Friday, December 31, 2010

Year's End

John O'Donohue's words may explain all my trips to the ocean this year. This blessing describes what is in my heart on this New Year's Eve ~

At the End of the Year
by John O'Donohue

The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline's longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.

(From To Bless the Space Between Us, Doubleday, 2008, p. 159-60)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I went shopping today. I am not a big shopper but the after-holiday sales at JCPenney are always good. I bought new black corduroys.

I have a good pair of black corduroy pants. Or I did have. I wore them Christmas day but they didn't fit like I remembered. The problem wasn't the pants. Or not that pair. The problem is that I've been wearing that new-fangled style of corduroys that sit below my waist.

As much as I don't want to admit it, the newer style suits me. It's a better fit and any other style doesn't feel right, but I am in-between the old and the new. I haven't replaced all the old and still reach for them because that's what is familiar.

That's the theme of my life right now, replacing the old with new ~ from the clothes I wear to the emotions I feel to the things I say to myself.

The old is familiar but doesn't fit the way it used to.

The new is a better fit but still feels unfamiliar.

In-between. That's where I am as 2010 comes to an end.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Trees

Outside ~

Inside ~

Merry Christmas to all ~

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blame It On Leo

Ken was planning to bring the tree into the house on Saturday, but Leo needed a place to take a nap ~

This morning I was going to put lights on the tree but Leo staked out the Christmas box ~
So I finished a lap quilt with the squares left from the materials for two quilts for a friend's sons ~

One with splashes of red ~
And one with lots of green ~

And I reviewed the lessons from the Buddha Chick course, trying to decide if I want to take the "graduate" course that starts in January ~
Leo is to blame for all of today's productivity.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I saw my massage therapist yesterday. We talked earlier in the week because she wanted to know what my doctor said last Friday about my shoulder....

A week ago my doctor asked me how my shoulder was feeling. I told her it was still sore and had been clicking when I moved my right arm up and down when I did the assigned exercises. Once I was on the treatment table, she started at my left foot and worked her way up my body. After she checked my right arm, she moved to the center of my chest and worked the muscles there. She was surprised that she was led to that area.

I told her that the area around my heart has been an issue, spiritually and physically, this year. I explained that I was trying to open my heart.

Once back on my feet, I raised my arm and it did not click. The doctor said that she wouldn't order an MRI at this point since I'm doing better. The exercises I've been doing have helped and she gave me a tai chi move to practice.

....I had relayed all that information to my massage therapist on Tuesday, as well as the muscles the doctor said were involved in my shoulder problem.

So the conversation before my massage yesterday was to be a short one, until I dissolved in tears. This surprised me because I had held myself together beautifully at the previous week's doctor visit after two weeks of falling apart at unpredictable intervals. Yesterday's emotion caught me unaware because I didn't mean to share what I did ~

Through my tears I said that it's great to get all peaceful and okay with what's going on, but that in the process I have let go of relationships that mean so much to me. I have changed; the situations are the same. I asked her what was in this for me? That sounded terribly selfish, but I hadn't said it out loud before and needed to hear the question.

The first thing my massage therapist said is that she knows that I don't like to cry in front of people, but she thinks it's okay to cry and show emotion. Then she suggested that I could stop the changes I'm making.

I told her I can't. I have had a pattern over the last 25 years that my body is ahead of my mind when it comes time for things to change. My body hurts to push me to make changes in my thinking so I can feel better physically. She added that it makes sense that my body would shift at the same time I make shifts in my thinking. She reminded me of all the work I have done this year, all the changes I have made in my relationships and the way I see my role in the lives of the people I love. She encouraged me to see how hard this work is and that not everyone is willing to do it.

While I don't think I can avoid it, I was reminded that I have a choice to go forward. I could continue to hurt physically and I could refuse to change my thinking. The thing is that I want a body that works and I want to be happy. I am not there yet but I am on the way.

Years ago my massage therapist introduced me to ANGEL cards, small cards that have one inspirational quality written on one side. She keeps a set with the word side down on a special holder. After my massage yesterday I selected an ANGEL card. The card said "willingness."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Trouble With Cars

Loretta the Legacy is home. I picked her up from the auto repair shop yesterday. The mechanic's note says it all: "Tried injector, coil and plugs, all to no avail. Will need engine surgery."

It seems Loretta has a cracked ring. Short of rebuilding her engine or putting in a new one there is nothing more to do. She still runs, though her idle is high, and there is no way to know how long she will be able to make it from here to there. I will take her on short jaunts and hope she can be our second car for many months to come.

My first car was in another bumper thumper as my son headed back to Boston after Thanksgiving. The rear bumper took a harder hit than it did in May, so I will have the repairs made this time. My son also says it appears that "something fell off the front near the fog light" so I will have that looked at too.


