Tuesday, June 29, 2010

So Help Me God - Or Not...

I have a crush on the Dalai Lama. I love his smile, and his occasional giggle. I love the twinkle in his eye. I love his insight, his intelligence, and his honesty. In a recent interview I heard him talk about his gall bladder surgery, adding, "See? Some people think I have healing powers. It isn't true. I'm just a man. Not special. If I could heal, I would have healed myself without the surgery." And he laughed.

I love what he represents -- thousands of years of spirituality that predates and is reflected in Christianity. Although my major in school was psychology, I also studied all the major religions, and wrote my PhD thesis on the psychology of religion and its influence on the self-help movement. I was left with a lasting impression of the commonalities between religions -- Christianity and Buddhism, for example -- despite the fact that their differences are usually at the core of most discussions.

I don't believe in packaging religion and selling it like breakfast cereal -- "This one meets all your needs, and is far superior to anything else on the market. See the pretty picture on the box? And all it costs you is what you are willing to drop in the basket every Sunday morning, or the check you are willing to write to prove your love of God. " I don't think this is what either Buddha or Jesus quite had in mind for us.

When my daughter was young a friend invited her to church. She accepted, and later went to church camp with her friend. When she came home and told us she wanted to attend services regularly, we supported her, and went with her every week, even breaking into various discussion groups after the services. At one such time a couple was asked for a progress report on their efforts to convert their neighbors from their current denomination to this one. "We're working on it. I think they're coming along," we were told. Sorry, but that made me uncomfortable. It seemed to me like a group of brunettes trying to talk some blonds into dying their hair, as though dark brown is somehow superior to yellow. Hello? And people who are bald headed? Well, they may just be beyond saving, I suppose.

When we stopped attending that church, however, it was because the minister spent valuable pulpit time beseeching his flock to "give more generously" so that the church could purchase a new and glorious pipe organ that would outshine all others in our area. Excuse me? Give more generously so that we can feed more hungry families maybe, but bigger, shinier pipes, for Pete's sake? Puh-leese...

Years later I tried going back to the church where I had been baptized as a child. The current pastor was one of the worst speakers I've ever endured, and spent most of his sermon complaining about membership falling off so dramatically. "Bring in the sheep," he told the congregation! "If you can't convince someone to join us, let me know and I'll visit them personally. Maybe I can convince them!" Needless to say, this did not inspire me.

Still, there's something about a church that just... feels good. Especially if you can find one with stained glass windows and without TV monitors mounted at various locations for sharper viewing of the rock band up front and/or easier reading of the lyrics to contemporary songs that somehow seem shallow if you're... my age. I would say I've been spoiled by the Native American Sweat lodge ceremony, which hasn't changed in centuries except to substitute heavy carpeting for animal skins to cover the birch branch frames -- but over the years I've seen even that form of worship besmirched. Not only have non-native wannabes stripped it of its spiritual ambiance, but many Native Americans have also taken it in the wrong direction. Twenty-five years ago I had to earn the right to participate (by chopping and stacking firewood, and pulling weeds). The last time I considered revisiting the old stomping grounds I phoned ahead and was told, "Sure. $20 per person."

What this all boils down to is, I believe if we can't find inspiration inside ourselves, we're not going to find it outside ourselves either. If we can find it inside ourselves, we need to take it with us wherever we go -- because it's not gonna be there waiting for us.

Fortunately, every time I see the Dalai Lama, mine bubbles to the surface. That's why I have his picture framed and hanging on my wall.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Church Wedding Brings Horses to My Mind

I went to a wedding yesterday. I didn't know the bride or groom or anyone else who was there, for that matter --except my daughter-in-law, who asked me to be "her date" when my son wasn't able to go with her. It was a sweet wedding -- church with stained glass windows, organ music, traditional "Bridal March," white dress and veil, and the most adorable little flower girl you would ever wish to see. I loved it! I'm such a sap for that sort of thing. I had to dab at my eyes and couldn't even tell you why at the time.

Looking back though, I think it may have been because a wedding is such a turning point in the lives of two people who haven't the foggiest idea what lies ahead of them. They're young (or not), in love, filled with hopes, overwhelmed by dreams, absolutely certain that their marriage will be like no other! For those --like me, who have been there, done that -- the eyes may mist over a bit because we know better.

Weddings such as this one are rare today, I'm sorry to say. So many couples just choose to live together, or run off to the courthouse or to an in-and-out chapel somewhere. To each his/her own, of course. Frank and I had a very simple ceremony ourselves, but it wasn't the first for either of us. My first was as traditional as the one I went to yesterday, and it only lasted seven years, six and five-sixths of which were unhappy -- so who am I to say what's best and what's not? But that's not the point.

The point is that a wedding marks a new beginning, by virtue of which it also marks an ending. Two innocents who have been romancing each other cloaked in moonlight and love songs are now buckling in to partner up in the business of facing reality. Not always a smooth ride. So a wedding is a happy occasion, but also a sad one in a way.

Yesterday's blushing bride and glowing groom met through a dating service on line. Their first phone conversation lasted seven hours! They dated for two years before taking the big step. I genuinely wish them all the best. But at my age I've seen the rise and fall of so many marriages, this may be another reason why I fought yesterday to hold back tears. I have my views about what makes the difference between a good one and a bad one.

In my opinion, the marriage that lasts is the marriage of two people who, without even thinking about it, each put the other's happiness above their own.... who both put the happiness of the other above their own. Doesn't work if only one of them "gets" this. It absolutely must be reciprocal, and natural (as opposed to forced). Marriage is like two horses pulling a cart, where sometimes one is weaker so the other has to be stronger, one is tired so the other has to pull harder, and that switches off from time to time, working out evenly enough that the cart continues moving forward despite stops and starts, pot holes in the road, and an occasional storm that hits with or without relent. Each horse is looking out for the other. Neither one can make it "all about me."

I know for a fact that sometimes on an easy trail, a horse becomes complacent. Lets the mind wander. Maybe stubs a toe, which brings the outer world back into sharp focus. I also know sometimes a horse remains tense, hyper vigilant, spooking now and then or even running out of control. Putting a good team together means finding personalities that complement each other. One horse may calm the other down, or perk the other up, and they can then function more efficiently than either would without the other.

Energy is ever flowing, however. Changes are constant and erratic. A problem arises when the give and take between members of a team wobbles out of balance. If one carries the load for too long while the other slacks off and settles into a comfortable rut, the writing is on the wall and it ain't directions to the winner's circle. That's why horses must (repeat must) pay close, constant attention with the intention of staying on track and reaching their goal... together.

When I hear young people talk about how hard marriage can be I say, "Yes, yes, I know, I know. Frank and I are coming up on 35 years and we're still working at it." Divorce is difficult as well -- though in many ways much easier today than "back when." I say as long as a couple is willing to work at one (marriage) or the other (divorce) -- it's always better to build something you've committed to than to tear it down and go separate ways (often to repeat past mistakes).

Bottom line: There's nothing better than a good marriage and nothing worse than a bad one, but relationships don't steer themselves. We hold the reins. The responsibility rests in our hands.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Mysteries of Life

One of the cool things about blogging is that it's an avenue along which a writer can practice writing. "They" say to be a good writer, one must write regularly. Which only makes sense, if you think about it. How good a tennis player would you be if you only played now and then, compared to every day?

The challenge, I find, is deciding what to write about. Well, that's an easy one if something exciting has happened to you -- of course that's what you're going to write about! But what if nothing exciting is going on in your life? Then, it seems, you resort to writing about the ordinary.
I begin by asking myself, "So, what's on your mind, Ginny?" Today there are three things which, at first glance, seem unrelated. But maybe not.

1) Does anyone know, can anyone tell me, why birds will fly into a window pane of glass and fall to the ground dead, having broken their own necks? This happened three times within a two week period (months back), and it occurred to me that one of our trees has berries of some sort, and it might be that the birds ate the berries which somehow affected their brain (the way alcohol does), and they were drunk, so to speak. This theory makes more sense than the possibility of deliberate suicide, since there were three incidents spaced so closely in time. If it were just a matter of seeing the outdoors reflected in the glass and mistaking it for reality, that would make sense also, but then why only three birds over two weeks, instead of a bird now and then year round? It's a mystery to me. I was sitting in the living room two out of the three times, and I really hate when it happens. First there is the sound that occurs, then the fleeting hope that the bird survived, then the running to the window to look onto the ground, only to have my hopes dashed.

2) What in the world is going on with General McChrystal and Rolling Stone Magazine? As I understand it, a reporter was embedded in the General's workplace in Afghanistan for a month or two, observing as well as interviewing. He then wrote disparaging remarks that were made there regarding our President and his administration. I realize this is a serious no-no, because I've had family members in the military refuse to comment on the then/now sitting president, in observation of military regulations and out of fear of reprisal. So I'm thinking if McChrystal's people said what they are quoted as saying, what the hell were they thinking??? Factor in that McChrystal comes from black ops training and installation, and you would think that he would be particularly keen on discretion. Wouldn't you? It seems that he has flown into a pane of glass. But why?

3) I woke up a little after five this morning, happy to be awake because I had just had a nightmare. It had a holocaust theme to it, with a group of coal miners returning on a train to a scene where all their women and children had been... done away with... in a quite grizzly fashion. What the? Where did that come from? One theory is that bad dreams such as this one, is our brain's way of preparing us for future crises... providing an opportunity to rehearse our reactions so that, should the need arise, we will be able to deal with reality better. Hello! I'd rather skip the rehearsal, if you don't mind! If ever I need to totally fall apart, I'm sure I'll do quite well at it without practice. Another theory is that, because (thank God) our lives are pretty darned good -- we really do have it made in comparison to other cultures and other areas of the world -- bad dreams are a way of introducing some bad into the good, to create psychological balance (as in yin and yang -- In all bad there is good and in all good there is bad, and the balance is, Taoism teaches, what keeps the universe from spinning out of existence). So maybe a nightmare is Nature's way of helping us out? I could research this, of course, but I won't. Too many other things to do, with higher priority.

So those are the three things on my mind this morning, and I can see how the first two are interrelated, but the third has me stumped. I'm not Jewish, I'm not German, and in past life regression (a viable form of therapy often misused as entertainment or as source of undeserved income) I've never regressed to a time or place involving the holocaust. So I can't figure that one out, but I do have a busy day ahead of me so I'll distract myself, with all due respect to the underlying reality of the dream. One thing about life that I will never comprehend is man's inhumanity to man. If I dwell on it, however, I'm sure to have a crappy day and that serves no purpose that I can see.

So I'm changing my focus now to stop thinking about the bad, and to think about the good. Those who realize we actually have a choice are the fortunate ones. Reminds me of a quote I used in my book, The Rising Tide Model for Self-improvement -- "I cried at first... and then, it was such a beautiful day, that I forgot to be unhappy.." (Frances Noyes Hart (1890-1943)

Monday, June 21, 2010

My Exciting Story

There's something that happens when I look at my horse and she looks at me. I've had horses before, and it didn't happen when our eyes met. It only happens with Brandi. There are certain pictures of her where I can see it. too. I show the photos to other people and ask, "Can you see it?" They almost always say something like, "Uhh, yeah, maybe." I have polite friends.

I don't know what "it" is, but it's not a visual thing because the same thing happens when I hear certain music. I get lost in certain music, and I mean "lost" in a good way. Maybe I get lost in Brandi's eyes, too.

One of the reasons I'm so happily married to my husband of 34 years is that, after playing tennis on our first date, we went to my place, drank wine coolers, and... listened to music. Till 3:00 a.m. He was the first person in my life to actually listen to my music with me. He got it! Factor in that he looked so much like John Denver he grew a moustache so people would stop telling him so, and poor Frank didn't stand a chance -- the man was mine!

So I'm writing about the "it" that happens rarely, but always in some spectacular way. It's kinda like a spark ignites on some level deep down inside, and you're different because of it. It happens when you least expect it. Like walking out of a social event a year or so back, and being introduced to Jennifer Lind by her husband, who knew my husband. Andrew said, "Jennifer is recording a CD of cowboy songs." Not country/western, he went on to explain. Cowboy. It happened. (She gets it!) Now I adore her.

So after obsessing over her CD when I was finally able to buy one (I actually bought 10 and gave one to the 9 most special people in my life), I eventually came back to my senses and now I only listen to it all the time. I don't know her well enough to say she's an angel, but I can unequivocally say she sings like one!

Now here's where asking you to understand "it" may begin to seem unreasonable of me. After seeing Jennifer perform "live" recently, I of course blogged about it, and sent Jennifer a link. She sent my blog to her mentor -- THE Randy Sparks. (If you don't know who that is, I suggest you find out, you cretin! And if you don't know what a cretin is, you need to find that out also.) Randy Sparks replied to Jennifer, and he sent me a CC. Can you imagine what happened when his name popped up on my list of incoming e-mail? That's right. "It" happened. An OMG electric moment. Randy Sparks!

But wait, there's more. Just in case you don't know this, which is hard for me to fathom, Randy Sparks gave John Denver his start (along with many others). JOHN DENVER!!! Now if you know me personally, you know how I feel about John. I mean there's no way you could understand how I feel about him, (unless you feel the same way, and then only maybe) but you certainly know about it because it's one of those things I never shut up about. So can you imagine my reaction when, in his e-mail, Randy said he was sending my blog to John's uncle, Dave Deutschendorf, who is a member of the New Christy Minstrels (as is Jennifer)? Talk about sparks -- they're now flyin' all over the place and it's not even 4th of July!

How can such a single, simple thing as a name on your monitor be so transforming? It's like I expect people to look at me differently now and say, "Hmmm... there's just something about you..." and I will think but not say, "Well DUH. I just got an e-mail from Randy Sparks!" Okay, okay, I will say it if I get the chance.

So, sorry, I can't explain what "it" is, and if I could, well that would be some kick ass writing. I just know that it is, to toss a little Zen your way. Randy shares "it" through his music, Jennifer projects it, and when John died, he left some of "it" behind for folks like me. Maybe "it" is the glue that holds our hearts together when they've been broken .

Let's be clear here - I am 68 years old and edging close to 69. So I am not a giggling girl in her teens, idolizing some special "packaged" people from afar. They're not performers I "like" - they are... well crap, words fail me. Except for when it comes to John, I can say this. He wasn't just a singer with a cute country way about him. John was Life with a capital L. John... got it. Fortunately some others who get it too, but there will never be another John. Thank God he lives on through his music. And if you don't get that, well, there's still hope. Listen to him sing.

Know how "I SEE you" took on special meaning in the popular movie Avatar? That's the way to HEAR good music.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Live Music Lives On

We had such a good time last night with Jennifer Lind and The Hired Guns, who were entertaining at Abundance Vineyards in Lodi! I say "with" them not "watching" or "listening" to them, because it wasn't like they were there and we were here... we were clearly all in it together. Jennifer knows how to connect with her audience, and her love of music makes it come alive.

I love, love, love her voice, and I play her CD Cowboy State of Mind endlessly in my Ranger, mostly when I'm driving to/from the ranch where my horse is boarded. Sometimes I sing some of the songs to Brandi while we're horsing around. Using the term "sing" loosely, of course. I'll have to be careful never to let her hear Jennifer, or she might cowkick me for being such a piss-poor copycat.

One of the exciting things about Jennifer (besides her exquisite talent) is that Randy Sparks is her mentor. Randy Sparks knew John Denver, and in fact gave John his last name as a replacement for Dutchendorf. Since I know Jennifer, who knows Randy, who knew John, this gives me only three degrees of separation from my all time favorite, and it's a bonus that I love Randy's music and Jennifer a lot as well. But John Denver will always hold a special place in my heart.

I saw him perform on stage three times, at different stages of his career. The last time was after he and Annie had divorced, and it was obvious that some of his spark left him when she did. But I took his death so seriously, it saddened me so deeply, that my feelings were hurt when none of my friends called to see if I was doing okay, or came over to console me. I got through it by trying to focus on all the awesome music he left behind. I never tire of it.

Life is for the living, however, and after last night we intend to go to as many Jennifer Lind performances as possible. Not much can beat live music. She'll be back at Abundance Vineyards on July 24 with her band. It's truly my idea of a good time: Wear jeans, straddle a bench at a picnic table the way you'd sit in a saddle, eat whatever food you want to bring along, buy some mighty fine wine by the glass or bottle, dance if you want to, or watch others (from age 7 to 70 last night) dance to the beat (or sort of). How can it get any better?

Prior to Abundance, Jennifer will be appearing July 17 with Randy Sparks and some of the New Christy Minstrels at Micke Grove in Lodi -- a fundraiser for the zoo. I can hardly wait! When I was recently on a committee for my 50 year high school reunion, I ended up doing the "memory book." Randy gave me permission to include part of the lyrics from a duet he and Jennifer sing. My school chums loved the great message they found on the first page of their book:

Looking back, it's been one helluva ride.
I've had my 15 minutes and God knows I've tried.
I always go the extra mile to make up for whatever I lack,
And I'm inclined to smile, looking back.

If you want to check out what all my hoopla is about, go to http://www.jenniferlind.net/ . Then if you spot me at one of her shows, mosey on over and say howdy. How will you know who I am? Look for the cowgirl who's having the most fun! :-)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mystery Solved, Problem Solved

I'm losing my eyebrows. It's not like I'm taking them off, setting them down somewhere and forgetting where I put them. They're just... disappearing. Why? To find out the answer, I did the sensible thing: I googled.

One possibility, I learned, was thyroid disorder. I was overdue for my annual physical exam (one year overdue, actually), which includes blood work, so I called the doctor and made an appointment to meet with her once my test results were in her hot little hand. I began secretly hoping, well sort of hoping, that something innocuous but worthy of noninvasive attention would crop up in terms of my thyroid, because then some pill or other might bring my eyebrows back and make it easier for me to control my weight!

No such luck. Thyroid: Normal. Well, crap. That means I have to continue to eat less than when I was 20-30, and absent the hot fudge sundaes and mashed potatoes with gravy that, back then, made me feel really good instead of really, well, not good... about my weight. Okay, it was worth a try.

And the disappearing eyebrows? "Hormones," the doctor told me, adding dispassionately, "It's part of the aging process." Mystery solved. I smiled at her... she who is young enough to be my daughter. "So nothing I can do about it?" She suggested I have eyebrows tattooed on.

Uhhh... I don't think so, considering I've HAD a tattoo (on my ankle) and I found it FAR more painful than the gentle touch of an eyebrow pencil. Or eyebrow brush, I should say, since my daughter recently took my ancient-and pathetically-out-of-date pencil away from me and replaced it with an upscale-and-coolly-current powder that is brushed on. It's really sweet that she looks out for me that way.

Since I was born a month premature, with no fingernails, toenails, eyelashes or eyebrows, I guess I'm just coming full circle. As I continue to age I guess I'm going to have to keep an eye out for other missing parts. Heck, come to think of it, why can't I skinny down? I only weighed a little over four pounds when I was born!

But back to the eyebrows. Thank goodness for make-up. Problem solved.

Only now I'm feeling guilty because I've been blaming the poor dog for all the annoying little hairs I find every day on the furniture and floors.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Humerous Housecleaning Horror Stories

So what I'm grappling with recently is whether or not to find another housekeeper. I've used services in the past who send a crew, I've used a husband/wife team, and I've used an individual. The husband and wife lasted the longest (almost three years) but I, in fact, grew fond of them and it seems they saw it as an opening to slack off. When it reached the point where I was cleaning up after them every week instead of vice versa, it just started to seem silly.

My funniest housekeeping story is this one though. The woman named Ethel. I came home unexpectedly once when she was here, and caught her "resting" on the couch. She jumped a foot and said she was just taking a little break. I didn't have the heart to tell her it was a pretty noisy break, what with the snoring and all. Nor did I mention the TV being turned on, showing her favorite soap opera. I did let her know I wouldn't be needing her anymore, paid her, and that was that. Until...

A few months later Frank and I bought a new couch. We had to tip the old one on its side to get it through the door, and when we did we found, shoved into the underneath part, a half empty bottle of scotch and a half empty pack of Dentyn gum. Uh-huh...

My most recent experience was odd from the beginning. In the past I had always noticed how nice the house smells after it has been professionally cleaned. Something about the products used, I imagine. But this time, hmmm.... there was no pleasant fragrance lingering in the air to assure me my money was being well spent. "She's probably using things that are scent-free... better for my allergies, " I rationalized. I also missed the nice squeaky clean feel of the freshly mopped floor on my bare feet. "Just a difference in the product," I assumed. She had, after all, come highly recommended. (Thinking back, so had Ethel!)

Then one day when this woman had (supposedly) finished mopping the hallway, she neglected to put the throw rug back in place. It was draped over a piece of exercise equipment nearby, with the rubberized back showing I noticed marks that indicated my precious kitty cat had been using it as a peeing place, so I put it in the washer, and thought, "I wonder how long that's been going on." I checked the floor to see if there was any nasty smell there, and sure enough, it smelled to high heaven. "Odd," I thought, since it had just been mopped. Supposedly.

So I grabbed an old towel and rubbed at it with a bit of 409. The rag came away downright dirty. I tried a spot in the living room. Dirty. The kitchen. Dirty. That was when I realized, in retrospect, that not only was this house cleaner not using cleaning product, what she was using was an old fashioned string mop and a bucket of water. With, apparently, nothing else in it. She was just smearing dirty water around, is what she was doing. And getting paid for it.

I had never checked up on her before, just assumed she was doing her job. This time, I decided to have a look. Went to the spare bedroom and found... no scotch or gum, but dust, untouched. Just resting in its place... on every flat surface. The waste can had been emptied, but tiny threads were still on the carpet where I had done some sewing a few days before. She hadn't even vacuumed. Another housekeeper down the tube, with pay check in hand. Her last pay check from me!

That was a year or so ago, and I've been doing my own house cleaning since then. Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy housecleaning. Thing is, I don't have the energy I had in my younger years, so what used to take me hours, now takes days. And totally wears me out. Our place is an indoor/outdoor arrangement, with a cat and a dog that thoroughly enjoy it along with us -- so it's not easy keep up with the signs of life. Okay, it's impossible, considering I'm not as young as I used to be -- "No spring chic" as my brother likes to put it. And I do have other demands placed upon me that usually keep me tethered to my computer or, on a good day, deep into a good book or riding atop my horse.

So here's the dilemma: Do I trust another person or crew? Or do I save my money and clean my own house? It's not that I mind taking another chance at hiring someone, but what I do want to avoid is the awkward letting go of that someone when the arrangement doesn't work out. Ever notice how starting a relationship is so much easier than ending one?

Kind of like how easy it is to gain weight, and how hard it is to lose it. But that's a blog for another day...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Challenging Book, Interesting Movie

For the most part of two days I've been reading a new book. Women Food And God by Geneen Roth. With all due respect to the author, it has been boring me senseless. But I've continued reading it because it is work-related. Is there something here of value that will add to our weight management program at the office? So far the jury is out on that one.

I'm an incurable highlighter. Frank buys the pen-shaped painting devices for me by the bushel. If I try to read without one in my hand, alarms go off deep inside my psyche. The only way to disarm them is to inhale the smell of that fluorescent yellow ink as it caresses important inky words on the page of a book or a piece of paper.

First half of this book? Nothing worthy of the ritual. I found myself reading faster and faster, not out of enthusiasm but in an attempt to finish the damned thing and stick it on the shelf of our library as a testimonial to my suffering.

Then! It happened! On page 101 (of 204) a paragraph waved at me frantically. My grip on the ever ready highlighter tightened, and iron-rich oxygen-laden blood surged into whatever muscles are involved in the movement of damp yellow ink tip over the printed words dancing in front of my eyes. Allow me to share:

All feeling wants is to be welcomed with tenderness. It wants room to unfold. It wants to relax and tell its story. It wants to dissolve like a thousand writhing snakes that, with a flick of kindness, become harmless strands of rope.

A weight has been lifted from me, no pun intended (as this is a book about women struggling with their weight). The author has redeemed herself in my eyes. So I read on, more hopeful now. A few pages later I read, then reread to highlight: Feelings are in the body, reactions are in the head; a reaction is the mental deduction of a feeling. And beliefs are reactions that we've had so many times we believe they are true. " (For me, Simple + Succinct = win/win.)

A few more turns of the page and I find, "The mind, as Catherine Ingram says, is mad. And this is very good news. Because once you accept the madness, once you stop trying to reform what cannot be reformed, you can pay attention to what isn't mad..."

This is where I stop to reflect on a movie Frank and I watched last night -- Accidental Happenings. It was... different. I like different. Different intrigues me. The underlying premise of this film rested on the question of madness. Was the more-than-slightly-confused love interest crazy? Or was he sharing an unconventional truth? Hmmm... my opinion wavered from scene to scene -- which was, I'm certain, the intent of the writer. In the end, an answer is provided, a verdict rendered. My verdict: good flick. Not quite but almost up there with Don Juan DeMarco.

The book I'm reading? Nowhere close to Women Who Run With the Wolves, but at least it has my interest now. Sometimes you have to sift through a lot of sand to find a seashell or two, so now it's back to the hunt, highlighter in hand. Probably won't need the backup, but you never know.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Happy/Sad Day in San Francisco

Frank and I drove to Dublin yesterday, jumped on BART, rode it to the last station, Balboa Park, then walked the short distance to my dad's house on Chicago Way. The last time we rode BART was more than 20 years ago. It was fun. Made me feel very worldly. The ride wasn't crowded, and people were friendly. Restrooms at the Dublin station were a mess, but in Daly City, not so bad.

I didn't know how I'd feel going to the house. It was always awkward visiting when Dad was alive, because our relationship was far from "close." We had to clear every trip with my stepmother, who told me she told Dad when he retired from the military, "You've run everything until now. Now that you're home, I'm in charge." She took good care of him as his health slowly deteriorated, and then she ran into her own problems and it got testy. I always said, "Let me know if I can do anything," but I was a daughter from my dad's former marriage, so she kept me (sometimes nicely, sometimes not) in my place, which wasn't on the inside of their lives.

Now their son has moved her to where he lives, Alaska, and she's on a waiting list for a state-run "home." It's very sad. We met Greg at their house yesterday, primarily to drive his mom's car home. It was her pride and joy, and I have mixed feelings about having bought it. It's a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron convertible, in tip top shape. I didn't need it (I have a Ford Ranger) but I've always liked it, and primarily I felt I was helping out by taking it off Greg's hands. One less thing for him to deal with.

While there, my brother gave me some mementos, mostly certificates that were framed on the wall of Dad's office. They represent his many accomplishments, of which he was very proud. And deservedly so. I loved my dad, even if (of necessity) it was from a distance. He was career military and his dress uniform is framed and hanging on the wall in my spare bedroom. I redecorated the whole room in red, white and blue, and now I'll hang the certificates. I don't know if Dad ever thought about this sort of thing, but if he did I have a hunch he had to know I would be the one to keep his memory alive.

There were a few other things tossed into the back seat of the car -- Dad's fishing knife from when they lived in Iran, his Shriner's President windbreaker, and so on. When I got home and we unloaded the car I was in for quite a surprise though. Greg had given me the folded flag that was on Dad's casket. His funeral with full military honors still affects me. I could hardly believe it when I found the triangular flag. I am so... I don't know, touched somehow... to have it in my home.

It seems odd that I feel like he's more in my life now, than when he was alive. He was far from perfect, but always, in my eyes, a hero. That most certainly would not have been true, had I grown up living with him. Maybe heroes need to be worshipped from afar. Up close, an admirer might be too distracted by all the chinks in a knight's shining armor, and disillusioned by his moans and groans about joints stiffening with age, and debilitating aches and pains. There's a lot to be said for distance.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Red flags and Throwing in the Towel

I admit it. I'm high maintenance.

Maybe it goes back to when I was born a month early, weighing barely over 4 lbs., and was placed in an incubator at the country hospital (more understaffed then than now). My mother picked me up thirty days later. I asked once if she visited me and she said, "Well, I didn't have a car and it was too long a bus ride. I knew you were okay." That set the tone for our lifelong relationship. Someone who knew us both once called her "the mother who wasn't."

Don't get me wrong. I've stopped whining about this long ago. I only mention it now because as an adult I realize and admit that I require attention -- in that I want and need to be accepted personally, and respected professionally. If you are a Virgo, you need not read on. You already know what I'm about to say.

I set very high standards for myself as well as for others. I am honest (sometimes to a fault) and loyal (sometimes to a fault). I am sensitive (sometimes to a fault). I take relationships seriously and rarely hold back. I jump in with both feet and I make the common mistake of assuming others in the relationship are equally invested. That, however is rarely the case. No one else carries my baggage. Doesn't make them a bad person, just places them into a different category than me.

I am vulnerable in my interactions and, because I grew up having to actually protect myself from verbal, physical, and sexual assault on a regular basis, I am hyper vigilant. At the first hint of "danger" -- perceived or real -- I bristle. My inner 4-lb baby takes a deep breath, ready to holler and make her needs known.

Once I've been hit hard enough to have the wind knocked out of me though, I retreat. I'd like to say I'm not a quitter, but it would be an untruth. Know the saying, "It's all fun and games till someone gets hurt?" I'm naive enough and hopeful enough to keep going back for more... until I no longer feel safe in the relationship. That's when I quit, take my marbles and go home. Makes no sense to stay.

I actually had the wind knocked out of me when I was six or seven, by my two-hundred-pound stepfather who socked me in the stomach. I thought I was dying because it was the first time I
could, literally, not breathe. My mother told me it was my own fault. If I'd kept my mouth shut he wouldn't have hit me.

But keeping my mouth shut goes against my nature. When, as a kid, there was no one else standing up for me, I grew up defending myself. As an adult I know sometimes the best thing to say is nothing, but during my formative years there was a direct line of communication from my gut to my mouth. Something to say? I spit it out. Damn the consequences. That die has been cast and, as an adult I'll say what I feel, regardless of the price.

This is years of professional therapeutic analysis speaking, that adds up to: An unlevel playing ground in a relationship isn't only difficult for me, it's dangerous. Unlevel can too easily lead to the proverbial slippery slope. Red flags on the field are so easily ignored when you want to keep playing. But there comes a time when there's nothing left to do but toss in the towel.

When Frank and I were married 35 years ago, an old friend of mine said to him, "I hope you have a strong personality. You'll need it." In retrospect I realize he meant character, not personality. Without strength of character, poor Frank would not have stood a chance. One thing he did was modify the message my mother gave me consistently. She'd say, "You're more trouble than you're worth."

Frank tells me, "You're a lot of trouble AND you're worth it!" Accepting the first half of that comes naturally to me. I'm still working on accepting the second half.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Life - Take it or Leave it, For Better or Worse

My daughter was born to a 35-year-old mother, a 32-year-old father, and brothers aged 16 and 14. By the time she was in high school our boys were grown and gone, and Jennifer felt like an only child. Maybe this explains why she started bringing home "throw-away kids" as they were called back then -- kids whose parents didn't know where they were, or knew but didn't care.

First it was 16-year-old Louis, who was getting kicked out of his ninth foster home. When I was appointed his guardian I made a commitment to him that I would always be his "mom" - even after his birth mother got out of prison (for using, manufacturing and selling drugs). To this day he has a key to our house, knows the alarm code, and knows he can count on us anytime of day or night. Which is reciprocal.

Then came others, one after the other, each with their own story, most staying long enough to graduate from high school. Poor Frank. When he got home from work he never knew how many kids were living under our roof on a given day. Every time I cooked a meal, I had to count noses before I did any measuring.

We all learned a lot from the experience, but the lesson that sticks most solidly in my mind is what I would say whenever Jennifer would ask, "Can so-and-so stay?" I would shake my head slowly and say, "More people, more problems." Life was so simple when our daughter was an "only" child, and with each new boarder life became more complex. But I always gave in, because it's my nature to be inclusive rather than exclusive. And... I love to help.

In more recent years, in our business, we've tried having employees, partners, affiliates, associates. Guess what. More people, more problems. We've sized up and we've sized down, and the roller coaster ride has become more exhausting than exhilarating. When it's just the two of us, life is so much simpler.

I believe in simplicity, a basic concept of most major religions. I also believe the teaching of Buddhism that "life is suffering" and that the path to emotional comfort is detachment. Therein lies the problem for many of us who trustingly welcome others into our personal circle of energy. We connect. We attach. And when the time comes for individuals to go their separate ways, it feels as though we're losing a part of ourselves. Then we have to take the time and make the effort required to slowly fill the empty spot in some way that costs us less, emotionally. This is easier to do when you're younger than when you're older.

A Chinese proverb tells us, "Life is simple. But it isn't easy." We are the ones who complicate life, which is what makes it hard, and then we pay the price. Over and over again, until we learn our lesson. Like life, lessons aren't always easy either. But... we figure it out as we go along, and do the best we can until it wears us down enough that when we leave the playing field, holding our head high in front of the crowd takes all the effort we have left. Then any trophies we may have won along the way simply gather dust, ribbons fade, and when we're gone our kids have to deal with the mementos.

A Visit to the Dark Side

There's a lot to be said for positive thinking. It's much more fun looking at what's right, than at what's wrong, for example. It also sets the tone for our mindset, thereby influencing the direction in which our body will move (internally as well as externally). Dwelling on the negative exposes flaws in our life, errors in our judgment, mistakes in our behavior. Who needs that when we can put a smile on our face, wave our arms about in delight, dance to a merry tune and look for rainbows in a graying sky or count stars at night? Who needs that?

We all do. A doctor can't clean a wound, let alone suture it, without first examining it to determine what caused it, why, and how recurrence can be avoided in the future.

In order to achieve a goal, success strategies recommend visualizing the future. It's an empowering technique. However, the past has lessons to teach us. Here's an interesting set of questions: Why haven't you already achieved the goal? What has been holding you back? How can trying again be different from past attempts? If you can identify the obstacles that stand behind you, you can avoid similar obstacles that lie ahead of you. Skip this step and you are more likely to simply repeat and relive the past rather than making the progress that carries you closer to your goal.

If you aren't willing to get down and dirty, you cannot look up at the underbelly of the failure beast (where it is most vulnerable to attack). You'll see and process only surface features-- what it wants you to see -- that which can do it no harm and do you no good. When you engage, you think you're wrestling it, but you're merely playing the role it has assigned you in the dance it has choreographed.

We should never become a prisoner of our past. But we should be a vigilant visitor. Recognize its sore spots, scars, and sources of vulnerability. We can lie on our backs and watch as the beast leaps over us, and we can be ever ready to roll to the side if it attempts to settle down upon us to hold us trapped. We need to be in control of it, and not let it take control of us.

But we cannot ignore it, look away to focus on a prettier future that exists only in our imagination because doing so is less painful than looking back at what has been our reality. We have to be willing to take the proverbial two steps backward before we take one, then two, then three steps forward. Life has many dimensions. Embracing life means exploring all of them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ketchup? No thank you.

We went out to dinner the other night at our favorite Mexican food restaurant. It was early, 4:30 or so, and the place was empty except for two other tables that were occupied. In my line of sight was a young mom and dad with a new baby, and a boy around age four who sat next to his mom.

I couldn't see the baby at first because she was in a carrier, which was covered by a lightweight pink blanket. But I could hear her. A tiny little cry, not at all annoying but, in my world view, actually a sweet sound. When the dad took her out of the carrier and rested her over one shoulder, I couldn't take my eyes off her adorable face and those tiny pink fingers that wrapped around one of her father's fingers.

The mom saw me watching with a smile on my face. I said, "I'm really not a stalker, I just love babies." She laughed and we exchanged a few more words of social content. I made it a point to ask the baby's name, age, etc., and added "She's lucky to have a big brother. Big brother's are very important!" The four-year-old beamed.

I then began paying more attention to him. I'm not sure what he was eating, but whatever it was apparently needed ketchup, and his parents let him pour it on for himself, telling him when to stop. They then turned their attention back to their own plates, and that was when I saw the little guy pick up the ketchup bottle, put it to his lips, lick it and quickly set it back down. I laughed out loud, (glad that I'm not a person who puts ketchup on my Mexican food)!

Frank and I chatted a bit as we ate our meal, but occasionally I checked in visually to see how the little family was doing. The baby was asleep and put back in her carrier, and the boy, done with his food, was getting restless so he climbed down from his chair and wandered to the unoccupied table next to them, where he layed back on a chair looking up at the underneath of the table. He reached up, grabbed something, and pulled.

A looooong skinny strand of chewed gum followed his hand, stuck to his fingers, and, delighted, he said, "Daddy! Look!" Frank and I were both laughing as his mom took the little guy to the restroom to wash his hands. Our waiter showed up at that moment with our bill, and I said, pointing to the strand of gray gunk drooping toward the floor, "You have some chewing gum to clean up." He made quick work of it, as the father apologized.

Frank stuck some bills in the folder on our table, and as we walked by the family I'd been watching I stopped, put my hand on the dad's shoulder, smiled, and said, "Thanks for the entertainment. It was great."

I'll watch for them next time I eat there, but what are the odds I could get that lucky again? Just the memory of them will bring a smile to my lips, I'm sure, and will remind me not to use the ketchup.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

There's Just Something About The Man...

"They" say never talk politics with someone who holds different views than yours. I say that's when it's most interesting! How can you learn anything if you're only hearing someone reflect your own opinions back to you? Be that as it may, allow me to vent:

Some people are upset because Obama went right while he was running for the highest office in the land, and now is going back where he came from -- left. I don't care.

