Y is an Apology to an Anonymous You

Y“While you are in the library, write a sincere note of apology to someone, addressing the person as “you” without giving a name. Fold it up and leave the note inside a library book. Put the book on the shelf.” Ruth Ozeki’s Prompt #9 in the Preface to Choices (Borderline Press, 2016).

I wouldn’t want anyone chasing after the note I enclosed in one of the depicted books, so I’m not identifying the library, although someone might be able to recognize this library by its bookmobile.

image image imageIt was hard to write an apology to an individual I don’t know for the reasons cited below, but I suppose most of us have experienced harshnesses put upon us by others. I also suppose that we have been unkind to others thereby necessitating an apology and creating memories that stick with us all too long.

I have written before about a sixth grade experience during which a bunch of other girls and I chided (well, actually bullied) a girl whose initials were F.A.T. School personnel required us to apologize, and we did, but the abject shame has stuck with me for several decades. When I saw her at a high school reunion six years ago, I referenced it, including another apology. A friendly, accomplished woman, she said, “I don’t remember.”

May all those we harm be so gracious; may we strive never to be hurtful. Here’s my  note of understanding. I can’t quite call it an apology.

imageHi!  To keep my writing life stimulating and fun, I am participating in the 2016 A-Z Challenge which you can find out about by going to http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/what-is-blogging-from-to-z.html. I have combined the daily alphabet prompts with 20 other prompts written by Ruth Ozeki, the best selling author of A Tale for the Time Being, etc.

[I site the title of the blog and Ozeki’s prompt in the letter, but won’t reproduce it here]

The thing is, how do I write a note of apology to someone I don’t know, against whom I have perpetrated no ugly deed necessitating confession, a request for forgiveness, or the expression of regret or remorse. Well, maybe I should apologize to this book for making a lump in its pages.

Anyway, if you have been wounded, know that the writer of this note extends sympathy and sadness and wishes that s/he who “done you wrong” finds the inner bravery to apologize. In the meantime, use this $5 bill for yourself or someone else.

 I hope your life is happy.

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Xcellent, AleX

X“As you are walking toward the next intersection if you see a person who is wearing something red, stop flipping your coin and follow that person instead. Follow the person wearing red until you see a person with long brown hair until you see a man in a pinstriped suit. When you see a man in a pinstriped suit, return to flipping your coin.” Ruth Ozeki’s Prompt #3 in the Preface to Choices (Borderline Press, 2016

imageGUEST BLOG BY ALEX LAMBRIES: Alex Lambries, 17, is a junior at Park City (Utah) High School. She loves skiing, hiking, biking and cooking. Her high school team took first place in a regional culinary competition. She is a loving and competent big sister to Gabrielle, 15, Elizabeth, 12, and Nicholas, 9.

We walk into the mall and I flip a coin, which directs us to the Pretzel Shop where I buy a cinnamon and sugar pretzel. I see a Polynesian guy with luscious black hair and blue eyes. He’s wearing a red plaid shirt. I turn to my grandmother and say, “Didn’t you know that Polys wear plaid shirts all the time? They rock.”

I watch him buy lemonade and a peanut butter and a jelly pretzel (eeeww) which is almost enough to deter me from pursuit, but those blue eyes drive me on. He strides over to Granny’s Book Nook and looks over his shoulder. Why? Is he in the Fifty Shades of Grey section? He slides a shiny volume onto the counter and pays for it.

I can’t hang around to see what he buys because I have to follow the prompt and I’ve seen someone with long brown hair: Chewbacca. I must follow him, but not before he glances at me and give him a wink. IChewy goes to the Oakley Kiosk, browses thick Coke bottle lenses with pink frames, puts them on, and presses a bell.

A secret trap door opens in the floor and he disappears. I drop down into the rectangular pit of mystery and doom. The corridors are lit by smoldering torches. I try to follow the friendly hairy beast, but I only see cages of flamingoes. Now I am on a platform which undulates and begins to rise until I am in the center of a circus tent.

I see a guy with luscious black hair and blue eyes, a red plaid shirt open at the chest under a pinstriped suit. He is reading to children who are waiting for the circus to begin. They are sitting in Chewbacca’s lap listening to Red Shirt read Horton Hears a Who. He looks my way and winks.

I decide to sit right here and not flip another coin.

