Friday, May 31, 2013

Final Posts for Blog Every Day in May Challenge

I write every day, but I write to topics befitting two blogs and about subjects I select. I write fiction daily as well, but again, this is fiction that lives within me, that demands to be heard. Writing to a prompt invented by someone else is not something I do daily anymore, but it's been good for me to stretch and practice. I hope you've attempted at least a few of Jenni's prompts for the Blog Every Day in May challenge.

For Saturday, May 25, 2013: Write about something someone told me that I'll never forget.

To everyone, near and far, living or dead, thank you for telling me that I made a difference in your lives. That has made all the difference in mine.

For Sunday, May 26, 2013: Write about something I read online; include the link.

I still own property in Moore, OK. It was spared at the last moment when, on a whim, the tornado turned northeast, away from my neighborhood. I’ve spent more time on Facebook and Gmail since Monday, May 20, than ever before in a day in my life. There I learned who survived and which structures were destroyed. I also saw many of my FB pals, those who accept the mantle of animal caregiver with pride begin to post photos of dogs lost and found as well as the location where people can take their lost pets. Those people and their commitment have my respect and gratitude, then I read this, the story about one devoted dog left alone, about his rescue, and about the man who plans to make him whole again by taking him home. If you are near Moore or even if you are not, please give to rescue the dogs, cats, parrots, people, and belongings. Make them whole again.

For Monday, May 27, 2013: Write a letter to readers.

I write; therefore, I think. I think; therefore, I write. Writing helps me think more clearly, and writing transforms the mundane, sometimes bringing to life beauty and truth. I’d love to persuade you to write, guide you as you write, inspire you to write daily, and share writing with you through My Writing and Editing Coach.

Through Living Like Atticus, I consider this world, such a complicated place, full of competing interests. I try to shed a bit of light on some of those interests. I try to be honest and reveal the resources I’ve used so that you can read them for yourselves and judge whether I’ve been fair.

Share your comments with me please. I learn because you do.

For Tuesday, May 28, 2013: Pictures Only. See 15 Favorites at the Link Below.

For Wednesday, May 29, 2013: Post Five Songs or Pieces of Music that Speak to Me; include links.

Puccini’s aria, O Mio Babbino Caro, conveys the human heart yearning and seeking. Whether instrumentally rendered or sung, the piece fills my heart. Enjoy. And again.

I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables has the same vocal range challenges as Puccini’s aria, but it also speaks of a heart broken and hope defeated, a universal human experience shared by all at least once. Here is Susan Boyle receiving well-deserved applause during her life-changing performance of this piece.

Another aspiring, yet humble contestant rendered a different Puccini aria about love and hope powerfully. Here is Nessum Doma,  sung by Paul Potts and again from the masterful Luciano Pavarotti.

Among great, loud, driving tunes, the kind that make you wish for an open stretch of road and wide-open speeds, few performances beat Marshall Tucker Band’s Can’t You See? This one blends an achin’ heart, bluesy notes now and then, and great guitar.

While driving on that open stretch with the windows down and the music blasting, cue up Still the One by Orleans, the song that I’ve used for my husband’s ring tone, the song that makes me think of him whenever I hear it, the song that tells truths about long-term loves. Listen to it.

Five choices is at least twenty-five shy of the number in my basic play list. Alas.

For Thursday, May 30, 2013: React to this term: letting go.

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop is about letting go of things easily replaced, places and people not easily replaced, and people irreplaceable. She writes:

The art of losing isn't hard to master; 
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop, a poet whom I admire, has mastered the art of understanding the complexities and aches associated with letting go. She knows that letting go--or losing--is difficult to master. Even small things that seemed determined to be lost upset our tender hold upon this world for we must spend the hour badly in search of those things. She also knows that we will survive and endure the loss of places, names, and even our mother’s watches, but she doesn’t hint that we will triumph over those losses. She only grants that losing them will not be a disaster.

Losing you--someone dear to us--someone with a joke carried along in his voice, a person who gestures in a way that touches our hearts--losing that someone will feel like and look like disaster, but it won’t be a disaster. We’ll survive. We’ll endure in spite of having someone beloved wrenched from us. We’ll let go, but oh, we’ll do so in the knowledge that that particular someone will never come again.

For Friday, May 31, 2013, the Final Day of the Month-Long Challenge: Write about a vivid memory, this one originally posted in this blog on March 22, 2013

The old dog no longer walks beside me. She fell behind, unable to breathe well enough to climb the hill at my slowed, patient pace. Then, thunder sleet and snow sluiced through limbs and branches, spread like fondant icing, slick and smooth and treacherous. She wanted no part of it, and I think, gave up. The world had turned arduous. Chat and rock below an alien, impassable field, an asphalt trail that climbed up and up until it gave way to dirt and leaves and tinder now hidden and frozen out of sight.

I began to bribe her with chicken broth, baby foods, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs. At first, she ate eagerly, grateful for the treats and new flavors, but these pleasures faded as the joy of walking uphill had. She adopted the posture of Eyore. Her head hung low as she labored to please, her tail tucked, not wagging or alert, just defeated. I began to repeat like a mantra, “Come on, Emma; you can do it. Good girl! Fine dog!”

Now and then in the last days, she seemed to believe me. She picked her head up and let her ears engage with the sounds. Her pace quickened but only for a few steps. On her last day, she staggered on the return. We’d only traveled a few short steps from our door, but even this was too much. She trotted, then stiffened, unsure on her feet, unsure even about which one to move in order to advance. When she tried to walk back through the door, she missed and butted her head softly into the frame.

Now I walk alone and mourn her as the eagles fly above the bluff just above us. I hear their coming in that sharp high-pitched keen fading on the air, the sound Emma no longer heard, her sight and hearing gone before her body. I smile and wince in their presence, and I follow them as they lift, catch the current, and dive,
fishing and feeding. I continue to watch them as they lift again, effortlessly, to the hills and into the sky beyond.

I wish now that Emma could have soared effortlessly as they do. I see them above the trees, circling, held aloft by currents unknown to those of us held below, and I know I will miss them every day of my life.

Reading Challenge:

Read other responses to these prompts at

Writing Challenge:

Choose at least one of Jenni's prompts and write your own response.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Third Week of Daily Blogging, Thanks to Story of My Life

Jenni's blog has challenged participants with 31 days of writing prompts, one for each day in May. Each prompt challenges and informs. Please try at least one of them. Here are my replies for the past week, each of which can be found posted daily on Google+.

Saturday, May 18, 2013: A Story from my Childhood, originally posted for Remembering for Mother

Afternoons beside the Illinois River are not my earliest memories, but they are certainly memories I hold dear. Sun-dappled waters, clear enough to see the tiny bait fish nipping at our feet; cold stream-fed waters; a pebble palette of pinks and bronzes and eggshell, below and along the shore. Our dog’s soft pink feet grew sore as she padded after every member of our family, patiently keeping watch, waiting for some of lunch to be tossed her way. As strangers floated by in canoes, we waved. From men in flat-bottom boats, Dad gathered clues about where the fish were biting.

For these afternoons, Mother packed home-fried chicken, Dad’s favorite. He said her chicken was better than anyone else’s, even better than fine restaurants. Mom said her secret was being willing to make a mess and clean it up:

“The oil has to be so hot that the batter sears and crisps up while the meat cooks. Fried chicken has to cook fast and hot so it doesn’t dry out. The cook has to let the oil sputter and spatter, and she has to wipe down every square inch of her stove when she’s through.”

Mother also stirred together the family recipe for potato salad, tangy with dill pickle and a touch of mustard to take the shine off the Miracle Whip. She added bread and butter sandwiches, more pickles, black olives sometimes, warm sliced tomatoes, and watermelon. These are still among my favorite foods--probably because I associate them with picnics beside the Illinois and special occasions like Dad’s birthday in July.

The picnic lunch filled the back seat between my sister and me. The poor dog hopped in the trunk because we didn’t know better back then and because Mother would not let her on the car seats. She didn’t want them smelling of wet dog.  One of Mother’s first acts when we arrived was to carry the watermelon to the river, dog at her heels, and let it drop. Sometimes, after hard rains, we wrapped a rope around the melon’s length and again around its width, securing one end under a large rock on shore so that the river could not steal our dessert, but most of the time, the river was not at all wild and the melon stayed put.

We learned not to venture in too deep when we’d had the gift of rain after we watched the river catch our dog, Cinderella, and carry her downstream even as she paddled hard upstream. We hopped up and down on the rocky shore, calling her name and shouting for Dad, fishing downstream. He just shifted his pole from left hand to right, as if he’d saved a dog from drowning many times, and grabbed her by the tail as she floated by. We cheered and ran to lead the dog back to us and keep her close.

When the water was not too deep or fast, we climbed into big truck tire inner-tubes and floated, letting the water spin us with the current. We paddled only hard enough to stay away from low-hanging tree branches. Someone told us or we made up a story that snakes hung in those trees just to slither onto the backs of children and hitch a ride downstream. Along the route, we scanned the deep shady pools for big fish, especially lazy, fat catfish. When we sighted one, we hollered for Dad to come catch them, but he only promised to look later while staying downstream, farther from our play, letting the waters wrap around his legs as he cast and reeled line over and over.

We ate after Dad caught a mess of fish and tied his stringer close to our picnic place. Then Mom made us take naps on blankets in the shade. When we awoke, the sun was halfway between high noon and twilight and the watermelon was cool. It was never cold, just cool, and Dad never failed to tease Mother about her silly habit of cooling melon in the creek. “Who ever heard of such a thing?” he asked and smiled, but no other melon has ever tasted sweeter to me.

Sunday, May 19, 2013: Five Favorite Blogs

I like, in particularThe Handbook of Rhetorical Devices posted there. Having taught rhetoric for many years, I know how difficult it is to explain rhetorical devices and provide excellent examples for them. Educator and writer Robert Harris has not only explained each device well, he provides accessible examples for each.

I also admire where writers of all types and levels of expertise can find answers to their questions. The site has multiple links to multiple sites for any and all problems. Need a review of punctuation? You’ll find a link. Have a particular question? One of the experts will provide an answer. The site is easy to use, especially the Quick Down and Dirty Tips that offer reviews about the pesky apostrophe in possessives and so much more.

And finally, in the Excellent Educational Sites, I’m in awe of and The many minds and hands that have put together online bibliography and citation aids have my respect, if for no other reason than that MLA and APA stuff is tedious in the extreme. I’m grateful to them. No membership required. They’re free and top quality.

For a site that never fails to please while giving advice, I recommend Leo Babauta’s His world viewis mature and holistic. He invites each of us to be better by adopting simple habits, including a smile, and that makes me smile.

I also enjoy reading posts at, the saga from a plucky couple who let go of traditional careers and standard lifestyles for the open road. Currently, they reside in Bucerias, Mexico, a place I’ve visited and remember well. They’ve just welcomed their second child into this world, another person sure to become an intrepid traveler, undeterred by learning languages, trying new foods, and trusting in the health care elsewhere.

Monday, May 20, 2013: Get Real. Share a Personal Struggle.

Years ago and even in a few places today, people felt comfortable using pejoratives and slang to refer to other nationalities, races, and ethnicities. Some people also fell back upon ugly language to describe anything they don’t understand, including gender issues and sexuality.

Most of us know better today. We know that being called names and being denied Constitutional privileges is anything but a gay lifestyle of choice. We know that prejudice and even domestic terrorism follows in the wake of hate speech. We’ve censored our speech as well we should, but everyone, everywhere still feels entitled to mock, abuse, and belittle those of us who are overweight, fleshy, stocky, more than fully grown, fat, hefty, heavy, obese, and morbidly obese.

Poor New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been the butt of late-night talk-show hosts who seem to believe that all that fat makes his skin tough enough to deflect the hurt. It doesn’t.

I well remember a student of mine, a sophomore who should have been a senior, a girl unable to fit in a student desk. She was the butt of many high school bullies who made themselves feel whole and hearty at her expense. What they didn’t know is that the heart of her died during her first attempt at completing the sophomore year. Her mother, overweight, died--a heart attack. This fifteen-year-old was left with a taciturn father, incapable of helping her overcome her grief. She ate and ditched school. She failed that year and didn’t even attend through the next. But she summoned the courage to return in the year when her peers would graduate, and she asked me once why people are so unkind to fat people. She said that fat people are some of the nicest people around, and she’s right. They are.

I’m obese, and most of the time, nice. Still, I remember my dad holding up a photo of me, showing my daughter the slimmer version of me and saying that I was pretty--then. He didn’t need to add that or tell me that he really liked the Judds’ music until he saw them perform. Wynonna Judd was too fat, he said, and dropped her. Now he was addicted to cigarettes and alcohol, but never made the leap between his addiction and others’ plagued by food. He lacked the capacity, I guess.

I also remember my mother buying clothes in one size too small to encourage me to lose, and I remember how surprised I was to learn that boys and college friends didn’t think of me as fat at all. I wasn’t then, but in my childhood home, I was in need of redirection and diets.

Today, so many, many years after those early wounds, I am again trying to lose weight. I’ve followed Jennifer Hudson into Weight Watchers, a program I tried years ago, one that worked for a couple of years. I’ve also been injected with substances that helped the weight fall off while I consumed 350 calories a day. I looked really great--for a few years. Once I put myself on a diet of SlimFast morning, noon and night. I lost a lot of weight fast, but I never really lost the desire to soothe my frazzled nerves and childhood hurts with foods spicy, fat, crunchy and sweet.

I’m succeeding. And I’ve moved to a place where I must walk the little dog. I’ve also found an aerobics swim class where people don’t seem to judge or whisper about sizes.

This late in life, I’m taking steps to overcome my lifelong struggle with diet and health. My clothes are looser, and the Points Plus system manageable. I’m happy in the company of others who know my struggle. Wish me well, please.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013: Links to My Favorite Posts from my Archives

These are a few of my favorite things:

"Recovery in the Heartland," though written and posted months ago, is timely in light of the current suffering in Moore, OK. The post advises: Admire those people who endure in the face of … hardships, the ones who remain hopeful that things will get better, the ones who have babies and believe, as they must, that their futures will be bright. Where would they find comfort if they failed to believe in a brighter future? So they live in this “time of vague optimism . . . [with] nothing to fear but fear itself” , and they thrive because they are resourceful and humble and hard-working.

"Stars and Traffic Lights" explores symbols found and deployed.

"From Sorrow to Triumph" This post begins with the lessons drawn from To Kill a Mockingbird and applies them to contemporary, real-world challenges, proving that one of literature's traits is verisimilitude.

"Eagles on High" is a memoir, one that moves others, I hope.

"What Mark Will You Leave Upon This World?" This post represents what I hope to accomplish with this blog: challenge others to see anew what has been debated and discussed in the news.

"42: A Review" This post blends classic literary criticism with something very contemporary. I enjoy challenging myself to make connections.

"Hazard Pay for Us All" This one blends three things I love: literature, writing, and conviction. 

"Writers Write!" This post speaks to the heart of what motivates me to create for this blog: the power of writing.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013: Rant. Get Up on your Soapbox

In one of my adult phases, I dared People Who Speak Empty Clichés to prove the truth of their clichés.  Anyone who tossed out the phrase liberal mainstream media or even the Palin invention, lame-stream media, earned my sharp inquiries: which network? which newsreader? what story was never told? which report was spun topsy-turvy until the truth was just a puddle of lies and distortions?

Without exception, no one answered the questions. A few, surprised to be asked, tossed CNN and the New York Times into the conversational fire, and I knew I’d won the argument. CNN, I snapped, might have been viewed as liberal in its early days because it tried to tell the whole story accurately and sent reporters forth around the world to tell stories from multiple points of view, but a left-leaning agenda was never in its playbook. It’s nothing like its Ted-Turner incarnation anymore, but I could be wrong, of course. Give me a story that was twisted and turned left instead of dead-center.

Without exception, no one thus challenged offered a specific story, a single betrayal; everyone just repeated the blather that Richard M. Nixon and his right-handed men sent forth. In their paranoia and malfeasance in office, they believed the best defense is a good offense so they smeared the media. I’m sure their misdirection is still traveling well beyond the mesosphere where alien life forms chuckle. And that’s my point: A lie told often enough becomes the truth.

Vladimir Lenin said that. Yes, Lenin, the Russian, he of revolutionary ideologies, the mastermind orchestrating the Bolshevik revolution, the ruthless leader of Russia reincarnated as the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), a prominent name in a list titled Fathers of Communism. Yes, Lenin’s cynical observation about brainwashing, also known as effective propaganda, has become a strategy for winning the day. In fact, the 2010 and 2012 elections prove that propaganda is alive and in use. The 2014 election appears to be founded upon propaganda as well.

FOX told itself and its viewers lie after lie, so often and so loudly that folks were caught off guard, down in the dumps, and discombobulated when other networks put Ohio in the blue column. Karl Rove, proving how little he understands demographics, protested in vain, leaving only vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan to take the reins and ride forth, telling more lies.

One lie that Ryan likes to tell is that his budget is new. It’s not. It’s 2011 Redux. He claims to rid the world of Obamacare; he doesn’t. He just wriggles around in its ingredients, tossing out all components favorable to people in need while retaining any component that saves money. He also continues to swell when he proclaims that his budget is fiscally responsible, but he continues to dissemble when asked to put pen to paper and prove his claims mathematically.

The budget that President Obama put forth saved more money than Ryan’s, but most likely, few people knew about President Obama’s budget. It was available to all, but not through the mainstream or even most cable media programs. It was on the internet, evidence that President Obama fulfilled his Constitutional duty to recommend and request. The House of Representatives, not the President, is the branch of government charged with raising revenue. Congress has the Constitutional duty to pass a budget.

But FOX, Rove and Ryan are not the only voices ignoring the Constitutional separation of powers while spewing propaganda. The mainstream media is a co-conspirator. CBS’s long-running Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer in the anchor-chair is a great example. Schieffer enjoys headlines like this one: Bob Schieffer Blasts Washington, suggesting Schieffer speaks truth to power, but I disagree. Schieffer merely said what many had already said, what most people already knew. He offered nothing new and certainly did not provide the full Monty. He said of sequestration: "The idea was that no sane person would allow such cuts to happen. Well, guess what: even Washington managed to underestimate its own ineptitude. The sequester and the draconian cuts are about to happen, because the White House and Congress can't close the partisan divide and figure out what to do with them, which is disheartening to say the least."

To understand the sequester and partisan divides requires more than sixty words, and news has a responsibility to report the whole story or shut up. Schieffer, I suspect, will argue that viewers will not stay tuned for much more than sixty words. Viewers want 140-word Tweets, they want action, and as good voyeurs, they want a bit of titillation. If it bleeds, it leads has long been a media cliché, and thus, we who demand nothing more, tune in for the death toll at Newtown, the body count in Moore, OK, the latest sexual peccadillo from a sports icon, and the most recent hypocrisy from Washington.

Jon Stewart interviewed Bob Schieffer soon after Newtown and asked why messages from Ted Nugent and the NRA make the nightly news while counter messages from police officers and more moderate citizens do not receive fifteen-minutes of fame. Stewart wanted to know why the media spreads the distortions, why it takes no responsibility for the shape of the story, but Schieffer had no answer. In fact, he may not have understood the question and certainly did not seem to recognize that he may be part of the problem instead of the solution.

Schieffer said that representatives from law enforcement had been guests on his program before, then complained that “we’re not hearing very much from them right now” as if he has no authority to give law enforcement a national voice. All he has to do is invite law enforcement to speak and give them a microphone so that their message may be heard widely, at least as widely as the fellow who offered that the Holocaust might have been prevented if Jews had guns.

Stewart probed Schieffer regarding the tendency to lead with blood instead of facts and reasoned arguments. Schieffer demurred, saying “I don’t know about that.” Stewart closed the interview without offering an extended web episode. He seemed to give up on Schieffer’s ability to take responsibility for the generalized and sometimes skewed messages he fronts. Indeed, Schieffer’s program often shows him giving politicians plenty of rope, then giving them some more because he lets them rant and dissemble without challenging their facts and figures.

Once upon a time, the minority had a tough time getting out its messages. Proselytizers and acolytes stood on corners passing out flyers. Occasionally, they were more furtive, weaving in and out of parked cars, placing pamphlets under windshield wipers. I remember receiving one of those from the John Birch Society (JBS). Its use of ad hominem, faulty logic, and doomsday predictions proved within the first paragraphs that JBS was a fringe element, one that attracts folks with preconceived biases or those who fear the present, change, and the future. A core JBS belief, for example, is that the purpose of many is “to destroy our constitutional Republic”, and they cite the Declaration of Independence instead of the Constitution as proof that our nation was founded upon godly principles.

JBS has never been an organization that speaks for the majority of Americans. Its minority opinions have found vehicles, including social media today--as is its right. But many minorities enjoy celebrity status. Climate-change deniers, for example, a group no larger than 30% of the populace are treated respectfully in the media. Newsreaders routinely sit on the fence when pronouncing stories about climate change instead of asserting, as nearly 70% of Americans do, that climate change is not only real, but also a very real problem.

Indeed, the Tea-Party, much in the news, often invited to be the talking-head of the day on news programs, enjoys similar protections. Newsreaders allow them to speak without challenging the basic facts of their messages. The problem was so pervasive during the 2012 campaign that news-checkers and truth-diggers had more work than they could handle. Still the truth does not get through to that minority to which we often cater. President Obama’s citizenship is an excellent example. The media spread the doubt by legitimizing the doubters, by giving them a forum instead of consigning them to parking lots and windshield wipers. Media complicity fueled the fires of ignorance, leaving us with people who still believe that our president is an interloper. If only the media refused to chase bright, shiny things, they might have spared the Obama family some of the veiled racism and unfounded suspicions.

The media has continued along this path by agreeing to label the IRS investigation into conservative groups applying for 501 C4 tax exemptions as scandal. Media outlets ignored the ambiguity of the Congressional directives regarding 501 C4s and the partisan purpose of many of those 501 C4s. The media have also given Issa’s investigations traction by reporting upon his fast and furious hearings as well as his Benghazi fears--FOX even continuing the lie about the email after it was proven that the White House did not doctor email messages--just as it had claimed all along, but most media outlets have chosen not to complete the story. Scandals sell better, and the media purpose is clear: be the first to a story, even if wrong; don’t apologize or retract; ignore subsequent developments that cast doubt upon the early news.

The result is media complicity in the partisan divide, in shaping the public debate, and in failing to inform the public, but we, the public, are complicit as well. We can and should demand better. We can and should object. We can refuse to support any news organization and newsreader who offers only chum--you know, the vile, bloody brew that draws sharks. We can double-check with before passing along a tale. We can change the channel instead of tucking in for an afternoon of vitriol with Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. We can, and we must.

Thursday, May 23, 2013: Things I've Learned Outside the School Room

Schools can complement some life lessons. Schools can provide insight into the human experience, for example. Schools can also teach humility and build confidence, but schools cannot teach what each of us must know before we are truly accomplished.

Only life proves that work itself is more satisfying than accolades and rewards. Only life can show us that we have within us the resources to fall and fail, persevere and triumph. Only life grants us the power to believe that whatever remains unseen around the corner can be faced and overcome.

I know that I do not need to worry about what comes next because life has shown me that worry never changes or prevents what comes next. I know that with or without worry, problems and losses will come, and I can continue to live, grow, and prosper. I know this because I’ve had my share of problems and losses, and I’m still here, hopeful, thriving.

Friday, May 24, 2013: Top Three Worst Traits

Many people describe me as smart, bright, intelligent, but I must tell them and you the truth. I’m not all that and a bag of chips. I am often slow to let go of what I must release in order to thrive. I think that I can make a difference when, in fact, I’m the last person who might or can. I’ll never stop trying though--in my own ways--to make that difference.

Other people describe me as reserved, a loner who keeps her own company best. I need to be alone as much as I need to breathe the air to survive. I really do keep my own company quite happily, and many people cannot comprehend the need to be alone, thus transforming me, in their minds at least, into someone standoffish, even arrogant.

Finally, I am afflicted with boundaries, lines, and borders. Transgressors are people up with which I shall not put--after I’ve tried my best, in my own fashion, to make a difference.

Friday, May 17, 2013

More Daily Blogging, Thanks to Story of My Life

I hope that several of you visited Jenni's site to join her challenge to blog daily in May. I've enjoyed the topics, and I've been stretched to write every day to a prompt. Here are the entries for the past week:

May 11. Sell Yourself in 10 words or less.

Empath. Wife. Mother. Mother-in-law. Grandmother. Caretaker. Teacher. Editor. Writer. Dreamer.

[Note: The challenge, for me, included using the same part of speech for each word.]

May 12. What Do You Miss?

