Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Hill

After a certain age, fifty say, or sixty, seventy if you are lucky, there is a tendency to monitor yourself for The Signs of Aging. Lists of symptoms vary from individual to individual but we all seem to have them. The noisy type, like me, gather and compare inventories, calculating the odds and keeping tabs on the advance with all the concentration of bookies at a racetrack. The quieter sort wrinkle their brow, sigh, and read the newspaper obituaries with a shake of their head.

Did I forget something? A name? A date? A chore?

Do my hands tremble?

Is my skin wrinkled; my hair grayer; or my chin, tummy, breasts sagging and my belt tighter?

Are my eyes and ears failing?

Am I slower in pace, wobblier in balance, less able to leap tall building in a single bound?

Are the aches turning into pains and lasting longer?

Many of us are in the 'tween generation. We're still active but no longer on top of our game. We are between mature and over-the-hill, watching for the slide down the senescence slope. How odd to see the approach of old age with its companions: loss of independence and inability to cope. How terrible to move from caring for our parents to having our children consider caring for us.

My friends and I have begun to see the adventure of life as a nearing burden. We contemplate our lives and watch the as the daily chores we took for granted become obstacles. Home maintenance, for instance. Can we paint, fix roofs, mow lawns with bodies that refuse to work as they once did? Changing lightbulbs, washing windows, moving furniture all become harder as ladders get harder to climb and couches seem heavier.

Incapacity lumbers toward us like a bulldozer that will push us over that blasted hill then chug along, picking up speed, as we skid down the escarpment.

Friday, June 26, 2009

KIVA Update

I had email from KIVA today telling me of payments on several of my
outstanding loans. The loan to Senegal is 100% repaid. The one to
Tajikistan is 75% repaid and the one to Samoa is 33% repaid. Peru,
the most recent, has not yet started to return.

It is very own world wide web! How exciting to think that someone
across the globe is getting help in this small way.

I've reinvested part of the repayments by making a new loan: to Togo.
When more of the original is repaid I shall reinvest that so my $100
can keep moving, weaving a tiny thread to stitch the world together.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The local Crow couple, Russell and Sheryl, have fledged their chick, and this youngster has been perching in the trees of our yard doing the standard babybird routine. Babybird involves wing fluttering, and general suggestions of helplessness in feeding, to the parents. In the case of Youngster Crow this begging is accompanied by a continual CAW! CAW! CAW! CAW! which is nerve wracking on the human neighbor (me) forced to listen. I feel some empathy for Russell and Sheryl.It has been quite a while but I still remember the days when a youngster of my own could stand at my elbow trying to get my attention: MAMA! MAMA! MAMA!

The nagging CAW! has been getting on my nerves big time but it could be worse. The Crow family is loud but still relatively small in number and physical size. What is the yard was an albatross rookery? Or contained a condor nest? We could have moas, or rocs! Didn't someone suggest T-Rex and kin were related to birds? Now there would be one problem hungry fledgling!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


There was one of those PBS pledge break music shows on TV the other night and it sent me off on a nostalgia trip into my own musical history. I was certainly pre-teen when I first heard, and fell in love with the Mills Brothers. Their song Glow Worm was probably on the radio in the early 50's and I remember seeing them on The Perry Como Show and later on The Dean Martin Show. Harry Mills was my very first girlhood celebrity crush. His smile was so wonderful!

How I have loved, and still love their music - so mellow and yet slightly funky. Songs like Paper Doll, Up a Lazy River, You Always Hurt the One You Love, Rockin' Chair and 'Til Then stayed favorites of mine from the first time I heard them, through my Brothers Four days, my Beatle days, my and my daughter's Duran Duran days, until now. I can still sing those songs, with the Mills Brothers particular arrangements.

I've thumbed through my music collection to locate the "Best of" CD which replaced the "Best of" record a while back. I'm listening again and loving every note.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Living with chronic pain seems to have become a fact of life for me and for a number of people I know, and I wonder what is going on? Is it our age group - the "over 50s"? Are we simply living longer and falling apart from decrepitude? Has it always been this miserable to get older, or is there an environmental factor?

Compared to previous generations we have lives of physical ease. Few of us spend twelve hour days plowing or standing at endless assembly lines. We've had access to health care, inoculations, decent food, vitamins and vacations. We're supposed to enter our retirement years ready to travel the world. Magazines picture us jogging, playing tennis, having active lives in senior colonies where we swim during the day and dance every evening.

The reality among my circle is somewhat different. Yes, there are a few who exercise at the gym or travel but there are far more of my friends who feel accomplishment at walking to the car and affording the grocery store bill. We are afflicted with an amazing variety of chronic pain sources from arthritis to fibromyalgia. Joints are being replaced, backs adjusted, tendons injected, and pain medications consumed in vast quantities just to allow daily survival. My arthritis began in my fingers when I was 40 and is slowly deforming all the hand joints. My knees were next to go. The feet are a recent addition. The pain shifts, ebbs, and flows. Some days are fair with the pain level a background grumble. Others are worse as pain roars in triumph and I am unable to effectively fight back.

My cries of pain are in chorus with friends:Sandy, Donna, Dyan, Gail, Ileah, Snow, Barbara, Anne, Mary, Jerry, Nancy, Kathy, Linda... all deal with persistent pain. Few of us embrace these as those golden senior years. They are at best made of silver, easily tarnished.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dealing with English

Tuesday during the nightly news the weatherguru used the word trough as in "elongated region of low atmospheric pressure. " My ear caught the word and I realized that for all of my life I have mispronounced trough. I usually hear, and say, troth, instead of troff. Probably as a child learning the word a th ending was what I heard and learned and the word is sufficiently mushy that I never heard my mistake. It is debatable whether I'll be motivated to re-learn it at this point in my life.

