reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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TIL “TL;DR.” WBU? [merely-a-thought monday]

btw, iykyk. omg.

tl;dr is kind of an eli5 problem. idek how this is all started. ftr, i had never used it. ftr, i hadn’t used many cliff-note expressions. i have tried to communicate in a language most people would understand without having to tread water a bit while they wrack their brains trying to sort it out. lol. but atp i had something new to learn. tl;dr…one of the perils of shortened attention spans, little mbs of information, fast-moving media. so. ama. i have google. btaim, i am lagging, tfw others are zooming away on another plane. dae feel that way? or are you all just rofl at me (instead of with me)?

we are all dtm. idk. i’m smh.

my parents must have felt this way, too. a tiny bit left behind. struggling to understand the new lingo, iso translation. afaik, they figured out what they needed, trying to stay relevant, the fomo prompting – wth, driving – them to engage.

irl, imho, idc about all this that much. it’s kinda nbd. but that may be tmi. mtw.

oh well. just another one of those middle age challenges. gtr.

bfn.

remember, yolo.

*****

[translated]

TODAY I LEARNED “TOO LONG; DIDN’T READ.” WHAT ABOUT YOU?

by the way, if you know you know. ohmygod.

too long; didn’t read is kind of an explain like i’m 5 problem. i don’t even know how this all started. for the record i had never used it. for the record, i hadn’t used many cliff-note expressions. i have tried to communicate in a language most people would understand without having to tread water a bit while they wrack their brains trying to sort it out. laughing out loud. but at this point i had something new to learn. too long; didn’t read….one of the perils of shortened attention spans, little megabytes of information, fast-moving media. so. ask me anything. i have google. be that as it may, i am lagging. that feeling when others are zooming away on another plane. does anyone else feel that way? or are you all just rolling on the floor laughing at me (instead of with me)?

we are all doing too much. i don’t know. i’m shaking my head.

my parents must have felt this way, too. a tiny bit left behind. struggling to understand the new lingo, in search of translation. as far as i know, they figured out what they needed, trying to stay relevant, the failure of missing out prompting – whattheheck, driving – them to engage.

in real life, in my humble opinion, i don’t care about this that much. it’s kinda no big deal. but that may be too much information. mum’s the word.

oh well. just another one of those middle age challenges. got to run.

bye for now.

remember, you only live once.

*****

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what’s your chew? [merely-a-thought monday]

the minis are the best. though i haven’t had them in forever. available in the ever-popular neopolitan ice cream flavors, i prefer vanilla.

charleston chews. yum. everyone has their crutch. a while back, mine would have been kitkats. someone could have said to me, “you can’t kitkat your way out of this” and, though i beg to differ on the “can’t” and “out of this” parts, they would have been right-on about the kitkats. avoidance and tangents and, yes, even food in desperate situations, go hand in hand. diverting, skirting confrontation, maintaining decorum, keeping peace…some things require overt and potent bribes.

he says i change the subject. i get a kind of blank look on my face and “squirrel!” into some other path of conversation. were i to spend some time thinking about this, i am guessing he is right. once i am in an exchange that can only head downhill, my brain is rolodexing for something else to talk about, to veer off to, to act as distraction.

he hasn’t had a charleston chew. this is preposterous and certainly un-american, so i will have to remedy this. but i know if i held a dark chocolate bar or a chocolate chip cookie or, now, a piece of crumbcake, in my hand – even in the middle of a “talk” – he would bite.

because the truth is…you CAN charleston chew your way out of many sticky situations. you just have to know what a person’s charleston chew is.

*****

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the birdies. [merely-a-thought monday]

ehhhhh, i’ve turned into my parents.

that’s not a bad thing. it’s just a fact. well, at least it’s partially a fact.

on long island, in the middle of growing up, riding my bike with susan, writing poetry in my tree, practicing the piano and organ, doing my homework, playing frisbee at the beach all-year-round, toting my camera around, hanging out at the dive center, fishing with crunch, cruising around in my bug, adoring my baby nieces and nephew, i didn’t notice. maybe i just didn’t pay attention.

they talked birds. birds in the yard, birds on roadtrips, birds upstate, birds at the beach. birdcalls from the woods behind our house, birdcalls passing overhead. they tossed birdnames around and, every now and then, i’d catch one and it would stick somewhere in my memory. but for the most part, their lobbing of vital bird information swooped over me and flew by.

and now.

now i want it all back. because we.love.birds.

we watch their antics in our backyard…at the birdfeeder, at the pond, on the fence, tucked under the awning over the back door, in the trees, hopefully building a nest inside the old barnwood birdhouse on the pine. they are sweet, sweet, sweet.

we guess what they are…sparrow, grackle, mourning dove, starling, crow (oh, so obvious), junco, wren, finch, cardinal, red-winged blackbird, bluejay, chickadee, tanager, oriole… i recognize some from home-home, but some have so many similarities that identification is tricky.

surely they are not looking at us thinking human or ….? they just know. so it feels important to know the difference.

on a great adventure at the botanic garden, we picked up the handiest little spiral pocket-sized quick-guide book called “birds of the midwest“. there are color-coded tabs and you open to the color page that correlates with the primary color of the bird you are trying to identify. such a remedial approach is good for us. (it’s kind of like avoiding the issue of looking up a word when you don’t know how to spell it…you don’t have to look up the bird under what kind it is when you don’t know what it is.) we keep it on our table in the sunroom and use it often as we gaze out back. i imagine we will take it with us as we hike.

in other amazing tools, thanks to dear deb-on-island, we have an app on our phone that is a bird identifier. not only can it identify a bird from a photograph or a list of questions you answer, but – and this is soooo cool – it can identify a bird from the birdcall you record. amazing! the cornell lab of ornithology deserves a giant round of applause for this app, which can identify up to 6000 bird species. the power of science. !!

my sweet momma had an iphone. she adored it, sending random photos to people and receiving photos from everyone in the family. it kept her in the loop and, at almost-94, she was a texting maven. we were in easy contact with each other and she with family and friends from all walks. she both embraced it and made silly technological mistakes, just like us, but nothing a quick turn-it-off-turn-it-back-on couldn’t really solve. it assured her that she was involved, particularly after my poppo died. the power of connection cannot be underestimated.

i wish that i had known – back then – about this app. it would have rocked her bird-loving world.

as it is, i know that every time we are sitting and pondering what a bird is or admiring one aloud or peacefully listening intently or just simply watching the bird-play in our yard or in the woods or at the shore or anywhere, she and my dad are giggling, knowing i’d get there someday.

*****

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a spot of tea. [merely-a-thought monday]

care packages would arrive often from my sweet momma. a big box that, inevitably, my poppo had turned inside out so my momma could pack it up with anything and everything she could think of. macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, m&m’s, twizzlers, stickers, pa pads, andes candies, newspaper and magazine articles she read and wanted to share, coupons. the list was long and always included a new tea or two.

she was clever about packing these packages, taking the tea bags out of the boxes – to take up less room – and putting them in glad bags. but she would enclose the label from the box and sometimes, she’d enclose some other smidgen or two.

the other day, in a tea mood, while searching for the perfect tea, i came across one of these smidgens. a side of a celestial seasonings box, a harriet beecher stowe quote, perfect timing. my momma’s care package did it again. a source of comfort, of reassurance, of love, unexpectedly, in the course of a day i needed it. “…never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

our lives – in actual comparison to what else is happening in the world – seem ridiculously easy. we have had our challenges and setbacks, but i wince when i think about complaining in the middle of watching news coverage of the atrocities of ukraine or climate crisis real-time in lands of glaciers or the amazon rainforest or the overall covid pandemic decimation or the fight to maintain absolute LGBTQ+ freedoms or womens’ ability to choose what is right for them and their bodies or the continued discrimination of black lives or the economic hardship that is befalling vast numbers of people in our own country. i trust that harriet beecher stowe, a woman before her time, would shudder at ALL of this.

