Five Acres and a Dream: An Eggstraordinary Story of Living off the Land!
By T. Myers
The Grange Halls that formed in the US were all about teaching the best ways to farm and educate farmers about the latest in agrarian technology. With a motto that expounded Leadership, Fellowship, Community and Grassroots action, the local Grange was the go to place for most small communities to socialize and celebrate being a community. Who hasn’t been to or seen a movie where there was a Saturday night dance at the grange? The entire family would come. There would be a great meal and the men would go out into the parking lot where they hid the bottles they brought. This Grange is over 100 years old and was the 939th grange to open in the USA!
By the mid-century, the granges were closing right and left, people had moved to the cities and we were a nation on the move- moving away from the land and forgetting the importance of our agrarian roots as we became consumers instead of producers! Those of us who were lucky enough to live in a smaller town saw Grange membership decline as farms combined, were sold off or taken back by the banks and even purchased by one of the big Agra-business concerns.
Back in the olden days of my life, I learned from age four to garden for the family. I was told about the importance of the wartime Victory Gardens and I lived in neighborhoods where people still grew their own produce in the summer time. Planting and watching the plants as they grew was an integral part of our young lives and a continuation of generations of family experiences. Plant a tree? For sure it was for fruit. Plant a bush? Most likely it would produce blueberries before the fall foliage added to the colors of the garden. And there were plenty of flowers, too. Beauty in growing everything was part of the American fabric. Our sense of independence- especially in the west was based on the fact that we could get most of what we needed from our local region and the Grange was responsible for that happening.
By the late 1960s and 1970s, society was in an upheaval. The Viet Nam War had led to protests and social injustice was the theme that ran through the lives of the young adults who were coming of age and ready to make a dent on what was fast becoming a changing world. Life was changing with every nightly news broadcast and it was never going to be the way it had been again!
I graduated High School in 1967 and boy howdy; I was not really ready for what was going to happen next! I was like every other young adult who was commencing from the old system and entering an undefined world.
Along with the advent of The Pill, we were also in the throes of a sexual revolution, a social revolution, the political revolution and more. So the life of our fathers and mothers was not going to be the life that most of American youth would accept as what they saw for themselves and the future. Mom, Apple Pie and the 4th of July was being replaced with love-ins, Tim O’Leary’s RX for an enlightened world and really way out music, bad attitudes, distrust of authority and colorful eclectic clothes!
Mother Earth News and lots of the conspiracy theorists were beginning to publish. Demonstrations against the government and the flag and the draft were in the news every day. Political, social, economic, educational and other points were being made. Religion entered the arena in order to stabilize the daily ups and downs that fractured our old ideas like mirrors being shattered and broken. Each time a new idea was revealed, there were more that went against the system and youth questioned the establishment like no other time.
Being the conservative that I was, I began to put together my own plan for survival of the times based on the things my father taught me about the wilderness and with what my grandmother taught me about the home until I thought I would be able to get along on my own, for a good long time by taking a piece of land, some seeds, basic knowledge of gardening, hand tools and the water and fertilizer I would need to plant and harvest a garden.
The first thing I did was put together a stash of food and provisions that would cover my existence until I had produce and food sources that I could count on. I amassed camping gear, camp stoves, saws, splitting mauls, and the ropes, fuels and other items for keeping a camp together for a long period of time.
I took a bit of time finding the right piece of land. For me, the piece of land that I found was almost ten acres. It had an old house and shed and it had plenty of flat land with water on the boundary of two sides. I rented a heavy duty roto-tiller and worked on a large garden to begin my plan. I fenced the garden. I took out library books on companion planting and amending the soil and how to build a fence around a garden in the wilderness.
I learned it would take about eight years before my ground was able to sustain the plantings I would need to support my existence. Amending the soil and building up the raised beds became my life’s work as I hauled different kinds of animal waste, composting materials and bags of peat moss and steer manure into my space. Each year I rotated the beds to keep a balance in the three nutrients the soil needed, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous:
I learned that in simple terms, nitrogen promotes plant growth. It is associated with leafy, vegetative growth. It is part of every protein in the plant, so it’s required for virtually every process, from growing new leaves to defending against pests. Nitrogen is part of the chlorophyll molecule, which gives plants their green color and is involved in creating food for the plant through photosynthesis. Lack of nitrogen shows up as general yellowing (chlorosis) of the plant. Because nitrogen can move around in the plant, older growth often yellows more than the new growth.
Phosphorus is involved in metabolic processes responsible for transferring energy from one point to another in the plant. It’s also critical in root development and flowering. Because phosphorus moves slowly through the soil, it’s important to work it into the soil, where it’s needed by the roots.
