Fall from Grace

I don’t know why my first skiing trip came to mind in the middle of July, but it did. It’s not like it snows here, which it doesn’t, and unfortunately we’re in the middle of a heat wave, so it’s not even raining.

The interesting thing is that I’d never thought about skiing. I’d seen it on television, but never pictured myself with boards strapped to my feet barreling down a snow-covered slope. And to get there? I’d have to swing on a questionable-looking chair as it steadily climbed up the mountain. Not for me with my fear of heights.

The closest I had gotten was after I had graduated from college and, on a lark, took a class at the local community college about skiing. At the conclusion was an outing. Because I lived in the SF Bay Area, I owned no clothing that would keep a person warm in freezing temperatures.

I went shopping and quickly discovered that, with my limited funds, I could not purchase a suitable coat or pants or boots. I did buy a pair of supposedly insulated rubber boots, but that was it. I would have to make do with what I had.

One Saturday morning I climbed on a yellow school bus, excited, yet at the same time terrified. I knew no one, so I had no way to spend the time other than drifting over whatever passed through my mind.

I did notice the cold. About the time that snow began to appear along the side of the highway, my feet became uncomfortable and my fingers ached. We took a bathroom break. I was miserable! Nothing I wore was sufficient for the trip.

The rest of that trip went by in a mind-numbing haze. I had no money to rent skis or a toboggan, so I spent the time I braved the outdoors walking about. Most of the time I hung out in the lodge, dreaming over the hot chocolate I saw others drinking.

So, after that adventure, why would I ever go skiing? Because young adults don’t often remember misery.

A couple of friends from work convinced me that I’d really like to learn to ski. By now I had enough money to buy a decent coat and gloves and warm socks. I figured I’d rent equipment and so had saved what I hoped would be enough.

The drive was uneventful. We talked and laughed and so the miles sped by. According to my friends, it was a beautiful day for skiing. The sky was blue, there was plenty of snow and it wasn’t too cold. They were right.

Except for one small thing: I didn’t know how to ski.

They gave me some basic instructions. They showed me how to grab the rope to go up the bunny slope. Once there, they demonstrated how to put my skis into a V-shape in order to turn, slow down, and stop. They went down with me, once. Then set me free.

I did pretty well. I am not an idiot, so I learn quickly. I am fairly coordinated, so I thought I had mastered the basics.

I moved on to the easiest chair lift. Getting on a chair while wearing skis is not easy. There’s a lot of timing involved. You’ve got to get into position as soon as the chair gets to the post. Then look over your shoulder while reaching for the bar. Then sit while the chair is still moving.

The first time my butt barely touched the seat and I had to hang on for dear life all the way to the top. The next time I did better, and each time after that it was a little bit easier.

No one had explained how to get off before I hopped on at the bottom. While the chair is moving, as it gets lower to the ground, you’ve got to jump off and ski out of the way before the seat bumps you in the back. I watched those in front of me, so when my turn came, I managed, but felt the chair brush the back of my legs.

The first few trips down I succeeded. I turned, I slowed, and I stopped as I approached the line waiting to go back up. I felt proud.

I went back up. Handled getting on and off. Successfully went down. As I approached the line, however, something went wrong.

I put my skis in a V-shaped and dug in my inner blades. I didn’t slow down. I got closer and closer to the kid at the end of the line. I dug in even harder. I kept sliding forward. Closer and closer I got.

I know that my eyes opened wider and wider in shock and preparation for the inevitable.

I was helpless to prevent myself from hitting the kid. I bumped into his back, nearly knocking him down, as I fell onto my skis, landing on my tailbone with an excruciatingly painful crack.

I felt my cheeks redden. The kid turned to me, all eight years of him, and said as he put his skis into that elusive V, “Lady, you stop like this.”

I was both humiliated and in such deep pain that I found it difficult to get up. Thankfully a woman came up behind me, reached down and pulled me up. She brushed the snow off my back and asked if I was okay.

I wasn’t. I skied over to a log and sat. Bad idea. I took off my skis and walked them back to the rental shop, mincing my steps. I struggled up the steps to the lodge. I found a chair, but, oh, that hurt!

The drive home was terrible. Because my tailbone hurt so bad, I had to lay down in the backseat of a VW bug. Not comfortable.

That night I couldn’t sleep. Between the intense pain and the recalled embarrassment, there was no chance of sleep.

The next day I went to work, but had to go see a doctor at the end of my shift. Nothing was broken, but I was badly bruised. I was given a blow-up pillow to sit on until it healed.

