Been a While

My blog website tells me it has been a loooong time since I’ve written anything. Over the last few years, I’ve read a number of books by writers about how they write–rituals, practices, habits, etc. Each one starts or ends with “Put your behind in the chair and start writing.”

Simple, yes. Also challenging.

I could give you excuses like being busier than usual or some extra doctor appointments. But I still don’t have a paying job. And I don’t live with small children. Just that retired man, who doesn’t require much attention. I wish I could say I’d been going through closets and drawers and bookshelves purging my belongings so we can downsize. I’d be lying.

I did start jotting down random thoughts and ideas this week. Here’s what I’ve got.

1.I read an essay recently written by a dad whose daughter wanted to buy a “distressed” pair of jeans, the kind that come already ripped and faded. Like all of us who once thought we were rebels, he was appalled at the cost of the jeans and also shocked by how repelled he was by the raggediness.

The article made me remember when my older daughter bought a townhouse in Charlotte. She got to choose flooring and paint. She chose “distressed” dark wood flooring. (like this picture) Not what I would have picked, but she liked it. It was actually an upgrade from the basic flooring.

We walk around our house these days, the retired man I live with and I, and discuss what we need to do to get it ready to sell. I refuse to put thousands of dollars into the house and then leave. We do both agree that the upstairs hardwood floors need to be refinished. They looked “distressed” after 25 years of wear and tear.

Huh?

2.I drove 3 1/2 hours to the NC mountains a few months ago to visit my college roommate. She lives in a  “tiny house”  on the side of a mountain with a gigantic Newfoundland dog and 2 small dogs. Kitty and I talked–a lot–and we ate and we went on a skinny, scary mountain road with no guardrail and a very long way down on my side to see wild moose (we saw the fleeing backside of one) and then we watched Hillary Clinton in her white pantsuit accept the nomination to be the 1st woman president. It was great.

I stayed at a close-by hotel. (We are way past sharing space like a dorm room!) The morning I left, I used Yelp to find a locally owned diner for breakfast. When I got ready to leave, I asked the waitress for my check and she told me someone had already paid for me! I asked if she’d tell me who it was and she said she couldn’t. It felt weird to walk out without paying. But if the person was still there, he/she saw me smile like I hadn’t smiled in a good while. I smiled all the way downhill to home. Now I need to pay it forward.

3.I had my annual physical this week. I told my doctor that even with all my various medical challenges and surgeries and daily medications, I consider myself reasonably healthy for my age. On a 1-10 scale of healthiness, I’d say I’m 7-8. He just smiled.

The glass is half full.

It’s all about attitude.

4.I started thinking the other day about which of my daughters would have a harder time when I die. I have no idea what triggered that train of thought.  They will both suffer, I think, each in her own unique way. I pray they will be able to help each other.

I didn’t linger long in that place.

I did start thinking about my relationship with my mother and how I grieved when she died. For the first time I was grateful we hadn’t been real close. The loss and hurt were maybe less intense.

Another place I didn’t want to linger.

5.You know those recipe videos that pop up on Facebook with 2 hands dumping and mixing ingredients? I re-post the ones that look good to me (sorry, friends). That way they are on my timeline so I can find them later. I have NEVER gone to my timeline and printed out one of the recipes. I don’t know why not. They’re usually easy and often crockpot recipes. I have more energy early in the day so crockpot recipes work well for me.

I think I’ll search out and print some after I finish writing.

6.I used to pride myself on always being on time. When my girls were little, I had a friend who had a daughter about the same age who was equally prompt. Gail and I would often pull up at some event like a birthday party at the same time. We would laugh in a “aren’t we just the best” way.

I lost my ability to always be on time. I’m convinced I developed late-onset ADD with menopause that will never leave me.

Yesterday, I managed to get ready to go somewhere on time. My hair was all the way dry, my outfit worked, I wasn’t rushed. I felt good. The retired man I live with pulled into the garage after his Men’s Breakfast just as I went out to my car. He came around and gave me a hug.

