Looking for answers to life's questions

Archive for November, 2012

In Search of Tact

My mother was a woman who spoke her mind. She was not one to mince words. I often wondered about that expression. Mom was direct in an abrupt, abrasive sort of way. By the time we were done with a meal at a restaurant, most of my siblings and I wanted to crawl under the table and hide. She was just being honest. The silverware was not clean or the glass had something in it. It was always something and she was going to make sure they knew it. Mom had her standards and they were quite high. I was often of the opinion that people like my mother just needed a set of skid chains on their tongue. Sometimes many of us are in need of those skid chains. Now, where did I leave mine?

I am not much of a verbal communicator. There was very little opportunity to express myself. Staying quiet gave me lots of time to read and I tried to learn how to say things in a kind and tactful manner. I was married to a man for 25 years that did all the talking. Every thought in his head, came out of his mouth. We called it “diarrhea” of the mouth. Have you ever been to a party with one of those people? They monopolize the entire conversation.

That’s when I started to write my words on paper instead of holding them in. Problem solved, you would think. Not so much. Words on paper have no facial expression and you cannot see the writer’s face. It takes work to tell if what you meant to say got to the person you were writing to in the same context. You can’t see the sender smile because they were being facetious or attempting to be humorous.That’s where skilled writers have the advantage. They have my deepest respect. Knowing how to put words together so another can feel what you are writing, is a skill I desparately want to learn.

I can read a note and be hurt by it, while all the time the sender was just trying to elaborate their point. Been there, done that, know it will happen again and again. How many times have we written a note, hit the send button, only to wish we had a lasso to rein it back in and make a few adjustments? I have deleted more notes and posts than I have sent because the phrasing can so easily be misconstrued.

The writers that I truly envy are those that can write funny. They don’t have to be tactful. My folks had no visible sense of humor. At least I didn’t see it. I think I inherited the lack of it. Please let that be a skill you can learn.

Mom and Dad smiling.

Mom and Dad smiling.

My day is always better if something makes me laugh so I search it out. Janet Evanovich is one of my all-time favorite writers for relaxed reading. Her “Stephanie Plum” series guaranteed a belly laugh. I even bought her book on how she writes. Though I rarely read novels since I have so many other kinds of books waiting, I yearn for light and funny. It’s very healing.

Writing is not something I have a good handle on yet. Maybe I never will but I have to keep trying. So, let me say up front, if I offend anyone, it’s not intentional. If I take offence, I’ll get over it quickly. Life’s too short and words are so powerful. Intention is the key here. My intention is to be kind, with a sprinkle of humor or my attempt at it. I’ll keep working on developing tact and getting skilled with that lasso.

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of the Season of Gratitude

I woke up the day after Thanksgiving Day to find we had no water. Discovering this as I tried to fill my coffee maker made it apparent that my plans for the day were going down the drain. I was feeling quite silly keeping a bucket on the back deck to be filled with rain water until I used it to flush my toilet. I had plenty of wet ones on hand that I take to the fitness room here and alcohol on the bathroom counter. I am so glad I had no dishes to do. What’s a girl to do when there is no running water at home? I sent off a quick text to my daughter inviting her to drive us to breakfast so I could wash my hands in real water. It was a necessary maneuver, don’t you think?

In this season of gratitude, running water is something that often slides through the increasingly larger gaps in my mind. Mother nature and worn street pipes are kind enough to give us these gentle reminders of how lucky we are.

This can be a life saving device.

Growing up in rural Germany, we had to go to the pump to get water for our home and walk to the end of the dirt road to use one in a row of outhouses. Even as a child, I found it detestable.

When my young husband was stationed in Taiwan, our toddler son and I joined him there for his remaining 14 months of duty. Talk about stepping back in time. Our apartment had plenty of modern conveniences. A two burner hot plate and a refrigerator we bought at the PX. We had indoor plumbing with drains in all the floors. Later we discovered that the drains were essential during a typhoon. Many of the locals still did not have indoor plumbing. Unfortunately, the water was not potable. So my husband had to truck bottles of it down the mountain from their filtration site so we could have water for drinking, cooking and brushing our teeth. That was more than 40 years ago and things have probably changed a great deal. I’m still in awe of water flowing freely from the tap and use it sparingly.

