Monday, November 28, 2011

And We're Off!

Now that turkey has been eaten 'til we're sick of it, and our wallets are lighter after "Black Friday"'s forays in the wee hours, many of us have moved on -- officially -- to that holiday of all holidays: Christmas. Riding around this weekend, I saw that many houses are lit with pretty colored and white light creations. I used to begin my exterior light decorating on Black Friday instead of emptying my wallet. This year, I had no energy for any of that. Today, my brother and his wife are coming over for lunch. And, guess what we're having? That's right: more turkey!

Oh, I have begun to pull out bins of Christmas decorations, although I admit I haven't had the energy yet to go to the storeroom and make my way to its back corner where the main stash is kept. I have collected bins and bins of the stuff. Decorations so festive they'll make your teeth ache. I know I'll get there, but I just find myself kicking and dragging me there this year; ever so slowly. I'm just tired, and having trouble wrapping my mind around Christmas festivities.

I have always loved Christmas. Since I was a little girl, I loved nothing better than decorating the tree with glass balls, trying hard  not to drop them or lose them when the metal caps holding the loops pulled out. We even had those lights that bubbled like lava lamps from the '60's, except they were from the '50's. We threw heaps of silver tinsel all over the tree until it shimmered, and then I looked up and saw the golden star or angel sitting on top. How magical it all was.

In my early twenties, I created, and truly became, Mrs. Claus. I worked for a company in Needham, Massachusetts: Ludlow Corporation. One of my co-workers wrote a Christmas play and solicited several of us to participate. I have always loved acting, and secretly wanted to be on stage one day, so I lept at the chance to try my hand. After weeks of rehearsals, the big day came. The auditorium was filled to overflowing with employees and their families. Little children sat around our makeshift stage on the floor, mesmerized as we brought her story to life. I was Mrs. Claus, and I loved it. The costume I chose was very traditional: long red velvet dress, trimmed in white; white apron and old-fashioned cap on my grey old-lady hair and "granny" glasses. She was a big hit.

At thirty, I brought her back to life when I created the "Childrens' Christmas" (and soon to be more politically correct: "Holiday") parties at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA), where I began my twenty-five year career as a secretary. I actually worked for Smithsonian Institution Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), and retired from there as a Telecommunications Specialist. Lots happened in between to get me from there to here, but that is for another story.

The first year of my employ at SAO, I wanted to meet people and make friends, so I joined the "Social Club". We sponsored lots of fun events to try and get Ph.D. "rocket scientists" out of their offices and their heads. There was an annual Christmas party, but nothing just for children. So I created the first childrens' party. The CfA has a collaborative relationship with the Boston Museum of Science Planetarium. So, I made a call and met with the director. He was very nice, and let me use their Christmas show script for my party. And, they lent me a myriad of slides about the Christmas Star and many other images of the season.
I also established a relationship with Broadway Costume store in Boston, and they created the first Mrs. Claus costume to my specifications, just for me. They kept it for me every year, and the Social Club picked up the tab for everything. I had a famous scientist (John Huchra, now deceased) play Christmas LPs during the party from the balcony of "Phillips Auditorium", and got several friends to dress up as Elves to help me. We rehearsed a song to sing for everyone: John Denver and The Muppets, "It's In Everyone Of Us", and I sang harmony. There were craft tables for all ages where the children made ornaments out of popcycle sticks and decorated pictures with glue, glitter, cotton balls and scraps of fabric, buttons and stuff I bought by the pound at the Boston Childrens' Museum. Everyone was encouraged to bring a gift with the child's name on it, and a volunteer played Santa to have those children sit on his lap.

My Christmas Star "talk" was a huge hit. Another scientist friend, Jim Moran, who I worked with at the time, commented to me the next day that, "I missed my calling". "You had a hundred-plus adults and children of all ages enthralled the entire time." Needless to say, I was thrilled. And, Mrs. Claus appeared every year.

After about six years, I had trouble finding someone to play Santa, and once that happened, I declared that Mrs. Claus was "retired". It was time to focus on my career anyway and nobody was taking me seriously. I was the party person, and I was Mrs. Claus. I can't tell you how many very serious, high-level scientists I disappointed when Mrs. Claus stopped showing up at the holiday parties. Each one would approach me, and in their smallest-child voice, would ask, "Is Mrs. Claus coming this year?" I would have to say, "No, I'm really sorry. She retired." They would frown miserably and walk away. It was really pathetic. Mrs. Claus was "real" to them.

