To Momma.

Today is my mom’s birthday.  If she were alive she would be ninety-two years old.  She died three years ago just days shy of her eighty-ninth.  Mom loved pretty things, most of all flowering baskets to hang on her front porch.  One of the last gifts I bought for her while she was still living in her house was baskets for Mother’s Day.  She would love this one.

In Mom’s honor I went around the house and yard this afternoon looking for things I knew she would like.  It was a good exercise for me as it helped me to recall many of the sweet memories I have of her.

I think she would enjoy this colorful bookmark.  She loved to read, and her favorite color was blue.  I prefer to remember her when her vision was still good enough for reading and jigsaw puzzles.

The photo on the right is a beautiful wind chime my daughter gave me.  When I moved to this house four years ago it became a tangle of colors and glass and keys.  I guess I didn’t do a very good job of packing.  It’s waiting patiently for someone to untangle it and free its lovely song.  If Mom were here she would sit on the deck and carefully straighten every strand, restoring it to its intended artistic state.

I have a profusion of chives growing in my unkempt, weedy little garden.  She loved growing things so I know she would enjoy the flowering chives.  I don’t think she would be too pleased with the weeds but she wouldn’t scold.  She stopped that years ago.  I can imagine her saying, “Well, it’s just to hot to do much weeding down here, isn’t it, Honey.”  She and I are, after all, mountain women.  We don’t do very well in hot weather.

There’s a new little tree asserting itself in the back yard.  We’ve had “extra” rain this summer.  I’m sure it has achieved additional growth because of the rain forest conditions.  I’m rather proud of it.  I know Mom would be, too.

If I could, I would give this sweet jeweled box to Mom.  I think she would put her favorite earrings in it.  And maybe a ring or two.  When she was a young mother she couldn’t afford nice jewelry.  Hopefully we (her children and grandchildren) made up for that when we started to earn salaries of our own.

I especially like this afghan.  I made it with scraps of leftover yarn.  I think Mom would appreciate my attempt to be frugal by using what I had on hand.  I would like to give this to her, to keep her warm.  Of course, she would let her dog Odie sleep on it, too, but I’m finally mature enough to give with no strings attached.  Did I say strings?  Aren’t afghans made of strings?

This sentimental journey has made me cry a bit.  Okay, a lot.  I would like to leave you with a chuckle.  My caption for the photograph below is “Even my cat is voting for Obama!”  So would Momma if she were here.


I’ll do my crying in the rain (while mowing the lawn!?)

Sometimes we must make our own light.  This fixture resides in a local restaurant.  It’s made of items that would ordinarily be thrown in the trash.  I like that. ~ Pat

I don’t know why, but lately as I’ve mowed the lawn, I’ve had tears streaming down my face.  Yesterday it started to rain while I was mowing.  The irony made me grin.  There I was mowing in the rain, smiling and  crying at the same time.  I could imagine my neighbor talking to me over the fence and not realizing I was crying because the tears would mix with the raindrops.

Maybe I was crying because the recent afternoon showers have made my weedy lawn grow at an alarming rate and I’m having to mow more often.  Maybe the tears aren’t tears at all, but beads of perspiration.  (It’s that hot and humid.)  Maybe those bald spots in my yard where even weeds don’t grow are depressing me.  Maybe I’m longing for the help of the lawn boy (teenager) who mowed for me last year, and lamenting the notion that I can’t afford him this year.

Or maybe the tears are not for me at all.  Maybe they are tears of love and support for family and friends who need support right now.  What better time to shed them than while my mind is free as I pace back and forth, trying physically to make order and neatness in my surroundings, at the same time trying mentally to make order for my friends and family who feel as if they are living in chaos where nothing makes sense.

This post and my tears and prayers are for P whose father died yesterday after a tragic accident.  For my blogger friend U whose beloved daughter recently died unexpectedly.  For A whose darling boy died, the result of a seizure, at age eighteen.  For my cyber-friend J whose mother was recently diagnosed with cancer.  For my friend C whose dear son is fighting demons that none of us can understand.  For my precious daughter who is ill but not yet diagnosed.

God gave us unlimited tears because She knew these sorrows would sometimes come at us in bunches and we would need them.

This song kept nudging me as I mowed.  It’s written by Carole King and sung by the Everly Brothers.  Listen if you like.

The Christmas marathon.

I really just want to be warm yellow light that pours over everyone I love.  ~ Conor Oberst

The marathon is completed for another year and I’m both happy and sad to be home in the quiet again.  I always start Christmas morning with Dtr. #3, then go a couple of miles up the street to #1 and after lunch there, I head up to Chapel Hill to the home of #2.  It is so much fun to see the children’s excitement and feel their energy and love.  I am extraordinarily well-fed on Christmas Day, a lovely meal at each daughter’s home.  It’s now 4:00 pm a day later and I’m still not hungry.  But I’m just tired enough to appreciate the opportunity to read and rest and even to take a nap.

This was a holiday of giving and receiving scarves and sweaters as if we all want to swathe each other in all the good things that will sustain us until next year.  I know that’s how I feel about my loved ones and I sense the same from them.  It’s not just physical warmth but love and kindness and support and a shoulder to lean on when needed.  It’s happiness and joy and freedom from strife.  It’s health and enough wealth to pay the bills.  It’s peace and sharing with the less fortunate.  It’s forgiving and accepting forgiveness.  It’s whatever we need to be happy.

I’m happy to be here, now, the person that I am, with all manner of possibilities stretching out on the road ahead of me.  And I’m happy to have you to help me along.

Fake it till you make it…and other myths.

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.  Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.  ~ Orson Welles                                                                                                                  This Christmas season is the fifth one I’m spending alone.  I would love to tell you that it’s getting easier.  It isn’t.  The permanence seems all the more real with each passing year.

Last year, after the holidays were over, I threatened commented that for my next Christmas I thought I should go away somewhere and do something totally different.  I was quite serious, but the look of horror and shock on the face of one of my older grandchildren made that a very short-lived proposal.  I won’t entertain that thought/plan again soon.  Too selfish, obviously.

I started this season with new resolve and lots of plans.  It’s only December 1, and I’m already stumbling all over the depression, the lack of purpose.  I try, oh how I try, to keep my eye on joy and peace and giving and sharing.  All those good things are elusive.  I’m doing something wrong.  But what?  I get up and go out and do all the generous things I know I’m supposed to do.  I drive home with tears streaking my face.  I get home and here I am.  The same sad soul who left here a few hours earlier.

Last night I decided I would find a good movie on TV and cheer myself up.  I found one that sounded okay.  It starred Susan Sarandon, a fabulous actor, and Robin Williams, a good actor and riotously funny, as a rule.  As expected, the acting was good.  Unexpectedly, Robin played a serious role, nothing funny about it.  I think the title of the movie was “Noel” but I’m not sure.  Don’t watch it if you’re trying to get happy.  Saddest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  I sat on the couch and went through a half box of Kleenex.  I should have turned it off but I got involved in the story and had to watch all of it.  The ending was only slightly up-beat.  So much for feeling better.

I don’t like to talk about being sad.  I don’t usually find any good in doing so.  Tonight, though, maybe I need to be brutally honest in order to round the corner and move toward the light.  I have a lunch date with friends tomorrow.  Tonight I’m getting some Christmas decorations out and trying to look forward to how beautiful my home will be once they’re all in place.  I’m also crocheting a scarf for a granddaughter.  Life keeps moving and so must I.  I’ll quote my mom again, “I can’t quit.  I have to keep trying.”  Thanks for that bit of wisdom, Mom.

Can anyone understand how it is to have lived in the White House and then, suddenly to be living alone as the President’s widow? ~ Jackie Kennedy  (My house wasn’t the White House nor my husband the President, but I feel your pain, Jackie.)

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.

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.

A stroll down memory lane.

The leaves of memory seemed to make         A mournful rustling in the dark.                     ~ Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

Yesterday afternoon I took a little trip to my old neighborhood.  The one where D and the girls and I lived for a long time.  This was our home when we first got married.  The primary reason for this little excursion was to visit our next-door neighbor and friend A.  I don’t think she would mind my saying that she is now elderly as age goes.   She’s anything but elderly in her mind and in the way she acts and interacts with others.  She looks wonderful physically.  She stands straight and tall and she still moves gracefully.  We were, both of us, so very happy to see one another.  We hugged and hugged and then hugged again.  We talked and laughed and reminisced.  I must have stayed for an hour or more as we caught up with all the neighborhood news and our families.  The fact that we have both lost our husbands put us on common ground.  A’s husband died a while back.  You know about mine already.  Although A is of my mother’s generation, it’s as if she and I are not separated in any way by that now.  We both grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, she in Virginia and I in North Carolina, so we have very similar backgrounds and experiences.  It was a lovely visit and she is a lovely woman.

The rest of my memory stroll was rather dry like the autumn leaves that “make a mournful rustling.”  It didn’t make me sad, just pensive and maybe grateful.  I knocked on the door of our old house and met the young woman who is living there with her dog and her husband/boyfriend.  She was very nice and we had a brief chat after I told her my name.  She’s renting the house from D as he still owns it.  I had not been on the property in years, not since our daughter lived there.  I could not help noticing that the lawn and shrubs were in a bad state.  The brick walk that D laid when we lived there was overgrown with weeds.  The lawn hasn’t been mowed recently and I would guess that it’s been years since anyone has  mulched the beds.  I didn’t go in the back yard but I imagine the brick patio looks like the walkway.  And from A’s house I could see that there was a tree down and apparently it has been for some time.  Sad.

Before I left the neighborhood I drove around the circle and found that the rest of the street looks very much as it did years ago.  The trees and shrubs are taller but the houses are neat and the lawns well-groomed.  A tells me some of the “old” neighbors are still there.  Others have moved on and new (to me) families reside within.  It’s still a respectable area with everyday people and all the houses are different.   No two alike.  No “ticky tacky” on that street.  I’ve always liked that about it.

As I drove away from that little oasis and back into the traffic of the city I gave a little sigh of relief.  And yes, I felt grateful that I no longer live there.  I’m not sure why.  I imagine the state of the property was a factor.  But that’s not quite it.  Maybe it’s because I really have moved on.  I remember wonderful, happy times in that house.  But life has changed and we’re all different and You Can’t Go Home Again as Thomas Wolfe so succinctly put it.

Advice to my younger self.

To love and win is the best thing.  To love and lose, the next best. ~ William M. Thackeray

Dear Pat,

So you’re planning to get married.  This is a big decision and I know you’ve given it much thought.  Your children and how this second marriage will affect them is uppermost in your mind.  You have a new teaching job, and you and the girls could eke out a living without D in your lives.  You hope they will all get along but you don’t know that for sure.  D is very easy-going and seems to want to get along with them.  But how are the older daughters going to feel about a step-father who is significantly younger than their mom?  Not so great, probably.  You’ve recently learned that D isn’t exactly the person you thought he was.   But it’s nothing big, a small deception that doesn’t change how you feel about him.

What is my advice to you?  Since hindsight is supposedly twenty-twenty, I also know your heart.  The love and caring and passion that you feel for D is like nothing you’ve ever felt before.  I know that he got on his knee and put a diamond on your finger and asked you to marry him because he loved you, too, and he was willing to take on the challenge of a ready-made family.  I also know that this marriage will not last forever as you hope it will.  But listen up, young Pat, life doesn’t come with guarantees and the deep love that you feel for D may come along only once in a lifetime.  For some, it never comes.  My advice to you–go for it!  You’ll have many opportunities to play it safe in the years to come, this is not one of those times.

I feel sad about the pain you and D and the girls (and yes, the grandchildren) will endure when the marriage falls apart.  I know now, though, that you will all get through it and be stronger on the other side.  As the years pass the sad times will start to fade and you will be able to cherish the memories of some fabulous vacations, camping across the US, wonderful parties, a beautiful wedding on the lake, D and S stealing crispy garlic fries from each other (that one always makes me laugh), D’s “How y’all doin’ ” when you went to Maine–so many good times that you will always have.  Remember, no one can take those away.

Oh, and one more thing–I hope the photo above doesn’t offend you.  I couldn’t resist it because it is a perfect depiction of how you felt about your groom at the time of the wedding and for a long time thereafter.

Don’t forget:  Life is good.

Love, Pat

Making peace with suburbia.

Little boxes on the hillside,                        Little boxes made of ticky tacky.               Little boxes on the hillside,                           Little boxes all  the same.                        There’s a green one and a pink one            And a blue one and a yellow one.             Little boxes made of ticky tacky                 And they all look just the same.                       ~ Malvina Reynolds

Little Boxes was written in 1962 by Ms. Reynolds and then made into a minor hit by Pete Seeger in 1963.  It’s a satire on American suburban living.  I thought it was both hilarious and rather sad back then and I still think so today.  And here I am, divorced and living right in the middle of suburbia, in my little gray box made of ticky tacky.

I have been quite comfortable here since April 2008.  It really is more space than I need but it accommodates all my suburbia stuff and I have felt pretty good about it.  Right now the insurance is paying to have all manner of repairs done to it because of hail storm damage.  This is like a windfall because I had no idea I had damage.  Many of my neighbors were getting work done because of the storm and I decided maybe I should have my house checked out.  I started with the roof but then the insurance company sent out a disaster adjuster and he found lots problems caused by the hail.  So very soon my little box will be in ship-shape order again without my having to pay for it.  And that’s the good news.

I am accustomed to bumps in the road.  That’s life and for the most part I have learned to deal with them.  But I become a little discombobulated when one of those bumps seems to threaten my physical safety.  Or when something doesn’t feel right and I’m not sure whether to feel threatened or not.  Such was the case last night.  At about 10:10 my doorbell rang.  That has happened only one other time, that late at night, since I’ve lived here and it was a neighbor inviting me to a party.  No big deal.  I said “Who is it?”  She said, “It’s A.”  I opened the door and we had a pleasant exchange.  Last night, I turned on the light, looked through the peep-hole and didn’t see anyone.  I asked my question twice and twice no one answered.  I know all of the it was probably…messages to give myself but I still felt uncomfortable.  So I called my next-door neighbor and he looked around outside his house and mine and saw nothing out of the ordinary.  He assured me I had not awakened him and I should call him whenever anything was amiss.  Bless him.

So the bad news is that someone has disrupted my blissful acceptance of suburbia right when I was making peace with it.  I’ll be sure to set the alarm and keep my cell phone by my side at night.  In the meantime I would like to give that someone a piece of my mind for temporarily taking away my peace of mind.  Here’s a Brooklyn cheer for you, Buster!


I was thinking of a series of dreams.     Where nothing comes up to the top.  Everything stays down where it’s wounded.  And comes to a permanent stop…

In one, I was running, and in another          All I seemed to be doing was climb.               ~ Bob Dylan

I dream in Technicolor.  Dreams fascinate me.  Sometimes I understand immediately what the message is supposed to be.  Other times I’m left puzzled.  I’ve never had anyone analyze a dream for me.  After D left, I recorded some of my more poignant dreams in my journal.

On February 6, 2007, I recorded this one:  D pulled up to a curb to let me out of the car.  I think it was my car because the step down was a big one like that of a Trailblazer.  Once I stepped out of the car I had to keep stepping down, down.  There was no flat surface to steady  myself.  There were no stairs, no rope or handrail, just irregular downward steps and no turning back.  He didn’t say anything to me nor I to him.  He just stopped the car and indicated that I should get out.  No explanation.  No promise to come back for me.  No offer to help me down that terrifying descent.  This one still shocks me today and makes me sad.  It explains perfectly what happened and how I felt about it.  I don’t need a dream analyst to tell me what it means.  Keep in mind this dream took place less than two months after he told me he wanted a divorce.  Though I still had hopes of a reconciliation, I must have known in my gut that it wasn’t going to happen.  Unlike some of my dreams, I dreamed this one only once.  Once was enough.  I don’t know whether I will ever erase it from memory.

I have a number of recurring dreams.  Some of them are negative, frustrating experiences.  But I have one that is positive and upbeat and I love to wake up after dreaming it.  The dream:  I can fly.  But not in the traditional way.  I don’t soar through the air like an eagle or Wonder Woman.  I levitate a few feet off the ground and I flit from place to place like a butterfly.  I’m very fast.  And I love doing it.  I find it interesting that the other people in the dream don’t seem to think anything of it.  It’s as if it’s a normal thing to do even though I’m the only one who has this ability.  I think one of the oddest things about this flying phenomenon is that I’m upright, erect, head up, feet down.  I never fail to wake up wishing I could really do this.  Remember this is an ongoing dream that I have had for years.  Interesting thing though is that I quit having it for the first couple of years after D left.  Now it’s back and I’m so happy about that.

Sometimes I think I might like to have a dream guru analyze this last one for me.  But I’m not sure.  I wouldn’t want to take any of the joy out of it.  Or stop it entirely.  I know that flying is in the category called lucid dreams.  This means that the dreamer becomes aware that she’s dreaming.  I wonder what an analyst would make of the fact that I fly upright.  Hmmm.  I’ve told you my dreams (well, a small sampling) now you have permission to tell me yours.

It’s after 11:00.  I’m going to bed.  Sweet dreams.