Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BURRRR: Thoughts on my dogs and quilting on a cold winter day

It is cold outside.

My dogs go out, go potty and run back in. No sniffing, no poking around. The doggie door on the outer porch door gets very stiff in the cold and little Gracie has a hard time pushing it with her head to get in the porch and, therefore, back into the warmth of the house. Lucy Lou, on the other hand, gives it a good shove and strolls on in. I notice that Gracie waits for Lucy Lou when she can and catches the door once Lucy Lou is through it. However, this morning she wanted back in and pawed at the stiff plastic door until she got through it. Poor pup.

Yesterday Phil and I picked up my "doggie" themed lap quilt made for my doggie sitter, Mary Sue. It is a very simple, large block quilt I sewed together in less than 5 hours and took in to have professionally quilted. I'll post pictures when Mary Sue comes to pick it up. Late yesterday afternoon after Phil when back to Illinois, I machine sewed the binding on to the front of the quilt.

As I settled in last evening to start hand stitching the binding to the quilt back I decided to bring in the latest book on CD I am listening to in my car. There is nothing worth watching on TV and I wanted some noise in the background. I'm not much of a listener to music when I am alone and the TV is off, preferring the quiet. But, last night I wanted sound.

What a delightful evening I had! The lap quilt was spread out on me, keeping me very warm. Gracie jumped up and snuggled in under the quilt as I stitched, adding another layer of warmth. Lucy Lou was in her basket snoring gently and I listened to my book. It is Time is a River by Mary Alice Monroe, another good Southern female writer. (I really like Southern women writers). I'm enjoying it.

I like my own company. I like keeping busy when alone, which is one reason quilting has become so important to me. I'm being creative while making things that are useful. During the daylight hours I do the cutting and sewing of the quilt pieces, watching the blocks accumulate and the quilt pattern appear. I enjoy the quiet of my home, watching the birds at the feeders from a couple of different windows, stopping to rub the bellies of the dogs or play with them, cooking simple meals. Piecing together scraps of fabric that turn into something beautiful.

Now I have discovered another pleasure for the evenings. When I want a little company, while hand stitching at night, there is always a book on CD awaiting to be discovered.

Ahh, another simple pleasure.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Baby, Baby Part Two

Last weekend while in Georgia my sister, Sue and I met up with Ed and Libby. Ed is our real estate agent at Reynolds Plantation where Phil and I will be buying property this year. Not only is he our real estate agent, but both Ed and Libby are turning into our good friends as well. Ed and Libby will be grandparents very soon.

As I had posted previously, here is pictures of them with the baby quilt I made. They seemed to love it although they had not had a very close look at it!!!! Anyway, I am thrilled with the quilt and the fact that they like it.

This, to me, is what quilting is all about.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Something Sparkly

My very loving, Philip, gave me a cute snowman pin and a top of the line GPS system for Christmas and well as some money with the instructions to, "buy yourself some sparkly while you are in Georgia for the holidays."

Now, usually this would not be hard for me to do. And, since my sister, Suzanne, and I have been shopping in stores within a 200 mile radius of her house, you think by now I would have found something sparky. And, I have looked.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you want to look at it) we have been to many quilting stores in our travels. And, I have bought material. One pattern is gem colored dragon flies that I will turn into something for a bed and I bought a blue and white patterned quilt kit that will make up into a "china plates" lap quilt.

But today, while in Marietta at the Red Hen Quilt shop I found beautiful, slightly Asian inspired, dragon fly material with matching green and gold material. Very soft, very pretty and elegant. This is exactly the material I have been looking for to make a king size quilt. The quilt will be used in the house that Phil and I will be building. I bought over 11 yards of it, plus 4 yards of each of the coordinating materials. Well, I'm figuring the quilt, pillows, etc. for our master bedroom. And, the material does have a slight gold thread running through it. There's the sparkle.

I find this a little scary. Spending my "holiday" gift money on something other than a nice piece of jewelry or even shoes?

As I said in previous posts, I am hooked on quilting. This trip proved it!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

An Odd Christmas In Deed

I'm in Suwanee, GA, which is outside of Atlanta, spending the Christmas holiday with my sister, Sue, and her family. Those around the dinner table on the 25th will include 4 UU's, one Pagan and one Jew. Should be a hoot!

In any event, I am out of Wisconsin and today it will be 60 degrees here. Sue and I are driving up to a little mountain town to do some last minute shopping. I won't have boots on or a scraf, mittens or a hat. It's wonderful.

Phil is back in Illinois, sick with the flu and buried under snow. I am worried sick about him, but his kids are with him and he is going into the doctor today.

My doggie sitter, Mary Sue, has already paid a neighborhood kid twice to shovel my sidewalks. Oh, well . . .

I'll be back on Sunday. Maybe.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Baby, Baby



Here is my first ackward attempt at making an actual quilt. It is a baby quilt, made for friends of ours who will become first time grandparents in late January. Obviously, it's a girl!
I pulled the quilt pattern off the web. I guess it is the "furrows" 4 square pattern (based on the furrows you see in fields). I think it turned out very cute, if you don't look too closely! It was professionally quilted by Kathy Holz.

I am just finishing a twin size quilt of the same pattern only in purple.
To the right is the backing of the quilt. I hope Ed and Libby like it!


Tea for Two

One of my very favorite things to do when I visit Anne-Marie in Ireland is sit around her kitchen table, drink tea (Lyons tea) and talk. So, once I started quilting and went overboard on my first project, table runners, I had to make Anne a tea theme table runner. Then I thought, "What the heck, I'll make her a tea cozy to match!"


I posted the runner and tea cozy to Anne last week. Hopefully, she will get it in time for Christmas and she will not open this blog until she receives the package.














The tea cozy is slightly lopsided. That's OK. I know Anne will get a kick out of it. I pulled a pattern off the Internet, but in the end I just traced the tea cozy I purchased on our trip to Scotland in 2007. To the right is a picture of the backing and you can see the quilting. I had it professionally quilted by Kathy Holz.

So, Anne-Marie - keep the kettle warm. You may see me sooner than you think!


Enjoy!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Things I have (or haven't done)

My friend, EarthboundSpirit, posted this on her blog. You are suppose to "bold" the things you have already done in your life. Well, here goes:

