What’s on the Menu of Life?


Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Life can be
Two all beef patties on a sesame seed bun,
Wan, plain, and always the same,
Served up with the requisite colorless potatoes
And washed down with an artificial cola drink,
Often eaten on the run,
A daily fare
Lacking in substance
And flavor,

OR

Life can be
Apples and brie,
Red curry paste,
Tom Kah Gai and Dim Sum,
Shared experiences,
New and exciting,
Exotic and strange,
Stuffed with nuanced flavor and
Always to be savored.

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Photo credit: Foter.com

Ferrari or jalopy?

Love.

It’s something you never think about when the gears are in motion and the machinery is chugging along. You take for granted the easy ride, but the machinery of love requires upkeep, regular tuneups in the form of outings, dates, memory-making experiences. It benefits from regular polishing with the wax of affection, carefully and deliberately applied. Smoothing oil of conversation and companionship keep the motor purring.

Neglect any one of these things and this machinery starts to break down. Gears start sticking, squeaking and squawking. The motor gets tarnished and full of gunk. Forget about the tuneups and soon you find yourself stuck by the side of the road, trying desperately to flag down help.

 

 

Share Your World 7/10/17

Here are my answers to the latest Share Your World questions:

How do you like to spend a rainy day?

I’d love to say I spend my rainy days immersed in a good book, but I’m more likely to be found on my laptop. I’ve recently discovered Lightroom, so I spend a lot of time on my pictures. If it’s not that, I might be writing or playing Civilization.

List at least five favorite treats. (They do not have to be sugary).

  • Good dark chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Sushi
  • French fries (or potatoes in any form, actually)
  • Black licorice
  • Candied ginger

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Where’s your favorite place to take out-of-town guests?

We usually end up at Silver Falls State Park. It’s beautiful and relatively close. We may end up at the Columbia River Gorge, but it’s a bit of a drive by comparison. Both places are very popular and as a result are usually crowded, but they are popular because they are beautiful.

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You are trapped in an elevator, who would you want to be trapped with?

Someone who tells good stories.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful for my sister. We hiked to Tamolich Pool with two of her kids yesterday. We’re planning another two hikes for the upcoming week, so I’ll be looking forward to that.

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Thanks again to Cee for the opportunity to share our worlds. Have a great week!

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Battling the Loneliness Monster

The monster sleeps fitfully in its lair. A vicious opportunist with an insatiable appetite, it dreams of stragglers, outliers, awkward members of the group who veer to the dangerous periphery.

The smell of solitude awakens it from its slumber. A single soul wanders into view. Fully awake now, the monster sizes up its victim. Definitely alone. The monster gets up, hungry with anticipation. It pads on stealthy paws, silently creeping up from behind. Without a sound, it pounces, grasping the prey’s neck with sharp claws and rendering it immobile. The prey, feeling the tightening grip, feeling the danger, valiantly struggles to break free as the monster’s grip intensifies. With a desperate, pleading glance, she cranes her neck to look it in the eye, but dark emptiness stares back at her.

The monster pushes her down to the ground and puts the whole force of its weight into its goal of submission.  Tenaciously it clings on, waiting for the moment of despair, salivating at the chance for a long-awaited meal.

The prey fights back. She weakly calls for reinforcements, but they are far from the periphery, where she now lies immobile. They can hardly make out her cries for help. From their vantage points they can’t see the monster. They tell her to get up, to come back to the group, and then go back to their business.

On her own, she knows she must struggle or perish. Her hands flail wildly to the sides for something within reach, something, anything with which to attack the monster. She grabs a paintbrush and beats the monster, hitting its sides, its head, prying at the claws around her neck. She feels its weight shift, its grip relax slightly, feels its energy subside, but its weight is still on top of her and sharp claws, though looser, still encircle her throat. She grabs garden clippers and stabs at it, slowly, deliberately, purposefully. It releases one strong paw in defense and swings its head around. While it’s distracted, she drops the clippers, grabs a guitar, and bashes it over the head. With a yowl, it finally releases its grip and flees back to its cave.

There it lies in fitful slumber, temporarily subdued, awaiting a chance to strike again.

 

Share Your World 7/3/17

Here are my answers to the latest Share Your World questions:

For your main meal do you prefer sweet and sour, hot and spicy, spicy and sweet, bitter, salty, bland or other?

Anything but bland. I used to love spicy, but now the heat irritates the back of my throat to the point of feeling like it’s closing, so I’ve had to tone the spice down quite a bit. I enjoy anything with complex flavors, but bland leaves me wanting more (and rifling through the cupboards for salty, sweet, etc).

Where do you hide junk when people come over?

Oh, in my bedroom, much to my husband’s dismay. Fortunately (or unfortunately) we don’t have people coming over very often. That fact should leave me plenty of time to tackle the previous hide, but it’s still there. It’s an organization thing. Overwhelming = avoidance.

What daily habit would you like to introduce to your life?

I would like to re-introduce daily workouts to my life. I’ve lost some of my hard-won fitness lately. Every day I commit to going for a run and every day I put it off for everything else. (And I have plenty of time right now. No excuses!)

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?  

I’d be the ringmaster. I have 4 kids. I’ve had plenty of practice.

Although, on second thought, I’ve been practicing on the tightrope a lot lately.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful for friends who keep me connected to my sanity.

I recently got the crossbars for the top of my new car, so this week I look forward to hitting the water with my kayak.


Thanks again to Cee for a chance to share our worlds.

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Share Your World 6-26-17

Here are my latest answers to Cee’s Share Your World:

What goal are you working on now? 

I have a list. In my end-of-the-school-year-thrilled-to-be-on-vacation frenzy, I decided on a bunch of projects instead of touring the world. I mean, how much fun is that? My goal is to work my way through the list, and I’m about halfway there – lots of painting and refreshing the house. Anyway, I’m a compulsive starter and inconsistent finisher, so every time I finish a project, I feel a little better about myself. This is my goal. To finish what I’ve started.

Here’s my list so far:

  • Repainting the walls
  • Painting the trim
  • Painting an Ikea bookshelf (tough job, not recommended)
  • Making a quilted wall hanging for my newly painted wall
  • Painting and reupholstering an old table set, the ripped vinyl (70s) seat of which I fell off of recently while using it to hang curtains (only bruised my ego)
  • Hanging curtains
  • DIYing the wine bottles that have been sitting on my counter for two months into planters
  • Staining the woodwork in my bathroom
  • Tiling the guest bathroom floor
  • Changing the shower head
  • SORTING PHOTOS (27 years worth! And I was/am an avid photographer!)

There are so many projects I could add. I have a pile of plates and shards I’ve been collecting to make mosaics, but for now, I think I’d better stick to the list.

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What is one thing you’re glad you tried but would never do again?

When my kids were young, we used to go to the local festival. My daughter was about 8 and wanted to ride on the Gravitron, the ride that is entirely enclosed and whirls you around like a salad spinner to the blaring music of 70s acid rock. I didn’t think she should go alone. We would go together. It would be fun.

Once it started up, I thought I was going to die. I literally spent the whole time praying that I would make it through, while all the young people were sliding up and down the walls having the time of their life! God answered my prayers, and I stumbled out the door, only to head to the nearest bench, pleading for my husband to just take the kids and leave me there for a while. Lesson learned.

Did you choose your profession or did it choose you?

Both. There are a lot of people in my extended family who are teachers. I think there is a mix of patience and curiosity that runs through the family that is conducive to the job. I came to the profession later in life, and part of the decision was that the work schedule would coincide with my kids’ school schedules.

Have you ever gotten lost?

Haha. Yes. Once I went to the coast by myself. I drove south along the coastline, then looked for a shortcut home. (This was back in the era of paper maps.) I found a road that looked like it went through the middle of what was a rather long loop, so I took it. It ended up being a gravel road through the coastal mountains in the middle of nowhere, and I, a young woman in an older car driving in the evening, seriously questioned my judgment at some point. I guess I was not really lost, except in the fact that I didn’t know where I was at any point on that gravel road, but it had to come out somewhere.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful for phone calls from my eldest son that cut through lonely days.

I look forward to finishing up my painting projects and retiring the paintbrushes for a while.


Thanks as always to Cee for the chance to write about my world. 🙂 Have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July, my fellow Americans! Wishing a great weekend to everyone else!

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The Zen of Sanding Chairs

Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest, and summer for this teacher means time to tackle those nagging projects. Last week was a productive week, leaving my house in disarray. A not-so-simple picture rearrangement in the dining room became a much needed wall paint touch up. That led the way to finally painting naked, primed trim a rich melted vanilla ice cream shade of white. You can’t paint trim and leave the doors grimy and grungy, so off came the door handles and on went the paint. (Mouse and your cookie, you have nothing on me!)

I have a list, and things are getting checked off. When the heat wave drove me out of my non-air-conditioned house yesterday, I sat in the shade in my front yard and painstakingly sanded down a couple of chairs from a 1930s dining set that once belonged to my grandparents. The set was an antiqued-white addition to my mom’s red 70s kitchen when I was growing up. It then adorned our little 1940-era starter home when my own kids were young. It has mostly been stored for years now, with the exception of a single chair that moves from the computer desk to the piano and back again, over and over.