it would seem – even upon simply reading headlines – that this country is in retrograde. we are slipping backwards and it horrifies me. each day i read of people-with-agenda designing ways, strategizing, lobbying, legislating, to usurp the freedom of others just trying to live their lives. i wonder how these people – some with screaming loud and obnoxious voices, some with haughty, righteous, quiet intentions, some with silently evil thoughts – sleep at night. how they live with their own warped view of equality, their own bizarre view of peace, their clear disdain for the basic tenets of life, of loving one another. they become more and more powerful as we watch and i think of the work of harriet beecher stowe and i think of my sweet momma’s approach to life. retrograde, indeed.

referencing harriet’s arguably most powerful book, “uncle tom’s cabin”, it was written “the goal of the book was to educate northerners on the realistic horrors of the things that were happening in the south. the other purpose was to try to make people in the south feel more empathetic towards the people they were forcing into slavery.”

to educate. to make people feel more empathetic. the value of truth-telling, stifling deadly misinformation. the necessity of looking – really looking – at oneself. the compassion that empathy brings to the soul. these make all the difference. to bring kindness – always and under every circumstance. to not stick your head in the ground and avoid the tough stuff. to speak up, to speak out. to hold on, even in the hardest moments. to never give up. to hope. to believe. the tide will turn.

i looked up and whispered “thank you, momma” when i found the tea-box-cardboard quote. i didn’t hear anything back at that very moment, but i knew she was listening, perhaps, though, with half an ear. i suspect she was busy. there’s much to be done. my sweet momma and harriet were likely having a spot of tea.

*****

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frogs, sausages, monkeys and hiking boots. [merely-a-thought monday]

we were talking about hiking boots. she said that her tread was so smooth and nonexistent when she was in banff that they had to go buy yaktrax. i talked about sliding on wet leaves as we climbed up a nearly vertical trail in the mountains of north carolina. we wondered how many hundreds – or thousands? – of miles we each had on our respective footware. then, with no modesty or guilt and maybe even a little proudly, we compared how many tabs we have had open in one sitting as we researched new boots. she won, at 20 tabs. my old and intrepid laptop would surely crash with 20 tabs open, though i can totally relate. i asked her, my physical therapist, to let me know when she decided on a pair so i could avoid all the rest of the research. it does occur to me, though, that, at her age, she does not likely have any kind of foot or knee or hip or any-for-that-matter issues. nevertheless. i’ll take her recommendation under advisement. i am tired of looking. we laughed together about our analysis paralysis – as brad calls it – as she manipulated my shoulder – i’m positive she was trying to take my mind off of what she was doing – and she told me she called it “decision fatigue”.

i think decision fatigue is why i have to move around my clearing-out tasks in a circle. i can’t stay in the clothing-decision arena or the shoe-decision arena or the paperwork-decision arena or stuff-decision arena too long. it’s easier for me to spend some time communing with one set of bins, suffering the choices, pulling ruthless from thin air and then moving on to the next. circular. in a circle. i’ll be back and it will all get done, but i’m too exhausted to finish it out in one fell swoop.

it took me a long, long time – and many, many tabs – and a few returns – to come to the decision to tap on “order now” when i was looking for some new lightweight everyday winter shoes. rykä – shoes made for women – won me over and every day i am glad when i put on my boots. i read all the reviews (the one where the mom bought these boots for her daughter when they went to iceland had me dreaming of trips with my daughter to iceland) and i checked multiple sites. by the time decision fatigue set in i had ordered two pairs in different sizes from different websites. one was perfect and the other went back. (what song does that sound like??? speckled frogs “glub, glub” or sizzling sausages …”ten fat sausages sizzling in a pan. one went pop and the other went bang”….come to mind….) (or is it….”five little monkeys jumping on the bed. one fell off and banged his head”…). whatever.

decision fatigue has delayed a new bathroom faucet, the possibility of new kitchen counters, whether the fireplace should stay wood-burning or gas logs or insert and…and…and, most definitely, new hiking boots.

and don’t ask me how many winter outerwear vests i ordered. ya gotta love “free returns”. manna for the decision-fatigued.

*****

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my poppo in my dream. [merely-a-thought monday]

my subconscious was in overdrive. i had heard some news late in the evening and, clearly, it played into all i was thinking about in my overnight sleep. both my sweet momma and my poppo were in my dream, as were people who were stars of the news i had heard, and, unlike many other dreams that vanish with the dawn or fade to irretrievable mishmash, this one stayed with me.

in it, i wanted to tell my dad what had happened, wanted to share the news with him, wanted to give him the back-story of it all, which, of course, he already knew (especially from his vantage point a dimension away). he was setting up microphones for me – something he truly has never done in real life – and he looked over at me. he furrowed his brow. “i’m working for tomorrow,” he said. “work for tomorrow,” he encouraged.

i can still see him, bending over a mic stand, adjusting a boom mic and looking forward. his words have stuck with me. “for tomorrow.”

i knew enough in the dream that he wasn’t pooh-pooh-ing the value of today – neither was he sloughing off the importance of work in this day. today. rather, it was somehow clear to me that he was discarding the what-had-been, the back-story i was going to repeat – again – and he was leaning on the hopeful of tomorrow, the promise of work done today helping tomorrow, and it is likely he would agree with juliette gordon low, the founder of girl scouts of america, one of my mom’s passions, when she said, ““the work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.”

i woke up the next day still in the dream. my poppo was somehow still present with me. and the news i had heard, though not unexpected and certainly a little bit satisfying in a puzzle-piece-found sort of way, became less worthy of my time. some stuff is just more important left behind. there are plenty of fascinating puzzle pieces ahead.

as i take bags and boxes to donation sites soon, i know that clearing space – out of the basement and out of closets that had been full of unworn clothing – will be invigorating. i have been going through, going through, revisiting memories, feeling the visceral that touching clothes you wore and objects you used brings you. but, hanging on to too much old stuff, too much excess, too much old yuck too tightly squeezes life out of the air. letting it go allows a flow of fresh in. it will open up room for other things to enter or it will just simply open up room. because, as my dad says, it’s working for tomorrow. tomorrow…a time of renewal and hope and change.

there will hopefully be many “days after today”. as i create history on this day, it is my hope that it is always with an eye to tomorrow. i know not every day will earn a spot in the books. there may be many we do not care to revisit in the ‘réview mirror’; there is room for growing. i guess that’s where learning comes in. (“learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences…the result of experience.”) but in looking to tomorrow, instead of yesterday, there is hope. even the tiniest flower wholeheartedly and courageously peeking out of the nearly-still-frozen ground knows that.

that poppo of mine. he’s one smart cookie.

*****

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happy seven year anniversary to the release of my sweet momma’s book SHAYNE! ❤️


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dining. [merely-a-thought monday]

we are not fancy-schmancy froo-froo types. we don’t have chandeliers or swagging silk curtains. we don’t have china or sterling silver utensils. we don’t have a matchy-matchy dining room set or linen tablecloths graced with taper candlesticks. but we do have rich dining experiences, nevertheless.

whether at our cozy table in our old kitchen – the square one that my sweet poppo refinished in our basement – the one with a couple white painted legs dogga chewed on as a puppy – the one that i had to wipe clean every week as babycat would rub up against it leaving a dander mark – the one that my babies sat by in their high chairs and that many a cuppajava was sipped….or at the covid table in the sunroom – the one with snakeinthegrass and leticia and nonámē and stubby and boston and, now, charlie – the one with happy lights and tealights – the one looking out back….or at the big table in the dining room – the one with the memories of big gatherings and games played and pass-the-mashed-potatoes and pasta dinners…any table, it doesn’t matter. we sit together and, in our together, are grateful for the chance to prepare our meal and share it.

we choose our plates carefully. it might be a white crock night or a black plate night or maybe kenandloida colorfully-painted ceramic bowls or small plates. the vessel matters. and so do the cloth napkins. no matter what we are having for dinner – vegetable soup or a tagine or plant-based meatloaf – we try to pay attention to dining and not just eating.

we can count the number of times we have been dining inside a restaurant since before the pandemic – on one hand. it has been for very specific reasons – mostly our children, but once, the up-north gang, freezing from winterfest, gathered indoors at a pub to sip drinks and gorge on kettle corn. these times have been rejuvenating and joyfilled, though i have to say, blame-it-on-covid, i usually count the days hence. sigh.

regardless, our two-years-heading-into-the-third have not been without a richness that comes with choosing to make a big deal out of meals. nothing lavish, but still meaning-affluent. nothing opulent, but still flush with deliciousness. nothing fancy-schmancy, nothing froo-froo, but dining. definitely dining.

not just sitting and eating.

*****

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the unreachable star. [merely-a-thought monday]

my uncle allen had a beautiful voice. my mom’s brother, he would stand in our living room, with me at the piano or the organ, and belt out songs with great love. he’d bring stacks of sheet music over and we’d page through them, choosing greatest hits from broadway musicals or the radio. sometimes my big brother would play along and the three of us would entertain my sweet momma and dad for hours. there is never a time i hear “the impossible dream” that i do not think of allen.

“and I know if I’ll only be true
to this glorious quest
that my heart will lie peaceful and calm
when i’m laid to my rest”

(the impossible dream)

i cannot think of anyone i have ever known who was as consistently happy – no matter the difficulty or challenge facing him, he was happy and smiling. his complete support of my earliest recording path is something for which i will always be grateful. my uncle always believed. in his wonderful wife, his adored children, his family, in me. allen was a gift to the universe. when i think about the movie “the fault in our stars”, i realize that he was an example of living this way – recognizing that it matters not how many people you touch or impact or inspire, no matter the tiny or giant legacy you leave in your wake – what matters is that there was one person…one person for whom you have made a difference simply by being on this good earth. anything beyond that is icing on the cake. allen was indeed icing.

the chipmunks are back and i have to say i am delighted. they are adorable and cunning and just really smart little guys. before the winter, they devised all kinds of methods to get to the birdfeeder, despite the metal plate that is supposed to keep them away. they managed to chock-fill their cheeks with seed and carry it off to their wintercondos. now they have returned and they are hungry. they’ve been practicing getting up the feeder, sometimes falling into the grasses below. they have been intentional. they don’t let failure get in their way. they literally jump from the ground up to the plate over and over until suddenly they are somehow balanced there and then they can jump up to the grazing edge of the feeder. they do what’s necessary, then what’s possible and then suddenly they are flying through the air, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

i don’t suppose that’s unusual. everything takes practice. impossible is maybe a temporary matter. i also suppose that there is a certain surprise element to things. we start out with one plan, one path, one intention. we don’t bank on wavering off, we don’t bank on obstacles, we don’t bank on changing direction. impossible.

and yet, there’s possible waving at us from somewhere beyond the impossible dream. and we find ourselves in places unexpected, doing unexpected things, forging those impossible mountains.

there we are, flying through the air, the world in our hands, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

“to reach the unreachable star.”

*****

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that crooked smile. [merely-a-thought monday]

his crooked smile stopped me.

we were wandering slowly through the orchid show at chicago botanic gardens, drinking in the colors, the fragile blooms, the deliciousness of being-out-somewhere-doing-something. in the hallway between two larger spaces, there he was. waiting. wearing the imperial margarine crown, large bulbous nose, really long kind-of-jay-leno-chin and a crooked smile, his eyes squeezed a little shut in an engaging invitation, he was waiting.

i stood there staring at him, laughing. he was sitting in front of an old piano painted in bluebird-sky-blue-peely-paint and he winked at me. all the other orchids didn’t have to do anything to get our attention, and, truthfully, neither did he – they were all stunning and refreshing hopeful harbingers of maybe-spring-will-come – but he tried extra hard anyway.

i see him as toothless. but i have no judgements about that at all. i suspect most orchids are toothless, well, except for the one that made me do the “duh-chomp, chomp, chomp—what’s up doc?” bugs bunny imitation in the middle of a room full of people. that one most certainly had teeth. two buck teeth just screaming for us to notice. nevertheless, this guy – the imperial margarine guy – did not have teeth. his jimmy durante schnozzola was all he needed. and those eyes. and that crooked smile. sheesh! what charm!

when we left the botanic garden we felt a rush of fresh air. this wasn’t just the difference between a heightened-warm greenhouse and the cold chicago air. it was a sense of newness. a refreshing, though albeit tiny, touch of “normal”, a reminder of beauty. it was sheer magic. it was diving into a rainbow and immersing, coming out the other side dripping with colors we hadn’t seen in a long time.

it was admiring blossoms of solid colors and stripes and polka-dots and marveling over shapes and sizes and textures. it was reading of orchid seeds sailing over oceans and great expanses of land, steadfastly enduring. it was laughing with orchids which had personality, confidence and humility, joie de vivre.

they reminded us of life, in the middle of a neverending pandemic, in a period of time that would mark the beginning days that ukraine was invaded by russia, the world shocked by the wickedness of it all. the country-of-sunflowers was under siege and the orchids were blooming. all existing at the same time, on the same plane, in the same world. a gentle prod – yet again – to appreciate every last little thing.

maybe that’s what his crooked smile was all about.

*****

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not a dress rehearsal. [merely-a-thought monday]

i don’t believe there is much more frustrating than trying to get the attention of someone you love, someone you care about. you keep upping the ante, waving your arms above your head, metaphorically jumping up and down, raising your own bar time and again. just to get their attention. you try more-achievements-for-1000-please, imploring-for-800-please, passive-aggressive-ignoring-for-600-please, lonely-weeping-for-400-please, poor-acting-out-behavior-for-200-please, but none of it seems to work.

i read in the book “the sentimental person’s guide to decluttering” (claire middleton) a few days ago that the author suspects “people who only need a cup, a plate and a blanket are cold-blooded”. i know this was in application to stuff-in-the-house. but i would hasten to add that it applies to relationship as well. some people, in an unplugged, unsentimental-about-other-people way, don’t need any more than a cup, a plate and a blanket. it all seems such a waste of good time.

when my adored big brother died i was pregnant with my second child so i was an adult, 33 years old. though it is just shy of 30 years ago now i still vividly remember the stunning realization that the world kept going anyway. i had lost grandparents; i was a bit familiar with grief. but this was strikingly different. i could not grok how the world kept going without my brother being able to feel it. this sounds like gibberish to some, i suspect, but grief is not linear nor is it rational. it asks questions of our heart and mind and it slays us with feelings of overwhelm at moments we don’t expect. i looked to a gift i was given – a ceramic sign that says “this life is not a dress rehearsal” – and i thought “pay attention!”.

a few days ago i was talking to one of my long-lost-and-now-found-cousins on the phone. she told stories of her mom, my dad’s sister, things i had never heard. i could literally feel my heart swelling as i listened and laughed and i wanted more tales of my sweet dad’s growing-up years. the summer home upstate new york, the rice in the sweater pockets from mice and the snakes in the outhouse, housekeepers i was unaware they had, the mob boss around the corner in the city. my grandpa’s felt business in brooklyn, piecing felt for pianos, of all things…that connection. a little bit of touch-back, an hour of family-i-had-lost-in-the-confusing-shuffle-of-life. building. paying attention. being astonished.

in a world full of intricacies and details and deadlines and accomplishment and competition and agenda, to stop and pay attention is sometimes a challenge.

to marvel at the song of birds at dawn, to watch the east sky change in answer to the western sunset, to taste the first sip of coffee in early morning, to stare wide-eyed at your grown children…astonishment in exponential depth.

to tell stories of life’s moments, the tiny ones, the top rung ones, the puddle-on-the-floor ones…is exponential sharing of living.

to pay attention to the other, really pay attention – without prompt and without reward – is exponential love.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY