Category Archives: musings

Black Friday turns into Black weekend?

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Thanksgiving came and went. All those hours of preparing, all the traveling, all the
internal anguish about seeing that rude relative and perhaps being the object of their
lude and crude behavior, anticipating before eating how full and sleepy you’re going
to be has ended! Now of course, the marketers are out there and have turned what used
to be a relaxing Friday and weekend into a bizarre frenzy of shopping, shopping, and
more shopping!

As I get older I find that I am drawn to reminiscing about the first few Thanksgivings I
can remember. My very first one was when I was 9 years old because prior to that I lived
in a (developing) country.  We had no television and I was not aware that any other world
existed but the simple one I inhabited or the fantasy one that inhabited in me. Late 1963
my family moved to New York but it was December so we missed Thanksgiving that first
year. By 1964 we were armed with the ability to speak English, owned a television set and
worked hard to assimilate into our adopted country.

My mother was captivated by the many different holidays we never celebrated before. The
holidays (St. Patricks, Easter, Fourth of July and of course, Thanksgiving & Christmas)
took on different meanings and of all, Thanksgiving was my favorite. I figured out the
other day that it was not only about the whole day of gratitude or the wonderful aromas
wafting through the house. Rather, it was the fact that on this one special day, my mother’s
attention did not focus on what or how much I was eating. She concentrated on baking her
turkey, on making sure the table was set and ready for the many guests we would receive
year after year, and once the food was served and her speech was made, she relaxed and
enjoyed the day.

I have kept up the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving in a big way. I cook up a storm, I
bake, I invite many people to join us and I know myself blessed and grateful year after year.
Since our children are grown and live far away, my gatherings have become very reduced
but we still manage to relish the opportunity to put all negativity aside for a day and become
totally aware of the many gifts our life offers us.

This weekend will see madness all around me as people from my community brave the
traffic so they can spend their money buying the latest gadgets or begin doing the shopping
for Christmas. I am glad that I have never been much of a gift giver so no one expects any
gifts from me but the gift of my time (which is not nothing) and cakes and cookies that I
bake each year.  These are things I enjoy making and love to give away and share with my
loved ones. In the meantime, I can shop from the comfort of my home since I have become
very good at spotting good deals on the internet. Life is good, and I find that technology
used wisely, is a wonderful thing.

Have a great weekend!

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Pies Galore!

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I don’t remember ever eating pies in my early childhood. I think I started doing
so only when we arrived to New York and perhaps on the first or second Thanksgiving
in the mid 1960’s.

My mom was not a baker. She wasn’t really even a good cook but Thanksgiving got a hold
of her and she relished the holiday year after year because it gave her an excuse to gather
together the small number of family members we had in New York and the large number
of friends she and my dad had made over the years.

I remember Thanksgiving as always being special. The aromas, the large amounts of food
and most of all, the fact that Mom was not paying any attention to how much I was eating.
On this one day, she forgot all about my being overweight and was perhaps thankful for
everything she had, including her fat daughter!

It’s really odd. I always knew I was fat but I never really thought about it until or unless
someone commented. But I guess someone always did. My well-meaning aunts, my mom
who saw my “condition” as an physical reminder of my neediness…teachers, friends, etc.
The ironic thing is that I was never really that fat and if left alone the fat would probably
have disappeared naturally eventually.

By the time I was 14, I had a couple of close friends whose family celebrated Thanksgiving
in a big way, with lots of different foods from my own family.  It was not unusual for me to
partake of two other feasts after or before my family’s! I have nothing but wonderful memories
of this special holiday which remains my favorite till today!

When our children were old enough to help, they did so. Our daughter put together the
packages of flatware in their Thanksgiving napkins, our sons cut up broccoli and cauliflower
florets and trimmed the ends of the green beans. Everyone participated and the atmosphere
at our home was always positive and loving.

My children are all grown up now and they have been celebrating on their own, with their
friends and loved ones for several years. The distance between us (and the cost of travel at
this time) makes me miss them very much but I am grateful for today’s technology and what
it allows us to do in terms of communication.

I am about to start making my list for the small gathering I will host on Thursday. It will
include traditional and non traditional foods and of course, lots of pies.

Happy Thanksgiving to us all.

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Random musings…

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I am the eldest of the two middle children of a four sibling family. Does that make
sense? Of course it does, just take a little time to think it over if it doesn’t at first.

