Sigh.

If you ask the retired man I live with how I am, he’s likely to answer, “Mean as a snake.” And you, most likely, will laugh, thinking he’s just being cute.  But he tells the truth, at least a partial truth.

I have a wicked streak in my personality that not everyone gets to see or hear.  Sometimes it comes out as sarcastic comments under my breath during a meeting or workshop.  Sometimes it’s a look exchanged with a friend who knows which person gets under my skin anytime she or he speaks.  Sometimes I just sigh.  I sigh a lot in October.

A week or so ago, my WHOLE daily newspaper was pink. Even the comics and the horoscopes.  I sighed, several times.

A few days later, I walked through the den while the retired man I live with was watching a pro football game.  Pink tights and pink Nike cleats with tight white football pants is not a good look for a beefy offensive lineman.  Or anyone else, probably.  I sighed.

My mother-in-law died of breast cancer, as did 2 of her sisters.  My sister-in-law lives with that genetic legacy.  So do my 2 daughters.  One of their friends had a preventative double mastectomy in her 30’s because of her family history.  I have friends who are breast cancer survivors.

I’m jealous of the Pink for Breast Cancer marketing juggernaut.  Who turned my newspaper pink?  And who talked football players into wearing hot pink tights?

Most families have faced some kind of cancer.

My brother had melanoma twice and died of metastatic cancer of unknown origin.  He had it everywhere and chose not to have treatment and go ahead and die swiftly a year ago.

My mother had throat cancer.  After radiation that killed her salivary glands, she ended up with no ability to taste food and lost all her teeth.

I am a cancer survivor.  I know what that means and how it feels. Nine years ago I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Surgery removed one malignant lymph node and another disappeared (??).  My cancer has been in remission since.  I try to forget that it could come back.

My newspaper printed an article recently by Pat Trotta, a local breast cancer survivor.  Here is an excerpt:

Recovery [after her mastectomy on October 1, 2012] was swift and painless, with my biggest problem being cabin fever. As soon as my surgeon gave me the OK to get out of the house, I just put the bulb of my drain tube in the pocket of my jeans and did what most women would do: I went shopping. I was thrilled at the prospect of a little retail therapy so I could quit thinking about the darn cancer.

My first stop was my favorite home improvement store, where the first thing I saw was a display of Pink Ribbon door knobs. My second stop was my favorite office supply store, where I was bowled over by a huge display that ranged from “Pink Ribbon Uni-Ball Gel Pens” to a pink-handled No. 8 scissors that claimed to “raise awareness about breast cancer.”

I was shopping to forget my breast cancer, but instead there were reminders everywhere I looked. I felt like I was in a frantic recurring nightmare, running from store to store, with more pink items ready to attack me behind the door of every retail establishment.

I had to get away from all this pink! I decided to watch a football game, surely a no-pink haven. Wrong! I thought I was having hallucinations when I saw NFL cheerleaders with pink pom-poms and football players with pink cleats. Apparently it has become politically incorrect to ignore pink in October. Employers are forcing their employees to wear pink shirts for a month.

This has gone too far…

I did some research and found that there are 48 colors and color combinations of “awareness ribbons” representing 221 types of cancer. So what about the other 220 diseases? What do their ribbons look like?

My solution is to start referring to October as “Cancer Awareness Month” and include all types of cancers. I actually feel selfish that all the focus and attention is on my type of cancer.

As retailers consider Pinktober for next year, my wish is that these displays would include products in all colors, reflecting all types of cancer.

One of my daughters started making tie-dye shirts last week.  I’m going to ask her to make all of us October shirts using these cancer awareness colors (the ones that have affected our family): Pink (breast), Dark blue (colon), White (lung), Lime (lymphoma), Black (melanoma), Burgundy (head/neck), and Plum (for caregivers).

What colors will you use?

 

 

 

 

Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 3:52 pm  Comments (4)  
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I Need a New Beach

I said goodbye to my brother last week.  Well, really, I said goodbye to Carolina Beach last week.  Before he died in July, 2013, my brother worked and lived around Carolina Beach for about 30 years. So, many years ago, when I decided to run away from home, I ran to Carolina Beach, 4 hours down I40.

I had never been on my own.  I went to college 25 miles from home, met the retired man I now live with at 20, married him at 22 and had 2 kids by age 27.  I chose to be a 30-something stay-at-home mom of 2 little girls with a husband who was gone overnight several nights a week.

I needed to go away alone every so often to find the Robin hidden inside the wife, mother, friend, volunteer, room mother, and Sunday School teacher.

I felt safe at Carolina Beach.  My brother worked on a charter fishing boat, but he showed me where a couple of his friends worked if I needed help. I knew where the police station was and he knew some of the officers.  He pointed me to a safe motel, where I could get an affordable oceanfront room.

I discovered that the ocean fed my spirit and my soul.  I could rest there. Carolina Beach became my “thin place”–a place where the barrier between me and God became permeable.  I found Robin.

Last week I spent 2 nights in an oceanfront room.  I couldn’t rest.  I couldn’t feel God. I missed my brother.

Down one street was the motel he and his wife managed in the 1980’s.  Down the street behind McDonald’s and Hardees,  the charter fishing boats docked in their designated spaces.  I used to go watch when his boat came in and he cut up the fish they caught that day.  Near the boats was the diner where he took me to eat.  Across from the hotel, behind the pancake house, was one of the nice restaurants where I’d buy him dinner. It’s a seafood restaurant, but sometimes he’d order steak.  I’d laugh.

He always understood that I came to the beach to be alone.  He spent his days interacting with people and treasured his evenings alone.  We usually had dinner once or twice while I was there.  It took years for us to get comfortable enough with each other to sustain a conversation through a meal.

When he got cancer last year, he called me.  When he was admitted to the hospital, a week before he died, he asked me to come.  I was with him when he died.  I’m grateful now for all those uncomfortable dinners.

One day soon, my daughters and their families will join me and the retired man I live with for one last visit to Carolina Beach.  We will pour his ashes in the ocean and say goodbye.

I need a new beach.  Someplace where I can rest.  And tend my soul.

 

Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 9:05 am  Comments (9)  
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How Are You?

“How are you, Robin?”

“I’m fine,” I say.

Translation: Feelings Inside Not Expressed

Each time my family moved (4 elementary schools, 1 junior high, 2 high schools), I knew my mom needed me (oldest of 3) to be fine.  And I was the good kid, the responsible kid, the one who was fine.  I perfected being fine.  And I’m still good at it.

I’m good at figuring out how to fit in.  I notice things like what kind of clothes a group wears (Saturday morning women’s group–jeans, yoga pants, ponytails, not much makeup) and how they act and talk to each other. My last high school was in Raleigh, NC.  Kids there grew up saying “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir.”  I did not.  The first time I answered a teacher with “yeah” I swear I heard gasps. I learned, once again.  Much, much later, I learned this noticing thing has a name–hypervigilance (here’s an explanation).  It’s not a symptom of mental health.

“How are you, Robin?”

“I’m ok,” I say.

Translation: I’m kind of surprised to be all right because some hard stuff has been happening in my life and I’ve been focused on doing what I can to be centered and in balance. I don’t realize I’m ok until you ask how I am. So thank you for asking!

“How are you, Robin?”

“I’m not ok,” I say.

Translation:  I really trust you.

My animal symbol is Turtle.  I don’t come out of my protective shell easily.  I learned early to hide myself emotionally. I needed to be fine.  I read this recently: “feeling was a luxury I didn’t think I could afford.” (Nancy Slonim Aronie) Yeah, me, too.  When I was 40 years old, a therapist gave me a list of “feeling words”  (here’s a long list) because I only knew a couple. I’ve been learning about my emotions and how to live in them ever since.

“How are you, Robin?”

“I’m good!” I say.

Translation: The exclamation point says it all.  In this moment, all is well and I am grateful.

(a quote from Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way)

In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now.  The precise moment I was always in was the only safe place for me.

So,

I’m fine” means I am not in the present moment and I do not want to be.

I’m ok” means I am on the edges of the present moment and, for the moment, choosing not to run away.

I’m not ok” means I am smack dab in the middle of the present moment and it’s painful and I’m choosing not to run away, but I wish the pain would go away. And I need a hug.

I’m good!” means I’m smack dab in the middle of the present moment and I’m feeling joy and gratitude and I want it to last forever, but I know it won’t and that’s ok.

And how are you, my friend?

 

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 2:27 pm  Comments (6)  
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From Cracks In the Writer’s Block Wall

1.  I don’t like to go inside to the prescription counter at the drugstore for my refills because that’s where all the sick people congregate. I’m not a germ-a-phobe, but I do try to be sensible.  Today, though, the drive-thru closed for remodeling. Only two people stood ahead of me in line and neither one coughed. Thank you, God. The woman at the head of the line had a problem so I had time to look at all the magazine covers under the counter.  Cosmopolitan screamed “BEST SEX EVER!!” in gigantic letters right next to Weight Watchers and Cooking Light.  I used to read Cosmopolitan before I had kids.  I remember not wanting my mother to see it, but today’s cover goes way beyond trashy to inappropriate. I’m quite sure I’m not in their demographic anymore.

2.  As I drove out of the drugstore parking lot, I looked at the Hardees next door. A big sign promoted a “Fried Bologna and Velveeta Biscuit.” I had to read it twice to be sure I saw it right.  Yes, my friends, I do live in the South.  True confession–I was tempted to try one. Bologna and cheese sandwich (not on white bread anymore) with potato chips on the side is one of my comfort foods. What? Don’t you have a secret junky comfort food?

3.  The retired man I live with felt crummy yesterday and again this morning.  Nothing serious, although any amount of illness is serious in his world.  He can’t usually just sit around and do nothing so by this morning he needed a project.  We are members of the Apple cult–laptops, phones, iPod, iPad and we use AppleTV for streaming Netflix, etc.  He decided he wanted all the music in his iTunes account to be in the AppleTV thing so he could play music through the television.  (Why?) He did it, after he finally got the right password for iTunes. The Cloud is a powerful and spooky mystery.

4.  A while back, my family discussed inner age vs chronological age. At the time we ranged in age from about 30 to late 50’s. The young ones thought of themselves as close to their chronological age. I was at the other end of the age range and thought of myself as about 35. These days, at 62, I feel more like mid-40’s inside. I liked my 40’s—some maturity (and sobriety) and wisdom but still plenty of energy. I developed spunk and comfort with being myself. I still have those characteristics inside, including a somewhat warped sense of humor, but my body has slowed down. I know what I like and need and I appreciate the good things in my life. Time with my grandchildren makes anything negative disappear. Their delight at all the world offers them feeds my soul. And when they get grumpy or poopy, I can give them back.

5.  Because of damage from years of rheumatoid arthritis,  I periodically search for comfortable, attractive (or at least not ugly) shoes.  I came across a blog recently called Barking Dog Shoes (barkingdogshoes.com). The blogger, Kirsten Borrink, has reviewed over 1000 pairs of shoes since 2007! Lately I’ve been looking for a walking shoe so I can walk outside.  I’ve tried more than a few, but nothing just right yet.  (Hint: if you order shoes online, you can wear them inside a bit and still return them for a full refund.  Try to stay on rugs or carpet.) On the desk beside me is an ad I tore out of the Arthritis Today magazine for Gravity Defier.  G-Defy, they call it.  “Science in every pair!” “Feel weightless!” Here’s how I know I’m an optimist–I’ll probably order a pair.  They just might be the ones.  Kind of like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans for a 62-year-old body. Must be out there somewhere, right?

6.  Most of the public schools in our county started today. (Some magnet schools run on other calendars.) Adaline started 4-year-old preschool today, too, at the same place she went last year.  Her mom posted a picture on Facebook. At 4, Adaline knows how to “work it” for the camera.  Cute, but a bit unnerving.  She wore a purple jumper with a big turquoise peace sign on it.  Back when I was wearing peace signs (late 60’s and into the 70’s) I didn’t imagine my grandchild wearing one the 1st day of school! Does that mean 80’s hair is in her future?

7.  I drew from both Cosmo and Arthritis Today for this post.  I think that adds up to groovy grey-haired grandma! (told you I had a warped sense of humor.)

 

Published in: on August 25, 2014 at 5:10 pm  Comments (7)  
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All Are Welcome Here

Almost 300 people gathered at Kanuga Conference Center in the woods of the NC mountains.  All were somehow touched by HIV/AIDS.  The Southeastern dioceses of the Episcopalian Church have sponsored this annual June retreat for over 20 years. Clients and patients mixed easily with staff and volunteers from agencies in NC, SC, AL, FL, GA and even Texas.  Some rode many hours on buses.  Others carpooled.  For many, this was their only trip beyond their home county all year.

I attended this year, my 4th time.  I listened to stories of loss and loneliness and hope and resilience.  Many voiced gratitude for a place of no shame where the dominant message was “You are welcome here.

A young man in his 20’s told of being born HIV positive.  His mother died shortly after his birth and he was adopted at 3 weeks old from the hospital. At 8, his mother told him he was HIV positive.  He went to a support group and found a best friend.  As he reached adulthood, his adoptive mother died and then his best friend.  He was ready to stop his medications and die, too.  He found Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.  He participated in a men’s support group and the men nurtured him and loved him and he decided to keep on living.

Another man shared that he doesn’t take communion at home because he is HIV positive and doesn’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable by drinking from the communal cup. He gratefully took communion and drank from the cup at the sunrise lakeside worship service because all were truly welcome that morning.  He cried telling his story.

At that same lakeside worship service, just as the priest was consecrating the bread and wine, a flock of geese circled the lake, flew over our heads, and landed softly on the water.  They stayed there, floating, as we went to the front for communion.  Flying geese are a Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit.*

I volunteer at Higher Ground, a house in my town where people infected and affected by HIV gather. I’m on the board of directors for its parent agency, Triad Health Project.

Once a month my church provides lunch at Higher Ground for about 30 people, sometimes more.  Over the years, we have fed over 6,000 hungry mouths. One time I fixed baked chicken breasts.  I knew how many I cooked and I knew from counting heads it wasn’t enough.  We had leftovers.  And no way to explain them.  There is always enough food.

Once or twice a month I lead a group, called Robin’s Nest on the calendar. Sometimes we write in journals–everyone gets one and they’re stored in a big wicker basket in the back room.  We’ve played with Model Magic, weird stuff that’s like new-age Play Dough. We’ve used markers and crayons.  Always I play music, usually soft jazz like Kenny G or Boney James. We’re quiet for a while and then everyone has a chance to share.  We talk about life and death, faith and fun, anger and love.  We tell our stories. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry.  We listen and we are heard.

Most of the folks who participate have lost something because of their disease.  Lovers, family, honesty about themselves, mobility, health.  They are more likely to talk about what they have gained.  For some, days free from addiction.  For most, faith in a loving God.  Often, it’s Higher Ground, where they have a community of welcoming friends who care where they are and ask how they’re doing.  They daily choose to keep on living because they have come so close to dying.

Nine years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I went to Higher Ground.  I knew they would understand my fears and would show me how to keep living each day, one at a time.  When my rheumatoid arthritis is acting up and I’m in pain, Higher Ground is one of the few places I will go.  They accept me as I am and it’s okay.  They offer compassion; there is no pity.  They know how to live life on life’s terms.

I know the Holy Spirit was at Kanuga. I saw Her geese. I feel God’s presence every time I pay attention at Higher Ground.

14 years ago, I resisted the call to Higher Ground.  I had just resigned after  6 1/2 years as a Hospice volunteer coordinator and I said, “I don’t want to be around people who are going to die.” I’m not sure when or how that changed.

People I love have dwindled and died.  But more have come close and then gotten well again.

I think I have more to learn from my friends at Higher Ground.  My heart needs to continue opening to new friends.  I’m willing to take the risk.

 

* “Wild Goose” is a Celtic spirituality metaphor that evokes unpredictability, beauty, and grace.

 

 

 

Published in: on August 1, 2014 at 4:39 pm  Comments (7)  
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I Thank You, God, For The Wonder of My Being (a psalm)

My God,

All those years it didn’t show and no one had to know.

Pain, yes, but no one can see another’s pain.

Now, some days I limp or have use my cane,

Food falls off my fork. I wear my napkin like a bib.

I ask for help and grind my teeth behind the smile.

Must I say “No, I can’t” after “Yes, I can”?

“Can we reschedule? I’m in the hospital.”

“I can’t help–my back is in spasms.”

“I can’t come–it’s a bad arthritis flare.”

My God,

I’m tired.

I’m humbled.

I’m embarrassed.

I want to be whole and healthy,

I want to walk for miles on Your green and flowering earth,

Or just to move more easily.

I want a simple boo-boo to simply heal.

Instead a hole in my elbow requires surgeons and stitches,

Bandages that won’t stay on and packing with silver

And lots of poking with the wooden end of a Q-tip.

An infection requires 3 days of IV vancomycin in room 1342

And 8 days of cleocin pills 3 times a day with lots of yogurt.

