Thursday, January 31, 2013

Good-Bye January

I woke up early this morning to the sound of the wind, the sound that I'm sure I'd hear in a wind tunnel.  The steady hum continued for four hours and by 10:00 the power was out.

Oh my.  The last day of January and we hadn't been able to avoid a power outage this first month of 2013.  It's not the worst thing that could happen, not by a long shot.  Fifteen years ago this month Maine had an ice storm to end all ice storms that left central Maine without power for a week and parts of Maine without power for a lot longer than that.

Today it was just nine hours.  The wind blew all day.  Late morning I walked down to the mailbox and spotted six downed pine trees, tall skinny ones wrenched, broken, or completely uprooted.  The sun soon appeared and the temperature climbed to 50 degrees.  Ken got home late afternoon and started our portable generator.  We let the fridge and furnace run for two hours before we shut everything down and went out for burgers and fries.  By the time we arrived home at 8 o'clock the power had been restored.  Tonight there are over 11,000 people in central Maine still without power.

My cold continues to be annoying but I'm recovering.

Yesterday the water guy came to add a different kind of filtering material to our water filtration system.  I'd never had well water before we moved to this house.  I'm a city girl, and I liked not having to think about where my water comes from or worrying about it being safe.  Our well water has been safe for us since we put in a water treatment system, but its level of acidity makes it not so good for the copper found in places throughout the plumbing.  Now we have "media" in the filtration tank that raises the pH level to the point that the water will not react with copper.  Annoying, but it could be so much worse, and I'm grateful to have the tools to create a safe water supply.

So this was the last day of January, a month that has mostly found me in hibernation.  If a better offer had come along, I would have taken it, but I obviously needed long periods of time home alone to regroup.  I hadn't planned it this way, but I hadn't planned for it to be any other way either.

No word has come to me for this year.  What has become clear is a frame of mind ~

What will be will be. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sniffle, Sneeze, Cough

Last weekend Ken had a cold.  I ran to the drugstore for cough syrup and soft tissues, boiled water for tea, and generally did what I could to make him comfortable.  I didn't mind because I was feeling fine and grateful for that.

In fact, I was feeling quite proud of myself for not getting sick.  Ken felt better in two days, so I felt like we'd had our bout with the sniffles for this season.

By Friday I was sneezing.  Just sneezing, that's all.  I was going to be fine.

Saturday it was all I could do to move between the bed and the couch.  We'd made plans to take a drive but that wasn't in the cards as my light-headedness and hacking cough were keeping me housebound.  I haven't been taken down by a cold in so long that I don't even remember the last time.

Sunday I felt a bit better.  It was cold, sunny, and clear.  We decided some time out of the house would do us both good, so we set off for a Stonewall Kitchen store in North Conway, New Hampshire.  In December I bought the last chickadee plate in the store in York.  On Friday I had called around to see who still had some in stock.  Ken knew a good place to have lunch so off we went, armed with tissues.

It was good to get out.  There are always things to see on Maine's back roads, which were clear and not too busy on a Sunday.  I don't often travel through western Maine so it was fun to pass familiar landmarks ~ the locks near the campground where we spent a week one summer when the kids were young; the ski resort that hosted an amazing music festival one summer where we enjoyed the songs of Livingston Taylor, Lucy Kaplansky, Susan Werner, and others; the Fryeburg Fairgrounds where the last fair of the season is held every year.

Lunch was good, especially the hot tea I ordered.  I was feeling positive about the outing.

Without too much trouble we found the store nestled in among dozens of other outlets. The store was small and warm and had racks of items on sale.  I found the plates.  And then I started coughing.  I tried to stifle it, thinking I could look a bit longer and make the purchase.  I couldn't stop.  I made my way to the door as soon as I could and walked around outside until I could regain my composure.  I returned to the store to try again.  No way.  The minute I was inside I started coughing, to the point I couldn't talk.  I gave Ken the money and motioned for him to buy the plates while I made a beeline for the door.

We decided it was best for us to head for home.  Plates in hand we headed east.  A stop for something hot to drink on the way rounded out the day nicely.

Not that long ago I would have been disappointed that the weekend didn't go as planned, but I am glad we were able to get out at all.  As with so many things these days it's easier to let go of expectations and appreciate whatever happens.

I cancelled plans I had made for today because the coughing fits and constant need for tissues continues.  I certainly don't want to expose others to whatever this is.  My daughter can tell me on Wednesday if this is more than a cold and if I need to see my doctor.

I hope this means I am immunized against colds for the rest of the season....  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Skinny Jeans

Two weeks ago I was flipping through channels on the TV.  I was trying to adjust the color on the television Ken bought in December.  The flat screen was a surprise to me.  I didn't think we needed a new television, or a home stereo system for that matter, but I enjoy movies and television series on DVD and want what's on the screen to look normal.  I needed to figure out how to get colors, sharpness, contrast, and tint as close to true as possible.