  1. Started my own blog
  2. Slept under the stars
  3. Played in a band
  4. Visited Hawaii
  5. Watched a meteor shower
  6. Given more than I can afford to charity
  7. Been to Disneyland/world
  8. Climbed a mountain
  9. Held a praying mantis
  10. Sung a solo
  11. Bungee jumped
  12. Visited Paris
  13. Watched lightning at sea
  14. Taught myself an art from scratch
  15. Adopted a child
  16. Had food poisoning
  17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
  18. Grown my own vegetables
  19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
  20. Slept on an overnight train
  21. Had a pillow fight
  22. Hitchhiked
  23. Taken a sick day when not ill (guess that secret's out)
  24. Built a snow fort
  25. Held a lamb
  26. Gone skinny dipping
  27. Run a marathon
  28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
  29. Seen a total eclipse
  30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
  31. Hit a home run (maybe in my soft ball playing years)
  32. Been on a cruise
  33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
  34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
  35. Seen an Amish community
  36. Taught myself a new language
  37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (for about a split second)
  38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
  39. Gone rock climbing
  40. Seen Michelangelo's David
  41. Sung karaoke (when I was drunk)
  42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
  43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
  44. Visited Africa
  45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
  46. Been transported in an ambulance (back in June - car accident)
  47. Had my portrait painted (sketched by a dear woman friend who is an artist)
  48. gone deep sea fishing
  49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
  50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
  51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
  52. Kissed in the rain
  53. Played in the mud
  54. Gone to a drive-in theater
  55. Been in a movie
  56. Visited the Great Wall of China
  57. Started a business
  58. Taken a martial arts class
  59. Visited Russia
  60. Served at a soup kitchen
  61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
  62. Gone whale watching (one of my great wishes)
  63. Gotten flowers for no reason
  64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
  65. Gone sky diving
  66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp
  67. Bounced a check
  68. Flown in a helicopter
  69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
  70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
  71. Eaten caviar
  72. Pieced a quilt
  73. Stood in Times Square
  74. Toured the Everglades
  75. Been fired from a job (I was very young)
  76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London
  77. Been on a speeding motorcycle
  78. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
  79. Published a book
  80. Visited the Vatican
  81. Bought a brand new car
  82. Walked in Jerusalem
  83. Had my picture in the newspaper
  84. Read the entire Bible (read big chuncks, but not all)
  85. Visited the White House
  86. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
  87. Had chickenpox
  88. Saved someone's life
  89. Sat on a jury (three times!)
  90. Met someone famous
  91. Joined a book club
  92. Lost a loved one (only too recently)
  93. Had a baby
  94. Seen the Alamo in person
  95. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
  96. Been involved in a law suit (if divorce counts)
  97. Owned a cell phone
  98. Been stung by a bee
  99. Ridden an elephant

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Let Me Give Thanks

This Thanksgiving I plan to spend the next 4 days at home, alone and in my pajamas.

The fall has been a roller coaster ride of events and emotions for me and those around me. I'm tired, I'm weary and I need my 4-day holiday to step back, reflect and recoup! Soon I will haul out my quilting, which has been put aside for a couple of weeks, and start sewing to my heart's content.

My father died November 18th. Although I mourn his loss and miss him, at age 90 with Alzheimer's and unable to walk, it was his time. He wanted to live to be 90 and he made it with several months to spare. I believe he is now reunited with my mother, his love for over 61 years, as well has his family and friends. He is in heaven, strong and healthy and singing love songs in Mom's ear.

Dad went into hospice care in September. The fall was spent going to work and 1-2 days a weeks (as well as at least once during the weekend) traveling out to see Dad and feed him his lunch. I thank goodness for the Family Medical Leave Act which allowed me to take precious time from work to do this. I am also grateful for the fire department for which I work for understanding my need to be with Dad in the day time hours, when he was most aware. I am actually looking forward to returning to work Monday and starting the week without plans to leave during the day! I crave "normality" whatever that is!

Yet the last 2 months with Dad, even though most of the time he didn't know me and slowly lost his ability to move, talk and sing, I have felt the closest to him. I have always said I was blessed with the best parents in the world. It's true.

Philip has also been dealing with his father. At age 86 he needed more care and attention. At one point, Phil went out to New York five weekends in a row to make arrangements with his siblings to move his father into an assisted living facility. Phil's parents lived in the same Long Island home for over 54 years. The slow process of cleaning out the house has begun. It has been a stressful and sad process for Phil. Even though this meant our time together has been limited between dealing with our father's, it has brought us closer as we are sharing the same thoughts and emotions.


I was suppose to spend this Thanksgiving week in Atlanta with my sister and her family. This, of course, all changed when Dad died. Philip rearranged some of his plans to be with me and my family and now, this Thanksgiving week, will undergo medical tests that should have happened last week. The tests are hell, but we are very optimistic as to the outcome. Next weekend he travels back to New York to spend time with his father, who is not adjusting well to assisted living. While my sister and brother-in-law still welcomed me to travel to Atlanta with them after the funeral, I knew we all needed this time to relax and process the events of the past couple of weeks.

After Dad's memorial service Phil did spend a few days in Oklahoma with his daughter and son-in-law who are expecting their first baby (Phil's first grandchild!). Phil painted the baby's room, put up a chair rail and a panda bear wall mural. I am thankful Phil did this and spent time with Colleen and Rick. I know working on the baby's room brought this tender hearted man great joy. Now he is home this Thanksgiving day, preparing for his tests which start tomorrow.

Phil and I have postponed several things we planned this fall until later this winter. We need the time to relax and get into our routines again. We both have other family issues we will be dealing with in the next couple of months and need time to process. It's OK. We are a strong couple and know that this time will bring us even closer together than pull us apart. Plus, we have a baby to look forward to in late March!

Life is full of the good and the bad times. I'm remembering both this long weekend. It's OK and what I need to do this weekend. For all the sad things that happened these past few months, behind all of them are wonderful memories. I am so grateful for these memories. So very grateful.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

My Achin' Back!


It's been quite a few years since my back has hurt me this much. This time it started with a "stitch" like feeling on my left hip. I went to the doctor's office on Monday where he took X-Rays, did lab work, ruled out a kidney infection and lectured me on my scoliosis and offered me pain meds. I declined the meds thinking I could tough it out. Silly me.

The pain had been waking me up for the past 3-4 nights. Every time I wanted to change positions shots of pain occurred in my left hip area. Then it started spreading to my tummy and lower back. OUCH!
Wednesday afternoon I took a few hours of vacation time to deliver some specially ordered pants to my Dad's health care facility. By the time I got home the pain was so intense I called urgent care and managed to drive myself to the clinic.

Now I'm home and going crazy. I am on a muscle relaxer and pain killer so when I take my meds I sleep. Because I am not as mobile as I should be I am starting to get sore. I can't win no matter what position I'm in. OUCH!

This has been a rough year on my health. I've missed more days this year than in the past 3 or 4 combined. All legitimate. I one of those people who feel that when you are sick, stay home. So far I've been off 2 full days with this back problem. It is now Saturday night and it's not much better.
I'll go to work on Monday, but if I'm in pain it's off to the doctor once again

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Quilting Frenzy


I'm a little obsessed with quilting! This is the first item, a table runner, I ever made. Don't look closely - it is full of mistakes, but I think it turned out OK.


I have started my second quilting class this fall. We are making a "Buckeye Beauty" wall hanging. I have the same wonderful instructor, Diane, and the only other classmate is Lisa, with whom I took my first class with. I look forward to these classes and getting to know Diane and Lisa while we cut, square off, sew and rip!!!!


Below are pictures of the results of my first quilting class, where we learned how to make table runners. I made seven table runners! Most will be holiday presents, but two will be for myself. I used the "stitch in the ditch" method for quilting the runners below. Two runners are being professionally quilted at this time - the only way to go for me at this point. I hated the "stitch in the ditch" method.

In between making the table runners, I made a baby blanket to be given to friends of ours (Phil and I) who are becoming grandparents for the first time. That, too, is being professionally quilted. It was an easy project, but I still did a lot of ripping out! I learned by making it and I think the end result (after quilting and binding) will be darling. And, since Phil will be a grandpa in late March/early April, I have plans to make another baby quilt!

In the meantime, I also have the squares all cut out for a twin size quilt (216 squares!) as well as the material purchased for two queen sized quilts. However, my 30+ year old Kenmore sewing machine died on me. I am a little sticker shocked at the costs of new machines. While I know I will be quilting for years to come, right now I can't justify the cost of a really good brand machine, which start in the $700 range for a basic machine. Even a lesser brand, basic machines start in the $200-300 price range. And, I need one by the weekend to get my class project done and start to sew the twin sized quilt together. Oh, well . . . I guess I can learn hand quilting!