Despite that disaster, I did eventually go skiing again. I was never good at it, but I never crashed into anyone, either.

The lesson that I learned is that sometimes it’s better to fall before you think you are going to hit someone.

This applies to all facets of life. Fall while you still have the strength of character to pull yourself, brush yourself off and try again.

 

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Thoughts on a Beautiful Day

Another day awakens

Promising calm winds

Sunny skies

A touch of clouds

That guide me through

The hectic times of my life

 

I stretch, drawing in

Energy to replenish

My weary soul

To revitalize desires

And strengthen interests

A healing, needed balm

 

The day beckons me forth

Greeted by the early

call of morning birds

Filled with bounteous joy

That fills my soul

With unbounded joy

I burst into expectant smile

 

The day is mine to conquer

I shall vanquish foes

Destroy doubts

Eliminate naysayers

While rising to the peak

Of my talent

 

Ah, the dreams of a new day

A day of joyous victory

To fill my sights.

I rejoice.

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My Wishes, Over Time

When I was a child, my dreams were three-fold: happiness, safety, and love. I don’t remember the specifics as it’s been far too many years, but I felt as if I lacked all three.

Early pictures of me show a sulky, sad, miserable little girl. Did I look that way because I didn’t get something that I wanted at that moment in time, or does my downturned mouth reflect the general state of my being? In my mind, it was the latter. I can’t recall much laughter, but that is no surprise since those years have disappeared from my collective memory.

Looking back, I should have been happy, for aren’t little kids bundles of joy? Don’t kids love to giggle and run about yelling like banshees?

Shouldn’t I have felt safe because I lived with my family? If so, why do I recall fear of punishment as the strongest emotion?

And love. Everyone deserves love. I’m sure that my parents loved me, for if they didn’t, wouldn’t they have given me up for adoption or sent me away to live with relatives? They didn’t do those things, so there must have been some positive feelings toward me. The problem is, I don’t recall being loved. I don’t recall hugs or kisses or sitting on laps or walking hand-in-hand.

A flaw in my memory? Most likely.

As a kid, my world expanded, and so did my dreams. I still yearned for the big three, but I added in pleasing my teacher and having friends as major goals. The problem was that I was not a good student and so seldom earned praise from the strict sisters that were my teachers in the Catholic School.

I did my work to the best of my ability, but it was never good enough. Because I wasn’t earning A grades, I was often held after school to clean blackboards! (Could this be why I am asthmatic?) When I got home I was punished once again. Logically, then this made me fearful. Double punishment for every poor grade.

Did it inspire me to do better? Maybe, but remember, I was already working as hard as I could!

And let’s not forget having a friend! Because I was shy, I was not the type that was included when kids went out to play. Add on top of that the fact that I wore faded, hand-me-down uniforms that made me stand out as poor. Then there is the issue of grades, as no one wants to spend time with the dumb kid in class.

Added to that was the fact that, because I got poor grades, I usually spent lunch in the tutoring room, sitting in silence while a stern nun oversaw my efforts to complete work. Sometimes she helped, but most of the time she chided.

So, no friends.

There were material things that I wished for. A new bike. A Barbie doll. Roller skates. To play on my brother’s baseball and football teams.  Store-bought clothes and shoes that fit.

I eventually saved up enough money to buy myself a bike, but I never got the doll. A relative gave me skates and I never had brand new clothes. I did get new shoes every other year, which meant that the first they were too big and the second they fit, but were now scuffed.

While I was good at sports, I couldn’t play on teams. This was back in the 1960s and there were few, if any, teams for girls. So that dream did not become a reality until I was in high school.

As a teenager my dreams did not change much. I hung onto the big three and having a friend. I still yearned for the positive attention from my teachers, and because I had finally learned how to read well enough to get good grades, I was often considered the star student.

I still wanted store-bought clothes, and was able to buy myself a doctor’s shirt (yes, that was a style!) and my dad no longer made me wear oxford shoes. Because my feet had quit growing, I also had shoes that fit!

Relatives gave me clothes. It was considerate of them to do this, but there were too problems: they were a few sizes too small as I was fat and the styles were old-fashioned and not appealing to a teen. My mom, who was an excellent seamstress, picked apart the clothes and remade them into matching skirts and vests. Beautiful, but not what girls wore.

Now I wanted a boyfriend. My first, real-life boy who would ask me out for a date. Who would hold my hand and be proud to walk with me. No kissing. I wasn’t ready for that yet. But I didn’t know how to be attractive to boys, so I went dateless until my senior year when I asked the young man who lived across the street to take me to my prom.

