Monday, May 30, 2016

one thing I'm excited for

My son is moving out to Phoenix. He'll arrive in five days. I've missed him! I moved back out here in 2013. We've seen each other only once since then, when we attended a reunion together. But we talk several times a week. I'm lucky that we're close. I talk to other mothers who tell me they almost never hear from their sons.

Throughout his childhood, people kept warning me, "A son is a son until he takes a wife. A daughter is a daughter for the rest of your life." I never believed it. I saw no evidence of that in my own extended family. I knew many devoted sons. And among my friends, there were many men who are also close to their mothers. So I think that statement would only be true if the son married the wrong woman. The right woman would foster that mother/son bond, even if she and her mother-in-law weren't close.

All good parents balance letting go with being available if their adult child needs them. My son has done things that terrified me. Kayaking down treacherous rapids, mountain biking, playing the stock market - he enjoys risk and thrill. I have to work really hard to express joy over some of his choices. Sometimes I feel like my heart is going to explode from fear. But I really am so glad that he celebrates life in so many ways.

At the library where I work, we're celebrating the 50 year anniversary of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. That story tells me that no matter where my son goes, he'll always come back, especially if I cook something good to eat!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

the night of my 21st birthday

This prompt is meant for younger writers, I suppose, who grew up after the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21. When I was in high school, I easily passed for eighteen, and had no trouble getting into most bars and taverns. So my 21st birthday was just another birthday, as far as I was concerned.

It was a Tuesday, as I recall. Some of us had plans to go see And Justice For All over the weekend. But the topic of my birthday hadn't even come up. I moved through my scheduled classes like every other student enrolled at Pfeiffer. Nothing memorable happened during the day.

At the time, I was secretly serving as editor of a benign but humorous underground newspaper (Cockfeathers) that questioned college administration, and made fun of the regular college newspaper (The Pfeiffer News) which was hopelessly dull and never courted controversy of any kind. We aimed to entertain, mostly, but we didn't object to the occasional poke at a hornets' nest. We tackled tenure, student scandals, teaching styles, rumors about various people, administrative appointments, and college spending. One exposé tackled the redecoration costs of the administration building juxtaposed with a cut in funding to various student activities. Shocking!

I had rented a post office box in the next town so our readers could send letters to the editor, which they frequently did. In fact some of our best stories began with a letter to the editor! I drove over that afternoon to check the box after my last class was done. In the box were three letters. Two were standard letters complimenting us on our work. The third was an article being submitted for publication. I stood there reading it. It was hilarious and I knew we would publish it.

When I got back to my car, I spotted an envelope under my windshield wiper. It had my name written on it. My heart started racing when I saw that. I looked all around. I was alone. Inside the envelope was a note card. (I still have it.) It said, "Please meet us at 6 pm at the VFW." Who was us? Was this a trap? I looked at my watch. It was 5:45. There was no time to go find another newspaper staff member. I had to decide.

I slowly drove to the VFW. When I got there, I found an empty parking lot in front. I sat in my car, thinking. Should I go try the door? I was frightened. Suddenly my harmless newspaper felt dangerous. I worried I might get expelled. I had just about made the decision to drive away when the front door opened and a figure emerged. It was one of my favorite professors. He waved. I waved back. He signaled for me to come in. Behind him in the doorway was a female member of the athletic staff. She too signaled for me to come in.

Confused but curious, I got out of the car and went in. I was greeted by a large group (twenty?) of employees of the college. I was handed a glass of champagne. They all held their glasses up. The highest ranking professor said, "To the wonderful Cat on the occasion of her 21st birthday. We appreciate your editorial work, your courage, your sense of humor, and your service as our voice." Then we all drank. I was speechless. People went out the back door a few at a time, some hugging me before they went.

Finally, it was just me and one instructor. I was still holding my champagne glass. "You okay?" he asked as he took my glass. "I guess. I'm so confused." We stood looking at each other. He offered no explanation. "I've got to lock up now," he hinted. I went out the front door. I heard the lock click behind me. I got in my car and drove back to the campus.

We never set out to be anyone's voice. We were just having fun. But I guess what we did mattered!

(All credit for the origin of Cockfeathers goes to Don Sherrow, may he rest in peace.)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

words or phrases I constantly use

What the hell?

You have GOT to be kidding me!

It'll be fine, just fine. (Credit to Martha Jane Thompson.)


Can you stop and get some ice cream?

Ohhhh, Catherine, what are you doing? (Credit to Richard Semakula.)

Stop me if I told you this one ...

what I wore yesterday

I wore confidence. I first tried on weary resignation, but it didn’t look good on me.

I wore joy. I celebrated being alive and happy.

I wore gratitude. I heard from my lover, halfway across the country on a family trip. I heard from my son, who will be here soon. I’m loved. I wore love!

I wore patience. Customers come from all walks of life and sometimes bring their troubles with them. Did my kind attention to their souls make a difference? I wore hope.

I wore worry, thinking about our presidential election.

I wore laughter as co-workers shared stories and I shared mine.

I wore the coolness of the pool water at the end of a workday.

I wore wonder as I floated on my back and watched fluffy clouds drift across the Arizona sky.

I wore exuberance as I threw the ball for Jackson. I wore exasperation when he stopped to smell the flowers and ran back without the ball. I wore humility when I realized my dog was demonstrating, “Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers.” I wore affection as I scratched his ears and told him what a good boy he was.

I wore comfort as I tucked into some tacos. I wore salsa that dribbled on my shirt. I wore a shrug because that Resolve stain stick really works!

I wore interest and surprise as I watched Father Brown solve yet another mystery.

I wore contentment when my lover called to report on his day and tell me good night.

I wore relaxation as I snuggled into my bed to read before I closed my eyes for the night. I wore amusement and appreciation as I caught up with the wisdom of Mma Precious Ramotswe.

I wore peace as I counted my blessings and gave thanks for another day.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

things I’d say to an ex

I like this topic. It reminds me of a poem I wrote at some point in the last year or so. Here it is:
Love Timeline

Could I have my youth back, please?
There are boys and men I’d like to chase.
I didn’t then because I was told that I shouldn’t.
Could I have a redo?

There are boys I wish I’d said no to,
     and one I told to go away,
     to whom I’d now say “stay.”

May I take a weapon back in time?
There’s a fella who could use a lesson or two,
     and I, more than anyone,
     can find exactly the right examples.

And I’ll take just a moment,
     to kiss that one boy on the cheek,
     before he’s taken by the flames.

And let me tell THAT young man
     that he IS worthy of his father’s legacy,
     before the water fills his lungs.

And let me whisper in that special soldier’s ear
     that he is loved and cherished,
     before he ends it with his gun.

