Thursday, September 27, 2012

Only in America!

In America, we feel connected to the entire world in so many ways:

One: Hubby and I have these connections: I am Italian by birth; he is American by birth; My father was born in Brazil. His mother's family came from Denmark, connected to Sweden through her father. His father's family is connected to England, Germany, and Norway. His religions: Unitarian, Presbiterian, and many more. Mine, Catholic. We were practicing Catholic when the children were young.

Two: My brother in law married twice; the first time to a native Mexican. The second one to a black woman from Texas. Their religion is Southern Baptist- evangelical.

Three: My eldest son married a native of Burma. Her mother is a native of China. Her sister is married to a native of Taiwan. Their religion is Buddhism.

Four: My daughter is married to a Jewish man whose family traces ancestry to Russia and Poland. They have a blended religion of Jewish and Catholic traditions.

(Thanks to Paul at Costco for inspiring this post.)

How about you? Are you also related to the bigger world?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Critical markers.

As late as January last year,  just  after I celebrated another birthday, five years after I started this blog, I still felt as sprightly as a sixty-five year old! My goals remained the same; my hopes and attitudes intact! Hubby and I could make this walk (Port Orford's Heads, close to Coast Guard Hill) a walk we took many times, at times walking from my house four miles away and all uphill!

But our lives took a major turn after last July. We lost a son and soon my husband's health took a major dive. He is recuperating slowly from a couple of operations; his gait is still good, but his strength has not returned to how it was before.

Now, we walk around our neighborhood, a mile or so, on even terrain. We rest often, pick and eat wild blackberries, admire birds and other sights. Everything about last year is still with us, palpable, raw. He feels pain in his hips and legs, and those pains are nothing compared to the pain we swim in as we delve into the memories of Brian and how tragic his loss has been for anyone who knew him.

We have changed in fundamental ways.
Just last January we were planning a cruise to the East. Now, we are happy to take our daily
walks, simple rituals of thankfulness and mindedness.
Thoughts of tomorrows are kept simple, listing doable tasks, put out the garbage at the curb, weed the upper garden, call the kids.

A neighbor died yesterday. A sudden heart attack. A walking companion drove her to the emergency room. By all accounts, she had been healthy, active all along, except on the previous day she had complained, not feeling well, still not missing her walking routine.

These constant reminders of death are not new in this neighborhood where the average old age is 80+; where senior citizens are seen clearing brush, walking dogs, volunteering. We see people all around us make the most of their lives, visiting with friends, tending to their gardens, helping their neighbors with chores.

We made our wills for the first time this year. A simple will. We shared it with our other children.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

We all need help sometime. Even the rich!

So, how do you see yourself this morning? Are you rich with possibilities? Are you grateful for all the riches and blessings bestowed on you by a benevolent providence, family, contacts? Are you standing in front of a mirror and examining your status in life right now?

Yes. Do.
You are young for your age? What luck!

Not luck, you say?
Did you get any help, assistance, consultations, professional interventions?

Again, I think that's sheer luck!

Did your perfect smile come naturally, without help from dentists, orthodontists? That your parents didn't insist you brush your teeth, with that special toothpaste, and even insisted you flossed between teeth and used that rinse? And  they checked that you did?

There was knowledge, support and caring there for you.

For many children I've known, tooth tending was not part of their daily routine. Money for dentists was not available; money for toothbrushes and toothpaste was not available. Many children I've known didn't even get the first well-baby visits after their birth. Their mothers brought them home, and soon after these same children became a burden she could not manage. You see, she was barely a child herself.

I wondered many times what she could have done differently when she told me she was dropping out of school at fourteen. I reminded her that school was mandated until eighteen. That's when she told me her uncle had raped her and now he was in jail, and she was sent away to live with her grandmother who might help her raise the child so she could continue attending school. She was not the only child I've known who quit school at an early age and never returned.

And then I thought how close we all are to perdition, at some point in our lives. How, if not for the help of a relative, or a good friend, we could not get money down for our first used car, so we could get to our job, to school, to the doctor.

I know my path is full of good Samaritans.

I know my husband started back to college with the help of the GI Bill. Only with that help he was able to get an education.  He and I attended graduate schools on scholarships and loans. His father provided for money down for our first home. Without that help, we could never save for that house.

So, you see, most of us are flawed from the time we are born. Without the help of family, churches, friends, and lucky breaks, we could not make the journey successfully.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My writing life.

I come from  modest upbringings, few things acquired, even fewer wished for. My dreams were finite and immediate: finish homework, do your chores, and if there is time and daylight you can read a library book until Father complains your eyes are being destroyed.

What worlds I met in books, they were all make-believe, imaginary, voluble, had nothing to do with real life. I needed to finish homework with accuracy, pass tests with high marks, impress teachers with my tenacity and good manners, and develop my  brain power.  My parents lived every moment with grace and dignity, doing their best every minute of every day.  Their values were the same as their parents', the same they wished for each of their three children.

I wrote to achieve  concrete purposes. I wrote to explain, to illustrate, to collect and present information to superiors, to arrange information for the classes I was teaching. I wrote not to escape or create alternate worlds, but to explain the present world; to understand the nuances of issues and conflicts.

Occasionally, I wrote journals, slowly developing my own voice and style.

When I found myself newly retired, with more time on my hands than I knew what to do, I began sharing some personal narratives. When a fellow writer shared her blog and showed me how to start one, I was hooked. (Thank you Martha!)

I fell into my groove.

I began blogging with sixtyfivewhatnow, a title my husband came up with, just five years ago, when I turned sixty five and was flabbergasted at how difficult it had been adjusting to retirement. I  followed that with my official Memoir blog, then an Italian language for beginners blog and a beginning cooking blog  to help my grandchild learn a few things about me.  I added a creative fiction blog to share short stories and poetry I had been producing. Lately, my last blog, is another memoir, this one focused on the sudden loss of my youngest son last July.  

All these blogs pull at my heartstrings in different ways. They are all parts of who I am at this time in my life.

Blogging has been  a way for my adult children and I to stay close. Now and then, as we speak on the phone, they mention something I said in my blogs, a way for us to communicate on many issues. Blogging has also been a way for me to express my deepest fears and my strongest hopes. Blogging has kept me sane and alive.

How about you, what prompted you to start writing?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Gardens are like autobiographies.

Brian, noticing the height of things. My boys, Scott and Brian found themselves helping me in the garden early in their respective lives. Mostly, with moving stuff, positioning stuff, building paths, digging holes, chopping down long limbs, transporting rocks. I could tell you who did what and when as I walked around the property.

I did nothing to get them to love gardening besides accepting their help. Yet, each of them went on to  build gardens in their own houses, transforming arid stretches of Southern California into beautiful landscape, for food growing, for beauty, for recreation.

My daughter Pia came late to gardening. She preferred to spend any home time she had (she was busy with lots of hobbies) playing piano, dancing, reading...  It was in her adult years when she saw how easy it all happened when a few plants of tomatoes began to branch out and produce bowlful of delicious stuff.  Now, even with deer climbing into her patio, she grows a few pots of lettuce, peas, arugula, and of course tomatoes.

When I visit them, or when they visit me, pots of something growing, basil, oregano, sage travel along. For a few months, herbs create a Mediterranean smell in their kitchen in no time. Later, the pots move outdoors, plants move to a sunny place or to a bigger pot on a sunny porch.

Even after I moved to Oregon, even during our rainy season, we have protected sunny spots to grow herbs and other perennials through winter months. Parsley does extremely well, as do sage, mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme.  I have managed to grow and keep my herbs around until they go to seed, then snip, dry and use them in my recipes the rest of the year. The seeds go into a special envelope and get replanted for a new season.

Like a visual and sensual autobiography a garden relates us to our past, to our wishes and hopes, to the memories we build together. Wherever I go, a fig tree or two get planted, perhaps an olive tree also. Then, lots of herbs, enough for everyday use and to give out as gifts. I may be far from all I love, but our love of gardening keep us close. Our use of certain herbal remedies, like lemon and honey on days when a sore throat is threatening, will keep us together as well.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Is Blogging a true regimen?

1.How long have you been blogging and do you blog regularly or occasionally?
2.Do you make yourself blog even if you don't feel like it?
3.What big lessons have you learned from blogging?
4.Is blogging worth your time and energy?
5.If you were not blogging what would you be doing?

My answers:
1. I began five years ago. I average one or two posts a week for each of my four active blogs.
2. I write when I want to.
3. I've learned that most people are generous, kind, sweet, talented and eager to share.
4. Definitely!
5. I would volunteer more.

Do you participate in contests, theme writing, memes, or other group writing activities and what have been the challenges and rewards in these activities?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The season for losing friends.

Do we just walk down the street, and start talking to someone we happen to be attracted to and the conversation becomes the key to a rendez-vous, a promise to meet again, an exchange of vital statistics?

Remember how easy it was to make friends in school? The person in front of you in line at the bookstore or lunch line, or the one sitting in the same classroom, perhaps with the same last name/
How easy!

In blogland, it starts easily enough. One visit, one comment. If the other reciprocates, another visit, another comment. We then sign up to follow each other and continue to visit and write comments for a while.

Do people we follow or follow us in blogland become life-long friends? Do they become as good as neighbors,  as close as those we meet at church? What attracts us and repels us? I know that in my writing group we never talk religion or politics.

Does the same rule apply in blogland?