Too late to apologize

There’s a song I hear on the radio, “Apologize.” The chorus says “it’s too late to apologize.” I wonder if that’s really true. It can be too late for apology to repair, but I think as long as there is life, there is opportunity to apologize. Maybe, in the end, an apology is just words, and if there is no power in the words to bring healing or resolution, then the apology is meaningless?

But I don’t think so. Some hurts may not be healed with words, but that doesn’t mean that the words are not important. Validation is important, and isn’t that what saying “I’m sorry” is really about? One person saying to another, “You were right, and I was wrong. I didn’t see before, but now I do.” Or in the words of the immortal song, “I once was blind, but now I see.”

Words are only words. But they are powerful, none the less. An apology is a beginning, or maybe an ending. But most of all, it is acknowledgement. Saying the words can be cleansing and healing for the person saying them. And after all, if you have an apology to make, you can do your part. But you can’t choose how it will be received or if the words will have ability to change the situation. That is for the person receiving the apology to determine.

Some lessons are long to learn. I used to think that if I stepped up, admitted I was wrong, said the right words, was sincere, then of course all would be forgiven. But it doesn’t work like that, at least not all the time. Now my realization is this: just as giving an apology doesn’t guarantee that the receiver will accept it, rejection of apology doesn’t change the fact that it was given. And that it is meaningful, even if only to the person saying “I’m sorry.”

Fairy tales and happy endings

Kate and William

Saw a little bit of the royal wedding coverage this morning as I was getting ready to go into the office. It would be easy to be cynical about the whole production and wonder how long the new couple will last. After all, in addition to the normal pitfalls any marriage faces, William and Kate have the burden of living very public lives and knowing that the world is watching and interpreting every word and action. And obviously, wealth and position do not compensate for life in a fish bowl.

But in spite of all of that, shouldn’t they have the chance to write their own fairy tale and happily-ever-after life, if it’s possible to achieve that? Don’t all couples face challenges? If wealth and youth don’t guarantee success, neither do they promise failure. The reality is that whatever the statistical chances of this marriage lasting, only the two of them can make it work, or cause it to fail. Everyone else is an onlooker.

Fairy tales endings are hard to come by in the real world. But in spite of that, we keep looking. Maybe that’s why so many people are drawn to the display of ancient ritual and tradition, watching the parade of family and ceremony that symbolize faith: faith two people have in each other and in themselves, to succeed at this thing called marriage. To beat the odds. To show the cynics. To live happily ever after.

Good luck to them. They’ll need it. Marriage…any marriage…is work. It’s also pleasure, joy, fulfillment, companionship, support, love, romance. But bottom line, it is work. There’s no escape from that. Maybe that’s where the fairy tale falls apart so often. Couples expect all of the good stuff to carry them, and forget that the work never ends, is never finished, is always waiting the next day.

Here’s hoping they understand that ever after began today, this morning. Here’s hoping they don’t get lost in the routine, the pressures, the public face, in others. Here’s hoping they write their own fairy tale, and it ends happily ever after, as all stories with a prince and princess should.

Oatmeal for breakfast; or, I have to lower my cholesterol

High cholesterol treatment

Was there really any doubt? About five years ago when I last had my cholesterol checked, my number was good…don’t remember the exact number, but it was good. And the most recent reading? A disappointing 251, in the “high” category, although the HDL (good cholesterol) number is excellent.  The cream-in-my-coffee habit has caught up with me. I’m expecting the lipid police at my door any moment.

So: resolutions begin. I’ll add oatmeal to my coffee habit. I can’t give up the cream so I’ll have to find ways to minimize the impact. I suppose I’ll have to increase my exercising too. Hey, I already drink red wine, so I’ve got that going for me. What else? I’m not a big meat eater, so I can’t help myself by giving up something I already don’t do. You followed that, right?

Why is it that I can manage my weight and stay in the same size clothes I’ve worn my whole adult life, and yet this one little test can threaten my love affair with dairy products? I wouldn’t say I’m addicted. But it would be a grim world, mornings at 5:oo am at my house, without the promise of hot coffee diluted with cream until it’s a beautiful khaki color. And don’t even get me started on butter. I don’t eat too much of it these days. I don’t bake a lot, and most of what I bake I give away. I don’t cook a lot in general. But if a recipe calls for butter, that’s what I use. I can’t do margarine or other plastic products passing themselves off as dairy. I’m in the camp of “I’d rather have a small amount of the real thing than a lot of imitation.”