I miss college. Let no Fate misunderstand me: I don’t wish to return to my late teens and early twenties, but I’d steal the naïve confidence and raw energy of those years if I could. I don’t wish to meet professors’ deadlines or tolerate my mentors’ varied quirks, but I’d join in free and open discussions to ask, answer, learn, and grow. That’s what I miss most, the company of people who treasure ideas. They read more than they watch, and they take the pulse of their nations. They are just a little bit arrogant because they breathe rarefied air, the kind that wafts through trees and buildings without the taint of commerce. College dwellers exist in a world apart. They don’t build or make, they dream and design. In that world beyond the college campus, people get and go, picking up and dropping off kids, commuting to and from work places. They gather news in snippets—the five-minute interludes on the local music radio station, pronouncements from TV anchors and pundits, headlines without accompanying stories, and the local FOXbot. Some of what they hear may sound intriguing, even alarming, but they have a duty to be physically fit so they run, a duty to earn so they work, a duty to raise kids so they do. College kids have a duty to learn; that’s it. They live in an oasis where people nourish their minds and dream of grand cities on hills and in valleys, of the general welfare, and of people who can and do fulfill their promise.

May 13. Issue a Public Apology.

I learned to listen and let go, but before that lesson lassoed my brain, like a rattler, I’d issue a quick warning before striking for the softest part, a pulse point, where I released my toxins. Little guys representing bigger guys were often victims. I know those little guys don’t set policy, determine practice, or even think much about either, I suspect. They simply follow the rules handed down or look for another job. But they are the ones standing between me and that big guy, the one who decided that advertised sales weren’t really in effect until the customer paid full price. Then the sale price would be added to his store card, if the customer possessed one, but the reward was not coin for coin; it was in the form of points that would accumulate until some date in the far distant future when the customer would enjoy a fraction of the promised savings. The young man who had the unhappy shift requiring him to explain all this to me looked like a bunny staring into the grill of a semi-tractor bearing down upon him as I reacted to this bait and switch trick, adding as a final coup de grâce that he should be ashamed. He didn’t understand, and I’m pretty sure, never blushed an ounce of shame through his veins. Neither did the young woman who couldn’t comprehend basic math. She told me I owed $85 for 6 identical items valued at $3.25.  I advised that there must be a mistake in the total, gently reminding her of her multiplication tables, explaining that 6 x 3 is not 85, but 18, that 25 cents is one-quarter of one dollar so six 25-cent values equal 1 ½ dollars, bringing the total before tax to $19.50. The young gal must have struggled through multiplication because she told me that I’d forgotten about the tax. I lobbed to her volley, advising her that no city or state taxes at rates greater than 100%. She blinked. My tone grew sharp, louder, finally drawing the attention of her supervisor who put pencil to paper and struggled. She tried a hand-held calculator and finally read $19.50 on the screen. Then she turned to the computerized cash register where she discovered the young gal had not closed out prior sales; she was running a total, adding each customer’s purchase to the preceding sales total, proving that the young cashier just lets the machine think for her and never questions its conclusions. Still, I’m sorry for snapping at her, that boy, and all the other little guys who’ve been my targets over the years. I now try to make amends by treating cashiers differently. I rarely feel the need to prove I’m right and remember I’ve made plenty of mistakes so when a cashier says, as trained to say, “Good afternoon. How are you?” I answer with “I’m fine. And how are you?” Many tell me and add, “Thanks for asking.” If there’s an error, a misunderstanding, or a problem, my standard reply is “No problem.” I’ve replaced impatience with patience, irritation with understanding--except, of course, with the one major exception for us all: cell phone company representatives. Those folks have signed on to work for devils to bedevil and befuddle us with rates, data use, packages, gigs, and gigabytes. They deserve what they get.

May 14. Ten Things That Make Me Happy
  • ·      The heartbeat of the earth, heard in ocean waves waxing and waning.
  • ·      The company of my husband, my personal cheerleader and life coach.
  • ·      Memories of my daughter’s childhood while in the company of her and her daughter.
  • ·      My granddaughter whose every discovery and achievement awakens joy unrestrained.
  • ·      Lakes placid, cold or warm, mirrors for the bluffs above.
  • ·      Hilly terrain where trees stand tall, dark against the snowy ground and indistinguishable one from the other when full and green.
  • ·      The sudden reappearance of lace upon the trees, stark and bare until the sun gives them permission to explode in new growth.
  • ·      Dogs loyal and loving, their eyes the windows to their souls.
  • ·      Cats on laps, their coats like silk under my fingers.
  • ·      Birds on high, soaring, circling, and riding the currents.

