| What is your favorite piece of furniture and why?
My first thought was of my bed. I can snuggle up under my blankets and hide from the rest of the world, at least until my back hurts from lying down too long. (Obviously, I've had experience.) Then I thought of the recliner where I've spent many an afternoon over the years feeling sick, or evenings watching old movies. Of course, I like the dresser--any dresser would do--that holds my unmentionables out of sight. Or the desk with the computer where I spend many hours a day. Maybe it's the old hand-cranked Victrola downstairs out of sight, or the old sewing table (minus the machine) that I use as a night stand.
No, finally I realize I like to eat, so it must be the kitchen table where I prepare food and set my plate for dinner. I then remembered the dining table. It was my mother's table. The dining room is small, so we can't add the extra leaf that is stored in the foyer closet. But that table, as is, accommodates 8. We can squeeze in extra chairs and reduce elbow room. These days with so many little ones and an old man in the family, we have a lot of spills and mishaps, so I keep it well covered.
That table has been the center of many family gatherings, holidays and birthdays, even funeral meals. When my mother was alive, it held her cooking, which everybody loved, including her potato salad and home canned vegetables. We've entertained friends, family, immigrants, and near strangers at that table. A lot of tall tales, gossip, and laughter have taken place at that table. We've also sat around that table, shedding tears and our memories. No subject was taboo. We didn't always agree, but we forgave and bonded.
I guess that table represents my family. It reminds me of the love, the sorrow, the heartbreak, our differences, and acceptance. We've asked the blessing over the years at that table. I believe we were blessed.
|"Don't forget to drink water and get some sun. You're basically a houseplant with more complicated emotions."
The unknown writer of the above quote realized some basic truth. Life goes on. Even in the midst of grief and tragedy, the world keeps spinning. People still get hungry, the house still needs cleaning, the laundry still needs to be done. A simple thing like drinking water and getting some light is essential to get through the down moments of our lives.
Farmers probably relate to this easily. No matter how bad the crop prices or the weather, they still have to feed the animals and stack the hay. They have to put a fire in the stove or the kids will be cold. They can't allow themselves to wallow in self-pity.
For us city dwellers, we have pets to tend. A simple act like drinking a glass of water or washing our hair keeps us from sinking into despair. A shortage of light has been shown to influence depression and suicide. So if the new job goes away because the company shut down or they consolidated, or if we get bad news about Grandma, a walk in the park can be helpful.
When we find ourselves getting down in the dumps, we just need to remember that we're houseplants and need a little simple care. It may not bring us instant joy, but it will keep us afloat.
| I saw the remake of True Grit Friday Night. I was surprised, but it was pretty good. They did manage to stick to the story, but present it in a new and interesting way with more detail from the book. I truly enjoyed it. Jeff Bridges, as disgusting as he was, did a great job as Rooster Cogburn. Matt Damon did a better job than Glen Campbell, but didn't sing. In fact the music throughout the film was a slow instrumental version of Leaning On The Everlasting Arms. Steven Spielberg was a producer, so that may account for the original feel to an old story.
Many remakes just rewrite the story or modernize it. Some, like historical fiction, have to stay close to the original. The Virginian for instance, has been made into a movie four times, but it gets worse each time, and the actors get further away from the lovable hero of the original.
Stagecoach has been done at least twice, the first time in 1939 when John Wayne was still lean and good-looking. The second version was the same story, but with different actors came different characterization, which were still interesting. I think it's time to do it again. I nominate Hugh Jackman and Matt Damon, with Kurt Russell as the sheriff. I don't believe The Ox Bow Incident has ever been redone, and it's such a good story. It should be remade, although it will be hard to top or break even with the first one.
I love it when TCM runs the remakes back to back. A film addict, like me, can really study them that way.
|Robert Kennedy: “Few of us will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”
I suppose most of us dream of being a rock star of some sort--a great politician, a Nobel prize scientist, a great author, inventor, historical innovator, and so forth. We want to feel like we have made a true difference in the world. It would great to find a preventative for spring allergies or hay fever or make a great speech that inspires brotherly love and erase hatred. Most of us settle for making a difference in the lives of our families or work place. We don't pretend to influence history or civilization.
But when you think about it, a lot of people whose names we never knew have altered the course of history. Somebody whose face will never be on TV or on the Internet may very well do something that deeply affects our family or community, for good or bad. Kennedy was trying to tell us that each of us can be that person in the background who sets the path for history. The future of our country or county or children with cancer can very well rest in our hands.
Individually, we must decide what is important to us, what causes are at the top of our list. Teaching children or making laws or improving the way we treat public servants can be the path that we alter. Our own attitudes can be the place for us to start. We don't have to accept the world the way it is, but can act with the hope that we will have a gentle impact. We don't need to get the credit.
|Prompt: I remember an evening in April when ...
Finish this sentence and describe the evening and what happened.
I remember an evening in April long ago during the week as the band rehearsed for an upcoming concert. It was an anniversary, so the regular high school band had dismissed, but the returning alumni were having their own rehearsal. As an officer, I had hung around for various tasks. As our beloved conductor worked with the adults, it was turning dark outside. The temperature was up in more ways than just the local weather.
It was not the best of times in our small town - university community. Racial tensions ran high. The schools had been integrated for some time, but the last of the segregated schools was finally closed. Rumors ran strong. That whole year had been unsettling. Outside wandering groups of young black males discovered an unlocked entrance into the building. I was going down the stairs in our private entrance as a mob was starting up. Cherry Pie, one of the head rebels and a legend in his own time, was in the group. One of the band members, Benny, a quiet, laid-back black senior managed to step up in front and turned around to them, signaling to stop and listen.
I turned and ran to get an adult to help. Inside the rehearsal room, they continued seriously, ignoring my presence. I was anxious, but I didn't have the courage to nab anyone or interrupt the group, so I retreated after a few minutes back into the stairwell. There I found Benny still talking them down. I don't recall all I heard, but he convinced them, it wasn't worthwhile to go further. I had heard lots of rumors, so I was concerned about destruction of expensive equipment and the confrontation of young men with middle-aged and older people, predominantly white.
It turned into nothing. A fire that burned itself out. No one upstairs ever knew what had happened, or almost happened. I was the only white person in that stairwell or doorway, and that crowd didn't care any more than the crowd upstairs making beautiful music.
| “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” ― Albert Einstein
My first thought on reading this was that this is going to be my motto from now on. When someone thinks or accuses me of not knowing what I'm going, I'll say, "It's research!" So the recipe didn't turn out: it's okay, it was only research.
My problem is I've been doing research my whole life. Pretty soon, I'll be ready for the real thing. However, I guess we only get do-overs in the laboratory.
As far as writing is concerned, I have a lot of research. I fell in love with Westerns a few years ago and decided to write about them. I have my theories to prove. So every time I read a Western, watch a movie or old TV show, or history and geography books, I call it research. I have mental notes and opinions, and I have written ones. I envision a non-fiction book of short takes, that could be used as a resource for writers or movie makers. I can even picture a documentary bringing it a little more to life for the casual viewer. The difficult part would be getting permission for photographs and still shots. I know there is a wave of interest right now, but I spend another year or two doing this research, the wave will die.
I realize too late in life that I like doing research. I've always loved my encyclopedias, which are out- dated now. I should have been a fact checker for a magazine, but even magazines are leaving with the ice bergs. Nobody checks facts any longer, and much of what is on the Internet is incorrect. I'm sure that if I had become a scientist, repeating the same experiment with slight variations might have been tedious, until that moment when I made a discovery of something new, or something that works. Scientists, genealogists, historians, writers, whomever, all have that same thrill of discovery, of putting the pieces together meaningfully.
|Dr. Seiple concludes: “I believe death is but the doorway to the rest of life, but until it is time to step through, I want to live like the lilies, expectantly, with enough for today.”
The above was a recent quote by a Marine specialist, one of the founders of a special unit at the Pentagon. He has a brain tumor and stage four cancer. It rang a bell with me.
Many of us, believing in life after death, are ready when the time goes. There will be no regrets, no fears. At the same time we want to say loudly, "Not yet". Someone like Dr. Seiple, who knows the end is near, lives in between "ready" and "not yet". So his words are quite understandable. Why give up too soon? Blossom and sway in the breeze until the very end.
The rest of us don't know how soon our end is coming. We are mortal, so surely it will come. But until it does, I want to live like the flowers, putting off fragrance and color and beauty. We should all make the most of our days, whether it is enjoying ourselves, spending time with family, or helping the less fortunate. If I die next week, I don't want to be remembered as a whiner and complainer, do you? I want to be the one who dyed Easter eggs with children, who quoted Shakespeare, and smiled at people. Living each day "expectantly" is a great way to live it.
|April 11, 2019
"No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side.
Or you don't.” ~ Stephen King
Spot on, Mr. King. Most of the time, we don't even know there is another side. We just muddle through without a map or a flashlight. Make it dark blue and that "lonely section of hell" could have been my marriage to an alcoholic. For adults that passage could be months or years. But for a child that dark, lonely, lost time might be a day or a few hours. A child doesn't have enough experience with the passing of time or circumstance to know a temporary crisis from a scary upheaval that will never end.
Occasionally, we don't know we're in a bad spot until we come out on the other side. When I was only in my 30's, I was disappointed with the way my life was going. I didn't like my job, I didn't have children yet, my education seemed to be wasted. I was struggling financially, a worldly way of judging success. I was barely getting by, far from home. Finally, I finally found someone who gave me positive feedback. My old job had involved constant criticism and negative people. A few occasional remarks about my intelligence or nice personality or moral strength had a big effect. I only saw her a few months, then I changed jobs and didn't see her anymore. But I realized I felt better. Some encouragement from a person who had her own life together did wonders for me. I wasn't such a loser after all. I didn't have all the answers, but I was on the other side and could see the light. I knew only after the fact that I had been depressed. Now life had promise again.
| Two months ago yesterday, my younger brother passed away. I developed extremely bad headaches that lasted three weeks, not for the first time. I've had muscle tension in my neck for decades, and the headaches come and go. This last time was just more intense than usual. I'm only allowed acetaminophen because of drug interactions. It took one too many every day (fewer than the maximum for normal people) and my blood got too thin. Then a virus hit me over a week ago. I coughed incessantly and had a wee bit of laryngitis. My choir is very small, so the director asked me to stand with them and pretend to sing. I managed not to cough until we sat down.
That was Sunday. The coughing was making my chest hurt. I got up Wednesday with red eyes, one of them glued. I knew I had an appointment on Friday because of the thin blood (clotting/bleeding risk). By then both eyes were glued and sore. You couldn't tell I'd ever had whites in my eyes. He said it was a virus, since both eyes were the same. He prescribed a pill for coughing. He wrote a script for antibiotic eye drops, but told me not to fill it for a day or two to see if they cleared up on their own. I filled it Sunday. By then I looked like I had two black eyes, the bruising going almost up to my eyebrow and down my cheek in a crooked circle. No one hit me honest.
Meantime, on Saturday afternoon, while I'm coughing, eyes hurting and itching and burning, I started having midsection problems. I thought it would pass, so I ignored it. It got worse. I couldn't get comfortable. When I was sitting on the staircase crying and moaning, I realized I need a hospital. I was wearing Mom jeans and an old white T-shirt that had 2001 United Way stamped on the back. I wanted to check clothes, but knew I didn't have the ability. I had told my father I was having back pain, so now I told him I needed to go to the hospital. I wanted to call 911. He insisted he could take me. He's 90. I'm going to have to learn to say "No" to him and stick to it. He kept looking at his bills. I screamed, "I have to go now."
I paced the floor, while he slowly got ready. We went outside finally, but his car would not start! I couldn't shut up, I was groaning so hard. I felt ashamed of my own sounds, but I hurt so badly. We switched to my car which is harder for him to get in. He stopped to pump air into the front tire. I yelled, "Let me call 0-1-1, they'll take me faster." He ignored me. I even offered to call a cab for us. He got in, I backed the seat up for his longer legs. Next, we hear a sound. He says, "What's that?" About the same time, I moaned, "Dad, you're ruining my car."
The driveway at the end next to the house is wide enough for four vehicles, but it narrows quickly. He had squeezed his old pick up in between his car and mine. He started turning my car to the right before he had backed out all the way. I'm thinking we look like fools who can't handle an emergency in a situation comedy. He can't even back the car out of the driveway, am I safe to ride with him to the hospital? He pulled forward, then backed out properly and tried again. I examined it the next day, not as bad as I expected, but still ugly. We make it out of the subdivision, and I decided I was ready to die, he was on his own.
Two miles later we were on a four lane divided highway, and I started dry heaving. I think this had an adverse affect on his emotional state. He drove like a race car drove. Mind that he's not accustomed to driving my car, and I usually drive him in his, but I was in no shape for driving. We're approaching a red light with no sign of slowing, I stop moaning to yell, "Red light, red light."
"I see it," he says in his annoyed voice. I stopped trying. At the hospital, I had to guide him past all the possible entrances, which he started to take. I pointed to the huge "Emergency" signs, and said "Keep straight, keep straight". He's never had a collision or gotten a ticket after almost 90 years of driving, so I know he knows how to read traffic signs. I still had to tell him to turn right into the emergency lot. Despite my pointing to the left, he pulled into the "Do Not Enter" sign lane and went up to the Ambulance door. He didn't stop when he got to the sidewalk, but got both wheels up on the curb! "Dad". I don't know what I was going to say, but I shut up. "Let me out here. You back up and take the car over there, pointing once more to the right place to be, and then meet me inside."
There was a guard at the door who didn't say anything, so I didn't say anything to him. I went inside the door over from the ambulance entrance and acted like nothing had happened. I did a very small amount of paperwork and gave her my id. When I was done, I saw him ambling in and told her he was with me, but I was going to the bath room
I was miserable and hurting. My eyes hurt and were oozing. I had dry heaves again in the waiting room with all those people. They give you a barf bag. I was so embarrassed but couldn't control it. I couldn't sit still, I hovered in the corner until it was my turn. I took Dad with me which took us ages to get to the room. Someone offed him a wheelchair, but that's beneath his dignity. I was glad to have survived my journey there. If I had called the Rescue Squad, I would have gotten there more quickly, with less stress, and probably would have had an IV going by the time I got there. And they do take patients brought in that way first. I confirmed my beliefs that my father can no longer drive.
Just for the record it was not appendicitis like they first thought. I have a kidney stone and was sent home to pass it over the next five to seven days. I've been promised it is a very painful experience, but I have new drugs t to deal with nausea and pain, and to help pass it through. It's too small to blast, so it has to go the old fashioned way. But the saga is not over.
After six hours in ER, most of which my dad slept through, we walked outside. I demanded the car keys when we got through the door. I was no longer in pain, some discomfort but no pain. I was full of holes and bruises from IV's that wouldn't thread and blood tests gone awry. We reached the car, and I started backing out. "What's that sound?" I stopped and got out. The front tire was flat.
backed into an empty spot further down, my dad flipping out that I was driving on the rim. I called a cab. That whole procedure of calling a cab at night and not going inside to get someone with an air pump upset my dad. I told him employees, even night watchmen, were not allowed to help out like that because of liability. Then when I paid the cab with a credit card, his mind was blown. I assured him I included the tip.
He was hungry and made himself breakfast. I felt sick at the thought of eating. Before I went to bed, I took a Tylenol. My back pain stopped and hasn't come back. Sunday he somehow got his car started. I had left the prescriptions in the car, so I had to go back and get them to go to the drugstore. We went to Advance Auto, me driving, so he could have his battery checked, and it was fine. I was coughing and my eyes were red and oozing. I wore a mask to hold in my germs and keep out pollen. After trying many unsuccessful things with him, finally picking up my drugs, I had to say to him, "I am not taking you home to get your tools. You are 90 years old and you are not changing a tire! I'm too sick to help you and do all that driving back and forth. We're going to a tire place." So I spent a couple of hours in a car place with an antsy old man. They repaired the tire at no charge. I only paid for towing.
Today my eyelids and skin under my eyes are still red, but the ooze is thinner and not as bountiful. You still can't see the whites of my eyes. I coughed all night, but it's better this afternoon. I haven't passed a stone yet, but occasionally feel a twinge of nausea. I don't want to start the special meds until I need them. What if they were wrong about the next 5 days prediction? I'm glad I have no where to go. I have no energy.
I'm sitting here, hoping the eye bug will go away soon. I hope when the redness disappears from my skin, I won't continue looking ten years older overnight. I'd like to stop going through so many tissues and coughing so much at night. I want to pass a kidney stone and get it over with, but am praying it's not as bad as everyone tells me, from the nurses to the pharmacy clerk. I have to keep my resolve to make that old man, who has been the backbone of his family and had everyone leaning on him for so long, realize that he can no longer do all the things he used to do without making him feel helpless and useless.
| I've been on vacation from blogging and writing in general. Not a guilt-free vacation. I have lots of excuses of preoccupations, illnesses, holidays, grieving, obligations, and so forth. I tried to get back on track, but failed. I took an online course in an effort to concentrate again. The course was great, but it didn't get me motivated in the direction I wanted.
I've had some firsts during that long time off. I tried my first frog leg. I haven't been missing anything. I made my first guacamole. I'm sold on that-an Alton Brown recipe. Love making and eating that particular version. I had my first professional massage. I made the mistake of telling her I had headaches and neck pain. I was sore for a week from my shoulder joints to my ear lobes. The headaches did not go away, either.
Although I don't have anything in particular of grave concern going on right now (I have in the past and got through it), I am obsessing perhaps with my own mortality. I've lost the second of two younger brothers, so the fragility of life has really parked itself in front of my face. I take care of my father who is in his 90's. He takes short steps and is a bit fragile, hard of hearing and forgetful. But his doctor says he is hale and hearty and all his major functions are A-OK. So I worry about who will take care of him if something happens to me. It is very conceivable that I will go first.
I need to up my game clearing out my belongings. I will never have my own home again. Even if I did, I would probably take the stuff in Dad's house where I now reside. He'd either come with me, or I would end up outlasting him after all. So stored away dining chairs, kitchen utensils, and lawn furniture need to go bye-bye. I need to do the same with a lot of my parents' things, too. He's not going camping again or fish in the ocean. I've been trying to get my third brother and my nieces, who lived here briefly when Mom was alive, to take their junk out--the ski boots, books, sports trophies. Why wait until someone dies and have a tone of stuff to clear out?
What I'm considering is that if I go before my father, my room should be completely emptied and all my belongings donated somewhere. My widowed niece could move in here. Her two sons would occupy my room. Her daughter would be in the smaller guest room where I am now typing (it doubles as my office). She could take the guest room downstairs where her father stayed after his divorce. She'd have more privacy there. The kids would be upstairs with Big Pop. He would be revived by their presence. They'd be closer to town and her work. It is a different county, so a different school system is involved. And it would be temporary. How much longer will a man in his 90's live after I pass away or go into a nursing home? She could rent out her farmhouse outside of town and have it for a return in a few years. The old man wouldn't be alone all day and would have an RN under his roof. My brother could come from 70 miles away, as he does now, to help her with maintenance and yard work.
So I want to be more organized, a very popular word, and live "leaner", a big word in business, at least a few years back. I want to be prepared to have my physical presence swept aside and have the others in my life carry on efficiently and conveniently, taking care of each other. I guess you could accuse me of wanting to control things from beyond the grave. Ok. While I'm cleaning up and making space, I want to keep trying "firsts". I still want to experience the world and taste its joys I'm going to plant a big box of cilantro and re-read Shakespeare plays. I'm going to take a vacation if I can figure out a way to get away from home. I may never write the great American novel, but I can dabble at will.