Monthly Archives: April 2017

Who’s your person?

Photo of Barbra STREISAND

You probably know the song with the lyrics  “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world…”.  It’s memorable and easy to hum and Barbra Streisand’s version is the only version we probably need.  This week those lyrics became more memorable and more meaningful in my line of work.

It was a back to school week after a relatively long spring break. With re-entry in school comes a period of adjustment, both for students and staff and the recognition that our students may have had a week off, but in a community that doesn’t have much, in terms of economics, many of our students may not have had a break from their daily lives and probably no vacations away, and for many their supports are those of us at school.  So, it was time to get to work.

Part of the work as a school social worker is prevention and education and talking about difficult topics, such as depression, anxiety and suicide.  No one wants to talk about that, but in the context of prevention, someone has to do it and make it real.  I was wrapping up a couple of weeks, prior to vacation and then doing the last class which was scheduled for this past Monday.  Essentially, my colleagues and I go into health classes and talk about what we do, how it works, and how to access help, for themselves or someone they care about, a friend or a family member.  I enjoy meeting the students in a more intimate setting of a classroom and to take their emotional pulse and listen to their thoughts and questions.  I told my youngest son, many years ago, that we have two ears to listen and one mouth to speak, so that listening is twice as important as hearing our own voice.  It bears itself out, if you are patient and open to hearing what is being said, between words.  Working with teenagers requires being up on the latest movies, Netflix shows and some books that are important to the kids.  Recent weeks brought some education for me on a new Netflix show that was based on a book, the name of which is 13 Reasons Why.  Essentially, it is about a high school senior who commits suicide but prior to her death she records 13 audio tapes which explain why she ended her life. It is focused on thirteen people who she came in contact with and how what might have been perceived as innocuous conflicts or interactions led to her belief that life was too hard.  The tapes were sent to the people to listen to and it is seen through the voice of one of those thirteen.  I was given the book to read, and I read it while on vacation.  It allowed me to dialog about depression and suicide and listen to the students.  Kids want to talk about their opinions and the show and the book. It was an easier entre’ into what they thought, and feel about the character because the conversation was not about them.  It is powerful to listen to and what they revealed.  It builds connections and bridges.  I always put my name and where my office is on the board and directions to how to get to me.  The way I wrap up the class is talking about the importance in school to identify someone who, on a really bad day, or on a really good day, who they can find and talk to. We discuss the need to connect with one another and that it may be a teacher, or counselor, or secretary but someone who they know will listen, not judge and help, just by being there.  I aske the students to think about who it would be, but don’t require identifying the person aloud.  There was a lot of positive energy in the room that day and we said our so longs and I headed back to my office.

When I got back, one of my colleagues said he had a girl in his office who had come to find me and insisted that she talk to me.  He brought her to me and she looked familiar and in a school of 2,000 students, I couldn’t place her immediately.  She was very emotional and her eyes were pleading and filled with tears.  She told me that she had been one of the students in the class I had just left. We talked and she revealed that she suffered from depression and although she had gotten help a few years back and had done well, she was now in a really bad place and scared of what she was feeling.  I evaluated her and we came up with a plan and after I determined that she was safe and able to leave the office, I asked her why now and why today, since she had felt this for quite a while.  She turned to me and smiled…..”You asked us to think about who was our person and I decided in that moment that you were my person. I knew you would help me”.  People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.  I’m always questioning who’s luckier, her or me.

Have a good weekend.  Listen to some good music.

Advertisements

Lions and Tigers and Tupperware, oh my!

Xtreme-Slideshow_camels

It’s Monday night at our house.  I served meatloaf for dinner (with broccoli and sweet potatoes).  There were leftovers.  This is where the Tupperware comes into this story.  In an attempt to save the leftovers for tomorrow, my FHB went to the pantry to retrieve a container.  And the baskets that contain the containers all came tumbling down like a waterfall (sans the water) of plastic.  My FHB remarked that picking them up “was a fool’s task”.  I was on it, post haste. You mention my name, I show up.  I looked at the disarray and decided tonight was the night we were going to organize the containers. I use the term “we” loosely, although I did have an assistant, a bit grumbling-ish.  As I picked up what seems to have amounted to at least five hundred tops and bottoms, I walked toward my FHB who was blissfully watching “Antique Roadshow” when he turned and asked “Are you going to be juggling those?” .  My response, without thinking was ” Well the circus is leaving town….so we’d better come up with a gig”.  Then, I stopped and considered what I said, and felt quite sad.

Going to the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus was an annual event in my childhood.  I truly believe that if you blindfolded me (please don’t) and brought me to the sideshow, I would remember the smells and the noise and the tumult that went with the greatest show on earth.  My sister, my one and only first cousin, my mother and I,  would go to the circus during our spring vacation.  It was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  We would take the subway and fight the throngs of circusgoers and hold one another’s hands tightly so as not to lose any of us.  My mother, in the early years, did not want to expose us to the “Side Show” since she thought that the bearded lady and the tallest man might traumatize us and give us nightmares. After a lot of cajoling on my cousin and my part, we finally were old enough to see the sights and sounds of the “unusual people” (my mother’s terminology)who made up that part of the circus.  My mother also hated the smell of the animals so she would hurry us through the display and usher us to our seats. Our seats usually were high enough so that we could see all three rings from the peanut gallery.  It was exhilarating, and I remember it as being very, very loud.    As the parade of the animals and performers marched into the rings and the ringmaster welcomed “Ladies and Gentlemen , Children of all ages…” we were mesmerized by the energy and electricity in the air.  As many times as we went, it never got old. The anxiety when we saw the highwire acts and the women on the men’s shoulders and the balancing over the nets made us hold our breath.  When the lion tamer whipped his or her whip at the lions as they opened the mouths and roared, we held one another just in case something terrifying happened. Luckily, it never did, but the feeling and anticipation never let us down.  The crowds were enormous but it felt as though we are all part of the collective magic of the show.  We couldn’t see the expressions on the clowns’ faces but we could see their antics. My favorite part was watching them climb out of the tiny car which seemed to hold an endless supply of clowns.  I love magicians and always thought it would be wonderful to assist him and be the one to pull the scarves out of his sleeve or his hat.  Three rings held our attention and I don’t think any of us minded that we weren’t in the closest seats as we felt safe knowing we were able to watch all the people around us.  The time would fly by and when they would dim the lights, all the people who had those special red lights would swing them from the lanyards, and it would create a light show that was spectacular.  We always coveted a light but my mother reminded us that tickets for the greatest show cost a lot of money so we never were able to have one.  That, however, was not the end of the story.

Many years later when we were all adults, my mother took my cousin’s daughter to the circus, to carry on the tradition.   One evening, my mother called and said that she had taken Jessica, age four or five, to the circus.  I thought that was lovely and said that it was a nice thing for her to do.  She then told me that, Jessica’s mother, had come to pick her up, and Jessica showed her a red light that her “Tante” had bought her at the circus.  My cousin’s reaction was to say “you know, Tante, we all wanted a red light when we were little” and then said  thank you for doing that and hastily took Jessica home.  My mother then told me she had called my sister and told her what had happened.  My sister, according to my mother, said “You bought  Jessica a red light?  We always wanted one and we would have shared it! “.  My mother retorted that she didn’t have the money back then and my sister said she needed to hang up.  I was the last on the list of phone calls and when she told me of her previous conversations, I remarked “You bought Jessica a red light?  We always asked you for a red light! “.  My mother said goodbye and ended the call.

Fast forward to Sarasota, Florida, about ten years later.   My kids and I went to visit my parents who wintered there. It was the home of the circus, THAT circus and there was a museum.  She decided we should visit the museum which was wonderful and brought back some amazing memories.  As we were ready to leave, my mother wandered into the gift shop.  She walked up to the clerk and said “I would like to buy three of the red lights you sell and put them in three bags”.  The woman smiled at her and said “I’m sorry, ma’am.  You will have to go to the circus to get those”.  She looked at me and I smiled and said “Thanks for trying”.  We never did get the lights.

Times change and for lots of reasons, things we have always counted on being around, no longer are.  I understand, from an adult point of view, why they decided to close the show.  But there are three little girls, in the hearts of three adult women, who remember the lights, and the magic, and the day the circus came to town.

 

P.S. The containers are organized and many have been disgarded. Like socks, sometimes either one or the other or the top or the bottom, disappear into the stratosphere. It must be magic.

 

Air Traffic

I can always find a reason to stay inside the loft.  The thirteen foot windows have enormous blinds and keeping out the sun during the day and the noise of the road beneath us keeps us sheltered from the outside. Some days, that’s what we need and what we want.  However, there is a great big beautiful world beyond the loft. This week my FHB and I reconnected with both the world and some of the people we love most in the world.

It’s difficult to be so far away from members in our family who live on the other side of the country. Time being a consideration,  there are only so many ways to get there within a short period that makes it easier, but never easy.  Air travel continues to be a challenge that tests our patience and our mettle.  Transporter units(like those in Star Trek) still have some kinks to be worked out.  In a conversation with one of our east coast adult kids, I was apprised of the fact that some body parts might travel through the unit better than others and I don’t want to end up looking like a Picasso painting.  Thus, we fly the less than friendly skies and deal with the roll, pitch and yaw of air travel.

Our first leg of our trip (not including the short layover in Newark, NJ) was to Portland, Oregon to spend a few days with my FHB’s sister and our brother-in-law.  We were spoiled with amazing food because she could be on a desert island with only sticks and grass and could create a several course meal that would fill you and thrill you. That’s how creative a cook she is and she does it as easily as she breaths.  They live in a garden of fruits and flowers and  an Eden-like setting.  Our brother-in-law is very involved in the music scene and has the Energizer Bunny mindset and keeps busy and moving doing projects around their house and filling local venues with songwriters and singers.  They have about a trillion friends and a supportive social network which really seems to make their lives richer in many ways.  My FHB worries less about his little sister (but always worries as a big brother does) because he knows she is surrounded by a loving partner and lots and lots of people.  We drove up to the highest peak in Oregon, Mt. Hood, which was snow covered and there were a lot of folks on skis and we were not among them.  We went into the  Timberline Lodge which was built in the 1930s as part ofFullSizeRender 12 the WPA efforts and it is grand and beautifully designed with all the accoutrements of  elegant times gone by. We didn’t just eat lunch, we dined. A few days in Portland is never enough but it was time to travel south and so we said our farewells and headed for the next leg of our vacation to San Francisco.

We arrived and were met by our three and almost a half year old granddaughter and her mom. Her dad works in the city and travels back and forth during the front end of the week.   We drove through San Francisco and headed north toward Medocino County and the lovely town of Ukiah, which now is home to our family.  It’s wine country and as we sat on the deck each day, we could look out on the vineyards next door and beyond those were fields of cattle.  It is a rural, sleepy town, surrounded by large hills and verdant valleys.  There are rivers running through and apparently good places to catch a rainbow trout or two.  My FHB vows that the next time we cross the country we will be packing a fly fishing rod and lots of good luck.  People are friendly and not hurried.  We shopped in a co-op filled with fresh everything and a staff that looked you in the eye (or two) and wished you a really good day and seemed to mean it.  The rhythm of life in Ukiah would be characterized as an adagio.

We were enchanted by the sweetness and spice of our little one.  She is tenacious and bright and full of questions and comments and nothing gets by her.  Her mood was somewhat tempered by not feeling so well but despite this she allowed us into her world which is rich and not confined by a clock or watch.  She showed us the berries that I could eat from the garden (blueberries) and those that I can’t (blackberries and raspberries).  She told us about the birds  that visited the feeders and those that flew overhead.  She thought that my FHB, her “Saba”, was very silly and she would give him sidelong grins as she asked him to read a book or color with her.  A three year old’s play is her work as she tries to negotiate the world.  Her parents are her safety and her champions and it is always good to see how much love the three share with one another and how their lives are full and clearly happy.  It’s much nicer to see it up close and personal but makes it hard to leave when the time comes.

The show of hummingbirds, and quails, and mourning doves and vultures circling above, was all the entertainment we needed. The days went by slowly and we were able to keep our minds clear and focused on our little hostess.  We ate fresh food from local growers and enjoyed the slow pace of life in the little town.

