Monday, September 15, 2008

Minding My Zs and Qs

OK, wrong game, but the closest I had in the image files.
Monopoly. Thanksgiving 2005.

Flannery was way ahead in this game. (Scrabble). Bennie and Oakley threw in their tiles. "You win," they said in sad capitulation. I was ready to follow suit, but Flannery simply adores playing to the bitter end, especially when she's a clear winner. Being a dutiful mom, I decided to see us through to the end of play. Mistake.

It was my turn to empty the last two letters from the little felt pouch. And wouldn't you know what tumbled out? I got Z. I got Q. Ordinarily I treasure these premium letters. They're worth 10 points apiece. But when you have next to no vowels, and there are no remaining tiles to draw, the words keep diminishing in length thanks to the dwindling number of tiles. There's just no place to play anything, let alone Z and Q. And at the end of the game, the points of the tiles lingering on your rack are subtracted from your score and added to your opponent's. A double whammy of defeat. Curtains.

I began to resort to pathetic two-letter words like "ef," the phonetic spelling of the letter "F." (Yes, that's allowed.) There's something so cold and detached and Cartesian about spelling out one letter with two letters. It feels twice-removed from reality. Wasteful. And you get only two miserable points. I wandered into the kitchen and devoured a sorrowful spoonful of Cherry Garcia right out of the carton. Out on the arroyo a coyote howled and pounced on its prey. Every carnivore between here and Highway 285 howled. "YOUR TURN MOM!" Flan's voice was annoyingly sweet. I imagined her eyes gleaming in anticipation. She was into the kill.

I wandered half-heartedly back to the Scrabble table. Now my opponent had gotten really fortunate. She 'd gotten rid of two letters. Her last two letters. I and L. Clearly, my verbal prowess was plummeting in my dotage. I was outshone by a whippersnapper. Oh my God, I had just actually thought the term whippersnapper in reference to my firstborn. I was thinking like a geezer. I felt ill.

ILL. Flan had attached her I and L to the L of my GLADE, spelling ILL. What?? I took off my glasses, cleaned them, and put them back on. There it was--floating before my eyes--Flan's I was completely unattached!

In a frenzy, I pounced. I played my Q, my U--hoping against hope, I had refrained from making TUB a couple of moves earlier, knowing I'd need U to accompany Q if any miracle opportunity presented itself--and my Z. I made QUIZ! The Q was a double letter and the whole thing was a double word. I racked up 64 points in my last turn, seizing victory from Flannery's ILL. Talk about ILL-gotten gains!!!!!

I wasn't ready for geezerdom just yet. I was HOT.

I was so dazed by it all, when I went upstairs for bed, I felt compelled to run back down to Flannery's room and say, "You knew I had that Q and Z. You deliberately put down that I so your old mother could win, didn't you?? You felt sorry for me."

She took my hand and said, "Mom, I wish I were that nice."

Flannery with her new Scrabble coach, Dr. Nola Fay Merideth-Jones.
I'm a grandmother (kind of).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Let Me Eat Cake

I've never had a cake delivered to my place of business. Until Friday. Yes, the day after my birthday a gentleman arrived at my desk, carrying a large bakery box. He said he was looking for "Sam."

"Could you be looking for 'San'?" I asked, my hopes rising.

Peeking into the box, he said, "Yes, it's for San. From Margaret."


I myself lifted the lid of the big white box and caught a glimpse of one of the most beautiful birthday cakes I have ever seen.

What was most beautiful was that figure 526,600, which of course referenced my birthday post the day before--Wildest Gift: 525,600 Minutes, in which I celebrated the gift of another year totaling that many minutes. Now what's wrong with this picture? Correction. What's very, very right with this picture? The cake decorator granted me an extra ONE THOUSAND minutes!!! This celebration just gets wilder and wilder.

And if there's anyone who's looked Wildness in the face, who's embraced Wildness, who's danced with her, and had Wildness whisper her secrets into the ear, that would be the big-spirited giver of this cake, my lovely blogging friend Meg Wolff. Meg also understands deeply the gift of being granted time you didn't know you had.

Look at that beautiful, radiant woman and try to believe that in 2003 her doctor told her to put her affairs in order because she was dying of cancer. Meg had already given a breast and a leg to cancer and it was beginning to look like the rest of her body was now being taken over by that iron-fisted, take-no-prisoners dictator Cancer. But somewhere inside, Meg heard another, softer voice, a voice that was a bit wilder than the voice of the dictator. A voice telling her her work wasn't done here. She had heard this inner voice, the voice of her gut, before. And I quote from Meg's blog:

I had this "red flag" experience when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and a bone stem cell transplant was recommended by the oncologist. Immediately, I had a stabbing gut reaction that this wasn't right for me. I had a sense that it would kill me. I went for a second opinion and the same treatment was recommended. I went to my doctor and told her I felt uncomfortable with this recommendation and she said, "Go with your gut, go with your gut, go with your gut." She recommended yet another oncologist who said, "I am in on the research and in the beginning it looked very promising for breast cancer treatment, but as time and studies went on, we saw that it wasn't as effective as we first thought so, I don't recommend it for you. Your gut feeling was right."

So, again, Meg trusted her inner voice. She believed it. She had more living to do and she would become whole. She might be missing a body part or two, but she would integrate the healing of her body with her life's work. That would make her whole. After all, there are plenty of people walking this earth, people whose bodies are perfect specimens, and still, they feel something's lacking.

To recognize one's calling in life is a huge leap towards wholeness. And that's exactly what Meg did. She followed her calling to learn about macrobiotic diets, to read all the evidence that eating a toxin-free, primarily plant-based diet of whole grains and fruits and vegetables and legumes, had helped people nurture their bodies and spirits back to health and wholeness. She read their stories and she believed them. Those stories became Meg's story! And she's made it her work to tell the world that story. She has authored two books about her cancer experience and her recovery, one of them a loving photographic depiction of her body's journey after cancer. She travels to teach workshops and sign books and give lectures and encourage people. I encourage everyone to go to her blog becoming whole and read Meg's story, read her generous advice on healthy living and eating, look at her books and consider ordering them. I encourage everyone to do so, but in particular, I would encourage anyone who is suffering from chronic illness or chronic pain or even the common cold or everyday burnout, to get to know Meg. Just this past week I received emails from two bloggers who have dear friends with serious cancer prognoses. Why didn't it occur to me until now?--they should go over to Meg's place!

Since listening to the voice of inner Wildness whispering in her ear, Meg's primary job description is hope bringer. And occasionally, she orders up cakes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wildest Gift: 525,600 Minutes

If all goes as planned, come tomorrow evening at approximately 6:30 pm, I will have been granted another 525,600 minutes of this wild gift (wild card?) called my life. Multiply that sum by 55 and that'll be the total gift so far. I'm pushin' 29 million minutes. And a dizzying, unpredictable jumble of color it's been! Tomorrow also marks my first blogaversary. In blog years, I'm merely pushing 526,000. A baby.

Last birthday I gave myself this blog. This year I've given myself a playlist. It's way down at the bottom of this post. Warning: it's LONG. It's a jumble. The transitions are jarring. If you're not familiar with how to listen to a playlist, you just click the big arrow like you do on a you-tube video. This will turn the jukebox on. Then you can click on any selection to listen to it. You scroll down on the bar to the right to see what the selections are.(BREAKING NEWS: I've squashed in the edges of the playlist gizmo, so that everybody--I hope--can work the scrollbar.)

I have a few dedications for my blogging friends:

Seasons of Love, from the muscial Rent, is for everyone who said goodbye to dear ones this past year. I know there are many who did, but I am thinking in particular of Doris (River Poet), Patty, and Mima. I also dedicate this song to the memory of John Smeltzer.

Joan Osborne's Spider Web is for all of the visual artists who visit this blog, including but not limited to Chewy, Paula (self-taught artist), Paula (second studio), Kim (creating space), Kim (stillmeadow quilts), Babs, Lynette, Celine (of the stunning travelogues), Daphne, Debi aka emma tree, Daryl, Andrea in Canada, Andrea in Paris, Bridget who contemplates the moon, Lori (Witzel and Skoog), Corrine (that jafabrit), Heather, Kate (of the corner by that name), Kate (who smudges), David Mc, Todd, Suki, the Blue Sky Dreamer, Tammie, and Randy. No doubt I am forgetting so many. That's the hazard of pushin' 29 million--the memory starts to slip a bit. And while I'm at it, I want to send this one out--I always wanted to say that--"I want to send this one out"--to Paschal, who gets "it."

Another Joan Osborne song, One of Us, is for Sometimes Saintly Nick. That one also goes out to his spiritual cousin Carol, along with Cat Stevens' Peace Train and the Temptations' Wake up Everybody. I might as well add that I prefer Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' rendition of Wake up Everybody, but I couldn't find that version. While I'm on the social consciousness theme, let me dedicate Everyday People to Sandy Carlson because she lives her life with humility and concern for others.

Many bloggers find themselves in periods of transition and questioning. Truth be told, every one of us finds ourselves in such periods. Often. A few bloggers, however, have chosen to share their adventures in uncertainy with the rest of us. Theirs is a rich gift to this community and I dedicate Alanis Morisette's Hand in my Pocket to those bloggers, including: Lee, Lime, Raven, John-Michael, J.S., Paula (self-taught artist), Spark, Doris (River Poet), Mima, Aims, and Whim.

Some of us find ourselves challenged by our own bodies. And several bloggers have chosen to take their physical limitations and transform them into miracles of inspiration. There are many, but the people whose names are coming to my mind now are Meg Wolff, Whim, Sandi, Jane, and Mima. Natalie Merchant's Wonder is dedicated to them.

Everyone gets their heart broken sometimes. You only have to listen to the radio to know this. So many of the best songs are about lost love. There's a boat load of lost love numbers on this playlist. They're for everybody because there's nothing quite like wallowing in misery, listening to Patsy Cline or Johnny Cash or Wall of Voodoo sing their hearts out about the cruelty of love, to make a person cry. And we all need a good cry sometimes. (It's my party and I'll cry if I want to.) At other times, we just need to get mad as hell. Whatever works. The following songs are dedicated to the human race: Ray Charles' Hit the Road Jack, Aretha Franklin's Respect, Blues Traveler's Runaround, Peter Sarstedt's Where Do You Go To My Lovely (for the romantic in all of us), Cake's I Will Survive (an absolutely kickass cover of the Gloria Gaynor disco hit), Scar Tissue by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire, Wall of Voodoo's kickass cover of the same, and Patsy Cline's Crazy. So much love lost. So few tracks on the playlist.

Then, we move on down the playlist of life and have our lucky times in love. These must be fewer and far between, given the scarcity of songs about the lucky times. Or at least good songs. There are a few. I'm sending The Proclaimers' 500 Miles out to Jo, because Jo is finding her luck in love with the kind of man who will not only walk 500 miles to get to her heart, he helps her tear out her plumbing and invites her to hunting camp. 500 Miles is dedicated to everyone who is in a happy relationship. A few other names that spring to mind are Maggie May, J.S., Indi, Jeff, David, Bruno, Daryl, Jeanne, Todd, Sandi, Ellie, and Cath. Come to think of it, there are many more. More than the number of songs would suggest.

For Moody, my friend in The Land of the Rising Sun, I dedicate The Vapors' I Think I'm Turning Japanese and Sakamoto Kyu's Sukiyaki. Why? Because I'm the birthday girl and I can do anything I want!

Maybe I'll be wistful. One of the most wistful songs I have ever heard is Israel Kamakawiwoole's version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Thank you, John-Michael, for identifying this singer for me! I had wanted to play it on my blog when Flannery graduated from college. That didn't happen, so belatedly I dedicate this song to my Flan. It's also for Rubye Jean of the blog by the same name, and her lovely daughter Anna. And speaking of Anna, there's another Anna (in the UK) who has a baby and an Angel (in Canada) who's expecting one. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is for these mothers as well as Lime (Michelle), Kim (both of them),Babs, Lynette, Shrinky, Rhea, Jennifer H., Heather, J.S., and Sandy Carlson. We are all hoping our own children will live bigger, more joyous lives than our own. Not that our own lives aren't joyous mind you. It's just that we as mothers want things to go even better for our kids. Flan, I'm counting on you to find your spot over the rainbow, the spot where your heart, mind, and soul meet.

(While we're at it, let's send The Chi-Lites' Oooh Child out to all parents, including those of us who are nurturing our inner child, the little kid in us who wants to color outside of the lines. Lee, I'm talking to you!)

To my other kid, the infamous Mister Mokes, I dedicate two versions of The Rainbow Connection. Kermit the Frog's and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes'. Oaks, I'm counting on you to find that rainbow connection, you of the prodigious way with words, you of the truth-seeking heart.

Kermit the Frog's song goes out as well to Bob T. Bear and to Alex the Blogging Cat.

Linus and Lucy is for Meanie the Baby Dragon aka Chuck and his dragon cousin across the ocean Dilly.

For Bennie, the love of my life, I offer a wild jumble:

  1. X's Breathless (I guess that's as close to a 'Listen, they're playing our song' as we have). I thank you for sharing the last 13 million minutes with me. It's been breathless!
  2. Rock the Casbah & Private Idaho. Because they too are representative of our courtship era.
  3. San Francisco, as covered by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Truth be told, I find this band a little pale in comparison to their Eighties predecessors (after all, they only do covers), but it seems appropriate to acknowledge the fact that I met you in The City by the Bay and the Scott MacKenzie song just falls short. I mean, name one time you saw a single person walking down Sutter Street with actual flowers in their hair.
  4. Speaking of covers, speaking of San Francisco, nothin' says lovin' like a Mel Torme cover of the Turtles' Happy Together. I will never forget the night you took me to see Mel at the Fairmont. We were struggling young art dealers. Even so, you insisted we have a glamorous evening in the Venetian Room.
  5. The Proclaimers' 500 Miles. You've walked that far. And more. With me and for me. And you've run that far. You are a distance runner on all the levels.
  6. Booker T. & the MGs' Hip Hug Her. Because.
  7. Mulatu Asttatke's Yegelle Tezeta and two selections from Satyajit Ray. Because those names are as challenging to pronounce as our love has been unpredictable. Both, however, once mastered, flow beautifully.
  8. Tom Waits' Rain Dogs. For many years, I associated Tom Waits' voice with morning sickness. Remember? We were playing him in the gallery during my first pregnancy. 11 million minutes later, Tom Waits' voice has assumed a silken quality in my ear. I associate Tom Waits' voice with the wildest, most sublime gifts you ever gave me--our children.

And now it's time for me to blow out my candles while Frank Sinatra sings Happy Birthday. Everybody, make a wish. Get on your mark. Get set. BLOW!