Some people’s kids

StarsI was at work when the tragedy in France unfolded and did not understand why my friend was posting that she was “Charlie” (No…no, I am pretty sure you are Beryl….) until I read the news that night. I found it ironic to remember that while the shootings were going down in Paris, a Muslim woman and I were hugging as we celebrated her last chemotherapy; we had found much common ground in spite of dissimilar upbringings.

The magnitude of this horror sank in as the days wore on and Boston came to mind; neighborhoods on lockdown, police searching and innocent people dead and wounded. All in the name of the prophet of a Higher Power. Dear Lord. What is wrong with these people?

My heart broke after Boston and I did the only thing I could think of……I ran. After Charlie Hebdo I dragged out my Julia Child French Cookbook and I cooked. I made haricots verts and sent an email to the local French consulate, never expecting a reply but wanting to send some good out into a world where there are people who use the name of God as an excuse for their mean and rotten and hateful behavior:

Dear Madame,

Please know your country is in my thoughts and prayers. In honor of those involved I will make the small gesture of cooking something French today. Kind of silly but a way of holding the French in my heart. 

Vive La France!

 

Imagine my surprise when I received this several days later:

 

Thank you for you prayers and  wishes!
What you write is so moving and not silly at all.
Merci!
Marie-Helene Glon

 

Hate and murder and death make the news all the time; drama and heartbreak sell. While the bullets and bombs are real enough and we need to have situational awareness, it does not mean that when events shove us through the door of the house of fear and hate we have to unpack and live there.

Unplug the media when the re-hashing begins and come back to your reality. Take Mr. Rogers’ advice and look for the helpers. Run. Breathe. Paint. Cook. Write. Do something nice, no matter how small, for someone. None of this will make the news but sending beauty and good into the world is never wasted effort and warms your soul like a cozy fireplace.

We all know there is plenty of badness out there; so be safe, be strong, be a force for good.

And enjoy these haricots verts, with my warmest regards.

Julia Child Green Beans

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The Old Year (2014 edition)

2015 has dawned bright, clear and cold (a balmy minus 9 degrees). Snow covers the ground and yaktrax are in order when I take Gandalf out for walks, which are quite short in these temperatures. Pippin declines to go at all when it is below zero.

My long holiday season started in August, at the three year mark of being out on my own, and a lightness of being I hadn’t known in I-don’t-know-how-long settled around me. The fog of the last several years has lifted and I feel….I don’t even know how to describe this…..safe and content and alive and…..at home.   And unspeakably grateful.

For the holidays this year my kids and I planned a vacation as Christmas; giving each other experiences instead of things to dust, and December found us traveling on the east coast. We raised our traditional toast of “Well, here we are!” at Becco’s in Manhattan and logged almost thirty seven FitBit miles in NYC and DC. Afterwards, making photo albums with Apple and Shutterfly for Michael and Rebecca was such a hoot that I am making one for myself. The best part was watching Rebecca open hers….it looked like a store-bought book and *surprise* there she was inside! coming home                                      And my boys were glad when I came home.

IMG_2081Solstice found me at a house concert by “Les Harpistes D’un Certain Age” for good music and food and friends, then home to Gandalf and Pippin and my fireplace; an evening too wonderful for words.

Christmas Eve followed soon after and Gandalf and I spent it at Rebecca’s with Twinkle in her traditional spot….under the bed. Santa delivered treats to her stocking and Christmas was saved again. We headed to Sarah, Jared and Michael’s house for Christmas night where I gave my electric train set to Michael. In between building an “epic” track system (which incorporated a Star Wars base) we looked at his photo book and talked about our trip; he is becoming a good traveler. Rebecca is a kitten harlot and their new kitties Smudge and Spooky were the beneficiaries of her devotion as well as a source of almost constant entertainment for all of us. Sarah reports they were practically comatose for twelve hours after we left.

Solstice intentions were not forgotten and the time seems right to set a major writing one that has been bumping around in my head the last two years.

2013: I intend to publish my book this year.

2014: I intend to get this new book version down on paper. I only got parts of it down on paper but I did find an illustrator!

2015: Press on with writing. My book, and……blogging, with the intent of reducing my hours at work to build my writing career. I think this is the year to do it. There. I said it out loud. *Takes deep breath*  Whew.

 

2013: I intend to continue doing anonymous good turns; “pay it forward”.

2014: Keep it up. I must confess, this is a guilty pleasure. The most fun I had was having my snow removal guy plow 18″ of snow out of my neighbor’s driveway while they were out of town. They arrived home in the middle of a bitter cold night and didn’t have to shovel to get into their garage. (Cue the warm, fuzzy feeling. Delicious).

2015: Keep it up. 

 

2013: I intend to practice my music at least 3 days a week.

2014: Play music as often and long as possible. I started violin/fiddle eleven months ago and have loved it; maybe in another year everyone else will too. I play bodhran and sing with my group and we put on some fun performances last year; our circle of musician friends is getting wider and we even made enough money to pay for gas to gigs. That is progress!

2015: Can’t wait to see what music this year brings! 

My new little intention for 2015: Become more physically fit. I have been working out more consistently for a few months and the other day I actually caught a glimpse of my left deltoid when the light was just right. Woot Woot!

I have been writing this post on and off all day and it’s now dark. Gandalf and Pippin are sleeping at my feet and the first day of 2015 is in the books; time for me to hit the sack, too. To quote my friend Beryl: “So far, so good.”

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‘Night!

A Closed Mouth Gathers No Foot

I have spent a pretty big chunk of my life perfecting the art of being hard on myself. I swear, if self-criticizing was an Olympic sport I would always be on the podium (and it better be the gold!). While being very understanding of others (and excusing inexcusable behavior in some) I have a history of lingering way too long in bashing me over my own shortcomings. The last few years have brought an astounding revelation: there are people who recognize that tendency in me and use it to my disadvantage. This is an odd thing to know but since it keeps coming back, it is something that is apparently essential for me to recognize, and I think I “got it” this time.

We all have deep dark secrets and here is mine……I say unkind things when I am pushed, (and then I get called on it by the people who pushed me). I do pretty good with “is it true? Is it necessary?” Yes and yes. But when stretched to breaking I flounder, sometimes fairly spectacularly, on “is it kind?”. I stay over-long in situations that are no longer tenable and this pushes my buttons.

So….what is the Universe offering me here?

1. Recognize the feeling that a situation is not healthy and get out, emotionally until I can get out physically. I have a huge sense of obligation to protect others and throw myself into the breach, which often results in nothing really changing and I flame out to boot. It’s OK to say “No, that doesn’t work for me” instead of being the team player and screwing myself over. It’s OK for me to be my first priority and I can’t help those who think otherwise.

2. Keep my mouth closed when I am beyond frustrated by the metaphorical “being put in a round room and told to spit in the corner”. Just walk away. Writing this now the feeling of being trapped comes back; walk away. Stay away. Breathe. Keep myself safe. This is not selfish, it is sane; the oxygen mask.

3. Work on delivery. Another of my favorite sayings (I collect sayings like a groupie collects rock bands) is this: “Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” Word craft; a finely turned sentence puts me in mind of eating a perfectly ripe peach.

So I am walking away. I will make amends as appropriate (thank you, Al-Anon) and move on. I did my best and there’s always room for improvement and that’s the way it is. I am home with my “work family” now, in safe harbor and I am the luckiest person in the world.

loveoflifequotes.com

 

 

 

 

Dreaming of Paris

I needed something short to post in order to test drive adjustments I made to the blog and I didn’t want it to be a boring “test post”.
Pippin obliged me by doing…..this. I have no idea what was going through his little cat brain. When my friend posted photos of Cathedral gargoyles I knew he was channeling Paris.                                              
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IMG_1453Mon petit chat! 

 

Gargoyle photos courtesy of Brent Marrott

 

Mom-guilt happens

Someone once said “You do the best you can raising your kids but you never really know how they’re going to turn out until they’re about twenty-seven and by then it’s too late anyway”. I was a young woman when I heard this and thought it was funny; I tried to ignore the feeling lurking in the background that it was probably quite true, and sallied forth to create a family. Ah, youthful optimism…..

Thirty eight years later I could be the model for that saying. Three of my offspring are people I like to hang out with, and do whenever I can. The fourth is…….well……let’s just say she’s twenty-seven and let it go at that.

Any way, two furry kids now share my house and I have discovered the mom-guilt response is still very much intact. I fret over spending enough time with Gandalf and Pippin (indeed, I just am returning from a break to scratch both sets of ears), making sure they have walkers for days when I am at work and of course vet visits.

We were pretty much a once-a-year vet visit family; shots and a physical and we were back on the street. Neither Pippin or Gandalf were that excited about these yearly trips but they were only mildly stressful. Then Gandalf developed terrible breath (he could wake me up in the morning by standing by my bed and breathing on me) and I vacillated about taking him in for a teeth cleaning. He was eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, playing so maybe it was nothing? Did I want to make him anxious by leaving him at the vet? What about the anesthesia risk in an older dog? The voices in my head debated endlessly and I could not make a decision. When a friend of mine mentioned that her very spunky elder dog (a cute little bugger named Jack who has a fang) was going to have his teeth cleaned and she told me she had also wrestled with the decision to have it done; I realized that I, too, needed to just do it. Jack came through with flying colors, minus a few teeth (but still has his signature fang) and greatly improved breath. He even got a post on FaceBook out of the deal. OK. Must do this.

The appointed day arrived and we saddled up and went to the vet. I then went on a hike with Sarah, two of her friends and everyone’s dogs. You can see where the guilt is starting to set in, right? I tried not to think of Gandalf and the cornucopia of smells he was missing. The dogs wove back and forth braiding their leashes together and I felt fairly naked without one at the end of my arm; as there were more dogs than humans, I compensated by rotating being in charge of different dogs. Next time I will have to bring Gandalf. 

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I returned home to an empty house. Pippin was out mousing somewhere and there was no smiling Norwegian Elkhound face to greet me. Oh, Gandalf…..One of the greatest pleasures of my life is being welcomed home; this is how my house would be without a dog. I sucked it up and looked at my watch….the vet should be calling in another hour or so.

I kept busy and the enormity of my life as a dog-mom sank in again. Gandalf has been my constant companion for the last three years and I must confess, the fact that he loves me unconditionally is an experience for which I am eternally grateful. “Help me to be the person my dog thinks I am”. At long last the phone rang and I zipped off to bring him home.

He wandered around the house and yard the rest of the evening and only had one minor yakking episode. The vet report said he was an excellent patient (of course!) and had three severely infected teeth, which were removed. Oh, jeez, I should have done this sooner….not just infected….severely infected. Strong work, Claire.

post op

The next morning I heard panting next to my bed; Gandalf ready to go out….and…..no awful smell. My happiness at seeing him perky again was quickly followed by renewed angst about having been such a ninny and waiting as long as I did. Gawd, it must have been awful for him having those teeth in there….OK. Stop it. You are being a drama queen.

Twice-a-day antibiotics wrapped in peanut butter became a new treat and Gandalf still looked at me with adoring eyes, confident I would do the right thing for him. He had faith in me; time to put on my big girl panties and live up to it.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks.

It’s been bloody hot the last few days and I decided Gandalf would be more comfortable without as much fur. A trip to the self dog wash/blow dry emporium followed by clippering……

clippering

then furminating (Pippin supervised the procedure)

 

….and I have a happy dog!

Good dog-mom! Sit. Stay.

Gandalf the Great

Yes, Gandalf, I’ll stay right here.

 

Re-balancing

 

Have to be tough to live here

I started this post in our typical un-spring-like spring; an entire season ago. Too much time has gone by and so here it is, a little disjointed, but that is kind of the way things have been lately.

Walls of water snuggled the tomatoes and squash through the snow and cold of early summer. I have this great little banana belt micro-climate up against the house that keeps the veggies protected from the frosts that we have well into June. IMG_1376Rain chains now help rainwater to the ground and I am sure they will be equally beautiful with snow and ice this winter.

Easter found me in church and during prayers of the people I heard myself forgiving my former spouse. This was followed immediately by the thought “and stay the hell away” so maybe it doesn’t really count. Ah, well.

Work has invaded every aspect of my life. Being flexible, learning on the fly and thinking two steps ahead are my forte and I feel like I have been living at the bottom of a Niagara Falls-like deluge of new information for the last two months. As if this wasn’t enough, the long-promised new institution-wide computer program finally went live and I began to feel like resistance was futile. I know this for sure: I want to be retired before another electronic medical record change like this comes about.

Nothing says "spring" like new running shoesGandalf and I put some miles on my new running shoes to let the over-worked problem-solving part of my brain take time off. Running reels (reals) me back in….the focus is on the moment; breathing, feeling my muscles power me forward, finding the cadence and zoning out. There is only the dog and me. And the bugs; nothing like inhaling a small insect to break your stride.

The answer of how to restore equilibrium to my life came one morning upon awakening and when I got to the clinic I asked my former manager if I could work for her again. We chatted, struck a deal and I gave my notice (two month’s worth) as there was much training to be done before I left. Tomorrow is my last day and although I will miss the good people I came to know and have I learned more than I thought possible (molecular biology at my age!), I am relieved to be going. And I am only going down the hall, it’s not like I am moving to Canada, eh?

The last time I was in my old/new department I was married; so much water under that bridge I had to burn it down. Gandalf and Pippin are great house partners and I spend a fair amount of time supporting Rebecca. William, Sarah and their families make me realize what a lucky momcat I am and I like flying solo. My last date was in 1976 and I almost got asked out about a month ago but when I said I was busy and happy and had a restraining order and a Glock he moved on. Hmmm….apparently I’ve lost my touch. Bummer.

So here I am on the eve of change again; three years ago Independence Day was marked by the realization that if I was to stay alive I had to free myself from the way things were in my marriage. This year it is merely moving to a different job and gifting myself with a week off to get my sea legs back. I tend to stay too long in situations that are no longer working; maybe with practice I will get better at maintaining balance.

Growing isn’t just for gardens.

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Spry

Odd little word, “spry”, and I don’t care for it. I know it is supposed to be a good thing, but it sounds so…I don’t know….patronizing.

spry
adjective
1. (esp. of an old person) active; lively.

It was also the brand name of a Crisco-like product my Grandma used; would it make one’s baked goods remain spunky and delicious even when they got old? Makes you wonder about marketing think tanks, doesn’t it?

Snowdog!First night snuggles

I bring this up because Gandalf has just turned ten, which we all know is seventy in human years. He bounds through the snow and anticipates every outing with the same good nature and energy he had when he was much younger. In actuality, I think he is in better shape than he was a few years back; we don’t go for walks; we do dog-trots with pauses for him to sniff and investigate and do dog things….I know I am getting a work out.

 

When I first moved out and Gandalf was my only companion it dawned on me that I didn’t know how long Norwegian Elkhounds lived and I googled frantically; surely I couldn’t lose him now, too?!

 

Whew…..average lifespan ten to twelve years; we were golden.

 

Happy Birthday to the Best Dog Ever!

Time has flown and here we are; everything else is icing on the birthday cake……perhaps the main ingredient is spry.

Cabin Fever

Pippin’s cabin fever is conspicuous of late.  More wild-eyed thunderpaws from room to room, more spectacular leaps onto his cat tree, more bouncing into Gandalf. His miaows have become plaintive and he braids a path around my feet as I walk about the house; he is my make-up assistant in the morning and computer helper at night. Clearly, he has about had it with being house-bound this winter.

We are an eccentric little group and the scene that greeted me one evening after my shower was interesting but not out of the realm of what passes for normal in our house.

InnocenceTraditionally, this is how Pippin has notified me that the water dish is empty but I rarely let that happen any more and yes….that is water all over the floor; this was not a Momcat fail.

I watched him for several minutes; he was focused on the dish and had it levitated off the tile I would not have been surprised; he was that intense. But the dish didn’t move and I had a mess to clean up so I broke the spell to put things back in order. With a resolution to make sure the dish was never less than half empty (half full? I am an optimist by nature) we turned in for the night.

My confidence in Plan A (keeping it full) was rewarded for several days; apparently Pippin was just being picky. We had a spell of calm weather and he resumed his walks with Gandalf and me. Problem solved.

Until…..

Really, Pippin? You're kidding!Assuming an air of incredulity (how could this possibly have happened?) he wove miaowing around my feet to tell me he was just as astonished as I was. The water dish must be haunted….yes…..that was it; he had kept it from running amok and had averted a soggy catastrophe; I should be proud of him. He continued his tale as I mopped up, embroidering the story until I dubbed him Sir Pippin The Brave. He seemed pleased with that and wandered off to bed.

When I was working in the emergency department I frequently took care of women with abdominal pain and one of the triage questions for them was “Are you pregnant?”. More often than I would have liked the reply was “I hope not.” Hope is notoriously lousy birth control and this leads to Life lesson #2: “Hope is not a method”.

While I “hoped” Pippin wouldn’t tip the dish over again, the realist in me knew I had to do something; optimism is actually realism with a smile.

Therefore it was with renewed determination and pink duct tape I moved to Plan B.

Plan BThis was a few weeks ago and again I thought the problem had been solved. Did you catch the past tense there?

I think Pippin uses the time I am in the shower to get into noisy mischief; the other night I walked into the living room to the sound of scraping coming from the kitchen. Gandalf looked at me; “Mom….he’s doing it again.” I peeked around the doorway so see Pippin with his paw in the dish reservoir, carefully backing up while maneuvering the entire system out into the middle of the floor. He looked up, miaowed as if to say “My work here is done”, and strolled away to settle on the footstool.

I have no words for this. No water on the floor and he gets to do……this; I count it as successful interspecies negotiation.

I love that cat.

Mermaid Hair

I am partially to blame for this.

Rebecca wanted to color her hair so we were looking at ideas and wandered onto a website that featured not-your-usual-hair-colors, i.e; pink, green, blue, purple. Some of the dye jobs were not so great, some were quite outlandish, all were colorful and a surprising number were subtle enough that the wearers appeared to be actual wage-earners in the community; Halloween hair had crept into mainstream.

All my kids have gorgeous hair and Rebecca has had the most surprising ideas about hers. Several years ago I was at a conference and got this message from William: “Rebecca cut her hair off”. Ummm…..OK….I am a thousand miles away…..and working in oncology has made me not panic about hair issues. Apparently she had stayed up late watching “GI Jane” and when the movie ended about 0100, cutting her hair a la Demi Moore seemed like a good idea. Life’s lessons #1: “Fatigue clouds judgement”. The next day she took herself over to her friends at The Beauty Zone and they trimmed up what they could.

It was an interesting look best described as: “Edward Scissorhands: The early years” and I was secretly relieved when she shaved it all off and rocked the Sinead O’Connor look the rest of the summer. I swear, sometimes she is fearless; but mercifully has since left the hair-styling to the professionals and her hair has now grown out to about shoulder-length.

“Your hair, only better” is what we decided on and apparently that meant something different to each of us, as I discovered a few days later via text messaging:

R: I am getting my hair colored at The Beauty Zone today.

C: OK. Do something like we talked about.

Several hours later….

R: Do you like this? (Followed by a pic of multicolored tresses)

It was rather fetching and even though it wasn’t what we had (I thought) agreed upon I figured it would do, so I tried to call her and tell her that. No answer, but another text arrived:

R: Tell me if you like it first.

C: Yes, I like it. Pick up the phone.

Flashback to when the kids were in their late teens; opting for forgiveness rather than permission; stretching their wings; making decisions the results of which they would perhaps have to live with the rest of their lives. In truth, Rebecca seemed to have made some progress; she had been plateaued in early teens for a number of years; now I knew where things stood. This was doable.

Maika, her hairdresser, told me Rebecca had wanted her entire head blue and purple; she has our backs and talked her out of that and into something more suitable: Mermaid Hair. It really does take a village and there is a special place in heaven for the folks at The Beauty Zone.

Sarah and William were a bit shocked at Rebecca’s behavior but when I explained my theory of her current developmental level and that at that stage they had all done things of which I had not necessarily approved and the world had not ended, Sarah summed it up nicely: “Yeah…..some of us got tattoos and a cousin got pregnant so this is no big deal.”

Exactly.

And one day if I am bold enough, I might try Mermaid Hair, too.

Mermaid Hair

Winter Solstice 2013

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“Well. Here we are!”

This has become my traditional toast and since Gandalf and Pippin can’t hold a wine glass I hear an imaginary *clink* as we salute this night. Christmas lights are bright, my fireplace is toasty and this year Loreena McKennitt has joined my Winter Solstice music companions Jennifer Cutting and the Windham Hill Artists. The critters have dozed off next to me and life is good.

Solstice music

Solstice music

This morning Rebecca and I went to the city and ran a 5K in the falling snow with other batty people. It was a fundraiser so it was good for our hearts on many levels!

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Yes, those are fishnet stockings

The costumes made us laugh and my favorite was The Lamp from “A Christmas Story”. This was Rebecca’s first run since tweaking her knee at karate a few weeks ago and then re-injuring it when she had a seizure. All is well; meds are adjusted, physical therapy attended and as we trucked along she kept saying “It feels SO good to run again!”. We are often the caboose; it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it. Upright and moving is what counts!

We delivered presents to Sarah, Jared and Michael and made it back before the roads iced up. I got Rebecca snuggled into her apartment and I arrived home tired and happy; a romp in the snow with Gandalf and then I was in for the night.

And what has become of the intentions set last Solstice?

I intend to publish my book this year. I would love to say that it is available on Amazon but, alas, this is not so; the sails have been adjusted more times than I care to remember and what has floated in on the tides of life is that I will write it differently. The exercise of writing this blog (and reading others’) has made me realize time and marination are still essential and even though I have come to this later in my life the process can’t be hurried.

2014: I intend to get this new book version down on paper. 

I intend to continue doing anonymous good turns; “pay it forward”. This is easy and fun. Part of me still thinks I am/need to be invisible. That is a long story not worth going into here, and anonymity suits me.

2014: Keep it up. 

I intend to practice my music at least 3 days a week. This has refashioned itself the most of the three intentions; I am a percussionist but I think I might have a melody instrument in me somewhere. Mountain dulcimer? Violin? Work and life being what they are, some days I only have ten minutes to spend practicing; how was it that when I was a kid thirty minutes at the piano was so bloody never-ending? Oh, wait….it was because I had no talent for it and I would gladly have gnawed my fingers off if it would have gotten me out of lessons.

But music practice on my own terms is….exquisite! 

2014: Play music as often and long as possible.

If I did nothing more than attempt to fulfill these intentions I would be completely occupied. Weaving them into the everyday is part of the challenge and if I just had a Carson and a Mrs. Patmore I am reasonably sure I could take the world by storm!

The night has worn on and tomorrow is Fourth Advent; soon it will be Christmas. To my family, friends and followers I raise a glass of the finest red I could find on sale.

Well. Here we are!

 *clink*

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