Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Getting Serious about Giving Thanks

Before she moved to Seattle, Mary wrote a regular column for the Port Townsend Leader. This was published there in November 2006.

For years I meant to sponsor a needy child, and just didn’t get around to signing up until two years ago. (How careless are the comfortable!) My child’s name is Jems, he lives in Indonesia, and I believe he’s Muslim. His photo is on my fridge, and my sponsoring organization sends us bright cards to sign and send to each other. So far, it’s not an intimate relationship, but I’m glad I’m doing it. I like reading the stories in World Vision magazine where successful grownups tell how their present lives got a helpful boost from sponsors many years ago.

One time the magazine had an article called "Seven Steps to Poverty." To communicate a sense of what it’s like to be poor in the developing world, WV President Rich Stearns asked us to imagine our own families losing, one by one, things we take for granted. First our clothes would go, except the ones on our backs. Then electricity, which means no appliances, or warm water, or lights. Then clean water: you have to walk a mile to the stagnant water hole. Then you lose your home. Food. Health care. The last to go is hope.

Recently, World Vision wrote about praying for the poor. I imagine you’ll be interested because Port Townsend is such a praying town: I run into people praying all over. Men I know bow their heads emphatically over their plates in front of everybody at El Sarape. Others hold hands and pray silently before dinner at home. Some of my friends are “manifesting” parking spaces and housesitters. When things go wrong they say, “I just wish I knew what the Universe has in mind.” What is all that but prayer?

What they suggested in the prayer article was that people might pray for the poor several times a day -- and that’s an Islamic idea I quite admire -- based on simple reminders.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you can say a prayer of thanks for your toothbrush or your teeth, and a prayer for those who have neither. When you lie down at night to sleep, you can say a prayer of thanks for the roof over your head and the comfortable bed, and a prayer for those who have neither. When you wash the dishes and flush the toilet and take a shower, you can say thanks for water and sewage disposal, and a prayer for those who have neither. And of course at mealtime, you can pray for the hungry.

When I was growing up, we never started any meal without an ad lib prayer. In the summer at the lake, we always do it, often clapping hands and singing, “Friends, friends, friends, thank you God for friends,” and then we add verses, substituting for “friends,” perhaps “family,” and “food,” and “frogs,” depending upon the blessings of the day.

But here in my own home, lately I wasn’t even saying thanks for the food. Partly, I was in a big hurry to eat, partly my prayers had gotten so rote. “Thank you for this food. Amen.” It got so it seemed ruder to say thanks that way than not to say it at all.

But guests always act rather pleased when I ask a blessing before dinner at my house, and Thanksgiving Day is almost here. Thus inspired by the magazine article, I decided to just sit down and write a prayer that would say what I want to say, and have it at the ready. I’d never written a prayer before for my own use, but I found it an important experience, and I like to pray it. I recommend the exercise. But in case you’re curious or you get in a rush and need a prayer at the last minute, here’s the one I wrote.

Dear God: As we gather here with friends to share this food, we remember and we lift up to you those who tonight are hungry or alone or mourning the loss of those they love. We are thankful for our many blessings. Make us generous in these our lives of such great abundance. Amen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Granny Panties

I hope I'm not overstepping here the lines of propriety, but quite honestly, I believe this post is a public service. Finding decent underwear is hard!

I still have 18 pair of Hanes white nylon panties with the stretchy lace waistband -- and I do mean "waistband," since they go all the way to the waist. I got onto these a decade ago, when my then-husband and I were RVing our way around America. In the RV community, Wal-Mart is your friend; they let you park overnight for free, and this is so good when it's suddenly dark and it starts to rain and you're nowhere near a campground.

In those conditions, you tend to wander aimlessly around the Wal-Mart, for entertainment. It was thus I discovered my good old Hanes panties, in packages of 6 for $7.99. I bought three packages, and they still look fresh. Or, at least, they have no holes.

My stepdaughter promptly dubbed them "granny panties." But did I care? Why would I? I was married. I don't believe my husband could have picked my underwear out of a lineup, possibly not even with me in it.

But then I became single, and, filled with optimism, decided I'd find myself some fetching undies.

Well, it's a nightmare.

I bought a selection once at Victoria's Secret, thinking I'd try them out, choose the best, and get more. But they turned out to be either so loose they ride up over the butt, or so tight they cut into the hips and thighs on both sides. And as my sister Deb put it so compellingly, "If they're digging in on your skinny butt, what hope is there for the rest of us?"

I asked a saleswoman in the lingerie department once about the Spanx-type undies, meant to smooth you. "The problem is," she said, "wherever they end, you'll pooch out. Unless you get the ones that end at the ankle."

But last summer in Michigan at Mom's, where, for some reason, I don't mind shopping, I discovered the Olga Without A Stitch panties, the high-cuts. They were on sale, so I bought a pack of three (normally -- ouch! --$9.50 a pair). I just ordered more online. They stay up, they stay down, they have that pretty lace waistband, and it hits at a great spot below the navel but above the dentable soft spots -- or at least the stretchy lace spreads out the indentation.

