STAYING RELEVANT AT NINETY-TWO

Staying Relevant at Ninety-two

As is my style with any new job or project, I tend to delve into it as I envision all that is a part of it.  I research, talk to people, find all the details, assemble a plan and then execute.  This new one is no different.  I am soon to become the caregiver to my nonagenarian (in her 90s) mother-in-law, in my house.  Yep, she’s movin’ in.  Or so we think.  Soon.  One week a month or so, my husband and I have her stay in our big, available-bedroomed-because-the-kids-aren’t-really-kids-anymore house. And, when she’s at her house, nearly an hour from us, Bayada aides tend to her multiple times a day. They prepare her food, clean and keep her company.  But, the time is coming swiftly when she will need constant care.  Or, at least a set of younger eyes to watch out for her.

Because she’s been staying on and off with us, I have had some samplings of what’s to be involved, and if you asked me last week how I feel about that, I would have cried (perhaps selfishly).  My day’s routine is about to be greatly altered.  Turning the one screenplay I’ve written, Regression, into a novel because the chance of being struck by lightning (three times over) is greater than selling a screenplay, will be put on hold.  Just like having small children, it’s a constant be-on-your-guard-ready job.  Just like a child, she [seems to] need to eat every two hours.  Ah, I missed a detail in this telling…she has dementia.  And, one of the common behaviors of the disorder/disease is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Yes, the OCD tells her she needs to chew, or, as she puts it, “something to nosh on.”

Having read up on the stages of dementia, I have learned that she may not really be hungry. I had a co-worker whose parent, with dementia, would forget to eat.  I was thinking (before labeling the behavior part of the OCD) that my relation simply forgot that she had just eaten.  I like to think of myself as a natural problem-solver and resourceful, open-minded woman, so I have developed a few strategies to deal with this behavior and some others that are new and odd.  Take for example, with the first time she stayed a week with us, the act of throwing the used toilet paper into the bathroom waste basket.  Now, I know from my trip to South Korea, that that is how it’s done there, but as far as I know, my MIL has never been to an Asian country. I do think that because she is reverting back in time, and grew up in New York City in the 20s and 30s that maybe this is how it was done then.   OK, so, after discovering wet, smelly trash cans in the two bathrooms she uses, I now had a good use for the plastic bags I still occasionally get from the food store.  Multiple layers of bags in each can should do it.

Memory failing is, of course, the prime aspect of dementia and with that goes remembering basic hygiene.  So, I have signs in those two bathrooms reminding to wash hands and to flush after every use.  No mellow yellow here.

Along the same lines, or well, opposite ends, as far as the food noshing goes, I bought a big Sterlite covered bin for snacks that I or my husband will portion and sandwich bag.  I’ll label it with her name and leave it where she can get to it easily.  All other snacks (crackers, cookies, peanuts, tortilla chips, etc.) will be relegated to our bedroom.  Of course, if I left those big bags and boxes where she could easily dip into them whenever she wanted, I’d lose ten pounds.

Seriously, though, I can tend to be somewhat OCD~ish myself, especially where germs are potentially lingering.  So, strategy number four (?), I keep multiple containers of sanitizing wipes upstairs and down.  I wipe the entire banister (she actually can walk up and down the stairs – once in the morning to come down and once at night to go to bed) after every trip. Of course, stair climbing serves as an excellent form of exercise for her (and me) and actually aids in the argument for her to get dressed for the day before she comes down to breakfast.  There’s a tendency to want to stay in pajamas all day, because it’s easier.  It’s also easier not to walk up and down the stairs.

And, hey, I get the easy part.  Keeping it simple after ninety years of effort, things should be easy.  Life should be easy.  But, it sure seems like hard work ~ to be ninety.  Something’s always hurting somewhere.  Walking is tough, balance is off, making it easier to fall.  Falls make it harder to move and walk.  Hearing and sight are negatively affected by age.  And, with dementia, bright lights are painful.  Ahhh, I get it:  why she wants to sit in the dark all the time and why she constantly shuts my lights off.  OK, so, my electric bill will go down.  Of course, with less light, it’s also easier to fall.

