Monday, September 29, 2014


Tonight I went to a meeting of community folks and recent immigrants. Humbling? No doubt. Women who have not seen their husbands in seven years and have no idea of their fate. Women who laugh in spite of memories of civil war and soldiers slitting throats and being in a foreign country with no clue about how to cook the food or drive the car. Children translating for them. I wept.

I'm tired. My bones and joints ache like I have been stoned.

I am happy to hear that Larry came through his surgery well and is recovering. Even modern medicine is scary.

I subbed today. Good and bad, as always.

I signed up to sub tomorrow for one block which is my favorite time frame if I can't get a 45 minute gig. Why work more that a guy needs to?

I have to start keeping a journal of aches and pains and such. To lift my arm feels like 80 pounds.

Off to sleep.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

organizing my life the binder way

I think I started using binders when my friend, Jill, and I started teaching writing classes. It was a good way to keep each course's materials together with notes and overheads. The binder habit eventually bled over into my other life and now I have binders for weight loss, exercise, yoga/therapy/writing...and anything else that happens to prick my fancy. It's a very visual way to organize materials.

I have a binder for each major (and some minor) holidays. I save the menus, the grocery lists, the lists of things to do, sometimes a photo or two, the favorite recipes, and notes. Too many potatoes, not enough gravy, don't cook this that long, use real butter. Like I would have to make a note of that.

I am enjoying the bounty of the season. We have had a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes and peppers and this morning I wandered down to the farmer's market to buy big tomatoes, a few summer squash, and some jam. My friend, Sheri, was selling her homemade salsa. I bought a few little pastries for us to have with our coffee, an apple for the ride home, and rhubarb jam to send to my cousin in Arizona.

It's been a grand weekend that started with an Oktoberfest event on Thursday night, then yoga Friday morning, more Oktoberfest with Lamont Cranston, the farmer's market, and a couple other social possibilities this afternoon. Young Regis just stopped and said I could go to the Oktoberfest with him... and his friend, Rich. I was tempted to do a cemetery tour in Mankato but I would have to go alone and I think I feel like enjoying the weather in a more upbeat environment. No dancing for me's a band called IV Play which sounds like rock, right? 

I loved the blues band last night, although I read on the internet that they started playing together about 1970 and figuring roughly they would be about my age, I was curious to note that they looked older than shit. What??? There must be some mistake.

Our kids are coming over tomorrow so we can go to an equestrian thing at the fair grounds. I have so little information about this outside of the two facts: cost (free) and location (fair grounds). I'm making a tomato tart, a big pan of Vi's apple bars, and Regis is making pig wings. Ah, autumn. We love you.

A couple of shout-outs to friends who are on my mind this week:
  • Jill and wishes for a successful surgery, a speedy recovery, and reasonable hospital cafeteria food. Call if you need anything.
  • Michele...wishing you peace as you finish the choreography for the dance number at the inaugural event. I'll be bringing by an apple dish as soon as I get started peeling that bag!
  • Joanne...dealing with tumult everywhere! Go to that quiet place in your head, my friend.
  • you remember Hugh on the second anniversary of his parting. I'm looking for opportunities to pass on his random acts of kindness.
Life is always good even when it's hard. We're on the right side of the grass, we have delicious food to eat, we have bands to keep us dancing, and friends to keep us laughing. All good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rosh Hashanah and the second day of autumn

This morning as I drink my coffee, I am reading about the beginning of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. I'm not of the Jewish faith but I love the idea of "casting off", walking to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and emptying our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. Today, the second day of autumn, I have much to cast off.

Mostly, I am casting off the burden of guilt over my actions. I am trying to make things right with people I have hurt with my behavior. Most are not holding grudges but are only happy to see me in a better place. That is good. I am casting off fear that I can't manage the troubles in my life without numbing. Of course, I can and it's so much more pleasant that way. Being fully alive and present is the alternative. I am casting off those with harsh judgment and criticism. I am not living their lives...I am living mine. I am casting off shame. Ah, what a wonderful feeling. I am casting off shame.

A friend of mine lost her husband two years ago. They didn't have a funeral or service of any kind because that's what he wanted. This year, they are starting a tradition of paying it forward in his honor on September 26, the anniversary of his death. What a nice way to remember a man who had such a talent for finding those in need of a hand up. I have a plan for things I might do and a plan to be places where I can be alert for ways to help. What a grand idea.

Yesterday I finished my bathroom painting project. I did the prep work, a friend came to help with the final painting, and then we went out for dinner. I had an O'Doul's non-alcoholic beer which really did the job of quenching my thirst. Funny how I have an aversion to that numb and out-of-control feeling I used to crave. I like being present for every minute of my wild and precious life!