Time, a fickle beast, refuses to yield.
I'm stuck with the choices I made.

four weird traits about me

Just four? I have so many. Ugh. These prompts are starting to get on my nerves. But I’m determined to finish all thirty. I usually fizzle out on things like this. Not this time! So, four weird traits.
1. I really enjoy doing absolutely nothing, by myself. I’m perfectly happy sitting in a chair, with nobody else around, just thinking. I joke that I’m an introvert who fakes extroversion really well. When I’m around people I’m animated and engaged. But I’m happiest when it’s just me. And my dogs! I frequently get advised that I should have more activities. People who say this to me are often scheduled beyond belief. A lunch date can only be planned for “two weeks from Wednesday.” That’s fine for them, but not for me.
2. I keep lists of character names, book or chapter titles, scene descriptions and snippets of dialogue. Maybe all writers do this. These things just pop into my head. I was working on the second floor of the library last week. There were workmen changing out a small art gallery area, so random furniture had been pushed here and there. I spotted a customer sitting in a chair facing out a huge floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall window. He wasn’t reading. There were no other chairs or tables or customers near him. He was just watching the world. And if you read #1 on this list, you’ll know I was thinking how much I would like to be doing exactly what he was doing. I wrote “The Brilliance of the Man in the Orange Chair” which I will use at some point.
3. I’m socially awkward, but only in very specific ways. I’ll say something benign that is interpreted in a negative way. I won’t realize right away that I expressed the thought in a poor way. By the time I do realize what has happened, I’m frozen with mortification and can’t figure out what to do or say to fix it without sounding defensive. Because nobody perceives me as socially awkward, I come across as aloof, when all the while my brain is trying out and rejecting explanations, clarifications, apologies, and other strategies to fix my unintentional faux pas. I’m a lost cause.
4. I have hoarder tendencies which I combat with very minimalist surroundings. If I see even a hint of things piling up, I institute my Every Time Rules. Every time I get up, I must put something away. Every time I leave the house I must take something with me. Every time an item in my house reminds me of something unpleasant, I throw it away. One happy aspect of getting older is that with the object out of view, I’ll never think of it again.
I’m not reading ahead on these prompts. I’m hopeful, for my sake and for yours, that the remaining topics are less about me and more about … anything else!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

some things I miss

  • Catching fireflies in a jar, then letting them go again.
  • Acrylic nails, but not the expense or the seeing-stars-pain of hitting one on a surface.
  • The Mom I had from 1975-2002. I never saw that woman again.
  • Crane onion skin writing paper & envelopes in canary yellow.
  • My guitars.
  • My cousins Bobby, Catherine and Beth.
  • Good Humor Chocolate Eclair Ice Cream on a stick.
  • Full-sized toilet paper rolls.
  • Thin Mints - original size, three sleeves in a box.
  • Hill Street Blues.
  • Playing backgammon with college buddies.
  • Sam, when he was a newborn, 3 years old and 6 years old.
  • My dogs - Belle, Peanut, Jennifer, Sunshine, and C.R.
  • My cats - Ninja, Angel, Nicole, and Joe.
  • The excitement and joy of Christmas mornings as a child.
  • Cap'n Crunch cereal.
  • My Slip 'n' Slide.
  • Pittman Park UMC.
  • Montreat, NC.
  • Knowing my brothers.

  • Monday, May 23, 2016

    a family member I dislike

    There is no family member I dislike. There are family members with whom I disagree on major issues such as politics, religion, and social privilege. And there are a few family members who (I think) dislike me, or simply don’t understand me. And more with whom I have very little in common. But I can think of no one I dislike.
    So, where do I go from here? The whole premise of this prompt is to motivate me to give rich detail about why I don't like a specific family member, or to describe a series of precipitating events that led to a Hatfield/McCoy situation. So what does one do in the absence of familial hostility?
    Ah, this, from Gloria Steinem: “Happy or unhappy, families are all mysterious. We have only to imagine how differently we would be described – and will be, after our deaths – by each of the family members who believe they know us.”
    I believe that only a handful (or two) of people really know me. And most of them are not family. I created a family of friends who know me and love me. So perhaps the same is true for everyone else in my family. I think I know them, but I don’t.
    And the family members I think don’t like me? If I'm right, I think it’s because they don’t know me at all. They’ve inherited a dislike from other family members who think they know me, but don’t.
    But being liked isn’t critically important to me. Being honest and authentic, and having the courage to speak my truth is important to me. Sometimes there's a heavy price for that.
    I do wish I could spend more time with family, especially those I don’t know well. Maybe in retirement! And who knows? Maybe time will yield deeper relationships than I currently think are possible. Wouldn't that be sweet?

    Sunday, May 22, 2016

    my morning routine

    My first thought every morning is coffee. But I have to take the dogs out first. And they need their breakfast. Priscilla had too many months on the streets scrounging for food to ever be relaxed about meals. She is frantic for breakfast, shivering with anxiety and excitement, barking if I don't move fast enough.

    Then I put water on to boil. I need one cup of coffee in the morning - Columbian drip. Yes. And breakfast of some sort.

    Next move is a toss-up. If I'm working that day, I think about what I'll wear. I might start a load of laundry. Will I need lunch or a snack? How much time do I have? Do I need to wash my hair? Once I'm ready for work, I read or play on the computer until it's time to go. Sometimes I write.

    If I'm not working, I'll pull the zandikyn and contact the mother ship. I'm required to report on any significant contacts with humans and provide coordinates for last known locations of my partners. This can take some time if they're probing for details or collecting biological samples.

    Next, I drive over to Alice Cooper's house. We play Skip-Bo (my favorite) and Caroms (his favorite.) We might go for a swim. I record our conversations for the book I'm writing. He will talk extemporaneously with very little prompting from me. Sometimes we take little road trips - to the Brass Armadillo or to hit some golf balls. Then it's time for lunch!

    That's it!

    Saturday, May 21, 2016

    does my zodiac sign fit me?

    Libra. And my name is Catherine. I like a man who's bold; a man who's not afraid to be original. And if that's you, come with me. Take my hand. Come with me, baby, to Love Land. Let me show you how sweet it could be ...

    OOPS. Sorry, I was floating on for a minute there.

    No. I don't think my zodiac sign fits me. I think zodiac signs are manufactured nonsense. I've seen this proven multiple times. If you take descriptions of each sign and remove obvious clues, such as "bull-headed" for Taurus, "balanced" for Libra, and "two sides of you" for Gemini, any description can fit just about anyone.

    But it's fun to play with. Not that I do. I can't remember the last time I even looked at it. Let me go do that now ...

    Now THIS is spooky. My horoscope for today. "Words from you carry a bigger punch than you sometimes acknowledge. Many more people listen to you than you realize. Be careful with what you say and write. One of your readers will send you $5,000."

