Monday, November 29, 2010

Not a Wet Eye in the House

     What I am, is an observer of human behavior...always have been.  I majored in Sociology, which, yes, yes, yes, we all know is the easiest major known to mankind.  Still, I really loved it.  It's the study of groups of people.   It's the reason I know words like "outlier" or "skew" or "cohort".  My nursing career included many years in mental health.  Human behavior just fascinates me....why do people do what they do?  I tend to watch people and how they behave.  Sometimes, I wish I didn't.

     Being an ancient, I miss having little kids and all the fun that comes with them.  Happily, life has given me eight fabulous, smart and adorable grandchildren (no, really).  Four girls, and four boys.  I get to be a part of their lives and recapture a time in my life when my own kids were busy with sports, and homework, scouts, and activities.  Sometimes, now, when my grandchildren's folks are busy at work, and can't get away, I am the substitute event-attender at award ceremonies and school programs.  This is a duty I cherish.

     It's November.  I was invited by two of my grandkids to their Patriot's Day Program commemorating and honoring our heroes and veterans.  They were both granddaughter with the school chorus, and my grandson with his third grade class.

     The theme was patriotism.  For my generation, born and raised just after World War II, this concept is pretty clear.  It was part of our upbringing at home and at school.  To this day I can still sing most of the lyrics to the Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force anthems.  Of course. many of us were directly affected by that sister's daddy didn't come husband's dad came home with bad dreams and dark moods.

     As school children we were taught about the Patriots who founded our country and our Constitution..and how they incorporated liberty, honor, bravery, independence, and human rights to life and to expression into our every day.  We grew up on lessons, stories, books, and movies about courage, sacrifice, heroism, and selflessness.   Love of country..respect for others.

     Of course, in the 60+ years since the end of World War II, we have continued to produce heroes and patriots when our country has been at war or in crisis, or just in extraordinary circumstances.  I was heartened to know that our schools continue to respect and honor our heroes and patriots and that these concepts are not only being taught to our youngsters, but that the kids were excited to express this knowledge proudly in their program.

     I arrived just as the program was starting.  It was outside, standing room only.  Packed.  I didn't get the pre-program flyer..but obviously the parents did.  They were all dressed in red, white and blue.  Wow, I thought.  I am so proud to be here.

     The Assistant Principal welcomed us, introduced local patriots from law enforcement, the fire department and all branches of the armed services, and then invited all of us to join her in singing the National Anthem.

     The patriots, teachers and chorus sang and so did I.  The audience stood silent.

     I looked around...there were people dressed in our honored colors everywhere.  They shifted restlessly, glancing at times in the direction of the flag of the United States of America.  Land of the free.  Home of the brave.  One young woman took her eyes off the flag and made a 180 degree turn to momentarily check me out.  "Read my lips," I thought, "what so proudly we hailed, at the twilight's last gleaming.."  C'mon, be a rebel, I know you can do it!!!!

     The Assistant Principal then asked us to join in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and  justice for all.

     As I spoke the words, I saw a guy in the audience place his hand over his heart and felt a nudge of hope...but the crowd continued to stare at the flag, stone faced...marking time?   For what?  I thought.  The good stuff has started...this is part of the program!

     The kids began their singing program.  Well, now.  THAT woke folks up.

     Out came two hundred video cameras.  The parents of the children singing moved in and recorded the songs for posterity.  Presumably, to watch later...maybe they would catch a word or two of the song then.  It didn't seem to matter that they stepped in front of the rest of us, who might want to see our kids..most of the crowd began texting, talking on cells, or chatting with neighbors until their kid's class sang the next patriotic song.  Standard procedure, apparently.

     Now, I cry when kids sing.  It doesn't matter what they sing.  They can be singing in Cantonese on PBS....or about re-using paper bags at the local "Recycle" program.  Their precious, young, innocent, earnest, trusting voices send me over the edge.  I believe our schools do a really good job of assisting children to relate through these programs to their responsibilities as citizens and to our American traditions.  Our children have such potential to make this world a better, safer, nicer place.  I tear up because it so touches my heart.

     So...when the program ended with a dramatic resounding rendition of "I'm Proud to be an American" from the fifth grade class I was puzzled.  I stood there clutching at the lump in my throat and noted that I did not see one Kleenex being sneaked from a pocket....or one nose being steathily wiped on a sleeve.  Just tolerant stares...and the relentless video cameras plus more than one sappy Stepford smile. 

     The parents politely applauded and then just like that...the cameras disappeared...and a mad red,white, and blue-streaked dash for the car whizzed in front of me.


     Is it me?  I think we have literally lost our senses.  Are we Americans totally blind to the magnificence and rarity of living FREE?  Do we just assume that people in Darfur went to their children's school program today too?  Or that in Somalia their biggest problem is what to bring for soccer snacks?  Do we have any comprehension of what we have we got it...and how precarious it is to hold on to?  Our patriots are dying out there, maybe today, to ensure that we have school programs to go to tomorrow.  Are we totally freakin' numb?  Deaf?  Dumb?

     When did it become uncouth to sing the National Anthem?  Lame, to recite the Pledge of Allegiance?  When did it become an embarrassment to proclaim our pride and loyalty to our country?  When did we lose the emotional connection to the brilliance and the originality and the democratic success story that IS the United States of America? 

     When did we become so entrenched in our belongings that we decided to record our kid's songs and watch them some other time rather than to really listen to the words, to get the goose bumps, to feel the pride, to experience the gratitude, the privilege, the joy of being an American among Americans celebrating our shared heritage of valiance and heroism with the youngsters who are our future hope?

     How are THEY supposed to feel it.....if WE don't?

     How will THEY sing the words and affirm their loyalty....if WE don't?

     It looks so much like indifference, doesn't it?  It smells so much like apathy, doesn't it?  It feels so much like complacence, doesn't it?  Get real...think about this.  Truly...isn't this more devastatingly dangerous to our country than any terrorist plot? 

     This isn't about being spectators...this is about being Americans.  Stand up folks.  Sing the words loud and clear for your children and for the world to hear.  Speak the pledge, folks.  Show the future of America what you mean.  What YOU stand for.   Proclaim that you care.   

You do care.....right?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

80% Chance of Sunshine

     What does it mean when the weatherman says there is a 20% chance of rain?  Really?  In my world, Southern California, just 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, it means, at most, a muddy windshield when wet air settles overnight on an already very dusty car.  Why even mention it?

     We started this week at 110 degrees..not a wisp of a cloud in sight.  Then, like a miracle..we woke to clouds for the next two days..thick and rain-laden clouds.  According to the Weather Channel, thunderstorms were pending.  Thunderstorms?  Seriously?  My heart went pitty-pat.  But...ummmm....don't you have to have H20 for that?  What did we get?  Thunder for sure....lightning...absolutely.  And a trip to the vet for doggie Xanax.  Nada, zip, zero rain.  This morning I looked out my bedroom window and saw rain drops on our rooftop.  And that's all she wrote folks.  Thunderheads all around us.....and 12 drops of rain.

     Come on!!!  We need a GOOD rain.  We need the air cleared, the streets washed, heck, I need my landscaping dusted by God, rather my water bill.  Going months with only 12 drops of precipitation can feel like an unusually long stretch of celibacy in a very busy life.  You know what I's that parched, antsy, cranky, unable to identify exactly what's wrong feeling.  A good that makes a person feel like her needs have been met, refreshed, content, connected once more to the glory of life and nature....purring like a little kitten..... a little smiling kitten.  I'm right.  Right?

     I think I must be the only Southern Californian who hates sunshine.  Well, I don't really hate it...I just wish it would go away more often.  I crave clouds.  Just seeing clouds makes me feel hopeful...hopeful that the awful monotony will be swept down our totally unused storm drains in one hell of a thunderstorm.  Just a little cloud will do that for me.  Raises my spirit right up!!  Embarrassingly, in my career I had a rather important management position, but when the bi-annual raindrop shoved its little self out of a cloud and plummeted to earth, I would bolt from my office, dash to the front lobby, and mash my nose against the window marveling at the water falling from the sky.  "Don't you want to go out and smell wet pavement?"  I would ask the forlorn, suntanned faces staring quizzically at me.

     It's reasonable that I feel as I do, of course.  In the 1950's, in Los Angeles where I grew up, just after Christmas in January and February, it would rain for weeks on end.  We didn't have fancy storm drains then, and the water would collect in our street, growing ever higher each day, until we experienced what my father called a "curb to curb".  A veritable river would travel down our block and merge into the confluence at the corner of 76th and Airport Boulevard.  From there the water traveled two more blocks until it dumped into Howard Hughes' bean fields (now the San Diego Freeway).  My mother would zig-zag camping rope all over the living room to hang her laundry and she would put the Army Surplus blanket over the card table to make me a cozy house....a nice place to sip my cocoa with marshmallows and play with my Storybook dolls.

     At school, I adored the rainy day schedule.  During recess we had to stay inside.  In the morning, the teacher would read us a story.  At lunch time, after eating from our faithful brown bags, we would play "Heads Up-Seven Up".  If you were smart you would cheat and sneak a look at the player's shoes when they went by, so that you too could stand in front of the classroom as one of the chosen elite.  But best of all was the afternoon recess, when, in desperation, the teacher would drag out a huge stack of comic books.  The room was as still as a remote mountain top in the dead of winter.

     As a child, I actually owned rain boots.  This tender memory nearly brings a tear to my eye...but I'm too dehydrated.

     Some 15 years ago my nephew moved to Seattle for a management job in retail.   Before that, I really had no idea where Seattle was, besides north of Oregon.  Well, actually, a college girlfriend an I drove through Seattle once, on an adventure to Canada, but we didn't really acknowledge it as a city, more as a place..with fish..along the highway.  When my nephew settled, of course I visited, and fell in love with it.  It is beautiful, that's all there is to it.  It is clear, cool, green and very chic.  There is a rather obvious reason for all that greeness, I learned.  It rains 156 days a year in Seattle, or truly, something amazing like that.

     This concept just blew me away.  Rain....regular, fresh watery rain!  Often!  Wow!  I was dying to move there immediately.  I bought the ever popular VHS "First Step to Seattle" and watched it over and over again.  I wanted nothing more than to slosh.  Slosh, slosh, slosh!!!!!  I dreamed of umbrellas, galoshes, Burberry raincoats, pitter-pats on the roof at night, living on a houseboat, drinking hot tea and baking cookies, curling up with a good book, and perhaps running into Tom Hanks at Starbucks, smiling shyly in a Meg Ryanish sort of way, with little droplets hanging from my eyelashes.    

     Reality systems..............check!

     They say, people in Norway, which gets approximately four hours of sun a day, until winter falls, have a high rate of significant depression, so isn't it logical that those of us who must endure sunshine 12 hours a day, 12 months a year might have similar tendencies?  It's the change I crave , of course.  Life is a challenge and we meet it daily.  We get up. deal with the same responsibilities, drive the same freeways, buy the same groceries, and we are fielding problems as we go.  Surely God means for us to have some variety in life!!  Why else would She have created Rush Limbaugh and Bill Mahr in the same century?  I know, I know....why would she create Rush Limbaugh at all?  But you know what I'm getting at.

     I am still holding out for the return of a rainy season here in dusty, desiccated SoCal, even though experts report that we have a better chance of producing a California state budget in my lifetime.  I have to have hope...hope that I'll finally get to use the adorable raincoat our daughter-in-law, who lives on the East coast, left in my closet five years ago.  Hope that the dying drought -resistant plants in my back yard will once more come to life.  Hope that the skies will open up and Malibu will slide into the ocean, and the happy taxpayers will never have to rescue the poor unfortunate rich people again.  In the meantime, I will just have to muddle through.  I'll make plans..that always helps.....we will have Thanksgiving out on our new deck.  We can go to the beach on Christmas, and to Palm Springs to play golf on New Year's Day.

     I'll bide my time having iced coffee on Panera's sunlit patio with my mother and my daughters.  I'll play in the pool with my grandbabies.  I'll stock up on sunscreen, and sandals, and sunglasses to wear while I'm out there in the 100 degree heat scanning the skies for clouds.  I'll be okay..I know I'm not alone on my quest.  I'm fairly certain our handsome local news weatherman feels just as I do.  He has hope in his heart too.  When he announces there is a 20% chance of showers on a cloudless, 85 degree day, his enormous and colorful backdrop optimistically reads "STORM WATCH".

     I'm watching too, you big lug.  But.....while we wait......don't you think you should maybe go out.....and find yourself a nice girlfriend?




Thursday, August 5, 2010

What a Pain in the Butt

     Maybe it started in Mrs. Boynton's ballet class doing back bends.  Or maybe it started when I practiced contortions in the Modern Dance class I took when I was a junior in High School.  Interesting term..Modern Dance..since it was conceived by Isadora Duncan in 1903.

     My actual point is...sometime in my youth..I tweaked my lower back.  Oh, at first it was just a little twinge when I hiked out on the sailboat, or free fell down the bunny slope.  No big deal.  Eventually it bothered me when I dug weeds, or reached under the bed to attack the mountain of dust bunnies.  Strangely, the tandem crash in "98 didn't bother my back..perhaps because I was distracted with trying to breathe with a punctured lung.  Then, there was one lovely Christmas morning, when, with all the family gathered to open gifts, I reached over the end of the sofa for a package hidden under the tree and was forced to admit..before Santa and all..that I was in serious trouble.  I couldn't sit back up!  If only St. Nick had left me an ice pack and a heating pad in my faithful old Christmas stocking!

     I just never knew what was going to set it off...but we came to sort of a back and me.  Of course I had to dig weeds while lying on my stomach, I had to assume a perfect leg extended up in the air behind me swan dive position to search for a contact lens lost in the carpet..and I could buy regular groceries, but was limited to carrying only those made of styrofoam.  The dust bunnies remained incarcerated under my beds like prisoners of war.  But all was quiet on the Southern Front.....of my back.

     Then one day, marching along looking for something else to be perturbed came to my attention that my bathroom mirror had been lying to me.  This enlightenment came to me one early morning, when, although I was awake enough to stagger to the potty, my denial system was supposed to be fast asleep...shhhhhhh.  It woke rapidly when, on my way back to bed, I caught a quick glimpse of myself and, thanks to the miracle of my recent Lasik surgery, was flabbergasted to see that my upper arms were turning into Cream of Wheat!  What?

     I comforted myself with the knowledge that for every problem there must be a solution right?  Who better to help me than the ever faithful Internet.  I looked up mush-busting exercises.  All I needed to do, it instructed, was rest my hands behind me on the seat of a sturdy chair..and lower my bottom towards the floor, then push back up.  Three reps of eight..two times a day.  Piece of cake.  Guaranteed to firm up the old Malt'O'Meal in no time at all.

     Unfortunately, the cease-fire was over.

     Somehow, those exercises triggered a sharp pain in the left cheek of my rear end.  Really?  Any of you old timers who remember Grandpa McCoy know what I am going to say.  Sciatica.  Darn tootin'.  His exaggerated gimp was no act. 

     Of course, it only really hurt if I stood, walked, or sat.  All the time, actually, except when I was sleeping, tanning at the beach, or getting my teeth cleaned.  I had to drive with my left foot on the dashboard.  But, because my life was busy, responsibilities plentiful, and my work demanding, I managed to deny its severity for a year and a half.  It was when I retired, however, I admitted  that my little in and day out was well.....a real pain in the ass!!

     I consulted my doctor.  Of course this wasn't the first time I had mentioned this problem to her, but this time I convinced her something needed to be done, when I told her how embarrassing it was to have to elevate my leg on the wine bar at cocktail parties.  "Do you wear a cocktail dress?" she asked me in a diagnostic sort of way.

     Her solution was to send me to a "Physical Medicine" doctor.  "What the hell is that?"  I thought.  Isn't every doctor a doctor of physical medicine?  What kind of cockamamie doctor is this?  Well, what she a very tall, big boned, expressionless, emotionless, mustache-less Czechoslovakian.........Hitler.  Only maybe not as friendly.  Without making eye contact with me throughout the entire four minute appointment, the dictator doctor made her assessment of my problem by tickling my feet and asking me how much wine I drank every day.  Her only comments about my back were..."effrybody hess beck problems" and "you need to haf thet mole on your beck checked".

     She sent me to "Beck Clesses".  I learned how to roll around on a ball the size of my living room sofa.  I can't remember why.  But the giant green ball IS more comfortable to sit on when I write than my old oak chair.  I learned how to do exercises that never improved my sciatica, but did aggravate other places in my back I didn't know I had.  I ended up at the chiropractor who adjusted everything but my crummy attitude.  Then.....I received from Dr. Grumpyczechnazi, instructions to attend a class on a Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulator.  Well, I thought, count me in for that kind of an adjustment!  But do I really have to learn about it in a class with other people?

     Suffice it to say, I didn't get the my fantasy adjustment..but that little TENS unit turned out to be my new best friend anyway.  If you must know how it works, sit through the beck cless yourself.  In a nutshell, it is a little contraption about the size of my 1960 transistor radio.  I stick a couple of gooey little patches on my back and attach some wires..then turn on the bliss.  So far no one has added my name to the No-Fly List, so I guess I'm not the only traveler who uses one to manage long airline flights......although it does fit my imagination's requirements for an underwear bomb.  Anyway...I felt free again, and maybe even a little ........young.

     What better for young people to do than dash off to Tuxie's Car Cruise.  For those of you who don't know what a car cruise's a fast flash to the past.  It's a sea of cars that were new when I was.  My husband, the ultimate car guy, loves to see the workmanship, and to compare carburetors, upholstery stitching, headlight placement, tachometers, and transmissions.  I love to listen to obscure old songs by Don and Juan, Paul and Paula, Don and Phil, and Mickey and Sylvia.  I like the colors and the shapes and the styles.  I enjoy the milieu; my husband enjoys lying on his back in a filthy parking lot looking at engine mounts.  I learned a long time ago to take a couple of tiny bottles of chardonnay to sip from my Catholic University coffee cup along the way.

     It had been a long time since I had been to a Tuxie's cruise, and I was excited to return knowing that with my new stealth device in place I could comfortably walk the distance.  Chronic pain saps one's attention.  I knew now I could enjoy every single aspect of our trip down memory lane.  I was eager to return, if only for a moment, to those feelings of youth, freedom, fun and frolic.

     Forget it.

     It seemed the majority of the crowd was there to revisit its youth too.  I knew this immediately when I stepped from our cute little '28 roadster into the path of a motorized wheelchair.  It was driven by a white-haired guy who had a miniature oxygen tank rolled into his t-shirt sleeve, rather than his trusty pack of Camels.  I jumped out of his way just in time to stumble over the walker of another guy who was taking a picture of his girlfriend leaning jauntily on her cane.  Quickly I checked my little pocket pal to be sure it was safely tucked away..invisible to the world.  I can't be this old....I thought.  I identify more with the younger people here, I'm sure.

     Well, maybe not.  We were strolling down the row with the "souped up" cars, when somebody revved up an engine loud enough to trigger an air raid siren.  Yikes!  F***!  I jumped out of my skin!  I looked around.  We were in the young crowd.  Scary.  Tall,  tatooed scary.  Some guy walked by with a t-shirt telling us he was a laborer.  "I'm a carpenter..who can I nail next".  Nice, I thought.  Bet his mommy loves doing his laundry.  This isn't youth, I pondered, this is hell.  My gray roots would show in two days if my hair was ruby magenta.  I'd have to go to beck clesses for my neck if I was trying to hold my head up with that much metal in my face.  And how could I hide my magic machine in skin tight leggings?

     "Let's get out of here," I told my husband.  "My back feels great...let's go pick up the grandkids and go to the park.  Let's kick the soccer ball around, ride bikes, play on the jungle-gym.  I'm too old to feel young here......but I'm too young to feel old". 

     My ever-agreeable husband nodded and looked at me with, what....sympathy?  Empathy?  Apathy?  Oh yeh.....I recognized the look.  I reached over and turned on his hearing aid.  "Wake up, Little Susie" I said.  "We gotta go home".

Thursday, June 17, 2010

As the Worm Turns

     Any idea what happens when the earth spins 18,250 times?  Fifty years go by.  One year of kindergarten, twelve years of school, six years of college, a multitude of experiences, marriage, childbirth, a tragedy or two..a real mish-mash of training and learning at the school of hard knocks.  So, after all that effort, why do I feel like I might have ditched too many classes?

     I don't know where to buy pants that come up to my waist.  I'd rather volunteer in the root canal class at theTorment and Torture School of Dentistry than wear pants with a two inch zipper.  Who ever thought that Grace Kelly's elegant trim waist would be usurped by a fashion industry that dictates women of all sizes, ages and shapes expose belly jelly that would make Mr. Sumo blush!

     I think we should call the current young cohort Generation U....for Underwear.  While no female under forty has ever heard of a girdle, the brassiere industry is booming.  Directly above every unwelcome midriff exhibit is a bra, where a nice blouse used to be.  And, to make matters worse..if a young woman IS wearing a shirt...she flaunts the bra straps.  What's THAT about?  In my day, I would rather pin my Maidenform to my shoulder than allow the public even a tiny peek.  Seriously though, I'd rather stand behind a dingy bra strap in the grocery store line than a Fruit of the Loom label snuggled into some hot shot's booty crack.

     Nothing meant more to the kids of the 60's than music.  I am really struggling with whats considered popular today.  It seems we have now evolved from Elvis-like faux bumping to on-stage real-time humping.  The Beach Boys didn't have sex on stage at a concert...they sang about waiting until they were married.  Oh my God.  Wait?  A concept from the frickin' dark ages.  By the way, I did try switching from popular music to Country for a spell, but I was forever wiping my nose on my arm when I ran out of Kleenex in the car.

     Once in awhile I find myself listening to my parent's music, dreaming of a more innocent time.  Of course, the entire world was at war, and those girls were delivering their babies six months after the wedding too, but the music was romantic and sentimental.  Can anyone imagine Kate Smith waggling her backside in the faces of her audience while singing "When the Moon Comes over the Mountain"?

     If you're my age you'll remember in the olden days how the Lavoris commercial made us cringe when the man talked about "halitosis"?  GROOOSS!  Now his son talks about "E.D."  Seriously?  I get the message about how to keep a certain part of the anatomy straight.  The big mystery to me is how the guy in the commercial manages to keep his FACE straight.  And puleeeze Mr. Advertising Exec..having a period month after relentless month is hell enough.  Sell us a product if you must, but here's a news flash...we ladies are honestly very aware of the entire concept.  Jeez.  Shut up!! is my question.  Whatever happened to modesty?  Innocence?  Decorum?  Or restraint?  Where did they go?  Gone with the wind are hats and gloves, respect for others, and manners.  Jeans at a funeral?  Really?  School teachers in tank tops? Excuse me?  Actually singing the words (or even knowing the words) to the National Anthem at the ball game?  Unheard of.  And while I'd just love to blame it on the young, it's just not so.  It was us...the people who lived the last 18,250 days who endorsed this sad evolution.  Somehow we have chipped away at the formality and the finesse of growing up in the fifties and sixties.  Why did we do that?  Why did we make ourselves and our experiences irrelevant in such a desperate world? 

     How fortunate we were when we were the young cohort.  Our folks' generation went without.  They lived their lives as an admirable mission to make their kid's lives better than their own.  They gradually gave us all they had lived without.....and it was a gracious plenty.  Still it was not enough for us.  We wanted more.  We sure made the most of the peace and freedom that were handed to us.  It seems in some fashion we rejected for our own lives, the lives our parents made for us.  Along with ridiculing their reuse of aluminum foil, their washing out of plastic bread bags, their used cars, their balls of string, their caches of rubber bands from the newspaper and their one bathroom homes, apparently we scorned their character, morals, sense of decency and responsibility as well.

     And boy, don't we regret it now.  The beat went on..and the worm turned and turned.

     I hold out a lot of hope for the next cohort though.  Thanks to the ongoing greed of our generation, the world has imploded financially.  While this is, and I know this personally, traumatic, humiliating, frightening, and seemingly unfair...based on the pendulum theory, it could be the life-changing wake-up call to what really matters in our lives, and for our families.

     Hold on....hang on.......let me get the soap flakes out of my eyes.  Sorry.

     Realistically, it could take at least another 18,250 days to get the world rearranged just the way I want it, so I'd better just stay focused on my own small daily challenges.

     I'd like to solve the mystery of how my backside migrated to my frontside.  I'd like to find a way to see the buttons on my IPOD without having to carry a magnifying glass when I take my morning walk.  I'd like to know why, if I finish up a roll of TP at someone else's house..there's never an extra roll to be found under their bathroom sink.  On that vein...I'd like to know if other people can change the TP without the roller clanging to the floor and rolling just out of reach. 

     And since I have digressed to the bathroom issues, let me just get this off my chest.  I think that instructions for flushing should be posted in the airport restroom.  I need to know exactly which button to shove with my foot, rather than kicking a hole in the wall or throwing my back out.  I am pleased to announce, however, that I have conquered the toilet seat cover issue.  After years of being gullible enough to believe the seat cover is actually going to alight on the seat rather than gently wafting into the next door stall...I now reassure my next door neighbor of my immpecable hygiene by pulling the seat cover out of the dispenser, rattling it around a couple of seconds, crumpling it into a ball and throwing it into the john.  What can I say?  We were a rebellious generation..

     Finally, there are the forever nagging doubts about the computer.  I really do not know the difference between a megabyte and a modem.  Actually I don't even know what either of them are.  It may be that I never know....but my 16 month old  granddaughter is learning how to I'm pretty sure, just as soon as she learns a few more words..... she'll be able to explain it to me.  



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Back in the Not in the Know

     I hate the newspaper.  When I was working, I never had time to read it in the morning, and the Evening News with Peter Jennings provided more than my fill of the world's major catastrophes. I didn't really need a paper. But, in '08, with the election coming, I ordered up the local daily, knowing I would soon be home in the mornings to catch up on relevant issues and events and to read every last campaign promise and stinging editorial.  Oh boy.  I was going to get back in the know.  What I learned was...there's a lot in the paper besides major catastrophes.  The paper provides every medium and minor catastrophe, as well.

     You have to look pretty hard, but once in awhile the local high school wins a championship, or someone donates a kidney to a stranger, but in general, the "news" is completely demoralizing.  Just how can people be so rotten?  Why are people so selfish and hateful. How can they be so cruel to one another?

     After a year of retirement, I still get the paper.  But, for about $100.00 a year, I've narrowed my interests to the Dodgers, and the crossword puzzle. To me, this is reasonable.  The crossword puzzle in the paper is the only one I can do.  Oh, and I read the Bridge column to my mom.  This is a good exercise in learning a foreign language.  And, once in awhile I do watch Katie Couric, to see if she has dumped that trashy white lipstick yet, but basically I have decided to be news free.  Cool.

    I mention this whole thing because, as I hurtle along the path towards my eighth decade, it dawns on me that it shortens my life to submerge myself in the rottenness of the minority, when the honest to God truth is....most people are really good.

     When I moved to my city, 35 years ago, its population was about 28,000.  It was populated with citrus grove owners and agricultural for a girl who grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs, in our new home, with oranges, lemons and avocados abounding, I felt like I was raising my children in a country village.   The population has drastically changed in nature and in number, but still, it feels like  a small town to me.

     People I know are nice.  They are friendly.  They are  helpful.  They are neighbors.   From the grocery store clerk to the nursery guy, the pharmacist to the baseball coach, people actually care about each other.  Oh, they have their own busy lives, and who doesn't require an attitude adjustment once in awhile, but they'll take out your trash when you are on vacation, and they'll chase your mail across the parking lot when a Santa Ana wind carries it away.  They'll take time to inflate your son's bicycle tire, and to pick up your eight year old from school when your baby is feverish and fretful.  They will hold the door for your wheelchair-bound mother, and they will recommend good books on the library shelf.  They'll give your kid their last water bottle at a scorching August soccer game, and they will offer you part of the blanket at an early Spring morning baseball game.

     I have friends.  Long ago friends and just last week friends.  They are decent, loyal, loving people.  And, I know I am not the only one with friends.  Everyone I know has them too.  Watch the people camping next to you at Jalama Beach, and you will find they do too.  It's everywhere.  The world is actually filled with these folks.  They don't take advantage of one another.  They don't abuse innocent people.  They fight for and live the concepts upon which our country was founded.  Their kids play..and laugh...and share.

     My generation spouted off a lot about being on the cutting edge of change.  Yet, some things we just can't fix.  This not unheard of insight comes with wisdom...the payoff for having flabby everything.  So, although I do know that we can't exactly bury our heads in the sand about world events, and indeed we need to know situations where we can really help, enjoying life, rather than being disheartened by the negative all around us, is a very good thing.  Nice people are a big part of that.  Whichever forefathers established the Golden Karma Rule Program, knew of whence they spoke. 

     Why this concept is so hard for the greedy, self-righteous minority out there, is a question, of course, for the gods.

     With the most leisure time I have had in my life since playing Pig all summer at Hermosa Beach in my teens, I am totally enjoying my chance to rejoin the affirmative.  I am feeling less anxious because of what I see all around me.  It doesn't hurt to spend lots of time with children either.  Still, extra time or not, if I can't even get myself to do daily reps with the hand weights, I sure as hell am not going to tackle changing the nature of man.  I already did my part.  I raised nice children, and they are raising them too. 

     It is empowering, though, to know that I can generate world-changing positive energy (if not world peace!) without an advanced degree in Physics.  And I don't have to be a balding barfing cow to do it.  I just need to do what the nice people do.   Right here in my little town, and anywhere I go.

You can do it too.  It's pretty easy and it works.


Important Instruction Addendum:

Be sure to wear your waders when your neighbor needs help with his septic tank leak, or your smile is at risk for flipping upside down.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"It's a gull!"

     I met my husband when I was 16.  I was raised with an older sister and thought I knew all about family life: then I met my boyfriend's people.  He was raised with two younger brothers.  At the time we met, my future husband was 18.  His brothers were 16 and 11.  All big, big boys.  The activity in this family was remarkable to me.  They played sports, zoomed down snowy mountains on skis, sleds and inner tubes, sailed boats, put on magic shows, had all the neighbor boys in to play Monopoly, be-bopped around on motocycles, and wired their draperies for sound.  At my house, although my father played catch with me, taught me how to solder for a Girl Scout Badge, and built me my own turquoise blue skateboard, at home entertainment was pretty much reading, or listening to the Top Forty with Bill Ballance.  That, and sleeping on brush rollers, sneaking hydrogen peroxide on our hair, or stuffing our bras.

     His house was DIFFERENT.  The testosterone radiated off the stucco.  These creatures were very foreign, but fascinating.  These guys were bold!  They had their own rules.  Their mom ordered six half gallons of milk, and two half gallons of orange juice from the milkman every three days!  They managed to drink every bit of it out of the container straight from the fridge.  At my house that would have been off with your headville.  It was absolutely titillating to watch them in action.

     In truth, I believed their mother deserved my utmost respect.  You can only imagine the number of huge stinky socks she washed in a week, or the number of boogers she had to scrape off the walls.  She had to go find a chair to stand on just to wag her finger of reprimand in front of their boogerless noses, where they could actually see it.  They teased her unmercifully.  They called her by her first name!   Mothering them was a job for an amazingly tough, resilient, not to mention brilliant woman.  SHE WAS THE MOTHER OF LIONS!!

     What novelty!  When I got married, and fantasized having children..this is what I pictured.  Super Mother.....Queen of the Pony League.  Squirts in the face changing diapers, spending hours in the hot dog stand at the ball field, washing jock straps, buying Extra Strength Right Guard.  Lugging aroung big galoots who would protect me when the umpire told me I was "outta the game!"  What power.  What status.  I would belong in the Mother's and Son's Hall of Fame, just like my frustrated, neurotic mother-in-law!  You wish, Miss Sandra Bullock!

     When I was pregnant the first time, pre-ultrasound (and may I remind you, epidural), everybody gave you little green or yellow somethings at your baby shower.  My friends gave me pink.....baaaaloooooo.  It was a done deal.  Boy coming.  The sex of the baby seemed confirmed to me during 20 hours of hard labor.  A lion cub already making my life a real challenge!

     "It's a gull", the East Indian doctor, whose name I did not even know chirped at me.  "Wha...I said..through my Demerol haze, trying to focus my myopic eyes.  "A beautiful baby girl" the nurse repeated.  "A girl?  I thought.  Me?  Wow....a baby  Let me see her!!"  While this baby had her father's features......she sure as hell didn't have his fixtures.  Indeed, she was beautiful..brown eyes checking out the world..looking like a little papoose all snuggled in her blankets.  I felt like Billy Bigelow.  If I could raise lions, surely I could get into this raising a sweet baby girl thing.  Girls, I immediately recognized, I actually know something about!

     I knew of course, that it was a boy Bubbin cooking during my second pregnancy.  I pulled out the unused blue sleepers and washed my Dodger's hat.  However, that pregnancy offered me many trials, and threatened to take my baby away altogether.  When the nurse delivered her, prematurely, in the labor room...I welcomed my tiny precious blue-eyed second daughter and thanked God that she was female.  She had a fighting chance.  Ask any health professional.  It's the girls who are the lions.

     My daughters are my best and brightest blessing.  If I were ever to doubt God's love, all I would have to do is look at them.  They make my heart beat, and always have.  It's an interesting thing, watching your daughters grow up.  (Yes, yes, sons too, but back to the girls.)  I am truly in awe.  I watch them process life's challenges, make mature judgments, work hard, raise lovely children, tend to their grandparents, give their love while holding their tempers, and demanding what is right and true.  They both naturally want, and so fashion a positive world for those they love.  They give, as women do.  They are also witty, irreverant, and naughty....some character features I especially love.  They have a firm handle on life, whether they realize it or not.

     Hold on..I have to get a Kleenex....    

     Besides being my friends, they have produced wonderful grandchildren.  Not everyone has the honor of grandparenthood, and I am very grateful.  Now, I know how to keep my relationship with my granddaughters  But one of these grandkids is a boy.  My daughter is raising a male.  Now, she knows about boys, and I still don't!!  Boys are a mystery.  How am I ever going to keep this grandkid coming to Granna's for the next thirty years or so?

     How long will he want to play Clue with me?  I can't imagine that he will always want to dust with my Opium powder.  Will always having gum help, like it does with with girls?  Will he always love my special wheat toast with jam?  How many kisses will he tolerate at any given time..and how many years can I yell at the top of my lungs at his baseball games before he comes over and stuffs my hat in my mouth?

     What a fun problem to solve.  I love mysteries.  Maybe Sue Grafton knows what I should do.  I"m always open to suggestions.  Maybe I should price a sail boat...just a tiny catamaran.  Or maybe I could build a baseball diamond in my backyard.  I can always scavenge inner tubes, but I don't always have snow handy.  Well......I know one thing I am going to do one of these days.....Adios Miss Scarlett, Mr. Green, and Professor Plum.

     Make way for Marvin Gardens, The B & O Railroad, and Park Lane.

     .............................I hope he likes wine.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ever since I jotted down my first Christmas letter, I've enjoyed writing. In my work, I was responsible for writing many policies and programs, communications and correspondence. And now that I am retired, I would like to use writing as a channel for my "creativity", whatever that means. It's a term my ya-ya and I throw around a lot, because now we have extra time on our hands. But, as I am just beginning to explore this notion, a couple of little questions have been bugging me.

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The Report Card

     How do people come up with good ideas? And how can my relatively intelligent brain be so bereft of them? I did dream a great idea once. I distinctly remember waking one morning and scrambling to write down my it, I had choreographed the most amazing dance number. As I reconstructed my night ramblings, however, I realized that the reason the dance was so amazing was that rather than high kicking one leg, I had figured out how to high kick both legs at the same time. Really? One great idea literally flat on its ass! 

     Once in awhile I do get a good idea in the early morning hours while I am still snuggled down cozy with my husband and the dogs, wandering around in my own head with nowhere to go. But alas, there is a problem. I think to myself I'm gonna get up and write, right now while I have these good ideas. But first, I need to brush my teeth, take a bath, make the bed, do my yoga, dust the coffee table, pick up the dog poop, trim the Bougainvillea, go to the Post Office, organize all of my photos since 1967, and obtain a post- graduate degree. "Why is that?" I ask myself in a Carrie Bradshaw sort of way.

Let's evaluate.

A. I am a world class procrastinator
B. I was born without a creativity gene
C. I have a dreadful fear of failure
D. I have a dreadful fear of success
E. I am in the beginning stages of senility

The Answer: F. All of the above

Except maybe for E. I could be in the advanced stages.

     Every single expert on writing says you must write something every single day....even if your house is blowing away in a tornado. Yes. Grab your laptop, crawl under your dining room wall, and just do it! "Discipline", they say. Chop-chop!!

     This one I should be able to handle easily. I believe myself to be a very disciplined person. After all, I remember to eat every day, don't I? Of course, I bought more than one gym membership and never saw the inside of a locker room. And, in spite of extensive training in daily flossing, that waxy little string cruises between my bicuspids only twice a year for the benefit of my dental hygienist. Still, I should be able to write something every day.....I could fit it into the time I'm supposed to be walking the dogs, but am instead drinking coffee and critiquing my pedicure.

     When I was in Heaven, waiting to be born, during the "Personality Characteristics Sign-Ups", I was probably so absorbed in the choices at the Food Preference counter, that I forgot to fall into the Original Thought line. So, when St. Christopher said it was time to travel on...well...I crawled under the cabbage leaf equipped with a robust appetite, and the tools required to be a responsible citizen, but sadly, in my skill sets, where making up stories and using my imagination were supposed to be, there was just a little hole.

     Reading is my passion. I have read every book I could get my hands on since I was five years old. I read every Nancy Drew book. I read James Michener's "Hawaii" when I was 11 which I pretty much understood except for the part where the man really liked it when the lady put her head under the covers. I've read historical novels, hysterical novels, murder mysteries and science fiction. My point is, one would think I could easily sketch out a story. Sorry. I guess for this one I will need prayer. Yeah, that's it. Prayer that God will send down an angel to fill the sad little hole in my head with plot lines, dialogues, themes and characters. 

     But, here is what I love about writing. Writing. My Ya-Ya, Judi, who makes her own cloth and paper  (yeah, I know, don't get me started) points out that this is our seventh decade and so should be "our" decade. We have raised kids, worked for 40 years, and tended to the world. She tactfully left out of her pep talk that this could also be our last decade. 

Well, I can't throw a pot on the old ceramic wheel, or weave my own wall-to-wall carpeting, but I do know a subject from a predicate plus my husband bought me a new laptop for my birthday.  So here I go.

     It is my time...and I'm well into autumn. Bye-bye ancient insecurities, I say, and hello a little frickin' faith in myself. I cannot please everyone, and most of them don't deserve it anyway. I would rather focus my energy on observing and writing about the absurdities, poignancies, and delights that keep life interesting. Maybe I can find a story in there somewhere. It is time I put up or shut up. And, if it turns out I get a D on my report card instead of an A, I will just have to resort to my Junior High school tactics for saving an Algebra grade. Study..........try harder...........then beg and plead.