Blog Posts

You wash, you dry

A year and a half ago our dishwasher got put out to pasture. It joined the microwave, the oven, the refrigerator, the washing machine, the dryer and the toaster oven. It wasn’t by choice. Peter spent years keeping all the appliances operating. After watching many YouTube videos and reading repair manuals, he had to say “Uncle” after all seven quit within two weeks of each other.

Each month or so after, an item got replaced. The first being the dishwasher. Its arrival was quick and its subsequent problems were immediately apparent. A leaking dishwasher means the floor in front of it is cleaner than the rest of the kitchen.

Despite a repairman’s assurance that it would be replaced, Peter spent the last 17 months on hold or getting ghosted by the company.

I wish I could say that living without a dishwasher changed our lives or gave us a new appreciation for water conservation, but it hasn’t.

It did however magnify some water related differences between us.

I’m quick in the shower. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve let the water drum pleasantly on my back long enough for the steam to open my pores.

“I can’t wait for a long, hot shower” is something I’ve never said. Just standing there is tiresome. Regardless of years of yoga, I don’t feel like being in the moment in some places.

It’s the same in a bathtub. The idea of reading a book in a mountain of bubbles sounds good, but I have to keep my toes pointed and pressed against the faucet end so I don’t submerge. It’s not relaxing.

Perhaps I’m subconsciously conserving our natural resources.

Peter enjoys a long hot shower. He says it prepares him for the day. I prefer the crossword puzzle.

I’m efficient at washing dishes. Peter is meticulous. 

(I would have worked well on a chuck wagon. Give me some sand and scrub grass and we’re good to go.)

I load up the drying rack as if building a house of cards.

When the high rise of plates, glasses, cups, and utensils gets too precarious, I spread a towel on the counter and put pans, pots and vases atop.

“How come when you do the dishes there’s never a sprawl like this?” I asked the other day. 

“That’s because I dry the things that won’t fit on the rack and put them away,” he answered.

It’s taken 18 months to realize that he also places the spoons face down as they are drying. Well that’s interesting. 

It’s funny how we continue to learn or notice things about each other when and where  we least expect it. Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise, and sometimes it’s astonishing.

Rumor has it that the replacement washer is arriving shortly. That means I will dutifully fill it and then see how fast it takes Peter to do some rearranging.

Namaste- soon Peter gets to rinse, stack the machine and put it all away!

Career Paths

Peter and I watched a show where the ne’er do well son was once again disappointing his family.

In one of my funnier peanut gallery moments I said, “Look! He’s fulfilling every parent’s dream. After years of education and ample opportunities, he’s become a DJ. Can’t get much better than that, unless of course he becomes a yoga teacher as well.”

Those DJ’s and yogis who know me, know that I find myself very funny. They also know that I have a deep respect for anyone who loves what they do.

Admittedly, I get a kick out of some of the less conventional career paths. Probably because there are so many out there that I never paid attention to before. Or maybe because I’ve had a number of them.

Actors, teachers, nurses, writers, artists, mechanics, gardeners, restaurant staff, driveway restorers, yogis, athletes, researchers, curators, health care providers, craftsmen, DJ’s, veterinarians, UPS and bus drivers, sports professionals, resort workers, town officials, and tour guides have something in common. Their income doesn’t often reflect the benefits, passion, commitment, and effects of their endeavors onto others.

Don’t stop reading!

I’m not going to pontificate on inequality of pay or how I’ve never managed to get health insurance as part of my employment status. (That fault is mine. I’ve made my choices.)

I’m by no means knocking those with more traditional, better payed occupations. My aim is to clarify that we all do what we do so that we can do what we want to do. I may be speaking for myself but let’s say I’m not.

Because I hadn’t seen the UPS man around town for awhile, I asked if he was switching his route. “I had a substitute last month while I was on vacation and I have two more weeks coming up in July. We’ve been hiking the Long Trail and only have 25 miles to go. I live for that” he replied.

You could have pushed me over with a feather.

Why do you do what you do? Does it allow you to do what you want to do? Are you improving the quality of life for yourself and others? I’m willing to bet you are if you get some satisfaction out of what you do do.

(Yes, it makes sense to read that last paragraph again, just for fun.)

Namaste- everyone has the possibility to make ones day.

A Yoga Rant? Is that allowed?

“I tried yoga once and hated it. It’s not for me. It’s too slow.”

When I hear this (at least four times a year) the reaction in my gut is not pleasant. A few weeks ago, I had the same feeling after being yelled at -twice- by some cyclists when I errantly stepped into the bike lane in front of their invisible selves.

Oh my gosh! What a look of contempt that man had on his face. I feel terrible. Is it really necessary to make someone feel more idiotic by screaming and shaking fists? Do you really need to be riding your bike at 20 mph down 5th avenue? Well maybe you do. I’m so sorry. I’m leaving tomorrow and you will never see me again, although I will see you in my mind over and over for a long time. 

Do I really need to revisit my missteps? Didn’t the guys do me a favor by making me aware that bike paths are serious business?

Is my bruised ego so fragile that the slightest embarrassment makes me sick to my stomach?

What does it say about me if I’m upset that some people hate what I teach?

This is a perfect example as to why I practice yoga. It’s no longer an exercise option for laziness, it’s a way to investigate my big emotions.

Yoga is different from aerobics or circuit training. The physical practice is a way of tricking the ego into taking a break. 

A good teacher WILL ask us to note how we feel when we can’t seem to stay in a tree pose longer than five seconds. Is it the worst thing ever? 

A good teacher WILL encourage us to focus on physical and emotional sensations and then remind us that they are often unavoidable but temporary.

A good teacher WILL suggest that reactions on the mat are similar to actions off the mat.

A good teacher will listen to someone say “ I don’t practice yoga because I need to go go go” and NOT reply, “Evidently you lack the ability or discipline to sit with a quiet mind, and ask why?”

A good teacher will NOT demand to know “If yoga is not for you then who is it for?”

A good teacher will NOT write “If you tried skydiving once and hated it, okay, but a yoga class? Come on ya big baby.”

There are many people who don’t practice yoga because they feel calm, centered and content, or simply can’ t find the time. Not surprising, they aren’t the ones who tell me they hate it.

If I never got back on a bicycle after first falling off, I’d never have fallen off again. If I’d never taken more than one yoga class, I’d never have become a teacher.

Namaste: That’s my ego driven rant for today!

Thanks for lessons learned.

When the doctor told my mother in law that she couldn’t drive anymore, all of us breathed a sigh of relief. No one wanted to broach the subject.

It’s not like her driving was that bad, it’s just that the kid who last ran into BT’s car was worse.

She was in her early nineties so it was only a matter of time before she would have a more serious accident, whether or not it were her fault.

Although I had been married to her son, Peter, for nineteen years, this was when we really connected. I became her chauffeur.

Our weekly trips to town were predictable, post office, pharmacy, grocery store, drugstore and dry cleaners. She had a list and we stuck to it, unless of course she had off the list requests.

“I’d like to go to Brooks Brothers, I’m running out of white handkerchiefs,”

“Let’s stop at the art gallery and see if they’d be interested in displaying Herb’s paintings.”

“I want to stop by Dorr Oil, there’s a problem with my bill.”

I’m not a spontaneous chauffeur; I like a planned route, so I pretended I had all the time in the world and was paid by the hour. It was a valuable lesson in patience and futility.

One day we ran into her postmaster, of many years, at the drugstore who said he was retiring at the end of the week. “Oh noooo,” she wailed as she hugged him. “I will miss you so much!”

Afterwards, in the car, she got angry and slammed her tiny fists into her legs. “Why do things have to change?” 

She had progressive speech aphasia that made communication difficult at times, although this was not one of them.

“Well, people want to retire eventually, just like you,” I said calmly.

“Yes, but don’t they know I’m old!”

I took a deep breath. “You are old aren’t you?”

My delivery was good. She laughed. Another lesson learned; timing is essential when dealing with difficult matters.

Another morning, as we waited at the check out at Shaws, there was a distinct smell of an electrical fire near the meat section. As dark smoke started to gather at the ceiling, and move to the front of the store, an announcement was made. “Attention all shoppers. Please leave the building immediately. This is an emergency!”

BT may not have been able to speak clearly, but there was nothing wrong with her hearing. It’s possible she didn’t smell the fumes but I choose to think she chose to ignore them. She wasn’t budging. As the fire trucks pulled up I said, “We have to leave this stuff and go, unless you want to go out in fireman’s carry.” She was not happy, and my patience and timing had gone out the window.

“I can go back later and pick up your things”, I offered contritely as we picked up cat food at the vets.

“You don’t know what I had!” She snapped back at me.

“I do too, we’ve gone over your grocery list once a week for at least two years now, I can recite it from heart, here test me!” 

She acted impressed at my recitation, and used that moment of flattery to beg me to go back to Shaws “just in case”.

In the nearly empty parking lot, surprisingly agile, she moved quickly to the entry. “Don’t move my groceries, don’t move them” she repeated twice loudly.

Oh my gosh, is she going to scream at the poor traumatized employees?

“Wait, don’t yell at the workers!” I yelled after her.

“I’m not! I’m talking to God!” Oh phew.

Yet another lesson, how one practices one’s faith is personal.

Inside, the floors were slick with water and some mysterious foam that someone was trying to dry up with cat litter. “STAY HERE. DO NOT MOVE” I ordered her. Then, softening my voice I added, “Give me your credit card and I’ll see what I can do.”

I swear she was smirking at me.

“These are my mother-in-laws groceries, is there any possibility that we can check them out now?” I begged as I motioned back at BT who looked suspiciously calm. Then again, she knew many of the employees and regularly gave and received hugs from most of them. She was much more at ease than I was.

As we walked out with her three bags of groceries, and others were turned away, the doors were shut and locked behind us.

“Boy, you really do have God’s ear don’t you?” I said admiringly. 

Later that day, her son Stephen called, “I hear there was quite a scene in town today.”

I explained what had happened but assured him everything worked out fine.

“Yes, except for a slight problem. She was charged just over $200.”

(I may have slightly panicked and not payed attention earlier.)

“Okay, here’s what would have been purchased.”

I recited her list, that came to an average of $65 a week, by heart, something I will be able to do until my dying day.

The electrical snafu had wreaked havoc with the registers, however, he got a refund, no questions asked.

BT was a woman who loved her children, her extended family, her God, her friends, and lists.  I will miss the predictable unpredictability of her.

Namaste – her loving laughter makes my day.

Next?

I love making lists, like many of us do.

When I can’t sleep, I make lists of what I’ll pack for a trip I’m not taking. Nevertheless, I’ll be prepared to look casually hip for a spontaneous excursion to the city, or for an overnight in the Northeast Kingdom if the opportunity pops up.

I’ve written about Bucket Lists before, as some of my reading friends know. I don’t care for them. In fact, hearing about them bugs me almost as much as the thought of making one.

A bucket list, in my definition, reinforces what one has yet to accomplish. That’s depressing and too much of a challenge.

Instead, I have a Next Life List (NLL). It’s not so much about physical accomplishments, like running a marathon, or climbing mountain peaks, as it is career options.

  • I have no medical skills, nor have I been in hospital administration, however I’m good under pressure and quick on my feet. I would be an excellent diagnostician doing triage.
  • I’m unable to clip my cat’s claws or my mother in law’s toenails, but I can see developing compassionate living arrangements for old people and animals to spend their twilight or dark days together, safely and comfortably before going over the rainbow bridge. I’d be a great community organizer.
  • I can’t make up my mind between regular pencils, mechanical pencils, fountain pens, roller balls, and cheap hotel retractables when I’m dilly-dallying, nonetheless I know the relationship between hand and paper is important. I’d be an intuitive inventor of things that allowed people to enjoy writing even more.

This current life of mine has involved a lot of patience, or learning about patience. How will that be of benefit in my next life?

It will make it easier to see the forest and the trees, to listen and provide what is needed, to improvise, and create.

What’s really nice is that an item on a NLL could get ticked off in this life. You just never know.

I like being prepared almost as much as packing and making lists.

Namaste- Reinvention? Reincarnation? Who’s to say?

David Sedaris and Me.

I have a tendency to believe that if I’m intrigued, interested, or inspired by a person, and want them to be my friend, s/he will feel the same. I can count on one hand the number of times that has worked out.

I can count on two hands the times it hasn’t.

Those instances have been massively embarrassing and emotionally discouraging, however, as with most situations in my life, the worst stories end up being ones that make my friends double over in laughter. Then again, most of my friends are kind and prefer to learn from my mistakes.

This past September, Peter and I heard David Sedaris,the prolific American humorist, speak at the Paramount in Rutland, Vt.

I wrote him a fan letter in March of 2020, one of the 1500 or so he gets a month. I was inspired to write because I felt he wrote like me, and I told him so. I was intrigued that he never had to establish a social platform in order to get published and interested to know if he thought that was still possible in this day and age.

It’s not too difficult to read between the lines. Dear David, I know everyone wants to be your friend, but we have so much in common as you will see in my blog. You may even wish to save me from jumping through hoops and find me a publisher.

Six months later I received a postcard from him. He had read one of my blogs and wrote, “I think a beginner chainsaw class for women is a great idea. After 15 years someone just asked me to write a book so I don’t have much advice.”

To be clear, that blog entry wasn’t one of my best. In fact, there wasn’t much funny about it except for a photo with me in my PJ’s making a smoothie wearing a hard hat and ear protection. That’s only funny if you know it was the only time I donned any of the safety equipment, much less looked at my chainsaw, since the class ended a year ago.

The evening in September was going to be my chance to show him, or remind him, who I really was, a smart, talented, pleasant, witty, and likeable person. Someone he would be honored to call his friend and protege.

I’d been carrying his postcard with me for almost a year, but due to my constant switching of pocketbooks, I couldn’t find it that night. I pretended not to be distraught as I planned my outfit.

What was I going to do anyway? Wave it in front of his face as he signed a copy of his book screaming ‘YOU WROTE ME!’”

Really.

I’m much too cool for that.

Because I couldn’t find the postcard, and I couldn’t bring him my book, Virtuous Sinner (of course I sent him a copy a few months back) I needed something to make an impression.

So I penned a list of “Five Interesting Coincidental Similarities Between David Sedaris and Alexandra Langstaff” and put it on a piece of matting board suitable for framing.

There were about 20 people in line ahead of me after the show waiting for David to leave the stage and get set up at a table, with a protective plastic barrier with his pens and markers.

The oversized card was a good idea because I used it as a fan. (Note to self, scarves should only be worn outdoors in blizzards, not as the perfect accessory to tie an outfit together in a crowded theater lobby.)

The people in front were all couples. I was alone because Peter was leaning against a wall pretending to be part of security in his black fedora and tweed jacket.

That was just as well because I had no ability to speak. My legs had gone to jelly and my heart was beating so that I could not only feel it, but I could hear it, sending the blood coursing through my carotid artery. I was slightly worried that I would explode.

As the line shortened, one of the real security guards brought David two plates. Obviously the man needs to have choices of what to eat. 

How humiliating for the people in front of me, I thought, I’m so glad I’m back here. Is he going to talk with his mouth full or focus on his food rather than his fans? I hope he’s a fast eater.

As I grew closer and Peter continued to act like the Secret Service, my brain, obviously unappreciated, left the building and went back to the car in the Walmart parking lot, where we had sushi before the show. It was evident that my wits had left me as my turn came. Up to the table I walked with a slight limp, my legs had gone numb, and the first thing I did was to point to one of his plates and say, “That looks horrible.”

Needless to say, he was slightly taken aback as was Peter, who had left his post to accompany me, unaware that I was about to implode.

“We’re so sorry to interrupt your meal” Peter apologized.

Wait, this is a book signing, we aren’t asking for a selfie at a diner for god’s sake, I thought wildly.

“Uh, do you accept gifts?” I whispered. 

“Sure, what is it?” he asked while taking a small forkful of something that looked delicious. Some jokes fall flat.

“It’s a list of five interesting coincidental similarities between David Sedaris and Alexandra Langstaff.” 

Notice I didn’t say between “you and me” but used our full names as if being formal was a sign of reverence and respect.

“Uh, it’s sterilized”, I added as I passed it under the barrier.

“What do you mean?” he questioned.

“Uh…I mean it’s sanitary,  no cooties or anything.” I mumbled.

What if he asked me to prove it?

“Read me some of it”, he asked while drawing falling leaves next to his signature.

“Uh, David Sedaris once saw a dead wallaby on the side of the road. Alexandra Langstaff once saw a dead kangaroo on the side of the road, holding a can of Foster’s.” 

