Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lawnmower Stuff: Ten Steps for Mowing a Lawn, from the Girly Gurus

When my son went to college a few years ago, my daughter and I were left with a lawn that kept growing and an old, unreliable machine that we had no idea how to work. After several years of practice, I’m happy to report that my daughter and I about have our lawn mowing techniques down. And we have had lots of practice since our front lawn is one of those uselessly huge corner-lot things with pointless side yards and lots of wasted space. Usually my daughter is the one who mows, but these days she is so busy that I do have to do it from time to time. This recently happened when I used the mower to mulch leaves. So as I mowed and mulched for hours and hours, I came up with these instructions on how to mow a lawn at my house:

Step 1. Make sure it has gas in there. Gas makes it go.
Step 2. Be prepared. Point it in the direction you want it to go just in case it starts this time.
Step 3. Mess with the little handle thingy until it’s halfway between the bunny symbol and the turtle symbol. This is because we don’t know which one is right. My daughter prefers bunny and then switches to turtle, whereas I tend to favor the halfway point, where I imagine some imaginary freak hybrid animal should live. Like maybe an armadillo.
Step 4. Say the Mower Good Luck Chant, which goes something like, “Please please please turn on!”
Step 5. Think angry thoughts (but not too angry so as to offend the mower) in order to give your arm some oomph, and pull the ripcord a bunch of times while saying the Chant. If it miraculously starts, jump up and down and say the Thank You Chant. Do NOT—this is important—do NOT swear at it or call it names if it won’t start! I have never known the mower to start after swearing has begun.
Step 6. Mow the worst parts first in case it quits halfway through, even though this means you weave in random patterns and create crop circles. The Laws of Mowing clearly state that mowing SOME lawn is better than mowing none at all. If the mower quits and we leave that weird reverse putting green again, the neighbors will at least know we tried, and the really nice ones’ grandson might come over on the riding mower. (So far it’s only happened when my daughter has been mowing in shorts, but you never know.)
Step 7. Do NOT stop the mower for any reason, even if you see sticks in your way, because it may not turn back on. So just close your eyes real tight and run over stuff, and say “Sorry, mower!!” to appease it. Alternately, say, “Ow ow ow”—whichever is required.
Step 8. If the mower does poop out again, repeat all the steps. When you are tempted to swear at the mower, call the Lawn Goddess, the resident teenaged daughter. She will consider a moment, nod, blink sagely, and ask, “Did you say ‘Please?’” You will of course report that you did, three times, at which point she may prescribe adding just a few more “pleases.” Because she has the most technical knowledge in our home, she may also suggest something like “more bunny” or “switch to turtle.” That’s pretty much the extent of our cumulative knowledge.
Step 9. If, by some miracle, you manage to mow the whole thing, put your hands on your hips and survey what you have done. Say to yourself, “I am She-Mower, Conquerer of the Lawn, and I am awesome.” Be sure to repeat the Thank You Chant.
Step 10. The preferred alternative to all of this is, of course, hiring the cute bronzed Lawn Guy with the rocking biceps. Check his progress often by sneaking peaks out the window. Sometimes he takes his shirt off.

Remember, happiness doesn't depend on who you are or what you have; it depends solely on what you think. ~Dale Carnegie

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ten MORE Good Things About Getting Old!

Because there are so many more than ten good things about aging, I originally made one very long list and then split it up. In fact, at some point there may be more....

11. A bad reputation is no longer bad; it’s almost kind of cool. (Not that I have a bad reputation…but I hope to someday.)
12. You get to call people “young man.”
13. You learn that what Jane Austen said over 200 years ago about the importance of character is still true today, because the reason she’s still relevant is that she captured the essentials of human nature so well. You choose better friends and learn who to stay away from.
14. There are better products on the market now, such as teeth whiteners. That means that some body parts can actually improve a bit as you age.
15. I used to walk carefully in public when my shoes were wet to keep them from squeaking. Now I squeak them on purpose (much to the humiliation of my teenaged daughter).
16. My fear priorities are more straight. I am less afraid of what others think of me and more afraid of the things that really can and do kill.
17. Sagging makes me look frowny. People take me more seriously because I scare them a little bit without even trying.
18. You know what to say to people when they have a crisis because you’ve been through it yourself.
19. I may not be able to remember much, but I really can synthesize information better.
20. No need for Blueray or high def TVs—if I want an unusually clear picture, I just put on my glasses.

“…forgetfulness can be a blessing. When I forget what I'm angry about, I figure it must not be important.” ~Donna Volkenant

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Stuff: Thank Like an Egyptian

Is it an Egyptian god of some sort? An asp that got run over in the middle? The Loch Ness monster? Small Viking ship? Nope! Those moms among you probably figured out “turkey platter” right away. If so, you are awesome. Happy Thanksgiving from me and Pharaoh Turkeykhamun.

P.S. Some of my pictures are disappearing! Does anyone know why? They are my photographs, so it can’t be a copyright issue. Also, I have two quotes today because I couldn’t decide:

Conversation overheard at grocery store between a teenaged girl and her mother:
Girl: Mom, I can’t tell whether this is an orange or not.
Mom: That’s a grapefruit.
Girl: (Dropping fruit like it’s burned her) Ewww!

Hank, the day after Thanksgiving is, in my opinion, the biggest shopping day of the year. And I will not spend another year giving Dallas Mavericks crap because the Cowboys stuff was all sold out. ~Peggy Hill, “King of the Hill”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Am Thankful for Blogger Buds

Thanks so much to Lisa Ricard Claro of Writing in the Buff for awarding me the Beautiful Blogger Award!!! Lisa can zero right into the naked heart of a matter and magically clothe it with heart of her own…using her keen insight, humor, wit, and that charming Southern-lady-graciousness. And congratulations to her for being almost done with her NaNoWriMo word count EARLY. I am so awed, but inspired as well.

I have a hard time passing along awards because there are just too many talented people, but this is a great chance to note my three newest followers! I’m flattered that they’re so diverse.  Welcome Reckless Driver, Domestic Sweetheart, and Avery James Photography!  You are all amazing. 

For memory has painted this perfect day with colors that never fade, and we find at the end of a perfect day the soul of a friend we’ve made. ~Carrie Jacobs-Bond

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ten Good Things About Getting Old

(Accompanied by garden pictures taken in the past couple of weeks.  The top is viburnum carlesii, and the bottom is passiflora 'Incense.')
1. Your face no longer breaks out. Unless you’re me, that is! But I mean if you’re normal, meaning not me, you probably stop getting zits.
2. The fact that you’re coloring the gray gives you an excuse to change your hair color often.
3. You and your hair have cohabited so long you’ve been forced to get along with each other. You’ve worn it poodle-permed and stick-straight. You’ve had almost every hair length, cut, and color that exists, so you know firsthand whether a certain style will make you look like Betty Boop…or poopy-doop. You even know exactly where to put the perm rods, how long to hold the hair in the curling iron, and which products make it look stringy. You have the home number of that perfect stylist who knows, via some sort of divine telepathy, exactly what cut you need even if you aren’t terribly sure yourself. You’ve had years and years to learn exactly how to subdue, control, and manipulate your hair in all kinds of weather. As a result, you have A LOT fewer bad hair days.
4. Young men no longer do favors for you as an excuse to get your phone number. They do favors for you because you look like their mom. Then they say, “You’re welcome, Ma’am” and go on their way.
5. You can be crabby and people sort of expect it.
6. Nobody heckles or grabs your rear end anymore.
7. Better friendships. Your best friend no longer breaks your plans to spend time with her boyfriend. She breaks her plans with her husband to spend time with you.
8. You can take a crisis better because you’ve been through only too many of them and know the pattern. You’ve learned that you are strong, and that this, too, really shall pass.
9. That whole wisdom thing. What you lose physically, you really do gain emotionally.
10. You can wear what you want because nobody cares. No one looks at your arms or legs, anyway, so you might as well go sleeveless and wear shorts! And make them purple!
“’Tell me one last thing, said Harry. ‘Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?’
Dumbledore beamed at him….’Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’” J.K. Rowlings, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Throw Open Those Doors…to Poetry

A couple of months ago, I won Karen Elaine Greene’s book of poetry, Three Thousand Doors. I didn’t know much about Karen other than the fact that I enjoy the writing prompts she posts every Monday on one of her blogs, “The Absinthe Road.” Plus…sometimes you just have a feeling about people, you know?

Of the title, Karen says, “Sometimes, life presents you with so many opportunities the toughest decision is choosing which door to walk through and every opportunity, every door, leads to hundreds more.” Wow, do I know that one. As soon as I read the first two lines of her introduction, I knew she was a kindred spirit: “Why do I write? Because I HAVE to.” Yes. Yes, this is someone who knows.

I’ve always believed that good poems are the delicacies of the writing world—precious as truffles or good wine. They can’t be guzzled. They are rich and rare delights which must be savored by the senses with a timing that allows them to transcend the mind and settle the heart and soul with a satisfied ahhhh.

Karen’s book was that sort of treat for me. Treats, I should say, because though I enjoyed them all, I felt touched on a deep level by far too many to name. When I gazed into “Self-Portrait,” it was myself I saw. In “Kathy,” I met my childhood friends again. In “Twister,” I saw the troubled people I’ve known who only seem to feel validated when they are drawing others into their disturbing personal storms. My soul danced with the imagery in “Rain Dance” and soared with the imagery in “Soft” and “Goddess” and so many, many more.

This book itself was more than a gift. Each poem, each word is a gift, a treasure.

I was so inspired, as a matter of fact, that I started thinking about my own poetry. I hadn’t written much of it in years, but a while back I started trying again thanks to Linda O’Connell, who teaches poetry and often urges people to just give it a try. So I put together some things for the haiku section of the Springfield Writer’s Guild’s 2010 literary contest and forgot all about it until this nice surprise came:
Looks like the 2009 winners are published on their website, but I don’t see 2010 yet. Will let you know.

So thank you again to Karen Greene for a gift that truly did open more doors!!

I crave the rush of power necessary to push words through my pen and onto the page…. ~Karen Elaine Greene, Three Thousand Doors

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Silly Show and Tell: Put on Your Nerd Glasses

I bought these magnifying lenses as actual reading glasses, and I don’t think they were even intended as a joke. Even the dog refused to model them. Why I got these, I can’t tell you. Did I need glasses, or what? Oh…right.

But still, I can’t believe I was too blind to notice that they are just butt-ugly. And they’re not even women’s butt-ugly—they are men’s butt-ugly glasses. Nerd-man-glasses. I think the reasoning was that the lenses were nice and big so as not to get in the way of the print, but they are so big that they fall off my face. Although I have known reading glasses to evaporate into thin air, “The Woody Allens” are perennial. Even the gremlins don’t want them, I guess.

I usually use my own pictures and quotations I’ve already collected, but today I specifically looked up Woody Allen quotes. Like those potato chips, I couldn’t have just one:

-Eighty percent of success is showing up.
-Tradition is the illusion of permanence.
-You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.
And finally:
-I've never been an intellectual but I have this look.
~Woody Allen

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When You Look at the Steps in Your Life and Realize You Were Learning to Dance All Along

Wow—what a week!! I had a significant birthday recently, and everyone kept asking me if I was okay about it.

When I think back to my last significant birthday, I felt so miserable and so terrified and so alone.  In this past decade I experienced a great deal of hurt. But I  learned from it. Am learning from it. And what I am learning is how wonderful it is to be around truly loving souls again.  
And can you guess what some of the kind, loving souls in my life did? They threw me a dinner party…to distract me from an even bigger surprise party! These pictures show the birthday glasses they made me wear. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My former sister-in-law even flew out here from San Francisco.  As if their presence wasn’t enough of a present, I felt absolutely showered with love. Then they gave me gifts—both silly and serious—and a journal in which every person there told how we had met and become friends…a gift that is, like these friends, truly among the greatest treasures of life.

When I was a teenager, my goal was to become a fully self-actualized human being by the end of my life. It’s been a much longer, harder road than I ever could have imagined. But as I age, I learn that life really is more about the journey than the arrival. It’s about knowing we are, at this moment, on the right path. Or maybe even just on a path. When I look back at my past and see all of the mistakes I’ve made, I’m horrified. But when I look back at how very far I’ve come with the help of my genuine loved ones, I am much more satisfied. And how far I’ve come has so altered the quality of my life that I awaken every day and am so grateful that I’ve been allowed another day, another step.

That’s what aging is. Another day. Another step along the path. Another chance to love more, to learn more. To dance more.
Okay with aging? Seriously? It is one of many ironies in life that the longer I live, the more I love life. Sometimes I think this aging thing is absolutely the greatest thing ever invented. When I am thankful for every day, every day I find I have so much to be thankful for.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. ~Buddhist Proverb

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~1 Corinthians13:13

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stuff from Around My House: Just Curious

Twins separated at birth, perhaps?

What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies. ~Aristotle

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tricky and Certainly Not a Treat

Conversation with two trick-or-treaters:

Me: Oh, aren’t you cute! Are you a Barbie doll?
Little Girl: No, I’m a girl from the 80s.
Me: Oh…uh…and are you…a clown?
Little Boy: No, I’m a hippie.

Crap, no wonder I didn’t recognize them. They were my youth. I quit asking children what they were from then on. It’s scary when your youth is being sold to children as Halloween costumes.

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell. ~Buddha