Sunday, February 22, 2015

Two Parts

Part 1: Reflection

 Do you think this statement is true? I do. For various reasons I've been thinking about my life past and future. Probably because my Mother has died, probably because of the reality and likelihood that JB and I will soon move, probably because the world and politics and climate change and human affairs seem more discouraging by the day: I find myself leaning into the values I was taught in childhood. Honesty. Responsibility. Love. Compassion. Generosity. Simplicity.

My parents brought me up in this six room Cape, built by my Father and Grandfather. We lived modestly but never without food and clothes and Christmas presents. My Father was as simple as a man could be: he was a proud bricklayer, came home every night covered with dust, made jokes at the supper table, fell asleep watching television. Except for one incident when my Mother insulted his Father and he lashed out at her, I don't recall him ever worrying. Not ever. He accepted things as they were and he lived without questions. During the four months that cancer slowly killed him, even then he was at peace, trusting my Mother to decide what was best and never once questioning why or what was happening. 

My Mother died the same way. Both my parents had difficult childhoods. Neither made it past sixth grade. Both were poor. My Father's stepmother disliked him and my Mother was the youngest of sixteen. No pun intended, it seems to me that they built their lives and their family brick by brick.

They someone managed to give my brother and I grit. Confidence even. And values that even now push through.

Some who know me think I've had an easy peasy life. But really, is that true of anyone? Sooner or later we face loss, disappointment, worry, ambivalence. "But who in their right mind wouldn't want to live?" my Mother would ask off-handedly and she meant it every time. She was glad to be alive and that was plenty for her.

Why am I thinking and writing about this today? The weather's at fault. It's been an inside winter of thinking, remembering, reflecting. What now? If you're lucky or unlucky, depending, every so often life gives you a blank canvas. New decisions. New directions. But no guarantees, and that's a potential for sure problem because our minds crave guarantees and do their best to make us nervous when we don't deliver. Blank canvasses happen when people lose their jobs, lose their health, lose their bearings. And sometimes they happen just because the universe informs that it's time. For me, it's time: a new chapter's ahead. It's exciting, unknown, uncertain.  I have hopes and plans. I'm open to the unpredictable. I don't welcome change, but I know better than to resist. 

There is melancholy as I write this and I know it's obvious. All I can say is yup. That and hope too. 

How about you? What are you up to these days? How do you feel? Where are you headed? Surely I'm not alone.

Part 2: Weather Report  

 Here's a glimpse: Boston and Massachusetts in the midst of snow and more snow. Those are cars buried in those mounds. It's been kind of unbelievable. Not as horrible as the national news makes it sound, but the weather has definitely made havoc of transportation and plans and work and worries about ice dams and weak roofs and frozen pipes. 

I speak for most of the East Coast. We're done. Can't wait to see a crocus.

Meanwhile, I pick up my colors and words and begin again…..


Monday, February 16, 2015

Mish Mash Snippets

1. Here it is: my house in the ever snowing winter of all winters in Massachusetts. For three weeks we have had one storm after another. The snow is as high as it looks. In Boston there is another 18 inches or so more than this. We're all sick of it but Bostonians are a gutsy lot. I'm proud to be from here. 

2. The realtor called today with news. "A woman wants to rent your apartment. She gave me a deposit."
"What is she like?"
Hesitation: "She's from India."
"I don't think it's a problem because she says she doesn't use curry when she cooks so it won't permeate the rugs and walls."
"I don't care about that. Is she nice?"
"Yes, very."
"Did you check her employment and finances?"
"Yes, she's employed and pays her bills on time every month."
"Okay then. That's great."
"Some people don't want to rent to people from India because of the curry."
"Not a problem."
Me: Yay.

3. The hospice center called today with a message. "We want you to know we're here if you need help in grieving." I don't need help. The thought I keep having is that I was loyal and present for my Mother for all the years she needed me. So this is what the absence of regret feels like, and it is a feeling as valuable as love. 

4. This book I am writing: here is mother-of-four Christine talking about her sister Louise and their childhood. 

Anyway, when Louise returned from the convent, things got easier for me again although my freewheeling privacy came to a halt.  She kept track of my homework and curfews and had the audacity to read my diary about Anthony and my breasts.

“Absolutely NOT!” she hollered downstairs, ordering me to leave the breakfast table and appear before her in my no longer private bedroom.

“Listen to me, Pip. Not now at thirteen, not later at sixteen. Your body is a vessel of God. You have to keep it chaste until you get married.”

“What does ‘chaste’ mean, Louise?”

“It means nobody touches your privates.”

“What about kissing? Because Anthony kissed me with his tongue and I liked it. Are you sure you know about this, Louise? Anthony told me if I let him touch my boobs I will feel it down here and it will be great.” I pointed. 

“NO, NO, NO” Louise screamed. “You’ll go to hell.”

The hell part was enough for me. I admit I kissed and humped my way through my teenage years but no boy got under my clothes until my first husband Norman and he must have been no Anthony, because even when I managed to stay awake, it was all pretty iffy.

5. So what else is new? Nothing but more snow. :^)


Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Turtle and the Duck

Not that I don't have reason to worry. 

It's a fierce winter and pipes can freeze, roofs can leak, power can fail. 

And I'm swamped by real estate matters: caring for our dream house in Provincetown in a blizzard, caring for our house here in Western Mass when we're there not here, my mother's house, should we sell it?, a little condo I bought as an investment years ago that now needs a new kitchen and new windows and a full makeover--$$$ I hadn't expected.

And the Income tax return for last year.

Re-applying and testing to renew counseling license.

I could continue.

It's a time of transition all right. Big and small and many decisions ahead. I am working and and I am yearning and trying to see my Jessica and the kids at least twice a month and I am writing a book. 

And I should say I am going to the gym a few times a week, because I should be doing that, but I can only say that's barely half way true.

Still, last year I made some fine decisions for myself. 

The biggest and best was to start living like a turtle. Turtle Living. This means I still get things done but I no longer let them overwhelm me to the finish, because I do a little here and a little there, sometimes more, trusting that in time I will finish. And I usually do finish. But I don't angst over the weight of the finish line. 

I took care of the garden and the yard and the bills and my work assignments and my chores and my travels this way all last year and I've done fine. So I'm turtling my way through life, officially.

This morning I to my surprise have added another approach: living like a duck. Duck Living

This means I do what I can, or not, when I encounter people or situations that upset me, but then I let the upset roll off my back, like a water off a duck. I am not (as often) holding on to stressful people or events, officially, as of now. I will be polite and forgiving to even difficult people, normally, but I'm moving on from stress or confusion if that's what's best.

I should probably include one other thing that seems to help me humongeously. Each morning, first thing, I spend at least 30 minutes sipping my coffee and reading the newspaper and sometimes just sitting, staring out the window. This sets the tone for my day. Unlike my old way of jumping right in to whatever greets me.

Finally, I am cooking and baking uncharacteristically. And I still feel good about my book. I'm writing and researching and organizing and forcing JB to listen to me read chapters out loud. I have a plot :^)

In a couple of months, I will know more about where I will live and when and why. I will know more about the role of $$$ in my life ahead, and whether or not I will lose the weight I shouldn't be carrying.

In a couple of months, I will still be living like a turtle and living like a duck. It works for me.

And I may add another animal or two.


Friday, January 23, 2015

A Partial Rant

Hello, it's been a while. It's a new year. I hope you are well xo. I've been busy settling into the person I've become and am becoming, Note the present and future tenses--a bit of a magic trick involving parallel time. 

My Mother died a month ago and I have been given incredible comfort by how gracious and loving her passing and everyone around us was to her and to us her family. My days are now very different, mostly because of what I no longer do. I am now free to travel distancesl, to stay in Provincetown, to be out and about however I want without trips and visits to the nursing home. I had a silver thread connected to my daughter Jessica until I knew she was happy and protected by her husband, a good man; and that same sliver thread was then extended to my Mother, who needed me. Now it's different. I am still willingly tethered to the people I love, but there's a freedom too.

I've been grouchy. Here at my blog I have always welcomed diversity and differing perspectives. Heck, for several years I loved someone who loved Dick Cheney. But I've had it. My tolerance is gone. If you are reading this and you truly believe that the likes of George Zimmerman and the Ferguson police officer and the choke hold in New York and several other incidents involving black people were not and are not directly or indirectly connected to  racist behavior, and that these kinds of acts are not harmful--dangerous even--to our society, I'm not the girl for you. I'm disappointed, bewildered, and often infuriated by the racial prejudice in all kinds of communities and I can't help it. Of course you can comment if you disagree but I may not respond. I don't seem to have the will for persuasive discussion. The reality is pretty clear to me. And I'm glad I'm not alone in seeing that. 

This is not the only area that has used up my tolerance, but I'll save my feelings about the US Republican Congress and its  positions on just about everything for another day. 

Meanwhile, I am writing my novel and getting close to the polishing part.  Putting some of the chapters in the order of a readable story, reading it out loud to JB and myself, and making the effort to let these characters be themselves.   

What else is new with me? JB and I and Jess and Mike and their four kids and Jess' mother-in-law and sister-in-law and her husband and their three children and another sister-in-law and her husband have booked a week at Disneyworld  for next Christmas. We've rented a big house. With a pool. Everyone's excited.

And I'm working. From home and with great flexibility. I have clients again and I like that. Unlike my work in the poorest inner city of Springfield MA, my present clients are doctors and executives and folks with high earnings.  But the human issues and needs are the same. Involving Love. Purpose. Independence. Forgiveness.

I'll end this by saying I may come back and delete the paragraph above about race. It's not my way not to listen to all sides and it's not right to be rude to my friends and visitors who have taken the time to come here. But on the likelihood that I will leave this post as it is, all I can offer is my belief that we are all created equal and come on--George Zimmerman stalked that boy. Can we just start with that fact?


Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Sweet Too

My days are different. I still notice when it's 4:00 and I still have waves of emotion when I think about my Mother, but there is relief and freedom too. My daughter is content, we currently have no pets, my work schedule is as flexible as I want it, and I can almost see my way past paperwork. I'm free to zig and zag.

We had a pretty nice Christmas. In the midst of it arrived this remembrance lamp from Jessica's friend, Janna, and boy do I like the warmth of it.

 JB sewed and I painted this rocking chair for our little grand daughter.

And Christmas day was filled with very fun children--many boys and one little Reese. 

JB and I headed to Provincetown the next day, opened our Christmas stockings to one another, and took in the sunsets at the land's end. 

In 2014 I operated with a mantra that helped me enormously: WAIT TO WORRY. I also adopted a different approach to accomplishment: I called it TURTLE living.  Instead of becoming overwhelmed I just did a little bit most days and trusted that would be enough, that the whole would end up complete or complete enough. Both these approaches have cut down my worrying by 95%. My overwhelming yard work got done this way, and so did my normal chores. 

Last weekend Mr. Logan age 3 had an overnight with us, by himself--no grabby brothers to compete with. The whole event was just charming.  He slept in a big-boy bed for the first time.

You can tell by his expression how proud he was of himself. 

Last post I mentioned how many cards of condolence I've received. Dozens.  I keep staring at them. Inside is the love and caring of my friends and family. Lucky duck, I am. I won't forget.

I made ravioli for New Year's Eve. By myself. From scratch. My Mother's recipe. For JB and our friend Liz. I was proud and they were good.

What does it mean to lose your Mother? In my case I feel a softening taking place, as if her kindness and grit and joy of life has taken residence inside me. They'll be no resistance from me. 

 And finally: yesterday was my Mother's birthday. She would be 99. JB wisely suggested we celebrate by going to my beloved casino. It was a joyful day.

I hope in 2015 to see my second book published. It is an honor to be writing it. That must be a good sign.

Happy New Year. WAIT TO WORRY! And don't be afraid to TURTLE your way along. 


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Pocket Books

from ryan

Her black fabric pocketbook. With two handles and three compartments. I made sure there was always a few dollar bills and a small container of change in the middle fold, besides my Mother's wallet with her driver's license and social security card and charge cards from the 1990's, several small color photos of her two grandchildren, and a stunning black and white one by one inch photo of herself when she was barely in her 20's. 

That pocketbook was my Mother's true North. No matter what was happening in her life, even through the last few years when she had no need for anything in it, when she was the slightest bit lost or confused or on the imaginary move, that pocketbook grounded her. She sought it, searched for it, asked for help in finding it, took comfort in it, and then forgot about it until the next time.

The pocketbook has stayed on my couch until yesterday, when I moved it five feet where it now sits on top of the box of my grandchildren's lego-type all colors plastic wheels, tucked into the side of the bookcase.  I'm searching for some use for it so I can keep it. I'm desperate enough to think about planting my jade cuttings in one of the compartments. (joke). 

I have been embraced by sympathy and condolence cards. I started hanging them up on one of the hall closet doors--across from our holiday cards spread across the inside of the front door, but there are so many. Maybe 30. Or 50. They say wonderful things: 

"We give comfort
and receive comfort
sometimes at the same time"

and from the little prince:
"In one of the stars
I shall be living
In one of them
I shall be laughing 
And so it will be 
as if all the stars 
were laughing
when you look
at the sky at night."

JB says the number of cards and calls and connections and offers of help is a bit amazing. It feels amazing. I figure there are probably 1, 2, or 3 reasons for so much caring and kindness:

1. It's so easy to feel and understand the loss of a Mother so it's easy and comforting to offer solace.

2. I'm actually blessed by the quality of the people in my life and by my efforts to connect and be kind to others. I'm not perfect by any means but I am sincere and when I care I care. Like my Mother did. 

3. The song, "You Raise Me Up," played at the chapel as my Mother's casket was carried in and I and JB and Jessica and my brother and sister-in-law walked behind her--that's my Mother's doing--raising me up so I can stand on a mountain and  catch kindnesses in the sky.

My family gave a card of thanks to every aide and nurse on the floor at the nursing home, with a surprise holiday $ inside. Today we received a card from one of my Mother's aides; one of the women who was the last to touch her and prepare her after her breathing stopped. She wrote us a note:

"It was easy to care for you and your Mother, and I'm in awe of your show of appreciation and love you gave us on a daily basis. It will forever stay in a small corner of my heart. My w(h)ish is to clone that mold in humanity."

Whatever we did to have even one person feel that way, to feel our appreciation, it "gives and receives comfort sometimes at the same time….."

Aha! It just hit me. I can gather all these cards and store them in that pocketbook; maybe in the compartment with the zipper. Maybe in all 3 compartments. And then, as I wonder where the heck to put that pocketbook, I can remember that I have somehow managed to be found and be loved; that I have inherited even more love; and that I have a duty to pass all that love around.

happy new year, my friends. Thank you most sincerely.


Monday, December 22, 2014

the love story

We said goodbye this week. I'll let these photos speak for themselves. I'll only add that my Mom died comfortably and in peace. She left us with no regrets and with family and friends we celebrated her life through service and song. I will miss her forever, and my memories are wonderful. love kj