Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Color On a Background of White

By tonight we will have another foot of snow on the ground. We have hung Ken's stained glass in windows where we can most enjoy the color, in contrast to the world of white outside. It has been many years since Ken has worked with stained glass, but he has a work bench in the garage where he can pick up this hobby again when he has time.

One of the first pieces he made was The Cat, which now hangs in the window by the kitchen table~

Ken made this beautiful butterfly for Aunt Kate, which she enjoyed in her kitchen window. It now hangs in our family room window beside the treadmill ~

The white-sailed schooner hangs in the other window in the family room ~

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This Blogging Thing

Ten days ago a blogging friend, Starrlife at Life Decanted, wrote a post about making friends through blogging. I've read it several times, and it touches my heart every time. I know what she means. I, too, have made friends through blogging.

I have tried to explain blogging to people who do not blog. Last fall I mentioned it to the woman I see for acupuncture, and she said she'd never read a blog. I said, well, she had a lot going on in her life, while I was glad to make friends with other women online. It was an emotional disclosure. I hadn't realized how lonely I was.

Sunday a week ago I called my mother to let her know about my son's engagement. I told her that I knew she didn't read my blog, where I made the announcement, so I wanted her to hear the news from me. She said she just didn't get to the computer much. I had hoped that this space would be a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and it works some of the time with some people.

The unexpected result of writing here has been making friends with women who have been willing to share their experiences and encouragement. I can't imagine my life without these relationships. There are days when I don't talk to another person, but I can always connect with other women online. These connections have been a lifeline during a time of prolonged transition, a time of change that I didn't anticipate and haven't always handled well.

I awoke this morning to cold temperatures and a list of things that needed to get done. I started the coffee, fed the cat, and sat down at the computer. There were new comments on my latest post ~ connection, understanding, validation. I could do what I had to do. It was a new day and I was not alone.

Thank you to all who visit here. I appreciate your presence and support more than I can express.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oprah, Caroline, and Michelle

I live my life in relative anonymity. In the past two years I have been attempting to find a place in my post-children, post-menopause world. I have made mistakes and false starts, and I have had days where it was all I could do to get out of bed. I have had the luxury of facing these changes and challenges in the privacy of my own home. People only know what I choose to share, if and when I decide to share the details.

Not so for Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, and Michelle Obama.

I give Oprah credit for telling it like it is. She started this year with an article in her magazine and an interview on her show about her weight gain. Oprah is 50+ and menopausal, like millions of women who watch her show. Unlike most women, Oprah has a team of health professionals to call on; she has invited them into her studio to work with her on behalf of other women in the same situation. Oprah may be disappointed with herself, but she is not giving up.

I give Caroline Kennedy credit for throwing her hat in the ring for consideration as senator of New York. She is a lawyer, author, fund-raiser, wife, and mother. She has spent the last two decades out of the limelight, working and taking care of her family. She decided to test the political waters, which turned out to be cold and full of sharks. There was no way for her to know what the result would be, but she took the risk anyway.

I give Michelle Obama credit for her sense of style and the confidence with which she has taken on the role of First Lady. Until two years ago she was a working professional, wife, and mother. Then she put her husband's aspirations for the presidency ahead of everything else. Michelle went on the road to campaign for her husband, while her mother moved in to help with the children. I don't know what Michelle anticipated her life with Barack would be, when they married sixteen years ago. I doubt she planned a move to the White House when she was 45 years old; she lives there now and looks like she can handle anything that comes her way.

Oprah, Caroline, and Michelle are women in the prime of their life. I admire their grace and courage as they make changes and take risks while the world looks on. They are extraordinary role models for women of all ages. If they can face mid-life in the public eye, surely I can manage the changes I face in my own life.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Of Doors, Drinks, and Digital TV

I am on a post-inauguration high. It feels as if anything is possible.

My doors look great. Ken commented on how white they look. In addition to a fresh coat of white on the flat surfaces, I painted the edges where the front and back meet the edge. What a difference that made.

As I mentioned last Friday, Ken made me a whiskey sour. We hadn't had whiskey or sour mix in the house for many years. We were joking over the holidays about the drinks we used to order in our younger days, and the story sparked a gift idea for Ken's birthday.

The television saga continues. Ken made an antenna that will pick up the digital signal for PBS and CBS, if we hook it up in the house. Last week-end he took it outside and hooked it up in place of our analog antenna. No reception inside. We want to try it in a variety of positions on the porch and deck to see if the location matters. The idea is to figure this out before we actually invest money in a digital antenna. Time is growing short. We lose the analog signal on February 17. The Academy Awards will be telecast on February 22.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Simple Gifts

Elsewhere, much has already been said and written about President Obama's inaugural speech. His original presentation was flawless. Then I read the text, and I've heard excerpts throughout the afternoon and evening. I am sure I will read it again several times because it seems like more of a blueprint for the coming months than a one-shot deal. The new president told it like it is. I expect he will continue to remind us where we are and what we need to do to get where we're going.

In addition to the speech, there were two highlights of the day for me.

The second runner-up was the appearance of President and Mrs. Obama as they left their car and walked up Pennsylvania Avenue. With style and presence, the couple smiled and waved at the throngs of people who lined the Avenue.

The first runner-up, tied with the speech really, was the performance of "Air and Simple Gifts" by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, a clarinetist, and a pianist. While the piece was a new arrangement by John Williams, the essence was a Shaker hymn called "Simple Gifts." The words I remember came immediately to mind. The broad smile on Yo Yo Ma's face mirrored how I was feeling today. I pray that the words of the hymn portend where we are headed as a country:

Simple Gifts
'Tis the gift to be simple,
'Tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
it will be in the valley of Love and Delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
to bow and to bend we will not be ashamed,
To turn and to turn will be our delight,
'till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

With a lot of hard work, and by the grace of God, may we come 'round right.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shoveling Out

I celebrated Martin Luther King Day this year under a blanket of snow, a result of the largest snowfall we've had in over two years. It was perhaps the best way to celebrate today and think about tomorrow's historic inauguration ~ outside, in the quiet sunshine, shoveling the fluffy frozen crystals. My first task was to free the mailbox, buried by repeated passes of the snow plow; the mail carrier will not leave mail if s/he cannot drive right up to make the delivery:

I needed to uncover my car. I've been parking outside since I put studded tires on the car because I don't want to damage the concrete floor in the garage. I'm ready to rethink that decision:
I started for the deck, but I couldn't find the steps until I started shoveling:

Once at the top, this was the scene behind me in the side yard. Charlie, my mother's husband, made those wind chimes for my mom. She gave the chimes to us because Charlie says they're too noisy. That is "West Virginia" painted in blue:
Ken used the snow blower to clear out the driveway last evening. He estimated we had 15" of snow, and it was still coming down. This morning I measured 20" on the deck:

It took me almost an hour to clear this half of the deck. That is our analog antenna, which will be obsolete in 29 days:

I will finish shoveling tomorrow, before the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I want to see him take the oath of office. I want to hear his speech. I want to honor this light at the end of eight long years as the people of America get their country back.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An Engaging Week-end

I interrupt regularly scheduled posting to bring you this special announcement: my oldest son is engaged to be married. Today, on the snow-covered bank of the Charles River, he proposed to his girlfriend of three years, and she said yes.

Ken and I are delighted.

We first met C almost three years ago, when P brought her home for a week-end. I had had a busy week, and I was feeling frazzled when I picked them up at the bus station. P greeted me with, "Be nice, Mom. I really like this girl." I will never forget that ~ he was nervous. He had no reason to worry. We liked each other from the start.

Welcome to our family, C.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Plans, Part 2

On Wednesday I removed doorknobs from all seven interior doors in our house. I washed both sides of each door and taped all the hinges. Then I donned my paint clothes: jeans + my oldest son's cast off Arizona shirt + my daughter's oversized Champion sweatshirt. I was ready to paint. By Wednesday night I had finished the first coat.

Thursday morning I started again. I donned my paint clothes. There were places to recoat, and I found other spots of woodwork to prime and paint. I had two kinds of paint open, a roller in a paint pan, and two more brushes at the ready. Mid-afternoon I took a break to walk on the treadmill....

and the phone rang. It was my daughter. What was I doing for dinner? Well, with Ken out of town and little in the fridge or cupboard, I was having leftover quiche and morning glory muffins made with my last two eggs. That sounds good, she said. So I told her to come ahead.

Dinner was delicious. I made a pot of coffee. We were glad to have the time to visit and catch up....

and the phone rang. It was Ken. He was on his way home! He would be home on Friday! I calmly explained that there was no food here and he should grab a bite on his way home or plan to heat up a can of soup. He said that was fine and he would be home in less than an hour.

I still had painting to finish and cleaning up to do. My daughter left, my husband heated up a can of soup, and I went back to work.

It was okay that doors were still apart and paint cans were still open. It didn't matter that I didn't have time to vacuum up paint chips. Ken was exhausted and just glad to be home.

I finished cleaning up before I went to bed last night. I had made plans to run errands with a friend this morning. We delayed our start time to 10:00 when we woke to find the thermometer at -25 degrees. We had a good talk over our free mocha from McDonald's, and the rest of the errands went smoothly.

Meanwhile, Ken enjoyed a quiet morning at home with Leo and a week's worth of newspapers. We went out for a late lunch. As I write this Ken is making shepherd's pie for dinner, possible because he made a trip to the grocery store for milk and hamburger. He just served me a whiskey sour....

Lessons from this week:
Plans change.

I can follow through with what I want to do regardless of what happens with Ken's schedule.

If I let go of what I thought what would happen and enjoy what does happen, I am much happier.

A surprise whiskey sour is very tasty.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Plans? What Plans?

For almost 23 years my husband has had a job, as an elevator mechanic, where he knows just week to week, and sometimes only day to day, where he will be working in Maine and/or New Hampshire. When he started working for this company, a good company to work for, our daughter was in kindergarten and our son was in nursery school. The next fall, when both children were in school, it became obvious that I would be the primary parent in all things child and school related. Ken's refrain became, "I will be there if I'm home."

The trade-off for a job he loves, and that provides for his family, is that Ken has little control over where he will be working on any given day. This is not a problem when he has specific plans in place for an appointment or vacation, but it's tricky when we try to think a few days ahead based on where he thinks he will be working that week. Ken is in regular contact with the office, where schedules are set for work that needs to be done and repairs that need to be made. There is always a conversation about how to move about the countryside in the most efficient way, as Ken goes from one job to the next. The schedule needs a certain amount of flexibility to accommodate repairs that need to be made with only a day or two of notice.

There is one person left out of the loop. Me. The funny thing is that after all these years I still think there's a chance we will be able to make and execute plans. Just a chance. Nothing for sure.

This week Ken was headed out of town Tuesday morning with plans to return Thursday night, when we talked about going to the local diner for dinner. He called yesterday to say he was coming home last night. Okay. He called later in the evening to ask if I wanted to meet him for dinner. No, I had already made plans for dinner, and I thought we were going out later in the week. Ken got home last night and we had dinner at 8:00, during which he tells me that now the plans are for him to work out of town through Friday....

The irony is that these changes in plans had less of an impact on my life when the kids were at home and I was working or taking classes. I had obligations and a routine. Now it's up to me to set my own schedule. At the beginning of the week I have an idea of what I need to do and want to get accomplished. I take into consideration when Ken will be home because there are things we like to do together, and there are things I like to do when I have the house to myself.

Like painting. With this most recent change in plans I have a block of time to paint interior doors. I've been putting it off because it requires the removal of doorknobs, taping of hinges, and washing of surfaces before I even get to the painting. There are seven doors, fourteen sides. Several hours of work.

But, hey, it turns out I have some time this week.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Looking For Balance

My "boys from Boston" were home for part of the week-end. No, I don't mean the Red Sox. I am talking about my sons ~ P, who lives and works there, and T, who is back at Northeastern for the spring semester. They came home because they had fun things to do, and they left after dinner on Saturday. That left enough time for us to visit and catch up.

Thoughts about the week-end crossed my mind this morning as I started my day in this quiet house.

What was it about the last three days that felt just right? It was the balance of time with family, time with Ken, and time alone.

Balance was an important ingredient of life when all the kids lived at home. It took work to achieve, but I was at my best when my routine included a mix of time with family and friends, and time alone.

In the past year I haven't been able to find the same balance of time with other people and time by myself. There have been days in the past month when I have felt extreme annoyance, with myself and others, for no apparent reason.

I think now that the problem is a lack of balance. I want to hold onto that thought and see what comes to me about how to bring balance back into my life.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Down and Out

The Christmas tree is now on the porch, as lovely as the first day we put it up ~

Leo couldn't find a place out of the way all morning with all the dedecorating, moving of furniture, and vacuuming goin' on ~

I took the tree down this morning, with (not) Leo's help. The tree was still fresh after two and a half weeks, so there were few needles to corral. It was nice to leave it up after New Year's. Ken and I enjoyed the lights every evening this week.

Every thing I went to do, there was Leo. He was under foot when I hefted boxes. He sat down right between me and the box for ornaments when my route between the two became obvious. He went up and down the steps as I put things away in the garage. Then he wanted to go out when I put the tree on the porch. A helper he is not.

It feels natural that it's 2009. I haven't once dated anything 2008. I have hope for this year, so it's nice that it's finally here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lars and Vegas

In the past month I have seen two movies, compliments of Netflix, that have given me two questions to ponder this year.

In early December I read Elaine's post, followed by positive comments, about Lars and the Real Girl. When it was in theaters I saw previews but wasn't sure what to think. I asked Ken if he was game to watch it, and he said sure. I ordered it up, and we watched it the first chance we got. I was not disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed this endearing, humorous, sensitive movie. I agree with Cindy when she said it's about community. The characters in the film care about, and take care of, each other. This is a movie I will watch again.

I know a movie has made an impression when the message stays with me. My first question for the year is, "What is real?" I am paying attention to my perceptions of a situation, my reactions, and my feelings at any point in time in terms of what is real. I remember Lars and his coping strategies. I think about his family and neighbors. It has helped me put things in perspective.

The second movie that offered a question for me to ponder this year couldn't be more different from the first. New Year's Eve, for the fun of it, Ken and I watched What Happens in Vegas. The previews foretold silliness and slapstick humor, which carried on for most of the movie. The poignant question was posed near the end, when Ashton Kutcher's character asks Cameron Diaz, "When was the last time you were happy?" It obviously gives her a lot to think about as she remembers when and where she last felt happy, completely content with where she was and what she was doing.

That question was like a splash of cold water for me. When was I last happy? 2006. That was the year I turned 50, my son P graduated from college, my son T graduated from high school, and Ken and I traveled to San Francisco. Celebrations. Dreams fulfilled. My sense of myself was secure. I knew who I was and what I wanted. That fall I returned to classes, and even though I was disappointed in the program, I knew I would get what I needed because I knew what I wanted.

My second question for this year is, "What makes me happy?" I am starting slowly. I have made my bed a worry-free zone. At night I concentrate on how the sheets feel and how my body is relaxing. When I wake up, I listen to the house sounds, see what the weather is doing outside, and plan to do one thing that will make me happy that day.

My questions for the year: What is real? What makes me happy? One week into the new year I feel like I am on the right track.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


*Note: My latest post is up at 50-something moms blog ~ Scrapbooks, Photo Albums, and Memories.

On New Year's Day, my husband, son, and I finished a puzzle we started before Christmas. Ken and I bought this puzzle the year we were married.

Two days later we started another puzzle and made the mistake of leaving the box of pieces where Leo could make himself comfortable.
Once we cleared away the kitty, we could continue work on the puzzle.

The timing for this activity is perfect. When I work on a puzzle, I have something specific to focus on. I relax. My mind changes gears as I pay attention to the details of the pieces, taking in color, size, and shape. I survey what is completed and decide where to go next.

As in creating a life, constructing a puzzle is done a bit at a time. It's hard to see the entire picture until most of the pieces are in place. It takes time, patience, and a willingness to make changes when pieces don't fit quite right. There is a feeling of satisfaction when the picture comes into focus.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Two Miles

Since we bought the treadmill in mid-November, my goal has been to walk two miles in 30 minutes. I almost made it this morning, two miles in 30:34. The flat 30:00 was the norm when I walked at the gym 3-4 years ago so I know I can do it. It takes a steady speed of at least 4 miles an hour. Once I'm comfortable with that I will increase the incline, which makes the walk more of a workout.

This afternoon I will add crunches and a short workout with 3-pound weights to my routine.

This is the year to establish the habits that I will need for the rest of my life. Before menopause I could manage my body shape through diet. That is no longer the case, and I refuse to get comfortable with feeling frumpy. I want to feel strong. That's going to take some work at this point in my life.

Like so many other changes in recent years, I have a spent a good amount of time lamenting how my body used to look and feel. That didn't get me anywhere, so I've decided to get serious about what I really want. I have admitted that exercise needs to become part of my daily routine. It's not my first choice, but it's become obvious that it's the only way to get the results I want.

I know there are health benefits from regular exercise. Surprisingly, that did not act as much of an incentive. Jeans feeling a bit tighter did the trick. I know holiday treats contributed to the problem, but I don't want to have to stop eating cookies and other treats. I love homemade cookies! and pies! and muffins! Cutting out all those goodies would be the worst form of denial, which I hope to avoid.

Hmmm...a sugar cookie would taste good, but I think I'll dig out the weights first.

Friday, January 2, 2009

What Is My Tractor?

My husband wants a tractor. He has already picked out the John Deere he wants to own, as well as the attachments he wants to haul boulders and blow snow. He makes regular visits to the John Deere website and various dealers around New England. He is saving money for his purchase at some future date.

I have been racking my brain to think of anything I want as much as he wants that tractor. I keep coming up empty.

Today I was talking to a friend about trying to figure this out. I said the words I've said before, that the things I wanted most in life were a home and a family...and then my voice caught and I paused. A thought came clear. When we moved to this new house, my husband decided he needed a tractor. For me, the move to this house marked the loss of the house I had made a home for 30 years, the place where I brought my babies home to grow up.

My friend said that it sounded like that dream became a reality, whose time has now passed.

She's right. I realized my dream and attained what I most wanted in life.

She said that it's time for a new dream. I told her I have been trying to make room for something new but that nothing comes to me. She said that it will, that it takes time, that sometimes we have to sit with the emptiness and wait. I said I have been waiting. She agreed, smiled, and said it will take more time. There is little I can do but continue to wait.

I wish I wanted a tractor....