Seriously. I don’t get it.

Questions-question-clipart-clipart-kid-2

A post from my original blog, written August 13, 2012. A friend brought it to the top, and I was gratified to find that it still stands as written, with the exception of adding “freedom OF also means freedom FROM.” Here, at a five-year remove, is how it was…

Less than a month from now I will be eligible for Medicare and by that standard I’ve lived long enough to learn a few things, one of which is that it’s counter-productive to fret overly-much about what anybody thinks of me.

I’m well-read.  I’ve ventured outside the confines of the United States.  I am no longer a candidate for having the “Kick Me” sign hung on my back.  But there are any number of things that baffle me, make me shake my head, cause me to say “I don’t get it.”

I don’t get why a friendly conversation is so hard to come by in the public arena these days.

I don’t get how a sweet little girl sacrifices her entire childhood in favor of incredibly rigorous athletic training, rises to the top of her field, and wins gold – twice – at the  Olympics, only to be made the center of controversy over her HAIR, of all things, and the color of her leotard.

I don’t get what people mean when they say we need “a real American” in the White House.  Are they indicating that they want a Native American Indian for president?  Because obviously, the rest of us came from somewhere else and thus are not “real.”

I don’t get why it’s a point of controversy when the First Lady (as is traditional) chooses childhood obesity as her personal cause, since obesity in general is a huge thing in this country (pun definitely intended) and our children are suffering.  Somebody has to care that this is happening.

I don’t get why people continue to insist that the United States is officially a Christian nation, when the framers of the Constitution made it abundantly clear in the First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Free exercise means ANY and ALL religion. Or none.

I don’t get why people insist that a single verse from Leviticus must be obeyed to the letter, while totally ignoring the remainder of that particular passage and so many more.

I don’t get how certain things become labeled as being “liberal” or “conservative.”  For example, recycling – why is that seen as an inherently subversive thing to do?  We have just one Earth, and so far no one has discovered a viable alternative, so it seems only wise to take care of this little spot in the universe.  The relatively conservative farm boy with whom I spent 34 years of my life went out and bought Rubbermaid tubs the week the big recycling plant opened in Meade, America, and we faithfully salvaged everything reusable from that point forward.  His vastly more conservative parents did the same in their small town, and proudly delivered their newspapers and other recyclables to the collection shed on a regular basis. Every time someone looks askance at me for doing my tiny part to help preserve the integrity of the planet, it makes me shake my head.  It doesn’t, however, deter me from what is by now an ingrained habit.

I DON’T get it … but I probably DO get it … and here’s what I think is going on …

I think friendly conversations are becoming fewer and further between because life is all about change, more so now than ever, and people are running scared, which makes them cling ever more desperately to their personal points of view.

I think Gabby Douglas’s hair is considered fair game because it’s somehow “foreign,” “other,” “not like us.”  And I think Fox News gets by with slamming her simply because she’s “that” brand of “different.”

I think our President is threatening for those same reasons, even though he is as much “white like us,” as he is “different.”  He had white grandparents who adored him and a white mother from Kansas, of all places.  An ordinary girl, an ordinary family, an ordinary life, all of which came together to produce an extraordinary man.  But because he lives inside black skin, was given a scary-sounding foreign name through no fault of his own, and was uppity enough to run for president and win, it becomes necessary to invent a “back story” in order to justify why we choose not to like him.

Our First Lady — scary, other, different?  I think you have to stretch pretty hard to make those labels stick, other than the fact that she, too, resides inside black skin that blessedly doesn’t look like ours.  I think her tremendous education level and innate intelligence, as well as those of the president, are intimidating and threatening to a certain segment of the population.

I think people insist on making this an officially “Christian” nation because that makes it feel safer and more “ours”.  And it makes it acceptable to persecute and call out and label and denigrate … and kill … Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and anyone else who is different … other … thus, somehow threatening.

I think it’s out of ignorance and fear that people carefully extract and selectively interpret the portion of Leviticus that enables and sanctifies their hatred of an entire group of people, while ignoring ALL of the other injunctions, primarily the ones that command us to

“Love thy neighbor.”

I think that ignorance breeds fear, and fear breeds hatred, and hatred breeds violence.

I think that more than two hundred years of societal evolution, education, and exposure to the way the rest of the civilized world views things have brought us very little in the way of maturity, wisdom, kindness, and human progress in this country.  Willful ignorance and backwardness sadden and trouble me beyond words, and for all the indignant claims on the part of “Christians,” I think we get it wrong on SO many things.  I honestly believed we’d moved past all of this years ago.  Silly me.  Call me naïve and slap the “Kick Me” sign on my backside when I’m not looking.

I think one of the greatest joys of having a personal blog is the freedom to say exactly what I think.  And that the blowback that results from honesty and the willingness to speak up is inevitable and a natural part of the process.   I get that.

Obviously, I think a lot of things.  But if you get why recycling is scorned as an intrinsically “liberal” activity, please give me a call.  I don’t know WHAT to think about that one.

Image

Memorial Day Reflections

A nostalgia piece from my original blog, in honor of Memorial Day …

BrowneVoorheesGarden1

During a recent nursery visit to replace trees and plants lost to our western Kansas drought and heat, the greenhouse owner snapped off a king-sized rose bloom and handed it to me.  Magically, as soon as I caught its scent, my grandma was there beside me and an entire era presented itself for review. 

 We grew up across a gravel driveway from my paternal grandparents, on a sweet little farm in the middle of a great expanse of wheat fields and pastures.  There were cows and chickens and a big barn populated by sleepy cats, but the best part of the farm was Grandma and Grandpa’s garden.  It spanned acres, and included nearly anything organic you could name — potatoes, carrots, onions, radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, sweet corn, peas, green beans, turnips (yucky), strawberries and tomatoes (both of which we were allowed to eat straight off the vine and warm from the sun, taking advantage of the salt shaker Grandma thoughtfully tucked under the leaves); fruit trees including apple, cherry, and peach — and every kind of flowering thing.  Peonies, mock orange, baby’s breath, tulips, daisies, columbine, cosmos, daffodils, lilies, phlox, snapdragons … and roses.  That list is by no means complete. 

 All of this was surrounded by hedges that my grandpa kept trimmed and orderly — a tall one across the back, with openings into the orchard beyond, and shorter hedges along the front and sides, with shaped entryways into the three main sections of the garden.  Back in a corner, close to the cattle pens, grew watermelons and cantaloupe, sweet and succulent.  And a half-mile away, next to an irrigation engine, was a colossal watermelon patch (which became infamous in its own right — a story for another day) that produced enough for all summer and into the fall, including a rollicking annual community watermelon feed.  

 Outside the confines of the hedges sat my grandparents’ imposing two-story farmhouse, filled with antiques and decades of living, surrounded by a cool green yard with a hammock stretched between two huge cottonwood trees and a rope swing hung from a sturdy branch.  The clotheslines where we helped Grandma “hang out a nice wash,” as she invariably declared it to be, stretched across the lush grass.  

 There was a cement and brick milk house where our dad and grandpa filtered the milk from the cows, skimmed off the heavy cream, and left it all in glass jars to cool in troughs of fresh running water brought up by the windmill anchored next to the building.  A battered tin cup hung on a pipe so anyone needing a quick pick-me-up could pump a fresh drink of water any time.  That water was life-giving to the farmer coming in off the tractor, the farm wife with an apron full of freshly-picked veggies, or the farm kid tired and sweaty from a hot game of hide-and-seek in the yard.  We (my sisters and brother and I, along with cousins and neighbor kids) spent long hours in that yard and garden, held countless tea parties under the towering twin conifers set in the middle of the garden proper, and built more than one fort among the acres of fruit trees and evergreens out back.  And on occasion, we worked.  

 When I think of my grandparents, he shows up in overalls and she’s wearing a homemade housedress and apron, tied at the waist and pinned to the flowery cotton of her dress at the shoulders.  And she never went out, hoe in hand, without a handmade sunbonnet.  A real lady had creamy white skin, and although Grandma never managed to achieve that standard of beauty, having been born with distinctly olive coloring, she tried.  Grandpa, too, protected his head with a well-worn felt cowboy hat that he sweated through in nothing flat.

Thus they went forth every day equipped for work, intent upon it, dedicated to it.  Those luscious fruits and vegetables out there in the hot sun were life, and life doesn’t wait.  They did their best to corral us, to slow our head-long summer romp through the garden, to foist sunbonnets upon us and thrust hoes and rakes into our grubby little hands.  I remember thinking I really should help out more, take more of an interest, learn something while I was at it.  But the fork in the big tree behind the milk house was calling my name, my book was still stashed there from the day before, and I was hot and tired and needed a drink of ice cold water from the well …. and I never quite found time to own responsibility and discipline in any discernible way.  

 There was one time of year, however, when we all pitched in and did our part.  I’m ashamed to say, it had a lot to do with the fact that we got paid for our efforts, but, well ….

Every year in the days preceding Memorial Day, my grandparents would cut huge armloads of tightly-budded peonies, wrap them in wet burlap, and store them in crocks of well water in the cool and spacious cement-lined root cellar.  Other flowers, too, found their way into crocks, awaiting that early-morning observance at cemeteries around the countryside.  Our job as grandchildren was to take old paring knives and snip daisy bouquets in counts of twenty-five, band them and put them into jars in the cellar.  It was always a treat to go from the sunny garden to the damp coolness of “the pit,” and Grandma and Grandpa paid us a nickel a bouquet.    We were suddenly rich, and Woolworth’s, McClellan’s, and Duckwall’s were a mere twelve miles away.

We somehow gained a sense of having contributed to something very special.  The day before Memorial Day, which was known as Decoration Day then, and very early the morning of, neighbors and strangers from surrounding areas started pulling into the drive to collect the big flower baskets and smaller bundles they’d pre-ordered.  And many, knowing there was always plenty, stopped by to see what they might pick up.  The air had a special freshness about it and people invariably seemed happy and intent on their mission.

I remember feeling proud of my grandma for her ability to grow and arrange flowers into spectacular gifts, and a connectedness to all those people coming to embrace her talents.  I felt firmly tied to all the generations being honored on those Memorial weekends, and I still remember snippets of stories from the conversations I overheard.

After all the paying customers had retrieved their floral offerings, Grandma let us kids have the leftover daisy bundles to place on the graves of the nearly-forgotten babies from the 1800s in our small community cemetery a mile from the farm.  It always felt like we’d done something amazing by honoring those brief little lives, and the yearly military ceremony conducted by aging war heroes in a sometimes haphazard and ill-fitting assortment of service garb lent added poignancy.

 If my grandparents were here now and could somehow read my heart (which I always felt they could), they would be gratified to know how much I actually did learn through their example and the privilege of living in their shadow.  Things like hard work, respect for the living and the dead, a certain acceptance that no matter what happens life goes on … these things have stood me in good stead over all the years since Grandma and Grandpa left us.

As with most farmers of that generation they never became wealthy.  But the things they passed along to us are beyond price … and well worth consciously appreciating as another Memorial Day rolls around.

 

Image

A Mother’s Day Tribute

Brought forward and adapted from my original blog …

My mom has been in my thoughts all week.  It probably doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Sunday is Mother’s Day, but there it is.

 My mother was a complex contradiction in terms, as moms the world over tend to be.  She grew up all tomboy with six brothers and two sisters, while at the same time evolving into an indisputably voluptuous young woman.  She was born and raised in a small Kansas town, went to tiny schools, and was afforded the limited educational choices that generally attach to such an environment; but curiosity, intelligence, and EQ were in her DNA, so she was on a quest for learning from the start.

 Mother graduated high school and then earned what was known as an Emergency Teaching Certificate through a six-week course at the nearest state teachers’ college, 150 miles away.  This was during WWII and the times called for desperate measures.  At 18 years of age, she taught for one year in a country school where most of the older boys were taller than she.  Then she met my dad and that temporarily ended her teaching career.  She married a few months short of her 19th birthday, and three weeks shy of her 20th she delivered her first baby – me.

   Four more babies followed, one of whom she lost during delivery, and what with being a mother and a wife and filling countless other roles, she didn’t get around to college again for a decade and a half.  There was never a time, however, when she wasn’t reading at least two or three books and filling journals with her thoughts.

 Finally, when I was a junior in high school, she enrolled in the local community college and graduated with honors.  Then she went on to the local four-year college and matriculated with highest honors.  With those credentials she taught English, Drama and Yearbook for several years at the high school my siblings and I attended.  My two sisters and brother all experienced the genuine privilege of having her as a teacher.  Later, she taught EMR (old label which stood for Educable Mentally Retarded) classes, and was one of a handful of women who founded the Learning Co-op for this part of the state.  I was thoroughly immersed in my own life by then and didn’t keep up with everything she was doing, but I knew enough to be very proud of her.

 Somewhere in there, Mother earned a Master’s degree, and had family circumstances not intervened it’s highly probable she would have gone on to get a doctorate.

   Because of Mother’s love of learning and reading, my sisters and brother and I grew up in a household of books.  When we were little she spent a lot of time reading to us, and later on carted us to the Carnegie Library every week or so and let us choose our own stack of books to take home.  She had a small office filled with books, and her end of the couch was surrounded by yet more books and notebooks.  Each of us absorbed her priorities and ended up with our own love of reading and writing.

 Sadly, we had to say goodbye to our mother far too early.  A sudden heart attack took her from us when she was just 67 years old.  I often find myself wondering what she might be like now in her 80s, but I need only remember what her mother – my grandmother – was like into her 90s — beautiful, intelligent, interesting, kind, thoughtful, fun-loving and funny.  I miss them both,  and therein lies another story ….

Mommy & Me on Mother's Day

Mommy & Me on Mother’s Day

Image

The Power of Memory

The sequel to my Raised in a Barn piece …

My son is an only child, so I asked him once how much he’d minded growing up “in solitary.”  He told me he’d liked having his own room and possessions without having to worry about siblings messing everything up, and he enjoyed all the attention and the regular proximity to adults and their world, but his one regret was that he had no one to share his memories.  There was no brother or sister involved in the events of his childhood, no one to corroborate or contradict now when the stories start, no contemporary to help keep the memories alive when Mom and Dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all gone.  And implicit in all of it was the fact that there was no one to share the blame when things went south.

I, on the other hand, am blessed with sisters — two of them.  And we had a younger brother whose memory is sweet beyond words.  When my sisters and I are together it’s all about the memories.  Even when we aren’t actively talking about the past it’s there, part and parcel of who we are.

We had no shortage of memory-making opportunities during our growing-up years.  We lived on a farm, across a gravel driveway from our grandparents, so we had plenty of space, including two good-sized houses, for inventing make-believe.  We built forts in the barn and tent cities in the house, decorated dollhouses upstairs and down, strung paper dolls, Baby Linda dolls, Barbie dolls and their wardrobes from one end of the house to the other, set up tea parties in Grandma’s garden, made mud pies in front of the playhouse.  Whatever fantasy world a child is capable of creating, we most likely did.  And possibly the most interesting, compelling, and fabulous fun to be had was playing dress-up in Grandma’s attic.

Getting there was a bit of a trek.  The stairway was hidden behind a wall in the kitchen and accessed by a door.  Once we stepped up onto the landing, the view was straight up the narrow staircase, with not much hint of what lay beyond.  It was always perfectly still up there and the air felt heavy.  We could hear wasps buzzing in the windows, but we knew from experience that if we left them alone they could probably be counted on to return the favor.  Every once in a while Grandma would go up there with a big pair of scissors and methodically cut off their heads, which we found deliciously cold and efficient on her part.  Of course it only added to her cred, and we already tended to obey her faster than we did our mom.  This is the same grandma who pinched the heads off the red and black box-elder bugs she found crawling across her floors and feared neither snake nor spider in her garden.

There was a shallow ledge parallel to the stairs which served as storage area for an intriguing assortment of items, both old and newer, but there wasn’t much time to take it all in as we had to concentrate on not tumbling back down to the bottom.  At the top was a bookcase holding musty old volumes, including my first acquaintance with Gone With the Wind.  It literally fell apart before I got to “Frankly, my dear …”.  Also sitting on the shelves were several of our dad’s iron toys from childhood.  Those heavy cars and trucks and cleverly-designed coin banks brought a nice sum years later when our parents held their retirement auction.

I don’t recall venturing up that staircase alone until about junior high.  It wasn’t so much creepy up there as heavy with history and the weight of lives lived, and it just seemed better experienced in the company of others.  Our dad’s model airplanes still hung silently from the ceiling of his former bedroom, and the pictures on the walls beckoned us back to an era we knew very little about.  There was an old feather mattress on the bed in the biggest room, and everything had a patina of dust that made it seem as though nothing had been touched since the original occupants, our dad and his brother, went off to take up lives of their own.

The space held enough mystery to provide the perfect setting for make-believe, so it naturally followed that we and our friends would spend hours on lazy summer days assembling just the right outfits and posing for Grandma and her old Brownie box camera.  We had a wealth of treasures to choose from, as the bedrooms included slant-ceilinged unfinished closets tucked under the eaves, full of a wondrous array of dresses, hats, gloves, jewelry, shoes, jackets and coats dating from the late 1800s forward.  Flowing crepe dresses, hats with veils, long gloves, moth-nibbled fur coats and stoles, all of which we set off with bright red lipstick and old-lady face powder.  Our grandparents’ house wasn’t air-conditioned so the upper story was stifling hot in the summer, but we didn’t mind.  We were having far too much fun to worry about it.

It’s a simple memory, this one.  No big drama happened, no momentous story.  Nothing to see here, folks, might as well move along.  Just ever-changing groups of young girls trying adulthood on for size.

Speaking of size, it strikes me that our feminine forebears must have been truly petite, delicate women.  Incredibly, I see my four-year-old self wearing a dress that looks only slightly too large for me, albeit too long, and other photographs tell the same story.

I can only wonder at the patience it took for our grandparents to listen to us clomping endlessly up and down the stairs, giggling and chattering nonstop.  And amazingly, I don’t remember any of us ending up in a heap at the bottom.  Or maybe since it didn’t happen to me my brain thinks it didn’t happen at all.  One thing we didn’t do at Grandma’s house was argue.  At the first sign of trouble all she had to do was remind us quietly, “If you quarrel, you’ll have to go home, remember?” and everything was suddenly copacetic again.

When we finally tired of the game, I’m sure it was left to her to restore order to those magical closets, even though it was part of the deal that we at least try.  I do know that we three sisters would give a lot to go back and thank our grandparents for all they contributed to our lives in countless ways.  They were a huge part of the rich, full childhood we enjoyed and took for granted, and there’s really no way to overestimate the value of that kind of heritage.

Katie and Judy dress_up

My cousin Katie and I.  She was eight or nine and I was four years old.

Me with my friends Karen and Jo.
Judy_Karen_Jo

Image

Why yes, as a matter of fact I WAS raised in a barn …

One from the archives …

If your birth year falls anywhere near mine, you probably heard your parents say at least once, “Shut the door, were you raised in a barn?”  Grown-ups saw it as a clever way to grab a child’s attention; however, the question never had its full effect on me as a reprimand because one of my favorite places in the entire world was a barn, a big gray wonder standing in the middle of the corral on our farm.

It wasn’t always gray and weathered, of course.  Before I existed it was a proper barn-red hue, with a shiny tin roof.  Or maybe the roof was originally green shingles.  Or shake.  Sadly, there’s no one left to ask — I’m the eldest sibling, and everyone above me is gone.

The barn was two stories high, with a tall peaked roof, and the ground floor was lined with pens, milking stalls, and two storerooms for tack and supplies.  The top level was usually stacked floor to ceiling with fragrant hay bales — green rectangles of alfalfa that we rearranged into forts.  The loft was also where nearly all new batches of baby kittens could be found.

My grandma told me stories of when the barn was new and the loft floor solid and smooth.  She and Grandpa held barn dances that drew friends and neighbors from miles around — a mental image that could keep me occupied for days.

Recently a friend posted a link to an essay by Michael Sims, published in The New York Times Sunday Book Review, about that pseudo children’s book Charlotte’s Web.   (It’s a book for grown-up types and we all know it.)  As I read Mr. Sims’ essay, my mind snagged on a single line and wouldn’t turn loose …

” … the barn’s handmade stanchions and hoof-scarred planking …”

Every inch of “my” barn was handmade by my grandpa and uncle and dad, and its stanchions and hoof-scarred planking are part of my DNA.  That graying expanse, with its sweet hay, lowing cows, newborn calves, sinuous cats, and scent of freshly-drawn milk in pails, taught me as much about life as any classroom in which I languished.

It was in the barn loft that I learned how to cuss.  Lying on a stack of prickly hay bales, watching dust motes float down the sunbeams from roof to floor and plotting my next adventure, I’d hear my dad bringing the cows in to be milked.  Invariably, especially in the evening, there was at least one that declined to obediently trot to the stanchion and wait for him to slide the trap against her neck.  Instead she’d go a little wild, kicking and bellering, with my dad hot on her tail.  He was tired from a full day’s farming and would have preferred the coolness of the house, his supper, and some peace and quiet.  But here was this ol’ heifer, intent upon vexing him in every way possible.  As he unleashed an impossibly creative string of expletives, swinging a sawed-off 2×4 in the air for emphasis, I couldn’t help feeling ever-so-slightly superior to him for just those few seconds because I instinctively knew that if he’d just give the old girl time to settle down a bit it would work out much better for both of them.

True to stereotype, I learned how to smoke out behind that barn.  The cigarettes were made from weeds wrapped around more weeds, but the Diamond matches cadged from next to Grandma’s stove were the real deal.

I learned a little about life and death there, too.  Not all the kittens survived.  Not all the baby calves brought in and penned up with their mothers lived.

I learned that if you leave big spiders alone in their nests they’ll go about the business of eating flies and bugs and leave you to your snake-killin’, which was Grandma’s word for any and all endeavors.

I learned that baby mice are pretty cute, their parents not so much.

I learned that if you hear your name being called but don’t answer right away, your mom will move on down the list to one of your sisters.

I learned that I was a farm girl and my Detroit cousins weren’t.  My cousin Katie became infamous for her plea while walking through the manure-filled cow lot after a rainstorm to “Get me outta this tow-tinkin’ tuff!”

The barn still stands and has been repaired and rejuvenated, but the farm is no longer in the family.  The three farmers who made all the haying and milking and calving happen — my grandpa, my dad, and my brother — are gone.  But they, even more than that big old barn of my childhood, are part of my DNA and I will never forget what a gift they were to me.  The tears in my eyes and throat bear testament to how much I miss them.

silage pit

My dad, a neighbor, my grandpa and I, filling the silage pit next to the barn.  I was four years old.

Barn

Me, my little sister, and a friend on one of the barn’s ramshackle gates.  I see lipstick, so we were obviously fresh off a dress-up session in Grandma’s attic.  But that’s a story for another time.

joads

That old Diamond T truck was a relic long before I showed up, but my headscarf and high-water pants make us appear to be contemporaries.  Long live the Joads!

Image

The strange world of Facebook …

Facebook is even stranger than real life, which is saying a mouthful.  I’ve been rattling around its environs for years now and I think I’ve seen Just.About.Everything.  I realize I’m being silly in even claiming such a thing, however, as there’s always something even more mind-blowing around the next corner.  People never fail to amaze.  Most anyone who spends any appreciable amount of time on social media knows it’s a distillation of daily life in the world … every mindset is represented, every problem magnified, every personality laid painfully bare.

Let’s talk about “friending” … an intriguing concept in every way.  It’s hard for me to let people into my life, and yet I’ve met fabulous individuals from around the globe whom I would never have had the opportunity to know otherwise and we carry on funny, fascinating, engaging conversations nearly every day.  I also have a raft of family members on my friends list, most of whom rarely talk to me … but I don’t take it personally.  We’re family, after all, and one sticks with family … at least in ours.  And we share an industrial-strength genetic makeup … we tend to be quiet and introspective until someone hits the right button, and then just try to shut us up.  I’ve received a lot of friend requests from people I used to know in a passing sort of way.  Sometimes those work out and we strike up a comfortable relationship that’s better than anything we could have claimed in the past.  Sometimes I authorize the request and never hear boo — not a hello, a comment in a conversation thread, a simple “like.”  In those instances, I usually assume the whole thing was motivated by curiosity (have I gotten fat or fallen on hard times??), give it a few weeks, hit the delete button, and move on.

The first time I was unfriended, it was like a kick to the gut … it happened to be someone I thought was a close friend, someone who’d been by my side during life-altering events.  I considered myself safe, accepted … in other words, in my mind it was a true friendship.  Not so … my political and spiritual convictions, only mildly hinted at during those innocent early days, rendered me unfit for that particular relationship.  Revelation having dawned, I tucked it under my belt and marched on.  I’ve since been unfriended by a handful of other people for the views I hold, and the only thing that would make that an untenable situation is if I changed my thinking in order to keep people happy.

Interestingly, Facebook has succeeded in teaching me far more about friendship than I was able to learn in the rest of my life to this point.  I’ve met lovely people to whom I feel very bonded … some of the truest friendships I’ve ever known.  Thus, in some ways I’ve grown softer toward people … more accepting of personalities and the endlessly varied ways in which they express themselves.  Inevitably, however, I’ve developed a thicker crust about some things.  I do not tolerate prejudice, particularly the kind based on skin color or a person’s station in life, and I do not willingly subject myself to incivility.  I’m all about keeping it real these days.  If you pass me in the grocery store without a glimmer of recognition, I have to assume we aren’t actually friends.  If you take me to task for the things I believe in and try to shame me into adopting a different mindset, I’m quite sure we aren’t friends, as no quality relationship operates that way.  If you requested to join my friends list and we’ve never had a conversation or any sort of interaction, you’re probably not there anymore … or won’t be tomorrow.  What’s the point?

Stay tuned … Facebook isn’t finished with me yet, nor I with it.

Word Press Daily Prompt: All About Me

“Explain why you chose your blog’s title and what it means to you.”

When I decided to move my blog to WordPress from another host, I wanted a new name befitting the change.  Before I had time to give any thought to the matter, the words “Playing for Time” popped into my mind.  I googled “quotes about time,” came up with Dr. Seuss’s words, “How did it get so late so soon?” and knew I had my hook.

I’m well aware that “Playing for Time” was a 1980 television film based on Fania Fenelon’s autobiography, The Musicians of Auschwitz.  Although my blog carries no such heavy significance, it does “play” into my interest in music and also the consciousness that time is passing very quickly for me now.  It just seemed right, and still feels perfect to me.

Finding myself now at retirement age, I want to fill my time with play, music, and life in general.  Having the time to write seems like play to me … and when my mind and heart temporarily run out of words I visit the beautiful little grand piano in my living room and play myself into creativity again.

I have fallen into a happy love affair with my blog — it brings me joy every day, as do the people I meet on WordPress.  Playing for time suits me just fine.

Conservatory Grand

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/daily-prompt-all-about-me/

Can you hear me now?

This will come as no surprise to those who know me best, but I’m kind of a geek.  I’m not much on technical manuals, or even reading a simple instruction sheet — I’d rather muddle through and see if I can figure out whatever it is I’m trying to do.  I love discovering that some electronic gadget I’ve spent money on will do things I never knew it had the capacity to do.  I love when things work.  I love being connected to the world via my tech toys — primarily iPhone and iPad — to the point that my husband refers to me as the Porta-Hottie.  Oh, bless him.

Last week I came into some new technology that is making my life infinitely easier, more interesting, and less stressful.  More on that in a bit.  First, by way of explanation, I’m bringing up another post from my original blog, this one written in August of 2012 …

I am listening

Odd how life keeps moving, whether you’re paying attention or not.  Strange things happen, and unless you pause just long enough to catch the blur, you might miss the whole thing entirely.

During a hospital stay for my husband (in July of 2012), I picked up the phone in my hotel room, held it to my left ear, and buzzed the front desk.  There were tiny scratchy-sounding noises on the other end but no voice, so I assumed the phone was out of order.  Not exactly.  The extremely polite young maintenance man who came to my room could hear just fine.  Cue icy fingers of dread on the back of my neck.

Two weeks later, Kim and I found ourselves sitting in the office of an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist.  Holding the results of my hearing test and looking intently at the two of us, she said, “So.  What took you so long?  This is bad.”  To which we answered, at the exact same time, “Pride.”

Somewhere along the line, in the process of living a full and busy life, and most likely helped along by my years as a tractor jockey, I’ve lost all my highs and lows and a considerable amount of what’s supposed to be in between.  It happened so gradually at first I wasn’t consciously aware of what was taking place, but I did know I was missing things people said and that the problem was growing steadily more frustrating.  I couldn’t figure out why Kim always deliberately lowered the sound level when we were watching TV, and I uncharacteristically snapped at him for it.  I was irritated that nearly everyone seemed to speak rapidly and in very subdued tones.  It was becoming much more relaxing to stay home rather than put myself in situations where I had to strain to keep up.

I was aware on some level that I was perpetually asking Kim to increase the TV volume … but not that I was plastering him against the back wall of the living room ala an old Maxell ad.  Patient loving soul that he is, he never really let on.  He knows I don’t react well to being told what to do, so he was in the process of, in his words, “gently leading me to the proper decision.”

The day of my exam, this card-carrying senior citizen (gasp!) became the proud owner of a set of high-dollar, high-tech personal audio enhancement devices.  They’re sweet little triangle-shaped computers about an eighth of an inch thick that nestle behind the top part of my ears, and each one is attached to a tiny, almost invisible, tube that ends in an extremely small speaker that tucks inside my ear.  My hairdresser and I conspired on a slightly modified haircut, and no one on God’s green earth would know I wear these little guys.  Except that I’ve just told you.

There’s a reason why I chose right away to break my silence (pun intended) about something I was originally very reluctant to admit I needed — life is too brief and too beautiful to risk missing out on.  If you suspect that your audio capabilities could use a boost, don’t wait.  What I thought would make me feel older instead makes me feel infinitely younger.  For one thing, constantly saying “What?” does not make you seem hip.

Suddenly being able to hear again was something of a shock.  The sheer mass and variety of sounds was overwhelming at first.  But it’s been a very gratifying trip to sit back and observe while my brain does what it’s designed to do — delineate and categorize the individual kinds of input and label them important, not so important, okay to ignore, and so on.

There are myriad sounds I hadn’t heard in a very long time but didn’t realize I was doing without.  The swish of my own bare feet on our tile floors.  Birds outside my office window.  The tick of my star-shaped clock on the wall.  The rush and patter of rain, with its thunderous applause.  A hundred sweet little accompaniments to the ballet of daily living.  Sometimes it touches me so deeply to be able to hear again, it moves me to tears.  When I take my ears off, my world instantly reverts to mute.  The contrast is staggering.

If you identify with any of what I’ve said, an audio test is one of the best gifts you could give yourself and those who love you, and it would be a shame to let pride rob you of some of life’s purest joys.  I’m far too young to “need” this technology … and yet I do.  And it gets better …

Maxell ad

At last week’s appointment, my audiologist sent me home with a blue-tooth device that lets me control my hearing aids from my iPhone … and a little microphone that sits next to the TV (or wherever I want to transport it) and puts the audio directly into my ears.  I’ve been listening to my iTunes music wirelessly as well.  And at the dinner theater where my husband is chef, I can choose yet another setting on my phone that puts the “house” into my ears.  I’m getting younger by the minute.

NEWS FLASH: Life is a learning process …

I find myself in a particularly reflective mood this morning — it’s one of those days when there simply isn’t enough coffee to wake me up before 10am, even though I’ve been walking and talking since 6:00.  The weekend was tremendously fun but tiring, and our 49ers lost by a mere three points yesterday — so close, and yet so far.  BUT … it’s really no biggie, and life obviously goes on!

In honor of the prevailing mood, I’ve decided to bring a post forward from my original blog, written in June of 2012.  I can say with satisfaction that I’m more me in the past few years than I’ve ever been.  The flip side, of course, is that there’s always a price to pay for change, sometimes heavier than expected, the operative question being, “Was it worth it?”

So … about that learning process …

If you live long enough, you learn a thing or two.  I’ve lived a while now and I’ve learned more than a few things I never really wanted to know.

I’ve learned that life is all about change … and that it abides by no rules written down by man … and that as much as I claim to like change, I sometimes don’t like it very much at all.

I’ve learned that people will astound you every day, for good or ill … and that a part of what is so astounding about people is their capacity for selfishness — it clearly knows no bounds.

I’ve learned that being a “good person” does not require me to accept any and all crap thrown my way … and that if I do NOT accept everything presented to me, I run the (perfectly acceptable) risk of being called a biotch.

I’ve learned that there are people whose code of ethics will not allow them to maintain a relationship with any except those who wholeheartedly agree with them … and that those people will cut you without so much as a backward glance.

Conversely, I’ve learned, to my great joy, that there are incredibly amazing people who possess the maturity, magnanimity, and genuine regard to “take the bad with the good” and keep on trucking along beside you through life.

I’ve learned that not everyone who snuggles up to you actually gives a fig about you or your life.  Sometimes they’re just nosy.  Sometimes they’re hoping your life has taken a bad turn since the last time they checked, and their day will go much more fabulously for knowing that.

I’ve learned that we humans have an infinite capacity and talent for justifying whatever behavior benefits us … and a singular blind spot when it comes to irony.

I’ve learned that “friend” is an entirely subjective noun and that people you had reason to think would be there forever can disappear in a heartbeat when the going gets tough … or the conversation takes a turn that challenges their neatly-arranged set of rules … or you simply decline to acquiesce to their take on life.

I’ve learned that life is far too short for people-pleasing … and far too long for the nasty taste it leaves in your mouth when you do it.

I’ve learned that the concept of “getting older” is fine in the abstract … but when it starts to manifest itself in the mirror, or in your bones, it becomes something patently unfair and sinister.

I’ve learned that the more you learn, the less you know … and the more you THINK you know, the more deluded you just might be.

Because … I’ve also learned that life can’t be placed in a neat little box and labeled.  It can’t be predicted … it’ll fool you every time.  It can’t be diagrammed or mapped out beforehand … and it will shock the pants off you as it unfolds.

I’ve learned that life IS.  Life happens.  It’s a gift to be celebrated and LIVED.

If I’ve learned nothing else for real, I’ve learned that I still have an awfully lot to learn …

Be Real

Winnowing the Chaff

Pam Grout

#1 New York Times best-selling author

FranklyWrite

Practice Writing

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Drinking Tips for Teens

Creative humour, satire and other bad ideas by Ross Murray, an author living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Is it truth or fiction? Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Drifting Through

Welcome to the inner workings of my mind

KenRobert.com

beginnings, middles, and ends

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

Musings of a Penpusher

A Taurean suffering from cacoethes scribendi - an incurable itch to write.

Ned's Blog

Humor at the Speed of Life

Miss Snarky Pants

A Humor Blog For Horrible People

mylenesmusings

Every other asshole shares their opinions, why shouldn’t I?

%d bloggers like this: