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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Wish You Enough

A friend recently sent me a story about an elderly man saying good-bye to his daughter at the airport for the last time. Below is the most poignant part.

"When we said, 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye."

This story really made me stop and think. These days, 'enough' usually isn't what most people are after. People tend to focus on the accumulation of material things: money, cars, fancy clothes, a big house. They want 'lots' of money, not just 'enough' money. They want no pain or loss in their lives, even though pain and loss can be wonderful mechanisms for growth. They want an abundance of everything, not just 'enough.'

'Enough' in our society is often too much. I blogged about this a while ago, asking the question "How Much Is Enough?" Many of us have an overabundance of material things. Our homes and our lives are cluttered and bogged down with too much 'stuff.' 

What we may be lacking are the spiritual or emotional things that can make us happy and our lives whole. This little story has not one mention of 'enough' physical belongings. The father doesn't wish his daughter a big house or lots of money. Instead, he wishes her 'enough' of the things that truly are important in life: happiness, gratitude, appreciation, a good attitude. In those areas, 'enough' is all we need.

I wish you enough.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Welcoming Autumn

Autumn is an amazing time of year. In previous years, it was simply the precursor to winter, which I don't like. But this year, fall has become my favorite time of year.

This year's spring was extremely windy and cooler than usual. It wasn't a very pleasant time to be outside, with dust blowing so thick it made the Sandia Mountains disappear from sight. Everything inside and out was covered with brown dust.

Summer in the high desert was, as usual, hot and dry. But fall is just about perfect. Nights are ideal for sleeping with the window open, with lows in the 50s and 60s. Mornings are crisp and usually clear, a wonderful time to walk the dogs. The New Mexico sky, noted for its glorious blue color and crispness, is more spectacular than ever. Cottonwood trees, which abound along the banks of the Rio Grande, are beginning to release their white 'cotton,' which sometimes makes it seem as if I am driving through gently falling snow. They are just starting to acquire their brilliant orange and yellow leaves. Outdoor patio dining offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a nice meal outside on a warm day. Some restaurants offer 'petio' dining that welcomes dogs to join their humans.

We also have been getting some much-needed rain in the midst of the worst drought on record. And the 'monsoon-season' sky offers fascinating cloud formations. (I'm not sure that an area that averages 8 inches of rain/year can have a 'monsoon' season, but that's what the rainy season here is called.)

This is such a great time to be outdoors. Even yard work is almost pleasant because of the weather. It's nice to be able to wear shirts with 3/4 sleeves now, to pull out a nice fleece vest in the morning, and to once again think about making soup or stew, with the aroma only home-cooked foods can bring.

This autumn finds me more appreciative than ever of the glories of nature, and grateful indeed to live in a place where I can truly enjoy them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Yearning for the Good Old Days

I have been in a nostalgic mood for the past few months. While flipping through the many channels available from our satellite television provider one day, I noticed that reruns of The Waltons were on. So I started watching. Later, I found reruns of Little House on the Prairie and Happy Days.

One recent late-summer morning, while walking my dogs, I heard what sounded like a screen door slam (most houses around here don't have screen doors due to the harsh climate). That brief sound immediately brought back a flood of memories of summer visits to my maternal grandparents. They lived on the edge of a very small town in southern Illinois.

Their house got its awful, iron-tasting water from a well. There was no air conditioning to keep the heat and humidity at bay. The dwelling was heated by a single coal-burning stove in the center of the house. My grandparents owned quite a bit of land, which included a pond (home to snapping turtles and small fish) and walnut trees. They had an old 1947 car, and they raised chickens and a variety of vegetables in their garden. My aunt and uncle, with their three daughters, lived down the hill. They had lots of things that we city kids didn't have, including homemade go-karts and horses. Our days were filled with exciting outdoor activities. It was safe, and we were free to be kids. If it was too hot to be running around, we sat under a huge tree in the back yard.

Certainly, life was very difficult during the Depression, when The Waltons was set. Little House took place in the 1880's on the prairie of Minnesota. Just eking out a living was a challenge. But it seems that people were stronger, communities and individuals more willing to help others, and life was so much less complicated, during those hard-scrabble times.

Is it my age, the ubiquitous technology that allows us to be in constant touch via e-mail, text messages and cell phone calls, or the ever-on, non-stop cable television and satellite radio that makes me yearn for the old days? The days of leaving the house unlocked are long gone, even when I'm home. Spending time just sitting and chatting with family under a big tree truly seems a thing of the past. My family lives in Alaska, Illinois and New Mexico. We are rarely together.

A friend recently sent me an e-mail with reminders of what everyday items cost in the 1950s. People complained that gasoline cost 20 cents/gallon; McDonald's hamburgers -- a real treat for us kids at the time -- were 15 cents each. Hamburger was 3 pounds/$1. I remember the very first pizza I ever had. My mom made it from a box of Chef Boyardee pizza mix. What a great novelty that was! Now there is a pizza place on every corner, or so it seems.

To quote from a song by Carly Simon, "These are the good old days." I can't turn back the clock, and the simpler times of 40 or 50 years ago truly are a thing of the past for most of us.  I guess I will have to settle for watching old reruns on television, listening to the music of my youth and fondly recalling the simpler times when prompted by a random sound on a hot, late-summer morning.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where Were You on 9/11?

Ten years ago this Sunday, Sept. 11, 2001, America was rocked by terrorist attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

9/11 is one of those days that will be forever etched in the minds of those who lived through it, much like the 1964 assassination or President John F. Kennedy for those old enough to remember.

I was driving to work at a joint NASA/military installation in the San Francisco Bay area on that beautiful autumn morning. Traffic was at a standstill as I got within a mile or so of the main gate, so I decided to enter by a second, smaller gate. To my surprise, the gate was closed. Then the awful news of the attacks on the World Trade Center came across the radio. That explained the traffic jam. As the deputy director of public affairs, I knew the media would be clamoring for 'reaction' from our NASA center's leadership, so I called my office to let people know I would be at work as quickly as I could get there.

Security was extremely tight. Every car was inspected inside and out before being allowed on site. Every badge was closely inspected, and every driver was questioned about where he/she was going. No one without a NASA 'hard' badge was allowed access.

Every television in our offices was on as we tried to keep up to date with breaking news, stay in frequent contact with NASA Headquarters, respond to news media calls for interviews and remain in touch with our senior management. We developed a statement for the news media and updated the center's Web site. Then word came down that all but essential personnel were to be sent home. So my supervisor and good friend David and I sent everybody home. We stayed at work.

For the next few days, we worked on a facility that was eerily deserted and quiet. Guards checked the names of incoming employees against a list of essential personnel. No one else was allowed through the gates. We were so busy there was no time to process what had happened, or to grieve the loss of so many innocent lives.

One day I decided to take a break and go for a walk. My route took me past the airfield used by NASA and military aircraft. All commercial flights had been grounded, and the usually busy skies near San Francisco International Airport were strangely quiet. I had heard during a meeting that a NASA plane was expected to land at our facility that day. But when I heard the aircraft approaching as I walked near the runway, my first reaction was panic. My heart was racing, even though I knew the plane was expected.

Finally, after several long and very stressful days, I got a day off work. As I watched the endless replays on television of the airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center and the buildings collapse, I broke down and cried for the first time since the attacks happened. I couldn't stop crying for a long time. I sat in my favorite chair and let the grief wash over me.

People across the country and around the world came together then. Canadians opened their homes and their hearts to passengers whose flights had been diverted to Canada, stranding them for several days. Citizens and leaders of countries with which America was often at odds set aside their differences, setting up impromptu memorials and signing books of condolence. Americans lined up to donate blood; they donated money in unprecedented amounts to help the victims and their families. The country came together. Partisan politics didn't exist. Patriotism swelled. American flags sold out in every store. American pride and determination were on display everywhere.

These cowardly attacks changed our country forever. Airline travel will never be the same. Two new wars have cost the lives of thousands of American military, and irreparably altered the lives of many others who survived, but now must face traumatic brain injuries, lost limbs and post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite the loss of several of terrorism's top leaders, those who would destroy us still present a threat to us and our way of life.

Our country is more divided than I can ever remember. Partisan politics are seriously impeding the ability of our elected officials to carry out the nation's business.There seems to be no middle ground, no willingness to compromise, no interest in doing what is best for the country. Focus is simply on getting reelected, slamming the other party, and serving those who donate the most money. We have a record deficit that our so-called leaders seem unwilling or unable to confront. Citizens are fed up with Congress, whose approval level is tied at an historic low of 13%.

I hope that as we solemnly mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01, we will use this as an opportunity to renew the focus on what we share in common rather than on what divides us. I hope we will be inspired to set aside partisan rancor and to work together to return our country to greatness. Those who died as a result of the attacks of 9/11 deserve no less.

Friday, September 2, 2011

When Dreams Die

My local paper (published twice weekly) recently ran a column titled "When Dreams Die, Find New Ones." That started me thinking and prompted this blog entry.

As a youngster, I don't think I had any big dreams, other than one day living in California. I remember watching the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena on New Year's Day, and being so envious of the people along the parade route in short sleeves. I was living in suburban Chicago, which was always cold, snowy and usually gloomy at that time of year. I have always hated cold and snow, and I still do.

That dream came true when I and my then-husband moved to the San Francisco area in the summer of 1980. I lived in California until 2010, except for three years in Houston, which made me realize I did not like living in hot, humid Texas. In 2010, I retired and moved to the Albuquerque area, which is hot and very dry. But I like it here.

I didn't really dream of a career in a certain field, but fate stepped in and provided an interesting career path for me anyway. I worked for the National Security Agency as a linguist for three years, for a very large humane society in California for eight years, and then I was hired by NASA, where I worked for 20 years. Along the way I got to spend time working in the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow, visit the highly controlled Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and get a private tour of the space museum operated by the S.P. Korolyev Rocket and Space Corporation (Energiya) in Moscow. 

Since retiring, I have created some modest dreams for this phase of my life. These dreams -- three of them -- all reflect my increasing desire to express my creative side. They are to:
  • finish writing the book I started two years ago and get it published
  • sell enough of my photographs to, at a minimum, cover the annual cost of my Web site (
  • increase the number of people who follow my blog to a minimum of 25 from the current total of 15. I would love to have even more followers so I don't feel as if nobody ever reads what I write.
Those dreams are pretty modest and they should be attainable. I know the book will be finished; I am wrapping up my review now, and my co-author will soon resume writing her part. Several people have expressed an interest in purchasing a copy. I believe it will find a good market among adoptive parents and prospective adopters. Besides, it's a story about overcoming obstacles and finding hope where there appeared to be none. That should make it appeal to even non-adoptive people.

Promoting my photography site and blog are a bit more difficult. I've never been good at self-promotion, but I am gradually doing more to get the word out about both my blog and my photography site. I have sold 10 photographs so far, but I am still a very long way from being able to cover the annual cost of the Web site.

After first believing I had no creativity, and then ignoring and even denying my creative side for many years, it feels good to at last have some creative outlets. The next question is, what will I write about once the book is finished?