A Milestone Birthday, They Decided

Christian and Great-Grandma

Some months ago, younger son who lives in Florida said, “This is your 75th? That’s a milestone.” I agreed. It certainly was or is, as the case may be. I preferred not to think about it. Mostly, I didn’t know HOW to think about it. I mean, I’m still active, still working out, still writing, still being me. What made 75 seem like such a big deal? i.e. I preferred not to think about it once I’d done some math and realized 80 is only five years away and 85 and 90, etc etc. But since my life plan goes to 104, I decided this was only one more.

Not so, as it turned out, to my family. Especially my husband, who in concert with children and behind my back, decided otherwise.

First was a booze cruise around Weatherby Lake, north of Kansas City, on the Friday evening before my Tuesday birthday. Our friends, Venessa and Justin, have a house a couple of blocks from the lake and a pontoon boat. Cliff fixed about twenty crab cakes and off we went for an evening on the lake. Along with two thermos (what’s the plural of thermos? thermoses??) of gin and tonic. Not any gin, mind you, rather Hendricks Gin which is amazing if you’ve never tried it. And since it’s a pontoon boat, music and dancing on the forward deck. We had a blast. And drove home in the deep dead of night, around 1 :30 a.m.

On Tuesday, which was my rightful birthday, I was coming down the stairs in my nightgown when 6’4″ son who lives in Florida walked in the door! “Happy Birthday, Ma!” he said. And grinned. He fills a lot of space. Elder son who lives here in Kansas City is a little over 6′ but that extra 4″ fills a lot of space. So, on my birthday, two sons got busy fixing things. First it was a trip to Home Depot. I forget what all they came home with, but stuff, and began fixing. First it was the sink disposal unit that had become increasingly cantankerous. That took them awhile. While they were at it, they changed the under sink water filters. And tossed some stuff that needed tossing. I can’t remember what all they did on their fixing rampage. But stuff. Like old houses always need. Including a new ceiling fan and overhead light in the living room. Fortunately, older son once made his living as an electrician and is very careful around electricity. But whatever they did required several trips to Home Depot.

Two nights later, younger son left in the evening to go see a friend from when he lived here in KC, he said. Okay, I said. He came back about an hour later with grandson/granddaughter/great-grandson, who live in San Diego. I didn’t know they were coming either. We shuffled and moved things and set up beds in both offices and it was a very full house. The “boys” kept fixing things and I played with two-year-old great-grandson, Christian. He laughs a lot. And I baked cookies – about 6 dozen chocolate chip and ditto with oatmeal cookies, and went to the park and let Christian run and laughed and watched television and ate whatever it was my husband cooked each night.

Christian is a mix of three cultures: Korean, Filipino, Caucasian. When granddaughter, a year ago or so, said, “I can see the Korean and the Filipino, but I don’t see the White part,” I told her the White part is the crazy part. It appears I was correct. He and I did crazy together really well.

It was the most amazing birthday a Wife/Mom/Grandma/Great-Grandma could have. I soaked it in and was tired and sad when they left. The ceiling fan works great, by the way.

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Books and the Writing Life

To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses — that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things. Pablo Neruda

Two experiences this week sent me to my fiction bookcase. One was a friend of many years and is recovering from a stroke who said, “Bring me something interesting to read.” The other was this quote from Neruda.

I have seven shelves of fiction, if you count the shelf of books in Spanish which I’ve owned and kept since I lived in Mexico. One of the books I read while learning Spanish was Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s a verrrrry long book and took me months of reading with a Spanish/English dictionary at my side, but I was determined. And finished it after about a year. I can still read Platero y Yo, but it’s short and written for children. Not sure I can read Marquez anymore in the original, but I have several of his which are translated into English.

But I digress. As I often do. Looking for short and lovely books for my friend, who is 89, I chose Molly Fox’s Birthday, set in Ireland, and a book of New York essays by Paul Auster. Both books are short and both I’ve read more than once which my friend said was a good recommendation.

I can’t remember when books were NOT in my life. That, primarily, due to my mother, who was a reader and a writer, but her mother and father were readers and writers, so I guess reading books, and writing, falls into that family inheritance thing. Or gene pool.

As I’ve probably written previously, I’ve lived in this house longer than I have lived anywhere in my life. That fact has both a plus and minus side: on the plus side, I know where most everything is – my books and papers and years of pieces of writing are all here in my writing room and not stored in boxes somewhere; the minus thing has to do with so much stuff in one house. We have, in fact, seven bookcases in this room, two downstairs, and one in the small office. My life in words. To which, it seems, I am right now, adding more. Oh, yeah, all the writing that’s stored in various places in one or the other computer.

Words. A life in words.

So thank you for the affection you send me after each of these rambling posts; in Neruda’s words… to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses — that is something still greater and more beautiful

Thank you to each of you who responded to my frustration over the new and improved WordPress writing space – I think I’ve figured it out as this rambling post — NOT in blocks–attests. You all are the best audience I’ve ever had and your kindness and affection keep me warm in the times when I fret over not publishing this memoir. I guess, all in all, this blog is the best memoir I could have.

Love and gratitude to you all. J.

Finding My Way….again

It seems that WordPress has succumbed to the new and different so constant in today’s world. Especially the world that relies on images rather than words. I don’t particularly want new and different, I simply want to write. But sometimes, new and different can challenge my thinking – and my mind – and sets me off to wandering somewhere until I’m lost. Ergo, an image of the Peter Principle.

I’d rather like to think I’m somewhere between the second and third level, but more likely between the third and fourth. However, I am doing my best to avoid the fourth.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 512px-peters_principle-svg.png

And therein lies the Peter Principle. I am rising to my level of incompetence. But not, hopefully, today; however, unfortunately very close

You see, after all the research and trying out new buttons (including the one which is supposed to return me to the “classic” WordPress which I can’t tell if it has) I have completely forgotten why I wanted to write a post in the first place or what the content is supposed to be.

Ergo, reaching perilously close to my particular Peter Principle. But then, I don’t know if any of us who are older than say 40 understand how to navigate this expanded world of technology. By relying on images and blocks of images, I’m wondering if we’re forgetting how to think or reason. “An image is worth a thousand words.” That saying has been around a long time. But I’m wondering if an image can make me think in a new way or just give me more words to wonder with.

As in, “Why in the world did …… take that photo?”

Really. That’s a valuable question, given the image.

Image vs Words: They say “an image is worth 1,000 words.” Especially in sales. I can understand that, but other than Goethe, who drew images in his wonderful book, Botanical Writings, most thinkers used words. I can’t think in pictures. I can dream in images, and I can even think in images, particularly when I’m looking for my glasses which have somehow eluded my understanding of where they are if they aren’t around my neck (which they usually are on a long strand of black cord, thankfully), but the only images I use when writing are the ones I describe. I guess what I do is trust my readers to see the image themselves.

So, here’s an image that pretty much contains my mind at the moment. And, quite frankly, even though I’m not trying to sell anything, it pretty well captures where my head is.

A new poem

As I write on my home page, I write about memory and how the land, in my case growing up on a farm, influenced my life and my writing…..

Thanks to The Plum Tree Tavern for publishing it.

https://theplumtreetavern.blogspot.com

I’d love to hear if it reminds you of your own wanderings through home and land memory.

Cleaning

I am on a cleaning spree. My husband says I always do this when I’m about to start a new writing project. Goodness knows, after a three year stint of writing this last book and editing and revising it and revising, etc. etc. etc. about the only thing I want is clear space. Both in my head and in my writing room. Ergo, I’m cleaning and tossing.

However, I also had to clean out my laptop. That was not my plan, but it seemed, instead, to be a joke from the Universe in the guise of a new backup program which had bought out my old backup program which I’ve had for, oh, goodness only knows, but I’ll say fifteen years, give or take.

It was a process, as they say.

But new back up is installed and all files are restored (well, I’m not completely done because there’s also files in backup that need to be cleaned out to say nothing of Dropbox which also has files, but I digress. As is often the case these days.)

But what led me on this rant is finding and reloading Trello. Which I’ve had not as long as the previous backup program but long enough to have a lot in it. Trello is really built for groups to work together on projects and add thoughts and changes etc etc and has as many boards as one chooses to have. I have several. The file backup program does not save programs oddly enough so I had to once again download Trello and magically, all my files were still on it.

My reason for Trello is to save the random and overwhelming bits and pieces of paper and Post-Its on which I place random thoughts, seemingly, it seems, that I think important.

Here’s one for you: “Mothers laughing with their children on their backs. And he had come to believe that all men were meant to be wanderers, like them, like Saint Francis, and that by joining the Way of the Universe you could find the Great Spirit everywhere–in the smell of bracken after rain, the buzz of a bee in foxglove, or in the eyes of a mule, looking with love on the blundering movements of his master.” The Way of the Universe. On the Black Hill, Bruce Chatwin.

If you’ve never read Bruce Chatwin, I recommend him highly. He was a wanderer. And I, being a wanderer, appreciate his voice. He died young, at age 48, in 1989, but his voice remains. The first book I read by him was In Patagonia. I have several others in my bookcases.

Here’s another piece in the Memoir board – board is what the separate spaces are called in Trello but I don’t know why except they probably relate to work each group is doing. I’m not a group.

“The Sunderland men, uncles, brothers, grandfather, would circle, telling stories. Dad told stories. Women’s stories are often relegated to mystery. But my mother, against that grain, told stories. I expect the women around the quilting frame with Grandma Sunderland told each other stories, but to each other. Not to us kids. The men’s stories were loud enough for all of us.”

A memory to put into whatever memoir piece I write one day. Maybe, for example, right here, now.

And now I must return to my previous task of gathering the loose bits of post-its and scraps of paper on which interesting thoughts are written or printed. I also, like my mother, have a habit of cutting out bits of newspaper stories – and just found, in this cleaning spree, the story printed in a newspaper of my mother being in the Kansas City Union Station when the Mob shootout of about 1920 happened. I knew that story but now I have the newspaper article, too, although a bit chewed at the edges from long storage.

Mercy.

Maybe I’ll write it up so you have it, too. But not tonight.

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