"Coffee" themed runner, front & back (notice little coffee beans on the back fabric). I made two runners like this. One I am still hand stitching the binding on.



Wine/grape table runner with "cork" fabric backing. Turned out a little too green, but, again, I learned from it.






Seasonal table runner with matching backing





Friday, October 31, 2008

Yet another quiz

Thanks to Earthbound-Spirit for another fun quiz. Been a while since I've done one of these, but it was fun. Try it!



Your result for The 4-Variable IQ Test...

Verbal

10% interpersonal, 35% visual, 40% verbal and 15% mathematical!

Your strongest type of intelligence is Verbal. You thrive on words, word games, and languages in general. I'm feeling insecure as I write this, because you are reading it. You see, language demands a certain level of recursive thought, and, as someone who just scored highly on it, I'm guessing you already noted the intentional dangling modifier I just put in this sentence. Didn't you? Smarty pants. 4-eyes.

Your specific scores follow. On any axis, a score above 25% means you use that kind of thinking more than average, and a score below 25% means you use it less. It says nothing about cognitive skills, just your interest.

Your brain is roughly:

10% Interpersonal

35%Visual

40%Verbal

15%Mathematical

Matching Summary: Each of us has different tastes. Still, I offer the following advice to the world.

1. Don't date someone if your interpersonal percentages differ by more than 20%.

2. Don't be friends with someone if your verbal percentages differ by more than 25%.

3. Don't have sex with someone if their math percentage is over 50%.

Take The 4-Variable IQ Test at


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

One Good Thing About Fall


I love this candy and can eat it by the pound. Ahhh, there is nothing like a good "sugar high!"

As quickly as it is on the shelves this time of the year, it is gone - disappearing around Thanksgiving, so get it while you can.

Gobble, gobble. (More like Oink, oink!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Quilting

I’ve always been interested in and loved handmade quilts. When I was in my 20s I tried a quilting class, but found it too frustrating. I didn’t have the patience to be so accurate and precise. It was a large class and I didn’t receive the individual help I needed. So, I dropped the class and all hopes of ever quilting and went on to enjoy them from afar.

When I was married, Bill and I took a trip out east and while in Lancaster, PA where we drove down country lanes until we found an Amish farm where the lady of the house sold quilts. We bought one – a bear claw pattern – all hand stitched. It’s beautiful. I haven’t used it in years, but it is carefully packed away safe and sound. On my many trips to Georgia my sister and I have found a place that sells beautiful locally made quilts for very reasonable prices and I have considered purchasing one or two of them over the years.

Recently I became interested in making quilts again. I know there are all new methods of cutting the material, sewing the squares, piecing, etc. I found a small, friendly quilt store outside of Cedarburg, WI and signed up for a beginning class.

I’m enjoying it. There is only one other woman in the class so we get great assistance from the instructor, Diane. She is very patient and helpful and the class is fun. We are making a table runner. While I’m not happy about my choices of fabric (they looked good at the time), I am enjoying the process. And, while I feel like I am doing more ripping out than sewing together, I’m not frustrated by my lack of precision. I am looking at it as a learning experience.

During this time of stress, with Dad dying, Phil’s father ill, family issues, etc., I’m finding even the process of ripping apart my many lopsided squares is soothing. My hands are busy and I feel like I am creating something of worth. Slowly, but surely I am getting more and more accurate (a quilting foot on my sewing machine made a huge difference).

And, I have started several more table runners as holiday presents for some of my gal pals, in materials I really like. Ha! I hope they do, too!

I have signed up for the next level class in Cedarburg and am on the waiting list for another class at a quilt store closer to home. I love looking and touching all of the different fabrics, imagining putting colors and fabrics together and dreaming of someday snuggling under a quilt I made with Phil .

Sometimes things you really want to do or try need to be put on hold. Almost 30 years later I am starting something I think I will pursue for a long time. It was worth the wait!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dragonfly Miracles



Yesterday I looked out my back hallway window to check on Lucy Lou, who was sunning her old doggie bones in the late afternoon sun. I noticed something(s) flying and buzzing around my yard. I went outside and found dozens of dragonflies in the air.

It must just be the time of year. The dragonflies where the huge, double winged, green species. They were beautiful. Upon closer notice I could see little white insects also flying around, which were dinner for the dragonflies. The dragonflies darted, they hovered, they flew backward and I even saw one do a perfect triple somersault. Those poor little gnats didn’t stand a chance to these flying aces. The other amazing thing is that they basically stayed in my little yard. Occasionally one flew over into the neighbor’s yard, but flew back into mine again.

Dragonflies have held a special place in my heart ever since Phil gave me a beautiful dragonfly pendent (which he thought was a butterfly). They seem to be messengers for me (us) and when I see them I believe they bring good energy. You can check out their animal/insect totem by clicking here. There have been times in our relationship when I was worried about Phil or concerned about where we were headed and I would see a dragonfly and know that all would be well. And, it is.

I stood outside for a long time, smiling as the dragonflies zoomed all around me. Even Lucy Lou watched them, her ears pointed and alert. We both laughed with amazement, Lucy Lou with a silly doggie grin and me laughing at the thrill of all those dragonflies.. Phil was here and he came out for a while to watch them, too. It was truly an incredible sight to see and experience. I’m glad Phil experienced it with me.

In a short while they were gone.

Today I left work early (thank goodness for FMLA time) and went out to see my Dad. I got there early enough to feed him lunch, which the aides appreciate as they are always are busy at meal time. Afterwards I put a blanket on his lap and a hat on his head and Dad and I went out to enjoy a beautiful September day. I wheeled him all the way down to the Bark River, which runs through the property his health facility is on. We sat and watched the water flow, the birds fly and the trees move in the breeze. I knew Dad enjoyed being outside with me. There were dragonflies all along the banks of the river. Many different kinds, but none like the ones I had seen the night before in my own backyard.


I tried to show him the dragonflies, but I don't think he could move his head or eyes enough to see them. I told him about the beautiful experience I had with the dragonflies in my yard. His eyes flickered a little. His speech is almost incomprehensible, but he tried to talk. Maybe he understood. I'd like to think he did.


I hope when Dad passes it is on the wings of a dragonfly, the light creatures of the air.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Letting Go


My father is now is hospice care. He has been for a few weeks now.

I thought increasing his care to include hospice would be more difficult that it was. The social worker, Jenny, was very caring and understanding. She went over all of the details with me. I signed lots of forms (my sister’s and I have Power of Attorney and Power of Health) and she explained what this would mean to my Dad’s general care.

He will stay in the same room he is currently in. The same nurses will care for him on a daily basis. Hospice workers, very familiar with the facility, will come in and give additional care – adding to what he is already receiving. There are additional support people – nurses, various therapists including a music therapist, social worker, Chaplin, etc.

My Dad is now 90 with Alzheimer’s. In May and June he had a couple of seizures, which affected his ability to control his tremors, especially in his hands and arms. More recently, there have been times where his arms move in a “flapping” motion. His right leg jerks almost constantly. He has gone down hill rapidly, especially since his 90th birthday on July 23.

The main hospice nurse, Jay, calls me several times a week. He has been around for years at the health care center where Dad is and got to know him well before his decline. He is shocked and sad to see Dad in his current condition. He feels Dad doesn’t have too much time left, but wants him to be more comfortable. Jay has been adjusting Dad’s meds to get his muscle to relax and the spasms to cease. Now, these nurses know what they are taking about. This is their job and they understand the signs of decline in elderly people. My Dad has always been somewhat of a favorite with the staff. He was very personable, friendly, easy going and willing to do things. Plus, he loves to sing and use to sing to them which they all enjoyed.

So, I don’t question that my Dad needs additional care and that his time is limited. And, more importantly, I know that the staff really cares about him and he receives excellent care.

When all this started happening I went out there one morning. Patti, one of the regular nurses, stopped me . ‘Beware,” she said, “he is really having a bad day.” I stood frozen outside his door. He was sitting in his wheelchair, mouth hanging open, his arms outstretched and “flapping.” I couldn’t go in. I muffled a sob and walked down the hallway. Patti steered me to the social worker’s office where I cried and cried.

But it is OK to do that. Now that I am over the shock of what a bad day could be, I able to once again spend time with him. Talk to him, sing to him (he will still try to sing with me if he is alert), stroke his hands and arms, face and head. Just be with him.

That’s all I can do.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

All Tuckered Out


I had planned to spend Sunday afternoon puttering around happily in my garden. I had put my sister, Suzanne, on a plane back to Atlanta that morning. We had a great visit and I enjoyed her company immensely, but I was looking forward to getting my house back and to a quiet afternoon with my dogs and my flowers.




I had a little plumbing problem, so my nephew came over to fix it. It took 3o seconds. Duh! He had 20 month old Shannon, my great niece, along. He mentioned that Shannon's mom was working that afternoon and he and Shannon would be doing errands all afternoon. I looked at little Shannon and felt she shouldn't be dragged in and out of a car on such a beautiful afternoon , so I volunteered to watch her for a couple of hours.



Oh, silly me.


Now, for a toddler, Shannon is very good and very sweet. She talks, she laughs, she plays well and thank goodness, she kept her diaper clean for those couple of hours!


She also loves dogs.


Lucy Lou stayed as close to me and as far away from Shannon as possible. I couldn't believe how she squeezed behind my chair when Shannon approached. But, I don't think Lucy Lou would ever nip or try to bit Shannon.


Gracie, on the other hand, has on previous occasions nipped at Shannon - always missing her, thank goodness. However, on this day Gracie was in a better mood and after 937 times of reminding Shannon to stay away from the doggies, it all worked out.


My house isn't exactly child proofed, either. However, Shannon left most things alone. We spent a lot of time outside watching the birds, looking at flowers, playing with a balloon that had floated into my yard. We ate blueberries and had juice. We counted as we went up and down and up and down and up and down my staircase. She can now count to 13! Well, maybe she misses a few digits in between. I marveled at her sense of wonder, how everything was new to her. She loved watching the birds take a drink at the bird bath and giggled with delight when one took a bath. She repeated the color of the flowers and laughed when a snapdragon flower kissed her nose.


When her mom, Pam, came to pick her up I was ready for her to go. Pam suggested we all order pizza and that Patrick join us. NOOOOOOOO! I told her I had a ton of stuff to do (which I did) that I didn't get done with Shannon around. So, we each ordered our own pizzas and off they went.


And I fell exhausted into my recliner. Whoosh! I was toppled by a toddler! I was tired! I realized the last time I watched a child her age for any length of time was when I watched her father at that age. He is now 34. Do the math.


The main reason I never had children of my own is because at the time I should have been having kids I had no patience. None. I knew I could never be the type of mother I would have wanted to be. Older now and with some patience, I wonder how I would do if I would have had the patience I have at 52 when I was 32. I still don't think I have enough, but I did very well with Shannon. Although there were no tears, no screams, no accidents. That made a big difference on how I enjoyed our time together. And, I did enjoy being with her.

Shannon can come and stay with me again. For 2 hours. Maybe in a month or so when I recover.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Happy Nine-Oh, Dad!













On July 23, 2008 my Dad turned 90 years of age! On the 26th we gathered at the health care center where he lives to celebrate.

Above and to the right are his daughters - me, Suzanne & Linda and on his lap is great-granddaughter, Shannon Erin.












Above and to the right are his grandson Patrick and great-grandson, Aaron (Shannon's big brother)

Dad was confused (he has Alzheimer's), but once we got him outside he recognized his daughters (!), sang, enjoyed Shannon and had a good time. Therefore, so did we.

Afterwards, we all went out to lunch (minus Dad) and had a very nice time. Amazing!

Here are some additional pictures of Shannon. I know it was Dad's day, but she is just so darn cute! And, one of me, Aaron and Shannon


Monday, July 14, 2008

Spoiled Rotten



My sister, Suzanne, has always said that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, she would like to come back as a spoiled American house dog.


I tend to agree.

That's my Gracie, with whom I made the huge mistake of letting her sleep with me in the bed. Poor Lucy Lou. By the time I got Lucy Lou I had learned my lesson. She has a nice, comfy doggie bed on the floor next to where Gracie and I sleep.


Notice I said, "Gracie and I?" This 10 pound dog takes up 3/4s of the bed. I kid you not! Plus, she likes to stretch out, jabbing her legs in my back. And, since she insists on sleeping facing the door (to protect me from any intruders who might wander into my bedroom, I have no doubt) I get to experience the oh, so NOT thrill of rolling over in the middle of the night to face a dog butt!


Most nights she starts off wanting to sleep under the covers, curled up next to me. I will admit, on cold winter nights it feels good. I don't understand how she can breathe under there. More than once I have woken up in the middle of the night to Gracie crawling and pawing her way out of the covers, gasping for breath.

 

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Water is Wide

Did you ever hear a song and/or melody that haunts you and you can't find the name of the song or who wrote it? During my life time I have heard two such songs. One I found the name to very quickly. It is the Ashokan Farwell by Jay Unger. This lovely melody was widely used during the PBS series The Civil War. Most people might think it was written during the Civil War, but it wasn't and there is a very interesting story behind it. However, that's another post and you can google Jay Unger if you wish.

I probably heard the music to The Water is Wide in my teens. It took me until my 40s to finally learn the name to the music. It is an traditional Irish or Scottish song, probably brought over here in the 1700s. Even more so than Ashokan Farwell, this melody lingers on my mind. There are several videos below of the song embedded below, some with great slide shows which really compliment the song perfectly. However some versions are over 4 minutes, so, it back and enjoy.

One more thing, the both the Water is Wide and Ashokan Farwell are waltz's and I would love to dance to one of them at my wedding.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference

Seems there is a dispute about who originally wrote this very simple, very powerful prayer which you can read the article by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.

However, after a friend sent me the article, it got me thinking. Not about the dispute. That doesn't matter to me. But, about how important those 27 little words are to me.

Having sat through dozens of 12-step meetings where this prayer has been discussed in detail, picked apart and analyzed, it is amazing to me how important and meaningful each line of the prayer is to me and to others, as well. In my opinion, it is far and above any other prayer ever written and/or used today. It is short. It is simple. It is easy to remember. And, if used with all sincerity, it works.

You might remember by post of a couple of months ago when I wrote about prayer in my life. Seems I had a mind dump at the time and completely forgot about the Serenity Prayer. Duh. So, now I will back track and pick it apart myself, as I understand it. Here goes:


God grant me the serenity
Who doesn't want serenity? At some point in time we all crave it, want it and wonder where it is in our life. However, in order to truly find serenity, I must deal with all that is going on around me and find that right "place" in my mind and heart to be serene. Not as easy as it sounds. Yet, it can be found. On more and more occasions I find it - usually in nature and it other places, too. And, if I use this prayer as I should, I find it more and more.


