In The Merry Month of May!

Does anybody besides me remember May baskets on May 1? We moved 4 times while I was in elementary school (another topic for another day), but I think this must have been when we lived in a new suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. We made “baskets” to leave on people’s front porches. I remember ringing the door bell and running, but not what was in the baskets.

This isn’t about May baskets because we don’t do those here and, really, I haven’t done them since the late 1950’s. Which explains why I don’t remember details of the custom, I guess. I just wondered if anyone else did them. And remembers more than I do.

I celebrate a lot in early May.

The retired man I live with was born on May 6. He was a premie and blames his mother’s trying to fatten him up for the number of fat cells he carries around as an adult. He sings the Beatles song “When I’m 64” (here’s a link, with pictures) a lot these days. I always say “Yes, I will and I do.”

I’ve written before about not being good at gift-buying (see here), but this time I had an idea and bought it and wrapped it and had it ready the morning of his birthday. He was totally surprised and said, “You never get me anything. This is great!” I don’t think it mattered what was in the package.

Oh. Lesson learned.

May 9 is my “AA birthday.” It’s the day I picked up a silver chip in front of a lot of people at an AA meeting. That meant I didn’t want to drink anymore. For the 28 years since then, I’ve gone to meetings and continued to learn how to “live life on life’s terms” using the 12 Steps. Look at them sometime (here’s a link).

I keep going back to meetings for several reasons. One, I have good friends there. Two, I’ve heard too many stories from people with long-term sobriety who quit going to meetings, drank again, and then had to come back and start over. I don’t want to do that. Three, it’s where I learned about how to have a personal relationship with God. Four, it’s where almost all of my wisdom about how to wear my life as a loose garment rather than a wetsuit comes from. (And all my clever expressions like that) Five, I am reminded that alcoholism is a chronic illness with no cure. Meetings are my medicine. Also, I feel an obligation to be there for the new person. On the walls of many meeting rooms is this pledge:

I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there.

And for that, I am responsible.

I thank God for the women who were there when I came. They loved me when I didn’t love myself. My home group is a Saturday morning women-only meeting. Sometimes, I think I’m the oldest woman in the room. And that’s okay. I hear young women talk about their mothers (of course!) and sometimes I wince, but mostly I’m glad I got sober when my girls were young. They like me now and want to spend time with me. They let me be alone with their kids. Sober, I’m kind of fun!

May 11 is the anniversary of the day the retired man I live with and I got married. We were 22 and 23 on that sunny May day and didn’t have much of anything except college degrees. The air conditioning wasn’t working at the reception site so my long hair got all big and frizzy. My dress had long satin sleeves and Mike had long sleeves under his tux jacket and we were really hot so we left pretty quickly. His used car broke down right before the wedding so my parents let us go on our honeymoon in their station wagon with wood on the sides. And got his car fixed for us for our wedding present.

We’ve been through a lot in the last almost-41 years. We came close to splitting up a couple of time, but never did. We’re both convinced God wants us to be together. There’s really no other explanation.

I still love him and still think he’s the best-looking man in any room. He makes me laugh and he takes unselfish care of me when I have surgery. He tells people I’m mean as snake and I call him Old Man when he drives. We’re both introverts (that helps) and we live a pretty quiet life. We’re proud of the family we’ve created and are thankful our daughters still like to spend time with us. And now we have 3 adorable grandchildren!

I celebrated Mother’s Day a week early this year. I took both daughters and their families to the beach for a weekend. We had a perfect Saturday playing on the beach and eating and talking. I told them they could have Mother’s Day with their own families this year. I know they love me.

I know they love me, the retired man I live with, my daughters, their husbands (I’m an awesome mother-in-law!) and Adaline, Maggie, and Atticus, my grandchildren. How grateful I am to be able to say that.

 

 

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Published in: on May 8, 2015 at 5:11 pm  Comments (1)  
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Best Birthday Ever!

Follow your bliss!

Pursue that which gives you joy!

