Tell Me My Worth

I don’t know what’s more difficult: moving or selling your home.

Frankly, I think both of them are a pain in the butt! And lately, I’m thinking that maybe adding some medicinal marijuana to my chocolate chip cookies may be good for what ails me.

For the past 6 months,
the Princess and I have been prepping for the big move to the state of WA, and as much as I’m excited and looking forward to this new chapter in my life, I’m also sad about saying goodbye to loved ones here in CA and a tad frightened of the unknown of what lies ahead.

Recently, our CA home was professionally staged, by a young woman who spent all of 45 minutes schlepping our furniture around and strategically placing a couple of lamps and pictures in our rooms. This Herculean endeavor cost our realtor $1600, and our house looks like a million bucks.

But $1600 for moving furniture around? Seriously?

Damn!

I think I spent too much time in college getting all those degrees for a field of study that in my earlier years, paid $1600 for the whole month.

What was I thinking?

When I was a kid, the school’s career counselor asked me, “So, what do you want to study after you graduate from high school, Lucie? Nursing? Secretarial science? Education?”

“I think you’d make a good teacher,” he continued, and off to an all-woman’s college I headed with my future career firmly etched in stone.

Never, and I mean NEVER, did I ever hear him or any one of my counselors broach the topic of me pursuing a career as an astrophysicist, or an electrician, or a veterinarian, or any one of a bazillion other fields of study that I, as a woman, could have pursued. Mind you, my science grades weren’t anything to write home about, and I couldn’t tell you which end of the chord to plug in on the vacuum cleaner; so becoming an electrician might have been stretching it a bit, but gee whiz, he could have directed me toward becoming a house stager or maybe even a professional belly dancer.

Then, again, there wasn’t too much demand for house stagers in upstate New York in those days, and my belly wasn’t very Buddha-like in my youth to pursue the art of belly dancing. So, maybe teaching wasn’t such a bad field to encourage me to pursue. I always liked kids, and I played school for hours-on-end on our rickety, uneven back porch that needed to be condemned long before we ever moved into the place.

And, here I sit today in a million dollar, staged home thinking about this 30-something-year-old stager who did her job in a quick 45 minutes and got paid this obscene amount of money for moving furniture around, and I’m asking myself: “What kind of society and time period am I living in when the value of a house stager, and basketball player, and movie star are all paid so much more than those of us entrusted with shaping our country’s future?”

I am truly happy that this young woman is earning her creative worth,
and I hope that other young women start demanding their fair share of the pie. I just hope that in my lifetime that what I did for a living becomes as important to others as the house stager and the basketball player and the movie star.

Until then, I need to keep packing and hiding my underwear and cat bowls in the closet, and wait for the house appraiser to do his job this week and tell me my worth.

Have a great week, People,
and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.

Routine is Important: Just ask my Mother

As we age, we’re told to mix up our routine. Keep our brain challenged and break out of our day-to-day pattern. It’s healthy for us, or so we’re told.

And to some degree, I think there’s some merit to the medical studies that espouse such recommendations, but I think there’s also something to be said for sticking to a routine.

Routine is important. Just ask my mother. Disturb her before she has her first cup of coffee and visits the loo in the morning and she’s not a happy camper. God forbid, if you should bother her before her favorite television show, “The Price is Right”, is over. Not a pleasant experience to have with her.

Every morning, my cat and I dance. She whines. I feed her. She jumps up on my desk, starts chewing on my paper work and walking across my computer key board. Then she wants to go outside. Of course, she can’t simply walk out when I open my patio door. She has to walk around the perimeter of the living room first, then around the overstuffed lazy boy rocker and finally she’s ready to exit. I have to patiently wait while she does this little two-step of hers, and then I can close the door and go back to whatever I was doing.

There are days that I’d like to choke the little twit as she slowly prances by me and looks up as if to say, “Humans are so clueless.”

Maybe Boo’s trying to teach me patience, or maybe this little tango is something that keeps her safe and she depends on it. I don’t know. I’m no cat whisperer, and I certainly haven’t a clue as to what makes a cat tick.

I do know, though, there are days in my life when everything is crazy and life is one crisis after another. Having a routine and sticking to it keeps me secure: Taking daily walks. Going to exercise class on Wednesdays. Seeing my yoga buddies on Fridays. Reading a good book and falling asleep on a rainy afternoon with our other cat, Molly, spread-eagle on my belly. All routines I relish and enjoy.

