Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How Many For Dinner?

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly. 
Henri Bergson

Now that all the kids are off and independent, I'm trying to adjust to cooking for two. Difficult, as often at home and at the lake, the numbers at the table had a tendency to grow at any moment. I became adept at Stone Soup. Start at 4. Grow to 9, 12, even 18.

Things have changed. The realization that all our kids are indeed off on their own and financially independent is beginning to sink in. Through the years, seemed this time might never arrive, but now that it's here, it's taking some time to adjust and become aware of what might be ahead.

Easter Sunday I normally have crowds. This year - just my husband and me. No visiting college students or extended family. No friends from town. My sons that live in town, their significant others, and my husband and I will soon gather in New York City for youngest son's graduation. I figured with all that family togetherness ahead of us, the kids should spend Easter with their other parents.

I wasn't going to cook, but then decided that I must. Just because everyone was off in other directions didn't mean my husband and I shouldn't honor the holiday. Hell, we even made it to church!

But, as you can see, my measurements are off.  I had a meal prepared for many more than two.

That roast lamb was a tad more cooked than it appears in this photo. You had your golden beets and goat cheese, your heirloom tomato Caprese salad, roasted fingerling potatoes and your broccolini.  Strawberry shortcake for dessert and a nice bottle of wine.

The dinner was so good that we, in fact, had it again on Monday night. And Tuesday night. And although there is enough left for tonight as well, I think we're gonna eat something else. Good as it was.

The point of this story? Seemed like we were in that mode of almost getting to Empty Nest for so long. Kids going off to college, but not all of them gone at the same time. One kid coming back as one more left. Although they didn't require much from us, still, we were not completely deparented.

Now, with the youngest employed and financially independent like the others and no one living in the upstairs, it is not only safe to use the toilet up there, it's a little quiet as well.

Adjustments. Seems life is filled with them. Always an adventure.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Are Morning People Truly Better?

Night Owls Rock!
 Julie Sucha Anderson

I couldn't find an apt quote for this post so I made one up.

When I get up in the morning, it takes me a while to get going. I don't care to have a conversation with anyone. I need time to gather my brain. It took me a long time to get to sleep and, therefore, a long time to wake up.

I understand this about myself. My inner time clock works this way. No matter how I try to change it, even with 50 plus years of getting up at the crack of dawn, my sleep pattern cannot be changed. At night, I'm awake. In the morning, I struggle. 

If I have a defined place to be by a certain time, like teaching or an appointment (or for umpteen years raising babies and kids) I function fine once out of bed. I can do it. But on mornings when I can wake up at will, I tend to loll around, in bed. First I daydream with my eyes closed for a while. Then I might get a cup of coffee and grab my computer, my journal, the book I'm reading, and my phone. I retreat back to my bed where I sit upright and can see out my slider to the backyard.

I study the birds talking to each other as they flit around the trees. The squirrels chasing one another. Leaves blowing about the yard if there is a breeze. Today I can see the herbs sitting on my picnic table that need to stretch their roots in the newly tilled soil of my garden. I imagine them magically planting themselves.

I'm writing this post four hours after I awoke. I've had two cups of coffee, a breakfast of uncured Canadian bacon scrambled in two eggs with a dab of cheddar cheese. Salt and pepper. I've ordered the invitations for my youngest son's graduation, played four games of Solitaire on my phone, caught up with three of my Scrabble games, set up a time for later in the week to visit with an injured friend. Haven't touched my book and it's almost noon.

I have to say that although I have big plans for the day -- YMCA, garden center visits, planting, watching the last DVD of last season's Nurse Jackie, and probably a few other things in there -- I'm not unhappy that I'm still sitting here. In fact, I could probably last until about 3pm before finally moving my ass.

(As you can see, my last post on finding a rhythm has had no definitive effect on my day to day. I'm still doing free expression rhythming.)

I've read five or six newspapers online and a great article about the writings of my friend, Sorayya Kahn, whose new book City of Spies will be published in December.  I've also read an article in the Huffington Post by Sarah Klein that has me huffing.

As a non-early riser, the article lured me as it was entitled  "7 Things Morning People do Differently."  I hoped to be enlightened. To gather something that might give me new information in a positive forum. Alas, apparently early risers (Larks) are plain better people than the likes of me (Owls.)  And photos display Larks with sunny light surrounded with love.

