Sunday, December 28, 2008
Turns out everything went fine, I do have a great respect for chemicals and suited up with long sleeves, gloves and goggles. I went out on to the porch, where I can shut the door and keep the nosy little kittens away. I was surprised how much heat the lye and water solution produced, I had read about it, but was amazed to see the chemical reaction in real life. The water heated up within seconds to 160 degrees from a chilly 40! It cooled quickly since the porch is unheated.
I was overly anxious this morning to see how it turned out and tried to remove it from the mold. It seemed semi-solid, about the consistency of cookie dough, but apparently this is too early and the soap broke into 3 pieces. Next time I'll wait longer to remove it. Since it was so soft I was able to press it back into the mold ( a pink hospital basin!) and will wait another day or 2 before taking it out. It needs to be cut before it gets too hard but not so soft that it will break up. Another possibility for the reason of breakage could be that I didn't grease the basin well enough. It's all a learning process!
Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of my experience since I didn't want the distraction of picture taking while I was trying the procedures for the first time. I may try another batch today and get out my camera to document the process. I'm looking forward to experimenting with different oils and fragrances but for now will concentrate on making simple, basic soaps until I know what I'm doing. I hope my friends don't mind being guinea pigs home made soaps!
Saturday, December 27, 2008
2008 was a year filled with changes: Joe leaving his job, Wilson going off to college and my own role as wife and mother being altered as a result of those two major shifts. In addition to the things over which I have no control I've also made some intentional changes in the way I live my life. I'm looking forward to continuing with those things and also incorporating some new ones for 2009.
In the past year I've started blogging. It's an interesting process, one that has surprised me. I never expected to enjoy putting down my thoughts but there are days in which I have an idea and can't wait to start my treatments so I can write about it. Of course, there are other days in which I have absolutely nothing to say and the very thought of trying to write is intimidating and depressing.
A good friend and I pledged to take 20 minutes of time per day just for ourselves this year. We both had times when we were better about it than others, but for the most part we kept it up for the entire year. It really does make a difference! Twenty minutes is such a small amount of time when you think about it and the rewards gained are wonderful. It feels great to be able to sit and read a magazine or just do nothing; so much of our time is spent thinking about others and doing things for them- it's a good reminder that we need to do things for ourselves as well. This is definitely something I will continue in 2009.
This past year I was better about bringing my own cloth bags when I go shopping. There were times I forgot them at home or even in the car, but I'd say my success rate at remembering was about 70%. I'm going to strive for 100% in 2009. When we visited Ireland I was so impressed to learn that plastic bags are illegal.
Although it was in some part unintentional, this year we stopped wasting things from food to household items. Instead of throwing things away they are fixed, recycled or repurposed. We've cut down on the amount of trash we produce and I'd like to see if we can further cut down for 2009. We started "freecycling" which is giving away things we no longer need to those who need them. I've also gotten some things we will be using from this fun group, such as a lampshade and clay pots.
In addition to cooking and baking from scratch, something I've always done, this year I started making more products that we use around the house such as laundry detergent and household cleaners. I've started using only organic castille soap for cleaning (with supplements for the hard water spots in our shower) and using vinegar for fabric softener. I'm going to continue to hang the laundry out, garden organically and compost our veggie, fruit and yard waste.
For 2009 I'd like to start making my own soap. I'm looking forward to this as I love nice, handmade soaps, which are so much better for your skin. I like knowing what is in a product I use. I'd like to improve my success rate at remembering my cloth bags when I shop with the goal of not bringing home any plastic bags in 2009. I'm hoping to be able to make most of the gifts I'll give for birthdays this year and I'm going to experiment with shopping at thrift stores instead of buying things brand new. I'm also going to set aside some time each morning either before or after I exercise to meditate. I'd like to deepen my spiritual practice in 2009.
Although this past year has been one of huge changes and I've felt unsettled more often than not I guess it's good to keep in mind that growth is painful. Change has never been easy for me, especially when I'm not in control of the changes; I'm hoping that 2009 will feel more comfortable, settled and peaceful.
Monday, December 22, 2008
This bacteria is a common cause of urinary tract infections, and can be found in the GI tract. I probably got it because of the reflux I suffer from; at night it's easy to aspirate into the lungs and not even know it. How lovely. Thankfully, there is an oral antibiotic that will treat this bacteria: Augmentin. I've had it before and know it doesn't bother me, so at least the treatment will be fairly easy. I'll start on it tonight and will hopefully be feeling better within a week.
I did a bit of googling to read about this new inhabitant of mine and was interested to find out that Proteus syndrome is what caused the Elephant man to develop his physical deformities. Thankfully I won't have to worry about that, I'm grateful for small favors. I know I may never get rid of this new bacteria but as long as I start feeling better and lose the adjective "abundant" I'll be reasonably happy. And at least I don't have to worry about becoming the Elephant Woman! I wonder what the circus life would be like?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The snow started falling yesterday afternoon and kept up all night. What a cozy afternoon it was with the fire going, Christmas CDs playing, hot cocoa cupped between our hands and quilts on our laps. Wilson had just arrived home after his exams which made it perfect. Joe and I made our traditional chocolate chip ginger cookies and started planning the holiday meals. Sometimes it's nice to be stuck indoors.
