Category Archives: grattitude

Contentment

Minnie would be more content if I’d leave her alone during nap-time

I think a lot about what it means to me to be happy, to be content, and to be satisfied.  I don’t spend a lot of time appreciating my successes or taking in the feeling of a job well done.  I suppose I could do some psychological speculation about why that is, why I don’t “allow” myself to enjoy success.  What it comes down to is I’m always looking for the next thing.

My daughter, Karina, has been very verbal about bringing all of this to my attention over the years.  She doesn’t appreciate it when she struggles to make me happy, or to meet an expectation only to get “Now that that is out of the way……….”  Her, “Hey!  Wait just one minute.” has forced me many times to stop and honestly acknowledge her efforts.  This is why I really need a gratitude practice.

Orion and I at the movies. I still need practice at the selfie.

This weekend was a simple, easy, uneventful weekend.  Orion and I did a few things.   We saw the new Spiderman movie.  He got a haircut and his beard trimmed.  We kept an eye on Minnie (Karina’s dog).  I puttered a bit in the kitchen.  There was a conference call for event planning committee and the beginnings of organizing things to bring.  I stayed up late and finished a couple of books.  I slept in until I was ready to get up.

Reviewing the week, thinking about what I was going to write in my blog, I realized that this was contentment.  Not too much, not too little, but a just right weekend.  Then I realized that part of the reason I could feel that contentment (rather than pressure, or resentment, or disappointment, or exhaustion) was because I had the previous weekend off.

I went into this week well rested.  I’m feeling good.  I have a list of things “to do” but feel like I’m making progress and not overwhelmed.  I had a good balance of things I wanted to do and things I needed to do.  And the things I needed to do I appreciated being able to do.

Post hair-cut Orion is very pleased about “looking sharp”

This coming week I’m gearing up for a whirlwind.  The event, Earth Conclave, is on the schedule.  I know I won’t get a blog in next Monday (maybe Tuesday).  I’m excited and nervous and hoping I have left myself enough time to put what I’ll need together.

But…. I don’t have to pack up Orion for the weekend.  That’s taken care of with the new schedule.  I don’t have to worry about not being able to get through.  I have a health reserve going in.  I may be on the committee, but it’s not “my show”.  I’m not cooking,  I’m not “in charge” of anything.  I’ve volunteered to facilitate a few things on the schedule, but I know this group (and my skill set) and it won’t be difficult.

This is where gratitude is easy for me.  I haven’t always been able to do these things, or do them without too much effort.  I am very grateful to have the opportunity, and the support, to be able to do them again.

 

Weekends

Sometimes “not being Mom” means going to Minnehaha Falls with my daughter.

My schedule has changed considerably in the past few weeks.  My son’s step-mother and I have come to an agreement that scheduling would work better for everyone if the two of us confab and just let the ex know what we’ve arranged.  That said, she even offered to return to the original agreement ex and I had when we first split up!

This is huge for everyone.  It means Orion will be spending quite a bit more time with his father.  It means that it will be easier on both sides to plan weekend events.  It also means I may actually have an opportunity for a life outside of being “Mom”.

Orion will tell you the bed at Oma’s isn’t as nice as his, but he makes do.

Orion and I spent the week of 4th of July with my parents.  It’s clear they need a little help as they age and I’ve been trying to visit more frequently and for longer periods of time.  I missed the trip I’d planned for Memorial Day weekend as I was in bed on heavy duty pain killers.  Walking in at my folks I admit to feeling a little guilty for not making it up.

I know what it’s like to not be able to keep up with the day-to-day of living.

My little sister and her family had a visit while we were there. That’s my Dad and my other sister’s “handy” husband.

My own house is suffering from years of neglect and I’m playing catch up when I can.  My parents are now at a point where they also need a boost just to stay even.  They didn’t get that when I didn’t show up in May.  After I’d been there a day I texted a friend “I think I’ve done more housework since I arrived than I’ve done at my house in the last month!”  (I’m not sure if she was shocked about how much I was doing there or how little I’d done at home.  LOL)

Andrea is the sister who does most of the care-taking. That back brace (and surgery) has slowed her down just a little bit this past month.

I don’t want to give the impression I’m doing it all.  My sister is a trouper.  She’s covering long drives, doctor appointments and scheduling, medications, emergencies and the 30 min. weekly (plus) drop-in to see how things are going.  Her new husband has done things like adding grab bars to the bathrooms, helping with deadfall, and maintaining the driveway.  He has also committed to shoring up the back porch and gazebo.  (I wish I had one or two of him at my house!)

It’s not all work either.  I had a lovely chat or two with my Mom.  Orion and I got Dad to take us out on the lake in the canoe.  Meals are still good (even if I am doing more of the cooking) and Dad still bakes bread.  Orion gets his waffles for breakfast and most of the time he and Dad manage ‘bathed and dressed’ without me.  (I do lay clothes out the night before.)

I’m grateful that I still have them to visit and that I’m able to be helpful.  I’m grateful that they are still managing in their home.  I’m very grateful my sister is close by when they need something.

Things change and life moves on.  It’s clear we’re all shifting into a new stage.  Hopefully we’ll all manage to do this with grace and compassion (and maybe a little fun).

Theory

Testing the theory: things will look better after taking a break

We seem to live in a world where “Fake news” is thrown around to discredit something someone doesn’t “like”.  I see all too often that belief seems to count as much or more than science or facts.   “Theory” is an inflammatory word.   I suspect that’s because there are a lot of people who “believe” they understand what it means and don’t want to be told they are mistaken.

It doesn’t help that the word has a specific usage in scientific lingo and a much broader usage in the English language.  When someone says, “In theory….” it’s clear there is speculation involved.  There is not a great confidence between what is “supposed” to happen and what seems “likely” to happen.  When a scientist talks about, “The theory….” it pretty much means that in all the time that theory has existed it’s been the best explanation of all the facts available and that so far nothing has come up to contradict it.

When we talk about education theory or theory in a philosophical setting what we’re really doing is talking about belief.  We really want something to be true so we create a theory and then test it in practice.  But people being people, we don’t want to change our beliefs, so when things don’t work we change the parameters of the test.   No wonder everyone is confused.

In science when a fact shows up that disproves the theory, the theory gets changed so that it explains ALL the facts.  It’s a very different mindset.

So, although I’m still taking tests and they still come back “normal” there are some theories.

Testing Karina’s theory: you need a little more sass

I have speculated, for much of my life, that the place my back goes out puts stress on the nerves that impact my digestion.  The converse also applies, when my digestion is aggravated it “stresses” my back.  I’ve seen this happen time and again and when I can break that feedback loop things do seem to improve.  I think it’s the explanation that best fits the facts as I see them.

My chiropractor is on board with this theory.  He did an x-ray series and can point to places where it’s likely there is some stress on the nerves.  Unfortunately, in order to be “clinical” the nerves have to be pretty much pinched off, which thankfully they are not.  The radiologist makes some remarks about odd curves and twists but concludes basically “normal” (I’m sure there’s a for a woman of my age in there somewhere.)  We’re hoping a chiropractic radiologist will be a little more specific and can talk insurance into paying for more frequent adjustments.

Likewise the other tests come back “normal” but when the bariatric PA looks at them she sees potential for issues.  So I’ll take another test and then the entire bariatric group will put their heads together and see if indeed the PA’s observations explain the problem.  If her theory holds then they will decide if there is anything they might recommend doing about it.

It may be that I just had a bad turn of what has been a chronic problem and that treatment is to do what I’ve been doing all along.  I might have some bad spells and may need a little more intense intervention – pain meds, more frequent adjustments, possibly another round of physical therapy – to get through those acute moments.

That certainly sounds a lot better than the other possibilities that have been floating around in my head!   Thank you all for your concern and good wishes.

Holiday Weekend

You can see I’ve not spent a lot of time tending to the gardens

I’ve not been feeling well.  That’s why I’ve missed a post (or two).  It’s also why I had to cancel my plans for the Memorial Day weekend.   Orion and I were going to go up and spend time with my parents.  We were all looking forward to it.  Unfortunately I wasn’t up for the drive, much less a week in a bad bed.

Instead Orion got to spend the weekend with his father.  I got to spend the weekend on pain meds and in pajamas.   Not feeling well is boring.   I did a little puttering when I felt up to it.

One day I decided I was up to putting in a few of my plants.  I have a lot of containers so this isn’t a strenuous task.  I was sorting through my “greenhouse” for the tomatillio’s and watering what I was leaving behind.  Apparently I was there long enough to panic the poor fawn that was hiding behind the clematis.

I didn’t even notice it (not that I was noticing much anyway) until it ran from its hiding spot.  Poor thing had to be scared near to death.  Unfortunately it ran to the nearest, darkest, hidey hole it could find.  My garage.

Step carefully over the shovels and don’t cut yourself on the sickle on that table!

Now I had to worry that the little fawn might get hurt climbing amongst the piles.  Gardening tools have some sharp edges.  Fuel for tiki torches is toxic.  Who knows what might slip and slide in that stack of coolers.  I gathered my things and went into the back yard, leaving the garage door open.

When evening came I had to make a decision.  I wasn’t going to bed with the doors wide open, but I didn’t want to trap the fawn overnight.  About 9pm I shut the door and before I went to bed I went into the garage and looked around.

I didn’t see the fawn anymore.  I know they are experts at hiding.  I know the light wasn’t very good.  I crossed my fingers and went to bed.

The next day my daughter came over and dropped off her dog.  My daughter is a competent, conscientious, independent young woman.  But sometimes when she comes home she’s 6.   She came in and left the garage and the house door standing wide open.   I only know this because as she was getting ready to go she realized her dog had run out.

Peek-a-boo all the way under the table and out the other side

Later that afternoon Minnie (the dog) and I took a little walk.  When we came back in through the garage I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.  Damn.  The fawn is in the garage.  I don’t know if it was there all night or if it came back in the wake of Karina.  Minnie didn’t notice it and I wanted to keep it that way.

I left the garage door open.  I did put out some water.  I also threw some oats along the driveway.  I curled back up in my chair (that walk was a lot!) and watched movies for the rest of the evening.

As dusk settled I noticed the light went on in the garage.  I have a motion sensor in there.  I grabbed the camera and snuck over to the window.  Sure enough the fawn was creeping back outside.  Then I looked up, as did the fawn.

tentative….

A happy ending.  The pair ran off into the back yard and I immediately shut the garage door.  It started raining, heavily, and I returned to my cozy chair and my movie.  That was about as much excitement as I could manage for the weekend, but it left a warm feeling.  I’m grateful to have been a participant.

Happy Ending for all

 

Sorry the photo quality is so bad.  Most of these are taken at a distance with zoom.  Several are through the window, and standing a bit back.  But at least you get the gist.

 

Have a Good Day

The end of a good day

I’ve been listening to some of my friends talk about the notion of acknowledging “Today was a good day”.   It’s something that one of them noticed in a series about living in Alaska.  People, who are essentially living on the edge of subsistence, finish up their day with that little affirmation, “Today was a good day.”

We speculated about whether this is an Alaska thing.  I suggested it might just be something that shifts when you’re living on the edge.  I equated it to the Native American “Today is a good day to die.”

My friends are using this affirmation to see if it shifts their world view.  They think it does.  It changes the way they approach their days.  It started me thinking about what makes a day a good day.

A day sailing is a good day

I’ve certainly had days where if I managed to get dressed or showered that was a good day.  I’ve had days where just being alive at the end of the day meant it was a good day.  I’ve had days where I’ve gotten all kinds of things accomplished be a good day.  I’ve had days where I’ve been of service be a good day.

It’s interesting to me that there isn’t any kind of personal standard for a good day.  I like that.  I like that there is room for a good day no matter what kind of shape I might be in.  I like that I can have a good day just taking care of me as well as having a good day helping out someone else.

Captain Beth ( WIMNsail.net ) pulling out of the Marina – sharing in someone else’s passion is always a good day

In thinking about a good day there is something that does stand out for me.  A good day is active rather than passive.  I don’t mean that there needs to be a lot of activity.  I can have a good day curled up reading.  But there is a big difference between choosing to spend the day reading and sitting down for a break and having the day disappear.

There’s something about a good day that requires attention being paid to the day.  A good day demands engagement at some level.  Perhaps that is the change my friends are observing.  By using the affirmation they find themselves paying more attention to their days.  Being more appreciative, living in gratitude for each day, is certainly a positive life change.

Maybe I’ll give this good day thing a try.

On or in the water sounds like a good day to me.

May Day 2017

Yes, that wet stuff falling from the sky is snow on May 1st.

Happy May Day!  We’ve been having snow flurries, which makes it a little difficult to get into the spirit of the season.  I suppose I could go on about the history of labor unions and all the benefits we take for granted because of the work that they did back in 1886 and beyond.  But you all have Wikipedia for that.

In Wicca this is also Beltane and a celebration to bless the animals and the fields with fertility.   Wicca tends to work with a male/female balance honoring the fact that union is how we all came about.  In this day and age that makes much of our ritual look particularly heterosexist and decidedly gender binary.

The thing is that many of the Gods in the Pagan pantheons are rather gender queer.  There is room in Paganism to express and celebrate fertility in many other ways.  But working in a tradition, and a Wiccan tradition in particular means honoring and holding to rites and ritual formats that, when they were written, probably do have an intentional hetero-cis bias.

Like snow on May Day, the reality is often a lot more complicated than the theory.  In Minnesota a May snow, or at least a frost is not at all unusual.  Our “late frost” date is May 15th.   But in Wicca, and through much of Paganism this is a festival about flowers and early fruits.

Food and Flowers. We tend to snack while we make our May wreaths.

Traditionally, this festival is not a calendar based festival, but one that honors the actual season in the area.  It is a time when the fields are ready for planting – not the same date every year at all.  It is marked by the white blossomed trees (usually rowan) coming into bloom (also not a calendar dependent event.)  In Minnesota this year we are having a remarkably early spring.  The ground has been thawed for some time.  In microclimate areas some of the fruit trees have started blooming.  Historically that just doesn’t happen until mid May and even that is early.

So snow is unexpected this year and seems out of place.  Our weather reporters carry on about “below average” temperatures.  Technically that is true, but if you graph 100 years of spring temperatures and do the statistics you get at least a 15 degree standard deviation.  That means that “normal” is plus or minus 15 degrees.  To really be “below average”, remarkably warm or cold, we’d need to be outside of that 30 degree swing and we are not.  At least not today.

Happy May Day!

I have actually put some things into the garden already.   Cold hearty crops like radishes and peas.  I did sprinkle some spinach and lettuce seeds and I’m trying my hand at carrots again.  Tomatoes and basil are still a month out.  The weather is supposed to get warmer from here out so I’m hoping to get back into the dirt later in the week.  That will be a celebration in itself!   In the meantime, I’ll just take things as they come and enjoy the cool while it lasts.

 

 

Previous Posts on May Day or Beltane:

Fertility     Spring     May     Beltaine (even I don’t spell it consistently)

 

Support

This is what “I don’t have any food in the house, I don’t feel like cooking” looked like this weekend. Sometimes support means being kind to yourself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about support.  I’ve looked at some of the ways I give support, the ways I ask (or don’t ask) for support, and about the kind of support I need.   I’d like to think I’m aware of how much support I am given in my daily life.  I am grateful for that support.

I see more and more posting on social media in judgement of support.  Things like, “If you don’t march you can’t say you support the cause.” or “Marching doesn’t do anything, if you really want to support change….”  My feed is full of articles about what it means to be an ally, and what it doesn’t.  I am watching a heated and emotional battle that demands choosing sides.  Once you’ve chosen a side ANY sympathy, compassion, or points given to the other side is a betrayal.  There is no room for exploring nuance in that kind of “debate.”

I have often been offered support that really wasn’t very supportive.  There are a lot of reasons that happens.  Sometimes I’m just not ready to accept support.  Sometimes I’m not willing to be vulnerable enough to need support from that particular person.  Sometimes it’s help for something I’m quite capable of doing myself (as long as I don’t need to do that other thing I really can’t do alone.)   I have been offered support that makes demands of me.  I have been offered support that is well intentioned but not in my best interest.

