Posts Tagged ‘Happiness’

Cut to the heart of it

November 25th, 2008    -    10 Comments


So we cut out our Sunday subscription to the New York Times. We are loyal readers, but we can’t afford any more of this news.

We cut out our weekly personal training. Giving ourselves a swift kick in the butt.

We cut out our support of the conservation voter’s league. A cruel end after a tireless fight.

We cut out our daughter’s studio art class. Until the paint dries on the ugly mess we’re in.

We cut out our online subscription to the Wall Street Journal. We’ve long since stopped gagging on it, but wouldn’t you know they were double charging us?!

I was overruled in my attempt to cut out satellite TV. Some channels never change.

We quietly removed the Obama-Biden valedictory sign from our front yard. To usher in a bold and brave new day in this bountiful country we love and share.

Happy Thanksgiving.
Happy day after.
Happy every day after.

The fall of the smart house

October 8th, 2008    -    20 Comments

Could be a metaphor for our economic collapse, and it is, but it’s not.

By my bleary reckoning, it might have been 4 a.m. when Georgia got out of bed, walked across the darkness, said “I don’t feel well,” and threw up on the white wool carpet in my sister’s tony new townhouse.

It was a stunning flood of Mexican beans and rice and milk, a regurgitation that transfixed a mother into the gripping awareness that the day to come wouldn’t be going her way. At 9 a.m. my daughter and I would be boarding an airplane for a flight from Houston to LA. This was a new one for me: traveling with a five-year-old through the turbulence of stomach flu.

Incoming!

She spit up at steady intervals, giving my lame hope of a less paralyzing diagnosis no time to coagulate. It was the crowning blow to what had been a triumphant return to my old hometown.

I’d been hired to do two days of media training for the wealth management division of a regional bank. Damn I’m good! I’d brought Georgia along to visit old friends and family. I can do it all! On the eve of leaving, we’d gone out for a Houston twofer: Tex-Mex and margaritas. Life is sweet, with salt on the rim!

I was satisfied that I still had it. (The business thing.) I’d figured it out. (The mommy thing.) I was a sassy smartass at the top of my game.

Two hours later, I hunched over the wheel of my rental car heading up the interstate, one eye on the rear view mirror watching Georgia double over into a plastic Target shopping bag. My baby would have to fly 2,000 miles with her face in that bag. What else could I do? I’d never done this. I’d never been in this bind. I knew nothing. For all my bravura, the smug congratulation of the night before, we were starting all over again. Day 1.

About then I realized: It’s always Day 1, you dummy.

I begged and consoled, consoled and begged. “If you make it home I’ll buy you a Barbie Smart House,” I said, kissing her sweaty neck, shielding her convulsions in the window seat.

This was a mommy Hail Mary. The Barbie Happy Family Smart House was an $80 obscenity, just the latest in an onslaught of overpriced molded plastic monstrosities that possessed my daughter, still immersed in her all-Barbie, all-day play stage. I’d refused it a dozen times over. Drawn a line in the sand. But now I reached for it like a miracle cure.

It worked. By the time we made it home, she was sipping Sprite and bubbling with nothing but anticipation. I was so grateful and proud and humbled. It had become the happiest day of our lives.

***

I’ve wised up so I’m not running the Chicago Marathon this Sunday. My former running partner and I are staging a marathon of another kind, a garage sale. No, it won’t be worth it, but this time the Smart House is going.

It’s Day 1 all over again. The happiest day of our lives.

***
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Eye of the beholder

October 4th, 2008    -    26 Comments

There is no other way to explain what she saw. You’ll have to go there and trust your own eyes.

Under the sun

July 17th, 2008    -    11 Comments


Have you ever noticed, I mean really noticed, that it’s all the bright side?

Going nowhere and making good time

July 6th, 2008    -    11 Comments


Since I could use a fist bump right about now, I’m going to announce that my running partner and I ran ten miles today. Ten miles, albeit the old lady way. We have managed to train away some of the huffing, puffing, cramps and crying that had me convinced at an earlier, cynical age three months ago that I would never run ten miles let alone one.

Running has become just about the one thing in my life that is satisfying my expectations, expectations being the kind of oversized load that triggers a 20-car, fog-bound pile-up around the next blind curve. Still, as a pastime, hitting the pavement provides me with a wide avenue of observations about myself and the world around me.

My regular route has me crossing a busy intersection during morning commute, an intersection with eight timed signals for through-traffic and turns. The consternation is palpable at this spot as the engines belch and fume about the interruption in their all-important progress. The traffic experts have been here. The science is on display. In place of the benign illuminated hand that once invited walkers to venture forth – We come in peace! – the crossing light now pairs a hunched stalker with a flashing countdown of seconds remaining before the defenseless few are smacked back to where they came from.

Can you believe it? In this hurry-up world, they even want the pedestrians to tailgate! In these last, poisoned days of our planet, they want the people on foot, the innocents who are truly doing no harm, to get out of the way already!

Now it may just be the peculiarity of the hour and the carbon monoxide, or the pulsing love croons of serial seducer John Mayer in my iPod (I’d run anywhere he told me to), but when I see the flashing countdown of seconds left to me in this crossing, when I see this laughably unjust incrimination, it makes me smile. I find myself trotting across the intersection with a grin on my face. I make it my wholehearted practice to smile at the gauntlet of grim drivers I pass. I peer through their tinted shields into their dead faces. I want to make contact, you see. I want them to respond. I want them to see the first, and perhaps, the last happy person they will see today. I want them to be happy too.

I know, I know. We all think we’re going somewhere. But on these mornings, in a sudden gush of giddy bliss, I bet I’m the only one who realizes how free and easy it feels to be going nowhere. Fast.

So not the Zen I’m in

May 2nd, 2008    -    24 Comments

It’s not that Zen is holy, it’s that this gives you every reason to laugh out loud.Have a happy weekend!

Where the going gets good

March 28th, 2008    -    14 Comments


I’ve been doing a little bit more running lately, because a little bit more than nothing is a quite a little bit more. The reason for all of it will roll around soon enough. My friends on the road thought I needed a touch of optimism to shade me from the harsh realities.

This morning I put on my new hat and my daughter saw it for the first time.

“Oh,” she said, accustomed to a world encapsulated in logos, “you must have gotten that at the Life is Good store.”

Yes, honey, I did. I got a lifetime supply at the Life is Good store. Let’s see how long it lasts me this time.

All of the above

January 25th, 2008    -    12 Comments

I did a little something different here this week because:

A. I was busy elsewhere.
B. I hadn’t read this old writing in about 10 years.
C. When I see it now I see it with new eyes: the pictures, the words, the recollections, the purity, the pain, the truth, the teaching, the wisdom that was waiting on the page all along.
D. I don’t want you to worry about yourself or your children. I don’t want you to worry that they won’t know a grandparent or have picture perfect happiness or a certain kind of memory. I don’t want you to worry that your skills are lacking, or that your children will end up hollow or ruined because of something said or done, or because of something that wasn’t said or done.
E. Tell me, please tell me that you see what hangs so clearly from this tree, what hangs from every tree, the only living thing that lasts, what refreshes and nourishes us forever, what we carry from day to day and season to season in an undiminished supply, that we need only reach up with our own hand to take and taste as our own.
F. Love.

A happy girl

January 24th, 2008    -    10 Comments

First, a shout out to the wonderful parents at Serra Preschool in San Clemente, Calif., for welcoming me so graciously on a wet and wild Wednesday night. Your attention made me feel at home. And on that note, I’ll conclude this week’s story.

Home became a distant thing. She would write “Santa Monica” in the blank besides Birthplace, all those vowels imparting a faraway status. But they hardly ever returned there until they never went back at all. Her grandparents became faint and frail, even by phone. Grandma died first, a long and lonely departure. Then grandpa came to Texas for his turn. He was stooped and stale and forgetful, forgetting even to buckle his belt, since he couldn’t unbuckle it again. She had learned more about him by then. She had learned who he wasn’t. He wasn’t big and never had been, being a half-foot short of six feet tall. By then a young woman, she had already begun to choose big boys and men to stand beside, only later realizing the misperception. To a four-year-old, five-foot-six was big enough.

She held fast to what she later learned, the family secrets and perpetual failings, and forgot the rest. She forgot about California. Only recently, in the long sad summer which had just ended, and at the suggestion of a counselor running thin on weekly advice, had she looked through grandma’s photo albums, now in her closet, with open eyes. She saw herself again, and she was stunned. I was a happy girl.

Milk and sugar cubes

January 23rd, 2008    -    2 Comments


Those might be any of the days but every night ended in the same way, doused in the ritual scent of Old Spice. Grandpa shaved in the evenings because he got up before dawn. Oranges were a life but they weren’t a living. He worked for Union Oil Company on Torrey Mountain, wearing blue work pants and carrying a painted black lunch box and when he got up in the dark to do it, she got up with him. He would fix a cup for him and her too in a tiny Tupperware tumbler, mostly milk and two sugar cubes, and they would face the coming day together in a fearless way, sipping coffee and sitting side-by-side in silence on the davenport.

And if it could ever be so, this was a place where leaving, even the leaving, was the best part of all. Grandpa would load them in his car for the two-minute drive up to the two-bit migrant town, park along the stubby curb and open the screen door to Lechler’s Grocery. These are my girls, Harry, he’d announce, as the three little ones shyly advanced on the cool cement floor. Harry would then fix up three identical bags of penny candy, precious cargo for the long trip home with mom and dad. When the dentist decreed and mom imposed, grandpa replaced the forbidden candy with two dollars each cash spending money and still took the girls to Lechler’s just for the showing off.

Yes I can taste it

January 22nd, 2008    -    7 Comments


And then there were the rose bushes, giant, taller than her with blooms that dwarfed her head when her grandma propped her there in her white gloves and patent leathers for an Easter snapshot. There was the honeysuckle vine that crept up over the shade arbor, eventually collapsing it, with the tiniest little filament right there, that one, that she pulled so carefully and touched to her tongue yes yes I can taste it. There were the tree swings and the black barrel barbecue for roasting marshmallows, the orange push-up popsicles kept in the freezer drawer. No evening without ice cream, no sir, gallons and gallons of Knudsen’s vanilla for grandpa and her, which might have been the death of him, but which she could take on the back porch in an ice-cold bowl carefully carefully and if it was still light, mash and stir to a frothy soup in the game called Making a Cake for President Kennedy.

There were long, sunny days with water sprinkler chases and front-room dance recitals, LP singalongs to Marty Robbins or Patsy Cline and black pitted olives in a glass dish on the supper table. She popped the olives like palace guard hats on her fingertips and ate them off one by one. Most everyone frowned at that but not him. He laughed out loud and so she did it every time, his Irisher.

Letter from home

January 20th, 2008    -    9 Comments


Because these are the days when we watch for the oranges to ripen, and I can once again see them about to burst.

Home was once a funny word, since it was rarely the place that she lived.

She had been born in California, the granddaughter of a big-shouldered Illinois Irishman who’d come to the golden brink and ended up in all ways empty-handed. She was one of three little granddaughters, all loved so true that none doubted she was grandpa’s favorite, or that his house was where they belonged.

At home with mom and dad was a prickly kind of place, where the air sometimes froze and the ground swayed and the safest place to be was tucked out of sight. You could find her there, or you might forget to look.

At grandpa’s was different. It was a little patch of parched ground at the end of the road called the Road to Grandpa’s, an hour or so up the way from their starter house in LA and long after the littlest one in the backseat asked, “Are we still in California?” Grandpa’s was a tidy four-room box of a white and yellow handmade house in an orange grove ocean with a mountain in the distance, a mountain with a name they all knew, because grandpa always called it by name, Torrey Mountain, like he called everything by name, the names he gave if there were none, to pet pigeons and doves and chickens and the rooster and duck and dogs, sometimes cats, her grandmother, her sisters and her, the one he called My Little Irisher.

They would tumble out of the wagon on these, which must have been weekly trips when she was young, and her parents were achingly young and the cord that connected them all was noose tight but not yet torn. Tumble into the dusty earth and the endless rows of oranges which she knew stretched on forever at least until the highway way far away which was where grandpa’s two-acre spread played out.

First, yes there were the oranges, very special oranges which would be the very Sunkist oranges that you saw advertised on TV, which must be irrigated on rare and significant days known as Irrigation Days which were serious from beginning to end and produced the most luscious grade of mud which they were allowed to slog and squish through calf-high in the game known as Grand Central Station, these little raggedy girls having no earthly idea what a grand or a central or a station might otherwise be.

First there were the oranges. And then, and then.

The falling down people

January 7th, 2008    -    14 Comments


Here we go again. The news has me sassy again. This article in the Times recounts the tremulous state of high-status professions from which people are fleeing. It turns out a troubling percentage of lawyers don’t really want to be lawyers. Even more doctors don’t want to be doctors. They are successful, but not successful enough. They are rich but not rich enough. They wanted status but aren’t satisfied with the paltry status in hand. They were reaching for the brass ring, and it turns out it’s only brass.

Maybe they need a relax scedule like the one I’m on. Oh, I’m sure they do, but that’s not the half of it.

The article makes out like dissatisfaction is a rarefied thing. If only it were. Can we ever get off this page? This I’m Not Happy with My Life page? No, we can’t. Because the whole of human drama is just this story. A story with one page. That is, until you turn it.

And so the headline writer calls these the “falling down” professions, meaning I suppose that this is urgent news because these folks are swan diving off the highest board in town. Imagine that! Someone reaches for a false and delusional form of gratification and finds out it’s not real! Honey, you’ve got to read this!

Just the headline had me thinking of a truly fascinating story I read last year in The New Yorker about geriatric medicine, or the lack thereof. (Be afraid, be really afraid. There’s not enough money in geriatric medicine to keep it going, and I for one, am getting older. You can tell how cranky that makes me.) Anyway, in this worthwhile and highly readable essay, the author observes an intake examination by a geriatric specialist. The doctor is examining a new patient, a woman in her 80s with high blood pressure, arthritis, glaucoma, back pain, and suspected lung cancer. All this and the doctor is really only interested in her feet.

“You must always examine the feet,” the doctor says. It turns out that when we live this long, the single most serious threat we face is falling. Because we won’t get up again. When we can no longer care for our feet – clean, trim and treat them – they become calloused and sore and we lose our balance more easily.

It all comes down to what it comes down to. At the foot of the matter. The foundation. The underlying truth.

What are we building our lives on? Greedy expectations? Lustful aspirations? Selfish hopes and egotism?

Or are we building it on love?

In the Times article, a doctor complains about the paperwork he has to complete to get new tires on a patient’s wheelchair. “I’m a doctor, not Mr. Goodwrench,” he says.

Excuse me, but yes you are. Whether you are a doctor or a lawyer, a mother, a writer, a nurse, a teacher, a rocket scientist or a bricklayer, each of us is nothing but a mechanic. All we have to work with is our hands, and any good we do is only done with love.

Go ahead. Fall down and fall down again. One day I hope you look up and see what’s real. Love is the only thing that stands.

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