See? The little child in us never dies. (S)he lives forever inside our hearts and keeps us young no matter how many years we accumulate. I have been weighted down by Life events recently, and I must get that child back. I know she's in there, but I'm having trouble getting her to come out and play right now. I am confident that once I open that first bin full of Christmas decorations, she will perk up and my energy will lighten. I just have to open that first bin. Maybe I should get help with that today.

Enjoy the coming ride into the end-of-year holiday season. It is a magical one; full of light, music and joy. Let it fill you up, as I will, and lift your hearts to new heights as we begin the new year. Happy, happy, everyone.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gobble, Gobble!

"Will we get turkey, Mom?" Mattie Grace, our three-year-old Havanese, looked imploringly at me with those big, wet eyes of hers like Puss In Boots from the Shrek films. Jackson, our Bichon Frise who is a week younger, just accepted that, "No we aren't, because YOU have issues!" He was disgusted with his sister. She recently had surgery to remove large Struvite crystal stones from her bladder, and is on a restricted diet. Of course, Jackson is also on this diet because Mommy and Daddy are not about to feed different food to them and deal with the resultant battles.

But Mom surprised them both last night with cut-up giblets anyway. Mattie gobbled them up in a flash, while Jackson picked away at them very confused. I don't think he particularly liked the consistency. What happened to "real" dawgs anyway! You know, the kind that eat everything? The dawgs that eat only people food? Did we breed the dawg out of our dogs?

I am so grateful for our little furry children. They make us smile and they make us laugh. They melt our hearts with their antics, and soothe us with their unconditional love and snuggling. They are our greatest teachers of Unconditional Love. No matter what we do to them, they always look at us adoringly. They can't wait to stick their tongues in our noses and mouths, and lap our faces all over with unbridled joy. They sleep when they're tired and eat when they're hungry. They jump excitedly when they hear the words "treat" or "out", and drag us down the street sniffing in earnest in search of the next adventure.

Let's try just for today to be like our dawgs. Let's enjoy our turkey with all the fixin's without guilt or remorse, and jump for joy when the pies come out without looking back. Let's just enjoy our day to remember all the Blessings we have received, and then take a lovely nap while football drones on in the background.

P.S. I just had to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving treats: first is my mother's sausage stuffing.  Next, are two cream pies I made from scratch for the first time ever: chocolate and pumpkin. Lastly, I encourage you all to add leftover sweetened whipped cream to your turkey day morning coffee. Yum.
 My ultimate blessing is this house on the Sakonnet River. What a beautiful day to celebrate all my blessings with our loving children and in-laws.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting Down Before Getting Back Up

My body is so weighted down. My four-mile walk yesterday was slower than it has been. My feet and legs feel very heavy. But I finished it, and thought of Jennifer Lopez' performance on the American Music Awards the night before. I have a new "girl crush" on her. If she were a super hero, she would be "Elastica". Whenever she got down on "all fours" and curled her spine, I could not believe how deeply she could go and how fluid she was. She sang and energetically danced through the entire number without breaking a sweat or losing her breath. I was truly amazed, and cheered enthusiastically for her. What a body comeback she has after birthing twins. I know she's rich and probably has personal trainers come to her home and wait on her hand and foot, but she still has to choose to do the work. Just like any of us. We have to choose it, and want it so badly, we can taste it. Why not live my own "charmed" life: just like J. Lo. I have been living a charmed life to a certain extent, but only after I stopped pining for whatever I didn't have, and started being grateful for what all I DO have.

2011 has been a hard year for Me; for Us. We have suffered through the loss of loved ones: Larry's sister, Libby, both of my friend Joyce's parents, and my little grandson, Owen. I have felt much sadness and worry for some of my family members who struggle with addiction or cancer, and I find it difficult to cry. I cried hard for Owen, but the tears seem locked up somehow as I try hard not to worry about my sister's latest diagnosis. Is there something wrong with me?

I was given a gift from Sonia Choquette, one of my spiritual mentors, on Facebook yesterday, and I opened it today. I learned in the first lesson, that instead of beating myself up for not being more emotional in the face of tragedy, I am living as my Spirit Self more than my Ego Self. My Spirit can sit like a burning flame and let Life circle around it without blowing it out. My Spirit is not locked in the undertow of fear or worry, that the Ego Self requires just to survive. I was reminded how to breathe in the Life Force of Spirit, and blow out all the negativity that my Ego is using to bring me down. I realized just how Ego-centric I am! I don't think I am alone in this either. And, like in any other difficult circumstance; knowing I am not alone, is very helpful and healing.

Breathe in...breathe out with an "ah" sound. Share a breath with me now.

