Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Age Disappears When Like Minds Meet

Today I spent three hours with my friend, Jesus. We talked and laughed, and the time flew by. Jesus is more than thirty years younger than I, but you'd never know it when we are talking together. Age disappears when like minds meet.

Three weeks ago, my friend, Frank, died. We could talk for hours about this topic and that and not grow the least bit bored or weary. At age 90, Frank was thirty years older than I, but you'd never know it when we were talking together. Age disappears when like minds meet.

Throughout my sixty years, I've been blessed to have friends of all ages. They make my life richer with their friendship, of course, but they also make my life richer by giving me different perspectives from their generations. These different perspectives allow me to see more of the wonder and complexity of the world than I would see on my own.

When I was a child, my best friend was Jane (and we are still friends after finding each other again in our early 30's). We met in 4th grade. We were both readers, and that was our initial connection. In each other, we found someone who understood us and our love for books. We spent one summer, when we were eleven years old, eagerly searching for Narnia together, and that summer search still stands as my ideal for an excellent summer adventure, even though we did not find Narnia.

It is natural to form friendships with your peers because, for the most part, you are going through the same stages of life at the same time, and your peers can understand and share your interests and concerns. But if your friends are only your peers, you lose out on the depth and breadth, the layered richness of life. 

When I was 19, I made my first older friend, Claire, who is twenty-eight years my senior. We bonded in a class. We sat by each other and talked and talked about every subject under the sun. We've shared forty years of friendship. Claire came for a visit last April, and once again we talked about everything under the sun. At almost 89 years old, she is my inspiration. Claire grabs the world in her hands and doesn't let go until she has squeezed every drop of experience out of it. And her example encourages me to do the same.

Then, in 1979 by sheer serendipity, I met John, my best friend. He is twenty-four years older than I, with the loveliest wife and the most delightful daughter. He was a history professor before he retired, and I have only a small interest in history, but we discovered within minutes of talking with each other that both of us thrilled to George Herbert's poems and loved Roger Whittaker's singing--what an unlikely combination that is, but that shared interest began the deepest of friendships that lasts to this day.

As I grew older, I thought the time for making new friends was past, but I was happily wrong. I began teaching at a community college, and before I knew it, I began making friends much younger than I, some of them the same age as my children, but these individuals see me as a person, as a friend, not as a mom. What a treat, what a delight! I learn so much from them--it's like seeing the world through fresh eyes, and what a lovely world it is indeed.

What is the secret to friendship? A simple answer would be shared interests, but friendship is SO much more, or perhaps other, than just shared interests. Perhaps a shared search, journey, or conviction would be a better way to define friendship. But the more I think of it, the more I believe that my favorite author, C.S. Lewis, described friendship best when he writes:

     "Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure. The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, "What? You too? I thought I was the only one."...The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our friend. He need not agree with us about the answer."

With a full, grateful heart, I celebrate all of my friends who are ageless when we are together because age disappears when our like minds meet.

Take care,


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

You Just Never Know Which Moment Will Change Your Life

Thirty-one years ago this month, I told Gordon that I loved him. I never meant to say it aloud. I had loved him secretly for five years and did not believe for one minute that he loved me too. I feared if I told him that I loved him, he would reject me flat out, and I didn't think I could handle that. No, better to be silent and take my secret love to my grave (one can be so dramatic when young).

However, my friend, Debbie, thought otherwise. She believed that I should tell Gordon and find out, once and for all, what his feelings were for me. Debbie never thought Gordon cared for me because, if he had, wouldn't he have said something during the previous five years? Debbie reasoned that after professing my love to Gordon and being rejected, I would then be able to go forward in my life without any foolish fantasy. She said I could weep and then let go of the idea of Gordon and find someone to love who would love me back. Debbie was very matter-of-fact about it and helped me plan the moment to tell Gordon.

Well, the moment started out well. I steeled my nerves and went up to Gordon.  I blurted out that I loved him. He smiled and said he felt the same way. Confused, I replied that I loved him like a man not just a friend, and he said he knew just what I meant and that he loved me too. He then made it quite clear with a kiss that made all the movie kisses seem pale by comparison.

Wow, not what I had expected at all! I had planned for every sort of rejection, but that Gordon loved me too never crossed my mind. Well, as I said, that was thirty-one years ago. Sadly, Gordon no longer celebrates the moment with me. His dementia has robbed us of that pleasure. Instead, our grown children and I celebrate the moment together each year because that moment not only changed my life forever, but it also was the catalyst for my four loves, my four blessings, my four children being born. That crazy, foolish, risky moment changed the world forever. I cannot imagine the world without these four lovely individuals in it, and each of them is extremely glad that their mom found the courage to risk being rejected that moment so long ago.

You just never know which moment will change your life forever.

Take care, 


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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why Reading Mysteries Is So Much Fun

Today, I opened my newspaper to discover that P. D. James has written a new mystery. What a thrill, and just in time to be a Christmas present.

When I was a child, my fun reading ran the gamut from science fiction to mysteries to adventure stories, with my overall favorite being fantasy. Why? Because from birth, it seems, I have wanted to make the world a better place, and in fantasy books I was vicariously able to do that. I battled and defeated evil in the forms of villainous foes and monsters of all types. At the end of each fantasy novel or series, all was right with the world, good had defeated evil, and peace and love reigned over the land. This was the perfect genre for a child growing up in the cold war era, where the "evil" communists threatened on a daily basis.

But, as I grew older and learned the world is full of ambiguity, and sadly realized that I could not make the world a better place by myself, at least not in the big picture, I began to consume mystery novels. One day, a friend asked me why I was reading mysteries instead of new fantasy novels (Confession: I still re-read my childhood favorites about Narnia and Prydain as well as A Wrinkle in Time). I thought a moment, fascinated by the question, and then replied, "In mysteries, you vicariously solve a problem and make the world better in the small picture. That is something that seems possible in the real world too." It was a revelation, an 'Oh, I understand" moment as the lightbulb in my brain lit up. Mysteries do not solve BIG problems, they solve small, handleable problems. Mysteries empower me; they make me think I can solve the problem too, as I follow the clues along with the protagonist.

These feelings of accomplishment and power that come from reading mysteries help me feel better able to tackle my own everyday challenges. I don't feel so overwhelmed. I know that if I can just figure out this one bit here, then I can figure out that one bit there. I may not be able to make the whole world a better place, but mysteries help me believe that I can make my own little corner of the world better. So, bring on the new P. D. James mystery for Christmas!

Take care,


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Missing Out On Some First-Rate Candidates

Every four years, I find myself consumed by politics. I love the whole process. It's thrilling to live in a country where any citizen can run for President. So, why is it, if any citizen can run, that so many of the best of us do not even consider running?

Look at the current batch of Republican hopefuls. It's doubtful that anyone would say that our best Republicans are running. It's a sorry lot indeed. Where is today's Teddy Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln? For those of you who know me, and know that I tend to vote for the Democratic candidate, you may be wondering why I care about the Republican candidate. Well, pure and simple, the Republican might win the election (or be given the election by the Supreme Court), and if that happens, then I want the best of the best running our country. But, where can we find the best of the best?

It just so happens that some of my friends would make an excellent President of the United States. Dave stands out as an superb choice, as does Tricia, John, Lisa, Nils, and Olga. Each is over 35 years old and a citizen, each is intelligent, thoughtful, and well-spoken, each is a people person and good at delegating (a useful characteristic because no one can do it all), and, best of all, each cares about ALL people (the 99% plus the 1% equals 100%). They are inclusive, not exclusive people. Each is attractive and charming, so why can't any of these friends be elected President? Because not one of them is outwardly religious.

These friends, who are Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians, are agnostics, atheists, and quiet, non-church going believers. They act more Christian than most Christians I know, and certainly act more Christian than the current Republican Presidential candidates, whose aim is to divide rather than unite the citizenry. Even my church going Christian friends, Cliff and Jane, would make great Presidents, but they tend to put their faith into actions instead of just words, so the citizenry who vote in the primaries probably wouldn't pay attention to them.

How did we get to this sorry state of affairs? After all, our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion as a basic right. Religion is defined as a personal set of beliefs, and, let's remember, that means not just Christian beliefs but any set of beliefs. So, why do we ignore those among us, who may hold differing sets of beliefs, as potential Presidents? Because people like black and white answers and fear difference.  This fear of difference and ambiguity is hurting our country. We are ignoring and dismissing excellent potential candidates at our peril.

If we continue to ignore individuals, who are not Christian (and specific types of Christians at that--because Mormons are Christians too) or who do not loudly vocalize their beliefs, as potential Presidents of our United States, then we are missing out on some of the finest minds and kindest hearts on the planet.

Take care,


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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Embracing All Your Children--Gay and Straight

One of my children is gay. I knew it before my child did. I agonized for my child, wanting to help somehow. One day, at almost 18 years of age, my child announced it to our family. Our whole family was fine with it. After all, science is proving it's not a choice but a genetic code, but even if it was a choice, where's the harm in it? True love always makes the world a better place, so what is not to like? Our family's only concerns were the small minds, prejudice, and bigotry of others.

Right away I began sharing the news with friends, just as I would share news of a new job or a new college degree. I love my children so much that I like to share their news all the time, and probably more than my children want it shared. :)  I was puzzled by most people's immediate question, "How are you handling it?" I always laughed out loud and said, "Fine. My child's not dying of cancer or going to prison, so why should I be anything but fine?"

Then people would bring up the "hell" consequence. Honestly, that made me laugh harder than before. Why would a loving God send you to hell for something you can't help? And believe me, most gay people would help it if they could because who wants to go through life being looked at askance? No, God is a loving, understanding entity, who asks of us only to be loving and understanding too, so no way would God send someone to hell for truly loving another person. And as far as being gay and abstinent--how cruel is that? Where does this fear of sex come from? I don't get it, and I certainly would never suggest something so ludicrous as abstinence to another individual in love with someone.

When I was teaching at a community college, I had several gay students, many of whose parents were not supportive nor accepting when their children found the courage to out themselves to their families. This broke my heart. I do not understand parents withholding love and emotional support. Family should be the one place you are accepted for whatever you are--no questions asked--because love is  unconditional in a family. Family is a safe harbor in a sometimes cruel world.

My hope, my prayer, is that parents the world over will set aside preconceptions and fears about homosexuality and will open their arms and hearts to their gay children. These are the children you nursed, you cuddled, you taught to walk, you taught to drive a car, you laughed with, and you dreamed with. When you discover that the dreams you had do not match the dreams your child has, don't squash the child's dream and try to mold it to match yours; rather, embrace your child as he or she is, and thrill to the all the new insights and perspectives. Your world will be happier and bigger for it.

Take care,


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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Finally, A Writing Life

When I was four years old, I wanted to read and write stories. My mother gave me scissors and magazines and told me to cut out the pictures and glue them on construction paper to make my story. I was NOT happy. I wanted to read, not look at pictures, and I wanted to write with words! My poor mom. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know how to teach reading. So, she had me read along with her for a couple of books, and, voila, I was reading. But, I was not yet writing. My four year old fingers just didn't make recognizable letters.

By 5th grade, I was reading and writing well, and I decided to write a play about Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin and their times. My teacher was one of those enlightened and inspirational teachers who you remember till the day you die. I loved her. Miss Copeland liked the play and told me to do a production of it for the class. I got to pick the students for the parts and direct the play--I was in heaven. The only sad thing is that my parents would not come to see it. In fact, my dad threw out my play, calling it trash. Why would a parent do that to a child?

While sad that I no longer had my play to look at (there were no copy machines then), I went on to write occasional short stories, which my teachers liked. I also loved writing essays, which I'm sure mystifies many of my students. But, while I loved writing, my first love was science, and I directed most of my energies in that direction.

Calculus was my Waterloo. I just could not figure it out, so my science career ended before it began. Determined to get a BA in something, I turned to my old friends reading and writing and became an English Literature major. I took a wonderful playwrighting class and was told to quit school and write plays, but I thought the professor was just being kind and supportive, so I stayed in school. :)

In graduate school, I began teaching English and loved it. One of my pleasures is writing Letters to the Editor and sending them to local newspapers. I always taught my students to write them because I wanted them to see how their writing has power and purpose. What a thrill to see a student's face light up when his or her letter is printed in the paper--truly one of life's greatest pleasures.

Then, just as I was about to begin my illustrious career as a Shakespeare scholar (Lol), I fell in love and had four children with whom I shared my passion for reading and writing, and, I must say, each of my children is a better writer than I am, which makes my mother's heart swell with joy and pride.

Always in the back of my mind was the thought that some day I would write. How many people die still thinking that? I have kept a framed scrap of paper with Edward Albee's words to me nearby. They are probably the same words he wrote to everyone who asked for his autograph, but still they are special to me, and they are: "Be sure you're a writer--That it's essential to you--Then write! Edward Albee"

When I turned 60 in June, I realized that some day never comes because there are always so many things vying for your attention. I realized that the time to write is now or not at all. So, I wrote a book this summer. Not the book I had planned all these years. Not the many plays I've started and outlined but not yet finished. Not the short stories I've been working on for years but not yet finished. No, I wrote a book about dementia because my husband has dementia, and I want to make some sense of it and perhaps help others who are dealing with it.

And what did I learn about myself from writing this book? That I am a writer. I loved every minute of writing. Like Albee said, "it is essential" to me. So, I started this blog to keep writing while I get my book ready to publish because I find I just cannot bear the thought of not writing. It is my ready time to be a writer. It may have taken me sixty years to get here, but I did get here, and that is what counts.

Take care,


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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hoping for Christmas Magic

In our home on Thanksgiving weekend, we begin getting ready for Christmas magic, just like Tante does in The Cobweb Christmas. I find the Christmas CD's, play them, and we all sing along (well, to be perfectly honest, I do most of the singing). The kids and I cut down a tree and decorate it. We decorate our home, inside and out, turning it into an enchanted kingdom. I, who loathe the stove for the rest of the year, actually bake some cookies and other goodies. We send and receive cards full of love and goodwill. We donate to charities. We watch Scrooge (the movie musical with Albert Finney) on Christmas Eve. We wrap a few gifts, stuff our stockings with edible goodies, and hope for Christmas magic to arrive.

What is it we hope for? We hope that the loving, caring goodwill embraced and exhibited by us and our fellow humans for four weeks each year, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, will somehow weave a transformation in our hearts, minds, and souls that will last past Christmas Day, and that people all the world over will get along and work for the benefit of everyone, not just at Christmas but throughout the whole year. Sadly, so far, each December 26 we've had to realize that Christmas magic didn't arrive, no matter how much we hoped it would. Each year we turn back into our impatient, thoughtless, self-absorbed selves.

But, it is Thanksgiving weekend again, and the kids and I are once again filled with hope. So, we are getting ready for Christmas magic and hoping that this year Christmas magic will finally decide we humans are worth it and make its appearance. Maybe, however, the true spirit of Christmas should not be hoping for magic to arrive and make everything better; maybe the true spirit of Christmas should be all of us working together to change our hearts, minds, and souls in order to make the world a better place for everyone the whole year round. Maybe what we want Christmas magic to do for us, we must choose to do for ourselves. This year, instead of waiting for Christmas magic, let's be Christmas magic; then, maybe, December 26 and all the other days of the year will be as full of love and goodwill as the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Take care,


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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Green Jello Salad

My home life as a child was not a happy one. My happiness came at school. However, one positive thing stands out when I think of Thanksgiving dinner (Christmas too), and it is my mom's green jello salad--lime flavored jello with fruit cocktail mixed in it. Most of you have probably had it at least once, haven't you? I loved it when I was a child. My mom died when I was 18, and the green jello salad was a thing of memory until I had my children.

Like most parents, I wanted to create happy traditions for my children, but I was tradition challenged from my childhood and had to figure out, through trial and error, how each holiday should be celebrated. When you think about it, traditions seem to evolve almost on their own, which is why each family's traditions differ from every other family. But, we often bring something treasured from our past to our new family life, don't we, and I brought green jello salad.

What I find fascinating is that my own grown children want me to make green jello salad for every Thanksgiving and Christmas. From childhood, they embraced jello salad as one of our traditions, and they won't hear of not having it, even though no one eats that much of it. I like to think of green jello salad as a link going back to my mom, the grandma they never knew, and I have a feeling that one or the other of my children will be making it for the family gathering long after I'm gone. Green jello salad--such a simple thing linking the generations.

So, with all the love in my heart for my children, I just finished making this Thanksgiving's jello salad, keeping our tradition, our link to the past and the future, going for another holiday.

I look forward to hearing about one of your family's traditions.

Happy Thanksgiving,


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Monday, November 21, 2011

You Know You Are Educated When

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about education and what it means to be an educated person. I've known many people with degrees who are not, in fact, educated; and, I know many people without degrees who are the epitome of educated. So, how do you know when you are an educated person?

You know you are educated when you can entertain conflicting ideas and not get frustrated or give up.

You know you are educated when you don't need to shout your opinions nor demonize your ideological foes; rather, you choose to search for new ways to create meaning and understanding, finding ways to bridge ideological gulfs.

You know you are educated when you realize that if you live a million years, you will never learn everything, but, by gosh, you are going to try anyway because learning is the greatest joy you can experience when you're all by yourself.

You know you are educated when your curiosity will NOT accept not knowing something; a question will niggle your brain until you must find an answer.

And finally, you know you are educated when you realize you can NEVER know enough.

Take care,


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Sunday, November 20, 2011

What We Can Learn From A Symphony Orchestra

What a treat! Last night, my youngest son, Grant, and I attended a Monterey Symphony concert. His History of Music class requires each student to attend a classical music concert of choice, and Grant selected this one. It was Grant's first classical music concert, and it was my first one in about 30 years. The orchestra played Who Cares?, a selection of Gershwin melodies with accompanying ballet dances, in the first half, and it played Tchaikovsky's Symphony #2 in the second half. The first half was delightful, while the second was thrilling. The ecstatic applause went on quite awhile during the standing ovation. A transporting evening was had by one and all.

While the main part of my brain was enjoying the music and dance, another part of my brain was thinking about the orchestra. I marveled at how the instruments complemented each other. The brass did not drown out the strings, nor did the woodwinds interrupt the percussion. Each section of the orchestra played its part, respectfully waiting its time to play and its time to be silent. The drums were of especial interest to me because the drummers would gently silence their drums' sounds by hand, stopping the reverberations that would have destroyed the symphony.

I marveled even more as I watched individual musicians play solos, starting right on cue and never insisting on more time. All the instruments in the orchestra working together to make ethereal music.  And I thought, "Why can't our government work like an orchestra?"

I almost laughed out loud at the mental image forming in my brain of our current members of congress playing instruments in a congressional orchestra and attempting to perform a symphony. What a cacophony that would be! The brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion all being played loudly, insisting on being heard over the other instruments, with no direction, no respect, no timely silences. The sound would be worse than a thousand fingernails scratching on chalkboards.

Why would the sound be so awful? Because it would not be music; it would just be noise. I may like the brass best (and I do), but I also enjoy the strings, woodwinds, and percussion. Brass by itself would get boring because it cannot make all the sounds necessary to produce a symphony. 

Our elected officials and we voters need to take our cues from orchestral musicians. We need to listen at the right times, respect the virtues of the different sounds, and work together to make the music of democracy play in our land again. This is what I learned at the symphony last night.

Take care,


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Saturday, November 19, 2011

700,800 Hours

700,800 hours is how many hours we live in 80 years. Wow, that's all? Yes, that's all. Each semester that I taught community college English classes, I began the first class with this fact, and my students were always shocked. They thought they had at least a million hours or more. That's what I always thought too, until one day I did the math. We don't even get a million hours if we live to be 100!

But even the 700,800 hours is misleading because we spend one third of those hours sleeping and another third or so going to school, working, and taking care of everyday matters like eating and showering. So, at best, we probably have one third of our time, or approximately 233,600 hours, to do the things that define us, that make us who we are. That's not a lot of hours, is it?

Recently, I turned 60 and did not receive classes to teach from my community college due to budget cuts. I miss my students very much because I love intellectual interaction, the discussion of every topic under the sun from a variety of perspectives. I also realize that I have fewer than 58,000 hours until I'm 80 (if I live that long) to finish defining myself. So, what do I want to do with my remaining hours (besides read as many books as possible, of course)?  What I want to do is consider just about everything, share my thoughts, and hear yours, on the big questions of life and the not so big.

To that end, I welcome you to my brand new blog. Hope you enjoy it, and hope you will comment often.

Take care,


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