Saturday, December 31, 2011

What I Made Today: Win a Happy 2012 Whimsy!

For a bit of New Year fun... check out...What I Made Today: Win a Happy 2012 Whimsy!

Ring out, wild belles

I'm writing this to the sound of steady rain.  The temperature, for December in New England, feels downright temperate.  The puppies are curled up snoring at my feet.  My grandmother's little Christmas tree glows brightly on Don's mother's little stand.  The house is quiet, clean and exudes warmth and contentment.  It's an unexpected ending to a year that began with a lightning bolt, then continued on a rollercoaster of highs so high and lows so low - to borrow Don's phrase - I have literally felt breathless.

I've caught myself holding my breath and tensing my shoulders too often this past year, too...braced, I suppose, against fate's whiplash.  This year's crazy weather was a fitting backdrop for a year that brought my granddaughter on my birthday, then took my father a scant week later.   The last chains  of my connection to my exhusband are falling away - not only has my youngest turned 18, my ex announced plans to finally sell the house we owned when we were married and move to another city.  My writing has gone in a whole new direction and turn I had not the slightest inkling of this time last year.

Last year, I felt shattered and broken.  This year I see how the shattered places are where the light shines through.  Last year I was consumed with hopelessness...this year, despite the fact that many things remain the same and others have irrevocably changed beyond my control, I have a profound sense of hope and gratitude for the lessons this year brought.  One of the things I am most grateful for, is that they were, for the most part, swift and tempered with mercy.  This year I have a lot to be thankful for. 

Which is why, I suppose, that when Gina Barecca asked for New Year's poems, the one that came to my mind was Sarah Willams' The Old Astronomer to His Pupil:  "Though my soul shall set in darkness, I shall rise to perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." 
Whatever the coming year brings... be it Armageddon or anything else, it's my intention to go gladly into this bright night. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

All I want for Christmas... to know my children are happy, healthy and functional....

and that everyone else's children are likewise. 

Now, that be too much to ask?


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Light and life to all, it brings

It really does feel like a new year.  The world was washed clean last night in a rainstorm accompanied by thunder and lightning.  I have to admit that my only concern about the storm was that we wouldn't lose power in the middle of the finale of American Horror Story..which had a lot of satisfying moments and a few surprises. 

Yesterday afternoon, the house was quiet after my grandchildren and Libby left.  I fed and walked the puppies.  The silence and the solitude felt good.  I lit green candles and ran a bath.   Sunset on the longest night of the year found me immersed in a tub of salt water, meditating, sloughing and rinsing both literally and figuratively. 

Dinner was salad of mostly spinach - rich green seems to the color that keeps coming to me this season in many forms.  I added celery and carrots and strawberries for unexpected sweetness, and dressed it with raspberry vinagrette.  I made enough for breakfast, too, because I've learned that the more salad I eat - in almost any combination of fruit or vegetable - the better I feel. As a nod to my ancestors who venerated the pig, and to honor my own birth in the year of the Pig, I cooked pork tenderloins breaded in cornmeal and laced with the dried herb mixture my friend Rose makes.  Dessert was a scoop of sweet cream ice cream over a splash of Midleton's in a cup of coffee. 

I spent the evening cuddled up with Libby.  Before the old sun set, I brought the Samhain pumpkins inside, and this morning, we carved them up in four quarters.  With the new sun growing stronger by the minute, I'll take them outside today and leave them at the four quarters and the midpoints. 

I fell asleep to the sound of the rain and slept well.  I watched the new sun rise while I walked the puppies this morning, and noticed the thin crescent of the old moon shining behind the trees.  Blessed be. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What if this were really "it?" - thoughts on 2012

Exactly ten years ago, one Saturday morning in December, I woke up knowing I was going to die.  I still know I'm going to die, but the feeling that morning was that Death was more than imminent, it was a granite-hard Presence that was simply THERE, filling up all the available space in the room. 

I had no idea what to think.  Ten years younger than I am now, I was on my winter hiatus from running 7.5 miles six times a week.  I was healthy, I was strong.  But this feeling - final, implacable and inevitable - had weight.  It wasn't my was as real as I was.  The only thing that could get me, I reasoned, was a car accident.  And I had a lot running around to do that day, just a few weeks before Christmas. 

