Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wednesday's Words for March 13, 2019

It always amazes me how very quickly life can go back to pre-vacation “normal” as soon as the bags are unpacked and stored upstairs once more.

One thing I try to do now—now that time seems to be moving so much more quickly than it did even ten years ago—is to cherish each day, regardless of the circumstances. I try not to wish any time away by staying, as much as I can, in the moment in which I find myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t anticipate the days to come, but I don’t make the future my focus. Taking things one day at a time seems to help me hang onto that day just a tad longer.

And even doing that, the memories made during those eleven days when I was outside my own country, have already dimmed slightly. It’s a conundrum, in my opinion: plan a trip and prepare for it for several months or more prior to departure (in this case, WWW in San Antonio was on my appointment book for 2 years); leave on a jet plane, or by car; enjoy each day of the time away; actually sit back and relish the moments. Then come home and get sucked back into the routine that you forgot, while you were away, was something you love.

When I am having less kind thoughts, I chalk this need for a balancing act up to humans being mostly a fickle lot. The grass is always greener, and blah blah blah. I think this quality is human nature, but one that is neither good nor bad; it just is. Maybe our “fickleness”—our letting go of some of those memories so quickly—harkens back to the beginning of human society. If the cave woman let her head stay on yesterday’s party, she wouldn’t see the saber-tooth tiger about to pounce on her today.

I spend a lot of time watching people. I find them endlessly fascinating, of course, and it’s also research for me, all part of the way I spend my days. You can’t create relatable characters if you don’t understand humans and their foibles. You can’t express emotion in words if you don’t learn how to read facial expressions and body language.

The words I pen are my life’s work. I am convinced they’re the reason I was put on this earth—at the very least, they’re the reason I didn’t die when my angioplasty procedure in 2002 turned into an emergency triple bypass. Knowing this, I seek always to get better at penning those words and communicating the story—or the message—that I believe someone needs to hear. I used to say that everywhere I went, everything I saw, everyone I met and everything I did—in short, all of my experiences—went into my “well”, and it is from this well that I draw to tell my stories. So if I didn’t go and see and meet and do, my well would run dry. I still believe that. My most recent challenge in this life has been to expand the definitions of going, seeing, meeting and doing. If the purpose is to inscribe knowledge upon the hippo-campus, then any knowledge one obtains through any medium qualifies. I still want to actually leave my home (occasionally) to physically go, see, meet, and do. But as that becomes more challenging, I have to improvise. So far, that plan is working. I just have to keep getting up each day, remain curious about the world I live in, and keep learning.

Oh, and I have to keep writing, too.

Life throws challenges our way on a regular basis. That is life’s job—and it does its job pretty damn well, let me tell you. Our job is to dig through the copious piles of crap life tosses at us, looking for that pony.

The memories that I know will remain with me of the trip so recently taken are the times I spent with good friends, sitting quietly and listening and sharing ideas. Life for me, at its core, is about connections.

It’s people that matter, more than anything else, because people—helping other people, touching other people—are the entire reason we’re all here on this earth.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Wednesday's Words for March 6, 2019

We had a wonderful time on our trip to Texas. There were a few anxious moments as we traveled, wondering if we were going to make connecting flights, but it all turned out well in the end. I enjoyed meeting so many of my readers face to face for the first time, and making new friends as well, who will hopefully become new readers.

After the book event—Wild Wicked Weekend, excellently organized by Cate Beaumont and Trish Bowers—we traveled to an undisclosed location to visit with good friends. We had a tour of the Hill Country, and spent some precious time together, time to reconnect and talk of big things and small. Time for which I am very grateful.

The afternoon before our flight out, I was fortunate enough to have lunch with my publisher, Amanda Hilton. It had been nearly five years since we were face to face. I am so grateful to be published with Siren-Bookstrand. I first met Amanda in the late spring of 2006, when I pitched a book to her during the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention. That was twelve years ago, and the book in question became my first published novel.

I’m now working on my 60th title for Siren.

Ms. Hilton was accompanied by a woman with whom I communicate each time I have a book ready for publication. How wonderful to have a face to go with the name!

And then, too soon, it was time to head toward home. Even in the anticipation of the trip back to my everyday world, there was an opportunity to see something new. For all the traveling we’ve done, and the flights we’ve taken and the several times we’ve landed in New York City, we’d only ever been to La Guardia airport. This time, coming back from San Antonio to Buffalo, our lay-over was at JFK International Airport.

Of course, we were excited about that. We were going to be visiting one of the most famous airports in the world. The glitz! The glamour! Alas, the…disappointment. It began as soon as we landed. We waited on board the plane for all the other passengers to get off, before we deplaned. And when I got to the jet-way it was to discover there was no wheelchair waiting for me. There should have been, as I was on their “list”.

