I love fall.

Love red and gold leaves sprinkled like “jimmies” over the lush green grass.

Love the crisp cool mornings that demand an extra cup of coffee after we come in from walking.

Love the long, dark evenings when I can stay home curled under a blanket watching new episodes of my favorite TV shows.

Love pulling on cozy warm sweaters and wrapping soft scarves around my neck.

Never mind the cold rain slicing through the sky this minute.

Never mind that fall means an end to flowers and leaves and picnics.

Never mind that winter will follow on the heels of this, my favorite season.

In just about eight weeks, smack dab in the middle of fall, our family will be gifted with new life.

And the season will never be the same.

I love fall.


Time Passages

It’s after 6:30 in the evening and our beautiful fall morning has morphed into an evil dark and rainy night.  I’m sitting here at my computer, surfing the internet, and waiting for my husband to come home from work.

If I had a dollar for all the hours I’ve spent waiting for this man during the past 38 years, I know I could retire to Newport Beach and live the high life.

I’m one of those pathologically prompt people  – I arrive places way too early, just to make sure I’m not late. My dear husband, on the other hand, is not of that ilk.  He waits as long as possible before getting ready to embark on any journey.  Back in the early 1970’s when we started dating, his scheduled arrival times were always “between” two numbers, usually within a 30 minute window.

“I’ll pick you up between 7:00 and 7:30,” he’d say when he called to arrange a date to dinner. “I’ll be there between 8:00 and 8:15,” he’d promise, when I asked him to drive me to school in the morning. So there I’d sit, all clean and shiny and ready to go.

And I’d wait.

And wait.

Finally, I’d hear the distinctive purr of his 1971 Mach One Mustang turning the corner.  I’d dash to the mirror for a quick check of my hair, rush out the door, and run to the curb so I could jump in the car before he had a chance to turn into the driveway and waste more precious time.

After we were married and he started working, I waited even more.  Seventy hour work weeks were not unusual for young automotive engineers, and he was one to make sure every “i” was dotted, and every “t” was crossed before he left the job site.  I spent a lot of time peering out the window for a glimpse of his car turning down our street.  Sometimes he could call and give me an estimated time of arrival, but mostly I was left to wait and wonder.

Fast forward 35 years, and I’m still waiting. Now at least, I get text messages with updated stats on ETA and drive time progress. I pass the waiting time with Facebook conversations and blog hopping. I get dinner into various stages of preparation, so that I can assemble it quickly when he finally arrives.

And when I hear the automatic garage door start to roll open, I run to the mirror and quickly check my hair.

It’s a good thing he’s still worth waiting for.

Much Ado

There was a huge kerfuffle about the “new Facebook” last week while I was away, and I purposely refrained from joining in because (1) I was traveling and using Facebook only on my iPad which didn’t appear to be affected; and (2) I thought the whole uproar was simply much ado about nothing.

Today I logged on for the first time since the big makeover and must admit the complaints are valid. But in the overall scheme of “life in general,” changes to the Facebook format are hardly worthy of the hue and cry they warranted last week, so I will restrain myself from further hyperbole on the subject.

Things seem to become blown out of proportion so often in the world today.  It’s human nature to complain, and because of things like Facebook we’re all able to vent our frustrations more readily. After all, when the Pony Express riders changed their route, or the corner newstand raised prices on the Daily Gazette, any complaints about the matter were likely to remain between families on the homestead or folks meeting up in the general store.  Nowadays, when our social network gets reorganized we have the perfect vehicle with which to voice our displeasure to the entire world  –  that very same social network itself.

However, it’s part of the risk we take in placing our personal lives within the framework of a huge conglomerate like Facebook. They have the prerogative to change things up however they please. If you’ve spent any time on the internet at all in the past 10 years, you must realize it’s anything but static.

Change is the lifeblood of the digital age, and regular transfusions are mandatory.

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, perhaps we should marshal our indignation for things that really matter, rather than making a fuss about new Facebook formats.

There is much going on in this world that’s worthy of ado. Maybe we should all be about making it.

Another Lost Art

The only “C” grade I ever received in elementary school was in handwriting. It was in third grade, and we were just beginning to learn cursive handwriting. I didn’t think my performance was SO bad – perhaps my words were a little fat and wobbly and reluctant to stay neatly perched on the lines. Handwriting was a separate subject line on our report cards in those days, and I remember being completely appalled at that letter “C,” sticking out like a scarlet letter amongst the “A’s” and “B’s.”

