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  • I sit picking shreds of meat off a boiled chicken carcass. I’ve already removed most of the good meat, and now attempt to get every crumb. Keith, my husband, suggests I've gotten enough, but I keep working. I get another bowlful. It's what I do. I don't want to waste food.

    He says, "It's tedious work. And you are valuing your time at nothing."
  • When asked to do something onerous, he has a tendency to say how much his time is worth. I forget how much, but his time is worth a lot more than mine, as I worked all my life for a nonprofit that did not value education and talent. (With a relevant master's degrees and years of training in my field, most of my working life, I was paid below the Federal poverty line.)

    I think about lifestyles. How I collected and ate road kill, whereas my husband and his son, when I first met them, threw away buckets of uneaten food. And they are just the tip of the iceberg of the rich and powerful's waste of food and resources. In this country, even the poor waste food. Even the hungry. (Not that he or we are rich and powerful--far from it.)

    I think about the starving Armenians of my childhood ("please, send them my fishcakes") and hungry people all over the world. Hunger and starvation are never pretty or funny. Still, to be practical, there is no way I can send these nearly picked bones to anyone hungry enough to want them.
  • But what about my time? My husband's concern? My time is my life, and it's starting to run out. Next year, I'll be seventy. Of course, I could die any time, we all could. But what about the things I want to accomplish?

    On what balance should I measure the value of picking meat off an already fairly clean carcass verses working on my poetry, children's books, novels or paintings? How does one assign value to one's work or one's time?

    I read somewhere that the best measure of friendship is the time we invest in our friends. Which time is that? Facetime, real facetime in the real presence of a real friend is the most important and valuable time. But what about gifts of hand-made cards? What about chicken soup? That extra bowl full of meat I picked off after Keith suggested I stop made, with wild rice and vegetables added, two more servings of homemade chicken soup. And no amount of money can buy soup like the soup I make myself, soup I intend to serve my friend Gail who is shortly arriving for a visit. We haven't seen her in more than a year. We will eat soup and talk excitedly, catching up.
  • Don't imagine I intend a flippant remark about soup as an answer to the question as to how to value and allocate time. I don't know what the answer is. I am not offering advice, nor seeking advice, but trying to understand how to live and make choices.

    I do know that I feel like a bad person because I don't spend enough time cleaning. Art and poetry nourishes the soul--my soul. But a reasonably neat, clean and tastefully arranged house calms the souls of all who spend time in it.

    And then there is the issue of entitlement. It relates back to valuing one's time, and thus, the time of others. I did not grow up with a sense of entitlement, not like kids today have. They expect everything, including dinner, to be handed to them on a diamond and platinum platter. I still expect to have to work for my dinner.

    * * * *
  • I wrote this in July. I've written literally hundreds of intended Cowbird stories that I do not have time to post. Too much going on our family. ML, my mother in law, was in the hospital again with fluid in the lungs and atrial fibrillation, etc, and is now in rehab but very frail.

    The image is a watercolor painting I just finished today of one of the characters in one of my novels, which is another thing that takes my time, working on novels and art. I may or may not at some point post about Peggy Hartwell, age 55. I posted part of the novel with Peggy in it here at Cowbird, and it continues before and after that post. I gave up posting it because it seemed too difficult for people to follow in this format. You can see another image of Peggy there, an earlier one.

    The image started as a tiny sketch on a small pad of paper given to us on the 75th anniversary of the Bluewater Bridge. I repaired it and painted it with watercolors. (Real paint on real paper). The image on the next page looks huge, but it actually fits in the palm of my hand.
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