Friday, December 30, 2011

And in the beginning, Light was created.

It's that time of year again, when I have to decide: to Resolve or not to Resolve? Resolutions seem more like a process one continues throughout the year than a life-changing decision to make on New Year's Eve or Day, whichever means more to you. When does one begin again? The first day of the calendar year, the Spring Equinox, my birthday? I usually talk about new beginnings on all three occasions. I am a believer in "do-overs". And as a believer in re-do's, I keep re-doing all year long!

At the start of each day, I resolve to go for a walk, eat healthily and drink more water. I resolve to take a few minutes to meditate and to write. Some days I do it all. Many others, I do not. At this phase of my life, I am granting myself more Grace in these times of struggle. If I achieve my daily goals, I give myself a quiet pat on the back. If I do not, my old self starts bringing out "the big stick" to beat me with, but my new self quietly holds the other's hand back and gently says, "No, no. This is not required anymore. Thank you, though."

Life is a process. It's a journey. It's about enjoying the ride. It's about having fun and laughing out loud. It's full of singing and dancing. At least, this is what I keep reminding myself that it is. When that old voice pops up in my head to bring me into "stinkin' thinkin'" again, I encourage, no, I plead with my new voice to silence the old. I am tired of feeling guilty for not doing what I know I should be doing to be healthy and happy. I am healthy and happy. I have to keep reminding myself I have succeeded, and I don't have to try anymore. I can just enjoy the ride.

So, as you walse into this new year, say, "Thank you" to 2011. Say, "Bye, bye and have a nice day" to it, once and for all. Every day is a new beginning; every breath we are granted in this life is a Gift. Enjoy all the gifts you are given: large and small. It's not just about the Kindle I got for Christmas, it's also about my knees that are still working so I can walk on the beach with my puppies every day. At least, that's what I am resolving to do today.

Happy New Year and Peace be with Us.

Monday, December 19, 2011

.."An apple, a pear, a plum and a cherry..."

I just love the ancient folk song, "A Soul Cake", I recently heard it sung by Sting on the radio. It made me want to "bake my brains out". So last Thursday and Friday, I did just that. Not the baked brains part, but, well, you know what I mean.

I was assigned to bring bread and salad to the family Christmas party on Saturday, so I decided to make "Gummy's Bread". I grew up in my maternal grandmother's kitchen watching her bake molasses bread and rolls often. One of my fondest memories of childhood is baking for something to do. We baked pies, cookies and made boiled fudge when we got bored. I still love to bake, but I discovered that, like anything else, you have to stay in practice for it to come out right.

I went to the local store for flour and nutmeg. A young woman behind the counter with a Santa hat on said, "Gonna do some baking?" I said, "Yes. I'm making my grandmother's bread." She asked, "Do you have a bread machine?" I said, "No. I do it the old-fashioned way with a mixing bowl and kneading dough." She exclaimed, "Oh wow." I thought, young people today, and smiled to myself.

Gummy's bread takes all day to make. There are two risings for two or more hours each time, and the kneading hurt my carpal tunnel right wrist. But the smell of yeast and molasses as I kneaded the dough brought me right back to Gummy's kitchen. I bought a couple of new Christmas CDs this year: Yo Yo Ma and Friends and one with a variety of contemporary women, like Beyonce, singing songs of the season. I also had some of my favorites queued up like Clay Aiken. I just love his "Mary's Baby Boy", and Sarah McLaughlin's, "River". My all time favorite is Emmylou Harris's, "Light of the Stable". There was another variety CD I bought at StarBucks a few years ago called, "Santa Baby". As I sang along to my favorite Christmas songs, I happily kneaded bread and smelled my memories wafting through my mind. It was such a calming and healing festive activity.

While the bread was rising, I began measuring brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg to make the "Cranapple Walnut" cake recipe from Moosewood. It is my favorite cake recipe, and after making one for Larry and I to eat with coffee every morning, I made one for each of my siblings. I had leftover festive holiday, ceramic baking dishes that I made the cakes in and gave one to each of my siblings. It made me feel good to give them something, and reminded me once again, that in the future, I want to get back to making presents instead of buying them. Making homemade gifts is totally doable, it just requires some planning.

The problem with multi-tasking, is paying attention. While making sure the cake came out moist, I over cooked the bread. I wasn't used to making it in muffin pans, especially mini-muffins, so my lesson there was, "Don't use the time according to the recipe." Pay more attention, and bake it in shorter intervals. I still overbaked it, and the rolls came out dry. I made white rolls the second day, and they also were dry.

I was very embarrassed and disappointed by my efforts, although my family was very kind. Brother Jimmy was honest at my encouragement. He took a bite then trashed the rest. Sistah Margie said it was delicious and just needed butter. Niece Tricia exclaimed, "Why don't you let me taste it first before you discourage me from trying!" I couldn't help it. I slaved over this food, and didn't want to imagine whispers behind my back of how dry it was. I just wanted to fess up and declare my failure. But it wasn't a total failure. I loved making it, and some people ate it. That's good, right? The point is, we all enjoyed a good laugh and I had fun. Isn't that part of the "holiday season"? Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all. Love and Peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunset; Moonset

After spending the last couple of weeks in a dark emotional and spiritual place, I woke up to a full-moon set early this morning and felt saved. The full moon sitting over the river with hues of soft pinks and blues soothed my aching heart and head. My spirit was uplifted in a moment. I went back to bed after letting the puppies out to pee, but didn't stay there long. I got up and dressed. After feeding the pups and making coffee, I took them for a walk to the beach down the street.

