Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 31

Day 31 of This Being Alive...

I'm filled with gratitude for the ups and downs of this sweet life, surrounded by superb family & friends, a cat, some fish, birds, really busy squirrels, deer. And readers like you. I'm going to keep on writing and I hope you'll keep on reading. Peace and blessings to you and yours.

xo b

[Sailing party @ my brother Rob's house in CT! His mailbox is #6]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Little Bit of Mother Love

I have a small book of daily meditations that belonged to my mother called "The Promise of a New Day." The red cover has been worn down over the past thirty years by her hands, and now mine. On the inside is her signature: Dot Jackson, with a line under it. There are a few pages in the book that Mom took her pencil to; a sentence is underlined, sometimes a whole paragraph. Opening it up to read today's meditation, I noticed a check mark, next to the quote, in the upper left hand corner of the page. That tiny check mark was like a tap on the shoulder, a little bit of mother love coming my way.

If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.
If you can dream it, you can become it.

~ William Arthur Ward

Monday, March 29, 2010

Call It What You Will

Call it what you will:
Source Energy
The Universe
The Merry Prankster
Ethel?...but I believe this It has a great sense of humor and perfect timing.

You see, yesterday the bra unhooked and I got some breathing room, but didn't allow it to last. I woke up this morning, still quite stuck in my two by four-ness mind/body thing. I admit, sometimes I'm a hard nut to crack. Odd how frequently I point out to my husband how damn stubborn he can be, but now I'm seeing, Hmmmm. Look in the mirror, my pretty, and speaketh to thyself.

Back to Ethel. I found myself in a conversation today that lead to a spiritual slap in the face, for lack of a better description. I took it on the chin with gratitude. Ethel knew I really needed it.

The conversation circled around slogans, mantras, things we say to keep ourselves breathing and heads above water. Easy Does It. Let Go and Let God. Bikers Do It Better. Be Here get the picture. Gentle reminders that it's okay to be human; in other words, messy.

A friend said, "Oh, before you go, this is a good one. Figure it out is not a slogan." And with that, I exhaled, and said goodbye to my time as a piece of lumber. There was the softest feeling nesting inside me, like God, Merry Prankster, It, sweet Ethel, had dropped the most beautiful apple in my lap and I didn't have to do anything but hold its roundness in my hands and love it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Two By Four-ness

The past couple of days I've felt like a two by four, hard and straight, no bends anywhere. The ear thing hasn't helped. I just about turned to stone when I went to the pharmacy to get ear drops and the price came to $110. I left without the drops. Fortunately, I got a new script for much less ($18), but the pain has been slow in leaving.

Still, people aren't meant to be boards. It's very uncomfortable. Clearly a good cry would've at least eased my two by four-ness. But I was holding tight. Until today, when I turned to the toaster, beloved toaster, to recover the burnt mini-bagel that I had spaced out while letting the cat out. Or was it in? Eyes welling up I thought, throw the damn thing at the wall, but I needed sustenance, so I made a crunchy sandwich instead; turkey with cheese, easy on the mayo.

After my bagel, I headed to Wilkes University to speak to a small group of grad students about writing, & a few other things like, how I'd managed to shave my legs this very day. I must've mentioned that juicy tidbit at least three times. I wasn't thinking. See next paragraph...

I parked my car, still in two by four mode, and entered Breiseth Hall. Near the stairs I happened by the office of Professor Linda M. Paul, PhD, Philosophy. She had various messages taped on her door. One read, I think therefore I'm dangerous. Immediately, my shoulders dropped. I walked up the stairs to room 209, feeling a little better with each step. As I entered the room, there was a sudden loosening in my back. Ah, I thought, finally, I'm letting go. But it wasn't my tight two by four self. It was my bra, suddenly unhooked in the back.

Note to self: Unhook yourself, kid...let it all hang out.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Nobody Bats An Eye

My cousin, John, son of my beloved Aunt Nip, lives the good life on Cape Cod. He's got great kids, a comfy home, and a few gnomes in the yard. His gnome thing is hush hush; the family tries not to make a big deal about it. Anyway, every now and then John and I catch-up via email about the kids, how it can't be possible that we're no longer in our twenties, and the weather.