To accept the things I cannot change
Ok - this is soooo hard. I'm a controlling person. Not a control freak, but I do have issues with control. So for me to say, "OK - this is what is happening. I can't alter what is going on so I will step back, let it go is like pulling all of my teeth. Since I tend to believe I am always right (until proven otherwise, which happens a lot!), I want things to go my way. Oh, acceptance - - - how difficult you are! Yet, this prayer, as a whole, helps me to find that acceptance.

The courage to change the things I can
I'm don't believe this means the type of courage it takes to run into a burning building to save a child. I'm believe these words are more personal. I believe I can basically only change myself. Yes, I can change my curtains, change my residence, change my job, but I can't change other people (as much as I would like to). To change myself take courage. To right a wrong I did or a flaw within me takes courage. I use to think I was an "afraidy cat." Afraid of all kinds of things. Once, while talking my friend, Sally, I told her this. She stared at me with a stunned look on her face. She then said, "Girl, you have supported yourself all your life. You have cleaned up your act when you stopped drinking, got out of an unhappy marriage, bought a 116 year old house, travel like crazy when you can and basically take care of yourself very well. Look at all you have done. You can't be "afraid" and do all that." That was a verbal slap upside the head. She was right. It took courage for me to realize that I wasn't afraid to take risks, to take leaps of faith. It all takes courage.


And the wisdom to know the difference
Aha! This is the kicker. The wisdom to know the difference. This is the hardest. To recognize what battles to fight, what steps to take, what decisions to make - whoosh! To know when to hang in there and when to walk away - it's hard! The courage to accept or to accept the courage to act? But, slowly, very slowly, by using this prayer the answers, the wisdom, will always come, if I am listening

I have seen and heard many variations of this prayer. There all the same - the meaning and intent is always the same. I even have a Pagan version written down some place. But it really doesn't matter if the words vary a little. If used, it works. At least for me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Family Dynamics




It seems the last couple of years my family is falling apart.


There have been a lot of changes starting with my Mom's death in 2003.


A year later my sister and her husband moved to Atlanta, where their two sons settled years before. Sue and Marty's house was always the place where large family events took place that included both families- holidays, birthdays, picnics. So, this alone had a huge impact. No more place to gather, no more semi-regular merging of two families, who had spent so many years and so many celebrations together.


Not that I blame or resent Sue and Marty for moving. They had retired and why stay in Wisconsin when they could be closer to their sons and also in a much better climate? They have a beautiful home outside of Atlanta and have made a wonderful life for themselves. They are happy and I am happy for them. I love visiting them, which I do often.



Through circumstances I won't explain and which I truly don't fully understand, my nephew and his wife withdrew from his parents life in Georgia. They have chosen not to be involved and to keep their children apart from their grandparents. The hurt and pain this has caused my sister and brother-in-law is enormous. They have been great parents to both their sons and welcomed their daughter-in-law into the family. They were thrilled with their son's choice of a wife and when their first grandchild was born - well, there would be no better people to be grandparents then they are. Although they understand that there were some problems and misunderstandings, they have tried to make things work. Yet all attempts by them to rectify the situation, including the suggestion family counseling, have been shot down.

This, too, had a huge effect on the both sides of the extended family, probably more so than my nephew and his wife could ever imagine. It put the rest of us in bad positions. From my own stand point, I truly love my nephew and his wife. They are great people and wonderful and loving parents. Their two kids are adorable and I love them so much. While I am usually able to spent an hour or two when I am down visiting, it is awkward. It is like the proverbial "elephant in the room." We are friendly and try to talk about everything else except the relationship that has been severed. And, I always feel I am on a tightrope. Will they someday shut me out, too? I simply don't understand. My nephew was raised in a loving home, the same home that included all of the great family gatherings. How can he just walk away from all of us?


My sisters and I were raised in a family that, while small, always included the aunts, uncles and cousins. I have such great memories of my grandparents and extended family. We all feel strongly about "family." All of my nephews have wonderful memories of their grandparents and great grandparents. Yet, here I have a great nephew and niece who don't even know their grandparents and maybe have a slight memory of me. I don't get it.


In the past year or so, my other sister, Linda, has had a string of bad luck. Starting with a couple of injuries that prevented her from working, her life has spiraled downward. She has made some bad choices throughout her life and, to be honest, a little difficult to deal with. But, she also had a big heart and in her own way, a loving nature.

Recent events involving my father, which I also won't explain in detail, has caused a huge rift and complete mistrust of Linda. Legal action was involved. Her actions have been totally unacceptable and hugely disappointing to Sue, t me and to our family. This has caused a complete alienation between my two sisters. And while I am sorely disappointed in Linda, there is still slight communication between us. Yet, from what I see, she is still making bad decisions regarding what she does and with whom she spends her time with. And because of her actions and her own anger (at what I don't know), she has alienated herself from her best friend and other parts of her family. Linda alone has caused this, but she is blaming everyone else. As I know, it is easier to blame others than to take a good hard look at yourself and admit you were wrong. And even harder yet to apologise and make amends. She denies any wrong doing and refused to make amends. In her own words, "I won't kiss anyone's ass." Oh, well . . . we all make our own choices in life.


Then there is my other nephew, my sister's son. He, too, can be a very loving and caring person and has been very helpful to me. He is a good father to his children and loves his wife. He is a hard worker and has become a very impressive "handy man." Yet, it seems that he, too, is full of anger. How many phone calls have I received where he is yelling at me or venting about someone else. How many times has he screamed at me only to hang up the phone. He will get the whole family upset and by the next day or so, act as though nothing is wrong. The attitude is, "Oh, well - you know how I am." Again, very much like his mother, he can hear only what he wants to hear and interpret things the way he "hears" them, not as they were said. My sister and brother-in-law have also been the victims of this verbal abuse and have now stepped away from his life. While they love him and his family and feel terrible about having to come to this decision, for them "enough is enough." What he doesn't understand is that after yeas of his bursts of anger and verbal ranting, we are all getting tired of dealing with it. Now, let me say one thing on his behalf. He is trying to control these "rants." However, it might very well be too little, too late.


I feel that someone in the family has to keep communication open between all of us and have tried, not to much success, to be that one. Not that I am perfect. I have said things I shouldn't have and have done things that weren't in the best interest of myself or my family. I know that I,too, have caused problems over the years. Yet, I love my family - my sisters, my nephews and the "greats" (nephews and nieces). Sometimes I feel very bewildered all that has transpired.


But, I am getting tired. Tired of the drama of being yelled at over the phone. Tired of feeling on pins and needles when I only want to spend time with my "greats" and make sure they know me and how much I love them. Tired of trying to understand how a son who was raised by such loving and supportive parents can shut the door on them. Tired of dealing with a sister who prefers men who abuse her and to hang out with people who abuse drugs and alcohol. Worse of all, whose actions jeopardised our father's well-being. Tired of being screamed at and having my words, and the words of other, twisted into other meanings.

Someone very wise once said, "You are a reflection of those you people surround yourself with."

Several years ago a woman I know told me that after her mother died she would no longer have any contact with several of her siblings and their families. She said she had had a lifetime of dealing with their dramas and problems which include illegal activities, drug and alcohol abuse. While her mother is still alive she feels obligated to see with them on a limited bases such as holidays and a few family events. But, all that will stop one day and her relationship with them would be over. Permanently.

I questioned this friend. How could she walk away from family? She told me to ask myself a hypothetical question. If I had the chance to met members of my family - not knowing who they were - and spend an hour with each of them, long enough that I got a feel of what type of a person they were, how many of them would I really choose to see again? How many of them would I want as my friends, to be a part of my life? Would I really want to associate with some of them?


Now I am beginning to understand. And while I will aways hope there will be resolution and will always feel it is wrong purposely keep some family members apart, especially where children are involved, the drama is getting old. I know every family goes through difficult times, arguments and stress. Yet, hopefully, we grow together and as we do, more understanding develops. But, if people don't want to try to resolve problems, try to understand the hurt they cause and do something about it, I can't keep trying to make it work.

Within the next two years I will be making major life changes including marriage, retirement and a move to Georgia. I will be a 1,000 miles away from a portion of my family and within a couple of hours to others. Maybe things will be better. Maybe they won't. Maybe I, too, will have to say "enough is enough."

I hope not.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

Today I went to see Dad, who is in a health care center and has Alzheimer's.

When I got there, right after lunch, he was in line waiting to be taken to the bathroom. He is in a wheelchair and wears Depends. He was a mess. The aide explained that he still can feed himself, so they let him as they want him to keep these skills as long as possible. Makes sense, but despite the large bib the aides drape him in before a meal, he gets food every where. But, 15 minutes later he was cleaned up, pottied and ready to go.

It was a lovely day here so I pushed him around the grounds. The minute we got out of the building and into the fresh air he said, "Boy, this feels good!" I pointed out all of the blooming flowers and flower baskets. We checked out the height of the river after all the storms we have had here lately. We both enjoyed our walk.

Back inside the facility had entertainment . . . I guess for Father's Day. It was a man playing the accordion and a keyboard. He was very good and fun. He played all of the old songs and it was a pretty lively group. Of course, Dad sang along with gusto. I did, too. I have a horrible voice, but among 80-90 year olds , who cares! Dad and I held hands when we sang Let me Call you Sweetheart. I went and sat by Don, Dad's roommate during Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

The aide told me that Dad has been having very vivid dreams lately. He will sing in his sleep (I think that is great, since he sings a lot any way), sometimes he speaks a little German. He will ask where Geneva is (my mother who passed away over 5 years ago) or tell her something as if she is right next to him (I believe she probably is).

In the past month, Dad has had 2 seizures. His left arm and leg will go rigid and his eyes will turn to the left. He will shake for about 2-3 minutes and it is over. He is very aware before and after. My sister and I, along with his doctor, have agreed to slowly take him off his two Alzheimer's medications as one may cause seizures. Since he has been on it for about 4-5 years, it might be the cause. If he has another seizure, he might have to be put on medication to prevent them. We hate to do that as one side effect is that it makes you sleepy. We want to keep Dad as alert as possible. Hopefully, he won't have another, but we don't know. We do know that at almost 90, we will not put him through any tests to try to determine the cause.

Overall, I had a great visit with Dad. After a moment or two he knew who I was and called me by name several times. That is always good. It is great to be able to take him outside. He enjoys it so much.

A very short time after I left, my sister called him from Atlanta. She asked him some questions. Did you have any visitors today? No. Was there entertainment today, like music and singing? No. Did you go outside? No.

Oh, well.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy. You're the best. Always were and always will be.

What to do?

I've been thinking about my previous blog about the church festivals. I went to one last night with my gal pal, Terri, who is single and would really like meet a man and establish a good relationship. She, along with my other single women friends who are single and would like to be in a relationship, complain that there is no place to go to meet men.

Well, obviously, I would rule out church festivals!

But, seriously, being single about 80% of my adult life, I can relate.

I have several women friends who after their divorces just dropped out of the dating scene or never really got started in it. They focused on raising their kids, building their careers and being involved in various interests, both their own and that of their children. They stated that the time flew by, but now the kids are leaving the nest. All at once they realize they would love to start dating, but how? After so many years of focusing on others - both children and volunteer work - it is hard for them to now focus on themselves in a more personal way.

Then I know of a couple of women who made a choice not to date, not to even think about becoming involved. One dear friend told me it has been well over 7 years since she has . . . ahhh - "been" with a man. And, she went on to say that she has accomplished so much in her life and it has been a period of tremendous growth in all aspects of her life. No regrets. However, she is beginning to feel the time is now right to be in a relationship.

Of course, there are many, many ways to meet someone of the opposite sex and everyone out there can give advice as to how to go about it. There are even shelves of books on the subject.

All of my single women friends who would love to be in relationships are attractive, smart women. They have many different interests, are educated, well read people. They keep up with current events and are very self-sufficient. They work hard, do volunteer work and are good friends to their friends.

And, me? I don't have the answers on how to find and maintain a good, loving relationship.
I guess it is all a matter of being open to what may happen while going about living your life in the way you want. And, if you meet someone, looking deep into them and finding that spark - that light - that is more than superficial.

As my mom use to say, "if it happens, it happens." And, while this is true, it's not much consolation on a cold winter night!

Getting too old for this . . .

Here in Wisconsin, many of the Catholic churches have some type of festival during the summer months to raise money for the parish. Some of these are huge, with games, food and various stages with rock bands playing.

When I was in my 20's I use to hit the circuit of church festivals with my single girlfriends every summer. We would scope out the men, dance, drink and have a good time. It was like going to a bar, but being outside under a tent. As I recall, I had a lot of fun. But then I was young and I was drinking.

After my divorce in 1997/98 several of my women friends liked to go to these festivals for basically the same reasons, although most now say they like go there to listen to the music. Yeah, right.

Older and not drinking it didn't take me long to realize that I really didn't enjoy church festivals any more. And, I didn't enjoy anything along this line of entertainment. After a few beers my friends were in a place I wasn't and would never again be. I hate the crowds and being jostled around. People smoke. The smells are yucky in the tents where the music is playing - smoke and beer. Punky kids show up. It's not pleasant.

But, once or twice a summer my women friends drag me out to a festival. Tonight was one such night. Phil is at home this weekend with his daughters and a little under the weather. I stayed in Milwaukee and made plans with Terri and Martha to go to St. Roman's festival. I dreaded it all week. For a while it looked like it would get rained out. I suggested Plan B - dinner and a movie - particularly "Sex in the City." Sounded like a great girl night out to me. Unfortunately, the weather cleared. And, Terri really needed to get out of the house. Martha couldn't make it so Terri and I ventured to the tents of St. Romans.

And, it was the same old, same old. In fact, in the 10 years I have been divorced I have gone maybe once or twice a year to these festivals with Terri and/or Martha and I see the same faces. Jeez. Same music, same beer smells, same cigarette smoke, same drunks. While I enjoyed Terri's company, I was miserable being there.

So, I'm done with all of the type of "entertainment."

Phil wants to go to SummerFest in a couple of weeks. We have a long weekend planned of hanging out in this area. I agreed. But, during the day only. By early evening when the crowds show up and the heavy drinking starts, I want to be long gone.

Been there. Done that. Over it.

Dinner and a movie, girlfriends?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Floods

Here in the mid-west we are flooding.

While I have had some water in my basement, which my shop vac sucked up rather well, my co-worker, Judy, had 3 1/2 feet in her basement. They lost quite a bit of stuff. Luckily, it was clear water, not sewage back up, which is also happening all over the area.

In southern Wisconsin houses have been washed off their foundations, cars have been seen floating away, roads closed, bridges out, dams threatening to break.

It is still raining tonight and rain is in the forecast all weekend.

Last Saturday night while I was in Michigan visiting Sally (who as of Wednesday is finally at home!) my doggie sitter spent hours in my basement due to tornado warning and bad storms.

We Midwesterners are made of hardy stock. We survived this past winter with its 90+ inches of snow and we will survive this.

But, whatever happened to calm weather? What is normal weather? How will the farmers deal with soggy fields?

What is Mother Nature up to?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How Does My Garden Grow?
















Last winter looking out my windows at over 90+ inches of snow, I didn't think I would ever see green grass or my garden again.

Oh, me of little faith!

Here's a small sample of my lovely yard.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Miracles


My dear friend, Sally, is a miracle.

After over a week in ICU with an unknown type of pneumonia, she is recovering. She has been in her own hospital room for a week. Progress is very slow, but she is holding her own and each day getting a little stronger and a little more progress made.

If I had to guess how long she has been in the hospital, it has to be going on over a month. She should be discharged this week and moved to a rehab center in Water Vliet - much closer to her home than Kalamazoo where she is now.

But, she can't walk without a lot of assistance. The first few days out of ICU she couldn't move her arms well or use her fingers. Her eye sight isn't real good. She has panic and anxiety attacks when she thinks she will not be able to draw in a breath. And, while her lungs continue to improve a little each day, last week one did collapse 50%. She has undergone painful procedures. She is on a lot of meds.

Her life in rehab will be difficult - learning how to walk again, care for herself, breath without the anxiety attacks. She is on meds for depression and anxiety.

But - she is alive. She is making progress. She will go home (probably in mid to late June).

Sally will be a changed person. Deeply spiritual, she does see this as a journey. She feels there is a message in it. Some of us who know her well feel the message is to slow down and not work so hard. So, now she is forced to do so. It will be interesting to hear her perspective.

I have not seen her since she was first admitted to the Kalamazoo hospital. I will visit her in rehab and will stay with her for at least a week (if she chooses) when she finally goes home. I will purchase more bird feeders for her, a couple of humming bird feeds, bird seed and suet. I will make sure they are hung in front of all of her windows so she can watch the birds while she recovers. I will paint her toes nails and rub lotion on her back. I will brush her hair. I will hang on to her when she walks. I will cook for her. I will bring a ton of books and we will read. We'll rent videos starring only good looking men. We will talk of birds, of life, of journeys - both inward and outward. We will talk of our friends, our families and we will talk trash. We will read and laugh, hug and cry. And, this will all be my deep privilege.

She's a miracle. And I am, oh, so very grateful.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Can't Sleep Thoughts



It's after 3:00 am and I can't sleep.
I went back to the doctor yesterday so now I am on round two of meds for bronchitis and a sinus infection. Steroids. Yippee! Also, a cough med that yesterday knocked me on my ass. Hence - when you sleep all day, you can't sleep at night. So instead of tossing and turning I got up, let the dogs out, made a pot of coffee and here I am
Today marks day 6 of missing work due to this bugga bugga. Actually, though, despite the time of day, I do feel a little better.
No news is good news now regarding Sally (see posts below). She is stable and for 2 days the x-rays showed no more deterioration in her lungs. It is just a waiting game now. I have good feelings about her illness now (if that makes sense). Yes, she will be in the hospital for weeks and weeks if not months, but I have a more positive "gut" feeling she will pull through this.
Hey, street cleaners just went by! What do you know! And, of course, there is a car parked smack in front of my house, so the litter will still be there. Go figure.
Amazing activities in the 'hood at 3 am.
My dear brother-in law, Marty, has a brother who is dying. Gordon, who is 80, has been ill for the past few years. This has been expected. It is difficult, but his death will end his suffering and I believe the family is at peace with it.

My flowers are looking good, but the beds really need cleaning. Too tired and weary to do them lately. Maybe on Saturday I will feel like working in the garden a little. It is probably the best thing I could do for my soul right about now.

Sunday is Mother's Day. Over five years now since Mom has been gone. Hard to believe. I don't think I will be sad on Sunday, but more and more thankful each Mother's Day that I had such a great and loving Mom.

Think I will have another cup of joe and try going back to bed.
Ahhhhh, sweet slumber!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Perspectives

I'm trying to put things in perspective. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.



While my dear friend, Sally, is fighting for her life on a ventilator, I've been home for a week with a sinus infection and bronchitis. Now, that is comparing apples to oranges. I can breathe on my own. I can drive myself to the doctor and get stronger meds to make me better. Sally is trapped inside herself. Our friend, Amy, said maybe this is all part of a spiritual journey she needs to take. Sally is a "shaman in training." I know she would appreciate and value that thought as I do.



As I do things around the house, as I'm able, I think of Sally. She was with me the day I closed on my house. The first thing she did when we walked in was to check it for security. Sally, 20-year veteran of the Chicago police force, wanted to make sure I'd be safe. Then, with sage, salt and water, we smudged my home. Going to every corner from the basement to the attic and all around the yard, we chanted some lines and added another layer of safety and love to my home. I will never forget to the smudging with her. It was an act of love between the two of us. She was so proud of me for buying my own home.



Breathe, Sally, Breathe.



Sally with her lotions and potions. In my shower I have Tate's All Natural Miracle Conditioner. On our trip to Costa Rica a few years ago with gal pal, Miki, Sally brought along this product she found in a health food store. We marveled over all of its uses. Upon my return home I ordered it, along with the shampoo. It is the only product I have ever used to keep my dry scalp from flaking. How many times I have sat with Sally while she applied different facials to my face, made out of oatmeal or honey or whatever? How many times has she handed me a bottle of lotion, "Here, try this. And, while your at it, rub some on my back." "Smell this, Julie Ann. Isn't it fabulous? Put some on." "Let me give you a manicure" "Here," tossing me a hair brush," Would you please brush my hair? I'll brush yours when you are done!" "Want to go for a massage while I'm there?" "Oh, girl, this is just the best stuff." Try it, smell it, put some on. Oh, Sally - you taught me to pamper myself.



Breathe, Sally, Breathe.



In Sedona we sat in the cold on the vortex, stealing looks at each other to see if we were really feeling the earth's energy. We climbed down canyons to watch the sun dance off the river onto the canyon walls. We climbed in caves to hold ritual. We sat in silence at the condo, each reading books we would pass on to each other.



Breathe, Sally, Breathe.



I take little walks around my small yard, watching the progress of the shrubs and flowers. The weeping crab apple tree Phil bought me several years ago is about ready to bloom. My lilac bush is not only all green, but the little flowers are growing like crazy. Only my Rose of Sharon's are just starting to show signs of life. They are always late bloomers. The neighborhood smells of newly cut grass. A smell Sally and I both like.



Breathe, Sally, Breathe.



I think of walking around Ronora together. The land, so special and sacred. Arm and arm we would walk, enjoying the beauty. Sally would see the woodland spirits, something I was never able to see. That's OK, though. She believes in them and sees them.

Breathe, Sally, Breathe.



Sally told Amy the night before her lung biopsy, that she dreamt of a big brown bear. I read Amy the attributes of the bear totum. Power. And hibernation. Sally is a powerful woman, as well as a soulful woman. Maybe the bear was telling her to nurture her power now and go into a deep sleep to preserve her strength. Sally would appreciate that.



It is the time of renewal, of hope of life. May Sally's lungs find the renewal, that life and give all of us hope.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Helpless



Tonight one of my dearest friends is in the ICU of a hospital in Kalamazoo, MI fighting for her life

Sally, my chosen sister, my confidant, my travel gal pal, my friend.