Puzzling over the word during one of those "Why am I still awake" moments in the middle of the night I thought about the letters OUGH and wondered how I could have spent all these years with OUGH being OTH. The incongruous ways it *is* pronounced yielded an answer:

cough - aw

though - oh

through - oo

tough - uff

hiccough - up (yeah, some say hick coff, but the dictionary allows for hiccup spelled this way)

lough - ock

bough - ow

We actually learn to slosh our way into and out of a sentence like:

A tough chough on a bough beside the lough made a rough cough through the trough, though a hiccough ought to be enough.

Obviously OUGH can be wrestled to the ground and used to spell anything. Trough = true? Or trow? Bend a little and it could be truck. How do we ever manage this language?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eagle Creek

It is easy these days to get a jaded opinion of the quality of manufactured goods and the unwillingness of companies to stand behind their products. We shake our heads and grumble over shoddy workmanship and inferior materials while the older of us begin sentences with "In my day..." and proceed to deplore changes in quality. It seems endemic.

Here's a different tale: My husband is as particular about his wallet, and as loathe to abandon it for another one, as I am about my purse. He prefers to have a change compartment in preference to tossing coins into his pants pocket. Finding a man's wallet with a built-in coin purse is difficult; one with an easily accessible coin area is nearly impossible. For a decade (or more?) he has carried a fabric wallet made by Eagle Creek, a bi-fold with a velcro closure and velcro closed coin pocket. Recently the coin pocket wore through and coins began migrating out of their compartment.

Oh, the grief! Contemplating a new wallet shook his world. I was assigned the task of on-line shopping for a suitable replacement. News that a comparable wallet was not to be found was greeted by my husband with hand-wringing and woe. The best I could locate had a zipped coin area, and when obtained proved to hold less man stuff: papers, coupons, cards, pictures, coins, bills, and such. (Men laugh about women's purses, but their wallets are stuffed with junk and the extra somehow ends up being carried by wives.) Hubbie resisted, but finally made the switch.

Then, amidst the grouching, he did some on-line research. Eagle Creek wallets have a lifetime guarantee? Lifetime? Whose? The wallets, the company's or ours? Can this be possible in a disposable-everything society? He contacted the company and was told to send in his wallet. He did but with no expectation of hearing from them, or seeing the wallet again.

Miracle! A package shows up at the post office with the much-loved wallet -> repaired. We knew it couldn't be replaced since the company no longer makes the identical item, but repairing the hole was an acceptable alternative that surprised and delighted us both. So herewith is our endorsement of Eagle Creek. The wallet in question took heavy use for umpteen years and when it failed, probably due to overstuffing strain, Eagle Creek lived up to their guarantee, no questions asked. They get four out of four stars!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Faith Rahill pottery

This weekend was the annual studio sale of a potter to whose work I've taken a fancy. Her name is Faith Rahill. I was introduced to her when Oregon Artbeat, a local PBS show, did a profile on her. You can link to that profile from Faith's website . With grandchildren in Eugene I hardly need an excuse to make the 3+ hour drive but the sale provided a further incentive. Much of Faith's work is geometrical but that geometry finds its way into whimsical figures that make me smile. Last year I bought tiles - spiders and one of her happy, stylistic ladies. This year it was the two wonderful plates at top that will be added to the wall art in my house. 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Do you write in books?

Do you write in books? I was brought up believing it was a sin on a
par with whistling during a sermon or throwing trash out a car
window. In elementary school drawing in a book was a punishable
offense, in high school a form of rebellion, though carefully
practiced with pencil so it could be erased before texts were
returned in June. As a college student I purchased my textbooks with
an eye toward selling them back after the course was done. Marking
them reduced the resale value but I'd also learned by then that
highlighting and margin notes made studying for tests easier and
faster. The sin became negotiable and sometimes advantageous.

Do you write in books? As an adult I find myself generally at choice
about whether or not to fold down pages or scribble comments in the
volumes I read. My spare money is often spent purchasing used books
and these are sometimes received "pre-notated". It can be interesting
and amusing to see what words or paragraphs get marked, what ideas
jotted down or arguments noted at the edge of a page. I rather like
the idea that someone else found the book worthwhile or had her brain
nudged by the author's ideas. I add my exclamation points and
question marks on the side or mark a phrase that catches my eye.
Buying pre-read books allows for such possibilities.

Do you write in books? The book in my hands this morning was a
library book. Those are sacrosanct territory. The rule is plain, do
what you will with your own but never, NEVER mark in a library book.
The principle is clear, leave the field unblemished, and I ogled the
unedited mistake in the sentence before me with distrust, as if it
was a booby-trap. If I correct it I have violated the law of library
books. If I don't I'm somehow guilty of not caring about the words. A
moral dilemma is at hand.

Do you write in books? Small moral dilemma and my pause was short. I
set right the misspelling and go on with my reading. A dozen pages
later I find evidence that another reader has followed the same
instinct. In ink. I'd split hairs by making my correction in pencil.
Two more times before the final page the text was amended, once by
that same hand, and once by another. We readers agreed that the words
were worth getting right. I smile to think of my hesitation and
wonder if those others paused before proofing the print? Did they
feel smart in catching an error? Was their motive to help the next
guy or just to fix what they perceived as broken? Or was it like
picking up a candy-wrapper on the grass, a bit of tidying as they
went on their way? I appreciate that those previous readers left me
to form my own opinions of the book and stuck to a simple correction.
It felt a little like a wave from one person to another, a nod of the
head in greeting. And it made me smile.