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed." Mark Twain

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress....But then I repeat myself. -Mark Twain

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. -George Bernard Shaw

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. -P.J. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian

I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. -Will Rogers

No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.
-Mark Twain (1866)

Talk is cheap...except when Congress does it. -Unknown

What this country needs are more unemployed politicians. -Edward Langley, Artist (1928 - 1995)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

There's an Interesting Turnaround

The TV ad has started turning up more and more frequently and I have to admit I was pretty curious. Today in the NYT there was an Op-Ed piece by Timothy Egan that laid it out pretty well. The ad is done by T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oil man and long time Republican, Bush supporter and the money bags behind the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry. But it's what he's saying now that is giving John McCain and the Republicans palpatations. Most of the attacks on Obama by McCain can easily be seen as the desperate efforts of a man who just doesn't seem to be able to stop digging his own political grave a little deeper every day.


I have to admit that I hate politics and, for the most part, the politicians that play the game, but what's the alternative? I certainly am not wise enough to come up with an answer, but it's sad to see this country so torn, so divided. There's so much anger and desperation -- more than I have seen in many years and I feel it, just as so many other Americans do. And how much worse is it going to get over the next few months?


Whatever happens in regards to Pickens, he has the advantage and that could be good news for Obama and for the country. But it could also mean an even nastier campaign. The big question is will the solutions proposed by Pickens do what we need in regards to cutting our dependency on oil? Is Pickens, now in his 80s, really making a turnaround? Lots of questions, not a lot of answers -- as yet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blue Skies -- Happy Thoughts

It's been a busy day with places to go and things to do and it started out as usual -- gray! But the day slipped by one cloud at a time --- then suddenly a ray of sunshine! and then another poked through the window over my desk. When I looked up blinking and covering my eyes in the unaccustomed glare, I could see blue! BLUE! BLUE SKIES! The droopy weariness disappeared and I found myself giggling. What a great way to end the day! with sunshine and blue skies. Even the dogs were racing around the yard chasing absolutely nothing, but having fun. I couldn't help wondering if the weather affects them as well.

I was suddenly feeling a bit frisky myself, I'd been to my acupuncturist and the junky knees were happy, I'd passed the weight and blood pressure and cholesterol level tests for another two months and I was ready to celebrate. I hurried home and promptly put away a large and delicious lunch, now back to the low cal stuff tomorrow.

Earlier this morning I had had reason to look back at certain beautiful moments in my life, the kind of moments that make you smile and laugh through the tears, wishing those moments could have lasted longer, but thankful you had them at all and I realized -- again, how very fortunate and blessed I have been all my life. Oh, there have been hurts, disappointments -- all that gray cloudy stuff that everyone has at sometime in their life, but then there are the blue sky moments and they are the ones that ride the sunbeams into your life and chase all the gray away.

Now does that sound just like Polly Goodie Shoes talking? Probably, but she's better than that black witch that hides out in my closet from time to time and comes out to rain on my parade. We do have the capability to see our lives as we choose to see them. We don't have to listen to the black witch in the closet although granted, sometimes it's harder to shut her up than others.

I do try to make the most of each day, discover something new, try something different so that I don't just settle into the cloudy rut in the road. It's one of the reasons I enjoy volunteering in a Jump Start program for pre-schoolers. I love to watch their faces as I read to them. The excitement in their eyes, their giggles and laughter. It's fun to see which books they choose for me to read and remembering how potty training was not a particularly fun process with my own children, I couldn't help but wonder why one of their favorite books last year was "I Love My Potty"! I finally hid it so they'd have to find a different one!

There are always things we can do to bring the sunshine -- they're just harder to find some days. Today wasn't one of those.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thoughts for a Gray Day

It turned gray again today, not cold, but cooler than it has been for the past ten days. I had things I had planned to do, but the gray got to me and I just turned around and went back downstairs. I turned on some music and -- surprise, surprise -- sat down at the computer. My first mistake was going to the Op-Ed screen for the New York Times, where I found the article I wrote about earlier. That added another dark cloud overhead. I scolded myself for being foolish, getting angry and upset over things I have absolutely no control over. You'd think by the time you reach my age I would be wiser than to let things totally out of my control spoil a perfectly good morning -- gray or not. Oh, and speaking of age, another birthday is going to show up in less than two weeks. Don't even go there, I scolded myself. Think about all the wisdom you've managed to gather over the past "almost" seventy-five years! "Whatever", I find myself muttering, while at the same time I chastise myself for talking to myself. The morning is not off to the best start. I sit back down at the computer and express some of my "pissed off at politics" thoughts.

"There, now don't you feel better?" I ask myself -- oh, yes, I do have conversations with myself, sometimes out loud when no one is around, but I can mumble very quietly if someone is. Fortunately, today I can talk as loudly as I like, but then I start laughing as I realize how far down the road I've gone in the past several years. But, hey, it could be worse and they haven't caught me and locked me up -- yet.

Ah, tomorrow will be a better day -- hey, isn't that what Scarlett O'Hara said at the end of "Gone With the Wind"?

What Is Happening to Our Country?

I just finished reading an article by Bob Herbert of the New York Times entitled, "Madness and Shame" and it is reflections on a new book, "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War On American Ideals" by Jane Mayer. She talks about a man I had never heard of, a man named David Addington. After doing some research and finding out more about him, I could feel a cold shiver down my spine. He is apparently Dick Cheney's right hand man since Scooter is no longer avaiable and he's the lead architect of the Bush administration's legal strategy for the so-called war on terror. From what I can see, the terror is Addington himself. The horror of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the CIA's secret prisons, known as "black sites" are products of the mind-set of this man whom most people have never heard of. Again I was reminded of a post I made a week or so ago about the death of a French general I had met in Germany many years ago and how the memory of using torture had haunted him until he died a few years ago. Those memories were mentioned in the obit piece written about him. Maybe we could learn something from them.

What is going to happen to this country with people like this who read into the Constitution things that were never meant to be? How can we be a beacon of hope and freedom to the rest of the world when we are governed, however secretly -- maybe even more so, by men like these? Our image is so damaged even now by the likes of the Cheneys and Addingtons and Bushes that it will take decades to regain, to re-polish it. When will we say, enough is enough?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Slowing Down

I think sometimes that the hardest thing about getting older has been having to slow down. It seemed as though I went through life at a dead run and since I didn't retire until I was nearly 67 the past eight years have been fun in one way and frustrating in another. For so many years there just didn't seem to be enough time to do everything that I wanted to do and now I seem to have far more time than I need. Now I find myself frequently looking for things to fill the hours. Not always, I don't just sit on my butt, staring out the window wondering what to do with myself, but before I didn't have to look for things to keep me busy and now I do. And yet on the other hand I love having the time to do only the things I really want to do.

