You can’t go back, but you can pretend

Today I’ve been listening to an album I heard many, many times in my youth – on repeat, because it’s really that good. It’s Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, and while most would likely recognize at least two of the contained tracks – “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love” – the rest of it is pretty low-key stuff I don’t think ever cracked the charts (at least as singles, anyway.)

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Grace Slick and Company. Great cover, great album.

I’ve probably heard both of those songs hundreds of times throughout my life; in fact, the other day I heard “White Rabbit” on the radio. But it’s been a really long time since I’ve listened to the whole album, and I was amazed at how even the less familiar tracks returned me to the childhood time in which I remember hearing it the most. To be honest, I had probably been listening to this record since I was an infant, because it was released before I was born, but my conscious recollection of it doesn’t come into the picture until I was about five years old.

At that time, my family and I lived in an old farm house on about 900 acres of scrub brush, gentle grassy hills and trees in Southern Oregon. The rent was 50 bucks a month and we were surrounded on all sides by vast patches of country earth.  This place was tucked out in the proverbial boon-docks, in the middle-of-freaking-nowhere, in “God’s Country” – so to speak. In other words, just going grocery shopping was easily a half-day affair. Most of our neighbors were ranchers. My morning walk to the bus stop and then again in the afternoon was nearly a mile of dusty, rutted driveway cutting through a giant swath of cattle-grazing territory. I got stung by a yellowjacket for the first time on that driveway (and the second time, as well), and experienced my first crash-and-burn on my first real bike, banana seat and all, handlebars wobbling crazily as I went screaming down a hill one afternoon, just to see how fast I could go. That was an experiment I learned quickly to never repeat.

But I loved that place. The house was a decent size, with a huge, open kitchen and very high ceilings. I had my own cozy bedroom with a loft bed built from scratch by my dad, and there was a diamond-shaped window in the living room, which I thought was very cool and was always told was a rare addition in houses. (It’s interesting to note that my parents’ personal “coolness” factor concerning this house is a tad different from mine. My dad swears it was insulated with material roughly the consistency of tissue paper, and the pipes would constantly freeze in the winter. No matter. I thought the place was a palace.)

There was a tire swing hanging off a beautiful giant oak tree in the front yard, and a fort nestled snugly amongst the strong arms of another giant oak just a few hundred feet from the west side of the house. We grew corn in a garden in the front, and had chickens, geese and a curious little nanny-goat named Lady in the back. Our beloved black Lab had the vast expanse of serene, grassy land at his disposal to explore, although it also got him into trouble on occasion as he routinely tangled with raccoons and porcupines, and thistle bushes that left wads of tough, prickly burrs on his legs and tail. And when he lost one of those legs courtesy of  an animal trap terribly and vindictively laid somewhere out in that expanse, he learned to run faster and swim stronger than any puny human could ever match.

So, yeah. My memories of that place are strong – probably the strongest of my early childhood. And the music played in our house – an essential, integral part of the daily routine – something akin to eating and sleeping. Back then, it was a turntable, receiver and two speakers strategically placed and connected to the receiver by long, thin umbilicals of speaker wire. My mom had an enormous collection of vinyl records – probably numbering well into the mid hundreds at that point (which swelled comfortably into four-digit territory as the years went by.) And so it went – the Beatles, Elton John, Pink Floyd, the Stones, the Moody Blues, Cream, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and of course, Jefferson Airplane – to name just a miniscule number of artists residing in her collection.

I’m not entirely sure I would actually like a lot of this music if I were to hear it for the first time now, and unfortunately, my kids aren’t much inclined to listen. But like genetic material, it’s a part of me – a love I literally could not separate from myself even if I wanted to. I’m not sure what the strongest draw is, either – whether it’s the fact that much of it is just plain good and well-crafted music, or that hearing it triggers the warmest memories of my childhood. It’s probably a well-blended combination of both. Indeed, I cannot imagine my life – past or present – without it.

Oh, that I could play on that tire swing again on a calm, cricket-song summer evening as the sun set, all dusty bare feet and wild hair, waiting for dinner after a long day romping the fields with the dog, riding my bike at ridiculous light-speeds, guarding my tree fort…but at least I can listen to the music and be there in my head, if nothing else.

The Problem of Pain

This morning as I was driving to work I got to thinking about difficult things. I do this sometimes.

I was thinking about spiritual things. That are difficult.

But then I started to get a little pissed. At God. I get this way sometimes.

I mean, seriously:

If God doesn’t make mistakes, then why are babies sometimes born with only half a skull and even less brain matter? Why are some babies born dead, or why do they die in-utero?

If God supposedly has a “Master Plan” – in which he also allegedly does not make mistakes, and is supposed to ultimately work for good  – then why is there war? Why do people starve to death? Why are people raped and tortured and murdered by other people? Because things definitely did not work out for their good.

Why Oso? Why Fort Hood? Why Syria and Egypt and the Ukraine? Why the holocaust? Why Rwanda and the Congo and Bangladesh and Cambodia? Why Katrina and the big-ass twisters that leveled the elementary school in Oklahoma? Why Newtown and Columbine? And any other of the thousands of horrible things, historically speaking and presently, that I don’t have room to list?

I just don’t understand. I just don’t. And my drive to work was really depressing and angering and even a little bit scary, because of course, there were no answers to be had.

So I got to work, and here was my Word for the Day in my inbox:

“Catastrophe is the essence of the spiritual path, a series of breakdowns allowing us to discover the threads that weave all of life into a whole cloth.”  –Roshi Joan Halifax

**Whooof. **

Timing is everything, they say.

I know the answers my atheist friends would have ready for me, but I am not interested in those answers, because I have already heard them and although I will always respect both my friends and their views, I cannot – either intellectually or emotionally – subscribe to the idea of creation without a creator. Even though God really pisses me off with his infuriating silence, I still believe he exists, and I still believe – no matter how hard it gets – that somehow, some way, and some day – maybe a million years from now, it will all make sense and it will all be good.

 

Waking Up (in a nutshell)

I am firmly settled into middle age. 46 years and 3 months as of this day, to be exact.

Actually, I hope I am just now approaching middle age, since the thought of being on the downhill slope of my life doesn’t make me feel very warm and fuzzy. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing until one is on the deathbed, or enmeshed in whatever precipitous event results in death  – and to be honest, I’m not all fired up excited about that either.

In any case, I concede the fact that I am more or less experiencing the summer of my life. And lately, I’ve been chewing on the concept of the mid-life crisis – whether or not it’s real and if it is, am I having one myself? While I don’t necessarily have the urge to run out and buy a sports car or have a torrid affair with the pool boy (even if I *did* have a pool, mind you) – I am restless and ready to start tilling some different patches of earth. Mostly, this means figuring out once and for all what I really want and what I really think and believe. And then following up on what I find out.

But – do we ever really find what we want? Do we ever really know exactly what we believe?

This planet is vast and diverse and ever-changing, and there is a seemingly infinite number of simultaneous world-wide human experiences – the mundane, everyday happenings and the mind-blowing, life-altering events of every living person on Earth – in any and every given second of the day. These experiences all lead to certain ways of thinking and acting, whether in huge, varying degrees or in tiny, barely noticeable blips. And all those degrees and blips ripple out from everyone and collide with the ripples from others, and from those collisions come the diversity and the constant challenges of living.

Forgive me for waxing all heavy and philosophical, but all of that means something to me. This idea of the ripple effect and how we are all connected through our inter (and counter) actions – it means that even though I think I’ve arrived at a place where I absolutely know who I am, the truth is I don’t. Because the ripples are always out there. While sometimes they only cause one to dig in deeper with one’s own ideals, which in and of itself, is still movement in a particular direction, other times they cause one to re-think and re-calculate and adjust accordingly. I am much more inclined to the latter rather than the former. Having and keeping an open mind is of supreme importance to me.

The connection of self-awareness and middle age is validated by this: there are very few 20-year-olds who have enough experience to actually know they are sorely inexperienced. They send out ripples at light speed and by the mile, but they are so busy doing so that they leave little opportunity for the incoming ripples to interact. At least, that’s the way I see things. I’m certainly not trying to paint all younger people with the same broad brush, because I know there are always exceptions to the rule – but I do think this is true to a very strong degree.

This is simply how it works, and that’s ok because it works very well. Understanding that one is always and forever “never quite there” is a pinnacle concept to take into one’s bones and it is amazingly liberating, because that means learning never stops. What you are at any given point in time is never all you will be.  One is rarely, if ever, ready for that concept until a certain point in life – and middle-age is it, even if it’s nothing else. All of life is a process.

So even though I don’t relish the idea of possibly having fewer years left in me than I’ve already had, bring on the wrinkles and the grey hair. Bring on the penguin-toddle that I do for the first few moments of every morning when I get out of bed because my muscles and joints are stiff, and bring on “the squint” (likely aggravating the wrinkles as a bonus!) as my eyesight slows down. Because along with all of the physical baggage of older age that starts getting tossed on the train comes the blissful understanding that one is finally in a place to start living with renewed awareness and oftentimes as a result, renewed purpose.

That is what waking up is all about.

Monday Morning Gratitude

Here I am on the cusp of another week.

Caffeine has been duly consumed, the office is now occupied, at least until I have to take my youngest to a doctor’s appointment this afternoon.

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The Big Blue Cast is coming off today. We might have to get another Big Blue Cast put back on, but hopefully not.

As an added bonus, it’s Nick’s 12th birthday today. So getting this cast off would be a really nice present. Happy Birthday to the coolest, most awesome 12-year-old on the entire planet. But hey, I’m a little biased.

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Birthday shenanigans from earlier in the month, before he had to get the Big Blue Cast. Oh, my melting heart. ❤

It’s not pouring down crazy rain. Score!  (For at least the next few moments, right?  This is Oregon, after all.)

Put some oil in the car this morning – my little Mitsu is about to roll into 210,000 miles and is still chugging along like she’ll run forever, and I am grateful. Maybe she will run forever, as long as I keep feeding her oil and talking kindly to her.

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Here she is, Miss Mitsu. The working conditions can be a bit nutty, but she keeps on going. (And no, she doesn’t look like this right now. It IS spring, after all. Did I mention it’s not raining, though…???)

The lower back is grumpy, but I am being very nice to it. My standing workstation is making it  so much happier – but my feet are, as a result of all this standing around, a tad annoyed. So it goes. I probably need to look into getting a sturdy and supportive pair of shoes for them. No matter; I am very thankful I was able to get this amazing little toy installed on my desk as quickly as I did. Thank you, George Fox Human Resources!

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My lower back loves me now. For the most part. This is why.

So there’s all sorts of neat things about today, even the small stuff.

Practicing gratitude and focusing on the little things in your life that are good is a great habit to adopt.

An Introduction, and a Landing Spot

An explanation is in order here.

I am actually writing this in a retroactive spirit, as all of the previous posts on this blog are ones I wrote under the Blogger platform, under the same blog title.  After seeing one of my dearest friends recently engage the social media world with his first blog, I’ve decided to try getting my own act together, as my previous efforts have been sporadic and inconsistent – very much like my paper journals and writing life in general. It is what it is.

What I’ve discovered is that I like WordPress a lot more than Blogger, so I imported my two Blogger sites over here to WP, to join the one I already had started here last year.

So now I find myself with three streams of writing – three different blogs (but now all on the WordPress platform): one focused on my running life (which is currently dormant due to injuries), one focusing specifically on my writing life, and the other focused on thoughts, life events and ideas as I find myself at  a huge crossroads (middle age, being in the process of ending a nearly 26-year marriage, finally graduating from college, and any other number of myriad threads.) I don’t know if I will keep all three of these spots going indefinitely (especially since my running career is way up in the air at the moment) but I don’t feel like scrapping anything right now.

I have lots to say. Who knows who wants to read it, but that’s ok. I’m just going to be.

Three Good Things Thursday

It’s Thursday already! Which is excellent, because of course that means tomorrow is Friday, Freakin’ Fabulous Friday. (I smell another posting theme……)

But, I digress. It remains Thursday for the time being, so three good things I must hereby proclaim.

ONE
I’m getting a new computer at work – it’s shiny laptop time!
My current machine is a desktop tower, and I’ve had it for almost seven years now. It’s been a good computer – very few issues – but I am probably one of three people left on this entire campus who still has a desktop and not a laptop. A laptop means I will be able to work at home once in a while – I mean, I love my office with the window and all, but being able to work on course schedules and other Very Important Things while lying in bed in my jammies and eating handfuls of Captain Crunch straight from the box is just too appealing to pass up.

Disclaimer: Captain Crunch is a delicious party in your mouth but also monumentally bad for your blood sugar levels, and also you in general. But it’s a hell of a lot more fun than handfuls of carrots, at least until your pancreas goes berserk and you drown in your own insulin. Just sayin’.

TWO 
I am actually upright and mostly functioning today.
And why is this on the list, you might ask….?  Well, I went to bed around 9:45 last night and got to sleep fairly quickly, and then my eyes practically flew open at about 12:30 and my brain decided it was time to get busy. I truly wish there was some sort of switch, just a teeny little button even, at the base of my skull with which I could just shut the whole thing right down (except for the autonomous functions, duh!!)  The last time I remember looking at the clock (and why I even do that, I just can’t figure out, because it really does not help to actually know how much sleep is not going to happen…..) – it was around 3:45. So yeah, being horizontal and not vertical today is a good thing. Or perhaps more of a display of stubborn fortitude rather than a good thing per se, since in all honesty, I’d much rather be snuggling with my pillow right about now.

THREE
Nicholas.
He is 11 and a half and headed to middle school in about 5 days. He’s on the brink of puberty, I’m pretty sure, even though it seems a tad early, and tends to be somewhat of a hot mess on occasion due to authority issues and bids for independence and to be truthful, quite mule-headed when he wants his way. In other words, he’s a perfectly normal middle-school boy.

But, by golly, this child still cheerfully dispenses hugs and kisses and will cuddle with me on the couch while plowing through a big bowl of popcorn and an episode of American Ninja Warrior. And he is finally learning to be a good sport when playing board games. And he’s smart and funny and has a playful splash of freckles over his nose and cheeks, although he says he hates them. Well, I don’t. And he has the most amazing blue eyes. I love this kid so much it hurts. For the record, as if I really need to say it, I love my other two sons just as much, but Nicholas was the one to make the list today.

Did I mention he’s good and ready for the zombie apocalypse as well….?

Happy Thursday, peeps!  And Friday’s a-comin’!

Three Good Things Thursday

It almost escaped me this week, but not quite….

Today I shall run with a music theme. Since my love of music spans far and wide – I’ve been listening to music for as long as I can remember, pretty much on a daily basis – I can come up with WAY more than “three essentials” in terms of albums…so perhaps I will make this an occasional series.

These aren’t listed in any particular order. I’ll write ’em down as I think of them.

ONE
Morning Dance by Spyro Gyra
This is quite possibly the most awesome jazz album ever released. According to the Wiki god, it was bestowed upon the world in the summer of 1979. My dad bought it when it first came out, and I was immediately hooked. None of SG’s later stuff compares. This is one of those albums that makes me happy when I listen to it, regardless of the mood I am in at the time. I tend to play it when I need a serious pick-me-up, or when my day is going particularly well and I just want to give it an appropriate soundtrack. Jay Beckenstein is a superb sax player, and the drumming on the last song on the second side – “End of Romanticism” – just gives me chills.

TWO
Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Ok, so….seriously. Not much even needs to be said about this one. This…is likely the best album ever released by any band, ever. It was one of the very first “adult” music albums I ever owned – it, along with Jethro Tull’s Aqualung – was given to me for my 7th birthday. Not a whole lot of 7-year-olds can make that kind of claim. Not a whole lot of 7-year-olds would have enjoyed such a gift, but to me, it was amazing. And my parents were happy, because then it meant that I wouldn’t be asking them to play their particular copy 10 times a day, as I was in the habit of doing. Along with those two incredible rock albums, I also received my very first real turntable, receiver and speakers. Oh yeah, I was set up right proper….right there in my 7-year-old bedroom with my Mickey Mouse bedsheets, Barbie dolls and piles of stuffed animals. Truly, I was waaayyyy ahead of the game in terms of good, quality music before I was even 10 years old. As a result, I know the lyrics to every single track on DSOTM, and I never, ever get tired of it. Ever.

THREE
Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens
A hippie music icon. These days Cat goes by the name Yusuf Islam, and subscribes to the same religion as indicated by his last name. One doesn’t hear much about him any more, and from what I understand he’s always been somewhat reclusive anyway. But as CS, he released a couple albums in the early 70’s that were quite popular amongst the pot-smoking, peace-loving hippie freaks similar to those my parents hung out with quite a bit when I was very young (and indeed, were flaming hippies themselves. I wore a lot of paisley when I was a kid.) Anyway, I love this album. I probably wouldn’t like it at all if I heard it for the first time now, at my age, but I listened to this stuff so much when I was a kid it was imbedded in my mind, in the fondest way, forever. A lot of music from this era is part of me in the same fashion.

I do tend to have the most awesome earworms at any given time…….

Sunday Evening Edition

Quite the lazy day around Casa del Verde.

Not that there was a lack of things to do, but the motivation meter was hovering near zero for the most part and it was what it was. This absence of inertia would surely earn me a sound scolding from my dad, who is pretty much the kind of person who needs to have some sort of activity scheduled – preferably ones that never involve sitting of any kind – for nearly every waking hour of the day. Every day. He’s like the Energizer Bunny, my pops. Which is likely why he’ll live to be about 150. Which is more than fine with me.

My pops. Looks pretty darned good for the Energizer Bunny, I think. Dad’s got smaller ears, though.

In other news, my little brother turned 40 today. Holeeeee……..wow. In remembering how kind and thoughtful he was to me when I turned 40, let’s just say I’ve been waiting a loooooooooooong time for this day. I wish I’d been there to express to him my most sincerest birthday wishes in person, but he’s three hours away. So I left him a nice message on his voice mail and on his FB wall. With just a little tiny bit of ribbing. Just a little.
The Energizer Bunny’s son (and my newly-minted “over the hill” sibling.) This picture is a few years old, but it captures him pretty well. Yeah, well at least I know where he gets his vim and vigor.

So, that’s about the size of it this everning. And oh – just so that ya’ll aren’t disappointed, here’s my weather report: it will still be in the 80’s (yuck) for the first few days of this coming week, and then hover in the high to mid-70’s for the next few days after that. An improvement, I suppose.

Meh.

 

Three Good Things Thursday

Lessee……what can I come up with on this fine example of a Thursday….?

ONE
Pumpkin Spice Coffee.
I still have a few K-Cups of this stuff left from the last holiday season. Not only is it incredible as a regular cup o’ joe, but it makes a killer iced latte with coconut milk and a splash of heavy whipping cream. I discovered this particularly delightful combination this morning, and just now sipped the last of it. Sad face (until tomorrow morning, if I don’t just help myself to another one this afternoon.)

TWO
Freshly laundered mattress covers.
Clean sheets are amazing in and of themselves, but when the mattress cover is also right out of the washer/dryer, both together are beyond heavenly. If I had the time, I would probably wash it and also change the sheets every single day. There are probably some eccentric souls out there somewhere who actually do this (OCD, anyone?) but who has the time….? Except for someone with OCD, that is.

THREE
Rain after a long dry spell.
It’s been unseasonably dry here this summer, which is a bummer. But the smell (and feel) of rain when it first starts, after the weather’s been bone-parched for weeks and weeks? Oh yeah. And for my friends in Southern Oregon, who have been dealing with extremely severe smoke issues from all the wildfires there lately, it has certainly been a true Godsend. Except when it came with additional lightning strikes, which unfortunately, was the case several times. Well, I guess you can’t win ’em all, right?

I’ll bet ya’ll just can’t wait until I stop babbling about the weather, huh….?

Way Behind Wednesday…..

……because apparently I needed another catchy title based on the day of the week, combined with my pointed lack of discipline in maintaining an actual posting (writing) schedule.

Actually, there’s not a lot to catch up on simply because I don’t have a whole lot to say this afternoon. Or perhaps more accurately, I don’t have the energy or desire to write about any of the potential topics that are swirling around my brain.

Suffice to say, I’m in a bit of a weird space right now on a personal level and I could write about that, but I’m not going to, not right now. Not everything is up for public consumption, especially when it’s in a chaotic, raw state.

But I have been thinking a lot lately about feminism, “finding oneself”, Paleo diets and about how frustrating it is not being back into the running circuit yet due to my ongoing knee saga. Oh yeah, I suppose I’ve not mentioned the torn ACL in my right knee, but I’m pretty sure that the three or five very nice people who might or might not comprise my “readership” already knows about that. Not much to mention except that I still can’t completely lock the knee out  (hyperextend) and generally speaking, it feels like it’s encapsulated in cement most of the time.

Summer drags on and I really cannot wait until it starts falling back into the fifties (and lower!) temperature wise. I absolutely love cool, crisp air – especially when the leaves start drifting. Something about autumn triggers a lot of very good, warm memories and just a general sense of contentment for me. So, if you don’t mind, October, please do hurry up. And I truly do hope we have a nice snowy winter for once.

Meanwhile, I flit sweatily amidst the mid-80’s, and I am going to be quite annoyed if we end up having another obnoxious 90’s heat wave before we can resume the business of getting nice and cool (and damp.) It is Oregon, after all.

And……I’m looking forward to some awesome Duck football to start up again. Just sayin’.