The “Was Feelin’ Bad, Now I’m Feelin’ Good” Blues

(The following to be sung in true blues fashion, with the beat as ‘buh-BUH, buh-BUH (beat, beat, beat, beat, beat, beat), buh-BUH, buh-BUH,’ and repeat til the end of the song)

Woke up yesterday mornin,’ I was feelin’ blue,

I felt so bad, I had nothin’ to do.

I wasted the day, got nothing done

Couldn’t work, couldn’t think, couldn’t even have fun–

I sighed so deep inside,

Where I felt sadness reside

Deep down in my soul,

That felt like an empty bowl—

So I dragged my sorry self off to bed

And before I sulked myself to sleep I said,

“Tomorrow this will be no more!

Enough with this mood; it’s become a bore–

I’m going to get up the next day,

Sweep my troubles away,

Gonna drop these blues right on their butt

And tell all those troubles to keep their mouths shut!

Enough with this whining and moaning–

To Happyville I’m going,

Gonna kick off those blues

Right out of their shoes!”

What will be, will be–

That’s going to be happy, happy me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description Seduction

If you are a lover of words as I am, you may find yourself a willing victim of description seduction. I say this because I have been utterly gobstruck by descriptions such as these:

  • “One-of-a-kind luminous and lustrous sunrise-pink baroque pearl, set in a glimmering platinum band ring, engraved with Art Deco scrollwork”
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his book “Crack Up,” describes the stars as “silver pepper”
  • “The dying sunset streaks across the horizon in fingerpaintings of purple, pink, peach and gold”

Seductive descriptions are standard in the food world, too. Have you ever been to a restaurant where the menu reads like poetry? The offerings sound so incredibly wonderful, so unique, so delicious, so–well, seductive?

Someone very dear to me recently had this experience at a good restaurant near the coast; there was a scrumptious Caesar salad on the menu that sounded amazing. Along with the usual Caesar salad ingredients, the menu described it as having “homemade black pepper croutons.” The restaurant is known for its fabulous homemade bread, so of course, why wouldn’t their Caesar salad have homemade croutons? Black pepper, no less!

The salad arrived in all its garlicky glory–and studded with prepackaged croutons. This obvious (and disappointing) discrepancy was brought to the attention of the waiter and the manager, and both gave a lackluster “I’m sorry” as a reason/excuse. REALLY?!? That’s supposed to make up for phony-baloney croutons?? The person who told me about this left a clear message about how disappointing the whole Caesar salad episode was by leaving the aforementioned croutons on the plate like a jailhouse line-up.

This is only one example of description seduction. Another is when you hear about a new book by an heretofore unknown author that promises “Action!” “Intrigue!” “Amazing plot!” “A story that rings true throughout all time!” “A book for the ages!” so you pick it up at the bookstore (naturally, you can’t wait for the paperback, so you spring for the hard cover copy). You have already poured yourself a glass of the good wine (the one you save for births, weddings, and getting 80% off on a pair of designer shoes), you’re in your comfy chair, dinner has been served, eaten and the dishes put away–in short, it’s your time to enjoy this fabulous epic.

Thirty-five pages in, and you see it for what it really is–a real stinker. The plot is weak, the protagonist is a self-serving idiot, and the plot twists are so tangled that they simply poop out before the story even gets off the ground. It’s so terrible that you do the unthinkable: you skip to the last chapter before finishing the book. (I know, I know–it’s just the worst thing anyone can do–I’m so sorry I had to say it here.) And, no big surprise for you–it still “stinks on ice,” as my grandmother used to say. A big fat waste of money, wine and time.

Or how about the last time you applied for and got what you were sure was an amazing job? The description sounded right: “Assistant to Company President; duties are accompanying the president to all company locations, managing the president’s schedule, organizing the president’s files and books, and keeping on top of the president’s emails.”

