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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Need To Worry

After revisiting an unposted blog entry, one of such self pitying menopausal misery, I wanted to write about something more humorous and hopefully therapeutic. Something light and uplifting with out the dreary, poor me, but the laughing, poor me! Isn’t that better?

Russ and I are going on vacation in two days. No mere vacation us. This isn’t a week at a time share in Tahiti or a cruise in the Aegean. For the first time since our starving student days, we are taking off 4 or 5 weeks. Yes, it is that open ended. We have been planning this ‘sabbatical’ for over a year. Preparing and researching and counting the days.

Another honest to goodness, real life, bone fide adventure from Russo’s Travel Service.

We are horse camping. In a large four-horse slant, with teeny tiny living quarters for us human herd members. Departing our home away from home, the R-Wild Horse Ranch, our journey will begin in the Cascades of Oregon under the watchful eye of the Holm and Susan Neumann. After our fill of trails and mounted archery fun, Coggins in hand, we sojourn to Utah’s beautemous Red Rock country. Camp, ride, camp, ride, camp, ride. Eat, sleep, ride repeat. Great horses, fun friends, and spectacular scenery not available anywhere else on the planet. Russo’s Travel Service at it’s finest.

Tearing ourselves away from Utah, as we must, we continue down to Arizona, North Rim anyone? More dream trails. If time allows and we’re still having the trip of a life time, Russ the boyz and I will tag along with Holm and Susan down to Scottsdale for a mounted archery clinic.

This is all uplifting, but not particularly humorous so far.. Not a hint of poor me, yet. On the near eve of this dream-come-true trip, what stress and tensions plague my frequently fettered mind? Is it my 81 year old mother’s edema? Is it missing her 82 birthday? How about my son’s college essay, the one’s I LOVE to type? An over looked unpaid bill? Household emergencies, broken water pipes? How about this trip with a horse I’ve only ridden a handful of times?

I am worried about my newly established Facebook gaming presence. Yes, a virtual existence in pretend computer games of the silliest order. I have survived long weekends away, struggling to find wifi connections to check in with my Mafia Empire, pulling fake jobs to earn fake money to invest in a mega real estate portfolio of monumentally insignificant pretend holdings. My Vampire Clan, similar concerns. Who will answer the call for help? Who will, with the religious zeal of a neophyte, send free gifts of pretend nothing on a daily basis to it’s sacred family members? The daily votes I cast blindly for my Sorority Sisters. Most of all I will miss my virtual farms. Lil Farm is a pain, loads slowly, but has triggered the collector or OCD symptoms in me. Like the need to finish a book once stared. Farm Town, well it is big and the animals move. Humble little Farm Ville is the favorite in my entire virtual game universe. It is pretty, colorful and just cuter than cute. Can I get that tune as my cell phone tone? Remember the intervention program I so desperately need?

If this isn’t enough shame in my continuing saga of computer game addiction, who will manage my 81 year old mother’s empire, clan and farms? Mr. Mica will be on the road with us, eat, sleep, ride and repeat, remember? I doubt he will stress over his dwindling Facebook fortunes.

I have crossed the clich├ęd “T’s” and dotted the proverbial “I’s”, taking my mother to last minute doctor appointments and paying September’s and October’s bills to avoid late fees and interrupted service. This is nothing new, we travel a lot. Ashley lives here, the house isn’t empty. The mail will be brought in, the yard watered. We no longer have a dog.

Leave it to me to find something to worry about. Something as ridiculous as game avatars that merely a month ago didn’t even exist.

I’ll be riding a real, live horse, with my real live husband and friends. We will be the Magnificent Seven minus One. The Magnificent Six. I will write about it, blog about and post pictures. Eat, sleep, ride, repeat. With a little farm ditty playing in the recesses of my mind.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Still Wondering Who's in Charge?

This is what comes when writing without an outline!

I neglected a primary observation and question regarding my own creativity, and others. Am I alone in this or is it shared?

Frequently my most creative urges flare up, erupting when I am the busiest, under the most pressure thus having the least amount of time to devote. The voices demand to be heard, dictating their stories in single minded self interest. Is this truly creativity or just a cop out on my part to avoid work, an excuse defuse? Or perhaps I am like one of those flowers that only blooms under stress, or those pine trees whose cones open only during the heat of a fire to release its nuts and propagate. I'm a nut all right!

Looking at the clock, I discover that these blog entries have taken well over an hour, more like three. To what end? No income. No cures to diseases. I am probably the only one who feels the least bit of satisfaction. How do I balance that satisfaction next to the tangible chores yet undone as this beautemous day passes, with promises unmade and unkept.

