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Posts Tagged ‘learning at any age’

both books (2)_LI

I’m growing older, but not up. (Jimmy Buffett)

The tension in my neck tells me I am not in synch with the world as it is. Mass natural disasters are difficult enough to understand; mass hatred is another. I don’t need to delineate any of it. The blind can hear about it, and the deaf can read closed-caption. The unaffected remain in a narrow, wire-thin margin.

Pain begins before the first commercial on any news channel. Gentle heat helps my muscles. Distraction, blended with love, helps my spirit.

My husband and I take Dakota to afternoon kindergarten on Thursdays. Dakota asks me to sit in the back seat with him. We discuss the six-year-old boy world and his unique observations along the familiar route.

This young man notices details: The recycling truck has two steering wheels and two sets of brakes… He discerns how a toy train track fits together. His mechanical expertise will probably surpass mine before he reaches third grade!

During a rare pause Dakota notices the back cover of my second book, Stinky Rotten Threats. It is on the back seat between us.

“Isn’t that your picture? Why is it there?”

I smile. When I am with this young man, my intention is to focus on him. My successes, failures, and mundane trips to the doctor or post office don’t come up. He probably assumes I don’t pretend to pilot a plane without knowing what an instrument panel is. However, other than stocking the refrigerator with his favorite cheese and hot sauce, he wouldn’t know what else fills my day.

“This is what I do, buddy. I write. This is my second book.” (The first was The Curse Under the Freckles.)

“Wow,” he says flipping through the pages without looking at them. “It must have taken you more than an hour and a half.”

Dakota’s notion of numbers and time hasn’t developed yet. I realize I want world change overnight, in my spirit, even if my head knows a sudden transformation is as impossible as writing a middle-grade fantasy adventure in an hour and a half. The Star League Chronicles fights evil—not with fists and swords, but with truth. Even in make-believe, a story takes more than one page for goodness to win.

“Two years,” I answer. “It took me two years.”

He doesn’t say anything, but I suspect he thinks I must be mighty slow.

I don’t mind. Slow is the general idea. My neck thanks me. Growing up all the way isn’t recommended anyway.

 

 

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Sometimes the best wisdom and advice comes through the simple purity of a child. They don’t see the world as complicated as adults do. (Nishan Panwar)

Dakota and I set up a ramp for his cars in the living room. Since the action tends to include a lot of collision and upside-down accidents, an on-site mechanic becomes necessary. I have the six-year old man for the job.

While his work is magically quick, he doesn’t have a concept of money yet. His bill for removing a nail in my vehicle’s tire is $300. True, the bill includes a heart and secret code, DN. Dependable NASCAR grease monkey? I don’t ask. The F and heart placed together definitely don’t require mentioning. Besides, Dakota accepts invisible cash.

Later, we take turns as airplane pilot. The plane is the couch. Take-off begins in recliner mode. Believable or not, I’ll take it.

“How far are we going this trip, captain?” I ask.

“Twenty miles,” he answers. “And it will take twenty hours.”

“Okay,” I reply, then call back to our ever-changing number of passengers to buckle their seatbelts. My belly laugh remains inside, saved for later. For now, levity heals any lingering abdominal pain.

“I love you, little buddy,” I finally get a chance to say. He doesn’t need to answer back. His grin is enough response. I’ll go back to grownup mode in a few hours—with just a little bit more energy to face the ugly places.

 

 

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I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”   (Kurt Vonnegut)

No point putting my socks back on—my feet are covered with sand—from my son’s backyard sandbox. Yes, this senior citizen has been playing with dump trucks and plastic buckets. I follow the lead of my favorite kindergartner, Dakota.

He asks about what kind of work both my husband and I have done, and what I do now.

I state as simply as possible the jobs we had in young-person language. “I write books now.”

“Sounds boring.” He rams a motorcycle over a sand ramp. A wheel falls off. He grins as he clicks it back on.

I suppose when an individual’s written vocabulary is limited to one and two-syllable words, it could be. My granddaughter Ella has been reading since she was four. Different interests.

But, I don’t say anything. I let his opinion stand and heap a plastic shovel of packed sand into the next project, a castle. The building lasts almost three seconds before Dakota smashes it and turns it into something else. Another truck obstacle.

At age six, the pretend world is always in progress.

Next, he introduces me to a new Wii game. I have no aptitude for sports in the tangible world. On the flat screen, my lack reaches a new low.

“Well, I guess you win again,” I say.

We are ready to go outside for more activity, and he takes my hand. A gentle gesture. Dakota is considerate. I mentioned once today as I swung an invisible baseball bat, that I was thirsty and he ran to get me water, with ice. He also wanted to wash dishes, but left the big knife for me. A smart decision.

By tomorrow, my at-home to-do list will be too long to fit on the side of a mile-long wall. Those tasks will wait. Today I spend time with a young gentleman who doesn’t care about what I can or what I can’t do. He knows I care a lot about him, and he cares a lot about me. We are family, and that is all that matters.

You are right, Mr. Vonnegut. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

(photo-shopped public domain photo)

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What can go wrong will go wrong. (Murphy’s Law)

My computer is unplugged. Temporarily. A few minutes. No more. Its battery is at 69%. I checked two seconds ago. Then, the screen goes as dead as the inside of a serial killer’s conscience. The blackout has just destroyed 83 pages of edits.

On my final manuscript.

Scheduled to go to my publisher.

Today.

Yes, I do know how to write complete sentences. However, under the circumstances, my mind isn’t thinking in complete thoughts, especially as I realize the do-you-want-to-recover document I was editing contains an uncorrected way-too-common phrase I changed on page one.

And, no, I did not wait hours before hitting save. The save button would have a hole in if it were made of any earth material—including diamond.

Glitch two—some missed connection with my new Microsoft Word. No-o-o, a two-letter word that now has at least ten syllables.

Time to breathe before starting over. Two friends help make that happen, Ann and Shannon. They are coming for lunch and a personal concert. Fortunately, lunch has been prepared ahead. Simple. Homemade soup and tossed salad. Bagged tortilla chips. These two women appreciate. Excess is unnecessary.

Ann is blind. I pick her up from home and lead her up the steps leading to our house. She has no difficulty finding her way. Her sunshine greeting, light coming from her spirit, encourages me.

I realize there is no way I could have started over on my manuscript in a milieu of internal darkness. Shannon is already at the house and she is talking to Jay. Her laughter greets us as we enter the house.

We begin our afternoon with music. Neither of my friends could come to the Get Lit Festival last Saturday sponsored by Post Mortem Press. (Lit refers to Literature, not buzzed.) Local artists and writers brought their art to sell. I read a short section from my next middle-grade urban fantasy. I also played and sang three songs.

Nathan Singer from the Whiskey Shambles, rocked the program. He has an established following.

However, Ann and Shannon cheer as I play two songs on my guitar—just for them. Jay claps as well, even though he has heard my music so often, I close the door so he can concentrate on something else, anything else. A song may be incredible, but any sound repeated 7, 468 times requires ear canals as calloused as my fingertips. It’s called survival.

My heart lightens by the time I get back to start-over mode. And that is valuable because one beat after I get to the last page, Murphy’s Law shows up again. The computer freezes. Donkey-stubborn, won’t-get-out-of-bed, it refuses to budge.

My unprintable response remains in my husband’s and my memory since the computer is comatose now. It couldn’t hear if it were a living being anyway. Moreover, I reserve questionable language for the computer. I reboot the gosh-darned thing and pray my story has lived.

Trembling, I consider one of the last changes I made. Perhaps one of the angels my friends left in the house is present because I remember two edits. They are both intact.

Bye-bye, manuscript. Have a good time being formatted into a fantasy kids can enjoy where the good guys win. And hello, real life. No, I did not use the hammer or axe on my computer. The old thing will, however, be replaced. My birthday present from Jay.

After all, the innate beauty in life returns. Eventually. Murphy’s Law never destroys goodness completely.

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The only way out is through. (Robert Frost)

I don’t know the age of the woman to my far right in exercise class, but I’m impressed with her attempts to follow the instructor’s directions. She has a pronounced dowager’s hump and an unsteady gait, yet she shrugs, holds onto a chair, and fumbles with a length of elastic tubing used to increase strength.

Later, Jay and I chat with some friends, a couple who also attended the class.

The wife says the elderly lady told her at the end of class, “I wish I were seventy again.”

I smile, as if some angel were trying to get through via direct line, since I missed the subtle cues.

I am seventy. Sure, I have limitations. The mirror is far more truthful than I would like. However, this seventy-year-old blogger can tread water for an hour. Two hours with an intervening bathroom break. My balance, despite vertigo issues, isn’t bad. I can play with my grandchildren—on the floor—and then get up again, without the help of any mechanical device. Or groans. Gracefulness may be another issue.

Perfect doesn’t exist anyway.

Goals for improvement? Yes, I’ve got plenty of them. Some reasonable, some not. That doesn’t mean I need to live inside expectations. (Easier said than done.)

At home I haven’t finished breakfast dishes. There is laundry sorted in our tiny hall; mundane chores fill my schedule and complicate my priorities. And, uh oh, did I double book something this weekend?

As the four of us share my husband says something funny. In Spanish. I laugh. My knowledge of the language wouldn’t fill a tortilla, but I understand. Right now, life is good. The only way out…? Through. Every day. Up, down, and around as the path leads. Sometimes days and choices become difficult. At other times, they are as ordinary as a spin through the wash machine.

If or when, I reach the age of the woman in today’s class, I hope I have the courage and self-acceptance to struggle among the younger seniors, yet know inside my fragile body, my spirit is whole.

Whole, always whole, even in the most broken places…

my left hand, small, heavily veined, arthritic, yet capable

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I think self-knowledge is the rarest trait in a human being. (Elizabeth Edwards)

Instead of buying cards for my husband, I make them. Simple, fashioned from photos. Personal, displayed for just the two of us to share. He taped the most recent ones along our bedroom windowsills.

In one of my designed-for-him creations, is a picture of the two of us at our wedding reception. We look more than a tad younger—because we were.

In my mind, I speak to that young bride accepting a bite of cake from her new spouse, as she offers a bite to him. Gently.

Intellectually, I knew I wouldn’t be twenty-five forever, but the turn of the century was more years away than I had already lived. An eternity from a new bride’s perspective.

You have an…I pause…interesting road ahead.

No way could a photo of a long-ago-me hear my thoughts, and yet I feel a sudden urge to protect this former image, as if a flat scanned photo had listening power. Not everyone who attended my wedding would be alive as time moved through inevitable days and years. I would lose parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends. A pulmonary embolism in my lung would bring life-long change.

This young-bride-me didn’t know what crises would arise, what joys or challenges. I thought I was strawberry-blonde hair and a well-shaped, pain-free body. (My hair is the only thing that remains remotely the same.) However, wonder also awaited. Two sons. Grandchildren. The joy of art and words. New friends. Love for my husband that reaches deeper than romance.

“Hey, just enjoy the moment,” I say. “As fully as possible. Celebrate who you are, and who your husband is.”

The phone rings—one of my newer friends. “In fact, I think I’ll follow that advice right now.”

picture taken in the Redwood Forest during a California vacation

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Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. (Albert Einstein)

My sacred agenda is being tested. The sky is blue and the outside temperature holds in the low sixties—for a few hours anyway. My husband and I plan to explore a new subdivision in the neighborhood, to see how many new homes have sprung-up, while we enjoy spring in February.

And my mate is taking a lot longer to get ready than I expected. I tend to take on a little too much and move as if I were rushing out of a burning building. He enjoys the spontaneity possible in retirement.

Finally…finally we set out—at least an hour later than I wanted. However, he must have been listening to angel time. I was deifying my plans.

In the new development, Jay and I meet an incredible couple who are also walking along a cul-de-sac toward the back of the newer section. Three lots display sold signs; each area has not yet been excavated.

M and D will be moving into the neighborhood next week. They are much younger than we are. Nevertheless, we share common interests with them. I am buoyed by their capacity to actively care for others. Their church, close to the poorest areas of the city, assists the homeless.

“What items do you need most?” I ask.

“Socks and gloves,” M answers.

I remember a pair of socks we received in the mail as a gift after donating to an Indian foundation. I have never worn the socks because they don’t match anything I own.  A thought crosses my mind. Obviously, I have more than I need.

I have two more pair of socks that have never been worn, as well as red gloves I’ve been saving for that day when one of my old-faithful-pink-knitted-bargain-store specials, falls from my pocket and finds its way under the tires of a truck in a parking lot. 

The items are not as thick as I would like them to be. Maybe they would be useful in layers. I suspect the church will accept cash for whatever their ministry needs.

“I’ll drop some things off at your house after you move in,” I say. “And just leave a bag outside.”

Perhaps we will see M and D again after I drop off a bag or two. Maybe not. Either way, these two people were blessings.

I forgot about all the miscellaneous chores that were so essential a few hours earlier, and I focused on ways I could help someone else. Sure, the laundry can’t wait forever, but a rinse cycle that begins a few hours late won’t delay the world’s spin on its axis.

Something or someone? I’m grateful for the difference.

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