Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Blessings

I rose this morning to clouds and a drizzle of rain which has diminished my Christmas snows into a bleak reminder of the lovely mounds of white that gently molded our landscape last weekend. That is winter in the northeast now – instead of the winter-long snow cover we enjoyed years ago, our snows are sporadic and quick to disappear. But, this year we were blessed with a White Christmas, which always enhances the holiday for me.

My time was limited for pre-Christmas activities this year – caring for my grandbabies during the day, working in the office on evenings and weekends, and trying to keep up with mundane household tasks leaves me with little time or energy.

One of my fondest memories of this year’s Christmas, though, will be the afternoon I spent baking cookies with my sixteen-month-old granddaughter. I thought she was probably too young to really participate, but I unearthed a pretty child’s apron from the chest upstairs, and she was transformed into a little baker. Actually, she loved it. She helped stir the dough; as I rolled each ball of dough in sugar and placed it on the cookie sheet, she grabbed it off and took a tiny bite. Then she kept an eye on the oven window as they baked. I have a photo of her standing at the counter in her little apron, wooden spoon in hand, that will always warm my heart.

Last week we enjoyed a Christmas brunch with my sister and her husband. I love visiting other peoples’ homes during the holidays – enjoying their lovely decorations, delicious foods, and conversation.

After several evenings of furious wrapping and a trip to the grocery store on Christmas Eve morning, I was already a bit exhausted. However, I managed to put together three arrangements of roses and greens for my daughter-in-law’s Christmas tables, bake a chocolate cream pie for dessert, and prepare a delicious cream of chicken soup to enjoy with my husband and daughter on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas morning, my three children and their families came to open gifts. It was a meager Christmas this year, but we all enjoyed watching the babies open their gifts. At sixteen months, Alivia was a pro at opening the packages, and was particularly taken with a new doll and stroller. Lucas was celebrating his first Christmas at six months, but he jumped right in, ripping paper and playing with each toy as he opened it. Kirk, our fourteen-year old, passed the gifts around to everyone. My family gave me a live Alberta Spruce tree, gaily decorated with tiny gifts; I will plant it outside in the spring and next year my grandchildren can help me string tiny lights on it for Christmas.

My son and daughter-in-law hosted Christmas Dinner – the first time in years I haven’t had dinner here, and it was blissful to see them carrying on the tradition. It was a large gathering of loved ones, and her lovely table settings and delicious food created a memorable time for all of us. Then, we all sat peacefully in the living room and watched the babies play – a quiet time to reflect on the joy of families.

Both of my grandbabies will be with their mothers all next week, so my time will be my own. I have plans for entertaining – with my limited time now, I socialize so little – but, this week will be filled with friends and family. This afternoon I am reconnecting with cousins I haven’t seen in a few years. Tomorrow my husband’s family will gather here for an early supper. I have plans for lunch and shopping with a favorite cousin, a quiet dinner here for a favorite friend, and a day-long shopping trip to the Woodbury outlets with my daughter, daughters-in-law, and a close friend.

This morning my house awaits in its Christmas finery. I baked a cake and some brownies yesterday for today’s visitors, and just before they arrive I will light some candles, turn on some peaceful Christmas music, and enjoy these special moments of the season. The birth of our Lord is the focus of our holiday celebrations, but these precious times with family and friends are indeed reflections of His great love for us.

May His love enfold you at Christmas and always.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Legacy of Grandmothers

For the past few days, a voice in my head has constantly reminded me of my grandmother’s birthday this coming Monday – for some reason, I have been moved to reach out to my sister and cousins to come together for a celebration. My grandmother was born on December 15, 1898 – 110 years ago – and I can’t get her out of my mind this week.

This isn’t surprising to me – she lived with us during my growing up years and was a tremendous force in my life – providing loving security and all of the lessons needed by a girl child of the 1950’s to grow into a “lady” with morals and faith and “manners.” She was far from perfect, and as I grew up I recognized her flaws as powerfully as I appreciated her love, but her voice forever speaks to me as I make crucial decisions in my own life.

In earlier blogs, I have mentioned that I share the daily care of my grandson, Lucas, with his other grandmother, Sheryl. We each have him at our separate homes two days a week, and spend Wednesday at my house, giving Lucas and my granddaughter, Alivia, a double dose of grandmothering. I jokingly call it “doubles day”. This arrangement works out wonderfully for Lucas – he is secure and happy, and always surrounded with the loving faces he knows so well.

Sheryl and I have become very close friends since our children were married, and we enjoy sharing this precious time with our grandson. Our day together is filled with conversation and laughter, and we handle the stresses with grace. Sheryl often says that we “zig and zag” well together.

Over the past few days, as I was pondering this strong feeling of my grandmother’s upcoming birthday, I also thought about Sheryl’s stories of growing up with her grandmothers. Both of them lived with her for a long period of time during her childhood, and had a strong influence on her – passing on a deep religious faith, a love of crafts and needlework, and a loving security.

I wonder if being raised with grandmothers intimately involved in our lives has made us more determined to care for our own grandchildren. Maybe on some level we are called to pass on the love and security that they provided to us – we realize the importance of their unconditional love and will perpetuate this grandmotherly love for another generation.

These three women, who have been gone from our lives now for a long time, are still alive in our hearts, and passing on the greatest possible gift to their own great-great-grandchildren – a grandmother’s love and care.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Time to Mourn

Black Friday – this day has taken on an entirely new meaning for me. Yesterday our family celebrated the perfect Thanksgiving – my sister-in-law prepared a delicious meal and all of us gathered together in her warm and lovely home. My grandbabies were so adorable I had to pinch myself to believe they were really mine, and my older grandson looked so handsome and grown up. It was a day that will live in my memory as one of the very best!

I arrived home early in the evening, and proceeded to begin my Christmas decorating – treasuring the memories as I unpacked each ornament – my St. Nicholas collection, my tiny birds, and my tree decorations so lovingly chosen through the years. By bedtime, my home was transformed.

This morning my daughter and daughters-in-law hurried out to enjoy the Black Friday sales, and I had a bit of time with my sons and grandbabies. It began as a totally relaxing and enjoyable morning.

However, within a few moments in time, our Friday indeed turned “Black”. My son’s best friend, a “son of the heart” to me, lost his father to suicide. A sudden death is always a shock and heartbreak, but this was especially painful, both because of the tragic circumstances, and because this family has also lost two beloved grandmothers within the past two years.

When we are fortunate enough in life to share close bonds of friendship and love, we also share the deep sorrows that go along with these bonds. My son is grieving tonight for a man who treated him like a son, and my daughter grieves for this “almost brother” who has lost his father. I grieve for the intense agony of this entire family, who, through the years, has become so dear to me. And, as we always do in these situations, I wonder if there was anything I could have done at any point to help this troubled man.

