Friday, March 07, 2008

I'll Give YOU Ten Dollars

Perhaps it was because I’ve been so busy that I am several months behind on my dye job schedule. There is a heck of a lot of grey on my head these days. Entirely too much.

It could have been because my two-year-old grandson, Luke, was (for once) actually acting two, instead of his usual four.

“No! I don’t want to!” he yelled while we were at the bank, hopping on the upholstered chair and pushing every button on my banker’s desk phone, and I suspect, on my banker as well.

It may be that I was just too tired from my ever-increasing job stress and my relentless battles with insomnia and with [is there a word for a chronic inability to eat healthily, drink plenty of water and exercise? If so, please insert here. If not, there should be.].

Maybe it was that I ran out quickly to run multiple errands and just threw on some sloppy clothing and forgot my usual lipstick and earrings.

Most probably, it was a combination of all of the above.

After our seemingly eternal visit to the bank, Luke and I headed to a local department store which shall remain nameless. I needed some picture frames, and Luke apparently needed some good aisle-running, with his frantic Mimi (that’s me!) running behind him. I was finally able to find the perfect frames for my grandsons’ artwork, headed to the check stand, and—that’s when it happened.

The young man at the check stand was pleasant enough. He smiled and said “good morning.” He did his job quickly and efficiently. He bagged the items. And then he took one more look at me and, in the ultra-slow motion that one sees in the movies at that O-So-Dramatic-And-Defining Moment, he pressed one more button. I turned, in that same slooooow motion, looked at the cash register screen, and my head began to pound. The screen said (in a particularly mocking font, if memory serves me) SENIOR CITIZEN DISCOUNT. Ten dollars had been discounted from my bill.

There are no words to convey the thousands of thoughts that assaulted me like the swarm of wicked flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. Here are just a few examples: “You look older than you are.” “You’re an old lady.” “Old.” “You’re old.” You’re really, really old.”

Mind you, I am well aware that 80 is the new 60; 60 is the new 40, etc., etc. And when someone makes a reference to a 75-year-old being in poor health, the first comment out of my mouth is “Goodness—but she [or he] is so young!” But, gentle reader, you must understand that I feel 17. I am, nine times out of ten, shocked when I look in the mirror and it tells me I am not 17.

But even my mirror had never dared called me a senior citizen. And it’s not that I mind growing old, especially considering the alternative, but really! Senior citizen? Already?

After taking a few moments to get the monkeys all settled down and on their way, I decided, mainly for Luke’s sake at that point, to look on the bright side. Ten dollars! How jolly and whimsical! It’s always fun to find a forgotten ten dollar bill in the pocket of a coat or sweater, isn’t it? It’s such a delightful surprise. I had ten free dollars! Yay! I felt a mental note being made: “Find out the minimum age to qualify for a senior citizen discount at this store.”

I managed to get through the rest of my day, going through the motions until I could find some time alone to conduct my top secret investigation. Finally, in the wee hours of the night, I consulted the internet. My shaking fingers typed out those dreaded words—senior citizen discount—and the name of the infamous department store.

How much older did I look to the young man at the check stand? I’m 53. The senior citizen discount begins at 62.

You do the math. I have a date with a bottle of hair dye and a pair of rubber gloves.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Sarah by Any Other Name

It started, as many of my latest adventures have, with an invitation from my daughter, Emma. This time it was to join an online book club-sort of thing, where one writes reviews for the books one has read. It developed into a marathon of attempting to recall the books I have read (having been a voracious reader during various episodes of my life, I envisioned a list of thousands). Emma looked at my list-in-progress and left a note for me that read:
The immediate problem, Mum, is that you haven’t read enough books with titles that contain your first name. Apparently, over the course of my life I’ve read a number of books the titles of which contain my first name. But the list at that point contained a mere six or seven! Them’s fightin’ words, I thought.

Utilizing GoodReads’ search function, I typed in my name and selected a few choice titles. And then, I created a table for all of these titles. Which sadly had to be undone as I had not the wherewithall to turn a table into an image for the sake of displaying a lot of silly inside jokes.

We’re a snarky lot.

Ancient Sisterhood: Lost Traditions Of Hagar & Sarah - I know I’ve got them put away somewhere. I’ll keep looking. How odd.

Dear Sarah Bernhardt - Many a letter addressed to me has included this heading.

Homespun Sarah - We are a SIMPLE people.

Legend of Mother Sarah: Tunnel Town - I always dreamed of helping Harriet Tubman.

Love Me Or Kill Me: Sarah Kane and the Theatre of Extremes - ACTUALLY, this one is neither applicable nor appropriate, IMHO. Some people would probably beg to differ. Beg away! *Dramatic sniff*

Petty Treason: A Sarah Tolerance Mystery - I would NEVER tolerate treason! Unless it was to get my children and / or grandchildren to Canada or Mexico asap so they aren’t sent into a pointless farce of a war, in which case I’m first in line, baby.

Plenty: A Collection of Sarah McLachlan's Favorite Recipes - Sarahs believe in good eating.

S.A.R.A.H. - Give me an S! ...

Sarah Ban Breathnach's Mrs. Sharp's Traditions: Reviving Victorian Family Celebrations Of Comfort & Joy - I love the comfort and joy part, and the thought of reviving Victorian family celebrations at once intrigues and worries me. I am, however, appalled by the last name.

Sarah Bernhardt (Lucky Luke) - This is the actual title. Yay!

Sarah Bishop - Bishop, Priestess, Duchess…you can just call me Sarah, plain and short.

Sarah Canary - It’s just a voice. Nothing more. Please don’t make a fuss.

Sarah Dallas Knitting - I showed that Austin Craft Mafia a thing or two. They’re now calling me The Doña.

Sarah Jane Foster, Teacher of the Freedmen - They’re the guys we got out through those tunnels. Great bunch of guys!

Sarah Laughed - And had extended laugh attacks, complete with wetting of the pants.

Sarah Moon: Coincidences - What are they saying about my face???

Sarah Sze - The Chinese loved me.

Sarah The Priestess: The First Matriarch Of Genesis - Like I said. Just Sarah is fine. I am very modest.

Sarah, In Passing - I feel vaguely disrespected.

Sarah: Women of Genesis - The mother of them all, apparently.

Sarah's Child - I had another after this publication.

Sarah's Dad and Sophia's Mom - Let’s not go there.

Sarah's Daughter - Dahling!!

Sarah's Guide To Life, Love & Gardening - Life: live it. Love: do it. Gardening: enjoy it and try not to kill off too many.

Sarah's Key - I forgot where I left it; I’m pretty sure it’s with those Lost Traditions. How odd.

Sarah's Legacy - I hope to leave a good one. It just won’t involve cash. Sorry.

Sarah's Psalm - 63.

Sarah's Quilt - I am enrolling in a class in January. I WILL make it, dang it!

Sarah's Secret - I’m not telling.

Sarah's Secrets - I remembered some more. I’m still not telling.

Sarah: A Sexual Biography - Please refer to “Sarah’s Secrets.”

Sarah's Sin - Please refer to “Sarah’s Secret” (singular).

Sarah's Song - Personally, I can't decide amongst "Sara Smile" (Hall and Oates), "Sara" (Jefferson Starship) and "Sarah Maria" (James Taylor).

Sarah's Story: Sisters of the Quantock Hills - The alternative, Sisters of Carson, San Pedro, San Antonio, San Jose and Who Knows Where Else, was far too lengthy.

Sarah's Window - I have several, one of which is rose colored.

Saving Sarah - Thank you, Jesus!

Seed of Sarah: Memoirs of a Survivor - I am a survivor, by the grace of God, and my seed is lovely!!!!

Simply Sarah: Anyone Can Eat Squid! - It’s just THAT simple.

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving - You are all quite welcome. Any time.

The Book of Sarahs - All the different Sarahs that are moi.

The Book of Sarahs: A Family in Parts - Once again, Gardena, Carson, San Pedro, San Antonio, San Jose, Moroleon and Who Knows Where Else!

The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough - It is a well-known fact that a Sarah is always the favourite.

The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl - You are all quite welcome. Again.

The Redemption of Sarah Cain - Thank you, Jesus! Again!

The Secret of Sarah Revere - Paul slept through the entire incident. It was an exhausting trip, but someone had to do it.

The Voice of Sarah: Feminine Spirituality and Traditional Judaism - I like to think so.

Waiting for Sarah - The reason my man (wherever he may be) is not yet married.

Water from the Well: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah - Memoirs from my Mezcala (Mexico) days.

Sarah - ‘Nuff said.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Of Feelings and Rainstorms and Dancing

Weight loss is a good thing, right? Right. Except that it may bring up things that had been oh-so-carefully buried. A few weeks into my weight loss program, I found myself facing a torrent of issues I thought were long gone.

Dealing with so many things--past and present--all at once put me in a place of sadness, futility and despair. In this state, I saw all the emotional work I had already done crumbling into a pile of rubble. I reached a point where I could no longer even feel the presence of God or hear His voice. The only words my heart held onto by its fingertips were Job's "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." The only prayer I had left was "Your will be done in me." I walked through a dark torrent of rain for what felt like forever, holding on, sometimes tenuously, to the hope that regardless of how I was feeling, God was at work in my life.

And then...

Breakthrough after breakthrough. One of my sisters told me that she was learning to not let her past abuse define her as a victim. That made me realize that it had been years and years since I had thought of myself as a victim--I saw that there was much ground I had already covered. Issues were revealed to me that allowed me to release other things that were holding me back.

And God's words were being delivered to me from various and sundry sources, including an email from someone with whom I rarely communicate. "The Lord is at hand." "Be anxious for nothing." "I will never leave you nor forsake you." "You are my hiding place, you shall preserve me from trouble, you shall surround me with songs of deliverance." "The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One will save, He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."

He, of course, was always there; it was just my feelings that were different. This was my lesson in the fragility and fickleness of feelings; my reminder that we are to "walk by faith and not by sight." Or feelings.

And then I found a quote by that prolific writer, Unknown, that touched my heart: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain!" The Lord was so gracious, He even showed me His message in terms of my lifeling passion--dance.

Life is rough. We each have own battles, our own ghosts, our own baggage to deal with. It is the nature of life in this earthly realm. Many times our hardships are consequences of our own poor choices, often they are the results of the poor choices of others, and sometimes the storms just come out of left field for no apparent reason.

But we always have our choice of responses. We can choose to live in misery and despair, to give our lives over to anger and coldness and bitterness. We can engage in self-destructive behaviors. Or we can choose to hold on to our faith in the Lord, by our fingertips if need be, and dance in the rain.

Let's boogie!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

As Safe As House Is

What is it about Dr. House that has captivated a multi-generational multitude of hearts?

I chanced upon an episode as I gave the remote a final chance to show me that something on television was worth watching. The intro caught my attention, and I was instantly hooked.

Certainly the man’s compelling attractiveness, razor-sharp wit, impeccable timing and blue-eyed bittersweet gaze must play a role in his popularity.

But wait, there’s more.

House is a foul-mouthed, rude, unkempt, cruel, self-centered lout. Granted, he is always either in tremendous pain or high on any number of pharmaceuticals—legal or not—that help relieve his pain—physical or not. But it is clear that something more is behind all this nastiness.

It seems House has been damaged and betrayed until nothing else matters but winning, and he wins by being right. His brilliance in the realm of diagnostic medicine is unrivaled. It is the only thing he trusts; the only thing to which he gives his all. Oh, he does desire other things—faith, friendship, love, companionship. But the part of him that would have been able to gain all of this is as broken and pain-ridden as his mangled leg.

Yet we care about House. We want him to escape from his self-imposed prison—the one that we can see so clearly but he cannot. Week after week we watch him as we would a beloved child who is throwing a tantrum, horror and amusement intermingling as we hear him say aloud all those awful things we sometimes secretly think, as he does those things we sometimes wish we could. He brings us face to face with our own failings and our own foulness.

As we identify with him, we want to love him through it. We want to keep him safe until the tantrum is over. Until he is released from the trap. Until his brokenness is healed. Until he has found faith.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I cannot recall exactly when I became Brahtti, or rather a part of Brahtti. I know I was too young to find the word in the dictionary, although it would have been futile to try.

Prior to becoming one of (the?) Brahtti, I had lived in a very small town in Mexico where evening entertainment consisted of playing in the street with the neighborhood children--roughly 50 or 60--until our parents had shouted to us to come in at least 10 times and we had shouted back "Just a little while longer!" at least 11.

This changed when the wealthy family of the neighborhood bought a black and white television set and those of us who had a centavo could sit on the floor of their living room and watch a show. There were so many of us and the T.V. was so small that it was difficult to see. It was doubly difficult to hear, given all our excitement and the munching of our pumpkin seeds from newspaper cones, but we were all awed to be taking part in this new thing called television.

A year later, when I was five, my family moved to the United States, and wonder of wonders, we soon had our own television set in our very own living room! We did not have to pay a centavo to watch it, and there were a lot more shows. Everyone spoke English on this new set, but my sister and I were learning the language quickly. What's more, this television actually addressed its audience, which is how I came to discover that I was part of Brahtti.

At first I thought Brahtti was a particular person, but soon I realized it was the name given to us, the collective audience. Prior to each show, there were things that we were asked to buy: shaving cream, cereal, soap, cigarettes, etc. They would say something like, "And now we present Dobie Gillis! Brahtti, YOU buy Tide detergent." [You might want to say this out loud a couple of times for best results. "Brahtti" rhymes with "hot tea"] I noticed that they always emphasized the "you", and I was unsure if they were being a little too demanding, or just trying to make each one of us Brahtti feel special.

Because I was trying to learn the culture as well as the language, I took my cues from the people that would show Brahtti how to do things such as spread peanut butter (huge amounts, followed with a flourish of "s" as in Skippy), apply shampoo (LOTS of suds) and conditioner (toss my head s-l-o-w-l-y back and forth to show how rich and manageable my hair was) and even relate to the boys (wink, smile, and walk away).

In those days there were door-to-door sales people, which took my Brahtti status to a whole new level: face-to-face contact. Mama would ask me to interpret for her when these folks would come around, and I would have to explain that no, we could not purchase anything. Sometimes, however, they would leave samples for us. One such sample was the beautiful little bottle with a liquid that smelled of violets. The sales representative asked me to tell Mama that it was toilet water. We both stared at the little bottle in amazement. What a country! Even the toilet was supposed to smell lovely after every use. I proudly placed it on the commode and used it. Every time. After all, I was BRAHTTI.