I have a new coat of paint in the bathroom, everything has been cleaned, there is a new shower curtain waiting to go up, the mirror has been painted...all signs of renewal. My friend, Deb, says, "Out with the old and in with the new!" Happy Rosh Hashanah, Deb!

I have nothing on my written agenda for today. I am going to clean and reassemble the bathroom after its face-lift but I am going to relax and enjoy the beautiful fall day. I got school pictures of my grandbabies this week and they are growing up so fast. How did it happen? Someone said when kids are small, the days are long but the time is short. Very true.

I have a bag full of apples to be turned into pie and sauce and cake. I love the smell of baking apples. Baking apples is not work but joy.

Wishing you all a wonderful second day of fall (or spring if you are in the other hemisphere!) and much joy in your lives. The struggles are important but they can't be all there is. Light and love. 

And cast off something you don't need today, will you?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dear Cancer, my reluctant roommate

Dear Cancer,
I never thought we’d be so close. I knew you lived on the next street, hung out next door, visited the house around the corner and in the apartment building by the water tower but I never wanted much to do with you, to be honest. I didn’t think you’d be much of a friend so when I heard your name mentioned, I turned the other way.

Then one day, sitting my office, the phone rings. Elaine says these words: You have invasive ductal carcinoma. Cancer. Oh, shit. Suddenly you are not across the street any more. You are, with your smug face, your beehive hairdo, and your smudged pink lipstick, sitting in my house, in my living room, in my chair.

I really didn’t want a floozy like you hanging around. People talk, you know. They ask questions like where’d you come from and how long are you planning to stay.

Frankly, I didn’t think you would add much to my life. You didn’t seem like much fun, you took a lot of time, and that language. Oh, my God. That language. Words I had never heard before: drainage tube, lymphedema, Stage II, 2.5 cm, and the grandmother of all cancer words, metastatic. I could do without that vocabulary, thanks very much.

I did my best to avoid even being associated with you. When Kay handed me the gift bag containing the white fuzzy blanket with the pattern of pink ribbons, I shoved it back into the tissue paper. There must be some mistake.

The first time we went to the Andreas Cancer Center and I started reading the book titles in the waiting room, the posters, the magazines, I looked at my husband as if he had brought me to the wrong place. I don’t think I really thought this through, I said. And what’s with all the bald people?

My friends looked at me with admiration when I told them you were a house guest. You are so brave, they said. What an inspiration, they said. Really? I just wanted to go to Patrick’s, order a cheeseburger and a beer, and play Dwight Yoakum on the juke box. I didn’t want to be anybody’s damn inspiration. So, fuck you cancer, I said. Go squat in someone else’s house, will  you?

You did outstay your welcome. I often wished you would pack your crummy polyester pants into that ratty brown, paper sack and climb back into the Greyhound bus. I did not want to get up every morning to see you sitting, once again, in my chair, drinking my coffee, reading my paper, my cat on your lap.

Eventually, though I never grew to like you, I stopped resenting you. I didn’t cringe every time someone said your name. I didn’t throw my keys against the wall when I realized you would be around for a while longer. I could see we would be reluctant roommates for a long time so I resigned myself.

Now that we have you moved into the basement bedroom, things are better. I don’t have to see you every day. I can move around the living room without tripping over your People magazine, your empty Bush Light cans, and your TV Guide. I’ve agreed to let you stay and you have agreed not to smoke in the house. We compromise, you and I.

I will even grudgingly admit that a couple of times, I have given you a tiny bit of credit. Like for introducing me to your former friends and dance partners, the ones whose homes you also occupied. You showed me how to do a mean four-directions dance on the deck at Knife Lake in late September. You introduced me to Karen, my cyber space soul sister from New Jersey. You have a motley crew of relatives who also seem to think it’s ok to show up on the doorstep…and stay for a long time…uninvited. We talk, you know, after you go to bed.

It’s been a rocky road, Cancer. I would never say you have been a blessing and I have been tempted to swat the people who suggest it. You are not a blessing, you with your sloppy, time-sucking habits and filthy language. But, you have afforded me opportunities, and for that, I can be grateful.


Monday, September 22, 2014

last day of summer

Today is the last day of summer. I like to recognize the official change of season by thinking, planning, reading, and writing. Today, I am sitting in my pajamas drinking cinnamon tea, looking out the window at my garden, and writing.

I got home yesterday afternoon from the writing retreat I attended at Knife Lake with five women I met through Livestrong. We didn't know each other all that well before the treat but we had much in common and we bonded quickly. We spent our time writing, listening to each other, eating fabulous food, doing yoga on the deck beneath an oak tree, and sitting on the dock watching the pelicans float by the sand bar. It was glorious.

I remember telling my writing classes during my teaching years that there is no forced sharing of your writing, but something magical happens when you do share it. Sitting around the dining table in the beautiful room with the full wall of windows onto the lake, we were warriors, we were better together, we celebrated, we wept, we lifted each other up. It was pure magic.

This is my morning task: to get dressed, to drink tea, to eat lunch. This afternoon, I am doing the final prep on the bathroom so it can finally (finally!) be painted.  As I put things away from my trip this morning, I appreciated so much my de-cluttering efforts. Things had places, there was room where they needed to go, it was easy to unpack and feel done. is so good.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

a list of random and wonderful things

  • I had my annual physical this morning and all systems check out fine. I got three immunizations: pneumonia, shingles, and tetanus. I am grateful to have access to such good health care.
  • I woke up at 6 am and began the long-awaited task of cleaning out the refrigerator. I took everything out, cleaned the entire inside, washed all the shelves and gizmos, and restocked. It took about an hour so it made me wonder why I dread doing it so much.
  • We made steaks on the grill with mushrooms and onions. Also had some of our zebra tomatoes grilled. A delicious meal.
  • We bought groceries in Mankato. We're lucky to have access to such good food. We stopped at one of the big box pharmacies that sells everything now...even groceries. I think it's somewhat disingenuous of them to proclaim, "Be well!" when they sell frozen pizzas, chips, and mac and cheese. I don't like the idea of buying my food there...or at Menards for that matter. I like the idea of food being separated from drain cleaners and paint.
  • I subbed in a small engines class this afternoon. What I know about small engines you could put on the head of a pin and have room left over. The students were tickled that I did not know for sure what a piston was and thought the muffler was where you put the gas. I didn't regale them with all my stupid car stories. They would have lost all respect.
  • I changed the sheets on the bed last night and that has to be one of Woody's favorite things. He loves to snoop under the fresh sheets, lie on the pillow cases, and recline in splendor when I'm done. This blanket is one of his favorites, too. The only thing that will motivate him to move is if someone comes to the door. Then he has to come and see who it is.
  • I've been working on de-cluttering and organizing my house for two years but I am nearing the end of my enthusiasm for now. Tomorrow, I am going to finish up and put the last ten boxes on the curb. It does contribute to peace of mind to know that I can actually put things away in closets because they aren't filled with crap I don't need.

  • I finished Daniel Silva's The Confessor and started All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Both books have to do with World War II. The Confessor is a grand spy novel and it influenced me yesterday to imagine myself speeding home from Mankato in a red Fiat with a chiffon scarf and big sunglasses instead of in the gray Honda Accord. Spies in Rome don't drive Hondas, you know.

  • I've been on the road a lot this summer...more than is typical for me. We went to Canby last week and Gus came along. He is looking at me with his soulful eyes...such a sweet dog. Friday I am going to a writing retreat somewhere up north. I'm not sure where but you have to watch closely for deer the last 40 miles. The friend who is driving is not aware that the limits of my congenial passengerhood is 2.5 hours. If this limit is exceeded, I have been known to burst into tears or demand a stop at the DQ. I'll try very hard to behave.
Well, that all I have tonight. Tomorrow, I'll check in earlier!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

it's a new morning, bob dylan

I slept like a baby last night. Drifted off to sleep, woke a few times for minutes, then woke slowly at 8 am. Wow! Wonderfully refreshing! The result is that I feel energetic and optimistic about the day.

I have been thinking about lifestyle. I thought I had a physically and emotionally healthy lifestyle but it turns out there are some gaps. I have been using the chart I made a few weeks ago to keep track of my goals: exercise, healthy food/drink, peace of mind, relationships, and creativity. I like it for planning and for looking back to see how I spent my time. It's not that I document every piece of food or every minute of exercise...that would get oppressive for me. It's a general review of how I spent my time.

Yesterday, I baked oatmeal peanut butter cookies, molasses cookies, and banana bread. Our kids are good to help us with tasks like tree trimming, pet care when we are out of town, furniture moving, roof work. I like to bake cookies for them sometimes in return. I made enough that I could walk small batches to neighbors. One lady wanted to pay me which only shows how far we have come from the days when people did that regularly...shared with neighbors. I tidied my house, mailed a letter, went for a walk, played Scrabble, read a book, and filled the bird feeders. On my way back from the walk, a young squirrel played hide-and-seek with me...jumping from tree to tree, peeking at me through the leafy branches. If I stopped, he stopped, tail twitching. It was a sweet moment.

