Your Smiles Make Me Smile

If you really want to get the most out of my blog, it's best to start with the first post written in July to the present since some blogs refer back to earlier posts; but any order is just fine... Thanks for visiting! Now scroll on down to the good news! ~Renae~

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You Want A Piece Of WHAT???

Some days I feel like everybody just wants a piece of me. In my perfect world the phone rings and the telemarketer genuinely states, “You have won a prize!” and they actually mean it! Granted, the Mormon boys always offer to give, but they ride up on their bikes in button-up, long sleeved, heavy starched white shirts and dress pants in temperatures above 90 degrees and offer to mow my lawn.  Really? There’s no catch?  Maybe one day I will take them up on it, only I’ll take a nap and ask them to knock on the door and wake me up after the lawn’s been mowed, bypassing the Jesus lecture.  Kidding.  I promise, I’m not dissing Jesus Christ and I would never do that to the Mormon boys. In fact, I strive every day to be Jesus-like.  I even keep a picture of him in the sun visor in my car, just in case you were in doubt, to remind me of the person I want to be yet knowing even then I have so little to give.  I could never actually take as much as a staple through my hand for the sins of another, much less a nail.

I’m just saying, whether it be someone wanting my time so they can sell me on their theory, an attempt to sell goods (“have you had your gutters cleaned lately?”), a friend having a meltdown, someone wanting advice, everybody wants a piece.  Even I am guilty.  I admit, I check the numbers daily, okay sometimes hourly to see if you’ve taken the time to read my post, or at least peek at my blog, which ultimately validates me. Your views tell me somebody is listening, that I'm not alone in the world.  So I’m not off the hook scott-free here.  It just seems that some days more than others, every little piece of me feels as if it’s been taken.  Even my own daughters call, and I love when my daughters call, but it’s usually to tell me about their stress, seldom to listen to mine; and then when it’s finally my turn…”Oh my Gawd, I just have to tell you what happened to me today….” I get the “Mom, let me call you right back” and they usually don’t, for a day or two anyway.  So there are those days when I just feel as though everybody wants a piece of me and there’s nothing left to give.  I know that sometimes you feel like that too.

But then, another weekend comes which means time to play "catch up" and all I want to do is run. I want to get out of dodge.  No, not just San Ramon, but from my grass which begs to be mowed (thank you Richard, by the way), the dogs that need to be walked and fed and petted, and follow me from room to room with pleading eyes….constantly. My dad who emails me with another business venture that he insists I spearhead and manage.  Even when my head isn’t spinning with requests, every room I’m in needs cleaning, mopping, dusting, the windows are dirty and sometimes, I just really wish I could - smoke a little cannabis, chill and not care.  Unfortunately, even that doesn’t work for me (bearing in mind that pot was legal in Alaska in the 1980’s); see Ravin v. State (1975).  All I know is that even the homemade brownies only made me want to figure out how to build a space station on the moon, or question whether we are nothing more than bacteria on the surface of the earth, which would ultimately mean we serve no purpose whatsoever other than to destroy our own environment.  I am pathetic.

And so….on Saturday night I told Richard, (because it was the weekend) – we ARE escaping; and it was wonderful. We ran away giggling like children on a mission of rebellion, and it cost us nothing.  We took blankets and pillows and movies with his laptop; we took books and newspapers and something to drink….and I left my cell phone at home.  Oh we ran alright, and then we watched a movie and fell asleep.  I slept deeper than I’ve slept in years. No one knew where I was and no one could call me for anything; not even if there was an emergency. That’s what ambulances and hospitals are for anyway. The doors on the world were closed to me for an entire evening and I learned something valuable for everyone. The world can’t take a piece of you when they don’t know where to find you.

I woke up refreshed, if only momentarily, singing my usual out-of-tune happiness songs, and energized enough to offer myself back to the powers that seem to always want a piece, and thankful that sometimes I even have something to give. 

Thank you God for the little trailer parked in my side yard. Amen.

Sweet dreams always GOOD dreams!

~Renae~

Sunday, August 28, 2011

COLOR BLIND

We have not come far enough, and the road that we travel for equality is long, but it has been shortened by the great men and women that have stood up against the forces of ignorance and fought for that which is right. 

The day before kindergarten my mother told me to fold my hands together and keep them on the desk in front of me, and to listen to the teacher when she spoke.  If I followed the rules, I would never get into trouble.  I took these words seriously and knew I would never ever ever get into trouble, because in my little world that would be soooooooo shameful.

Then came the first grade. I got into serious trouble.  Mrs. Mills, my first grade teacher at North Star School was a by the rule-book old school style teacher.  Mr. Norton was the principal and very well loved; you never wanted to be taken into Mr. Norton’s office, because that, in and of itself, would be shameful.

As usual, Mrs. Mills lined us up in her classroom, girls on one side, boys on the other, and led us to the bathrooms at the end of the hall, directly across from the principal’s office.  We were to meet back in class in five minutes. Unfortunately, I was a dilly dallier; another of my problematic genetic traits or maybe just some textbook dysfunction.  Even now, I have trouble getting to work on time, but I have trouble leaving, so in my world of equality, I make up for being ten minutes late by staying ten minutes later.  I dilly dally. 

On this particular day, in the first grade, I was dilly dallying in my grade school restroom.  At that time we had one sink; it was large and round and we pressed a foot pedal so that we could all wash our hands at the same time while standing around the circle.  There were only two other girls left in the bathroom and we three were washing our hands at the same time.  The girl in the middle was “black”, and the girl on her right was “white."  All I know from that point on is that I heard the "white" girl say to the "black" girl “I can’t talk to you because you’re black!” I felt my hands tense into fists and quicker than I could stop myself, my mouth opened, and in my angry six year old voice I shouted “What does that have to do with anything?????”  Before I knew it, the “white” girl and I were in a shouting match in the bathroom in front of the circular sink.  The “black” girl, (and let me clarify that I won’t refer to her as African American because I do not know where her roots were from and in all fairness and for the record, I am equally color coding), snuck out during the argument and said not a word.  Suddenly, the school secretary thrust her King Kong self into the bathroom, looked down at us and shouted “Into the office NOW!!” We marched into Mr. Norton's Office.  I was so scared I wanted to pee in my leotards, but thankfully I had already peed in the toilet.  It must have been our lucky day because instead of Mr. Norton, it was the Vice-Principal who scolded us and sent us back to class.  He didn’t even use the paddle. I’m sure I spent the rest of the day with my bottom lip sticking out as it always does when I am about to cry. I couldn’t concentrate the rest of the day.  What if my parents were called? What if I get in trouble when I get home?  The day seemed to last forever.  When I finally got home I scrutinized my parents’ faces to see if they knew.  I looked at them sideways, I looked at them up and down, I searched hard for hints of any clue that they knew that I had gotten into trouble. Nothing.  I know now that they would have been proud of me, my dad would have said "That's my girl" but then, I wasn't so sure.