Potassium helps regulate plant metabolism and affects water pressure regulation inside and outside of plant cells. It is important for good rood development. For these reasons, potassium is critical to plant stress tolerance.
Then I became aware that because of where I was living, the conditions that I needed to meet were different than those in the Willamette valley. Oh My Goodness! I would have to re-plan my life as a gardener- again. What did I need to do if I went to raising container crops, or planted in the soil without the raised beds? And what about garden pests? Weeds and bugs and animals that live under the ground and eat the roots. Companion plants were next. Things that grow well together that handle the usual pests and supplement soil conditions for the real plants was exciting to learn about and a challenge!
Everywhere I turned, I was getting advice about raising animals, too. Rabbits? Chickens? Geese? Ducks? Turkeys? Pigs? All of them would become life-long pets- not meat, and eventually I tried everything but the pigs. And then I found out that there were predators in the forest and as hard as I tried to be sure that my animals were safe, they were being preyed upon until it was a full time job to protect them and if I had been a real farmer, it made little sense to keep them.
Next it was time to go greener! We added a windmill for a yard light and then we had what we called a low carbon footprint of having no garbage (I took out one can a year), some passive solar applications that would add to the woodstoves that we used for heating and cooking, cold frame gardening and the alternative energy exploration became a new focus until, by the end of the 70’s, I turned into a wood energy guru/expert that was involved at the international and national level and eventually I represented the USA, State of Oregon, Clackamas County and the City of Portland at a series of Alternative energy conferences in Europe and the US. By 1980, I was involved in the international movement for solid fuels and ethanol conversion.
It was definitely time for the birds. Chicken were the natural first choice. It was back to school time for me to learn the ins and outs of raising chickens in one of the rainiest places in Oregon- the foot of Mount Hood. Arcaunas, Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rocks were the best for the area. Cornish Crosses were the meat choice and I raised them by the dozens for the family and the freezer. We started with a chicken coop that was inside an existing shed. We added brood boxes and worked on being clean, neat, supplying heated water at 55 degrees and the correct supplemental foods from chicken scratch to oyster shell to regular feed for laying hens and produce scraps and five acres of free range for the hens to have as a playground. Mr. Rooster was a fighting cock who was a beautiful specimen and he loved the ladies so the eggs were fertile. (He also loved the other birds like crows and herons and anything that flew- but that is a story for another day) We learned to let one or two of the hens have a brood and we helped the babies in a heated chick area to get them raised up. It was not long before we knew that the chicken house as it was- was not good enough. We built a new one with higher fencing and a log cabin coop that would keep out the raccoons who were feasting on the smaller or more feeble chickens.
It was duck time, we made a large pond, lined it and filled it with water and put a few mallards and Muscovys in it. We added some Rouens and Peking white ducks and learned that they get lots of attention at night because they can be seen so easily. Geese came next. Talouse and white geese completed the circle. It was soon time to sell duck and chicken eggs and the garden scraps were added to the food chain. Ducks ate bugs and geese ate weeds and chickens ate everything. Someone gave us a couple of turkeys- first mistake was to take them without realizing that you cannot have turkeys with the other three or diseases happen. Even with a lot of ground, there is something that does not work with the four of them. Pet turkeys that weigh in at 45 pounds and like to ride in cars don’t work either, but these were the learning years. We would sleep on the shed roof and shoot the raccoons that were drowning the birds they wanted and then eat the one half of the breast meat before leaving for the day. The one turkey that became a yard guard got caught jumping into the State trooper’s open car door and wedged himself behind the wheel when the trooper was taking pictures of an illegal fisherman on the other side of the river. Getting Big Al from behind the wheel of a squad car was an experience that caused the trooper to lose his fisherman and hurt the turkey- who managed to peck a large hole in the arm of the policeman.
Big Al had to be driven into the vet and he caused an accident on the way there when people in the outside lane realized a turkey was sitting in the front seat and they drove off the road. All did not make it through the exam, and because he was medicated, he did not make it to the table either and 48 pounds of turkey meat had to be buried.
My pet goose, D B Gooser, hated my husband. He would charge him, grab his clothes and shake him until he was forced to the ground where he would beat his big wings over him to keep the dominant position. I came home from class one day and DB was laying on a picnic table being plucked of his feathers. What followed was selection of words that could only be called Foul Language and I was finally up to there with what my husband had done. That was the beginning of Bird Wars! That was the beginning of a series of acts that changed my mind about the person I had been working beside for all of the years we were married!
I had to make duck for dinner and my husband- who had suffered the vicious reaction to my loss of the goose, no longer wanted to kill the family meal birds and he would not kill the duck. Fred was the one I chose for the supper guest and as I laid him on the block, I remember his one beautiful eye looking up at his mother as I lowered the hatchet for the final chop. I got sick, called off dinner and wept for three days.
My acreage became a jungle. There were more birds, less harvesting and to get control, I got a German Shepard to help with the nightly round-up. He was fabulous. I would tell him to put the birds to bed and he would run around the entire property and escort the birds back into their coops, pens, and sheds every night. He and the English sheep dog slept inside, though and they would bark to get out at night when the raccoons showed up. We were stabilizing the numbers and egg sales were booming.
At the same time as our adventures in animal husbandry, we had gardened for eight years and our selection of herbs, fruits, vegetables, flowers and leaf crops were well established. We had put in grapes for eating and wine and they were producing well. The orchard of Stark dwarf and semi-dwarf trees were producing cherries, pears, apples, apricots, nectarines, and the blueberries, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries and currents were fabulous. We never could get the rhubarb to grow- I had to move here to get that!
We used the manure for the garden after composting everything with garden scraps. The old chickens went to the poultry processer, the eggs went to customers and we planned how the poultry person could help us with the ducks and geese and the rest of the turkeys as it came time to do the deed. The herb business grew and soon we took everything but flour and milk from what we raised. We were truly independent and it only took nine years, thousands of dollars and all of our extra time to do it! YAY!
One morning, my shepard was chasing a predator from the property and was hit out on the highway. It broke my heart. It was how I decided to stop what I was doing and make some life changes. During the time we worked to become self-sufficient on our acreage, the marriage fell apart. I worked so hard I got sick. He worked so hard that he didn’t want anything to do with it- or me anymore.
It took a few months, but we started to downsize with the farm animals going to friends, neighbors and a local feed store. We kept the garden in tact until the last season when we decided to sell and move. Everything was ready for the anniversary of the first decade. We had a man come and fill in the pond and we replaced the outer fence line to keep out the stray fishermen. I repainted the inside of the house and we touched up the trim on the outside. I planted flowers around the yard in the different garden beds and put up the for sale sign.
The house went to the first man who came by to see it two days later. When we closed the sale, I took my big notebooks full of notes about how we built the gardens and the flower beds and the volume of information about the way to raise poultry. I left out the rabbit section and handed him a book about raising rabbits instead because by then I could not talk about the fact that the two rabbits, Bugs and Bunny, had died in a mysteriously strange and unorthodox way that could not be explained easily. Or ever!
I packed my belongings and moved out of my dream farm a month later. For me it was the long learning experience of a lifetime and after the dust settled on my new life, I took time to reflect on what I learned from the experience:
- Living off the land is not for dummies. I will say it one more time. Living off the land is not for dummies. It requires intelligent planning and follow-through. It requires patience.
- Making your property a productive self-sufficient acreage takes time, experimentation and lots of hard work. Time means years. You can speed things along with an investment in soil amendments and investments in creating safe and separate spaces. Money will make it faster and easier. But nothing will happen quickly. It will take time. You will still have to work at a regular job unless you have an independent income in order to make a go of being self-sufficient.
- If you have livestock, your responsibility is threefold. You can never forget your feeding, watering, safety enclosures for a single day because you are all they have- and if you do this they will be there for you when you need them. Forget vacations: the animals will not thrive and the garden plants will die. No one takes care of your children like you do.
- Make sure before you begin, that your house is habitable (Without a place to sleep and eat, you will not have the energy to do the other list of things that you need to do.) And if you are lucky enough to have out buildings, make them secure and put all of your pens and fencing in place. Repair, restore, renovate and prepare for the next steps.
- Do not add animals or livestock until you have been working in the garden for a while to see if things actually grow as planned. Your garden needs to feed humans and livestock –or else the expense of animal feed gets pricey. Supplementing feed with bits of pulled greens, tasty weeds and vegetable cuttings will add fresh vitamins and additional nutrients to the diet of your livestock.
- Make sure that you study the area for soil, weather and timing and find the seeds and plants that work in your climate. Study the soil. Get control of the garden before you venture into egg production and animal husbandry. In La Pine you will need to include cold frames, greenhouse space and composting areas that are not going to attract raccoons and other pests.
- Be careful about adding different livestock animals. You will have to house and protect each kind of creature and they require specific things to maintain their health and safety. In our area, you will have to provide totally covered and fenced chicken coops. (And why are there always two doors on a chicken coop? because if there are four doors on a chicken coop it is called a sedan.)Rabbits require shelter, air movement on hot days, no wind on cold days, plenty of clean water and a scraps bowl and a separate dry feed bowl. All Rabbit pellets need to be cleared away each week at a minimum. Same with penned goats or sheep. Be sure you are aware of the needs of your livestock. Have a regular Chicken Chat to check in with your flocks. Chickens will know who brings the feed and will tell you lots of things about what is happening if you pay attention.
- Know the psychology of behaviors in each type of animal you are raising. Know how farm animals and house pets will most likely react to the presence of the other. A sheep dog that sleeps with his flock will care for them like siblings. A housecat may take a liking to a small chick- as food sources.
- Establish a Veterinarian who will answer a phone call question and work with you on the health of all of your animals.
- Once you establish your garden productivity, don’t give eggsclusive attention to one part of your property over the other. And if you do raise chickens, take care of the mother cluckers so they replenish your laying stock. Livestock is not pet stock, so don’t let a soft heart make decisions that should be made with a clear business head.
Posted in Speeches to the Masses by Teri Myers with no comments yet.
Supporting the girls…
By T. Myers
In April, I was lucky enough to go on adventure with 28 Lapinites to see a play in Christmas Valley. We left La Pine mid-afternoon and went over to the local CV watering hole for a cocktail before we went up to North Lake High School for the dinner and performance.
While enjoying a Long Island Ice Tea,
- 1 part vodka
1 part tequila
1 part rum
1 part gin
1 part triple sec
1 1/2 parts sweet and sour mix
1 splash Coca-Cola®
I sat with a few of La Pine’s finest ladies, whom I think fit the bill of being the Cat’s Meow! We visited about this and that, and as usual when I drink, my mind fills my mouth with what ever thought crosses my mind and we ended up having a very serious discussion about breasts!
Now this was not your typical stop breast cancer awareness chat, it was more along the lines of recognizing the fact that we always have breasts to start with and while we meandered through the various topics we ended up with trying to name ours- or lack of them.
Laughing through the conversation, I thought that it really ended up giving new meaning to a night out with the girls!
I had such a funny time that night that I opened my drawer where I keep my bras and looked my sad little supporters over and decided that IT WAS TIME TO GO SHOPPING!
Those of you who were here last year know about how I love to shop. Spurred on by an email from my friend last spring I went after buying a new swimsuit for myself and ended up with a story to share. I must say that this year was even more enlightening and a greater learning experience than last year and I want to share it with you all- my closest lady friends in La Pine!
Bra Shopping 101.
Although it seems like a straightforward thing to do it is not an easy thing at all.
Because we all have our own attachment to our anatomy and depending on how we started out as young ladies with the first bra, we have continued through the years to give the “girls” the support they need and find the right bra to do the job.
I looked over a group of young students recently and noticed that young ladies are very young when they try out their first training bra (aged six, seven and eight) and they are wearing the little triangles that mark the area of future growth for their young bodies. By the time a girl is a teen, she has been exposed to all kinds of media and movie ideas about intimate apparel for young women and has probably tried out everything from thongs to air bras, including athletic running bras and fancy little pantie sets that make her feel feminine.
Along with growing into adulthood comes the colorful undergarments of early womanhood and the fancy items made to entice a potential mate if exposed and then, there are the drawers full of mom panties and bras that the girls wear out to school and change from in gym class because they are dumb looking. Bras are a mark of sophistication- for sure- and have very little to do with supporting the “girls” until a woman is pregnant with her first child and experiences the changes in breasts that we all have when we are preparing to use our breasts for what they are actually made for.
The stages we go through after that make it difficult to buy new bras because we really need to be fit again each time our bodies change:
2nd baby and so on
Breast cancer/ Mastectomy and surgeries
Old lady boobs
So what happens when you are a woman of my age and physical proportions and you go to your meager collection of support possibilities and end up on the short end of the stick? Actually, what happens to any of us, any time when it comes to going shopping for a bra? I know that I am not the only one who is terror filled by the prospect. I even know women who layer their clothes (YOU KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT) rather than face shopping for new bras!
When there is no choice-you go shopping – of course….
But I must say that it is not just going into the Penney’s store and picking up a boxed Playtex bra you think it will work!
In order to buy a bra that fits, you need to go through a few steps (according to the bra fitters at Victoria’s Secret):
- You are forced to really look at yourself in the mirror. Naked- hopefully alone without the sales lady there beside you ready with a tape measure.
- You need to measure around your chest under the bra line. ___
- You need to measure the widest part of your chest over the bust line and then calculate the difference to determine cup size. _____-______= ___ (each inch is a cup size starting with AAA. AA. A. B.C.D. DD.DDD and so on.)
- You need to look in the mirror to determine the set of the way your breasts are hanging: straight, inward, outward, etc.
- You need to determine whether you have a wide space between- or cleavage- and address that in finding the appropriate style. Nothing is worse than a skinny woman with a low cut dress exposing what she thinks is sexy cleavage and it turns out to be a flat breastbone!
- You need to consider padding, blow up options, under wires, width of bra straps, padded bra straps and whether the bra will be worn under smooth or textured clothing so that rumples do not show. Then decide if you are going to wear it on a date, or to a secret assignation, maybe a work out, or just to do laundry, etc.
- Oh, Oh, Oh! And don’t forget about closures, either. A front closure is very easy to put on, but they don’t last very long before they break and then what do you do with a great bra that can’t fasten. The Back closures are normal, but there is a secret to those, too. One bangers are for little boobs and four bangers are for serious support. Buying a bra when you are built like me is a four banger minimum. If they had five hooks, it would be ideal.
- Color is important, too. Every woman needs a blush or beige bra, a white bra and a black bra for dark clothes.
- Consider whether age has you buying white cotton undies in packages of five or more at the Wal*Mart and comfortable cotton bras in white, or are you still perky enough to get a racy little under thing for yourself in honor of “remembrance of the sex life you used to have”?
With all of these things to consider, I took to the shopping circuit with a notepad in hand and white knuckled it all the way into Bend- By the way if you want to buy a bra in La Pine you are SOL….
Anyway the usual suspects were Macy’s ,Victoria’s Secret, Penney’s, Lane Bryant, Pretty Pussycat, Leggs’ Outlet Store, Wal*Mart, Ross and the phonebook yellow pages!
Forearmed with my knowledge of what would/could happen, I hit the stores with a new credit card and the desire to get a nice white, beige and black bra for myself.
The measuring thing was going to be a problem. When I let the girls out they point to the floor like pancakes with blips on them so that the under measurement is actually the same size as the measurement over the top of what would be the widest measurement if I rolled them up and stuffed them into place. Then there is the consideration for side fat (escaping boob syndrome), muffin tops and back rumples.
I also needed to find a bra that I could reach into in order to adjust the girls so the nipples would be centrally located in the middle of the bra cup instead of tucked underneath the cup- although it would create a smoother look and not require nipple warmers or Band-Aids to block the headlight reaction during cold or exciting times! Cuz, honey, I ain’t no triple AAA! -If you know what I mean. I am more like a 44 magnum!
At Penney’s I went to “the wall” and looked at the pretty offerings and then off to the dressing rooms to try a few, I found a couple. Same at Macy’s, I found a couple more. Victoria’s Secret ladies were helpful, but not able to produce a bra from their stock that would work for me and I was told, You can go online for the ‘special sizes’.” I bought some perfume and lotion and left. At the Pussycat, I found lots of enticing things to buy in XXX and big big big. (Now I will have to find a special fella’ so I can use them sometime, but since I am a NONE, it might be difficult…..)
I went to Wal*Mart and found the usual packages of white and wonderful cottons, so I picked up a few panties and a couple of bras.
By this point I was swimming in which brands that would work- Olga and Bali and Playtex bras and I wanted to look at Ross for a giggle, so I headed over there for a quick peek.
Bonanza! There were all kinds of brand names. Bras were hanging on the racks in my sizes and there were even fancy pants to go with them! I filled the cart before I had a chance to think about it and headed up front to purchase my finds. With my shopping excursion complete, my credit card reaching new limits of purchasing power, I headed home to La Pine, after stopping to catch my breath at SONIC’s afternoon 2 for one drink-a thon.
When I pulled into the driveway at my house, I took out my purchases and laid them out on my bed. I ended up with some amazing bras, in great colors and wonderful styles, but more importantly, I had spared myself the indignity of the FITTINGS I normally went through.
As I put each purchase to the test, I noticed how much better I looked when the ‘girls’ were up in place! Supported, as it were! It took forever to try each one on and admire it in the mirror. Finally, everyone had been proven a winner in one category or the other and I could relax! I took one more look to be sure. As soon as I was finished really examining the new bras, I took off the last new one and grabbed one of my old tried and true worn out softies and slipped on a T-Shirt and soft pants to relax for the rest of the day!
With a sigh of relief, “I know that I am ready…”
So…….now when I get dressed for an event I can put my best foot forward with a new bra that “supports the girls” appropriately and lets me know the true meaning of a great night out with the girls!
Posted in Speeches to the Masses by Teri Myers with no comments yet.
Life, Love and Lipstick!
By T. Myers
Well, here we are! Enjoying the event and the theme of “Life, Love and Lipstick” and because I fancy myself a writer- (That means a person who is always looking in at-instead of out from!). I have taken some time to analyze the meaning of today’s theme and I get to share my vision with this captive audience! When you have a big theme like Life, Love and Lipstick it relates to each of your own lives- and to mine.
When I was a philosophy major, I loved Kierkegaard. He said, “Life can only be understood backwards; unfortunately it can only be lived forward.” It’s true. We become great armchair quarterbacks, right? Professing our knowledge about different topics or issues?
We all go through life in different ways, too. Some of us are lucky- and some of us not so lucky. Some of us get lifted up while others get battered and pushed around by authority figures, by people, or by circumstance. There is one lucky thing about me… I know who I am, I have possessions that let me see where I come from and support me in my curiosity about life. I have pets and people in my life that ring my bells and I can be sarcastic, compassionate or reflective and I get to express myself on a regular basis.
For me? I get up each morning and plan my assault on the day. Because of that, I have had to learn when the adrenaline kicks in: There is fight or flight mechanism in all of us. At my age it is more like a “fight or die” mechanism. And the adrenaline thing? That leads to figuring out what type of person you are. An A or a B?
I am an A. The best way to explain it is to give you an example: I figured it out years ago when I was still married. I had slept through the alarm and was late getting up. I put on the coffee, pushed the dog out the door and threw out the cat to do their business while I showered and dressed. I drank my coffee and spilled cereal milk down the front of my blouse and had to change clothes. Then I called in the dog and the cat. Dog came in and no cat, but I was late so I gathered up my briefcase, car keys, travel mug and left for work. I backed the car out of the driveway and started down the street. There was my cat lying in the road. I could not believe it! I had to throw him outside to go do his business! It was my fault he was lying there in the road. Dead! Still warm! Poor Kitty!
I picked my cat up and ran back to the house. By then my hubby was up and he joined me at the kitchen counter to cry and talk to the cat. We petted and praised him through our tears and then my husband started to laugh. Maniacally!
“What do you think you are you doing?” I asked.
“This isn’t out cat, honey,” he answered.
Sure enough the cat on the counter did not have the distinct white mark on his chest- and then I looked at the patio slider and there was our real cat sitting there ready to come inside. What was I supposed to do? Throw him back out on the street? No. I called my office and said I would be a little while longer while I buried the cat and we dug a hole out under the catnip plants in the back yard and laid the cat to rest. I went to work feeling a little better, but still I had this dramatic sense of guilt.
What is an A? It is a person who lives life on emotional steroids. B-s? I really don’t understand B-s but I do know that a B would have realized it was not their cat and picked the cat up and set it over to the side of the road, wiped their hands with a wet nap and driven off to work! I am an A!
So when I was told about the theme of today’s event, I said, “Sure! I get it!” And, I began to plan what I wanted to share. I will start my analysis by following Kierkegaard’s advice and go backwards by starting with LIPSTICK!”
Four years ago when Sarah Palin announced that the only difference between a soccer mom and a pit bull was lipstick, the entire nation had a great laugh and since I had been a pit bull, I had some serious thoughts about being a modern woman who is taking on age in a not so graceful manner. I am 64.
And, one thing for sure, re: Lipstick? I never leave the house without it!
Putting on lipstick used to be so easy. I smeared a color on the old cake hole and it stayed until it was worn off, kissed off or eaten off with the intake of food. (Ah, youth!) My appreciation for lipstick started early. When I was sixteen, I used to go shopping at the old Lipmans’ Store in Portland. I ran into this saleswoman –always immaculately dressed in black – as were all of the retail clerks in the upscale Lipmans’ store. This particular saleswoman worked behind the cosmetics counter there and she was a very interesting woman. “Hello! My name is Miss Magda Barenov” started the day by adjusting her coiffure (remember the hairspray and head wraps?)- I was to learn later that she had it freshly done each Wednesday in the store salon. She would carefully dress in one of her form fitting black dresses and black heels and seamed stockings. Her make-up was done with certain flair, too. Of course, because she sold for the Estee Lauder and Alexandra De Markoff lines- one a high end line and the other, the highest end cosmetic line.
I always went to town each week and loved to watch her work. She was ethnic with a thick eastern European accent and an immigrant background. She would explode with each sentence and spit tiny particles of saliva into the air as she spoke. But that was not the real reason I liked to watch her.
The real reason was to observe what happened to her mouth. You see, the woman carefully applied a bright red shade of lipstick to her mouth each morning. She powdered it and blotted it; I am sure, because she taught everyone how to do that when they picked out a lipstick from her two lines.
Unfortunately, for her and all of her customers, her middle aged mouth no longer was contained inside the outlines of her lips and powdering it still let it creep up the tiny cracks above and below her lips so that she had red lips that appeared to be stitched on with red thread!
Before she went to her lunch break I would see her take a tissue out of the cleavage between her heavy breasts, dab it with liquid from a bottle she kept at her counter and wipe her mouth- effectively erasing the red stitching and when she returned from her break, there was fresh red lipstick in place for the afternoon. She did the same wiping thing before her coffee breaks and before she left for the day.
I really think she was totally unaware of her red stitched mouth until one late morning in mid-summer when several of my girlfriends came with me to shop. We stopped for a squirt of perfume and she, recognizing me as the customer I had become, she began her greeting, her spitting and her intense sales pitch of teenage products that were soon to be available in a new Clinique line. Hoping to prevent the inevitable and disrespectful giggles and worse, I got her attention touched my mouth and turned the mirror on the counter to her to point out her red stitches.
She glanced over and realized- to her horror- that she was a cartoon of the person she wanted to be and she immediately pulled out one of the tissues she had tucked away in her bosom and wiped her mouth. Then, in a heartbeat, classy lassie that she was, she turned the horror into a teachable moment for all of us.
“You see, girls,” the exuberant woman explained to all of us, “When a woman becomes a certain age, her tissues of the mouth break down and her lips thin out so that she needs to be very careful about the application of lip color. You will need to remember to exercise your lips and then put a foundation base on under your lip color. Eventually you will need to buy a professional lip liner to keep your lips drawn in a clean line. You will have to paint your face on. I have just discovered that I will need to add my own face to that list of women who need extra work to keep my lips in check.”
I never saw her red stitched lips again and she acknowledged my help by taking me in as a prodigy of sorts as I went through college and into adulthood. When Lipmans’ closed, Magda retired. I do not know what happened to her after she left Portland for Southern California to live with her younger sister. But, I did learn about what make-up, especially high quality make-up can do for a woman with Magda’s help and I learned to pay attention to how dated a woman can become when she does not pay attention to the changes in her face and changes in make-up fashion colors.
I eventually went into theater where I learned that lips need lipstick to help the audience understand what you are saying.
Lipstick? – always!
Love: When I had cancer twenty years ago, I learned what love was. It was not the romantic white knight carrying me off into the sunset on a silver stallion kind of love. It was not what I expected at all! Not to say that I had no idea what love was before that point. I just had the usual popular understanding of different kinds of love and how that love worked as a wife, mom, daughter, girlfriend, sibling, pet owner or friend…
Love turned into a lot of different definitions of affection and support.
When I was really ill, sometimes it was the look from my visiting children. The question mark on my youngest daughter’s face when she had these things burning inside her that she wanted to know but was afraid to ask. You know that face?-The tenuous smile and bravado to keep strong because ‘Mom needed it’ whether she understood what that meant- or not.
There was also that jar of soup from the lady who lived next to me when I stayed in a house way out in Beaverton so I could get to the hospital for chemo more easily. She would lace it with lemon and celery, because that is what had worked for her when she went through her cancer treatments. I referred to it as Puckered Chicken soup and it probably started the process that cured me!
My Senior Students from the Sandy Senior Center that studied music, band and drama with me for seven years at Mount Hood Community College, were always in my classes every Monday- the one good day in my week before I went back to the hospital for chemo every Tuesday. They brought me vegetables they grew, made me tea cozies and other hand- made items to show their love to me. And, they prayed for me.
Going through a divorce and chemo at the same time made it hard for my personal friends who knew the both of us. Some used it as an excuse to avoid me (Big C) and I lost them, but those who did stay close opened up tiny cracks in my skeptical and hardened heart and snuggled down inside to make my heart a better place to collect love- and in turn a better heart to offer love to others.
I was already 40 years old and it was the first time that I had taken time to consider the little bit of time we have on earth and I made promises to keep up with the people who gave me love when I needed more of it and I promised to take the time it takes to offer love when my friends need it.
Actually, love became a four letter word that is synonymous with miracle.
Prayers, good wishes, and amazing support from people I did not even know, kept me alive. (Well, that and a promise I made in anger to tap dance on my ex-husband’s grave before I died!) I felt that God had a plan for me/ I had no idea what that could mean, but I was alive for a reason and it was because of LOVE.
So I knew how to put on make-up and create a face that would give me confidence. I knew about love. And I learned that it was not always reciprocal. It wasn’t always everything you dreamed of, but it had the power to keep you alive and hold you in the palm of its hand.
So what is left?LIFE, of course!
After a serious illness, a person realizes that life is tenuous at best.
Life becomes a precarious balance (teeter-totter) between the day to day things that each of us does every morning, noon and night with the on-going and special activities we involve ourselves with through time as we make our way through our days here on earth.
Life turns into a blend of the wonder that is unfolded before us with our personal discoveries throughout our own existence and the expectations of the people we bump up against as we travel. Let’s take a look at those bumps in the road!
When we are babies, the parents who take care of us and see to our needs begin to form us as people. We demand that we be fed, changed and nurtured, and if we are lucky, we build a sense of self that allows us to handle the people in the world around us. Our first bump will probably be a sibling- one that takes attention away from us or that we take attention from. How the folks handle the brother or sister thing will be the start of how we are able to handle relationships later in life. (Now that I think about it that is another fascinating story- in my life, anyway.)
Our next bump is going to school. Leaving the safety of the nest and flying into the arms of others who care take and others who you need to share space and “Things” with! Perish the thought that you will need to learn to interact with all the speed bumps at school.
By the time you have a handle on school, there is that first crush or case of puppy love that will often seem more like a mountain than a bump, but it proves to be a necessary part of life so that we know how to find all of the other chosen loved ones who will treat us with love and disrespect through the next phases of our lives.
Then we leave school and find that special someone who completes us. We add our own family or create a group of friends that become family and we continue our walk through life thinking that we have forever to do all of those things we have dreamed about doing and we go on whistling a happy tune until a shoe drops!
It might be age, a cheating spouse, a tragic accident, a serious illness or a combination of all of these things that finally catches our attention until we are forced to come to the realization that we humans have the same problems and concerns wherever we live, whatever we do, however we choose to make our way down life’s highway.
And, as long as we remember that the speed bumps are places to stop and think before continuing our journey, each of us will end up understanding that LIFE has never been about where you end up, but about how you got there. The journey is the thing!
So I have a few questions to ask you:
Do you have anything you love- really love? Be sure you make time for it.
Do you spend more time thinking about the life you’ve already lived or do you think about looking forward to the new adventures that are coming your way? Living in the past means your life is over!
Have you experienced some of life’s greatest losses and sorrows? (Loss due to: illness, death, divorce, career, finances, independence, physical mobility?) If you have, lucky you! Because until you do experience great loss, you cannot possibly understand life’s greatest joys and happiness like marriage, birth, personal achievements and accomplishments that make you proud to be a person!
Are you always ready for a new adventure? Are they spontaneous or cumbersomely planned? Go home and pack a DASH bag with everything you will need for a fast trip and put it in the closet to grab when needed!
Do you still dream about life’s possibilities? It is so hopeful to dream. (Consider Annie Mae. The homeless lady in the play French Fries– She dreams about living in McDonalds because it is so clean ‘God gave us plastic so we would know what the everlasting really is!’)
Do you still question everything? Questions lead to answers! Answers lead to changes and changes are the future!
So here’s the deal! There are always things to ask about and answer but ultimately,
LIFE is about living.
Don’t let your fears keep you from doing things. When you try different things and fail- at least you have tried things. Who knows, sometimes you might succeed.
Life is about living.
(This one is the hardest one for me) When you isolate yourself and act as though you can get along without the help of your community, there will be a point when you will need the rest of us to pull up your boots or get you to the doctor. Maybe while you are still independent, you should start reaching out to others and making them part of your inner circle and increase the safety of all of you. Make sure you have a buddy to check on and who will check on you. When you need them, your friends will be there.
Life is about living.
For you joiners and doers. Make sure you take a look at what you are able to accomplish and if you find that you are unable to make a real difference in the activities you are involved with, and community involvement is an important part of your personal belief system, withdraw. Take a break from what you have volunteered for and after your time out find an activity or two where what you do will matter. Focus on them so you achieve the goals you want to accomplish.
Life is about living.
Write handwritten letters and handwritten cards and send them through the snail mail so recipients can hold them and read them over again and think of you. Next to a hug or speaking your loved ones names out loud to them in person, a hand-written letter is the closest thing you can do!
Life is about living.
Eat well, sleep more and share laughter every day.
Oops! There is a Ta Dah for you! Life is really about laughter.
With laughter you can live, you can love and it won’t matter what shade of lipstick you wear!
So my advice for when you leave here today?
- · Laugh while you live your life
- · Laugh while you love- well maybe not while you make love, but… hold on you know what I mean
- And, as I remind my gal pals, wear lipstick so your lips don’t become flat tires- or worse, end up in stiches!
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