Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Aging Gracefully: About Not Taking My Self Too Seriously

I almost lost my wallet  yesterday. I say almost because it was lost for a while then I found it. And in between losing it and finding it I almost lost my mind. I was surveying the wreckage of my future. Life as I knew suddenly ceased to exist. Fear took over. I imagined the worst possible scenarios. 

I was taking my self way too seriously.

My day started out ordinary enough. Up early, read the paper, drank some coffee and headed off to work. My first meeting of the day was with a group of Audiologists where we discussed the challenges of counseling their patients. I played the counseling expert and they played the audiology role. While I was  leaving the meeting room, I stumbled across a travel mug of ours, sitting on a counter where I apparently, no, not apparently, where I did leave it two weeks ago.

The aforementioned mug is one of  Georgette and my favorites. In fact, we take turns using it. She made mention of the fact that it hadn't been seen in some time and we shared our chagrin over its apparent demise. Neither admitted to seeing it last  and we simply accepted it as one of those "oh well, it was a good mug" moments.

I was excited to be able to send her a text that proclaimed the discovery of the lost mug, while not taking any responsibility for leaving it there. No harm, no foul. As I would expect, she was gracious in receiving that news.

Later that morning,  I got a text from my friend Al, asking if I would like to meet him lunch. "Sure, would love to...where and when? Yep, see you in a bit." And as a matter of reflex, I stuck my hand in my pocket to check on my supply of cash and....."oh shit, where's my wallet?"

Momentary panic. Then calm, relax, backtrack, it must have fallen out in the car. Check the wallet. Shit.  Maybe it's in the meeting room.It could have fallen out of my pocket somehow. Nope. Not there. 

OK, just think. When did I seeing last? I think I picked it up this morning when I got dressed... Or did I? I'm not sure.

OK, just think. I picked up the dry cleaning yesterday on the way home from work. I used my debit card. And I threw the receipt in the garbage when I got home. Maybe it's in the trash. Sometimes I don't put the wallet back in my pocket. Why would I? I'm just going to take it out again whenever home. Crap, what if it is lost and I have to replace all those bank cards and my drivers license? Dammit! Identity thieves could be cleaning out our bank account right at this moment. 

Maybe it's still in my pants pocket and I just forgot to take it out when I changed my clothes. But why would I do that? Dan, you are losing your mind.

And now I don't have any cash for lunch. And if I get stopped by the cops without my drivers license I'm screwed. OK, just think. Before meeting Al for lunch,  I better run home and look in the trash. Then check the pants I wore yesterday. And also look in the laundry bag because maybe I stuck my wallet in the pocket on my dress shirt and forgot to take it out Yeah, it'll turn up in one of those places. Garbage, pants or laundry bag. Has to be in one of those places. 

At this point I'm feel like a small boy who is afraid of the dark who whistles out loud to feel less afraid.

Who am I kidding. I'm screwed. And with that I headed home to search for the missing wallet.

At least I had the good sense to check the pocket of my yesterday pants and the laundry bag before I tore through two bags of trash in the garage. Not there. Checked the car again. Then back in bedroom, looked under the dresser.....nope. I'm screwed.  Wait, call the dry cleaners....maybe...nope, not there either.

So what do you do when you are teetering on the edge of misery and you are all by yourself? 

I could have prayed to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost items. 

Or to St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes. 

I did neither.

Instead, you invite someone else into your misery. You text your wife.

"Sorry to bother you with this but I've lost my billfold. Noticed it before lunch. Have backtracked and checked everywhere I've been since I saw it last at the cleaners yesterday. They don't have it. Been through the garbage and found the receipt but no wallet. Looked everywhere and am now in a panic as I have no idea of where it might be. Ideas?"

Misery loves company and I was lonely. I wanted to be felt sorry for. the request for ideas was just to save some level of dignity.

"Did you check your car? Maybe it fell when you picked up your dry cleaning. Behind the dresser int eh bedroom? In your pants pockets from yesterday. I'm so sorry."

I might not have found the wallet, but I did discover that great minds think alike.

Several minutes later I sent another text.

"Just found it. Put on blue pants this morning (I thought they were black) then changed them. It was in the pocket of the blue slacks. I think I'm losing my mind"

"Whew!! So glad you found it-such a nightmare. Did Grace help?"

"Not at all. Just laid there on the floor doing frog legs. Now I get to re-bag all the garbage :)"

And it was at that exact moment that I realized that I had been taking my self way too seriously. Not that losing a wallet is a walk in the park. But it's not the end for the world. It's a minor inconvenience.

For some reason that I don't understand,  I made one last check of the pants hanging in the closet and I checked all of them. At that point in time I wasn't sure if I could say for sure that  I even wore pants to work yesterday so what the hell, check them all. And bingo, there it was in the pocket of the navy blue pants-pants that looked black when I put them on. But then changed out of into a pair of black slacks. After all, I had black socks on and you can't go to work wearing navy blue slacks with black socks. That would be.......taking your self too seriously.

I'm not sure what the big lesson is here. Don't make a mountain out of a molehill? Maybe

Don't cry over spilt milk? Yeah, that too.

Rome wasn't built in a day? Now I'm sure I'm losing my mind.

Never mind. I'm thinking about wearing the blue pants with black socks tomorrow. Just to practice what I preach-not taking my self too seriously. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Where Does Creativity Live?

Creativity lives in all of us. It is our nature. To explore, to invent, to capture and discover.
Sadly, too many of us listen to the voice of judgement. The voice that emerges in our awareness at too early an age and lives in some of us for much too long.
It is the voice that says you can't, you aren't, you don't.
It is the voice that compares rather than contrasts.
I'd much rather listen to the voice of abundance. The voice that says we can all express our creativity and that there is room on this grand stage for all of us to perform.
And on this grand stage, the voice of encouragement drowns out the voice of judgement.
I used to say I wasn't a photographer. If I never took a picture, then maybe that was true.
But the second I looked at a flower and let my eye guide me through the lens of a camera, I became a photographer.
Where does your creativity lie inside of you? Have you shared it with the world on the grand stage of encouragement?
What's holding you back? The voice of judgement?
Go play amongst the encouragers of the world and let your creativity blossom and bloom.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Garden

After an unseasonably, but wonderfully cool week, we are gearing up for the dog days of summer here in the heartland. Temps are predicted to be in the high 90's with little chance of rain for the upcoming week. Any lingering memories of the long, cold winter are buried away. We are reminded, however, that as the days start to get a bit shorter, that it won't be long until the season changes once again. For now, the summer garden with all its color and slender, captivates our senses and imagination. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mid-July Garden

The garden peaks in color, texture, variety and zaniness around the middle of July very year. Some flowers have come and gone and a few are yet to come, but this is showtime here in Nebraska. There is something for everyone. Even a beagle gets in on the action in the garden.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Aging Gracefully: The View From Seats E 12 & E 13

You are probably thinking this is going to be about flying somewhere on a jet. Did the seats  E  12& E 13 sound like seats on a boarding pass? Not quite, but it is about reserved, reclining leather seats.

Maybe this trend has already hit your local multi-plex. Do they still call it that?  Movie theater will suffice if you're old school like me. Seems that all the movie theaters in our city are converting their screens to reserved leather recliners. We came across this for the first time several months when we went to "Wolf of Wall Street" across the river in Council Bluffs (that's in Iowa, in case you didn't know that).

As we were checking in, er, purchasing out tickets, the gate agent, er, the ticket seller asked us of we'd like to pick our seats. Excuse me, I meant to say select our seats. She flipped the LCD monitor around and indicated where the unsold seats were and we made our choice. Cool. Just like flying on a jet. Except without a baggage claim.

A few minutes later, after getting ripped off by purchasing the large drink and tub of popcorn, we wandered into the theater, tickets in hand to find our reserved leather reclining seats. This was almost like flying in first class, expect we didn't get to act like snobs since everyone else in the theater also got to sit in a big ass leather recliner too. Nonetheless, the movie was 3 hours long so the recliner was a godsend on that night.

Which brings us to today. We headed off to see "Jersey Boys" at our neighborhood theater where they had been hyping the remodeling of the theater, including the addition of leather recliners, for some time. Georgette purchased 2 tickets and then mentioned as we headed towards the concession stand to get ripped off again on soda and popcorn, "Well, at least we didn't get those reserved seats."

"We didn't. How do you know that?"

"She didn't ask me where we wanted to sit. She just handed me the tickets and said theater 3"

"What's wrong with the reserved seats?"

"I don't need a reserved seat. I just want to be able to go and find my own seat."

No comment.

Walking down the long hallway towards Theater 3, we noticed there was a monitor placed outside the entrance to every theater showing the seat assignments, indicating which seats were taken and which ones were still available. Not sure why that is necessary since everyone should have received their boarding pass, er, seat assignment when they purchased the ticket, but oh well.

When we arrived at Theater 3 we discovered there was a monitor there too. 

"You sure we don't have reserved seats?"

"She didn't ask me where we wanted to be seated, she just handed me the tickets"

"Let me see the tickets. Yep, they're reserved. We're in 12 E & 12 F"

Deep sigh. Not sure if that was because she'd rather pick, er, select her own seat. Or because the ticket seller failed to consult with us about our preference for seats before handing them to us. Either way, clearly we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

I had barely sat down in my recliner and was looking for the cup holder to secure the 20lb. cup of soda when I noticed that Georgette had already found the magic button that adjusts the recliner and foot rest.....she was chillin' like Magellan. I guess her seat issues were short lived.

That's when my seat issues began. It's our custom to share the large soda and tub o' popcorn. As I went to secure the soda in the cup holder between our seats.....there was none to be found. Instead, the cup holders were located on the outside arms of each seat. 

I'm sorry, but this is unacceptable. We need to be able to conveniently share the soda by having it positioned between us. I quickly concluded that this was a secret ploy to trick us into buying 2 sodas, thus more profits for the fat cats while the little guy, me in this case, gets the shaft.

And the there was the issue with the lights being on in the theater all through the previews. I suppose this is needed because people need to be able to see their seat numbers. 

The kicker was when the ad came on the screen about how you can come early and order off the menu. Dinner and a movie all from your reserved leather recliner. So much JuJu Beans and Junior Mints. Hells, bells, we might as well stay home and eat in front of the TV.

Something was said about dealing with change and  that we're just a couple of old fuddy duddies and before long we were laughing at ourselves and our reactions to what most people think is progress.

I'm sure it won't be long and they will be offering upgrades to better levels of seats......for a fee, of course. But I have to admit, the view from seats 12 E and 12 F was just fine. 

And so was "Jersey Boys".

"Let's hang on, to what we got, don't let it go girl we got a lot. Got a lot of love between us, hang on, hang on, hang on what we got".


Friday, July 4, 2014

A Letter to America on the 4th of July

Dear America,

I'm almost 62 years old now and I have lived with you my entire life. Today on this Independence Day, I'd like to express my gratitude for standing beside me all these years. It wasn't  my choice to live here like those who crafted our Declaration of Independence, I just got lucky. Many who came before me and many after have paid a heavy price to keep you free and strong.

As a young boy, the 4th of July meant firecrackers, snakes and sparklers. Hamburgers on the grill, watermelon, and ice cream. A neighborhood parade. A picnic with the neighbors. The big fireworks show at dusk. Life was simple, easy and free. Our neighborhoods and schools were safe, our parents were optimistic, 3 TV channels seemed enough and everyone seemed to look out for one another.

I watched the great Interstate Highway system being built just down the street from where we lived. A man landed on the moon. The price of gas went up and down and so did the speed limit.

And at the same time, I saw a President , his brother, and a civil rights leader assassinated. We feared that the Soviets would drop a bomb on us. Vietnam divided us. We became mistrusting of our leaders and institutions. There were riots in the streets, flags were burned, families fell apart.

And yet, in spite of those ups and downs, through all the progress and change, you're still standing, still free and still a great nation.

Speaking of change, just  a few days ago, I drove across the cornfields of Iowa to the city where I was raised. A city that has changed in many ways, yet hasn't changed at all. The houses, schools, neighborhoods i grew up with are still where I left them when I made my way to independence so many years go. Oh sure, the McDonalds where I got my first job has been torn down and re-located a block east. Some of the neighborhoods look older, less maintained. Some look like they haven't aged a bit. 

There are those who say that you have changed, America. That you aren't as free as you once were. That your best days are behind you that this grand experiment will not survive. 

I'm not one of them. Not that I am naive. I'm not. I could write out a long list of problems and challenges that face us as a nation and so could you.

I believe the problems we face are solvable. That in time, we can build an even stronger nation. But to do so, we need to remind ourselves each and every day of our common humanity and our common good. And that's the hard part. We've become polarized and victims to the noise that populates the airwaves. It's simply become too easy to hear and not to think or read. To judge but not to relate. To accuse but not to listen.

 So were going through a bit of rough patch, America, I think you know that. And I can't predict how long it will take to get us back on track. Maybe not in my lifetime.

But I want you to know that I'll keep doing my part. To be a good neighbor and citizen. To vote, to participate, to lend a hand, to encourage others. And to not give in to cynicism.

I've seen the best you have to offer and at times, some of the worst, but you always find a way to pull together when it matters the most.

So if you don't have any plans for this evening, stop on by the park in west Omaha. We're having a few hundred friends over for a birthday party to honor you. There will be lots of music, marches, show tunes- a  whole bunch of Americana that may even bring a tear to your eye. 

It's a good time. And it's the best demonstration of freedom and Independence I can think of for a beautiful day like today.

Happy Birthday America. Don't forget to make a wish before you blow out the candles.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Early Summer Garden

Looking east
The garden peaks in color and texture every year around the 1st of July. From a rather barren start in early spring to a lush, overflowing spectacle of perennials and grasses, it is truly a labor of love.

Mixed Rudbeckia

Monarda ( bee balm) and Baby"s Breath
Speaking of labor, people are often surprised when I tell them that maintaining the garden is not as labor intensive as it looks. Sure, there are peak periods of activity in early spring and later fall, mostly involving clean-up and cutting back. But from May to September, most of the work involves light trimming, pruning and of course, cutting the flowers to be displayed in vases.

Summer Phlox

Purple coneflower

There are a number of Midwestern/native prairie plants on the garden, paying homage to the region we live in. Coneflowers, goldenrod, phlox and other wildflowers reminding  us that we are in Nebraska.

There are a variety of Asiatic, Oriental and day lilies scattered throughout the landscape.
Yarrow, especially this tall varsity is a pungent and colorful plant. These make a great cutting specimen to adorn a vase of mixed perennials.

"Zowie" Zinnia
This variety of zinnia is called "Zowie" and I start these guys inside from seeds. Just a fun later winter project to coax spring on its way.
Monarda (Bee Balm)


Last, but not least, a bevy of coneflowers.