    Just kidding. I wrote that. Let me go read it, for real.

    "Connect with the stabilizing force of the day, Libra. It's important for you to keep at least one foot on the ground, as powerful and intense emotions are likely to try to take over the scene. This is a good time to do things with passion."

    Okay. Will do. I always do!

    Or was this the horoscope for Pisces? Hee hee!

    Friday, May 20, 2016

    music shuffle

    The instructions are, "Put your music player on shuffle and write the first 3 songs that play and what your initial thought is."

    1. 'S Wonderful - Joao Gilberto. His version is very sensual. My first thought is that I wish my lover was here. He's still at work. But the night is still young. Maybe I'll still get lucky.

    2. Twisted - Joni Mitchell. Hilarious. This is my theme song, so of course it popped up. I was just talking to a friend about this song a few weeks ago.

    3. Trouble No More - Allman Brothers. Well, this band takes me back to the happy parts of my adolescence. It was always the music.

    five fears

    1. Alligators. I have no idea when this became a thing for me. I've always had a vivid imagination. My ability to supply awful detail to every potential tragedy means that I have about two hundred potential imagined scenarios in which I am snatched by an alligator, drowned and eaten for lunch. Last year when we were looking at a possible relocation to Miami, we fell in love with a rental property on a canal. I told the real estate agent about my morbid fear of alligators. He said, "It's Florida. You're on the water. There are gators. But they're more likely to snatch your dogs." Nope! Couldn't do it!

    2. Dying alone. I have no doubt there will be people around me if I die of cancer or old age. But I live alone. So I imagine a slip and fall at the beginning of three days off. I don't always answer my phone. How long would it take for someone to come check on me? Again, my imagination is not my friend.

    3. Donald Trump as our president. Yikes! No imagination is necessary. He says it all. Terrifying.

    4. The number four. In Japan, the number four is viewed in the same way we view the number thirteen. The character for four sounds like the character for death. Some buildings don't have a fourth floor. Maternity wards in hospitals avoid the number four. I somehow internalized this during my early childhood in Japan.

    5. Schroedinger's Rapist. Every man is not a rapist. Most men are not rapists. As women, we can't tell by looking who is and who isn't. Therefore, caution is a necessary evil. And the fear is very real.

    I have other fears that aren't quite as prominent. My imagination provides me with endless opportunities to be afraid. The fact that I step out into the world is sufficient proof to me that I'm brave. But you will notice, I'm sure, that there are very few alligators in Phoenix. Or in Canada, if Trump is elected!

    Wednesday, May 18, 2016

    my favorite color and why

    Purple. I've always loved purple. Purple was an unusual clothing choice when I was young. Only my hippy friends wore purple. So I associated the color with freedom of expression and a let it all hang out mentality. When I wore purple, I felt zany and happy. I can still remember specific items of purple clothing from that time period.

    The first time I read the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, I recognized myself, except for the part about the sobriety of my youth. I don't think I had a particularly sober youth. But I loved the idea of doing unexpected things as an older woman. My best friend actually bought me a framed copy of the poem done in calligraphy.

    I decided I would buy an entire purple wardrobe, one piece at a time, tossing my non-purple things along the way. I figured by the time I was forty, I'd be known as The Purple Lady. I liked that thought. I imagined myself as Auntie Mame - in purple.

    But then that poem was used as the basis for the Red Hat Ladies craze that swept the country. You'd see groups of older ladies in restaurants, all wearing purple outfits and red hats. I gave up my all purple idea. It would hardly be a signature look if half the country was doing it. But it made me sad.

    There is one other choice that appealed to me. Paisley. I liked the look on people's faces when I gave that as an answer for the favorite color question. It was unexpected. I actually heard it in song lyrics. Carole King? Melissa Manchester? I've looked for it, but couldn't find who sang "Paisley is my color." But I appreciated the intent.

    I'm a kaleidoscope. My internal colors change. So paisley suits me with its swirl and its endless color combination possibilities. But an entire wardrobe of paisley? I'm not quite zany enough to pull that off. But I can imagine at least one or two items in purple paisley.

    I'll just have to wait out the Red Hat Ladies. I'll reclaim purple when I'm older.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2016

    a quote I try to live by

    "Never put a raisin where a chocolate chip could go."

    I don't recall where I originally read or heard those words, but they resonated right away. The phrase became a mantra of sorts. And it works on so many levels.

    On the surface, it's chocolate chips. I love 'em. They're delicious, even if you're using Nestle semi-sweet. But go up a notch and use Callebaut or Scharffen Berger to get a real treat. Or even better, try Trader Joe's chocolate chips.

    But look at that quote another way. It can also mean "Don't settle." You deserve to be happy. If you're not happy doing what you're doing, do something different. There is no requirement that you stay where you are or keep doing what you're doing. Just because you initially started with raisins doesn't mean you can't trade them in for chocolate chips.

    And finally, in your quest to be coupled, don't settle for a raisin. Wait for the chocolate chip. And remember, raisins sometimes look like chocolate chips. Don't take a huge bite, thinking you've found a chocolate chip, only to find you're stuck with a raisin. Go slow. Ask questions. Examine things with a clear head. If it's a raisin, walk away slowly. You deserve better than that.

    Monday, May 16, 2016

    bullet your entire day

    It would happen on my day off.

