Friday, June 16, 2017

We are the Water Lilies

Twice a week I join a group of women that I think of as water lilies. We share some characteristics. Water lily leaves are large and buoyant, as are we. Both the plants and the women have to be rooted, the lilies into mud. We've all gone through some mud in life which trained us to stay strong in unsettling conditions. 

On the other hand, an overhead drone would show us to be struggling to maintain position in the water. I'd love to see how we look as we bob up and down at different rates, lean to one size, scull like mad and scissor kick until the water of the pool is rocking with little waves.  I think of the June Taylor dancers on the Jackie Gleason TV show back in the 50's, when the ladies did routines filmed from the birds-eye-view. We're not like them.

Start the clip at about 1:30 to get the effect I want you to see.
If the youtube video isn't showing, here's the link. 

We only remotely resemble synchronized swimmers. We pitch and roll awkwardly. We can't all suspend ourselves in water for more than 20 seconds.  Our kicks are more spastic than controlled. While most of us face right for exercises there are always a couple facing left, and thus collisions. 

The group ranges across three decades, from 50 years old, up. One morning we shorties huddled in the shallow end, I swore the round-faced lady with a sunny smile and short-cropped white hair was my grandmother. This is a class of grannies.  But seeing her, I realized I felt more like a granddaughter. 

It takes a lot of guts to reveal lumpy, roly-poly bodies in front of others. And an equal amount of courage to demonstrate our lack of athleticism. I'm not going to take up running or long distance biking at this age, unlike my husband's cousin who competes in triathalons. She swims regularly in Seattle's frigid waters, sleek as a seal in her wet suit. Back here in the fifties-plus community pool, we hang out of our bathing suits in unbecoming ways. 

Nonetheless, there are moments when we manage to kick our legs with toes pointed, one arm gracefully arched overhead, and we feel like ballerinas. The Fantasia  ballerinas, but ballerinas nonetheless. 

I've enjoyed much about this class: working on balance, the bouyancy that lets me jump higher than I ever could on land, and giggling when I can't stay planted on the floor and drift sideways like seaweed in the current. Yesterday we took our foam "noodles" and bent side to side, pushing the ends under water for a little resistance. From the front of the pool I looked back. It looked like a pastel-colored rainbow had split into individual arcs dancing across the water's surface.

My water lily analogy breaks down here, but there is beauty in that pool. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Traffic Camera

"Oh, look, there's one" my husband said. We were playing hide and seek with the white traffic cameras mounted at some Denver intersections. He was determined to track down the camera that resulted in a $40.00 fine for speeding. The photo "makes me look like a drug user" he complained. 

He's a notoriously slow driver, so I agreed that it was hard to believe he was ten miles over the limit.  Our kids spent their teen years looking over his shoulder and urging him to get up to speed. His last speeding ticket, 20 years ago, happened when he overlooked a school zone. He eventually got over that one, and he'll get over this one too. But he's riled up now.  

The last two round trips through that intersection have been non-stop commentary, including the cost to us. A friend said "I just don't pay the tickets" which Bill can't imagine. And then there's the large line item in the city budget he imagines.  "They must have spent a pretty penny on those things." But he's driving slowly again.

How sneaky it is that Big Brother's presence is on our streets?  "You'll never see one those contraptions in Dobson." (Dobson, NC, our previous hometown )

He's not the least bit technically minded, and can't fathom how the system works. He imagines a big room with tech nerds watching the film in real time. Actually, the letter does have the name of the "photo speed operator"  B. Lopez.  

After 2 hours of constant complaint and indignation I asked if we could put it to rest. He thought he could. But he started in again this morning on the way home along the offending route. I tolerated it better because I was still woozy from anesthesia. 

A week later a second citation came. 

Maybe I'm just not feeling his pain and commiserating sufficiently for him to feel validated. Could be he just doesn't get out enough. 

While I'm tired of his latest rant, he may be tired of mine.  I considered what I hang onto like a terrier who's caught a rodent. Is he rolling his eyes when I yammer on about living in a cave, or gaining weight or terrible traffic.  What if I got fined by the gnashnab patrol? I'd owe a fortune! 

Either way I also need to put a sock in it, zip it up, and quarry for my inner Pollyanna. 

Does your honey drive you crazy with a repeated tirade? How do you handle it? 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


As a child I remember my thrifty handy dad mending my sisters' worn shoes. He used a curved needle and pliers to sew the uppers back to the soles. We only got new shoes if the old ones were beyond repair. 

In third grade my best friend had a pair of saddle shoes made of red velour. They were luxurious. I begged for a pair of red shoes too. Since I needed new school shoes we went to the local shoe store. The small shop on our main street still measured our feet with the metal sliding scale. He found a pair of hefty brogues, (Dad's prerequisite for shoes was sturdiness, not looks), made of dull cabernet colored leather. I was too afraid to protest. Strictly speaking they were red shoes, just not what I'd begged for.

When I was in high school he was outraged to learn that I had more than three pairs of shoes, even though I'd paid for them out of babysitting money.  From that day on, guilt blunted my enchantment with shoes.

In keeping with said upbringing, I tend to make do with quality but dated clothes and shoes. For a recent wedding I paired a newer dress with beautiful piece of gold-thread embroidered silk from India. Now I needed shoes, but I so seldom wear heels that I couldn't justify spending the time and money necessary to find just the right pair.

But in the back of my closet I had a seldom-worn pair of comfortable heels. As well I had the leather craft paint necessary to turn them a classy matte gold. The paint adhered well to the leather uppers and I was pleased. Proud, in fact. Thrift was vindicated.

look at the heels!
That is, until I put them on just prior to the wedding, and walked around the hotel room. They felt squishy. As I primped at the mirror, and adjusted my jewelry they felt less solid, and more bouncy. Sitting on the end of the bed I took one off and examined the chunky three inch heels which had cracked from the bottom up.

Crestfallen and stymied, I was stuck with an ugly pair of brown flat sandals. I changed out of the heels into the sandals and buckled up my pride. No one was going to look at my feet, no matter how much I imagined they'd whisper "What was she thinking?!"

I left the ruined pair in the trash when we checked out. But what I really should have checked out was every pair of shoes left in my closet. 

Not six months later I again packed a comfortable pair of shoes to take on our trip to Spain. They were favorites--good for walking and they looked sound.  Wear one pair, pack the other. I was so efficient. I had the black "mules" and a pair of old beige grandma-esque walking shoes. 

About day three of the trip, I slipped into the mules and they felt slightly wide and cool.  I put my fingers right through the perfect uppers, no longer attached to the faulty soles. Ironically 8' X 12' Clark's shoe ads   plastered the walls of Barcelona's underground train system. 

Bill urged me to buy another pair of shoes, which I finally did in another city. It was a fun experience as I practiced my Spanish language skills with the female clerk.  I loved the shoes until a foot injury made them just a bit uncomfortable, blast it. 

In retelling my experience a friend said she's had a pair of shoes fall to pieces while she was in India. 

So, play it safe. First, check your old shoes for dry rot at the seams or crumbling composite soles. Wear them, flex them. Second, go ahead and buy a new pair of shoes for your next big trip. And break them in prior to departure, lest they break out somewhere along the way, leaving you soleless.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spring in the Rockies

A new draft choice for the Broncos football team arrived in Denver on the last Saturday of the month.  He'd never seen snow, and TV showed 
DeMarcus Walker with a snowball bigger than a pumpkin.

I hope he gets a kick out of spring in the Rockies. I don't. The storm was beautiful, cold, windy, and untimely. Look what damage it did! Peonies full of buds lie splayed on the ground. 

The little rose buds may revive. Twenty four hours later, most of the snow is old news. Of course it's a different story in "the high country."  

My buddies in North Carolina said it was 85 degrees Saturday. Meanwhile, our drain chain was frozen.

Springs, (and falls and winters) in the Great American Desert are three of the reasons I moved to NC in the first place. Not that we didn't have some confusion of seasons there as well, but not so drastic.

