My Eighth Bloggiversary

I started this blog on December 1, 2012. I figured it would be a nice experiment, and a way to improve my writing, but I was sure I’d run out of things to say after about six months. Little did I know how quickly our world (and this blogger) would change and grow during all this time. I have yet to run out of things to talk about. In fact, I have even published an anthology of some of my posts which you can check out here. I should have done several more by now, but I seem to lack the follow through. Fingers crossed that I can get back to work with a little help from my very patient friends. It’s been on the top of my to-do list for years. I honestly don’t know what is holding me back.

I was trying to remember the person who sat down at that keyboard, with its several missing keys, eight years ago, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t. I even went back to my first blog post, entitled, “Nature is what’s happening while you’re not looking”, and that really only gives me a glimpse of her. All I know is that I’m a completely different person now.

That new blogger’s whole life revolved around her identity as a bridgetender. It was the one thing she could cling to. The rest of her life was a total shambles. She was very unhappy and felt as if there was no hope. I tried not to show that in this blog, but sometimes it would leak through.

I’m still proud of my job, and I enjoy it, but it’s not the only thing I’ve got anymore. In fact, I look at it more and more as the thing that enables me to live my life and also write this blog. And I’m extremely grateful that bridgetending happens to be something I enjoy doing. I know so many people who really hate their jobs, and given that a lot of their waking hours are spent doing those jobs, to hate them seems like a tragedy to me. I hope I never forget how lucky I am.

Now, I am a wife and a writer and a little free library curator and an exerciser and a traveler. I am a person who has hope and plans for the future. I have moved to the other side of the country to a place that fits me much more politically, albeit much less socially.

This past eight years has really taught me who my friends really are. It makes me realize that quality is so much more important than quantity. And something unexpected happened along the way: I made several additional friends because of this blog. What a gift.

It also occurs to me that I used to say “what a gift” a lot more often in my blog. I really need to start doing that again, because if there’s nothing else that this pandemic has taught me, it’s that so much about our lives and connections to others are precious.

I am also learning, slowly, that it’s important to establish firm boundaries with people. I am a lot less love-starved these days, and therefore I am not willing to tolerate cruel treatment that I would have once overlooked. I no longer have the energy for it, and I also know I deserve better. Some people are best seen in your rear view mirror. Onward!

Now I look forward to many more years of blogging. But there are no guarantees in life. Perhaps the person I will be eight years from now will not be a blogger. And that’s okay, too. But meanwhile, watch this space, dear reader, and thanks to all of you who have stuck with me over the years.

The Elders and the Youngsters

I just saw an animation that brought tears to my eyes. It was the song Father and Son by Yusuf/Cat Stevens. Yusuf sings the father’s part and the younger version of himself, Cat Stevens, sings the son version, taken from a recording of himself from decades ago, obviously.

In the song, the father is trying to urge the son not to go off and do something impulsive that will potentially alter his entire life. (At the time he wrote it, he was imagining a boy who wanted to run off and join the Russian Revolution, but really any scenario will do.) The father says, basically, stop and think. Take it slow. You still have a lot to learn. Be calm. Think of the consequences. “For you will still be here tomorrow but your dreams may not.”

The son, on the other hand, says that he’s been ordered to listen his whole life, but he doesn’t feel like he’s been listened to. He says he knows himself, and that it’s time to make a change. His part is all about the frustration of not being heard and not being taken seriously, and the desire to make his own way.

The reason this animation struck me to the core is that I think, for the first time, it really hit me that I’m not young anymore. That’s a really hard pill to swallow. It took me long enough. I’m 55. (And I know the older readers will say that 55 isn’t that old. I get that. Everything is relative.)

I think everything is getting more poignant with me over time, because we are all on the cusp of radical, terrifying changes, and no one can predict what’s going to happen next. It feels as if the sand is shifting beneath our collective feet, and that’s unsettling at the best of times. It feels like things that used to be just slightly risky are now becoming a matter of life and death. I’m profoundly scared.

