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.
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

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

Stop and notice.
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
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


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
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


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 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.