Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What fills my cup?

I watched a video this morning made by a SC family friend who, in my opinion, has taken on the role of "Preacher for Humanity". I noticed recently that he has been making videos, but didn't bother to watch one. Today I did, and the theme was, "What fills up your cup?" He was actually quite articulate and the video inspired me to answer his question. Thanks, Jimbo. Here it is.

My "cup runneth over" most times when I am in Nature. We just arrived back at our lake house in SC on Lake Murray last night. Over coffee on the deck this morning, we just sat and listened. Many types of bird song, and most especially the primal squawk of Heron, really touch my heart. The birds live in and epitomize Harmony to me. I missed getting a great photo of a beautiful Heron standing majestically under our dock. (S)He stood like a statue waiting for a fish to swim by. I have never been so close to one. It didn't even care I was there! I loved that, and felt at one with it in that moment.

Flowers make me smile. If they have a glorious smell, I am even happier. But even without a smell, the colors; shapes of the blooms and petal details fascinate me. I love trying to capture those details with my phone camera. Capturing just the right shot makes me very happy. I love sharing my art too, because Art brings happiness to every heart.
I love clouds. Looking up at the sky has been a fascination for me since those childhood days laying on the lawn trying to figure out what a cloud formation resembles. I still do it! When light shines through the clouds looking like the finger of God touching the earth, my heart is moved. When clouds fill the sky and a little patch of beautiful blue shows through, I am in awe.

I love to sing. Music has always filled my spirit. As a child and especially as a teenager, I listened to my records and the radio for hours; writing down lyrics to memorize, and singing along trying to carry a note as long as the professional performing it. Today I sing in the Greater Tiverton Community Chorus, and I cannot relay enough how the harmonies we perform in concert fill my cup. My heart gets so full sometimes with a sacred song's beauty, I get all choked up and cannot sing at all. These moments can get embarrassing, but that is also the beauty of singing in a large group. One can hide momentary lapses, and just feel what the music makes one feel. Music moves people's hearts. I love that.

Last, but certainly not least, spending time with my family fills my cup. My son's smile. Smelling that clean, powdery smell of a baby. The way my husband treats me to all the little things I least
expect. The way my adorable puppies wag their tails in anticipation of soliciting a treat. All these special people and critters fill my cup, my heart, with Love.

As Jimbo said in his video this morning, all these blessings are free! These types of gifts are my favorites, and fill my cup to the top. Thank you, Jimbo, for reminding me to appreciate them once more. Now I will get out of my jammies, and go for a walk on this glorious, sunny day. The ability to walk is surely another great gift. I have to keep moving it before I lost it, right?

Now. What fills YOUR cup?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Closing Loops

Pat, Nita and Bear

Life sure is interesting. I spent this past weekend in Maine with Pat, the wife of my late ex-boyfriend (Bear), who I also consider to be a "Sistah". She wanted to be able to say the cleaning out of Bear's barn was completed. It was a huge job. They own a 40-acre property in rural Maine with this lovely old barn and an old farmhouse built in 1860. She told me Bear had become a hoarder during his multi-year convalescence as a result of a back injury and cancer. He was a carpenter and a smoker all his life. He lived a "live hard; die young" philosophy, and made a lot of people happy along the way.

The barn
A couple of weeks ago, twenty-five invited people showed up at the house to do the initial barn clean-out. Pat rented a huge dumpster, and it was filled to over-flowing. I came to help finish that job along with her younger brother. We filled a second equally huge dumpster. I have been feeling badly that she has so much to do, and I guess I needed to be in the place where my good friend actually died. I am one who believes firmly in the value of  "closure", and I guess I needed additional loops closed on this relationship that I wasn't fully aware of. She described the final events of that fateful night, and I sat after she went to bed looking at the last spot where he lay feeling sad. I felt especially sad for his dog, Nita, who whined the entire time we worked in the barn. She missed her Dad, and knows something really big is "up".

The Universe really does take care of us. A month before my friend died, a couple in their late sixties showed up at the house and reiterated how much they loved the farm. They said that if he and his wife ever decided to sell, they would like to buy it. "No way in hell," was Bear's reply. Pat told me they sent a card to that affect late last year, and she said if she were home, she would have said, "Maybe". She kept the card, and after he died, she called them. They came several times to inspect the farmhouse and barn and told her they would pay cash for the property. They negotiated $9,000 off her asking price, because the old house needed lots of infrastructure work, and the buyers told her no formal inspections would be necessary. They close on the property on October 15th. Pat will be moving out on October 10th. How often do buyers come to you in this life? In this market? Several other neighbors have had their properties on the market for years without a buyer.

Throwing out volumes of boxes and bins of screws and nails, broken glass or acrylic pieces; papers, old wood, sawdust, rotting hay, old doors and windows; furniture, and a myriad of other junk is very tiring. We finished emptying and swept out six horse-stalls of space, including Bear's wood-working shop, and the hay loft. Did you ever try bagging up old hay? The dust was choking and I regretted not having a mask. By day's end, we were covered in dust and dirt. My legs and hips became increasingly stiff as the day wore on. I can't tell you how many trips I walked in and out of that barn to the dumpster carrying stuff; up and down wooden stairs to the loft, and back to the house. I did take a water and snack break, and I sat on the riding mower's very comfortable seat in between just to get off my feet for a few minutes and drink more water. But, by the end of the afternoon, after Pat said those golden words, "The barn is done," I was sore, exhausted and filthy.

Bear's older brother came to take what he wanted of his brother's stuff. I met his new wife, who was very friendly and nice: so unlike his first wife. They declared they had been sober for two decades, and very happy. He told me he was brought back to life three times during a heart operation, and realized he was given a second chance. With that chance, he was going to be happy and live a happy life. From his face, I could see he was doing a good job with that goal. He and his wife helped us sweep out the workshop a bit, but left because of another commitment. It was so good to see him again. I hadn't seen him in thirty years, and the minute I heard that North Haven Island accent, I smiled broadly.

Bear's son also showed up, and proved himself to be the asshole he always was. He is a very angry thirty-something man; full of bitterness, resentment and bile. His body language and face showed every bit of his hostility, and we made sure Pat was not alone with him for long. He has been treating her horribly through this time, and she has just had it with him and his abusive, rudeness. He never liked me anyway, so he just ignored my presence in the workshop as he said goodbye to his uncle and the wife. I just laughed it all off. Nobody wants to console him for his father's loss because he is acting like such a jerk to everyone. It is very sad.

At the end of our project, the new (not quite yet) buyers showed up and started moving stuff into two cleaned-out stalls of the barn. They watched as Pat took up one more of her husband's tasks: she hopped on the four-wheeler, and led their nine-year-old German Shepard, Nita, on her daily run. Pat looked so cute riding that machine fast all over the huge yard with Nita running full tilt behind her.  The woman buyer shreaked with joy, "She looks like a kid!" The man tried to get on it earlier to take it for a ride, but didn't know the break was on. Pat ran over to release it when she smelled the break burning up. "This is my first time on one," he said. His daughter was on hand to say, "He's living his second childhood." The four-wheeler is the only piece of equipment he wanted to buy from her, plus the log splitter. She still has to sell and $24,000 tractor with bush-hog, and riding mowers. Nita's Run

Once we were officially done for the day, we sat on the deck and contemplated dinner. She wanted to haul boxes to Goodwill and eat dinner out. I was open to that, but my legs said, "Stay put." When her girlfriend called, I said, "Ask her to bring food. Then we won't have to go out." All I wanted to do was take a shower and rest. Soon, we heard the car pull up and Nita barked. When Pat looked out the kitchen window, she said, "Oh my God!" I said, "What!" Many people piled out of a small car with six beautiful large balloons and bags of goodies. Because they knew I'd be at the house helping, they planned an early fiftieth birthday party for Pat, who they could never surprise with anything. Bear told them he had wanted to throw her a surprise party in August (her birthday is late September), and shortly before dying, asked if they would take care of that. This was that party, honed down to bare minimum. This type of party is the only kind Pat could handle right now, and it was perfect.

Mel, Terry and Kenny
Pat and her Mom
I got to meet her good friends of thirty-plus years of whom I've heard the stories and background of their relationships. I also got to meet the next-door neighbors who have been so helpful to both Pat and Bear through this very difficult time. We were a party of seven in all, and it was great fun! I felt like meeting these people was another loop to close. They had heard of me, everybody had, and I got to tell the story of me and Bear. Whenever Pat and I talk about each other, nobody can believe we could be friends. We love each other and are proud of our friendship. We talk openly about our respective relationships with the same man, and make ourselves and everyone else laugh.

Pat and Sheila
I felt like I closed the loop with Bear's family too. Seeing his brother and son one more time was great. I also met Pat in Massachusetts at Bear's daughter's house. I haven't seen her in fifteen years, and she graciously allowed me to come. I brought her new baby a little gift and met her husband. They have a lovely, large home in Medfield, and I told her my family lives all around her in surrounding towns. It was really nice. She and I have always gotten along, and she was very sweet to allow me to include myself.

Closure is important. I suggested to Pat, that when everything is out of the house and she is ready to walk away and reluctantly begin a new phase of her life, that she walk through every room, or building or garden or wherever she needs to remember her life there with Bear. I suggested she go to each spot, remember the memories created in that place, thank it for holding those memories, for sheltering them during the past nine years of their life there, and bless it all. Once she does this, I said, "Then walk away." I told her I've done this ceremony with every house and apartment I've ever lived in and it really helped me. She thanked me for that suggestion, and said she and Nita will do it together before the closing.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Ode To Bear: A Hunting Memory


This is a story I wrote back in the mid-80’s. I never published it or did anything with it. I have always planned to write a memoir of my life, and this story was definitely to become part of that book. I remained friends with my old love, Bear, to this day. I am also good friends with his wife.
Bear died last week, after just turning sixty-one, from complications caused from multiple radiation treatments for cancer. I visited him in the hospital in Boston a couple months ago while he was receiving treatments, and drove him home to Maine the first weekend of his stay. “You saved my life,” he said. He said that to me a few times in our relationship.
Knowing him definitely added color to my life, and I will always treasure our friendship.


