Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

On this last day of March in Southern California, the temperature has been up and down between 69 and 71 degrees. Some blue patches of sky, but mostly cloudy and gray…supposed to rain.

In the Midwest we would see huge dark clouds moving toward us, fingers of lightning, and rumbles — sometimes it seemed the air turned green —  and we could smell the rain. Then the bottom would fall out of the clouds and huge raindrops, then torrents, would soak everything in less than two minutes.

Here, we have 50-50 clouds. Some gray, some darker. Sometimes a lot of clouds push through the sky, but no rain. Then more blue sky, followed by more clouds! I shout in my mind “Rain already you S.O.B.s!” Later I’m surprised to see the streets are wet. A light drizzle sneaked in. No lightning. No thunder. Just wimpy sprinkles reluctant clouds spit out over us.

palm tree_clouds

By god, I’d love to have just one thunderous, voltage-filled, deluge!!!! THAT is what I consider to be “rain.”

Another thing, before it rained in the Midwest, there would be a frantic few minutes, as we brought the washing in off the clotheslines, gathered the kids’ toys on the covered porch, and closed windows all through the house and in the car in the driveway.

The cat would be crazily racing across the furniture and up and down the drapes, with her ears back and a wild look in her eyes, claws spread and prepared for the next leap — energized by the looming storm. Her hair even seemed electrified and stood out from her body.

Ahhh. Just thinking about REAL RAIN makes me feel better!


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I just came in the house from working in the yard.

These are new days in my older years. I have to wear sunglasses (the opthamologist ordered me to); a floppy, blue cloth hat with chin strap, to keep my face out of the sun to prevent more melanin splotches; my husband’s long-sleeved blue shirt, with “Dan” embroidered over the pocket, to cover my arms (as the doctor advised), because two wart/moles from the sun developed on one last week that had to be burned off; and soft, slip-on, rubber-soled surfing shoes, trimmed in pink neon, because I’m klutzy as hell and ALWAYS step on something, break a toe, or cut my foot.

So, I’m all decked out like this, while wearing black shorts. A vision I’m sure.  I bent down next to the garden bricks to weed, struck my knee hard on the rough edge, and have a cut on my knee!

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By the time 2008 rolled around we had lost so many servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, my thoughts turned to them at Memorial Day. I made about a dozen silk flower arrangements and with my husband, took the arrangements and our granddaughters to Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California, about 40 miles from our home.

We didn’t know anyone who was buried there, but we felt compelled to show our support and appreciation for those who had fought in the service of this country.

Riverside National Cemetery covers 921 acres, making it the third-largest cemetery managed by the National Cemetery Administration. Since 2000 it has been the most active cemetery in the system, based on the number of interments – 185,957 through fiscal year 2008. I read somewhere that there were 30 burials a day. Not all deceased were from the current wars, but vets from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, are included in that figure.

Riverside National Cemetery Gate

About three days before Memorial Day, volunteers in 2 hour shifts, for the next 72 hours, read aloud the names of all those interred in the cemetery. Sometimes only a maintenance man may be nearby to hear the names. Other times, visitors gather to listen silently.

Although there were hundreds of people – families, couples, singles – at the cemetery each year and many, many flowers had been placed on the graves, we found many grave markers that were barren of decoration or flowers. That’s where we placed our arrangements.

For some, such as the WWI servicemen and women, there were probably no relatives left who remembered them. For others, maybe sickness or distance kept survivors away. For still others, it’s possible there was no one who cared or it was too painful for them to visit.

We’ve gone for three years from 2008, missing one year in 2010 because of my broken leg.

Last year, there were small flags flying at every grave marker that we could see.  (Photos at top and at the end.)

Each time we visit, it is a strange juxtaposition of the life and energy the visitors bring with them and the silence and finality of the lives of the tens of thousands buried here.

As we drove home, I could not help reflecting on what could have been and feeling sorrow for their loss. But, I’m glad we went. Ours was but a tiny recognition of the day and the people, but gave us a connection to those who passed and to the history in which they lived and died.

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A friend and his wife recently went on an extended car trip across the United States. He wrote, “If you want to test your marriage, try being together for 30 days in a car in strange places at strange times in strange weather and see if you can hold the ‘Till death do us part’ together without speeding up the process.”

I think being in the same vehicle for extended periods, far from a sanctuary (when a person is desperate to be alone), has the same danger factor as home remodeling does!

I already know my husband of many years and I are not compatible enough to arrive at a far away destination in a state of sanity.

Our powers of compatibility and teamwork were tested early on when we got involved in a car rally! He was the driver. I was the navigator. As time ticked by, we became strangers in a strange land, with nasty tempers. I can’t even remember if we finished the rally. Or if we were talking after the rally.

My husband drives most all the time now when we go places together. Older and wiser, I lean back on the passenger side and let him argue with the woman on the GPS about HER directions!

She clearly gets pissed after a time when he misunderstands or ignores what she told him, and in her British accent starchly says, “Re-culc-oolating.”

His reserve gone, he bursts out, “NOW WHAT!? GODDAMN IT! I DID WHAT YOU TOLD ME!”

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I haven’t heard neat-o in a long time.

As teens, we used to say it a lot. I catch myself these days before writing the first word — Neat! — that pops into my mind. It seems that Cool is just a tad too cool for me to use, and Interesting is too generic, vague, and dull. We used to say something was Hot. But, I’m torn now knowing when something is Hot versus Cool. It wouldn’t be Cool to use Hot, if the Hot item was actually a Cool one. Another word that I liked to use was Sharp. Nice clothes looked Sharp. A Hot/Cool car was Sharp. But, the word in that form has become archaic.