So, as I continue to read and prepare.  I’ve got lists of activities we can do together, because keeping relevant (the big word for the aged) goes both ways.  Info in and info out.  And, since info is a big part of how I’ve been readying for this new project, I’ve signed up for a Caregiver’s Conference, supported by the Camden County Division of Senior and Disabled Services. I’m sure they’ll have lots more info that I can read.  Oh, yeah, my MIL loves stories; I’ll read to her. In fact, I have another idea that she and I can work together on a daily blog – maybe something about learning something new each day.  Staying relevant.

On U.S. Gun Law Reform

On U.S. Gun Law Reform

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How does one make a difference?

With most causes, we’ve been told to ‘think globally and act locally.’

How does that work, however, when you want to end gun violence in America?

A simple Google search of “gun law reform in America” produces over three million links regarding changing what has become a national health crisis (see www.huffingtonpost.com  Politics “Top Medical Groups Say Gun Violence Is A Public Health Crisis” posted 02/24/2015/updated 02/25/2015 ~ Sabrina Siddiqui).  Nicholas Kristof, journalist and op-ed columnist for the New York Times wrote, on August 26, 2015, “Lessons From the Virginia Shooting”, in which he calls us to action to “move from passive horror to take steps to reduce the 92 lives claimed by gun violence in the United States daily.”  Interestingly, he previously (December 15, 2012) wrote a very similar piece, “Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?”

America’s answer seems to have been a resounding, “NO” or “not yet,” anyway.

So when, then?

I recently shared Democratic Presidential Candidate-hopeful, Hillary Clinton’s Facebook commentary, “We have to do something about gun violence in America…” on my own Facebook page with this header:  “My vaca pix get lotsa likes.  Political views not so much.  I wonder which platform is best to be involved…how can we make a difference…how can we help fix this problem?”   I received four ‘likes’.  And, it’s not the ‘likes’ I wanted.  It’s the conversation.  It’s the answer to ‘how do we fix the problem?’  Where does one American (of 320.09 million) go to fight?

Well, apparently not Facebook.  After all, it was TBT.

Facebook, like the movies, is better left for entertainment purposes, an escape from real life…

I had a conversation with someone who is not on Facebook and chooses not to watch the news: “The media and daily news sources in their reporting of each and every incident are sensationalizing and perpetuating the violence.  It’s blatant advertising, which appeals to a killing culture. So, I choose not to participate and suffer guilt by association.”  Now that’s an opinion, and yet, it’s also action.  Action of boycott.

So, if opinions are good on their own and we should keep our own, what then are our other choices to make an active difference?  To keep quiet, excepting to hope or pray, maybe, for change or to initiate an all-out, full-time-job-style devotion to the cause or perhaps several options somewhere in the middle.

And, what about expressing one’s opinion, what purpose does that even serve? Will it really change someone’s mind? Doubtful, just as someone else’s opinion that there’s ‘no truth to Global Warming’ will not alter mine, that it is a very real problem.

Get on board, sign up, join in, fill a spot, dig in.  Any one of these slogans are easy to apply to other causes where we can think globally and act locally.

For example, if I wanted to help the homeless, I could work in a soup kitchen; I could donate coats and blankets to a former co-worker who, every Christmas Eve with other members of his family, delivers these items to the homeless in Philadelphia; or I could volunteer at a shelter. If I wanted to feed the hungry, I could (and have) donate to Heifer International.  Over many Christmases, our family selected chicks or bees or half a goat that would help a family eat and earn some income toward a better life. Or, I could, again, serve at a soup kitchen, bring non-perishables to the local food pantry, or donate my earned turkey, at Thanksgiving.  And, because I do think Global Warming is real, I recycle, re-use and re-purpose to the point that my pantry is full of empty jars of every size (afraid to throw anything away); combine driving errands into one-trip, and use CFL light bulbs.

So, again, I ask:  On U.S. gun law reform, how does one make a difference?

Well, another simple Google search for U.S. gun law reform organizations produces:

  1. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence smartgunlaws.org
  2. Brady Campaign bradycampaign.org
  3. Everytown for Gun Safety everytown.org
  4. Million Mom March (affiliated with Brady Campaign)
  5. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense (affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety)
  6. Coalition for Peace Action    peacecoalition.org
  7. Coalition to Stop Gun Violence csgv.org
  8. Heeding Gods Call heedinggodscall.org

I can try.

Van Gogh Refresher in Amsterdam

A Van Gogh Refresher in Amsterdam

This trip to Amsterdam, I couldn’t wait to step inside the azure blue, cobalt blue and old gold within Van Gogh’s world of Irises and Sunflowers. I couldn’t partake on the first trip to the capital of the Netherlands, because that visit was a mere six-hour leg of a journey to somewhere else.

