Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Real Conflicts Behind A Family Christmas Holiday

I am dangerously close to going to the Dark Side and getting some sacks for my Christmas gifts.   It would say something I don't want said about my character.

See, there are fresh tree, artificial tree or no tree factions.

There are Christmas Eve opening presents and Christmas morning.

There's even Christmas Eve church service or forgedaboutit.

Let's see. Do you switch holidays with in-laws, if married? Do you go elsewhere or they come to you?

Do you spend the holiday alone and see the family on the closest weekend or? A,B, or C?

I was in line the other day with several rolls of wrapping paper that were now $1 each. The woman behind me and I shared Christmas cheerfuls.

She commented on the wrap, and I responded, "In our family, we wrap."

She nodded, in instant rapport. "Us, too. We had a new daughter-in-law who thought she would introduce those SACKS!  We changed her mind right quick! The daughter-in-law we've had for a while set her straight!"

And we both laughed wicked laughs.

And I thought, "What am I DOING?"

That was two days ago. I think, if I get these three hippopotamus-sized ones wrapped, I can tackle the others. But not now. no.

I'd rather write this.

Looking over the list of conflicts--and I never got to bread or cornbread dressing? Giblet or cream gravy?Sweet potatoes or russet (and I swear there's an Eastern seaboard movement to make us have to eat sweet potatoes! Yuck!)?  Skip traditional and we'll do what? Sushi? Brunch? Tamales? Rosemary chicken?  I remember one Thanksgiving we had fresh quail and grilled steak, rare. That was nice.

But those packages just sit there. Waiting.

I can procrastinate no longer. I Must Cut Paper and Use Cellophane Tape and Write Labels.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

It isn't Hardship till You Know What's Missing

For me, the next few days are fearsome.

My house has an inadequate heating system. Tomorrow will be in the 60s.

But tomorrow night, the temperature plummets to the teens.
I am semi-prepared.

We had a harder, longer coldspell in 2013.  My heat ran 24/7 and still kept the house at only 50 degrees. I have bought a space heater, a good one, and hope it will help.

My dogs are Corgis. They have an undercoat. They will love it. Me, not so much.

Yes, yes, I've had it all looked at. I own this home, as of a few years ago. Updating costs more than I want. I don't want the electric bill, but it is only one month.

This month. December.


This hasn't happened in 3 years. I now have a space heater, which I didn't then. The cold spell will be a test of my new system.

We Americans. We wimp too much.

At my age, I can remember going to bed with a hot water bottle too hot to touch with my feet and not daring to move, because the next morning, if I moved my feet, the sheets were icy, with 3-4-5 blankets weighing me down.

But I hadn't known any better then.

We can live in hardship every day and smile and laugh and live.

It isn't hardship until something we didn't want to lose goes missing.

Then it is really hardship.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How do we Live and Let Live?

People love rules. People love breaking rules.  In both instances, the effort seems to be aimed at achieving  a more comfortable existence.

 I have been wondering lately, as I observe both myself and the rest of you, what are the factors that make a society what it is or becomes or is becoming. How do we fit in with one another?

And when I look at myself, I am glad I have a memoir written by my great, or maybe great-great grandfather on his life in the New World, the family's push west, his desire to contribute to the communities he lived in. I inherit some of that, and it is both nature and nurture, I think, that molds that part of me. We do, mostly, what we know.

Society, however, continues to confound me. We have thrown away so many customs. And yet we cling to the strangest civilities.

Young families in general no longer eat at the table and talk about their actions and thoughts together. They may do that on trays watching tv together, or they may do it in families where parents have the kids pitch in on the chores. Sometimes they do that in the car, although more likely, they will be on their phones if not driving, or listening to music.

Only in rural communities do you have the chance of developing lifelong friends in school. In communities that are growing, kids are in different classrooms each year and get a lunch break only with their own class. A best friend last year eating with another classroom group isn't allowed to come eat with you, or continue the friendship at school.  More freedom comes in higher grades, but that also means more lunchroom times.  My granddaughters have had lunch half-hours that began as early as 10:30 a.m. (they were starving when school got out) or as late as 1:30 p.m.  For some reason, probably control issues, they don't get a whole hour.  My granddaughters have chosen lunch items based on how quickly they can eat them and allow for a possible potty break and/or time to actually wash their hands.

We have experimented with acknowledging everyone for participating School districts have in some instances withheld trophies, and even letter grades in the name of self-esteem. This clashes with pride in achievement.  On the other hand, kindness so often is not taught, except as not bullying. Children are no longer taught to say thank you.  I do notice which high school graduates call, e-mail--and most still actually write notes--when I gift their graduations. I take note. The ones who are taught to respond, even reciprocate with kindnesses to others, seem to move ahead with more ease. Certainly with more grace.  They have better chances for a good life.  Don't parents see that? Maybe they don't know. 

We talk about good manners between the sexes, and I don't think many of those rules have changed overmuch from my girlhood more than half a century ago. Why?  I can understand a woman my age still enjoying the opened doors, the careful seating, the little touches of love to one another.   For us single elders, not relevant, often as not.  It mostly depends on who can move more easily. Sometimes women help old men.

As a longtime single woman, I interact with men in volunteer activities I belong to, or in the occasional neighborhood or church activity where I come alone and the men come with their wives.
The only single men I know socially are in their 80s, and widowed. At their ages, they don't eat much, so it doesn't matter if we have a potluck get-together and they don't bring anything. Although, sometimes, they do.

The social life of married couples has nothing at all to do with most single women.  Exception: women of wealth, or political clout, or positions of authority.  I just realized last night I cannot remember when I last walked down a sidewalk with a man socially, but it certainly was a decade or more ago. Society doesn't work that way.  And except in cities, we don't have many sidewalks!

It came up because I was surprised some women still appreciate a man who walks alongside between the woman and the street. I thought that had long ago fallen by the wayside, and for younger women, it probably has.

I am surprised that in most marriages, both parents still expect the wife, exclusively, to be the one to take off work if the kids get sick.  My former husband and I shared sick child care. But he was, largely, a feminist.

I have been bemused in recent years that the fact that one is an introvert is being examined as possibly an aberrant trait. I got a peek at why on a recent cruise.

With 5,000 on board, and 12-14 decks, only on the third level could I gain access to outside doors that put me on an open deck,  five or ten feet from the rail and maybe 18-20 feet above the water. It became my sanctuary, a place where I could go sit, write (I will copy some of it for blogs later) and just watch the sea, the sky, the horizon. It was warm, and breezy. I could smell the ocean. I could hear it. I could sit there for an hour and not see more than 10-20 people. Some came to smoke. Some wanted to show their kids the ocean. They would stand at look for a minute or two and go back inside, into all the activities and music, and shopping and business that was a totally enclosed city, except for the Lido deck, where they could swim and sun within enclosed walls.

I went on some excursions to explore the places where we stopped. I shopped a little. I walked and walked. My roommate and I visited, sometimes ate together, and her family group of 9 plus me always ate dinner together and discussed our day.  It was so very pleasant.

I needed that outside deck, with the vastness of sea and sky to soak up. It made my trip worth it.  The ship rocked me at night like a cradle. I slept so very well.

I don't think it is my ego talking. I do observe quite well. I  have, quietly and steadily, been living my own life for years. Slowly I have made minute changes from the norm. I learned on this cruise I am indeed an individual who enjoys so many cultures and subcultures in life, fitting for awhile now here, now there.
The only culture I am absolutely true to, however, is the one I live in when I close the front door and throw the lock. Gracie and Brody, I could say, know me best.

Years ago,someone asked me why I question so many actions and ideas, and accept others without question. I still don't know the answer, but I know when I don't question, my comfort level is high. What I question usually rubs some pointy place on my personality, on my ownself. That goes back to being an individual fingerprint on the world, perhaps.

 I am still asking, "I wonder why this doesn't seem to fit."   I find it vastly entertaining to contemplate.

Pearl Harbor Day Celebrates Survival When We Knew Clearly Who The Enemy Was

I was born two years after Pearl Harbor. We did not have the "todo" over Dec. 7 in my childhood. True, no television, but so many alive to march and wave the flag. Apparently, they didn't want to. They might do something on Veteran's Day.  I think back then, so many actually lived through it, they didn't want any more.

Certainly, on Memorial Day at the cemetery, I don't remember much made of it.

The last survivors are getting more and more publicity. It seems to me, more each year. Still, these last survivors need to be remembered.

Did you know Dec. 7 isn't a national holiday? It's Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and it was established in 1994.

No wonder so little was made of it in my childhood and youth. We had Veteran's Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July that sufficed until then.

Is it my imagination?

Seems to me the urgent commemoration has increased since Sept. 11, 2001.

Fewer died back then. And many were soldiers, even if not in combat. We declared war on Japan AFTER Dec. 7, 1941.

On that day, 2,403 died.   1,178 were injured.
And we knew who our enemy was. Japan.  Their planes attacked American ships in Hawaii.

Now Japan is a nation we trust and trade with. History makes changes.

On Sept. 11, 2001, our own passenger planes were used to destroy the World Trade Center Buildings in New York and damage the Pentagon.

2,996 died, 6,000 were injured.  If passengers had not caused one passenger plane to crash, our own fighter aircraft would have had to destroy it with innocent citizens on board. I have always been so grateful to the heroes on that plane.

But we didn't have the luxury of an enemy nation.  We had an enemy most of us had never heard of.

I'm a news junkie. The name Osama bin Laden was totally unknown to me.

We still have that vague, amorphous, constantly changing, constantly more cruel enemy, we still deal, worldwide.  Safety is a remembered concept.

The fight has sometimes been a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not in reparation so much as for future safety and peace.

The fight doesn't seem to go well.

It took more than 50 years to make Pearl Harbor  an official Remembrance Day on the official US calendar. 

What we decide to do about Sept. 11, 2001, can surely wait awhile to decide.

Dec. 7, 1941, was truly a day of infamy. We knew our enemy, we fought them, we won--horrifically, but, at the time, truly just--and we have all recovered and gone on.

I just wonder if our attention today is a clinging to a way of warfare and life we understand and could and did recover from. I wonder if it is indeed a day of comfort when we compare it to Sept. 11.

And I wonder if life will ever be remotely the same.

Friday, December 2, 2016

When Old Women Get Militant

I once started a poem that got stalled on, " I have a life...I don't know where it's going yet."

I wrote that 40 years ago, and I still don't know. It still seems interesting.

Oh, I can set goals and even achieve them. I've made minor marks on the world. I'm glad for them.
But how do I deal with .....THIS?

Trump isn't Hitler.

But what is going to happen to the world, to my country? What already has happened?  We are divided in a way not seen in more than a century. And we face real world challenges we have not had before.

It makes me itch when people talk about "the world" and don't include anything but our own specie. There is so much more world out there.

Fifty years ago you could have an abortion in a much more judgmental society and you wouldn't automatically be assigned to Hell, if it exists.  In the 60s, when unwed pregnancies were anathema, I volunteered in a major public hospital 8 hours a week in the emergency room. I was 22. Innocent as dirt. My day was 3-11 on Mondays.  Mondays are quiet in emergency, generally.  I still remember those girls, those women, coming into emergency with septic infections from coathanger abortions, screaming for their mamas. They were all colors. Truth to tell, mostly white.

I live in a state where abortions are legal, but pious Republicans have made it so difficult, many can't either get to a clinic or afford it. I mean--if you have to go 300-600 miles to the clinic, what do you do?  Today, there's not the shame. But if your man leaves you pregnant, you already have two pre-schoolers and now you need to step up? and there's NO free daycare, forget about that. Texas is being looked at because since the legislature banned Planned Parenthood, essentially, since 2011, our death rates for women one year postpartum has skyrocketed. No problem here, says  our legislature. Only good health care here.

Sorry. I'm free-choice, including abortion. And I don't think it's Biblical. And I'm a church lady. And I prepare communion for my church every Sunday. 

And I believe in a healthy land for my grandchildren and their grandchildren.

And here's what I am doing currently. I am not listening to what ifs. I am evaluating the done sos. That isn't particularly comforting, but life can change.

I am, right now, saying what I believe, and I will follow it.

I'm not going to waste time arguing. I don't have the energy.

But if I can help, if I can do, if I can try to make a difference, I will.  I don't know how my great-great grandchildren will fare. But they at least deserve my trying to make it better for them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

When You Never Know Your Parents Past Childhood

When I was a young teenager, the record shop on Main St. piped out a record I loved, and then bought for my father for Christmas.  We had a record player, always, and we had a lot of jazz and classical music. Some show tunes.

I still buy people I love the things I also love. I was so sure my dad would enjoy this record. But he didn't. He was in his 20s in the 1920s. It seemed his style. But he opened the present, he smiled at me, you know, that social smile? and I don't know that he ever played it.  I did, so he heard it.

He died when I was 19, so I will never know why he didn't like it. As I age, I am beginning to realize how thoroughly I was orphaned to lose my father at 19, and basically lose my mother at 23.  They got me through to what I thought was adulthood, but I realize now I never had the adult to adult relationship that should have happened.  They were great parents. They crammed a lot of love into me before they left my life.

"Slaughter on Tenth Avenue", by Richard Rogers. I love it still.

Why didn't he love it?

I will always wonder.

I think I wonder, because I still am hurt that he would think I would buy it for myself and give it to him so I could have it. That worry hit me with the smile. I never got to ask him about it.

Unfinished business. 

(Dad, I did really think you would love it.)

And with Elvis Presley at the time singing, "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog," if he did think I chose it because I liked it, he did think I had hi-falutin' taste.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

On The Groundfloor, Who Are You?

We all have core beliefs we live by. Truly core beliefs.

Recently I have visited with some people I respect and admire. They don't all  share my core beliefs. And that startled me. Because on the surface, we lead similar lives.  Maybe, like me, they go to my church. Maybe we volunteer together.  Maybe we volunteer at a school function together.

That their core beliefs differ doesn't change my liking or respect.

And we ARE similar.

I have discovered that to feel good about myself, I have to do certain things. I am old enough by now to realize other people can be really good friends and not have those same compulsions.

I hope I will get some responses here.

Yesterday I was visiting with a woman who grew up as a Jehovah Witness. She told me, and I hadn't known this, that they do not believe in voting. That literally shocked me. I don't think anything on my personal "have to" list will make me better, or more worthy, or even respectable. Some of it doesn't come from my family.

But:  I always thought before
You vote. If you are legally allowed to, you vote. And, by damn, not just in presidential elections. You vote for the city, for the school, and  when taxes come up.  Sometimes you hold your nose. You vote. Now, in my lexicon, you don't have to get active in politics. That's up to you. But every chance you have,

You Vote. And voting is new to her. And after I caught my dropping jaw, we talked more. Wow.

I can't give blood any more because of medication, but I have O Negative, and for years I gave blood every 8 weeks.  Public service. You lie down for a few minutes, and you get juice and cookies. I always walked out feeling righteous. So if you can,

You Donate Blood. And you donate your organs and skin when you die.

For a few years in a tough job trying to help families, I didn't volunteer. But I felt guilty. Somewhere, something you like, kids you like, a cause you like, needs free workers. Find a place you want to work. Then,


You see places where a little cash could make the lives of kids, families, veterans, old people....pick the group. If you don't have the cash, do you have clothes or other stuff?  All you have to do, is take it in and

Donate. Something. Somewhere. I've seen folks at the soup kitchen bring in their garden produce before eating the next meal. Not at all necessary. But they walked so tall after they did it.

There's a lot of room in this for lying and cheating and doing stuff.... well.

I just was startled, that's all. I learned I had some bedrock things I didn't even know were there, but they are.  They help me live.

What are your BedrockValues?

I do have one more. I don't always like to tell the truth. But if you ask me the questions,
I don't lie. Ever.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I Yam who I Yam. Stop Focusing on the Cracks

This is a rant.  Feel free to go elsewhere.

The internet, the instant communication, has many pluses.


One advantage of the years before was that when you lost someone you loved, or whatever, the reminder didn't keep popping up month after month, finally year after year, ad infinitum.

It was a BIG ADVANTAGE. You could go through it. You could hug your friends for years over it, but you went on.  After awhile, while that sorrow, that pain, was a part of you, you could focus on what was good now, and what was going to be good in the future. The pain didn't pop up front and center.

I didn't grow up in the digital age. I didn't even have 4 television stations to watch until I was 11 or 12.  I do appreciate the tapes, the internet.

I don't By God need them to remind me about Sept. 11, or the Kennedy assassination or whatever. I especially don't need to put reminders on Face Book or any other media. If I am ever shot to death and someone wants to hold a Vigil With Candles, I want law enforcement to arrest all of them and charge them with macabre verisimilitude.  And I want that ticket to ban them from any resulting memorial service for me, because I will be cremated.

I have had a good life with some bumps,  A fair number.  But I do not ever want to be remembered for What I Survived. I want to be remembered for my thoughts, my love, my interests--for my life, not my tragedies.

I do not ever want to be remembered for what I lost, though that is a part of who I am. But I certainly hope the bigger part is what I gained, learned and who I loved and still do.

My brother died on my father's lap when he was 31/2 years old and I was less than two. I don't remember him. My parents mourned, and they talked about him, and he was part of their lives. I was their child, though, and they showed me such delight, such nurture and laughter.

What if that dreadful death had been recorded and they could have played it over and over again?

I would not have had the childhood, the life, or the family I now have.

They only needed to go through it once.

They had no choice. You do, unfortunately. What will you do with it?

I would add it to family records for history's sake. I'm not sure. I don't think I would ever go back.

Today, it's your choice. Do you want to remember the pain, full screen, once a year or more? Or do you want to tuck it away in a gentle space you can, but do not have to, go back to.

With  technology comes more choices than we expected.

I hope we make good ones.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Better than nothing; the substitute I wrote after my computer froze

The computer ate my homework. Does that count as writing with adversity?

A lot of professional writers have gone back to writing on typewriters--a Selectric or some such, and I understand why.

Wrote a good blog last night on aging candidates,  the future, health was a really good one. Reread it just a few minutes ago, and I liked it this morning as well. But BlogSpot had frozen. I couldn't save it, publish, nothing.

So I deleted it.  That train of thought has ended and I can't get back on board. I never dreamed that the adversity of creative writing would be the actual loss of my work periodically.  If I am in the middle of what for me is original thinking--even though someone else undoubtedly has thought the same--I don't seem able to stop, save my work, re-enter creative thinking and go on.

It may be a skill I will have to learn.  The frustration of losing last night's work is something I am pushing down and down. I'll take a walk in a bit and let that frustration evaporate with movement.

I am trying to get back to this writing from my personal viewpoint.  There's a kind of rhythm, a music to the words that is satisfying to string together.  It is handwork as surely as carving or sewing, or rolling out piecrust. The piecrust used to be another handcraft of mine, but that skill is gone now. I never carved. I never sewed, except reattaching buttons.

But I have done and still do, write.   The computer freezes intermittently, probably one in ten outings. Negative reinforcement; in other words, the most powerful discouragement.

I woke up this morning, and everything works.  I still have critical thinking in my head.  And I am grateful for that.  With my hands on a keyboard, I still have a voice. Even when my computer sometimes mutes it.

I once started a poem, writing, "My life is a river, strong, and deep, and wet--I don't know where it's going yet."   I never finished the poem past those words because, you know, I didn't know where my life goes. I still don't know, except that it goes on, and it goes forward.

I still am trying to see what is around the bend ahead.

I still want to know.

 That may well be my favorite thing about myself.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

I Already Had An Emergency to Solve; Then Sept. 11 Happened.

Funny, but I am not sure I've ever written it all out. Maybe it took a few years. I know details and chain of events are smudged. I think this is a pretty good combination of emotion, effort at factual recitation, and enough years to try to do both.

The day recalls the reality. The truth unfolded slowly as we attempted to live our normal lives.

I had an important meeting. It wasn't about money or regulations. It was about what I and the State of Texas and CPS was going to do about a mother with three kids under 3 who were temporarily living with a couple of really hands on, interfering Good Samaritans.

And they were good samaritans. If they hadn't taken her in, as part of what they saw as Christian duty and love, she and hers might have been separated with the kids in foster care.

She wanted to pack up her and hers--including an incredible amount of stuff she had gotten from local charities--and head for family in Arkansas, just over the state line. The couple would have to pay for some of it.

It was a life-changing decision and it had to be made today. Otherwise, and maybe anyway, the state of Texas would do its meager best to care for the whole family. And I was very worried.

No matter what, you don't miss a meeting like that.

I got up earlier than usual to drive to the home, about 45 minutes from home. I always listened to Dallas Radio KVIL news and music.

As I dressed, Andy McCollum, news manager, said something about a plane hitting the US Trade Building Tower.

"What was that?" Jody Dean asked. (I remember his saying this after the first crash, not the second. I may be wrong.) My memory says McCollum answered he didn't know, maybe a small plane.

I do remember the small plane comment, but maybe Dean asked "what was that" after the second crash. In Dallas, they still had no information. It was evident something truly bad was going on.

I thought, "terrorists!" But who? From where?  Was I simply panicking?  That unknowing remains a remembered frustration. I wondered if I were simply freaking out.

SOMETHING BAD was happening in New York. I had a family in Denton County to settle. I got in my car and drove. Maybe it wouldn't affect me much, but be something horrible somewhere else.

The third plane hit the Pentagon.

I screamed at my radio. "What is happening?" and I didn't know. I kept driving.

We were under attack. By then I knew that. But I didn't know who was attacking. And that made it even more frightening.

I don't know the sequence when Flight 93 crashed, or we started hearing what happened. Was it before or after the government ordered all planes to land? I think after. Some reports of portable phone messages from Flight 93 appeared. Also the info of scrambled US fighter jets. I drove on a highway parallel to DFW airport and saw some planes land, and I thought, "Those are the last planes I will see in the sky for awhile." And I was right. It would be four days, I think. It was surreal.

 I was a journalist for many years. When I heard about the crash in Pennsylvania, I was not only broken-hearted, but even then, relieved. I wonder if we will ever publically acknowledge these heroes for more than foiling further attack. US fighter jets would have had to destroy them, which would have done irreparable damage to our spirit as a country, but it would have had to be done.

I reached my destination. They let me in, and they had the TV on. The mother was restless, excited with the action, more so when the buildings came down. At that time I feared maybe 50,000 were dead. I saw the people jump. I saw the people run in the smoke and dust. I saw the police and firemen--I guess--I've never heard of a woman on those teams. I watched them almost swagger as they marched in to help, and then to die.

So much more was going on, some I didn't hear for years, like the private boats ferrying people out of the chaos and morass.

For the first time, we had a national catastrophe on television for everyone to see almost from the first minute. It was horrifying. It was riveting.

When the buildings fell, the couple, the mother and I prayed. We choked back our tears. We pulled our socks up, and then we had our meeting. I think, actually, we made some good, rational decisions. All of us were satisfied. By the time I left, it was almost noon.

I stopped by Kentucky Fried Chicken for a take-out order, which I often did. (2 pieces dark meat and cole slaw, iced tea.) The woman I saw so often was there, and I realized what a hard morning I had had, and knew she had too, but she had to keep working all the way through.

For the first time, I asked a personal question.

"Are you okay? " I asked.

"I'm doing all right," she answered, then her face crumpled. "But it's hard, you know?" She shoved my sack over, credited my debit card. I kept eye contact, I nodded. I said,"I know." 
And I watched her pull herself together for the next customer.

Staff without morning appointments had been watching the television in the staff room. They had left to eat.

I sat with my KFC lunch and tea. I ate. And I continued to find out what was going on. If I filled out more agency forms and narrative the rest of the day, I don't remember it.

It was the next day before we had a clue who the enemy was.

Like so many others, I had never heard of Osama bin Laden before, nor Al Quada. When I did, it wasn't real.

We had been attacked, as surely as the bombing of Pearl Harbor. But we didn't know who. We didn't know where they lived or were. We had no idea how to strike back.

The emptiness of it. The sheer tragedy of malignant action with no way to strike back or retaliate.

In the recorded history of the world, did that ever happen before?

I don't think so.

And that made it all the more frightening and frustrating. National leaders handled it well.

President Bush said, "They win if you cower in your homes."

That helped. So we continued to live, and go about.

Maybe we hugged a little more.

I remember Johnny (my ex-husband) insisting that all of us get together for a meal together, crowded into a booth at a local Italian restaurant. He insisted we take the time to celebrate each other, and that we loved each other. While he and I were friendly, this was unusual.

He was right.

One of my sons wrote today it was the single worst day of his life. I thought about it. Was it the worst day for me? Well, not quite.  Because no one I knew personally died. Disaster is extremely personal.
Living in Dallas as a college student when President Kennedy was shot was personal in so many ways. Dallas was affected deeply. I don't remember hearing a single laugh for 3 days.

My father's death when I was 19 was another deep blow. I developed a deep impatience with funeral processions then, looking out the window of the funeral limousine as cars pulled over or tried to get past when we headed for the cemetery. We were a grieving family, and the world was getting larger and more populous. I thought the custom was ridiculously self-important for modern cities.
I have not changed my mind.

Both events greatly changed my expectations from the world, and those changed expectations indeed shaped my life. Sept. 11 horrified, frightened, and grieved me. It did not disillusion me.

That had happened earlier.

This is personal. I am not commentating on the world.


Monday, September 5, 2016

When September Reminds Me I am Rich Indeed

My computer and I have been arguing for months now about this site, but now I can write again.

It is September, when I am most homesick for the New Mexico of my youth.  The mountains are still there, and most of the trees. The skies are still clear. From New Mexico, you can actually see yonder, into the universe. Aside from one atomic bomb explosion, New Mexico hasn't interfered too much with the environment, from what I hear.

We never did have lightning bugs. But I guess you still can see the Milky Way from many chairs in the Tularosa Basin and beyond.

In my childhood, not so many people, and irrigation schedules through the not-too-deep ditches through the population meant we had soft grass to lie on and stare at the moon and stars and that milky pathway in the dark night I learned looked that way from so many, many more stars. If you lay on your back and looked at the sky at night, you did get an idea of exactly how big and important you were in the scheme of things. And you knew, somehow, you still mattered, like the mountains and the trees, the desert and the stars. At least, I did feel that way. I understood the universe was vast, the world was huge, and somehow I was a part of all that.

Apparently, you don't have to live there to experience that oneness with the universe. I will always believe it is easier in New Mexico.

I say "there" because all my adult life, I have lived in North Texas. I have found so much to love in what is, actually, my birth state. But I will always miss the mountains.  It's been a few years now since I have driven that way, but in the past, every single time, several hundred miles from Dallas/Fort Worth when I saw the Davis Mountains, tears would spontaneously spill from my eyes. The first time really startled me.  I expect it these days.  (As I sit here writing, I am about equi-distant to the seashore or the mountains. Either way, it is 600-700 miles. Maybe more. I don't cry when I see the sea, joyful though I am.)

So now I live on the edge of a 9-million population metropolis. I have open fields and ranches around, and the Big and Bigger cities right down the road.

In New Mexico, the air is crisping in mornings and evenings. Later on--are any cottonwoods left? They used to drive me delirious with the deep blue of the sky somehow dipping into the leaves and turning them, branch by branch from the tip-top, golden with the pure blue sky and frosty air.  It was like watching flames take the green leaves one by one and leave them glowing before they fell.

Oh, yes. I loved my home. I loved  the Tularosa Basin. I loved New Mexico. I always will.

I  remember the broken voice of a dear older woman I knew whose  voice was failing her, but she forced out the words. She said, "The mountains, I ...could ...the mountains." She knew where I lived, and she smiled when she asked, voice still crackling," " bear it?"

And I can only answer, I have the people I love most all around me.

Mountains, however omnipresent, cannot hug, say, "I love you", or laugh.  Nor can the sky.

I am far enough out of the Metroplex I can see my favorite constellations. I have the smell of fresh. And if the petrichor of longed wished-for rain on the prairie and trees here is not quite as entrancing as when the rain falls first on the pines, then the cedar, then the greasewood (creosote) bushes that perfume the air like maybe a Turkish harem might have smelled like in our dreams, the smell still is alluring, transforming and delightful. It is the smell of life, and promise of more.

I have traveled widely. It surprises me that I have only lived in two states--both quite large. I have never traveled in the Northeastern states, and that is a wish still hanging. Maybe.  The uncertainty of it makes living so much more attractive.

I have chosen family over mountains, and I laugh. In my mind for awhile, many years ago, at a certain fork in the road, there was a contest in my mind.  I took the richer road.  Mountains don't take much tending. But family takes every part of us. Families take action, love, effort, care, work, and yes, often redemption.

I'm glad for my choice.

In September, especially, I still miss my mountains. I miss New Mexico.

I love my life, and  all the memories that enrich it.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Long Friendship is Good for the World AND Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does it take age?

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

Continuity is important, though.

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

That's pretty hopeful.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rules of Behavior for a Feminist, 1965 -Now

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

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

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

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

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

That has worked for and against me ever since.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgot about marriage and child care.

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

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

It is a different society, in many ways.

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

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

Drag Link/Photos/Video HereDrop LinkDrop Photo/VideoDrop Photos
Your friends; Except: Restricted