I feel a little lighter. Do you? Remember, it's about taking "baby" steps. Choose to take one baby step forward, then another every time you fall. That's what I do, and sometimes I need reminding: like today.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Week Later

I was an absolute slug on Friday. I forced myself to get dressed; then I forced myself to put on shoes. I had all intent and purpose to go out and return my library book, then pick up my free turkey in Portsmouth, RI. After eating a bowl of Progresso chicken soup, I gave in: took off my shoes and climbed under a soft blankie on the couch and took an hour's nap. I just felt exhausted. We were also committed to attend a special event at Fountain Street Fine Art Gallery in Framingham, MA, and were looking forward to seeing our good friends there. I just couldn't muster the strength to drive an hour and a half one-way to get there. So, we stayed in and rested. It was a week to the day that our grandson, Owen, died suddenly and unexpectedly. And, it had also been a week of other bad news, so no wonder I was tired. I was happy to give in to it and just take care of my Self for a change.

Yesterday, I got my ass out of the house fairly early and did what I had planned to do on Friday. In addition, I got hold of my friend, Debi (Roger the German Shephard's mom), and met her and another friend, Margie, for lunch. A Sam Adams' beer tasted good with my Spanish-baked cod for lunch after returning The Warden by Anthony Trollope (my bookclub's latest) to the library, and picking up the free turkey I won by spending $300 at Clement's Marketplace a while back. They finally had loaves of "stuffing bread" to make my mother's sausage stuffing for Thanksgiving, and of course, a box of Bell's Seasoning. I discovered last year while hosting Thanksgiving in South Carolina, that I couldn't buy stuffing bread or Bell's there. Unheard of!

Later that afternoon, after putting away my groceries, I took the pups for a much-needed walk to Fogland Beach and the adjacent "loop" road neighborhood. The wind has been howling all week. Between the wind's loud roaring and the waves crashing on shore, there is always a background noise that sounds worse than it really is. I expect to look out the window and see the trees bent in half from the sound of it, but they are just waving normally.

Once we reached the beach, that poor dead seagull was still lying where it has been for several days now. I never remember to bring anything with me to move it and obviously nobody else feels compelled to do anything about it either. So, I found a shrub branch closeby and covered it; holding it down with beach rocks. I said a little prayer for it and kept on walking.

Next, we came to a large boulder that had some stones resting on it. I was moved to create two towers for my grandsons: Aidan and Owen. Aidan's pile has four stones because he provided the foundation for our ability to emotionally deal a little more easily with the loss of Owen a year later. As devastated as we all are, we are not as crippled this time around. Our two little angels watch over us and have our backs as we continue to struggle to accept their loss.

Mattie Grace doesn't like walking in strong wind. She leads the way back to the road off the beach when it becomes too much for her. Reaching the shelter of tall bushes and trees is always a welcome relief from walking against strong wind, and having sand blown into the pups' ears that are driven up and back away from their little faces by it. We trotted along the dirt road and rounded the bend to the house being built on a lot I called my nephew, Paul, about several years ago when it was for sale.

The foundation walls are complete and their outsides sealed black to prevent water seepage. I walked to the top of the prepared path for the workers then looked out to imagine the view once this house is finished. It'll be a very big house and from the looks of the foundation, will be tall like ours is. The wrap-around view on three sides will be spectacular when it's finished. And, it's on the bay side, so it will be more protected from wind and water. I felt happy for whoever the new owners are and imagined what a happy life they will have there. I look forward to watching what the new house will ultimately look like. I remembered how much fun and what a challenge it was to build our house and make the million choices required to get it just right for us. I wondered what the taste was of these owners, and wait with anticipation for the unveiling over the coming winter months.

After finishing the loop, we ended up back at the beach where parasail-boarders were flying across the choppy, cold water. Are these people brave or crazy? I can't tell. They obviously have dry suits on, because the water they fall in up to their necks looks really, really cold. They must also be very fit, because this strong wind carries them along the water's surface leaving a wake behind their boards. They are magical looking, and I am happy to watch their antics; feeling no urge to try it myself.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Living Consciously

"YOU are the 'wayshower' for the 'Default' and 'Unconscious' (in terms of how they live their lives: see below) holding the space for them until they can hold their own. Those that tell you otherwise are simply projecting their inability to step into their power and Light. Do not base your life on what others cannot do!" Simran Singh (
["Default: Let the chips fall where they may... Do not take responsibility for anyone or anything, especially the self. Use the wands of blame and shame to be able to have the right to moan and complain... not being happy or present but feeling the pain...

Unconscious: Feeling a little numbed out...Going through the motions and seeing oneself doing so. Telling yourself what needs to change but not having the will enough to change it. Not even caring enough to blame or take responsibility. Letting life rule you instead of you ruling your life.

You have a knowing that your reality is revealed through your thoughts, feelings and actions. You understand that you not only have the ability to co-create your experience, but the Divine right to access all that is good within this experience. 
In doing so, you also have the heart to support the world in its change."]

 I opened Facebook this morning, and found these words on the web site of one of my Spiritual Mentors, who now lives and works in Charleston, South Carolina. I first met Simmi many years ago when she was just developing her business, "Believe". I saw her billboards around town and found them mezmirizing. Then, I saw an article about her in "Skirt" magazine, a free magazine I found in an internet cafe in Lexington, South Carolina. I took a breath workshop with her, and was compelled by her sensitivity, her calm and positive nature; her intuition, her drive and motivation. She has been a great help to me in sorting through the "muck" in my head that I get stuck in from time-to-time. I trust and respect her a great deal. She is also one of the great "movers and shakers" in my life who inspire me to be "the best I can be".

When I was seventeen years old, I sat in the Burger King in Waltham, Massachusetts with my two best friends at the time: Patty and Kathy. We were talking about life, and I found myself declaring then and there that, "I will try anything in life at least once." I have sincerely tried to do just that ever since. There have been many bumps in the road along the way, but I have sought help from a myriad of mentors and programs to help me figure them out and move forward. Then, another day twenty years later, I realized that all decisions in Life boil down to two: do I want to be happy or miserable. I chose "Happy" in that moment, and have tried to sort through all the decisions that will get me there. I will always need help sorting through the cobwebs of my memories and the mud that holds me down. But I will stand up again and again, because I must.

I am like the moss in these pictures. If you look down on me from above, I stand out from the frey, but I blend in. Then, if you look at me from the side, I resemble a completely different plant. I am a shrub that provides a boundry from the outside world to the home it sits in front of. I am beautiful, bountiful, strong and dense, yet flexible. I can put roots down anywhere and live successfully, whether I am in the dirt or on an old board. I am happy to be exactly who and what I am. This statement feels really good to say out loud and really feel it is true. I haven't felt it is true for some time now. I am happy to be moving forward once more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

High Tide

Exhaustion feels all pervasive right now. When Larry mentioned how tired he was yesterday, I was so grateful. I had been feeling it too, but just thought it was depression seeping in again. No, it's just the weight of sadness at the loss of our little grandson last Friday. Clouds seem to want to move in and take over, but the sun continues to shine. I have to bathe in that sunshine, even though I want to curl up in a blankie on the couch and let the clouds cover me. I know I am more powerful than the clouds, and choose to feel the sun. It is very hard.

I haven't made much time for meditation during the past year. After filling the bird feeders and cleaning up big "Roger" poops with a shovel we keep in the screened-in porch, I took my camera to the "river". We live on the Sakonnet River. Roger is a German Shepard friend of ours who lives two houses over and who visits regularly. We give him treats and he goes back home. He's getting old now, and his hips don't let him climb our stairs as regularly as they used to, but he still keeps trying. He's a "lovey boy" and we are honored to clean up whatever "presents" he leaves us. He protects our property. He's like a member of our family. We love him.

The tide is the highest right now as I've ever seen it, and I just had to capture its power somehow. The sounds I've been hearing day and night draw me to the beach. This morning, I acted on that urge. I don't even want to analyze why I don't do this more often...please. I spend way too much time in my head. We have lots of large ledge rocks to sit on, and the sandbar has been moving up river more and more in recent years. We realized just last week that we actually have a sandy beach for the most part now. It used to be all rocks until you reach sand in the water at low tide. Now I saw sand as the waves receded in this high tide. It was so magical.

After taking several shots, I sat on a ledge seat. I pulled myself up tall, rounded my shoulders back and down, planted my feet firmly on the smooth, rounded beach rocks below them, and placed my hands palm-up and open on my thighs. I just tried to relax with my eyes closed and listen to the surf crash on the shore. I breathed deeply three times. Sonia Choquette taught me to breathe in and let out a sound on the out breath. She suggested doing this three times to draw my spirit in and wake it up. Then I just breathed normally. The roar of the approaching waves filled me up. Then came a crash, and a crackle, crackle, crackle as each wave receded off the smaller stones on their way back to sea, thus rounding them over time. I sat there for a few moments, but I felt figgity and opened my eyes again.

Those sounds are so soothing, but I just couldn't relax enough. I opened my eyes every few moments and just watched the process of grey-green water covering the shore ledge, and the motion of clean white foam receding back to sea. Back and forth; up and down. I closed my eyes again, and even though it is sixty degrees outside, the air left enough of a light chill on the surface of my skin that I wished I had just one more layer. I have a wool shawl on the rocker Chris and Jen gave us one Christmas in the living room, and I so wished I had that over me. I would have been so much more comfortable. I tried closing my eyes again, but now I was too focused on the chill, so I gave up and went in for my first cup of hot coffee.

