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.