Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Love letter to J and R

 Siblings: With you at the start, for you 'til the end.

At least, that's the ideal.

I know so many people, including some relatives, who have negligible, icy, or downright hostile relationships with their siblings.  I guess there's nothing to guarantee that people will get along just because they have the same parents and some of the same genetic make up, but it does make me sad when brothers and sisters are not also allies and friends.  Siblings know better than anyone who and what and where we came from.  They are characters in a lot of our stories, in our histories.  For good or for ill, they help shape who we become.  What a shame when enmity or neglect replace intimacy.

I feel extraordinarily fortunate in my sister and brother.  I won't say I can't live without them, but without them, my life would be poorer, smaller, less happy, less sweet.  

We haven't always been as close as we are now.  Certainly we were close when we were young children. Our family moved often, so that we were the constants in each others' lives, always there no matter what friends we made and then lost.  Our parents were very good at making each of us feel special and fully loved, so I don't remember any sense of rivalry from those early years, only that J and R were my best playmates.  But there were periods when my sister was away starting her own family, and my brother was living a secretive (to the family) sort of hippy-ish life, and I was in Los Angeles chasing an acting career.  We still had a generic, habitual sort of love for one another, but didn't communicate much, didn't know each other very deeply.

When our beloved Mom died, however, the three of us immediately became a team and began to work together to help our dad through those terrible first weeks, and then the hard, hard next - and last - year of his life.  No one directed our efforts; we seemed to naturally find our appropriate roles and tasks.  We shared our grief in a way we couldn't with anyone else.  We were there for each other, without question, without reservation.

When Dad died and the work of closing our parents' estate was finally completed, we had bonded so thoroughly that we didn't want to go back to the occasional phone call or email, so we instigated a bi-weekly Zoom which continues to this day.  I cherish these get togethers as a way to continue to get to know my siblings, to stay caught up on their news and the news of their children, my nieces and nephews.  I love them so, my darling sibs.  I admire and respect and trust them.  And I like them, too, which is perhaps even more precious.  

Friday, August 25, 2023

Some observations, some answers, and a joke

I intend to be an old dog who can be taught new tricks.  It's up to the dog, after all, not the teacher.

Surefire, never fail 6 word diet: Eat less.  Eat better.  Move more.

As far as I'm concerned, every MAGA hat is made out of tin foil.

People who drive too slowly - should.  These people are lost, confused, stoned, or old.  We don't want them driving any faster.

The secret to folding fitted sheets: Don't worry about how they turn out.

If you can't say something nice, there's something wrong with you.

The best time for a dental appointment?  2:30 (Tooth hurty) (I wish I could take credit for that one.)

Some people must follow their pets around all day taking videos, just in case the pets do something YouTube-worthy.

If you want to be a brilliant conversationalist, practice listening.

'I want' wins out over 'I should' every single time with me.  That explains a lot.

Pacifism is not passivity.  Passivity is not pacifism.

I can be uncomfortable or I can grow.  I can't have both at the same time.

Amish saying: It takes a mighty good husband to be better than none.

If you have any sayings, mottos, slogans, tips or quips you'd like to share, please send them in a comment.  Cheers!

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Small, wonderful things

Inventors of those devices which required research, experimentation, years of trial and error, multiple resources and components, such as the electric lightbulb, internal combustion engine, computer - these people are lauded and remembered.  But it's those simpler inventions, so uncomplicated and familiar as to be almost invisible, that I want to take a moment to applaud.

Take the humble paper clip, for example.  Its design is perfect for its intended use. So simple, so elegant, so common an item as to be easy to take for granted.  Someone had to think of it, of using flexible wire and bending it in such a shape as to allow it to hold sheaves of paper together in a way that doesn't mar or puncture them, as staples do.

Fold down diaper-changing tables in public restrooms.  That's a more recent invention, but one which evokes in me the reaction "Of course!  Why didn't I think of that?"  It fulfills such an obvious need.  I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for mothers to change their babies when out and about before these simple, wonderful drop-down shelves where installed.  Obvious, yes, but someone had to think of it.

Thumb tacks.  Aglets.  Seat belts.  Chip clips.  Golf tees.  Bobby pins.  Matches.  Of course the list is much longer than this, but because the sorts of inventions I'm celebrating are so familiar, I'm probably looking at a dozen of them right now without even seeing them.

I have to say, an inventor or engineer I especially appreciate is whomever found a way to keep the doors in public bathrooms from closing completely when a stall is not in use.  It save us from the embarrassment of yanking a door open to find someone mid-pee, and also from that terribly undignified crouch.  Whoever you are, thank you.  My thanks to all of you.

Monday, July 24, 2023

A new perspective on The Avengers

Sweet Hubby and I are big Avengers fans.  We own all of their films, both the individual stories and the stories of the team working together.  We return to these films now and then with great enjoyment.

However, last night as we were watching "The Age of Ultron", I suddenly saw the Marvel world in a new light, and now I can't unsee this altered perspective.

The Avengers/Marvel films depict this world being attacked again and again by non-humans (Loki, Ultron, Thanos, etc.) with the utterly malignant intention either to dominate or destroy Earth's inhabitants.  Our attackers always have outsized resources of weaponry and technology.  They lead armies of robots or aliens that fight without mercy.  For our heroes to win, to save us all, they have to have even more horrible weapons, and they have to fight even more savagely.

These films act out for us the primal fear all animals are subject to, of being attacked and either enslaved or killed.  The films offer a modicum of catharsis because, of course, the Avengers always eventually overpower and destroy our enemies for us.  But then along comes the next film, starring yet another insane, brutal, seemingly unstoppable enemy, with more cities destroyed, more humans terrorized, more weaponry, more killing, . 

As much as I have enjoyed the many Avengers movies, I now have a sort of sick feeling about them.  They tell us "Yes, you actually do have enemies who want to destroy you, so arm yourself.  Look to those who promise to protect you, and accept their methods, no matter how heinous.  And don't ever let down your guard."  They play to our fears, our need for security, our desire for vengeance, our mistrust of what (and who) is strange to us - to the worst parts of our psyches.  

It helps me to remember that we humans are animals, and just as subject to our limbic system as a crocodile or condor or lion is to his.  The difference, though, is that we also have the rest of our great big brains, too, the parts which can process abstract ideas, can create, can tell stories.  We are capable of sympathy and empathy, of understanding, of recognizing the humanness in others.  We live on a perfect planet with all the resources we need to survive.  Why can't we get along?  Why can't we share?  Maybe because, unlike other animals, we also understand that we will die someday; maybe that's where some of this underlying fear comes from.  I don't know.  All I know is that I can't watch the Avengers any more with the same thrill, the same enjoyment I used to have for them.  

Friday, July 21, 2023

Sharing my treasures

From time to time I have bemoaned the fact that, even though I am old enough to posses a treasure trove of life lessons learned and stories to tell, no one is interested in hearing them.  I understand, of course.  When I was younger, I never went to older people and them to share with me their wisdom and stories.  I was busy, as everyone is, learning my own lessons, having my own experiences, accruing my own wisdom.  But still, now that I feel so rich in experience, I wish I had the chance to pass some of it along to others.

Yesterday that wish was, rather surprisingly and definitely gratifyingly, fulfilled by the darling young man whom Sweet Hubby and I have adopted as our faux grandson.  He has said that he likewise considers us his unofficial grandparents.  We've had him to the house a few times for dinner and a movie, and have taken him tunnel flying.  He is a honey in all ways, killingly cute and also very kind and thoughtful, with a young person's energy and enthusiasm.

He hadn't told me what sort of conversation he wanted to have, and I hadn't asked.  It turned out that he has been chewing on some of life's bigger questions and - oh joy! - came to me for some perspective and wisdom.  His actual grandfather, the last of his blood grandparents, died recently, and my grandson, at 23, has begun to understand what death is, that it is inevitable and permanent, and that our lives are short and temporary. 

He was especially concerned with how to talk to a woman he's dating about the fact that he doesn't want children and she does.  He wanted to know if I have regrets about not having had them myself.  He senses he's on the cusp of having to start making some bigger, more meaningful decisions about how to spend his life, what he wants to do and who he wants to be and be with.  It was like watching him move from boy to man right in front of my eyes.  It was the most serious I've ever seen him; he definitely felt the weight of the topics we were exploring.

I don't have concrete answers for anyone else's personal questions, of course, but was glad to share some of my own lessons and experiences.  Mostly I listened, and encouraged - indeed, urged - him always to be true to himself and always to tell others the truth.  He understands that there might be consequences for that, but I reminded him that there are consequences for not telling the truth, too; for accepting what others want for him at the cost of his own wants; for avoiding addressing what needs to be addressed; for trying to turn himself into what he is not. 

I hope he got what he wanted from our conversation.  I see such goodness in him; it is clear to me that he is going to be a stellar man when he grows up, and I have become deeply invested in how his life unfolds.  Just the fact that he came to me for this conversation says a lot about his ability to reflect and to look ahead at his life with serious consideration, both for himself and for others.  I wish I'd been smart enough to take more advantage of the wisdom of those around me when I was younger.  But then, I guess I still can.  Certainly a have a lot of life lessons of my own still to learn.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

We wowed 'em in Boise - again!

In December of 2021, I was one of five actors hired to play a family in a series of commercials for an Idaho credit union.  We were flown from our various home cities to Boise for what proved to be a gloriously happy week.  We actors bonded immediately, would go out for meals after working and talk for hours.  The crew and production staff were friendly and professional, the pay was fantastic, and in every way this proved to be my best on-camera experience in a 60 year acting career.  When the week of shooting was over, we actors all fantasized, without daring to expect it, that we might be brought back someday for another round of commercials.

And we were!  I've just returned from Boise redux.  It was a wonderful reunion, and another mostly good working experience.  The five of us fell immediately in love again.  We were housed at the same very nice motel, a lot of the crew and staff were familiar, and we had the chance to enjoy summer in Boise.

There were difference in this experience, though.  The shooting schedule was much shorter, only two days, and it turned out there were some complications.  For one thing, the producers had decided that the 'family' would get a dog.  A sweet, cute idea, and a sweet, cute puppy named Buster was hired for the role.  He was trained, and his trainer was on set to work with him, but he was also a puppy, with a puppy's energy and curiosity.  For one shot, I was asked to scoop him up in my arms and deliver a line to camera.  He wasn't huge, maybe 25 pounds, and I could certainly lift him with no problem, except when he decided to lie flat of the floor.  But often when I lifted him, he would wiggle, lick my face, look around at everyone, maybe give a little 'woof'.  This meant the shot had to be retaken quite a few times.  At one point, I was asked to hold him in my arms, squat down, and then stand straight up into the camera's view.  Thank goodness I've done a lot of exercising in my life, because this mini shot asked a lot of my thighs and arms.

Another new wrinkle was the producers' decision to have each of the characters shoot a Tik Tok video.  Mine was first, and it was a bit of a challenge.  I was asked to hold the phone/camera up high at a certain angle while I walked and spoke my lines, but I could only see the back of the phone, and so couldn't really tell if my face was properly in frame.  Also, I had to memorize on the spot some lines I had assumed would be voiceovers, and it took a few takes to get those right.  A lot of different versions of this video were shot, and I have to assume the producers got what they wanted, maybe enough good moments from each take so they could cobble together a completed video.  Each of the actors had at least one Tik Tok video to film, but some of what had been planned finally had to be dropped for lack of time.

Still, even with all that, it was another wonderful experience, made happier by the fact that the producers talked in our presence about the possibility of bring the 'family' back again in a year or so.  Wouldn't that be a hoot?  

Saturday, July 1, 2023

The way of the world

When Sweet Hubby and I adopted Bandy and Angel, they were 5 1/2 months old, small and sweet, able to curl up together in any of the fluffy beds on the cat trees in the living room.  Now, after only 6 months, they are so big that one of them fills each bed.  Angel no longer comes up onto my pillow in the mornings for loving.  Bandy is established as the alpha.  Only Bandy gets in our laps now.

I've recently learned that one of Seattle's best mid-sized theaters is closing after 33 years.  This was the first theater recommended to me when I moved here.  I've acted there twice and seen many of their fine productions.

Our local chocolatier  has been bought by a licorice manufacturer.  The storefront will remain open, but the factory, which used offer tours, is being shut down and 60 staffers laid off.

I mourn when I encounter these and so many other changes.  I love what I know, and it's upsetting to have to continually readjust to that which replaces what was.  The only way I can be at peace with this sorrow is to remember that change is the constant in life.  (Now there's an oxymoron for you.)  

I loved my neighborhood the way it was when I first moved here, and don't always like the ways it is changing - but it was changing before I got here as well.  And changed before that and before that, going all the way back to when it was pure forest, and then cleared for farming and ranching, and then became residential, sparse at first and now packed with houses.  And it will continue to change, as smaller single family dwellings give way to big houses, or rows of townhouses, or condo complexes.

Change is the way of the world.  When I'm able to maintain that perspective, then I can keep my footing and accept how things are in the moment.  And, of course, some changes are very much for the better and the good.  But a lot of what has changed seems to me like losses.  How much time everyone spends in front of one screen or another, and I include myself, is so very different than what I remember of life even a couple of decades ago.  But that's simply how it is now.  No sense in wishing it otherwise or asking: Do children still get out and play?  Do friends still get together?  Do we all still get out into nature?

I certainly understand my parents better now when I remember how they used to say "You have no idea how things used to be, you have no idea what has been lost."  It was ever thus.  May I have the grace to flow with changes without resistance.