ANTICIPATION

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The most wonderful, albeit craziest time of the year is upon us…somewhere between Halloween and New Year’s Day. This is the most hectic period when we will run around and exhaust our fleeting energies in preparation for the holidays. We will more than likely not take the time to stop and smell the roses. And when it’s all said and done we will look back and say either “that was the best time,” or more likely, “is that all there is?”

I have lived most of my life in anticipation of what would come tomorrow. I have to tell you that I’ve missed or have not appreciated a lot of what happened in the present while I was busy looking to the future. Sort of like the quote in John Lennon’s, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” Life happens while you’re making other plans. I was a big dreamer who had lofty ideas of how my life was going to turn out. Some of those dreams came true, but most did not. Shooting for the stars was not what it was all cracked up to be. Sometimes when I look back in my “coulda, woulda, shoulda” mind-set, I wonder about how I could have lived those days differently in the now, instead of wasting time dreaming about the tomorrows. I wonder about the life that happened and how I could have appreciated it more by living with a different mind set in the present.

dogs-flowers_102227Well, it’s too late for me to look back, and it’s nothing but a waste of time anyway. These days I try really hard to concentrate on what is happening right now. Little things that make me happy like my grandsons’ laughter when I do something that they think is funny (which is usually something simple since they are only eighteen months old!). Or breathing in the cool air on a crisp autumn morning. Today is a prime example. It’s absolutely gorgeous outside. Or cooking a delicious pot of chicken soup – nothing beats that aroma wafting through the house. How about the taste of a freshly baked apple pie? Or your dog’s silly smile as she romps in the park? A phone call from an old friend you haven’t heard from in a while? The snow silently falling and covering everything in perfect white?

As we frantically rush through our holiday preparations, all I ask is that you just stop yourself from time to time and just breathe. Take a break from the shopping and the baking and cooking and decorating and look around you. Observe your family for a moment as they gather around the table. Where would we be without them? Savor the tastes of the season. Breathe in the scents. Join in the laughter. Don’t make it all about the work. Enjoy the play. Have some fun. Because before you know it, these will be the good old days.

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Juror No. 4

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juryYou receive your notice in the mail for jury duty. I can hear the heavy sigh. I imagine that’s what most of us do when the summons arrives. “How can I get out of this,” is probably the next question going through your mind. ARGHHH!!! I just don’t have time for this!!!

But I have no good enough reason; so on the appointed day, after three days of checking the website to see if my number came up, I am summoned to report. It was a bright, sunny summer morning as I waited to go through the security check at the entrance of the courthouse. Too nice to be here. I’ll just get this jury duty thing over with and then I can get on with the rest of summer, I think. I walked down the hall and waited in line to be checked in and then was seated in a room that resembled a holding pen with about a couple hundred people. Some looked bored; others nervous and a few annoyed as they read, drank coffee and looked down at their phones. I am people watching and imagining their stories. Everyone is now known by a number which they were assigned, and we are called by such and lined up to be taken to the courtroom upstairs. This first group seems to be about 50 strong. As we enter the courtroom, I’m thinking it resembles a movie set. I’m a little excited because I’m always looking for the drama!

As we sit on the benches, the judge asks if there is anyone who feels they cannot serve, and most of the hands in the room go up. Then he asks for a show of hands of those who feel they can serve. There are maybe 12 of us left that are willing. There is a lot of tension in the room, and people are stressed awaiting their turn to be questioned on why they think they cannot serve. They are individually taken to a sidebar and questioned while annoying “white noise” is played in the courtroom so the conversations can’t be heard. For this particular case, they have already gone through one day of selection, and at the moment, there are eight jurors in the box and nine are needed for this case. Oh good, I think. They’re only looking for one more person, so I doubt I’ll even be questioned. Once they’ve weeded out the nays, they start calling the yays one number at a time.

The judge asks a series of questions to the potential juror. Then the person has to tell a little about themselves… age, schooling, job, family members and what they do, leisure activities, where they get their news, etc. Some are interesting and funny; some are boring. After the “getting to know you” dissertation, the person is brought for a sidebar where the judge and the five attorneys surround you. The white noise is played, and another series of more probing questions are asked that will determine your views on certain subjects that regard the case. Based on all of this, you are either excused or asked to take a seat in the jurors’ box.

Randomly, people seated are dismissed and another juror is chosen. All the same questions, the white noise, more questions, seated or not. Over and over. I get even more nervous than I already am. The selection is down to four people then three then two. I get called. Oh no. I sit in the vacated seat in the box fidgeting as the questions are read. No, no, no, no, yes, yes, yes. On it goes. Then I have to stand and tell about myself. I don’t think my life is all that interesting, but as I talk, I see some smiles and nodding, so maybe they like what I’m saying? Is it funny? Is it not? Who knows?! I am motioned to the notorious sidebar as the judge and lawyers gather round. Being surrounded by this many kind of handsome men makes me nervous, and I start to sweat. The judge asks some difficult questions. I find myself at times losing my train of thought. Their eyes are piercing. I ask the judge to repeat a very long three-part question. One lawyer repeats what I have answered. Did I really say that? Yikes, they really are listening and taking notes. In the end I am seated as Juror No. 4. They must have liked something I said, only I don’t have a clue what it could be since I felt like a babbling idiot.

A jury member remarks that we should not be nervous…the plaintiff and the defendant should be nervous because we have their future in our hands. What a thought. I mean, who am I to be determining the fate of these people? Why am I seated as a juror? I just don’t know. I don’t know what they are looking for. I would imagine everyone else is thinking the same thing. We watch the same process unfold over and over again. There is only one original juror left that was chosen on the first day. I can only describe the picking and choosing as a brilliant game of chess.

Then the judge makes a poignant statement. He says that besides serving in the military, serving as a juror is probably the next most important thing you can do for your country. With that having been said, my whole perspective changes. Suddenly, I am not nervous anymore. I am proud to be there and want to serve. I actually feel honored to be chosen. The day drags on with the same process, questioning, choices and dismissals. At the end of the day, another juror is dismissed leaving a vacant seat. We are eight and need a ninth. It’s very tiring, but at the end of the day, I’m still Juror No. 4 and holding.

Monday arrives with a whole new selection pool. The judge says that the selection would be over today, and the trial’s opening arguments would be presented in the afternoon. So today could be my first actual day of jury duty, or it could be the last. I am “in the box” at the moment as opposed to “on the benches” with those awaiting selection. We sit through the questioning again and again. Finally, in the afternoon, there are 9 jurors. The lawyer representing the defendant stands and says they are satisfied with this jury. It looks like I’m in! I’ll be Juror No. 4 for this trial. Then the two lawyers from the plaintiff’s side start conferring. They look the jury over and over and whisper to one another. I wonder if I’ll be the next to go. Then they look at me and then down at their notes. I stare at them, and they look away. Uh-oh. One stands and dismisses me. What?!?! But I want to serve, I think to myself! I’m one of the ones who want to serve! The lawyers thank me for my service. The judge thanks me as well. They are very sincere in their appreciation for those who have responded to the call. I nod and say that it has been a pleasure as I awkwardly climb over the other jurors making my way to the door. I look back one more time and smile. It would have been so cool to be a part of this case. Oh well. I walk down the hall to the exit kind of bummed. Another time; another place…like in three years when you are up again.

The thing is, though, if you get chosen for jury duty, change your perspective and just do it. It’s painless, and it’s an excellent way to serve your country. The alternative, as in a lot of other countries, is that a dictator determines your fate instead of your peers. And what if you were put in the position of needing to go on trial for one reason or another and had a bunch of people making up lame excuses to get out of it? By serving your jury duty, you are keeping our democracy strong…by the people and for the people and all that. So just do it!