But no. The second you’re hired, you are given a badge with a terrible picture of yourself on it, a handbook of company policies and procedures (which you later find out that no one ever reads or even pays attention to), and a desk and chair right outside the presidents oak-paneled door. You start work doing these things:

  1. You get a copy of the president’s schedule, which turns out to be so out-of-date as to be absolutely useless, plus the fact he keeps his real schedule to himself. You later find out that most “lunch meetings” are actually trips to bars, strip clubs and the occasional massage.
  2. You keep the president’s files and books all right; you just have to make sure that you don’t mix up the real books with the cooked books.
  3. As for keeping track of the president’s emails, that’s easy—he never reads them. Ever. Most of his computer is dedicated to Facebook, golf scores, NBA basketball schedules (he has season tickets), and a few porn sites.
  4. As for accompanying the president in his travels to different company locations? While the latest company brochure boasts of locations in Maui, Shang-Hai, Mumbai, Belize and Tahiti, those locations have been closed for months. Everything is now in Cleveland, OH, Fargo, N. Dakota, Temple, ME, and Blue Ball, PA. Furthermore, it turns out that the president doesn’t like any of those locations, and will send you instead while he relaxes in Miami, FL.

Then, talk about getting seduced by description, there are dating websites. You could be looking at a photo that’s a dead ringer for George Clooney, stating his interests in base-jumping, surfing, jazz piano, saving the whales and cooking healthy and delicious meals for the homeless every Sunday. When you agree to meet, you find yourself face-to-face at Denny’s with *Mortimer Snerd with an inhaler in his breast pocket, Kleenexes clutched in one bony fist, a ring of dandruff on the lapels of his blue WalMart suit, and a pronounced overbite. The first thing he asks is if you mind splitting the check. Fabulous.

So, if any of this applies to you, please don’t feel bad. We’ve all had those weak moments, and have fallen from grace (which is a lot like walking home in the morning, wearing the same clothes you had on last night, and with your panties in your purse). Damn those seductive descriptions and phrases!

*One of Edgar Bergen’s famous puppets.

mortimer+snerd-1.jpg

A Surprise – Part 8: Radiation and Tamoxifen

Yesterday I saw my wonderful surgeon who performed my lumpectomy on my right breast. With her was a tall, young and nervous-looking resident who looked slightly nonplussed to see my purple and yellow zeppelin of a breast. She said that the surgery went well and that she did indeed get everything; a huge relief.

However, in women of my age, it is entirely possible for me to get these nasty little rogue ‘I’m-going-to-turn-into-cancer’ cells again, in either breast. So to keep these particular wolves away from my door (or breasts), she recommended a course of radiation and Tamoxifen. I will be meeting with the radiologist early next month, and at that time all things radiation-wise will be discussed. That’s the second stage of this latest event in my life, and I have no idea how long I will have to have radiation. Once that is settled, we will talk Tamoxifen; when to start and so on. My surgeon told me it is usually a five-year regiment. In my case, these extra steps mean that I will be prepared, not scared.

Again, if anyone reading this is about to go through a lumpectomy or similar, please know that you will feel pain for a while. Of course, right after surgery whatever high-octane pain pill they give you is very welcome–but don’t get used to it. I took mine for twelve days, gradually tapering off to where I just took Aleve. There will be little pinchy pains now and then (the Crankee Yankee kindly describes the tiny sharpness of them as ‘tit ferrets,’ which makes me laugh so much that the pain obligingly diminishes), and also deeper throb-y pain from time to time. It isn’t horrible, but it’s there. Don’t be alarmed; it’s normal. Your poor assaulted breast is healing as fast as it can, and you can’t blame it for having grumpy spells.

But the GOOD thing to remember is that ductal carcinoma in situ is officially stage zero cancer! Again, things do happen and something can certainly come out of left field at any time, but for now, for me—I am just plain grateful. If this happens to you, get all the information you can. Find a doctor who, like mine, makes you feel you can trust him/her, one you connect with, one you feel in your bones you can count on to be your advocate. When in doubt, remember to ask your heart–it will not lie to you.

But also do your homework, and learn all you can. If you work with a naturopath as I did, get their opinion and direction on what supplements, etc. to take and what not to take. Get the whole picture, and if you can, take someone along with you who can keep a cool head. I’m not saying that you can’t, but I am saying that you will need help to remember what to ask, write down instructions, and so on.