How to ruin someone’s appetite and put a damper on the conversation.

It was clear that I was untethered, so Peter said, “You sent her a postcard!”

Rather than be grateful for his interjection, I wanted to elbow him in the ribs. This was like going up to a famous author in a grocery store and gushing, “We’ve read all your books”. How crass, how gauche, how… helpful.

Peter broke the ice. We had a conversation starter.

“If I wrote to you, you must have written to me. What did your letter say?” David asked beaming.

Because my brain, in defeat, had gone back to the car earlier, I drew a blank.

Think! Think! Say something original and clever.

“Uh, I asked you about the publishing business.”

NOOOOOOOO!

Time is running out. Why is my head so empty?

“Uh, the picture on the postcard you sent me was of Mr. Smith’s runaway horse and my maiden name is Smith!”, I jabbered.

I felt a wave of relief. Maybe my mind was returning. Maybe I just needed to warm up.

“Well thank you for coming, I love meeting people I’ve written back to,” David said as he slid my book towards me.

“And thank you so much for your words”, I blurted rapidly as the Secret Service agent, Peter, escorted me away from the table. “You read my blog and agreed that a chainsaw class for beginners was a good idea” I announced over my shoulder.

I know the 30 people still in line were glad to see me go.

On the 45 minute drive home, I replayed the embarrassing and discouraging experience over and over. So much for being at home in the world. What happened to the confident, sparkling, easy to speak with, refreshing burst of energy person that anyone in their right mind would want to exchange phone numbers with?

I was pretty sure that Peter was to blame for me making a fool out of myself in front of an author I was interested in, intrigued and inspired by.

Poor guy, it’s taken me weeks to get over it.

Namaste: want to read the 3 other similarities ? Send a message my way.

Two Truths and a Lie

Two truths and a lie has been used as an icebreaker for at least two generations.  Colleagues, fellow workshop attendees, and slumber party guests get to know each other by guessing which of three statements is false. It’s a good way to see who is up for stimulating conversation and who couldn’t care less. 

The latter says something like this-

  • I’m afraid of snakes.
  • I’m afraid of mice.
  • I’m afraid of bats.

All statements could be true but which one isn’t? You don’t get much personal information here except that the person is a scaredy cat or purposely private. I suppose it could be a conversation starter but not necessarily a long or interesting one. Thank you for sharing.

The former, the stimulator, likes to tease the audience with tidbits of information, and their fib is usually one with a variation on the truth rather than a baldfaced lie.

  • I gave the Bicentennial speech on the town green when I was 17.
  • I came in 1st in a ski race where everyone else fell or lost a ski.
  • A guy gave me a bloody nose in a disco in Italy.

Actually I came in 4th, twenty seconds behind 3rd place, she finished the race on one ski after falling.

All three declarations are more intriguing. We’re talking (possibly) about a history of public speaking, international travel, and athletic prowess.

I’d much rather talk about innocent assaults in nightclubs than snakes any day.

My blond haired friend came up with a third option which essentially wrecks the game. The idea is to say things that are totally inappropriate and ridiculous.

  • I never tip more than 10% at a restaurant.
  • I slept with my best friend’s husband yesterday.
  • I think no lives matter.
  • I have red hair.

“Oh I’m sorry, I forgot it’s just two truths not three.”

Obviously the speaker doesn’t have red hair, but what does that mean? Who is this person? 

This is an opportunity to show the people who you aren’t. Not great as an icebreaker, but then again…

There’s a writing prompt that I ignore, “Write about something you’ve never told anyone”. Why would I ignore responding to this invasion of privacy? Is it because 

  • I could go to jail?
  • I think writing prompts are stupid?
  • I’m afraid you will look at me differently?

No matter which are true and which is false, it’s none of your business.

When you publish a book or a blog, writing is an icebreaker. You will either bore people to death, inspire conversation, or notice averted eyes when you are at the grocery store. Wait! Are we still playing two truths and a lie?

Namaste- Pinocchio rules! Can I get a Hurray?!

Lookin’ for Trouble

The majority of the time I enjoy whatever I’m doing at the moment. Writing, reading, eating, drawing, and watching rabbits play in the yard is easy. 

It takes a little more effort to find something positive when getting a colonoscopy, replacing a dental crown, grating cheese, or taking a stand up paddle board yoga class.