It has been very interesting -- since I'm new to blogging -- to read about all the things that people get involved in when they retire. My main problem, I think, is the fact that I miss a lot of the things I did for so long -- oh, don't tell me, I miss working??? Yeah, I do. Not everyday, but I do miss the involvement, the pace, the excitement. I was fortunate to have some really great jobs over my working lifetime.

Ah, forgive me. It's late and I'm rambling. Actually, life is good now, just different and I'm reflecting on the differences. I guess, to quote a song, I'm looking for a soft place to fall

Medical Miracles -- More or Less

After writing yesterday about my daughter’s birthday and remembering, as I did, the birthdays of my other three kids – none of which I was supposed to have, I began to reflect on my experiences with the medical profession. That’s not hard to do these days when there seem to be more and more nightmare tales of screw-ups not only by doctors, but hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

My kids and I have frequently joked that we are alive today in spite of doctors rather than because of them and because we spent their early years on a military base I soon became convinced that all the medical students who made Ds in med school automatically went into the military. The fact that I even had a child much less four normal, healthy ones was considered unbelievable unless one believes in miracles. I had been told by several doctors that my chances of getting pregnant in the first place were slim to none, let alone carrying one for a full nine months. But get pregnant I did just three months into my marriage. I carried my baby full term and delivered an eight pound, very normal and beautiful little girl.

As soon as my husband returned from Vietnam I promptly got pregnant again but this time, in the process of moving to Germany, I did miscarry. My husband took me to the hospital on the base where he was stationed. A D and C was performed with only a local anesthetic and then I was stuck into an empty twelve bed ward – alone at midnight and sent home the next morning. I developed an infection several days later which was first diagnosed in the emergency room as a urinary tract infection and again I was sent home. Three days later, back in the emergency room, babbling incoherently with fever of 106, I was told that, no, it wasn’t a urinary tract infection after all, but a uterine infection. I was sent home again with a bottle of pretty powerful pills and after about eight weeks I began to feel normal again – more or less.

We thought that perhaps my first little girl was a miracle and there would be no more. Wrong! Three months later I found myself pregnant again and shortly afterward we were transferred to Madrid, Spain. Again, it was a very normal full term pregnancy, but about a week before I was due I woke up with what felt to me like pleurisy pains and we made a trip to the air base hospital. There I was told by the doctor that there was no indication of anything wrong and I was just getting anxious to deliver and he sent me home. The next day it was worse and we went back to the hospital. This time a different doctor took my husband aside and told him there was nothing wrong with me, I was not in labor, but if he wanted to leave me at the hospital for the weekend, he’d okay it. Wisely, my husband declined the offer. The following day we made a third trip and saw still another doctor who said he could find nothing wrong, but asked if I had been x-rayed earlier. When I told him no, he said that real or imagined, I was obviously in pain and I was certainly far enough along that an x-ray wouldn’t injure the baby and urged me to have one. It turned out that I had walking pneumonia and the pain I had been experiencing was indeed pleurisy and, with a proper prescription this time, I was sent home. Four days later, pneumonia free, I gave birth to another perfect little seven and a half pound girl. Within three more years I had – remarkably given birth to two more perfect, healthy babies – boys this time. And they’re all still miracles to me.

Over the next years my wariness of the medical profession and aided by extraordinarily healthy children, we were pretty much able to stay out of doctor’s offices except for routine shots etc. Then when my youngest son, Adam, was eighteen months old, our whole family was returning home in the car from an evening swim at the local indoor pool. The kids were hungry and quickly found a jar of their Dad’s favorite dry roasted peanuts. There was a lot of giggling and teasing and Adam choked on his peanuts. We whopped him on the back and a peanut flew out of his mouth and we continued on our way home. The following morning he was flying around the house as usual, but what wasn’t usual was the fact that he rattled. By mid day it was obvious that the rattle wasn’t going away and I took him in to see the pediatrician. I told him what had happened the previous day. He listened to Adam’s chest and x-rayed him, but could find nothing. I told him again about the peanuts and he patiently explained how it was impossible for Adam to have inhaled a peanut because the oil in the peanut would have set up an infection that would have resulted in pneumonia almost immediately. I explained that they were dry roasted peanuts and he sighed and shook his head and asked me to bring him back in the following day if he was still “rattling”. The next day he still couldn’t find anything, but admitted there was definitely something not right even though Adam was still tearing around like a normal eighteen month old – he just rattled. The doctor then sent us to a thoracic specialist, who also listened and x-rayed without results. I told him the same story of the dry roasted peanuts and got the same head shaking response – impossible, he said. For the next five weeks Adam was subjected to every imaginable test – all to no avail and while he was still tearing around, he was also still rattling.

By that time the specialist said they had no option other than to fluoroscope his lungs and that had to be done in the hospital and could have possible side effects. But, feeling that we really didn’t have a choice, we took him in and I spent the night sitting beside him, feeling so frightened because he looked so small and helpless in that big bed. They were supposed to take him to the operating room at seven, so he wasn’t allowed to have anything to eat – tell that to a hungry eighteen month old! As it turned out they didn’t come get him until nine and by that time both his Dad and I were worn out carrying him all around the ward trying to distract him from thoughts of food. Adam saw a nurse coming out of a room with a tray of food and kept trying guide his Dad in that direction by tugging his ears like a steering wheel.

Finally, they came for him and let him take his “blankey” with him. I was fighting back the tears and clinging to my husband’s hand. Adam looked so tiny and helpless as they rolled him into the operating room. The next hour seemed like thirty. Finally, the doctor came out and walked towards us.

“Boy, is my face red,” he said, with an embarrassed grin.

“You found the peanut, didn’t you?” I asked, trying not to leap on him scratching and biting.

He nodded.

“I’ll certainly tell all my patients from now on that if they’re going to let their kids eat peanuts, make sure they’re dry roasted.”

We took Adam home later that morning. He almost did get pneumonia because since the peanut had been there for five weeks, as soon as they tried to remove it with their peanut forceps – yes, they actually have peanut forceps, the peanut disintegrated and even though they “vacuumed” it out, it did set up a minor infection in his lungs. Fortunately, it cleared up quickly and within a couple of days he was running around again, but this time without the rattle.

I’m still wary of doctors and the frequent headlines about the medical and pharmaceutical professions don’t do a lot to encourage trust. But I do have a wonderful doctor these days who, strangely enough, feels pretty much the same way I do, so we get along great and I have a lot of confidence in him.

