The 19th floor

The 19th floor

I love the city. Mine is quiet, clean and not too crowded. Every two weeks I give corporate chair massage for a large law firm down town. This is my view. I am always put into a state of meditation … Continue reading

When Old is old

I’m not sure exactly what I mean when I say “Old is old.” But it seems fitting when I think about my dear grandmother who recently passed away. She had just celebrated her 97th birthday a few months earlier and in February of this year, her body was just done.

I wonder how tired she must have been. Not just physically, but in her whole being, knowing that her last day was imminent. Did she wake each morning with astonishment? Did she appreciate her time up until the very last second?  During those last few months, though living with her daughter, Grandma was mobile and quick of mind. Her hearing was pretty much shot, so the visits we had were her just taking in her surroundings and doing her best to be pleasant, even though she had no idea what we were all talking about. I’m sure it must have been very frustrating for her.

Image

Grandma with her son Steve. Notice the busy-ness of the room around her. I imagine this image captures what she lived in for quite some time.

I had a nagging feeling for months before her passing that I should write her a letter- an authentic letter that was just me really talking to her with no expectation of reply. I wanted her to know me on a deeper level than just what I was up to in my life or how the weather was in my part of town. When I wrote that letter, I felt connected to her. Her life experience, though I am only aware of bits and pieces of it, (like the time she and her sister Clea kept messing up the pastry recipe and ended up making 10 pies instead of just two), speaks volumes when she herself does not. Grandma was the most quiet woman I knew. I have only ever heard her speak up in a group setting at my little brother’s baptism. And even then, she did not get up in front of everyone, she sat directly in front of him and spoke just to him. The picture below reminded me of that. Very touching.

Image

Grandma with her son, Gary.

I sent that letter with peace, knowing that I had truly opened my heart to her. I shared deep feelings, fears and secret stories that only she and I know. I wanted her to know I still believed in her. I appreciated her and our special relationship. I told her that I still counted steps like her. (Four on her front porch. Seven on mine.)  I reminded her that “a sigh is from the heart” as she always said.

Her quiet presence actually helped me notice her. I have fond memories of sitting with her at her pink kitchen table painting her nails. I would buy her outrageously loud red nail polish, which she’d refuse to accept. She did let me paint her nails a bright neon pink on one occasion, but when I returned a few days later, she had taken it off. How nice it was for her to humor me and share fun time with me! She let me paint her nails one last time on her last birthday.

Image

Image

Aunt Vera also joined in the fun!

When I was in high school, her home was a safe place. Staying at grandmas house was a delight for me to escape my own home for a while. Her big beautiful Victorian home sits on a large plot on the corner a few blocks from the high school. Lilacs and peonies dot her yard. It is one of a few original homes of the Kamas Valley that are still standing. (The house she grew up in is just a few blocks west!)

Like most people who have lived a long time, Grandma resisted change. Each day, her breakfast consisted of a fried egg and toast. Day in and day out- an egg fried up in her little black cast iron pan on that ancient electric GE stove. When you do something so frequently, it just becomes second nature. A fried egg will always remind me of Grandma. And I find myself frying one up just in honor of her.  Of course they always tasted so much better when she fried it. Add to the egg a slice of her famous white bread (whose recipe has unfortunately has died with her) with a dollop of strawberry freezer jam and a piping hot cup of *Postum (brewed with milk, not water) and my life could not get any better! (By the way, how tragic that Postum has been discontinued!)

There are many little things that will always remind me of Grandma. Her small frame lives on in me. My hands move as hers did. My feet are her feet. My children and I will continue sit around her pink table.  What an honor it was to be able to share space with her for as long as I did.  But truth be told, that old is old and she must move on. I pray there are happy friends and family to greet her on the other side and plenty of lilacs to brighten her spirit.

Lorna Carpenter Butler, 1915-2012

Peace to you Grandma. Until we meet again. Maybe you’ll have a reply to my letter then.

 

Doing one thing at a time

I hope you enjoy this article about doing one thing at at time like I did. It is definitely food for thought!

http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2012/03/the-magic-of-doing-one-thing-a.html

Perhaps this is my answer to being more productive and focused. This week I will practice doing just one thing at a time and enjoy my down time.

Right now? I think I will go finish one of the six books that is lying neglected on my nightstand!

Chickpea Soup

I love it when I have all of the ingredients available to throw something together. This is more likely to happen when I actually go grocery shopping like I did late last night! It had been about a month since my fridge has been fully stocked (and stalked!) and today I was glad to be able to make this yummy concoction.

Picture compliments of Dr. Ben Kim

Make some for yourself and thank Dr. Ben Kim. I love his site, fully loaded with simple whole food recipes and other tips. (Click on image for website) Plus, he comes from Asian descent, so in my mind, that automatically makes him more superior in nutrition and health knowledge than most…

This soup is divine!

A few of my favorite obsessions

I don’t mean to have obsessions, but we all do it: little things that we just cannot help. They lend themselves to spectacular writing material.  In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite things and behaviors that have somehow turned themselves into minor obsessions of mine.

1) Click-clacking my teeth together. I developed this strange habit when I was 15 or 16. My teeth, out of nowhere will turn into little castanets and click back and forth horizontally across my mouth while I count.  Over and over and over  like a scratched CD. I don’t even know how high I count, and I’ll start over counting if I am clicking too fast to keep up. This strange behavior would fall easily into the Obsessive Compulsive behavior category. I don’t know exactly what triggers it. The first time I caught myself doing it, I realized it was completely weird and I shook my head as if it was a ketchup bottle to make myself stop.  So clearly I remember that I was staring trance-like out of a smudgy bus window watching the blurry landscape of Portugal whiz by. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack.

I hope my teeth don’t wear themselves down from doing this.

2) Rolling my wrists until they pop. There are eight bones that make up the wrist. I remember from my time in massage therapy school. They are called: scaphoid, lunate, triquetral, pisiform, trapezium, trapezoid, capitate and hamate. After a long day of massage and during a massage, I will roll my wrists to get some movement. It sounds like popcorn popping and it is such a relief when they release. I also will roll my wrists while I am writing or typing. It feels so good!

3) When I climb into bed at the end of a tiring day, my bedspread has GOT to be completely straight. There is something about a crooked blanket that makes me feel like a raging lunatic! This is especially true when there are seams on the blanket that give you a map by which to make it straight. Putting the sheets on the bed is no different. It must be perfect. Waking up in the morning and seeing the blanket and sheets completely disheveled can set me off at the beginning of my day. How did I let a blanket gain so much control over me? Don’t even get me started on the particulars of the weight and texture of my blanket. I have yet to find the perfect bedspread. When you share a bed with someone with completely different tastes in bedding, it can make for a strained bedroom experience. Oh the pains of my life!

4) How many little things can I get started before I actually begin the big thing? For example: Before I begin mopping my disgusting kitchen floor (which I usually avoid at all costs), I will start a load of laundry (it can work while I am), bag up the trash, start the dishwasher, put my son down for his nap….but before I can put my son down for a nap, I have to wait for the laundry to get done so I can put it into the dryer while he sleeps (dryer is in his room). So I will sweep the floors throughout my little apartment, clean the bathroom, put away some clutter, put the clothes in the dryer, put my son down for a nap and then proceed to the kitchen. The problem with the way this series of events unfolds is that by the time I finally get around to mopping the floor, I am tuckered out. It is lunch time and my four year old is finished keeping herself occupied. And that is when the water color paints come out, the crumbs continue to fall on the floor and that big thing I set out to do in the first place remains undone for yet another day. Do you ever do that?

5) Reading too many books at the same time. Right now I have my bookmarks in six books. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, The Mother in Me by Kathryn Lenard Soper, River Teeth by David James Duncan and my religious reading material. I’m just not a “one at a time” kind of a girl. These are all good reads, by the way. If you’re obsessed with non-fiction like I am. (Not counting Rand’s book…but it may as well be true, what with the way our Government is taking over in so many realms!)

6) Really good food. Right now I’m on a Mexican food kick. Enchiladas, burritos, chips and salsa! Horchata! Yum! I could eat an entire bag of corn chips. Give me some homemade salsa and I’m one happy camper! Tonight my friend shared her amazing one of a kind Grape Salsa. Oh my! So good! I just love food. Who knows what I will be onto next week!

7) Cars.

8) These Chocolate Chip Cookies.

9) Pandora Stations: Gary Jules,  George Strait, Alison Krauss, 80’s Alternative, Iron and Wine, Tracy Chapman, Raffi Children’s Radio, Gotye, Kimbra, Michael Franti and Michael Jackson to name a few. I love Pandora for its ability to meet my varied musical cravings. What is your favorite Pandora station?

10) Finding new things to learn about and be utterly obsessed about. Because what is the worst thing in this life, after all, if it is not knowing? (You can interpret that last phrase either way…)

What are some of your little obsessions?

Writing Down the Bones

I’ve always wanted to be a better writer. This blog has been a small outlet for me to express raw material to a few readers. When I post something, I never edit it. I write, do a spell check, do a once over for any major errors and quickly click “publish”. I have to do this process quickly, otherwise I will chicken out and decide what I wrote was crap. It is easy to just run away or avoid writing because of fear. I admit I do this more often than not. But I am still scared, but I am getting more brave. I’m scrave. (That is a “word salad” that little Jack from the book Room taught me.) If I can get to the last line, I’ve written something. And at least it won’t fester inside of me creating a fluster-cluck of jumbled thoughts. Those make me insane.

Writing makes me sane.

For as long as I can remember, I have always written in a journal. I have 20 or so of them lined up like crows on a power line behind me. They mostly contain crap, but at least I wrote. Every day I would scribble what I saw in front of me. I’d write about my thoughts, rambling this way and that. I’d write about how boring my day was and how I couldn’t believe I was writing such boring prose about a boring day.  And then I’d read it and think, gosh, that was boring! As I learned it, it is called Free Write.

I don’t know what happened really, but those journals slowly stopped being used. My writing hand got out of shape.(Lefty) My trusty pen lost. The internet took over. Facebook. Children. Just other things that I thought took up all the time in the world. There was no time to write. Seemingly. But I was going insane. Stuck thoughts with no outlet just banging around inside of me like a full-term baby with no exit strategy. So uncomfortable!

I must write. I’ve been getting back at it recently. And though what I write may be crap, (see previous post…no, actually- don’t waste your time on it!) at least I am writing. Writing practice makes a better writer. Eventually I will have written something so extraordinary that even I will be amazed that it could come from an individual such as I.

I attended a writing conference as a 16 year old called “Writers At Work”. It was so much fun to be surrounded by other fledgling writers like myself, as well as published authors who were sharing the tricks of the trade. I want to do something like that again. I came across a conference that is scheduled for May in Ohio that I am considering attending. I’d love to be inspired again and surrounded by others who, like me, may feel stuck in their head and need some coaching to get it out. I’d love to get some feedback on how to write a memoir. I’d like to be solid at writing Nonfiction Narrative. Because that is what naturally comes out.

In Writing Down The Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, she teaches many simple truths as they relate to writing. First and foremost, she suggests writing everyday. A free-write of whatever you want. I have written today for a few hours and already I can feel a few thoughts breaking lose like the melting ice of a frozen lake. I am learning to be uncensored and more real in my words. I am re learning how to “show, not tell”, as a dear high school English teacher taught. There are so many ingredients that go into really good writing. I acknowledge that I am missing a few essential ones and am committed to the practice of writing over and over and over to finally get it right…or is it write?

Writing with the intent to teach or share information has been my M.O., but I realize that I have been going about it all wrong. The truth is, I write to more clearly see something for myself. When I write for real, it is just me telling myself the things falling out of my mind. Here Sycamore Girl, look at this. And now turn it around and see it from this side. See what you can learn from it. Look at this. I really do write for myself. And then I get scrave and click that little blue “publish” button and wait to see what happens. I go over and over in my mind the things that a fellow blogger wrote about in his very humerus post  Did my post suck today?

Maybe it did suck. But at least I am writing.

Driving

First gear. Let the clutch up slowly. Feed the gas. Ease into the momentum. Feel the engine roar. Push the clutch in, pop it into second. Cruising easy now. Keep my hand on the gear shift, foot on the clutch and gently on the gas.

Third gear. Roll the window down. Pop the clutch, fourth gear.

Turn up the radio, put on my sunglasses. Accelerate. Clutch in…

Dang it! Red light.

Sigh. Start over.

*****FLASHBACK*****

When I was 15, I went to Logan’s “Cruise In” Car show and Independence Day parade. I will never forget the excitement I felt as the LOUD cars and motorcycles cruised past us, revving their engines and showing off their spiffy paint jobs.

I was in love. With cars. Fast, loud cars. I quickly began learning most of the makes and models of the cars I loved. And at the top of my list was…wait for it…the Honda Prelude. I know. You’d think I would have chosen a Corvette, or a Porsche or a pimped out Jeep…but no, I fell in love with the Honda’s only sports car, the Prelude. I could spot them anywhere. Any year, and color, any condition.  This was the beginning of my obsession with nice, fast and yes, loud car/trucks. They just thrill me!

During High School, I drove an old grey 1987 Jeep Cherokee Laredo that my parents had purchased because we needed 4×4, what with living in an arctic tundra and all…I loved that Jeep, but I always wanted to remove its mud flaps and give it a suspension lift. Up the ante on the tires and of course, give it a paint job. The mud flaps always kept it too clean when I would attempt to go “mudding”. Can you picture it? Yup, I was a wild one, folks! My parents soon heard the cry of an embarrassed 16-year-old and took me and Dear Jeep to get a much-needed paint job. I chose a Bright and sparkly Burgundy Red. It was great! Then the day came when I was traveling over the mountain and I hit a deer. Ouch. Poor Jeepy! (Don’t worry, the deer died quickly.) I drove home with my radiator leaking and probably a lot of other damage that would later kill her. I drove around with smashed deer parts on my grill for a long time. It was SO COOL!

Fast forward to college. I was still in love with that little Prelude.  And my Dad, because he loves me so much, surprised me one day with a 1989 Honda Prelude. White, fully loaded and complete with a Moon Roof. We soon became fast friends. We’d go zipping around town, just she and I. My first Standard engine car, my first real love! My first 180 MPH. My first ticket. And my second. And third. I also had my first accident, but it was NOT my fault. I got backed into by some 16-year-old boy who had just gotten his license. And what’s worse is that we were both in the turning lane and he decided to back his big-butt VAN up…I honked, but my little car was not to be seen. Who backs up in a turning lane?! Arg! I digress. So after a smashed headlight and a little of my ego deflated (I can imagine what HIS felt like!), I continued to drive my little smashed car around. My roommate’s boyfriend fixed my car for $300 and we were again a happy and attractive duo, zipping and shifting and getting tickets left and right! Totally worth it. I loved that car.

But alas, my life took a change and I needed to sell her. Goodbye love. Good Bye Prelude. I was so sad when they stopped manufacturing them in 2001.

Other cars I have owned/driven:

Toyota Corolla
Chevy Malibu
Oldsmobile Alero (what was I thinking?!)
Honda Accord ’90 (Rita was her name, and I still miss her!)
Nissan Maxima
Toyota Tundra (Rick was his name. And he was LOUD and FAST and a complete impulse buy.)
Toyota Camry
Honda Accord (’00)
Toyota Prius (’06) Currently driving.

Right now, with two kids, we fit pretty snug in our little Prius. This car has been great. It is economical, gets great gas mileage (definitely better when my husband drives it) and works for what we need at this point in our lives. But when I’m dreaming, these are the cars I would love to give a spin:

1966 Corvette Stingray. (See Corvette link above) Actually, I have driven one of these. Very fast down the freeway. Almost lost its top! What a blast!

BMW X5
Porsche Boxster
Range Rover
Toyota FJ (Husband’s dream car)

and on the flip side:

I’m totally into the Volkswagen Westfalia camper vans right now. They are now collectors items here in the States. I recently saw one for sale around here. I immediately called on the van. Get this: 1988 van, rebuilt engine with low miles, decent condition selling for $14,000! Wowsa! I could get a NEW car for that!
If you live in the Netherlands or Holland, however, you CAN get a VW van- they still make them there! Read this article to learn about that.
Oh how I’d LOVE to tote my little family around in a VW van. My husband laughs, but I’m dead serious! If one day we happen to be resigned to being a “minivan” family (not saying there is anything wrong with that!) then I’d rather it be a COOL minivan!

In the mean time, I’ll just keep cruising around in my little Hybrid Prius and save my pennies.
PS – I still like to play “Name that Car” with whoever will challenge me. 🙂

*****

First gear. Second. Third, feel the pull. Fourth, we’re opening up now. Fifth gear! Freedom!

Montessori School

For years, I have been interested in the Montessori method of schooling my children. Even before I had children of my own, I knew that I wanted to send my kids to a private Montessori institution. After having worked in a public school setting for a school year, my heart was saddened by how many children I saw without a light in their eye. The following video may help you understand what I mean when I say that.

My 4 year old daughter is a Learner. She, like most children her age, is naturally inquisitive, probing, independent and a hard worker. I would hate to see that natural drive be thwarted by an educational system that seems to be broken. I love the Montessori philosophy. I love the innovative thinking and I love that it is a Child-led learning environment. We do our best to provide this same way of being in my home. We have held off on enrolling our 4 year old in a conventional preschool program. (You can read my reasons here) But as my daughter is maturing, I can see that she may be ready for something beyond what we are doing here at home, either that, or I need to up my game. (Which translates to Homeschooling…) And I am not talking about traditional academia. I am talking about keeping that flame of wanting to learn alive! I believe my responsibility as a parent is to cultivate that natural drive. And I believe that providing my children with the best possible education is part of that responsibility. (Whether from our home or an institution.) Speaking of “upping my game”, I think I could spend my entire life savings in this store!…then I wouldn’t need to enroll my children in a school!

