Bar Soap and Vinegar

I recently spent a week with my sister in Grand Cayman. We have an old cottage, and as we like to say, it has character. My sister and I do this trip every year, and every year at the end of the week, I’m left with a mix of wonder and nostalgia.

Typically, our week begins with offering each other unsolicited advise about our respective lives; what to eat, what not to eat. What I think she should do about her brown spots, what she thinks I should do about my facial hair. Then we turn up the heat and discuss our husbands and children. The talk eventually circles around to our mother…which is when I pour us another glass of wine. We never get to the bottom of our childhood, but it doesn’t stop us from trying.

The good news is–no one knows you like your sister. The bad news is–no one knows you like your sister.

One day I was complaining about the effort required to close our sliding glass doors. My sister asked if I had any bar soap. I dug under the sink and found an old bar, which she then rubbed into the rusted runnels of the doors. The doors glided like new.

The next day I commented on our cloudy plastic glasses. She rummaged through the cupboard, produced the vinegar, and then proceeded to wash the glasses with the vinegar–they sparkled with new life.

The week we had together was a good reminder that we already have all the essentials we need in our homes. Like bar soap, vinegar, family, and sisters.

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Christmas Re-hash

Every Christmas I try to add meaning to the holiday. There is so much frenzy and distraction surrounding Christmas that its easy to forget what its all about. My answer to that is to write a meaningful message to be read to my family on Christmas Eve. Here is a synopsis of this year’s message:

The Matryoshka (Russian nesting Dolls)

Each of us is who we are today because of our family. When one of us is down, we lift them up; the pain of one is shared with all. When one of us experiences success, we celebrate; their joy increases our own. Having said that, I believe the greatest gift of family lies in the intimacy of our interaction. The dynamic of rubbing up against each other’s flaws, creates conflict. In those moments we have a choice to make; do I stubbornly hold onto my position, or do I have the courage to question my position? And by questioning we begin to strive for resolve, only then are we able to let go.

Spiritual growth is about letting go, shedding these flaws that trip us up. I liken these flaws to costumes we wear, and the act of shedding costume after costume, until here I am stripped down to my real identity ready to fight for everything worth having, is what being human is all about. The Matryoshka represents this shedding; the outer shell giving way to the next, and the next, until the small solid form is revealed. No longer hollow, but solid.

Each of you has caused me to shed a costume.  (I won’t bore you with how each of my children caused me to do this!)

Now our family is blessed with the addition of four more members. Each in turn will challenge not only their respective spouses, but all of us. So we continue to grow by shedding. What becomes greater is that small, solid voice called the soul.

The soul is our conduit to God. Our flaws block this flow, which is why it is necessary to shed them. When our actions and reactions are fed through this conduit we begin to live in peace amid the chaos surrounding us.

(I would enjoy hearing from all of you about what you and your families do to make Christmas meaningful)  Happy New Year!

My Son

When my son was a little boy I used to imagine that somewhere there was a little girl who would one day be his wife. I’d wonder who she was. I hoped that whoever she was she’d understand his little quirks; like playing air guitar with his tongue wagging, or the need to roll up the sleeves on his shirts and trousers, and then there was his aversion to colorful food. Of course, at the time, he had just learned to tie his shoes.

Years later, when my son brought home this sweet, dark-haired beauty, I paid attention. I observed the two of them interact, she laughed at his jokes, enticed him with colorful and spicy food, and changed his wardrobe–surely this was meant to be. The love between them was plain to see. I knew this was it. I have finally met her.

So a few weeks ago they got married. A beautiful wedding, arranged entirely by the two of them with not a detail out of place. What happened to me was a complete surprise; I fell apart. I said to my husband, WTF, I never felt this way when our girls got married. He laughed and said, he felt like he was losing his girl when they married. It was astonishing and disheartening to know Freud was right. WTF

Words

I came of age in the seventies. A time when it was not cool to be uptight. We valued passing the J, psyching out to my mellow. In this far out state of mind we would dream on and boogie all night. Anything that was heavy could sit on it.What’s happenin’ was bitchin’, out a sight. Women were chicks and foxes. The men were turkeys. This reminder is not to freak you out, only to remind you of how different the mindset of then is compared to now.

Words are my tools. And since they are my tools I have a keen ear for their usage. Lately, I’ve noticed a shift in our colloquialisms. I believe this shift is due to these uncertain in which we live. The insecurity that pervades our lives is reflected in our speech.

In 2016 we use declarative language. The mindset is fractured and so we grasp for words that will steady the course. Amirite? Absolutely! How many times in a day do you hear, definitely, as in, I definitely want to see that film, I definitely will start exercising tomorrow. Another on is totally, totally on track, totally with you. How about perfect. You make plans with a friend and their answer is ‘Perfect’. We are winning now. Isn’t this a brilliant blog?  Due to our total obsession with texting we have acronyms: LOL, LMK, WTF, BTW, OMG, to name a few absolutely, perfect trends.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going back to the seventies. Peace out.

la feat

This past summer I had foot surgery, I’ll spare you the details. My post-op treatment required my left foot to be weightless for four weeks, followed by six weeks in an air boot. I had prepared for this as if it were an impending nuclear disaster; freezing dinners, stocking the cupboards and closets with all the necessities, cleaning, washing sheets and the dog, along with the yard work. I was prepared.