I redeemed myself by the end of fourth grade, and had developed a beautiful penmanship almost exactly like my mother’s. It was elegant and feminine, and flowed neatly in a perfect slant toward the right margins of the paper. I was vain about my handwriting for many years, although sometimes I tried to mimic my friend Jill’s writing which was completely vertical so that each word stood up smartly as it marched across the page. Her handwriting was very different from the way we were taught to write, and I envied the way it expressed her slightly rebellious personality.

Handwriting doesn’t merit it’s own subject line on report cards anymore, and isn’t really worthy of much time or consideration in today’s curriculum. Children are taught to print clearly, and given some rudimentary training in the basics of forming cursive letters. They focus on keyboarding skills, which will probably be their primary method of written communication. Keyboarding is more functional, but writing by hand is much more mysterious. It’s always amazed me that each person has a unique way of creating letters on a page, even though we’re all taught to form the letters in a certain prescribed way. Handwriting was once a way of expressing individuality, and now it seems all our digital advances just serve to homogenize us, lumping us into categories and numbers.

I feel a bit sad about that, just as I feel sad about not getting handwritten letters in the mail anymore. As a child, I loved seeing my grandmother’s familiar handwriting on the envelope bearing a birthday or Valentine’s Day card. My uncle, who was an engineer, always signed his cards in a distinctive slanted print of entirely capital letters. My father’s handwriting fascinated me, for it slanted to the left instead of the right, even though he wrote with his right hand. Their handwriting was as distinctly personal as their voice or their fingerprint. And I was saddened to see their handwriting deteriorate with age, becoming weak and wobbly like my early attempts back in elementary school.

Most of my handwriting these days is confined to the pages of a journal or the
To Do list on my kitchen table. My handwriting isn’t so beautiful anymore, but if I set my mind to it I could probably recreate those lovely fluid lines I was once so proud of. Perhaps I should make a habit of writing by hand more often, before the art of handwriting is lost forever.

How about you? Does your handwriting express anything about your personality or individuality, or is it entirely functional?

Talking to Strangers

There’s a  little patio bar atop the Bayside restaurant at Venetian Village in Naples that’s become our local – the place we stop mid-afternoon for a glass of wine or a beer. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know Scott, the bartender, pretty well.  Scott’s one of those guys who knows everybody pretty well. There’s definitely a local clientele at The Bay, but Scott never sees a stranger, and no matter where you’re from or how long you’re in town, if you’re sitting at the bar when Scott’s tending, you’re a regular.

On a nice day, when it’s not so humid that your wine glass drowns in its own sweat, or so windy that the plastic sheeting surrounding the bar gets battened down, we might sit there for an hour or two, staring out at the McMansions that line the bay with regal finesse, or the McYachts moored in stately splendor. And every time we go to The Bay, we get involved in fascinating conversations with strangers.

I typically don’t talk much to strangers. For one thing, I’m pretty shy and it’s hard  for me to strike up a conversation with someone I’ve never met. For another thing, the old axiom about “never talk to strangers” has been a hard one to let go of. In the 1960’s when I grew up, it was drummed into our with mind numbing regularity. But at The Bay, it’s expected. Maybe it’s like that at all neighborhood bars, I don’t know, because we don’t have a local here at home. It seems like people around here like to keep a healthy distance, even when they’re drinking. Maybe they’re afraid you’ll steal their secrets, or gather some information you can use against them. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, the few times I’ve sat at the bar anywhere around here, people don’t generally talk much amongst themselves.

But people at The Bay are very gregarious. Everybody seems to know Scott, so we all have that in common, and we tease him about his golf game or ask him about his dogs. There are always some tourists, so we all chime in with our favorite places they simply must see-eat-shop-golf. There are usually a few older men having a cocktail after a round of golf, and occasionally (if I’m the resident cute young thing, which I often am – this is Naples, you know) they’ll flirt with me a little.

Yes, I even flirt back.  It is The Bay, after all.

We once met a wonderful horsey couple from southwest England who spend every November in Naples. We exchanged email addresses and I’m under strict order to contact her the next time we’re across the Pond. We met a couple who had just purchased a vacation home to be close to their daughter and her husband who were living in the area. (Sound familiar?) We’ve surreptitiously eavesdropped on conversations with brokers, realtors, business partners, and probably lovers.

It’s just about our favorite place in Naples, and I think that’s because it’s an opportuity to connect with interesting people, even if only for a few minutes.

Our friend L., a world traveler whom we’ve been lucky enough to travel with on occasion, is famous for his habit of carrying on conversations with strangers in every corner of the world. He’ll saunter up to just about anybody in the street and start talking. “I like that hat!” he’ll exclaim. Or “What a great car!” If the person happens to be walking a dog, we know we might as well duck into a coffee shop because they’re liable to be there all morning. I love to watch him engage people in conversation, and rarely do people fail to be engaged. They might appear non-plussed for a moment, especially in foreign countries, as if such an affable American is an real anomaly. But within a second or two they’ll be smiling and gesturing, and the two will part with smiles and a handshake.

It might be nice if we talked to strangers more often. These days we often bury ourselves in our electronics rather than make eye contact with anyone. I’m guilty of that – if I’m having a cup of coffee at Panera, or waiting for my mom to finish grocery shopping, I’ll whip out my phone and check e-mail, or Facebook, or the latest blog post. Instead, I could look around the room, make eye contact with a stranger, and initiate a conversation.

It makes the experience more memorable for everyone.

How about you? Do you talk to strangers much?

Retail Therapy

Once upon a time, before recessions and job losses, I shopped a lot – or at least it seems like a lot when I look back on it. In comparison to some women, I suppose it was trifling. But in my younger days, I enjoyed a good bit of retail therapy.  It was fun to get new things.  A shiny pair of earrings for instance, or a cute little purse. Some fun throw pillows for the bed, or new placemats for the kitchen table.

And books. Lots of books.

I’ve about outgrown my love of shopping, at least in terms of feeling the need to shop to lift my spirits. I don’t want any more “stuff” for my house (at least, not this house), and clothes don’t excite me the way they once did. I’d usually rather spend my time walking around a nice park than a shopping mall, and I’m just as happy with getting most of my books from the library.

It’s probably a good thing that age has eliminated some of my need to buy, because unless I take up online sports betting and develop a pretty good winning streak, I can’t see throwing money away on needless stuff. I’d rather save it up for trips to Dallas to visit my grandson, or to the brand new Disney resort in Hawaii. Besides, someday people around here (namely my husband) are going to want to retire, and with the investment markets as insecure as they are, no matter how much money we save I have a feeling it won’t be enough. Unless  our mutual fund managers also start to place bets on the Detroit Tigers while they’re still winning.

So I look for “therapy” in places other than stores – in a walk around the block, a cuddle with my puppies, a nice glass of wine and a good movie on the DVR.  All relatively cheap, and very therapeutic.

Recovery Mode

Yesterday was an “old school” kind of day that involved a long rehearsal in the morning followed by grocery shopping, early dinner preparation, and then helping out at evening auditions for a new community theater group. I’m moving a little slower than normal this morning, but after doing a three mile walk with my buddy Leslie and downing a 10 ounce bottle of water, I’m well on my way to a solid recovery.

For many years, when days like yesterday were the norm, I’d slog an extra cup of coffee into my empty stomach and head out the door. At 55, I’m finally learning to listen to my body and honor what it’s telling me about its needs.  I have to credit my daughter-in-law with inspiring me toward a better diet, and toward developing a new attitude about the body’s powers of healing and rejuvenation.  The Asian culture has ancient wisdom about the body and how it works, and how to use nature to help it work better. Having been raised in the latter part of the 20th century with all its advances in medical technology, I was steeped in the outside interventionist mode of treatment.  When something is wrong, you take a pill for it. If it doesn’t get better, you go to doctors who can blast it with chemicals.  If all else fails, they’ll happily cut it right out for you.

Now I’m more inclined to give my body a chance to heal itself, and to do what I can to help that natural progression along.  I’ve made exercise a part of my daily life, I drink a lot of water (from a BPH free plastic bottle, or even an actual glass!), and I eat smaller portions of healthier foods, I try to get at least seven hours of sleep.  I’m not perfect at any of this, but I’m getting better.  For the past 18 months I’ve not been sick once – not even one of the chronic sinus infections that have plagued me for years.

Like so many things in life,  self-education and responsibility are key. Dr. Andrew Weil, a long time advocate of natural health care practices and integrative medicine, wrote something that makes a lot of sense to me. “We are too occupied with managing cases of established diseases, most of which are lifestyle related and preventable. The essence of prevention is not colonoscopies and mammograms; it is understanding how our life choices reduce or increase the risk of disease.” Obviously there are times when modern medical treatment is necessary and valuable.  But I’d like to do everything I can to avoid that situation in my life.