Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Something's Gotta Give

Several elements have been working together lately to encourage me to reassess my priorities, to look at where I am and where I want to be. My husband’s own reassessment of his professional goals, the two Celebrations of Life that we’ve gone to recently and my own aches and pains that remind me that, regardless of how I feel inside, my body is no longer in its prime, all have been causing a muddling in my mind. What I once thought of as my known path now seems to have branched off in some indistinct direction where I don’t know my surroundings and I’m not sure which way to turn. As I’ve thought my way through this I’ve realized that, at 52, it’s time for me to look at how I spend my time and use my energy because if I’m not doing what I want to be doing now, the advancing years necessitate that changes be made before more years fly by and my dreams and desires continue to sit in the file labeled, “Later”.

When I started writing this blog over three years ago I wrote in my profile that I was a drummer and writer wannabe. Well, three years have come and gone and the drum set which sits outside my office door has remained untouched – if it were in my bedroom, it would have become a clothes rack – and the only thing I’ve written has been these entries into my blog. There are some responsibilities in my life that are non-negotiable – our children’s needs, our family’s finances and related bookkeeping. Time spent on kids and family cannot be dismissed; this is time that comes with having the title of “wife” and “mom”, but other responsibilities, particularly those labeled “volunteer” can be eliminated and, after much thought, I realize that it is time to take that step. From the age of 19 to 37 I was a banker, a professional, a working mom. With the addition of the fourth child to our family, I realized that it was time to make the tough decision to do something different; something that would allow me to spend more time with our children. I left the bank and decided to take six months off while I figured out what would come next. That was almost 16 years ago and what did I do next? I stayed home, I took care of my family and I became a volunteer. Now it is time for me to focus on my own dreams. It is time for me to step back from my volunteer commitments in order to free up time for those dreams. This has been a really tough decision for me to make; I like my volunteer jobs. I feel as if the work I’ve done has made a difference. However, I could go on doing these same jobs for the next 20 or 30 years and my drum set would still be sitting there unused and my writing would still consist only of short little entries in my blog. Rock on! Write on! Here’s to new beginnings.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Celebration of Life

A couple of months ago we attended a Celebration of Life after a friend’s dad had passed away. It was a beautiful event with a great display of pictures and memorabilia depicting this gentleman’s life – his childhood, his education, his family, his professions. Friends, family and neighbors crowded into the room enjoying the camaraderie, sharing memories and catching up – the only thing missing was the honoree. I remember looking around and thinking, Wouldn’t he have loved to be here? I was saddened, too, because that day I learned more about his work and his passions than I’d ever known when he was alive. Wouldn’t it have been nice to be able to discuss some of that information with him? To hear his version of the stories being told?

Last night we attended another Celebration of Life. Like the other, this event was complete with a display of photos and memorabilia from the person’s life, with family and friends gathered together – including some who came long distances to be there. The difference between the two, though, was that the honoree was not dead. No, far from it! This honoree threw the party herself in honor of entering her octogenarian years and with the idea that if there was going to be a celebration of her life, she wanted to be around to enjoy it! I like her attitude.

We’re admonished to live life in the present, to use the good china, to enjoy the day we’ve been given, but what about also enjoying those around us, those we care about now, today? I know I did this well with my parents and I do it well with my very immediate family, but I don’t think I’ve taken full advantage of those who it’s more difficult to connect with because of time or distance or what seem like higher priority commitments. I think I’ll make this term, a celebration of life, a mantra of sorts to remind me to not only enjoy each of my own days, but to also make the effort to enjoy, to connect with, to celebrate life, with those around me, those I care about, those I would like to know better – now, today, while we’re all around to enjoy it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Welcome Back Kotter

My husband and I both went to high school in Ilwaco, a small community on the Washington coast. For my husband this was just a place his family moved to before his freshman year, but for me, it was my family’s hometown. Ilwaco is situated at the base of a peninsula that comprises the entire community. Both of my parents were born and raised on the peninsula and my large extended family lived, and many still live, on the peninsula.

Once we went away to college, my husband and I did not go back very often and, when we did, it was always with the sense of familial obligation. While I loved seeing my parents, the visits were not recreational and then, when parents began to ail, the trips became even more obligatory. At some point both my husband and I felt the rotting nature of the peninsula. It’s a damp environment where buildings rot and, it seemed, even people rot. My husband and I ran the opposite direction and fell in love with the dry air of central Oregon. For years, that was our destination of choice. No rotting there.

Even given the negative feelings we had about the peninsula, I have always loved the beach. Because it was my family’s hometown, we visited regularly when I was growing up. I spent countless hours playing on the beach with my cousins and later, when we had moved back for high school, I spent hours walking on the beach, reflecting on the beach and writing on the beach. The ocean draws me in much the same manner that Mt. Hood does. Once there were no more parents to visit and take care of on the peninsula, whenever I wanted to go to the beach we simply went to the Oregon Coast where the ghosts of rot did not follow us. Last fall some dear friends invited us to spend five days with them, celebrating their anniversary at a house they’d rented at the beach – our beach, the beach of the peninsula. We agreed, of course, but we both realized that this would be our first recreational trip in, literally, forever. Even though I still have family here, I decided that, for me, this would be a trip devoid of familial responsibilities. I would go to the beach just to enjoy it. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel “going back”, but my anticipation grew as we drove across the coast range and I began to realize just what this place means to me. It’s not just the ocean. I can get the ocean on the Oregon Coast. It’s this ocean. This ocean that stretches along 26 miles of beach. This ocean that has roared in my ears since I was a child. This ocean that caressed my teenage wounds. This ocean that, I now realize, is at the core of my being. Coming back here has filled me with a mixture of emotions that just about knocked me over by their unexpectedness. I feel a sense of awe, joy and inner peace that I had not expected. I walk outside, letting the salt air wind hit my face, and I physically feel something wonderful happen inside of me.

It’s said you can’t go home again, but maybe the point is that home is never really gone from within you.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


A few days ago my youngest son asked me what I do all day when they’re at school. I went through my list of chores, errands and “work” (our own family bookkeeping and scheduling as well as a couple of volunteer commitments). He then asked if I wished that they were home with me all day and I responded with a resounding, “No!” I love my children, but the truth is, I love my time alone and I crave solitude.

Growing up I would sit for hours by my bedroom window just looking outside and thinking. I loved walking on the beach and thinking. At night, I would gaze up at the stars contemplating the universe and thinking. As an adult, I don’t feel like I have time to think. Not the type of thinking needed to arrange schedules or balance checkbooks, but the type of thinking needed to calm one’s mind. My nephew recently posted on Facebook that he loves walking beside the Columbia River and reflecting. I was jealous of his ability to take the time for that sort of solitude, for that time to think. One of the reasons I like to write is because formulating my thoughts around a topic forces me to think, forces me to contemplate something more than just who has what appointment today.

I saw a quote in the paper last week that really summed up my need for solitude.

“When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” --D.H. Lawrence

I want, I need to let life rush in!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Eau de Bengay -- Tres Sexy!

In my teens I loved the musky heaviness of patchouli oil. Later, in my 30s I leaned towards White Shoulders and, after my mother died, I liked wearing her scent, Emeraude. Now in my 50s, I’ve discovered a new scent. It’s strong, distinctive, has a lot of staying power and is relatively cheap. My new favorite scent? Eau de Bengay!

Remember the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The dad in that movie uses Windex for all sorts of ailments and mishaps. In a similar manner, my grandpa used Absorbine Jr. for everything! Scrape your knee? Apply some Absorbine Jr. Muscles hurt? Apply some Absorbine Jr. Ear pain? Drop in some Absorbine Jr. (and blow in a little cigarette smoke just for good measure). My memories of my grandpa are tied up with the smell of Absorbine Jr. just as my memories of my mom come flooding forth every time I smell Emeraude. Now, I’m afraid that my kids might begin to associate me with the smell of Bengay. With chronic shoulder pain in one arm and tennis elbow in the other, I have taken to smearing my upper extremities, morning and night, with Bengay. This morning, when I visited my ophthalmologist, I felt I should apologize for what I know was an overwhelming aroma of Bengay. Portland has a new policy for city workers discouraging wearing scents in the workplace – would the scent of Bengay be included in this policy? A few nights ago, my husband got into bed and cuddled up next to me – ever the gentleman, he whispered, “Oh, Bengay! That’s so sexy!”

There are many adventures that come with being in my 50s; I hadn’t expected that learning to love the scent of Bengay would be one of them.