Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Should Anyone Wonder, I'm Still Here

It seems I've been on an unintentional hiatus from journal writing.  It's been time to re-enter my precomputer world for a bit.  After all, if one doesn't do some actual "living", there would be nothing to write about.

This has also given me some free time to read journals.  I'm fascinated by the many different styles of writing.  Some write so eloquently about subjects that I couldn't begin to address.  I am often filled with awe and admiration of what the combination of people's knowledge, opinions and writing skills produces.  As I read the vast assortment of journals, some really stand out and tell me I'd probably like to meet the writer.  I'm fairly sure that a person's writing style reflects a good part of their personality.  Even if what I read isn't exactly straight out of real life, no matter; it's not so much what one writes about but how one writes.

This journal, and my other journal which has been sadly neglected for some time, may sit on the back burner for a little while but I'll be back......soon.

Monday, June 21, 2004

A Query

The Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet:

Is anyone out there familiar with the TV ad for this item?  It's a brilliantly crafted advertisement and most unusual because for all its catchy, enthusiastic wording, absolutely no information is disclosed about the product.  The first time my family saw this ad, we all looked at each other blankly and said in the words of the mom as the dad hauls out the famous "leg lamp" from its crate in "A Christmas Story, "but what is it?"

It's quite apparent this is being hawked as much more than a decorative bracelet.  There's a not so subtle allusion to some sort of "secret power" but no specifics.  Each time this ad pops up, my husband and I speculate on its purpose.  The last time I saw it, I paid rapt attention and noticed that all the folks extolling the virtues of their Q-Ray bracelets seemed to be incredibly upbeat and happy.  I remarked to my husband, maybe the simple act of wearing it produces a euphoria as if you were high on some sort of drug.  If this were the case, $19.95 (or whatever the price is) sure would be a cheaper way to go to achieve that goal!

My son went on the internet to check out the website for this product; once again, no information whatsoever was given.  I suspect this bracelet works in much the same way as copper bracelets that are supposed to relieve arthritis and crystals that, worn around the neck, provide one with some sort of energy.  I don't buy these products either figuratively or literally.  For all I know they may do wonders for some people but I think these things work because the individual believes they will.  It's the mind over matter approach which can be effective if a person truly believes.  What is really hard for me to understand is the amount of people who will spend their hard-earned money on a product about which they have no clue as to its function.

I will say, however, that it is an attractive bracelet with a simple, sleek design and maybe that's enough to satisfy the masses.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Parents From Outer Space!

For the longest time I thought all families were like mine.  Didn't every family have at least three rooms in the house with floor to ceiling bookshelves housing so many books that it was never really necessary to visit the library?  My first clue that this wasn't so was when I went to play at friends' houses and a quick look around revealed nothing more than the current copy of TV Guide for reading material.

There wasn't any yelling or screaming in my family and we positively, absolutely were forbidden to say "shut up" to each other.  I'm sure we had our disagreements but for the life of me, I can't recall any major ones.  I never witnessed a fight between my parents; a heated discussion perhaps, but no fighting or raised voices.  Since my siblings were so much older than I, the only one I recall getting into trouble occasionally was me and that didn't happen very often.  Strict discipline wasn't in force a lot.  One stern look from either parent could reduce me to tears because it was devastating to disappoint them. 

I don't recall any rebellion or teenaged "angst" between my older siblings and my parents.  I never had any problem with them either.  My folks were very open to granting permission to do various things within reason if they were given all the information about what it was we wanted to do.  Case in point:  My steady boyfriend (aka my husband now) graduated from high school a year before I did.  He was in his first year of college during my senior year of high school.  One of the highlights of being a senior at my school was the annual trip in the fall to Washington, D.C.  I, however, didn't want to go to D.C.  I wanted to go to Findlay, Ohio to visit my beau.  I presented this brilliant idea to my parents and they allowed me to go.  I'm fairly certain their decision had a lot to do with the fact that even at our young, tender ages, our eventual marriage was a pretty sure thing.