Being the oblivious person that I am, I have for years overlooked the yellowing polyurethane and the ripped tomato-soup colored vinyl seat. The chair is handy, lightweight, easy to move around in its ossified, porous, dry-wood way. It’s a ninja to the knights of my current cumbersome dining set, its portability helping me to reach those top shelves of my kitchen cabinets or to hang a curtain rod, which is what I was doing recently when my foot got caught in the rip and I went down on my rear end, jarring my neck and rattling some unused portion of my brain that tends to overlook things like ripped seats on vintage chairs.

I added it to my list.

The chairs and I were about to get on intimate terms. I had already painted the one that was in my house, trying a chalk paint formula from memory, circuits of which must have been jarred as well in the fall because the 1:1 ratio I thought I remembered was actually 2:1. So off came the thick, gloppy paint job. Then, so as not to leave its siblings out, because one must always be fair, even to chairs, I pulled the others out of storage and sanded them, too.

This is not a simple, straightforward set. It has a routed scroll pattern on the backs and turned legs with depressions that are either full of antiquing stain or nearly 50 years of the dirt and dust of life. As the sandpaper did its job on the polyurethane, the white my mother had painted over the wood became apparent. I remembered her dismay when she learned that because she had painted bare wood, the set could not be stripped back down to the mahogany. I sanded over the legs and noted the distressing that came from years of feet resting on the stabilizing bar at the bottom. Those feet were our feet as children, and later my own children’s feet. With a quiet meditation I sanded. The legs of the chairs were squeaky, begging for attention, and at the corners they had been mistreated and now had jagged edges. I started thinking how like life this whole process was.20170624_124105

This connecting disconnected things could be a result of the stage I’m in, a kind of grasping-at-straws reflective process. My kids are leaving home and are busy with their own lives. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own life (though my family might choose the phrase dwelling on). I was always happy with my choices, but now as I find myself alone more and more, I am not so sure I’d make the same ones if given another chance. Having my kids? Yes. But the choice to stay at home with them in their early years is exacting a heavy toll on me right now.

With each drag of the sandpaper I pondered this life that has been given to me, all of the small moments woven together to bring me to the shade of the front yard on this miserably hot day, and how my choices and the choices of the people I love that have truly impacted it. Like the chair that had sat, unnoticed in its decline, I thought how much tending my new life really needed, how much stripping away of the old might get to the somewhat ossified, but very useful core, how much sanding down the rough edges was needed to avoid breakage and the  possibility of hurting someone, and how much a new paint job in the form of a renewed focus might bring some life to an otherwise old and tired existence.

I will return to sanding down my old chairs today, and with it my old life, my old thought patterns and expectations. I will clothe my chairs in a beautiful French inspired fabric and paint them with a new and accurate formulation of chalk paint. I will revisit the points of wear that really matter and distress accordingly. Then, when I finally rub the wax into the finished product and buff it to a smooth shine, I hope to come away with an poignant reminder of all that has been and a beautiful testament to all that remains.

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Small Things

Tonight wasn’t the night to be missing one ingredient for dinner. I was tired, and had changed out of my work clothes into my jeans and pro-science political T-shirt so I could pull weeds and wash some dishes. I tried to get Maverick to run my errand, but he was heading off with a friend. Everyone else was gone. It would have to be me.

Since the election, I exist on a reverberating wire of tension. There’s a charged electricity in the air of people just looking for an excuse to tell you what they really think. (Says the girl wearing the pro-science political T-shirt.) I decided to get gas first, and ended up behind a patriotic pick-up that was emblazoned with an American flag all across the tailgate and a Trump make America great again slogan slapped on top of it. I groaned and snapped a picture. I groan a lot anymore, like yesterday when I passed a pickup with two giant American flags fluttering behind it only to come across another one sporting a confederate flag. Just some good ol’ boys. People making statements. (Says the girl wearing the pro-science political T-shirt.) It’s a conservative town. I am the dissenting opinion. 20170602_222224

I decided on the humble bulk foods store over Safeway. I just needed some celery. And maybe an avocado… Oh, and milk! I made my way to the checkout line with the cold jug of milk in my hand. The man in front of me turned and said it was going to be a minute. The people a couple spots ahead of him were having trouble with their SNAP card. I assured him it was okay, that it’s always my line that has the problem. We chatted as we waited. The woman fiddled with the card reader while the checker exuded irritation. The man I was talking to called up ahead for the checker to just charge him for the item and give it to the people. She seemed not to hear. The couple thanked him and assured him it was alright. He paid for their item anyway and mentioned something about paying it forward.

When it was finally his turn, he bantered with the checker, spilling over with friendliness, making light of life and the high cost of groceries. She smiled. I smiled. I wanted to thank him for offering to pay for the groceries of the struggling couple. I wanted to thank him for being so kind, and so normal, and for talking to me as if I weren’t wearing a pro-science political T-shirt in a small conservative town. I was kind of glad I had to run out for one ingredient.

Some ingredients, it turns out, are indispensable.