Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Problem with Punctuality

The problem with punctuality is that when you get there, no one is there to appreciate it. (Quote - from whom I have no idea)
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Whatever happened to the early bird gets the proverbial worm?  If my recent experience is any indication, that slippery little guy is going to live to a ripe old age. 

Punctuality seems to be as dead as a door nail.

If the watch fits, wear it.

For years I made my living in a corporate setting which could easily have been called "Meetings - R - Us".  It was not all that unusual for my admin assistant to call me as I was driving in to the office to inform me that one meeting had been postponed, but two others had been squeezed into the slot, "and by the way, there are three people lined up outside your office door who do not have an appointment, but who say it is urgent that they meet with you."

I just hated it when I heard myself sighing before 7:30 a.m. 

Amy would give me the rundown on the three surprise visitors' issues and say I had twelve whole minutes to deal with the most critical one.

 "Give that one a cup of coffee and tell her to take a seat; send the second one back upstairs and tell him you will call him if I get an opening this afternoon, and invite the third one to go wait in the Cedar Conference Room." 

(Yes, we went through our own eco-green awareness phase - didn't everyone in the nineties? - and our nod to it was that every conference room throughout the organization was re-named for a tree.  The Sequoia Room was for reserved for big shots ( subtlety was not our strong suite) followed by the Elm, the Oak, etc.  Someone from Southern California had once suggested the Jacaranda Room and nearly got fired.)

Where was I?  Oh, yes, the point is that for years, and years, my every waking moment was scheduled for me by those above me, below me, and beside me. 

The quickest way to commit career suicide was to be repeatedly late to a meeting, a conference call, a team huddle, or whatever they were calling the latest group-thugging. It was not only rigorous, it required the split-second-timing of a relay racer handing off the baton.  I was the only middle-aged executive I knew who had shin splints, and I was not a runner.

Around there, when they said, "Time is money" - trust me, they meant it.  And they were counting.

These days, most folks I run across do not even seem to think time is chump-change.  Dental appointment?  Take a good book, because it is going to be awhile before you are invited to say "ahhhh".

Last week I attended a 9:00 a.m. soiree.  When I arrived there were a few "early birds" roaming aimlessly around, wondering what to do with themselves until the thing started.  It was a whole five minutes before start time.  And half the seats were still empty.  By five minutes after, another twenty had strolled in.  About 9:35 the remainder finally took their seats.

It is a good thing I was in a good place, because otherwise I might have been tempted to "lose my sanctification" as they say where I grew up.  That is not something anyone should have to witness, so thankfully I hung in there.

My Dad always said, "If you are five minutes early, you are right on time.  If you are just barely on time, you are already late and behind the game."

I think he had a point. What ever happened to respecting other people's time?  When did it become fashionable to be fashionably late?

What if the surgeon said to the scrub nurse, "Just hold him open another fifteen minutes, and I'll be there after I finish this latte?"

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It is time for bed, and I dare not be late, because Holly (our Lhasa) will not be one minute late for her 6:00 a.m. food.  I tell you that dog has a sense of timing like a Swiss watch.  Big Ben could take lessons from Holly.  So could a few others.

And if either the *LOC or I do not spring from the bed to attend to her pitiful  hungry whimpering, she just may not come when called later on.  Let me tell you, around here, there is a price to pay for tardiness.

I ought to send Holly down to my next appointment with her handy-dandy little doggy-stop-watch.  That would put the fear of adverse canine karma into them. 

The real problem with punctuality is that it is a character trait that everyone says they admire, but no one wants to be BFFs with.  Punctuality is a lonely road ... but at least you move along at a pretty good clip. 
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  Meanwhile, I am considering whether to bury my watch in the backyard and see what might sprout.  Until next time (whenever that may be  - I'm trying to learn to be more flexible)  ... Marsha
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Question:  Are you among the timely, or are you a Jenny-come lately (or later, as the case may be)?  Just wondering.  :)
(*Lovable Old Coot)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Unexpected Success in Common Hours

Walden Pond
Walden Pond (Picture from NPR)
Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, is and always has been one of my favorite books.  The stripped-down, laid bare life he chose, and what he learned from that experience, has fascinated readers for one hundred and  fifty years. I particularly love the oft-quoted lines from the conclusion: 

"... if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
Just now I am watching the morning sun come through the dozens of pine trees that surround our place here in the foothills and I am keenly aware of how blessed we are to be here.
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The other day I read an article about the varying degrees of satisfaction that people find in retirement and was interested to learn that a key differentiator in satisfaction with this stage of life is the difference between focusing on what an individual hoped would be rather than choosing to focus upon what could be.

Those whose disappointment is greatest seem to see their present as a dreary imitation of what they had hoped for; rather like hoping for a closet full of Armani suits, only to discover that your wardrobe consists of second-hand knock-offs that have been badly designed and even more poorly sewn.

In contrast, those who feel their lives in retirement are most enjoyable seem to focus on what could be.  Perhaps they come to realize they are not going to own a villa on the shores of South Lake Tahoe.  Instead of stewing and brewing about it, they decide to enjoy renting a cabin in that area as often as their resources allow.

Perhaps the large and loving, close-knit family they had envisioned filling their golden years turns out instead to be far-flung and very much engaged in their own pursuits.  Therefore, they go visit when they can, invite family to come stay when they are in the area, and use email, phones, Skype , etc. the rest of the time to maintain a connection.
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Allowing ourselves to become fixated on what we hoped would be, rather than focusing on what actually could be is to choose unhappiness. Surely, only a fool or a masochist would choose unhappiness.

We don't always like to admit this.  It is easier to allow ourselves to indulge in the fallacy that "this is just the way things turned out."  While that may occasionally be true, more often it is not.

The fact is that we always have a choice.  Viktor Frankl articulated this searingly in his classic book, Man's Search for Meaning, on his experiences in a WWII concentration camp. Even in those horrific circumstances, he believed he had a choice as to how to respond to life.  He chose courage and kindness as his only weapons against despair and cruelty.  He survived and later triumphed.
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Whether adopting an outlook of resentment and bitterness, or choosing an attitude of gratitude, we always have a choice.  We can passively allow life to happen, or we can actively make a life for ourselves.

Something recently brought this home to me. Two different long time acquaintances said something to the effect that the *LOC and I were the only people they knew who were "living out their retirement dreams."  Really? Guess they forgot what life was like for us this time last year. And the year before that.

It is true that, after several years of looking and hoping, we were able to move from a city to a small town in the Northern California foothills.  We do get to travel some and we try to take advantage of what this season of life has to offer.  Some days I almost feel guilty, we have so much for which to be grateful.  From this perspective we have, indeed, found "a success unexpected in common hours."  How marvelous.

But then I recall all the years wherein we made choices; less of this, fewer of those, less frequently some other thing - not a life of lack or penury; but a deliberate lifestyle of living below our means.  For example, instead of getting a new car every year or two (as my father often did) we drove our vehicles eight or ten years each, sometimes more.  That choice alone probably paid for every trip we have ever taken.

Do we have regrets?  Yes, some.  Did we achieve all we had hoped to do?  Not all.  Is our life all that we hoped it would be?  Not quite. We are both well acquainted with loss and heartache.  Who isn't?

But are we enjoying what we can make of where we are and what we have right now?  Oh, yes. Furthermore, we are forever grateful, as we know that it could have been much different.

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote,

                "Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
                  The saddest are these, 'It might have been '."
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Let us then choose to focus on what is and could be, rather than what might have been.  It is a worthwhile effort.

These "common hours" are a treasure that money cannot buy. Further, it appears that perhaps they are not all that common.                        # # # # #

Hope your common hours are filled with quiet satisfaction in what can be.  Until next time, your common life commentator ...Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)
Question:  What are you taking particular satisfaction in during your common hours?  Just wondering.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Is Your Circulation Valve Open?

Valve : 3d render of pipeline on white background  Stock Photo
The warm water ran over my aching hands with soothing bliss.  Ahhhhh - so comforting.  How I had missed this small pleasure.

Of course, we do have running water, and always have had.  We are a bit rustic up here in the Northern California foothills, but we are not prehistoric.

However, for this entire winter we have had a challenge with obtaining running hot water.  First we checked the hot water heater.  Was it functioning?  Yes, it was. Nothing seemed to be plugged anywhere.  Water would run, and eventually hot water would come through - but it took for-ev-er.

We have a home warranty policy and many months ago, after a brief call to the assigned contractor, here came the licensed plumber; who assured us that our hot water heater was working just fine. 

Okay.  Thank you?  I guess.  But what about the fact that we cannot get any hot water from the bathroom faucets in less than two or three minutes, and it takes a full four to five minutes for the hot water to begin running from the kitchen faucet?  (Which, oddly enough, is the faucet nearest the hot water heater.) Answer us that, please, mister plumber-man.

Sorry, no clue.  Pay the house-call fee.  And off he drives, all full of his own confidence, based - apparently - upon very little actual knowledge.

Months go by, two more calls, even a helpful neighbor weighs in and dismantles a faucet, is pretty sure he has it solved.  Nope, still takes for-ev-er to get the hot water to come through the house.  He opines that it may be a design flaw.  We may just have to live with it.

Okay.  The *LOC and I both have a few of those, so we can deal if we must.  But icy water over my arthritic hands two dozen times a day is pretty darned uncomfortable.

Then one day the water pressure in the kitchen faucet suddenly does go kaputt.  Now that surely can be solved, can't it?

And sure enough, a different plumber-guy shows up, dismantles the same faucet, replaces a small stem-float-ball-thingy - and voile!  Pressure problem solved.

Given his magic touch, we make so bold as to tell him about the mystery that is our hot water circulation.  Yes, we have a good hot water heater.  And yes, when we can actually get said hot water to come out of various faucets it is just fine.  But it takes for-ev-er.

That can't be right, can it?

He first declines to investigate, saying that this mystery isn't listed upon his call-out sheet; he was called about a pressure problem.  True enough, but we are soooo impressed with his expertise, couldn't he just take a tiny little peek around the old scatter and see if he can identify our plumbing gremlin?

Even plumbers have egos, and when he learns that three others have failed to solve the mystery, why he hitches up his tool belt and wades right in.
In less than five minutes he identifies the problem.  Out in the garage, near the hot water heater, but not part of it, is a red valve that has been turned off. (By an earlier plumber, called about a small leak completely unrelated to hot water, who was clearly a dolt.)

When Magic Plumber-Guy turns the valve to the "on" position - hot water is instantly available - from every faucet in the house. Oh, my stars and stripes forever!
That little valve is part of the designed plumbing schematic, unique to this house, but it does work just fine when it is open.
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I don't know about you, but I have a few unique design features in my own life, one might even call them flaws.  And it has, upon occasion, happened that I could not seem to force, coax, or otherwise produce any "warm and fuzzy" interactions, hopeful signs, or hot enthusiasms.  Life was tepid at best.

I consulted various self-help books, contemplated my navel, and indulged in other attempts to solve the mystery of why my life seemed cold and unsatisfying.

Finally, after all else had failed, I would consult the Master Designer.  Why does my life seem cold, or at best tepid?  I am stuffy, huffy and stiff.  I don't like it, but I don't seem to be able to fix it.

It has happened, from time to time, that the Designer reminded me of a small, almost hidden valve that was the key to my circulation problem.  Hope could not flow, laughter did not warm me, joy did not permeate my faith until the valve of service was turned on - until the giving gauge was set to "wide open".

As has often been stated, the Dead Sea is dead precisely because it is all intake, and has no outlet.  That which does not give, dies.  Period.

If you are feeling stale and stuck, may I be so bold as to suggest you might want to consult the Master Designer of your life and check to see if your life's "circulation valve" is open.  Trust me, it makes a world of difference.
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Hope your life-circulation system is humming along nicely.  And that your hot water is flowing freely.  And forget that "cold hands-warm heart" nonsense.  I'm all for warm heart AND warm hands. Until next time ...Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)
God loves a cheerful giver.

Friday, March 8, 2013

On Being Present ...While Absent

Each new day is a gift.  That is why it is called "the present."
Photograph by David Lawrence.
Today I sang with a choir at a memorial in honor of a man I never met.  I wish I had known him.  He was a close friend of the pianist for our group and thus our invitation to sing at his memorial service.

It was the first funeral/memorial service I have attended since my mother died three years ago next month.  And I could not help but contrast the circumstances with her own service.

Today's memorial was held in a large hall with many people in attendance.  It was full of ceremony and symbolism, as he was a member of a fraternal order whose members had gone to a good deal of effort to honor their friend.  There were flags, and poems, and flowers, and bells tolling ... and best of all a number of heart-felt eulogies.

To a man (and woman) they spoke of his loyalty - if you were a friend of Larry's, you had a friend for life.  They talked about his generosity - if you needed a helping hand, he was your man.  They enjoyed reminiscing about his sense of humor - if you could not take a little ribbing, you might find yourself a little out of your comfort zone around Larry, who like to "stir the pot and shake things up a little."  I'm pretty sure I would have liked Larry a lot.

He was not sitting in the seat of honor reserved for him today.There was, instead, an empty chair.  He was absent.  But he was very much present in every look on the faces of his loved ones - a large and blended family, who acknowledged that it had not always been easy; but it had turned out to be worthwhile.  They smiled at remembered antics, and his sometimes goofy proclamations.
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There were only about two dozen people at my mother's services, and nearly all of them were family.  Mom was not an easy person to get to know, as she was very reserved and could be quite critical of others.  Furthermore, as I have sadly observed, she had no discernable sense of humor.  It just seemed to have been left out of her makeup.

She struggled with depression and loneliness a good portion of her life; always seeming to find it difficult to "fit in" as she hoped to do.  Still, she was a generous and giving person. I admired her courage and her perseverance more than anyone I have ever known.

She is absent - for almost three years now - but rarely does a day go by that I do not recall something she taught me or said to me, or simply lived before me.
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Whether we are well known, and much loved, or little known and missed by only a few; we all can live our lives in such a manner that for someone, we will still be present, even after we are absent.
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We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.  wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.  (II. Corin. 5:9 & 9 (KJV)
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Hope you are very much present in your own life today.  It is a sad thing is to still be here and yet be absent from your own life.  Until next time ... Marsha

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Another Nine Minutes ... Gone

Product DetailsThe *LOC loves to cook breakfast.  And I don't just mean a nice little pan of oatmeal.  He likes to whip up pancakes topped with heated syrup and good butter.

He loves to make omelets with chopped green peppers and onions, filled with mixed shredded cheese.  These he serves with whole wheat toast and raspberry jam. Ooooh, boy.

And he LOVES to fry bacon - lots of it.  His bacon turns out just right - dry, crispy and not too dark, not too light.  And flat!

One kitchen tool he prizes more than nearly any other is his bacon press.  For those who have never seen, much less used, one - it resembles an iron.  (See photo above.)  You set it on top of the bacon as it fries, and the weight prevents the bacon from shriveling up.  He also drains it and dries it on a paper towel.  Voila!

When the LOC places a slice of bacon on a plate, it is crispy, golden brown and flat, non-greasy and delicious.  In other words, perfect. Oh, dear - that is the problem. 
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The other day I read an article that said medical research indicates that for every piece of bacon a person eats, his or her life is shortened by nine minutes. What?

Oh, phooey.  As we get older there are so many things that are not quite as enjoyable as they once were.  I don't mean to be a Debbie-downer here, but it is true.  A nice walk used to simply mean wonderful things to see as I went along, and a good sense of fatigue when I got back home.

Now a brisk walk, in addition to those two things, also involves:
- being sure I have first visited the bathroom before I head out,
- making sure I am wearing a pair of shoes that gives me the best surface grip to avoid falling,
- that I am wearing both sunblock cream and a hat to protect my face from the sun, and
- being willing to hurt for the first three blocks until I hit my stride (which admittedly is nothing to brag about.)

In other words, simple pleasures are not so simple anymore.  So for crying out loud, couldn't they have left having a nice slice of bacon alone?

Apparently not.

So I did the math.

The LOC cooks breakfast an average of twice a week.  But we generally only have bacon during one of those meals.  However, he always serves me three perfectly cooked slices.

There goes 27 minutes I'll never get back.
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Calculating a half an hour lost per week, equates to approximately one day each year.  If the LOC and I persist in this ritual for thirty years, I may lose a month at the end of the gastronomical trail.

Well, life is a series of trade-offs as we all know from personal experience.  A month is nothing to sneeze at.  But neither is the prospect of thirty years without bacon!  Yeesh.
Guess we each have to make our own choice.  For me, for now at least, .... honey, pass the bacon.
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Hope you are using your time well and wisely.  Failing that, hope you are at least enjoying a good slice of bacon!  Until next time ... Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Progress Not Perfection

I am not sure why I am writing this little essay today, except that I feel compelled to do so.  I see so many people beating themselves up over what they perceive as their lack of progress in life, on the job, in relationships, or toward a life goal.  

For many years I counseled employees upon how to better succeed in their role in the company.  Sometimes the coaching was about how to obtain that promotion they had been longing for and other times it was about how to better operate under a boss who was less than the ideal, or any of a myriad of other issues.

I kept a framed poster on my office wall, with a picture similar to the one shown above, that read:  Success is not a destination, it is a journey.  I still believe that.

When working with people who wanted some help in making progress toward a goal, some of the questions I would pose were:

Why do you want this? (If it was a desired promotion, and the answer was simply "more money" - that usually meant we had a lot of work to do.)

What skills do you have that make you feel well-suited to this next role? (If the response was, "I don't have any idea" - we had a lot of work , etc. .....).

What have you done (on your "own time and own dime") in the past year to prepare yourself for this opportunity? (If s/he looked at me and said, "huh?" - we had a lot .....)

What approaches have you already tried to improve the working relationship? (If the answer was "nothing" - that did not bode well.)

It was my genuine joy to see them succeed, sometimes beyond their initial hopes or dreams.  However, there were times when they just could not seem to "make it happen"; they could not find a way to achieve their ideal employment situation.

When they would come back to me, in such circumstances, wondering why they had failed, I often pointed out (when it was true) that they had not failed; rather they had overlooked their own progress.

In life, just as in a career, the goal should be progress not perfection.  

Progress is not defined by "how am I doing compared to so-and-so."  Using this definition we will almost inevitably be disappointed and frustrated.  And there will usually be more than a dollop of envy and self-pity thrown in, too.

I defined progress by "how am I doing compared to where I was this time last year?"

Questions we may legitimately ask ourselves are:
Am I more effective in my role this year?

Have I shown growth in the areas of compassion, patience or generosity?

Am I doing my best to be a good role model where I have the opportunity to do so?

Our progress along the time/life continuum will always be less than ideal. And sometimes our honest answer to each of the questions above may be a regretful "no, not really." 

After all, we live in a fallen world.  But our situation can almost always be improved upon, depending upon whether we are willing and able to invest the energy and discipline to make it so.

Whether it is our spending habits about which we are concerned, our weight management struggles, or our dreams for ways in which we would like to participate in the world, progress is the goal.  

God never expected us to become "perfect" in this life, except as seen through the sacrifice of his son and the beauty of grace.  Even the verse in Mathew that says "Be perfect as your Father is perfect" - in the original Greek actually uses the root word "mature" meaning a fully mature person spiritually, not an infallible human being.
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Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else ... Galatians 6:4 (NIV)
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Hope you are making good progress today and that you are not beating yourself up because you just aren't perfect.  Guess what, no one alive today is!  Until next time ... Marsha

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It's Official - I'm Obsolete

Product DetailsIt is a sad state of affairs when you learn you are obsolete via the nightly news.  But that is just what happened to me this week.

It seems the people who run the Monopoly game business also ran a survey to learn which board token should be "retired"; and it turned out to be the iron.    

It was replaced with a cat.

Oh, puh-leeze.  Just when was the last time a four-footed fur ball put a nice crease in your best slacks?  I mean, honestly ...

Of course, it wasn't really that much of a shock to the system.  I have long suspected that I am one of only three people left in America who still actually irons.  I would love to know who the other two are, incidentally.

I actually enjoy ironing.  Probably because I only do it when I feel like it, and I only have to do a few pieces at a time.

Back when you had to iron everything you wore, or go out the door looking like you just fell out of bed, things were different.  Of course, as it turns out, those who ran around looking wrinkled and woe-begotten were simply twenty five years ahead of their time.
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Oh, well. Such are the vagaries of life.  I plan to keep on ironing as long as I have the strength to set up the old board, and plug in the iron.  It relaxes me, and it gives me a wonderful sense of satisfaction when I am finished with a whole set of freshly pressed blouses, slacks and shirts.  They look nice and smell wonderful!

So if the trade off is satisfaction, a sense of completion, and a good olfactory experience vs. being obsolete in a society which indulges in what is called "planned obsolescence" every single day -  well, color me happy

I am content to be officially obsolete - my blouses still look better than they need to :)

True, I won't pass go and I won't collect two hundred dollars.  And I definitely don't plan to get a cat.  (Holly, would have a fit.)

But all in all, I am okay with it.   # # # # #
Hope your day was a good one and that your favorite board piece was not snatched and declared obsolete.  Or you either.  Until next time ... Marsha

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Little White Lie - Or Ivory or Ecru

Musical_notes : music notes setOdd term, isn't it?  "White lie" - by which we generally mean an untruth which does not have moral, financial, or safety implications; but which may in the telling allow certain notions to remain undisturbed.  Or it may allow certain assumptions to go unchallenged.

Maisie asks her friend, "How do you like my new dress?", blissfully unaware that the dress is the wrong size, the wrong length, the wrong material, and the wrong cut.

But is Maisie's friend likely to tell her any of that?  Oh, no.  She will probably come up with something that evades the whole question, and respond with something like, "That color does such nice things for your skin."
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Last week I visited a community singing ensemble as an invited guest.  Everyone was friendly and very welcoming.  They reminded me a little of The Village People, minus the fetching costumes.  However, they began on time (always a plus for me, as I loathe being late for anything but a dental appointment) and they had all the necessary equipment at the ready.

Song sheets were crisply distributed to two dozen or so present.  Warm up exercises commenced.  The jolly leader tapped his baton on the side of the music stand ...and we were off.

Yes, indeed we were - off key, off tempo, off you-name-it.

Between songs they gaily asked me whether a) I had ever sung before, b) did I know any of their songs, and c) was I thinking of joining their group as a regular?  Answers:  a) Yes, b) some, and c) I was thinking about it.

After we whipped through a few familiar ditties, there was a brief coffee break from our warbling.

One fellow (of the approximate age of 103) sauntered up to me with a familiar manner and declared, "You are the second prettiest woman here."

Unfazed (or simply temporarily stunned from the workout I had just undergone) I shot back with a pleasant smile, "Oh, really.  And who is the prettiest?"

"I don't know, but I always allow for the possibility that there must be someone around, or soon will be, who fits the bill."

(I cannot make this stuff up.)
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Now to the heart of the matter.  The leader of these happy cohorts announced, with no little ceremony, that we were about to have an audition.  I had been specifically assured that this was a no-audition-required community singing group, or I would have stayed home; and thus I felt a sudden shortness of breath.  But, not to worry, he did not mean me.

Three members of the group were going to favor us with a number. (I think we might have been better served with a letter, but I was new, so I didn't say this.)  If their song was of appropriate quality, they would include it in the group's repertoire at the performance later that afternoon.  But they were not sure they were ready, and it was up to us to decide whether they were up to standards.

JL (Jolly Leader) reminded us solemnly that this was an audition, and not to be taken lightly.  It was important to give honest feedback.  This was no "gimme" - this was an honest-to-goodness audition.  There was to be no automatic praise, no false reassurances.  Whether the trio was to be deemed ready for the upcoming public performance depended solely upon our feedback.  (Good heavens, the pressure was already mounting, and I was just visiting.)

The three (two male and one female) approached the piano with a good show of humility and a dab of jaunty confidence and announced their selection.  I had never heard of it, which was just as well.  Less to compare by.

I'm not quite sure what key they were singing in, but it hardly mattered as they switched it several times, whether the pianist did or not.  Some of the song was sung in Italian and some in English, but who knows which was which. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus and a repeat on the chorus for a flourishing finish!

I can honestly say I had never heard anything quite like it.

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After the last notes had died, but not necessarily a natural death,  JL solicited our unvarnished feedback.  This was met with a somewhat strained silence, for about ten seconds, and then the floodgates opened.

"I think their tone is .... remarkable."

"The mood of the song is really uplifting."

"Such a happy song."

"They probably should stand a little further away from the piano, as it was a little difficult to hear them on some notes." (I couldn't have put it better myself.)
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I sat there in mild disbelief.  The trio broke out into broad smiles.  General nodding and thumbs up could be seen for two rows in either direction.

And then I began to smile, too.  This group sings for the sheer fun of it.  They don't give a hoot about staccato, obbligato, or adagio.

But they sing with gusto!  And good camaraderie.  And a genuine joy in each other's company.
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And you should have seen the beaming faces on our audience later that afternoon, as we crowded into the social hall of a retirement center to sing to the residents for over an hour.  They laughed and clapped without reservation; and yes, I do realize that not a few were probably stone deaf.  Didn't matter.  

My ears are still ringing with the applause.  (Or something.  :)  And a good time was had by all.

Oh, and did I happen to mention the name of the song the trio sang? It was "Escusa me" - loosely translated "excuse me."

Well, why not?  Where's the harm?  

As I said, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.  Fortunately, I don't have to, as it happened just as described.  At least that is my recollection of how it all went down.

And yep, I think I may go back.  They told me they really need good singers, such as myself.  Since neither my morals, my finances, nor my safety is at risk - I think I will give the color of their feedback the benefit of the doubt. White, ecru, or ivory - I'm just going to allow the notion to go unchallenged.
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Hope you are telling the gentle truth wherever it is required, and giving everyone else the benefit of the doubt.  I'm certainly trying to. Until next time ... Marsha

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Grabber - Tool or Weapon ?

Pine_cone : Two big pine cones on the white background
The weather has been a little warmer this week, and we have had some breaks in the rain.  This means it is time to go out and begin to clean up all the pine tree debris that has landed during the last round of rain storms.  Pine cones, pine needles, and branches are an ever present chore waiting to be tackled.

The first few times the *LOC and I picked up pine cones, we both hobbled back into the house after a couple of hours of vigorous pine cone retrieval, as bent over as the hunchback of Notre Dame. The share price of ibuprofen products ticked up nicely that week, let me tell you.

But we cannot simply allow the things to pile up or soon we could not navigate the yard.  If you inadvertently step on one, well, you may end up sitting near it upon your own backside.  They roll when stepped upon creating a real hazard for the ankles.  At this point, my ankles have enough issues without aggravating them, thank you very much.

Fortunately, there is help at hand.  It is a wonderful little contraption called "the grabber".  It is yet further evidence that your local hardware store is the best establishment you can possibly frequent.  They have absolutely everything at the hardware store.  (With the exception of good deli sandwiches.) I could spend hours just wandering up and down the aisles, and sometimes do.

The grabber allows one to grasp a handle, which opens and closes, and is cleverly affixed to a three foot long pole, at the end of which is a set of pincer-like prongs operated by the handle at the top.  With this handy-dandy tool I can pick up pine cones without bending over very far. In fact, given that I am somewhat height challenged, I hardly have to bend at all.  

If I had to guess, I would imagine that this little gem is the best selling product around our little mountain hamlet, at least among the geriatric set.  Why this thing has undoubtedly saved its users untold tens of thousands of dollars in chiropractic treatments, liniments and ointment rubs, herniated discs and ruptured what nots.  The device is too marvelous for words; and I am sure the inventor must now be a jillionaire.  Deservedly so.

Once the little grabber was discovered, why picking up pine cones became quite pleasant.  Child's play, really.  That is until the *LOC got out of line and called me a party-pooper. What, you may logically ask, does picking up pine cones have to do with party pooper-ing?  Good question.  It is only in retrospect that I have sorted it out.
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The other afternoon, the LOC and I went out to companionably share yard duty.  While I was grabbing cone after cone in one area, he was industriously scooping up pine needles across the yard, as he listened to music on his headset.  They have these little paddles with teeth especially for this purpose (no, not on the headsets, silly, on the pine needle scoopers) because pine needles do not rake up well.  And clearly they cannot be grabbed. 

Every so often he would shout to me, across the yard, calling out some song or other that was currently playing, asking whether I remembered that one.  Generally I did, but occasionally I just nodded and kept grabbing, regardless of whether memory served.  Nightfall was coming and I still had forty thousand or so pine cones to pick up before dark.

Suddenly the *LOC shouts to me something about " Just wanna' have fun?" - grinning like a lunatic.  While I might under some circumstances agree, I really didn't think it was any of the neighbors' business and given his volume level I didn't see how they could possibly not hear him, so I ignored him.  A couple of minutes later he called out again along the same line.

I was by then getting ticked and paused to give him the stink eye.  I mean really, some people have no sense of time and place.  He looked puzzled, if not downright hurt.

I turned back to my grabbing, muttering to myself about foolish old men who cannot even do yard work without letting their thoughts wander in untoward directions, when he suddenly shouts out again, even louder this time, which I hardly thought possible.

I whirled around, prepared to step lively over to his vicinity and share an opinion or two with him, when he calls out, "Cindi Lauper -  girls just wanna have fun.  Remember that one?"

I was so irked that I was tempted to have an untoward thought or two myself, in terms of what purpose might the grabber serve other than just pinching pine cones.

But really, what was the point?  So I just shook my head in the negative and waved him off.  At that point, he shook his own head, and said, "Party pooper."  I think he thought he was muttering under his breath, but his headphones were turned up so loud, that he sounded more like he was trying to call down fire out of heaven.

Meanwhile, he was now raking with rhythm -feet moving, hips swaying, scoopers swishing - just having a fine old time over in his quadrant; whereas I was now thoroughly miffed at having been misjudged.

Smarting from the put down, I dragged my wheelbarrow over to his blind side, but overcame the temptation to acquaint him with my grabber in heretofore unknown ways. Instead I tossed the grabber onto the mere twenty thousand pine cones I had managed to grab, and stomped off to the kitchen. Let the remaining twenty thousand do their worst to whomever happened to be in the yard.
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Later, I could not help but sadly recall that wisdom laden line from Cool Hand Luke. "What we have here is a failure to communicate."
Ya think?  :)
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Hope your pine cones are staying on the limb, and that no one has risked life and limb trying to communicate with you today.  Until next time ... Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot - in this case, clearly a misnomer.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It Used To Be Funny ...

Perhaps my sense of humor has developed "old arthur" - goodness knows pretty much all the rest of me has arthritis.

Somehow, a number of things that I used to think were funny, are now just too true for belly laughs.  Besides, I try to avoid anything that might make my middle regions jiggle.  It is undignified, if not downright unsightly.

And stuff I previously thought was hilarious, lately strikes me as nearly pitiful - or as my dad used to say "Pity-itty-ful" !

Be that as it may - the following are a few observations on the challenges of the "maturity season" of life.  I cannot remember who first shared these with me.  That is another "maturity challenge".  I DO know that it is Tuesday.  That's about all I know today.

Laugh at your own risk ....
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  • That gleam in your eyes is from the sun hitting your bifocals.
  • Your little black book contains mostly names ending in M.D.
  • You get winded playing chess or bingo.
  • Your children begin to look middle aged.  Now how can that be?
  • You know all the answers, but nobody asks you the questions.
  • You actually look forward to a dull evening.

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Hope you are having a day filled with sunshine and smiles.  The *LOC and I are looking forward to a dull evening - maybe listening to some old Eddie Arnold tunes.  :)  Until next time ...Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Root Rot - Or A Better Story ?

"...the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show."  ~Andrew Wyeth

There it was, sitting on a small wooden stem, underneath all the dead foliage from last season's flowering.  A new bud, and it is only January.

Slowly, methodically, I pulled away more and more brown and brittle dead "stuff" and as I did I saw more and more little reddish buds perched on their stems.  They had color and life, even amidst all that cold, stiff, brown, vegetation.  They were simply awaiting their time to bloom.

My newly transplanted planted peonies, which were three to four feet tall by summer's end, with massive greenery and blossoms as big as dinner plates, had by mid-winter shrunk to puny looking brown sticks of about half their former height.  If you were to glance at them, you might reasonably conclude they were dead.

However, they are not dead (lifeless, finished, hopeless) but rather they are currently dormant (latent, invisible, yet to be manifested).
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I'll be honest with you, I mostly hate winter.  I don't like being cold. I dislike trekking about doing errands in the frigid rain.  My arthritis flares up and my spirits spiral down.

Last fall we planted tons of new shrubs and plants that looked wonderful and truly added to the natural beauty of our little half-acre.  And then came winter.  Nearly everything has shriveled up, wilted down, and gone to sleep.  They are not dead - just dormant.

But oh, do they look dreary.

You can imagine, then, my excitement yesterday when I went out to do a little mid-winter tending to the peony plants.  According to my gardening book peonies should not be cut back until all foliage has died off and the first frost of the winter is past.  Then, and only then, do you cut them back, and put mulch around their base.  Otherwise, you can get root rot and fungus!  

When I discovered bud after bud, colorful and full of promise, I was just as pleased as a proud parent when her offspring has done well, even in dreary circumstances.

As I headed back into the house, after stowing my tools, and gloves; I suddenly wondered whether the Father might be just as pleased when I show some promise of renewed commitment and contribution.  

Perhaps you have been dormant lately, cold and lifeless; and perhaps there is yet coming a time of fruitfulness.

How I want to avoid spiritual "root rot" - stay away from the nasty fungus of the soul that tempts me to think there is little point to any effort of mine.  

I was so pleased with those little red buds yesterday that I smiled for a long time, and thought a lot about how beautiful they will be in the coming months.  All that promise just waiting to unfold.

Does God wait for me to develop a small bud of patience, a little shoot of faith?  Is He so glad when He sees them that He smiles upon my life when I allow His timing to begin to manifest itself in fruitfulness?

Those buds cannot know how happy they made me yesterday.  They cannot perceive how often I smiled as I considered the pleasure they will soon bring.

Even so, in my ignorance and earthly blindness, I cannot know how often God looks upon my life, even in times of winter barrenness, and smiles as he sees a small new bud of faith and fruitfulness begin to take shape.  
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Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 NIV)      

So friends, let's be on the lookout for root rot and fungus - as we look toward the fruitfulness of spring.  The whole story is not yet told. Until next time ...Marsha