Monthly Archives: December 2016

Daisies and Roses

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I bought three sprays of roses today.  It is somewhat of a tradition this time of year.  I enjoy having fresh flowers in time for the letting go of December and welcoming of January.  My favorite flowers are irises, which are difficult to find right now so I adjust.  The roses are small, and barely opened, but are a rich mandarin blush color, vivid and bright.  I think about contrasts in expectations.  Sometimes, what we think we want, is not what we expect or end up with.  In past years, when my FHB and I were home owners, I liked to have a few container gardens.  I used  enormous galvanized steel wash basins.  Our soil was sandy so  it was difficult to get much to grow in the ground, so it required bags and bags of soil to fill up these basins.  Our house was called a Nantucket Half Cape, a reproduction of a house built in the early 1800s, running front to back with two porches and a barn/garage with a large barn door that slid.  Surrounding the house were fields that were left to grow wild and we planted decorative grasses in a burm (to block our nasty neighbor) and some flowers in beds and hydrangeas,which thrived in the sandy soil.  We planted three blueberry bushes, but they take several years to fruit, and maybe by now (well, in season) the owners are seeing the fruits of our labor, but we didn’t get to make muffins or pancakes with anything before we moved away, back to the city.  We planted containers of different kinds of lettuce, some tomatoes and basil.  I didn’t study seeds, or planting times.  I grew a tiny watermelon called a sugar baby which was adorable, but I didn’t really pay attention to when to plant it and when it finally grew (which would have been considered a dwarf melon), it was beautiful inside and could feed a couple of squirrels, who were not too hungry.  My lettuce was a bit bitter, the basil was fragrant and tasty and the tomatoes often developed some very scarey looking marks on them.  It was never the way I imagined, and yet, year after year, I tried again.

I had a colleague who had a sign in his office  “if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got”.  In the beginning I thought it was catchy and clever.  Time has shown that it is a truism.  There is very little that is effortless when it comes to wanting the results you  strive for.  Being an optimist can get you only so far.  Certainly with gardening, my enthusiasm always exceeded my eventual production of viable and edible produce.  My stubborn nature combined with my belief in the “how difficult can this possibly be to do” mindset, led me down the same path with mixed results.  Once in a while, probably based on the time I did the planting and where I oriented the basins and how often I watered it, might have led to greener greens.  But that was nothing I planned on, just a bit of luck, not skill.  In the age of information and websites and books on garden “how to”s and gardening “dont”s, I could certainly find a plan, stick to it and perhaps have good outcomes.  Moving to a loft, does not necessarily mean I can’t garden, but reality limits my resources and challenges my skills.  Farm stands are now my go to destinations.

I know there are many folks out there who are getting ready to plan their gardens, for spring, summer and fall.  They are getting seed catalogues and poring over them, organizing the land, figuring out where each vegetable and flower will go.  Must be nice to know how to do that and do it well.  It’s just not me, anymore or ever.  It is a logical progression in my mind.  Stubborn leads to lack of information which leads to ignoring the rules and poor results.  Knowing that is knowing oneself. Resolutions are clearly for others, but I like to consider that making a list of things I would like to imagine would happen (through surprise, dumb luck, and perhaps a little planning and effort) might be kind of fun, for a change.  It doesn’t require a catalog or timetable.  Just keeping an open mind and heart.  I know that with each passing day, that if I plant daisies, I’m going to get daisies, not roses.  I like daisies.  The world is full of possibilities.  Join me in welcoming 2017.  May your dreams and wishes be hopeful and fruitful.

Question:  When you do stop saying “Happy New Year?” When is the new year no longer new?

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Peace of Heart

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Complexity.  A metaphor for love.  A vital part of our functioning that can be strong and at a moment’s notice, can break, or get damaged.  And yet, our heart, collective or individual, can grow in ways we never considered, expanding to include the best of the most miraculous events, and at other times, can contract when things become too much, too difficult.

This particular calendar year has been filled with  my own  growth as well as  the expansion of my heart.  I am also surrounded by so many people who have had the same experience, finding that falling in love can happen over and over, and over again.  Hearts melt and swell with the joy of new family members in the guise of babies!  Some of us have become grandparents again, or for the first time, and others have become parents, aunts, uncles and whatever name your relationship with someone new takes on.  It redefines our place in the universe, as we are reminded that we are on a path which recognizes we are forever changing, and the change is happening around us, and sometimes to us, but that we are impacted in some way we might not have expected.

