Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Grumpier Old Ladies

Folks, I am just going to have to admit, up front, that the *LOC has had a rough couple of mornings already this week, and it is only Wednesday. (He could use some prayer, if you're a mind to ...)

Yesterday, we each had to go to the lab for routine blood draws.  It has never happened before, that we each needed to go on the same day, but yesterday we did.

To be clear, we are not sick, just old enough that, much like older vehicles that need a little more maintenance after a 100K on the old engine, we need a little more maintenance /upkeep.

So here was the rough part.  These were those dratted "fasting" blood tests; no food, no water for twelve hours before the test.  This meant that we got up yesterday and had to actually figure out how to get ourselves washed, teeth brushed, and dressed - find the garage, where we hoped the car was still parked- and all manner of incredibly complex efforts had to be undertaken without the aid of either hot tea or hot coffee. 

I don't mind going twelve hours without food, but tea or coffee?  Come on.

Well, let me tell you, it was a madhouse around here yesterday morning.  It is a blinking miracle that one of us didn't wind up in the hospital.  Just saying ...

"Where's the toothpaste?"

"How would I know?"  (I frankly don't know my own middle name when I have not yet had a cup of tea to get the old synapse firing.)

"Is the back door locked?"  (I am not even sure where the back door is - remember - I have had no tea!)

To make matters worse, the faucet on my sink - we have a dual sink vanity in the master bathroom - is not working, the plumber is not due for another day or two, so the LOC had turned off the water under that sink.  I am schlepping stuff back and forth between the master bathroom and the hall bath where the faucet is working.

I may be only half-awake; but even in that pitiable state I have better sense than to try to share one little sink with a guy over six feet tall, with shoulders the size of small boulders.

In the midst of my somnambulant schlepping, the LOC asks kindly, "Would it help if I turned the water back on at your sink?"

"No, thanks.  More trouble than its worth", I mumble.

Two more trips back and forth, got the moisturizer, but forgot the Revitalift - and believe me, today I need all the "lift" that face cream can give me.

"Are you sure it wouldn't be better if I just turned that faucet back on for a few minutes?  It's not leaking that badly."

"No, thank you."  Somehow "thank you" didn't sound very grateful.

Two more trips, got the brush, forgot the hand-mirror.

"I'd be glad to turn that faucet .."

"For crying out loud, would you just forget about that faucet and let's get going."  No gratitude at all, this time.

He made some sotto voce comment about "grumpy old women" - I offered a rejoinder about people who "can't take no for an answer" and so it went.

Well, we got to the lab, they drained our veins, and we repaired to the Kalico Kitchen - and none too soon.  I grabbed a stray coffee carafe on our way to our table and just chugged it straight down without a cup.  (Well, I thought about doing that.)

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Then came this morning.  After yesterday's bumpy - not to say grumpy - start, I was determined to be well organized, on-task and on time.  Places to go, people to see, etc.

I was in the shower (more or less on time after two really good cups of tea) and humming with satisfaction at how smoothly the day had begun.

"Not so fast", says the imp assigned to our address.

Is that the phone I hear ringing?

"Marsha, you're wanted on the phone."

I thought to myself, "What, exactly, am I supposed to do about it right this second?"  But the LOC only hears me half the time when I am standing right next to him, so there is no point in shouting this through the bathroom door.

I jumped out of the shower, dried off and robed quickly, and asked "What?"  As if the phone call were his planned interruption to my little humming episode. He is "0h-for-two" these two mornings.

He said M. called and would I call her back right away.
Made the call and learned she has the flu-bug and could I fill-in for her today. I was glad to help, but so much for a smooth start.
A few minutes later, as I went flying out the door, and peeling down the driveway, there stood the LOC, smiling and waving me off.                                             
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They talk about grumpy and grumpier old men, and they even made a couple of movies about them, as I recall.  But not many people have the strength of character to deal with a truly grumpy little old lady.  Fortunately, I happen to be married to one - the Lovable Old Coot.
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Hope you haven't had your caffeine supply cut off, or been called out of the shower, or just felt irritated at the stray hang nail or pinched toes - or whatever.  But if you have, I hope someone showed you some patience today. 

Until next time - your recently grumpy, but now recovered - little old lady blogger ~ Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Walking Away with Good Reason

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
~ George Bernard Shaw

A friend, and former colleague of mine, sent me an email the other day.  He was requesting a professional reference from me, as his former boss.

I was surprised, not because such a request is unusual, but because I recalled that I had received a similar request from the same person a little over a year ago. And, as I recalled, he had gotten the job he was seeking, which was that of a mid-level manager in a sizable biotech company.

So my surprise was that he had only "lasted" a year in the new position.   I was assuming, incorrectly, that he had been let go, perhaps the victim of another downsizing.

It turned out, however, that he left.  Quit.  Walked away.

And I am proud of him for doing so.
He ran into a corporate "drama", complete with all the usual intrigue, conflicts, and ultimately the strong suggestion that he "go along to get along."  But what they were pressuring him to do was wrong, and he knew it.  He decided instead to just go.  Period.

He said to me recently, "I am glad I was in a position to be able to walk away, rather than compromise my integrity." He was willing to deal with unemployment and the challenges that entails in order to walk away for the right reasons.
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An old Kenny Rogers song advises that we should "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em"; but few of us seem to know when to do either.

Sometimes in life, we seem almost equally torn between "hanging on" in situations where it would be healthier to simply walk away, and walking away from challenges, when it would have been wise, and ultimately more beneficial, had we been able to hold on a little longer.

What to do?

How to know whether to let go or hold on in any given situation?

Do I quit the job and walk away, or ignore the office politics and hold on awhile longer?

Do I sell the house now or settle down and deal with my dissatisfaction about it?

Do I invest more time and effort in a relationship or do I admit that I have done all I know to do and it is time to let it go?

The right answer for me may be the wrong answer for you.  Sometimes we make unhealthy promises - to ourselves.  For example, my mother was determined to work until she was sixty-five and then retire.  In the two years before her sixty-fifth birthday, her work responsibilities increased dramatically, and not in a good way.

Additionally, during those two years, she had recurring bouts of dizziness, weakness in her right arm, and bronchitis.  Finally, she was hospitalized with a serious bout of bronchial pneumonia.

I talked with her, more than once, during that time urging her to retire rather than wait.  After the pneumonia episode, her own doctor spoke with her about the fact that she was pushing herself too hard, and perhaps should consider retiring.  She refused.

She had saved and planned well, so it was not really about finances.  It was that she could not or would not change her mind.  She had made herself a promise that she was going to work until she was sixty-five and then retire.

It didn't work out that way.  One month before her sixty-fifth birthday she suffered a major stroke and was left with a paralyzed right arm and right leg. The last seventeen years of her life, instead of playing piano, working in her rose garden, and doing things she loved, she spent dealing with life as a hemiplegic.

There is a difference between honoring a promise - even to oneself - and clinging stubbornly to an idea or stance we have taken that no longer makes any sense.

We all make promises and commitments which we plan to keep.  And in most cases we should do everything within our power to honor those promises.  But sometimes ... yes, sometimes, we need to admit that we must walk away.  Not out of negligence, or indifference, but because it is the right thing, the wiser thing to do.
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Hope you are in a healthy place today, with good choices all around you.  But if you need to walk away - I encourage you to do it with your head high and your heart full of hope.  Until next time - your fellow traveler ~ Marsha

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Mugo Bit the Dust

The drought continues to plague Northern California.  Our lakes are down to one-third of normal, our lawns are dead, and in a clear example of "the law of unintended consequences", many of our trees are dying, too.  I recently read an article stating that as many as five thousand mature trees in a nearby town are dead or dying.

Five thousand!  And some of them are over two hundred years old.

The governor said "cut water use by 25%" and many of us did, that and more.  Some people went nuts, though, and just turned off all their outside water and said, "Phooey with it.  I'll just wait until the drought is over and then I'll water things again."

Allowing a lawn to dry up and die is one thing.  It can be brought back in a matter of months.  But allowing trees that are hundreds of years old to die, when the drought is "only" four years old is pretty short-sighted. Now they are urging us to "water your trees." 

You don't say.

The weather gurus are predicting an El Nino winter, often meaning pouring rain for months on end.  By next spring, my dead lawn may look like a putting green for all I know.  (Well, I can hope, can't I?)

But those dead trees ... well, I won't see their replacements grow up, and neither will my children or their great - great - great grandchildren.  Stupid.  And sad.
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How often in life do we set something in motion that creates results or develops consequences which we simply did not foresee?  The "law of unintended consequences" is alive and operational on many levels.

Proverbs tells us that a "word fitly spoken is like apples of silver or pictures of gold".  But what about the words hastily spoken in anger or cruelty that create bitterness and harbor rancor for years to come, lasting sometimes even from generation to generation? (Think Hatfields and McCoys.)
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We planted a small mugo (pronounced mew-go) pine almost four years ago.  It was a little decorative tree, only three feet tall, but completely symmetrically round, and which generally grows only one or two inches each year.  It is a prized plant for specific spots where you want a visual impact, but limited growth.

I watered it faithfully, and then when we were placed on water-rationing, I watered it as often as I was allowed to do.  Three times per week for fifteen minutes each time.  We have very hot summers here in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and around August it began to look pretty pitiful.  I hand carried extra water in a watering can to it.

I mulched around the base of that little mugo.  I pinched off the dead bits, in the hopes that it wouldn't waste it's water trying to feed dead stuff.  All in vain.  It died.  Four years of pampering down the old drought-drain.

But only four years.

What of a lifetime wasted in dry barren regret?  What have we done to address the consequences we may have caused however unintentionally?

I hope El Nino comes.  Oh, how I how and pray that it does.

But more importantly, I hope I am learning to carefully address those barren places in my life, where bitterness and resentment stifle growth.  There are many healthy mugo pines - somewhere.  It can be replaced, replanted.

But we only have one life to live.  Let's work on watering hope, irrigating dreams and splashing a little happiness around whenever we can.  What do you say?
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Hope you are wading in creeks of cheer, and lakes of laughter in your life this evening.  But if you have "hit a dry patch" - try to do something about it, sooner rather than later.  You have seldom seen anything sadder than a dead mugo. But dry regrets over unintended consequences are pretty sad, too.

Until next time, your drought-stricken, but still watering where allowed, neighborhood gardener ~ Marsha

Monday, October 5, 2015

Waiting for the Rat to Die

Now before you go all aghast on me, I am not referring to a person, or at least not any one specific person.  The title of this post refers to a quote from a book I am currently reading by John Ortberg.

The book is entitled Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them.  And isn't that just the truth?  I have said for years that every family has a nutty Aunt Sally or a Crazy Uncle Harry.  Some of us have - or have had - several, not just one or two.

When speaking to an audience about family dynamics, I have often used the saying (I do not recall the source):  Four out of five families are dysfunctional ... and the other one doesn't work very well.

 And isn't that just the truth? ( It also sounds a little like a Yogi Berra saying, doesn't it?)

So, while reading the aforementioned book, I ran across an older quote from Anne Lamott in her signature book Traveling Mercies. I had read Lamott's book many years ago, but had forgotten this pointed statement. She wrote:  "In fact, not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die."

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For many of us, forgiveness is something we crave for ourselves, but are reluctant to give to others.  But God says it works just the opposite of this.  It is only as we forgive others, that we ourselves are eligible for divine forgiveness.

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" - that is a non-negotiable truth.  Straight from the mouth of the One who had the most to forgive, and nothing to be forgiven for, and yet offered each of us forgiveness freely. 

Some people refuse to even contemplate forgiving someone who has hurt them deeply, taking the position that:
a) they aren't sorry for what they did to me,
b) they haven't apologized,
c) they haven't asked for my forgiveness.

While a, b, and c may be true, this is still not grounds for refusing to forgive.  How many of us are drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die?

Remember the old Rolling Stones song, "sometimes you're the bug, sometimes you're windshield'?  Yes, well, sometimes I'm the rat, and sometimes I'm just waiting for the other rat to die.  You know what I mean?

Waiting for the rat to die can be dangerous.  Sometimes the rat outlives us.  C.S. Lewis said once that he had only recently forgiven someone who had been dead for thirty years! Yikes.
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Hope there is no stray bottle of rat poison (unforgiveness) in your life-cupboard today; but if you spot one, throw it out!  I beseech you, as one who has, upon occasion, partaken of the poison and lived (and been forgiven) to tell the tale.  You will be glad you did. Until next time, your fellow traveler ~ Marsha