And when the sump pump breaks, the IRS notifies me that I owe them $5,500, the inspector says my house has termites and my doctor tells me that I have pneumonia; I remember to get up, wash my face, put on a little lipstick and face the day, ‘cuz that’s what Mom taught me to do.

I’m not so much into the lipstick, like my Mom, but I definitely understand and appreciate the need for a consistent schedule to keep me going. There are days when I need the safety and comfort of knowing that I have certain things planned. So, when life comes along and messes with those plans, I still have the comfort of knowing that my daily regimen is still intact and it can be restarted with the dawning of a new day.

I keenly remembered how my special needs kids depended on a routine. They vociferously complained about it on a regular basis, but change it on them once in a blue moon, and they let you know they weren’t pleased. For many of them, their day to day home life was chaotic and their only source of reliability and sanity was my classroom and the safety of its expectations and schedule.

As I slowly age, I realize that I need to keep my mind challenged and continue to learn new skills and stretch my imagination, but I also realize that there are days that I need to feel stable and safe and having some structure and routine in my life is ok and actually beneficial to me in a number of ways, both physically and emotionally. So, I give myself permission to throw caution to the wind, and on those days I need to have a miniature snicker’s bar after I eat lunch, I go for it and sometimes even have two!

In the meantime, I need to feed Boo Boo, again, and wait at the patio door while she sashays around the border of our living room furniture. Have a great week, People, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes!

How Sad for Us, too

In February of this year, those of us in rain-drenched Northern CA. got a reprieve from the rain gods, and the Princess and I decided to take a drive over to the coast. It was one of those beautiful, CA sunny days with temperatures in the 60’s and cloudless, brilliant blue skies ripe for beach walking, biking and anything else you could imagine doing with a gorgeous, sun-filled day.

We headed to Half Moon Bay to stroll on one of our favorite walks that looks out at the ocean from a path above the cliffs, and were doing just that, when we spotted a stranded baby sea lion cornered against the side of one of the bluffs below us.

Crossing paths with the ranger that was trying to help it, we asked if he knew how the little bugger got there, and he told us that a couple of unleashed dogs had sent him scurrying for his young life. By the time the ranger had tried to intervene, the pup had gotten himself stuck between the proverbial “rock and a hard place” and couldn’t get himself back out to sea. Realizing the pup needed to be rescued, but unable to help him without assistance, the ranger had put in a call to the people from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. We happened to be there when they arrived, so we watched as they carefully netted and prepped it for the ride to their facility in Northern Marin.

The little guy was clearly distraught and made quite a fuss before he was caught.

The Princess, concerned with its well-being, and wanting to know exactly what they’d be doing, asked one of the volunteers what the protocol was for this pup, and if they thought it would eventually calm down and be ok.

He acknowledged her concern, but really couldn’t predict any outcome. All he could say was that they’d do their best to help it. We’ve been to the Center a number of times and are aware of their meticulous care and involvement with the animals, but were concerned with its young age, and if it would thrive without its mother and ocean community. Sea lions are highly social creatures and currently an endangered species, with humans as their primary predators; so we were extremely concerned about the fate of this little one.

As we stood atop the ridge watching the volunteers and ranger as they cautiously corralled the animal into their nets and eventually the holding cage, we heard the pitiful muffled barks and grunts from the anxious pup, and I suddenly got a lump in my throat and started to tear-up.

Standing there in the bright sunlight, attentive to the waves breaking against the side of the cliffs and listening to the muffled cries from this sweet, frightened little baby, I couldn’t help but get a little upset with the dog owners who created this heart-breaking scene.

I totally understand a dog’s need to frolic and run and can appreciate dog owners who like to have their dogs enjoy the beach unleashed, but the beach was well-signed, and the owners informed: Dogs are to be leashed while walking the beach.

They chose not to obey and let them run free. And I’m sure they weren’t bad people, and their dogs were just being dogs. But now this infant pup is without a mother and was carted off to a home totally unnatural and unfamiliar to him. We don’t know if he’ll make it and have no idea if he’ll thrive, and I can’t help but think: how sad for this little guy and how sad for us, too.

As we go forward with our week, let’s try to be respectful of one another and mindful of the world around us, and I’ll catch ya the next time; looking at life from my shoes.

