Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fish are not for Petting....

The following are examples of why I am so pooped when I come back home after visiting my almost-1 and almost-3 year old granddaughters, courtesy of my darling daughter:

Things I've said already this morning:

"Your sister is not a horse!"

"Get out of the dryer!"

"I beg you not to spit in my coffee..." 

"So, it's probably not a good idea to ride your bike down the stairs, huh?" 

"Fish are not for petting."

I'm still laughing!!!

Monday, November 16, 2009


I have come to that time in my life that contains losses.  Many of my friends have lost, or are in the process of losing their parents. I lost my mother a little over a year ago.  It was a long good-bye that began for her with the onset of dementia and poor health.  Our relationship had been tumultuous; my mom was a sober alcoholic for over 30 years, but she continued to have many emotional issues.  I was her caretaker - a job that began in my childhood and ended with her death. By the time that I had reached the conclusion that being her caretaker was not healthy for me, it was too late to make those changes in our relationship; in fact, it would have been an act of cruelty to stop taking care of her.  So, I persevered, and learned to overcome my resentment, replacing it with  forgiveness and, to the best of my ability, unconditional love.  As a fellow blogger shared in her post about the loss of her mother, I too became grateful for the gift of the ability to see the woman behind the label of "mother".

I had a wonderful dream about her last night.  We were together, sitting, talking and sharing.  She was healthy, both in mind and spirit.  She held me, loved me, and told me how proud she was of me and of the person that I was becoming. She was a vibrant, joyous person - the person who was always inside her and rarely had the opportunity to show during her lifetime.

Once again, I was filled with gratitude for the gift of having no regrets about our relationship, of having had the opportunity to tell her of my love for her, and to show my love by caring for her.   To the end, she did know who I was, and used me as her lifeline.  What a privilege this turned out to be.  Toward the end of her life, I had to write a poem for one of my classes:

Momma, you are getting ready to leave
I can see it in your eyes
Vague, wandering, punctuated
and bracketed
by moments of clarity.

Momma, you are getting ready to leave
I can see it in your hands
Thin, worn, punctuated
and bracketed
by the highways of your veins.

Momma, I know you are ready to leave
I can see it in your face
Lined, wrinkled, punctuated
and bracketed
by the love that still shines through.

Momma, I know you are ready to leave
I can feel it in my soul
Fearful, mourning, punctuated
and bracketed
by tears as yet unshed.

Momma, it’s all right that you leave
I know that you must go.
Weary, yet peaceful, punctuated
and bracketed
by the knowledge that your twilight has begun.

Momma, I’ll miss you when you leave
But no word remains unsaid
Love and friendship, punctuated
and bracketed
by memories of laughter and tenderness.

Not a great poem, by any means - but it describes my path during that time.  No regrets - that's what I tell my friends who are facing this inevitable part of life.....we need to face it head-on, feel the feelings, and do the things that need to be done and said in order to not live the rest of our lives wishing that we had done things differently.  I am so blessed that I was able to follow through and to do this.

I just loved my dream - It brought me much comfort and peace!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beach Music

     For as long as I can remember, the sea has spoken to a place deep within my heart.  Some of my earliest memories take place at my grandparent’s beach home in New Jersey, where my grandfather introduced me to the ocean.  Supported and protected by his strong, weathered hands, I walked fearlessly into the water and fell in love with it.  Throughout my life, I have continued my relationship with the sea by swimming, sailing, canoeing and snorkeling in many locales.  I consider the sea a beloved mentor, and turn to it not only for solace and inspiration during the difficult times of my life, but  to celebrate the joyful times as well.
     I arrive at the beach in Carpinteria, and easily find a spot to park.  I get out of my car and unload my beach bag and chair from the trunk.  While removing my shoes, I look out at the sky and the ocean.  Grey, cloudy skies are reflected in the steel-grey color of the water.  There is little wind, but I grab an extra sweatshirt just in case I need it.  I head off toward the water while my feet revel in the feel of sand between my toes.  At first, my feet sink and seem to melt into the deep sand, but as I move toward the shoreline, it becomes more hard-packed and supports me.  The sand is cold but has a hint of warmth, signaling that the sun may well appear while I am here.  Walking along the waterline, I trudge to my favorite spot up the beach. Along the way, I notice the tracks of sandpipers, gulls and pelicans that criss-cross my path, and watch them scatter in advance of my arrival. The slight sandpipers are scurrying frantically away, the raucous gulls are taking flight, and the ungainly pelicans are placidly plodding along, following the sandpipers’ path.   I plant my chair in the sand and sit, turning my back on the civilized world that holds all of my cares and worries, and face the sea.

