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Cat No. 4; Cat in a pink room.

Morning Thoughts and Cat. No. 4

About the Cat: It’s my version of one of the cats given as examples in the art book: Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun. The goal was to quickly draw 30 cats from imagination while lying in bed. I guessed that the goal was to get the reader/artist to stop feeling like they had to be perfect, because the cat illustrations were certainly not drawn realistically.

Learning to accept that I wasn’t perfect, somewhere in my mid-30s, was one of the best moments my life. Remembering this got me thinking about other lessons learned during my 81 years on Planet Earth. I decided to make a list of 10 things, but only got to eight before my brain shut off. They are:

          No. 1: Accept that you’re not perfect and be happy about it.

          No. 2. Don’t take anything personal unless it makes you feel better.

          No. 3. Realize that people are more concerned about how they look than how you look.

          No. 4. Get a dog and walk it daily.

     No. 5. Find your passion in life, and follow it.

     No. 6. Get back on the horse when you fall off.

     No. 7. Learn something new every day.

No; 8: Get enough sleep most nights. I say most nights because us old broads still gotta have fun once in a while.

Perhaps readers can lengthen the list by sharing things life has taught them.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Cat No. 3: The Covid Cat

          I moderate a writer’s chat group called Writer2Writer for Story Circle Network, an international writing support group for women. Each Wednesday, I provide a writer’s prompt.

          This week, wanting to inject a little silliness into the life of writers, who like all of us are living on Covid time, I asked them to have a conversation with an animal who could respond with words instead of just a nodding of the head.

          Below is what my oldest daughter, Deborah, who is a member of W2W, wrote. I laughed all the way through. So, to give a bit of time to dog lovers to go along with my promised 30 artful cats, I decided to share it. I hope reading it brings a smile to your face.

Nightcap with Whiskey and Kahlua

By Deborah Bean

Welcome to the world of a new senior citizen (me) and my two lovable dogs. Whiskey weighs in at 25 pounds and is a Schnauzer/Cocker Spaniel mix — a Schnocker that you have to imagine with a Scottish accent. Ten-pound Kahlua is an energetic, sometimes frenzied Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix – a JackChi. Ironically, re names, I’m a teetotaler.  

Me: (Nighttime, Take 395) Okay, Whiskey, bedtime.

Kahlua: (Scampers downstairs) I’m going, I’m going, I’m going.

Me: Whiskey, come on.

Whiskey: (Opening one eye) Harrrrumph. (Then he closes that eye)

Me: Whiskey, it’s time for bed.

Whiskey: Your bed be much morrrre comfortable. Just leave me be.

Me: Whiskey! Time for bed!

Kahlua: (Scampering back upstairs and starting to bark) Hey it’s bedtime. Time to go pee and then I get a treat! I like treats. Treats are good.

Whiskey: I be in a bed, ye frrrenzied Kahlueless. And it be comforrrtable. And Mistress, if ye please, get idget down tharrre to be quiet.

Me: Whiskey, it’s bedtime. Coooome ooon. (Grabbing his hind legs and pulling slowly, I work his body off the edge of the bed)

Whiskey: (Still not getting up) Hey! What be you doing? And keep yerrr bloody hands offin me prrrivates! (I gently slide him off the bed so his hind feet touch down before I pull him all the way off) And how, the now, did I get down herrre. Ye bloody well tricked me, ye wench.

Kahlua: (Racingdownstairs and back up a second time) C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! Time to go outside – then I get a treat! Treats are good. Don’t you want a treat Whiskey? And we’ve got a comfortable crate with pillows and blankies.

Me: Alright. Downstairs now.

Whiskey: I be strrrrretching. And yawning. And be ye sure ye don’t want me back in that tharrrre comfortable bed. I’d be keeping you warm all night.

Kahlua: (Racing up and down the stairs a third time) Time to go pee. I’m a good puppy. I know what to do.  Go outside, go pee, get my treat, and then off to bed in our crate.

Me: Whiskey, let’s go. It’s bedtime. Come on.

 Whiskey: (Grumbling all the way down to the kitchen door) And it’s a crrruel human ye be. Forcin’ me out of me comforrrtable spot. And now you sends me out into the darrrk to be a’peein.

Kahlua: (After making several circuits of the yard before stopping to go potty) I’m done. See, I went potty. I’m a good puppy. You love me because I know what to do. I’m loved, I’m loved. (Then races up the stairs to see the husband, barking all the way. He sends her back down as Whiskey saunters in from the yard. Kahlua is panting)

Me: Okay, into the crate, both of you.

Whiskey: (Giving me the evil eye, again) And, I be askin’, what will ye be givin’ me? Kahlueless over there may be willin’ but she be titched in the head.

Me: Of course. Here’s your treat. Now into the crate.

Kahlua: I got a treat. Treats are good. Now I’m in the crate. I’m a good puppy!

Whiskey: I’ll not be likin’ this a bit, but since thare be a treat, so shall it be.

Me: (Sighs) Why do I put up with this? It’s a good thing you’re such a snuggle bunny.

Whiskey: Hey! Who ye be besmirchin’ wit’ your bunny talk? It’s a fierce fighter I be — at least five minutes of the day. Hmph!

Me: Night puppies. Love you. See you in the morning.

Whiskey: Hmph! Well, at least there be comforrrtable blankets. Scootch over ye idget. Give me space.

Kahlua: (Snuggles between Whiskey’s legs) I did good! I said goodnight, peed, and went to bed with a treat. I’m a good puppy!

Whiskey: Quiet little beastie. I be tryin’ to sleep here.

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Cat No. 2: Green Eyes and Glasses

Some People Might Call It Stubbornness

          Although I love cooking, and am reasonably good at it, I never bake cakes these days. I tried in my younger years but almost always they were dismal failures. They drooped, didn’t rise, had raw centers or a dozen other mishaps.

          That’s because I can’t ever seem to follow rules. While I can successfully add or subtract to my favorite one-pot dishes, leaving out or adding something a cake recipe calls for rarely works.

          I thought about that as I was drawing one of the cats for the first assignment in Drawing: 52 Exercises to Make Drawing fun. I sort of fudged yesterday when I wrote that the first exercise was to draw 30 cats.

          The exact words of the exercise were: “Draw 30 cats from your imagination while sitting or lying in bed.” But that didn’t seem fun to me. I’m not a daytime bed person, rarely even taking naps. So, I simply snipped off the end of the assignment to suit my style.

          The truth is I’m one of those people, whoever they are, who only read instructions when all else fails. And telling me I must do something is like waving a red banner in front of an angry bull.

          My journal writing has helped me understand these and many more of my failings — or strengths if you look at things from an opposite angle. I doubt I’m going to change at my age. But I am going to eventually draw 30 cats.

          More journaling and cats to come …

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie (Available free on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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First assignment from Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun. Draw 30 cats. This is Cat No. 1

          When I was in my early 20s, I wanted to become both a writer and an artist. Writing won out. For over half a century, writing was as important to me as breathing. Actually, it still is.

          As a newspaper journalist for 37 years, I felt what I wrote was important – because I was keeping people informed of what was going on in the world and what they needed to know. Thankfully, that was the priority goal of the newsrooms I worked in from 1967 to 2004.  

I cringe today when I read, or hear, so many journalism personalities (certainly not reporters) editorialize their version of events. I belong to the days of journalists like Walter Cronkite, who ended his news shows with “And that’s the way it is.” I’m not sure when demonizing and hate-mongering to win readers and viewers became so prevalent.

Ok. Enough of that. I didn’t plan on a soapbox rant for this blog. I was going to write about how these days my writing mostly consists of journaling. It’s helping me, at the grand age of 81, to connect the dots of my life. I find it quite enjoyable and rewarding, as well as helping me better understand who I am.

But I’ve also begun to piddle more with art, and finding it also rewarding.  I’m too old, however, to take it seriously, which is why I picked up Drawing:52 Creative Exercise to Make Drawing Fun.

The first exercise is to draw 30 cats. Above is my first one.

More journaling and cats to come…

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Guadalupe Peak in Guadlupe Mountain National Park in Texas. — Wikimedia Photo

One of the things I’ve concluded after eight decades of iving is that beauty can be found anywhere. It’s easy to believe this when you’re spending a day hiking in the magnificent Guadalupe Mountain National Park, which is what I was doing on a warm April day about 11 years ago.

Blooming cacti and ocotillo plants dotted the Chihuahuan Desert landscape, whose mountain scenery is a rare sight in mostly flat-land Texas. Overseeing this nature haven were the picturesque peaks of El Capitan (Yes, it has the same name as better know peak in Yosemite) and Guadalupe, the latter peak, at 8,752 feet, being the highest point in the Lone Star state.

It was 360 degrees of awesome, brought to life by collared lizards darting among the yellow and magenta colored prickly pear blossoms.

That sentiment about beauty, however, was challenged a few days later when in contrast, I found myself camped for the night in an El Paso RV park, my small Class C motorhome squeezed between two huge Class A vehicles with wide slide outs in a cement parking lot. In addition, the park was surrounded by a low rock fence beyond which passing traffic kept up a yowling roar.

It was the kind of place I avoided as carefully as I did the alligators in the Okefenokee Swamp when I visited. But time and distance left me no choice. It was the only place near enough I could reach before dark, and I never drove my RV at night. 

I tried to follow Garth Brooks’ advice about basing happiness on what you have and not what you don’t have, but I was still grumbling to myself about the drab view as I sat at my table and stared out the window of my motorhome.

I wanted a meandering creek whose gurgles would lull me to sleep, and a large tree to sit beneath while reflecting on my day, and perhaps a small camp fire whose flames I could get lost in. During my nine years on the road, I spent many a night in just such a setting.

 Thinking of those nights, I admonished myself to be thankful for my life, and started to get up and get a book to read. That’s when the beauty happened.

A Gambel quail, followed by nine chicks, strolled into view. The She was headed across the cement to the far side of the campground, and she was followed by 11 chicks. And trailing behind them was another adult quail, a bit gaudier than the first so I assumed he was the male parent.

The birds brought a smile to my face, and my optimistic view that beauty could be found everywhere was renewed.

Why, I asked myself, had I ever doubted that beauty could be found everywhere, even if you don’t go looking for it.

Bean Pat: Guadalupe Mountain National Park: Here, you’ll find one of the finest examples of an ancient, marine fossil reef on Earth.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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A Late Political Rant

I feel like these American whistlers, just sitting around, watching the day go by.. —
Photo by Pat Bean.

          For four years I’ve been racking my brain to find a reason the Christian Right has been supporting a man more flagrantly sexually immoral than the former president they condemned so heartily for his sexual sins.

          To my way of thinking, it felt like the Christian world had been turned upside down. But finally, a light bulb in my fuzzy brain was ignited. One simple reason is that the Christian Right is a predominantly patriarchal society. It wasn’t that I didn’t know this. It was the reason I left my church almost 40 years ago. Its teachings stressed that woman would not have access to the highest degree in heaven without a man.  

          To have remained in that church would have been that I accepted being a second-class human, and I hadn’t accepted that from the minute I could think for myself at about six years old.

          It is most common in religious right thinking that a man has to lead, and even if a man isn’t a good person, too many male Christians and concurring females, felt it was better to put a man in charge of this country than a woman, especially one who thought she was as good as any man.        

This explains, to my dimwitted brain, why this country has had to put up with four years of bullying, lying, racism and flagrant egotism from a man who considers himself first and all others second — if even that.

            To think that anyone who considers himself a Christian and voted for this man today, especially after actually accepting his faults, continues to blow my mind.

          And why our leaders in Congress, many who spoke out against him before he gained office, did not call him out for his behavior and continued to back him saddens me. Sure, they got some of their political goals met, but only by accepting that the end was more important than the means.

          I don’t expect our president to be perfect. No one is. But I do expect him to be a decent human being.

I should have written this blog earlier – and not waited until I was biting my nails over today’s election results. They are already down to the quick. I suspect that whoever wins, we are facing some tough days ahead.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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One of the best ways to jog my memory is to reread my journals,, which sometimes include sketches, like the one above about the day I watched a ruby-crowned kinglet.

          “Memory is the way we keep telling ourselves our stories – and telling others a somewhat different version of our stories.” – Alice Munro

          While reading Mustard’s Last Stand, by Kathy McIntosh, I came across a fictional character who popped a rubber band around his wrist because he had a negative thought.

          The action took me back over 40 years, back to when I dated a guy who frequently popped a rubber band that he wore around his wrist. Why? I had asked. He had been evasive.

         His name was Jon, and he was a very nice guy, a reporter at the Fort Worth Star Telegram where I worked for a couple of years. But we dated only a couple of times, and never became more than just good friends. He went back to an old girlfriend whom he was still carrying a torch for, and I moved 1,500 miles away.

          If I hadn’t come across that rubber band passage, I might never have thought of Jon again. The passage also answered my unanswered question about why someone would purposely give themselves a jolt of pain, as I imagine a rubber band does when snapped against skin.

          I wondered if Jon had snapped the rubber band every time he thought about his old girlfriend? And then I wondered if people still wear rubber bands around their wrists to break a habit?

I wonder a lot.

          Meanwhile, at 81, when I have forgotten more than I can remember, I’m glad when my little gray cells are jogged. It’s almost always fun.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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A scene from the 1978 BBC series A Horseman Riding By.

Delderfield and Steinem Jiggle My Brain

          I’m currently reading A Horseman Riding By by R.F. Delderfield, which was first published in 1966, and which now has a 2017 edition available free on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. The book begins in 1902 and follows an English, land-owning family adjusting to world changes.

          One focus of Delderfield’s book is about the Suffragettes, who protested hard to gain women the vote, and were persecuted because of it.

       On Monday, I watched The Glorias, an Amazon Prime video about Gloria Steinem, who fought for equal rights for women back in the 1970s and is still fighting for them today. As a journalist for 37 years beginning in 1967, I reported on the equality issues, while at the same time fighting for equal rights and pay for my own work.

          What struck me during my own fight was that my fiercest competition to gain equality weren’t men, but women, including females working beside me. I know it’s hard to believe, but one early-on colleague told me to cool my fight for equal pay because she didn’t want to work as hard as the men. At the time I felt I was working harder than them to prove my worth.

          Then when I was hired to update a newspaper’s “Society” section into a modern day “Lifestyle” section, two women on my staff posted a note on the newspaper’s bulletin board saying they didn’t approve of my decisions to drop the required Miss and Mrs. titles in front of women’s names and to run pictures of both the bride and bridegroom in wedding announcements.

          Steinem, meanwhile, was up against Phyllis Schlafly, who conducted a national campaign against equal rights for women. I actually covered an event in which Schlafly spoke. It took the life out of me to report her comments. If I were to hold a grudge against anyone, it would be her.  I considered her a hypocrite as she was not the meek, stay at home mom she preached women should be.

          Anyway, all of these memories were brought together this morning while I was reading A Horseman Riding By as I drank my morning coffee.

The first wife of Delderfield’s protagonist scandalized everyone by leaving her husband and child to become a Suffragette. Several years later, the protagonist decided to back the political party that favored the women’s vote. But first he talked to his second wife, whom he feared might object. As part of the discussion, he showed her photos of Suffragettes being dragged down stone steps and force fed when they wouldn’t eat in protest.

          His wife didn’t object, but her belated response sent shivers down my body because it so squarely hit the bullseye.

          “I must be as far behind the times as any woman alive. I’ll use the vote if we get it, but I can’t work up much enthusiasm on the subject. Is that why they have to fight so hard do you suppose? Because so many women like me are satisfied to trot between nursery, kitchen and double bed?”

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Gloria Steinem, still speaking out for equal rights for all. — Wikimedia photo

“At my age … people often ask me if I’m passing the torch. I explain that I’m keeping my torch, thank you very much, and I’m using it to light the torches of others.” — Gloria Steinem

The Times Are a Changin

Gloria Steinem was a magazine journalist, just five years older than me, who was at the forefront of the fight for civil rights and women’s equality at the same time I was a working mother who was a newspaper reporter. She is now 86 to my 81 and she still has fire in her.

This magnet hangs on my refrigerator to remind me there is still life to be lived.

In a recent NY Times interview, Gloria said, “The progress we’ve made is not sufficient, but there is an advantage to being old. I have a role to play in the movement by saying, ‘Here’s when it was worse.”

I, too, remember when it was worse. I had a boss who told me I was the hardest worker in the office. Then I discovered that the guys in the office were making three times my meager salary. When I asked my boss’s boss, who controlled the purse strings, for a raise, he said it was hard for him to consider giving me a raise when all the men in the office had families to support.

I pointed out that all the men in my office currently had working wives, and that I was putting my then husband through college and was the sole support of him and my five children. “Oh,” was all he said. I got my raise. Such a situation hadn’t even occurred to him.

When Gloria Steinem’s Ms. Magazine was published for the first time in 1972, it was the same time I was fighting for equal pay for equal work.

Also, while I wasn’t raised to be a bigot, and Blacks were never disparaged in our home, I was indoctrinated by the teaching “separate but equal.” I heard the phrase often, and saw evidence of it growing up in the 1940s and ‘50s, with White and Black Only water fountain and restroom signs being the most common.

It wasn’t until I saw beyond what I had been taught growing up, while covering school integration issues as a reporter, that I quickly discovered how unequal things truly were. Reading books about the issues gave me even more insight.

Being a journalist reporting on the true facts, let me feel I was doing something positive to change things for the better. It gave me a false hope that true equality would actually happen. Maybe it will but it hasn’t yet.

Meanwhile, being retired and an old broad has made me feel helpless that there was nothing more I could do to make the world a kinder, fairer, better place in which to live. But reading that my elder journalist sister Gloria is still out there promoting equal right issues for all, made me rethink my plight.

I can still speak out against injustices. I can write letters promoting fairness and kindness. I can publicly support Black Lives Matter. Yes, all lives do matter but that is not the issue), And I can vote for people who give a damn about all America’s people.

Thank you, Gloria, for relighting my fire.

Bean Pat: To old broads everywhere who still have fire in them and who try to make the world a better place for all.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Joy is taking pleasure in little things, especially in nature. — Photo by Pat Bean

Political foolery, political bullying, political lying, political egotism, political shenanigans and political partisanship favored over what’s in the best interest of this country make me want to scream. And scream, and scream! I feel this way partly because I feel helpless to change things for the better.

Joy is my canine companion Scamp. — Photo by Pat Bean

What this country needs is a political party that’s not so far right, and not so far left, and is devoted to truth and facts. I would call it the Common Sense Party. All in favor, please stand up and say AYE!

I’m assuming the idea passed, so now all someone has to do is create it.

Meanwhile, since I need to stay sane during these chaotic times, I’ve started a list of things that give me joy. I try to put something on it daily. Here are a few recent joys from my list.

Joy is my third-floor balconies that look out on the Catalina Mountains, proving me a daily show of their changing moods

Joy is the almost daily phone call from one of my sons who tries to keep up with his old-broad mom, and the daily email chat I have with a daughter-in-law who has taken on the responsibility of being my guardian angel.

Joy is a hot bath in a deep tub, hot enough to turn the skin pink and send warmth and ease all the way down to my bones.

Joy is a call from a 10-year-old grandson who is reading the Dr. Doolittle books I so loved as a child, and who is loving them, too.

Joy is me getting to hold my great-granddaughter Cora. — Photo by T.C. Ornelas

Joy is getting a snail-mail letter from a friend, or from one of my grandchildren.

Joy is playing a competitive game of Frustration with my oldest granddaughter and her wife, and cussing and laughing a lot as we play.

Joy is solving and fixing a computer glitch all by myself — after an unsuccessful hour on the phone with a computer expert.

          Joy is my dog Scamp, who is my companion, bedmate and exercise trainer. Having to walk him up and down three flights of stairs daily has become my foolproof exercise plan.

Joy is listening to the gurgling sound of coffee brewing, and smelling its toasty aroma while it is still dark outside.

Joy is sitting my butt in a chair and writing – or reading.

Bean Pat: Watching birds is one of the things that always give me joy, like watching these West Texas humming bird feeders on one of Cornell University’s live bird cams. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/west-texas-hummingbirds/

Available on Amazon.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining

 

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