Lifelines

I am thrilled to introduce Molly, the newest member of my family and Roscoe’s baby sister. Molly is a dear, and reaches out with her paw to get her pets. Molly G. is very tiny, only about 7 pounds. She of course has a pink harness and leash. Roscoe has a lime green leash with at least 5 knots tied in it to shorten how far he can roam. I can’t let Roscoe get too far over his skis! If I keep him close to me I can pull him back quickly and scoop him up if I need to. Too much freedom could be a dangerous situation for him. He has poor impulse control, especially where big dogs and squirrels are concerned. I have never used a leash where he can go out quite aways from me because I have control issues too.

Sometimes I think I should have a leash that would hold me back from my verbal diarrhea that has, and most assuredly will get away from me again. So yes, I have some poor impulse control too. Still I can’t shake the feeling that my “knots” have also held me back from saying what needed to be said and telling my truth. If I let the truth be tied up in knots and remain silent, than I am lying. Don’t go too far, don’t say that, don’t be angry, just DON’T. So how many knots should I untie today? It is my birthday so this seems a good question for today. 

I think I can let people-pleasing off my leash. No use trying to control what other people think of me, it is totally a waste of time. I don’t have to laugh at jokes I find offensive, or bite my tongue when others are being mis- treated. The only “people” I need to please is myself, and I trust myself to know that I am very pleased to be loving and caring. No one can punch right through me because I am both solid and transparent. I can’t be pushed around by others opinions, and I can be transparent with who I am. I don’t have to adjust myself to other people. It is simple to be myself, but very difficult too. It will take me a bit of time to get this “knot” untied, but I am starting today, now.

This feels good!  How about I let go of the “I’m too old.” excuse. I know I can’t do everything my younger self could do, but I can do lots more than I think I can. I can’t be an elite runner,  but I can run 3 miles a day. It’s very unlikely that I will win a Grammy, but I can play banjo and even sing. My writing won’t show up on the New York Times bestsellers and I will continue to write anyway. I can learn how to do many things that are not age limited.  Untying the ”I’m too old” knot may take a bit longer due to my mild arthritis, but damn, it will get done.

When I get to the end of my life, I hope I will not be tied up in knots. Maybe a bow!

I’ll try anything once.  Alice Roosevelt

Freeze Warning

Fall is here and the first sign of winter around the corner is a Freeze Warning. Cover your plants, unhook your hoses and get out your sweaters. I have just returned from a Mediterranean cruise with warm, almost hot weather for the entire sail. ( Incredible experience!) And now home again I get this “freeze warning”. Tired beyond tired, jet lagged and trying to fit myself back into my Fort Collins world, I don’t need to hear about minus 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A first freeze seems to be the fulcrum on a teeter totter between summer and fall-and the weight has shifted. My best friend and traveling companion, Susan, and I had some aha moments on our trip. Something has shifted, we are experiencing a change in our balance point.

Frost: a covering of minute ice crystals on a cold surface; also : ice particles formed from gas .

Stop. Reconsider, refigure, reboot, re-think, re-examine and renew. Change is in the crisp Fall air.  Who am I and how do I want my life to be? My birthday is the end of this month and Tyler’s birthday is this week. I am Tyler’s Mom today, but I am certainly not the Mom who gave birth to Tyler. Judith Viorst wrote a book called Necessary Losses in which she talks about the losses we all face in the course of our lives. Loss of dreams, loss of roles, and loss of youth are necessary losses as we age. Denying that we have experienced a loss means we also deny ourselves the opportunity to grow into a new reality. 

So back to “The Old Women and the Sea” —apologies to Mr Hemingway! We took many shore excursions in Greece and Italy and I saw many places and sites and monuments that I have dreamed about seeing my whole life. Pompeii, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Rome, Athens and the Acropolis were just some of the places we visited. We came, we saw and were almost conquered by crowds, lines and whispers (malfunctioning listening devices). Our days were full and our nights were filled with wonderful shows in the ship theater. I felt very frustrated trying to order coffee in Greece and Italy and finally figured out that the problem was mine—Starbucks be damned!  When in Rome….  Resistance is futile.  I became very aware of my lost youth as I was physically challenged by fatigue and lack of stamina. Living the dream of this once in a lifetime trip meant that new dreams would need to be dreamed.

Facing losses is all about letting go of what we have so that we may be open to receiving what is new. Holding on to old roles and beliefs about ourselves is like dragging a bag full of stinky trash behind us. Being between what was and what will be requires patience and guts. I don’t want to do anymore vacations that are more hectic than my daily life and I am coming to accept I am “older” and have less stamina. What I can’t do or what I don’t want to do is not my focus going forward. Possibilities are not endless, but there are possibilities waiting for me. 

