About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ten Things I Love (I've Been Tagged)

Latebreaking: There seems to be some question whether the assignment was "Ten Things I Love" or "Ten Things That Make Me Happy". I need to state I processed it as "Ten Things I Love". If I'd done it the other way, I'd have had a list of things that impact me far less than these. If I muffed the assignment, please give me credit for earnestness, sincerity and hard work both on myself and with myself.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My original post before I wondered if I'd muffed the assignment:

I am usually up for a challenge and I'm almost always up for fun and games. I like connecting with others and learning new things ~ these are major themes in my life and my writing. So when blogging friend Kass threw down the gauntlet, I was ready to rumble. I put two blog posts that were almost ready on the back burner. I grabbed a pencil, some scratch paper and I began to scratch.

I knew immediately that I would not list my family, my lover or my job. Of course, I love all of those. It goes without saying. They occupy a level above Ten Things I Love. Within two minutes I'd made a list of seventeen things I love (I may have to do this exercise twice!). I struggled to pare it down to the requisite ten. I quickly made an association: my ten subjects include some of the labels I use most frequently on my blog. Hmmmm . . . . so I write about what I love. And then something washed over me that made me feel sad. When I look at the list of ten, I realize I am not actively engaged in some of them. I am avoiding some of them. I'm doing some of them only half-way. A revelation: find happiness by jumping deeply into the things one loves.

In no particular order (in fact I thought to list them alphabetically to eliminate any perceived order) here are ten things I love.

I love my physical well-being. I make a pilgrimage every Sunday of life to Fresh & Easy to buy good food for myself. This is more than "grocery shopping". It is a celebration of self. I fuel myself with foods that support my well-being. I walk many miles every day, regardless of conditions. Sometimes it isn't very pleasant. But I never fail to feel grateful I can do this. I hike and climb in the desert for the pure joy of it. At my desk every day, I set a timer to remind me to get up and move my body. I use weights, a wobble board, a light-flashing hula hoop and resistance bands. I indulge myself with frequent massages that help ease my body from what life has done to it. It wasn't always this way. I have 215 specific, well-identified reasons to be grateful for how well my body serves me.

I love to write. I am a person compelled to tell things. I need to tell my stories, my history and my observations of the day. I have a strong urge to share the funny things that happened, to rant about the injustices and unkindnesses I observed. I love rich, colorful, plummy words and I like to make language art with them. I want to retell conversations, and sometimes the written version is better than the actual dialogue. Writing letters and journals, essays and post-hearing briefs have all been part of my tapestry. But writing a blog has been an epiphany to me. Imagine writing and having other human beings comment about it! For me, comments don't need to be false-positives. I've let nasty comments in, too. It's more important - to me - to simply have another human being react and interact. Blogging is the best new thing I took on in 2009.

I love music. I surround myself with it nearly constantly. I'm like millions of other people who would say music is important to them. I might say I take that up a notch. When I hear a song I know, I am quickly transported to the time and place I occupied when I first learned it. Say something (anything) to me and I can often pop out some snippet of lyrics to highlight what you've said. I'm not stupid, but I regard some song lyrics as a rallying cry for life ~ it's an appreciation of the songwriter's ability to weave words into images. I am tattooed with a short version of the most profound lyrics I know. So, from Pachelbel to Pure Prairie League, the Bangles to my Beatles, Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan, R.E.M. to the Rolling Stones and the Backstreet Boys to Beethoven, I have loved it all [except rap]. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose one's hearing. Do you suppose the songs would play on in one's head?

I love my animals. I share life with two cats (Virginia Woolf and Dylan) and two birds (Bloomsbury and Benson). My father says I "over love" my animals, attributing to them qualities they do not possess. My father also says it would be a good life to live as one of Leslie's pets. It fulfills me to be the sole caretaker of another creature. I feed them and clean them and take them to the veterinarian when necessary. I brush the cats and clip their claws. I clean the spittle from the birds' mirror so they can continue to chirp while admiring themselves in its reflection. I buy good feed and palatial bird homes and the preferred type of cat litter. I provide toys and catnip that are mostly ignored and bird toys that are eagerly employed. It sounds like I have to do a lot and spend a little money, doesn't it? I talk to these beautiful fellow animals of the universe and each of the four looks at me as if I am brilliant when I speak. As if what I have to say matters. None of them has ever been cruel or done a thing to hurt me in any way. It's a dynamic that works beautifully. I provide the basic needs for their lives. They grace my presence with all their beauty and their trust in me.

I love venerable things. I call items with history "venerable things". These need not be priceless antiques. Ordinary household articles of long ago pull me more than a Renaissance painting. I like to handle venerable things and think about other human beings who may have handled them. I wonder if the venerable thing had special meaning to its owner, or was it simply "the potato masher"? I buy venerable things at estate sales and curiosity shops. I decorate my home and office with them. Sometimes I am fortunate to find some lovely vintage item I can wear as clothing or jewelry. Some of my favorite venerable things: my grandmother's 1917 high school graduation gift - a lavaliere that now belongs to me and will belong to Amber someday; my circa 1800 cut glass inkwell with tortoiseshell lid; a pair of eyeglass frames from about 1920. These frames are perfectly round and beautifully crafted. I want to wear them so badly it nearly makes me weep. I cannot find an eyeglass dispenser willing to try to put lenses in the frames. They fear what material the frames may be made from and whether it will hold up to today's methods of making glasses. I shall keep looking. I want those frames on my face. I want to think about the other human who wore them.

I love to be creative. This is one of the loves that makes me sad. For I am not doing it. OK, I'm writing. And I aimed my camera at some beautiful things. On one camp-out. But I am not using fabric in any way, even though I may own the lion's share of the world's stores of fabric. The sewing machine gathers dust and there are no pins sticking in the carpet. I haven't needle-pricked a fingertip for longer than I'd like to admit. The seashells used to fashion angel ornaments languish in closed bins among the shining ribbons and "jewels" meant to render them beautiful. The rubber stamps and archival ink containers lie idle and my embosser hasn't been plugged in for far too long. My cardstock and envelopes and embellishments are lined up neatly in their dustproof containers. Maybe forever, never to be touched again? Those I love enjoy receiving cards I've made. Why am I giving shitty store-bought cards to people I want to present with beauty and the creative part of my love?

I love to read. My mother, my daughter and I each began to read on our own, only nominally guided, at the age of 4. We are strong right-brainers who enjoy words and process information by reading. "Don't show me how to do it. Let me read the instructions!" I am surrounded by men who learn things by looking at a television. That doesn't work for me. When I look at a screen to learn something new, I take it in just like everyone else. Eyeball deep. When I read to learn something new, I absorb it into every part of me. I rabidly attack Prevention when it arrives every few weeks, completely reading it in one sitting. I have more self-help books than I can name, and I read and re-read them. I have many books that are old friends to me, some dating back to the 1960s. I try to give each of them a spin every year. I have virtually visited many places in the world I'll likely never actually see ~ by reading about them. Probably my favorite books are biographies. I'll read one about pretty much any person. This feeds the need not only to read, but it also puts me in the "connecting with others" mode that I love. the ability to read anything ever committed to writing, uncensored, is about as good as life gets. Whatever is intriguing, one can go find out about it.

I love learning new things. When I started my current job, I had a first-ever experience. It took me longer to catch on than I would have hoped or expected. I've always been a pretty quick study. I was about to turn 55 and I attributed the slight lag to my age. I am a bit kinder to myself now. I was entering a field I knew nothing about, managed by software I'd never used. I'd never held a sales position and had to learn that, too. Maybe I wasn't so slow! I was given a good, curious mind and I have many of the qualities of a terrier dog - some things may stump this chump, but I just keep digging until I find what I was going for. I'm afraid my learning process may not be pretty in its execution, rather like the making of sausages and law. It pleases me to learn new things. I wanted to know how to create a website and how html code works - I learned. I wanted to learn to blog. I've done so. I hope I never lose curiosity, even as I slow in my capacity to quickly grasp new things.