 

 

W is for (Dog) Walking

W“Go to a large city with a coin in your pocket. Start walking. When you reach an intersection, take the coin from your pocket and flip it. If it’s heads, go right. If it’s tails, go left. Repeat.” Ruth Ozeki’s Prompt #1 in the Preface to Choices (Borderline Press, 2016)

I am in Park City, which may have City in its name, but PC (pop: 7962) is not a large urban area. Thirty-two miles from Salt Lake, the town is known for accessible ski areas, the 2002 Winter Olympics, the annual Sundance film festival, great mountain bike trails, oh, and as the latest dwelling place for my son Jules and his family.

So, since it snowed this morning and I was loath to take my wimpy rental car out of the driveway, the place for a coin-flipping adventure was right here in the neighborhood, namely the Jeremy Ranch section of Park City.

Bella, the family Labradoodle checked out the weather and decided to spend a cozy morning in front of the fireplace, but when his little buddy Nicholas came home from school and was anxious for an on-leash (I’m sure he thought unleashed) adventure, he was ready to move, but impatient at every coin flip.

No coin flip here because we’re heading to the dog park. Anyway, Bella flips her own coins to conquer bolders, run, and take a break in somebody else’s garden.

Nicholas said, “What is this? did somebody die here?”image

Nicholas pauses to look at a worm. “Boy, that’s a long one.” Another coin flip: Tails! We go left and there’s Tony. “He’s old,” says Nick. “He’s nine.”

Finally the dog park. But we have to watch out for bears, coyotes, cougars, elk, moose, deer, and…image

…a dog with a mind of her own.

Nicholas wants to swing, but I say no. Hey, it’s 48 degrees and the swing goes out over the water.

Time for another coin flip. Fortunately, it’s heads, which means Southridge will connect to home on Sunrise Drive, the street where Nicholas, Bella, Alexandra, Elizabeth, Gabrielle, and their traveling parents, Jules and Sara, live. And me too, for a couple more happy days.image.jpeg

 

 

U is for Undoing Unhappiness

U“As you are walking in the city towards the next intersection, smile at everyone you happen to make eye contact with. Award yourself a point for every smile that is returned. The winner is the one with the most smiles.”  Prompt #14 in Ruth Ozeki’s Preface to Choices (Borderline Press, 2016)

I am amused that several readers asked “What happened to the “U” blog?”

I could say, if U knew me, U’d know that Flexible instead of Quinby, is my middle name. I punt when I don’t have recipe ingredients. I consider a schedule just a guideline—an insight supplied by my wife in a poem she (lovingly) read at our commitment ceremony 18 years ago.

As for the “U” blog, I shifted the responsibility to my grandchildren. Since their schedules didn’t match up with the progression of the alphabet prompts, I wrote U on V day and V on U day. Never mind that I’m posting on W day.

After seeing Zootopia, the contest began. Alexandra (17), Elizabeth (12) and Nicholas (9) counted the smiles they received on the way to and in the venues to which we were walking—The Habit Burger Grill and Nordstrom’s in the Sugar Loaf area of Salt Lake City. I told them to keep exact track of SIRs (Smiles In Return) and to remember as much as they could about what happened. Then we’d talk.

Nicholas (15 SIRs, 19 no smile backs) edged out Elizabeth (9 SIRs, 6 no smile backs),  as the winner and the one who tried the hardest. Alex (8 SIRs) concentrated on buying shoes for her upcoming prom (an understandable decision for a teenager) and likely prompted by the experience illustrated in this exchange. My first question to her was, “Were the smiles different?”

“It’s crazy,” she said, “how many facial expressions you can get by smiling. I got a sarcastic smile at Nordstrom’s. I started to sit down and this lady, half-smiling, said, “You’re in my spot.” Then, when I was looking at Converse Unisex shoes, a guy said, ‘You’re in the men’s section.’ I said ‘I know.’ And then he gave a raised-eyebrow-Really? smile. At the restaurant I asked the guy behind the counter where the restrooms were. “There’s a sign right there,” he said pointing, as if I was a total dummy.

And that’s when she said, “Okay, Gramma, I’m done with this smiling thing.”

Elizabeth kept up with the “smiling thing.” Here’s a bit of our conversation.

Elizabeth: There was this couple. They both smiled back. The girl was kinda Gothic, wearing a purple shirt, black pants. She had long black hair. The guy was wearing a black shirt with nude pants.

Me: Elizabeth, what do you mean by nude pants?

Elizabeth, with her very own quizzical-what-don’t-you-understand-smile. You know, the color, nude.

Me: You mean flesh-colored or beige?

