June 10, 2009

Fifty Lessons

A columnist for a regional newspaper, Regina Brett wrote: "To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here's an update:
(My favorites are in dark pink.)
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today. 18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do. 35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now. 42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
48. If you don't ask, you don't get.
49. Yield.
50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

If I were writing this list, I agree with all of the above, plus:
Happiness is an inside job (a variation of hers, I suppose)
There are no answers to the "why" questions.

What would you add?

June 9, 2009

Packing up a Carnival--A Recap

(click to head to a lovely site with lots of lovely photographs)

Can I just say that May's been a little busy? Can I add that June isn't letting up much either?

After finishing the semester, grading for a day, a night and a day, posting the grades, dealing with the (cranky as well as heartwarming) student email, we packed up the car and went to Zion National Park. That's ZION, not Zion's, like I always say. I'm working on that.

Then a day home, then the counter boys came to rip up our kitchen counters and put in new ones. Before and after photos coming soon. I packed and drove to Orange County to board a plane for Utah, to see my parents. As I'm walking down the jetway to the plane, my phone rings and it's Dave: "Interesting news. The sink's defective."

Saturday night I return, and between then and Monday morning, we took down all the drapery, blinds and miscellaneous window coverings WITHOUT A POWER DRILL, because it had been so long since we used it, the batteries were dead and weren't charging up. Something had gone wrong somewhere in Rechargeble Battery Land.

Monday morning, the window boys arrive to pull out all our windows and put new ones in. I also had my husband Dave cart down my desktop and I sanded, primed and re-painted that, for it was worn and splintery. Too much grading in one spot, I'd say. Back to the window: the proof was in the pudding, meaning, it was all worth it when Dave, looking around our house said, "It looks like a new house." (I would have said "It looks like a new house!" but Dave doesn't typically speak in exclamation points. That day/afternoon/night I also did four loads of laundry, vacuumed the downstairs, mopped the floor, put furniture back in the living room, family room, dining room, made dinner.)

The counter boys had sent an emissary that morning to pull the defective sink and put the new one in, and after a slow dance with counter boy headquarters--who were slow dancing with their plumbing supplier--they said they'd pay for the plumber this time so to call one. The only time we could be worked in was. . .

Tuesday morning at 5:50 AM! So there I was rubbing sleep out of my eyes, while talking with an obscenely energetic plumber guy while he re-installs my sink and faucets. (Note to Aunt Christine: No Laughing.) Then it's shower, pick up the bill from the plumber guy's wife at their very nicely appointed estate up in the green belt of our town (I guess plumbing is a lucrative work) and head down to Lake Elsinore (a thirty-minute drive) to pay via charge card so we can get airline points, our window bill. A quick stop at the Pottery Barn Outlet (across the street, how convenient) and home again to hair appointment, stepping around and through the mess that is our house.

Since I now had a sink (cue Hallelujah Chorus) I could cook up my pasta-dish-to-feed-ten for our church's evening gathering for the Ladies. Corkscrew pasta, blanched and chilled cut asparagus, peas, mint, cilantro, lemon vinaigrette with a slug of Dijon mustard and real Herbes de Provence--hand carried home from Lyon France, minced red bell pepper, a shake or two of cayenne and it lost out in the Best Tasting Category to AppleBee's Orange Chicken Salad and a heavily oiled caprese salad. Oh well. I liked it--all fresh and springy.

Wednesday we were able to squeeze in a walk before the rains and thunderstorms and the drywall guy arrived. The typical installation for the new slider was to trim it out with molding, but we have crisply defined window wells on that particular wall and wanted the slider to keep with that. One can have too much molding, I believe. While he worked, I made two batches of raspberry jam, in order to keep up with the my daughter, then two batches of strawberry jam. I also located the floor of my study again, trying to pitch extraneous detritus while finding new places for things: an ongoing task that will end when I head to the Old Folks Home. Dinner, dishes, wandering around banging my head into walls.

So last night I dreamed another in a series of dreams this week about physical labor. I had to pack up a carnival. I spent all night long, dissembling the Ferris wheel, the Tilt-A-Whirls, the roller coaster, the Tunnel of Love, opening large wooden crates, packing in the pieces, heading for the Dime Toss booth, gathering up scads of over-sized stuffed animals, sweeping down the site, nailing the crates shut, over and over and over. And like all the other mornings this week, I woke up more tired than when I went to bed. So when I saw the photo above, it spoke to me of what I had imagined my summer to be: long walks in a ferny forest, picking bluebells and reading Victorian Lit. A girl can dream a little, can't she?

Today I hope to pack up this carnival a little, with the help of Dave's upcoming Father's Day Present:

Obviously, I'm still dreaming.

June 5, 2009

The Impossible

A good writer always works at the impossible.
--John Steinbeck

I don't have any salient thoughts, any giddy-up-and-go ideas. I was cleaning out and found this old scribbled note. Along with the above quote, several scribbled out phrases are one on side of this paper, as well as a phone number that I don't recognize, and a crossed out phrase,"You write by sitting" with no end punctuation.

And on the backside of the page, this, with no attribution:
"When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without" and again, no end punctuation. New York, of course, being a reference to the publishing world, to fame, fortune and riches.

These small missives from my past thinking are always a mystery. What was I thinking? What was I working on? What was hard then?

Postscript: The quote is from John Updike.
"...By contrasting so sharply with his creator, Henry Bech also defined Mr. Updike more distinctly, particularly his determination to stick to the essentials of his craft. As he told The Paris Review about his decision to shun the New York spotlight: “Hemingway described literary New York as a bottle full of tapeworms trying to feed on each other. When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teenaged boy finding them, have them speak to him. The reviews, the stacks in Brentano’s, are just hurdles to get over, to place the books on that shelf.”