Message from Beyond

One summer I signed up for six weeks of guided meditation. During the third-week session, I went deeper and deeper into the plumbless depths of my subconscious and became a bird. It was quite a shock. To top it off, I received instructions for living from another bird.

The bird made its instructions perfectly clear.

This all took place while I listened to music with delta waves, which are thought to bring on the deepest levels of sleep, relaxation and peace of mind during meditation. As I went deeper into my meditative state under the influence of the guide’s words and the delta waves, I found my befeathered self sitting in a tree that borders a fence in our backyard. Across from me, staring at me relentlessly, eyes boring into me, was a confident young bird also perched in a tree.

I was riveted by the power of our eye contact and telepathic connection across the yard from each other. The young bird then spoke to me. It was a profound, mystical, spiritual message: 

 “Back off, Mom.”

It was clear the young bird was my then 20-year-old daughter, Michele. She and I had relationship problems, largely because in my chronic anxiety I was always fearing for her safety. At the time, I was unconscious of it. But after this experience, I realized I did her no favors with my overprotectiveness and anxious hovering.

What her eloquent message relayed was that, emotionally and spiritually, she had her own tree separate from mine, and that I was to stay in my tree, and visit hers only when invited.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.


“Love is patient and kind….It does not insist on its own way….”-1 Corinthians 13.4-7

Memories of Premarital Tennis

I have fond memories of playing tennis with my husband before we were married. I have not-so-fond memories of playing tennis after we got married. Marriage changes everything, even tennis.

I’ve talked with girlfriends who play tennis, or used to play tennis, and they’ve had similar experiences after getting married. Who knows why things change like this? Let’s not even go there.  They just do.

Frank and I met in a tennis club for singles. Frank was very chivalrous when we were dating, and that extended to tennis. He was much better than me, rated Men’s-A tournament level in our club. I was a Women’s-C. We only played together informally, with friends. Back then Frank was unconcerned about whether we won or lost. We just had fun.

Then we got married, and things changed. After we lost a match he would say things like “You need to work on your serve” or “You need to practice your volley” or “You’ve got a weak slam.” We’d go out during the week and he’d feed me volleys to return as slams, or coach me on my serve, or feed me fast and corner balls to return. We drilled and drilled. He wanted to win his doubles matches.

With the pressure on, tennis became just one more stress on top of my busy life as a working mother. Eventually I quit playing. Frank practiced some weekday evenings and played every Sunday. I alternated between hiking and going to movies on Sunday. On movie days I went to a little theatre that was next to a coffee shop, and after the movie I’d treat myself to a guilty pleasure—espresso and a luscious gelato. In solitary splendor, I enjoyed myself immensely.  

Then Frank broke his metatarsal bone running down a tennis ball, when he was 65. It was quite painful and he wore a big knee-high boot for two months and did physical therapy for a long time after that. He never went back to tennis. He felt the foot was a weak link and susceptible to re-injury at his age. He gave his huge bag of beat-up practice balls to a friend who has a lovable Yorkshire terrier named Maggie.

Now Frank and I go to the movies nearly every Sunday. We both enjoy them. No one competes, no one loses, no one screws up. We laugh and we cry. We have animated, enjoyable discussions of the film afterwards over a nice dinner. We both win. So far the score is Love-Love. Actually, Love-Love-Love. Maggie adores her tennis balls.

Running Away from Home

I love my husband but I need to get away from him now and then. I do short getaways, like staying in Monterey with a friend or two for a couple days of eating, shopping, and walking on the beach, followed by more eating and shopping. Or I’ll go overnight with friends to experience the fog and the culture in San Francisco. There’s a wealth of things to do close to our home in Silicon Valley.

The getaways are good for me and our marriage. We appreciate each other more when I get back. The passion gets fanned a bit, the flame reignites. It’s a kind of marriage makeover.

I’m always the one who has to run away from home. Frank is exceptionally stable. He worked for the city for 30 years, and bought the house we live in nearly 40 years ago, 20 years before we even met. His 1970 Camaro is older than his house. And he’s a diehard homebody. He never travels except when we go together. He’s stable to a fault.

Once in a while I muse about what it would be like if Frank took a trip and I stayed home. Home alone! Wow, what would it feel like? The whole house would be my oyster. The first thing that comes to mind is the excitement of having control of the remote. That’s been a lifelong—or marriage-long—dream of mine. I could change channels, turn the volume up or down, turn the TV off and back on at will. I’d be drunk with the feeling of power it would give me.

I could have my girlfriends over for wine and Chinese takeout. And more wine. We’d laugh loudly and watch chick flicks and tell off-color jokes. Maybe even get really wild and watch Forty Shades of Grey. Or is it Fifty? I haven’t seen it. And ice cream for dessert, Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked. Yum, gooey cookie dough chunks. I’d get a lot so when the girls leave I can finish whatever’s left. Ice cream is a no-no when Frank’s home. He’s a healthy eater and watches my weight for me.

I could indulge openly in my secret addiction and buy a bunch of lottery scratch cards. Then I’d scratch them off right out in the open, at the kitchen table. I can’t do that either when Frank’s home. He disapproves of gambling almost more than ice cream.

I have a long list of more home-alone pleasures. My at-home getaway sounds great, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Frank’s not showing any signs of restlessness or wanderlust. He’s happy just driving to a movie or to senior drop-in doubles at the city tennis courts. So I’ll just keep my sense of adventure and my suitcase at the ready. It’s for a good cause.   

Embattled female drivers

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Relax


Something comes over perfectly nice men when they’re in a car driven by a woman. Almost every man who’s been in my car when I’m driving has been annoying, and then some. Bob, my former significant other, was the worst of them. His name is not really Bob. I changed it for this blog post so I won’t be sued.

A typical example of driving with Bob was my 40th birthday. I was bummed out about hitting 40, but looking forward to dinner at the nice restaurant Bob was taking me to. Bob drove to the restaurant, and we had a great dinner and a lot of fun. I drove home because I don’t drink and Bob had had a couple of beers. He wisely never drove if he had more than one drink.

Picture it.  (I borrow that phrase from Sophia in Golden Girls.) It’s a dark night. We walk to the car, I get settled in the driver’s seat, and turn on the ignition. Bob is normally an amiable, easy-going man except when I’m driving. I glance over at him and he’s in his usual male-passenger position: staring straight ahead, his jaw set grimly, his feet wide apart and firmly planted on the floor. There’s not one relaxed bone in his body. Not one relaxed muscle. Even his ears are stiff. His nose is tense. His nostrils are flared. It’s not a good sign. I’m not even out of the parking lot yet and he’s loaded for bear.

Dr. Jekyll has become Mr. Hyde.

I drive to the end of the parking lot exit. A car is coming on my left. It’s quite a distance away, yet I stop. I always drove super cautiously with Bob in the car, to keep him from getting agitated. 

After the car has gone by, I check again. Out of the corner of my eye I see Bob’s head turning left and right repeatedly. He is checking for cars, as vigilant as an airliner copilot. Traffic is very light and there’s only one more car coming, quite a distance away and traveling slowly. With plenty of time on my side, I turn right onto the road. 

“Wow!” Bob says tensely. “That car almost hit you. You shouldn’t have pulled out. Reckless.”

“It wasn’t even close to the driveway, Bob,” I say calmly. “It still isn’t. It was a mile away, what are you talking about?”

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A couple calming down after an argument about her driving.

“He wasn’t far away,” Bob insists. “He was almost on top of you!” I say nothing. I glance over at him and see that both hands are now gripping the seat on either side of his knees, his knuckles white, his jaw still set grimly, his feet still planted wide apart.  

“He was not close,” I insist. “Not even,” I add, imitating Lisa Kudrow, who always said that phrase with the accent on even.  Lisa Kudrow annoyed him no end, which of course is why I did it.

“Watch it! Watch it!” Bob yells all of a sudden. I’m once again reminded of how he always yells “watch it!” twice. It’s very annoying! It’s very annoying!

“Watch it! Watch it!” he yells again. I don’t know what he’s yelling about.

“Watch what, Bob?” I ask, exasperated.

I glance over. Bob’s right hand is now fiercely gripping the arm rest, with his left pressed tightly against the glove compartment. He’s clenching and unclenching his jaw. “That car’s going to sideswipe you! Watch it!” I can’t see what he’s talking about, and then a car passes by me gently and safely in the lane on my right. Bob was watching it. Bob was always afraid cars were going to go over their lines. He had no trust in the Universe.   

“Everything’s fine,” I say. “He’s just going past me, he’s well within his lane.”

“He was going over his line,” Bob says. “Way over. You have to watch people!”

“Well, what can I do Bob? I’m stuck in my lane, I can’t get out. We’ll have a head-on if I go over to the left. And I can’t go to the right because the car’s there. Anyway, that guy wasn’t getting close. I saw him in my side mirror. He was fine.”

There’s a red light coming up. I stop in plenty of time, with one car ahead of me. “You’re too close!” Bob yells. “You have to be able to see the tires of the car in front of you. Completely!”

 “I can see the damn tires,” I shout, starting to lose my cool. I glance over again. His lips are moving. He appears to be praying. He’s changed position and is now gripping the door handle with both hands, like he might jump out. A part of me, I’m ashamed to say, wishes he would.   

When the light turns green I cross the intersection, after I look both ways like I always do. I’m old and wise enough to know you can’t just shoot out like a bat out of hell because your light turns green. Someone could be running the cross light. I shot out without looking once when I was in my twenties and got T-boned. I foolishly told Bob about it and traumatized him, even though it was about 40 years ago and I haven’t had an accident since. Goodie-two-shoes Bob never had an accident, not even a little fender bender. His worse traffic offense was a fix-it ticket for brake lights.     

Down the road a car approaches on the cross street to my right, slowly, braking to stop safely at the intersection. “Watch it! Watch it!” Bob yells. “Watch it! Watch it! That car’s not stopping!”  

“He is too! He is too!” I yell back, my voice growing strident. “He’s stopping in plenty of time. He’s a cautious old frug.” I manage not to say “like you.” I don’t want things to deteriorate into name calling. I proceed, glancing over at Bob whose feet are now raised up and braced against the glove compartment. His jaw is grimly reset.

 “You’re a reckless driver,” he says. “You’re dangerous, wild.”

“I’m a perfectly good driver,” I tell him. “I’ve been driving us around for 10 years and I’ve never had an accident. I’ve never even had a ticket,” I lie. I did get a few for speeding and one unsafe lane change, during my years with Bob. But never when he was with me.

He doesn’t hear me. “You don’t look,” he says. “You’re distracted, spacy. You’re a menace to society.”

“Not even,” I say. “I’m very alert. It’s a wonder I can focus with you in the car. You badger and badger, you’re like an annoying cockatoo. You have a voice like a jack hammer.” I glance over at him again. He’s now in the fetal position. And there we were, reduced to name-calling. The conversation deteriorated from there. The relationship deteriorated soon after. It was our final car fight. Before long, we split up.

A few years later I met Frank. We’re celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary this year, and 223 years of being together. I’m sorry, 23 years. Freudian slip. We’re going to Monterey today. I’m driving because Frank likes to look around when we’re going somewhere scenic. We get in the car, I start ‘er up, and look over at Frank. As usual when I drive, he’s looking straight ahead, his jaw set grimly, his feet wide apart, firmly planted on the floor. There’s not one relaxed bone in his body. Not one relaxed muscle. Even his ears are stiff….  It’s déjà vu time.

Oh well, nothing’s perfect. Frank and I have disagreements in the car but things are much better than they were with Bob. For instance Frank yells “watch it!” but not twice in a row like Bob used to. And I don’t do my Lisa Kudrow impersonation anymore. I’ve grown. Plus there’s no point to it since it doesn’t bother Frank. Most important, I realize now that nothing is perfect, including driving with your spouse. Including marriage, period. Marriage is good, but it’s definitely not perfect. Not even.


rose-1403530_640Scripture: Even though I drive through the darkest valley with my husband in the passenger seat, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. ~Psalm 23:3-4 

 

chocolate-183543_640The Power of Chocolate: There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate. ~Linda Grayson

 

owl-297413_640Urban Dictionary: Not Even. A term commonly used in Oakville, the state of denial. Used to strongly deny something. 

Oakville Kid: Yo i heard you were kickin it old school with corbin’s mom last night brooo!!!

Oakville Kid 2: Yo NOT EVEN

Sisters Forever

Bumpy rides on Valentine’s Day

I love Valentine’s Day. But I didn’t always. I had a tragic love affair when I was ten, with Mike Devlin, a boy in my class. He had blue eyes, freckles, and an adorable cowlick. We lived in the same apartment building and hung out together after school. One day, on a patch of grass behind the apartment, he gave me my first kiss. I was in heaven. I knew we’d be together forever. With Valentine’s Day coming up I was sure I’d get a big fancy card from him when the cards all of us brought to class were passed out. But all I got was a little flat one like he gave everyone else.

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Be my valentine, doggone it.

I was cynical about love after that. It took me a long time to grow up about Valentine’s Day. I was self-conscious and shy and introverted, especially in high school, and the big day usually found me dateless, flowerless, and candyless. It was a difficult time. I became more outgoing in college and dated a bit more but also became deeply interested in my journalism studies and didn’t worry about Valentine’s Day so much. When I graduated and began working, sometimes I had a significant other on the big day and got goodies. I always hoped a box of See’s Chocolate would be in the mix.

Sometimes I was on my own and then I bought my own Valentine gifts for my own bad self. I had gotten smart. And I didn’t fool around either.  Nice things like suits for work (even a Chanel once, in my salad days), opal earrings, the best my money could buy. Sometimes I’d even wrap them for myself, when I was really into it. Or I got together with those indispensable, essential companions in my life: girlfriends. We’d have a Valentine potluck and drink wine and give each other nice stuff and laugh about having a better time than we would on a date.

At thirty-five I gave birth to my daughter and the true spirit of Valentine’s Day sprang to life for me. When Michele was five, she wanted a Care Bears backpack for school. Valentine’s Day was coming up so I bought one, and gave it to her as her first Valentine gift. When she opened it she shrieked and jumped around and wore it all day and evening. I gently pulled it off when she was asleep. That’s when I learned the true meaning of Valentine’s Day—the deep joy found in giving joy to someone you love. Michele’s desires back then were so charmingly simple. A new Ginny doll, going to a movie in a theater, a Little Mermaid umbrella. Her joy was spontaneous and unrestrained and beautiful when she opened her gifts.  

I don’t get too caught up in the romantic hype of Valentine’s Day. I have my memories of those days with Michele to keep me warm, and now I have my young niece and nephew. My husband, believe it or not, forgets Valentine’s Day occasionally. I don’t understand how it’s even possible for him to do that in the face of all the incredible nonstop blasting media hype, but I don’t get upset. I know he loves me. Okay, I lied. I get a little upset when he forgets. I like it when he remembers and brings me candy. I may have moved beyond the commercialized sentimentality that is so attached to Valentine’s Day, but I haven’t moved beyond chocolate. And make that See’s, please.

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Another kind of chocolate – better than See’s!