Just once, I used a word that I’d read in Little Women, because it sounded good to me. I think Laurie said it: Capital. As in “That’s a capital idea!” But, I received a perplexed look in return. Never used it again.

A surfing word, Gnarly, struck me as being fun to say! So for awhile I would say gnarly when I meant neato. Then, I discovered that gnarly wasn’t meant as something good. “The waves are gnarly today. Darn!” Then, I’d heard Funky and used that when things were not up to par. “Mary, those slacks look funky. When did you wash them last?” But, embarrassment! Funky is GOOD! Who knew?

One word I have used on occasion that I do know the meaning of is BAD! That’s Baaaaa-aaad! Meaning it’s Goooo-oood! But, the older guys in my computer club aren’t aware of that meaning, and I believe it has caused some distance between me and a couple who’ve emailed me as editor with items for the newsletter. “Your article is so BAD. Seriously.”

The word Wicked never caught on much — on the West Coast, anyway. It modifies another word when you say things like “That taco is wicked good!” Oh brother. Sounds uncool. Affected, yet ineffective, don’t you think?

I know a number of Mexican/Spanish phrases that are appropo and fun to say, but I don’t think they suit all my conversations or conversationalists. The phrases that come to mind are: Cowabunga! (Said with great emphasis on the Cow. Mouth forms a big O.) And, there is Ay Chihuahua! (The middle part of the word is pronounced as a hearty WOW. Chee-WOW-ah! It makes me smile to say it.) Then, there is the Yiddish: Oy vey! that comes in handy, but doesn’t have enough syllables in it to make it satisfying or make me smile. And, it’s tricky to say with the correct emphasis and facial expression.

So, fiddlesticks, what’s a person to say?

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My grandmother had two large clocks that chimed. Not like the fancy grandfather clocks today. But, they were solid wood and chimed on half hours and hours. She had to wind them — once a week, I think.

As a child, I kind of regarded them as sentinels. They were high on the walls and very dignified and sturdy.

Her maiden name was Anna Margaret West. She was what was referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch — German — I’d say. Possibly the surname had been changed from Westberg or something like that. I just told my granddaughter about her to pass along some of her family history.

My grandmother’s house was always clean. Laundry and ironing were always done. She canned the dill pickles that lined the shelves in the basement. She gardened. I never saw her do any of it, but I imagine she was up before dawn doing these things. She always wore a dress, apron, cotton hose, shoes with ties, and her hair was combed and held close to her head with a gossamer hairnet — gray, like her hair. She never swore or yelled.

She was thrifty and even saved the tissue that the toilet paper rolls were wrapped in individually. (In the 1950s, toilet paper was wrapped in white tissue that was itself covered with a stiffer wrapping paper.) She smoothed the tissue out and folded it carefully before putting it away. For dishes, she would measure out ONE teaspoon exactly of dish powder. If she received Christmas cards with pencilled signatures, she erased them and sent them out the next year! She had lived through the Depression and it had left its impact on her.

She married an Irishman, John Kelly, who was a farmer. In later years, they moved to town (population 1,500) and he presided over the bar at the Moose Lodge. Little things I learned about him indicated he was lots of fun and had a great many friends. But, he had a stroke and I don’t remember him except for him sitting by the window in a rocking chair, day after day, and twiddling his thumbs. My grandmother took care of him: dressing him, shaving him, making his meals, etc. He never spoke, or laughed or smiled.

My father was adopted and was their only child. His lead soldiers — some kneeling with rifles, some standing — formed neat battle lines in my grandmother’s china cabinet long after he had married and had children of his own.

This is a kind of tribute to her. To thank her for the memories and for the positive influence she had in my life.

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Changes for the good that have occurred because a great number of people online have lent their support for them have been too long in coming.

This year, we have seen the power of many like-minded people. Ordinarily, most of us would not have spoken out or supported these issues.

It’s interesting that all who supported StopSopa, OWS, Planned Parenthood through social networking, did so without direct coordination. As long as people do what they do from the standpoint of goodness and in harmony with others, there is no down side that I can see.

It’s when hate, intolerance, and destruction of people and ideas are forcibly projected by a few vociferous people or groups when the power becomes a hammer and its consequences are feared.

I was thinking about this this morning. There is an “anti” segment of society and a “pro” segment. It’s interesting that more conservative-thinking people are generally against things: ideas, words, change. Liberal-thinking people have more of a “live and let live” behavior. Neither side will ever convert the other. We have to learn to accept and respect each other.  Somehow we have to be willing to meet in the middle if America is to survive as a democracy.

Until then, it is important that we know this type of power exists and how it can be used, because we may be called on for something far more important. We have to be ready to give our whole-hearted support and to sustain that support.

I have in mind an American Taliban-like movement. We are seeing its effects right now in smaller areas. This is not about religion or conservatives. This is about radical beliefs that relentlessly strive for the subjugation of women in society and financial/economic oppression of the masses. How like the middle east much of this thinking and these actions are.

Possibly, I’m beginning to sound more like a zealot. But, my actions are caused by anger because of inequalities that, up to this time, have not been acted upon and improved or removed.

And, I’m finding that there are many people who share my desire for independence and compassion and who oppose anything that restricts freedom of thought and limits our rights and abilities. This is a tipping point. We have discovered “we” and the power to change things.

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