Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Over the River

Tomorrow morning we are off to my in-law's house for Thanksgiving. The 8 hour drive will be a lot easier now that we have 3 drivers to divide the driving time- the last time we were there was several years before W had his license. Boy, is this visit overdue!

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

Giving Thanks

Yesterday J, W and I made the drive to Lunenburg to my brother's newly rebuilt house to spend the day with my side of the family since we will be in Buffalo for Thanksgiving this year. In a way we're quite lucky that our families of origin are so far apart; there's never any haggling over how to divide a holiday between the two. We're either here with my parents or away and spending the time with Joe's parents and siblings.

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

In Sickness and in Health

One thing I've noticed since I've been reading various blogs is how much I look forward to new posts. When a few days or a week go by without something new I feel a sense of disappointment and wonder what is going on that the person hasn't been able to write. Of course, no matter how much one enjoys an activity, there will inevitably come a time when a bit of a break is needed. Sometimes bloggers will announce that they are going to be absent, and some just seem to drop off, leaving the reader to wonder when, if ever, they will be back.

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

Quotation of the Day

Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind. Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies. Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors. If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving one to another. -- Robert Lewis Stevenson

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

A Wee Rant

I'm going to preface this by saying that I'm more than aware I have absolutely nothing to complain about; I have a roof over my head, enough to eat and my health and that of my family is stable. I have friends who are facing financial ruin, some who are suffering from devastating health problems and those who are desperately unhappy. I am so lucky. The following list is some very minor annoyances that I need to get off my chest.

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


Dear Marlena,

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


Yesterday I finally got my laptop back after it spent 6 weeks in the shop being repaired. Of course, the hard drive has been wiped clean- everything removed-which I knew would happen from a previous experience. Fortunately, a dear friend K helped me set up an external hard drive on which to back things up, so I didn't lose any of my photos or important information.

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

The Morning After

I have a huge sense of relief this morning now that the election is over- first and foremost because the candidate I was supporting will be the next president- but there is also relief that all the political rhetoric, advertising and mud slinging is going to be over with. I'm hoping that regardless of who people supported they can take a deep breath and we can move on as a country. I fully recognize that it's a terrible disappointment to have the candidate you were hoping for not be elected; I was in that position during the past 2 elections! I remember well the sense of let-down and resignation of the "day after".

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

Darkness and Daylight Savings

I'm not a poetry person by any means. Often the meaning I take from a passage is different than the one the author intended, which makes me feel foolish, or that I can't understand what he or she was trying to say. One poet I do enjoy, however, is Mary Oliver, because her themes are mainly about nature and the world around her. She also lives in Truro, MA and often writes about the surrounding area and the ocean.

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.

The Lamps - Mary Oliver
Eight O'clock, no later
You light the lamps
The bog one by the large window,
The small one on your desk.
They are not to see by-
It is still twilight out over the sand,
The scrub oaks and cranberries.
Even the small birds have not settled
For sleep yet, out of the reach
Of probling foxes. No,
You light the lamps because
You are alone in your small house
And the wicks sputtering gold
Are like two visitors with good stories
They will tell slowly, in soft voices
While the air outside turns quietly
A grainy and luminous blue.
You wish it would never change-
But of course the darkness keeps
Its appointment. Each evening,
An inscrutable presence, it has the final word
Outside every door.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Furry Perfection

Millie and Gracie

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.