I'm rather offended. Tongue in cheek.

Instead of going after the nonsense of that article, I'm going to have some fun with it. For I'm an Owl and since this attribute comes to me genetically, there is nothing I can do about it anyway. I have to continue to try to function in the perfect world of larks.

Here we go.

Does having to hit the snooze button a few times make me a not nice, unproductive person? Maybe for the first half hour of the morning, but seriously all I have to do is set my alarm to accommodate those 30 extra minutes and I get up on time. Genetically engineered misfortune overcome.

Is there a fog about me when I awake? You bet. Who wants to be clear-headed first thing in the morning anyway,  bombarded with the days events before you even have a chance to pee or brush your teeth?  The only kind of perking I want to hear in the morning is my coffee pot. Perky people scare me.

Are larks more conscientious?  Different words for conscientious: diligent, industrious, punctilious, painstaking, sedulous, assiduous, dedicated, careful, meticulous, thorough, attentive, hard-working, studious, rigorous, particular; religious, strict.

I don't even want to be some of those things - sedulous? punctilious? rigorous? strict? Sounds like the equivalent of a stick.

Larks get better grades. Okay, you got me there.

Larks are more productive. BS. Plain old BS. We just produce at a different time of the day.

Larks are less likely to be depressed. Really? All I have to do is drag my ass out of bed early and I won't ever suffer depression? Really?

I couldn't suppress my laughter (or disdain) at the last line of this article.

"In a small 2013 study, larks were less likely than night owls to possess "Dark Triad" personality characteristics like narcissism, Machiavellianism (meaning a person may be manipulative) and psychopathy, potentially because the darkness of night allows evening-type people to get away with dark deeds."

I'm thinking that was indeed a small study.

Dark deeds. Hmmmm. Sitting in my Lazy Boy at night, watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report while knitting or reading the New Yorker or folding clothes or writing letters to friends, I'm really narcissistic, Machiavellian and psychopathic. Please don't tell my husband, the Lark, sleeping in the next room. Please?

My rant for this day ends. I'm off to do all those things I planned to do today, just getting a later start than a Lark.

I must ask you, though -- Who would you rather have fun with when your focus isn't being nice, productive, consciensious or perky? A Lark or an Owl? Who would you rather party with? A Lark who has to retire early so he can wake up with a sunny disposition? Or someone who can stay awake and contribute to the fun? Like me.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Finding Rhythm

rhythm  [rith-uhm]  
movement or procedure with uniform or patterned recurrence of a beat, accent, or the like.

1 the rhythm of the music: beat, cadence, tempo, time, pulse, throb, swing.
2 poetic features such as rhythm: meter, measure, stress, accent, cadence.
3 the rhythm of daily life: pattern, flow, tempo

Other than being a difficult word to spell, I find rhythm difficult to incorporate into my life. I relish when I'm in step with myself, but struggle when I'm out. Often I don't know just when to step in, if my lagging foot will catch up. Or drag. Or go way out in front.

Often, I only seem to circle. Safer there. Accomplishing what needs to be done in that little orb.

My husband has a rhythm. Monday through Friday, from the moment he awakes he has his movements down. From what time he makes his coffee, enters the bathroom, turns on the iron, the shower, puts his shoes on and greases his lips from the Carmex jar on his bed stand followed by picking up his gym bag, yogurt, and brief case.

I know not to get up while he is on his route. Days when I teach, I lie in bed until I hear the door to the garage close before I get up to begin my day. I would only get in his way, ruin his routine. His pattern. His rhythm. 

When he comes home from work, he gets the mail out of the mailbox, then tosses his dirty gym clothes into the basket in the laundry room, sets his brief case on the desk chair and his gym bag on the desk. He grabs a handful of almonds to hold him until dinner is ready. He then goes into the bedroom to change into his shorts or sweats (depending on the weather) and takes a seat on the couch, remote control for the TV in hand.

On the days I teach, the rhythm is handed to me. Nothing is required but to follow along, I do fine with that. But when left to my own devises, I struggle. I am not so defined. I have no patterns.

Perhaps it is my days as a mother - always prepared to turn in any direction. No chance to find a schedule of any permanency. Prepared to drop whatever I may have going to tend to the needs of others.

These days I don't have the constant jerk of something taking me out of sync and into another direction -- except for that man I live with. My job doesn't have a permanent work schedule - working different days of the week for different teachers. Different students so no routine there. If I do seem to find a pattern, things like Christmas, company, or a new project take me out of the norm. I find it difficult to get back in order. To make it all fit.

My home life has the rote activities such as cleaning and laundry, Grocery shopping and dinner making. Cleaning and laundry. Grocery shopping and dinner making.

But my days are not very well planned. I can't find a schedule. I'm faced with too many options. I gather my lists and don't know where to begin. Should I work on the taxes? Should I call the eye doctor? Should I wash my kitchen floor? Should I finish that blanket I was making? Should I get those files refiled? Should I go dig up my garden? What time should I go to the YMCA? Should I get a new blog post written? Should I finish getting my pictures on the wall?  Should I just sit and read a book? Should I get my novel out and seek the rhythm of that venture I so love?

Should I call my friends over for Happy Hour? Or should I play another game of Solitaire?

Too many choices. Too many requiring a rhythm that doesn't connect to the next. I don't know how to section out the day for some of those things on my list. How to get back in the more intense rhythm required for those that require immersion - like the taxes or the writing.

How do you get into a rhythm? How do you choose which rhythm? What will you allow to interrupt your rhythm?

Friday, January 24, 2014

It May Not Be A Snowstorm to You...

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.  
Anaïs Nin

Snow Day! Snow Day! Okay, not quite the snow days my family and friends are having in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Boston, and New York. In fact, they would probably laugh that our city shut down last night and this morning due to a dusting of snow and little layer of sleet.

For those of us that run barefoot many more days than not, this is a snowstorm. Just look at what I saw when I looked out the window this morning.

My neighbor had a white roof. 

 My garden in front had actual definition. I frowned thinking of my poor agapantha under that old sheet. "Be tough," I whispered.

Best shot comes from my picnic table. One can really tell how much snow has fallen by checking out the picnic table.

Wow! Look how high that's piled. 

Okay, I'm done trying to Wow you. You can stop laughing. I truly am still a Yankee in real life. Twenty-six years living below the Snowbelt hasn't erased my memories of a real snowstorm. I recall getting my car stuck in snowdrifts, shoveling snow until my back ached. Scraping ice off my windshield. Shoveling out my driveway, again, and again, and again, and again...

When I was a kid, I didn't know any better. The weather was what it was. I eagerly awaited the first snowfall, always asking my dad if that stuff on the neighbors roof was snow. "No, just frost," he'd say. Until that one day each year the depth of the color and consistency of the substance on the roof, and the lawn, and the street indeed declared that snow had arrived.

My older brother and I ached to sled at Skinner's Hill.  For the ice to freeze on the lagoon so we could use the new/used skates we traded for the previous year's now small size. (The bike shop switched to tables of used skates come every November.) 

Often we had to wait a few snowfalls to get enough snow on the hill to sled or enough cold days for the lagoon to be safe. Often we argued with our parents for more minutes to play outside at night -- the entire neighborhood of kids out in the cold air making snow forts and sledding in the yards. 

"Ten more minutes, please, Dad?" We pleaded, we begged. We offered to trade minutes off the next night for more that particular night. We peeled off our layers of socks and snow pants, our boots and wet mittens, snow covered hats and scarves, winter jackets and sweaters. With our faces scorched red with the cold and our noses running we stated our case. "Please, ten more minutes."

What the hell were we thinking?

I can't believe I walked every Minnesota morning to school, walked home for lunch and back to school for the afternoon. Then home again. I played outside until dinner and most nights went out again after. 

Even if I stayed at school for lunch, I ice skated. Our "recess" came with our lunch hour. The firemen would shovel off a square at all the elementary schools and shoot out water to form a rink. Bundled in my winter attire, I was far from being able to imitate Peggy Fleming on ice. But, my imagination made me believe I was her as I swirled and skated backwards.

Even moving to Colorado in middle school and becoming a snow skier didn't dim my zest for the cold and winter. That was just life. I didn't know any better.

But age and awareness always seems to come creeping. When I was a student at Michigan State and couldn't afford a bus pass winter quarter, I became more than aware of the cold. My classes always on the opposite end of campus from where ever I lived. No longer immune to the cold, I shivered.  Froze my ass off walking, each step swift and hellbent for the warmth found at the end of journey. Basically had no ass from walking so fast.

More years again in Colorado, then Utah and Connecticut bound me to the cold. I still skied. I still shoveled. I still shivered. One day in New Haven, while scraping ice off my windshield, a car came by and splashed slush all over my boots and coat. I looked up to the sky and took a vow that someday I'd live in a warm place.

Even though there were fingernail marks in the freeway all the way from Connecticut to Texas (my mindset of warmth was more of the southern California variety) I had to admit I was lured by the idea of pansies growing in my yard in winter.

I do have pansies in my yard. I will run barefoot again in a few more weeks. But, they don't make heaters here like they do in Minnesota. The high today will only be 34 degrees and I'm cold. I'm wearing two pair of socks and two sweaters. Sitting under a wool blanket. 

Last night I listened to the sleet hitting my skylight and awoke not to a winter wonderland this morning, but as close to it as one can get living below the snow line. 

I'm fixing to brave the cold to visit the grocery. Invited friends over for Chicken Chili.

Thinking I won't be hanging my sheets out on that line today. 
It's a SNOW DAY!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why I'm Not at the YMCA -- and other tales

There is no truth.  There is only perception.  
Gustave Flaubert

I'm supposed to be at the Y. Sweating. I'm not.

I'm enjoying a morning at home. The Y is open every day, isn't it? How often does one get to enjoy a morning at home? Alone?

This is what I'm telling myself as I sit in my favorite spot - my bed. I have this view to my backyard  if I just lift my head ...

And this view, if I look to my right.

And all my crap spread out on the bed before me. Journal, book, phone, computer, coffee cup.  Lunch. What more could you want?

Well, there is that svelte body the Y reminds me I want.  And the gratitudes I haven't written yet today.  I'm also in need of a new journal for this morning I finished my old one and once again it is time to make a new one.

I've long been an advocate of journal writing, dedicated to the cause, anxious to write in it every day. Not only does it provide an avenue to bitch, but also a place to share my ideas, joys, novel notes, New Yorker covers, stickers ranging from tea cups to birds. An email or letter from someone I want to save. A hatred I want to rid from my brain. An event I want to remember. A plan to improve myself. Another plan to improve myself.

Yes, my journal pages are personal. I don't worry about what I've written for I'm fairly certain no one will ever read them. Anyone willing to peruse the pages would probably die of boredom and if they perchance came upon that one little nugget here and there, most likely they'll have flipped past it while yawning.

For years, before children and with children, I started journals. I don't know how many I had with only a few entries before I forgot about it. Five entries seemed to be a magic number before I no longer remembered the dedication I'd sworn to uphold. Finally, finally about 15 years ago I began a much more defined foray into my thoughts. I'd read where if you did something 21 times in a row, it would become habit.

I passed my newfound knowledge onto my mother as I sent her another pretty blank book to collect her memories and thoughts. "Twenty-one days in a row, Mom. That's all we have to do." (I also used that method to entice her to wear her seatbelt. Twenty-one times, Mom. Then it will become habit. "I just don't like being confined.")

Need I add that when I cleared my mom's house I found most of those journals I'd sent - complete with empty pages. However, there were many a plain old spiral notebook filled with incredible gems of her thoughts and past.

To each her own in the type of journal, but I digress. The point of this story is that I didn't get to the Y because I wrote my three morning pages in my journal this morning and I finished the last available page. Twas time to put it up and create a new one.

I keep old journals on the top shelf of a bookcase in the bedroom.

Up there on the top shelf. That black binded stack. Here's another reason why I know no one will ever read my old journals. None of the men in my family would look up that high. My husband sleeps in this room every night for sixteen years and he probably doesn't even know there is a bookshelf in there. Even though that's his baseball signed by somebody famous on the second to top shelf. (Okay, he probably knows that is there but chances are that is all he sees on that shelf.)

That's my Michigan State football music box. Go Green!

Anywhoo, when I went to add my newly finished journal to the shelf I discovered the stack was crammed to the top. Therefore, I needed to move that stack to this box in my closet (which I'm also certain no one in my family knows is there. See, you all know stuff now that those closest to me don't.)

Before adding them to the box, I spread them out on my bed and leafed through a few of them.

What I found surprised me. Even though it was a healthy stack of writing, the journal I'd completed before this one today encompassed almost two years of time. That the one I had finished this morning only the past year. That the other sixteen covered the three years before that.

I knew that the last few years I'd become remiss. That events in my life had left me cold for words. That those years, although filled with many joys, had been hampered by a few deaths. But still, so few words during a time of such activity and emotion.

I blame my Midwestern upbringing.

Something about stiff upper lips. Something about don't brag and, most certainly, don't whine.

Okay, I get that. But it never occurred to me that that thinking would transfer to my personal thoughts in a journal. That the times that rang high through graduations and weddings I couldn't translate into words on my morning pages. Having too much fun. Or that the events and emotions leading up to and after the deaths of my parents wouldn't convey either. Much too painful.

Perhaps it was my Midwestern upbringing in regard to the bragging. Perhaps I was just a chicken shit for the whining.

At any rate, it is time to make a new journal. Obviously I make my own. Here are my ingredients:

Empty pages - spirals, black-spotted line or blank book
Paper - either scrapbook paper, old wrapping paper, newspaper, whatever appeals on the day

Construction paper for inside flaps
Ribbon for a placemarker
Spray glue

And there you go. A new journal.

Here are my choices today, always based on mood, for my next journal.

Butterflies. For new beginnings.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Shortest Day

The days are short
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark. 

John Updike, "January," A Child’s Calendar, 1965

I'm glad today is short, for I've worked very hard and I'm tired. At day's end I watched the sun finish its retreat into winter, and then set. I sighed. Tomorrow's sun will begin retracing its path, right, across the lake -- to its summer's end rest stop.

For today, I say, rest sun. You have done well.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Shopping Wears Me Out

Efficiency is intelligent laziness.  
David Dunham

I should be writing my Christmas letter. I didn't get one out last year. Or cards. Can't seem to get my fingers to type beyond, "Merry Christmas" though. I'm tired. I've been shopping all day.

Dear friends are laughing now. They know I don't go shopping all day. They know I'm good for two hours at most and then I've either found a bar or escaped home. But, no, to you naysayers. I shopped for a good seven hours today. All that time someone else might spend fighting crowds and looking for parking and elbowing one's way through the check out line. Hmmmph! Nuts to that. I'm almost done.

I shop from my chair. Catalogs galore. A book bag full of them. Great deals online. Added bonus -  much fun to open my front door and there everything is. Right on my front porch. Don't even have to haul it from the car.

Lazy? Maybe.
Exactly what everyone had on their lists? Maybe. Maybe not.
Guaranteed to be fun opening it? You bet. 

Why? The hundreds of catalogs delivered to my house offer a plethora of items for consideration. I get catalogs for everything from underwear to dog food. I get weird T-shirt catalogs. Weird yard art catalogs. Cooking utensils and electronic foot massage catalogs. Art museum catalogs. Wine, cheese and pear catalogs. College flag catalogs. Flower and seed catalogs. Give a herd of sheep or a gaggle of geese catalogs.

Every day beginning in September my husband arrives from the mailbox and a loud bang hits the kitchen table. "Here's today's load," he says.

If I didn't recycle, I'd feel guilty. It isn't all my fault for once you order something from a catalog, Those That Hold Your Address pass it on to everyone else. Pretty soon everybody and their brother who sells something sends you a catalog. Or, if your mother passes on and her mail comes to your house, Those That Held Her Address now switch to yours. As well as all those charities she contributed to for the past 85 years.

My mailman assures me he doesn't hate me. I normally give him a homemade sweet bread for Christmas. I'm thinking this year maybe he needs something a little extra. Any ideas? After all, my mailbox is only so big so there are times, often, when he leaves his jeep and comes up to the door to hand me my newest load. Or leaves it discreetly on my porch swing.

So, back to where I was. Oh, yes. Shopping. I'm in pretty good shape. Just need to order a few fruit and wine or coffee or English muffin or cookie baskets to out of town family and I'm good. Leaves me open to begin the quest of writing that Christmas letter, addressing the cards, digging out the advent wreath, making the bread, meatballs and cookies. Oh, yeah - decorating the house. Planting the hyacinth bulbs curing in my refrigerator. Putting up the tree. Wrapping those gifts after they arrive at my door. Planning the meals. Cleaning the house for out of town company. Remembering what this season is supposed to be about.

Those of you who do it know what I'm talking about. Merry Christmas to you.

My mind is now fully overwhelmed. Thinking I'd better go get a glass of wine.  And dream about...

... December 26.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Interpreting Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. 

W. J. Cameron

I had lunch with a good friend the other day. We ate at a lovely little bistro - sat in a back corner so we could talk and not be overrun by all the conversations buzzing in the restaurant.  As always when we meet for lunch, the time flies and in between all the discussions of writing, books, New York City, aches and pains, art and hibernation, two hours have passed. Once again, we are the only ones left in the restaurant other than the wait staff. 

The quote above arrived with the check -- written on a small slip like those found in a fortune cookie, minus the lottery numbers. My friend scooped it up and said, "I'm posting this on Facebook." 

If she hadn't done that, and I hadn't seen it on Facebook later in the day, I might never have remembered the quote. Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving. A word of action. Several ways that could be interpreted. 

Of course, my first thought of it as a word of action is all my action in the kitchen putting that huge dinner on every year. The planning, the purchasing, the cleaning, the table setting. The pie making and potato peeling. The bread spread over the counter to dry for the stuffing. The celery and onions chopped into small pieces. The cream ready for whipping. 

With all that work, I've seldom thought about exactly what the holiday meant. Certainly I am thankful for what I have. My family. My friends. The gathering. The day. The fact that it is my favorite holiday because all you have to do is cook and eat.

I am a grateful person. I write gratitudes often. Perhaps as with most things I now encounter as I grow supposedly older and wiser, I notice what I haven't noticed before. Thanksgiving - a word of action. Thanksgiving. Giving thanks. Thanking those that make a difference. Having great respect for those that give. Giving thanks for the gifts that others give - even though they may not know that what they give is appreciated. Relaying my thanks.

As always, I'm not certain of my interpretation. The quote most likely offers something much deeper than my analysis. But I do know I'm actively thankful for many, many, many people, places and  things. With deep gratitude, I thank another dear friend, Kris, who is hosting Thanksgiving this year.  So thankful am I for inviting me that I will bring the pumpkin and buttermilk pies. And a salad. And a vegetable. And rolls. And wine. And my husband and one of my sons and his girlfriend. 

I'll bring joy to the gathering. I'll relish the time we will have as three families most familiar with one another flock together and share a meal. Share a Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving - a joy to act upon. 

 Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 18, 2013


Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that's where I renew my springs that never dry up. 

 Pearl Buck

The lake is quiet today. No fishermen roaring or trolling by. No jet skis. No pontoons coming too close to the dock. I don't have to wave or talk to anyone. I sit on the porch and notice the leaves on the trees across the lake are changing. The greens becoming brilliant yellow and orange and red. 

Yesterday my husband and my oldest son jumped into the lake. A last swim as after a week where we saw freezing temperatures, a fine weekend in the 80's had blessed us. We always base  water temps on Green Lake in Minnesota, a spring-fed lake that more often than not took quite a bit of bravery to enter. You either went for it and dove in anticipating a heart attack  or walked in inch by torturous inch until when finally under water that accomplishment overshadowed the cool.

Hillbilly Shower
 It was agreed between husband and son that the November water in our Texas lake was indeed colder than Green Lake in July. So pleased they settled that for me and I did not have to share their bravery. Nor did my granddog as we two watched from the dock.  And a walk this morning with my ears and eyes aware of my surroundings garnered more proof that indeed, fall has arrived. 

My walk didn't only make me aware of the time of year, however. It provided an opportunity to recharge. You see, in reality, I'm shy. I'm an introvert. Might come as a surprise to some of my friends - those that see me telling stories and totally relaxed in their presence. Those that know I open my home and have tons of guests and family visiting often. 

It doesn't bother me to stand in front of a classroom of middle schoolers, but in real life I seek the back row.  I hate when it is my turn to talk when going around the circle. I cringe when I have to make a phone call to someone I don't know. And entertaining? I find it easier to hide when I'm the host - much more difficult to be the guest. 

I'm hiding out at the lake today, a Monday, as last week was my social week. I had Bunco, Book Club, dinner with kids and friends. Great fun, but it wears me out. All that stimulation. All that conversation. I love my friends and family, but I'm used to hanging out in my head and even though I might do that too often, I find comfort there. 

I believe a day like today makes me a better person. The solitude refills my coffers, as they say. The solitude makes me laugh and cry and participate in life the rest of the time. 

Come walk with me. We don't have to talk. Let's just look.

 My book club recently read a great book entitled Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Most interesting. The best explanation I've had of myself in a long time.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Headwaters - Found

I'm ready to begin again, but I'm not quite certain where to start. 
Julie Sucha Anderson

History tells us the white man searched for years to find the beginning of the Mississippi River. Most meandered fruitlessly, never finding their way to its origin. The Native Americans in the area must have chuckled as these explorers wandered aimlessly. Finally one explorer had the sense to ask the Indians where the headwaters lay. Eureka! The Headwaters were discovered.

Summer before last, my husband and I took a trip up to northern, northern Minnesota to visit friends. Even though I had crossed the Mississippi River countless times in the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and even attended Girl Scout camp on the backwash of the Mississippi in Wisconsin, I'd never seen the headwaters. Always wanted to see the river's beginning. To experience its grandeur.

I was born in Minnesota and lived there my first thirteen years. In adulthood I returned each summer  to an old fashioned resort of tiny cabins in Spicer, Minnesota -- my husband and kids, my parents and my brothers' families all in attendance. Too much fun!

But this trip with only my husband seemed very strange to me - bypassing the familiar roads leading to the lake and continuing north. To search for something new in a place beyond where I'd spent so much time. Where the before, wasn't anymore.

It had been almost a year since the passing of my mom; almost two years since losing my dad. I was soon to complete the task as executor of my parent's wills and the dismantling of their household to be distributed between my brothers and me. A most difficult time in my life compounded by not having the time I once had to pursue writing due to an outside the home job, my children heading off on their life adventures and me trying to find myself, while also trying not to think. I worked many substitute teacher days in order to take my mind off getting myself together. Doing everything I could by rote to make life simpler.

My writing disappeared. I had nothing to say.

The Headwaters of the Mississippi are located in Itasca State Park. Way up Nort, don't ya know. (You can take the girl out of Minnesota, but you can't take the Minnesota...) Unlike the early explorers, my husband and I were able to follow a wide man-made path down to the waters where we came upon the rock ledge that separates the Lake Itasca from the narrow beginnings of a grand river.

I took off my shoes and socks and wandered through the unseasonably warm water to have a seat. As the water passing over my toes began its journey to the Gulf of Mexico, I stared down its path, wishing I could ride down along with it. Embarking on an odyssey of something new from where I'd been. A hopeful journey of new adventure, discovering more and more as I floated.

I sat there and imagined that this could be the beginning of my release from the grief and stagnation of the past few years. That now, with my children out on their own and my parent's passing behind me, I could begin to think of myself, and what I wanted to do with my life.

I felt so hopeful.

Like the explorers floundering through the woods seeking the headwaters, my thoughts and hopes didn't quite come to fruition either. Sometimes my dreams are bigger than my mind can grasp. I forget those details that can cloud a big picture. Those details one has to plod through. And that sometimes the plodding can get mucky. And rest is needed for perhaps there is no strength to move forward.

I retreated to my rote world. I relished my friends and laughter.  Fun. Brainless complacency.

The two (Mom) and three (Dad) year anniversary of my losses has passed. My youngest son has settled in a school where he has found his passion and future.  I'm not teaching as much. The tangles around my feet have lessened. I feel lighter. The Wa I've sought has arrived. I like it.

A few weeks ago, my dear friend, Carolyn Scarborough, a writing coach and author of Backyard Pearls, announced a one-day writer retreat. She has facilitated retreats in the past, but I was not in retreat mode unless it involved a beach and a gallon of wine. But when I saw her announcement, a retreat where my brain had to participate seemed right. I signed up immediately. The time had come to get up off the rocks at the Headwaters and begin the new journey.

My writing goals have changed from years ago when the intense days of practice, membership in writing organizations, the pursuit and reality of publishing consumed me. I'm not that person anymore.

Now I want to write because I love it and I love me when I'm in writer mode. I have a novel I want to finish. For me. I have a journal with blank pages that patiently awaits my thoughts, aimless and empty as they often are. I have a blog that I often look back on and read my past entries, marvelling - "Wow, did I write that? I didn't know I knew words like that?" Maybe I should write more there.

I have a filing cabinet filled with finished, unfinished essays and short stories. They've been gathering dust since the whole Midlife Jobhunter deal came up.  I'm thinking I'll blow the dust off those files and explore what might lurk in there.

I'm ready to engage in the calm of my writing life. At my own pace.

The Mississippi takes a certain, well defined path. The water behind the water pushes it along its way. I don't have that force behind me, but that's the way it goes. Sometimes you find the flow and sometimes you just have to paddle. Can't begin unless you find the headwaters, though. And the paddle.

I found them. Wonder where they'll lead me.

I'm ready to begin again.  I now know where to start.
Julie Sucha Anderson

Friday, July 19, 2013

Road Trip With Mom - Again (Dad Gets To Go Too)

Chase down your passion like it's the last bus of the night. 
Terri Guillemets

Once upon a time, I wanted to live in New York City. College graduation upon me in a few months, I wasn't interested in the secondary English teacher positions I'd trained for. I wanted adventure. I wanted to see the world. I considered becoming a flight attendant hoping for a home base in New York City or London or Paris.

I didn't have the guts. I got married instead.

After a quick perusal of 35 years of marriage, had I known how many guts it would require to maintain a relationship this long, traveling the world would have been a much easier road. Not that I regret the marriage -- just that I regret not knowing when I was young how much passion and determination I held or how to unleash it.

I've visited NYC  a few times since then. Even lived within a 55 minute Sunday afternoon drive to Midtown for a short period. Ten years ago, my husband and I took our three boys there for a few days. This past weekend, we went back with our youngest son, the Bama boy. He got to stay.

Living vicariously through my children has offered more than many an adventure in my lifetime. I've shared quite a few road trips with those boys in the course of this blog's evolution. From The Field of Dreams to College Station to Flagstaff to Tuscaloosa to Yellowstone and all places in between never did I expect to add New York City to the list. But there we were, just hanging out in the city.

Me and Ian. Husband taking the photo. All fully satiated after a delectable Italian dinner. Only the beginning of our culinary pursuit which included Ian's restaurant selections of some of his favorite chefs.  David Chang's Momofuku Noodle Bar. Michael White's Osteria Morini. L'Ecole at the International Culinary Center.

Of course we had to visit Katz's and moan like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. Bob and I split a Reuben. Good thing. It may have only been a sandwich, but it was a big sandwich.

The mother of three boys never gets to go anywhere that a baseball game can't be found. Not quite certain what you call what we ate at Yankee Stadium. Ball park fare. BTW,  the cost of three beers equals a case in real life. Ian got to see his team, the Twins, beat the Yankees. I so liked the old Yankee stadium better. Much more character.

It wasn't all food, sports, and drink. We did add some culture, taking in the Museum of Modern Art.


Frida Kahlo



Andy Warhol


Jackson Pollack


(Still searching for the artist)

Dryer Lint?  Robert Morris

Wesselmann Collage


Diego Rivera

Vincent One Ear

Monet's Water Lillies

We took a stroll through Central Park

And what would a visit to New York be without elbowing one's way through the crowds at Times Square.

Which then prompted a visit to Ipanema in Little Brazil for one of these little tasty treats.
A Caipirinha. Had to have two.

We are now Subway gurus. We can sweat with the best while waiting in the tunnels. Noticed how the Bowery's stop is not quite as nice as those up in Midtown.

Which brings us to the end of this tale and the reason for the Road Trip.

This is the view from that youngest son's new dorm room.

 The New World Trade Center

 Which goes with his new uniform.
From Austin to Alabama to New York City.
Chef Ian at the Culinary Center.
(I don't think they have as good of a football team as the University of Alabama, Ian.)

Passion Pursued 
Guts Engaged
Adventure On

New York City. Skyscrapers and Everything. 
Stevie Wonder


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