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?

Friday, October 16, 2015

For the Future--too often, Waiting for the Rain

If I hate my own species, I have gone rogue, never a good thing.
And I haven't.
Too many people are on the earth, and this is impacting the world as I know it rapidly.
Animals, plant life are dying. We sort of see that.
We are killing the oceans, too. We dump our trash, our cremains, have oil spills, get all  excited about one or two shark attacks and start eradicating, and, huh?
I doubt my great-grandchildren will ever eat much seafood that was ever wild.  Weird, but that means it won't be as healthy, either.
With climate change, wildfires are taking out more homes, businesses, even communities. No way around it.
Time was, Syrian refugees could have been resettled in vacant land somewhere, some continent. Doesn't exist today, so we all have to move over. I don't blame them for leaving. Common sense applies. But we are still surprised and caught offguard when the street people move into our mansions, so to speak. We understand they are desperate, but they make us uncomfortable.

In my lifetime half the wildlife that existed when I was born will become extinct, except in zoos and refuges. Well, through the century they will continue to die.
For Southwesterners, it is so personal. No one my age didn't play with horned toads. Scratch 'em between the eyes, watch their bliss. Texas has a football team, the Horned Frogs.
No one thought they would die. Even my oldest son played with some. But they were gone when my younger son grew up.
I look at the world, at the universe, which my specie has given me an eye to, and it is exciting. I don't know what will happen in the future, even if we don't blow ourselves up.
But as so-called "stewards of the earth", mankind is pretty poor. We have littered for millennium.
The world will survive. Maybe people will, too.
I know in the past, each generation has thought they were making a better world for the next generation. I am so proud of my sons and granddaughters, and I think the world ahead for them, screw the economy, is going to be so much harder.
What I do know is that problems sometimes are easier to see than solutions we never dreamed of.
It got us here. I hope it gets us out.
This is a scary world to live in. It is not unhopeful.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Is Anyone There?

FYI--I do not know if  anyone reads what I have written. The counting mechanism has been deactivated.
I will continue to write.
If you enjoy or take issue enough to comment, please do.

For years I was a journalist, writing for thousands.
Actually, this is pretty hard. Harder would be to stop writing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Are Introverts Sane?

I  think well. but not for computers.
And I wonder what will happen to thinkers like me.
We don't cogitate the same. We don't.
For those of us who grew up on computers, and programming, maybe it is better.
Maybe using computers at a young age aligns our minds to sequential and linear processing.
I have no idea if this is good or bad.
I know my thinking style is global. I will get to the same answer, but it won't be orderly. I really think, if I exist, then thinkers like me are valuable. I am a differential.

I gain weight easily. My metabolism is normal. Probably low normal.
What I know is, that while it would be lovely in an affluent society to be thin and easier if I burned off calories so easily I could eat cheesecake all day and be thin,  I am not like that. I can enjoy a small amount of food and function well. I suspect the difference is one reason homo sapiens has survived.
My descendants will get us through famine. We survive with less.
Someone who needs 5,000 calories a day to stay slender? Toast. But in war, in conflict, invaluable.
The variety of metabolisms, of strengths and weaknesses, mean a big cosmic picture of what mankind is.
I think well. but not for computers.
I don't know what will happen in the future.
There used to be space for dreamers, thinkers, introverts.
Now we wonder if introverts should be a mental aberration in society.
So far, we are safe. The latest copy of the DSM has refused to call us mentally disturbed.
There was discussion.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pride is Good. Joy is Better

Can we be clear on this?
Joy is bigger, better, more lasting in many ways, and specifically is, joy.
It is NOT pride.

I have mentioned joy in context with a grandchild twice recently. Both times, someone has commented, "Grandma's pride."

One is a woman who never got along with her own children. The second never had children.
I wanted to punch the first in the nose. I explained to the second.

"Grandma's pride" is what I feel when they say "please" and "thank you." Grandma's pride is when they make the honor roll and you already know they are smart, so.

Joy is so much more.

Joy is transcendent. Sometimes, it simply happens. Sometimes, it is your happiness when you, or someone you love, does something they wanted to do and loved to do, and did it. Maybe they, or you, didn't know if they, or you, could. That ramps it. Simply said, it is the joy of:

This is not Grandma's pride.

Well, it can be, I suppose. But pride involves achievement, and joy?

I have to think on that.  Okay. Well, pride sometimes lasts. For generations. It can last.  Maybe it is just me. I have felt pride for my family, myself, for others. Some has lasted. it has. I know it can be visceral.

But pride has different coats, different gravitas.

Joy. It just is. Telling you what it is like if you have never experienced it--and I fear some may not--is like---

Space. Filled with fullness. No fear, and limitless happy. No pain that I notice for this instant. No smell I do not love. No sound I do not welcome. Expectation, spiraling understanding that this is, this:  is joy, and we welcome it, remember it, touch it again in memory.

If it lasts a second, it may be worth a lifetime. But if it goes on, or recurs, it carves itself into who you are, and no matter what comes next, you never again will be without joy, because it has become a part of you.

Some watch their children and grandchildren live, achieve, perform, and maybe they smile, are happy, and feel pride. That is good.

But when I say I have felt pure joy, whether it involves a grandchild, a friend, an institution,whatever. It is not pride. Of any kind, of any generation. Joy is meant to be danced, and sometimes sung, and at least written about as I have.

I have felt joy today, and it isn't frequent.  Happiness is within reach so easily, if we are open to it. Joy is a different level, and I am so glad it is a part of my life.

Joy transcends.

And for a few minutes today, I flew.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Dogs Hurt, Love, Chase Their Tails. But I Don't Think They Ever Ask Why

I love my dogs.
I wish I were a better owner and trained them better.
They would have more exercise, know what I expect, be more fulfilled. That is the nature of a dog.
I know scientific observation of dogs is fairly new.
I have some observations.
Gracie and Brodie are, respectively, full and half-Corgis. A lot has been bred into the breed. Brodie, as half, differs in some ways from Gracie. But both shy from anything in my hand. Neither has ever been threatened or harmed. They shy anyway. That must be a breeding characteristic, and I wonder why it was bred in.
Brodie's half not-Corgi side welcomes a pat on the head and stroke down the back. And he came from a rescue shelter. Gracie, who has been indulged her entire life, dodges a hand to her head. She will accept it after she has ducked under my leg, with her head exposed. Sheltered so, she will also let me run my hand down her back.
She is so sweet. So sweet. But if I am petting her and Brodie approaches, she is a bitch. Literally. Females usually rule, and in this, she does. But when I give them snacks, she always lets him go first. I haven't figured that out.
Dogs are in the present.
I don't think the question"why" is in the breed, whichever.
And that makes it sweeter, and sadder for me.
They have hope, and joy. They have sadness. Despair? probably. But they fight to live, to survive.  I don't think they every ask "Why?"
A year ago, Brodie finally had to have the hernia surgery that had been pending from puppyhood. It was a more serious tear than we thought, and in addition to surgery, he had to wear a cone until the incision healed. It took longer than we thought. Seven weeks.
After all, he couldn't eat, except by hand. He could drink. He was uncomfortable. It lasted weeks. His eyes became so sad. And what killed me was--it might have been better if he had wondered why, if he then could be comforted by petting and attention. He enjoyed it. But it didn't really help. He understood this was what I was putting him through, and he had to go through it. He appreciated the attention, and the fact was, this was life for the present. He never wondered why. He just accepted this was life for now. And he was sad. Somehow for me, it made it worse.
Because I had to do it. His life depended on it. He simply accepted it was life for now.
And I realized why the dog that is kicked and abused crawls back, never understanding why, just understanding what the dog is supposed to do. It is what it is.
I am alpha. He is pack.
I didn't hurt him because I could, but because it was necessary. He will never understand that, but then, for him, no justification is required. He loves me constantly, until this moment.
And I love him.
And I wish I did better by him, and by Gracie. They are great company.
Neither are fat. They get some exercise, but need more. Well, so do I.
I am not a human living alone. I am a social being, with my pack. We are household.
The house was much cleaner before they came. Dogs are perpetual toddlers, in a way. In another way, they are a separate specie with separate expectations, needs and understandings.
Often, they are ignored, or receive little attention, but they are okay with that.
They have been sidekicks to mankind for millennia.
And that is just the way it is.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

After Absence, New Things To Discuss

It has been months since I have posted.  So.

