Sunday, January 31, 2016

Conquering Parkman

A ten mile hike today with snow underfoot was the longest one yet. While my feet remained warm and dry, I carried my heavy Muck boots every step of the walk. My friends and I scared up an owl and stepped over many deer and wild turkey tracks. Nearly 45 degrees and the climb steady to begin, it wasn't long before I shed my down jacket tying it around my waist. An engineer's dream the Parkman Mountain carriage path affords views, stone bridges and stone walls that withstand the freeze and thaw of our crazy Maine winters. 'Twas  a perfect day!

Saturday, January 30, 2016


I started down the rabbit hole. Slippery underfoot. No phone. Deep in the woods. Hit head. Rex is no Lassie. The uneasiness settled around me. The woods various shades of gray reflected the skies; a heavy quiet. Rust colored leaves perhaps oak dangled on delicate ends of branches. Rough bark burst in vertical splits exposing a reddish flesh. Rex and I trudged through the crusty coating of snow. Rex making his mark while I noted colors beyond gray and acknowledged its' all about perspective. My footing firm, my mind occupied, I passed familiar surroundings with a new eye. There was a new stream cutting through the now drained pond. It is odd there are so many things I had nearly brushed against, but had not noticed. 

Uneasiness prompted me to keep Rex on leash, however I didn't know why and I didn't second guess the feeling. My dog is friendly, however not all dogs are. Our usual walking route is an avenue for dogs and owners to enjoy the wild. Many owners choose to allow their dogs to romp free. I have no problem with that, however if your dog has issues the romanticism of a romp with your dog off leash does not compare to the responsibility you have to your dog to circumvent encounters to protect your dog and others.  Rex was nearly attacked. This dog was small, sturdy with pointy white teeth. He lunged for Rex's side and I tried to get between the two dogs while the owner screamed and pulled her dog away. This is the second time I gave a dog owner some advice. "If your dog is iffy. Keep him/her on a leash." It turns out my uneasiness was justified. 

Friday, January 29, 2016


I'm trying to get my act together, I really am. Sometimes life is just a tad busier than I would like it to be and I struggle to do it all. Work of course is a priority. Without work there is no health or dental insurance, no food, no clothes, no house, no car.  Work and family is often a balancing act, however I work in an environment that values children and families so that helps. 

    (Here's my family. I am 50+ lbs heavier)

Taking care of myself occupies much of my grey matter. Nothing is automatic. After 30 weeks, I still record what I put in my mouth and how much I move or don't move. Exercise has been particularly challenging with appointments, meetings and graduate classes. Exercising an hour to two hours most days has been taxing, so I am trying to temper my efforts without compromising my health, habit or cumulative efforts. I must be flexible.

Even though I have been on similar journeys before toward regaining my health; I am still learning. This time must be different. I am running out of time. I can no longer afford to neglect myself. It helps that my husband and I are on this path together.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Good With Bad

This is a six word story:
Dog's white fur clings on black.
* Namely my pants.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Responsibility and Teens

My parents worked hard and I knew it. Everyday after school I would prepare supper for my family. Sometimes my mother would prep a few things in the morning before she went to work to help.  Recipes written in my mother's hand would rotate from day to day. Somehow I was still able to play trombone in the band, attending practice on Tuesdays and Thursday's and went to my Girl Scout meetings and Kennebec Girl Scout board meetings. Active and busy I found ways to make life easier for my parents while still having a life. Maybe I was an oddity.

I came home tonight after work to a sink full of dishes. This sight made me swell with disappointment, anger and frustration. Ignoring my reminder to do the dishes is...well disrespectful. It seems I hold value only when something is wanted. Life does not work this way. I am fighting to not take this inaction as a personal snub, but it is hard. Meanwhile, my negative feelings are lodged in my belly and my heart aches. 

These teen years are not among my favorite ones. Someday there will be a shift and we will appreciate each other. Right now, not so much. I'm going for a walk!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


It was dark, but I noticed him right away. It wasn't exactly HIM I remember, but his tee shirt. In the middle of the guy's chest was a big bowl of Mac and Cheese hand drawn. Dark, drizzle and a crudely drawn suggestion are enough to create a perfect storm for comfort. I need a big bowl of Mac and Cheese. Chef Vikki of Everyday Health offers a solution: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. It seems like a healthy alternative. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Producing Happy

Top ten things that made me happy today (listed in no particular order):
1. The Big Dipper
2.  My husband hula hooping 
3.  Julie, our big money cat coiled on my lap
4.  Trying a new recipe Chia Brownies for a calorie count similar to a granola bar
5. Winter citrus 
6.  Latte with almond milk sprinkled with cinnamon
7.  Reflecting on my health and strength
8.  Skinny jeans
9.  Walking
10. Friends who share similar dreams

Sunday, January 24, 2016


It is imperative to slow down
In a world that has far too many 
The silence makes the way clear
For actually what is important.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Prepared and Accustomed

I don't mind winter. It hasn't always been like that though. My darling husband bought me muck boots that have never disappointed my little piggies that carry me in the most frigid air. He also bought me a down jacket. The secret lies in having the proper gear and de-emphasizing fashion; opting for comfort. For most of the past week, I have been able to take long walks outside. Clearly, being outside fulfills a need. As I hang my outer gear on a hook, I  reminded of Marie Kondo's book on Tidying. At first I thought it odd that she suggested her readers to offer gratitude for clothing and shoes in fufilling their intended use. Since reading this I have been more cognizant of how very grateful I am that I am equipped for winter walking.  While most of the eastern seaboard is snow bound, I sit in front of the coziness of the wood stove this evening and anticipate a return in the morning to the snowy path tamped down by an army of feet, enjoying whatever winter brings because I am prepared and accustomed to Maine's climate.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Hearing my husband moving about our room, I was jarred awake thinking it was more like 6, yet it was 2 in the morning. Alert, it was a hopeless case to sleep. Instead, I talked to my husband about spicy lentil burgers, my new cook book and kid stuff. I tossed. We made plans to walk at 5. I turned over and finally got up, did some not too stimulating paper work and then headed for bed. By that time it was 4:30 so I lay motionless and wide awake, fearing sleep would overtake me and nix our walking plans. 4:50 my husband is snoring ( finally asleep) and I wake him as per our agreement. We are silent as we dress choosing layers to conserve heat. The last few weeks have been frigid. Once under the stars, I realize I should have covered exposed skin. With each step my body warmed, my head lamp lit the way because the woods were shrouded in darkness. The stars were bright while the moon sunk behind the mountains in the west-hidden; neither gave adequate light. So we walked by benefit of headlamp; darkness all around us. With our sense of hearing heightened we paused at the frozen waterfall before turning back into the ink heading for home. Darkness is a common companion.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Experimental Life

While eating my nightly quota of figs, sitting on the couch snuggling with my husband something on PBS caught my ear. It was the playful absurdity of AJ Jacobs, a writer who was explaining his life as an experiment. One month he experimented saying whatever was on his mind without filter. It was a long month, not free of potential problems. Another time, he did not gossip. A proponent of experiment, he explained that it needn't be as radical as following the rules of the bible, stoning adulteresses, but it could be as simple as experimenting by changing your tooth paste from your ordinary brand. He argues it creates new synapses in the brain. I speculate it could enfuse playfulness and a sense of curiosity in one's life. Perhaps Jacobs' purpose was to create fodder for his writing, however it could also be designed for common good. For instance, I wonder what would happen if each time I spoke to someone, I would pause and look into their eyes and smile. Consider the more frivolous: how many would notice that I am wearing mismatched earrings or shoes or I wonder how many walking miles my sneakers will last. How would your life become an experiment?  Does this have a place in your life? Would this have the potential to shift individuals or larger groups and their interactions with each other? I wonder.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dreams Resurface

I never thought it possible to again dream of long-distance bike rides or backpacking trips. These were dreams of my youth, now rekindled. 

The biggest "adult" obstacles may be anxiety and fear. Proper preparation may alleviate these to some degree. However, at least for now I get that butterflies in the stomach thing anticipating all possibilities! By-products of health.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

all I want

Sleep deprivation is the worst.  I have a device that tells me just how little sleep I've gotten on a given night.  The truth is, I don't need a device to tell me; I can just feel it.  At about 1:30 today, I needed a nap.  Five hours of restless sleep one night cannot be followed with another night like this.

Bedtime in our house is 10 pm. Truthfully, there are some nights that it is so dark and cold that I barely make it past 8.  Teenagers on the other hand have internal clocks suddenly gone haywire.  Hearing the beeping of the microwave timer woke me as did the smell of food.  11:30 pm is the perfect time to be eating chili, isn't it?  I guess sleeping AND eating habits are wacky.  45 minutes earlier, I had gotten  out of bed and reminded that it was way past bedtime.  Slipping back under the blankets,  I heard my husband mumble that he too had gotten up declaring it bedtime. So I lay in bed wide awake. Annoyed. I tossed and turned for hours.

The dark winter has been kind and gentle to me and my family. Ordinarily the teenagers succumb to the need to hibernate and sleep at night.  Last evening was an exception.  At least, I am hoping that tonight will  be different and we will all be able to get some quality sleep. Since the big pot of chili was prepared ahead for tonighs supper; surely the finicky teen will not be up eating chili until wee hours of the morning.  She can't possibly have two consecutive meals eating the same thing.  I might just get some sleep especially if she is as tired as I am. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

No Doubt

The New York Times just published an article about the ill effects of quantifying healthy behavior such as walking by using devices like a Fitbit. The bottom line is that it might very well take the joy from each step, making it a chore. 

Personally, I get this. Weeks ago I complained that all I do is walk and that I don't have a life. This attitude scared me. I don't want to derail my efforts. Historically, I stick with something, any thing so long and the excitement and passion are gone and so am I. Once something is stopped, the hardest thing is the restart. So I have had to adjust my expectations. I no longer track accumulated miles. However, the possibility of this number after six months of walking makes me wonder. Overall, I take fewer steps, but it does not impact weight loss or health to a degree that matters. If it makes my life easier, I am all for it! 

What keeps me motivated during my walks is that I stop and notice. This fills me. At that moment all is right with the world. There is no doubt it is joy and gratitude that will draw me back to walking day after day.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ushering In

I overlooked the silence for most of the walk. Somewhere along the way, I started to listen. Nylon rubbing against nylon as I swung my arms. Alternate audio threads playing simultaneously were heavy breathing (mine) as rhythmic as the snow crunching under the weight of my feet. Curious. Was it really silent? I stopped. All I could hear was a high pitched hum, I believe the pulsing of blood coursing through my body. Alone in the woods I confirmed silence-the absence of sound. Until, I came upon a stream; the slow moving water made a trickling sound. Ordinarily overlooked as it was so soft, it was heard and acknowledged. The silence is what ushered in the whispers. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Going Back

The flakes coming down are as big as saucers. Finally, more white; after all it is winter.  As kids we spent time digging through snow banks to carve out caves, later trekking over to Shaw's Hill to slide coming home only to warm up. It was a simple existence-really with a basket of mid-matched mittens, patched snow pants and an extra winter jacket outgrown, but warm. Steamed milk with Hershey's chocolate sauce sipped while we kids thawed readying for another few hours outside. Boredom was not part of our lives. 

Presently, I prepare to venture outside to marvel in the wonder of winter and reminence. The snow is deep, just below my knees. Walking is slow. Our shoulders and heads pile with snow the longer we hike. I drag my walking stick beside me etching a long line in the snow, hearing it drag.  This simple movement brings me back. It brings me back.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Perfect Combination

I grew up in an adult household.  My brother and sister ten or more years my senior.  As a kid, I sought out adults; mostly those who were in the kitchen cooking, eating or sipping tea.  Like most families, food bound us together as we sat around the dinner table, eating and discussing world injustice or the wonder of our first Catholic President.  

Food. I love it.  The textures. The colors and flavor.  Sometimes I spend days anticipating a planned meal.  Is it that I am obsessed with food (really now) or that it is the human interactions that are most important? It is nearly impossible to tease this out.  For instance, tonight some of my children and their significant others who can are coming for dinner.  The shopping list complete, I can hardly wait to push through the door, enter the kitchen and start to chop the vegetables and smell the fragrance of the ginger that will be tucked into pot stickers-perfect little pillows. Tonight will be a perfect combination of people and food I love.

                        The unsmiling brothers

Thursday, January 14, 2016

No Apologies

You can't always get what you want.-The Rolling Stones

After nearly 50 years, I think about the minor inequities in my life; it is not my dwelling place. It is expected that overtime parents do not dole out a measure of evenness among their children. Resources including time, energy and finances contribute to these differences as does the individuality of needs among the children.

My childhood bike was a hand-me-down. Red, clunky and heavy with big fat tires.  Everyone else in the neighborhood had new bikes with a banana seat and sissy bars.  Shiny, sparkly, with hand breaks and three speeds.  I begged for a new bike, but did not get one until I saved up my babysitting money and bought a blue bike from Sears. This inequity did not cause harm, but perhaps a little discomfort.

A couple weeks ago, I crept into my brother's old room in the house I grew up in.  There in that room were remnants of childhoods long ago. Among the piles of my brother's books and boxes of photos was my little sister's Raggedy Ann doll.  I always wanted one, but it was my sister that got the doll.  I always wanted a bike with a banana seat and hand breaks, but again it was my little sister that got the bike. 

A reminder from one of my children today about the inequity in her life, unknowingly caused by me has reminded me that a score card does no one good. There was no need for my mother to apologize nor will I apologize either.

Barbara S. Keene, MEd, CAS
Reading Recovery/Title 1 Teacher
Trenton Elementary School

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hope and Fear

Thirty-three years ago, after an exhausting delivery I held my first-born in my arms. Overcome with joy and love, I not only thought about that moment, but all hope and promise for his future.  Without the potentiality of a positive future, I suspect that we would not choose to bring children into this world void of hope.  Without hope; we live in fear.

The fearful lurk infecting others with their propaganda.  The undying optimist (at least I try to persist with this perspective), I choose hope.  Is it irresponsible of me to remain as grounded as I can be for the present moment?  My answer is no because the future is influenced by the present.  There are periods of time when I do not watch the news.  As for reading material, I choose what I read; feeding myself essays, philosophy, memoir and poetry.  

Sometimes, glimpses of guilt grip me because I am not an activist, nor do I engage in political discussions because it is divisive.   I am reminded of this quote by Gandhi: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.” 

On the other hand, it is naive of me to think that anyone's individual decisions or how they choose to conduct themselves on this planet could change the world.  However, collectively we have the capability of positively influencing others creating a wave of change.  Is that not what hope is?

Last night our youngest announced he intends to enlist in the Army. He wants to be a sniper. He foresees World War III. Has he lost hope?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Uncertain Journey

The night was cold and clear. The Big Dipper peered over my left shoulder, but gave little relief to my hesitant feet that shuffled as I walked down my long uneven dirt driveway. I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket; my eyes never adjusted to the darkness. The beam seemed bright, but only cast a light reaching about two steps ahead.  It was a strange sensation to not be able to foresee what was in front of me beyond arm's length.  I just had to trust that I wouldn't walk into any brick walls or unmovable tree trunks.

As I trudged on in near total darkness, I was thinking this a metaphor for life. For my kids, I worry about their distant future. I worry about the state of the world on so many levels.  I worry about our health and financial well-being in retirement. I worry. Yet if I expend all my mind-scape on the future am I not missing the joys of the present?

I often get these not so subtle revelations that are perfectly timed, thanks to The Universe. This journey is indeed uncertain.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Witness to Change

The snow was soft, but not slushy.  It was just right walking through the woods our footing firm.  First the gloves came off and then I slung my down jacket around my waist as it was a 40 degree day in January.  A leisurely Sunday morning, we walked and talked.  Our chattiness ceased each time we paused and then breathed deeply to take in the surroundings.  The stream once cascading over the rocks was now frozen in time.  A tree possibly hundreds of years old, at least what's left of it, a skeleton stands hollow as footprints pressed in the snow skirt around it.   Cedar colored sawdust lines the base of the tree. Vertical cracks and holes show its' age and evidence of invasion.  We stop in wonder.