I don't watch daytime television anymore, but I decided the best way to adjust the picture was to watch as large a cross section of programming as possible.  I flipped among talk shows, game shows, newscasts, soap operas, and commercials at different times throughout the day and fiddled with the settings.

I thought I had things pretty well set when I happened upon "Dr. Oz."  He looked orange, and thanks to him I was able to make the final necessary fine-tuning adjustments.  This particular show opened with women from the audience making a show of throwing away their fat pants.

Fat pants?  I don't have fat pants. 

I have a different strategy.  I keep a pair of skinny jeans ~ jeans that I've had for several years and wear periodically to make sure they still fit.  When they finally wear out to the point that I can't wear them in public any more I wear them as "paint" pants around the house.  Then another old pair of jeans becomes my skinny jeans.  This clothes recycling strategy seems to be working.

Today I wore my skinny jeans to run errands.  They are frayed at the hem and the waistband, but no one could tell because I was wearing boots and a bulky sweater.

My skinny jeans still fit.  Phew.  That was a relief, although I do need to start paying more attention.

This time of year is the most challenging.  I walk on the treadmill but I'm not as active as I am the rest of the year.  During the winter months baked goods from a warm oven taste the most delicious with a fresh cup of coffee, and the right glass of wine can make a simple dinner special.  My goal is to not have to give up the things I most like to eat and drink.

I acknowledge that my body has changed shape in the seven years since menopause.  Some of that was inevitable due to physiological changes.  It means I don't have the control over my shape that I once did, but it doesn't mean I can't manage my weight. 

My skinny jeans will keep me honest, and I have some painting to do.  Let's hope my paint pants still fit....    

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Course Correction

I keep a stack of books by my bed and usually have three or four books going at any one time.  If I really get into a book I will read some each night until it's finished.  Other books can take weeks or months to read, a little bit at a time.

One such book is Rachel Naomi Remen's My Grandfather's Blessings (2000).  I liked it when I read it several years ago, so when I saw a copy at a used bookstore I picked it up.  Rachel is a doctor.  The subtitle of the book accurately reads "Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging."  I will often read just a few pages at a time and take a day or two to think about the story she tells.

The chapter I read last night is titled "Friction In The System."  Rachel relays a story she heard about how computers on the Concorde were programmed to keep the plane on course, constantly making corrections so the plane arrived at the right destination at exactly the time it was expected.  Rachel wonders what might happen if humans stopped wanting to be right all the time.  She writes, "Might it be possible to focus ourselves on the purpose we wish to serve....Once we stopped demanding of ourselves that we be on course all the time, we might begin to look at our mistakes differently, giving them an impeccable attention and a frictionless response.  They will not prevent us from reaching our dreams nearly so much as wanting to be right will" (p.366).

If I had read this story two weeks ago I might have missed the message.  Last night this story felt like an affirmation.  I have been very quiet, alone for days at a time while Ken works out of town, and feeling at ease with myself and what I've chosen to do around the house.  I think now that I have been coming to terms with a major course correction.  I really just want to be comfortable in my skin, content with wherever I am and whatever I am doing.

Rachel concludes that, "Serving anything worthwhile is a commitment to a direction over time and may require us to relinquish many moment-to-moment attachments, to let go of pride, approval, recognition, or even success.  This is true whether we be parents, researchers, educators, artists, or heads of state.  Serving life may require faithfulness to purpose that lasts over a lifetime.  It is less a work of the ego than a choice of the soul" (p.367).

The journey continues....     

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What I Have Learned So Far

I have put Christmas away.  I have cleaned the house from top to bottom.  For the first time in almost a year I feel that I have a handle on the clutter.  On Tuesday I cleared the desk completely and set about polishing the wood to a rich luster.  I put back only what absolutely has to live on the surface and have promised myself that I will stay on top of the papers and miscellaneous items that seem to collect with no effort at all on my part.

I have made the commitment to walk a mile on the treadmill every day that I am home.  Some days this means I climb on for ten minutes, stop to put in a load of laundry, climb back on for ten minutes, stop to hang up laundry, and so on until I have walked a mile.  I haven't put a time limit on how long it takes me, just that I will walk the distance.

I have been busy taking care of business.

This week our water was tested for the third time in as many months.  There is a blue-green residue that collects in the sinks and tub/shower in two of our bathrooms.  Two years ago I mentioned it to the technician who came to check our system, the one we put in because of the iron content and issues with sediment when the house was new.  The numbers all checked out in the lab so we were told all was well.  The issue has persisted, so when the numbers came back "okay" in October I set about doing my own research.  I found articles that talked about "low pH" and "stripping copper from pipes" and "plumbing that fails."  I called to talk about the research I'd done and learned that they hadn't tested the pH in October, so someone came to do that.  I had to call again when I got the report, without the pH numbers listed, to learn that the numbers were on the low end of acceptable.  I grilled the person on the other end of the phone about what that meant and what the problem could be and what could be done to correct the problem once they identified it.  He volunteered to come himself to test for copper, which would be coming from the pipes and fittings because water with a low pH interacts with copper.  And yes, there are traces of copper in our water, not in alarming amounts but enough that over time our pipes will be affected.  So our system needs to be adapted to raise the pH level.

The days fill up with multiple-step chores and errands like that.  Gifts returned and packages sent via FedEx, UPS, and the postal service.  The DVD player that Ken bought needs to be seen to because it whirs and makes noises that a new DVD player should not make.  Last May we were sold a bed that has a factory flaw that I didn't find until I was polishing furniture this week, so I have contacted the store and hope that the company will resolve the problem with a new footboard.

I stay in bed in the mornings until I absolutely have to get up because once my feet hit the floor there are endless things to attend to, some of my own making and some the daily business of living and some that just cannot be ignored.

All the while time is passing and the possibility of finding my dream job is slipping away.  Just before the holidays I got another rejection email.  So I think that that's okay because family is coming and there are things that need my attention.  There is always something that needs to be done or some project to finish or some problem to solve.  There always will be.

So I keep moving, even if it feels like I'm going in circles or merely stepping in place.

Nothing will change until I take action.  The first days of this new year I have taken a long hard look at where I am and what my options are.  I want to work.  I can't get a job.  My options are few.

Today I called the district where I worked as a long-term sub last spring to see if my paperwork is still on file; it is and with one phone call it can be activated so I can be called on an as-needed basis.  I think I have figured out how to file paperwork online for another district that also needs substitute teachers.

This is the very last thing I want to do.  The hardest job in any school is that of a substitute teacher, but this is work that is available.  I cannot go into this thinking it might lead to something more because chances are just  as good that it won't.  It is what it is.  Nothing else has panned out.  No other opportunity has presented itself in five years.  That's long enough.

If the lesson was humility, I have learned it.

It occurred to me this week that I need to do what I can do.  If no one wants what I have to offer, I can go where they will take whoever shows up.  I can show up.  I can do a good job wherever I am and under whatever circumstances.  If this is all there is, then this is it.  If every door has closed but this one, then this is the door I will walk through.  I needed time to come around to this, and now that I have I can make it work.

This evening I pulled Mary Oliver's New and Selected Poems, Volume Two (2005) off the shelf.  Occasionally I crack open one of her books to a random page, and the perfect poem is there.  Tonight was no exception ~

What I Have Learned So Far 

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world?  Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal,
the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit to no
labor in its cause?  I don't think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance.  The gospel of
light is the crossroads of - indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.     

Friday, January 4, 2013

Moonlight On Snow

Two days after Christmas we had our first measurable snowfall, which meant almost eight inches for our area.  The snow started before dawn and continued all day.  I was home alone, and throughout the day I would stop whatever chore I was doing and walk to the closest window to watch the snow pile up.

It had been a good holiday for our family.  My daughter, sons, and daughter-in-law juggled work and travel schedules so they could be here all together for three days.  We packed the days with catching up, good food, stories, and board games.  I enjoyed cooking meals that I knew everyone would enjoy and was tickled that my daughter-in-law liked my wine selections.  She's training as a wine steward, so we share a love of the grape.  The days with all of us together are precious.

I started following weather predictions on Tuesday the 25th because we'd heard reports that there was quite a storm headed our way.   By that evening it was clear that we were due to get six to twelve inches of snow on Thursday.  My suggestion was that I give those headed to Boston, one back to work and two to prepare to fly back to California, a ride to the big city Wednesday afternoon.  It's great to have a trustworthy car that will take people where they need to go.  I like to drive, especially when I know where I'm going and the roads are clear.  Road trip!

I got everybody safely delivered and made it home Wednesday night before the snow started.

Ken got home late Thursday night.  He goes to work no matter the weather.  He got home and stopped in the driveway when his van would go no further, and on Friday he cleared the driveway, walkways, and deck.  The sun came out and the radiant heat filled our living room.

Friday night there was a full moon.  With all the lights off in the house, moonlight on snow lit up the yard.  Ken looked out the living room to see deer searching for acorns in the side yard.  I looked out the kitchen to see the moon shining through the trees, light reflecting off the snow.  Magical....

More snow arrived Saturday night.  The moon then returned to light the nights into the new year.

I took comfort from the light in the darkness.  It was a good start to 2013.