OLD FRIENDS

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Old Friends

like bottles cast out to sea

in time, though lost

and tossed

and searching

somehow always find their way to shore again.

 

Memories are too strong

bittersweet years

filled with laughter and tears

they live on.

 

Years pass…yet time stands still

Everyone grows…yet nothing has changed

You turn around and yesterday’s child is still there

the people the same

the warmth alive

the love aglow

and I’m thankful to know

that the good memories outweigh the bad

and the happy times more than the sad are remembered.

 

As life goes on and people fade in and out

I realize more and more

that the oldest friends are the dearest

and the times we shared the most cherished

and our lives together

have only mellowed and aged

like fine vintage wine.

GYPSY SOUL

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How many of you were gypsies/bohemians/hippies way back when?  You know, the ones who hopped in their VW bugs in the 70’s and drove to California to find themselves? Yeah, me, too. What were we looking for; what did we find?! 

Bux1fMwCAAAJt1xSearching…searching…searching. My soul has always been looking for something.  Always been hard to settle. It was like a petulant child who would not, could not sit still. I got bored easily and was always searching for something I never ever found.  Never content. Never satisfied. Thinking I could always do more and would not allow myself to be stuck in something boring, boring, boring. My search was always about finding excitement and meaning and, of course, adventure.

I wanted to be an actress, a singer, a dancer, a writer. I was so sure I was going to “make it!” I wanted to play the piano and the guitar and write songs and become a famous troubadour. (unlike a matador!) I studied acting and dancing in Princeton and New York; roamed the streets of New York looking for work; went to California hoping to be “discovered” and ended up doing no more than community theatre. Then I half learned to play the piano (without ever owning one) but wasn’t half bad on a guitar I did own.  I was always writing songs…sending them out…they are forever lost in space. I wrote two novels and countless short stories submitting and receiving rejection letter after rejection letter. Although I did have some success in publishing…only not enough to even pay for groceries. It was disheartening and disappointing. After awhile I guess I just lost my edge.

I am so much older now.  But not much wiser. Life has set me back a little. I still dream way too much and am ever hopeful for things I’m not sure I’ll ever realize. These days, it seems the only searching I do is for my glasses. And that restless soul has been quieted somewhat by writing about it like this or having a glass of my favorite “beverage” like that.  I still dream of living in Topanga Canyon with Keith Carradine (don’t ask). But even the ever-so-cool Keith has laid down his guitar, cut his hair and put on a suit in the name of an acting job. So it is a good thing, I guess.

I would still like my books and articles to be published so I can stop living hand to mouth.imageIn the meantime to look at me, you’d never guess that underneath it all is a latent hippie with modified bell bottoms, a needlepoint gauze top (which I still own) and love beads listening to Loggins and Messina, Dan Fogelberg and the Eagles. I may seem like an ordinary, mellow, middle-aged person who has come to terms with life.  But the fact is, I haven’t. I still host an assortment of daily dreams. And I kind of know that one day I will still buy a yellow convertible VW bug and ride up the coast of California, although I’ve developed a fear of heights, and the cliffs might prove to be a bit daunting. No matter, dreams are necessary for simple survival…part of the plan. And they are still all there underneath the appearance of an older, wiser me.

 

THE NOTHINGNESS OF DOING NOTHING

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A garbage truck rumbles down the road clattering and harrumphing noisily as the air brakes screech. The trash cans clatter over and over again as the truck stops at each house. Another noisy truck with a delivery of stone for a neighbor arrives…boom, boom, boom, the tailgate lifts and tons of stone plummet to the ground in a thunderous crash. A back hoe starts pushing the stone around. A cat cries from somewhere outdoors; the seagulls shriek. So much for a peaceful morning.