The pond was about 3 feet deep so any fear of drowning was minimized. However, I don’t like unexpected falls, and watching others attempt to stand on their heads and then joyously flop into the water was disconcerting.

How am I supposed to know where to put my feet? Doing yoga in a bathing suit is obscene. Does she even see me floating away? Did he just blow his nose into the water?

My discomfort became so out of control that I decided to hate the teacher. I wasn’t going to listen to anything she said. I lay down on my back, under the hot sun and pretended to meditate. It isn’t easy to hang your legs or arms in the water when the damn thing is so wide.

There’s a good possibility that the teacher was ignoring me because I was ignoring her. Yoga is about being present and comfortable with where you are. Maybe she thought I was content and tranquil, spread out on my board like a beach towel.

Eventually I rolled over onto my stomach and sneered and jeered at my reflection “If you are lookin’ for trouble, you’ve come to the right spot”.

It was actually quite alarming to see how unsavory and disagreeable I looked. I was an amalgamation of Captain Hook, Gollum, and Harry Callahan. I’m quite the actor.

Looking for trouble is looking for attention but not knowing how to get it. It’s easier to complain than it is to get down to the crux of the matter, and that’s often unmet needs. When the ego gets in the way, admitting to being “needy” is like choking on a mouthful of pond water.

If I asked for help, I’d appear incompetent or …gasp…needy. She should realize that I’m in panic mode here. What kind of professional fails to notice that a student who is constantly looking at her watch is insecure, embarrassed, and way out of her comfort zone?

We all have a part of us that knows better. It’s the voice of reason, so muffled by self righteous indignation over perceived slights and mistreatment, that all we hear is static in our ears. Or in my case increasingly evident tinnitus. Indignation is rarely righteous. It’s looking for trouble rather than looking for a modicum of help or contentment.

Maybe I don’t have to do what she says, maybe I will be the instructor instead. How would I teach a big baby, scaredy-cat like me?

This is what I would say,

“Are you at ease in water? The first time I did this, I was mortified at my lack of balance. I find the best way to start is just by sitting still and focusing on the movement of the board. Notice how a slight shift of weight affects your breath, in turn notice how your breath affects the board’s movement. You know what? My grandmother had a swim suit very similar to the one you’re wearing. I’m so glad that style has returned! Can I explain what I mean about the angle of the blade again?”

By the time class ended, I glided along effortlessly back to the dock, dry as a bone.

The next time you feel really aggravated, look in the mirror, and in your toughest voice, ask yourself if you are looking for trouble and then channel Clint Eastwood and add “Go ahead, make my day”. The absurdity of your words just might throw you off balance enough to listen to reason.

Picture Perfect

I have a tough time taking food photos. We have poor lighting in the kitchen. Every dish looks the same and not very enticing.

The lighting outside is much better, but the bear, bobcat, deer, porcupine, bald eagle, and coydog don’t hang around long enough for me to take their picture, much less find the right button on my phone.

I can count on the rabbits though. They are naturals in front of a camera. They look straight at you, show profiles, and repeat action shots, almost as if auditioning for a feature role in a film, over and over again.

This morning before outdoor aerial yoga class, while hanging upside down, I took a video. The canopy of cedars above me seemed to reach the branches of the  trees lining the Southern Vermont Art Center walkway, about forty feet away. 

The view was surreal. I filmed looking straight ahead, and then panned up to where I was hanging, to the sky above. When I went to play back the video, it self-corrected and turned the upside down clip right side up. What the heck? (There are many sites that advise one how to correct upside down videos, but not many on how to keep things topsy turvy.)

Sometimes we want to change our perspective, our attitude, or thoughts, but obstacles get in the way.

How can I look at things from all sides when the other sides are ridiculous? How can I maintain positivity when it rains every day? How can I think like a real entrepreneur and take publicity photos while upside down only to have the daggone clip not cooperate?

It comes down to sincerity, diligence, and patience.

Do we really want to change? Can we take the time to figure out how to do so? Can we let go of the need for immediate satisfaction or success?

I marvel at those who have beautiful and interesting posts on social media. If I really want to join that talented pool, I’ll need to reread “Social Media for Dummies”. No skimming this time.

Namaste- picture perfect? Not today!