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Walkdoc April 9 Woodneck Beach

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This morning we got up early and took a walk to the beach. There never has to be a “purpose” for such a walk, but listening to the early morning bird songs was our hope. I have no idea what types of birds were singing, tweeting and/or squawking, but I took them all in.

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I’ll never learn their genus,species, or be able to identify individual birds, and I don’t care. I’m not much into labels, but I love the bird music!

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There’s something about the sounds birds make in the Spring that sets the pace for all the other changes that evolve. I remember some of the sounds, others seem new; maybe my ears hear things differently. It is like a breath of fresh air that pushes winter aside and ushers in green sprouts.

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It was just a pleasant, gentle walk down the beach. I collected shells and collected my thoughts.

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Walkdoc 3/23/14

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WoodNeck Beach

WoodNeck Beach

 

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Chinese Checkers

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Many of you who know me are aware of that fact that, until a year or so ago, my favorite form of exercise was lifting my fork from the plate to my mouth. Ok, maybe not that bad… maybe it was aerobically turning the pages of a good book….Or speed/power knitting. Then I discovered yoga and would now be lost without it. It centers me; my back doesn’t hurt, and I’ve lost my fear of falling over. Yoga has made an impact both on and off the mat.

Then, quite by mistake, a week ago, I arrived at the yoga studio for a 9 AM Vinyasa class. Something was quite different. The mats were going the “wrong” way. There were strange flexible rings in the front of the room and pile of elastic exercise bands that brought back memories of physical therapy and a demanding personal trainer. There was no “yoga” music in the background and many of the people in the class had real muscles.

My regular yoga teacher, Michelle, quietly told me that this was a Pilates class—the first one offered. I clearly didn’t check the latest schedule. So I looked her in the eye and said…“Well, can I do this Pilates stuff?” Without pause, she replied, “Of course, get in there.” So I did.

Learning something completely new and physically demanding at the ripe, young age of 61 might have scared me off. But it didn’t. I told the instructor, Monica, this was my first Pilates class ever… she was encouraging and her cues were crystal clear. I could follow her directions and make this Pilates thing work. The stretches we did were different than warm ups in yoga. Each move was more intense, took me out of my comfort zone and had to be repeated multiple times. I stopped worrying if I could do it, and just followed the teacher. Before I knew it, I was pulsing mini sit-ups without fears or tears.

Was it fun—no, not really! It was challenging, and I could feel that I was working my body in a different way than in my yoga practice or when taking long walks. I had to overcome the awkwardness of not really knowing what I was doing—and learn something new. It meant giving up the pretense of control and taking baby steps into the unknown. At the end of class, I was thrilled and amazed that “I did it!” I fully expected to hurt and have multiple Charlie-horses simultaneously—so I took an hour long soak in a hot Epson salt bath—and David did bring me a small (ok, medium) glass of brandy while I sat and soaked until my finger tips looked like white prunes. It was heavenly! I laid back and realized that I walked into a Pilates class unexpectedly and didn’t run away… instead I was looking forward to next Friday’s class.

How could this happen: One self-care action follows another and another and another. An entourage of wise, compassionate, skilled yoga teachers (Thank you and hugs to Kirsten, Megan, Michelle and Sandy McA) move me forward on and off the mat. They teach me yoga and so much more. I meditate and quiet my overactive mind. Most importantly, I delete toxic people and excessive commitments from my life. This all opens up room for new opportunities and new growth. I remember years ago, Danny Rothenberg told me that I ought to consider leaving more open space in my life. He made the comparison to Chinese checkers. “You need some open spots in order to jump ahead. You have too many marbles on the board.” It has taken me years to follow up on his advice.

So the benefits of life with “fewer marbles on the board” are numerous. Yes, I’m a regular Pilates and yoga student now, and I’m in much better shape than I was a year ago. I have learned the value of subtracting obstacles from my life in order to add more of the good stuff. It does come back to simplicity and having a “short list” of what is important. My hubby, David, has been talking about the value of a “short list” forever. I’m getting there.

Zoey

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Zoey

Zoey

This past week was a tough one. We had a surrendered cat at the shelter that seemed to be uncomfortable and looked like she was in pain. A visit to one vet yielded some, but not much, comfort to both me and the cat. The kitty, Zoey, was a very pretty black cat with very sad eyes. Every day the gang at the shelter would check in to see if Zoey ate, pooped, moved around, or maybe even played a bit. A week went by and there wasn’t much improvement. She did eat and took her meds, but things just didn’t seem right.

On Thursday we decided a second opinion was in order. I carefully wrapped her like a little furry burrito in soft blankets and gently put her in the carrier. She meowed once as if to warn me to be careful because she hurt. While walking to the car, it started to snow and she looked out of the carrier and checked out the white flakes. Her pretty black coat was sprinkled with snow—and I think she liked it. She laid down and purred.

Once at the vet’s office, Zoey checked out the big dog that was leaving and looked the other way. She had bigger fish to fry. Little Zoey remained quiet and relatively peaceful. I talked softly to her and let her know we were going to see a vet who I hoped could make her feel better. Dr. Lucy entered the room and paid attention to both of us… me and Zoey. She picked up that Zoey was in pain and did not do anything to make it worse. She asked questions, collected the history and then she connected the dots.

Poor Zoey had spinal lymphoma. The diagnosis was “no prognosis”. This is the first time I’ve ever been in this situation—I didn’t expect it at all. I thought I was going to leave with a magic bullet, and Zoey would be well and happy. I can’t explain the feeling in my chest… it’s like everything dropped to the floor—or a hole got blown through me from front to back… The vet said this is a very painful condition that moves throughout the body quickly. Zoey’s pain was unrelenting, and there was nothing I could do except… well you know where this is going….

I made a few quick calls to my hubby who could miraculously understand and support me through my sobbing, and to my partners at the shelter—all best friends who are both compassionate and wise. I thought about taking her home with me for the night, but transporting her back and forth would only prolong her agony. For Zoey’s sake, it had to be sooner rather than later. David said he’d be there asap—but a half hour was too long to have her in pain. So, it was time, and Dr. Lucy helped both Zoey and me through the process of releasing Zoey from this miserable condition.

I’m always surprised when strength shows up in the midst of a shitstorm. Zoey had been given something to help her relax, and I pet her gently and talked to her and held her close. What do you say to a dying cat? Well, I sang “I love you a bushel and a peck.” Her eyes were open and she looked at me, and I cuddled her in my arms. While I was fumbling to do the next “right” thing in this situation, I told her Papa Stan who spent hours with her at the shelter said hello and wished he could be here, but he was in spirit. In the whirlwind of anxiety, sadness and fear, I thought of my Dad and told Zoey that he would be waiting for her. He loved cats—he had green eyes and freckles—and she’d recognize him. He’d play with her and be with her forever “up there.” She cuddled up closer. I let her know that my dad sings too, so she better get ready for “Five foot Two, Eyes of Blue, And oh my baby what I wouldn’t do, Has anybody seen my girl”. And yes, I sang it to her.

When it was time for the final injection, Zoey was at peace. She kept eye contact and had the most peaceful look on her face. No more sad eyes, no more tense body. She was at rest. I held to the bitter end, but it wasn’t so bitter. It was sweet and restful and right. She got more kisses and hugs and was set free. I will miss her, and she taught me more than she’ll ever know.

On the drive home, the snow seemed so other-worldly. I realized that this was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do. I also realized that my Dad is still such a strong, supportive force in life. He’s always there for me… always. I can see him with Zoey in his lap amidst the clouds. She’s purring and he’s singing to her.

Big Snow 2/15/14 Walkdoc

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Walk doc January 29, 2014

Bird Snow Fort

Bird Snow Fort

 

Pink, White and Gray

Pink, White and Gray

 

Those eyes.

Those eyes.

 

Melts my heart.

Melts my heart.

Nose in a Book: January 2014

The New Year has added fuel to my yearning to burn through some terrific books that have been waiting all too patiently for me. It has been almost two years that we’ve done away with television and cable, so there’s more time to get lost in books.

My current books in progress are quite an eclectic collection:

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling  audio book from audible.com

Moby Dick by Herman Melville, the Norton Critical edition

Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind  edited by Jocelyn K. Glei

The Last Elf by Silvana De Mari

I’m sure that all four aren’t are anyone’s college syllabus, and I love the variety and experience each is providing.

First, The Casual Vacancy is a J.K. Rowling book for grown ups that I struggled with when I had the hard copy in my hands. Nothing seemed to stick– not the characters– not the plot– not the book. I put the book down and decided to “let it go”. The plot thickens: my daughter Kate gave me a subscription to audible.com for Christmas. I hungrily grazed over the long list of possibilities and started my wish list. I put The Casual Vacancy on it because I just couldn’t believe that I couldn’t engage with that book. This was the author who kept me and half the universe mesmerized with Harry Potter. Maybe the audible format would change my perception of the book. I hadn’t used books on tape/cd’s/etc before and thought it would be a good experiment.

Well, I’m hooked. I downloaded the text, plugged in my ear buds and asked the rest of the world to leave me alone as I listen. Maybe it’s the lack of distractions or the newness of the toy, I don’t know. I’m now three fourths of the way through the book and want to see what happens next. I’m not sanctioning the novel as great literature, but it’s an enjoyable, adventure into the life of a small town with many degrees of dysfunctional characters. I listen while I knit and can manage to multi-task and do justice to both endeavors. I plan to listen to one book a month this way.

The next book is a tome that has been on my “to read” list for years: Moby Dick.  My Norton Critical Edition dates back to 1967; I was in high school from 1966-1970. The pages are yellowed, it cost only $1.95, and it contains not only the novel, but reviews, letters by Melville, analogues and sources as well as criticism. It’s a megillah and remained unread until this month when a friend of mine, Stan, mentioned that he was reading it. We volunteer together at the cat shelter and every time I saw him, he had something interesting to say about Moby Dick. He talked about the allure of the sea, the whaling industry, New Bedford, Nantucket, and crazy characters. Living so close to it all was another reason to jump in. Before I knew it, I was turning the pages and scribbling notes in the margins. Stan and I continue our discussions about the book and the narrative comes alive. I find myself reading and re-reading sentences that resonate; there are many. I also give myself permission to skim the passages that are dense and numb my skull. There’s no pressure– no quiz– just an exciting adventure at sea.  I notice patterns and think about what message might be intended, but that comes automatically to this geeky retired professor. A friend from my knitting group heard me talking about the book and said she wants to start reading it too.  It’s a movement!

The next book is Manage Your Day blah blah blah. Someone should have better edited the title, in my humble opinion. It’s another one of those books that I have a tendency to buy and then wonder why I did. The lessons are pretty straight forward: eliminate the distractions and make time for all that’s creative. Do the important stuff first, then fill in with the trivial tasks. I do like the advice to indulge in “unnecessary creation”; that’s using personal creative projects to explore new obsessions, skills or ways of working in a low-pressure environment. My photography, socializing cats, colorwork knitting, reading Moby Dick… are examples of ways to stretch beyond my comfort zone and try something different.

The last book on my January list is a treasure. My daughter Molly gave it to me for Christmas and described it as a book like the ones we read together when she was younger. The Last Elf is just that… I’m enjoying it as a novel, but also using it as a delightful vehicle to remember when we shared the Narnia series and so many other memory making books. When I see her, we’ll pour a cup of tea and gab about this for quite awhile.

I often think that there are so many books and so little time. I’m making more time to get lost in books, and it’s a fine way to start of the new year. I haven’t thought about what books I’ll tackle in February, but there’s no rush. They have a way of choosing me.

Orna-momentos

Putting up the Christmas tree is always a family event with us. We wait until the girls arrive and then “do the honors.” The ornament boxes are not those containerized egg crates from the Container Store; no, instead they’re wine boxes loaded to the brim with all kinds of treasures.

In many ways, it’s a hanging scrapbook. Every trinket has a story and memories attached. We relive them one by one. Here are a few of my favorites:

Snowman- 1972

Snowman- 1972

This snowman harkens back to our first Christmas in our own apartment. It was 1972, we lived in Brighton, and bought a tiny little tree. It looked anemic so we added wooden ornaments that we hand painted and hung along with pine cones that we found by the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.

Oldie, but Goodie

Oldie, but Goodie

This Oldie, but Goodie dates back to my childhood. I think I remember entire sets of these hand blown beauties. It’s like a little jewel, and so fragile that I’m surprised it lasted all of these years.

