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October 22, 2009

Being Mean

The other day a friend posted a video on Facebook that he thought was very funny. It showed a plump woman dancing sexily for her friend/partner/spouse and prancing around the living room until she clumsily bumped into the coffee table and splattered herself ungracefully as she toppled to the floor. It was supposed to be funny. I think you have to have a weird sense of humor to laugh at things where someone is hurt -- either their feelings or their body.

It is why I do not like America's Funniest Home Videos. Why do we laugh at people because they make mistakes or are awkward or have accidents for our amusement? Of course they never show the aftermath of the pranks because then you would see someone hurting or crying or in pain and it would take away the humor. And, while millions of citizens in our culture are watching these kinds of videos and laughing their collective heads off, schools are sending counselors into classroom to speak up against bullying which has become an epidemic in our schools. Isn't it a form of bullying to laugh at the misfortune of others?

One of my husband's favorite movies was "The Blues Brothers" which has a great deal of destruction and gratuitous violence although it is really a comedy. When I didn't find it hilarious, he said I was too literally minded. Perhaps I was, but even I can see the difference between a staged movie with all the silly pratfalls and practical jokes and candid shots of people making fools of themselves or making fools of others so people can laugh at their misfortunes.

The interesting part of all of this for me is that as a child I was parented by individuals who thought that a child could more or less raise him/herself. We were not entertained by our parents, we did not have a room full of toys, we did not have special foods, we did not have computers or iphones or video games. We played outside. No one arranged a playdate. That was our responsibility - call a friend or play alone. My mom didn't care which one I chose. I was on my own for entertainment. You would think that era would produce more bullies since older children were not closely supervised.

This is the era of parental control! This is the age of caring, of keeping kids safe, of not letting them out of your sight or psychoanalyzing their every move - this is the age of parents continue to take responsibility for their children's lives even when they become adults. And, yet, with all this hovering and caring, we produce a culture that can laugh at the misfortune of others. In fact, we even stage it for entertainment. I'm not saying that this "caring culture" causes it or that bullying has not been around forever, just that you would think it would be extinguished in this "parental hovering" era.

In any case, I don't like bullies and I especially don't like the subtle bullying that is portrayed by the "so called" funny videos. Please don't send them to me to watch!

Posted by Marilyn at 1:57 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2009

Still Laid Up

I am still laid up with a sore knee. It is so frustrating. I am on my fourth physical therapy appointment this week, and I see only a small amount of progress. It continues to bring out my impatience with limited agility and my inability to do what needs to be done. I have put off a trip to California because I can't bear thinking about hobbling about the airport and once more wielding suitcases (which got me here in the first place) and trying to have fun when I just feel miserable. It doesn't help to combine all the activities surrounding Judy's death with being laid up. The other day I was complaining about being really cranky and Dani suggested that perhaps I had a good reason considering that I had just lost a good friend and that I couldn't walk without pain. I guess she is right. I'm just out of sorts.

Judy's memorial service was on Saturday and it was very nice. I sang with the choir because I thought that was one way of honoring her. We took care of one of her grandchildren the other day while Erin (daughter) made plans. Then, we went to the party after the service at the house with several friends and relatives to say goodbye once again. It was nice. Erin and Andy have gone home for awhile, but they have lots of work to do to clear the house and put it up for sale.

The most frustrating thing about my knee is that it doesn't hurt at all when I'm sitting or lying down so I can twist it this way and that and have the illusion that it is all better. Then, I go to stand or walk and am reminded that it is not yet well. There were days this week when it seemed to be getting better and two days when it hurt all day long. My neighbor says it is because the barometric pressure changed because it rained. I looked it up on Google, and sure enough it does indicate that the pressure change affects injuries. Weird!

I have great empathy for people who have chronic pain. I'm very lucky that I don't get headaches very often and have had the privilege of good health. I'm not sure how people live a productive life when they carry discomfort day in and day out. I find that I don't want to get out of bed in the morning so I can enjoy the illusion of not hurting. Leaves pile up on my lawn and house projects need doing. I have let them go for the time being. I'm becoming a couch potato and miss my walks with Kinsey. I want so much to go outside and walk the streets that are golden and brown and red with the burnished colors of fall. I want to go to some fall bazaars but it is too much trouble to walk. I want this to go away. I want my leg to get better. I want it now!

Lord, give me patience and keep me from feeling sorry for myself! Forgive me for complaining! Sorry folks. There are days that I hope no one reads my blog!

Posted by Marilyn at 10:23 PM | Comments (1)

October 13, 2009


My friend, Judy, died on Sunday morning. It is a sad week, but I'm glad it went fast and she had little time to suffer. That was one of her fears - whether she would have any control at the end of her life. She did not want to suffer, but she also did not want to be less than herself.

Ken and Judy were members of our congregation. They came to Bellingham shortly after we moved here. We spent some social time with them as a couple as well as some special times when Donel was in the role of pastor as we visited. We went sailing a few times in their sailboat. Ken was a professor at the University and Judy ran the foundation at the community college. They had both retired. A couple of years ago, Ken was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died shortly after. It was sudden and very tragic for the community as well as the family.

