Monday, May 28, 2012

A Book for Audrey

Grammy Always Says... by Mary E. Davies | Make Your Own Book

My granddaughter graduated from high school last Saturday. (Technically, my stepgranddaughter, in case you're wondering how someone my age could have a granddaughter that old.)

I have a thousand wonderful memories of times with my lovely girl. We started drinking tea when she was very little, and cooking and baking, and reading. As I think of all our good times, I can't help thinking, too, of everything that could have gone wrong, and didn't. She's not pregnant, or addicted to drugs, or failing academically. She's not mean or sloppy or irresponsible or entitled.

She got a wonderful scholarship to Dominican University in San Rafael, CA, she's headed to Europe for two weeks with other students from her class, and I think she's going to do just great. I'm proud. I like to think a little of Grammy got in there.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Re Olympia and Climate Change

So the fingerprint trip wasn't bad. I listened to my Michelle Shocked station on Pandora all the way, and got delicious salads for lunch at the Food Co-op  between the Highway Patrol and my return entrance to the freeway. The patrol staff were nice, and believe me, with the number of retries required to print my old fingers, I got to know them. The problem turns out to be that digital readers can't read frail prints like mine, and the techs in Olympia, apparently unlike those in Seattle, have had the necessary six months of training to get better prints -- though I did wonder what happens when the Seattle cops get a suspect and want to check his/her prints against some national database for serial killers. Because some of those serial killers are pretty old, according to the novels I read.

Anyway, I've decided the process does not make sense, but I have bigger things to worry about, such as climate change. I've been doing the math, and by 2030, a benchmark in some circles for greenhouse gas emission reduction, I'll be only 82, with possibly ten or more years to go, in the new world of random climate catastrophes, scarcity, and wars of desperation.

I hope I'm wrong, but it doesn't seem like the idea of saving the planet for our children is really getting traction. And, I don't know, are the kids worried? My family doesn't seem to be. We've got a high school graduating senior with her own car already, and a college grad about to move to LA and get hers. Bright kids, too. So will it help if we start focusing on our own futures?

I always remember what the naturalist/hiker I met a few years ago in Olympic National Park said when I asked him about his own climate change concerns: "I'll miss glaciers," he said.

So will I. But I'm thinking that's rather too poetic. Because the truth is, I'll miss livable weather and food and water and peace even more. I was hoping I wouldn't live that long.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reframing the drive to Olympia

Grrr! I have to drive all the way to Olympia to get fingerprinted for the third time for Seattle Public Schools! The problem is, my old fingers have lost their prints, just one more of the many things nobody warned me would happen with age. They have printed me at the schools headquarters on a fancy digital machine, and they have printed me at the police department. I have to pay them each time (though my wonderful employers reimburse me). The last recourse is to drive to Olympia -- an hour and a quarter -- and have it done again. And it's not that they have superior technology in Olympia. I guess they just think anybody with something to hide wouldn't go that far to get prints made.

I hate driving. I checked bus schedules: 3+ hours each way. I checked the train: I'd have to leave at 9:45, couldn't get home until nearly 6. I have to drive.

So, I'm reframing! I have a lovely cup of tea. I have my tape thingy that should enable me to plug my iPhone into my Corolla cassette player and listen to Pandora. I'm thinking the clouds out my window may be parting.

Can I turn this into an adventure, instead of a chore? I'll let you know.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel

That's the name of the film. But in the film, the sign on the hotel goes on to say, "for the elderly and beautiful."

And the actors are elderly and beautiful. I don't generally feel that I live in a culture that overlooks me as an old person, but after seeing this movie, I feel honored to be old.

I saw the movie last Thursday, and I keep thinking about it. I think of the scene where the seven main characters, still strangers to each other, sit in a long row at the airport, awaiting their flight to India. They're just sitting, full of hope and fear, in their lovely old faces and bodies.

Could you even find seven famous American actors who would take such roles? Diane Keaton would have made it a different movie altogether.

Yes, you could call the film commercial. Yes, they gave away too many of the great lines in the preview. Yes, we didn't need to hear that inspirational quote three times.

But nobody in this movie is portrayed as a fool. Sure, they have bad moments. They're human. But everybody's dignity is retained. There is wisdom.

