That’s a Wrap…

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Last weekend I was driving through Tiverton, Rhode Island with my FHB, on our way to one of our semi-favorite places for lunch.  It is nostalgic more than delicious at this point, since it was where I was wooed, many years ago while on Date #2, shortly after Date #1, which had occurred a few hours earlier, when we had coffee and our first meeting.  You can presume, we fast tracked this relationship at that point and things continue to be going along well. Thanks for asking.  In any case, one of the things I noticed as we drove through this very bucolic and sleepy town which sits along the Sakonnet River, is the number of enormous pleasure boats that were in dry dock, all shrinked wrapped for winter.  I thought to myself “self, why didn’t you think of that? It’s brilliant, efficient, albeit, not pretty, but functional”.

I have tremendous admiration for folks that invent things.  Beyond the invention itself, is having the wherewithal (and yes, that is how it is spelled…another word that we say but don’t write and looks funny, but I digress)  to  bring things to fruition.  Thomas Edison was absolutely right on when he talked about genius being one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.  Often, in conversations with my FHB, we discuss different concepts/ideas of items or solutions to common needs or problems.  One day, he talked about the frustration of walking around a cemetary (not the actual walking part) and not remembering how to find your deceased loved ones or other relatives because unless you are up close to a gravestone, many of them look the same.  Rows and rows of graves and there is something often disconcerting about not being able to zero in on finding the one you are looking for.  He postulated that it might be a app that people could have on their phones via GPS and all the different cemetaries could post updates and schematics that would lead you to your special someone.  We talked at length about it.  We even have a daughter-in-law that is a software engineer but never took it to the next level and even brought it up as a something that we could get her thoughts on.  In the meantime, there is probably something already out there that meets that need.  That’s the perspiration part.  Does that make us not geniuses?

When I was a teenager, I would have many ideas of things to make life easier.  I thought of a stereo record player that you could set up that would automatically play the song I wanted to hear without getting up and changing the 33, 45, or 78. Those of you who have been around a while, know what those “codes” mean.  And for others who don’t, just google it.  Of course, I was probably imagining a remote control device or a jukebox so that I could just be a bit lazy and not have to do the manual labor of switching the record. Imagine my surprise when I found out someone had stolen several of my ideas.  And yet, when I found out that it was already an invention, I got over myself, and thought of how smart I was, just not on time to have figured it out.

I am not much for physical exercise but give me some time to exercise my brain and ideas, and I am there, using a lot of free time, driving, riding in an elevator, taking out the trash, before I fall asleep, and while I am in the shower.  I keep a pad of paper next to my bed, and I have lists of reminders in my phone under notes and reminders, which sometimes is a bad idea, because I can’t remember where I keep which and also which is a note and which is a reminder. I am working on being more efficient. Sometimes I get the sense that I am close to an invention and I try and hold on to that thought so I can discuss it with my FHB at the dinner table.  Those are the ones, I never write down or remember in a timely fashion.  I always think I have an answer to the question “what’s new?” but then I don’t.

I guess it’s back to the drawing board or the tablet.  I wish I thought of that one, for sure.

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Stories and Mystories

I like to consider myself an optimist 94% of the time. The other 6% I live in a state of anxiety about whether or not I have made a terrible mistake about everything I have ever done in life. Owing to the fact that my life is still occurring minute by minute, I revert back to my Susie or Suzi or Soosie Sunshine mode and just mosey along. I often think I should have been named Susan which was another popular name . Then I would have been concerned how my parents decided to spell it. Some things are just better left alone.

I try to harness the optimist as much as possible. When summoned from my inner self, it is usually at a moment when the possibility of a pseudo disaster is pending. I use the term pseudo because it is never as bad as a real one, just a perceived possibility of one. My FHB and I have “discovered” the use of Airbnb over the course of the last seven years. We are hardly the pioneers but we were probably the first of our social group to consider the idea of staying in someone’s house, sight unseen (and that could be the Bates Motel owner) based on good reviews (posted by friends of the Bates’ family, perhaps) for a vacation, weekend or just a get out of town for a few days. Some of it was based on our frugal outlook (i.e. cheap view). The first booking was in Carmel, California, a place that has five million dollar homes that are considered “starter homes” among many multiple million dollar homes on the Pacific near Big Sur. Descriptions, back then, used words like cozy. We have since determined that cozy is just another word for tiny and cramped. The queen sized bed was pushed up against the wall of the teeny tiny room. I got the wall side which necessitated climbing over my FHB every time I wanted to get out of bed. The foot of the bed rested against the dresser which was conveniently located unless you actually wanted to put things in the drawers. The bathroom was steps away , like three, and the possibility that we both could be in the bathroom simultaneously would have only been possible if we were the Flying Wallendas. The house was one of the five million dollar ones (so said the owner) who lived upstairs and brought us fresh coffee and was always heading out “to yoga”. She was very pleasant and gave us a good review as being “a lovely older couple who kept to themselves”. I don’t remember Janet Leigh fraternizing too much with Anthony Perkins.

One of the places we visited stood out, literally on a piece of land, which we could see in the distance, when we arrived in a snowstorm. We could not determine how to enter the Tiny House. The owner had left instructions that the key was located under a rock. This was in Vermont. Vermont has many rocks. When I tried to call the owner, she was on her way to a “Bernie” rally and some how we got disconnected, and we actually never met her face to face, which was a good thing for her. We found out that the rear door was unlocked, and found our way in to a very charming and creative little 250 square foot design, replete with dead flies. After we got rid of the flies, we settled in to a lovely weekend in Bennington.

Probably the strangest night we spent was after we had returned from a trip to Nova Scotia. We had gotten off the ferry in Portland. Maine and following a very delicious dinner, we wound our way to a place owned by a self described “world traveller”. We initially could not find the place and had to have the property owner direct us in to what we determined the next morning was a housing project of questionable tenancy. The owner met us at at the door and introduced us to several dogs that seemed to live with her. Luckily we are fans of dogs or it could have been hairy, no pun intended. She ushered us into a dark space, later identified as the kitchen and down some stairs to a room with a large bed and no door, just a screen behind which she stayed. My FHB hissed at me (since I am the one who “finds” our places), that he was going to sleep on top of the sheets and in his clothes. The apartment (?) seemed to have only the one bedroom, a bathroom, with very fluffy towels (as I wrote in my review). We were very tired after the ferry ride, not that we steered the ferry, and fell asleep with a sense of dread. I slept with my purse in my arms and my phone under my pillow. We woke in the morning, grateful to be alive. We called out to our host and no one answered. We pulled back the screen and found that we were alone. In fact, we could not determine where she or the pack of dogs, had disappeared to or slept. We didn’t take a lot of time investigating. I left a lovely thank you note which pretty much said, thanks for not murdering us in our sleep, and we went on our way.

We have met some delightful people, and had hosts that we would love to have as friends, if we didn’t live in another part of the country which might be inconvenient. We have been in brownstones, cottages, tiny houses and apartments. We have gone without heat or air conditioning when it was cold and when it was brutally hot. When hosts gave us lemons, we found the sweet to complement the sour. When we were cold, we just found the warmth in one another. When we survived a misadventure, it became a story of unexpected moments and a tale to be shared.

I guess that my inner Suzie Sunshine remains in wait for the next story, and the one after that. We laughed, we swore, we drove away fast!

Inside Laughter

Is there anything cuter than a baby goat named Shelby standing on a windowsill looking in ? I think not. Some might disagree, but we all can agree that we each have a point of view, even if your point of view demonstrates your clear misunderstanding of cuteness. Moving on, let’s talk about an exciting new discovery I have made. It is neither interstellar or geophysical. It is merely the presence of an app which just makes me laugh. Once again, we might have alternative opinions about what’s funny and/or important and that’s just fine. These days holding on tightly to one’s sense of humor might help us transcend the news, and politics without burrowing into a dark hole and hoping either a) this is just a neverending bad dream or b) we have fallen into a bizarro world or c) we had better figure out how much furniture one can take and arrange in a dark hole, because it’s dark and is there going to be a bathroom.

I found out yesterday was National Static Electricity Day as well as National Apricot Day. I had no idea. I was unsure of how to celebrate and whether there were specific guidelines or menus that might enhance my enjoyment of these days. I guess I have a year ahead in which to figure out those solutions in preparation for next January 9th. I now have an app on my phone that gives me new and novel information. When I start the day with a view of National Calendar days, I know that I am going to laugh, more than likely out loud and often be smiling broadly and looking for someone to share this information with. Definitely a conversation starter. I also recognized as I wrote the numbers 1/9/19 that that was a funny date! I shared it with some students who said “Miss, you are so weird”. Everyone’s a critic. I just let things like that roll away because my 2019 personal decision as that I am going to laugh and smile as much and as often as I possibly can. This is not a new concept but since people around me are making resolutions that might be hard to maintain, I feel that I have a good handle on my resolve and the tools to make it happen. Yay ME!

I have always had an interest in small factoids (small facts…pretty cool). How often can you interject “factoid” into a conversation or a blogpost. Think about it. Yup, smiling broadly now. I was the child that pored over the Encyclopedia Brittanica as well as the phone book. In New York City, we had a collection of phone books by borough, and let me tell you, they were not only enormous and heavy, but had within them a collection of strange names and spellings and looking for the first entry and the last in the Queens telephone book was an adventure. I believe, if memory does not fail me, that the last name was Zzzz. Maybe not, but a little funny,right?

Sharing a sense of humor with someone is like finding a kindred spirit. To laugh till your sides hurt, is the best in that moment. After the moment, you can easily recall it, and smile and maybe even laugh again. Sometimes, I think of something and crack myself up. I will try and share it with my FHB, but oftentimes, he is just not part of the inside joke in my head. That’s okay because there are those moments when I can make him laugh. Sometimes he laughs against his will and it is at that very moment I know we are, whether or not he planned it, connected with a smile…the shortest distance between two humans.

Get a head start on tomorrow and celebrate National Step in the Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day. I have a vivid imagination but you don’t have to make this stuff up. It’s there for the laughing and smiling. Seriously, that’s funny.

Another Christmas Story

I’m thinking back on this week. This week I walked 83,000 steps. A new personal record. My feet hurt. My heart is smiling, less for the cardio workout but more for the joy inside. One of the best weeks at the high school where I work, is the week before we break for the holidays. This is the week that has a little magic, more smiles around the building, music over the intercom ,as well as in the halls and offices, created by our school musicians. There is something in the air that keeps us happy in the knowledge that we are off for over a week to rest, re-set, spend time with family and friends and go off on adventures, vacations, or do nothing much at all, which is sometimes what we need.

This is also the week in which we have, for the past several years, created a “Holiday Shoppe” filled with donated items, wrapping paper and tape and a few bows, some background music to inspire the elves (actually staff…but I think they like thinking of themselves as elves). We hold a “raffle” which is based on recommendations from staff, of students who don’t have the resources to go and purchase, or even make gifts, for the people they care about. It’s not much of a holiday without having something to give. Our solution is to give about 75 students, an opportunity to “shop” and pick some items that they might like to give. They are given a ticket that allows them entry into the room where this is all set up. Some arrive with a lot of trepidation and little expectation. We greet them with “Congratulations! Your ticket was picked and you have won some time to shop for the people you live with”. They turn from a bit worried to quite excited. We show them what we have available and they walk carefully around the tables and pick up some toys for siblings, jewelry for their mom or grandparent, and maybe some gloves or hats or socks for someone else. There is an abundance of things to examine and make a decision. Once they have their choices in hand they are escorted to a table of elves who are ready to pack and wrap the gifts. Then they are told to come at the end of the day to pick up the wrapped gifts to take home. They almost float out of the room. It is the best feeling to watch their faces full of hope, for a change.

Every year reminds me of the joy of those moments. This week also reminded me of the power of poverty and the impact of positive change. One young man came down with his ticket. He listened to the “spiel” and quietly walked around to choose some gifts for his younger sister and his mother. He asked if he could pick something for his girlfriend and also for his grandfather. It takes a lot to ask for extra and he seemed emboldened by the atmosphere. He stood back and watched the elves wrapping other students’ gifts. He turned to me and said “Could I have the presents, but could you not wrap them?”. I must have looked confused for a moment and hesitated, but then quickly said, of course. I also then asked why. He said “I have never had a chance growing up to give someone a gift. We don’t really ever have presents at Christmas. I want to know if I could have some paper to wrap them myself. I am watching the teachers’s faces as they wrap the presents and they are smiling so much. I want to feel that feeling because they look so happy doing it”. I took in his words and recognized how much I didn’t see every day in the faces of my students. I looked but I guess I didn’t see it from his vantage point. What I take for granted is light years away from what he never has had. I let him pick out whatever rolls of paper he wanted and gave him some tape and bows. We put it all in a bag and told him it would be waiting for him to take home, to wrap. He wished us all a Merry Christmas and said he would see us later. He walked out the door, his head held a little higher, his step a little lighter, his smile broad and victorious.

We think we teach our students about life and learning, and yet his words taught us what a gift really is. Wishing each and everyone of you, peace in your surroundings and in your heart.

Skip This

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Recently on Facebook someone asked the question to the universe of FB friends, family, and those who read your posts but don’t comment, to quantify one’s age, but not in numbers.  I posted that I was Howdy Doody and Good Humor old.  That should give you a clue as to my demographics, more or less.  Howdy Doody was my friend and cloth covered companion until a family friend, who’s house I left it at…I was four, tossed it down the incinerator thinking it was just a worn out and battered toy.  That was a growing up moment and a first loss.

Today my mother would have had her 94th birthday.  When she was four, and she lived in Germany, they celebrated a meld of Hanukah and Christmas, which I recently read was a thing then…called

“Chrismukkah, according to the Jewish Museum Berlin, was first used in 19th century Germany by German Jews. Except the term was in German, not English: Instead of Chrismukkah, they called the holiday Weihnukkah. Like how Chrismukkah is a combination of Christmas and Hanukkah, Weihnukkah is a combination of Weihnachten, Christmas in German, and Hanukkah. The more you know!” (credit to a cool website called Hey Alma!)

I always think of the questions I would like to ask her, which of course I could do, but I would be unsure how she would send me that answer from wherever she might be in the universe.  Another loss but then, it is the way we move through life, managing the losses, experiencing some miracles, celebrating the ordinary and the extraordinary.  She would like that sentence and that itself is an answer, when we can still predict the words of those who are not around.

I would ask her if she skipped as a child.  I dreamt last night that I was skipping around, in my current 65 year old self.  I was quite impressed with myself.  I wasn’t much of a skipp-er as a kid.  I was a tripper and fall downer.  Not full of grace, ever.  I often dream that I run, not in the sense of a monster chasing me, but more like a distance runner, metered and in a lovely cadence. One of my favorite dreams.  I think that some dreams are better than the reality.  I know I will never run like in my dreams, but I will always enjoy the dreams where I run.

Today we celebrate the day with the earliest sunset.  That’s different from the winter solstice which is still a few weeks away.  I would ask my mother what she remembered of December.  I know a story she told of the day she turned seventeen.  She worked in a factory in New York City at a company that made bows.  It was the day after Pearl Harbor and she told the story of how all the employees silently gathered around the radio to listen to President Franklin Roosevelt tell the citizens of the U.S. that this was day that we would declare war  against Japan, and enter W.W. II. It was the day my father, who was a supervisor at the same company, would turn to my mother and mouth the words “Happy Birthday” as they listened to the speech.

History is in the making every moment, every day.  For some it’s personal, for some it’s just another day.  Happy Birthday, Inge.  I remember you every day and I imagine  that you liked to skip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birth Daze

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My memories are vague but I do remember the darkness before I was catapulted through what in retrospect, seemed like an alpine slide.  I was going head first.  My lifelong fears of speed and being out of control began then, sixty five years ago, today.  The gaps in my memory of that day were filled in over the years by my mother, who, on an annual basis, would review the days before,  including the evening of the night before,  all leading to my premiere appearance, the reveal.  Apparently,  my mother, as reported to me, in great detail, had made plans to go to the movies to see “Torch Song” on that Friday, the 13th.  The evening before, she was cleaning out her dresser drawers and organizing things, which was something she always did when she was anxious.  She also ate brussel sprouts, after which, she believed she had indigestion.  In fact, this was the beginning of her labor.  When she went to the doctor the next day, she was told to go to the hospital.  At this point, she allegedly protested that she had not gotten enough sleep the night before and then suggested to the doctor that he should “give her something” to stop this process and she promised to come back the next day when she was refreshed and more prepared to have a baby.  The tale continued and she was administered something called “twilight sleep” and subsequently I was born later than day.  She awoke to the sound of a crying baby (that was me) and was told she had a daughter.  It’s been an interesting ride ever since.  She never got to see that movie.

Under the guise of “poetic license”, I only know what I was told and shown in pictures.  As mortifying as the annual “discussion of my labor and your birth” was to a child, it was also something that became a tradition, like the retelling of the parting of the seas when Moses was around.  Hardly as biblical, but traditions are what we take some comfort in.  I know that I continued the telling of the stories of my children’s births to them, and despite the rolling eyes (theirs, not mine), they almost wait for it.  Almost.

Having almost completed my first of 365.25 days till the next birthday feels pretty good.  I don’t generally celebrate beyond the day because that’s just me.  I miss my mother on these days, as she was the first relationship I had with another human so it was rather impactful.  She told the story of “the birth”  and then set up a “birthday table” replete with flowers from my father. They were always sweetheart roses.  There were gifts and cards and a ceremony that included the opening of the cards, first, and then the gifts, all wrapped and taped with such   abundant use of tape, the gifts could have been shipped overseas with no damage.  The gifts were some things I had wished and hoped for, and others that just seemed to be fillers of little items so it looked like there were more than I expected.  It was a sweet time and feeling so special on that day carried me through more difficult days as a child.

Not sure how 65 years happens so fast.  It seemed like the years between were long and yet here I am.  I wonder about a lot of things from the past, most recently about why they got rid of the cotton in aspirin bottles and whether swallowing bubble gum really was bad for me.  Looking forward to more days of wonder and wonderment in the company of family and friends, and people I have yet to meet along the way.  My sister, who appeared, four years, three months, and five days after me helped me celebrate today and my favorite gift was a little piece of pottery with the imprint of “Sometimes when  I open my mouth, my mother comes out!!”.  She thought it was amusing…I know it is the truth.  Happy Birthday to ME!

I’m just wild about Harry..

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I’m referring to Harry Potter, although I do like several of the other well know Harrys..the Prince, Belfonte and Houdini.  As in real life, I am often late to the party and resistant to embracing books of fantasy fiction.  I’ve long been out of the young adult reader category but as with everything else available to us in our worlds, things come to us when they need to. Harry Potter arrived on my nightstand, along with the six other volumes a few weeks ago.  I am just about through the second novel and there’s pretty much no stopping me now to complete the set.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know of his existence.  It was just when he arrived on the scene twenty years ago, I was busy being a grown up full time with occasional moments of childhood pushing through to the front.  I was a parent who “bought the books” for my then 11 year old  youngest son.  Recently,  he said to me that Harry Potter changed his life and opened his eyes and world to reading.  I decided that I needed to understand the magic behind the phenomenon. I remember that my mother, who was a reader as well, had read at least the first book, and she referenced “wanting an owl”.  At the time I didn’t realize what that meant.  I was in a time in my life that I wasn’t paying as much attention to the details around me, but more the broad strokes.

Allowing myself to slip into the world of Hogwarts, was both comforting and comfortable.  I knew enough about him to have referenced  the space under the stairs of the first house my FHB and I owned together as a “Harry Potter room”.  Harry, when I now come to know him, becomes somewhat of a parallel person to my youngest son and makes me remember what being 11 might have been like for him, as well as a difficult time in my own growing up.

Harry, the outsider, only somewhat aware of the world being different to him and for him, was a survivor who strived to connect with others. Harry’s adoptive family was abusive and cold and dismissive.  He was a target of their disappointment of his differences from them.  Despite this theme, he found his place in the world and others who were like minded, and found the world he had grown up in was not the world he had to live in.

I am asked to write  letters of recommendation for some  of the senior class students who are heading to college.  There are some that come from an easier life, and others who lives are challenged from the start, and are often metaphors for the characters in Harry Potter.  They all have their powers but they haven’t culled them or they are unaware of their potential.  My own growing up was more economically stable than some of the students, but in terms of feeling out of step or place, or not feeling as connected to others as we hope, can reveal and remember where I was at that point in my development.   I like that I can write those letters and see their magic.

For years, I have called my youngest son, “Harry” as a sign of affection.  When each book was published, I made sure he would own it .  I only now recognize the power of the books.

Harry is someone we can probably recognize, if not in ourselves, in someone we know.  The world he lives in is the world we might live in, with the good guys and the bad guys and the struggle to distinguish them from one another.  It is a universal tale.  Sometimes it is good to go back in time to books written for young adults by adults who remember the struggles of growing up.  It’s never to late to read a book whose time was meant for reading now, and not then.  Several people have suggested I see the movies.  I choose to rather read the words J.D. Rowling chose to tell a story of a wizard in training and I try and imagine which character I might be.  Perhaps I am Hedwig the owl or perhaps Hedwig’s character is a voice from my own past, delivering a message.  I would like to imagine it is.

Come with me to Privet Drive and find something unexpected.