Although my husband and I are very practiced at packing a lot into a short visit to a city, we haven’t had to confess to all the involved travel-related requirements, such as landing, storing bags (carry-on, never checked) into airport lockers, catching a train to Centraal Station, and the return in its entirety.

Oh, and we also managed a canal boat tour, a walk through the Red Light District, and dodging speedy bicyclists in and around Old Town with its museums, coffee and cheese shops, almost all of them closed on an early, rainy Sunday morning.

But I digress…

Today, I immersed myself, for a few hours, into the late 19th Century art world at the Van Gogh Museum. I must give thanks, for the free passage, to an anonymous woman who, after overhearing me last week mention my upcoming trip, gave me a valid Museumkaart.

Some of the following pieces of information regarding Van Gogh and his world I already knew, some became familiar once again, having ~ at some time in the past ~ read, heard or learned (and forgotten,) and some are, to me, completely new. I reserve the right to be off a bit in my notes as this is not a test, but more like art appreciation.

This is what I know about Vincent Van Gogh:

~ Born March 30, 1853 and died July 29, 1890. Father (not Dad) a Pastor, strict and religious, and about keeping up social appearances. Many a disagreement, since Van Gogh was all about the peasants. Like Spingsteen, he saw the beauty in and supported the humble, honest, hard-working people.

~ In 1886, he was friends with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gaugin and Emile Bernard in Paris. Montemarte, where the Moulin Rouge is located, was the artists’ area. {We’ve been there, sat in a cafe where they often gathered).

~ In 1888, he cut off his ear due to relationship troubles with Gaugin when he had visited Vincent for two months in Arles at the Yellow House, which Van Gogh had wanted to become an artists’ house for his friends. It turned out that only Gaugin ever went there. Gaugin and Van Gogh argued about art inspiration and creation.  For example, Gaugin was starting to use imagination to create the image to paint, whereas, Van Gogh was still using visual reality. Van Gogh chased Gaugin with a razor. Didn’t get him, but instead cut off his ear in confusion and frustration. On a happier note about Arles, this is where he painted “Sunflowers.”

~ “Sunflowers” has just three tints of yellow and fiver versions of the painting. The version that hangs in Amsterdam is dated 1889.

~ 1889 Van Gogh commited himself into a mental institution (St. Remy de Provence), where he painted an average of one work per day.  He painted by the window (he was not allowed outside the walls), or in the interior garden, or from copies (black and white prints he made from other artists’ works in the past).

~ 1890 Van Gogh shot himself in the chest and died two days later with Theo (his brother, benefactor and confidant) by his side. Theo died only six months later from complications due to syphilis.

~ Van Gogh collected dozens of birds’ nests. He saw birds as artists, because each nest was a work of art and different from every other.

~ He signed only the paintings he was satisfied with.

~ For one year, he only practiced his craft. He didn’t paint. He drew, because he felt that drawing was the base – all the rest came from that one skill.

~ The reason he did so many self portraits was as exercise for color, expression and brush stroke. The one, however, that was not just an exercise was “Self Portrait As A Painter.”

~ He was an emotional painter, but what surprises people, is that he was very methodic and ordered with his painting, not chaotic, as his surmised-nature would suggest.

~ Quote: “It’s only in front of the easel while painting that I feel a little of life.”

~ His portraiture work: he liked to paint the peasants – because they were the real people. He focused on their eyes (tired) and jaw (hard set, hard lines). They “…had the honest and humble existences in the face of the encroaching industrialization and urbanization.”

~ “The Potato Eaters” was his visiting card as a painter, but it was not as well received as he thought, so it was then that he took a year to practice or that he went to art school.

~ When he hit Paris, he loved the color palettes of the impressionistic artists and their brushstrokes. He liked Manet.

~ Van Gogh: “Color expresses something in itself.”

~ I had never seen a few pieces, such as “The Buddha” by Odilion Redon (1840 – 1916) who was influenced by Van Gogh. I’d also never seen Van Gogh’s “Tree Roots” 1890, his last work (contrary to some opinion). It’s colorful and almost Picasso-like. The lines and color suggest that he was a forerunner to abstract art. I’d never seen “Entrance to a Quarry,” which seems similar to looking beyond Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers.

~ And, finally, “Almond Blossoms,” 1890, is now my favorite, overtaking many years held in that position by “Sunflowers.”

Or “Irises”…

Understanding…

Understanding…

Scouring the sands
for some sense
of dignity.

What’s left at an old, old age
where memory fails
more than it remembers?

Fear sensed, fear felt.

It’s empathy
that stirs patience and
reiteration, reminding and rewording.

Grace rises, grace succumbs.

Trust ensues
where safety lies.

Bitterness with ego,
bitterness with distrust.

Seven Days on Set ~ What I Learned as An Extra

Here’s what I have known about myself for a long time:

~ I need at least seven hours of sleep per night to be pleasant.
~ I need the same number of hours of sleep to function.
~ I am not a night person.
~ I am claustrophobic.
~ I am afraid to drive in winter weather.

And, here’s what I just learned about myself while doing seven days at 12-16 hrs/day as an extra on a movie-set:

~ I was right.

To those people who came in contact with me that last night on set, or rather, on the second set at midnight and for an additional three hours: that wasn’t really me. I am professional, positive, articulate, respectable and don’t really use the ‘f’ word that frequently.

That was a tired (exhausted, really), middle-aged woman (who does not enjoy being up and pretending to have fun at 3 am) who felt like a caged animal, especially when she had earlier seen the green screen being fixed into place so that there were no holes. The final straw for her was getting reprimanded and told to sit down, for having gone outside – in the cold rain – in heels – to use the bathroom, by someone her daughter’s just-out-of-college-age. Yes, outside, mind you, where, at any moment, said rain would be turning to snow (Storm: Thor).

To the three girls who, at the beginning of the seven-day stretch, actually had the catty, wannabe attitude to ask, “how did you get to be VIP?” I say, “Wow, really? Did your mother teach you those manners?” And to the one who told me my dress was an Armani knockoff, I say, “Oh yeah? Well (when I finally looked at the tag today…cold wash or dry clean?…I discovered) it’s actually Calvin Klein, honey!” And yes, I believe mine did look better on me.

Ha, so now that that’s all out of the way, let me go on to report (positively) on my first time as an extra!

While my encounters for the previously-mentioned type were of just a handful of hopeful stars, yet to be discovered, and considering the many hundreds in attendance, I mostly met a number of wonderful people. People, who, for myriad of reasons, were doing the same as I. Some work full-time in business and took vacation time, some who drove from several states away, and some who simply needed a few days’ pay. Regardless of the reason, all of us were excited by the project, itself, and those associated with it!

In background (extras) ‘holding’, and on set, you are, in a sense, initially immersed into an alternate, time-encapsulated culture where everything is new, everyone is new. Remembering people’s names was, for the first time in my life, effortless. I sat in holding with an old friend, and met new friends: T, F, R, D and T. On set, my group consisted of V, J, J, J, J, M, M, M, M, K, N, TC, and K. Sharing personal details of your life is easy and often, no holds barred. Is it because it’s safe enough in that you may never see these people again (until some potential future shoot)? Because the hours are so long, a lot of the talk (speculation) revolves around time and food. What time is lunch? (which could be at 7 pm), what time will they wrap for the night?, what food will be on the buffet?, same as yesterday?

Because this was my first ever extra job, I didn’t know that you come to set camera-ready with makeup and hair done and ready to be checked, following wardrobe check.  I also learned that you don’t want to have to get any loans from wardrobe, because that just becomes one more line you have to wait in before the very long checkout line, at the end of the night.  Surprisingly, however, even with hundreds and hundreds of people in these lines, they do move rather fast.  And, when all hands are on deck, meaning the ADs (Assistant Directors) or PAs (Production Assistants), these lines move very fast.  Here’s something to keep in mind, too, these people have been working an hour or more before the first of background’s call time, and are there at least an hour later than when we left. I wonder where do they sleep and how do they function on so little sleep?

On the first day, I had done my makeup, mainly because I don’t leave the house without my face on, but I had only done the precursory blow dry. No style, no finish, no polish.  So, I got to get my hair done. It seemed to me that some actors felt that ‘getting hair’ each day was a privilege – like actual stardom, but if you ask me, it’s more a pain than any of that first-time excitement. However, for continuity, it’s necessary for that same stylist to do your hair the same way on subsequent days.  Even, days later, when they forewarned of a reduction in the number of people ‘getting hair’, and I had done it myself at home before driving to set, (I had, over the weekend, bought a flat iron and the polishing paste the stylist had used), I was not successful, so I still had to have it tweaked.