All because the dog tripped me months ago

And when I fell I banged my elbow.

I feel fragile these days.

My soul is weary.

I feel ashamed

Of illness, of frailty, of looking older than I am,

Of vulnerability, of dependence, of need, of fear.

My soul cries out to You

Help me!

And so the word “Acceptance” appears on the blackboard in my brain

As I lie in the MRI machine with my face 2 inches from the rounded wall

And my ankle is stretched in a way it doesn’t go

That makes it still hurt a week later.

And so in an article in an email,

I read about Passivity:

The less I do, the less I commit, the less I expect of myself,

The less I’ll disappoint or feel incompetent.

I know why I sit.

And so I read about Resilience:

The ability of something to return to its original form

After being pulled, stretched, pressed, bent.

 Terry reads “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou as liturgy Sunday.

“Just like the moon and the suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes spring high,

Still I rise…

Leaving nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear…”

And so I walk for 15 minutes at Bicentennial Garden

And I hear the birds and see the flowers

And look into the eyes of other walkers.

I receive the smiles and greetings of those I pass.

I gather in Your beauty,

Revel in Your gentle breeze,

Feel the muscles in my legs move

And send blessings to my malformed feet.

I move out into Your Grace.

And so I say “Yes” when my daughter says “I need you.”

I say “Yes, I can do that today.”

And so I will drive to Raleigh to be with Maggie,

The embodiment of Your joy and wonder and love.

My God, I thank you.

My Spirit thanks you.

My Soul is full of Your Grace.

 

(The title is from a chant by Isabella Bates on the CD “Sound Faith.”)

Tapestry

On her mother’s  last day (though no one knew it was her last day), Terry got some help and pushed her mother’s bed out a door and into a garden.  Her mother lived through a decade of dementia and had been actively dying for 2 1/2 weeks with Terry by her side.  It was a beautiful early spring day and a comfortable breeze ruffled through the new blooms.  A robin sang  for them.  A bee buzzed around her mother’s head for a long time.  Terry thinks it was her dead brother, Jimmy.  Betty died outside in the spring garden air that afternoon.

I don’t believe in a God that manipulates us like marionettes.  I do believe God offers us situations and opportunities that can move us in one direction or another and that our choices have consequences, both immediate and long-term.

I like the idea of life as a tapestry.  These words are from “Tapestry,” a Carole King song you can easily find on youtube:

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous, woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold

On the back side of a tapestry, strings of many colors go every-which-way, knots sit in unexpected places, blank places look bare, strings overlap, and some just hang loose.  On the front side, a beautiful picture emerges.

I was assigned a project, maybe in 6th or 7th grade, to learn about two professions.  I picked teaching and foreign service.  I researched foreign service requirements and options like working in an embassy or for the State Dept in DC.  The work fascinated me, but I remember no encouragement at school or at home for such an ambition.

I expected to be a teacher most of my life.  I enjoyed school and good grades had value in my family.  My parents both taught after college.  I never really knew I had other choices.  What did other girls  who became attorneys or ministers or scientists hear that I did not?

I started taking French in 7th grade and took it all through high school and even took a French literature class (in French) in college.  It came easily for me. I loved the sound of it and all I learned about French culture and way of life.

My college choices came down to UNC and Duke.  UNC=Special Education.  Duke=French.  I was the oldest of 3 kids close together in age.  Our college costs would overlap for years.  I chose UNC, a state school with much lower tuition. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and found a husband.

In the mid-1970’s, in my 20’s, I taught at the Tammy Lynn Center, a private residential and educational facility for the mentally handicapped in Raleigh, NC.  Terry’s brother, Jimmy, who she thinks came to their mother as a bee as she was dying, lived at the Center while I was there and attended the school during the day.  Terry’s parents were among the founders of Tammy Lynn Center and I remember talking with them.  We discovered this surprising connection during a get-to-know-each-other lunch a few years ago.

After our children left home, my husband and I took my dream trip–a week in Paris.  Though I hadn’t spoken French for over 20 years, much came back to me. I bought a necklace from a woman who spoke no English using my memory and my French-English dictionary.  I was fearless!  I fell in love with everything French.  I think I was French in another life.  I went back with my daughters a year later.

I am grateful for each day I have.  Since a cancer diagnosis 9 years ago followed quickly by remission, I danced at both my daughter’s weddings, am blessed with 3 grandchildren nearby and am still happily married to the husband I found at Carolina, though I call him “the-retired-man-I-live-with” now.  I even went back to Paris–alone!

I love and treasure the life I live these days.  My daughters like to spend time with us and willingly share their children with us.  I volunteer at church and with a non-profit that serves those touched by HIV/AIDS.  I’ve been sober for almost 27 years.  I have friends from all parts of this community where we have deep roots. My tapestry is knotty and messy on the back.  The front is beautiful.

But sometimes I wonder…what if I’d taken another path?  Why did no one encourage me to take a different piece of string for my tapestry?  What would it have looked like?

 

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 8:47 am  Comments (15)  
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From My Slightly ADD Brain

1.  My new antidepressant and my not-quite-as-new drug for rheumatoid arthritis are working together to get me back to “ME.”  I feel like Robin again and I’m very grateful.  A friend told me yesterday she was glad I was back.  I said, “Me, too.”  I told my therapist I thought I might be on a “pink cloud” and she asked if I meant euphoria.  I said, “Yes!” and that I was afraid it wouldn’t last.  She said she thought maybe I just felt good and I said, “Oh, you mean I’ve reached a level like normal?” She said, “Yes” and we both laughed really hard.  I look back now at how I felt in December and January and recognize I have an illness that, untreated, depresses my spirit and takes away all joy.  I choose today to do all I can not to live that way.  I choose to step fully into each unique day..

2.  My current book is “This Is The Story of A Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett.  It’s a collection of essays by a novelist.  She writes some about writing and a lot about her life.  I love to read how she puts words together.  In the essay that gave the book its title, she describes the deterioration of one of her marriages.  A friend asked her, “Does your husband make you a better person?  Are you smarter, kinder, more generous, more compassionate, a better writer?  Does he make you better?”

3.  As I get some older–I’m 62 today–I have less physical and emotional energy.  I treasure my energy on any given day.  I had none when my depression was at its worst.  It varies now from day to day.   I think I will use the questions below when I need to choose how to use my time and energy:

Will _____ make you a better person?  Will you be smarter, kinder, more generous, more compassionate, a better writer?  Will ______ make you better?

4.  A week ago we had an ice storm.  Actually, we had a sleet-snow-freezing rain storm that took away the power of 143,000 in our county alone.  The retired man I live with and I lost our electricity for 34 hours, but we have gas logs and a small generator to power tv and lights and the microwave.  Our daughter, son-in-law and their chatty 4-year-old and their constantly moving almost-two year old endured 4 days.  My daughter sounded worse each day in the very brief conversations we had because she had to turn on the car to charge the phone.  She got excited about doing laundry when it finally came back on.

5.  Afterward, we talked about those days without tv, internet, iPad and readily available phone.  Besides the quiet, she noticed her kids playing together more.  She read.  And they all cuddled a lot because the house was colder inside than it was outside some of those days.  Maybe we should have national No Electricity Weekend each spring and fall, with a guarantee of a high temperature between 63 and 78 and no rain so we can go outside.  I bet we’d all read more, play together more, and cuddle more.

6.  I googled “how to be a friend” recently because I’ve been thinking about how I would like to be a better friend to some people I really like, like Kim and Lisa.  My google choices included: how to be friends with a guy, with a girl, with a friend who is sick, with a friend who is depressed and how to be a friend with benefits.  (Google that yourself if you’re not sure what that means, Aunt Nadine.)  I looked at the friends with benefits one, of course.  It was a slide show format that wouldn’t go past #4 (of 10) for me.  I’m not sure what that meant.  The 1st 5 links for “how to be a friend” were from wikihow.com, amazon, selfstairway.com (?), tinybuddha.com, and realsimple.com.  I clicked on tinybuddha.com (here’s the link) and got a list of 25 suggestions that were actually quite good, though not really anything I didn’t already know.

7.  I noticed a behavior pattern of mine while on my “how to be a friend” internet journey.  I’m quite good at finding sources of information about how and why to do stuff (meditate, exercise, pray, write, be a friend/parent/grandparent, eat more fruits and vegetables, not eat sugar) and I enjoy learning, but there is a disconnect in my brain between learning and doing.

8.  I’m going to read about motivation and procrastination.  I’ll get back to you.

Published in: on March 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm  Comments (13)  
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Enough Is Enough

When I started this blog, I set an intention: to leave pieces of myself for Adaline (and then Maggie and Atticus) to find when they got older and I wasn’t around anymore and they started to wonder who “Robin” was besides a sort-of cool grandmother. In the first post, on June 9, 2010, I explained the blog title, “Amma Ponders:”

The ammas, as they were called, help us to find ways to gently pay attention to God’s presence with us in all places and through all things. And they teach us to grow in the awareness that we are each unique, remarkable parts of a vast, vital, interconnected cosmos. The word means mother. It came to refer to those women who were spiritual mothers to many. Their insistence on practicing silence, solitude and stillness provides a kind of medicine for our over-heated, frenetic culture.”

“Amma Ponders” reflects my spirituality.  Depressed, my ability “to gently pay attention to God’s presence with us in all places and through all things” disappeared.  I had no energy for that.  I practiced isolation rather than solitude. And I wrote little.

My new antidepressant helps me today.  My joints and my soul love the few sunny, 50-60 degree days we had lately.  I am waking up and looking out beyond myself.

I’ll be 62 years old in a few weeks.  And, once again, I want to know what I will be when I grow up.  Several wise ammas and abbas (men) listened to my string of “I don’t know…” sentences the other day and led me to a knowledge that it is okay not to know.  One woman quoted Julian of Norwich, “Await.”  An ex-Marine-Episcopal-priest said, “I may not know where I am, but I know I’m not lost.”  Another woman spoke of “glimmers of grace.”  And a woman older than I “still has an ambition to give.”

I pondered their words for several days.  I sat down to write this morning.  I found myself re-reading that first blog post about why I picked “Amma” for my grandmother name.

For a lot of years, I answered “stay-at-home-mom” to the question, “What do you do?”  That was my calling.  And once I got sober, I got pretty good at it. But I was never sure “mother” was enough.

Amma “means mother. Their insistence on practicing silence, solitude and stillness provides a kind of medicine for our over-heated, frenetic culture.”

I am a grownup. I am a child of God.  I am Amma.  And that is enough.

Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 11:46 am  Comments (10)  
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Do Sharpies Write on Snow?

The snow they predicted for days came on schedule yesterday (“between 1:00 and 6:00 pm, 1-3 inches.”). Looks like we got 1-2 inches.  My phone says it’s 16 degrees outside.

I need a giant black Sharpie so I can climb out my window onto the porch roof and write on the white surface like a little kid with a crayon would write on a bare wall:

ROBIN WAS HERE.

(I live in the middle of North Carolina in the South of the US.  We don’t get much snow. 1-3 inches is kind of a big deal. 16 degrees is really cold.  I have a nice-looking wool coat and several scarves, but I don’t own a good pair of gloves or functional boots. Laugh if you want.)

Every morning, in my quiet time, I look out the double window in my office over the screened-in porch’s roof at the backyard of our house. This morning at 7:23, I saw clean, white snow on top of all the stuff–balls, dog poop on its mulch pile, 3 durable fake-wicker chairs, the weathered old picnic table, the Little Tikes First Slide and the blue swing hanging from a tree branch.

I saw me with the Sharpie on the porch roof. I’d go out on impulse in my pj’s that have been washed so many times they are soft like expensive baby clothes. The 16 degree cold would push me to hurry.  Would I change out of my warm, cream-colored thick cotton socks that look like they came from Finland? Or would I just jump out and do it?

How would I climb up and out? Would I even know how to move the screen of the triple-paned window out of the way?  What if I slid off?   The snow on the frozen ground wouldn’t be enough to cushion my fall. We know a guy who fell off a ladder while cleaning his gutters and got badly hurt.  What if I dropped the Sharpie? And who would even see what I wrote?

I’m good at over-thinking things and not so good at spontaneity.  Maybe not a bad way to be in the long run, but I think I’ve probably missed out on a lot of fun.

Besides, Sharpies of any size won’t write on snow. And I’m afraid of falling and my bones that are approaching osteoporosis could break into a bunch of jagged pieces.

Maybe I’ll try for a snow angel–in the yard–later, after I put on the proper clothes and a hat.  I hope the retired man I live with will help me get up.  We could be in trouble if we both lie down in the snow at the same time.

Published in: on January 29, 2014 at 10:46 am  Comments (10)  
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