Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Dump: by Guest Blogger Pat

I live in a very tiny village in the midst of farming community. It is also the home to a small college so the population runs the gambit from “landed gentry” to near homeless, with every kind of socioeconomic layer in between.

One of the great equalizers is the town dump which is open every Saturday. (Being a small town, we have no public trash pick-up). A premiere attraction of the dump is that ones sees the entire panoply of our community – professors to janitors – each week and it offers an ideal opportunity to catch up on the local gossip. Just today during my seven minutes at the dump I saw nine friends.

From rusted-out trucks to shiny Volvos
As a widow in my 60’s, I could easily justify hiring someone to pick up my trash, but I find a great satisfaction is sorting, packing and hauling it myself. We are very recycle-oriented here in New York State, so we have separate bins for paper, cardboard, cans and bottles, metal and plain old trash. My biggest challenge is to heft the trash bag (always the largest) into the trash smasher, as the opening is at eye level.

The guy who salvages the returnable beer cans--I keep him in pocket money
Driving home from the dump amidst the gorgeous fall farm scene overlooking beautiful Cayuga Lake, I pondered why these trips gave me such satisfaction beyond the simple physical accomplishment noted above.

Cayuga Lake

I realized that the shedding of ones empty beer cans, read papers, and empty food packages at the end of each week signals a new beginning—all my containers at home are now empty waiting to be filled anew.
If only we had a place to dump our hurt feelings, disagreements, aches and pains, and stresses at the end of each week how peaceful our lives would be.

Friday, November 28, 2008

There Was Food

There was food.

There was drink.

There were nieces and nephews.

There was a giant table.

There were the matriarch and patriarch.

There was family.

There was walking to the condo clubhouse.

There was football.

There was lots of football.

Oh, there was football.

Yes, football.

There was really fun football.

There was photography.

There were sisters in the kitchen with Mom.

There was an inspired seating arrangement.

There was turkey.

There was football on tv.

There were games.

There were lots of games.

There was singing.

There was a birthday celebration.

There was a beautiful day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What time is it?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Just try to resist singing this song today.

Or tomorrow.

I dare you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thank you, thank you very much

My boyfriend is very helpful, in myriad ways. One of the ways he helps me is by suggesting topics that I could, should, or might perhaps want to blog about. He’s come up with some good ones.

One of the ideas he’s suggested more than a few times, but that I’ve resisted writing about up to this point, is the subject of bloggers themselves. Who are they? Why do they do what they do? Don’t they have anything better to do with their time?

I’m not exactly why I’ve shied away from this topic, something about not wanting to delve too deeply into the fact that I spend time blogging that might “better” be spent actually doing my day job, or playing a dreaded, never-ending game of Candy Land with my kids, or running, or cooking, or reading, or, well, you name it. There are only so many hours in the day, and here I am blogging! Aren’t I always bitching about how time poor I am? Couldn’t I get in one more yoga class per week if I stopped this nonsense?

Yes, yes, I probably could. And I have to admit that there are days that I don’t feel like blogging, at all; I have no good ideas and I’d rather clean my bathroom (yes, it’s that bad sometimes) but it’s my turn, and I’m not about to let Jacquie or Ellie down. I have no illusions that I’d be letting anyone else down, I’ve never been crazy enough to think “I must do this for my adoring public!” But me skipping a post would mess up the Me and You and Ellie schedule, and I’m not about to do that to my dear co-bloggers.

Beyond that, though, there’s another reason I do it….. I do it as an outlet, a creative outlet. M&Y&E provides me with a space to lay out my thoughts, in words and pictures, however wacky, silly, or stupid they may be.

Sometimes my posts suck, sometimes they don’t. But always, or almost always (unless they really suck), I feel a sense of satisfaction once the post is published. So when I read the title and subtitle of a press release yesterday that said:
Study: Want to be happier? Be more grateful
Want to quickly improve your happiness and satisfaction with life? Research done at Kent State University shows the pen may be a mighty weapon

I had a bit of an “ah-ha” moment. Well, not so much of an “ah-ha” moment, as a reaffirmation of what I already know -- expressing yourself is freeing.

The Kent State press release went on to reveal that expressive writing, in this case the weekly writing of letters of gratitude, increased happiness and feelings of gratitude in the study participants, and further, that expressive writing is often associated with fewer health problems, decreased depression, an improved immune system, and improved grades.

Wow, right?

Is something as simple as expressive writing something we can all do to be happier?

I think it is. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful to Jacquie and Ellie for sharing the space with me, and to anyone who reads, or reads and comments on M&Y&E.

I’ve been grateful for the blog when annoying or bad things happen. It gives me another way to think about an inconvenience such as being stuck, hungover in a tiny airport with two kids for hours on end, or receiving mother’s day flowers picked out by my ex-husband's girlfriend. It somehow provides some levity in these types of situations; if nothing else, we bloggers think to ourselves, it will make for a good blog post.

So, here’s the challenge for you, in this week of giving thanks: to whom do you owe a letter of gratitude? And when are you going to volunteer to be a M&Y&E guest blogger?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mini-Series Part 2: West

Now that Jacquie's birthday celebrations are finally sadly over, it's time for me to return to my mini-series. I originally thought I'd focus on traveling north, then traveling west, in our Westy, but what's happened instead is I'm focusing on one place in each direction. Hey, mini-series rules were meant to be broken.
South was Gold Head Branch State Park, northcentral Fla.
West is Fort Davis, Far West Texas.

We actually planned routes around Texas for years: Mistah had this idea that he didn't like the Lone Star state. Plus you have to travel on the I-10 if you're crossing west-to-east or east-to-west, and we like to stay off the interstate any time we can.

My sister Jane had gone to Big Bend National Park years before, and had raved about it, and I really wanted to go. We typically stay away from National Parks -- too expensive, too crowded -- and camp instead in the usually-free (of charge and of people) surrounding National Forests. But we like to check out a new one when we can. As we did this time. In 2004.

After a great week or so camping in Big Bend (actually, at the Stillwell Ranch outside of the Park), we headed north on highway 118 towards Fort Davis.

We'd met and talked to a couple our age -- who were traveling on motorcycles -- in Big Bend, and they said they were heading there next. We'd heard from several people that Fort Davis is a great place to visit, which often is what determines our itinerary.

We happily and coincidentally ran into Donna and Kevin again in Marathon, and decided to meet at the Limpia Hotel for a drink when we all got to Fort Davis later that evening. You can't miss it, they said. It's the old historic hotel in the middle of town.

Into Fort Davis we drove. We both immediately loved the place -- but shoot, there are a lot of places we immediately love. We headed straight for the Davis Mountains State Park, 4 miles out of town, but reevaluated, and realized instead of having to drive home after drinking with our new friends, and then turn our rig into a bed, we should just camp right in town -- $10 a night at the Overland Campground, where we could get ourselves set up, and walk to the Limpia.

We had a lovely time with Kevin and Donna, walked home, got up in the morning and made coffee, and Mistah set off for a walk around town.

He was gone a long time, but that's no surprise. Bill loves the thrift shops and book stores and weird little places in a new town, and he often gets talking with someone and goes at it for hours. (When he gets back from a conversation like that I say, "Life story?" (as in "You told your?"). Oh, yes.)

This time, however, when he got back, he said "I wandered into a little real estate office, and asked if anything interesting was for sale, and I saw this really cool little house." "Well, good for you, Mistah." "I think we should buy it." "What are you talking about?" "I do, I think we should buy the house." "What are you nuts? I know property values seem incredibly cheap out here, but until a week ago you hated Texas! We don't know anybody here, we're thousands of miles from anywhere!"

Over the phone, we applied for a home equity loan on our Connecticut house, which we'd been renting out during our years on the road. The bank approved the loan.
We bought the house.

And then we drove to San Diego, and had our closing at Jacquie's dining room table.

We rented the house out almost immediately, and hit the road again. It's been rented to one tenant or another ever since -- except for this past winter, when we lived in it, and painted the entire interior, and had ourselves a great time, reconnecting with our Fort Davis pals.

The other times we've been back in town in the last few years, we've stayed at Davis Mountains State Park, working as volunteers.

Actually, in 2007 we stayed at our friends Jan and Clint's empty house for a couple of weeks, when it was briefly tenant-less.
Fort Davis is a gorgeously unique place. It's 5000 feet -- almost as high as Denver, the mile-high city. The High Desert. The High Chihuahua Desert. There's great hiking in the state park, a National Historic Site (the fort), the McDonald Observatory -- the University of Texas astronomers chose Fort Davis because of its complete lack of ambient light. It is an incredible place to watch a Full Lunar Eclipse when your Mom and Dad are visiting from Connecticut.

The neighboring towns of Alpine and Marfa, each a short drive away, complete the crucial triangle of the 3 towns, and each have their own unique awesomeness.

And you may even see elk on your way.

I miss Fort Davis when I'm not there.

I can't wait to get back and see my peeps and wander around town and hike my mountain.
Fort Davis is the Highest Town in Texas, and the Coolest Town in Texas. It's our town in Texas.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Big Four-Oh

Have I mentioned that I turned 40 last week? Quite a milestone, indeed. I’m almost done plastering my own face all over this blog, but my camera was in everyone’s hands except mine on that night, and I can’t help but force it on share it with you. So yes, I am in every one of the photos that I am about to post, but don’t worry, they’re not all flattering. And in one, you can pretty much see my whole ass. Sorry, mom.

I threw myself a little cocktail party downtown. I haven’t had a birthday party since I was about ten, I think. The partying started long before what you might consider a reasonable cocktail hour, so by the time Bill and I got dolled up and arrived at our venue, we were already all fired up.

I had a great time, because everywhere I looked I saw someone with whom I was desperate to converse and/or boogey
Poor Missy didn't have any fun at all.
I might be 40, but I am still totally immature enough to find my middle finger hilarious
exhibit A:
exhibit B, hi Beth!:
and why doesn't someone slap me? exhibit C:

In my hand above and being worshipped below is my passion and my undoing, the basil lemondrop
Please note the world's homliest Christmas tree in the corner. Charlie Brown has nothing on that bad boy.
Below is evidence of the fact that I acutally said blah, blah, blah” during my drunken tirade gracious thank you speech. I was mocking anyone who couldn’t handle a Wednesday night party. Mocking and gratitude go hand in hand, right?
Shortly thereafter, I became cheerfully paralyzed from the brain down.
And when I finally fell into bed, some of my friends came with me. I was that magnetic.

So, forty.
When I was a kid, forty was so old, but we humans have obvioulsy evolved a great deal since I had that misconceived notion. If forty is old, why can't I put down Twilight? It says right there on the cover that it's for YOUNG ADULTS.
But seriously, enough already about me. Let’s talk about you.
What do you think of me?