Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kindness

 Ferruginous Hawk
The other day I was listening to an interview Jane Fonda did about her life and where she is now. She is in a relationship that she said really works for her and she has learned something she wished she had known when younger. When told what to look for in a mate, it was for things like strength, sense of humor, smartness, etc. What she learned finally was more important is looking for one who is kind. The relationship she has with a man who is kind has made all the difference for what it's like.

I've thought about it ever since as it's true in friendships as well as lovers. Kind people are kind to themselves and to others. They have a caring that works to get them through rough stretches without it turning ugly. When you read of someone who shoots their spouse because they were going to leave, it's not someone who lives with kindness-- or even understands what it is.

Be kind to others and ourselves. Find those who not only know what that is but are also kind. It's a word that I think often isn't thought of enough, even an old fashioned word, but the world needs more of it.

Nature isn't by 'nature' kind as such. Nature has to survive and it does what it must without thinking beyond what is needed. Humans though have another dimension. We can think beyond survival. It is that other dimension where we can exercise kindness, develop it, truly come to understand what it means. 

As I read people trying to justify the recent revelations regarding torture that was authorized at the highest level, I keep trying to understand what kind of human would do that to another. I had one person say-- isn't ISIL worse? Who cares? If we justify misbehavior by -- the other guys do worse, we lose all possible morality. We can't steal just because someone else has. If we as a nation justify this torture because it'll keep us safe, what does that say about us? I hate to even think.

Kind people would never have authorized such abuse-- for any reason; and they won't find it acceptable. Kindness is a character trait. I don't know if we can develop it, but we sure can lose it if we lose track of everything except what is good for us-- and we don't even really understand what that is.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

aging

"I like to enjoy life. I like food, I like wine. I don’t want to spend 15 hours of my day wondering how I look. For some people, men and women, that’s their primary focus and that’s so boring."     
Kathleen Turner

Once in awhile I think about aging and what it means. I ask myself-- is there something I should be doing about it? Some who reach my age (71) feel they should discard things. They give away or sell what they feel they no longer need-- then often buy something else to fill the space. Nothing wrong with that philosophy, but I am thinking of other ways to look at an age where there aren't likely so many years left. 


What I have been looking at are the activities and people in my life. Do my relationships serve me or me them? Are my activities those I want to be doing and not just filling time? At any age, it's easy to fill time with superficial relationships and busy work; but when you get to a place where you realize less years lie ahead, frittering away time becomes more of an issue.

Last summer, when I tripped on a rug, where the playing cats had rolled up an edge, as I was going down and couldn't do a two step to save myself due to the rug having caught my foot, I knew it could be a bad fall. Beyond the rug, where I was about to land, was a stone floor and a dresser. Hitting either one wrong could have ended my life-- in seconds. As it turned out, I broke my nose. It was scary and shocking, but didn't even require a visit to an ER. Those kind of moments make a person think about the preciousness of time. 

To some degree, I have always lived as though the moment might be all there is because I've had those in my life who died very much before their time. I can't say I expected to get to old age, but here I am and making the most of being old is on my agenda. I have no fear of the word and don't go around saying, I feel like 18. I didn't feel like 18 when I was 18. Numbers are just that, but the truth is the body does change from birth to death.

Old age didn't really seem to come on me when I thought it would at 60. To be honest, my 60s were more a time of gradual changes but until near the end, they weren't that noticeable. 

When in Oregon, I had gathered together photos of myself thinking of a kind of retrospective of from 50 to 70, mainly to show what those years can be. Except there was not the huge change that I had expected. The photos didn't really tell what was happening as I had thought they might. 

Definitely looks are a factor in aging, but it's more about something else that I am thinking-- what do I want to be in these next years--if I am so fortunate to keep good health for say the next 10. I wrote this poem years and years ago and chose a photo of me at 27 to illustrate it.


When we are younger, we can put time into relationships that are frustrating or time wasters (some of that is learning about what works for us), but when someone gets to my age, it seems a mistake. Even as an introvert, I need some special people in my life, but I don't need to spend much time with those where the connection is shallow-- or has changed and no longer works-- for me or them.

Relationships, for me, (not counting family who are in a category all their own) can be broken down into:
  • People I know to smile and wave 
  • acquaintances where I will stop and say hello, ask how they are but don't expect much of an answer-- nor do they want much of one from me
  • casual friendships where we may talk about family, a recent vacation, the weather. It's pretty much public information but just a bit more of it 
  • deep friendships where I can be me. That is where I and they can let the dark and light side come through. We don't pretend to suit each other or put on a facade. There aren't many of those in anybody's life, but having a few is a real benefit.
I am at the age where I am doing some refocusing as to where I want to put my time where it comes to people. I was more tolerant of chitchat relationships when younger when I had more time ahead (probably). Today, each relationship where I put real time has to be one that can go deep or I'd rather be writing or walking somewhere. Making relationships work is about recognizing what they are and then setting boundaries-- something not always easy to do at any age.

When we got to Tucson, we wanted to have a fence that enabled our cats to go outside directly from the house. This is an area with a lot of predators not to mention the prickly things. I wasn't thrilled at the idea of a fence because I liked looking at the desert beyond my home. Once it was up though, I liked it. It offered me something that I hadn't expected. It defined space and yes, the bobcat, cougar, coyote, or javelina won't be coming on me or me them unexpectedly. The fence was built with a large double gate; so it can be left open to the area I most want to photograph. The cats are loving their new freedom and in reality the fence gave me freedom too. That's what understanding our personal boundaries does for us.
From the covered patio, looking toward the pool, which has always been fenced, but it's not a good idea to have pets there without us on the off chance they might fall in.

Along with people relationships, I've been thinking where I want my activities centered. Exercise is a given as it's needed for health, but I am not going to spend hours a day doing it. I need a lot of deep thinking time, which can also involve research and reading. I want very little time with television but when it's on, it's either news (less and less of that these days as it's easier on my emotions to get the news from reading) or something shallow that demands nothing but for me to laugh or cry a little but not feel bad when it's over. 

I did a little personality test on Facebook. Amazing how those 10 questions can sometimes tell us something about ourselves based on the photos we prefer.
You are a Creator! As the name suggests, you are a very creative, imaginative and passionate person. You love to experiment with various forms of creations, and challenge yourself at every opportunity.
One of the most important things in your life is your alone time. During that time, you let your mind flourish and your creativity go wild. Without that creating outlet, you could go practically insane.
Your creative nature helps you to always look at the positive side of life, always find the mental strength to move forward, and never look back.
It made me feel good in a way that I did know myself but also that what I think I need is what creators need. I don't need to feel guilty that I am not satisfying someone else's needs. My job is to know my own.

Where it comes to what I don't want-- shopping is at the top of the list. I remember a time I didn't dislike stores so much, but these days, stores are something to get through as fast as possible, getting enough to not have to go back soon. I also don't want to join clubs. I was never much of a joiner but had my years I did more of that. Clubs are mostly oriented toward the activity and not a place to build a deep friendship. I don't want to put the time into them (although if I was an extrovert, they'd likely be on my list of want to do activities. 

These days, I think the important place for me to spend time is what refreshes my soul and that is in nature or looking at nature. When I am in the Tucson house, to just sit on the patio and watch the quail and other birds interact with each other, to listen to the sounds the quail make, that kind of activity makes time seem to slow. It lets me look into a world beyond mine-- the world of the earth where mankind too often is in the way not a help.

For me, writing will be at the head of any list for the coming year. Wherever I am, whatever else I am doing, it is important as a way to share what I have learned with others but also fulfill myself. I especially like writing fiction, creating new characters, coming up with plots that are meaningful to me. Promoting that writing is not so enjoyable but something I need to do some of... I think :).

There though may be other activities I have not found enough time for recently. I know I want more time on rivers, sitting on a rock and feeling the sun on my back and maybe a week or two renting a cabin on the edge of the wilderness. Time with family is always important. Basically it comes down to wanting meaningful relationships and activities-- and discarding anything currently in my life that is not.

One certainty in all this-- there is less time available to me, and I am not going to fill it up, running from one thing to another looking for something outside myself. I've never been much of a gadabout. Recently I had reason to look that word up. Gadabout is a habitual seeker of pleasure. Well, I am less inclined to be one today than ever. In fact, what I have to watch out for is becoming a recluse ;). 

Anyway that's my thinking in a season where a year is coming to an end-- a time I often reevaluate where I am and where I want to be. It's been a few years since I did one of those, but I think I might for 2015.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

giving thanks

Just past Thanksgiving, although we are a long way from our family this holiday, I am grateful that they are enjoying it together. I also am enjoying our time on the Arizona desert. 

As a nation, we are going through a very tough time. It is important at such moments to figure out what to do to fix what is wrong-- but never forget all that is right. We have a lot that is wrong and immigration policies that don't work could be at the head of any lists. This is more a cultural issue than even a partisan one-- even though it's portrayed as partisan by one group that profits from the existing situation-- and they aren't necessarily who you are thinking. 

President Carter, way back, tried to put through laws to penalize the employers of those here without work permits. It went nowhere. No surprise when you figure who is buying our Congress.

Culturally a people must decide who they are, how they handle those who would breach their borders or break their laws. We seem unable to do anything except react emotionally time and again and then go on to repeat more of the same. 

On immigration and how it impacts the working poor, read this:  


I am not about to offer a solution to this situation. Maybe there isn't one. Maybe we just have to make our own lives as good as we can-- make sure we act honorably, and then enjoy what we can of life.  We have a lot to be grateful for in our country, but we have major cultural issues that head in the sand won't fix!

In the meantime, enjoy a few photos from one of my passions (yes, there are others).

"Great passions, they say, are not always immediately recognized as such by their predestined victims." Joseph Wood Krutch from The Desert Year.











and our home here-- Casa Espiritu







Saturday, November 22, 2014

Division

Dividing can sometimes be positive. Once I divided my blogs into purposes, it made writing in this one a once a week thing. Yes, that cut the visitors as many want a more frequent entry, but I like how it's creatively been working for me.

One thing about blogging is I never wanted to live my life for a blog. It can almost become reality TV in how it feels in trying to do things that might be interesting to write about. I have, in the past, read a few blogs where they share all their life there. I never wanted to do that. Basically I have this blog for ideas that are of a general nature and to share photographs I especially like.

From this original blog, there have been offshoots. There is one blog for my writing, the philosophy behind what I write, and the creative life. For awhile it was three times a week but I took it down to twice a week to give myself a break.

Then there are three more blogs specifically about the books. Those blogs only change if I add a book. Because I find many creative processes interesting, I have three blogs that are just for book trailers, photo or discussion videos. They also don't change very often.

Finally, there is one blog that deals with politics. Because I had already taken the name Rainy Day Things for a blog that didn't end up being much of anything, it became Rainy Day Rant. I called it the rant to alert those who don't like rants-- and those who would like to rant a little themselves. It has no schedule but only gets an entry when the mood strikes. I could have written there a lot this week as I listened to mostly righties (but a few lefties) rant over the immigration order even before Obama issued it.

Last week I redid the banner for Rant, taking a current picture of me here in Tucson to make clear who is responsible for its content. I am thinking I may change that banner every now and again just because it's fun to do. Currently it has one of Tucson's more spectacular sunsets as a backdrop.


Does it help to rant? Maybe or maybe not. I find it helps me to voice my opinion most especially when I know that it's about all I can do. I read a lot of newspapers and pundits. Sometimes I comment on an article but when I do, I hold my breath (figuratively speaking) as I wait for the insults-- which sometimes but not always come. The world of social media isn't always friendly

There are times I am more involved with what is going on politically and culturally. There are times I tune it out when I just can't handle it. Rants naturally happen the most when I've been reading both sides of what I consider to be an important issue. 

I like a saying, roughly paraphrased-- are you part of the solution or the problem, if you aren't either, let it go. To write my thoughts on what should be done about something can be part of the solution-- a tiny part. Interestingly when something is bugging me and I write about it, I then tend to release it. I like to be informed but removed emotionally from being upset. When I can't do that, I pull back.

When I am writing and researching something new, I tend to pay less attention to what's going on around me. Writing a new book, where I am thinking of what happens next, what are the details along the way, can be so absorbing that the world disappears. 

When, as I decided November would be, I am reading other people's books, I am more open to thinking about the partisan mess that we have gotten ourselves into. I don't have responsibility for these books unless I opt to write a review. I write reviews only when I can give it four or five stars If it's something that really doesn't work for me, I  delete it when I am finished. I am not about to tell some other reader that what I didn't like, they won't.

Because we are a divided nation on almost every issue you can think of, some might think our time is the most divisive they have seen; but if you think back to when this nation was a colony of Great Britain, some wanted us to form our own nation and some wanted to stay part of Great Britain. That led to a hard fought war and not just with Great Britain but within Americans.

Then there was the Civil War, certainly a bitter time and of extreme violence. Not all wanted a war even then; and when it came, not all agreed, even today, as to why it was fought.

We've had times where Congress had legislators physically fighting or even having duels. So maybe our divide today is a consequence of how this country was created, through the crucible of violence, and from how many places we have come. 

Right now, it's not just us experiencing this violence and division. If you read foreign newspapers, you know that it's widespread. Perhaps it is the very nature of humans. I keep hoping it can change but maybe it won't. 

What I mostly would like is if people could discuss the issues that divide us with attention to what each believes should be done-- without insults. That rarely happens even in the media. The media, which is so widespread today, unfortunately, benefits from dissension. They encourage it as it makes for rating jumps. 

So if we are going to change things, it will have to be us doing it-- as individuals. Getting together and talking about what we think should be done and giving our reasons without assuming everyone else is an idiot when they disagree. Supposedly Town Halls were going to do that but they ended up more a place to rant without the logic. Insults and nastiness don't get us anywhere. It's possible that even talking without anger can't change anything because the division is just too deep. It's not as simple as just putting up a new blog.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

changes


When we got to Arizona, the first project had to be in the kitchen. We have a couple who look after the home when we are not here. They had told us about the leak from the hose that feeds the ice-maker. Because it had been discovered early, we didn't expect catastrophic damage as we'd had two years before. 

Once Ranch Boss pushed out the stove and refrigerator, it turned out to be worse. Mold went part way up the wall. Some of the cabinetry wood had been ruined by the water and mold. So began a week and a half of tearing apart and then rebuilding. The stove and refrigerator had to be moved, cabinets emptied of pans and food, then taken outside, wallboard cut away, a working mask to be purchased, and plastic sheeting used to wall off the working area. 

Although this mold did not look like the toxic black mold, it was black, and the only way to discern the difference is with microscope; so better to be extra careful than to take the risk when scraping away mold with spores in the air. 

Next step was a paint that destroys and blocks mold returning. Every step took time between for drying. With the stove and refrigerator out of there, it was discovered the previous owners hadn't tiled the floor all the way to the wall. So that was done. 


Finally wallboard was replaced, plastered, painted and destruction could turn into construction. Between tearing down and then replacing, this was a week and a half of unexpected work. 

It won't happen again as we removed the ice maker. First leak we could say just one of those things. Second leak-- not worth having a third. The humorous part is when I thought-- how will we get ice for our vacation renters... before I remembered ice trays. Duh! I bought some of those and began making ice the way we always did before the modern advantages that aren't always advantages.

This amounted to a week and a half of work for Ranch Boss, but when finished, it looks as good as ever and is actually better because when he tore out the walls, he discovered there had been old mold there from the previous owners before we bought the house in 1999. Ice makers might be convenient, but they do have a risk attached especially for people like us who aren't always there


Regarding Toyota and our Highlander (read previous blog if you are not sure what I am referring to-- and be sure to read comments where two engineers discuss what might have led to the malfunction), it's a long drawn out process to find out if they will accept any responsibility for the near disaster. We are going through their formal process of filing a complaint, but doubt it will end up with much satisfaction-- beyond ours in never buying another Toyota of any model. 

What I want to emphasize here is if you have a vehicle with the modern computerized systems, and that turns on the cruise control-- on its own-- quickly push it into neutral. Do not turn off the key unless you are stopped as that turns off power brakes, steering and if you can believe it, even airbags. Just push it into neutral. It will slow it, and you can then get safely off the road. When in neutral, rev the engine and that can get the computerized system to reset. Then get it to a repairman as this is not a safe thing to happen even if you know what to do-- and how many of us would! 



Because Casa Espiritu is both a second home for us and a vacation rental for snow-birds, we routinely do some improvements-- ones we plan. This year it is a fence that will enable cats and small dogs to safely be outdoors. Our piece of desert is home to predators like coyotes, javelina, and bobcats. We love that it is natural desert and that so many animals live here, but it doesn't make it safe for small pets.

For now, our two cats are inside and not pleased as in Oregon they have two fenced yards to be outside a lot. Here the fenced yard is with the pool, not connected directly to the house, and that isn't the safest thing for small animals who might fall (or jump) in and not be able to get out. 

The new enclosed patio, with an attractive metal fence, will allow us to be outside with them but not require it. We didn't want a wooden one because we like being able to see the desert beyond. No fence is ideal in my mind, but sometimes they are the best option.



We've been increasing the amount of walking we are doing to try to get back in shape. It's amazing how long that can take when you are old. But by adding a few minutes each day, I believe it will happen :)
Below are photos from one of our favorite spots to do this hiking because it's nearby and easy walking-- Catalina State Park with a variety of trails.







Sunday, November 09, 2014

it all can change in a moment

Almost never do I write a blog here that isn't on Saturdays, but something happened, which I feel compelled to write about as a warning to others.

Because our son and daughter-in-law had one of their vehicles break down, we said hey, borrow our Highlander while we are gone. Saturday they drove out to get it as well as ramps he would use for fixing their vehicle.

Our daughter-in-law, with our grandsons, left the farm with the Highlander. Less than a mile from the house, going down some S curves which drop maybe 50 feet, she felt the brakes suddenly were sluggish. She stepped on them harder and at the bottom of that hill, the vehicle took off and began to gain speed-- on its own. 

We assume the cruise control kicked in. She didn't turn it on. She stepped on the brake, which should have turned off any cruise control or at least stopped the vehicle. It did not. Then she shoved her other foot as hard as she could onto the emergency brake. It barely slowed the forward momentum. 

This is a two lane, country road. About 1/4 mile from where she was, missing a bridge abutment, she came to our small, community store with a wide gravel lot. Still pushing as hard as she could on both pedals, it barely slowed the vehicle to 40 mph when she went off the highway into the lot. She circled the vehicle, trying to get it to slow or hopefully stop. Finally she had turned it toward a neighboring woodpile. She ran into it. The Highlander was still revving its engine, and she turned off the key to finally have it stop. If she had missed that woodpile, she'd have gone into the nearby river with our two grandsons in the backseat...

You can imagine how we felt after we got the phone call to tell us what happened. Still today I feel teary as I imagine the other way this could have ended.

Although I had read, and do read about any possible recalls or problems with vehicles, I had read nothing about the Highlander doing this. After some research online, it turns out that it's known to happen to the year we have at between 80-100,000 miles. Our Highlander had 85,000 miles on it with never a clue previously that this could happen by anything it had done.

Today I feel shaky as I think how lucky we were and how other families have not been. We have all read about vehicles that did this, and it ended up with deaths. This could have been the same story had it happened elsewhere. 

Our daughter-in-law has always been beloved by us. I think the world of her, but now she is also my hero for keeping her head and managing to stop that vehicle that was doing all it could to kill her and our grandsons. 

When we researched it, we learned how it is happening to the years between 2004 and 2009, and how Toyota is doing all they can to avoid paying lawsuits where death was the result. Besides being furious, I keep thinking, how could manufacturers value money above lives? I know it happens all the time with water quality, air safety, and other manufacturing malfunctions but again I keep thinking-- how can it seem cheaper to settle some lawsuits than it is to fix something that has the potential to kill people. Wouldn't you think they would at least warn owners? Where is our news media in this? Since we bought this one new, we are the only owner it has had. We should have been told even if the incidents are rare. Frankly when it's your family, it's not rare!

Even though there were no injuries from this accident, it was no thanks to the vehicle. It was a combination of happening at the right place but mostly thanks to our daughter-in-law keeping her head. This has impacted us all with stress that doesn't go away. We were lucky. Not everyone is. We haven't yet talked to Toyota about the Highlander. We will do that tomorrow. For now we will have a friend tow it back to the farm. 

Here's the thing. They say that if you turn off the key while it's driving down the road, it disables the airbags, power brakes, and the power steering. You then have no control. The only thing you can do is put it in neutral-- if you can get it there.

So, we'll let our SUV set there while we consider what to do with it. Obviously my choice would be to shove it off a cliff, but we'll see what kind of excuses we get from Toyota tomorrow. I can imagine it will be denials of responsibility. Just a fluke. Not their fault. grrrrrr Anyway, I didn't wait to write this because my reason for it doesn't relate to what our family experienced.

If you are driving a Toyota, any model, do some online research to see what other drivers have experienced. In fact, if you are driving any of these new vehicles where computers make it soooooo much better, do some research on known problems for your model. It could save yours or your loved one's lives. 

Right now I need to take some deep breaths and try to not think about how different today could have been :(.