Animal Crackers

Grilled cheese sandwiches, Mac and cheese, ice cream, chicken noodle soup and animal crackers. Comfort food. Sushi is not comfort food, and tofu isn’t either.  All of my comfort foods can be made or bought easily and I was introduced to them as a child. Only children would think that making crackers into dinosaur shapes or animal shapes would make them taste better, but they are more fun. I did have great fun making words with Alphabits  in the milk in my cereal bowl. Mental stimulation and breakfast in one.  And who was on the cover of the Wheaties box? 

These culinary musings bring me back to a time when choices were much fewer, but maybe more satisfying. Our choices have grown exponentially, but I am not sure I am more satisfied.  Are we all victims of Choicitis?  This new disease is an epidemic in our society and causes paralysis or diminishing returns when faced with millions of choices. Hell, I have a hard time choosing which font to use as I write this. For those who may be wondering it is “Helvetica Neue”, but I had a hard time choosing because I also like “Helvetica” and “Futura”. The list of fonts is long and I want to make the “right” choice.

When I need toothpaste, I walk to the toothpaste section in the super market and stare dumbly at the shelves and shelves of toothpaste. Questions, more questions! Do I have sensitive teeth, or need to whiten them? What about my gums? Cavities? Bad breath must be addressed. Is my enamel hard and healthy? Have you noticed how long advertised claims have grown. After reading all the things toothpaste or mouthwash claims to do,  I must then choose one. And then I see a plain tube of toothpaste, the only claim on the tube is it will help clean my teeth. I’m embarrassed to say that I seldom choose this toothpaste, instead I run down my checklist of concerns and search diligently for the “just right” choice. What if there were only 3 choices of toothpaste? Number 1, Number 2 or Number 3?  Imagine. Think of how much time this would save me, and how much longer I could actually brush my teeth. Choicitis would begin to be tamed, no matter how small the progress made.

Choosing the best shampoo for me is another exercise in frustration. How can a poor ill-informed consumer like me make the right choice. Is my hair dry or oily, fine or coarse, colored or not colored, thin or full, curly or straight…..you get the idea. I have managed to rein in my menu deliberations to just a few minutes. I become impatient with fellow diners who ask detailed questions about menu items and then say they need a few more minutes. Which car to buy? It hurts my head to think about making this choice. Which computer to purchase?  My head hurts more. That plain tube of toothpaste looks a lot more attractive to me!

Keep it simple is a motto I try to live by; obviously I have lots of work to do but I am not giving up. As of today Choicitis does not have a vaccine to prevent it, but there are ways to lessen the damages. When I ask myself how important is it if I make the perfect choice, I can often see it simply is not that important. My teeth will not turn black and fall out if I choose Colgate instead of Crest. Suave or Herbal Essence is not a life or death decision. I am a bit concerned that we recognize so many brand names of products. Could you buy me shampoo becomes could you buy me only Herbal Essence? I think a lot of our choices are manufactured by manufacturers. Is men’s deodorant made any differently that women’s deodorants? Women’s products are more expensive than men’s. Why? Is the product better or is the advertising better? 

A lot of questions in this post, and this is a symptom of Choicitis.  I love Animal Crackers by the way and don’t really care which animal I am eating. Never quite sure of ourselves, others may know more. I do know one thing for sure. If you are choosing love or hate, always choose love. Always.

Better Late than Never

These lines in the “children’s” book The Velveteen Rabbit are about becoming Real:

It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 

― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

These lines always bring tears to my eyes and longing to my heart.They are filled with Truth and Hope. It takes a long time to grow into yourself and I am still growing and becoming more “shabby” as my years add up. For a lot of my life I have been one of those “… people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept “ I drove myself to maintain a body that I thought was ugly or attractive depending on my feelings in the moment.  My heart was guarded by porcupine quills, but I still got shattered and broken many times. I broke into pieces like Humpty Dumpty.