Some people are upset because Obama, they say, isn't such an eloquent speaker when there are no teleprompters for him to read. I don't care.

Some people are upset because, they say, Obama wasn't really born in the United States. I don't care.

Some people are upset because Obama isn't emotional enough about the oil spill disaster. I don't care.

Here's what I care about:

When Michelle Obama appeared on ABC's The View during the presidential campaign two years ago, she innocently made the comment that, in exchange for her support, her husband promised her he would stop smoking.

Guess what.

He still smokes.

He's "trying" to quit, says he. Two years later! Uhh... excuse me? She didn't say he promised he would try, he promised he would friggin' quit! Now I ask you, if he can't stand up to that challenge, to honor a pledge made to the woman he loves and who has borne him two adorable daughters, what does that say about the man?

Let alone the fact that smoking is a disgusting, dangerous, deadly habit that thousands of smokers struggle with daily and he is the man to whom they should be able to look as a model. Let alone that, should Obama die, we'll have Biden running the country (for better or worse, depending on our views). The man broke a promise to his wife! She upheld her end of a bargain, and he waffled on his end of it. Let alone that there are multiple options for smart smokers from cold turkey, prescription and over-the-counter products, to clinical hypnosis (the method proven statistically to be the most effective). What does that say about the man?

"That he's only human," some will say. Well, yes. It's true, we didn't nominate him for sainthood, then vote him in. Nonetheless, if we expect nothing else of our president we expect him to have backbone! We expect him to have self-respect (which is far different from arrogance). We expect him to be disciplined (which is different from lack of flexibility). We expect him to be able to deal with the pressures of the presidency without filling his lungs with toxins and setting a crappy example for his kids, not to mention his constituents. We expect him to take all commitments seriously.

Is that too much to ask of the man who holds the most powerful office in the world?

Once, earlier on, when asked about his smoking and about his quitting, he said, "Well, I uhhh... cheat now and then." Hello? What does that say about the man?

He is letting us down, some say. I say, hey, he's not the first and he won't be the last. But... more importantly, he has let his wife down. He has let his kids down.

What does that say about THE MAN?

Monday, June 7, 2010

I Got the Point

I knew I had to have a blood test this morning at 9:00 so I fasted last night, and got a good night's sleep.

Dressed casually this morning -- cropped pants, t-shirt, and sandals.

Grabbed the shoes out of my closet without much thought, a little wobbly from hunger but not a lot, and although I'm almost always barefooted around the house, after my appointment I kept the shoes on while I puttered around the place taking care of a few domestic chores. Around 11:00 I realized
I had something on my feet, which felt odd since I was in the privacy of my own home, so I kicked them off. That was when I realized I had worn one brown sandal with braided crisscross straps (left foot) and one tan sandal with a wide band crossing straight over my instep (right foot).

Oh well.

I have no fear of needles, but I
have formed the habit of looking away from my arm prior to the procedure. I said to the phlebotomist as she tightened the band around my arm, "I have to close my eyes now and go to Hawaii." She laughed politely and said, "Oh, okay."

I closed my eyes and decided to use self-hypnosis to imagine blue skies, rolling waves, guitar music, and
mai tais. Before I could take a deep breath and begin my conjuring, however, the nice young lady was done with me. I said, "Oh. Well shoot. I guess I should have just gone to Santa Cruz."

When Frank got home I showed him the "pair" of shoes I had worn to the medical facility. He just shrugged his shoulders. If I don't keep a close eye on him he has been known to wear socks that don't match, so I suppose to him this fell into the same category. I explained, "But shoes SHOW!" He said, "Oh, yeah. Well, who knows? Maybe you'll start a new fad!"

So please keep an eye out, and if you begin to notice people wearing mismatched shoes, smile and think of me. Not everyone will know how/when/why it all began. You'll know though, because you have inside information.

As for me, this merely supports my philosophy that a simpler life is a better life. It can't get much simpler than barefooted. On the other hand (or foot), I'm wondering if it might be time now for my daughter to move home and take care of me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Horse and my Ex-husband

Last week I took my ex-husband to the ranch to feed my horse carrots and walk around a bit. He's been living back in town for a couple of years, I think, but it's only been recently that I've decided we can be friendly, if not friends. We divorced in 1966 when we lived at Lake Tahoe and he decided he liked the night life more than family life. While I was cleaning house, starching curtains, baking pies, raising two small boys and teaching Sunday School, he was drinking, gambling, and getting to know at least one other woman in the Biblical sense.

I had a rough row to hoe as a single mom with an ex-husband who couldn't afford to pay child support because partying is costly in a casino setting. The idea of forgiving him for abandoning us didn't even occur to me until many, many years later, when I realized his leaving us was actually our good fortune.

Through thick and thin, the boys and I have maintained our bond, and of course without what Tommy now calls "the biggest mistake of his life" there would be no husband Frank, no daughter Jennifer, and no granddaughters Annabella, Evelyn, or Olivia due in September. So when I think back to the day he walked out, I thank my lucky stars. Obviously it wasn't a great marriage but I would have stuck it out only because back then I actually bought into that "for better or worse" nonsense.

Frank likes it when I spend a little time with Tommy every now and then. Mainly because it reminds me of how my life might have been, and makes me appreciate the life I have now even more. But it was a passage from my favorite book, Women Who Run With the Wolves (Claire Pinkola Estes) that caused me to rethink my ice berg attitude toward Tommy through all these years. She wrote: "Forgiveness is not surrender. You're the one who decides... when the debt is paid, when enough is enough. You can forgive with no more chances."

Tommy will never hurt, scare or even disappoint me again. I am in no way emotionally invested in our new relationship. What I see is a lonely old man who has no friends, nothing to do with his time except tinker with cars and drink, and who sports a sorrow etched deeply in his face. For his 70th birthday I gave him the words I had never before been able to utter. "I forgive you," adding, "Now you need to forgive yourself."

No more chances... for him to breathe life back into what was stagnant years back, even before we let it die. He wouldn't try to even if he thought he could. He always told me I was too good for him, that he didn't deserve me. He was right.

That having been said, if a couple of hours over lunch mixed with half hearted laughter playing "Remember the time..." , or a birthday dinner at my house with my family (his first), or an afternoon feeding carrots to my horse (a photo op to help fill pages in his album) helps brighten his days, well and good. I like being nice to him. It lightens my own burden. I didn't have to marry him at the ripe old age of 18, after all, I chose to. So I've had some self-forgiveness work to do too. We were both young and, let's face it, stupid. But we did make a couple of wonderful sons. In fairness to Tommy, he always gives me full credit for the job I did raising them without him.

The difference between Tommy and me is he fell off the mountain way back when. I kept climbing... and life is good at the top. I can afford to be gracious, therefore I am. Why? Well, why not? The debt has been paid. Enough is enough, and as Dr. Laura would say, it's just the right thing to do.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Moving Out, Moving In, Moving On

When my son-in-law was transferred from Reno to San Francisco, he moved his family to Tracy and their house in Sparks went into short-sale. They decided to rent in Tracy to see if they liked it well enough to buy a place, and discovered they didn't/don't. Shortly after settling into their rental, they discovered their landlord was cashing their rent checks but not making his house payments. The house was going into foreclosure. They used this as an opportunity to find a new place in a better school district, and called a moving company.

On the scheduled day, Darin left for work as always and our pregnant Jenn began to deal with the movers. Or at least the foreman, since apparently no one else on the crew spoke English. A few hours into the hustle and bustle, my phone rang. My daughter, in tears, said, "I need you to make me feel better." My whole system came alive!

One of the movers stole her I-Pod off the kitchen counter, she told me. Oh, I told her, that's hard to believe. Maybe she stuck it in a box without thinking about it, I suggested, trying to reassure her. No, she insisted, it had been on the counter earlier and now it was gone. She talked to the foreman and he asked his four workers about it (in their apparent language) and informed her no one knew anything about it. "All you can do is file a claim," he told my tearful daughter.

Later she discovered her husband's I-Pod and a hundred dollars in cash was missing from her purse, which had also been on the counter. She called the office number for the moving company to complain and the uhhh... lady... that answered said, "Why'd you leave your stuff on the counter?!"

I tried to console my daughter by saying, "The I-Pods are just stuff. Stuff's not important. And the hundred dollars? At least it was only a hundred and not a thousand." I feel bad. I failed in my objective to try to make my daughter feel better. It was so much easier when she was little and a kiss on the knee did the trick if life treated her badly enough to give her a scratch.

We all know the claim against the moving company will go nowhere. Yes, the company is bonded. But bonding companies are not in business to compensate customers for thievery. They are in business to collect fees from companies that need to be bonded. The police have a report on file, and no doubt other complaints have been made concerning the same movers, but so what? I've suggested to my kids that they wait a bit until they are certain no one is going to do anything about this, and then contact KCRA Call to Action to see if they'll investigate and report on the situation. My son-in-law is concerned that if they pursue the matter, since the non-English-speaking crew that may or may not be legal knows where they have moved to, one or more of them may show up to create more of a problem. I have no idea how to respond to that perception.

It's a shame. Fact is, if the moving crew had been made up of all blue-eyed blonds speaking impeccable English, the same misfortune may have occurred. But something like this can lump individuals into groups and feed stereotypical thinking. Look at what's happening in Arizona. A few bad apples, and it's easier to dump the whole barrell than to try to save the good ones.

Makes me long for the "good old days" when we all felt safer and more comfortable trusting each other. And fall back on the cliche... learn from it and move on.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Grammas Rule!

My sister raised a couple of her grandchildren, as many grandparents do these days, sad to say. She had to, more or less, be a mother to them. My grandchildren visit me. I get to be their gramma.

Their mother has to make sure they eat what's put in front of them. That's part of her job. At our house, however, we've determined it is not our job to force food down their adorable little throats. So we say, "If you don't want it, you don't have to eat it." (Which only works when Mom isn't here. Even at our house, if Mom's here, we live by her rules. As soon as she walks out the door, however, the girls do a little end zone dance and chant, "Gramma's rules, Gramma's rules!")

They never have to go to bed at bedtime, for example. They play on the floor while Gramma and Grampa watch "grown up TV" (news shows, documentaries, etc.). When they get sleepy, they climb up beside us in their nighties, wrap themselves into our arms, close their eyes and go to sleep. When we go to bed we take them with us. They wake up still wrapped in our arms. In the morning when one of them says, "I'm ready to get up," one of us says, "Okay but it'll cost ya!" They pay with hugs and kisses, then we get our butts (I mean bottoms) out of bed.

We never babysit. The girls visit us. They are our guests, and we treat them well. We sit and make a list together of all the things we want to do while they're here. For example: Play on the swings and monkey bars. Go to the ranch to ride Brandi. Take flowers to Gramma Sarah. Shop for fun snack foods. Shop for something new at Toys R Us. Toss Barbie Dolls into the pool and rescue them with a net. Bake Brownies.

We bake the Brownies first thing in the morning, and have them (warm) for breakfast. The egg cracked into the batter provides protein. When the brownies are dipped into a little bowl of whip cream with each bite, you have your dairy product. Add a bright red maraschino cherry for fruit, and what do you end up with? A balanced meal!

On their most recent visit I transgressed and unthinkingly made tuna sandwiches for lunch. They took a few bites, and the almost-six-year-old said, "Uhhh, Gramma? I'm sorry to tell you this, but I don't actually care for tuna." I believe such nice manners should be rewarded, so I invoked Gramma's rule: If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it.

"Let me see what I can come up with that you might like, " I said. I sliced cheese, arranged it on a plate with sliced salami and sliced dill pickles. Meat, dairy, vegetable -- see how this works? The finishing touch? Decaffeinated Arizona iced tea to wash it down, served in a grown up glass because if it gets spilled, so what? Wipe it up! That's what paper towels are for! :-)

The girls enjoy having choices, too. We ask them what they'd like to do for dinner. Drive through? Help cook? Go to a restaurant? They love shrimp no matter how it's fixed, and will eat cole slaw like it's ice cream. I believe this proves that our body lets us know what we need in order to be well nourished. It all works out...

They don't have to put their toys away at our house, or play with them in just one room. By the time the girls go home, there are toys everywhere. It helps us maintain our dexterity when we have to step carefully over, around and through books, dress up clothes, colorful contraptions that stimulate their little minds, and so on. Picking everything up and putting it away when the girls are gone helps us with our flexibility and burning calories. How can it get any better than that?

Some grandparents, I'm told, tell their adult children, "I raised my kids, you raise yours!" Not me. I say about my grandkids, "Bring 'em on!" Time with your grand kids is like tequila in a Margarita -- there's no such thing as "too much!"

Gramma's Rules is one way of putting it. Another way is: Grammas RULE!