Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Great Expectations

How do I say this?

I never set out to be a "sweet woman." It still sounds vaguely cloying. Like candy. We all know candy isn't strong. It crumbles. It doesn't nourish. It's just...sweet.

Over time, however, I've met some incredibly sweet men and women. Not a one of them have been weak. On the contrary. They have dealt with difficult people, heartbreaking events in their lives, and managed to see good anyway. They can be amazingly patient. They can stick to their goals and responsibilities.

When you are with them, you just feel a sort of safeness. They can be funny, even bawdy, but you aren't on guard waiting for the zinger. It isn't coming. Oh, they can suffer. They can get angry. They just don't destroy with it. They don't smash things or people. And they never blame a child for a grownup reaction.

They aren't doormats. And negativity is something they simply step away from, because for them, it just doesn't reasonate.

Most are fairly quiet persons, because they are the listeners, not the talkers. They have great smiles. Many give great hugs.

I sometimes suffer negative vibes, wanting to snarl and complain. More and more, these times feel like a particularly nasty virus that feels really icky. (To me, icky implies sticky, nasty bad. Putrid.) It can last awhile. Depends on me.

To be really negative takes a tremendous amount of self-centeredness. You really have to get into the zone where no one else really matters. That's pretty sick. We do it. Sometimes.

But the people I think are really sweet--I don't catch them doing this. They don't stew over negative people or events. They also don't spend unnecessary time around them. Sometimes you have to deal with a negative person because he or she is the boss. That's tough. It's also survivable.

I never aspired to be sweet. I'm beginning to mature enough to find it a really healthy, fun way to live when I do it right.

I laughed to myself yesterday, mulling this in my mind. I am not sure I have said what I want to say yet.

But I think I am jusssst about ready to wear big girl panties.

Monday, May 27, 2013

How do we see the world?

You know, sometimes I wonder about the words written thousands of years ago, in one culture, read thousands of years later in another.

I don't question often but how's this: I live in desert country, the Southwest. We consider most rains a blessing.

In Job, we hear the rain falls on the just and the unjust. How many in the Western world blame the rain? How many in the dry climates bless it? Funny; One reality. Many ways to interpret.

Sometimes, what we need is inherent, we see the need immediately.

This seems to me a struggle in spiritual leadership.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Recognizing A Civilization That Works Through Honest Sacrifice

Today, the preacher asked all those who had served in the Armed Services, had family members serve, stand up. There were a quantity.
I sat.

None I know of in my family have ever gone to war or even served in the Armed Forces.

We are patriots.

Memorial Day when I was a kid was when all families went to the cemetery and cleaned up and left flowers from the garden. In my town, the mulberries were ripening, and we kids would climb the trees, eat the berries and what we didn't eat, zing at each other.

I was the surviving child of three my parents had to nurture. They lost two.

I thought Memorial Day meant we all remembered all our dead. I had good parents. I still was highly conscious of dead siblings. Memorial Day was almost a balm, when we took flowers to the brother and sister I never would know. Never did. But they were there. I had no idea Memorial Day didn't honor them at all. Not for years.

I agree we should applaud dead soldiers.

I still am surprised we have no day of remembrance in society for the people we all have lost. As a kid, I thought the day included my dead brother and sister. No. No day does.

I am so glad for our heroes.

They do deserve recognition.

After Pearl Harbor, my dad was too old. Everyone was applying. He got into war bond efforts. I understand my county had some stellar amounts, thanks to my dad. He helped. He worked. He was not in battle. He helped pay for it.

In 100 years or more, both sides, I know of no one in my family who has ever served.

I used to apologize. But. Without the war bonds my dad sold, the war could not have continued. Without the victory garden he planted, many might have gone hungry. My mother taught students her course but also, often, how to survive. She lost two children and reared me. And gave my family so much laughter.

I treasure the heroes we recognize. In my heart, as well, I also am giving tribute to those we never recognize, the ones who also keep us going.

You may be one of them.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What Cost This Tragedy?

Serendipity is currently my friend today.

I planted vegetables way late. I was cringing. BUT. planted them the day after a big rain. The day after I watered. Yesterday and today we have had three more gentle rains.

I know when my kids were growing up, it seemed sometimes they grew an inch in a week. Considering how tall both ended up, maybe they did, but now, I am looking at vegetables and flowering plants and vines.

With the rains, they all are bigger every day. Really. Wonderfully.

So far the dogs have not lept in and dug them up in the raised bed. This year, I put the short wire fence inside the timbers of the bed, making it a more challenging leap. I also took care to make sure the tomato cages had a tine facing the outside. It's only five days. We'll see.

Last night, we had a mild rain that kept coming through the leaves, tinkling in the birdbath. Early yet, so sleepy calls from some birds in the dark. It was fragrant, musical, comfortable (70s) and wonderful.

I wished then for all those who have gone through horrific storms this week to heal to the sweet, rhythmic drip of the rain, distant and gentle rumble of thunder, and the sweet percussion of leaves brushing in a gentle breeze.

There will be trees again, grass, flowers, even vegetables. Houses will sprout again, businesses regrow.

\When I was a child in New Mexico, I remember the forest fires that destroyed so many acres. For years, it was black ash. Finally scrub oak. Then pinon, and now,50 years later, finally pines are beginning to grow again. It will take another lifetime.

With the tornadoes, times are different. They rebuild more quickly. How is Joplin doing?

I can't remember how many died in Joplin. Can you? My God. 158 deaths, more than 1,100 injured. I googled.

My blog has taken a twist, because I also decided to mention the F4 tornadoes that obliterated so much of Wichita Falls, Tx., April 10, 1979.

I remember that so well. I had just left journalism. I seem to remember there were three tornadoes, only a few miles long, more than a mile wide, F4. I verified all that. What I found eerie is that as I researched, I found costs, devastation photos, economic impact statements. I googled "death toll, 1979 Wichita Falls tornado" but even that didn't get me to the information until the fourth try.

They lost 42, more than 1,000 injured.

I am a little shaken.

So. Apparently we build some better. We have better alerts.

Maybe. Hope so.

I know I'm not a business person. Always have known that. But when I research death tolls for fairly recent events and get the money cost easily and the human deaths only with effort--oh.

Things are worse than I thought.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Life music, not tech perfect music

Tonight it rained.

Lightly, in slow, large and chilly drops across an eager, growing landscape.

The dogs and I sat on the screened front porch. They fell asleep.

I listened to the wind on the leaves. A distant train whistle. A lonely mockingbird. My own breath, which slowed and sloughed to the movement of the trees.

I quit thinking, and enjoyed the moisture-laden, cooler air on my body, my face. Listened to slow, redolent drops of rain fall from twilight skies. Listened again to almost quiet thunder, responding to low-wattage lightning, interrupted now and then with a sound like a distant avalanche.

The smells of wet earth, blooming flowers, life all around us is a part.

The daytime sight in my hours' old memory of everything just planted, the roses, the blowing trees, the sleeping dogs...

So peaceful.

I could enjoy this immensely with the addition of my music on reserve, weaving throughout all the sounds and other senses.

That makes sense. To have the beauty of the sound and be aware of your surroundings, not out of fear, but out of joy.

But you youngers. You choose Mc-3 players--do I say it right-- where you plug in and hear nothing else but your music.

Tonight would have been great for Tchaikovsky, Willie Nelson, blues, rock. Anything. But you youngers.
You don't want the trash of outside noise.

I don't hardly know what you are talking about. I'm not sure you can get to the soul without the surroundings.

I love my music, the art of it. But I would not love it nearly so well except for the life and heart of it. I have to hear it in my life, not purified in my head.

I don't know. Maybe you are more complicated. I think it would be good if you took a while,now and then, and chilled, on a porch, thinking nothing, speaking to no one, and just listened.

To everything.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I will say nothing, and love you with my eyes

With all this internet access, sometimes people are more eager than they should be to show everything. I mean, Everything. Clear up to what great-uncle Edward did with the upstairs maid 75 years ago.

In many cultures, older persons are accorded wisdom. Sometimes, even among Anglos.

As one of those older persons now, I smile, and show my dentured teeth.

What old people know, and young people don't get, is that wisdom is not what you say.

Wisdom is how I listen to you.

Wisdom is not dumping the info I already have on the recipient.

Wisdom is not triangulating the information, and if you don't know what that is, you probably are doing it. It's when your mother tells your Aunt Doris what a failure you are and Aunt Doris tries to get you to speak more respectably to your mother. And you try to get your boy friend to tell your mother it isn't true.

I am not often wise, but sometimes I am. I listen. I keep my mouth shut. I used to give advice. Now I just listen, try to give a little love, and let life happen.

I think I have stumbled on the definition.

Wisdom is loving, trying to understand and sometimes succeeding, and saying nothing. With a loving smile.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

In Search of the Holy Kale

This is a great time for these thoughts. Vegetables.

I know, I know, doesn't twang many of your chords, but hey, a lot of you get all excited at "baseball." That's in season, too, and a free ticket to the ball park does about as much for me as "kale chips" do for you.

Yeah. Kale chips. Turns out we have many and varied cultures in our country.
Apparently, kale chips have been around forever. I didn't know.

I am so ashamed. Technology? I'm not so hot. Veggies? Usually pretty good.

I know what kale is. I'm trying to welcome it into my life. It has so much calcium, and my body needs that.

I actually love spinach. Love the taste, the flavor, all the things you can do with it....I love broccoli--would you believe I have two grown sons who still eat the stuff? I love cabbage, seldom with fatback and never cooked till it is mushy white, but always still green when finished. (One of my sons came home from school one day after buying his lunch for a change. He said he understood why his friends hated cabbage because the whitish green stuff in the cafeteria was yucky." It's supposed to be green," he said with certainty. Such good taste, so young.)

Back to kale. I keep looking for recipes and trying them. It's okay, and I think a problem is I just haven't eaten enough. A younger friend says she makes a salad with fresh kale and cherry tomatoes with Italian dressing. Promising.

I like the recipe I found with long-grain rice and kale, half and half, with chicken broth and spices.

I really like it in vegetable soups.

But until today, hadn't heard of kale chips. Torn leaves, no stems, coated in coconut oil and sea salt. Baked at 325 degrees--about 10 minutes each side until crisp but still bright green. Sounds good. I do have issues.

I am not a fan of sweet potato fries, which so many love, but then, I only like baked sweet potatoes with no salt, black pepper and a little butter or margarine.

I may try these kale chips. My granddaughters, as tots, taught me to eat edemame, and fresh mangoes.

I remember one toddling up with a ripe mango and asking me to "turtle it." (cross-hatches on one side which then can be cut into individual bites.)

"Huh?" I replied then.

Now they sometimes humor me so we can go the yogurt place with mango yogurt and fresh, "turtled" mango slices to go on top. They can do this at home. But they know every now and then,

Grandma needs a treat.

Wonder if kale juice would be noticeable.

Friday, May 17, 2013

An Ordinary Day with Alarms

When tornadoes have been really near, killed people, destroyed communities, you can be a little nervous.

I went outside with my dogs this evening, and my neighbor was outside staring at the trees.

I asked what was wrong.

She said she had seen sparks arcing among the tall trees in back and she didn't know what to do.

I did. I called 911 and described her witness.

Fire truck was out immediately. They called the energy company.

I didn't know what would happen. An hour later, the energy company was there.

We have had a lot of nasty weather south of here a few tens of miles. You know, in Texas, if it is within 100 miles, it is close. So we COULD have weather. Not likely.

I called. I peeked out afterwards to see no fires developed.

I keep thinking I failed as a good neighbor and it dawned. I know little more about her because how can you be neighbors without knowing each other? She's new. The homeowner is out of town. I did give her help, whether or not the help she wanted. It was the best help I knew.

I think I was a good neighbor. I tried to be.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pretty can be any age

I was married for 16 years.

I've been single for 30.

Probably a reason for that.

Initially, I was in a rural neighborhood. I was growing two boys, in graduate school, working fulltime. I understood that. Worked somewhere around 60 hours a week most of the time. Just got into the habit of single.

Let's skip to the present. I live alone. I have family next door. Neither of us are intrusive. That's why it works. My daughter-in-law suggested it when the home became available. I will always be puffed-up proud for that. They do things for me. My son, quite tall, changes the filter which is in my ceiling. As I age, they probably will do more. Now I can help with two grandkids and three times the activities. It makes me feel like I pay back. I feel a part of family.

I see the benefit of people who have lived together decades. It is lovely. I wish I could have had that. I don't and what I do have is wonderful. I have family, community, things to do, times to prop up my feet up and do nothing. These are good things.

Those of you who are younger do not understand. I didn't either. As we age, more and more, we need community and help. Good Lord, I'm not helpless or near it. It is just as we age, I think for most of us, the more we treasure family and community. A well-worn marriage of decades is such a comfortable living. It is sweet, to be savored. I treasure that.

I don't envy anyone.

I treasure that I understand more than I did. I am happy in my little house, with my dogs, and my son's house next door and the other son close by.

There is a difference. As I age, I see it. Youngers need to be aware of it.

I never knew I would grow whiskers I have to take off on my chin with tweezers. No one told me. Yuk. It happens.

Today, a man in a longsleeved shirt and matching tie checked me out at the grocery. And as he finished, he said, "There you go, young lady."

It set me off, though I was polite. Tried to be.

"Well," I said, "we have a problem because I don't like to be called that."

Noone behind me, so we visited. He told me his mother had always told him to say that. She was high maintenance, he said admiringly. When I asked, he agreed, she always had immaculate makeup and sprayed hair and a diamond ring or two when she went out, even to the grocery store. He loved that about his mom. He loved her, that was good.

I laughed. "She sounds wonderful but look out for me," I said. "If you see an older woman with no makeup, undyed, unsprayed hair, no jewelry or bling, just guess she doesn't want to be called 'young lady'."

He smiled and said those might be useful clues.

I didn't tell him about the man last night who held the door for me when I was slowly approaching and urged him to go on.

He smiled and said, "I always have time to hold the door for a pretty lady."

Then I felt warmed. I could have reminded him of his Aunt Bea. He didn't offend at all. He was charming. I beamed and said, "Thank you."

I think most women see the difference instantly. Hope the men do.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Why do we want to exterminate the homeless?

I seem to be better at remembering names than I used to be. Every Friday, I hand out food and water to people who are homeless.

I have found I am good at learning one name or the other, and I work on last names. Because when I address those I know by Mr. or Ms., they are respected, and they accept it. So many names I know now. So many I don't. When I have to ask, I feel I am dissing them. Almost all forgive me, because they see I truly am apologetic.

After 8 months, sometimes they tell me a bit. Sometimes they don't. I am getting to know them and bits about them.

I have learned how to winter-proof a culvert on a cold night. I am learning the woods where some live for long periods. I am learning the records that keep many from starting over.

The soup kitchen where I volunteer has many volunteers. I am astonished that most don't want to meet the clientele, only work in the kitchen, provide support, raise funds for them. They find the homeless frightening. Actually, we have many with homes and short resources. We help those, too. A lot are in perfectly normal neighborhoods. We just help them stretch their resources.

And I have misspoken, because many of our voluntee4rs actually are homeless or near to it. They like working for their food. Not many places will let them work. Probably a third of the many volunteers are also "clients".

Walmart, Target, and others send goods. I like knowing that. Stuff, good stuff that is out of date ad otherwise would go to waste, come to the kitchen. Yesterday a volunteer was opining that this was the best place in the world to get fruit salad, because the stores send it at peak ripeness. So we serve the best. Munching on mine yesterday, I agree.

Be proud. Be aware that while 14 agencies are involved, all of us seek federal money in addition to local funds.

I think tea party voters want us to depend entirely on donations. I know government is a big other choice. I know our soup kitchen relies mostly on local funds. Some federal are

In the meantime,I am getting to know and respect people you see, but will never know. Unless you volunteer. I see my people all the time, every where.

Friends tell me restlessly, " Where are these homeless? I never see them."

And I chuckle a little. One just walked by.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mothers Day is a Chance to Honor All Women

Today at the soup kitchen, someone donated live red roses, and someone else donated body wash, I think, in gift sacks for our clients.

And the women were thrilled. They smiled, they beamed. One elderly woman, Hispanic, who speaks so little English, came by and gave me a hug, though I had nothing to do with it. She gave a great hug, and I beamed and hugged her back.

We gave roses and gifts to every woman in the place who would take it.

Some lost their children long ago, or recently. Some have them in poverty. Some were grandparents. Some were single and never had children. All were honored.

I can be a little didactic at times.

"Everyone?" I asked, "whether they really are mothers?"

Yes, I was told. And they were right.

That all the women got something, a living red rose and body wash in a festive sack, I think it mattered.

I have volunteered here for months. I have never heard the contented hum of today, when women were honored here as women, not mothers. Not really. Many have no children, many lost their children, but we can honor them overall as women.

Today was an honoring of women. That they are valued, treasured, deserving of gifts.

It was one of the happiest days I have ever spent.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Women are stronger than most of us are told

I imagine survivor stories may come out of the kazoo. Here is one.

Years ago, I met a talented foster mother, mmmmm, early 30s, loving husband, two beautiful little kids. They fostered--very well, I might add-- teenage girls who had been sexually abused and/or physically abused. These girls are apt to wail, "you don't understand." Except she did. So she had more success than many.

Her real advantage over the foster kids was that she came from a strong family. Foster kids don't. Early on, she was being taught to think cogently and independently. The family moved to Texas when she was 11, in the summertime. She probably had heard of Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. Maybe not. She knew nothing about Texas overall. A few weeks after the family moved to Texas, she was abducted.

She was taken to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. She was allowed to look out the windows, because there were no clues, and many locks. No roads to see. No houses. No people. The man would come periodically, abuse her, leave some food-not much- and leave. He would deadbolt everything. Better than for some abductees--she could shower, and she could see out.

One day about a year later, he left, and he made a mistake. And she got outside. She had enough sense not to go down the drive but cut through a nearby woods. She had no idea where she was, but figured she had to hit a road somewhere. She did. This was rural country, so she could hear cars coming and hide each time one came along. She didn't know where she was going.

She was hot and thirsty when she hit a small town. She went to the police station and identified herself. They didn't believe her. As a matter of fact, I don't think they had heard of her. Finally, it was sorted out. They let her speak to her parents who left immediately for the small town.

She was able to lead law enforcement close enough they found the cottage. I think they caught the guy, but I heard this story almost 20 years ago. What mesmerized me was: she escaped. A 12-year-old, abducted and abused for a year, escaped. And recovered, was leading a valuable life.

I wondered then how many actually escape or are discovered and brought back. Apparently more than we know. I heard on NPR that 38 of every 80 missing children each year get home safe. The odds could be better. Should be.

I think most of us expect death or hopelessness soon after abduction. It simply isn't true. And some, like this hardy woman, brutalized for a year before she saw her escape possibility, simply save themselves.

And with some help, go on living very well.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wishing for the Visuals

I have never wished more I could transport photos to my blog. The impotence is great.
On my Timeline Page, though, is a picture of a fresh red rose across a railroad track.
It was poignant. Probably seminal. My son put it there. He was, let me see, 24 at the time? Yeah. He was. I was 52. Yes, 18 years. The family has put it out there, and all of us remember.

I had the day off from work for a doctor's appointment. He and I were going to have lunch. I drove up to the rented house he had by the university.

He walked out and said, "Tina is dead."

I said, "What?"

He repeated, then added, "A train hit her car."

Again, I said, "What?"

The third time, I comprehended what he was saying.

His best friend's sister had been hit by a train on her way to high school. Three more weeks, and she would have graduated. She wanted to be a doctor.

He said, "I need to go to the house."

