26 July 2010

Scenes from a wedding




I think our smiles say it all.  The happiest moment in my life.  True love and true happiness.
More pics on the companion photo blog.  Because I love pictures.
More scenes from a wedding

19 July 2010

The meaning of life, from an unexpected source

I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Oprah Winfrey's program last Monday. Her guest was an author, Geneen Roth, who has written a book about women’s relationships with food and their relationships with God. The premise of the book is that if you get things right with yourself and with God, then you can probably structure a healthier relationship with food; you will have less of a tendency to fill up the emptiness with food.

Oprah had read the book, clearly believes in the content, and along with Ms. Roth, was enthusiastically offering her commentary and taking questions from the audience.


Several members of the studio audience asked questions about family mealtimes, dieting, busy schedules, etc. One particular question was a bit unstructured. The viewer seemed discouraged that she was never quite able to get ahead professionally. The question may have also had an underlying inquiry about food, but I don’t recall that now.


I was busy putting dishes in the dishwasher and as Oprah started to answer this question, I stopped to listen. Then I walked closer to the television. It was a watershed moment: Oprah was giving this viewer the essential answer to life. Right there. In person. And everyone, including me, got the added benefit of receiving this important piece of information too.


It may sound like I am dismissing Oprah’s communication as a bit of trivia, but I am not. Quite the contrary. The secret that Oprah shared is a fundamentally important lesson and while a lot of people know it, it is still elusive. This knowledge becomes easy to misplace in the multi-tasking, multi-threaded, deadline oriented lives that we lead.


Oprah told her viewer, point blank, that the starting point for her (and all of us) was to humbly give thanks to God for the many many blessings in her life. Live in that place of gratitude. And be thankful for the things that are yet to come, including the experiences that will teach us lessons. You are not to cast about comparing your life with what you perceive as bounty in others’ lives. You do not know the burdens they carry because you do not walk in their shoes. Look at your own life, connect with God in your heart and walk forward in joy.


Now, I’m not trying to put words in Oprah’s mouth. There are no quotation marks; she didn’t say this exactly, but it is what I heard. This singular all-important message. The central meaning of life. The key to human happiness.


I doubt that this viewer, who showed up at the Harpo studio earlier that day, had any inkling of the gift that was she was about to receive. A gift that has the ability to change her perception of everything. I didn’t expect to receive it either, randomly tuning in to see Oprah’s program for about the third time in my life. But it is a miracle that I did and I am ever so grateful.


Thank you Oprah.

16 July 2010

Weekday ritual

About once per day at approximately 7am, five days per week, I utter a loud exclamation that contains an effing expletive. Yeah, that one.


No one else hears it since I’m in the car.


But I think I’ve been doing it for a while. I caught myself this morning and wondered why the foul language?


Truth is, maybe I’m not the best driver in the world. The freeway entrance ramp for my route brings me into a heavily traveled junction point where two exit-only lanes are departing for two separate destinations nowhere near the vicinity of my office. So I have about a half mile, in busy traffic, to enter the freeway and move two lanes to the left, dodging cars with more, shall we say, aggressive drivers.


The whole episode transpires in less than 30 seconds, but it scrapes my nerves raw in that short amount of time. And without fail, I unload the tension with some real nice profanity.

15 July 2010

Curse of the Morton's toe

Not so long ago, I was busy changing the bed sheets and wasn’t paying attention where I placed my feet as I shuffled around the bed. Consequently, in a moment of distraction, I slammed my toes into one of the bed frame legs. Ouchee! The index-toe on my left foot, in particular.

I have one of those toe configurations where the index toe is longer than the big-thumb toe. According to that ultra-reliable source of information, Wikipedia, this skeletal configuration of the foot is known as Morton’s toe.

This is why my second toe suffered the biggest impact from that little mishap. And it was not at all a pleasant experience, I might add.

To aggravate the situation, when I stumbled out of bed at an early-early hour the next morning to let the dogs out into the back yard, I snagged the very same toe in a loose loop of the rug en-route to the back door.

Imagine that sequence of events, if you please. A somewhat rude way to wake up on a Saturday morning.

The toe swelled slightly and the skin coloring darkened, but not much. I wasn’t worried and had no trouble standing, walking, wearing shoes or doing cartwheels (kidding). In fact, I forgot about it for a few weeks.

Then another clumsiness episode occurred.

Walking across the patio, I stubbed that same particular Morton toe over the spa-control button. It’s a medium sized button about 15” from the edge of the pool that controls the spa jets, about the size of a cupcake. And gosh-darn that got me to pay attention where I was walking. Phooey! Hurt so badly it took my breath away.

Might as well make a joke about it, right? The curse of this Morton’s toe got Cristy to thinking that perhaps the solution would just be to lop it down to size. We’ve got a handy tool in the garage that could do the trick.

I’ve taken that suggestion under advisement for the time being.

14 July 2010

Statistically average

I took one of those quick online quizzes this morning that offered amazing insight into the mysteries of my psyche, and conveniently offered to sell me some cool home organizing-storage-d├ęcor items at the same time.

Isn’t it really thoughtful, the way the internet is designed to give you pseudo-useless information while simultaneously peddling goods? Yeah, I think so too.

Hmmm. Anyway.

The quiz was supposed to tell me if I’m more of a right-brain thinker or a left-brain thinker. Turns out, I’m in the middle. Not hyper-distracted big-picture clutter queen or detail-driven fastidiously organized label geek.

Isn’t that the way it always seems to be? In this big melting pot of America, most of us live somewhere near the center of the bell curve. I guess if we didn’t, we’d find ourselves on reality TV. One of those hoarder shows or the home-make-over programs that get people to throw out their smelly old stuff and humbly, tearfully, start over with a fresh coat of paint, a custom-built shelving unit and a basket of fresh flowers.

That’s living in the fringe, but apparently that is precisely the definition of entertainment for many of us in the middle of the bell curve. However macabre that might be.

How many tuned in to the Deadliest Catch broadcast yesterday evening? I’m guessing a lot, but having absolutely no knowledge of television viewership statistics, couldn’t even venture an estimate. This segment of society in no way resembles the middle of the bell curve. These fishermen absolutely live in the outer extremities. Everything about their lifestyle and avocation is foreign to most of us. But it is a curiosity. Maybe for that reason precisely, because it is foreign.

Are we a society of voyeurs? Glimpsing into the lives of those that live beyond two standard deviations from the mean? Or does the advent of reality television serve to bridge the gap by demonstrating the common bonds of humanity? Underscoring the things we have in common—pride, humility, courage, loss, love, faith, family.

Hmmm. Don’t know.

13 July 2010

Green jeans

The day after my great-grandfather died, my great-grandmother moved into her daughter’s home. That was long before I was born, but I spent many a summer day in that house as a young girl. It was a small 2 bedroom, 1 bath house with a clothes line in the back yard and a washing machine in the basement. My mother was a teen-aged girl, in high school. And just like that, she had a new room mate.

I remember the bedroom they had shared with its chenille coverlets on twin beds, pine floor, ruffled curtains and parchment window shades that had crocheted pulls to lower the shades when the sun became too intense. No air conditioning in those days. The thing I most remember was the containers of African violets my great-grandmother perched on the window sills, each resting in a saucer. Their soft, fuzzy leaves and delicate flowers in shades of purple and lavender.

All these years later, I find that I’m a window sill gardener too. Not of the African violet variety, but any plant that will live in a glass of water and hopefully develop roots. I find a generous amount of pleasure and satisfaction in taking a clipping from the landscape, trimming the lower foliage and lovingly placing it in a jar of water in the bright kitchen window near the back door. I check often for signs that roots may be developing and my pleasure is redoubled when that evidence becomes visible. Then I continue tending to the cutting until the roots appear to be hearty enough to sustain the plant in a new home of soil.

My mom used to tell me stories about her grandmother’s gardens, tended by her grandfather year-round. My great-grandmother loved the blossoms, kept cuttings in the house, and donated blooming seasonal arrangements to her church every week.

It must have been hard, heart-breaking, for my great-grandmother to turn her back on an independent life and leave everything behind. Bringing only a window sill garden of African violets. The social customs of the time that predicated that decision are now lost on my generation and those that have come after me.

But the simplistic beauty and joyful task of tending to plants on a small scale, on a window ledge, is a part of my daily life, a trait happily handed down through the generations in my family.