After Ken died, Judy and I began walking together. We also were season ticket holders for Seattle Arts and Lectures. For two years, we traveled once a month to have dinner together and hear a famous writer or poet. Several friends helped her through her grief and on the first anniversary of his death, she had a tea party for about a dozen women who had taken on that role in her life. We came from all walks of Bellingham. There were politicians, professors, neighbors, fellow travelers, church people -- it was impressive to see how these women from all walks of life had become her closest friends. In many ways, she was beginning to blossom as an independent woman before she got sick. She was on the city planning committee and chair of the adult ministry board at church. She was proud of her ability to step up to the plate with the finances and the care of her house.

When she got her diagnosis, she began orchestrating the rest of her life. Of course, it was not in her control to know exactly how much time she had left, but she knew in general what was going to happen. She spent quality time with her children and grandchildren and took care of her financial arrangements. She took care of all mortuary arrangements and planned her memorial service. She spent time trying some new things such as acupuncture and a weekly massage. She worked with her cadre of friends to plan an extended support group - people who brought meals, others who would spend the night when needed, some nursing friends to accompany her to the doctor's visits and record information so she would be able to keep it straight, some to drive her Seattle for doctor's visits, others to walk with daily, some for physical support and others for emotional support. She continued meeting with her book group up to two weeks ago.

I feel privileged to be part of that cadre. I feet privileged that she came here from the first doctor's appointment the day she was diagnosed with a fatal illness. Shortly after, she and her son, Andy, had dinner with Dani and me when he came up to Bellingham to meet with her and the same doctor. I feel privileged to get to know Andy and his sister, Erin, better as they have been here around the clock during this past month. How difficult it is for them to go through this so shortly after losing their father. I am delighted that Judy's final outing was to my house to visit with Erin, Dani, and me. She was so excited to get out of her house and experience some freedom for the afternoon. And she had wanted Erin and Dani to get acquainted because they had so much in common in their professions.

So, I have great respect for the way she was able to leave this world with dignity and with creativity and surrounded by love and friendship. What more could a person ask of this life? Rest in peace my friend, and say hi to Donel and Ken for me.

Posted by Marilyn at 11:40 AM | Comments (1)

October 8, 2009

Fall Leaves

One wonderful thing about my adopted state (as opposed to my birth state) is the coming of fall colors. We saw a few turnings in Ashland and each day in Bellingham, a few more trees begin to look orange, red, yellow as their leaves turn towards winter. It is such a joy to be in a state where the seasons are in your face! I never complained about the endless summer in California because it allowed my whole childhood to be spent outside. Oh, I did complain that I would never see a white Christmas (except the years that I got roller skates or a bicycle which could be used that very moment). I have become such a fan of vibrant colors in the fall, snow falling in winter, a myriad of green in the new growth of summer, and the appreciation of each warm summer day. Seasons of life -- how illusive they were in California.

I suspect I'm thinking of this also as I watch my friend Judy fade away. I sat with her yesterday for an hour while her son, Andy, did some business. She squeezed my hand, but otherwise slept because she is heavily medicated to keep her comfortable. I suspect the end is near - but who knows the day and time. She has orchestrated her time well. She set up groups of friends for meals, has gone over all of her family business with her kids, has friends coming in to relieve them from time to time, has some staying the night to help out, etc. Now she is on Hospice which gives her a rather large team of people to help her on her way. How fortunate she has been to be able to have the time and knowledge to make such careful plans. She is a rather amazing woman. I will miss her greatly.

I'm beginning to see some City University counseling interns this week in their school settings. It is fun to get to know such talented young people who are just beginning their careers. They already have good skills that need some honing for the real world settings. Many have little information about schools or classrooms. It is a privilege to work with them and know that my experience can help them make their way into their new professions. Yesterday I saw an intern give a presentation to a class full of high school sophomores. Today I'm seeing an intern counsel a student and have a meeting about a student with some teachers. Fortunately, all the interns are in schools in and around Bellingham so it doesn't take time to reach them. Last year I had two in Oak Harbor which is 45 minutes away. But, I'm going to miss the beauty of the drive and the fun things I found in the town.

Well, I'm off to the day's activities. Yesterday was Allie's 16th birthday, today is Ron's 45th and Friday is Nico's 3rd! It is a busy week.

Trees are Beginning to Change


Sometimes You Just Get a Hint of What is to Come

Posted by Marilyn at 9:25 AM | Comments (0)

October 5, 2009


I belong to a great book group. My friend, Barb Storms, and I started the group several years ago when we were both tired of book groups that talked about reading for fifteen minutes and then spent the rest of the time on other subjects or eating. Not that there is anything wrong with eating. But, Barb and I wanted a group that really struggled with the book, so we organized a group that used some of the techniques from our old Jr. Great Book training that sets up a series of questions meant to get to the meaning of the text. The group has now been meeting for several years and we read a wide variety of books, fiction and nonfiction, with everyone getting to suggest new books to read. Over the years we have added refreshments, then soups, and now regular meals to our literary evenings.