I'll try this again, but next time, I'll bring the shawl.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Gramma's Sadness

As Larry packed the last bag into the truck before we hit the road for South Carolina, my son, Chris, called. I thought, "How nice. He's calling to say goodbye." "Hi Mom, we're on our way to the hospital. Jen's in labor." He told me we didn't have to come to the hospital...yet. She was thirty weeks along. She had been receiving weekly checkups and regular tests. Everything was normal. They lost a son at twenty-four weeks last year, so her doctor was vigilant with her high-risk status. We were hopeful and planning a baby shower. This was 6:20 a.m. on 11/11/11. Within an hour we learned that my newest grandson's heart had stopped beating without explanation and he was gone. The first person to learn about this tragedy from us was a stranger. We were at a local restaurant eating breakfast, and the owner knew we were waiting to hear our baby had been born. With all the good news about his weight being on target and good test results, we had no reason to believe anything was wrong. When Chris called me back, she was topping off our coffee cups and I asked for the check. I fell apart right there after hanging up the phone, and this stranger put her arms around me and was the first to say, "I'm so sorry". We left right away and headed to Beth Israel Hospital.

To say we were in shock is an understatement. Our sadness is without measure. If my sadness hurts this badly, I cannot even imagine that of my son and my beautiful daughter-in-law. We just cannot believe this happened. As I write this, we still have no answer as to why he died. We can only hope that an autopsy and testing will reap something we can grasp that will help with closure. We can only pray for an answer. If we don't receive one, we'll just have to deal with that when the time comes. I just don't know what to say. I wish I had wisdom to share as a Mother, but I have nothing. I am blank; an empty vessel with a deep throbbing pain in my broken heart. I don't know what else to do but write something to get a little bit of it outside of my Self.

After doing whatever we could to help our children on Friday, we drove back to Tiverton from Boston in utter silence. The only sound breaking the quiet drive, was my sobbing. I remembered something Chris said to us in the hospital, "This is happening to you too." We were consumed with worry and sadness for our children, but I had not considered how I felt. I began to cry and mourn for myself. I wanted to be a Gramma more than anything. Once again, I would not get the chance. I cried for the lost memories and for our little boys we would never get to know. Our children did everything right. They did whatever the doctor told them. There was nothing more to do, but God had other plans.

The next day, I had to do something, so I cooked. I wanted to make sure that when the kids came home, they wouldn't have to cook all weekend. They needed comfort food and sweets. At least, that's what I most crave when I'm hurting. The first thing I thought to make was chicken soup. What doesn't chicken soup help? It helps everything. It is the most basic "comfort food" I can think of. So I made enough delicious soup for their house and ours. Next, I made my son's favorite dish: chili. Larry was my taste tester. He said it was delicious and made his head sweat.

I couldn't stop there, of course, so while I was buying a non-fat latte in the supermarket (because I left the house as soon as I rolled out of bed on a mission), I noticed the coffee counter was right next to the chicken rotisserie. They looked so delicious, I bought a large cooked bird. That meant I needed mashed potatoes, butternut squash and green beans almondine to go with it. I also grabbed a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix, (Chris' favorite) potato bread, Brigham's Vanilla ice cream (Chris' favorite from Grammy's house), Brigham's hot fudge sauce (my favorite), and three kinds of cookies; two involving chocolate (double-stuffed Oreo's and Chips Ahoy).

I poured all my love and healing energy into cooking that food. While I cooked, I needed some healing music to help me, so I played a Nipmuc Indian flute CD I bought at a local fair supporting indigenous people earlier this year. It was the perfect music to calm me as I cooked. When all the food was done, packaged for transport, and the kitchen cleaned, I did one more thing for myself before heading north to deliver it: I took the puppies for a walk around Fogland Beach point. It was a beautiful day, but the wind was so strong, I had trouble walking against it along the beach on the way home. I guess being lower to the ground helps, because my little Bichon Frise and Havanese puppies, didn't seem to have as much trouble walking as I was. But it felt so good to be in the salt air with the wind whipping my hair around. I pulled my hood over my head and tied it down to keep my ears warm. I felt alive again and ready to travel.

