Monday, June 24, 2013

The Benefits of Retirement

1.    You get to be the boss of you.

2.     Ditch the alarm clock.  On those rare occasions you need one, use the one on your iPhone.

3.    No more dreading Mondays or looking forward to hump days.  Your weekends and holidays will be truly your own and not time you have to spend on work related deadlines.

4.    No more government briefs, work guides, and data charts.  You get to learn and develop, read and write what YOU want.

5.    Every day is casual Friday or wear-your-jeans-to-work day. Throw in there an occasional day where you spend it all in your pajamas or rattiest sweats out of love and respect for all your friends who can’t.

6.    While you are at it, redo your closet and get rid of all constricting and confining clothes and shoes.  You don’t have to be athletic to shop in the athletic department; buy yoga pants, sensible sneakers, and sports bras in protest against all the years you spent stuffed into suits and stilettos. 

7.    You will not only save $$$ on your simplified wardrobe, but also on car maintenance, cosmetics and toiletries, and on sleep aides and energy drinks.

8.    Breakfast becomes a fantasy come true. No more instant oatmeal, frozen toaster things, or donuts. You can actually sit down to breakfast, enjoy a second cup of coffee or tea, and read the morning news in the morning.

9.    You will also be able to streamline your email and phone contact lists. Delete all those folks you never really liked or respected but had to pretend in order to keep your job. Remember quality over quantity is a reality and no longer a myth. Create space for those folks you do like and for new friends; cleanse your soul of all that negativity and restore balance and peace in your life.

10. Retirement will also improve your overall health. Your dentist will notice that your dry mouth syndrome has improved; your internist will likewise notice a drop in your high blood pressure and your LDL levels.  All because you no longer have to pretend smile or put up with people you do not like or respect. Life is good on this side.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Shame of Crones

Honestly, there are times when a mother’s job is done and she should step back and let her grown sons go about their own business. 

Did anyone else notice that if Catelyn Tully Stark had stayed home weaving those wreaths she made out of vines, twigs, and feathers and defended Winterfell, instead of traipsing all over the Seven Kingdoms and acting like the self-proclaimed Hand of the King to her son Robb, Season Three of Game of Thrones would have ended on a much happier note?

Once widowed, she and Jon Snow could have easily protected their castle against the traitor and womanizer Theon, but she lets her husband’s bastard son go off to The Wall and she follows Robb, leaving her little sons in charge of a castle - defenseless.  Just what was she thinking?  

Bran and Rickon were left homeless, Arya  ping ponged all over the north struggling to find her mommy and big brother, and Sensa (the weeniest Stark of all) was foisted from one Lannister to another at King’s Landing (though Tyrion is a huge improvement over Joffrey).

Catelyn is no better than her sister Lady Arryn who doesn’t know when to stop breastfeeding a child. A grown man, a KING, does not need his Mama calling the shots. Catey should have taken parenting lessons from Cersi.   
It is because of Catelyn’s meddling that caused Robb’s death.  So what if he didn’t marry the ugly, unmarriageable Frey daughter. (He’s a medieval king.  He can do whatever he wants.) Her anger at him for not honoring the betrothal promise was nothing compared to the act of treason she committed when she released Robb’s prize prisoner.  Knowing that her son will not execute her did not make up for the loss of respect and trust she caused from his followers. When she urged Robb to attend the Red Wedding, beg forgiveness from Lord Frey, and allow himself to be ridiculed (ahem, he is a KING), it left him vulnerable to further disrespect. It was no surprise that Lord Frey thought nothing about murdering a King in cold blood while he munched on a drumstick.
Meanwhile, back at King’s Landing with the MVP of all mothers:

Cersi’s hold over Joffrey diminished with each episode.  He did not consult Mommy when he broke his betrothal to spineless and flat-chested Sensa and got engaged to the sexy and voluptuous Margaery.  He knows his kingly rights and has no patience with those who betray or sass him, ergo Cersi knows when to speak and when to keep quiet. She prefers her head on her shoulders and not decorating the castle keep. 

It worked for her.  In the end, she is still alive and well, so is her family, her home, and her kingdom, whereas kudos for Catelyn who singlehandedly destroyed everything good and noble around her.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mi Papa Abuelo

My paternal grandfather passed away when I was two and a half, but I still remember him.  If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can hear his voice. He spoke in polite Spanish with everyone, the kind of Spanish one uses to show respect.  He used it with me also.

He wasn’t warm and fuzzy like my dad, but he wasn’t gruff or cold either though he was known to be stern.  Not with me. 

Others, even his grown children, hesitated before approaching him casually, but I was too young to be afraid of him and would crawl onto his lap.  I would ask him questions and he would smile and answer me.

We lived nearby and would go visit him and Mama Abuela every weekend.  He had property out in the country where he raised livestock but lived in town and kept one or two horses, maybe one cow in the corral next to his house. I would walk alongside him whenever he went out in the yard to check on them.

I remember owning a pair of red cowboy boots which he thought were pretty amazing.  I had on a little sun dress the day we walked out to the corral. He placed a booted foot on the lower rung of the fence.  I did too, except I had to hike my leg a little higher than his.  I remember I looked up when I heard him laugh, but he just looked away, a smile on his face, and pretended he was studying the horse.

One visit he didn’t come out to greet us.  I checked through the whole house and couldn’t find him, so I asked where he was.  My dad’s oldest sister burst out in tears and scolded me for my insolence.  Another went and told my dad that “la niña” had asked for Papa Abuelo.

Dad had to be the one to tell me that my grandfather had a weak heart and had died.

I remember missing him, but I didn’t cry.  When the grownups all went into the living room to greet visitors, I went back into his bedroom.  I climbed onto his high bed and lay down on his pillow, but my aunt found me and scolded me again.

I went outside to the corral.  It was empty.  No horses.  No cows.  I stood where we had been not so long ago and I hiked my sandaled foot onto the bottom rung wishing he were there to laugh at me. 

Family does not believe that I remember something that happened when I was so young, but I prove it to them.  I describe the house, the corral, my grandfather. He is more than a memory; he lives inside me. There are times when I am around my own children and grandchildren and I respond to them with the same love and respect and in the same manner as he treated me. I believe the him in me will carry forward forever.  Maybe this is what we mean when we say that our loved ones live on in us.

I know that would make him smile.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Crouching Tiger-Family

I had no desire to visit China.  Give me Italy, Spain, England any day.  I want to travel but to a country where I recognize the food and speak the language. I want to eat with a fork and a knife, and I do not want to squat to do my business. (At my age, I am not a very agile crouching tiger.)

It has been one year since my husband HoneyBunch and I spent seventeen days in China, and I can now look back and not hold it against him anymore.

It’s not that I didn’t like China; it just wasn’t on any of my bucket lists.  And though he may deny it, it wasn’t on any of his.  I distinctly remember taking him to a travel presentation where he went all Kung Fu Panda on the sales agent. The poor man was talking about the sites we would visit in China and the history we would learn, and HB said some pretty ugly things about Mao and Communism.

Needless to say, my husband and I didn’t stay for the slide presentation of Tuscany.

What changed HB’s mind?  Why did we spend our trip-to-Italy money on a seventeen-day tour of China?

His son.

His oldest went to China on a one-month vacation and  returned soon after to pursue an interesting job offer – just a little diversion until he decided what to do with the seven years of expensive schooling from UT-Austin paid for in cash by his father.  He worked at several jobs while there and eventually met a wonderful young woman and got married.  They were making plans to move to the states, so HB figured this might be our one and only chance to meet our Chinese in-laws. He booked us on a tour for the first twelve days and then added a four-day detour into the interior on our own to visit family. 

For four months I practiced with chopsticks, worked out at the gym (because the brochure warned us there would be a lot of climbing and walking), and read up on Chinese history.  I had a lot to learn. Nowhere in the seven thousand years of history was there mention of Mulan, Jackie Chan, or the Karate Kid.  The only Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a made-for-America movie that scored big at the box office.

It was a bit overwhelming but made sense when we were able to attach book knowledge with the museum artifacts and the structures that have survived through the ages.

It all feels like a dream a year later, but what stays with me most is my daughter-in-law’s family.  Now that the kids live nearby, we often talk about “home.” She Skypes and emails with them on a regular basis.  They ask about us, and we send our regards. Despite our language barrier and all the thousands of miles between us, one thing is real – mess with our family and awaken the hidden dragon in all of us.