Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nanas Got Nothing

It has been a week since I posted here, but I have been writing.  I just haven't managed to get anything down on paper.  The automatic download from the thoughts in my head to my computer screen has not been working.  The writing ideas float in and out of my head constantly.  I write myself to sleep at night, reworking sentences in my head.  When I read the paper, I'm looking for stimulating material to make a story.  When I attend an activity with my friends I think about how to make attending the craft show an interesting narrative.  So why don't I have anything to post?

This past week I've only "written" in my head and nothing has been very interesting.  Two or three sentences about spring gardening and another few on signs of spring in Hermiston.  The narrative about buying kettle corn at the craft show put me right to sleep.  Even if I had that interface that directly connected my brain to my computer, there wouldn't be anything worth reading.

What exactly are the signs of spring in Hermiston, you ask? 

  • The buckets holding bunches of daffodils have shown up in the aisle by the deli at Safeway, a sure sign that spring is near.

  • We don't have a Cherry Blossom Festival in Hermiston, but the ten trees that encircle RiteAid are in full cotton candy colored bloom.
See?  Not very interesting.

I've been surfing a lot of blogs and I can't even find inspiration to leave comments.  What do you do to keep the words flowing?  Is it possible that I've used up everything worth saying?  There must be a limit to the number of times I can write about cleaning out my closets.  Hopefully by tomorrow I'll come up with a better topic or I'll be sharing more closet details.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nana Remembers Japan

In 2002 I spent a month in Japan as a participant in the Fulbright Memorial Program. The Fulbright Memorial Program was established by the Japanese government in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Fulbright Program. The program promotes understanding and friendship between the United States and Japan by sponsoring short-term educational and cultural studies in Japan.  I was one of 100 educators, two from each state, who had been selected to participate. The program was fully funded by the Japanese government. The entire group spent three weeks in Tokyo and then one week in smaller groups around the country.  I was assigned to the group that went to Yamato, a city not far from Tokyo.  During our stay in Yamato we stayed with Japanese families and experienced life in typical Japanese homes.

The reception at city hall to welcome us to Yamato.
The Fulbright Memorial Program Yamato Group with Yamato government officials.  I'm hidden in the back on the left.

I have thought back to the month I spent in Japan numerous times this past week as I watched the images on the news of the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami. I can't stop thinking about the people who made my experience in Japan so memorable. I learned so much about Japan, but also about myself and my own culture. There's nothing like experiencing another culture first hand to provide the fodder for personal growth.

There have been so many terrifying images on the news this week, I am sharing some of my memories of Japan because I can't stop thinking of the people. These are the same people we're watching on the news.  In Yamato we had the opportunity to visit Japanese schools.   We watched the children arriving to school.  They walk together in groups along predetermined routes led by adults or older students,  and pick up more students along the way.  The older children helping the younger ones.

Walking to school in organized groups

I could go on and on about the similarities and differences of the Japanese and American educational systems.  One major commonality was happy, engaged students.

These elementary students performed for us and then taught us a traditional dance.

Tokyo was a cultural shock for me.  I'd never seen so many people.

I had always heard about Japan being a homogeneous culture with little diversity and strong pressure for everyone to conform. I was surprised at the individuality I saw in Tokyo.

A mother and a child in traditional dress

Goth with neon wigs!

One minute a family in traditional clothing is walking by....

and the next minute you're standing on the corner next to a guy in a top hat and five inch heels.  

The Fulbright Program was founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946.  Following World War II Japanese students had the opportunity to study in the US as Fulbright scholars.  Today those Fulbrighters are leaders in Japan in business and government.  The Fulbright Program helped Japan recover from World War II.  Numerous Japanese Fulbright scholars attended various receptions held for us during our stay in Japan. 

In Yamato we attended an elegant dinner that included the director of the Japan-United States Educational Commission, numerous former Fulbright Scholars and our Yamato host families.  One  member of our group played the violin and as a tribute to our hosts, he played the Japanese national anthem.  It was one of those moments that is seared in my memory.  We all stood for the anthem.  I looked around the room and noticed the tears in the eyes of the elderly men as they silently mouthed the words.  Later I learned that the national anthem is not played frequently in Japan.  It is also unusual to see the flag displayed.  In fact, following World War II the Japanese were not permitted to display the flag.  It is considered by many as a symbol of the extreme nationalism that contributed to World War II.  I was surprised that World War II continues to have such a strong influence in Japan. 

We reached out to help the Japanese recover from World War II.  It is reassuring to see the world respond to the crisis in Japan now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Aches, Pains and Aging

The spouse bounded out of bed this morning, jumped in the shower…and came out an old man. Apparently he bent down to pick up the soap, a simple movement he has accomplished effortlessly hundreds of times, except today something was different. Something pulled or twisted or stretched and now his leg refuses to work correctly.

The spouse went into the shower, but Granpappy Amos came out. If you’re a Baby Boomer you probably remember Granpappy Amos as the crotchety grandfather from The Real McCoys, a television series from the late 50’s and early 60’s. Grandpa Amos, played by Walter Brennen, had a bum leg and a distinctive walk. Now the spouse is dragging around his right leg and wincing when he sits down.

Where do these mysterious aches and pains come from? I understand being sore from exercise, or hurting from an accident or illness, but how can I go to bed perfectly healthy and wake up aching? Several weeks ago my shoulder started hurting, not constantly, but off and on. I couldn’t sleep in my usual position because it hurt my arm. Just as mysteriously as it appeared, the pain went away. I hope the spouse’s leg will follow the same course and will resolve itself.

One of the challenges of getting older is not knowing what pains to pay attention to and what pains to ignore. How do I know what is just a normal ache of an aging body and what is a sign of an impending medical crisis?

I do not want to be that senior citizen whose primary topic of conversation is her medical problems. In the years before her death my mother’s main social interaction was travelling from one specialist to another, and then reporting every interaction in minute detail to anyone who would listen, over and over again. She seemed to take pleasure in every new diagnosis. Each new symptom was cause for another trip to the lab for tests and to one or more specialists for treatment. Every ailment brought her back to the spotlight.

I don’t want to be that old person who desires companionship but doesn’t know how to ask for it. With my mother it was difficult to know when she was really ill and when she was seeking attention, like the little boy who cried wolf.

But, maybe along with the aches and pains that age is bringing me, there will be some wisdom.  Perhaps the universe is providing me the opportunity to reflect on my past and giving me the opportunity to learn.  I may have developed more empathy for my mother, but I hope I won't be condemned to repeat her mistakes.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nana Spreads Some Goodwill

I spent yesterday in the closet.  Or, should I say closets?  As I posted on Wednesday, it was time to clean out my accumulation of shoes.  I tried to channel Peter Walch, Oprah's organization guru,  and I developed criteria for any pair that I was going to keep.
  • in good condition
  • comfortable
  • fit well
  • meet a need in my wardrobe or I just love them
I started with 102 pairs, but along the way I found a few more pairs under the beds or tucked away in the back of the closets.  My goal was to reduce by 20%.  The first five or six pairs to toss was easy and included four pairs of black pumps.  I kept one pair of basic black heels, but numerous black dressy pumps...you know, for that once in a blue moon that I dress up.  But, a girl's got to have strappy heels for summer dress-up and fancy closed toe shoes for winter.  I'm down to only two pair of lime green shoes, summer sandals and spring loafers, but I've still got my four pairs of pink shoes. 

I have two big bags of shoes in the trunk of my car to take to Goodwill.  I culled 18 pairs from the collection.  I said goodbye to three pairs of gray heels...but I still have at least three pairs of gray shoes in the closet.  I really was surprised that I had so many gray shoes. 

I found a pair of brand new slippers, still in the box, in the back of the closet.  So I threw away two pairs of slippers that had seen better days.

Once I was in the closets (notice it's plural, I use two walk-in closets in the two back bedrooms) I started in on the clothing.  When my daughter lived at home, she was my fashion Nazi.  It wasn't until she moved out that my collection of holiday sweaters grew to epic proportions.  Without her input I do have what could best be described as "some poor choices!"

I kept reminding myself that I am retired and my wardrobe meets different needs now.  I have two boxes of suits going to Goodwill also.  I tried on almost everything in the closet and if it didn't fit perfectly, it went in the donate pile.  Eighteen suits are gone, but I still have almost that many left in the closet.  All the brown suits went.  I don't particularly like brown, so I'm not sure why I bought those particular suits in the first place.  I'm left with classic black and blue suits.  I guess I'm not totally ready to let go of my working life, or I would have let all the business attire go.

I enjoyed reading the comments from my earlier post.  I do wish all of you lived in my neighborhood...what a great field trip we could have shopping for shoes!  Oh, I forgot, I'm not buying shoes; I have enough shoes.  Let's go shopping for leisure wear...I've got some room in my closet now for a new retirement wardrobe!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Nana Takes the First Step

I love those television programs that show people with clutter problems...not the hoarders who have filled their houses with garbage, but regular people who have piles of stuff in their spare bedrooms.   This afternoon when I was too tired from being retired to do anything, I turned on the TV and discovered that I could watch Peter Walch, Oprah's organization guru, on On Demand.  There went my afternoon!

Peter Walch was helping a couple clean out their bedroom and home office.  The rooms were filled with stuff that the wife had bought on sale.  She had piles of new clothing that she had never worn, in sizes that she couldn't wear.  The clothing took up all available space.  Her husband had moved into a spare bedroom because there was no room to sleep in the master bedroom.  There was an incredible amount of stuff in just two rooms.  Peter Walch helped the couple, especially the woman, reduce their possessions to manageable levels.  At one point he said "No one needs more than 10 pairs of shoes."

Ten pairs of shoes, he can't be serious?  I've got at least 10 pair of black shoes alone.  I don't think I would be able to limit myself to only 10 pairs, but how many is a reasonable number? 

My friend Shawn often reminds me that I'm the only person she knows who has five pairs of pink shoes.  Is five pairs unreasonable? I've got two pairs of heels, loafers, ballet flats, and sandals.  Doesn't everyone need a variety of shoe styles in numerous different colors?

I have shoes in my closet that I haven't worn.  On the  other hand, I have shoes in my closet that are more than just comfortably worn...but they're still good for a few more wearings.

Oregon has four seasons, so one needs shoes for every season.  I can't wear boots in the summer or sandals in the winter.  But, how many pairs of sandals is reasonable? 

The reason I love the organizing shows is because I know that I walk a fine line.  I could so easily find myself buried in stuff.  I'm always looking for ways to keep myself in check.  The television shows that focus on organizing have given me strategies for helping to reduce my personal clutter. 

True confession time...I just counted.  I have 102 pairs of shoes in my closets.  That probably is too many... especially for someone who spends most days inside wearing slippers!  I haven't decided on a reasonable number, but tomorrow I'm going to sort through the shoes.  My goal is to toss at least 20 pairs of shoes.  That would be 20%,  Then again, 80 pairs is still a lot.  I'm already getting anxious, worrying about what shoes I can let go.  Maybe I should look for a 12 step program, or maybe I'll just wait until Peter Walch knocks on my door . 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WTF Wednesday: New York Abortion Billboard

WTF Wednesday is a semi-regular feature of this blog. It documents the things that have made me pause, slap my forehead and say "What the f**k!" Well, that and I just like saying WTF. I'm retired. I don't have to watch what I say anymore. I'm not any one's role model.

The billboard above reads “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” It is located in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, about a half a mile from a Planned Parenthood clinic. The billboard was erected by Life Always, a group opposed to abortions.

"They're attacking women for choosing abortion while simultaneously destroying family planning," a spokeswoman Mary Alice Carr of NARAL Pro-Choice America is quoted by CNN before the billboard was taken down. "Their hypocrisy is as large and as obnoxious as this billboard."

Read the CNN article here .  

What the f**k?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Modern Parable

I read the following posted on Facebook today...

"A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it.

The CEO takes 11 cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, 'Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.' "
There are several versions of this floating around the Internet, so I don't know its author.

The Republican Governor of Wisconsin's proposal to strip public sector unions of most collective bargaining rights was approved last Friday by the Wisconsin Assembly. 

Everyone by now understands that we are facing huge budget deficits across the United States.  Everyone understands that we have to make reductions in spending.  The trick is making the cuts that will do the least harm and maintain essential services.  Using this budget crisis to abolish workers' rights is unprincipled and dishonorable. 

I am tired of the anti-union rhetoric, but I am also tired of extreme positions on both sides of the issue.  Tea party members and Republicans are not the only ones who recognize that we need to get our budgets under control.  The only way we can resolve the differences is not by heavy handed proclamations, but by respecting each other, finding common ground, and making compromises.

It's another one of those lessons from kindergarten...nobody gets cookies unless you have enough for everyone!

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