Thursday, December 31, 2015

Take It All In


Take time to stop and notice.
The pull to engage
With the sea, 
Birds aloft trees calling.
Engage 
Breathe
Take it all in.

It is time to stop and notice
The way your hand
Feels in mine,
The shuffle of your step
Weighty in winter boots
Yet quick
Purposeful.

It is just us
Walking by the sea, 
The forest thick
Birds flitter
And sing
Nearby.

Stop and notice.
Breathe,
And take it all in.



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Learning to Walk

Tufts of soft brown grass shoot through the mounds of snow as I trudge through  the deep on a wooded path made anew with white snow. For thirty years I've walked this wooded dirt road watching rain water carve into the earth, a pond disappear and one day running into the path of a coyote who wasn't frightened, but went to higher ground staring as we walked on.

My trainer says take different routes, try different workouts; you don't want to get bored. Yet, I walk the same path a few times a week, month after month. Some things remain the same. I find comfort and feel grounded in constancy day after day. However this path is a microcosm of static. Some days the waterfall is deafening whereas other days in the heat of the summer it is bone dry and with cold temperatures now within days it will be frozen and silent. I watch green ferns turn brown and wind blown trees once viable rot.

I walk this path reassured that there is an undercurrent of constancy in my life. I walk this path also knowing that change is a constant. Both notions fill me with hope.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Save

"Is it worth it?" my friend asked while we walked by the sea our path lit by lamplight.

Pausing, I emphatically responded, "Yes!"
For 174 days I have walked, eaten mostly whole foods and written down what I have eaten. All this has contributed to a healthier me, but when I think, it is the act of walking that has saved me. Every step has saved me from myself.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Content Under All Conditions


While it lasted, I was ever so grateful. As expected winter weather and not so mild temperatures have arrived. This won't be a post mottled with complaint, but an exercise to be content under all conditions. When there is ice underfoot; I will go to the Y. Options aplenty. Solutions abound.

However as a kid, we all dressed in layers and had at least two pairs of snow pants to change into half way through the day. There were hills to conquer on toboggan or flying saucer, forts to me made and little patches of ice to run and glide across. From the first signs of daylight until just before supper, anyone younger than 15 was outside; celebrating winter.

From this day forward, I am making the best of each day no matter what is falling from the sky. Let's all bundle up and enjoy it with the gusto of a kid. 


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Influential Lives





 (The above image is merely one example among many..)

Growing up in a neighborhood of rough and tumble boys, I played whiffle ball in the fields of Shaw's Hill and tackle football in my backyard. Forts and tree houses scattered the perimeter of my yard. The only female in the neighborhood for many years was relegated to ironing, sewing and cleaning inside. Outside play limited to a few hours a week.  Meanwhile, the boys and I explored the woods hiking to Hobo Jungle and Indian Cliff. Yet, I longed for something more. Month after month, I hoped that the only other girl nearby would be released from an existence I felt was much like a prison. I longed for a girlfriend close to my age. That came in middle school when six kids moved in across the street. Three boys and three girls. The oldest daughter,  Linda who was three years younger than me quickly became friends. We liked the outdoors, sports and books.  On summer nights, we would fabricate a tent in the backyard and rise early in the morning to large bowls of cereal and whole raw milk fresh from a nearby farm. Quite convincing, Linda talked me into learning how to play the trombone and as a 9th grader I joined an award winning band that traveled the east. Memories of band trips form the basis of good times and lasting friendships in high school. We'd talk long into the nights dreaming about futures. Linda aspired to become a medical doctor while I always wanted to be a teacher. Having a female friend in the neighborhood expanded my definition of myself and curbed my loneliness. 

Presently, as another year ends, I reflect upon the power and strength of my friendships with women. Thinking of each and every one, my heart is full of love and gratitude. There  is a unique bond that I never felt with the neighborhood boys. With them, I was wholly competitive, always having to prove my worth. Through all these years, my girlfriends have accepted me and love me for who I am and I love them unconditionally.  Each helping to shape me into who I am at this moment in time.  I am grateful to have friends-strong women who influence and impact me for the better.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Christmas Moon

The night sky 
A milky white
Bathed by the light 
Of a rare Christmas
Moon
Disorients the senses
I think dawn
And remain awake.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Wishes for Today

  Walking Along The Shore Path 12/24/15

Merry Christmas! Venus is bright in the early morning sky.  Tonight is a full moon. There are  plans for a morning hike with the family and another  this evening under the benefit of a full moon.

As a kid, I barely slept during the transition of Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. My parents would finally shuffle out of bed and into the living room; coffee in hand. Before this hours would drag as I quietly investigated each package with a shake. The afternoon filled with food, more food, naps and board games. My mother was a big fan of games and would include at least three new ones under the tree. 

Present shaking is no longer a pastime. I am still up early in anticipation. It's not the gifts. It's not the food, but the gathering of family and friends, the connecting, the stories and the talk. It's the chance to make new memories; new traditions. Temperatures are expected to near 60 degrees. It is Christmas Day people! We live on an island that draws crowds from around the world. I bet  a good number of them don't get out of their car to walk or hike. I don't tire of walking on this island. Today I won't be alone. A long line of Keenes will be on the trail making memories.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gifts



Today the lists are plastered around the house. There are more cookies to bake as per request, pies and a cream roll, but first a workout at the Y and a walk or two. I think more about walking and working out over mostly anything else. (Except rising early to write.;) )

For so many years, I was physically ready for a change, yet my mindset had not shifted toward health. Could it have been the threat of a life-long condition or another significant age milestone looming? Whatever it was I am grateful. I mean really really grateful. I am strong, more fit and confident. Gifts to myself.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

No Matter


Are you a list maker? I am. Sometimes. However as Christmas approaches the list remains in my head; too afraid to discover all that remains undone. In the end, no matter what-all will be well. 

This year, like no other I am behind. I have talked to others who agree. Perhaps they say it is the 50 degree weather we are tolerating in December. I really want it to snow. Walking through the woods with the evergreens laden with  snow, my feet crunching under my weight while my breath sends puffs that disappear. Being bundled warm against the cold this time of year means all is right with the world.

Despite the craziness of this time, I will walk through the woods today. My tread softened by layers of fragrant pine needles, I will breath it all in, whatever is offered. No matter. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Need


We seldom get out. I know dogs need socialization; people must too, right? Clearly we need to get out, this is my rationalization for an upcoming date night on New Year's Eve. Normally we fall asleep early and are snoring long before the ball drops. I'm not saying this won't be true this year, but early in the evening we will be dining with friends somewhere and maybe even go dancing.  The possibilities are endless and I am so excited anticipating the evening. The weather so mild,  I am partial to a candlelight picnic on a mountaintop. However, it just might be tough climbing up a mountain in my high heels and little black dress. The perfect dining experience will be ours no matter where we end up with friends. We don't get out much. I hope it is not too obvious.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Life on Demand

Writing on demand is tricky. I sit reclined in my chair, in darkness; the only light eeks from the Christmas tree that is finally up and in process of being adorned. Writing on demand is akin to living in demand. There's a lot of demand  and expectation and if you're not careful it can suck away joy. I could be annoyed that I make cookies; teenagers eat cookies. Jerry and I go get the tree (normally a family affair) teenagers are suddenly absent for every phase; clearing a corner of the room, choosing, cutting, lugging, dragging, steadying and straightening. I could let that ache in my chest that I suspect is sadness and disappointment ruin the season, but I won't. However, I can acknowledge that none of this so far has played out as imagined. Absent teenagers. 'Ever heard of "The Little Red Hen?"

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Small Town Feel

In just over four months I have walked 600 or so miles; fitting in steps whenever I can. Walking early in the morning miles into the woods or by lamplight near the furious or calm sea-I have felt safe. I reside in a small town on an island off the coast of Maine where the population swells during the summer months. During this time,  I jockey for a clear lane on the sidewalks clogged with all sorts of people from around the world. Vacationers don't rush, but walk arm in arm at a snail's pace. I nearly run. In colder months, I may not see another person walking through town. 

Yesterday I spent the day preparing for the holiday. Dozens of cookies hidden away from the teens in the house; I had not a minute to walk during daylight hours. Late at night, after an "Ugly Sweater Party" I walked. First with my husband and later on my own. My husband retreated to the warmth of the car. The wind off the sea was fierce, sneaking around the corners of stores with windows displaying down jackets, scarves and extreme temperature gloves. My hand at my throat, clutched my hood securing it from the wind keeping me that much warmer. As I walked past the car and my husband, I thought of the glorious heated seats. He was warm and I kept walking. Few cars on the street,  he followed close behind me;our red car crawled sending beams to light my way. A police officer in an SUV drove by, turned around, stopping beside me his patrol car a barricade between my husband and me. 

"Is everything OK?" he queried. 

"Yes. I know it looks suspicious. That's my husband. He's cold and I am trying to get my steps in. Thanks so much. I knew you were going to come check. 'Appreciate it."

He drove off. My husband in the warmth of the car continued to crawl behind me. I walked knowing that my little village is safe and I can walk lit by the stars, the moon or beams sent by my husband. We look out for each other. It does take a village. Bravo to the vigilance of the Bar Harbor Police force and others who work  toward preserving the safety of our small town.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Taking It All

During the last few weeks of my life, I have been reminded over and over that multi-tasking is a futile attempt to save time. Instead, I lose things; I never found the check  my brother wrote me. Trying to help, he suggested I read a book to organize my life. The suggestion only made me mad. All the responsibites I have in my life; I think I do pretty well. Eight kids. I work full-time. Sitting through meeting after meeting at work and appointment after appointment sometimes two in an afternoon after school several days during the week. I think I do well. My sister weighed in. I felt ganged up on. My brother who operates in piles and my sister who is the other extreme judged me. I felt less than even though they were only trying to help.

More than once my sweet hairdresser has watched me search and search for my debit card to pay for her service. The longer I searched through wallets and zippered pouches the more anxious I got. Maybe I am disorganized? 

There are some aspects of my life in which I am organized and others' not so much. Lists help. My brain works in files,  but not consistently. The savory spices are on one side of the cupboard while the sweet are in the other. See, I can be organized. 

In the rush of life I am not always present. Mindfulness creates calm. This is the challenge when I am spinning so many plates at once. During this crazy time; I work hard to be present. It is not easy.  I am human. Imperfect.  I am who I am.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Supported Learning



                          (One stack of reading.)

Among the fortunate, I love my job.  My career began as a Special Education Teacher where I toddled between keeping up with paper work supervising Ed. Techs and teaching kids. I was my own secretary before the advent of computers; scheduling meeting after meeting with a roomful of players.  I also did most of the testing spending weekends writing reports.  Morphing into three of me might have made the position less challenging.  My boss regularly told me I was doing a great job, but gave me little support otherwise.  "Keep on, keeping on," he would say.  Today's technology would have made this job a bit more manageable.  Following this, I spent a glorious stint in a multi-age classroom team teaching.  Our days were filled with curiosity and wonder.  The classroom was filled with rich literature the likes of Tomie DePaola, Jan Brett, Cynthia Rylant and Patricia Pollaco.  Writers ourselves we guided five and six year olds through the craft negotiating rough spots; helping them find passion in their voice. Team teaching was a dream as we gave each other feedback and supported each other.   Later, I continued teaching first grade carrying the knowledge I learned from team teaching to a single classroom.  I took university classes and found mentors to support me; lifting my teaching through learning.


Presently and for the last five years, I have been a Reading Recovery Teacher.  The brilliance of support and continued learning through this organization is overlooked by the educational field.  Reading is a complex orchestration of processes in which a 30 minute lesson requires the skill and knowledge of a trained teacher to effect change.  I don't mean to sound superior in any way, however it is the continued extensive training that ultimately supports my students and makes a huge difference in my teaching. After a year long training program, all Reading Recovery Teachers attend monthly classes in which we talk about research and how that impacts our practice.  We observe live lessons and critique each other, supportive yet constructive. Visitations are set up on a regular basis where a Teacher Leader (my teacher) observes a lesson noting the language I use, the scaffolding in place to support the learner and the flurry of teaching decisions I make in a one-on one thirty minute lesson.  If my students are going to eccelerate, I need to be on my game. This support is invaluable. After all these years teaching; I continue to learn.  


My job is important. More than one student has thrown their arms around me and cried in happiness with flowing tears. "I can read!"   Perhaps they entered my room with the fear that they would never learn to read. Everyone wants to learn how to read.  Everyone deserves to learn how to read.  I have an important job and I love it. The effectiveness of Reading Recovery is in part because of this support that is in place for me and all Reading Recovery Teachers.  Why aren't all educators afforded these intensive learning opportunities?  In turn, it makes such a difference for my students.  I love my job; I am supported. I am grateful.

 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Still Learning


Life is now so full, so busy.  Six months ago, I went to work but did little else. The recliner was my support.  My connections were contrived through my i-phone and FaceBook, e-mails and messaging.  Least of all there was little connection to myself.  There were ample distractions of little importance.

One thing I had no idea about was how much work and time I require.  Each morning now I wake thinking about my daytime walk with a friend winding through the thick evergreen forest.  We pad along the cushion of pine and inhale.  Date night is walking arm and arm under the stars along the shore; some nights the ocean is placid like a lake.  My husband and I are spinning on Wednesday nights.  Date nights.  Simple, but meaningful.  We are nearing our next chapter in life determined to enjoy it; not bound by the limitations of our physical strength or stamina.  I prepare foods, mostly whole foods and search for new possibilities.  Keeping a food diary has been a key behavior contributing to my success. My thinking and the way I talk to and treat myself has become gentler, kinder and filled with increasing patience. 