Last year on this same day, Black Friday, my daughter lost an “almost brother” in a tragic motor vehicle accident – his sisters were her best friends, and even though an entire year had passed, in her heart today she was also reliving that tremendous loss. Tonight I want to hold my daughter and comfort her for both of these terrible losses in her young life – and yet I know this is not a pain I can “kiss away.”

Unfortunately, there are so many times in life when there is nothing we can do, other than to be close by – to listen and reassure, to give hugs and hold hands, and to cry and grieve along with those we love -- and to place our troubled hearts into the gentle hands of God.

It will also be a long time, I’m sure, before my daughter and I will be able to look forward to Thanksgiving without worrying about the day after, which has over the past two years become our virtual “Black Friday”.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh What A Night!!


I have agonized over the election this year because of my personal economic situation, and my total disillusionment with Republican administrations during the past thirty years, from Reagan to Bush to Bush!

When Al Gore lost to George Bush in 2000, I was devastated, and the past eight years of “George W reign” has justified my worries a hundred-fold – the loss of our civil rights, the loss of our respect on a global basis, the unjust war in Iraq, the blurring of lines between executive, legislative & judicial branches which has damaged the checks & balances system of our government, and now, the economic meltdown.

I also must admit - and I don’t think it is a bad characteristic – when I first heard Obama speak at the 2004 Democratic Convention and was so totally inspired by him, I didn’t “see” his color. In general, I don’t see people “in color”, which is probably unusual when I grew up in a town that was known as a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) community. As I learned more about Obama, I respected his intelligence, depth of thought, calm demeanor, and empathy for the common people of this world. I wanted him to be our President. I don’t think the fact that Obama was an African-American really became important to me until he won the primary. Then I began to worry that the inherent racism in this country might cause him to lose the election.

It was about at the same time that I began to think what a wonderful role model he would be for the African-American youth of our country, who often see no real opportunities in their futures. But, still, I didn’t “get it”. I didn’t realize what a powerful event his election would be for our citizens of color.

Last night I was watching avidly for election results, my nerves on edge, but it became a much more emotional night than I had expected. Watching the crowds and listening to the interviews, I was awed by the tremendous jubilation of his supporters, especially African-Americans. As I saw Jesse Jackson standing in the Chicago crowd with tears streaming down his face, and listened to the incredulous joy of generations of African-Americans, I finally realized that this victory was not just a victory of Democrat over Republican; it was finally a validation that we are all created equal and that there is now opportunity in this country for the tiniest little child of African-American or Arab or Asian or Hispanic descent to reach the loftiest heights that at one time were open only to white males. Oh what gates have been opened --

May God Bless America and our newly elected President and Vice-President!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Legacy of Roots

What a lovely day for a walk -- warm sunshine and cool breezes, brilliantly colored trees, and two precious babies snuggled into their “twin” stroller.

Actually, the morning which preceded our walk was less than perfect. At best, juggling naptimes and bottles for babies ten months apart is not easy, and this morning was not one of our better mornings. By lunchtime, my sleepless grandson finally fell asleep over his strained carrots, only to be wakened by his giggling little cousin a half hour later as she toddled over to the cradle to peek at him.

It was at this point that I threw up my hands, got the stroller out, zipped them into sweatshirts, and set off to enjoy a bit of serenity. They were ecstatic – they both love the outdoors. Of course, Alivia loves it with the vivacious excitement with which she greets life in general, and Lucas loves to sit quietly and gaze around with his big blue eyes, a look of complete satisfaction on his little face.

We walked along, Alivia alternately bouncing in her seat, pointing out squirrels and babbling to Lucas. We stopped along the way to talk to my neighbor and her baby granddaughter, also out for a stroll. We took an old familiar route – when you’ve lived in a neighborhood for thirty-six years, every route is familiar – and as I walked in the calming autumn air, looking at the Halloween decorations and the beautiful colors of the landscape, memories accompanied me.

I remembered the years when my children were young – the pleasures of holiday celebrations, my years as Scout leader and room mother, the everyday routines of meals and homework and conversation, the paper routes and the summer jobs and the school dances. I remember driving a group of girls to one of my daughter’s high school dances, and realizing that most of them had been in my Daisy Girl Scout troop in kindergarten. Time passes so quickly. I remember the importance of creating memories for all of these precious children --

There are times when I feel a bit provincial, having lived in one town for my entire life. But, this afternoon I was feeling grateful. There is a comfort of sorts in living in an area where many people have also stayed on for years – to know them, and their children, and to “catch up” on each other’s lives when we meet in the grocery store, or on an autumn afternoon walk.

In today’s uncertain world, this is a blessing -- to know and to be known. And, it is a blessing that I will share with my grandbabies, as we head out on our walks and meet these people who knew their fathers when they were little. They will realize that they are part of a larger family -- this feeling of belonging will bring a measure of security as they navigate life in our impersonal global society.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sharing Grandma Day Care

Last autumn I began caring for my baby granddaughter, Alivia, from Monday through Thursday, while her mother is at work; at the same time, my other son and his wife announced that they were pregnant, and Lucas was born in May of this year. Two incredible gifts from God in one year!! But, for a grandmother who is providing day care and also trying to keep a struggling business alive, this is a juggling act that is tiring, to say the least.

I have been blessed, though. Lucas's other grandmother, Sheryl, who is a retired teacher, stepped in with her help and love. Sheryl takes care of Lucas at her house on Thursdays & Fridays, and comes to my house on Wednesdays to help me with both babies. This is a tremendous blessing, because caring for babies who are ten months apart is not an easy task for an almost-60 year old woman.

Fortunately, Sheryl and I bonded almost immediately when my son and her daughter became a couple. We share similar values and family experiences, and enjoy being together, so this "co-care" is also pleasurable for us.

After this long introduction, I want to share the past week in our grandma care endeavor. Last weekend, Lucas was very fussy and didn't seem well -- Sheryl and I volunteered to take him to the doctor on Monday. His mother is a teacher, and cannot easily take time out of her day without prior planning, and his father has a similar situation in his job.

It would be difficult for me to take both babies to the doctor alone at this point, because Alivia has been walking for only a couple of months, so getting both babies into the car and into the doctor's office would be quite a challenge.

So, Sheryl came over Monday morning, and we proceeded to the doctor's office.

Sheryl and I both had three children, and handled them and our busy lives very efficiently when we were in our 20's and 30's. Monday was an "eye opener" for us both, though. I live 3 minutes from the doctor's office, so we allotted fifteen minutes to get them into the car and to to the doctor. We barely made it! Getting them both into the car with today's car seats took more time than we expected. Sheryl sat in the back seat with them, because both seats were side by side, and Alivia has a tendency to "touch" Lucas's eyes, so to be safe, Sheryl stood guard.