I will also ask that you do one more thing. Tell loved ones, friends, co-workers, anyone with whom you feel comfortable–tell them what’s going on with you. Accept any love, prayers, Reiki, angel work, energy healing, friendship, etc. that they offer. Their support will help you through this. You have given plenty in your life; know when to take for a change. The time will come for you to stand by someone who is sick and scared, and you will know what to do.

Again, your goal will be to be prepared, not scared!

 

 

Notes From the Grammar Nazi

I suppose that people like me who insist on correcting everyone’s grammar are gradually dying out (to the great relief of many, I guess). But while we are still present on this planet, count on it–we are going to irritate the living crap out of the perpetrators of the ever-increasing abuse and misuse of grammar. Oh, and mispronunciation. Also spelling (please note: Spell Check is not your friend.).

My three Oscar nominations for word abuse in the first degree are these:

The Oscar for bad pronunciation goes to: the word “realtor.” (Please note how it is spelled. Using the spelling as a guide, it is correctly pronounced: “REAL-tor,” not, I repeat NOT “ree-lah-tor.”)

The Oscar for bad grammar goes to: this phrase I saw on a sign beside a walking trail: “No dog’s allowed on Friday’s.” (This sort of apostrophe misuse can be easily corrected by saying out loud what it is you want to say. Remember that an apostrophe before the letter “s” signifies possession, that is, “that thing that belongs to the ONE dog, therefore, the dog’s.” Same with Friday. “Friday’s” implies that something belongs to the Friday. If you mean plural Fridays, it is simply “Fridays.” And multiple dogs are dogs.)

The Oscar for bad usage goes to:  “So he takes and he goes and he just like leaves.” (AWWWKKK! (What exactly is it that “he” takes? Where is it that “he” goes? And if he “like” leaves, does this mean that the “he” in question does something that approximates leaving, or does he really leave?”)

Seriously, people–check “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White.

Recently a dear friend of mine gave me two buttons that I intend to wear daily (and will probably be buried with):

Button 1 reads: “Grammar: The difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.”

Button 2 reads: “I’m a grammar doctor. Now let’s have a look at that colon!”

I have also seen a great t-shirt that reads: “Let’s eat Grandma.” Under this reads: “Let’s eat, Grandma.” Under this reads: “A comma can save your life.”

In the spirit of this post, I also found the following gems from several notables. Please enjoy!

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” (Dorothy Parker)

“It is very useful, when one is young, to learn the difference between “literally” and “figuratively.” If something happens literally, it actually happens; if something happens figuratively, it feels like it is happening.

If you are literally jumping for joy, for instance, it means you are leaping in the air because you are very happy. If you are figuratively jumping for joy, it means you are so happy that you could jump for joy, but are saving your energy for other matters.” (Lemony Snicket)

“A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.” (Baltasar Gracian)

“What really alarms me about President Bush’s ‘War on Terrorism’ is the grammar. How do you wage war on an abstract noun? How is ‘Terrorism’ going to surrender? It’s well known, in philological circles, that it’s very hard for abstract nouns to surrender.” (Terry Jones)

“A man’s grammar, like Caesar’s wife, should not only be pure, but above suspicion of impurity.” (Edgar Allen Poe)

“It’s hard to take someone seriously when they leave you a note saying, ‘Your ugly.’ My ugly what? The idiot didn’t even know the difference between your and you’re.” (Cara Lynn Shultz)

“The rule is: don’t use commas like a stupid person. I mean it.” (Lynne Truss)

“And all dared to brave unknown terrors, to do mighty deeds, to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before–and thus was the Empire forged.” (Douglas Adams)

“This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as non-traditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank.” (Christopher Moore)

“If you can spell “Nietzsche” without Google, you deserve a cookie.” (Lauren Leto)

“Ill-fitting grammar are like ill-fitting shoes. You can get used to it for a bit, but then one day your toes fall off and you can’t walk to the bathroom.” (Jasper Fforde)

“This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.” (Winston S. Churchill)

“People who cannot distinguish between good and bad language, or who regard the distinction as unimportant, are unlikely to think carefully about anything else.” (B. R. Myers)

“What the semicolon’s anxious supporters fret about is the tendency of contemporary writers to use a dash instead of a semicolon and thus precipitate the end of the world. Are they being alarmist?” (Lynne Truss)

 

 

 

 

Restoring Breadth and Depth

I have become a follower of Phyllis Ring’s excellent articles from her blog, “Leaf of the Tree.” I encourage you to not only read her excellent blog, but to find out more about this remarkable woman at info@phyllisring.com.

The following post, “Restoring Breadth and Depth,” was published June 14, 2015. It is one that touched not only my heart but my writer’s soul as well. I hope it illuminates and inspires you as it did me.

“I’m at that (re)writing and editing stage where everything is closing toward the end in a work I’ve lived with — that has lived with me — for lots of years. The simultaneous presence of joy and fear can be nearly overwhelming, some days.

“This has reconnected me with the power of my relationship with my thoughts — the very narration of my days. And revisiting an insightful article by writer Steve Almond reminds me of what’s missing in much of writing these days: an effective narrator. It strikes me that I need one personally, just as much as my writing does.

“In the cultural shifts of the last decades that turned many into viewers rather than readers, ‘we’ve lost our grip on the essential virtues embodied by a narrator: the capacity to make sense of the world, both around and inside us,’ Almond writes. Narrators serve the role of portraying big things, conceptually: how individual fates collide with history. More than just awakening readers’ sympathies, they help enlarge their moral imagination as ‘they offer a sweeping depiction of the world that helps us clarify our role in it,’ he says. The perspective that narration offers helps us make meaning of a story, and of our lives, and also find a sense of place for ourselves in the scheme of things.

“In times whose only constant seems to be constant change, we need narrative more than ever, even as it’s fast disappearing. While publishing gets downright pedantic that writers ‘show, don’t tell,’ a well-developed narrative and its vital contribution to a story, like nutrition in a diet, becomes endangered through ignorance and oversight.

“Narrative is as essential in human life as purpose is. It’s the one thing that, when time is shrinking, spinning, rushing past us with ever-increasing speed, points faithfully to what is timeless. We don’t need it to spoon-feed us, naturally. But we do need its signposts.

“Almond notes that media has created increasingly passive audiences, able to absorb and react, but not to imagine. That’s a pretty low (survival-based) level of human experience. And, accordingly, the focus of a lot of current writing is on the instinctual aspects of human beings — survival or perpetuation of the species (chase scenes and preoccupation with the sexual, often voyeuristically so).

“Author Nathan Rutstein predicted this more than 25 years ago. He had worked in television and other media and authored many books when he made the observation that human society was increasingly losing sight (literally, as if not seeing it) of the higher possibilities and qualities in human potential as it grew more fascinated with and gripped by materialism, both in media and in the rest of what was called culture.

“Almond’s article describes the approach of most media as that of ‘minimizing sustained attention’,’ which results in a flitting, easily distracted behavior that doesn’t ever engage with any depth – becomes incapable of doing so, perhaps. That’s almost the exact opposite of what a novel (or painting or play) was designed to require and invite. Or a spiritual, contemplated life.

“Reading, unlike scanning and surfing, requires involvement and commitment, both from writer and reader. The narrator, and a story’s narration, is what facilitates this, helps create a book’s world, then lends it meaning. Many books now feel as much like packaged entertainment as most commercial television, and as unsatisfying and lacking in nourishment for our inner life. Much in publishing seems to train attention on mechanics, a shock-value, attention-getting and contrived writing style and manipulative repetition of ‘tropes.’ A  cookie-cutter approach to more of the same. So much more of the same. Preoccupation with the lower nature, particularly if a series might be wrested from it. In order to have more of the same. Where is the room for discovery, depth, mystery? Soul?

“Almond describes how although some current works reach for these, ‘still work heroically to make sense of the world’, they find themselves ‘on the margins of a popular culture dominated by glittering fantasies of violence and fame. On a grand scale, we’ve traded perspective for immediacy, depth for speed, emotion for sensation, the panoramic vision of a narrator for a series of bright beckoning keyholes,’ he says.

“We’ve bartered away the riches of our indwelling higher nature, what brings meaning and depth to life, for the indulgence and absorption of our instinctual one. In a way, that is the only aspect of human being that seems to get the attention and focus now, perhaps with a thin veneer of the intellectual applied over it, or emotion that’s dealt with mainly in sentimentality, hyper-dramatization or other superficiality.

“Narrative, and the meaning it serves, can restore the breadth and depth of human experience and bring it back home whole. Ennobled. True expression, in any form, and always, in its highest one, is incomplete without it.”

Find Steve Almond’s excellent article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/magazine/once-upon-a-time-there-was-a-person-who-said-once-upon-a-time.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Irrational Fears

I don’t know about you, but my mind can be a weird and scary place when it isn’t actively engaged in something useful. For example, I have an entire Broadway cast of “what if” fears that, if I let them, will keep on coming out over and over again for just ‘one more encore’, especially when I’m trying to sleep.

Most of them revolve around home security and the life and welfare of our three cats, Nala, Pookie and Plumpy-Nut. The Crankee Yankee has been repairing and renovating our house for the past eight years. He has several work areas going at once, including power tools, shovels, gardening equipment and such that he leaves out, plus several ladders that he leaves up against the house, and so on.

That being the case, here are my top five irrational fears:

Irrational Fear #1: someone during the day when we are away or at night while we sleep will creep up one of the ladders and:

1) Break into the house and steal our stuff

2) Let the cats get out

3) Kill us and the cats

Irrational Fear #2: someone will use any or all of the shovels, picks, rakes, electric drills, or gardening tools and:

1) Break into the house and hold us for ransom

2) Let the cats get out

3) Torture us with garden spades and trowels

Irrational Fear #3: someone will get so sick of seeing our unfinished house will all our crap strewn in the driveway, open garage and backyard and:

1) Burn the place down while we are away

2) Burn the place down, allowing the cats to escape

2) Burn the place down while we are all sleeping

Irrational Fear #4: someone will get so tired of our house being the messiest one on the street and:

1) Put us on Dr. Phil and embarrass us in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers

2) Call those hoarder folks from TV to come dig us out and, in doing so, embarrass us in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers

3) When all this happens, the cats will escape

Irrational Fear #5: By the time the Crankee Yankee strips the front side of the house to where he can replace the old insulation and boards prior to finishing it up and:

1) Entire generations of wasps, spiders and mice will spill out of the walls like Niagra Falls

2) Our neighbors will complain that we have let loose thousands of pests in the neighborhood

3) The cats will escape, trying to catch the mice

See–these irrational fears right here are what keep me up at night. Oh, you may say that these things will never happen, to which I say “They just might.” In fact, if I ever come into an insane amount of money, the first thing I’m going to do is to buy us a nice, new, clean detached condo. Any snowplowing, roof cleaning, plumbing issues, pest problems and their ilk will be taken care of by the no doubt expensive condo fees we will pay. All I will need to do is call, explain the problem and let someone else worry about it.

I will move us all in, cats and all, and each day I will pack the Crankee Yankee a nice lunch and send him off to keep working on our now-vacated house. He can have that job until he either gets tired of it, sells it as is or finishes it and sells it. Either way, I and the cats will not have to live in a permanent construction zone. The Crankee Yankee can come home to a nice, clean orderly house, take a nice hot shower in our uber-modern bathroom that does everything for you but brush your teeth, and we will sit down to a lovely meal with wine. The cats, too, will have a lovely meal with water.

Friends, that’s my dream and I’m sticking to it. My reality may be a live-in construction zone with nightly irrational fears, but in my dreams I am in that condo and every single thing is in its place.

 

A Surprise – Part 7, “Know When to Lie Down”

I had surgery (lumpectomy) on June 2 for ductal carcinoma in situ in my right breast, and have been recovering since then. I had an excellent surgeon with whom I felt instantly comfortable, and I worked with my naturopath regarding what *supplements to take during and after surgery and what to avoid until you’ve recovered.

So, nearly two weeks later, I feel I’m on the road to complete recovery. Before the surgery there was a question as to whether I would need follow-up radiation and Tamoxifan; so far, I haven’t heard a word about it, which I am choosing to interpret as a good sign. I will see my surgeon next Wednesday, June 17th, so I will know more then.

Now, that being said, if this ever happens to you, here are some things I’ve learned from this experience:

  • After surgery, there comes a time when you realize that you no longer need those heavy duty pain pills; you can go back to taking **Aleve or whatever works for you. Realize that you will have some ongoing pain, but it will be pain you can manage.
  • Your breast will swell up like a small zeppelin, and will be bruised and tender for a while.
  • You realize that you need more rest than you thought.
  • You realize that you need more help than you thought.
  • You realize that many more people than you thought were worried about you and prayed for you.
  • Even your animals will recognize that you aren’t feeling well and will want to stay near you.
  • The ***people you work with will not necessarily remember or know that you had surgery, nor will they check on you or call or email you–that is, unless they need something from you.
  • Your family will rally around you, ask after you and want to know how they can help.
  • Your body will need far more rest than you thought; lie down often.
  • You will not be able to do many of the things you used to before surgery. Don’t worry–this will pass. For now, do exactly what your body needs.
  • You will need to drink a lot of fluids, especially water. Several cups of green tea per day is helpful (and delicious!) too.
  • Give yourself permission to be lazy, and also give yourself permission to really enjoy the time to be lazy.
  • Do not be a hero–this is your time to rest, recuperate and let others help you. When you allow others to be there for you, it is a gift to them and to you.
  • When people want to pray for you, send you Reiki, send you get well cards, bring a meal over, let them. Someday it will be your turn to help out; right now this is your time to accept help. Again, your acceptance of help is a gift to the giver.
  • Until you are positive that you are ready (and that you are no longer taking those heavy-duty pain pills!), do not drive, operate heavy machinery (or, quite frankly, any kind of machinery except maybe the hair dryer), or make any important decisions.

As always, my reason for sharing this information with you is that if you yourself are about to go through something like this, it may help you to know my experience. This is the really positive part of today’s technology; that we can share experiences with each other, help and encourage each other and lift each other up.

As always, thank you for reading and for your most welcome comments.

*Be sure you check with your doctor and/or naturopath prior to surgery regarding supplements. He/she may recommend (as mine did) Astragalus, an immune support in liquid form that helps with hot flashes if you are taking hormone therapy as I was before surgery. Hormones such as estrogen encourage cancer growth and you do not want that. It was also recommended that I take Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP by Vital Nutrients; “Pectasol Modified Citrus Pectin, 5g”). This is taken before surgery, and at least two weeks following surgery to help prevent any residual cancer from “seeding” into another area. Additionally, I had been taking CAL:MAG Berry liquid (100% citrate minerals with vitamins A, D, K, calcium, magnesium and boron, and DHEA. These two were also stopped prior to surgery.

**When in doubt, always check with your doctor first.

***Just about everyone you work with will be this self-absorbed, and rightly so. Most of the work folk you know are primarily involved in their jobs and their own families, but they are not your friends or your family.  If you are lucky (and I am), you will may made at least one good friend there (I have–thank you, Carol!) who will ask after you and wish you well. This is a rare and wonderful thing, and you are very lucky indeed if you have such a friend.

Stand Up Straight!

To this day, I can feel my grandmother (whom we all fondly called “Ba”) put her knee in the middle of my back, pull my shoulders back and say, “Stand up straight!” At the time, I was in that oh-so-awkward gangly state kids go through around age ten or eleven. There was a sizeable space between my front teeth (the only reason I could see for having that space was that I could spit through them), my feet were huge, I had permanently dirty and knobbly knees and elbows, freckles across my nose, and, no matter how I combed my hair, my bangs often stood up in sweaty spikes. I spent a lot of time in trees, I wandered in the woods behind our house looking for may flowers and Jack in the Pulpits, and I loved animals, reading and writing.

When I had weekend overnights with my grandparents, Ba was always telling me to stand up straight and walk tall. At that time, all I wanted was to flit around unnoticed; I always felt huge and out of place, not to mention graceless as a goose. But Ba was adamant about my standing tall, and, because I didn’t want her to keep kneeing me in the back, I did stand up straight–at her house, anyway.

At the time, I didn’t realize that this would become an anthem in my mind (“Stand up straight!”) whenever I felt nervous or afraid–I would hold myself up as tall as I could, mentally thanking Ba for drumming this into my head. Just straightening up gave me a kind of courage I couldn’t explain.

Now that I am about as old as Ba was when I first met her, I understand more fully what it does to us to mentally and physically stand tall. Doing it somehow aligns all our cells to a higher purpose, and to be as ‘present’ as possible. These days doing it makes me feel younger, stronger, more confident, and more engaged in the world by meeting it halfway instead of letting it come to me.

What I call ‘putting myself out there’ is the invisible knee I still feel in my back, urging me to stand tall. I truly believe that just about everyone we see in the world has their own insecurities and secret demons they fight each day. So I, like many, do the ‘fake it til you make it’ routine. When I feel insecure, I act as if I’m not–and believe it or not, standing tall reinforces my confidence. I’ve lived long enough to know that, while there is a great deal I know and a lot that I’ve learned, there is so much more to learn. But at least standing tall puts me in perfect alignment to be aware, to be present, to be in a place where I can absorb and retain new knowledge.

As I approach my 64th birthday, I can laugh at many of my past mistakes and assumptions. I can also plan to occasionally make a ginormous ass out of myself from time to time as well. I can take myself far less seriously, yet be prepared to throw myself out there and be as straight and tall as I can.

Thank you, Ba, for that knee in my back when I needed it the most.

 

How Will The “Selfie” Hold Up Over Time?

It’s no secret that I abhor the term “selfie.” It’s smug, self-serving and annoying. But worse than that are the actual selfies themselves. I long to ask someone who takes them exactly what look they were going for—you know the ones I mean:

  • One eyebrow raised archly, mouth turned down in a frown
  • Eyes wide open, lips pursed in a little pout
  • Tongue sticking out, fingers forming the “V” sign
  • Frenetic look of ‘wow–are we having fun or WHAT?!’
  • The model stare – sulky, sultry, world-weary
  • The ‘how drunk am I?’ look

Seriously? Is this how people want to be remembered?

My mother spent many, many months painstakingly collecting information on our genealogy. During that time, she found many pictures, personal and public records, much of which she found in libraries. She traveled from place to place and interviewed many people face to face. It was a labor of love and hard work.

The pictures she found were wedding photos, showing very serious young people in their wedding finery. There were many of babies, all looking crabby and overdressed. Then there were all the military photos, showing thin intense young men in full military regalia. Hardworking people, dressed in clothes that were practically rags stood exhausted in front of one-room shacks, their unsmiling children around them. At that time, it wasn’t unusual to take photographs of the dead, too. There is one poignant little picture I remember of a dead child, mourned so long ago.

Photographs from those periods show life in its often hard reality. Photos were meant to preserve special events, people and places. At that time, photos were kept safe in special albums, and you could spend a pleasant few hours looking through time itself through photos.

My dad was a professional photographer whose work is now legend in countless homes. For years he took wedding pictures, generations of senior pictures at our high school and, as I was in musicals during all four years of high school, took the photos that became part of the programs for each show. The last musical in my senior year was “The King and I,” in which I played Anna. On opening night, my dad presented me with something far more precious and long-lasting than flowers: a beautiful red leather album of pictures from nearly every scene in the show. On the first page he had written, “Jane: my love, my life, my joy, my Jane.”