I am always surprised at how much I can love, and how my capacity grows.  My oldest granddaughter, at 3, can show me that she can be compassionate, funny, serious and joyful, all in a matter of moments. She invites my FHB and me into her world and to watch her figure out what she wants, and how she can discover something new. engages us, time after time. It never, ever, gets old.  We fall in love every time we see her, or see her picture.   The best part is when she speaks to us and it’s just us, listening and having a conversation.  Three year olds are incredibly smart and teach us so much.  My newest granddaughter, at almost eight months can smile and connect and communicate with her eyes and her vocalizations and we just enjoy holding and hugging and kissing this lovely girl. We are kept in the moment, which is a child’s mission.  It is about them, and now, and the world goes away and our attention is riveted.

There is awe in watching the generation we have created take on the world, creating their next generation, as well as figuring out how to recognize the needs of others and take care of business. We hope that they can  rebuild the broken hearts and broken systems for the people who live among us and those who have been born this year in our world.   We too, have faced a lot of unexpected pain and damage, imagining the world a certain way, only to find out, it is not the way we thought it was, or was going to be.  When things don’t work out, we have to reach out and try again, until it is better, and better for us and for everyone.  We have to put our heart in it, and take heart and heal that which is broken.

As the year closes, many are grateful to put it behind them, as it may be a ledger sheet that has more minuses than pluses.  It’s all how you spin it.  It was “the best of times,it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”.  It was all of it,  and yet, if you add up what you decided to take on, and minus those things you let go of, for good or for bad, you may discover that you may have broken even.  For those who were not around to see this year, or those who left us this year, we must acknowledge that new life and every life is precious and important.  We take a chance, with every beat of our heart, to live the best life we can.  It seems like it was just a year ago, and here we are again.  I need very little, but want very much, not for me but for those who have a piece of my heart.

 

Attitude and Gratitude

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The weeks leading up to this week and weekend are filled with hustle and bustle and lots of holiday music.  The energy of the masses is focused on shopping and decorating and preparing for celebrations.  The colors of the season are observable in the greenery and displays in stores, on houses, and businesses which  are all decked out, including the halls, with boughs and wreaths. It smells good and is pleasant to the eye and after the leaves of fall have turned to brown, we still have the vitality of the green surroundings, at least for these weeks.  Words like festive and cheerful come to mind.  People are engaged in the process of holding on to their hopes and dreams of a holiday filled with merriment while at the same time, they are not holding on as tightly to their wallets but the piper can be paid off in one way or another sometime down the road.

I don’t celebrate Christmas but I happily encourage others to have a merry one.  I accept their wishes as well.  It is less about the words than about the sentiment.  We celebrate Hanukah, which as I explained yesterday to a few students who were curious, is considered a minor holiday in the Jewish faith, but rooted in a miracle, nonetheless, which is major, as miracles are.  We are a minority in our community and I neither advertise or hide my religious upbringing.  In a school setting, I offer an educated explanation to create dialogue about our differences and our similarities.  The students not only are respectful, but often find the stories and traditions to be something they would like to experience.  I don’t feel like a curiosity, but more like someone who wants others to understand something that they are unfamiliar with, to give it a context and make it less foreign.

The gift exchanging aspect is something that the kids want to understand, since their mindset is that Hanukah, since it is celebrated for eight nights, means eight nights of gifts.  I have to separate the fiction from the fact and explain that the original story of Judah and the Maccabees fighting to hold on to their temple upon which the miracle is based, as the story goes, that there was only one night’s worth  of oil for the light in the Temple, but that it lasted eight nights. The gift is really just a metaphor but that is difficult to explain as the contemporary traditions, keep up with Christmas.  They ask what kind of presents I received as a child, and I explained that our gifts, by today’s standards, were pretty meager.  This was based in economics, and frugality.  One night it might be a small box of crayons, another a puzzle, and maybe a scarf.  My father would play some very old recordings of traditional songs on an ancient (even then) record player.  We would light the menorah as a symbol of the lighting and lasting of the oil.  We would recite the prayers.  Hanukah was a holiday that was celebrated in the home, making it ritual and comfortable.  We ate food, fried in oil, again to symbolize the miracle.

Fast forward to today’s world.  My family is grateful and aware that observing our rituals and traditions are safe from discord.  Others are not lucky at all.  The fighting and decimation of cultures and freedom are the nightly news.  They are both far away and not far from us, closer than we want to acknowledge.  Traditions that are steeped in centuries of beliefs are being vilified and obliterated.  We cannot wear blinders to the suffering and harming of others, who wish only to live in peace, and practice their beliefs.

I noticed while out and about  today that people are friendlier and more engaged with one another.  Almost on their best behavior, a bit kinder, more eye contact, more hopeful.  There is something to say, beyond hello and good night.  There are more words to be exchanged.  More effort at being nice.  It is infectious but like most infections, it runs it course, and we are back to normal.  We  will soon stop acknowledging one another in the same way and go on holding on.  We are capable of so much, and this season of cheer and good will exemplifies this.  I don’t have the answer as to how we make our commitment to engage in the same way sustainable.  I like to think that if we can hope, we can do.

May the weekend, whatever you choose to remember and celebrate, allow you joy and enduring peace and contentment.  May hope be the gift you give yourselves and those around you to honor those who have little or little hope.

Peace to all and to all a good night.

Winter Eyes

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We’re just about there.  5:44 a.m. (EST) it will be official.  The winter will begin.  You might imagine that with all the details and fanfare that I share with you, that I am looking forward to the season.   Sorry to disappoint, but that would be a total lie.  I could admit that I do like an occasional snow day when the news on my phone lets me know that school has been cancelled.  I usually smile and turn over and think about something warm to cook and cozy to wear, if I change out of my pajamas at all.  It seems so far away from June that it is inviting and tolerable and a pleasant surprise.  I am just not a winter person.  I don’t enjoy frolicking in snow and would rather view it from a window or in a movie, but not necessarily in my neighborhood.  New England is known for beautiful winters and is the thing that calendars are made of.  I appreciate the loveliness and the quiet of a good snowstorm.  The crunch underneath my feet and the sun ‘s warmth on my face despite the tundra-like surroundings. I can write about it, but I would rather it be a part of my vivid imagination, than my reality on any given day.

Ice is my enemy. It creates the deepest fear in me and fills me with panic.  I just came back from Chicago (no, this is not the beginning of a stand-up routine) and it was so cold (how cold was it you might ask?) that apparently according to a un-named source, it was actually colder in Chicago this past weekend, than it was at the North Pole.  Don’t be impressed.  If I was at the North Pole, I would expect you to be impressed that a person who hates the cold and ice would venture north and conquer her fears.  Nope.  Never, not ever.  Instead we spent time with some family-like friends in the warmth of their company and beautiful apartment but did venture out like Admiral Byrd with his expedition to visit a fabulous supermarket.  I saw an unshoveled area of sidewalk and did I contemplate using that as an opportunity to come to terms with the enemy I have long loathed?  Absolutely, positively not.  It was never under  consideration as something I should try. It was also about a million degrees below zero, with the wind chill, as we explorers say.  So, instead I squealed like a piglet, frozen in place and my wonderful FHB took my arm, which had turned rigid like an ice queen and walked me toward clean pavement and away from the devil itself.  My hero.  But this was on the way there.  I couldn’t enjoy the walk because I knew we would have to deal with this on the way back and snow was in the forecast and we were heading into unchartered territory.

On a lighter and fluffier note, the supermarket was fabulous.  It had sushi, and desserts and a wine bar. It had barbeque and beautiful flowers and lots of cheeses.  It was somewhat of a food paradise, like food Disney.  It’s only flaw was that it didn’t have anyplace to sleep, if I was to contemplate not leaving until the snow and cold abated,and I could see daffodils from the store window.  There I was in a mecca-like place and I had to leave and retreat back to the cold, harsh fall (remember it was December 16th).  Ridiculous.

I’ve mentioned before that I fall down for no reason. Therefore, falling down on ice seems more like a destiny, rather than an accident.  Being risk adverse in nature, when it comes to forces of nature, is a conundrum.  Logic goes out the window, and gets the better of me. My only weapons are my wit and my hiking sticks.  I rely on one and lean on the other.  I don’t want to move to somewhere warm.  The farmers and their almanac just creates a possibility that worrying about the winter will net me a solution.  However, like with most books, I don’t read the end first.  I prefer to see how the story unfolds.  I take solace in the knowledge that I wear sensible boots, a scarf around my neck, and never a hat. I don’t like hats.  I have my sticks and when I have to face the enemy, I give it the best I have, which is rather meh.  This is not the winter of my discontent (Richard III stolen, misquoted reference).  It is just the next winter to be dealt with and perhaps handled.  Like everything else we have to face, somethings we have no way around, we just have to follow through and not fall down.  Here’s to remaining upright!

Have a good week ahead.  Don’t shop till you drop.  Have a hot chocolate to herald in the winter.

