Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy Shoes

         Visiting my friend a couple of years ago we decided to go to a local mall.  I'm not much of a shopping person, but I am the kind of person that enjoys spending time with my friend.  She's a shopping person.  As is my daughter.  I think it must be a recessive gene.  Somehow my friend and I ended up in a shoe store and as we wandered up and down the aisles, I saw this pair of shoes.  Not only did I see them, they captivated me.  Pinks and purples and I felt happy when I looked at them.  Even now, I have to leave the computer, walk upstairs and make sure I still have them.  I hope I didn't throw them out, which means donate them.  Somewhere, I hear my children you never throw ANYTHING out.  It's a fairly accurate statement.  I keep the important things, even though they might not think they are so important.  (And yes, I still do have the shoes).  Calmed, I return to the essay, still not understanding where it is going but recording the thoughts as they come to mind.  This is how I mostly write.  I don't often know where it's going, but I'll sit here and be its fingers along the road.  Not that this is some magical, mystical writing, as if I'm channeling.  I do pause.  Sometimes just to wonder, where is this going?  As I just did.  And in this case I then remember about the happy shoes and the happy times with my friend.  Things bring memories, maybe that's why I keep them, to somehow hold on to the good feelings when I look at them.  If I look around at what I've kept, wow, that's a lot of good feelings.  If I hold this notion as a grounding (i.e. that I keep things for the good feelings), it helps me understand myself, and understand why I don't want to get rid of things.  Things is not just stuff.  Things are good feelings.  When I see the thing, I see the story behind it, the where I got it, the who I was with, the connection.  In a time not quite filled with good feelings, I see a purpose for the anxiety that I feel when I think of getting rid of this or that.  Once I find more good feelings, filling up the well, likely the sorting through may be easier.  I hope.  I bought a sweatshirt at a writers' conference last year and on the back is the quote "I write to learn what I know".  Somewhere in that part of me that compels me to write, and to take the leap to start and see where it goes, I am walking in those happy shoes.  For where this piece ends is not where it started, nor where I thought it would go.  Other than to connect to something and someone and to have good feelings.  And that is a lot. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Here's Looking at You, Kid : )

       Yesterday I attended a 50 year reunion of my high school class.  Before I left I sent a pic to my daughter, she wanted to see what I was wearing.  She told me, kindly, that I looked beautiful.  I told her that I felt old.  She reminded me I was going to be with my contemporaries.  I chuckled.  I had attended reunions in the past and found them mixed, but always I was glad that I went.  This one was no exception.  The setting, at a Country Club, was an immediate reminder of the difference in the financial holdings of the parents who sent us to this girls high school, and the difference that no doubt still existed.  The subcontext, success is measured in money.  I don't think this a conscious choice, perhaps even a sharing of the privilege of money, and yet, I wondered. 
      As I reconnected with the women, some of whom I hadn't seen literally in 50 years, I asked about their lives, listened to their stories, and encouraged them to record their lives in story.  This is my current passion.  Everyone has a story and it is the stories that reunite us.  But what stories, in 3 hours, could serve to make us a cohesive group?  Initially, our high school stories.  What fun it would have been to remember our teachers and those awkward adolescents that we were.  That is our foundation.  What little we knew about each other then, too focused on our own insecurities. Yet this lack of knowledge of ourselves and others bonded us, imprinting us in some life-long commitment way. 
     I somehow hoped that when I returned to this group these 50 years later that we could once again quickly find that comraderie that went beyond the type of cars we drove or where we lived or the traveling we had done.  And in some moments, especially when we watched the tribute to the 15 women who were not able to attend our celebration because death had claimed them, the comraderie entered and swirled around us, and we were back to the basics.  No longer the awkward adolescents, women of some accomplishment, women of our own power.  Interesting women who, given more time to separate from the cliques of the past, the comfort of sitting around a specific table, might have seen a way both to relive those years and to move into extended conversations regarding who we are today--not what we have achieved or where we live.   For who we are today includes that part of us who is the awkward adolescent, who questions ourselves, who wonders what is important in life to focus on, who knows that it is not what is on the surface that matters most, it is matters of the mind, matters of the heart, matters of the soul. 
    The introductory question most asked of me was, "where do you live now?".  I found that an interesting entry into conversation.  Not, what do you do, or even, how are you, but where I live, as if that will tell the most.  It won't.  I had few more in depth conversations, save one about writing, and one about the incredible events of the week past and a brief discussion of the politics of the future.  Each ended too quickly before back to "where do you live now?".  People stayed within their comfort zones, and some of the zones were narrow. 
    Life, I think, is about accepting all the parts of us that blend into the who we are today.  When we learn about others, we learn about ourselves if we take the time to ponder.  Tell me your stories, I will tell you mine, and we will meet in the common ground of our humanity. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015