Hmmm….Paula Deen, where are you? And I wonder what your cholesterol number is? I notice you don’t offer full disclosure on your Food Network programs. Think I’ll have to rewrite that old rhyme: “Butter, butter, everywhere, and not a bite to eat.”

Well, as it turns out, I like oatmeal, so that won’t be too difficult to add. I don’t eat it often, but I like it. And I especially like it with brown sugar, a pat of butter, and just a splash of cream. Uh oh….

See you at the gym!

The sweet life

Sedona, AZ

Today, life is sweet because of:

  • baby kisses from Riley
  • phone calls from family
  • a shared look
  • Arizona sunshine
  • a good book
  • peace in my heart

What makes your life sweet today?

Movies as life

Since their invention, movies have had a special place in viewers’ hearts. As with books, there are movies genres to fit all tastes and moods. I usually pick chick flicks (no surprise there) or comedies, but now and then there’s a bit of human drama that is portrayed so beautifully, so compellingly, that I actually have to purchase the movie to watch again.

Such a treat is “The King’s Speech.” I saw it recently, and was completely charmed and touched by the story of a man who was burdened with both a royal role and a speech impediment. Bad enough to have one or the other, but both? Colin Firth very convincingly portrayed this reality, the story of King George VI, who came to the throne as King of England and the British empire during the late 1930s, following his brother’s abdication. The movie focuses on the weight of the responsibility the king feels as war with Germany looms and he is tasked with leadership of his country. Compounding the weight of the job is the stammering impediment he struggles against. Impossible to hide speech difficulties in the new era of radio.

Colin Firth’s ability to imitate the speech patterns of someone who stutters was Oscar-worthy, as was the story itself. You feel the pain of the poor little rich boy as the king recounts in a scene with his speech therapist that he was mistreated as a child by a nanny who withheld food from him, and that it took his parents three years to notice. In another scene, he says he is part of a firm, not a family.

The life-long impact of damage done in formative years is clearly seen, as is the reality that wealth and status don’t insulate anyone from hurt. We are quick to recognize the shortcomings of adults, but how often do we have the opportunity to understand the components that shape the people around us? As illustrated in the movie, even other family members may not realize the emotional battle of a son, brother, daughter, sister. Relationship does not equal insight.

But ultimately, the movie is about overcoming: overcoming circumstances, overcoming personal challenges, overcoming the negative influence of others. The king had one person in his life who was his champion (at least as portrayed in the movie; I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy here). His wife was his cheerleader, his defender, his partner, and she accepted him as he was, but she also sought to help him face the difficulties of his life. Some people are fortunate enough to have such a partner. The really fortunate ones even recognize it.

There are times when each of us needs, and when we can give. And maybe the role changes in relation to the people around us at a given moment. Watching this story, set long ago against the dramatic backdrop of a developing WWII, I realize that regardless of the big picture, there may be a personal triumph or tragedy unfolding. I can’t be a champion for everyone in my life. But there are those I can touch. And the real work begins with seeing.

Who is part of your life that needs your insight, your compassion? When you really think about it, the answers may surprise you. I’m sure that few people would have seen a needy and insecure person in the king of England. But there he was, hiding behind the formality and protocol of the office. Sometimes the ones we least suspect of need are the very people with the greatest deficit.

Look. See. Love. Repeat.

On the road again

View of I-70 as it turns North at Copper Mount...

Icy I-70

I miss the road. Mythic in the American psyche, the open road calls to us, beckons us to the next chapter, the next adventure, the grocery store. Ok, the last one wasn’t so romantic. But most of my life, that’s where my road has taken me.

Oh, I’ve had some amazing journeys. I remember moving cross country with three-week old Alex, driving toward a new house that I had never seen, twelve hundred miles from family and the world I had known. Turned out to be a great move, and the launch of our family. Forced us to be independent, to be us.

Then five years later, we drove to another new home, this one in Midland, Michigan, and driving across Colorado in February, we crossed Vail Pass, and my car went skidding on an icy patch of interstate. We were caravaning, Rob and I, he with our dog and one child, me with the other. I did a complete 180 on the interstate and came to a stop facing oncoming traffic. I still don’t know how I turned myself around and got out of there before I was hit. But I did it, passing Rob like the wind in a panic. Somehow we made it down to Denver, and I think we had stopped for dinner at a restaurant before I stopped shaking.

