Friday, December 20, 2013

Goodbye, bike!

1974 "girl's" three-speed Raleigh
 A little bit of our family history was delivered to the thrift store the other day . . . with the hopes that someone will delight in finding a vintage three-speed Raleigh that needs quite a bit of restoration.  The bike was a big deal in 1974—three gears—and “the biggy” gift to our daughter on her eleventh birthday. She was thrilled and the envy of many of her sixth grade peers because of it.
Resting at Value Village while VV
attendant retrieves a receipt for donation

Over the years its design has become woefully obsolete. By today’s high-tech standards, it’s downright primitive with only three gears.  I tried to “get back in the saddle” with this bike a few years ago, but floundered . . . eventually deciding that either it or I was too old for the project.

Hubby and I agreed it was taking up precious garage space, and our daughter has long since upgraded her bike. Off it went to Value Village where it will become someone’s treasure, we hope—maybe just in time for Christmas. Goodbye, the likelihood that I will ever ride a bike again. (It's OK, really.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A ten year old's poem

Grandma, I wrote this poem about the book The Giver*, I thought you would enjoy reading it. If you haven't read The Giver, the poem may not make sense. Love, Maddie 

THE GIVER
Memories flashing by
No color seen from eye to eye
One single soul is chosen
To remember the days of the frozen
The mistake of a decade
Leaving everyone afraid
                                       
 by Maddie, age 10

(*Grandma's note: Dear Blog Reader: It isn't every day I'm willing to give up my platform to share it with another writer. However, the ability of a certain (yes, beloved) ten-year-old to capture the essence of this book warrants sharing this space. The Giver is by Lois Lowry and was published in 1993. Click here to read a synopsis.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Letter to Santa Claus


Dear Santa,*

I don’t have your e-mail address, and you don’t seem to be on any of the social networks, either. I’m hoping you read my blog because I know how backlogged the post office gets this time of year (although it's been doing great, so far).

I’m writing to thank you for everything you do. Year after year, you provide so much pleasure to our weary world. Just think of all the children who talk about you incessantly during the month of December and all the projects you inspire with crayons, stickers, needlepoint and computers. Consider the songs, movies and plays about you—the poetry and secrets. You represent hope for children of all ages and cause careworn adults everywhere to smile and laugh. The world becomes a little gentler, a little softer because of you. 

Lately I’ve been worrying about you, though, what with the talk of global warming. It sounds as though you may need to relocate your North Pole operations sometime in the near future. From what I understand, you’d dearly miss the spectacular aurora borealis—especially in these darkest months—but otherwise you might enjoy a warmer climate. After all, you and Mrs. Claus aren’t getting any younger. Imagine how much easier it would be to oversee all that activity if your joints didn’t ache so much and you could soak up some warmth and light from the sun when you sneak outside to puff on your pipe.

Come to think of it, I’m sure many states would offer you a lot of perks (tax breaks, a golden parachute, etc.) for the privilege of having your world renowned enterprise headquartered within their borders. You might even be able to stop contributing to the elves’ pensions and get them set up in 401(k)s if you relocate to a business-friendlier place. I have to say—if a 401(k) is good enough for most of small-to-big corporate business to offer their employees in lieu of pensions, it would be good enough for most of your elves. You could always enact some kind of bonus for the go-getters.

And here’s another idea: Have you thought about going public? After all, most of us already feel as though we are stakeholders—so why not be shareholders? We all benefit from your success. I mean, what if you didn’t show up with the requested gifts on Christmas Eve? A lot of us adults wouldn’t know how to cope if your enterprise didn’t consistently deliver on its promises. In fact, your customer service is outstanding!  

Although they’re not strictly ‘made in America, at least the toys built at the North Pole aren’t being built by underage, underpaid and undervalued people in the likes of China or Bangladesh. Surely you pay your elves something better than minimum wage! Did you know that a small town in Washington—Seatac—has just raised its minimum wage to $15/hour? Of course, the voter referendum is being challenged in court, but please pay attention to what’s happening if you want to retain excellent workers.

I’m sorry, Santa, I’m rambling. I intended just to say thanks, but I guess I got a bit carried away. Your annual visit represents possibility to young and old alike. I have been your fan for seventy (at least!) years and my commitment to your cause gets greater every year. You inspire me. Merry Christmas!

Sallie
*Apologies if you notice redundancies from my Christmas-card letter written 2009.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Abundant Blessings

Created on an iPad by S. Glerum
Drawing or painting a cornucopia is straightforward and relatively easy. Outline a crescent-shape, fill it with color and roundish things, and "voila!"

Each class day, my Saturday art teacher, Della Bushnell of Aberdeen, Wash., assembled an elaborate still life for us, her middle-school and high-school students. Mrs. Bushnell's medium was oil, so the still life remained in place for many weeks--until all her students hit the mark she set for each.

Last year's cornucopia, also created on an iPad


In November the subject matter would always be the same: a large cornucopia (that had seen better days) filled with winter squash and embellished with other produce that she would keep in her fridge and add back in during the next several lessons. (Grapes were a favorite--she loved showing us how to add the little highlight to make them look delectable.) When she pronounced us finished with our oil paintings, we were free to draw the same subject in pastels. Hearing Mrs. Bushnell say, "I think you're done--I like it!" was a little piece of heaven for the budding artist.

Maybe it was those classes that made me love the image of a cornucopia--abundance spilling forth onto a metaphorical world of plenty. Lucky us if we can relate to that. And lucky us at our house this year. We have many blessings, the biggest of which is Hubby's return to good health.

Below is an excerpt from an e-mail received this morning--from one of my kids to whom I sent the iPad painting.

I love the cornucopia as an image... I very much associate the image with you and love that it speaks to you and that you passed your appreciation of it on to your children...

Yes, feeling appreciated and loved might be the best blessing of all. Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Before the December holidays hit . . .

Tiny vs. Huge
I've been remiss in adding new posts this month, but before November is over, I must share this photo.

No one but residents of the Pacific coast would believe the size of the leaves of our native bigleaf maple trees. Just for fun, I put a tiny found leaf (I don't know what species it is) next to a leaf from the bigleaf maple on a bench while I was walking along the Sammamish River Trail. Here is the picture I snapped.

Years ago, a midwestern visitor looked at the trail of leaves shed by the mature tree on the hill behind our backyard and nearly fainted. "Heavens, dear," she exclaimed, "you really have to own a big rake out here in Washington!" 

 

Monday, November 4, 2013

A branch of scripture . . .



"And I only am escaped alone to tell thee."
Job: 1:15
As Hubby and I walked along the Sammamish River Trail in Bothell on Sunday after a severe windstorm Saturday, we came across a small tree that had been blown down across the pathway. 
One upright branch on a fallen tree made for a visually stunning image. For whatever reason, the Book of Job came to mind and I could hear the messenger's lyrical and heartbreaking statement to Job, "And I only am escaped alone to tell thee."

 


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Outrageous outsourcing

Below is the card of instructions and (presumably the warranty), which was included with a waterproof cell-phone case that Hubby purchased a few months ago. If it weren't so indicative of today's retail environment, it would be funny. I have typed it out under the reproduction for easier reading.
 

Please rest assured that you can use, this product has made water-proof test (qualified)


Features:

1.  the use of new high-security performance waterproofing system, waterproofing a rigorous test.

2. the use of special soft, waterproof material, does not affect the phone, with the effect of perturbation, such as operating functions.

3. fear of aquatic products will achieve a certain degree on the inside of the Loss Prevention protection.

4. When using this product, such as cameras. Handsets and other products falling into the water, will be automatically cropped to.

Note the Use:


1. The use of this product, please do so before the water test and check whether there is damage to part of in particular, and the surrounding seal.

2. The use of the process and avoid strong impact and scratch, please do not use at a high temperature durable,

3. In the water after use, if necessary, remove the bag of items, please seal the Department down and avoid residual Within the water into the waterproof.

 4. Applicable to the temperature between 35 degrees and not to the use of hot springs.

After purchase, please do your water tests is no problem and then use the course in the use of sharp items to avoid being scratchad, The product that you use the default security of the quality of the goods and to bear in the course of any problems arising.


 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Poetry of Bees

Click this link to see a short film about the dances of bees, which was made by my daughter-in-law who is a gifted filmmaker. When you see the still shot waiting for you on the title screen, you will know why there is no photograph I could possibly use on this blog that would be as wonderful as hers (and I wasn't going to abuse copyright by pasting it here). Enjoy!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Autumn foliage from an Elfin viewpoint

As I started out to take a walk on a trail adjacent to our house,
I thought--at first glance--that someone
had sprayed a little bit of yellow paint on the path.
When I looked closely, I saw the yellow "paint" was a colorful
spore growing on fallen Jack-pine needles.

A beautiful sight, especially if one were an elf, or other form of
"little people" who populate the world of the imagination.

Several days later, I didn't see the "paint," but on close examination
saw that the spores had changed from bright yellow to
a rusty orange. This would be autumn on a micro-scale,
something I've not considered before. Now, I find myself
intrigued with the idea there's a seasonal change going on
that's invisible to most of us.



 

Friday, September 27, 2013

What happens when you don't pay attention

The continuing failure of a road crew to pay attention to the temporary sign it placed daily (between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.) on Highway 522 in Bothell gave drivers reason to pay attention as they drove around this curve. When Hubby snapped the photo (I was driving and asked him to get his phone camera ready, anticipating seeing this messed-up sign again), we were into the third week of this hazardous, contradictory signage. Just yesterday the smaller sign was removed--after three weeks of its repeated misplacement.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Falling for fall

Sixty years ago, fall was my favorite season—hands down. Mostly it was about school, and I enjoyed it all: selecting supplies (folders, book covers, notebooks, and even ink for my fountain pen), wearing new school clothes, helping decorate the classroom bulletin board, greeting old friends from the prior school year, collecting colorful leaves, and savoring the crunch of crisp, new-crop apples in my lunch pail. What was not to like! As the calendar rolled through October and November, each with a delectable holiday, the seasonal opportunities for drawing, writing, and eating reinforced all my favorite activities (to this day). Fall was better than winter or spring in terms of its array of festivals.