      When my mother was in her 70's she shared that she could not imagine what I would see in my lifetime.  She'd seen it all, she thought, from horses and buggies to cars, from trains to airplanes, from outdoor to indoor plumbing, from gas lighting to electricity.  She had lived through two World Wars and gone from listening to radio to watching television, first in black and white, and then in color.  She died before the internet came into the world, and the smart phone, and so much other technology.  She saw women earn the right to vote, and the early days of the Civil Rights movement.  Over the course of her lifetime.  I wondered right along with her when she said that, and I've wondered since, what could I possibly see that would be so impactful to the world over time.  And there has been much.  But the events of the past two weeks have made me understand what whiplash is. From the lows to the highs.  In America, there is hope.
      First, another mass murder.  By a white man in a church, where he was welcomed to worship by the black congregation.   For their hospitality, he ended their lives in the name of white supremacy.  This opened conversations regarding two American problems (not issues, from my point of view), racism, and gun control.  While most of humanity was incredulous at another senseless shooting, some people ignored the content and the context of the event.  President Obama in a remarkable eulogy for the murdered pastor, indicated that we, as a nation, cannot go back to a comfortable silence regarding racism.  Nor, I submit, can we go back to an uncomfortable silence.  In the case of racism and gun control,  most especially, silence is not golden.  
    And then the Supreme Court had its day(s) in court.  First, asserting the second superior court challenge of the Affordable Care Act was dismissed.  And secondly, ah, secondly, and this my mother, I doubt,  would have never foreseen, the Supreme Court declared the institution of marriage would be legal between same sex couples as well as opposite sex couples.  Who we love, is who we love, and marriage commits us to that person. Common sense, and now, the law of the land.
    I still ponder what I'll see in my lifetime.  My hope is more common sense prevails.  America!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

       My father was born in 1901.  The pic shows a dapper young man, c 1920's.  Full head of hair.  I never knew my father with a full head of hair.  By the time I was born he was 46 years old and bald.  His waist had expanded, yet he still smiled with his eyes.  I never knew him to smoke, the doctor, no doubt, strongly suggesting he not do so for the good of his health.  Although, his health and good normally did not sit in the same sentence with any comfort.  By the time I was little more than 7 he had died.  My seven year old mind did not comprehend the finality of death and I awaited his return for years and decades, hoping that the lie would be over.  He did not, could not return.  The trauma of his death blotted out so many memories, as trauma does.  Most of the stories I hold are stories told, not remembered, for to remember the times we spent together is to acknowledge how much I miss him.  And I do.  Sixty years later the feeling memories are held tightly.  The sadness, yes, but also the feelings of being loved and cared for and connected with and talked to and believed in.  From him, even holding him so briefly in time, I embraced his love of music and storytelling and, yes, baseball.  And so much more. I am my father's daughter.  He taught me to smile with my eyes. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Unanticipated Awe

        I attend plays and movies, hoping to be entertained, to find an ah ha experience.  I travel to natural places-- Yosemite, the beach, the hills along hiking trails, expecting to have a catch to my breath, a feeling of that's-it, that's cool.  I look up into the sky and notice the blueness of the blue.  At sunrise and sunset I look for the pinks, the shades of red and orange.  I look down as I walk and see the grooves in the sidewalk, the ruts and cracks in the blacktop, the bending of the blades of grass, the rabbit droppings, the feathers of birds.  All looking for anticipated awe.  Disappointed when it doesn't stand out, feeling humbled when it does.  Anticipation of awe keeps me on the edge of appreciation. 
      Yet sometimes I forget to be that observer.  I'm driving here or there, I'm walking to that place, the place I need to go, and my mind is spinning and I'm paying attention to the going, not the being.  And on one such of those days I was chagrined to have missed the light and there I sat next to the big rig carrying smashed cardboard boxes.  This light is a lengthy light at a major intersection. I exhaled the anger and turned to look up.  I noticed the flattened boxes,  stacked and bound with a kind of twine.  I wondered about their destination.  I marveled at the order on the truck.  My gaze dropped to  the truck tires so close to me.  Goodyear.  Were they new or introduced to tire black?  I saw the lug nuts and rims, polished, shining.  This driver took pride in his rig, I thought.  The baby moon hubcaps attracted me last.  I briefly thought of a blue car I had in the 70's that sported baby moon hubcaps.  I looked closer  and saw the reflection of my car centered within  the hubcap.   I grabbed my phone and turned on the camera, setting up the shot in an instant just before the truck began to move.  One of my favorite serendipitous shots ever.  I found unanticipated awe in the hubcap of a big rig.  The edge of appreciation is in the living of life.  Awe some!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Yosemite Life/Death


Last weekend at this time I was reluctantly leaving Yosemite.  For the past 13 years my daughter and I visit on the first weekend in June.  The visitations began to find a happy place, a get away to nature and renew place, a few months after my husband, her father, passed.  Passed.  He died.  But died is blunt, crash into a wall stopping.  We want to sugar-coat the enormity of the event, not wanting to remind ourselves of the end.  Our end.  In particular, my end.  We used to say passed away.  Everyone understood that meant died.  In a polite way, with eyes downcast, sadness contained.  Away he went.  Where, there was no hint.  He wasn't passING any longer.  No, here he comes and there he goes.  He passed away.  Somewhere.  We understood he wouldn't be back.  Recently, however, when people die, we do not note that they passed away.  Now, we say, he passed.  She passed.  They passed.  As if there is now some understanding of a cross-over from here to there.  No longer is he away, he is over the line, but somehow, in hope, in wishing, still here.  Saying he passed, we understand that he died, he is no longer living with us, but perhaps living still, in a different way.   The inference is, there is another side to the wall.  There is hope.  Passed isn't a period at the end of life's sentence.  It is a semicolon, waiting for the next clause.
     I've made my reservations for Yosemite for 2016 already.  I look forward to our return.  To cycling through the Valley, staying at historic Wawona.  To letting ideas percolate and emerge a week later as I process and remember and think and write.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What if?

Yes, Charlie.  What if?  Usually when I write a blog piece I use my own photography but I saw this gif sitting on my desktop and it is perfect.  I'm kind of a grump today, but no worries, I'm limiting my interaction in the real world.  My blog would likely have been more in the complaint realm, but there were Charlie and Snoopy doing a happy dance on my desktop and suddenly the world is a different place.  How can I write about grumpy things when I look at the faces of sheer joy?  And of course the question seared my soul, guilt rising up like an Hawaiian volcano.  Yes, Teri, what if you were just grateful for everything today, even your grumpy mood?  I guess that would be called acceptance or forgiveness of self if I could elevate my thoughts to be grateful for my grumpy mood.  I'd be on this pedestal of beatification if not sainthood.  To accept myself wholeheartedly, faults and all and be grateful?  Wow.  I picture myself on the right side of the gif of Charlie and Snoopy, just out of reach of his left hand.  I raise my head and put a smile on my face.  I am ready to dance the happy grateful dance.  How can I resist?                                                                                                                        

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Birth day

              January 2, 1903 my mom was born.  She was one of eight children, and towards the bottom of the litter.  She was not formally educated, having not graduated from high school as was common in those times, but she raised six children, four of whom had professional degrees.  She was no dummy, my mother.  What she lacked in formal education she made up for in the school of life.  She was a voracious reader and she wrote well scripted letters to her friends and an occasional poem here and there.  Three of her children (two of the non-professional degree status) wrote stories and poems and fancied themselves as writers, amongst their other talents.  Myself, as the youngest, I guess I learned to follow in all of my siblings shoes whether formally educated or  writers.   While I reflect on my own childhood and what I missed and what I had, I realize the lessons I learned from her form the foundation of who I am because of who she was.  She was a strong willed woman, filled with principles, kind to strangers, helpful to her family in the ways she could.  I didn't know her when she was young, I was born when she was nearly 45.  I didn't know her when she was carefree, my father's illness, and the problems of adult children, as well as the death of her own mother occurred during my young years.  I knew her steeped in responsibility, loyal to causes, taking small steps to adapt to a changing world both personal and at large.  She learned to drive in her 50's, took a cross country trip in her 70's by herself.  She was President of the Senior Citizens Center.  She never stopped growing spiritually or intellectually.  She was gone way too soon at 76 years old---35 years ago.  I have never stopped thinking of her or missing her or appreciating her. She lives in me and from me into the world.  I love you, mom.  Happy birthday!