“Robin,” he said softly and sweetly, “you shirt is inside out.”

I looked down the front. No tag. “No, it’s not,” I said, like he’d said it was backwards.

“Take it off, ” he said. (Our garage faces the backyard.)

He was right. So much for having my act together

And that, my friends, is humility.

I need help.

From God.

From the retired man I live with.

And from my friends.

(I was still on time!)

 

 

Published in: on October 29, 2016 at 4:32 pm  Comments (3)  
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A Buddhist Nun Told Me To Chill

Pain in my feet might help.

I had foot surgery a little over a week ago.  General anesthesia, both feet, outpatient surgery.  The hope was to repair or modify some of the damage from 26 years of rheumatoid arthritis so I can walk better.

The challenge is not walking on them now.  Since the first couple of days I’ve had no pain so I was up and moving around.  I saw drainage on one of the bandages four days after surgery, went to see the doctor and was told to stop walking on my feet so they could heal.  To the bathroom or to get something to eat is okay.  Sitting with feet up on the ottoman is good.  Lying on the couch is better.  For the next week and a half.

I started a 3-year-term on a non-profit’s board of directors this month.  Triad Health Project provides HIV/AIDS services, education and support to those infected and affected by the virus.  I got involved as a volunteer in the mid-90’s.  You know that Bucket List thing?  I always wanted to say, “I’m on a Board of Directors.”

Last month, I missed the social get-to-know-each-other gathering at a wine bar because I had horrible back spasms.  Now this month, the first for-real meeting, I have healing feet so I can’t go again.

With all my free time, I am reading Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun.  This morning I read about how we get caught up in 8 worldly concerns:  pleasure and pain, gain and loss, fame and disgrace, praise and blame.  While I was reading, the other track in my brain was struggling with whether/how to get to the 5:30 THP board meeting.  (It gets busy inside my head.)

I am used to being the good kid.  I generally follow through on commitments and am pleasant and helpful to have around.  My reputation matters to me.  A lot.

I do not like that my disease may shape others’ first impression of me.  I want to be seen as competent.  Not needy, not vulnerable, not disabled.

Pema Chodron says, “If we don’t act on our craving for pleasure or our fear of pain, we’re left in the wide-open, unpredictable middle.  The instruction is to rest in that vulnerable place, to rest in that in-between state, to not hunker down and stay fixed in our belief systems but to take a fresh look with a wider perspective.  The truth is we’re always in some kind of in-between state, always in process…When we’re present with the dynamic quality of our lives, we’re also present with impermanence, uncertainty and change.”

I think that means I’m not in control.

She describes three commitments or vows Buddhists take.  First, the commitment to cause no harm.  Second, the commitment to take care of one another.  Third, the commitment to embrace the world just as it is.

I emailed the THP director and told her I would not be at the meeting.  (Do no harm to myself.)  I want to be able to help with the big fundraiser in early Dec. If I let my feet heal, I’ll help more. (Take care of one another.)  As my brother used to say, “It is what it is.”  (Embrace the world just as it is.)

I will be present to the discomfort that washes over me every time I imagine my empty chair at the THP conference table.

Sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t feel good.

Not my mother, not my father, but it’s me O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer. *

I’ve always had my mother’s hair–wavy or curly, depending on the humidity, and lots of it. Mom greyed early and never colored her grey.  In the 1960’s people asked who “frosted” her hair; women actually paid money for the grey highlights that Mom grew naturally.

I was afraid to iron my hair so I tried Curl Free for my high school graduation.    It was June, 1970, in Raleigh, NC, and Dorton Arena at the NC State Fairgrounds was not air-conditioned.  I just wanted long, straight hair down the back of my blue graduation gown.   The pictures from that night show beautiful waves that got bigger and bigger in the humidity.  I hated it.

For a lot of years I judged my mother harshly.  I didn’t like the way my dad treated her and I couldn’t understand why she didn’t resist.  When my dad retired early and then went into a nursing home at 63 (the result of drinking, diabetes, and a stroke), she lived alone for the first time.  We moved them from Ohio to Greensboro and helped her buy a one-level 2-bedroom town house close to our neighborhood.  She spent her time reading and watching CNN.  I felt sorry for her.  Her life was disappearing and she hadn’t accomplished anything.

“I think I’m turning into my mother!'”

The same wavy grey hair circles my head.  My chair sits beside the aquarium with the huge catfish in the living room. I read the paper or The Hunger Games and drink my tea. Sometimes I watch MSNBC or Dr. Oz. My cell phone and the home phone are on the table beside me.  I’m ready if one of my daughters or a friend calls.  My body requires rest.

I wish I could tell my mother I understand now.  It’s okay to rest and reflect. She died in 1998.  Maybe she wasn’t depressed.  Maybe her accomplishment was getting to a resting place.

Peace, Mom.

* “Not my mother, not my father, but it’s me O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.”  (Click here and then on the title to listen to the hymn by John P. Kee)

Published in: on June 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm  Comments (10)  
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Do It Anyway

People are often unreasonable,                                                                                                                                                 illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest anyway.

What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa
1910-1997

[Reportedly inscribed on the wall of Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, and attributed to her. However,  an article in the New York Times has since reported (March 8, 2002) that the original version of this poem was written by Kent M. Keith.]

Published in: on March 4, 2012 at 6:31 pm  Comments (10)  
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Baby Whisperer

My first blog post, in June, 2010, a few months after my 1st granddaughter was born, was an explanation of “Amma”–

It’s my grandmothering name.

According to Mary Earle, author of The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness, “these women lived in the fourth and fifth centuries, C.E. The ammas, as they were called, help us to find ways to gently pay attention to God’s presence with us…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.”

That’s what I want to be for Adaline. Her Amma. I don’t think I’ll be running through parks with her or climbing jungle gyms. But I can be a quiet, restful, peaceful presence in her busy and stimulating world. I’m already good at getting her to sleep, so I think I’m on the right track.

My older daughter and I have had a tempestuous relationship over the years.  When it was good it was really good, but when it was bad, it was pretty bad.  Normal stuff, but unpredictable and inconsistent.

Last week I got to be Amma for Maggie–“a quiet, restful presence in her busy and stimulating world.”  I was able to give Stephanie several breaks (long enough to take a shower) over the three days I was in Raleigh.  Maggie was content when I held her.

Stephanie called me “the Baby Whisperer” and told me she was grateful for my presence.

I asked her to tell me again.  She laughed and repeated her sweet words.

Parenting is hard work from the 1st day.  And, if we’re lucky, it doesn’t ever really end.  The rewards and thank you’s, however,  can be rare.  (My girls did thank me a few years ago for teaching them manners.)

I was not the mother I wanted to be when my girls were small.  Almost 25 years ago, I made a tough choice to work hard to change myself and my behavior.

With God’s grace I became a better mother.  My daughters think my guidance is worth listening to.  They trust me with their daughters.  I am so grateful for their respect and love.

Now, with God’s help, I’m learning how to be Amma.  I (try to) wait until I’m asked to give advice.  I listen a lot and say, “That’s normal.”

I’m taking better care of myself–eating healthy, exercising, washing hands, getting enough sleep.  I am determined to live long enough to see my daughters parent teenage girls!

And I will pray for all of them.  (And then giggle from the sidelines.)

Published in: on February 14, 2012 at 8:34 pm  Comments (7)  
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Girl Power

“GIRL!!” came the text last Friday from the doctor’s office.  We have another grandchild on the way!  Stephanie and her husband, Will, are due in January.  They had an ultrasound and saw her moving her hands and crossing her ankles like a proper lady.  Wow.

A week ago I woke from a dream at 4:30 am unsure of where I was or even what year it was.  In my dream I was again a young mother of two preschoolers on a really bad day.  Everything was out-of-order, me most of all, and I was spiraling down in anger and frustration.  I wasn’t seeing me at my worst.  I WAS me at my worst.

I wrote down what I could recall and later that day wrote about the power and the feelings in the dream.  I can’t let go of this dream. I feel the out-of-control-ness.  It still scares me.

I was anxious during my second pregnancy about my ability to manage 2 kids in diapers in 2 car seats.  They were both very much planned and welcomed, but the second happened quicker than I anticipated.  They are 26 months apart.  Our grandchildren will be 23 months apart.

I know I’m not that young, overwhelmed woman any more.  And neither are my daughters.  I’ve worked hard for years to understand and learn from that time in my life.  I hope I’ve passed some of my wisdom on to them.

I am wondering, though, why that dream now?

My Trainers

I changed gyms and paid for one-on-one hours with a trainer.  I got Jodi.  She’s 25 (sigh) and kind.  She challenges me, but she listens when I describe how my body works.

I’ve written before about having rheumatoid arthritis (click on Rheumatoid Arthritis in the cloud of words down below on the right).  Life can be a challenge some days.

So can an 18-month-old granddaughter.  Someone asked me yesterday if she’s walking.  I said, “No, she runs.”  She’s not chubby anymore, but she is solid.  And sometimes squirmy.

So Jodi helps me strengthen my upper body and core.  And we do cardio stuff.  Ever try an elliptical machine?  I am awed by people who do it for a long time.  An hour?? My goal is to move beyond 5 minutes.

Humility and a sense of humor go to the gym with me.  (There’s a fine line between humor and self-denigration.)  I am grateful for all my body can do.  Jodi pushes me past stopping just because I want to.

I led a writing group at a drop-in center for people who are HIV-positive yesterday.  The prompt was a quote from an article by Nancy Copeland-Payton in Presence (the journal of Spiritual Directors International.)

It’s a roller coaster.  I didn’t buy a ticket, never wanted a ride…the illness will keep recurring and I will die of it.

Who am I…?  I’m no longer the person who used to be in control, who had energy to take care of tasks and other people.  Rather, I’m the one who needs care.  I’m the one who is vulnerable.  This is not an identity I choose.  Buried inside are losses that need to be cried out.  This is a long mourning process.

I finally let go of my control and let myself be vulnerable and cared for by others.  When I learn to receive their care with profound gratitude, I receive the greatest gift.  I realize how much I am loved.  It’s extraordinary.  This love lets me be even more vulnerable.

While we wrote I played a Kenny G CD (they like soft jazz).  As we finished, we listened to the music and rested.

I wrote a whiny page about not liking roller coasters and not wanting to be vulnerable.  They wrote and shared about God’s love and how their disease saved them from drugs and a wasted life and changed them for the better.  I didn’t want to share mine.

The last song we listened to (not planned by me) was Louis Armstrong singing “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  They sang along and smiled when it ended.

Amazing grace, again.

A Woman’s Place

by singer-songwriter Sara Thomsen

(click here for YouTube link)

I am a woman, and my place is in the home
And my home is the whole wide world
We are world shapers, we are change makers
We are potters spinning clay, we are dreamers of a new day

We are asking questions, we are opening up the door
We are searching, finding answers,
We are wisdom seeking more
Rabbi, singer, teacher, professor, poet, preacher
Driving buses, styling hair
We are everywhere

We are women
We are sweeping the hearth
We are dreaming in the dark
We are weaving at the loom
We are the rhythms of the moon
We are world shapers, we are change makers
We are tenders of the earth, we are women giving birth

We are packing lunches,
We are sewing the clothes you wear
We are sleeping on park benches,
We are kneeling down in prayer
Doctor, dancer, scientist, carpenter and journalist
Telling stories, rocking chairs
We are everywhere

We are women
We are stirring the pot
We are keeping the fire hot
We are holding a child’s hand
We are the rhythms of the land
We are world shapers, we are change makers
We are potters spinning clay, we are dreamers of a new day

We are laughing, crying, we are taking the time to play
We are singing, we are sighing,
We are making our own way
Politician, volunteer, refugee, and engineer
In the streets and on the air
We are everywhere

We are world shapers, we are change makers
We are potters spinning clay, we are dreamers of a new day
We are rule breakers, we are home makers
We are healers of the earth
We are mid-wives at the birth

We are women, and our place is in the home
And our home is the whole wide world

(c) 2006 Sara Thomsen
(from her Everything Changes CD)

Published in: on July 27, 2011 at 8:47 pm  Comments (2)  
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Why I Don’t Wear Eyeliner

(I used to blame my mother for this stuff.  Of course.  But she couldn’t teach what she didn’t know.  So now do I blame my grandmother?)

I don’t know how to put on eyeliner.  Not the liquid kind like India ink or the soft pencil kind you smudge.  I like my eyes.  They look good behind glasses with eyeliner, like Sarah Palin.  I wore eyeliner for both my daughters’ weddings so my eyes would look big in the pictures.  Someone else put it on for me.  That felt very weird and icky.

I don’t know how to keep a tidy house.  My parents had 3 kids in 3 1/2 years.  (That was before The Pill.)  My dad traveled each week for work.  My mother went into a tidying/cleaning frenzy on Fridays, before my dad came home.  Clutter feels natural to me.  I’d like to be neater and more organized.  It does happen in occasional bursts.

I don’t know how to be a good friend.  My mom didn’t really have friends.  We moved a lot–4 elementary schools in 3 states, 1 junior high, and 2 high schools, 1 in Ohio and 1 in NC.  I always thought, “This time we’ll stay put.”  My dad kept getting better jobs, so we packed up again and moved.  I made friends each time, then said goodbye.

I gave up on eyeliner.  And consistent tidiness.  I won’t do things I’m not good at.

I have friends now, even Facebook friends.  I want to be a more skillful friend.  I’m inconsistent about connecting and I’m very selective about who gets inside my walls.  I need and enjoy lots of time alone.  My friends seem to understand.

I’ve lived in this NC town for over 30 years.  I don’t plan to leave.  It’s home.

We’ve had our house for over 20 years.  It smells like us when you walk in.  It’s home.

How odd.

Published in: on June 30, 2011 at 11:52 am  Comments (6)  
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You Can Tell By the Shoes

Spiritual Directors International held their annual conference in Atlanta this year.  My friend and I waited in line to check in at the Westin.

The Westin is 73 floors.  We (spiritual directors) were not the only ones staying at the hotel.  Men were in suits and ties, young women in sundresses or tight jeans and t-shirts.  Other women wore black pants and loose shirts or crop pants and cardigans.

“Hey, Marjorie,” I said.  “You know how to tell who is one of us?”

(It was my 3rd SDI Conference, her 1st.)

“Check out the shoes.”

She looked around the lobby.  And laughed.  We looked at our own shoes–Keen sandals for her and SAS sandals with adjustable velcro straps for me.  We laughed even more.  Spiritual Directors like comfortable, practical, wearable, walkable shoes.  Sexy?  Not so much.

My feet have required not-cheap, comfortable shoes for years.  Even for weddings.  Sigh.  (I know–who looks at the mother-of-the-bride’s shoes?  But it mattered to me.)

I bought a pair of black sneakers/walking shoes a couple of years ago.   I chose velcro straps instead of shoestrings because rheumatoid arthritis has done some damage to my finger dexerity.  (Ask my husband/kids about how I give someone “the finger” these days.  It looks like it’s in code.)

Those black shoes were kind of clunky but sort of okay with long black pants or jeans.

I couldn’t wear them.

They were really comfortable shoes.  But UGLY.  My pride and vanity won out over comfort and common sense.

I know a woman who has no car and no money for the bus.  She walks a lot.  I gave her the clunky, comfortable black shoes.

She LOVES those shoes.