May you stay forever young

June 1, 2016
Me at 6 months

Me at 6 months

This is me with my mother at about six months of age, 68 1/2 years ago. We were living in Germany where my dad was posted for three years. I really don’t remember anything about Germany.  I used to think I’d had this dream about looking down and seeing all these tiny houses, people and trees. But, after talking to my mom about it, I realized it was what I had seen through the airplane window as we were landing back in the good ole USA.

This is a picture of me almost 42 years ago. It’s my son Jack’s, first birthday party and we are at the Besson family’s house in Austin, Texas. As my 69th birthday is Me at 28 years old, Jack at oneright around the corner, I’ve been reflecting, once again, on what an awesome life I’m living. Nah, I’m not rich or famous, but I am for the most part healthy and happy.

I am grateful for the many times in my wilder years God pulled my butt out of a metaphorical fire so that I can continue to enjoy life. I am grateful He gives me the energy to keep on learning. I am blessed to continue to meet and make friends with some smart, creative people—young and old. I’m glad I’m still around to grow older together with my hubby and kids and grandkids.

I know 69 years is not that old in these times.

But, it does feel like it’s down the road a piece.

I extend to you Bob Dylan’s words sung by Joan Baez “May you stay forever young”

May your heart always be joyful

May your song be always sung

May you stay forever young

 

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Little Zen Moments

March 10, 2016

I wonder, if like me, everyone occasionally experiences moments where the world seems to stand still and the cosmos aligns itself in perfect harmony.  These experiences might last for a few seconds or several minutes.  But, before the gears of chaos engage again, I always have the overwhelming feeling “Woo hoo, life is good!”

I’ve thought perhaps these moments of clarity and tranquility could be a spiritual thing…maybe a split-second glimpse of what heaven would be like.  Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, believed there must be a little bit of Zen in all creative and spiritual experiences.  Not counting any drug induced euphoria, I believe each of us can experience our “little Zen moments” during our lifetime-if we tune in.

Here are some of my little Zen moments:

Sitting in the sun, by the pool. Watching the clouds drift by, listening to the birds, I feel my body and soul warming, the tension washing away, and I experience “the eternal happiness of the spotless mind.”  Although not all Zen moments can be recreated, this works for me almost every time.

Waking up in the morning and walking into the living room where all my grandchildren have flung themselves to sleep in the blankets on the floor.  I look at their beautiful, sleeping faces and think, “Yeah, this is the best moment of their visit.”

Walking downtown during my lunch break, soaking in the sights and sounds of the city, sometimes gives me the feeling of being so completely alive it is a Zen moment.  It is especially meaningful if you just say “howdy” to strangers.

At the Botanical Gardens, I sit on a bench and stare out at the riot of plants and colors and feel in ‘shock and awe’ of nature’s divine creativity of which all our lives are a part.

Listening to a “kick-ass” song on the radio driving home after a great workout at the gym.  Go endorphins!

Having a cup of Oolong tea on the back patio with my hubby.  Sitting in the breeze, watching the bats come out at sunset, I feel the multiple activities of the day moving out of my mind.  This unfortunately does not last as long as I would like, ’cause the evening’s tasks soon take up residence.

If you don’t recognize your Zen moments, I urge you to learn to do so and then, please share.

PS I wrote this several years ago, but was reminded of it today.


Gardening on Cement

February 28, 2016

If you’re as old as I am, you might remember the Beverly Hillbillies TV show. The Clampetts, a family of hillbillies–obstinately from Tennessee–found oil on their land, got rich and moved to Beverly Hills, California. Elly Mae, the blond and buxom daughter, called the swimming pool their “cement pond”. I call our back courtyard garden our “cement garden” in remembrance of Elly Mae.

2015 garden

Last year’s garden

For the past several years we have planted veggies in tubs and large pots. We’ve had good success with tomatoes, peppers, okra (bred for containers) eggplant, Swiss chard and a variety of herbs. This year we are trying onions. We also replaced the lime and lemon trees as the previous ones froze two years ago.

20160228_133004

2016 Spring garden just planted

We also have two fabulous, 10 foot tangerine trees in a real dirt patch on one end.

tangerine tree

Last fall’s crop of tangerine totaled about 170

As you can see we also have cactus plants, a Bird of Paradise and about a dozen Plumeria trees in various stages of growth. Our small front courtyard is a plethora of plants and a volunteer Loquat tree, which we think is cool.

20160228_142634

This is what you can do with a little space and ingenuity.

 


Life According to Spock

May 17, 2015

Original post June 2010.