My years on this planet don’t, by default, make me Real, I do have loose joints, eye problems and shabby wrinkles. My angst over outward beauty, adoration or perfection is now just a whimper from my ego.   Getting to “I don’t care.” is so freeing. I wear cargo pants, and now comfort is my primary criteria for foot wear. I don’t care!  If Real is my destination, then I know I must take the bumpy, winding road of experience and learning. When we don’t learn from our experiences we can’t be Real. Denying reality or refusing to change means we can’t allow learning or love into our lives. Loving and being loved are both requirements for becoming Real.

I know “It takes a long time.” to become Real, but I believe there are moments that can put us on the fast track to Real. These moments like birth and death transcend time, a split second that is years long. My awe at the beauty in the world and my grief and despair in the face of losses are both necessary to “become” Real. My baby’s first cry or Roger’s last breath were moments that cut thru years of protecting myself. In those moments, I became more Real by allowing myself to feel vulnerable and open.

Living with love has been joyful and piercing with pain. Tyler’s graduation events were many and he invited me to be a part of them. I was honored.  I got “damp”a couple of times in rain showers, so looked like a grouchy wet cat. (Sideline : Grumpy cat passed away, he will be missed.) I got shabby looking by the end of the day, but those shared fist pumps “Yes!” were very Real. I thought I would fade away when Roger died, but like Roger I was able to transcend some of my earthly limitations.  I became stronger and more compassionate.

My sister is dying of cancer and she is horribly thin, gaunt, and weak. She is beautiful. She is loved.  She is Real.

Don’t Look At Me…

You won’t see me in a video announcing I am running for President.. Uh,uh no way!! “I will not seek nor accept a nomination for President.” LBJ and me. Even if I were qualified (I’m not), I would sprint away from politics. But then there are lots of unqualified people in office, including and best exemplified by our POTUS. I am certainly not too old, at 66 I am just a babe in the current roster of candidates and office holders. But then I am too old for the other end of the age timeline for the current Democratic primary candidates. Running around the country seeking votes would be too tiring for me, but I would love to visit Iowa and say hello to everyone. Nope. I am not running for President.

It is easy to hide in the sea of humanity, just skimming the surface with eyes wide open like crocodiles and hippos. I can glide along and watch the world and not make waves. Of course if someone falls in and irritates me I can take care of myself.  Gulp.  When I was in school I waved my hand “Pick me. Pick me!” I wanted to be noticed and rewarded for the right answer. I didn’t want to be noticed when I was picked last for the softball game at lunch hour. My reputation as a loser was confirmed for all to see, and I wished for the earth to swallow me up. Running for public office is the ultimate “Pick me. Pick me!”  My hat would  read  “You Gotta Love Me.” Think of all the great speeches I could give and the chants and applause for me. I can hear it now. “Build the bridges and roads.” and “ Lock Trump up!” 

If everyone around me says they see green and I see red, do I automatically decide I am wrong and begin to see green? It’s kind of like if something is repeated often enough it becomes the truth, even if the original statement was a lie. I think this may be brainwashing at its best. The question for me is if I stand tall when people are throwing roses at me , do I still stand up for myself when tomatoes and eggs are being fired at me? I might want to duck if frogs are coming my way, I am not an idiot. So a candidate offers a policy plan and the rest of the world picks it apart. Even the vulnerability queen, Brene Brown, might agree this is too much vulnerability for one person to handle.

The closest I can come to diplomacy is  “You’re wrong, but I am listening.” When I have strong feelings I usually chomp at the bit to speak, but dust a little shame on me and I slink away like a frightened and submissive animal. To speak or not to speak that is the question. Do I want to be noticed? How strong are my feelings? I think I would be one hell of a political speechwriter. What a wonderful way to get my words heard without standing at the podium like a bullseye.

Would you vote for me?