I remember doing some very fast thinking in the shower that morning, running through stages of grief outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  I didn't have time for denial and anger, I remember thinking.  Yeah, dying today would sure suck, but so would dying on any other day.   At least I had fair warning.  If I really were going to die that day, I decided I could spend whatever hours I had left with the people I loved the most, doing things with them and for them.  And most importantly, I could savor the richness and sweetness and fullness of everyday, ordinary life... for as many hours as I had left, I could, in the words of Emily Gibbs, "just be."

And so I did.  What's interesting to me, looking back, and remembering that twenty-four hour period that Death hung over me like an elephant on my back, is how sharp and clear the memories are of that day, how much I accomplished, how fully I lived.  I didn't do much differently than what I had was right before the holidays and I had shopping and baking and wrapping and gifts to make, besides.  As a sidenote, the feeling turned out not to portend my death (obviously) but that of someone very close to someone I hold very dear - someone who died in a car accident.   Why I knew what I knew is still not entirely clear to me.  The experience, however, forced me into a state of prolonged heightened awareness that contines to affect me.  Among other things, the experience enabled me to admit to abilities long buried and denied. 

I tell this story today because the papers are full of stories about the Mayan calendar and the fact it ends a year from now.  I think it's a waste of time to argue about it.  Whether its December 21, 2012 collectively, or any other random day individually, we all have to die.  Everything ends, whether with a bang or a whimper.  That day showed me the gift that the awareness of one's own death, one's own potentially immediate death, can be. 

I remember the day I thought I'd die as a day I truly lived.   

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Season of the deep

It hasn't been busyness that's stopped my writing these past few days.  Yes, I've been busy; yes, I've been caught up with all the doing and the buying and the wrapping and the baking.  But it isn't lack of time or focus or even subject matter that has stayed my figurative pen. 

It's grief. 

This year is the first Christmas of my life without my father. 

It didn't matter that there were decades of years I didn't spend with him. 

He was there, his presence as palapable to me across the miles as the ocean. 

And now, he isn't. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Grown-up comfort food

I was hungrier than I thought I'd be after my 22-minute stints yesterday afternoon.  A recipe on a new friend's blog, Spontaneous Accomplishment, caught my eye the other day.  Kathy is such a good writer that her receipes make my mouth water even when she's talking about food I don't like. 

At any rate, she inspired me to saute a purple onion and some garlic in olive oil while waiting for  my pasta to cook.  I added a third of a bag of spinach.  While waiting for the greens to wilt, I noticed the bag of Italian herbs and spices my friend Patrice brought me from her Mediterranean cruise. 

"You've probably never heard of the place," she said, as I opened the present and read the words on the packet.  "But it's an island -"

"Off the coast of Naples," I said.  Isola d'Ischia said the label.  It's the island my great-grandparents are from.

Last night when I opened the package, the scent of my grandmother's kitchen poured out.  I sprinkled on the herbs with a generous hand, and ate my supper curled up in my great-grandmother's rocking chair. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Baby baby steps

Today is the day I take care of my grandchildren, I didn't have a chance to do much of anything at all, let alone do anything differently.  I did take a short walk up and down the hill with the kids and the puppies... I pushed Grace and walked Buddy and Jake walked Sam. 

When I got home from delivering them, I decided to do something a little different - I set  my timer and am accomplishing as much as I can accomplish in 22 minutes in different areas of the house.  So far, I've managed to tidy the kitchen, my bedroom and my bathroom, and started a load of laundry.  Now I'm checking through emails to make sure I haven't missed any in the busyness of the last week.  After I catch up on some correspondence, I'm going to take another 22 minutes and spend it putting away clothes, and tidying my writing desk.  These are small steps... but they feel good. 

Today also happens to be Libby's birthday.  It's now official... I'm the mother of four adult children.  More thoughts on that tomorrow....the timer is about to ring. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One small step

My determination to do at least one thing differently from the day before continues.  I've run out of 2% milk, but there's no more whole milk, either, so I'll definitely swing by the store for me. 

Yesterday I did a sun salutation, taking my time with each move, savoring each stretch, breathing mindfully through all the movements.  Then I spent another twenty minutes rolling around my miracle balls and my foam roller.  I know nothing is going to soothe out the kinks until the new mattress comes, but it helped.

I ate two salads, too - one with arugula and grapefruit in the morning, and one with my supper. 

I was hoping to get back to the gym today, but I can see that might be too much of a push.  On the other hand, it's one of those rare late fall days that hints of spring.  It's a good day to enjoy what might be the last of temperate weather. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Doing one thing differently

I'm not intimidated by the idea of change.  If things didn't change, nothing would ever be different.  The one constant about life is that it changes.... and when someone stops changing, they're dead.  I can adapt to global kinds of changes...the shifts and shivers beneath my feet.  I may not much care for them - like getting laid off just before Christmas one year, and right after it another - but I can adapt. 

What I'm not so much a fan of  are the kinds of slow plodding steps necessary to change something about oneself from the inside out.  These are the kinds of changes necessary if I'm going to realign what I've been doing more closely to how I want to live.  But they're slow and small and require attention to the kind of detail I'm much happier overlooking.

Each day, I intend to do at least one thing different from what I've been doing, and chronicle it here.  What I'm hoping is that the accountability will keep me disciplined and focused.  I'm not sure how long I'll do it...until I no longer feel the need to hold myself accountable, I suppose.  And since I can't predict how long that might take, I'm not making any promises I can't - or might not - keep.

Yesterday, I started off by switching the whole milk I've been drinking in my coffee with 2% - at least in the morning.  When I went out to a late lunch with a friend, I had cream in the deliciously decadent French-pressed coffee in which she insisted we indulge.  The coffee certainly deserved it.     

And I did something completely different - by going to the gym at 830 AM - on a Sunday morning, it was still relatively quiet.  It felt so good to get back on my favorite machine.  I spent the time concentrating on breathing, engaging in the same meditative practice I started when I was a child going deeper and deeper into myself while the adults around me droned on.  Inner space feels just as big - if not bigger - than exterior space but I can use some practice holding myself there. 

Today so far, I've blogged - a discipline I abandoned along the way - and I'm off to grab my yoga mat.  My neck and back are anxiously awaiting delivery of the new mattress on Thursday.  And I put 2% in my coffee this morning again, too. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Season of miracles

The moon is on the wane.  We are heading into the darkest part of the year without so much as a moonbeam to light our way.  Without looking at the calendar, I know the darkest night and the shortest day are about to coalesce into a long bleak stretch punctuated only by starlight. 

It somehow seems to fit.  This year has been punctuated by, as my husband likes to say, highs so high and lows so low, you can't believe the one exists when you're experiencing the other.  My granddaughter's birth on my own birthday, juxtaposed by my father's death seven days later, still sends tremors through my soul. 

And then there's the writing... I began the year by severing ties with my literary agents - a complete leap into the dark if ever there were one, and have ended the year by not only having a new book finished, but available both in print and eformat.  It's the best writing I've done so far, too.  I am grateful for so much. 

But still.  The loss of my father resonates with all the other losses these last five years, each one a deep hole in the center of my self.  Like an old sweater, I feel ragged, torn and tattered.  Last winter solstice ushered in a period of painful and prolonged soul-searching over my primary relationship that ended only with my dad's passing.  This year sets on what feels like at best an uneasy truce. 

These last few weeks before the solstice I intend to dedicate to cleaning up my act, so to speak.  There's a lot of good habits I've practiced only badly or haphazardly, and a lot of bad ones I've allowed to become more habitual than I want them to be.  I intend to look at places - and people - where the expenditure of my energy nourishes me, and the places - and people - that drain me more carefully than I've been the last few months.  I want to go into this coming darkness as clean and as focused as I possibly can.

Because after all, who knows what dreams may this season of miracles?    

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How David Met Sarah - seriously discounted!

Check out the paperback price on Barnes & Noble!   Twenty percent of the proceeds go to benefit the National Down Syndrome Society....How David Met Sarah is the perfect size for a stocking stuffer ;).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's a BOOK!

If you can't make the launch party... I hope you'll order your print copy.... How David Met Sarah is a great size for a stocking stuffer :)!