Sunday, November 30, 2014


The holiday house-guests have departed and with the same alacrity that I used so many times when my kids were off at half day kindergarten, I made my way around the house, scooping up a load of laundry, cleaning a bathroom, making a bed, vacuuming, and doing a general tidy up before my husband returned from his trip to church.  My tour of duty found me also in the kitchen, cleaning the refrigerator and re-arranging the last of the left over food from Thursday.  We had everything but turkey to remind us of a wonderful day, spent with friends old and new.  Our hosts sent us off with boxes and sadly, they did not include turkey.  We survived and will continue because those are not the "left-overs" that sustain us.

Instead, we find our real memories of things for which we should and are thankful, to be in those people who have been in our life's "picture" over the past few days.  My husband had a surgical procedure the day after Thanksgiving. All went well and will continue to go well, Number One on our list of left-overs for which we are grateful.

Following in close second, are the phone calls, the emails, the offers of help from friends who were ready to drop all of their post-holiday plans and come to our aid had we needed it.  A personal note from a daughter-in-law who wanted us to know that she was thinking about us.  Our children who would have been here in a heartbeat had we needed them.  My father who called not once, but twice, to ask about his son-in-law's progress. A visit from my brother who wanted me to know that he knew all I do for our father.

  So, I can cook a turkey next week, and probably will.  But what we realize we have left, we could never replace.  We're thankful for family, friends, caregivers and for their presence in our lives and as I write this I recall how we always seemed to enjoy the remnants of a Thanksgiving meal more than the actual meal.

We're grateful for our left-overs.  You really are the best part of the meal.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


From my personal collection of my own work

“The beauty of the collage technique is that you’re using sounds that have never met and were never supposed to meet. You introduce them to each other, at first they’re a bit shy, clumsy, staring at their shoes. But you can sense there’s something there. So you cut and paste a little bit and by the end of the song you can spot them in the corner, holding hands.” -Jens Lekman (Found on another blog)

And it is for the above reason that I love the art of collage.  I cut, I tear, I paste and as I do, I find myself sinking deeper and deeper into a meditative state, one that allows me to reflect on my current, past and future lives.  I have never considered myself to be an "artist" so I am amazed at how my hands move, selecting just the right pieces of color and texture and am always astonished when I see the results.

Life is the canvas.  My friends, the sounds that I was supposed to meet.  The fun has been in introducing them to each other, the circle growing and growing as they, each one, left behind their shyness, stopped staring at their shoes and one by one, jumped on to the page, holding hands.

I am starting the counting of blessings, getting ready for the official giving of the thanks and as I do, I just want you, my friend, to know that you all fit beautifully into the picture and I've used the best glue I could find to make sure we all stay together and hopefully, you are happy with your placement and your life is happier since I sprinkled you with glitter.  

Thank you for being my friend.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


In one of my closets lies a big green canvas box with zippered sides that allow the top to open up.  Unzipped, it holds an entire world, or at the very least, a memoir.

Memoirs, I have learned, do not have to be stories of an entire life, written in sequence. As in my case, they can be tiny stories,simply pieces of a life that for one reason of another, seem appropriate in telling a bigger story.  The story needn't be of any interest to anyone but to the writer, the telling of the story might be the biggest thing that happens in a life. I love telling my stories because they beg me to look at myself as if I were an outsider, seeing something for the first time, rather than the top-biller in the story of who I am and how I got to this place in my life.  And, I'm always fascinated by my own accounts.

I brought the big green box out of its resting place, having a hard time believing how heavy it had become.  It has served me well, the perfect choice for holding its contents.  The box replaced several others.  The first was so much smaller and so much neater I must add.  The first held small index cards.  This box held those plus larger sheets of paper, mixed in with bits and pieces cut from newspapers, magazines and odd-shaped note papers representing whatever I had handy at the time of an inspiration.  It wasn't until fairly recently that I made the habit of always having a small notebook in my handbag, along with a pen or two, allowing me to write down things that I did not ever want to forget.  But, before those days, I grabbed whatever was blank of other writing and jotted, sometimes in a hurry before my name was called by a receptionist or a train had arrived at my stop or my friend could only spare but a minute to dictate it to me.

Index cards, notes on scraps of paper, clippings, all sizes and shapes, all part of my own personal library of recipes, my best intentions, all in one place.  My "Recipe Box", now open and laid out before me as it has been so many, many times over the past nearly forty five years.  It's part of a life-cycle, always included in the preparation of something that has to do with gatherings of family or friends.  It's always the first on the guest list, the most important of all who would ever come to the table.  And the cycle most often restarted at this particular time of year. I picture myself seated in a comfortable chair, one light on in an otherwise darkened room, the sun still not up, a cup of coffee in one hand as I shuffle through a stack that is no less than a foot high, of those bits and pieces and I breathe a sigh of relief when I find exactly the one I was seeking, the one that will fill my heart with joy and all the warmth that tradition brings.  I wonder why the pile is so high when there are precious few buried in at least a hundred others. And then, carefully, I collect them and decide which will become the components of the next important meal.  As I rezip the sides, I wonder if the rejects have a soul and if they are hurt at not having been chosen.  I wonder this because I swear that the ones in hand do have a soul.  I  know that they have a life, that they bring with them so much life and so much love.

The box has grown too large.  I need to purge it and many other things in that closet.  We are running out of space for those things which we must keep handy. It's time to make room again and we have promised ourselves that by Christmas, we will have a new look to the Pond Room, our own little family room for our own little family of two. So, I lifted the box out, sat down in a comfortable chair and this time, I placed an empty shopping bag beside me and I sorted and I discarded and I reflected and I held onto pieces of paper as I recognized the handwriting of friends, some now departed.  Elizabeth's Pumpkin Bread which makes the best and the largest loaf, my very first New England Thanksgiving.  Carolyn's Strawberry Cake, to this day, Joe's favorite; her Jezebel Sauce, an unlikely mixture of ingredients.  My mother in law's Biscotti, her Chinese Chicken, written in script on lined paper by my very young sister in law who is now 56. Then there are those passed along to me by my own mother, those that I want to cast in bronze.  Hobo cake is not in there and I am surprised at what is.  Not one of them, difficult to make. Not an exotic ingredient to be found, but lots of little side notes that, as I read them now, show me her enthusiasm and her own relationship to the recipes and the tradition of sharing food with friends and family.  There's an underline here and there "do not open the oven for one hour." "mix for a full twenty minutes," great for company," and "your father loves this!!"

Some day, this box will travel on to another home.  I've thrown away the recipes for those things that I never made or made and never will again because they simply did not live up to the expectations.  I wonder why I had so many for "Penne a la Vodka".  Was I asking around for the best one?  The recipe for making a Yule Log and that for "Ribbon Salad" will live on. They made the cut and side by side, with the others, they will perhaps bring back memories to my own daughter and maybe she'll see me once again and we'll connect just as I did with those others who gave parts of their lives to me in so  special a way.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How Wrong You Were

If you have the notion that I am the quintessential "extrovert," I am sorry to inform you that you are incorrect. "Wrong"would be the "wrong" word because there are so many things in this world that truly are, and having a mistaken notion does not hold a candle to those things. But, just in case you have pegged me as such, I would like to dispel that mistaken notion and tell you that I am the exact opposite.

I am an "introvert"!

There probably are a lot of things that you don't know about us introverts.  If you care to bone up, have a look at this, I could replace the photos with those of myself, several of my family members and a few of my friends.

In a room filled with smiling, happy and bubbly people, you might be hard-pressed to single us out.  We look and pretty much act the same as the rest of the party-goers but.......we may have been actually pushed through the door and forced to enter the party.  Chances are, we have a certainty that we would not have been missed had we not been forced to come.   Sometimes, we don't show up.  We figure you've invited so many other people and you won't even notice our absence.  If we give the party, we are devastated if you don't show up.  We love having all of you there and we want you to stay forever.  Odd ducks, we are.

We can participate in conversations, give speeches, get to be known as "dramatic" and "out-going"but we really and truly would rather be at home, getting back our energy, on our own turf, alone.  We're the first to leave just about anywhere, any time.  You'll never catch us lingering over coffee or begging for an encore.
We're sociable and love people. We just have our needs and we're fine once we feel that we have spent enough time with ourselves. We're not rude.  We're well-bred.  We're not shy.

We need, value and love solitude. That's how we re-generize.

