The American West in the 1850s

These are drawings done in 1856 of Los Angeles and the Mission of San Diego, along with the great basin from the summit of Tejon Pass and a surveying party at the entrance of Livermore’s Pass.  These all appear in a volume of books commissioned by the War Department in the 1850s to determine the best route for a transcontinental railroad.  If I had a time machine, you can bet that I’d be among the explorers who headed West to see what was there.

Every time Ray and I drive cross country to or from Texas, I imagine what life was like in California, Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas before everyone started heading westward. I would have loved to have been on horseback with a few other people, exploring the land where the Native Americans lived, enjoying those vistas, fording rivers and streams, camping out under a bejeweled sky.  I can’t even imagine how beautiful this land must have been in those pristine places where Native Americans lived in harmony with the Earth.

I understand that the western migration disrupted that harmony and the Transcontinental Railroad sealed the fate of Native Americans. There is no denying that or sanitizing that fact. “Progress” changed the face and the character of this nation.

What I can tell from these volumes is that the men (and, yes, they were all men) who undertook the job to survey and explore these different routes had a deep respect for the beauty of this land.  They made meticulous notes of the flora and fauna, geological formations, the geography, and the Native American tribes they encountered.  These books record their travels and their clear veneration of the majesty of this land. There are 13 thick volumes filled with first person accounts of their travels.  It is fascinating to read and to see.

No time machines exist, at least not yet.  For now, I’ll settle for enjoying this lovely books. But if ever there is a time machine created and made available for public use, you’ll know where I’ll be headed.

The Mental Benefits of Cooking

I felt discombobulated this morning – well, depressed is a better term – given all the ugly news over the past several days. I had a good talk with Ray, a little cry and then did what I always do when I feel disconnected and a bit unraveled.  I cooked.

Cooking serves several purposes for me.

First, I am up and moving around, not sitting in my chair with my computer on my lap.  Since my work involves the computer, it’s always wonderful when I am NOT staring at it, but rather doing something else.  In this case, the “else” was preparing a turkey meatloaf, a big salad, fresh Brussel sprouts, and corn on the cob at ten this morning. (The meatloaf takes a half hour to prepare and then has to cook for 1 1/2 hours.)

The second purpose cooking serves is as a calming activity.  The business of gathering needed ingredients, getting them measured and in the bowl and stirring them all up gives my brain something else to think about besides troubling thoughts.  I focus on what I’m doing, not on what I’m thinking and that is generally a better way to operate, at least in my world.

The third benefit of cooking is obvious – a nutritious, delicious meal.  Not only does this help stabilize the blood sugar and satisfy the taste buds, but it also brings a level of order to my home.  There is something deeply satisfying about partaking in a decent meal.  Life feels smaller, more compartmentalized, more manageable.

After prepping, cooking and eating my lunch today (and a smaller portion for dinner), I feel better overall.  I cannot control much outside in the bigger world, but I can control what I put in my mouth for food.  That has real value just in itself.

I believe cooking helps me to have clarity about what is in my realm of influence and what is not. That is not to say that I should not do my best to make a difference in the world.  I definitely need to do my part.  But that part starts with me making sure that I am getting proper nourishment, physically, mentally and spiritually.  And what better place to start than in a kitchen with a few ingredients and a bowl?

I hope you’ve had at least one good meal today, my friends.  We all need to take care of ourselves.

I’ll check in again tomorrow.


Some Rambling, then Information on the “Third Age”

I am sitting here, listening to the fan whir.  Ray is upstairs.  Frankie is curled up in a chair nearby, asleep.  Cordelia must be in the other room.  It is quiet here save for the occasional car outside and the whir of that oscillating fan. 

My rear-end is sore from sitting so much today.  I have tackled lots of chores that I do not love. Doing my billing for my time with students, answering emails, sending out reminders for meetings.  I have absolutely nothing worth writing about tonight.  I am tired and want to get up and move rather than sit any longer in front of this computer screen.  But I also want to honor my commitment to my 20 minutes a day of writing so here I sit. 

I am helping one student with her Master’s thesis in Clinical Psychology.  We are researching the topic of woman and aging.  We met today for two hours to work on her proposal.  I’m learning all sorts of interesting things in the process of the research.  Did you know that in 1950, the average life span was 68-years-old?  Now, it is 79 for men and women and by 2020, it will be around 83 for women and 79 for men. The age gap between men and women’s life expectancies is also narrowing.  That is good for men and for women, too, since that means there will be more men around. 

One of the most interesting parts of the research we’ve been doing is the idea of the Third Age, which is after the kids are gone and retirement is either coming or already happened.  With greater life expectancy, this period of time can be as much as 20 to 30 years before the Fourth Age hits, which is decline.  Researchers are saying that we must start thinking differently about aging since this Third Age can be a wonderfully fulfilling period. We have to work to shift our thinking from declining to thriving.  Often once kids are grown and retirement is in place, life gets much simpler, leaving room for all those activities you’ve always wanted to do, but just didn’t have the time. This can mean living a whole extra life beginning in your mid-50s and going forward. 

In my case, my mother finished her Ph.D. at 53 and went on to have a whole new career for the next 29 years.  My father died and she had another partner for those 29 years as well.  I watched her life blossom during her Third Age. I would like to hope I can have an equally exciting post-60 period.  Of course, I’d prefer for Ray to stay very healthy so we can enjoy these upcoming years together.

Okay, on that note, I’ll close.  Let me know how you’re envisioning your Third Age, if you’re in that age group.  I’d love to hear.

Sleep well.

I’ll be checking back in again tomorrow.


On Reflection: This Time of Trouble

This morning in church, I felt a particular need to be connected with my fellow parishioners after all the violence in Virginia yesterday. I felt a desire to be focused on our mutual need for divine guidance in these days of unrest, division and trouble.

One man was there, a homeless man with tattoos on his face, and I realized I hadn't seen him in a long time. He came up after church and said to me, "I have been in jail for four years for stealing CDs and my dad came every day to visit me." His eyes were clear and he looked deeply happy to report this news. I remembered his name was Mark.

Mark sat in coffee hour in his dirty clothes and in severe need of a bath, and I watched as one parishioner after another was kind to him. This man, who might scare the average person on the street, was listened to by any number of people and treated as just one more person at coffee hour. I felt proud of us as a church, as a community, for working hard to see past this man's external appearance and treat him as a fellow human being worthy of respect.

This helped me to see that the lesson for me today was simple: Tolerance builds a bridge to understanding.

Our country needs to remember that tolerance of others is key to freedom for all.

May God guide us to open our hearts to those who are different from ourselves and see our shared humanity. Please, Father, help us all in this time of trouble.

A Little Too Much Computer Time

I have been stuck in front of my computer for hours today.  First with eBay, which was fine since I always enjoy learning; then with my online class, which is also fine, since I love reading everyone’s writing; and finally writing a feature story for the Story Circle Network Journal, which again is fine because it’s about my beloved Madison Stingray who is ending her time as social media intern with SCN so she can go off to study at Cambridge.  All great things, but dang it, I am tired of staring at a computer screen!

So, I will be making this a very short entry tonight, my friends.  My eyes are practically crossing.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.  I believe I’m going to get to see my kids and grandkids in the next day or two.  Yahoo!  Plus, tomorrow is the Breakfast Club and Sunday I’m sub-deacon at church. I hope too to work on my cushions for Ojai.

Off I go.  I’ll be talking with you again tomorrow.



The Best Gift I’ve Ever Received

The best gift I have ever received was when I turned 60-years-old.  My children planned a trip for the entire family down to Ensenada, Mexico for five days. This had the dual purpose of a celebration of my “big” birthday as well as a chance for our family to meet our new son-in-law’s family, who live in Ensenada.  A third purpose was for Gregorio to show us this beautiful part of Mexico right on the Pacific coast where he’d spent the first 16 years of his life. 

The kids informed Ray and me of my gift in my birthday card and included the line, “We have arranged everything. You two are going to do nothing but rest.  We are also paying for everything.”  Wow.  This was a first.  No planning?  No paying?  Just resting? I could hardly get my mind around that concept. And they were good to their word. We simply got in the car and headed down to Mexico, our only job beforehand was packing our bags. 

We stayed in a lovely house right near the beach.  We swam, hung out, ate (they cooked) and visited Gregorio’s family and the local sites.  I wasn’t even allowed to wash the dishes. 

I don’t remember when I’ve ever been that happy or relaxed.

Recently, I mentioned I’ll be 65 in January and tossed out the idea of a return trip.

Fingers crossed that we’ll be heading down south again come the first month in 2018.  

I’ll even wash a dish or two if that will help seal the deal.


The Wonders of YouTube for DYI Projects

I have joined the ranks of those who watch YouTube videos to learn how to do something new. In my case, I want to reupholster the cushions on our outdoor furniture at the orange grove. We already have the outdoor fabric.  It’s just a question of me getting a little guidance on the simplest method to sew up these new cushion covers. Imagine my delight when I discovered a YouTube video that took me through the process step-by-step, guided by a woman who seems to have stumbled upon YouTube as a place where she can share her decorating expertise.  Excellent!

Ray has been using these instructional videos for a while now.  When the repairman came to fix the belt on our ancient (but trusty) Maytag dryer to the tune of almost three hundred dollars (the dryer is no longer worth that much), Ray instead ordered a replacement belt on Amazon for $11 and watched a YouTube video to learn how to tackle the problem areas.  Our dryer is now working like new.

He also has watched YouTube videos on car repair.

Who knew?

Today is a new day.




Flash Fiction, Memoir and Essay

%d bloggers like this: