Monday, May 22, 2006

Officially Over the Hill

Late last year the camera that I got as a High School graduation gift finally died. Instead of opening the battery compartment, I opened the film compartment and then the camera thought it was out of film, which sent it into a mechanical panic. I got the film out, but it will no longer accept new film, and makes lots of atrocious noises at me when I try.

So right now "our" camera is in reality #1's camera. It's a not-too-expensive digital number which is perfect for her and her photography penchant. It does the job, and she has no problem letting us use it whenever we want or need. On Saturday, Larry was looking for agreement from me on how convenient it's been to have use of it. First off, I'm not totally sold on digital. I guess I'm not used to it, or maybe I just need a better camera, but I did just fine with film, thanks. But that is really a whole other topic. The big complaint that I submitted to Larry (for I MUST have a complaint!) is that the camera doesn't zoom, and so to get a good close up picture, I need to be right on top of the subject. Besides this being a little uncomfortable and sometimes impossible, it throws off the center of the photo significantly, the lens being below the view finder.

As I was saying this, nine year old #2 picked up the camera and within seconds was showing me how to zoom. I'm quite sure she had not tried it before. I laughed an incredulous, slightly embarrassed laugh. Larry reassured me that it was just a sign of being old (a very reassuring fact, indeed). He said that when he was a kid he could easily and intuitively set up any electronics that his parents brought into the house, and knew exactly how to work every aspect of it. Now, at 35, he has to read the manuals. Technology, he claims, is only instinctive for a relatively short segment of life for most of the population. And this, coming from my computer nerd husband.

I suppose I am in good company, at least. I must admit, though, that I was never very good at figuring out technology. I did have an easier time learning it when I was younger. Currently I am proud of the fact that I can usually remember with out being shown how to turn off the auto flash on #1's camera. It's helpful that there is a little lightening bolt by the button and I only occasionally don't notice it. However I AM going to have to have #2 train me on the zoom feature again.

Friday, May 12, 2006

My Walker

You often hear stories about little kids who are surprised to see a school teacher out in public for the first time. Their whole idea of how life works is suddenly shattered. They'd only thought of teacher as being at school, teaching--not living an actual real life in the outside world that didn't include them. I had a similar experience today at the dump.

There is a little elderly man who we see walking up and down our street almost daily. Sometimes we see him several times daily. He has a dwarf-ish, squat face. He has a grey beard and shoulder length hair that hangs out of a tan ball cap in fair weather and a stocking cap when it's cold. He uses a hiking stick that almost comes to his shoulder. It's not purchased, I imagine he found it years ago when he first started this routine. We have seen him out walking at various times of day, and heading in either direction in many different locations on our 1.5 mile street. Though I'm not sure where he lives, I'd guess it's here. This is a nice street to hike--many people from the surrounding neighborhood use the route--but I've never seen this man on anywhere else.

We wave to him, and sometimes he'll wave back at Larry. At me he gives what I hope is a blank stare that only looks like a scowl because of his squat features. Whether I'm in a hurry and going 30 miles per hour, or taking it easy at under 20, he is startled the minute he is aware that a vehicle is approaching and jumps off the street onto either a curb or roadside dirt. He generally doesn't continue walking until our car has passed.

Today I saw him at the dump. He had his hat, but no walking stick, and without it, it took me several seconds to decide it was really him. He was putting recyclables into the bin, taking them out of a white Subaru wagon, which I must assume he can drive, along with an elderly lady with long grey hair, which I must assume is his wife. As I approached the bin with my bag of papers and cans, the woman made eye-contact and said hello. After that, her husband followed suit. I smiled and muttered hi. I have no idea if I was familiar to him out from behind my steering wheel. It was a surreal moment, if ever I've had one.

I realized that in my mind this man had become something a little non-human, like a small animal or a cartoon character. I'd come to think of him as having no other life than walking up and down my street, starting at passing cars. I thought of him as lonely, having no family or friends--or at least none who cares. I also imagined that he couldn't speak, and had no other capabilities or interests or responsibilities. He was just "the walker."

I feel a little silly. I'm certainly old enough to know that people have lives outside of our experiences with them. I also feel a little sad. I'd taken a small amount of possession of him, as if he were MY walker, mine to see and enjoy along with the lilacs and manzanita, along with the blue skies and snow-covered peaks. I fear when I see him next I'll be aware of his real life, aware that he is no more mine, perhaps a little less mine, than those lovely lilacs and beautiful skies.

But maybe if he knew, if he knew how much I love to see him walking, maybe he wouldn't mind the attachment. And maybe he'd consent to be, even just a little bit, mine.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Jagger on Gratitude

A mauve formica dinette with four velvety mauve chairs has become for me the symbol of all that I hate about my house. Paired with two green padded folding chairs, this constitutes our dining table. It was a much appreciated hand-me-down when we were newlyweds. Twelve plus years and four kids later, I no longer appreciate it, except for the fact that it is a flat surface on which to eat. There have been times when we have considered getting a new table and chairs, but something else always seemed more urgent. For example: "We have a place to eat, but we don't have a piano." Or: "We have a place to eat, but we don't have beds for the girls;" or ". . . living room furniture;" or ". . . a drum set."

The last house we lived in was a new construction. We bought it in the "stick" stage, and watched it develop into a beautiful home. New carpet, new appliances, bull-nosed corners, non-popcorn ceilings, new bathroom fixtures. Enormous master closet, Corian kitchen countertops, birch cabinetry, walk-in pantry. We had the interior professionally painted and custom wood blinds and plantation shutters installed before we moved in. We landscaped our back yard within a couple of months. Within two years I'd added my personal touches to about every room and the outcome was beautiful. I LOVED that house.

Then we decided it was time for a move. I don't regret that decision. We love it up here. Great school, great preschool, great community, great people, great Branch. The kids are thriving. It's beautiful. It's not crowded. It is where our family needs to be.

We now have a beautiful mountain home. Great views, great pool, great layout, great square footage, great wood ceilings. Most people visit for the first time and adore it. Most people from up here consider the home to be quite new, being built in the early 80's and added on to in the early 90's.

But often I just can't get past all of the flaws and the work that needs to be done. No baseboards, ugly old kitchen with drawer bottoms falling out, old dishwasher, brass fixtures and knobs, thrashed carpets, broken pool vacuum, broken spa heater, very weathered exterior wood, carpenter ants, outdated light fixtures and fans, breaking window blinds, broken fence gate, leaking windows, concrete work needs to be fixed, more fire abatement needed. Plus, #4 needs a big-boy bed, we need a computer desk, outdoor furniture, food storage freezer, better storage for my sewing and craft materials, roman shades for the solarium, and a bigger bike for #1. Neither list is entirely comprehensive. It's overwhelming and depressing.

Much as I love the Stones, "profound" is not generally how I would chose to describe them. There is one song, however, which will sometimes come to mind and truly change my outlook. I hope it's not sacrilegious to say that it effects me nearly as much as some scriptures that I hold dear. A prophet Mick is not, but for me these lyrics hit the mark: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime you might find you get what you need."

We do have a roof over our heads, food on our table, books on our shelves, and clothes in our closets. We have the gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood in our home. We have a husband and father who takes very seriously his roll as provider, and who is persistent and intelligent and honest enough to be successful. We have two working vehicles which can get us around these mountain roads, even when snow-covered. We have breathtaking nature all around us. We have family near-by. We have good friends who love us and help us out more than they even realize. We don't all have great health, but we function reasonably well most of the time and we are all 6 alive this morning.

I don't always get what I want. But I always have not only what I need, but more than I need. I am blessed. I need more often to be very thankful for all of those blessings.