I can't consider winter over yet. I've seen snow on Mother's Day, and the last day of school in June.  I'm sticking with pansies in a pot that come in and go out like a restless cat. My raised bed is ready for seeds this weekend. I bought tomato plants and peppers that won't be safe outside for another three weeks. 

I bet that Florida football player will be hankering for some vine ripened tomatoes by the middle of June. Tough luck. 

And welcome to Colorado!

Monday, April 17, 2017

"There are Places I Remember" , Number One

there are places I remember…”  (link to the Beatles' song, "In My Life")

I’m mining my photo banks and travel diaries to celebrate places I remember.  Two years ago we hit the road for Birmingham, Alabama. We were going to celebrate a wedding, but decided to stop off at places we’ve only heard of, not necessarily favorably. 

The first afternoon we visited Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC.  It was on Bill’s bucket list. Who knew? Less than enthusiastic, I tried to find something unique in their high quality sacred art museum which was full of old Masters. But having been to cathedrals in Europe I'd seen enough Virgin Mary paintings and cavorting angels to last a life time. 

Bill was disappointed to discover that the college book store is only online, no browsing text books.

Our glimpse into campus culture was interesting. When my daughter was eight, she played with a friend from a devout Christian family. I asked her what games they had played and she answered “humble girls.”  I’m not sure what she meant then, but BJU had a whole campus full of them! Girls are still required to wear skirts. Some could have stepped out of the set from Little House on the Prairie, others chose modest versions of current styles.

The student dining hall had a wide range of nationalities, and coed groups shared the tables. I did not see many African Americans, but again, I don’t see them at my white church either. 

I much preferred our time downtown at an outdoor cafe sipping locally brewed beer. No BJU students there. 

The next day took us through Atlanta for their reputation for "stop and groan" traffic. 

Once in Birmingham we went downtown to Kelly Ingram Park, the civil rights site where police hosed protestors and brought in the attack dogs. The art in the park recreates the scene with metal scupture.  It’s arranged so you have to sidle between life sized metal snarling dogs, frightening in their realism.

the four girls killed in church bombing across the street

Across the street is the Civil Rights Institute, a compelling collection of media—video, audio, recreated rooms, statues which tell the story of the 1960s in the South. I wish my grandchildren and former students could have accompanied me to experience this well-executed collection of artifacts. 

In total contrast, in the afternoon we visited Antebellum House near downtown. While the landholdings are much smaller than they were, it is a lovely home still. It’s good sized, but not grand. In fact, many architectural details reminded me of our century old home in Denver. The front door is glass with small panels on each side. The entrance runs through the center of the house creating a commodious foyer. Living room to the right, dining and kitchen to the left, just like our house. (sigh)

The rehearsal dinner was held in the Birmingham Botanic Gardens, small but lovely. The tulips and other bulbs were finished blooming due to a warm spring, but the temperatures made for lovely outdoor mingling. I’d love to go back and hit the gardens for the spring flowers.

Of course the wedding was wonderful too. And as the Beatles conclude in their song,"I'll never lose affection for people and things that went before." Here's a late toast to Andrew and Jenna on their second anniversary.

While my wanderlust hasn’t dimmed, my opportunities have slimmed. 

It’s best to recall the affections this trip stimulated. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Glue Grandma

I trudged up two flights of stairs to carry a moving box up to my daughter’s new bedroom. On my way out of the closet I noticed my younger granddaughter swinging her legs as she sat in the sunshine on the small deck. I went out and joined her.

Her beautiful red hair swung around her droopy head and nearly hid her features. The eyes focused on her knees, and her chin nearly touched her chest. Her arms were tightly crossed.

She was willing to talk when I asked her what was wrong. Her other grandma had spoken sharply to her. We talked about that, and she came to sit on my lap. I enjoyed her lanky body leaning against my padded one.  Her head against my cheek, we kept talking until the sting of the incident dulled. 

I’d noticed her moodiness lately, and we’d our own times when she took offense. I was glad for this opportunity to show her I loved her. 