One time, my mother told my teen-aged son, “If you say you are bored one more time, you can leave my house. Only boring people get bored.” A couple of years ago, as I approached 60 years of age, I spent some time contemplating my life.  I was feeling–well–bored!  I felt as if I was hunkering down into a comfortable, yet uneventful, routine existence.  Life should be a luscious feast and I was on a starvation diet. Not wanting to become a boring person, I decided to fix that.

Inspired by my truly adventurous, un-boring mother and the “feed your head” attitude of the sixties, I know you have to exercise the brain, in addition to the body, to stay healthy and active.   I’ve heard we have as many brain cells as the national debt has dollars.  But, if we don’t use them, we will lose them. And, not just our brains, our psyche, our spirit, our creativity and our very love of life need feeding–not the usual fare, but tasty, spicy food.

I put the following words together and adopted them as an action plan: learn, create, try, see, travel, taste, listen, and visit.  Dragging the hubby along, we talked about making an effort to do something we had never done before or go somewhere we had never been, at least once a week.  Now, you won’t see us skydiving or riding a camel across the Sahara, there are plenty of less complicated ways to meet this goal.  Not that you should rule out anything you feel is in your scope of exploration.

We have been working our plan for about two years.  Some things are easy–having a beer while listening to Los #3 Dinners, live.  Some things are a real push for me, especially the going down in the Caverns of Sonora cave thing.  A disastrous exercise was a week long road trip to South Dakota–but that’s another story.  Recently, we visited, for the first time, the San Antonio River Walk extension down to the San Antonio Museum of Art.  Yes, we had to hunt for a parking space and got hot and sweaty.  We also enjoyed the view, the precious time together and the feeling of being a part of the city.  The museum, while not totally new for us, always unveils new treasures and renewed appreciation for art.

I think when Spock says “live long and prosper, he means live long and have a wealth of experiences.
Get out of your mental easy chair this week, do something different and share it.

Me at a "take it apart and make it art workshop" with spare parts and 10bitworks

Me at a “take it apart and make it art workshop” with spare parts and 10bitworks


Remembering the Sabbath

March 1, 2015

Several years ago I read this wonderful book “Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest” by Wayne Muller, ordained minister, graduate of Harvard School of Divinity and therapist.

In his introduction, Muller explains in a general, not accusatory way, how in the relentless busyness of modern life we have lost the rhythm between work and rest. He tells how we suppose action and accomplishment are better than rest, that doing something-anything-is better than doing nothing. Because of this, we don’t rest, we miss the quiet refuge that brings us wisdom, and we miss the joy and peace from our moments of rest.

According to Wikipedia, the Sabbath is generally a weekly day of rest or time of worship. It is observed differently in Abrahamic religions and influences similar occasions in several other practices. Although many viewpoints and definitions have arisen over the millennia, most originate in the same textual tradition.

In this book Muller encourages us to remember the Sabbath by living the rhythm of rest and gives meditations and  examples of how to incorporate ‘small’ Sabbaths into our everyday life in a variety of ways—that include setting aside quiet times, taking a walk in the park, lighting a candle and saying a blessing, enjoying a meal with friends.

The following are a few passages that I hope will inspire you, as it did me, to find a quiet place, at any time, to remember the Sabbath as a divine gift of rest.

Readings from the book

In Genesis, a fundamental goodness is presumed throughout the creation story. At every juncture God acts, steps back and rests. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” Genesis 1:31 Sabbath rest invites us to step back and see that it is good.

Mark 2:27, “You are not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath is made for you.” Muller says, The Sabbath isn’t a responsibility, it’s a gift, and if we don’t take that gift, we all suffer. He tells us the point isn’t to take the Sabbath in order to avoid spiritual trouble with a cranky God who’s going to punish you. The point is to take Sabbath in order to be as nourished, fed and delighted as we’re meant to be. “Your life is not a problem to be solved but a gift to be opened.”

meditation, stones, pond,prayerPrayer is like a portable Sabbath, when we close our eyes for just a moment and let the mind rest. Like the Muslims who stop to pray five time a day, like the Angelus we can be stopped by a sunset, a meal and we can pray. Something close to the heart, and simple.

Sabbaths are filled with prayers. But we can begin slowly with a simple prayer like a pebble dropped into the middle of our day rippling out over the surface of our life. Perhaps a line from the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, a short blessing: “May all beings be happy and may all being be at peace.”

A verse in the 23rd Psalm says “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.” Even Jesus stepped back from his ministry and the crowds to a place of rest. In doing so he is honoring a deep spiritual need for a time dedicated not to accomplishment and growth, but to quiescence and rest.

Better is one hand full of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind” Ecclesiastes 4:6 Traditional Sabbaths are filled with prayers. But we can begin slowly with a simple prayer like a pebble dropped into the middle of our day rippling out over the surface of our life.