The trouble with cars is that it doesn't seem to matter how well you take care of the outside, there will still be problems under the hood. I keep my cars clean ~ regularly vacuum the floors and seats, discard all trash, occasionally use a drive-through carwash, and clean the windows on the inside. I remember to check the oil and have it changed on schedule. I rotate the tires and check the pressure when they look low.

I pay attention when there's a new noise or something feels wrong. When a mechanic recommends that something be repaired or replaced, I do it; I've been fortunate to get good advice.

Still the cars demand repairs that I have no control over and don't understand. There are all those parts, some seen and some not seen, that keep a car in working order. Like so many other things, sometimes those parts wear out.

That's the trouble with cars ~ the workings on the inside have little to do with care of the outside.

Well, at least Loretta will look good in her final days. She's scheduled for a wash on Thursday.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Favorite Wedding Photos

The third time was the charm. The third disc of photos that my son sent had all the wedding photos, and I could see all of them, and with technical tips from my daughter I was able to download them onto my computer. Even with all the albums my son has created on FaceBook and the slide show the photographer posted online, there were many photos I had not yet seen. It was a treat to go through them one by one. I was struck by how happy everyone looks ~ the kind of happiness that comes from inside and cannot be a product of posing or pretense. Of all the hundreds of photos, these are my favorites:

The groom and his groomsmen ~

The bride and her bridesmaids ~

Married ~
Ready to take on the world ~

Dancing with the groom ~
The Maine Mitchells ~
My brothers, sister, mom, and me ~
My three bright spots ~

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What I Learned In Computer Class

Computers do what real people do in real life every day.

We heard that from our instructor, Vince, several times during every class.

"Vince, can we add columns to our Excel spreadsheet?"

"Can you do that in real life?"

And so it went with every question we asked. Yes, we can do it in real life which means we can do it on the computer.

Over the course of eight weeks we covered five programs in Microsoft Office 2007, which I now covet because of all the bells and whistles it has which 2003 does not: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook. Vince projected lessons on a large screen. He would read a section and then walk us through the lesson as we did it on our computers.

Vince was constantly in motion. He walked around the room when he wasn't at the front reading the lesson or helping us envision imaginary bookshelves or trash cans full of data we wanted to access, retrieve, and organize. He made it clear from the start that computers were nothing to fear, that there were ways to correct mistakes, and that we could start over if need be; as long as we saved the original document, spreadsheet, or presentation we always had something to go back to. Vince said our biggest asset was confidence that we could figure things out and that the "Help" button and were always available.

Last night's class was our review and test. Yesterday, in preparation for the last class, I went back over the lessons and was surprised at how far I've come since the first week in October. It helped that we built on our knowledge over the course of several weeks, that what we learned in Word carried through to the other programs. It helped that I was in a class with a dozen other people who were pretty much where I was and had the same goals. It helped that we liked Vince and he liked us.

I had a feeling I knew how Vince would handle the last class, and I was right. The other students were expecting a formal test. Once we started our computers and he started going through the lessons, checking our screens as we followed the steps and asking us questions as we went, I knew the entire class period was our test. Vince wasn't out to "test" us. He wanted to assure us that we had learned what we wanted to know and that we could answer the questions that came up.

Vince was right. We all passed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Car Trouble

My car is still in the shop. I called Friday at 4:45 p.m. and the mechanic, who really runs the office and has taken my car on a special project, was trying a second coil just in case there was a problem with the first one. It's not the coil, so the plugs are getting the spark they need. It's no longer the fuel injector because he put in a new one of those.

He is currently in conversations with other mechanics and two Subaru dealers, and no one has seen this problem before.

So the next step is to "pull the valve" that isn't working properly. I don't know what that means other than one of the four valves won't hold the right amount of pressure unless he manually adds oil.

I told him to go ahead and do that because otherwise we won't know any more than we do now.

The car could go for lots more miles the way it is, which is idling rough and skipping, or it could conk out tomorrow. There's no way to know.

My mechanic is worried about putting all kinds of time into this and still not having an answer. I'm worried about that, too, but there is no alternative.

A new car, be it new-used or new-new, is not in the budget right now. My youngest son needs a car in Boston for at least a few more weeks; I'm glad he took my Outback with him and is not dealing with these issues with the Legacy right now.

Meanwhile, I am learning how much it doesn't matter that I'm not doing all that I usually do. I was supposed to see the doctor last week about my shoulder and have rescheduled for later this week. I had a list of errands a mile long and very little got accomplished this weekend with Ken's work van as our only vehicle. I have been car-pooling to my computer classes, and the last one of those is tomorrow night.

This experience has been a royal pain, but it's only inconvenient for me. I don't have a job outside the home I can't get to; I don't have kids who are stranded like I am. Three friends who are fairly local have offered to help if I need a ride, but the places I need to go are 25 miles and 45 miles away ~ not exactly a half hour commitment.

So here I sit, looking at the snow-covered landscape and thinking about all I want to be doing "out there." Instead I will put together the two quilts I have been working on because I've had lots of hours to sew.

I had hoped to post my favorite photos from my son's wedding this afternoon but the internet is acting wonky and taking forever to upload photos. I could go on and on about all the other things I can't get done...but I won't.

All is well and all is well and all shall be well ~

Friday, December 3, 2010

Box Of Christmas

Ken and I had no ornaments for our first Christmas tree in 1975. We borrowed a set of lights and placed a few shiny nic-nacs among the boughs; I remember a silver label from a bottle of Brut aftershave. The next year we bought a few ornaments, and our collection has been growing ever since. As we had children, we started a box of ornaments for each child: baby's-first-Christmas ornaments, gifts from family and friends, decorations they made themselves and the ones made by siblings. On the outside of the box is a list for each year, each ornament, and where it came from. This week I carefully repacked my oldest son's box of ornaments so I can ship them to California. I took them all out of the box ~

I carefully layered bubble wrap in the box and tissue paper around each treasure ~
I found a box for shipping that just holds the ornament box and packing material to keep it safe. It's still waiting to be mailed because my car is still in the shop ~
Leo was none too happy that I took the box away from him, so he found someplace else to nap ~
Tomorrow a box of Christmas will be on its way from Maine to California.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sore Feet And A Grateful Heart

Today I took off walking to the nearest post office and convenience store ~ 3.5 miles from my house. I have wondered since we moved here if I could make the trek. It seemed like a good idea to test the theory today because I don't know when I will get my car back.

Yesterday I took my 1999 Subaru Legacy sedan into the mechanic for an oil change and a look at the higher-than-usual idle. Two hours later I got a call that there was something wrong with the car, though they didn't know what, and I shouldn't drive it any distance. Today they replaced the fuel injector, which needed to be replaced, but that didn't fix the problem with the idle. Tomorrow they will extend a camera into the engine to see if they can find the problem.

Meanwhile I am home without a car. I wanted to know what it would take to make the seven-mile trip to and from town under my own steam.

Turns out it takes about two hours round trip. I donned my heavy winter boots because I didn't know what conditions I might encounter; the worst part of the walk was the first/last half mile of dirt/mud road in front of my house. The boots are a bit big and I had on thin socks, so I had a blister within the first mile.

I took a moment to consider whether or not I should continue.

I decided to see my plans through. I found ways to safely navigate narrow shoulders on the main road. It was a typical overcast autumn day and I was comfortable in my jacket, hat, gloves, and scarf.

The last mile was the hardest, when I focused on just putting one foot in front of the other. My knees hurt, my thigh muscles were tight, and my feet were sore.

My gratitude after the first mile was that I could make the choice to continue the walk or not. I could have turned back at any point.

My gratitude in the last mile was for legs that take me where I want to go and carry me even when they're tired and sore.

Two weeks ago a friend shared with me something she has learned about herself. She was diagnosed with Lupus in June. She said it's important that she continue to feel she has choices ~ about treatment, how she takes care of herself, and what she can do.

I thought about that today, as I made the choice to keep walking, an ability that I don't take for granted. I thought about that as I realized that I can get out and about if I want to, whether or not I have a car.

I started walking because I wanted some things from the store. I kept walking because I wanted to know if I could finish what I started.

The answer is yes, I can.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Timing Could Be Better

This is the last week of my Buddha Chick class.

Tuesday of next week is the last night of my computer class.

I didn't plan this very well. As of December 8 I will be without my carefully planned schedule of contacts with the outside world. If I'm not careful I will replace it with too many calories and a brouhaha of the worst sort.

I got a call today to see if I am interested in a cookie swap this year. No, I'm not. I don't want all those extra temptations in the house. For the last six years I have found a way to balance my food & drink input with my post-menopausal body, and I've done a pretty good job. Just in the last few weeks I have felt out of balance and realized that I need to recalibrate; I need to cut back on sweets. Right now there are Oreos, which I bought for my son, and Dunkers, from Trader Joe's, in the house. I can limit myself to one of each and hold that line. However, having a dozen different kinds of Christmas cookies in the house is not a good idea.

Town politics are about ready to implode. There will be a letter in tomorrow's local newspaper from one selectman, who is a lawyer, to another selectman delineating all the ways the latter has broken the law. Two of the three selectmen have been having discussions about town business in a local restaurant, and that breaks all kinds of rules. The town manager plans to take medical leave because of the stress she has been under. All of this has been brewing for months with a certain faction who want to "take back their town," but from whom we're not sure because those that are screaming the loudest and spreading rumors are the ones who have majority representation on the select board. There are many of us who want to support the town manager, who has brought the town back from the brink of red ink, but we've had a hard time figuring out how to help. Slowly but surely the truth is coming out, and there's talk the town might be able to enlist a mediator to help get town government back on track. We may need a new selectman or two in the process.