We leave tomorrow and back to loft living.  When you are at that stage in life when you know there is more behind than ahead of you, each goodbye is a hope that it is “till we meet again”.  My FHB and I both shed a few tears, at very inopportune moments, when we realized that the depth of our love for our faraway family.  Our adult kids aren’t there yet in their lives, but we know that time is fleeting and has passed with little fanfare and here we are.  In the meantime, technology and the postal service will have to fill the gaps between visits.  Thanks again, you know who you are, and see you soon, if not sooner.

Leaping Lizards

15355

If you didn’t already know this, people are weird.  Airports are filled with people, ergo, airports are weird places.  However, this allows for my overactive imagination to be on the constant look-out for new and strange goings on that you may have missed.  My FHB and I are sitting patiently waiting for our next flight south to San Francisco.  Scanning the other passengers in the terminal, I have the best view of “Young Narcissistic Couple”.  They are taking turns doing pushups from their seats as well as obstructing traffic as other travelers are walking around them on their way to their gates.  They are videoing one another doing all sorts of gyrations while doing push ups.  He is doing one handed, one legged push ups and she is  recording him from various angles.  He appears to be directing and explaining what he is doing.  He suddenly yells “Cut!” and gets up and walks away, shakes himself off and returns for another round of airport aerobics.  Perhaps if I choose to do a Youtube search, I will see the stars of this display.  Just not sure what I would look for.

We are told that we are unfortunately going to be delayed in boarding because of an air traffic control management issue related to ground fog in San Francisco.  I don’t know what that means exactly but I understand the concept of delay.  I look for my next observation and it doesn’t take long to be witness to the laughing and braying of a group of young millennials who are seated directly behind us.  The “brayer” is sitting directly behind me and he is so enchanted by his own stories that he laughs and bodyslams his back into the seat which creates a chain reaction that propels me forward with a cardiac rhythm regularity mixed with a chacha beat.  I switch seats and hope that when we board that we don’t sit near one another.  I look toward the push up couple and now he is placing his feet through the seat back and doing some sideways push ups.  It amazes me that the travelers walk around him and after a while, it appears that this is now part of the show at Gate 4 and no one seems bothered by any of it.

It doesn’t seem as though we are leaving Portland any time soon.  I decide it is time to have my third cup of coffee for the morning and I have been awake for about four hours.  I wonder  if that is contributing to my inability to sit still.  I reject that theory and head for one of the coffee brewing concessions.  It gives me an excuse to walk around and see what intrigue is happening around us.  As I approach the vendor,  I overhear two older women (older than me but hardly doddering) having a discussion about what size coffee woman #1 should order and whether woman #2 should consider decaf but she really wants the real thing.  Woman #1 says to the barista ” I would like a 16 ounce coffee but only fill it halfway.”  The barista says ” I could give you a 12 ounce cup and it would cost less and fill it up three quarters”.  Woman #1 “Do you think I can’t afford the 16 ounce?”  The barista ” No, not at all, I just figured if you wanted half of the 16 ounce, it made sense”.  Woman #1 to woman #2 “This one thinks I need an accountant to order coffee!” Turns to barista “I want the 16 ounce filled to the top!  I’ll pour out the part I don’t want”. Woman #2 to second barista ” I want a large coffee and make sure you don’t give me decaf. I can taste the difference!”.  I decide I have had enough coffee for the morning.  I head back to the gate.

My FHB is sitting quietly assessing whether or not all the rest of the travelers are lining up prematurely in their designated group.  He is the last one sitting.  I suggest that perhaps now might be the time to head to our line.  We are in the last group to be called and now there is a kerfuffle about getting the flight going a bit earlier (as we are almost forty-five minutes past our scheduled departure time) and having people “volunteer” to surrender their carry-on luggage at the gate and it will be at no charge and will help herd the passengers more quickly onto the plane.  I am not paying much attention as I am eavsdropping on a family with a very precocious 8 or 9 year old child with a lovely British accent asking her mother whether she thought that the grandmother who was getting divorced (and presumably who they were visiting) was more devastated than the  “new” grandmother who was marrying the old grandfather.  I had to pay close attention to hear what the reaction is, as the mother (who did not have an accent nor did her husband) indicated that the old grandmother was probably more devastated because the new grandmother was getting the old grandfather and it was not the old grandmother’s idea. The child seemed to process this information and looked knowingly at her parents. I was impressed by the level of discussion and the use of the word devastated.  Then the mother turned to the child and said “Lily, when you see your grandmother, you must not ask her about this.”  Lily responded ” Maybe I will and maybe I won’t.  Will you buy me a present to make sure I don’t?”  An 8 year old extortionist. Lovely Lily.  My FHB prodded me along toward the ticketing agent.

It was somewhat like changing channels and seeing slices of programs that you were interested in for just a minute and then you switched again.  I often wonder if we are ever the subject of someone’s boredom.  The airport, a million people, a million stories.

Fly me to the moon

Jet above the clouds

Or anywhere else that NASA flies.  After an hour plus delay, I am aboard a very large plane heading west to the coast.  Let me start by saying that I have no original thoughts about air travel these days other than to say Mama ain’t happy.  I don’t actually mind the time in the air, but getting to that point seems to be something that becomes a stressor that is only exceeded by surgery without anesthesia.  Painful and anxiety provoking and there is absolutely nothing pleasant to say.  I recognize that we are not pioneers of past centuries. We are not riding in conastoga wagons over mountains, and facing the dangers of travel on bad roads with fear of being confronted by robbers and other unsavory characters to a bad end.  Different century, true, but unsavory characters lurk around every corner.  I am nestled in a cozy (ha!) seat row with two seemingly harmless strangers. We exchange knowing glances and initial “excuse me”s as we attempt to sit down without having too much close contact with someone I am not going to enter into a relationship of that nature,  in the next six hours.  My FHB  is about twenty rows closer to the exit in an “expanded leg room space” for tall people, which we invested some of our granddaughters’ college fund in, so that he would not end up needing traction or chiropractic care post flight.  I am too short and too cheap to sit with him since we do want the girls to have a choice in the future in their education.  My FHB and I  wished one another farewell as though we were boarding the Lusitania and were in different berths.  Romance is not dead, just twenty rows apart.

I am also starving and my ears are now blocked.  I am told that because we left so late and also we had to hoof it from gate 86 to gate 107 because our original plane was deemed “inoperable” (which is a term I thought was reserved for other things, mostly medical, but perhaps that has now worked its way into airlinese), we had to move our carcasses through the terminal like lambs to the ……nevermind, I know you get the idea.  However, as a result of our being “inconvenienced” we are getting our first drink free and a snack to wash it down with.  Awesome, but I don’t drink, but maybe I should consider it under these circumstances. No, I think I should be fully alert in case of anything out of the ordinary.  There’s a lot of out of the ordinary these days.

My first flight was about 50 years ago.  I had always read books about Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindburgh and the Wright Brothers because I was fascinated by flight.  My parents took my sister and me to Florida with a side trip to the Bahamas.  We dressed for success and wore nice dresses and shoes but stopped short of gloves because it was Florida, not Paris.  It was so special and there was so much to watch and we were treated with kindness and given a pair of little wings to take with us. We ate food on actual plates and it tasted pretty good.  As this was our first flight, it left us with some great impressions on how life was going to be when we were adults.  Ha!

By the way, I opted for a cheese and fruit platter and was told it was discontinued but in its place was  something described as a tasty selection of the perfect snack   with some american cheese product.  It was sealed by the same people who do pharmaceutical blister packs that require a small child to open.  Hope it travels well.  I’m still contemplating a drink.

I’m done ranting now.  We are still about four hours away from landng so I want to leave my negative attitude over the Mississippi River to go downstream and out to sea, but not hurt any lovely fish.  We are on vacation and will be able to enjoy the Pacific Northwest and California for a week and enjoy the company of family, including my West Coast grandaughter.    My FHB and I always end our  cards and letters to her with the signature that includes ” Love you always and forever” and includes the extension of that to mean “And  we will go to the ends of the earth to see you and hold  you and hug you and laugh with you”.  And when I consider that we truly  mean that, a journey that might have some bumps and turbulence of one kind or another, it’s a small price to pay (let’s not even go there) to hang out with our favorite three and almost a half year old.

 

 

 

Color me happy

s0969303_sc7

The color of the sky after the sun sets is Midnight Blue although it appears hours before midnight.  I wasn’t that fond of Magenta but I could recognize it along with Red-Violet and Violet-Red.  Every September as I was given my list of school supplies,  I would hope that more than anything, that it would be the year that I would receive my own box of 64 crayons and get the box with the sharpener in the back.  I knew all the colors. I knew the organization of the four smaller boxes of 16 that made up the “64” as I would call them.  The colors became the colors of my imagination as I thought of Burnt Sienna as a color I wouljd see in Colorado or Arizona.  Cornflower was the color of the wild flowers that grew near my aunt and uncle’s house in the field nearby, along with Goldenrod, the color and the weed.  They gave definition to my view of nature and the colors that made up the surface of  tree bark was more than Brown, it was Raw Umber.  It made the sounds of the names of the colors exotic.  It interpreted distinctions and shades and created a vocabulary for me.  I coveted my own box and I knew I would take very good care of them.

I saw a box for sale on Etsy that might have been the box I might have had, if life was different.  The box had a price tag of 78 cents.  Money was not in great abundance in our household and my mother was frugal and suggested that having a box of 8 or perhaps 16 was all that was in the school supply budget.  I still would ask, because when you are eight or nine or ten years old, that box of 64 Crayolas meant the world.  The rules were different then and asking once usually got a lecture about not asking again.  I did understand in my head, but my heart said Periwinkle and Salmon, which were neither in the box of 8 or 16.

I wasn’t a coloring book type of kid.  I always made my own drawings that I filled in.  I was totally an out of the lines girl.  Doodling is still a big part of my day and distracts me. My blotter on my desk is filled with pen and ink robots and flowers and checkboard patterns.  Every month is another art show that I create while on the phone.  My mother was artistic and creative.  She had hopes of working as a fashion designer but instead created a doodle of a woman who had a face and curls, that became her signature on cards and notes that we all still have and treasure. It always reminded me of the cartoonist Al Hirshfeld who drew Broadway for the New York Times and always included his daughter Nina’s name in his drawings.  I used to hunt for them on Sundays and see how many I could find.

I knew early on that it was not a black and white world both in scope and in art.  I never felt that there should be a choice between a box of crayons and the NY Times and all the information that I learned from the printed page and between the lines. My father would buy the Times in the morning and would be one of those men who rode the subway and learned to fold the paper just right so he could hang on to the straps of the subway car and read and turn the paper, so as not to bother the other riders.  We were not a Daily News family and in the afternoon he would bring me back (it might have been for my mother, but I consumed it first) the NYTimes and the afternoon New York Post for me to peruse.  Often he would tell me that he didn’t buy the Post and it was years later that I found out that the cover page might have had something he deemed gory or disturbing and the paper never made it into the apartment.    He told me that he felt it was his role as a parent to censor what I read.  Looking back, I can appreciate a parent whose role was to protect me from the media and  the darkness, until I was old enough to understand.  I am not sure I am yet old enough or will ever be old enough to be able to understand any of what the world is about.

Not having money didn’t mean we didn’t have access to music and art.  Both my sister and I were given many opportunities to visit the museums of New York and beyond and to develop a knowledge and appreciation for paintings and sculpture.  Even now I recognize that it is not necessary to own a Van Gogh (not that I would throw it out if it appeared at my door) to recognize its beauty and depth, and the artist’s pain and emotional journey.  Wealth is often having the opportunity to be around great things without the responsibility of ownership.  Time passed by and one birthday (I believe it was my 30th and I was already a mother) I received a gift which I didn’t expect.  My mother wrapped my box of “64” Crayolas with the sharpener in the back, and presented it to me.  I was flabbergasted (another underutilized word) and touched.  It taught me that it wasn’t at all about not being heard many years earlier, but learning to know when the time is right, especially with children.  I imagine our circumstances were not as dire as I might have thought.  I learned to make colors in my imagination that went way beyond the box.  My mother might have known that I might not have found that out if I limited myself to only “64”.

 

Hold that thought

9579863-Under-construction-sign-hanging-from-nail-isolated-over-white-Stock-Photo

Hello Friday Friends!  I am just letting you know that tonight I am just too pooped to produce anything worth your reading eyes.  I have had a good week as I hope you all have. I will be back on Monday with a lot more energy and thought provoking and hopefully amusing tales of loft life.  In the meantime, put your feet up, hang out with someone you like, do something that makes you smile, and see you after the weekend.