Dentist

This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. If you want to join me, just add a comment of something you like that begins with the letter D and something you don’t like.

Also, today’s post is my submission for Stream of Consciousness Saturday’s prompt — irony.


“You invite your dentist to your family weddings?” someone asked one of my children when they were being introduced to Dr. Kate.

I think it was Laurel that I was talking to about it, because she said, “I never really thought it was weird until they said that.”

We don’t invite Dr. Kate to weddings because she’s a dentist. We invite her because she’s a friend. She’s been a nearly lifelong friend to me.

I can still picture her when we were kids with her jaw wired shut and her head with a halo screwed into it to keep her neck in traction. I would go visit her every day after school at the hospital before getting a ride home with my father.

It was probably close to three months that she was in the hospital — so that’s a lot of visits! A friendship grows over something like that.

To be totally honest, I’m pretty terrible at keeping in touch with people, so we lost touch during the years that happened between high school and parenting. She went off to the dental school and Navy. I went off to Wyoming. Eventually we both ended up back in Cooperstown.

And yes, she comes to our family weddings. I love my dentist, Dr. Kate.

Helen, Dr. Kate, and Mary all dancing

So I suppose there’s a little irony in the fact that I hate going to the dentist. It ranks right up there with having a gall bladder attack, another not-fun repeated experience in my life, but I’ll save that story for another day.


In Scottish Gaelic:
Is toil leam am fiaclair agam.
(I like my dentist.)

Cha toil leam a dhol dhan fhiaclair.
(I don’t like going to the dentist.)


How about you? What do you like that begins with D? What do you dislike?

Collaboration/Condescension

This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. If you want to join me, just add a comment of something you like that begins with the letter C and something you don’t like.


The other day I was at TJ Maxx returning a few things I had purchased at the same time as my mother-of-the-bride dress when the checkout clerk asked me, “What’s the Rabbit Room?”

I was, at first, startled by the question. Why would she be asking me that? Then I saw her looking at my bag, a lovely spacious bag that I carry everywhere.

My bag has everything I could possibly need if I was stranded in a snowstorm — lots and lots of pens, a blank mini-journal, several other journals, a book (sometimes two), cough drops, scissors, a key fob to get into work, scraps of paper with little reminders on them, a few receipts, an empty glasses case, my wallet, a couple of notes from people I love to remind me who I am, hand sanitizer, a flashlight, and a tic-tac box with one mint left. There’s more, but I’ll stop now.

The sales clerk was looking at my bag as I was shuffling through it trying to find my wallet. On the outside, it says “The Rabbit Room.

My Rabbit Room bag, complete with Rabbit Room personalities pinned to the front

I fumbled for words to answer her. It was like being asked to define family.

I think I said something like this, “The Rabbit Room is a gathering place for creative people. It’s named after a room in a pub in London where JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and some other writers met to encourage each other. It’s both a virtual and a physical space for encouragement, collaboration, and community among artists.”

She looked at me and nodded like she understood. “I had just never heard of it before,” she said.

Once I was back in my car, I tried to rethink my answer. The Rabbit Room is so hard to explain. Community is at its heart. Collaboration is an outworking of that.

Condescension, however, can shut down collaboration with just a word or two.

John Steinbeck said, “There are no ugly questions except those clothed in condescension.”

Unfortunately, there are far too many answers clothed in condescension too.

Condescension is a smothering blanket on any discourse. Can you tell that I don’t like it?

Collaboration allows questions and answers to be exchanged without condescension shutting the whole process down.

The Rabbit Room is place where that happens


How about you? What do you like that begins with C? What do you dislike?

B things

This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. If you want to join me, just add a comment of something you like that begins with the letter B and something you don’t like.


“What’s something I like that begins with B?” I asked Mary.

“Biscotti,” she said immediately. Ooh, I do like biscotti.

“Books,” she said.

“Bosnia.”

“Blue.”

Does this girl know me or what?

“Bugs,” she said.

“I don’t like bugs,” I replied.

“But you need a ‘don’t like,’ don’t you?” she said.

That was the problem. I had had an idea for a post, but when I sat down to write it, my words went off in a direction and I was stuck with a “don’t like” that I hadn’t expected. Sometimes that happens.

But I really do like biscotti, books, Bosnia (one of my best trips ever), and the color blue.

If you want to read what I don’t like, you’ll have to suffer through the next part. Please forgive the TMI.


I am not a shopper. Other than my frequent trips to the grocery store and occasional trips to Target, I really don’t spend much time shopping.

When my oldest daughter set the date for her wedding, my co-workers asked to take me shopping — dress shopping to be precise.

“Um… no,” I said.

“It’ll be fun,” they said.

“No,” I said.

“We’ll make a day of it,” they said.

“Really — no,” I said.

So I went shopping with my daughters. It was a painful experience — leafing through racks of frou-frouey dresses, trying on a few here and there. No, no, no. They all belonged on some other woman, not me. My daughters were great. They were encouraging and kind, but no. We all needed to face the fact that I was not a dress shopper.

In the end I bought some fabric and a pattern and sent them to a dear friend. She had helped me out of this very pinch once before by making a dress for me that I wore to two sons’ weddings.

My friend and I messaged back and forth. She sent me a mock-up of the bodice to make sure it would fit. Finally, about two weeks before the wedding, she mailed the package.

I waited.

And waited.

I messaged her that it hadn’t come. She went to the post office. The tracking number was dead. I pictured my package falling off the conveyor belt of a vast postal facility and getting kicked into some dim corner. Dead.

The wedding was in three days.

This meant another round of dreaded dress-shopping. This time I found one.

But here’s the very worst part of the whole ordeal. Because of the neckline of the dress I found, I had to go bra shopping.

I HATE bra shopping — and that’s my B.

And that’s enough said about THAT.

My new dress matched my daughters perfectly.

 In Scottish Gaelic: Is toil leam biscotti, leabhraichean, Bosnia, agus gorm. Cha toil leam ceannach airson fo-aodach.


How about you? What do you like that begins with B? What do you dislike?

Authenticity/Aches and Pains

This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. If you want to join me, just add a comment of something you like that begins with the letter A and something you don’t like.


Authenticity

I’m applying for a new job. I saw Mary staring at the printed resume and cover letter in my hand. Her brow was slightly furrowed. “What?” I asked. “Does the paper look like it expired in 2017?” It’s kind of a running joke at the house these days. We keep finding outdated food items.

She pointed to the cover letter printed on plain old white paper. “This looks very professional,” she said. Then, pointing at the resume printed on a heavier slightly marbled-looking paper, she said, “But this is more you.”

“Great,” I said. “I’m going to use it.”

I hate trying to pretend to be something I am not. I said something like that to one of my co-workers when I was struggling to hide my irritation with a situation. “Stick with me,” she said, “and I’ll teach you how.”

She is masterful at gooey niceness and then making nasty comments as soon as the person is gone. It bugs me.

And I can’t do it.

Instead of learning to be fake, I would rather learn to appreciate the other person for whatever their strengths are.

And I would rather be true to who I am — dated marbled paper and all.

“The authentic self is the soul made visible.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

Is toil leam fìrinn.
Scottish Gaelic for “I like authenticity.”


I do NOT like aches and pains.

I’ve reached that age of joint pain and arthritis. Honestly, this is for the birds. I hate it.

My shoulder was bothering me a few weeks ago — a sharp stabbing pain when I stressed it in a certain way. I kind of like my shoulder. I especially like it when it’s pain-free.

So I called to see a health care provider in orthopedics about it. I just wanted someone to look at it and, “You’re fine,” or, “This is what’s going on.” My first appointment, which was scheduled two weeks out, was cancelled when the provider got COVID. The second appointment, scheduled two weeks after the first, was exactly what I had hoped for.

I had an x-ray. “You have a little arthritis,” she said, “but I would be surprised if you didn’t.” Advanced age and all that.

“Everything today looks fine,” she said. “Continue your usual activities.” These include swimming and climbing.

That was last week and I still have yet to do either, but I’m glad for the go-ahead.

Cha toil leam pian co-phàirteach.
Scottish Gaelic for “I do not like joint pain.”


How about you? What do you like that begins with A? What do you dislike?

To Stay or Not Stay on the Trail

I’m housesitting for my daughter while she and her new husband are off on their honeymoon. Their home is surrounded by trees, and somewhere back on the property there’s a small cemetery where loved ones were laid to rest in 1800s. The realtor had to disclose that when they purchased the house, but I think it only added to the charm.

I thought about wandering back to find it this afternoon. The cool rainy morning gave way to a breezy pleasant almost-summer day. I knew it would be damp back there, but that’s not what kept me from walking into the woods. It’s poison ivy. I know that’s back there, too. And I know don’t really know the trails.

Where are the trails? Where’s the poison ivy?

Instead, this morning, I tried to drive to the mall. I got part way and the police were detouring cars off the main route. SIRI didn’t like that. Frankly, I didn’t like it either. Especially when the detour signs just stopped and I was heading north instead of south. I figure the last detour sign that was supposed to get me back to the route had either blown away or been swiped by some smart aleck. Either way, it was more trial than trail, so I changed my plans.

I went back to the house and my daughter happened to call. All the way from Iceland. She and her husband had gone for a hike up a volcano.

“I’m so glad we had a guide to take us up the volcano. At one point, he pointed to a trail and said that’s where most tourists go, but it doesn’t take them to the lava fields,” she told me. She had sent me pictures from the hike.

Then she said, “It was so cool walking on the lava field. Our guide also knew when we needed to turn back because of the gases.”

On the volcano

Yes, I was glad, too, that she had a guide who took them off the trail but still kept them safe.

Life is so like that, isn’t it? We need to find that balance between blazing new trails and following old ones.

Sometimes, it’s important to have a guide.

It’s also helpful to be able to identify poison ivy — or poison gases.


This post is in response to Linda G Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt trail/trial.

Happy Memories

A lifelong blessing for children is to fill them with warm memories of times together.

Charlotte Kasl
All my children (at Helen’s wedding – 2022)
All my children to this point (1999)
All my children — except the oldest who was away at college (2003)
All my children — plus a daughter-in-law (2015)
Half of my children (2015)
Two of my children (2010?)
All my children (again) kicking up their heels (sort of) (2022)

Trying to find photographs of all my children proved tougher than I thought! However, I’m pretty sure they would all agree that they have plenty of happy memories together!

Children: the Gift I Didn’t Know I Needed

This weekend I was getting some things ready for a bridal shower for my oldest daughter and came across a notebook in which I had written this quote: “This is often the way God loves us: with gifts we thought we didn’t need, which transform us into people we don’t necessarily want to be.” ~~ William Willimon

I looked up the source of the quote and read through the whole article which you can find here: From a God We Hardly Knew. In short, it is a Christmas message about Isaiah 9:6 — “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” — in which Willimon makes the point that Ahaz, in the original context, was looking for an army and instead God promised a child.

A bridal shower and Mother’s Day seem appropriate days for me to think about my children. I heard from all eight this weekend. Plus all three daughters-in-law. I am rich indeed.

And I never could have imagined this.

Ever.

There was a point in time when I had been told that I wouldn’t have children without using fertility drugs.

Okay, I thought, a family is not in my future.

One of my favorite professors in college had encouraged me more than once to pursue medical school. “I don’t usually do this,” she had said. “I’m usually trying to dissuade students who think they want to be doctors.”

But I got married two weeks after graduating college. I supported my husband while he finished his schooling and began his first job. Once he was settled in, I began thinking about medical school and figuring out which classes I still needed — Calculus and Organic Chemistry. I contacted the nearest university to find out how to enroll.

Then I found out I was pregnant.

When you’re in high school, the guidance counselor never suggests motherhood as a career track. When you’re in college, the career office doesn’t suggest it either. Honestly, it wasn’t even a blip on my life radar.

Yet here I am today to tell you that being a mother — a full-time stay-at-home mother, who decorated funny-looking birthday cakes and washed-dried-and-folded mountains of laundry, who read the same books over and over until I could “read” them with my eyes closed, who played road-sign spelling games to entertain on long road trips and refused to get an entertainment system in our minivan because I WAS the entertainment system, who shopped at yard sales and thrift stores and sorted through bags of hand-me-down clothing because living on one income isn’t easy — being a mother was, and IS, the absolute best thing in the whole world.

Children are the gift I didn’t know I needed.

In addition to all the dandelion bouquets and crayon artwork, I received from them the very best lessons in patience, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, understanding, perseverance, creativity, humor — and that list could go on and on.

There’s a part of me that feels like I need to apologize. I know that not everyone has this opportunity. Not everyone can have children. Not everyone can afford to stay home. Life happens in different ways to each of us.

But I’m not going to apologize. I’m simply going to be grateful.

From the bridal shower

Who Knows?

The other day someone called and asked, “Is it going to be busy in the bowling alley this afternoon?”

“I don’t know,” I said. I thought about making a snarky comment about my broken crystal ball.

I think it was the same day that some called and asked how far we were from Woodstock. “I suggest using Google maps for that,” I said.

That was the same caller who asked about what else there is to do in Cooperstown, NY, besides our sports center. “Most people come here for the Baseball Hall of Fame,” I told her.

“Oh, I don’t know anything about that,” she replied.

How or where she got our number remains a mystery to me. Why someone would call a sports facility with questions like that also remain a mystery.

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

“Where do you see yourself in ten years?” My friend who had asked me about my goals asked me that question yesterday.

Who knows? Literally, who freaking knows?

(Side note: my use of “freaking” indicates what a frustrating question that is, but that’s about as far as I go with “f”-words. Side-side note: I saw an story yesterday that the actor who plays Roy Kent on Ted Lasso had done a bit on Sesame Street about his favorite “f” word — which turned out to be “fairness.” Well done, Sesame Street.)

Where do I see myself in ten years? I started doing mental math on how old my children and grandchildren would be. Laurel, my youngest daughter, would be 28. Wilma, my youngest granddaughter, would be 12. My oldest grandson would be 17. My oldest son would be 47.

The more mental math I did, the more I realized how much I define myself by the people in my life.

So what about me? In ten years, I will be 72.

At the gym I see 72 year old women climbing the rock wall. Heck, I see a 92 year old woman who comes in nearly every day to swim and walk the track.

But if COVID has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that life is fragile and can’t be taken for granted. Health and life can be snatched away with little warning.

Where do I see myself in ten years? Phooey. I hate the question. It ranks right up there with “What’s your goal?”

As hokey as this saying is, I think it holds a lot of truth — “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

(This post is mostly Stream of Consciousness writing based on the Linda Hill’s prompt: nose/noes/knows for today.)

Crying at Yoga

“I’m terrible at yoga,” I told a friend a few years ago after I had tried some yoga. “I keep falling asleep in it.”

My friend had laughed. “I’d say you’re doing it right,” she said.

That was back in the day when my father was still alive and I was sleeping with one ear open in case he wandered in the middle of the night. It wasn’t much different from the perpetual tiredness of a young mother.

I tried yoga because I had heard it was good for de-stressing, but in yoga class, I would lay on the mat, close my eyes, and fall asleep.

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the right way to do yoga.

In retrospect, however, I suppose it was de-stressing.

I also suppose that’s why I wanted to try it again. Life these days is pretty stressful. Suddenly my blood pressure, which has always run low, is in hypertension-land. Suddenly I can’t cry.

I take that back. I DID cry a few weeks ago. I was sitting, alone and upset about life, when my youngest daughter came in the room. I honestly don’t remember what was said or not said. All I know is that she came, sat on my lap, wrapped her arms around me and pulled my head to her chest. I sobbed and sobbed, with my little girl holding me. (Okay — she’s not so little — 18 years old and 3 or 4 inches taller than me.)

It was all wrong.

I’m the mom. She’s the kid trying to figure out life. But I’m a bit of a mess right now.

So, anyhow, I tried yoga again.

I asked an instructor that I enjoyed talking with at the front desk. I’ll call her Edna (because that’s her name). We chatted about this or that any number of times, one of them being a conversation about young people having old names. She’s young and vivacious. Whatever you picture an Edna to look like, she’s not it.

So I came up with the brilliant idea of having a private yoga session with Edna and inviting my daughters to join me. I talked to Edna about it and she was willing. I gave her my number so she could text me some dates.

Later that day, I got a text from an unknown number that began, “Hey, Beautiful – checking my calendar.” I almost deleted it, thinking it was sexy spam or something. A second message followed so I peeked at it and it was Edna. Yep, she calls me Beautiful. That’s how she is.

Yoga with Edna was fun. Three daughters and one daughter-in-law came for the private lesson and it was fun.

But I didn’t cry. Or fall asleep.

Edna gave me confidence, though, that I could try another class.

I went to Restorative Yoga this week. Katherine teaches that class. She’s quiet and gentle and soothing. The class was very meditative.

When she talked about going inside ourselves, I thought about the passage from Howard Thurman — “There is in every person an inward sea, and in that sea there is an island…”

I pictured the sea.

I pictured the island.

I sat down on the beach of the island and stared at the sea.

I could feel the waves lapping at my toes, and the sand washing out from under them as the waves pulled back.

I started to cry.

In yoga class.

I can’t tell you why I cried, but it happened again the next time I took a class taught by Katherine.

I don’t think I’m doing yoga right.

I have a feeling, though, that Katherine might say that I am.

What’s Your Goal?

(Warning: Long, rambling, and probably pointless)

Yesterday, I talked with a friend who had been a guidance counselor. I had asked his advice regarding one of my kids who needed a little direction.

“What’s your goal?” he asked.

I answered with the goal I have for the child in question.

“No,” he said. “That’s your goal for your child. I want to know your goal for Sally.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Just think about it,” he said, and waited about 2.5 seconds before he moved on. But he circled back to that question a couple more times.

“This feels like a guess-what-I’m-thinking question,” I said one of the times.

“What are you looking for?” I asked another of the times.

In the end, I felt incredibly frustrated.

What’s my goal? Sheesh. (I wrote that just before bed last night, still trying to process the whole conversation. Then I wrote about another 250 words expressing the same sentiment.)

What are we even talking about? Are you asking about my goal as a parent — which has been my primary job for the past 38 years? Are you asking about my goal at the gym? Or at the house where I still have a thousand things to do? Is it my goal for today? This week? This month? This year?

To be kind? To be a lifelong learner? To love my family?

What’s my goal? Seriously? I don’t know.

This is going to make me crazy.

I walked to the post office this morning. It’s about two and a half miles there. I thought and thought and thought while I walked.

Karl once told me that one of the doctors he works with has three goals for every day: to learn something, to teach something, and to laugh. I wish I was clever enough to come up with three succinct goals like that. Even if I had, I don’t think it would answer the question being asked by my friend.

Anyway, my three would be something like to listen, to see, and to be kind.

Again, I’m sure it’s not what he was looking for.

I copied another Thomas Merton quote into my journal the other day. “Therefore if you spend your life trying to escape the heat of the fire that is meant to soften and prepare you to become your true self, and if you try to keep your substance from melting as if your true identity were to be hard wax, the seal will fall upon you and crush you. You will not be able to take your true name and countenance, and you will be destroyed by the event that was meant to be your fulfillment.”

Merton was talking about sealing wax and the way it will crumble if it’s not adequately prepared for the stamp. Mary had just sealed a bunch of envelopes with wax. In fact, that’s what I had walked to the post office to mail. The seals were beautiful because the wax had been melted and was ready to receive the imprint.

But to say that preparing my heart for God’s imprint on it is my goal doesn’t sound right either. Plus, I don’t think it’s what my friend was asking.

Walking is such good therapy, especially walking on a country road, where the deer bound off into the woods when they see me coming and the ducks fly out the giant puddle in the cornfield in groups of 6 or 8 quacking and complaining at the inconvenience of my passing. A deer skeleton lay in the ditch. Last week, it had probably been covered with snow. A small collection of broken car parts were strewn about the ditch a little further down the road. A lone Lexus symbol at least told me what kind of car it had been. I wondered if the deer and the car parts came from the same mishap.

In the churning of thoughts about all these things — the deer, the ducks, the skeleton, the Lexus, the hawk circling over the field, the winter’s worth of garbage now revealed in the ditches — I kept circling back to the question: What is my goal?

Career goals for a stay-at-home mom are not a thing. Some days feel like survival. Some days feel like you won the lottery.

When my oldest son was born, what was my goal? To see him grow up, become independent, productive, happy. To help him discover what he loves and what he’s passionate about. In the late ’90s, he loved computers and knew he wanted to do something related to them. We had dial-up internet and I told him that if he wanted time on the internet, he would have to get up at 6 AM because I didn’t want him tying up the phone line all day. Doggone if he didn’t get up at 6 every morning so he could have his hour on the internet. Now it’s his livelihood.

For each of the kids, that has been the puzzle. I would watch them and ask them, “What do you love?” Two have gone into nursing. One works in the realm of outdoor recreation. Three are currently in college or graduate school. One is still figuring it all out.

I feel immense gratitude at the fact that most of them have found their way.

I love talking to them all on adult levels. I love when they call me. Or come visit. I love family Zoom calls and game nights.

I think my goal, maybe, has always been to have adult children who still love me in spite of the thousand mistakes I have made as a parent, to have children who are settled and happy with the choices they have made with their lives, to have children who still occasionally want my advice, to have children who share their lives with me.

I’ll try that goal on my friend and see if it works.

I doubt it.