Fast forward to the 1990’s when my husband and I began the long and grueling process of adoption; we wanted children and I couldn’t have them.  Through all the hurdles, the paperwork, background checks, references, fingerprints, home studies, classes, and proving of ourselves to be worthy parents….you know, the typical laundry list that any girl with a decent egg on meth would never have to go through – we endured.  But there was one little itty bitty thing that disheartened me; the three page checklist we had to fill out of “Would you accept…” (i.e. Would you accept “a child without a leg?” Yes; “A child that has cross eyes?” Yes; “A child that has facial scars?”; Yes).  But where were we given the option that we would accept a child of another race? There was no box for that. 

The one question that no one had dared ask or even cared to ask, I asked in the midst of our home study in front of a large group of future adoptive parents. “May we adopt a child of another race?”  The answer was not a mere “no” but indisputably “NO! We keep whites with whites and blacks with blacks because a parent of one race can never understand the tribulations faced by a child of another race.”  I was shocked. Pissed. Sad.  But I didn’t push the subject.  I wanted one of their children after all; yet I didn’t understand the logic. “Okay, so leave the black children in foster care because the ratio of black parents adopting was like 1% compared to the white parents adopting.”  That seemed like an unfair advantage or disadvantage if you were an innocent black child since they were predominately the children in foster care in our County at that time. Uncharacteristically, I kept my mouth shut and played “The Adoption Game” thanks to the book Beating the Adoption Game by Cynthia D. Martin (1988).  On April 26, 1990, we were rewarded with two beautiful children, Monica and Nicole, who were from the same birth-mother and only ten months apart.  


Luckily, the birth mother had listed the girls as “Hispanic” on the birth certificates or they would more than likely have been split up.  Unbeknownst to the County, one of my daughters was (ghasp!) mixed.  Actually she still is.  I am unsure of either of their exact origins, and I really do not care.  We are a patchwork family.  In my eyes, we are a beautiful mix of golden brown, cinnamon, and white and we love each, and that’s all that really matters anyway.

One day when my girls were in high school I individually took on their school for what I believed to be an infraction to students with disabilities and of various sexual orientations.  I embarrassed my daughters. This had not been my battle to fight, but I saw an injustice, just as I had in the first grade.  It may have not been my business, but I wanted to right a wrong.

“Mom!” they declared with their usual frustration when I was in warrior mode, “Why do you always have to fight for justice?”  It was a bittersweet moment; a moment when we sometimes question the necessity of our own motives.  But my fight for what I believe to be right is deeply ingrained.

I had two answers for my girls.  (1) If it wasn’t for Rosa Parks, my beautiful, intelligent, compassionate, dog loving, rule following child who happens to be ½ black, would still be sitting on the back of the bus; and (2) If it wasn’t for those who fought after the 1990’s for equality, others like her would be growing up in foster homes.  We were lucky, she had slipped through the cracks of ignorance.They had no response and although they don't always understand my passion, they respect it nevertheless. 

Today I want to say "thank you" to Martin Luther King, Jr. On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther delivered one of the most powerful speeches on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  …When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last… 
I’m sure when he said “all” people, he meant “all people...
And that’s the GOOD NEWS.
Sweet dreams and always GOOD dreams,
~Renae~

Friday, August 26, 2011

ME? DRAMA?


Some people need drama; they can't breathe without excitement going on around them at all times, whether it be good or bad, it just has to be.  I'm really truly not one of those people. Really I'm not. I love my tranquility, my library on quiet days, my candles at night and a good book. I am anti-drama.  Not because it's always been that way, but because I have been cursed with anxiety when life is unsettling.  To me, there is nothing better than calm. That is truly when I am at my happiest.

Yet, somehow, I constantly find myself in the middle of controversy.  I don't want it, I don't ask for it, and yet...it seeks me out like a compass during a storm. It finds me and pulls me in without my approval.  How is it that the one thing I detest is the one thing that keeps finding me? Like the only mouse in a ten mile radius will seek me out.  Why? Because I hate mice.

And so, here I am in the middle of this San Ramon controversy all because I commented on a news story. Now, bear in mind that my cousin Becky calls me "The Chosen One" because....I think that's how she makes me feel better when I am stuck in crap up to my neck. I call her "The Stable One" but that story is for another day.    In sum, when their is an injustice, I am the one to speak up. That's how I get myself in trouble. I'm the little boy in The Emperor's New Clothes (only I'm a girl) that says "But he isn't wearing any clothes!"....and everybody ghaaaaasssssppppppssssss that I have revealed the truth.  Because people in power do not like to be challenged. It is a threat to their throne.  Apparently, this makes me "The Chosen One" because I tell it like it is when I see an injustice.

The gist of this story is that I made a comment under a local news story that I was told by the City Manager differently than what the City was telling the news (i.e. I know a lie when I read one).  I commented. That's all I had to do.  Suddenly, I found myself in a blog spread across the front of the on-line local news that RENAE WILBER (only they spelled it U-R) was the chief suspect of who was thought to be distributing anti-Walmart fliers causing an uproar amongst our City leaders.  Oh, and I guess the fliers caused the phones to ring off the hook. 

Whether you're following me or not - I learned something valuable from all of this that I would like to share.  How quickly we jump on a bandwagon or point a finger and how powerful suggestion can be.  The City was antsy to find who dared speak out against their stance...anxious to find the person they could place blame on and burn at the stake.  I BECAME THAT PERSON.  The sad part is, IT WASN'T ME! At first I found myself laughing that I would have such power and publicity over something I didn't do, and then as I really thought about it, I found it downright frightening....and so I used my voice, my words again to remind people of the damage a mob mentality can create, or one person pointing a finger without full proof can cause.  The good news is, I guess, that I have a voice, and I will continue to use my voice, and if I end up in the middle of drama, well it's not because I want it but because "I Am The Chosen One"....which I don't really believe by the way.

But here was my latest response, which is good for us to think about when we fall prey to gossip and hearsay.  Had this happened centuries ago, I'm sure I would have been stoned by now.  The Great News is, it's 2011. 

Dear San Ramon Residents,
We are all an intellectual bunch, which I've observed in my 20 years of living here; and yet....someone like Roz Rogoff who claims to have a Ph.D. has managed to put into the minds of our community, to suggest to others (oh the power of suggestion) that I am the witch the City Council/Mayor/City Attorney/Planner, etc. etc. are in search for.  The person who has become the subject of great controversy, if only a controversy for the mere fact that our City government does not like to be questioned or challenged.  My friends, my neighbors, my coworkers, my peers....we are not a community made up of people who stand for a "Lord of the Flies" mentality. We are hard working, family loving, friendly, spirited, volunteer minded, take care of our neighbors people. A mob mentality is what we are NOT and we should never be.  Some of my favorite City Council members do not share my politics, and yet, I have cared for their children (little Meredith Perkins who was entrusted in my care for one week while her parents, Elizabeth and Scott Perkins left to the East Coast to visit their son).  Mayor Wilson has honored me with an award for my volunteer work in the community. And yet -- we, such an inquisitive, intellectual, critically thinking, independent minded bunch have jumped onto the Salem Witch Trial bandwagon, spearheaded by Roz Rogoff....and many of you fell for it! Today I am sad. I am ashamed of you who pointed the finger at me. Who smeared my name in the press as the "chief suspect" and of those of you who bought into it, because I had a few opinions and facts to share.  Roz Rogoff wrote a fine column, she very articulately wrote suggestively and used enough of my words to provoke the minds of truly intelligent people that I had committed the crime; although their was no crime all along. She used the persuasive speech tactics that she learned in high school and mastered while obtaining her Ph.D. I'm sure.  But she was cruel in her words.  She left out the words I've spoken that would have without doubt invalidated her story. Additionally, she walked the fine line of slander.  Beyond that, she used an innocent party to build herself up, to bring shameless publicity to her own writing, and to convince you that there is a witch to burn in San Ramon. Lest you forget the power of a mob mentality, the power of suggestion, and the story of The Lord of the Flies....the attached link will take you to the victims who were hung after the Salem Witch Trials.  I believe I deserve a public apology from Roz Rogoff, but beyond that, I am left so sad by the community I believed in.  Renae Wilber
http://www.salemwitchtrials.com/victims.html

******
Had this happened centuries ago, I'm sure I would have been stoned by now.  The Great News is, it's 2011 -- and I will continue to use my voice and deal with drama afterwards.
Sweet dreams and always GOOD dreams,
~Renae~

Thursday, August 25, 2011

LOSS

I'm not even sure if "regrouping" is a word, but I'll use it anyway.  I am regrouping. Taking a breather. Resting on my laurels. Catching my breath.  Okay, "regroup" is a word - Merriam-Webster just told me so and I trust her authority on words.

The dilemma I face in sharing my philosophies on the brighter side of life (i.e. "the good news") is that I don't always see the bright side.  Whatever glasses I wake up with in the morning, is how I see life on that particular day; and trust me, I have a lot of different shades.  On days that my glasses are clear, I can see through all the hardship to something that makes life a little more bearable; on other days, all I see is greatness.

But then, in all honesty, I know in my heart that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, or loses a loved one, or suffers from depression, or has immense financial worries -- the good news I write of is not always what we want to hear.  I am afraid of minimizing the pain of others.  When I am hurting, the last thing I want is some Pollyanna telling me to "look on the bright side." I want to slap her upside the head and say "Okay, you experience what I've experienced, and then come back and tell me how great life is."  I don't want to be that girl.  I don't want to minimize the pain or suffering that's real, that's there and that sooner or later happens to all of us.

And so, I woke up today with glasses on that make my heart ache for the grief that I know is real and I know is out there, on so many levels. I know there is a bright side, but today I am just not feeling that I can write about it, at least not without diminishing the darker side of life, which deserves acknowledgment.

Yesterday, I started a one day a week afternoon job picking up two wonderful boys from school and taking care of them in the afternoon until their mother gets home from work.  It was the first day of school. I excitedly went early, and waited patiently.  Somewhere in the crowd of children running out the doors to greet their parents, I could see my daughters' faces, running up to greet me with excitement to share their first day of school.  I could hear them yelling "Mommy! Mommy!" and feel them throwing their arms around me almost knocking me over.  I panicked.  I had to consciously stop my thoughts in mid-stream because I could feel the lump in my throat growing and the tears coming.  Those days are gone.  They are gone forever.  It is me that runs to them now, that calls them, that waits for their acknowledgment in their 20 something year old very busy lives.

When Monica was in the third grade, she went to hold my hand.  Without thinking, I pulled my hand away.  Maybe it was a hot day, maybe I was feeling smothered, I don't know why I pulled my hand away, but I did.  Do you know what she said?  She said in her little eight year old voice of wisdom "Mom, you should hold my hand now while you can, because one day, I'm going to be too old and I won't want to hold your hand anymore."  I grabbed her hand and squeezed it tightly.  But she was right; the time has come. 

Fortunately, we regroup, we breathe, we rest on our laurels a little, we grieve, we cry.  And then we hope that a new day brings us a new set of glasses.  Until that new day comes, and I know that it will, my grief is real and I know that yours is too.

Sweet dreams and always GOOD dreams,
~Renae~

Monday, August 22, 2011

DISAPPOINTMENT

My daughter, Nicole, was just about seven at the time, had proudly completed several group ice-skating lessons and was much better than I, who grew up in Alaska with ice-rinks instead of swimming pools.  She wanted to do a solo in her very first competition.  I was proud. I beamed.  I couldn’t afford it, but I paid for a private tutor for one hour to polish her performance.  The night before, I curled her hair, put in the bows to match her showpiece outfit, and proudly took her to the same ice rink where Kristy Yamaguchi learned to skate.  We arrived at the arena promptly with time to spare.  There was one problem; I didn’t sign Nicole up for the competition.  I’m not going to make excuses about how exhausting being a single parent is, or how I was working full time.… you are free to judge me, because no matter, there was no excuse.  I really didn’t realize I had to sign her up.  I thought she just put her name on a piece of paper and went when it was her turn.  A rookie to the world of stage mothers and glamour children, I was devastated.  Nicole was even more devastated. I proceeded to beg, to plead, to offer my first born son…..(hoping they didn't know I was infertile), there was no mercy. She was denied a spot in the competition.  I wanted so badly to take Nicole’s disappointment, her pain, all to myself, even though she sobbed quietly and handled it with such grace for a young child.  As we walked solemnly out of the rink, I apologized and explained that this gut piercing disappointment is a part of life and that I was sorry. Tremendously beyond comprehensibly, "I’ll give you anything you want….anything"…sorry.  This was the first time Nicole had learned one of the hard lessons of life. 

There was a time when I wanted to shield my daughters from disappointment, but the best I could do when justice wasn’t served was to tell them, just as my parents told me, and just as your parents I’m sure told you….“Life is Unfair.” I really hate that cliché, but it was the only tool I had to offer at the time. Then, miraculously, I came up with a brainstorm, which isn’t much better but it sure sounded good! “Disappointment goes under the ‘Life Is Unfair’ column.  If you can keep that column shorter than the ‘Life is Good’ column, then you are ahead of the curve.”  It didn’t really help, but it’s a nice thing to say.

Disappointment creeps into our lives on so many levels -- from the superficial (“I wish I had her body”), to the profoundly deep cutting reality of health issues, job loss, marital strife, and even being picked last by your friends in gym class because you weren’t popular enough.  I know; I was one of those kids; those anxiety ridden kids thinking “oh pllllleeeeasssseeee don’t let me be picked last, please, please, please don’t let me be picked last.”  That’s when I learned to pray.  I usually settled for second to last. Even that sucked.

Then there’s the disappointment of when you think something should be, and it simply is not.  The “stab me in the heart and twist the knife until you make me bleed” kind.  The loss of trust in something or someone we believed in with all our heart who with a few words, broke us.  “Did you really say what I think you just said?” Words can be harsh. They are more powerful than some weapons of mass destruction because they can destroy our psyche and ultimately can lead to the death of friendships, family relationships, and love. Be careful with your words. 

Then there’s the “You did WHAT?” kind of disappointment – hence, resulting in two divorces for me personally and probably 50% of the “used to be married” population. Ugh; those damn disappointments.  I could make a list all the way from losing a secure job to my kid just got knocked up, to finding out you or your loved one has cancer, but you just go ahead and fill in the blank yourself, it all fits.

Except for the superficial variation, I am still known to crawl into a ball and hide under my covers when I am hurting...or I yell at someone; whoever is within range to suffer my furry. I used to throw things, but I grew out of that last week thank God.  We really are no different than children when we feel pain. It hurts just the same, only as an adult, we are expected to handle life with grace and maturity, not throw a temper tantrum.  It’s an acting skill I’ve mastered, but only because I am a good little actress.  On the inside, I’m throwing plates at walls.

We eat, we drink to excess, we pop pills, hide under the covers (me), yell (me), cry (me)…and grab another glass of wine or beer or whatever we have to give us relief and then, finally, we try to get through with the only life boat we've been thrown.  It’s name? “Grief.”  Grief is there to catch us when we fall.  If you’ve ever met an angry old soul who hates the world, I guarantee they got stuck somewhere in “anger” and never made it into “acceptance.”  (See Erik Erickson’s Theory of Development No. 8 - Ego Integrity v. Despair). That guy was right on the mark.  Like an old vinyl record that has a scratch and plays over and over and over…they are stuck.  Never ever get stuck, it’s a baaaaad place to be. 

I know that life is unfair.  I know a million times over.  I could write my own sob stories and those of the people I love for the next 49 years…:  Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Acceptance is all we can hope for.  We have the power to look for the options available and eventually, even if over a long period of time, we move into acceptance, because quite frankly, there is no other viable option.

Please don’t get stuck. Life is too short.  If you let disappointment rule your days, it will, because it’s all around us.  But in the end, in the very end, if your column of “Life is Unfair” is shorter than your “Life is Good” column, then the good news is, you are in fact, ahead of the curve, even if when it doesn’t feel like it.

 Sweet dreams and always, GOOD dreams.
~Renae~

Friday, August 19, 2011

I AM ANGRY


It's true. I am angry. I am really really angry.  The funny thing is, I don't even know why I'm angry.  Maybe I should never leave my house.  When I'm home with my dogs, I'm not angry. My dogs are never angry. They are always happy.  But I left the house, and now, I'm angry. 

Everything was hunky dory fine.  I went to cash in a few cans and then to Safeway to buy a few things and then to buy my lottery ticket (just in case) and then to get gas.  The lady in front of me at the grocery store was a......is there a nice way to say bitch???  If there is, I would prefer that, but since I can't think of one at the moment, that will have to suffice.  She was in her Daisy Dukes with her overly-tanned body looking like a 40+ year old hottie....and then she opened her mouth.  Ohhhhhh she was SO ugly. She was rude to the cashier; demanding, demeaning, just downright ugly. Her children were with her.  She didn't even bother to say "thank you".  I guess she thinks the world is there to admire her and bow to her beauty.  It was the lack of a "thank you" that set me off.  I promise, I kept my mouth shut, it's not my place to teach a 40 year old manners, whose children I will one day have to jump for at the library and then I will wonder why they didn't say "thank you."  It's a breeding problem.

So to make up for her negativity to the cashier, I went out of my way to say "Thank you! Have a nice weekend!" because I didn't want him to think that all women in Daisy Dukes (yes I too was wearing mine) were....ahhhem.....bitches. 

Then I went to the gas station -- yet another one of these barbie dolls who was ANGRY. She demanded her probably ten year old son march into the gas station to tell the manager that "SOMEONE" WAS SMOKING. The manager said "it's no problem" and the boy repeated it to his mother and she, said "Ohhhhhhh it IS a problem!" And in her like twelve inch high heels and over stretched face she sacheted into the gas station to give the manager the what for.  Why she sent her son in the first place, I don't know.  And now, I am angry.  Do you want to know who was actually really nice to me on my little one hour adventure? The guy that was sweating working at the recycling box (and it is a box) during a heatwave, the cashier, the guy that bagged my groceries, and the guy that had a chuckle with me over my statement that only poor people buy lottery tickets (implying that I am poor -- which I am in relation to women that have money to get their faces stretched).  Not one of these employees get paid enough to be nice to me, but they all were genuinely kind....and no it wasn't the Daisy Dukes because I barely brushed my hair today and look like a 50 year old tomboy; which I am....almost.   Anyway... I came home realllllllllllllly angry.

PEOPLE!!!!!!....WHO have we become?? We have time for social networking and boob jobs and face lifts and boating and reality t.v.  But we don't have time to be nice?  To say "thank you" to those that serve us? To offer the niceties just because it feels dang good and to be civil in a world where people who oftentimes think they have to prove their status by being an asshole, seems to prevail?  Newsflash....it just makes you ugly you, you lady with the tight face. Did you forget about inner-beauty?

Okay, phew, got that off my chest.  So THE GOOD NEWS IS....we have a choice.  When we go up to the counter, we have a choice to be polite, or we can be ugly and stroke our own ego and spread hostility and negativity. We can say "thank you"....and even smile.  Two words and one expression that take nothing, but mean the world of difference to the person that doesn't have the means to go boating this weekend, or is working two jobs, or taking care of their invalid parent.  WE HAVE A CHOICE no matter what our circumstances to be nice.  And as I lecture I am reminding myself that I too have a choice....I can take in the negativity of others, or I can fling it off like the garbage that it is.  Because that's what negativity is anyway, just a piece of crap that sometimes lands on our heads when we least expect it and makes us angry.

Fortunately for me, I came home to two wagging tails that were really really really happy to see me.  Sigh....I don't think I'll ever leave my house again.

Sweet dreams, and always GOOD dreams,
~Renae~

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

THE WOMAN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH


She didn’t know freeways, or even how to drive a car….but she knew laughter better than anyone. Orange juice freshly squeezed; cookies, Peanut Butter and Snicker Doodles, always in the bottom tray of her refrigerator waiting for little hands and the anxious mouths of grandchildren.  Little packets of jelly, grape and strawberry that she saved for a rainy day.  Rice pudding with cinnamon sticks, made with love. Flour tortillas always made from scratch; mint tea from the leaves in her garden; the best Mexican food ever.  She danced and sang and laughed until the tears came. 

With pride, she raised her three daughters, on her own.  She scrubbed toilets, cleaned houses, and walked early in the morning darkness to her many jobs.  She made sure her children never went without and stayed up late sewing clothes, meticulously, so they could hold their heads up high.  She kept going, no matter how tired, no matter how scared. 

Her heart grew larger with each grandchild, seven to be exact. She spread joy with what she had to give, from baking, to sewing, to money for candy bars from the vending machine.  She was generous with the little she had.  Time passed, as it usually does, and 15 great grandchildren entered her life.  Her special gift was making each daughter, each grandchild, and each great grandchild feel special, as though they were the only one.  Beautiful, inside and out, she loved deeply and unconditionally.  She was passionate and stubborn, a collector of shared moments amongst those she cherished.  Her only hobby was her family.

She didn’t know the Internet, or how to drive a car, but she knew what mattered most.  Living with courage and conviction; loving hard, dancing, and laughter….always laughter. 

...Today I handed a $200 bond to my daughter to pay for a college course.  It had been purchased in 1994 by the woman in the photo; a woman she barely remembered.  This woman knew she would be long gone by the time the bond matured, but she wanted to "leave a little something." She left more than a little something, she left a legacy.  I know, because the woman in the photograph was my grandmother. 

We miss her terribly.  May she be resting in peace with laughter, and dancing in heaven.
Bask in the moments; cherish the memories.

Sweet dreams and always, GOOD dreams
~Renae~

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"COPS ARE NOT PIGS"

I was only four years old when my brother began to realize that I could be quite entertaining under his premeditated direction.  For fear of retaliation, I am not going to disclose which brother, but I only have one that I have personally met.  He was around six at the time and figured out quickly that if he told me to do something, I would do it. Basically, my big brother was an instigator.

We were in the back seat of the old blue Ford and my mother was driving.  It was easy for my brother to influence me when our father wasn’t around because dad simply wouldn’t tolerate it, but mom….was clueless.  I remember distinctly taking direction from my brother: “When you see a police car you have to say ‘Oink-oink, I smell bacon’.”  He was laughing that evil laugh that only big brothers know how to do.  I remember asking “Why bacon?” “Because cops are pigs” he exclaimed, “heh heh heh.” As if he even knew what that meant.  My mother would occasionally stretch her head around to look at us in the back seat and ask “What are you two doing back there?” And it was always my brother who would say “Nooooooothiiiiinnnngggg.” 

In my brother’s defense, he was only six years old, and the older neighbor boys who were wild and unsupervised influenced him, and he in turn influenced me, because he certainly didn't get that from our parents. 

For the next year, every time I saw a police car I would use my index finger to push my nose up like a pig and excitedly exclaim “Oink! Oink! I smell bacon!”  My brother would laugh aloud and then I would laugh because I had made him laugh. Two annoying as hell siblings.  But never in our minds was there ever any thought that police officers were really pigs, it was just something we did that we thought was funny.  I suppose most stereotypes and prejudice start innocently enough at a young age.

So today I was on my way to work in my little library flat-shoe unsexy outfit and suddenly as I turned onto the highway I see police cars and lanes blocked.  There was an accident.  Now this thrust me into the left turn lane, even though I wasn’t planning on turning.  The truck next to me was in the go straight ahead lane.  Now here’s where the problem was.  My left turn lane light was red.  The truck guys’ light was green. But the two cops directing traffic were motioning for BOTH OF US TO GO STRAIGHT.  Obviously, if I’m in a left turn lane, there is no lane for me to go straight in, without colliding with the truck.  Plus, my light was red, so I couldn’t even turn.  In the midst of the police cars, the accident, the bad direction, I panicked like a deer in headlights.  One of the officers motions at me from across the lane to roll down my window, and quickly walks up to my open window and begins to scream “WHEN THE LIGHT SAYS GREEN, YOU GOOOOO!”  But, but, but, my light didn’t say green.  My light was red.  But “Okay” was all I could muster.  So I go to hit the gas thinking I can go straight now because the truck went and he yells again “WHERE ARE YOU GOING? THE LIGHT IS REEEEEDDDDD!” I was stuck in that “I’m the idiot of the moment” position and everybody’s watching.  Then the light turned green and he shouted “YOU CAN GO NOW!” while shaking his head “stupid woman." 

Oooooooohhhhhh, it only took me about a minute, which is how far I was from the library, for the adrenaline to kick in.  Trust me, it always does.  I called the police department and told them that I don’t know what kind of rookie officers they have on the scene of the accident, but they better get somebody there that knows how to direct traffic.  I was livid. I couldn’t turn and I couldn’t go straight….so what the @#$%^&* was I supposed to do?  Although I did not use profanity, it was just in my head.  The Captain on duty said “Maaaam, you’re shouting at me.”  I said, “Exactly! Your officer almost got me in an accident and then he was shouting at me! And now I’m shouting at you! See why you need to be nice to people?” 

In the end, in the back of my prejudice little mind I was thinking “jerk cop”, but after I had time to calm down I thought about how every single day these men and women put their lives on the line to serve and protect us.  Some of them are in fact rookies, some are young, some have really big egos, some have been hit by cars while directing traffic, and some are really wonderful.  But no matter how safe a situation seems to be, they never know when a situation can turn dangerous, quickly. I’m a jerk after two cups of coffee, but put me in that anxiety ridden situation every single day, and I, no doubt, would become the jerk cop. Even then, there are bad of everything and the few bad usually ruin it for the many good, at least in our natural reaction.  Think about it, you pass by hundreds of good, follow-direction drivers every single day, but the one person, the one a-hole person that cuts you off in traffic, is the one you focus on.  "Drivers in (fill in the State) suck!" you say.

I decided to give the cop that yelled at me the benefit of the doubt. I had to think about what his life might be like, what frustrations and tragedies his work, much less his personal life could be confronting him daily.  And then I thought, for all I know, he could have just witnessed some bratty little four year old girl being coerced by her six year old brother to squish her face against the window while pushing her nose up like a pig and saying “Oink Oink. I smell bacon.”  I got over it.

Sweet Dreams and Always, GOOD Dreams,
~Renae~

Sunday, August 14, 2011

SEEING THE FOREST FOR THE TREES


I wanted to do something. Anything.  Staying home was not an option because the walls of San Ramon were closing in on me.  I was feeling overwhelmingly smothered by the City I’ve spent the last 20 years calling “home”, San Ramon; population 72,000.  Come to think of it, it’s ironic that home ended up being “here” because I am an extrovert in need of a LOT of people, and I left Anchorage, population 250,000 because it was “just too small.” 

So Friday night I told my better half, Richard, that we needed to get out of town.  True to form he said: “Whatever you want to do Renae.” My daughter Nicole  has a saying that could solve some of the world’s problems. “A Happy Wife Makes a Happy Life.”   Although we are not married, I give kudos to Richard for subscribing to this philosophy.  So this is how it went:

Me: “I want to take the trailer and I want to go camping.” 
Richard:  “Okay, let’s go camping.”
Me:  “All the campsites are too crowded.” 
Richard: “Then what do you want to do?”
Me: “Let’s go hiking!”
Richard “Ok.” 
Me: It’s too hot in this area to go hiking and I want to get out of the heat. 
Richard: “Ok, let’s get out of the heat.” 
Me: But, I don't want to go far because we can't leave the dogs. (Being Beagles, they are spoiled rotten and conditioned to eating small meals four times a day.  It's a little trick I play to make them they they are eating all the time, because if you've ever had a Beagle, that's what they do best).
Richard: “Ok”. 
Me: “The freeways are too crowded, let’s keep it under an hour drive. 
Richard: “Whatever you want, just tell me and we’ll do it.” 

I spent hours on Friday night researching places to hike, camp, retreats, I even looked into local hotels so we could stay far enough to feel like we were gone, but close enough to be able to run back and forth to tend to the dogs….like ten minutes away at most.  I found the perfect hotel, pool, exercise room, Jacuzzi.  An upscale Marriott.  I didn’t think I was asking too much. Priceline apparently did.  They didn’t accept my $35.00 bid. So much for -- “The Negotiator!”

I was pissy, I admit. I hate not having the means to go on a real vacation without adding more debt to the credit cards, and I’m tired of staying in town.  The fancy term "Staycation" is nothing more than code for not having the money to travel; a transparent marketing ploy for spending your money locally, and the bragging rights when your neighbors are traveling the world are, um.....zilch. And so, Richard and I watched this really cool episode of Twilight Zone, he went to bed, and I stayed up watching Perry Mason because I had never seen it before and I was hot, frustrated, and….did I mention, frustrated?

Fortunately, I jumped out of bed in the morning and said “That’s it! By gosh darn golly I KNOW where we can go!”  “Where?” asked Richard.  “We can go on a one our drive to Half Moon Bay and take the dogs WITH US so they can see the ocean for the first time ever! It will be so fun!”  Obviously, a good night’s sleep did me good.

We hit the road, hit no traffic, ran the dogs on the beach, and laughed at their confusion about the ocean waves.  Then again, Bailey is a Hurricane Katrina survivor so he was understandably skeptical. But Lilly, in her first attempt to run into the water decided she was thirsty and ended up with a mouthful of...ocean.  Then she made a statement in dog speak that she adamantly was not going back into the water.  As I tried to pull her in with her leash, (okay, admittedly I was dragging her), she thrust her little Beagle Body down onto the sand with the force of a Rottweiler, all four feet straight out hugging the ground with a wrinkled look of desperation on her face.  And so we compromised.  We ran next to the water on the cool sand (unlike the other dogs who were fetching and swimming and shaking it off and running back in).  I accept that like our children, even our dogs have limitations.  We proceeded to talk to strangers, introduce Bailey and Lilly to the sweetest little one-eyed Chiwawa, and checked out four campgrounds.  When I am finally ready to take the trailer out for the first time ever, (which I purchased over five years ago), we will know where to go.  For now, I enjoy having it parked on the side of the house where I often escape with a good book and a nap and no one can find me.  At least I have a refuge, and the trailer gets its use.

All in all it was a most beautiful day at the beach and I was ready to come home.  As we exited the freeway back into San Ramon, I noticed this huge American Flag swaying at the entrance; I had never noticed it before.  Then, I realized, there were no walls holding me in; those are rolling hills with full grown Oak trees and roaming cows picturesquely framing our City….oh, oh, oh, AND I spotted two little baby deer right next to the highway running through the tall grass and wildflowers.  I was soooo excited! Less than a minute later into my very own neighborhood Richard asked if I had seen the 15 Redwood trees lined up by the street.  “Huh?  There are 15 Redwood trees by my house? I never noticed them.”  We stopped and I counted, and like my grandpa Joe used to say every third sentence, (only he used the expletive) I too exclaimed “Well I’ll be danged.” 

When we pulled onto my driveway, in my quaint little neighborhood, in front of my cute little house with the overgrown front lawn and the weeds begging to be pulled, things didn’t look so bad after all, and we made it home just in time for our Saturday night old-person documentary.

I was happy to be home. 
Funny, the things we don’t notice when they are right in front of us. 

Sweet Dreams and Always, GOOD Dreams,
~Renae~

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"SHE SAVED HIS LIFE"

"When someone's about to drown or someone needs help, you don't really think about it before you're about to help them." (12 year old Nicole Kissel).

Now THIS is the news I want to write about....THIS should be on the front page of every newspaper.  If you haven't already heard the news, it will send a chill through your spine and leave you subconsciously asking yourself "What would I have done?" and just might inspire you and I to do something as great if the need arose.  If you've already read about it, then this news is worthy of a second read.

First though, let me take a quick step back in time....I was 12 years old and living with who I'll refer to as "my surrogate family."  My Aunt Katie, Uncle George, and their three children, my cousins.  (Becky have you cashed the check yet? -- refer to "I'm A Girl Scout!").  We crossed the border often into Ensenda to camp on the beach where their friends had a quaint little beach house at a very busy campground. At night we sat around a bonfire and told stories. I loved my surrogate family. They were fun! But then something terrible happened that stayed with me permanently; those lessons that we all learn eventually about Mother Nature and her many mood swings.

A few hours before dark, my Uncle George exclaimed that he thought it was odd that several horses were being taken into the ocean.  As a 12 year old, I didn't see it as odd; the cowboys were just taking their horses in for a little dip.  But Uncle George insisted that something wasn't right, and he alerted us.  We quickly made our way down the sandy beach.  One by one, the horses started returning with children (young teenagers), hanging onto ropes behind them.  Several teenagers had been out on a raft together enjoying the crisp of the ocean on a sunny day; but they had hit a riptide.  They were unable to swim to shore.  We stood there speechless as they were brought in one by one.  Then there was the girl. She was lifeless. Only 15 years old.  I stood at her feet while people panicked all around.  She was flipped over on her stomach as the ocean water and foam came out of her mouth.  Then they flipped her back over and began breathing into her mouth and pushing on her chest -- I learned later this was CPR.  I would go on to learn how to administer CPR myself and to ultimately assist a man who saved the life of a teenage boy.   If i can say anything it is that everyone should have an idea of how to administer CPR.  There are classes on every corner - call your local community center, your fire station, your police department.  But I'm not here to preach...

The 15 year old girl was still, not breathing, as they furiously attempted to revive her.  The circle of people grew, a woman fainted, and I stood there next to her feet, watching.  To this day I remember one of my thoughts in my moment of shock, that she had really pretty toes.  I don't know where our brains go in the rawness of those moments, but they go.

They pronounced her dead and she laid on the beach covered for two hours until someone came to claim the body.  I've always loved Mexico, but we were on Mexican time and I remember thinking the oddity of it that there was a covered body laying on the beach while children not far away were singing and laughing and building sandcastles. The antithesis of life and death, intertwined. After asking a lot of questions, I finally understood that they just couldn't get to the 15 year old girl with the pretty toes quickly enough.

This Friday, something similar happened in Long Beach, Washington. Only this time, 12 year old Nicole Kissel was boogie boarding in the ocean having a grand old time when she heard a boy screaming "Help me! Help me!"*  Without a second thought, Nicole instinctively turned her boogie board around and began swimming out to the boy; toward the riptide!  Now I don't know if you have ever experienced a riptide, but the ocean is a powerful force and you don't have to be that far out to get washed away by a sudden drop in ocean depths combined with turbulent waters and currents going in different directions.  You can't plan for it, and it's nearly impossible to fight.  It just happens.  Fortunately, the most I've experienced have been painfully forceful waves that flipped me over more than once and ripped off my swimsuit top leaving me dazed, embarrassed, and with a mouth full of sand and salt.  Maybe Mother Nature was trying to humble me, but whatever the reason that is minor compared to the force of a riptide. 

So....out little Nicole swims toward the riptide while her father who was aware of the dangerous conditions was shouting at her over the sounds of the pounding waves to come back!  She ignored him and continued to go.  She didn't even think twice.  Once she got to him she let him on the board first, then she got on top of him while he shouted "Keep kicking, keep kicking."  But then another wave struck and they were separated.  Nicole made it back to shore, but Dale Ostrander did not.

For 15 minutes, Dale Ostrander was under water.  He was lifeless when the volunteer rescuer brought him to shore and CPR was administered immediately, but his pulse did not return....until he got to the hospital. Nicole Kissel had bought him the time he needed for the rescuers to reach him. The water was cold enough to slow down his metabolism, and the universe wasn't ready to take him just yet.

Call it God, call it a miracle, or call it a 12 year old girl who said "When someone's about to drown or someone needs help, you don't really think about it before you're about to help them."  I wish we could all be so brave.

Sweet dreams and always, GOOD dreams,

~Renae~

*See (http://www.cbsnews.com/ and http://www.abcnews.go.com/) for information source.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I'M A GIRL SCOUT!


I have made an executive decision. 

Typically, I have a keen sense of awareness, which really means I cry easily and am overly sensitive.  That, coupled with my lack of a brain filter also allows me to write from a place of emotion. And oh how I love to write -- but I'm no Julia.  (If you haven't seen Julia & Julia, you really should).  Over a year prior to watching the movie, I wanted to start my own blog, I just didn't know how to go about it.  There was never a question as to what I would write -- I knew immediately it would be to find good news and shout it to the world.  Most of us have been so consumed by the bad news all around us, (like really, can the stock market plunge any lower?), that I think we are not only past due but I think we are becoming conditioned to the negative.  I was eating my peanut butter sandwich while on my break yesterday and turning the pages of the newspaper. As I looked at photos of not just malnourished but starving and dying children in Somalia with arms the size of twigs, I took another bite of my sandwich and turned the page.  Oh dont' think for a second it didn't stab me in the heart, or that we shouldn't know what is happening in the world.  We should.  But I don't ever want to become conditioned to this norm....not now.....not ever.  I want to know that there is something good out there to contrast all the pain and suffering that we witness. I want to know that if there is a time or place to jump in and help, we will because we are in fact, not conditioned.

In my fantasy, my writing was going to be exclusively about the heroes of the day and the Lassie's of the neighborhood....how they saved the toddler from going into the pool and pulled the family from the burning building. It hasn't quite worked out that way.  Not that this doesn't happen, and I can assure you when it does, and I know about it, I will write about it.  But this has evolved into something a little different than what I anticipated.  Fortunately, I think it seems to be going in a direction of what people still want to read because we want something good.  Today I hit the 100 mark for daily views.  You, my readers, broke my record!  Thank you. Thank you for letting me know by the numbers, that I am not alone in my hopes of a brighter day.  Thank you for reading my posts.

I've learned in the last week of "blog world" that much of the good news has to come from me; my own perspective.  My mission is to dig deep for the good news in the many moments which aren't always so good, or to find the humor when it's appropriate.  Isn't that what happiness comes down to much of the time anyway?  From our own perspective?  An overused cliche no doubt, but I'm trying to make lemonade and share it with you on a hot sunny day.  But being no Julia, I won't be making recipes from scratch and writing about them -- and for my readers that know their way around a kitchen, please forgive me, but I'm a lousy cook.  My house isn't even spic and span.  (See my post on "Perfection").  I do hope you'll still accept me.  But my heart, my big ol' sensitive heart is always in the right place; I can promise you that -- and one of my favorite cousins will offer a testimonial (see future comments after check clears).

So my promise to you is not to write every single day, but write as often as there are good things jumping out at me or going round in this tired little brain of mine to write about. I hear that most blogs die a quick death, but as long as you continue to read my truth, then I will continue to share it with you....150 posts in a year from the date I started in July.  That is my executive decision.  During that time I want to cover all the things near and dear to your hearts, the moments of joy, the tears of relief, the heroes, our children, and the humor that we live for.  If I've missed something, let me know and I will write about it.  I will try to switch it up to keep you interested.  And now, before it gets dark, I have weeds to pull.  That's one thing I'm good at.

In Girl Scouts our pledge was: "On my honor I will try: To love God and my Country, to help other people at all times especially those in need."  I was a Girl Scout.  I think I'm still a Girl Scout, and I think it is our time of need.

Sweet dreams and always, GOOD dreams,
~Renae~

MY MOTHER READS THE OBITUARIES

Some days really aren't worth writing about. Today was basically uneventful; or at least I wasn't privy to any really good news.  Maybe that's because I read the newspaper and that's all like...really bad news. Which reminds me.  Not long ago I was on the phone with my brother in Alaska and we were talking about our mother.  She is an amazing woman, don't get me wrong, she has tolerated my dad after all for 55 years give or take a year.  But we were having a "Mom is always frantic, always exhausted, chases her tail, what are we going to do with her" kind of moment.  A concerned sibling moment as we watch our parents age and worry about their stress levels.  Then, in my brother's attempt to reinforce his point --which by the way he didn't need to because I grew up with the same mother, he stated "...AND she reads the obituaries!"  I didn't say a word.  "No" he stated. "You don't understand. She spends hours reading about people that she's never met!" I remained silent.  "hmmmmmmm...." was all I could eventually muster.  Finally, I lowered my voice to a nearly inaudible sound and whispered, "I read the obituaries."  I don't think he heard me.  I said it again, a little louder this time.  "I READ the obituaries."  "Ya, I heard yuh" was all he had to say.  To this day I don't think my brother grasped what I was telling him; or maybe he is in denial.  I am in fact, my mother.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  But in my defense.....

Sometimes the obituaries are the only good news I can find. I don't mean because these people have died, I mean because they lived! The people whose lives I read of have more often then not lived a life worth living; worth reading about.  Just yesterday, I read the obituary of this woman who led an amazing life....she had run marathons and climbed mountains, worked hard and nurtured her children, cared for the sick and took in the weary.  I swear I wanted to know her; only she was dead.  If she wasn't I would have wanted her to be my best friend. She really was amazing. 

I know what you're thinking, and no I'm not crazy, but it didn't start out this way, really it didn't.  It started out with me, innocently scanning the obituaries in the hopes that no one I knew would be in them.  Then, little by little, something would catch my eye -- a picture, a phrase, something....and that is how my obituary reading began.  It wasn't even all a selfish read, I really truly feel that this is the last time this person will ever have the life they lived and what they stood for acknowledged, and if their whole entire life full of love and laughter, experiences and journeys is wrapped up into a few paragraphs, the least I can do is to honor them, to absorb into my soul the person that they were because in the blink of an eye, we are no longer.  With the exception of the babies that leave me all but sad for the rest of the day and sometimes much longer -- I find joy in the lives of the departed. There are even times I fantasize that something half as wonderful will be written about me; that perhaps I too have led a life worth writing about.  And then I think maybe I should just write my own obituary. All joking aside.

So dear brother, I, like mother, read the obituaries. Sometimes they are the reminder I need to live my day to the fullest.  Sometimes the person lived so well, that I cut the obituary out of the paper and insist that the rest of the family read it too so that they can bask in the richness of this person's life.  Sadly, I usually find the article laying on the same spot I left it and wonder why no one else cares as much as I; other than my mother.

And sometimes, when the day is uneventful, the announcements of the death of one's loved one is the only news that brings me back to the greatness of our moments and the importance of living life well, because whatever these people did with their lives, whoever they were, someone cared enough to want the world to know in their final departure; and if my mother and I are the only people to read about the life and death of someone we've never met, then at least our days are enriched because that person lived.  Today was one of those days.

Sweet dreams and always, GOOD dreams,
~Renae~