Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Long Friendship is Good for the World AND Us

I've been off-line so long, this is more testing, testing.

I think I will simply write about friendships, and marriages, that last at least 50 years. They are different from shortterm ones.

If you plant a tree and plan to stay there, you nurture the tree, water it, do what it needs. In 2011, I had a pecan tree in the back yard only a few years old, and we were in drought, and I watered it. But the crown died, and I had it cut down.  Its companion, a burr oak, survived and is thriving. The weather has been much better. But I watered it, too. It was more stubborn or resilient. Anyway, it survived.

Today, the lower limbs were trimmed so the man mowing my lawn isn't life-threatened every time he tries to mow around it. He told me it wouldn't hurt the tree, but  I had to Google, and read up.  It decreased the canopy in a rainy year, and he and Google assured me the canopy will grow--but not the height of the remaining branches from the ground.

I want this tree to make it, and eventually shade the back deck, and someday I want a kid to be able to grab a limb and climb that tree. Texas has a fair number of trees. Most aren't good for climbing.

I won't be here then. But the tree will, if I can take care of it. And some kid may climb it.

A year ago, I went to the 50th wedding anniversary of friends whose wedding I had attended. And that is special. I was there when they started out, and celebrated their 50 years.

They, and a few other friends, have kept in touch for 50 years or more, and those friendships are more mellow than everyday.  Don't know what it would be like if we visited regularly during the year, but I really don't think any of us have time for that. Some people have a group, which is good to remember. I'm not a group person, so I have these friends.

At church recently, a delightful couple in their nineties organized a renewal of vows and celebration of their 70th anniversary. They provided cake. and yes, THEY provided. Their daughter wanted something more elaborate.

I enjoy the American Life Series of PBR. Recently, I caught part of a segment on long-lived marriage, and the man said, "If you have periods, after years, where you really don't like each other and have nothing to say, keep going. Your marriage is normal, and can continue." I laughed when the moderator said this was the most honest look at marriage he had ever heard. And he agreed. You CAN get past the grumble part.

The couples with the 50 and 70 year anniversaries have learned unconditional acceptance, and the joy it can bring with longevity.

I never was married long enough. Dad died after 27 years. My parents were heading that way. I remember my grandparents' 50th.

These long friendships and marriages? They matter to civilization, I think.

My three college friends and I did NOT have a casual, social relationship. It was visceral when it began. Maybe that is why the roots are so deep. We saw each other through  life-altering events, some exciting , some scary some fun.

Maybe not all friends our age have  had that advantage, because whatever it was then, it grew roots, and is a joy today.

But I see so many lifelong friends with grey hair.  Don't think most of our politics are the same, or our other friends, our work, our passions. 

We have found a way at our ages, to be friends, no matter what.

Does it take age?

No, it doesn't. And younger lives should have friends from a lot more places in life.

Continuity is important, though.

We can change all we want so long as we mean it when we say we're in this life together, as unscathed as possible.

That's pretty hopeful.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rules of Behavior for a Feminist, 1965 -Now

today I am not sure how I got here. Google seems determined to give me a Gmail account I do apparently have but have never used. Whatever.

So much I could talk about. I think I will choose the subject that I am a feminist. An elderly one. At age 9, I objected when my father took my elbow to cross the street.

"Why are you doing that?" I asked, wresting my elbow away.

"A gentleman always takes a lady's arm to cross the street," he said.

And I replied, "Then I am not a lady."

That has worked for and against me ever since.

At 18, I was at a dinner party with family friends and one of the older men commented, after something I said, that "I thought like a man." I was flattered. Only later did I hear the bon mot by a woman I don't remember who quipped, "Which one?"

I wanted to be a journalist, and my parents supported me. In 1965, when I graduated from college, most newspapers would not accept a woman to do "real news." They were "society writers". But I interned at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in the newsroom, and they hired me.  I was an anomaly. I still remember the day when the male reporters clustered in a corner and one marched up to me and said,"We aren't going to change the way we talk because you are here."

"Fine," I told him. "I will probably learn a lot of new words." And I smiled.  They relaxed. And I did, indeed, learn some new words. And I loved the camaraderie.

There WERE no rules, social or business. So I made my own. I pretty much still use them.

If a man opened a door, I smiled, unless I was competing with him and then I tried to get there first.
If a man was carrying packages, I opened the door for him, and expected the same if I had some. Socially? I went first.

If we went out to eat, I didn't go first. I went in line. We were equal, and that was fair.  At a table, whoever was ready first. After work? Social rules and I went first.

Car doors? At work, my problem. Socially going out? My date opened the door.

I saw no reason not to be equal at work. I saw no reason not to go with social mores at play. I was a pioneer, and these were MY rules.

Pay? At the time I was hired, women were hired at $70 a week, men at $80. I came in at $90. Sorry, but I am still proud of that. I did pretty well in my internship.

I read something recently about a modern woman who felt obligated to take the door a gallant male opened even if it cost her steps. Uh-uh. I ALWAYS thank a man or woman--often at my age now they are young people--who offer a hand. And if I refuse, I always smile. I tell them I appreciate them and for whatever reason,  I'm not accepting, and I say thank you. Because they are trying to do something good. And we should always reward that effort, even if we don't utilize it.

A feminist needs to be so secure in her boundaries she can be friendly even if she's not gonna do what they want.

Forgot about marriage and child care.

I am stunned when I still meet professional women who ALWAYS take off when the kid is sick instead of trading off with the father. My sons had a dad who would work with me on the relatively few times our kids were sick. We would alternate days, or even share days--he had court in the morning, I had a meeting in the afternoon.  Most couples still aren't doing that.  I think they should, but then, my marriage didn't last all that long. I don't think that was the problem, though.
The Glass Ceiling exists. Too few women are reaching top positions.

Despite all the changes in society, and work, I am amazed at how many women are still asking for a little more gruel in the bowl. We are better than that.

It is a different society, in many ways.

It is funny that the rules of behavior I crafted individually still work so well today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bonnie and Clyde still seem familiar (Wikipedia if you never heard of them)

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Do you share your cookies with your dog? If you are diabetic and the cookie is a sugar-free cookie with no chocolate, read the contents. It may contain a sweetener, xylitol, which I had never heard of until last night on the news.
This substance is safe for humans. It kills dogs. It is used particularly in chewing gum and some cookies.

Best gift of all? A positive attitude

Throughout my life, times occur over and over again where people link elbows and march like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz" and chant fearfully, "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" The cacophony is becoming a deafening scream as the possibility of real monsters  around us becomes more and more a real possibility.

Being read, a real goal of mine most of the time, has gone by the wayside for six weeks.
It hasn't been because of a paucity of things to write about; on the contrary, too much has been happening for me to settle on one topic.

I am appalled by the ugliness I am witnessing not only by ISIS, but fellow Americans.  It just happens that this is the time in MY lifetime when fear has been greatest. And fear leads to anger leads to mob mentality. It isn't pretty. I reflect that since I have more than seven decades of life, I've done a lot of living. I don't necessarily have a lot of time I would lose. I figure I may as well go on living as I always have. I have always found being embedded "with my own kind" to be rather boring. I like the richness of cultural diversity. At base, if both persons are open to it, we have common ground. And the wonderful foods provide such a rich, varied banquet.

No, I'm not afraid for my kith and kin. Frankly, living in a gargantuan Metroplex with sparse public transportation, we all are at risk any time we drive anywhere. And frankly, I continue to be more concerned about environmental issues because they will have a greater effect on my-great grandchildren some day. Enough clean water to survive comes to mind.  And yes, I've done a lot of research.  In that regard, people drive me nuts.

It is Christmas time. This has been a difficult time for me throughout my adulthood.  In the past year, I have been in counseling with a talented young woman who has helped me review my life realistically. I have failed significantly at several goals, you see, and was having difficulty seeing the worth of what I have accomplished. Oh, yeah. There's more to come. I'm still starting new projects. I am still working to lead my life, not just manage it. And yeah. It's a lot more fun than giving up.

Any way, Christmas. I'm smiling--apparently quite warmly--at everyone I meet. I intuit this because I am getting really warm smiles in return. I didn't frown at Christmas music in the stores after Halloween--though it did not encourage me to start shopping. I started shopping this week. Last year I discovered the wonder of online shopping one afternoon and having it all delivered to my door. I had better get busy.

I have given myself the gift of deciding that, warts and all, I would rather be me  than anyone else, no matter how successful. I coulda been a contender! Well, I'm not. Warts and all? A LOT of warts.But I'm a pretty good me, and knowing that allows me to laugh, to smile, hug when I can, help when I notice the need, and in all ways, share as much as I possibly can. And sometimes what I share is the chance to be silent, and peaceful.

This really is how I feel. It sounds saccharine. It's not. Getting  here for me has taken determination, sweat and tears. I'm proud of that. I know some optimists who are happy effortlessly. I know, too, that being human, they have their own problems, and yes, I still choose mine.

So much of it comes down to attitude. I was thinking recently, as I wrote one of the occasional checks I still write now and then, that my payment is a way of saying thank you for the goods, the services. I remember when I was fearfully trying to get my budget and the month to come out even. With fear, I wasn't grateful. Sometimes I begrudged.  Maybe understanding this is what we call the "wisdom" that can sometimes come with getting older.

I remember the cocky confidence of youth, so certain I had an immeasurably huge bank account of time to live and do what I intended to do.  I have absolutely no idea today of the time left. I am unusually healthy for my years, my doctor tells me.  Nevertheless, the uncertainty has made each day a gift, and yes, I still squander some of the days.

I needed to sit down and write today. I might even truly get on a regular schedule. I used to want to write with my individual, unique insights. Now I want to write about the common ground we all have in there somewhere.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, and yes, I do have two friends who send me winter solstice cards, I hope it works well for you.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The one time I got slapped by my mom

The only time my mother ever slapped me, I was 16, we were on the front lawn, and she was holding a Bible. Which was a little weird. She was a preacher's daughter with a sense of humor, but looking back,  I think she thought I was about to become One of Those Wild Girls who smoked, maybe finished high school,  fooled around, got pregnant, and lived a much more restricted life than she wanted for me.
After all, she was a banker's wife, the only one any of us knew who insisted on getting her Master's and continuing to teach school. She loved teaching. All the other bankers' wives we knew played bridge and lunched at nice places. And I am proud of her for that.
There must have been an argument preceding the slap. Probably over my curfew. I wasn't allowed to date until I WAS 16, excellent decision unto today, but my curfew was 10 p.m. No dates during the week. 10 p.m. on Friday, even with a football game, 10 p.m. on Saturday. I had to sing in the choir at 8 a.m.
Dad would loosen it a little, but they were a team. And there were times he was the strict one and she sympathized. They agreed to go together on whoever was more strict. (sigh).
When I was 15, neither of them know I was at a street dance in a new subdivision, streets in, no houses, and several cars of us kids drove up, put the radios up high on the same station, and we danced.  And some of us were Good Girls, and some of us were more daring. So a group of kids dared Ted, a gangly boy with clear skin, glasses, a reputation for scholarship and a smart aleck attitude, to French kiss me. I had no idea what that was, and I had a tiny crush, and all of a sudden, in front of everyone, ewwweew! his tongue was in my mouth and I did what any surprised, sensible girl would do.
"She bit me!" he said with a hand over his mouth that came away covered with blood. Ummm. We never dated later, you understand?
I was paralyzed with fear as the laughter started. Then I relaxed. They were laughing at HIM!

When I was 16, I began dating a boy I liked, and he taught me that this particular kiss could be enjoyable. Given my curfew allowed only 5-10 minutes at the most to experience it, the kiss wasn't particularly dangerous, but my mother thought it was.
So dangerous that for the first time in my life, she pulled out a Bible and told me to swear on it that I would never, ever till I married, French kiss a boy.
She included the information that such kissing had never occurred until the GIs came back from WWII. They learned from Wicked Women overseas, she said. I realized (heavily expurgated understanding) that my parents, who adored each other, might have tried this and she may have found it ....moving.(Cringe. journalistic mind stored deep for much later retrieval.)

So anyway, I not only laughed and refused, I laughed defiantly and disrespectfully. I did. I remember doing it on purpose.
And she slapped me. We looked at each other, and then we both cried. And apologized. And hugged.
It never came up again.
She saw me graduate from college, get the job I loved, marry the man I loved.
It all worked out.

I've wondered whether we always kissed with our tongues in America, or if, indeed, the wars abroad brought new elements into American courting. SHE thought so. She was there at the time. And I find a lot of stuff in history aren't quite the same as personal chronicles.

Kind of a verbal diary referrant.
This would be late 1950s.
God, I'm old.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

We're Native Texans and Proud of It

I am tickled pink that my 8th grade granddaughter is adept in writing and writing logical arguments. She likes it, which is a relief. She can outrun probably most of the kids her age, but while she enjoys it, she hates competition. Asserting her own thought, however, may be different.

Words, reading, thinking, some proclaiming, logical wrestling. These are valued skill sets in my family. I am the big disappointment in computer skills, but most of the family agrees I do try pretty hard, and I don't interrupt my sons TOO often to fix stuff I can tell from subtle eye rolls--they are too respectful for lip curls--when they give in and come over to fix. {I have benefited from their attitudes by trying until I can't think of anything else before I call, and this has driven me to many solutions. They have benefitted (see preceding).}

Fitness, stamina, we admire those too. Cooking from scratch, growing our own, fresh herbs, a world menu. We value those, too.

Every last one of us is a Native Texan. Not a one of us follows sports. Particularly football, basketball or baseball. We can enjoy a game. We don't make plans to watch one. Give any one of us a Cowboys ticket and if we can pander it in a trade for something we want more, we probably will. And we will try hard.

All of us, even the teenagers, read. We love water parks. After all, Texas has Schlitterbahn. We will walk a long way to see a waterfall, the view from a mountaintop, and enjoy the trails in Big Bend.

A couple of us hunt dove, quail and deer on occasion, which is delicious. Others of us know how to cook these really well. I grew up on horses and not only rode, but fed, curried and saddled my own.

Because I like to two-step, I occasionally like country. Head shakes from the rest. Family agrees on some classical, some classic jazz and esoteric music. My daughter-in-law, with a grandmother from Louisiana, not only makes a mean roux and consequent gumbo, she smiles at zydeco. The music has led to marching band and French horn for eldest granddaughter. We suspect she will continue to play.

Everyone but me loves movies, plots, and is knowledgeable on who, what, when before and what comes next. Several of us like live stage.

Art, history, natural science? I don't think most of us have ever met a museum we didn't like. Don't know about the granddaughters, but they have been dragged to them all.

Most of us have at least one college degree.

None of us is making big bucks, but none of us are in big debt, either.

I guess I didn't mention it. We take it for granted but we shouldn't. We all like and love each other, and when we get together, we laugh a lot. Hugs are exchanged. We number well less than 20 on this side of the family. Maybe that's why we can always get along. We do. Different segments of us get together on holidays. Seeing everyone can take planning for two, even three get-togethers. I didn't mention several of us work holidays. We have  been in different professions when this has happened and roll with the ongoing accommodations.  One more thing. We almost always say I love you on phone or in person when we close or leave.  What we have is treasured. By every one of us. Arguments, so to speak, are in the bylaws.

I imagine one of my granddaughters knows by now that her Christmas Eve when she was four was Christmas Night for the rest of the world. And our Christmas Day that year was unique in the neighborhood.

This is my family culture. What's yours like?