I struggled with the bliss thing for years after I heard Oprah’s advice.  “Look back at your childhood–what did you most enjoy?”  I liked reading a book up in a tree, alone.  I can’t climb a tree anymore, but I still love to read and be alone.  I think I’m supposed to give more to the world than that.

I found a new joy several years ago at my first writing workshop.  (Thank you Resource Center for Women in Ministry in the South–rcwms.com.)  I started this blog after a couple of workshops and I journal whenever the urge hits.  Maybe one day all the bits and pieces will evolve into a memoir.  I just know it’s fun.

A few weeks go my older daughter found a Groupon Getaway deal for 3 nights in a 2-bedroom condo at Atlantic Beach, NC.  I suggested that she, her sister, their 3 kids and I go for a couple of days in March for my birthday.  Both girls loved the idea and soon we had a reservation.

We had a plan. My younger daughter, her daughter Adaline (who is 3 now) and her son Atticus (who is almost 1), and I would drive in one car.  Maggie (14 months) and her mom would take their car and we would caravan.

The closer the time came for the trip, the more ways I imagined that it could go bad.  I started with the 4.5 hour drive (at best!) from Greensboro.  What if one of the babies wouldn’t stop crying?  And the bed situation in the condo would require cooperation and compromise from two moms who often debate who gets less sleep.  I wondered if either of them would back out.  I wondered if I’d be sane afterward.  Would we still like each other?

We were not able to caravan.  Work demands and leaving from two different cities, one closer to the beach than the other, killed that plan.  Each car could stop as needed.  “Never wake a sleeping baby.”  Even if you really, really need to go to the bathroom.

Adaline and Atticus both slept the first 2 hours of our drive!  I thanked God and our travel angels and just kept driving.  We stopped at a Hardees, used the facilities, sat inside and ate and pacified the kids with french fries.  We did what we had to do.  Forgive me, nutrtion-conscious friends.

On we drove.  We figured out we could put a pillowcase in the window to block the sun so Adaline rode content in her car seat, playing with an electronic kid-size computer-like thing and listening to our music.  Atticus sucked on french fries (forgive me, again) and played with toys and his electronic baby-size computer-like thing. Thank you whoever bought them these electronic toys!  We made it in 5 hours with some fussing from Atticus for the last 30 minutes or so.

Maggie and her mom had a 3-hour drive.  Maggie fussed and cried for the first half of the trip and then fell asleep.  Her mom did not have fun.  Maybe Maggie needed french fries and a baby-size computer-like thing.

The moms worked out the bed situation, we got everyone fed as needed, including lunch in a restaurant where they took our order at our table and brought us our food–no counters or paper wrapped sandwiches!.

After we played on the beach Saturday afternoon, all 3 kids (naked) and both daughters (in swimming suits) go into the big jacuzzi bathtub.  I sat on the toilet lid and took pictures.  We laughed and laughed and soaked up the joy amid the bubbles.

The trip home was easier for Maggie and her mom and the group in my car rode well, too.  The kids were all exhausted so, once again, “Never wake a sleeping baby” was our motto.

Now I know what “bliss’ means.  And where I can find joy.

I am so grateful.

Published in: on March 13, 2013 at 8:16 pm  Comments (14)  
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We Loved Lucy

The retired man I live with and I fell in love with her.  We loved her enough to let her go.

Lucy had a respiratory infection at the shelter, which they had treated with an antibiotic.  She coughed some the first night, Wednesday,  so we took her to our vet the next morning.  Dr. Syska said it was pneumonia and prescribed a much stronger antibiotic.  Lucy was pretty droopy all day Thursday but would go outside and pee when we took her.  She was no better on Friday and spent most of the day with her head on my lap. She didn’t want to eat or drink any water.

Saturday morning she was worse and struggling to breathe.  We took her back to our vet, who was visibly concerned.  We decided to take her to the emergency specialty animal hospital to talk about admitting her for IV antibiotics and fluids.  We saw her lung x-ray compared to a normal one.  Both lungs were almost full of fluid.

We talked with the vet about possible outcomes, looked at each other, and I said “I think it’s time.”  Deciding to treat her in the hospital felt like agreeing to torture her, with no assurance that she would ever really be well.  The vet told us we were doing an unselfish thing.  Doing the right thing sometimes feels awful.

Lucy was lying on a fluffy, soft, blue rug on the exam table.  I wrapped my arms around her as the vet started the injection.  Her body relaxed, finally, and she was gone.  No more gasping for breath.  She was at rest.

We loved her, even if it was only 3 1/2 days.  We believe she is in heaven, happy, healthy, running and playing.  And waiting for us to come play.

Published in: on February 17, 2013 at 9:15 am  Comments (15)  
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Baby Bad Ass

I started calling her that shortly after she was born.  It still fits.

Last week I wrote about my granddaughter having heart surgery on September 27.  She did and after a rough first 24 hours, she improves each day.  Today, Sunday, she moved out of ICU, her parents could finally hold her and she is able to nurse on demand.  Last I heard, she was sleeping in her mama’s arms.

Once again, I am amazed at the toll emotional stress takes on my body.  So I rested and napped and read the paper today.  Tomorrow I hope to hold my brave and strong granddaughter.  And her mom and dad.

We are so very grateful for family, friends, medical professionals and medical insurance.  We feel surrounded by all that is good.  Thank God.

Got Purple?

Our wooden front door is purple.  Not lavender or dark purple.  Real purple.  Sherwin Williams “African Violet.”

The retired man I live with has a goofy streak I love.  We picked the door color together.  It looks great.

Our young stay-at-home-mom next-door neighbor emailed us, said she loved the color and asked what kind of paint we used.  She wants to paint her door, too.  I wonder what her husband thinks of that idea.  They haven’t painted yet.  They’re still too young, I guess, for goofy.

The retired man who gets bored easily created a unique sculpture in the living room.  It started life as a wrought iron coat tree.  The arms stick out too far to be useful for coats and the iron arms are at an unsafe eye level for most people.  I move below them, but it’s still a bit scary.

He decided last December it could be our Christmas tree.  He draped little white lights around and up and down.  He hung some colored balls.  It was actually quite cool.  We did get a little bitty real tree for Adaline to decorate.

The iron tree now has an odd assortment of “ornaments”:  A pink and white doll-size baby bottle, an 18-inch plastic star with a painted-on face and green and red striped knee socks, a slightly rusted metal angel, a blowfish about 5 inches tall made from bright orange wire, an old Easter basket, and a set of wooden monkeys that hang on random branches.  He still adds to it every so often.  He could maybe sell it as folk art at some street festival, but we want to keep it for ourselves.

He started working on our front yard when he retired.  He had a big natural area dug out and planted bushes and flowers.  Our daughter and granddaughter planted pumpkins in the natural area a month or so ago. The retired man who relaxes poorly created a beautiful strip alongside our sloping driveway–rose bushes, shrubs, a Celtic cross, and one big sunflower that must have come from a seed dropped by a bird.

He added a full-size flag pole in the middle of the front yard and flies a changing set of flags.  We fly Pittsburgh Pirates, Guilford Courthouse (a Revolutionary War site down the road from us), United States, a Buddhist prayer flag, Ecology (it’s green), and the state flag for NC.  Adaline, 2 1/2 now,  points to the Pirates flag and growls “Aaaaaarrrgh!”

The retired man I live with and I laugh a lot.  Even when I’m really angry, he can sometimes get me to laugh.  Our marriage, like any couple, has bumped over a few rough spots.  We share an appreciation of life’s absurdities and a love of goofy things.  It helps.

PS:  A few months after I wrote this, the next door neighbors painted their front door a bright, almost-neon-y green.  Goofy may be catching.

Published in: on August 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm  Comments (12)  
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The Retired Man I Live With

He retired 3 years ago.  I knew it would be an adjustment for both of us.

We worked together for the first year or so of his business.  I learned he has ADD.  He learned I don’t like to be ordered around.  We are both oldest children and both like to be in charge.  It did not go well.

The retired man I live with is always “doing.” His retirement hobby is puttering.  He loads and unloads the dishwasher, vacuums up the clumps of dog hair Sydney drops this time of year, and often fixes dinner.  Our yard is beautiful.  He painted the upstairs bathroom and put in new stick-on tile flooring.  He does his own laundry.

He takes care of me on days when my rheumatoid arthritis acts up or zaps my energy.  He has patience I never expected.  I feel loved.

His busy energy permeates my house and makes me crazy.

I am an introvert who requires solitude and quiet.  I never had long-term sadness about the “empty nest.”  They didn’t go far and I enjoyed the empty house while Mike worked.

I miss my empty house.  I miss my solitude and quiet.

I am spoiled rotten by the retired man I live with and I complain that he is always around.

Okay.  I know.  The only thing I have control over is myself.  And I’m better than I used to be at having the wisdom to know what I can change and what I cannot.

I’ve known the retired man I live with for 40 (!!) years.  He is not going to change.

I’ve never liked those little iPod ear-bud things.  But I think I’ll try being like a teenager and play some mellow music I like and tune out the active energy seeping up the stairs to my office.  I might even stuff a towel in the space between the door bottom and the floor, like you’re supposed to do if there’s a fire.

Got any other suggestions?

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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Today Is World Aids Day (Dec. 1, 2011)

There is a giant red ribbon hanging on the front porch of the White House today.

December 1 is still World AIDS Day.  There still is no cure.  People still get sick and die because of AIDS.

People are also living much longer and are taking medicines that really do help slow the progress of the disease.

The drugs that work are very expensive and state and federal programs that help pay for them are in danger of being cut.

Sometimes the side effects and the dosing schedule are so difficult and intolerable that folks stop taking the drugs.

I spend a lot of time helping out at Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.   It is a free-standing program of Triad Health Project, the local AIDS service organization.  Three days a week, every week, local churches and other groups provide lunch for 25-40 hungry clients and volunteers and the one paid staff person who tends the souls and cleans the toilets for all who come through the doors.

Higher Ground is a place of acceptance for many who have been turned away by family, churches, and friends.  Believe me when I say, God is in this place and miracles do happen here.  Like crack addicts who are able to stay clean and have their own apartments for the first time in their adult lives thanks to case managers at Triad Health Project and the support and love of peers at Higher Ground.  Or men like my friend Bill who has been HIV positive since the 1980’s.  He had a leg amputated above the knee a while back because of HIV complications and was back at “The House” a few weeks later, smiling.  Many volunteers over the years, from high school students to those of us with gray hair, have been profoundly touched by the courage and faith of the men and women who pass through Higher Ground.

Did you know all this was still happening?

Today, there is much more hope.  But AIDS is not gone.  If you can, please donate your time and/or money to a local AIDS service organization.  They still need you.

Triad Health Project’s vision statement:

We will stand together for as long as it takes until HIV/AIDS is no more, promoting enlightenment, dignity, acceptance, understanding, and love; demonstrating that we are not only enduring this epidemic, but also prevailing over it.

Still.

(This is the same post I wrote a year ago.  It’s all still true.)

Published in: on December 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm  Comments (4)  
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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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We Share This Universe

Our awesome responsibility to ourselves, to our children, and to the future is to create ourselves in the image of goodness, because the future depends on the nobility of our imaginings.
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

The world we live in depends on the responsible contributions each of us makes.

And this world is just as good as are the many talents we commit ourselves to developing and offering.

None of us is without obligation to offer our best to our family, friends, or strangers, if our hope is to live in a good world.

The world can only be as good as each of us makes it.

Individually and collectively our power to mold the outer circumstances of our lives is profound.

Our personal responses to one another and our reactions to events that touch us combine with the actions of others to create a changed environment that affects us.

No action, no thought goes unnoticed, unfelt, in this interdependent system of humanity.

We share this universe.

We are the force behind all that the universe offers.

Whether I acknowledge the depth of my contribution is irrelevant.

It is still profound and making an impact every moment and eternally.

 

from the book: The Promise of a New Day

by Karen Casey and Martha Vanceburg

 


Published in: on March 11, 2011 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  
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