And as for Adam, well, like his siblings, he’s grown into an incredible young person that I’m outrageously proud of – definitely one of the four best things his Dad and I ever did – in spite of the medical profession.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Looking Back

Today is my youngest daughter's fortieth birthday. I can remember that day as if it were yesterday. I was determined that this delivery would not be like the birth of my first child, Robyn -- I spent 36 hours in labor before she finally put in an appearance. She was beautiful and the baby I wasn't supposed to be able to have. My husband was in Vietnam and didn't see his first daughter until she was six months old. I promised myself that next time would be different.

So this time, when I began to have contractions and my husband wanted to take me to the hospital right away -- we were living in Madrid, Spain and the hospital was on the air base located twenty-two miles from our apartment near downtown Madrid. I persuaded him to wait for a bit to make sure it wasn't a false alarm. Finally about nine o'clock that evening I decided it might be time to go. We parked the car in the parking lot at the hospital and then I insisted on walking until I had a contraction, then we'd wait until it passed, turn around and walk the other way until the next one came. When we were almost turning around in a circle, I decided it was time to go inside the hospital. My beautiful daughter, Kerith Elena Kirkwood, was born about an hour later.

Now, how could that possibly have been forty years ago? Memories as clear and sharp as black and white photos. It was a great day then and it's a great day today.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful one!

Elders Aren't Always the Answer

For those who still insist that John McCain is the answer to our country's Bush-created problems, problems that cover a whole lot more than just the insane war in Iraq, they might read Frank Rich's Op-Ed piece in today's New York Times.

I don't pretend to have answers to the myriad problems that our country is facing today, but I do know that more of the same is not an option. Age doesn't guarantee wisdom or having all the answers, but it does frequently promote a kind of arrogance that having been around for so long, we know it all. Wrong! It sometimes takes a fresh, new approach and that's an idea that most Republicans are not excited about.

We have lost so much in the past eight years and it may take twenty to regain our stability, our image in the eyes of the rest of the world. But the world has become far to small for us to believe we can always do it our way and thumb our noses at the rest of the world and not have to pay the price. This country is not made up of just the wealthy, or the so called moral majority whose morals don't necessarily include compassion -- at least when it comes to those who don't believe the same things or in the same way that they do. We need a much broader view not only towards all the people, everywhere, but the enviornment -- not just here, but everywhere.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Grumpy Syndrome

I woke up too early, it was gray and gloomy and so was I. But the clouds are burning off, there's a hint of blue, a sliver of sunlight -- who knows it'll probably turn out to be a beautiful day, if you want to believe the weather man, but we all know that's risky.

Obviously on a gloomy day my thoughts turn to politics and I've so had it with this administration and George Bush -- I'm ashamed to admit I'm originally from Texas even though I haven't lived there in nearly twenty years. I still have family there and my oldest son lives there, so I do visit, but I don't talk about it. I don't think I'm the only one by any means who is almost desperate for change, it's obvious from what you read on various blogs and websites, hear on TV. People don't hesitate to pour out their anger, discontent and disgust. It's so sad to see our country in the shape that it's in thanks to the past eight years of Bushism. I've about gotten to the point that I can't watch TV for very long, of course I've never been a real TV nut anyway. Mostly I watch MSNBC, but lately I haven't even been able to watch that without running the risk of losing my dinner.

I do hope Obama's trip goes well, that he stays safe. He has raised the hopes of so many people who are almost desperate to see, to witness, to experience change and a better and brighter day for our country.

Please, can't someone make November get here a little quicker this year?

Well, that's my grump for the day! I need to see about regaining some of the joy and excitement I was feeling yesterday and that I feel most days.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Learning Everyday

On July 7 I posted a piece about lace curtains and the view. I had wanted to include the photo with the post, but I hadn't figured out how to do that at the time. When I did figure it out I deleted the old post and put the two together for the new one. So, I apologize for the redundancy. Suddenly, I'm finding a need for all my reference books, dictionaries, quotations etc. etc. Discovering blogging has suddenly eliminated all the dull routines and brought a whole new excitement into my daily trot along life's highway. I love the comments, the encouragement and the pleasure of realizing you've managed to reach out and touch someone you don't know and never would have in the past. I do look back at the past, but I don't live there, I hope I have and will continue to learn from it, I cherish my memories, but mostly I'm excited about today, the NOW! I don't want to waste one moment, I want to savor them all, move them around, look at them in different lights!

After learning not only of my cousin's illness but then last night, the news about my good friends from high school, I spent a couple of hours trying to come to terms with what is always a sad and hurtful situation. The dark of night is not always the best time to be doing that, but I did have a little help from a clear sky and an enormous full moon and once again, as has been the case in the past, I began to see not only the value, but the necessity of looking for the good in everything. It may be only a tiny crumb, but there's always something good that can be found if you look hard enough. Both my cousin and my two friends are surrounded by loving family, children and grandchildren, they are able to have proper health care and they have comfortable homes where I know they will want to stay as long as possible. So, I hold them in my heart, my thoughts and my prayers.

In the meantime I owe it to my children and, yes, to myself, to take the best care of myself that I can, that I find joy in each and every day, that I look for the beautiful and the things that take my breath away, that I find things to laugh about, to rejoice in a beautiful sunrise or sunset and to fill each day with excitement and learning and celebrating.

And, yes, life is wonderful!

Let's Sail Away!

Wouldn't it be wonderful to climb on board a ship like this and sail away? A friend of mine in Portland took this at a festival in Victoria BC. The boats are so magnificent! And for someone born in Texas, I have an incredible love for the water. It's one of the reasons I enjoy living in Seattle so much. We actually can see the Sound from our deck and everywhere you go, the water is there. Magnificent!
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A View of Life Through the Lace

How softly the days come and go now, so much easier to see the possibilities as light filters softly thru the lace curtains I once felt were too prosaic, too frilly, too soft for the busy working woman, burdened with responsibilities -- or so it seemed. Now lace suits me and through them I can view my life as a mosaic, filled with light and shadows, like the patterns the late afternoon sun sketches on the walls of the room. I wonder, not for the first time, why youth is wasted on the young? Worrying about a date for Saturday night, a new zitz, trips to the mall. Bits and pieces scattered, lost like a string of beads that has come unstrung. Then one day there is the need, the urge to gather them, restring them. The result is not what I thought it would be so many years ago, but a new collage, a new, sparkling, different gem, or maybe I was just determined to recapture the glow -- the joy, the beauty that somehow evaded me for so long, whatever, it’s mine now.
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

All I can ask is why?

I just had an email from my best friend in high school who is married to another friend. We had the opportunity to see each other three years ago in Texas for the first time since 1955. We got to meet a couple of each other's children and it was such great fun! It was on that same visit to Dallas to see my son that four of my cousins plus husbands and wives came from several points in Texas to see me and we had a grand reunion at my son's newly purchased house. I hadn't seen any of them since the late 50s, early 60s.

