Friday, February 27, 2009

Simple Living

One of the things I'm exploring at this point in my life is how to live simply. With Joe out of work for a year it was a great opportunity to practice non-consumerism. How amazing it would be if we could continue that way of life now that he is working again! Of course, we have some catch-up to do; things that need to be repaired or purchases we put off until he was employed again. Once we are caught up I'm hoping we can find some happy medium - not completely abstain from purchases, but consider carefully before buying.

So here I am, 44 years old, an empty nester, trying to figure out where to go from here. I truly am living the life I want to lead, I don't think I'd change a thing. Wilson is happy at school, has a wonderful group of friends is and blossoming as a person. Joe has a good job that seems to be a nice combination of challenging and stimulating. The company he's working for is a good fit for him: they appreciate loyalty and focus on quality, two of his biggest strengths. We have a home which is perfect for us: small, cozy and simple with a pretty yard that I enjoy working in. I have the time to do the things that are important to me: cooking from scratch, spending time with family and friends, pursuing my interests and learning more about living sustainably and in an environmentally friendly manner. We have 4 sweet cats that are great company and an endless source of entertainment.

Sometimes I forget or take for granted how lucky I am to be living a life that is perfectly in sync with my values. We might not have high-powered jobs or be the richest people on the street, but I'm willing to bet that there isn't anyone who is more fortunate in the most important ways.

One of the Ten Keys to Happiness

Accept what comes to you totally and completely so that you can appreciate it, learn from it, and then let it go. - Deepak Chopra

This was the quote I had started my lost blog with. I found it in a book that I gave to Sue while I was visiting her in AZ and for some reason it jumped off the page at me. When I lost the blog I lost the quote and had to do a search for it. I googled Deepak Chopra; there were hundreds of sites that came up with quotes of wisdom from him, but this one wasn't at the top of the list. So I decided to type in what I remembered of the quote and up popped an article by Deepak discussing the 10 keys to happiness. Isn't google amazing? Right smack in the middle of the article was the quote I had been looking for.

I won't try to recreate the blog again. As frustrated as I was by the loss of those thoughts and typing I'm glad I didn't dwell on it; that's exactly what the quote advises. Just accept what happens, take what you can from the experience (now I hit the 'save now' button much more frequently!) and then let it go. Although, I suppose if I had truly let it go, I would never have mentioned it again...

I gained from the experience in that if I hadn't had to search the web for the lost quote I never would have stumbled upon the article by Mr. Chopra that I'm looking forward to reading. Each event allows us the opportunity to learn, no matter how big or small, and that is something I'm going to try to keep in mind.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Open and Accepting

I had a post all written out a few days ago but when I hit "publish post" for some strange reason I got an error message and it disappeared. Ugh, the computer ate my homework! I was frustrated and decided to leave it for a bit, rewrite it when I was in a better frame of mind, though never got back to it. Maybe that one was never meant to be published!

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to where my life is supposed to go from here. I am feeling very contented and happy with the way things are now, but know that nothing is static and that that I need to be open to change.Not to force it, but just to be able to accept and go with it when it does present itself.

A friend recently told me that she had seen an interview with a man who was an impressive 112 years old. The one thing he offered up as advice from his life experience was to be open to change. I figure if that was the single most important thing someone that age wanted to impart on others, then I'd best take note of his wisdom.

So often we spend our energy fighting against the way things are, our reality. Wouldn't it be better if we could just accept those things we can't change? (I'm reminded of the Serenity Prayer, it's not just for AA anymore!) We don't have to like everything that happens to us or our circumstances, but if there isn't anything we can do about them, why not just accept it? It's taken me nearly 44 years to figure that one out! Better late than never, I suppose.

The other side of that coin is that I need to be able to be open to change when it comes my way. For most of my life I have been tentative, never taking risks, going out on a limb or trying anything risky. I'm a creature of habit and much happier in my comfortable routine. Now, in the throes of my midlife crisis, I'm seeing all these different paths that I could take. Will I stay on the safe, familiar route? Or perhaps take a direction I have never tried before?

I'm actually excited by the possibilities, which I take as a good sign. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy things as they are, try to be accepting of what I can't change and open to new opportunities.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Meet the Buckets

There is an English show on PBS called Keeping Up Appearances that Joe likes to watch. It's a typical English comedy; subtle, dry humor based on the quirks of the characters. In this show there is a woman named Mrs. Bucket, who, because she puts on airs, pronounces her last name "bouquet". Bouquet certainly sounds much more classy than bucket.

We've been calling the kittens "the bucket-heads" since they came back from their spaying on Wednesday; they're wearing Elizabethan collars, which resemble little buckets. It's much easier to say "bucket" than "Elizabethan collar".

Millie has been cleverly getting hers off every couple hours; Gracie has yet to be so lucky. I figure as long as Millie leaves her sutures alone I'll leave it off during the day and give her a break. It's hard for them to run and play with the buckets on. Even eating and drinking are a bit more tricky and they end up getting food all over the place and spilling their water. I can't imagine 10 days of this until they get their stitches out, but I suppose they'll get used to it.
They've already become much more adept at getting around with them on. The first few hours they were home were spent crashing into things and getting caught behind the furniture. Last night as we lay in bed we could hear a lot of clunking around as they tried to navigate the spaces they usually have no problems fitting into. I'm sure they're wondering what on earth we're doing this to them for, and on top of it all, we're calling them bucket-heads. The insult!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Opposite Ends of the Spectrum

Gracie and Millie are getting so big, they have the gangly long legs of adolescents, their adult teeth and fur and are honing their hunting skills by playing with anything and everything. They have the sweetest dispositions: affectionate, loving, curious and playful. They really are the sweetest things.

Tomorrow they go in for their spaying, just in the nick of time it seems, as Millie was quite randy towards the end of last week. Thankfully she didn't get outside, nor did any Toms find their way in, but it still made me nervous and I don't want to be a grandma (to kitties or otherwise!) just yet. I feel a bit guilty bringing these sweet, innocent and trusting little kitties in to the vet to go under the knife, but I know it is the best thing for them and us. I somehow imagine that they will see more into the situation than they actually will, most likely they will just think: Hey, I don't like being in the cage, and ouch, my incision hurts. I definitely don't like this!

In my mind though, they will be thinking: Why did She do this to us? What's going on here? When can I go home? Sure, I know cats don't think like that and it's only my guilt and overactive imagination at work.

So, I have these two young kittens who are just starting out their lives, not quite adults yet and in contrast, I have my Charlotte, who is about 18 years old. We're not even sure how old she is as we adopted her from the shelter when she was 3-ish. She had the loudest and most pitiful meow and both Wilson and I fell in love with her. She has been the sweetest cat, purring the moment she sets eyes on either of us and each night sleeping tucked into the crook of my arm. She's always been "my" cat, or more aptly, I have always been her human.

In the past year she has slowed down considerably. First, she stopped grooming her back legs and I'd dutifully comb out the snarls. As she became more stiff she stopped grooming altogether and now she's a bit snarly and tangled all over. She growls when I try to comb her so I imagine she's sore. She's very slow and stiff when she walks but can still make it upstairs to the bedroom at night. Age hasn't stopped her purr, though! She still goes at it full blast and it just takes one little tickle under the chin or a stroke on top of her head to set her off.

With Charlotte, I'm wrestling with the decision of euthanasia. I don't think she's in any pain, but then again, cats are masters at hiding any sign of sickness or hurt. Certainly, she's not as sprightly as she used to be and does end up sleeping most of her days comfortably away on the perch over the heater in the window. She eats, she purrs and enjoys attention. But that's about it. She's been the most wonderful cat and doesn't deserve to suffer. On the other hand, as long as she's comfortable I can't justify euthanizing her. This is by far the most difficult decision I've had to face. With Benji it was obvious he was sick and that it was the kindest thing to do; this situation is a bit less clear cut. I have a feeling it's going to be soon so I'm trying to enjoy each moment with her that I can and not dwell on what next week might hold.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Every Day is Valentine's Day

Love it or hate it today is Valentine's day. I remember years ago when I was in college and didn't have a special someone it was such a depressing day. I usually went out with a friend, only to see happy couples on dates staring dreamily into each others' eyes, which only made matters worse. After nearly 20 years of marriage it's a nice day, a comfortable day and fun to plan little treats or surprises for Joe and Wilson.

My father has been known to disparage holidays (Mother's day in particular) saying that "every day is Mother's Day". I think what he means is that we should treat Mom in a special way each day, but somehow I don't think that's the case. The way he says it it sounds as though he feels that we spoil mothers on a daily basis and that they don't need a day all their own. You have to know my father to understand his sense of humor, I guess.

So what does Valentine's day really mean? I suppose you'll get as many answers as there are people to ask. We've never gone crazy on the day, usually a special dinner at home or perhaps a meal out, Joe brings me flowers and possibly some chocolate. Just some small tokens to celebrate the holiday. Joe is always great about writing something incredibly thoughtful in a card, he never fails to think of something sweet and sincere to say.

In thinking about my Dad's attitude towards "appreciation" holidays and both Joe and I agree that for the most part we do treat every day as Valentine's day. Not the sickeningly sweet, gazing-into-each-other's eyes type of Valentine's, but the mutual respect, admiration and love type of day that comes with 20 years of marriage. Why wait for one day a year to celebrate when you can do it every day? Live your beliefs every day and see what happens.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Breaking the Habit

One of the goals I have for this year is to watch less News, unless it's the NPR, international type of news. I'm finding it's a hard addiction to break, I think "oh, I'll just put it on so I can hear the weather" and end up getting sucked in. I really don't need to hear about the latest local fires, accidents and arrests for possession of child pornography. Aren't there more important things going on?

When the time comes to discuss the business section I've noticed that the newscasters have started listing the companies who are laying off employees and how many, both locally and nationally. This has been going on for some time, but it sort of struck me this morning. It certainly is depressing and scary to hear the numbers. I worry for my friends and their husbands who are out of work or are worried about their jobs and it makes me even more thankful that Joe has found something during these difficult times.

I wonder what it will be like in 5 or maybe 10 years. Will we look back on this time and remember when all the news of the economy was dire and more specifically that we would hear the layoffs on the news, listed in the thousands?

I truly hope this will be a catalyst for change. As I drove to Ayer on Tuesday I had a couple hours in the car and after giving up on the morning radio dj blather, I switched over to NPR. Robert Reich was on and talking about how we need not only to jump start the economy, but to do it in a manner that will allow for long term growth. We need to invest in our badly broken health care system, our educational system and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. If we have to get through these tough times, why not make changes now, when we have the opportunity, to make things better? If we're going to fix things, why not fix them right the first time? I'm afraid if we don't we'll be facing this same exact set of problems in the not too distant future.

It puts things into perspective for me when I can think about the future: 10 years down the road we hopefully will look back on this time, remember when we watched the news and heard about all the layoffs, worried for our friends and family, but we made it through. And hopefully we'll be more appreciative of the good times after having learned what it's like to cut back.