Friday, April 26, 2024

BOTH, AND


A friend left me a phone message yesterday, asking excitedly, "Isn't this rain wonderful?"  

I could not enter fully into her excitement.  Yes, we need rain.  Yes, my garden is happy.  Yes, the big trees are happy.  And, yes, I am grateful not to be dragging hoses around.

But.  

There is so often a "but," isn't there?  

I am very happy it is raining, but the sudden barometer change affects my mood and energy, and not in a good way.  

Let's talk about the "but."

I have read or heard that it is good to change our "buts" to "ands." A but negates or, at the very least, takes the wind out of what came before. An and simply adds another fact, without taking away from the first one.  

So, instead of "I am glad it is raining, but rain affects my mood and energy," I could say, "I am glad it is raining, and rain affects my mood and energy." 

In the first sentence, the scale tips toward the negative.  In the second sentence, each clause has equal weight. 

Here are some others I have come up with:

I love spending time with my grandkids, and they are exhausting.

I dislike cooking, and I like to eat.

I love my house, and it's time to move.

I love spending time with my friends, and I never seem to have enough alone time.

I love my cats, and I want someone else to clean their litter box.

I like being alone in my house, and I would like someone to come and cook for me.

I am thrilled to have grandchildren, and I worry about the world they will grow up in.

I am grateful for all that I have, and I can't help but wonder why I have so much, while others have so little.

I am so glad I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I miss the friends I left behind when I moved here from back east.  

I have become happier in each decade of my life, and I would like to have my 40-year-old energy again.

You get the idea.  

We can hold two opposing thoughts at the same time, without one shoving the other out of the way -- can't we?  

                                                 Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

I'm going to try to be more conscious of my buts and ands.  

I would love to see your ands in the comments.  




Friday, April 5, 2024

WHY?


Just when I think I have shared all of my first-world puzzlements and annoyances, more rear their ugly heads.   

 

So here we go again: 


Self-checkout lanes 


The last time I was at Target, there was one person checking out purchases, and a long line waiting for self-checkout.  My local grocery story is down to two humans doing the work of six.  Note to stores:  I will not assist you in taking away jobs, and if you insist on my checking out my own purchases, I would like a discount.   


(Good news alert:  I read recently that some stores are doing away with self-checkout because it has led to an increase in thefts.)  


Doctors and other medical personnel who look at their computer screens instead of at me


I quit going to a physical therapist who dragged her computer around on a cart, looking up only long enough to demonstrate an exercise, before turning back to her screen.  


In happier news, I visited a dermatologist last week, who talked directly to me, while a medical assistant took notes.  When I told him how pleased I was with this arrangement, he agreed it was best for both doctor and patient, but let me know that the next big thing would be an AI assistant taking notes. (?!)


Creepy. 


People who speak on their phones in public as if they were sitting in their kitchens


Yesterday, I was reading in the waiting area at my local Toyota dealership while my car was being serviced.  A man sitting behind me shattered my peace by conducting a very loud, very long phone conversation regarding family matters--which bedroom the person on the other end of the line would share with a grandchild, who would pick said person up at the airport, and much more.  Apparently, he was talking to his mom, or so I deduced when he said, “Bye mom;  I love you,” as he hung up. 

 

Men, I said to myself.  Why do they have to take up so much space


And then – you guessed it – a woman a few feet from me raised her phone and called someone named Barbara, launching into very lengthy, very boring monologue about committee meetings and the house her son wanted to sell. I wondered if Barbara had fallen asleep.  I hoped so for her sake.  


Are these people just rude or do they really not know how to modulate their voices to suit their surroundings?


The most egregious example of this behavior I have experienced was in a Starbucks, where I (and everyone else in the place) was treated to the sight and sound of a youngish financial advisor of some sort, loudly advising a client about very personal money matters.  I didn’t walk behind him, but assume that anyone who did could have seen the unfortunate client’s financial information on his open laptop. 

 

And speaking of money management . . .


The use of the phrase “wealth management” in advertising


Is this a dog whistle to the one percent or a blatant message that the likes of me should not call?  

 

People who enter traffic circles without pausing for cars already in the circle.


