Friday, December 31, 2010

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! Reflections on New Years Eve 2010

Have I, for most of my life, been so concerned with coloring between the lines, except when I would venture over them to test the consequences:
"Boy! That hurt! I won't do that again! "
      or
"Hmmm! What was it that was supposed to be so bad about this?"
that I failed to pull back and see that my little errors are of very little consequence in the vastness of this Universe?

I resolve, in the New Year, to spend more time observing the Universe and less time meddling in its affairs.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Loss In a Year of Loss

Yesterday morning, very very early, my great aunt Mathilde took leave of this earthly plane at the age of 102. She had been in failing health for a while, but was still able to celebrate her birthday with family on November 24. Mathilde was my grandmother Rose's identical twin. In her late 80s or early 90s, my grandmother had the misfortune of somehow triggering the breast cancer gene we carry, and succumbed in 2007 at the age of 98.


The girls were born on November 24, 1908 into the Charles Fouquet family. In the picture above, they are shown with their older sister, Helena. Like all good stories, their birth story contains some mystery. You see, the family has always been told that Grandma (Rose) was the second twin to arrive. In fact, Grandma herself writes:
I was the middle child in a family of five children all born in Andale, Kansas. My twin sister, who preceded me by only three minutes, was named Mathilde Theresa. The doctor, who arrived just a few minutes too late to deliver Mathilde, insisted we should be named Kate and Duplicate, as we were so identical. Fortunately for me, my parents had the good sense not to be influenced by the well-meaning doctor, or I might have gone through life with the nickname “Dupe.” 
It is documented in several places that Mathilde was first (including the Grandma Remembers book that my Grandmother completed for me). However, there is the little matter of the birth certificate, which indicates that Rosalia Bernardine Fouquet was the first of the twins born that day. Now, this makes for some interesting possibilities: 

  1. The family has heard it wrong all these years and Rose was first
  2. The birth certificate is wrong and Rose was really second
  3. (The most provocative possibility) Rose was really Mathilde and Mathilde was really Rose.

The Charles Fouquet Family (1919)
 For a good part of their lives, whether it was Rose or Mathilde was irrelevant because they were inseparable. They wore the same clothes, went to the same schools, shared the same friends, and shared the same bed.  They truly were wombmates, and even addressed letters to each other in that fashion: Dear Wombmate.They dressed alike well into senior adulthood; sometimes on purpose, many times purely coincidentally.

The Roaring Twenties
80th Birthday (1988)
Pentagon Tour 1992

For the past several years, since Rose died, Mathilde has often spoken of her as if she was only out of the room. She has insisted that Rose is living right across the street and she spoke of disagreements she believes they've had. My cousin and her family have kept close watch and have been wonderful about keeping our huge extended family informed. On Christmas day, Aunt Mathilde commented that she'd had a pretty good life and that she thought she would be leaving soon.

August 2002
She departed sometime after midnight on Tuesday morning for that great reunion. God bless you, Aunt Mathilde, and may you rest in peace.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Memories of Christmas Eve 1956

I was only six, although I'm sure I would have claimed "Six and a half!" I don't remember any Christmases before this one, and not a lot about the ones that came after, especially now that there have been so many. Now I am ten times six and am not worried about the half year. Christmas 1956 was memorable because it was the worst and the best Christmas.

As was frequently the case, we (Mom, Barbara and I) were spending the Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa Davis in Martinez, California. It was already kind of a grim Christmas because our handsome daddy who hung the moon and created the stars was way far off in Saudi Arabia working for Aramco. He had been gone six months already, and we were all of us missing him on a cellular level. We had taken him to Stapleton Airport in Denver and watched while he boarded the airplane and it flew off to places we couldn't even imagine. This picture was taken just outside the airport terminal the morning he left. My mom always swore that if you looked at it closely, you could see tears in his eyes.


After he flew off, we drove around the state, visiting with great grandmothers and aunts, uncles and cousins and great aunts, great uncles and second cousins. It was on this trip that I formed my life-long attachment to Del Norte, Colorado where my great grandma Fouquet lived, as well as my great uncle Charles and his family. After everyone was visited, we drove home to Long Beach, California to try and live a routine life until Daddy came home or sent for us to go live with him in Saudi Arabia.

Needless to say, the only thing we two little girls wanted -- and I am sure that goes triple for my mom -- was to have Daddy home for Christmas. But this was not to be the year, and we were all being very brave and trying not to complain too much because it made Mommy so sad.

Then, very late on the eve of Christmas Eve there was a phone call. It was a long distance phone call so everyone had to be quiet. It was for Grandma; and when she hung up she went directly to her room and closed the door. You could hear the sobs from behind the heavy door. The call had come from Colorado. Her brother, Charles, and his son, Dick, had been killed that evening in a plane crash in Del Norte. Grandma left the next day for Colorado.

The story appeared on Christmas Eve on the front page of the Contra Costa Gazette. Charles had served on the Martinez police department for five years, and had been well known in the east bay area. Unfortunately, because the story was printed before all of the facts were known, it got many of them wrong, including the location of the crash which it placed 30 miles away in Alamosa.

A more accurate account came out a few days later in the Monte Vista Journal, again on the front page:



The cause of the crash, which killed four people including my great uncle and cousin, was never really known. But the darkness that it had brought to our entire family's Christmas was palpable, even to a child of six. I cried that Christmas Eve for my uncle and cousin, whom I had only come to know. I cried for my grandmother, who was so sad. I cried for my mother who was now sad AND lonely. And I cried for me because I missed my daddy so much. This was the worst Christmas, ever. Somehow I slept.

I don't remember exactly what woke me or where I was even when I realized that my Daddy was home, and it was not a dream! And it was Christmas! I was a great Santa Claus believer for a great many more years than most children because of this Christmas gift. My dad later told us that he had simply gotten so homesick that he couldn't stand being away from us any longer. He didn't know anything about the tragedy that had recently happened, but I can't help believing that the irresistible urge he had had to be home was a gift of what many would call the Holy Spirit. Dad actually rescued Christmas that year, and for the rest of his life he always kept it in his heart.

I'm not sure what else we got for Christmas that year. It may have been the year of the white vinyl jackets or the coonskin caps and other Daniel Boone accoutrement.  I just remember knowing that Rudolph's red nose had guided Santa in delivering the best Christmas present ever! And so, as I face what will certainly be a different Christmas from those I've become used to, I know there are gifts aplenty. I am blessed with home and family and food in the pantry. These are all good things, and I take none of them for granted.

Merry Christmas everyone! May you know how very blessed you are!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Daughter's Treasure

I have been going through the boxes of papers left me by my grandmother, trying to get a grip on where to start with responsibly archiving this stuff. I pulled out one today that is an edited version of a short history of her life by my daughter's namesake, Emelie Fouquet. I say edited because that's what I deduced from the typeface and my grandmother's notes written on  it. I have further edited it and corrected what I perceived to be typos and not spelling errors, because I am quite certain that Emelie, the accountant of the family, was as precise with her language as she was with her numbers, even if her sentences tend to run on a bit. Uh. Yeah. Must run in the genes.

Emelie would be my great great grand aunt -- I think that's right. She was the daughter of my great great grandfather. I'll be coming back to him at some time in the future, but for now, here is a little piece of what Emelie had to say about her life, from 1891 when Emelie Marie Fouquet was 13 years old, to 1937 when she lost her older brother (my great grandfather):

***
From A Short History of Our Lives
written in Nov. 1950 
by Emelie [then 72]

Mama and Papa's Mother and Rose [the baby sister] went to France in July, 1891; back home in October.

Our store and home where we lived upstairs at Andale [Kansas] burnt down in 1892, I think in July. Then we moved on the farm about 1/2 mile NW of Andale until the last of February as Papa had sold the farm to stock up the store, but was to give possession March 1st. Therefore, we moved back  in Andale, not far from the depot, until September when Papa and Charles went to Hunnewell, Kansas in a covered wagon and set up a tent at the opening of the Cherokee Strip and sold sandwiches, coffee and pop. Tthey had more than they could do, so papa wired for us to come and we left Andale Monday night on the train, right before the opening. The Thursday before the opening we sold $125.00 of lunches and coffee at 5 cents. After the run, we stayed at Hunnewell until Monday and rested up and packed up and went to Round Pond, or what is now called Pond Creek. We stayed there until March 1895.

We arrived at the school lease (which Papa had made arrangements for) on April 1st. Papa hired Mr. Gelwich to mow the hay, so we set up camp by the hay stack until we built a little log cabin with an attic for a bed room. The neighbors came and had a "log raising" in one day. It did not have a floor until later.

Later Papa worked for Mr. Tate six miles SE of Chandler [Oklahoma] in the fall. He had a little store in Clifton, but we kept the farm going, too. Then in 1900, Papa bought the Tate farm after having inherited some money from Aunt Modest. We lived there until November 9, 1928 when we moved to 205 W. 9th Street in Chandler after having had a sale of the stock and implements we did not need in town.

Papa's mother went to France at the same time mother and Rose went in 1891, but she didn't come back until we lived in Pond Creek, and she lived with us and died on the farm in the year of 1901 or 1902. Mother died June 21st 1933, and father died July 3, 1936 in the O.M. [sic] and was buried in Chandler cemetery. Brother Charles [my great grandfather] died in 1937, May 30, in Pueblo, Colorado and was buried at Monte Vista. Rose and I, Emelie, went to see him April 25th. Rose came back to work, clerking for Bayouth Store. I stayed in Colorado until after Charles' funeral.

***

This is only one piece of paper, actually two, out of several boxes that include letters written between brothers during the last Great Depression, letters from son to mother while deployed during WWI, and more letters announcing happy and sad events in the family. I am looking forward to spending time seeing those times through their eyes. With your permission, I hope to share some more of it with you as I go, from time to time.

I mean that, with your permission. Please let me know what you think by commenting below.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

O Christmas Tree My Christmas Tree

The decorating for this Christmas is done. It isn't much, but it's definitely more than I felt like doing when I started and I am happy that it is all there. I put some LED lights around the little pines we have on the side of the house right before Thanksgiving. I wanted the house to look cheerful for Sean and Emily when they came.

The decorating inside got a little slower start. I put the Creche up on the mantle during the first week of Advent, as I always do. I think it looks particularly beautiful on this mantle. For me, the Creche keeps the nativity story front and present during the season that is Christmas. I wonder what Jesus would have to say about the things that are being done in his name, not just during the Christmas season but in all seasons, by his priests and his people of all Christian persuasions. Thinking about that too long depresses me, so lets talk about our tree.

First let me say that we, the kids and I, were relative newbies in the "going into the woods to get your own tree" business. We didn't make the mistake so many do and pick a tree that is way too big for our space and then has to be butchered to fit it. We sort of went the other way, and picked something a little short (about 5'5"), spindly and frankly a little sad. It is also a split-trunk tree, basically two spindly little trees side-by-side. We had it in the house for over a week before I decorated it. That was about a week ago.

That sad spindly little tree took hours to decorate and it looks like I threw stuff at it! But I love the colors in the sparse lights, and have left the tree on night and day since I decorated it. Each of the ornaments that are hung have sentimental and even historical meaning to me. Many of them were the Mr. and Mrs. Claus ornaments that I gifted to Bill each year that we were married, first from one Hallmark series and then another and then some oddball Santa ornaments when Hallmark could no longer satisfy my yearly need. As I put each on the tree, I reflected on the Christmas it represented. Where were we living that year, what were we doing in our jobs and lives, what were the major events of the year. It was a sweet day of memories, but I have to admit that I took a lot of breaks!

One of the newsletters I get suggests that I go out and buy one of those ornaments this year, to honor the memory of our tradition and commemorate the passage of the year. I think I might, but I think I have to find something other than Mr. and Mrs. Claus to establish the beginning of a new tradition.

I also hung a half dozen or so of the White House commemorative ornaments. It's a rule, or something, that if you live in the DC Metro area and work for the government in any capacity, that you have to at least try to collect these things. I tried. My collection reflects less than 33% of the years we lived in the area, so I guess I failed as a collector. They are, most of them, very beautiful and they are all unique; however, they were also a little pricey. You can't be a collector and be worried about price.

Among my favorite ornaments are the little handcarved angels I bought in a wood carving shop in Oberammergau, Germany in 2000. They are only about 1 1/2" high, with amazing detail in the face and hands. I have three that are painted and three that are unpainted. I'm not sure why this odd number and arrangement. I think when I bought them I intended to give them away to two different people, and then couldn't bear to part with them.

Because the tree has two tops, and they are not very strong, my angel tree-topper is taking the year off with a lot of the other ornaments and decorations. I put a few of the yearly favorites out on the dining room table along with the gorgeous poinsettia I was given at Thanksgiving. There is the Santa sleigh and reindeer that a neighbor handcrafted in ceramics and the troika of angels playing instruments I bought from Home Interiors when Josh was a wee bairn. Then with a few Christmas towels in the powder room I was all done.

I'm just not convinced that it's Merry Christmas. I have the reminders all around me, and yet I am clearly aware that, with the exception of the great pleasure I take in putting gifts together and enjoying the lights and colors, this Christmas is missing key parts. Every Christmas from here on out will be missing those parts. The good thing is that I am now familiar with this knowledge and with these feelings.  I can acknowledge them without giving them aid and comfort!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! 120810

I almost missed this sunset!

It's December Already?

Let me start with a mea culpa: I have been neglectful of my blog. It's not entirely inexcusable -- we had an internet outage at our house that lasted nearly five days, and necessitated our ISP install a repeater on a tower more accessible to our line of sight. While that was a frustrating outage, the result has been better than good and we are experiencing faster speeds and better reliability than we had for some time. I'm really rooting for these guys (directlink) as it is a local business here in Parker, and anybody that gives Comcast a run for their money is ok in my book!

Now for a bit of an update. The Thanksgiving holiday was one of the best I have ever had, and the time with family in the days that followed was especially sweet. We had fun together: went into the woods and cut down a Christmas tree, went to the movies to see Harry Potter, stayed up too late and drank a little too much at least once, and laughed a lot.

The days that followed the end of the holiday were taken up with starting a new job with the Douglas County Office of Veterans Affairs as a brand new, uncertified and unaccredited, veterans services officer. I have italicized job, not to diminish its importance or to indicate that it isn't really a job. It's a real job, and I even get real money (or so I have heard), a stipend of about $200 per month. At my last job before I retired, that would have represented about three hours of labor. After working about 17 hours in the past two weeks, I realize that this is a job that I could work as many hours as I want and it would still never be done. Kind of like housework, but a lot more rewarding. The job is about helping veterans and their families file for their benefits and assisting them with their appeals if they become necessary. It has all the potential to be the best job I ever had.

The office is only open three days a week, and I am the fourth in an office set up for two people, so we'll see where this goes. I haven't hotbunked on a desk since the shiftworking old days in the Surveillance and Warning Centers of Okinawa, south Florida, and south Korea. I was a lot less conscious of the teeming petri dish effect in those days. I am stocking up on alcohol wipes for the telephone, keyboard, mouse...it's really rather hopeless. A line from Glee kept coming back to me this week, "I can't help feeling there is an excess of dried skin in the air." Additionally, I am only the second female ever on the team. That's never happened before! I'm joking. It's just so funny for it to be happening at this end of my career. As always, I am in very good company with dedicated gentlemen doing their best to help other veterans.

In the meantime, the Christmas tree sits soaking and unadorned and the presents I have been stashing in the spare room need to be wrapped and mailed with little love-notes for the recipients. I'm not sure I can do the card thing this year. It just seems so forced and artificial. I certainly don't want to write one of those letters that plays the whole year back. I really have had quite enough of this year, and I am all for clearing the decks and getting on with the next. Maybe I will send out Valentines instead?

I'm also trying to get rid of some stuff we don't need anymore. Stuff associated with caregiving, and stuff left from the merging of two families into one house, and stuff that is just stuff. Why is it so much harder to get rid of stuff than it is to collect it? And what is some of this stuff, anyway? In the midst of this purging of stuff, we missed the last two recycling collections -- which for some reason are only every two weeks here -- and so we are totally buried in newspapers and cardboard with the more than occasional wine bottle. I'm trying not to let it make me crazy, but I don't think it is working.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! Thanksgiving 2010

It has been a wonderful holiday at home with my family, with food and fun and even a trip into the mountains to get our Christmas tree. Part of me is missing, but the other parts of me are filling in the empty places. I have warm memories of the past, a full and loving present, and a future that stretches out before me like an inviting highway. I am so blessed.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Here we are, on the eve of one of those holidays that has the potential to suck a lot this year and for the foreseeable future. Not only that, but Bill's birthday (and by design, our anniversary) is on Saturday.

I could choose to be a miserable mess. Not only does that sound like a really bad idea, it would be a really selfish way to be, since this isn't just my holiday. It would also make Bill really really unhappy. Yep, that was a lot of "really"s. Really.

That's why I have chosen a different route. I'm cleaning the house for company (at least as clean as it's going to get), shopping for the ingredients for our favorite side dishes, and working on my gratitude list. One of those old fashioned things I do when I find myself in full-blown Pity Party is to count my blessings, name them one by one as the song goes. This year I am going for the full Monty, A to Z and I am trying for three things in each category. See if you recognize any of your favorites, (or maybe even your name).

AIR: Breathing is one of my favorite things!
April: My birth month and the time of year when life begins anew.
Angels: So many of them in my life right now!

Barbara: My sister and my friend. Your gift of presence to me this summer cannot be measured in its value. Along with the Bob-in-law, you helped carry me through. Do all sisters come through like this? What a gift!
Berinda: My daughter, not born of me but no less a part of me. You cannot know in this life what a gift you are to this world, but you will surely be blessed in heaven!
Bill: My partner and my heart. I miss you every day and continue to be grateful for all the gifts you brought to my life, in life and in death.
Butterflies: Especially those that reminded me all through this terrible spring and summer that this is all temporary and it is supposed to be. We are constantly transforming, changing, metamorphing into the next creation -- from one moment to the next. It goes on.

Creatures: All of the creatures of the air, the sea, and the land. What a marvelous world!
Costa Rica: The first place I heard the world singing my song.
Cancer: For the lessons you've taught me about living and dying.
Christmas Lights: Welcome back! I'm so glad to see you this year!

Diamonds: A beautiful reminder that pressure can be a productive and creative force, as well as a destroyer.
Dogs: Of all the world's creatures, the one that warms my feet and my heart when they are cold.
Dad: The more I understood your humanness, the more of a hero you became to me.
Death: Sure has a way of putting your life into perspective, don't it?

EARTH: Home, sweet home. For now.
Eyes and Ears: When I close my mouth, they work a lot better. My dad tried to tell me that. My teachers tried to tell me that. Most of my bosses have tried to tell me that. I'm a slow learner.
Emily: My baby daughter, the apple of her father's eye, and on the short list of people I always want standing with me when the going gets tough. Can't wait to see you tomorrow!


FIRE: Warmth, light, healing, knowledge, protection. Is it a coincidence that I was born under a fire sign? Family: A lot of people say it. Mine lives it. From the closest to me to my cousins and second cousins. I love you all throughout all the worlds of God! Thank you for your everlasting support!
Fun: It ain't always fun; so I am real grateful when it is!
Friends: I wouldn't have made it through this year without them. 

Grandpas and Grandmas: Everything I know about animals and growing things I learned from my grandfathers. Everything I know about cooking, caring for a home and shepherding family assets, I learned from my grandmothers. When I pray for help and guidance on my journey, I always look to the grandmothers and grandfathers in that host of witnesses that surrounds us at our Thanksgiving Table.
Gidget: Jack's best friend. The little chihuahua-terrier mix that came to live with us last Christmas. My foot-warmer by night, and constant companion by day.
Great Spirit/God: Who I have come to know is too big to be held or owned or described by any single group of people, no matter how good or nice or how terrible they are. That God IS is no longer a question for me, not that it really ever was.

Home: In my mother's last days, she frequently said she wanted to "go home," but she said she wasn't sure where home was. In the months after she died, I pondered this and realized I felt the same disconnection from that which is home. After the two major losses that followed the loss of my mom boosted this disconnect into a full-blown anxiety, the realization dawned that the home we long for may not be our earthly home at all. The desire is a built-in homing device to take us HOME. And we don't need to worry; it will be there.
Heart: So glad I have one and that it works so well. Grateful that it held on for this roller coaster ride we call life. Talk about your ups and downs! I am additionally grateful that it has been a heart that was open to get in and take the ride at all.
Hospice of Denver: You all are the best. Thank you for being on Team Frizzell. May you have a year filled with blessings, especially of the monetary kind!
Happiness: Grateful that it is a choice, and that my heart is up for that journey as well!

Ingrid: One of the dearest friends I have ever had, and a constant example to me of strength and resilience, of giving and taking time to nourish yourself, of grace and beauty. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Intelligence: I believe that contrary to popular opinion intelligent life does exist on this planet. It is how we were created. All of us possess it; most of us fail to access it regularly. I am grateful for those who do and make this a better place to live.
Intimacy: The path to discovering ourselves in other human beings. Dangerous as hell, but critical to becoming!
Information: As an intelligence analyst, I learned that information is not the same thing as fact. But information always fills in a part of the picture -- even if what it tells you is something about the bearer of the information.

Joshua: My favorite son and my own gift from God. With a keen instinct for finding fun, another on my short list of those I want beside me in troubled times.
Jobs: I always had one when I needed one, including now, and it was always what I needed to be ready for the next steps on my journey.
Jackson Brown: Miniature poodle and friend to Gidget. Chief Jester.


Kitchen: One of my favorite places to be -- the heart of the home! It is where the family gathers for nourishment of all kinds. I love that I can be in my kitchen and with my family at the same time.
Kitsch: Because it makes people smile and forget about all the serious shit. I don't like it when it collects in obscene amounts, unless it's in somebody else's house and then that's cool because they're happy and their stuff has made me smile. Konsequently, I try to keep a kap on the kitsch.
Knees (and hips and other joints): I have become much more aware of them as I age, and a great deal more appreciative of all they do with only a mild amount of complaint, considering how abused they have been. So I have to have a parts replacement or maintenance now and then; it's a small price to pay.

LOVE: Only when your heart has been truly broken can you know that you have truly loved. Only when you have lost your love do you know how greatly you have been loved. In this year of most exquisite heartbreak, I know both of these truths. I also know I would do it all again, but I am not sure I could live through it another time.
Lips: Aren't they nice? Not just mine, I mean. Lips in general.
Longevity: It runs in the family. This is good news for me, but more importantly it meant that I got to know my great grandparents and that I had a relationship with my grandparents well into my adulthood. My maternal grandmother (Rosalie) called me on my 50th birthday to relay her good wishes. I was able to visit with her one last time before she died at age 98. Her twin (Mathilde) turned 102 years old today. Happy Birthday, Aunt Mathilde!

Mothers: Me, mine, yours. It's a tough job: terrible hours, all kinds of crap from the customers (literal and less literal), and if you do it right (and you are very lucky) the job never really ends. The loving part doesn't, for sure. Ever.
Men: I confess; I always liked them. I complain a lot about them, but I complain about the weather, too. Mostly if it interferes with what I want to do or with the kind of day I want to have that day. But I love the weather, all kinds of weather...
Milk: It was the first nourishment we got as babes, and for me remains the go-to drink when my tummy is empty. And you simply cannot make a proper roux without milk; that's a fact.
Marianne: For coming all the way out to Colorado to bring a smile to my sweetheart's face as he was leaving us, a thousand thanks. You always were his favorite!
Music: It has soothed me when I was agitated, energized me when I was feeling low and slow, gave word to my heart's prayer, and helped my loved one sail away, sail away, sail away...

Nothing: As in doing nothing. I needed this. I need this. This is helping. I'm probably ready to start doing some things now; but I am still going to guard and protect doing nothing. It is my right. I have earned it. In spades!
Nasty Odors: Don't misunderstand. I don't find these any more pleasant than anybody else does. There are some odors that make me vomit almost instantly. But I am as grateful for those odors as I am for the ones that calm or energize me. It's the nasty odors that tell you that things aren't as they should be, or you aren't where you should be and it's time to be moving on.
Nature: Nature is where my personal energy gets its greatest charge. I love the sky, the geography, the plants, the creatures. It all works together to create the magic that is this ongoing ever transforming creation. And we are a part of that. It totally humbles me while giving my spirit a giant-sized jolt. If I am talking you and suddenly look skyward and seem distracted, don't be offended. I've caught sight of my brother Hawk and have taken a moment to greet him.

Orgasms: I thought that would get your attention. Os are pretty far down in the list, and I wasn't sure you were still reading. Glad to see that you're still with me ;-) And yes. This is a legitimate entry :-O
Orchids: I just love looking at them. They are among the most beautiful things in the world.
Open(ness): I look for it in others, and avoid its sisters Narrow and Closed. I strive for it in myself, and catch myself in the lie that I have achieved it the moment I begin judging another.

Poker: It's fun. I'm not bad at it, and I have learned a lot about myself and other people at the poker table. I don't play as much as I did when Bill was alive. (Wow! I think that's the first time I have been conscious of using that phrase. My pulse just started racing like crazy. Deep breath.) As I was saying, I don't play as much as I did, but I think I am playing better.
Past: When I get a little too big for my breeches, as my father used to say, all I need is to be reminded that I have a past. Sometimes that past was just yesterday, and sometimes it comes all caps and in bold letters PAST. It's usually enough to take me down a peg or two. Sometimes I need it. Sometimes I don't. My letting you know is not generally a good indicator of which is which -- for you or me. Generally it takes some time and by then, it's in the past.
Pets: For a while, they were all that kept me moving through the day. Thank you, Bob-in-law, for your wisdom in knowing that I needed to keep them close.
Poets and Poetry: I'm grateful for the risk they take as they expose themselves because it helps me understand myself a little better.

Quilts: One day in October, I had to add an extra blanket to the bed. I used the quilt my paternal grandmother quilted and handpainted for my parents' 25th wedding anniversary in 1974. What a wonderful connection I felt, with all kinds of healing soothing thoughts. I'm so grateful that my mother kept it all those years, long after she had the right-sized bed to put it on.
Queers: Some of my best friends are. I love them. So, I won't tell. Don't ask. Please, just make this stupid policy go away!
Quiet: Not the kind of quiet you might imagine. Not soundless. The world is not soundless. We are so busy adding sounds of our own that we scarcely know what the world sounds like. If we could all just quiet down a little, we might hear the hawk cry or the wind whispering in the pine or the owl hooting in the night. I'm convinced they have things to tell us, if we'll only listen.

Recreation: It's what I am doing this year: re-creating. Like any endeavor worthy of a word like endeavor, sometimes there are setbacks; sometimes there are breakthroughs. It may not always be clear which one is which, so I am grateful no matter what. It can't hurt, and it always makes me feel better.
Rabbits: While I do not approve of their dining in my garden, I am grateful to the rabbits in my yard for reminding me, as they hop away, that in this moment I have nothing to fear and I don't need to be worrying about the next moment. I'll get to that moment whether I worry or not and it will be what it will be and I will do whatever I need to do. Silly rabbits.
Rest: Also a big part of this year. I am so tired, worn out, yada yada yada. I relish rest. At first I struggled with the whole Puritan guilt thing. Gotta go, go, go, do, do, do (sure hope you aren't reading this aloud). Not anymore! Go back and read Maslow. All those physical symptoms I was having? Ah, rest. Only eight more letters to go, and I am off to bed! I'm cooking for my little family tomorrow, and I want to savor the day!

Sleep: I know. I just covered rest. I wanted to say a few words about sleep because there was a time when Bill was ill in 2007 when he could not sleep for days and had become quite psychotic from the effects. Ever after I was grateful when he slept soundly and peacefully. No more so than when he was ill for the last time.
Scenery: I guess this could be the same as the Nature thing, but to me it's more like admiring fine art or a moving picture. Some of my favorites this year were the bayou in Mississippi in May; the summer storms in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida; the snow storm in Estes Park in June; the jewel-colors of Maryland from the air in October; and the panoramic terrible beauty of Arlington in November.
Self-confidence: Beginning to feel it again. Welcome back. It's been a while. Don't get too cocky. You have a past, you know.

Tenderness: Now I think I get it. I sure hope the world does before it really is too late. Given the pain that it is in, I'd say that we're working on it. I know it took a lot of pain for me to get it.
Toughness: Toughness is not the opposite of tenderness; it is one of its closest allies. I saw both demonstrated day in and day out this summer by an entire household.  I am still in awe.
Teachers: I am grateful to all of my teachers, the intentional and the unintentional. 
Travel: I always appreciate the opportunity for a change of scenery.

USA: Let's be honest, we ain't perfect. That's how this all got started -- people who refused to happily conform to governance that did not make sense to them. They created a system that could continue to change and grow while adhering to some really sound principals regarding individual rights and protections. We are the guardians of that system. Some of our best and brightest are on the front line of that guard. I am grateful for them and for their families who wait for their homecoming.
Used Cars (and Trucks): Would any of us have had a first car if there were no such thing? Or a second, third, fourth, fifth... Ah yes! I remember them well.
Urologists: God bless them! Somebody's got to go in there and do it! It's not what I would choose. It would take all the magic right out of it for me.

Vali: My sister friend from all the way back. She knows my past because she was there for part of it. I can't tell you how many phone calls and letters and prayers have passed between us over the past 40 plus years, but I can tell you that there were times she kept me from the edge (and vice versa, because friends do that). We haven't spent a single day in each others presence since 1992. I think we should change that situation.
Voting: I'm grateful and proud that I can, and I do.
Valleys: The Rogue Valley. The San Luis Valley. Both are dear to my heart.

WATER: The last of the four elements and so important to life! I treasure water, especially clean water. I used to think it was mostly a western thing, because I grew up in the western US and the western states are so drought prone. However water is pretty important in the scheme of world history. Check out water politics or hydropolitics in Wikipedia if you don't believe me. Politics aside, one of my favorite spots in the world is sitting alongside a Rocky Mountain Creek in the summertime, listening to the water singing its song.
Wonder: I am deeply thankful that my sense of wonder is totally intact. It makes it possible for me to be deeply thankful.
Weeping: Sometimes its the only thing I can do to express what I feel, happy or sad. I bless the person who taught me that tears are a gift.

Xylophone: Love the wonderful tones of the xylophone, vibraphone, marimba.
Xerox: Made my life easier, mostly.
XI and XU: Killer words in Scrabble.

You: Thank you for reading this far. Thank you for reading me at all. It helps to know that you are somehow in this with me, cheering me on. Thank you.
Youth: I loved it!
Yams: It's Thanksgiving, after all!

Zones: Especially the temperate zone, but the subtropical, tropical and erogenous are also nice, particularly in February.
Za: I've won some serious Scrabble games with this gem!
ZZZZZzzzzz It's way past my bedtime, and I am grateful for my comfy bed and the pillow which even now whispers my name...

Note added on 11/27. Here are some thoughts on keeping the gratitude going beyond the annual recognition day we call Thanksgiving:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/mindfulnessmatters/2010/11/the-morning-after-persisting-with-gratitude.html

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Solving the Energy Crisis in 1979

I went back into the front hallway today to start work on the family archives. The hallway was where I stashed all the papers and photos back in August when I couldn't look at them any longer because of all the dead people looking back at me. They've been sitting there in their boxes and folders ever since, silently admonishing me every time I walk by them. And so today, I just grabbed a stack of the stuff and brought it to the scanner. It's a jumble of stuff. Yellowed and stained letters from commanders to our proud parents announcing our promotions, awards, etc. Newspaper articles saved by our proud parents that are now so brittle as to be scarcely readable. Some of it is even crap that needs to be thrown into the recycling bin.

Amongst the old employee evals in one stack (finally throwing that crap away!), I found a copy of The Spokesman I had saved from August 1979. The Spokesman was the official magazine for the men and women in Air Force Security Service, the organization that Bill and I belonged to when we were on active duty.  In 1979, I did not yet know Bill. In those days, it was just me and Josh and Berinda, and we had been the proud owners of a 1969 VW Bug. It had carried us from Monterey CA to Homestead FL in 1977, with my grandmother riding in the backseat and a good many of our worldly belongings on the roof rack.

After about a year in Florida, things just started going wrong. It started with four new tires I bought at Wards. Less than a mile from the store one of them flew off the front and bounced off an oncoming car, and then bouncing from one windshield to another in a strip mall parking lot before rolling through the plate glass window of a Chinese restaurant. Sure wish I had known a lawyer in those days!

Some time after that, the bug developed a leak in the gas tank. The environmental issues aside (this was Florida and every drop of gas went directly into the water table), we were also in the middle of an energy crisis. It was affecting everyone, and was reflected on the cover of this particular issue of The Spokesman:

I was a single parent with two kids living on an E-4 salary until I was promoted early that summer of 1979, and for a time we qualified for and took advantage of food stamps. When I considered carefully whether or not we could get by without a car, and without the expenses that were associated with it (I can't believe we complained about gas prices in 1979 -- I would love to pay those prices again), I decided that we could get by with an alternative form of transportation. My commander thought it was a hoot and he was also looking for a way to get some recognition for his little unit in south Florida, so he submitted the following article for the magazine.

I've given some thought to going back to one of these trikes; but the geography is not as friendly here on the Front Range, and I won't even get into the effect the years MAY have had on my strength and stamina! By the way, in that same issue of The Spokesman, the monthly recognition pages  for new promotees included a name that I didn't recognize in those days, but will never forget for the rest of mine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! 111910

This morning's sunrise was nearly a two hour show, with scenes like this:


Thank you, Great Spirit, for opening my eyes to another day full of hope and promise!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Checking in with Abe Maslow

In the 1980s, all levels Air Force professional military education included some instruction on, discussion of, or reference to Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs. I know this because I spent 20 years and 6 days in the Air Force before I retired in 1993, and I instructed three of the then five levels of Professional Military Education during the 1980s. Here's what I looked like in those days:


(Oops! Right timeframe -- wrong picture. This was taken at the Armed Forces Chili Cook-Off in 1981. My team took first place for Showmanship with our "Best Little Whorehouse In Texas." My future husband had known me about nine months, and was somewhat stunned by my appearance. My girlfriends, not so much. Hey! Whatever works!)


(Sigh! We were so young and gorgeous then!)

Anyway, back to Maslow. The short version for those that don't know who or what I am talking about and didn't take advantage of the link above (from Wikipedia because it was convenient and concise):


Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid, with the largest and lowest levels of needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization at the top.

The lower four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called "deficiency needs" or "d-needs": esteem , friendship and love, security, and physical needs. With the exception of the lowest (physiological) needs, if these "deficiency needs" are not met, the body gives no physical indication but the individual feels anxious and tense.

We would discuss Maslow's theory endlessly. Some arguing whether or not physical ailments were directly related to unfulfilled deficiency needs that were not of a physiological nature. Of course, the past 30 years of medical science has pretty much made this a moot argument. The fact that Maslow concentrated his studies on healthy and fully functional people, in fact exceptional people (e.g., Albert Einstein), begs the question whether his was a guide to healthy psychosocial development or a snapshot of the exceptional case. But, I digress, again.

One effect of my continuing recovery from the effects of the past few years has been a better understanding of my relationship to these deficiency needs and  a clearer awareness of what is ringing my bell or pulling my chain.

In the immediate aftermath of Bill's death in July, my focus went to those physiological needs that we take for granted. I felt like I had to think about breathing or I would just stop doing so. I had to coax myself into eating and drinking even though I had no sense of taste or smell. I was sleeping very little and sleep walking a lot. It may have looked like I had it all together, but it takes years of practice to make it look that way!

The safety and security needs had been making themselves heard since April of 2009 when our family underwent a brutal breakup; the difference being that after Bill died, I no longer had my steadying hand at the wheel of our ship.

Now it's all jumbled up. I can't tell my self-esteem needs from my love-belonging needs from my self-actualization needs. It feels like one big knot of neediness taking over everything. The need for a hug becomes an existential identity crisis. The only thing I am sure of is eating, sleeping, breathing, and all those other bodily functions that seem, for the moment to be working all right on their own without a lot of input from me or my head.

But, the fears that I thought had been chased off for good are whispering in my ear again. The ones that cackle about me not being good enough or smart enough or lovable enough. I had to shout at them this morning to send them away so that I could get myself dressed and out of the house and into the world. They promised they would be back, but I am going to be ready for them. I am getting too old for this shit!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

I hope you will all understand if I keep my remarks short today. It's a little after 5:00 eastern and you can stick a fork in me; I'm done. Bill was buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery today. It was a perfect day and everything about the ceremony (except for the Washington DC traffic which caused some late arrivals) was perfect. I will say more later, and post pictures, and remembrances of the day and all of those things. For now I will just say "thank you" over and over again to anyone and everyone who made this day so special, including those of you who simply held us in your hearts today. I am including my eulogy, and if I can figure this out (technology seems to be kicking my ass this evening), the program for the service.

Eulogy for My Friend

We met at the NCO Club at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo TX in February 1981. Recently arrived on base, Bill got talked into going to a retirement ceremony that day, a ceremony that my organization played a part in.  He would tell the story many times over the ensuing years, always emphasizing that it was the skirt and my legs that attracted him first. He also enjoyed telling the story of his proposal a little over a year later, in which he always claimed to have not asked me to marry him but having merely inquired as to my interest in marriage. 

In spite of what his children think, Bill loved to tell stories. His favorite place in the world was holding court in a corner of the kitchen with beer and cigarette in hand, and an attentive audience to hear his tales (especially an audience of women). Many of us can recite some of the stories verbatim; for example, the one that ends with “Trail? What trail? Pilot, this is the Navigator. Expedite 180.”
We married on his birthday in 1982, a date he picked so that he wouldn’t forget his anniversary. This was a good plan since he wasn’t very good at all about remembering my birthday, but always had a good sense of humor when I would pick out a nice present for myself. That said, from the time we were married, he never denied me anything I wanted. I learned to be careful about admiring things, because we couldn’t afford everything I wanted! 

Let’s be clear, I was not such a good catch. I came with a past and a ready-made family, including a very active little boy and a daughter with significant physical and mental disabilities. Bill’s mother was more than a little concerned! The wedding gave him another of his favorite stories, that of Josh pulling the fire alarm in the base chapel just as we were ending the recessional. It became part of the family lore.

When we married, I chose the song “Whither Thou Goest (I Will Go)” from the book of Ruth. It goes, in part, “Whither thou goest, I will go. Wherever thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people will be my people, my love. Whither thou goest, I will go.” It didn’t  quite go that way. We were both, after all, in the Air Force. Within two years, I was on my way to Korea for a year and Bill went straight into single parenting, never missing a school event the entire year and ultimately being recognized as Father of the Year by the Child Development Center on the base. 

Bill was my biggest supporter. He never stopped believing in me even when I wasn’t too sure about myself. He made it possible for me to be a wife and mom and have a career that I can be proud of, and he did it at no small personal sacrifice.  When he retired from the AF in 1986, following the birth of our baby Emily, he was on track to be Chief Master Sergeant; instead he left the AF so that we could stay together as a family on one continent with no threat of long separation. 

Bill always thought that he had rescued me from myself and a grim situation, and as I look back now, I have to admit that it was true. Like any rescue, I came with baggage; and we spent part of our lives dealing with the contents of those bags and of course the ones he’d brought along on the journey, until we realized it was mostly stuff we didn’t need anymore and we began traveling a lot lighter.  

Life has a way of teaching you what is important and what isn’t, and Bill was a quick study. He didn’t waste time on things or people he wasn’t interested in. To some, he came off as antisocial, and he did not suffer fools gladly, but anyone who ever heard him laugh or saw his smile knew the warmth of his heart. He was also generous to a fault, and wouldn’t hesitate to donate to a friend having a hard time of it.

The last few years weren’t easy. Losing his leg in 2007 was life-changing, but not life-stopping.  In spite of the challenges, I remember these last years with fondness and gratitude. Camping in Colorado, California, Texas, and Florida allowed us to recapture some of our favorite times on the road again and visit with family and friends across the country one last time. We looked forward to going back to Costa Rica one more time, where Bill could revel in a paradise where he could be warm all the time, wear very little clothing, and watch the wildlife while he worked his crossword puzzles, with the ever present beer and cigarette close at hand.
I miss my friend. I miss his company over coffee in the morning. I miss fighting over which one of us gets the newspaper first. I miss his reminders to “let it go” or to “get down off my high horse” when I start getting wound up about something. I miss his skinny legs, and that lock of hair that would never stay where it belonged, and his beautiful hands that would get so banged up in the winter weather. I miss the ringing of his laughter and the twinkle in his eyes. I miss the kisses for good morning and good night and hello and good bye. And when this grief of missing him breaks through with a vengeance, I miss the way he would hold me when I cried until his shirt was wet with my tears. Most of all, I miss knowing that he was always there, and that he would always be there, because that’s the kind of guy he was. The kind of guy I always knew I could count on.  I count on him still, to keep watch over us until we are together again.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Night Before The Day

It's the night before Bill's memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The family has all checked in at the Best Western Iwo Jima Memorial, and the younger family members are taking advantage of the opportunity to get reacquainted (at least until the hotel bar closes at 9 pm). Along with the older family members, I've gone to the room, showered, changed into my favorite jammies, and am planning on an early night. It has been a long day, with the Breath for Life Yogathon in Baltimore, and the heaviness of tomorrow's events.The only way I will get through it is with a good night's sleep.

There is a nice group of us here at the hotel -- 20 by my count -- and more driving in tomorrow morning for the service. We are only five minutes from the chapel, according to Google maps; but none of us feels confident about making it in five minutes. Additionally, all of the cars will be subject to search entering Ft Myer; so we have to leave no later than 0800 to be sure to be at the chapel at 0830. The weather will be cold in the morning, which is a concern for both Danny (our piper), and me since we have some elderly folks in the group. Fortunately, the grave site service is as short as it is full of tradition and honor.

Did I say something about this being a long day? I think it's time to turn out the lights and call it a night.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Fifteenth Thursday

I've been working on the program for Bill's funeral service and my personal eulogy for the past couple of days. Coincidentally, it has been cold, gray and raining steadily since last night. The closer we get to the day of the funeral (November 8), the more fragile my emotions get. I am okay with that. I hope the people around me are also okay with that. Not that it matters; there isn't much I can do about it anyway. As Bill would often say, "It is what it is."

I guess I didn't realize that I had shelved some stuff back in July and August. So now, it's time to pull it out and deal with things I would not think about then. The things that hurt me and made me angry and scared. These aren't huge monsters of rage and terror; they never were. I was just too tired after weeks of nursing my dearest friend as he disappeared from me, to face them and put them in their places. I wanted rest, and time to heal a bit before I had to be a grownup again. And now that I am rested, Sorrow comes calling and appears to have packed for a stay.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Washington, DC

I love our nation's capital! It is among the most beautiful cities in the world. From my first visit in June 1983 to my most recent drive-by, yesterday, I can't help but be proud of its views from the various points around the city. Yesterday, as I left Jodi's house in Alexandria, I took in the panorama from the new Wilson Bridge spanning the Potomac. To my right and south, the river runs down to Mt. Vernon; to the north and left the Capitol building gleams white in the distance, with the Washington Monument to its left. The new bridge itself is awesome! Plenty of room for the traffic and the views upstream from the eastbound lanes are phenomenal. As an added bonus, you can no longer see through the rebar to the river below as was the case with the old bridge.

I met Jodi for lunch at the new National Harbor. This area, just a concept when we left in 2007, has sprung up from the shoreline of the Potomac just southeast of the Wilson Bridge. Restaurants, shops, apartments, a marina, and a convention center in a gleaming, well-planned enclave on the river with the bridge and the capitol in view. Just stunning! I was very impressed with the metered parking which accepted credit cards and worked without a hitch. I would be interested in knowing how they hold up over a few winters and summer storms.

Driving north on I-295 from the National Harbor was also a treat, especially once I was past the Blue Plains Water Treatment Plant. In 1983, when we visited Washington from Texas, I was pretty disappointed in the state of the highways around DC, especially I-295. The roads were poorly designed for the amount of traffic, in terrible disrepair, and the litter situation was -- as the kids say -- "off the hook!" It was dirty and disgusting, and not the way you imagine your nation's capital. Yesterday I saw lots of evidence of cleaning, widening and improvement of 295 and portions of the Capital Beltway/495. I am looking forward to coming back yearly to track the progress. It is easy to picture the future highway providing a scenic view of the Anacostia River and the city center. Hopefully they will keep this one lit a little better than the old one which could get very dark and scary in spots.

And of course, being here in the fall is the best. The temperatures are moderate, the tourists are gone, and the leaves are like nowhere else on earth. While they are all beautiful, the maples and poplars and crepe myrtles and dogwoods; this year is the year of the hickory with its incredible slightly toasted butter color that glimmers in the light. Although the past weeks and days have brought a lot of attention to the city and its most famous citizens, I am grateful for my more limited perspective that focuses on what a really special place on earth this is -- especially for me right now.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! 110110

This morning Sharon's Sabbatical Year went over 3000 page views!

Girlfriends

...in the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. Kahlil Gibran

I am so very lucky to have girlfriends. Yesterday afternoon, I packed a small bag and left Ingrid's for a couple of nights with my friend Jodi in Virginia. It has been so long since Jodi and I had some time together, but like all good friends it was almost like there had been no time and distance at all. We didn't stay up very late as I was pretty tired; but we packed in a lot of talking sitting on the patio in front of the glowing chiminea with a glass or two of red wine. I shared my story of the past few months, and Jodi filled me in on what things have been like living with two gorgeous and challenging high school girls.

Jodi and I have been friends since about 1995 when we found ourselves working for the same company on the same contract. We would go to lunch together and have a surreptitious glass of wine (having ANY alcohol during the work day was forbidden by the company) with our pasta. We knew we were meant to be friends when we realized we both shared a deep love for Italian food and good red wine. Sharing similar values and political ideologies kept the conversation going and it continues to this day.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay."

Ingrid is my oldest friend, chronologically. She is ten years older than me. Jodi is ten years younger. In between, there is Vali (who has been my friend the longest), Lissa (my newest friend), Evelyn, and Marianne. None of these ladies live very near me. That's what happens when you live in a mobile society. It makes getting together for lunch a bit of a challenge when there are thousands of miles between you, but a phone call or letter or email is all it takes to regain contact. My girlfriends have been critical to my recovery. Ingrid was with me when we received Bill's initial diagnosis. Both Evelyn and Marianne came out to spend time with me and give me strength when Bill was dying. For the girls that couldn't come, just knowing that they were lifting me up in their thoughts and holding me close in their hearts gave me courage to keep going.

When you part from your friend, you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

Today I am grateful for my girlfriends and pray for all good things to come to them! 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Rally For Sanity

I've gone to more than a dozen or so events in Washington DC that have involved large crowds. We had only been in DC a few weeks in 1989, when I took the kids down to the Smithsonian's annual Folk Arts Festival on the Mall. Stretching a little more than the length of the museums of American and Natural History, the festival drew a healthy crowd that filled this area, but allowed for safe and free flow of traffic, blocked occasionally by a blanket of picnickers. Our next big event was Earth Day 1990, and I realized the first event had been a warmup. The kids and I joined the throngs that lined the streets for the Victory Celebration that Washington threw at the end of Desert Storm in 1991, and the mobs on the Mall for Bill Clinton's American party following his inauguration.  The last crowd I joined in DC was the first anti-Iraq War march in September 2003. Up to this point, I think this was the largest group I had ever seen or been in, but it was a moving crowd (the word march being operative).

I have also been in Dam Square in Amsterdam on New Year's Eve (2005). I say this not to brag, but as a way of indicating that I am not unfamiliar with crowds. All of those crowds pale in comparison to what we were a part of today!

Emily, Sean, and I knew this was different almost from the start. The Red Line Metro train that originates only one stop from the Wheaton stop, where we boarded, was full when it pulled into the station. When I say full, I mean that the seats were nearly all taken and people were standing in the aisles. By the time we got two more stops in toward the city, I was crammed into a corner and could not have fallen down unless everyone else did.

We took the Metro to Metro Center and then walked down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Mall. The crowd got thicker and thicker the closer we got. By the time we got on Mall side of the Museums, we were carefully working our way into the crowd just north of 7th Street, and just east of the line of Portapotties set up in a line across from the Natural History Museum. We had to inch our way in, and could not get past the tree line (trees line the Mall on either side). From where we were, we could see the Jumbotrons at the front, as well as the bank of speakers. Well, I couldn't actually see the Jumbotrons; I caught an occasional glimpse of one corner of one. I am 5'6", which was considered above average height for women not that long ago and is now evidently only above average height for pygmies. I did see and come in physical contact with lots and lots and lots of people!



As we stood there, the crowd became more and more compacted, until scratching your nose became a necessarily coordinated effort. Some of the younger, hardier souls risked the hefty National Park Service fines and climbed into the trees for a better view (to the cheers and applause of the immediate crowd). It was a very diverse crowd, in all sizes, colors, ages, and abilities; and a pleasant crowd. Tolerance and general good humor were the common traits of this gargantuan group. After a little more than an hour of this imposed close personal contact with humanity, I suggested that we adjourn to a Pub for food and drink.

We once again inched and edged our way through the crowd. After about fifteen minutes, we got back to the street and worked our way back to 7th Street. As far as I could see up 7th, there were people, a good six or seven city blocks! We walked up 7th toward China Town and one of my favorite watering holes in DC: Fados. We had to wait to get in (at 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon) shared a table with a couple of guys who had come to the Rally from Atlanta, Georgia. The place was filled with rally participants (as was every restaurant, cafe, and coffee shop on 7th and all the streets leading to it) eating, drinking, watching the rally on the TV, and continuing their friendly participation through cheers and applause.

The Metro ride back to Wheaton was just as crowded as the ride in, and people were now more than a little tired; but the tolerant mood prevailed and there was no ugliness. Although I was pretty exhausted from the crowd (I crashed on the couch for over an hour after we got back), I am glad I came. I am glad I was part of something big, something that maybe got someone's attention and gave them a different perspective. I am even happier that I was able to do this with my daughter at my side. I am probably the luckiest woman in the world.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Secret Garden

Ingrid and I took advantage of the beautiful fall weather to take a stroll through Brookside Gardens this afternoon. This wonderful treasure is only 1/2 mile as the crow flies from our old house here in Silver Spring.









We were lucky enough to catch one of the final days of the Garden's annual Chrysanthemum Show. Some of these beauties were the size of large salad plates.




And some were not only huge, but looked like they belonged in a baroque painting.



 We even got a couple of nice pictures of each other.




It was a glorious way to spend an afternoon!

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! 102810

As I write this morning, I am listening to the "chip, chip, chip" of a cardinal outside the window on one of the loveliest autumn days I can remember. It feels good to be where I am today. I am grateful for this day, for this place, and for the love of my family and friends.


So nice to be back in the old neighborhood at my favorite time of year!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lunch at Chez Cher

Chez Cher (loosely translated: In or among the precious or the pricey) is what I have decided to call my kitchen, after my wonderful lunch from there today. Y'all know the problems I have been having with my upper digestive tract, because I have no filters and I told you. Because of this, I have decided to keep my meals as simple and tasty as possible, so today I chose from the fruit in the produce bin, a little goat cheese, and some freshly home-done whole wheat sourdough french bread.


Oh yeah, and a little red wine (for the stomach's sake, as St. Paul would say). It all looked so beautiful as I was preparing it that I just felt it deserved a picture or two.




The wine is a California red table wine from Soledad, CA, which apparently has more than a wicked rough state prison to be proud of.


I'm still working on the wine! It feels so good to take care of myself in such a loving way today. I am looking forward later today to a manicure and pedicure with a girlfriend that I don't get to see much of, and have begun mentally packing my suitcase for the trip to DC and Maryland. Writing from the road tomorrow! Peace, out for today!

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! 102610

How much easier and lovelier our lives are when we realize that whatever we are willing to accept as reality will be our reality. Accept it or change it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What oh what shall I do?

I have a serious conflict, and I need your help in resolving it. I know what kind of conflict it is (Approach-Approach) because I studied that stuff once long ago. What I need help with is what to choose. The choices?

Choice A: The Rally to Restore Sanity

Taking place on the National Mall on 30 October from 12:00-15:00, and organized by some like-minded souls, this event spurred my choice to go out to Maryland a week early. I have been devoting moments to coming up with my own sign (Right now I'm thinking: Tell the folks I'm OK). I had the assurances of one of my dearest friends and my daughter that they would be joining me for what could be a seminal event in this political season and perhaps even a footnote in the national history.

Choice B: University of Maryland Homecoming Football

Looks like my compadres have bailed on me and everyone is going to the game. It is another big crowd situation, though smaller and probably more unruly than the Mall, but less hassle getting to and from. And then there is tailgating with my lovely daughter and old friends...Kick-off is at 3:30 at Byrd Stadium. I love the hell out of Maryland football; my Greek family will attest to that!

So, help me now. What oh what shall I do?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Potage au Potiron (Pumpkin Soup)

With a winter storm warning and a cute little pumpkin in my produce box this week, how could I resist.  The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Monastery Soups.

 











According to the recipe, this is 4-6 servings. I guess maybe if you are a starving monk who worked the whole day digging potatoes and carrots. Otherwise, it's more like 8-10 servings. I kept a quart aside for lunch tomorrow and put another quart or so in the freezer, after we had all we wanted for dinner. We found it a little on the tame side, having had a spicier version in the past. Josh liked it better with a little hot sauce added. It may be a good choice for a family with young kids who aren't as wild about strong flavors.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Is It Me Or Is It Memorex?

It's been a heck of a week, and I guess I better at least let folks know what has been going on. Mainly, I have been feeling pretty puny, and I have been staying close to the house, taking it easy and trying to figure out what approach to take to this health thing. I've told the doctors everything I know, and they've given me the meds they think I need. Except, it ain't working. I throw up the medicine that is supposed to make me stop feeling nauseated. The medicine for the pain in my shoulder makes me such a zombie that I am only taking the Tramadol before I go to bed. Otherwise, I am simply using Tylenol.

I am making other adjustments to accommodate the way I have been feeling. I don't plan on going anywhere before 0900. I am usually through throwing up by then -- although, I have had some surprises in that department recently, so if I have to be somewhere, I try not to eat or drink much. Today, I limited my diet to steamed rice with some raisins, cinnamon, and sugar along with cups of green tea with peppermint. I splurged tonight on soda crackers and milk, but plan on no more food today. Other than the morning nausea, it hasn't been a bad day. We'll see how it treats me in the morning!

The bright spot is that the pain has slowly been getting better on its own, either that or the nerves are shot and I just can't feel so much. Either one works for me at this point! I've changed the way I sleep, so that I am not sleeping on my right side. This has been a difficult adjustment, as it is a lifelong habit. I have to self-correct a couple of times a night, but gives me something to do since my shoulder-pain has awakened me anyway. I've also cut down on my computer time and even texting on my Blackberry, because I could feel the twinges in my shoulder when I would do these things ("Doctor, it hurts when I do this.""Well then...don't do that!").

It has been suggested that some of what I am experiencing may be a result of grief; more specifically, the grief of a long-term caregiver. I'm willing to entertain that line of reasoning. I'm willing to entertain almost any line of reasoning that would lead to leaving these annoying symptoms behind. With that in mind, I have booked an appointment for a Reiki treatment early next week, before I leave for Maryland. It did not escape me that these symptoms became more acute as we were attempting to finalize plans for Bill's service and the family and friend get-together afterward.

A friend of mine used to say, "I'm not going to let my stomach tell ME what to do!"

That friend is now approaching 60 and still takes stomach medicine every day, and still looks like his stomach hurts all the time.

So, maybe my stomach will just tell me what it wants, eh?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! 101710

Today, I used the basic Tassajara bread recipe using molasses for sweetener and 50/50 white/whole wheat flour. It looks, smells, tastes wonderful!

One More Day

Rest and the meds are doing their job, and the pain is more like discomfort most of the time, except for certain activities that seem to fire it up. The nausea has been absent the past few days as well. I am still having some occasional wooziness and weakness with the Tramadol, but I just take that as a cue that it's time to stop whatever I am doing and lie down for a while. I was able to work in the garden and make bread today (bless my KitchenAid), but I have found that resting my wrists on the keyboard is one of the activities that fires up the pain. So, I am taking another day off from writing.

Tomorrow, I go back to see the doctors at the VA Center. Sure hope we are ready to figure this out and fix it. I am ready to be healthy again! I have things to do!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rest and Recovery

The pain meds are helping, and so is resting the arm. Kept computer time down to under 30 minutes today and will probably rest it again tomorrow. Was very drowsy and woozy today. Hoping that tomorrow is a little clearer!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Sick Day

There aren't many things I despise more than being unwell. I hate hurting and being unable to do things. It makes me very angry. It pisses me the hell off! This thing with the nausea I was willing to put up with as long as it confined itself to the early part of the day and didn't come with vomiting. That changed, so I went to the doctor. We are still working on finding out what that is all about. I had an abdominal ultrasound today, and there are some possibilities in the gall bladder area (hmmm...thought I heard that somewhere else, oh yeah, that's what I thought), described appealingly as sludge and small stones. Follow-up is on Monday.

The right shoulder pain is relentless. This isn't arthritis, or none like I have ever had before. It makes me cry. It kept me off the computer for most of the day yesterday, preventing me from writing. Today, they gave me some Tramadol and extra strength Tylenol to keep me until Monday. Hopefully by then we can tie these two symptoms together (gallbladder anyone?) and fix it! I am done with being and feeling old and sickly and not being able to get things done!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

House Chores on a Rainy Day

0900
A cold, rainy day will keep me out of the camper today. The last place I want to be is trapped in a small place with the hidden bodies of dead rodents on a damp day. Yuck!

The rainy day project will be putting together the shelf unit to keep my plants over the winter. That is if my old arthritic aching shoulder will let me turn a screw or two today. My right shoulder has been aching like an abscessed tooth for the past several weeks, and has been the worst over the past two days. I'm pretty sure that this weather might have something to do with it. 

1300
The shelf project was much easier than I thought it would be. It took longer to clean up the plants and pots as I was bringing them inside than it did to put the shelf together. Once I had them all inside, I made up some insecticidal soap to drive off the little buggies (1 teaspoon Melaleuca Tough and Tender to 24 ounces of water in a spray bottle) and misted them all. I noticed that as long as I was moving and doing things, I didn't notice my shoulder, unless I tried to be Sheera which is stupid for me anytime. It hurts the most when I am mousing around on the computer or trying to relax. The first seems to aggravate it, and the second is what happens when all distractions are removed and the pain gets my attention.

Before
After

1700
The Bob-in-law began the project of giving us more light on the counters in the kitchen with some wonderful LED bars. I knew after he installed the first set that I wanted to extend the lighting around the counter, both below and above the cabinets. This afternoon, I  installed the rest of the lighting under the kitchen cabinets. It looks fabulous and adds to the appeal of a kitchen that I already love, as well as providing some nice work light on the counter.




I might have to let Josh do the second half of the job (above the cabinets). Ladders are probably not a good idea for me right now. And since tomorrow will be a warmer, sunnier day, it will be back into the camper to continue Search and Recovery ops.