It is a gift I cherish still. Dad had a lab in the house, and he must have been up all night to get that album done for me. It was and remains to this day a magnificent gift of love.

I don’t think that anyone ever thought that pictures could ever be any different; that is, that there would be portable devices on which to show pictures, or that pictures as we knew them once would cease to be. Pictures now are as ephemeral as the ‘cloud’ in which they now reside.

I think it was this casual attitude that lead us to where we are now; “selfies,” for instance. Really, does anyone want to pick up an ancient cell phone and see pictures of their great-grandfather in his underwear, sticking out his tongue and triumphantly holding up an empty beer bottle?

As for me, I prefer our old photo albums.

Comfort Comes in All Sizes

As I am recovering from *surgery, I have good days and not-so-good days, the same as anyone else after a surgery. There are days when I almost feel like my old self, that at last I am back to normal–then I have a day where all I can do is drag myself around the house to do a few things, then doze most of the day.

I having been cutting down on pain meds and only use a half pill every four or five hours, but by night I need the whole pill. The pain isn’t horrible, just on-going. It goes from a deep throbbing to a surface tightness; the pain feels like a sharp bite. Again, this isn’t anything I didn’t expect, but it does get wearing.

I will see my doctor next week and get an idea of when I can return to work and so on. It’s the fatigue more than anything that does me in. Also, since my right breast is still tender, I’m wearing what I call my “flooby booby” bra (no wires, no support, just kind of a ‘boob hammock’), underwear, pajama bottoms and a loose t-shirt. That’s been my wardrobe du jour for days now. And makeup? Forget it! I’m happy if I’m just clean. If I really want to go all out, I put on skin lotion and a smear of lip balm. Glamorous, I ain’t.

Even our cats seem to notice that I’m not myself. If I lie down on the bed, one by one all three cats will come up and join me. Nala, our one female, and Plumpy-Nut, our newest boy whom we adopted last year, prefer the Crankee Yankee to me. Pookie, our other male, is my boy. However, when I’ve felt well enough to sit in my chair to watch a little TV, Nala has climbed up on my lap and let me cuddle her–three times. (I can count the times she’s done that on one hand in the five years we’ve had her.)

Plumpy-Nut likes me well enough, but as soon as he hears the Pied Piper’s voice (the Crankee Yankee), he is off to see him. But he too has stayed near me these past days. Usually once or twice during the past blessedly sunny days, I’ll take him outside with me, and sit on the steps while he enjoys the garden. He loves lying in the warm soil, and rolls back and forth in it, grinning, as my Texas friends would say, ‘like a possum in a cow plop.’ But he has been staying near me, and even comes in when I do. And Pookie, bless his little heart, will lay himself down on my feet, tummy and feet up in the air for me to pat and scratch him.

Those are little miracles of comfort that make all the difference these days. My mom and I talk every evening, which I love. My friends keep in touch via emails, and constantly send notes of encouragement. The Crankee Yankee will do whatever I want or need, such as running out to get me a pint of that wonderful butternut squash soup I love for lunch. In short, I feel spoiled beyond belief. I am learning to listen to my body when it needs rest, and stop worrying about things I can’t do right now, like drive, go to work or clean the house.

It has taken me years to even consider accepting help and comfort from those around me (I am much too quick to say, ‘oh, I’m fine, don’t worry about me,’ when I’m actually not fine), but circumstances now force me to just give in. And that’s ok. I am overwhelmed (and get a little teary) when those I love are so kind to me, and then when my two more aloof cats come willingly to me–well, it’s just the kind of comfort that both soothes and rejuvenates.

And you know what? Comfort is comfort, no matter what size and shape it comes in. This is a time of rest and recuperation, as well as appreciation for so many kindnesses and comforts, not to mention the huge relief of having the surgery behind me.

Sometimes comfort comes in the size and shape of a cat purring in my ear, a hot bowl of soup, a phone call, an email, a hug, a kiss, a whispered ‘are you ok?’ in the night–and I am grateful.

*See “A Surprise, Parts 1-6” for more information.