Once we arrived at the kids' house, Jen's parents came with Shephard's Pie, and we ate a feast. Jen's best friend also came to visit, so we had a lovely evening. My sister, Mere, called to say that at our nephew's birthday party, all the cousins; aunts and uncles in attendance, wrote messages to their lost cousins and watched the two balloons float to meet our little angels in Heaven. Before floating out of sight, though, my sister said she could have sworn those balloons headed towards our kids' house first. "It was our way of saying, Hello!" she said. It was such a sweet and thoughtful thing to do. We are very blessed to have such a loving family.

Once I have a bite to eat, I'll take the pups for a walk back to the beach. Larry will come with us this time because he wants to see the progress for himself of a house being built on the point. I've been keeping him apprised of its progress, but I don't know the right terminology of the foundation walls.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Boy, it was hard to get up this morning. The sky was a little darker because rain is predicted. My husband, Larry, told me only one-tenth of an inch, but it's pouring outside right now and looks like we could get more than that. My quads were burning and I was tired at 6:30am when the pups woke and wanted to go out. Larry said he'd take them, so I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. After they all got back in bed, I laid there until about 7:20. I felt so guilty, I just got my ass up; threw on my clothes, grabbed a bottle of water and my iPOD, and hit the road. On the way up our driveway, I started to text my sister, only to find one from her she sent at 6:15am. "Time to get up sleepy head," she wrote, "good walking". She said she believed I'd discovered the joy of walking versus exercise, and to "keep it up". I smiled at that, and texted right back that I was up and at 'um, and I think she's right about the walking vs exercise thing. It was cloudy and damp, but it hadn't started raining yet.

I saw one of my neighbors head out running ahead of me. I'd seen her on the road many times. She and her husband are younger than us and they have three school-age kids. Their kids are the only ones on our street. As we passed on the road, we exchanged "Good morning", and went our separate ways. I don't know why, but this first encounter with her while I was also exercising made me feel good. I've always been in a car when I passed her running with her rock-hard calves. I secretly patted myself on the back.

As I was starting to pass the horse farm, I spied a very fat little squirrel perched in the crook of a tree limb that hung low over a lovely moss-covered stone wall. He was munching away at something, and I told him out loud that he'll need that later, so he better put it away. He made me laugh.

As I passed the horses, all out again today (but none came to see me; just looked up in acknowledgement), I spied a bird in the road aways down. I wondered if it was one of the chickens I had seen the last two days. Sure enough, after passing the duck pond, I saw that it was one of the black and white "mottled" chickens with a red crown. I don't know if it's a hen or a rooster. When it saw me coming closer, it started back across the road towards the others waiting in their usual hiding place. I stopped and waved it on because it paused in the middle of the road like it was thinking, "What are you gonna do to me?" After waving it along, it started walking back towards the others still huddled under the brush and then stopped at the edge of the road right in front of me looking like it was just going to peck something in the sand. "You're not going to hold me up", I said, and walked around it to continue my walk. But, as I passed, I took a good look at them and asked how they were doing? "Where do you live?" I said out loud. There were six: three creamy light yellow, one brownish-red, and two black and white mottled with red crowns. One of the black and white and one of the yellow hens had no tail feathers and their rear ends looked like raw hamburger. It tore at my heart and as I walked away I tried looking for food I could bring back from the road for them on my return trip.

I kept wanting to turn around because I felt a drop of rain here and there, but I kept going. My goal this morning was just to get  to the turn in the road with the River Birch trees on the corner. The corner came up faster than I expected, and I felt accomplished in reaching it before turning around to go back home. About half-way back, it started to sprinkle. I prayed to God to just let me finish this walk without getting soaked. When it started to rain, I told God, "It's ok. I actually like being wet as long as I'm warm, but could you hold off on the downpour until I get home please?" Then I passed the chickens again. We're leaving for our lake house in South Carolina tomorrow, stopping to visit my best friend in Annapolis along the way. I just couldn't go away for two weeks without trying to help out those poor chickens.

So, I stopped at the first building I came to at the horse farm. The chickens were in the middle of nowhere. This was the closest location they could have originated from, but I wasn't sure these people even had chickens. There was a light on in the little building to my left as I entered the only gate off the road that led to houses. I always thought it was an "out" building, but I looked in the window and saw a toddler in a high chair. Wow, I thought, somebody actually lives here. It's so cute! A very nice young woman with a Spanish accent opened the inner door and I told her who I was. I talked about the loose chickens down the road, but she told me there were no chickens kept there. She suggested I go to the farm next door, which I did. I'd wanted to walk down this other farm's driveway for a long time but never did. The farm has "pick your own" berries, but also sells squash and potatoes. I met a man who said he didn't own the farm, but name-dropped the houses in the immediate area, so I knew he was more familiar with the families here than I. He didn't know anybody who kept chickens either, but I asked him to keep them in mind in case he heard of anyone looking for their lost hens or just wanted some nice looking birds.

