I forgot how to skip…

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This getting older thing makes me contemplative.  I have no real qualms about circling the sun annually which results in my aging.  As my father would have said “It beats the alternative”.  My mother would have liked the use of the word “qualms”, which is kind of a cool word and it’s fun to insert it into my writing, using it appropriately.

Two days ago, my FHB and I travelled south to visit our youngest who lives and goes to graduate school in Connecticut.  We like to spend time with him, bring him food, both homemade (vegan chocolate chip cookies) and store bought (bagels) and take him out for a good meal. He chooses, we bring a credit card (one that accumulates travel points) and it all works out well.  Since he is studying to be a nurse practitioner, he is more aware of us aging and worrying about us and our health.  It’s a nice worry, although he tends to get over zealous and offer a myriad of advice, on so many relevant topics including diet, stress, and whether we have thought of an advance directive (quite possibly one of those stress enhancers in and of itself), not that the concept hasn’t crossed our minds without his encouragement.  We know it comes from a place of goodness, kindness and a worry that we are, in the words of my dearly departed mother, going to “croak” sometime soon.     If you think about your getting older, factor in that your adult children are standing  metaphorically directly behind you ready to catch you, and make sure you don’t leave prematurely.  The double edged sword.  I am sure, and I know,  that I was in the same position at a similar point in life.  Yet, here we are fast forwarding ourselves, feeling like  those days circling the sun are happening at breakneck speed.

On our way back home, yesterday,  I indelicately asked my  husband, whether this year had been the fiftieth anniversary of his high school graduation. He was driving at the time and I saw him grip the steering wheel especially tight, and I felt my neck tighten simultaneously.  Oh those innocent comments.  I was, however, correct in my calculations.  We both acknowledged that it seems absolutely incredible that fifty years just shot by.  Since I am younger by a few years,  I have that to look forward to and I hope to do that.

Yesterday morning, I woke up in our hotel room around seven a.m. and our room faced east.  I pulled back the drapes and saw the most magnificent sunrise that you see above.  I woke my FHB to come and stand and watch the day begin.  I took a few pictures and we saw the silhoulette of a large flock of birds with the sunrise as a backdrop.  Our loft apartment faces the west so we get the other end of the day, so this was an especially lovely treat.

When I was a little girl, many sunrises ago,  I liked to skip down the street.  I was neither graceful, nor coordinated, so it was probably not a particularly appealing sight to behold.   I am sure I fell and skinned my knees more times than not, but it didn’t stop me from doing it again.  When I was a teenager, my history honor society group took a day trip from New York to Washington D.C.  We were, as it was a different time, in so many ways, able to stop the tour bus directly in front of the White House. There were no barriers and we were welcomed off the bus.  I was so taken by this beautiful building that I missed the last step off the bus, fell out the door and skinned both knees. The White House security guards took me into their little booth, gave me bandaids and I was good to go and grateful.  I was a skip and trip kind of kid.

When we left the hotel yesterday to check out,  the hallway outside our room was long and inviting.  I felt like skipping and I realized that I actually hadn’t done that  in a very long time, and wasn’t sure how to start again.  I stopped and paused.  I imagined my little girl “skip and trip” self,  and visualized a moment in the past, in the moment now.  I carried my overnight bag and walked down the hall.  I remembered that I had just seen a sunrise.  Contentment…

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White Lies

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I continue to be amazed that week by week the news is filled with what might be considered an excessive amount of mounting incredulity that covers not only political stories, but those that have revealed the depth of the underbelly of celebrity and power mongers . These are men who have taken any semblance of our core values and destroyed them at the cost of perpetuating lies to save themselves.  It becomes a matter of don’t believe what you see, believe what I say.  Like a shell game, while you are watching and following one story, another one emerges that distracts  you from what you thought you heard.  I go from a slow simmer to a raging boil.

My FHB and I recently received a card from a very special friend that said “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINIST”.  It is not a funny card.  It is a statement that resonated with us both.   The concept of feminism does not still just belong to women,  but is a belief that all can embrace, that essentially acknowledges that all people  should be regarded with equal value. Why wouldn’t this be something that all people recognize as the right thing to do.  The women who have stepped forward in the recent weeks to acknowledge the degradation that they have experienced by men who lauded social, economic , sexual and physical power over them for no reason except that they felt it was their “right” have given a louder voice to others to step out of the shadows of shame and shift the blame to where it belongs.

I am blessed to be surrounded by men of character, kindness, dignity who value all people,  and who know what it means to love and respect others.  My FHB is man of moral strength and kindness toward others.  He is outraged at the men in powerful roles, who could have the ability to make changes to our social landscape but choose to create a revisionist history to save their sorry asses and deny the truth.  He was always privy to my own personal history and challenges, and when I typed #metoo this week, it was felt in his heart with sadness and frustration.

We have grandaughters who have their lives to look forward to in this world, and we wonder what will be the outgrowth of this current scandalous period in history.  The innocence of childhood should not be filled with anxiety and shame and the possibility of harm.  We can only shelter in place for so long before there are going to be questions.  I want to be able to give good answers that tell the real story of how we the people saved the world and we did it  all together and we got rid of the bad guys because they didn’t have a place anymore in this world.

 

 

 

Contemplating Cookies

 

Chocolate chip cookies have been the leader of the pack for a long, long time.  They are the most popular cookie in the U.S.  According to one article that I researched tonight, we in the U.S.  eat almost 19, 000 cookies in our lifetime, probably more by now, as my source was in 2015.  Everyone has their own recipe, even within the category of best chocolate chip cookie.  Some like theirs crunchy, others prefer soft and pliable.  Most pick one or the other and it probably is the stuff that conversations are made of.  They are nostalgic and evoke one of those olfactory memories that make people smile, in that wistful way.  You will notice folks tipping their heads, looking off into space, remembering.  Not to throw icewater on a a moment, but here’s my reality.  I’m not a fan of the lofty, frontrunner, chocolate chip.  Never have been, and probably in the present  or future, will not be changing my point of view.

Trying to keep up with trends is something I have never been good at.  It’s probably rooted in a modicum of stubborness.  I am often the “anti-popular” when it comes to what people drool over or can’t get enough of.  I will evaluate something that is recommended, because that is only fair and kind.  I may not outwardly tout something that I can’t really support wholeheartedly, but I will never tell someone that I vehemently disagree with them.  I will listen and contemplate and keep my feelings to myself.  Even when it comes to cookies.  When everyone else liked the Beatles, I didn’t.  Sometimes it takes me a while to warm up to something.  I was never the kid that anyone had to say to “if Harry jumped off a bridge, would you follow him?”  No, Harry would be on his own and I probably would have mentioned that I didn’t think it was a good idea and I would have probably been called a chicken or killjoy.  I didn’t follow because I didn’t want to.  I like the Beatles now.

I didn’t do a lot of things that other kids did.  Never stole from a store or wore high wedge shoes.  I had too much guilt to steal, and terrible ankles without trying to balance.  I also, full disclosure here, never experienced the purple haze.  Still haven’t.  Pretty strange since it was the 60’s and 70’s and “everyone” was doing it (lots of its).  I went to parties where other people were partaking and I just kind of observed and politely said “no thank you”.  It was a hard stance to keep, but then again, I was more comfortable staying in my space, than experiencing something I had no control over.  That has always been an important part of me.  I might, however, contemplate it now but it’s still not something that intrigues me or would be something anyone could “convince” me to do.  I leave doors open in some instances.

I guess, from a popularity point of view, chocolate chip cookies have it going on, as the expression says.  Nothing wrong with that.  I admire those that know where they stand on things, cookies or otherwise.  I am used to, after a lifetime of stubborn, worry and contemplation, content in knowing that I am an oatmeal raisin in a chocolate chip world.

 

 

Contemporary Concerns

 

I couldn’t be afraid of Friday the 13th…could I?  All signs indicate, according to my Magic 8 ball, that I should ask again later.  I am not sure if the Oujia Board disk or heart or whatever that plastic form with the clear piece in the center ever moved on its own, or whether I “helped” it along.  I was born on Friday, November 13th, almost 64 years ago.  It has been my legacy and a conversation starter as well as a confirmation, when I report that fact, and  people say… “Oh, I see!”.  I worried about a lot of things, but black cats, walking under ladders, spilling salt, and opening an umbrella in the house were other peoples’ concerns.  Have a birthdate on a day of superstition made the possibility of  awful things happening, the very least of my worries.

Fast forward to this life of 21st century concerns. Back in time I worried about taking the subway and getting on the wrong train and getting lost and ending up in the wilds of Brooklyn.  Now I think about losing my phone with the GPS feature, while on a trip, and getting lost in the wilds of North Dakota.  I imagine dropping my phone in the toilet and losing all the contact numbers that I don’t or can’t remember.  I worry that someone else is trying to reach me but the phone is missing, wet, or has been hacked by who knows what or who.  Forgetting passwords is now a 21st century concern along with forgetting my PIN which clearly, as noted in recent times, won’t stop someone from stealing my information which will really cause a downward spiral of the worst kind of bad luck.

This new layer of something to worry about, compounds daily.  There is now the personal development of the continuum of things that might be “of concern” that lead to things that “might happen” and end with natural and unnatural disasters.  I am still unsure of what the difference is.  I always wonder if when I read or hear about “terrible tragedies” if there are any tragedies that aren’t terrible.  Hyperbole for sure.

When I get in this frame of mind, I take a few steps back, and sometimes more than that. I reconsider what really should concern me because technology and all the elements that accompany its use, could and have failed each of us, at different moments but not in a natural or unnatural way.  Beyond our control is one of those expressions that really means, no one right now knows what happened and how to fix it.  So,  now what do we do?  Here’s a thought.  We shift our attention to the very small amount of control that we have over the things around us, our relationships, our recognition of real possibilities that matter like good health, good manners and cooperation with other people who we can see in our viewfinder.  It’s not to say that we should abandon hope or ignore those situations or others that are not in our immediate circle .  Two year ago, Friday November the 13th, the attacks in Paris had not a thing to do with a superstition.  It was human actions of the worst kind.  The date, ironic, the outcome catastrophic.

Today I asked folks at work about growing up with superstitions and their reflections were more about what family believed and passed on, that had to do with the care and safety of one another.  One person talked about homemade remedies, another about not telling his mother he thought he had a cold because she would show up with soup and he didn’t want to worry her, but somehow she knew and the soup arrived.  When you have that human connection, you just know what helps and what someone you love needs.  There is no technology that is more powerful than the awareness and and instinct that we human beings have for the people who matter most.  No one really pays much attention to Saturday the fourteenth after a Friday the 13th.  I will however, especially tomorrow, because someone in my family who has a piece of my heart is celebrating their birthday.  Use your powers of thought and connection and send some birthday wishes out to Sasha.  You don’t need a phone number, email address or more than that.  Good thoughts travel faster than anything.  Keep them going.

Acquisitions and distributions

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We all do.  We accumulate stuff.  We get rid of stuff. We get more stuff to replace the stuff we got rid of and thought we would never need.  Then we do it all again.  Cha cha cha.

I look around the loft and see the things that have travelled with me over the past forty plus years.  That does not mean they are the same things but could be some of the things I took with me when I left home at age 21,  and some are replacements of those things I let go of along the way, only to find them, or something closely related, and acquired once again.  My books have always been the things that I hang on to.  My children’s books and the books that belonged to my children have always been part of my home.  There are pieces of my childhood home in New York that live with us now.  When my mother died suddenly almost nine years ago, my sister and I had the enormous task of packing up her apartment of 58 years, where we had grown up in, where we shared a room,  and where my mother had told me repeatedly when I would call her almost nightly, that she was busy “cleaning stuff out so you won’t have to when I’m gone”.  I always said to her “don’t rush off” when she would proclaim that she was sorting through things and discarding.  When the time came for her to “rush off”, it became clear to us that most things never left Apartment 5G.  It was an interesting dichotomy of character.  She and my father had come to New York as teenagers and met as young adults.  Both left with their parents and some of the family posssessions that they were able to take with them on short notice. My maternal grandparents were able to take more furniture and dishes and valuable items.  My paternal grandparents, who had much less, brought less.  Some of both of their possessions have made their way into our own homes.  Despite the life lesson that you must travel with your memories because possessions don’t mean much when your life means more, my parents accumulated their share of things.  My sister and I went through much of our parents items and made piles of those things that we might want to take with us.  We were very good about sharing and dividing which had not been my strong suit as a big sister growing up.  I was around twelve when I realized that if I had a candy bar, sharing it actually meant that if I gave my sister a bite, I had fulfilled the contract.  As she studied to become an attorney, I often think that there must be some case law that might negate my negotiations.  We were long into adulthood and both had our own homes which were furnished and uberfurnished and we didn’t need anything more.  Sentimentality and practicality came to an impasse.  I clearly remember looking at my pile and taking a few things and remarking “well, they were mine for the last hour, I can now let them go”.  I have record albums of Broadway shows that we listened to repeatedly. I don’t have a turntable but that doesn’t matter, until I think I want to hear them. They keep company with the CDs my FHB and I have gathered between us.  Yes, we have heard of iTunes and YouTube and yet the racks of CDs remain, to collect dust.  I have  half of a collection of 36 place settings from my maternal grandmother. She was quite the hostess I would imagine.  I have two sets of silverware that could easily be used with the 18 place settings. I also have a set that I wanted and thought I needed many years ago.  Moving multiple times meant rearranging and disgarding furnishing that “don’t go” with other things.  The things I thought I must have, sit idle and are shifted around to be used on Thanksgiving.  Life is more casual and most millennials don’t want china and silverware, but would rather have technology and minimalism, until they want to furnish their place with things they need and must have.   It is a cycle that the cave people probably started as they hunted and gathered and kept up with the Jones of their times.  I feel at times the need to purge and offer things to the children who politely tell me they are “fine” and so I have begun placing things of lesser value (to me) in a communal spot in the loft for others to pick and take with them.  They aren’t my family but neighbors who might find a treasure that I think of as an inheritance I am willing to share right now, until I find I need it and buy another one.  The cycle and recycle of life.

Would that we could…

IMG_0680go back to the day before yesterday.  Would that we could go back to September 10th, 2001.  For some it would be going back to December 6th, 1941.  Some days I look at the sky and it is cloudless and such a beautiful blue.  I say to myself almost automatically, “It’s a September 11th sky”.  For those who lived on the east coast that day, you probably know what I mean.  We stop in our memories to memoralize those moments that all of a sudden matter in a way that is somewhat unconventional, except that now we have more of them and we don’t want them ever to be the way it is, and that we become complacent to the horrors of these days.  I will not catapult one person to infamy by acknowledging him except in the context of those whose lives were taken or mangled at someone’s hands.  I will honor those who showed the best part of humanity in offering assistance in so many ways.  I will be sad with those who lost friends and family.  I will remember this day among the others that now are tatooed on my mind.  A day that might be someone’s birthday is now clouded by a day that makes us stop and take pause. Celebrations seem trite when shared with days of mourning and remembrance.

 

Our world is inside out. How do we help one another turn it back to a time when we didn’t have to be so vigilant and that when we saw someone we don’t know, we could still smile and not worry about their intentions.  More questions…few answers.

The picture above was taken on December 12, 2015.  Frank Sinatra would have been 100.  My FHB and I were in Nantucket.  It was a beautiful warm September 11th sky day.  This has to stop. We are collectively better than this.  We can do it, we must do it.

Singing along with Mahler

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There is something exhilarating about opening nights.  The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra began it’s 2017-18 season this past Saturday evening.  My FHB and I decided this past summer to do something which somewhat followed in the footsteps of my parents.  We became season subscribers to the symphony.  My parents had tickets to the New York Philharmonic for many years.  Like season ticket holders to the Red Sox, after a period of time you get the opportunity to get the better seats and you become part of an elite membership with a common passion for music, or for baseball, sometimes both.

The symphony welcomed a new conductor who brings energy and creativity and marks his territory for the future of the orchestra.  He started with a contemporary piece which was whimsical and surprising.  The second selection was by Leonard Bernstein and listening to it revealed other pieces I was more familiar with that were his signature works.  We had seats that gave us a full view of the orchestra and although my mind wanders and relaxes in a certainly mental harmony, I was very present in the venue.  My FHB took in the music with his eyes shut.  We both moved to the rhythm of the pieces.

After the intermission, the full orchestra began to play what I quickly realized was a piece I knew and heard repeatedly, if not weekly, growing up.  I never was particularly good at remembering which symphony was what number , or whether it was Mozart or Beethoven or Mahler.  I did not inherit my father’s almost savant ability to know a classical piece after a few notes.  It often bordered on obnoxious as he would then reveal the orchestra and conductor,  and his accuracy was remarkable.  Mahler was one of the composers he always taught us (my sister and me) would become someone who would “grow” on us.  He could talk of the composer’s development over time from early pieces to later ones.  As soon as the first minutes of Mahler’s 1st Symphony was played, I realized that I could hum each movement because it was imbedded in my memory after hearing it over and over, and over again.  It was like coming home.  I could not stop smiling as each note was played with precision and clarity.  It was just beautiful and such a gift.  It evoked memories of many moments of learning about classical music with my father as my teacher.

My sister has a memory for lyrics as did my mother,  and my youngest son is able to know composers, much like my father.  My older son knows classical music from his familiarity with it being played in movies and cartoons.  MY FHB knows who sang what song from the oldies (and he is more oldie than I am).  My musical acumen is in the area of knowing where I heard a song and being able to hum along, whether it is rock, pop or classical.  I don’t know who wrote it, or who sang it or what movie it was from.  The opening of the symphony found an opening in my mind and heart.  I don’t think anyone around us heard me hum along with Mahler, except perhaps my father who might have been sitting in what appeared to be an empty seat right next to me.  At least I would like to imagine he was there.