Today, I am digging out some of my fall clothes and jackets. It's getting too cool here for summer pj's and skirts and such. I'm anxious for the fall colors to emerge! Also think I will dig out my many tubs of Halloween decorations. I LOVE Halloween. I might bake some bread...something dense and grainy.

This week, I have a couple of therapy appointments, a yoga class, a community education thing where I will be paired with a new immigrant family, I'm subbing in an industrial arts class, and next weekend, I am going with 5 friends from Livestrong on a writing retreat in the north woods.

Off into this beautiful day, my friends.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

the best day ever

I have two grandsons, both five years old, born within a week of each other. They each had their first day of kindergarten yesterday. I decided on my way to yoga this morning that I am going to emulate them in a couple of ways.

Alex, quieter and not as demonstrative, gets so excited about everything but expresses it as "This is the best lunch ever! This is the best band ever! This is the best ice cream ever!"

Today, walking home from yoga, I decided this is the best day ever. I slept until 7, mostly sound and restful sleep. I went to gentle yoga which I loved. So peaceful and energizing at the same time. I went for coffee with Michele, ran into several more friends, had a wonderful egg sandwich, saw lots of gold finches and sun flowers, and enjoyed the autumn-like breeze and lower temps. So there is my Alex emulation...the best day ever.

Elliot is the louder and more demonstrative one. Every person he meets, he runs to and hugs with unabashed joy. He will stop what he is doing and say, "I love you SO MUCH, Nana!" He always hugs his cousin, Alex, goodbye at the end of a visit. Today, I am hugging the people in my life who love me, the people in my life who have supported me, the people in my life who bring me joy. This is my Elliot emulation...I love you all SO MUCH!

It's been a long and slow moving river of change. I feel like I waded in about five years ago and had no idea where I would end up on the other side. There have been so many scary moments...and so many absolutely beautiful, heart-wrenching moments. What a journey. Gratitude has been my partner through it all. Even in the darkest of times, I tried hard to be grateful. I wrote a list of 100 things I am grateful for and sent it to my surgeon...things I could not do prior to surgery. And it was easy. I think I could do it again today. 100 things to be grateful for on this...the best day ever.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

favorite things about fall

  1. Joe Pye weed, pictured above. Dusty mauve flowers on lanky stems, often visited by butterflies, it's a sign the end of summer is near.
  2. Sunflowers as tall as the porch roof.
  3. The county fair. The sheep and goats. Cheese curds. The dairy place with real strawberry ice cream...with real strawberries. 
  4. Geese. Every time we go for a walk now, they are winging their way to or back from a big pond somewhere. Probably Swan Lake. 
  5. Food. Even sweet corn is a harbinger of autumn. Tomatoes...we're going to make the tomato tart at least one more time. Peppers. Plan to stuff, grill and freeze them. Nothing tastes better in January than grilled peppers in an omelet. End of summer food.
  6. Sounds. No more tractor pulls and baseball games. The sound of Friday night football on the hill.
  7. Shorter days. Waking at 3 am, I have almost four hours of dark before the sun is fully up. By September, I am still awake when it gets dark.
  8. Food. Meatloaf and baked potatoes. Soup. Pot roast with root vegetables. Baked squash. Fresh bread with crisp crust you can hear crackle as it cools.
  9. Birds. Finches, turning dirty yellow, flit around the bird feeder. Cardinals, the young pair have taken up residence and sent the old folks somewhere else. Hummingbirds stocking up before they fly to warmer spots for the winter.
  10. Friends. Some go back to school. Some leave for the winter.
  11. Hot tub. Maybe a couple nights under the stars.
  12. Family. Two grandsons starting school. A granddaughter going to a new school. Parties move indoors. Goodbye pontoon! Goodbye swimming pool!

Monday, September 01, 2014

labor day 2014

We had a fine Labor Day party at Tom and Betty's with, as usual, lots of food, family, friends, and laughs. We were in the pool for a while, then the hot tub. The rain held off until we were done.

Tom and Betty's backyard is so looks tropical.

Today feels like the first official day of autumn. Regis wore his Hawaiian shirt yesterday because he said the rule is no white shoes or Hawaiian shirts after Labor Day. Maybe he's right.

I know I'm ready for the next season. I find it harder and harder to wear summer clothes, I'm starting to ignore my garden, and I have developed a hankering for meatloaf. All signs of fall. I can't wait to get my boots and sweaters out.

I have a busy week coming up so I might not do anything today. I might stay in my pajamas until noon. I might bake bread. I might take a nap. Ah, the possibilities.