Twelve years of absentee grandparenting haven’t prepared me well for living close at hand. When we’d swoop in for a week’s visit it always included some special group activity, nonstop cookie decorating, crafts, movies out together. We were cherished and novel.

The shine has worn off of us. I'm no longer the glitter grandma, but the one who holds things together, stepping in for childcare, going to school events, patching over hurt feelings--the glue grandma. (I borrowed the glitter and glue idea from a well-written memoir: Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan.) 

Now only the four year old runs exhuberantly to hug our knees when we come in the door. The older kids give us a nod, or nonchalant, “Hi, grandma.” We don’t always get a squeeze on the way out. And if the cousins are all together, they may not even talk to us. 

The one on one times are what we really enjoy.

We’ve invited each of the kids over for an overnight. Since we’ve sewed together over the past few years, I offered to start a new project with each. Em shopped for a cozy fabric to make an infinity scarf. We whipped it up in an afternoon. 

Addie’d outgrown her bathrobe and wanted a replacement. We narrowed the fabric types and out of about 15 color choices, she chose white terry cloth. Of course this was more than a one time project. I saved tasks that she could comfortably do and she learned to hem a sleeve and make a pocket. While she was here we took a chilly night walk and admired the moon. 


Sam admired Addie’s robe and asked to make one for himself. Sam preferred the cozy fleece fabrics, and after careful shopping and combining colors he chose a striking accent for the shawl color and pocket.  He finished it just before a trip to Arizona and proudly, but impractically planned on taking it with him. His suitcase would have been just big enough for the robe and swim trunks! 

Keeler wasn’t interested in sewing, so we planned a game night. It’s fun that he can play knowledge and word based games like Last Word. We change the rules to fit the kids’ strengths. It was a warm enough afternoon to have the first official “Happy Hour” on the patio like we used to do on their visits to North Carolina. We stopped by a specialty store so he could choose a new soda—a blood orange soda from Italy. We have special cups the kids use for happy hour and they enjoy sipping from “adult” stemware (plastic.)

The transition from visiting grandparents to local grandparents is creating deeper relationships with the kids, even if those relationships are a bit sticky. 


Thursday, March 16, 2017

IKEA: Shelve My Books without Shelving our Dreams

"So what went wrong?" I asked the woman in front of me in the line at IKEA. She was pushing a shiny white box with stainless feet and a couple of hinges. It looked sturdy, stylish but unfinished. 

"I'm building my own kitchen, one cabinet at a time. But this one has a broken piece, and I discovered it's out of stock. I can't get a replacement part, or another cabinet to match." 

Her kitchen will look like a seven year old with a gaping hole where a tooth should be. I did the mental math:  hundreds of screws attached to dozens of laminated boards multiplied by weeks of work equals a crisis.  "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know yet." I bet a woman bold enough to tackle such a DIY project has the ingenuity to solve the problem. 

I was glad I was only there to make an exchange. 

IKEA has taken "big box store" to a new level, three stories and enough walking to get your recommended 10,000  daily steps. Even if you don't want anything from there, it's worth seeing the phenomenon. I think Trump would call it "tremendous." 

Their rooms of coordinated furniture appeal to the pragmatist, the interior decorator on a budget, and the dreamers. The 615 square foot model house  tempts engaged couples to put the whole shebang on their registry. (If you didn't use the link, go back and see. This is IKEA genius.)

415,000 square feet of attractive displays teased me into thinking maybe I could make furniture hold together with pegs, those weird connectors (CAM lock nuts) and allen wrenches.  

But I know better. For example, my last DIY file cabinet looks pretty good, but a new gap has appeared between the right side and the drawers. Trying to move it, we lifted it by the top it came most of the way off. So why would I even consider more cheap book shelves and a TV console to replace the ones I didn’t move?

    1. My sons-in-law volunteered to put the kits together. They've had more experience, and they look good so far. (Still waiting on the exchange. I hope I don't turn out like the kitchen lady.) 

2.  If I buy IKEA we'll be able to afford a trip much more enjoyable than the Glover 2016-2017 escorted hospital tour of North Carolina and Colorado.

Thanks, IKEA. I can shelve our books without shelving our dreams. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

What Day is Valentine's Day This Year?

"What day is Valentine"s Day this year?" my husband asked, (the man remembers the birthdates of every other famous dead person imaginable.)   Our anniversary doesn't register with him either so celebrations are more surprise than certainty around here. 

Last year I was floored when he brought me a pot of tulips wrapped in red cellophane. So pleased he remembered I didn't care if the date was off.  He confessed his pickle ball partner's husband brought her the same and it gave him the idea.

Meanwhile, I had arranged for us to take advantage of Valentine's Day at our local upscale winery.  During a leisurely afternoon we savored tapas paired with generous glasses of their wines. Rolling hills, our friends Wallye and Gordy's amiable company, and weather warm enough to finish off our wine outside made the day perfect.

Today Wallye sent photos of a terrific looking lunch and I wondered where and why she was indulging in a deluxe meal on a Friday afternoon. Was it a special occasion? About an hour later I realized it was early Valentine's luncheon at Jolo's again this year. 

A year and fifteen hundred miles later, there's no classy winery less than a three hour drive. Post Valentine's Day we'll substitute with lunch at a positively critiqued Polish restaurant and call it good. 

We'll miss our friends, and the ambiance can't possibly compare, but I'm counting on cabbage, sausage, and pierogi to make it memorable. 

 I hope you'll have a Happy Valentine's Day--whenever you celebrate it. 

 How will you and your honey proclaim your love?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Outsource Responsibility

Skimming an article about choosing healthy snacks, a psychologist used the term "outsource responsibility." Students were given a choice of serve-yourself snacks, or ready-to-go portions. 

“If they’re served by someone else, they can outsource responsibility to someone else. But if they serve themselves, they have to accept responsibility and that makes them feel bad.” 

I stopped, went back and read again, and decided she was really saying they could blame somebody else for their choice. I find the double speak disturbing. 

When I damaged our car (see Jan 23rd post on this blog) I tried to outsource responsibility. In a voice squeakier than the meeting of garage frame and car door, I asked my parking tutor,why he didn't tell me to stop when he heard screeching metal. The unspoken message was that if he had done more, I'd have done less damage. But I was the one driving, and I did the scraping. He didn't let me put the blame on him.

We've heard children shuck responsibility. And it starts early. this video clip of a two and a half year old shows how far we go to avoid responsibility.

Yet, it is foundational to healthy adult interactions, and thus a healthy society. 

Children have to be taught to not "outsource responsibility."  As teachers we've already seen a huge shift towards this warped thinking. Too many kids have excuses for unfinished work, late work, no work, and worst of all, aggressive behavior. Their parents don't hold them responsible. Shirking comes from immaturity and wanting to be liked instead of doing the hard work of forming their kid's character.

The school is left trying to enforce standards that wobble like jello instead of resting firmly on concrete.

Add to shirking our culture's confusion between discernment and censure. If we don't place blame, we avoid any chance that we are "judging" someone. The ancient Greeks had it right in that they had two different words which were translated as judge (verb). One word meant to decide an action should be censured.  

However, if we evaluate the consequences of an action, and use discernment, we are using the other Greek concept. Literally it means to separate, and indicates discrimination of thought, seeing distinctions. Once evaluated, some behaviors should be rejected.

If we begin to make someone else responsible for our choices, good or bad, we lose our sense of efficacy. If somebody else is to blame for what I've done, I have no agency, no power. And I believe that what happens to me is out of my control. 

That's a sad way to live. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Scylla and Charybdis

Scylla and Charybdis live in my garage. More accurately, getting into my garage is sort of like Odysseus trying to get past the two monsters at sea.

Add caption
Quick refresher of Homer's classic:  Odysseus had to sail past Charybdis, a nymph-turned-whirlpool. Opposite  the violent eddy was another nymph turned into a ship-destroying, sailor-munching monster. 

My twin dangers are a very narrow garage door, and the small strait between the two facing garage buildings. I have scraped past Scylla, but not unscathed. Despite Bill's driving lesson, I fused the white garage paint to the grey body of the car while it squealed.


It's a good metaphor for the spring-summer-fall-winter of our distress. Circumstances squeezed us. We got beat up some. There was squealing. But we could have been altogether wrecked.
Odysseus lost the ship to the whirlpool but saved himself. Then, when the pool tossed the ship back up to the surface he snagged it and escaped. Rescued by deus ex machina.

We didn't count on improbable theatrics (the ex machina part) to save us, but on God and our support groups.  To those who doubt prayer's efficacy, I argue it's got to be more reliable than a belching vortex.

If you've been in a tight spot, I'd like to hear your story. Share your dents, missing paint, and the rescue.  You don't have to be Homer to encourage us. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Too Much Time in the Hospital - the Top Ten

so ugly I made Bill model it
You've spent too much time in hospitals when: 

1. You think Medicare should allow valet tipping as a payable expense.

2. As soon as you get to the front doors your brain tells your body you crave a mocha. And you know which franchise operates there.

3. You ask for a better room based on your frequent malady points.

4.  You hope for a room away from the nurse's station.

5. You don't expect a nurse to come running when you hit the call button.
wiiiiide wheelchair

6. Even your adult children think the attending physician appears to be eighteen years old.

7. The grandkids stop for pea-sized crushed ice on their way to your room, then critique the room's size, view, decor, and bathroom.

8. You know how to unplug the IV cart and get yourself to the bathroom. 

9. You finally remember to order condiments so you don't have to eat fries without ketchup or drink black coffee.

10. You re-gift skid-proof hospital socks at the holiday white elephant exchange. 

Do you have any to add? 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Downsized Space, Upsized Attitude

New year, new home. We've moved into our new condo, which is 1/1000 of the space (indoor and out) that we had in North Carolina. That is downsizing!

We have furniture we have to sell or donate. And I'm ready for my third run to Goodwill with  leftover household goods.

We've had to downsize our outside space too. The garages are one large building with a row of doors into narrow parking spots. I've scraped the white paint off of the door frame onto our car trying to get into it. Our personal outdoor space is a concrete slab large enough for my potting bench and a small table and chairs. But the HOA won't let me me install my wonderful washing machine-converted-to-sink outside.

We face a green area between buildings that is smaller than our former front yard. While I will enjoy the trees leafing out and the roses blooming, I will miss my former view. My eye had an unimpeded view across the flower beds to the pine trees at the road 300 feet away. From my desk I watched the flowering spring trees go through their cycles.

canine traffic jam
The desk got left behind (it never would have fit!) and I've taken a space near our big bedroom window for my morning reading and writing. The first morning I sat down with my cup of mocha, watched the geese v-ing to ponds that lie beyond. Movement in my peripheral vision interrupted my reverie. Who was walking in "my" yard?   A bundled up senior citizen strolled behind a little dog. And there were more, and more. My thinking time and space were invaded by strangers left, right and center.

I've gone from living in my personal park to being on the doggie commute route. After the first flash of irritation I turned the parade into a list of owner-pet entities.  Shrouded in down jackets and hats, the people are difficult to differentiate. So I identify them by their dogs. There's the pug lady, the woman with a pair of big black canines, a mutt overdressed in a jacket with a faux fur collar, the red coat dog, the pajama guy ambling by with his cup of coffee in one hand, leash in the other, the scruffy hound whose owner needs a shave, and a fuzzball waddling as slowly as its aged owner.

I feel like I've been dropped into a reality show, maybe "Life Swap." I'd like my old life back, but that won't happen even if I win the million dollars.

So I doggedly plug away at accepting what is.

This quote helps me refocus.  "...gather up the fragments of your life and give them to Jesus, and He will make sure that nothing is wasted. Refuse to think about what you have lost; instead inventory what you have left and use it with a thankful heart." Joyce Mayer.

The process of shrinking my domain may expand my capacity for gratitude and flexibility. Perhaps there are unexpected blessings waiting for me in this new life. Downsizing space may result in an upsized attitude.