That said, I have just finished reading one of the selections on this year's list, "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery and Alison Anderson. It was a wonderful book but not an easy read. In fact, two other friends have indicated that they found it tedious to read. The book revolves around two main characters, a young girl from a wealthy family who lives in a hotel and the concierge of the building. Both are very bright and wax philosophical throughout the book which I suspect is the reason people put it down. But, I found it fascinating. Both characters feel separated from their worlds because of their way of thinking. Kindred spirits, both hide their intelligence behind a facade so they can function in their worlds. It was a book that took more thoughtful reading than usual, but I found the experience very satisfying.

Somehow it reminded me of the first difficult chapter book I read when I was about ten. It was Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer (a Newbery award winner in 1937). I don't know if it was because both books took careful thought while reading or if they both have a gifted child as a main character, but I couldn't get Roller Skates out of my mind, so I bought a used copy when I was at Powell's in Portland on my Ashland trip. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again. I could see similarities between the children in both novels. I could also see why I thought it difficult to read. There are a lot of themes such as separation and even death that weave through the book and contribute to the main character's growth.

The first book I can remember was a Doctor Seuss book, "And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street." I know now that it was his first publication from 1937. My first grade teacher probably read it to my class. But, my parents didn't read widely, and they didn't buy books for me to read. I must have been in fourth grade or so when I found that there was a public library next to the park where I went to swim during summer vacations. I was thrilled to find that they would let me take out books if I filled out an application and got my parent's signature. I was hooked from that moment on. That led to a lifelong love of reading, taking my kids to the library from birth, being a library trustee for ten years in Bellingham, and now reading to my grandchildren.

At the moment, I'm reading the next book club choice, The People of the Book and I'm also reading a book written by a former minister now turned gardener about paying attention to the world around you. I still devour mysteries and have a few favorite authors just waiting for me to finish what I am now reading. I wonder how reading shapes my thought. Am I what I read? Interesting to think about that now and again. But, more important, I am grateful for the people who taught me to read and to love reading, who support libraries, and for those whose talents enable them to share interesting ideas on the printed page for readers like me to devour in their leisure time.

Posted by Marilyn at 1:27 PM | Comments (1)

October 3, 2009

Ashland Twice Visited

I just returned from my second trip to Ashland, Oregon, this summer. Again, I met my old friends, the Olmsteads, from California to see the rest of the plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They are not all Shakespeare but a variety of new plays, old favorites, some Shakespeare and other comedies. The first time we went, our party included their girls who are the same ages as my girls. All were born in Berkeley when their dads were in seminary together. It has been a long friendship. This time, Nancy, (Carol's sister) joined us from Canada and some ex-parishioners of Bob's from Palo Alto Methodist church joined us in another flat. My friend, Barb, went with me on this trip. We had a lovely time.

Barb and I stayed all night on the way down with Nicole Marshall who lives in Portland. Nicole is an OB-GYN doing post residency in high risk pregnancies. She and I have a favorite place to eat and my niece, Connie, joined us for a lovely meal. This visit was not unpleasantly hot as it was in July. We caught Nicole just before she departed for Australia to deliver a paper on placentas!

The second day, Barb and I got to Ashland just in time to settle in and have dinner with the Olmsteads before trekking off to see Much Ado About Nothing. Unfortunately, it rained. We rented cushions and blankets and went prepared with rain gear. After tenting ourselves as best as possible, we learned that they would carry on no matter what the weather. If we wanted our money back, we had to bail out by 9:15. But, we sat - rain and all - and thoroughly enjoyed the first act. By the end of intermission, our party was getting drenched and, more importantly, was getting cold - so we all bailed with great sorrow because we really wanted to see the rest of the beautifully executed show -- rain and all. Those actors were simply amazing. You would never, ever, think they were acting in difficult circumstances. They didn't even seem touched by the rain.

The weather cleared after that and we had a beautiful few days - cool but sunny. Got home last night. I'm still struggling with the sore leg from Maine and look forward to going back to the Physical Therapist on Monday to continue treatments. It felt better after I was off it all during the drive yesterday (doesn't hurt to drive), and so I'm babying it for a few days to see if it heals better.

I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again (over and over) that it is so satisfying to be immersed in such high quality drama over three days - I've seen all but one of the ten plays this summer and each were beautifully executed. I've seen plays that I might not have chosen to see otherwise. I've become more interested in Shakespeare since going to Ashland. I've always looked at acting as a rather enjoyable, but perhaps not grueling, profession. But, the Ashland actors have my deepest respect for their craft - all of them in two or three plays during the same week - and some in very demanding roles in two plays a day. No swooning prima donnas here. It is serious work.

So, I extended my membership and will continue to travel down the I-5 corridor every year that I can. It is just frosting on the cake to share it with good friends. And, we continue to find new, delicious, restaurants to wile away our time discussing plays.

Barb Hovering Under Protective Blankets and Pillows - Ready for Rain

The Rain Cometh - Wet and Cold!

Posted by Marilyn at 9:52 AM | Comments (0)