Thursday, February 28, 2019

You went away without saying goodbye

A song reminds you of someone in particular.
It might be a single phrase that does it.
Or was it a shared moment?
A time captured?
An idea?
There might be no explanation for it at all.
You just know when you hear the song, that person won't be far from your mind.

Hey, Jack Kerouc. I think of your mother.....



<End>

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Airing of Grievances 2018 - The holidays



Google tells me that Festivus is December 23, 2018 so I'm putting together my list so I can once again perform the Airing of Grievances. It's my annual schtick. Mostly annual.

To quote the great philosopher Frank Costanza, "I've got a lotta problems with you people!"

On with it. Today I'm griping about the holidays.

1. Inflatable lawn decorations.

They look fine when inflated.

Deflated they look like huge used condoms littering your lawn. If the aftermath of a giant orgy is the look you're going for, you are killing it.

If not? For the love of all things candy-striped and cutesie, please keep those things inflated. Yes, even during the day.

2. Holiday advertisements suggesting we buy our beloveds vehicles costing upwards of $40,000.

How is that the people who are, according to the commercials, capable of buying sometimes not just one but two shiny new luxury vehicles, always seem to live where it snows at Christmas?

They step out of their exquisitely decorated perfectly preserved Mid-Century homes nestled in some gorgeous, snowy woodland and yet their noses don't turn red and you can't see their breath.

Because I tend to complain of this every year, let me at least recognize the fact that the ads have done away with the giant red ribbons affixed to the new cars.

So there's that.

3. Bath and Body Works

My bank account is crying uncle. Why must you offer so many wonderful scents to cover up the smell of dog?

Our china cabinet looks like I'm becoming a Doomsday Prepper. Were we to survive something cataclysmic, at least we'd have plenty of light and something to cover up the smell of our own rapid decay.

And you think I haven't noticed that the deals have gotten less AMAZING the closer we get to Christmas? Think again. My cart remains empty. If those candles cost a penny more than $12.95, I can say no.

To be continued...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Calm

Positive Feedback works

A couple of years ago in an effort to manage the stress of my newish job and caught up in the annual ritual of bettering oneself, I attempted to learn how to meditate.

First I signed up for a free, introductory program promoted by Deepak Chopra and Oprah. I settled into a a relaxed but upright position in an easy chair and tried to follow along. To say it was a struggle is too mild. To sit in silence was hard. To try to be still? Harder. To reject the pleas from my over-brimming brain to get up and do something, do anything? Impossible.

I think I managed three of the seven days provided by the free program. Maybe.

Next I found an app for my phone called Calm. I used it a few times, but again found the act of sitting still for 10 minutes at a time and concentrating on the very calming voice of Tamara Leavitt to be too much. Too much sitting still, too much thinking, too much attempted calm. I don't think anyone who spent much time around me in the past would have hung the word calm on me.

Looking back, the changes in my life may have been too fresh to allow me to set aside the guilt and fear and well-worn self-loathing to be able to focus within. I did not like sitting with myself. I could not stop my mind from constantly wandering back to my lifetime of mistakes, my trunk load of regrets, my unresolved anger. Staying active was my coping method. 

I kept myself mentally distracted like my brain was a toddler in church. Some kind of audio stimulation accompanied my every waking hour and even some of my sleeping hours. The background noise of the TV while I worked from home, satellite radio in the car, an audio book playing from my back pocket as I did housework, prepared meals, walked the dog, and gardened. I went to bed with one earbud in so that I could continue to pump sound into my head. Anything to keep thought and self-examination at bay. The more occupied my mind was, the better I felt.

Fast forward to the end of July. I was at a work conference and learned from colleagues that I wasn't using one of the most important features on my new, ridiculously gigantic iPhone 7. I wasn't using the Health app. 

Someone showed me where it tracked my steps and other features. While I was horrified at the idea of actually putting my weight and other body measurements into the app, I was intrigued by the mindfulness section.

I reloaded the Calm app onto my phone and started again. It might take me a long time to fully grasp the understanding and benefits of the practice of meditation, but now I am ready to commit. I added a second mediation app called Simple Habit.

I've spent most of my adult life in motion. Not healthy motion, necessarily, but the motion of doing. Doing dishes, doing laundry, sweeping, vacuuming, wiping up, wiping down. Being a parent, being a wife. My house was clean. My car was clean. Not just clean, but Paul Hewitt clean. Sometimes even the garage had been vacuumed. Those were bad days. No clutter gathered dust. The dishwasher was either fully loaded or completely empty. Children were ferried to various activities, cats were fed, litter boxes were clean, blog posts were written, commutes were made, jobs were done, the career ladder climbed. Every day was a race to get it all done, prepare for the next day, and fall into bed exhausted.

My measure of success had to do with how clean my house was and had I checked everything off my list that day.

I'd be healthier today if I had tried to physically outrun whatever demons seemed to pursue me, but no. I do, however, have an amazing set of cleaning and organizing tips on on Pinterest. Today I have become a reformed productivity junkie, you could write you life story in the dust in this house and I can't remember the last time I washed my car. 

I am pleased to report that I am now better suited to the practice of meditation.

I look forward to sitting quietly, the solitude, the breathing. I am not trying to do anything. The only thing I am trying to accomplish is to be calm.  And while I am struggling, as always, to tame my mind, I do find that meditation is helping.

I can focus for longer periods of time on the breath. I can focus on the guide's voice. I can still myself and my magpie brain for five minutes at a time and, generally speaking, rest with myself.

This is a very big deal.

Of course, I'm also having to learn to not make meditation a competitive sport with myself. My need for perfection is still a driving force and I have a long way to go. 

Case in point; I composed much of this blog post as I attempted to meditate this morning. The idea came to me and while I tried to focus on the breath, I couldn't stop the phrases from coming at me. I was able to corral them until I finished, but I'm here to tell you that it was not easy.

I thought about how to phrase things for this post. I thought about how meditation has actually helped me to come back to writing. I thought about my somewhat addictive personality, if somewhat is even a plausible qualifier for the word addictive. Can addiction be qualified? Is there a sliding scale?

What I do know is this - I'm all in. I want to surround myself with the equipment of meditation. I realize I am just skimming the surface and I have more varied practices and much reading and learning in my future. I don't want to be a dabbler because I have already seen results and I like them.

I relish the daily ritual of the morning meditations. Where once I could only fall asleep by distracting my brain by listening to television shows I've seen so many times I could recite the dialogue, I now look forward to the nighttime meditations with the deep breathing and body scans that help me to relax enough to just drift off and stay asleep.

I've asked for wind chimes for a birthday present. My YouTube channels are now crammed with Native American flute music and Tibetan singing bowls and black screen 11 hour sessions of calming music, birdsong and ocean sounds. These all may be trite accoutrements and embarrassing cultural appropriations for which I am sorry, but they work. They help me to set the stage to relax and sit with myself without the old dread, the fidgeting, the mental begging to please, please, please get up and do something.

The day I realized my meditation flow wasn't broken by my left arm being humped by a little white dog, I knew I was on my way. I was making progress.

But meditation, like everything worth doing, is going to take practice and perhaps that's the point. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Blended

Love multiplied.

This happened two weeks ago - a new marriage with bonus family. My one regret from the day (because let's be clear - I'm 50% regret most days) is that Chloe couldn't be there with us because of work.

I'd like to introduce you to my new blended family....


I've gained a husband, a daughter, a son-in-law and a son. The wedding was simple and casual and we had a small group of friends and family there to share in our happiness and cupcakes.

Mathman, ever the wonderful friend and man he is, sent a text of congratulations and good wishes the morning of the wedding.

My cup totally runneth over.

Wedding day selfie.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cupcake Cleans Up

Once upon a time....





And now....




Junior Prom 2016

Yeah, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this. It's not like I haven't already watched two children grow up and move out. It's just - - - I don't know. Even though I'm no longer there, Sophie's age seems to define the end of some era. She has one year left of high school. One year.

And in case you're wondering, she still texts me that she's dying from some thing or other and should probably leave school so as not to traumatize her peers. So much for our family has changed, so it's weirdly nice to know that some things probably never will. 

Paybacks are coming though. One day I'll be the one texting her from the home they stick me in. "Come get me. Pleeeeeeaaaaase!"


Friday, January 22, 2016

Placing a stone



Once upon a time blogging was the thing. THE THING.

We spent hours writing and reading and commenting and even having weekly gatherings online.

And in those days there were circles of bloggers that overlapped and intersected and they made up a big, scattered, interconnected, crazy quilt of an online world. Connections were made that changed lives forever. Friendships were formed. Marriages and partnerships got their start in the comment sections of blogs.

I once tried to make a Venn Diagram of the connections. I gave up because it was too much. I was too lazy. And damn it, I had a blog post to write.

Social media usurped the blog in most of those circles. Sad, but true. Many of our blog friends removed their masks, tossed aside their avatars and became Facebook friends. It wasn't the same, but we were willing to settle because the only thing that was constant online was change.

Our online world(s) were made up of all kinds of characters.

One of those characters called herself Dusty Taylor.

I learned today from one of Dusty's friends (Diane Gee) that Dusty was murdered by her son last spring. I'm saddened at the death of our outspoken and raucous friend and stunned by the tragic way she was killed.

I know that some of you were friends with Dusty. I wanted you to know so that you might honor her memory, say a little prayer or just think of her, her intelligence, her passion for liberal causes and her unforgettable foul mouth.

RIP, Diane Hugo aka Dusty Taylor who blogged at Left Wing Nutjob and It's My Right to be Left of Center.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

On appropriate attire

What is it about this month?

Death.

A childhood friend's mother. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. And now Glenn Frey.

Recently my parents and I had a conversation about death and how people my age are handling the deaths of their parents and how social media seems to be creating a place for grief that didn't exist before.

That conversation was in the abstract. I've watched my friends and cousins losing their parents from the safe distance of knowing that I can scoot down the road and visit my parents who are comfortably and relatively healthily watching TV at home or out on the town.

But I also know my time is coming. Their time is coming. They're pretty clear about expectations.

We're old.
We're going to die.
We're not happy about it, but there it is.
You're going to have to deal with our deaths.

Less abstract, my mother has instructed my father that if she dies in her sleep, he is to change her out of the ratty old t shirt she sleeps in and put her into something decent before calling the EMTs.

Priorities.