A Poem-More or Less

I checked the time

Analog and digital

Its time for a rhyme

But not lyrical or mystical

 

Feelin’ like a poetry slam

Pound it out hard

You can call me ma’am

Just don’t let down your guard

 

I always start slow

Then speed up multiplied 

My words hit blow by blow

True and genuine, bonafide

 

Let’s talk or not

I’m ready to slug it out.

Death show me what you got

I’m fighting my own doubt.

Death will take us all. We can go kicking and screaming or yielding quietly. What do you need books on death and dying for? Certainly not how-to books to conquer death, more like how to live as you are dying. I want to beat up Death, scream you can’t have my sister!  I need to believe that Death is not cruel and is simply following the rules of nature and of the universe. I will never understand, but I know that fighting Death is a waste of my precious time.

Hanging Out With My Sisters

My sisters and I are not sweet, nor are we a sanitized version of Sisterhood.  We never lose at “Red Rover, Red Rover Come Over”- nobody gets through our linked arms.   “Come on you wimp, you can’t get through.”, we taunt. Our language is Sisterspeak and few would understand why we are laughing so hard about llamas or Sister Margaret Mary. Some of us speak softly and are more reserved, but none of us are shrinking violets. I suspect I am the most opinionated sister, but all of us have beliefs or opinions we passionately defend. You can’t herd cats and you can’t herd me and my sisters.

I am the oldest, a bookend, and my sister Lisa is the youngest, a bookend — in between are 6 sisters. Lisa and I talk about being bookends and how it is our job to keep all the sisters standing tall. We know we will lose a sister soon as cancer is on the attack again, but she will never lose her place in the Sisterhood. Our arms are linked, holding her up and creating a safe place for all of us to grieve and say good-bye. Laughter also helps us to process and remember our shared history.

Our Sisterhood is composed of individuals with strong personal identities. How the hell do we manage to keep the Sisterhood strong and united? I think it’s because we know that no sister is an island. (Apologies to John Donne)  We honor our shared identity of Sisterhood and  recognize that we are not in this alone. The Sisterhood is not a fixed entity, but a living and breathing organism. Although we grew up in the same home, our histories are not the same and our relationships are not the same. The circle of Sisterhood is strong but not static. Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? It seems to be in the Sisterhood.

Through the years, as a Sister, I’ve been angry and hurt, compassionate and kind —sometimes all at once. Confident in the love of my Sisters, I have learned to love myself. I  never doubted that my Sisters would hold me up when Roger died. We share our “dime” stories to remind all of us that Roger is looking out for me and my Sisters. In many ways I have learned who I am within the circle of Sisterhood.

I love remembering how a bunch of us Sisters would be getting dressed upstairs, and how we  ran back and forth between bedrooms in our under wear, raiding each other’s closets. There were quite a few “discussions” about who could wear what. I learned my fashion sense or nonsense from my sisters. There are still certain articles of clothing that are remembered fondly or raise the question about what ever happened to them or who stole them. Memories are a part of the mortar that holds us together. Laughter holds us together too.

My sisters and I are doers, we get it done. A lesson learned from Mom. Why is it that when you most want to change something,  “doing” is not the answer. Perhaps the Sisterhood has  shown the most strength in the yielding to  and acceptance of our Sister’s coming death. We have to let her go, but not before we have loved her fiercely, the way that only Sisters can.

Conundrum

conundrum : a confusing or difficult problem

Synonyms: closed book, mystery, enigma, head-scratcher, mystification, puzzle, puzzlement, riddle, secret

I don’t know about you, but I have faced many conundrums in the course of my life.  Those damned if you do and damned if you don’t, or between a rock and a hard place situations have peppered my life. Either/or decisions seem impossible to make when there are no good alternatives. At times, I have decided not to decide and life has decided for me! Pro and con lists never worked for me, pros became cons and vice-versa. Yes I have been mystified, puzzled and scratched my head, but miraculously I am still alive making decisions every day.

Making and following through on poor decisions, is hands down, one of the best ways to learn. I have a Ph.D in poor decisions and problem solving. Getting to say “Been there, done that.” often is one of the perks of growing older, but not possible without painful experiences. Wouldn’t it be nice, if at birth, a finite number of bad decisions were granted to us, i.e. Danita you are allowed 2346 bad choices in your lifetime. Maybe I would choose to get my bad decisions done before I was 35 and have the rest of my life to enjoy all the fruits of poor decisions— but what’s the fun in that? So I guess I have to tip toe through the tulips AND the land mines until I leave this earth.

The biggest conundrum I face is the question “Why am I here? or “What is my purpose?”  I think this riddle or puzzle needs to be solved, there must be an answer or solution,  but the more I think about it the more mystified I become. I am starting to believe that “thinking” about it will not get me very far, and now I am  considering that the answer is more likely to be found in being and doing.  Do this, do that, be this, be that. Thinking about helping others is useless to myself and others if I just think about it and don’t get off my ass to do helpful acts. I can know why I want to do something, but not how to do something. Life is one big experiment without having a clear hypotheses of what I am trying to prove or disprove. Standing still and waiting for life to explain itself to me is like waiting for miracles when they are all around us.

And now a riddle:

A prisoner is told “If you tell a lie we will hang you; if you tell the truth we will shoot you.” What can he say to save himself?

Think about it, think some more!!

The answer is”You will hang me.”

The Good Old Days

“When I was young…” —bring on the eye rolls. Young adults seem to think that my generation grew up in the Stone Age. We hunted dinosaurs and rubbed sticks together to start a fire. Fred and Wilma Flintstone lived next door. To be fair, I guess black and white T.V. with only 3 channels available is primitive. We did have electricity, running water, hot water and toilets that flushed. In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, when I was a girl playing outside I sometimes used the outhouse that was still standing and in pretty good shape.  It was easier than making the trek back to the house if we were playing aways away. (The expression “aways away” seems to be a Midwest expression, because I never hear it in Colorado. It means not  close or some distance from your current location.)

I grew up using a phone that was hung on the wall, and this single phone was used by everyone in the family (13 children +Parental Units). If we wanted privacy on the home phone we stretched the cord out the front door onto our front porch. This was nice in summer, but winter not so much. Going from dial phones to push button phones was a big deal. I never imagined that texting would be a way to communicate and thumbs would be used to type. Taking pictures on our phones? What? This tiny phone or tablet can take great photos?  With cell phones, news is passed in seconds. Birds twitter and tweet, but birds are not what we are talking about these days. Can someone get Trump off of Twitter? Please. Unfortunately, in literally seconds, misinformation is spread and bullying and harassment can happen. Everyone knows in an instant and rumors and lies can be shared exponentially.  Fact checks are done after the damage is done.  Some victims of bullying have been driven to suicide. On the flip side, cell phones have saved many lives. We can call for help, or get critical information. When time is a matter of life and death, cell phones can make the difference.

We have smart phones and smart T.Vs. Have we gotten smarter?  I doubt it!  Don’t even get me started on Facebook: leap forward or nemesis? I use a smart phone to call, text, get email and the internet.  I am not as fast and adept as my son, but I have learned. I use my iPad to write and  Facebook to publish my writing. Sometimes I go down the rabbit hole of checking on my “friends” lives. Human beings have a drive to communicate and be part of a “tribe” but the people on our various screens are not touchable. It is often pointed out by people from my generation that kids don’t know how to talk with each other anymore, but I suspect  teenagers  have never known how to talk with each other. The emotion of love is felt the same and learning to express ourselves will always be a challenge. Cell phones, computers and Facebook are tools we use. Are we being used?

 I suspect my going forward is easier for me than going back would be for young people. How would they ever adapt to no cell phones and having to get and physically go to the TV to change channels?  Gotta go.  I have to get the animal skins washed at the river, stoke the fire and see what Nog is doing. Why is he so excited about this round thing?