I love the desert. I will not be able to tell the reader why I love the desert. I've struggled for hours for those words that will not come. So I shall tell what I love about the desert. I love the loose sandy trails that make a hike feel torturous. I like the rocky hikes that scare me when the boulders shift beneath my feet. I like the drops so long I have to sit down and scoot myself down the rockface on my backside. I like to roast in my own juices in the sharp sun, eking out that one last camping trip in May before temperatures force the summer camping break. I like the snowflakes that fell and melted on my warm, bare skin as I struggled to help put the rainfly on the tent at 2:00 a.m. without my glasses. I love that I lay in 75 mph winds for hours, trying to sleep, weeping in fear, and surviving it. I love the way the coffee tastes differently out there. I love that I know how to pitch a tent, fuel and operate lanterns and a stove, make a safe campfire, follow a map. I like to poke around old mineshafts and find interesting treasures. I love that little creatures allow me to hold them and seem to enjoy my company. I love knowing how to identify animal tracks and desert flora. When I breathe in the presence of the petroglyphs, I feel like I'm in church. When I hike through a broad vista of cactus flowers, I know I have gone to a better place. It's an extreme environment. Harsh. One has to develop skills. I was a city girl. The desert opens its arms to anyone tough enough to survive in it. I thrive in it.

I love connecting with others. Human beings fascinate me. Almost all of them. I have felt like an alien visitor all of my life, however, because I don't feel as if I really understand other people. Therefore, I study them carefully. My friend and I laugh about something. If someone said, "Hey there's a great author from the 20th century named Hemingway", my friend would want to read Hemingway. I would want to read the biography so I'd know about the person Hemingway was. If my pink bus were an actual bus, I'd be the small woman at the back, surrounded by her bags of stuff, craning her neck to check out all the other passengers, taking notes. I study people and I try to find some place where I might make a connection with them. It excites me to find the fragile strand of commonality between me and another person. The electrical connection makes me feel alive and normal and . . . not so different from anyone else. Not alien.

CHALLENGE: I didn't think this exercise up. I was tagged. I'm officially tagging anyone who reads this to go do it for yourself. It's a good, introspective time spent with oneself. Tree, I'm specifically tagging you. Maybe you can't do it right now. But do it sometime. Do the short version. It might help you find your way. It helped me find mine.

In my ears right now: It runs long. It is worth listening to. It is like church music played on a pipe organ. She's got the pipes.

Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse


  1. Wow. What a post, Leslie.

    I used to think that if I were marooned on a desert island the one person I'd want most to be alone with is my husband, and not just out of love but out of practicality. He's clever, my husband, in so many ways. He'd keep us alive.

    I'm not practical. I'm the opposite. The only thing I can do is write.

    You give me the impression that you'd be an excellent person to share survival strategies with on said hypothetical island. You'd keep us alive.

    I took Kass's task as one to do with happiness. I don't think it matters much. I found myself thinking often that what makes me happy is also what and whom I love.

    This is such a wonderful account of yourself. You are amazing in so many ways. I cannot manage half of what you manage and I wonder, whenever do you find the time?

  2. Leslie,

    I enjoyed reading your passionate description of the things you love.
    When I posted my list (following Kass's request too) I also listed the 10 things I love to do, and therefore usually brings happiness to me. I say most of the time, because for me Happiness is a matter of attitude.

    "Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. ~A.A. Milne


  3. Elisabeth is right. The distinction between what you love and things that make you happy is fuzzy. I think we do what we love. This thought makes me angry when I get angry, because then I must be exercising my anger because I love anger. Which is not true. Maybe you noticed one of Elisabeth's commenters talking about how the flip side is always present in our awareness of happiness. It's been an interesting train to follow - all these lists and the lists of the followers of the followers. You can never go wrong with a k.d. song. Awesome!

  4. The undefinable aspect of true joy was hinted at through your list, but the real impact with tears and awareness came during k.d. lang's Hallelujah. I thought I had heard every version of this. It's one of the most covered songs ever, but this rendition. Wow! It was another moment of the type we've been discussing on Tag's blog. Glad to hear you're beginning to connect at a new and different level.

  5. I cannot hear/read "lavaliere" without thinking of a Harold Lloyd film...the one of your grandmother's looks beautiful...your use of venerable made me chuckle but I'm not sure why, though I suspect it is for some immature associative reason....I'm pleased you have found a place where you can experience the freedom and environment which fills you with passion...and that you still have a go get 'em attitude to all things...I'd like to be more like you there...this is a really positive and inspiring post...I want to go do things, right now!

  6. Just read your venerable things - very lovely stories about your grandma, and funny, too (Lisbon)!

    Reminded me of an elderly neighbour from when I was a child - ussed to bite her fingernails down to the "cubicles"...also an uncle of mine - he lost his hearing some years ago and any words he's learnt since are pronoounced funny and elongated, like "spa-too-la" for spatula (which in the part of the UK we lived we'd pronounce "spachler", and "Gordon Blue" chefs...

    The Harold Lloyd film was, I think, Safety Last but I'd have to check to be sure...

  7. @ Elisabeth ~ I have not always been very practical. I've had to learn it in recent years. I like that I caught on to it. Whimsical was OK, and I've kept a measure of that. But I have more balance now. And I must say that I am a survivor. I've survived much I might not have been expected to be able to withstand.

    I'm not sure how I manage, Elisabeth. I'm just living my life, walking along, sometimes falling, taking in everything I can and doing my best with it.

    Elisabeth, although your writing is stop-dead-in-my-tracks good, I know that's not the only thing you do. Your writing tells us you're a very fully developed woman with all that goes with the territory.

    I'm glad you've come aboard my bus. I'm glad I found your blog. Thank you, Kass, for the pointer to so many fine people.

  8. @ Gabi ~ Welcome aboard my pink bus. I'm glad you found your way here. I think you, Milne and Pooh make a very good point. There is a great pleasure gained from simply anticipating the things we love. For me, I love the anticipation, the doing, AND the memories.

  9. @ Kass-erole ~ This was a brilliant idea to propose. I'm enjoying reading the lists. I haven't seen all of them I intend to check out. I had a pretty terrible flying trip to SoCal yesterday, thereby erasing any semblance of a weekend for me.

    Your comment makes me think about something I don't like to contemplate, but I must. I wonder if I engage in unhealthy situations because I love to be unhealthy. I hope that isn't the case, but I have to look in the face of the possibility.

    Doesn't she do Hallelujah as well as it can be delivered up? I think Cohen wrote a stunning piece of music, and I think k.d. lang sings it like an angel. Watching her face at the end when she bows and weeps and does her version of "aw shucks" makes me want to know her. I want to know that person.

  10. @ GJ ~ Well said! Yes, finding connections in all kinds of places. This piece of music electrifies me. So if my words tell part of the story about me and k.d.'s singing tells a little more, I'm good with that. I let music speak for me a lot of the time. When I can't bring up the right words, I can still usually land on the right song. Good to see you here and at your place and Tag's. It's been a rich few days for me.

  11. @ Rachel ~ Sometimes I land on a word and use it nearly to death, just because it is "right" for me. I use "impertinent" a lot, making a man in my life laugh out loud. Not sure why, but the word makes him snicker. I just use the word because it perfectly defines the point I'm trying to make. I know it's an old-fashioned word a nun might use, but I LIKE it. "Venerable things" works for me.

    You can believe me, Rachel, I become faint of heart far too often. I may be the world's poster child for falling down, but getting up one time more. I just try to keep on keeping on. I might add that sometimes I am WAY too busy. Almost doing things so I won't have to stop and think about other things. Not good. Going into the desert to absorb the silence and beauty ~ now THAT is good.

  12. @ Rachel again ~ I have never heard the word lavaliere used in any context other than Granny-O's necklace. I don't know if it's a regional term or one from a long-ago era. I like the word. It's elegant. Hers/mine/Amber's is lovely. It's not ostentatious. It's modest and old-fashioned and it suits me. Amber likes the history of the lavaliere, but she doesn't find it particularly beautiful as I do.

    My Granny-O was a piece of goods! I miss her so. She loved me fully, despite understanding me very well. Her fracturing of language is interesting to me. She was educated and a reader. She worked crossword puzzles, consulting the dictionary and the thesaurus. But when a certain word lodged in her head incorrectly, it was futile to try to help her out.

    There are a few posts about Granny-O. I want to write some more about her.

  13. I for one like the googly eyes VW exhibits as she lurks around.

  14. @ The Badger ~ You captured them nicely with your camera, too, even if only you and she and I think so. ;~}