Looking for answers to life's questions

It was on my phone calendar this month. How did I not know this before? I think they have it wrong though. Every day should be pretzel day on my calendar. At least every day that I can get to a good one. After all, not all pretzels are created equal.

I like mine soft and the dough a little sweet, of course. With my pretzel, I like soft melted cheese and a small cold imported beer. A good Hefeweizen is my favorite. Both are a rare treat anymore but last Saturday we made a quick stop at Edelweiss, our favorite German Deli in Portland Oregon for a fresh out of the oven Pretzel. They have the best anywhere. Soft, fat and sweet, kind of like me.

I’m half German so I grew up with this fare and its memories warm my heart. Everything in the German Deli triggers some of my better memories. I’m pretty certain I experience the world through my taste buds. My daughter and I watched every episode of “Somebody Feed Phil” on Netflix twice and have decided that we want to travel to as many places as possible and experience the food. I’m more interested in the bakeries of the world and tasting as many pretzels as I can find. Open those borders everyone. My taste buds are tingling.

One of the best I’ve eaten.

Wikipedia says the origin of the pretzel is ambiguous and many countries take credit. I don’t really care about that. Just pass me another pretzel and the day will be perfect.

So how do you experience the world? Are pretzels your thing?

Happy Pretzel Day.

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself.

A New Normal

Spring is officially here for a few weeks at least. One day we get a taste of summer temperatures, then go back to the cold and rain which I always welcome. Someone down the road a few miles decided to camp out in the back yard and set the tent, house and 40 acres on fire. Again we got warnings of possible evacuation. Thankfully, our fire department got it out before our area had to leave. Spring is so full of hope.

Even this cut down tree is still trying to bloom

I’ve had a full plate the last few weeks with spring cleaning inside and out and getting ready for my daughter’s birthday.

Found a home for the bumper stickers and some cards.

Spring on my dresser

She announced a need for the beach and so we made plans for two nights so we could be leisurely about the trip. I found a route that would avoid a great deal of interstate so we could enjoy more scenery. It took us an hour longer and we stopped at the Tillamook Creamery and Blue Heron Cheese company for lunch and dessert. Everyone on their best behavior and masking as well as being socially distant to anyone that didn’t come with them.

My daughter loves yellow for it’s cheerfulness

Back of the heart.

Happy colored bowl cozy for my daughter

We’ve never been to the beach in the spring months. It was colder, clearer and much windier. Everything this trip was done with new eyes. Nothing is taken for granted.

Clear skies and hope flying high

I’ve come to the beach with new equipment as well. After going for my annual lung function test, I got the results that I expected. The hills have been steeper and the roads have become longer. So, I’m in need of assistance when I’m out walking for exercise. They sent me so much equipment that I am not quite ready for and some I’m very much welcoming.

 

I had my annual appointment with the pulmonologist yesterday. The news, in spite of everything was good and hopeful. The exercise is doing its job and keeping the progression of decline very slow. I could have much more time than I expected.  Maybe even two or three years! I can read a lot of books and sew a lot of fabric in that time. Maybe I’ll even get around to writing my life story for my children.

Mask, oxygen, walking stick, hat, check, check, check.

It’s been a wild ride through this life and I’m obviously not done yet. Yay!! The oxygen is only on two liters when I exercise and I don’t need it to do daily life…yet. This is my new normal. He also agreed that working in the garden was not harmful so I’m back at playing in the dirt. I told him that’s what keeps me so healthy. Breathing in all those microbes builds immunity to stuff in the world. Color me happy today and out for another walk up that big hill.

Heading for the hills

Are you facing a new normal? What color are you today?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Nests

It’s spring here for a minute and that means so many things. What trees are left here have tried to bloom. The Arbor Vita I had hope to get trimmed has some new guests, so the trim is on hold until my guests are fully checked out of their suite. I hope they are finding their accommodations adequate. Then I can get on with the pressure washing of gutters and other outdoor chores.

This is also the time of year we are all working on our own nests. I’m shuffling around and cleaning out. Washing windows and curtains so looking outside is clearer. I have been spending a lot of time watching the tree trimmers doing triage on our broken jungle here.

The clean up truck checking every home here.

They are getting the widow makers and anything that can cause damage first before coming to take away the piles of debris. I’m hoping the birds I see in those piles are only getting material and not building nests in there. I worry for their safety.

Sizing up the job

Can you see him working his way to the dangerous limb?

This is the time of year for a breath of fresh air, to fluff the Chi and take stock of what’s possible. We had a beautiful sunny day on Saturday. A trip to the local Farmer’s Market was so refreshing for far too many people. We shopped quickly and left.

flowers from Farmers Market

I showed my daughter, who has lived here more years than I, a new way to get to a favorite bakery for a takeout sandwich and dessert. We laughed a lot and enjoyed the long absent sunshine. There were babies to see in the line and puppies as well. Nothing could be better. Everyone seemed to feel a sense of hope and joy. I’m hoping to see new baby Blue Jays. I won’t peek.

Hyacinth working to make spring

Are you doing any nesting or seeing new life around you?

“God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into its nest.” ~ Josiah Gilbert Holland

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Home Again

I’ve been a bit frazzled and all over the map with my thoughts. They would not be nailed down long enough to get them on paper. Even my journals are suffering serious blanks.

The only journal that is not suffering is my gratitude journal. I am so grateful that no one here in the park was hurt by falling tree limbs. My home was unharmed as well. My sister is home as of Saturday evening with her new lungs and will be staying with me occasionally as needs arise for Doctors appointments, etc. She is doing well and out-walking me. Doctors will keep checking her the next year at least.

Happy Sis home with her family

We were able to come home to electricity and heat after five days and didn’t lose very much in the fridge or freezer. My daughter did have to go back to the downtown office to work one last day as internet had not been restored until the next day.

The only real damage I saw to a neighbors shed. That was no small tree

Our park maintenance crew has been working hard to get debris cleaned up. There are a LOT of tree branches and logs lining our streets waiting for mulching. Over 1,100 are earmarked to be taken down due to damage. Many already have so no one would get hurt. We drove around the whole area with mouths gaping. I’ve seen tornado damage; this was more widespread though not as destructive.

Marked to be mulch

I’ve filled my green waste can three times now, have rearranged the den again for a bed for my sister and squeezed everything back into my tiny sewing room. Very little sewing has transpired.

I’ve cut back the butterfly bushes to the nub as I may have to replace the board on the planter. It’s broken through. There are so many little things clamoring for attention now that I start out with a well-planned morning and watch the plan disintegrate with each sip of coffee. No, I’m not giving up my coffee

Butterfly bush cut to the nub. Hoping for the best

I also noticed recent cracks in my kitchen ceiling so I’ve called the park office for a recommendation for someone to come look and determine if it’s a re-leveling issue or a roofing issue. I have one section of gutter that I’ve tried twice to have repaired and it is still leaking huge amounts of water in the copious rain we’ve had. It can all be fixed, I just need to throw lots of money at it since I’m a single woman of a certain age with limited skills. And here I thought I could do anything.

Daffodils First sign of spring.

Years ago when my recently widowed mother bought her manufactured home and put it on our next-door lot, my husband was there taking care of all the details. When my son is here on his yearly visits, he will get many things taken care of for me. The rest of the time, my daughter and I are on our own to figure things out and there is always something that needs attention. I think an apartment sounds good in times like this but second thoughts always show me an apartment’s down side as well. I guess the thing for which I’m most grateful, is the idea that somehow, I’ll figure it all out and hang onto my wonderful cluttered home a bit longer since it’s still here.

How do you manage when things seem overwhelming?

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.~Peter Marshall

From my heart to yours,

Marlene herself

This week resembled nothing that was written in my day planner. The entire country seems to be having one of those weeks. Someone said today they thought 2020 was over but this feels like a replay. I myself am feeling a lot fragmented and disjointed. This post may feel much the same.

No longer happy little tree

Here in my part of rain country, snow was minimal after the gigantic build up by the news. What was not minimal was the constant cracking of branches and trees loaded with ice coming to the ground! It was downright frightening when I heard all my butterfly bushes pull over the planter box they were in and hit the ground. We lost power at 3:00 a.m. and when the temp hit 58 inside, my daughter started packing to leave. She’s says she’s a delicate flower and cold hurts.

They covered my window nicely before

Will have to trim the butterfly bush way down and hope

We had to go into Portland to get a vacant hotel room till the power comes back on. Apparently, everyone else had the same idea. I whined like a 3-year-old once again at leaving my home. I did the same whine during the evacuation from the fire and smoke.

Trees here are covered in ice with many laying across the roads. We had no internet or phone service of any kind at my house so we couldn’t even start looking for a place until we got close to somewhere with power. Turns out the mall and all the restaurants were closed too so no lunch while we made calls. The only place that had a room for us was a downtown luxury hotel.  My daughter needed power to work so she made the call.