    • 5:13: Priscilla licks my forehead. I tell her good morning and gather her to me for morning cuddles.
    • 5:13: Jackson hears me say good morning to Priscilla and takes a flying leap from wherever he was and lands with a heavy crash on top of both of us. Having grown accustomed to his physicality, I have shielded us from the assault with one arm & shoulder.
    • 5:14: I scratch Priscilla's belly while I simultaneously rub Jackson's head and hold him back. If I let go, he'll start dashing around the bedroom, which will include several more aerial assaults.
    • 5:17: I get up, turn off the house alarm, make a pit stop, then open the back door to go out with the dogs.
    • 5:20: Back inside, I feed the dogs.
    • 5:21: I start to make coffee. I remember I don't have milk because I never went to the grocery store yesterday. I stop making coffee, resolving to go to McDonald's after the dogs finish their breakfast.
    • 5:22: I remember I have non-dairy creamer. I start coffee again.
    • 5:24: I check my phone for messages. None.
    • 5:25: I check my Facebook on my phone for notifications. There are several. Barbra Streisand has announced tour dates. I wonder if Cody & Chris will want to go. Trump has said more stupid shit. I roll my eyes.
    • 5:31: Coffee in hand, I sit in my recliner and check to see what today's writing prompt is.
    • 5:33: I start typing this list.
    • 6:00: I remember I have leftover cinnamon rolls.
    • 6:08: After nuking the rolls, I settle in to read my current book, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding, number twelve in Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I'm still in my pajamas.
    • 6:24: Jackson drops one of his toys on the foot stool. I throw it for him a few times. The third time he retrieves it, he crashes into Priscilla, who is stretched out on the foot stool. She grabs his toy to assert herself. A heated tug-of-war begins. I use the opportunity to add this to the bulleted items.
    • 6:29: Back to my book.
    • 6:48: Had a sudden urge to watch the final scene of last night's Game of Thrones in which Daenerys Stormborn (The Unburnt; Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men; Queen of Maureen; Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea; Breaker of Chains; and Mother of Dragons) destroys patriarchy. I watched it three times. How I wish she was running for president!
    • 7:11: Back to the book.
    • 7:33: Some music might be nice. I realize I never managed to transfer my music to my new phone. I spend thirty minutes trying to figure it out. Then I give up in disgust.
    • 8:06: Back to the book.
    • 8:26: I can figure this out. Google various phrases regarding transferring my music.
    • 8:50: Persistence pays off. Now listening to music. Yay! Back to book.
    • 8:53: Music is too distracting. Turn it off. Back to book.
    • 9:07: Tired of reading. Go online to read the news.
    • 9:52: Stomach growling. Grocery store? Not yet. Solitaire Tri Peaks.
    • 10:25: Time to get dressed.
    • 10:40: Meal planning & grocery list.
    • 11:04: Off to the grocery store.
    • 12:24: $120.00 later ... I'm home.
    • 12:25: Carry groceries in & put everything away.
    • 12:51: Break time! Potato chips. Play on computer.
    • 1:29: Cleaning kitchen.
    • 2:16: Laundry started.
    • 2:21: Watching Grace and Frankie on Netflix.
    • 3:11: Open new chlorine tabs and add to floating dispenser in pool.
    • 3:28: Set up hose to add water to pool. Notice temperature is finally perfect.
    • 3:42: Sweep up around pool. Oleanders are in full bloom, dropping flowees galore.
    • 3:53: Head out the door for Lyft rush hour shift.
    • 4:16: First fare - airport run.
    • 5:02: Second fare - Encanto area to Bell Rd.
    • 5:36: Third fare - Local waitress to restaurant.
    • 5:44: Fourth fare - Local parent from work to daycare to home. (Car in shop.)
    • 6:32: Headed home.
    • 7:03: Begin dinner preparation. Salsa chicken.
    • 7: 26: Fold laundry.
    • 7:41: Make up bed.
    • 8:06: Eat!
    • 8:41: Give myself permission to end this log.
    • Whenever: Shower. Read. Bed.

    Sunday, May 15, 2016

    three pet peeves

    You know, this would be a great conversation starter. Anyone could think of three with very little effort. We're faced with all kinds of annoyances throughout the day. But which am I willing to reveal in a public domain?

    Pet Peeve #1: Rudeness to service personnel. There is nothing more revealing than how a person treats other humans in the service industry. As William H. Swanson wrote in his 33 Unwritten Rules of Management, "If someone is nice to you but rude to the waiter, they are not a nice person." I must concur. It happens most frequently in restaurants, I suspect, but I've watched people behave badly in all sorts of settings. Certainly I've seen it at the library and at every college and university where I was employed. Some people just seem determined to be nasty, even if nothing about the situation warrants a war-like stance.

    Pet Peeve #2: Rudeness from service personnel. This behavior always amazes me. Front-line customer service people can make or break a for-profit business. How does the business not have systems in place to drastically reduce the odds that there's a horrible person serving their customers? Then there's the government employee, that stereotypically cold, uncaring bureaucrat who relishes each roadblock between the customer and the customer's satisfaction. These people are so ubiquitous that people GUSH any time a government employee provides great customer service. I've been a government employee most of my life and I hear this from customers all the time. They're surprised that I'm kind to them! That's just sad.

    Pet Peeve #3: My neighbors who celebrate happy moments by coming outside to shoot their guns in the air. Idiots.

    What are your pet peeves?

    Saturday, May 14, 2016

    my life in seven years

    I'll be 64. So, of course, I'm hoping I'll have grandchildren named Vera, Chuck, and Dave. Who could ask for more?

    Must I really think about this now? Oh, all right. Fine.

    I'll be a little more relaxed because I'll have some retirement income. I hope I'll be traveling more. The end.

    my commute, to and from work

    My driving commute to work is fairly stress-free. I'm fourteen miles from work. It's a twenty-minute commute, mostly on multi-lane highways. It helps that I'm rarely driving to work during rush hour. And it also helps that I love to drive.

    My real dilemma is that the light rail has extended close enough that I can take advantage of the well-lit park-n-ride and take the train in. It's a straight shot and there's a stop right in front of the library where I work. Why is this a dilemma, you might be wondering? I hate mass transit. I always have.

    It takes longer. And sometimes there are delays. And I'm an absolute magnet for unwanted attention. But I should do it more often. I could reduce my carbon footprint and save money too. We even get a transit pass as a benefit! When I don't use it I feel like a whiny, spendthrift, Earth-hater. There's just no winning.

    Coming home is a different story. I'm often in rush hour, bumper to bumper traffic. It's not horrible, but even I have to admit that coming home on the train beats driving! So ideally, I'd like to drive TO work and take the train home. But that would only work for one day, right?

    Friday, May 13, 2016

    two words/phrases that make me laugh

    Language really turns me on. Fitting words together to paint a picture, or to express an emotion, really satisfies a need for me. Most of the time, I get the rush from some other writer’s words. But on rare occasions, I manage to put something on paper that pleases me. But what makes me laugh?

    Indubitably. That word cracks me up. I can’t say it in a non-theatrical way. It always exits my mouth with a weird, Katharine Hepburn-like voice. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word seriously. It’s just a funny word to me.

    Then there are hundreds of Southern words and phrases that make me laugh. Although I was born in North Carolina, the family returned to Japan before my first birthday. Five years later, we moved to Massachusetts. So I was just entering the fifth grade when we returned to the South. And there I stayed, more or less, for the next thirty-something years. I consider myself a Southerner, though I’ve lived in Yankee territory on four occasions and visited many more times. And I’ve been in Arizona for almost fifteen years. But I’m a Southern woman. And I’m proud to say that.

    My all-time favorite Southern saying is “Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit.” It’s an expression of surprise and it never fails to crack me up when I hear it. I’ve never used it myself, verbally or in written form. But when I hear it (or read it), I know I’m communicating with a certain kind of Southerner – my favorite kind. Because you don’t hear this phrase from well-to-do, upper crust folk. No, only salt-of-the-earth, regular folk use this magical phrase. And I love them for it.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    japanese soul food

    Morning finds me looking at Japanese restaurants on Yelp. A friend is in Tokyo, posting photos of food and suddenly, I have to have some. It's the food of my childhood. My soul wants it as much as, if not more than, my stomach. I need Agedashi Tofu, my favorite.

    The smell, the taste, the texture on my tongue, and the way it feels on my hashi (chopsticks) all combine to take me home to the tiny, warm space where I spent my days with Yamada-San while my parents taught English and Christian Studies at Kwansei Gakuin University in Nishinomiya.

    Just entering the restaurant feels right. The smiles, the bows and the decor touch me in ways I can't explain. I'm not Japanese, but you can't tell my soul that! I feel a happy cry when I smell miso soup or see a bowl of sticky rice or taste a fresh slice of ginger. Today, I'm in search of something to feed my soul.

    In addition to the tofu fried in tempura batter, I'll have Oyaka Donburi, green tea and ginger ice cream for desert. Yes. That should do it!


    "Your current relationship; if single, discuss that too"

    Nope. Not gonna do it. He doesn’t like it when I write about us. Instead, I’ll tell you about relationships, both fictional and real, that I am amazed by, amused by, or inspired by.

    I favor relationships in which there is a balance of power. I have never seen a thriving, healthy relationship in which this was lacking. When one person has no power or significantly less power, they’re almost always unhappy in the relationship. They may stay with it, but the unhappiness shows, no matter how hard they try to hide it.

    I know religious couples who insist that they’ve chosen a dominant husband dynamic because the Bible told them to do it that way. I see that playing out three ways:
    • The husband is aggressive and selfish. The wife and children are miserable and are helpless to make any sort of change. I see this in varying degrees. In some cases, the husband is a bit oblivious and the wife is passively resigned to her fate. Either way, ugh.
    • The husband is meek and is following the wife’s lead. Both agree to pretend he’s in charge. It’s obvious to all but the most unobservant that the wife is in charge. And the husband is secretly miserable. 
    • The husband is careful to consider the needs and desires of all family members and would never move forward knowing his decision would leave his wife bitter or miserable. The wife speaks clearly about her needs and desires and truly supports her husband in every decision he makes because she knows her happiness is of critical importance to her husband. Husband and wife are actually partners.

    Regardless of religious beliefs, I think strong partners are those who are a close match in intelligence, wit, and heart. It helps if they have similar morals and ideas about behavior. But mostly I think they need to have a strong desire to work towards mutual happiness. Jealousy and bitterness are a death knell to happiness, so trust and trustworthiness are absolutely necessary if a couple is going to thrive.

    So, here are the healthiest relationships I’ve observed:
    • My cousin Becky and her husband, Bob. I first became aware of the beauty of their partnership when I watched them parent together. They are, to me, the most evenly yoked couple I’ve ever seen. They each invest energy in making sure the other is thriving. I’m sure they’ve had challenges along the way. But I believe their commitment to each other is absolute.
    • My friends, John & Claudia. They each had previous unsuccessful marriages. They spent a lot of time working through their own issues. I attended their wedding when I was very young – 19 or 20. They walked down the aisle together, holding hands. I loved the symbolism of that bold choice. This was 1977, I think. Then they had written their own vows, which were full of raw truth. I was so impressed with their partnership. 
    • My father and stepmother. I’ve spent a lot of time with these two. Their partnership is solid. It’s built on the expectation that each will speak up – clearly and unashamedly – about their own thoughts and desires. Each takes ownership of their own feelings. Each is quick to apologize for any wrong-doing. Each supports the other without reservation.

    Fictional relationships I’ve loved, healthy or not:

    "Sister" Husband and Mr. Sprock in Where the Heart Is. They’re not married, but they’re clearly strong partners. “Dear Lord, we ask that you bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies. And we ask forgiveness, Lord, for the fornication that Mr. Sprock and me committed this morning on this very table.” These two have settled into life and are relaxed and happy.

    Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane) in The Birdcage. Each partner is a mess, but they love and support each other through thick and thin.
    Albert: “Oh yes, another jibe, another joke at my expense. You were probably laughing at me with Katherine, too. Well, why not? I'm not young, I'm not new, and everyone laughs at me. I'm quite aware of how ridiculous I am. I've been thinking that the only solution is to go where no one is ridiculous and everyone is equal.” Armand: “What a pain in the ass you are. And it's true: you're not young, you're not new, and you do make people laugh. And me? I'm still with you because you make me laugh.”

    Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) and Karen Blixen (Meryl Street) in Out of Africa. These two handled some difficult circumstances. Each character was fierce and their romance was once-in-a-lifetime passionate. Had he not died, I think they might have grown old together.

    Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) and C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) in The Philadelphia Story. Humor is important in any relationship. This quirky pair proves it. 

    Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) in Brokeback Mountain. I had to have one ill-fated couple. They could have been an amazing couple, had they found each other under different circumstances. 

    Shoot. That makes me think of my other favorite ill-fated couple - Francesca Johnson and Robert Kincaid in Bridges of Madison County. Again, under different circumstances, they would have grown old together. Francesca's hand on the door handle as she contemplates running away with Robert, is one of the most emotional movie moments I've ever seen.

    John Dunbar and Stands With a Fist in Dances With Wolves. Watching their love story from their first meeting to the film’s final frames is a wonderful experience. I confess I’ve watched this movie dozens of times. It never gets old. 

    My favorite movie couple will always be Norman and Ethel Thayer (Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn) in On Golden Pond. They are completely devoted to each other and each is terrified of losing the other. But it’s their sweet humor that tells me of their love. 
    Norman: “There’s someone at the door.” Ethel: “It’s me, you old poop!” I love Ethel and Norman.

    Well, that’s it. As soon as I publish this, I’ll think of ten more movie couples. And at least one real life couple. I’d love to hear from you. What fictional or real life couples did you think of while you were reading this?

    a fruit I dislike and why

    I can’t think of one. Hold on a sec while I Google “list of fruits.”

    Okay, I can safely say that I like all fruit I’ve ever tried. So this post will not be very exciting. Unless I change it to memorable fruit depictions in film. Let me Google that.

    Can I just say that my plan was to cycle through a bunch of crazy fruit ideas, each of which would reach a dead end, so I could close this post with “I give up"? I was thinking that would be funny. But I underestimated my first crazy idea. OF COURSE there are bunches of fruit depictions in film! (Bunches. Tee hee. Snort.) Why wouldn’t there be? Heck, there’s a whole list with just apples!

    There’s that warm apple pie in American Pie. There’s the poisoned apple in Snow White. And Hollywood loves to have cocky dudes chomp down on an apple while they’re saying something cocky. Did one of these guys just pop into your head? Malvoy in Harry Potter. Jack Sparrow (Captain Jack Sparrow) in Pirates of the Caribbean. Or James T. Kirk (as a young man) in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek? And how many hogs on a platter have you seen with apples in their mouths?

    But what about the orange? In The Godfather, Marlon Brando has a piece of orange peel in his mouth as he chases his grandson around the garden, just before his demise. Apparently, the appearance of an orange is often a presage of impending death. The Godfather movies are littered with oranges. And other directors have paid homage to director Francis Ford Coppola by using oranges in their films, usually just prior to something awful happening: Requiem For a Dream; Point Break; and Children of Men. Even television directors use the orange=death/disaster trope. Breaking Bad; Big Love and The Wire. Even Family Guy gets the orange treatment. All I can say is if you’re watching a movie or TV and somebody breaks out an orange, hold on to your hats!

    Other fruits are not as ubiquitous. Dates almost poison Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Arc. A banana is plugged into a car’s exhaust pipe in Beverly Hills Cop. Charles Bronson gets pretty darn mad when someone messes with his watermelons in Mr. Majestyc.

    Even movie titles are full of fruit. Clockwork Orange. (That’s one of the few movies I wish I’d never seen. Aha! We found a fruit I don’t like!) Under the Cherry Moon. The Grapes of Wrath. Bananas. James and the Giant Peach. The Lemon Sisters. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Pineapple Express. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? The Apple Dumpling Gang.

    Some of those were adapted from books. How about other fruity books? The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (Yesterday, a coworker at the library showed me a book entitled Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, another classic being given a zombie twist. I suppose it was inevitable after the success of the Jane Austen zombie mashups.) Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop CafĂ©. (Towanda!!!!) A Raisin in the Sun. And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

    Well, I think that’s enough about fruit. Just remember this quote by I don’t know who: Knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

    Monday, May 9, 2016


    When I was in my early thirties, a fiftyish co-worker offered me a ride back to my building, as a light rain had begun to fall as we emerged from a meeting. I gratefully accepted, then followed her up and down multiple aisles of the closest parking lot as the rain gradually increased in volume. Finally, she remembered her car was in the next lot over. Already soaked, I cut my losses and walked to my building. As I walked, I promised myself that I would not allow myself to be so ditzy when I got old. My 57-year-old self laughs at that younger me.

    I don’t remember things as well as I once did. There are daily reminders that I’m no spring chicken. But I’m still perfectly capable of working hard, completing projects, and producing high-quality results. There are moments, however, when a younger colleague will either patiently explain something I already know or simply take over because I’m not moving fast enough for them. There is an expectation of ignorance and a degree of impatience that I don’t think would be there if my hair wasn’t gray.

    Ageism sucks. Preconceived notions are dangerous in any form. But finding an appropriate response is tricky. In a setting where group cohesiveness is important, setting yourself apart by calling attention to something that only you will understand is a problem, could have the opposite effect from your intent.

    Job-hunting can be fraught with peril. I suspect my resume has been tossed several times because reviewers did a quick calculation in their heads. I can’t prove that. But I know it happens. Do you alter your resume? Some say yes. Others say no, because if they’re going to discriminate, they’ll do it at the interview.

    There was a time in history when older adults were revered. But in our youth-worshipping culture, replete with facelifts, boob jobs, Juvederm, Botox and a sick obsession with skinny, how can one hope to be taken seriously? The answer is dogged determination. One must stick around long enough to gain clout. And if that seems like a lost cause, one must uproot and look for better soil conditions.

    “You have no idea how tenacious I can be,” a mentor once taught me to say in situations where I knew my cause was just. Instead of saying it, I must now demonstrate it. That I can do. Even if I get rained on.

    Sunday, May 8, 2016

    a book I love and one I don’t

    I first read The Women’s Room by Marilyn French when I was in my twenties. It’s a wonderful novel about Mira, a 1950’s housewife who experiences the enlightenment of the early Women’s movement. The absolute best part of the book is the detailed descriptions of the mechanics of keeping house and raising children in those days. I was born in 1958, but most of what she described was foreign to me.

    Unfortunately, the horrible treatment of women depicted in this work of fiction is not foreign to me as it still goes on today. Until patriarchy gives way to a more just societal framework, it will continue. I believe this novel should be required reading for all young people.

    A book I don’t love? You know what? I enjoy writing challenges. They give me ideas. And sometimes the forced topic leads me to think about things I otherwise wouldn’t have. So I’ll stick with it, even if I don’t want to. But the rebel in me just doesn’t care to revisit books I didn’t love. So I’m listing a few more I loved instead. Ha!

    Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. All of them. These chapter books were my favorites when I was a child. The madcap cures to wonderfully exaggerated problem children tickled my funny bone. I desperately wanted to meet Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. My favorite cures included The Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker Cure, The Fraidy-Cat Cure and The Whisperer. I saw one of the books at the library recently. Still magical!

    Sue Grafton‘s alphabet mystery series, which starts with A is for Alibi. I adore her passionate, plucky private detective Kinsey Millhone. The first twenty-three in the series (A through W) are fabulous. X is really odd. I’m hoping Y will be a return to her best.

    Bettyville is a wonderful novel I just finished recently. It tells the story of a man who has returned home to care for an aging parent. He can’t seem to make himself leave. The story will resonate for those who have experienced aging parents.

    Ntozake Shange's poetry is amazing. Go read some. Now. Start with Nappy Edges.

    Gods and Generals, and the two companion pieces The Killer Angels and The Last Full Measure may be the best Civil War books I’ve ever read. Michael Shaara is the author of the second book (which was actually written first.) His son, Jeff wrote the first and third books. Just spectacular.

    Another female mystery solver, Kate Shugak, is featured in the Alaska-themed series by Dana Stabenow. All of them are excellent.

    ANYTHING by Anne Tyler. That isn’t a book title. I mean, read any book written by Anne Tyler. You’ll thank me later, just as I thank Dr. J. Griffin Campbell for telling me about this amazing author. Her character development skills cannot be overstated.

    ANYTHING by Toni Morrison. Her words sing.

    I’ll stop there. Don’t want to overstay my welcome.

    Nope. One more. Susan Faludi's Backlash:The Undeclared War Against American Women is a must read for progressives.

    Saturday, May 7, 2016

    my tattoos

    Janis Joplin died in 1970, just a few weeks before my 12th birthday. To say that I adored her is to immeasurably understate my feelings. Just as I had, a few years earlier, imagined that I would grow up to marry Davy Jones of the Monkees, I now had an elaborate plan for becoming a member of Janis Joplin's band. Her death was devastating to me.

    But I knew how I could permanently commemorate Janis Joplin's life. I'd seen a picture of her wearing a choker necklace with a red, wooden, heart-shaped bead at the center. I would have that red heart tattooed on my upper chest, just where that bead touched her throat. I visited a tattoo parlor in Gainesville, Georgia, our home at the time. There were two obstacles. I needed $25 and because I admitted my age, I needed a parent or guardian to sign a release form. I felt this would be the perfect birthday gift from Mom to me. Surprisingly, she did not agree!

    My poor mother tolerated my hounding, cajoling, crying, begging and what I can only call HISSY FITS for the next six months. But on the subject of a red, heart-shaped tattoo on her daughter's throat, she was firm. The answer was no. And it stayed no. In fact, after a while, she refused to engage with me on the subject. I remember following her around the house asking, "Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?" as she pretended I was invisible. I was relentless. She was unyielding.

    Eventually, I gave up.

    I have no tattoos. And I'm so very glad that I don't have a heart-shaped tattoo on my throat.

    Friday, May 6, 2016


    John Wallace Crawford, known as "Captain Jack Crawford, the Poet-Scout", was born in Ireland in 1847. He came to the United States at age 14. He was illiterate, so work choices were slim. He went into the coal mines of Pennsylvania, where he probably would have stayed his entire life had it not been for the Civil War.

    Jack joined the Union Army at age 17. He fought bravely and was wounded twice. During his recovery, a Sisters of Charity nun taught him to read and write. This was what I think of as the tipping point in his life. Because reading dime novels about western adventures propelled him westward around the time of the Black Hills gold rush.

    By 1876, he was writing for the Omaha Daily Bee. He was elected to the first city council of Custer City, Oklahoma. The city organized a militia, the Black Hills Rangers, of which he was the highest ranking scout. He later joined Buffalo Bill Cody as a civilian scout for the U.S. Army. He survived quite a few harrowing incidents, often riding hundreds of miles to deliver news dispatches to couriers from The New York Herald.

    Captain Jack became famous for several poems he published. He arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota just two weeks after the death of Wild Bill Hickock. He composed a poem for Charlie Utter entitled "The Burial of Wild Bill." Here is one stanza of the seven-stanza poem:

    "Under the sod in the prairie-land
       We have laid the good and the true
    An honest heart and a noble scout
       Has bade us a last adieu.
    No more his silvery laugh will ring,
       His spirit has gone to God;
    Around his faults let Charity cling
       While you cover him with the sod."

    The whole time I was watching the HBO series Deadwood, I kept expecting him to make an appearance. He never did. But it was interesting to imagine him there among the characters, waxing prosaically about topics of the day.

    Captain Jack traveled with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and continued to write. He performed monologues and mesmerized audiences with stories of his own experiences, as well as poems about the west. He eventually moved his wife and children west to live in New Mexico.

    He had very progressive views, opposing the forced separation of Sioux children from their families. Watching a screaming child being torn from his mother's arms, he asked, "Don't you suppose that mother has the same feeling in her breast for her young as your mother had for you?" He believed that Native American families would all eventually be assimilated and believed the reservations were temporary.

    Captain Jack died in 1917, having traveled all over the United States performing and entertaining. I sometimes feel sorry for his wife. He was gone more than he was home. She raised their children without much help from him. It must have been difficult.

    You might wonder why I'm fascinated by this man. Captain Jack was married to the sister of my mother's father's mother. He was my great-great-uncle by marriage. I've heard about him my whole life. I adore the combination of writer and adventurer in him. Fascinating!

    Thursday, May 5, 2016

    living on spec

    The Writer's Circle 30 day writing challenge 5th day asks us to write about "a place you would live but have never visited." That's been my life for a while now. I've moved to many places without first visiting. I actually enjoy the process. I start by looking at maps, to get a sense of geography, sections of the city, neighborhood names, proximity to water or other topographical features and highways.

    I look at cultural offerings and local attractions. I look at colleges and universities in the area. Then I look at real estate listings to get a feel for affordability. This can entertain me for hours, or it can slam the door shut on possibilities. For instance, I'm reasonably certain I'll never live in California. Too pricey for my East Coast retirement check.

    Sometimes an article will prompt me to look closer at a potential home. I recently read an article about ten lesser known small towns in North Carolina. I quickly zeroed in on Washington, NC. Although I was born in NC and later returned to attend high school and college, I've never been to the Outer Banks area. "Little Washington", as it's called, to distinguish itself from D.C., is located at the northeast edge of the Pamlico River, which leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, it's a harbor town, within reach of beaches. Home prices were very doable. I like it!

    But how can you just go to a place where you don't know a soul? I'm often asked that by people who have stayed in the same place for many long years. You volunteer. You go to church. You make regular visits to coffee shops, florists, bakeries, and restaurants owned by locals. In the South, you're a "newcomer" for YEARS. But people get used to seeing you. Pretty soon, you're part of the scenery.

    So yes, I would uproot and move to Washington, NC tomorrow. Or Savannah, GA. Or Asheville, NC. Or Austin, TX. Or Seattle, WA. Or Portland,OR. (I have visited some of these.) Honestly, there are only three things that would keep me from moving to a place: snow, high housing prices or extreme conservatism. When the wanderlust strikes, I'm gone!

    Wednesday, May 4, 2016

    ten interesting facts about myself

    Well, this writing prompt feels a little odd. I can't promise you'll find these interesting. But here they are:

    1. There is someone living in the crawl space of my house. At least I think so. I hear odd noises when I'm home alone and the dogs don't bark. I think they know the person because they interact when I'm not here. I find things in places I don't remember leaving them. And I just feel the person there. I'm not afraid, just curious.

    2. Mystery shopping is fun. Long term assignments are the best. I love the feeling of behaving just like any other person while collecting information. I imagine this is what it feels like to be a CIA operative, minus the fear of being shot. I've been collecting my observations and experiences for many years now. I think they'd make a great book.

    3. My first thought every morning is coffee. I stumble to the kitchen and put water on to boil. I assemble a coffee cup, a Melita one cup coffee dripper, a #2 filter, and 3-4 heaping tablespoons of Columbian, medium-roast coffee. I pour the water over it and wait for it to drip through. I add sugar and whole milk. Then, after I take my first sip I say out loud, "Nectar of the gods." I only rarely drink coffee again throughout the day. But I need that first cup.

    4. I've written an entire musical stage production about an annoying guy who bursts into song at the slightest provocation. Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm the one who bursts into song at the slightest provocation. I can't help it. Everything reminds me of a song. Throughout my day, as people say something or I respond to a question, a corresponding song pops into my head. I feel compelled to sing it. People generally fall into two categories: Hahaha or Shutup.

    5. Vanilla people bore me. I frighten vanilla people. My colors and lights are too bright. But I always wish I could explain to vanilla people, especially the ones I like or love, that I didn't choose my colors and lights. I was born this way.

