License to chill.

Happy Halloween!

“If the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle.” –Rita Mae  Brown

This year I’m giving myself permission to ignore Halloween.  I’m turning the downstairs lights off and I’ll stay upstairs and clean house or read or whatever.  I love seeing the little children with their cute costumes and I enjoy giving them treats.  I have to admit, though, that I feel a bit threatened when I’m here alone and all the small fry have gone home and the door bell rings and there are six-foot-tall teenagers holding out pillow cases as they mumble “trick or treat.”  I saw on the news recently that some towns have made recommendations that no one over twelve should go door to door on Halloween.  That seems reasonable to me.  Last year I had a man come to the door with a pillow case outstretched saying  “trick or treat” as if he had every right to be there.  Now understand that I’m talking about a man who was at least mid-thirties.  I felt like telling him to shove off but I didn’t quite have the nerve.  So I put candy in his bag and got the door closed as quickly as possible, turned off the lights and went upstairs.

Like it or not, this is one of many ways in which women alone feel threatened.  As Rita Mae suggests in the above quote, there are inequalities between genders which make no sense and they can be very frustrating.  In this case there is some logic involved but it’s no less frustrating.  Women in general are not as physically strong as men so we are more likely to feel threatened in unknowable circumstances such as Halloween trick-or-treat callers who should not be out there but don’t have the common sense to know what is appropriate.

I think I sound rather like Scrooge at Christmas.  I’m actually not a Scrooge.  I simply don’t feel safe alone on Halloween.


Keep it simple.

I love red flowers. I can't believe my geranium baskets still look this good. That's October in the Sunbelt.

“All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” –Charles M. Schulz

The older I get the more I enjoy the simple things.  A red geranium.  A child’s face or hand.  One little piece of chocolate to savor.  A cup of coffee.  A smile from a stranger.  A hug from an ESL student.  A message from a daughter.  A phone call from a friend.  Music, the universal language.  Fabric.  Yarn.  Crayons.  So many things to love.

I try not to look back with too many regrets.  I think my energy is better spent on positive, now things.  I have learned that if I look forward too much or back at the past too much, I forget to enjoy the now.  It’s taken me a long time to internalize that.  And I don’t always get it right.  But I’m trying.

Is life simpler without my former spouse?  Absolutely.  I wouldn’t have chosen that path but now that I’m on it I recognize it as much simpler than living with another person and feeling as if I have to justify myself on many fronts.  The single life has enabled me to start thinking about simplifying other aspects of my life.  I’m giving away things that I love to people I love.  And I hope that if they get to the point that they want to give them away, they will feel free to do so.  I want very much to give without conditions or strings attached.  I’m cleaning my closet and dresser drawers and will give the things I don’t use to my sister.  She just opened a thrift shop and needs goods to sell.  Once I’ve cleaned enough out of this house I would like to sell it and downsize again.  I will try to wait until the housing market recovers a bit.  And I’m trying hard to avoid buying things I don’t need.  Eventually, if I continue that trend, I won’t have so much to give away/clean up/clear out.  That sounds very appealing to me.

As my daughter said to me in an e-mail a while ago, “We’re ready to move on.  2011 is looking good!”

To be or not to be…a witch.

My favorite witch.

“Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?  Oh, I’m not a witch at all.  I’m Dorothy of Kansas” –THE WIZARD OF OZ

Sounds like Christine of Delaware to me.  But I digress.  I had opportunities to be a witch this weekend and I’m afraid I took advantage of them.  Is that human nature or is it my personality?  Or is it my need/wish to be vengeful?

Let me explain.  Every so often I find myself at a grandchild’s soccer game, birthday party, gymnastics meet, etc., and my ex shows up with his woman.  This past weekend I had the misfortune of being at a soccer game on Saturday and then a birthday party on Sunday where they showed up, fashionably late, as usual.  I find that I’m able to speak to, or even chat with, the ex (even when he’s trying to avoid speaking to me), but I cannot make myself be civil to her.  Why is that?  Oh, there are so many reasons.  At least in my mind.  But I think the biggest reason is that D brought her into the family way too soon.  Less than two months after we separated.  I don’t know how his family felt about that but I know that my family was hurt, angry, sad, disappointed, horrified.  I’m sure there are more adjectives that would apply to how we all felt.  And most of us haven’t recovered.  The youngest children are the only ones who take it in stride.

Now that D says he’s going to marry her, I keep telling myself that she’s going to come to the children’s activities with him.  I wish he would leave her at home but he won’t.  Am I going to continue to ignore her?  I have nothing in common with her.  My counselor in my previous town told me that D went out and found the antithesis of me.  And I think he really did.  I still don’t know whether I am flattered or insulted by that.  Perhaps neither.  But I continue to have difficulty figuring out what my role should be.  I have no desire to befriend her.  I try not to think about her at all and am pretty successful at it except right after I’ve been forced to see her.  He has shoved her into all our faces for so long that I tell myself I should be immune by now, but I’m not.  I feel stunned anew every time I see her hanging on him as if they were joined at the hip.

I welcome your comments.  Suggestions?

Living alone, part two.


My friend Margaret made this for me. Those many stitches are done by hand.


“Living alone makes it harder to find someone to blame.” –Mason Cooley

This quote makes me laugh.  It reminds me of all the years living with D when we made jokes about who was at fault for whatever went wrong or whenever something went missing.  I blamed him; he blamed me.  Then we got a dog and we both blamed him.  I used to tell D that it was great having someone to blame for losing the scissors even when I knew that I was the only one who had used them.

Boy!  Has that all changed!  If something’s missing, it’s my fault.  When there are toothpaste spatters on the bathroom mirror, I did it.  Someone forgot to flush–ME.  Someone left clothes in the dryer to wrinkle.  Someone ate the last of the leftovers and I had my mouth all set to have them for dinner.  Who forgot to charge the phone?  Someone forgot to take the garbage out.  Someone left dirty dishes in the sink.  Whose dirty socks are on the floor?  If the quote above makes me laugh, why am I suddenly crying?  Because I’ve been living alone for more than three years now and I realize how unimportant all these things are.  After three and a half years, I still don’t like living alone.

So I allow myself a tear or two.  Then I wipe them away.  And I keep on keeping on.  And I think I’ve learned to go easy on myself when I need to and I try to get my rear in gear when I feel a need to do that.  And life goes on and mostly it’s good.

In a little while I will see my youngest granddaughter.  She’s four years old today.  She wants me to give her a pink “mama” bear for her birthday.  I shopped until I found one.  She’s very soft and huggable.  I put extra pink ribbon around her neck so she will look more mama-ish.  Can’t wait to see my little girl.  And that’s how life should go on!

Hangin’ out at the cemetery (This is not a Halloween story.)


Our family cemetery in Boone, NC.


My sister and I spent some time in the family cemetery today.  We went there to assure that our mom’s marker  had been installed properly and that there were no spelling errors, etc.  It was  perfect and we were happy about that.  My great grandmother’s name was misspelled on her marker and that’s always bothered me a bit.

We spent more time there than we had intended.  So much of our history is in that small space.  Our great grandparents Leila and John are buried there.  John died long before we were born but we knew Leila in our childhood.  In fact, she taught me to crochet when I was about 10 or 11 years old.  I have fond memories of her and I have many things in common with her.  She was a quilter, I’m a quilter.  But she was much better at quilting than I am.  She loved crossword puzzles.  So do I.  She was a teacher.  So was I.

My dad’s Uncle Geoffrey has an impressive marker in the cemetery.  He was Leila and John’s son and he died in the great flu pandemic of 1918.  Because he was in the military at the time of his death and Granny was his next of kin, she received a pension for the rest of her life.  She gave ten percent of it to Boone Methodist Church.

And of course our mom and dad are there.  Side by side.  Even though they had divorced some years before Daddy died.  Mom later regretted that she had divorced him so she declared to her dying day that they never signed the papers and they weren’t divorced.  But they were.  I have the papers to prove it.  Aren’t families fun?  My sister and I were both dry-eyed during this visit.  We weren’t thinking about death, but about life.  I still miss my parents, especially my mom.  But for today we both chose to think and talk about their lives.

The closest either of us came to tears was when we suddenly realized that there was a homeless man sleeping in the back of the cemetery.  You can’t see him in the photo above, but he was under the red tree.  He sat up before we left, put a big hat on and avoided looking at us.  My sister wondered aloud how he had arrived at such a state and where he will sleep when the weather gets cold.  The mountains of NC are very cold in the winter.  God bless you, Mister.

Emerge and fly.


Love this picture. It hangs in my laundry room.


“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”              —
Anais Nin

Sometimes I get so comfortable in my misery that I won’t make the effort to get out of it and move on.  I wrap myself up in my cozy little cocoon and try to ignore the butterfly that needs to get out and fly.  Fortunately my butterfly gets restless and starts to squirm and won’t allow me to hibernate indefinitely.  I think that’s a special gift which I’ve done nothing to earn.  I watched my mother isolate herself and I know I don’t want to follow her example.  Now my mom had many good qualities I would like to emulate.  I think I have her smile, one of the things I loved most about her.  I always knew that she loved me no matter what.  I hope I have conveyed that notion to my own daughters.  It is certainly how I feel.  Mom was generous to a fault to everyone regardless of social status, race, or any other measure I might think of.  But I will take great care not to isolate from society, family and friends the way she did.

I remember when I told my mom that D and I had separated.  I had put off telling her because she had a degree of dementia by then and I didn’t know what I would be getting in to.  How could I have doubted her and her loyalty to me?  When I told her we were separated and why, she went immediately into “mother mode” and vowed that she hoped never to see him again.  And if she did she would give him a piece of her mind.  She talked and talked (part of the dementia, I think) about how she had liked and trusted him.

Shortly before Mom died in the nursing center, she asked me about D and whether I ever talked with him.  I told her I did not.  She said, “You know, I always liked him.”  She stayed true to herself and her inability to hold a grudge right to the end.  Not a bad legacy to leave a daughter.  Love you, Mom.

Life is a dance!

“Your love for yourself is only shown when you’re dancing freely.”–I don’t know who said that but I like it.

When I was in high school, I loved to dance.  I had two teachers who took upon themselves to teach me to dance.  Right there in the high school gym in front of God and everybody.  We were fortunate to have some outstanding teachers in our school.  Not just good at teaching us math, etc., but they cared enough about us as human beings to chaperone our dances and teach us the social graces.  Thank you, Brothers Gabriel.

I don’t know how I managed to marry twice and both of them were/are non-dancers.  They wouldn’t even dance with me in the privacy of home.  I have no intention of marrying again but if I should find someone I want to hang out with, you can be sure he will be someone who will dance and sing with me.  He doesn’t have to be good at it.  I’m not.  But he has to love life enough to make a stab at it.  If life really is a dance, I feel as if I’ve missed out on a great deal of it.

I have danced over the years in my living room with a baby in my arms.  Sometimes my own, sometimes a grandchild.  And most of them loved for me to rock them and sing–sometimes made-up songs with their names in them, sometimes a hymn, a popular song or just nonsense syllables.  I sing with gusto in church and in the car.  And yes, sometimes I take out all the stops and sing and dance without inhibition here in the house all by myself.  Usually after I’ve closed the blinds.  Time’s a-wasting and I don’t want any regrets from here on out.  Dance as if no one is watching.  Sing as if no one is listening. Now! Before it’s too late.


If you can walk, you can dance.


When two great communicators can’t communicate.


A cone from a backyard loblolly pine tree.


My ex-husband is a salesman–a very good one.  I am a teacher.  I believe that teachers are also salespeople in a way.  What makes a good salesman?  The ability to listen to the needs of the clients and then sell them the products which will best suit their needs.  Communication!  I used to tell D that I knew he was one hell of a salesman when he convinced me to marry him.  There is some truth in that statement.  Whenever I pointed out to him that one day our age difference would matter, he assured me that it wouldn’t  and I believed him.  When I told him it might be difficult to step-parent three daughters, he told me he was up to it.  When I told him his parents might be unhappy with his decision to take on a ready-made family, he was sure they would like me once they got to know me–and they did, eventually.

When we first met we talked nonstop.  About everything.  We never ran out of things to tell each other.  I think it was our ease in communicating that first drew me to him.  We laughed.  We had fun together.  My opinions mattered to him and his to me.  I told him all about me–the good, the bad and everything in the middle.  He seemed just as forthcoming with me.  But I learned later that he held some things back, things he knew I wouldn’t approve of, the most obvious one being his use of recreational drugs.  He told me just a short time before we got married.  I established hard and fast rules about that from the beginning–no drugs in the house with my daughters.  And he honored that.

I am happy to say that he was stone-cold sober and clean when he asked for a divorce, and had been for years.  But I guess I will always believe that the drugs and alcohol contributed to our eventual misunderstanding each other and our inability to talk things out in the later years of our marriage.  Some bad habits developed as the result of his having to partake of his illegal substances away from home.  He almost always came home late.  The girls and I finally gave up waiting dinner and ate without him.  He felt guilty, I’m sure.  I felt neglected and angry but I tried not to let the girls see how I felt.  I doubt I did a very good job of it.

I’m proud of him for staying clean and sober through this divorce.  And for many years before we divorced.  But I’m not sure I ever recovered from the substance-abuse years.  I was already damaged from my childhood with a substance abuser and those years with D and the deceptions that go along with that life were a major setback for me.

Examining who I am.


The last of the season's verbena.


“Friendship with oneself is all-important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else…”–Eleanor Roosevelt

“Instinct teaches us to look for happiness outside of ourselves.”–Blaise Pascal

I wish I could say that I’m always on friendly terms with myself.  Unfortunately, I’m a two-headed monster in that regard.  There is one of me who seeks approval from others and another who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of me.  I don’t think I developed the self-confident me until I became a teacher in my early thirties.  I had relied too much on the men in my life to affirm me and make me feel worthwhile.  Part of that comes from growing up with an alcoholic father who cowed the whole family with his craziness and his drunken violence.  And living with my first husband J who was not a drinker but was otherwise very much like my dad. I used to say that they had an inferiority complex which manifested itself in the form of a superiority complex.  Both of them talked about how great they were and how much they knew but they didn’t really believe their own words.  J was 9 years older than I and I’m guessing I was looking for a father figure to fix what my dad had screwed up.  But of course he wasn’t able to do that.

By the time my second marriage had failed, I had for months (years?) been openly seeking my husband’s approval, to no avail.  Fortunately I’ve been blessed with many friends who are generous with their love and approval.  From C whom I’ve known since I was ten years old to my most recently acquired buddy J, I am lucky to have many reminders that I’m okay.

My conclusion, then, is that I’ve been looking for love and approval in all the wrong places (Isn’t that a song?).  Granted, it takes a great deal of effort to crawl out of the basement when you’ve been dumped, but I’m doing it–sometimes with style and sometimes very clumsily.  This week I went places and did things that I don’t normally do with people I don’t normally hang out with, just because I knew that I needed to escape from me.  Sometimes it seems like a very fine line between loving oneself and being too self-involved.  I hope that I will be able to remember always that doing for others is the path to true happiness.  But sometimes it’s good to remember that it’s okay to let others do for me as my friends so often do.

Slow and steady heals the soul.

I have to keep reminding myself that my tortoise doesn’t go in a straight line.  She keeps taking roundabouts and side trips.  I thought it was the hare that did that.  It would be wonderful if I could expect my healing to keep plodding one baby step at a time toward sanity and health.  Unfortunately life doesn’t work that way.  One day I’m swinging from a star and the next I’m swimming the Styx upstream and I don’t know how to swim.

I learned a long time ago in Al-Anon that it’s best to look at progress from a long view rather than comparing today to yesterday.  That way I can say that I’m lots better than I was six months or a year ago.  But I may not be better than I was last week or even last month.  There will always be setbacks and I must remember to keep the faith that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” even if I can’t see it right now.

Today I have felt sad.  I feel like a lonely soul rather than a free spirit.  I know this will pass.  I have to wait it out and work through it.  I had lunch with friends today.  Tomorrow I have a very busy day–a hair cut, a visit with my sister, a lunch date with a friend and a facial tomorrow evening.  Pampering is good.  Busy is good.

A good quote for me today:  “You make a life out of what you have, not what you’re missing.”The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton