20 November 2010

Twenty Things I Wish I had Known When I Was Twenty

For Barbara's daughter Tegan, on her 20th Birthday - By Request of Barbara

1. Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry. Mark Twain. Welcome to the 20-something generation! Grab it with gusto! This is as good-looking as you’re ever going to get, and therefore I recommend that you flaunt it while you can! I mean that you should cultivate it and enjoy it every single chance you get. Don’t shy away from your beauty, your youthfulness, your inexperience. Embrace it. Own it. Live it. Love it. On the other hand, the balance to Twain’s quote would be: Youth is wasted on the young. George Bernard Shaw. Never miss a chance to prove this quote wrong.
2. Now that I don’t have to be perfect, I can be good. John Steinbeck, East of Eden. The pressure to have everything be perfect, or to be perfect myself, was deeply damaging and pushed me to make some really bad decisions and led me to always comparing my worst to other people’s best. It’s taken years for me to get past having to be perfect or have everything or everyone around me be perfect. Once I was able to let go of perfect, life became much more tolerable.
3. Remember it’s written in the Good Book that trouble shall come to pass, but nowhere is it written, child, that trouble shall come to stay. (from another novel, don’t remember the name, but a grandmother was speaking to her teenaged granddaughter). Not only does this apply to recovering from mistakes or failures, it was especially helpful in the area of relationships. I am one who feels everything in the extreme so I believed that every mistake would be fatal or “ruin my life forever!” It was how I grew up, what I was taught by my own mother. Because I loved deeply without reservation, I believed everyone else did, too; so when a relationship ended, it felt like I would never recover. I did and went on to have other great loves and successes. It is best to accept that some things just weren’t meant to be forever.
4. Don’t hold back. Do as much as you can and live life to its fullest every moment of each day. Life's too short to wait. Advice from an unknown much older woman, on a long bus trip from Marquette, Michigan to Missoula, Montana, sometime in February 1974 (I was ‘moving’ to Wyoming to work as a cook on a cattle ranch just outside of Ten Sleep, on the western side of the Big Horn Mountains). I was seriously in doubt of the wisdom of my decision to do this as the Greyhound rolled down the highway through bitter cold and blinding snow somewhere in one of the Dakotas. I shared that thought with the woman sitting next to me, knitting the night away. Ana was asleep in my arms, and everything I had was stuffed into a canvas backpack under my feet. That is exactly what she said, word for word. Never got her name, never saw her again, but never forgot that advice. Note: I left the better portion of my heart at Hazelton Peaks in the Big Horn Mountains. I need to return there someday to retrieve it. It’s on my bucket list: You should always have one.
5. All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wonder are lost. The old that are strong, shall not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost. The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien. If you have not read the Tolkien’s books – the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy – I suggest you do. The movies were great, but the books were way better. Those words, from the Hobbit, have stuck to me like oatmeal since I first read them in the late 60s, early 70s. And have provided thoughtful guidance in my life all these years.
6. Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. Gandhi. Never stop learning and everything is teaching you something, whether you know it at the time or not. Every moment of your life is learning opportunity as much as it is teaching moment. And which side of it you are on can change at any time in any situation with anyone. Don’t hold back, give every moment balls to the wall on everything you think, do and say. Live life so you will have no regrets when you get to the other end of it all. This applies to your faith, your family and your friends; how you learn and apply what you have learned in the everyday moments of life. Share everything – what you know, how to do it, how not to do it, what you believe or don’t believe, what you think, experience and live, however insignificant it may seem. Anything can mean something to anyone, at any given moment. Have trust. Have gusto. It’s infectious. It also applies to love. Reread #3, #4 and #5.