            The thought of killing "Bambi" always repulsed me, as it does many people. But I participated in a macho ritual for four Novembers in the early to mid-1980's that changed my attitude.
            I dated Bear from North Haven, Maine. He felt like my "primal soul mate". We lived together in Natick, Massachusetts for a short time, but mostly entertained a long-distance relationship for several years.
            During that time, part of my worthiness testing, in addition to eating a freshly dug clam right out of the shell, was to act as a "bush whacker" in a deer hunt. The first year I agreed to participate, I knew the experience would become a chapter in my book someday.
            I took a Friday in November off from work, and hit the road early to make what would become a very familiar four and a half hour drive to Rockland, Maine. I had to arrive on time to catch the noon ferry to North Haven, because the “boat” waits for no one. On arrival, I'd find someone I knew to drive me to track Bear down.
            That night was typically spent hanging out drinking at "Babe's" trailer; planning the following day’s events. Babe was Georgiana Fleishman. She was a good friend, who was also the loneliest, and largest woman, I have ever met. She was crippled by her girth, but she could cook like the finest chef, and actually made a living doing just that for years on the island.
            After a good night's sleep in the unheated second floor of Bear’s mother's "lived in" Cape-style house on the water, we emerged dressed warmly and ready for the day’s adventure. Luckily, my winter jacket was already maroon-colored, so I didn't need a fluorescent orange vest. But my beige knit hat had to go. Bear said I'd be mistaken for a white tail deer. I was awarded my first fluorescent orange baseball cap, and off we drove in the pickup truck to the Grange to meet the other hunters for an "opening day" breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast. There was plenty of coffee at the 5:00 a.m. sojourn; lucky for me.
            Everybody knew the rules, but they were discussed for my benefit nonetheless: bucks are ok (other years it was "does only"), make lots of noise, don't walk in the line of fire, and don’t leave a wounded deer alive, i.e., track it until you kill it. That was my first realization of their respect for life. November's hunting was, as it was in days gone by, the time to fill the winter food stores. Besides deer hunting, duck, rabbit and scallops were common in every Maniac’s freezer. Although the men (I only met one woman hunter in the four years I participated) found hunting stimulating and fun, their rules about respecting the lives they were taking were adhered to without question. The man, who didn't follow the rules, was ostracized vehemently by the rest of the Island men. Lack of respect for wildlife was not tolerated.
            We set out; Bear, his four brothers and I, in a couple of pickup trucks to a predefined spot they said should be a "sure thing". Bear was usually one of the leaders of the expedition and I was given my instructions. The lineup of guns was arranged and we set out on foot to find our buck. Before we set out, though, everyone had to pee. Luckily, I brought along what I call my “pee funnel”. This is a very handy, plastic device I bought by postal mail through Sierra Club magazine. A woman friend introduced it to me, and I have since introduced it to every active woman I know. It is a “must have” for every woman who loves being outdoors.
            I stood in line with the men, zipped down my fly and instead of whipping it out to pee, I slipped it in. I realized this was the moment where I could satisfy the only thing about men that I envied: the ability to write my name in the snow while I peed. I did it and freaked out every man standing with me. It was hilarious! This is only one act that earned me the nickname: “Crazy Kathy”. I felt the thrill of victory.
            Once we set out, the men walked in a straight line, out of sight of the others, and I was told to take the shore road. Bear taught me how to identify deer tracks and I was anxious to pass my test and live up to the task. I felt like I was participating in some very important event, and didn't want to let him down.
            The day was bright, the air clear and clean, and the sky was cobalt blue with only wisps of clouds dotting it. Being twelve miles out in the Atlantic, there was no traffic or airplane noise of any kind. It was the first time I heard absolute quite. It was also breathtakingly beautiful. The smell of salt filled my nostrils as I walked; eyes glued to the ground searching for tracks. I hummed and sang and thrashed bushes as I sauntered along. Shouts would ring out periodically just to let the other hunters know each others' positions, so the line could stay relatively straight and nobody would be walking too far ahead of the others. We were on a point, so if there were deer ahead, they had nowhere to go. Our line of approach blocked off their only escape, except to dive off the point and swim for it.
            After a time, I thought I saw tracks. I couldn't believe it. I started following them and they veered off to the left. The water was on my right. I kept my eyes on them, following them with peaked interest, when I heard a rustle ahead. I looked up and saw, hidden in a clump of small trees and high bushes, the biggest buck I ever saw. At first I couldn't see him. I remembered how Bear's brothers told me a deer could be standing in a clump of trees with no shrubbery protecting it and you couldn't see it. I didn't believe them. The trees they used for an example were spaced far apart enough, so I didn't logically see how anything could hide there. I was wrong.
            When I saw that buck standing before me, looking down at me (it had to be ten to twelve feet tall with a huge rack), I just stared at it in disbelieve. We stayed like that for a few seconds, and then I blew my whistle as loud as I could. I carried the rape whistle I got in assertiveness training class at work, because I didn't think I'd be able to yell loud enough if I saw anything. The adrenaline started to pump, and I kept blowing my whistle like crazy. That buck bolted out of his cover and started to run across the line of fire. I didn't even think about the consequences when I followed it at a full run blowing my whistle so nobody would shoot me. When Bear's brothers caught up with me I told them what happened. They told me to go back to the shore road, so the deer couldn't double back and they'd surround it. I obediently went back and ran along the road until I got to the end of the point and could see around the bend. I just stopped and waited. I didn't want to get in the way, possibly shot by mistake, or see what was about to happen. My heart was pumping like I never thought was possible.
            I waited for what seemed like forever, when I saw Bear come into view and wave me to come over. I ran over and came upon a scene I will never forget as long as I live. It reminded me of an event that happened in my bedroom in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when my three cats and four other neighborhood cats caught a horny toad and brought it through the broken front room screen into my bedroom. The poor frightened toad was backed up against my bed and the cats surrounded it in a semi-circle, just looking and waiting to pounce. The toad hissed violently at the cats. I was sound asleep having a dream about the radiators back home hissing loudly, only to wake up and realize the noise wasn't a dream. When I turned on the light and beheld the scene, I picked up the toad by its tail and carried it outside for safety. Then I kicked the cats out of the house and went back to bed.
            When I arrived on this scene, the buck stood majestically at the end of the point, with its back to the water; facing its predators. The hunters surrounded it in a semi-circle; guns held in position, and just looked at it for a minute. I watched as the buck, appearing so regal and serene, turned its head and looked into the eye of each hunter in turn. Then with total disbelief on my part, it bowed its head and waited for death to come swiftly.
It did. The shots rang out in unison, and the buck dropped with a thud. I stood there with my mouth open in shock at what I had just witnessed. But, interestingly enough, I didn't cry like I thought I would. In fact, I didn't feel any remorse at all!
            What did come over me was total exhilaration. I certainly never expected to feel that! We all ran over instantly to inspect the kill. It was magnificent. The rack was a 10-pointer or more. I heard that's how they tell the age of a deer. It was old. Bear also noticed it had a wound on its hind leg. It wasn't a fresh wound, but was partially healed over. They all surmised this must be the buck that a guy on the island they knew shot and didn't track down. They wouldn't let him hear the end of this one. Everyone felt like they did this deer a favor, and they were really excited by the size of the kill. He was huge, easily 175 lbs. I’m not sure of this, but it was really big.
            They immediately turned it up to expose the underbelly.  Brother Paul first cut off its genitalia and threw it aside. It would be left for scavengers to gnaw on after we all left the scene for good. I, of course, saw the prime opportunity to "bring these boys to their knees", so to speak. I was always looking for ways to "get" them, because they were always teasing and kidding me. I was on their turf, after all, and a mainlander from Massachusetts, and a woman! I was inferior. The joke they always told was, "Why aren't there any hemorrhoids in Maine? Because all the assholes are in Massachusetts!"  This always brought huge belly laughs at my expense.
            While Paul cut open the belly from asshole to neck, and scooped the guts out on the ground, I walked over to the penis and testicle package laying on the ground nearby, picked it up, and said, "Paul, would you clean this out for me, please? I want to make it into a change purse for my friend, Judy." Every man there instantly crouched, grabbed their crotch, and groaned. I heard this very loud, "You fuckin' asshole!" from every guy there, and I got a great laugh out if it at their expense! Men can be so easy sometimes.
            After the deer had been cleaned, they tied a rope around the rack and dragged it back to the truck. It is essential to clean a deer out immediately, so the meat won't spoil. We drove back to the Grange to weigh it in and register the kill. The town kept statistics on all kills to record the deer population on the Island. This is where a hose is also used to flush out the deer carcass with clean water, and clean blood off the bed of the pickup. This was a very proud moment for the men. The weight of a deer seems to directly correspond to the size of a hunter’s penis to determine how much of a man or a skilled hunter he really is. Of course, this is just my biased opinion, but I think an astute observation, really.
            Next, we drove to a friend’s barn where other men gathered to hang the deer carcasses from the rafters to bleed clean. Taking a swig of Jack Daniels out of the bottle was also expected to celebrate a great day. The head and legs are cut off, and meat hooks are clamped on with a rope tied to the end to hoist the carcass to the rafters. While the carcass hangs there, the hide is stripped off, trying to keep it in one piece. While this is being done, another group was designated the chore of cutting out the rack from the head for a keepsake. I volunteered for this job.
            I held the head down on the barn floor, as Bear took a chainsaw, and cut the rack out, exposing the deer's brain. There was no blood. In that moment, I felt like I did when my friend, Judy, and I at fourteen years old fished a catfish out of the Charles River. We took it back to my parents’ barn, and cut it open to see what was inside. We found baby catfish! It was all very interesting. In fact, I'm shocked; I never became a biologist or some kind of scientist! Bear got to keep the rack as a souvenir, and I asked for a hoof.
            Brother Paul cut the hoof off the leg for me and filled in around the bone as much as possible with salt to preserve it. It made a fine souvenir, as did the story of my adventure. It was, in fact, proof I really did this! My family and friends were totally disgusted, but I felt proud somehow. I kept the hoof outside on my porch until the warm weather came, and then I trashed it before it started to smell.
            We all shared stories of the day as we continued to pass the bottle of Jack around. I took swigs like the next man. I must have been a man in my last lifetime, just as I suspected, because I WAS one of the men that day! I liked it. Soon, we made plans to gather at the home of one of Bear's friends to cook up the heart, liver and kidneys while they were still fresh, along with the same organs from other kills that day. This was a very important part of the ritual I discovered. Like the Indians did after a good kill, it was the custom of these men to take a bite out of the raw organ (the heart especially), while it is still warm to consummate themselves with the life they took. I saw this as both disgusting and very spiritual. So, I tried it. The heart was gelatinous and as gross as I thought it would be. I was barely able to swallow it, but I did. I didn't want to fail yet another test, like I did with the raw clam I spit out because I heard it screaming in my head with every chew. I insisted on eating the other organs after they had been cooked, and as long as I tried the raw heart, nobody gave me a hard time about this.
            Bacon fat seems to be the best grease to cook organs with. Brother Paul also brought home fresh killed duck one morning, and cooked the breasts with bacon fat. It was delicious with eggs for breakfast. Bear and I lay in bed, barely awake, heard a gunshot, and Bear said, "Great! Duck breast for breakfast!" I just looked at him, and waited to see what he meant. Paul cooked the breasts and eggs, and they were tasty, tender and delicious. I tried not to look at the splayed-open duck carcasses lying on the deck table while I ate though.
            I have to admit that some male rituals are worth witnessing and experiencing. Deer hunting in the wilds of Maine was definitely one of them for me. I will never forget it. Bear's mother and I took turns that weekend taking pictures of each other in the orange hat, with a rifle in hand, standing in front of three hanging deer outside. That photo is destined to be a classic.
            The following three years I participated in deer hunting were not as exciting for me as this event, I must admit. But the thing I remember most vividly about it was how peaceful I felt bushwhacking in the woods. I was alone (at least I felt alone in between shouts to declare your position), and I felt so at one with nature. I do still have one souvenir from my hunting days: A perfect little bird's nest. I forget what kind of bird's nest it was, though, perhaps from a bluebird. I sit a fake bird inside it and place the nest lovingly on my Christmas tree every year.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Living Locally

Flag down the street
I love living in a small town. There is so much to enjoy within a ten-mile radius. Here in RI, we live near many farms. Everywhere you look, are little stands on the curb outside various homes selling produce grown out back. Paying is by the "honor system". Just leave the money in the jar or box provided. This is also how I buy my annual herb plants and fresh eggs. It saddens me to think that "honor" diminishes with population density. How long do you think that cash would remain in that jar or box in Providence or Boston?

I also joined a farm share program this year. I've never done this before, and many times I don't get around to eating all my vegetables in a week. So I bought a half-share to see how it goes. The share is paid up front. Each week, Kelli sends shareholders an email updating us on activities at the farm, located about three miles from my house. Included in the email is the order form with pricing. I simply check what I want in the online form, and the day/location I want to pick up my vegetables/eggs. Then I show up to empty the blue bin labelled with my last name.

I noticed that I have begun to forget to pick up my vegetables. The first time it happened, I received a very polite email from Kelli reminding me that vegetables don't preserve well unrefrigerated overnight and that she and her husband are very tolerant of late pickups. I thought this wording was very kind and thanked her for the reminder. I showed up at midnight with a flashlight to empty my bin. This week, I forgot again. I received no reminder, and I arrived a day late. I was pleased to see that actually my vegetables, while still in the only bin left outside and sitting in the sun, were still fairly cool. I got them home right away and into the fridge. I don't like refrigerating tomatoes, so they stay on the kitchen counter.

