Wednesday, December 04, 2013
I didnít send a Christmas newsletter this year. What was I going to say? Tom and I and the kids are fine, but it was a rough year for Dads?
My father died on March 1st, at the age of 99, and Tomís father died on October 10th, at 90.
One of my fatherís long ambitions was to live to be 100. When I saw him last January he said, ďI was born in 1913 and this year is 2013, so I lived to be 100.Ē When I reminded him that his birthday was the last day of the year, so he had a little ways to go to reach 100, he smiled and said, ďClose enough. Close enough.Ē And I knew he was ready. Six week later he got up for breakfast, got up again for lunch, laid down for an afternoon nap and died quietly in his sleep.
Tomís father George had a slowly growing brain tumor that reduced his ability to connect thoughts to words, and a progressive lung disease that made it difficult for him to get enough oxygen. His last few days were difficult, but his final hours were peaceful. He lived to be 90 and died in his own bed in the house he built 57 years ago.
Both our Dads lived long and productive lives. They spent their lives doing the right thing rather than pursuing happiness, but they were nonetheless happy men.
My husbandís Aunt Peg died this year, too, 15 days after her only sibling, George, at the age of 84. She had never married nor had children. She was well educated and an artist, but she never had to work for money. Her father left her the income from a family trust, and that supported her, but she had no ownership or control of the trust, and I think she deeply resented this. She was a very private person, but I enjoyed her company and I wish I had taken more time to get to know her.
People grieve in different ways. I joined a church. I was raised a Lutheran, and Iím more liberal than conservative, so I looked for a church affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. My father always thought women could and should have whatever career they liked, so I sought out a female pastor. He would have liked Pastor Sarah. My new church has brought me a lot of joy and peace. I think the Lord led me there.
My husband is cleaning the basement. Iíve been telling him for years that he needs to sort through his stuff so the kids wonít have to some day. After his father died he stood in the living room of the house he grew up in and after looking around at 57 years of accumulated stuff, he said, ďThe kids donít want it.Ē Tom is finally going through all his old electronics, cameras, empty boxes, etc. and selling, tossing or donating stuff. If we live to be 99, like my Dad, we have 35 years left to play with our toys, but it doesnít matter. Itís only stuff.
Things donít matter. The people we love, and the people who love us back, matter.
I was sent a poem recently that I want to share:
Out of the World There Passed a Soul
The day of my motherís funeral I spend clearing out
her overgrown flower beds, down on my knees
in the leaf rot, nut shells, tiny grains of sandlot sand
spilling from the runoff gullies. The hot work was to see
not feel what had to be done, not to go on asking,
not to wonder anymore. Full from scraps Iíd found
at the back of the refrigerator, her mongrel dog
lay curled on a stone and watched me work.
It was Sunday. The telephone rang, then stopped,
then rang again. By the end of the day, Iíd done
what I could. I swept the walk, put away the tools,
switched on the indoor safety lamps, and then
(it hardly matters what I think I felt) I closed
the gate on a house where no one lived anymore.
by Sherod Santos
I get these poems through American Life in Poetry, edited by Ted Kooser, US Poet Laureate. Please follow the link to the website.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
I meant to post this yesterday, cut didn't get around to it. What are you doing to fight climate change?
Today is Earth Day. The theme this year is climate change.
Itís pretty obvious that the climate of the earth is changing Ė we are experiencing more violent storms and higher average temperatures, the oceans are warmer and the polar ice is melting.
I believe that human activities are causing, or accelerating, this change. The climate on earth has changed before, but never as rapidly as since humans starting using fossil fuels to power their electrical plants and automobiles.
I read an interesting book some time ago called Collapse by Jared Diamond. He writes about the collapse of previous civilizations, such as those that flourished on Greenland and Easter Island. Diamond says, very convincingly, that these societies collapsed after they cut down all the trees. Trees also take carbon dioxide from the air; so fewer trees mean more carbon in the atmosphere and more warming. Will we cut down enough trees to cause an earth-wide collapse of civilization? Itís possible.
Diamond also speaks of the problems associated with the United Statesí addiction to big cars and big, climate-controlled homes. He says the real problem is that the developing world wants the same cars and homes. He suggests we imagine what the world will look like when every Chinese family owns an SUV and every residence on the sub continent of India is air-conditioned. Even if the US froze their carbon emissions where they are today, would the rest of the world also freeze theirs? Itís going to be difficult to say, ďWe will keep our cars and air-conditioning, thank you, but you canít have the same things because of global warming.Ē
Our Congress could set strict fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and institute a carbon tax to help control carbon emissions from power plants, but I donít see that happening any time soon. So Iím not sure what we can do, except make small changes individually to use less fuel, and to save as many trees as we can.
My kids are doing their part. My daughter does not own a car. She depends on public transportation. My son has volunteered to help a group that plants and tends trees in California. They are both moving to smaller, more efficient apartments this summer.
I have enough trees in my back yard to call it a carbon sink. I drive a small car. Other than that, I can only pray that the world wakes up to the problem of climate change before it gets much worse.
I donít have any poems about climate change, so I am sharing one, just for fun, about squirrels.
Another Squirrel Tale
With them being all around my house
and even coming in at times,
how could I not have another squirrel
caper to report?
What I wanted to say of them was, that
I think they can give blessings. Surely
they are like little angels nesting in trees,
who like nuts.
I think they might even be able to
foretell winning lottery numbers, or
point out a good person to date, if you
But you have to be kind to them, or
they will never divulge they can talk.