Or so I thought. I was not prepared for the outpouring of love from family and friends; bringing me food, offering to run errands, stopping by to visit. My husband was the knight of kindness (I could get used to this). He took care of me and everything else. I will save you the details of the showering episode.

I had a kneeling scooter which was so much better than crutches, except when it came to stairs…those had to be climbed backwards on my butt (excellent workout for the triceps). More importantly, I will never look at a disabled person the same way again. We have a long way to go to make our environment friendly to those with a disability: exterior doors are too heavy (very few have automatic openers), stairs still rule, so that rules out the disabled, uneven surfaces can pose a huge problem, and what happens in the winter? I can’t even imagine getting around in snow and ice.

The other thing that surprised me was the kindness of strangers. Near the end of four weeks I ventured out in my car with the scooter in the back. I went to the grocery store, a guy across from me in the parking lot came over to lift the scooter out of the car. At the bank a young man did the same thing and then waited at the teller for me to finish and then escorted me out the car and put the scooter in the back.

Before you think I had some sort of fantasy recovery, let me tell you a few tales of the dark side. I am weirdly controlling– this was news to me since I pride myself on a good dose of self knowledge. But I was unaware of just how deep my controlling went. My husband made the bed, great, right? No, all wrong. I sat in the chaise lounge of our bedroom with my foot elevated, staring at this bed gone wrong. Anyone else would say the bed looks fine. I couldn’t take it any longer, I hobbled onto my scooter and began to re-make the bed. In the course of bending over to tuck the top sheet tight (the tension has to be such that there is not one wrinkle, I know–stop laughing) I fell off my scooter, landing on my (you guessed it) left foot, with the scooter gouging the top of the nightstand.Oh, there was pain in my foot! I also worried the little screw the surgeon put in my toe bone would now be displaced (Lucky for me that didn’t happen). And yet, I didn’t learn to let go of anything. I couldn’t stop seeing all the little things I do everyday being done differently, and which, I felt had been done wrongly.

So now I’m working on my controlling behavior…oops, gotta run, I just noticed my computer needs a good swabbing between the keys with a Q-tip.

 

 

 

 

 

Where are our Heroes?

Given our two choices for president, I fear the White House will become either gilded in gold or a flop house for the mob. So I find myself wondering where are our heroes?

Heroes are all around us, living out their lives, giving of themselves. Unfortunately, they rarely run for political office. What we’re left with are celebrities, who have no notion of what it means to give of themselves in order to achieve something. Their concern lies with power, power that is self-serving; what do I get, what do I win?

Heroes are also found in myth and mythology does a great job of illustrating what it takes to become a hero. Typically a hero is called upon to slay a dragon who guards a treasure. The adventure is symbolically a manifestation of his character; his courage and strength are tested. Psychologically, he struggles with something that is destructive, something that could destroy him or others. Dragon fights take place both within and with whomever or whatever represents the dragon. The act of slaying the dragon allows truth to emerge; to become who he was intended to be. The adventure evoked a quality of his character he didn’t know he possessed. The hero is now brave and wise, as well as, strong and compassionate.

I don’t find these qualities in either of our presidential candidates. They do not appear to have slayed their dragons and tasted the treasure of truth.

 

 

 

Gender Confusion

The other night after catching up with the news channels, which in our house involves channel surfing between CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, I made this comment to my husband, “Why do all the women journalists look like Barbie, and the men look nothing like Ken?” My husband smiled, “Eye candy.” I said, “Where’s my eye candy?” This launched a discussion about gender expectations.

I grew up in the era of Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Bella Abzug, strong women speaking out against  objectifying women. My friends and I embraced the message of the Feminist Movement; that a women’s value did not depend on the size of her breasts but on the size of her brains. Certainly the women journalists that are currently employed by the media are intelligent as well as beautiful, but unfortunately, that is about one percent of the population. What happens the the ninety-nine percent of intelligent women who want to become journalists, but who resemble Midge more than Barbie? This is Babe Discrimination! Have we as a culture regressed? What sort of message does this send to our girls?

My wonderful husband brought up a significant point: the media is sending this message, not men. He claims that most guys do not want a Barbie doll. He said there’s nothing more annoying to men than waiting for two hours while Barbie does her hair and make-up. Men want a woman who can laugh and have a drink without re-applying their lipstick every few minutes. A woman who will dive head first into the lake without a care for her hair. A woman who is real. A woman who is a companion.

I calmed down. I like being Midge, not Barbie, and I’m happy my husband is more like Allan than Ken.

Emotional Stuffing

Our daughter got married on September 18 in Ireland. We had an entourage of family coming from the U.S. of fourteen people. We made a week of it, traveling to the West Coast of Ireland and seeing the sights. We were all thrilled to see our daughter and her soon to be husband and be able to have a family get-together before the wedding. Now that they’re married and I’m back home with life returning to normal, I’ve had time to digest the events of those ten days together.

I’ve noticed that I’m unusually emotional. Now that my days are my own, I am experiencing a flood of chaotic feeling, as if I’d been holding my breath for those ten days. Vivid fragments of moments shared pop into my mind’s eye unbidden: a pub in Clifden; my ninety-three year old mother-in-law, sitting on the lap of a band member singing along with them. Bicycling on the island of Inishbofin, my son-in-law takes a tumble over the handle bars, thereafter referred to as Bangers and Crash. My brother-in-law spontaneously acting as toastmaster at dinner, an evening of laughter and tears. Watching the seals in Howth. The bells of the church ringing, my daughters walking down the aisle. My husband walking our daughter down the aisle, the look on her intended’s face–priceless. My son singing at the wedding. All of this and more, buzzing in my mind.

Typical of me to hold my breath in times of high emotion. Maybe I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop crying if I start, or maybe I’m afraid of spittle arcing across the table, or even sneaky flatulence. I don’t know. I was raised in an environment where we let it fly unless it was something held dear, which we then held close and private. Its how I’m wired, but I have to admit I envy our children’s ability to let fly the ridiculous as well as the dear. I’m a proud mama.

Staying Married

My daughter is getting married on the 18th of this month. Amid the flurry of activity surrounding the wedding, I’ve been thinking about what pearl of wisdom to pass onto her. Wedding plans tend to override the more weighty issue of what makes a good marriage; how does a couple actually stay married? This question brought to mind an evening I spent with my husband a few years ago.

We had tickets to a U of M hockey game. We arrived early to enjoy dinner before the game at one of the local bars near the stadium. My husband had the quirky idea that we play-act meeting each other for the first time. And since the atmosphere of the bar was filled with the vibrant energy of college kids, it put me in the mood.

As we bellied up to the bar, my husband immediately went into character; introducing himself, asking my name. (weird to say my maiden name!) I was astounded by his complete transformation, during the hour at the bar, he never broke character. He asked about my family, where I grew up, what brought me to Minneapolis. He then asked why after going to art school, had I become a writer. He found it all fascinating. He asked questions about my writing, what was I currently working on and what led me to write on that particular subject. I was entranced. He was charming and attentive, he never took his eyes off of me. I felt devoured. I wanted to shout, “Who are you and what have you done with my husband?”

This experience taught me something. Over the years we had become comfortable with each other – which is good in a familial manner, but comfort can easily lead to laziness. Marriage takes effort. A night out where you each offer your undivided attention goes a long way.This is the pearl.

The Most Annoying Dog

This past week we tearfully said goodbye to our 12 year old golden retriever, Ole. As I write this blog, I can still hear his panting, and if I looked down from my desk, I’m sure to see his soulful eyes looking up at me, smiling with his big wet tongue hanging out of his mouth. He was a gorgeous retriever with a spirited personality which was at once endearing and annoying.

We dubbed him ‘The Most annoying Dog’ when he was a puppy, thinking that he’d out grow this mischievous stage. He never did. I once asked our Vet if a dog could have ADD. Watching him careen around the exam room with a box of dog treats stolen from the shelf in his mouth, she suggested a drug called Coma Calm. My husband refused to put him on any sort of drug. The next Saturday, I awoke to the sound of my husband hollering. I jumped out of bed, following the shouts to the garage. My husband looked like a madman standing in front of his sports car with Ole at his feet, panting happily. At some point in the night, Ole had decided to climb up the hood of the car to sleep on the canvas roof. His nails had made deep gouges across the hood where he struggled to pull himself up onto the canvas top where a nest of his light golden fur attested to his success. My husband turned to me and said, “Get the Coma Calm.”

Ole was on the drug for only a week. The change in his personality was something like Woody Allen in the movie, Sleeper. We wanted Ole back. I could write a book about his antics; I don’t know how many ‘chew proof’ dog beds we bought over the years but every one ended up destroyed. He once chowed down an entire bottle of Tylenol and then proceeded to vomit all over the living room. There was the roast turkey resting on the kitchen counter which ended up on the floor half eaten by Ole by the time I returned to the kitchen. And then there was the time he ravenously consumed 5 pounds of grapes. We forced a turkey baster filled with hydrogen peroxide down his throat to make him vomit the grapes since they are toxic to dogs.

After all this, year after year, you would think we’d be relieved that Ole was gone. We are heartbroken. I’d give anything to look out the back door to see our beautiful dog ripping up a pair of my gloves, flashing his mischievous grin and then playfully run from me while I chased him. Then, of course, he’d ply me with wet kisses while I picked up the remains of my gloves strewn across the yard. One more time I wish I could run my fingers through his luxuriant fur. One more time I’d like to kiss the top of his head that smelled like carmel corn. One more time…