Monday, April 27, 2009

25 Signatures

Two and a half weeks ago Punditmom wrote a post about how the time has come for more women to get involved in politics at all levels. I wondered how to make that happen.

I need to be more careful about the questions I ask.

One week later I got a phone call from a neighbor who asked me to think about running for our town's select board, which is similar to a town council. There are three people on the board who serve for three-year terms. The person whose term is up this year decided not to run again. No one had taken out papers to collect signatures to get on the ballot, with only ten days to go to the filing deadline. I told my neighbor I would think about it.

I thought long and hard. I never intended to run for office. I would like to get to know more of my neighbors and learn more about my town. I have the time and energy for public service. I decided some time ago that, whenever possible, I will say yes when opportunities present themselves.

I didn't have one good reason to say no. I went to town hall and got the necessary papers, and my neighbor helped me collect the 25 signatures needed. I filed the papers with the town clerk, and on June 9 my name will appear on the ballot. I am running unopposed, so chances are good I will win.

This wasn't the job I was looking for, and I'm still looking for gainful employment. Whatever happens, this will be an experience. If nothing else, I will learn about town government. I also hope to learn how to not take things so personally. Who knows what comes next....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Just Breathe

Once a month I have a massage.

I learned the hard way about the benefits of massage therapy almost fifteen years ago. My neck was so stiff I couldn't turn my head, my hips were out of alignment, and my anxiety level was at an all-time high. I noticed a difference after my first session with a therapist, and over the next several months I found that massage was good for my body, mind, and spirit. Massage therapy became part of my health maintenance plan.

I have been seeing my current massage therapist for ten years. We know a lot about each other, and she knows my body as well as I do. We start each session with a conversation about what's new and how my body has been feeling.

On Friday I told her my shoulders were stiff and my lower back ached.

She asked about my breathing.

I told her that I caught myself holding my breath.

She said that when we deny our bodies oxygen things get stuck and energy can't flow. Her suggestion was to get the energy moving again. By the time she was finished, my shoulders felt better and my back didn't hurt.

I took a few deep breaths and felt my entire body relax.

My task since the massage has been to keep my breath flowing and the energy moving. It's easiest to do before I go to sleep at night and when I wake up in the morning. I lay in bed and focus on breathing in and out. The challenge is to continue the process throughout the day, and the reward is to feel better all over.

At the top of my to-do list this week-end has been a simple thing that makes a big difference ~ remember to breathe.

This experience reminded me of one of my favorite songs of 2004,
Breathe (2 AM) by Anna Nalick. The chorus has been running through my mind:

Cause you can't jump the track, we're like cars on a cable
And life's like an hourglass glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button, girl
So cradle your head in your hands
And breathe...just breathe.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sitting Pretty

The cats miss you as much as you miss them, K. This one is for you.
Beazlie has claimed the futon. The photo is a bit blurry. You get the idea that she is content, and this is before she was served her lunch ~
Izabelle's perch of choice is the front window. She looks rather regal ~

I took more pics but they were all blurry due to cats in motion. These photos serve as proof that they are alive and well ~ and awaiting your return.

Friends Near And Far

It started a couple weeks ago ~ the unexpected phone calls, invitations for coffee, spur-of-the-moment lunches in my kitchen, and opportunities to walk and talk. How did friends from near and far get the message that I needed to hear from them? How did they know I needed to talk with the people who know me best? What prompted them to touch base when they did?

Someone said to me recently that we forget to ask for what we need. I didn't know what I needed or what would help. My friends knew.

As I lay in bed last night thinking about recent events, I thought about how grateful I am to have these women in my life. We care about each other, regardless of the time between visits or chats on the phone.

These friendships over time and distance are part of my new normal.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nashua, New Hampshire

My daughter is on an obstetrics rotation in Nashua this month. She knew when she received her schedule that she would have only one week-end where she wasn't on call, so that's when I planned to go for a visit. The hospital provides an apartment in a building that used to be a mill. In New England it is not unusual to see old mills repurposed as commercial or living spaces. This apartment building is a great example of what's possible ~

The old clocktower is something to behold ~
Once inside there is little to indicate the building's origins, except for this piece of stairway inside the front door ~
I had a wonderful time. We enjoyed good food, explored stores on Main Street, and window-shopped at an enormous mall. The change of scene was welcome, as was the warm hospitality. Thanks for having me, K.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fresh Air And A Friend

Yesterday a friend met me at the Kennebec River Rail Trail to take a walk on a cool spring day. She lives an hour and a half in the opposite direction, so occasionally we meet somewhere in between.

She greeted me with a hug and compliments on my hair, which she hadn't seen yet. Years ago she was my stylist, so I was curious what she would think.

We started walking and talking about what's new in our lives. I talked and she listened. She talked and I listened. We have both hit a rough patch. While we can't change what's going on, we can share and listen and hear how the other person feels. I don't understand exactly how that helps, but it does. When a friend hears me, the weight of the world is a bit easier to bear.

Near the end of our walk my friend saw two women she knows. They said hello and chatted a moment. Then one of the women looked at me and said, "This is your sister." [Did I mention that I am old enough to be her mother?] I smiled and said I was a friend.

We parted with a hug and the promise to talk soon.

It makes a difference to have her support, as it has helped to have the support of every one of you who has given me a "virtual" hug. Thank you. I needed that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Walk It

This morning I walked two miles on the treadmill in 28 minutes 57 seconds, my best time to date.

I am not hungry. Hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia have returned after a two-month hiatus. I feel exhausted.

Later in the day I drove to the post office in a nearby town. Then I walked some more, outside in the sunny 60-degree weather.