 

Alphabetical Order

There are 26 letters in our alphabet. How many combinations can be made with these 26 letters. 403,291,461,100,000,000,000,000,000 different combinations. That’s way past Billions into the Quadrillion range.  To write out each combination would take far longer than the age of the universe. Overwhelming if you think of all the possibilities, luckily we only need a few.

Sing along with me abcd-efg-hijk-lmnop-qrs-tuv-wxy and z.

I can still see the letters of the alphabet presented in capital letters and lower case running along the top of the blackboards and bulletin boards. The teacher using a pointer to draw our attention to each letter. We learned our alphabet song and then moved on to two letter words: i.e. at, in. Eventually most of us learned to read and write. It was all very orderly, step by step and building on what came before. We learned our vowels and letter sounds and off we went to literacy.

Why don’t life’s lessons come in alphabetical order? Wouldn’t it be nice to know the order of each lesson, and know there were no surprises?  Many times I  haven’t been ready for the lesson/painful experience facing me. I had the “abc” covered only to be confronted with “hijk”. There are some life events which have to be faced on their own timeline. There is no order, no reason why, no escaping the timing of things. Life gave me the death of my husband before I had fully grasped how to live my own life. I was at “z” and had skipped over lots of letters in the middle of life. I had to go back and learn who I was and how I wanted to live. Being loved by Roger gave me the courage to return to the lesson plans written by my higher power. It was the”lmnop I needed to learn. My sister’s death this summer has again scrambled my alphabet. I’m not sure where I am at.

I use alphabetical order to organize my files at work. Without this kind of order, I wouldn’t be able to locate the information I need. “ Line up alphabetically for lunch.” was a frequent directive from my elementary teachers. Those poor souls with last names that began with w,x,y or z were always at the end of the line. Probably this caused some inferiority complexes, but there is no flexibility in alphabetical order.

I will end here because I am starting to worry I may be too wordy!

Sounds Like It…

What does it sound like? We can hum our favorite songs, and if we are not deaf we all know what thunder sounds like. But wait…does it thunder at the North Pole? The Google says it does occasionally thunder at the North and South Pole. New information. What is on the soundtrack of our lives? What are the Sounds of Silence? 

Yesterday I had a reason to use the word percolate and this prompted a childhood memory of the sound the plug- in percolator made . Kind of like a whoosh and a pop. I’m pretty sure that those of you who have never heard this sound are having a hard time imagining it. I am also sure that there are sounds we have heard that are unforgettable. Our babies first cry, the chorus to our favorite song, water running over the rocks on our favorite hiking trail- these are sounds that happily reside in our memories. There are very loud songs like a jet engine, or a thunder that shakes the windows, and there are very soft sounds like the sweeps of a broom, a whisper or the quiet hum of the refrigeration. The sound of police, ambulance and fire truck sirens grabs our attention and that is their purpose. Brahms Lullaby plays every time a baby is born at Poudre Valley hospital and this gets my attention too.

I remember sounds from my years in elementary school. The quiet swoosh of the eraser on the chalkboard and the muted slap of two erasers together to clean them. The sound of chalk writing on the chalkboard. Some teachers wrote crisply and others wrote more cautiously. I am almost certain that there are no chalkboards in schools built after 2000. Now it’s the click of computer keys that fill classrooms. A few pings thrown in for those who have snuck their cell phones in. Phones set on vibrate still make a muted buzz sound and this sound can be felt too! So new sounds are created and some are lost. Who remembers the “whir”sound of rotary dial telephones?

Bubble gum pops!  Balloons pop!  A loud pop is also the sound of gunfire. How will victims of mass shootings ever forget that sound? Some sounds can traumatize a person for a lifetime. Screams of anguish can never be forgotten. We need to be careful of very loud sounds which can harm our hearing. That is why the extremely loud music of rock concerts may have impacted our hearing. Sound is measured in decibels. High decibels can actually hurt us. I hate  movie theaters that crank up the sound so high that I squirm in my seat. And then we have “Stop mumbling”!! Or “Speak up” I can’t hear you.

How many of us say “ I just want peace and quiet.” So many sounds are assaulting us all day long: horns honking, heavy equipment breaking up concrete, the neighbors music, engines revved up, the sounds of T.V.s droning on, phones ringing and notifying us of texts…and on and on. Ne quiet! But I am uncomfortable with complete silence, I think sounds are important to ground us to reality.

The best sounds are made by the human voice, and the best of all is the sound of “I love you.”

Listen up.