Just as we were ready to go, we realized I had to move Sheryl's car in order to back my car out -- then we spent a minute or two looking for Sheryl's keys, which I had in my hand --

We backed out of the driveway, and arrived in the doctor's parking lot -- which, of course, was full. Parking, and getting both babies out of the seats and into the office was time-consuming -- and we both reminded each other -- we used to do this with three children with NO PROBLEMS!!!

Once in the doctor's office, Sheryl took Lucas and I took Alivia -- Alivia clung to me, because she had memories of her recent visit when she received vaccinations and blood tests. Lucas was the best patient imaginable while they took his temperature and weighed him -- but, somehow between the scale and the examining table, he began screaming, and screaming and screaming. Nothing we could do would stop him. The doctor came in and checked his ears and throat and lungs, and the screaming continued.

Unfortunately, with our 60-year-old ears, Sheryl and I struggled to hear the doctor. I was on the other side of the room with Alivia, so I could hear more, but it was definitely not easy. Such a scream from one little baby boy.

Alas, everything was okay, and we were reassured. We dressed him, as the screams continued, and thanked the doctor. Then, we strapped them both back into their seats, with Sheryl once again guarding Lucas against Alivia's wandering fingers, and came back home. Out of the car, into the house, and a cup of tea later, we were settled in again, rocking the babies peacefully.

Somehow, as we age, we don't really see the physical and mental changes -- they are gradual, and our life situations change accordingly. Jumping back into child care, though, is an eye-opener. Sheryl and I have shared alot of laughs in the short time we have been doing this -- who would have thought that two intelligent, energetic mothers of three children would someday find sharing the care of two babies such a challenge!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Economic Meltdown From a Personal Perspective

The economic meltdown in our nation this past week has many Americans on the edge of their seats, worrying and wondering. Not only are we worried about what will happen, the majority of us do not understand enough about economics to even comprehend the issues involved.

In my middle-class neighborhood and among my close friends, most of the fears involve the safety of their investments and retirement funds. None of them are facing bankruptcy or unable to pay for groceries like so many lower income Americans.

However, my fears at the moment are more immediate. After a few years of relative financial health, we have suffered significant loss of income and mounting of debt as we struggled to maintain our family business during a bleak two years of markedly decreased sales. My life as I know it, and my beloved family home are at stake.

I have experienced first-hand the negative impact of a credit & banking industry with little regulation. In one month, the monthly payment on one of our business lines of credit increased $300.00, due to an arbitrary jump in our finance charge. We have not been late or missed payments on our loans & credit cards, but these companies have the right to raise the finance charges at will if your overall debt to income ratio rises. This is not only unfair, it should be illegal.

To me, this is probably one of the reasons so many people in our nation are in deep trouble with credit card debt. It is impossible to maintain a budget when a bank can drastically raise your interest rate at will on an existing balance.

Anyway, I certainly hope the coming elections will populate our Congress with people who place value on the financial success of the average citizen and begin to reign in the greed of corporate America. "Trickle down economics", the brainchild of the Republicans, does not work in a greedy society.

I am finding it more and more difficult to relax and find the inner peace that is so necessary to me. Normally, a walk in my lovely garden or watching the sunrise from my quiet porch rejuvenates my soul -- now these simple pleasures are overshadowed by the pervasive fear that I may lose this old home that is so precious to me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Heart Engravings

"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." This was a popular playground chant when I was a child. I think even then I knew that it was far from the truth.

The hurtful things we say, whether purposefully or thoughtlessly, impact others tremendously. I was fortunate to grow up in a family where we were taught to weigh our words before we spoke, and to value the feelings of others.

As a tall, chubby young girl who was often "teacher's pet", I learned first-hand that people could be cruel in their comments. Fortunately, though, my home was my safe haven, and my mother always lovingly reassured me of my self-worth.

We are taught to forgive and forget, but somehow, hurtful words are engraved in our hearts, and even though we may forgive the speaker of those words, we can never really forget what was said. We move on and focus on the blessings of our lives to keep ourselves emotionally healthy, but we don't ever totally forget.

Unfortunately, even though I have been blessed with wonderful children and grandchildren, my marriage has been difficult. My husband is often depressed and unhappy, and has always felt justified in venting his anger verbally to the very ones who loved him.

At this stage in my life, for the most part, I have moved on emotionally and find my contentment and fulfillment in my children, grandchildren and friends, my home and gardens, and the many pursuits which fill my heart and mind with pleasure.

This week, though, I was totally shocked at a comment he made unexpectedly -- calling me a "cast iron bitch". I don't really know what provoked the comment, or why I reacted so deeply to it, but it has haunted me all week, casting a shadow over my happiness. My first reaction was shock, my second reaction was to question whether there is a basis for his comment, and my third reaction was to ask other people for their opinions. But to this moment, I can't get it out of my mind --

For the most part now, I am trying to move past it -- to concentrate on the good things in my life, and not let his demons diminish my emotional health and happiness. But, once again, I am reminded of the scars we carry in our hearts from the hurtful words of others.

I would like to share a quote that speaks to my soul:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." -- Maya Angelou

May we all hold that thought in our minds in our daily interactions with loved ones, friends and acquaintances --

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Little of This -- A Little of That

Labor Day weekend is upon us -- the last weekend of summer before school begins and the world once again settles into schedules and routines. One last chance for playful summer activity. I have deliberately left the next three days unscheduled -- I love the freedom to take each moment as it comes and change my plans on a whim.

Most of all this weekend, I need rest. My summer has been busy, and a recent two-week episode of allergy and asthma symptoms has left me weakened and tired. The simple act of coughing can exhaust our bodies and spirits quickly. With my allergy in full force, I will be unable to do the gardening and lawn mowing which cry out to me, but that is a blessing, because my body needs to heal right now.

My summer weekends have been filled with activity -- two large parties this month to celebrate my grandson's Christening and my granddaughter's first birthday, an 80th birthday party for a favorite uncle, a 40th class reunion -- and the weeks of summer have been busy with the ongoing tasks of our contracting business and tending my grandchildren. The stresses of our declining economy are always shadowing my days.

This past week I watched the Democratic Convention with a mixture of hope and fear. Our quality of life has diminished so drastically in the last eight years, I don't know how we will fare if the Republicans win the Presidency again. John McCain certainly espouses the same old free market theories which have so badly damaged middle-class America. My husband has Multiple Sclerosis, with its accompanying fatigue, and struggles daily for the success of his business, and had looked forward to an early retirement. That dream is shattered now -- we will be working for years to rebuild our financial equilibrium.