7. Taking ownership of failure builds a foundation for success. Anonymous. Learn from it whenever you can. It’s better to try and fail than to chicken out and regret it later. Never hesitate to take chances every chance you get. Failure is not just an inevitable part of exploration and innovation, but an important element for growth and learning. With every failure, you will learn what not to do or what to abandon, and better focus on how to succeed. So when you fail, never fail to ask yourself the question: What does this failure teach me? And then move on. Learn from failure and confirm with success.
8. Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable. Wendy Wasserstein. Never worry about what others think of you. It’s what you think of yourself that really matters. And really, no one else is thinking about you as much as you think they are; they’re all worrying about what you think of them. That’s just one of life’s little ironies. Defining your identity through the prism of your past and how others see you can be self-limiting at best and self-defeating at worst. When you care too much what others think you are open to manipulation because you will tend to go with the herd. When you care less what other people think you become a more honest, and therefore decent, person because you don't have to pretend.

9. There’s no better way to energize your body, mind, and spirit than by taking care of your self. Stephanie Tourles. Don’t beat up your body. It’s got to last a while. Be kind to your body, and it will be kind to you when you reach the age that kindness is everything; especially kindness from yourself. Enough said.

10. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. Ralph Waldo Emerson What I have learned from living life from this perspective: that life is an experiment. When we live life as an experiment, we are far more willing to take risks, to acknowledge failure, to learn and develop. That's what experiments are all about: discovery and growth. There is no real failure in an experiment because it's all data. If something doesn't work, that's simply data that leads to changing behavior to see if something else does work. And that is what life should be: discovery and growth.

11. Live fast and hard; die young & pretty (i.e., leave a good looking corpse)a variation on a quote from a Humphrey Bogart movie, Knock on Any Door (1949). Updated for your generation in the Lee Ann Womack song, I Hope You Dance, with these words: “Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance; And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance; I hope you dance.” Go for it, every chance you get. Don’t miss out on anything; try everything once. Life is so very short, don’t just sit on the sidelines and watch it go by. Live it, every moment of it, every chance you get. And always choose to dance.
12. Moderation is not necessarily the key to a long and happy life. Another unknown woman, who I met the night she was turning 40, at a bar in Marquette. The same night I turned 21 (January 2, 1972). I had asked her how she looked so good at 40, because I thought we were the same age (admitting-ly I had a lot to drink). And at 21, being 40 seemed so very old to me! Her response was: “A lot of sex, a lot of alcohol, a lot of drugs and a lot of lotion. And not necessarily in that order.” I am now about 20 years on the other side of 40, and I must say, that this was some damn good advice. Especially the part about the lotion.
13. Make time to pursue your passion, no matter how busy you are. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and get a book published. I just never had time to write. With a family and school and a full-time job or two, there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Well, I’ve learned that you have to make time. Set aside a block of time to do what you love, cut out other stuff from your life that takes up your time, and don’t let anything interfere with that passion. If I had done that twenty years ago, I could have ten books written by now. Not all would be great, but still: Don’t ever put your passion on the back burner. Make time for whatever it is that makes you happy.

14. All that stuff that’s stressing you out in your life, it won’t matter in five years, let alone in fifteen or twenty years. When things are happening to you right now, they mean everything. Focus on the present, (Ezine @rticles), the here and the now. Who, what, where and when at any given moment are way more important than anything else. Throughout my career, I had deadlines and projects and people breathing down my neck, and my stress levels went through the roof. I don’t regret the hard work, but I think I would have been less stressed if I could have just realized that it wouldn’t matter a single bit just a few years down the road. Perspective is a good thing to learn. Live in the present. The future will be here soon enough.
15. Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity. Kahlil Gibran. The people you make friends with are so much more important than your job or the things you buy. I’ve had a few jobs, I’ve bought a lot of things, and I’ve made a few friends over these last fifty plus years. Of those, the only things that still matter to me are my friends and family. And I wish I could have spent more time with friends (and my family), than any of the other things. Live your life so you will have no regrets. And no one is every left out.
16. Journaling is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to accelerate your personal development. By getting your thoughts out of your head and putting them down in writing, you gain insights you’d otherwise never see. Seriously, your memory is extremely faulty. I forget things really easily. Not short-term stuff, but long-term (well, maybe some short term stuff too). I don’t remember things about my early years, because I didn’t record any of it. I don’t remember things about my life. It’s like a lot of foggy memories that I’ll never have access to again because I didn’t write it down. The filing cabinets of your brain fill up fast. And there is a lot of misfiled and lost information up there. I wish I had kept a journal more consistently. And besides, when you’re dead and gone; someone somewhere will enjoy the hell out of reading them. And you won’t have to listen to your kids say: “The world according to my mother,” and/or “the way mother wants history to be remembered.” Note: Journaling was previously known as keeping a diary – when I first started.

17. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade and don't forget to add tequila. Drunk guy in Cozumel (1979). Seriously, Tequila is evil. I won’t go into details, but it should suffice to say that I have some experience here. I’m not sure I learned very much from the experience, or benefited in any way except to learn that tequila is the drink of the Devil. Enough said. When in a situation where your friends are pressuring you to have a shot (and they will), try this: You make the toast – something totally silly and ridiculous, when everyone lifts their shots to toast, and then drink their shot; while their heads are back, toss your shot over your shoulder. And come down on cue with everyone else – they’ll never know! Two key things to pull this off successfully: make sure there is a wall or at the least no one standing behind you, and remember that timing is everything. Again, experience tells me this. Re-read this one next year before your birthday when you turn 21.
18. Live like there’s no tomorrow. Selena Gomez. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that at 20 years old you have lived a quarter of your life. Plan to … no: intend to live to be more than 100! Which means in five years, more than 20% of your current age in additional time, you still won’t have lived a quarter of your life! In other words, don’t ever get hung up on the age thing. It is merely a number, never let it define you. Not now, nor ever. It goes by so quickly. But don’t think about that now, live life like there is no tomorrow. Listen to Selena Gomez’s song: Live Like There’s No Tomorrow.

19. Money is like a sixth sense – and you can’t make use of the other five without it. William Somerset Maugham. Understand money, credit and debt – be involved in your financial life. Having a budget, even a financial plan is a worthwhile endeavor and is not merely the province of people who have lots of money, or someone who is much older. It helps you focus on your dreams and goals. When your goals are verbalized and written down, you will understand why saving money is important to you.

20. One picture is worth ten thousand words. New York Times advertisement, 1926. Take lots of pictures. Someday you’ll be really glad you did. And don’t forget to date them – whether you keep them electronically or you print them. It also helps to name the folks in the photo, because someday you will forget who everyone is in the pictures (and in your life). Unfortunately, that is true.

Happy Birthday Tegan! Welcome to your twenties. Go for gusto, every chance you get!

02 April 2010

No Spend Month - An Experiement

On my way to work this morning, I remembered the change in my ashtray. (I have a theory about pennies, nickels & dimes, and why we should just eliminate them & round everything up to a quarter. But that is for another blog).

My habit is to put ALL my change in my ashtray. I fish it out of my pockets, the bottom of my purse, or when I don't leave it as a tip, and all of it goes into that ashtray in my car. When it is full and the lid won't close, I sort out the pennies and put them in a ziplock snack bag - to take to the Peter White Public Library for their Million Penny Campaign to raise money for the renovations and/or community activties. It is amazing how many pennies you get in the course of a month! And equally amazing how much change can add up to dollars. On a monthly basis, it comes close to $30 in change in that useless little ashtray in my Jetta. [Note for another blog post: When are they going to STOP putting them in cars? I liken smoking while driving in the same category as talking on a cell phone: too distracting!]

Just how does the change in my ashtray equate to my experiment: a No Spend Month? Well, I have challenged myself & my co-workers to a No Spend Month this month - April 2010. And I manged to get four takers out of about 100+ employees. My followers. And being responsible for getting them to commit, I have become their daily cheerleader. I encourage, provide my insight (however minimual), and give them references to places like Small Notebook, Get Rich Slowly, and other No Spend Month and financial literacy sites on the web. We have set our individual limits for the month and our own goals and today was Day One of our No Spend Month. We start the month with a weekly grocery shop & a full tank of gas.