Overall, here’s how the typical day went:  Call time (is set the night before and you check via website) could be anywhere between 5:30 a.m. and 1 pm. At your call time, you check in, by giving your name and receiving a voucher. You complete the voucher and if you are using a piece of wardrobe, you give the voucher in exchange for your piece. Wardrobe OKs your look, then to makeup for check. Maybe more lipstick or eye liner.  Then hair. (I went over hair).  Then breakfast – even if the call is at 1 pm, it’s breakfast. Generally a good buffet – lots of carbs. Note that even if you’re looking to cut carbs, it’s good to eat them, because it’s a long time before you’ll eat again. Unless, hours later, on set and in-between takes, production assistants come around with snacks. Again, later, and hours after lunch, they would come around with sandwiches. And always water – several times a day and night. But, I digress.  After eating breakfast, you sit in holding until they’re ready for you on set.  Groups are called based on the organization of the set. And, finally, at the end of the day’s shooting, you are checked out (wardrobe first) and receive a copy of your voucher for your own records. Checks are mailed a few weeks later.

By now, you’ve no doubt noticed that I have not mentioned the film or my actual part or described the set or the actors.  Some of that I could say, as it’s widely known what film(s) are shooting near me. But, like everyone involved with the project, I signed a NDA, or confidentiality agreement. And, as I am one of the rule followers, I have not posted any specific information or photos to my FaceBook page or Twitter account. OK, one Tweet that the 12-hour days do offer the opportunity to get my own writing done. Also, it can get quite noisy on set with so many people. I actually preferred the quiet so that I could think and get some writing done.  But, again, you so easily meet so many interesting people, to your right, to your left, in front and in back, that it’s hard not to share some bits of your own life. Or, as they talk to each other and can be so funny, I found myself laughing a good deal of the time. All this and the actual takes usually made the time go pretty fast, and, just like casinos, there are no clocks on set. So, you have no concept of time. It was quite a new experience for me, not to know (and even care, most of the time, no pun intended) what time it was.

Typical rules, other than no FB, etc., are that the background does not have direct contact with the actors or director unless they speak to you first. Once again, I stayed in my seat versus walking around the set when it might look like there’s some downtime. I can see how those who are seriously pursuing an acting career, or using background work as filler, between other gigs, would try to get noticed or reach out to make contacts, etc. I did, though, make eye contact with one of the main stars. I, however, was just there writing, and getting paid for it, instead of in my home office.  For me, also, though, I considered it research, of sorts, since one of the projects I currently am working on is a screenplay (which is much, much more lean and word-economical than this blog post). How scenes are set up, the time involved, the detail, and the options are all fascinating pieces to movie-making. I can understand, as an artist, that the director would want to do so many different takes, angles, etc. so that in post production, there’s a lot of material to work with, based on the overall vision in his head.

Finally, the experience of seven days on set was, ultimately, very enjoyable. And, I am grateful to the person who told me about the opportunity and to the casting agency, who made the application process exceedingly easy. On set, there were several fun and funny episodes between the actors and director and background (or ‘atmosphere’ as the 1st AD called us). And, now that I’ve caught up on my sleep and winter is just about done, I might just check out what other extra opportunities exist.

See you on set.

Notions of Home

Notions of Home ~

We all know the phrase, ‘Home is Where the Heart Is’.  But, is it really?  And, whose heart? When your 30-year old, who lives in Chicago, because that’s where he went to college but grew up in Philadelphia, says he’s coming home this weekend, do you inquire as to which home he refers?  I’ll bet when he’s out hanging at his local bar on a Friday night, and at about 3 a.m., he tells his buddies he’s going home.  Of course, he means to his apartment on S. Hyde Park Boulevard.

‘Home’ is defined as the place where one lives. For example, once I moved out at age 21 into an apartment in New Brunswick, NJ (an hour from where I’d grown up, in Neptune, NJ), I never referred to that house as my home.  When I visited, I was visiting my parents.  And, I had had a lovely childhood, loved my neighborhood, Shark River Hills; I liked high school and had a wonderfully diverse group of friends. Definitely a place you’d call home.  But, I’d also made a new home.