The original thread in my mind, leading to this post was my impatience compounded with wanting it all. To write, to play, to garden, to organize, to scrapbook, to share recipes with a cousin, visit with mom and take her shopping, and, yes to dust and vacuum and mop, enjoying the mementos of my life. I want it all. Life is such a joyous gift, I want to give and take and give and take. Times like this I'm a child in the proverbial candy shop, overwhelmed with choices and paralyzed with indecision.

This morning I chose to write. I must live with my decision.

Creative Drive, who's in charge?

Creativity flares up, an unwelcome phoenix incinerating my plans. Ideas and verbiage flow like magma, uncontainable, blistering, destructive in this unbidden explosive form. Is it just me, living a structured, demanding life, denying the voices a clear and undeterred path to expression? Do I need more discipline or less? My artistic passions have always run hot or cold, all or nothing. Without consulting me.

I would draw or paint in frenzied enthusiasm for hours, days. Creating the pretty ponies I could not possess on Liese Avenue, Oakland, California. 7:30 a.m. was never my most inspired hour, but for two years that was the appointed allotment for high school art brilliance. Perhaps if a coffee pot had been allowed, and if we'd been able to arrive in jammie pants as today's students do...

Some mornings, inspiration would take hold in that studio with large picture windows and good light. Transformed, I was not just a student, but absorbed in a tactile, visual and spiritual journey, only to feel decapitated be the bell. Abrupt and rude. Reminding me that art, at least in my pragmatic existence was a luxury. It represented fantasy, illusion: a pass time.

I never hurt for tools; never went without paper or pencil, graduating to watercolor and acrylics. Stacks and stacks of dream horses. Occasionally some dogs and other animals.

Then as now creativity came in biblical floods, overwhelming me, blocking time and space. I could not draw fast enough, my mind and fingers frantic to capture the image in my soul. Over and over, page after page. Study, look, feel. Trying unsuccessfully to convey spirit in a single dimension.

Writing follows this same pattern. Yes, I can be disciplined. I can force myself to sit and place my fingers on the keyboard. Given enough time, I will resurrect the hidden muse by trawling the depths. At what cost to my other responsibilities?

Back to the question, do I need more discipline or less? I am not paid to write or create anything for that matter. I clean and serve and support the emotional and physical needs of my family. I love being the domestic goddess. Beauty and creation are fundamental elements in my well being, however. On my own terms I have not been able to harness or willfully ignite the incendiary force of creativity. When I do not control the tide of my days, weeks or months, there is less opportunity to explore my artistic, repressed self.

Do I apply more discipline to myself or discipline to my family? Does the need for discipline at all indicate a lack of talent? Lack of discipline could be a mask for cowardice. Am I afraid to commit too much, take greater risks. Sacrifice all for art?

Too many questions, too many answers. Is this the unstable mind of a truly talented soul or just the meanderings of a wishful dweeb? Deep or shallow? More questions.

I have indulged myself for well over an hour writing, exploring and allowing myself some creative expression in this blog post while my house wallows in chaos, begging an Oprah or Dr. Phil intervention for hoarding. Eloise Dahlquin still lingers at a banquet table with a dead man across from her. Ross and Mindy face imminent professional doom.

I feel better. And ready to fold three loads of laundry.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A New Word

Ah, the serendipity of a mispronunciation; a cluttered utterance. The Tuesday Afternoon Red Pencil Society was meeting in Cathy's side garden among the Dahlias. Erica Lanntrell was telling a story of her exposure to mediocre paintings and the mind odyssey these not quite good paintings of bulls launched her on. In her enthusiasm to share these revelations, and the impact of a truly moving painting of a bull and a chicken, she said it was unexpectable. Although she immediately corrected it to unexpected and continued her story, I was detoured to "unexpectable world".

Ah, to consider the unexpectable, to sit, waiting for the unexpectable. What possibilities. Such serendipity of anticipation. We all dream and ponder of things, generally within our ken. As children we make lists for Santa. We hope for fulfilled promises. Many of us still visualize world peace. In our high tech, scientific, and continualy researched world, I often expect more than is being delivered. Flying cars, cures, instant gratification of my baser desires of thirst and hunger.

The unexpectable. An enigma of unimaginableness or inimaginability all in one new word.

Erica is a storyteller, poet and actress. One does not want to miss an opportunity to listen, so I cross my fingers in an attempt to remember, to hold onto her mistaken word of brilliance, and returned to her story about good art, bad art, falling in love with artists based on a single piece of their work. That in itself is unexpectable.

Her story created a dialogue on art. I returned to her new word and it's profound effect on me. In the way of creative circles of conversation, the topics varied, politics, writing (yes sometimes we really write and critique), books and back to art. In the end we reveled that even bad art was good if it lead us on a intellectual or spiritual journeys. A prime example of the unexpectable.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Memories of the 49th Hamet Reunion

While enjoying the 49th Hamet Family Reunion, at the Piccadilly Inn in Fresno, we were already working and planning for the 50th Reunion.

Two of the three 'founding' fathers of our Labor Day Weekend tradition are still alive to see the continued success of their dream: Sammy Daher and Kemel Daher. My husband's grandfather, George Daher, "Ghidu" has passed on, but must surely be proud of us for carrying on this event, even as the numbers dwindle and more families move away, not only for their Central California roots, but from California entirely.

I will make the extra effort this year to find out more about their dream, to hear again the love, joy and need for family ties and traditions to be carried out. After 50 years, what are Kemel and Sammy thinking? How do they view their treasured family with so many generations taking their place in the pool, at the card room or dining table? Weddings, graduations, funerals and births. First steps and last.

Always the sentimental type, the historian and story keeper (as well as story teller), I love participating in this family ritual. Preparing our favorite Lebanese dishes is part of the process. I married into this family. Loving the food, I spent two weekends with Russ' grandmother, "Situ" learning to bake pita bread, make tabouli, kibbi, grapeleaves, humus and baba ghanouj, lentils and cabbage rolls. I feel close to her every time I prepare her recipes. I have tried to pass this on to my children. Comparing recipes and preparation with the other family members at the Reunion keeps her spirit alive, and strengthens the spiritual bond of this entire family, thriving, growing, prospering and contributing to a better world for our children, all children.

Over an electric grill, warming the unthawed grapeleaves and kibbi burgers, the aroma of lamb and onions brought back powerful memories of Situ's kitchen in San Mateo. Cousin Bill and I reminisced about the old house, the slanted light through the dining room windows, with so many occasions and holidays spent around the table. The smell of baking bread, simmering cabbage rolls, kibbi, onion, garlic, fresh lemons. Memories of a child's wonder and security.

Russ and I have not missed a reunion since our children were born. So far June and Steven have perfect attendance. In their twenties and in college, that could change. They may find themselves out of state like many other cousins. Russ I missed numerous reunions in the seventies and early eighties: As starving students we only attended when Russ' parents generously offered to pay for the room and meals out; while in Boston for Dental School, we returned to California twice-for Christmas/New Year; after graduation we opted to do other things, like the Begonia Festival where we lived in Capitola. What were we thinking? Not of the future.

The ice chests have been unloaded. I'm on my second load of laundry. Phone calls and Facebook help keep the momentum going a little longer, because Monday has come too soon. With the speed of the internet I am connected. We share pictures and memories. We will plan a one day picnic in the spring. Schedule cooking weekends to plan and prepare. I will be dreaming about next Septmeber, and our good times with family.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Family Reunion

Labor Day Weekend means the Hamet Family Reunion in Fresno, California for us. Yes, we will miss the Begonia Festival in Capitola. No, we won't be at the R-Wild Horse Ranch riding our horses, participating in/or helping with the last Gymkhana of the season.

Fresno!? People say. Won't it be hot? What the h*** is in Fresno, you live at the beach?

My husband's mother's family is from Hamet, Lebanon. His grandparents came from the 'old country', Situ (grandmpther) had exotic tales of Lebanon and Ellis Island on the rare occasions I heard her speak of them. In 1960 or '61 the family started meeting Labor Weekend, first in San Mateo, then back to Fresno. Where it all began, in America.

Like most brown skinned immigrants to California, the Daher's, Khourie's, Ayoob's and other relatives began their American dreams as migrant farm workers in the Central Valley, more specifically, Fresno. Boxers, barbers, hairdressers, contractors, pilots, restaurateurs, farmers, war heroes, and more. The families grew and contributed through their labors (remember it is Labor Day) to their new home, this great nation of ours. San Mateo and Southern California saw the next wave of emmigration as our family expanded.

Fresno remains a central gathering place, our homecoming.

I married into this family in 1975, embracing my husband's close ties and commitment to family. Did I mention Lebanese food? My WASP upbringing did not prepare me for, nay, I was deprived from such culinary delights as awaited my adult palate. Every holiday, celebration and gathering included homemade pita bread, grape leaves, kibbie, tabouli, humus, baba ghanouj, and more. Shame on me for not knowing all the Lebanese names for the food. I learned from Situ, my husband's grandmother; in her kitchen, note book in hand, becuase none of the recipes were written down, no standard measurements. A hand full, a saucer scoop, just enough. And she always indented a cross in the food and asked for a blessing. An atheist, I do this myself, to honor her, this family, those before and after me.