A year later as I sat around grumping about my junky knees, one of those cousins lost her husband to cancer and six months later another cousin who had been my playmate every summer at our grandparents house was diagnosed with breast and liver cancer, her prognosis is not good. Tonight, the email I received from my high school friend, revealed she has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and her husband has been diagnosed with dementia. All of a sudden you find yourself stunned by your own good fortune of having nothing but junky knees and feeling such an incredible sadness, a sense of loss and helplessness. I know at this age it's an all too common occurence, but it still hits below the belt.

Sleep will be late in coming tonight, I'm afraid.

Looking Back at Love

Love??

Write about love? Me? When?
Now? A little late for that, don’t you think?
Well, guess I could try a little “what might have been”.
Let’s see – how about a drink?
Hey, remember, you don’t do that anymore.
Hmmm, more’s the pity and I’m talking to myself again.

How about coffee instead? Scarcely the same.
A cigarette? Yeah, something else you don’t do anymore.
I search my mind for a face, a name.
Funny, I can’t seem to find them. Was it all just a kind of personal folklore? Imagination? Weaving in and out of reality?
Was any of it ever real? How about the pain, the joy?
Don’t get maudlin.

Perhaps my memories are like the cup of coffee on the table,
Cold and no longer able to offer warmth or comfort.
I push them both aside. Not much to write about, I guess.
Time for bed.




To J

You came into my life so briefly, but afterward it was never the same.
How can I describe, explain – you were a Rod Stewart song,
A concerto by Tchaikovsky, an autumn day with colors of flame.
You were my rock, my joy, my reason to sing. So why was it wrong?

A Good Day

It started out gray and gloomy, but I had things to do and I couldn't use the weather as an excuse for hiding under or behind -- something, anything. I had an appointment with the acupuncturist that I have been seeing for the past year and he has made such a difference in the quality of my life I do my best to never miss an appointment. I hadn't been in three weeks as he had become a new, first time Dad to a beautiful baby girl and took time off to be with her and her mother. Then I had my camping trip and by today the knees and back were hollering and threatening dire things. So, I got myself moving and made it to my appointment on time. One of the things he had recommended was a stationary bike as a good way to exercise without putting undue pressure on the knees, but gyms are expensive and buying a bike was too. Ah, but when something is meant to be, voila! As I was coming home from my appointment I passed by one of the local Goodwill stores and standing out in front of the store was a stationary bike! I pulled in and checked it out. It was selling for thirteen dollars and while I was looking at it a very nice gentleman came over and looked it over for me and assured me it was in good shape. He held on to it while I went into the store to pay for it and he then loaded it into my car. Ah, nothing like good karma -- bike or whatever! So now I have no excuse for not exercising at home in addition to my Tai Chi classes.

I feel I owe it to my son as well as to myself to maintain my health and I do eat properly, watch my weight and my only vice is a glass of red wine while I'm playing solitaire and listening to that beautiful music I talked about last night. And it's not as dull as it sounds because I'm happy, I'm at peace and the only thing I get riled up about is politics and Republicans -- yeah, I know with the election approaching, but still months away how do you remain cool, calm and collected??? Well, I don't know, I'm working on that one.

And to top the day off, the sun came out, burned away the clouds and gloom and poured it's warmth over our deck and inviting me to come and read and soak up some rays. And I did.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Late Nights

I usually wind down my day by playing solitaire on my computer and listening to some of my favorite classical music. It's a quiet way to undo the knots, soothe the mind, the heart and the soul. Tonight it's Beethoven's Piano Concerto #5 in E Flat and I suddenly discover there are tears in my eyes, not because I'm sad, but because the music is so incredibly beautiful. What a wonderful, glorious thing to have been given such a gift as to be able to write such music! I have lots of favorites and I never tire of listening to them. I'm so grateful to have the music and I've collected a considerable music library over the years. My tastes aren't limited to classical, I just love music period and there's always that particular piece that is perfect for whatever mood you're in and sometimes (more often than not) it's classical, sometimes it's music from the 60s, the 70s and the 80s, pop, country sometimes, it's all about the mood and is such a lovely way to wind down at the end of the day!

Live Without Regrets

I’ve pretty much lived my life, for the past forty years at least, with the belief that the past is over and done with and you can’t bring it back. Generally speaking I wouldn’t want to anyway. By the same token, tomorrow may never come and that means the only time we have for certain is now, today, this hour, this minute. To live in the moment means, for one thing, letting go of regrets and bad memories. It also means not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today – all kinds of things like getting in touch with old friends, finding the book you’ve been hearing about or wanting to read, glorying in a sunrise or sunset, a day at the beach, a beautiful day regardless of the season. Appreciating good friends and letting them know you care – now, not later. Forgiving everyone and everything that has hurt you in the past. Actually, I feel that forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and it doesn’t matter if that means forgiving yourself or someone else. The real reward is a sense of peace and it’s yours forever. Hugging your children every chance you get and that goes for that favorite pet as well. Lingering over a meal long enough to really the savor the taste of a good piece of fruit, a veggie, whatever. And laughter, look for and find lots and lots of reasons to laugh. Do your best to get rid of the feelings of anger and frustration because they destroy the beauty of any moment.

Now that I’ve praised this idealistic state of being, do I succeed at doing this for myself all the time? You can bet I don’t – not all the time. I find when I’m not paying attention I can easily let myself remember what it was like to be hurt, disappointed in things, other people, and most of all myself. And for the times when I said or did something that hurt another person. I can still waste precious moments being angry and frustrated and downright self-pitying. I can still waste those same precious moments regretting things from the past, opportunities missed or simply not taken advantage of, and those special hurts that you tend to keep in that quickly accessed place that makes it easy to keep bringing them into your consciousness so you can relive them, renew them and keep them alive. And because you keep them alive by bringing them out every so often they can remain as fresh and as painful as they were years and years ago and to what purpose? Can you change them? No. Can you eliminate them? Not unless you’re truly willing to let them go, forgive whoever was involved and get on with your life here and now and in the present. Too idealistic? Perhaps, but that’s my goal at least.

When I first sat down to write this piece, I started trying to make a list of things in my life that I regretted. It didn’t take long to start feeling sad, angry and frustrated. So I tore up the list, walked away from my desk and didn’t even think about the project for the next several days. When I returned to the task I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to write about, but it wasn’t going to be regrets in the usual sense of the word. Instead, I started trying to focus on all the wonderful things in my life right now, this moment. It didn’t take long for that list to far exceed the list of regrets I had started earlier.

I have been so gloriously blessed in so very many ways and it doesn’t take hours of focusing on all those good things to make me realize that the good and wonderful things in my life far exceed the bad – at least in my mind. I have four incredible, healthy, bright and beautiful children. I have my wonderful dog, Sam, a Miniature Schnauzer. And then last year my youngest son, Adam, who is single and travels a lot with his job, built me a lovely space at his house. I had never, ever even considered living with any of my children, not because I don't love them, but because I do. I had always encouraged them to be independent, pursue their own dreams, wherever that led them, to create the life that they wanted. Consequently, he didn’t have an easy sell. But after a year and a half he finally convinced me that it was what he wanted to do, that I would be an asset because I would be there to be a “mother” to his dog, Mojo and he wouldn’t have to worry about the house during his long trips. So, I moved to Seattle and it has worked out well. There have been adjustments for both of us, but we’ve made them. We both have lives of our own, but we still do things together and it’s lots of fun. I have my health – physically and mentally – well, there may be some that would question that, but at least as far as I’m concerned. I’m involved with Tai Chi classes, swimming, and volunteering in a Jump Start program for pre-school children and that’s great fun. I take trips sponsored by one of the senior centers near our house.

So, I don’t have a lot of regrets or at least ones that I’m willing to focus on to the detriment of my peace of mind, happiness and ability to enjoy and live in the moment. Are there things I wish I had done or done differently? Of course, there are, but since it isn’t possible to go back and change those things, they’re not enough to make me waste the “now”, which is all I have, all any of us have. So grin, giggle, laugh and shove the past inside a great big old trunk and toss it over the side of your own personal life boat now and live!

The Columbia River

I was prowling through photos and found this one that I took while on a jet boat cruise up the Columbia River from Portland to Astoria . Once we got past the boat docks, the businesses, etc. etc. etc. it looked much as it must have when Lewis and Clark first came. There was almost a breathless hush on the boat as everyone seemed to be soaking up the beauty all around us -- in spite of it being a cloudy, chilly day.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Where Does All This "Stuff" Come From?

Several years ago when I was living in Portland, OR I heard about a poetry writing class that was being held near where I lived. Poetry wasn't anything I had tried to write before and I wasn't sure I had any talent whatsoever for writing it, but I decided it sounded interesting and signed up to attend. It was a six week class, we had an excellent teacher and I really enjoyed it -- don't know that I'm particularly talented as a poet, but it was fun. I hoped perhaps there would be a follow-up course.

Several weeks after the course was over I received a notice that there would be a life writing class and my former teacher urged me to give it a try. I did and made a good friend there. It was she that I visited recently in Portland. She was also the one who urged me to start a blog. I wasn't too keen on the idea, but after I got home and was cleaning some stuff off my computer, I ran across the lessons from both the poetry and the life writing classes. After reading them again a few days later, I decided they might be a good place to start with a blog.

Re-reading both the poetry and the life writing lessons made me take another look at not only the hurtful things that I had tried to forget over the years -- those things that have a way of haunting you no matter how hard you try to put them away, but a look the fun things as well. They brought some tears, some laughter, but above all, the realization of what a truly wonderful life I've had. Hurts? yes, of course, but successes as well and certainly not the least of those are my four children.

So, who knows where all this "stuff" comes from or why we hang on to it, try to bury it or sometimes even try to re-live it. The good and the bad all are part of who we are, so maybe at this stage of the game it's time to make peace with it, celebrate it, make the most of it, because that "stuff" is the what has made us, not only older, wiser but in a lot of cases, more fun, more free, more loving, more forgiving, more understanding.

Who's Behind the Name?

Sylvia Rae McCarty Kirkwood
My mother admired the actress, Sylvia Sidney.
My father’s name was Raymond – he wanted a boy.
Irish, skinny, freckled, too-curly auburn hair,
My relatives called me Priss, that says it all,
I was a feisty, prissy little girl,
But neither family nor relatives ever knew
The other little girl under the curls,
Or the hurts she kept hidden.
Then it was Bucky, at least until the braces went on and came off.
Kirkwood symboled a new woman, married to the Olympic hero,
Sylvia disappeared behind him, became Ninkles – no, don’t ask.
Ah, but then came the real gifts!
Four beautiful gifts that encompassed the best of both,
The hero and the prissy, feisty girl.
Now the hair is white, but the feisty remains,
Hopefully less prissy, but not less spirited.
A journey through the names tells the story,
My story, and what a great story it’s been!

Future Dancers


In addition to her job at Fossil, my dearest friend spends a large amount of time teaching little ones, like those in the photo to dance. I have always loved to dance, my daughter is a dancer and all I can think of is how very fortunate these young ladies are to have someone so devoted to sharing her passion for and her joy in dance with the very young. She is truly a gift to many.Posted by Picasa

Whidbey Island

It was one of those perfect weekends -- a gorgeous setting, beautiful weather, good friends, lots of laughter, good food. On our second day there we took the dogs to a dog park on the beach. The tide was out and it was so clear you could see the Seattle skyline. And then Mt. Rainier! Soaring into the sky, its foot clad in clouds, it's snow capped peak looking almost fragile, mystical against the sky's pale blue background. Perfect!

Yes, it was perfect -- what could go wrong? And, well, nothing did until just before we left. The car was packed and we were ready to head home -- where are the car keys??? Keys? don't you have them? We ended up having to call AAA for a tow to the local car dealer to get a new key made and all of this takes a lot of time because after all, we were on an island, not in Seattle! But we all made it home safely -- if delayed, the weather remained beautiful and it was still a great weekend! And it was good to get home and sleep in my own bed -- my bones don't take too kindly to sleeping in a tent even on an air mattress, but I'm not complaining that much, at least I can do it for three nights and still walk around.

It wasn't until after I got home that I saw the cover on the New Yorker magazine and almost lost the lovely sense of peace and beauty that I had so enjoyed over the long weekend. What are they thinking? And why? I've always enjoyed the magazine, but this was so over the top, so totally uncalled for, so disgusting -- needless to say I won't be buying that one again. The news is bad enough every day without something like this to make it even worse. One look at that cover and I was ready to head back to the island.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What lovely surprises!

I started my blog a little half heartedly, not sure I had anything worth saying or putting out for the blogging world to see, but I have been so very moved by the response and comments that I have received. For the first time in my life I feel as though others could see what I have seen and felt and responded because they have seen and felt the same things. I have always written because trying to put into words all the things that I felt -- good and bad -- was the only way I had of working through the hurts or expressing the joy and excitement that I felt at any given time. I truly never considered myself talented enough to succeed at writing although that was the only real passion that I had. Not that I didn't love teaching because I did. I loved trying to reach inside each of my students to help them find their dream, their passion and to encourage them to reach for it in ways I was too frightened to follow. It may have come late in my life, it won't result in bookstore appearances, but it has brought a joy, an excitement that I never thought I would experience -- at least in this life. And, isn't life full of wonderful surprises when we least expect them? To all of you who have responded to me and my thoughts, thank you!