Orion in his No DAPL hoodie visiting his sister at work. Sometimes support can be fun.

Most of the time I still find a way to be grateful for the intention.  However, I have also been known to explode and shut my “supporters” down.  Over the years I’ve come to recognize that most people offer support based on their experience.  They offer the kind of comfort they would like.  They offer the kind of hands on labor they are comfortable with, or skilled at.  They present things they have been told worked for other people they know in “the same” shape.

Sometimes people offer support to feed their own egos.  Sometimes people are sure they know best, and they won’t listen.  But most people are willing and able to have a conversation about support, and what that might look like in any particular situation.  The problem is, often when support is necessary the conversation itself becomes too much for the person in need to handle.

Sometimes one of the best ways to be supportive is to be willing to intervene and educate the well intentioned but misguided supporters.  I’ve done that.  This week I’ve seen that done for me.  It doesn’t always help, but it is very much appreciated.

Little Things

hyacinth are peeking up in my garden

It was a grey and cold and rainy week.  I’ve got a chill that I can’t seem to shake, even when the sun peeks its head out.  I’m doing all the “celebration of spring” things you might expect, but I’m still not feeling it.

This is actually the hardest time of the year for many traditional peoples.  The stores are gone and the new food, spring’s promise, has not actually arrived.  Pulling the sap from the trees was probably originally an act of desperation.  Weather transitions are not easy either, and in Minnesota those transitions can swing very broadly and with little warning.  60 degrees one day and snow the next is not unheard of here.

Ran across this shrine down by the river.

I’m trying to pay attention and really honor the small things.  The little delights and surprises in my days.  I met a friend last week and she said, “Do you want to go out for lunch?”   YES!    I made a lovely venison stew and brought it to share for dinner with another friend.  I threw colored eggs in the river (a magical act that’s part of my Tradition’s practices for the season) and came across a lovely shrine.  I think it’s Hanuman the Hindu God who represents devotion and intellect.   Hmmmmm……..

I also saw a bunny in a knot of wood.   It made me smile, after all it is the season.  I picked up my pastel colored M&M’s the last time I went to the store and I’ve been eyeing the Cadbury eggs.

Bunny in the wood

This morning I went to http://gildasclubtwincities.org for the Euro Cafe Social.  What a treat to have breakfast made for me.  This is an occasional event for members to meet and get to know each other.  The origins of the Euro Cafe were with a member, who most of us knew as Uncle Jack.  He lobbied for more social events and cooked for the first several Euro Cafe’s.

Uncle Jack loved to cook, had a great sense of humor and always had a hug for anyone who needed it.  He was the one who noticed the day I got my diagnosis of endometrial cancer.  He didn’t ask what was going on, just if I needed anything and gave me the hug I asked for unconditionally.  Working at Gilda’s we do lose members to cancer, but Jack’s memory will live on and I’m honored to have known him.

Ryan making crepes for breakfast

That sweet bitter sweet is very much my mood of late.  It’s how I’m feeling about the changing seasons and about the world in general.  Talking to people it seems like it’s a feeling that’s going around.   How are you coping?

Happy Birthday to ME!

This is my parents at Thanksgiving. Silly me didn't take photos when I was up.

This is my parents at Thanksgiving. Silly me didn’t take photos when I was up.

I’ve maintained for some time now that the older I get the longer I get to celebrate.  This year I’m pushing that edge with everything I’ve got.   I’ve got a lot to celebrate!

I feel good.  There have been many years where I haven’t.  Two years ago I was recovering from surgery.  Five years ago I couldn’t move.  25 years ago (or was it 26) my birthday party felt like a wake because I was in chemotherapy.  Feeling good, willing to go out, having fun finding dress-up clothes, those are all worth celebrating.

I still have family.  I started celebrating my birthday at the beginning of the month when I made a cake and packed it up to my parent’s house.  My Mom and I share a fondness for german chocolate and a homemade cake is particularly appreciated by both of us.  At this point neither of us needs a cake to ourselves so we share.  Her birthday is in December and mine is the end of February so there is usually a freezer involved along the way.  Having her around to share and appreciate the cake she taught me to make is definitely worth celebrating.

