Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nostalgia

My husband and I were returning from a short trip up the coast to do
a house call on a friend's ailing computer, and we stopped to do a
couple of errands. He'd gone into a store while I snoozed in the car,
warm in the afternoon sun. The window was partly open and the sound
of parking lot traffic drifted in along with a waft of deli-chicken
scented air and suddenly I was filled with a deep sense of nostalgia.
And I found myself wondering about the components of that feeling.

The dictionary defines nostalgia as: a sentimental long or wistful
affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy
personal associations. Okay, we've probably all had those moments
when a color or smell or sound brings up that swell of the heart and
contemplative recall of... something. But what is it exactly that
happens inside us? Some sort of close relative to deja vu, some
connection of the little gray cells that triggers a chemical release
of longing and pleasure? And what primal purpose was it that found it
useful enough to incorporate into our biology? Is it akin to the urge
that drives a goose to begin a seasonal migration or a sparrow to
build a nest? Is it some remnant of survival that now just creates a
pleasant ache of memory for some undefined time in our past?

I sat with closed eyes, enjoying the warmth of the autumn sun, and
tried to remember a specific event tied to the inner glow. There was
none, only the vague missing and longing. Only nostalgia.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Conversation

ME: "I'm cold. Do you think I should get up and go close the front
door?"

Husband leaves his computer and goes to close the door.

ME: "No. That wasn't wifespeak for 'go close the front door for me',
but would you bring my flannel shirt back with you?"

Husband brings shirt and I manage to warm my hands on his arm.

ME: "You're warm. How can you be so warm when I'm so cold? That's the
way the universe works. It mates warm people to cold people, early
risers to late-nighters and spreads marital discord throughout the
world.

HUSBAND: "I thought it was the way it created balance. Like putting
Canada next to the United States"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Technological Advance?

The topic of blogging moved my thoughts into questions about the
overall effect of technological advances. Don't get me wrong. I love
my television, my computer, my microwave oven, and my iPod. Instant
coffee, frozen vegetables, vaccinations, cell phones, the internet,
and flush toilets are all great. Plastics, jet airliners,
antibiotics, gasoline engines, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, the
list goes on and on. All are technological advances I'd be loathe to
give up. But we've all seen how technology can turn around to bite us
in the ass.

It seems like every week there is a story of some new worry over the
results of our scientific leaps. Overuse of antibiotics leading to
stronger, nastier germs. Pesticides leaching into the drinking water.
Plastics gathering in and polluting the oceans. The question becomes
"Just because we can, should we?"

We sequence the genome and think we can now manipulate genetics.
Should we? If we can see the thing does that mean we understand it?
Epigenetics suggests the subject is far more complex than just
knowing which gene sits where on the chromosome. But scientists are
cheerily criss-crossing and juggling with no idea what really causes
what. Worse yet they have the audacity to think they can control the
process. Corporation bound scientists might muse over the potential
of getting a reputation to rival that of lawyers. There are good
folks in both categories but a lot who sell their souls.

We're a schizophrenic world, careening madly into the future while
craving the past. We grab hold of our cell phones to text, play
games, take pictures, keep lists and notes while we pay more in the
store for organic food. We continue to commute 50 miles to work in an
SUV while bitching about the price of oil. And we cheer for renewable
corn based fuels as the grain farmers dump more fertilizer and
pesticide into their fields to get greater corn yields.

I have no convenient answer to the "Should we?" question. I'm
obviously no Luddite. It does seem though that we might begin asking
the question more often and think more about the answer.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

One reason I love him!

He created this cartoon himself from a photo I took on our last trip
to see the grandkids. I LMAO...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Blogging

In an attempt to improve my writing by hanging around local authors I
joined a writer's group last year. We bring in our work to share and
to receive criticism. This week I took in a copy of my previous blog
entry and got some interesting reactions. Among the comments:
"horrifying", and "exaggerated".

Yes and No.

The group discussion focussed a great deal on the subject of blogging
in general. I'm the only member of the group to blog and most of them
have never read a blog. In general we are an older crowd and avid
readers of the word-on-paper sort. Computer users, yes, but more of
the computer as word processor and research tool with a bit of e-mail
tossed into the mix. Blogging is seen, as our most curmudgeonly
writer put it, as "oral diarrhea".