It seemed to be a given that since they had brought us all up to have good heads on our shoulders, then of course we wouldn't do anything foolish or dangerous or of a delinquent nature.  In looking back, I see now that this was exhibiting extreme confidence in their upbringing of us to not think otherwise.  My mother, particularly, was very much a believer in giving us a great deal of "rope" to move about in our little worlds.  She often said something to the effect that if you want to keep a person close to you, you must let them go.  What a wise woman.  This was so true.  As we got older, all of us loved to return to our parent's home.  I believe we all experienced a sensation of rejuvenation after spending time with them.  A visit with them grounded us and gave us perspective if were having some kind of problem.

Through friends' and acquaintances' experiences and now after reading so many journals, I'm overwhelmed at the number of how many people have had troubling or terrible relationships with parents, siblings, spouses, children, extended family members and the list goes on.  I am stunned.  This is comletely foreign to me and I simply cannot imagine the misery generated within a family that so many people have suffered through.  I cannot relate.  I always suspected that I have lived my life in a golden state of "under glass".  Now I know this to be so.  Life is hard enough.  The world is a harsh, cruel place at times.  One's family is supposed to be a safe place, a haven where we know all will be well.  To think it is any other way is inconceivable to me.  Yet, it is not this way for many, many people.  I always knew my family was special but never realized how much so until I ventured past my front door.  It's become increasingly important to me to write these thoughts and memories down while my sieve-like brain still remembers them. 

I often used to joke with my friends and tell them I thought my parents were from another planet.  They were so different from other peoples' parents.  In retrospect, I think a small portion of my brain thought this actually wasn't too far from the truth.  I wonder.   

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A Brief Summary

Almost four months have passed since I began my first journal and I'm two months into my second.  I soon felt the need to begin a second journal because my initial one was addressed to one topic and group of people.  This was the first little mistake I made in my foray into Journal Land.  I wrote myself into a corner because I specified my subject matter.   I discovered the hard way that this is very limiting.  I felt that I had to stick with the topic at hand; hence, the birth of my second journal which allowed me the freedom to write about whatever struck my fancy.

As I look back over my entries during the last few months, it's plain to see I have zeroed in on two basic subjects divided between the two journals:  the hot springs we frequent and chronicles of my family.  This was not my initial intention when I began the second journal but I love what it's evolved into.  It's become a comfortable place to write about my family memories--those that are happy, sad and bittersweet.  You know, the stuff of which life is made.

Monday, June 14, 2004

A Happy Day!

Yes, it's Flag Day.  Time to display our flag proudly which I'm quite sure many of us have been doing a lot more of in recent years. 

And in our house, it's a Happy Birthday day as well.  Today is my son's 16th birthday, one of life's many milestones in birthdays.  I wish for him much happiness and success in the year ahead and a secret hope that he'll begin to give his future some serious thought!  Time will tell.

By sheer luck, this day coincided with my normal day off so it's been a nice, mellow, laid back sort of day.  Of course, I made him a Birthday Cake of his choice which these days qualifies as a gift in itself because I rarely bake goodies for the family anymore.  No, I didn't turn into a wicked wife or mother; none of us need this stuff and it cuts a lot of fat and calories from all our diets.

His sister had today off as well and came by and swept us off to see Shrek 2.  Her treat!  That daughter of mine is really something!  The film was delightful.  I don't think I've laughed so much watching a movie in a theater since well, maybe not since seeing "Young Frankenstein" about 30 years ago.  And I think I'm in love with "Puss"!

As I was sitting in the dark theater with my two children, it occurred to me that to my recollection this was the first time we three have gone to see a movie together.  With such an age span between them, while one was eager to see a Disney movie, the other was more into "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".  Not much common ground in filmdom when dealing with a ten-year age span.  I was thinking, this is so nice.  It's times like this that having children and reaping the benefits of their wonderful companionship as adults (son is well on his way) makes all the hard, hard work of trying to be a good parent worthwhile.  This is the grand payoff.  I'm so glad they're here and that we all genuinely love each other in our family and get along so well. 

I'm not going to win the Pulitzer Prize.  I'm not going to invent some wonderful whatever to benefit mankind and I'm not, personally, going to save the world.  However, my husband and I have given this world two very fine people, both of whom I am very proud and honored to call my own.  Who knows what they'll do in years to come?

Friday, June 11, 2004

A Close Encounter of the Olfactory Kind

Weekend Assignment #9  A Story about a Pet from the Past:

This assignment is, as John said, a breeze and a subject we can all warm to.  Many years ago before we bought our house, we lived out in the country in a little rented house.  It was great in the summer but not so great in the winter.  Nevertheless, it was a wonderful place to be with a four-year old.  We remained there until my daughter turned seven.

This house was situated down a long driveway and right up from the banks of a small creek.  The back portion of the house was built up on pilings and the area underneath was wide open to any creature that wanted to crawl in and make itself at home.  Many did just that!  Squirrels were scampering around the rooftops when they weren't rolling nuts around above the ceiling and all sorts of mysterious rattling and shuffling around could be heard within the walls.

My husband and I quickly decided that we needed a cat to help keep the intruders at bay.  We'd never had a cat before but this was a matter of pure necessity.  Hey!  What a great name for a cat and so it was that the tiny grey tabby we adopted from the Humane Society came to be known to the world as "Necessity".  The name suited her perfectly.  As she matured, she was a dynamite mouser, small lizards were her specialty and one day she endured quite a confrontation in which she truly lived up to her name and earned her keep forever more.

A pair of skunks had decided to take up residence under our house and the spot they had chosen seemed to be directly under our bedroom floor.  It was at this time that I learned that skunks, who are nocturnal by nature, spray their noxious scent before they leave their lair and once again upon re-entering it.  Lovely.  We were forced out of our bedroom and had taken to sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor.  One evening we heard  terrible noises.  Hissing and snarling and yowling, oh my!  Necessity was roughing  up  something outdoors and it sounded like she clearly had the upper hand.

In due time, there was a meow and scratch at the door to "let me in, please" in kitty language.  My husband got up to open the door and immediately reeled back.  She had been mixing it up with the skunks, of course, and got thoroughly sprayed.  Dear Lord, how she stank!  It was awful.  We had no idea what to do but before too long, my resourceful husband called the vet and explained the situation.

"Got any tomato juice?", asked the vet.  "That's what you need to neutralize the odor of the skunk spray, give her a bath in tomato juice."

"No," answered my husband "but we have some homemade tomato sauce my wife just brought home from her mother's."  We were advised to try that so our poor cat, the valiant victor of a mighty battle, suffered the indignity of an immediate and thorough bath of intensely flavored tomato sauce.  It worked just fine but she smelled like a pizza for a long time after this incident.  And oh yes, the skunks made off for greener pastures never to be seen again.

Our beloved Necessity was quite the cat.  She turned my husband into an appreciator of cats for the first time in his life and taught us both that cats can indeed be very affectionate and loyal.  For the longest time, we were dying to get a basset hound which we would've named "Extravagance" but we never quite got around to it.  Our kitty lived a long and healthy life.  One day, I came home from work and found her curled up peacefully in a little ball in one of the grass nests she liked to rest in as she got older.  She was gone from us but we enjoyed her company and antics for seventeen years. 



Thursday, June 10, 2004

A Few of Life's Surprises

Sometimes the passage of time and the expected natural order of events are at odds with one another.  Here's a story to illustrate what I mean by this.

I have three older siblings and the closest one in age to me is seven years older.  My brother and two sisters are spaced apart at two-year intervals.  Apparently the moon wasn't in Jupiter (or whatever it takes) two years after my second oldest sister was born and my arrival didn't occur according to plan.  "What a nice family," my mother surely thought as she gave away every piece of baby furniture, clothing, toys, etc.  Flash forward to seven years later and guess what?  Surprise!  Along!

I am the only child who was born in the United States; the rest of my family was born in Canada.  My parents were busy building a house when I came along and, therefore, my oh so capable oldest sister took over my care some of the time.  Essentially, I grew up in a household full of adults.  My earliest recollections start around four years of age or so and already the sister closest to me in age was eleven.  I spent my childhood trying to catch up to them all.  Everyone in my family was (and still is) a voracious reader and I remember sitting in a chair with a book on my lap, seriously turning the pages--slowly.  It didn't matter that the book was probably upside down or backwards.  I was "reading".

When I was sent out the door to experience the first day of Kindergarten, my brother embarked upon his freshman year at college.  As I recall we all got along reasonably well and really enjoyed each other's company but I was "the baby" for a long time.  Not so much coddled; more of an annoyance.  "Mother!  Would you please get the baby out of here so we can play?"

The year 1964 was a very eventful one for us all.  My oldest sister got married in June, our house went on the market over the summer, I turned eleven, we drove across the country (my first time) to deliver my other sister to USC for her freshman year and we moved to a new place in the fall.  Whew!  I had finally gotten a little bit more interesting and everybody was gone except, of course, my very dear father and mother.  Very quickly we went from a family of six to a family of three.  My brother had finished his first four years of college and ended up with a degree in electrical engineering.  He then decided to go for another four in pursuit of a law degree.  Therefore, both he and my college-attending sister came home for the summer breaks from school.  My married sister didn't move too far away and came back to visit once a week and stay for dinner.  Summers were the best of times in those years.  The rest of the time I pretty much had my parents to myself which wasn't such a bad thing.

Now here's the curious aspect of the spacing of events.  There wasn't another wedding in our immediate family until mine ten years later.  My sister closest in age to me now lived and worked in Los Angeles.  She never particularly wanted a family and never got married.  My brother and his girlfriend were living together in San Francisco.  They all came back east to share my wedding day.  Apparently, my wedding was so inspiring and so much fun that my brother and his girlfriend decided that marriage wasn't such a bad idea after all.  They got married one year later. 

To be continued:

To Continue....

By this time, my oldest sister (the most maternal, meant to have children-type woman I know) had been married for ten years.  No children.  By now, they were going through all the trials and tribulations that exploring a fertility problem entails.  My brother had no children and my other sister didn't as well. 

My oldest sister finally gave up the idea of having children and went back to school to get a vocational nursing degree.    She got it, found a great job which she loved and wouldn't you know it?  She got pregnant and her daughter was born one year after my wedding.  Evidently, nature finally got a clue as to what she'd been trying to do lo these many years.  She had her second daughter the following year.

Ah, a pattern is beginning to develop here.  The next year, my brother and his wife had their first son.  I'd been married a little over three years by this time.  I guess it was my turn because I was next when my daughter was born the following year.  Next, along came my brother's second son a year later.  Where there were none, now there were five little cousins all in a row, all approximately one year apart.  Amazing!  My son followed this lineup nine years later when he was born in 1988.  Just like his mother, he spent his early years trying to catch up!

Here's the irony  of this progression of births.  My daughter is the only one of these six collective offspring who is a) married and b) the mother of a daughter.  This makes me, the "baby" of my family, the one and only grandparent.  Isn't this strange?  My brother is 62, my sister with kids is almost 60 and their children are 29, 28, 27, and 25.  I'm the only Grandma!  I realize that grandparents seem to be getting younger and younger but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would become a grandma at the tender age of 47.  Obviously, Mother Nature does not always follow the rules when it comes to the natural order of things--the order in which I think they should be anyway.

Monday, June 7, 2004

A Final Gesture of Love

Yesterday, as well as being the 60th anniversary of D-Day, was my Dad's birthday.  It would've been his 90th.  I found myself thinking about him a great deal.  He was a wonderful father, a devoted husband and a true gentleman and gentle man in every sense.  In honor of his day, I thought I'd share this.

My mother died on September 21, l995.  Per her wishes and prearrangement, she was cremated.  A private outdoor service was held at her Episcopal church about one week later.  It was short and sweet with beautiful music we knew my mother had loved.  It was extremely difficult to get through.

This particular church had a flower garden in which a person's urn could be buried.  This was most cetainly a fitting final resting place for a woman who was a gardener extrodinaire and loved nothing better than digging in the dirt and coaxing plants of all kinds to grow.  In lieu of a tombstone, a little plaque engraved with the individual's name was set in the ground to mark the place.  My mother's name was Annette but she was always Anne and always with an "e".  She would always say the name didn't look finished without the "e" on the end.  A plaque for her was ordered and arrived in due time.  Of course, the "e" was missing from her name.  My dear father, not in the greatest of health, went about the business of ordering a replacement.

His health has been deteriorating for years and after Mother was gone, we all took turns going to the house to prepare dinner, encouraging him to eat, keep him company and help out in general.  The man was grief-stricken and as so many surviving halves of a couple are, lost without his wife.  They had been married for 56 years plus and had been together as a couple since they were both 14 years old. 

By December of 1995, my oldest sister decided it was time to move Daddy into her house to better care for him.  I think he was more than ready to leave the home he and Mother had lived in for their nineteen and some years of retirement.  It was at this time I inherited their dog, Lucy, a shepherd-lab mix who I treasured until the end of her life as my living legacy from my mother.

Weeks, months went by and no new plaque arrived.  Finally, somewhere in the third week of Februaryin 1996, the new plaque with Anne spelled correctly with an "e" arrived.  My brother-in-law drove my dad to the little garden at the Episcopal church and it was set in its proper place at long last.  My dad died that night.  The date was February 21, 1996--exactly five months after the death of my mother.

I truly believe he was just waiting patiently for that corrected plaque to arrive.  Couldn't leave this mortal world with unfinished business, you know.  This was something he just had to do for the love of his life before he could allow himself to exit quietly from this world into the next.


Just a Thought

While I was reading an editorial column in Saturday's newspaper, a particular line caught my eye.  Something about a reference to "millions" of journals drifting out there in cyberspace; it doesn't matter right now what the editorial was about.  It was the word "millions" that brought me up short. 

I read journals from my journal group list, another list of AOL journals very nicely put together by a helpful fellow journalist and by checking out journal links provided in sidebars of "Other Journals" provided by those journals I'm reading.  (Whew!  Very confusing sentence.)  As a result of this, I tend to think this is all that's out there.  Of course, this is not the case at all.  Thousands upon thousands of people write journals and have never bothered, or maybe even thought, to add theirs to an existing list.  The staggering amount of journals that are evidently out there boggles the mind!  Which brings me to~

Why do we create these journals and add to them on a fairly regular basis?  All of us think what we do and have to say is important and want to share all this with others.  I think we all start out writing these journals for ourselves, as a pastime, a diversion, a catharsis, whatever.  Before too long, something begins to happen.  We're checking the reader "hit" number to see if anyone's checking out our words of wisdom.  We're looking for comments; elated when we get one, somewhat let down when we don't. 

Suddenly, we find we're not just writing for ourselves anymore.  We're writing in hopes of finding a receptive audience.  With each additional entry, there's this little voice buried not so deeply in our subconscious that's whispering, "must keep people coming back, must increase readership, must strive to be more interesting" and so on.

Then there's the Holy Grail of the AOL Journals, to have your journal selected as one of the Editor's Pick!  Wow!  In our heart of hearts, wouldn't we all love to have our journal, our lovingly crafted "brainchild" (as I call it) showcased for the world to see?  I think most of us would if we choose to be completely truthful with ourselves.  Everybody does desire that "15 minutes of fame" timeslot and this would be a great, relatively easy way to achieve it. 

And so, in the end, the relaxing pleasantries of creating a journal and writing in it somehow gets turned around into becoming a willing (or perhaps not) contestant in yet another popularity contest and this is a big one.

Remember, this is purely my opinion and my take on this subject.  Am I crazy (well, maybe just a little; can't cope in this world if you're not just a leetle crazy)?  Does anyone else feel this way?  Yes, I'll admit I would love nothing more than to receive an e-mail that began, "Your journal has been selected, etc." I am, however, enough of a realist (pessimist?) to know that will never happen.  Neither of my journals is flashy enough.  I don't use graphics, photos and other assorted fun and interesting stuff due in part to lack of know-how,definitely the biggest part, and (other part) because the computer I have is not terribly new and extremely slow.  However, I love this computer of mine.  I was  lucky enough to inherit it from my darling daughter when she upgraded and it has enabled me to visit a whole new world which, up until about two years ago, I never knew exisited.  Now I'm hooked.  Ah, from cigarettes to computer screen; surely this addiction won't kill me as quickly!

Thanks for reading.  I just had to get this out.  This is as close as I come to ranting.  Now I feel so much better.  It's just that as I rapidly approach the age of 51, I thought I was well past the popularity game.  In truth, I guess it never ends 'til the day we breathe our last.

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Why I Do This For A Living

It's easy enough to whine and complain about a job.  I believe I wrote about and posted something like this not too long ago.  Now I will tell you why I like my job and actually enjoy it most of the time.

I'm not exactly what you'd call a "people person" but I like the connection I have with the elderly, always have.  Even when I was a little girl, I had my network of old lady friends and used to make my rounds almost daily.  Now I find myself a very important part of many peoples' daily lives.  Their eyes light up when they see me and their brows furrow a bit deeper when I tell them goodbye as I leave for the day to enjoy my two days off.  I know that I'm possibly the one person who will make their day a better one, a little brighter.

I have an enormous amount of patience with my residents, more so than with my family.  I'm the one who will take time to really listen to them.  I'm the one who will do the "extra" little things that don't seem like much at the time but mean a great deal.  Does this sound somewhat smug and self-righteous?  Probably so but it most be so because I get told on a daily basis, "I'm so glad you're here.  Things just aren't the same when you're gone.  I wish I could keep you for myself."  Now, we all know that no one is indispensable but it sure is good for the ego to hear these things.

Many of these folks have a great sense of humor and have been fortunate enough to retain it despite their woes.  They love nothing better than to talk about their life experiences and quickly warm to any audience.  They have lived so long and seen so much especially considering the incredible changes that have taken place in the past 75 to 100 years.  One of my very special ladies who shares my birthday and, therefore a special kinship, talks about her family who came across the country from Kentucky in a covered wagon.  It's fascinating to hear these stories from someone who heard about it firsthand.

And, of course, there are those who are perfectly miserable and God himself could come here to try to take care of them and they'd still be unhappy and dissatisfied.  Never did that saying that includes the bit about "you can't please all the people all of the time" ring more true than here in this environment.  These are the folks who truly believe that nothing could be worse than where they are now.  They think the food they're served is terrible.  Our building is quite nice, the grounds and courtyard at the back of the building are beautifully landscaped, the apartments are light, spacious and fully contained but they see nothing positive in any of this.  We all bend over backwards to make everything as nice and comfortable as we can but it's never enough.  This isn't home and it never will be home and many never get past that.  Some adjust to this life and some never do.

The imp in me always wants to arrange a little field trip for these unhappy people.  I would take them to a convalescent hospital and let them take a little tour.  There's usually no choice of meals, most rooms have three, sometimes four, beds with nothing to separate them but a flimsy privacy curtain.  That's just for starters.  Everything is relative and it just might make a difference in their outlook when they return "home" and take another look around.  Emphasis on the might!

I feel good about the work I do.  I think it's important.  There are lots of rough times, but the good times outweigh the bad by far.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  As I look out over the small assortment of senior citizens residing in the facility in which I work, I am one of them many years hence.  We all are.  I believe it's very important to cater to and treat our elders with respect and the dignity they deserve for, if nothing else, having made it this far through the trials and tribulations of life.