Tuesday, December 13, 2016

At the end of a decade...

In about a month I will celebrate my 75th birthday. 
For the last ten years I have shared regularly, entertained some difficult themes, grappled with difficult situations, and pondered the major issues of our times.

I am now tired.

Not of blogging.
Not of grappling with difficult situations and try to make sense of them.

I am tired of BLOGGER changing FORMATS REGULARLY!
I am tired of readjusting my zoom too.
At this point in time, after ten years, I'm happy to report that my glasses and Google settings have had to be adjusted many times.
I am tired of adjusting both.

Most of all, though, I'm sure other people who started blogging at the same time, like Angela from Germany, for instance, are now communicating directly through other venues. 
Yes, Facebook and Twitter, and...have replaced this medium. For a while I kept expanding my blogging themes, and forming new blogs. I will close them all six or seven of them, though some have been dormant for a while already.
I've loved every minute, every blog I wrote, every blog I read.

I thank my regular readers, and those who dropped in now and then. Your comments were appreciated and cherished. 
It's time to move on.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

Post Election Thoughts.

Pasture land always relaxes me. Driving down the highway, I look at this land and everything it stands for and its whole history adds up. We are all immigrants here, or most of us, pushing our way out of wherever, from the north, the south, the east and west, landing on one shore or another, taking ourselves from comfort or not so comfort zones for one reason mostly: to give our descendants a better life.

And here we are, for me, an immigrant, student first, wife next, citizen after that, arriving on these shores for utilitarian reasons, as did the relatives ahead of me, to find opportunities and education not available to people like me. I'm a war baby, WW II, and saw my relatives leave their homeland for better lives. So, America became a beacon for anyone who had hope, and was willing to risk everything to pursue a dream.

Was that dream shuttered after this election? The political rhetoric surely spoke harshly about immigrants and refugees. A whole party threatened to deport people and shut down borders for any immigrant who wasn't white and rich and really not in need.

The sign on the Statue of Liberty should now read:
Send Us Your Smart and White and Rich and Beautiful. The rest of you, don't bother apply.

I do hope campaign rhetoric was just that.
I do hope that we are all made of better stuff.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Thank God, it's almost over...

This political season is not for sissies. though the word sissy reminds me of that other word we rather nobody used. So, no, this political season is not for the shy, polite, well-mannered, respectful, gentlemanly, or lady-like folks we engage with on a regular basis, folks we might or might not know well, yet, expect they would think less of us if we just jumped in and said anything that comes to mind...

This season reminds me of the dilemma we all face in front of a wall of menu choices. Ah, what I really want is a meal I can't easily prepare at home, a juicy piece halibut, not fried or battered, but fresh from the ocean, filleted and grilled with a simple lemon sauce accompanied by some locally sourced fresh vegetables transformed in a new way, and served on the side...

But not at that price!

The dilemma of great expectations meeting available reality.
The realization that available choices are limited to what the organization can provide, under the local circumstances, and catered to the taste and pocketbook of people who frequent this place often!

In 2016, in America, we have two choices on our presidential menu, and a good number of people are still undecided, listing and shouting that what they want is not on the menu, and it is too late in the season to do anything about it. Will they leave and go home hungry? Will they make the forced choice? Will they pull a side option and make that their main choice?

We have had a year or more to vet these candidates; a year or more to be informed on all sides; a year or more to school ourselves on the consequences of not making such choices.

In a couple of days, we all have the opportunity to cast our ballot-early voting for many of us is available in our progressive states, by mail, with no lines and no other interference. And yes, we'll draw a big, deep sigh of relief, and hope for the best.

And if choosing a candidate is this difficult, imagine what it would be like if we lived in a place where we had no choice at all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Looking forward.

Ever since I was a little girl sitting down to do homework by the light of a single candle, and by a fireplace that kept me warm on only one side, I had this little technique to make it through the long cold night. I looked forward to  the time I would be called up by my teacher to read my composition in front of the class, and be told I had done a good job. That praise was not just looked forward to by me, but also by my parents who made sure we didn't run out of candles-before electricity came to our neighborhood, or fire wood for those cold nights when my homework tasks required many hours to be completed.

Looking forward to one thing, no matter how small, makes critically difficult times go by and endured with as much grace as possible. In the last few months, when I had to endure radiation for breast cancer, I caught myself using the same technique, and imagined myself in a different place, at the Bandon Cheese Factory, having an enormous ice cream cone before driving all the way home for a deserved nap.

Take this contentious political season. In less than a month, a new president will be selected, and we can all go back posting our usual posts on Facebook or Twitter or Blogger. We can also look forward to being better people for all the discussions we have had lately, about the issues that got us excited and vocal. For me, this has been a monumental campaign season, and I know we can't go back to the people we were before, just as I cannot go back to the woman I was before my breast cancer. I learned then that medical care should not be a privilege but a right, for instance.

We belong to a civilized society ruled by laws and treating people equally, regarding of their political affiliations, and these discussions move us forward to being more just, more equal, more supportive of each other.

In a sense, our biggest guarantee of safety and progress is the form of government we live in, a democratic republic with checks and balances, a true beacon to the entire free world.

What do I look forward to in this political season? Lots of discussions, big waves moving us forward toward that lighthouse, our ultimate destination, our commitment to a more perfect union regardless of all the squabbles and almost mutinies that marked our voyage.

Looking forward is a good thing.


Monday, October 3, 2016

It really is all about you.

I'm honored to know the two artists who produced the works in this picture. While I'm not a close friend of either of them-Elaine Roemen's painting, Elk River, and Julie Hawthorne's sculpture, Birdland, I know enough about them to see strands of their work and their lives woven so intimately in their work. Yes, we are integral human beings and our work reflects our life, art imitating life, art hinting at the prevalent theme/mood/preoccupation of the artist.

And so with the rest of us, our work too. Well, not in the day-to-day details, but in the big sweep or arc of our history. After my son was killed, I could only write snippets of stories about him, snippets of poems about my loss, lines scrambled here and there, read well one day, got obfuscated the next. We tend to leave breadcrumbs, clues so we can say to the world, I was here, and here, and these were my preoccupations, my overwhelming goals during this period.

I love how we go back to the songs of our youth and wax nostalgic about those days, crying or laughing with the artist that embodied those moments that defined our deepest needs. In my life, around the time I arrived in America, eager to learn and discover, I found out that being seventeen was a precious time, a time to enjoy life and each other's company. Yet, I was lonely, and I remember vividly enjoying Paul Anka's "Put your head on my shoulder" as something that spoke to me.

We purchased the two works above right after our son died.
Each of us needed something to encapsulate our respective feelings. My husband picked "Elk River"; I picked Birdland. I don't know his reason; mine, the emptiness and yet the joy of having had the experience of being Brian's Mom, and in my recesses, that nest was still and will always be there.

Ask yourself often what you wish for, what you hunger the most in your life, what gets you up and what angers you. Ask yourself how the world of friends and books and art and purchases reflect your life, your wishes.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

What we don't talk about...

We turn our cameras toward pretty objects
search the horizon for the unusual
escape scary thoughts with unusual speed.

We are mostly talking and thinking about an imaginary world,
so unlike the precipice we turn our backs from.

This is our saving grace.
as well as our purgatory.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dandelion Days

Summer possibilities
last only ninety days at best
and weeds upon weeds color
each day with abandon.

Meditations on sand and water, water and sand.

Summer days and the beaches are deserted on this fine morning.

My husband took this picture of me walking ahead of him at the beach in Bandon, our home away from home, the place that has more of the things we need, a bookstore, a butcher shop, a nursery, a live theater, and a long stretch of white sands. The water on the right is a trickle of a creek making its way to the ocean which is behind me, behind the photographer. Every time we walk this stretch of land we marvel at how it has changed since the last time, marvel at the sight of tourists, or lack of them, at the wind whipping through the many layers we wear to buffet the assault we experience when out and about, each and every season.

Sand, water, hills, rocks. We navigate more consciously these days, trying harder to find our stride. I walk faster than my husband these days. In our early courtship, in our twenties, he had to slow down for me, and I had to double my steps just to walk along side him. If we walked up a hill, he got behind me, giving me a gentle push now and then. Nowadays, we have reversed our strides, he walks slower, I move faster. We both stop often to catch our breadth. He still gets behind me when we walk up a hill and steadies me with his hands on my lower back, a natural move we both enjoy.

I notice I am developing a hunch back I didn't know I was. Health concerns are natural concerns for us, and come up at almost every conversation we have, hubby and I, friends, strangers we will meet only once. We parse advice easily with anyone,  just as often as we discuss health concerns: No, if we don't have muffins, we eat an apple instead; we must rest more often; move more often; what doctor do you use, and which pharmacy?; does your pharmacy have an automatic call system, and does that work for you? Where do you buy clothes?  Why aren't people talking on the phone anymore, or send cards?

 In the car, just the two of us, were we supposed to do something today?

Old age sneaks ahead of us while we are busy maintaining our stride in the work world.

Watching the sky every morning from our bedside, time floats gently in one day, and slams us awake the next. Living with changing weather seasons us for what comes next, for the furtive allergy, the prick of the rose petal, the challenging whip of those winter winds.

We learn to keep extra layers of clothing in the car; extra shoes too.

At the beach, that morning, I noticed that my cell phone had no signal. No, I didn't need to make any calls. I just noticed that if we had an emergency, one of us had to move fast, and get closer to civilization to use a device that is meant to give us freedom to roam.

That stretch of beach is off my list now.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The pictures of us.

I was telling my daughter just last month how I hardly ever see her in pictures she sends me since she is busy with all kinds of tasks, especially capturing the fleeting moments of childhood.
And there is the story we leave behind, not of ourselves, but of those we love, those we hold dear to our hearts.

On our only vacation in France, in a moment of sheer frustration on some thing or other, I handed my husband the phone camera I had, and asked him to take my picture,  He hesitated, making some excuse I can't recall. What I recall is how that refusal, at that particular moment, in a particular setting where I wanted to be memorialized and wasn't, that refusal appeared so callous and harsh at that moment.

I saw it as a betrayal of sorts.
A denial of something that touched deeply, but it was hard to name.
A negligence on his part that was casual and inconsequential, but has stayed as a dark spot, an incomprehensible stain I still can't figure it. I have to add that he did take a picture of me by that creek and mill that had been painted by Van Gogh.

What is about our expectations that leaves us stunned when deep beliefs are contradicted by one statement?
I can name a whole lot of moments when he took pictures of me, and I didn't want to be in any of them.

I can now peruse pictures I took of my children, and can tell you about that moment and the moment before and after, and the moods each was in. I didn't know then what I know now: that pictures carry a whole lot of meaning that is hardly appreciated at the moment, but immensely treasured when that person is gone.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Everything is too much...

You are here
and I draw courage.

I can't show you my scars.
I can't remember what it all looked like
before this place was burned down, annihilation
aimed at just a tiny cell, drew a bigger path to
form a fire wall around the burning house.

I'm dying to tell you everything.
Perhaps, when you are stronger, and you
see your own house threatened with fire,
I will tell you everything so you can
tell me everything too.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ah, those pesky school routines!

Remember when you were in gym class, back in seventh grade, and you went through warm up exercises, circling your arms, squatting, push-in up...Well, if you continued to do them, all your life, you'd have a fit body, including your arms, and your torso, and your belly. Those were my thoughts when I walked in my simulation visit for future radiation treatments and was asked unusual questions.

Do you have trouble putting your arms over your head?  No.
Do you have trouble climbing on the platform? No.
Do you have trouble lying down and still for fifteen minutes? No

Easy questions.

Not so easy when the execution started. On my back, with my arms over my head, with my feet tied down, with my head tilted just so, the technician worked for forty minutes molding a custom-made body armor that was to keep me in place during radiation treatments. Forty minutes later, I was in so much pain, that I thought my body was giving up for good before it even received the first session of real treatment.

I had failed in a profound way. Who knew that putting dishes away above my head twice a week when my turn came up to empty the dishwasher had not been enough to keep my arms in shape? And my neck? Heck, I only look at myself in the best of light in my house, avoiding long mirrors whenever possible. For the real event, the radiation, I would need to be half naked, a la Marilyn Monroe, part of the time, while the machine adjusted its beams in very precise ways for very precise timing. My breasts, my underarms and part of my torso were covered with a thin cotton pillow case and were not aided by push-up- bras or pretty corsets.

No. I did this all to myself, by laughing at those routines and ignoring the laws of gravity for decades.
I felt bad for the staff, who had to position me this way and that, an inch from the waist up, two from the hips down, moving me just so to align those majestic rays to do their precise work of killing some precise nodules hiding behind my not so precise skin.

The first treatment hit me like hot sand on a cool beach. Not literally. I left the radiation room and the only thoughts I had: I should have practiced those not so stupid routines all these decades. I should have listened to those teachers. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I saw it coming.

Like a lighthouse beam searching the horizon, I was expecting the results. I had been expecting such results for decades; and not once in the twenty years since the first sonogram pointed out an inconsistent blip did I let my guards down.

As a sentinel of my own health and that of my children and spouse, I had been an amateur sleuth all my life, reading books, magazines, going to websites and making lists. My Grocery list included vegetables of all colors, ingredients for home made sauces and dressings, whole grain packets from the four corners of the world, and herbs and spices to kill any foreign invaders that managed to sneak in through mouth, ears, eyes and other cavities. My house ran on natural ingredients for eating and for cleaning, utilizing gallon sized vinegar to flavor salads as well as kill errant ants that sought comfort during a seasonal change.

I even made my own pickles!
And my own yogurts.

We ate locally sourced food, and avoided all additives we could. In addition, I bought books on anatomy and medical issues. Yes, I could have listed all the symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, skin cancer, PTSD, psychosis, schizophrenia, etc., etc., etc.

I was certain that I did everything to prevent major illnesses and conditions, and the only thing I couldn't prevent were freak accidents and bad luck.

Yet, in the back of my mind, every time I went in for a mammogram I had the auspicious feeling that my luck was running out. In my mid fifties I had been watched closely for benign cysts, for enlarged glands, for dense breast tissues. Yes, I had breast-fed my last two children successfully; and yes, I was no longer on birth control pills. (Is this too much information? Sorry!)

Yet, at the ripe old age of 74, yep, some of you could have figured that out, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer a few months ago. I have begun treatments, and I am feeling grateful for the help and knowledge our medical profession has developed for treating this problem.

I didn't panic for too long. I stood up and counted my blessings, actually. I'm old enough to have had a good long life already, raised my children, saw grandchildren born and even about to graduate from college. I have no job and no small children to attend to. I can sit at this computer and spend all morning rattling on and on and on. I can also do my own research.

Yes, if you live past your sixties, you too will start collecting social security, medicare, and a long list of possible diseases that seem to cluster in old age. Sure, you might have a history of these, and you too might see them coming. Like me, you will go on line and school yourself thoroughly on what to do and how to prevent this or that. But we will all die of something or other, even if it is just pure and simple, unadulterated old age.

You must see that coming.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How do we stop gun violence?

Years ago, when I was new to blogging, these lovely badges were passed around freely. I remember the very day I received this one, and thought, really? Really? We need to pass around badges, ribbons and stickers to tell each other THIS IS HONEST STUFF?

Why write a blog at all if our intention is to deceive and to misrepresent ourselves? Why?
And yet, how often are we truly honest? Honest as in I DON'T CARE TO OFFEND YOU, MY READERS. I RATHER OFFEND YOU THAN DECEIVE YOU. We are, after all, dependent on approval and support in just about anything we do.

Take two people in an early relationship. Don't they act absolutely impeccably toward each other? Don't they say just the right thing, at the right time? And when one slips and declares, I TRULY DISLIKE THIS KIND OF MOVIE, CAN'T WE GO SEE SOMETHING ELSE, the relationship begins to be questioned, enters another stage, the stage that questions everything said and done as IS THIS REALLY, REALLY WHAT YOU'D LIKE TO DO? ARE YOU SURE?

The reality is that as social beings we are constantly trying to hide behind the acceptable norms of behavior our culture recognizes. When we slip out of our comfort zone, when we travel out of our range, when we meet people who were not raised as we were, we begin to walk on eggshells, tiptoeing into conversations carefully, for fear of offending the new relationships. Sometimes, we forget to tiptoe, and rush in and act exactly as we do in the bosom of our privacy, saying and doing things and displaying our honest selves in all its blinding colors.

Yes, religion and politics will be the subjects that will allow us to stumble and fall, or worse.

And yet, how do we truly expand our horizons if we only discuss bland subjects, make only idle chatter to remain good neighbors, to be accepted in the company of that golf group, or the social club where most of our friends entertain or are entertained? How do we learn if we don't walk in each other's shoes? How do we share if we are not honest?

I've shared posts on Facebook that have declared war on some subjects. And I'd like very much to open that conversation in an amicable way, not with standard phrases we have heard repeated over and over again, but in phrases that open back the conversation, phrases such as:


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Home Cooking

I didn't start out loving to cook. I didn't start out noticing the many different cuisines in the world. 
I started out hungry.

For the first seventeen years, I was just plain hungry all the time.
Then, I became hungry for food that tasted like home.
Finally, food that nourished, felt like home, and fulfilled more than one hunger.

I'm in a good place at this time, exposed to many cuisines; able to download and learn how to cook many different dishes; rich enough to travel and taste authentic foods in their  native states.
Yet, I feel that most of us are just getting acquainted with local, sustainable food and its value.

During a marathon cooking session with my daughter in law and her sisters a couple of years ago, women in the kitchen, each making sure that the food we prepared could be eaten by all of our loved ones, those with stomach problems, those with heart issues, those with tastes that hadn't changed since childhood. On this day, if I can decipher the food in front of us, there was an eggplant parmigiana, accompanied by an eggplant without parmigiana for the relative who couldn't eat cheese, accompanied by a vegetable strudel for those folks that couldn't eat tomatoes or cheese or eggplant. Not on display was a roast, for those of us who still crave meat and potatoes. My cooking companions were most surprised not by the fact that I could change a dish to accommodate a special diet, but by the fact that an older cook like me still makes a backward time schedule, so everything gets on the table close to the same time.

 Ah, the life of the cook!

When I was a child, and until I moved to the United States, I had not tasted any other food outside of my house without a bit of skepticism. I remember the spaghetti e vongole in Naples, where my big brother and I visited often the last few years before my emigration. The American Consulate was studying my application and finding one thing or another was amiss every time we visited. The spaghetti was the best tasting thing I had ever eaten, and consoled us after each visit that was not successful.

When I told my mother how good the food was in Naples,  she dismissed the thought entirely. "It's good because you didn't have to do any work to get it to the table!"

Not really, I thought then.

Something is either good or not, and our spaghetti at home was made the way my father liked it, without seafood. He liked seafood fresh, he kept saying, and nothing else. If you are going to eat something that has been gathered the day before, has traveled miles, has sat around, even on ice, for hours before it was bought or delivered to the cook, that something had lost its very soul.

I stored that in my future drawers, for those times when I would be responsible for my own food, and my own preparation of such food.

Lately, I don't even attempt to order seafood inland. Not that I don't understand the fact that most fish is caught and iced and transported to shore and sold and shipped in refrigerated or frozen containers until they reach their destination. If you have ever tasted fresh seafood, from a fisherman that has caught and filleted that fish, you know the difference. You will not ask for your favorite; you will ask for what was caught that day.

Freshly caught trumps everything else.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The self, the others, and the next election.

You are on a bike path, crossing a river, to get to another path, and another crossing, to get to work after five miles of enchanted exercise and good air. You do this daily, back and forth, impressing yourself and your family and your colleagues who prefer arriving to work with their skins unblemished. You even brag that sweating is natural, and healthy.

You can do this forever, you think, until one day you come to a dead end, a closure up ahead  you could not have anticipated, something you never read about in your local papers because you no longer read your local papers or any papers. The bike path stops abruptly, and there is no way for you to continue on your way to work.

You think, what the @?

How are you going to get to work under these conditions? Your wife and kids took the family car. You can't even call work because you are stuck in the semi-wildness that is your bike path, a wildness you and your friends fought hard to achieve by parading your bike at every council meeting for the last five years, a wildness that  lacks cell towers, or even old fashioned call booths, and that's just how you and your bike friends liked it.

You retreat, down the same path, until you get home, call work, and try to remember where to catch a bus that will take you downtown, and then transfer you to another bus that will take you closer to work. You walk to the bus stop in a bad mood. You do not know whose fault this is; and your plans to bike to work have to be reworked. You think about this all day long.

You had invested five years of your life to fight for your health, your environment, your right to say where and when services were or were not needed. You had made passionate statements at town meetings when mayor candidates talked about urban development, infrastructure, accessible services. You stood there, among people whose bottom lines were profits and urban expansion and talked about the future, about the children who will appreciate open spaces, and the ability to walk to and from school on their own, the way you did as a child.

Today though, your politics may change.

You are forced to use public transportation and suddenly you realize how substandard, clunky, old and dirty it is. Today, as your freedom is restricted, and your mood suffers, you think of how you might afford another car for the family, how you will miss the birds, and the flowing waters under that bridge and the future happiness of days spent to and from work over that enchanted bridge you have come to love.

Today, your focus has taken a sudden turn. All day long, and after dark, you think of nothing else but the need to build a more reliable, efficient public transportation system. Today, you grow up to think for a group, for those who have no choices but earn a living by hopping  on the bus and trudge through town the only way accessible to them. Today, you have left your self behind, and you are thinking of the need of the many. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

There is no place like home, no place like home, no place...

April is a cruel month, cold and wet one minute, warm and dry the next.

April also represents spring breaks when Brian would come up to Oregon and spend a few days around Easter, as he and his dog would venture out on the lake and spend hours throwing and fetching balls. This time, in 2011, the lake was full of reeds, and young Butters had a difficult time paddling back to the dock after fetching the ball Brian would toss out. At one point, on this very occasion, Brian had to intervene and pull Butters out of the lake as the reeds prevented her from finishing the run successfully.

But the lake was warmer and safer than the ocean. I worried about having Butters swim in the ocean, with its crashing waves and rip currents. Butters, though, was indomitable, even at a very young age enjoying any type of water, growing stronger and more determined with each stroke.

April is Brian's birthday, and it has come to represent his life, his energy, his curious spirit throughout the month. And since he visited us often here in Oregon, we see him around every step, every corner.

Every time we take a beach walk, we can point to a spot and reminisce.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Needs Stabilizing (Part two)

You can escape the cold, the heat, the rainy weather, even the tax man as the Panama Papers revealed this week. But, you can't escape death, old age and sickness. And Yes, they do go together, and statistically, the older you get the closer you are to getting a major disease.

I read, just this week in the New York Times, that living well, such as exercising, eating the right kinds of food in moderation, getting enough sleep, eliminating stress and abusive behaviors, doing everything the experts have taught us to do, all that will not prevent death. They will not prevent sickness and old age. Yes, some people in the mountains of Sardinia have shown remarkable capabilities for staying health through old age.

But, most of us will get sick, and eventually die.

After a major illness or casualty we hope and pray, and look around our environment,  for things to do, food to eat, changes to make to achieve that previous state we left behind when we became ill. We are hoping to achieve stabilization, a return to the normal we have been accustomed to for decades. This wish for normalization, for stabilizing, keeps us sane, keeps us relatively happy.

But what happens when what we are faced with is not stabilization, but a status we dread, a continuous imbalance that has to be accepted as the new normal?

What happens when the new normal includes pain, misery and a death sentence around the corner?

Doctors and nurses and social workers have learned a few tricks to deal with such issues. Mostly, they rely on prescribing new, expensive drugs that the patient may not be able to afford, or procedures that cause more pain and more money spent in order to give the patient more hope for achieving stabilization.

How do we plan for these stages?

How do we alleviate our fears that this meal, this reunion, this experience may be the last one?
How do we even sit down and have a conversation about our health issues and ask the question, is this procedure going to make me better so my life can return to normal?

I'm of the opinion that the bravest thing to do, as you age and become more and more infirm, is to live as though everything is just as it should be, great and rewarding. That nothing would make you happier. That you were brave and smart and conscientious in the previous decades of work and child rearing, and spousal companionship, and life was good to you.

Then, keep smiling, keep giving gifts as long as you can to as many people as you can. After all, you can't take anything with you. This will be your way of stabilizing the muddy pavement you're stuck on, the unknown you can't wish for, take, or give.

This stage of life aims at subtracting from you. 

Well, you can do additions, and multiplications. Set up a trust fund for that baby still to come; help your poor relative with purchasing that first house. At your funeral, someone will remember that you substituted in their class on the day their child was receiving an award miles away, and that teacher you substituted for was able to attend that event. That's how you stabilize a roaring ocean that aims to destroy the peace and tranquility of your neighborhood.

Stabilization is a human attribute. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Needs Stabilizing

If I were to rate our current lifestyle, as opposed to our previous lifestyle, the one we enjoyed when I turned sixtyfive and started this blog, (my husband and I are the same age, btw.), the phrase I would use is:

"Needs Stabilizing."

After a series of storms the previous winter, Lake Garrison breached, or rather, the Pacific Ocean breached the lake, and we, those of us living on the lake by the ocean were now facing the mighty Pacific. The dunes had been washed over and property owners whose houses were on lower grounds took the task of forming canals that opened up the lake so it could drain into the ocean, not the other way around. These home owners hired machinery and in the middle of night took it upon themselves to drain the lake. Yes, it drained, down to a few feet of water. We could walk around the perimeter and visit each other lakeside and know, at a glance where reeds, boulders and other landmarks were scattered about.

The project of stabilizing the lake took a few years to complete, involved many agencies, and it has worked well in maintaining the level of the lake, most winters, at a steady level. Even after this winter's series of major storms, and a few incidents of lake rising, for the most part, the engineering project worked.

On the next post I will continue to reveal how our lifestyle needs an engineering feat like the one put in place at Lake Garrison.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Day's end.

As hints of night
smudge my glasses-
signs of aging, old and new
disabilities scurry around
like ants in early fall
finding ways to stretch the day, as though seasonal changes can transform smells of early decay
by dressing themselves in gaudy colors.

Monday, March 7, 2016

What you plan to do, and don't.

When we retired we received a full array of gifts for fishing enthusiasts. People knew we were moving on a lake in Oregon, a short canoe ride to the dunes that separate our house from the great Pacific Ocean. So, fishing was on the horizon for us as an activity we could definitely get involved in. We had spoken of the possibilities for months.
Everyone was as excited as we were. Yes, catching our own fish, canoeing to the Ocean, walking the beaches, these were activities we looked forward doing in our retirement.

The trunk of the car carried our goodies that December 2002 toward our destination, poles and jackets, hats, and fishing boxes full of tackle gear. We stopped at a gear store in Gold Beach on our way to Port Orford and bought our first rain jackets and rain boots. People had warned us about the copious rains we would experience.

Our children tried our gear before we did. For days, that first wet Christmas when the whole family experienced their first Oregon winter of torrential rains and hurricane-force winds day after day, whenever the rain stopped and we could venture outdoors, my children and grandchild spent time trying to catch fish on the two docks on our property. Ten days of rain, with occasional sunbursts made us appreciate every second we could open our doors and walk outdoors.

When the weather got better, we took walking trips to the local commercial dock to see boats hoisted up and down for their daily catch of salmon, tuna, or crab, marveling at the hard work of these folks who risk their lives each time they go off fishing. We then brought home fresh-off-the-boat-catch and cooked it the way the fishermen suggested.

Never had better fish.

The next Christmas my daughter in law gifted me with an All-Clad Stock Pot, big enough to make cioppino for a crowd. Every time I look at it I'm tempted to go clamming and fishing and crabbing, and put it all together in that lovely pot. Instead, I purchase my seafood, appreciative of the work others have done to bring it all to my table.

Up the road, we were tempted to go crabbing on this dock many times. Crabbing looked interesting. With minimum effort you could catch your quota of crab in the amount of time that it might take you to open up a tuna can. Fresh crab never looked this good, and this easy, and this inexpensive.

We never did try to catch crab. We watched for a while, and decided we were way too hungry to wait around. So, we turned to Tony's Crab Shack, notable for fresh crab prepared any way you wanted. Thirteen years later, we still admire families spending time with their loved ones on a cool morning, typical of this area, with snacks and heavy coats, throwing the crab cage into the waters and waiting for crabs.

Our fishing gear and our canoes are still in and around the gazebo by the docks, waiting for visitors to get active and enjoy the thrill of fishing and canoeing. We, Hubby and I, just haven't got much taste for either.

Though, thinking back, it was a great start to our retirement adventures.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Exit Notes

I do not fit this new stage,
a bra fits better, even one that is too small
or too big-straps too thin cutting into my small shoulders
and digging in-
a universal truth we gave up
on our way out of the comfort zone.

For you who are ten, twenty, five
years my junior, I'm just babbling, scribbling
with tapping fingers on a plastic tablet
a directorial note for myself, as though
I will return one day and re-step on this stage.

Where was mother at this stage?
Did I experience her loneliness, her
ample body tottering on solid pavement
her eyes fearful, her mouth ready to remind
me of what I had no knowledge of.

"You never were my age!" I remember yelling at her
when I was sixteen, eager for freedom and adventure
shaming her for having married early in life.
As though she knew what she was doing.
As though she had the freedom to refuse that stage of
life that chains itself to other stages, while the mothers in the
family and the fathers too, sign contracts and give their daughters away.

I'm not giving up my freedom, even at this stage. I will
choose the day I die, and how I die, I say this now
and maybe tomorrow too, while the sun is shining
and my teeth don't hurt
and the results of the last mammogram are
not in yet.

