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January 30, 2012

Girly Girl

I've never been much of a girly girl. You would have found me playing baseball on my street with the local boys when I was a kid. I ice skated weekly and played lots of tennis in my 20's. In Jr. High and Sr. High School, I loved PE and was fairly well put together when it came to volleyball, basketball and, of course, softball with all my prior street experience. In my era, girl sports teams didn't exist and I suppose physical aptitude was considered more masculine. My girly sports activity was dancing. I was a great dancer. As a pianist, my sense of rhythm made me go from song girl in high school to choral director in college and a dancer in several college productions.

When I graduated from playing ball with the local boys to having crushes instead, I became a bit more interested in my grooming. At about 13, I went to a local store and learned how to apply makeup, but I've always preferred a more natural look. I've never liked earrings or a wide array of jewelry. I prefer tailored to ruffled. Perhaps, I also prefer not to spend hours in front of a mirror when there are physical things to do. When I became a mom, I had little time (or even the budget) for fussy living. Even today, I love Dian who gets me in and out of her hair salon within 1/2 hour max.

My hair was the healthiest part of my body. I've had my share of permanents at salons over the years, but never understood how I could have a healthy and even luxurious head of long, thick dark red hair, and the puniest fingernails ever on the planet. No fancy nails for me - I can't even grow them for over a week without some kind of crack or peel which means that I keep them cut short. When I go to Maine with Barb Storms and Bette Keller I always come home feeling like I should go get some fancier nails, but when I'm away from their hands I change my mind. I'm still a bit skeptic of the chemicals involved.

When I retired from Fairhaven Middle School, I was given a couple of massage gifts which were so foreign to me that I gave them away. Imagine my surprise when a few years later I finally got got brave enough to experience my first massage, and decided that I was a fool for waiting to try such a relaxing and wonderfully pampering activity so late in life. Partly I was hung up in protocol -- do I wear my underpants or not? Now, isn't that just the stupidest thing you ever heard? With some embarrassment, I finally asked my eldest what she did in such a circumstance. Shucks! I had long since taken a shower before and after water aerobics with 20 other women at the YWCA. I don't think it was nudity as much as just not knowing what other people did. It took me a long time to confess and ask.

This brings me to the present. I have absolutely fallen in love with pedicures! I feel really silly to admit this. Jeni has tried before to get me to go with her. I'm getting to the age that it is harder to cut my own toenails with precision -- but I didn't realize how lovely it was to not only have them cut, but to have a leg massage along with it. I got one last summer and was completely hooked. To add to the enjoyment, the local place, Jimmy's salon, also provides a little fruit tray and a cup of tea while you sit and read your newest novel and let someone take care of you. I have now put pedicures into my budget monthly along with my haircuts. I would add massages to the budget, but they are much more expensive. I might even stop sitting on my hands and try a manicure before I'm 80.

I wonder what it is in life that sends us in one direction or another. What is it that makes us shy away from activities while embracing others? What makes us brave enough to speak to large classrooms of students while too timid to ask someone whether or not to wear underpants while getting a massage? What makes anyone at my age, with my long history of experiencing a fairly friendly universe, nervous about anything? Go figure!

Posted by Marilyn at 3:03 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2012

You Love Them and Hate Them

I've been having computer problems lately. No, I want to amend that. My computer is having Marilyn problems lately. I'm pretty good at getting into programs and doing what I need to do. I'm pretty bad at understanding how anything works.

I'm cataloguing my mystery library (finally through the H's) and I totally forgot how to get into the large list of categories that you can display at the top of the screen. I knew I had done it before. I looked everywhere and tried everything on the screen. I asked Help. I finally asked Martin, but he has been busy and unavailable. Last night, I tried again and clicked on something that I hadn't seen before that was about as big as an ant's head. Lo and behold, there it was.

Now my computer is getting a warning saying that my startup disc has no more space for application memory and keeps telling me to close all applications before I lose stuff. I know what my startup disc looks like, but I don't have a clue what to do. I'm waiting to hear from my son since he will probably tell me in short order. I'm certain that I am driving him crazy. After all, he wasn't the person who vowed in front of God and everyone to love me in sickness and mental health 'til death do us part.

When I first got my Fitbit from him, I kept having trouble getting it to download information into my computer. I think the answer there was that I was closing my computer instead of leaving it open when I went to bed. However, I presumed that if I left it open, it would close down automatically after a time so why leave it open? In any case, the device was also doing some odd things like saying that I had burned 1000 calories during my sleep or not putting down stairs for a few days. Somehow, it got righted and has been fine for a week or so.

Dani suggested that I get myself onto Pinterest which is a program where you keep bulletin boards of things that interest you that you come across. So, I tried to join, but I just could not get straight how to install the pin that you use when you come across something you wish to keep. Then, I saw that several people I had never heard of had befriended me. Forget it! I deleted the whole thing last night. I have neither time, nor interest, to pursue something that a) I seem incapable of installing correctly and b) befriends people for me that I don't know. Looked like fun, but seemed like a nightmare.

I know it is all my fault -- all these things. I simply do not understand machines. I want to use them, not analyze them. I get impatient with what I do not know. I do not ever speak the language that programmers speak when they compile the HELP section. Nothing that I write in HELP ever comes up - no matter how tell it what I need. I am incompatible with HELP when I really need help.

My children are very nice about it, and when they teach me something, I do remember (mostly). Sometimes I spent the better part of an hour trying to figure something out to no avail. Coming from a non-computer era, I am more than blown away at how these machines both make tasks much more simple and communication with the world amazingly effortless. But, my DNA simply did not come with computer skills programmed within it, and my experience with the world did not enhance those skills either. I think I need a new internal hard drive.

Posted by Marilyn at 9:53 AM | Comments (2)

January 18, 2012

It's 13 Degrees Outside!

This is the third day of snow which has given me a perfect excuse to concentrate on two things -- one is some writing and the second is cataloguing my mysteries. I'm now on Letter E -- C took me a long, long time because of having all of the Agatha Christies ever written thanks to Martin who filled in the final two on his trip to England a few years ago. I'm going over my NaNoWriMo manuscript and playing with an idea using the same overall plot, but changing and shaping it differently. This time I have the luxury of time so I can edit. I'm not sure it is really worth much as stories go, but I'm playing with the script and having some fun.

Katie and I usually go for breakfast when she is here to teach, but today we decided that 13 degrees was just too damn cold to venture out until she had to go to work. Of course, every single school district within 50 miles is closed except for Western Washington University. Katie is working with another prof on an opera and they have been holding rehearsals late in the afternoons -- she wanders in about 8:30 and has dinner and watches a bit of TV with me and then goes to bed. She usually bikes to school, but today she is definitely walking.

We have about 5" of snow in this part of town. This is supposed to be the "big one." Martin, who lives in the lower Queen Anne part of Seattle (think space needle), has a few inches and Jeni, who lives across the Lake Washington (east of Martin), has 3 or 4" and still snowing. It is the cold here, not the amount of snow, that makes the streets so icy and treacherous. I had a meeting this morning that we cancelled. And, I still listen to KGMI at 6:00 a.m. to see what is closed on snowy days -- such a long time habit from my teaching days.

Martin gave me a little gadget for Christmas the I love -- it is called a Fitbit and it is an enhanced pedometer that gives more information and can be connected to your computer to produce a program that keeps your stats and sends you little notices about how well you are doing. I was thinking about this because normally I have about 3 miles logged each day. Yesterday I was just short of a mile. I have been sedentary. But, one thing I do each day is climb stairs. On Monday, it said that I climbed 38 flights of stairs last week. Actually, that was 45 because I come down in the morning, put it on (it sits next to my computer so it can recharge and register the information), and I take it off before climbing the stairs back to bed. I guess that stair climbing will keep me in shape until the temperature rises!

I'm now sitting in my cozy breakfast room with windows on my small world. I'm on my second cup of tea and about to get to my manuscript. I have the E mysteries sitting on my desk ready to organize, I have some beef thawing for a quick pot of chili, I'm waiting for AmySue to pop over with the boys for a little diversion, and I'm perfectly content with the world. Oh, and a Patricia Cornwall mystery to read.

A perfect snow day!

My Breakfast Room View This Morning

A Neighbor Skiing By

Such A Bright Yellow House in the Snow

Posted by Marilyn at 10:59 AM | Comments (1)

January 7, 2012

Christmas Cards

I didn't get around to sending a card this year. I know this sets off a variety of responses -- shall we finally remove her from our list? Did she remove us from her list? Did she just not send a card? Should we send one next year? And, then there is the fact that when Don was alive I never sent Christmas cards to anyone in the congregation because he usually sent greetings from our family through the church mailing. When the staff at church got larger, the greetings were sent from the staff instead of our family. I never got into adding Bellingham people that I saw all the time to the out-of-town Christmas list. When you think of it, that is really silly since they are the dear friends that you'd like to acknowledge and wish them the best at Christmas. It all gets very complicated.

I had to shame my friend, Barb, into giving me her annual Christmas packet of notecards that she puts together with her watercolor art. When I asked her why I didn't get any, she indicated that it was for people who sent her Christmas cards. Since I didn't send her a card this year, I took her to lunch. I didn't want to miss those beautiful cards! My dinner group exchanges gifts at Christmas and includes cards in the gift. Other close friends exchange small gifts instead of cards. Mostly my annual cards and/or letters go out of town to those who are on my radar but not in my daily life. Since the advent of Facebook, some are not as absent in my life as they once were. And, I did receive a half dozen electronic cards this year. One of them was so depressing that I think I'll remove them from my Christmas list so they will remove me.

