Some things I’ve learned…

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s  not.  ~ Dr. Seuss

I like to have a project in the works.  Now that I’m working on this banner for the Spanish community church service, I awaken in the morning eager (after I’ve had my coffee) to assess the previous day’s work and to determine what part of it I’ll do today.  It’s a joy to watch it unfold.  It gives me a goal, albeit short-term, and it engages my artistic bent which is a more dominant force now than it was in the past.  Well, I guess the bent was always there but I have more time to devote to it than when I was working and taking care of my children.

I’ve been thinking lately about the wisdom of Dr. Seuss.  I believe that he taught us so much more than reading.  The Seuss quote above comes from his book The Lorax, 1971.  It’s a powerful environmental message.  If we had learned it back in ’71 when he wrote it our planet would be in better shape than it is today.  I don’t know whether it’s on any academic required-reading lists, but it’s certainly on mine.  When I was married to D, I had my very own Lorax (environmental conscience).  I’m happy to say he’s better looking than the one you see pictured here on the book cover.  🙂  D was a recycler long before it was the thing to do.  He cared “a whole awful lot” and tried to make it better.  I thank him for that.  He raised my consciousness several levels by being that way.  I don’t think he saved any of these beautiful “Truffala Trees” but I’m pretty sure he saved some other kinds.

Two days ago another blogger, lifeandothermisadventures, commented on my post about forgiveness.  She mentioned a book that she said was helpful to her.  The book was When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.  The same day I went down to my local book shop and found that book and several others by Ms Chodron.  I sat down to examine them and determined that I needed the one called Taking the Leap:  Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears.  My thinking was that 1) things fell apart quite a long while ago and 2) I still have habits and fears that I don’t want to foster any longer.  In the book that I chose there is a chapter entitled “Getting Unstuck.”   This title jumped off the page, I think, because my daughter and I had recently been discussing the fact that sometimes we get stuck in our “recovery” and we can’t seem to continue the progress we have achieved up to that point.  Old habits feel too comfortable and we are afraid to take that next step.  I’m always amazed when the stars seem to align and send me a powerful message.  The last star in this alignment was a statement in my morning uplifting message which I read in Spanish.  (I read in Spanish to try to keep my language skills up to snuff.)   I read that “too often we sit back and wait for others to change instead of taking stock and figuring out how we need to change.”  Of course I knew this already but how easily I slide back into my old habits and let my old fears consume me.

In summary, the things I’ve learned are:  I am much happier when I have a project.  I care a whole awful lot about the environment and about how I treat other people.  I can’t change others; I can only change myself and how I react to them.  I could probably use more structure in my daily routine.  And last, I’m going to Peru in May, 2012!  Woo hoo!


Learning to forgive…again…and again.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.  He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.          ~ Martin Luther King

Some lessons are harder to learn than others.  Sometimes I think I’m a really slow learner.  For example, when I learn to do something new on my computer or my cell phone, if I don’t repeat it in a few days time, I won’t remember how it’s done.  I think that learning the lesson of forgiveness works the same way for me.  It would be nice if I could simply say, “I forgive” and let it go and never have to revisit that issue again.  I certainly always mean it when I say it.  I think what happens to me is that the hurt is multilayered and has many facets.  That means that just as I let one layer fly off on butterfly wings, another layer takes its place.  Maybe the human mind is that way for a reason.  Or maybe it’s just my mind that’s weird in that way.  What I have begun to understand is that each new layer is sneaky.  I may have to wrestle with it for days before I recognize what it is.

I don’t know how accurate my self-diagnosis is but I know I need to change my approach.  I just noticed that I used the word “wrestle” in the paragraph above.  I think that word might be key to my solution (my healing).  Why am I wrestling?  My new mantra will be something like this:  “I’m relaxing into forgiveness today and every day.”  I feel better already.

An addendum:  I have written before about forgiving.  I write about it in order to sort out how difficult it is for me to manage sometimes.  I hope I don’t sound as if I am the only one who has something to forgive.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I won’t bother to list things I’ve done that I hope will put me on the receiving end of forgiveness.  Such a list would depress me beyond repair.

And the good news is…

My diagnostic mammogram was normal, consistent with the three previous ones.  Thanks to all my cyber friends for positive thoughts, encouragement, prayers, and thoughtful comments.

Now I can get back to normal, and hopefully writing more regularly than I have recently.  I don’t usually worry too much about these things but I’ve never had my doctor find a “suspicious spot” so it rattled me a little.  Glad that’s over.

We had a wonderful birthday party for our little S on Sunday.  She was so happy to have all her friends there in the park to play with her.  I tried once to get a hug but she was too busy.  She’s growing up fast and is very much a little girl now.  No more toddler.  And that’s wonderful but I sometimes think I would like to hold my baby/toddler one more time.  That’s life.  And it’s good.

My former mother-in-law came to the party.  I loved having her there.  It gave us a chance to catch up.  I think enough time has passed that I can visit her more often now than I have for the past five (almost) years.  When D and I first separated it felt a bit strange.  I felt as if I were making her uncomfortable.  I don’t think that’s the case any longer.  I guess we were both afraid of saying the wrong thing.  I believe we’re past that now.  I’m grateful for that.

Thanks again, my friends, for your support.

Happy birthday, Tom Petty and little S.

Most things I worry about never happen anyway. ~ Tom Petty

I stumbled upon the fact that today is Tom Petty’s birthday.  It also happens to be little S’s birthday.  She’s five.  I think Tom’s about sixty-one.  It seems a little strange, even to me, to put the two of them together in the  same post.  I started to wonder whether there’s anything on earth they could have in common other than their birthday.

They’re both blond.  I think they both have a certain disregard for other people’s opinions.  I base that on this photo of little S and on the lyrics of some of Tom’s songs.  They both seem pretty obstinate once they’ve made up their minds about something. “I Won’t Back Down”  The most important thing, though, is the way they both entertain me.  Some days I listen all day to Tom Petty CDs and never grow tired of his music.  Other days I spend all day with S and her dollies and her wonderful five-year-old wit and I never ever get tired of her.  Two totally different types of entertainment, both of them wonderful.  But if I had to choose–I don’t even need to say it; grandchildren always win, hands down.

So…even though today is her real birthday, we will celebrate the occasion on Sunday with a party of family and friends.  She will come to my house on Saturday so we can bake and decorate her birthday cake.  It will probably be the best and prettiest cake ever.  🙂  And the family parties are getting easier.  Well, for me they are.  I think I’m finally reaching that stage where I’m pretty indifferent neutral toward the OW.   I’m striving for harmony these days, in all situations, so why would this one be different from any other?  I have no hate or anger for anyone.  Takes too much energy.  Energy that’s better used for other things like loving on grandchildren.  And art projects.  And friends.  And daughters.

Things have started to pop in “medical-land.”  I have an appointment on Tuesday.  I’ll be glad to get that one under my belt, so to speak.  Life is good.

Here’s another Tom Petty song if you care to listen.  “Learning to Fly”   This is really beautiful.  I dedicate this to you, Caroline!

Waiting–pages from my diary.

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. ~ Marie Curie

Tuesday, October 11–I went to a new primary care physician today.  She’s an intelligent doctor and she did a thorough examination and asked all the right questions.  My reason for this visit was to check out the possibility that I might have an ulcer.  I was having symptoms that indicated that might be my problem.  I had been  miserable for quite some time.  Dr. M agreed that she, too, thought it was probably an ulcer.  She gave me meds to tide me over while we wait for the blood test results. No surprising news there.

Part of my physical was, of course, a breast exam.  She stopped midway through the examination of my left breast and asked, “Have you felt this?  Do you do self-exams?”  I confessed that I only occasionally do the self check.  She had me feel what she was talking about and yes, there was a mass that I had  not detected.  She ordered a diagnostic mammogram.  And now the waiting begins.  Radiology is to call me to set up an appointment.  Why can’t I call them and set up the damn appointment!

This is one of those times when it’s difficult being divorced and living alone.  I tried not to cry as I drove home.  As soon as I got inside my house, I sat down and let it all out.

Wednesday, October 12–The doctor’s office told me to call scheduling today if I hadn’t heard from them.  I waited until after lunch and then made the call.  They were as helpful as they knew how to be but told me they had no order for my mammogram and since it’s a diagnostic mammogram, it has to come from the doctor.  All this after jumping through the usual telephone acrobatics that go with today’s medical services.  I called the doctor’s office and told them of my findings.  And then I think I made a bad decision.  I told her to cancel the order to that hospital and send it instead to the other hospital.  My reasoning was that apparently the first one didn’t have their act together and my doctor’s office is a part of the second hospital so that would keep all communication in the same house, so to speak.  Little did I know.

Thursday, October 13–I’ve cooled my jets all day today.  Don’t want to be obsessive about this.  After all, it could be nothing.  But here’s the thing, I’m the type of person who wants and needs to confront the problem once I know there is a problem.  Waiting for other people to act curtails my ability to meet the issue head on.  Frustrating.

Friday, October 14–Okay I’m obsessing again.  Called scheduling at the second hospital.  Was on hold for longer than I liked, with constant recorded reminders that they would be with me soon and they respected the value of my time.  Finally, a live person who told me they had not received the order.  Sigh.  Back to the doctor’s office to ask why.  Fortunately I don’t have a problem with high blood pressure as I can feel myself getting strident as I speak to the first person who answers the phone.  Sorry.  The third (I think)  person I talked with sorta/kinda explained it and said someone would call me back today.  It’s 4:30 and I haven’t heard a word.  But it’s okay.  I’m chillin’.  I’m cool.  No telling how long said spot has been there.  It can wait a while longer. 🙂

6:00 pm–Went to the Latino band rehearsal.  I do this every Friday evening so I can prepare my power point for Sunday morning.  The side effect is that I feel totally at peace when I’m in that place with those wonderful people.  They even let me sing along from my computer station in the back of the room.  God is good.

To be continued.

To be or not to be an activist.

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.  The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.  And the opposite of life is  not death, it’s indifference. ~ Elie Wiesel

I recently had a meaningful conversation with one of my granddaughters.  I’ll call her Grace.  (She is after all very graceful.)  She came home from school a bundle of energy and excitement, as only a teenage girl can.  She told me all about being a member of the  Gay-Straight Alliance, one of the clubs in her high school.  They were preparing to march in the local Gay Pride Parade.  All systems were go and she was beaming and proud and seemed to have no qualms or doubts about her ability to do this and the rightness of doing it.  I told her I was proud of her for standing up for what is right and good and for what she believes in.  I also told her she was very brave but I didn’t elaborate.  No problem, right?

The next day she came home from school much less bubbly than she had been the day before.  I noticed a worried look on her brow as she texted her friend about their upcoming sleepover at the friend’s house.  I inquired, “Everything okay, Grace?”  She told me she thought her friend was upset with her because the parade would cause a slight delay in their plans.  We talked, Grace and I, and delved a little deeper into what might be her friend’s concern.  We discussed the fact that we aren’t always going to agree 100% with our friends.  She finally said rather philosophically, “Yeah, I know.  It’s the way she’s been raised.”  In other words her friend had been taught that gay=sin.

I tried to soften the hard, stark realization for her by telling her that some people are not activists.  Maybe her friend didn’t totally disagree with her.  Maybe she wasn’t an activist type.  I recalled a time when D went to protest an injustice in our small mountain town and I stayed home.  It wasn’t that I disagreed with him; it was that I didn’t like the idea of sitting all day in the hot sun.  Grace is way too smart to buy that theory but we grandmothers do what we can.

I’m very proud of her.

Blackbird, fly.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night                        Take these broken wings and learn to fly                         All your life                                                                         You were only waiting for this moment to arise.             ~ The Beatles

Sometimes I can see more clearly when I walk at night, figuratively speaking.  I can hear better too.  As I walked one night recently, I kept hearing the words “in the dead of night” in my mind and then I started to hum the tune  It took me a while to come up with what it was in the dead of night.  By the time I made my neighborhood jaunt twice around, I realized–“blackbird singing.”  Of course!  Blackbird singing in the dead of night.  As I pondered the notion of a bird singing at night, I noticed a waxing moon rising over the rooftops juxtaposing the street lamp, looking like the very opposite of what they actually are in terms of size.  I didn’t know what, if anything, the blackbird had to do with the moon/lamp photo, I just knew I needed to snap the scene.

My brother and I used to listen to bird sounds in the early summer evenings.  We would try to imitate them.  One of our favorites was the Northern Bob White.  It’s a type of quail and despite its name it’s very prevalent in the southeastern United States.  The Bob White’s call sounds like its name so J and I would whistle and wait expectantly for the bird to answer.  That would mean that our calls were fairly authentic, or so we thought.  Both of us were pretty good whistlers but in the world of whistlers my brother was one of the best I’ve ever heard.  He always told me that he got more responses and I agreed because he was my older brother and I adored him.  Another favorite was the Eastern Whip-poor-will  onomatopoeically-named for its call.  Again, J and I mastered the call and whip-poor-wiiiiled until the bird stopped responding or Momma called us in.  We often heard a variety of owls.  Sometimes the hoo-hoo of a Barred Owl which is the sound most people think of when they think of owls.  Occasionally we heard the eerie sound of a Screech Owl.  My brother, being the bigger wuss, was sure something was coming to get us and headed for home.  I still laugh when I think about it.

So…do blackbirds sing in the dead of night?  Indeed they do.  The male sings to claim his territory, to attract a female, or sometimes a young bird will sing just for practice.  Typically, dawn is birdsong time, but it seems that in urban areas the street lights create a false dawn and the cacophony starts early–in the dead of night.

An interesting aside about this Beatles song:  Paul McCartney said the blackbird is a symbol for the black man in the Civil Rights Era in America.  He said, “We were totally involved in the whole saga which was unfolding.  So I got the idea of using a blackbird for a black man.”  If you would like to hear the Beatles singing this song, click the link above.  Sarah Mclachlan does a beautiful version, too.  Click here if you want to hear her.  I prefer Sarah’s version.

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” ~ Mister Rogers

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and my neighbors are displaying their support with these pretty pink bows on their mailboxes.  They give the neighborhood quite a festive look, belying the seriousness of their intent.  About one in eight American women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.  The USA and the UK have the highest incidence of cases with Australia and New Zealand close behind.   Men also get breast cancer but in very small numbers compared to women, thus its status as a woman’s disease.  I didn’t mean to start this post with such a downer but I do think it’s important and deserves our attention.

I noticed as I walked today that it’s a perfect and perfectly beautiful fall day.  There are still flowers blooming in some neighbors’ yards.  This wonderful pink blossom matches the bows well, don’t you think?  This is a vine that twines around a mailbox and is still rife with blooms.  I think it’s a clematis but there are many varieties and I couldn’t find one enough like this one to make an identification.  And now I’m thinking that I don’t really care what it is as long as it continues to flourish on my neighbor’s mailbox for me and other passers-by to enjoy.  I will miss it when the first freeze nips it.

I’m starting to see a little change of color in the leaves now.  For the most part it’s a few leaves here and there and nothing to write home about, but I did spot one tree that has a fairly significant amount of color.  It’s a few doors down from my house so I can keep my eye on it as it achieves its full depth of crimson.  And that’s assuming that neither rain nor wind will wipe it out before it reaches opus status.  We never know what Mother Nature has in mind.

I’m happy to say that my walking has increased as the local temperatures have decreased.  I don’t like to whine about my health and I try not to, so I will simply say that I haven’t been feeling well for several weeks.  My walking is working wonders and I’m starting to feel better.  When I don’t feel well physically I don’t feel well emotionally.  It’s one of those “chicken or egg” puzzles.  I believe strongly that the two are connected/interdependent.  But just in case, I have an appointment with a medical doctor next week.  I’m hoping she can help me to rule out some things and maybe get to the bottom of some others.  Perhaps there will be no need to speak of it again.  That’s the outcome I expect.

I love walking the neighborhood and seeing the seasonal decorations my neighbors have displayed.  It puts me in the mood to get out my Halloween “stuff” and get in the spirit.  (Not a bad pun, huh?)  I have already put my spooky, or not so spooky, garden banners out.  I always enjoy this one.  It reminds me not to take myself too seriously.

A walk in the park.

Autumn is like a second spring when every leaf is a flower.        ~ Albert Camus

The leaves aren’t quite flowers yet.  Soon, though.

We have the  great good fortune to have a beautiful little park just minutes from my neighborhood.  It’s a little too far, on a busy road, to walk.  But I’m there in less than ten minutes by car.  The grounds and buildings are immaculately maintained.  The photo here is where I pull into the parking lot.  The lower of the two flags in that of our fair state of North Carolina.  We also fly it over the state house, but unlike our neighbor South Carolina, we don’t fly the confederate flag there.  I’m thankful for that.  If we did, I would have to move.

The lake is the park’s centerpiece.  I walked around the lake twice.  It was a grumpy, slow day for me.  That’s why I went to the park.  Normally I walk four times around but just the two made me feel better.  It always does. 

Even the ducks were sluggish.  I think those are ducks.  I guess the much-cooler weather has slowed them down.  They looked as if they were basking in the sun to stay warm.  They didn’t seem to mind my presence among them.  I guess I was too quiet and slow-moving to be a threat.  I was moving like a slug.  I’m lucky they didn’t think I was food.

There weren’t very many people at the park.  On the left in this photo you can see what I think is a gathering of folks for a family reunion.  They were cooking something that smelled really good and they had their music playing, but it was tastefully low volume.

I took the picture on the right through the branches (trunks?) of a crape myrtle.  I still can’t get over the color of the water.  It reminds me of the seas in the Caribbean.  I was trying to hide the sign but did not succeed.  It says “Do not feed the ducks.”  I don’t know whether you have crape myrtles where you live but they are an important part of the landscape in this area.  They can have blossoms in all shades of pink, red, and purple; there are even some that bloom white.  I love them.

I imagine the rocks are strategically placed to prevent erosion.  I thought they made a beautiful contrast with the aqua-colored water.  Aqua has long been my favorite color both in nature and in clothing.  About every other t-shirt in my closet is that color or a variation of it.

On the right of the path as I finish a turn around the lake is a stand of trees, mostly oaks with a few pines.  As autumn progresses there will be some leaves in there that will become flowers.  I noticed that even in the early afternoon the shadows were longer than just a few days ago.

As I was leaving the park I stopped by the exit  to say goodbye to the baskets of lantana.  They are already looking a bit anemic, somewhat faded from their earlier zesty yellow.  To everything there is a season.

I must remind myself often that this oasis in the midst of suburban sprawl is a gem to be treasured and it never fails to make me feel better when I leave than I did when I entered.  Thank you, PP, for introducing us.