Sunday, August 30, 2009

The End Of August

Fall is in the air. The air smells different and the light has changed. The dark stays later in the morning and arrives earlier in the evening. The weather is cooler. It's time for school to start.

I have always loved this time of year. As a child I couldn't wait for school to start again. Life at my house was turbulent and unpredictable, while school offered order and routine. I liked to read and write and raise my hand. I knew what to expect at school, and I was ready to go.

When it came time for my young children to start school, I was just as excited for them. We'd shop for clothes and school supplies, and we'd talk about all the things they would learn. In the morning of the first day I would take photos in the yard. Then the bus would come and away they'd go to discover what was new. Upon their return they would share their first-day adventures and a new school year would be underway.

The years of middle school and high school brought early mornings and hot lunches and walking to school with friends. My children had more to learn and less to share, more to do and less time to do it. Time together revolved around meals and activities and riding in the car. Conversations mattered. They were growing up and finding their own way.

The start of each college year required more planning and held a different kind of adventure. There were classes to select and schedules to set. There were decisions to make and paperwork to complete. Then the car would be packed full of life's essentials, with just enough room for family. Down the road we'd go to Albany or Boston, prepared to do what needed to be done on the other end before we all went out to eat. There was always a meal together before we said good-bye, so the student could unpack in their new space and get settled in. The rest of us went on our way, with promises of phone calls and emails and week-end visits.

Though I was sad to say good-bye, I was glad for the reason. Each of my children was ready for college when they went. They were independent and capable and every bit of the person they needed to be to succeed.

My youngest son, T, started a fall co-op schedule last year, so fall 2007 was the last time we packed the car and took to the road for school. I didn't know then that would be the last time. This week-end T was home and I was reminiscing about those moves to college in the fall and how much I enjoyed the experience. My son remembered the time as chaotic, while I remembered the time together and the fun shared.

Last year Labor Day was early and both of my sons were home. I wrote a post about it that ended like this: It was a family week-end that felt like more than a transition from one month to another, one season into another. It was time together that marked the transition from a family of parents and children to a family of adults ~ related friends who decided to spend time with each other for no other reason than they wanted to ~ people with interconnected lives who now stand alone more often than not and still choose to come together when given the chance.

This time of year reminds me of the years I have spent letting go. I wouldn't go back for the world, but I would have liked to hold onto the time we had together for just a little while longer....


There's an old saying that insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result every time. Is there anything in your life that continually doesn't come up the way it should, and yet you keep going through the same motions? It's nice to live in hope, but at this point you may need to examine some of the deeper motivations behind your actions. In that way, you can change them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ten Favorite Movies

I enjoyed reading Annie's post yesterday where she listed ten of her favorite films. I like to know what other people are watching.

I am taking the challenge to list ten of my favorites. I put some limits on which ones I could list because I tend to favor certain actors and topics, so I tried to mix it up a bit. They are not in any particular order because that would be impossible. The idea is not to think about it too long. Here goes:

1) Out of Africa - the only movie I've ever seen that I insisted my friends see, too, and then I gathered them together and took them to see it.

2) Four Weddings and a Funeral - my favorite Hugh Grant movie.

3) The Contender - a political thriller with Jeff Bridges and Joan Allen.

4) Men Don't Leave - Jessica Lange is terrific in this story about a woman's resilience.

5) Shirley Valentine - Pauline Collins as a woman who follows her dream in mid-life.

6) High Fidelity - because it's quirky and I like John Cusack.

7) Life As a House - Kevin Kline at his best.

8) Wonder Boys - Michael Douglas at his best.

9) Field of Dreams - because I limited myself to one sports movie and this one has an element of magic.

10) It's a Wonderful Life - because I limited myself to one Christmas movie and this one has Jimmy Stewart.

This wasn't easy. I'm going to stop here because I could go on and on. I think I will do themed lists of movies in the future.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Old And New

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Meeting in a coffee shop, sitting at my kitchen table, talking on the phone ~ these are the ways I've connected with friends this week. It has made all the difference.

On Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting a friend I've made through blogging. I know her through her words and photographs ~ her points of view and her view of the world. It was wonderful to meet her in person, to hear her voice and see her smile. I hope we have a chance to meet again.

The next day a friend from town came to my house for coffee and muffins.

And this morning a friend from away called to catch up.


Whether in person or across the miles, friendship speaks heart to heart.

For that I am grateful.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Plants And Paint Color

The transplanted peace lily plants are thriving, with leaves bright green and glossy. I am tickled. This is the legacy of a plant that was bought to bring life to a dark bedroom. It traveled and lived a few more places before it spent a hot August day in a closed car. We thought for sure it was a goner. I brought it home, watered, waited...and watched it come back to life.

Peace lily plants prefer indirect sunlight, bloom when they choose, droop when they're dry, and turn brown on the tips of their leaves when they are overhydrated. They really need to dry out between waterings for ultimate health. That said, a peace lily plant decides for itself when it will bloom. It will be interesting to see if and when these young upstarts put forth flowers.

A peace lily would feel right at home in the room where my sewing table will be, with windows facing north and west. The light in that room is soft, and the color of the walls changes with the light. The color is tropical pool, the same blue sometimes seen in the sky.

The room was painted that color when we bought this house. Coincidentally, it was the exact color I had chosen to paint our bedroom in the old house. It took me weeks to find the perfect blue...and here it was again. Of all the possible colors to paint a room....

It will be a pleasure to spend time in this space.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting Things Done

I've made a list, checked it twice, and have started crossing off projects that I have been meaning to finish for months. First up ~ two paintings I inherited from my great-grandmother, two nudes she painted in 1914. The man who does my framing was able to repair the frames and use the original glass. The finishing touch was to hang them up in my bedroom ~

I finally got around to dividing the peace lily plant that bloomed this summer ~

And I figured out a way to make tiles for a plaque that our daughter gave us for Christmas. The set was missing one of the numbers we needed, and I checked every possible source but couldn't find one anywhere. Last week it occurred to me that I could paint over some of the tiles and stencil the numbers on. Voila ~
Today I tackled a bigger task ~ making a place to work on sewing projects. For years my sewing table has been moved to whatever spot was available in whatever room had space. Since my youngest son is living in Boston year-round for classes and co-ops, I am going to share space in his room. He will still use the room when he's home, but the rest of the time I will have a place to sew and create. I started talking about this move in the spring but have been slow to take action, reluctant to make changes that are possible because my son won't be home for longer than a week-end or school break. The time for this particular transition has come. Maybe more good changes will follow.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Biding My Time

To bide one's time means to wait patiently for an opportunity.

That is the phrase that came to mind after I saw the movie Julie & Julia.

Meryl Streep, who is one of my favorite actresses, plays Julia Child. Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, a woman who writes a blog about the year she spent cooking Julia Child's recipes.

Their performances were wonderful. The movie is warm and funny, and it got me thinking...

about how one bides their time. Julia Child went to cooking school because she wanted something to do while her husband was working at the American embassy in Paris. Julie Powell started a blog because she was unhappy in her day job.

These women started out biding their time. They ended up doing so much more.

Julia Child had no way of knowing that cooking classes would lead to worldwide notoriety as a first-class chef. She loved to eat and through cooking found her vocation.

Julie Powell felt that her life was stalled. She wanted to do something different and interesting. She had no way of knowing she would gain a following, write a book, and be the subject of a movie.

The movie got me thinking about what I can do while I am biding my time. What do I like to do? What am I good at? Will this work if I think about what it might lead to, or do I need to throw caution to the wind and follow my passion? What is my passion?

No ideas yet. I will keep thinking....

Friday, August 14, 2009

One Year From Today

Next year on this date my oldest son will become a married man. One of my favorite photos of P is of him on my shoulders at a fair. He was nineteen months old. I was twenty-seven. He was as blonde as I was brunette. We had so much fun that day ~

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mid-Life Conversations

To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts expressed -- that can make life a garden.
~Johann Wolfgang Goethe 1749 -1832

This quote came to me atop an email from a friend from seventh grade. Well, the friendship started in seventh grade gym class when we were paired to do a modern dance routine to music. She invited me to her house after school, so with my Herb Albert album under my arm I followed her home.

Since that day she has made my life a garden.

For more than thirty years we have lived in different regions of the country. Her home base is a continent away, so we rely on email and phone calls to stay connected.

She called Sunday to see how Ken is doing. We chatted about that. She and her husband have been traveling throughout the West, so I asked how their trip was going. The news was that Friday evening her husband had a TIA, a mini stroke. He had fully recovered, but for safety and convenience they were camped in a spot closer to the hospital by Sunday afternoon.

He had further tests Monday morning, which showed he is okay to travel but needs further tests as soon as possible. They are several hundred miles from home, and my friend will be behind the wheel of their big rig as they head down the highway.

I called last night to see how he is doing. We chatted about that.

We talked about the things we say and don't say at times like these. We talked about the things we can do and the things we have no control over.

These are the conversations of mid-life. These are the things we have learned. These are the thoughts we share with friends.

Godspeed my friend. Talk to you soon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back On The Horse

Well, figuratively. Today I got back on the treadmill after a six-week hiatus. It was the first thing to go when the storms of July hit. Then went the vitamins, reasonable coffee intake, a balanced diet, and sensible bedtime.

Here's the thing about falling off the horse.

At some point you have to get back on.

My body came through for me in July, even though I missed my monthly massage and stopped moving in ways that my body had come to enjoy and expect. Despite my neglect, my neck continued to turn, my back supported my shoulders, my legs carried me where I needed to go, and my arms moved to and fro as directed.

I treated my physical manifestation to a massage on Friday. It showed its gratitude by putting muscles back where they belong.

My massage therapist says that is what happens when you regularly take care of your body, that it remembers what it needs to do even during times of stress.

I didn't break any records today, but I didn't need to. I just needed to get back on the horse.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dancing Around The Edges

Summer. Finally. In the past few weeks we have had a number of days with temperatures that qualify for summer-like. We have even experienced some humidity. I have lived in Maine long enough to know that this progression of days that combine heat and humidity mean that it is summer, and I need to appreciate it while it lasts.

In the past week we have also had mornings that started in the 50-degree range. That spells f-a-l-l to me. This far north there is a blurring of the lines between seasons.

Friday was Ken's second day of work. It was a day with more physical demands and longer hours. He did well. He packed a lunch and snacks so he would have something to eat throughout the day in an attempt to keep up his energy level. He was tired but he looked good when he got home.

Today was much the same. He said he's feeling stronger every day.

Our youngest son was home for the week-end. We roasted hot dogs over a campfire together Saturday night, with a couple of his friends, and we had blueberry pancakes together Sunday morning. His visits pass quickly and we don't see much of him, but we are always glad when he comes home.

As for me, I am back in the routine that has developed over time. Life fills in where there is space available. I never lack for things to do.

The thing is...I have put off doing some of the things I most want to do. I tell myself that there are other things that need to be done first, chores that demand my attention and projects that should be finished.

I am dancing around the edges. I am putting off getting to the good stuff.

I am pondering why. I think it has to do with feeling sure that the perfect job will soon present itself. In the meantime, what does it mean if I throw myself into this life that is what my life is now?

Is that giving up?

Or is that what it means to surrender?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back To Work

Ken returned to work today. He's working with a guy who has been recovering from an injury and understands what it feels like to get back in the routine. They got done what they needed to do, and Ken came home tired but happy. He looked like his old, working self when he came through the door.

There was more good news for Ken. The doctor's office called with the rest of the results from last week's lab work. No sign of liver disease. The ultrasound scheduled for next week will, if all goes well, show no abnormalities with his liver and gall bladder, and the bouncing numbers can be chalked up to his body's response to the pneumonia.

Sigh of relief. It's not that we thought he had liver disease. It just feels so good to have it confirmed that he doesn't.

We are lucky, we know it, and we are grateful.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Crossing The Swamp

I had dinner with a dear friend tonight. We rarely see each other but keep in touch through email and phone calls. It's not distance that separates us but time and schedules and family commitments. We always pick up right where we left off and share what matters most. Life is complicated. There are questions that have no answers.

There is something about talking with a friend that helps.

As I was driving home I thought about how much I miss people.

I thought about how stuck I feel.

I thought about how I know that things will change but that right now it doesn't feel that way.

When I got home I wanted to write about how I feel. I pulled out a book of poems by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. I don't always understand her poetry, but I love her imagery and her understanding of nature. Some of her poems are beautiful and some are raw. I wanted one that was beautiful.

The book opened to a poem that was unfamiliar to me. I read it and it gave me chills. It described how I am feeling, but it isn't what I wanted to find. It appeared when I was looking for something else ~

Crossing the Swamp
by Mary Oliver

Here is the endless
wet thick
cosmos, the center
of everything - the nugget
of dense sap, branching
vines, the dark burred
faintly belching
bogs. Here
is swamp, here
is struggle,
closure -
pathless, seamless,
peerless mud. My bones
knock together at the pale
joints, trying
for foothold, fingerhold,
mindhold over
such slick crossings, deep
hipholes, hummocks
that sink silently
into the black, slack
earthsoup. I feel
not wet so much as
painted and glittered
with the fat grassy
mires, the rich
and succulent marrows
of earth - a poor
dry stick given
one more chance by the whims
of swamp water - a bough
that still, after all these years,
could take root,
sprout, branch out, bud -
make of its life a breathing
palace of leaves.

From New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver, 1992, Beacon Press.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Safely Sheltered

The orange cat that has been appearing on our doorstep every morning is safely sheltered at our local humane society tonight. Poor fella. He came back early last evening, and I found him curled up under the deck. I don't know where he slept last night, but he was favoring his right paw when he came up on the porch for his morning food. He didn't disappear after breakfast like he has other days, so we knew today was the day to corral him and take him to safety.

Ken and I knew the orange cat needed to go to the animal shelter.

We still felt badly for him. We talked about all the reasons we couldn't keep him, not the least of which was how Leo would feel about having a young, male cat move into his territory. The orange cat needed the attention he will get at the shelter.

Leo was grateful. He went outside and checked out all the places that the other cat had been. All afternoon and evening he followed us around and purred and climbed into one of our laps at every opportunity. We reassured Leo that he is our only cat.

We never could have guessed ten months ago that a stray cat would enter our home and our hearts. But he has. We call him Leo, and he loves us, too.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Another Orange Cat

Late Thursday afternoon I was in the kitchen and heard distant meowing. I looked at Leo, who was lounging on the floor, and he looked at me, and together we walked over to the door to the deck to see if we could locate where the sound came from. Lo and behold there was a young, skinny, long-legged orange-striped cat on the deck. Stunned, we looked at each other and I said aloud, "Where did that cat come from?" Leo had no reply. I called for Ken, who came upstairs and stared out the door with us. We decided the cat on the deck needed food, so we put some dry food in a bowl and set it outside. "He will be gone by morning," we thought.

The next morning the cat was back. Isn't he cute?

We fed him again and I put out a dish of water as well. He disappeared late afternoon, but he was back last night. This morning his little face peered into the kitchen.
We put out more food.
Then I looked up the closest animal shelter.
The problem is that the cat disappears just before the shelter opens and reappears after the shelter closes.
He came back this evening for dinner. We can't not feed him. We will not allow him in the house.
We have talked to Leo about putting out the word that we are push-overs and asked him to stop.