I'm so very afraid we will lose her.

After almost a week in a smaller hospital with what they thought was pneumonia, she was transferred to a larger hospital in a larger city that has a pulmonary unit. A week later, she is on a ventilator which is doing 100% of her breathing.

The cause? We don't know. She had a lung scope, which showed nothing. A lung biopsy, which was sent to California for tests. The part of the lung taken for the biopsy was spongy and crumbly. Every X-Ray shows her lungs deteriorating.

What the hell is going on? She had a bad case of pneumonia about 4 years ago and, like me, usually gets a bad case of bronchitis every year or so. But this?

Sally is a physically strong, vibrant woman. She went from having trouble breathing to oxygen to a ventilator. Jesus!

A long time good friend of Sally's, Amy, has been with her for almost a week. Another true chosen sister, Amy has been dealing with the doctors, nurses and friends who want to see her, touch her and make sure she is OK. However, in the highest level of ICU visiting hours are 3 times a day for 20 minutes. Sally is on morphine and basically out of it. Amy is burned out herself, even with taking time to care for herself.

I was there last Wednesday through Thursday when I heard she was transferred. She had called me on Tuesday, excited to be going home and I offered to come up for the weekend and take care of her and she gladly accepted. She had a turn for the worse that same night and unfortunately, by the weekend she was in the ICU. I returned home Thursday night, sick with my annual case of a sinus infection and bronchitis.

However, while I was there I was able to talk to her a little, hold her hand, rub her head, tell her it would all be OK. It is hard to see someone struggle to breath.

Jesus. What the hell is going on? Where are her test results. She is in "fair" condition and nothing is working.

My last post I wrote about prayer. While I'm praying now. Praying that those test show something that can be treatable. Praying that she keeps being the fighter I know she is and that she hangs in there as long as it takes. Praying that all of the prayers from me and the dozens and dozens of people who know and love Sally are surrounding her with healing white light and love.

Please, Sally, just hold on.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some Thoughts on Prayer


My oldest nephew was potty trained pretty early. The only thing the he a difficult time with was wiping his butt after pooping. Being a thoughtful little boy, he would call for his Mom to come clean him up. But, after a couple of weeks, my sister felt he could do it himself and told him that he was now a big boy and big boys wiped their own butts. Now, my nephew was raised a UU, but his grandparents were Lutheran and he was exposed to prayers and had asked about what they were and was given a good Lutheran answer (whatever that may be). One day he told him Mom he was going potty. She got busy with things and after a few minutes thought things were too quiet for comfort. She looked for him high and low and finally found him still on the toilet, his head bowed, eyes shut, hands folded. "What are you doing?" she asked. "Mommy," he said, "I'm just praying to God that you'll come wipe my butt!" (Sorry - John, but after 38 years, that is still funny and sweet.)


I think that day a prayer might have been answered, but after that the kid was left up to his own devises!


One of my Church Ladies friends, who is a seminary student, UU and fellow blogger, wrote a blog post on prayer, which got me thinking. Check out http://www.earthbound-spirit.blogspot.com/



I have struggled with prayer all of my life, until a couple of years ago. Who was I suppose to pray to? Heck, my prayers were never answered, so why bother? What should I pray for? Can I bargain with God? Who is this God? And why would He bother answering my prayers when there were so many, many other prayers sent to Him much more important than mine.


Through a long series of events in my life and after searching for a long time, I was led to the Unitarian Universalist church. What a concept - they didn't really pray. . . they meditated. Hmmm, could that be a form of prayer? When they did pray, it wasn't like the Lutheran prayers I was brought up with. Not to the God in the sky or to Jesus on a cross. They prayed but to a higher power, to the Creator of the earth, to Mother Nature.

Shortly after I discovered the UU church I took a workshop entitled "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven." The curriculum was written by UU minister Shirley Rank and opened up a whole new world for me at the time. The feminine in the divine. The Goddess. Mother Nature. Finally, something I could grab on to, something I could understand.


Being a lifelong tree hugger (I truly hugged trees as a kid) and nature lover, seeing the divine in Nature, the beauty that was all around me and being able to be with people who understood how I could find my higher power in Nature was wonderful. It led me to a women's spirituality (my Church Ladies) group and to another workshop entitled, "Rise Up and Call Her Name," continuation of "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven." This led to serving for over 3 years on the UU Central Midwest District of Women & Religion www.womenandreligion.org which involved the planning of a annual winter conference (WomanSpirit) and a summer women's retreat at Ronora www.ronora.org . As part of the conferences and retreats, there was a heavy emphasis on ritual work. Writing, developing and participating in various rituals became almost second nature to me. It was fun, rewarding and fulfilling in many ways - both in group ritual and the small, quiet rituals I did for just myself. And I still participate, enjoy and look forward to both types of rituals.


But what does all of this have to do with prayer?


As I participated in ritual, assisted with sweat lodges, drummed, danced and talked with other women I found myself opening to the thought and action of prayer. How it came in all different forms - not only with hands folded and head bowed, but dancing, laughing, drumming, sweating, singing and ritual. I began to understand that prayer was and could be, to me, both meditation and action.


Over the years my thoughts and beliefs have changed and grown, but in my late 30s and into well into my 40s, this all had a huge, positive impact on me. And, slowly prayer came into my life.



There is a Garth Brooks song - Unanswered Prayers, in which he sings about a woman he loved and wanted as a young man. He prayed that he would have her forever. At the time he thought that what he was praying for was want he truly wanted in life. But this prayer was never answered and they went their own ways. In reflection many years later he realized that it was a blessing. He couldn't imagine what his life would have been like if that prayer would have been answered. He realized he was so happy with the way his life turned out, the way it was. One of God's greatest gifts is unanswered prayers.


When I first heard that song it was a "aha" moment. Maybe for all those years I was praying for the wrong things and, who knows, maybe even praying to the wrong . . . well, thing (person, deity, saint, God?). Maybe my life was turning out just as it meant to be - rocky roads, pot holes and all. Maybe my prayers had been answered, but just not quite as I expected them to be.


Ahhh, not the way I expected them to be.


Are my prayers now being answered? Yes. No. Maybe. I'm no longer focused on the answer, but rather the intent.


So, now when I pray it is usually a prayer of gratitude. Gratitude for my life - as it is, as it will become. I pray for loved ones in need, I pray for those I don't know, but need help. I pray that all is well in my world and the world around me.


I find myself praying in nature without even being aware of it. Planting flowers, hiking, walking the dogs, seeing birds in flight and the leaves changing in the fall. Prayers are all around me if I stop to look and listen. Sometimes prayer and states of grace go hand in hand.


I pray as a leap of faith - that there is something out there that is hearing me, listening to me. I believe there is.


I pray because I truly believe the energy we put forth in prayer makes its way to where we send it - a loved one who is sick, a friend in need, a thought for a better world. I see my prayers as bluish-white light, as a beam being sent out from my heart, my soul.


Who do I pray to? While if it is a active thoughtful prayer (not in a state of grace as in nature) I pray to both the Mother and the Father as I see my higher power as a mixture of both (with a little more emphasis on the feminine).


And I end my prayer with "Blessed Be. Amen." A nod to both my current Earth-Based spiritual beliefs and the God I was raised with.


And, sometimes I end them with this - Merry meet, merry part and merry met again. The circle is open, but never broken. Blessed be.