Since I'm still recovering from the dull, but steady sensation of a butter knife in my left ear, and can't think straight, I lifted his email straight off the page for today's blog. I borrowed it, okay. On his end, I think he was just having a morning muse. He's very smart and often muses about worldly matters. This snippet of an email stopped me in my tracks. 500 - 600 Billion?

"I can’t get over how angry the country seems to be, the great conspiracy theories abound. I had a funny discussion with a colleague about health care, which was capped by a story in the news today. The Air force is building a new jet fighter in which we will spend $1 Trillion dollars over the next 10 years; funny, that is the same amount as health care. The article goes on to say that we will have 20x more planes than anyone (Russia, China) else. We are spending $500-600Billion a year on defense, and nobody bats an eye."

I don't know about you,but my eyes are screaming after reading that...Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat.

ps. Thanks for the help today, John. (The gnome's in the mail.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gone By Morning

It's late on this rainy Thursday night, late for me. 10:20pm. And the truth is my left ear has a terrible ache, so terrible that I'm contemplating taking myself to the ER. But we all know what kind of night that would be. Bright lights. Interminable wait. Even after meeting all the nice people when *Dad was in there two weeks ago, I just can't do it. It's not like I want to have a reunion with Nurse Louise, no matter how sweet she was.

All week long I've been closing out emails to friends with, don't let the bastards get you down. I guess I've had the feeling that an army of bastards was infiltrating Monroe County. Does an earache qualify as a bastard? Right now I'm thinking, yes. But an even bigger question that's plaguing this writer is, is earache one word or two? It looks weird either way.

So, troops, I'm going to make some Sleepytime tea, pop some Tylenol, and wrap myself up in "pinky", the old blanket Mom gave me years ago. And pray that this bastard is gone by morning.

see *Run Like Hell

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Last Supper?

"So, Mom?"
"Yes, Claire."
"If you were going to die in a few hours what would you eat?"
"This is one of those weird death-y questions, Mom, so please just..."
"So?... What would you eat?"
"Gosh, honey, I really don't know. I'm not sure I'd be thinking about food if..."
"Mom. Just think about it. Try."
"Okay, warm pecan pie with vanilla ice cream? Maybe one of Daddy's shrimp dishes? Peanut butter? Gee, Claire, this is hard..."
"King-sized Kit Kat bar!"
"I would have one of those king-size Kit Kat bars, [arms spread out really wide here] and no parents or grown ups could tell me otherwise."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

First Amendment Blues

Lately I'm not getting the whole bumper sticker thing. I mean, I love teach peace. I feel warm and fuzzy when I see make love, not war. Granted, it's been awhile since I've seen that, but you have to admit, it's one of the best ever. Ones like My child is an honor student at Hopeful Times Junior High, get on my nerves. I'm not exactly sure why, but they do. Sorry, parents.

Today I was walking through a parking lot when I had this sticker sighting. The RSU decal was my first clue: RSU, Redneck State University. Never heard of it, but what do I know? Then my eyes latched onto, How 'bout I put my carbon footprint up your liberal ass?"

I quickly glanced over my shoulder to make sure some guy wasn't heading my way with a boot aimed at my butt.

I'll never hold hands and sing Kumbaya with the driver of that particular vehicle. I know what you're thinking but, nope. It wasn't that baby blue Beetle you've seen driving around town. But I would like to ask him, or her, what they're so pissed off about. The sad thing is, that bumper sticker was fairly mild compared to some I've seen lately. Call me naive, I just don't get it.

But, here's to the First Amendment; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Like Breathing

It's been over three weeks now since I began writing, This Being Alive. It takes three weeks to seal a new habit, right? Seal?

Begin. Start. Make a go of. Just do it. No matter what.

Like breathing.

This little gem from Abigail Thomas' book is one of many quotes I have stuck on the bulletin board over my writing table. It reminds me all the time to drop my shoulders and just write. The stories always tell themselves.

"I didn't start writing until I was forty-seven. I had always wanted to write but thought you needed a degree, or membership in a club nobody had asked me to join. I thought God had to touch you on the forehead, I thought you needed something specific to say, something important, and I thought you needed that all laid out from the git-go. It was a long time before I realized that you don't have to start right, you just have to start."