It’s really stressful, in particular, to watch the younger people in my life right now. (And by younger, in this case, I mean 40 and below.) So many of them are making crazy, impulsive decisions and not thinking about the long term impact. They are speculating based on a world that no longer exists. They’re risking their lives. They’re settling for relationships that aren’t the best for them. They’re tying themselves down to parts of the country that aren’t politically and/or economically and/or environmentally and/or socially feasible for the people that they are or will become.

I’m frustrated because I see so much potential in these people, and I know they are capable of so much more. I have to resign myself to the fact that their choices aren’t my business, really. I just see them making many mistakes that I have made, and I want to save them the agony that I know they’ll be going through. But in life, there are no shortcuts.

Add another layer onto the anxiety cake by realizing that I’ve had someone die quite expectedly on me in recent years. Poof! Gone. Just like that.

That changes you. It forever colors the way you look at the world. And it makes you realize that no one can fully understand your point of view until they’ve had that sort of experience themselves. People think they can imagine what it’s like. They haven’t a clue.

Life is so precious. It’s so fragile. It’s like a soap bubble. It can all be gone in a pop. Everyone knows this, but those of us who’ve seen that moment of pop are not allowed the luxury of forgetting it. And it truly is a luxury.

Yes, everyone has to make their own mistakes, and also have their own triumphs. But there are so many people that I’d like to shake (and hug) right now. And I can’t.

At the same time, to add complexity to the situation, I am really proud of some of the things the younger people are doing, attempting to make lemonade out of the lemons they’ve been handed. I’m impressed with their innovation and their ability to think outside the box and come up with something different. Even though they’re making a lot of mistakes, they’re also making progress. I just have to remember that the world will keep revolving and evolving, with or without me.

But I can’t say this enough: Life is a gift. It should never be squandered. It shouldn’t be risked. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. Especially now, in the midst of a pandemic with a heaping helping of political unrest.

Good God, am I becoming conservative? Please, no. Anything but that.

I think I’m just valuing things much more than I once did. It’s all so fleeting and final. It’s all so slippery and hard to grasp. Odds are extremely good that I won’t live until I’m 110, and I really don’t want to, if I’m honest. But that means I’m on the downhill slope. And as hard as I’d like to fight it, the slide is inevitable.

But, having climbed up the other side, I would very much like to show those who come behind me that there are easier trails. I want that with my whole heart. At the same time, I understand that blazing your own trail is the whole point. But until you get to the other side, you don’t quite realize that the hill is made up entirely of the consequences that are occurring because of your own actions and choices.

I carry with me a wealth of life experience, as does everyone on my side of the hill. And that experience includes both success and failure. But when you’re young you don’t see that as valuable. You’re too busy making the climb for yourself. It’s a waste and a shame to not learn from others, but everyone has their own hill to climb, and it’s time for me to accept that it’s high time to let go and focus on my next phase in life.

“Hey! You there! Watch out! That’s the exact spot where I tripped and broke my leg! Can’t you see that if you fall, it hurts me, too?”

Oh, never mind. You’ll figure it out.

It’s just all so damned bittersweet…

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Don’t Push

A friend of mine recently made a drastic life change for the better. Boom. Just like that.

I’d been wanting him to make this change for well over a decade. I’ve been worried about him. I’ve been watching his self-destruction and feeling absolutely helpless about it for so long that it had become part of my routine.

Yes, I had talked to him about the situation. He listened. He got angry. I didn’t want to turn into a nag and completely push him out of my life. But I had to make my opinion clear, and so I did. Case closed. Nothing changed.

He is a full grown adult, capable of making his own choices. He was hurting himself much more than he was hurting anyone else. Yes, it was painful to watch, but it wasn’t impactful, per se, on others. So on life went.

The hands-off approach was the best one in this instance, based on the carefully gathered statistics that I’ve accumulated over a lifetime:

  • Number of people whom I’ve convinced to take my advice for their overall betterment: 0.

  • Number of people whom I’ve been worried about who have made changes on their own: A miraculous quantity, slightly higher than 0.

And the hands-off approach turns out to have been much, much better for my own mental health, too. When all is said and done, I still have a friend. That’s definitely a plus.

Yes, I realize that this isn’t a one size fits all scenario. Your results may vary. Life and relationships and situations are way too complex to resolve within the confines of this little blog post.

Even so, I really think I’m on to something here. I may have to try applying it to other areas of my life. I think that if I shut my pie hole a little more often, the world will be a much better place. At least for me. Plant a seed with people, yes, but then back off and let them decide if it will take root or not.

Now, to keep from telling him “I told you so.” That’s a separate challenge entirely, but it pairs well with the shutting my pie hole plan. Wish me luck.

Letting go

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A Failure to Completely Alter My Life

Due to various health issues (I’ll spare you the details), someone recommended a book to me that she purported would change my life entirely.

Boy, she wasn’t kidding. In order to be cured of all my ills, I must do the following, immediately, and all at once:

Do some form of sweat producing exercise for an hour a day, and completely avoid the following foods for the rest of my life:

  • Sugar.

  • All processed foods, including anything in a box, bag, or can.

  • Breads.

  • Cheeses.

  • Condiments.

  • Processed and smoked meats, including bacon, ham, salami, hot dogs, corned beef, and sausage.

  • Mushrooms.

  • Pasta.

  • Melons.

  • Potatoes.

  • Dried fruits.

  • Dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt.

  • Gluten.

  • Fruit juices.

  • White rice.

  • Cashews and Pistachios.

  • Breakfast Cereals.

  • Soda.

  • Alcohol.

Upon reading this, I got tears in my eyes and immediately ate a pint of ice cream and fell into a deep, dark depression, as is my wont in moments of despair. Because I know me. There is no way I can pull this off. You may as well ask me to chop off my head and replace it with that of someone else. It’s too radical a change, it’s too overwhelming.

It’s a set up for failure.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure it’s all good advice. I’m sure it would be life altering. But it’s too extreme. It’s too all-at-once. And my medical condition isn’t life threatening. It’s just annoying. So the incentive isn’t the kind I’d need to completely do away with every single thing I normally eat, with the exception of salad (without dressing) and other veggies from my garden, and then be expected to get my starving butt off the couch to jog for an hour a day.

I know I’m sounding like a whiney little kid, but am I alone in this? Could you do this? Right this minute?

Apparently this must be done all at once or it won’t work. So… it’s not going to work.

Baby steps I can do. I already don’t drink alcohol or soda. I already hate corned beef. And I eat much healthier than I did 10 years ago. But this… it’s insane.

So, in essence, I bought a book that makes me feel worse about myself than I did before, and I still have the health issue. This does not make for a successful health plan. There has to be a better way.

I’m not asking for things to be made completely easy. I’m willing to make certain sacrifices. I don’t think all life solutions should be to take a pill and continue with your bad habits.

But baby steps, you know? I can’t run a marathon when I’ve barely learned to walk. You can’t expect me to quit my job, move to the country, and eat pine trees, while building my own log cabin. Tomorrow. Or even next week. And anyone who expects that much of me is part of the problem.

The first step in designing a healthy lifestyle system is that it should be at least remotely achievable. Otherwise you’re just selling low self-esteem. Thanks, but we’re already full up on that, here.

sisyphus

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How We Measure Our World

A recent earthquake in California reminded me that the things in life that we consider the most stable really can’t be taken for granted. We assume the earth is solid beneath our feet, but in fact, liquefaction exists. That’s kind of scary.

I think humans, in general, are averse to change. We prefer to be able to rely on things. If we build a skyscraper, it should remain standing. Despite what history tells us, we think our governments and borders will always remain in place. There can be no global warming, despite all incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, because that would mean we’d have to alter our way of life, and the future would be far less predictable. We simply cannot have that. It is not to be borne.

A friend of mine recently reminded me that a barleycorn used to be a unit of measurement. How long was that? Well, 4 poppyseeds, of course. And 3 barleycorns made up an inch.