Off to Whidbey Island!

Tomorrow my son, Adam, and I along with several of our neighbors are headed for Whidbey Island for four days and I'm already excited! We did this last year and it was such fun and such a beautiful place. It's been a good year, but there have been the down times, too, as always and I'm looking forward to some quiet time away from the city, the noise and all the things that tend to distract you from what is really important. A time to reflect not only on the year that was, but the year ahead and how we can make those positive changes in our lives we've been talking about, thinking about and putting off. I never really gave much thought to aging until the past couple of years as the aches and pains become a little harder to ignore. And there's the passing of old friends and relatives that forces you to face your own mortality. So I look forward to enjoying the quiet, the soothing presence of water all around, the fresh scents and sitting around a campfire with two and four legged friends. Granted it's a little harder getting into and sleeping in a tent these days, but then that's why I have an air mattress. Ah, the joys of old age!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A new day

It's a gorgeous day with the sun, that has been so elusive for the past nine months, pouring it's light and warmth over Seattle. The spirits are lighter, laughter comes easier and I feel such a sense of joy. I have found as I get older and older -- think I'll stop there, that while I still have good days, fun days, better than average days, the ones where the spirits soar are less frequent. The days of soaring spirits and a sense of total joy have almost been lost and to me that's one of the hardest realities to deal with. But on a day like today I do feel that total joy, the laughter that just bubbles up from inside and makes everything beautiful. Maybe because I don't feel that way as much or as often as I did when I was younger has, in a way, made them all the more precious and treasured.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More Perfection

And the wonders never cease!
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Perplexed

Some days I can find the beauty in growing old,
Time to read, write, explore cyberspace
Time to knit, try new recipes or fix old favorites.
Sleeping in, staying up late – no schedules

Time to read, write, and explore cyberspace,
Which in turn leads me to discover things now out of reach.
Sleeping in, staying up late – yeah, no schedules.
It’s suddenly far too easy to discover just what’s wrong with that.

Which in turn leads me to discover things that I miss,
The excitement of meeting a deadline on a project, a night on the town.
It’s suddenly not so easy to find what’s wrong with that.
And looking forward to a night of dancing the tango, oh the best.

The excitement of meeting a deadline on a project, a night on the town.
I miss that kind of “busy”, the feeling that my life had a real purpose,
And looking forward to a night of dancing the tango – still the best.
I am learning new things, doing new things but it’s not the same.

I miss that kind of “busy”, the feeling that my life had a real purpose,
Not just time to knit, try new recipes or fix old favorites,
And I am learning new things, doing new things, but it’s not the same.
Still, some days I can find the beauty in growing old.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Real Tango Dancer

My daughter, Kerith, was first a ballet dancer, but some injuries forced her to give it up. She is now a Pilaetes Instructor with her own studio in Healdsburg, CA. Her passion has always been dance and when she turned to dance again, it was to the tango. Needless to say, I'm outrageously proud of her and being a tango fan myself, can't help wishing the knees hadn't been the first thing to go so I could have continued studying it.
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Birthdays

I was cleaning stuff off my computer yesterday and ran across some things I had written for a writing class I took several years ago. It was a fun class and I really enjoyed trying my hand at poetry and writing in general. And since my birthday is coming up I decided to post one of those writings. So, here goes.


Birthdays

Birthdays have never been particularly important or even interesting for me except for when my children were growing up. We did celebrate grandly then with the birthday girl or boy getting all kinds of goodies that I had made for them, with four it was a lot less expensive that way and even more fun for me making everyone a special present. The birthday boy or girl got a stack of goodies, but the others each got one special gift. As a result they all looked forward to each other’s birthdays and it was great fun. My youngest daughter paid me back this past November when my sons were here for their birthdays and she sent presents for all of us. That was a grand surprise.

However, at my current age, for the most part the only good thing about birthdays is that I’m still around to celebrate one at all – if I choose celebrate. My kids seem to feel pretty much the same way and other than a call to say “I love you”, we pretty much let them slide by without a lot of hoohah. So with this new writing assignment, I kind of sat staring at my computer screen, hoping some marvelous inspiration would float down and invade my thoughts. When nothing happened and the week was nearly gone, I decided to take a look at the websites that had been included with our instructions.

I discovered that P. B. Shelley and Louie Armstrong had both been born on August 4, too, and I wondered why the same muse wasn’t hovering over my shoulder. There were a number of football players but that didn’t offer any inspiration. Then when I looked at events that had occurred on my birthday, I saw momentous things like Howard Stern withdrawing from the New York gubernatorial race and a truck carrying millions of bees overturning on a New York parkway. Amazing! As I scrolled down the page I saw a name that I knew! Kathy Whitworth, a girl who was born in the small west Texas town where I grew up and who I had gone to school with! I surfed around and discovered she was among the world’s first leading women golfers and had won one of her first prestigious tournaments on my birthday! I’m pretty sure she didn’t plan it that way though.

I also discovered that while warming up before the 5th inning Yankee Dave Winfield accidentally killed a seagull! And Prince’s album Purple Rain went to #1. Carl Lewis won a gold medal in the 100-meter dash in the summer Olympics in Los Angeles and France performed a nuclear test. John Lennon and Yoko began recording “Double Fantasy”, Oliver North was assigned to White House duty and President Carter established the Department of Energy. Anne Frank was arrested in Amsterdam by the Nazis and the first train of Jews departed for Auschwitz from Mechelen, Belgium. And Dom Perignon invented champagne. And all on my birth date – August 4!

So this has turned into an intriguing assignment, a great history lesson -- and a chance to observe and reflect on the funny, mundane, tragic and everything in between that has taken place on just this one day in history. An opportunity to become aware of so much more than just a birthday, but a date to be celebrated and cherished as each day of all our lives should be.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A sad view of war and torture long before Gitmo

In an earlier post I mentioned a French general that I met in Germany at a fencing tournament and earlier today I found this NYT article about him online. I was curious as to what had happened to him and his wife. She wrote a very interesting book about her experiences during the war. Sometime after I had met both of them that night and I had read her book I wrote her a letter and received a lovey reply. More good memories!

Jacques Massu, 94, General Who Led Battle of Algiers


By MICHAEL T. KAUFMAN
Published: October 31, 2002
Gen. Jacques Massu, a soldier who late in life came to deplore and regret France's use of torture during his triumphant direction of the Battle of Algiers in 1957, died on Saturday at his home in Conflans-sur-Loing in the Loiret region of France. He was 94.
A highly decorated officer who fought for France in every major conflict since World War I, Jacques Émile Charles Marie Massu joined General de Gaulle's Free French forces in 1940 after scribbling, ''Nous vaincrons'' (We shall win) in his diary.
After liberation, he spent years commanding troops fighting nationalist forces in Vietnam. In 1956, he spearheaded a drive to take control of the Suez Canal when the British-French thrust to recapture it from Egypt was thwarted by a United Nations cease-fire. In 1968, he was President de Gaulle's chief military aide in quelling the leftist uprising of young people in Paris.
But General Massu's greatest fame and notoriety rested on his role in Algeria. A lanky old soldier, almost as tall as his hero de Gaulle, he was named military commander of an inflamed Algeria in 1957. When his harsh measures resulted in triumph over the guerrillas of the National Liberation Front, he was lionized by Algeria's one million French settlers and worshiped by soldiers and veterans' groups calling him ''Le père de paras,'' the father of paratroopers.
But for much of the ensuing 40 years, he was confronted, even haunted, by the tactics of torture systematically used in Algeria.
The most recent such challenge came after May 2001, when a dozen French intellectuals called upon the government to start an official inquiry on torture during the Algerian war, which ended in 1962 in negotiations between France and the National Liberation Front.
The appeal followed publication in French newspapers of the account of Louisette Ighilahriz, a 60-year-old woman, who described the months of physical assaults she endured 40 years earlier, when General Massu was in command and when she was working for the liberation front.
Asked to respond, General Massu condemned the use of torture while claiming that he had never learned where the policy originated.
''Torture is not indispensable in time of war, we could have gotten along without it very well,'' he said.
He acknowledged that torture had been ''institutionalized'' in Algeria. ''That was the worst thing,'' he said. But he insisted that he personally had not been involved in imposing torture.
''Who was it that set them up?'' he asked. ''Was there military or civilian control? Was it the staff of the army in Paris? Today I still ask myself these questions.''
When interviewers from the newspaper Le Monde wanted to know whether he thought that France should officially acknowledge the policies of torture used in Algeria and condemn them, he replied: ''I think that would be a good thing. Morally torture is something very ugly.''
General Massu's comments were widely reported in France and contrasted with those of his deputy in Algiers, Gen. Paul Aussaresses, who acknowledged without doubts or remorse that 3,000 Algerians had ''been made to disappear'' in the battle of Algiers. He said that he had personally taken part in the execution of 25 men, that suicides were faked and that ''everybody'' knew that such things had been authorized in Paris. He also said his only real regret was that some of those tortured died before they revealed anything useful.
General Aussaresses also said the details of torture had been known to General Massu.
''To keep a proper record, we wrote everything down,'' he said. ''Sometimes I'd say to Massu, 'We picked up so-and-so.' Then I'd look him straight in the eye and add, 'We'll kill him tomorrow.' Massu grunted. I assumed he approved.''
In fact, many years before his change of heart, General Massu had sounded much more like General Aussaresses, contending that torture had been ''a cruel necessity.''
In 1971 he wrote a book challenging the condemnatory tone of the classic Italian film ''The Battle of Algiers.'' In it he said: ''I am not afraid of the word torture, but I think in the majority of cases, the French military men obliged to use it to vanquish terrorism were, fortunately, choir boys compared with the use to which it was put by the rebels. The latter's extreme savagery led us to some ferocity, it is certain, but we remained within the law of eye for eye, tooth for tooth.''
A child of a military family and a graduate of St. Cyr, the military academy, General Massu married Suzanne Rosenberg, who had been an ambulance driver for the Free French forces.

Perfection!

I use this photo as my screensaver because each day when I turn on my computer it reminds me of what an amazing world we live in and that there is at least a taste of perfection if we take the time to look for it. I have my friends, Dale and Nancy, to thank for the glorious photos from their rose garden.
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All things evolve

It seems that each day brings new discoveries and new lessons. Some of them are welcome and bring a sense of joy or peace and then there are the ones you're not certain you ever wanted to find. And yet even those have value -- maybe even more value, you just have to look a little or a lot harder to see them.

This past year has definitely had it's ups and downs as I've adjusted to a new life, in a new location, but the good outweighs the bad and, as usual, I find myself surprised by how much I still have to learn. I worked until I was sixty-six and had just gone to work for a Japanese silicon wafer manufacturing company that was just building a new plant in my area. I was assistant to the president and I loved my job and I'd still be there (if they hadn't retired me anyway), but the company ran into some serious financial problems in Japan and had to shut down the entire facility. It was devastating for everyone. One of the things that was so wonderful and remarkable was the wide variety of people they had employed. There were the very young, the in between, and a large number of people well over 50 and there were people not only from the US, but Russia, Japan, China. It was a grand mixture and we were all excited and we were all heartbroken when it all came to an end in 1999.

As I mentioned in another blog, I went to Mexico and lived for a year trying to decide what I wanted to do next. It was hard when I returned to the states, ready to look for another job only to discover that there really is such a thing as age discrimination. But I've adapted -- as we all do and found that it is marvelous to have the time to be able to pursue interests we didn't have time for before.

So, each day offers new challenges and new gifts and I've found that it helps to see even the challenges as gifts in their own right.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Best Friend, Sam

Sam is a Miniature Schnauzer and, no, that isn't a cigar in his mouth -- just a favorite rawhide chewie. He's had some adapting to do, too, since we moved to Seattle -- he has to share his Mom with another dog, a big dog who still thinks she's a lap dog.Posted by Picasa

And that's enough about age/aging

Now that I've gotten all that off my chest I'm ready to move on to more interesting things. And there are more interesting things in spite of the politics of today, global warming, what to do with Rush Limbaugh and John McCain and the Bushies, but sometimes it's hard to find anything else to talk about and that can almost guarantee a bad day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Me and one of my "lap" dogs!

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Trying to find the right spot

Looking back over the memories of that night in the train station and realizing I had to write it all down as a prod to doing more -- more towards creating a new life for myself. A little over a year ago my son moved me to Seattle. He's my youngest and we get along very well. He's not married, travels a lot and has a dog. He built a lovely space for me, we live in a great neighborhood and after a year of adjustments of one kind or another we're moving into a comfortable mode. Our dogs are great friends and we both feel it was a good move. But it is very different from the life or lives that I've led over the past twenty years.

I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not 30 or 40 or even 70 any more. I keep being amazed at all the people that have died this year alone , people that you watched or listened to, laughed at or with over the years and found myself wondering, how can that be???? I can't help but wonder if there are others who feel the same. Except for the usual aches and pains of being 75, I'm in good health. I take Tai Chi classes twice a week and during the school year volunteer at a Jump Start pre-school class. It is fun in spite of being exposed to all the new germs they bring me while I read to them -- I had a cold this year for the first time in more than ten years.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fourth and final post for this round

I have enjoyed my life, but for a few years I think I lost the ability to really appreciate it. After my encounter with Esther I began to take stock and do some re-evaluating. I have done a lot of things over the years and most of them were interesting, some exciting, a few scary, some costly and some just plain desperate. At the time it was hard for me to be objective, and looking back it seemed that being ready and willing to reach for the proverbial stars may have created an interesting life, but more often than not it had spawned concern, criticism, exasperation and condemnation – first from my parents, then friends – not to mention my ex-husband and four children. But perhaps that’s the cost of living an “interesting life”.

Over the past several years I have met a number of people who have said much the same things that Esther did six years ago and I have found myself looking in the mirror, trying almost desperately to see the person these people believed me to be.

And now in the summer of 2008 I find I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on some of these conversations, my life in general and why I so often see that wistful look in a lot of older women’s eyes. What I have discovered is that too many women from my generation were taught more about caution than taking chances, about being safe rather than seeking to explore or try new things, and for the most part, they were certainly no encouraged to find new ways of looking at themselves or the world.

As a result of all this I’m rediscovering a feeling of gratitude for the things I have done and as a reminder for future dark times, I began making a list. For starters, in my twenties I worked for an airline and took advantage of cheap travel opportunities to spend a lot of time exploring the East coast, particularly New York City and Boston. I enjoyed a Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a romantic weekend in Boston watching Harvard and Yale play football with a handsome Navy lieutenant that I had met in New Orleans during that same Mardi Gras. I returned to college when I was twenty-eight and became a teacher. I married an Olympic Silver Medalist and later when he returned from Vietnam, we lived in Germany and Spain for three years. At a formal ball following a fencing tournament in Heidelberg, which my husband’s team won, I was toasted by and invited to dance by the Commander of the French armed forces in Germany at the time. A “Cinderella moment” to be sure. We sailed among the Greek islands and visited temples in Delphi and saw the site of the original Olympics. I gave birth to four healthy, incredible children and adored being a full time mom in Montana. Of having the adventure of traveling with my family in our Winnebago up and down the entire west coast and Canada. Much later I cruised the Western Caribbean, marveled at Chichen Itza and learned how to snorkel off the coast of Cozumel. I lived for a year in San Miguel de Allende, a 450 year old Colonial City in the mountains of Central Mexico where I had the opportunity of watching their version of the running of the bulls, exploring the other colonial cities with a wonderful guide, enjoying fabulous food, meeting many delightful people and learning to speak Spanish with relative fluency. I took up ballroom dancing in my sixties and learned to dance a wicked tango. Over the years I have worked at a number of interesting jobs in addition to teaching. I helped to set up one of the first Independent Living Centers in Montana and was able to be on the ground floor of a Japanese silicon wafer manufacturing company that was building it’s first plant in the states and learning to speak Japanese while I was at it.

I was always willing to take chances, try new things, and even pursue the dream of maybe some day being a writer – in spite of the odds against success. None of these things are out of reach to anyone, but unfortunately the emphasis was always put on the dangers of falling on your face rather than the excitement of discovery. And the consequences of failure were painted pretty graphically. Granted, you do run the risk of stumbling and/or falling on your face – I can testify to that, but you just pick yourself up and try a different strategy and do it again. Failure isn’t the end of the world, just the possible beginning of a new one. I think many of us were more or less victims of our parent’s “Depression mentality”. Caution, being sensible, that was the advice – well, a little of that is good, but a little goes a long way.

But that same spring there was something else that crept into my mind as I sat around watching Oregon’s eternal rain and reflecting – I was on my own, had been for over twenty years and sometimes I would find myself looking at other women with their husbands and homes and security and for a moment I’d feel just a little wistful myself. But then when I talked to many of these women -- not all -- or overhear their conversations, I’d discover that many of them only remained married to their husbands out of fear of being alone, not because they loved and were loved with joy and passion (yes, passion at our age is possible), and not because they actually shared their life with their best friend, but more often than not it is just to keep from being alone. I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty sad. I don’t object to my own company that much and I don’t feel that alone. I guess for me the worst thing would be feeling that I’d settled for second best and I’m willing to bet it’s less than what most people, men or women really want.

There are times, however, when in spite of filling your life with wonderful and exciting things, you can find yourself floundering in a quagmire of some kind and you’re not exactly sure just why or how you got there. That’s where I’ve found myself when I first met Esther and the question I wanted to throw at her was: “Yeah, a great life, but look at where I am now.” Some days it’s hard to see these situations as just another challenge, but I’m beginning to realize that’s all they are and I’m climbing out of this hole just like I’ve climbed out of the others in the past. The rocky cliffs to scale and the cavernous caves to crawl out of are just put there to make the journey interesting. I’ve always wanted it all – I haven’t changed in spite of skinned dreams and bruised hopes.

Looking back to September 11, I remember thinking that it was a wake up call to all of us who are wasting time with things, jobs, or partners that don’t fill the empty spaces inside. But maybe the worst of all is fretting over the past – it’s dead, folks, hang a wreath on it and move on. We’re each given one life, one opportunity to make it the best it can be and that’s going to mean something different to everyone, but the important thing is to not waste anymore time in finding just what it is that lights your fire. It’s reassuring to realize that the joy of discovery and self-realization is possible at any age and it has helped me reaffirm my belief that it doesn’t matter if I’m late getting to the station or that this may be the last train, it’s not leaving without me.

Third Post

I glanced around the station that night and noticed a woman across from me whom I had seen on the commuter busy from Santa Rosa. I got the feeling she might have spent the holidays with her children as well. She caught my eye after the announcement was made and we exchanged eye rolls and shoulder shrugs. A little later when she returned from a trip to the restroom, she came to sit beside me and we began to talk. Her name was Esther and she lived in Klamath Falls, Oregon. She was intelligent, clever and had a great sense of humor. She was a widow in her early seventies. At the time I was in my late sixties and it was encouraging to meet someone old than myself who still functioned successfully -- there were times when I had doubts about how well I did.

We began talking and over the course of the next five hours we touched on most of the highlights of our lives along with just about everything else. Finally, just before we finally boarded the train, she said something that prompted me to take a look at my life from a different perspective. As we gathered up our belongings, she stopped for a moment and said: "You know you should really write your memoirs. You've had such an interesting life, done so many things that most women only dream about. Have you ever considered doing that? I know I'd love to read it."

That was interesting to hear -- I had been writing since I was a child, tearing pictures out of my mother's magazines and writing my own stories to go with them. It was all I'd ever really wanted to do. But my only thought at the time was that Esther must have had a really boring life if mine looked that good to her.