Posts Tagged ‘Stories

02
Jan
15

Scam Alert

2014 has been another roller coaster for us. I’m beginning to think this might be the new normal for western culture…perhaps for most of the world! Time seems to have tripled…hours can seem like days. What once was the standard for fast communication has been replaced by instantaneous messaging. Never mind the dry, witless, impersonal nature of it; this new world has no time for politeness, graciousness or tact. Too bad if you are suffering with a cold, flu or broken leg and can barely think straight. Reply, Reply, Reply. The show must go on!

Question: What’s an aging brain to do?

Answer: The best it can under the circumstances.

My aging brain has been keen on recognizing and avoiding scam emails—particularly the viral ones that want to foul one’s hard drive. Of course, having a Mac computer affords me an edge on this wave of sophomoric pranksterism, but I went a bit farther and thought myself pretty savvy…until last Tuesday.

I was expecting delivery of a USB SuperDrive from a trusted New York supplier…one that often requires signature upon receipt of electronics.

Apple SuperDrive

Feeling unwell and slightly foggy, I would be gone for a few hours in the afternoon. I don’t have neighbors who can take in a package, so, when I received this email, instead of thinking clearly, I clicked on Get Shipment Label.

SmartPost 1

Clicking on Get Shipment Label brought me to a site clearly stating: Not compatible with your operating system, followed by a list of Microsoft PC programs and systems. That should have been sufficient to bring me back to sensibility, but no, I clicked again with the same result!

Googling FedEX SmartPost and seeing that this was a less than successful coordination with USPS my annoyance increased, since mail delivery on my street is erratic at best. In a stupor, I hit Reply and typed out my request for additional information. I wanted that SuperDrive and I didn’t want to jump through hoops to get it delivered.

Slowly, my brain began to make connections. Check the Reply address, it said. Did I immediately understand the hoax? Took a few minutes, checking back to my original paperwork with the seller, to understand that no brand of FedEx, Smart or otherwise was delivering my order.

Many of you already know what happened next: Yes, my email was returned and there it was: the pirated email address used to scam me. Oy vey!

SmartPost 3

Next step was to look up the seller’s paperwork for delivery date and carrier. UPS was clearly stated, as was the history of transport, the tracking number and promise of delivery that very day. The big green arrow said: On Vehicle for Delivery Today, but for some reason that escapes me now that I am no longer feverish and ill, I still harbored doubt that this equipment would arrive and that I would be at home to sign for it. I was doing a version of Woe is Me from the Life Sucks chorale.

UPS Tracking

I returned home from my afternoon appointment: Nothing on the porch, no notice from the UPS driver. I quickly removed my note and nervously waited, checking the front porch numerous times. Finally, about 7:00 p.m., the UPS driver brought the package and rang the doorbell. Just as I got to the door the driver was scrambling into the truck. No signature required, obviously. I should have realized this since the paperwork did not contain that stipulation. OY vey again! No matter. I had my SuperDrive and I was happy. Apple does everything beautifully—even the delivery packaging is a perfect delight to the senses. Can’t bring myself to discard it. Maybe it can be re-purposed?

02
Apr
14

sharing & caring, a cat story for all ages

This is a story of feline sharing and caring from my yet to be written, therefore unpublished, AdvoCat Studio anthology: My Life With Cats.

Type Embellishments_H 36pt_white.

Frankie, the polydactyl, tabby cat, began his life with us under the care and tutelage of Nicky, our big, luxuriously furred, Himalayan-Birman mix. With patience and forbearance, Uncle Nick taught Frankie the ABCs of cat behavior and etiquette, a sometimes daunting task.

Frank & Nick 150

Frank was already a grown up with a long track record of caring and tutoring each kitten that came to live with us just as he’d been taught, but like any cat, he needed his rest and had his favorite spots.

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One fine winter’s day, when Frankie was asleep on his favorite morning spot atop the radiator in my studio, dreaming dreams only cats really understand… in walked Beau, the sleekly, beautiful, young prince of the household.

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“Ah, there’s Frank… must be a great spot for a nap,” he said to his cat self as he gracefully leaped up to join his friend.

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“Oh bother’ muttered Frankie through his sleepy cat lips. ‘Patience, forbearance… that’s the key…”

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“Okay, you’re cute, I love you: lay down now.” In truth, Frank was just a tiny bit annoyed, because he’d been dreaming the most wonderful dreams that morning and wanted to get back to them as quickly as he could.

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Beau sighed, deeply content with such loving acceptance, but he just couldn’t get comfortable.

 

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“I’ll give him another minute to find his groove,” Frank thought… ‘he’s just a kid.”

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“You okay, there buddy?” Frank asked in his best uncle voice.

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“I think my feet are too long,” whined Beau as he twisted about, certain that with perseverance, he’d find his perfect spot right next, and as close as possible, to his friend.

“Feet? Something like that,’ Frank whispered to his own self… ‘something like that!”

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“Got it, Uncle Frank! Thanks”

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“This spot feels great; I’ll just do a quick wash, be done in a jiffy. You don’t mind do you Uncle?”

 

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“Musn’t forget the hips ‘n haunches… so important to a cat’s graceful beauty. Appearances are important.”

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“Okay, all done, I’m back now. Thanks for waiting Frankie.”

Frank, running a bit low on patience said ever so quietly, “I’m sleeping now, gorgeous. Try it, you’ll like it… we’ll both like it.”Image 12a_Neg JI-26A_cropped

But Beau wasn’t ready to sleep yet. Settled near enough to hear his friend’s heartbeat, he said coquettishly, “Tell me a story and then I’ll go to sleep.”

Frank, reaching the end of patience as well as forbearance, thought: “I really don’t have time for this.”

” See you later…bonne nuit,  Beau, sleep well.” He said warmly, and slipped away to where grown-up cats go when they really, really need their rest.

Image 13_Neg JI-11A_cropped

Beau was bewildered; he couldn’t understand why Frankie would just up and leave like that.  “Where’s he going,’ he mused, ‘I’m kind of lonely here all by myself… but I do look good, don’t you think?”

 

AdvoCat Studio Logo

18
Dec
13

A Most Magical Christmas

A Most Magical Christmas is an adaptation of the original story written for me long ago by Korin Heinz. As with all Armenian stories, this one was…
and was not…

karenswhimsy.comOnce upon a time, there was a little girl named Melineh, who lived with her parents, her sister and her brother in a big house. Melineh liked to pretend and play imaginary, magical games, especially at Christmastime. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, and right up to Christmas, she listened to The Cinnamon Bear on the radio and imagined herself right inside the story.

She was happy except for one thing: she dearly wanted a pet—not just any pet—a warm, furry kitten all her own to love and hug. She asked her mom and dad for a kitten many times, but the answer was always no, because they thought animals should always be outside—not inside the house. Then one day, after thinking it over carefully, Melineh’s father came home with a small, tabby kitten that he found near where he worked.

“Look what I found, Melineh,’ he said, ‘He begged me to bring him home, so I did.”

Melineh, filled with joy, held out her arms and begged her mom,  “Can I keep him… please?”

“Well… if you will promise to take care of him and not let him scratch the furniture, then we will try it for a little while,” Mom said, rather reluctantly.

Melineh named her new kitty, Buttons. She fed him every morning before school and in the afternoons when she came home. She brushed and played with Buttons and sometimes even put doll clothes on him. At night, Buttons slept on her bed in a tight curl of fur. Melineh was happier than she’d ever been in her whole life!

A few weeks later, just before Christmas, Melineh came home from school to play with Buttons, but couldn’t find him. She called and called and looked in every nook and cranny, but could not find him. “Mom,” she asked plaintively, “Where’s Buttons? Have you seen him?”

Mom looked away and said quickly, “Oh, he must have run away.”

Melineh wailed helplessly, “No, that’s not possible! You know where he is!” Inconsolable, she cried for days. There was nothing she could do but wait, hope and dream.

Then, on Christmas Eve, while Melineh was making make paper chain garlands for the tree with her sister, she heard a faint scratching noise at the back door: scritch, scratch. “I wonder what that is,” she thought, and got up to look outside in the fading afternoon light. At first she saw nothing and was about to close the door when she heard a tiny mew from under the porch. Melineh bent down and saw something dark and furry; “No, it couldn’t be,” she thought, but there, rubbing against her hand was Buttons, back from wherever he had been!kitten_in_holly 2

Melineh brought her precious tabby kitty inside and gave him some food. Buttons, once again in Melineh’s loving arms, purred happily. This was the very best gift ever—for sure!

Buttons lived with Melineh and her family for many years, bringing warmth and fun into the big old house in the city. When Melineh grew up she had lots more cats, but she never forgot that wonderful Christmas when Buttons found his way back home.

And, of course…they lived happily ever after…

Visual images in public domain from:
karenswhimey.com and clipartpal.com

25
May
13

doodling like a rolling stone

Bob Dylan, the poet-singer-songwriter of the Baby Boom generation, in his 1965 hit, Like a Rolling Stone, asks plaintively:

How does it feel how does it feelto be without a home… like a complete unknown… like a rolling stone?

Between each of the song’s four verses, comes this haunting refrain—pointed, probing and challenging. The song references societal expectations of the 1950s and 60s, which may no longer carry quite the sting it did then; nonetheless, the refrain lives on timelessly in the Boomer Generation—invincible in 1960—not so much in 2013.

We are aging…sometimes gracefully, sometimes awkwardly. How does it feel and what does it all mean as we roll along toward the once, unthinkable senior citizen horizon? I am not a true Boomer, just an honorary one due to some life events that put me back a few years, but I have a good Boomer friend who wrote an essay for this blog about her experience of aging and transitioning. It comes complete with a graphic she calls a doodle.

April 15, 2013 • How it feels and what it means…

There’s a little ditty we used to sing as kids: Head and shoulder, knees and toes, knees and toes (repeat) while touching each of these body parts as a form of exercise. Now, in my senior years, it seems that there is a problem with each of these (maybe not my toes, but my feet). Memory is fading, can’t hook my bra in back due to bursitis and tendonitis in my shoulder, old knee injuries have been flaring up, and plantar fasciitis causes pain when I walk.  I was feeling old. As a former dancer, these physical losses take on a lot of significance.

Our church made plans to offer a grief recovery workshop starting late March by a specialist in that field and I was considering if I should participate to process my grief around aging. However, it was a ten-week commitment with homework assignments and I questioned whether I had the where-with-all to do the work.

I learned of Sybil MacBeth’s book, Praying in Color, from a friend and presented a short segment on February 23 during a weekend Lenten retreat at my church, where we all tried our hand at this form of prayer. I decided to use this method of spontaneous doodling with words and color as a process of discernment, but it became clear that I wouldn’t get my answer in 20 minutes.

Basically it sat there in my journal until a women’s retreat I attended in Santa Fe the following month. During a movement ritual I needed to sit down because my knee was complaining and I began feeling sorry for myself again because I could no longer move as freely as I once did. As we went around the circle sharing why we were there, a huge realization dawned on me. Seven years ago on March 1, 2006 I had a hysterectomy because various tests and scans pointed to probable ovarian cancer. As it turned out I did not have cancer, but if I had, I would not even be at this retreat because I would no longer be alive, as life expectancy with ovarian cancer usually does not exceed five years.

The next two nights I continued with the doodle, noting that I could be dead, but I wasn’t and asking why. The second night brought it to a near completion, but only after participating in a craft project with the group. In the afternoon we had walked out on the high-desert land to each collect sticks or a piece of weathered wood to create a “Spirit Doll.” There was an array of beads, feathers, ribbon, fabric, glue, wire…you name it…available to dress our wood into something that resembled…well, some sort of doll, I guess. I immediately went into a familiar insecurity, comparing myself to everyone else who would create something profound, more meaningful, and just plain better than anything I could do. So, with a slightly rebellious attitude, I decided I would create an alter ego. Using part of a pink boa around her torso, pink feathers in her hair, which was actually sagebrush, and sparkly netting for a skirt I called her “my lady of the night” who stayed awake nights for reasons different than my insomnia-ridden ones. With a few added doo-dads she was sufficiently garish and I felt satisfied.

Anne's Doodle Design

Back in my room the doodle grew. Of course there was much more happening in my thoughts and emotions than appear on the page but it is a good summary. And what I also realized was that I had created something meaningful in the doll; that in her flamboyant attire she represented not what I had set out to create but rather a celebration of life! I finally had a clear answer to the question I had posed several weeks earlier. My conclusion: Rather than grieve my losses, I need to celebrate the life that is still before me.

01
Feb
13

hornet’s nest of good intentions

Imagine a situation that is simple enough if kept to the surface and dealt with as is, but it has legs, roots that go deep into the ground of your being. It could be work oriented, family oriented, school or church oriented…something that is private. You’ve inadvertently lost control of that privacy and now there are people trying to help who don’t know the whole story. You don’t want those roots made public, but with each attempt from loved ones to help, comfort, aid…the roots become more and more exposed, igniting fire-stories in your memory bank that cause more distress, not less. You try to keep it simple…to say more will be overwhelming for everyone…you try to graciously say just enough, but not so much that the exposed roots cause you, or anyone else pain. Finally the effort becomes muddled and confusing between yourself and those with loving intentions. You begin to think that maybe you are speaking a foreign language, but you know you aren’t, so what is the problem? Why are you causing pain in others? That is not your intent. You go over your letters and your conversations. They seem clear to you. What is going on?

Type Embellishments_H 36pt_white.

Maybe you identify with this scenario and have your own hornet’s nest of good intentions, maybe not. This is my story today. This is what is happening. My effort to draw personal boundaries has alienated some loving friends. I feel quite sad about this. I’ve done all I know to fix it and don’t blame anyone but myself. Time will lay it’s mossy blanket in a while.