~ from A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

So, maybe for you it's taking up judo, or baking bread, or trusting yourself. Here's to starting, and then staying with it. Just because.

Thanks for a writer and share this with a friend.

xo bets

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Walking With Neeny

Neeny and I have known each other for many years, twenty, at least. We start talking before she's got both feet out of her car. And then we walk. She starts the sentence, I finish it. Or, vice versa. Actually, it's more like a ping pong game, little white ball (see words, ideas, revelations) flying across the net, back and forth. Sometimes the volley is easy, other times fast and furious. Or really funny. We have a wonderful gift of finding one another incredibly funny. Even in the midst of what might seem like really painful conversations. Trust me, facial hair is very painful.

We cover all of it; hormones, husbands, aging parents, our changing faces. We tend to be hard on ourselves, at least some of the time, but all I see when I look at her is a beautiful, younger version of Sophia Loren. Neeny is my smart, generous, funny friend and an artist in every sense of the word. I know she sees me with way more compassion than I see myself. After one of our walk/talks, I always feel stronger, prettier, definitely more open-hearted, lighter. That invisible riding crop that I keep in my back pocket transforms into a magic wand. I am energized with secret powers, rather than riddled with fault lines.

Neeny's been through many of my hardest life lessons, most particularly the death of my mother. Every year she sends me a card, or some beautiful small gift in memory of her passing. And every year I weep with sheer gratitude for her remembering.

Today we stood at her car for close to thirty minutes, after saying our goodbyes. This is standard. This is when we get to the real stuff, to what we've been trying to say all along.
My husband came out and said, "Are you two in some kind of cult?"
We looked down and noticed we were wearing identical outfits; black yoga pants, gray shirts. Mine was long sleeve, hers was short. We waved to him and kept talking. Just then, a hawk flew low overhead, a tiny animal in its talons.
"Hawk," we both said, nodding to each other.
Then she got in her car and headed to the market.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just As It Is

Practice letting go. The next time you find yourself mentally holding on to a past, current, or future event, release it, and let it fall away. Letting go does not have to be developed, it only has to be done. Instead of trying to understand everything or figure things out, simply let go. Let go of your desires, expectations, and fears. Let go of your worries and your remorse. Let go and release everything to be just as it is. Nothing special to be, no wounds to heal, no past or future to bind you.

~ from Lessons from the Dying by Rodney Smith

Blessings to you and yours on this first day of Spring.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Like A Mama Porcupine

Smack in the middle of my stuck-ness yesterday, I had an acupuncture appointment. Can you believe that? It had been many years since I'd had an acupuncture treatment, but my ailing shoulder propelled me to see Louise, kind healer, from *Wellsprings East. Before getting on the table, I filled out a form where one of the questions was, "What is your prevailing emotion? Happy, sad, frustrated...?" and then there was a ________.

I couldn't possibly choose. I cycle through all of them, and then some, a few times a day. So I didn't pick one. I just wrote on the line, I think a lot. I thought this might help Louise figure out the best place to stick me. I imagined my whole head covered in needles, like a mama porcupine, but she put just one in the crown of my head, and then tagged some other places on my body. I lay on the table and prayed that it would help some of the overflow rise out of me; a river of words and other flotsam and jetsam passing through the ceiling into the blue, blue sky. I was hoping, too, that my shoulder might let go of the dull pain it's been carrying. What am I carrying that I might put down?

When Louise asked me if I'd been feeling fatigued, I started to weep. Jesus, not again. But she didn't seem to notice, or mind. That's the thing about kind healers. They want you to feel better. So if you're sobbing in their lap, they hold your head until you're done. Or stick a needle in the top of your head. It doesn't make a bit of difference to them, thank God.

*( It's a miracle, I know. I linked.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Making Toast

Two days in a row, things have gotten stuck in the toaster. By things I mean, a piece of whole wheat raisin bread yesterday, and half an english muffin today. The raisin bread was a very thin little piece so I thought, okay, things get stuck. But it wouldn't come out. I turned the toaster over and banged it on the counter, thus spreading an enormous amount of bread crumbs that had been roosting in there. I unplugged the toaster and began jabbing at it with a fork, then a knife. I tried the usual you mother f*@cking toaster, and still, the bread was stuck. Eventually it came out, but in shreds. This was a piece of toast that had been mauled by someone who really wanted her carbs.

Anyway, the very same thing happened today with the half an english muffin, and I knew then. Actually, I knew when I went to get ice from the ice thing on the fridge and the ice wouldn't come out, until I opened the freezer door and a bucketful fell on the floor; I knew it wasn't my appliances. This stuck-ness had nothing to do with my toaster or refrigerator. The stuck-ness was in me. Full throttle.

I did scream. Loudly and profanely. Note to readers: it's a miracle that you haven't read any bad words, yet. I have a fondness for them, but have earnestly been trying to write without them. I'm not sure how long I can hold out. I think there's some box I'm supposed to check on this blog site, to alert people to bad word usage. Maybe I should've done that already?

Okay, so I'm stuck. The more I fight it, the deeper in the mud I sink. Some days, the best thing I can do is surrender.

Put the hammer down and walk away from the toaster.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Let Us Be Ourselves

Let us dig in our gardens and not be elsewhere;

Let us take long walks in the open air…

Let us bathe in the rivers and lakes…

Let us indulge in games…

Let us be more simple: simple and true in

our gestures,in our words,and simple and true

in our minds above all. Let us be ourselves.

-Robert Linssen

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Missing Che

It's been three years since Che (short for Noche, rhymes with Ray), had to be put to sleep. I laid down with him, just like we are in this photo, and held him until he slipped away.

I have lots of Che stories. Dogs and kids, right? I'm thinking right now of when Claire was a baby. She must've been at least six months old; she could sit up by herself. We plopped her down on the tile floor, put peanut butter on her forehead, and let Che lick it off. It was her baptism, right there in our cozy kitchen. Maybe you're thinking, jeez, that's just a little gross. But every time I think of it, I grin. It was the perfect combination of things: dog as spiritual leader, brown-eyed baby girl, & a dollop of peanut butter placed strategically on her forehead.

In the summer, Che and I would go to the Delaware river and swim across to the New Jersey side. If I got tuckered out, I would grab a hold of his tail and he'd pull me along with ease to the sandy beach. He was my dog for almost fifteen years. Actually, he was more than a dog. Che had my back, as people like to say these days.

Now if I could just bury my face in his big, old, furry head.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What More Could I Ask For?

Dear Ms. Jackson,

I thought it would be boring at first, but it ended up being fun and unboring.

- Jack Reilly

I received this note from Jack, a seventh grader, whose class I visited last Thursday. It was a drop in the bucket kind of *day, forty minute classes of quick writing and improvisational theater games with kids I'd never met. But I gotta say, we definitely jumped in the river for those forty minutes. There's that river again. Some kids weren't sure if they even wanted to jump in with me; slightly manic, stand-up comic-ky woman who's nuts about writing and speaking up for yourself...But jump they did.

I remember Jack. His hair hung over one eye a little. The moment he sat down he wore a look that said, "Go ahead, try to make me like this."

Unboring? What more could I ask for?...

* See "Call Me Bubbles"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

An Untroubled Spirit

So, it's been a crazy weekend. On Friday, Dad ran into a telephone pole because his blood pressure was like twenty over ten and he ended up in the hospital for a couple of days. The good news is, he had lots of people to talk to and got fed three times a day.

After two days of keeping it all together, I had a good weep after dropping him off at his house on the mountain. It was one of those moments where you're weeping and watching yourself weep, at the same time. All while driving a motor vehicle, which I was extra cautious about since I got a look-see at the cracked telephone pole that Dad had hit on Friday.

Anyway, tonight I ran away from home. I didn't go very far, only as far as the crow flies to the Deerhead Inn in the Delaware Water Gap. If I could figure out how to "link it" for you, I would, but it's late and I've had two glasses of wine, which is more wine than I've had in quite a while, so just go to to find out about great jazz and good food...and really nice people like Mary and Jenna, and Diane...and Denny, who's still healing from his new hip and is home watching PBS, maybe. Gary, yet another nice person, showed up and sat down next to me. We whispered about stone walls and how his mom and brother died two weeks apart (years ago). Gary said, your Dad's alive! You're alive! It was good to be reminded of that. We were talking while the music was playing. You're really not supposed to talk at a jazz club when the music's going on, but if you whisper, it's okay.

FYI: If you're a woman, the Deerhead is one of those places you can go by yourself and be just fine. Which is how I ran into Bonnie, my daughter, Jesse's, kindergarten teacher, (Jesse's twenty-eight!), and another woman, Gail, who moved up to PA to take care of her grandchildren. To top it off, tonight's music was a group of women called Three Spirit; they were soulful and joyful and... Okay, so women rock.

I've had my cup of tea and curled up with Claire in bed for a few minutes. I grabbed this quote off the fridge and thought I'd pass it on for this Sunday night. Even though I don't always practice it, I try...

The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are. ~ Marcus Arelius

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Run Like Hell!

I was getting ready to make a batch of rice and beans around five pm. yesterday when the phone rang. It was Louise, a nurse in the emergency room at Pocono Medical Center. Louise was calling to tell me that Dad was there. He'd been in a car accident. He'd hit a telephone pole, but he was okay. She'd called earlier but didn't want to leave a message.
"I don't like to leave those kind of messages for people," Louise said.
"I'll be right there," I said, even though she said, no need to rush.
Claire and I grabbed our coats and hopped in the car.

People who work in hospitals are mostly wonderful, but I don't care for them. Hospitals, I mean. For some reason if I'm in one for too long, my chi drains right out my toes. It must be all the tubes and beeping things. I'm exhausted.

Claire and I spent over four hours with Dad, waiting for him to get admitted. People came and went, checking his vital signs; there we sat. To make things interesting, it was a bit of a shout fest because Dad didn't have his hearing aids in.

At one point, Claire and I went foraging for food. At the cafeteria we got the following items: french fries, a banana, and Cheerios, no milk. I had a cup of tea. Claire had pink lemonade. Does that cover the five food groups?

We talked as we inhaled the fries and Cheerios.
Do not try this type of food combining at home!
"You know, Mom, I feel lucky. I have a grandfather who doesn't slump, isn't depressed, and smiles all the time," Claire said.

If there was ever an odd duck, well, let's say, Dad qualifies. But I'm crazy about him, and Claire was right on all three counts.

Back in the ER room, Dad told us some jokes. I rarely remember jokes but this one stuck.

A priest was walking down the street and saw a little boy trying to reach a doorbell at a house. Wanting to be helpful, the priest went up on the porch and rang the bell for the boy.
He looked at the boy and said, "What do we do now?"
The little boy said, "Run like hell, Father!"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Some Things Take Time

I've been knitting the same green scarf for three years now. It's okay.
Some things take time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Call Me Bubbles

I spent the day with over a hundred seventh graders and frankly, I'm flipping exhausted. Five periods, forty minutes a pop. This was my friend, Susan's Intro to German class so the name tags read Wolf, Eva, Heinz, Bruno. Some students wrote their English names as well, Michael, Rital, Achim, and others chose aliases for themselves; Lulu, Sir Peter, Mr. B, Klappy. Lulu was a cute boy with dark brown hair. One kid wanted to be called Bubbles. Okay.

What was my objective? To light a fire, the tiniest spark, under these kids. To help them find their own voice, through writing, with some improv stuff tossed in for the sheer fun of it.

Each class had forty minutes to make something happened. I said, "Write a name on your paper. No Lady Gaga, no video game heroes, no Sponge Bob. Now let's write, The first thing you should know about me is..."

Then the kids stood up in lines of five and we got to meet their characters.
Bruno stood up and said, "Hello, My name is Maggie. I like to juggle."
There was guy who carried a cat in his suitcase, the lady who watched Jeopardy on television every night, the man whose name was Shark Bait.

