Friday, December 16, 2016

The Next/Best Two Weeks

This coming week we will be celebrating Beaner’s 25th birthday (wow, am I really that old!) with cake on her birthday and then traditional overeating at her favorite Italian restaurant a couple of days later when her sister gets home.

Tomorrow we are hosting a brunch for all 9 of her college housemates who are coming to help celebrate with her this weekend.  Over the years we have become very close to all of them and they feel like 9 bonus daughters.

We are also squeezing in a celebration for Peachie’s huge job promotion and Beaner’s boyfriend’s admittance into medical school.

Then, of course, all the food, family and friends that are our 4 day Christmas tradition of non-stop eating.

I am also looking a little bit forward because the following week I am going to New York City for this:

I scored great seats to her Broadway debut and I will be drooling.

But then I heard that this will also be in town:

So I will be going from the theater to this art installation (if my ‘weak in the knees’ legs will hold me)   

Afterward I will be eating here:

Image result for nutella cafe NYC

I can’t believe the first American Nutella Cafe opened in NYC just in time for me!

And hopefully we will have good enough weather to enjoy the amazing holiday windows on 5th Avenue

Although we will try to avoid the disaster that is happening at Trump Tower

And, as if all that weren’t enough, Martha and I are getting married the following day, which will be it’s own blogpost I’m sure.  Yes. Married. As in Legally Wedded!

So if you don’t hear from me in the next couple of weeks, know that I am busy enjoying a two week orgasmic experience of food and friends and family and Cate and my favorite city and Martha.  

It might be the best two weeks of my life.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Bug on the Rose

It’s been a month since the election and I still find myself saying “I can’t believe Americans have elected a Fascist”.  I am fearful of the evil and hate that is bubbling up, sadly even in isolated incidents in my progressive, blue state region.  I can’t imagine what is must be like in more conservative parts of the country.

Recently I attended a gardening seminar. The master gardener was very informative about how a garden was a complex system which needed to be tended through all seasonal cycles. Each part is highly dependent on the other.  Much of what he said could be a metaphor for our society but what struck me most was this statement:  

“The bug on the rose is evil, but so is the person who sees only the bug.”

Last Saturday the KKK had a rally in North Carolina where supporters gave the Nazi salute as a convoy of 30+ vehicles paraded down the main street, flying confederate flags.  Evil is now being openly paraded and cheered.  

The same day I went to a rally for love, planned to counter the North Carolina rally. Speeches about love and caring for our neighbors were given, plans were made to help protect those who may be targeted and we marched from one park to another, holding hand made signs that said “Peace on Earth” and “Love Forever”. One child held a sign that said “Mr.Trump, please be nice to others.”  


One of the organizers was a Muslim woman I know from my town who organizes birthday parties for homeless children. How beautiful is that?

America had an election and did not get what it expected but perhaps got what it deserved.  I think we have neglected our garden in many ways and we are now paying the price. Every day my news feed is filled with dramatic fear mongering and yes, we are facing a very evil threat to our environment, our people, our garden. We need to get back to work and eradicate the evil bug that has invaded.

But we also must not forget to appreciate and nurture the beauty that remains around us.  Nature still astounds and reminds us what we are fighting for. There are so many good people who work to protect the marginalized and so many neighbors who take care of their neighbors. For every instance of evil I read about, I see a hundred instances of love and beauty.  It gives me hope.

“The bug on the rose is evil, but so is the person who sees only the bug.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Full of Grace

  • Walking to work, waiting to cross the street, a school bus stopped to pick me up. A school bus! I assume the driver was probably a substitute driver, and quite possibly blind, but at my age I’ll take whatever compliments I can get.

  • Cheesecake Factory now sells this - Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake Topped with Hazelnut Crunch and Nutella. And damn it is good.

  • Anticipating a rather politically volatile Thanksgiving gathering, one of the more liberal in-laws texted those of similar leanings “if the conversation gets uncomfortable for anyone, just say “craisins” and we will try to change the subject.”  It was only said once when a vegan muttered it when the talk turned to hunting, and then one false alarm when someone asked to have the craisin stuffing passed.  With everyone on their best behavior, I had a very loud (2 televisions with football, 4 hyper toddlers, 4 rambunctious and opinionated about football men and 1 almost deaf grandmother who everyone yelled at) but very loving and abundant holiday.

  • Peachie came home early for Martha’s birthday as a surprise. And a delightful surprise it was. Most especially nice was that Beaner stayed with us also. It warms my heart to see my daughters snuggled up together in bed, sharing sister secrets, like when they were little.

  • And since everyone was home we went and got the tree together and put up most of the decorations.  It is still November, the yard is all buttoned up, and most of the holiday preparations are already done. I can now spend December cozily nesting, baking cookies, wrapping presents and enjoying the joyful blessings of the season.  And that is a grateful life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Full of Grace

I know this holiday will be especially difficult for some people.  I, myself, will be heading into redneck country. But as Maya Angelou said “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”  My wish is that, no matter what our differences, we can all find something especially beautiful and loving to be grateful for. . . . and then get out before it blows.

Happy giving thanks day.

Friday, November 18, 2016

What Now?

I have been spending a lot of time trying to how best to spend my time, energy and money to counteract the Trump agenda.  I will come up with a personal program for myself but in the meantime, check out this brilliant post:

which gives you a flow chart of viable options depending on your where your heart and stomach are right now.

Warning: lots of cursing


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Full of Grace

I was going to write some thoughts about moving forward after this election but, I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of burned out and will save that for another day. So even though there is much to be concerned about today I will center on my gratitudes.

  • My almost 25 year old social worker daughter is now working with kids. She has asked for children’s games to use in her office for Christmas. So I am now buying CandyLand and Chutes and Ladders and it makes me very happy.

  • Sharing food, football and great (no political) conversation with long time friends. And the Cowboys win didn’t hurt either.

  • Unseasonably warm weather that has allowed me to do fall yard work in shorts. Although I am concerned about global warming, this little treat before winter comes (and it will come) is much appreciated.

  • I bought new potting soil in preparation of seed planting come January. The reminder that Spring does come and life renews itself is much need right now.

  • This.  

A Nutella “burger” at McDonalds.
I have never eaten a burger at McDonald's but that could change.
It is only available in Italy right now.
I have never been to Italy. But that could change too.

Life is a little scary right now but life is also amazing. Don't forget the amazing.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Be the Change

Like the majority of Americans I am grateful that election day has finally come. I have been avoiding the presidential race news for quite awhile as I found it so negative and decisive.  Unfortunately, because I work in government, I couldn’t avoid the local races which were becoming even nastier.

I will work for a couple of hours this morning and then vote.  I live in a state with no early voting. Polls are located in churches, libraries and firehouses and you must go to your assigned polling place.  There the girls scouts or some other civic group will probably be having a bake sale and neighbors will be chatting with neighbors, no matter who they voted for.  It’s all very friendly and civilized. As it should be.

Then I will spend the day shuttling senior citizens and those who cannot drive, to their polling places. In my youth I only worked for one political party to get out the vote. These days I am happy to drive anyone who wants to vote, no questions asked.   I particularly like driving the seniors and listening to their opinions, which are usually about all the ways this country has gone to hell in a handbasket. I can’t say that I disagree with them. Nor can I imagine what this campaign must have looked like to the greatest generation. Oy.

I will most likely go to bed before the results are in. When I wake I hope there is a clear winner. My worst fear is that it will be close, or there will be some controversy that forces it to the Supreme Court. A tied 4-4 Supreme Court.  I don’t even know what happens after that.  Either way our government has become so dysfunctional that neither candidate will be able to advance their agenda very much.  We are approaching a failed state.

Still I do hope that we, as a nation, will begin a healing process from the ugliness of the last few years. Surely we have much more in common than those things that divide us. When the election is over and done we will be in desperate need of more advocates, reconcilers, and peacemakers. We’ve got a lot of healing, loving, restoring work to do my friends.

No matter what happens today  - be the change you want to see in the world.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Walking a Mile

A couple of weeks ago a former colleague’s mother died. Besides working with this man for 20 + years, we also had daughters the same age who had become good friends in middle school and have remained friends since. I held Allison when she was first born and later had numerous conversations with her when she came out as gay. We lost frequent contact when she went away to school and found a job in a faraway city. Then she emailed me a last year ago to say that she was transgendered and was going to have top surgery and did I have any advice. The news did not surprise me as for all the years I knew Allison I watched as her hair got shorter, her clothing more masculine and her interests shift.  Beaner recently told me that Allison was now Aidan on FaceBook.

When the mother’s obituary came out I noticed my colleague’s children were listed with his oldest son and “Aiden” which made me smile that the immediate family was obviously acknowledging the transition. But then Aiden called me. He was very concerned as this would be the first time coming home and could I explain to people the different name in the obituary ahead of time and maybe hang with him at the wake as a buffer.   He told me how hard it was going to be for him to face all these people he knew from his youth.  How people would look at him like a freak. He has started a new life, in a new city, as the gender he identifies with.  He is trying to be happy there. In fact, he was telling me how incredible it is to experience the world as a man, or rather how much differently the world treats you as a man. But also how different he is treated when people know he is transgendered. Now he was faced with the first time reactions of friends and relatives and was terrified.  I hung with him at the wake and I could see it.  The strange looks, the groups of people whispering while glancing his way.  How very uncomfortable to be under that microscope of judgement.  I even heard one person say “well, of course 8thday knew about this, she is queer too.” I have not felt uncomfortable in my sexuality for a long, long time and yet here I could physically feel the tension his presence was causing.  I can only imagine what transgendered folks feel ALL. THE. TIME.

And Beaner has a new boyfriend.  I knew that this was serious when she asked if we could meet him after only a week of dating him.  She has always told me that meeting the parents was a big deal and honestly, we have met very few from her world of revolving door dating. She also told us that he was a paraplegic, and that we needed to find a restaurant that would accommodate his wheelchair.   

Having worked in site development approval my whole career, my initial reaction was “all public buildings have to be handicapped accessible.  Or so I always thought.  Turns out that older businesses are not required to be accessible if doing so is not readily achievable.  The sidewalk I use to walk to work has heaved in many places - impossible for a wheelchair. Entrance doors are often so heavy as to be impossible for a disabled person to open. Everywhere I go I am now looking to see just how “accessible” accessible really is.  And I have become much more aware of the barriers her boyfriend faces every day.   Way too many barriers.

Yesterday my friend plufrompdx posted an excellent story about her frustration with men’s unwillingness to see how dangerous the world is for women.  And it has me thinking about just how much we all don’t see because we have never stopped to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.  Or maybe we just don’t want to "see" because then we would feel morally obligated to do something about it.  It is so much easier to stick our heads in our own comfy world of sand and ignore the challenges, feelings, barriers of others, especially those not like us.

I don’t know how to end this except to say that my eyes have been opened to different people’s lives in the last few weeks in ways that were, well, eye opening. I hope to train myself to be more conscious of the different perspectives and challenges every person has and why. And then I hope to find the courage to help.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Full of Grace

Two weeks of R & R after surgery.   I admit to being a total slug and enjoying it immensely.

The steri-strips have finally come off.  Wow, those things are itchy. Major relief.

Meeting Beaner’s new love interest who far out shines all who came before him. Or as her sister said “she is finally growing out of her shallow ‘must have 6 pack abs and dark hair’ to even be considered.”  Here’s hoping.

Removing my daughters from my family gym membership for a huge savings. Ever so slowly they are taking over their own bills and will gradually be out of my wallet.   

I just watched the movie 11.22.63 based on the book by Stephen King.  Well, I sort of watched it. It was extremely violent so I often left the room.  But this poem ended the movie and I was quite moved by it.  

We did not ask for this room or this music
We were invited in
Therefore, because the dark surrounds us,
Let us turn our faces to the light
Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty.