Self-care is big business.  Books, websites and videos flood the market.  Why does this not become easier as we age?  Why do so many including myself struggle with this. In nature mothers linger with their babies-teaching.  My mother became a woman who while loving food did so in moderation. Through my teenage years much of the processed foods previously eaten were no longer purchased. When I was young Koolaid and Spaghettios were a convenience. Instead the house was stocked with fruit, veggies and lean protein.  We began drinking skim milk.  My mother and a few neighbors would regularly walk around the block and gab. She was a model mother in so many ways.

As I pack my sneakers and gym clothes to work out later at the Y, I reflect on how much I have learned over these months.  It is never too late to take care of yourself.  Somedays it is challenging, but I try my best to stay positive.  I am not sure it will get easier and take less time.  Right now though, I am the priority.  Period.  And....there is no need for guilt.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Solo Journey

It is just after 5 am and my husband is in the kitchen clanging around pots and pans in an attempt to leave the house with empty sinks.  What a dear.  Meanwhile I have cats one after another padding across my lap and a little dog nearly draped across my neck.  Even at this unreasonably  early hour (for me anyway), I am not alone.  I am seldom alone.

A few summers ago, I picked up an article about how one woman would  regularly backpack into the wild and spend days completely alone.  While this has appeal, it also terrifies me.  I am not entirely sure why just thinking about it makes me shake like a bowl of jello.   I spend so little time alone; being so dependent on the company and whits of others to solve problems and contemplate life.  Could I do it?  Am I afraid of discovering parts of myself that might rear their ugly heads?

During the last six months, I have discovered and rediscovered myself.  I don't give up easily.  On the other hand knowing when to quit can be a good thing.  There is also a bit of rigidity to my routines particularly when it comes to exercise.  I try to seek balance.  Self care takes a continuous effort and requires time.  It doesn't come to be second nature for me.  Somedays, I resent that I have to work so hard each day for me.  Fortunately those days are few. I tend to take life moment by moment.

This journey is akin to being alone in the forest.  With the help of a few people who guided me to the path and gave me some tools to proceed, I have weathered the storms of self.  Living in the present moment has helped me to accept what is. Learning to listen to my body while listening to my inner voice allows the pause to make choices that will support me.  I am the decision maker.  I am the only one on this unique path.  Strong, healthier, confident and content  I might just plan an extended time in the woods by myself this summer.  It is curious to think of how each of our journeys is unique and in reality solo.  No one can do it for you.  There comes a point where you have to trust yourself. And live each moment.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Darkness Returns

Darkness quiets the soul
extinguishing the flame.

Creeping through the black
Feeling a way out
Is the only means of
Escape,
Temporary escape.

For certain the darkness 
Will return,
Understanding then 
Its' ebb and flow has purpose,
Only through darkness 
Does one see the light.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Nature of Exclusion

          -photo compliments of Jeff Kirlin

Exclusion is a terrible thing to experience.  I have lived it from the time I was a kid and Billy and his brother next door were yelling  at me, "You're too fat. You can't come up to the tree house.  You'll break it." Or later being told I cannot enter a store because I have two babies in a carriage.  And when I tried to enter with the babies in my arms; they barred the door with a hefty bouncer type guy.  I was floored.  Both hurt.  I realize my ache is no comparison to those who are excluded from buses, lunch counters or countries who represent freedom and much more than a new lease on life.  My little post is not to magnify my feelings of exclusion, while minimizing others' plight. However, I must raise awareness and recognize those initial pangs of hurt.  Perhaps my account will help you to reach out to some family in a similar situation, while developing empathy for all those who face some degree of exclusion by remembering mine.

When my husband and I learned that we were having twins, I wondered how we would all fit in our brand new car.  We couldn't.  Along with joy, there were plenty of logistics about how to get two infants, a toddler and a five year old from place to place.  Going to the lake, by myself with the kids for a few hours caused me to re-play the scene over and over in my head.  Rehearsing each step for a gentle and safe transition.  One thing we hadn't bargained for with a big family then and now (we have eight kids and now spouses and significant others, so we ARE bigger) is the fact that we were no longer invited to socialize with friends with or without the children. I understand; our numbers can be overwhelming for some. Early on, this was a lonely place; connections are important to any family.   We have adjusted.  Through 34 years of actively mothering there have been a few exceptions of which I am grateful.  

For more than 35 years, Jerry's cousin Barbara Jane and her husband Ken have hosted a family Open House to celebrate the holidays.  We have missed only one year through all those births, adoptions and Keene marriages.  36 years ago, Jerry and I met at this gathering. It holds significance to us as a couple, as a family and as an extended family which includes all the aunts and uncles originating from a family of 10 children. The Keenes do it BIG.   

As we push through their yellow farmhouse door this Sunday with our contribution of food in our arms, we will pause and give thanks for being part of a big, big family. Maybe, just maybe you might want to consider inviting a big family to your holiday table or to your table after the holidays.  Invites for them too might be few and far between.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

One Solution



I think about thinking.

Sometimes, I drive myself wild with my thoughts; habitual thoughts and patterns that get me stuck.   However, I am inching along this journey and pretty much OK.  Walking along the shore path yesterday during the early morning hours I could see clearly across the bay toward a range of mountains worn and rough, beaten by the wind and weather.  Sometimes feeling discouraged and beaten, I recognize that I am continually growing and reinventing myself as God's creation.   Despite this, I still carry what is no longer useful or healthy.  Yesterday on my walk I imagined dropping little bread crumbs (pieces of my former-self) along the path as I walked.  

Consciously and at times unconsciously I am approaching life and dancing to a new beat.  I am working toward gentleness and more kindness toward myself and others.  The other night, I had two dreams the first being quite vivid.  Both had a message imparting the importance of kindness.  In my dream, I hugged a woman that in reality I disagree with quite regularly.  My dealings with her through the years have filled me with frustration.  Presently, I also know that this woman is struggling and has been burdened with much in her life.  Despite our differences, kindness dissolves the importance of these differences.

The world is crumbling.  In reinventing ourselves, we can create space for love, peace, hope and real joy.  It reminds me of a hymn sung regularly in church when I was young, "Let peace begin with me..."  Real change is possible with awareness and intent.  If I want change, I am the only one that can do it.  Individual drops create a dynamic ocean.

Peace springs from the seeds of kindness.  Collectively, we can change the world. 


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Her Name Is....


Something happens when an inanimate object is given a name.  This is not the first time I have written about my relationship with "Sue-baru."  She was purchased from a friend a little over two years ago.  A solid well-cared for car, "Sue" got me home safely every time time I got behind the wheel; whether traversing in torrential rains perfect for hydroplaning, on roads with the potential skidding on patches undetectable black ice or plowing through a foot of snow when all you can see are curtains of white-I got home.  Despite her advancing years, she was reliable.  I felt safe. 


There is something about a car with a name.  My Great Aunt I called Auntie had a '56 Dodge named "Blue Belle."  She was oversized and curvy with ticked wool apolstery that was scratchy and resisted my attempts to slide to the middle when my mother, brother, sister and I piled into her roomy back for a test drive.  My Uncle Gene took turns close to the curb and fast so the feelers that extended from Blue Belle's body scraped the edge of the road.  Auntie screamed, "Oh , mon Dieux! 'Impossible!" (Oh my God! He's impossible!) My four year old self did not know what that meant, but I know enough that it was not good; hiding my face in my mother's embrace.  "Blue Belle" took us on picnics with fried chicken and chopped salad.  She brought Auntie and  Uncle Gene to us safely on a rare snowy Thanksgiving, but was found parked on the side of the road in Scarborough miles from their home in Portland and miles from Biddeford where they had just spent an afternoon.  When idle, "Blue Belle" spent her time in a small wooden garage my Uncle rented.  She was so shiny I could see my distorted image in her dark blue exterior.  I am not sure what happened to the Blue Belle, however she remains the catalyst for Auntie and Uncle Gene stories.  Their next vehicle was named, "The Green Hornet." My Aunt hated that car.  Not curvy like the Blue Belle; he was angular and boxy. Their relationship was short-lived.


So about "Sue", adventures with her lasted just over a year because she did not pass inspection.  The cost of labor to make the necessary repairs forced us into a decision.  We needed to part ways.   I couldn't.  She wasn't junk.  After months, I made a call to PBS car donation services.  "Sue" has been idle sitting in our driveway, but I hope that a mechanic will donate his time to renew "Sue" to service.  


This morning I will clean her out and leave the key in the glove box.  A towing company is bringing her onto her next life.  I think I will leave a Post-It note with a handwritten scrawl: Her name is "Sue-baru" and she is loved.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Through the Struggle

Little by little, I am getting "it" all back.  All of me.  


It wasn't long ago that my days felt like an endless tick of hours that were spent only doing the necessary things like tending to the kids (lots of taxiing), work, eating, cooking and enough cleaning and tidying to get by. The next day meant a repeat of the day before. Then, I didn't realize that perhaps I had lost myself.  At the time, it was what it was. 


The shift in my thinking and patterns began with walking.  This past spring my dear neighbor Nicole and I would walk several times a week after supper.  It began in the coolness of early spring with empty sidewalks.  By the time she started a new job and I began to walk alone, the sidewalks were clogged with tourists who tended  to walk side by side or stop suddenly unaware that there was a stream of people behind trying to navigate a space much too narrow for crowds.  Nonetheless, I made it a challenge to maintain my pace and dodge around people without knocking them down or sending myself off-balance. This became a playful ritual; I would find myself laughing out-loud at the sheer joy and craziness of the scene. Taking several long walks each day afforded varying place and energy.  Walking in town and on the shore path where the sea pounds the shore or empties itself on schedule was energizing. On the other hand, hiking into Acadia and into the woods was quiet and calming where I seldom met people and I spent much time in my head; figuring things out.


All summer, I struggled to get my footing.  There was a deep core of myself that was grieving; deeply sad and unhappy despite the bounties around me.  Each work day, I packed two salads, some fruit and water and met my husband for a picnic lunch.  We ate on the shore.  We breathed in each other's presence.  Some days we were silent, but content.  Other days we chatted between forkfuls.  I trusted that walking, making deep connections with my husband and preparing healthy foods was what I needed to heal whatever needed healing.. 


My interest in regaining myself and becoming healthier ignited my former need to spend hours in the kitchen preparing food, trying new recipes and critiquing each bite.  Food nourished my curiosity about vegan cuisine as a way of supplementing an already healthy diet.  This satisfied my need to express myself creatively.  Despite the fact that I yearned to read books and sit and write, I couldn't.  I remained restless and uneasy.  I had to trust that little by little and overtime, I would feel better.


To this day, I don't quite understand my struggle.  Maybe it is not for me to figure out and analyze, but to just accept.  My days remain full taking care of myself physically and emotionally.  It's funny I measure my health not so much on the scale as I do with my ability to be at home in my own skin, inside my own head. I needed to go through struggles (whatever they were) to land where I am presently.  For now, today I feel happier.  I feel grounded. I am grateful.  


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Coming Home

When you are going through the terrible twos, adolescence is certainly not on your mind.  However moments, weeks, and months during the stage of adolescence has occasionally sent me to the brink of wanting out. Give me a room of two year olds and I'm good.   It is understandable why some mothers  abandon their children for a time.   For me, a walk in the woods for an hour tends to revive my spirit.  


The anticipation has been building for a few months since I made the plane reservation.  After being away at college since August, one of my teens is returning home to his family, his home in Maine.  Adventurous, he wanted to experience another part of the country and never come home again.  Yet after these months away he admits he misses us.  He admits he misses Maine.  


Those trying years never prepared me for the ache that I would feel in his absence.  Tomorrow my boy is coming home.  That is all I can think about.  I may just not sleep tonight anticipating his return home.  His stay here will be for over a month-not long enough for me.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Twilight

Early morning. The words flow onto the page. My editor is still snoozing.

My friend Kimberley has been practicing early morning writing for more than a year .  Every day. She read that one author describes the time as twilight; when the writer is half asleep, half awake. The premise is that hopping out of bed and writing before rubbing the sleepy seeds from your eyes promises the words to come easily. 

Here I am. Early morning and it is still dark. Things are not going as I planned. Every light in the house is on. The weatherman blares-clouds expand...cool...slippery spots. My husband sitting nearby on the couch lifts his coffee mug and takes a sip. I hear the slight smack of satisfaction with each taste. I am not alone with my words. My purring kitty slowly creeps across my chest looking for love. She becomes an obstacle between me and the keyboard. The dog jumps up and also leans in from the opposite side pressing against my leg. I am not alone as planned, yet the words still come.

It must be the magic of twilight. I am not alone, yet it is a perfect time to write.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Importance of Persistence

When my kids were young chasing chickens and playing ball in the field, expressing myself creatively was a thin thread that I was able to grasp only now and again.  Journals holding vignettes and conversations I was sure that I would never forget, journals venting the ups and downs of building a marriage, a family and a home are in drawers, on shelves and in closets, seldom were completed.  Those years were both rewarding and trying.  I think that in the attempt to balance everyone's needs including my own  took the most energy.  Some days  I felt incomplete, yearning to create and express myself.  I would read about mothers/writers who rose at three or four in the morning to write high up in attics or at the kitchen table.  But, that is not me.  It is a bit too extreme for someone who is sleep sensitive to try. (Just ask my husband, I require 7-8 hours of sleep or I am beyond grouchy.) Recently I have committed to rise a bit early (maybe I will need to set an alarm) each morning and write.  It has been three mornings so far and the pesky itchiness to create has been relieved.   My blog is ever so grateful, I just know it.  The trick is to sustain. Persist. It's funny, I talk grit and and the importance of persistence with my students all the time.  These are key elements to success as a writer. Inner wisdom; sometimes I just don't listen, but I'm learning. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Save the Teeth

It is three in the morning.  I'm roused from sleep thinking about dentists, the cost and inefficiency of dental insurance and the state of my mouth.  You see, I have an appointment with a specialist for a root canal in mid-January.  There are many opportunities for sleepless nights between now and then.  Yes I have some regrets.  I distinctly remember my mother would sweetly remind me as an eight year old to brush my teeth.  Early rebellion.  Delayed misery.  I don't think dental floss was invented yet.

Growing up I loved going to the dentist.  Dr. Petrin who had a gaggle of children in his own house was adept at making each appointment fun liberally blowing air here and there to incite laughter in his young patient.  My father would sometimes come along and visit with Mr. Petrin, the dentist dad.  It was a place where I felt safe despite the smells and sounds and I could get Chiclets gum after the exam.

Come adulthood.  I am terrified.  Hence the three a.m. wake up call.  Now, local dentists tend to farm patients out to specialists.   They don't know my mouth.  They don't know my history beyond what's on paper.  They don't that it took weeks to stir up enough courage to call the dentist on a Friday and the office was closed.  My second attempt, weeks later in a moment of strength was made on the eve of a holiday-closed again.   The appointment should have happened months ago.  They don't know of my sleepless nights. My TMJ... They don't know.  This root canal guy could only talk root canal.  He did not talk other options, cost or anything.  Ugh.  Each office is a sequence of terror.

Just before bed (bad idea), I read an article about the connection between breast cancer and root canals.  While I don't believe everything I read, it makes me think and I ain't smiling.  Clearly, I am in a fix.  

OK young ones.  Listen to your mother.  Brush your teeth.  You will save yourself some sleep...and likely your teeth. 

My attempt this morning was thwarted, after all!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Lessons From My Dog

Outside a foggy haze has draped itself allowing a pink smudge of light.  It is that light that I count on however dim as I sipped my latte foaming with almond milk and establish a new morning routine as I write.  The house is quiet.  I swear I can hear the flames flicker from the wood stove.  I have stirred the dog into wanting to begin his day.  I let him out and soon he barks to come in. Anticipating his routine, I expect that Rex will jump onto my lap, then I will have to juggle the computer and an oversized dog onto my lap at the same time.  It doesn't happen.  Instead he goes back to bed where he can rest his head on the pillow pretending to be human.


For the past five months, I have inched my way toward health.  A champion at losing and gaining weight again and again.  Edging toward 60, I am determined to make these changes take hold.  Daily long walks in the thick of the forest or  along the ever-changing sea sustain me on this journey.  This morning my goal was to wake early between darkness and dawn and write.  One more habit to make me whole.  


It turns out, I can learn from Rex who has a  predictable routine, but not always.  He has a gentle predictability that can run off course now and again like on this easy Sunday morning. That is O.K.  Tomorrow morning a week day with a certainty, Rex will be on my lap while I steady a computer atop the both of us and write.  Thinking about this makes me happy.


I have learned a lot from Rex.  


Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Recipe

Do we really have to listen to a major news broadcast and then PBS too? 

There is much suffering. I know. Do I have to be reminded everyday? I pray. I reflect. I realize that some of my life is not congruent to my spiritual philosophy, but it is a process right? Discipline. Goals. Goals? My goals in the last 5 months have been to learn to be gentle with myself, eat right and walk. Take long walks along the sea. Take walks brushing against evergreens and breathe in the earth. Breathe and surround myself in all that is positive and good in this life. Otherwise....I will crumble under the weight of sorrow. What good would I be then? Surely a recipe for resiliency in tough times.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Crashing

(Original sketch by Barbara Scott Keene titled Bathing Beauty)

The sand is so hot we hop through the dips and onto the scratchy Army blanket. Gulls screech swooping, always looking for food. The umbrella, styrofoam cooler and towels drop like I drop my clothes  getting ready for bed-in a scatter. The waves swell and I dive, closing my eyes against the burn, surfacing quickly, I lick my lips and taste the salty water. It is an incoming tide. Shivering, arms crossing my front, a flat chest, I squint to see my mother. A beauty in her wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and painted red toes; she sits low on the beach watching me. I feel like she is always watching me. I am the center of her world, or so it seems. I like it that way. Just then, an incoming wave crashes into me and I fall.

Monday, April 20, 2015

To Be



Over the years
dreams build,
Scenarios play
Over and over
In your head,
Just how it's
Going to be.

Now the reality
Seems bigger,
Better,
Than your dreams.

But
You won't know
Yet,
There is work
To
Be
Done.




Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Capacity to Love

It is strange. Bowls lined the counter: chopped cilantro, parsley, a honey lime infused slaw and an avocado/tomato salad; stuffed into handmade corn tortillas topped with seasoned shrimp or chicken. All this to celebrate a girl who breezed into our lives as a new four year old. Her braids held tight against her head as she raced through the field dressed in frilly pink chasing chickens. So much has changed in more than a decade.

It is strange to feel love's grip at first sight; another mother's child. Loving through the first lost tooth, the triumph of riding on two wheels and the first day of school. Loving through confusion, "How can I love two mummies?" Loving through the teens.

It turns out the heart has an inestimable capacity to triumph through all seas. 

My intent is to love through it all. Happy Birthday sweet girl!


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Burned

Listening to the weather report has become an exercise in restraint.  Below zero up north, snowing with accumulations on the coast.  Yikes!  In three weeks the April calendar will be torn away to make way for May.  Flowers.  Green grass.  Warm sun and gentle breezes. One can only hope.

This morning in the gloom of snow producing clouds, I put my knitted purple scarf on, decided I was cold and put a second one on.  Shoving my hands into my long wool coat, I trudged down the steps opened the car and grabbed the scraper that has a brush to wipe away the snow from cars whose poor owners live through long, long New England winters.

On Route 3 just past Hamilton's pond, through the curtain of snow I saw the dark silhouette of a deer. Passing her slowly, I noticed the thick fur.  It is much too cold to relinquish winter protection. Enough is enough.

Reality.  No one can do anything about our weather woes.  I psych myself into thinking that today is beautiful; the trees lay heavy with the first snow fall.  You know, it is just not working.

DISCLAIMER:  Normally

I don't complain, but I think my psyche is permanently freezer burned.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Heaven

As a kid,
Attending daily mass
Fueled my Catholic
Identity
Until,
Sister Mary Somebody
Announced
"Your protestant grandfather is
Not in heaven,
He's in
Limbo."

My seven year old sensibility
Knew
This
Was
Not
So.

There is a place that accepts
All,
Despite
Religious Affiliation,
Color,
Rich or Poor,
Age,
Or
Orientation.

No.
None of this
Matters
In the long run.




Thursday, April 2, 2015

a charmed life

Despite the fact that we have far fewer souls in the house, our mornings are carefully orchestrated all because of the shower situation.  Three teenagers can hijack the hot water tank, leaving the adults with a steamy bathroom and not much else.

The other day our daughter announced that she takes a 30 minute shower.  Really?  I wouldn't know because at 5 in the morning I am still in bed fighting for those eight hours of required sleep; dead to the world.  However, it is a fact that the youngest sons have been known to take two or three showers a day using a new towel for each new watery experience.  How dirty can you get in a few hours?  I use my towel for 7 days.   One week.  Ever heard of save the environment?

This morning there was a guest in the house which meant less hot water to go around.  Literally, I ran into the bathroom and into the shower.  The upstairs water had been running for two minutes-tops.  Today was shampoo day which meant an extra 45 seconds in the shower.  The soapy mesh puff met my entire body at record speeds. This is all so typical. I rinse, turn off the water and am wrapped in my towel.  From start to finish it takes about 2-3 minutes.  There is NO loitering in the shower in our house if your age is over 50.  Seldom do I allow myself the pleasure to linger under the misty spray.  I am too sensible.  I think of water shortages world-wide. Plus we spend a lot of money paying for water.  Let's safe when we can.

I am dressed. I put make-up on and my hair is dry. My husband has taken his turn in the shower.  We epitomize efficiency; from bed to bathroom to kitchen in less than ten minutes. Pouring boiling water over the coffee grounds, I still hear the upstairs shower going.  Eight minutes ago the tail end of my shower was lukewarm.

"How is it that you never run out of hot water?" I questioned my son after his lengthy shower.  "It makes no sense; my shower turned cold."  I offer, "You must live a charmed life."

"I don't know," he says, "I guess I do."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Grounded

On a warm day in early fall, I walked into a metal smithing studio.  I knew nothing.  It was like stepping into a foreign land with strange-sounding tools, implements and labels for procedures with hammers and torches.  Even after six months, I  still approximate the language.

My teacher, my mentor reminds me that muscle memory has a lot to do with her ease in completing a job in mere two minutes, when after 45 minutes of struggle, I ask for help.  That being said, I have learned that I have not completely shed perfectionism.  If the muscles in my hands or fingers fatigue or the solder does not stick to the flux and falls off after 55 tries; I may just give up-frustrated.  I look for fast, speedy results.  This seldom happens in the studio.  Sometimes "gluing" metal pieces together with fire has disastrous results.

"Oh prongs are easy," my teacher said looking at a piece of fossilized coral.  That was weeks ago.  After tedious steps and having to take it apart several times with more filing, sanding and soldering; last night I was able to walk out of the studio with my first pronged piece on my finger.

Walking to my car it was dark.  I had no light.  With trusty Bean boots on my feet, I opted to venture through the muddy edge of driveway to my car.  This seemed the more sensible route rather than swim through the depths of puddles or slip on ice.  Nearing the road, I remembered that delicate shoots of green were popping up in the owner's garden at the corner of the driveway.  Last I knew they were submerged in water.  Despite the cold temperatures the mud still provided a slippery footing.  It was troubling when my left foot splashed in deep water. I was certain I was crushing plant life, someone's prized daffodils or something.  Quickly lifting my foot out of the puddle to save the flowers, I took a sharp turn away from the bed and found myself lying face down in the cold gravelly mud.  Realizing my left foot was stuck in the mud, I tried to release it hearing a sucking noise.  I got up quickly, but only as high as my knees when I was knocked to the ground again.  My left hand (the one with my ring) plunged into the cold, muddy dirt.  My bones could have shattered, but after all that work I was  concerned about my ring.  Once I was upright, I sloshed a few steps into the road and  lifted my left hand closer to my eyes.  It was too dark to see.   For the five minute drippy ride home I realized that there was not much I could do about my situation.   It is likely that my car is muddy.  It is also likely that my ring was crushed with the blow my left hand and wrist took to catch myself.  There is a lesson in everything.  The lesson here is patience, persistence and detachment.  It all became so very clear when I was grounded in the mud.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Too Curious?

This is the final installment of THE SLICE OF LIFE CHALLENGE 2015.  Each year during the month of March teachers and students are invited to write daily, post and comment on at least three other participants offerings.  Every year, I am inspired and motivated to write.  I wouldn't miss it.  Here is my SOL 2015, #31:



Holding my mother's hand, I watched my brother and sister dash for the car, leaving us behind.  In no hurry my mother walking a slow pace along the manicured lawn, remarked about the colors and beauty of the flower beds. We arrived at the car, my brother and sister hunched in the back seat urging, "Hurry Ma, let's get outta here!"

Before that,  my mother shading her eyes from the sun, pressed her nose into the window pane of a large building. There was something going on in there.  Adults in fancy dress milled in and out of the ornate threshold.

Before that, my mother stopped the car in the parking lot and announced that, "We are going to see how the other half lives."

Before that, we saw the bell boys who stood outside The Shawmut Inn in their  long pants and jackets adorned with gold braids and brass.  My mother slowed down under the portico.  We all thought she was stopping the car, but instead sped ahead once a young man stepped toward our car.  She opted for another place to park the car.

Before that, my teen-aged sister tried to rub the melted ice cream that dribbled down my front.  The napkin stuck leaving behind little puffs of white on my shorts and shirt. It was a hot day my legs were even sticky.

Before that, we stopped at Garside's Ice Cream and my mother paid for four cones from the change jingling in her small purse.  Through the week she stuck stray coins in there. She used it only on weekend excursions to places like the beach.  She always brought a little money, just in case...

Before that, we drove along the river with the windows rolled down singing.

Before that, we piled into the car in our rubber flip flops, shorts and the coolest shirts we could find because it was much too hot to be stuck in the house and even hotter outside.

Before that, my mother said we were going for a drive. A long summer drive meant all four windows were rolled way down as the cool air chased the heat away. Long summer drives were always a series of expected, yet unexpected events orchestrated by an adventurous, daring woman who was at times a bit too curious for her less adventurous teenagers.  As the story goes, me (the youngest at the time) did not know any better.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Super Powers

This morning I was so thrilled to be listening to a young one read.  We have been working so hard making meaning using text; and with that comes expression and phrasing.   This student read three books in succession with great confidence and fluency. So long to reading word by word.    My cheeks hurt from smiling through the books, I added, "Wow, you have been reading right along just like a story teller.  Wow.  You've been working on that.  You did it, didn't you?"

He sat back in his chair, paused and then offered while unzipping his jacket, "You know why?"
Watching him unzip, I was trying to anticipate his reasoning.  With his warm up jacket unzipped, he puffed up his chest.  "I'm Super Man!" he said revealing the BIG S!