I thought this was all I could do to help the poor lost soon-to-be "roadkill" or fox food hens, but then I remembered the farmer who plows our driveway in the winter. He lives on the section of road around the corner past the River Birch trees. I called Bill and said, "I don't know if you're interested in this or not, but...", and told him the whole story. "They're really nice looking hens, Bill, I'd really hate to see them get killed or just freeze to death. They're already starting to look pretty beat up." He said there was a guy near him who had a couple hundred chickens. He'd call him today and let him know about the birds. "Maybe they're his," he said. "I hope so, Bill, we're going away for two weeks and I just want them off my conscience." He laughed and said he'd make the call. I thanked him and walked home in what became "real" rain and arrived home soaking wet. A neighbor down the road came out of his driveway in his truck and offered me a ride home, but I said, "No thanks. I'm wet already. I actually like being wet in warm weather, and am taking advantage of what's left of this wonderful weather." He said he knew what I meant, and we said "Bye!". I felt so good being able to help those poor hens before we leave tomorrow.

Why DID the chicken cross the road? Because she can!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Walk in the Fog.

I got out at 7:45 this morning and the fog was so thick, you could "cut it with a knife". We live in "Fogland" after all, so the clouds come down a lot around here. My legs hurt me a lot last night after my six mile walk, and the arthritic joint on top of my left foot was very stiff. I did gentle periodic stetches to ease the stiffness and this morning, the only thing bothering me was my foot. Once I got moving, the pain eased and I was ready to go. But, I felt hungry, so I made my orange smoothy and drank that before heading out. I've been carrying a small bottle of water for the walk.

As I began my walk, I first texted my sister to let her know the plan. It really feels good to be accountable, and I appreciate her willingness to be with me on this new journey so much. My greatest fear is that I'll quit after three weeks like I always have in the past. During yesterday's walk, though, I broke the chain across my chest with my hands in my mind's eye, and tossed it to either side of me as I walked. Today, I choose to focus on my success instead of my fear: one day at a time.

I also realized yesterday that I wished I had a camera with me, so today I took one. I knew the fog would release some incredibly beautiful shots, and it didn't disappoint. I chose my usual six-mile walk today that did not involve the main road, which meant much less traffic. Yesterday, I also realized Main Road heading south was a solid gradual incline. No wonder my knees hurt. Today, there are a few gentle hills, but mostly flat road, so my walk was easier on my lower extremities. Plus, I wanted to take pictures along the way, so I decided to do as my spiritual mentor, Sonia Choquette, always advises and "feed my spirit".

The eary fog laying over the land made me feel dreamy, but awake. Every sight had an ethereal look to it. I breathed deeply and the air smelled of salt, hay, freshly mowed grass and shellfish. I discovered the Honeysuckle is still in bloom, so it's scent added to the bouquet and I felt alive and happy. I literally smiled most of my walk and was light and joyous. I am always amazed at how powerful depression is at preventing me from just enjoying being outside. Once I get a taste of feeling better, "happy" sneeks into my heart again, and colors seem brighter and the air smells sweeter. I know I sound like a sap, but this is exactly how I felt this morning. It was wonderful.

The horses near our house are such an added bonus. They were all out this morning, and one came right over to the stone wall and sniffed my hand. (S)He did the same thing on the way back only the second time, (s)he licked my hand, and it scared me a little. I didn't know him/her, so I didn't know if (s)he would bite me. I felt silly and apologized to her/him, then chuckled to myself. (S)He just went back to eating grass without a care in the world, and I mozied on to finish my walk.

Also along the way, just a hundred yards or so from the horse farm were six chickens roaming around along the side of the road and hanging out in the swamp thicket. They were certainly a long way from a hen house and I worried they were lost. My neighbor told me she saw them in the thick fog driving to work this morning, and was worried she'd hit them with her car. On the way back, they were still hanging out in there, so I told them I hoped they weren't lost and to go home. I chucked again.

I walked to a bridge that crossed the ocean and the marshland. Fog made the marshes look like a lovely watercolor painting. I'll try to replicate it at home when I break out the water color tubes I've had for decades and never opened the box. When I was feeling down last Saturday, and called for help, I tried feeding my spirit again (as advised) by drawing a scene with colored pencils. That's when I realized I loved the tall grasses all around here. Are they marsh grasses? I don't know, but I love them.

I succeeded in capturing a spider web covered with dew. OMG, it looks like a lovely crystal necklace. I am so happy. I'll have to blow this one up. I once had the idea to create a photographic portfolio of spider webs. I find them fascinating and beautiful: so many unique designs. It's always a plus to also capture the web's designer in the process, but alas, I was not granted that wish today. It doesn't matter, I love the final result all the same.

At the end of my walk, I noticed I didn't feel as stiff as I did yesterday, and my foot felt ok. I just love "muscle memory". Once again, I was reminded that my body remembers on its own how to heal and "snap back". I just have to provide the venue for it to do its thing. What a miracle my body is. I am blessed with good health and I look forward to getting back my strength and stamina.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's time for a Do-over.

I have been in a funk for several weeks; not exercising or eating healthily. Chocolate, ice cream, cake and cookies are my best friends. I currently weigh the heaviest I have ever been in my life. I am sixty-two years old with osteo-arthritis in all the key places that support me: knees, spine, neck, wrists, foot, etc. This past Saturday, I reached the saturation point with my negative attitude about my Self, my Life and my overall situation. I was just sick of feeling like crap. My body felt like heavy weights held down every cell and muscle. I was tired all the time. I just couldn't get enough sleep, and I'm sure I was depressed. I was just sick of feeling sick.

I saw a post from my best friend on Facebook asking me about becoming a "Gramma". I didn't even realize I hadn't told her about it and felt terrible. I called her in Annapolis and spent two hours getting her special counselling. After our talk, I felt so much better and was ready for that night: a dinner at my sister's house to plan the upcoming baby shower. In a way I was not looking forward to it because I just wasn't feeling emotionally strong enough to cope with the powerful personalities of the women I loved who would be there. But, I was wrong about those women. I felt loved and connected.

It's very powerful what a negative attitude will do to one's mindset. My life has become much more isolated than it was, and that isolation only contributes to my ever-increasingly unhealthy thought processes. Getting them out and taking responsibility for them is so much better than holding them in so they can pollute me. Bringing them out into the light forces me to defend them or see them for what they really are: just thoughts I can change or relinquish at will. Easier said than done, I know, but very doable, if I so desire. And, I do.

Another of my sisters, who I usually receive as being very critical was in my mind uncharacteristically sensitive, talkative, and after yelling at her, very nurturing when I told her about how I was feeling. "I am in transition," I told her, "and I don't know what the next phase holds for me." I told her what an inspiration she is to me because she is in her prime right now; with all good and successful things happening to and for her. I am so happy for her, but she makes me look at where I am, what I'm not doing for myself, and feeling badly about it. This feeling made me realize once more how I make a lot of other people feel.

I have been told and took it to heart that I should be an example of health for those I love who are unhealthy. I am very healthy overall. I am only taking a cholesterol pill and nothing else but vitamins when I remember. But instead of supporting me and making me feel good about myself, most of those other people try to make me feel bad. I have sloughed off their negativity telling myself, "They just don't understand," or "They're just not ready," but truthfully, how they made me feel stuck inside me little by little over time, so that now I am weighed down by it instead of buoying myself up. I just can't do it alone. I need support. So I asked my sister for that and she was eager to help. It made me so happy to have her truly there for me for what seemed like the first time ever in our lives.

She committed to support me every day. I agreed to call or text her each day with my exercise plan for the day and she would share hers. The first day she called me on the way to work to discuss the plan as agreed, and it just made me happy to realize that she rarely initiated a phone call, and that our new commitment wasn't just a drunken empty promise. I felt lifted a little bit.

I started walking my Bichon. I walked him for two days, and when I got up this morning at 6:39am to let him and our Havanese female out to "do their business", instead of going back to bed, I got dressed, put on my iPOD earphones and went for what I texted her would be a four-mile walk alone. I ended up doing six miles, and was hurting when I got back. But, during that walk, I felt so happy and light. I haven't felt that in a while. I could pull in my stomach as I walked and felt what it might be like to have a flat one someday. I pulled myself up as tall as I could muster and dance-walked as much as possible. It was a glorious, sunny morning and I also sang along with the songs blasting in my ears.

When I got home and texted my sister what I had done, getting a "Good Job!" reply felt wonderful. She texted that I should remember to reward myself with something, so I made myself a smoothy. It was delicious. Thank you, Sistahs.

P.S. I also want to thank my cousin, Lynnie, in California, who inspires me with her fitness blogs, videos and her website. Each little boost from people I love is a really big help to getting me back on track. I love you all. This IS the next phase of my Life, and it is just the beginning.

Orange Cream Smoothy

1/4 c 1% "Smart" milk
1/2 c orange-pineapple juice
1/2 c plain 0% Greek yogurt
1 scoop soy protein powder
1 apple peeled
1/2 banana
1 tbls honey

Blend well and enjoy.