Dream On

As someone who definitely knows my way around gabbing with people, individuals are often pleasantly surprised to discover the quiet side to my gregarious self. So, my recent silence (both in writing and in speech) has been disconcerting to some folks.

Or so I’ve been told.

Recently, I have been faced with a plethora of life challenges and my body simply stopped working the way I wanted it to work, and I ended up with pneumonia.

The sad thing for me, though, is that my connection with God and my spiritual side has been as stuffy and muddled as my nose and lungs have gotten.

My heart is heavy with indecisions and confusion, and I’m having a hard time feeling hopeful these days. I feel anxious and stressed and often times scared, and I’m thinking that maybe now isn’t the time to be silent.

I am a gay, American woman of immigrant peoples and have serious concerns that my country is on a path of destruction and discrimination. I have significant worries that this administration’s policies are not policies that will “make us great’, but in fact, do quite the opposite.

On the morning of the “Woman’s March” that was held in Washington and nationwide, the Princess and I went to see the motion picture, “Hidden Figures”. The movie is based on the brilliant, black NASA physicist and mathematician, named Katherine Jackson, who was instrumental in the early years of the US space program. We both wanted to participate in our loc0al march, but prudently decided that my claustrophobic issues and our rainy weather would be reason enough to stay away. So, instead we went to an early showing of this film and were pleasantly treated to a quality story and an excellent reminder of past times.

As I sat in the theater, immobile with emotion, I couldn’t help but see the juxtaposition of the day. We were watching first-hand the outward discrimination of Ms. Jackson and her co-workers as they heroically pushed on, day after day, insult after injury. At one point in the movie, Ms. Jackson’s boss questions why she’s taking such “long breaks” during the day. He discovers, to his great embarrassment, that it was because there were no “colored restrooms” nearby. NASA’s only bathroom “of color” was over a half a mile on the other side of their campus, so she had to run back and forth every day; rain or shine.

It’s when her boss, played by Kevin Costner, takes mallet in hand and smashes the sign hanging over the woman’s restroom that says, “For Coloreds Only”, and declares to his employees, “As long as we pee all the same color at NASA, we all use the same bathrooms,” that the tears started to uncontrollably roll down my checks and my body felt sick with shame.

There I sat in a luxurious, remote-controlled, padded lounge chair – the epitome of American ingenuity and affluence, watching a movie depicting discrimination of a minority from the 1960’s; acutely aware of the various marches taking place outside of our local theater, and it sadly dawned on me, “Are we repeating history once again? Has America elected a man so intent on 0making this country “great” that he’s going to do it at the cost of those that actually DID make it great?”

We’re a country based on differences; a country based on acceptance. We’re all human and all valuable and all “pee the same color”. So, let’s not take that for granted, and let’s remember who we are – a country of dreamers and inventors and a country of freedoms and of hopes.

I care not that you voted for “him” or voted for “her”. I care that you stand up for what is right and what is wrong. It is important that we go forward, with the understanding that no man is better than the other; and no woman less than, either.

We must not go back to a time when “colored bathrooms” is a concept we agree to – whether in practice or in silence.

We’re all human and all valuable.

And all “pee the same color.”

I pray we all remember that and pray we all dream on.

Until the next time, be kind to each other, and I’ll catch you the next time, looking at life from my shoes.

A Rainy Day Analogy

Northern CA. has been getting pounded with weather this past month, and if the truth be told, I’m one of those crazy individuals who actually likes the rain. I find it cleansing and sometimes a signal to slow down with the day-to-day busyness of life and curl up with a good book.

Slowing down and napping on a sunshiny day just doesn’t seem right. One time I actually told my Pastor that I couldn’t understand how people could in fact die on a sunlit day – that death seemed more appropriate for rainy, cloudy days – and that life and living seemed more suitable for sunny days. Needless to say, my Pastor was a little flummoxed with our conversation that day. She awkwardly changed positions on our couch many times, while she tried to explain to me just why I may not have a choice in the matter.

I respectfully listened and acknowledged her reasoning, but it’s been 8 years since we had that little chat, and I still think it’s unnatural to die on a cloud-less day. Just seems like an oxymoron of sorts to me, but what do I know? The Princess and I are moving to the state of Washington, soon.

I don’t think I’ll have that problem any more.

That’s what all my well-meaning friends and relatives keep telling us: We’re headed to the land of constant rain slickers and duck boots, and sunglasses are a thing of the past; or so we’ve been warned. Guess it’ll make my impending twilight years and eventual death easier to deal with, eh?

At least my rainy-day analogy says so.

And it’s not death that has me so concerned these days, as much as the concept of growing old while trying to maintain my dignity and independence.

As I write this, I’m struggling with the fact that my mom and loved ones are three thousand miles away from me trying hard to maintain some semblance of independence; some modicum of respect and autonomy. Each of them fighting hard not to be an imposition on their friends or relatives, and each of them realizing that Father Time is playing havoc with their bodies.

In 1983, in response to her 55-year-old mother’s need for extended care after she suffered a devastating stroke, Keren Brown Wilson built her first assisted living house in the state of Oregon. What she and her husband envisioned when they built Park Place was an assisted living center that provided assistance, while at the same time giving the residents a sense of independence and privacy. She wanted the elderly to feel the sense of being home and not imprisoned or institutionalized, and by many accounts she succeeded.

The problem, as I see it, resulted when she wanted to reach more elderly and went to Wall Street for capital to build more places. Her company went public and their original concept of assisted living got watered-down. She went to Congress and spoke across the country trying to enlist the help necessary to sustain her original ideology, but was hit head-on with the medical and legal road-blocks of the ever-elusive concept of the “continuum of care” ideology.

And sadly, the idea of assisted living, as she defined it, all but died.

As I sit here today in the heart of Silicon Valley and think about how advanced we are in so many areas of society, I can’t help but see the paradox: is our technological evolution creating a people bereft of compassion and humanness, and do we need to seriously re-examine what is important to us as a civilization?

I don’t know about you, but when it’s time for me to hang up my saddle before I ride in my last rodeo, I want to know that I’m going to be assisted by people who care about me. I need to know that I’m not just a chore. It’s important that I am seen for who I am: a loving, kind woman who gave to her family and society and now requires a little assistance in return.

Dr. Wilson continues to advocate for hard-to-serve elders both in the United States and in Central America. I pray that her efforts are soon legitimized and honored by those in power. We seriously need to change our view on aging and what it means to “grow old”.

Until next time, be kind to one another, and I’ll catch you the next go-round, looking at life from my shoes.

 

 

 

People Wanna Know if I Write Fiction

Now that I’m retired, people want to know what I do with all of my spare time. Many are pleasantly surprised that I don’t have a problem filling up my day with meaningful activities.

Between breaks with some heavy-duty storms that Northern CA was pounded with last week, I was bent over on my arthritic knees; looking head first, into a 4-foot hole, with my arse saluting my unsuspecting neighbors. I was trying to figure out why our back-yard sump pump wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do – sump water away from our home and into the streets.  I had difficulty assessing the situation because of all the standing water in the hole and decided to try using a portable pump to help me.

Un-hun.

I got my garden hoses attached to the pump and lowered it into the hole, when it started to rain.

Again, I was bent over with my larger – than – life buttocks shooting straight up into the air, when I suddenly felt water trickling down my hiney.

“No biggey,” I thought to myself. “My socks are totally wet and I need to change them anyways. Not a problem in changing a wet pair of undies, right?”

So, into the house I traipsed, grabbed a new pair of drawers, changed my underwear and socks, and headed for the loo before leaving to my exercise class. I opened the bathroom door, and Molly – the cat that I have the door closed for because she likes to piddle on bathroom rugs –  sashayed pass me.

“Cazzo (Ot-so!),” I said out loud, as I slid into the cat pee.

“I must have accidentally locked her in there when I left this morning for my walk,” I said to myself, while shaking my head in disgust.

“Shoot!”

All right, this was also no big deal. I have many pairs of socks. I changed into pair number 3 and out the door I headed for my morning A.P.E. class at the Senior Center.

Yep.

My Subaru decided that it did not want to start.

Dead battery.

O.K.

No big deal. I had a camper van that wasn’t used in a dog’s age and needed to be run. It was sitting under an ash tree for the past umpteen storms and unbeknownst to me had accumulated all kinds of goodies on the cowl of my van’s hood.

As I began to drive to class, it started misting, and I unwittingly turned on my wipers. Suddenly, my windshield – that was kissed ever so lightly by the morning’s mist – was now an impenetrable lens of mud and muck.

As I drove down Virginia Avenue, blind as a bat, I looked up to the heavens and shouted, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Ya wanna give me a break today?” As if on cue, the heavens promptly opened up and it began pouring – really pouring –  enough so that it cleaned the gunk off of my windshield.

Yep.

The Big Guy came through for me once again.

I got to the Center, pulled into the parking lot, made an abrupt stop and got slapped in the back of my neck with water that apparently had accumulated under the canvas of my pop-up roof.

At that point, I looked up to the skies, told God that he had a great sense of humor, but that he needed to find another muse for his merriment.

And People want to know if I write fiction?

No, People, this is my boring, retired life. Who needs fiction when you’re living life in my shoes?

Stay well, and I’ll catch ya next adventure.

Too Many Runs Down a Snow-Covered Hill

My mother taught me to play fair, be honest, treat people the way you want to be treated and say please and thank you. She forgot to teach me life is sometimes unfair, individuals can be dishonest, people will crap on you, and don’t expect a please and thank you from others.

As an undergraduate of a small, all-woman’s, upstate NY college called, Russell Sage College, I remember my dorm buddies telling me, “Lucie, you need to close and lock your door when you’re out of your room and tooling around. You’re gonna get ripped off some day and someone is going to steal your TV or stereo system. Lock your door, ya damn fool. This ain’t the country, Girl!”

Uh-hun.

I never did understand how someone could take something that didn’t belong to them and claim it as their own. Never made sense to me. I worked for it. I earned it with my hard-earned money. My logic said that if you wanted a portable TV or a stereo system; go out and get a job and earn it.

I was clueless.

Still am to some degree.

I was an education major in my undergraduate days. My friends were at Sage for nursing and physical therapy, so we didn’t see much of each other in our classes throughout the day. Evening meals were special because we’d gather in the cafeteria and swap sundry stories about our eventful days and express our various displeasure with the over-demanding instructors and talk about everything and anything important to young women of our time.

We studied hard, laughed often and shared our hopes and dreams of a promising future. On those rare occasions we got a snow storm and the urge to get silly in the snow, my friends would devise a plan to steal the food trays from the cafeteria to use for sleds. And off we’d go with our contraband and head for the snow-covered hills surrounding the school’s historic brownstone buildings for an evening of sledding and snow-angels.

Being the hell-raiser and prankster that I was, of course I was involved in the whole sordid scenario and was racked with guilt because we were doing something dishonest; something totally against what momma taught me.

“Relax,” Jonesy said, “and walk through the line real casual-like. I’ll put a tray down the back-side of your sweats and nobody will notice. I’ll walk real close to you. Just make sure you don’t walk funny, for Pete’s sake, or we’re all gonna end up in front of J-Board and put on probation.”

Yep.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized my special walk stayed with me well into my high-heeled, corporate days at San Francisco’s Bank of America. Nader, one of my co-workers and buddies, teasingly commented one day, “Benedetti, you need to learn to sashay like the other girls. You walk like you’ve got something stuck up your butt!”

And just in case I didn’t get what he was trying to tell me, he proceeded to imitate what I looked like when I walked; and what Sylvia, the office flirt, looked like when she walked.

Sylvia never walked around with a food tray in her pants.  I, however, was a master. Apparently, I was so proficient in the skill that it came second nature to me.

Served me right. I should have never taken that food tray. It was dishonest, and it was wrong. And I ended up with a funny walk that stayed with me well after my corporate days.

I did have a hell-u-va good time sledding that night, though. Laughed and had a blast until the tray cracked with one too many runs down the snow-covered hill.

We never did get caught stealing the trays that winter. Or at least the cafeteria lady never ratted on us. I always felt she knew what we were doing, but saw no harm in it, ‘cuz more often than not, we returned them, slightly battered and used, but still good for their original purpose.

I’m 61 years old and still can’t sashay like the other girls.  And on those occasions when I’m at a salad bar and spot a food tray, I find myself smiling with fond memories of a time when I remember how important it was to be honest and fair and treat people kindly and courteously.

As we go forward into the next four years of this country’s new administration, may we all be honest, kind, courteous and fair.

And lovingly remind those among us who aren’t, they need to be…

In the meantime, I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.