How I love my job!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Of Little Grace

The melting snow has become grainy crystals of ice. Still there is a big fence of snow separating our property from the neighbors. Holding the empty cake pan with a thank you note for my belated birthday cake, I peered over to see if the neighbor kids were playing outside. The pan needed to be returned before it got lost in the shuffle of our kitchen. Seeing no one I contemplated the road which would bring me to the front of their house nearly a block away. Instead I looked for little foot prints in the snow, evidence that the trek next door had been successful at some point in time. I figured it was worth a try. I paused, looked ahead, noting it wasn't that far. I had to get over the bank of deep snow. The first step held my adult weight, but the second sent me sinking in snow the entire length on my left leg disappeared. My right leg only sunk halfway, but created an odd shift of my weight. I was stuck. I mean really stuck. I couldn't move. Wiggling my leg did not release the icy grip. I began to laugh. Yelling for help would be far too embarrassing. The oldest interrupted dribbling his basketball, came over to grab the pan and asked if I needed a hand. Come on, I thought, I can get out. I don't have to cause a scene. For a split second I thought, what if I can't get out. Without thought, my bare hands plunged into the ice. The only way out was to sit. The snow was saturated with ice water making it feel doubly cold.  I sat back, shifting my weight so I could pull my leg out. My Bean boots were barely tied; I prayed that they would stay on my feet or that they would not collect snow. Pivoting I noticed how dirty and muddy the snow was in places. I pushed my body away from the bank and onto the puddly pocked driveway. I snickered all that way into the house, my butt soaked and my hands cold and dripping wet. Relieved that I escaped this one, shaking my head, I remembered I have a knack for getting into and out of the funniest predicaments, but it is seldom graceful.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Puddles


The grey ocean met the dull milky sky. Everything seemed colorless to her. She roamed through the day looking for things to comfort: a book filled with heroic words left her feeling empty and powerless. She was grumpy, but really had little to be grumpy about, although many locals were irritable about the weather. Restlessness drew her outside where snow banks still made formidable walls separating neighbors. There were signs of reprieve from this relentless winter season, however. Temperatures were rising. Snow and ice were melting. Standing in a once frozen puddle, her unlined Bean boots reserved for spring kept her feet dry.  

Even mud puddles are little blessings making any Mainer, even grumpy ones rejoice after a winter that has lingered a bit too long.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Balm




Surrounding myself with beauty
Soothes my soul,
Be it a bird's feather,
The delicate spiral of a shell
Or
A satellite of tight buds,
Lace-like.

Surrounding myself with beauty
Soothes my soul,
A balm for dark times.

(Slice of Life Day 27-Hosted by The Two Writing Teachers)



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Self Care

Although it was a balmy 45 degrees yesterday, I took refuge in the bedroom-the warmest room in the house.  As a buffer between home and work, I lounged on the bed with a good book.  Once my husband came home, we ate.  Then we both returned to the "warm room" each with a book.  While we read, the cats and dogs joined us. We had a full bed. Being cozy and warm, my eyes kept closing.  In an attempt to continue reading-the book rested opened on my chest.  I read in spurts, but finally gave into the coziness.  Snuggling into my husband, my head rested in the crook of his arm.  About an hour later, I wiped the drool from my face and adjusted my glasses that pressed into my face while I snored.  Plans to go to studio to finish a ring were curtailed.  Instead of going out into the cold, dark night I put my pajamas on and continued to read and rest, read and rest.  This was an act of self-care.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Promise of Return

Somedays are dark.  Somedays it is hard to wade through the muck of life.  I become sad at times.  I worry.  Often something, despite myself startles me and knocks me into a state of gratitude.

Last night was a tough night with teenagers.  If you have raised teenagers, I needn't go into detail.  Life can be trying at times.  Sleep was fitful; tossing, turning and a tired brain  awoke in overdrive.  

This morning, I escaped to work, seeking reprieve.  I nearly rushed to start the engine to  loosen the ice on the windshield, without pausing to notice.  All was quiet outside, aside from a cardinal who sang to me from the highest branch of a deciduous nearby.  A dusty red, the bird's breast expanded with each note.  The song made me happy.  I smiled.

There is so much to be thankful for despite the struggles and lessons in life.  I choose to live a whole-hearted life, noticing the unexpected gifts. It is certain the cardinal will return.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I know for sure...


I am not afraid to cry in front of others.

This winter weather has gone on much too long.

That my parents had a knack for loving all of us.  They gifted each of us the feeling that we were the favorite of the family.  I know for sure...I don't know how they did it.

That some of my favorite memories with my dad took place at Fenway Park in Boston.

My brother is a trivia nut.

I become anxious in large crowds when I am alone.

Some kids don't deserve the life they were handed.

Sometimes life is unfair.

Sometimes I laugh out-loud at myself because I am my mother's daughter.

Living life in the state of gratitude makes things better; like when my mother kissed my bandaged knee it made the hurt go away. (At least a little bit.)




Monday, March 23, 2015

Stories While Driving

Nothing was familiar to me. Buildings sprang up where before cows grazed. Bagel shops, flea markets and a tattoo parlor all new. But as I drove along Route One, I tried to recall the past to make sense of the present. The traffic was heavier than it was decades ago. The white brick building I passed once housed a bakery. The same bakery that refused my Auntie a "baker's dozen" is now a tiny Thai Restaurant. The old grey building that once was an orphanage looms and I wonder what ever happen to my best friend in Kindergarten. Vicky and her brother disappeared one day. My mother gently explained that her parents divorced and both kids were sent to the orphanage. I had always wanted to knock on the door and see my friend, but I was also worried that if Vicky left so easily and suddenly that it could surely happen to me. I zoomed passed the green light and toward the marsh. This morning the road was dry. When I wasyoung this  stretch of road flooded regularly. On Sunday mornings, the police would wave my mother through the water. It would splash up under the car making a terrible vibrating noise, while I hid my face as my big sister hugged and soothed me. Weekly trips from Biddeford to Portland to visit my aunt cultivated family stories.  Driving along ordinary landmarks this morning, prompted  the recollection of some pretty extraordinary stories that began as tiny seeds in a little girl.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reality

This evening
I prepare supper
In the house that was
Once
My mother's
And father's,
Not much has changed
Most remains the same.

Reminders of another time
Etched into the cutting board,
My father's coffee mug on a hook
As if waiting a return.

This evening
I sat remembering.
In reality,
So much has changed.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Another Saturday

It is Saturday, so it means it is snowing, again. Wintery weather is dragging us all around the snow and ice, whereas we would all rather be wallowing in spring mud and pot holes.

Unless there is traveling in my future, I don't pay much attention to the weather. It is something that can't be controlled; I take it as it comes. Although I must admit that there is a restless stirring within me.

I want to walk in the woods and feel the layers of pine needles cushion each step. I want to pause and run my fingers across the expanse of moss-a carpet of emerald green. I want to slip into Donnell's Pond and feel myself glide through the cool water, buoyant growing stronger with each stroke. I want to dip my hands into the loose soil and smell the pungent odor that comes with planting tomatoes. I want a gentle warm breeze to play with my hair. Simply, I want sun. I want, we all want, but we must practice patience. Sometimes it is a challenge.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Before That...

Inspired by fellow-blogger, Susanne from Make, Share, Give.  I tried this simple technique that my students would love.


I sat down, listening to my stomach growl while everyone was eating lunch.

Before that, I listened to one of my students read a passage with fluency.  Music to my ears.

Before that, I watched a first grader stretch herself as a writer by adding more details to her piece even though she thought she was done.

Before that, I helped a child choose a pile of favorite books to re-read over the weekend.

Before that, I collected data on a student's reading progress, plotted it on a graph, and celebrated with her.

Before that, I attended another meeting about a kid that is destined for amazing things in his life.

Before that, my husband and I stood in the kitchen, facing each other, holding each other as partners on a Spiritual journey and we prayed.

Before that, we rose before sunrise for our last day of the Bahai Fast, ate a breakfast of eggs and toast, while sipping on lattes.

Before that, we noted that tomorrow is Naw Ruz and the first full day of Spring, a time for celebration even though it is still WINTER.

                                                                     -A Sentiment I share

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Giving Up

This post is dedicated to my kind-hearted teacher Patience Blythe  who encourages me and helps me through the rough spots.
 

"I'm getting bored with Reading and Writing.  I'll do anything easy." 

Sometimes we have to put ourselves in a position of learning something new to remember the struggles that some students face each day.  For most children the process of learning to read takes some effort and sustained attention.  It is attending to meaning and the patterns within words and structure of connected text.  It is practicing the acquisition of strategies over and over and utilizing flexible problem solving.  One has to be on their game and sustain some effort with a kind teacher nearby.

My student who didn't think she could read the whole book did.  I told her my story.  I hope that it helped.  Below is a long version:

Since September I have been spending a few hours a week learning the art of Metal Smithing.  Just having to learn how to use a blow torch without freaking out was a struggle.  Gripping the cold metal in my hand, I would routinely take some breaths to calm my fear.  My father spoke to me, "You're going to burn your eye brows off.  It's going to explode!  Something bad is going to happen."  This took weeks of consistent effort and positive self talk to overcome.  

Creating wearable jewelry from wire and flat metal really isn't the easiest thing to do.  Sometimes I become impatient with myself and my inability to conceptualize things spatially.  Sometimes I get frustrated when my hands are not strong enough to pry a piece of metal from each other.  Sometimes I just want to be done with a project.  It takes too long and it requires too much effort.  

Last night, sitting at the work table I began to craft a third attempt at creating prongs to hold an intricate piece of coral.  Using pliers I curved the wire around the bottom of the coral.  I examined the shape of the coral and tried to duplicate it by bending some metal.  I just couldn't get it right.  "Too small," my teacher advised, "Try again!"

"Again?" I complained in a voice much like a 14 year old.  I wondered if I was invested in this piece enough to work through the tough parts.  I tossed the wire to the side and announced, "I'm done for the night. I don't want to do this."

I sat.  Silent.  There were no other projects pending.  I was at a loss.  If I didn't pick up the wire again and work through it, in the end I wouldn't have a ring-a finished product.   

Determination appeared from somewhere. I can't give up just because the process is hard.  Something new is bound to be challenging.  Last night I left the studio with a set of prongs; that much closer to a finished ring. 

My young reader seemed fascinated to know that I too had struggles and frustrations learning something new.  In the end, I didn't give up and neither did she.







Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Marking the Years!

Yesterday,  on my birthday I was surprised by one lonely cupcake left on the dashboard of my car.  It was topped with a strawberry.

To celebrate, my husband took me out to eat.  While I ate, I thought of the cupcake; a small token of love and deliciousness sitting in the cupboard.  Rather than order dessert at the restaurant, I knew it was waiting for me.

Through the evening, the temperature had dropped and the wind was gusting.  It was not a fit night out for anyone.  The ride home from our celebration was a shivery one. We were nearly home,  I envisioned the plan for the rest of the evening.  First, I would slip into my flannel pajamas, snuggle in bed, eat my birthday cupcake and give my husband a bite or two.

Once inside the house, I opened the corner cabinet,  only to find the dishes neatly stacked. "Isaiah, did you eat my birthday cupcake?" I yelled upstairs to my six foot four son.

Leaning down into the great room from the landing outside his bedroom, he meekly replied, "Maybe."  He rushed down the stairs.  "Where was it?" he asked.  I flung the cabinet door opened.   No cupcake.

"Sorry Mum.  I didn't know it was yours.  I thought it was some random cupcake."

Reaching out for a hug I say,"It's OK, really.  I didn't need it."

"Happy Birthday, Mum!" I hear him say as he hugs me back.

Marking 58 years without cake wasn't so bad after all.




Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Perfect Simple Love

Years ago, my mother was in a hospital bed praying to St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases.  Beginning my life as a "hopeless case" may conjure up some magnificent images giving one a long-standing inferior complex.  However, the first few months of my life (spent mostly in the hospital) and through my adult years, I was surrounded by the unconditional love of my dear mother and father. I believe love saved me.

Now my world of love has expanded.  It's the little things like a First Grader skipping down the hall and saying, "Happy Birthday!"   And it is the unexpected.  Slipping into the car to de-ice the windows this morning, my eyes fell upon this.  A sentiment from my youngest; a card filled with that unconditional love and a cupcake.  No, I am not perfect.  I am loved. A perfect simple love. I am grateful.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Clearing

                              -Buried Car In Early Winter


My morning routine can be sabotaged with one interruption.  Then I am in trouble.  Because I chose to stay inside all day yesterday reading and concocting a warming dish of vegetables swimming in red curry, I forgot that it had snowed.  I forgot that there was a nasty accumulation on my car.  It snowed, it rained and then it snowed again.  As a result, this morning my car was draped in two inches of snow and ice.

I'll blame my morning routine problem also on my new hair style.  I bought a set of electric curlers reminiscent of my college days.  This was a daily routine decades ago.  Out of practice, all weekend, I lined up the colors of clips that coordinated with the various sized curlers.  Rolled my hair over and over for speed, efficiency and quality curl.   I thought I had it down.  An added dilemma was should I shower first or curl first?  Or shower with or without curlers in my hair?  See why I was a bit late this morning?

Opening the door and stepping outside, my feet crunched the snow.  My curly hair blew a bit in the wind.  For a moment I thought that my efforts toward beautification would be for naught.  Looking at my car, I knew I had bigger obstacles.   I had forgotten about the snowy icy mess.  I had forgotten that I would have to chip and scrape and scrape and chip. With scraper in hand, I began.   It was hard going and I wondered if I would have the endurance to finish the job.  Portholes carved in snow were just not safe.  My arms ached.  My breathing quickened.  I moved from window to window until the glass was cleared. It seemed to take forever.

On the drive to work, I began counting the cars that did not have evidence of snow or ice. I felt a tinge of jealousy toward the owners of clean cars.   However I noted, there were an equal number of cars that had layers of ice and snow everywhere but the windshield and back window.  Gripping the wheel a bit tighter, I smiled knowing that I wasn't the only soul to wrestle with the elements this morning.  We are the hardy ones who got a work-out before starting the car. Oh and by the way, tomorrow will be a straight hair day!