Friday, January 18, 2019

The Journey

When I was going through the worst of trauma related therapy, my therapist introduced me to the poetry of Mary Oliver with this poem:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

The only life I could save.

This poem broke me into a thousand pieces at the time but later gave me the inspiration to start building again.

Since then there have been many, many of her poems that helped keep me afloat during rough times and I have often benefited from her sense of the divine healing power of nature.

I was saddened to learn that Ms. Oliver passed away yesterday at the age of 83.

Her words were recited to me at the end of most therapy sessions and they stay with me as part of my daily morning meditation:

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

What, indeed ?

Thank you, Ms. Oliver.

Monday, December 31, 2018


“Beginnings and endings are so very sacred, to give honor to all that has transpired, every experience, every joy, every pain, is a doorway to the magical. Hold your entire year between your hands, every day, every thought, every breath. Now bless it with gratitude, love and humility. You have done more to transform this year than a thousand resolutions.” 
- K. Allen Kay

Another year in the books. Looking back through blog posts and pictures I see that, despite the craziness that has been unleashed in the world, I have been anchored to a lot of love and beauty.

In February I visited dear friends in Florida, a warm, sunny break from winter’s cold.

I managed to get out shoesnowing a couple of times and enjoy the magical colors of glistening snow.

We showed some much needed love to our house by having it resided and some windows replaced.

I spent an splendid week in Chicago where I got to meet two amazing blogging friends and soak in the delights that are the Windy City.

Martha and I spent much of the summer rebuilding a room at our cabin but also relaxed for a week while my sister and brother in law visited.

I saved a chipmunk from drowning.

I did a wee bit of hiking in the mountains which awakened me to just how much my knees have deteriorated. This year has been a year of reconciling my new limited physical abilities. It has not been an easy adjustment for me.

My youngest daughter got engaged in July giving us a new son and wedding planning became the new conversation.

We shared a family beach vacation in Rhode Island and all joined up in NYC for a Yankees game.

Beaner and I travelled to Greece and made unforgettable memories together. I can still close my eyes and see those extraordinary Santorini sunsets.

I learned how to make macarons and helped rescue 6 kittens.

Beaner gifted Martha and I with a trip to New York City for a really cool Mickey Mouse exhibit, viewed some of the special holiday windows and had an incredible meal at a hole in the wall Italian restaurant.

And the final icing on the 2018 cake was my oldest daughter getting engaged and her fiance surprising her with a dinner that included both families and many of my bonus daughters - her friends from childhood and college, some of whom made long journeys to attend.

While that list is certainly more than enough to say it was a very, very good year. I am especially grateful that I have had the health and resources to work and travel and relax. But what strikes me most when flipping through these highlights is that whether they were experiencing wonders around the world or just sitting in an adirondack chair by a tiny mountain lake, they were all shared with people I love. And what could be better than that?

I wish you all many blessings in the coming year and for people you love to share them with.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Winter Solstice in the Winter of my Life

Today is the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, the shortest and darkest day of the year. After today the sun will shine brighter, its rays will grow stronger and it will be visible in the sky longer and longer. Yet as winter inches on, each day will grow colder (my joints achier) and the snow deeper (I hope).

I do love the winter, especially really cold, snowy ones. I love when our little lake freezes thick enough to walk across (although I now fear falling on the ice). And when the snow is deep enough to snowshoe through back woods and stream corridors and I am awed at all the little creature tracks and trails (although my old age aches and pains now limit how far I can go).

I love when the air is so cold that the sky turns the deepest blue (although my fingers and toes now turn numb) and the snow magically sparkles as it flutters down to earth. I love the joy when the night air is so crisp and clear that the stars are extraordinary bright and I can see all the way to the Milky Way (although my eyesight isn’t what it used to be).

With each passing year, winter still holds more magical delights than achy discomforts for me. I hope it will always be so.

I wish for everyone bundles of wonder and joy (and pain free joints) in this, the most enchanting of seasons.

Happy Solstice!

Thursday, December 6, 2018


When I started grocery shopping for Margaret it was summertime. She is an 87 year old, frail lonely woman living with her cat. But I noticed that whenever I came to her porch there were often one or two small cats eyeing me from behind the bushes. Then I noticed that Margaret was feeding these cats and had a very sweet relationship with them. She would call them and they came running to be pet and fed. A couple of them were small and thin but I didn’t think too much about it as they were being taken care of.

Then autumn came and I began to get concerned about what the cats would do once the cold weather arrived. Margaret did not seem bothered as she said there were stray cats around for as long as she lived there and they seem to take care of themselves. But then she told me a story of when there was a pregnant cat and she put out a box for her to have her babies in, When Margaret came out the next morning they had all froze to death.

This story gave me many a sleepless night, especially as the long term forecast was for single digit nighttime temperatures. I made some calls to animal shelters only to find out they were all full. Many places I called didn’t even return my calls. One woman I spoke to said that if I could trap them, she might be able to get them into a spay/neuter clinic. Although I was tempted, I had to decline because of the health threat they would pose my own pets.

Then I called the woman, Maria, who had fostered our cats last year. She has 6 of her own, but provides a foster room and care to strays until they can be medically cleared and are appropriate for adoption. Unfortunately her foster room was also all filled up. 

With images of frozen kittens still keeping me up at night I decided I could at least build them a shelter to stay warm and referred to YouTube, the ultimate authority on such things. There I found a great idea - to build a shelter from a large Coleman cooler - and went in search of one. Strangely they are difficult to find this time of year. (Don’t people still tailgate at football games?) Anyway, I bought the biggest one I could find, cut a hole in its side and filled it with a thick layer of straw as instructed. I brought it over to Margaret’s porch and she was thrilled. As were the kitties who began to use it within 10 minutes of me dropping it off.

But then Maria called me back. She too couldn’t stand the thought of little ones out in arctic
temperatures and offered to come and try to trap them and bring the back to her house. And so last Saturday she drove almost an hour and set out traps with food. There was a lot of tension between Margaret who thought she could just pick up ‘her’ cats and put them in carriers (not) and Maria who just wanted to trap them and get them back to her house. After much brouhaha between the women, two cats (one we thought was the mom) were lured into the traps but then the other two scattered in fear. Maria then offered to come back yet again that evening and try for the other two cats.

At this point Margaret was grumbling that she was losing her babies who depended on her. I was almost in tears thinking that now there were two motherless kittens who were scared to death and out on their own. But Maria generously offered to return that night and we trapped the two remaining cats. It was both traumatic and gratifying at the same time.

Maria sent me a few photos of the kitties, now adapting to her basement. They all had worms and will all be spayed/neutered and vaccinated. I was feeling pretty good about myself. But three days later Margaret called me again to say there was a 5th cat and it was only a baby. Crap. All I could think about was how this one littlest kitten had been all alone for 3 days in the freezing cold having no idea what happened to its family. I was distraught and weepy and once again called Maria. Once again she drive 2 hours round trip. Once again she brought yet another kitten into her home.

Throughout this process I was an emotional mess. I would tear up at the thought of a frightened cat, lose sleep over the dropping night time temperatures and agonize over where the kittens had spent the recent snowstorm. Martha kept (unhelpfully) telling me about all the other little critters who live outside and how there will always be stray and feral cats. “You can’t save them all” she kept saying, which only got me more depressed.

Then a friend reminded me of the story about the boy and the starfish which you’ve probably all heard:

A man was walking on a beach and saw a young boy throwing objects into the ocean. He approached the child and noticed that the young lad was picking up a starfish and gently tossing it back into the ocean.

The man said, “Young man, what are you doing?”

The child replied, “These starfish have drifted up on the shore and they need water to live, so I’m saving their lives by putting them back in the ocean.”

The man said, “You must be kidding me! Look at all these starfish. There must be thousands of them. How in the world can you save them all, and what difference could it possibly make?”

The young boy reached down, picked up a starfish and tossed it into the ocean. He then turned to the man and said, “It made a difference to that one.”

The world is such a mess right now with so much hate and divisive fear mongering. Sometimes it is so overwhelming and I feel powerless to do anything at all, much less make any kind of a dent in it. It can be pretty f*cking depressing.  I’m grateful that my friend reminded me of the starfish story because in the midst of all the meanness and hate, there are 5 little kittens who are safe and warm and fed and, when they are ready, will be placed in forever homes. It doesn’t make an ounce of difference to the world, but it makes a difference to them. It’s all I’ve got right now and it it will have to be enough.

Not all of us can do great things, 
but we can do small things with great love.

 - Mother Teresa

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Gutter Cleaning?

Earlier this year we had our house re-sided. As part of that renovation, we also added gutters, something this 60 year old house never had. Then Fall came and a kazillion pine needles filled the gutters. Great. So before the snow flies I went looking around for tools that might make cleaning out the gutters a little easier. I went to the Home Depot site and searched for gutter cleaning tools and found this:

Frequently bought together - a gutter cleaning wand, the coupling to attach it to a power washer and a toilet seat???

I obviously have a lot to learn about gutter cleaning but it no longer matters - we are getting 8” of snow tonight. A new toilet seat will have to wait until Spring.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Full of Grace

Our furnace broke and we will be almost 2 weeks without heat. Not that I am grateful for the broken furnace, nor the expense of replacing it, but I am very grateful for my down comforter keeping me cozy at night and that the temps have stayed above 30 so we don’t have to burn the furniture to keep the pipes from freezing.

Beaner gave me a gift of a macaron making class. The chef made them once, teaching us the steps - and then we ate them. Then we made our own as a group (mine were a mocha filling) and ate those too. I came home on quite the sugar high but such a good time spent with the daughter. I may try making them at home.

Looking for a cheap earring I lost, I found a good earring I had lost months ago under a dresser. Living with cats is always an adventure. Here’s a picture of one of them trying to look innocent.

This year I tried growing sweet potatoes in a container - their foliage makes for quite a lovely plant. Yesterday I dug up these which will be roasted tonight.

And finally this is coming!!!

I encourage everyone to take deep breaths and enjoy all the good stuff in your world of which you are blessed.  May the goddesses be with us on Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Dem Bones, Dem Bones

Seven years ago, after a bilateral mastectomy, I started a ten year oral chemo regimen to kill all the estrogen in my body. This is supposed to significantly reduce my chances of a cancer recurrence. Unfortunately, it also greatly increases the rate of bone loss.

In the first year I lost over 10% density in my lumbar spine, 6% in my left hip and the femoral neck T score was went from -.9 to - 1.3 In the subsequent years I was consistently losing at 3% to 4% and had gone from healthy to osteopenia to bordering osteoporosis scores.

All of this freaked me out because I really think bones are important so I started a program for healthier bones - calcium, Vitamin D supplements and lots and lots of time in the gym doing lifting weights. And I am pleased to report that it is finally paying off and density scores are headed in a positive direction.

Lumbar spine +3.5%

Left hip + 1.3 %

Left femoral neck T-score -1.0

However, even with the improvement the left femoral neck was at the absolute lowest limit of normal so I texted Peachie, my exercise science daughter,

Well, it looks like squats (and new pants) are in my future.