There is nothing much on my agenda today except that I am, indeed, supposed to be resting. Something I just have a hard time doing. Fact is I don’t know how to relax.  I don’t know how to give in to all that needs to be done and just sit.  Some people have it down, but I’m just not one of them. I sit up in bed reading my morning devotionals trying to find some meaning or parallels between the lines. The weather is cloudy and rainy and cool, dampening my mood. My cat purrs quietly by my side, content with nothing more than being with me and having me gently stroke her head. I wish contentedness was this easy for me, but the fact is, I have never really been content. I sip hot coffee from a mug with the inscription, “Faith isn’t always a leap. Sometimes it’s just one little step after another, with lots of falling down and getting back up in between.”

unnamedFiguratively, it seems that lately I’ve been doing a lot of falling down and getting back up. My latest predicament is that I have literally fallen down and gotten back up but have broken my toe while doing so, snapping it like a pretzel at the base of my foot. It’s surprising painful. I mean, it’s only a toe, and I only have to keep it taped and wear a clunky boot to protect it, but it has, in fact, cramped my style. I don’t do much in the form of exercise, but I love to walk. That form of exercise is relaxing to me. Now when I hobble down the road a short way to give my dog Bella some sort of exercise, I start to feel the throbbing. And the dorsum of my foot starts to ache, so I hobble right back to the house. I miss playing with and chasing my two little grandsons around. And I know it’s only a toe, and I know so many others struggle with so much that this is only relative to a chipped nail. I get that. It’s not major…just annoying.

Going deeper, I feel that maybe God is once again working His mysterious ways. Maybe He knew I needed a break…figuratively and literally. In a way I feel like this is another lesson in learning because I’ve just come off the stress of two very demanding, albeit non-financially lucrative jobs. Fact is this time is a much-needed reprieve and time of reflection. If only I could try to benefit from the nothingness of doing nothing.  If only I could stop the worry and start trusting in what the future holds. It’s got to be good, right?! I’ll chalk today’s gloom up to the rainy day because I know this, too, shall pass. I get out of bed determined not to worry so much and to trust more, and, oh yeah, to try to relax.

 

SURROUNDED BY LOVE

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Booie

Booie

It’s been a week since I had to make the decision to say farewell to my cat, Booie He had been sick for a little over a month, and I kept hoping he would get better. In the end the cause ended up being liver failure. I prayed to God to take him naturally because making a decision to end an animal’s life is so very hard in all of its emotions. But that was not to be the case. People say it’s the kindest thing you can do for your ailing pet, but I’m torn on that one. But he is now free from his suffering.

Booie was one third of the “Three Amigos” that became a part of my family 11 years ago. His Mom, Meow-Meow, wandered by our house one day when we lived in the country, and she never left. She had a litter of kittens shortly thereafter, and she and her two sons, Booie and Colin have been part of my family ever since. It’s been wild and crazy with them, and Booie wasn’t the easiest cat in the world to love. He was skittish and hyper and hid more often than not. He survived and adjusted to three moves in his lifetime, and only got really friendly and cozy in the last year. Although he was odd, I loved him just the same. He’s left a void in the house, and the two other cats often search him out. It’s heartbreaking to watch.

Three Amigos

Three Amigos

sleeping

Molly, Skylar and Shana

I’ve been an animal lover since my earliest recollection, which is four years old. I was highly allergic to cats as a youngster, but still insisted on rescuing a white cat that was hanging out around our house. Since I couldn’t take it into our house, I had grand ideas to build him/her a little wooden house in our yard and even gathered a few pieces of wood for the project. I don’t know what ever happened to that cat. I think it must have been owned by someone in the neighborhood because I never saw it again.

Gigi

Gigi

My first dog Gigi lived to a ripe old age of 16. She was always at my side like Lassie. She followed me wherever I went, which was kind of neat. She never wandered from my side, sort of like a guardian angel. I was 6 when I got her and 22 when she passed. She is the only pet I’ve had that went naturally and peacefully of heart failure. Since then I have had a barrage of pets, mostly rescues, that have brightened my life with so much joy. I can still remember each and every one with such fondness: Chipper, Peaches, Tasha, Spike, Shana, Wendy, Molly, Ozzy and Skylar. They mostly came in twos, sometimes threes. All quirky and funny and full of love.

Shana and Wendy

Shana and Wendy

Molly, Ozzy, Skylar

Bella, Ozzy, Skylar

 

I really don’t understand people who don’t like animals. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I feel happiest when I’m surrounded by my pets. In fact, I’d rather spend time curled up with my dog and two cats more than anything else these days.

And I can’t help to think that some day, if I’m lucky enough to have lived my life well enough to enter the pearly gates, I will be greeted by all my furry and feathered friends. I imagine that they’ll run to me, tails wagging feverishly as they circle me prancing and frolicking around me, ecstatic to see me as much as I will be to be with them again.

I’ll be surrounded by their love once more…that’s my hope and dream anyway.

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My angel Molly

 

THANKSGIVING REFLECTIONS

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ThanksgivingThanksgiving is the time, of course, for giving thanks, and you don’t have to think very hard or look very far to start counting your blessings. I like to consider myself a thankful person, even in the face of adversity. I’m not always as positive as I should be, but I’m thankful.  When I was a young girl, I used to make a little production about writing my blessings down on paper on Thanksgiving Day.  They would be simple, something like:  Thank you for my mom and dad and brother and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. Thanks for Gigi my dog who follows me wherever I go.  Thanks for my best friends Gayle and Tommy. Thanks for our color TV.  Thanks for my teacher Miss McGurk…I really like her a lot. It was all very simple and to the point because at that age you don’t think into the depths of what true thanks entails.

As the years have unfolded, giving thanks on Thanksgiving Day has become deeply reflective and maybe a bit more complicated. Not everyone gets to live in that Norman Rockwell painting depicting the perfect Thanksgiving. I’m embarrassed to say that some years, depending on where I am at that point, I become a bit arid on the subject. Circumstances like the loss of loved ones or financial blows or job changes that didn’t turn out for the better or health problems or loneliness.  I’m sure others who are going through the ups and downs of life may have similar feelings. It’s just that sometimes our perspectives get strained and fuzzy, and it’s hard to imagine that things will ever get better, even though they usually do.

At these times I like to try really hard to look at my daily life and at the little things that make me happy.  It mostly revolves around nature and pets.  Like admiring a gorgeous pink and blue sunrise over the bay or making wishes on the thousands of brilliantly twinkling stars in the clear night sky.  Enjoying the splendor of a full, round blue moon. I admire the spectacular magnificence of the ocean or the colorful array of autumn leaves or the ability to breath in the clear cool air on my daily walks. I snuggle with my pets who make me laugh as I enjoy their amusing antics. I try to savor good food and try new recipes. Mostly, I try really hard not to dwell on the “what ifs?”  It’s not always easy.

So, if I can offer a suggestion to those who need a boost on this Thanksgiving Day, if you’re losing hope…give thanks that tomorrow is a brand new day to begin again.

If you think you’ll never get ahead financially, give thanks that you have enough for this day.

If you’re lonely, have faith that you never know what surprises may be in store for you.

If you have a roof over your head and heat to keep you warm on these frigid winter nights, remember you are luckier than many.

If you’re sick, be hopeful in your doctor and medicine and that in time it will get better.

If you’ve had a good dinner and your belly is full, you are truly blessed.

If you can get up in the morning and move at all, try to remember there are those who can’t.

Minimize the negative; accentuate the positive, even when it takes all the strength you can muster up to do so. And just keep it simple.

For my expanding family which includes my beautiful, brand new grandsons, my friends, relatives and loved ones. My faith. My crazy pets.  A place to live. My health. Work. Good food.  Creature comforts.  The beauty of nature. The promise of hope. In all of this I give thanks to my dear, sweet, generous God.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.