Over the years we did a number of cross country trips back to see family. Stephanie was in her permit driving phase on one of those trips, and I had taken the kids back to see family. I sat in the front seat next to her, carefully monitoring her driving skills as we headed west on I-70. The thing about I-70 is that so much of it is the same. After a while I got sleepy and nodded off. When I woke up we were headed east. She had come through some exit options and had somehow managed to turn us in the opposite direction. Fortunately it was a short nap.

One of our epic journeys occurred only a couple of years ago when we drove a 30-foot class C RV down from Anchorage, crossing Alaska, Canada, and 17 states, on a drive that began in September and ended in December. We had never driven an RV before. Rob practiced turns in a parking lot with the RV salesman before we left. We had the dogs with us, and we were novices at everything we were doing. But we did it. And I’m pleased to announce I drove that vehicle. Those ten miles of Texas interstate were the longest of my life. But I drove them, and no one can take that away from me!

I have a short commute, living on a small island. I live in town, and although the paved road goes from the north to south and stretches about 20 something miles in all, my trip to work from my neighborhood is only about a mile. I can hardly get through a song on the radio. And I don’t get much talk time in. In the past, time alone in my car has been an opportunity to talk things out, to plan my day, to hear myself think. But I must have larger issues than a mile’s worth. Can’t get through much in that morning drive.

There are some advantages. I only fill my car about once a month. When I’m asked about the price of gas, I don’t even know what it is. I fill my tank so rarely that when I need to do it, I just put gas in the tank. Of course, it’s all a matter of perspective. The price of gas for an airline ticket is just a wee bit more expensive. Tickets from Ketchikan to Phoenix are running about $1,000 right now.

This week is a reminder of what I like about the road. Anticipating a return to life more connected with driving, I realize I’m ready. And if you should pass me having an animated conversation with myself, just know I’m working something out. Just me and the road.

Kindle

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Amazon Kindle

I finally got a Kindle. I’ve had the Kindle app on my iPhone for quite a while, and have actually enjoyed using it. I wasn’t sure, initially, if reading on a small screen would be good or frustrating. I’ve primarily used my phone app for reading when I travel.

But I took the plunge, and boy, do I like the full size version. It has taken a bit of adjustment. The functions are not built into a touch screen, so after scrolling from page to page on the iPhone app via touch, I’ve had to retrain myself to use the page buttons. But overall, it’s been an easy transition. I love that it arrived in my mail box already set up for me and with all the books I had previously downloaded to my phone app already synced. My device knew me by name, before we had even been properly introduced! It was a small thing, but oh so fun, to power up and find everything installed and immediately ready to use.

And I’m off this week, taking my new slim friend along. It looks like a book in it’s new case, fits neatly inside my purse, and I’m excited to use it while I’m traveling, knowing I’m not draining my phone battery, because….I might not make it to the next outlet before my phone dies. No, no, that’s just my phone phobia at work. I’m never  really in danger of that. But what if??

I’m rapidly becoming technology woman. I have my little netbook and the charger for that. My iPhone and the charger for that. My Kindle and the charger for that. Oh, I’m so modern! See kids, I told you I was a cool mom! Or maybe I just love gadgets. Anyway, without a gaming product to my name, I have an impressive number of ways to take advantage of any electrical opportunity.

Back to Kindle: I can see upgrades coming in the future. I would love the view to be in color. I would personally prefer a touch screen. But like any technology, it’s a work in progress, and you know when you buy in that there will be updates. It’s nice when new versions are digital downloads and don’t require a re-purchase of the hardware. But even that is just part of the package that comes with all the amazing function of this technology. I look at the list of books I’ve downloaded and the ones on my wish list. To take even a small number of books traveling would quickly fill my carry-on. Then there’s always the dilemma…keep a book forever, gathering dust on a shelf, or donate it? Now I can have the best of both worlds. I’m not adding to a stack of books in my physical space, and I can keep any of the downloaded books as long as I want. Or, if I decide to delete, it takes a moment and the push of a button. Pretty easy recycling.

Amazon offers thousands of books in digital format. You can purchase the latest New York Times bestsellers, blogs, magazines (although the magazine offerings are quite limited, from what I’ve seen). You can also download, for free, many of the “classics” that have been digitized and are copyright free. It’s a nice bonus that many books that I either read long ago, or always wanted to read, are available at no charge.

I haven’t cleaned out all of the books I’ve accumulated over the years, although I’ve thinned the collection. And I will surely continue to buy books in the traditional format on occasion…some books demand physical expression, for the color, the graphics, the presence of a book. But I suspect that the times I feel the need to purchase a “real” book will be fewer and fewer.

This isn’t really meant to be a review. There are thousands of reviews of the Kindle on Amazon’s site if you want technical information, pros and cons. This is just a personal endorsement of a favorite pleasure that has been repackaged for ease of access and portability. Reading has always been my first choice of a private pass-time. And now, in this format, one small item in my purse can take the place of a whole library. Pretty amazing. Pretty wonderful!

Riley at one year

Riley on horseback, April 2011

A year ago Riley Elizabeth joined the family. Daughter of my daughter, Stephanie, Riley is my first grandchild.

I used to say that I couldn’t believe it when Stephanie and Alex had another birthday, moved into a new school year. Isn’t that the universal lament of parents? And now I say it about Riley. I can’t believe she is reaching her first year milestone. She was five weeks premature, and spent her first week in an incubator. She was a tiny little being, and at first, coming home on oxygen and a monitor, gave parents and grandparents some anxious days. She was a fragile little bundle attached to machines.

But she quickly outgrew her need for artificial support, and is now a healthy, active, and very vocal baby. She has dimples and five teeth. She loves to sing, making elongated noises that are more than the simple syllables of baby talk. She is on the brink of walking. She crawls, climbs, stands. She loves books and her rocking pony and her little car. She rides. She cruises. She’s transitioned to whole milk from formula.

Tuesday I’ll go down to Arizona to celebrate the big day with her. The official birthday is Friday, April 22. We’ll go shopping for the perfect birthday gift, we’re doing a photo book of her first year, and we’ll cap the big event with a little party, complete with a cup cake for Riley to enjoy.

Here I go again: giving my heart to another little person, entrusting my happiness, at least in part, to the child of my child. It’s a bit scary, putting myself out there again. But worth it. Oh, so worth it.

Happy birthday, Riley! And many more.

Me, organized?

Typical Japanese sushi set, as sold in departm...

Yum!

Just when I think I’m doing so well…I’m a list maker, you know…I find that I have four…four…bags of sushi rice in my pantry! Three of the four had cunningly hidden themselves behind other items so that I’ve obviously thought I was out of this once-a-year use staple. Sometimes I amaze myself. How could I have bought this several times without realizing I was stocking up on something I so rarely need? To be fair to myself, I know I didn’t do this in the past few weeks. No, I’ve been beefing up my rice supply since we moved here two years ago. And it now appears…we don’t eat sushi very often. Who knew?

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Last week I went to the grocery twice and both times forgot to buy kitchen trash bags, although I had carefully noted, as a hint to myself…top of my list, big letters…not to leave without buying a replacement box. So, trash bags are on the hit parade again. Maybe the third time’s the charm.

I like to think I’m organized. This is not a subject I discuss with my husband. We don’t see eye to eye on everything.  I acknowledge that I have pockets of dysfunction…witness the pantry find of a small country’s supply of sushi rice. And I admit that I am not a freezer manager. In fact, the best way to permanently hide something from myself is to disguise it as a leftover stored in the freezer for future retrieval. I know that really, this is just a way to make peace with my conscience. My thrifty grandmother would be appalled if I threw out a perfectly good portion of leftovers, so I smartly detour these items through the freezer. Wrap in Saran or stash in a freezer bag, abandon for a few months, and presto! off to the trash with no guilt!  Even my grandmother would throw out freezer burned food. When she discovered it. (She’s not a freezer manager either, and there are legendary stories in my family of the age of some items she discovered in her freezer. But she turns 90 in June, so she’s off the hook for everything at this point.)

My mother-in-law stores cash in her freezer and found quite a stash in the process of cleaning out a few years ago. Turned out she had several thousand dollars tucked away among the frozen veggies. Not me. First of all, I don’t use cash, so it would be unlikely that I would find money stored anywhere in my house. But the idea of finding anything truly useful in my freezer, beyond ice and ice cream, is a novelty.