There are many Montessori school in my area, however they carry an expensive price tag. It is a price I am willing to pay and the time is soon approaching that I need to take a step forward for enrollment. This reminds me of Gilmore Girls when Lorelei finally breaks down and exchanges the cost of tuition for Rory to attend a prestigious Private High School for Friday night dinners each week! (Pilot) (I don’t think it will come to that. We already have dinner with my parents a lot.)

Anyhow…if you are unfamiliar with the Montessori method, or you see your own child struggling with conventional schooling , I hope you’ll take some time to learn about the other great options for educating your children and what you can do at home to help them rekindle that fire. There are some great videos that follow the one above that you can watch.  I feel so excited about this!!! Seriously excited.

From the above link “montessori method” :

The potential of the child is not just mental, but is revealed only when the complete “Montessori method” is understood and followed. The child’s choice, practical work, care of others and the environment, and above all the high levels of concentration reached when work is respected and not interrupted, reveal a human being that is superior not only academically, but emotionally and spiritually, a child who cares deeply about other people and the world, and who works to discover a unique and individual way to contribute. This is the essence of real “Montessori” work today.


In other news, said 4 year old daughter had her very first piano lesson yesterday! She loved it!

Follow up on ROOM

I thought I would take a moment and share more of my thoughts about the book I mentioned and finished a few weeks. If you haven’t read it yet, you probably would want to skip out on reading this post, as it may spoil it for you. But maybe not.

I just need to say that it was exactly what I needed to read. I don’t usually read fiction books, so when I picked this one up, it took me by surprise. Still being in a bit of a funk from the previous weeks (of emotional hell!) reading Room took me on a journey of personal introspection. I found myself feeling very connected to the little boy, Jack. The narrative he gave using his juvenile  language, his raw thoughts and bravery felt as if he was me as a child. I identified with his major reality change and the real terrifying feelings that those changes conjured up. But in the end, he was okay. A little scared and probably needing a few years of therapy, but okay. Like me.

He was me. In the 18 years since my reality change as a youth (divorce), I never have been able to voice the pain I felt. Until Jack said it for me. He was taken out of his perfect world where he knew nothing of the outside. To him, the 11×11 room was all he knew. His entire existence had been lived in that small space! So how could he know what he was missing? How could he understand what his mother was feeling, being hidden away and held captive from her world for 7 years? To Jack’s mother that 11×11 space was her death sentence, but to Jack it was his only reality. So imagine being taken out of the only thing that has been constant- now the world becomes Jack’s death sentence, but blissful freedom to his mother.

Room gave me a different perspective of my dear mother. I don’t fully understand everything about why she left, nor do I think it is necessary to really know anymore. The fact is that she felt trapped in her “11×11” space and broke out. Which ripped me from my comfortable, happy and naive existence. It was scary and difficult to adjust without her constant company. It felt like one day she was there, and the next she was gone. She was my 11×11, my safety. Adjusting was difficult, but I made it.

I don’t mean to make this sound like a “woe is me” story- its not. I needed to record my own little “coming to Jesus” feelings as I read Room. I really do feel like it altered my thoughts in such a dramatic way. I feel like I understand myself on a whole new plane. And I am closer to understanding my mother. And that is such good news.

In addition to all of that. I came away from the book with a new compassion for my own children. I must be more respectful of their realities as they grow. Yes, children are resilient, but change is difficult and can be damaging. I am so in love with their little selves. So in love. I am committed to doing all that is in my power to provide them with the continuity they need to grow into a better adult than I am. Preserving innocence, teaching adaptability and a love for people, learning and an understanding of who they really are– these are key components that each and every child needs for living the most peaceful and glorious life. No matter what size of “room” you grow up in.

Saving your life, one coconut at a time

It sorta makes my stomach turn to think about the summer I regularly drank Diet Coke.  I drank it because I preferred the taste to a fully-leaded Coke. I drank it for a boost of energy (caffeine) and I drank it socially. ie- “Lets go on a Coke run!”

Now if I even have one drink I get headaches and my stomach is not happy. I know aspartame is only part of the problem in dark sodas like cola and other sugar-free products, but after reading this article, I really don’t see why the FDA doesn’t make it illegal to add to products! I guess it is only a matter of time! Hopefully.

With side-effects like: increased risk for cancer, mental disorders and degeneration of brain cells, headaches, weight gain (WHAT?!) and increased blood sugar, why do we (collectively) still consume this chemical?!

If you eat or drink DIET or sugar-free anything, I hope you’ll take the time to read the article and others like it. It may save your life, or something like that.

In other news, my preferred drink these days is coconut water.  The health benefits of this drink, though not ALL substantiated, are A.MAZING. I’m in love. Have you tried it?!  I’ve tested about 5 different brands and when I get the chance, I stock up on these. Or these. Worth every penny.