Barack Obama is an eloquent man who makes me believe that we can turn our country around. In fact, when I heard him speak at the last Convention, I was certain that one day he would be President!! His ideas are sound, he seems to be an honorable man who has devoted much of his career to improving the status quo for working class Americans. He reminds us that one of the great problems of our time is the extreme partisanship in our government. We have become a nation divided by two very different belief systems, and until Democrats and Republicans can once again compromise, our nation will suffer. Obama seems to be a man who can begin to bridge the gap.

But, I do worry -- I think that racism is still very much alive in this country, and I fear that there are people who will not vote for him because of his color. I desperately hope I am wrong!! There may also be some Clinton supporters who will not vote for him because they feel Hillary was not treated well. I desperately hope I am wrong!! And, I certainly hope that no disillusioned Clinton supporters will vote for McCain/Palin just because Palin is a woman. With the extremely volatile foreign policy issues facing this country, I have serious concerns about Palin's qualifications to take over as President, with her seeming lack of experience outside of her home state.

We live in troubled times, and this election is extremely important to the future of our nation.

That being said, I was so impressed with the grace and stoicism shown by Hillary Clinton in her speech. This has to be one of the most devastating defeats of her life, but she handled it all with her usual aplomb. Let's face it -- a few months ago all of us thought she would be the nominee, and I'm sure she did, too. But, she put her own hurt and disappointment aside for the good of our nation.

This blog has rambled a bit. There are so many thoughts in my mind as this summer draws to a close. For the most part this weekend, I will try to quiet my mind and body -- to take the time to savor the last few days of summer vacation, the lovely flowers that grace my yard, the bounty of fresh vegetables and fruits, the delectable foods of summer, the birdsong, the children's laughter as they play ball on our street, the sunshine, the comfort of my tree-shaded yard, and the companionship of loved ones.

I will leave the worrisome thoughts for another time --

Friday, August 15, 2008

"And A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven"

The long summer evenings of June and July have abruptly transformed into the early, almost palpable darkness of August. It is 9:00 as I write, and the house is enveloped in the deep moist coolness of an August evening. Its quiet, although broken by the trilling of insects, settles around me, soothing away the trials of the day. I am reminded that "To everything there is a season."

August is the season of harvest. The farmers' markets and roadside stands are brimming with sweet corn, colorful squash, eggplant, and ripe, red tomatoes. Anyone who has tasted the crunchy sweetness of freshly picked corn or the succulence of a sun-warmed tomato does not have to be convinced to "buy locally." Vegetables and fruit all have their season, and an ear of corn bought in January from the grocery store does not really taste like corn as we know it in August.

The flowers in my garden also have their season. The breathtaking roses of June are long gone now, and my late summer hydrangeas, zinnias, and muskily sweet phlox have taken their place. The ferns which graced the pond with their green lace just a week or two ago are slowly fading in vibrancy. The black walnuts are falling to the ground, to be picked up by the industrious squirrels who know that a long winter is not far off.

Just as in nature, women's lives are marked by seasons, also. The carefree days of childhood are followed by the busy season of creating homes and raising children. Once the children are grown, we enjoy a season of renewal -- we have time to reassess our lives and get to know ourselves again. Just as we have gotten used to this season of self awareness and freedom, we become grandmothers, and a new and exciting season of loving begins.

How boring life would be if it were static -- the sameness would wear us down. We would not appreciate the sumptuous bounty of August if we did not first know the starkness of winter. We would not appreciate the laughter and joy of life if we never experienced its sadness and grief.

As I sit by the window in the August darkness, and remember the long bright twilights of the summer solstice, which I also loved, I am thankful for these lovely seasons in nature and in life -- what blessings we are given, if we only appreciate them.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Please Think Before You Vote!!!

My granddaughter's first birthday party was held yesterday. It was a large gathering of family and friends -- a lovely celebration with good food, adorable children, and high spirits that weren't even dampened by the drenching thunderstorm that pounded the pavilion roof.

I was troubled by a conversation with my son's friends. They were talking about their financial difficulties in these troubled economic times. These are young men and women who work hard to provide for their families, but they are finding it increasingly hard to manage. One couple has a two-year old son and would love to have another child; however, they are currently paying $200/week for day care and cannot afford day care for a second child. They need both incomes to survive, so have decided for now to limit their family to one child.

How sad this is! When we were young, women had a choice; many women chose to stay home with their children. Of course, budgets were tight, but families could choose between comfortable incomes or more simple lives. For today's young families there is no choice. With ridiculously high housing prices, large college loan payments, expensive health insurance premiums, and now, skyrocketing gas and food prices, two incomes are a necessity, and then day care adds significantly to the equation.

It is a sad commentary on our cultural values when CEO's of large corporations make millions of dollars, and hard-working young people struggle to provide for their families. Corporate greed has bankrupted our economy. We have entered a new "Gilded Age".

I hope our citizens will give serious consideration to the economic plans of our presidential candidates. Can our nation's young families survive four more years of status quo Republican policies? I don't think so; these stressed and overburdened young parents deserve an economy which once again rewards hard work and promotes real family values.

Please think carefully before casting your vote this year. In the past eight years of Republican "free market" economy, the oil companies are thriving, and hard-working, honest Americans are losing their homes and declaring bankruptcy. Please vote Democrat and then hold them accountable for rebuilding a better America for our young families!!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reunion Weekend

Oh my goodness – look at those men with their silver hair, or no hair. And look at those thick-waisted women with grandmother faces. Do I look like that??!! This was the whisper on the lips of many of us “reunion-goers” as we attended the Friday night event of reunion weekend. What did we really expect – we’ve been out of high school for forty years. Smooth skin, clear eyes and shapely bodies are a distant memory. We look in the mirror each day as we dress, carefully apply makeup and style our hair, but we don’t see the real image. In our hearts we are young and the image before us is gently softened to match the image we carry in our memory.

This stark reality was a shock. However, as we moved through the evening, reminiscing and catching up on each others’ lives, we began to see not the aging faces, but the images of the 17-year olds we knew all those years ago. By the end of the gathering, the surprise had been replaced by the warmth of shared memory, and we looked at the faces through the rosy lens of nostalgia.

The reunion events were enjoyable; a Saturday afternoon boat ride gave us all an opportunity to relax and catch up on each others' lives. We were served a delectable dinner that evening in the elegant State Room in Albany, and danced the night away to hits from the sixties and seventies.

High school in suburbia in the mid 1960's was a difficult place for a tall, chubby girl with few social graces. It was a place of cliques and snobbery, and I somehow never found my way into a group where I felt a sense of belonging. As I watched so many of the old “groups of friends” having such a terrific time dancing, laughing, and reminiscing, I was reminded of how much I was on the “fringes” as a teenager.

However, those days are long behind us, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the reunions I have attended. As adults we share a sense of comraderie and celebrate our common memories. These special weekends give us a chance to relive the memories and enjoy what we have become. Already there is talk of a 45th reunion, and a periodic newsletter to keep us all in touch.

The weekend was a treat, with its delicious food, music and conversation, and I will look forward with anticipation to the 45th, but my back porch and quiet gardens beckon to me tonight -- my own little piece of heaven.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ode to a White Pine

People often speak disparagingly of "tree huggers", a term frequently used to describe naturalists or environmentalists. This phrase carries personal meaning for me, because I have long felt a strong love and reverence for nature, especially trees.

Soon I will bid a tearful goodbye to a beloved old white pine tree at the back of my yard. When we moved into our house over thirty-six years ago, I was immediately captivated by a long stand of tall pine trees which form a protective line behind the homes in our neighborhood. I am not sure how old they are, but they most definitely have stood for over a century.

In a recent thunderstorm one of the largest and oldest -- a lovely white pine -- was struck by lightning. Today the tree service came and confirmed what we already feared -- it must come down. Three houses, garages, and several other healthy trees are in the path of destruction if a strong wind blows through.

I know alot of people will not understand why this saddens me so deeply. "It is only a tree," they will say. "You are surrounded by trees." But I look at this majestic tree which is most likely one of the oldest in our neighborhood, and my heart breaks. I can't explain my deep connection to trees. I have lost other trees to storms and disease -- even one I had planted myself -- and have always mourned the losses, but somehow this is worse. I'm certain this tree was here long before our houses were built. It was probably originally planted as part of a hedgerow between farms. It has provided shelter for birds and critters, shade from the sun, and protection from winds, and has watched our families grow up and move on.

And now, its time has come, its season is past, and I will miss it each morning as I gaze from my kitchen window as the sun rises, with its rays filtering through the branches of the pines that remain. There will be an empty space -- its majesty will be gone. Over one hundred years of slow, steady growth will be felled in one day.

It will be quite a procedure to take it down. They are going to need a crane to reach the uppermost branches and safely maneuver them down between the trees, without damaging the garages that lie at its base. I don't think I can watch. I am a bit embarrassed to feel such deep emotion over a tree. So, I will busy myself elsewhere that day and not make my grief public.

But, this "tree-hugger" will always miss our beautiful old tree.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Gift of a Grandchild

Yesterday morning I was blessed with the birth of my new grandson, Lucas Michael. There is no greater happiness than to hold your newborn grandchild close to your heart, tracing his petal-soft cheeks and down-covered head with your fingers, and drinking in the sight of his innocent face. I gaze at him and wonder -- will he be strong and quiet like his father, or a little dynamo like his baby cousin. His deep blue eyes stare back so seriously at us as he absorbs his new world of light and sound and touch. I wonder what he will love and dream of, this blessed new child of ours.

My husband and I were fortunate last evening to have a few minutes alone with Lucas and his parents; we talked quietly and I rocked Lucas in my arms. Times have changed since my children were born. Then it was a more private affair, with parents alone throughout labor and delivery; many times the grandparents were allowed merely to view their new grandbaby through the nursery window. Now we can bond with them immediately. We are allowed to be part of the process -- checking in on Dad & Mom during labor, spending long hours in the waiting room with great anticipation in our hearts, and then being welcomed into the birthing room to touch our precious grandbabies when they are truly "fresh from God."

With the blessed relief of epidurals for this generation of mothers, labor is a much more peaceful process. My sons have been able to support and soothe their wives during labor, and even though, of course, there is pain, the epidurals make it more bearable. Walking into the labor room today I am struck by the quietness that precedes the strenuous pushing stage. Of course, delivering a baby is still painful and exhausting, but for the most part, I think today's mothers are more serene than those of us who tried to tough it out with the breathing techniques taught to us for natural childbirth.

I think today's fathers are much more bonded with their babies than in years past, because they are encouraged to share in the prenatal visits and the ultrasounds. I remember the awe in my son's voice after the very first ultrasound when he saw the tiny beginnings of fingers. By the time the baby is born, the father feels he is welcoming a beloved old friend --

As a grandmother, I will carry forever in my heart the sight of my own son's faces as they presented their newborn children to us. They glowed with love for these tiny infants. Watching their large hands gently cradle these babies I remembered their own tiny newborn hands -- what a miracle we experience as our grown babies have babies of their own.

Today I am ecstatic!!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Waiting for Lucas

I am up early to enjoy the quiet of a Sunday morning -- no distant traffic noises as people hurry to begin their days -- only the gentle sounds of birdsong and the trickle of water in my little pond. We have been blessed with lovely weather for this Memorial Day weekend. The sun is shining and temperatures are in the 70's -- perfect for barbecues, camping, gardening and parades.

For the most part, I will spend my weekend at home, catching up on household and gardening chores. Tonight my son and his wife will come for a barbecue, and at some point I will make a visit to the cemetery to plant flowers on my parents' and grandparents' graves. I love long holiday weekends which are unscheduled; I can pick and choose my activities on a whim.

Most importantly, though, we will be waiting for my grandson, Lucas Michael, to arrive. His due date was yesterday, and we are increasingly impatient for his birth. My poor daughter-in-law is weary and wondering at this point if he will ever come. My son is worried because his wife is small and the baby is getting bigger by the day. And I am worried and filled with anticipation, but resigned to the fact that God has his plan and apparently it is not time yet for us to welcome Lucas into our waiting arms.

So, I will keep busy today - planting and tending the garden, preparing food for tonight's barbecue, dusting & polishing furniture and floors - yet always hoping for the phone to ring with the wonderful news that Lucas is finally on his way.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mothers' Day

I was blessed with a gentle, caring mother who filled my childhood with the security of unconditional love and emotional support. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2001, so as I celebrate Mothers' Day each year, my joy is shadowed by her absence.

My heart also remembers with sadness my first baby girl who was stillborn. Thirty-four years have come and gone, but I carry her in my heart always.

For the most part, though, Mothers' Day is one of my very favorite holidays. Tomorrow I will gather for a special lunch with my children, my daughters-in-law, and my grandchildren, and I will cherish every second. For me, it is an especially meaningful celebration, because my granddaughter was born this year, and my new little grandson will be born in the next week or two.

I knew from childhood that I wanted to be a mother. It was not as easily accomplished as I had planned -- pregnancies did not happen quickly for me, and I was devastated by the loss of my first baby. Ultimately, though, I was blessed with three healthy children -- I think maybe children are even more precious to us when they don't come easily.

There is no greater happiness than the moment when your newborn baby is placed in your arms; the depth of your love is astounding, and it grows deeper each year as you watch this innocent baby through the stages of childhood, adolescence, and finally maturity. And then comes the blessing of grandchildren --

Each Mothers' Day I celebrate anew the gift of my children, and now my grandchildren. I don't need flowers and gifts and cards -- their faces and voices and hugs are more than enough!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Weekend Bliss

Saturday has been damp and chilly; thankfully, yesterday afternoon I worked in the flower gardens pulling up the baby weeds that had already begun to entangle the gardens. This is a chore that offers a real sense of accomplishment -- pulling out the undesirables in order to make more room for the flowers to soak up moisture and sunshine. We have a particularly stubborn weed in our yard which would overtake the entire house if left on its own, but yesterday I once again began to wage my perennial war against the goatweed. I marvel at the lush growth that takes place in the gardens during April. My bleeding hearts and forget-me-nots are prolific, and my lilies-of-the-valley are almost ready to burst into bloom. What loveliness God has created for us.

With so much work outside finished yesterday, a very productive week behind me in the office, and a full Thursday devoted to cleaning my house, my weekend is my own. I lingered over coffee this morning and began a lovely book, Chosen by a Horse, a memoir by Susan Richards. I went to the grocery store for a real "stock up", and after a quick lunch, went down to my son's house to check on their cats and get the house warmed up and ready for their return from vacation tonight. As I write, they are flying home from Florida. I can't wait to hold my baby granddaughter in my arms again, and see my grandson all tall and tan from the Florida sunshine.

I am "babysitting" for my daughter's white boxer tonight. She has plans with her friends, and I will keep Toby here with me for the night. He is a huge lapful of energy and love, with his soulful eyes and eager playfulness. My husband takes our two little dogs upstairs with him, and I snuggle on the couch with Toby. What pleasure and unconditional love we receive from our pets.

I have needed this quiet day. My life has been unbearably busy recently, and I am a person who needs time to think, ponder, and feel. I am a nurturer and caretaker and I need short periods of solitude here and there to restore my inner tranquility.

The month ahead will be busy, with Mothers' Day celebrations next weekend, and the birth of my precious baby grandson in two or three weeks. I am so impatiently awaiting his birth -- to finally see his little face and snuggle him to my heart.

Soon now, my son will call to tell me they are safely home, and I will settle peacefully into the softness of the couch, with Toby cuddled next to me, and savor the quiet of this spring night and the promise of a leisurely Sunday.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

To Live a Life

“I’ve learned that making a “living" is not the same thing as making a “life.” – Maya Angelou

A good friend passed this quote on to me this morning; a different quote awaits me from him each morning as I open my Email. Sometimes these quotes whisper a message, sometimes they hold little meaning for me at all, and some speak loudly to my heart, as this one did.

What heaven it must be if your daily work brings pleasure and fulfillment and enhances your life. Many people, if not most of us, work every day at jobs that bring in the money for shelter, food, clothing and entertainment, but are totally separate from their meaningful lives. What a shame that we spend such a large portion of our days on this work.

My life is composed of so many different interests and loves – my family, friends, tending my home and my gardens, cooking, reading, writing, flower arranging, nature, spiritual pursuits. And, yet, through the years I have spent hours and hours working at mundane jobs such as typing, bookkeeping, and now, helping to run our electrical contracting business. I am extremely competent in office administration, but helplessly lost in the technical aspect of our business. I am an intelligent person, but have absolutely no aptitude for, or interest in science and technology, which does not bode well for a woman in a business such as ours. Never in my wildest thoughts would I have entertained the desire for a job in a technical field – but, this is the path my life has taken, and I do my work with great effort and efficiency in order to make a living.

If I were young again, I would choose a different path. As a teen, I prepared for secretarial work after graduation, anticipating marriage and full-time motherhood. Alas, the world changed, and full-time motherhood became a dream with a very high price. How different life would have been if I had gone on to college. I might have carved a career in writing, or historic preservation, or landscape design – all passions that would enhance my life.

Instead, as most of us do, I spend my days making a living, while carving out as much time as possible for my “meaningful” life.

Ah, how much happier we could be if the energy and dreams of youth could be augmented with the wisdom of age --

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Haven of Flowers

I look back and realize my last post was in mid-March. Where has the time gone. The past few weeks are a blur of activity and stress. There have been worries and numerous mini-crises in our business. My husband injured his knee and had surgery last week, from which he is recovering slowly. There have been family issues to deal with, as well as the happier family celebrations of St. Patrick's Day and Easter, which involved much planning and cooking. This past weekend we held a baby shower for my daughter-in-law -- my new baby grandson is due at the end of May -- another lovely celebration which required many hours of planning, shopping, flower arranging, gift wrapping, etc. As always, my daily routine of running our business and tending my precious granddaughter is labor-intensive.

And, always lingering on the fringes of my consciousness was the necessity of raking the old leaf mulch off my flower gardens. Usually I have accomplished this chore well before April 1, but this year March's weather was not propitious for garden work. Each weekend I have compared the weather forecast and my hectic schedule and put off the gardening for another time.

Finally yesterday afternoon the sun was shining, the temperatures were in the 50's, the baby shower was over, Alivia had gone home with her Daddy, and the gorgeous purple and white crocuses standing straight as soldiers through the leaf mulch called to me. After dinner, I spent a couple of hours painstakingly raking out flower beds. Then, after another long and stressful day, this afternoon I worked for another two hours to complete the project.

What a huge sense of relief I feel tonight. There is still much work to be done; the lawn needs to be raked, and all of the fallen branches and twigs need to be gathered. The porch and deck need to be swept, and all the garden furniture must come out. The pond needs tending. But, that will be accomplished in due time. Most importantly, the baby plants are now uncovered and basking in the spring sunshine.

My hope is that there will be a time in my life when I am retired and can leisurely complete these gardening chores. Instead of marathon raking and weeding sessions, I will be able to head out in the morning with a cup of coffee and slowly and methodically work in the garden, savoring the pleasure of working this beloved earth.

But, for tonight, I am grateful that this chore is finished, and that in the process I enjoyed the fresh spring air and sunshine, the sweet spring songs of the birds, the laughter of the neighbor children playing together, and the rebirth of my precious flowers and trees. Each little green shoot is a promise of life and beauty to come, and my soul is soothed by the experience.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How Sad --

My first reaction when I heard the news about Eliot Spitzer this week was one of disbelief. This man who inspired so many New Yorkers to believe in the possibility of a "new start" couldn't possibly have ruined his political life, could he?? However, in the hours to come it was apparent that he had.

How sad! How sad for the citizens of our country who so badly need real political heroes. How sad for Eliot who has, for reasons we cannot understand, sabotaged his own promising career and broken his trust with his famly. How sad for his wife who was forced to endure her own private grief in such a public way. But most of all, how sad for his daughters, who will now forever carry in their hearts the message that being a beautiful, intelligent, accomplished and supportive wife is not always enough!!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Weekend at Home

The past few weeks have been busy and stressful, with an abundance of end-of-year office work and serious financial problems. The weight of my responsibilities has become a bit heavy to bear with my usual aplomb. This weekend, however, I was blessed with the gift of free time -- and I enjoyed each minute.

Much of my time was spent in the kitchen. Saturday morning found me chopping and sauteeing fresh vegetables and beef to simmer all day into a hearty and delicious soup. In the afternoon I savored the process of making bread -- the mixing and kneading and careful tending that resulted in two loaves of tasty French herbed bread. We shared a quiet supper of wine, soup and bread that warmed my heart.

This morning I filled the kitchen with the scent of vanilla as I baked a cake. When my children were home, I kept the cupboards stocked with baked goods -- cookies, brownies, cakes -- but our middle-aged waistlines do not need frequent sweets, so the aroma of sweet baking is a special treat now.

I have always loved the soothing qualities of cooking -- the mixing, chopping, stirring that create a delicious whole from a group of disparate ingredients. I look out the window at my bird feeders as I work, or chat on the phone, or just absorb the deep quiet of my warm kitchen. The tensions of my world fall away, and there is nothing more pressing than the moment at hand.

My unscheduled weekend was a welcome respite. I dusted and scrubbed the house, spent some time with my daughters-in-law and my granddaughter, and saw an ultrasound picture of my baby grandson. I made some long-overdue phone calls to friends, enjoyed a glass of wine as I lingered over a new gardening magazine, and topped off Sunday evening with a piece of my delectable cake.

My spirit is quiet tonight -- I am thankful for these two days, and will try to carry this feeling of serenity into the coming week.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

February's Last Hurrah

A frigid wind sifts the snow from the pine trees and steals into the cracks and crevices of this old house. Yesterday's snow blankets the garden and the fences, and creates its own light in the cloudy darkness of the winter evening. Last night, as the snow was falling, I took a short walk -- the snow was heavy with moisture, coating each tree and bush to create a wintry wonderland. The silence of falling snow soothes my soul, and I love nothing better than a solitary walk in the snowy darkness.

In the Northeast February is usually a month of deep cold and frequent snow. Everyone is weary of winter and depressed as new snow falls. However, if you observe closely, there are subtle changes during this month that herald the coming of spring. By mid-February, there is a shift in the angle of the sunlight that speaks of spring and the hours of daylight become noticeably longer. When I rise in the morning now, a gentle dawn has already begun and some mornings I am greeted by the song of an optimistic bird or two.

As I gaze out over the snow-covered world tonight, I remember that by mid-March I am often out in the garden gently removing the winter covering of leaves that protects my perennials and marveling at the tiny green shoots which sprout beneath the mulch. But, for tonight, I will savor this lovely silence of deep cold and snow -- a peaceful gift in these final days of February --

Monday, February 11, 2008

Home Sweet Home

According to the media, mid-lifers are downsizing in large numbers, trading in the homes where they raised their families for smaller condos or townhouses that require less maintenance. At times, it is a tempting choice, especially when I take a realistic look at our kitchen and bathrooms, which need major updating. Unfortunately, though, in order to get top dollar for the house, we would have to do these projects before we put the house on the market. I know myself well, though, and I would immediately fall in love with my new rooms and never be able to leave.

In fact, I can't really imagine choosing to leave this old house. Of course, as time goes on, the factors of age and finances may require me to move to a smaller home or apartment, but for now, I intend to stay here, in the house that has sheltered my family for over thirty years.

My house is an old Victorian with a wrap-around porch, touches of gingerbread, and a steep, fairy-tale style roof. The house had actually been in my husband's family for fifty years before we bought it, and was in need of much updating. It seems we spent years scraping off old wallpaper, tearing out plaster and lathe walls, renovating the kitchen and baths, and painting. Of course, money was always scarce, so these projects were done on a shoestring, with results that matched our checkbook balance to a much greater degree than our dreams.

As I walk through today, though, I see not the scratched floors and mouldings, but the lovely little library alcove we designed and lovingly built. I walk through the kitchen which so badly needs new cabinets and counter, but I focus my attention on the cozy back porch with its old wicker furnishings and mullioned windows, where I sip my coffee each summer morning as the birds sing their hearts out. My garden may not be on the garden club tour, but I have coaxed each tree, bush and flower into bloom, and laid each stone in the pond and the walk with my own hands.

I look at the kitchen table and remember the faces of friends and family who have gathered there through the years; I hear the long-ago voices and laughter of my children and savor the memories of family parties and holiday celebrations. I remember the sad times, when this old house sheltered me as I grieved for lost loved ones or lost dreams. It has been both a peaceful haven when I need solitude, and a warm and welcoming gathering place for all of those I have cherished in this life.

The large rooms and attic hold all my treasures -- my mother's dressing table, my grandmother's hope chest, my grandfather's desk, my china and linens and pictures. How could I ever choose what to take to a smaller house -- what would I leave behind?

I want to stay. If I left, even though I would carry the memories in my heart, I would be lost. This house is my refuge -- when I am stressed I walk through the garden, listening to the birdsong, sniffing and stroking my flowers and herbs. Each night I close the curtains and feel thankful for this lovely house and all the memories it holds. I can't leave!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Please Vote for a Democrat!!!

It has been two weeks since my last post, and tonight I feel I have nothing to say, which is unusual for me. Seldom do two weeks pass without my being passionately moved by some thought that must find its way to the written page.

Actually, as I think over the past two weeks, I believe the problem is not one of lack of passion, but more likely an emotional overload, which has left me quiet and empty -- not devoid of feeling, but overwhelmed. My days have been filled with the mechanics of life, and my mind has been filled with financial worries and personal stresses. Our business, which burst with promise two years ago has stumbled limply along in this fragile economy. My frequently depressed husband is once more on a downward course. I have worked hard for so many years, and resent the struggles I must now endure. I look with envy at friends who are retiring with comfortable incomes -- knowing in my heart that my own choices have contributed to my financial insecurity -- but still feeling anger that my years of struggle have reaped no benefit.

I watch the political debates with a sense of extreme urgency -- we must elect a President who champions the middle and lower classes. I listen to Mitt Romney and I want to spit. He talks about our free market economy adjusting itself -- and then I read the newspaper articles about the oil companies' record profits in these past few months while hard-working Americans are paying exorbitant prices to fill their gas tanks and heat their homes. We have become the second "Gilded Age". I believe deeply that the free market cannot adjust enough to provide adequate incomes for average Americans when the wealthiest among us greedily amass profits at the expense of the rest of us.

I am tired -- and I know there are millions of Americans tonight who are just as weary as I am. We work and struggle and juggle our families and jobs and bills and suddenly a day comes when we are drained -- today is that day for me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Grandma Day Care

Like many mothers today who work from home so they can be with their children, I take care of my grandbaby while I work. I jokingly call our business, “Electrical Contractor & Day Care.”

I sit at the computer this morning with neat piles of work on my desk that must be finished by the end of the day. And yet, instead of working, I am writing about my baby granddaughter. As I write, I hear her waking slowly from one of her little “catnaps”. She is not a baby who lives by schedule, and sleeps only in twenty-minute increments during the day, which necessitates that I creatively juggle my business responsibilities.

This new phase of my life brings back memories of earlier days with my own children. I recall my unsuccessful attempts to schedule their baby needs, and the resulting passage of days which seemed to consist of nothing more than feeding, cleaning up and rocking tired babies. This morning, I placed Alivia in the high chair while I fixed breakfast for my husband, poured formula into her oatmeal and added a little fruit, sat down with my own plate of scrambled eggs in front of me and proceeded to spoon a bit of cereal into Alivia’s little bird mouth and a forkful of eggs into my own. However, Alivia had different ideas. She was too tired to eat – she wanted her bottle, and she wanted it now. So, I held the bottle for her, as I finished my eggs. But, before I could spoon another bit of oatmeal, her eyes were closing tightly.

So, I took off her bib and carried her into the office with me for five minutes while I made copies of a proposal and got the drawings together to be taken out to the jobsite. Once this was finished, I snuggled into the rocking chair with her and she sleepily finished the rest of her bottle. Then, I cuddled her against my chest until her body became heavy with the weight of sleep, kissed her precious silky head, and placed her into her bed, covering her with a soft blanket. I breathed a peaceful sigh of relief --

I went back into the kitchen to clean up – rinsing out her bottle, cleaning up the high chair, placing the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher. I was reminded of the years and years of my life that have been spent doing these very same chores. And I marvel at the immensity of time women spend on these daily tasks while they are raising families.

And, here I am, almost sixty years old, beginning the cycle once more. I have the luxury of working from a home office, and pray every day that I will have the energy to care for all of my grandchildren when they are tiny, if their mothers work. Next year, Lord willing, I will have a little grandson to care for also. It is time-consuming, tiring, and repetitious work, but there is nothing that can compare to the knowledge that you are helping to create lifetime memories and a strong sense of security for these little ones. I hope that none of my grandchildren will ever have to be placed in the arms of strangers during the day.

Already, having Alivia here each day has created a firm bond between us. I look forward to the pleasures I will share with her and her future cousins. I imagine reading to them, having tea parties with them in the garden and taking them to the playground. Of course, many of my days are a bit overwhelming. I wish I did not have to work –it would be wonderful to be retired and have no other responsibilities than this gentle job of baby-tending, but, life is what it is, and I will make the best of it. And, I will be certain to savor these baby years which pass so swiftly.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Contentment 101

I rose from my softly quilted bed this morning to a cloudy, warmer than normal January Saturday -- in anticipation of a blissfully unscheduled day. I put the dogs out for their morning romp, filled a favorite flowered mug with steaming coffee and slowly walked through the sleepy rooms of my house, opening curtains to the early morning light. What a lovely beginning to my day.

Those of us who are blessed with an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life are fortunate. Our world today runs at breakneck speed, and it is so easy to let these little pleasures pass by unnoticed. We must make a conscious effort to savor the insignificant moments of our days which can bring deep satisfaction to our hungry souls.

We spend long hours working to afford the necessities and luxuries in life, and often forget to enjoy the fruits of our labors. As we rush from one chore to another we pass by opportunities to savor the sensual pleasures in our lives. How often do we wolf down a cup of coffee and grab a breakfast bar without even consciously taking notice of the aroma and taste of the coffee and the textured goodness of the bar. In our mad dash to the car in the morning, do we even see the lovely flowers we planted along the walk, as they beg us to look and sniff and touch. Do we listen to the music that plays softly as we drive or notice the seasonal changes along the way. Other than complaining about snowy roads, I think many people are so internally focused they don't see the new leaves opening a bit more each day in the spring, or the wildflowers growing along the road all summer.

It does not steal time from our hectic schedules to merely be truly present in each moment of our daily routine -- to smell, listen, see and feel all the pleasures we encounter, to savor the possessions we have worked for, and to consciously appreciate our surroundings.

Contentment is within our reach if we learn to savor these simple delights which are sprinkled bountifully throughout our days.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I was startled to realize that soon we will plan our 40th high school reunion. I have worked on the reunion committees before and thoroughly enjoyed the planning and camaraderie. This one should be especially interesting, since we haven't held a reunion in ten years. It will be fun to catch up on everyones' lives.

I wasn't particularly attractive or popular in high school, so I don't have any image to uphold. I attend strictly for the fun of seeing people I haven't seen in years. The passage of time is kind to some and brutal to others. There are wonderful success stories which fill us with envy, as well as grief for the classmates whose untimely deaths shock us. For the most part, our previous reunions have been happy gatherings. The cliques and elitism which were so prevalent in our suburban high school in the 1960's are merely a memory. We come together as one to celebrate those important growing up years we shared in this little town and to share what we have become.

I must admit, though, I can't believe it will be our 40th!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Extreme Home Makeover

I was disturbed to read that the filming of an Extreme Home Makeover segment in our area was voted the top newpaper story of 2007 in our local paper.

What rock are people living under if this was the most memorable story for them. We have serious issues to be dealt with in this world, and I find it difficult to understand why so many people can shut their eyes to the problems facing our society and instead live in a world of "TV reality." I'm sorry, folks, but as entertaining as TV's reality shows may be, they are not the news of consequence in our lives.

Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that Extreme Home Makeover is simply a Cinderella story which makes huge money for its actors (and, yes they ARE actors of a sort), its sponsors, its producers, and the network. If you read closely between the lines, most of the "contributions" for these projects are made by the local contractors, suppliers and volunteers who do the actual work and provide the materials. If this program was a truly philanthropic endeavor, the money expended on one of these lavish homes would be much better spent on two or three modest Habitat for Humanity type homes. But, then, that wouldn't sell commercial time, would it?

I have been involved in the construction industry for over thirty years, and feel that Extreme Home Makeover and similar popular home improvement programs have fostered a practice of extremely fast-paced construction schedules. People see a home built from start to finish in one week, or a room renovated in a day, and they believe that this is the norm. Our "need for speed" culture has also impacted commercial construction. We are noticing increasingly abbreviated construction schedules for commercial buildings. Often these schedules are unrealistic. Quality work takes time. There is no question in my mind that because of the current demand for speed in our industry, quality and safety are being sacrificed.

My hope for the New Year is that people spend a little less time watching reality TV and a little more time thoughtfully considering the important issues -- the election of a new President, the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor in this country, affordable energy and health care, and the urgent considerations of climate change.