It took most of my life to understand this.  I always thought that I was an extrovert, that I was the least shy person on the face of the Earth, and that everyone who ever met me believed the same. They did not know of my constant worry that I would start to hyperventilate and soon after have a full-blown anxiety attack at exactly the wrong time.

I am NOT, not, not, the life of the party, nor do I ever want to be.  I envy the real lives of the parties, those who did not suffer an attack of nausea just before ringing the door bell, those who leave the party without the sinking feeling that they are being "discussed" as soon as they leave the driveway.  Lucky you, whomever you are!

My father is a classic example of an introvert.  Oh, he and my mom had lots of friends, gave many wonderful parties, hosted holidays and gave mountains of joy to lots of men, women  and children in their younger days.
But, I've learned a lot more about them since my mother's death than I ever learned about them during her lifetime.  I realize now how hard she worked at it.  She was not an introvert.  She got her energy from her social encounters, rarely enjoying time alone, always needing to be out and about.  An empty restaurant for instance, made her nuts.  Spending an entire day home, she was not content.  She needed to see people, to engage with the outside. She did the party-entrance-pushing.  I used to think of myself as a carbon copy (remember those?) of Mother.  You're never too old to learn something new.  I'm my father in more ways.
He is happiest when he is alone. Without her, he can now be the person he always was, without restraint, without apology.  And when I'm with him, for those short visits that we both can endure, so can I.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Letting Go, Today's Prompt

I sit at my desk, in front of the big window, watching memory after memory gently drift before my eyes. The reality sets upon me and I try so hard to hold onto each and every falling leaf as if it were a child about to go off on its own, carrying with it a lifetime that I want so much to hold onto and onto and onto.

It's in November that I call it all to mind. It's time to meet change and to reflect as the days grow short, the trees grow breathtaking beautiful and then, mournfully bare as the days pass quickly onto the preamble of winter. Colder, colder, colder.

It's in November that we recall soldiers. Men and women, who, like the autumn leaves, left their homes and drifted off to unfamiliar places, so many of them never to return, so many to be buried under layer upon layer of newly fallen leaves and natural debris. Fallen leaves, fallen soldiers, all in the swoop of a breath.

It was during one November, in a place very far away, that I found myself reminded of so much of this theme.  I walked a path of carefully placed bricks that went on for two miles, my eyes cast down upon the path. Each brick bore the name of a fallen soldier, most of them Italian, but then, I noticed another grouping. Fallen soldiers from a different confrontation, a one-sided massacre fought in our country. As I looked, the names of thousands appeared and I bent down every few steps to wipe away a dying leaf to reveal a name and hometown. I thought about so many heart-sickened parents, letting a child go. How painful it must be sending one off to war, not always believing that what they were doing is right.And, then  I thought of those who never envisioned that on one day in September, they would suffer so great a loss. November once again reminded me that nothing is forever and we can only learn from our past, that the universe rarely delivers precisely that which we expect, and we must let go on our way to our future, lest we not have one.

The trees. Each autumn they let go of their beauty, allowing themselves to lay bare for months before having another go at it just as the sun does each evening when it sets; earth's ultimate letting-go event. Then, through the barren Winter, Mother Earth, gravid, and in her First Bimester, holds the promise of yet a different kind of letting go when Spring arrives and we welcome the birth, the fruits of her labor,  knowing full-well that the beauty is short-lived.

Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards
Soren Kiekegaard, Danish Philosopher and theologian

Friday, November 7, 2014

Retire Already

One of my closest friends from childhood is finally about to retire.  I say "finally" because her plans have been a very long time in the making and she wasn't exactly in a hurry.  She's single, has a nice house, and grown children.  She's weathered two divorces and raised her kids on her own. Totally on her own. And now, now she's scared of a silly thing like retirement and has asked me for advice.  :I'm good at dishing out advice. Not as good at taking it but when it comes to helping friends (who ask for help), I can be very, very good.

So, here's my advice.

Take a vacation.  Right away.  If you have any doubts about your decision, if you wonder if you have done the right thing, this will clarify it all in a very short time.  Have a great time when you are away and then, the day before your return, pretend you have to go back to work.  But you don't. Ahhhhhh.

