Just One Thing

In Compathy With Lily Hobbs

Expressions of Old People

I remember my grandmother’s expression from time to time as we sat chatting. A corner of her mouth slightly turned upward as she looked straight ahead, in thought. Her expression said, “I wonder what it would be like to reach that younger mind that knows it all yet knows nothing at all. Nonetheless, I still love her.”

I remember my mother’s stiff upper lip, lips pursed, staring upward, spurned. Her expression said she was angry and felt snubbed by her oldest daughter’s disdain for her wisdom. “As much as it hurts, I still love her.”

I remember my dad’s slight chuckle as he glanced down shaking his head. A little smile let me know that, even though he knew I didn’t know what I was talking about, he still loved me.

And now, I feel my grandmother’s expression, corner of my mouth turned upward as I hear my own children and grandchildren at times.

I feel my mother’s expression. Trying to not feel spurned, I still stare upward sometimes, stiff upper lip.

I feel my dad’s insight. Shaking my head, I try to smile, maybe even chuckle, because I want them to know I still love them.

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Baby’s Hand Touching Woman’s
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Good Ole Days

What are the “good ole days,” really?

Aren’t they just the days before we realized

We had days to compare to today?

Weren’t we just as mad about one thing

Or another in those “good ole days” too?

 

We just didn’t compare those days to

Former days when we were too young to care.

Now we have not only the “good ole days,”

We also have those days when we were

Too young to care.

 

And now we have far more to be mad about.

Right? That orange asshole.

That pink hat-wearing crazy.

The unappreciated Veterans, renewed racism,

The animal killers, the plastic ocean.

 

Those are just the things we can see.

They are just the tip of the iceberg.

We have oodles to be angry at.

Shaking our fists. Where are those good ole days?

We want them back. We need them!

 

Oh, but wait. When I was too young to care,

There was segregation, assassinations and war.

There was not just communism, but there was

The Red Scare. There was establishment,

patriarchy rule and fundamental religion.

 

And during my “good ole days,” the music

That freed my soul was considered devilish

By the fundamentals. I saw my female peers

Shout, “feminism is not suppression,” and

I loved my bikinis and hot pants.

 

Those whose “good ole days” had passed

Hated me for enjoying mine. They said I was a

Sinner, a lost cause and to be shamed. I was confused

For a few years. Until I joined them. I began

Hating the pink-hat wearing crazies, for a long time.

Then I began hating the orange-asshole lovers.

 

Now I just hate the hate.

In them.

In me.

What I hate most

Is how hard it is to

Stop hating.

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The Faces of Old Men

I can’t get them out of my mind.

I met them in the lines

At the grocery store.

One thanked me when the lady

Cut in front of him and I shook my head

When she ignored his plea.

 

After offering him my spot and he

Sweetly declined, the one in front

Of me insisted I go first. I thanked

The Old Man saying kindness is refreshing

On a bad day. He was sorry for my bad day.

More kindness.

 

The new one in front of me was

Embarrassed when his bank card

Would not work. I wanted to say that

We don’t think it’s because you don’t have

Money, we know it’s the darn machine.

But I thought better not to embarrass further.

 

All I could see on my way out were more

Faces of Old Men. Some with jowls, one

Round and full of wrinkles, one pale with

Glasses and a few white hairs. One with two

Young men excitedly scratching the Scratchers

He bought them, “We got twenty dollars!”

 

I wondered how many Old Men were also

Having a bad day. Were they wounded by a

Young One? Were they cut to the core? Would they

Know forgiveness and that tomorrow the

Wounder will be the Bright Star? Maybe,

Tomorrow, the Old Men will be the wounders.

 

We are, after all,

Human.

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Is Quality Craftmanship a Thing of the Past?

Jim was a machinist at a small manufacturer near Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. I was 20 and did some of the bookkeeping for this company that provided specialized parts for airplanes and motorcycles. Jim worked independently, uninterrupted and was allowed to do his thing which was perfect according to the other employees. They admired the 65-year old’s ability and precision.

Diane was the Purchasing Department Manager at the cardiac-care hospital where I worked as the buyer in her department. One of my tasks was to reconcile the shippers’ packing slips with the quotes they provided earlier before forwarding the paperwork on to Accounting for payment when the invoices arrived. Upon finding a five-cent difference between the packing slip and the quote one such time, Diane asked me to contact the shipper to resolve this tiny discrepancy. As an impatient young woman just starting my career, I was irritated at what seemed a huge waste of time. The bigger picture I missed that day was that Diane ran a tight ship saving the hospital loads of money. In time, it was easy to see she was my best teacher preparing me for a successful career using the same perfectionist characteristics crediting me and my employers with our own acclaim.

Fast forwarding 40 years, I’ve hired a few handymen and had some projects done in a new house my husband and I recently purchased. The most recent was yesterday when a local company installed the shutters on a few windows. Before they left, I checked them out, admiring how beautiful they were. “Oh, they don’t open all the way?” I asked. The installer immediately explained why they weren’t opening which was an obvious excuse for simply not lining them up correctly. He had to remove them and reinstall them after which they worked perfectly. And it took him less than five minutes.

After another local business delivered and set up our new refrigerator, I noticed the double doors were uneven and one side stuck up higher than the other side. I called them, and they returned to adjust them accordingly. Before they left, I asked if they could level it so that both doors would stay open instead of one swinging shut making it difficult to gather my armfuls of ingredients to prepare a meal. Their reply was that they could not because it was my house that was not level. That was indeed true; however, my son was able to level it for me later.

I found a handyman on Angie’s List to do some jobs around the house like painting shelves and baseboards, repairing broken items and installing door handles. I had to leave before he finished the last job, so I just left him a check. Upon my return, I found the baseboards in the same mess than before I hired him, and closet doors still rubbed against each other when opening and closing. Also, a new door handle he installed left a large mark where a painter painted around the old door handle. Even though the new handle was the same shape as the old one, it didn’t cover up the inadequate paint job. Upon talking with him, the reasons for these discrepancies were legitimate, he just never bothered to ask me how to proceed considering the circumstances and left with unsatisfactory work.

With so much admonition to “think positively,” “see the good in others” and to “be tolerant,” I’m scratching my head. These are only a few of multiple experiences with workers lately. Furniture deliverers who break bottoms off new furniture and telling me to pick them up at Home Depot myself, handymen installing curtain rods and other wall décor without anchors and the items pulling out of the wall and gardeners pruning back bushes about to bloom cutting off fresh spring blossoms. What happened? What am I missing? Maybe instead of feeling slighted, I should feel sad for them because they never had Jim or Diane to teach them. Maybe I should just be grateful that I did.

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives, the cumulative experience of masters of craftmanship. ~ Author Unknown.

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A Few of My Favorite Things

Dear Julie Andrews,

Here are a few of my favorite things:

 

A hot cup of green tea on a cold afternoon

And a hot cup of chamomile to

Soothe a queasy tummy just before bed –

Both with a spoonful of honey

Instead of spoonful of sugar,

Thank you, Mary Poppins.

 

New spring sunlit warmth

Penetrating chilly gusts from winter

Demanding we not forget her;

And autumn’s crisp cool breezes

Interrupting the hot summer sun

Who begs us to remember him.

 

Citrusy scents wafting throughout my kitchen

As just-picked oranges and lemons are crushed

To delight our taste buds and immune systems;

Newborn babies fresh with life so pristine we had forgotten;

Snug blankets and throws all over the house so cozy,

Even my kitty and pup nestle in them.

 

Memories of my children growing up –

Daughter in her blue velvet and white eyelet princess dress;

Then her Madonna phase with sunglasses, hair bow,

Dancing and singing transforming her before my eyes;

Son’s giant white curls dashing around the yard, so fast,

Then his handsome stature blurred the moments in between.

 

Remembering my dad’s sweetness seeping out

Through dementia that only thought it could destroy;

Grandpa’s gritty warnings of bears as

We set out for the river with cousins and uncles;

And the river, oh, the river, that soothed me,

I still float, weightless, in the river’s arms today, forever.

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Yes, Mavis, Me Too

I saw Mavis Staples in concert last night at World Records in Bakersfield, California. I love her feisty spunk, gravelly voice and dimpled face. She was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2014 and the broadcast of the award show was the first I’d heard of her. Researching and listening to her music, I fell in love. This photo was taken from her biography on Entertainment Weekly.

“Build A Bridge” from her new album, “If All I Was Was Black,” is a new favorite:

When I say my life matters
You can say yours does too
But I betcha never have to remind anyone
To look it at from your point of view

These lyrics caught my attention and inspired me with the following.

Yes, Mavis, Me Too

I never said my life matters, Mavis

But I’ve had to remind others

To Look at it from my point of view.

 

When the man flying high his flange

In Napa for all the world to see

Empowered the girls who opened their lips

And limbs for his pleasure

The ones he said made him rich

And delighted him

While he ordered from us more bricks without straw

And then cut the widow in her distress to pieces,

 

I indeed asked him

To look at it from my point of view.

He laughed, mocked, derided.

The next time I told him my point of view,

He thought his loud roar, red face and popping veins

Would scare me off.

But I saw he was just a senseless drunk,

And I’d seen greater rage before.

 

Mavis, he still had the power to take my wages,

To remove my livelihood, to send me into poverty.

He broke another widow and robbed an orphan.

Your life matters, Mavis.

Mine does too.

And we all must keep saying it

From our point of view.

 

Oh, you cuss around women and you don’t even know their names and you
Dumb enough to think that’ll make you a big ol man

“Respect Yourself,” Sung by Mavis Staples

Songwriters: Luther Thomas Ingram / Mack Rice

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He’s Just a Simple Man

Keith and I are celebrating nine years together next month. Right after we met, Keith told me he’s just a simple man.

I learned in time what he meant by “simple.” He’s down-to-earth, easy to get along with and can get by minimally in the way of materialism, food, etc. Just let him have a beer on the weekend and go fishing from time to time, and he’s a happy camper. He’ll eat anything I make – good or bad – and he won’t hear me criticize myself on the occasion a meal doesn’t turn out as planned.

He’s blue collar, a truck driver, and I’ve worked in administrative roles my whole life. I’ve learned, though, that his street wisdom trumps my brainy logic any day of the week. Even though Keith is a quiet man, he’s also a verbal lover. Shakespeare said, “Men of few words are the best men,” but the words Keith does utter are showering me with adoration. Keith is not only warm hearted, he is physically warm. Keith’s touch brings a warmth and calming that feels healing. He also loves his hummingbird feeders and rejoices at the first sight of one.

We love our weekends together because we grill our dinners outdoors. We put everything on the grill; squash, potatoes, steaks, chicken, tri-tip, stuffed pork chops and he’s delighted when his creations melt in our mouths. He makes grilling his own personal party, playing his blues and swaying to the crooning. One of his favorites, Stevie Ray Vaughan, was playing at this writing, “Tin Pan Alley.” Neighbors at the few places we’ve lived since being married comment on his good music, hollering for him to turn it up as they turn theirs down.

His love for music includes Leonard Skynard who sings a song perfectly describing Keith – appropriately titled, “Simple Man.” Keith was very close to his mom and reminisces about their talks over coffee at her dining room table. I didn’t meet her, but I’ve heard from others at the church we used to attend in common that she was a sweet and kind-hearted woman. The apple doesn’t fall from the tree. Lyrics begin,

Mama told me when I was young
“Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this it’ll help you some sunny day”

Having a strong background in faith was one reason Keith “winked” at me on Match.com leading to our meeting.

“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love
And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above”

If we’re trying to decide between more than one brand when shopping for something, anything from mayonnaise to furniture, he’ll invariably choose the least expensive. He takes cookies with him on his road trips as a trucker. If I’m shopping, he instructs the Chips Ahoy must be the original. “Not the chewy ones?” I ask. “No, the original in the blue package.” I shake my head as I see the different varieties – the fudge-filled ones or those with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in them. “Who would want the plain, hard ones?” My simple man.

“Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

Something that intrigues me about Keith is when he’s angry, he doesn’t lash out or react in anger. He goes outside for a while and dwells upon things. I know because of the changed demeanor when he comes back inside. If he was angry with me, he’ll tell me he loves me. I finally realized that, after reflecting on the matter for a while, he concludes to himself what’s important.

“Boy, don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

In our nine years together, we’ve had some trying times; illnesses, unemployment and the usual unexpected curve balls that life periodically throws. “Everything’s gonna be OK,” he comforts me once again.

“And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

Oh yes, I will

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves. ~ Alan Watts

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A Story of Two Girls

Tarah was born to two loving parents and a brother five years older named Melvin. Tarah was a beautiful baby and little girl. In time, though, her parents noticed some behavior problems. Unlike her well-behaved brother, Tarah was more rambunctious, moody and sometimes destructive. Her parents bought her a bedroom set painted white with a vinyl-cushioned headboard on the bed. One night, Tarah got ahold of an ink pen and poked holes all over the vinyl headboard. Her parents were flustered. Gradually, Tarah became more of a disappointment to her mom who confided that she wished she had stopped at Melvin.

In early grade school, Tarah’s teachers administered routine State exams and discovered that she was gifted. She was considered a “Mentally Gifted Minor” (MGM) and her parents were told that her “gifting” required that certain care be given her to prevent a sense of isolation and feeling misunderstood. Later, when Tarah was a young teen, her mother found several empty bottles of alcohol under her bed. Tarah was an alcoholic and her mom confessed regret at not heeding the teachers’ instruction that Tarah be given the proper nurturance needed as a youngster. The family struggled through turbulent times to help her. She grew, however, into a beautiful woman, married and had two beautiful daughters, fighting alcoholism the entire time. It finally triumphed, and she died at an early age due to an alcohol-induced accident.

Adele was the first born with a brother to follow two years later. She, too, exhibited mood and behavioral problems throughout her life. She was also bright and beautiful. Even though Adele was the “apple of her grandparents’ eyes,” she was strong-willed, independent from an early age and mouthy to her parents. In middle school, Adele refused to go to school. She couldn’t explain her reasons, but her mom suspected she was being bullied for being so tall.

Adele’s grandmother was living with the family. Out of deep concern and love for Adele, her mother and grandmother began affirming her, showering her with love and encouragement. They explained how her beauty and height brought her much attention, sometimes unwanted and unkind. They let her know that people do these things that have nothing to do with her but are from their own internal insecurities. It wasn’t long before Adele decided she would go back to school. Once she did, she rose in popularity and grew into a well-adjusted, healthy woman with a beautiful family of her own.

Stephanie S. Tolan says in her article, “The first act of honoring the self is the assertion of consciousness: the choice to think, to be aware, to send the searchlight of consciousness outward toward the world and inward toward our own being. To default on this effort is to default on the self at the most basic level.” As parents, it’s our job to assist our children with this very thing. Otherwise, we default on them at their most basic level.

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Excuse Me, Someone Forgot to Ask Grandma

Watching Angie, my nine-year-old granddaughter, walk by the car into the pizza parlor was like watching a different person when my son and his family made a surprise visit last weekend. All three of the so-called “little” grandkids that we hadn’t seen since Christmas showed up taller with matured, leaner faces than when we last saw them. I wasn’t ready for them to give up their baby fat.

After their arrival, we surprised his oldest daughter, Ilena, at the pizza parlor where she worked. This was my first time seeing my oldest grandchild at work, and I was caught off guard at the difference from always having seen her playing as a kid or lounging in my living room at family get togethers. She also has a boyfriend who’s going into the service next month. And, getting ready to graduate high school. This is all too much for a grandma for the first time just a short 18 years ago.

After ordering my pizza, I went to join the others at the table and caught my six-year old grandson’s eye. The look on Evan’s face as I walked up to him tried to hide his delight anticipating the squeeze and kisses he knew I’d give him. My heart was full, nearly bursting, as I hugged his neck and loved on him. I’m tickled that Evan is still young enough to be obsessed with Legos and Zoobs, but I push back a sentimental apprehension about my pre-teen grandgirl. Let’s just say I’m glad that, with Angie’s striking beauty, she has a somewhat overprotective dad.

My daughter’s daughter, Evie, my 13-year-old granddaughter, brought the toddler she was babysitting. The last I remember, I was babysitting her – and still should be as far as I’m concerned. They ran into friends at the pizza parlor who had a baby that Evie asked to hold. Next, Allie, my three-year-old and youngest grandchild, arrived to join the group of littles. So, I snapped a picture of Evie with all the kids around her, and appropriately titled it, “All the babies love Evie.” I do too.

My oldest grandson, Adam, wasn’t there because he was with his first girlfriend. They forgot to ask grandma for approval. My sentiments – we need the whole clan together. He came to dinner the following day, though, so I got my Adam love. The only person taller than grandson who is 15, soon to be 16, is his uncle who is 6 ft 3 in. Adam will be driving independently in three months – I find this unfair, it’s my job to taxi him around.

My son brought their puppy, Zeke, along. Back at the house, three-year-old Allie was hugging Zeke, rolling him around, and petting him often. He was eating up every second of it – these young ones were in sync. Allie used to be afraid of dogs, including Jessie, my dog. So, this was quite a change as she couldn’t leave Jessie alone either. Jessie wasn’t as patient as Zeke and none too happy that Allie kept petting, hugging and kissing her. But Jessie hid in the bedroom for much of their visit, so it worked out fine.

Around the dinner table, moms shared stories about the heartache of seeing their kids grow up. Theresa, at discovering not too long ago that Evan stands up to potty like a big boy now, started bawling. Arya remembered when she dropped Adam off on his first day of high school. Filled with a host of emotions, she sat down to breakfast with her friends and sobbed realizing the grief she was experiencing from the growing up of her baby boy.

Excuse me ladies. How do you think this grandma, not to mention also a mom, feels? How did it go by so fast? Who do I see about no one asking Grandma?

I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child. ~ Anne Lamott

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We Love Our Fur Balls

Nate, the cat, jumped up on the couch to get one of his chin scratches and head rubs by me that he gets throughout each day. It was quite a love session before I decided to get to work on my next blog. Then, of course, here comes Jessie, the real diva of the house. She communicates with those big, black eyes and we always seem to understand each other. “Well, c’mon,” as I patted the small space between Nate and I. Seeing that it was small, Jessie opted to jump up on the other side of Nate and crawl over him. Nate has no claws but he still paw-slapped at Jessie, making contact only a couple of times. It caused Jessie to pause during her attempt to find her own, personal and comfortable position right next to me.

What was funny was that Nate also opened his mouth with little lunges like he was going to bite Jessie too, knowing that his teeth were his only real weapons. He never made contact though and I’m certain that was intentional on his part.

Jessie does the same thing with my feet. Grrrrr.  I told a co-worker once back after we first got Jessie about how she bites my ankles. She didn’t actually bite down hard but I could definitely feel those tiny razor-like teeth around the sensitive backs of my ankles. She laughed and asked why I didn’t just move her out of the way with my foot when she did that. “Because she quickly runs away before I could even think of that!” The gal laughed even louder. I guess it is a little funny.

We’ve had our Bichon Frise/Maltese, Jessie, for almost eight years and I was delighted to have a lap dog after my last cat was not a lap kitty. Our white fur ball is comforting, and I think she keeps as warm up against our legs at night as much as she keeps us warm.

Nate came to us just last summer when his owner took a job overseas. I fell in love with this handsome Maine Coon and often refer to him as Pretty Boy. He was quite skittish the first few days with us but warmed up to me quickly. He shied away from hubby, Keith, for a long time which was unfortunate since he’s not that fond of cats in the first place. I read that Maine Coons tend to attach to one person, though, so Nate’s just being true to character by following me everywhere. Now, after close to a year, he’s warming up to Keith, but still hisses occasionally if things just aren’t quite right according to cat law, whatever that may be in the moment.

Jessie has never had much to do with other animals, including Nate when he first came to stay with us. Nate, true to the feline nature, hissed at Jessie for a while as though she was the spawn of Satan. Now, I can’t say they’re besties, but they don’t seem to mind each other all that much and sniff each other often. They look like they’re kissing so I’ll take that as a good sign. During a busy day in our new home a while back, I needed them out of the way so outside they went. They weren’t elated and cracked me up when I saw them expressing their disdain at the patio door. I snapped this photo as a keepsake of the moment. I wonder if we entertain them as much as they entertain us?

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