May 15. A Day in the Life (preferably with photos)

Prufrock measured out his life in coffee spoons. I measure mine in the hours between walking the dog. I no longer open a door and let the dog into the yard out back. I’ve moved to a condo where I have no responsibilities for anything outside my door. I venture out only to enjoy the air with my dog.

He prances, his nose up in the wind, headed in a straight line for some place that meets his needs according to criteria only he knows. I walk briskly behind, listening for bird songs and breezes. When the wind blows especially fierce at our backs, he often stops to sit down, apparently nonplussed by the wind mussing his fur. I giggle, and he looks up, studying my face to see if my laughter is directed at him. He’s sensitive that way. He pants a grin, then resumes his upward and outward-bound motion.

In between these forays into sleet, drizzle, snow, downpours, icy wind, and warm breezes under a benign sky, I read and write except for three mornings each week when I swim for my agility and pleasure. On a fourth morning, I attend a weight loss group where I’m trying to grab a bit of health while learning, at last, how liberating it is to eat wisely. On the fifth of five weekday mornings, I dabble at cleaning, but the dog and cats and I don’t make much of a mess.

On weekends, my husband joins me at the lake. He’s driven many hours to be near me, to enjoy this life he imagined for us, but he has yet to tear himself away from work that gives him purpose and plenty of income to support two houses until the big one with a yard sells. We dream about being together for hours between walking the dog and of being together while walking the dog. I hold my breath for that day when he’s here full-time. I’ll have to amend my routines, adjust anew to his Monday through Friday needs and wants. I’ll have to allow for his noise replacing my quiet, but he’ll be here for those rare monstrous storms that flash upon the hills and crash through the cove. His company will be welcome then, and I look forward to those sudden reflective discussions that reveal surprising facets of this man to whom I’ve been married for more than thirty years.

He’ll also walk the dog in the rain, offering for me to stay inside, warm and dry. Sometimes I’ll accept. But the dog will need to walk again--at least four times daily, and I’ll remember all the other dogs that have paraded through my life as I cherish this one, this one that gives me structure after retiring from a lifetime in schools as a student and later, a teacher. This young dog is not a substitute for a weekend husband or for my dear child or for the delight that my granddaughter brings, but he is happy here and that makes me happy, too.

May 16. Something Difficult About My Lot in Life

My husband longed for another adventure. He just wasn't finished trying new places or accepting new challenges. Even though he’s ridden more than 100,000 miles by motorcycle up and around mountains, as far north as Canada, and across the desert to LA, he searched for one more road to follow.

He tried to lead me to retirement in Mexico. We leased a casa perched on the side of a mountain in the middle of the jungle during the rainy season. Mosquitoes as large as bats attacked me and left him alone. Worse, something unseen cleaned its nest every morning, pushing dung and detritus from the grass roof above our bedroom to the tile deck below. In the kitchen, at night, a red-eyed crab dared me to approach while inside our bedroom, a spider as big as my palm watched me sleep from the ceiling high above. None of this disturbed my spouse at all.

Failing to persuade me to move to Mexico, he next proposed that we move to a place where we could look at water every day, and we have--except that we’re not together. He’s still in our home surrounded by land, working and waiting for our home there to sell, joining me on weekends only, while I make a home in this new, strange, beautiful place, a rural home very different from our years in a large city, a place so quiet that the songs of birds are distinct and welcome.

Still, I am mindful that being uprooted in pursuit of an adventure and being alone five days in every week are temporary states, that I had choices, options, and opportunities before arriving at this temporary difficulty. I also have work and companionship even if much of it is in text-messaging. I have confidence to go new places, meet people, and try. Others are homeless, jobless, and alone without relief. My little difficulties are nothing when I consider the difficulties that others face. My lot in life is bountiful. I can’t complain.

May 17. A Favorite Photo of Myself and Why

This is a piece of a photo snapped by a friend of the groom at my daughter’s wedding, an evening that seemed to fulfill her dreams for the moment when she declared her love before family and friends, when she began to share her life with the trumpet player who’d stolen her heart one New Year’s Eve when she was but 16. He was two years older, and she was inexperienced in matters of the heart, but she seemed to know that she would marry him and that they would be happy. They are and five years later, so is their baby girl, about to enjoy her first family celebration, a birthday party in her honor.

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