The sun is shining cold on white today. It is a bright, crisp day that hurts my tired eyes. The gray of yesterday was a better fit. “Too bad, take what you get,” the Oracle of Life says to me. I don’t answer back. I just keep breathing.

I’m thinking about an island somewhere in the south pacific where this drama is not happening and my eyes are not burning from lack of sleep. “It will all work out,’ says the Oracle, ‘this is only one page in the Book of Life and it happens to lots of people. You are not unique.

“Good,’ I say, ‘that’s good to remember.”

26
Oct
11

what’s age got to do with it?

It’s been a long time since I’ve written…haven’t had anything audience-worthy to say. Our civil union in August was a culmination of several years of personal struggle. What could possibly follow it? Write about what you know, is a famous creative writing 101 admonition. But everything I come up with seems trivial and of little interest to the general reader. Among the themes considered and discarded is one—apparently shaped like a boomerang because it keeps coming back, sometimes hitting me in the backside when I least expect it. I’m talking about aging…not aging in America…I leave that to journalists and documentarians. I want to write about aging as I am experiencing it in this world, here and now.

In a short time I will be 73 years of age. For the first time in my life I find I am clinging to my current age for as long as I can. What’s up with that, I wonder from time to time? Of the many possible answers that cross my mind, loneliness seems to be the most enduring. I am a survivor, but surviving for what? I have lived a reasonably long time and have an impressive list of experiences, both lovely and painful, but except for my spouse, there is no tribe…no community…no familia to hear my stories. Worse, I know precious few persons of comparable age with whom I can share my interests, experiences and outlook. I am approximately 10-12 years older in body than I am in mind and spirit.  I will not be boarding a tour bus of 20 senior citizens out for a day in the city. I will not be moving to a senior citizens’ condominium paradise any time soon. I will frequently be in conversation with people 10, 20 or even 30 years younger than I (not surprisingly, my spouse is 9 years younger). Conversation can be interesting, fun, rewarding, but when it gets to the nitty-gritty, they do not understand the thoughts and concerns of those growing closer to the end of life than the middle. They do not—cannot—resonate with what they yet do not know. Eventually the space between reappears by default. I am the late blooming elder in the crowd.

The brain ages and produces annoying senior moments of forgetfulness—even momentary confusion—but that same brain is packed with layers of experience and knowledge that cannot be obtained by reading or study. It is learned through doing and being. The result can be, and often is, a dimensional deepening into an authenticity of character.  I have never been one to sentimentalize the lines and grooves of the aged countenance. I rarely look at my own, but because of my current cataract surgery I am in a position to heartily consider how things look, including myself. I shall be doing that in the next several postings.

30
Aug
11

streams in the desert

On August 21, 2011…33 years, 10 months and 47 days from when we first met…Judy and I were legally wed in the presence of our congregation, friends and family…in the little church at the edge of the city. We are pretty sure this marriage will last…

Last spring, knowing that civil unions would become law in our state on June 1, our little church voted unanimously to support and officiate at same gender weddings and unions. Despite denominational hedging, this decision was a natural progression for us—a long-standing, open and affirming church body. Nevertheless, Judy and I, along with several others, were catapulted into a level of happiness we hadn’t known was missing. Initially we were only planning on applying for legal status, but upon learning that the license required a ceremony for completion, we knew a church setting was what we wanted. (See previous posting, getting from here to there for an account of this.) We began talking with our pastor. Slowly, ideas dreamed themselves into plans and the plans shaped themselves into a celebration of life, bigger than anything we’d known previously.  We walked, talked, skipped, ran, stumbled and sometimes flew through the weeks leading up to the ceremony and day of celebration.

The ceremony, lovingly performed by our pastor, Graceful Spirit, was woven seamlessly into the morning worship hour. It was an incredible time…a very thin space indeed…full of music, dance, *spoken word, prayer, Communion and friends…lots of friends from near and far. It was a celebration for everyone, but especially for our congregation, without whose vision and courage, it could not have happened. We welcomed them into our lives in a way that is different and distinct from baptism or church membership. We are asked if we feel different now. Yes, we do! We are accepted and acceptable, no longer just individually, but together, as the journeying twosome we have always been. Affirmation, Acceptance, Appreciation. These are the A’s that all of us need to live healthy and productive lives as members of the human family.

The promises God made to us way back at the beginning have been kept…streams did indeed flow in the desert…we are thankful. With the blessing of visionary and courageous leadership, we are moving forward. Praise God!

*You can read the pastor, Megan Ramer’s Homily and the antiphonal Reading from the ceremony on the church website – Chicago Community Mennonite Church • Recent Sermons: Homily (21 August 2011).

  Naomi is smiling. Judy was in shock, but she got over it. And now we are living happily ever after.  🙂




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