Similarly, a hand was 4 inches, and a shaftment was the width of the hand and an outstretched thumb, or 6 ½ inches before the year 1066, and 6 inches afterward. (Did our hands shrink?)

And then there was the ell, which was a unit for measuring cloth. It’s from the fingertip of an outstretched arm to the opposite shoulder, or 45 inches. Which is to say that, given the extreme differences in body shapes and sizes, uniformity of measurement pretty much did not exist.

And then there was this odd reliance on nature as well. For example, a bovate was the amount of land one ox can plough in a single year. (15 acres, give or take.) A virgate was an area measured for two oxen, so about 30 acres (well, duh). And a carucate was an area that can be ploughed by a team of 8 oxen in a year, or about 120 acres. (No extra points if your land is full of peaks and valleys, or the rocks keep breaking the plow.) A single household needed a “hide”, which consisted of 4 to 8 bovates, in order to sustain themselves agriculturally and be able to pay their taxes.

I’m thrilled to find out that it took two Jacks to make up a Jill (or gill), or half pint of liquid. And this one makes me smile: a half gallon is called a pottle. (Use that in a sentence and see if any eyebrows get raised.)

In addition, wine had its very own units of measurements, including the rundlet, the tierce, the puncheon and the butt. And ale and beer had the firkin and the kilderkin. I suspect that someone was drinking the product when they came up with these names.

For a bunch of other fun and obsolete measurements, check out this Wikipedia post.

Even the way we measure our world has changed through time. That has got to make you think. We’d like to believe that our yards and meters are cast in stone,  but if humanity still exists a thousand years from now, I wonder what they will find quaint and obsolete about the way we saw the world?

800px-English_Length_Units_Graph.svg

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In-Betweeny Times

May is a very strange month. Sometimes it gets really warm and you think, “Yay! Time to put away the winter clothes!” But every time I’ve done that, I’ve regretted it, because sure enough, here comes a cold snap. So I think of May as an in-betweeny time, and I try to keep my options open.

There are all sorts of in-betweeny times in life. There’s that uncomfortable stage in your development when you’re not quite a child, but also not quite an adult. Some days you feel more mature than others. (And come to think of it, I still feel that way, only not to such an extreme.)

There are also those times when you take great risks and you feel both courageous and scared silly. That’s how I felt when I drove across the country to start a new life in a place where I’d never been, and where I knew no one. One minute I was thinking, “Dang, this takes guts! I’m proud of me!” and the next minute I was thinking, “Holy cow, what have I done?” I had no idea that adrenaline could pump for 3100 miles and during the first several months of my adjustment to this new life. But it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done.

I also experienced kind of a weird in-betweeny time when I started this new job. I mean, I had 14 years of experience as a bridgetender coming in, so being a bridgetender in Seattle came naturally to a certain extent. But there were also new policies and procedures and new nomenclature to get used to. It was like I knew what I was doing, but then I didn’t. That rattled my cage a tiny bit.

Another in-betweeny time for many people is when they find themselves in dysfunctional relationships, and can’t decide whether or not to stay or go. These transitional periods can also be the most dangerous for people in physically abusive relationships, because the abuser can often sense when he or she is losing power, and the violence accelerates. I’m grateful I’ve never experienced that myself. It must be terrifying.

And I hate the in-betweeny time when you suspect that there’s a cold coming on, and yet it hasn’t quite hit yet. You feel kind of bleh, but not so bleh that you have a legitimate reason to don flannel and start complaining. You just have to wait and see. How irritating.

And I’m sure that most of us have experienced the feeling of being on the brink of a major decision. Should I take this new job, or should I stay put? Should I marry this person or stay single? Should I buy a house or continue to rent?

In-betweeny times are when we are the most vulnerable, because we all want to make the right choices, but we will never be sure if we did. To this I say, keep your options open, but end your agony and decide. Because the no man’s land that you find yourself in is not a place that you want to remain for long.

In-Between

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My Last Night at Home

About two years ago, I bought a house that I love. The place fit me like a glove. The neighborhood made me feel welcome and safe. This was home. I could see myself growing old there.

And then I got married, to the realtor who helped me find that dream home (and could help you, too, by the way. Just sayin’). And suddenly the house no longer fit. The house that was just right for me was entirely too small for two adults and three rambunctious dogs. And so I packed once again.

While trying to figure out what to do with the place, I continued to stay there once a week so it wouldn’t look completely abandoned. But as more and more of my stuff was moved from one abode to another, it increasingly felt like I was camping. And my camping days are pretty much over.

Ultimately, we decided to rent the place out, and there was much maneuvering to find what we hoped would be the best tenants. (Fingers crossed.) They will be moving in soon. They will make my home their home, and it will inevitably change.

Recently I spent the last night in my home. I built my last fire. I took my last bath in my deep, luxurious tub. I cooked my last quesadilla in my kitchen with the inexplicably high countertops. I gazed at the glowing stars that I had painted on the bedroom ceiling the very night I moved in.

I wish I could have sat on the back porch, for hours, reading, like I used to do. The back porch is my favorite place. But the freezing temperatures prevented that.

I had very mixed emotions, walking out that door the next morning, knowing that from now on I’d only be an occasional visitor in my perfect little house. There was sadness, yes, and misty eyes, but also relief. I’m glad that things seem to be working out.

But the best part of this very multifaceted feeling was that I was also anxious to leave. Because I wanted to go home. And home was no longer that place. It’s becoming someplace else. And that’s not only okay, but it’s also great.

Home Sweet Home

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Civilians vs. Law Enforcement

Recently I set off a heated debate in my world. I mentioned that I was glad to see that felons who have served their time in Florida have finally had their voting rights restored (unless they were convicted of murder or felony sex crimes).

Florida has always been the most restrictive state in terms of felony disenfranchisement. According to this article, in Florida, before Amendment 4 was passed, “one in 10 voting-age adults, and almost one in four African American adults were barred from voting for life because of a previous felony conviction.”

It’s clear to me why this has been the case. Florida is a red state, and it was feared that most people who have been in prison would vote blue. Also, with the disproportionate number of African Americans convicted of crimes, this was a handy way of depriving that minority of the vote, which, let’s face it, is the deep South’s wildest dream. (Now they’ll just have to rely on gerrymandering to get their desired results, and they’re quite good at that.)

I really believe that if we think that prisoners who have done their time have paid their debt to society, then we have no right to prevent them from participating therein. Now, do I expect that most of them will? No. Most of the rest of us don’t vote, unfortunately. Why should they be any different? But they should have the option.

The more roadblocks we place in their paths, the less likely they will be to reenter society with even a modicum of success. We set them up for failure. We make it nearly impossible for them to find decent jobs. We don’t want them as our next door neighbors. We don’t want them voting. Is it any wonder they remain on the fringe of civilization?

When I expressed this opinion, I got a lot of pushback from the people I know who formerly worked in the law enforcement field. The general consensus seemed to be, once a felon, always a felon. They have no inclination to participate in society.

When other friends, civilians like me, said that this might give them some incentive to do so, the law enforcement people opined that they know better. They won’t change.

We civilians piped up that even if only a tiny percentage wanted to change, that’s worth it. That’s when things got hostile. Apparently we shouldn’t form an opinion because we’d never experienced what the law enforcement types have experienced.

Then we pointed out that the law enforcement types wouldn’t, by definition, come into contact with the felons who were trying to change their lives, so their stats are biased.

More anger. Have we personally seen people attempt to change?

Yes. Examples were given.

That response, of course, was ignored. One person from the law enforcement camp  said they used to laugh at all the “do-gooders” who were attempting to change felons.

But we never said we were attempting to change them. We were just glad that they had their rights restored, so that they could make their own choices.

We civilians pointed out that we were sorry that the experience of law enforcement had left them so jaded. The law enforcements fired back that they were realists and that we had no right to weigh in since we didn’t have their experiences. (I half expected them to start calling us Muggles.)

