Years

Wearing Colors

My youngest sister just celebrated one of those landmark birthdays, the last of my four sibs to cross that line.  I expected it to make me feel older, but it really hasn’t. I look at each of them and see  how beautiful they are – each vibrant and young in their own way. And I’m not THAT much older…relatively…

When I had this particular birthday my baby sister sent me a red hat in a beautiful old-fashioned, rose-covered hat box. It was a joke and I loved it. I still looked young and felt even younger. That sweet, silly, extravagant hat has been sitting in wait for my sister to join me in this decade, which we will share for the next year, until it’s time for me to leave it behind.

I bought her a purple shirt to go with the red hat. The shirt, I must add, is a lightweight wicking shirt to be worn as she runs – 5Ks and half marathons – or maybe bikes with her husband across the state in 4 days.  This one is definitely not aging!

To add to the fun, I ordered a copy of that iconic book, “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” edited by Sandra Martz. I’ve read the poem, “Warning”,  from which that line originates many times, but didn’t realize it had come to rest in an anthology on women and aging. The book is out of print, so it had to be specially ordered. When it arrived, I opened it in search of that poem, wanting to mark it so that my sister would be sure to see it. A half hour later, I was still standing next to the open Amazon box and reading poem after poem with tears gathering at the corners of my eyes. It is a wonder of language that words have the power to touch places in our hearts and open them wide. I will share a selection of these poems over the next few days.

This first share is more whimsical and I dedicate its presence here to my siblings, Valerie, Linda, Steven, and Catherine. I love you. ❤

~~~~~~~~~

WARNING
by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

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Gotta Fly

Have you ever heard of the Fly Lady? Marla Cilley is the Fly Lady and she will gently, but firmly usher you into a life of order and serenity. I first heard of her maybe a dozen years ago when her book “Sink Reflections” was on the shelf at the library.

I was amazed at how she could encourage anyone to take heart and conquer the demons of perfectionism, procrastination, and clutter. Using her advice it is possible to overcome inertia and an overwhelming to do list.

When you hear the words order and serenity it sounds very zen and meditation-y – and it is! – but it starts with cleaning your house. So if you’re expecting Thick Naht Hanh or Pema Chodron or the Dalai Lama, you’ll be disappointed, but I guarantee that these FLY feelings are kith and kin, and who knows, maybe one thing will lead to another.

Maybe, these thoughts could be the precursors to manageable New Year’s Resolutions or, better yet Resolves to New & Improved Lifestyles. We are just three weeks away from the new year after all.

Marla’s methods are simple, but effective. Here are a couple of her standards.

1. It starts with a clean sink – do this one thing, do it well, then keep it up

2. Take small bites of tasks – you can do anything for 15 minutes – set a timer!

3. Perfectionism leads to procrastination – oh, yeah!

4. Routines, zones, timed work sessions, 27-fling-boogies (I’ll let you explore these as desired)

Marla’s world has fun acronyms, too. For example: CHAOS = Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome (the way we feel when our house needs a good cleaning)  and FLY=Finally Loving Yourself (by making your life easier)

I found myself thinking about flying a lot the last couple of days, because my December so far has been very overcast. Depression has moved in like a 1/2 ton gorilla sitting on my chest.  Yeah, that sounds more funny than, not, but I can assure you, I am not laughing.  In fact, tears have been a nearby threat for days. And that has not been me for years. I don’t know what is going on, but I need to push it away. Hard.

That’s where Marla comes in. Part of this state I am in is comprised of anxiety – and I think that is from an extensive to do list. I’ve handled the most pressing items left in the wake of a fairly irresponsible November, but the holidays are just around the corner and there are a gajillion things to do –  at home and at work.

So, I’m going to try to FLY.  I’m going to get up and go to work every day. I’m going to pay my bills and cook food and wash clothes and clean the bathroom.

And I’m going to write every day, because writing is the best way to fly.

Cilley, M. (2002). Sink Reflections. Bantam.

Questions Old & New

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The local library offers Ed2Go and Learn4Life classes free to its patrons. There are a wide range of courses to interest just about anyone, but I haven’t paid a lot of attention to them.  When I finished my masters at the end of 2006, I swore off anything formal-education-like.

Then in November I gave in to a long-time desire to return to writing and participated in NaNoWriMo. I’ve forgotten my final word count, but it was around 35,000. Printed out, it’s about 80 pages and is half a story. It needs a lot of work, but I love my characters, so I want to give them their HEA.

Enter:  free 6-week writing course. Day 1 was 2/19.  So far, it’s fairly general. The instructor had a couple of suggested text books and I have them ordered.  There is also a class discussion forum which I have’t tried, yet. It’s a nice low-pressure get-out-of-it-what-you-put-into-it kind of class. I’m hoping for motivation, direction and some specific instruction for proceeding with my work.

Interestingly enough, one of the texts is called “Goal, Motivation and Conflict.”

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Motivation is probably the most critical of the qualities I am hoping for – for me more than my characters. I have been struggling to stay present…to be a participant in life. Depression has been dogging me hard the past year. No idea why. I have literally been living in books.  And I’d love that to change.

But I ask myself, is writing books better than reading them?  Can changing role from receiver to creator change the fact of living in a fabricated world?  Will it open a door beyond angst? Will it provide a passage from anxiety to serenity?  Can constructing happy endings play a part in generating real life counterparts? Or will it be a mode of passing time until life or brain chemicals or circumstances bring about an easier state of being?

Perhaps I will emerge at the end of six weeks with some answers, lighter insides, or at the least a HEA ending for my characters.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie | Family Tree

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

My mother has this beautiful little Family Tree table and I wanted a picture of it. With surprise, I looked up to see myself reflected back in the mirror hanging above it. Whether intentional or just a bit of synchronicity in Mom’s decor, the effect was subtle, yet profound. It said, “Here you are, right where you belong.” It was a silent sentinel waiting with open arms to gather in any who passed before it. I shifted my focus so that I was included…a selfie, but surrounded by all my family.

Christmas – Part Deux 1.25.14

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Between busy schedules and snow days, it took us a month past Christmas to finish our celebration. It was so nice to get together for a second time this evening. We had a simple sandwich and finger foods buffet, visited and opened some presents. I was really surprised to receive an iPod.  I had asked for one, but wasn’t expecting it at this point. Robert remembered.  AND he got me the blue one.  🙂

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Sonny showed me how to synch it with my iTunes and I’m all set to go.  I’m really excited to be able to bring my music with me when I exercise.

While he was helping with the iPod, Sonny was able to get my old crashed computer files transferred across our network.  That also makes me very happy, because I will be able to access my pictures now. And that’s a gift that makes me really happy, too. It will take about 5 or 6 hours for all the files to transfer.  Good grief!  I guess I need to do a little weeding in the files.  There is stuff in there from the past 8 or 10 years. Lots of it is school assignments and things I haven’t thought about, much less looked at in all this time.  The thought of cleaning these out is a little daunting. How should I do it?  …one long marathon of deletions or one folder a day for the next couple of years?

And that just makes me think about other items on other to do lists that need doing… must keep those thoughts at bay… they have the power to kill the joy.

Must keep the joy alive.  What I need is a little music…and I know just where to find some.

Below is a link to a new song by Petula Clark, who has been around since I was a kid. She was known back then for songs such as “Downtown” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_m4Qb0iW-o, retrieved 1.26.14)  and “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvKj8lTuVtk, retrieved 1.26.14).

But here’s the new one. It’s entitled “Cut Copy Me”. I would love to describe it, but really don’t know how…seriously can’t do it justice. What I can say is that the music ebbs and flows from gently sweet to full and rich around a steady drum beat, while Petula sings melody and harmony with careful emotion that infuses the lyrics with meaning.To fully appreciate the depth of the music, listen with headphones. And remember to watch the video; it’s really cute – an old-time computer turns itself on and displays ascii graphics of the lyrics and pictures that go along with the song.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iM48qNM8xI, retrieved 1.26.14)

Every Day Discussion

Every Day cover

One of the things I love most about my job is my teen book discussion group. It started out small and was mostly girls, but it has grown over time and now has a few boys as well. Last month I was surprised when the meeting had only boys in attendance. This month, it was 50-50 — closer to the typical mix.

We had an amazing discussion of the book “Every Day” by David Levithan. It is not for younger teens, but was good with these high-schoolers. The book could be described as Quantum Leap meets teen romance — when the romance has really good character development. It is essentially a highly engaging commentary on life, love, relationships, family, humanity, gender, race told in 40+ daily vignettes.

Because the main character is only a human essence or a soul, it allowed a very understated exploration of gender and orientation, though a couple of the teens found it more difficult to identify with the character, because s/he was in a different body each day. I thought it was a brilliant way to explore the human condition in many of its aspects.

Admiration for David Levithan!

Music Plays Me

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My kitty, Mei-Mei, is never far away and especially loves to help me with the computer late at night. Honestly, she has this thing about playing with the cord on the earphones.  Sigh…

I’ve been thinking a lot about music lately. Thinking about how I push the button to start it up, but the reality is –> the music plays me…especially listening through headphones.  It pushes deep and satisfying  places in my brain. It plugs directly into my nervous system through my ears overwhelming my entire consciousness. Not only does it shut out the auditory world and distractions around me, but it focuses my attention. It pushes on places in my brain that have the power to make me move and steers my emotions. Sometimes in the silence afterwards, there is even a transitory effect of calm and serenity that feels like brain chemicals moving more synchronously and shoving hard against depression.

I keep listening to this Skrillex song, “Make It Bun Dem” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGpzGu9Yp6Y, retrieved 1.14.14). There is something about it that keeps me listening to it over and over. Am I the only one who does this?  When I feel strong attraction to a song, I can’t get enough of it. Only the presence of others who can hear me playing it is enough to make me stop. That is one of the appealing things about headphones…and cars…and being home alone.

If anyone could see the counts in my iTunes lists, they might be appalled.  A quick check just now reveals these high players on my recent favorites list: Too Close by Alex Clare,  Hayling by FC Kahuma, I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry, Superman by Five for Fighing, Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N Roses,  When the Night Kills the Day by Monochrome Hearts,  Waste by Smashmouth and  Satellite by Smashmouth… but I won’t continue…and just so you know I skipped a few in there, too.  And I have to further qualify the list by saying that this is only since I had to move exclusively onto my laptop after a serious crash on my PC. Only a small portion of my music actually showed up here when I reauthorized iTunes. This short list is just where I’ve been sticking lately.

Can’t remember ever not loving music. Mainly I listen, but I used to play piano and guitar. Even wrote some of my own music when I was in highschool. Had a gorgeous Alvarez Yairi 12-string.  It eventually fell on the sacrificial fire of practical need and once it was gone, the making-music part of me went with it… down for the count. I was also in choirs and groups in the earlier parts of my life…could sing first soprano, though my voice has much less range and is quite unpracticed these days.  Ultimately, the listening has been an affirming richness in my life.  Music is waaaay up there with things that I would have trouble living without.

I will leave you with a song that is high on my list of true favorites. Every night Robert and I fall asleep listening to the same album. It is a Windham Hill anthology called Celtic Christmas III.  We started the fall-asleep-to-music thing early in our marriage. We started out listening to Windham Hill’s Bach Variations album and graduated from there to Celtic Christmas II. When III came out, we switched to that and have been listening to it ever since…probably 16 or 18 years….every night, sometimes playing it more than once if one of us is having trouble sleeping….that’s a really big count right there!

But of all the songs on that album, my absolute favorite is – “Black is the Color” by James McNally. It begins with wavering, chirring sounds like night creatures and the plaintive calling of a flute that mellows to rich and sultry low flute. There is a gradual gathering of more musical accompaniment and drums, at first like heart beats, until it builds to this gorgeous, sensuous presence. It can bring tears to my eyes. And it is gentle. And it is soothing. And it could hold you in the steadfastness of its measures.

“Black is the Color” by James McNally (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjoI0QTKcg4, retrieved 1.15.14)

Sweet Dreams…