They towed me forward in the crisp cold air, and I just breathed it in. It was the first cold morning I was out, and on the "loop" road, puddles were coated with ice. I got excited for winter to finally arrive. I never thought I'd ever hear myself say that, but this unseasonal weather (while very nice), is a little creepy. Sixty degree weather in December in New England is "just wrong"! Winter's arrival was also confirmed when on our way home, we saw "the oyster guy" cranking his boat up onto the trailer to be launched next season. His dingy sat on the mooring looking very lonely indeed. Winter is coming!

Last night, I went to a very sweet Christmas musical play in Oxford, MA at the Oak Hill Bible Church with my friend, Joyce, at her invitation. I had no idea what to expect, and really didn't care. I was open to anything. I love musicals and live entertainment, so whatever it was going to be was okay with me.
The story was set in the fictional Valley Haven Nursing Home. The main character was a crotchity old woman, whose character was so dead on, she reminded me of my late mother-in-law while she resided in a nursing home. It was a little too familiar, but opened my eyes to the loneliness and bitter hopelessness experienced by many of our elderly whose children can no longer care for them safely at home. Her rants of wanting to stay in her room; protecting her pocketbook, and accusing everyone of stealing from her rang a little too true. But, my heart went out to my poor late mother-in-law because this character showed me it wasn't just her: that anger and bitterness can happen to many who feel left behind and alone or left out. The play had a happy ending and Joyce and I sang along quietly to the familiar Christmas songs like, Joy to the World and I'll Be Home for Christmas.

For the first time this season, my heart opened to Christmas and the Joy I have always felt at this time of year. It was open and ready for the moonset this morning that put me in a whole new spiritual Light.

Bring it on! The radio is set to a channel that is playing round-the-clock Christmas songs. I can listen to them now and let the happiness heal my heart. Thank you Jesus!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Circling In The Fog

Larry and I were sitting on the sofa with our two puppies enjoying our first cup of coffee and the view out our beautiful windows, as we do every morning. Fog was thick on the Sakonnet River this morning. A lobster boat came up river and began to circle around slowly searching for its buoys. While the boat circled, I thought about how I've been feeling lately. My mind felt like that circling boat searching with its lights; feebly trying to break through the thick fog to find each buoy that represents a Life pleasure, one by one.

I know that just being alive is a Blessing. I also treasure my good health, my wonderful family and friends, and every other blessing I enjoy. They are all buoys on the River that is my Blessed Life. But, even people who are lucky enough to make choices that create a charmed existence get caught in the current or rip-tides of Life from time-to-time. I feel a current carrying me down river quickly these days, but I depend on the ropes that anchor my buoys to slow down my flow. I click on my high beams to find my way to the Christmas lights shining through our windows to call me home and to safety. I don't feel afraid or unsure, I just feel really tired and weighted down by Life events. I struggle each day to buoy myself up.

I am grateful I am not struggling with cancer like my sister. As she fights to recover from the intense surgery she had a week ago tomorrow to remove her retroperitoneal sarcoma, the recovery process seems more difficult than the surgery itself. I feel badly that she must endure so much pain. I wish I had a magic wand to wish away all her suffering. Then, I wish I could wish away the heartbreak my son and his wife continue to endure from the sudden death of their sweet son inutero: my second grandson. The first was lost just sixteen months previously. Although I am doing better emotionally than they are, I remain weighted down by sadness. I can intellectualize it all, and I can ignore or exercise or meditate to a lighter state of being, but then the current catches me again.

My heavier mood is causing me to behave unpredictably. I get major stress headaches from minor incidences, like drivers pulling out in front of me in traffic or puppies who insist on going out yet again, when I want to enjoy my cup of hot tea to relax. I have no role in the sad life events I listed above, and that is causing me stress. I've always had a role: I am the oldest of twelve siblings. I am a caretaker and a nurturer. I had a primary role in taking care of Larry's mother and sister when they were sick and dying. I was a primary caretaker for my mother when she was sick and dying from breast cancer. I held vigil while my maternal grandmother lay dying. But, I can't help or fix my son's broken heart. I can't hold vigil on their sadness. My sister chooses to approach her disease and recovery independently, like the Warrior Woman she is. I applaud her choice, but where does it leave me?

My sister-in-law has been using me as her information resource about my sister. Initially, I complied with this role, but then I realized I began to resent it. After her third phone message to provide her with a status report, I got very angry. I didn't want to be in this role.  I was already driving our friend staying with us three hours round trip each day to the hospital, and was feeling weighted down in general. After the first phone call, I felt annoyed, but bit my tongue and gave her the information she needed. I also encouraged her to just go see her sister-in-law and find out what she needed instead of my trying to answer her question of "What should I bring?". With the second message, I felt more annoyed and did not call her.  When I received the third message to report, I felt like I was being treated like a personal assistant with no consideration from her for what I was already doing, and could not understand why she just did not make her own phone call to my sister to find out her status. She told me she had the day off on Friday. If she couldn't go see her after all, why couldn't she just call herself? Why did she need me to keep her informed? I didn't want to take care of her anymore. I wanted her to take care of herself.

When I first saw her in the hospital, I realized I could not keep my feelings to myself. I made the mistake of telling her how I was feeling. I tried to provide as complete an explanation as I could when we were alone,  and thought I had succeeded in explaining myself. But later when I received three text messages from her, I realized I had failed, and I hurt her feelings. I left her a long rambling voicemail, but I'm sure all she heard was my irritated tone. I'm sure she didn't hear the repeated "I'm sorry" or "I love you" or "I'm in a really bad place right now and not handling this well". I still can't talk to her. I am lost in the fog.