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.