I may be wrong, but I believe women as young as 39 could feel good in these panties. I know I feel good in mine.

Though I have to admit, pulling on the long-johns over them on these chilly Seattle days kind of detracts....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Author Reading, with accompaniment

My sweetheart and I went to Judy Ford's author event at Third Place Books a week ago Friday night, in honor of her new book, Every Day Love. She had a good turnout, thirty or so, I'd say, and it was the sweetest reading I ever went to. Or, to use Judy's word, the "mushiest."

She's a psychotherapist, and her first husband died of a heart attack when they were both 29. So from her work with others and her own life experience, she has been persuaded that nothing is more important than loving every day. Loving everybody, even people you don't know and may never see again, like those of us who came to hear her.

She didn't seem that organized at the start -- had to find her notes, then her glasses, so she could read them. This casualness, which worried me at first, produced ultimately a sense that she was meeting each of us, individually, for a cup of coffee.

She gave us some background on the book, read a bit from it, then told us her friend Dean had come at her request to sing us a song she'd asked him to write. She had told him it needed to include the theme words of her book: Life is short. It goes by fast. Love matters every day.

So up comes young Dean with his guitar and proceeds to sing his sweet song. And then he sang another one, about a guy getting up the courage to speak to a woman who hurries by his stand every day.

Crazy. An author-reading with a solo guitarist....

Oh, it was lovely. Love-ful. Honestly, Judy Ford called up a lot of love in that room.

We bought the book. I read it on Sunday. Because, as I believe I have mentioned, I worry I may be falling behind my sweetheart in the love-giving side.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Miss the Bus

I didn't miss a bus, as in, it left without me. I mean I miss riding the bus.

Because when you're often going places in a pair, it really is a little nuts to pay $8 round trip to go three miles. True, if we had to pay big bucks to park, the bus could be a bargain, but my sweetheart has demonstrated to me the possibility of finding free parking in Seattle.

I almost don't want to know. I remember last spring, when Mom came to visit, I was sure we'd be in big trouble if we couldn't take the bus. I was sure there would be no place to park, at any price. But actually, it was easy. I paid, true, because I wanted to be close to things for the sake of me old mum, but it wasn't difficult.

Anyway, I bus less often now. But today, I had an appointment on Capitol Hill, so I jumped on my neighborhood #5, then transferred downtown to the #10. Heading home, I had a fine time at the bus stop. I had thought about getting a fancy cellphone so I could get one of those apps that tells you exactly where your bus is and when to expect it. But I realize now, all I have to do is ask one of the other folks standing there, punching cellphone buttons, and s/he will tell me.

So I asked the guy at my stop, who says his app is possibly not the best: the info is unreliable lately. But he was a friendly man named Thomas, and we discussed how we had come to Seattle, he from DC with his partner, me from PT without mine. Got so busy chatting, we ended up sharing a seat once the bus came.

When I got off the 10, I could see the 5 arriving up ahead and around the corner a couple blocks, and I was stopped by a red light. When it changed, I raced up and found the bus still there, because a man in a fancy wheelchair was getting loaded up. Whew! Then, next stop, a woman around my age got on and sat across from the man in the chair. She started a conversation with him, though clearly they'd never met, and he was difficult to understand. She asked if he was headed for the mall (he was), and talked about what a community it seemed to be out there, and asked him if his wheelchair was new, and said she especially liked the green on it, and asked if it went really fast, and said she has a friend who has one, and she can't run fast enough to keep up.

It was lovely to see this kind woman taking time for a good visit with a man who probably gets ignored a lot. She made a point of waving at him when she got off the bus in Wallingford.

True, the bus isn't always this pleasant, but often it is. This is what I love, and what I miss.

Ask, and it shall be given?

I woke up this morning humming in my mind the old church chorus, Jesus' words: Seek and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened; ask, and it shall be given....

Because I'm in a relationship now where asking is just fine. I ask, and it is given!

For example, MH suggested recently we take a waltz class together. (I know, dear readers -- this alone must sound like fiction: A man who suggests a dance class.... Especially a man who already dances!) We started last week, and it's fun. We're looking forward to improving our waltz, swooping around better, floating, zigzagging, "throwing" and "catching."

But I started to worry. What if we got so focused on technique that we lost the romance? By romance, I mean the focus on the partner, not the moves. I mean, we're in each other's arms here!

So, being the pain in the butt that I am, I said to MH, I still want to dance romantic. And he was fine with that. "Okay," is what he said, as I recall. I could tell he was keeping it in mind at the weekend dances and at our regular Monday night dance, where he asked me if the romance was coming through.

Wow. Have I gotten better at knowing how to ask, or is it all him?

The relationship scorekeeping of the past, where it too often felt like I was behind on the receiving side, is upside down. I can't think of enough nice things to do for him. I'm afraid I'm falling behind!

But it's a challenge I can live with.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Too Busy to Work

It's a good thing I don't have to go to work, because I sure am busy. Today, for example, I had to get my head massaged and my hair cut by Tyler at Ten Pachi. It's in the U District, so I like to walk over. I left at 8:45 am for a 9:30 appointment, and didn't get home until 2!

And that's because I planned to do a little writing at Herkimer's Coffee, next to Ten Pachi. I nursed a tall wet cappuccino there until noon, while I filled three and a half lined pages with writing, then did the New York Times crossword. By the time I left, I felt like I knew everybody in the place.

But gosh! it was noon already, and I had 45 minutes' walk to get home, not to mention errands on the way. Plus, with daylight savings time ending so recently, my stomach thought it was already 1 pm. So it seemed only prudent to stop at Jewel of India for the lunch buffet.

Busy busy....

Monday, November 8, 2010

"So CUTE!"

MH and I were having our usual wonderful time together Saturday morning. We had walked over to Third Place Books, where we checked out the stock at the consignment shop, and then I explored the yarn shop while he read the Rolling Stone article on Keith Richards (but why?) in the bookstore. We were heading home, hand in hand, talking and laughing. A teenage black kid was walking along the sidewalk toward us. We smiled, said "hello," he said, "How you doing today?" and as he passed us, we heard him say, "So CUTE!"

Maybe he wasn't, in fact, talking about us, but the truth is, we get this all the time. All I can figure is, people are just amazed and delighted to see people so old having such a good time together!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Judy Ford at Third Place Books Tonight

I'm going to hear Judy Ford tonight at Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, at 6:30. Her latest book is Every Day Love: The Delicate Art of Caring for Each Other. I'll bet it's the perfect followup to her book, Single: The Art of Being Satisfied, Fulfilled, and Independent.

I've never met Judy, but having read Single, I'm expecting somebody positive and enthusiastic and practical. When she's finished, I'll probably feel like dancing, which is a good thing, since there's a free country band playing at Third Place from 7:30 to 9:30!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In Case You Want to Catch Up...

So my bicycle and I left Seattle on September 22 via Amtrak; my bike's ticket was only $5. We boarded together, my bike hanging in the baggage car while I enjoyed a broad, comfy seat.

It was dark in Eugene when we got there. I had just six blocks to my hotel, but I had a duffel bag full of camping gear and a big daypack full of clothing and sunscreen to hump along with my bike. I ended up with the duffel on my back, the daypack on my front, rolling my bike alongside.

I met the other 14 riders for my Adventure Cycling two-week Eugene to San Francisco trip at Richardson Park the next day. We had two leaders, and a van to carry our stuff. We cooked in teams of two; Leader Ross came up with the brilliant plan of a competition, with a prize, for the best cooking duo.*

The trip was 680 mostly coastal miles. Our average ride day was 60 miles, the longest 79. Not only did it not rain, but also, we almost always had sunshine, a great boon for the ocean views.

When we crossed the Golden Gate in sunshine on October 7, my sweetheart was there to meet me.

And thus began Vacation Number Two. We took ten days to wend our way home to Seattle, via Point Reyes, St Helena, Benbow, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

We tasted wine -- loved Folie a Deux where we splurged on a $28 syrah to bring home -- and camped in St Helena and ate one fine meal after another there, in big heat! Really impossible to cycle after noon, 95
+ degrees.

We walked the Mendocino Headlands,
spent a night at Benbow Inn, where the food was not so hot,
surprisingly, but the rooms and environment sweet.

Then we walked around Trinidad, then on to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, where we hiked out to the coast, 11.5 mi round trip through
redwoods that made my heart stop, a surprise after all the redwood
action we'd seen on bike and by car, but hiking through them! then a
sitka spruce forest near the coast, a famous fern canyon that made
you want to ask, "which one?" because ferns were huge and everywhere,
and then a picnic on the beach watching the pelicans fish.

We left late that afternoon, diverting into Crescent City where we saw whales spouting off shore!

So many picnics! Eating in the front seat, high over the Napa Valley as dusk fell, with our containers of posh market salads. Cheese and bread on a grassy strip near the visitor center in downtown Santa Rosa. Down some dirt toad in the Anderson Valley with a view to a field with an old farm truck, eating avocado, tomato, and cheese sandwiches. Toasted cheese on the Coleman stove at a rest stop nearing Oregon and I-5.

I am one lucky woman....

*And my buddy and I were the winners! I think it was his from-scratch pasta puttanesca that did it, but there were also raves for the pies I made, the ones where you use purchased graham cracker crusts and whisk together cream cheese and condensed milk and lemon juice for a sort of cheesecake-y pie, over which we sliced fresh peaches. The real winners were all of us eaters, since everybody produced wonderful dinners.

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies