A Daily Schedule

And the value there in . . .

If you haven’t yet typed out your Daily Schedule, there can’t be a better time to do it. It’s an old, old Zen teaching, but don’t let that bother you. It’s lasted through the centuries and you won’t be the first one to take it as your own. It’s what happens to good things.

Okay, begin with the time you plan to get from your bed each a.m. and then go on from there. Prayer? Before or after your shower and breakfast? Doesn’t matter, but get it down on paper and keep going. Job? Kids off the school? No two schedules will be alike, and yours will change with the seasons and years, but put down, in ‘black and white’ how you would like to have your good, ordinary life’s days spent. .

And before you complain, let me say that you’ll never be able to follow the schedule. There will always be a phone call. Someone at the door. A crying child. But you have, there in writing, what a good day would be. So, on those days when you feel like giving up, and before you start screaming, go to your schedule. It’s magic when needed, and is why the idea has lasted ‘forever’, and is even found in the hands of today’s therapists. It simply works.

Okay. So before you really get into a moody ole “Pity Party” and allow your entire day to be spent that way, go to your schedule and see what you planned to be doing at that exact hour of the day, and do it. Yeah, it might be the last thing in the world you want to do, but give yourself a big boot in the rear, and do it.

Doesn’t matter what it tells you to do. Maybe it says to sweep the porch and sidewalks, and if it’s winter, shovel the snow instead, but when that chore is finished, go see what your perfect day would have you do next, and do that, too.    A planned schedule is a life saver for within less than an hour your day will be changed for the better.

It is good to have as a base for everyday life, but after a big life crisis, such as a new job, children leaving to go away to school, or to marry, or your job takes you to a new city. or neighborhood, or, yes, even when the sorrow of death claims a loved one and you stand by a grave site for your last goodbye, knowing life will be different from then on, go to your schedule and let the miracles begin.

I first found this magic potion in The Empty Mirror, a Zen book by Jan van Willem, about his four years spent in a Japanese Zen monastery. The schedule can seldom be followed hour by hour and is adjusted over the years, but when life is broken or interrupted in some manner, go silently back to it and all will be well.

This daily plan was conceived and taught unknown centuries ago, and perhaps is needed more today than when first spoken.   Who knows, but there is peace to be found when we tread a familiar pathway. I’ve passed the idea along many times in my classes and it’s been welcomed and used.  Simply because it works.

The familiar routine, brings calmness, serenity, and healing to a restless, weeping heart. Yes, changes come, but good days will also come, and in doing so, God lets us know that, as the old hymn says, “All is well, all is well”.

Once, filled with confusion and anxiety, I turned to my schedule and found it was time to go to my room, close the door and meditate. Laughing, I followed my own words, did just that,  and realized that even my laughter helped me know that all was well again. And so it was and still is. And so be it.

Pregnancy Pillows

Freud would have clapped his hands in glee for a chance to unravel this twist.

Yes, that’s what the ad said, and it took but a few seconds to know that they weren’t selling pillows for rest or comfort, but a pillow to be tied around the waist and worn under the woman’s regular clothing so that she looked pregnant. I kept reading.

I don’t know if it’s some new fad, an ‘in’ thing, (the ad didn’t say), but the idea is NOT to be pregnant, but definitely look that way. Or, and this is Ethel’s mind working, just maybe to give some reluctant man a heart attack. Or leave town. Or ask you to marry him.

The Pillows come in different sizes, styles and shapes. If you want to look just a bit ‘broody’?  (The ad’s words) Well, the three-to-four month Pillow is suggested, but if you want to startle people, and have a more delicate air? More fragile? Read on.

They have exactly what you need for any reaction, from surprise to terror. Any of them can be yours instantly and with none of the usual complications. Obviously I’m not up to the latest styles and habits so I kept reading. I wanted to learn more.

All you need do, the ad told, is to choose the ‘right’ size and you’ll have people helping you from your chair, telling you not to over-do, and treating you as if you’re the most delicate thing around.   The reaction will differ with the ‘size’ pillow you buy. But, the ad promised, you’ll get action.

If you’re feeling devilish and want to have ‘fun’, (the ad’s words) get the eight-monther. While you’re convulsed with secret laughter (it says), the men will quickly give you their chair, and then just as quickly move to the other side of the room. And mentally wonder why you didn’t stay home, and at the same time worried you might sneeze.

And again going back to the ad’s words, you’ll really have the laugh ot the year if you step into another room for a moment and then return, slender as a willow and not pregnant at all. Fun???? That’s what the ad promised.

A full nine-month pillow wasn’t offered. I suppose that doesn’t look like fun and no one wants the ‘look’ when the fun’s gone.   And lest you think I’m joking just begin scanning the off-center magazines. You’ll find the ads,

Women must be hard to please. First was the fight for The Pill, to assure only wanted pregnancies.   Then came legal abortions for those who made a ‘mistake’. And now what comes next? Pillows to let the ‘liberated’ woman who wouldn’t go through a pregnancy for love nor money, able to have the look of the utter female. The Pregnant one.

Or just maybe there’s something going on with today’s world that I’ve missed and which every young girl reading this will say, Well, doesn’t Ethel know about this? And they’ll be right. I don’t know and have actually wondered if they are meant for Halloween? Maybe. Maybe. But that holiday wasn’t mentioned.

Freud would have clapped his hands in glee for a chance to unravel this twist. Or, and here I wonder, if there is some other reason for the Pillows, please let me, and a lot of other people, know about it.

For, seriously, it’d have to be a big reason, for pregnancy is not a joke. It is the genesis of the next generation, Not something to be put forth as a joke, but I suppose I’m not up to date on such things, And I’m just as pleased that I’m not.

What’s In A Name?

Labels for the time and place . . .

We say we only have one name, the one we were born with, but I find we not only have many names, but each one has a different persona.

Grandpa Ohlin called me and my siblings, Svenskas, and though I didn’t know that Svenska meant Swedish, I knew it was special and nice. And, as a child, Dad called me Flicka, and it was years before I knew that I, blonde, with white straight hair, was the only ‘Swedish’ child he had, for my siblings all had dark wavy hair. It’s been a lifetime since those names were used for me, but when I see them in print, I’m a child again, and for a moment am Flicka, Svenska.

Of course, in my teens I was another ubiquitous Blondie, and later on, came the teasing name of Blizzard Head, and, though it’s utterly impossible, but if I should ever hear that name spoken, without even looking I’d know it was Jake calling out to a twenty-year-old girl with blonde, ‘permed’ hair.   Oh, the power of a name.

Then Brad entered my life and gave me the love name of Butchie. Years later an old pal, Bill Bailey, came to visit and out of the blue called me Butchie, and I was tossed back in time to another Ethel. A nice name, Butchie, nice Ethel and nice Brad. Oh, yes, those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end . . . but they did.

Then there was Mrs. Bradford and the first time someone said, “Mrs. Bradford”, meaning me, and not Gram, I nearly fell over with shock. Me???   Me? Mrs. Bradford??? Yeah, and with Gram long gone, it’s no longer a shock to know it’s me they mean.

When I first started writing for the Green Sheet Newspapers, I used the alias of Trudy, and it was good, for it was under that name that I took my first steps in becoming the Ethel whose life has been formed by writing.

And then came those glorious years when I became Mom to two sons, and that was an entirely different person than any other before or since. A most wonderful, blessed name, one I wouldn’t give up for any other in the world. That’s me and always will be, for, to me there’s no better name, than Mom.

The name of Grandmother, conjures up a different Ethel, and once I invited a guest to a family get-together, and he later said, “I saw an Ethel today that I’ve never seen before,” and when I looked surprised, he said, “I saw several Ethel’s. You were friend, Mother, Mother-in-law, and Grandmother. It was fun to watch your different responses to different names and people. All nice Ethel’s, but all different from the one you are with me.”  Oh.

Names, names, names, and the older one gets, the more names and personalities we collect. A friend Richard says he sometimes feels he’s on a pogo stick trying to be his mother’s Dickie, his father’s Richard, and Dick to high school pals. Says he’s also Mr. ‘Jones’, as well as he’s Teacher  to others. All different names and roles of the same person, and all expecting, and, instinctively getting, different responses.

And you say you don’t do this? Maybe, but step back watch yourself, and I bet you’ll see a different person with your mother, spouse, children, boss, or employees.  And yes, oh yes, how about to your Bishop? Or Minister? And what do they call you?

I caught onto this dichotomy and tried to be the same person no matter what or who called me, but it wont work. You can’t speak to your mother as you do your boss, fellow-employees, spouse or children. I’m a different person to the salesman at the door, than I am to my grandkids, and still another to the one on the phone trying to get a donation, or to the repairman I’ve called to my home.

And you still think you have but one name? And all the same personality? Well, ho ho, ho and ho. Methinks you’d better think again.

Married For Life

But not for 24 hours a day . . .

It took me a long time to understand and respect things Gram would casually (? ) say, but so many of her thoughts have stayed with me, and I wish I could tell her how much her words, like those I write of today, have helped me.

“Ethel”, she said, “for a woman (and I came to know it’s also true for men) to be happy, she must find something, in addition to her family, that will bring joy into her life. And the more “hobbies” she has, the better off she’ll be.”

I listened, but really didn’t ‘hear’ her, for I was still in that euphoric stage when I thought that after marriage you automatically lived happily ever after. Impossible to think she could really mean that I might someday need anything besides my husband, her son, to bring me happiness.

But I also knew Gram didn’t waste words and so I filed her thoughts away into my mental computer, and, when the day did come, when ‘family’ wasn’t enough, her words re-surfaced and I began to follow her advice. See, she had ‘been there’ and was doing her best to pass the wisdom on to one she loved. Me.

Others have said it, too. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is the old peasant way of saying it. Pearl Buck, and I paraphrase, said that if a women tries to confine all her energies, attention and love, into the sole outlet of husband and family, she will put a burden on the relationship that it was never meant to bear. Oh.

The husband (or wife) will retreat (escape) in self-defense to TV, behind a magazine or newspaper, golf, the neighborhood bar, or other activity. And children, if outspoken, will tell you to ‘get off their back’, will stay in their room, ‘live’ at friend’s homes, retreat into silence or rebel in any of the thousand ways a teen can devise.

When I first did something that my husband had no interest in, I felt guilty, but I went ahead and was startled to find that he liked those times when his presence or participation wasn’t needed. And slowly I saw that he had his interests. And it was good.

What Gram had learned, as we all must if we are to gain any measure of happiness, is that not one of us can (or wants) to spend 24 hours a day, with just one person. No matter how loved that one might be.

Gram knew that kids grow up and leave home. Death does come, and that jobs, life and sickness, both mental and physical, can separate people. So, for our own balance we must find outlets that absorb and bring delight to us. In addition to our families.

Women’s lives were limited at Gram’s time, but I think ‘Cooking’ was her first, (or second), and it shattered her when she could no longer be mistress of her own kitchen. Gardening was her second (or first) and I never greet Spring without recalling her delight in ‘getting outside to plant and dig’.

I have mine, and if you haven’t found yours, get busy. For there are times in everyone’s life when spouse, children, job and even life seem to fail us. Yes, these are the times when some hobby or avocation can actually be a life line to your peace and sanity.

And one of the most succinct phrases of all, as true today as when she passed it along to me, with a wry smile on her face. “We marry for life, but not for twenty-four hours a day.” Wise, wise woman, and I hope you and you and you read and remember. Might save your sanity one of these days, too. Or his.