The minute you die, though, most people who knew you
will not remember much about you. Just the moment they
stood up to you, in big and small ways, to check their stand
on things, even their view of the audience obscured by the
feeling of power at that moment,
on that small piece of stage
where our verse was spoken,at times in a single word or phrase,
often borrowed for the moment, too afraid to know how
to stand up tall, a la Whitman
or Shakespeare, revealing
more that ever
the struggle
that life
from its first to the last breath.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Together in different worlds.

My grandchild and her grandfather, both researching a topic, side by side, talking about their findings, sharing wisdom and hints, back and forth, about a topic they both delved in; she, for her term paper; he, just for fun.

For many family members, the gathering around the table to share a meal still exists, where a certain time and place become sacrosant, and traditions continue for generations. It was that way for my family back in Italy when I was growing up; it was mostly that way during our children's growing up years, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties. Yet, at about the middle of the seventies, the computer appeared, and families were using it for a variety of things. My children gravitated to it early in their lives, and their education and recreation were accommodated by the many uses the computer served.

To say that we lost those good times when we all sat around the dinner table, or fussed together to put a meal on the table before sitting down, and shared our daily issues with each other because today we no longer take that time to sit together is being nostalgic at the least, and plain insensitive to our modern world for the most part. We lead a much busier life than ever before; and our work follows us home, and even on vacation.

We are connected, and can choose to be so one hundred per cent of the time. Or not. We can "unplug" and choose not to answer phones and check emails or facebook messages. We choose to stay active or not. We choose to remain in a circle of friends and relatives, or not. We choose to know a lot about politics, or not. We choose. And we have many ways to stay involved that we forget many times that all of it, the drama and the comedy will go on whether we are involved or not.

In my lifetime, I saw the electric grid connect our house to the rest of town close to the time I started school. Good thing too, or homework would have been sloppy. The radio was next, a great big contraption that became the gathering place soon after supper. We sat, staring at the radio till late in summer, listening to the world's news, and the world's music. When television arrived at the neighbor's house, we were invited after supper and accepted with gratitude for the opportunity to sit quietly for a Perry Como's special around Thanksgiving. The lavish table was set with abundant food and festive decorations, representing what American homes were like. I remember going home after that program and dreaming about America. I was already living in another world five years before that thought became a reality.

Not once, in our technological evolution did we say to each other, we can't have this device that allows me to work anywhere, to work faster, communicate instantly across the universe, understand the world and its forces with better clarity. We are inventors and dreamers, constantly seeking ways to improve our understandings and capabilities.

We could blame our misery to fire, to the first force we discovered that changed our taste buds, and our survival rate. And from there, every single thing we have shaped out of the elements to create, connect, improve and lift us into another world, another space. Or, we could set a lavish table now and then, and give thanks to our ancestors and public education where we learned to connect the dots in unusual ways so we could have running hot water at the touch of a faucet.

Yes, we are still the humans on the prairies, or the caves, hunting for food, collecting wood and poking holes in shells. Only now, we have more choices on how to live, and we have more choices on how to stay together. As we become more fragile, we no longer have to visit our doctors for check ups; we no longer have to wait days and weeks for test results; we no longer have to collect wild herbs and make a poultice for our hacking cough. Our worlds have shrunk. But our horizons have expanded.

It's a great time to live.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The fish you didn't catch.

I'm not a fisherperson, never was. I admire people who take themselves out on a river or a lake, rain or shine, cool or warm, and cast off into the unknown for an imprecise return on their investments.
That boat you see in the photo, will cost you as much as a motor home. How much is that, you ask? More than you want to know.
About more than all the fish you will catch, all the vacation outings you can accumulate.
Fishing, like golf and other outdoor activities we count as recreational are meant to distract us from what keeps us from being happy; are meant to take us away to unknown territories where other skills are required to pass the hours; where time has no meaning; where others like you will brag about their endeavors in the days and years before you met, in the times of their lives where luck kissed them on both cheeks.

Yet, our hope remains strong and forgiving.

Tomorrow, or next week, our luck will change, our weight will improve, our finances will resuscitate, and our college bound children will finally get accepted into the school of their choice.

Tomorrow, we will sign up for lessons, purchase better rods on sale, take out a loan for a more reliable motor, cut down our calories by making our own chips and salsa, and then, with genuine enthusiasm we will great the Chinese New Year with a bowl of take out noodles and fortune cookies that will list numbers for good luck which we will parlay into a lottery ticket for the next Power Ball of millions plus.

Thank heavens for our calendar year. Without it, we'd be lost in space, going deeper and deeper into dark holes, wishing the trip would end, somehow. With a calendar, we can start anew, twice. And if we are really curious, and pick up a few ancient manuscripts through our Facebook friends who profess literary literacy, we might learn a thing or two about catching fish in this new lunar year of the Monkey.

As for me, I would not fish even with new knowledge. You see, I know the dangers of shallow and deep waters. But I do wish happy fishing to all fisherpeople out there. May you catch your biggest yet.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Not flooded? Count your blessings.

If you read this, you can still see. Yes, sight is probably the first failure of nature we notice, for some of us earlier than for others. I got my glasses in my twenties, by accident, for sure. With nobody else in my family with "four eyes", that  awful condition would never happen to me. Besides, I was fond of carrots and other magic tricks to enhance not just my eyes, but my complexion, my hair, and other parts of our bodies we pay close attention to in our youth.

But eyes, eyes were my exception.
But it did, in an accidental way too.

I was teaching a normal-size class of 30+ one day at Bishop Conaty High School, in my first year of teaching, and as I walked to the back of the class and looked up to the front where I had written the assignment on the board, I had trouble reading what I had written. I asked a student in the back to read from the board for me. She did so and easily.

I had already decided in college that if I had to wear glasses as so many others did, I would do so with style. Well, time to put that resolve to the test. The exam itself was reasonably priced at my budget, but I could not find any spectacles I liked and could afford. A gorgeous pair, the same one Audrey Hepburn wore in one of her movies popular in the early sixties, imported from Italy, would cost me half my salary!

Now, that was then. Today, fifty years later, the same unbalance is present. Lenses and frames are not reasonable at all by retirees' standards. What is a pensioner to do? Even recycling frames doesn't work, as some lenses just can't be fitted in some frames.

With costs going up, life for retirees is about counting any small blessings we still can see; count any thing you can still do for free, like a walk around the neighborhood, a visit to the library, a group social you all contribute to, a house that needs no repairs...

One of my regular blog mates just wrote a piece about having too many vacation time shares she needs to sell off. Goodness, I thought, that's a no brainer. Most retirees would love having to deal with such inconveniences. I am not being mean spirited; just realistic. Most people live on fixed income, and have nothing else they can sell off to offset costs going up. I could go on and on about the plight of old people...

Realistically, this is a good time to live. Great medical support is available and in real tough situations there are support mechanisms in place. The best part, we are a big group, and we can influence political and societal outcome if we work together toward common goals.

For the moment though, let's just count our blessings.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Are we too old for new resolutions?

A new year, and plenty of resolutions are made, consciously or unconsciously.
Here are mine for 2016:

1. Save whenever you can.
See that tree that fell on our house just before Christmas? It was not planned. It was never anticipated, and its removal sucked more Christmas gifts and Christmas trips from our already thin wallet.  Yes, you say, we save what we can; but hey, don't we deserve to live a little while we can? The trouble with not saving is that these events that suck you dry happen all the time in unexpected ways. Better save for them.

2. Make a list of your needs and wants and get yourself a want often.
Counter-intuitive? Perhaps. We drive past a store that sells ice cream in cones. We tell ourselves that we will stop each time and have an ice cream. Each time we drive past. Last year we stopped only once, when our grandchild was around. The rest of the time we feel ok to skip, choosing not to indulge, but knowing that we can if we want to.

3. Don't skip your needs. You need meds, exercise, visits to doctors, a healthy diet. Plan these activities as stringently as possible, and don't even think about skipping. I have scheduled my weight lifting exercise just before I shower, five minutes or so each day, followed by a shower, followed by rubbing lotions. I can't afford a spa day, but I can afford a spa hour. I've planned my housework in a similar way, with folding clothes providing me with stretching exercises. When I plan my weekly menu I include one meal a day that is all vegetarian, a salad or a soup, for instance. This way I help myself to more servings of fruit and vegetables recommended by the doctors. I intend on trying new recipes that will keep my taste buds happy and curious all through the year.

That's it. Three focus areas. I can still count to three.

Friday, January 1, 2016

This year, pledge to notice much.

We have driven this road, going up the Elk River, numerous times, on the way to our favorite place up the winding road, to admire the white waters and be astounded by the pristine forests still standing in this place. We hike a bit of road down to the river, then we attempt to hike a bit of the unspoiled forest nearby. We had never stopped here, in this spot.

On this day, just a few days ago,  Hubby stopped because of a clear straight wide stretch, the river on the left, the meadows and livestock on the right, and plenty of sunshine. Let's walk here, he says.

We walked over a mile before we realized how stunning the place was. A mile is our daily pace.
Look, look how many little creeks have been formed recently, I noticed out loud, with so much water around the cows have to be careful not to be swept down to the ocean. There the cows stood, all in concert, at about noon, waiting for us to pass on. But we didn't. We stared right back at them. There were no other people around, so we took our phones out and shot this picture.

In a square mile around us, river, mountains, pastures and habitations dotted the landscape. Cows stood out above all. Contented, unhurried, friendly toward each other as one or two ate together, mostly nearby others. There were no people around, though cars were rushing by at unusually fast paces for a country road.

Nearby, fishermen and lumbermen shacks abounded. Occasionally, a mansion of sorts, overlooking the river, with additional pastures curated for golf swings, not cattle raising.

After I took the picture, I noticed my cell phone had not connection and told Hubby we needed to get back to the car, back to the major highway where one can make 911 calls and be aided swiftly.

If we had an emergency on that stretch, I told Hubby, we might not get help easily.
Nah, people drive by often, and they would notice something.
Not really, look at how fast they all move. When we drive, we too move fast, and don't notice much.
We'd notice if a car had been parked for a while.
How much is a while?
A couple of hours. Most people leave their houses for errands and are back in a couple of hours.
Nah. Most people drive too fast to notice much.