Thursday, October 30, 2008

Autumn Around the Garden

I'm not sure if it's my imagination or not, but the colors this fall seem to be particularly bright and have lasted a long time. Usually we get a windy rainstorm that blows all the vibrant leaves off the trees just when they are at their peak. I couldn't resist taking a few photos around the yard yesterday so I can remember how beautiful the colors look when all I can see is white out the window.

The crazy little tree Cynthia gave me (still don't know what it is!) turns this gorgeous peachy-salmon color just before the leaves fall off. One day the leaves are greenish-yellow and then the next day they're like this. Don't blink! You'll miss the transformation.

Likewise with the climbing hydranga vine on the oak tree out front; the leaves are green and then overnight they turn this pretty yellow. Even Joe noticed the change this year, and he's not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination.

The burning bush in the back garden is at its peak, one of these mornings I'm going to wake up and there will be a pile of little red leaves underneath it. At least I'll have the pictures!

Now if we could just get rid of the noisy leaf blowers that the lawn services use to clean up everyone else's yards... whatever happened to families raking leaves on a sunny afternoon? I guess that's a topic for another post.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Authentic Life

I had the pleasure of eating lunch with a friend today whom I consider to be very spiritual and wise. I always enjoy the discussions I have with this particular friend because they make me think and see things from a different angle.

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 Art of Making Do

We had the pleasure of our friend Jill's company for dinner last night, in addition to W surprising us and coming home for the weekend. The food was simple, Joe is a master of throwing a few things together and coming up with something that is very tasty and nutritious. It was a spur of the moment invitation and worked out perfectly for everyone.

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 Heart and Forgiveness

At my Tuesday evening yoga class the teacher has been talking about the different chakras, one each week. We've worked our way through the 3 lower chakras, which have to deal with the external, and this week discussed the heart chakra. The color associated with this place is green, something that makes sense to me as we open our hearts and feel love for the world around us. The heart chakra is the transition to the upper areas, which deal with the internal, our own spiritual growth.

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

Does This Make Me a Crazy Cat Lady?

I'm told you should never ask a question you really don't want to hear the answer to, so consider the title of this post a rhetorical one. I guess I already know the answer!
Meet kitty #2, as yet unnamed, whom we will be bringing home in addition to Gracie. Crazy? Most definitely! She was originally claimed, but then the person backed out. I've had my eye on this little female from the start, she was the first born and is a bit timid and cautious, but has a very sweet disposition. For some reason she has always appealed to me, maybe it's her unusual coloring or it could be her personality. For whatever reason I'm enamored with her. When I heard that she was once again unclaimed I looked into discount spaying programs, the only way we could afford to adopt 2 kittens. My research paid off, I found a place that will do it for a $65 fee, which is just a bit more than one fourth of what my regular vet charges.
Two kittens. I have read that it is better to adopt 2 together so they have a playmate, thereby relieving the owner of some of that responsibility. We'll see, its a completely new experience for me! All I know is that they are adorable and I can't wait to bring them both home.
Name suggestions, anyone?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Silk Quilt from a Sow's Kimono

One of the things I like best about fall, aside from the beautiful weather, is the return to doing things indoors. I spend more time in the kitchen and we once again start eating hearty meals: soups and stews that simmer on the stove for hours and make your mouth water with their tantalizing smells. Gone are the grilled meals and salads that we enjoy during summer, giving us a break so that we will enjoy them again when the weather turns warmer next year.
In addition to cooking I get to return to one of my favorite hobbies: quilting. Somehow, there is so much to do outdoors in the summer that I don't make time for it. Plus, who wants to have fabric draped over their lap on a hot and humid afternoon?
This fall I've kept to my frugality pact with myself... no more new fabric. I've been having a good time using the closet-full that I already have, and it hasn't even put a dent in my supply! It feels good to use up what is already there, I never "need" more fabric, but sometimes when I see a beautiful print I think, "oh, I just have to have that!" This year I'm resisting that impulse and using what I already have.
I have a friend whose husband is Japanese and has a huge collection of kimono that he inherited from his mother when she passed away. The fabrics are all silk and have the most gorgeous patterns. I've been helping her "recycle" these kimono by using them in quilts, something I've always wanted to try. The photo above is the completed top of the first one I made, I'm happy with how it turned out. I need to piece the batting and backing together (no new fabric, remember?) and then I'll finish it up. I think it will be cool to have an all silk quilt and I'm already planning on the one I'll make to give to C in exchange for the kimono.
The fact that I'm recycling something and putting it to good use makes me feel happy. I also like the challenge of having only so much to work with, which forces me to think outside my narrow mental box. Sometimes there isn't enough fabric to make the quilt as I had originally planned- it forces me to be creative with a solution and to be flexible- not locked in to my original idea, something that is good for me to practice.
In the pictured quilt, I had hoped to have enough of the main kimono fabric for the 4 borders, but it became apparent that was not going to be the case as I got closer to being finished. What to do, what to do.... I decided to extend the center pattern out into the top and bottom borders to make up for the lack of continuous fabric, and I think it worked out well. Here's to being flexible and creative solutions!

Parents' Weekend

Yesterday we spent the afternoon with W at Babson, touring the college and the downtown area, where there are lots of cute little shops and boutiques. The campus was like something out of a brochure, the maple trees all at their peak of color, the ground littered with their fallen leaves. It was a beautiful fall day to walk around.

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

As She Grows

I had the pleasure of visiting my friend who is taking care of the mom cat and kittens today for an hour today before picking my in-laws up at the airport. How the kittens have changed in just a week! They're very coordinated now, constantly playing with each other and quite fiesty. I was relieved that Gracie seemed more interested in me this week, last week she was incredibly unimpressed with my presence.

The kittens are intrigued by the camera's flash and sit still for pictures, anticipataing the flicker of the light. I was able to get some great photos of them today, in the one above is Gracie and her only brother, whose name is Chester. They are the most adorable little balls of fluff! Joyce is kind enough to let me come over to visit with them frequently and it amazes me how much they change in the matter of just a few days. She'll check with the vet, but hopefully I will be able to bring Gracie home in 3 or 4 weeks. Definitely something to look forward to!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Change vs. Transformation

What is it about change? I've never liked it. Give me a routine and I'll happily stick with it for ages. For me, the most unwelcome type of change is one I have no control over, something caused by an oustide situation or someone else. Does this make me a control freak?

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


In the landscape of spring, there is neither better nor worse. The flowering branches grow naturally, some long, some short. - Zen saying

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

Three Things

Last night as I lay in bed just about to fall asleep I thought of the three things I'm most grateful for at the moment: my wonderful husband who sticks with me through thick and thin; our house, which we have put 16 years of loving work into and my health, which has been (knock on wood) stable. Sometimes its the little things I'm grateful for, like a delicious muffin, but these are the three "biggies".

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


This poem was published in 1927 by Max Ehrmann as a prescription for happiness. A dear friend loaned me a book containing this poem on Friday night, amazing timing as she didn't even know of my spiritual and philosophical explorations lately. Sometimes the universe delivers exactly what you are looking for without your even asking for it. Desiderata is a Latin word meaning "things that are yearned for" and I italicized my favorite line.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter
for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the w0rld is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity
and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield
you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees
and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
-Max Ehrmann

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Amazing Gracie

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

Friday, October 10, 2008


Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment. - Thich Nhat Hanh

I've come to enjoy looking through my books in the morning and finding a quote that jumps out at me. Today I have Love Letters to the Universe open. Unlike Think Positive Thoughts Every Day, this book is filled with many amazing quotes, some so abstract I have difficulty understanding them. Whereas Think Positive is more smarmy-sweet, this book contains thought provoking quotations that reflect on the miracle of life and the creation of the universe. I have a million little sticky notes marking pages that have interesting thoughts on them. Contained in its pages are the likes of Rilke, Einstein, Rumi, Nabokov, Deepak Chopra, Camus and a smattering of quotes from the Tao Te Ching, Bagavad Gita and other sacred texts to name just a few. Clearly, this book belongs nowhere near the bathroom!

Thich Nhat Hanh's quote jumped out at me today because it reminds me of how often we expect the extraordinary from ourselves, when actually it is the simplest things that are miraculous. Imagine being able to stay in the present moment for an entire day! Even five minutes is a challenge, never mind an hour. Being able to live in the present continually is just about as likely for me as being able to walk on water. Yet, when I'm able to do it for few moments, or during a yoga class it is an amazing thing. The past and future, things our minds tend to dwell on much of the time, fall away and we are left with the here, the now, the present moment. All that wasted energy that we spend worrying, planning, ruminating can be spent on paying attention to what is going on at the time- whether it be a conversation, observing the beauty of a flower or appreciating the way the sunlight falls at this time of year. How many details we miss because our minds are so busy elsewhere!!

Mindfulness is helpful also for dealing with crisis. When a situation seems completely overwhelming and you have no idea where to begin or think you can't handle something returning to your breathing and focusing on the now is a great way to maintain control. Many things that are thrown at us in life are so difficult, but taking them one step or breath at a time can whittle them down into something we can manage. Isn't that one of the tenets of the 12-step program? One Day at a Time. How about making that an even smaller piece to bite off and chew on? One Breath at a Time.

A week or so ago I said I didn't intend to start each blog out with a quote. When I created this blog I had no idea where I was going with it but it seems to me for the time being that this is the direction I'm going to take. I enjoy starting the day off with a quote and trying to set an intention for the day. Remembering the words of Thich Nhat Hanh will be my goal for today. Rather than expecting a miracle from myself, I need to realize that the biggest miracle is to live in the present, something that is within my grasp, within every one's grasp.

This one's for you Tina!

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Joy is not in things, it is in us. - Robert Wagner

It is impossible to turn on the television, pick up a newspaper or have a conversation with anyone these days without the country's economic crisis taking center stage. It's impossible to escape and I think that everyone is feeling very uneasy about their financial situation at the moment. Everything costs more: food, fuel, and especially heating oil as we approach the winter here in the northeast. Paychecks haven't kept up with the rapid rise in inflation, and now on top of the increase in the cost of living, we have the threat of failing banks. Wall Street is a rollercoaster and everyday people who have invested their retirement savings are losing huge sums of money. We're lucky that we're still 20+ years away from retirement- the economy goes up and down and hopefully this trend will work itself out within the next several years. But what about those who don't have that kind of time, and have lost their nest egg?

I hate to say this, but maybe in some ways this crash will be good for our country. Certainly not in the short term, and I do feel for the people who are impacted today by the volatility. But perhaps in the long run this will be a good thing. We are a country of wasters- anyone who has ever traveled outside the United States has seen this. Gas prices rising here? Well they've been higher in Europe for many years. They have had to adapt, you don't see the huge SUVs that so many people here drive. They have been using alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar much longer, its not uncommon to see a wind farm on the horizon or a store selling solar panels for the homeowner. We need to be better about seeking alternative fuels and being more proactive about conservation. I think the economy is going to force us into it, even if our consciences haven't.

Perhaps, also, this crash will be a sort of levelling of the playing field as well. I know that not just the Wall St. bigwigs are being affected, probably the CEOs of the banks and corporations that are being bailed out will never have to worry about how they are going to pay for their oil bill, or decide which is more important: groceries or their medication. But hopefully it will slim down the margain between the haves and the have-nots and force us to look at our spending habits and what is meaningful to us.

J and I have lived frugally for so many years. When we read the tips that are now appearing online, in magazines and newspapers on how to save costs we just shake our heads and say "we already do all that!" We have become masters at conservation and frugality. Can we trim a bit more from our budget? Of course, there is always room for improvement, but over the years we have learned to be very responsible financially- due in large part to my being disabled and not working. Now that J is between jobs we need to be even more cautious. But maybe in proportion we aren't as badly off because everyone else is struggling now as well.

This brings me back to my original quote: that happiness is not in things, but in ourselves. I'm hoping that this difficult economic time will help us, as a country, get away from the consumerism and "he who dies with the most toys wins" mentality and more in touch with our spiritual side. Things can't make you happy. Can they make life more comfortable? You bet! But if you do a bit of soul-searching and make a list of priorities and what is important to you in life, I'll wager that it is the simple things that top the list: family, friends, a crisp, sunny fall day, apple pie baking in the oven. Yes, we need money to pay our bills and put food on the table, but true happiness comes from within, from us doing the things we love and that give us a sense of wholeness. Once our basic needs have been met, everything else is icing on the cake. Here's to the simple life!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Year Ago

Exactly one year ago today I was out with Joe and my sister-in-law and her family at the little Italian Cafe down the street. Its a BYO restaurant with great food, we brought a couple bottles of wine and I was imbibing freely before the meal arrived and by the time we started eating had quite a buzz on. Towards the end of the meal my cell phone rang, it was one of my closest friends who was awaiting a life-saving lung transplant. When I saw the caller I froze and couldn't answer the phone, I handed it to Joe. What a weird reaction! This friend calls frequently and I had no reason to think this call would be any different; however, I had a feeling (maybe because I was a bit drunk) that this was "the call".