09 July 2010

Passages

There was once a girl, the second of three children, who found herself growing up in a middle-class American family. Mom and Dad both worked to provide the opportunities they wanted to give their children and the parents did their best to nurture their three kids.

The second daughter was plagued with a variety of challenges that affected her judgment and behavior. By the time she was an adolescent girl, telling lies and acting out in a harsh, belligerent manner toward her parents started becoming more and more common. Her self esteem suffered due to chronic body weight issues that undoubtedly aggravated her behavioral difficulties. Her parents, not knowing how to respond in a caring, supportive way that demonstrated to their daughter the consequences for actions deviating from acceptable social norms, struggled not only with her, but with each other. It was a time of family crisis.

After high school, the daughter tried leaving home to attend school, but that path didn't suit her and she returned. Old behaviors resurrected. She tried finding employment, but a career choice seemed elusive and jobs were random. Lying was preferable to truth telling. Blaming was preferable to taking responsibility. Hostility was preferable to peaceful coexistence. Still, her parents tried to support their daughter in finding a pursuit where she might derive happiness.

After she turned 21 and renewed her attempt to make her way independently, her personal difficulties increased. Her debt escalated and attempts to hide the debt from plain view made the situation far worse. Her actions were criminal in nature. If she found herself unable to pay a bill, she invented an excuse, told another lie, slandered another’s reputation in the process.

Finally at the breaking point, her parents excused themselves from her life. Without wavering, they both asked her to leave their home permanently, attend to the problems looming in her life, and not return until she was capable of making amends. They were worried, almost sick. Months passed of no communication. The daughter felt betrayed and angry that her parents had turned their backs on her.

Then one day she drove over to her parent’s house and found them at home along with both her siblings. Tearfully, she took a step, and admitting she was ashamed of her cycle of bad behavior, asked for forgiveness. She wanted a chance to repair what she had damaged by demonstrating that she was trying to change the person that she was.

But there was more. She was also expecting a baby. And it was complicated. There was no upside to be found in the situation, save for the fact that she felt blessed and joyful at the prospect of being a mother.

She is going to make her own choices, guided by advice from her obstetrician, counselor, friends and family. Everyone has a particular point of view. But in the end, the only view that matters is hers.

I do not know what will happen. I hope for the best. I pray that she may find steadfast strength and the comprehension to acknowledge her life in the present tense and make choices based on where she stands in that life, humbly taking responsibility for herself and her yet unborn baby.

08 July 2010

National SCUD Day

In honor of this highly underrated national holiday (Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama), let's take a moment to kick back and enjoy ourselves a little joke, shall we?

My choice. I selected something from the blonde category on
http://joke-of-the-day.com/.


A blonde, wanting to earn some extra money, decided to hire herself out as a "handy-woman" and started canvassing a nearby well-to-do neighborhood.

She went to the front door of the first house, and asked the owner if he had any odd jobs for her to do. "Well, I guess I could use somebody to paint my porch," he said. How much will you charge me?" The blonde quickly responded, "How about $50?"

The man agreed and told her that the paint and everything she would need was in the garage.

The man's wife, hearing the conversation, said to her husband, "Does she realize that our porch goes all the way around the house?" He responded, "That's a bit cynical, isn't it? The wife replied, "You're right. I guess I'm starting to believe all those dumb blonde jokes we've been getting by e-mail lately."

A short time later, the blonde came to the door to collect her money. "You're finished already?" the husband asked. "Yes," the blonde replied, "and I had paint left over, so I gave it two coats." Impressed, the man reached into his pocket for the $50.00 and handed it to her.

"And by the way," the blonde added, "it's not a Porsche, it's a Lexus."

Now that is funny, mi amigos y amigas!

06 July 2010

Riddle me this

One of my colleagues, an accountant in our department, is also a well-known practical jokester along with being a truly wonderful human being with a heart full of kindness.

But, back to the practical joking side. If he happens to pop his head into the doorway of your office, there’s a high likelihood that some sort of amusement is about to follow.

Not so long ago, he made the rounds through the office asking a riddle. I didn’t get the answer right, but much to his astonishment, no one did.

To set the stage, I work in a professional industry where the workforce is predominantly female at all levels of the organization. Our VP-Operations is female and has been in this industry for the entire duration of her career.

Here’s the riddle.