Beauty for All

She sets her easel up as the sun hits the mountains and begins to paint. Watercolor, acrylics and oil paints at her elbow, with brushes for every kind of paint stroke. She imagines bold strokes of color or points of color dotted here and there. It is always a bit of a surprise, even to this painter, what masterpiece will reveal itself. Humble tears come with awe at her vast  powers to create and destroy. Mother Nature pauses for a sip of coffee and then begins to paint wildflowers on the mountain sides and in the meadows. The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival is coming and she will be ready for her yearly show. 

I went to see the show in Crested Butte a couple of weeks ago. It was magnificent. Of course, I had to share the beauty with many other people. I don’t like to share. Growing up I had to share a bedroom, a bathroom, a car and a single fry pan. After church on Sunday we called for our turn with the fry pan so we could make our eggs the way we liked them. Back to Crested Butte….  Susan and I found a perfect trail to view wildflowers, and happily set out. It seemed we had to stop every few feet to take a photo with our phones. I wanted the photo to remember the scene, but also to share with others and get validation about how beautiful the flowers were. After awhile I decided to stop taking photos and enjoy the beauty on my own terms. Selfishly, I didn’t want to share anymore.

But something happened that I had not expected! As I walked along I noticed an elderly couple (I am not that old) naming the flowers and deliberating about those they did not recognize, and finally consulting their wildflower guide.  I recognized the Lupine but they told me that there are many varieties and colors of Lupine and pointed out a silver Lupine. Soon I was following them and asking what this or that flower was and I was focused on their words and the flowers.

We were sharing the flowers! I forgot that I wanted the beauty all to myself and became a member of our group of three. They were enjoying themselves and I was enjoying them enjoying themselves. The flowers became even more beautiful to me because I could name some of them. The bickering between the couple about the names was very sweet, I could see the beauty in their relationship. Susan met up with me later and I was happy to share what was up ahead. 

We are social animals and usually do not live in total isolation from others. We seek solitude to heal and refresh ourselves and then return to our tribe. I have feared being a group member because I would need to perform and try hard to be accepted. As Groucho Marx said “ I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” Being together in the face of great beauty is the glue that holds us together. I suspect that tragedy is also a glue the holds us together. If I focus on what is out there in the world my attention is not on myself and how I am doing. I am present for the sharing and it brings me joy. 

Just remember I get the first turn for the fry pan!

 

Eau de Wet Canine

Rain. Lots of rain. Dogs and people soaked by big plops of water from the sky. My doggies take time to find the perfect spot for urinating or defecating – rain be damned. They run back in and do the doggie shake boogie, spraying water everywhere and then proceed to their spots on the sofa—evading my attempts to dry their footies. Hence, the wet dog scent permeates my home and nostrils.  Musty, and smelling distinctly stale and a bit moldy. My heart loves the wet canine scent even if my nostrils rebel. Roscoe and Molly are loved wet or dry.

Old Spice. My Dad used Old Spice Aftershave and the scent lingered in the bathroom and on his body. Old Spice meant that Dad was going out—-to church, to visit family or even square dancing. Dad was dressed up if he smelled like Old Spice. My friend says her alcoholic Dad drank Old Spice!  As a teenager in male company I smelled the men’s cologne Brut. The smell was younger than Old Spice and suggested a bit of “the bad boy”.  And we all know how attractive “bad “ boys are! These drugstore scents are part of my olfactory memories. Smells trigger memories.

My Mom got gift bottles of “Evening in Paris”-purchased with hard earned cash by myself and my siblings. When we were children, Mom always said we could get her “Evening in Paris”. Our local variety store had this “perfume” so that’s what we bought.  I put perfume in quotes because calling the scented liquid in the blue bottle “perfume” is a big stretch.  My trained nose says it smelled, and that is the best I can say for it. I was surprised to see that my more sophisticated cousins had perfumes like Chantal No.5.  Perfume can say a lot about someone.

If I pay lots for a bottle of perfume it better improve my image. That whiff of perfume when I get close should say how wonderful, confident and beautiful I am. Nothing has worked so far, so I quit wearing perfume. Never fear, there is always scented soap and body lotion, and the sticky sweet smell of dryer sheets whiffing into the air. No one has marketed perfume that smells like fresh baked bread, freshly brewed coffee or cookies just out of the oven. Why not? I remember arguments with my brothers and sisters about which farm animal shit smelled the worst.  This is a serious subject for farm kids everywhere. If you need to know, I picked pig shit as the excrement with the worst smell. 

So what are we masking with all the scents in our lives?  What do humans smell like? Dogs seem to know what others dogs smell like, but our noses have a much weaker sense of smell. We can smell some dangers, like the scent of gas or fire but mostly we go through our daily lives taking our sense of smell for granted.  Until we smell popcorn being made in the room next to us, or we sniff Play-Doh before we hand it over to our children.

So to make a long smell, short remember that “You stink!” is in the nose of the smeller.

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.