When we awoke this morning it was still snowing, but at a more leisurely pace and without the howling wind that was blowing last night. Joe, who is currently shoveling, estimates there are about 8 inches on the ground with 6 more expected tomorrow night. It's definitely going to be a white Christmas this year!
I haven't been feeling that well for the past couple weeks and checked in with the clinic nurse on Thursday. We'll talk again on Monday to follow up on the culture results that I dropped off and figure out a plan of action from there. Hopefully it's nothing major and some oral antibiotics will perk me up in a week or two. It's a double relief not to have the pressure of shopping for everyone this year; most of the gifts are completed and I only need to finish up the table runner for my parents and do some optional baking. I'll wrap today but thankfully it doesn't take a lot of energy.
In the meantime I can look out the windows, watch the neighbors shoveling their cars out and the kids playing and admire the beauty while feeling warm and cozy indoors. Welcome winter!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I crossed her path going up the hill to my house and as we started talking I felt that familiar sense of panic: I'm going to be stuck here talking to her forever. I'm not in control. I'm one of those people who hates to be rude and don't want to interrupt someone else while they are talking; however, this person eventually pushes me to it. After listening to her monologue for about 15 minutes and feeling increasingly frustrated I jumped in: "It was nice talking to you, Alice, but I have to get going now". We said our goodbyes and I felt a flood of relief. I was on my way. Maybe next time I'll only wait 10 minutes.
The chapter I'm currently reading in Awakening the Buddha Within is about stealing and I began thinking how my situation of being held conversational captive applies to theft. I can attribute my feeling of panic to the fact that I knew I was going to be held up longer than I wanted to be and that it was going to be difficult to get away. In essence, my time was being stolen because it wasn't something I wanted to give.
The most common example that comes to mind when someone mentions stealing is theft from a store or some one's home; taking a physical item that doesn't belong to you without permission. There are many more subtle types, such as taking up some one's time, using more than your share of resources, cheating on taxes, , misinforming the insurance company in order to get a better rate, not letting the store clerk know when she forgets to charge you for one item in your bag. We've all been guilty of theft of one type or another at some point.
In a perfect world we would never infringe upon anyone else's time or feel the need to claim more than our fair share of deductions on our taxes. The Buddhists say that we do these things because of our need to cling and grasp; we feel that we don't have "enough"; enough attention or money. Is one really worse than the other? I wonder if the current difficult economic times will produce more, or less of these behaviors?
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I HAVE FOUND SUCH JOY
by Grace Noll Crowell
I have found such joy in simple things;
A plain, clean room,
a nut-brown loaf of bread
A cup of milk,
a kettle as it sings,
The shelter of a roof above my head,
And in a leaf-laced square along the floor,
Where yellow sunlight glimmers through a door.
I have found such joy in things
that fill My quiet days:
a curtain's blowing grace,
A potted plant upon my window sill,
A rose, fresh-cut and placed within a vase;
A table cleared,
a lamp beside a chair,
And books I long have loved beside me there.
Oh, I have found such joys I wish I might
Tell every woman who goes seeking far
For some elusive, feverish delight,
That very close to home the great joys are:
The elemental things--
old as the race,
Yet never, through the ages, commonplace.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
This is a wise book which reminds me that sometimes the most basic things are forgotten. There are quite a few pearls of wisdom contained in its pages: Take a nap every day, share everything, don't hit, say you're sorry when you hurt someone and my personal favorite: warm cookies and milk are good for you. These lessons in etiquette are taught to us at a very young age and are the basics for how to take good care of ourselves and treat others. Somehow along the way, possibly because of all the other information we acquire, we sometimes forget these simple rules.
It's impossible to make it through life without ever saying or doing something that hurts someone you care about; we are all human and make mistakes. Whether we say something without thinking, do something without considering all the consequences or forget to do something as an act of omission, for one reason or another we've all been in that position. It never feels good to realize you've hurt some one's feelings.
Each person sees the world through their own unique perspective and it would be unrealistic to think that from time to time someone else's path, actions or thoughts won't be at odds with our own. The best I personally can hope for is that I never intentionally do something to hurt someone else: Malice.
Naturally, there have been and will continue to be times when I've done something to hurt someone I care about. The only solution to this, as words and actions can never be undone, is to offer a sincere apology. The power of "I'm sorry" is often underestimated.
I've noticed that often if an apology is offered, it's accompanied by a defensive attitude: excuses and rationalization. In my eyes this takes away from the sentiment. I'm not saying to appear before the person as a whipped dog, tail between your legs, begging for forgiveness. That's up to them. A simple "I'm truly sorry that I hurt you" should suffice. We have no control over whether our apology is accepted, and can never expect the other person to understand our position, just as we will probably never understand theirs.
As John Fulghum says: "nobody's perfect". If we can remember this of ourselves as well as others, we'll be a lot more realistic in our expectations. This just might be one of the most important lessons in the book.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
It may sound silly but there are times I forget about this little fact. Not in the sense that I don't remember I have it; on the contrary, it's always with me in the back of my mind. But I do forget that the treatments and extra tasks related to the disease aren't things that everyone else has to do. I need to step back and remind myself that I'm spending roughly 4-5 hours/day doing nebs, airway clearance, exercise and cleaning of the medical equipment. No wonder I can't get as much done as I'd like to!
A fellow cystic who is awaiting transplant recently asked me what my routine was; what do I do to stay healthy? She was looking to supplement her treatments in order to stay as healthy as possible before her surgery. It was somewhat eye-opening to write down everything I do that is related to my health and staying well. I'm going to record what I wrote to her here (but in more detail) so on the days I feel frustrated that I don't have as much time as I'd like, I can look at everything I do and remember that caring for myself takes up much of my time. As J likes to remind me, it is a full time job!
My day starts like this: Get out of bed. Drink a cup of coffee (lots of cream and sugar, I wish I could say it was only for the calories... it's just how I like my coffee!). Sit down and strap into vest machine. Start nebulizer #1: Hypertonic Saline. This takes about 20 minutes. Cough, cough. Continue with the vest, alternating settings for the maximum benefit. Start neb #2: Pulmozyme, which takes 15 minutes. More coughing, but at least I get to read some blogs and answer emails while I'm nebbing and vesting. Finally, neb #3: Colistin: my least favorite of the 3. It will take about 30 minutes and needs to be mixed up by hand by using a syringe to draw up 6ml of sterile saline and injecting it into the vial of powdered Colistin. It's very foamy when mixed so it needs to sit for 20 minutes or so until the bubbles subside. Finally I can inject it into the neb cup and start smoking it. Ugh! The taste is horrible and it causes my chest to be really tight, making me feel like I'm breathing through a coffee stirrer. This lasts for the entire time I'm taking it, which fortunately is only for 28 days on and then I get a break of 28 days off.
I'm finally finished with the nebs and vesting about 1 1/2 hours after I started. Time for breakfast- no skipping meals! After breakfast comes 30 minutes on the treadmill for aerobic exercise, which is very important for keeping the lungs in good condition and clear of mucous. Then 30 minutes of strength training to help me optimize my functional ability. Having only 45% of my lung function limits what I can do and the strength training makes my muscles more efficient, thereby allowing me to do more than I normally would be able to. Then some yoga and stretches and finally off to the shower. Oh, and I can't forget that the neb cups - all three- need to be washed in hot, soapy water and then boiled for 15 minutes to sterilize them. Whew! After all this I'm ready to start my day, 3 1/2 hours after getting out of bed.
The process is repeated in the evening, except for the exercise and one of the nebs (Pulmozyme)- therefore the process is a bit quicker. I find the evening treatments more of a challenge to be compliant with. In the morning I just get up and do them - if I need to be out early, I just get up earlier to allow the time I need. The evening, however, is more tempting to skip. If we're out or getting together with friends J makes sure I plan some time to sit down and do the treatments. I'm sure without his gentle encouragement, I'd be skipping the second set of nebs quite often.
The good news is that barring any unforeseen viruses, this routine has kept me healthy for the better part of 6 years. Typically, the statistics show that on average CF patients lose 2% of their lung function per year. I've miraculously kept mine steady since 2002, so clearly the time put into keeping well does pay off.
I think people have a hard time understanding just what I do with my time; even my closest friends (unless they have spent a few days with me 24/7) are unaware what my treatment regimen consists of. I think they would be shocked to know exactly how much time goes into my self-care. On top of that, CF is somewhat of an "invisible" disease: I don't look sick and except for my cough and the need to take pills when I eat most people would never even suspect there was anything wrong with me. The up side is that CF is fairly easy to keep a secret if I don't care to share it with someone.
There are times when I lose sight of the benefit of the treatments that have become so routine for me, but there it is: they keep me healthy. There will always be the frustration of not having enough time to do the things I would like to do, regardless of whether I take care of myself or not. In the long run it's good for me to remember that my health must come first and that all the time spent on treatments is not wasted: it is time well spent.
The protagonist (I can't remember his name) believes that in order to be a be a good person, things need to be done on a large scale. He sacrifices the feelings of his own family to do what he thinks is right, trying hard to be an ideal person. It appeared to me that he failed, not because he didn't help people while performing his acts of kindness, but because he hurt is family in the process.
Typically, when we think of someone selfless, it's someone who is doing things on a large scale: travelling to impoverished countries to assist with education, joining the Peace Corps, donating large sums of money to charities, taking in as many homeless animals as their space allows. Absolutely noble acts, no doubt about it. But what about people who do things on a small scale, are their acts any less important? Do we have to renounce all material posessions and put aside the feelings of our families in order to be truly "good"?
Clearly the world is a better place because of the people who do things on large scale; we need activists and those who make these causes their life's work. Does that make the things we all do on a day-to-day basis any less important? I'd say not. Each person is capable of doing great things, many of which go unnoticed. Isn't it important to cherish your family, love and support your children, friends, parents? Share what you have without going without? Doing your part to take care of your pets, home and the environment in a responsible way? How would the world be if we each started with these small things and then expanded the circle of giving as circumstances allowed? Just something to think about.
I'll close with two of my favorite quotes from Mother Theresa: "In this life we cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love."
"If you can't feed 100 people, then feed just one". Amen!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I should say that I'm not a Christian, so it's not as thought I'm one of those people who goes around saying "Jesus is the reason for the season". I prefer the more pagan meaning of the holiday, the winter solstice, shortest day of the year and warding off the long nights with plenty of lights and celebration. Peace, love for fellow man and an appreciation for the stark beauty of winter. A turning inward and concentrating on in our homes and in ourselves. All that good stuff.
