Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Poem: The Journey

I first read this poem by Mary Oliver almost seven years ago*. It was my introduction to this extraordinary poet, as well as the first time I read anything that so accurately described how I felt about my life situation. If I had to choose one favorite poem, this would be it:

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

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

When I first read this poem, I thought about the voices that had called to me my whole life, outside forces that felt out of my control. Many existed only in memories, yet continued to play on a continuous loop. Others were in response to patterns I had put in place and would quiet only when I changed my ways of doing and responding.

In the years since my first reading of this poem I have been on a journey to identify that new voice, the one that I am slowly recognizing as my own. There have been breakthroughs and set-backs. I have continued on, determined to do the only thing I can do.

This past week-end I had an aha moment. The poem refers not only to those voices without but also the voices within. I am the house that trembles when I fear I will fail. My old perceptions are the foundations, and the melancholy has indeed been terrible as they have been shaken to their very core. Time has passed, but it is not too late. As old voices fall silent, a new voice can be heard in the distance. As my mind clears and confidence grows, that voice gets louder and stronger. The new voice is mine. The journey continues....

*First read in the book by Roger Housden Ten Poems to Change Your Life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stuffing Envelopes

Today I stuffed envelopes for my candidate for state senator. It's easy to do, it doesn't cost me anything to contribute in this way, and I get a chance to meet people who live locally.

I am not from this area. The last place we lived was new to me thirty years ago, but eventually I knew landmarks and locations. We've been here less than two years, so I don't know present or past landmarks. The directions for today were to meet where the laundromat used to be, one town over from where I live. Well, it took me three false starts to find the place.

Once inside, I took a seat at one of two tables. I became part of a production line with four other women ~ folding letters, stuffing envelopes, gluing flaps, and applying address labels, stamps, and return address labels. I picked the talkative table, which suited me just fine, not to talk so much but to listen. I heard about where others were volunteering, what they thought about the election and candidates, what was happening in town, and who knew who. I learned that yoga classes are offered just four miles from my house ~ I had no idea!

Over the course of three hours people left and others joined the effort. A small group was still going strong when I left, hoping for fresh volunteers to help this evening.

Tomorrow I will help with a mailing for my state representative, who is running for re-election. I know where to go because we will meet at the county headquarters. There will be a different group of people, and the conversation will include a more serious critique of the election. I'm sure I will learn something new. In fact, I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Of Railings and Writing

Front view ~ painted railings, posts, and boards under the deck and eaves:

Side view ~ finished outside painting ~ priceless:

We had a glorious fall day yesterday. Sunshine and warm temperatures. I didn't expect such a day, and I took advantage of the gift to tackle what remained of the outside painting. Success! I was able to finish the vertical posts and horizontal boards beneath and eaves and deck. All of the railings and backs to the steps have also been painted. It took me four months ~ I have finished the outside painting. I felt such a sense of accomplishment last night.

Last week my latest post went up at 50-something moms blog: Go Pink: Join An Army of Women. I wrote about my first mammogram experience and the opportunity to join Dr. Susan Love's database of volunteers for breast cancer research.

I haven't been posting as regularly on that site because I wasn't sure how I fit in there. I had a chance to talk with one of the editors Friday afternoon, which helped me clarify in my own mind why I will continue to be a contributor. It matters to me that I am on the right track. She said my perspective will come through whatever I write, and that's what they are looking for. I think I have been laboring too hard over every article. I want to loosen up and enjoy the writing more. My original goal was to write for myself and the women who read that blog; I have no obligations beyond that and didn't think I wanted to write for a wider audience.

This week I am rethinking that. I am curious about how women make money with their writing. I have started investigating where there are places I could write and get paid. It wouldn't amount to much at the beginning, but there may be a way to start. It's just an idea.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Leo Fits In

Leo wraps himself with his tail as he sleeps on "his" box. He hasn't fallen off yet ~

Leo sleeping on Ken's lap ~

Leo has become part of our family. Last night my husband said, "Leo fits right in." The cat has figured out our household schedule and how to make his needs known. He likes canned food in the morning and a nap on his box in the afternoon. Some nights he wants to go bed early, so he meows to go into the garage. Ken gives him dry food before he leaves for work. From the garage Leo hears me when I start moving around in the morning, and he lets me know he's ready to come in.

We weren't looking for a cat and hadn't really considered getting a pet. Leo found us and made us his family. I will always wonder how he knew we were the right family for him.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Clarity Through the Tears

Cold snap. The temperature was 25 degrees at 8:00 this morning.

Clarity snap. For the last three days I've been working out some things that have been trying to come to the surface for weeks.

Things started to shift on August 26, a day that holds significance because it was my friend Marie's birthday. This year it was also the night of Hillary Clinton's speech at the Democratic Convention, an inspiring speech that made me all the sorrier to see an end to her campaign. I climbed into bed that night and all the emotions of the day came pouring out. I sobbed. Ken woke up and wanted to help, but there was nothing for him to do. I needed to cry it out. Loss. Missed opportunities. Grief over what will never be.

Since that night I have been extremely emotional, crying at the drop of a hat. All of a sudden the tears will start, while I'm driving or watching a movie or listening to music. I've been working with my massage therapist around whatever it is that I have been trying to work through.

I've also been working with my acupuncturist. I had an appointment yesterday and told her at the beginning that, after another short breather, the night sweats and anxiety had returned full force in the last week. We talked about what else has been going on with my family and my job search. Once I was on the table she positioned a number of needles in my ears, legs, and hands. Then I had a period of quiet time, which is sometimes filled with mental chatter. Yesterday, though, I silently asked for "the peace that passes all understanding." The phrase came to me this week as a last resort. For weeks when I prepare for sleep I have said "I am at peace," but my mind and body have not taken the bait. I haven't been at peace. So I started asking for the peace I can't understand with my mind, the ultimate peace that comes from the essence of who I am. And that simple request has helped me get to sleep.

When I made the request yesterday the tears started to roll down my cheeks. There was nothing I could do because I had to lay quietly. What was going on? Where was all this emotion coming from? I relaxed. I listened. At the essence of the request for peace that passes all understanding is the acceptance of who I am at my core. I realized that by making that request I acknowledge the real me, not the me I think I have to be. And at that moment I no longer saw myself divided as an outer me and an inner me. I was one.

When the acupuncture treatment was over, I felt calmer, though still emotional. Before she left the room, the therapist asked me if I felt better. I said yes. I did.

I moved through the rest of day feeling like something was working itself out. At the end of the day, while I was taking a shower, another piece fell into place. I have felt for a long time that there is a place inside me that I can't reach. I envision that place as a black box, like the box on a plane that tracks what really happens in the cockpit, the box that holds the secrets. Last night I realized that what I haven't been able to reach is me, the essence of who I am.

The last four years have been a search for that essence. Menopause has not been a time for me to hit my stride or come into my own because I am still sorting out what I am not. I am not the roles I play. I am not all the things I am able to do or all the things I know. I am not who other people say I am or who they need me to be. I am not who I thought I would be.

While I kept trying to reconcile all those things, I needed those things to fall away. While I was trying to replace one role with another, I needed to accept that all roles are false and no role can take the place of who I am.

This morning I revisited chapter 7 in A New Earth for the umpteenth time. Every time I read any chapter in this book I learn something new. It often takes several readings for me to digest a concept. I know what the words means; it takes time for the meaning to sink in.

These words on page 190 became crystal clear today: "Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world. You are withholding it because deep down you think you are small and that you have nothing to give." I have been withholding "me" from the world.

The journey continues....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In This Time of Challenge and Controversy

In 15 days we will elect the next president of the United States. Today Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama. Other prominent Republicans and conservative newspapers and journalists have also endorsed Barack Obama for president. Republicans have publicly asked McCain and Palin to stop making phone calls that spread lies about Obama, to stop the negative ads, and to stop the talk of hate at their rallies.

I decided it was my turn to stand up and say "enough," but I didn't know who to tell. Then Bang the Drum posted a letter on her blog that said exactly what I wanted to say to McCain and Palin. The letter is sponsored by and can be signed here. I signed it and asked not to receive any future emails, and I haven't. I received only a confirmation and a request to share the letter with people I know.

I don't usually fill a post with links or ask readers to do anything other than read what I've written, and I won't do this often, I promise. These are challenging times and there is so much at stake. I needed to do something proactive and wanted to offer you the same opportunity. I do still believe in the best of human nature, but I am not naive enough to think the political climate is going to get any better before or immediately after the election. The more we speak up, the better our chances of surviving these challenging times to thrive as our country moves forward.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Leo, Sarah, and Me

That's Leo Tomcat to you and me. Those of you who thought Leo was a male were right. And not a young male but a mature male of about 12 years old, as close as the vet could figure. Leo weighed in at 7 lbs. 3 oz. The good news is that he doesn't have any feline diseases. The bad news is that the cloudy left eye has a cataract, although you would never know he can't see out of that eye. He needed only a rabies shot and an injection of antibiotics for whatever he might have picked up while he was braving the wild.

The trip to the vet was an adventure in itself. Leo and I drove from our house to my daughter's, and he meowed and hissed the whole trip. My daughter put her cats in the basement and gave Leo the run of her house, where there was so much to see and do! Time to go to the vet, and Leo didn't like that trip in the carrier any better than the first; he meowed loudly until we got into the vet's office. Then there was stunned silence, not so much as a peep from Mr. Leo. We figured he remembers going to the vet and knew what was in store. He behaved beautifully for the vet. Back in the car, Leo returned to his old self and serenaded us all the way home.

Leo is officially our cat now. When a person pays the vet bill and tolerates the wrath that said vet visit incurs, that person owns the cat. Welcome to the family, Leo.

The other noteworthy thing that happened around here yesterday was that Sarah Palin visited Bangor, Maine (pronounced BANG -gor). From her introductory remarks you'd think that all Mainers wear overalls and carry a gun. There were about 4,000 people at the rally, and I hope that's the extent of her support in this state. I am ready for the election to be over and for Sarah Palin to disappear from the news cycle.