 

House Work

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There are various categories that one can  sign up for when it comes to keeping your domicile (one of the very underutilized words) clean.  You can start with impeccable or pristine, and continue along the cleanliness highway to the last pitstop and call it a day at filthy and disgusting and public health department condemnable.  Lucky for me and my FHB, I don’t live in either of those worlds because honestly, I don’t have the time for one, or the integrity for the other.  Neither end is comfortable, and  both to me seem uninhabitable.

I’m a keep up with the clutter type of woman.  By the end of the evening (which is usually around 9:30 pm) I make sure that the kitchen, dining area, and living room are presentable.  The counters are wiped, the dishes put away, floor swept and if I had a living mother in law who cared about such stuff, I would not be ashamed to have someone like her or the Queen of England, drop by.  It’s my thing.  It is not necessarily my FHB’s thing and I respect that. Sometimes, I recognize that we have different degrees of tolerance for clutter and mess (which are distinctly different in my world).  Therefore, since my tolerance is lower,  I take it upon myself, in sometimes a martyr-like stance, to take care of this.  I don’t look for praise or recognition because there is no need since this is purely my shtick and as long as my FHB doesn’t sigh or eye roll, I know it’s all good.

Then, of course, a week or two comes along when chaos reigns.  The last two weeks have ushered in the chaos and I had to make some calculated decisions about how to manage the house.  Thanksgiving happened which led to December, which is obvious, followed by closing a business, relocating a business, doing business, while at the same time continuing my school job involving the organizing of a holiday shop for students in need, and preparing for a weekend away as well as gift buying (thank you Amazon), wrapping, mailing (thank you USPS) and the like.  Just typing that sentence, run-on as it was, was tiring.

I am not asking for sympathy, although a little acknowledgement would be nice.  I am acutely aware that I bring on most of the chaos and I am grateful that it does not have to be wrapped, shipped or delivered. It is where I stand as I look around and imagine that I am an elf in a large red outfitted gentleman’s house in an undisclosed location where it is bitter cold (kind of like Chicago this weekend).  The humor in all of this, is that I have a crew of lovely people that every other week, show up to our loft apartment, come in when we are not home (like elves) and clean and leave my house smelling good and looking good.  A few days ago, I realized that the clutter was out of control and was spilling over to such an extent that I would have to sort, pack, organize and discard before I could have the cleaning people show up.  I was now one of those, “I must clean before the cleaning people show up”, kind of people.  I did what any sane person would do. I cancelled their visit and postponed it until next week.  Then, I had to still figure out a solution that I could live with.  It was with a heavy heart, and a recognition that the only solution (short of moving) was that I pick up the assorted messes of papers (news and wrapping), and the boxes from my office, along with various other piles of accumulated who knows what, and put them in the second bedroom, in no particular logical order, and shut the door.  I was on a mission.  Back and forth, to and fro until it was done. Counters were cleaned, table was cleared, blankets and pillows on the couch were folded and fluffed.  I swept and discarded the crumbs and looked around, after I put away the broom and dust pan, and saw, IT WAS GOOD! It would probably pass the Mother-In-Law or Queen of England test, as long as she didn’t ask  to see what was behind door number two.  We could leave town and none would be the wiser.  I could live with this.  I could control this chaos.  A personal victory.  Yes, it is true, at some point soon, I will have to tackle the room and get things back to my usual standard.  In the meantime,  my secret is safe.  Right?

Happy Friday!  Enjoy your weekend.  Don’t clean. Free yourself.  Life is spectacular.

Monday in December

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I heard their sound before I saw them.  Honking above, heralding the dusk.  They come before the sunset now.  I sat in my office and listened to the familiar noises, the music of the evening.  It was time to head home.  As I exited the building, the evening’s chill permeated the air.  This time of year holds on to me.  It is the countdown to the  winter solstice.  The days are shorter, and then they lengthen.  Seems to go faster and faster around the sun.  Every sunset is unique.  For some it is just that part of the day that passes as does the rest of the day.  I turned to a student, waiting for his ride, and we looked out at the sky and I say to him “the sky is awesome tonight….did you do that?”.  He and the girl he stands with chuckle. I smile and said “Well done!”.  We wish one another a good night.  Who says you can’t have a conversation with a teenager?