Once cars motored along this route, but now the terrain has changed over decades.  Water flows in different directions making the road impossible to pass through by car.  By foot and over time, I note how the once emptied pond has begun to fill, but not abundantly like last year.  When young, my kids would sling their ice skates over their shoulder and walk  a mile on this Breakneck Road into the woods just to glide along the expanse of ice.  However, on this day the ice is hardly noticeable.  

This same walk, day after day, week after week and month after month gives opportunities to record subtle changes over time.  The 60 mile per hour winds pounded the down east coast of Maine just shortly after our Sunday morning walk.  I wonder how many trees were uprooted or lay splintered, littering the path I walked earlier?  On my next walk what will I notice?  I hope my eyes will be open in wonder; a witness to changes. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

However Light

Not knowing what time it is, I wake. It has been like this for days, now a strange transition between dawn and a cloudy day; dark and some might call it dreary. The candle I lit hisses and the glow flickers not offering much light, but creates a comforting ambiance. 

It reminds me that I have choices in this life and how I view the world. Bound for so long with anxiety and I think depression, I am finally emerging; not broken, not fixed, but reorganized-anew. I'm taking life moment by moment-choosing to focus on the light, however bright.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Journey

Confusion holds the potential to mire us to inaction. In this world of lightning fast information, we are inundated with conflicting views and perspectives. Sometimes it is wise to just do the best you can. This principle can be applied to losing weight/becoming healthier, organizing your space or teaching someone to read. Maybe the "Just Do It" slogan is appropriate here, however I think that one's mind has to be in the game. Perhaps that slogan offers simplistic advice for a complex issue. How I finally became mentally prepared to tackle my health challenges remains a mystery. I do know that for me, whether it is taking steps to prevent diabetes through healthy choices or teaching First Graders to read;  I am supported through the process. Neither is easy. Both activities can be successful through a series of decisions which are supported by another knowledgable person. In order to lose 49 pounds, I needed to educate myself and make decisions about foods and exercise. Since July, I have been supported by clinicians who specialize in diabetes prevention. It took two years of gentle prodding by health professionals to help me to commit. 

In the end, I think a number of factors contributed to that first step. Knowing that I am not alone in this journey and that I feel supported by others has helped me to overcome obstacles and stay the course. Reflecting daily through journaling or meditation on how my actions and thinking are rewiring my brain is also motivating. I am creating new ways to care for and nurture myself. Never before have I been able to sustain a degree of self-care. This journey is learning to love myself; knowing that I am worthy and knowing that I am good enough. I am learning to listen to my inner wisdom.  

This is a solo journey that is all my own, yet it is not. I need others to support and guide me like my friends in my Diabetes Prevention Program or my husband who reaches for my hand as we walk under the stars in darkness. I can't go it alone.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Resolve to Love

No one will love me more
Than you, 
This realization
Resolve to learn to love

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Scream for More

A few months ago, hours stretched 
Into nothingness.

Now time is compressed
There is so little,
I scream for more.

Darkness lifted
I move,

I scream for more.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

In Time

Years of therapy have done little to make loving myself easy. I'm not sure when things went awry; it could have been the mean neighborhood boys calling me fat on a daily basis. Early in my life I remember sitting in the backyard and yanking on the flesh of my upper leg in disgust. I was not good enough, or so I thought.

This thinking is hard to uncoil. The edges are sharp and have cut deeply into my psyche leaving scars. During the last six months, little by little I have learned that I am worth the effort to care for myself. I record everything I eat and drink. I walk. I choose to walk in the woods and by the sea. I breathe, infused with gratitude. Grateful that I have the means to take care of myself. Knowing I am worth it and good enough will come in time. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


A disproportionate number of kitty photos that appear in my memory feed are of Harry. A sleek, chiseled grey beauty named after my father. He was tough. No one messed with him. One summer he came home with claw marks extended down both sides of his face. He obviously got away from the clutches of something fierce to come home to me. 

Along with the dogs and numerous other cats, Harry slept with me. He would bend down close to my face and nudge me hard so it wouldn't take long at all to get attention. Then I would pat him in long strokes with a force that would send him off balance. He craved sensory input. When I got tired and stopped, he nudged and when that didn't work he often bit me. He drove me crazy with his need for attention, but even before his disappearance more that a year and a half ago I know how much I loved him. He initiated and I reciprocated the adoration. When he got his fill he would nestle into my back and sleep, the weight of his frame nudging me awake through the night acknowledging his presence.

My Harry. After all these months, I still anticipate your return. Stranger things have happened.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Lingering

Each morning my dog Rex holds me to a routine. He offers me his paw to remind me that we need our time together. While I sip my almond latte and write, he sprawls across my lap all 50 pounds of him. Rusty our dacshund snuggles into a free spot while Julie the money cat joins us her paws kneading my upper torso. She purrs loudly; a reminder that all is right with my world. I have shelter. I am warm and I have love. Who could want for more? Yes, I am filled with gratitude.

For a week now over the holidays, we have all lingered in this state of peace. It was a luxurious lingering. In time we will all readjust to a workweek. We have no choice.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Photography, writing, cooking and food; what a combination. Recently I discovered the talents of a lady who has combined her passion of all those things into a career through the blog Minimalist Baker. Although I love my job, I am getting close to the age when I must reinvent myself through "retirement".  One of my retired friends makes organic bread in her kitchen and has a whole new company selling to general stores and doing the farmer's market circuit. I wonder, if it were a job would I still love it?

Cooking feeds (pun intended) my creative  needs. If I wasn't teaching; I suppose I would be cooking or making art in some fashion. Integrating my talents: cooking, photography and writing would present a perfect match. How would you reinvent yourself? In reality we have opportunities to reinvent ourselves every day, don't we?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Upside of Graititude

Five years ago I read a book that literally changed my life: 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The daughter of a minister, Voskamp felt empty so she began an exercise recording moments of gratitude in a journal until she collected 1,000 entries. Her life changed for the better. I too began that practice and although it begins as an inside job, it can't help but transform in other aspects of your life. 

This morning I read a piece in the NYT by Barbara Ehrenreich in which she argues that there is a selfish side of gratitude. She writes about new age fluff and the falsity of positive thinking. I believe that there is a vast difference between positive thinking and gratitude. Gratitude is the result of acknowledging blessings we have in our lives and is not limited to material things like shelter and food. It could be moments and images that are forever etched in our memories. Positive thinking may be the precursor to an action that has been researched as a suitable action, or not. It is the notion that just thinking positively about anything will make it so and has given this action a bad rap. 

Gratitude can reap positive thinking, happiness, contentment opening one to realizing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Is there really a bad side to gratitude? I have been racking my brain trying to come up with negatives, but I come up empty. What would a world be like void of gratitude? Hopeless? Perhaps it would be filled with souls believing that they are entitled? Would there be happiness? What do you think?

Friday, January 1, 2016


It wasn't excitement or hope for the days ahead; at least I didn't think so. I ushered in the New Year, 1 am and likely 2 am. I didn't look at the time-that makes sleeplessness worse. At about 11 I had a cup of tea-no caffeine, but I swear maybe I need a change of glasses or the packaging was mislabeled. It must be the tea, it's caffeinated, I thought. My body tired, my brain wired I was prone trying to discern why sleep alluded me. The new year? I can't be excited, can I? 

For someone who spends time writing about the past; I try not to anticipate the future, but maybe a day or two or a week in advance. Meetings ahead, appointments and meals to plan things like that. It is straightforward and simple. I try to grasp the moment I am in. You know the practice of mindfulness. It is not easy. I know this as I twist and turn my body, adjusting the covers for the perfect combination that will finally settle me into sleep. My mind is on the year ahead. The excitement and anticipation builds much like waiting for a birth.  Yes, I am excited and hopeful for 2016, but also grateful for what I learned about myself in 2015. I'm wondering were you sleepless last night too?