What to do, what to do? I think of the number of things I juggled this week: work, home, email, blogging, phone calls, friends, errands, chores, the daily grind. I’m sure that somewhere in all of this is a highly functioning person. I actually had a pretty good week and I checked off the majority of my to dos with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. I was on a roll…until this morning. Now I’m thinking of throwing a small sushi party for the residents of Ketchikan. I have some extra rice on hand…won’t even have to go shopping. I’m organized, you know.

Checked out: thanks, Dr. A!

This week I was so good…had my annual well-woman exam, a mammogram, and made an appointment to have my lipids checked. I work in the administrative department of the local hospital and there’s an OB/Gyn clinic literally down the hall from me. (Thank God I only need the Gyn services of the clinic…I’d have to kill myself if I needed the OB side! But I digress.) In anticipation of leaving this job when the house sells, I thought I should take care of some of these pesky things while it’s still an easy and relatively painless process. The mammography clinic is downstairs, as is the lab, so the excuse of having to leave work to get to these appointments doesn’t apply. Nice that it’s so convenient.

When I saw the doctor for my appointment, she went through all the routine questions, and since this was my first visit with her, asked the date of my last exam. I had to admit it was five years ago, shortly before we left Colorado. I know, I know…but I feel fine, and it’s incredible how quickly the years can slip by. And I’ve meant to get it done; I’m sure that counts for something. So now, I’m back on the straight and narrow. She made me feel a little better about my negligence. Told me it has been eight years since her last exam, so right away, I was reassured. I’m not the only woman in America who let this little life chore slip. And I was happy to report to her that I actually take supplements…flax seed oil, and the occasional Vitamin D, and now and then a calcium. Of course, I didn’t volunteer the frequency of my habit.  Still, I must be doing something right. I have all the parts I came with, except wisdom teeth, but that’s a different professional visit anyway.

After the exam, my doctor announced, in confident tones, that I would live forever, providing I schedule a mammogram immediately, and continue to follow my excellent program of diet and exercise. I do so go to the gym! No, I came clean with her. She gently encouraged me to get into a more regular exercise routine. Three times a year is simply not enough at my age.  Any day now I may wake up and have major issues. So far my knees are doing fine, thank you, and I have energy to burn. But the big M is just around the corner, and I have to be vigilant about my health. No more taking it for granted. Next time I see her the questions won’t be about my choice of birth control, we’ll be talking about the latest style in hormone patches and whether I’m experiencing my own personal summer.

I promptly scheduled the mammogram, was able to get that pleasure out of the way the same day, thanks to my ability to be worked in at a moment’s notice. The trip downstairs was just enough time to soothe myself, saying repetitively, “It won’t be too bad. How bad can it be? And besides, the waiting room is so well decorated!” Made me feel right at home, me being a woman, and as everyone knows, women appreciate the small decorative touches that take your mind off clamps pressing you quite mercilessly. The gown they gave me to wear during the exam had been thoughtfully warmed. The techs were extremely polite and pleased to note that, in fact, I had been a bit more responsible with my mammogram exams, having the last one only three years ago. I almost got a star on my chart. But not quite. However, the scolding was more in the form of encouragement to never again let more than a year and a day pass between these  tests. I’m at that age, you know. And really, they meant well.

After so much confrontation in the same day with my approaching infirmity, I couldn’t decide if I should celebrate the fact that I’m this old and doing as well as I am; or if I should go out with a bang and do something really meaningful to mark the end of life as I’ve known it. I’m going south (the Alaskan phrase for going down to the Lower 48) next week and have made a pact with myself to eat whatever I want for the whole week. I certainly won’t be exercising, and I’ll probably be living dangerously in other ways…staying up late, shopping extravagantly. Hope I can take all the excitement!

So if I can remember to skip breakfast on Monday (that fasting requirement) to have a blood draw to check my cholesterol levels, I’ll be set for a while. Of course, I still have to get the results of the tests I just had…but I’m going with the assessment that I’ll live forever…or anyway, long enough to wear out some essential part of myself…maybe a tummy tuck or brow lift will be life saving procedures I’ll need before long…have to stay on top of this stuff, you know.

Now if only my cream habit doesn’t show up in my blood work!