We were then told that we can’t change anyone. They had to change themselves. Again, we pointed out we are trying to give these people the opportunity to change themselves. Again, this went unheard. They just said that they speak facts.

(Actually, no. These are opinions based on experiences, but clearly these opinions are so strongly held that they see them as facts.)

I can understand why one would become bitter and cynical when dealing day in and day out with the very dregs of society. It actually happened to me, too, for a time, in a job where I dealt with a lot of liars and people prone to fraud. That’s why I quit. I didn’t like how it was causing me to view society in general.

I think there’s a reason why law enforcement types often socialize only with one another. The rest of us don’t get it. We Muggles have a completely different worldview.

But we don’t get it because we have the luxury of hanging out with the majority of society, which is either law abiding or has paid its debt and is attempting to move on. How lucky we are. How grateful we should be.

Law enforcement is necessary, and I’m very glad that it exists. But unfortunately I believe that it’s a career path that warps one’s view of society. People in law enforcement have to live in a dark world, and therefore they have a tendency to forget how to see the sun. And it’s a little scary to think that people with warped views of society are in charge of keeping the peace.

I honestly don’t know what the solution is for this. But I’ll still maintain that if even one Florida felon enters the voting booth, I will consider Amendment 4 a smashing success. Congratulations Florida, for finally getting something right. (In my opinion, of course.)

https _2.bp.blogspot.com_-GFlYTBUdoWc_Wv-rJwtzPAI_AAAAAAAA8uY_-yivCEIzgqAL8RuJetGm9sUi_3-MKAh-QCLcBGAs_s1600_3407589582_d557a60d8f

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Making My Mark

It’s a strange experience, occupying a space that someone else had made her own for decades. All the furniture has been picked out, all the walls are painted, the art chosen, the plants planted. She’s not here, and yet she’s everywhere.

Which is not a bad thing, necessarily. For the most part, I like her taste. I would have liked her, I’m sure. But it’s time to make this place ours.

Slowly, but surely, we’re introducing change. We’re adding the new and getting rid of the old. We’re keeping the good, and getting rid of what no longer fits. We’re rearranging. We’re changing colors, here and there. We’ve had a garage sale. We’ve planted a tree.

Just recently we painted a glow-in-the-dark milky way on the ceiling. Adolescent as that may sound, I’ve had it in my last two houses, and I find it comforting to stare at as I drift off to sleep. So doing that meant a lot to me.

You don’t really think too much about marking territory unless you have dogs, but we humans do it, too. We just do it with paint and pillows and photos. It’s how you make a house a home.

Interior Design

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Seasonal Transitions

I love the transition between summer and autumn. It’s my favorite time of year. A respite from the heat, but not yet miserably cold. A sense of enjoying the sun as the days perceptibly shorten. A slight frisson because there’s an ancestral fear of not surviving the winter. An appreciation of abundance while it lasts. A feeling of being on the brink of an adventure.

This started me thinking of other seasonal transitions.

Autumn to winter is a time to hunker down, muddle through, and try to stay warm. It’s also when you take a deep breath before diving headlong into the exhausting holiday season. It’s a time of conserving your resources. The horizons seem to shrink. My instinct is always to stay closer to home.

Winter to spring! Excitement! Birth! Beginnings! Flowers! Pent up energy just bursting to come out! The end to hibernation! The overuse of exclamation points!!!!!

Spring to summer, for me, is a little fraught. I love the lengthening days. I adore the vacations. It’s nice to have less bulky laundry to do. It feels good to be outside, enjoying all that nature has to offer. But it’s also freakin’ hot. And you have to mow. I don’t do hot and I’m a resentful mower.

Regardless, I am so grateful to be living in a climate of seasons again. You don’t really get spring or autumn in Florida, and I felt their absence keenly. I enjoy marking the passage of time. I love the variety, the anticipation, the change.

Life, man. Nature. It’s incredible.

Seasons

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