When all else fails, by golly, I can walk.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Week-end

Seven years ago this March my daughter K was in her final semester at Russell Sage College in Troy, NY. She was driving home for spring break when she was involved in an accident that totalled her car. As soon as we got the news, Ken drove the three hours to get her. Thankfully she was released from the hospital to continue out-patient treatment from home. At the time our son T was in 8th grade. Our son P was in his first year at Wentworth in Boston, and I still have the email he sent when he learned his big sister was okay. P wanted to see for himself, so when classes were finished for the week he took a bus home. As a family we celebrated all we had to be grateful for. Then we took a family road trip. The first stop was Boston, where we spent hours walking the streets of the city before we left P at his dorm. K was okayed to return to school, so our next stop was Troy, where we spent the night with friends before we left K to finish her last semester.

That story came to mind yesterday and has stayed with me. That's how our family has always handled things ~ together.

This year for Easter Ken and I decided to spend the week-end in Boston. T is in school there, P is living and working there, and K is working nearby for a few weeks. Boston is a three-hour drive and we often will go just for the day. This time we stayed at a hotel so we had plenty of time to visit....

I discovered early on with my children that "quality time" is a myth. It's the quantity of time that matters because you never know when the "quality" moments will take place. You can't force conversations into time slots; you need time to think and process and share. My mother's intuition has been on high alert for weeks. It's not been so much what has been said as what hasn't been said. I knew we needed time together as a family.

Saturday morning we met P and his finance C for breakfast. I instinctively knew what question to ask to get right to the heart of that matter: Had C heard from graduate schools? Yes, and she is planning to attend graduate school on the west coast, starting in September.

My heart sank. This means that P will be moving, too.

P is a planner. This explains all the wedding planning well ahead of time and the absence of any mention of looking for an apartment when his lease is up in May.

I have known something was amiss, but the knowledge has stayed below the surface. Self preservation at work, I'm sure.

I am embarrassed to say that Ken and I are some of the last to find out. P said he wanted to tell us in person but hasn't been able to make the trip to Maine. I think it was too hard to say the words. He knows how it feels to be just hours away, able to be with family when he wants to see us, when he needs to know we are there for him. He knows we know that feeling, too.

I tried to avoid writing this post, but I can't. This is all I've thought about since Saturday morning. I thought maybe writing it down would help me make some sense out of the news, which became more real when I talked to my friend in town and my mom.

There are people who will not understand the deep sadness I feel. I know people who agreed when their children wanted to attend college far away from home. I have friends who have moved across the country from their children; that was their choice, and they have made that arrangement work for them. It's very different when that is the last thing you want....

My heart says that maybe I will wake up from this dream. Or maybe something will change.

My mind says different. I know bargaining won't work, and I can't match what has already been offered. I've never been one to whine or nag or use guilt, and I'm not about to start now.

My children are individuals who live their own lives. The problem, for me, is that my children are my favorite people and the people I most want to spend time with. That makes it very hard to be the one left behind....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Normal

I often joke that I would like to have a neon sign for my front yard. I want to plug it in and wait for it to light up with the answers to my most pressing questions.

So far I've only been able to find neon signs that flash "open" or "closed," which would seriously limit their question-answering capabilities.

Absent answers in neon, I have been left to find my own way through this mid-life transition. I have learned to pay better attention to my gut reactions and listen more closely to my intuition. My emotions have been up, down, and all around. My mind has tried to think its way out of the quagmire, without success. My body has run a gamut of changes and been all but turned inside out. It has been a long haul.

In order to move forward, I have had to make some changes.

The way my life is now I spend long periods of time alone. I have learned to "lean into" that time and accept it, to see it as a positive instead of a negative. It's not that I don't have things to do ~ I always have something to do. It's that I have wanted the time alone to be something other than what it is. I have decided to make peace with the fact that there will be periods of time when I will be on my own.

I now live in a town of entrepreneurs, artists, gardeners, crafts people, and small-business owners. I have made a few friends, and some groups have welcomed me with open arms. I have decided to attend meetings where I am invited and get to know the people who want to know me.

I want a new career and have done everything I can think of to make that happen. Now I need to have patience and see what happens next. I can't force things to work out. I can remain steady and continue to do what I can do.

One evening this week I had dinner, went to a meeting, and came home to finish up projects I'd started. The house was quiet. Leo was padding around after me, waiting for me to sit down to make a lap for him to curl up in. I had the thought, "This is my new normal."

The thought was more of a "whiteboard" message than a neon sign. That's alright. I'll take it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Photo And A Recipe

We lost internet service yesterday. I unplugged, replugged, and reset everything I could think of, and nothing helped. This morning I bit the bullet and called the phone company. It took a bit of work and a few false starts, but I got connected, when plugged into the modem but not while wireless. I called the wireless router company, and I got that up and running again, too. Then for the cost of $9.99 and another thirty minutes, in addition to the hour I'd already been on the phone, I "secured" our network. I didn't do this before now because I didn't want the hassle of password protection. With all the stuff flying around in cyberspace these days I thought it was a good idea. We'll see if Ken agrees with me later....
This post is following up on two things I promised my sons ~
The first is a photo of the wedding topper that Ken and I used on our cake:

The second is the recipe for a family favorite ~ chocolate chip brownies. I started making cookie batter into brownies over forty years ago, long before any company advertised this option. My reasoning was simple: my brothers couldn't eat all the "cookies" before I finished baking the last pan because they all came out at the same time!
Hershey's Chocolate Town Chip Cookie-Brownies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet choc chips
Cream the butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the flour and baking soda to the creamed mixture. Add the chocolate pieces and blend well. Spread the batter in a greased 13" x 9" pan. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes; watch carefully at the end and remove from oven when golden brown and pulling away from the edges of the pan. Cut into squares and allow to cool, which makes them easier to take from the pan. Enjoy!