Now, as an old woman, I fully understand why many people my age dread the season—the dimming the days, the tendency to become housebound, the oppression of oncoming darkness, the sadness of holidays bereft of loved ones. It’s impossible not to realize life is running out.

Even with the slow disappearance of foliage and light, fall days can be spectacular in the Seattle area. A good deep breath of the pungent air this time of year can put a catch in my throat. Noticing the intricacy of a spider’s web outlined in fog adds delight to an ordinary day. Prying open a horse-chestnut shell to find its polished mahogony treasure makes me smile, even if I'm feeling grumpy. 
 
There's still a lot to love about fall. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Better than what . . .

As Hubby progresses in his recovery from massive surgery, we talk confidently about his feeling good at the end of the process. It’s hard for a busy, active person to have patience during day-to-day incremental improvement, but he’s doing well at maintaining a positive frame of mind.

“You’ll feel better every day . . . after a month . . . by January,” are only a few variations of happy forecasts he hears regularly in conversations with neighbors, health providers, and friends. We both nod in agreement. Then we ask, “Better than what?”

Better than now—of course! Fatigue is still a problem for Hubby, not to mention the inadvisability of(and limited ability for) engaging in strenuous activities. But it’s recently dawned on us that he might easily feel better than he felt in July or June and maybe even May! According to many cancer patients, looking backwards often illuminates a cancer symptom that was unrecognized at the time: fatigue. Hubby had been discouraged for several months before his diagnosis in August by a chronic exhaustion that was getting in the way of his work activities. Like most of us who are in our seventies, he attributed the feeling to aging, not illness.

Now we are imagining that when he feels “better,”  he could feel better than he has for a long time—even though he will be further along life's journey. Better than new? well, maybe that’s a bit much. Better than a year ago? Quite possibly. And that is an incentive for patience.

And a footnote: In my blog of August 31 (New Perspective), I wrote about his “need for additional treatment.” That was a recommendation, but based on the extremely small statistical improvement for enhanced longevity—in his particular situation—Hubby is choosing not to undergo chemotherapy. And, just as a political candidate might do, I will add: "I approve this decision."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Power of Small

When my children were little, I was determined they would be grounded in spirituality. To that end, I took a lengthy, weeks-long workshop from a local woman who was making a name for herself in early childhood religious education, particularly as it pertained to sustaining the natural sense of wonder with which preschoolers are naturally endowed.

The workshop was a huge commitment of time, but the instructor was charismatic. Many evenings I returned home in a feverish pitch of thankfulness to have four opportunities be the best mother I could possibly be. And, indeed—my children, then ages one, three, four, and six greatly benefited. One of our favorite family rituals—the Stay-up Night—evolved from the teaching of that inspirational woman, Veronica Beacom Dreves.

Bonnie, as she was known to her friends and students, was passionate in her determination that young children NOT hear any Bible stories in Sunday School. No one should acquire a childish understanding of such grownup topics as scripture! She was full of examples of the distortion that occurs when concepts acquired in childhood impede adult faith, so the Sunday school that my young children attended in the ‘70s was as enlightened as any program offered anywhere in the country.

Helping children think about concepts they would later attribute to God and matters of faith, such as the capacity of unconditional love, the importance of each person, and the reverence nature deserves, comprised the essence of early religious education for those of us who adhered to Bonnie’s philosophy. By reinforcing the magnificence of the natural world with preschoolers, teachers were laying the foundation of spirituality in adulthood. Bonnie's curricula included a lot of ways to develop and enhance self-esteem in children, especially necessary in a world where they often feel powerless. 

I thought about Bonnie a week ago when I picked up the newspaper and misread a headline. You see, one of my favorite memories from those Sunday school days is a lesson called the “Power of Small,” and that lesson came back to figuratively smack me over the head as an old woman. First I skimmed the headline, then began reading the article. Huh? My expectation was completely wrong. Why? I had skipped over one tiny letter—“a," the smallest word in the dictionary. Here I've copied the headline to show you what I accidentally read.

In the “Power of Small” lesson, the Sunday school teacher brought in cloves of garlic to the classroom, one for each child to hold. Oh, the little organic cloves . . . so tiny and insignificant.  Beneath the radar . . . yes? Then the children were told to crush the garlic. Ee-ew! How evident power of tiny, small, insignificant—every piece, every component in the universe matters. Most importantly, how important are the small people . . . people who are four or five years old!
 
The next part of the lesson involved examining individual kernels of unpopped corn. And then . . . the grand finale . . . you guessed it. With plenty of mother-helpers and a closely supervised hotplate, the teacher popped a batch of popcorn with the lid off the pan. The visual impact of the energy in a small amount of those kernels is spectacular.

So it is with the tiniest word in our language, the simple stand-alone “a.” It can change the meaning 180 degrees. Wow! 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Homemade notecards

I have a dear ex-neighbor who's moved to a health-management facility in a suburb that's way out of my comfort zone for driving, so I've been writing
Heirloom and Cherry Tomatoes
on Paper Napkin
him notes in lieu of visiting. I'm always drawn to blank decorative note cards in gift shops, bookstores, and museums, so I generally have a huge supply of them on hand. I buy cards with little regard to "need," probably with the same urge that prompted Imelda Marcos to buy shoes.

Peaches and Pear Ripening
in Celedon Bowl
But now the nearly unthinkable . . . I have almost run out of note cards appropriate for my correspondence with him. So I'm making my own. He is enormously forgiving in terms of the decor on the cards. He probably wouldn't care if I wrote on a paper towel. In other words, I have a captive audience for some of my creative moments, so without fear of censor, I'm having a lot of fun.

Here are two cards I have created for him recently. The tomatoes are watercolor, and they look MUCH better in this tiny version here than they do in the actual size.

The other (Peaches and Pear) is tiny, decorated with colored pencils my granddaughters gave me for my birthday a few years ago. They are soft, wonderful pencils--the kind you can douse with water, if desired, to turn a picture into an ersatz watercolor. In this case I left the pencil strokes alone.

The fruit bowl filled with fruit from my local farmers' market, and was (all gone now) utterly delectable.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Perspective

When I began Beats Talking to Myself, I was determined to keep it from being one of ‘those’ blogs that fades out of sight (and Web site). I’ve read that something nearing 90 percent of all blogs stop being updated within the first eighteen months of their inception.  

But life gets in the way of good intentions sometimes. So does illness and taking care of someone who isn’t up to snuff. And when that someone is your spouse, priorities change instantly. There isn’t time to write a blog, and, besides, who cares!

Hubby surprised us both by his sudden transition from healthy, active and energized to cancer patient within a two week period. I am happy to report that he is recuperating at home and doing incredibly well after a complex, eight-hour-long surgery mid-month, but our journey during August—to stick with the traveling metaphor—was on dirt roads, through potholes, and over one-lane bridges.

Visits to the hospital can take up the entire day; chauffeuring a patient to and from health appointments after his hospital discharge pulls time off the clock like a magnet sucking up nails. Offering assistance and comfort without being cloying is a challenge, not to mention taking care of all the household stuff that heretofore was shared.

It takes something like this to realize what good health and good fortune we’ve had all these years (almost fifty-one of them), married to each other. It's as if we are viewing our collective life with new perspective. Neither one of us is angry or outraged at this turn of events. Que sera, sera. We will manage what comes. Yes—there is need for additional treatment after surgery, but for now we are not looking ahead. And every day Hubby feels better.
 
A friend of ours who is currently caring for his wife during a difficult health ordeal recently wrote that he has never been more in love with her, that he feels as close to her emotionally as he did when they first were married. I loved reading his words because I understood immediately what he meant. I won’t pretend that sometimes I don’t miss my social freedoms or don’t feel cranky about horizons closing in, but Hubby and I are sharing a new kind of intimacy that feels both important and intense. The reality of this life-changing game is raw and physical, but being available to care for, comfort, cajole, and chauffeur feels, oddly enough, something like a privilege.

 And . . . for now . . . I am back to my blog—at least occasionally.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I can eat a rainbow . . .

Remember the song, "I Can Sing a Rainbow"? Well, I not only can sing one, I can eat one! The bunch of fresh chard from the local farmers' market was so huge I decided to cook it in two batches. Dinner I--greens only. Dinner II--stalks only.
When I cut up the stalks to put into the steamer, I was struck by how utterly beautiful this vegetable is and snapped a picture with my phone. You'll have to agree, this was visually one spectacular veggie (tasting sweet and fresh, too, with just a dash of salt and pepper).

P.S. If you want to listen to "I Can Sing a Rainbow," click your mouse here and enjoy.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Two Bits

 
 
Tap tappy tap tap . . . “shave and a haircut.”
The rhythm is pounded out over and over
above my head, but without the “two bits” part.
That’s the sound the roofers on my house
this morning, fastening shingles in turtle-shell rows.
 
I’ve learned some stuff about roofs in the last few days.
Felt doesn’t mean poodle skirts to roofers, but black
tarry looking paper that keeps the plywood dry.
The words valleys and ridges don’t make roofers think of leisurely hikes,
either. I’ve watched the tear-off—pieces and bits of old roof—
sail down past my window into the open mouth
of a dump truck. Late afternoons I’ve swept up nails and
staples missed by the magnet dragger, and gathered
chunks of felt and shingles and yakked with neighbors
about how long this inconvenience will continue.
 
Now I sit here feeling somewhat peevish about the noise,
loud thumping overhead and tap tappy tap tap. Crackling sounds
like the roof is a bowl in which the makings of a giant’s omlet
is being prepared by thwacking eggs on its edge.
Amplified squeaking sounds like orthotics rubbing
inside a shoe, craving the silence of talcum, add fuel
to my imaginings of Colossus tromping overhead.
 
I sit here like a privileged spoiled and entitled woman
who couldn’t fix her own roof if her life depended on it,
probably not even one made of straw or twigs. Maybe not
even a blue tarp roof. Blanche Dubois and I both depend on the
kindness of strangers . . . or the desperation of strangers.
I can’t speak their language except to say hola and gracias.
 
“All roofers nowadays are Hispanic,” says the roofing
consultant when he talks to my Homeowners’ Association
about what to expect when the job begins.
“No one from here wants to do the work anymore,” he says,
and tells us that when he was in college
roofing was his summertime job. “Now these guys come over
from wherever  . . . uh, they’re fully documented . . .
and they do great work.” I waited for him to wink, but
to his credit, he didn't. He adds for emphasis,
“They will do the work and they’re good at what they do.”
 
It will reach 100 degrees on the roof today. The five men
working on it are all wearing straw hats, the kind I saw
being worn by workers in sugarcane fields in Puerto Rico
in 1957. One hat remained on the bushes at the end of
my walkway after the first day. It was frayed and sweaty,
the real thing, not like the tourist version you see when airplanes
arrive from Cabos San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta.
 
I sit at my desk, tapping my keyboard, at the same time
listening to the tap tappy tap tap on the roof. I wonder
how it must feel for men to be so frightfully hot,
bent over on their haunches or standing on ladders, nailing first plywood,
then felt, then shingles, wondering if they are
thinking about home and their families and
how much money they can make before the heat
defeats them—simply does them in—and if they
will live to see their paychecks.



 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Who says trees don't listen . . .

. . . or think or smile or cry. This tree lives about a half-mile upstream from our home. It could be right out of a Peter Jackson film!


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Along the Way—My great-uncle's memoir


I have just finished a reading marathon: a memoir by my great uncle, Col. William Neill Hughes, Jr., who was born in 1878. His 278-page, double-spaced and self-typed manuscript written in the mid-1950s is called  Along the Way: Incidents—Anecdotes—Episodes—Adventures.  I tried to read it as a young woman because I adored my Uncle Billy, but it seemed dry and difficult. War "stories" weren't my "thing." I set it aside for—let’s see—almost sixty years.
Wm. Neill Hughes, Jr.--Uncle Billy, 1963

Sitting at my kitchen table (where the light is good and the chair comfortable), I became immersed in the politics of war—both the Spanish American and WWI—as described by this man who enlisted in the army at age nineteen (leaving behind law studies and a job working for the railroad in Pennsylvania), following in the footsteps of his career-army father. He retired from the army in 1921 as a Colonel as Chief of Staff of the 42nd Division (Rainbow).

He worked as a civilian for a period, then reentered the army at the invitation of General Squier, the Chief Signal Officer of the Army, to become chief signal officer of the 7th Corps (comprising Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa and Minnesota). After being ordered to report to Washington D.C. as the assistant to General Squier, he retired again—this time for good. His subsequent business career in New York and Chicago was focused on banking, particularly the overseeing of businesses in receivership due either to poor management or the Great Depression.

Uncle Billy’s memoir is anecdotal and reads, in part, like a Who’s Who of the army, including personal encounters and episodes involving Generals Pershing, Billy Mitchell, George Squier, Charles Rhodes, and two McArthurs, Arthur and Douglas. His first-hand tales of near assassination and near-misses from rifle and artillery fire are hair raising. His depictions of the hardships soldiers endure are among the most memorable I’ve ever read—probably because I knew the writer. For the first time in my life, I am in awe of the logistics of moving a Division of 25,000 troops from one place to another—not to mention procuring them sufficient food, clothing, and ammunition to stay alive .
In my late teen years, after meeting Uncle Billy for the first and only time (he lived in the southeastern United States and we lived in the Pacific northwest), I became his devoted fan. The two of us carried on a correspondence that began in my late high school years and lasted thirteen years until he died in 1970. We wrote to each other about many topics, but I never had a full understanding what had made him who he was—until now.
If anything has made me believe even more strongly in the legacy of anecdotal history (not to mention incidental, episodic and adventurous), it is this wonderfully rich memoir written for the author's descendants. If anything has made me believe in the need for maturation before reading certain works, it is this fascinating tale written by a man two generations ahead of me. If anything has made me want to meet up with a long-dead relative in the hereafter, it is my recent immersion in another person's life, thanks to the dedication and self-discipline of my Uncle Billy.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Getting out the door--then and now


Remember summertime when you were seven- or eight-years old? The freedom factor?

I would like to think that I, as a seventy-three-year-old, have as much freedom (or more) as I did when I was seven. I’m doubtful, however, when it comes to getting out the door on a summer morning.
 
 That 1947 little girl would wake up,
 
  • leap out of bed,
  • throw on her clothes,
  • eat breakfast,
  • brush her teeth, and
  • GO OUTSIDE TO PLAY!
OK, she was supposed to wash her face and wait for her mother braid her hair, but what stood between her and the joy of the day really didn’t amount to much. Now look at what it takes to leave the house on a summer morning.
This 2013 old woman has to wake up:
  • stagger out of bed,
  • drink coffee, 
  • read parts of two newspapers,  
  • check three e-mail inboxes,
  • eat breakfast,
  • brush her teeth,
  • take a shower,  
  • rub on body lotion,
  • select an outfit,
  • blow dry and style hair,
  • check chin and eyebrows for straggly hairs,  
  • apply lipstick,  
  • swallow assorted over-the-counter vitamin and joint supplements,
  • wash her eyeglasses,  
  • insert her hearing aids,  
  • switch orthotics into the appropriate shoes,  
  • hunt down a hankie or tissue packet,
  • locate her sunglasses,
  • check the stove burners and the front door bolt,  
  • gather belongings—purse, cell phone, keys, and finally,
  • GO OUTSIDE TO PLAY!
WHEE!    

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Earth Comfort Woman

Actual clothing worn by Earth Comfort Woman
on the day the title was bestowed
So much for fancying myself as a fashion icon for seventy-somethings. Yesterday I had an experience that wiped that possibility off the slate.

Fashion has never been my thing, but I strive for a well- groomed and coordinated look. After I retired, even though comfort took precedent as the essential factor in my clothing choices, I have continued trying to look—some days more successfully than others—“put together.”  At the very least, I imagine myself as a woman who curtsies to fashion, even if she doesn’t embrace it.

But after yesterday, any self-delusion must be put aside. I walked into the bank where I’m a regular customer, due to my role as Treasurer of my Homeowners’ Association.  The three middle-aged female tellers always look up to greet me, which is a pleasant change from the supermarket where I have shopped for dozens of years and spent thousands of dollars annually without a glimmer of recognition from a checkout clerk.

One of the tellers called out, “Hi, there! You look great today . . . so summery and comfortable.”

The second one echoed, “Yes, your clothes are always so nice and, uh . . . wholesome looking—so comfy.”

The third woman topped off this cozy welcome with, “You should probably know," she said as she nodded at the other two, "we refer to you as Earth Comfort Woman."

Outwardly smiling, I didn’t know if I wanted to cry or laugh on the inside. Self-image is one thing; conveyance of that image to others is an entirely different animal. Earth Comfort Woman is not a bad image, really . . . but one I never would  have tagged myself with. I finished up my banking as quickly as possible.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain about my anonymity at the supermarket.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Renewing domain registration Google

NOTE: Before you go to the trouble of reading what's below, check out the June 22, 2014 post for a GOOD tip that could save you HOURS of angst. sg 6/22/14

I wish I could give exact instructions on how to renew a domain registration through Google. Unfortunately, I cannot, but I can tell you what I eventually did to renew mine.
First, here is the UNHELPFUL e-mail I received June 2, 2013 from Google Apps.

Per our records, your domain registration subscription for the domain beatstalkingtomyself.com has been set to NOT auto-renew. As a result, this domain WILL NOT auto-renew on June 25, 2013. If you do not enable auto-renew, your domain name registration will expire, your Google Apps account will no longer be associated with your domain name, and you may lose all data associated with your Google Apps account. Therefore, if you’d like to continue using Google Apps we recommend turning auto renewal ON. Please do not reply to this email, replies are not monitored.

All I had to do was to check the box for “automatic renewal” but there was no way to get to where that button was.

After about three hours of sitting at my computer that day—searching and searching for a way in to Google Apps, I began seeking outside help. That saga, extending over six days of fretful frustration, is covered in my June 3 post called “Google Hellp.” Eventually, I was able to restore an old file containing the original e-mail, which I saved in 2009 (the file having been overwritten when I downloaded a “new and improved” upgrade from my Internet Provider a year ago). Of course, I had no idea that was going to happen when I agreed to the upgrade.

The idea for looking for the link in the original e-mail was a solution reported online by others in the same boat. But WHY wasn’t the link contained in my June 2 e-mail? And why—on GOOGLE itself—wasn’t the Google Apps I needed crossed referenced so a search would find it easily?

 When I located the original e-mail sent out by Google when I first purchased my domain, I was able to just click the link provided in that e-mail and “Voila?”  It’s a unique link for my domain, however—and it isn’t going to work for anyone else. The beginning of it is:

http://www.google.com/a/cpanel/domain/setup/beatstalkingtomyself/ followed by 34 characters in a mix and match of numbers, alphas, and symbols with lower and upper case particulars. When I received the original e-mail in July 2009, I was instructed to go to a help center identified as https://www.google.com/support/a which now appears to be a useless address.

Here are two addresses in my original e-mail that might  help someone who is in the same boat:


http://admin.google.com/yourdomainname.com/DomainSettings#DomainSettings/subtab=domains

My only advice is to SAVE YOUR ORIGINAL E-MAIL when you purchase your domain, as following Google’s instructions results in a BIG nothing! Good luck, and may you never ever have to repeat what I went through.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Whole New Meaning to "Missing Link"

Thanks to a whole lot of people who had ideas ab out my blog domain crisis . . . the day-saver was none other than Hubby who helped me locate a missing saved file on my P.C. that contained the link I needed.

I learned, after combing myriad help sites online, that hundreds and hundreds of other domain owners are having the same horrible problem with Google Apps that I had.  Most of those people concluded that the ONLY way to reset the renewal was to use a link initially sent from Google when the domain originally was purchased. My Internet provider had upgraded my service a year-and-a-half ago, and wiped out my old stored e-mails in the process.  Even its helpline could not help me find them.

Enter Hubby! He recalled an earlier way he and I backed up saved e-mails, and--after he sat down at my computer, found and restored the old e-mails--I was able to locate the e-mail from July 2009 containing the missing link.

I am still furious at Google, but at least I have Beats Talking to Myself for another year. And believe me, I have made so many backups of how to do it in the future that I will have to be totally senile to have a repeat of this trouble.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Google hell(p)

I write tonight oozing with frustration. Google has me completely flummoxed. I want to like Google because it supports my blog, but tonight I am not liking Google, even a little bit.

I love my blog--its name, as well as the opportunity it gives me to comment on anything at all. Over the four years I've been writing it, more than 25,000 people have seen it. No doubt some of those hits were from readers trying to find something or someone else, but it's still satisfying to see the readership numbers increase monthly. Tonight I am hoping one of those readers (you?) will be able to help me.

The problem: I have received a notice from Google ("Do NOT respond to this e-mail) that my blog domain will not renew without intervention from me. If I don't intervene by the end of June, I will lose my domain--the name "Beats Talking To Myself." And, I have to confess, that even people who hate blogs and never read them on principle tell me they like the name of my blog. I cannot imagine having a blog by any other name. No, it would NOT smell as sweet, Mr. Shakespeare.

All I have to do by way of this intervention is to change one check-mark in "Manage My Domain" section of the administrative part of my blog. Problem is, I cannot access that area. I have searched Q&As online; I have driven to Best Buy to talk to a Geek Squad member face-to-face, I have accepted help from a knowledgeable young veteran who overheard the Geek Squad conversation; I have asked a former neighbor who used to work for Google; I have tried every possible Website referenced and cross referenced by others trying to do the same thing. I even did everything a second time as Hubby sat next to me to validate my attempts; I have talked to another tech squad on an 800 line.

The answer is always: ASK GOOGLE. But there's the rub (thanks, Mr. Shakespeare--that works)--there is no way to ASK GOOGLE!  Even after the Geek Squad man gave me a telephone number and an e-mail address, there is no way. I have to be a business with employees to get a response from Google. No help is provided otherwise. (I even tried faking up a business, but that didn't work.) I would be happy to pay Google for advice, but there seems to be no way to do that, either.

The sad thing is that when a domain expires, Google doesn't keep the blog around. The content disappears. I have always considered my blog as a legacy, of sorts, for my primary audience--my grown children. So this is not just maddening, it is traumatizing to the motherly corner of my heart.

If anyone who reads this can help me, please . . . the comment section on the blog has a large capacity. Thank you.
 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Language of Flowers

Month was a particularly eloquent month at my house in the language of flowers.
A stranger's thank you for finding her fanny pack
on the bike trail near my house.
 

A son's remembrance on the occasion of
Mother's Day.




A neighbor-friend's thank you for a ride
to urgent care to get stitches in his gashed arm.





A granddaughter's craft project bequeathed 
as a thank you for a fun-filled weekend.



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My weekend

This collage is a summary of my weekend. Just Mae and I, or in today's vernacular, "Me & Mae. Her parents took a short trip and entrusted this lovable free-spirit to me for two-and-a-half days. Nothing energizes like being near boundless energy; I haven't felt so lively in a long time.

Dolls, park, singing, playing the violin, pretending in masks, cousin fun, visiting Pacific Science Center, shopping, dining, and  rampant imaginary scenarios . . . just a sampling of the activities we enjoyed together this weekend.

But one of the most exciting things isn't depicted here, because I couldn't think about even touching a camera. We ate dinner with only our fingers one night. NO SILVERWARE ALLOWED! The best parts of the menu (which we planned together) were the applesauce and macaroni and cheese, all the more delicious for being eaten like poi.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

SAY IT ALOUD!

          A number of years ago I wrote an essay called “Unwitting Gifts” in which I reflected on how an offhand remark can help change the way we think.  Such a remark can be so monumental it feels life changing—a gift even when the giver is oblivious. We’ve all had those eureka-moments resulting from a spontaneous comment, but one I am referring to in this article was a made forty years ago and a second-hand comment, at that.

Recently I had coffee with Christine, a woman I’d been out of touch with for decades. She had been a student in a university Drama Department where my husband was a faculty member in the early 1970s. Christine and I  reconnected about a year ago at a memorial service for the professor who had been the Drama Department Chair then. His students, who spanned four decades, created a Facebook page in the aftermath of his death and continued to post updates about themselves long after the memorial service.  I saw a reference to Christine’s blog on the Facebook page and, after reading it, was so impressed I dropped her a line to suggest we meet for coffee.