Cultural Bazaar
I also went to a Cultural Survival Bazaar with my friend, Debi, last weekend. It was held two miles from our house in the "Four Corners" area of town on the lawn. We browsed around for an hour or so, bought a few nice things, and ate a little lunch while listening to a Nipmuc Indian named Hawk Henries play the woodland flute. It was a lovely afternoon.

My friend down the road is an artist who has begun to successfully market herself and exhibit her works around town. There are many art galleries in Tiverton. Last weekend, my husband, Larry, and I attended a gallery opening where Nancy Shand was exhibiting. We have only attended one other opening in Framingham, MA for our friend Marie Craig. I have known Marie for many years, and watched her grow into an artist; fighting all the self-doubt that comes with a change-of-career journey. When she opened her first studio, was the first time I attended anything like that. Now, she and an artist friend started and maintain a gallery in Framingham, MA, Fountain Street Studios. I seem to be comfortable attending openings of a friend when I know her whole family with also be there. I am otherwise intimidated by art galleries. I don't go to them in general.

I confessed this fear to Nancy, and she couldn't believe it! She dragged me to a gallery in Westport, MA run by Dedee Shadduck. Nancy told me when it opened that I should make a point of going. She described the space as new and that it held beautiful light. Nancy is a big fan of light, as am I. I told her I would, but never did. We attend an aerobic exercise class together, so after class one morning, we went to the Shadduck gallery. She was right. It is beautiful. Nancy introduced me to Dedee, who was so warm and welcoming. It was not intimidating at all! These galleries not only sell paintings and sculptures, but jewelry. At Dedee's gallery, I found the exact kind of red beads I wanted to accessorize my Christmas concert outfit. I sing with the Greater Tiverton Community Chorus, as does Nancy.

So when Nancy invited us to attend the Van Nessem Gallery for their opening and her exhibit, I didn't hesitate. Her husband, granddaughter and good friend also came, and we had a lovely time. We also went to an impromptu dinner afterwards. It turned out to be a wonderful evening.

Nancy's husband is very active in the Tiverton Land Trust. Larry and I are attending the "Land and Sea Gala" fundraiser for it tonight. This is our first-ever gala, and all the locals will be there. "Bring a card", Nancy instructed me when she ran into me at the beauty salon while I was getting a "cut and a color". Apparently, along with locally produced and prepared food; beer, wine and cocktails, there will be an auction. I've been told to "shop 'til I drop".

Meadow Lark
We just got back from the gala. It was really fun! We walked to the event and arrived right on time. We felt a little awkward. We didn't know anybody but our friend, Mike, and he was working. So we got a gin drink and browsed the auction items. There were silent auction items where you just wrote your name and bid on a clipboard, and the live auction where I bid on this Meadow Lark painting by Brenda Wrigley-Scott . The moment I saw it, I knew I had to have it. I also fished for an octopus (plastic, of course) in a tank and won a nice bottle of red wine, made locally. I also got a gift certificate for a young childrens' store, so I gave that away.

Larry and I sat alone for a long time because we arrived early and had to sit. As the huge tent of tables-for-five filled up, it appeared we were the only couple sitting alone. I didn't like this at all, so I went over to the table of all our neighbors and asked if we could join them. We did, and the celebrity of the evening was with them: Larry's hero (my words, not his), Norm Abrams from PBS' This Old House series and his wife, Elise. Norm has been with the show thirty-five years, and Larry got to tell him he'd been watching for thirty-four. They were very nice. He put an item up for auction, and it was the big seller of the evening: lunch with the crew and a day at a shooting of the series. They are working on the youngest house yet in Lexington, MA. We also got to tell him we lived a couple houses down from the workshop. It was really cool.

Living in this small town is starting to feel like the TV show, "Cheers". When I go to the deli counter at Tom's Market, Don (because now I know his name) always says, "Hello", to me. We chat while he gets my order and I love that. Tiverton is not quite Mayberry, RFD, but it sure feels like it sometimes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Power of Canine Companionship

Mattie Grace
Larry and I watched Futurama on TV last night. I've never seen it before, and will never watch it again. (I never watched Southpark again after the episode where Jesus and Santa Claus get into a fist fight either.) The Futurama episode broke my heart. I got angry and went upstairs to read. I just couldn't stand watching television one more minute. But, I couldn't get the episode out of my mind and just wanted to cry. I felt heartbroken. I reacted, and still am reacting, so extremely to it. I just don't understand why.

The main charcter accidentally fell into a cryogenic machine while delivering a pizza to the site. He was thawed ten thousand years later. Meanwhile, he had befriended a scruffy, street dog he named Seymour. He worked at a pizza shop and fed Seymour pizza. Their favorite song was, "Walking on Sunshine".

After being thawed, Philip J. Fry is now friends with a robot. They go to a history museum where Fry finds out the pizza shop he worked at has become an exhibit, complete with his now fossilized dog exhibited in a glass case. He is appalled to see his pet has become an exhibit, and steals it from the museum. He brings it to a scientist friend to extract DNA, so his pet can be cloned. (I never watched the show and can't be bothered providing all the details, so they may be inaccurate.) The robot becomes jealous and throws the fossilized dog into a vat of lava thus infuriating Fry.

Long story short, eventually all is forgiven and Fry gets the dog back to be cloned. He finds out the dog lived to be fifteen years old. Upon finding this out, he realizes he only had the dog at three years old. Therefore, the dog must have live a whole other life, and concomitantly sung to a whole new song with another owner. So, he cancelled the cloning process, decided the dog had a happy life without him, kissed it and said goodbye.

Jackson and Izzy, his cousin

New scene, we see the dog searching all over creation for Fry, and finds him in the cryogenic tube, but Fry's parents don't notice, and put a leash on the dog and pull him away. The dog spends the rest of his life sitting and waiting in front of the pizza shop for Fry to return until the dog lays down and goes to sleep forever in old age. The tune we hear through the passing years as we watch the dog age and die waiting for his beloved master to return is, "I Will Wait For You". Are you kidding me?

Then today on Facebook, I see a video about a pair of dogs, one was run over and died, while the other prods it relentlessly trying to wake it up. I couldn't even watch the whole thing, let alone listen to the commentary. I am crying inside with the sad emotion of the devotion and loyalty and persistence of dogs. I wish all humans behaved the same way. Maybe that's why I cry. I don't know. But, I need to snap out of it for sure!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Finding Calm in all the Chaos.

With all the craziness going on in my life these days between not having a home that's livable in SC right now, living with the in-laws, and being in transition in general, I have been feeling really stressed. My OCD is hitting me hard. Now, I realize that compared to cancer or true homelessness, my problems are nothing. But, they are mine, and they do affect me, so I accept that they are apples; not oranges. That said, I purchased an on-line course from a woman I respect: Sonia Choquette. Her first video suggested tools to deal with the chaos causing me stress.

1) Remember my Spirit by saying what I love. Say it out loud!
  • I love my family and friends.
  • I love my dogs and granddogs.
  • I love to sing.
  • I love to dance.
  • I love to laugh and be silly.
  • I love flowers and bird song.
  • I love to swim.
  • I love being healthy.
  • I love to travel and experience new things.
  • I love good and tasty food.
  • I love dark chocolate; cake and ice cream/frozen yogurt.
  • I love a good, warm hug.
  • I love a good story.
2) Remember my Gifts. Acknowledge them and use them. They are the foundation of my purpose in this life. We are "being required to be truly authentic" right now, apparently, so "back off the drama".
  • I write well.
  • I can articulate clearly.
  • My laugh is infectious. So is my smile.
  • I am generous.
  • I feel deeply.
  • I show actions as well as speak words.
  • I try to live what I believe every day.
  • I work hard.
  • I am a nurturer and a caregiver.
  • I love genuinely.
  • I am an explorer and a seeker.
3) Acknowledge my fears head-on, and the situations affecting me right now. Speak them out loud.
  • I am afraid that we won't have all the money we need to live well for the rest of our lives.
  • I am afraid to show my true self for fear of being rejected.
  • I am afraid I don't love my Self as much as I think.
4) Think about the choices I'm facing and the situations that are affecting me. She suggests sitting for a moment with my hand over my heart, and speak out loud whatever my spirit says to me. This is a key way to receive guidance during chaotic times.
  • I will be fine.
  • We will have everything we need.
5) Remember to breathe. Touch my index fingers to my thumbs, take a deep breath through my nose thinking "I Am", then breath out with an "Ah" sound while thinking "Calm". This technique really does help.

She suggested sharing her video, so here is Sonia Choquette. Enjoy and try it. I am. Be well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Aging and Women's Rights

Mom, Aunt Jean, me and Gummy
Today is Gloria Steinem's 80th birthday. I remember my grandmother's 80th birthday. These women looked nothing alike at the same age. Of course, Gloria never married and never had children. She cared for her aging mother in a working class home until she died. Her parents divorced and she viewed marriage as a woman being a smaller part of a man.She wanted to be larger. It was 1956. After Smith College, she became a political activist; helped create New York Magazine and Ms. magazine, and has traveled extensively. She continues to be an activist and travel today. Activism IS her life. She looks older, but is now held up as the role model for women turning 80. She looks great and is still very productive; she looks like she has a lot of energy.

Gummy lived a hard, working-class life: working in a bowling ball factory during WWII; married a hard-working, hard-drinking man, and raised four children. She was a very religious woman and held strong, rigid opinions. She was born and died in the same house and never traveled farther than Boston for her honeymoon. She was an ardent Red Sox fan. When she was older, she babysat for other people's children until she couldn't do it any longer.

Both women had breast cancer. Gloria survived; Gummy didn't. I don't know if Gloria is happy. Truly happy. I don't think Gummy was a very happy person in general. I'm sure she had happy moments though. Many happy moments.

As I approach turning 65, I find myself reflecting a lot about my choices in life. I tested life's boundaries in my adulthood, raised a son alone, bought a house alone, ran for political office virtually alone as election day came, and married for the first time at 51. I am very healthy and a happy person. I still wrestle with demons from my past, but, except for moments here and there, they don't control me overall. I always said I didn't have money to risk at the gambling tables, so I risked at life.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say about making these comparisons, except that life was harder for my grandmother, than it was for Gloria. Of course, their priorities were different as was their struggle. My grandmother was just as strong a women as Gloria, and I think I attribute some of my inherited strength from Gummy and from my mother. My mother also had a hard life, but I think she found her own happiness along the way. Music was as big a respite for her as it is for me. Life was harder for women in the 1920's, 30's, 40's and 50's.

In my family, women had to work at a job outside the home to help support the family as well as be the homemaker. Politics were against women at every turn. They had no rights. There was zero equality with men. In the 1960's, all that began to change. And, Gloria helped define that change. She was a pioneer for change. She helped pave the way for more freedoms for women beyond the vote. Many women suffered and died to get men to grant the right to vote to women, and I never take that right for granted. But, Gloria began the fight for equal rights in the workplace: "equal pay for equal work". There is more work to be done here because women still do not receive equal pay compared to men, but she began the fight to break that "glass ceiling".

I learned in my own life, and I credit learning it from my mother and grandmother as well as the pioneering women in the news, that women do indeed "have a set". Our "set" is just hidden, as is our ability to achieve sexual satisfaction. It is buried and requires more work to achieve satisfaction. Men's lives are mostly defined by their penises: bigger equals more power. Their identity and their power is mostly defined by their work, their pay, their trucks, their guns, the amount they eat or the number of women they screw. Women tend to comment about men who brag about the size of their house or the things they own or do above as, "overcompensating for having a tiny penis."

I am being very crass here, I know. And, I know that not all men fit into the mold described above. There are always exceptions to every rule. I appreciate that. I married one of those exceptions, and am very grateful for him. But I had to wait fifty-one years to find him. And,a good friend had to die for him to be available. I raised a son who is one of those exceptions, but I know he is not without his own scars. I was finding my own "center", and he came along without having a choice in the matter. But, he grew up to be a really good, hard-working, conscious, articulate; intelligent and sensitive man, husband and provider in spite of me. I couldn't be prouder of him. But I do regret some of the things I did to him along the way, and some of the situations I put him through to find myself. I cannot undo the past, but I try to help heal some of the pain I inflicted now that I have "new eyes" with which to see the past, and new perspective with which to understand what and why I did what I did. Hindsight is always 20/20.

I was an unwed mother at age 20. In 1970, there was no support for this life choice. My family and friends were a great support system, but not every young woman has that kind of loving support. When I gave birth, I wore a gold band given to me by a woman friend at work, and took birthing classes as my father's wife. "Mrs. Paul Crowley" is the name on my birthing-class graduation certificate from Newton Wellesley Hospital. In the labor room, my father and sister, Margie, were made to leave, and I was alone with masked nurses and doctors who took my one request away from me: to allow me to watch my baby's birth in a mirror they set up. I called my family with the news from a wall phone a masked nurse handed me in the delivery room as I watched my as yet unwashed newborn stick his tongue out at me, making me laugh. I had always been a parent as the oldest of twelve, Irish-Catholic children, but when tears ran down my cheeks with happiness at the sight of my beautiful new son, I had no idea what all I was in for as an unwed, single mother and woman.

There are many more men out there who do fit into the mold I described above. Sadly, I dated a lot of them. Because, also sadly (and not much has changed in this day and age), girls and women like "the bad boys". My desire to be treated badly by "bad boys" came from low self-esteem. I'm sure this is true for everyone. But even with low self-esteem, the desire to fight for one's rights in this society is tied to something else entirely. The fight for rights comes from a desire more primal than low self-esteem, it comes from the need to survive.

The fight for survival is as primal as they come. And, women fought to survive in a male-dominated world, just as we continue to fight in that same world today. Women have many more rights than we did in the days of our mothers and grandmothers, even during my earlier years. But, we remain unequal in a society still dominated by testosterone. More estrogen needs to be injected in the human society, and not just in the United States.

I believe that when the human society of our world achieves complete balance of (fe)male, then we will have World Peace. Thank you, Gloria, and all your brave friends, who paved the way for the women of the "baby boom" age and for all those going forward. Without your courage and conviction to set an example of what is possible, we would not have role models "out there" to show us what we can achieve.

Thank you most of all to my mother, Ellie, and to Gummy for demonstrating what quiet strength is through and in our family life. Without you both, your daughters and granddaughters would be lost completely. I love and miss you both terribly, especially when I don't feel good.