Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Back in the day, I used to host some pretty extensive family Thanksgiving parties, and include stray friends in the process.  One of my favorite strays, Dale and her family, have often reciprocated and have invited me to their smaller family dinners on the off years.

Our every-other-year-Thanksgiving-in-Kansas-City tradition has kinda-sorta fallen by the wayside these past few years since I threw all my cards into the air and climbed into the camper van. A few of my family would come down now and then, but just a handful of folks.

This year, Dale offered to host me and whichever of my family members came down for the holiday. I thought it was a wonderful idea, so accepted. Then, one of my sisters voted it was my turn, and a lot of the rest of them agreed. So, I called Dale.

"I know you offered to host everyone, but they voted that it's my turn, and I'll have 15 - 20 people in for the holiday. How about we switch gears, and you all come to my house, instead of us crashing your party?"

She was the next best thing to insulted. I was going to deny her the pleasure of hosting a large party of people she likes?  Really???

So, tomorrow morning, we will all truck on over to Dale's house, bringing pies and a lot of hands to help with food prep. There will be lots of good food and warmth and laughter.

The turmoil of the first six months of my year has begun to settle into manageable blips, and I have much to be thankful for.

And, bonus, I get to host a major slumber party. In the olden days, everyone would stay at my place - but it was a big house, with three showers, so was easily able to sleep the twenty or so people who'd stay each year. My new place is about a third the size of the old. But. Everyone over the age of 25 gets some sort of bed or cot - and if no one gets their own room, well, it's only for two nights.  It'll be great fun with the eleven of us staying here. (There's just one shower, so some careful coordination will be in order, but we've got this!)

I am looking forward to the beautiful chaos.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

More Shootings?????

Don't write about guns again, I told me after the Las Vegas shootings. You said your piece after Orlando, and you're not going to change anyone's mind. The gun debate in this country is divisive, and you're not going to make any friends by speaking your mind. True and true.

But then, last week, I woke to hear about the Sutherland Springs, TX shootings. Another angry guy. This time, in a church. Angry at his estranged wife's family, so 26 people had to die, another 20 will be dealing with the damage his bullets did to their bodies for a long time, and a small town in Texas will never be the same. And his wife's family wasn't even there.

Why??? WHY???

Why did a frightened toddler have to die, shot execution-style per the news reports?

Give me one good reason these semi-automatic killing machines need to be in the hands of anyone outside the military.

They can't be used to protect your home - with their scattershot quick triggers, your family is as likely to die as any intruder.

Adrenaline thrills?  Please. There are plenty of ways to boost your adrenaline without going to a firing range and pretending to be Rambo.

And if the government goes rogue and comes after you and your gun, it's going to be too little. You might take a few of them down with you, true, but last I checked the news reports, they have way bigger guns than you do. and more of them. and better-trained people to shoot them.

Because there are already a gazillion of these things in homes around the country, and since they're already there, it makes no sense to ban the sale of more? With that attitude, Lake Erie would still be a stagnant mess, without a live fish anywhere to be found.

I am SO angry, and I don't know what to do with my anger.

Along with the rest of the country, I send my prayers to those affected by these senseless murders. Along with a lot of other people, I send money to a gun control lobby. But it's too little.

Since the mass shootings of the last five years haven't been enough for our representatives to pass laws to limit who has access to high powered weapons, I've given up hope.

Sometimes, evil wins.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Extra Time

Though I hear other people tell of things they do with their 'extra time', I rarely seem to run into the commodity myself.

Except today. Courtesy of the U.S. government, today gave me an extra hour.

Now. Time is precious; unlike money, once it's spent, we can't earn any more. So I took my extra hour today seriously. How to spend it?

I don't know about yours, but my extra hour came in the morning. By the time lunch finally managed to roll around, the luxurious feeling of having extra time had evaporated.

The extra hour certainly wasn't the one I spent lolling about in bed this morning, because I do that most every Sunday. And it wasn't the one I spent lingering over coffee and the paper, because I do that almost every Sunday, too.

Nope, it was the one I spent on a rare (these days) morning walk.

I worked hard yesterday, cleaning and mowing and doing all sort of housekeeping stuff. It felt good to get it all done, but by the time I got to bed I was over-tired;my brain and body were stuck in go-mode. I had a hard time falling asleep, and once I got there, I woke often.

So, while I technically had enough sleep by the time I convinced me the sun had decided to take the day off and hide behind the cloud layer, and it never was going to get really light outside, so I'd best get up, and besides, I had to go pee, so I got out of bed, I was still a bit groggy.

My shower didn't help. Breakfast didn't make much of a dent. My coffee didn't work its usual magic.

The leaves outside my window were glowing orange against the gray, and darn if they didn't pull me outside and down the block and around the park. The walk was the magic I'd been looking for.

I came home refreshed and ready to face the rest of the day - definitely an hour well spent, if I do say so myself!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Look Quickly!

I swear I just about missed it. Busy with work, booked on the weekends, tired in the evenings, I just about let fall go past without really seeing it at all.

Fortunately for me, this weekend afforded time for me to slow down just a bit. The weather turned near the end of the week, highs in the seventies giving way to the mid forties. The quick freeze brought out the colors of the trees, and I was able to find the time on Saturday to go for a walk in the golden light of late afternoon.

As I walked, my heart slowed, my shoulders dropped back down where they belong. The noise in my head subsided for just a bit; I was able to stop and breathe in a bit of the day's beauty. Summer's crowds are mostly gone, the park is quieter, getting ready for its winter break.

Maria's birthday was this past week. I didn't think it had affected me, but then, today, I found myself in tears - not so much because she is dead, but because of what could have, should have been, and now will never be.

When I packed up her things, I took a box of her nicer clothes home to clean and sort through; I figured I might like to wear something of hers sometime; we wore the same size. The box has been nagging at me from various corners since I brought it home, but somehow, I haven't been able to find the time to open one smallish box. I finally made myself open it today. The clothes inside smelled to high heaven of smoke and sickness. I almost just closed it up again to put it in the trash, but stopped myself.  Her youngest daughter is growing quickly to be about her mother's size. She might appreciate having a few things to remember her mother by.

So I plugged my nose and stoppered up my heart, and went through the dresses. This one, too old to be wearable, this one, yes, it should do just fine. I remembered seeing her in some of the clothes, from before she hit the bottom of her long slide; she wore them well.

The clothes are all cleaned now, ready to be pressed. If only it were so easy to wash the stains she left on my heart. She was toxic in her worst moments, and those are some of my last memories of her. But I know she still had, somewhere inside, the little girl who dreamed of having her own babies to dote upon. I know because I saw glimpses of her quirky smile even as the alcohol stole her away too soon.

These are the memories I will try to hold this week, as I stop to watch the leaves in their flamboyant farewell, I hope she had a Happy Birthday, where ever she has gone.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Wrong Words

I've finally found a measure of sympathy within myself for Donald Trump.

I am no fan of his, but the dust up this week around his call to Sgt. Johnson's widow brought out the teeniest feeling of sympathy. I know he said the wrong thing in the wrong way, and in typical Trump fashion tried to bluster and attack instead of apologize his way out, thus making the situation worse, but I cannot believe he would intentionally cause trouble during a condolence call.

How many times have I opened my mouth only to find, instead of the flow of words I wished, a stumbling mish-mash of little sense? I know the sentiment I want to express, but can tell by the look on the other's face that I chose the wrong words to express it - and my sentiment just got terminally lost.

I'm more attuned to this after my bout with cancer, and even more so, by Kate's. People meant well when they tried to sympathize with our trials, their words falling splat on the ground instead of conveying the good will their originators had intended. Most times, I was gracious enough to help them pick the words up, clean them off a bit and reshape them to match their intended meaning, but there were a few times I was tired enough, out of sorts enough, that I just let them lie in the dust where they fell.

When it's been my turn to watch my words fail, I am grateful there's not been someone there with a platform and a mic to broadcast my clumsiness to the nation, indeed, the world. It's bad enough to stand there and try to recover the dropped words; to explain what I really meant when it's just been me and one or two others. I can't imagine the embarrassment of having my red-faced stumblings shared gleefully across the airwaves

Just this once, I'm willing to cut the guy a little slack.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tough on Crime

Bronia was a Holocaust survivor. A young teen when the war broke out, she was sent to Auschwitz for the first part of her imprisonment, then to Germany to work in the factories where she finished out the war.

Once the war ended, she came to Kansas City with her husband. (I asked her once, "why, of all the places in the world, Kansas City?" She replied, as if no further explanation was necessary, "that's where Truman was from!")

Bronia stood all of five feet tall, maybe, and in her younger days was a slim girl. (By the time I knew her, she was quite round - she told me once she didn't care how much she weighed, but after her experience in the camps, she was determined she would never be hungry again. And she wasn't.)

After they arrived in Missouri, she and her husband opened a bakery at 31st and Woodland. The neighborhood there wasn't a bad one back then, but there are always a few bad apples about.

One day, a normal business day, a man came in with a gun. He pointed it at Bronia, standing behind the register, and demanded she give him the money.

Rather than money, she gave him a piece of her mind. What did he think he was doing? Didn't he know how thin their margins were? She had no money to spare! This was America, and she hadn't come this far to get all she'd built since arriving here taken away!

He'd picked the wrong bakery to rob. Back in the day, she'd faced down Eichmann. Some punk with a gun wasn't going to worry her any.

As she berated him for his lack of good sense and manners, she was busy packing up a bag of doughnuts. She finished up her tirade with a bit of compassion - surely, he wouldn't be trying to rob Bronia's bakery if he wasn't hungry. She came around the counter, put the bag of goodies in his free hand, and pushed him out the door, telling him not to come back again until he'd learned some sense!

I can picture the man, standing on the sidewalk, looking at the gun in one hand and the bag of bakery goods in the other. A bit dazed, not sure what just happened, he goes on his way, still puzzled and definitely well-chastened - never to bother Bronia again.

If only all robberies could end the same way. A well measured dose of compassion dished out alongside an eye-opening moment where the would-be-criminal learns to see others as something other than marks to be taken.

We might need more bakeries then, but we'd definitely need fewer prisons.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Miniatures

I sometimes have a hard time getting me to get out of the house and socialize. I almost always enjoy it when I go places, but I usually have to promise me I don't have to stay for more than thirty minutes if I'm not having fun before I can get me out the door.

The neighborhood picnic a few weeks ago was no exception. There WAS the added lure of free food, so I walked the block from my house to the party after it was in full swing. I grabbed a plate, looked around, and saw my neighbors sitting at one of the tables. Score! I joined them, figuring this was an easy way to use up those minutes.

They introduced me to Bill, one of their longtime friends, who lives fairly close by. I politely asked what Bill does for a living - turns out he makes miniatures. For real. Well. Suddenly I wasn't in quite such a hurry to move along. I've always wondered how they managed to make small replicas - there's a Toy & Miniature Museum just down the street; I spent a fascinating afternoon there with my family a few years back, marveling at the teeny-tiny beautiful furniture in the doll houses.

It took me over an hour of fast talk and (sincere) flattery before Bill agreed to show me his workshop. We were both busy the following week, so I finally got over there this past Tuesday.

I was amazed, enthralled, intrigued.

The best part?  He let me hold some of the art. Unlike in the museum, where they sensibly place everything behind glass, he had a few pieces scattered about the shop. It was so fun to get to touch them!

He made the toolbox pictured here - and had a similar one he brought out for my inspection. The tools are made of hardwoods and real steel. The calipers work, the inch-long, quarter inch wide ruler has proper hash marks and itty-bitty numbers engraved along its length. The tiny saw (a little longer than an inch stem to stern) had even tinier teeth. I couldn't quite see them, they were so small, but he let me hold it and I could feel them with my fingertips - they were sharp enough to cut! He made the tiny working lock and key, the box and all of the tools and supplies inside right there in his brightly lit basement workshop.  Wow.

He plays for a living; termed it that way himself. He works when he wants to, doesn't when he needs a break. His love for his craft is evident in his creations. I felt honored because he took a few hours to share a piece of his world with me. (And maybe, just maybe a little envious of his skill and abilities.) He was patient with my thousand questions, let me run his tiny plane along the side of a handy pencil.

I came home with thoughts of all I'd seen and learned spinning through my head, the frustrations of the work day distant and forgotten.

See?  Sometimes good things happen when I stretch the boundaries of my comfort zones!