We have been given pain to be astounded by joy
We have been given life to deny death
We did not ask for this room or this music
But because we are here, . .

Let us dance

-  Stephen King

Today I am grateful for plenty.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I am one of the few people I know who doesn’t mind the smell of skunk.  That was until recently when my dog got skunked in the back yard.  There is a big difference between the far-away, just passing through smell of road kill and having an up close and personal experience.  Wow, it gets right into your pores.

The first time it happened the weather was still warm and the windows all open. The overpowering smell of skunk permeated not only the dog, but all the rugs, curtains, and bedding. We took the dog to the groomer who gave her a special bath ($55) and began washing everything in the house.

We also called a pest control company who came and told us that it would cost $900 for them to set traps for 5 days, with no guarantees.  Thanks, but no thanks. We went and bought a trap ($35)  and got all sorts of advice about what to bait it with.  Every night we put out the trap at dusk and got up at dawn to an empty trap.

Unfortunately one morning we let the dog out before the sun was fully up and yes, she got skunked again. And this time, really bad.

Photo Oct 04, 2 27 10 PM.jpg

We left her in the garage until we could get an afternoon appointment with the groomer. (another $55) Fortunately we could walk to the groomer because putting the dog in a car was not an option.  The shop is in a small strip mall and I was not there 5 minutes before we heard fire sirens and the firefighters telling everyone to leave the premises.  Apparently my dog’s odor was so strong that someone in another shop thought they smelled a gas leak.  Yeah, not too embarrassing.

Home again and we began doubling our efforts to trap the skunk.  Apples, peanut butter, marshmallows, cat food.  We began trying them all and in different combinations.  And then one morning we looked out and saw the trap door was down.  Of course we had no idea what to do next because we certainly didn’t want to get skunked ourselves.  So slowly and carefully we approached the cage. (We couldn’t see in it because we were told to cover it with a garbage bag before putting it out.)  Martha tried poking at it with a very long stick and was convinced that we had caught something weighty, as opposed to the occasional chipmunk we found. But when I looked from a different vantage point I saw something with a long white snout.

Yes, we had caught a possum.  A possum with very nasty looking teeth.

Photo Oct 07, 2 29 22 PM.jpg

Honestly, we don’t understand why this is happening. We live on a very busy street in a very suburban setting, with a totally fenced yard, with a dog.  Why any wildlife makes our yard a home is beyond me.

Anyway, there was no way either of us was going to pick up this creature, or lift the trap door to let him out.  So another call to pest control to have the possum relocated. ($162)  

And the saga continues. Every night we set the trap. Every morning we look, both hopeful and terrified that we caught something.  As the days get shorter and the nights longer, my dog is confined more and more inside the house.  In fact, we are all being held prisoner and we are not very happy about it. Plus the house and yard still have a faint odor of eau d’skunk.  It’s impossible to get rid of.

Anyone know a skunk whisperer?  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Full of Grace

Peachie came home the weekend before my surgery and stayed for a few days to help care for me. She is such a good kid.

So once again we were all together for our traditional apple picking and fall foliage hike. I love traditions and I’m happy to hold on to them for yet another year. I know it won’t last forever.

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Photo Oct 09, 11 06 36 AM.jpg

Because a frost was coming everyone helped me close up the vegetable garden. What usually takes me days only took hours. This was the last of the harvest.  

Photo Oct 09, 8 57 59 PM.jpg

Surgery went well enough. Like trauma exposure therapy, I think I’ve now had so many surgeries that I have learned how to deal with it.  Anesthesia is still hard for me but I’ve learned how to cope with the anxiety of it and how to reduce most of the ill effects.

When my sister had her gallbladder removed some 20 years ago it was a 5 hour surgery. She had to stay in the hospital for 8 days, has a 10 inch scar down her torso and contends that it was the most physically painful experience of her life.  By contrast, my surgery was at 8:30 am, was about 45 minutes, I have 4 small incisions in my belly held together with steri strips, and I was home the same day at about 2:00.  I am both grateful and amazed at the advances in medical procedures.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Full of Grace

It seems that after a rather rough July/August, the universe has decided to make amends and present me with glorious moments and ear to ear smiles. First was being able to share the Adele concert with my whole family. Then as soon as I returned, I packed to take a short vacation with my oldest daughter. She had called to say she would have a week off between quitting her part time jobs and starting her first full-time, professional job where she would not accumulate vacation time for at least six months. Could we please do something relaxing . . .

  • So very grateful for the internet which allowed me to find incredibly cheap, spur of the moment, non-stop flights to Florida.

  • Being able to wake up to this every morning

Photo Sep 29, 7 14 31 AM.jpg

  • Spending one-on-one time with Beaner. Truth is, she is much closer to Martha than me, mostly because of the basketball connection. Having 5 days together, just us, was really fun.  And a little frightening - did I really need to hear about all those boyfriends???  

  • Kayaking through Floridian canals.  Beaner choose a paddleboard.

Photo Sep 29, 1 37 03 PM.jpg

  • And leaving Florida before the hurricane hits but not before seeing the sun set with a beautiful rainbow.  

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But lest anyone think my whole life is one big bowl of cherries - this past week I got so pissed off at my boss I wrote my letter of resignation. (I did not submit it . .  .yet), my dog got skunked for the 2nd time - yup, right after we finally finished washing all the drapes, bedding, walls and carpets from the last skunking, and next week I have to have surgery to have my gallbladder removed.  

Life.  Never a dull moment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Full of Grace - Adele

Way back in January I was one of the few people lucky enough to snag tickets from TicketMaster to see Adele on tour.  My kids thought I was a rock star.  Having grown up with rich friends who always had more than they did, they got to feel a little bit special because none of their friends were able to get tickets. I know - not very gracious of me - but still . . .

Since the time I got the tickets my daughters have moved away from home. So on concert day my family all came in from different cities, on different, multitude modes of transport, and all arrived and met in our NYC hotel within a half an hour of each other. Miraculous.

Dinner together in a fine Irish pub.  I realize now that they are adults, how seldom getting together like this will happen.  What a joy to sit and enjoy great food, music and laughter, all together in my favorite city .


Seeing Adele sing live. She is an amazing performer. No fancy sets. No dancers. No distracting high tech gizmos. Just this one woman with an amazing voice and a huge graciousness toward her fans. As she explained “I have 2 upbeat songs which I will sing first. And then we will get to the sad ballads and all cry together because that’s what you’ve come out for, right?”  She also admitted that she has been in a happy relationship now for 5 years and it is a bit bizarre to keep singing about an old boyfriend. Yes, very gracious to her fans.

Mostly I am very grateful for the gift of music. My oldest daughter went through a very hard break up last year.  Adele’s music reflected all her feelings, and helped her get through a very difficult time.  A co-worker shared with me that she and her mother often sang the song “When We Were Young” just before her mother passed and what the song means to her now.  Music does that.  It can help me through sad times or help magnify happy times or push me through boring workouts or fill me with tears of joy or open doors to both beautiful and painful memories past.  Music is amazing.  And sharing live music with your favorite people is an extraordinarily beautiful experience.  I will never again hear an Adele song and not think of being in the Garden, holding hands with my daughters, and crying, and laughing that we were crying. Together.  Beautiful memories.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Other Side of Wow

My hiking buddy and best friend read my last post on forest bathing and sent me this text:

“Why do you only write about the wow, and not the other side of wow?”

Well, I usually like to use my Tuesday posts to center on things I am grateful for.  But she is right - there is another side to backpacking these days.

Between the two of us we have had

1 broken leg
1 broken foot
2 torn meniscus surgeries
1 torn ACL surgery
1 sublimated lower back disc
1 degenerative cervical disc
1 torn rotator cuff
and a hell of a lot of arthritis.

Which is all to say that we are getting old, body parts are degenerating, and we hurt just getting out of bed each day.  Add a 27 pound backpack (for a two night trip) on top of that and you can imagine the moaning and groaning that goes along with hiking 7 miles a day of rocky terrain while climbing a couple of thousand feet in elevation. And coming back down is even harder on the knees.  We had to stop and rest. A lot.  While slowing down did make the “being present” more focused, it also added more time to carrying the pack.  

When we pack, we share a very tiny, low to the ground, two person tent.  I used to be able to enter it with catlike grace.  Now I awkwardly flop into it, often almost taking the whole tent down with me.  But the worst is the getting back out. Crawling on already sore knees I always seem to kneel on a hidden rock or root.  Just enough to send a painful howl into the wilderness. And trying to stand up after sleeping on the ground, cramped and cramping inside a tiny tent for hours is something no one should have to witness.

And then there is the very personal problem of toileting in the woods. Where once I could gracefully squat, my knees no longer have that range of motion. I need to either fully undress from the waist down and pee standing up, or find a tree to cling to and hope to squat low enough as not soil myself.  Either way, it’s not pretty,

I have made other concessions to age.  I now use a walking stick which aids considerably when balance is needed crossing stony creeks and also helps take some pressure off when hiking down hills. I am thinking about using two poles in the future. I have reduced my pack weight to nothing but the bare essentials although I now carry a lot of moleskin for all those areas that blister and swallow an unhealthy supply of ibuprofen to dull the aches and pain.   But, in the words of Grandma Gatewood, who was a senior hiking rock star, it takes "more head than heel. Whether you're going 20 miles or 2,000, motivation and consistency is as important as mileage and speed. Sometimes more.”  I try to remember that when 80 year old hikers are swooshing past us with ease.

There have been many times when hoisting that pack up or taking one more step are almost too painful to bare, my hiking partner and I would wonder “what the hell are we doing out here, doing this to ourselves?”  But then we’d come to another breathtaking vista or get a whiff of rain drenched pine trees, or stand on a mountaintop under a full canopy of stars and think, “oh yes, this is why.”  We know that we cannot experience that magnificence without the effort that we have gone through.  And there is the the realization that yes, it hurts. But we can still do it.   And being able to do something so awesome for the soul, no matter how hard on the body, is not to be taken for granted.  

So yes, there is another side to wow.  But no matter how stiff I am or how much I ache it is still wow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Forest bathing

Scientists in Japan have reported on the stress-relieving benefits of something called shinrin-yoku. They call it forest bathing.  It doesn't involve soaking in a tub among the trees. Rather it refers to spending time in the woods for its therapeutic effect. Apparently when you spend a few hours in a forest or camp by a lake you breathe in phytoncides, active substances released by plants to protect them against insects and from rotting, which appear to lower blood pressure and stress and boost the immune system humans.

Photo: Jupiterimages

I never went into the woods to wash away stress, as I really never had much stress in my life. I go into the woods to fill my soul which seems to get easily depleted by trauma anxiety and noise. So much noise.

When I was younger I made backpacking a physical challenge - how fast, how far, how high - could I push my body. It seemed the only way to conquer the anxiety.  Now I am much older and much calmer and my body is long past wanting to be challenged. My mind however still needs to deeply disengage and my soul longs to be replenished.

Last week I went backpacking for a few days and had my mind blown by the forest. Travelling at a much slower pace, and stopping often to rest, I found that there was so much more to experience in the woods when you slow down.  Magical. Quiet. Alive.  I was tremendously overwhelmed by the beauty of trees, almost in peak fall foliage color already. The smell of the earth filled my lungs and watching the woodlands animals scurrying to prepare for winter just made me smile. I enjoyed them for quite a while each time before moving on.

We eventually made our way to a mountain top with views that soothed my eyes that I didn’t even realize were sore from too much screen time and near sighted focusing.  It literally brought tears to my eyes to experience such a holy place.

Photo: Dave Heilman II
(Sorry, I don't carry a camera but this is pretty close to the view)

I returned home physically depleted but spiritually overflowing.

Three days in the woods released this past month's anxiety and sent my soul soaring.

Nature can do that.

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. —Robert Louis Stevenson

Forest bathing. I highly recommend it.