That having been said, I have to confess I have a different feeling towards the holiday this year. Who would have thought? We are on an extremely tight budget since J has been out of work for the past 10 months. The economy is in the toilet and people everywhere are cutting back. The retailers and economists see this is a bad thing. But for some reason it has re-instilled the excitement and anticipation for me this year. We've made it clear to family and friends that we are not buying gifts, anything that will be given will be handmade, with a few exceptions for the children in the family.
Due to the 2 new furry additions in the house, who are getting bigger (and more destructive) every day we have decided not to tempt fate and put up our traditional live tree this year. We have an Alberta spruce that is about 2 feet tall in a planter out back which will serve as our tree- even if the kittens do climb it, which I'm sure they will, they won't be able to knock it over. The worst that can happen is a few ornaments may be pulled off and used for batting practice. Needless to say, we'll save my grandmother's good decorations for another year and only put up the sturdy, kitten-proof ones.
The idea of using a live tree that hasn't been cut makes me happy. It's much more sustainable than chopping down a tree solely for the purpose of decorating for week or two then discarding it. Plus, it doesn't cost anything. After Christmas is over this little shrub can go back outside and will continue to decorate our back garden for years to come. I'm hoping this will be the start of a new tradition and we'll use it each year from now on.
I'm making all the gifts we're giving this year, whether it be to friends or family. I should have started ages ago, but a bit of pressure is the best motivator for me. Our spare bedroom is a shambles, fabric and yarn are everywhere. But it makes me happy to be creating things with my own two hands that I'll give to the people I care about.
Some might find it ironic that it's the difficult times that are bringing back the joy of the season for me - maybe I would have enjoyed Christmas more in the past few years if I had just thought about what is truly important to me: Simplicity. It was right under my nose all the time!
Monday, December 1, 2008
Yesterday morning I received a call from my dear friend Kathy. She and her family were having a belated Thanksgiving at their house and invited W and me to celebrate with them. How could I refuse? The prospect of spending the day with good friends and eating another delicious turkey dinner was far too good to pass up. It was a lovely time, K had all the traditional dishes: squash, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry and, of course, turkey. We ate, laughed a lot and then ate some more. It was the perfect ending to our Thanksgiving "season" this year - spending the day with old and dear friends. I do feel truly blessed.
Now I have the pleasure of two days alone before picking Joe up at the airport Tuesday evening. It is awfully quiet around here, and I miss him, but it's also nice to have a little alone time to recharge my batteries. I don't have to worry about waking him up if I decide to get up early to make muffins for W before he goes back to school. I can clean the house and turn up my cheesy 80s music as loud as I want and not worry about bothering anyone else. I wish I was better able to explain it: there's something in me that just needs a bit of space now and again. I love being around people and I can't imagine being alone full-time, I'd never want that, but now and again I just want to be by myself. I guess it's just the way I'm wired. The next 2 days will be refreshing and I'll be extra-glad to pick J up at the airport tomorrow night.
One last thing to add to our Thanksgiving blessings list: a friend with CF received his double lung transplant on the 27th after waiting only a day! He is doing amazingly well and I couldn't be more thrilled for him and his family. That alone makes this year the most special Thanksgiving I can remember.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
There has been a practical reason why we haven't been in so long: W was in the marching band in high school and didn't want to miss performing at halftime during the Thanksgiving day football game between Swampscott and Marblehead. We'd dutifully go to the game to watch him play and invariably, each year for four years, it was cold and pouring rain. No matter! Football happens in all types of weather, and the warm apple cider when we got home tasted that much better because we were chilled to the bone.
Now that he's in college there's nothing tying us here for the actual day of Thanksgiving. In addition, all J's brothers and sisters will also be gathering at their parents' house this year, so it was important for us to be there too. It will be fun to see how much all the nieces and nephews have grown. Some we haven't seen in 5 years!
My sister-in-law,who is an incredibly good sport, prepares the Thanksgiving meal (with help, of course) for 20-25 people. There's going to be quite a crowd, very different than my tiny immediate family. The TV will be on in the background with all the men gathered 'round, watching the game and the women will be busy in the kitchen, while the kids run around having fun. Complete chaos, but nobody minds.
W and I will drive back on Saturday and J will stay on for a few extra days to spend time with his family. He and his sisters are going to the Bills football game Sunday night, sure to be a chilly but fun time. As for me, I look forward to getting home, settling back into my quiet space and curling up on the couch with a glass of wine and a good book. Happy Thanksgiving.
Monday, November 24, 2008
This year Scott decided to host our get-together in his new house, which was wonderful. It's beautiful, spacious and the view of the lake is so pretty. The kitchen is easy to work in. We all contributed to the meal and kept it fairly simple.. just a turkey breast, stuffing, gravy (which I forgot!), squash, mashed potatoes, green beans and an apple pie with ice cream for dessert.
It feels more comfortable for me to have the day without such excess. In the past, the tradition has been to make 3 times as much food as is needed, eat ourselves until we're uncomfortable and then spend the rest of the day on the couch, wishing we hadn't eaten as much. In keeping with my philosophy of forgoing excess, it was nice to have just enough food. I can't speak for the others, but I certainly didn't gorge myself and felt much better for it. What makes us think that in order to appreciate having food to eat we need to stuff ourselves? Can't we be thankful and just take what is enough?
My family is very un-touchy-feely so I didn't bring up the idea of everyone saying what they are thankful for prior to the meal, but it did cross my mind as we were on our way to my brother's house. I suppose it would have put everyone on the spot; how to think of just one thing we are thankful for? We have so much.