He was a nice guy. Not real smart, but he had inherited a duplex from his mother and lived alone. He had a job as a mailman, so he had a reliable income. He was fair looking, but so was I, so we fit together.

We dated for a year, so I had a boyfriend for a year. But because he was a man, he wanted more out of the relationship than I was prepared to give. When I went away to college and found out that intelligent, curious young men found me attractive, that earlier relationship died and quick death.

In college I had bigger dreams. By now I was well aware of the world and dreamt of travel. Thanks to campus organizations I went camping in the forests, walked along beaches and stood next to a massive earthquake-caused crack in the earth. I marched in protest of the Vietnam War and participated in sit-ins with hundreds of young people.

I met a wealthy young man whose parents gave him tickets to the theater and to the opera and ballet, so I got exposed to cultural events that inspired me to see more.

My eyes were opened to all the possibilities that existed in the world and expended my dreams to include many of them, even those well beyond my financial reach.

I like to think that my earlier wishes guided my decision-making throughout my life. For example, I always held teachers in high regard, admired them for both their dedication and ability. That’s not to say that I was disappointed when a teacher was indifferent or incompetent.

Since I first attended school, I claimed that I wanted to be a teacher. That was an unwavering goal, even though I was distracted by economic factors that caused me to postpone achieving that goal until I was a parent myself. Once I became a teacher, I was determined to be not just a good one, but a great one. I hope that I was.

My desire to be both safe and loved led me to my husband who fulfills both those dreams. There has never been a time in our relationship when those feelings have been threatened. He is my rock.

My desire to have friends solidified as I have gotten older. I have made good friends through writing conferences, book clubs, soccer, the senior center and church.  I am no longer lonely, although I still have problems in a crowd. Once I break through the crowd to find one friendly face, I am okay.

To summarize, throughout my life my basic dreams remained the same. As I aged, more blended in, expanding my wishes in profound and interesting ways. And as I accomplished goals, I never forgot where I was as a child, how important it was for me to feel happy, safe and loved.

 

 

 

 

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Summer Romance Dreams

It began like a million days before it. Blue sky dotted with wispy clouds. Slight breeze: just enough to tickle your cheeks. A chill in the air, but soon to be gone as the sun warms the earth.

But it wasn’t an ordinary day for Thomas. He had just graduated from high school, so no early alarm, no classes, no plans.

After breakfast he headed out to meet up with Saul, his best friend of many years.

Saul had something that Thomas had always dreamt of having: magic.

Saul wasn’t a showy magician like you’d see on television. He couldn’t levitate people or saw them in half or escape from a gazillion locks before drowning in a pool of water.

He could, however, predict the future, which came in handy when dating or gambling on which of their favorite teams would win. Today they were doing both.

Thomas had fancied Marisal for years, practically drooling over her long brown hair and curvy body. Saul was secretly in love with Janice, a brilliant brunette who had outscored them both on the ACTs.

The problem is that Marisal’s family only permitted her dating boys with some degree of magic, which ruled out Thomas. Thomas, with Saul’s help, planned on convincing her parents that, by association, he was an ideal candidate.

Saul’s problem was that Janice controlled various types of magic, from elementals to wizardly powers, such as altering substances and making things disappear. Her magic was way beyond Saul’s, which meant that they had never been in the same class, starting from preschool, since her skills had emerged at birth while his took time to reveal itself.

Sitting before Saul’s computer, the boys scanned which of the local baseball teams was at home. Fortunately, because of the easier commute from Fremont, the Oakland A’s were playing the Houston Astros. The Astros were sure to win, meaning that Saul wouldn’t even have to use his magic when making a prediction. He would need it, however, to convince Janice’s parents to let her go to the game with him.

“Okay,” said Thomas, “so how can you help me?”

“Well, let’s do a search,” Saul said as he typed in appropriate words.

Up popped links that seemed promising. The first one they chose suggested flowers of the non-magical kind, a box of chocolates and a good book. “I can do all that,” Thomas said, “but somehow I don’t think that will make a difference.”

The next link said to buy an amulet that promised love at first sight. “Let’s do that,” Thomas said. “Where do we get one?”

“Easy,” said Saul. “Mieve’s shop on Mowry. She carries a variety of magic items.”

The boys took off walking as neither owned a car. Along the way they spotted a kite flying over Jason’s house, no string attached. “That’s cool,” Thomas said. “I wish I could do something like that.”

“No use dreaming of what you don’t have. Concentrate on what you’re going to ask Mieve for and how you can use it on Marisal.”

Mieve’s shop was nestled into a cormer of a strip mall just past the intersection of Cedar and Mowry. Neon lights blinked off and on, advertising a variety of potions and spells. Thomas’s attention was called to one appropriately titled, Call me Honey. “That’s what I want!”

“Don’t decide before you talk to Meave,” Saul said as he opened the door.

Three walls were lined with shelves full of vials, tubes and bottles. The labels were both colorful and intriguing. While Saul moved to the romance section, Thomas scoured them all, picking up one item after another, putting most back, but tucking the rest in the crook of his arm.

“Stop! Those things can be dangerous in the hands of a non-magical person,” Saul said. “In fact, even a skilled user can wreak havoc with just one of those if he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Put them back.”

Thomas put one back, but carried the rest tightly against his body, shielding them from his friend’s view.

Meave appeared dressed in t-shirt and jeans. Her hair was closely cropped, hugging her scalp in a tightly curled hood. “What do you boys want?”

Saul nodded toward his friend. “He has no talents, but he wants to woo someone who does. And her parents only approve of magical boyfriends. Can you help?”

She tapped her fingers against her chin, her eyes scanning her shelves. “Well, I’m not supposed to do this, but you seem like nice kids. I’ll only sell a potion if you agree to supervise.”

Saul nodded and Thomas smiled.

She sauntered over to the romance section and pulled down three different vials. “This one adds sparkle to the user, making him appear more attractive.” She held up a blue liquid, saying, “This sends out a signal that designed to attract a target, but it often reigns in the wrong person.” She handed Saul the last vial, which was filled with smoke. “And this one is to be opened only in the presence of the target. It is the strongest, and therefore the most dangerous.”

“Can we take them all?” Thomas asked.

Meave carried them back behind the counter. She closed her eyes as she stood silent. “I see unexpected results if you use all simultaneously. Therefore I can’t legally sell all three to you.” She put the third one on the shelf behind her. “Only two. Only these two, but you still cannot use them at the same time. Do you want them anyway?”

Thomas nodded. After purchasing the potions, the boys returned to Saul’s house. They opened both packages so as to read the instructions.

The one which would work on Thomas said he’d have to sprinkle it liberally on his face five minutes before encountering the person he wanted to woo. “I can do that,” he said. “Easy.”

The blue vial had to be opened in the presence of the target, within about three-five feet. “That’s going to be tricky,” Saul said. “How do you plan on getting near Marisal?”

“Let’s just go over there. When she opens the door, I’ll uncork the vial and wave it under her nose.”

“Where will I be?”

“Nowhere near.  I don’t want her to fall in love with you.”

The boys meandered down Smith Street, past a park and elementary school. Marisal’s house was at the corner of Allendale. It was easy to spot, primarily because of the gigantic plants in the front yard, all improved by Marisal’s mother’s gardening talent.

Thomas opened the first vial just as he stepped up to the door. He knocked. Footsteps. He held the blue vial up before his face, ready to pop the cork. The door opened. Thomas released the potion, then gasped.

Marisal’s face did not fill the doorway. Her brother Nathan stood there, all six feet of him, broad shoulders completely filling the doorway.

“Look who’s here,” Nathan said as his eyes slowly opened wider and wider. “You’re looking awesome,” he said with a wink.

“Marisal,” Thomas said as he took four steps back. “Is she here?”

Nathan leaned against the doorframe, one hip suggestively thrust forward. “No, but I am. Want to come in?”

Thomas turned and ran down the sidewalk, putting as much distance as possible between him and the house. Saul caught up with him in front of the school. “So, what happened?”

“Nathan. Nathan happened, that’s what.”

Saul laughed a deep, throaty bellow. “So he’s in love with you?”

Thomas threw both vials into bushed in the park. ‘This stuff is crap.”

“Okay, so let’s work on my problem. How do I convince Janice’s parents that I’ve got powerful enough magic?”

Thomas shrugged. “Just be yourself.”

They crossed Smith Street and headed north toward a fairly new complex of condos. They found Building C, then climbed to the third floor. “Only talented families live here,” Saul said. “Be careful. Don’t touch anything. Not even the handrail. Everything will be protected. It could be dangerous for you.”

Saul rang the bell at Suite 307. Janice answered. “Hi,” she said as a smile brightened her face. “Come on in.”

The boys found seats in the front room. Janice sat in between, slightly closer to Saul. “Thirsty?” she asked.

“Sure,” the boys said in unison.

Janice snapped her fingers and two glasses of cola appeared on the coffee table before them. Saul leaned forward and indicated that Thomas was not to touch, but not in time.

Carelessly ignoring his friend’s command, Thomas tipped the glass to his lips and took a huge gulp. Immediately he began twitching from head to toe. His body stiffened, throwing his head over the back of the couch.

“What happened?” Janice shrieked.

Saul hustled to his friend’s side, cradling his head. “He has no talents! He’s been poisoned.”

“Didn’t you warn him?”

“Of course. I saw this happening, so I told him not to touch anything.”

“What do we do?” Janice said.

“Do you stock any antidotes?”

Janice went down the hall. After a few minutes she returned carrying a small brown bottle. “I think this might work.”

Saul held it in his free hand, closed his eyes, and began humming a low-pitched sound. He nodded, opened his eyes, and told Janice to pour some down Thomas’ throat. As soon as the tiniest drop touched his friend’s tongue, the tremors stopped. The next drop unfroze Thomas’s body, collapsing him into the couch. The last drop eased his breathing.

“He’s going to be okay,” Saul said as he handed the bottle back to Janice.

“Thank goodness you knew what to do! Wait till I tell my parents. You’re amazing.”

Saul blushed as he returned to his seat, Janice tucked against his side. He slowly put his left arm over her shoulders. She leaned her head against his and planted a kiss on his throat.

“So,” she said, “what are you doing this afternoon?”

“How’d you like to go to a ballgame?”

“Who’s going to win?”

“Astros. But the As will hit three homeruns and two doubles. It will be close.”

With that, Janice left a note for her parents. Before they walked out the door, they lifted Thomas’s legs in order to make him more comfortable. Saul gave his friend a thumb’s up as they closed the door behind them.

 

 

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A Precious Cat

Today a friend shared an interesting story.

Out for a walk, she spotted an orange cat sleeping on the sidewalk. She had never seen this cat before, but thought it was strange behavior.

What cat sleeps like that?

She approached the cat, speaking softly to it, but it did not react.

My friend continued on her walk, never stopping thinking about the cat.

When she neared her home, the cat had moved. It was now lying in the street. It did not appear to be injured, but my friend believed it was probably ill.

She approached the cat, determined to rescue it. Just as she was about to touch it, it hissed at her.

The only thing she could think to do was knock on doors.

Eventually she found someone who thought the cat might be hers. The woman picked up the cat and put it in a carrier. She took it to the vet where X-rays and blood work was done. The vet found nothing despite the fact that something was obviously wrong. Six hundred dollars poorer, the woman returned home.

Just as the woman opened her front door, her cat appeared! She had taken an unknown cat to the vet.

My friend offered to post a notice on the neighborhood blog. She got the woman‘s contact information, composed the notice, then called the woman back to confirm.

The woman was distraught. The cat had just died!

Imagine the range of emotions that the woman had experienced. Everything from worry, fear and then relief when it was not her pet.

My friend felt quite guilty for involving a total stranger in the story. She would have taken care of the cat herself if she wasn’t afraid of being scratched.

Instead, because of her actions, a neighbor had spent a huge sum on a cat that was not hers, all the while terrified that it was her dear pet.

The moral of the story is not clear. Do you get involved or walk away?

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Norway explored

For the past several days my husband and I have been exploring parts of Norway with a tour group.

We have seen marvelous things and been impressed with the majesty of craggy mountains, immense fjords and beautifully maintained historic buildings.

We traveled by coach, train and ferry. We stayed in a variety of hotels. Some were located in the heart of big cities while others had stunning views of fjords.

I am glad we came.

Visiting Norway has been a dream of mine for years. Now I will forever carry with me memories of all I have seen and done.

The areas that impressed me the most were the spectacular mountains ringing deep fjords. Imagine climbing up the sides of humongous mountains by switchback roads with one hairpin turn after another. At the top you look out on endless mountains, deep fjords and rushing waterfalls.

I have enjoyed every minute.

I hope that someday you will have a similar experience.

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Away From Home

In my last post I mentioned that I love traveling.

I am currently on a journey throughout Scandinavia and having a wonderful time.

We began our overseas trip with three nights in Amsterdam. What a beautiful city! Cobblestone streets. Bicycles everywhere. In fact, the cyclists believe they own the city, so we had to constantly look left and right.

We saw many interesting sights. Historic buildings. Canals. Good food.

Then off to Denmark. Rolling hills. Cobblestone streets. Old buildings.

One of the things that strikes me is the history. The US has historic places, but nothing like you see when you go overseas.

My journey is not yet over. We are currently on our way to Norway. I am looking forward to seeing fjords and stunning views.

The only downside is that they are experiencing a heatwave!

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