Enough with the charity calendars!

IMG_20160829_110205540[1]The pink invoice means my payment is late. But wait, it’s OPB, and I never promised to pay them anything. Second notice, my ass. And no, another decal or membership card is not going to make me pay up.

It’s just one of many ways non-profits and charities try to get my money. Most of them send gifts, such as:

  • Calendars, so many calendars, with pictures of birds, dogs, Oregon scenery, flowers, famous paintings, and random photographs. Big calendars, little calendars, tiny ones for my purse. Nobody needs 20 calendars, and I’d like to choose my own.
  • Mailing labels, millions of them, never quite as I would like my name and address to be printed but often with cute pictures so I use them.
  • Notepads. I don’t need any more notepads, and I feel guilty throwing unused paper away. Stop!
  • Decals I have no use for. Since the crash of 2015, my car is decal-free, and the filing cabinet on which I stick such things is full.
  • Greeting cards. I have more than anyone could ever use. These days, I send more animated e-cards than the paper kind. I keep promising myself I’ll start sending notes and cards, but it’s not happening.
  • Datebooks, calculators, flashlights, magnifying glasses, key fobs and pens, all from the National Federation of the Blind. Most of these are great, but now I have multiples which I can neither sell nor give away.

Although the law says we are under no obligation to fill the envelope that is always enclosed, the charities make it look like we owe them. They send notices that say, “Did you receive your calendar? Please respond with payment,” or “We still have not received payment for the greeting cards we sent you.” They’re counting on guilt to make us pay up, and sometimes it works.

Oh, and then there are pleas to hurry up and send a payment before this campaign or this matching opportunity ends. The Alzheimer’s and cancer people use this tactic a lot. The more they push, the less likely I am to give.

I do send checks sometimes if the “gift” is particularly enjoyable or I’m feeling generous. It’s not that I don’t care. But I’d much rather they stop sending crap I don’t need and spend that money on their charities. How many blind people could the federation help with the money they spent sending out that cool light-up magnifier last month? Stop sending junk, especially non-recyclable junk that’s going to end up in the landfill.

I worry about people like my dad. He doesn’t always understand that he doesn’t have to pay for this stuff. Confused at why he’s getting a bill, he will send letters, make phone calls and even visit in person trying to figure out how he suddenly owes them money. He will lose sleep and possibly cash. People shouldn’t have to figure out what’s real and what’s not.

When I receive mail in my mailbox or my post office box, I hope for something real, a letter, good news, a book I ordered, but mostly what I get is charity mail. I am not a wealthy philanthropist. When we get down to the end of the month and I’m calculating whether or not I can afford groceries, I’m not paying for a puppy-dog calendar.

Maybe I should start my own charity, Poor Poets of America. (They always have “national” or “America” in the name.) I’ll send people poems with envelopes enclosed for payment. I’ll send membership cards and mailing labels with pictures of poets who committed suicide. Yeah. Want to join me? I can’t wait for the cash to start rolling in.

What kind of junk mail do you get? Tell us about it in the comments.

The Magic of Tidying Up (aka The Satisfaction of Throwing Shit Out)

IMG_20160822_095957009[1]Tidy up your house and your tidy up your life. That’s the thesis of the book I’m reading now, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. At a writing workshop recently, the teacher made fun of the book, but I felt it calling to me at the bookstore, so I bought it and slurped it down like vanilla ice cream with chocolate on top.

Kondo is Japanese and young. The book has been translated into English. There are cultural differences and concepts I just cannot buy. I don’t think she understands how big a modern American house can be and how much stuff is in it. And how rarely Americans use the word “tidy.” But never mind. I like the idea of simplifying my space by keeping only what “sparks joy” and storing it so I’m not looking at my junk everywhere I turn.

She talks to her things, thanking them for their service, urging them to rest when she puts them in the drawer. She asks her house where things should go. My house doesn’t seem to have an opinion.

Kondo’s way of tidying up is radical. It amounts to discarding at least half of your possessions. You must do it all once, not a little at a time, or you will never get done. (I’ve noticed). You must pull everything out, handle each item, and ask if it sparks joy. If it does not, get rid of it. Not just if it’s useful or still good, but do you love it?

Only when you have discarded everything you don’t need should you think about how to store it. Kondo says, “Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.” Oh, how I know that. I have moved many times. As soon I pull everything out, I begin to realize just how much I have. Oh for the days when I could fit everything in a pickup truck.

Reading this book, I couldn’t wait to start tidying up. I began with my socks, a big mismatched mess. I threw away socks without partners, socks in bad shape, socks that I just hated and never wore. On Kondo’s direction, I rolled the rest like sushi rolls and set them in my drawer. I love it. Now I can find my blue socks, brown socks, and black socks easily. There are no loser socks anymore.

Moving on, I sorted and rolled up my underwear and my stockings, making a satisfying display. It got harder with nightgowns. If you never wear them, Kondo says they have to go. But wait, that one’s so pretty; if I ever have a gentleman companion again, I’d want to wear it. And that one’s so cute. . . .

If Kondo were here in my house, we’d end up screaming at each other. I was raised to use things up, to keep them if they were good, even if I didn’t love them. Never to waste anything. So now to say if it doesn’t spark joy, I need to throw it away? It cost money. It’s still good. I might use it.

It gets worse. Kondo prescribes getting rid of all paper. I repeat: ALL paper. Credit card statements, owners’ manuals, books you’ve already read—out with all of them. You don’t need them. But . . . .

Keepsakes? Keep the memories, get rid of the mug, the tote bag, the photograph, the ash tray your child made in first grade. Greeting cards? Out. It’s the only way you can process your past, she says. Hold on, Marie Kondo.

I like a tidy, uncluttered space. I have been trying to winnow down my possessions, knowing that someday I will probably move to a smaller home and will have to “downsize.” I know that after I die, somebody will get stuck with my stuff. But right now, I like my stuff. It’s easy to get rid of loser socks, but the last Christmas card with my mother’s signature? My wedding gown? Fred’s aquarium jacket with all his badges still attached? My financial records and notes for my books? Not yet.

It’s crazy that we’ve reached a point where we have acquired so much stuff we need a best-selling book to tell us how to sort it out so we can breathe in our own homes. And yet we keep buying more.

This book has more than 10,000 reviews, most of them five stars, on Amazon.com. On Goodreads, a site for booklovers, the reviews aren’t as good. As one writer says, “This book does not spark joy.” Okay, it’s goofy with its talking to things, and it assumes we can all afford to throw stuff away because we don’t love it, that we can always buy another one. But there’s a lot of wisdom in there, too.

My mother would agree with most of what Kondo says. She did not hold on to things. There was never any clutter in the house. She was always after me to clean up my room, especially my closet. She threatened to throw it all out if I didn’t. But hey, I’m a grownup now, and this is my shit. Hands off.

How about you? Are you ready to purge? Where do you get stuck?

There’s nothing like the love of a dog

Annie Feb14C

This week, I have decided to share a poem with you. The left side of the loveseat is mine. The rest belongs to Annie. Enjoy.

On the Green Love Seat

Come into the circle of my arms.

Lay your head upon my lap.

I will rub your belly and whisper

into your floppy velvet ears

that you’re my one true love.

 

Stretch your paw across my arm,

lick my fingers with your long pink tongue,

sniff me with your moist black nose,

fix your amber eyes on mine.

You are my one true love.

 

Let your nails chafe the worn upholstery,

your tan fur coat my clothes,

your fleas walk across my bathrobe.

I will hold you anyway

for you are my one true love.

 

When you whimper in your dreams,

I will hold you closer still,

safe in the circle of my arms

in the endless spinning of the earth.

You, dear friend, are my one true love.

 

Photos and text copyright 2016 Sue Fagalde Lick

Back back: rest, ice, yoga, beans?

Rest.

Ice.

Heat.

Yoga.