Food is one of the many fundamental traditions that hold families together. And one I am more than happy to continue. While making tablouli yesterday, not only did feel close to Situ (as I do anytime I use one of her recipes), but I thought my daughter was also making tabouli, perhaps at that very moment, for a Sorority party. Three generations united over a cutting board, continuing the traditions, sharing our bounty with family and friends...except June wasn't in the kitchen that day. Darn the perfect literary moment ruined.

Both my children, June and Steven help me in the kitchen preparing our favorite Lebanese dishes, hearing the stories and creating their own memories.

Several years ago cousin Frances and I started getting together to cook at her place in San Mateo. Not only does she have a delightful, well worn cookbook, but memories of her own Situ's way of cooking and preparing food. Again I am thankful for the opportunity to learn and observe and share. As a dear friend always says ,"many hands make small work". Like generations of women before us, and hopefully men and women after us, we roll grape leaves, mix kibbi, discussing our families and soothing our souls in this time honored tradition.

This weekend we will gather together once again. Play in the pool, laugh and splash, comment on babies and bald spots, graduations and passings. While eating some of the best food the Mediterranean and California can concoct.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Inspired Weekend

Good friends and colleagues, united for brain power and good times, in the baking heat of Northern California.

Russ and I played host to some dental chums through the Danville connection. Our chemist, Greg Dorsman from the research facility and Dr. David Alleman, Six Steps, from Utah. Along with David were three of his extraordinary children, Megan, Davey and Ben.

After picking Greg up at Oakland airport, Wednesday morning, we proceeded to spend the afternoon at UCSF, School of Dentistry, lab (I'm not sure of the privacy protocol, so I'm leaving out these names). The science of research was not only fun but fascinating. Again with privacy, I'll skip to an exceptional and late lunch. Never partaking of Peruvian food, Russ and I are converts, dining on paella and a sea food chowder (chupa de mare), mange bella (is that a mutilation of language or what?)

Back to the lab for the results, further discussion and on to the R-Wild Horse Ranch, Platina, California. After slogging our way through 5:00 SF traffic, we glide into the Diamond Car Pool lane in my sleek Mom-Mobile. This is where I make my valued contribution in this think tank weekend. Sometimes three heads are better than two when it comes to commuting. "Love ya, man."

Smooth sailing, we arrive at the Ranch at about midnight, give or take. Greg is settled into his cozy motel room and we to our intimate trailer.

Work, play, work, play, translates into talk shop, ride horses, compare science notes, ride dirt bikes, discuss formulas and applications, hit the hot tub for late night star gazing, bat watching and a review of the days scientific achievements, stimulated by all the oxygen circulating physical activity. I, for one, was honored to be surrounded by so much brilliance.

David and his illustrious family arrived Friday morning, having driven all night from Utah, alternating drivers between David, Davey (23 +/-) and Ben (20). Daughter, Megan (31), is exempt from driving detail. She is the driving force behind this sojourn; a joyous soul seeking to fulfill her equine dream. As well as the impetus for her dad and brothers to join the dental think tank.

Megan was born with physical challenges, requiring a family committed to her daily care and well being. We witnessed family values at the highest level on an hourly basis as the her dad and brothers saw to her many needs with compassion and tenacity, including her in every aspect of our busy days. Megan, in turn, inspired us with wit and charm and a delight in being that still gives me goosebumps.

As a fellow horse lover, we shared the joy in simply seeing horses, let alone the supreme elation of riding one. Anticipating her opportunity to sit upon one of nature's noblest creatures, for days in advance, her brother did stretching exercises with her to help her ease her tight legs in the saddle. Devotion. Megan shared the widest, most genuine smile as she was lead around the arena on my husband's Morgan, Mica. Remember the old commercial slogan, Kodak moment? This was beyond that. Hand clutching the saddle horn, purple All stars on her feet, Megan was the Queen of Parade, the Cowgirl Princess and so much more as she and her entourage circled the arena, weaved the poles, and circled barrels, camera flashing. Priceless.

The next day, braving the Platina heat (90's to 100), Megan and David sat in the shade as I bathed and groomed Dobby, our 28 yr old Arab Horse Elf. We talked about horses, Arabs, Harry Potter and how Dobby got his name.

Over 'recreational' meals (I don't consider a trailer 'camping') of smoked chicken, taters, onions; gourmet salads, corn; breakfast scrambles, melons, summer fruits and ending with a pancake breakfast we discussed dental materials, compounds, teaching strategies, teeth and dental schools; sports, horses, surfing, and motorcycles, music, computers and need for art, not only for its own sake but as a means to higher brain function.

Russ and I hope this will be the first of many more such gatherings, using the power of exercise and play to enhance analysis and cognitive thinking, strengthening our relationships with fun and fundamentals.

What I will remember most fondly is Miss Megan, whether clutching the saddle horn or a red Otter Pop, her gracious spirit made all our days richer.