Being a middle child has many drawbacks but it also has a lot of advantages. The
first child is an experiment, the last child is, well, the last child. But middle children
are often benignly neglected because other things are going on. Middle children just
know instinctively how to act so as not to cause too much attention to be focused
on them and therefore, often become more successful than the bookends!

I have long been analyzing my personality and have come to the conclusion that
many of my deeply held habits and prejudices stem from my placement in the
family.  I observed how my older sibling behaved (usually rebellious and mean)
and the reaction my parents had (scolding, grounding, silent treatment, etc.) to
it and I decided I didn’t enjoy the chaos and yelling so I made sure my behavior
was as different as it could be. I did my chores (often mine and my siblings), got
decent grades, and generally got ignored except when it came time to go shopping
and my mother would despair over my being overweight but that is a blog for another
day.

The creators of Facebook had no real idea of how far their social media application
would come and that, again, is a subject for a future time. However, there are many
positive things that have come out of the social media giant, not the least of which
has been the way the regular folk are engaging in the issues of the day, including
politics and religion.

I use my account mainly to inform people of what is going on in our neighborhood
as part of the self-imposed activism I feel is required of anyone who is alive and part
of a community. Aside from that, I use it to connect with friends by commenting on
a picture they have posted, or by uploading my own pictures if I feel they are relevant
or want to share a particular event or part of my life.

In the years I have been using FB, I have been hacked once but it didn’t have any really
negative consequences and I have since learned to be more careful about passwords and
about who I befriend and what I share.  I am very wary about commenting on any odd
phrases a friend or family member has posted because I have been “conned” into games
or chain letters that really don’t fit with what I want to do with my time and are a very
embarrassing imposition on friends.

The last few weeks have had an activity on FB that I actually did like. It involved posting
“a black and white picture, no people, no explanation, of every day life for seven days and
challenging a different friend each day to do the same”. When I first saw this activity, I
wondered if anyone would think of me to “challenge” and was actually very happy when
a dear friend across the miles highlighted me!

This is where my being a middle child, and an efficiency aficionado comes in. I know that
I have hundreds of pictures that fit the requirement so when the challenge came in for me,
the first thing I did was to look through my pictures, pick out favorite every day things,
convert them to B&W, label them Day 1 through Day 7, put them in a file and go on with
my day. It didn’t take me longer than 10 minutes to do all that and I began to think about
the friends I would challenge, taking into account what I knew about their personalities.
Not everyone enjoys having a little fun and this is one activity where all that is required
is a tiny bit of motivation.

I was shocked then to see how people did or did not respond.  One person did it but had
people in every one of her pictures and an explanation of where picture was taken! Another
friend completely ignored me. A third one said “remind me because I am very busy”. One
challenged me back by asking me to guess where the pictures loaded had been taken (I have
not seen this person since grammar school!).

Tom Waits is credited with saying that the “way you do anything is the way you do everything”.
I have to say no truer words have ever been spoken and I find that as I get older, I have a
tendency to observe people and their behavior long before I ask them to do anything for me
or to become friendly with them. The FB activity that I engaged in just for fun has shown
me more about my friends and myself than if I had actually asked them to describe their
personalities. It was quite eye-opening and I am glad that I was asked to participate.

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Nanowrimo!

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November has always been my favorite month. Ever since I was a little girl
in the U.S. I enjoyed the fact that it was still not THAT cold, that Thanksgiving
(and all that wonderful food) was going to happen and that the extra day meant
I could enjoy sleeping in a bit.

About 5 years ago, I decided that I would join NANOWRIMO and try my hand
at getting a novel written by the end of the month. I don’t really remember what
prompted me to do it (sign up, that is). It seems that as soon as I signed up, my
motivation, inspiration, and just “sit down and write” attitude vanished. I wrote
less that November and subsequent ones than I had ever done before. In the
ensuing years, I receive an email (well, many emails) reminding me that it’s
coming up, that it’s here, that there are lots of ways in which I can find the help
I need, etc. and yet nothing really serves as a motivator. Today I read from a person
whose blog I follow that she is afraid of getting published and that’s what keeps her
from writing. Sort of like being afraid of “success” rather than of failure. I am not
sure where I am right now. I have two potential books started but I spend most of
my time reading other people’s works. What’s with that.

I don’t really like Mondays but I do my very best to get through them productively
by taking care of the laundry, trying to organize my agenda for the week and generally
catching up on things left undealt with over the weekend. Today is no different although
I feel like I’m running late. It’s already 1:30 p.m and I have only completed two of the
4 loads of laundry I must get to (changing sheet day!).

Have a good week.

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Happy Noise Pollution!

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My husband is away this week so I’ve been taking care of the many things he
is usually in charge of. That includes getting up around 5:30 a.m. to make the
coffee and let our dog out for a run and then feeding her. This morning, I am
keenly aware of the many birds we have on our property that are usually gone
by the time I make my appearance a couple of hours later.

I am amazed by how many different songs there are and just how loud they can
be. Their joy is immense and I suppose all the reforestation we have done over
the years has made our grounds a safe haven for all of them. It is incredible to
observe them flying joyfully from tree branch to tree branch, partaking and
sharing in Nature’s Bounty without ever getting into each other’s way. I feel so
grateful for this Tropical Paradise that never lets me down. I breathe in the
goodness that permits me to forget the chaos of the world as I welcome the
strong sensations of peace deep in my soul.

This week has been an unexpected opportunity to connect with the very fibers
of my being, to delve deep within myself in silence and calm to discern and try
to prioritize the things in  my life that bring me contentment and strength. I
bless everyone and everything in this moment as I begin the daily routine that
I have come to appreciate.

Have a good day.

 

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A hurried childhood

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I had a friend visit me on Saturday afternoon. We enjoyed coffee and pastries
and talked about our respective childhoods. I am not sure why we ventured on
this particular topic but after our visit was over, I noticed that I was feeling a bit
guilty about some of the things I shared. In retrospect, however, it has become
apparent that there are things about my childhood that I hold on to and that are
actually therapeutic to get out of me into the open.

One of my observations to myself this morning is that I really was robbed of my
childhood. At a time when I should have been bored by the long summer days of
gazing into the atmosphere with nothing to do like my classmates, I was instead
doing errands or chores because there was no one at home to take care of those
things, both parents working, older sibling out having fun, younger siblings needing
supervision and snacks. I was too busy to resent it, really, though it did take a toll
on me and my idea of what childhood should be. As a consequence, I grew up to be
a very responsible and serious woman, although I do know how to enjoy myself also.

I am one of those people who can be counted on. I know this is a blessing to many
but it is often a burden to me. Right now, my husband is traveling. Due to that, all
the responsibility for managing our complex household and pet falls on me. I don’t mind
it; it actually makes me very organized because I want to do all the “extra” duties I have
and still have time left over to indulge in the things I want to do like writing my blogs.

Because I grew up mostly without television, I didn’t know who Mister Rogers was
until after I saw the parody Eddie Murphy did on SNL. I suppose I looked him (Fred)
up or was somehow exposed to him by some young mother colleague of mine. I became
an instant fan of Fred Rogers and I credit him with my penchant for having a proper
house wardrobe that I will only change into when I am ready to relax. I actually dress
to shoes every single day even if there is nothing on my agenda but doing laundry. Hey,
you never know when someone is going to come to the door and ask you to go somewhere
exciting but it has to be quickly. I love the transition magic that Fred Rogers employed
when he changed to sneakers and donned his cardigan. When my children were young,
they began to understand and know by what I was wearing (a caftan or duster) whether
I was really home and relaxing. Although my style of housedress has changed over the
years, the comfort they take when they see me via skype or facetime wearing home
clothes is palpable. Who knew Eddie Murphy would have this kind of influence in my
life!

Not a quite a month ago!

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While doing something completely unrelated to my writing, I ran across
pixabay, a free image site! What a lovely surprise. I chose these vintage
pocket watches because they are a really great way to remember about time
flying…it seems impossible that almost a month has gone by since my last
blog entry. September seemed to go on forever and now October is beginning
its last third. Unbelievable.

So much has happened this month. I returned from my cruise with much
energy and optimism that the final months of 2017 would be spent doing all
the drudge work I had put off because of various and sundry reasons until
now. It has been a good 4 weeks away, though I do feel that I am writing on
a daily basis in one way or another.

I’ve been reading the diary of a woman who has lost hundreds of pounds. Her
story humbles me. My own weight issues seem silly by comparison, even though
the reality is that whether one has to lose 20 extra pounds or 200, it boils down
to the very same thing. I am inspired by her ability to address the sad episodes of
her childhood; the frank way in which she calls her mother a narcissist, the way
she describes her deep conflicted feelings surrounding her struggles.  I am finding
more inspiration in the compassionate way she has learned to love and accept her
body and wish her the very best going forward. As I sit alone (my husband is away)
with the luxury of alone time, I feel blessed that I can savor many of life’s pleasures
(a small bit of high quality cognac!) without a bit of guilt. May this feeling last for
a while, it’s a good place to be.

 

The surreal world we’re living in…

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I was speaking with my husband this morning and he mentioned that we are
living in surreal times. I stopped to think about what he was saying and wondered
what (of the many different examples he could choose) particular event had triggered
his need to make the statement. He began by mentioning the bizarre words and
behaviours coming from leaders and countries all over the world that were heretofore
unthinkable. Nuclear weapons threats, bullying and immature behaviour by people
who should not only know better but with positions that demand they conduct
themselves with more elegance.

The world events relating to weather might or might not be the effects of climate change.
It is true that hurricanes have been happening for a long time and so have earthquakes;
but what is mysterious is that everything seems to be happening at the same time. We
no sooner minimally recover from one disaster when we are plunged into another.

Earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, landslides, volcanic eruptions, that’s Nature. But what
about genocides, nuclear threats, bullying, corruption, have we lost our minds? Are all
our world leaders so bent on their own creed of greed that they have no empathy at all
or any thought whatsoever that “what goes around really does come around”?

All my life I have sought to be “good”. I know that I am more Pollyana than cynical
and most days, I am grateful because of my ingenuity, I can still be shocked by what
is becoming more and more “normal” behaviour. Even on television and in popular
music, what we say and the words we use to say things are showing exactly the same
lack of creativity and laziness which are replaced by violence and shaming or really
foul language. If my children were toddlers now, I am not sure what kind of schools
or neighborhoods I would be comfortable being part of.

It saddens me for our young people. I, at least, was a child when the world was still
a pretty good place to live and I had plenty of sunshine, fruits and family to make me
feel special and loved. Today’s fast pace (where are we going?) means that children
are left with caregivers who may or may not have what it takes to really nurture a child.
Children are largely left to their own devices but unlike in the past where a child could
venture to a park or a friend’s backyard to play and make discoveries about him/herself
and the world, today their world is indoors and under the dome of a technology they
may not be ready to tackle.

I am a writer. Exploring ideas is how I get my characters to move from one point to
another. Lately, I am not sure what traits my protagonists need in order to navigate
the complicated world I create for them in my mind. Today’s surreal/real world, the
one my husband mentioned is scarier than any Stephen King horror novel I have ever
read. Heck, even he says so!

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An unusual gift

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The most unusual gift I ever received came from a little boy in kindergarten.
At the end of the school term, he brought me a beautiful plant pot with a single
leaf.  Although I recognized it as an African violet leaf, I had no idea what the
gift meant. I had long loved blooming African violets but always felt they were
better off in someone else’s life.

I put the pot in a spot where I could see it every day so that I could water it as
regularly as possible and was wondering on a daily basis if anything was supposed
to be happening. Because I was always so busy (small kids and a job and it was
before google was in my life, I never researched anything, just waited as patiently
as I could for something.

About six weeks into the process, I noticed some leaves were coming and I was
very excited. I kept up the regular watering and the plant did actually continue to
grow healthily but it didn’t produce any flowers until almost a year later. I can
recall how excited I became when I saw the first really deep purple flower and
how in love I was with the whole process. I began to entertain the idea of having
a small collection (once you start, it’s hard to control) and at one point I had about
20 different African violets in my home.  Unfortunately, they do require care and
I have had to limit myself to no more than 10 at a time. But it is a lovely hobby and
very relaxing when I do it properly. My patience was rewarded, something I need
to remind myself of when I impatiently rush other aspects of my life.

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So much devastation

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The past month has been excruciatingly painful worldwide.

Today Mexico suffered two strong earthquakes within minutes of each other; it makes
me wonder what is going on with the world. And of course, we are still dealing with the
aftermath of Hurricanes Irma, Jose and now María is devastating different islands. My
heart goes out to the small island of Puerto Rico, a place that is close to my hear for the
18 months of almost absolute bliss that I experienced when I lived there.

I pray this weather will soon calm down and people can begin the arduous process of
rebuilding their homes and their lives.

 

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