Rest.

Chiropractor.

NO chiropractor.

Drugs.

Walk.

Rest.

Lie on a bag of beans.

What?

Everybody’s got advice for the person with the hurting back. That last suggestion came from my dad, who said Grandpa believed in the bean cure. Well, at least that wouldn’t give me indigestion, I responded. Anyway, I don’t have a bag of beans.

Back issues run in the family. My parents went to a chiropractor named Dr. Roy. I think he was about a hundred years old by the time he retired, and God knows what methods he used back in the olden days. I was in my 20s the first time my back went out. It happened after I lifted an enormous amplifier out of the back of my VW bug. I began a long acquaintance with Dr. Birdsong.

The last week has been a real bag of beans, thanks to my wonky back going full-out ballistic. I’m writing this standing, with my laptop on a file cabinet. Wait, my legs are tired. Now I’m sitting on a stool. Soon, I’ll be lying down. On my back. On my side. On the other side. There is no perfect position. Finishing this, I’ll be back at my desk, feeling my thighs go numb. And yes, this is an ergonomic chair! Back to Dr. Schones in two hours.

What did you do, everybody asks. I don’t know. Dr. S. says I waited too long to come in for an adjustment, making me ripe for this grand subluxation (where the bones shift out of alignment). I do know that most days the week before, I sat scrunched up at my desk for hours, fascinated by the project I was working on. Come the weekend, I cleaned house on Saturday and went on a yard-work binge on Sunday. Mowed, trimmed, cut, raked, swept, watered. I was so proud of myself. Monday morning I could not move.

In the worst of it, I had a hard time standing, especially from a sitting position. Ask my dog. I hollered every time at the red-hot pain of trying to unlock the muscles and bones that kept me from straightening up. Suddenly all those sit-coms where a character suddenly can’t move were not the least bit funny. I tried going sideways. I tried coming up from my knees. I tried sliding from a high seat to my feet.

Watching me get dressed would make a fun video. I sympathized with my dad, who had me putting on his socks and shoes after his hip replacement and who still can’t bend all the way down. A week earlier, I was doing yoga, but now I could not bend down or lift my feet up. I considered going barefoot, opted for flip-flops. These are the times that make living alone a challenge. If only Fred were still here to help me with my shoes, lift me up when I needed to stand, and say, “Oh, Babe,” when the pain brought tears to my eyes.

I canceled most activities. I watched far too much of the political conventions and the incessant TV conversations about Trump vs. Clinton. I read, I wrote, and I snuggled with my dog. I penned poems about the fragility of the human body. I prayed for healing.

I am healing. I have been going to the chiropractor. I have been icing my back. I have been trying to keep moving so that I don’t freeze up. It still hurts.I worry that it will never be right again, but Dr. S. assures me I just need to get everything in alignment and let the muscles and tendons get stronger. After today’s adjustment, I’ll feel the raw pain again, I’m sure. But every time I can freely move from sitting to standing, I celebrate. I have been through this before, and I’m sure it will happen again. It’s in the genes. Grandpa lay on beans. Dad went to Dr. Roy. My favorite thing is to lie on my back on the deck with my legs right-angled over the hot tub cover. Takes the pressure off my back. But it’s hard to type that way.

Have you heard the warnings about sitting too long? Google it, and scare yourself. We are a sedentary culture. We don’t move enough, and we pay for it. I see far too many young people limping along with hurting backs. Writers and other computer workers try various options. Standing desks. Kneeling desks. Treadmill desks. Timers to make them get up at regular intervals. Perching on an exercise ball. I love to write and revise. I love getting so involved I forget about time. But my body is paying for it.

Annie is enjoying my lazy life. Wherever I settle, she collapses next to me. It’s very comforting. Until she pretzels herself and licks her bottom. Nothing wrong with her back. She only sits when she wants me to give her food. And she nags me when it’s time for a walk. Dogs are definitely smarter than we are.

If you’re sitting right now, get up and be grateful that you can. If you can’t, I sympathize. I’ll share my hot tub with you.

Just hold the beans.

 

Celebrating Twenty Years in Paradise

Annie at South Beach 22315C

We are gathered here today to ponder me being in Oregon for 20 years.

On July 26, 1996, Fred and I left our home in San Jose, California to start a new life in Oregon. He drove a Ryder rental truck, and I followed in the Honda with the dog, my guitars and my Chatty Cathy doll in the back seat. We had no idea what we were getting into.

I had never lived more than an hour away from my family. I had never lived in a small town. I had never lived where it rains 80 inches a year. If we had not moved, I would never have known that the whole world is not like San Jose. Attention suburbanites: There’s a whole other world out there.

For years, we had vacationed on the Oregon Coast and batted around the idea of moving here. After Fred retired from the city and his youngest son graduated from high school, it seemed like we were free to go.

It happened so quickly we didn’t have time for second thoughts until it was too late. Our house sold in five days. We’d expected it to take months. Suddenly we were quitting our jobs, packing and saying goodbye. If I had to do it again, I probably wouldn’t. Certainly if I had known everything that would happen—my mother’s death, Fred’s long illness and death, me ending up alone—I would have stayed on Safari Drive amid the smog, gangs and traffic roaring right behind us on Santa Teresa Boulevard.

I loved my newspaper job and our house. I loved the music groups I belonged to and the church where I played guitar every Sunday. I had finished my term as president at California Writers and had just been elected vice president of the Santa Clara County chapter of the National League of American Pen Women. Life was pretty good. But the money we made at our various jobs wasn’t enough and the Oregon coast called to us. Up here, we could live by the beach in a more affordable house. I could write and play music. Fred could volunteer at the aquarium. As for the rain, we’d buy raincoats.

So, 20 years. Nearly one-third of my life. If we divide it up, the first third was growing up, the second being a young professional, and the third starting over in Oregon.

Let me toss out a few more numbers:

We lived in Lincoln City one year, Newport one year, and South Beach 18 years. I have been walking dogs along Thiel Creek for 18 years. Six days a week, 1.5 miles a day, times 18 years=2,496 walks and 3,744 miles or all the way across the U.S. and partway back. Add the miles we walked in Newport and Lincoln City, and we’re at least back to Utah.

I have made approximately 50 trips back to San Jose, mostly by car. At 1,400 miles a trip, say 45 trips, that’s 63,000 miles and about 90 overnight stays at the Best Western Miner’s Inn in Yreka, California. I should get a gold plaque or something.

I was 44 when we arrived. Fred was 59, younger than I am now. Later this year, I have to sign up for Medicare. What???

Oregon has given me a lot. Six published books. My MFA degree in creative writing. Twenty years as a church musician. I get to spend my days writing and playing music, which has always been my dream. I have a house with a large, private yard only a block and a half from the Pacific Ocean. I can go to the beach or walk in the woods whenever I want. The air is clean, the traffic is minimal, and the temperature rarely gets over 70 degrees. Of course, we don’t have a shopping mall, serious medical issues require a trip to Corvallis or Portland, and full-time jobs are hard to find, but there’s online shopping, I don’t mind a trip to the valley, and I don’t need a full-time job. I’m already working full-time at work that I love. In other words, we got what we came for.

A week ago Sunday, I attended a concert at Newport’s Performing Arts Center. Walking through the lobby, I kept running into friends from music, writing and church. Lots of smiles, lots of hugs. We knew just about everybody on stage as well as in the seats. I have spent many hours in that auditorium, in the audience and on the stage. I felt this huge sense of belonging as my friend Pat and I settled into our seats. I would not get that kind of feeling in San Jose in a massive venue where everyone was strangers.

Fred and I lived together here for almost 13 years. He spent two years in nursing homes and died five years ago. He absolutely loved Oregon, never had a moment of regret. Over the years, we have lost many family members, including my mother, both of Fred’s parents, Aunt Edna, cousin Jerry, cousin Candi, cousin Dale, Cousin Irene, Uncle Bob, and more. We have also welcomed Candace, Courtney, Riley, Peyton, Keira, Clarabelinda, Kai and Kaleo, Eddie and Wyatt, and more. The cycle of life includes our four-legged loved ones. We lost our dog Sadie in 2007. We gained Chico and Annie in 2009, then I lost Chico in 2010.

My dad, now 94, has survived heart surgery, a broken wrist and a broken hip. My biggest regret of this Oregon journey is not being close to him all the time instead of just a few days or weeks when I visit. When he complains about crime, traffic and heat in San Jose, I encourage him to join me up here, but he is firmly rooted in the city where he was born.

Over the years, I have thought about going home. I miss my family. I get tired of the endless cold, gray winter days. Why am I in this big house alone now that Fred is gone? Most widows seem to move close to their families, usually their children.

But I stay. Why? The opportunities for connections with writers and musicians are huge here. I am allowed to play, sing and lead the choir every week at church even though I have no music degree and I am not a concert pianist. Yes, there are more opportunities in big cities, but you’re one of a crowd.

I might have better luck finding a new man (do I want one?) somewhere else, but when I sit writing on my deck with the dog sleeping at my side, warm sun on my face and a light breeze tousling my hair, I don’t want to leave. It’s peaceful here.

Lots of other people have moved to the Oregon coast since Fred and I came. I’m an old-timer now. California retirees are still falling in love with the place and moving in. But we are unlikely to see our population grow to the point that it’s a problem. Our weather is too challenging, and there’s no easy way to get to the rest of the world–tough roads, minimal bus service, no plane or train service. Also, jobs and housing are scarce. Good. Keeps the riff-raff out.

I like this place where I know lots of people, where the rain has dirt to sink into, where strangers wave at me and Annie as they drive by in their pickup trucks, where I hear the ocean at night instead of freeway noise and sirens, where I can slip away to the beach in five minutes if I feel like it or doze on my loveseat with the dog sleeping beside me. Driving over the Yaquina Bridge into Newport, I look down at the blue waters of the bay, the white boats bobbing there, and the green hills around it and am still awed by how beautiful it is.

On our anniversaries, Fred and I used to ask each other if we were willing to stay together another year. We’d click our wine glasses and pledge not just a year, but forever. It’s time to ask myself that about Oregon and this house. I can’t pledge forever or even a year. Things happen. But for now, I’m staying. It’s home.

***

You can read the story of our journey to Oregon and what followed in my book Shoes Full of Sand. Follow this blog to continue the story.

Finding solace amid daily tragedies

Sky 11914

Dear friends,

The world is going crazy. Every day, the headlines scream of another mass killing. Orland, Dallas, Nice, Baton Rouge. And yet, here in my little patch of coastal forest where the main aggravation is moles tearing up my lawn, I can almost feel safe. Almost. Today I offer a poem I wrote after the killings in Dallas. There have been so many since then I can no longer tell which for which loss the flags are flying at half staff. Let us all pray for peace.

MASSACRE DU JOUR

On TV, in Dallas, a black woman

with turquoise hair fights tears

amid the blood and bullet shells.

 

Three days after Fourth of July,

they thought it was fireworks, late

celebrations by boisterous youths.

 

When the cops fell, the protestors ran,

one picked off by the sniper hiding

in a community college parking garage.

 

Twelve cops shot, five of them dead,

the suspect, a soldier still carrying guns

blown into ash when he wouldn’t give up.

 

The blue-haired lady offers prayers

for the blacks, for the whites, for her kids

who worry that they might be killed, too.

 

President sends his condolences,

lowers the flags to half staff,

rails about gun laws again.

 

Freeways blockaded in Oakland,

subways stopped in New York,

Texans marching with signs.

 

Orlando, Nice and Baton Rouge.

Another crisis every day,

more breaking news for CNN.

 

Talking heads talk on and on,

speculate about why and how.

Ads hawk cars and sleeping pills.

 

My dog leads me out to the trees,

away from the scenes on TV.

A light rain is starting to fall.

 

Drops tickle my face and my hands

as sun warms the bones in my back.

Around me, the pine trees stand guard.

 

Robins trade tunes with the doves,

the Pacific whispers in and out.

In the distance, I hear guns.

**********************************

[Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2016]

 

 

 

Not the hands! Musicians’ greatest fear

IMG_20160711_091241546_HDR[1]One minute I was deadheading my roses and nudging the compost cart along. The next I was on the ground staring at my throbbing fingers. The open cart had become unbalanced and fallen toward me. I fell in among peach parts and chicken bones. I know I hollered as I went down. Only the trees heard, and they said: “What do you want us to do, we’re stuck in the ground?” If a woman hollers in the forest where no humans can hear her, does she make a sound?

Anyway. I landed with my left-hand fingers first, specifically the middle, ring and pinkie fingers. Yes, I’m left-handed. I also banged my left knee and whacked my ribs pretty hard on the rim of the cart, but all I cared about, once I determined I was still alive, was my fingers. I needed them to hold down the frets on the guitar and play the bass notes on the piano. Everything else I could figure out with one hand. I’ve done it before.

As a musician, I always worry about the fingers first. Once upon a time in Lincoln City, OR, I fell down the stairs of our rental house. I still wince at the memory. My injuries were relatively minor but worrisome. My sideways-pointing big toe was the doctor’s main concern, but I kept whining about my fingers, two of which were swelling rapidly, and hey, I had a performance in a three days. I didn’t need my big toe, but I definitely needed my fingers.

This turned out to be not that bad. Nothing broken, just bruised and slightly swollen. After a few days of ice and rest, they’re almost like new, sore and a little purple but workable. I played all weekend. Why did I put my hands out to stop my fall? It’s instinct. Better hands than head, our body says, throwing the hands down before we have a chance to think about it.

A couple days later, I was chopping berry vines at the side of the house, my hands protected with leather gloves. My late husband Fred had left behind this pole saw thing that I had never used, but I just had to get those high vines that were learning on my house. So I studied the thing, hung it on a branch, pulled the cord, and it cut! Excited, I started cutting everything in sight. However, in my enthusiasm, I pulled down too hard right above the chain link fence and whacked the heel of my right hand on the upward-pointing wires hard enough to bruise it. It was at that point I thought maybe klutzy musicians should not do their own gardening. But then yesterday I pinched a finger in my keyboard stand. Another bruise. Fingers are in for it no matter what we do.

Fingers are so vulnerable. They stick out at the end of our hands with no protection. Without them, it’s hard to play guitar or piano or most other instruments—although I do know two talented men who play well despite missing their left index fingers. It doesn’t take much to put you out of business. A paper cut in the wrong place, a mashed fingernail, a mosquito bite. When people shake my hand too hard, I think: Careful! The fingers!

An injury to one little finger can put us out of business. It seems like we should sit with our hands in our laps and do nothing. But we can’t do that. We have to live our lives. I’ve had sprained wrists, torn shoulder ligaments, golfer’s elbow and tendonitis from my shoulders to my fingertips. I’ve worn slings, splints, and braces. I’ve applied “liquid skin” to torn calluses. Most of the time, I played anyway. I have seen guitar players bleed on their strings from cuts that didn’t have time to heal. Life is dangerous. We take our chances and thank God every time we get to play again, even if it hurts.

It’s not just musicians and fingers. Think about the body parts people use to do their work: the artist’s eyes, the pitcher’s throwing arm, the dancer’s feet, the perfumer’s nose. And you would not believe how paranoid I am about my vocal cords. I can’t get sick! I’m a singer. But that’s a whole other blog.

I’m typing this post with all 10 fingers. The keyboard seems to be a safe place, but you never know. There’s always carpal tunnel syndrome.

Worst case, I’ll play my harmonica. No fingers needed.

Comments? Do you have any finger-hurting memories to share?