     Wriggling my toes, I dig my feet into the sand and bury them up to my ankles.  I sense the small grains of sand trickling along the skin of my feet and settling in between my toes.  I now feel rooted and connected with my surroundings.  My attention is drawn to the scene unfolding in front of me. The birds have returned.  The sandpipers are scuttling along the waterline looking for food.  Their thin, frail-looking legs serve them well as they dart in and out of the surf.  The gulls are having an argument about a piece of seaweed.  They tire of their disagreement and take to the air.  I lift my eyes from the scene at the surf line, and look out at the water.  A row of pelicans is flying low along the ocean’s surface, hunting for food.  Suddenly, they begin to dive, and surface with their pouches full.  As I watch the birds, I realize that I am filled with wonder at how they are each perfectly made and suited to survive in their environment; the sandpipers have the ability to be swift, the sea gulls possess an inborn competitive nature, and pelicans come equipped with built-in fishing nets.

     I sit back and try to relax.  My senses are filled with the damp perfume of the ocean air, the feel of sand on my feet, and the sounds and view of the lazily rolling waves.  I feel the slight breeze ruffling my hair, as if to welcome me.  The soft crashing of the waves, accompanied by the hissing of the foam as it dissipates along the shore is soothing music to my ears.  I feel my muscles begin to unwind along with my mind.  The sea is working its magic on me once again.  For moments at a time, I am able to let go of my conscious thoughts and simply drink in the experience of being, feeling, and listening.  These fleeting moments contain an elemental, profound connection between me and all of my surroundings.  I treasure these instants as I continue to breathe and to watch the waves.  My thoughts wander to the countless times I have come to the sea.  Whether I come seeking refuge, solace, introspection or celebration, it is always here, waiting for me. It is dependable and each time welcomes me.  Sunlight suddenly breaks through the clouds, confirming my feeling of being warmly received.  I feel a hint of the sun’s heat that is being borne along on the breeze.  The color of the sand turns from a lifeless gray tone to an inviting gentle yellow.  The water loses its steely hue and turns a rich, dark blue.

     I reflect upon these changes and realize that life itself is not static – it is ever changing as well.   While I am thrown off- balance by an alteration to the comfortable rhythm of my life, I now comprehend that change is not only necessary, but that it is also inevitable.  Without change, my life becomes complacent and stale; my mind dulls and is not open to seeing the beauty and the possibilities that life contains.   I realize that I am learning not only how to be open to, but also how to embrace the changes that come into my life. 

     I contemplate the sea again and admire the way the sun brings out different tints of blue with hints of green in the curls of the waves just before they break upon the shore. I sit and watch, and find myself caught up in the unending rhythm of the waves.  I feel my heart beating in counterpoint to the song of the sea.   Each component of nature has a song and contributes its own unique cadence and pulse to the composition of life.  I understand that I, too, am part of that symphony. 

     It is time to leave the ocean behind and head back to the civilized world.  As always, I am restored by my time with myself and the sea.  I gather up my belongings and begin the walk back to my car.  Almost there, I stop and turn once again toward the water, filling my eyes and heart with its beauty and remembering its lessons.   It has been good to learn that I have my own song to sing to the world.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jonnie's Day

My best friend, Jan, lost her grandson to leukemia 6 years ago.  Had he been able to beat his disease, he would now be time flies by! Jonnie was the grandson of my heart, as Jan is the sister of my heart.  We don't forget him - many of our conversations are filled with anecdotes and "remember whens" about the bigger-than-life boy who captured our hearts, and still lives within them.

Not only was Jonnie bigger than life, he was bursting with it!  The sparkle in his eyes, his smile, his insatiable curiosity and depth of his love for others transcended his young age.

Jan and I commemorate his birthday each year by traveling to a little beach town up the coast from where we live.  We stop in the flower shop and buy red balloons (they were his favorite), then park and take a walk on the beach.  When we're ready, we let the balloons go and send them on their way, each filled with our love, memories, and celebration of Jonnie's life.

We then go into town and have some of the world's best pizza at a little restaurant....afterwards, we head to the outlet center that is on our way home, and begin our holiday shopping for our grandchildren who are still with us.  Tomorrow is our "Jonnie's Day". I'm sure that Jonnie is watching us from afar, and that he approves!

If you are interested, the following is his website:  It was created by his other grandmother and tells the story of his journey with this terrible disease, how hard he fought it, and how he "made lemonade from lemons" by starting his own charity to help other kids with cancer - he was truly an incredible, inspiring young man.

And, please consider becoming a blood donor - you could truly save someone's life!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A New Endeavor!

Fact:  Life is expensive, even for a starving student
Fact:  My financial resources are running short, due to my extended time in school, necessitated by caring for          Mom at the end of her life
Fact:  I am not willing to let go of my dream to become a teacher.
Fact:  I have at least one more year of school to go in order to get my teaching credential
Fact:  I need to make some money!

Solution:  Use my business experience and expertise to start my own business.

I've been working on this for the past few weeks, researching and preparing, printing business cards and brochures, dotting all of the "i's" and crossing all of the "t's".  Now the hard part comes:  Marketing myself and my business.  I did this once before, with some success.  But school and Mom's needs precluded my building on what I had going, and it fizzled.  I had enjoyed many referrals, and it was easy.  This time, I have to start cold and go in like gangbusters.  I am ready - I am motivated (poverty can do that to a person)! - and I am scared.  I wimped out today (my class didn't start until 4:00 p.m., and I had plenty of time in the morning to get myself into gear) - but I didn't.  Next window of opportunity is Wednesday - it's a school holiday - so no excuses!  I'm gonna get myself dressed up, made-up, and out the door first thing in the morning!  Please think good thoughts and send them my way!

Who Knew?

I spent the weekend in San Diego (again!).  Liz and Dave have moved into their new home, but there is still much to do in order to make it liveable.  They are both SO tired, but still moving forward!  They've come such a long way from living on their boat when the were first married! I just love how they interact with each other....there is give and take on both sides, and they really LISTEN to each other, hearing the music behind each other's words.  Add an almost 1-year old and an almost 3-year old into the mix, and it could be chaos, but it is not.

My main contribution this weekend was wrangling the much fun!  I got to spend time with each of them individually, as well as together!  Ashlyn, at almost 1, is a total charmer.  She knows that all she has to do is to smile at her Grammy, and the world is at her feet!  Emma and I had our usual fabulous time together....we washed dishes (and flooded the kitchen floor, much to our surprise and delight), put baby dolls to bed and woke them up, had tea parties and reading parties complete with popcorn in Grammy's bed, and danced, marched and sang.  The front porch of their new house is enormous, and lends itself well to being a stage for our performances.  Who knew that snorkels, when hummed into, sound almost like kazoos?  Ashlyn even figured out how to do the snorkel singing......and I'm sure the neighbors enjoyed our concerts and dances!

I'm home and gearing up for my week - school, bathroom projects and the normal everyday chores - but my heart is full and my cup is is such a gift to be able to experience this wonderful world through my granddaughters' eyes!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Another Fine Mess......