Yes and No.

In the sense that any person has always had the right to scrawl out
his thoughts on paper we have always had authors of oral diarrhea.
Harlequin romances. Fan magazines. Bad novels and worse newsrags. Bad
writing abounds on the printed page. Sifting through the crap to find
a pearl of great price among blogs is much the same as searching the
library for a good book. You read some bad ones. You tell other
people about the good ones. You ask your friends to recommend
something they like. Gradually you build up a sense of what interests
you and is of value. Volume is a problem as it always has been. We
can't read every good, or even great piece of writing in the library.
So is blogging a bad thing? Is it a good thing? Is it both?

Yes and No.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bedtime

Going to bed is no longer a case of putting on pajamas and climbing
under the blanket. And generally it is no longer a time for a slinky
black negligée and perfume. Readying myself for bed is a prolonged
process of preparing, preserving, positioning, and propping a tired
but unwilling body on the altar of sleep. Poor old thing wants to
rest but years of abuse and neglect have made it cranky and
difficult. Apnea, scarring from past abdominal surgeries, and painful
arthritic knees make sleep a condition to pray for rather than to
expect. I approach as a devout acolyte.

Teeth brushed and flossed, bathroom needs attended to, I prepare by
donning a long flannel nightgown. Winter sees the addition of a
flannel shirt to add a layer of warmth, socks if it is really cold.
Next comes preserving. Cream for dry skin here, Vasoline for chapped
lips there. Eyedrops. Nasal spray. Advil for the knee pain and
medication for the irregular heartbeat. Check to make sure there is a
glass of water. And bring the walker close for those night visits to
the bathroom. Then positioning of pillows. There are five: one for
between my knees, one behind my back, two under my head, and the last
clutched close to my chest. Actually there are six. The last one is
the one occupied by the Little Yellow Cat. Sleep requires the
addition of a small, yellow, furry, purring companion! Last comes
propping. This necessitates burrowing, squirming, tucking, pillow
punching and fluffing, and a modicum of grunting and groaning until
all my joints sink into a place where pain is minimal. With luck
sleep arrives.

And sometimes it doesn't. I've gone through all the ritual of sleep
but Morpheus wasn't pleased. As penance I am awake. I listen to
classical music on the radio. My brain gets on its exercise wheel and
runs round and round with pointless worrying. I end up with an ear
worm: some old song that plays over and over inside my head. The
goddess Insomnia is on duty until Morpheus gets around to a house call.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Live and Learn?

Bad Product/Rotten Service

My husband recently bought me a NiMH battery charger so that I could
use rechargeable batteries in my digital camera. He chose a charger
marketed by Duracell thinking that Duracell was a recognized brand
with a good reputation and thus a reliable product. Stands to reason,
right?

The charger included a pair of rechargeable AA cells, one of which,
upon attempting to charge, was found to be defective. My husband
tested it: no residual voltage; less than 1 ohm resistance - which is
electronic geek speak for Kaput! Now, you're going to like this
part... Duracell did not include Duracell batteries with their
Duracell brand charger. The batteries are Lenmar. We contacted
Duracell for a replacement figuring they would stand behind their
blister packed components. Nope. Not our batteries, talk to Lenmar.
And Lenmar? Let me quote from their message:

"Unfortunately we do not do warrantees on AA batteries."

In other words, buy the product which doesn't work and shut up. No
replacement. No money back. We have your cash and tough luck.

The Duracell charger works fine, but frankly, to Duracell and Lenmar
both - a huge wet raspberry for customer service and reliability.
We'll depend upon the pink bunny for any future battery purchases.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

House Cleaning

I've never been Mrs. Clean. If you put housekeeping on a liner scale,
with zero being one of those cat hoarder dumps from Animal Precinct
and ten being a hospital operating room, my house might fall
somewhere around 4 or 5. When company is due it might make 6 and when
I was working and could afford a service it might have occasionally
hit a 7. I have friends whose homes come in both directions from mine
and I'm fine with that. Their house, not mine.

The point is, like most women, I'd prefer my house cleaner.
Especially when company is anticipated. And if I don't have to do it.

Once upon a time I could scrub the kitchen floor on my hands and
knees. Not often, mind you. But it was doable.
I could bend and reach to scour the bathtub. There was energy for
pushing the vacuum. And dusting. Not only around but UNDER things.
Cobwebs did not substitute for curtains. Outside could be viewed
through the clean windows. When I didn't have time for the do-it-
yourself approach there was enough money to hire the magic elves who
did it while I was at work.

My house these days is best seen as archeological preservation.
Without the muscle to scrub or the cash to hire the work out, I
strive for arrested decay and do my best to stave off total ruin. I
could do more but have reached an age when, putting house cleaning
and a good book on opposing sides of the balance and the book wins
every time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

So Old - So Cold

Oh, the good old days. I remember being a little kid and running
happily into the waters of Lake Michigan to paddle around.
Undoubtedly it was cold but I never paused except perhaps to wonder
why my mother stayed huddled on a blanket on the beach. Push the ice
cubes aside! Splash and dash and giggle madly. Cold? Not me!

When my daughter was growing up I developed a more adult attitude
toward cold. Something to be tolerated. Put on a sweater! Button up!
Where are your shoes? Instead of leaping into the pool I put out a
tentative toe to sample the temperature and eased my way slowly into
the water.

Now. Now cold is the enemy. The warm waters of Hawaii can not tempt
me into anything beyond a slow and cautious approach. Life as a
senior in the Pacific NorthWet requires flannel, wool, and polar
fleece. A limited retirement income requires a careful eye on the
heating bill. Bum knees force only judicious carting of wood to a
heat stove. My winter indoor garb consists of sweat shirts, jeans,
sheepskin slippers and stops just short of parka, down ski pants, and
buffalo robe!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Same Sex Marriage

The whole issue burns my biscuits. It seems to me that someone needs
to define what marriage is. Is it a religious bond or a legal one?
One or the other and make up your D..n mind!

If it is religious churches can allow same sex marriages, or not, as
they choose among followers of THEIR doctrine. Couples outside that
doctrine do not need to follow those rules.

If it is a legal bond, if it has ramifications for property within
the laws of the country, it should be open to any two people as a
legal entity. Religion and government supposedly being separate in
this nation.

And as for what happens in the bedroom... I agree with Miss Manners.
No polite person even imagines what happens in the bedroom of
consenting adults. It is none of their business. That so many
religious people spend time worrying about it is rather shocking. And
sad.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

TO BLOG

Blogging is excellent therapy for my blood pressure.

Instead of swearing, hollering, grumbling, or even quietly seething,
I run to my keyboard and tappity-tap the irritation away. The semi-
private illusion of a blog allows me to air my opinions in public
while being fairly certain they are unread by the world at large. My
ego gets to hope that somebody sees them while the flip side cowers
in happy anonymity.

And there's the rub. I love to write and have always enjoyed sharing
MHO with anyone who would listen. Getting older has made me aware
however that most personal opinions are worth the paper they are
printed on. And blogs... well, you get the idea. Here am I. Stuck
being a grumpy aging curmudgeon and airing my mind in a mindless
medium. Now that I think about it: It is perfect!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Who's playing that song?

Pack up all my cares and woes
Here I Go
Singing low
Bye, Bye Blackbird!

Suddenly this song is in my head. A song I haven't thought about in
years.

Where did it come from? How does this happen?

The 3X5 cards with music on them tend to rise to the surface of my
brain dumpster easier than others. They bubble up and bob around on
the surface as ear worms playing a verse or just an single line of
music. This time the effect was pleasant and resulted in me singing
out loud, amazed that I knew the entire song. But other times a worm
digs in for the long haul and it becomes a tonal version of Chinese
Water Torture. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. The needle keeps
falling back into the same cracked groove (remember phonographs?),
the music goes round and round until I'm ready to confess to anything!

I Am Not The MTV Generation!

What has happened to movie and television since MTV began bombarding
us with images? If the length of -quote action shots unquote- gets
any shorter they will be subliminal. Automobile advertisements and
program promos on evening television seem caught in a horrendous
contest to stream the greatest number of pictures onto the screen in
the fewest number of seconds. I suppose they think it is more eye
catching to mix in odd angles and shaky reality camera effects. Eye
catching? Mind boggling! And not in a pleasant way. My stomach
lurches, an instant headache sets in, and I reach for the remote
control. The sledge hammer approach to selling me a product seldom
results in me remembering to buy it when I go to the store. It does
however create instinctive revulsion and deep gratitude for TIVO.

It was bad enough in music videos and commercials. Now we see the
quick-cut, line-'em-up-and-move-'em-out barrage in every obligatory
car and foot chase. And directors don't seem financially able to
spring for steady-cam technology. Wiggle the picture and make it seem
real! Hey you idiots. In real life we use the miracle of neck
vertebrae to stabilize the image. The only excitement you are adding
to my viewing experience is that of changing the channel.

The shaky cam and quick cut are not, repeat NOT creative. It has been
done and overdone. I don't want to watch only I Love Lucy re-runs and
gardening shows. Neither do I want to toss my cookies and rely on the
forward button to get through my favorite cop shows and movies. My
brain not only can process a clip lasting more than two seconds, it
insists on it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rememberies

I haven't been writing this blog all that long, and already I'm
forgetting what I've written about. That brings up the subject of
memory.

Past a certain age, somewhere around age fifty or sixty, friends and
I began mentioning our memory lapses. "What was I saying?", "Who was
that?", and "Where did I put my...?" became common phrases, often
accompanied by a momentarily panicked expression and a nervous laugh.

When we are together at one of these times we compare incidents of
blankness, trying to smooth the situation and allow time for frantic
thinking. We talk about how we used to be able to remember long lists
of tasks without a detailed note, license plate numbers for every car
we've ever owned, or schedules for classes and assignments months in
advance. These days we trot along just fine and then suddenly we are
groping for words or a thought, totally without a clue.

For the younger crowd those brain blanks are a source of a giggle and
an apology. But for us older folk forgetting is not a laughing
matter. The spectre of Alzheimer's makes any loss of word, fact, or
date an incident for concern. Nobody says the "A" word out loud, of
course. We refer to a senior moment or Oldtimer's disease. Like the
"C" word we avoid saying it to make it unreal.

I have my own theory for the lapses we have. I think after so many
years our brains are brimming with numbers, quotes, names,
appointments, news items, jokes, trivia and memories, randomly stored
like 3X5 cards, tossed into a dumpster. Some cards float around on
top and are easily retrieved. A few end up unreadable or stuck
randomly to another card and scrambled. Most are buried and hard to
reach. Occasionally the debris is stirred and mixed so an old card
comes to the surface. Dipping in with the intention of finding any
particular one is a crap shoot and thus it is amazing that we
remember anything at all.

In conclusion.... uh, ummmmm, what was I saying?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Friends

It occurred to me last night during one of those "I'm awake in the
middle of the night" moments, that getting older is embellished with
the joy of long relationships.
I did a tally:

Chris and I have been married almost 38 years. And we still speak to
each other. Really! It may be because I'm resistant to change and
he's resistant to moving, but it works.

Kathy. We've been friends since high school so that makes it about 44
years? We haven't lived in the same town since those days but with
letters and occasional phone calls, the love and friendship has
always been there. When we are lucky enough to be together we can
still be giggly teenaged girls.

Charlie. That friendship goes back 41 years to college, and he's
family. A wonderful, curmudgeonly uncle who sends unexpected gifts.

Gail. We raised our children in the same town and spent lots of time
growing up as adults together. She is deep in my heart forever.

Ileah. We e-mail almost every day. The kind of friend who understands
my thoughts so I don't have to grope for words. She and Debrayh are
part of a group I met (was it the late 70's?) during my Sufi-dancing
days.

Sandie. Barbara. Donna. Each one woven into the web of my life with a
special color. There for more than 20 years.

And there is another Barbara. Another Sandie. And another Gail.
Newer, but still over ten years in my life.

My mother once told me to consider myself blessed if I could count my
friendships on the fingers of one hand. Mom, I'm twice blessed... and
better.