Don't start sorting out, cleaning out, organizing or becoming a domestic goddess.  It is not worth it.  When you went to work, you probably dreamed of the day when you would have time to "do it all", to finally have closets and drawers all perfectly groomed as if they were going to be inspected by the military police.  So, you tidied up every morning and went off to your job.  Trust me, you will live in more of a mess than you have ever before and that, my friend, will be an indication of your happiness.  If you start out trying to keep a perfectly clean and organized home, your retirement might be pretty much dedicated to just that.

Find a class that meets during the day and join it.  Even if it isn't something that you are totally interested in, you probably will meet your new set of friends or at least one, who is also retired.  Forget about the "work friends" who send you off on that last day with promises to "get together for lunch soon".  Never happens so don't count on it.

Look for your creative voice and listen to it. You're human, it's there.  It might be way down deep inside there, in that place it got shoved when someone, maybe a parent, told you that the key to happiness came in having a "real job" and you got the message that to be creative was not a good thing.  Well, I got news for you.  Find a way to open up that channel.  Buy some paints, a brush, and a big pad of mixed-media paper and play with color.  Don't worry about making "mud".  If you stick to your palate, you won't make mud.If you don't know what that means, get a book and find out.

Do not concern yourself for one minute with the question of "boredom".  I have not had one real bored minute since I retired.  Work, for me, was incredibly boring and it sucked so much life out of me. Enjoy pulling your own strings, making your own decisions, never, ever having to sit through a business meeting, a seminar, a year-end performance review or the worst of the worst, a "setting goals" meeting with your boss.It won't take you long to wipe the mission, vision and values of your former employer, right off your brain. Enjoy the good laugh.

Play with your friends and let them know how much you appreciate them. They will give you so much more validation as a person than any boss or co-worker ever did.

Write real letters.

Never do a "full" grocery shopping again.  How will you know what you want to eat on Friday if today is Monday?  Shop for it on Friday.

Hang your clean sheets on the line.

Get rid of anything that isn't comfortable to wear.  Treat yourself to one good "lounging outfit" and don't get dressed for the day until you really have to.

Buy a new coffee mug.  One that makes you feel like hugging your coffee as you read your morning paper.

Be happy.  Don't worry.  Be happy. Don't worry.  Be happy. Don't worry. Be happy.  Don't worry.

Cherish every moment.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Well. guess what?  It appears that the leaf blowers were here again yesterday, cleaning up after last weekend's furious storm. I was not at home when they did their work but did note that all of the "other" car ports were free of leaves except ours.  Hmmm, I wonder if that had anything to do with my voice of indignation last week when they were here in full force?  Or was it simply a coincidence?  Maybe.

Last weekend's storm was a major force.  We watched trees sway in response to fifty mile per hour winds, wondering if they could possibly sustain much more, waiting for the first to snap, hoping that none would break off and crash through a window.  While it would not be a financial disaster, it certainly would be a  mess because the hole would allow the rain, lots and lots of it, to also come right in.  So, we were only half concerned.  One of the many benefits of living in rented space, gorgeous rented space I might add.

But, last weekend's storm hit another front, another major impact.  It was seven years ago, to the very date, that we loaded up a few of our belongings into a small truck and drove back to the Cape to remake our home.  It was "raining" that day and we gave not one thought to the approaching Nor'easter, one that resembled the past weekend almost to the letter.  The only difference then was the power that went off when we turned the key and did not return for several days. No loss this time.Still, lots of impact.  Lots of time for reflection and giving thanks for the past seven years of very good fortune.

Our decision to return to the Cape was an easy one.  It wasn't ours.  It belonged in that category of "open your heart and let yourself be guided".  The road here was difficult, the weather, only a metaphor for what was happening and about to happen, in our lives.  One mother, there,entering her nineties, in good health, surrounded by friends and family. One mother,here,entering her nineties, failing miserably in her health with only a husband who was starting his trip to dementia, alone the two of them.  Before me laid my last chance to spend time with my own mother, my final shot at being a "good daughter" and, as an added bonus, my opportunity to regain my own life, one that we had given up three years before when we moved in with mother in law.

So, the storm, with its velocity, reminded me of so many things.  Life, itself,  is a storm.  Wind brings change. Directions shift. We can stay inside, shelter ourselves, keep dry and wait for it to stop or we can get into a truck, drive on without questioning the status of the road ahead, and spray-paint the fallen leaves metallic gold before they curl up and die.