My personal goal, after my bills are paid, is to allow myself $50 per week for food, gas, incidentials and entertainment. Spending nothing else but a total of $200 over the next four weeks & paying my bills. My savings goal is to realize $500 in additional savings for the month of April 2010. First, I outlined in my budget what I spend monthly, that I can do without. Part of it was the saving and part of it relates to understanding what low income/no income people - friends included in this because of the current economy - there are many who have a very limited income, no income or are facing foreclosure or homelessnes. They could be strangers, family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, anyone. Because it could be me, or you, or anyone of us at any given moment - I think it is important to understand and empathize. Jobs are no longer a given. What better way than to walk a month in their shoes to truely understand.

Back to the ashtray: one of the things I deamed not a necessity was my bi-monthly spin through the deluxe carwash at the Marquette Mall. $10.95 for the works, plus of course you have to tip: which makes the experience for me & my Jetta about $14 twice a month or, for the sake of round numbers: $30/month. It's for my investment - a car which is a major investment for all us on some level. In doing so - this giving up of the deluxe carwash - I have found a source to keep my car clean & get myself a little exercise at the same time. It's the "do it yourself" carwash down the street from the deluxe carwash where guys who wash your car before it goes through the carwash place.

I will be using the change in my ashtray during No Spend Month to wash my car myself! I plan to go early this Saturday, as I don't want to look like I don't know what I am doing - so I want to get there before all the 'experienced do it yourself carwashers' get there (I am planning on them not being too early birds). You know the people I mean: their car always (constantly) looks like new and/or they just drove out of the carwash or a showroom. And no doubt - the inside is as spiffy as the outside! The cost of that $30/month for two deluxe-o carwashes should be only $10 to $12 with me doing it myself - I am thinking. Plus: the effort translates into a bit of exercise for the owner and part of my No Spend Money entertainment for the month of April. Hopefully, if all goes well, I will enjoy this personal one-on-one time with my auto, and the personal effort to pay attention to my investment in my transportation.

As I embark on this my first No Spend Month (strategically selected because it is a 3 pay check month), I am pondering, as well as discovering, all kinds of ideas on how to save money here & there. And have already somewhat, sort of committed to, a second one this year - making it a bi-annual event. FYI - I have choose October 2010 - in the event you want to consider joining me. I will be asking! Why October? Well, for one it is just before Christmas - which might be a good time to save extra cash to spend for gifts for Christmas. And, strategically thinking: it is another 3 paycheck month this year! And being more mindful is just what the world needs I think!

Be sure to check out the websites at Small Notebook and Get Rich Slowly

15 December 2009

When is Enough Enough?

(Or, How Many Headlights Does One Vehicle Actually Need?) I swear that this is a picture of the exact same vehicle that was following me to work on Monday morning from Marquette to Munising at 6 AM on snow covered & slippery roads, often times with extremely reduced visibility. This is the first leg of my weekly commute from Marquette to Brimley for work - the last one this year. I was the third vehicle behind a semi-tractor trailor that was behind approximately two vehicles going a maximum of speed of 40 miles per hour. The conditions were not ideal, but I am sure that in front of that semi-truck, visibility was much better than what we were experiencing behind it. And I am sure that the vehicle behind me was either this one, or one very similar.

And every single one of those lights was on: I swear it to be so! The driver of this vehicle was sure to be able to see if a 'winter ant' happened to be crossing M-28 within five miles of the highway in front of him, or at the very least he could see the Atlantic Ocean from the Upper Peninsula State highway we were traveling east on yesterday morning. Honestly, at one point I turned my vehicle headlights OFF (yes, in blowing snow), and I could see the shadow of my vehicle on the back of the car in front of me - including the outline of myself in the drivers seat. Is more really necessary? I can't even imagine any condition that you would actually require this many headlights to be ALL on, or what would be so important or necessary that you would have to leave the quiet, warm & comfortable confinds of your home for anything that important in conditions that would require such illumination!

Consideration. What has happened to consideration in today's world, that we consider only our own needs and fullfill them to the utmost possiblities so that we ourselves are so well taken care of by ourselves, with total lack of concern for anyone else but ourselves. Without consideration, we as a species are doomed. And deservingly so. Perhaps this blog doesn't do much for my rant to rave ratio, reducing somewhat from a mostly positive perspective of raving over ranting, but at the moment I certainly feel better about the guy who followed me the 75 miles from Marquette to Seney yesterday morning on my weekly commute. And I myself will remember to be more considerate of other drivers in every possible way: respectful driving rather than agressive driving. If you see this guy approaching your vehicle from behind, or worse yet driving toward you: just calmly pull to the right of the highway, close your eyes & let him pass.

06 October 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

I thought it time again to think about, list, review and note a few of my favorite things. Like my granddaughter Maxine, a great place to start my list! When I am overwhelmed with work, things to do, things I should have done or be doing, depressing news which can be personal

or local or world news, or frustrated with work, life, people, things, or something said or done without regard, it helps me to realign my thinking toward a more positive note, to think about, identify or make a list of my favorite things. This little exercise helps me to move to a more positive perspective, and get my 'mojo back!' So here is a second list of things I love, things that make me feel good about everything and keep a positive perspective. Here we go again:

** The first and most obvious one on my list is my granddaughter Maxine.

** Add to that my children: Ana, Nevin and Elyse. And of course, let's not forget to mention Ana's husband, Maxine's father: Jason. I am so blessed by my children. We can also add Alex and Michele.

** Let's not overlook the 'sense of family.' This has become even more clear and more prominent in my life as I age. Connecting, accepting, interacting, sharing, understanding and loving family. Near and far, old and young, happy or sad; they grow on you, reflect you and compliment you.

** Crisp, cool air. Wind on my face. A fresh breeze of air in an otherwise stagnate room or place. It is in the top ten of the most refreshing things that comes to mind. Clear the air!

** Lately, I like to sleep. Well, that is to say I like my bed. It is very comfortable. A down feather bed between the mattress and the sheets. A great pair of high-thread count sheets (well worth the expense), and a deluxe down comforter - I mean DELUXE down comforter. Goose down fill of 850 "something or other;" you know the addage: 'the bigger the better!' Add some equally high-end down pillows. And it's dream away!

** Vibrant colors, indoors and out. Vibrant colored paint - and if you have been to mi casa, you know what I mean! Which has put color in my life. Color on the walls. Color in nature. Color in my friends. Color everywhere! While the absence of color - black and white - has it's merits; I enjoy the rich hues of color, off-beat but complimentary color combinations and, what it adds to my everyday life, well-being, my mood and outlook.

** Morning sun. Cracking the sky at dawn. Dimming the day at night. Warming your body, your heart and even your soul.

** The first of the crisp, clear Autumn days. When you can just begin to see your breath.

** When a plan comes together. Not just at work, but in my life. Nothing else needs to be said.

** My new Sony digital camera (reclaimed actually - was lost on July 4th, but now is found). And knowing how to use it to take pictures of my life. As well as, knowing how to download the pictures, crop, title, arrange and otherwise manipulate them, and then post them. Sharing my life with friends and family through pictures which tell the story from my perspective.

** My sister Joann. My nieces Barbara and Cindy. My grand-niece Rebekah. My friend Faye. And certainly, my friends Lou Lundquist and Heidi Hoemeister. ALL my friends actually!

** The many wonderful, helpful and very tolerant people that I work with at Bay Mills.

** Memories. The good, the great, the precious, the bittersweet, the hilarious, and even the sad, painful and downright ugly. They comprise our lives. They contribute to who we are.

** Friends who can cook. Friends who make deserts. Friends who make jewerly. I have a few friends who do these things - they are all so very talented!

** The sense of accomplishment in my life. Although fleeting at times.

** Pay day. Wish it came more often.

** Peggy Griefer. Peggy's one earring. Her sense of style. Her stories. Especially the ones about Cuba, Central and South America. And a life in a time before I can remember. Peggy is a treasure. She is so amazing!

** Connecting and re-connecting with friends new, old and slightly used. And the memories we share. For this, I must mention Facebook. Which has put me in touch with childhood friends, helped to make acquaintances become friends and, all the memories that have come flooding back because of the connections FB has generated for me.

** Going to the market: the Farmer's Market on Saturdays in downtown Marquette. It reminds me of home, of my childhood, and going to Central Market in downtown York with my mother.

** The guy with the crystal blue eyes that sells his vegetables at Marquette's Saturday Market.

** Bostock. I think I have mentioned it before. So I might add the blog I found and now follow that has the recipe for bostock, so I can make myself!

Life is good. Ever changing, ever evolving, ever fascinating! There are so many more things to be gratful for in so many ways. These are just a few of my favorite things!

01 October 2009

My Personal Mecca

This is Chapel Rock, located on Chapel Beach, in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, along the southern shore of Lake Superior, in Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula. The inspiration for North Shore Woman, a pen name I have used off and on throughout my writing career (I use that term career in conjunction with writing loosely!). I first discovered Chapel Beach in the late Summer or early Fall of 1971, when I was living in a reclaimed log cabin on the Petral Grade, a dirt road that runs north of the Seney Stretch portion of M-28, just east of Shingleton (recently renamed by a street sign as Star Siding Road). The old log cabin, a former logging camp kitchen and bunk house with parque flooring, was situated in the back of the second clearing on the west side of the road after you crossed Star Creek (approximately 4 miles north of M-28), nearly invisible to the dirt road as it winds its way northward to Melstrand. Just past the Melstrand store was another winding dirt road that went further north toward the south shore of Lake Superior. Nearly impassable by most vehicles, I shifted into four-wheel drive, and drove the two-toned green Willy's Jeep down the rutted road, as it got narrower and more challenging to navigate. I was sure the Lake Superior shoreline was near, and kept edging on that late September day, at a slow but steady pace through the thick hardwood forest. Around a curve I came to a large posted sign, emblazed (but faded) with the words 'Private Property' across the top. The bottom third of that sign declared Chaple Beach, followed by these words: "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints," in fading script. I could see that the trees were thinning beyond, and hints of the blue waters of Lake Superior beckoned me forward. When I realized if I went any further, that only I would be coming back and not my vehicle; I began walking instead of driving. I stopped the vehicle, climbed out and continued down the worsening road to a trail that led to Chapel Beach. As I stepped from the thinning forest onto the edges of a sandy clift, the view took my breath away. Not particularly a long or wide beach, the 'end' of the sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks framed the beach to the west, and to the east of the small, footprint-less white sands was Chapel Rock. Proudly holding its own, surrounded by shallow waters and lapping gentle waves, with its tree roots attaching like heavy ropes: its only hold onto the mainland rocky cliffs of copper colored sandstone. I thought I had found paradise that day. I spent the better part of the afternoon exploring the footprint-less white sand beach, gathering sun bleached driftwood, swimming in the clear, clean and crispy cold waters of Lake Superior, reveling in my treasure that I had found. That day is as clear in my mind as if it just happened yesterday - all of it rushing back from wherever it has been held when Austin posted this picture a few days ago. I wanted to record the memory, and share it with you.

30 September 2009

The Doctor Made House Calls

Dr. Herold made house calls. His doctor's office was actually in his house, or the parlor portion of his house on the side. It had a seperate entrance from the home entrance. My sister, JoAnn, and her husband Pat (Patrick) had six kids: Patrick, Michael, Cynthia, Jennifer, Barbara and Ronald. And then there was me. Jesse. Patrick was only three years younger than me. And my parents lived about 3 blocks away from my sister and her family. I recall dividing my time between the two homes; sometimes in my sister's house for days, sleeping one place or the other - not always by my own choice but often enough being where I wanted to be at the time. Both houses were in Manchester, on one side of the valley. Mt. Wolf, and equally small town, was on the other side of the valley. The railroad tracks that ran through the valley split the two small villages of houses, which were otherwise more like one, nestled in the rolling hills on the eastern side of the Appalachain Mountains in southeastern Pennsylvania; not far from the Mason Dixon Line that seperated Pennsylvania from Maryland.

I remember spending most of my time at my sister's house. Eating. Playing. Swimming. Going to visit my Aunt Eddie and Uncle Toady's farm with my sister and her family. Or to the drive-in movies in the Summer in the big station wagon with the wooden panels on the sides (remember how you took the speaker off the post and hooked it on your window?). Or to "town," that is: to York - the city. Usually on Saturday mornings to the Farmer's Market; that is downtown (and is still there and open on Saturdays - it is something we still do when I go home to visit). That was technically the grocery store. Although there were two general stores in Manchester: Stough's was the biggest one, a large store in the center of town at the only stop sign (later a stop light), and across the street from the post office, which included not only groceries and a butcher (meat) counter, but household items, fabric, notions, and just about anything else that you would need in the 50s and 60s. (And I might add, the best penny candy selection in the entire world at that time!) Both of the corner stores, and a third "news stand" store that was open on Sundays, are no longer in existence in Manchester. Only the big box grocery store remains, out on the highway as you drive into town from the City of York to the south.

Six kids at home were alot of kids even in the 50s and 60s. And when one kid got sick, it was bound to spread to the rest of the kids. And me as well. Which brings me back to Dr. Herold. A country doctor. A family doctor. A doctor who made house calls. A doctor who had his office in his home. He delivered babies. He had office hours on Saturday. He was always available when someone was sick, or hurt, or being born, or dying. Dr. Herold was the go to guy; the one who knew every child, every parent, every grand parent and family in the valley. The doctor who administered 'gray grip pills' for every possible ailment you could manage to get, suffer from, contract, come down with or just plain have.

And we didn't follow up our visit to his office, even if it was a Saturday, with a trip to the pharmacy. Not when I was younger, although we had a pharmacy by the time I was in high school in the 60s. We just got our gray grip pills from Dr. Herold at his office, after our appointment with the Doctor or when he came to the house for a 'house call.' Often he gave my sister a good supply of 'gray grip pills,' as there were so many of us and so many reasons to need them. They cured all kinds of childhood ills: fevers, stomach aches, pains, headaches, coughs, sneezes, and whatever else we could catch and give to one another. The 'little gray grip pills' were kept on the second shelf in the kitchen, in the cupboard next to the refridgerator, above the plastic water glasses. The glass water glasses were kept on a higher shelf, to keep us kids from using them and probably breaking them. My sister was the keeper and the administrator of those little gray wonders that fixed everything.

I remember clearly the visits to his office. The smells, the leather chairs in the waiting area. His crisp white medical coat, with his dress shirt and tie peaking out at the neckline. His shiney black dress shoes, and his stethoscope around his neck. His pockets were filled with his other tools, to look into your ears, your eyes and down your throat. He always said, "Hmmm.... un-huh. Hmmmmm." At least that is all he said to us kids. He primarily spoke to my sister Joann, or on the occassions when I went to the doctor's with my mother, Dr. Herold spoke to her. And then, always, ALWAYS, there was a lollipop at the end of the visit. The best lollipops ever, that lasted a long time. Along with the little bottle of 'gray grip pills.' Followed by a bit of conversation about the other members of the family and how they were doing. And a warm and friendly good bye. I don't ever remember seeing money change hands, although I am sure it did in some way.

And I remember well, that gray grip pills cured everything. So there was no need to worry. You would be well soon. When ever you were feeling sick, or feverish, or just plain 'under the weather,' you would get a blanket on the counch in the living room, a glass (plastic) of ice water (or sometimes some warm Plitt's ginergale), and a little gray grip pill. If you were really under the weather, this special treatment could go on for as many days as needed. The lights were dimed so you could rest comfortably, and everyone else had to be quiet until you felt better. They seem to fix everything that ailed you. Some things real and some imagined (no doubt). They worked every time. Every single time. Oh, how I long for a those little 'gray grip pills' to fix what ails me. And the warm comfort of my sister, attending to me because I was feeling poorly. Actually, there are many times in my life since then, I could have use a little gray grip pill to fix what ailed me. Or possibly, a pair of ruby red slippers might have worked as well.

11 September 2009

Becoming Thelma Louise

I think I am becoming my mother. Thelma Louise. Honest, that is (was) her name. And she was both of them to some degree, the women in the movie Thelma & Louise, played by Susan Sarandon (Louise) and Geena Davis (Thelma). Many of you may only remember Brad Pitt as J.D. in the movie, in his first significant role in a major Hollywood film. Or maybe you recall the ending scene in the movie, when they drove their light blue 1966 Thunderbird convertible off the cliff to escape their troubled, caged lives, and floated downward (fade to black). I love that part of the movie. Probably the best all-time chick flick ever. Honestly, my mother was a bit of both of them: both confident and not; logical but not. She was a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction. At least, that is how I saw her and how I remember her in my life.

I really beleive I am becoming my mother, at least part of me is in some degree or form. Just little things, habits, ways of doing things and even sometimes a perspective or two. In addition to the approximatly nine months we spent in a very close relationship, we only influenced one another for another 17 years and 8 or nine months (give or take a month). I admit that during that first nine months I had little or no control over my life and the situation, and was completely dependent and relatively obedient to my mothers wishes for the most part. I actually had little contact with my father during those nine months. I no doubt only responded to such things as diet, space concerns and energy levels. My rants and raves were limited.

In the outside world, I am told, I quickly learned to exercise my control of my world and all situations, even prior to finding the words to define my thoughts, wants and needs. Being a relatively cute baby (of course!) and adorable small child of "older" parents, I apparently learned quickly to exercise my control of situations with stellar results. My sister JoAnn, can certainly confirm this to be true. I pretty much got what I wanted and did anything I wanted all through my childhood and throughout my school years; sometimes with only the stomp of the foot, a frowny face, or shedding a few tears. As time progressed through those next 17 years, I honned my skills and apparently I became quite an expert at getting what I wanted when I wanted it. I thought that was the way life was for everyone. My world was very small.

And then I was gone. More than a thousand miles away, with no cell phones, or email, or text messaging or video conferencing to tie us together. All that passed was an occasional phone call (when I had a phone or access to one), mostly when I needed something like money. Or an occassional letter or card with a ranting or two between us - my mother and I. My mother's anger at me was always evident, whether it was a phone call or a letter. Thelma could convey an angry and disappointed voice loud and clear on the phone as well as in her letters and cards. And the feelings were mutual - my anger and disappointment was directed back at her. I only ever initiated the contact when I wanted something. I grew up that way - in the shadow of all that anger and frustration and disappointment. I thought that was the way it was for everyone. It is all that I knew. Once I left, I quickly learned that wasn't so: Life didn't hand you WHAT your wanted, WHEN you wanted it.

It was Thelma Louise who taught me to rant. She ranted, and sometimes raved. I am pretty sure that is true - although it was not referred to ranting at that time in my life. Thelma Louise's rants and ranting more resembled the concepts associated with criticisim, admonishment, accusation and condemnation. At least in the later years of our cohabitation, after I began to exercise my own form of ranting, i.e., that I found my voice, or better said that I connected my voice to my thoughts and began to form opinions of my own. So as this thing called the aging process advances - and it is advancing quickly - I have learned to become congnizant to minimize the negatives of life, aging and the things that life constantly hurls at you. I am really just talking about life's everyday challenges, and how we address them as individuals: what we let 'roll off our back, what bothers us, what we beleive in and not, and what we take up as a cause or purpose or belief. And what we teach our children.