Mother Teresa said “Let us remain as empty as possible so that God can full us up.”At our best, we become Sabbath for one another. Not fixing, not harming, not acting, we can become space, that our loved ones, the lost and sorrowful, may find rest in us. ‘Where ever two or more are gathered, there am I in the midst of you.’ 

 The Desert Fathers counseled, “Go into your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” Set aside a period of time in nature or at home, at a church or temple, a library or anywhere you will not be disturbed. Sit, meditate, pray, read, whatever pleases you. Pay attention.

 


You can’t take it with you

December 6, 2014

estate saleI stopped in at an estate sale this morning in one of the larger homes in the neighborhood. Even though I had cleaned out my parents’ four bedroom home and been to many an estate sale, I can truly say I’ve never seen so much stuff in my life!

I was fascinated and appalled all at the same time at the many, many things this family had collected over the years–antique furniture, toys, crystal, a dozen sets of dishes, an entire room of Christmas decorations, jewelry, books, clothes… An over abundance of ‘things’ in every sense of the word. Especially, when I try very hard to minimize and repurpose our belongings on a regular basis.

It also reminded of this little story I wrote a few years ago for the Current’s Flash Fiction feature.


 

I always knew my son and his family would have no use for my precious mementos after I am gone.  Bric-a-brac, knick-knacks, stuff!

The furniture I inherited from my grandparents–a phone table with a little seat for comfortable chatting, the antique mantle. The beautiful set of china on which my mother served  holiday dinners that shaped generations of family gatherings.  I cherished these and many other family pieces passed down to me.  But, who wants a framed, handmade baby christening gown?

My books are all going for a dollar.  People are rummaging through my clothes and linens–all which are permeated with the odor of stale perfume. Handbags and jewelry, luggage, kitchen appliances… A bowl full of sea shells or a scorched set of cooking pans–not treasures for sure. The estate sellers are doing their job of clearing the house for sale.  But, there’s no one there to tell the stories.

dresden ladiesMany times I tried to tell the story behind the Dresden figurines. The ones in the glass cabinet that I stared at my whole life.  My parents bought those beautiful little ballerinas, with their tutus of delicate porcelain lace, in 1947 from a German family who had to sell their precious keepsakes to feed themselves. But, how could that matter now? Surely someone will see their value and give them a good home, where they can be admired everyday as a beautiful works of art. The finely etched beaten copper table top my father brought back from Pakistan when he served there in the ’50’s. The painting of the two devilish monks my first true love, George, gave me when I was 18 years old.

After the good things go, it looks like the sad remnants of an inconsequential life. I hover over this scene, on my last pass through this world, the memories fade along with the disbursement of my possessions.  And, now I surely know the truth of ‘you can’t take it with you.’


Enjoying retirement with a nap

October 10, 2014

Some time ago, both my husband and I made the decision to retire in the summer of 2014. In preparation for beginning this new phase in our lives, I did some reading on the subject. I came across some articles by Dudley Tower, PhD on his website Dynamic Aging Institute. According to Tower, “dynamic aging is a unique, systemic, more fully engaged, and proactive approach to one’s own aging process.” He states the retirement isn’t meant to be a “leisurely declining into oblivion.” And, the retiree should “…engage completely with life, develop fresh skills and qualities, and find creative new areas of your life…” I find this approach both validating and exhilarating.

Among all the other changes and new adventures, it may seem a minor point, but one of my first challenges has been learning how to ‘sleep-in’. I put away my wristwatch the day I retired and no longer set the alarm at what I now perceive as a God-awful early hour. But, I still wake up about the same time as I always did when I was working and am unable to get back to sleep. The cat doesn’t help as he obviously has not changed his schedule for breakfast and going on his morning inspection of the yard.

asleep with a bookMy solution? I treat myself with naps. I cherish this new freedom to incorporate a nap into the day’s activities. I lie down in the quiet and close my eyes for as little as 20 minutes, or sometimes longer. My favorite way to nap is to bring a book and drift off reading.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, napping offers these benefits for healthy adults, including:
Relaxation
Reduced fatigue
Increased alertness
Improved mood
Improved performance, including quicker reaction time, better memory, less confusion, and fewer accidents and mistakes

That works for me!

And, now, that this post is done, excuse me while I go take a little nap.


Nothing is a coincidence

June 24, 2014

There have been so many cosmic and cool things in my life. And, I don’t care if anyone but me thinks so. But, listen to this one.

The summer I was nineteen, I came back home to San Antonio from my freshman year at Southwest Texas State College. Just for something to keep me occupied, I accompanied my friend, Rosie Gander, to the San Antonio Little Theatre. We signed up to volunteer as stagehands for their big summer show–“Sound of Music”–staged at the old Sunken Gardens outdoor theater.

I met an airman there who was also volunteering as a stagehand. Steve drove a little convertible sports car and was DJ part-time on a local radio station. We spent a lot of time talking and laughing, and smoking cigarettes in the lulls between the our stage duties. He came over to my house for dinner and I think we may have gone to the movies. (I need to ask if he remembers)

At the end of the summer, my family moved, I went back to college and Steve went to Viet Nam. We wrote each other faithfully for about three or fours years. He had quite the way with words, good at sarcasm and funny stories. If you can image any funny stories coming out of Viet Nam. He went back to the states for college when he got out of the Air Force and we lost track of one another.

Forty-four years later he finds me through this very blog site.  I told him I saved all his letters because I thought they were such a piece of history. We began corresponding where we left off. Only this time we’re writing via email. He’s just as eloquent and just as funny as he was those many years ago.

Carole, Steve and me  48 years later

Carole, Steve and me
48 years later

In April this year, Steve and his wife, Carole, came to San Antonio (they live in a small town in Nebraska) for Fiesta (admittedly a mistake as it was hotter than blue blazes this year.) My husband and I spent several days with them when they weren’t doing Fiesta things. We had such a wonderful time. I loved getting to know Carole, and Steve…same great guy, just a little older.

Now, come on, isn’t that cosmic and cool?

 

 

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This week according to two

December 9, 2012

Posted two blogs this week, attended two holiday mixers, and worked out at the gym two days. This must have been my ‘two’ week as I was then ‘too’ exhausted for much else.

Managed to get myself released from the HOA board. Just couldn’t take the stress any longer. Feel much better. Will vote “no” to all proposals at the emergency financial meeting for all homeowners, just to be the Scrooge.

The cat somehow got his neck and front paw hooked in the bag with the big jingle bells and raced around the house clattering like crazy. He was sorely traumatized, as was I from trying to catch him before he twisted it around his neck and hung himself.

What else? Work is busy right now as we are getting ready for the two (there’s that number again) week holiday break. Submitting ads and articles and generally getting our ducks (two) in a row, so when we come back we can hit the door running.

Getting ready to take our two mile Sunday morning walk on the trail.

How was your week?

my sleeping kitty
After the jingle bell rock trauma

Banana Nut Bread with a Story

September 4, 2011

Or, how I got my Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1969 edition)

In 1966, during my sophomore year at college, I was invited to participate in the work-study program. I was paired with the new sociology professor, Dr. Bullion-yes, like the cube. During our initial conversation, he pulled out the bottom drawer of his file cabinet, handed me a magazine, and asked “What do you think of these?” Gracing the cover were pictures of young women volleyball players, inside were more athletic women–all totally naked. A quick mental assessment made me think “This is probably a test.” I said, “Nice, while they look very healthy, I’m not interested.” I must have passed, as I went on to work for him for 3 years with no other offers to view naughty magazines.

In those days, on the Southwest Texas College campus, students mostly came from small, rural towns. The guys were studying agriculture, the women aspiring to become teachers. There were no blacks on campus. Dr. Bullion spent several years opening minds and hearts on the civil right issues in his classes. He held the first class on Black History and introduced us to African-American writers and poets. Bullion would stand on his desk and holler out Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Du Bois. Quite impressive. He instituted the first, and I think only, student exchange week with Prairie View A&M, which at that time was an all black college near Houston.

But for all that liberal attitude about race, he somehow missed the part about women’s rights. For graduation, he gave me a copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Even then, I thought something about that was wrong, wrong, wrong. Was he telling me ‘now you have a college degree, but you really need a husband?’ Am I supposed forget about a career and learn to cook so I can be the perfect little wife? I was incensed, but kept the book as a memento of Dr. Bullion and his insightful, action-filled teaching style.

So, as life if full irony, I eventually grew to rely on, and love my Fannie Farmer Cookbook (not necessarily just to cook for the men in my life). It was the only cookbook in my home, until I married a chef and his gazillion cookbooks. It’s cover has long been missing. Some of the pages are attached with paper clips, torn and stained with spots of ingredients past. It’s simple and easy with timeless recipes that never fail me.

Here is the recipe for banana nut bread that now my grandkids love to make.

Banana Nut Bread

Some like to add 2 tablespoons melted butter to the batter. (I do)

Mix in a bowl

3 ripe bananas, well mashed

2 eggs, beaten until light

Sift together

2 cups of flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Add to the first mixture. Add 1/2 cup nut meats, coarsely chopped. Being Texan, we always add pecans.

Stir well. Put in a buttered 9×5 loaf pan.

Bake 1 hour at 350°

Enjoy every morsel.