After several minutes, one of the flight attendants went up the jet-way (which turned out to have three levels), found a wheelchair, and brought it down, so I could at least sit. The amazing Delta Airlines flight crew attempted to call the gate, but the phone in the jet-way wasn’t working. They waited with me, and after another ten minutes, they took me up to the terminal proper themselves. There was another wait then, but at least I was no longer in the cold jet-way.

Fortunately, we had a couple of hours until our flight to Buffalo, and eventually someone did arrive to assist us. We were able to grab a lunch, and then we settled in at our gate to read as we waited for the final flight of this trip.

It was good to have one more over-night in Buffalo after a long day of traveling. The hotel we chose across from the airport had an on-site restaurant, so it was easy to settle in for the evening. Having gotten up at three a.m. so we could get to the San Antonio airport on time for our early morning flight, we were exhausted by nine-thirty that night.

Now we’re home, unpacked, and reunited with our fur baby, Mr. Tuffy—and in the way that I’ve always found curious, back to normal so soon after our twelve-day excursion. All that’s left for me to do is to ruminate on the places we visited, the events we experienced, but most importantly, at least to me, the people we met.

We all have our lives, our minutia, our routines—we all take our life’s journey one step at a time. But among the choices we make and the moments we experience, the going and the doing and the sitting and the thinking, it’s the connections we make that matter the most. When we open ourselves up to meeting other people, to listening and sharing, we’re doing what I’ve long believed we’re all meant to do here in this life and on this earth, to one degree or another: we touch others.

For a space of time, we interact, and share, we lend our life force to those around us, we give, and if we’re lucky, we receive back that communion of spirits, that interlude of interaction. When you look into someone’s eyes, when you take their hand and open yourself to their presence, to their thoughts and their heart, when you acknowledge them, you’re giving a gift that is priceless, yes, even beyond gold or precious gems or fame.

Because this connection, one human being with another, is the most real and significant thing in the world—and the one thing that has the power to change lives.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wednesday's Words for February 27, 2019

A very short essay today, direct to you from me, on vacation in Texas!

We have been having a wonderful time here in Texas. Yes, we did arrive, although I have to tell you, it was a close thing—at least in our minds.

Our flight out of Buffalo left a bit late, and that was a worry because we had a connecting flight to catch in Atlanta. It was looking good, especially since we were seated in the 10th row, which boded well for getting off the plane fast. Usually, because I require wheelchair assistance, we wait until the plane is empty before we get off, but this time, it just wouldn’t be an option. And we were feeling good about our chances—until the pilot announced that we would be in a holding pattern over Atlanta due to a storm.

That didn’t last too long, but long enough for us to know we were landing after the scheduled departure time of our flight to San Antonio.

Sometimes, and in the face of facts that would appear to be to the contrary of what we wish them to be, it’s difficult to keep the faith. I was down to my fingernails hanging on, when we got off the aircraft. Fortunately for us, that flight out had been delayed too. In the end the flight scheduled to leave Atlanta at 7:35 p.m. didn’t go wheels up until a quarter after ten.

The event we attended “Wild Wicked Weekend” was delightful. I’m so grateful for author Cate Beaumont and all the effort she put into creating a place where authors and readers could meet. I’m very grateful for and to all the readers who attended, and sought me out. Thank you all so much. Some of you shared personal stories with me, stories of how my words had touched you. What a wonderful gift you gave me!

After the conference, we packed up our bags and headed to the airport—to rent a car. The next stop required a bit of driving as we were headed to an undisclosed location, off to meet up with good friends not seen in four years.

I’m actually writing these words on Wednesday February 27, but I have no idea if they will be posted today or not. I’m outside of San Antonio, in a hotel that purports to have a Wi-Fi connection. I’ve been here since Monday but haven’t seen a sign of that little thing yet.

So I’m trying something I’ve never tried before. I’m going to use my iPhone’s “personal hot spot” to see if it works. If not, I’m going to relax, tuck these words away, and send them to you when I get home. I do need to learn how to worry less about things I can’t control.

This seems like a good place to start.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Life really is 5 percent what happens to you and 95 per cent how you cope with it. As I write these words, we are ensconced in our hotel in Buffalo, because Wednesday is flight day. At least according to our tickets.

We’ve already had an adventure and we’ve barely begun our trip.

Mr. Tuffy is also having and adventure – a sleep over with his buddies at our daughter’s house. He was really quite happy to go, and while he’s having a few adjustments, we know from past experiences that he will do fine. If he shows signs of being anxious, our daughter will move their party to our house, where he will, of course, fare better.

So we awoke on Tuesday morning, dog-free, and planning to leave sometime after noon hour. I must at this point tell you a little not-so-secret secret about my beloved. When the day of vacation is at hand, he wants to leave five minutes ago. I thought, with this trip, things would be different because, well, he has vacation every day now. But, no. He’s still the same. At one point I suggested (this was actually on Monday night) that he could start walking to Buffalo, and that I could pick him up at some point, eventually.

Good thing he didn’t.

At a little before 1 pm, we went out our door, got into the car…and it wouldn’t start. Deader than a doornail. We have coverage with the auto club….but my poor husband was convinced we were done. Never have I seen such a sad, disillusioned, I-knew-it-was-too-good-to-be-true face.

We went back inside and called the auto club. They promised to be out in an hour. Fortunately, we had no flight to catch. This was Tuesday and Wednesday is flight day.

While David speculated that the car would need more than a boost and appeared to be preparing for the inevitable cancellation of all plans, I started to look for our options.

I believe there are always options.

My daughter said she could take the day off when we were due to come home in order to come and get us, and so I looked into taking paid transportation to the airport. It would be a bit expensive but spending an extra 280 seemed better to me than blowing off the 800 we’d already paid for our flights.

I shared these options with my husband. He cringed, of course, and that told me that he thought it was a lot of money to spend. He was absolutely right, it was. But it was an option.

The man from the auto club arrived. He boosted the car, and it started and, he reported it was charging. He didn’t have the size of battery we needed with him, which turned out to be just as well. Then he left and we let the car running for a half hour. David went out, turned off the vehicle, then was able to restart it. But the head lights didn’t come on.

And then my daughter texted me, telling me that if we could wait to leave until 3:30, she would drive us to Buffalo. She was worried the car would act up while we were on route, and we’d be stuck on the side of the road.

Quite frankly, I was, too.

So that is what we did. By the time my husband and I were in the hotel’s restaurant, ordering supper, he had recovered the spirit of vacation. Now, we are traveling in February and there is another winter storm about to wreak havoc on part of the United States. Today as you read this, we’ll be heading to the airport just after noon hour, for a four-thirty flight. There could still be delays. We’ll have to wait and see.

But even if there are, I am determined to have the best possible attitude about this time as I can have. I’m a worry wort at times, yes. But beyond that, I’m an optimist—just one of those irritating people who’s convinced that where there’s manure, there has to be a pony.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wednesday's Words for February 13, 2019

I don’t remember a great deal, first hand, about my father. He died when I was eight and a half years old. I wasn’t a sophisticated eight-year-old, not by a long shot. I don’t think many kids were in those days. Television didn’t have a huge influence on our lives, back then. You might say it was the golden age of parental controls. If it was a nice day outside, no Saturday morning was spent in front of the television, except for maybe a half hour or so. Then it was, “get outside and don’t come in unless you have to use the bathroom.”

Most of what I know about my father I gleaned from the few times, when I was an adolescent and then a teenager, that my mother would tell me little things about him. I do have a few personal memories, ones I’ve held close because there really are so few of them. I believe the trauma of losing him when I was at such a young age did something to my memory, which is why I don’t have many. I mean, I really didn’t know there was such a thing as a parent dying, and then one of mine did!

One thing I do recall both in reality and from my mother mentioning it was that the name of this second month of the year was generally preceded by a very bad word, when my father said it. I don’t know if that’s because it was the month of his birth, or if it was because traditionally, at least in those days, February was the harshest month of the winter.

Yesterday as I read the new winter storm warnings, and as I looked out my window at the white precipitation and heard the sound of ice hitting the glass, I realized this month still is the harshest winter month.

And of course, it’s this month in which we are flying for the first time in a couple of years. Go figure.

While I excel at maintaining a positive, and basically happy attitude on the outside, I do tend toward worrying on the inside. Some worry in life is unavoidable. I recall that for a few years after my father died, I lived in fear that my mother would, too. About a month after he passed, my mom “threw her back out”. She had to lie on the sofa for a time, and I was convinced she was dying.

If she was late getting home from work, or if she didn’t arrive home when I expected her, I would tremble in terror until she arrived safe and sound. In point of fact, she did leave us thirteen years after my father, when she was 57 and I was 21. She died at home of a heart attack.

To this day if somebody isn’t here when they say they will be, my first thought heads down that same dark fear-strewn trail. And into this rich psychological background and history, I’m introducing something new, something never before contemplated: a drive to Buffalo and a flight to Texas in expletive-deleted February.

I’m pretty good at setting my worries aside, and I have denial down to a fine art, so I’ll probably be fine. But still.

I’m not looking forward to the travel, but I am looking forward, eagerly, to the people who await me at the end of this trek. My best friend lives in Texas, just a half hour from San Antonio and I can hardly wait to see her again. Another very dear friend lives in Utah, and she’ll be in San Antonio at this time, too. The friend I’ve had the longest in my life winters in Texas, and there’s a slight chance I may see her, too.

I’ll be spending some time with my publisher, and what a magnificent bonus that is!

There are also some wonderful people who’ve been kind enough to read my books and support my career, cherished friends! Some I will be hugging again, and some, for the very first time. I’d pledged to attend this author/reader event, “Wild Wicked Weekend”, two years ago, and let me tell you the intervening time has sped! There’s so much to plan and get ready, I’m in just a bit of a quandary at the moment. I haven’t even begun my list, and if all y’all know anything about me after all these essays I’ve written, it’s that I always have a list, and I have it early.

“Morgan, don’t worry. Clearly, you’re simply mellowing in your September years,” you might say. Ah, how I wish that was so! Unfortunately, the truth is a bit less cheery a thought than that.

I have a darn good memory – it’s just that lately, it’s really, really short.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wednesday's Words for February 6, 2019

The deep freeze finally left us, and within two days of that, practically all of our snow had melted. It had been fairly deep, five or six inches, and I was amazed at how quickly it simply vanished. Today, there remains but small isolated piles, remnants of snow and ice, where the snow had been shoveled into mounds. The stairs leading down from my porch and my walkway are completely clear, for which I’m grateful.

That means there’ll be only one layer of ice to worry about, and that’s the one placed there by the freezing rain now falling. It’s morning, and this ice will taper, supposedly, this afternoon.

I’m not kidding myself that the white stuff is done for the season. I understand that winter still has a few howls left in it, I’m sure, before full spring blooms. That was the second-deep freeze of this winter so far. We had one in November, I think. It only lasted a few days, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as this most recent one.

Now here I must digress for just a brief moment, to share with you one of my pet peeves. I really feel the television and radio meteorologists suffer from a lack of specificity. For example, I must insist that once cold gets to a certain “temperature” it’s just frigid. And when the “weather people” say the next day is going to be warmer because it’s going to be minus eighteen instead of minus twenty? Then I submit, it is not warmer at all, it is merely slightly less cold. People, there is nothing warm about minus eighteen. Can I get an amen on that?

I don’t think I particularly mind the on again/off again approach Mother Nature has taken this winter. Immediately on the heels of that week of extreme cold, we had a couple of really warmer days—one day it went up to (plus) fifty degrees. While the back and forth of fluctuating temperatures might cause havoc for some, I feel it’s better to have a few days break than to have an unrelenting winter. I’ve experienced a lot of those in my lifetime, and having breaks is definitely better.

On either Sunday or Monday, I heard geese passing overhead. I don’t believe they’re geese that have returned from migration. I think they’re birds that are wintering here. I don’t even know if they all “fly south” for the winter any more. If they do, do you suppose they get stressed out to arrive in to Georgia, or northern Texas, only to find there’s snow there, too?

It’s odd, the questions that occur to me sometimes.

Our dog, also, is happy that the extreme cold has left, because he doesn’t like the frigid temperatures any more than we do. He’s just a little guy—barely eight pounds—and not very tall, so we’re particularly careful of him. We don’t let him out for more than a few minutes when it’s really cold, and in fact, he just goes out, takes care of business, and hurries right back in.

Because he is so little, we need to ensure there is a path created for him in the back yard, a “path to peedom”, using a phrase coined by a friend. Little dogs don’t do well in deep snow. Additionally, Mr. Tuffy is a male, and if the snow touches a certain part of his anatomy, well, he’ll have no part of that at all, thank you very much. Generally speaking, we need to ensure he has a path for any amount of snow approaching four inches. He’s really that short.

I want to try and impart a positive message here. I want to always try to uplift, but if I can’t uplift, I’ll settle for amusement. That’s not always easy to do, and I don’t always succeed the way I’d like to. I do try, and I believe the need is urgent.

You see, I heard a speech yesterday and I didn’t feel there was much positivity in it, no plans to make things better and certainly no uplifting. Hence, I do feel called upon to give some here.

I’m pleased to inform you that three of the four North American groundhogs I know about, Punxsutawney Phil, Wiarton Willie, and Staten Island Chuck, have all predicted an early spring. And truthfully, if you think about it, the earliest sign of spring has in fact arrived.

The days are a noticeably a little longer now than they were a month ago. I noticed, because at five-thirty p.m., yesterday afternoon, there was still enough light to see the neighbor’s back yard out of our living room window. The sun did not set, officially, until 5:50 pm.

The sun will set today at 5:52 p.m., two minutes later than yesterday. So spring is arriving, and at a speed of two minutes per day. This is not only positive, it’s something else that’s rare these days.

It is the unvarnished, unapologetic, unaltered truth.

I’m a big fan of the truth, and I’m more sad than I can say that I have to turn to the weather in order to find some.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wednesday's Words for January 30, 2019

We’re getting ready to take our first trip out of the country in a couple of years. In February, we’ll be flying to San Antonio, Texas. I’ll be appearing at a reader/author event called “Wild Wicked Weekend”. The event is hosted by author Cate Beaumont, and I gave my word two years ago I’d be there.

There will be a lot of my friends attending this event, some friends who are readers and some who are authors. Friends I’ve missed and haven’t seen in person for a very long time. So, I am very much looking forward to this—but it’s not a trek I undertake lightly, and it will require a fair bit more than my last book event in the U.S., which was quite some time ago.

Getting older is not for the faint of heart. It’s been, as I said, a couple of years since we’ve gone beyond our border. My last trip out of the country was a drive to visit friends outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana in the early fall of 2016. I managed the drive in less than eight hours and stayed with them for a few days. Prior to that, we’d gone to Pennsylvania to visit our friends in the eastern part of the state. That trip we’d taken in early July. It, too, is a single day’s drive.

In the last couple of years, we attended only one writer/reader event, and that was in 2017 and just down the road from us - a thirty-five mile drive to one of our neighboring cities. It was hosted by American author Kallypso Masters. I’ve actually never attended a Canadian event hosted by a Canadian group as a published author. The stars just never quite aligned for me.

This trip is different from the one in 2017. I have “swag” to get ready, though I’m not taking a lot, because we’re flying. I have some new pens and note pads, and I also have some book “covers”. I had wanted to take some actual print books with me for the book signing, but this whole going across the border thing makes that challenging.

When I used to go to the RT Booklover’s convention, I could arrange with the organizers of the book fair to have them get the books for me. I just had to guarantee my sales. I didn’t have to lug them and fill out forms and pay extra freight for them.

This event is a smaller a scale event than RT, and there is no bookstore organizing the signing. Most of the authors attending are self-published. That’s not a complaint by any means. It’s just the way it is. Each author is responsible for their own appearance at the venue, and for me that calls for a creative approach. So I’ve announced, several times, I won’t have books there, but that readers should feel free to bring whatever books they’d like me to sign.

The event itself is scheduled to last a few days, Thursday through Sunday. The schedule looks like fun and provides a lot of interaction between authors and readers. It doesn’t sound too overwhelming.
Ah, but there’s a catch.

For the last two years, I’ve let my age catch up with me a bit. My pace has been steady around the house, and I’ve had a routine of sorts, and I’ve kept moving, more or less. But I’m not really busy. Busy and I don’t seem get along as well as once we did. I’m really looking forward to this trip. At the same time, I know it’s going to be a challenge for me, and for David, too.

Of course, I’ve reserved a mobility scooter for myself, for the period of time I’ll be at the hotel in San Antonio. After the event, we’ll be traveling a small distance away from the major city to see friends for a few more days. We fly back to Buffalo on March first.

I’ve got my lists started, but again, I’m moving much slower than in the past. I never thought it would happen, but I strongly suspect that I’m mellowing out, where my anal tendencies are concerned.

I’m trying to decide if that’s a good thing, or not. I guess I’ll know for certain, after this event is over.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wednesday's Words for January 23, 2019

Last Saturday—all day and into the night—we finally got some snow. It was the kind of snowfall that looks innocuous. You know the kind of snowfall I mean. You peer out the window and can barely make out that snow is actually falling. The flakes don’t look like flakes, but like nearly-microscopic specks. Because the wind is blowing, you’re almost lulled into the sense that, yes, it’s sort of coming down, but the wind is carrying it away…very far away.

The sun sets, and it gets dark out. Is it still snowing? You have to look at the street light to tell. In that small circle of light you once more see those same nearly-microscopic specks. So technically, you know it is snowing. Then you look at the ground and the car, and you begin to comprehend what’s happening. It’s a silent but getting deep invasion.

Of course, you are slow to this realization because, while you looked out every hour or so, you really didn’t see much change in accumulation between the first hour and the second. But by Sunday morning—well, it was enough for me to alert our sixteen-year-old grandson that we were going to need his assistance in the “digging out” department. His mother assured me he’d be by on Sunday at some point to take care of that for us.

I like snow, if I can stay safe and warm indoors and simply peer at it outside the window. I like snow in the Christmas season especially, because, well, all those Christmas cards showing cozy cottages covered with snow, and of course the city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style…. However, Christmas is past. Mother Nature gave us a green Christmas this year, and that’s not a complaint, just an observation.

So snow is pretty to look at and I don’t mind this snowfall, as long as it doesn’t last too long.

I think the lack of the white stuff so far this year has spoiled me. Basically, I believe this is just one of those off winters. The usual situation in our neck of the woods is that we get a lot of snow, that it comes sometimes as early as October and is still here into March. I say it’s an off year because I am hearing of some places in the U.S. that are getting hammered, that usually see no snow and ice at all. I guess that’s where our snow went this season. Of course I know with global warming, everything is in flux. It would be handy if those who are deniers would wake the heck up. I’ll stop there as I don’t want to digress.

Fortunately, I don’t actually have to leave the house until later in the week, though we had planned to nip out and pick up a few things on Monday. That was easy enough to cancel. Waiting until late in the week leaves plenty of time for snow plows and shovels to come into play.

But while the snow stopped falling, the temperatures didn’t. The bone-eating cold that came on the weekend was a surprise. Yes, I check the forecast each day, and I register that it’s going down to the minus digits, Fahrenheit—but it’s a shock to the system when one actually opens the door and a block of ice tries to enter your lungs.

I don’t mind imitating a hermit. Actually, the older I get the more comfortable that state becomes. One of the questions I get asked at my doctor’s appointment every three months is this: “Do you still enjoy going out?”

That’s not a good question to ask me, because I don’t believe I’ve ever enjoyed going out. I especially don’t relish the act in winter, when I have to dress carefully for warmth, wear my boots which I sometimes need help to get on, ensure the ice claw is extended on my cane (but not until I’m at the door), and then step outside as cautiously as if I have vials of nitroglycerin strapped to the bottom of my boots and the teeniest tiniest wrong step will result in—kaboom!

Seriously, who can enjoy that? But I usually answer “yes”, because once I’m where I’m going, I always find a way to have a good time—despicable winter weather notwithstanding.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday's Words for January 16, 2019

It’s already the middle of January! And, I’m kind of sorry to have to confess this because I know what a lot of you are going through, weather-wise. But as I post this essay (January 16) we do not have any snow on the ground.

Not one bit. Zip. Zilch.

This is so not normal for where I live. You know that place, the TRUE NORTH (a phrase from our national anthem). Oh, it’s cold enough. At the moment, at eight-thirty in the morning, the temperature (in Fahrenheit) is 28 but “feels like” 18. We just don’t have any snow.

When I think back to the winters of my childhood, they featured snow mounded so high on the side of the road, after the plows went down, that those banks towered over the cars so you couldn’t see over them. We’re not talking the sleek little cars of today, either. Think 1959 Studebaker, and you know I’m referring to a heavy, steel, behemoth.

We used to make snow forts. The kids in the neighborhood—our rural neighborhood had about six counting me—would divide into two groups and build the snow forts and then we would have snowball fights. Or, if the snow was deep enough, we would make tunnels between the forts. Oh yes, we did, in the open field beside my house and, no, we didn’t know at the time how dangerous that was! We just did it and had fun.

The other winter fun thing was the natural skating area right across from my house that extended more than a quarter of a mile. In those days the land on the other side of the road was very boggy, and if the water had been deep enough when it froze, you could skate from my house to the last neighbor’s house, no problem. Of course, we had to clear off the ice, and keep it maintained (repairing any ice divots created when one of us was clumsy—but hey, that was a small price to pay for free, unlimited skating.)

I mourn the loss of those carefree times. I mourn the loss of the joy that seemed to be just there for the plucking, as you roamed and explored and did. I’d leave the house some days right after breakfast and not come back until dusk. To my knowledge, my mother never worried where I was, nor did anyone’s mother worry about them. That thought is taking me slightly off topic. But y’all are used to that, aren’t you?

Were we na├»ve? Yes, most definitely. Bad things happened to kids back then, it was just never broadcast. It isn’t that things are “worse” in the current time than in the “good old days”, necessarily. It’s that back then, no one spoke of the dangers that were lurking in the shadows for kids. Back then, there was no such thing as the twenty-four-hour news cycle. The news came on as 6 p.m. for a half hour, and that was that.

If you saw the words “Breaking News Alert” or “Special Bulletin” on your television screen, something very bad—or really exceptional—had happened.

I’m not sure why it was, that we weren’t more up front with kids in those days about the dangers they faced. As kids, we were warned “don’t talk to strangers” – but that was it. No details were offered about what dangers lay in wait if we did. There was a vague sense that a stranger might take you and you’d never see home again. Certainly, there was no warning about private space and inappropriate touching. A part of me feels as if that failure to alert and prepare kids for the dangers they could encounter was a kind of complicity—because we know today that a lot of the sexual abuse crimes committed against children are not committed by strangers, but by “trusted adults”. And not knowing of the dangers that non-strangers posed gave us all a sense of well being. It also gives a shading to the phrase and concept of “good old days” that’s completely false.

Once more, I digress.

So here we are, mid-January, no appreciable snow fall—and I’m okay with that, for this year. I know there were green Christmases here and there all through my life. And I’d rather not have to fight my way through snow and ice, thank you. Walking is difficult enough without Mother Nature’s hissy fits thrown in.

But nothing is really all good. We’re reasonably pleased, because we haven’t had to worry about digging out the car or clearing our walk as yet. However, those who make extra money in the winter by plowing are having a lean time. Those who count on snow to have their leisure activities via winter sports are also likely feeling glum about now.

I try not to be selfish when it comes to my wishes for specific weather. Sure, I’d love to see it about seventy-seven degrees the year round, with maybe a week or two of cool, crisp temps in three of our four seasons—and maybe one hot summer day. But that would be selfish. So, I’m content with however much snow we need to have in order to provide extra money for the part-time entrepreneurs and to put as much moisture in the ground as the farmers need for spring.

But beyond that? Mother Nature can keep the deep piles of that white stuff—I call it kaka (and I don’t mean the Brazilian ‘football’ player, either)—and she can take some anger management for those hissy fits, too.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wednesday's Words for January 9, 2019

I recall watching an ABC news special, a few years ago, about the amazing medical recovery of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As you may recall, Representative Giffords was attacked in January of 2011 when a man opened fire at a mall where she held a “Congress on Your Corner” event, meeting and greeting her constituents. Eighteen people in all were shot, and six people—one of whom was a nine-year-old girl—died.

After having taken a bullet to the brain, initially it was believed that if Miss Giffords did survive, she would spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state.

Of course, now we see how well recovered she is, and while she’s not back to where she was before the attack, she walks and talks and understands her world, and now, her new role in making it a better world than it had been. She didn’t let this attack send her into hiding but used her experiences to help her chart a new path.

Two of the major factors cited by many in her recovery are pure force of will—and the use of music therapy.

I have heard it said that music is a universal language, and I believe that’s true. I also believe that music accomplishes more to the benefit of our bodies, our minds and our spirits than we truly know right now. The science isn’t there yet, but I believe that music is as fundamentally necessary to a healthy and happy existence as is food, air, water, and shelter.

I’m at that point in my life when sometimes, words escape me. I have to really think to remember things that a few years ago, I had no problem recalling. Our brains do change as we age, and that is something I’ve long known. The fact that I’m pushing 65, and that I do have several health issues means I’m not surprised to have a few lapses here and there. It doesn’t really bother me, at least not overly much.

A couple of weeks ago, I was going through my iTunes library. I wanted to make a Christmas play list on my PC. As I looked down the list of songs that I had purchased over the last several years, I saw that I had music I’d forgotten that I had (my library consists of more than 800 songs, a realization that left me a little slack-jawed).

There was a girl-group that was quite popular in 1990, when they came out with their debut album. They were active for a few years, and then fell off the radar, returned in 2004, and then made a comeback again in 2010 and are, according to what I can tell, still performing on stage.

The group’s name is Wilson Phillips, and their first big hit, Hold On, hit so many non-musical chords for me, that it quickly became my favorite song of all time. Well, until it was superseded by the next one.

That’s my usual relationship with music. I love so much of it and times change, and my favorite song, if I have one, depends on the moment I’m in. Right now, I have two: This Is Me, from the Greatest Showman, and Baba Yetu (The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili), by Christopher Tin.

So, there I was, in the last two weeks of 2018, doing a mental fist-pump because I had discovered that I have two Wilson-Phillips songs in my iTunes library: Hold On, and Release Me.

Task at hand completely forgotten (and that does happen fairly often), I put on the headphones, turned up the volume, and listened to the opening chords of that first hit. And then…I began to sing when the group did. To my astonishment, I remembered ever word, every pause, every extra little “uh-huh” along the way.

It was the most wonderful moment for me, because it was a moment when I realized that, as much as I focus on moving, and playing a couple of strategy games each day to keep my body and mind active, I realized there was one more thing I should be doing at least once a week, too. Something that really lifted me up and made me feel younger.

I need to do this more often—put on those headphones and reconnect with songs I have loved in the past…and maybe, who knows, it might prove to be the tonic I need, if not physiologically, then at least emotionally.

If you have access to music and a few minutes to yourself every day, I recommend that you do the same. Music not only soothes the savage beast; it can give us respite, and calm our busy, modern-day souls.

Music lifts us up and leaves us better than it found us—and that’s a wondrous thing.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Wednesday's Words for January 2, 2019

Happy New Year!

Thinking back, I’m willing to admit I may have grown up with some “different” notions on things—notions that in this day and age may not make any sense. For example, when I was a kid, it was held that Christmas was for children but New Year’s? Oh, baby, that was all about the grown-ups. I thought that meant, you know, adults partying along with Guy Lombardo at the Waldorf Astoria on their TVs, dancing at a club, the big ball at Times Square…and the endless toasts, the silly hats, and the noisemakers and confetti. You can’t forget the noisemakers and the confetti!

Now that I’m one of those grown-ups, I have come to the conclusion that this really is an amazing time of year for adults. For a few brief hours, we adults can let go of our sour moods, our cares, and the weight of the world that is constantly dragging us down. For just a breath of time, we can believe once more that anything is possible. It’s a time of new beginnings, and as we enter the New Year, as that clock chimes and the sound of Auld Lang Syne rings in our ears, we can once more feel that everything is new again—yes, even if only for a brief moment.

We’re not indulging in silly pipe dreams or flights of fancy, we’re simply celebrating the New Year!

I always feel that way, every New Year’s—and I don’t go out anywhere in order to feel it. It’s a right here in my humble home kind of feeling—likely a right here inside my mind sort of thing. This is not a logical thing, it’s completely emotional and subjective and yes, I know that in many cases it’s not based on any facts what-so-ever. Nope, it’s an off-shoot of pure living, made of pure emotion, and in thinking about the fact that it is both of those things, I have come to another conclusion.

If some people can avow with a serious looking face that truth is not truth, or that truth is unknowable, then I can say any conclusion I may draw based purely on emotion is valid and true.

This sense of new beginnings is the reason I’ve always considered spring to be my favorite season. The air smells fresh and new, there are new buds on the trees, and new flower shoots poking above the ground. It doesn’t matter how bad the winter just past has been, that sense of newness abounds.

With spring comes nature’s new birth, a sign that life does indeed carry on and the future is waiting for us to make it.

That said, I do not make any New Year’s resolutions. Yes, I know it’s a tradition, but not all traditions are necessarily good ones, as far as I’m concerned. And this one is just a giant trap, in my humble opinion, waiting to gobble me up. Created, no doubt, by someone who believed that where there is hope, there must also be disappointment.

And should anyone press me about this failure on my part, I have the perfect answer. I do not need to make resolutions for the New Year as I am asked to make them on a regular enough basis as it is. 

Allow me to explain: Every three months, I go to the doctor. I’m a diabetic, type 2, and so this is my quarterly diabetic check up. I go for blood work a few days before my appointment, so that when I get there, the doctor and nurse can see all my important medical information, including what they call a “six-month sugar” level. And every three months, at this appointment, I am asked what my goals are for the next three months.

I don’t want to portray myself as a difficult patient. I’m really not. But this is silly. I’m not a person who makes new goals every three months; I’m a long-game sort of gal. So I give them the same two goals, every three months—to keep moving, and to stay alive. They’ve also encouraged me to have a “minimum step per day” target, since I do in fact wear a step-counter.

It’s a Fitbit these days, but in past days I had a step counter pinned to the waist of my slacks. Healthy adults should aim for ten thousand steps a day. My stated goal at the moment is four thousand, but in fact I am managing between four and six thousand most days, depending. I even, every once in a while, hit that magical ten-thousand step count, but not while my arthritis is in flare-up mode.

By anyone’s definition, four to six thousand steps a day is moving, even if it isn’t at a “brisk walk”. At this point in my life I’m not capable of a brisk anything. So it’s one foot in front of the other, and I ensure I get up every hour, and I take whatever progress I can get.

I always keep “staying alive” as a goal because—well, who wouldn’t? I usually call it “staying on top of the grass”. Those were words said to me in a chat/bingo room when I first went on line in the aftermath of my open-heart surgery, back in December 2002. The “room” was filled with women, older women, most of whom had health issues. I disclosed my sad story—yes I did feel sorry for myself for a few months as I coped with this major life change at the ripe old age of 48—and one sweet lady, who was a paraplegic and also a shut-in, typed, “Morgan! Stay on top of the grass!”

Her command made me laugh and was the moment I began to not feel so sorry for myself. She gave me good advice, don’t you think? So I keep that as a non-negotiable resolution the year round, and consider that it, along with the determination to keep moving, are really the only two all year’s resolutions I really need.

I hope this new year of 2019 is a good year for your and yours. And I hope all y’all keep moving and stay on top of the grass.