About an hour-and-a-half into our coffee date, which we were both finding lively and interesting, Christine mentioned how unsure of herself she’d been in school and through her thirties—even into her forties. She confided that her insecurity was sometimes incapacitating and her vulnerability meant repeated faltering as she struggled to find her niche. Convinced she was less talented at acting than other drama students, she was uncertain where she fit in.

At this point in our conversation she shared a remark she had heard recently for the first time—a casual remark originally made by the deceased professor some forty years earlier. She and her friend  (I’ll call her Rose) were sharing memories about their university days when Rose nonchalantly cited the remark as she reminisced about the beloved professor. It seems he was chatting about his theatre history class with Rose, a high achiever in the department.

“When you write your term paper or exam paper, Rose,” the professor had said, “you'll tell me all the right things. . . and that’s wonderful—you’re a strong student. But when Christine writes a paper or an exam, she'll tell me something I’ve never thought about before.”

Chris paused here and looked at me. I could see tears glistening in her eyes and sympathetic tears sprang into mine as she continued talking. “Do you realize what this would have meant if he had said that to me? . . . if I’d heard it back then?” 

I nodded. Immediately I understood how life changing it could have been for a young college student, awash in self-doubt, to have heard this observation from an admired professor. Thinking about it set off a reaction inside me that had become—by the time I got home—an unwitting gift.

Those words, “If only he had said that to me!” became a profound observation of an obvious truth. I began to think how rarely it happens—telling an individual the strengths we see in them, letting the bearer of the talent or strength hear aloud what it is he or she brings to the mix.

Whether teacher, parent, mentor, or boss, we have a responsibility to communicate truths to those in our care. A casual positive comment made today can easily have an effect that lasts a lifetime. We humans are reflective creatures who benefit from having others tell us what they see, holding up a figurative mirror for us. Even when commentary is fluff, it affects the recipient. If you tell me I have pretty legs, I’ll make sure to cross them ‘just so’ the next time we get together. If you tell me I’m funny, I’ll make certain I clown around when I’m with you. If you tell me I am brilliant,  I will begin to understand that my mind works on a different level from other people’s.  Likewise, if you tell me I’m fat or ugly or dumb, you are influencing me . . . and if you say nothing, well . . .  that can be the most unsettling commentary of all.

            Christine’s reaction to the anecdote set an empathic reverberation in me that made me realize how essential it is to speak aloud my positive observations to the people I interact with. If I see extraordinary ability in them, I must not assume—whether they be co-workers, my direct reports or boss, grandchildren, friends, or even my neighbors—that they intuitively understand and appreciate their talents.

It’s a simple thing, but how rarely it’s done—to say aloud to the people I interact with what they are good at. I hope Christine’s unwitting gift will remind me to Say It Aloud! whenever I have the opportunity. Doing so could have a profound effect on someone’s life.

Christine is brilliant and gifted and an original thinker, but she would have benefited enormously had she heard it as a young woman from a teacher she admired. Now, at least, I am going to make sure she hears it from me.
 
 
Copyright © 2013 by Sara J. Glerum
 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Busy as a beaver

Our river has a noticeable population of busy beavers. Almost every time we go for a walk along the river, there's new activity visible. We have never seen them at work, but occasionally we see them swimming in the river.

We have to stand very still, because if they see us, they immediately submerge--never to be seen again . . . until the next time, anyway, which could be a week or longer. But the amazing ability of a small mammal to fell a tree is greatly admired by the people who live at our house.
 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lament of the Song Sparrow’s Victim

Below is a silly poem I wrote in 2008 when a song sparrow became unable to stop himself from slamming into our dining room window every few minutes for three entire (very long) weeks. Eventually he gave up . . . or died from the repeated blows.

You need to look closely to see him perched on the newspaper that was one of many (maybe six or seven) things we used to steer him clear of the window. Nothing helped for more than an hour.

Recently a friend told me she is having the same experience at a window in her house. As one of my former neighbors, and a serious birdwatcher/bird lover, commented to me back in '08, "This may be Darwinism being lived out right in your backyard. That bird (and his over-reactive instincts) should probably not be able to find a mate."

The poem is irreverent, so please don't read it if you think you will need to report me to the Audubon Society, as a result. But it is National Poetry Month! Nobody says it has to be good poetry. Apologies to Edgar Allan Poe.
 
Who’s that knocking on my window?
Tap, tap, tap, cheep, cheep, then trill . . .

Crazy sparrow perched on paper,
Nap, nap, nap? Oh please keep still!

Mating frenzy instincts rule,
Tap, tap, tap, cheep, cheep, then trill . . .

He’s scaring off reflected rival,
Crap, crap, crap on glass and sill.

 And slowly I am going crazy.
Tap, tap, tap, cheep, cheep, then trill . . .

Bird brain has a whole new meaning.
Bap, bap, bap, I’d like to kill.
 
Dreaming now of BB guns
Tap, tap, tap, cheep, cheep, then trill . . .

 Or other means of silencing, like 
Whap, whap, whap. I’ve had my fill.

 But still the eerie sound continues,
Tap, tap, tap, cheep, cheep, then trill . . .

Tap, tap, tap, cheep, cheep, then trill.