Elizabeth, shrugged, but maintained her stance: I just call it nude.”

Elizabeth’s overall observation—sophisticated for a 12-year-old I thought: “I think most people don’t want to be rude so they smile back. It’s in their DNA. Seems natural for them to do it. But there were a lot who didn’t smile at all. Some people just kept walking.”

There was no daunting Nicholas’ enthusiasm. When Alex asked him to hold a box of shoes for her, he said. “Can’t, Alex, I’m losing time.”

He ran down the Nordstrom’s aisle to my outpost at Men’s Shorts: “Gramma, do babies count?” “Of course.” I said. Later, as we were in the car, he asked, “How bout waving and smiling?” I hated to disappoint him, but the contest was over and he had already demonstrated his ability to engage with people and to observe them closely. Later in the evening, he recited his experiences and I typed up his words:

  • This guy had brown hair, glasses, brown or blue eyes, plaid shirt blue, jeans, brown shoes and swipe badge. He had an ear bud in one ear. He had a dutiful smile.
  • That Little baby had little squeezy lips, no hair, blue eyes, pale skin, was in a little carrier, had footie jammies. His smile was like a fish’s.
  • There was an old lady with a red-orange mushroom cut. Freckles, long eyelashes, wearing scrubs. Her smile was square with lots of teeth showing. She looked a little constipated. Her face was orange.
  • A black guy smiled. I heard him talking in a different language. He had on jeans and a t-shirt.
  • Two guys were talking. One was kinda chill. He had on a black beanie. His smile was with a raised hand, “What’s up dude?” He had teeny, teeny freckles and arm pit hair and tattoo on his arm—it was a circle.
  • “I stared at people but they didn’t stare back. If I said Hi, then they said Hi.”
  • People don’t pay attention to kids.

Nicolas, I think they paid attention to you and I know one person you–and your sisters–made happy: me.

V is for Ver-Vert

VWhen I was looking for early usages of “septuagenarian” for my “S” blog, I found a favorite in Jean-Baptiste-Louis Gresset’s 1793 poem Ver-Vert. 

Ver-Vert is an irreverent, witty narrative about a pious parrot who lives in a convent. While he travels by ship to another convent, he’s exposed to bawdy language. “The boatmen all in chorus swore/Oaths never heard by him before And sad and glum, Ver-Vert sat still/In silence, though against his will.” At the new convent he’s assigned a new caretaker: “A sulky, sour septuagenarian maid is made the keeper of the Renegade.”

The attribution of unpleasant characteristics (sour and sulky) to seventy-year olds, reinforce exactly what I, a card carrying septuagenarian for three years, don’t want to be. Insert smiley face here.

Ver-Vert quickly established his reputation, particularly among Parisian literati who were surprised that such wit could come from within the Catholic Church. Gresset was brought up by Jesuits. His churchly superiors were unhappy with his work, but he continued to write light verse, as well as candid accounts of life in a Jesuit College which led to his expulsion from the order because he was impious! Unclerical! Frivolous! Absurd!

Gresset began to write plays. EdouardIII (1740) was the first French play to include the enactment of a murder on stage. One play The Sorry Man was an expose of salon life.

The “S” quote mentioned above came from the Oxford English Dictionary, with A. Geddes credited as the translator. I couldn’t find that translation online, so I used Bartleby.com’s excerpt from The World’s Wit and Humor (1906). The translator has rewritten the words differently: “The oldest, ugliest, sourest nun/an ape in veils, a skeleton, bent double with her 80 years; She’d moved the hardest sinner’s tears.”

Gresset, the writer with three hyphenated first names, died at 68, never achieving septuagenarian status. I’d have never discovered him and his interesting bio had I not dipped into the OED.  Should you want to read the amusing Ver-Vert, a 387-line poem, check it out here.

 

Additional Resource: Britannica

 

T is for Theater

TTwo mammoth tubs of obesity-producing popcorn, three colossal containers of soda, a couple of adults, five children (ages 5-14) and about eighty greenbacks thrust across the counter: the occasion and the venue is clearly a movie megaplex.

The theater, this late Saturday afternoon, is filled to capacity, and includes my grandkids, their Mom, and me. We are seated in the eye-and ear-blasting third row from the screen because we arrived just 30 minutes before screen time.

The Jungle Book begins, a gorgeous rush of jungle scenery, the boy Mowgli running and leaping, interacting with his wolf family and other beasts and critters. The story, narrated by Bagheera the panther (Ben Kingsley) unfolds with relative simplicity. My four grandsons do not flinch as Kaa the python slithers toward Mowgli, but my five-year-old granddaughter, the youngest in the family, covers her eyes and cozies up to her mom.

They have all seen the 1967 Disney animation of The Jungle Book. At the end of director Jon Favreau’s version, they say they liked it  more: “It was fun.” “There was a real kid in it.” “It had lotsa  action.”

I’m inclined to agree with them. A long time ago, I wrote movie reviews for two newspapers in Los Angeles, but these days I like to sit back, enjoy the cinematography and, if the film is a provocative one, like Eye in the Sky, engage in serious discussion. But, The Jungle Book? I just enjoyed watching it and the concentrated look of rapture on my grandchildren’s faces.

P.S. If you’d like an intelligent, substantive critique that drills into the movie, read this review by Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. Dargis calls the film “lightly diverting,” “a pumped up version of Disney’s 1967 animated film with more action and less sweetness.”

S is for Septuagenarian

S“Pretend you are very old. Move at half speed carefully. Do this when you are in a great hurry.” Prompt #10 by Ruth Ozeki in Choices (Borderline Press, 2016)

If you are already a septuagenarian, like me, do you need to pretend you are very old?

No. Pretense was unnecessary when I took a 4-mile hike today with four grandchildren (ages4-12) and my daughter-in-law, who didn’t tell me the hike was up––make that UP! Hiking at half speed, my back bent over in decrepitude, and my eyes wedded to the rocky path to prevent tipping over, were all natural proclivities for me as the five of them scampered up the trail, led by Fletcher, their precocious and speedy Labradoodle.

The thing is, I never say I’m old.  I don’t admit to being past my prime, not long for this world, over the hill, or even elderly. I can’t stand to write the word dotage and I am not superannuated, senile, or senescent.  I couldn’t be. I know the meanings of those three words.

I am nowhere near grizzled, hoary, or ancient but I wouldn’t mind being called venerable or wise, even if those descriptors aren’t true. I’m retired, but my retreaded life is moving along the quite nicely, thank you. I am no spring chicken, but there is nothing sprung about me, or so I thought until we took that hike.

The World Health Organization says that the accepted definition of “elderly” by most developed countries in the world is the chronological age of 65 years. Sigh. Okay. But I don’t have to like it. Call me seasoned instead.

And the next time we go on a hike, I’m going to catch up with these guys, Finn and Harper.

   
  

R is for Repetition

RSay to yourself in a quiet voice. I forgive you. Repeat until it is true.” Prompt #18 by Ruth Ozeki in the Preface to Choices (Borderline Press, 2016).

O.K.,  but what am I forgiving myself for? Should I forgive my hand for eating an entire pint of Tom and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk Ice Cream? Forgive my eyes for binge watching four straight segments of Downton Abbey? Forgive my feet for not dragging themselves out of bed and heading  to the gym?

Forgive my mouth for speaking unkind words, the backside of my hand for rendering an unnecessary blow, or my head for making decisions that negatively impacted others?

I’ll go with the last sequence of misdeeds, understanding that forgiving myself, however many times I gently do so, is not the same as making restitution directly with those affected. It’s not the same as petitioning God, a private matter from my point of view. But…here goes.

  • I’m unhappy and embarrassed that I asked my teenage son Jason (now 44) to pay for his school clothes out of the birthday money he got from my parents. He said, “Mom, that’s not right.”
  • I feel dreadful that when I impatiently and in anger tossed Leslie on her bed, she hit her head on the wood railing. She cried and cried and cried until her three-year-old lungs morphed into sustained whimpers.
  • I’m sorry that, in one spontaneous, heartbreaking, thoughtless, against-my-principles-reaction, I slapped Elizabeth across the mouth when she was snappish in the car. Difficult circumstances may exist (the wailing of a baby brother, the noise of three other kids, and my own tardiness), but there is never an excuse for physical violence to one’s own children. I’m blessed that Elizabeth was never as critical of me as I of my mom.
  • I turn my eyes heavenward several times a month to apologize for the teenager that I was or to say “Now I understand” to my mom. What’s happy-making is that I think my mother hears me and I know that she always loved me despite my insolent behavior

What is also happy-making is that my children include me in their lives and they  love me despite assorted injustices and more serious scars––like leaving a 30+ year marriage and excommunication from the LDS church­­. That last admission deserves more than brief inclusion at the end of a double dash. I prefer to leave those facts undetailed, for the moment, and accept my son Jonathan’s remedy for scarring.