From A Year With Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
I wanted to do cycle spin classes for a long time, but I was afraid they would be too difficult for me. I finally got up my nerve and started last summer. Now I just love it. Cycle spin is a terrific workout, I really sweat like crazy, and my heart rate goes up nicely. At the same time, itís easy on the joints. My butt hurt for the first four sessions, even with the padded bike shorts, but after that it quit bothering me. There are all ages, sizes and shapes of people doing cycle spin. Donít think you have to be a super athlete to spin. If you want a good, fun workout, give it a try.
Of course, like any fitness class, the instructor makes a big difference.
My Tuesday night cycle spin instructor is Zack. He's a well-muscled, not too tall, blond guy. He's pretty easy on the eyes, in an innocent kind of way.
Zack is a little bit OCD as far as spinning goes. He times everything exactly, as in: We'll do a seated moderate climb for 20 seconds, followed by a seated difficult climb for 20 seconds, then a standing difficult climb for 20 seconds. Weíll recover for 30 seconds, and then repeat. He lays it all out for us, which is nice because I can really pace myself. He is also particular about having every joint and muscle placed exactly so - lift your hips one inch off the seat, lean forward, not too much weight on your hands, with tight abs and heels dropped.
He plays music, of course, as do all spin instructors, but it's just kind of background. If the planned routine is 3 minutes long, and the song is 3 minutes, 20 seconds, he turns the volume down for the last 20 seconds while he talks over it to get us ready for the next routine. It's a little disconcerting to never really finish a song.
But I sweat more for Zack than for anybody else, and all that structure makes the time go by fast, so he's one of my favorites.
My Saturday morning Cycle spin instructor is Jeff. He is a tall, muscular black guy with an earring and a Mohawk. When he is not a fitness instructor he sings karaoke. He was music major in college and he has an amazing play list. Sometimes at the beginning of class he sings along while we spin. (No one has breath to sing by the end of class.) Last week he was playing "Name the artist" for each tune he played. I am hopeless at that game, having absolutely no musical memory at all. I needed to have my son there. (He has an amazing memory for music.)
You would love Jeff! The thing about spinning is you set the tension on the bike wherever you want it, so you can work as hard (or not) as you like. Jeff is all about pedaling to the beat of the music. (Something I am also hopeless at - no rhythm - so I pedal to the beat of my own drummer.) His classes really are fun, so heís one of my favorites, too.
I do Mikeís class sometimes. He is a little disorganized, but he plays great music from the 70ís, which I love.
Brian is absolutely gorgeous, plays great music, and is totally structured, but heís gone back to school so heís not teaching any more. (Sob)
Steve is completely random, and more than a little boring, so I probably wonít do his class again.
Julie spins like an anorexic maniac. I wonít do her classes, either.
Debbie is calm and focused, gentle almost. I can do Debbie.
If you start to spin, be sure to bring a towel (for the sweat) and a big bottle of water. The padded bike shorts are nice, and so are the special bike shoes that clip to the pedals. The shoes make it easier to pedal in a full circle rather than only applying pressure on the down stroke.
So Ė conquer your fears and look for a spin class. If you donít like one instructor, find another. Keep going back until you toughen your buns. Pedal hard enough and fast enough to sweat. And enjoy!
Hereís a poem that really speaks to me now that I am retired and can do just about whatever I want:
Who Wants Those?
I am at a juncture now where I never have to
be serious again.
If I act that wayósober and concerned about
something . . . it is just a charade.
For people who are serious, well, letís face it . . .
they seem to have lots of problems.
And who wants those?
From ďA Year With HafizĒ by Daniel Ladinsky
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
We all have up days and down days. Some days we eat good foods in sensible amounts. Other days we fill up on junk. Some days we have fun exercising. Other days we sit on our butts and do nothing. This doesn't mean we are doomed to failure. If today goes badly, try again tomorrow. Don't give up if you are not perfect. Aim high and see what happens.
The following poem is so hopeful. I love it.
Sometimes things donít go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops donít fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they canít leave a stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
by Sheenagh Pugh
Sunday, January 20, 2013
The NRA is selling fear: Buy a gun because ďtheyĒ are coming to get you and a gun will protect you. Only a gun does not protect you. You are more likely to die or be injured from gun violence if you own a gun than if you donít.
The following poem is one Iíve loved for a long time.
ďTrue believers in liberty, and also securityĒ seems like an apt thought for the times.
The puzzled ones, the Americans, go through their lives
Buying what they are told to buy,
Pursuing their love affairs with the automobile,
Baseball and football, romance and beauty,
Enthusiastic as trained seals, going into debt, struggling ó
True believers in liberty, and also security,
And of course sex ó cheating on each other
For the most part only a little, mostly avoiding violence
Except at a vast blue distance, as between bombsight and earth,
Or on the violent screen, which they adore.
Those who are not Americans think Americans are happy
Because they are so filthy rich, but not so.
They are mostly puzzled and at a loss
As if someone pulled the floor out from under them,
They'd like to believe in God, or something, and they do try.
You can see it in their white faces at the supermarket and the gas station
ó Not the immigrant faces, they know what they want,
Not the blacks, whose faces are hurt and proud ó
The white faces, lipsticked, shaven, we do try
To keep smiling, for when we're smiling, the whole world
Smiles with us, but we feel we've lost
That loving feeling. Clouds ride by above us,
Rivers flow, toilets work, traffic lights work, barring floods, fires
And earthquakes, houses and streets appear stable
So what is it, this moon-shaped blankness?
What the hell is it? America is perplexed.
We would fix it if we knew what was broken.
Alicia Suskin Ostriker
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