I suggested he take some extra clothes. Often he had cared for their home in the past. It was a big house. I could see him staying overnight.

"I need to mow," he said. "Rain is coming. It needs to be mowed."

I drove him there. May 5. Yes, it needed mowing. It was a large property, and he got it done before the storms came.

My son wasn't the only one who knew where the key was. Women were in the house, straightening, polishing. Food was already arriving.

The family is a neat and tidy one. The accident happened before they even could make their bed. They were all at the hospital. Early morning dishabille. The women washed, cleaned, dusted. Not a teacup went unplaced. This was an active, loved family in the community. They did many things. They still do. We didn't know what was happening, but we all wanted to help. And the girl was in ICU in a coma. Not good.

I went to my doctor's appointment, came back and started a phone and food log. I came back, did the same, put out food and washed dishes, for three more days. I met family members who still mean a lot. Sometimes we laughed over bubbles in the sink, because this was a community experience, not only a death.

In the late afternoon,May 5, Tina was decreed brain dead. Her organs went to at least nine persons. That was the night of the huge, softball size, hailstones in the area. The parents walked out of the hospital's glass-roofed atrium only a half hour before
hail would destroy it. They were out of the danger zone before the hail started falling.

Rain and hail fell hard. I drove through flooding to get home. There were four days of heavy mourning. This was the first.

On the second, a man they didn't know graveled their dirt (post-storm mud) driveway so people could get in and out. They had never met him. On the second and the third days, so many brought food, did any chores, offered help. Fourth day was the funeral.

The parents have so far met a number of the recipients of their daughter's last gifts.

The recipient of her liver came to my son's wedding later. We were so glad to welcome him.

This was in no way a turning point. I say that, but that is probably not true. It was meaningful, for sure. These four days, however, are so important to all of us that shared them. This young girl saved the lives, changed the lives, of many by her death. Much good occurred...for one thing, there are crossing bars now over the road and track that killed her.

I wish you could see the metal train tracks, with a fresh red rose, lying over one track, another train coming any moment. The rose is so fragile, and fresh. The track, so implacable. My son put it there. I am sure he cried sometime. I never saw him. He took the rose, and placed it on the track, with no one watching. I wish I knew how to show you.

Maybe, since I cannot show you, it will not make you cry.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Something is making more of our kids sick

I heard a report today that food allergies and skin disorders, especially eczema, are up 50 per cent in the US. One in 20 kids has food allergies, one in eight has skin disorders--rashes, flaking, etc.

The kicker is, this is supposedly happening only in the United States. Not Europe, Asia, Canada, South America. Only here. They don't know why. Or what to do about it.

One suspect is the larger amount of genetically altered grains and vegetables here. Well, it is worth considering. I would want to look at the chemicals we use to grow our crops as well. Or the elements we put in our products.

My youngest granddaughter figured out the soap at school was making her hands break out and hurt, so she has started carrying a sliver of soap she knows suits her. She still washes her hands. Her hands don't hurt.

I used to get really enthused about altering natural plants to do something else. I love my Earthkind Knockout rose, for instance, that makes a big, flowering shrub and is insect and disease resistant. Lovely.

I am more cautious about what I eat today. I think a lot of us are doing that. We want fresh produce grown in our own area. As I can afford it, I buy organic meats. (can't afford too many, unfortunately.) I have access to fresh eggs from chickens that run around eating bugs and weeds and vegetable scraps as well as their feed. I don't know if this makes a difference. Seems reasonable to expect it.

We live in a complex world where much is new and exciting, and much is long-tried and enduring. Had a doctor tell me once my sons would probably fare better because I couldn't afford pre-packaged food full of preservatives. I cooked from scratch. Could the preservatives do it? The lining on our canned goods?

Air pollution is world-wide. No answer there. Could our bodies develop problems because so many kids don't get enough exercise? Could be. The body plant doesn't work nearly so well without exercise. American kids mostly get less exercise than kids in other countries.

But something we are doing is different from all the others, and it is making more of our children sick than ever before.

Hope we find out what.