I’ve had several New Jersey homes since then, too – Jackson, Bayville, Westmont and Cherry Hill.  I almost, before New Brunswick, moved to a 3rd floor walk-up at 17th & 3rd in New York City.  I would have loved to call New York my home.

So, when the heart is not also where you lay your head, some might say that something must be missing.  Should we feel sad for those who only consider their hometown their home. That feeling of being home, of being at home, is key to our being ourselves and of being able to be present in our present life and surroundings and environment. Being mindful of all that makes our house our home, including our neighbors, our kids’ schools, our libraries, movie theaters, friends’ houses, too, complements our notion of what is home.

Questions to consider:  where do you call home? where do you make your home? These could result in two very different responses. I hope, however, that they are the same. If not, is it worth considering how that can be resolved? Perhaps, yes, if it causes one to lose perspective in being present. If, however, ‘home’ is a feeling, warm and memorable, then who is anyone to judge that that is not adequate for a happy existence in present circumstances? Feelings are abstract, after all.

Some, in fact, say the notion of ‘home’ is really more of an abstract concept, anyway. So, some, then, are really lucky to have had many different homes in life, starting with their hometown. And, sadly, sometimes in life, it’s really just where you lay your head.

Gym Entry Interview

Gym Entry Interview ~

As I consider going to the gym today, I can’t help but think:  can it really have been six months since I’ve last set my sneakered  shoe in my local Planet Fitness?

Could you imagine if the gym personnel were instructed to conduct an entry interview as you walk thru the door?  Here are some sample questions:  When was your last workout? What was the duration? Cardio? Strength? Both? What is your ETD (Estimated Time of Duration) for today? Is it looking good for tomorrow?  Where do you see yourself in one month? Three months? Six Months? One year? How are you feeling about the red light therapy? Water massage tables? Do you intend to take a tootsie roll on your way out?

To prove that the last six months weren’t completely spent eating, drinking and lounging, you walk in with head held high wearing the perfect mix of spandex and fleece.

Should the entry interview include such direct questions as “Where have you been all this time?” or, more to the point, “Why weren’t you here?”, there are several responses to choose from:  I’ve been in prison, I’ve been on a cruise around the world, I’ve been in a convent, I’ve been curing the black plague, I’ve been in a coma…

Or, more to the point, I’ve been eating, drinking and lounging.

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Cardio and Strength. One Hour. Maybe. Five Pounds. All Spandex. And then have to go to the Dentist, too?

She’s Got To Be Somewhere

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As soon as I think to call my mom, another quick thought enters my head.  I can’t.  She’s not there to answer the phone.  She’s not there.  She’s not here.  The thought I struggle most with is that I don’t know where she is.  It’s just so hard to wrap my head around the fact that she’s not.  She was, but now she’s not.

So, I know that her body died, expired, ceased.  I watched it.  I watched her take her last tortured breath, after two days of short, shallow attempts and no conscious communication with me ~ or with my sister, as we kneeled by the hospice bed to witness Mom’s departure from this planet.

But, what plane is she on?  Is there one? Is there a level of energy on which her spirit resides? Is she with Arthur, her love?  Is she with her mom and dad? Is it the desirable, self-conjured heaven we picture from the film, What Dreams May Come? Or is she present, after all, among us, who still breathe? Floating in and out of our daily lives, our minds and our memories?

I also just can’t believe that it’s nothingness.  There’s just too much to our living selves to imagine that that’s it, the end.  The aura, the energy, the spirit.  It’s got to be somewhere. And, maybe it’ll come back.

There’s something to the idea of new souls and old souls, I believe.  I think that it must be a waste of energy for just one go-around.  Life is short, but having many lives may offer us the opportunity to finally get it right.  The lessons we learn, the goals we grasp and the accomplishments we attain must aid us in our future lives. I’m not talking so much about Karma and dung beetles, as I am just plain economy.  As the global population increases each year, there’s got to be some recycling. What if we’re simply given the choice to return? Some say yes, some say no.  Hinduism aside, how many turns can one human take?

I am writing a screenplay, which I had pitched to my mom, months before she became sick and she, being the good mother she was, was supportive.  But, she was also genuinely taken with the premise.  (She gave a note or two.)  Now that Mom is somewhere, and as I write this screenplay, which is housed within the parameters of reincarnation, I like to imagine that she (although a constant Christian) welcomes the chance for another round.  And, she felt that this most recent life had not been her first; she was an old soul.  She loved all things from the Orient, she had told me many times.  She believed that she’d been there before ~ in another lifetime.

Just a few years before Mom passed, she’d gotten a passport in the hopes to travel beyond the familiar. My sister and I recently found it among other papers and sadly; there are no stamps in it. Maybe no stamps, but there was hope.  Well, she doesn’t need that passport now, because she’s got to be somewhere.

 

 

 

British Charm and Dark Roads

We walked uphill ~ from the bus stop ~ in complete darkness, almost a mile. There are no street lights in rural England. Cars sped past at 60 km/hour as we trusted each step, just three feet from them. Slippery mud surrounded the narrow sidewalk and headlamps blinded instead of lighting our path back to the hotel grounds. Soon, after a prayer and a safety-first, cell phone-into-bra maneuver, it began to feel more like an adventure than a potentially deadly exercise in poor planning.

Earlier:

Limited visiting time at Oxford University was further limited by it being a Sunday evening. However, as pints know no such limits, we were pleased with the visit. Having set our priorities in order (no poor planning, here), the Turf Tavern offered a 13th century feel with low, wooden-beamed ceilings among multiple, multileveled rooms. crispy fish & chips, rump steak on ciabatta with horseradish mayonnaise and a pork pie (similar to a French pâté) with a chutney sauce provided sustenance and warmth from a cold day. The ladies (and gents) is located outside the main building, and naturally, and giving relevance to the challenges of the past, is cold. Cold to go, cold to wash and even the modern, environmentally-consciously installed hand-dryer blows cold.

Having finished our beers and within ten minutes of closing time, we managed to squeak into a section of the Bodleian Library ~ a small exhibition honoring John Radcliffe, Pharmacist and Philanthropist from the late 1600s. He died in 1714 after a successful career as physician to the royal family, among other achievements.  The goal:  Learn something at Oxford.  Check.  The time was 17:00 (5 p.m. to us) and time for another pint ~ as we determined it to be ~ as we walked by St Aldates Tavern, a Victorian pub conveniently located across the street from the H5 bus stop, where we would catch the X2 back to the bus stop a the bottom of the hill, where there are no street lamps.  In all honesty, though, I must confess that before this last beer, we did walk toward Christ Church; but that was closed, too.  It only seemed logical, then, to appeal to St Aldates for salvation.

From the bus and up the hill:  Milton Hill House Hotel is located at Milton Hill, Steventon, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. These many locator details are a necessity.  It is off the beaten path.  But not too much ~ there’s a spa … with massage at just £38 for 70 minutes.  Translation:  “Yes, I would definitely like to schedule, please; how is 10 a.m. tomorrow?”  Comparison: a 58 US Dollar Groupon deal, maybe.

This hidden, 20-acre Georgian manor is 13 miles from Oxford (take the bus during daylight hours, or maybe rent a car). There is a garden house, which is off the main house, with just a short, yet, lovely walk near an Italian garden.  Most of the 120 hotel rooms are located there.  In the main house, we’ve found several tucked away comfy lounge-type rooms, like your living room ~ and family room ~ replete with desktop computers, a large tv, fireplace (for show), a bar, a restaurant, several terraces with outside seating, quiet areas, and because it’s used for corporate seminars, conferences, meetings and trainings, there are multiple 24/7 coffee stations throughout.  The indoor pool is heated, and the sauna is near the modest fitness center.

We are here for a three-day, international reading skills among adolescents meeting.  My husband is required to attend the meeting; I am required to make the most of my day, which as I’ve indicated, includes tomorrow’s massage.  I also know, now, that breakfast is on until half past nine.  I won’t miss it tomorrow. I can’t help but praise the British for their kindness and politeness ~ not just for making me breakfast this morning, despite my tardiness, but because we have been witness to many other examples of kindness, since our arrival in London a few days ago.  And, despite this trip not being our first to London/Rural England (the UK), we continue to discover its pleasures, its people and its pubs.

WINTER~BE~GONE

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My Spirit is Soft-Wired

To Seek Harmony and Hope

In The Soft SunShine.

 

Flakes on The Flowers

Snow Melts With The Sun’s Warming

And My Heart Does Too.

 

Seedlings in The Snow

Follow Their Path Upward Through

To Spring’s Warm Embrace

 

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photos by Deborah Sabatini

 

Brainfluffs

Writing by Marnie Mitchell

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