I'm beginning to think that redoing my bathroom is a little like having children - the idea is great, but when reality sets in, the going can get really tough sometimes! I vividly remember the first day that I was alone with my newborn daughter - my mom had gone home, and my husband was at work. I looked down at her and thought "Holy Moley - what have I gotten myself into?"  But obviously, there was no turning back, just like there is no turning back with my bathroom.

I finished ripping out the old and installing new tiles in my shower a couple of months ago.  Then came the ripping up of the old tile floor and the ratty baseboards....a big job! The old medicine cabinet has been ripped out and replaced with a great mirror.  The vanity and other cabinet have been stripped, painted and given new hardware and hinges.  I finally found floor tiles last weekend (they're not the ones I REALLY want, but I do have champagne taste on a beer budget)....and then it occurred to me that I should paint the walls BEFORE I install the tiles, so that no paint accidents ruin them (yes, I'm prone to "Oops Moments" - alot!).

Before I can paint, I have to take off the "lovely" wallpaper border that wraps around all the walls.  After Googling about how to remove it, I tackled the project.  Not as easy as they made it sound - by any stretch of the imagination! I practically asphyxiated myself by trying their suggested method of vinegar and water to soak the paper off.  I surrendered, and made a quick trip to the hardware store that resulted in the purchase of some wallpaper remover gel.  This wallpaper REALLY wants to stay where it is - I think the previous owners super glued it up there - Arrgh!

Just like my daughter turned out to be an incredible young woman in spite of my "oops moments", I'm sure that, in the end, my bathroom project will be completed. I had set a goal to have my bathroom project completed by Christmas, as I do need to study for my classes and have lots of other stuff going this point, Christmas of 2010 looks like a distinct possibility!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Keep Your Eye on the Ball.....

I'm a procrastinator by nature....I think I love both  the adrenalin rush that I get by waiting until the last minute to get something done, and the sense of relief that comes after I've successfully completed the task.  This is especially true when the task involves something that I really don't want to do.  I avoid things that I don't want to do until I'm backed into a corner with nowhere to turn - case in point, my last few classes in college.  Two math classes - my nemesis - One this semester, and one next semester.  A science capstone lab (the fact that my major features a concentration in science was an accident!)....and, Children's PE.  I had heard horror stories about this PE class, and in typical fashion, put it off until I had no other choice but to take it.  I'm working on the procrastination thing.

I spend 1 1/2 hours of each class in the gym, and the other 1 1/2 hours in lecture.  The gym part comes first, so I get to collapse at my desk afterward to recuperate.  My professor is puzzled by me; I know that she wants to ask me WHY I'm putting myself through this at 58 years old.  I can see that question in her eyes during every gym period as she watches me struggle through the torture lesson.  Oh, the things I could tell her if she would only ask!  

I've learned so much more than just the "Three R's" during these past four years in college - I've learned that:

  • I can do just about anything that I put my mind to 
  • I am intelligent
  • I am courageous
  • I am strong
  • I have substance at my core
  • I am not afraid to try new things - even if I can't do them perfectly
  • When I get around to doing the things that I've put off, the actual experience of doing them is not as bad as what I've been thinking it would be.  If I do them on a timely basis, it would lessen the drama that lives inside my head!  
  • It's OK to not be perfect - the biggest lesson that I'm learning this semester- my grades are not a reflection of who I am.  This is a huge one for me. Until now, I've gotten only A's and one B....but just like in my career, I invested hugely in being an "A" student, just as I invested hugely in being an "A" professional.  
  • Having balance in my life is more important than getting "A"'s - and more fun, too!
So, as my professor watches me struggle on the gym floor doing the crab walk through hula hoops or crazily trying to not fall off of the balance beam, I hope she sees that, even though I am struggling, I am enjoying the process - and learning that although my 58-year old body may have some limitations, my mind and my attitude do not.  I'm actually having fun with it all!