The year is nearly done, once again.  I travel home slowly via a couple of stops at the market, the cleaners and my favorite, the library.  The library that I visit is in the next town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts.   It is  a beautiful piece of architecture built  by the town’s benefactor, Henry Huttleston Rogers to honor the memory of his daughter.  It is called the Millicent Library for a child that died young, at age 17.  It is a mesmerizing  memorial with a large stained glass window that has an image of a young woman, Millie’s face gazing down on the quiet street, opposite the town hall, another structure built by H.H. Rogers.  Inside is filled with rooms of books and niches and architecture that brings a person back to the turn of  the 20th century.  It is comforting and warm, filled tonight with light and holiday decor.  A step back in time.  I speak to the librarian, in quiet tones, of course.  I take a couple of books along with me, as I never leave empty handed.  I ride through the now almost darkened streets, and the street lamps’ shadows, play with the remaining light.  I feel content, in a quiet happy way.  I take the local route, rather than the highway.  As I turn toward New Bedford, I notice that the bridge that connects Fairhaven and New Bedford is closed to car traffic.  It is open for only  the boats to pass next to the bridge as it turns sideways.  Many people will grumble and in fact, turn their cars around, not to be stuck at the bridge.  I love this moment as I sit in the car, engine off,  facing west, first in line, watching the last slivers of light in the distance.  The cell phone remains on silent, and in my bag.  I take in the twinkling lights of the fishing boats as they traverse from inner harbor toward the outer part, past the bridge and those that travel back through toward the docks for the night.  Just a few sounds of the splashing  of the water against the sides of the boats. It is done like dancers moving across the stage, some to the right, others to the left, the lights twinkling off the decks and masts.  No music but one can sense the harmony.  My breath is even and relaxed.  I never feel forced or rushed when I sit in this place, just joyful for a moment of nature’s cinematography.

Home is on the other side of the bridge, a short distance away.  I know that when I get there and park in the underground garage, the rest of the evening will come into play. Lots to do, always lots to do.  I make my way to our garage space.  We have a double space, nose to tail of our cars and depending on who gets home first, a little longer maneuver which sometimes is a challenge, but not so much tonight.  I unpack my car with my work bags and other belongings and head to the elevator for the ride upstairs.  I hear the sound of another car entering.  I smile.  I know that guy. He gets out of the car with his bags and walks toward me.    I will have company in the elevator.  Night begins again.

 

Enjoy the week ahead. Happy Monday.

 

 

Spa on the Go

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Long before all this discussion about the future and self driving vehicles, I was indulging, so to speak, in a few minutes of me time, where I sequestered myself in a water laden tube and never left the comfort of my car.  I put my car in neutral, handed a kid fifteen dollars, (including a tip) and put my seat in the reclining position and let the car move itself along.  It probably takes about 5-7 minutes to go through the car wash, whether I indulge in the triple foam, wax, and undercoating or just do the wash and dry.  Money well spent, clean car and the humidity is like a facial. I did a little research, although, amazingly there is quite a bit of information about the cost effectiveness, energy efficiency and utilization of time. I found out that  on a daily basis that the bays are actually in use only ten percent of the time.  They can be moneymakers, and although the research suggests a lot of wasted water (I felt a bit guilty reading this), it is  a moment in my day, where something happens with little intervention and work on my part, with a pretty decent outcome.  I like the sounds of a car wash, the quiet and solitude and the fact that although I don’t do it often enough…read rather dirty black car, when I do make that usually last minute impulsive decision, I don’t regret it one bit.

The car wash experience is one of those things on the lists I keep creating to keep up with the things I categorize according to three criteria.  There is the must do list, the should do list, and then the it would sure be nice to do list.  Usually, the impulsive car wash is in the latter list.  I imagine we all have our small, or large indulgences, from a small piece of candy to a small, but shiny piece of jewelry or sportscar.  Considering that at the large end, the indulgences may be more difficult to attain, I like to keep it real and realistic.  I go for something that meets the need, in the moment.  Sustenance for each of us has different parameters.  The recognition that often, it is only ourselves we can provide this for, means we have the responsibility to do it.  It is the “fake it ’til you make it” path.  If you don’t believe that you have  what it takes to feel confident, you pretend you are until you are where you need to be.  Sometimes it is like putting on lipstick and letting the world know you are ready and able, though your knees are shaking and quaking but only you know that.

The should dos are the tough ones, but those are the first to be done because they are usually those tasks that involve others.  We do not wish to disappoint, do we? So we do.  The should dos are the ambivalent crowd of things that matter, but we can talk ourselves into doing or not doing. They are not fun because we don’t let them be fun.  So the it sure would be nice are those things that we revel in after we finally give in and do for ourselves.  It’s like a little  “aha”moment in our heads.  It is also the realization that they are usually pretty easy and worth the moment. When I uncomplicate my brain and go through a car wash,  I get a clean car and a clear mind. Neither lasts for too long, but in the moment, it does the trick.

Make soup to keep warm and enjoy your weekend.