Thursday, November 27, 2014

Walking Home from Oak-Head

"Walking Home from Oak-Head"

by Mary Oliver

There is something
  about the snow-laden sky
     in winter
        in the late afternoon

that brings to the heart elation
  and the lovely meaninglessness
         of time.
               Whenever I get home -- whenever --

somebody loves me there.
        I stand in the same dark peace
                as any pine tree,

or wander on slowly
   like the still unhurried wind,
               as for a gift,

for the snow to begin
   which it does
          at first casually,
                 then, irrepressibly.

Wherever else I live --
   in music, in words,
          in the fires of the heart,
                I abide just as deeply

in this nameless, indivisible place,
   this world,
         which is falling apart now,
                which is white and wild,

which is faithful beyond all our expressions of faith,
  our deepest prayers.
        Don't worry, sooner or later I'll be home.
               Red-cheeked from the roused wind,

I'll stand in the doorway
    stamping my boots and slapping my hands,
           my shoulders
                 covered with stars.

I wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings, filled with many blessings.  And I also hope that, whenever you get home, that somebody loves you there.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Full of Grace

  1. All the kitchen cabinets in and are level.  It took two packages of shims to compensate for the very uneven floor and the crooked house but when the granite guy came to take measurements for the counter he declared them perfectly level.  And now we a wait a couple of weeks for the counter (which I am not installing)  and then we will finally have a sink and dishwasher again.

I will post pictures when the counters are in. Right now everything looks odd without the counter top or floor.

  1. I do not live in Buffalo.   I once lived in this “lake effect” snow belt, but no longer.  And I am ever so grateful.

My claustrophobic self has difficulty even looking at this picture.  I don't know where/how you could even start to shovel out.

  1. Peachie is home for the holiday.  I love having both my daughters home at the same time, to see them with their heads together sharing sister secrets, and most especially seeing them both snuggled together in bed.  Although they have their own rooms, they like to sleep together when they are both home.  

  1. And so many of their friends (many since elementary school) are also home.  They are stopping by, or I see them at the gym or grocery store.  I miss having them always around but love hearing about what they are up to now.  They are all  healthy and becoming very productive citizens, travelling and volunteering and adding their talents to the world.  Such a good thing.

  1. Surviving Martha’s birthday.  I am traditionally her slave for the day and when it falls on a weekend like this year, it can be brutal.  But I survived.  And going out to brunch for Nutella bourbon french toast was a nice perk.

I wish all a lovely Thanksgiving and hope that you are able to appreciate and enjoy the blessings in your life.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting Back on Track

I have been floundering.   Three years of my life were spent going to medical appointments and recuperating from knee and cancer surgeries.  I had to give up my volunteer activities and my physical activities, both of which have always helped to keep me centered.   After my last surgery in April I took some time to allow my body to heal.  By the beginning of summer it was pretty much healed and yet I was still being a slug.   I decided to consider my laziness as discernment time - trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the next chapter of my life given these factors:

  • I had semi retired so I had a lot more time off to do something else.  (well, in theory.  I find I am working home more than ever)

  • Volunteering had become a drag - mostly because I usually volunteer with the elderly and they kept dying, or having to move to greater care facilities.   And after having lost way too many friends in recent years, it was starting to get to me.  And in truth, I had become a little bit selfish about my time.

  • Backpacking dwindled as my hiking partner had family issues to address and, quite frankly, my body I had become quite weak and was seriously rebelling  against the rigors of mountain hiking or anything too physical.  

So summer ended and I was well into Fall and still not knowing what to do and becoming more and more of a slug and knowing I wasn't happy about it but still not being able to get myself going in any direction.

And then I talked with a life coach.  Yup, a person who makes a living telling you what to do with your life.  Or more accurately “guiding” you to those decisions.  And what did I learn?  I learned that talking to a life coach was a waste of time.  No, that’s not fair.  Talking to a life coach made me realize that she knew absolutely nothing about me and that no one knew better about my life than I did.  And so I forced myself to get off the couch and get back in the game.

  • I have been taking shorter but very scenic hikes locally. And I have now been spending more of my free time at the gym.  I have continued my weekly Body Pump class with my daughter and have progressed from whimpering for days afterward to actually increasing some of my weights.  I am still the oldest person in the class, by far, and my weight bar looks like a Q-Tip next to the others, but I can feel myself getting stronger.   And that is extremely important to me both mentally and physically.

  • After talking to the life coach, the very next email I received from the caregiver group I work with listed a woman who lived close to me and needed help with her weekly grocery shopping.  Okay, I could do that.  And I am so glad I did.  Ethel.  87 years young.  She has balance issues so she scares the crap out of me when she lets go of the shopping cart and teeters.   She is always waiting in her lobby for me to pick her.  Always gets in my car and starts asking if she has her glasses.  It becomes like a Burns and Allen routine.  “I think I left them in my purse.  Is my purse in your car?”  No.  “Well, never mind, I don’t need them.”  “Oh, wait, where is my purse?”  I don’t know.  Do you want me to go upstairs and look?   “No, no, I don’t need it.  I have my wallet in my pocket.”   “Wait, where’s my wallet?”  In your pocket?  “Oh, let me check.  Oh look, here are my glasses!”  And then she laughs.

          Same thing.  Every week.
She spends at least a half an hour picking out only organic fruits and vegetables and then another half hour in the chocolate aisle.  She buys a lot of chocolate and Nutella! and with a little playfulness in her voice she proclaims (every week) that she loves sweets.   (I think I am looking at my further self)  She has a fantastic sense of humor and laughs at herself most of all.    To me she is a gift from the universe.  

  • And I looked into taking class at our local community college.  There were a few that interested me, but only one at a convenient time - The history of witch trials in Europe.  Sounds cool, right?  Although I just looked up the tuition - it will cost $465 to take the class.  So, maybe it’s not that cool.  Maybe I’ll call and see if I can just audit it, for less.

Anyway, I do feel that I am finally getting myself back into satisfying, healthy activities.  And that is a very, very good thing.   

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Full of Grace

1. I thought I would be installing the kitchen cabinets this weekend but then someone told me that they should be at room temperature and humidity before installation to avoid expansion issues.  So except for lugging 20 huge boxes from the garage into our teeny, tiny house (with Peachie’s boyfriend’s help) to warm up for a couple of days, I had a much needed break from kitchen work.  

2. But I begin again today which is a good thing because we are now having to climb over boxes to get anywhere.

3. After over an hour at the store, Martha FINALLY picked out cabinet pulls and knobs.   An HOUR to pick out a knob! Can you tell - I can’t wait for this to be over ?!?!?

4. Living with a woman who makes a point of making me laugh.  Every. Single. Day.

5. Vanilla yogurt.  With sprinkles.  I am trying to break my nightly ice cream habit.   It’s not really the same, but the sprinkles help.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bits and Pieces

There are so many things I can’t remember about the day Daphne and I were attacked and the days immediately following.   I used to have nightmares/flashbacks about it.   In the beginning the dream was always the same, centered mostly the events leading up to the attack, and then the cold clammy anxiety was enough to wake me.  Over time, I dreamed further and further into the nightmare, usually waking at the point where I truly thought I was going to die.   Even in my waking hours I could never remember past that point, except for bits and pieces.  And that was fine with me until my therapist convinced me that reconstructing the memories was the key overcoming them.   

A few years ago, as part of that therapy, I returned to that campus with my therapist and went back to the actual site.  It had changed significantly in the intervening years with much development encroaching on what was once a secluded woods.   Nonetheless it was intact enough for me to recognize it and it was an extremely difficult visit for me.   But it also jogged a lot of random memories that I haven’t put all back together yet.

A few weeks ago I found myself back on that campus because my daughter was playing an away game there.  And feeling stronger than ever, I walked over to that place during half time.  All by myself.  Core of iron.  And I sat on a small hill, the last thing I can remember of that day.   I sat in sadness.  Sadness for Daphne.  Sadness for everything that died in me that day.  And yet with a certain amount of pride and appreciation that I have healed enough to be sad without falling part.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to document something more important to me.  As I sat on that hill I had a very clear picture of the woman who sat with me that day.  It was she who wrapped me in a blanket and allowed me to sob on her shoulder.  It was this woman who told me she would find out what was happening with Daphne when I was panicking, not knowing what was going on.  And it was this woman who helped me into an ambulance and stayed with me through at the hospital, something I am just beginning to have glimpses of.  It was this woman who showed me a human kindness at a time when my very being had been totally shattered.  She allowed me a shred of dignity, a recognition of the person I had been, which may have been the one shred that eventually allowed me to heal.  

If you read much about PTSD recovery (and I do)  there is much talk about having to create your new identity, as you will never be the same person after trauma as you were before.   And I think there is a mourning process you have to go through, grieving the loss of the person you once were.

And then I read this beautiful post by my blogging friend kj about her mother in a nursing home.  She writes “I find myself staring at most of the folks on this unit until I can see their younger selves through the lines of their faces.  They’ve had children, jobs, homes, spouses, gardens.   I’ve come to understand their confusion and resistance because where they are now is not their life.”    

This resonated so strongly with me.  As time goes on I am remembering more of the bits and pieces. I am not sure why it is so extremely important to me at this point, but it is.   Perhaps, like the elderly, I just want to remember my younger self, who I was before the trauma.   I don’t want to lose her forever.

And, it feels safe now for me to remember, which is bringing a new kind of confidence.    

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Full of Grace

  1. That no one was hurt in a car accident in which Peachie was a passenger.  The car was totaled.  Everyone sufficiently shook up.  Everyone lived to tell the tale.  I can’t get any more grateful than this.

  1. Friends with trucks.  I used to own a truck but found it very impractical once we had kids.  We do have a utility trailer that handles most of our big load needs but every once in a while you just need a flatbed truck for things like wall board.   So grateful for friends who are graciously willing to lend a hand.  And a truck.

  1. Pink joint compound.  Isn't this amazing?  It goes on bubble gum pink and then fades to white when its dry.   This makes me inexplicably happy.

  1. Cabin socks.  My preferred state is barefoot, but when your house is ankle deep in construction dust, and its cold from keeping the windows open to vent, cabin socks are the next best thing.  

  1. Veterans.  I dislike war, but I am very grateful that there are people who are willing to put their very lives between me and it.  My heartfelt gratitude to all those who serve and have served.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election Day Conversations

When I was much, much younger I was deeply involved in politics.  And by deeply, I mean I once sat in a New York State strategy meeting with Geraldine Ferraro when she ran for VP.   Although I realize how much I am dating myself with that tidbit.  Anyway, part of my general political responsibility was to make sure every democrat in my district voted.  I would scour the polling place lists for any democrat who hadn’t shown up yet, call them and make sure they got to the polls.  This often meant giving rides for those who had no transportation.

Over the years I pulled away from partisan politics, being tired of just how polarizing and non-functional the labels have become.  But I still work to get people to the polls on election day because I still believe, no matter what your ideology, it is important to vote.  

Mostly I now work with our senior citizen department.  Seniors who no longer drive sign up if they need a ride and I, and others,  shuttle them back and forth.  These are some of the interesting conversations I had yesterday:

  • Edna, probably 80 pounds dripping wet - “ I don’t know why that f*cking Obama doesn’t just bomb the Middle East off the face of the earth.”  That wasn’t really conversation as I had no response at all.  I just walked her into the poll and got her home quickly.  Frankly, she kind of scared me.

  • Charles, apologized for being late because he had to “clean his appliance.”  That’s okay, I’m in no rush.  And he continued “I have no colon so I had to clean out my colostomy bag.”  I nodded.  “I also have no rectum”.   I’m very sorry.    “Now no one can call me an asshole.”   I laughed out loud.  Okay, you got me with that one.   “I get a lot of people with that one”, he said smiling, quite satisfied.

  • Betty, got in my car and thanked me profusely.  Oh, thank the good Lord for people like you. God bless you for doing this.    I vote at my church.  The Catholic Church.  Okay.  Are you Catholic?  Uh, no.  Are you Protestant.  Uh, no.   Are you anything?   Not really.  Did you vote? Yes, I voted earlier today.  Well, at least you did that.  Young people today don’t bother.   This country is not what it used to be.  People don’t vote.  They don’t go to church.    There’s no morality.   Are you married?   Oh look, we’re here.

  • Harold, a short man with a walker, struggled to get into my car.  He had on a Navy cap and I asked him,  World War II?  Yup.  I served on a destroyer in the Philippines.  I still have shrapnel in my hip. I thank you for your service.    My father was infantry in World War I.  One of my sons was killed in Vietnam and my granddaughter just returned from a tour in Iraq.   It never ends.  I am sorry about your son.  I knew quite a few guys who didn’t come home. Yeah, I’m glad I won’t be here for the next war.  The Great War was supposed to end all wars and we've been at war ever since.  The next one will destroy the whole planet.  We never learn.

We never learn.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Full of Grace

1. Watching Peachie play her last collegiate game.  It is amazing to me that I have watched our daughters play organized sports - from when they were 3 years old playing soccer (they would pick dandelions and bring them to me  in the middle of a game ) to having Beaner recruited to play basketball in college (and declining) and then Peachie signing to be an NCAA athlete.   I am very grateful to have these wonderfully talented, and, most importantly, healthy young women who taught me a lot about commitment and discipline, competition and leadership. I am also immensely grateful that for all the full body contact sports they have played they made it through without any lie changing injuries.  

2. The kitchen demolition is complete.  We have now added updated electrical and insulation, replaced the rotting sub floor and begun to clean the dust that has gotten into every nook and cranny of the house.  Next up - wallboard.  

3. And then these cabinets arrived. (OMG, what were we thinking???)

4. Beaner and her boyfriend invited us to his apartment for a delicious meal.  It was the first time in weeks that we got to sit at a table to eat.  Lovely.

5. A wonderful, edible surprise package from the west coast.  So grateful to be thought of by friends, seen and unseen.