Wednesday, December 13, 2017

To-Do List

So. It’s Wednesday already. Sometimes I feel like time is a freight train bearing down on me, threatening to squash me on the rails. I had a discussion recently with a friend about having a daily ‘to-do’ list when we were younger. We both admitted we were so anal about it if we did a thing that wasn’t on the list we would add it and cross it out. 

Well, seems like nowadays I make a list that might cover what I want to do by the end of the week (not the day) and I may or may not get to it all - both items even. 

Of course, in this modern age it’s a fancier list - typed on my computer. I can do specialized itemization. I can designate the importance of a task by color or organize with • bullet point, or BOLD type or italicized. This enhancement capability does make my list appear to be much more serious and important and that’s really what matters now. After all, in the Matrix it’s appearance that counts. Right? 

Nevertheless, I concede in complete frustration that time gets away from me and the strikethrough function often gets put on hold. (I may or may not have stooped to backspacing to erase a task in order to make my list seem more completed but I submit that there is no proof of this). 

As I have progressed on my timeline, I have noticed that not only is the list shorter, it’s decidedly less manic and certainly less physical. Which, in my humble opinion, is a good thing. No more notations about building a cabinet or painting an 8‘X30’ mural. Some things you just let go without so much as a whimper.

In truth, my to-do list is less about things that must be done and more a nudge to keep my brain charged. It might include ‘practice Uke’ and ‘write’ and ‘read book’ and ‘do laundry’. One might conclude from this sampling that I am not a busy person but then one might be wrong too. Life happens, especially when you are close to your family. Things come up that do not make the list, ought not to be recorded anywhere, and therefore cannot be counted. 

I also have a back up (long range) to-do list which some refer to as a ‘bucket list’ but I just see it as those things I absolutely intend to do. Like - ‘finish the two titles in the queue’ and ‘finish soundtrack for the Alzheimer’s video project’.  

But I find that thing about time being a train is definitely a concern to keep in the forefront. When time goes from the light at the end of the tunnel to ‘oh my, it really is a train!’ one can’t squander too much of it making and checking lists. One has to just do and let the to-do list manage itself.

For Him,


Friday, December 1, 2017

Blame it on the Ukulele

As I have aged, having suffered through the first four stages - denial, grief, anger, negotiating, I now ease into acceptance with a small residual of resistance. I can’t seem to go gently into that good night. But then, I’m nothing if not a rebel. 

Nevertheless, I’ve been forced, by the mounting reality of my physical limitations, to at least admit that I am not what I used to be and those activities that were once second nature to me are now impossible if not alien. Not to mention that the bulk of my relevance here has greatly thinned out, which is as it should be, of course. It is the young who inherit the earth.

However, I am determined to retain my sense of humor through all this humbling and reordering of what I am and my current place in the continuum. If what I once was is now relegated to historical notes, fine then! I will not be a grump about it! But during all the rites of passage through each phase of letting go and moving on, echoes of deep longings linger in the shadows. My guitar ranks high on the list. 

I truly marvel at all the old musicians, the ones even older than I, still performing in front of audiences, still banging away with endurance, agility and the skills fine-tuned by time. I was never a performer so I can’t speak to the drive that pushes one to that kind of exertion in order to feel alive, vital and relevant but I well understand the compulsion to make music.

My decision to end the four decade love affair with my guitar was because my beloved Conrad, the dear friend that gave me precious bits of time to regenerate and refill my well during the manic child rearing years, suddenly got bigger and heavier. It’s a mystery for sure.

For that reason and advancing arthritis in my hands, I gave up playing and eventually the poor old thing needed repair anyway and slept forlorn on a shelf in the basement under a blanket of dust. And then, one day, my son, in the dearest of loving gestures, sneaked it out and had it repaired to surprise me for a Mother’s Day. That reunion, that first time, after years of silence, when I formed a chord and heard that distinct ring of the strings, I was awash with emotions that threatened to drown me. 

However, as wonderful as it was to have my guitar back, there was no way to deny that the years, having taken their toll, demanded that I stop trying to regenerate what once was so easy and now is not. With somber resolve, I decided to give it to my son who is now the keeper of the instrument and the forty years of memories it represents. 

But, again, rebel that I am, I’ve never been a quitter. So, still haunted, by the need to make music, I tried to compromise my limited skills with a lap dulcimer and then an electronic guitar thingy that sounded more like a toy electronic autoharp. 

Meh. Did not quite fill the need for strings and chords and picking. Or something.

>> Here’s where I’m going to insert that God does know what we need and He often, with amazing grace, provides it in the strangest of ways even when we didn’t think to pray for it.<< 

One day, meandering through a local flea market, I stopped at a booth that featured small instruments. Hanging high up on the side I spotted a ukulele. Four strings. Small. Easy to hold. I took it down and strummed it lightly and I swear I heard an old familiar call to which I responded - and took it home.

Amazing the change in perspective a new learning curve can generate in an old mind and bent fingers. 

I’m well aware my family gets a big kick out of me. I understand that stories told about me are the source of much laughter and I’m good with that. Further, I often do and say things to instigate amusement, having always maintained that I hope when I go I can leave ‘em laughin’.

But I also secretly relish that they don’t have to know everything there is to know about me, and actually can’t.  After all, they only know me based on our familial relationship from the moment of their beginning. Thus they don’t know the me who was long before they were. They don’t know the young woman who needed beyond reason to create music even if no one else listened or heard, who didn’t need or want cheering audiences, record deals or worldly acclaim. 

...the girl who wanted to turn her poems into lyrics, to lose herself, for her reasons, in music that only she could appreciate.

When my daughter asked me why I started my diet again and walking every day, I knew the core answer would be too long and/or boring so I cut to the chase: 

“It’s because of the ukulele,” I replied.

I’ve been told there was much raucous hooting and knee slapping over that one, which, I admit, makes me smile real big as well. 

For Him,

Sunday, November 26, 2017

In Memoriam

When I have a thing to say I can usually find the words to express it. I wasn’t sure I could write this one though. One thing I do know, regardless all the things I do not know or am not, I am a writer. The qualifier of good or bad is subjective and depends on who is critiquing. So good, bad, or ugly, write I must. The reason(s) why I struggled to pull this post together are many and are woven as tightly together as the weft and warp of a swatch of silk. 

I met Marian Clark in 1975 when my oldest daughter wanted to join Camp Fire Girls. Marian was the group leader of the third grade Blue Birds. The girls had such a wonderful year exploring and learning under Marian’s enthusiastic guidance I was honored when she asked if I would like to be her assistant as the girls advanced to the next level in fourth grade. 

Marian was one of a kind. Always positive, always looking to learn and teach. She was certainly my mentor during the ten years I assisted her with the Camp Fire group. While the girls were growing up and learning, experiencing so much, I was too. The first camp out at Camp Waluhili has a revered spot in my long term memory. I had no idea what I was doing but Marian guided us through each step of the experience from building a fire in a misting rain to cooking on a homemade tin can stove top. 

Though it may be cliche to say I could fill a book with the memories of those years, it is also quite true. One time stands out though. It was after we had all become seasoned campers and the girls were mostly in charge, so Marian and I could kick back a little. We were in one of the newer cabins at our final Horizon camp out weekend playing Spoons in a circle on the floor. At one point, in the frenzied moment of spirited play, Marian, who was always a model of decorum, lost her mind and climbed up in the middle of one of the girls to grab a card. Laughing so loudly, disturbing the peace, we were paid a visit by Miss Peggy who issued a stern warning for us to honor lights out. We dutifully went to bed, stifling our giggles, but I fell asleep savoring that moment - our last camp out with the girls on the verge of stepping into their adult lives. Exciting, rewarding and bittersweet all in one mess of emotion. 

Life whizzes by in a blur most of the time and memories of the people and events that shaped us can fade. But I will never forget Marian Clark and all the ways she influenced my life. Heaven has gained an amazing teacher. 

I still have the songs we wrote around the camp fire in my now ancient song binder. This one is dated 1979:

Wood smoke drifting in the air
Voices harmonize
Golden memories that we share
Cherished all our lives

Camp Waluhili
We love you
Camp Waluhili
We will be true

The hoot owl watches as we learn
The wonders of these things
We watch the gentle fire burn
And quietly we sing

Camp Waluhili
We love you
Camp Waluhili
We will be true

Peaceful moments, laughter, fun
Each joy that we recall

But through the years they blend to one
Waluhili is it all

Camp Waluhili
we love you
Camp Waluhili
We will be true

Somewhere in the middle of all this there might be a thread of facing my own mortality at this stage of my own timeline and all those things done or not done, opportunities blown, which make up the sum of my rewards awaiting me. 

Rest in peace, Marian, you more than earned all of the jewels in your crown.

For Him,