I asked them what came to mind when they heard the word, writing. We made a quick list, then went around the room shouting out a word (although a lot of these kids spoke so softly I could barely hear them.)...imagination, stupid, sentences, adventurous, stinky, poems, nervous, essay, discovery, boring, freedom. There were no wrong answers. I mean, let's face it, writing can be very stinky. But for me, it's always about freedom. And that's why I go to schools and jump around classrooms like a mad hatter to write with kids. And teachers too.

Writing is my cure for feeling weird. And I'm thinking that's a really useful tool to pass on to a group of seventh graders. Or seventy year olds. It works with anyone.

But here's the thing I'm thinking right now as I type this. There are people out in the world who still believe that teaching is one big cake walk, with summers off.

I just want to say, You're kidding, right?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Make A Garden

Today was an Elizabeth day. Most Wednesday mornings are. We kicked things off with a round of "the picture card matching game", followed by a reading of Who, Who, Who Lost a Shoe, and had some snacks. Teeny pretzel sandwiches with peanut butter on the inside. whoa! After that I suggested we go outside and see what was popping out of the ground.

The minute we stepped out we heard a lot of swoosh swoosh swooshing going on. The sound was close by, but for the life of us we couldn't figure out what it was. Then we saw them; twenty-four wild turkeys, (we counted them!), dragging their tiny turkey feet through the dry leaves in the neighbor's stand of trees. Elizabeth and I crouched down and watched them peck their way to the back of the woods, meandering towards Joan and Arnold's backyard. I love wild turkeys. But I'll save that for another piece.

Elizabeth said, "Dirt piles, Bean," and pointed to the street. So we made our way to the wooden bench under the apple tree at the end of my front yard. I put my arm around her. We snuggled and listened to the birds singing like crazy. And we stared at the piles of dirt that Frankie, the new neighbor, had dumped before the last whopping snow storm.

At first, I didn't really notice them, the dirt piles. Or maybe I did, but for a while they looked like fluffy mounds of pretty white snow. Now they're just dirt piles filled with chunks of rocks and small tree stumps, spilling over onto the street. I'm sure Frankie has some kind of plan for the piles. He's going to smooth them out, grow grass, plant an orchard, right?

But in the meantime, Spring is one of my favorite seasons and it's getting ready to give birth in a big way. I am panting for daffodils and crocuses, poised for all things blooming.
"I don't know, Elizabeth, I'm not liking these dirt piles."
"Make a garden, Bean," she said, nodding her head.
She never elaborates. It's just what she says every time I start complaining about the damn dirt piles.

Clearly, I need work on my creative visualization skills. I may be rusty, but I'm a willing student. Tomorrow morning when I get up, I'm going to look out my picture window, sigh and say, Oh look! What a pretty garden.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Changing Channels

Click on radio.

"North Korea's army is threatening to blow up South Korea's army...This is NPR news..."

Click off radio.

In the middle of the day, my house is quiet. But upstairs there's the constant sound of water flowing in the turtle tank in Claire's room, where Washington, her red-eared slider, lives. It's a fairly simple life; lean towards the light by day, curl up in the dark nest of stones under the bridge at night. Pull head into shell and sleep when Claire turns off the basking lamp for the evening.

In the morning, the turtle gets fed, teeth get brushed, we go to the bus stop, the day begins. If I'm writing upstairs, sometimes I'll sneak down the hall and find Washington sunning himself under his basking lamp. There's a certain elegance in the way his head tilts up towards the light, with one back leg curving behind him in an arabesque. I stand in the doorway, barely breathing, not wanting to disturb his reverie.

The sound of footsteps in the hallway used to make him leap from his bridge and scurry into the water. These days he doesn't disturb quite as easily. Now I can tiptoe into Claire's room and he'll stay on his bridge, as long as I pretend to not see him. I can pick up the teddy bear sprawled on the rug and marvel, from a distance, at his face straining towards the light, his mini-sun.

Monday, March 8, 2010

As The World Turns...

Today marks the one week anniversary of This Being Alive. In lieu of sounding completely corny, logging in every day to write has made me feel very alive. Three days this week I raced out the door to pick Claire up at the bus stop because I spaced out the time; I was so involved on my computer and jotting things down in my notebook that I simply lost track. Losing track when I'm writing is a happy place for me.

I want to shout out to my friend, Susan Featro, the techie queen, who emailed me directions to get my photo of snowdrops on the post page, rather than floating around in space. That's why you are getting snowdrops revisited. Thanks, Susan. You can expect more questions, no doubt.

Here's to Penny Ross, artist extraordinaire and one of the shiniest people I know, for figuring out how to get her beautiful smiling photo on the followers section. She wrote me and said, "I don't want to be a shadow person." You can find her next to my husband, Michael Collins, who talked her through the process via email. He's the guy with the clown nose. Don't ask.

To top off the week, my friend, Anne Walker, made this an international blog by becoming a follower from Melbourne, Australia. I would love to see more faces, more countries. No kidding, we could all hold hands and sing, It's a small world after all! It's the six degrees of separation thing; send this on to someone you know, and they can send it on to someone else...right? Here's to the land down under! I love you, Anne, and all the rest of you who have logged on to This Being Alive. I can't thank you enough.

It is my intention to write about this sweet, ordinary life, every day. I hope you'll tune in.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Look Under Foot

It's Oscar night. Claire and I are curled up on the big bed, checking out the stars in their designer gowns, sharing our critiques. It's a wonderful night, fun and fancy. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little envious because gee, who wouldn't want to be there! But here's the thing. After the awards and the all-night partying, those beautiful people are going to be so happy to get home to their own bed and slip on a pair of sweats and that twenty year old t-shirt tucked under their pillow. And to get out of their Jimmy Choo shoes. Really, how do they walk in those things?

So, in the spirit of art and creativity, here's one of my favorite quotes. A simple reminder to look under foot and remember that the great opportunity is where you are and yes, every place is under the stars.

The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is" look under foot". You are always nearer the divine and the true sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world.

~ John Burroughs

Here's to the start of a beautiful, new week.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Claire Story

When Claire was just out of diapers, she would beg for what became known as Claire stories. One of the best story-telling places was when she was in the tub. I'd sit up on the counter, cup of tea by my side and try my best to come up with an exciting story for my three year old. Here's one that I wrote down. I think yesterday's snowdrop sighting has me on a roll.

Claire said no to Mommy all day
until finally it was bath time and
then Claire said yes.

In the warm water she began to sing,
the bathroom filled up with all kinds
of birds; toucans, parrots,bright red cardinals,
even a bald eagle came and perched on the
edge of the tub.

Then came the butterflies, blues and purples,
yellow spotted, and fish filled the tub, bright orange,
and red, skimming by Claire's round thigh,
under her finger tips.

They made her laugh and sing.
She began to sing and flowers bloomed,
purple cone flowers, snapdragons, and
sunflowers filled the bathroom.

Now, go take a tub and make up your own story ~

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Two Purple Things

Yesterday was a good, purple kind of day.
First, there was Elizabeth and her purple rubber band.
And then Dad arrived wearing an oversized, camel-hair coat
and his purple beret. I don't know, it felt like a sign, the two purple things.
And the fact that she's three and he's eighty-three, and he's her great-grandfather. You can see where I'm going with this, right?
The joint was jumping with signs yesterday.

Dad is eighty-three years young, with a thick head of white hair, a beard, blue eyes. He smiles way more than I do and often bursts into song, Go tell Aunt Rhody, go tell Aunt Rhody...

"Back by popular demand!" he shouted, as he came through the front door, arms out to hug me. He is skinny and a bit wobbly when I hug him anymore. But still, for all intensive purposes, the man is a solid hugger.
It runs in the family.

He had driven down from his mountain home; my grandparent's summer cottage so many years ago. The dirt road, named Jackson Lane, weaves up through the woods passed old stone walls. At the top you break out into the light and open fields. There's the leaning barn, the ancient apple tree, and Dad's cozy house with the big picture window.

"Everything's fine up here at the assisted living care funny farm!" he says when we talk on the phone. This busts him up every time.

I've got a closet full of stories about my father, and the old farm where he lives. But right now, I am holding this sliver of a moment in my mind's eye:

He is sitting on the landing of the stairs in my house. I am on the step above him. Out of his pocket he has pulled an old wooden top, the kind of toy that children used to play with before DSI's and other such games. With his old, veiny hands he drops the top and it begins to spin on the wood floor between us. We are both laughing while it's spinning. When it topples to a stop, I take a turn. The wood is smooth to the touch. I curl my fingers around the top, feeling its small point. With a twist of my wrist, I drop it and it begins to spin again. We are laughing like two small children.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Elizabeth and Bean

I started the morning banging around in the proverbial paper bag.
Well, more like thrashing. Wildly. This sent my husband to his office earlier than usual. One might use the word, scurry, to describe his exit.

After a second cup of tea and some world-class sighing, I went to get my three year old grandaughter, Elizabeth. We spend Wednesday mornings together. This has proven to be w
ay cheaper than a therapist, trust me.

Our first stop was the Dunkin Donuts drive-through. I splurged and got her three chocolate-glazed munchkins. The kid is happy with three. All for a whopping sixty-four cents. Next we hit the library where we played with farm animal puzzles and those things with the beads that slide over the twisty wire. She sat in the blue chair. It's her favorite color. We didn't read a thing. A little boy in brown corduroys kept walking over to us with a book in his hand.
"Book?" he'd say.
Elizabeth didn't give him the time of day.

After the puzzles, we climbed the big staircase to look for some books for me because we always do that. Elizabeth loves climbing the big staircase. Just for the record, I steered clear of the self-help section even though I was still feeling oddly desperate. Every now and then she'd lift her arm up to show me the rubber band hanging loosely around her wrist.
"Look Bean."
That's what she calls me. Bean.
So I marveled at her rubber band and her grin, and the way her pink boots clunked along the ground when she walked. And then I wondered why I was such a
banging around in the paper bag kinda girl when obviously all I needed was a good rubber band to kick my moody middle-aged blues to the curb.

The bad news is her rubber band snapped when I was buckling her into the car seat. The good news is that I keep a small stash of rubber bands in my silverware drawer.

The minute we walked in the door Elizabeth said," Rubber band in drawer, Bean. Please."
Sure enough, nestled in near the teaspoons we found a pretty purple one, thicker and sturdier than her first one. I know this is way overused to say
her face lit up, but it did. It lit right up when I slipped that rubber band on her wrist.

So here was the moment:

Elizabeth, daughter of my daughter, and me, her Bean, standing in the kitchen grinning at each other over a purple rubber band.

Simple, right?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Chihuahua Lady

Claire curled up in bed with me.
"I don't know what the big deal is about dying," she said.
"You're really just going to another dimension. I mean, I know you miss seeing people but it doesn't have to be that scary."

Come to think of it, neither does living.
I'm thinking my ten year old is on to something.

It's amazing how fearful I can be.
Should I make the phone call?
What if I can't figure this out, then I'll have to ask somebody for help.
What if the school secretary thinks I'm some kind of woo-woo yoga teacher trying to find work?
And my point is?

But if I use my
life is a river metaphor, well, standing on the riverbank can be beautiful, but if you never get in the water...?

Like the woman who literally swept by my car today while I was loading groceries into the back. She was upon me in a moment, talking about her chihuahuas (they were in a crate in her backseat). Her bleached hair was a long mane down her back, her face heavily made up, two slashes for eyebrows. She was beaming and going on about the dogs.
"They're my babies. I take them everywhere. On the plane to Miami. You see, my mother died and left me a couple of properties. One of the dogs was hers but she got sick, died. So now I have the two. They're just so cute! You won't believe this but I put one in the hot tub the other night. Oh my God, I think he actually liked it but he kept barking and barking. I thought I was going to have to call 911!"

And then she was gone.

I don't recall saying hello to start our conversation. Maybe I smiled. It doesn't matter. I am so grateful for My Chihuahau Lady. Grateful for her blast of alive-ness today, there in the parking lot of MR. Z's.

I drove home happy, past the piles of dirty snow. I'm pretty sure I heard my angels singing a ditty, a little something to the tune of Happy Birthday...
It's not scary at all, Life's not scary at all, It's not scary at ALL! It's really not scary at all.