I always have a problem deciding what to do with the cards after Christmas is over. People have paid good money to buy and send me cards. It always seems such a shame to just toss them. Sometimes I post all pictures that were sent on my kitchen bulletin board until about June when they get old and curly. I always save the basket of cards until sometime in January when I read through them again slowly and write down stuff I want to remember. For the most part, they are a pleasant reminder of old friends and relatives and it is nice to have them sitting in a basket in my living room since I can't have their actual presence that close. I almost always save the clever or beautiful homemade cards in a scrapbook I have kept over the years. I also have a scrapbook of cards the McClellan family has sent although a few years are missing.

I guess I'm just sentimental, and Christmas time is a wonderful repository for sentiment. I love to think about the wonderful Christmas days with my cousins and extended family when I was young, the warm and loving McClellan family dinners in Carlsbad, the times we stayed up half the night after the midnight service to put together doll houses and bikes so that we could celebrate Christmas morning with only a few hours sleep. I love to think about all the grandchildren opening Christmas stockings in our living room and watching little Lionel gently touching the Christmas ornaments tentatively looking up at his daddy.

Christmas cards are much more than just Christmas cards. They are loving arms reaching across the years and across the miles for just one more opportunity to bond with old friends. They evoke memories of close relationships and times past. They are messages of hope and peace. They are connections in a disconnected world. Somehow they bring comfort and warm feelings into a home that honors such things. No wonder they are difficult to throw away!

Here are some Christmas shots for nostalgia's sake:

Dani, Charles, James and Nico in Macau

Nico with Santa in Macau

Jeni, Ron, Allie & Nicole on Christmas Eve in Bellingham

Martin Visiting with his cousin, Connie, on Christmas Day in Bellingham

Lionel (with a buzz cut like daddy's) sitting on mom's lap on Christmas Day in Bellingham

Angels Gathering Food on Epiphany in First Congregational Church

Posted by Marilyn at 10:58 AM | Comments (3)

January 5, 2012

Can It Really Be 2012?

Time really does get shorter when you are my age. It seems as though I have put the Christmas decorations out and then away again just a few months ago. I don't know where the time goes, and I don't know how I got anything else accomplished when I worked full time.

I was telling some friends yesterday that I used to be a morning person. I would go to bed by ten and get up by six ready to begin the day. Now I go to bed by midnight and I awaken around seven, but stay in bed and read or do a crossword, then lazily take a bath or shower and finally meander downstairs to have some breakfast and get on my computer until nine or even ten o'clock. Now all that is fine and good, except that I used to begin the day with gusto and work pretty hard at what I wanted to do until about dinner time when I put all work away and read or watched television or did a jigsaw puzzle or talked on the phone or whatever. The point is, as soon as evening came, I was done. Now, I begin my day much later, but I'm still closing down the shop at dinner time. It dawns on me that it gives me much less time to really accomplish anything that I have planned to do for the day. No wonder time is shorter and I get less done.

You might think that "who cares?" I'm retired and what do I have to do that is all that important? Why do I have to push myself to accomplish anything? Don't I deserve a break? It just doesn't work for me. I have projects to do. I keep a list of things in my head that I want to finish or start, and I always have a niggling thought that I really want to spend some time writing (well, I'm doing that now, but I'm not now writing my famous novel or amazing parenting book).

I guess this seems like I'm never quite satisfied with what I am doing or what I am accomplishing. However, I really like the life I lead, and I don't sit around fussing and fuming about what I haven't done that I wanted to do. Instead, if I begin feeling sorry for myself, I get up and do something. i take myself out to lunch or go to a movie. I hate feeling sorry for myself. It doesn't get anything done and it just slows me down. Maybe it is denial. Who cares? The thing is, I will make a list and begin again tomorrow.

Maybe I'll try a new recipe. Maybe I'll get onto the C's in my cataloguing of my mysteries. Maybe I'll get the rest of the wallpaper off of the upstairs bathroom. Maybe I'll get to that novel. For today, I'm taking my car into Honda to find out why the light is on, I'm paying my bills, and I'm getting ready for a meeting tonight that I have to chair. And, I'm hoping to go for a walk. And, I'm hoping that my son will help me figure out why the neat little gadget called a "Fitbit" he gave me for Christmas isn't working right. Maybe I'll even get in a "Skype" to Hong Kong, or hear from Jeni that she is coming up this weekend. That's a pretty good agenda for one day.

Posted by Marilyn at 8:38 AM | Comments (0)