“We just tattoo over them,” he said.

 

 

Q is for the Quinby Quilt

QI don’t need a prompt to write about the surname Quinby. If you’ve read my About link, you know that I’ve replaced my given middle name Lee with Quinby to honor the Quinbys who adopted me and to eliminate the alliterative overkill of Linda Lee Lambert.

My interest in family history was invigorated when I discovered  my father’s name (!) Leslie Robert Quinby (1907-1987) in a book published in 1915: The Genealogical History of the Quinby (Quimby) Family in England by Henry Cole Quinby.

That book gave me the data to trace my adoptive family back to the original family that migrated from England. Now, of course, through libraries and individual accounts, we all have digital access to mammoth databases via Ancestry.com and the Mormon Church’s Family Search software. I continue to collect data but stories are my current preoccupation.

IMG_4098In the eighties, my Aunt Julia (Quinby) Coke (1916-2008) told me about an 18th century quilt that had been handed down to her. Mid conversation, she turned and wordlessly went to her bedroom and brought out the quilt, a blue and white woven remnant. I noted the pin holes on a half sheet which had been attached to the fabric. She handled the fabric with care and love. It seemed a sacred moment and I wrote about the experience for a national women’s magazine.

On April 6th of this month my cousin John Coke (Julia’s son) and his wife Cathy, took me to lunch at the Mission Inn in San Diego. They said they had a present for me. Before I opened the bag, tears began. I had the feeling that something special was about to happen.

I lifted a bundle swathed in lavender tissue from a colorful bag and saw what I’d been calling a quilt: a remnant made over 250 years ago by an ancestor named Deborah Thorne. I saw the same pinholes on the half sheet I’d seen decades earlier. Then I read the words:

H I S T O R Y    O F   T H E   O L D   B L U E   W O V E N  S P R E A D                                 Spun and woven by DEBORAH THORNE in the year 1752. She gave same to her daughter SARAH THORNE, WHO MARRIED ISAAC VAIL on or about 1778, afterwards given to her son LOT VAIL, who kept it until his death in 1883 Then given to Julia Vail Quinby, his niece, who gave it to her son ROBERT C. QUINBY in whose possession it is now in 1930.-Entered by Mrs. Walter S. Gates, sister of Robert C. Quinby. 

How can I best preserve THE OLD BLUE WOVEN SPREAD and to which child should I pass it on since I am the last of this line of Quinbys?

image

 

P is for Practice Walking

P“Go outside. Practice walking like you’re happy.” Prompt 19# by Ruth Ozeki in her Preface to Choices (Borderline Press, 2016)

When I’m trudging through a tiresome task or activity, a grumpy attitude can be modified if I think of the bracelet my friend Pam Helberg wears: “Run happy.”

Grafting “happy” onto most tasks promotes mood change: swim happy, vacuum happy, scoop the neighbor’s dog poop off the lawn happy, get up happy. Note: the tactic doesn’t always work 🙂IMG_4295

Today on the daily walk my wife Amory and I take around a nearby lake, I asked, “What do you think walking happy means?”

“Having a spring in your step,” she said, adding a little lilt to her gait to demonstrate.

I dismissed the achy muscles and headache that I woke up with, faked a spring in my step, and thought about the ideas that I’d read the night before in a book  my youngest son Weston gave me: How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh, a monk who has been teaching mindfulness for more than seventy years.

I read that  little book last night and extracted some quotes which allowed me to walk happy today.

  • While you are walking smile–be in the here and now. p.39
  • We have the capability to walk in a way that we only imprint peace and serenity upon the earth. p. 40
  • Walking is a celebration. p. 45
  • When we walk mindfully, our feet are massaging the earth. p. 92
  • When life seems like a turbulent ocean, we have to remember we have an island of peace inside. p. 106
  • The mind darts from one thing to another, like a monkey swinging from branch to branch. p. 112

I also noticed the single petal suspended on a spider’s web, the perfect mirror of the evergreens that the lake reflected, and the way my step lightened, almost enough to match Amory’s.

It occurred to me that Thich Nhat Hanh’s ideas pertained to yesterday’s blog theme of peace: “Sitting and walking can bring peace and joy. We have to learn how to sit and walk so that we can produce peace and joy during the time of sitting and walking.”

*

Resource: Hanh, Thich Nhat. How to Walk. Berkley, CA: Parallax Press, 2015