Life as it arrives and dreams as they happen

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Santa Claus and Vacuums

I often wonder why the jolly old man in red is so beloved and overly commercialized.  Then I realized it is the one holiday moment when a man succeeds and doesn’t screw up the holiday arrangements and actually does something.  Therefore, men of every walk of life applaud his efforts and he becomes a mass marketing extravaganza – a god if you will of holiday testosterone.

Most men however never reach such heights of accomplishment, their own tinsel lays limp.  To this end, I wish we could just zap them out of our way until the holiday festivities are about to happen and eliminate the additional stress they bring in the form of stupid.

I do not do stupid.

For some reason all of the last holidays I can remember, the man of the house, decided to either “fix” or “improve” the vacuum as I am rushing to get the holiday food prepared or last minute cleaning and decorating.  He sits in a pile of dust that I honestly wish he would become with a look on his face between Mr. Wizard and internal distress over old pizza.  One occasion the vacuum went to the trash and another he did get it working, although I never remember it not working.  He had accomplished his place in the holiday.

There are others of course, the need to clean the medicine cabinet out – oh yes, all our guests will notice that one I think as I am lifting a 20 pound turkey into the oven after wrist surgery.  Watering or mowing the lawn minutes before guests show up – Brilliant now they can track soggy crap all over the floor I am cleaning while the mower is humming away.  There is also the time honored need to rearrange the garage because of course our guests will want to run out there to stand with our trash cans and enjoy the festivities.

However, the crowing event is just the standing at the door beaming with accomplishment when people arrive.  What was it again you did?   I am sorry but the basic testosterone driven man and a holiday do not go hand in hand, unless of course you are one of those men who go hand in hand, because those of you are the guys who do it right, and with a cosmo as well!

So the next holiday when Santa arrives and gets all the credit for my cleaning, shopping and baking and my other half standing beaming over the floor I cleaned, the food I made from scratch and the perfect gifts I knew to buy, please there is no need to find the vacuum I can tell you both right now, you suck!

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Seasoned or Stagnant?

When you present yourself in life to parents past the normal child rearing years it presents a quandary –   has birth given you the catbird seat with all the seasoned knowledge, life and value of a vintage wine?  Or have you arrived in the land of stagnant, where failing body parts should not have conceived where once they had done the light fandango?  For over 50 years I can say both sides of this teeter-totter have influenced my state of mind (please note due to said influences, gym was always out of the question so this teeter-totter was also the only physical enlightenment in my life).

There was no sibling rivalry in my youth which was a great thing.  However, it did arrive about as welcomed as puberty had; only now I was over 21, and not a freaked out 13.  The sister, who had been more their child or plaything, suddenly was an adult who had to be reckoned with as a real sister equal – or so it appeared anyway.  Yes, might have avoided middle child syndrome, but instead, had a whacked out only child care giver position, in the family that plucked me from the cosmos.

Old and then elderly tired parents do provide you with some qualities that are not readily acknowledged.  Life for me was the glass always half full, probably because they had lived through the Great Depression and never took anything for granted.  Entertainment and things that brought pleasure into my life were on the true low end of the economic scale for the most part, but high end of the emotional scale for the same reason.  I remember a long hot summer car ride wanting to get an ice cream cone to my father, only to arrive with it a gooey mess in a soggy cone.  He made me feel like I had just delivered the Ark of the Convent at his feet.  I guess I can say when you have nothing, you learn to have love.  That was the best sticker my parents stuck on the baggage of my life.

As I raised my own daughters through youth, divorce and the middle age “What do I do now” stages, I have seen those same small but meaningful moments come back through them.  And like a fine wine, I shut my eyes, see the bouquet and feel the warmth as it creeps into my heart a soul.  Those are the times when I know which end of the teeter-totter is up.

On the down days, I regret how I never reached out into the childhood yearbook thrilling arena of my life and tried to make my mark.  My mother was so over protective fearing the lions would eat the last fruit of her loins, that I lived in my room behind thick glasses and animals already stuffed.  I did however learn to enjoy my own company, listen harder for the changes in life and relish the times that made me smile.  That sticker on my baggage is shiny, and reminds me of the reflection you can’t have unless you are honest and alone.

So today, I prepare for the funeral of my mother, who at 93 always smiled and led a simple life.  I pull the baggage from the shelf, dust off the time, see the stickers and know today, as I always knew, I lived a life that was seasoned just right with aged products that enhanced the value.  I also know as I look at her picture, it was through love and reflection I was able to be a mother and grandmother myself and I thank her for the baggage.

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One word that represents the vocabulary of mankind!  Talk about having a lot to live up too.  Whew.

We have all been granted “freedom” of speech by a government no one really knows, likes or understands.  Nevertheless, we can thank them for this gift.  However, when we look at interaction with those of our friends, frienemies, family and those who just cross our paths, it does make you wonder what it has become.

We all want to know “what” someone said, but we don’t always take ownership or responsibility for what we say.  It is also amazing how little we realize the weight our words have on someone.  Example of a movie scene, the dying character has last rights and is “saved” in this life from all actions and pain they have inflicted on others, just because a priest offers biblical words.  When a man and woman stand in marriage the vows they speak bond them for a lifetime if they are lucky or haunt them forever in a divorce of irreconcilable differences i.e. words.

A highlight is baby’s “first” words; mine was dirt so I have to figure out the connection to my life with that one.  Listening to gossip with an “OMG have you heard” to a “shut up! Don’t tell me” again words.   Some words, like those in the last days of life are like gold nuggets carried close in a well worn pouch.  Each word holding an emotion, experience and memory, becoming more valuable than any biblical ones, for the person who has a soul preparing to depart the earthly shell of a body it has been stored in.

In a world that has taken the E train across the informational highway with warp speed Spock could not have even envisioned, we have become nothing but electronic words, in a world of warm blooded emotional beings.  There is a word for this and it isn’t progress.

Even the publishing industry that provided a written word bound in leather or torn paperback has now morphed from the saving coffin floating away from Moby Dick and Go Dog Go in a party hat, into a moment away delivery to an E-book reader that can hold 5,000 books.  Somewhere in a shoebox is a library card missing a decimal system taped to a book spine.

As a memory hoarder I have cards, pictures, recordings and journals linking me to the people behind their words. I consider them sacred souvenirs of my life and not piles of “why are you saving this again?’  Cursive writing is no longer taught in school, a tragedy as I trace over the capital ‘L’ I always sign and the bold thick signature my father always put to paper.  I see him in that script, I remember the moment and oddly enough I remember my father being known for being “A Man of His Word.”  That phrase doesn’t translate to well with EBay, Paypal, E-Trades and TMZ does it?

Anyone can give a speech or deliver the news, but no one really communicates anymore.  The joy of getting a card or note and calling or visiting to thank the sender is almost gone.  A whisper in the year of a child telling a secret, or a pot of tea, and a long visit with someone from your heart, just don’t have the meaning they once did.  However, with little effort in your own circle of friends I think a grass roots campaign could bring it back with very little effort.

And it could all start by word of mouth……

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Gerbils and Christmas Cards

 I know why gerbils eat their young – it’s to avoid having to send Christmas cards and watch each other grow old.

Having been born as my parents prepared retirement; I have always felt I was a misplaced gerbil.  The family had already been raised, graduated and enjoyed by the time I appeared.  Sometimes I have discovered that extra in the cereal box is more of a turd than a treasure – such is life.

To avoid this tragedy in another generation, I planned and had my family young so we could enjoy life together, share the moments that would eventually define us all in ways we had yet to learn and most of all just live together.  That would have worked if a pesky divorce hadn’t gotten in the way.  I think gerbils should eat ex-husbands too – probably a lot tougher to swallow down, but certainly more satisfying.

So my best laid plans of gerbil and beast didn’t quite workout and having been displaced by my birth family AND the one I personally birthed, life seemed to have almost reached a full circle crescendo, until I took in my elderly mother and she is now only a few steps away asleep in bed dying.  Why couldn’t she have been a gerbil?

The months that have brought me here have shown me there is more nature than human in most people.  Their own lives “naturally” come first and the human contact which would be more meaningful than any word could express is ignored.  Gerbil syndrome at it’s very best.  So difficult to find that infamous milk of human kindness at a 7-11.  Ironically  the majority of them give more attention to that anonymous clerk behind the counter, than to the dying woman asleep in my spare room who is family.

So it isn’t just the young who are eaten away by the whisker twitching family member gerbils, it is also the ones who have outlived their usefulness, aren’t facebook worthy or Twitter material.

They were once though, at a time long forgotten when tears were shed, gifts unwrapped and lessons learned.

Tonight I listen to the silence in my heart, and know how much it would mean to be reassured by the family I was birthed into or birthed.  I know what that same reassurance would mean to the woman in the next room on the verge of heaven, and find it too sad to dwell upon.

Laugh all you want about the rat race or the gerbils going no where fast in their wheels.  Truth is, a rat is first to leave a sinking ship, and that includes a family when it isn’t picture perfect or a suitable fit into their own plans.

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It is NOT How The Cookies Crumbles

When you decide to bake a batch of cookies, it is usually spur of the moment, on a craving or last minute school or holiday delivery.  There isn’t a lot of thought for the most part, follow the recipe, use good ingredients and bake – the cookies usually turn out great to wonderful reviews – especially your own over milk or coffee.

So what n the heck happens to kids?   Do they over bake? under bake? Not enough decoration? Wrong cookie cutter?  Nut issue? Or do they just go stale too fast?  After 30 years I just can’t tell you anything.

Unlike a fast recipe, spur of the moment, just get it done, I planned, loved and cherished 3 beautiful daughters. I think the Grinch would understand, as my heart grew three sizes too big with each bundle placed in my arms. If there was ever a time when angels sang that was the time.  It continued too, as I watched and played with them, tucked them in and never let a moment in my life be more important than the love I had for them.

Then without warning – they “touched” each other in the cookie jar of my life.

One had better sugar, one was being saved for last, so IT was the favored one, and one hated jars and wanted to jump out for the coffee.  Suddenly, there were more crumbs than I could clean up and they all came from the same ingredients, recipe, oven and intentions.

If it were possible, I think these 3 cookies as decorated and perfect as they are would send the baker off to the oven.  The baker who wants nothing more than to see them on a special plate, every color and sparkle of a rainbow presented and warm to the touch with a little gold around the edges.

Nothing has changed for these perfect cookies; expect the amount of time they have been exposed to life. Like us all, they have suffered some in the process with a bump, a crumble or missing candy.  The cookie jar still sits open for them in a kitchen of love, acceptance and hope just like it was the first day out of the oven.

Two roads may have been offered, and I know I took the one less traveled, but I thought I would always have some special cookies in my sack for those times when I was emotionally starved and needed the reassurance they were there.

Sadly and so confusingly I now know I should have just gotten a V-8.

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I Matter

Gray Matter is a given, everyone knows about the brain.  However, as I sit in my new life as a “Club Sandwich” generational daughter, being a parent to my elderly mother, having grown children and helping with my grandchildren I find days asking does ‘Gray Matter?”

I was raised not to speak back to my elders, that those older people in life had achieved status in knowledge and respect and being “gray” was attaining something meaningful.  Okay, Sean Connery aside (he makes gray an art form) that just isn’t the case anymore.  I think I have worked harder, had less emotional happiness and experienced more difficulty than at any point in my life since hitting forty and into fifty.  Gray does not matter.

Having had my mother in a health care facility (fancy name for nursing home) after a brain injury this past year, I witnessed out and out disrespect and ignorance at her expense.  I can tell you if she was a hot blond that would not have happened!  However, she is gray and frail and it is only to her family she matters.  Don’t get me wrong there were some care givers that were wonderful; obviously they are in the medical field they wanted to be and not just for a paycheck.  However, just in speaking with me I didn’t matter either, I was a fifty year-old obstacle in the path.

I went to the doctor myself recently and was amazed as my physician had lost almost 100 pounds and had a shock of short blond hair.  I asked her if she was on the Entertainment Tonight diet and she said no I am on the here is your grandson raise him plan.   She told me how she would have never thought of leaving her children with her aging mother and yet here she was late in middle age raising a toddler and falling into a heap at the end of the day after working a full day when she could.  Even if the hair was dyed it still was gray and she mattered, but not to the opinion of her child, she was just an ends to the means of her own self survival and gratification.

So as a club sandwich, without meat please – I have more on my plate than I did as a young adult ready to begin life with all the energy and hope I was allowed.  Those were the days working 90 hour weeks, chasing after babies and trying to be a wife, daughter and mother.  Now with minimal energy, even less money and physical strength below where it should be I get to have 90 hour work weeks, take care of an elderly parent knowing the day will come when I won’t be able to wake her up in our home and watch the delights of a grandchild running for the stairs and spitting back food they are done trying to eat.  Through all those gray areas I keep praying to myself “I matter.”

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Reality Television – could there be a more perfect example?  Well, not unless you are over the age of 50 and remember “The Boob Tube.”  Historically speaking, the names have indeed been changed, but no innocents have been protected.  I assume I was asleep or in the middle of a book when the rise of celebrity came from just living.  It is all but a given,  the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse wouldn’t have a chance in Hell without cable access – and yes 60% of America needs a reference for that statement.

Humor and fantasy injected through vacuum tubes was once a nice spice into out lives.  We learned to ask “Where was the Beef?”  “Was Timmy in the well?” and of course did we really listen to Uncle Miltie and go to bed?  News was something serious then and comedy was something to make us laugh.  I find nothing serious or relaxing about United States security being compromised at a State Dinner, an Airline Employee swearing and jumping out of a plan with a beer or a 6 inch high bump hairpiece on a 4 foot tall woman child becoming more recognized than the 13th President of the United States!  And let’s face it, Millard Fillmore had a name worth a 10 – you could dance to it!

Memories, of Walter Cronkite, from black frame glasses on a small screen were reassurance.  That  was news which changed lives and helped us develop our own – it was, put bluntly black and white journalism.  Politically correct had not been established nor had LED pixel screens.

Real news made us wonder and discuss.  Reality television now has become everyone’s Warhol platform to make a fast buck and in all too many cases pass the ammunition.

Was life really so bad before housewives were desperate in demographics and hooking up was done with a crochet needle?  I look at my own children who are now adult women and I can see where they have been affected and not for the good.

Reality is what stands between us and eight solid house of sleep.  It is not what we live or emulate.  Reality is the warmth from a hug, an understanding look that needs no explanation and knowing that if you have more, someone out there needs your help.  Reality is knowing, when God flips the switch someday all your re-runs will have great audience feedback.

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So Tell Me How You Feel About That

A large cross section of society has those words scrapped into the raw emotion of their lives, and you either react to it positively or in rage.   It’s called Therapy.

Somewhere between knowing that a “Cigar is just a Cigar” and having a best friend to listen, Mental Heath Therapists as they are called – Politically Correctly,  have bloomed like mold on cheese.  Not sure if they do as much good as that bacteria either.  Having been on the receiving end of such therapy on one than more occasions due to emotional drama in my life, it gave me a place to chat but nothing more.  Having a place to air out emotion is a good thing and if you don’t have friends or family to listen, paying someone is the next best option I suppose.  However, getting to the bottom of a serious emotional problem isn’t as one sided as cleaning out a physical wound and watching for infection until it heals.  Mental injury is mocked, avoided and most of all based upon personal memory.  Personal memory is as individual as a fingerprint and no forensic science will ever find two identical sides of a memory.

After speaking with a therapist after my father passed away, it dawned on me each event I was dealing with in those days and months was directly tied to an emotion.  People remember more of their lives than other because of the same emotion and how they lived, loved, laughed and cried.   Several memories I see in photographs, I long to remember but they escape me.  Why?  for no other reason, than my emotionally response at the time.  It is much like cymbals at the end of a huge musical score, if the moment isn’t punctuated, it is just filed.

I can remember sounds, smells and everything connected one Christmas when I was about six.  Not bad for a 50 year old!  So why that moment, and not one tucking in my children at night?  I love them beyond words so why would a 44 year old thought mean more than one of my children?   Simple, the moments of love and compassion I gave and shared my daughters layered onto my heart in happiness and one into another I watched them grow and knew we loved each other.  The emotion was simple and calm.  However, that Christmas I got a doll I wanted more than anything, it was December cold and I was sitting on our beige sculpted carpet.  My older sister wanted to help out the poor doll and with a can of Aqua Net hairspray (I seriously can taste it in my mouth now!) she back combed and teased that hair into a cotton candy puff that was sprayed until her fate was “sealed”.  The doll was never the same, her early saran hair was melted, and the doll I loved was destroyed in a misguided act of kindness.  I was heart broken.

The memory was forever attached to a broken heart and quickly can be recalled.  But it was MY broken heart.  My sister I am sure not only doesn’t really remember it, she most likely remembers doing something nice and her stupid kid sister cried.  How could a therapist understand or help that memory?  Especially,  if I never forgave my sister and was damaged forever because of it.

They couldn’t understand. They could only offer airspace to get it off my chest and that sentence we all know”  “So how did that make you feel?   False memories became an outcry in the 1990’s when therapists in their inability to help adjust to emotional pain ended up re-writing the memories to make sense.  More harm than good.

It would be the total down fall of the politically correct Mental Health System if everyone could own their emotions and see how they attach to our history.  Just like the blind men examining the elephant, every touch, smell and feeling is unique to an individual and coupled with daily life we build the foundation we stand on.  No one else stands like we do or appreciates what we do because they aren’t there like we are.

I have an adult daughter who remembers her favorite guinea pig passing away during the winter.  She couldn’t bear to have him buried for weeks.  So he was put in a favorite basket with some silk flowers and tightly sealed in a film of clear wrap.  In her heart and memory I am sure she kept him alive in her daily visits until she was ready to let him go and made peace with a difficult moment in her childhood.   I however remember having an eternal Easter basket version of Lenin’s Tomb on cluttered work bench which I passed daily, sometimes smiling and sometimes rolling my eyes.  It became a family joke later.

The guarantee is that it added to the character of my daughter, filling her heart with compassion and learning lessons of life and death she will pass to her own daughter one day. She probably remembers we cared and helped make a difference.  But that is her memory just as mine is mine, and yet it is the very same event in our past.  Unlike a one-sided  physical injury that heals or scars due to treatment, these events react off each other even years later,  and can never be healed or understood in a stand alone solution.

One man’s Easter basket is another Man’s political tomb after all.

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Driving home one night I saw shoes tied together tossed over a power line.  It made no sense in my rational moment.  My daughter said it was to identify a drug house was near the area.  Ironic – at her age we let our fingers do the walking and now they let their shoes do the talking.

Personally, I have become more observant of my own personal single shoe in the road theory.  It’s Aliens.

Seriously, think about it.  If you sat a pair of shoes on the top of the car and accidentally drove off, maybe just one would show up lost or in the case of my grandson when he was two he liked to throw off a sock or shoe if the window was rolled down.    However, where do the single work boots, infant shoes, high heels and tennis shoes come from in such a daily consistency?

My guess is if we mapped out all the missing single shoes along the side of the road there would be some type of metropolitan crop circle that could be a message we are missing.  Maybe it is like tying the “sexual sock” to a college doorknob, no need to visit here things are under control.

I like the game actually, as I drive along on a daily errand consumed in boredom I can imagine someone traveling off to another galaxy, an Air Jordan or Steve Madden signature left in their wake.  It also validates my need for shoes – I don’t. just wear them,  I love them, they are gorgeous and I have more pairs that I will admit, but bare feet are best.  As I ponder this thought of shoeless visitors to another dimension, I see my own footprints I the snow when I would get the mail and horrify my daughters.  My father shook his head until he died at my lack of constant footwear and how easy it is to grasp and toss something from the floor with my toes.

Maybe leaving a footprint has a higher meaning in another galaxy?  Too many things in life are taken for granted, forgotten or ignored.  So what if that is what the Aliens are saying – Stop and Smell the Roses and Plant a few as well.  Wouldn’t it be ironic if those people who really appreciated their lives, friends and family are the ones who have gone ahead leaving us their shoe?  It would make sense after all, the most famous set of footprints on a beach were made by Jesus as he carried us in out moment of need.  Sid Grauman knew the theory, and made sure our well heeled icons cemented their place in history, so why not those who have lived life best?

Next time you see that lone shoe instead of wondering where the other one is, reflect back on a different “soul”.  Use it as a metaphoric calling card to tale a moment and offer up a random act of kindness.  After all, life is only better when we walk in anothers shoes.

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Great Sax and Etchings

Tony Bennett,  Dean Martin, Elvis and  Frank Sinatra.  Music and sensuality just flow like speakeasy gin.  Growing up, music was like velvet to me, you never wanted to rub it the wrong way, instead feeling the texture in every way possible.  Music was a way to talk, a way to love while also being an entertainment and a family treats.  Short of vanilla ice-cream not many things can cross that many barriers in life.

Because I was blessed to have several generations in my life I knew a 78, 45 and 33 1/3 as well as reel to reel, cassette and 8 track.  Now as I shift to low gear in middle age, I have CD’s, Mp3’s and an occasional torrent download or midi or wav file.  Time certainly moved past the elevator music , we thought  was certain to be the end of life as we once knew it – although not one of us can honestly say we haven’t sang or hummed a part of “You Light Up My Life!”  Truth hurts.

I’m not Don McLean, but I remember the day the music died for me.  It started with a “rap” and a flannel shirt in the 90’s.  Just like music that came before, expression became a statement and everyone had an opinion along with their favorite top 100.  Everything became FM went to Sirus and vinyl got a little more dusty.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud efforts of expression through musical interpretation.  But Rap and Grunge left me more confused than consoled.  Dick Clark would never say it was a 10 because you could dance to it, that was for sure, and also good enough for me.  Teen Spirit wasn’t Bobby Sherman,  but it evolved and one day I found Deep Purple on an Oldies station and laughed hysterically.  I couldn’t get into my thigh high leather boots without embarrassing myself in the mirror anymore so why should they?  Maybe it was what we needed at the time, just as Dylan, flowers in our hair and white rabbits left more than one Big Band silent.   But to me it was more of a statement than a stanza.

What didn’t change was the face of sound. Those crooners are forever frozen in time, not aging to us and neither does their humor in seeing some etchings.  Street graffiti isn’t as dreamy, and screams from corners where the high base of the new music punctuates it.   I shake my head at the paradox and then remember Steven Perry had a hip replacement and qualifies for the same AARP “Journey” I am on.  Music is the soundtrack of our lives regardless and I know I will never “Stop Believin’”