    6. I've wanted to be a taxi driver since the show Taxi was on television in the late 1970's. Of my fantasy post-retirement gigs, it was always #2 on the list, just after library volunteer. Well, I've been at the public library for just over two years. And now, as of last week, I'm driving for Lyft. I'm a taxi driver! I have a feeling I could write another musical about this! People are endlessly interesting.

    7. When we were in Tahiti in 2008, my best friend and I investigated available jobs at a university there. There were jobs, but only French citizens are eligible to immigrate to Tahiti. We discussed at length how we could make that happen. Step one: Move to France. Step two: Marry a Frenchman. Step three: Become a French citizen. Step four: Move to Tahiti. The fact that we were in agreement that each of us could easily accomplish this is evidence of our self-confidence and also serves as an explanation for why we're best friends.

    8. Babies love me. I think they can just tell that I love them. I always imagined that I would have six sons. When I'm holding a baby, or interacting with a baby, I'm so full of joy. My niece just had a baby and I want to go live next door so I can be first in line for babysitting. When my son marries and has children, he and his wife will have a built-in babysitter, assuming we're in the same city.

    9. I keep checking books out of the library that I never get around to reading. I look at the stack of books several times throughout the day. But I get distracted by the Internet, or I'm working, or I'm tired and know reading would put me to sleep. This is really a shame because I have great taste when it comes to books. Sitting on the kitchen counter now: The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith; When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi; The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett; The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson; The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman; Honey from the Lion by Matthew Neill Null; and Time and Time Again by Ben Elton.

    10. I desperately need a personal assistant, preferably one who works for free. I believe I could provide some valuable training on how to be a personal assistant. Maybe I could offer an internship. It would look great on a resume, for someone who had no experience but wanted to begin a career in that field. I've read that personal assistants can make a lot of money! Hey, maybe that person in my crawl space would be interested! I think I'll leave a Honey-Do list out and see if anything gets done while I'm out today. It's my day off from the library, so I'm driving for Lyft.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2016

    first love, first kiss

    David Wang was my first love. We attended kindergarten at Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan, which was the K-12 school for the children of foreigners. David was Chinese. I was American. He and I conversed in Japanese because we both spoke English poorly. There was no common language in our kindergarten class, but every child spoke either Japanese or English, so every lesson was taught twice - first in Japanese, then a second time in English.

    We found each other on the playground. David was a short, roly-poly kid who did not fare well in the company of other children. They teased him, calling him Fatso, and making fun of how he ran. When I saw the movie Up, I smiled when the character Russell made his first appearance. "David Wang!" I thought. I decided that we would be friends. Thus began a life-long pattern of befriending oddballs and misfits. My stubborn nature has always led me to contrary behavior, typically without a care in the world for how others reacted to my choices. To me, choosing David was less about being kind to an outcast and more about defeating the ugliness of the other children. Befriending David was my way of flipping the bird at the other children. Even at age five, I was a rebel.

    David and I invented whole villages, inhabited by the most interesting people. They were usually something mild-mannered, like shopkeepers or street cleaners. But each had a secret persona, capable of extraordinary things. This was 1964-65, when comic books were all the rage. I'm sure we were influenced by them, though I have no specifc memory of looking at any.

    We decided at some point that we would marry when we grew up. I remember announcing this to my family at the dinner table. After a pause, my brother (ten years older) said, "You're not going to marry a Chinese boy." I became upset. "Why not?" I asked. Nobody answered. Finally, my mother said, "You can marry anyone you choose." I was satisfied, but still confused. After all, my brother knew everything, or at least I thought so at the time.

    My first kiss was not with David, however, at least not that I recall. No, that dubious honor would go to a male cousin who laid one on me while we were hiding in a garage during a game of hide-n-seek. I was nine. He was a little older. I remember being shocked. It was unexpected. Boy/girl thoughts weren't even in my head at that point. So there was no anticipation, no giddy schoolgirl crush and no pining for him afterward. My thoughts were more along the lines of, "Gross. Why the heck did he do THAT?" He probably doesn't even remember it.

    That's it. First love and first kiss. I would love to know what became of David Wang ...

    Monday, May 2, 2016

    my earliest memory

    My parents were Methodist missionaries in Japan. As the youngest of five children, I wasn't alive during their first five years in Japan. Well, technically, I suppose you could say I was alive while they were in Japan as I was conceived just before they came home on furlough in 1958. I was born at Duke University Hospital. When I was ten months old, the family returned to Japan. I'm told I learned to walk on board the ship that sailed from California to Japan, but I have no memory of that.

    The first thing I remember is being stung by a bee! I stepped on a bathroom scrub brush, and there was a bee on the scrub brush. Or at least I think that's what happened. I remember it hurt! And I remember running (screaming & crying) to my Daddy, who soothed and comforted me. And I remember him tenderly examining the bottom of my foot. But that's all I remember about that.

    I couldn't have been more than three or four when this happened, so I wonder about being out of eyesight of an adult. And where was everyone else? I just don't remember.

    Sunday, May 1, 2016

    five problems with social media

    What? Only five? Okay, here goes ...

    1. Anonymous - If words had real world consequences, social media wouldn't attract so much ugly. There is power in being able to spew nasty words at strangers with no regard for any potential feedback.

    2. We need pre-post monitors - I wish warnings could pop up for the less astute among us. Examples: "Evidence-based science has disproved this information. Only stupid people believe it. Do you still want to post it, thereby exposing yourself to endless ridicule?"  OR  "This person died three years ago. Do you still want to post this announcement as if it just happened, thereby exposing yourself to endless ridicule?"  OR  "You have already posted ten pictures of (fill-in-the-blank) today. Do you still want to post another, thereby exposing yourself to endless ridicule?" OR  "There are hundreds of cities in California without the letter A in them. Don't answer this obvious scam and expose yourself to endless ridicule."

    3. It demands nothing of us. What if you had to exercise to gain access? Or donate your time to a charity? Or offer positive comments to someone? Or any of a thousand other service-related tasks? Would we spend less of our time farting around on social media?

    4. When I see people sitting at a table, ignoring each other in favor of their devices, I wonder at the social development they're missing. I think about sitting on a front porch when I was a young girl, listening to people of multiple generations sharing stories and experiences. What becomes of people who rarely hear other people's stories?

    5. A lot of what we see on social media follows an obvious us/them paradigm. Now, more than ever, we need to be teaching, learning and practicing the skill of finding common ground. As time progresses, we are headed for an explosion of epic proportions if we can't see each other as valuable human beings, especially when we disagree.

    There are obviously so many more problems with social media. But there are good things as well. I adore watching my former students living their lives. It's an amazing gift. I wouldn't trade it for the world!