*****
A man and his young son were in a serious automobile accident. By the time the ambulance arrived, it was too late for the paramedics to save the man, but the child was still alive. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital and in the emergency room, the medical team quickly determined that surgery was necessary to save his life. They wheeled the child into the operating room and called a doctor in to perform the emergency operation. The doctor raced downstairs, prepped and stepped into the operating room, but after taking one look at the patient, said to the medical team: “I cannot operate on this patient.”

One of the nurses asked, “But doctor, why not?”

The doctor answered, “Because this patient is my son.”

Who is the doctor?
*****

As I mentioned, my guess was incorrect. I guessed that the doctor was the child’s grandfather. Didn’t sound right to me at the time, but I was grasping.

My coworker shook his head and said, the doctor is the child’s mother.

So obvious.

That’s what he said too.

But he had asked a half dozen college educated women to answer the riddle and not one got the answer right. Every single person assumed that the doctor’s gender was male.

We are a forward thinking group that supports the advancement of women. So why did this very basic assumption eclipse our consideration?

I don’t have the answer to that riddle.

Vegetarians unite

A short while ago, I stepped into the employee kitchen on our floor to fill my drinking cup with filtered water and I overheard a snippet of discussion among three colleagues. They were talking about diet, a common conversational thread with people hanging out in the kitchen around the lunch hour. But this particular conversation resonated with me because one of my colleagues has apparently switched to a vegetarian diet recently. She indicated, and I quote, “I didn’t realize that I had so many options being vegetarian.”

She’s right.

I’ve been a vegetarian since 1988. A long freaking time. Plenty of people have asked me just what I eat, because they honestly don’t know, other than salad, steamed broccoli or stewed tofu. When I list some common foods that are, or can be prepared in a vegetarian style, then they start to realize it’s not a huge hardship. Some even indicate, given this new information, that they could probably adopt a vegetarian diet, at least a few days per week.

And they’re probably right.

It’s not my mission in life to convert anyone. What you eat is an individual decision. I’ve made mine. However, in our home, I only prepare vegetarian food and if guests join us for a meal, I serve them vegetarian fare as well. I’ve not heard any complaints.

For our wedding, Cristy and I handled the catering. We prepared a whole lot of food, mostly because we don’t have any experience catering and WAY over-estimated food volumes. However, everyone got a plate of something and we heard plenty of remarks about the great tasting food.

This was the menu for our savory table:

Roasted veggie wraps – Portobello mushroom, red & green bell pepper, onion and goat cheese
Aromatic rice salad with green peas
Sun-dried tomato pesto with fresh bread
Fresh corn, edamame and mango salad
Pine-nut veggie squares
Farfalle pasta tossed with basil pesto

We took care to set a very attractive table and garnish the serving bowls with a pretty flourish, but the flavor of the food had its own appeal.

Summers of my memory

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, my brother and I seldom wore shoes. Hot pavement and thorny stickers were not a deterrent for our bare summertime feet. We rode our bikes everywhere and walked down the block to the community swimming pool every day. I played hopscotch on the driveway, taking great care to draw pretty course squares with colored chalk.

In the evenings, I would sit in the front yard and listen to the cicadas until past dark. Sometimes, on firefly nights, a thrilling game of hide-and-seek might occur.

Mommy made popsicles in metal ice cube trays and watermelon was plentiful along with beans, cucumbers and tomatoes from our garden behind the garage.

On the 4th of July, the annual parade consisted of a legion of kids riding spider bikes with red, white and blue streamers flying from the handlebars, followed by the fire engine from the community’s VFD and finally, a convertible coupe where the town mayor sat in the place of honor, waving to neighbors that lined the streets as the procession passed. The car was invariably adorned with a poster-sized sign on each door inscribed proudly with the phrase “Our Mayor” in boldly colored crayon.

Then, just before 9 o’clock, residents would walk a mile or so down the road to the community park and find a place to sit in the grass until the fireworks started. The volunteers manning the pyrotechnics lit the candles one by one, with a span of 10-15 seconds between each, giving the audience plenty of time to watch in amazement as the sparkles turn to ember and then to smoke.

And it was amazing. Pure magic for a young girl. I felt like skipping all the way home and probably did, swinging my mom’s hand the whole way.