I'm ready to see it again already. I know it makes me a cliche, but I'm starting to look at India travel books. And I'm making a mental list of other old-people novels that ought to be filmed. Olive Kitteredge is at the top.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cast off, but downcast...

The good news: Cast replaced with removable brace. Two-handed showering for me!

The bad news: They won't let me ride on the street, only in my dining room, for two more weeks, and then they may let me out. And my bike trip starts on June 7.

I have done poorly at making myself ride my trainer inside. I've ridden only four or five times, never longer than 23 minutes. I really don't like it. But maybe this is my challenge, to do what I hate in service of an important goal.

On the other hand, I bike because it's fun, so how does doing something so not fun fit in?

Maybe if I promise me a glass of champagne each day I train for more than 40 minutes?

Cast off?

I'll be getting on the bus soon to Group Health in Capitol Hill. Eddy will saw my cast off, they'll x-ray my fracture, and the orthopedic PA will tell me whether I can proceed with a removable brace or need a new cast.

I am well aware how lucky I am that my bike accident wasn't worse. If I get bad news today, I will handle it.

But I am praying for a brace. I am praying I can ride my bike. I am praying that the handlebar vibration won't be injurious or painful.

I think I'll pop a bottle of champagne in the fridge, just in case. You know, in case it goes either way.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Attention Meditation

I've come to believe meditation is really just any form of taking charge of the mind, instead of letting the mind take charge of you. I've been noticing the occasions when my mind is on the run.

Like at church. When I was a kid, I'd sit in church and make wardrobe plans. What did I lack to achieve my goal of a different ensemble for every school day? Could I sew it? How long until my allowance would rise to the level of a pair of red leather flats, at $4?

I don't think about wardrobe so much anymore; today I was thinking about my friend next to me in the pew, my age, who is getting married in July. Thinking about what that's like for him. Thinking of things I wanted to ask him. To be honest, I had some advice I wanted to offer too.

So now I'm trying to treat the sermon as meditation, and the Lord's Prayer, too, and the creed we sing.

And what about reading? You know how sometimes you get to the bottom of a page and can't remember how?

All those opportunities to gently return my focus back to the words.

And gratefully I remind myself that, with meditation, it's not that you actually achieve the focus; it's that you keep trying.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sixty and Single in Seattle: A Week in the Life

So, on Sunday, May 6, I was lector at my church, St Paul's Queen Anne, and I love reading out the Bible this way, and then I met a new woman there, and we went for coffee at my favorite nearby cafe, Uptown Espresso, by the SIFF theater. That evening, my pal Vito and I went to jazz vespers at First Baptist on Capitol Hill, where we heard Jacqueline Tabor, jazz standards, loved it. Then we had Ethiopian food on 12th Av.

I tutor Monday through Thursday. After school Monday, I met a friend from Port Townsend, who has all this time been volunteering at my school, and I never knew it! (Her grandson goes there.) We went to a nearby cafe where I had my first fried banana with coconut cream and chopped peanuts -- just trying to experience the Little Saigon culture, you see.

And that night, I didn't dance! What's that about, I wonder, because usually I never miss those Monday night dances at Waltz Etc.

Tuesday I had a meeting at my house with other environmental activists who are working together against Tar Sands oil, then went dancing zydeco at Highway 99 blues club.

Wednesday I went to hear Steve Coll at Seattle Public Library, talking about his new book, Private Empire: How ExxonMobil Bent Washington to its Will. He's terrific: clear and smart and articulate. But I learned things it's hard to know. Like Exxon has annual earnings as big as Norway's GDP, but since it's global, it wouldn't be considered too big under US antitrust laws. And ExxonMobil, with its enormous US subsidies, has said they don't consider themselves an American company, obligated to act in the best interests of America.

The good news is, public opinion is so negative to them that their big investment in fracking to get US natural gas is a gamble they could lose, because of interests arraying against them. Sounds good for our campaign to get local governments and businesses to say no to Tar Sands oil expansion.

Thursday my pal Vito and I went to the Crest -- $3 movies -- and saw A Separation, which won the Academy Award for best foreign film and should have got it for best film, period. It's the best I've seen in a long time.

Friday is weekend to me. I made waffles for breakfast, baked bread, made egg salad with just-laid eggs from a teacher friend (from her chickens, that is), had a neighbor in for impromptu warm-bread sandwiches at lunch.

I rode my bike trainer for 23 minutes, which may sound paltry, but I feel good about it. If I were ambitious, I'd get into making a spin tape of zydeco music, which is the best.

I walked to Fred Meyers, with my backpack. This is dangerous, because home is seriously uphill. The one thing I absolutely needed was dish soap, which I didn't buy, because I couldn't resist a small watermelon. Plus, they're having a seafood fest. I bought sea scallops and one rock lobster tail -- at $7 for one meal, a splurge. I went to quite a bit of trouble to fix seafood Bordelaise, but it didn't thrill me. I actually preferred the curried carrot puree I had leftover from the night before, with some of the yogurt -- cheaper by the quart -- I had schlepped up the hill.

No dancing, again! but only because there wasn't any. Speed read most of a novel I thought I would like, Barbarian Nurseries. Great plot idea, but nobody came alive for me. I got three-fourths through it, and went to sleep. I'm done.

Saturday I vacuumed! I walked around Green Lake at 1 with my new friend from last Sunday, reluctantly said no to a barbecue at Richmond Beach with another friend, because I was going dancing in Bothell.

So, have I found the rich life I hoped for when I moved to Seattle? I guess I have.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I vacuumed.

Just wanted to get that news out there, since "vacuum" has been on my to-do list for, oh, at least two weeks. And of course it didn't get on the list until it was time to do it, so.... You get the picture.

I don't know why vacuuming has become such an ordeal. I used to do it every single week, in homes at least as large as this one.

And then there was a time when vacuuming contributed to my social life, because having people over made me vacuum first. Now I just apologize in advance when I invite them.

The way I got myself into it today was, I started listening to Pandora, and you can't just sit in a chair and listen, so I talked myself into taking out the garbage, compost, and recycling, then tidying the kitchen, then straightening the books on the coffee table, and so on. I thought, Gee, I'd vacuum, but how could I hear my music then?

I'm not that good with earbuds. For one thing, I guess my ears are designed wrong. I don't seem to have the built-in whatevers. Then, when I plug the buds into my iPhone, the music stops. Is it supposed to? Anyway, I fiddled around, got the buds in, turned on the pretty quiet vacuum -- it's a Miele -- couldn't hear music, realized the music was still coming out of the phone, not the buds, fixed that, reached grandly with the vacuum wand, ripped the buds from my ears, said, S___!, which I try not to say, took a breath, started over, carried on.

Vacuuming done.

Now I'm thinking about what Gretchen Rubin says in The Happiness Project about the kind of happiness money can buy. Here's the sad truth: this new-ish Miele, which I bought the day after I moved in here, which would make it May, 2010, is not as good as the old one. I only went to the Miele store because my old wand literally fell apart, after years of cleaning my B&B and my subsequent homes. I thought, It does make that funny noise sometimes; maybe it's time to start fresh instead of just replacing the wand.

Bad decision. The new Miele is lighter, which is good, but the cord is shorter, which is bad, and you can't tell when the bag is full, which is bad. I'm thinking I need to go back to the store and get a wand for the old Miele, which, of course, I kept.

But first I need to be sure I understand the nature of my vacuuming problem, because I don't want to solve what's not the problem. Maybe it's not the vacuum.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My students...

Only two days left of tutoring kindergartners in vocabulary! It's one of the best things I've ever done, and I'm so glad I get to do it again next fall. These are just a few of my brilliant and delightful students.

Here's something interesting I've learned. When my kids "do their best," as we say, they earn stickers. Only one per day, and these stickers are smaller than a half-inch square, but they want them badly. Somehow, it's a sufficient incentive.

And this: We've been reviewing lately some of the 80 words we've studied together. I devised a game to make the review more fun. If you know the word, stand up. If you know the next word, sit down. If you know the next word, stand up. That's it.

One time, I had just one student, and every time he got a word right, he got to do a jumping jack.

Kind of opens your eyes to what really matters, doesn't it?

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies