Red Flag Warning

“We could sure use the rain.”  I am a farm girl and I heard this many times growing up. Colorado is in a drought now; I hear this wish for rain almost everyday. Even the snowpack has been low for years. Personally I wish for a sprinkler system so dragging the hoses out to water will be but a distant memory. Who needs green grass?  The dryness has its own rating system: red flag warning, conditions are ideal for fire combustion.  Just recently an entire forest, the San Juan National Forest was closed to the public. No hiking, camping, fishing- don’t even think about it. That is high fire danger on steroids. People in Fort Collins talk about “The Fire”, the High Park Fire in 2012.  Hundreds of acres of forest and many homes were burned by a fire that was fed by the tinder of a dry forest. I watched the flames jump from tree to tree from the “safety” of  a position on the opposite side of a large reservoir. World wide, famine caused by drought has cost the lives of millions of people. 

The scorched brown fields, forests, prairies, brush and lawns are all thirsty for water.  Can’t even spit. A lightning strike, a campfire not extinguished and FIRE. It feels like the dirt is brittle, ready to  crumble to powder. Human beings are about 60%water, we can get dehydrated like the fields and lawns. When it’s so hot, 100 degrees by Thursday, I have to force myself to keep chugging water. I remember this story and parable: In hell the dipper for water has a handle so long that poor souls can’t get the water to their own mouths, but they can bring the dipper to other’s mouths and give each other water. Such a visual for me, and even in hell cooperation is the key. I hate to see people spraying off their driveways when water is so precious, use a broom. Think of the poor people in hell!

Dried fruit is yummy, but dehydrated humans can be in a world of hurt. Headaches, dry skin, shallow breath, orange pee, sleepiness, no tears or saliva and heart palpitations are all symptoms of dehydration. I think of all the tears I have cried in my lifetime, a river of tears, and I wonder how I ever refilled my tear reservoir.  When Roger died there were many times when I was sure I couldn’t cry anymore, but I was wrong. How odd that grief feels dry and brittle, but on the outside it’s all wet with tears.

In the West, here in Colorado, most of the time we have dry heat and water evaporates in a short time. Winds dry the earth quickly and also fan the forest fire. The wind whips the fire into a frenzy and drives it across the landscape. This morning I was angry and I stoked that anger by thinking about my resentments. My anger moved into areas not really connected to my original source of anger. I tend to cry when I am angry, but I think sometimes my tears put out the fire of anger too quickly. Anger scares me, it burns,  so I throw the water of my tears on it. I don’t want an angry forest fire, but sitting around the campfire may be just what I need. Of course,I will remember Smoky Bear and put out my campfire when I leave.

My Comfort Zone

For a long time I’ve wanted to visit New York City —before I rode off into the sunset! My best friend Susan and I just returned from a week long trip to New York City. Cross that off my bucket list! I’m still processing my experiences with the many sides of New York. I explored New York as a tourist and a greenhorn. I saw it, heard it and felt it. I can hear my English Comp teacher assigning a paragraph of descriptive writing. 

So hear goes…. Noise. Lots of noise. Horns honking, sirens blaring, the engines of cars and buses almost stacked on top of each other as they crawled through the streets. Only a masochist would drive in midtown Manhattan. Below this surface noise, underground is the subway. More noise. The train has a low and loud chugging sound as it rolls in to a stop and people rush off and more people squeeze in. Moving people from place to place is noisy.

A see of humanity! At first Susan and I saw only chaos, but after a few days we began to see the patterns and the rhythm of New York. Complicated choreography is a good way to describe the sidewalks and public transits;  some how everyone gets where they are going. It took a bit of observation and practice, but soon Susan and I were dancing with the New Yorkers.  Basically head down and dodge and weave! We even progressed to the dodging between cars move. Hiking in New York City only happens in Central Park.

Stinky! What were those bags of trash doing on the edge of the sidewalk? They looked like mountains but they stunk. Figured out (of course) that there were no alleys to access so garbage trucks came down the streets at night making the trash disappear. The many food trucks spread the smell of good food. The street grates belched stinky steam. Saks 5th Avenue did not stink!

Sunshine through skyscrapers creates an unusual quality of daylight. It’s hard to look straight up to see the sun and to keep walking. A forest of skyscrapers blocking the light. Fifth Avenue is filled with huge holographic billboards and are almost blinding to the eye at night. They are all screaming “Look at me!” We were under their spell. I felt the vibration of the street acts, music and more people moving this way and that.

You learn a lot by traveling with someone. Susan and I have travelled together several times, but New York’s craziness really highlighted how differently we navigate from point A to point B.The temptation is to redefine “different” into the right and the wrong way. I look at a map, get it in my head and take off, Susan uses her phone and google maps and tracks her journey. And this is walking not driving! There were a few cracks in the sidewalk before we reached acceptance of each other’s differences in navigating. I knew I was never lost if Susan was chugging along a few steps behind me, yes even our walking paces don’t match. I love you Susan!  

New York was such a foreign country that I wished I had packed my comfort zone. Returning to Fort Collins, I breathed a sigh of relief to see lots of green and hear the quiet. This is my comfort zone. I am familiar with the streets, restaurants, and  shopping; the sidewalks are my domain. And of course my family and friends live here. My travel to New York reminds me how different the world is and how life experiences shape us. I had to face my fear of not always knowing where I was, or what to do. Grow, or else!! Susan grounded me, she was home to me right there on the city sidewalk. Lady Liberty welcomed us with open arms.

Thoughts on Thinking

I talk to myself.  A lot. My thoughts narrate my life, “breaking news” stories  about the events of my day. Thoughts are not “facts” but they aren’t really lies either, maybe we could ask Trump what to call them. We think thoughts because we are humans, and humans are cursed with self awareness. ”Dogs don’t “think”, but it sure seems they are smarter than a lot of humans I know.  What scares me is I believe most of what I tell myself!!  My self- fulfilling prophecies never seem to lead me to happiness.

Very little is needed to make a happy life, it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.  Marcus Aurelius

                                                                               

It seems to me that thoughts are tyrants. This is the way it is—I am a loser, not smart enough and not that pretty. There is no bipartisan vote, the party in power, founded in my childhood, votes strictly along party lines. All the negative feedback and traumas in my life have control of  my headspace. I need to begin questioning my assumptions… like erasing a blackboard and starting over.  I can evict the damaging messages I give to myself and create some space for self-affirming messages. 

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

                                                                                      

When I think of Albert Einstein I think “Wow, give me some of his thoughts to think!” Einstein was a daydreamer and it is reported that he could visualize his theories first and then put words to them. My thoughts can get in the way of my experiencing. Thinking about eating a good meal is not the same as eating it! When I am engaging in obsessive thinking I am not “experiencing” the moment, I am wasting my time “figuring out” life instead of living it. Creative  thinking is the mind at play in the moment. I want to play more!

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t ….you’re right.    Henry Ford                                                             

The little train that chanted “I think I can, I think I can.”  made it up the hill. I doubt the little train would have got up the hill chanting “I can’t do it, I can’t do it.”  I was able to quit smoking because my mind was truly made up, no discussion allowed. My thoughts served me, not the other way around. The truth is I can talk myself into good behavior or bad behavior, so choosing my thoughts carefully is a  heavy responsibility.  Exercise is good for the mind and the body and so is rest. Self care can promote “I Can!” Are you a cheerleader for yourself or are you booing yourself?

Thinking: the talking of the soul within itself.                                      Plato

Leave it to the ancient teachers to define thinking in such a profound and true way.  I like the word “soul”  much better than the word “brain” especially when photos of the brain illustrate the word. That still quiet voice that tells us which way to go and what is truth must come from the soul.what do you have to say for yourself?

Think about it!

Artifacts

What are the chances that a couple of thousand years from now someone will stumble on this IPad and proclaim that it’s data and history are the tenets of an ancient religion?  I wouldn’t bet on it. Perhaps it will be viewed as an artifact of a technological era long past. This week, Tyler and I went to the Denver Museum of Natural History to see The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. It was incredible to see the Hebrew writings on bits of papyrus that had survived over two thousand years. Clay jars, carefully placed in caves, preserved some of the writings. The damage to the scrolls as they were reconstructed ( scotch tape!) is the real tragedy. The scrolls contain the early writings that were the basis for the Jewish faith and the Old Testament. My IPad is so pedestrian and my searches for “short hairstyles gray hair” and “constipation” will not change the course of history and neither will my blog posts. 

What will be the artifacts of my life? What traces of my existence will remain?  The piece of fur found during excavation will be determined to be synthetic and man-made, perhaps from a stuffed toy animal. This is Steve Alvin, the stuffed bear that Roger named, and loved to rub against his face as his dementia progressed. They will uncover a small tiled sign with pieces missing and they will translate it to “Dinker”. There will be no explanation for this strange word, but of course this was Rogers nickname for me. A single heavy glass swan will be found and it will be decided this swan was one of a pair. That is how they are manufactured and live, paired for life . The strange wrought iron primitive deer, was this a totem? A shard of beautiful yellow pottery, a single piece that is uncovered two thousand years from now. A paper towel holder?

6A8C1D2B-D6A4-4F25-842B-83A2A7DF6A79Here today, gone tomorrow. All of my “artifacts” are meaningful to me and they represent pieces of my life. What will they mean two thousand years from now?  A lot of nothing, I think.  Here today, here I am, today I am here. May 21, 2018. I want my life to mean something, I want it to matter that I lived. What is my legacy? I won’t cure cancer or become President ( maybe?) or write the great American novel, so my legacy won’t be in the headlines. What about a legacy of love? Those people I love will go on to love others and I could be part of the unbroken chain of love. A quiet but powerful thread into the future. Artifacts of love.

The Buck Stops Here

I am horrified (and a tiny bit amused)  at the games of Pass the buck, Hot potato and Telephone being played at the White House. It’s very Stormy!  Personal responsibility, integrity and truth are distant memories. He said, she said, No, I mean yes, that’s the truth until it isn’t, I didn’t do it, that’s not my job, ask Michael, ask Rudy and it’s all up to Sean. A perfect storm of  “I am not responsible!” While I would love to just point fingers at guilty parties in Washington, I must confess that I have a few hot potatoes in my closet, plenty of excuses, and some lies and  blame too.

Let’s define terms:

excuse: something (such as a condition or set of conditions) that explains improper behavior and makes it acceptable

lie: to make an untrue statement with “intent” to deceive

blame: to say or think that a person is responsible for something bad that has happened

Looking at these definitions in black and white is pretty scary isn’t it?  My first reaction is that I am a “better” person than those sleazy people, the liars, blamers and excusers. I have a sneaking suspicion that I “…doth protest too much.” How many times have I used the “I am sick.” lie to get out of work or an unwelcome invitation? Some of my excuses are long winded because I am justifying or explaining. If you ask me, it’s not my fault. So now what?

What happens at the Whitehouse is out of my hands(I vote),  but I am responsible for my own behavior. No excuses! The buck stops with me.  President Truman accepted responsibility for dropping the atomic bomb on Japan so certainly I can own my own behavior.  Not every lie I tell is devious, at times I “misrepresent” my feelings.  When I respond “I’m fine.” and the truth is I am anything but fine, I am lying. I heard recently that “fine” is not a feeling. The lies I tell myself are often motivated by my desire to protect myself. I can lie without saying a word i.e I don’t say anything when a group of people are laughing at a racist joke or I don’t say I feel like Mexican food when my partner says Italian food. One of the beauties of truth is that it is so much simpler, I don’t need to concoct a story or pretend. How will I know if someone loves ME if I don’t show them who I really am?

When we say someone is jaded we usually mean they are not innocent or of good character. Deb E. in the March 2018 issue of The Forum has a perfect acronym for J.A.D.E.:

                         Justifying my actions

                         Arguing my position

                         Defending myself against blame

                         Explaining why I’m right

I turned this into a rap for myself, and it is bad, very bad.  My rap helps me to remember jaded is not an adjective I want used to describe me. 

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Right now I have 3 orchids blooming and 2 more budding and soon to bloom.  I remember hearing and reading about how difficult orchids are to grow, but with benign neglect and the  southern sunlight, mine are thriving. For years my vision for my front bed along my driveway has been a show of hens and chicks of many kinds and colors amid a rocky landscape. I have pulled out the tulips in the bed many times and the damn things keep coming back. Guess what? I have decided that the tulips are beautiful and I would miss them terribly if they were not greeting me each spring. In spite of my best efforts to kill them, they present themselves each spring and I have grown to love their determination to win me over. Both my orchids and tulips are not coaxed into blooming, they just do.

Like with my flowers, I have found that a hands off approach to the people I love seems to be the best way for me to witness their uniqueness and beauty. I can stop coaxing, manipulating, begging, giving advice and be amazed at the beauty of the human spirit. Doing less and staying out of the way allows others to bloom in their own way and at their own pace. My hands are not for molding, they are for holding others with love. I don’t always remember this, but this is my intent and I am making progress. People bloom when they are ready and nothing I do can change that fact.

But what about my relationship with myself? Surely letting myself just “be” would result in me becoming a nasty and mean fat blob, smoking up a storm and guzzling liquor every Saturday night. Without will power, vigilance and my inner drill Sargent what would I do? Would I even get off the couch? Getting older gives me a longer history to learn from and decide if more of the same is likely to encourage me to grow and bloom. My inner Drill Sargent may get me to follow orders for a bit, but when her back is turned I may be reading, crocheting, or walking. No marching when I am off duty! Wait a minute! I don’t even remember signing up for the “I’m not good enough, try harder!” platoon, but I must have got drafted in my childhood. So hind sight is 20/20 and going forward I can choose to do less and play more, to be less fearful and explore more and to love myself as I am and as I grow. I take lots of photos of flowers so perhaps my intuition is telling me that I can bloom too.

The next time you see a bouquet of flowers, especially one you have bought or grown for yourself take time to appreciate each bloom. Give each flower the gift of your attention and awe. Do the same for yourself!

Autobiography in Shoes

One, two buckle my shoe…. I loved them, the black patent leather Mary Jane shoes I had in second grade. I shined them up with just a tiny dab of Vaseline and lots of buffing. The pure white anklets I wore with them were just perfect. Of course I also had my school shoes,   serviceable but boring black oxfords. My Mom insisted that I save my patent leather shoes for church and special occasions, the oxfords were for school. My boots were red rubber ones with the single side button closure. My genius and somewhat devious plot was to wear my patent leather shoes under my boots and waltz out to school. It worked a few times, but on good weather days I had a hard time justifying the boots and besides my Mom had found my ugly shoes hidden in the back of the closet. So began my shoe obsession.

Shoe wise, elementary and high school were a bit boring, except for platform shoes and go-go boots. I had the best platform shoes, at least 2 inches of platform and they were cool. I still miss them and wish I had held on to them. Go-go boots, were not in my shoe wardrobe, but I do remember a couple of the popular girls had them.  I also had “gym” shoes for PE, which were like Keds with a bit of attitude and we could wear them all day-if it was gym day.  This was long before running shoes, cross trainers, and a  $200.00 price tag. I am so embarrassed to admit I used white shoe polish on the canvas to keep them pristine white. Flip flops “came out”of the shower and could be worn as sandals. Nail polish on toe nails?  Of course!

As a single young woman, I was willing to sacrifice comfort for high heels that showed off my legs. High heels were sexy and being sexy was good. To hell with the pinched toes and blisters, I looked pretty damn good in high heels. Often the heels tapered to less than a dime in size and I cringe to think of my wobbly ankles. Very pointy toes were also the norm, my foot was  wider than the shoe but somehow I got my foot in my glass slippers. When the toes of shoes got rounder I joined other women in a collective sigh of relief. For every day you might have caught me in Earth shoes, the heel of the shoe was lower than the toe because this was better for the foot.  Gym shoes had graduated to a casual shoe for everyday wear, think Converse for guys and classic Reebok’s for aerobic classes.

And then it happened. I came down to earth. I started to run every day and running shoes were my obsession. One shelf of athletic shoes exploded to shelves and shelves and even whole departments, and that was in my closet! I was on my feet all day at the bookstore and decided down with the heels, and up with the flats. Tired of suffering, my new mantra was comfort. My pregnant shoes were more the size of snowshoes, but my swollen feet needed lots of room .When I met Roger my one concern was he was just my height. Flats were important so I did not tower over him, which I considered a fate worse than death. Soon I grew to love how I could look into his eyes without craning my neck. 

These days I have shoes and boots for every possibility. Running shoes, hiking shoes, walking shoes, sandals, boots for looks and boots for snow, dressy flats, casual shoes for hanging out, black shoes, brown shoes , lace ups, slipons and many cool sneakers/athletic shoes I never use for athletics. I even have slippers which Roscoe chews on and runs around the house with to taunt me.  I challenge you to walk a mile in my shoes!