I had a chance to talk with my good friend who lives in the Southwest last night. She does the most beautiful job of keeping friends updated with photos of the trips they take, photos that are clearly labeled and organized. I need some lessons on how to use the computer to organize and archive photos, so that's one of the things on our to-do list the next time we get together.

Do you remember when I wrote about applying for the Whirlpool Innovation Grant? Well, I didn't win a prize, but this week Whirlpool sent me a stain removal marker and a certificate of participation. I felt like a third-grader who was out in the first round of the school spelling bee.

Job Update: One letter and one no-email-no-phone-call response about the two jobs I most recently applied for. No go. Not gonna happen. Here's the thing: It would be so much easier to get a job than to try and figure out what to do next on my own. I am hungry for a mandated routine, a list of things to do somewhere besides here, people who share ideas, and a paycheck. If I give up on wanting that, I need to figure out what I want instead. Kate left a link in a comment about the parable of the trapeze, letting go of one to hang in the void while waiting for the next one. It is an apt description of transition and fits how I'm feeling right now. It' s worth a read and can be found at

The journey continues....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Taxes, the Economy, and Politics

I paid our property taxes today. On time. With a check written on our checking account.

When we bought this house, we set up an escrow account with the mortgage company so that they would be responsible for paying our property taxes and homeowner's insurance. Our taxes are due in October and April. Last February I got a notice from our town office that our property taxes, that were due last October, had never been paid. Really? Yes, the mortgage company never paid them. Phone call to the town office. Phone call to the mortgage company. Phone call between the two of them to straighten things out. Arrangements were made for the mortgage company to pay the taxes due and the fines that had accrued over five months. A week later I called the town office to see if they had received payment. No, not yet. More phone calls. To say I was upset was an understatement. Finally, the taxes and fines were paid the first week in March.

Then I took back control of paying our property taxes and homeowner's insurance. What mortgage company, you ask? Countrywide. We didn't start with them, but they took over the company we originally contracted with. Over the last months it has become obvious that Countrywide has more problems than not remembering to pay people's property taxes. I'm not worried about our mortgage because the company has tightened its belt and will continue to do business or sell out to another company.

The thing that upset me the most about the late payment of our property taxes was that the town had not been paid what they were due. I apologized to the person at the town office, although she made the point that it wasn't my fault. I wanted her to know that it was important to me that my bills are paid on time, that I take my responsibilities seriously.

I think of this small incident in the context of the current economic crisis. The devil is in the details. If companies cannot manage the small, routine responsibilities, then how can they expect to deal with major operations? I'm not saying that financial institutions should be micromanaged by outsiders. I am saying that they need to start paying attention to how they do business at the most basic level if they plan to survive this recession.

Our country's economy would be in much better shape if banks, investment firms, insurance companies, mortgage brokers, and the federal government exercised fiscal responsibility. There will be huge fines to pay for this mess. Changes must be made. Companies and chief executives must be held accountable.

In recent weeks Suze Orman has appeared on several talk shows. Her mantra is "people before money." If our financial institutions put people before profits, everyone will benefit. If our government puts people first, our country will be strong again. It means we need to change priorities and policies. We can make those changes if we have the courage to put people first.

After watching the third presidential debate tonight, I have hope for the future. I think Barack Obama has the courage to make the tough choices required to put people first in this country. I think he has the ability to lead us in a new direction. I think he knows it will be hard to do the right thing, but he has the integrity to do the job. He has a vision, and I look forward to watching him make it a reality.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Leo Napping and Other Developments

My daughter took more pictures of Leo:

I'm taking a nap ~
on my box ~
I see you taking my picture ~
and I choose to ignore you~

Leo likes to sit on boxes and rugs, and s/he does both very well.

I appreciated the supportive comments, in a variety of forms, after my last post. Those feelings bubble up periodically. It's either share them or stuff them, and stuffing them only works temporarily. It helps to write the words and reflect on what they mean for me right now. It's good to know that friends don't think I'm crazy. I'm glad I'm not alone.

You heard me and so did the powers that be. Yesterday I got an email from a friend about getting together today for an early dinner. Now we've been trying to get together for six months with no luck. The plans for today easily fell into place. Surprising? Maybe not....

I have a wise friend who is a Leo. I am an Aquarius. I've never studied up on what my astrological sign says about me, but now I'm curious and may investigate further. I've never been in a job that paid a lot of money, though I daydream about hitting the lottery and having the money to set up a foundation to help people start their own businesses. I believe that if I do what I love, enough money will follow. My dilemma is that I need experience to do policy work, and it's tough to get that experience without a job in the field. My degree isn't in policy; it's in community and organizational practice. For many reasons, that made sense at the time, I didn't go for a degree in policy. I wanted to make the connection between people's needs and policy...and I would probably do that again because there's no way to know what's on the other side until you get there.

I do get something back when I volunteer, so I said yes when I was asked to join a local organization's legislative committee. The committee gives input and feedback on the org's legislative agenda. We will meet for an hour once a month, though there may be work to do outside that time frame, and it will keep me updated on what's going on at the State House in Augusta. I have connections with this organization and other non-profit groups through the work I did during my second-year social work internship. I will have a chance to reconnect, as well as meet new people. The first meeting is on Monday, and I'm looking forward to getting started.