Joe spoke to P briefly, told him we were out to dinner and that I'd call him back shortly. P had gotten the call for a set of lungs! I immediately burst into tears, walked outside the restaurant and called him back. I proceeded to sob throughout the call, knowing full well what this meant. He was about to go into a huge operation, one that would hopefully save his life, but that there was a chance that this would be the last time we were talking to one another. He had bestowed upon me the honor of being the Director of Communications, the person who would email everyone to save his immediate family from fielding calls and emails so they could concentrate on P. I promised him I'd keep everyone up to date, stay in close touch with his mom and he cheerfully promised he'd "see me on the other side". I sobbed throughout the entire conversati0n, all the way home from the restaurant and then for another good half hour, alone, in the back yard once we got home. I'm sure the wine had a good bit to do with my emotional reaction, but it was such a huge moment, one this friend had been waiting for for a long time. There had been one false alarm, some people encounter many. I had a good feeling about this, though, and was just so happy/worried/excited/scared and overwhelmed at the thought of his going into surgery.

The actual transplant took place on the 8th, by the time they got him to the hospital and prepared for surgery. The operation itself was quite long and there were some serious complications immediately postop that necessitated another trip back into the operating room. Amazingly, I was able to travel to Pittsburgh two and a half weeks later to see him, while he was still in the hospital. It was an amazing site: his color was no longer gray, he had pink lips and nail beds and his complexion was downright rosy! Truly a miracle. The past year hasn't been an easy one, frought with complications, medical procedures and fighting the system for follow-up. He has maintained is dignity and wry sense of humor throughout, something that hardly seems possible, but he's pulled it off. My hat goes off to this brave and incredible man, whom I am proud to call a very dear friend.

A year ago it was, and its going to be on my mind tonight and tomorrow. A toast to you, P!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What's Cuter than a Kitten?

What's cuter than a kitten? How about five????

My friend Joyce is fostering a stray mom cat who gave birth to a litter of 5 kittens. They're 3 1/2 weeks old now and absolutely adorable, just starting to totter around on wobbly legs. I'm going to be bringing the gray and white one home in 4 weeks, when she's old enough. Meet Gracie, the latest addition to our family!

This is probably the worst time imaginable to be taking in a kitten; there are numerous expenses associated with a new pet- shots, neutering and checkups. We're also going to visit J's family for Thanksgiving, which, by my estimation will probably be just a week after we bring Gracie home. I hate the thought of her being alone for 4 days so soon after moving in with us, but hopefully she won't be too traumatized by it.

I realize that this is pretty cliche.... only child goes off to college and empty-nester mom adopts a new kitten. Well, so what if it is a cliche? Is it anything to be ashamed of? Its true I miss Wilson, but I'm not pining away for him or anything... I've had plenty to keep me busy since he left home. And he's been home almost once a week, for goodness sake! The timing seems to make sense: I have more freedom with W not at home, we lost Benji back in March, and Charlotte (bless her heart!) is 17 and I'm not sure how much longer she'll be with us. Plus, I just really like cats.

I'm not sure how Gomer will react to Gracie, I'm hoping that because she's a kitten he'll be a bit curious and not threatened by her. I don't expect them to be buddies like he and Benji were, but hopefully there won't be any fights. Unless Gracie goes up into my bedroom I doubt Charlotte will even know she's here, as she mostly just sleeps her days away in comfort on my bed. She's happy enough and doesn't seem to need to do more than eat, sleep and use the litterbox. Her interest in what goes on in the rest of the house is nil at this point so hopefully Gracie won't be a problem.

So soon we'll be back up to 3 cats, who knows for how long, but I plan to thoroughly enjoy the time I have with them. If only pets lived as long as we do!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bathroom Reading and Attitude

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. - William Shakespeare

I don't intend to start off each blog entry with a quote but for the past couple days I've been looking through a book called Think Positive Thoughts Every Day. Its one of those "bathroom books" with quotes and poems that are supposed to help you live a happier life. I came across it while at Borders, shortly after S's husband was fired from his job and admitted to rehab; it seemed like a perfect thing to send her to help her get through a very difficult time. It was on the bargain table, only $4 or so, so I figured I'd get one for myself as well so we could read it together. Much of it is so sickly-sweet, sunshine-up-your-butt, smarmy that its all I can do not to gag- but there are some quotes I like as evidenced by the past couple blogs I've written.

A big part of the way we react to situations depends upon our outlook at the moment. A bad mood can make the driver that cuts you off in traffic seem inherently evil, when in fact the person is just trying to change lanes and the spot in front of you happened to be the place he chose to do it. Nothing personal. But its easy when you are seeing things in a negative light to take it personally and feel like he did it just to spite you and get ahead of you. The bastard!

When you're in a more peaceful mood or having a better day its so much easier to let it slide off your back. Maybe there's a great song on the radio, or you're looking forward to something later in the day- hey, so someone cuts you off... no biggie! Its amazing how the way we are feeling can color a situation.

I guess that brings me back to the original Shakespeare quote: nothing in life is really good or bad, but its our outlook, attitude and views on it that makes it seem that way to us. Its all in our perception!

Sure, there are some events in which its nearly impossible to find any good- hurricane Katrina or the Tsunami in Indonesia come to mind. Natural disasters of huge proportions. Nature is indifferent, weather happens and its part of the natural order of things in the universe. Its so difficult to look at it from the human perspective and not see it as negative... the suffering, lives, homes, businesses lost...but in reality its just part of the way things work. Nothing personal.

There is a story, for the life of me I can't remember where I read it......... there was a wise man in a Chinese village who refused to judge events. Villagers would come to him with situations and ask him what he thought... "maybe its good, maybe its bad, maybe its neither" was his reply.

A farmer was busy with his crops in the field when his only son broke his leg and was unable to help with the harvest. The farmer went to the wise man and bemoaned his fate. The sage gave his usual reply, which frustrated the farmer - until several days later when the army came through the village and took all the able bodied young men to fight in a war. Because of his son's broken leg, he was spared. So out of a "bad" situation came a "good" outcome. Did that make the broken leg a good thing?

There is nothing that is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thoughts for the Day

Live so that you are at ease, in harmony with the world, and full of joy. - Confucius

What a simple saying, but not that easy to do! I wanted to start today with the three things I am looking forward to. I'm up early to do my treatments before a 7am yoga class that I've been attending for the past few weeks. Its not as spiritual and meditative as the class I take on Tuesdays with M, but it is an amazing way to start out the day. The second thing I'm looking forward to is going to the dentist; that probably sounds crazy, but I love having my teeth feel so fresh and clean. I'm a bit nervous about my cracked tooth (maybe they won't notice???) since we have no dental insurance at the moment, but hopefully I can put off any major work until J has a job. The third thing I'm looking forward to today is having my in-laws visit overnight. One night is perfect! Enough time to catch up and see one another but not enough to get on each other's nerves. W is also coming home to see them, it will be great to have him home for a couple nights.

Its easy to look around and see people who are better off, who don't have to deal with the same struggles and burdens, and their lives might even seem enviable. There's also another side to the coin, we are so much better off than most, we have so much: a home, our health, a family and friends who love us, enough food on the table... the list could go on infinitely.

So, back to the quote from Confucius that I started out with- my intention for the day is to live in harmony with the world be at ease and full of joy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I'm going to try to start and end each day thinking about three positive things. In the morning I'll start with things I'm looking forward to that day. They could be as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee outside, listening to the birds, or maybe some retail therapy or getting together with a friend. Each day has hundreds of moments that we could be appreciating, but are often too busy. The yoga class I'm taking on Tuesdays with Mary has a wonderful teacher. She emphasizes mindfulness, being in the moment and appreciating the present. I'm working towards being more conscious of those things.

At the end of the day I'd like to reflect on three things that I'm thankful for. We really are so blessed, though that sounds trite and corny, but compared to so many other cultures and countries, we have SO much. I think much of the time we are on auto pilot, too busy to think about what we have and notice what is around us. Work consumes us, we are always rushing from one task to the next, trying to fit everything in... mindfulness is about slowing down, enjoying the process and living in the moment.

Today I had a luxurious haircut with my stylist, whom I adore. He makes me laugh but is also quite serious at times and we can discuss just about anything under the sun. He has a lot of self-awareness. I also had a wonderful visit with an old friend, whom I've known for 20+ years. We had coffee and talked about our families, mutual friends and how nice it is to have such a long history together. It was great to see him and we made a vow to get together for dinner with our spouses soon. In about a half an hour a friend is coming by with a peony that her mom has divided... apparently, its been in the family for a long time and is quite a special one. I'm honored not only to have her friendship, but now to have a reminder of her in my garden! I can think of many more things that I'm thankful for today, but those were the first to come to mind. How lucky to have so many things to be grateful for!