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?

Puppy Speed Dating

Doesn’t this make you smile? For Valentines Day one of the brew pubs in town, in partnership with an animal rescue organization, is having an event that allows donators to visit with each adoptable puppy for a short time and decide which one to adopt. Conversation will be limited, but cuddling is allowed. I can’t go because I would want to adopt them all. Puppies go with everything! The Denver Firefighters put out a calendar every year that features 12 hunky firefighters holding puppies, some without shirts (the firemen not the puppies). Can you imagine how quickly it sells out?

So since my dog Roscoe is my man for Valentines Day, I thought I would write a Valentine note to him and tell him how much I love him. After all he is a better man than most of the men on my dating site. 

Dear Roscoe,

When I look into your big brown eyes I see love and devotion.  When I get home you are always happy to see me and you never quiz me about my day.  Although you have a close relationship with neighbor Larraine, I know you have never cheated on me. You never come to the sofa or bed angry, your feet aren’t cold and you are always willing to cuddle with me. I don’t have to cook 5 course meals, simple dog food is always fine with you. You love to take me for walks everyday and when it’s cold outside you take short walks so I don’t get too cold. We have such good times together playing tug of war or fetch with your stuffed animals, Elmer and Sammy. You are very neat so Elmer and Sammy are seldom left on the floor, no wet towels either. I love that you don’t post on Facebook, or text and email; you know how to find me and don’t over-share on social media. You don’t leave whisker hair all over the sink.  I love you most because  you never leave the toilet seat down when you take a leak.  How could I ask for a more loving and compatible Valentine? Those doggie treats that look like mini hot dogs are your Valentine treat. I love you.

Hugs and Kisses,

XXXOOO

Your Mom

The Joy of Sex/Aging

The other day I read a phrase in a book title: The Joy of Aging.  My response was less than enthusiastic. My mind went back to the book  The Joy of Sex. As a child of the 60’s and 70’s, and the “make love not war”generation, I was impressed that a explicit book about the joy of sex actually got published in 1972. It really is a “classic”now. I have fond memories from my days at the book store and how the book was relocated around the store by furtive giggling teenagers. The manager and I drew the line at the children’s section, but finding the book in History or Travel barely raised our eyebrows.  Of course I read it AND looked at the pictures. Sex is supposed to be fun, but aging?  Not so much. I just remembered a series of books for “dummies”;  Gardening for Dummies, Knitting for Dummies etc…. Funny I never saw Sex for Dummies or Aging for Dummies even though it seems us dummies need a great deal of help in these areas. 

What are the joys of aging? I have to give that question some thought. It is much easier to list the  sorrows of aging! There is no joy in wrinkles, turkey neck and upper arms that flap in the wind. It is humbling to see looks of exasperation on young people’s faces when I desperately need computer help for things they learned in grade school. Going from “miss” to “ma’am” is a giant painful leap for me.  When I add up my years I know I am well past the halfway point unless I live until 132! Sorry to say that even the joys of sex are not included among my joys of aging. I don’t remember a chapter on aging in The Joy of Sex, but when I first read it getting old was not on my radar!  These sorrows are only the tip of the iceberg—but remember the Titanic.

I am a realist and a grateful optimist; so I ask again what are the joys of aging? The standard reply to complaints about aging,  “Consider the alternative.” has merit. I am alive and there are possibilities and joys to experience along.  Life is a mixed bag for sure.  I stopped coloring my hair and it’s a lovely shade of gray; saves time and money.  When I walk past a group of young men I am glad I am invisible, sticking my chest out and sucking my gut in at the same time was never easy!  My “center” is a lot stronger now and I can go with the flow or trust myself and my opinions, if I need to draw a line in the sand.  Believing it doesn’t matter or I don’t care  is very freeing. With age I have learned not everything is worth worrying or agonizing over, in fact very little is. I’m not trying to impress anyone and no longer need to canvas the world before I make a decision. Because I am not obsessing over my value I can see the Downy Woodpecker in the tree or the doves marching like they are is a military parade. My love is deeper and my laugh is deeper. With time, my failures become good stories and I try to say “yes” to life as much as I can. I have lots more joys of aging, but I’ll stop here.

So there’s lots of joys to be had with sex and aging, maybe even at the same time. 

Night-lights

I am laying here in the glow of a night-light, which makes a shadow of a wood heron I have set close to it. The effect is beautiful and very comforting. I can see enough to make my way, but I don’t have the bright light which makes my eyeballs shrivel. The soft light is just right. Light, like so many things, is measured on a continuum—pitch-black to blinding bright, soft light to harsh light, flickering light to solid light, etc.  My moods fall on a continuum too.

There have been times when I have felt discounted by a beautiful, bright sunny day—how dare the light try to brighten the darkness inside of me? I wanted to be in the dark, I deserved to be in the dark. I didn’t want to light a damn candle! My life was lived in semi darkness and I learned to make my way. What was there to see or feel anyway? I learned the sun isn’t worried about ambience or mood lighting— it just shines. Finally one day I saw and felt the sunshine on my face and … I began to trust the sun to shine …always. Whether I could see it or not. 

Digital clock light, cell phone, the iPad I am writing this on, DVD lights, TV and movie screens, car lights, Times Square, and to think our ancient ancestors had only the light from a burning fire or torch. The simplicity of that sounds very restful to me. Our screens can seem like they are our masters, but we can make the decision to “use” them and not allow them to “use”us.

We even use light to heal and have laser therapy and laser knives to do surgery. The invention of the light bulb changed the course of history.  With the flip of a switch God said “There was light.” Must have been on the first day of creation because God needed to see what he/she was doing! Please forgive my loose biblical translation.

The Light House welcomes and is a beacon to safety for ships seeking the shore. Flashlights are as useful as duct tape. Even our cell phones can be used as flashlights. The miners’ helmets with a light on it are necessary to see in the shadows of the mine shaft. The bicyclists in the city use lights to be seen and well as to see in the darkness. Having learned how dark it gets when the electricity goes out I am well supplied with candles and stick matches. I know how to light a candle to dispel the darkness. Light is safety and chases away fear.

Come On Baby, Light My Fire. You Light Up My Life. Let The Midnight Special Shine It’s  Ever-lovin’ Light On Me. Moonlight. We sing about light- from rock and roll, to pop, to folk songs. The romance of moonlight is legendary. All these odes to light testify how central light is to our lives. 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Ta-Da!

With a flourish and wave of the hand the great unveiling—-Ta-Da!  It’s kind of like the fist in the air Yes!, but more of a public viewing of your great accomplishments. But what about the frequent admonishment from my Mother “Self-praise stinks.”?  Does it really stink to pat yourself on the back and say “Well done.” I have been unable to completely disregard my Mothers edict, but I have learned that the “stink” of self-praise more often smells like the fresh air after a good rain.

My college boyfriend told me that I was not original, I didn’t create anything. I stayed in the shadow of his great, public talents. What could I do to show I was creative? What did I have to show for being me? I got very good grades and made the Deans List, nobody noticed and I couldn’t sing my own praises.  I lost weight and from out behind the curtain stepped an attractive young woman. I got noticed! finally, but being noticed by preying men was not the attention I needed. I couldn’t see that I was of value for the original I truly was. It was like behind the curtain was the great and powerful  OZ, and there I was front and center, just little old me and I had no power to make wishes come true.

I joke that it was Prozac which un-leashed my creativity. This is the truth— after extensive  therapy and taking Prozac I came out from behind the wall (not that Wall!) of depression. I realized I had been living with my brakes on.  I was in there somewhere and amazed myself with my drive to create. I started with cards, then collage and decoupage. Then I learned how to make jewelry and have made thousands of earrings. Writing came next and crocheting and  playing and making music on the banjo and ….  I had lots of Ta-Da! opportunities. I made this and this, and I continue to create.

Human doing and human being. I learned to love by being human and doing loving things. There are things you can do to show how much you love someone, but often the  love is expressed in non-visible ways: support, kindness, listening etc….   Loving is original and creative. Anger is too. When our gift of love, our creation is rejected, the hurt is very deep. We have revealed our vulnerable selves behind our masks, and we are rejected. In spite of the risks, we are charged with creating ourselves and sharing our gift with the world.

When I get to Heaven, St. Peter, of pearly gates fame, will ask me to show him what is behind my curtain, my final Ta-Da! moment. My hope is that there will be nothing behind the curtain.  I gave it all away.