I've been tempted to get my hair cut. Again. I went three weeks ago and now have all kinds of layers I don't know what to do with. Each morning I decide to give it one more day. This is not a good time to make a decision about a return to a short hairstyle.

So, yes, my timing could be better. I'm not sure what I could have done differently, but I'm not looking forward to being left completely to my own devices. I have plenty to do. I always have plenty to do. It's the regular contact with the outside world I will miss.

I wonder what classes are being offered in January....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Laura's Gratitude Quilt

Laura, at Shine the Divine, has posted an amazing Gratitude Quilt for all to enjoy on this day of Thanksgiving. I encourage you to visit today or tomorrow or this weekend when you have time.

I am grateful for all of you who visit here. Your friendship and support mean more than I can express.

Enjoy this day of Thanksgiving ~

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Adventures In Faith

I left home Friday morning with a change of clothes, a thermos of coffee, two ham sandwiches, a bag of Cape Cod potato chips, and a box of ginger & lemon creme cookies, which were popular with my roommates. Thirty-three of us boarded a tour bus and headed for Hartford. Our bus driver was a spry elderly man who told us he had 2 million miles to his credit as a truck driver, and I believed him after I witnessed his handling of the bus in heavy traffic. He got us to our destination in one piece, ahead of schedule, and with a few good laughs to boot.

On the way south we stopped at the Maine Mall, where some wanted to go shopping. My friend and I instead "mall walked" continuously for the hour, which made it easier to sit on the bus for long periods of time. Recent health issues make my friend easily fatigued and bring on migraines and bouts of dizziness. Under a doctor's supervision, she is figuring out what she needs to do to take care of herself; regular walking when she is on her feet and periodic resting when she gets a chance are two things that help.

When I had asked my friend the name of the event, she said she couldn't remember. I used the bits of information she shared to do a Google search and found an event that fit the description. Once on the bus it was confirmed; we were going to join more than 15,000 others for a Women of Faith conference at the Coliseum. I don't know if my friend really couldn't remember or if she didn't want to take the chance that I would say "no" to her invitation. Either way I was glad to go with her to share an experience she was looking forward to.

Our group, along with countless others, checked into the Hilton across the street from the Coliseum. There was a walkway between the two buildings, which was a real time saver. The staff at the Hilton was helpful and accommodating, and once we got the heat regulated the room was fine. We snacked on the food we brought while my friend rested and we called for more towels.

Then I took a deep breath and we went to the Friday night session of the conference.

I don't write much about religion because I think of myself as spiritual rather than religious.

I grew up in a "peace" church on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., which provided places for peace marchers to sleep in the 60's and started a soup kitchen in the fellowship hall in the 70's. I learned at an early age that God loved me and everyone else, and that love didn't depend on how or where we worshipped. I attended church with friends whenever they asked, although they often couldn't reciprocate because they had to attend their particular services. When I was in college I attended a Lutheran church because I liked the sermons and a Methodist church because they had an active youth group.

I have only gotten more liberal as I've gotten older. I appreciate what all religions have to offer, and the more I learn the more I see how much richer life is when I keep an open mind.

My friend knows this about me. She knew I could appreciate the music and the stories even if I don't wear religion on my sleeve. I enjoyed the music of Sandy Patti. I nodded in agreement to the stories of Anita Renfroe and laughed at her comedy, and the stories of Patsy Clairmont, until my side hurt. I couldn't recite a Bible verse if my life depended on it, but I can see the value of bringing those verses to life through stories.

Throughout Friday evening and the sessions on Saturday I found myself looking up to the rafters. I really wanted to see the sky, the full moon beaming and the bright sun shining. We took long walks outside during the breaks.

And during the presentations inside I sent loving-kindness out to the thousands of women at the event. I asked that they be safe, well, happy, peaceful and at ease.

More than once someone said to me, isn't it wonderful to be surrounded by women who believe the way you do? I chose not to respond. I was thinking that my "tent" is so much larger than this and includes so many more than those who believe the way I do. I am grateful for my friends of all faiths and beliefs, as I am grateful that my friend wanted to share her Christian experience with me.

On the way home my friend shared with me that one of the women in the group had approached her. "Your friend..." the woman started "is..." and my friend interjected "different?" "Yes...and she's fun!"

Well, I'm grateful for that, too.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Yesterday I clicked on a link to learn more about the Charter for Compassion. Quite by accident I caught the live webcast of an event celebrating the first anniversary of the Charter. Last night I did an online search to see if the webcast was available for viewing and found it here. If you would like a little lift while you hear about some of the positive effects of compassion, I recommend a listen. I know I will return to listen again soon.

One of the main themes of my Buddha Chick class is compassion ~ for myself, for people I love and people I know and people I find difficult. The practice of loving-kindness is one way to start. Its simplicity is deceiving. The benefits are transforming. You can start by saying these phrases for yourself. I borrowed the last line from Mermaid ~

May I be safe
May I be well
May I be happy
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I love and accept myself just as I am

* * * * * * * *

I am leaving this morning on a two-day trip to Hartford, Connecticut. A friend asked me to go with her and a group organized by her mom. I know where and when to meet the bus, and I know it's a conference for women. Beyond that I don't have many details, but I am looking forward to the trip. I am always up for an adventure with a friend.

My guess is that I will have stories to tell upon my return.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Quilts In The Making

Earlier this year a friend asked me if I would help her with a project. She wanted to know if I would make each of her adult sons a quilt from the shirts that belonged to their dad, who died unexpectedly in January. Without hesitation I said yes. My friend cut squares in two sizes and said I could be creative in how I constructed each quilt. The colors compliment each other ~

Two weeks ago I started making larger squares from the smaller pieces ~

And paired those with the six-inch squares to make combinations that will eventually find their way into a pattern ~

With a place for special patches from a father's past ~

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Signs Of Autumn

The signs of autumn are clear. November skies continue to amaze me. I cannot remember a year when there has been so much color beyond the trees ~

Ken has spent three days mulching oak leaves on our property ~

And Leo has moved from his post at the top of the stairs to his favorite corner of the living room carpet ~
Yes, autumn is well underway in central Maine.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Paradise Fields

My friend Cynthia Harrison, of A Writer's Diary, has made her book of poetry Paradise Fields available online for your reading pleasure. Some weeks ago she shared printed copies with readers who left comments, and I treasure mine. The poems are insightful and personal. I particularly like the poems she wrote to her sons upon the occasion of their weddings. Those two poems and others in the collection are intimate reflections that Cindy shares with her readers and should be experienced as coming directly from her.

There are two poems that I would like to share here. The first speaks to me as I endeavor to come out of "hiding" and share my whole self with the people in my life. The second offers a promise of what's possible when I let go of fear.

The Great Game
by Cynthia Harrison

How do we ever
tell each other the truth?

We put on our jackets and masks
& leave home for a world of lies.

Yet jackets have pockets
with souls tucked inside

& there are places
where people talk

face naked.

by Cynthia Harrison

Walking through the meadow was like taking no steps at all.
I seemed to glide like in a famous dream. Flowers brushed
my soles, I floated in a warm stream and never got wet.
Sun is in your heart, hearts are also eyes, also mirrors
reflecting this perfect place.

I wish we'd stayed forever. I wish we'd never looked toward
the forest at the edge of light. How I hate darkness sweeping
away all comfort. How I hate traveling cautiously,
one foot before the next. I call you to follow, still fearing
intrusions, sudden noises in the underbrush.

You come regardless and catch my fear. This is an
adventure after all. Don't worry, I tell you.
I'm here.

(poems from Paradise Fields by Cynthia Harrison, TCAM Press, 2010.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

November Sky

I came up the stairs last evening and was struck with the beauty of the sky I saw through the living room window. I went out to the porch to take a photo ~

Outside, there were places where the color was even more stunning ~
The sky reminded me of the wonder that surrounds me.
* * * * * * * *
My day yesterday started with a doctor's appointment. The mobility in my shoulder is improving. The treatments and exercises are working. When I got home I felt at loose ends. I was coming down off the high of five extraordinary days.
* * * * * * * *
On Friday I drove to New Hampshire to meet my friend Laura in person. We have blogged back and forth for several months and have wanted to get together since early summer. She made space for a visit on Friday, even though she hasn't been feeling well. I am so grateful she did. We laughed and shared those stories of who we are and where we come from. I left with the feeling I have when I spend time with a kindred soul.

Then my oldest friend [in years known, not in age] flew to Maine for a long-weekend. She has a lot going on in her life and, while we have tried to make plans for a visit, it didn't look like we'd meet up this year. She surprised me with a phone call last week to say she was making plans to fly into Portland on Saturday. We haven't seen each other in five years, though we talk on the phone and email often. We picked right up where we left off, as we always do, as if the last forty years were merely a blip in time. It's not easy to sustain a close friendship over the years and across the miles, but we have found a way to support each other through all life has to offer. We had such a wonderful time that we are talking about how we can get together next year.
* * * * * * * *
Then it was just me again.
The stark contrast of time alone reminded me to continue the work to befriend myself. Like friendship with others, befriending myself takes time and space and attention.
This month I will let the sky remind me of that.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Last Wednesday I took myself to the ocean ~ to walk on the sand, feel the wind, and watch the waves. I can't remember the last time I went to the beach by myself ~

