Category Archives: Searching for Wisdom

personal growth stories

As American As The Fourth of July

Last Saturday morning, we gave up our usual recreational pursuits to gather on a street corner with other families in Thousand Oaks, California. What a great American morning! We were there to protest children being separated from their parents as they tried to seek asylum in the United States. And also to celebrate the ideals of the Red, White and Blue.

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Over a 1000 of us were also there to support the sanctity of family and American values, the ideals of freedom and equality for all Americans, and for the humane treatment of all people and families.

Signs were everywhere. “We Welcome The Hungry and Poor,” one sign said, referencing Emma Lazarus’s poem about the teeming masses yearning to be free, and to the fact that we are proud to be a sanctuary city. “I Care. We should all Care,” said another sign.

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We ran the gamut of Americans from the youngest to the oldest. For a lot of us, it wasn’t the first time we’d sung “We shall Overcome Some Day” and I think we’ll be singing it again. Cars driving by honked in solidarity, raising our weary spirits.

 

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It was a patriotic event with many American flags waving. It reminded me of a 4th of July celebrations we’ve been attending for years. Below was Westlake Village in 2003.

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People milled around, exchanging greetings and actually smiling.

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Congresswoman Julia Brownley gave an impromptu and impassioned speech that came from her heart.

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She held back tears as she said that our being there gave her so much hope. Once, her voice filled with anger and tears as she talked about the plight of the little children, and that we must do something about it!

As the morning wore on, more people streamed to Thousand Oaks Blvd. We congregated on the sidewalks and the grass. It was the first time I had a sense of peace in days.

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Standing between my son and my husband, I couldn’t help beaming from ear to ear. I kissed first Dave’s cheek, then Moe’s. (I know, I know. I’m so mushy. It just happens.)

Will our public stand together make a difference? I don’t know. I’ve already been challenged on my Facebook page: “Did you march for homeless Americans or just non-Americans?” someone asked. I wrote back: “Yes. We were marching for all in need. We were marching for vets who are homeless, for people with illnesses without health insurance who lost their homes, for people who lost their jobs and have no way out. We marched for people who are our neighbors and who aren’t our neighbors. We marched against injustice and cruelty. We marched for helping those who need help. Do unto to others …” and I add, we marched for the best of what is in America’s heart.

I certainly didn’t think this would be my third “March” of the year. I’m a babyboomer senior citizen…I should be on a porch somewhere rocking in a chair. Yet none of us can just sit by while children, all children, are being harmed. My children and grandchildren are safe right now, but we’ve all read history. There are no guarantees.When will we get the knock on the door?

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Letters, emails, tweets and phone calls to our Congress people are essential. But there is power in the visual image. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder on a sunny June morning, we proved we were willing to show up. And gave notice that we’ll do it again. And the world knows it.

Happy Fourth of July to all. Enjoy the parties and the fireworks and let’s remember what the holiday is about.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

 

 

 

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An Ode to Spring!

 

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In my infatuation with autumn, I’d forgotten my old love: Spring. I was so into Fall colors that I left Spring in the dirt. (Pardon my capitalizing the seasons. I just can’t help it. I start thinking of things like “I get a spring in my step when it’s spring” or “I can fall when I slip on fall leaves” and I end up capitalizing Spring and Fall because it just seems right to me.)

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I do love autumn: the cooler days after a long, hot summer. I love the brilliance of the leaves and the signs that although the days are shorter, we’re getting ready for cozy evenings at home.

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(You’ll notice no mention of football in my Fall loves. I know this is heresy, but football is not high on my list of priorities. Sorry.)

But this Spring has been different. Perhaps it’s because of the rainy days of winter, but I don’t think so. By slowing my life down, I’ve been more aware of what’s happening in the moment. (It’s been quality versus quantity.) Along the way, I’ve remembered how much I love the awakening of nature around me. It has been a pleasure.

It started in my own backyard. I watched as the trees began to leaf out.

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By the way, here’s that same tree last Fall.

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Then I began to see Spring wildflowers peek up their heads.IMG_0379.jpg

 

I’m fortunate to walk most days so it wasn’t difficult to see the progress of renewal in the season. I was in awe of the colors of the flowers and plants. Being cognizant that theirs’ was a short season, I knew I had to focus on their beauty or I’d miss it. They’d be gone soon and only a memory.

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In other neighborhoods, I saw fruit trees put out their blossoms.

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When I walked by the lake in early Spring, I  watched the geese follow their mating rituals.

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and then, later, how they raised their young.

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In late April, I  went to Seattle to visit and was treated to a cornucopia of visual Spring delights. I think I drove my daughter crazy because I had to stop every few minutes to click another shot. But I just couldn’t get over the special beauty of the season.

Every tree and plant was bursting with new life:

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Fruit trees were decked out in their finery.

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Bluebells flocked to greet me in the woods.

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Back in California, I continued on my Spring Quest, aware of quickly the season was passing.

“It’s the middle of May,” I said to my daughter one day.

“Mom, it’s only May 11. Don’t push us ahead,” she said.

“I’m not, but you know, in a moment it will be Memorial Day.”

And it was.

The swans have had their babies now.

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The irises are still blooming but are losing a little of their freshness.

Time continues to march on even if we don’t want it to.

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All Spring as I walked outside, I kept hearing the phrase, Hope Springs Eternal, in my head. Even when we and our family and friends were having health issues, I saw with my own eyes that nature’s message was one of hope and renewal. Maybe everyone could get well–we shouldn’t give up hope.

But Spring also personifies the impermanence of life; its ephemeral qualities. Nothing is permanent and I should know that by now. I need to cherish what I have now–not look back, not look forward. My autumn years may be waning, but I’m not into winter yet. And I’m going to enjoy the last days of Spring without bemoaning how fleeting it was.

My plan is to gorge on peonies while they’re still is season. Short as it is.

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Regaining Faith in Humanity

Another school shooting. More people’s lives ripped away. More acts of religious and ethnic hatred. You see so much meanness coming from people nowadays, sometimes you begin to lose faith in humanity. Mine was restored a little today.

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As I rounded the bend on my walk, I saw a man standing on the grass, looking at the lake. Then I saw a tiny naked bird running around near him.

“Oh my goodness,” I said.

The man turned and smiled at me.

“He’s got to be brand new,” I said.

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“Actually, he’s a couple of weeks old,” he said. “He’s an orphan we found down by the weeds. He must have been the runt. You can see he also has a problem with his feathers, so they must have abandoned him.”

I shook my head. “That’s so sad.”

“I know. We picked him up and took him home, hoping we could save him.”

At that moment, the gosling started running away from us, flapping its wings. It looked like a wind up toy.

“Hey, where you going? Come back over here,” the man called. He looked at me. “This is the first time he’s ever left my side.”

The gosling came running back, stopping to peck at the grass for a moment before he returned close to the man.

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“He comes when you call?” I asked.

The man nodded. “Yeah, and he likes to cuddle under your chin.”

The man explained that they were raising him to get strong enough so they could to try to introduce him to a clutch that has goslings his age. They’d tried once already but he was rejected. “We’re hoping when he’s older it will work.”

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In the mean time, they have a set up a crate for him. “We’ve got stuffed animal geese in there and a mirror,” he explained. “The vet told us a special feed to get. He’s skinny, but eating and active.”

“He’s so cute,” I said.

“And look,” the man said. He pointed to the little guy’s chest where soft golden feathers were beginning to appear.

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The man’s smile was wide, filled with pride and compassion. “I think he’s going to make it,” he said.

What an inspiration, I thought as I continued on my walk. It goes to show that you should never give up. And that it’s not always the survival of the fittest if there’s a helping hand.

We need more of this in the world. Acts of kindness just because you can.

A Tribute to Barbara Bush

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I’m very lucky that I got to meet Barbara Bush. She was just as everyone is describing. She was no-nonsense and warm. She was gracious, but you knew instantly that she didn’t suffer fools for a minute. She was full of fun and full of dignity. She was funny and irreverent, serious and dedicated. And she was real.

I wasn’t going to tell my story because it’s private, but the first time I met her was such a perfect example of who Barbara was that I can’t resist.

It was in Kennebunkport twenty years ago. We were back there with friends who were close with the Bushes. Four days before we left I was told that I’d being playing golf there.

“But I don’t play golf,” I said.

“You better learn fast,” my husband said.

Let me say here that I’m not the world’s greatest athlete. Nor is golf an easy sport. After twenty years I’m mediocre on a good day. But my first 18 holes was played with Barbara Bush, God help her.

We met at their club, Cape Arundel, me still tearing the tags off my golf attire. It turned out that the Bushes were hosting a cocktail party for 70 that evening at the Walker estate — Barbara was supposed to get a chance to relax and play golf that morning. Instead she got me.

Graciously, she invited me to ride in her cart. I’m not sure who she thought she was getting — I did come with a Hollywood couple, after all, who played golf all the time . She couldn’t have known I’d be a school teacher from Seattle…who’d never played golf. She soon realized the last part as I sprayed balls right and left. One hole of Cape Arundel borders a street and my ball almost took out the windshield of a Secret Service car driving along side. Guns drawn, two men in black leaned out of the car to make sure the former First Lady was not under attack.

I was in awe just being there–pretty tongue tied as well as embarrassed at my inability. I’d hit the ball and then scurry toward it, trying not to hold up play. Barbara must have been going crazy, but she didn’t say anything. On one hole, I actually was running to my ball. Barbara drew up in her cart and said, “Hop in. You don’t have to run. We all started somewhere.”

I rolled my eyes. “But why is my somewhere with you when you have 70 people coming to your house tonight.”

She laughed and patted the seat next to her. And I knew, just like that, I was okay in her book.

On the ninth green, I said, “Mrs. Bush, you can go ahead and putt out.”

A voice from the next hole called out, “Who’s calling my mother, ‘Mrs. Bush’. No one calls my mother, ‘Mrs. Bush.’ It’s Barbara.”

I blushed as I met Jeb who was playing with his dad and my husband.

Barbara, looking pleased, laughed at her son’s teasing. And I relaxed enough to laugh too.

Later that night at their house, she was the perfect hostess. Dressed in her classic style with the signature pearls around her neck, she made sure the evening, an event for MD Anderson, ran like clockwork. But it was with a calm and non pretentiousness that put everyone at ease.

We got to be with Barbara several other times. Each occasion was precious.

 

Glumping into Golden Age

images-1            Everything that happens to me lately, I blame on becoming older. Like I thought something was wrong with my ability to hear. I was listening to Morning Joe on Stitcher and it seemed everyone was talking extremely fast. I could barely understand what Mika was saying. It took me a couple of weeks, but it suddenly occurred to me to check the speed control: Sure enough, it had moved to 1.5 speed. A quick flick and I was back to normal speed. What a relief!

I’ve also been having trouble sleeping—the bane of Golden Agers. I was feeling quite anxious and blamed it not only on my life-long anxiety, but on my frustration with navigating this week through today’s health care system. I was just trying to get answers about test results and it wasn’t happening. Was I just too old to do it? I’d given up on getting a diagnosis—that seemed an impossibility for the UCLA system. They’d brought me to my knees just trying to get a human being to talk to me. I couldn’t even make an appointment in one office until the physician’s liaison got back to me. What is a physician’s liaison anyway?

“What is your husband’s diagnosis?” the receptionist asked.

I looked at the phone in disgust. “I don’t know his diagnosis!!! That’s why I’m calling to make an appointment!! That’s what we want to know!! I was an English major—no medical training here!! I’m not sure what the blood test is saying but when I look it up on the Internet, their interpretation is not comforting. And I’m pretty sure that the symptoms I’m now exhibiting as I talk to you, are indicative of high blood pressure and an oncoming stroke!!!!

I only actually said some of the above and I didn’t shout, but nothing phased the receptionist anyway.

“Is there someone there that can give me a hint if this is a serious situation?” I finally begged her.

“No, but the liaison will call you back with 48 hours,” she said. “Is this the best number to reach you?”

I could feel something throbbing in my head as I tried to slam down my iPhone.

Seeing that phoning was not working, I tried writing another email to our primary care doctor. Just let me know what we’re dealing with, I wanted to write. I like the idea of a health care portal and that you can write your doctor a question. I really really like it when they write back. But these portals shouldn’t release test results to lay people who don’t know how to interpret them. Then you go on-line and the answers you find are always the worst case scenario. I’m tired of being scared out of my wits.

Meanwhile, I didn’t get any answers back and had trouble sleeping that night.          The next day the physician’s liaison did get back to me. She talked in a hearty way, but would give me no information either.

“Okay. I’m guessing you’d like the next available appointment,” she said.

“Not really,” I said. “I want the next ASAP appointment.”

“Pardon me?” she said.

“I want the soonest available appointment,” I explained.

“Oh, sure. I can understand that.”

What did that mean, I wondered.

We got in two days later. We could have gotten in the next day but my husband was playing in a golf tournament and wouldn’t cancel. First things first! (Did I mention that while I was working my way into being a stroke victim, he was playing golf?)

I had no idea what the doctor would be like when we met her or him. She is FABULOUS!! She quickly explained that the alarming blood test told nothing by itself. She explained that more tests were needed. She explained what could be happening. She explained that there was nothing to worry about. It would probably turn out to be nothing. “I’ll tell you if you have to worry,” she said.

Of course she had no idea that she was talking to me, the poster girl for Worry Wort in the dictionary. I worry if I’m not feeling worried.

So, to get back to my first point about blaming everything on getting older, this frustration and non-worrying is why I thought I could barely sleep last night. But I was wrong. It was more about the bombing of Syria. I know this because when I woke up and before I opened my eyes, I thought, we’re still here, we’re still alive. I hadn’t even known my psyche had gone to Nuclear Winter.

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The Promise of Spring

It was a beautiful Easter/Passover morning. I set out on my walk without a plan in my head. I had no where I had to be until later in the day. Every plate and platter were put away, every pot was clean (well, there still was a little chicken soup left in one), and I no longer felt I’d been run over by a truck.

As I walked, I saw that the long winter’s sleep was done. Trees were budding all over the place! Primroses were nodding hello in the breeze. Calla lilies were in bloom.

When I walked by the lake I saw the many geese who’ve decided being American 24/7, 365/365 is a better plan than fighting the lines through Customs at the Canadian border. They aren’t the neatest of neighbors and can be quite aggressive at times…but not as aggressive as the coyotes who like to stretch their legs over the same grassy area.

As I rounded the curve, I spied an unusual sight: a goose who walked with a swagger. Most geese waddle. This guy had a long blade of grass hanging out of the side of his mouth. His cocky smirk reminded me of the silverback gorilla my brother had run into once in Rwanda.

After I’d walked a couple blocks, I got more curious and headed back to see if I could find my fine feathered friend. He, of course, wasn’t among the group on the lawn. He was much too superior for that. Maybe he was at the lake, I thought.

At first I wondered if maybe he was the one in the middle of the lake honking his head off warning the gaggle of impending doom. Or one of the two on the lake making plans for an assignation.

But, no, it seemed to me he was more the type to strut around looking for babes! And sure enough, I found him. Puffed out and looking good (except for the pieces of grass stuck in his beak.)

He kept walking around showing off but when I left, he was still alone. Just goes to show that all girls are smarter these days and as my mother always said, “Pride goes before a fall.”

Nostalgia Notes

 

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I got nostalgic yesterday for all the previous yesterdays when I could sleep through the night without worrying about was happening on the East Coast. I got nostalgic for the days when I didn’t need to know the names of people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. I got nostalgic for the days when I believed our government was led by men and women with integrity and knowledge of national and international affairs. I wanted to go back to the days when I thought no President would tell a lie.

Then I got just plain nostalgic for that age of innocence when I was growing up. It turned into a Remember When morning and thinking of things in the past.

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Let’s start with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread. Really, they were so delicious and went down so smoothly with a glass of milk. And we thought we were eating something healthy: the peanut butter was protein and the jelly was fruit. I just realized something weird — no one had a peanut allergy back then.

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Sadly, another thing that is probably in my past is prime rib. It used to be my favorite — my mother made a big one every Sunday night and we fought over the crispy fat. Now when I look at this photo, I feel a bit nauseous. Darn! And it tasted so good.

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Embroidery is a craft of the past. Probably a hundred years ago, my grandmother embroidered these napkins made out of flour sacking. My grandparents were immigrants who had nothing when they came to the United States in 1900. But my grandmother had skill and perseverance so she made things beautiful. I’ll never throw them away.

She is still my inspiration. She was the most amazing baker the world has ever seen. She never measured — well, she did use a half of an egg shell occasionally. This photo really captures her spirit.

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Spring is such a hopeful season filled with abundant energy. Winter fights with Spring, creating mischievous weather that has us layering on and off. The other day, as I put my jacket back on after just removing it five minutes before, I heard the distant drone of a propeller in the sky. When I looked up at the single engine plane, it took me back to my childhood days in Seattle. More feelings of nostalgia.

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Then there is the nostalgia for what you once could have worn, but no longer can. Like this gorgeous shoe — boot. I’m drooling as I look at it but I know there’d be no reason for me to even try it on. Too high of a heel for me and it would look ridiculous at the bottom of my babyboomer legs.

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Above is this tee shirt, which is more appropriate for me at my age. I remember getting a plaque with Getting Old is not for Sissies for my mom and dad on their 50th anniversary. Oh, we kids thought it was so funny…and we thought it would never happen to us.

Guess who isn’t laughing now.

 

 

 

Trump Tramples Women

via WHAT’S THE NEXT DOGWHISTLE?

Don’t Count Me Out: I’m not going down that path

Who thought at 72 I would still be asking myself: “Who am I?” This is not the first time I’ve asked myself that. Maybe the 100th? But I thought by now I’d know.

Last spring I still thought I was 50. Well, maybe 60. I was in great shape — walking five miles a day, doing yoga, working out — and also very productive — writing several chapters for my book, my blog and short stories. I was marching in protests, keeping up with my kids and grandkids, doing it all.

I’ve always liked to do it all–it might be my manic. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping because it seems like a waste of time. I do think our age group had this thrust on us. As the vanguard of the babyboomers, we “girls” couldn’t just be a pretty face. We had to be that, but also be athletic, get straight A’s and have meaningful professions–as well as becoming perfect wives and mothers.

Then last spring I got a bad virus that might have come to me via Brazil. At first I joked about it. I even wrote a humorous blog about all the medications I was taking from the East and West medical experts. Well, I did refuse the antibiotic — Heck, I was no senior citizen who had to jump to that extreme!

As the summer wore on, I felt worse and then better. Then worse and then worser. I did have a chest X-ray, but it was Fourth of July and the doctors were on vacation so no one read it. My cough took over the situation until I felt just like this car below. I’d been a cute model in my time, but now I held together by duct tape.

I was finally diagnosed with walking pneumonia. They should have told me I had go-to-bed pneumonia ‘cuz instead, I just kept walking around doing my normal stuff. That’s when being 70 caught up with me. Turned out I have COPD that was being exacerbated by the bug and the pneumonia. My lungs and bronchials are permanently damaged, which explains why I get so tired when others don’t. It’s taken months to get back enough energy to create a normal life; and it’s a new normal, at that.

That became jeopardized last week when I got sick with a respiratory bug. I felt like I was the star of “Groundhog’s Day”, repeating the same symptoms as six months before: fever, sore throat, cough, swollen glands, nasal and ear congestion. A year ago, I’d have said I had a head cold, but this time I saw the doctor and was on a Z pack within two days. And I’ve added an inhaler into the mix. Plus I’m eating a healthy diet: eliminating gluten and dairy and most sugars.

I started lying around all day, like the older person I am. Especially because of all the articles about people dying from the flu. And my friends advising me not to take this illness lighting. And because the doctor told me to lay low. And my husband telling me to please not exert myself. Actually, I had so many well intentioned warnings that I started getting short of breath just from anxiety. I was a nervous wreck!

Yesterday I realized I’m beginning to think of myself as an invalid. I ventured out to do yoga and walk a half a mile. What’s going to happen, I wondered with trepidation. I came home and pampered myself, making sure I took my medications, rested, and checked in the mirror often to see how ashen my face looked. It was when I woke from my nap that I began to question: Who am I?

One thing I can tell you, the answer is not going to be invalid. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! I like cliches that are helpful.

 

Marching for the American Way

 

I was surprised last night when I went on Facebook and saw negative comments about the Women’s March, especially surprised to read those from women. “Why are you marching? What don’t you have?” someone asked to women in general as if we are spoiled little girls who just want more and more!
“What were all these women doing blocking the roads when people needed them to get to work?” another person groused.
“Why take up the time of the police? They have better things to do than herd women with little pink pussies on their heads,” said someone else.


Okay, I thought.  I’m not sure why, out of all things going on, people are so annoyed about women organizing and marching. Obviously, they just don’t get it. Women, and men, marched together for what we were taught in school: American values. The March supported women, yes: equal pay, protection from harassment, the right to female healthcare–those kinds of issues. But it also supported the values of honor, integrity, respect, truth and fair play. We marched for equality and justice for all.

Did I think I’d be doing this at 72? No, not at all. Did I think my sisters from all over the country would be marching in January because we felt we needed to? No, but here we are.

I went to the Kona March with 12 people, male and female. We ranged in age from 2 and 1/2 to 88. We weren’t a militant group–just neighbors who care about each other and the United States.

It was hot. We needed water, and lots of it. No one complained, even the baby girl!

There were all kinds of people there–people who cared enough to come out and stand together . It felt good to chant: RESIST, PERSIST, INSIST. We will resist injustice. We will not be good little girls and go away–we will persist as we insist that our flag stands for everybody. We are a diverse nation–that’s a fact. And we love it.

A man asked me what I thought about the Trump year. He recorded what I said (Will I be arrested soon?), which was: “I think the band aid has been ripped off the cover of America, and the ugly wound festering beneath has been revealed. Perhaps now there can be some healing.”