There are four traffic circles on the way to a daughter’s house.  Large signs instruct those entering the circle to yield to cars already in the circle. These signs notwithstanding, quite a few people seem to think the rule does not apply to them, and dive-bomb in as if they were chasing a criminal. (Possibly, the same people who make loud phone calls in public.)


I now take a different route to my daughter’s house. 


People who follow another car through a flashing, four-way stop when the bases are loaded


Dangerous and rude.  Note to city planners:  Please replace with regular traffic lights.  


Allowing bicycles in car lanes


Some clever person at City Hall, who has clearly never ridden a bike or driven a car, decided it was a good idea to allow bicycles to travel on selected local streets along with cars.  (Not in a bike lane – on the street in front of and behind cars.) There are helpful signs, but, really, can you trust the people who dive-bomb into traffic circles and run stop signs to travel slowly behind a bicycle?


Cars that cut me off in order to race to a red light


Testosterone poisoning?


Drivers who don't start moving when a traffic light turns green because they are looking at their phones.


Are we that addicted?


People who wear dark clothing while walking at night and people who ride their bikes at night without a light or reflective tape


Do you want to end your life, while ruining mine?


Emails that keep arriving after I unsubscribe


Where do I file a protest?


“Unsubscribe” in such tiny print as to require a magnifying glass 


Hah.  They underestimate my persistence.


Websites that tell me they are “checking availability.” 


The item is always available.  Do they really think I am waiting anxiously to find out whether the item is in stock?  Is AI doing their thinking?


Phone robots that try to send me to a website that doesn’t have the answer to my question.


You’re not going to get rid of me that easily.


Phone robots that tell me I will receive a call back in 20 minutes and NEVER CALL BACK.


You know it’s bad when I’m shouting in print.


AARRRGH!


                                        Photo by Julien L on Unsplash

And you?  Please add your frustrations in the comments.

 

 

 

 





Thursday, February 15, 2024

THE LOVES OF MY LIFE


 

Yesterday, Valentine’s Day, I woke up thinking about the concept of “the love of one’s life.” The idea that each of us has one true love that is truer than all the others. 

 

After a very small amount of thought, I rejected the idea.

 

Yes, I can say without hesitation that my husband is the love of my life.  I have loved other men.  I have lived with other men.  But he is the romantic love of my life.  

 

The key word here is romantic.  Many of us can name the romantic love of our lives.  But does the concept have to end with romance?  

 

I think not.  

 

The other day, a friend told me about a podcast she had listened to, where someone had stated that the love of your life doesn’t have to be a romantic partner.  It can be a friend or even a pet.

 

I like this notion.  But does there have to be only one?

 

Again, I think not.

 

So, I want to write today about the non-romantic loves of my life. (I will stick here with sentient beings and leave out such things as writing and gardening.)

 

My daughters and grandchildren may be the greatest loves of my life.  For nearly 40 years, whenever I have heard the Beatles' song “In My Life,” I have thought of my daughters, and for nearly two-and-a half years now, the song has also brought to mind my grandchildren, who have joined this cohort of beloveds.

 

But this blog post is not for them or for my husband or my wider family, all of whom, I hope, know of my love for them. It is, instead, a love letter to my friends.

 

Yesterday, I recieved a double bunch of tulips in the mail (I don’t know how this is done---magic?) from two dear friends back east.  They were thinking of me as I approach a minor surgery next week.  Although the day of the flowers’ arrival was likely a coincidence, I chose to think of them as a Valentine.    


 


Yesterday, I also received a Valentine card from a friend of nearly 40 years, and messages of affection from others.  

 

How could they and my other close friends not be included among the loves of my life?  

 

These are the people who have seen me through—beginning with the one I met in the third grade and continuing straight through to the one I met last year.  These are the people who have comforted me and allowed me to comfort them.  These are the people to whom I have told secrets, who have listened to my news, helped me to solve problems, held me when I was devastated, laughed and cried with me.  

 

And here is the really amazing part—they have trusted me with their secrets, their joys and sorrows, their deepest selves.  And, get this, they have loved me at my most unlovable.  I said in the last paragraph that they had seen me through. But they have also seen through me. And they have not turned away.

 

As I think about the loves of my life, I am picturing myself at the center of a braid, with strands of different colors for family, lovers, and friends.  Some strands have the thickness of years; some are newer and thinner, but are no less a part of the whole that carries me through my life.  There are frayed patches where friends or romantic partners have dropped away or loved ones have died. There are also a few gaps where there has been a loss, followed by a reconnection. But neither the gaps nor the frayed bits have affected the strength of a braid that has been so many years in the making.  (And I like to think that those who have passed hover yet around its twists and turns.)

 

The older I get, the more I understand that I would be nowhere without those lives braided around mine. And even as I treasure time alone, I know such time would be intolerable without the embrace of the loves of my life. 


May we all cherish the people who have chosen to entwine their lives with ours, for who would we be without them?

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, January 15, 2024

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS


 

 

I came across a new-to-me word while doing a puzzle the other day.  The word was “heteronym.”  Here is the most straightforward definition I could find:

 

“[O]ne of two or more homographs (such as a bass voice and bass, a fish) that differ in pronunciation and meaning.”   - Merriam-Webster.

 

I tell you this, not to present you with a word that might also be new to you, but to share my geek-ish excitement over the discovery. 

 

I experienced a similar delight this morning, when, once again, working on a puzzle, I learned that temperament has an “a” in it.  I hadn’t known this. I did know that temperature had an “a” in it, but English spelling is a tricky business, and it had not occurred to include an “a” in temperament.

 

As you may by now have surmised, I love words.  

 

I have loved words ever since I can remember -- ever since I sat in an overstuffed chair in my childhood living room, sounding out “See Dick run.  See Jane run.” ** This is one of those vivid memories, complete with physical details -- I can see and feel the nubby, brownish material of the chair -- that stick in the mind.  Who knows why?  I call them snapshot memories – nothing to surround them – they just loom out of a black hole. 

   

Here is a snapshot memory of me that a friend shared recently:  

 

It is maybe 40 years ago.  We are walking across Tenth Avenue in downtown Portland, when I ask her what she thinks about while walking around.  She, a yoga teacher, tells me she is always looking at people and thinking about whether their bodies are in alignment.  When she asks me the same question, I tell her I am usually thinking about words.  

 

I don’t remember this exchange, but it absolutely rings true. It is of a piece with my own word-related memories.  Here is one:

 

I am in my early twenties and am at the home of a much-older couple with whom I am friends.  I am telling the man, whom I much admire, about a dream or series of dreams, and I say, “They were just short vignettes, really.“   

 

Here’s the thing.  I pronounce “vignette” as “vidge-net.”  

 

Decades later, I can still remember the look that flickered across his face.  Was it surprise?  Suppressed laughter?  The man in question, being older and wiser and quite kind, refrained from saying anything. Bless him.

 

It was probably several years before I learned the word’s proper pronunciation.  Sadly, the passage of time had not erased the memory of my friend’s look.  I was retrospectively embarrassed.  

 

What can I say?  I had never studied French, but was an avid reader, scooping up words as I read.  I had a vast reading vocabulary.  That is, I had learned a great many words that I had never heard spoken.  With the passage of time, this memory no longer brings embarrassment, only compassion for a young woman who loved words, whether or not she could pronounce them.

 

One more memory.  I am in elementary school.  I am nine or ten.  For homework, we are to make a list of homonyms (not to be confused with the aforementioned heteronyms). This is right up my alley. But, do I stop at making the list?  Oh, no.  I am so pleased with my list that I staple it to piece of colored construction paper and staple another piece of construction paper on top as a cover, upon which I write these words:  

 

“Even though I am a busy teenager, I always have time for homonyms.”  I can still see the stick figure of a teenager that I drew alongside these words.  In memory, her skirt is a triangle, and she is carrying a purse.  I can still see myself proudly handing this creation to my teacher.  What was I thinking?  What did I imagine being a teenager would be like? Words and a purse, apparently.

 

As a matter of fact, I remained a word geek throughout my teenage years and beyond.  I memorized miles of poetry during high school and college – not by trying, but by osmosis, by reading the ones I loved, over and over again.  (To this day, I can recite many of these poems, but don’t ask me what I read last week . . .)

 

My love of words has not changed in the decades since I memorized all that poetry.  I am most happy when I am reading, writing, or thinking about words. Looking back, I see them as a major throughline of my life. 

 

And you?

 

What is it that has followed you throughout your life?  Where is it that you feel most aligned with yourself? 

 

                                                Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

 

** Books for early readers have greatly improved since the 1950s.  If you are too young to remember Dick and Jane books, be grateful.  

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, December 31, 2023

THE WINK OF AN EYE: Some Thoughts on Retirement Ten Years In

 "I've been aware of the time going by

They say in the end it's the wink of an eye."

                                    _ Jackson Browne, The Pretender


Ten years ago, I cleared my desk and walked out of my downtown office into the world of retirement.  In truth, I didn't retire all at once.  I eased in, working from home a few hours a month for three more years.  And then I walked away from it all.

I have never looked back.

In the early months, when I started to speak of my retirement, the word graduation would come out instead.

Freudian slip?

Well, maybe.  It did, in fact, feel like a graduation.  A graduation into a life of choice.  Of available time.  I have filled the available time with occupations of my own choosing.  Writing.  Gardening.  Learning.  Walking. Volunteering.  Puzzles. Outings with my husband or friends.  And, most recently, play with my grandchildren.

To be honest, play has not come easily to me in adulthood.  I have, I confess, approached life rather seriously.  What a wonder it has been, then, to relearn play side-by-side with my granddaughters, to partake of their joy in every new-to-them experience.  What fun it will be when my grandson is old enough to join the pack.  How fortunate I am to have lived long enough to experience this pleasure.

When I retired, I told myself I would be lucky to have 20 more years.  And now ten years have passed in a heartbeat.  I suspect the next ten will go by even more quickly than the first ten.  The only days when time has dragged have been days when I have been down with a cold or a flu.  And given that I don't invite illness, there is nothing for it but to embrace the rapidly passing days.

Of course, those rapidly passing days bring my end ever closer.  I don't dwell on this, though; I do not expect an early death.  If I follow in my mother's footsteps, I could be looking at not ten years, but twenty.  Still, I know my days are numbered, so I will fill my cup to the brim for as many years as I have left.

And when my time comes, may the gift of these post-graduation years glide me gently into the mystery.




 

 

 

 

 

 

 







Saturday, December 2, 2023

OH, CHRISTMAS TREE

I used to love Christmas. 

Of course, I loved it as a child, but I kept my sense of wonder well into my twenties, and it came back with a vengeance after my daughters were born.  I took such pleasure in their pleasure and excitement during their early years.  I confess, however, that my interest in the holiday was much diminished after they grew up and away. What would be the point of decorating a tree without little ones to enjoy it? I didn’t have it in me to do much more each year than buy a small potted tree or decorate a large house plant.  

 

Indeed, the most “Christmassy” I have felt for the past few years has been while visiting granddaughters on my husband’s side, and enjoying their excitement.  But, now, those girls are 10 and 14 -- nearly past the age of wonder, and my Christmas doldrums might have snuck back in, had it not been for the arrival during the past two years of four grandchildren on my side.

 

I am happy to report that the delight of my toddler granddaughters, aged one-and-a-half (twins) and two, has revived my own latent excitement over the season. 

 

Although the girls aren’t old enough yet to be anticipating presents, 

they talk excitedly (in their fashion) about Santa Claus and reindeer. And they are entirely engrossed in shifting ornaments on and off their trees.  (My grandson, aged two months, will join in the merriment next year, I am sure.)

 

So, of course, we had to have a tree this year.  A few days ago, my husband and and I and the two-year-old brought home a four-foot-tall fir—just the right height for two senior citizens to fit in our car and carry into our living room.  Yesterday, I put lights on the tree.  (I will wait for the granddaughters to help me add some ornaments.)  


 

Which brings me to today, when, after being awakened by stormy weather at 5 a.m. I lay in bed, listening to rain and branches land on the roof, and telling myself I would fall back asleep any minute. Sometime after six, I gave up on this notion and got out of bed.  Downstairs into the darkened living room I went and turned on the tree lights.  

 

Sitting there in the dark, I was immediately transported to a Christmas long ago.  Was I eight or 18?  I don’t know.  Maybe it was the amalgamated memory of several Christmases.  In any event, there I was in the early evening gazing at my family’s tree, mesmerized by the colored lights and tinsel.  (Yes, those were the days of tinsel, and the perennial argument over whether to place it stand-by-strand or throw it on in bunches.)