Today's weather is quite a contrast. Morning rain pelted the living-room windows and forced leaves from the trees ~

As I thought about these two days a week apart I was struck by the contrast, not only in the weather but in how my internal conversation has shifted.
These days it's very quiet in my mind.
I grew up with the admonition: If you can't say something nice, then say nothing at all.
Since I made the commitment a week ago to stop my negative self-talk, I haven't had a lot to say to myself. I realize now that I really don't know what to say when it's just me. I've had plenty of time to figure this out because I spend large quantities of time alone. Yet when I stop all the busy chatter and cease the negative comments, it gets very quiet.
This week's lesson in the Buddha Chick course is to befriend ourselves.
Huh. Well then. That is something to think about.
I am to make five promises that will enhance my well-being, five things I will do to befriend myself.
So far I have one thing: I will say "yes" to requests only when I really mean it.
I try to be a good friend to others. I'm not sure why it's so hard to be a friend to myself.

Monday, October 25, 2010

There Was A Wedding In August

My son, Peter, was married in August. We have been anxiously waiting for a digital copy of the wedding photos so we can view, share, and have prints made. The CD arrived this week-end, but there was a technical glitch ~ only a fraction of the photos copied to the disc, and none of the ones I wanted were included. It will take some time to get another, so I have borrowed a few representative photos of the day from Facebook. You will get the idea ~

Parents of the groom, waiting to walk down the aisle ~

Peter and Claudia, married ~

Recessional ~

The wedding party ~

The newlyweds with the groom's family ~

The happy couple, outside in a courtyard ~

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Resistance And Release

I have been doing exercises with my right arm for three weeks, since I saw the doctor for pain in my shoulder. They are simple, lifting-without-so-much-as-a-soup-can, exercises where I bring my arm up to shoulder height in the front, to the side, and at an angle.

The pain in my arm has worsened. I've started using muscles that have not been doing their job, and they are not happy, especially at night if I roll over on my arm or position it the wrong way.

On Sunday my daughter asked me to relax my shoulders. I did. She asked me again and put her hands on my shoulders. I thought I was relaxed, and she thought otherwise. She promised to show me some breathing exercises.

More breathing exercises.

So Monday morning's massage couldn't have come at a better time. Between my shoulder and my attempts at breathing, I needed more help.

My massage therapist worked on my right shoulder and arm for one hour. A solid hour of massaging and working with muscles, large and small, in my shoulder and all up and down my arm.

We talked while she worked. I told her about the Buddha Chick class I'm taking and how I have been observing what I say to myself. I have always thought that if I had high expectations and pushed myself, I would be successful at everything I wanted to accomplish. I am the first, and often only, critic when I don't reach my goals.

We talked about changing our thinking, how we can actually re-map our minds. She mentioned that my right side is the "doing" side and my left side is the "being" side. She gently said that was only an observation...and we both knew how accurate it was.

My perennial thinking and doing are making my body tired and sore.

I shared the work I am doing with my breathing. We reviewed the anatomy around my "center" and how breathing aids the opening and relaxation of that area.

And my upper right arm released. I could feel the muscles shift. The muscles let go and my shoulder relaxed.

I don't think it was a coincidence that earlier that morning I made a commitment to stop the negative self-talk. Enough is enough. A few days before I wrote down the "weed" thoughts I say to myself and was surprised at how hard I am on myself.

I have always thought that if I could just push myself enough....

That what? I couldn't tell you. Just that I needed to stay tough to keep myself on track. To where? To achieve, to succeed, to be famous or rich? Because I was never satisfied. There was always the next thing to strive for, be it education or a job....

I just mis-typed "joy" instead of job.

Again with the tears. The side effect of all this release is that the flood gates have opened and the tears flow at the drop of a hat. I'd blame it on hormones, but those days are over. It's just me, feeling everything. At the end of a recent post Laura wrote that tears are good, healing.

Striving for joy. That is what being a Buddha Chick is all about. I thought if I worked hard enough for all the other things, the joy would follow.

It occurs to me now that maybe joy is where it all begins.

The breathing continues....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

CANstruction 2010

Ken and I were in Boston yesterday to watch our son's team build their sculpture, made completely of canned food, for this year's CANstruction competition. Last year they built a giant pineapple with sunglasses. This year's theme is "Hunger is no laughing matter." The team of civil engineering students from Northeastern University designed and constructed Charlie Brown and Snoopy, complete with doghouse and food bowl. The title: Good Grief! They did a great job ~
[Travis is the third from the left behind the food bowl.]

As part of a nationwide competition, which benefits food banks once displays are dismantled, there were 11 sculptures built at the host school, Bunker Hill Community College. Other entries included Sit On It, a giant chair with whoopee cushion ~

a super-sized Chicken ~

Conan ~

the Swedish Chef ~

and Mr. Potato Head ~
While Ken and I observed the goings-on and enjoyed being present at the event, I realized that this is the tenth, and final, school year that we've had a child in college in Boston. I joked that next year we will just have to find things to do, even if it means "crashing" some of the events that we've enjoyed the most. I'm sure we can blend right in....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Yesterday morning I had a yoga lesson. I had on my stretch pants and was raring to get started. In 1999 I took a few yoga classes and, though I remembered only a couple poses, I was sure the basics would come back to me with a little help.

I was meeting with a woman, a doctor, who has practiced yoga for a large part of her life. She started by talking about how yoga is not a series of poses, but a frame of mind. The intention is to focus on our breath, and from there we learn to quiet our minds, feel our bodies, and open our hearts. I shared that those are the things I want to learn to do. She stressed that poses are only a part of yoga practice. If we focus on the poses, then we are exercising. It is our breath and the mind/body connection that is the essence of yoga.

We sat in chairs opposite each other.

She showed me how to roll my spine as I breathed ~ breathe in and roll forward, sitting up straight and opening my chest; breathe out and roll back, curving my spine.

She showed me how to breathe as I stretched to each side.

It was a simple demonstration really. Two basic ways to breathe in and out, while I open and stretch.

The session wasn't what I expected. I thought I would learn poses to practice. I wanted to come away with full-sized actions to take and movements to learn. I want to "do" yoga.

Instead, I am learning to breathe. Turns out that the breath is basic to yoga, the same way it is with meditation. It's a small thing, breathing, and it is the most important thing our body can do.

When I take a deep breath, my body takes in necessary oxygen. When I focus on my breath, my mind slows down. As my thoughts slow, there is room to listen to what is beyond my thoughts.

Instead of searching for what my heart says, maybe I need to quiet and listen. There is so much thinking going on that it would be hard for my heart to be heard.

My life is not busy.
I have the time.
My days pass slowly.
The decision is mine.

While my mind says to get out in the world and take action, my body asks me to quiet down inside. Everywhere I turn for answers ~ massage, acupuncture, meditation, birth chart, Buddha Chick class, yoga ~ turns me back toward my self....

And breathing.

Friday, October 8, 2010


The end of August Joanne at Whole Latte Life ran a post called "One Word" ~ she wanted to know, in one word, what we can't get enough of. My answer was conversation. That was the first thought that came to my mind, and after I thought about it that was still my answer.

Conversation. It's how we share what we think and how we feel, what matters to us and what we dream about. It's how we get to know others and how people get to know who we are.

When Ken and I were dating we had conversations, face to face, not on the phone. We could sit for hours drinking coffee and talking. We never ran out of things to talk about.

Once we had children we still had conversations. Although we talked a lot about the kids, we still made time to talk about ourselves and our marriage.

As the kids got older, they joined our conversations. My kids like to talk as much as I do. It was routine for us to talk about our day over dinner. My greatest pleasure on the weekends was long, leisurely conversations over breakfast; that is still my favorite part of the visit when any of my children are home.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. My homework during week 1 of the Buddha Chick class was to observe what bothers me, without judgment or trying to fix it. There isn't much that bothers me at this point in my life. I have been in the process of learning who I am and how I respond for 25 years, and in that time I have let most of the small annoyances of life fall by the wayside.

Through my observations I learned that the thing that bothers me the most is how little Ken and I communicate. I miss those long talks about what we think and how we feel and what we wish for.

The class includes writing and reading and listening and sharing. I had a chance to reflect on some of my thoughts with Jan through email. Writing things out helped clarify what I was thinking and feeling.

Over the course of several days I let my words sit without trying to fix anything. There were tears as I wondered how any of this could possibly help the situation or lead to any solution.

This week, lesson 2, the homework was to observe what brings me pleasure. That was an easy list to make because there are so many things I do to take care of myself and keep myself entertained. I always have something to do, often by myself, and I am never bored.

Between the work of week 1 and week 2 something has shifted. I see now that I thought the lack of communication was a reflection on me and my value. That is totally a product of my thinking; this is my issue and not anyone's fault. How much other people talk to me is not connected to my self worth.

I wonder if what I have observed has anything to do with how bound up my "core" has been, complete with tight muscles and lower back pain. I question if this is why, in so many situations, I often don't say what I'm thinking or I censor what I do say.

I haven't changed anything. I have made observations, jotted down thoughts in a journal, practiced Metta Loving-Kindness for myself and others, and paid attention to how my body feels.

I feel encouraged that the more I learn about myself the better I will feel, physically and emotionally and spiritually. The journey continues....

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Computer 101

My first Microsoft Office class was last night.

Hello computer. We spent over two hours getting to know how a computer works. I have been using computers for 15 years and I learned things I never knew.

The instructor, Vince, explained to the class, comprised of middle-aged women who are working or looking for work, that his first goal is to teach us to not be intimidated by computers. He actually took apart a tower to show us the processor, the mother board, the hard drive, and the memory cards. He told us to always touch the outside of the tower to diffuse any static and never to vacuum inside because it could cause a static charge; use a can of air to blow out dust.

The most useful and entertaining part of the evening was to watch Vince put into action his analogy of a library to show how a computer works. He told us to imagine that the wall behind him was covered with shelves of books, which work like the hard drive because that is where the data is stored. Vince, acting as the librarian who retrieved books from the shelves, was working as the processor. When he retrieved imaginary books from the imaginary shelves and placed them on a cart that stood in place of a desk, he explained that where the data is placed while it is in use is the memory; when our computers run slowly it might mean that we need more memory because there isn't enough room on the "desk" for all the things we want to open.

The bigger the hard drive, the more data you can store.

The faster the processor, the faster your computer retrieves data.

The more memory in your computer, the larger number of programs you can open and use at the same time.

The class ran 15 minutes over because we have so much to learn. We are not scheduled to have class this Thursday because it's the night for parent-teacher conferences at the school. However, if we can use the computer lab many of us want to meet with Vince for more time to learn our way around a computer. We have a lot to learn and he is anxious to teach us.

I already feel more confident when I use my computer. That's a good feeling.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Last Week In September

Here I am at the start of another October. Forty-seven years ago this week-end my family moved into the first and only house my parents would own. Thirty-two years ago this week-end my husband and I moved into our first house. Two years ago this week-end Leo showed up on our porch.

Things happen when they happen, so I am always amazed when dates overlap like that. There are 365 days in a year, so why do life events so often happen on dates that are already significant?

This past week was the first week of the Buddha Chick course. We received Lesson 1 on Monday, which was to observe our reactions and feelings this week. We had a conference call Wednesday evening, and it was good to hear the voices of other participants. There is a members-only blog and a discussion thread on FaceBook. There has been a lot to take in this first week.

So I have been surprised by how calm I feel. I have had practice with observing myself; it's something I have been working on for a long time with my massage therapist.

My calm surprises me because I now know that this week has been a time for me to come to terms with the knowledge that I am facing another shift in my life. I am not sure what it will be, but after three years in this state of transition I know it's time. I have been through these "growth spurts" before and I know it will be a time of gains and losses. I am glad that I recognized these feelings, while I am sad that the all the "dancing" I have been doing will not be able to save me from what's ahead.

In the past three years I have tried everything I can think of ~ from applying for dozens of jobs to starting a business to coloring my hair to learning to meditate.

Then this summer the clamor for change got louder.

I had my birth chart read. I was told I need a lot of freedom; as an Aquarius I bring a new perspective; I have been holding myself back and have a fear of letting go. It is in my nature, according to my chart, to speak the truth, do things my own way, and to speak what's in my heart.

The problem is that what my heart has to say has been buried for so long that I can't hear it. I stated this week that my intention during the Buddha Chick course is to learn to listen to my heart. That means that I need to clear away the static and pay close attention.

I saw my doctor, a DO, yesterday for a sore shoulder. She started by working on my sacrum. She said, "Sharon, this is your core. It's being stubborn. What's been going on with you?"

And this mirrored a conversation I had earlier in the day with a friend who said, "Sharon, this was a big year for you. All of your children have made it clear that they are independent of you. How are you doing with that?"

As I lay on the treatment table yesterday, in a clinic that used to be a hospital where both of my sons were born, I thought about the days that each of my children were born. Then I thought about my youngest getting his first apartment this April, and my oldest establishing new boundaries with me in May, and my middler giving it to me straight in June.

As much as I want things to settle down, life has become even more unsettled.

I know this is a sign that a big shift is coming. I have been holding this at bay because inevitably it means that there will losses. I have been here before and know of what I speak. It's hard to let go of what isn't working, and it hurts to lose what has been important for so long.

By definition change cannot happen if all things stay the same.

So it has been a quiet week, externally. Inside, I am bracing for what's next.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Common Ground Country Fair

Today we went to the fair, the Common Ground Country Fair. This is a yearly event of the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association on 40 acres of land in Thorndike, Maine. We parked our car in a field and hitched a ride on a tractor to the fair grounds

where a market offers the products of farmers' labor ~

and gardens remind us where our food comes from ~

There are more animals, demonstrations, crafts, edible delights, and performances to see than signs possible to point you in the right direction ~

Ken chatted with a well-known Maine humorist in front of our favorite coffee stand ~

There were musicians ~

and spinners ~

and dogs herding sheep ~

as well as solar panels, wind turbines, and timber frame houses ~

in celebration of autumn's harvest ~

and the last splash of summer's colorful splendor ~

at the Common Ground Country Fair ~