Karina, Orion, and Dakota took me out for restaurant week.

Karina, Orion, and Dakota took me out for restaurant week.

My kids seem to like spending time with me.  I got Orion buying me flowers for valentine’s day and Karina’s “step-son” picking out roses for Oma’s birthday.  We all went out to dinner (restaurant week falls close enough to my birthday to make that easier).  Karina has also just said “hey, want to go out for drinks” and swept me up late night just because it’s my birthday.  Orion and I have been to the movies, twice, and he’s also joined me out to brunch with friends.  All worth celebrating.

My friends are finding time to “catch-up”  I’ve had three brunches this month.  I’ve had lunch and a trip to the Swedish Museum.  I’ve had dinner with some old friends, and am still making plans into March.  I’ve spent a lot of time on the telephone.  Birthday presents have appeared unexpectedly.  I have acquired a significant amount of birthday cheesecake.  It’s really nice to know that people I care about are thinking about me.  It’s great to touch base and reconnect.  I’m not good at reaching out so having people reach out to me is very much worth celebrating.

The Swedish Institute is beautiful and the immigrant and refugee exhibits were powerful!

The Swedish Institute is beautiful and the immigrant and refugee exhibits were powerful!

I know that extending my birthday celebration means sometimes I decide it’s about me when really it’s not.  Today (Monday 27th) I’m having “birthday breakfast” at Gilda’s Club.  It’s really the monthly “Euro-Cafe Social”, but hey for me it’s birthday breakfast.  I’ll get to visit with people I work with and when I call it birthday breakfast they’ll all say happy birthday.

It feels good to be acknowledged and it gives me a lot of reason to be grateful.  I have places to go, things to do and people to do them with.  I have generous friends and family.  I have enough energy to go out and enough control to bring home leftovers.   Extending the celebration means I get to really spend time with people rather than being overwhelmed by a crowd at one big bash.  I am truly blessed.

Happy birthday to me.

Birthday cheesecake from a friend. I didn't have to make it so no complaints.

Birthday cheesecake from a friend. I didn’t have to make it so no complaints.

 

Refuge

Driving a loaner up to the North Woods

Driving a loaner up to the North Woods

Been gone for awhile.  I’ve had some car trouble, internet trouble, life trouble.   But I also haven’t been detained in an airport – so perspective.   All of this has had me thinking about refuge.

It’s a simple word, a simple concept.  It’s about being safe and protected.  That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.

Last weekend I went up to my parents and had some car trouble.  Needed to stay an extra day and wait for a part to come in.   I didn’t get the repairs paid for.  I didn’t have internet access.  But I did have refuge.  I had a place to stay, safe, while I waited for my car to be fixed.  I didn’t even have to think about it, it was there for me.

Most of us think of our homes as a refuge.  I’ve had plenty of times in my life when my home was not.    But there is a big difference between being so sick that it’s scary to be left alone to fend for yourself and wondering when the men with the guns will break down the door.   There’s a big difference between walking on eggshells to keep the screaming and yelling from erupting and walking on eggshells to stay out of the emergency room.

Because I can’t convince the bank to finance my kitchen remodel my home has not been a refuge.  I’m not comfortable with boxes piled all over and my kitchen in pieces.  Although the cupboards are empty, they are barely hanging on the wall and still may just decide one day to fall down.  I’m struggling to make a “home”.   I’m struggling to keep things orderly and organized.  I’m struggling to find the space to be creative, to write, to come out of my sense of being overwhelmed.

I'm not the only one who thinks my parents home is a refuge

I’m not the only one who thinks my parents home is a refuge

At the same time, it’s nice to curl up under the covers at night.  I sleep soundly.  I don’t need to keep an ear open for unforeseen threats.  I have heat, running water, and most of the time the internet allows me access to all of you.  There is “escape” in music, and tv, and internet chats and games.  I’m not starving for anything.

When I truly have nothing, when my life is at risk, when I am shaken to my core I find it easy to be grateful for any small refuge.  A kind word, a warm blanket, keeping down a bite of food can all seem like the most amazing grace.   Refuge doesn’t have to solve a problem.  It just allows a little break.  Why is that so hard?

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