I'm thankful that this year we are able to celebrate 2 Thanksgivings; one with each family. They will be about as different as night and day, but that's what makes the world go 'round.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
This past week I've been sick with a virus. Nothing specific, just low energy, achy and needing to sleep much of the time- no other symptoms! If I didn't know others who had the same thing I'd worry that it was psychological, which is typical of me. I am getting better at listening to my body as I get older; I took a few days off from the things I do. No cooking, no cleaning, no typing, no tutoring, definitely no exercise and even no yoga. I slept all night and napped much of the day away on the couch. I felt guilty, lazy and useless (as I always do when not in motion) but those feelings weren't enough to force me into activity. Lo and behold, I started feeling better on Friday. Rest is a good thing. Memo to myself: Rest is a Good Thing!!
I wish I was able to handle not feeling well more gracefully. I usually fight it for a few days, hoping that if I ignore it the illness won't be "real". I don't think this has ever actually worked for me so it's probably high time I stopped using this particular way of doing things. I'm sure one of the reasons I hate acknowledging that I'm sick is because any illness tends to hit me harder because of my underlying health problems. I get sicker and the symptoms last longer and have the potential to turn into a lung infection - my body unable to fight both the bacteria that always live in my lungs in addition to the virus. Knowing this, why wouldn't I rest and allow my body to heal as soon as I notice I'm not feeling well? Chalk it up to a conditioned way of doing things, what the Buddhists would call samsara. I guess now is a good time to recognise that this doesn't work for me and make a change. Better late than never!
Back to my original point: It feels like a long time since I've written and I did miss it. I'm glad to be feeling better and that my mind is able to dwell on things other than the "poor me's" of feeling ill. Next time I'll post that I'm going to be away for a few days, even if only to remind myself that I need to take the time off.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
This quotation caught my eye today. I can't think of anything else to add to it. I've read that in order to live your life in the most authentic and genuine way think of yourself on your deathbed. Ah, not a pleasant topic! Consider what you have done with your life; what would you do differently? What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
I must be in listing mood of late because here is my list of things I consider to be important in terms of the way I live my life.
1. Be a good partner, friend wife to Joe.
2. Continue to be a good mother and support to Wilson throughout all the changes he's going to encounter in life.
3. Be a true, loyal and honest friend.
4. Respect the planet and environment.
5. Live as simply as possible: make what I can on my own, be it meals or household items.
6. Be contentented, accepting of and comfortable with myself.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
1. Leaf blowers. Who invented these infernal machines? Noisy, stinky and a scourge to the environment.
2. People who delegate too much. "I'm having a party- can you call so-and-so and invite them?"
Sure, and then I'll tell them to RSVP to you so I don't get stuck in the middle of this when the invitee asks me what does the host want her to bring!
3. People who don't take responsibility for their own plans. "Call me and remind me the day before that we we're supposed to meet". Jeez, if it's not important enough for you to remember on your own, should I even be wasting my time with you???
4. Rude drivers. I know, I know, I'm supposed to feel compassion for them and not let it bother me when they cut me off or sneak in ahead of me instead of waiting in traffic like the rest of us, but sometimes they still annoy the heck out of me.
5. People who think it's all about them. No matter what you are going through their problems are always bigger and they feel the need to talk about them endlessly.
Whew, ok. I feel better now.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
You've visited me a few times in my dreams of late, so I thought it might be a good idea to sit down and write you a letter. I thought about you a lot over the summer but it was in a different way than I am now. I was so shocked to hear the news, I suppose that was part of the denial phase. Now I'm just missing you and wish that I could pick up the phone and tell you all the things that are on my mind.
Even though we've only been in touch on birthdays and at Christmas these past few years, I've always considered you a dear friend. We had our babies together, went through teething, toilet training, kindergarten, middle school and the traumatic start of high school. Not to mention working together every weekend, that was such a bonding experience, and made us so close. I took it for granted that you'd be here when we sent our kids off to college.
We had such similar parenting styles and were so much alike, it was fun to compare notes, recipes and tips on household management. Remember when we discovered meal planning? What a difference that made! It's funny to look back on it now, it seems so common sense!
It was great to talk to someone who understood exactly how I felt when our kids went off to kindergarten, then middle school and finally high school. I had imagined calling you this past August to see how you were doing about sending Lizzy off to college; I wonder where she went?
I sent her some old photos I had of you and her from when she was a baby-- her first birthday, Wilson's birthday parties. I hope they'll bring her some comfort, I can only imagine how much she misses you. I'm sure she's being a wonderful big sister to Joseph and Jason. You rasied her so well.
Remember the time when we brought the kids to see the Enchanted Village at Filene's and had to cut through the Combat Zone from NEMCH? I can't believe we did that! I guess age does that to you, doesn't it? We were so young then, and thought nothing of it.
I guess what I really wanted to say is that I miss you very much. I'm sorry I never got to tell you what a dear friend you were (although I hope you knew) and how much I admired you. I'm sure you were as graceful, elegant and poised during your brief battle with colon cancer and in death as you were throughout your life. I never, ever in a million years expected to outlive you. Peace, my friend. Love, Kim
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Getting the computer back without anything on it gives me a fresh start- there's no clutter! I'm determined to get organized: I'm going to put my photos in folders by year, delete things I no longer need and have a lot less "junk" on here. It's a good feeling to pare down to only what is essential.
