Sunday, November 26, 2017

Musings of a Grateful Woman

Remember how your mother explained the meaning of the word “reciprocity”? If someone gave you a birthday present, you would give them a present on their birthday. As you got older, you probably learned the nuances of the concept, such as keeping gifts suitable and not trying to outdo the other person with a wildly disparate gift. As we grow in age, wisdom, and grace, we continue to master the art of reciprocation, understanding that generosity from the heart enhances and solidifies relationships. Not only does a gift endear us to the recipient, but giving strengthens the bond we, ourselves, feel toward the recipient—be it a person or entity.

When November rolls up to December, I begin to make the list of organizations and groups that have enriched my year, given me such pleasure or brightened my life so much that reciprocity is in order. But what am I going to do? Play an out-of-tune scale on my violin for the symphony? Perform a skit for an entire theatre troupe?  No. That’s where a monetary gift can be a stand-in for reciprocity.  


I have greatly enjoyed a number of performances this year, and also follow the work of several human services organizations. One such organization is the YMCA. Yes, I belong and pay a monthly fee. But the YMCA is so much more than a gym, or exercise club. It serves the entire community with scholarships and subsidies that allow youngsters to attend camps in the summer, to eat healthily on weekends and summertime, to learn team sports, and to swim. It also serves anyone in the community who wants help with chronic disease management and/or prevention, weight loss programs, and it hosts Livestrong programs for people with cancer. It offers exceptional daycare for preschoolers, and tends children whose parents are at the Y to pursue fitness goals . . . and on and on.

We all make donations when we are able—to churches, bootstrap organizations, meal programs, favorite hospitals, cultural groups, and national groups like the Red Cross and organizations assisting any number of needs for people without means to pay for them. Many of those gifts are pure altruistic: “Here—take this—you do great work.” But some gifts are reciprocal—a way to show thankfulness for acts of generosity benefiting us!

When I look back over the past eleven months, I realize I’ve much to be grateful for from various cultural groups, enjoying many memorable theatrical productions, breathtaking symphony concerts, mind-boggling art exhibits. I am immensely grateful for my healthcare providers (cutting out the cancer in January, just for starters), not to mention the loving support and companionship of family and friends, help from neighbors, inspiration from community volunteers, and energy from an always-welcoming staff at the Y. The list goes on. I am blessed with gifts from all kinds of places—from across the street to across the water, from as close as my neighborhood to the neighboring country (home to one of my granddaughters and her parents). My body and soul are all replenished through these gifts. To some I will show my appreciation by making a monetary donation; to others I can only do it with these words: Thank you.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ANOTHER BEFORE & AFTER VIEW


 What a difference a day makes . . . 
well, maybe ten days.  




     Welcome to November. 

A Polished Post

Polished stick on the left
In the 'good old days' (ha ha), my mother kept everything polished--the hardwood floors, her sterling flatware and plated trays, our mahogany and cherrywood furniture. Once in awhile, she'd pay a dollar or two to one of her daughters if we'd polish the brass doorknob on the front door.   I learned early how to turn tarnish into dazzle.

My mother inherited these old Belgian brass candlesticks belonging to my her mother-in-law, so they've always been housed by matriarchs who like things polished! I like shiny things, too, but in the last couple of decades, I've only reluctantly taken the time to spiff things up.

Recently I realized how dull and tarnished the candlesticks looked. Although they're sitting on a prominent side-table in my house, and I change out the candles for color once in awhile, I probably haven't really looked at them for seven years. I certainly haven't polished them since we moved in 2010.

Just another view
Left to right: "after & before"
So . . . I dragged out the dredges of a half-century old bottle of brass polish and began working. Yowie, what an ordeal. I stopped halfway to photograph the 'before and after' effects of one polished and one still tarnished. Notice its darkened, dull patina.

After continuing the ordeal, now both are shiny. Maybe that's the last time I'll polish them, particularly since I all but drained the last drop of polish from the very old container.

What's the point of the blog? To remind us how dazzled we should feel when someone compliments our polished speech or our polished home. And we should smile a lot after the hygienist polishes our teeth.

Friday, October 13, 2017

CHEAP FUN, pt. 2: Unforgettable Dining Experience

Are you nostalgic for the old days when you had parties or patronized varied restaurants?  Even if you find yourself regularly eating dinner with the TV blaring and a dearth of scintillating conversation, you can host a daring dinner party. You don't even need to invite anyone over, although, by all means, include your partner or spouse, if applicable.

This party is sans silverware. Forkless in Fresno, fingers in Fargo! Feed yourself without utensils. Choose a menu item like spaghetti or stew, so it’s really messy. Set out extra napkins (or adult bibs--they really do make such a thing) and enjoy. Be radical by intentionally exhibiting bad manners. Slurp, slop, smack. Turn your meal into a contest. How loudly can you smack your lips and gulp your soup?  If you have a six-year-old granddaughter eating with you, this is a dinner they will never forget (trust me, I know), but it's even more memorable when your guests are six-or-more decades old.)

The next day, it will feel so comfortable to eat the "regular" way. Crank up the news and set out the utensils. You'll relish the return of your routine. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

CHEAP FUN, pt. 1: Phony Trip

A lot of us in my age bracket are fixating on how expensive our favorite activities have become. For that reason, I've decided to devise some inexpensive activities to take their places. Take, for instance, travel. Here's a way to learn about a country and have a little bit of travel-thrill without any expense. And, you don't even need to locate (or renew) your passport.

First, check out a library book on a destination you would like to visit. Next, make up your bed for sleeping on the opposite end. This will make your bed seem just as foreign as a hotel-room bed. While it may seem like a lot of trouble, it’s easier than going through airport security.

After dinner, start reading. When you begin to get sleepy, arrive at your “hotel”—your own bed with the sheets and blankets tucked in at the opposite end. You’ll feel as though you’re on the road with such an unfamiliar accommodation, and might even need a flashlight for your 2 a.m. trip to the bathroom. You won’t get much sleep, but it’ll be memorable. When you get tired of your "trip," return to the other end of the bed. You’ll feel like you’re back home. And because you pored over text and photos in the travel book, you’ll know a lot about the destination you didn’t see.

For extra fun, pack a suitcase and live out of it for a few days. You won’t have the hassle of the TSA, and when the inconvenience of rummaging around for that last clean pair of undies makes you irritable, you can arrive home that minute!

You get the idea. We’re constantly being told that changing our routines is good for our brains, too. So mix it up! All we have to do is use our imaginations to find small delights.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Enhance Friendships


The program is called Enhance Fitness. I've been enrolled since August of 2010, just a month after I retired from Symetra Financial (formerly known as Safeco Life Insurance Company). Offered through the Northshore Senior Center (a nationwide model for senior centers all over the country), Enhance Fitness was billed as a class offering seniors specific aerobic, strength, and stretch exercises. Interestingly, the program was developed locally by Group Health Cooperative and University of Washington Medical School. Now it is a nationwide program that keeps seniors on their toes (and heels) in fifty states.

Not very flattering
but it's how it is
When I enrolled in the class, which was held in Kenmore, a neighboring suburb of Lake Forest Park where we then lived, the class was a modest size, maybe twelve people total (if everyone was present). We worked in a circle setup in a church basement. The classes were (and are) offered three times a week, year-round. Every four months participants are tested in three simple exercises to measure if they're getting stronger or, at least, holding their own.

It was through this class that I formed several deep and lasting friendships, and I've become acquainted with wonderful people, all of whom opened doors and windows into my satisfying life. As the years have gone by, instructors replaced instructors and word of mouth caused participants to join up (sometimes as many as twenty-five exercisers on a given day). And, yes, people do stop coming for myriad reasons, too, some of them forever--you get my drift.

After Jay and I moved from Lake Forest Park to Bothell, the commute to Kenmore in morning rush hour traffic became more and more challenging, so several years ago I transferred my enrollment to an Enhance Fitness class (same curriculum) closer to my home at the Northshore YMCA. So all these years later, I still attend EF. The different locale has allowed me to meet even more wonderful people--men and women--and the quality of instruction has endeared the YMCA to me. I just hit my twelfth anniversary as an Enhance Fitness participant!  I'd like to say I'm still going strong, but . . .

Without the permission of participants, I won't publish picture in which
individuals are recognizable--but you get the drift: Music, movement, sweat!
Recently I was tested--the same three measurements as always.  When I received my results this time, the test results for the entire twelve years were included!  Not too surprisingly,  I did get stronger on the tests the first ten years, but now . . . gulp. Yup, you guessed it: I'm beginning to show a decline. That's the difference between ages 65 and 77, like it or not.

I am determined to keep at it, however. I can only imagine how decrepit I would be without this class! And I would have never met the dozens upon dozens of wonderful people I exercise with.  I deeply appreciate all the benefits that Enhance Fitness has provided me over the years.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ecclesiastes' Words of Wisdom


The stump sculpture in its youth
As a result of recently walking to the deteriorating stump-sculpture (also known in our family as the "Jay tree") near downtown Bothell, I revisited one of my favorite, and (in my opinion) profound passages from Hebrew Scriptures. 

I fell in love with the Book of Ecclesiastes when I took a summer graduate class in Wisdom Literature at Marquette University in the late 1970s. The old professor (he was pushing seventy) took great pains explaining the metaphors of Qoheleth's poetry to his students. (In my late thirties, I was the oldest in the class.) We learned that almond trees become white when they blossom, grinding women represent the attrition of our teeth with age, lattices refer to cataracts, etc. Each line has metaphorical meaning that now I don't need to have anyone explain.

 As a person in my late seventies, I more fully appreciate the professor's passionate approach to this particular section. I also realize how timeless it is, as so many of my peer group enjoy reminding anyone who'll listen how they "find no pleasure" in their myriad exposure to life's current culture and experiences. This translation is by R.B.Y. Scott and published by Doubleday & Company in 1965. 

Ecclesiastes  XII 1-8

[1]  In the days of your youth, remember your grave,
We loved it when
Jay posed for photos by it--
similar eyes and mustache!
When days of trouble have not come yet,
Nor have the years approached when you will say,
"I find no pleasure in them";

[2]  Before the sunshine turns to darkness,
The light fails from moon and stars
And the clouds return, bringing rains.

[3]  When that day comes, the palace guardians will tremble 
And the powerful men will stoop,
The grinding women will case work because they are few,
And they will find it dark who look out from the lattices.

[4]  The doors to the street will be shut
As the sound of the mill becomes low,
The voice of the birds will be silenced,
And all who sing songs will be hushed.

[5]  Then will men grow afraid of a height,
And terrors will lurk on the road;

The almond tree will blossom, the locust be weighted down,
And the caper berry be impotent.
For a man is on the way to his long-lasting home
And the mourners gather in the street, [waiting]--

[6]  Until the silver cord be cut, and the golden bowl be broken,
The pitcher shattered at the spring
And the water wheel broken at the cistern.

[7]  So dust will return to the earth where it was before,
And the breath of life will return to God who gave it.

[8]  Breath of a breath! says Qoheleth--All is a breath!

Today the sculpture is clearly in the throes
of returning to earth. It is still magnificent.