                                                          (With my bother Jim - can you see the tinsel?)

In memory, I am sitting in front of that tree, with its large and clunky lights, for hours.  Perhaps it was ten minutes that are stretched by recollection.  I do know that I felt peace staring at those lights, and sitting in my living room this morning, I wondered what had become of the girl and young woman who had taken such delight in a tree.  

 

Could I bring her back?  

 

Surrounded by toddlers, I think maybe I can.

 

And you?  What will it take for you to bring back childish delight in the season?  I know some of you have never lost the gift of wonder.  

 

May it be so for all of us.

 

May we see the world through the eyes of a child, and may we know peace, love, and wonder this year.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

DO I REALLY NEED TO LOSE 45 POUNDS? LET'S TALK ABOUT INSTAGRAM

  

A few years back, I signed up for Instagram in order to enjoy family photos and maybe share occasional pictures of my garden.  This went well until Instagram figured out that I am a grandmother of a certain age, and started clogging my feed with ads aimed at what its algorithm perceives to be the concerns of my demographic.

 

Just today, I had to wade through messages telling me that I need wrinkle cream, a more supportive bra, sleep gummies, a mascara for aging lashes, an adult sleep sack, exercises aimed at seniors, a serum that will take 15 years off my face, a pillowcase guaranteed to prevent wrinkles, pills that will reduce bloating and hot flashes, mushroom coffee, a supplement that will help me to lose 45 pounds, teeth whiteners, a product to make grey hair shine, and a cortisol supplement.

 

Has the algorithm met any women my age?  Not everyone is trying to look younger.  I’m not saying I no longer care about my appearance – vanity dies hard – but, most of the time, I am too busy reading, writing, gardening, walking, helping with grandkids, getting together with friends, spending time with family – in short, enjoying retirement, to concern myself with aging eyelashes.  (And has no one told the algorithm I am a tea drinker?  Also, if I were to lose 45 pounds, I would be in the hospital.)

 

Sure, I would accept a product that that promised to make my half-grown-out hair grow faster.  And, if you want to advertise chocolate, I am your target audience.  But, mostly, I just want the haranguing to stop.  Aging is not negotiable, yet these ads work very hard to make us women of a certain age feel that aging is shameful, and can and should be pushed back by an endless stream of products.

 

Spoiler alert:  We will age.  More or less gracefully.  Less, if we let these ads get to us.

 

And how about the ads that require the viewer to watch a "short video"? I fell for this only once.  Okay. Maybe twice.  These short videos are up to a half-an-hour long, and generally consist of a guy in a white coat, claiming to be a doctor, singing his own praises and describing his life-changing discovery in excruciating detail.  

 

Do not go there.  There is no way to get to the punchline without watching the whole thing.  (And the punchline will not be worth it.) If you’re not careful, you just might be found with your cold, dead hand clutching your phone, as an endless video plays on and on.  

 

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

 

Here’s another piece of unsolicited advice.  Don’t buy clothing advertised on Instagram (or Facebook).  Sure, it looks good in the ads, but you will likely wind up stuck with a flimsy, wrongly sized, unwearable, and unreturnable item.  So, do as I say, not as I did. 

 

And don’t get me started on parenting advice. Am I getting these messages because I have grandchildren?  Too late for me.  I’m not raising my grands—just hanging out with them.  But I feel for the young parents who are barraged with advice—often conflicting—about the “correct” way to do nearly everything.  Leave them alone, for God’s sake.  Most of them have good instincts, and, in any event, there is no “perfect” way to raise children.

 

Before ceasing this rant, I will confess that I am occasionally drawn in by the endless recipes that appear in my feed, and I will sometimes go so far as to use the “save” function to hang on to these.  This is pretty silly, given that I have so little interest in cooking, but it does demonstrate the power of the beautiful photos.  I confess I have never once gone back to look at any of the recipes.  In fact–here’s a little secret–I have no idea where saved items are stored.  Are they in an undisclosed location with Dick Cheney?  


Just in case I choose to look over my lost recipes, can anyone tell me how to get to them without having to deal with him?

 

Please.





                                                                     Photo by 
Jakob Owens on Unsplash