Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Vision Boards

For the past couple of years, I've been getting together with my friend and fellow writer, Lissa Forbes, to create our yearly Vision Boards or Dream Boards. We normally do this on January 1 at Lissa's house. There may be two or three of us. We make a day of it: going through magazines and tearing out pictures and phrases that catch our eye and feel like a breadcrumb on the path to the future we are creating for ourselves. We break for homemade soup and bread, that Lissa has ready in the crockpot and breadmaker. By the time of that break, we've been smelling the lovely aromas all afternoon and we are ready!

After we've eaten, we go back to work: sorting through the images and phrases and putting together the vision of those situations, conditions, and opportunities that we are willing into our lives in the coming year(s). We trim and shape the pieces of paper and create a collage on a poster board.  I like to use 1/8-1/4" foamboard and an archival paste.

Now, this may all sound very Woo-Woo to some of you, but I have found that it works better at creating change and movement forward in my life than does writing out new year's resolutions. It doesn't always happen within the first year, and sometimes not even in the second; and it almost always comes in so subtly that you don't realize what has happened.

I missed the Vision Board party this year. Lissa was recovering from a cold on the 1st and none of us wanted to take a chance on being ill. I knew my resistance was really low from the events of the months before, and I was taking extra good care of myself through the holidays. We rescheduled for the 15th. I missed that one because I couldn't get myself out of the house that day. The idea of interacting with other people was actually a little frightening. I only had a few weeks of that, and I am sure the cold and icy weather provided a handy excuse.

As a consequence, my 2-3' foam board for 2011 remains as blank and white as the day I bought it. I was beginning to think of it as a metaphor for the vision I have for my life right now: Blank. As in a blank slate. Begging to be marked up with lines and arrows and doodles, or a game of hangman or tic-tac-toe...

There is another possibility, however. When I looked back at the board I had created for 2010, I realized that perhaps this year is the time for me to catch up a little on all those visions that I created before. A year to recognize those moments and enjoy them with a grateful heart. A year to rest and reflect on all that is good in my life.

Speaking of good in my life, I am getting ready for an exciting adventure on March 1. With the help of my son's frequent flier miles and about $300, I am winging it to Hawaii! I'll be visiting with my lives-long (that is not a spelling error) girlfriend in Honolulu as well as my sister and Bob-in-law on Maui. I'm going to do as many of the touristy things I can do without spending goo-gobs of money, because of course I don't have goo-gobs of money.

The last time I came close to Hawaii was in 1974. I was on my way to Okinawa on my first assignment in the Air Force. I was on a plane full of US Marines, and we stopped to refuel in Honolulu. We were allowed to get off the plane and go into the airport, but I think they actually posted guards to ensure that none of us attempted to leave the airport. Several of us were intent on only one thing, getting to the bar and having a drink with an umbrella in it. Who knew when we would ever have a chance to have a drink in Hawaii again?

Mine was a Mai Tai.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Going Out

First of all, I haven't become a recluse, although I've been staying indoors way too much and my going out has been within pretty safe parameters (still playing poker at the Pub once or twice a week, getting groceries, volunteering at the Douglas County Veterans Services Office a couple days a week, going to church services). Tonight I broke out of that corral and went to a Meetup for writers in my local area which was held at a local brewery (Elk Mountain Brewery). I really wasn't sure what to expect, and was a little nervous about whether I belonged with this group at all. I'm published, but not in any media accessible to the general public, I've made a grand total of $5.39 from AdSense on my blog, and HOLY MOSES I'm OLD!

But the Meetup was at a brewery and ten minutes from my house. I had to go. I even put on makeup, which I hardly ever do; but I didn't want to scare anyone, so I tarted up a bit.

Long story short: I had the best time! I never knew that listening to other people talk about themselves could be so bloody interesting! More than once I was reminded of the Chautauquas and Salons of previous generations and the veritable flood of intelligent writing that came from these groups. I knew I was in a magical place in an important moment in my life and in the lives others present. Of course it could have been the beer -- which was awesome, by the way -- but I kind of think it was the company and the synergy of life experience and sincere devotion to telling the story. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So look long and hard at this picture. You'll see the Dorothy Parkers, James Thurbers, Hemingways, Micheners, Frosts, Thoreaus, etc. that are out here writing in Colorado. I'm the really really white-haired person in the front. Most of the rest of the group are real writers, with real cred. I'm the pretender, if you will -- but with this kind of catalyst, not for long!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day 1985

As you can well imagine, today is one of those days that tweaks a heart that is trying to heal from the loss of a life partner. I wasn't really sure how to commemorate the day or deal with the feelings that were bubbling up. Then I remembered the two boxes of letters I kept from my tour in South Korea. We had been married just short of two years when I left for this unaccompanied assignment, and Bill and I wrote to each other everyday I was gone. One box is filled with the letters I wrote, and the other are letters to me from Bill and the children. I was pretty sure there would be something there to help me fight off the darkness and feel warm and loved.

Here is the letter I wrote to Bill on Valentine's Day, 1985. To set this up a little: We were in the middle of the application process for Berinda to be naturalized as a US citizen, and Bill was working through the courts to adopt Berinda and Josh. We were working on getting the right paperwork to the right people and I was feeling the loss of control. I spent that Valentine's Day on a tour of the DMZ.

Hello Darling,
Before I forget again, as I did yesterday, the address for the Korean  Embassy in Houston is enclosed. I do think we can wait until we find out about the adoption/naturalization before you run out to Houston for a Korean passport.
The pictures you had made for Berinda's naturalization have already been done. They had to go in with the original application. No biggie. I'm glad you were thinking ahead though. I trust you wouldn't make any more mistakes than I would have!
 You know -- I think that's just it isn't it? If I'm making the mistakes, it's no big deal -- it can be handled. But if you make the mistakes, I start getting antsy 'cause I ain't there to ask the questions. Can you forgive me for crawling all over you the other night when you called? I love you so much; and you have taken on the world and more for me. You really are a treasure and I am so sorry for coming off like a shrew with you. I want to come home this minute and show you how much I love you. I do trust you, honey. I'm a little crazy from being away from you, but I'm lucky I'm not institutional. For a short tour, this sure feels long!
 But...we need the time left to do all we need to do. And hopefully, I'll be home to see some of the fruits of your efforts. What do the kids think about the adoption? You said you were going to talk about it with them in our spot next to the flower bed. (I think all of us will always know that spot as someplace where our important times take place.)
 You know, one of the things I worry about is that you feel pressured into this adoption thing. I know and you know that it will make many things easier, but is it what you want to do? Talking about this over the telephone and by mail really doesn't give us the chance to hash out the feelings that you have about all this. It also doesn't give me the chance to look at you -- eyeball to eyeball -- and sob my heart out for the love of you. Are you really mine? Did something as wonderful as you really happen to me?
The trip to Pan Mun Jom was a rather sobering experience. We took a bus ride to Camp Kitty Hawk (about 2 1/2 hours from Osan).
Here I am at Camp Kitty Hawk, Republic of South Korea on Valentine's Day 1985
There we got a briefing and signed release forms and had lunch. Following lunch, we got on a bus and went up to the Joint Services Area (JSA). I was really very surprised to find that we actually came right up to the Military Demarcation Line in the UN area.
The place is really pretty deserted, except for the guards on both sides. In fact, those are the only folks there, except when there's a meeting or a tour going on. And since 1976 -- with few exceptions -- the Reds stay on their side and we stay on ours.
Pan Mun Jom, Korea, 14 Feb 1985
The white building is in North Korea. The two buildings in the foreground are in both North and South Korea. The guards are making sure that the guy on the steps of the white building doesn't get nervous and do something rash. That white "building," by the way, is a facade and is only about two foot deep.
They sure looked at us though! Through binoculars and telephoto lenses we got some stares. Of course, we stared right back!
The tour included a stop at the Military Armistice Conference House, right on the military demarcation line. We were allowed to go into the building and I stood for a while in North Korea -- on the other side of the table. It was a very strange sensation.
 Here I am, standing in North Korea. The wire down the middle of the table represents the Demarcation Line. The guard (American) is making sure I don't touch or otherwise desecrate the DPRK flags and create an international incident.
We also went down to Check Point 3 (CP3) where the tree-trimming incident took place. We didn't get off the bus there; in fact, it didn't even stop but made a circle and went back to the UN village at the demarcation line.
I'm sending a booklet and a couple of souvenirs for the kids in a separate envelope. The booklet explains much of what we saw, but I also took some pictures and once I finish this roll, will send them to you.
I know I'm very glad to be an American tonight. It's not something I take for granted anyway -- but today sure amplified my appreciation for my good fortune. Communism reminds me a bit of the false gods mentioned in the Old Testament: outwardly very attractive, but full of nothing inside. They have a beautiful little city you can see clearly from CP5, above CP3. It has multi-story buildings and looks very attractive from the distance of 1/2-1 mile. No one lives there. It was built for propaganda purposes. The rice fields on the north side of the DMZ are worked by laborers who are brought in by bus from Kaesan and taken home at night.
 I'm glad I went. I wish a lot of other people had the chance to come so close to these places where freedom is more than a word. And the men (and women) who serve at places like Camp Kitty Hawk and the UN Village have my deepest admiration and appreciation. They are sharp; they care! and I'm glad!!
I came home to two of your letters and one from Grandma Davis. I'm saving them for tomorrow when I will have the whole evening to devote to them.  By the way, I've ordered your boots in calfskin, but would really like to get you a pair of eelskin boots. They are gorgeous! And so are you! That's one of the 100+ reasons I love you!
 For all my life and then beyond, you are my dearest love. Sharon
 Bill's letters were always fat with details of his day, the things that Josh and Berinda were doing, and often stuffed with crayola drawings, newspaper articles, and other goodies. He would frequently start the letter in the morning before he left for work, pick it back up after the kids had been fed and bathed, and then write off and on until he went to bed. He would complain a bit when I sent him a "skinny" letter, which was more often than I like to admit, and we were both at the mercy of an overseas postal system that would cause days to go by with no mail and then there would be a bunch of letters all at once. We exchanged a few rather torrid love letters that I will need to redact or weed out before the children see them and are traumatized for life. [Just in case I miss one or two, I'm going to warn them up front: Your Dad and I had sex and we liked it (a lot).]

There has been some discussion about whether or not letter writing will become obsolete in the coming years. Communication has become instantaneous with e-mail and social networking; and telephone calls are much less expensive than they were in 1985. However, when I consider the treasure that these boxes of letters hold for me, and for our children, I hope that we will continue to write letters or at least find a way to archive our messages to each other. Those letters from 1985 were today a warm embrace from my dearest love on a day for celebrating love.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grandma Phoebe

Grandma Phoebe was my Grandpa Jones' last wife. I'm not real sure how many wives he had altogether, more than two I know. One was my father's mother, Minnie, who herself had several marriages; and the last was Phoebe Petty Kinkade. There was at least one wife before Minnie, and he had other children -- aunts and uncles I've never known.

Jim and Phoebe married on November 13, 1947 and stayed together until Grandpa Jones passed away in Cedaredge, Colorado on December 7, 1963 at the age of 76. This was no easy feat. The stories about my grandfather and his temper are legendary. He worked hard, played hard, and drank hard; and he left behind stories of headlights smashed out of cars, ears bitten off of horses, and children wounded by abuse. There was even a shushed mention of a possible homicide in his past.

There were also hundreds of horses broken for riding, multiple "All Around Cowboy" awards, and the mystical trick horse Teddy, his most prized possession. His tombstone reads "His Interest Was Horses," and it was what he was most known for; he was also a cowboy poet who wrote lyrics worthy of Marty Robbins.

His lifestyle and age finally began catching up with him in the early 50s. He was after all nearly 60 by this time. Grandma Phoebe was the lucky recipient of a beat up old cowboy, and she was as good as gold to him. I don't remember much about their time in Mosca, because I was only about two when we got there and little more than three when we left for California. But I do have memories of her in Cedaredge, where they owned a ranch southwest of the center of town and on the side of a mesa, part of the Grand Mesa area.

Phoebe was a typical hardworking rancher's wife, and women like her could be found all over Colorado in those days. She kept the garden, minded the subsistence animals, harvested supper or butchered it, and cooked some grand meals complete with fresh baked bread. She fished and hunted and cleaned her own kill. She opened her heart to the little Jones girls, and was just as much a grandma to us as Grandma Minnie.

In late 1949 or early 1950, Grandpa Jones wrote the following note to my mother, thanking her for addressing her letter to them "Mom and Dad."

Dear kids Don't feel like writing but must Thank You Virginia for starting your letter Dear Mom and Dad and don't know which one of us appreciated it the most. God bless you and I do hope the both of you understand what she means to me especialy(sic) the things she does for me when I cant help myself. Love and best wishes to you both. As ever Dad

My mom used to tell me that in those days Phoebe used the flour bin for time-outs for a mischievous toddler. She told me I used to act up so much that I would just get in the flour bin without being told. I don't remember this. I do remember visiting them in Cedaredge in the late 50s or early 60s when I was 9 or 10. I remember her deftly wringing the neck of a chicken that moments before had been contemplating the gravel in the yard, and tying its legs to the clothesline before she slit its throat.

The last time I heard from Grandma Phoebe was in 1968. I was visiting relatives in the San Luis Valley and couldn't get to Cedaredge to see Phoebe, so I called and talked with her briefly over the phone. It had been many years since we'd had contact; so it was a little strange. Not long after that I got a package in the mail with some books written by Millie Jones Porter who had chronicled the Jones family pioneers of the Texas Panhandle, and dozens of Grandpa's cowboy poems (since lost to another family member), along with a wonderfully sweet note reflecting on their life together. She counted being included in the extended Jones family as one of the richest gifts in her life overall. Me, too.