Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wisdom and Remembering Grandma Mary

I read This post from Lori last week, and have been thinking of my grandmother Mary a lot since.

Grandma Mary died on August 11, 2003 at the age of 93. During the last years of her life she was unable to care for herself. While fairly able of body, her mind was fading. She remembered less and less over those last few years, and this was at first a very difficult thing. Grandma was frustrated, angry, very aware that she was forgetting, that she was no long in control of her own thoughts, her own home.

I had the honor, and sometimes the struggle, of sharing in her care during the last years of her life. For 3 years every week I spent the night and all the next day with her.

It was hardest during the early years, when she knew she couldn't remember and was sometimes so angry and bitter. This gave way to a more lost feeling and ultimately to a peaceful sweet place, where she knew us less, and yet somehow more.

It was during one of those times that I came to be with her, this time just stopping in to visit briefly. I was going through a pretty difficult time. Patrick had injured himself twice in the span of 4 months, and was on disability and trying to recover and finish renovating our house simultaneously. We were preparing it to rent, with the plan to move east. I, meanwhile, was working 3 part time jobs...massage on-call for the Hyatt and 2 catering jobs, and trying to help some with the work on the house too.

I was especially tired that day, and feeling like I just couldn't keep pushing through. I sat down next to grandma and held her hand, and we sat quietly that way for awhile. And then she turned to me and said "I wish I could help you. But everything is going to be okay for you, everything is going to be okay."

This was one of most lucid things she had said to me in ages, and so utterly in tune with where I was at, despite her lack of knowledge of my circumstances.

It is a memory I hold onto when I feel lost, overwhelmed, and that wisdom is far from me. It reminds me that true wisdom comes from quiet places beyond thinking, where the heart knows more.

I have so many memories of Grandma Mary, some of them funny, some of them tough, but this is the one I hold dearest to my heart, the most precious gift she gave me aside from my mother.

Hair & Cleaning up the Gulf Oil Spill

I wanted to throw up when hearing of the Gulf Oil Spill. I'm sure I'm not the only now with that kind of reaction. Throw up, then close my ear and eyes because the enormity of such a disaster makes me feel helpless, and to focus on something so devastating that I can do so little about makes me feel useless and immobilized.  But then I found this information.

Did you know there's a simple way to help clean up the Gulf Oil Spill? I came across this information here. Thank you Miranda!

Hair absorbs oil. Different kinds of hair. Human, sheep (wool!), alpaca. Matter of Trust is coordinating a massive effort to collect hair clippings from salons, animal owners, and individuals. These clippings with be bagged in nylon stockings and used to soak up oil from the Gulf Oil and 2,600 or so smaller spills that happen worldwide annually.

Detailed info on how to contact Matter of Trust about this is in the link below. Contact your Salon or farming friend today and ask them to get involved. You can also donate if means allow, to the fund for getting the hair where it needs to go to help.

Thank you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Visiting a Foreign Land

Last Friday we visited a foreign land for about an hour. I was nervous about the trip, anticipating it with trepidation, not sure what to expect, not sure how we would be received. As is turned out, the natives were friendly, open, helpful, the country was clean, orderly, seemingly safe.

This country we visited was our local Elementary School. Explanations are needed.

I was homeschooled, from grade 4 on. I went to private schools through 2nd grade, a public alternative magnate school for 3rd, and then my parents decided homeschooling was a better option, for various reasons. And that was a LONG time ago.

So grade school of any sort is fairly foreign to me. And I always assumed that homeschooling would be the option for any children I would bear. Except that our 5 year old daughter annouced a couple of weeks ago that she would like to go to school. Regular school, to be precise...I offered several alternatives, there is a Waldorf based school nearby that offers a part-time program for homeschoolers looking for something different. We also have a local Montessori School whose philosophy we really like, and with more free time for me, I could work more to cover the tuition. But she was steadfast in her preference, stating in fact, that she didn't want me to "waste my money on school." It wouldn't be a waste, I insisted, if it would provide a good experience for her. No, she was uninterested.

So we toured the school, and it seemed, well fine, I suppose. Being so inexperienced with the whole school environment, I was unsure of what to expect. But I didn't find anything shocking or frightening, it was just, very, well, school-ish. And she liked it, wanted to start right away.

I should probably have anticipated this, in light of the fact that at 2 she began rejecting my clothing choices for her.

And so, I find myself, with my 5 year old about to enter kindergarten 4 weeks before the school year ends, at a bit of a loss.

I'm completely unconcerned with her academic standing. I know she's bright and capable, and very well spoken. Several days she asked me, when I was drawing a pumpkin for her to color in, if I could make the stem "dimensional," as in thick enough to color in.  I think she'll be just fine.

But I have this niggling fear that her spirit may be crushed somehow along the way, that she'll lose herself in the needing to fit in and be a part of it all. And then I remember that that can happen to any of us, no matter what our background or experience. And I hope I can be strong enough to show her how to be strong and true to herself.

And that, ultimately, is at the crux of why I'm not fighting this choice of hers (although there are places in me that really want to). I don't know where this will lead us, it feels big and scary to me in some ways, and in others, rather silly to make a big deal of it at all. But I do know that her voice, tiny and mighty simultaneously, needs to be heard, and that she's asking for something from a clear strong place, and that if I choose to undermine it, then I teach her not to trust herself.

So instead, I remember that although my wants for her are many, when I distill them down, it's something like this. I want her to be strong and humane, and to feel she can thrive in whatever circumstances she encounters or chooses.

And I fall back on these beautiful words from Kahlil Gibran which I posted recently. And look forward to the adventure awaiting us.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

52 Projects Week 18: Met the Neighbors


After our offer had been accepted on our new home, and the sale was in progress, we got to come take a look again to take some measurements and remember what we were buying. Our nearest neighbor, just next door, rushed over to welcome us, before we were even living here. It was lovely and felt like a sign...this is the right choice, this is going to be a good place for us.

We don't have a lot of near neighbors, just one other house, immediately across the street, and another a little ways down, then nothing for a mile or so in either direction. We've waved at the neighbors across the street when we see them outside. It was November when we moved in, and then winter came, and I promised myself we'd go meet them when it warmed up. And six months passed. And at this point, it almost felt awkward to me to knock on the door. But then, I remembered leaving San Diego.

Our home in San Diego on a busy, urban street in an older area that was slowly revitalizing. Many of the houses on the street were rough, but had charm. Most began to look better and better over the 7 years we lived there. Our lives were busy, so, I'm sure were those of our neighbors. We knew the people on either side of us, but that was it. Then, in preparation for moving, we had a couple of big yard sales, and we met the whole block. What a lot of nice, interesting people we lived so near! And how sad that we met them all on the eve of our departure.

When we moved to upstate NY, I was determined not to let that happen again. In our most recent (rental) home, we lived in a sweet village and did know our whole block, and it was a great feeling.

So yesterday, armed with a loaf of this bread, we walked across the street and met our neighbors. They were lovely, an older lady and her son who lives with and cares for her. They welcomed us in, apologized for not coming to welcome us and we had a lovely chat. Doris has a great granddaughter who visits often and who is just a bit younger than Helena. And the clincher...we're pretty sure we met her in the park, miles away, this week! Her name is uncommon, and the description matches. She and Helena hit it off immediately, and Helena mentioned, when we all dispersed, that it was sad to make friends we're not likely to see again. But we never know what turns the path will take, and when we'll meet again.

I'm so glad to have taken this step, so happy to be in this sweet area with kind people, and glad to have met them six months, and not six years, into our time here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Flower and the Bee

I read this amazing quote this morning from Mark Nepo's book of Awakenings.

"The flower doesn't dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bee comes."

This give me such chills! It is written in reference to finding love, but it seems to me that this thinking can be applied to so many areas of life. There are so many places where I yearn to be fuller, better, more fullfilled, have more of what I want. And dreaming of those "bees" is so much less affective than doing the real work of blooming. And I see the incredible power in the small places of life where I've begun to bloom...the bee truly does come.

Good wished for us all to bloom to our full potential!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

52 Projects Week 17


Week 17: Installed new smoke detectors.

One of the recent revelations I've had since participating in 52 Projects is that I let the minutiae of life way me down, slow me down, hold me back. Things that are often simple seem big and overwhelming when I try to plan them out in my head. More often than not, I breeze right through something that I've spend who knows how much time comtemplating, planning, and/or worrying about. Ugh!

So stop procratinating and JUST DO IT is a big overlying theme for me here. Hence, the smoke detectors.

They sat for about a month before I installed them. Because Patrick travels so much, and is often so tired when he's home, it's become necessary for me to be more handy...which I like, but have found intimidating. The ultimate installation was SO EASY

Here's the old one...I had to loosen the screws to get it out.

Here are the screws. 

They lined up perfectly with the new bracket. I was partly relieved, partly disappointed, because I really want to learn to install anchors for screws...they, watch, there'd be things hanging all over our house!

Slide the bracke onto the screws, tightened them down.

Slide on and tightened the detector itself. Tested it, yes it works! Loud!

Then repeated the entire process again downstairs. I'm going out to get another for the basement, and probably a couple more for the bedrooms, although we don't use a lot of electronic items in them, so no huge urgency felt there.

On to the next obstacle (or perceived obstacle), time to blow on through.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Even the strong can crack under the right pressure....

This weekend we had high winds, with gusts up to 70 mph. These winds wreacked havoc throughout the county. In Spencer, where we live recently, a large tree came down and took out 4 cars and damaged the roof of an apartment building.
In our own backyard, there was some damage as well.

A large branch from a maple tree on the property line fell into our neighbor's yard.

And one of our 50+ foot evergreens came down. If you look closely, you can see the top over to the left. The tree broke into 3 pieces.

Here's what remains. It will need to come down too.

The broken end, lying on the ground.

And, for perspective. I have pretty good sized hands.

This tree was apparently strong, with no obvious visible weakness. No rotting, decay, odd bends, or other flaws. We have others that look more fragile, trunks split into multiple tops, one tree that's defintely declining, that withstood the wind.

I started thinking about strength versus fragility in us as humans, and that like the trees, external appearances aren't always revealing. That sometimes we can prepare for the storms in our lives, and sometimes we just have to take them as they come upon us, and try to bend without breaking. Flexiblity comes to mind, and just the desire to remember that we each need to honor both our strengths and fragilities, so that we can prepare for the storms, both predicatable and surprising.

Friday, May 14, 2010

{this moment}, Friday, May 14th, 2010

This moment, inspired by Soule Mama's blog. One photo from the week, no words.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

52 Projects Weeks 15 & 16


Week 15: Began our flower garden.

I've never had just a flower garden. I've done vegetables and wish there were time to get a plot in for that this year, but alas, it's not in the cards. Luckily, mom & dad have a big plot we can share the work in and reap the rewards...and my mom's thumb is much greener than mine. Must see if I can my my thumb against hers more often and see if some will rub off on me.

Flowers seems like such a luxury in a way, and yet, in a climate where it's cold and dreary for nearly half the year, it's become easier for me to see beautiful growing things in the warm months as more necessity.

This year, we started one or flower garden. Our neighbor has one that butts up against our property line, and it's so lovely, full of blooming perennials. The thin line of trees that create the separation created a natural starting point. I'm excited to be working mostly within current landscape, adding a few things but not changing it otherwise. Maintenance free is definitely my style.

This is about half the large bunch of Irises my mom gave me from their yard. I spread most of the throughout the bed we're creating..a few went in the front yard. It will be interesting to see how they do. We have more shade then sun in our yard, and the bulbs I put in in the fall did bloom, just a little later than average. I think Irises prefer sun, but we'll see.

The bed will hug the right side of this tree line. We started a rock border, and will add more as we dig them out of the many rocks in our upstate soil. It can be frustrating when first dig to hit so many obstacles, but it leaves a lot to build with.

Week 16: Created a master shopping list and labeled the pantry items

More organization in our home has definitely been called for, and last week I tackled some of it. Patrick has been requesting that I label the bottles and jars that we refill regularly. I know pretty much what everything is by sight, but he's got less familiarity with it all. So, with Helena's (who loves everything with letters these days) help, I printed labels for pretty much everything that needed them. Like here.

Then I created a master shopping list. This is something I've been meaning to so for ages. I'm not sure why I waited so long, it was so simple. I made categories that basically reflected the different shopping areas in the grocery store, then listed them items we like to keep on hand as staples or buy regularly. It's a work in progress, some things will be added as they occur, others may go away. And there's space to write in items I might need just this week. I have one on the side of the refrigerator, and as I'm aware that something is low, I can add it to the list.

Already, this is cutting down on my frustration with forgetting things we need, and needing to make another trip. And from a budget standpoint, fewer trips to the grocery store mean less spending, since it's easy to grab this or that other thing when stopping for the one or two items that didn't make the list.

I made this in Excel and would be happy to share if any one could benefit from my work...let's just do it once, right? You can then modify to your own needs.

Have a great week (or two, since that seems to be my frequency with getting these projects up here).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

People around here are always referencing the time it snowed on Mother's Day not long ago. We were using sunscreen earlier this week, but today:

Happy Snowy Mother's Day!