Today, between volunteering at the local campaign office and meeting my friend for dinner, I met with the owner of the "sensuality boutique" who expressed interest in IntiMats®. I thought the store was incredibly busy for a Tuesday afternoon. We talked between her chats with customers and ringing up sales. I am honest with anyone I talk to about the product, that I have put out a variety of ideas and will run with whatever sticks. Well, I may have found an idea that will stick. She took three IntiMats® on consignment and is willing to channel back to me any comments she gets. The tags have my email address and etsy site, so people can connect with me if they so desire. This arrangement meant I had to raise the price [to equal what she will charge] on the etsy site, which is fine with me. I may have priced it so low that people didn't think it was anything special.
This is a huge step for me. This means that I am serious about testing the waters of the business world. I have been dancing around the edges of this "pond" for a long time. I don't know what might happen and cannot plan for what I don't know. Big step for me, who likes to have a hand on the controls at all times. This is one more thing to "let go." Many of you understand when I say how scary this is. It's also exciting.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Life Situation and Other Random Things

Look for Six Random Things About Me at the end of this post. Katie at the (re)construction tagged me, so I am following up. All week-end I thought about what random things I can say....

and what I think about my life situation right now. I have been posting pictures and stories about Leo because 1) that's fun and positive, and 2) life has stalled again. I am not where I thought I would be, as in I have to think back three years to find where the last leg of my most recent journey began. Yes, it has been almost exactly three years.... There have been so many twists and turns, each one related to what came before and a precursor to what comes next, that I can't even think about the last three years in one dimension.

Today I thought back over 33 years of life changes that I have been through. The difference each time before was that I felt confident about changing gears and passionate about what I was headed for next: leaving college, planning pregnancies, returning to college, teaching. Sure, along the way I made false starts, but I always caught myself before I was in too deep or unable to change course without dire consequences. Right now it feels like I'm being punished for taking off in a new direction, for having confidence that I would hit my stride and find work that made a difference, even a small difference in my corner of the world. Why did I think I could make this work? Because I was always able to make it work in the past...always.

The irony is that I feel less confident and more self-aware than I have ever felt in my life. Right now I would trade every bit of self-awareness for any amount of confidence; I may still have it, but it is buried so deep that I only experience it in my dreams, where I have been particularly capable and successful lately. I wake up thinking that I like that woman [me] and wonder where she is. The waking hours bring no answers, so I paint and clean and cross projects off my list. I enjoy time with my husband, daughter, and sons, which is good for my soul. Then each one goes back to work, and I question what I am doing with my life.

Time to lighten up with Six Random Things About Me:

1) My first favorite author was Chaim Potok. It all started with The Chosen, which I have read many times, and carried on through the years as I read books he wrote before and after that one.

2) I watch soap operas. It started with All My Children over, dare I admit this, 37 years ago. It made sense that I stay with ABC, so I also follow One Life to Live and General Hospital, though I am most loyal to the citizens of Pine Valley. I can go without watching "my stories," as that previous generation labeled the soaps, but I do catch up when time and schedules allow. Soap operas are great company when I work on projects around the house.

3) I used to write poetry.

4) Sometimes I secretly put sugar on my Cheerios or Special K cereal. It just tastes so good.

5) I still have two boxes to unpack from our move, over a year and a half ago. They live behind the couch, and Leo likes to nap on one of them. [Tomorrow I will post a picture of Leo on the long flat box, and then I pledge to unpack both of them.]

6) I play the lottery. Twice a week I buy a Megabucks and a Powerball ticket. I play specific numbers, and I believe that I am due to hit the jackpot any day now.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Leo: One Week Later

Oh, a catnip toy. The one last week wasn't all that appealing. But wait, this one has a real kick ~

Let me at it ~

Oh, my, I love this catnip pillow ~

I never want to lose this catnip feeling ~
[pillow can be found under the cat, firmly in her grasp...sigh....]

*Photo credit: my daughter, who can laugh and take pictures.
Tonight my daughter and I stopped at a pet store to pick up some items. She picked up two catnip pillows for her cats. When we got back to my house, we unpacked the car and she piled her items near the garage door. Well, Leo just had to check it out. My daughter watched her and brought the catnip pillows upstairs. Then she called me in from the other room. Oh my goodness. The photos above show our found feline in catnip heaven. My daughter tried to remove a pillow from her grasp...and it was the first time we've seen Leo hisssssss. One more thing we've learned about this cat who came into our lives just one week ago....

Leo is still with us. S/he looks better and feels so at home that she doesn't need to keep one of us in her sights every minute. She likes tuna cat food and would eat only that if we didn't sometimes make dry food the only option. She loves cat snacks. We learned she likes milk when she almost knocked us over to follow my empty cereal bowl and Ken's empty ice cream bowl to the kitchen; each time it started innocently enough with her purring on our lap while we had a snack.

Leo has her own space in the garage for eating, sleeping, and using the kitty litter box, a real one that Ken bought yesterday. She recently selected another spot for naps and bathing - on top of a piece of luggage, which I have covered with a towel for her comfort and my need to keep a handle on the cat hair, which is a battle I may well lose. Mid-week she started bathing several times an hour, probably to make up for all that lost time while she was trying to survive whatever adventure she was on for who knows how long. It's funny to watch her start to walk across the room and suddenly sit down to lick some body part.

We haven't had any luck finding Leo's owner. I haven't had a response to the call I placed on Wednesday to the number on the poster for the lost cat two towns over. I did have someone else call when they saw my number posted as someone who found an orange cat, but Leo is not their striped tabby.

I made an appointment for a vet visit next Thursday. Her eye looks better, but I want to make sure it doesn't need treatment. She obviously scuffled with something. She was an indoor cat so she probably needs shots for anything she might have picked up during her outdoor adventure.

If we still have her Thursday, I am going to assume she's ours to keep or find a good home. And considering how she has become part of the household, I think it will be the former.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Phone Calls

The phone did ring this morning. It was the postal clerk from the town with the invisible posters for the lost cat. She apologized for taking so long to call me back, but it took her this long to find a poster with a phone number. I thanked her and wrote down the number. Then I waited until after 9:00 a.m. to call because my mother always said, "Don't phone someone before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m." I left a message on an answering machine. Now I wait some more.

I have another phone call to make. I heard from another store owner that she is interested in learning more about my product. I've stopped by her store twice and missed her both times. Honestly, I had never been in a store called "a sensuality boutique." It is a modestly advertised second-floor store on a busy street in Portland that sells books, gifts, toys, and accessories for adult women. I emailed the owner this week, and she got right back to me. She would like to talk to me about the product and price, which I'm willing to negotiate at this time because I have an inventory that I would like to get "out there." I will call her later today.

I have not gotten a phone call about the job I interviewed for a week ago. It doesn't help to keep rethinking what I said and could have said and shouldn't have said. Second-guessing is never helpful. Things played out the way they were meant to. Interviews are artificial situations that do not really give a true picture of the person who wants the job. Some people are able to put their best selves out there under stress, and some of us struggle through hoping that the interviewer will see some glimmer of what we have to offer. Again, I will wait some more.

I need to make two calls to let companies know I do not want them to share my information with other companies. New privacy policies went into effect October 1. I have to call a credit card company to confirm what I have to do to keep 0% interest on a transferred balance - just want to make sure we have the same understanding so I don't get zapped in January because of some fine print.

Last evening Ken called the credit card company to take the hold off our account [the card that was in his wallet that he left at the post office where the postal clerk called the company to let them know the card was safe]. Well, there was miscommunication there because the company cancelled our account. They are sending us new cards...with a new account number...again. We went through this with this card just months ago when our LLBean credit card changed from this company. We need to apply for the new LLBean card, which I was on the fence about until I wanted to order an item and remembered that I no longer have free shipping.

Well, I've put off vacuuming long enough. I haven't wanted to interrupt Leo, who is napping quietly behind the couch. I will wait a bit longer but at some point I have to make all that noise. If Leo is like my daughter's cats, she will not take kindly to the racket and make a beeline for the furthermost corner of the house. Leo and I have come to an understanding and found a way to co-exist. I don't want the vacuum cleaner to come between us now.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Are You Leo's Owner?

I was tired last night. Just plain worn out. I didn't walk long distances physically, but I travelled quite a few miles yesterday on behalf of lost things.

The morning started with a call to our local post office. Sunday afternoon Ken couldn't find his wallet. Anywhere. He looked throughout the house, and then I went through every room and drawer because I was sure he just didn't see it. Then we searched the garage and car. No luck. He thought back to the last time he had it in his hand...and it was just before noon on Saturday at the post office, just before closing time.

So I made the call when they opened, and sure enough Ken's wallet was there. The woman tried to find him on Saturday. The problem was that she was working with information on Ken's license, which still lists our old address. That led to a call to our old phone number, which is now my daughter's number, and she doesn't have an answering machine. The postal worker went above and beyond - she also called the credit card company to let them know the card was safe and not stolen in case Ken called to cancel the account. Now that's service.

I figured that while I was out and about collecting Ken's wallet I would stop one town over to check out the posters for the lost cat. Problem: there was not a poster to be found. Someone mentioned the posters on Sunday, so where were they? I stopped in at every business that was open. Every person I talked to remembered seeing the posters but could not put their hands on one. One guy said his neighbor lost an orange cat, so I trooped next door to talk to a woman who lost an orange cat this summer, but he did not match Leo's description. The complicating factor is that the posters were for a cat lost in an area about ten miles from my house. However, I did not want to give up in the unlikely event that Leo is that cat.

Back at my house I called the town hall in the lost cat's town. Not open until 1:00 on Monday. I was supposed to meet my daughter at 1:00 when she left her car at a garage near her house. My daughter had called while I was out to say she would meet me there. I called the mechanic to say I would be late and my daughter might be late, but we were coming and not to give her slot away.

At 1:00 I called the lost cat's town hall. Yes, the woman remembered seeing the poster. No, she did not have one there. Someone else in the office said maybe there was one at the post office. I got that number and called there. Not open until 2:00. Small towns have a whole 'nother concept of time. It has taken some getting used to.

I met my daughter at the garage. Her car was already on the rack. The braking system light that comes on is not dangerous but needs to be fixed - the problem is that the mechanic has never seen that numbered code before and isn't sure what it means. We left the car in his capable hands.

Once at my daughter's house we each took a deep breath. It was only 2:00 and we felt like we'd been up for two days. Time for tea.

I called the other town's post office. Again, yes, she knew of the posters for the lost cat. No, she did not have a poster. She knew where one might be, and if she saw it on her way home she would call me and leave the phone number.

I called the humane society where my daughter got her cats. They could help me in a pinch, but I would have to surrender Leo to them for her to get checked out and vaccinated. I thanked the woman I talked to and hoped I could find Leo's owner soon. My daughter and I chatted about how strange things have been lately - missed connections and miscommunication. I did a bit of sewing, and it was time to get her car, which is in good shape but still needs another visit to fix the mysterious code.

Once back at my house, I hoped to find a message from the postal clerk about the poster. No message. What now? I told Ken the story, wracking my brain for any other places I could call. Bingo! In every town there is a "corner store" that everyone frequents. Sure enough, there was a store listed in the phone book. I called, talked to one more lovely woman who wanted to help, had seen the posters, but did not have one there. She went one step further and offered to make a "found cat" poster and list my phone number. Done.

Now I will wait for the dust to settle and the phone to ring.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Harvest Supper '08

The 23rd annual Harvest Supper for the county Democrats was last evening. It was inspiring to be in a room full of like-minded people who are excited about the possibilities for the future of our state and our country.

Before supper there was time to mill about and meet neighbors ~

As well as time to check out the 120+ items available in the silent auction ~

Then it was time for dinner and speeches by local and statewide candidates ~
I will be interested to hear how many people attended the supper, which is one of the two largest fundraisers for the county held each year. I recognized a few people and met a few more. We all had name tags, so I tried to put faces with names of people I have heard mentioned or may have talked to on the phone.
It was the first time I've taken part in a silent auction. Individuals and businesses donated items, services, and gift cards. On a slip of paper beside each item you write your name and bid - and then someone else can leave a higher bid. You know when the auction will close and wait until the last minute to leave what you hope will be the highest bid on your favorite item(s). I had the highest bid on two items: a coffee punch card for 17 cups of coffee at one of my favorite bakeries and a beautiful stoneware platter that I have to forget I have until Ken gives it to me for Christmas.
I donated a basket with four jars of bruschetta toppings and a bag of bagel chips. I valued it at $10.00 and several people bid throughout the evening. The highest bid was $15! Well, the money is for a good cause.
*Leo update: As I write this post, Leo is sitting on my lap. We invited her in to watch a movie with us Saturday night, and she was so well behaved that we have invited her in to visit since then. She still camps out in the garage to eat and sleep. She looks better every day. Someone mentioned there's a sign for a lost cat in the next town over, so I will check that out today. Someone else has circulated an email with Leo's photo to everyone she knows in my town. If no luck, I will call the animal shelter in the city where my daughter lives to see if they will check Leo over. Then we will look for a good home for her. She is a real sweetie who loves to be with people.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Army of Women

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Last week I heard a report about Dr. Susan Love's creation of "an army of women" to help with breast cancer research. The idea is for women to register and become part of a database. Emails that detail the need for women who meet certain criteria (age, locale, background, etc.) will be sent out for women to decide if they want to volunteer to participate, which I understand will be as simple as giving a blood, urine, or tissue sample. I just signed up on Dr. Love's foundation website, which took less than a minute. In the upper right hand corner is a link to "Join the Army." Volunteers are essential for this research to go forward.

This most recent push is to find the causes of breast cancer by studying women who have not had cancer or women who have been cured with no recurrence. Treatment is better than it was thirty years ago. Women are diagnosed earlier than they were thirty years ago. But women still get breast cancer. And women still die from breast cancer.

I will admit that I was weary of the pleas for money - I give a small amount every year to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. This battle against breast cancer has been raging for as long as I can remember. What good does my $20 really do? I was feeling useless this year.

Then three things happened:

1) I saw breast cancer survivors on Oprah, women who were diagnosed, treated, and determined to help other women. Who am I to question what will help or not help when these women have fought for their lives and continue to fight for the lives of other women? Who am I to take my health for granted when I may be able to help other women in some small way?

2) I saw Dr. Susan Love speak on a morning show about her "army of women." I was interested. There might be a way little ol' me can help with research? Sign me up.

3) Elaine, over at WiseWomenCoffeeChat, walked 60 miles this week-end to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Elaine has raised over $5,000 for breast cancer research. Anne wrote a post about Elaine's walk here. I stopped over and left a comment to thank her for reminding me that there is something each one of us can do in this quest to find the cause(s) of breast cancer so the next generation does not have to lose mothers, daughters, lovers, and friends to this disease.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Stray Cat

A stray cat has wandered into my life ~

Last night Ken and I settled in to watch The Colbert Report online.

Ken: There's a cat on the porch.
Me: What?
Ken: There's a cat on the porch.
Me: What kind of cat?
Ken: A regular cat...looking at me through the window in the door.
Me: You're kidding....No, you're not kidding. Where did a cat come from?
[We have one neighbor on one side and no houses within sight in any other direction. This cat walked 150 feet up from the road, climbed a full set of stairs, and walked the length of the porch to sit in front of the door to our living room.]
Ken: I don't know.
Me: What should we do?

What followed was a conversation about whether to go outside or stay inside and hope it went away. We did the latter while the cat made itself at home on the mat in front of the door. We watched our show and s/he stayed put.

Our son appeared, headed for the porch to send a text message on his phone [remember that we get no cell reception inside and reception outside in one corner of the porch]. His reaction was much the same as ours. He volunteered to go outside to check out the cat. Turns out the cat was friendly and wore a flea collar.

Me: Well, let me call the neighbor to see if it's theirs [I called and left a message]. It's too late to call animal control.
Ken: I don't want that cat in the house.
Me: Okay. I don't think that would be a good idea, either.
Son: Well, what are you going to do?
Me: It's not safe to leave it outside because there are fisher cats in this area [we learned today that there are also coyotes]. We could put it in the garage [which is attached to the house and heated]. Son, why don't you walk it down to the garage.

I wish I had a video of what happened next. Our son walked across the porch, down the stairs, and around to the garage door, and the cat followed right behind. We got the cat into the garage and then talked about what to do next. I thought it was probably hungry, so I opened cat snacks I just bought for my daughter's cats [Not to worry Iz and Beaz, I will get more]. The cat lapped a few tidbits right up, purring the whole time. Then it meeoowwed. I gave it more snacks. Then I shared bits of chicken left over from dinner and put down a bowl of water. The cat stretched and my son saw it was declawed. One eye looks clouded over and there are patches of matted fur under its chin. But friendly! The cat comes right up and rubs your leg. It purrs at the sight of a human. We decided s/he is probably a housecat.

My son put a piece of wool fabric over the rug by the garage door. I needed a name because it didn't feel right to keep calling the cat It. I decided on Leo, which works for Leona or Leonard. We came into the house for the night.

I thought about all we know and wondered about all we don't. Since Leo is probably an inside cat, s/he knows how to use a litter box. Ah, something else Leo needs. I found a box and Speedy Dry, which Ken uses for spills at work, and set up a litter box. Again, I told Leo good night.

This morning I talked to the animal control officer, who told me the local shelter will be under quarantine for at least another week due to an outbreak of something contagious . He could take the cat to a shelter further away, but I told him I'd check around in the next few days to see if I can find the owner. I took Leo a bit of tuna and assured her [I keep thinking of Leo as a she] that we will keep her until we find her a home.

She'd love to come inside and did skitter in while we loading the car for the recycling barn. She walked right through the downstairs like she knew where she was going. Fortunately, she doesn't mind being picked up. I don't think she really minds the garage but wants to be near people.

Then we took Leo's photo to half a dozen places in town to see if anyone recognized her. No takers. I bought dry cat food.

When we got home she was waiting by the garage door, sitting quietly on her haunches on the piece of wool. I petted her and gave her dry food, which she ate right up. I think she's been hungry for awhile. In petting her and picking her up I realized how thin she is under her fur. She doesn't looked well cared for, or she may have been left alone for a period of time.

[While we were gone our neighbor called to say their cats are all accounted for.]

Whatever her story, Leo will be with us for a few days. She's gentle, personable, and obviously starved for food and attention. Ken and I don't want to own a cat right now, or we would keep her. She would be the perfect pet for a nursing home because of her temperament.

I have never had a stray cat find me before. In fact, I have always been suspicious when someone told me a cat "found" them. Really? How does that happen exactly? Well, now I know, and I live in the middle of nowhere.

Friday, October 3, 2008


My daughter found a magazine ad that starts:

Greetings from Menopauseland!
What a wild ride so far! Smooth, beautifully paved stretches of road followed by some nasty bumps and potholes, and back to smooth all over again....

That ad came to mind yesterday when I realized I was again on a stretch of road with nasty bumps and potholes. I appreciate the smooth stretches, although they never last long enough. It takes me a week or so to realize I'm back in pothole territory - sleeplessness and night sweats for more than a few nights in a row indicate the terrain has changed.

I had a reprieve on smooth road before and during my trip south. A break in the routine always helps, and travelling to a different place for a week is the best remedy. Then I got home and needed a few days to get back into the routine here. Consciously, I felt good about the trip; subconsciously, I now know I have been working some things out. I was home for a short time when the sleeplessness, night sweats, and hot flashes started again. I kept hoping it was just a blip, but it's been almost two weeks.

Being on this stretch of road came to light yesterday during my appointment for massage therapy. We always start my monthly appointment by talking about what's been going on for me and how my body is doing. Yesterday I shared stories about my trip, time with family, and my interview.

The woman I see for massage therapy is amazing. She has extensive training in a variety of areas and a sense about the connection between people's bodies and their lives. She has known me for almost ten years and is always right on about what is going on with my body.

We talked yesterday about my journey to where I lived as a child and how I am trying to help my mom with her transition. We talked about how the changes we make in ourselves affect the people around us and the energy it takes to be a channel for change. She wondered out loud if my body is ridding itself of "old stuff" with the heat it's emitting. I agreed. I reminded myself that this is a process that will take a long time, even though I have been here many times before and think I am ready to move on.

We talked about fear, how humans still feel fear even though it's often not needed for survival, and how we can overcome the fear by acknowledging it's there and going forward anyway. I thought about how unsure of myself I was during the interview, and then I gave myself credit for doing it anyway. I will never know what's possible if I don't give myself a chance to find out.

I talked about a place in me that I can't get to, that feels like it holds things I need to know. Years ago a counselor likened therapy to peeling an onion, one layer at a time. I get flashes of self-knowledge, and I pay attention because each is a piece of the puzzle. Massage therapy helps me body process the changes I'm going through and makes me aware of the connections between how my body feels and what I know. The combination helps me "be" who I am.

Massage yesterday focused on my abdomen, hips, and legs. The abdominal area "holds" family, security, beginnings. My right hip was a bit off, which was making my neck hurt. The muscles in my legs have been tight the last few months, and they loosen up more easily with each treatment; my legs ground me and help me move forward. I felt better afterward - I always do.

Yesterday afternoon I was the most relaxed I've been in two weeks. I spent time at my daughter's house while my car was at the garage for a new oil pan. I walked two miles and kept moving throughout the afternoon. I was able to get two projects finished.

While my body was busy I was able to think more clearly about Wednesday's interview. Later I revisited the job description that had me so excited about the position. The questions I was asked focused on just one aspect of the job, while the ad lists meeting with established groups of stakeholders around the state and working with schools to develop a protocol for identifying students who would benefit from available services. I took a deep breath. Last night I emailed the woman I met with to thank her for the opportunity to interview for the job and acknowledged that it will be an exciting 18 months for the person who gets the job. When I told my son, he said it sounds as if I'd like to have the job. I think he's right.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Another Soggy Wednesday

This just in: Maine had the wettest September on record since 1871. And October started amidst the raindrops.

Because it was so gray today, for my interview I wore the brightest blazer I own. The blazer is a shade of red that's more on the coral side than the fire engine side. I feel good when I wear it. I paired it with a white long-sleeved jewel-neck shirt. Then I donned black slacks and my favorite beaded necklace.

I was as ready as I could be. I asked someone to read the job description and share her impressions; I used her insights and questions to prepare for the interview. I reviewed the organization's website and, in my mind, made connections to other projects and organizations I have worked with.

The interview was in the same building complex I worked in last year, which made it easy to get there and find parking. I was greeted by a receptionist behind a solid glass window, and she called the woman who had scheduled the interview. We proceeded through a door, that opened with a security code, to the "pink wing" where the rooms have been painted different shades of pink to bring some color to the maze of small office spaces. We went into a small room painted a deep rose color, just big enough for a round table that seats four people.

Small talk. Then the first question: Do I have a reliable car? Yes, I do. Why? Because this job requires miles and miles of travel all over the state of Maine. To put that in perspective - I live an hour and a half from the southern border of Maine and at least six hours from the northernmost border. That's not to say I would need to drive that far, but she mentioned towns that are four hours from my house.

The interview continued with a number of questions about how I would go into a community, one that I have never visited and where I know no one, and start a youth advisory group. Those are tough questions to answer. It's one thing to have connections and a place to begin. It's another thing to start cold calling to ask community members to recommend young people who may (or may not) be interested in joining an effort to create a group to advise adults on the mental health needs of youth.

I was asked questions based on situations the interviewer has faced herself. I answered the best I could. She has already faced these situations. She already knows what she did when she was faced with disgruntled community members and schedule conflicts.

It was my turn to ask questions, and I asked if she and I would be working together. Ummmm... not so much. She is juggling multiple projects and wants someone else to manage this grant. We would have a chance to talk, but for the most part the person hired for this job will be working on their own.

Well, this wasn't exactly what I had in mind. I'm looking for a job where I am part of a team. I want to share ideas and work with other people toward a common goal. I am disappointed that this is not part of this job.

My son was the first person home this evening. He asked me how the interview went, and I explained to him what I have written here. Then I asked him if he could see me doing a job like that. He said he only knows me as a teacher, so he really doesn't know.... Then he asked me if I would take the job if it was offered to me, and I didn't know how to answer him.

I have no way of knowing who else was interviewed or what their qualifications are. This grant project was supposed to begin two months ago, so time is short. The person hired needs to hit the ground running. The person who interviewed me has had things happen in her personal life that will push back hiring someone until next week, at the earliest. Would I take the job if it was offered to me?

I really don't know. This is not what I want to do, and it would be an 18-month commitment. There aren't that many openings for the kind of work I want to do, so would it be wise to pass up any opportunity to work in the social service field? I will put that question out to the universe if an offer comes my way.

After the job interview I met with the store owner who is interested in carrying my product in her store. That was the best part of my day - talking product development with someone who wants to work with me. That's what I want to do. Maybe that's the answer. It's not a paycheck, but it does fulfill my wish to work with people toward a common goal. It would be wonderful to be paid for the work I love to do. Maybe that's not meant to be right now....