I just asked Google a question I thought so bizarre, I didn't think I would have an answer.

I started typing," Will a buzzard eat..." I got that far and the multiple choices appeared. First was what I thought was my bizarre question: Will buzzards eat dead skunks? Yes, with enthusiasm.

I'm glad, because these ugly birds help keep the environment cleaner and smelling better for those who don't like the lingering smell.

That the question arises readily tells me a lot of people don't live in cities yet. That it is the first option offered tells me more. While skunks can adapt to cities, only more rural areas have the tragedy of a skunk crossing the road just when your car comes by and kills it. With any warning at all, said varmint sprays. The smell hovers for days, getting into the air systems of cars who pass by. It lingers. The tragedy goes both ways. We get a lingering smell. The skunk, of course, is dead.

Even skunks themselves don't like the smell. Dogs don't, and considering what dogs will roll in and live in, skunk spray may be the only smell a dog doesn't like. But apparently, buzzards do. THAT is a very good thing.

I still live where land, and farmers, and families with home vegetable gardens, abound. Each year, more and more of us are going organic in our vegetables and in our protein. I know neighbors who  sell eggs from time to time, but I buy from the store when the hens aren't laying. I always buy cage free, and if I can afford it, organic. Those are eggs as close commercially as I can get to what my neighbors produce with their hens.

Many of you, who buy store-bought eggs, however, have never eaten eggs from Easter Eggar hens. They are my favorite, not even counting their green or blue color. The yolk is bigger, and the cholesterol is lower. Ehh! If they were the worst, I would prefer them. for the taste. You really can, if you have the chance, tell a difference in eggs from various breeds of hens. Grocery eggs are five to six weeks old, and tasty and usable. The fresh, for me and thousands, hopefully millions more, is better.  

With the enthusiastic expansion of home-egg manufacturing, the breeds of chickens range from chickens with hairless necks to chickens--Silkies--with feathers on their legs.

That leads to another question about protein. How is your meat raised? What is in it?
The animals are raised within Dept. of Ag standards. And if you have never lived on a farm or even seen animals or birds you, yourself, kill, prepare, and eat, the question may be spurious.
But I did. And the way I saw them raised and the way they are raised to feed millions of us, is so different.

To feed all of us, they must be caged with no room to move. Because they are so closely packed, they must be given antibiotics to stay healthy. You are eating this every day if you eat fowl, or pork. I don't THINK beef, but I haven't checked yet.

So I don't eat pork anymore, unless it is organic. That is because I started with pork. I eat organic pork because it not only has none of the additives I don't want, which is worth proselytizing about. I want meat from animals who have been able to walk, turn around, and maybe express happiness besides eating a continuous trough of  (nutritious feed you don't want to know contents of, although it is nutritious, safe, and they eat it.)

Organic bacon is smoked, not cured. I call it "steak bacon" because it's so meaty and smoked and delicious. I am researching now for farms with organic meats locally and have found some.

Yes, eating organic plants can be important. Eating organic meats may be even more important, not only for health but for sheer enjoyment. I'll post more when I know more.

Meanwhile, hamburger pizza with mushrooms and onions is tasty. So are all-beef hot dogs.

I don't do rallies about this, or campaigns, or whatever I could do. I am writing a blog about what I am doing. Someone I told, who lives in another city, says she has gone meat organic and has found local meats not so costly. She is surprised that it keeps longer and remains delicious.

The rest of you know what you are doing. You are intelligent, and have your budgets, and I won't write about this as a cause. It is important to me. I am telling you about it. What I write next probably won't be about this.  Hope you think about it, a little.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Home Care for the Pups for Vacation

It was a great vacation. When I download some photos, I will talk about it.

But it was pretty good for the dogs, too.

Petsitting is becoming popular, as is having a caretaker come by the house daily to do XYZ.
We got Brody from a shelter when he was three months old, but he still gets a little anxious. I don't think dogs wonder why; they simply know they are somewhere else. Gracie is sure the world is a good place, but she is pretty attached as well.

So this time, I left the dogs home in our (theirs and mine) house with a petsitter they knew--my oldest granddaughter. I left her 4 pages of single spaced, typed notes, including that she HAD to let them out no later than 8 am, wipe up any accidents, let them play for at least a half hour, come back at noon, then suppertime, water the plants, etc. etc. etc.  Four pages. Teenage girl ,16. Summer.

I never worried.

I did ask once, halfway through, how they were doing, and she sent pictures of her walking the dogs every day, something I have long planned to do, resolved to continue when I got back, and so far haven't done. They loved it.

Per instructions, in the humid heat, she watered outside pot plants daily. She gathered the mail, swept up the Corgi hair, and played with them. And she washed them before I came home.  They smelled and looked beautiful. She gave them their tooth cleaning chews, and in the evening gave Brody his Benedril for a watery eye (pill in peanut butter on a half cracker) and gave Gracie her nightcap of cracker and peanut butter at the same time.

They were REALLY glad to see me, which was good for my ego. But they looked great. So did the house and my plants. Per instruction, she had thrown away all the newsprint ads, so I had only envelopes to go through.

I told her she needed to post some ads on community billboards locally  that she is available for pet and house services. I paid her less than most would get, more than she could make doing anything else for two weeks, and it left her free time. We were both happy, and so were the dogs.

I checked out some kennels, which would have cost much more.  Corgis don't deal well with New. And Brody gets anxious.  The chance to leave them at home  with someone they already knew as family meant they were  in much of normal routine, in habitat. I noticed and expected they would spend time on my bed, and washed the sheets and quilt first thing to de-Corgi hair my bed.

If you can get someone dependable, and honest, this is a good way to go.

My granddaughter has a school-sponsored camp next week, so the timing was great.

I spent some time on vacation with a girl my granddaughter's age, very sweet, smart, honest. But she's never been taught responsibility, commitment, or how to show up on time. I would never trust living animals to her. She would mean well, but they might die. And I love my dogs. I would not risk them.

My granddaughter has parents who grumble she should have done it for free, but agree this was between the two of us. She executed perfectly, and since I was paying, had she not, I would have complained. She, I, and even the dogs, are delighted. My plants have flourished. The house did,

I actually knew some responsible adults willing to do the job for not a lot more, but she did more than they would have done.  Home  dog care is my preferred solution for the future. This was almost two weeks. A little different from even a long weekend. It felt good not to worry.

I had so much fun, I realized even retired people can use a vacation. We often are pretty busy working for free a lot of the time. It is a job. We don't just say we don't feel like it.

Neither did my petsitter.

Monday, June 15, 2015

An intimate vacation in Oregon

About six years ago, I went to Oregon for the first time and got some advice about places and sights from friends and readers--well, my hosts planned a fabulous vacation, and I saw wonderful sights, had some meaningful and fun-filled conversations with people I love, and the trip was Most Excellent.

Now I'm going back again for two weeks. One of my requests was the high desert part of eastern Oregon, and we will go to the Steen Mountains for a couple of days. There's a  wetlands bird sanctuary in the neighborhood. Most of the birds will be new to me.  We will travel in her Prius. Haven't had that pleasure before, either.