04 July 2010

Sleep in heavenly peace

He came into my life just like the proverbial baby-left-on-the-doorstep.

It was a beautiful, cool, early spring morning in 1995 and as I pulled out of the driveway, I saw his little face peeking out from under the shrubbery in the alley. He was an adorable little puppy. Fluffy brown.

When I got to my destination I couldn’t stop thinking about him and after a few hours when I had a bit of a break, I drove home. He was still there. Hadn’t moved but someone had put down a bowl of food for him. He hadn’t eaten and by now the ants had gotten into it.

I brought out a bowl of water and a little fresh food. He was frightened, backed further under the shrubs and barked at me defensively. So I sat there and talked to him softly. After a few minutes he inched forward and took a drink of water. I had to leave again, but I thought he would probably be there when I returned.

He was, and I picked him up and took him inside. He was about the size of a cat and that first day I carried him around with me, singing to him.

Later, I named him Jackson, but always called him Jackie.

He grew fast, shedding his puppy fluff. His adult fur was brown with a black saddle. He had a sweet face and when he was happiest, his tail would curl up over his back.

In the summer in 1996, a homeless adult golden retriever came to live with us. Hemingway and Jackie were wonderful companions for many years. Watching them play together was one of my favorite things.

Jackie changed when Hemingway died on Winter Solstice, 2004. His grief lasted for months and he was inconsolable. The progression of his grief resembled the classic stages of human emotion processing through grief. But one day, in the spring of 2005, he seemed better. Not the same old Jackie, but better. It was as if he was now retired from his former position of Alpha male in the household that now included two younger dogs. He was Alpha Emeritus.

In the years that passed after 2005, Jackie rested more, but still enjoyed barking out an occasional warning to a pedestrian passing by with a dog on a leash. His mobility declined and it was apparent that he suffered from arthritis. He began a regimen of medication in 2007.

When Cristy and I moved into our present home last fall, the change seemed good for Jackie. He loved the enormous back yard. It was like a park and I watched him stroll beneath the myrtles and roll in the grass just like he was a pup again. I was so thankful that he was still able to experience this kind of enjoyment that had made him happy as a young dog.

But his decline in health continued and three months ago the arthritic inflammation around his spine left him without sensation in his hind legs. Thankfully, our veterinarian consulted with me over the telephone because she understood how traumatic it would be to bring Jackie into that office. She prescribed a steroid to reduce the inflammation and told me plainly that it was the medicine of last resort for him.

This past Monday was the last day of Jackie’s life. He was dying and spent most of the day beneath the kitchen table resting on the cool tile floor. I spent most of the day next to him. I carried him outdoors to the back yard a couple of times and he took a few sips of water. He also ate some chocolate cake.

The veterinarian made a house call and around 6:30, I said goodbye to my puppy on the doorstep. I believe, with all my heart that Hemingway was there to meet him at the rainbow bridge.

And one day, when I die, I believe that both Jackie and Hemingway will meet me there too.

01 July 2010

Practical application of transitive equality

I was going to write this post for Tuesday (RTT), but it's way late. 3 days late. But whatever. Last time I checked, there were no rules on the internet.

Early last month Cristy had a birthday and I just am about the world's worst at finding the definitive gift. In most cases, I seem to find a little something that I absolutely adore and then think, "wouldn't so-and-so just LOVE this?" So then I purchase it and the gift recipient is left wondering what motivated me to buy this big chunky bracelet that I'm eagerly hoping to borrow when I should have known the recipient is unlikely to ever wear it.

I don't know why this happens. Projection. Lack of coffee. Who knows.

But maybe, just possibly, on this past birthday, I inched slightly closer to that divine place where I selected a gift meaningful to the recipient.

I ordered these two custom stepping stones from K-Dub Designs. They are adorable and made to order to resemble your own dog or cat. The artist behind K-Dub (Karen) is sweet and creative and so easy to work with.

Cristy LOVES mosaics. And she LOVES her two cute dogs. So, by applying the transitive property of equality in mathematical logic, it stands to reason that Cristy would LOVE the mosaic portraits of her two pups.

I think she might. I hope so, anyway.

Here they are.



A full collection will soon follow. After all, we have a house full of 4-legged companions along with the memories of those recently departed. More on that later.