Icy tree leaning over my shed and neighbors house

It was a gorgeous hotel and had covered parking for the tiny fee of $10 a night for parking. That’s cheap in Portland. A little tricky to get there through the snow and icy roads but my beast with four-wheel drive went easily through. My fingerprints will remain in the door handles forever daughter drove with great skill. I brought a cold beer and had it with a Motrin after we got to our room.

Young pines stuck

 

We soon discovered this luxury hotel offered no in room refrigerator or microwave. It also offered no coffee, breakfast options, or nearby open restaurants. You do NOT camp out in a luxury hotel. We coped until the second morning when their power went out and we were on the 10th floor. I panicked. When my c-pap shuts down suddenly, I feel like I’m suffocating.

Widower all alone. I’m sure the park will get to this one soon.

My daughter and I were packed up by 1:00 a.m. when she finally located another room close to the airport that had everything we needed. It is perfect for isolated camping. I had hot coffee this morning and we heated up frozen breakfast bowls. No parking fees and much less expensive.

Cleanup beginning up the street

They are talking 10 days to get the power on. I’m hoping they are just tired of all the calls and want us all to leave them to do their work.

Once the sun came out 2 days later

We are fortunate to be able to pay for the motel, probably for the next year. Many are braving their cold, powerless homes. We have food from our home with us while the rest will probably not survive. We are coping well.

“If you can’t laugh when things go bad–laugh and put on a little carnival–then you’re either dead or wishing you were.”
Stephen King, Under the Dome

Have you found ways to handle the natural disasters in your life?

 

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Loss

Loss: a four-letter word that can and has filled volumes. I cannot begin to squeeze it into a 500-word post. I know of no one who has not been touched by this word in its many forms.

We often suffer loss. We experience each loss differently. Some losses are more profound than others. Each kind of loss extracts its own measure.

We lose in different ways. We lose jobs, friends, relationships, health, pets, ad infinitum. I didn’t understand most kinds of loss as a child.

Sweet, quiet Schatzie. She was my mom’s for her first year, mine for 10.

Every time we moved, I lost friends. I grieved for them knowing I would never see them again.  Sometimes I didn’t have to move for the loss of friendship to hurt. I’ve lost several pets that were closer to me than some family members. I know many of you can relate.

My sister’s Healer in her cousin’s bed

The losses in life can often redirect how you live it. One of the great losses is our personal independence. When my last husband had a retina detach, he lost the ability to drive and with that his job. That was his identity and his freedom in one blink of his eye. He was forced to retire at 59. He took it in stride for awhile then as his world grew smaller, he wrapped himself around mine needing constant attention and entertainment.

On February 11, 2010 I had my own eye blink moment. I woke up feeling queasy and my ear hurt. I had my husband call for an appointment at my doctor and call someone to take me there. I rarely went to the doctor. This felt serious. The doctor wasn’t sure what was going on and made some calls himself for consultation. When you see your doctor pacing the hall and scratching his head, panic starts to set in.

In the course of two days, I went from full time chauffeur, etc to completely disabled; not by shingles as they first thought but by Bells Palsy. We were in a fine pickle with neither of us driving.

It was supposed to go away in a few weeks. Same virus, different outcome. The damage was so profound they did a CT scan to make sure I hadn’t had a stroke.

The contact lenses I’d worn for 45 years never went in my eyes again because I couldn’t blink. I needed a cane to stay upright and television was out of the question. The movement made me nauseous. So did car rides. I couldn’t hear well and loud hurt. My entire brain was on fire trying to find up. It was more than two years before I could drive a few blocks to a grocery store and even now, my limit is 20 miles. My entire way of life was lost. I had to build it from the ground up all over again. I am certain I’m not unique in this.

March 2010. Needed a straw to drink anything. Still do.

I saw this as a wake-up call. I wrote how I wanted my life to look from that moment forward. I asked for help! Couch surfing for over a year brought me to California and Oregon for different treatments that should have been done immediately. I read everything I could find on neuroplasticity to heal my brain and I was given exercises to get my eyes to track together again. Dr. “full of himself” was a genius and knew it. I loved how he helped when no one else did. I got some electrical stimulation on my face so it doesn’t hang though still paralyzed. In the end, I did lose my smile. I rented an apartment within walking distance to groceries until I could put enough together to buy my own little manufactured home. For a while, I had some independence. It’s at a precarious balance again so I’m looking for a new path through.  Loss always has a lesson.

How many times have you lost someone or something that caused you to rebuild your life in one way or another?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

 

 

 

Contribution

This prompt had me think about my contribution to society and family. I obviously made choices in my life that failed to leave buckets of money that can be spread far and wide to benefit the world. It forced me to look at contribution in a different light.

We all matter or we wouldn’t be here

I think everyone makes a contribution in some way. There are those that teach others, those that take care of others, some contribute by making art, food, music or interesting literature. My quilt group and I made quilts for several organizations in need. It helped us all.

A fun way to give. Saw this somewhere on the internet.

Children contribute by showing us what joy looks like. There are those that contribute by showing us what we don’t want in our life. Contrast is essential for our growth, like it or not. It makes us work harder to find out how we want to be expressing in the world.

Borrowed this from somewhere. It made me smile too.

I’ve always thought I fell a little short in the area of contribution for many years. I wanted to do more and give more. Most of my life we were lucky to have our very basic needs met though there were plenty in my world who had less. Those are the people that give us the opportunity to contribute a helping hand, a listening ear, or just pay for their lunch when you can see they can’t. Small, simple things are valued by some as much as the bigger things.

I personally, like to make things and give them away. It’s my way of letting people know they are thought of with a caring heart. I’ve donated to animal shelters, given away fabric, books, clothing and household goods that were in good condition for someone else to use. I have enough of everything now and need less.

I’ve also come to believe that the more you give, the more good comes your way. Not necessarily in the same form but often in surprising ways. It took a few years of careful observation to come to that conclusion but I eventually had enough evidence to make that a fact. Give freely without expectation and it just boomerangs back in such subtle ways.

Are your views on contribution similar or vastly different? How do you feel you contribute in the world?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

What’s Missing

My first thought when I read this prompt was the old phrase “of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” ~ Mark Twain

I looked at my daughter and asked if I was missing anything in my life. Her reply took seconds. I miss my original language.

Missing something implies possible regret. Missed opportunities. I think my life unfolded exactly as it should. I have had a world of experiences and two children that grew into honest, honorable and kind adults. What more could I ask for?

It seems I’ve been talking about fully learning the language of my birth more than I realized. I have even started looking at YouTube classes to refresh my memory. Was it even worth the bother at my age? What are the chances I’ll ever get back there?

Still living in Germany Age 4

I left Germany at 4 ½ years of age, starting kindergarten in Kansas City. We moved twice the next year, then went back to Germany for three more years. I attended a base school that included a class on German language to help the kids that had never been there. My playmates were mostly the German neighbors. They didn’t taunt me even though my German was not up to standards even to them.

Kindergarten photo. The top knot brought lots of taunts.

While we originally lived in Germany, my dad, with the US army, spoke to me in English and I answered in German. We understood each other. Once we landed in the US my mother ‘earned’ her citizenship with study and testing. She stated to me that this was where we lived now, this is where our money came from and this was the only language we would speak. I was only to hear words in German if she did not know I was in range. They were usually muttered to herself, never outside our home. At that time in history, we were not well received here.

I traveled to Germany twice with my mother after their retirement. The first time was on a group tour with other military couples when my dad’ decided it was too much for him. Mom needed company. We were with Americans and that was primarily what was spoken on that trip.

Me and mom’s online friends. They spoke NO English.

The second time we went alone on her last trip, to all the places she had been with my dad and to visit some new online friends. Mom was struggling with pulmonary fibrosis and the trip was grueling. We rented a car and I did all the driving trying to understand road signs and rules. Mom had forgotten most of her German but I seem to find mine out of sheer need. Each occasion requiring information brought up words from the deep dark reaches of my mind. Mom would look at me and ask how I knew those words. I could only shrug and marvel at their appearance with gratitude.

In the city of my birth, mom found old friends that remembered her.

 

The building where my grandparents last lived. Arm swollen from lack of oxygen.

I think that brought on the desire to relearn what I had lost and build on it. I used to think in German and translate to English. Now I think in English and work very hard to translate to German. I’m not certain I’ll get the level of mastery where I can converse fluently but it would be so nice to go there, immerse myself for a few months and then once again, dream in my first language.

Do you feel there is anything still missing in your life? How would you go about finding it?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

 

Work

My second prompt was about work and I had a hard time with this one. Hence the late arrival.

Everyone needs work to do. It can build self esteem under optimal conditions. Which is why working at something you feel passionately about is essential. There are even animals that love to work. It’s built into us.

Growing up, we were instilled with an extra strong work ethic to the point that I found myself unable to be still unless I was reading a book which rarely was allowed. My parents always found work for us to do. Sitting and playing was never an option.

I’ll do the hard work

My dream of becoming a teacher never materialized. I hold teachers in the highest esteem. Without them, there would be no doctors, lawyers, or even actors and athletes. There are good teachers and then there are exceptional teachers. I was lucky enough to get at least one exceptional teacher. Her work changed my life.

Never afraid of hard work and I fit underneath better.

I am no longer in the work force but I’ve done so many different kinds of work in the different stages of my life. I’ve been an after school sitter and dinner maker, waitress, carhop, retail supervisor, hairdresser, secretary and switchboard operator for a security company where I had a phone at both ears. For a short time, I worked for Bell telephone in the IBM card reading department. I failed the eye test to work switchboard so they thought I’d do better reading tiny holes in cards. I wound up doing the job of two people working 12-hour days.  Each one of those jobs were about survival. I gave them all my very best efforts.

Mom and me, senior year of high school. Mom has the cigarette.

When my daughter was an infant, I went to a cocktail party with the husband for his work. One of his  coworkers was introduced to me and she asked what I did? I replied that I was raising two children and taking care of our home. She asked what else I did. Coming from another woman, I was stunned silent. That this is work that is not valued by other women made me question myself.

My favorite job in the world.

I learned about Color and Image consulting after the children were grown and gone. I studied for a year loving every minute. It was the first work I had ever done for myself. Now understand that I am not a fashion person. I found this method helped enhance individual personality in how you dressed and the colors you wore. It helped each person discover so much about themselves that had laid dormant.

I didn’t care about fancy dress. I cared about authenticity. Finding colors and styles that showed others who was really stepping in front of them was exciting. It couldn’t have been a job because I pretty much gave away most of my services for the pure delight of it. It was the second-best work I’ve ever done.

The best work I’ve ever had in my life was raising my children and giving them a voracious appetite for reading anything and everything. In our family, books are the gift of choice all the way around.

A most precious moment caught on film

Helping children read is my greatest passion and work in this world. Being brought up bilingual, I had a difficult time with words. For a short time when my dad was around, he taught me how to discern the spelling and meaning of words I did not know so that no one could speak above my level of understanding again. He did that with a GED earned while in the army.

What was some of your most interesting work through the years?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Roadblocks

I’ve signed up for a writing challenge through Daily Om as a gift to myself. Or maybe it’s another way to torture myself by adding one more thing to my to-do list.

My son’s Gracie loves Christmas too. Bring more paper.

The first prompt is about roadblocks. I’m aware enough to know that the only real roadblocks to anything are those that I place there. I have a closet full of them. I can take out whatever works that day.

We don’t want to take it down yet.

Usually, I get out the biggest obstacle. My lack of  formal education. I barely made it through high school partly due to another roadblock; my visual impairment. Textbooks and required reading were often printed so small that the letters would swim on the page after a short time.

A favorite ornament hand stitched by a friend. She never goes back in the box.

I made another roadblock of the fact that I spent my childhood caring for my siblings rather than on my schoolwork. I’m still trying to fill in all the gaps from a gypsy life and education.

Don’t go yet! The closet is still full of roadblocks. I like the one that says ‘my sister needs me’ as she is healing nicely after her lung transplant. She has a friend doing care giving and all that’s needed from me is telephone support while in isolation. Just so you know, that’s a sneaky way to slip in an update.

Zooming with my happy sister. She’s looking good.

I have more to-do’s than hours in a day and I can all but guarantee that most people have many similar roadblocks to getting done things they really want to do. Christmas was all over my cutting table to create a nifty roadblock to completing my quilts. I cleared it off before going to bed last night. Unplugging Facebook and the TV while I sit in the light of the Christmas tree writing has helped to eliminate another roadblock.

A very old and favorite that says it all.

I’m trying to be more mindful of those minefields buried deep on my path to any success. I was not groomed for success. It doesn’t come naturally. I was brought up to be hardworking, honest and ordinary. Big aspirations were considered “silly.” I think the parents were trying to shield us from disappointment. That has become a major roadblock I didn’t even realize was there.

I needed a FLOUR pot to transplant these little darlings. Bob’s Red Mill lines them with plastic and will do till I can go shopping this spring, maybe.

I think it could be helpful to look at all the areas in life where we set up these obstacles. Keeping cookies out on the table does not help my plan to drop extra fluff from my midsection. So, I got all dressed and ready to go for my walk when daylight finally shows itself. One roadblock averted. More to go. That’s what you do with roadblocks. Find a good way around them or eliminate them.

Pizzelli’s

I have 52 weeks of prompts on this agenda. How many of them will I find roadblocks to navigate? How about you? Are you aware of your roadblocks?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself