Unexpected encounter

Yesterday I was in Sears returning a shirt for my son. I was in  a hurry, a little irritated that I had to drive across town then had to wait in line since there was only one visible register open.  While I was waiting a frustrated woman with frosted wind-blown hair came up to complain she  had been waiting in the shoe department for 10 minutes for help and no one had come. Someone eventually went to see about her and I continued to wait.

A small elderly woman got in line behind me, carrying a shoe box. She pulled out a cell phone and told someone she was almost there, she was waiting to check out. I noticed her then went back to thinking about what I needed to do that day.

She attempted to strike up a conversation with the woman in front of me, about platform shoes. She had a pair in her box, black and white shoes with a three inch heel. I had to admit I admired her, if I can wear 3 inch heels at her age I’ll be thrilled and one fly old lady. The woman was polite but not friendly, she was irritated about having to wait.

The line finally moved and the elderly lady mentioned something about the weather to me. She was probably lonely. I’ve seen older people like this, who gladly talk to strangers just to have some human contact. I mentioned her shoes and she told me how they used to wear them all the time in the forties and how comfortable they are.  Then she mentioned she was planning to wear them to a booksigning.

My ears stood up.

She told me she had been a professional dancer, had worked with Judy Garland and was in a couple of movies. She started when she was fifteen, could see a routine once and copy it perfectly. She gave it up when she saw how Judy and other girls got hooked on diet pills and what it did to them. She married her high school sweetheart, went to bible college and was ordained. She was featured in this book, for some cause, she didn’t name the cause or the title. Then she told me her husband passed away two weeks ago and she was just now getting out. Maybe the shoes would cheer her up, she said.

Her only other concern was having her picture taken. She didn’t want the authors to show her as she is now, at 75 compared to when she was young and beautiful. I suggested she give them a family picture, a photo she liked, maybe something with her family.

My turn came, I returned the shirt and got my money. I asked her name, she said she danced under the name Norma Hunter. I googled it and looked in IMDB but couldn’t find her. I believe her story, she may have danced in Vegas and dancers in movies are rarely credited.  I said it was nice to meet her and went on my way.


Letting go

I’ve been selling some of the things I’ve collected and hoarded over the years. None of this is particularly rare or excessively valuable; I don’t have a drawer of Rolexes or Fabergé eggs.  I’ve collected linens and coffee mugs, some books and stuffed animals designed by Sandra Boynton, most of these were produced in the 80’s and except for the books and some new versions of the animals , they are no longer made.

I’ve resisted giving them up, held onto them through three moves and shlepped them from place to place. Their final storage was in my late aunt’s garage. She was good enough to let me keep a lot of stuff there, stuff we had no room for in our apartment. They stayed there until last year when plans were made to sell her house. I had to empty out the house and find new homes for her things as well as find a new place to store my stuff.

The boxes sat in my apartment and it was like a maze then like walls when I stacked them to one side. I began sorting the items I brought from my aunt’s and my old stuff. Most of it was from her kitchen, which I raided like a Goth. I looked at my aunt’s serving bowls, her cast iron dishes, Pyrex dishes and bowls, Corningware and Frankoma. I knew I couldn’t keep it all. So I began to make three piles–one for my sisters, one  to donate to the thrift store and one for me to keep. I’d like to say I distributed it all equally but I didn’t. I gave some of the cast iron pans and Corningware to my sisters, with some reluctance. The thrift store pile was light; only a couple of burned pizza pans and  muffin tins.  I kept the Pyrex and Frankoma but managed to part with and gave two Pyrex bowls to my youngest sister. I set them aside at first, took them back then put them back in her pile.  I wanted to keep them but I knew my sister could use them when we had family dinners at my other aunt’s house. Besides I had similar bowls and no room for these.

Some things from my aunt’s house weren’t going anywhere and I knew it. The Frankoma has some monetary value and I could have sold some pieces quite easily. Yet I remembered when my uncle took her on a tour of their factory and she came back with boxes full of yellow dishes, cups and bowls. He let her go nuts in the showroom and she loved those dishes, they were their everyday dishes. My uncle passed away a year later.

As for the Pyrex I like the colors, designs and just think they are cool. I remember seeing some of them on her table but there were bowls I’d never seen before too. I kept all but the two bowls for myself.

My attachment to her things is mostly sentimental. I have use for them and they are nice but holding them gives me a sense of comfort.

After I finished sorting through my aunt’s things I moved onto my boxes. I have, had two bedspreads, bedsheets in every size, over two dozen pillowcases and still no idea how many coffee mugs. I looked at each item, a task that took nearly two weeks. I had decided to sell some of these items, because we needed the space and frankly, I could use the cash. Amazing how sentiment folds when faced with cold reality.

The process was simple enough; the best items would go on ebay and I’d keep the rest. Mugs with spoon marks, pillowcases with stains, those went back into the boxes. It was not easy putting aside these things I’d held onto to so long. Most of these were thrift store finds, after looking through racks and racks of old sheets and towels, after trip after trip to the stores I’d finally score a pillowcase, maybe a mug. The mugs were a little easier to find, one reason I had so many.

So I did it, sold some of my stuff. I was glad they went to good homes, glad there were people who loved these things as much as I did and glad I made some money.  I’m still selling, will probably list items on ebay for another week or two then I should be done. What does not sell I relist, if it doesn’t sell the second time I keep it.  So far all I’ve kept is one pillowcase.

This week I’m selling some other things as well , housewares I’ve kept. So far they’ve had viewers but no bids.  It wasn’t easy to list them either but I remind myself I need the space.

I feel better seeing the piles diminish. I know my things are going to good homes, to people who will enjoy having them. It’s still a little sad to wrap up something I’ve had for so long. Yet I remind myself it’s been in  a box for two or more years, I haven’t needed it or used it. I should not miss it I tell myself. I do, but the feeling eventually passes.

I have too much stuff and most of us are lucky enough to be in the same situation. For the first time in history, ordinary people can accumulate excess goods, to have more than they need and without the fear of running out.  I could continue to rationalize that since these pillowcases and mugs aren’t produced any longer this makes them rare. That logic falls apart when I visit the thrift store.  There are more mugs, more pillowcases, more than I will need or use. I see new items at Wal-Mart and Target,  something new, a different design or color to make them appealing and convince me I need this.

I still like my Boyntons,  I like her style. The chubby animals, their expressions, the captions, the humor,  I like it.  It may be juvenile but I don’t care. Apparently there are other people out there who share my fondness for her work. It’s not high art, it doesn’t try to be, but there’s something about it, why she’s been writing and drawing and selling her work for over 20 years and why people love it. However much I don’t like to see my stuff go I still have some my collection left. I rarely ever used my Boynton pillowcases and only used the mugs with spoons marks but I plan to use these items as they were intended to be used. Much in the same way my aunt used her Frankoma dishes every day. It’s meant to be used and enjoyed.

Let the good times roll

It’s Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday. For some of us it’s the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. It means sacrifice, giving up something you enjoy for the next forty days in preparation for Easter. Last year I gave up meat, or tried to and ate a lot of fish. I like how fish is not considered meat in the Catholic mindset. It comes from Mediterranean cultures that ate mostly fish and very few veg, and grains: it was to keep these people from starving.

In this spirit I had a frozen waffle I nearly charred to get heated up throughout.  I’m still hoping to find King Cake somewhere.

Besides deprivation I’ve been thinking about my own limitations. Yesterday I went jogging/walking at the lake and found I could not jog longer than 2 minutes at a time. It was cold, I was going against the wind and the wind was cold. I had trouble breathing due to allergies and when you can’t breathe it’s hard to do anything. I was disappointed  and aggravated at myself, I know I can do better but wheezing through my mouth I had a hard time believing it. I do better indoors: on the treadmill with air conditioning /heat, handles for balance and a TV overhead, preferably a TV showing BBC America. Certain times of the month are harder or easier too.

I’m determined to jog/run a 5K next month. I have 4 weeks to get ready and thought I’d be doing 2 miles easy by now. I forgot to take my somewhat lazy nature, left knee, general chunkiness and advanced age into consideration. I know I can walk this dude now, no problem, but I want to run and if not run then jog the race. It looks like I will be doing a combination of jogging and walking, running is not likely but I don’t want to give up.  Yet I have to admit this may not be something I can do, no matter how much I may want to do it.

I’m used to challenging myself, pushing myself a little harder, a little longer to achieve  my goal. I usually get it, then keep going rather than getting too comfortable with what I’ve done, afraid I’ll give up or quit if I get complacent. If it is something I want I’ll do nearly anything to get it, but the desire has to be there otherwise I give half effort. Which explains why I’m not rich or winner of a Nobel Prize.

It also explains why I’m occasionally at odds with other people’s expectations of me, the hassles I’ve had in the past with what was expected of me and how I managed to do my own poorly-thought-out thing. Even when it seemed too late I kept going, hanging in because I had to, I was committed and there was no other way. Even those things that were expected that I did do I did my own way and that sometimes worked but often tanked.

Like trying to take care of my aunt when she broke her wrist. I looked after her for 15 of the longest months of my life, gave up my job, my life and nearly my sanity. I didn’t ask for help, because I knew it wasn’t coming, I went every day to make sure she had something to eat, cleaned her house, made sure she took her meds, drove her and helped her to the bathroom. Only one person offered to help out occasionally and she might have saved my life, she saved my sanity. But even knowing I was doing the right thing was not enough, it got to me and those last few weeks I drove home crying, knowing I’d be back doing the same minute tasks in a few hours. I had reached my limit and I knew it even though I kept going, because I had to, no one else would do it. It wasn’t until that last week in May that I asked my sisters, who lived in the same neighborhood, and my aunt’s next door neighbor, if they would bring her breakfast, lunch and dinner and check on her throughout the day, even a phone call would do. It took 3 of them to do what I did and if I had reliable backup I may have lasted longer but that’s moot. I told my aunt I wouldn’t be able to come anymore and that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. She was confused and didn’t understand and I knew I had let her down.

I’m still going to keep trying, but will try not to be disappointed when I don’t succeed. I’m still going to do the race and hope I can run it but if I jog or even have to walk part of it I’ll try to remember at least I am going to finish. Yesterday when I was at the lake I saw only 3 people out there. The weather may have had something to do with it, only the hardcore and insane would be out in it and I’m not sure which category I fall into. But I was and just that act put me ahead of those people who looked outside and decided to stay home instead.

Carpe Diem

Carpe diem, to seize the day is considered one of the world’s greatest ideals. To live each day as if it were your last is a sentiment that constantly recurs  in sappy songs, greeting cards and facebook posts. “For all we know we might not  get tomorrow.”

I’ve considered this only casually, thinking that it sounds pretty good but not really thinking what it means. At least not until now.

I am not a very mystical person and tend to be somewhat skeptical. I question a lot and find that what is authentic reveals itself to be so and what’s not falls away. But I had a dream two nights ago that is disturbing  me because of what it seems to say.

I dreamed I saw my grandfather and his best friend. They were in a car in front of my aunt’s former house and I got into the car with them. I know dream dictionaries and analysts would tell me this means one or another thing. However I’ve been told in the Choctaw way this means that your time is up, when you dream about someone who has passed you may see or talk to them but you can’t go with them. They will prevent you or leave without you, but if not then it means they are coming to pick you up and apparently my Grandpa and Ralph are my ride. At least I know I would go in style, as they were in a nice car.

There were other things in my dream but this stands out for obvious reasons. I am not scared, at least not yet. Perhaps I should be, perhaps I should be making plans, making out a will, planning a funeral. Right now all I can think is what Carpe Diem means and why it can be lousy advice.

To really consider this is your last day is darned depressing. This is it, there’s nothing to look forward to, no future. Depending on your religious beliefs it’s either a transition to paradise or the literal end, separation from everything. If we really thought about that it would paralyze some of us, we couldn’t do anything but breathe and be conscious that each breath brought us closer to the end, that time was slowly running out.  Some of us would expire like this, frozen in one spot.

If we are to seize the day then we would do what we wanted, seeking only our own pleasure. This is the most common reaction to “living life to the fullest.” “Give me everything tonight,” without any thought about how your actions affect anyone else or the consequences. It is the privilege to be selfish. To think only of yourself, of what you want and to take it without guilt, fear or shame.

This has the potential to be destructive, big potential Going on a rampage like Godzilla destroying Tokyo. Harming others either emotionally, physically or even both by your selfish, careless actions does matter even if you are not here to answer for those actions. At best your drunken stupidity or big mouth is a pain in the butt and irritant, at worse, criminal charges.

To live carefully and cautiously is not considered seizing the day, more like muddling through. It’s also potential for regret, for putting off and not doing those things you always wanted. If those hopes and desires are unanswered no one may ever know and that secret remains unknown. This may not be so bad, if those hopes and desires could hurt those left behind. Not being true to oneself does suck but depending on circumstances might be the best thing. You can always leave a letter or will behind to surprise those who find it but other than shocking them what good does it accomplish? If however you feel it is important they know it is better to reveal  the secret before it’s too late and deal with the consequences then.

But living a meaningful life, even if it looks quiet and dull, seems to be the best way to seize the day. Knowing what you do here and now has had a positive effect on others is a comfort. Making this world a better place is a cliche but it has a thread of truth running through it.   Love your neighbor as yourself is considered the greatest commandment. Your neighbor is everyone, anyone around you. Jesus told us this and told us to  be hospitable and consider the needs of others before our own.  Even those who are not Christian can see the wisdom and value in this.

I’m still not sure what to expect or what I should do. The dream has me sad and angry, to be honest. There are things I still want to do, places I hope to see before it’s too late, some books I want to read and much more. I hoped, still hope, to live a long life, to accomplish some goals,, both lofty and humble. I hope to see how my son’s life turns out, what he does and accomplishes along the way, to be a helper and guide to my sisters.  To take care of those things I’ve been entrusted with,  to see things carried out and settled and I hope to be a person who can be depended upon when others need me. I hope to run a half marathon. I regret I may not fulfill any or all of these.

There’s another regret I will have if this dream means what it seems to mean. I can’t reveal it here but will say I’ve always tried to tell those I love that I love them. I do not say these words easily or lightly. Yet there is something I’ve always thought would be, if I was patient and faithful but it may not and that is the greatest regret of my life.

slow news day

That’s what it feels like today. First up, Catholics in the news! Woo!

I saw this on the news and went to see the rest of it at youtube. It’s great, it’s bound to be on tonight’s Daily Show and my slightly cynical side says that’s its intended purpose. Still, I enjoyed it and wish I could vote for this guy but alas, he lives in Illinois. I do not.

I was greatly distressed that The Colbert Report has been suspended. At first there was no reason and there was speculation he finally pissed off the wrong people and they pressured Viacom to shut him down. Then there was an update, saying there was a family emergency, his mother is sick. Which is more distressing, but I wish the Colbert family well.

I heard this on the radio and it made my day. Increased tolerance and understanding is a good thing , slow but positive change is encouraging to see in this world. It’s not exactly a new phenomenon, the first interracial marriage I can recall was Othello and Desdemona, granted not a happy example but you have to start somewhere. My only gripe is “other combinations.” Being a part of one of those “other combinations” may be why. Although in this state the most common example of interracial marriage is probably the “other combination” of Native and white/caucasian (Can a color be a race?) but it is so prevalent I doubt few people even notice it any more. Changing negative opinions toward gay marriage may also be a trend, at least somewhere besides the state where I live but we can continue to hope for change, for increased tolerance and compassion. Like Gutierrez I’m a Catholic who is OK with birth control and like many other Catholics, I don’t agree with the Church’s stance against gay marriage.  I hope to see more acceptance and inclusion and less judgement and condemnation.


bored, bored,bored

Not entirely correct, I am watching a man making pozole soup on TV, listening to the sound of people outside marveling at the snow and polishing off some cottage cheese and pineapples. The house is currently quiet, an unusual state, and I am enjoying the near-silence.

A first post should probably have some biographical information. Probably but no dice, I like to preserve a little mystery here. I will admit this is not exactly my first blog post. I had, have a blog on blogger but have not used it for a very long time and it may no longer exist. Let me go check. Yup, last post was in September. I will try to do better here.

I’m fighting procrastination and procrastination seems to be winning. Right now in my living room there are more than a dozen boxes that need to go to storage. I have two very rough drafts that need to be completed. And there is laundry in the dryer waiting to be folded. I’ll probably do that first.