On a larger scale I've been trying to do that with our house and closets this fall as well. Admittedly, it's more difficult to get rid of "real" items as opposed to folders and files on a computer. So many things we hang on to just because we might need them some day. I believe we are programmed to do so, the hoarding mentality of our ancestors, for when times get tough.
I've especially seen this behavior with my grandparents: the effects of the great depression. Nothing is wasted, from the tiniest scrap of food to tin foil, which is rinsed and folded up for another use. How wasteful we have become! I know I think nothing of rinsing the extra food off the plates, down the drain, completely wasted. When my grandparents passed away and my parents had to clean out their house they found the closets and basement stuffed full of old cans and jars of food that were probably 20+ years old. It's understandable why someone who had to live through a difficult economic time would want to have something to count on if times should become hard again. But can't there be some balance between having what we need, not wasting, yet not hoarding?
Yesterday while waiting in the doctor's office I read an article in one of the magazines that was lying around about a woman who was forced to evacuate her California home due to wild fires. She was later shocked at the posessions which she grabbed to take with her: her dogs (of course), sweats and shirts, some flea market finds and makeup. She said that upon reflection she couldn't believe she didn't grab her family photo albums, some underwear and her kids' momentos. I suppose part of the reason could be chalked up to panic, not being able to think clearly in an emergency, but it also does make you think-- what would I grab if I had to evacuate the house? What is truly important to me?
I have to admit it's a bit ovewhelming to think of my entire house, all my posessions, and try to pick out a few things that are most important to me. The computer is much less overwhelming, I can start there. I will get rid of all the clutter on my desktop and in my files and perhaps will feel so good from that experience that I will be motivated to de-clutter other areas of my life as well. Clean closets, here I come!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I have to confess that I slept through the announcement of who won last night, but it was looking pretty good for Obama. Still, I didn't want to assume he would be the one to obtain the 270 electoral votes. I was happy to wake up to the news this morning, but also was quite aware that there are many people who either stayed up last night to hear what they dreaded, or woke up to the news this morning. I truly believe that everyone has a right to their opinion and those who were McCain supporters had the best interest of the country at heart. We all want to achieve the same end, but just have different paths by which we choose to travel. I hope that Obama's supporters will be considerate of those who were in the other camp and that there won't be any gloating or rubbing of salt into the wound.
I truly hope that the new administration will lead the country in a good direction. That's what everyone wants, be they republican, democrat, libertarian or green rainbow. Certainly, there are many challenges: the economy, the war(s), healthcare, education and the federal budget deficit to name only a few. Hopefully the fresh ideas will prove to bring about a positive change.
I'll wrap this up by saying that I fully respect everyone's views and will hold those who are unhappy with the outcome of the election in my heart. I'll do my best to listen patiently as they expresss their views, not imposing mine, but acknowledging their disappointment and what is most likely their concern for the direction of the country. I hope time will demonstrate that by using the democratic process, the majority of people made a good choice and that the country will be better off for it. Only time will tell. Peace.
Monday, November 3, 2008
I was flipping through one of her books this morning and this poem spoke to me. Over the weekend we turned our clocks back an hour, gaining that extra precious time for sleep (or however we choose to spend it). We have several lamps that are on timers, which all need to be adjusted when we change the clocks, both in fall and spring. For some reason this makes the change in the daylight even more noticable.
This time of year is harder for many people, myself included. The days grow very short and often its dark by 4:15 in the afternoon. The sun doesn't come up until well after 7am -- such a short day! I try to look at it as part of the cycle, the earth is tilting away from the sun, we spend more time indoors, nesting, coccooning and eating warm, hearty foods. It's a time for reflection, lighting our world from inside, rather than depending upon the light and warmth from without.
Although this poem takes place in summer, when the sun goes down after 8pm, it reminded me regardless of the time it sets, we turn on our lamps and light up from the inside.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
My transformation to Crazy Cat Lady is now complete, we have 4 cats living in our house. Gracie and Millie arrived yesterday, trembling and overwhelmed, but by night time they were shyly playing with us. We have them in the spare bedroom until they are a bit bigger and feel more comfortable with their new environment. Whenever we enter the room they run under the bed to hide, but it takes less and less time for them to come out.
I've been trying to spend a lot of time with them so they'll get used to me, I love sitting in there and just observing them. It's better than watching TV! They are so playful, everything is a toy. I'm glad we decided to get 2 of them, I think the transition would have been much more difficult for them if it had just been one. This way they can comfort each other in this strange environment.
As I was watching them last night I was struck by how utterly perfect they are; miniature beings, full of life and completely un-selfconscious. When you think about it, everything that's alive is perfect, just as it is, but we humans, with our "higher thought process" spend too much time in our heads and don't realize we are fine, just as we are.
Buddhism values all life, from the smallest insect to the largest animal and believes that we are all divine beings. Watching these 2 little creatures that actually makes sense to me! They are so comfortable being exactly who they are- they don't put pressure on themselves to be any different and they live completely in the moment. If that isn't perfection, what is?
It's thought that every time something or someone new enters into your life they are a reincarnation of someone you've lost; someone you need to work things out with. My list isn't that long, but it does make me pause to think: if I did believe in reincarnation, who would these kittens be? A friend who died before 30? My grandparents, who all lived into their 80s or 90s? A patient from work? It's interesting to ponder.
In the meantime, though, I'm just going to enjoy these adorable, fuzzy balls of perfection.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
One of the topics we covered today over our minestrone soup was living an authentic life. Not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk. For a long time I've been passionate about the environment and sustainable living, but this fall I've had more time to explore these subjects and do research online (thank you vesting time!) to learn more. I feel like I've barely scratched the surface with what I know, but I'm motivated to do all I can to live a simple, environmentally friendly, sustainable life.
The first steps I've taken have coincidentally been beneficial because of the worsening economy: decreased consumerism, making do with what we have and thinking of alternative ways to produce/obtain what I need. I've been cooking and baking things from scratch since we got married, but who says that all things purchased have to be new? Second hand shops and swapping used items with those who no longer need them is a great way to "repurpose" items. That way something unneeded doesn't end up in a landfill and will find a new use.
This holiday season, because of our financial status, we are going to be very low key. I'd much rather receive a meaningful, homemade gift that came from someone's heart, than something purchased just for the sake of it. Some of my very favorite gifts have been hand made: a sweater my mom made me or a painting from a friend. Hopefully the people on my gift list will feel similarly. For me, part of the pleasure of giving something is enjoying the process of making it; one of the reasons I enjoy giving quilts so much!
The past 3-4 years I've had a very difficult time getting into the "spirit" of Christmas because the consumerism and what the holiday has come to stand for is at odds with my beliefs and the things that are important to me- living simply and appreciating what we have. I'm hoping this year that something good will come out of the recession and our financial situation and that I'll be able to enjoy the holiday more than in recent years.
Over coffee and dessert A and I talked about getting together with a few friends for 4 consecutive weeks and making hand made gifts for people. We both loved the idea, which incorporates the things I believe in: togetherness with friends, sharing creativity, and putting a little bit of ourselves into the gifts we make. Holiday presents that keep us present.
Friday, October 24, 2008
The fact that we (ok, J) made a wonderful meal out of what we already had got me to thinking: this is something that is very easy to do. In the past, we've thought nothing of running out to the store to pick up a few extra ingredients to make a meal, or get a special dessert at Trader Joe's. Since gas prices have skyrocketed, we've been trying to do one or two big shops a week and if we need something additional, such as milk, we'll walk to the store to get it. When you to walk, it really makes you think: "do I truly need this, or is it just something I want?" Oftentimes, it's the latter.
All those little trips to the store for extras add up, $8 here or $10 there, in addition to the gas, on things we didn't really need. So, last night when we found out Jill and W would be joining us, we talked about picking up a few extra things for the meal.... but then we paused a moment and thought: "wait a sec, the meal will be fine without those extra ingredients." How accustomed we are to purchasing things for pleasure, not necessity.
If we can apply this to our food shopping, what else can we apply it to? Anything and everything we purchase! I've read that before any major purchase its good to use the 30 day rule, in which when you want to buy something, you should wait a month and then see if you still feel the same way about the item. I know if I employed this rule, after the month had passed, I'd probably have forgotten all about what I wanted to buy!
I know it probably sounds crazy, but I do believe this recession has many good aspects to it, as evidenced by the example above. It's really making us think about how we spend our money, what is important and the difference between need and want. Even though times are difficult for us right now, and surely they are much more difficult for those who have less than we do, I think its important for us to be grateful for what we have; to look at the way we live and what is important to us. I think that given some time a more frugal way of living is going to come naturally to us and hopefully it will get us away from consumerism and the emptiness that brings. I hope that then we will be able to say we are living a more authentic and satisfying life. Happy Friday!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The essence of the heart chakra is love- spiritual love, not the clingy, "i need you", attached sort of love. Love for all living things-- including ourselves! Sometimes that is the most difficult love of all. Unconditional love. We did some heart opening postures and by the end of the class I was feeling so centered, so grounded, and almost had a glimpse of that universal, unconditional love for everyone and everything.
One of the subjects associated with this chakra is forgiveness. Tricky subject, forgiveness. I know I've always associated forgiveness with being able to forget something that happened. According to yogic teachings, it's not about forgetting, which sometimes feels like you are condoning a "wrong" that was done to you. It's about understanding that each person does the best they can with what they are dealing with at any given time. Most often, when someone doesn't give us what we need, or hurts us, it's because they are in pain themselves, or lacking in something, or afraid.
Of course there are always exceptions, but in most cases, others don't intend to hurt us. It just happens that we are not on the same path at that particular point in time. We may need more than they are able to give; or perhaps because of something they are dealing with in their own internal makeup, they are unable to provide what we need. It doesn't make them a bad person or even wrong; it helps to be aware that they have their own issues.
This realization can lead to more compassion for others. Compassion and forgiveness go hand in hand; when we realize that it's not just about us, it becomes much easier to forgive actions that we perceive as "wrongs" against us. Perhaps the person who just cut us off in traffic is late to pick up her children and is worried about them - a position we have probably all been in at one time or another. When we remember how we felt in that situation it's easy to forgive the person. "Sure, go ahead of me, I know just how you feel, your kids are your focus, not driver etiquette!" Certainly, we'd all say that if we knew the person's situation!
Today I'm going to work on unconditional love and forgiveness - seeing things from other people's perspectives instead of just my own - and hopefully this will make me a more grounded and peaceful person.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
It was wonderful to see W, as always, and our visit reminded me of how much I enjoy his company. Sure, every mother loves their child - I'm no exception - but I also truly enjoy him as a person and having conversations with him. I'm so proud that he's adjusted well to school, no doubt one of the most difficult transitions in life, that he has a nice group of friends and is doing well in his classes.
It has been the biggest joy and privilege of my life to be a parent. When I look back now, I think "how young we were!" when W was born. I can't claim to have been a perfect parent, though I have done my very best to be a good mother and role model. I think W has inherited the best qualities from both of us (thank you genetic roulette wheel!): J's solid, calm, rational demeanor and my sensitivity, empathy and interest in other people. W is really a joy to spend time with: funny, attentive and interested in a variety of topics.
It's amazing to think how quickly the past 18 years has gone by and there will always be a funny feeling to the house now; someone is missing. But the trade off is that W has grown into a fine young man, one who can stand on his own two feet and is able to handle whatever comes his way. I'm proud he's turned into such a wonderful person- what more could a parent ask for?
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
My Tuesday evening yoga class is held in a room with a wall of windows on one side, which overlook a lovely garden filled with trees, shrubs, inviting benches and winding paths. Five weeks ago when the class started the sun was shining brightly even as the class ended. Last night it was nearly dark as we were packing up our things. Between the time we lay down in Savasana and when we sat up again, the sun had gone down. During the final moments of the class the teacher asked us to sit and look upon the garden: notice the fall colors of red, orange and yellow, the fading light, and the way nature is preparing for the change of seasons. Only she didn't use the word change; she used the word transformation.
I really love fall, it is truly my favorite of all the seasons here in New England. The weather is at its best: consistently nice temperatures, unlike spring with its raw, chilly winds, up and down temps and rain. We've had a stretch of weather that has been gorgeous for the past couple weeks: 60-70 degrees and sunny, surrounded by the amazing colors of the fall trees. The one drawback to fall is knowing what comes next: the long winter, being stuck indoors and the short days. Seasonal Affective Disorder, anyone? For some reason, knowing this is approaching has always been a damper on fall for me.
Last night, as I sat at the end of yoga class looking upon the vibrant colors of fall, it occurred to me that if I would just enjoy the moment, each hour, each day and not be thinking about what is to come, I'd like fall much better. Its impossible to prevent the change of fall to winter, its a process that must happen each year, just like the changing color of the trees.
I was struck by the word transformation; it has a much more positive connotation for me than the word change. In my mind, transformation is more of a process, not just a singular event, something being different. Each year the trees put on their brilliant show, the gardens die back, the leaves drop and winter comes. Is this change? Yes, but its also transformation, part of a process that must happen in order for spring to come. Instead of fighting the change and dreading the winter, letting it spoil my enjoyment of fall, I need to change my outlook. Clearly, mother nature isn't going to alter her course because I don't like winter! So it's up to me: Stop thinking about what is going to happen in the future and enjoy the nice day in the present!
I was reminded of the Serenity Prayer, something I learned 25 years ago in Sunday school: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the strength to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
We can't stop the changing of the seasons, but maybe a different outlook, seeing it as a transformation, part of the process will help with the acceptance part.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Another quote that reminds me to accept things as they are, we are the ones that give the labels "good" or "bad". Things happen as they will and it is not for us to judge, but only to accept the things that we cannot change.
This isn't to say that we must lie passively in the road and take whatever comes our way; only that there are things we can't alter, such as which branches will grow short or which will grow long. We need to be able to discern those things from the ones we can do something about and let everything else go. Acceptance.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Today I'm looking forward to my morning walk with J, working on my current quilting project and a visit from my parents. It's going to be another beautiful fall day, warm and sunny and I plan to enjoy every moment. Here's to trying to stay mindful today!
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Here is little Gracie at 4 1/2 weeks old, I went to visit her last night and got some updated photos. The kittens are all out of their nest now, exploring the room and starting to play, much steadier on their feet. At this point Gracie is the smallest of the bunch, curious and very playful. She seems more interested in exploring her surroundings than cuddling or being held. I could have watched her and her litter-mates all night, they are so adorable! Towards the end of my visit they all curled up in their bed, one big jumble of feet, tails and fur and went to sleep. A couple of them were purring, but it was difficult to tell who because they were all so intertwined.
I've never adopted a kitten before, it's a lot of fun to know the actual "birthday" and age as well as being able to watch her grow from a tiny baby. My other 3 cats were adopted as adults, ages 1-3, which is wonderful because adults are harder to place (seeing the kittens I understand why!). My first cat I rescued as a baby from the mean streets of Chinatown in Boston at 1am after working an evening shift, she was a mere 5 weeks old and on her own at that point. She was feral and never truly liked being touched or cuddled and unfortunately kept her wild side all of her short life. Because of her wildness, the vet was never able to properly examine her, even though she was declawed and medicated prior to checkups. She died a young cat, at 4 years old, we were never sure of the reason, but the vet suspected a bad heart. She was a beautiful calico cat, but not an ideal pet by any stretch of the imagination, so my experience with kittens is quite limited. This is a totally different scenario, seeing Gracie with her litter mates and mom and watching her grow, then taking her home when she is old enough to leave.
My quote for today is simple, and I really don't have anything to add, so I'll end with it here:
The world is ruled by letting things take their course. - LaoTzu