I’m allowed to change my mind.

Today is an exciting day. Last night I slept upstairs for the first time in almost a year. Since I came home from rehabilitation last December, I’ve been downstairs in the guest room. IMG_1108Yesterday my daughter and I cleaned my room and carried my clothes back upstairs. I suddenly came to the realization that I belong in my bed. I don’t like feeling like a  guest here. It took me a while to go to sleep but once I did, I slept all night. Lulu didn’t have any difficulty making the transition. She went to sleep straight away.

After falling down the stairs last year, my first thought was that I should sell my house and move to a one-story place. It seemed reasonable, the right thing to do.

As time passed, though, I started to feel more and more unsettled about that decision. Fortunately, I can change my mind. And so I did. The thought of downsizing a second time became a great weight on my shoulders. It’s too heavy and I’m unwilling to carry it. I have the option of doing it later — or not.

I feel lighter and happier than I have in a long time.


A loss of innocence.

I grew up in the 50s. Some have called it a time of innocence. The war was over.photo-7 Our returning veterans were able to attend college or university on the GI Bill. Eisenhower was President. He played a lot of golf as I recall, and my dad criticized him for it. (Some things don’t change.) Families were buying homes with white picket fences. Well, maybe they didn’t all have fences. The point is those were the halcyon days.

Nineteen sixty ushered in a new decade fairly quietly but the calm was short-lived. I write this today in order to recall the day I realized for the first time that my safe, secure homeland wasn’t quite what I thought. On November 22, 1963, our young president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. My feelings about my country and the basic good in people were permanently altered. What kind of monster could be capable of shooting our energetic young leader? And why? Some questions have no answers.

Last week a man went to the apartment of three young Muslim students in Chapel Hill, NC, and fatally shot all three of them. Why? Some said it was a hate crime. Aren’t all murders hate crimes? Some said it was over a parking space. Really? The murderer was a self-avowed atheist. Did he hate all religions? Or only the Muslim faith? I’m guessing we will never know the answers to these questions either.

I’m relieved to report that he gave himself up the same day and has remained in custody since.

The night after the slaughter of these students, my granddaughter sent me a text. ” I can’t stop crying and wondering why and how a thing like this is allowed to happen. I don’t understand how this was allowed to happen in my home. It’s the worst thing I have ever experienced.” I tried to console her but I had no answers for her.

I can’t help remembering that I had the same questions all those years ago when our President was shot and killed. The frustration and sadness that H is experiencing in exactly what I dealt with at almost the same age she is. I was a sophomore student, one year older than H, and was attending university in my home town.

My granddaughter H was born and reared in Chapel Hill. She’s a freshman at the university there. It’s the oldest state university in the country. It’s small-town southern America with a great deal more diversity than most towns in the state. It’s the diversity that makes it a very special place.photo(20)


H’s parents have taught her to have a strong sense of justice and to do what is right. Not just for herself, but for those in her community–all of them. She has marched in the state capital for voter rights and other issues. Whenever she sees someone in need, she chooses to help if she can. Eventually this crime in her home town will strengthen her convictions. But first she has to mourn.




Am I invisible?

shutterstock_10882816-1280x960Growing old is not all sweetness and light.  Old women especially are invisible. ~ Ruth Rendell

I have said a number of times to daughter # 1 that the older women become the more invisible they are.  The last time I said it I guess she was tired of hearing me whine so she said, “You’re always saying that, Mom.  I don’t get it.”

I started noticing this odd phenomenon when I was in my forties.  I often took my husband’s grandmother to the ophthalmologist after her cataract surgery.  She was alert and intelligent and tuned in.  She would sign her name on the sign-in sheet.  Then the young woman who came over to check her in would look straight at me and ask questions about the patient.  I was completely taken aback.  I remember looking at her with a puzzled look on my face and telling her, “You need to ask her,” nodding toward Grandmother, “because I don’t know.”  (I must insert here that this grandmother was never known by any of the traditional grandma titles.  We called her Ole Shoe–another story for another time.)  So…Ole Shoe would give me a smile and respond to all questions herself.

If I’m not mistaken, this scenario played out every time we went to that particular office.  I guess my not-so-subtle message didn’t infiltrate the mind of my intended subject.

I don’t imagine the office staff person realized she was being disrespectful.  She was a nice person as far as I could tell, and very efficient.  Efficient is the word that struck me first thing this morning as I was reading my cyber friend Uta’s current post. Uta lives in Australia and she was writing about a very efficient agent who completely ignored her and spoke only with her husband Peter.  I’m thinking Uta felt invisible.  She would have appreciated some acknowledgment of her existence.  She didn’t get it.

After reading Uta’s post I started to do a bit of online research about older women.  I discovered an article Tira Harpaz wrote and guest-posted on Salon. (Go to salon.com and  type in women over 50 are invisible in the red bar at the top of the page.)  Harpaz suggests that women who are in positions of authority are able to delay the onset of invisibility.  I think that’s true but it doesn’t include the majority of older women.

So what are we everyday older women to do?  Do we have any control over how others perceive us?

I think we do. It may be limited, but we have some control. For me it means staying active. Having a firm step when I walk (unless the arthritis in my right ankle kicks in :))  It means speaking clearly and with authority.  It means volunteering.  It means asserting myself when necessary, without being strident.  (Not being annoyed and strident is hard for me.) It means saying, “Excuse me, I believe I was next in line.”  It means standing tall with a smile on my face and determination in my demeanor.

If this is an issue for you, I would like to hear how you stay visible and relevant.

Note:  The image of the invisible woman above is from the Harpaz article.

Looking back, but leaning forward.

I always knew looking back on my tears would bring me laughter, but I never knew looking back on my laughter would make me cry.             ~ Cat Stevens

I cry a little every day.  I have done so for almost six years now.  Maybe it’s cleansing, but I’m getting rather tired of it.

I grew up being the dependable, strong child in the family.  That sounds like a good thing, but it wasn’t necessarily.  I was the middle of five children and what I was really doing was trying to keep the peace.  Discord terrified me because my dad was a violent alcoholic, and at times violent while sober.  I tried to soothe my younger sisters and I begged my older angry brother not to make waves at the dinner table.  Then, when my brother didn’t take my advice and Daddy dragged him from the table beating him with a belt, buckle and all, I would plead with my dad to stop.  I learned to plead from a distance else my dad would give me a whack on his back swing.  Dinner was fun at my house.

I’m not sure why that last paragraph popped in on this post.  I think it’s the fact that I was scolded for crying when I was a child.  For example, I would be crying when my father finally let go of my brother and he (Dad) would scream, “Stop your damn crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”  So I learned not to cry.  Maybe I’m just catching up now.  All those unshed tears from my youth are finally allowed to flow.  And so they do.

Does this mean that my ex-husband did me a favor by leaving?  He saw how desperately I needed to cry so he decided to help me out?  Gave me a reason to cry?  Gave me many reasons to cry?  My tongue is firmly in my cheek now and I’m not crying.  I’m laughing.  It feels good to laugh.  It reminds me that I still have a sense of humor, and I can laugh at myself and my situation.  This would make great slapstick.  Maybe I’ll write a play.  I’ll call it “Now That You Broke My Heart, What’s Gonna Pump My Blood?”

I saw my ex on Saturday at Stella’s birthday party.  (She’s six.)  I recognize now, and have for some time, that he’s nothing like the D I once knew and loved.  Sometimes I may sound like I want him back, but I don’t.  It simply means I’m having a weak moment.  Or I’m feeling lonely.  Or maybe I’m remembering and longing for what was a long time ago.  We had a lot of good years together.  There’s much to remember fondly.  But wanting it back is fantasy.  It doesn’t exist now.

Happy tears.  Sad tears.  They’re all good.

Bitterblue by Cat Stevens at Royal Albert Hall (1970s)

The family tree and other scary stories.

We all grow up with the weight of history on us.  Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.                        ~ Shirley Abbott

Yesterday my daughter (I’ll refer to her as DJ in this post.) and I went on a little road trip to our home town, Boone, NC.  It was good to get out of the humidity and enjoy the mountains.  We went up to have lunch with my youngest sister and to take some things for her thrift shop.  We were all happy to see each other and had a nice time together as we caught up with what’s going on in whose life over lunch.

After lunch DJ and I walked down to Daniel Boone Native Gardens.  It’s one of her favorite spots.  I hadn’t been there in years so I was happy to see it again and snap a few photos.  No matter how many times I return to my native “stomping grounds” I continue to be taken aback by how green everything is.  The reason is, of course, the fact that there is adequate (an understatement) rainfall there.  I took this photo of ferns in the moss and fern garden to emphasize the green-ness of it all.

From the beginning to the end of our little tour, we kept seeing plaques honoring, thanking, memorializing people with my family surname, people I knew or sorta knew as a child.  I started thinking about the family tree  and where these people should be placed on said tree.  I grew up thinking they must have been on the right side, up high, reaching for the sun (or the moon).  And we must have been on the left side barely above the root system, struggling for a little ray of light to keep us alive and growing.  That was my perception, more or less.  Alas, perceptions aren’t always reality.

Why did I have that perception?  That’s the question I’ve had rolling around in my brain this afternoon.  It sounds like a simple enough question, but of course it’s actually very complex.  As a child and a young person, I thought they have money and we don’t.  They are educated and we are not.  They have fancy homes and we do not.

I know now that my perceptions, my attitudes toward the upwardly mobile branches of the family came from my insecure parents.  And they got their attitudes from their parents.  Who knows why brothers and cousins from the same family started out with equal amounts of wealth and acres of land– in the same county at about the same time and some wound up wealthy while others were destitute?  That’s the way it’s always been and ever will be.  Different personalities.  Different sets of skills and training.  Different ambitions.

I’m happy to say that the destitute don’t have to stay that way.  They can learn things.  They can go to the university.  They can have a better life than their parents, and in so doing they teach their children that lesson as well.  My childhood wasn’t always fun but I learned how to survive and then how to thrive.  Would I have learned those valuable life lessons if I hadn’t suffered hardships growing up?  I also know now that those “Ozzie and Harriet” relatives probably weren’t.  They were just people fumbling much like the rest of us.

My Hometown by The Boss.

Who’s on first?

Have you ever explained something to someone and neither of you understood what the other was trying to say?  When no matter what you said you couldn’t make your message clear?  It becomes a comedy of errors sometimes and you just have to laugh about it.  Abbott and Costello did a skit called “Who’s on first?” in their 1945 movie The Naughty Nineties, which perfectly demonstrates what I’m talking about.  It gets funnier every time I hear it.  Click here if you’d like to watch the clip.  If you’re a baseball fan you’ll love this. It’s a classic.  And hilarious even if you’re not a fan.

I recently had a conversation with a woman at church.  We were making plans to combine the Portuguese and Spanish services on Sunday and I asked her a question about the order of songs in the service.  I usually create the schedule, with the help of the pastor, on Friday night at rehearsal.  This time a third party, M, had set up the schedule.  She didn’t understand what I was asking and I was clumsily trying to explain.  After a bit of incomplete/incompetent (on my part) dialogue, I looked at her and said, “I don’t understand.”  She replied just as simply, “What don’t you understand?”  Aaarrgghh!  Deadlock.  I’m laughing as I recall this incident.  As it turns out, it was my not understanding the Portuguese that was causing the problem.  I realized that after she went back to rehearsing her music and I was able to focus singly on what was in front of me.  As soon as I caught her eye, I gave her a thumbs up to let her know I had resolved my issue.  Fortunately we are both mature enough to realize it was no big deal.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

On a more serious note, have you ever tried to communicate with someone who doesn’t want/refuses to communicate with you?  Well, I have and it isn’t pretty.  The last years of our marriage I begged D to talk to me.  He wouldn’t.  Or maybe he couldn’t.  I guess I’ll never know which but the one thing I do know clearly and without doubt–we weren’t talking.  And I know what I think–he had already removed himself from our marriage.  His mind, along with his conversation, was elsewhere.  Once communication has broken down, the door is wide open for miscommunication to occur.  One partner will take a word, a phrase, or even a small sentence and isolate it and obsess over it and make it into something much worse than it was ever intended to be.  It’s so sad when that happens because it’s proof that real interactive dialogue is gone and the relationship is taking a nose dive.

I remember one time when I knew we weren’t connecting with each other verbally, and  I decided I should write him a letter.  (Back in the early days of our courtship D would write me long, sweet letters.  I still have them.)  So I wrote him a letter explaining my feelings about something; I don’t remember what, but probably our inability to communicate.  I closed by saying that either he didn’t get it or he didn’t care.  I also told him I preferred to think it was the former.  After a slow and difficult separation and divorce, I finally had to acknowledge it was the latter.  He got it.

An aside:  If my sweet brother Jack were alive, he would be 71 today.  He hated sharing his birthday with Ronald Reagan.  🙂    I still miss him. 😦

Star of wonder.

One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.  ~  Gilbert K. Chesterton

I would like to write a post soon on the role of ego in my life, so this quote appeals to me.   I can’t get my mind around it right now because I’m very tired–it’s a good sort of tired.

I have a number of these stars on my Christmas tree.  In fact, I have them in a rainbow of colors.  I don’t know why I chose the purple for display on my blog except that I’m rather partial to that hue.  Always have been.  It’s the color of my birthstone, the amethyst.  It’s also, historically, considered a color for royalty, so maybe I’m feeling regal.  More likely I’m trying to feel like a patrician.  That’s also my name you know–Patricia.  I kinda like how all those things fell together for me.  Knowing what my parents were like, I can assure you it was not planned.  Just happenstance.  Or is it?

Wherever you are, I hope you’re having a star-studded, sensational soiree in your patrician purple party pants.  Okay.  That was a stretch.  Hope you’re having fun. 🙂

Getting to the bottom of the bag.

  Carry a small bag so you don’t have to carry too much weight.  Heavy baggage damages your shoulder and your neck and your back and your psyche. ~ Pat

My daughter and her family brought me this little bag from Hawaii where they recently spent their summer vacation.  It’s hand-painted and embroidered and quite lovely to look at.  It has just enough space for my essentials which are minimal.  I’ve learned that if I carry a small bag I’ll fill it up or if I carry a large one the same thing happens.  I definitely prefer the lighter weight.  Back in the day when I needed a super-sized one to carry diapers, training pants, etc., I found that everyone in the family had something they needed me to carry because I always had room for one more item in the giant atrocity.  I usually trailed behind in the airport and now I wonder if they knew it was because I was carrying such a heavy load.

Have you ever noticed, when you carry a heavy burden like the one mentioned above, it can be very difficult to get to the bottom of the bag to unload the one thing that you need to remove?  I find life to be much like that, too.  If I carry around every bad, sad, unfair thing that has happened to me, it’s not easy to find and deal with things that may really need my attention.  Just as the physical load can damage my body, so can the emotional baggage overload my psyche, my ability to deal with everyday strife.

When I get in a philosophical frame of mind like this I start to realize that my divorce probably did happen for a reason.  Maybe it was Kismet if you believe in that sort of thing.  I’m not sure I do.  Even though D traveled for a living when we were married, and I had plenty of time to deal with all the problems that were me, I was able to avoid them.  I could focus instead on his chronic illness, our latest conversation or lack thereof, and what he said, what I said or didn’t say.  I wrapped too much of myself, my life around what he was doing, thinking, or  not doing, thinking.  He never asked me to do that.  Maybe I did it to avoid looking at my core issues.

I realize now that I carried a lot of baggage from my family of origin.  I had a victim mentality long before the divorce hit.  Also a fear of abandonment.  Both probably came from my mother and her insecurities.  (I’m not blaming her.  She did the very best she could.)  If we become what we think, then it was inevitable that I would become the victim of divorce and abandonment.  And so I did.

The happy side of this story is that today when I look at myself I’m okay with who I am.  If I see something I don’t like I try to change it.  If it’s so resistant to change that I’m wasting too much energy on it, then acceptance goes a long way.  And life is good.

A note that has nothing to do with this post:  I was sitting on the couch a little before 2:00 this afternoon, my feet and legs resting on the coffee table.  Suddenly the table started to move, tremble.  It went on for maybe 30 seconds.  It dawned on me that it was an earthquake, a very rare event on the east coast.  The epicenter was near Richmond, VA, but it was felt far and wide along the Atlantic Coast states.  It was a very eerie feeling, one that I had not experienced before.