For me, Thanksgiving begins a season of gratitude. I was grateful on that Black Friday to have been forced out of my comfortable home and into a store with my daughter doing the driving. I have been unable to do any driving the last couple of weeks. We did a little Christmas shopping for my niece’s daughters. I call them my niecettes or grand-niece’s. Their grandmother is letting me borrow them since she lives so far away and I’m so much closer. I’m grateful to have them in my life.

In the weeks through to the New Year, I will focus primarily on gratitude to the best of my ability. What is it that shakes you to fuller awareness of things to be grateful for and about?

Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings joy and laughter into your life and into the lives of all those around you.
~ Eileen Caddy

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of Giving Thanks

In two days, my daughter and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day at a local restaurant together. Neither of us have the stamina for cooking, cleaning or being polite company. I love to eat out, usually bringing home enough leftover food for another meal or two. Yes, I miss the big family gatherings, but life changes and we have to be adaptable. Isn’t that what the pilgrims did? Adapting to a new land and create new customs and traditions. I’m in a new land and just starting to make new friends.

Mrs Pilgrim is in hiding. She wants no part of the turkey cooking this year.

This week has been especially dizzy. Odd way to describe a week I know, but the events that add even the slightest stress, cause, for some unknown reason, extreme dizziness. Stress can be good. In this instance some of it is. My house in Arizona went into escrow! After two seasons on the market, a buyer appeared.

I’m going to share a little synchronicity with you. When we were trying to sell my mother’s manufactured home, someone suggested that I get this statue of St. Joseph and bury him in the yard with his feet up. That would help sell the house. “Don’t be ridiculous”, was my response. But I bought one anyway. We finally ended up selling to my son. So much for St. Joe.

Last week I found the flyer that came with the statue. The statue is long gone. So I stood the flyer on my dresser and said a prayer of sorts. I’m not Catholic or any other formal religion but I firmly believe in prayers that don’t involve “gimme”. It was just a “let someone that will enjoy the home have it now” kind of prayer. I kid you not, two days later, we had an offer. Not a great offer, but an offer none the less.

He’s done his job, now I must do mine.

Now for the bad part of the stress. My ex didn’t want to lower the asking price and negotiating with him has been part of the reason we are no longer together. I’ve had to work through this sale with him all week-long. Oddly, he has been more compliant than ever. Now we must see where the home inspection leaves us to see if we can both move on. The buyers are getting the house for what we paid for it 13 years ago.

So on Thanksgiving Day, I will be more than grateful to be in this new land with at least one family member, eating what I hope is a good meal. The sun will shine for the only day in several weeks. I’m fascinated that even the weather co-operates on Thanksgiving Day. I’m hoping to add the sale of our home to my list of things for which I am deeply grateful. I am regaining my health, slowly. I have a wonderful family and friends as well as a cozy place to live. I hope your Thanksgiving Day is rich with blessings no matter when or how you celebrate. I’m grateful you are all there.

Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude. ~ E. P. Powell

From my heart to yours,

In Search of Minimalism

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a lot of stuff. I did win, I hope, the discussion about whether I was a hoarder. I’m not one since I have comfortably let go of truckloads of “stuff” with no physical discomfort. I enjoy passing on what I will probably never find enough lifetime to use. I keep only what I love and is useful in my life. Some of what I surround myself with are memories and conversation starters.

Carried back in the suitcase from my first trip back as an adult

At the very core of my being is a teacher. I love to learn how to do things and teach that to others. I had no idea my own mother would be one of my most ardent students. When I came across a needlework company a good many years ago that offered kits and if you sold so many you got some free. I had the good fortune to give classes to lots women and do a lot of needlework. It kept my hands from feeding my face. Mom saw what I was doing and had to get in on the action. I taught mom everything I knew and she surpassed me with her talents. We had such fun. My walls are lined with her work to remind me every day to strive for excellence in all I do.

Just some of mom’s handy work.

Mine is home sweet home, Mom made the butterflies for me.

When I took painting classes, she joined me for one or two but just never got comfortable with it. I keep the one thing she was proud of painting. I also have a couple of her pots that she cooked with for over 50 years. They were a staple in her kitchen and necessary to making our favorite foods. I’m trying to figure out how to frame a pot.

A tribute vignette to the parents. Mom’s spring rabbit, pots and their coffee mugs

I have a china cabinet filled with delicate English bone china tea sets and antique dishes that once belonged to my last husband’s mother. She gave them to me because I had a deep appreciation for them that no one else would. I spent every other day with her, doing what I could to make her life more bearable. It’s a very long story but I loved that woman. I must confess though; a thought went through my mind for a few seconds of how many books I could store in my parents old china cabinet. It’s not my style and maybe this summer I will paint it. I’m more shabby chic than Danish modern.

Just waiting for company to share my love of tea.

It’s possible that I will be searching for minimalism for some time yet. I have downsized from 3000 sq.ft. to 1000. Maybe at some point, I will be ready to let go of so much more. I’ve let go of so many of the Angels I’ve collected over the last 45 years but they are still in every corner of my home. Books will always be a part of my life. My sister borrowed six or seven the last trip by. Finding ways to pay tribute to those who have been an influence in my life will always require a bit of extra room. I really don’t need the kitchen except to display more treasures. Does that make me eccentric? Hmmm?

She sits over my shoulder while I write this.

Welcome to my kitchen. Ready for some fun?

No one is allowed to gift me with anything that isn’t useful or a book. I have plenty to dust, thank you very much. I’ll take dinner out, a massage or a movie night but I have room for not one thing more. Is there something you need. Come on by. I’m sure I have plenty to share. Isn’t life grand?

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu

From my heart to yours,

In Search of Another Year

Halloween was the one year anniversary of my blog. I wasn’t sure I would last, especially with titles. What in the world had I got myself into?

I started this blog to try to find others who might offer insight and suggestions into my very odd illness. I’m four months shy of three years with the most unusual display of Bells Palsy. My face looks pretty good now and I’m starting to be able to drink out of cups and glasses without a straw sometimes, but dizziness and the lack of balance still make everyday tasks difficult. Boy, do I have real empathy for those with invisible illnesses.

If you happen to be over sixty, get your shingles vaccine. I didn’t because my mother was certain I’d never had chicken pox so we all assumed, (there’s that word again), that I was immune. All three (chicken pox, shingles, bells palsy) are from the same virus. I’d nursed my brothers and sister through chicken pox as well as my own children. When my son had them three weeks before high school graduation, he was certain he would die from them. I was pretty worried myself. His younger sister got them a week later with a much milder case. If I’d had chicken pox, how could anyone miss it?

After one year, no one has stepped up to say they have experience this or anything similar. What did happen? I found some wonderful bloggers doing some really great writing as well as other interesting things. I don’t want to give them up by giving up. Every day, I learn something new and often from someone new. I still don’t know how to find bloggers. Thankfully, they seem to find me. Bloggers are helping me learn the technology of blogging. They also help to remind me each day to count my blessings.

I keep a gratitude journal just for that purpose; writing each day the best thing that happened. I don’t miss a day finding that one bright spot. Some days it’s the post that made me laugh out loud. Some days it’s knowing there are others out there I can relate to even in our differences. Writing is what we all have in common. I keep so much to myself in a personal diary. I’ve learned that keeping a journal, a diary, and blogging are all different forms of writing. I do all three. I hope to learn to write more in-depth and more creatively.

Thank you fellow bloggers. You have taught me so very much. I’m not sure what direction I will take from here. It’s time for reflection.

Learning without reflection is a waste, reflection without learning is dangerous. ~ Confucius

From my heart to yours,