The downside of blogging


I love blogging, but I wish there was a more pleasant-sounding word for it. Blog rhymes with bog, smog, slog, sog and other unappetizing things. It also rhymes with fog, which is lovely, but the unsavory words that rhyme with blog far outnumber the beautiful.

Take bog, a swamp-like morass, a place where you might encounter an alligator or a huge poisonous snake or the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Or you can get bogged down, in paperwork or odious chores. And how about smog, the scourge of modern civilization, hanging over the land in ugly yellow-brown tones and ruining lungs. And there’s clog, as in to cause to be backed up: a clogged toilet, yuk. People slog, as in plodding or struggling, perhaps to get across a bog. Which gets us to sogged. You would probably get sogged crossing a bog. And there might be a hog in the bog. You never know. Hogs are worthy animals, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not terribly attractive. 

Oops, I almost forgot flog. I’ll leave you to decide whether to spin the punishment or pleasure connotation of that word. Some people enjoy being flogged, but it’s not my cup of tea.

We have to take the good with the bad. I enjoy blogging immensely so I’ll just put up with the way it sounds. I’ll simply keep on slogging through my blog, enjoying every minute, and reminding myself that it also rhymes with dog, one of my most beloved things in life, and with eggnog, a joy of the holidays.

CHEERS!


“Blog” is derived from “weblog,” coined in 1997. It developed into the first digital diary allowing readers to add comments to others’ blogs.

My beautiful spirit name

Wachiwi, dancing girl

Many spirit names, especially Native American, are lovely poetic word pictures. Hiawassee means meadow; Suwanee, echo; Hehewuti, warrior mother. My spirit name is Patsy. Go ahead, laugh.

Plain old Patsy was my childhood name, before I grew up and became Pat: professional, successful, competent, yadda yadda. I reclaimed Patsy recently, inspired during a powerful presentation about Native American spirit names at a monthly women’s meeting called Moon Circle, itself a poetic word picture. When I was a child in Silicon Valley—long, long ago when it was still called Santa Clara Valley and covered with orchards and fields of mustard grass and cross-crossed by a tangle of natural creeks—I was Patsy, petite and fair-skinned, with Scandinavian-white hair. I spent my days wandering the valley with my dog Smokie, following creeks, climbing trees, walking atop fences, foot-racing unknown kids who were wandering like me. I ran faster than any boy. When I came upon a playground with a tetherball, I played whoever was there and usually won. If it was empty I played by myself, just to see how fast I could wrap the ball around the pole. I ran up long steep hills, alone except for Smokie, to see how fast and far I could go.

I wandered from glory to glory. I wasn’t afraid of the dark or anything else. I didn’t feel alone because the Valley was always with me.

Over the years my name got whittled down to Pat. At my jobs there were often other Pats and Patsys, and to minimize confusion we would designate who would be called what. I was a pushover and usually agreed to be the Pat. In my thirties, my professional success-focused businesswoman stage, a female colleague told me Patsy was a frivolous name, no one would take me seriously, I would never be a vice president. From then on I always used Pat.

Patsy had disappeared, buried under promotions to management, long hours at work, and endless meetings. (But never vice president.)

Now I’m retired and Patsy’s spirit has reawakened in me, after a long sleep. In my memories and my heart of hearts, I’m still that creek follower, dog lover, tree climber, fence walker, tetherball warrior, swift runner, valley wanderer, playground haunter.  

Patsy is derived from Patricia, which means noble and is rooted in ruling class families of ancient Rome. To me, Patsy is the wild, untamed version of Patricia. Works for me. This time I’m keeping it forever, throughout the eternity of the Great Spirit.

Don’t mess with seniors.

I’ve arrived. I’m a bonafide senior citizen. And I find that many people make false assumptions about me because of my gray hair. OMG, some even assume I’m not computer literate!    

Recently at a department store the clerk was updating the mailing list. He asked the young woman ahead of me in line, “What’s your email address?” When my turn came, he asked, “Do you have email?” I’m sure my gray hair caused the difference in the questions. But I have gray hair and email. Surprise, sonny! 

When I cycle, young people on the trail say things to me like “You’re awesome!” They mean well, but being singled out just because I’m cycling makes me feel absolutely ancient. Maybe they think it’s an amazing feat just to get my decrepit old body up on the bike.

The biggest fallacy is that I’m feeble-minded, memory-challenged, easy prey. A while back some checkers at my neighborhood grocery store stopped giving change when I swiped for cash over purchase. “I swiped my card for twenty over,” I’d  say when I got only a receipt. They quickly reopened the register and got my cash.

It happened with more checkers, and more often with the same checkers, as my hair turned grayer. Many of my senior friends were dealing with the same thing.  

“What’s the world coming to?” I wondered. Then I realized I had changed, not the world. I had aged. The scammers are always there, and started in on me because they thought I wouldn’t remember what happened seconds ago. But just who has the memory problem? They couldn’t even recall they’d tried me before, and hadn’t gotten away with a single twenty. 

They don’t get it. My friends and I are worldly and wise. Sure, some seniors lose life savings to Ponzi schemes and such, but not my crowd. Our brain cells are fine-tuned, our synapses fire robustly. Not only that, we’re the world’s fastest growing population and there’s power in numbers. So don’t mess with us. If you do, you are going down.


This commentary originally aired as a KQED Public Radio Perspective.

Silicon Valley Girl

I’m a stranger in the Bay Area, though I was born right in the midst of it in Silicon Valley. That was a long time ago. It was Santa Clara Valley back then, and you wouldn’t recognize it. Unleashed dogs romped. Kids played gloriously unorganized softball in vacant lots. Orchards were everywhere. I didn’t know my gentle world was the future birthplace of technology, and that it would be invaded and covered with freeways, malls and business parks. 

You could say I’ve kept up with things. I telecommute, I network, I’m linked-in and hooked-up and hands-free. But I don’t always like it. My life, perhaps like yours, is stressful and upgrade driven.

It seems I’m always upgrading to something—new software, faster internet speed, blue tooth, GPS, Alexa, iPhone 7…. On and on. But there was a time here when things didn’t need upgrading because they were perfect. The lovely orchard next to our high school yielded its gifts when we burst into its stillness after school, needing spending money. I cut cots—that’s apricots—for 50 cents a tray. Now the orchard is a condo complex; our high school, a strip mall. Graceful pepper and oak and fig trees that once grew everywhere, welcoming climbers, are gone, victims of street widening and development. Little running creeks I followed for hours with my dog are concrete flood control channels. And the friendly people who chatted with each other in the grocery store have been replaced with a new breed. Self-absorbed, they wear funny ear gadgets and talk to themselves. 

I’ve learned to accept things as they are. I stay pretty current. But sometimes, in front of my flat screen monitor pushing my mouse, I daydream. I’m cutting sweet ripe cots in the mottled sunlight of the orchard, thinking that when I’m done I’ll go find a softball game somewhere. It’s like going home. 


This commentary originally aired as a KQED Public Radio Perspective.   

Story of a foundling cat

There was no hope. Hope was lost—our cat Hope. Our loving and lovable foundling cat leaped over the back fence one morning like she always did when I let her out. But she didn’t come home.

We were heartbroken. My daughter had found Hope outside of a friend’s house. Leaving a party, Michele heard faint, tiny peeps and followed them to a bush. Underneath was a little pile of fur no larger around than a hamburger bun, peeping like a baby bird. Michele took it in the house, they fixed up a shoebox for it, and she brought it home.

We named her Hope because she was near death when Michele found her. White gunk oozed from her eyes so I took her to the vet, who said it was from a bad respiratory infection. We went home with antibiotics and kitten formula. Michele and I fed her with a bottle for a few weeks, until she bit the nipple off one morning.

She got cuter and cuter.

We all fell deeply in love with her, her tenderness and sweetness and her love for us. She loved to snuggle under my husband’s chin and suck on his beard. It must have reminded her of her mother. We cheered and clapped when she appropriately used the tiny containers of kitty litter we put out for her.

When she was old and big enough, I let her out in the backyard every morning. She usually stayed close by and always came back by early evening. Until the evening that she didn’t. I called and called that night. I went out and called some more early next morning, when all of a sudden it began to pour, a very, very cold rain. I began to sob uncontrollably, thinking of sweet, tender Hope out there in the bitter cold.

She didn’t come home the next day or the next. We walked the neighborhood, called her, put up posters, passed them out door to door.   

Hope was nowhere.

Then, after a week, a woman around the corner called. She had our poster. “I think your cat is under our house,” she said. Frank and I rushed over. She led us to a room where the removable floor board to her crawl space was laid aside, and saw two vivid yellow eyes staring up at us from the darkness. Hope! The woman had noticed her dog acting strangely outside, in front of an unscreened vent, and she peered in and saw Hope and called us. Something must have startled Hope, maybe the same dog, to make her leap through the open vent to under the house. But she couldn’t get back out.

It was a joyous homecoming. Hope walked around everywhere, with her tail as tight and straight as a flagpole and vibrating so fast you could almost hear it. She ravenously gobbled her wet food, she rubbed up against us.  

I know now that not everything that seems negative is negative. That cold rain that made me burst out crying very possibly helped Hope survive. She was under that house for a solid week, yet when we found her she was plump and healthy. I believe the rain that flowed through the vent to Hope’s dark cave kept her hydrated. It might have saved her health, if not her life.

Remember, even when things look relentlessly bleak…there’s always Hope.

Snail Mail Wail

In my neighborhood we get each other’s mail regularly. This also happens to a friend who lives in a posh suburb in the hills, on a street with only two houses. They get each other’s mail. Go figure.

When I get someone else’s mail, if it’s close by I’ll hand deliver it to their mailbox. I’m afraid to just leave it in our box for the carrier to redeliver the next day. Who knows where it will end up next? On a jet to New Zealand? On a pack mule going to a remote Indian reservation in Arizona?

Mail carriers are delivering precious cargo vital to our lives. They carry birthday cards with money to beloved grandchildren, letters to elderly far-away loved ones who don’t do email, sympathy cards, get-well cards, pride-filled graduation and new-baby announcements, Medicare payments, bank statements, DMV vehicle registration bills…all manner of crucial communications. 

It’s a noble mission. But I see carriers walking around with their cell phones, laughing and talking while absent-mindedly stuffing mail into the wrong boxes. It is distracted delivering! The other day our neighbor Glen, a couple of houses away, went to put some outgoing mail in his mailbox for the carrier. It was important quarterly reporting to the State of California for his construction business.  The carrier happened to be right there delivering his mail, so he handed his outgoing to her. Later that afternoon I picked up our mail and Glen’s was in our box. The carrier had stuck it there instead of taking it to the post office. Such a short walk. You’d think she could have kept it straight for two houses. I don’t think I’ll let her pick our lemons anymore.  

And once my sister-in-law, who lives right up the street from us, found a get well card I had mailed to my second cousin—or tried to—in her bushes. It must have been hastily stuffed into the carrier’s satchel and fallen out.

Some of us have complained to the postal service but we get replacement carriers who do the same things as the ones they replaced. It’s all been another life lesson for me, on the recurring issue of acceptance. Okay, sigh. I’ll just keep returning mail to its proper owners as best I can, and hope to God that our neighbors do the same for us. We just have to have each other’s backs.  


I’d love to go to New Zealand, but not my mail.

Grace

I woke up grouchy one morning, still tired. I pondered skipping my morning aerobics. Commitment! I told myself, then dressed and headed to my workout room. That was my first mistake.

I do an online aerobics routine on the British Institute of Health website. I turned on my computer, clicked on Chrome browser, waited…and what came up was “no internet service.” I restarted, went to Chrome again, got the same message. On my third try, the same thing happened so obviously it was not a temporary fluke. I was going to have to call my internet service provider technical help number, and spend a long time on hold then a long time doing the troubleshooting steps, but it would have to wait. I was barely awake. I couldn’t face computer troubleshooting without a shower and a cup of coffee.

I decided I would get my exercise in with a brisk walk. My neighborhood provides a good aerobic workout as there are some pretty steep uphill stretches. But when I looked out the window, I saw it was raining heavily. No walk today, I thought.

At a loss, I went into the kitchen and popped a Keurig pod into my coffee maker. Then I remembered I had a chocolate hazelnut croissant from Starbucks with my weekend treats in the freezer. Even though it wasn’t the weekend yet, I took it out and thawed it. I knew it contained 400 calories and 50 percent of my daily saturated fat allowance. I went for it anyway. I would double my aerobics routine when my computer was back up. 

I added Italian sweet cream to my coffee and sat down at the table. Savoring the chocolate hazelnut decadence and sipping my coffee, I started to feel pretty great. What had started as a growing list of frustrating problems had turned into the perfect morning.


Grace: the freely given, unmerited favor of God.