My friends have laughed about my request, because they are looking forward to it, too. After 11 years there, they haven't made this particular trip before. There's a rustic hotel with family-style meals like pot roast and roast chicken and fixins. Some light hiking for us, more strenuous for the more muscularly endowed.

We will get back to the four-mile hike through the Old Forest above Eugene, the way Oregon looked when the white man got there. I want to see it again, this untouched part of the earth.

And there's the jet boat down the Rogue River. It's a chance to see some wildlife, not a promise, but I've never been on a jet boat. And then, time to mosey around in the beautiful Oregon landscape, with greedy eyes out for what berries are ripe now. They have a lot of varieties they never ship--too fragile.  I know Costco sells a marion berry and hazelnut ice cream, which couldn't be more Oregon. I will be staying in the county that produces almost 90 per cent of the nations filbert/hazelnuts.

I want to go back to the Eugene Saturday street market/festival. We may get back to the coast again, the rocky, fascinating, beautiful coast with the frigid ocean water I've actually seen Oregon children play in. Mind-boggling.

It is not just that I have known these friends for 40 years, but that we have been active friends throughout. They will have things to do at times, and I, the half and half extrovert and introvert, will enjoy a little space here and there to read, and walk, and enjoy on my own.

We didn't spend time in Portland before, and now one of their daughters lives there in a big Victorian house she and her boy friend are renovating. It will be a mixture of familiar, new, and remembered-new.

I am so glad I am going

They have Shasta daisies blooming as wildflowers on the verge of the roads. Did you know that?

I have traveled pretty widely in my life. Oregon, for me, is just about as enchanted as I have found.

I doubt I'll ever get to New England, but I'd like to, in the fall, as a leaf peeper, greedily gorging on the old New England apples. Maybe I will.

Life keeps surprising me..

Friday, June 12, 2015

Helping to build a New Library

I am getting to do something I never imagined I would do.

A year ago, I volunteered for my small town's library advisory board. I knew we had passed a bond election to build a new one, and that sounded really fun to be involved with.

I love libraries. No matter how many computer programs they store, videos, when you walk in, you can smell the invigorating odor that lots of printed books living together generate. I love that smell.

I love the  reading programs we offer for pre-school, the enrichment programs--I finally got to this week's enrichment on raptors. Didn't know we had kites in Texas. Loved the owls and hawks. No eagles this day. And red-tailed hawks are still numerous across the land.

Last week, we had miniature therapy horses and 70 kids and adults to pet them, hug them, yes, raise their lips to show the teeth. It really was magnificent fun. We have other programs coming up.  At libraries, we try to offer the virtual and the real, We have classes. We have programs. We try to deepen community experience. I can now say we, because I am a small part.

The library here is small. The new one will be at least 5,000 sq. ft., still small but bigger. And with room for expansion. We aren't paying for new stacks and furnishings. Fundraisers and grants will pay for those. We want a library with the most technology we can build into it to support the future. The new library will offer the first available community room in town outside the schools and city hall. That matters to the culture of the community,

We are ripe. New subdivisions are going in all around us, if not in city limits, then in our zip code.

Today, we met with the architectural  planners to see the bones of it. We made some early decisions on the brick, the metal roofing, the flooring. We. that means I had a vote. Heady stuff.
For me, it is leaving a little bit of legacy to a town I have come to love.

I am so excited about the future.  I want to be here when it opens. I want to contribute to further success. I want to see the dream fulfilled. I believe in libraries. I want to see our citizens using ours.

Maybe that's not on your bucket list. Believe me, it is on mine.

I am retired. I volunteer in what  I believe in, what is helpful. Oh, and fun for me to do.
Yeah, there is work involved.  I'm kind of excited about that, too.

Yet another excuse to put off mopping the bathroom floor.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why I Am Not Eating Much Potk Now

I went into Subway today for a sandwich.

It was a difficult choice. I've given up pork. Between the cold cuts, the Black Forest ham, I could choose meatball, chicken offerings, steak and cheese, and tuna. I took tuna.

I've given up pork because of my own scruples, lately developed. I will cook the three hams I bought, and eat them. A pig died for that. I've bought turkey bacon. It's not to bad and it's actually healthier.

I'm not trying to start some movement, because I don't believe anyone would respond anyway. Somebody, sometime, may look at how we raise pigs, how we house them, how we feed them, and start some commotion about this being bad for humans. That's the only chance pigs have got. We have had 5 million pigs die recently, and all we care about is how high's the ham price, Mama?

So far, I buy cage free eggs, and I don't know how my chicken is raised, but that may be another problem. Cows have some happiness before they die, and thanks to research, we know how to slaughter them more efficiently now. They aren't frightened on the way to the slaughter. I'm glad for that. I LIKE eating meat. Always have.

But 80 per cent of our pigs grow up in small crates, where they can scarcely move. They are never touched. They never walk. The females are artificially inseminated, and the sucklings suck off tits available through holes in a board--so the sow won't accidentally roll over.

The living conditions are approved by the government. Their food includes ground feathers, rendered pigs, and sanitized chicken shit. Among other things.  Hey, you like that ham, that pork, so have I. Tasty.  FDA approved.

Well, apparently 20 per cent of pork is raised better. No doubt it's really expensive. I'm curious. Yeah, to feed millions of people, you have to get more practical about the pigs.

But you know, the next time you are eating a bacon cheeseburger and get all upset because some dog is kept on a chain outside in the rain? Pets are cute and cuddly. Pigs aren't. But they are smarter than dogs, and they have a lot of feelings. And we routinely raise them in sheer misery.

So I'm not eating pork, and it's hard not to. I hope I can find a source of pigs that had some happy time before they made my bacon. Misery bacon somehow doesn't taste so good.

As I look at my copy in my blog, all this empty space is there before this segment ends. I don't know why. I would love comments. I have other postings as well.  I usually think glitches like this are due to my technoignorance. 


Saturday, June 6, 2015

It was a really good party, as milestone occasions should be.

A private club on the 17th floor, with wide windows to gaze over a city that went on far beyond the horizon. Great food, plenty of wine, tea, coffee, and a lot of people dressed really nicely. The women in nice dresses. A lot of men with ties and jackets. The elders were all aging well, and the children all cleaned up and adorable. A lot of family, his, hers and theirs.

For Brenda and Bill's fiftieth wedding anniversary, their sons gave them what they would treasure most: a celebration with as many of their family and friends as possible. And it was joyous. The love is still as shining as when it began. It is infinitely deeper, more abiding, richer. While people live longer, 50 years of vibrant marriage is still a pinnacle most of us will never reach. It is right to honor it, because these two add goodness to all our lives.

If I were just caught up with the joy and happiness of a wonderful occasion, I could write this easily, freely, spilling all over. I am feeling my way to express it. Their sons gave them the party. One of my sons went to considerable trouble and effort to take me into the heart of Dallas during the Friday afternoon rush hour. Celebrating their bond strengthened ours, I think.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Reflections on aging from two points of view.

I will start with a caveat. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am thin-skinned and take offense too easily. Well, thinking about that, it doesn't make me wrong.

I saw a physical therapist recently for an evaluation on my hands.

Actually, her measurements and tests were done meticulously. I am pretty sure they are accurate.

It is her conclusions I find fault with, and I do so because I think she is prejudiced against the old. At the least, she has preconceived convictions.

Well, you know, I am not so old. 71. I've already figured out my ownself that those a decade or two ahead of me--and I know people who are--have different expectations, habits, and behavior. Once upon a time, I didn't. Old was old, and I didn't differentiate much.

Most people I know my age and older are doing some pretty remarkable things. A couple have been stricken with dementia. A few have had extreme illnesses occur. But most are quite active, either still working, volunteering vigorously, or both. Some are amusing themselves with sports and active vacations.

I say I am in the youth of my old age, and so I am. I have learned that 71 is as different from 81 as 31 is from 41.I lived briefly in my sixties in a retirement village where most were in their eighties. It was like socializing with my parents' friends. They lived in a different lifetime, shared a different history. Maybe you just have to be here to know this.

So. My hands have been hurting. Especially my left hand, because I am left-handed and use it the most. I realized recently, to my surprise(this stuff creeps up on you), that I couldn't lay my palms flat on a table. They cupped. And muscle strength is really down, and it hurts when I lift heavy stuff. Like a 7-pound bag of bird seed.

I saw my doctor, and she wrote a prescription for physical therapy. I was seen and evaluated by a savvy woman who may be in her thirties. Maybe younger, but I can't tell.

And she evaluated me, and she told me the reason I don't write pages and pages by hand anymore is because of my disability. I protested. I've been typing since I was sixteen, I said. I was a professional writer. I've always typed everything. I haven't had occasion to write enough to find out what she's telling me. No, she said, you don't do it because it hurts and you can't.

She basically said, "Look, you are arguing. Do you want this evaluation or not?"

I shut up. And under my choked throat and stopped-up tears, I wanted to throw something. Preferably soft, at her. I didn't. Whatever her assumptions about my attitude and expectations, I did want her assessment. She was more vague than I would have liked. But I shut up and listened.

After all, she was a standin. She won't be the therapist. Which is good. Because I don't think she believes in any meaningful progress I can make. I may need a canvas splint thing--I kind of expected that. There are exercises to do, and I am killer on stuff like that. But even before that, she showed me a magazine full of devices and tools to help me do the things I find painful or difficult now. Actually, I have a couple already. I have a number of adaptive behaviors. And the more I think about it, the madder I get. To show me the tools before I get the exercises is NOT a good message. She didn't suggest I consider them while I do therapy to improve. She suggested I consider them as permanent aids.

She didn't expect much from me. As a former therapist in another field, I know how unhelpful that is.

I have high expectations for the therapist I actually will work with. I think I can change some of this. If I can't, then I'll do it anyway and grit my teeth. The evaluator said she knows a lot of people my age who can't do much. Duh. This is what she does for a living.
I think she thinks I should trot out to my pasture and chew the grass.

I doubt if this is her technique to get me to work harder. But I suspect the initial result is, I probably will.

Then I'll get on with the rest of my real life.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Memorial Day reflections

Today is Memorial Day. We are so much more solemn about it than we were 60 years ago. Even 50.

Everyone went to the cemetery in the 1940s and 1950s and cleaned up the plots and put out flowers grown in the garden. In Alamogordo, New Mexico, the mulberries in the cemetery were ripe then, and we kids would climb the trees and eat the berries and throw them at each other.

We didn't have a war veteran in our plot. I was in elementary school when I was hurt and astonished to find out that, though we went to the cemetery to clean the plot and visit with the other families, the day wasn't about my brother at all. He, who died fighting cancer before he was four, wasn't a part of the day. His war had not been about country.

We didn't call the Korean War a war at the time; it was a conflict. And then we practiced ducking under our desks in case of an atomic bomb (I always liked that, especially when it got me out of arithmetic). We had The Cold War.

So we were lighthearted, and tended our cemeteries to go home and eat steaks and hamburgers, potato salad, corn on the cob, the first tomatoes and sun tea. There were speeches in the park, which my dad, as a city leader, attended. Usually Mom stayed home with me and we cooked, snuck tastes, and laughed.
Maybe there was a parade. I think so; I think in the 40s, 50s, some WWI vets as well.

War was over, and we celebrated our vets by giving them good jobs and college educations. We built new housing for starter families while the vets worked on their college credits.

The war was paid for. The population invested in freedom. My dad never went to war, though he signed up to go. But he sold a LOT of war bonds. He bought them, too.

Maybe the solemnity today and flag waving is because there have been so many more wars in my lifetime, wars that sill continue, risk on our shores as never before. We honor our veterans. We don't, however, see that they get good civilian jobs when they come home anymore. We don't seem able. Do we make room for them? I read a lot of rhetoric, but I am not sure what really happens.

The VA benefits they are entitled to are still a scandal. Each war teaches us something about medical care. In Vietnam, for the first time, we saved so many paraplegics that would have died in WWII. Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us about prosthetics, partial blindness, closed head injuries and finally recognizing PTSD.

In every war, we lose some of our finest. We have always more quietly lost the women, too; the women who flew cargo planes as "non-combat", the nurses, the doctors the medics. We still lose the women along with the men. Men and women of color fought for freedom in this country and still do. Today, we honor them all. Once, we didn't so much....

We paid such a terrible price in the Civil War. I am told so many of our church hymns from that period touch on heaven and meeting in heaven because so few families were left intact. Almost everyone lost somebody. I think the damage from that war still resonates today.

We lost so many in WWII. And so many men came back from years of war forever changed. They shaped so much of our society, out world today.

Vietnam almost broke us in two again. It didn't. But. Rough years.

So many wars since those happy days as a child, when we finished a war we thought fixed things for a long time. The economy was booming. And everyone could celebrate! and we did.

I remember when the Vietnam war ended, President Nixon was reported to have asked his staff, "Why aren't people dancing in the streets?" After all, so many hadn't wanted it. It was over. But we were tired.

We have soldiers today who are risking their lives honorably and heroically. A lot of them can't tell you why.

We are tired. We are absolutely, bone-dead tired of war.

We are Americans. We ARE united in this. And we honor our vets with a great deal of ceremony and flags. We don't know if or when conflict will ever end.
We will last, our military will last, we will go on. Not a one of us expects a carefree future with war no more. Not yet.
We don't sell war bonds any more. We don't invest. We don't pay as we go along.

We do salute. All of us. Churches pray every Sunday for those in harm's way.

It is a military holiday. It is meant to be.

But the little girl in me, who was never old enough to remember him, still remembers on this day taking yellow flowers to the cemetery for Albert Edward. a little boy who tried so very hard to live and didn't make it.

If he had lived, he would have made a fine soldier.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Deciding to go to the 50th college reunion

It is a bigger surprise to me than the people around me that my fiftieth college reunion is coming up next month.

I did, after all, graduate in 1965. I'm not that bad in math.

I am surprised by so much about aging. A college reunion shouldn't be that much of a surprise.

Looking over the activities, however, I see that there is a bus tour of the campus. No walking tour. Granted, the campus is quite a bit larger, but it is not a large campus, per se. It is prettier--in my day, they didn't water the lawns and the fountain didn't work. (And we are in a drought. Sheesh!)

I graduated from Southern Methodist University with a B.A. in Social Sciences and a B.S. in journalism. There were a plethora of courses that didn't count except as extra credits, and I'm glad I took them. Art history and music appreciation have deepened my appreciation of the world around me through the years. I took extra history courses, too. I figured if I wanted to write for a living, I had better learn as much as I could about as many subjects as I could master. That enriched my life, and it probably helped professionally here and there.

While I still like to see and do new things, my body has betrayed me in some ways. My eyes are distinctly less acute. I haven't driven in Dallas traffic in some years. I wouldn't be attending any of the reunion if a former college roommate hadn't called and offered to take me in with her and her husband if I can get to their home in a nearby suburb. Even that will be difficult, but I think I will go to the one luncheon on Saturday. Friday would involve too many arrangements with other people. Friday also includes a free tour of the Bush Presidential Museum. I am the only one I know who has no interest in seeing it, much as I love museums.

Another roommate and her husband will also attend, and I just realized they have been married 52 years. I was in her wedding. She was in mine. Wow! Brenda and Bill, who offered the ride, are near 50 years, if not there yet. They have all done well in their lives, been productive and even adventurous--Brenda and Bill moved to Japan for 10 years, where he was a high school band director. No, not on an American base, but in a Japanese school. I've stayed in the Dallas Metroplex, and it is true I have had three careers. I was married for 16 years. I always chose professional work that really interested me. None of it paid particularly well.


I really don't have anything to wear. And I need shoes. And a new purse. I was going to get all of this for a vacation in Oregon in June. The clothes may be a little fancier than what I will wear to hike mountain trails. Nevertheless. I won't be buying heels. I threw all mine away the day after retirement. I have not regretted it.

I think if I were going to display me, I would stay home. It is worth going, however, to go and see who I remember. Names I haven't thought of in years will have lives I will love to hear about.

My hosts will bring me back to my car--or I may take light rail there, depending on the schedule. They will go back for the evening dinner dance. I will come home, put my feet up, and relax as I remember my small adventure.

All an adventure takes is an attitude of expectation. It should be fun. After all, I really don't think I will be attending the Diamond Jubilee. Some of us probably will.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Milepost Day

My oldest granddaughter passed her driver's test this morning and has been duly added to her parents' insurance. She will be driving, probably later today, in the car without one of us in the car with her for the first time.

And once again, we let her go a little more, let her fly a little higher.

We revel in the early first steps, crawling, walking. But even then, we have consequences. There's the trail of debris through the house as we hunt down the new walker. And other life lessons. When this same granddaughter was three something, she giggled and encouraged her little sister to walk just like the rest of us. Right up until same little sister could reach her big sister's previously inviolate crayons on the table.

"Hey!," she yelled, as much shocked as indignant, "she's getting in my stuff!"

By now, she sometimes raids her sister's stuff. So it goes.

I hope she remembers her first drive alone. I don't. I remember the weeks immediately after, but not that solo drive.

I remember her daddy, when he was seven, riding his bike to school the first time. I watched him pedal madly up the drive in his Cub Scout uniform, backpack in place, brown lunch sack swinging from his hand on the handlebars. It was a country town, lightly traveled road, a mile from the school. And my heart was in my throat. And he thrived.

I lived in a small town, too, but surrounded by mountains. My father was upset when he learned I had driven the old family car up and down a 40-degree incline on a mountain road--with cliffs on part of it--one day as part of a summer job I held. He had been meaning to repair the brakes. No problem, I assured him, I just put the car in a lower gear.

And so it goes.

No wonder the thought of guardian angels persists as we see ourselves, and our young ones, survive certain catastrophes over and over again. Catastrophes that, after all, never happen. Maturation and growth automatically opens us to greater risk.

Tonight, we have a family dinner of the bunch of us to celebrate the birthdays of two of us. New beginnings for them, and new beginnings for the new driver among us.

Anticipation of the year ahead and good food. Lots of love. Sounds like a winning combination to me.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ruminations on a Single Snowy Day in Texas

Winter came late to North Texas this season.

Outside my windows, the streets and grass are white, the trees and bushes gilded with clinging snowflakes. We don't get the pretty ones with six points and endless variation. We get pinches of sizes ranging from scarcely visible to penny-sized,cottony fluffy stuff. It is falling rapidly, but the flakes are small enough now that, after three hours, we have maybe three inches.

We had sleet and freezing rain Monday and Tuesday, truly nasty stuff. The coverage was scant--although branches limned in crystal clear ice are rather pretty. Schools were closed then, because temperatures and wind were in the 20s, and the scarcity of such storms means our supplies of street protection are limited because of the expense. Better if people stay home a day or two.

Today, the snow came early. We were preparing for a noonish event. I had planned to go out for a few hours and went into my bedroom at 8:40 a.m. to dress. No precip at all. I came out 20 minutes later to find a full cover of white over the landscape, streets included. The cottony-sized snowflakes were falling heavily and rapidly.

I called to my destination and was told I was not needed, to stay home. So I have. I have spent a lot of time at my windows watching the birds. They have hit my sunflower seeds and millet like a high school football team finding a lone 7-11 convenience store open on their way home after the game. Much gobbling, shoving, intimidation.

I have put out food three times in three hours and will wait until later in the day for more. I don't know what has happened to the blue jays here; I never see them any more. I have had many cardinals, mockingbirds, and I don't know what the sparrow-looking bird is with a flash of pale green on the chest, many juncos, who look so round all puffed out. White-winged doves are actually fairly gracious about sharing. Late in the morning, however, a gang of starlings found the cache. I sighed. They were aggressive, numerous, and allowed no other birds in, even the cardinals, who seem to feel pretty entitled most of the time. I love their choreography together in the air; they must be fed. Today, I would even be gracious to the grackles, but none came.

The dogs loved it, not wanting to come in. Later inside, Brody wanted to play, chasing his tail and pouncing, dancing around the living room scattering the rugs. Gracie was intrigued, but highly concerned that it was a trick so he could swoop in and get her rawhide chew. (She considers it perfectly acceptable if she does the same, and if he tries to retrieve, she gives her bully bark you can hear three houses away.) Brody HAD his own chew, but she was not enticed. His exuberant dancing made me laugh.

Daughter-in-law called on her way home after her office closed to tell me they would pick my granddaughters up from school today, "of course."
I appreciated the call. It's the wisest thing. And I paused, just a minute, to remember.I used to drive 40 miles each way in snow and sleet, park six blocks from the office, and never missed most days. I played in it, and hot chocolate just isn't the same when you haven't gotten good and cold first, Wind chill currently is about 10, just two days after we hit the 60s briefly. Such go many winters in North Texas.

It is not to be envied, our lack of snow or sleet or freezing rain up till now. It may mean our drought will continue for the fourth year. Heard the other night that the Dallas-Fort Worth part of North Texas has gotten more rain than the rest of the state. Our lakes are 68 percent full. Lakes--and all but one in the whole, huge state of Texas are man-made--are at 38 percent elsewhere. This is the drinking, farming, irrigation water. We have no rivers. And every day, several hundred more people move here. Scary.

Today, for me, isn't a day to dwell beyond what is. I am fortunate to have warmth and shelter.

I have soup on the stove, chicken in the oven. A pretty view, and the weatherman has promised it won't last more than 2-3 days. A predicted high of 70 by Tuesday.

Sometimes, indeed, change is good.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The New Physics of Predetermination

I was listening to an interview with the author of a new Broadway play, "Constellations", which involves the concept of "multiverses". The audience must understand the concept in order to understand the play. Multiverses are concurrent universes. The interesting thing is, the interview was on a science show on PBS.

I recently had a transcendent moment for a couple of hours after two Nova shows on physics and string theory when I almost grasped the concepts. I'm back to my simplistic understanding of quantum physics as being related to if you put down a bowl of cat food, the cat will come, and if a bowl of dog food, the dog will come. (I think I also understood something about somebody's cat and a box, but that's gone now, too.)

Well, the theory has gone far beyond me. A growing number of physicists seem to believe theory shows a strong possibility of multiple universes.
A number of these same physicists apparently think these different universes are really the same universe, but with different outcomes. And that free choice, a prized attribute of humans, doesn't exist.

And that sort of blows my mind. I will have to learn more about this.

It sure would make a crazier universe than anyone expected.

So far as I understand, theism plays no part in these theories. It is all based on theoretical equations. And the snippet I heard may actually be as unrelated to actual physics as the cat and the cat food. But it is terribly interesting.

I'm imagining a universe where the asteroid missed the earth and dinosaurs still exist. People have not evolved yet. I would not be writing there.
And aliens might not be from far off galaxies, but alternate universes. At the least, it could be the greatest jolt to fiction since the popularity of the apocalypse. Literal space travel, from one universe to another. Maybe that's what worm holes could be....You wouldn't need time travel. You would just go to the universe where humans are in a different century. Or decade. Whatever. And you and yourself COULD both exist at the same time, because you would belong to different universes.

Great fun to think about.

I do believe in global warming. I doubt in my lifetime any physicist will come up with enough evidence to convince me that my sorry end is a predetermined when, where and how. What's the fun in that?

As I mentioned, all of these ideas came out of a discussion with the author of a new Broadway play. I just hope his plot is not obscured by all the discussion about the underlying theses. Or maybe that will be a good thing. Predetermined, so to speak.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ignoring the why when bad things happen

I've started three times today, and will work on the first two later. They need more thinking and more time.

I am not sure, but the only thing I really see that separates us from animals is one question:


Well, and the fact that animals have instincts where humans do not--and as we evolved, when did THAT creep in?
Humans don't believe they don't have instincts. I hear people talk about human instincts all the time.

We have a lot of fantasies we live by.

Watching my dog post-surgery for 29 days with a hood around his neck, I finally got it.
The fist couple of days, in pain, his eyes when he looked at me showed pain. He felt pain. He was trying to cope with this new reality. I don't think now, looking over it, that he ever wondered why? He was just sad and hurting.

His incision is almost invisible now, and he feels so good. He does remember the vet's office as a place he is not willing to go quite so much as before, but just a month later, that resistance is fading.

If he had wondered why, he wouldn't have come confidently to me for comfort and petting. His behavior would have changed as he tried to convince me not to hurt him again. He remained constant, consistently himself. That's admirable, I think.

When you take "why" out of your consciousness, the life you lead changes tremendously. " Why" leads to a lot of misunderstandings. "Why" leads to wars, and a cure for polio, and mass killings and better crop rotation. "Why", in fact, is the most dangerous question in human intellect.

If I were a better story-teller, I could weave a story about a curious woman who just had to open a box she wasn't supposed to open. But she was already infected with curiosity and wanting to know why.

Curiosity doesn't have to be about why. It can be about what's there? how does it work? where is it? Contrary to chainsaw massacre movie scenarios, survival can be aided by curiosity.

Be careful with that why question. It is seldom, if ever, answered simply. Misunderstanding the answer has caused a world of hurt through the eons.

But my silly dog doesn't ask why. If he worries, I don't see it. He doesn't anticipate bad times. If they come, he deals. When bad times end, he's happy. Actually, during the bad times he still found pleasure and some happiness.

He doesn't wonder why things worked out that way.

Silly old dog. He isn't smart. But he sure is wise.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Living with the 4 a.m. Wake Up Call

I have never awakened at four in the morning expecting my thoughts to cheer and entertain me. Never once said to myself, "Oh, good! I have waked up to have some lovely, happy thoughts." Nope.

Saturday night, I had one of those episodes where I wake at 4 a.m., pretty alert, and start thinking. Sleep is not going to come again for awhile. Sometimes, before I go back to sleep, and I usually do, I will set the alarm so I will get up when I intended, if necessary.

If I have a strenuous, hectic day ahead, not so bad. I may review my planning, tweak the routine somewhat, add things I forgot or move some task in my mind to another day. If I am anxious, I will meditate and/or pray about it. Often, I read for awhile.

This time was one of those life reviews when, at 4 a.m., my mind taps me on the shoulder and says, "Listen,you jerk, you need to wake up and think about this. I am so disappointed in you." I guess you could say that sometimes, in the dark of night, I am awakened by my hauntings.

Saturday night's waking, I know, was initially prickled by something I said I would do in two weeks and now it has been three. Which led to remembering other promises fulfilled slowly or not at all, and then the promises I should have made but never did. And at 4 a.m., for me, there are no excuses.

I don't know if these hauntings have made me a better person; certainly I will absolutely fulfill the delayed promise that woke me this time. I realize every one of us have had troubles, imperfections we struggle with, but I am sure--at 4 in the morning--that you have done better with yours.

It's just that I intended to do so much more and so much better.

I remember I was shocked when I turned 30. Thirty! Time was actually passing so much faster than I thought and I still hadn't done....x or y, or even z.

I am proud of the times when I have been relatively fearless, and so regretful for times I wasn't. I am more than 70 now, and I thought I would have grown up a long time ago, but I have learned life doesn't work that way. I see persons my age who seem finished. Content. Pleased. I enjoy them, but I still have so far to go. If every life is a kind of mountain we climb, I expected to have been so much further along the hillside by now. No summit in sight. (In site also works.)

I thought I knew a lot about love, and acceptance, and listening. I did know some. I've learned a lot more in the last year.

Philosophically, some one asked me recently, "Who are the people in your life you cannot forgive?"

That is a tough question. Everyone I have ever known personally I can, and have, forgiven. Faceless terrorists, greedy conscience-less capitalists who will harm the very earth as well as people...that's harder. That is more about causes.

The one person I have not yet been able to forgive is myself. So many hours and days wasted. So much more I could have done. Even better books I could have read and learned from. That time can't be changed or altered. It is past. Which is why the serenity prayer begins,"Give me the serenity to accept what I cannot change." It's hard to do.

The paradox is, I waste more energy better spent on the present and future if I fight the past.

So I will continue to struggle, and work to stop struggling and just do what comes next, and accept myself. No Pulitzer. No best-seller. No world tour for the kids, or trip to New Zealand and Australia for me...will I ever get to Boston, even? I'll never marry brilliantly, or hire a chauffer for my old age. I regret that I took the work I loved to do instead of being responsible enough to take at least one of the work opportunities that would have left me, now, with more money. And I sigh. If I don't want to do something, I am awfully bad at it. And that is self-indulgent.

I did read something recently that may help, and I will start journaling these stark 4 a.m. reviews.

I do know I enjoy my life overall, and that I believe my struggles make me a better human being. I am not hopeful of ever becoming such a good human being, though, that I think I shall ever have a time when my self doesn't tap me wide awake at 4 a.m. in the morning to tell me yet again, "We need to talk. You have really screwed up."

I do hope I get better at looking in a mirror and saying with sincerity, "I'm here for you."

I am glad I am hopeful again. And I regret, yes, that I let myself stop being so for a while.

Helen Hayes was one of the people who said, "It doesn't matter how many times you fall down. It's how many times you get up."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Evolution of Feeding Children in Modern Times

A friend posted 30 photos of cute kids on Facebook yesterday, each with a caption about their picky eating habits.

All were under 5. A few were toddlers. The kid who dumps any food on the floor from his high chair unless said food is in a bowl gets a walk, and so do his parents. It irritates me more when I see parents not teaching toddlers about plates and bowls and consistently placin the food on the high chair tray. We aren't talking mashed potatoes, because said parents probably aren't teaching the kid to use spoons or forks yet, either.

What got me was the caption on a picture of one cutie, "I make my mom make something fresh every time I take one bite." Uh. Really?

You know, you don't see cat skeletons in the trees when they are scared to come down, and hungry children WILL eat.No need to make a fuss. No yelling or tears from the parent. Just...calm.

I have been volunteering with a mid-week program at my church for about five years now where the kids come in, sit six at a table with two adults not their parents, and learn to pass food family style. There are table rules, including taking a bite of everything, not leaving their seats or talking between tables, and not putting their feet on the table. The kids seem surprised. A lot of the adults let them break these rules regularly. These are almost all kids from middle class families.

I've had kids who screwed up their faces as they bravely ate one tiny little bud of broccoli at the beginning of the year who were scarfing down broccoli with cheese sauce by the end of the year. I've seen others who continued to find broccoli a yucky food. But they learn not to comment on it and not discuss the yuckiness with everyone else.

With new children, we ask if they have had family style meals before, and many haven't seen it except at extended family Christmas meals. In those cases, a lot of the time the food is served buffet style and someone else filled their plates. The big change I've seen in five years is the lack of experience even fourth and fifth graders have in serving themselves. Mom or Dad fills the plate and sets it in front of them. They have no concept of passing the food from person to person, no patience in waiting for the dish to reach them. They enjoy the task of getting the food on the spoon and to their plate without spilling. (You never know what skills you might learn in a church.)

And I, who am a basic slob where housekeeping is concerned, bite my tongue at the way the table gets set. My fellow teachers see no reason to make a fuss. It drives me nuts to see the fork and spoon to the right of the plate and the knife to the left, or some other non-standard configuration. I, too, let it go. The point is to talk to each other at the table and enjoy the food. I talk to them about the importance of seeing that everyone at the table has what they want before we all eat. Oh. One reason the kids love to be the server who goes for the food and then clears, I think, is another rule. We can pass the food, but until the server sits and takes a bite, no one can eat.

(I find I do this as well when I am invited to someone's home where the hostess is putting the food on the table. I wait till she sits down with us. I notice more and more that most people simply start eating. I think that's rude.)

A fair number of families still eat together one or more times a week at the table. Still more eat together on the couch in front of a movie on the television. I think that younger children are used to someone else dishing up and simply putting the plate in front of them. I find that five and six-year-olds can do it themselves. Awkwardly, and they usually take too much at first. They learn, We have very little spillage.

In this same five-year period, I am finding it harder to find some implements or foods I have taken for granted all my life. Society's choices are changing. Maybe eating together and passing the food is becoming archaic. I hope not.

Looking beyond your own plate is vital if we live together. It has been an easy tool for fostering harmony and smooth interaction in society, one table at a time.

I will be sorry if we let that vanish. It costs nothing to do. And it can be so pleasant.

And every once in a while, one of us stops to notice if someone else has an empty plate.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

More than a Century, and still Buckin'

The 119th Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, otherwise known as the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, opened Friday for a 23-day run.

In recent years, it has entertained as many as one million people who want to see the sights, ride the rides, and watch the rodeo. I was reading a newspaper article today touting the annual stock show parade in downtown Fort Worth as having an authentic Western feel to it. Well, since it actually IS authentic, no wonder.

Cowboys? Ranchers? You want to see real ones, who can work cattle with a horse, a jeep or a helicopter? The Fort Worth Stock Show is the place. No wonder the number of international visitors grows each year. People coming to Texas want to see Real Cowboys. Boy Howdy, this is the time and place to see them.

The first stock show and rodeo was a one-day event in 1896, held in January when ranchers and cowboys in Texas don't usually have so much to do. It was popular. And it grew. I think many of the current cow and horse barns were built in the 1930s, but you can look it up. More have been added on in recent years. The grounds are pretty large. Parking mostly is outside and you walk. A lot. Which can get dicey.

There's a reason the region refers to "stock show weather." I've attended stock show parades when horses and riders are jingling along in the start of a sleet storm. Usually, however, a few days of temperate weather in the 50s, 60s, maybe even touching 70, can be followed by massive freezing, sleet, and ice for several days at the end of January/early February. (In Texas, sleet and ice on the ground usually lasts no more than a few days. We go for years without any, so we don't regularly have equipment to deal with it when it hits. Stock show people simply deal with it.)

Despite the iffy weather, a midway and rides are part of the show. My admiration is high when teenagers in puffy jackets, jeans and athletic shoes or boots climb aboard a ferris wheel that is going to whip up the breeze when it is only 38 outside. Maybe that's just me.

I haven't been to the rodeo in years. I don't know if recent improvements on Will Rogers Coliseum have shut out the cold drafts, but some sort of jacket usually is nice to have. Families who have been coming for generations reserve ahead to get the same seats every year. Tickets sell out so fast, it is difficult to find any particularly at night. Matinees have a few more seats available. A spokeswoman called it a "generational event", and it is. A lot of families have years of history with this event.

It is truly an exhibition with every kind of product, tool and machinery for sale and on display. Demonstrations and classes are held. Every breed of horses, cattle,pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and so much more are judged. Human fashion shows leave me yawning, but I can watch for at least an hour while cattle to be judged are washed, blown dry, brushed, their tail tassels curled and their hooves shined. They are beautiful when ready to show. Other breeds also go through similar prepping. They are gorgeous.

I will say if you don't like the smells associated with livestock and hay, it's not your thing. The livestock show is a show for the people who grow the animals and bring them for judging and for the sales held during the show. You are very welcome to watch. Just don't get in the way.

Agriculture is still a viable industry in Texas, despite the drought. Not near so many cattle currently,though, in order to care well for the herds still here. Ag kids have brought their animals to the show for many decades, and the selling price of the Champion Steer still pays a majority of that teen's college education.

The rodeo is a classic, with a professional entertainer booked into the arena each year for a healthy contract. There's barrel racing, calf roping, steer wrestling, bronc riding, bull know, the usual. The big purses draw the top professionals in each category to the Fort Worth scene.

The Stock Show grounds are smack in the middle of the Fort Worth cultural district. The world-famous Kimbell Museum of Art is across the street, the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art with its collections of Remingtons and Russells is nearby (and free). The Museum of Science and History with its Amex screen is at one end, and Casa Manana theater in the round is at the other. The Cowgirl Museum is one of a kind, and there are other museums as well when folks get ready for a little change from the livestock. Participants do spread out. People who by profession live out of the city enjoy the culture and imbibe readily.

The stock and handlers come in by truck, but many of the ranchers fly in with families to enjoy the whole area while they are in the Metroplex.

When it began in the 1990s, the cultural attraction may have included a little seamier activity. Hell's Half Acre was once located where the city's convention center now stands in downtown Fort Worth. It provided women, gambling, and high-test liquor in quantity for cowboys ending a trail drive as well as competitors in the rodeo. Today, the city offers some mighty good restaurants, bars, and fine cigars.

The western kick to the cultural mix in Fort Worth makes it one of my favorite cities in the country. There's just nothing quite like it.

I think it's about time I visited the rodeo again.

It's been too long.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Me, myself, and I

When my eldest son was about 7 or 8 years old, he fell down and scraped his knee. Somehow, a strand of grass became encapsulated under the skin and it took surgery to remove it. (At the time, medics had no idea what was in the bump. They only knew that he had to be absolutely still while they removed it.)

This was in the 1970s, and the law then said you did not have to give your Social Security number to anybody, any time. As a matter of fact, requiring the
Social Security number was against the law.

However, hospitals had already begun using it as a convenient check to make sure two persons by the same name didn't get mixed up in the records. I understood what they were trying to do. I refused to give them my number, citing the law. Probably because it WAS the law, my son did get his surgery, and I didn't have to give them my number. Or his. Also, 30 years ago, megalithic corporations were not so common.

I do not want to live in a cave in the mountains of Idaho, and I believe those that do carry privacy too far. They and I, however, would agree on certain aspects in a conversation.

One reason I do not want a smart phone is the excessive opportunity for privacy invasion it presents. I am cautious about what I say on Facebook because I know that I am being tracked. Laws have changed, so my social is widely used today. It worries me some. My state doesn't link driver's licenses and car tags, and I wonder if those states have more identity theft or white collar crime. I would not say I am paranoid. I do think people who surrender privacy because they "have nothing to hide" are ingenuous, another word for stupid.

I interviewed two computer scientists who consulted all over the country on firewalls and privacy issues in the 1980s. They predicted then the hacking problems we are now experiencing. They said the business community didn't want to spend the money on protection, and businesses also saw an advantage to customers having little privacy protection. They said California, Colorado and Florida were states at that time concerned with privacy.

One of the experts told me,"People who would never dream of going through someone else's wallet will get on a computer and get the same information with impunity."

And this was almost 30 years ago.

I am bemused that George Orwell was right, in a way, when he predicted the privacy invasion in "1984". It is just that almost all the invasion is by corporations, not government.

I have a friend who is always getting involved in movements and causes. She used to send me petitions to sign on issues she knew I cared about. I did not sign them. I do believe groups can sometimes affect change, but only with a lot of effort over a long period to get incremental gains. Unfortunately, I am a pessimist who really works on positive attitude. As a result, I tend to act independently more than seek a like-minded group. I have a couple of exceptions in my life.

I am "on the grid" more than I would like, and yes, it has made life more comfortable. I do get a bit testy at social expectations of who I am as "a grey-haired grandmother." You seldom see men my age identified as "a grey-haired grandfather," though I have seen it once or twice recently. Wonder how THEY felt?

One of my resolutions this year is to become more technically nimble. It will enrich life and allow me to do some things that currently either stop or slow me considerably. I will continue to research, read, and listen to information on how to live in the 21st century with at least more than a modicum of privacy.

Someone recently told me I was a Luddite. Oh, I'm not one. But I get along surprisingly well with people who are.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

We all change, and we all remain ourselves

The background music was pleasant in the Chinese restaurant I visited recently. As I mused the decades old question of whether Jello has survived in large part because of the dessert tray at Chinese restaurants, I suddenly tuned in on the lyrics of the music so sweetly playing. The two singers were warbling in gentle harmony about how deeply they hated one another, and some four-letter words were used. I was one of only a few eating alone, and I doubt anyone else noticed. I just happened to tune in, because I hadn't been really listening, either. The song segued into another really pretty song. I returned to my Jello squares.

I'm not horrified, I'm commenting: not so many years ago, the lyrics would not have been sung in a family restaurant. Technology is part of the change, because music is accepted as something that is always there today. We notice silence, but not the musical background. In my lifetime, live music led to records, then to tapes, then to intercoms in stores and everywhere. Few of us perform. All of us are surrounded by some kind of music continuously.

What is accepted has changed dramatically, partly due to the old television. The time when adult entertainment and family entertainment were separate arenas has blurred despite the attempts at movie ratings. We continue to try to have some basic laws and rules to make the general community more pleasant and healthy for our children. A lot of rules, customs and laws have changed, and the music in the restaurant was just one incident. The computer, then Wi-Fi and cell phones, have made some huge differences. I think we are on the threshold of some more that will make this year, these times, look archaic in a very few years. Human society will be adapting and fitting these new discoveries into our everyday lives. How will it go?

The enforced communality in a growing, enormous population has been a factor in professionals debating whether being an introvert, or having symptoms of the same, ought to be included in the psychologist's diagnostic manual as a disorder needing treatment. Extroverts thrive on people around them. Is that the healthiest life? More people in the United States live alone today than ever before. They may communicate on social media or play computer games, but they may not spend much face time interacting with other people. So the experts debate. It is indeed a world that could not have existed before.

Boundaries are becoming a skill less taught, it seems to me. Many of these boundaries deal with families, where boundaries have always been iffy. But I have read a lot of articles and books on parenting becoming more about pleasing the child, teaching fewer consequences, and drawing out dependence on parents longer and longer. I know, working with kids as I do every week, that children in my state are being "taught to the test"--being taught the answers they are expected to regurgitate. When I ask for conclusions on how one piece of information links logically to something else, I am stunned that many can't make the connection. They haven't been taught to think or surmise. So the parents, I, and other adults, try to do some of this in extracurricular activities. It largely works. Over time.

An older woman I know has convinced her grown children and their children to have a weekly family meal with her. She insists that everyone leave their cell phones at the door. Her family, she says, has had difficulty doing that. That rather surprises me since my own family simply ignores phones during a meal unless someone is on-call. If not business, however, the person disengages quickly and firmly. It CAN be done. The fault, as I say, is not technology but ourselves.

Funny. When a pedophile downloads child porn on his computer, we don't blame technology. We blame him. Or her. But when someone calls us during a meal, and we disrupt the meal to talk,it's technology's fault. Huh.

It is true I don't have a jillion people to talk to, but I wonder frequently who all these people are talking to as they walk along, one arm bent as they hold a phone to their ear. And when they shop doing that, are they as efficient? Or is the task of shopping so low-key that it can be accomplished without difficulty as they talk? Are they ever alone? Do they even notice the larger world they live in? or do they live only within the perimeter of their city neighborhood? Do they ever see the stars? Humans need to see stars. Stars are a heavy lesson, if we will learn, that we are not so big and important, and our planet, big to us, is only a speck in the overall picture.

Gives me perspective.

People argue about climate change. The oil and gas people go on as if their product will never end. Society changes almost everywhere. We live here, and society is changing a lot. I change too.

But however I change, and whatever I do, it is not the fault, probably not even the product, of technology.

It is on me.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Let's cheer for happy chickens

I am grateful to the state of California for a new law: egg-laying chickens must be allowed more room than simply living a life in a box too small to turn around in. The chicken must have enough room to stretch its legs, even to move about a bit. Not much, but some. My understanding is that the beaks are still blunted, but the chicken has a little more quality of life, as it were. One assumes this could possibly mean healthier chickens for healthier eggs. Not sure about that.

I just know that if we used to promote milk from contented cows--we possibly still do--I also want my eggs from happy chickens. Happier, at least.

McDonald's got publicity a few years back for buying their eggs from farms that allow more humane living conditions for the hens. It cost the company more, and I have no idea if the policy still is in place. At least for awhile, though, my guilt over an egg-sausage biscuit was over the grease and calories, not the misery of the chickens providing said eggs. And oh, yeah, pigs don't have much of a life, either.

But back to the eggs. From time to time I can buy days old fresh eggs from a neighbor, and I do so. As someone who grew up with free range chickens in the pen not far from our kitchen, I can taste the difference, and for baking? they whip about a third to twice as high. Usually, though, I can buy only a dozen at a time, and they are apt to be different sizes. For a lot of baking, I go ahead and buy eggs at the store, even though they are weeks older. I pay to get the ones stamped "cage free", and hope that is true.

Information about commercial standards for chickens has been available for awhile, but not really in the news for a number of years. The California law was touted on the news, however, as somehow amusing and unnecessary-coupled, in fact, with the law banning selfies with tigers. I suspect that law also was aimed at humane treatment of animals. I don't know.

I do know a lot of people care about puppies and kittens, which they see, and are largely indifferent to animals they don't see. The United States overall has pretty good laws on cleanliness, clean quarters, decent diet for agricultural animals. We still struggle with humane practices.

Maybe you just have to know a chicken or two. I knew a six-year-old girl with a pet chicken with soft, soft feathers who followed her around like a dog, and roosted in a rather ornamental pen the hen had in the house. She was as fun to pick up as a big teddy bear, and she would nestle in your arms. Most chickens I know simply sing that contented cluuuck-cluck cluck tune as they walk around in sunshine and eat weeds and old cabbage leaves we throw in the pen. Do factory chickens ever cluck in contentment? Do they crow when they lay an egg? I don't know. Maybe they do.

I have a lot of I don't knows here. I do know I want the most kindness possible shared by my fellow humans with the rest of the life around us. I believe the most kindness possible is good for us and the earth itself.

Is this new law a kindness? Sincerely, I hope so.

Guiltless eggs taste so much better.