Glass Bells

Glass Bells

We’ve gone through several sets of these glass bells. I love them because they’re pretty to look at, they move gently, reflect the light and even make a soft sound. Small children and cats are attracted to them too– that’s why we’ve gone through several sets! They’re now placed on the top half of the tree. Bella looks, but can’t touch or swat.

Domaine Chandon cork

Domaine Chandon cork

There’s always an assortment of “found objects”, like the Domaine Chandon cork from a fabulous winery we visited years ago. There used to be a dog biscuit wrapped with a bow in honor of Major, the dog across the street, but the biscuit didn’t survive the test of time.

Kate's Mummified Marshmallow Angel

Kate’s Mummified Marshmallow Angel

And then we have artistic creations from our beloved children: Kate’s mummified marshmallow/pine cone angel as well as Molly’s hand stitched, colorwork paper mitten. Gotta love them!

Molly's Mitten

Molly’s Marvelous Color Work Mitten

There are a few “store bought” ornaments, but they usually represent some family memory. David is the man flying the airplane.

Flying Daddio

Flying Daddio

And then there’s me and my hubby. I love that the bed is small and we’re cuddled close. Enough said 🙂

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Lastly, it wouldn’t be our tree if there wasn’t something irreverent and unexpected–in cross stitch, no less!

Merry Everything, Happy Always!

Merry Everything, Happy Always!

Gifts

It’s not surprising that most of the gifts I give this season are hand knits, food or books. It’s how I roll. What does surprise me is how, although I really intend to give gifts that please my “giftees,” many of these goodies deliver delightful, unintended consequences to me.

My daughter Molly is passionate and compassionate about animals and how they should be treated. I have been making woolen socks for her for several years. This year she mentioned how she’d like to make sure the sheep that provided the wool for her socks and shawl were well treated. In my hunt to find yarn from happy sheep, I discovered Naushon Island, just off the coast of Woods Hole. That’s where happy sheep graze, live well, and make the most beautiful, sheepy smelling, wholesome yarn.  Naushon wool is a treat- yes, a gift—to knit. It smells sooooo good, feels so sturdy, and the natural color is a rich mocha that I loved.  To find enough of this yarn to make a shawl for Molly that is big enough to wrap up in while reading a good book, I made friends with the folks at Woods Hole Historical Society who sold me the last ten skeins of the season. This gift is the gift that keeps on giving. I got enough yarn to make myself a sweater—after the holidays.

Kate has been the recipient of many of my hand knit hats. I knit them all year round, and can seldom wait for a holiday to give them to her.  She wears them to work and in the office; they are  stacked on her desk like a sculpture. One particular hat consistently brings her good luck(a color work hat that was a challenge to make!)  She wears this hat at meetings and wears it with style.

No cookie cutter daughters in this family! Now that’s a real gift, Molly and Kate.

In the past I have made several ill fitting, weird sweaters for my poor husband.  He would wear them, but the look on his face always told me that he was being kind and that maybe this was not meant to be. But I still wanted to knit for him… Last winter, he needed a pair of mittens after we had already left the house. I had an extra pair of fingerless mitts in my coat pocket. He slipped them on and liked that they were lightweight, warm, and he could drive wearing them. He actually wanted them… But he is colorblind and didn’t realize that my purple mitts weren’t blue and weren’t very becoming on a physicist.  So I was thrilled to cast on a pair for him in black tweed and that led to a few hats, including a Fibonacci hat. Who knows where it will lead—but definitely not to a sweater.  This gift taught me to “let it go.” Amen!

Some gifts send important messages that I may or may not “get” at the time. When I was in high school, I knitted a pullover sweater for my boyfriend, until recently known as “Tom Ferguson I Hate Him”. He dumped me three weeks before the Senior Prom—boo hoo. Anyhow…I’m over that.  Here’s the unintended message in the sweater I made for him: the neck wanted to choke him (so did I) and his head was too big to fit through it (fat head…just saying). It’s too bad I didn’t hear the sweater speaking to me six months prior to the break up—it certainly tried to communicate.

And one of my most recent gifts is a knitting bag I made for a friend who has a sick kid and needs something to help with the stress. I made it out of organza, filled it with a skein of mink yarn (yes, it was humanly harvested) and a cute little pouch to keep knitting supplies. When I gave it to her at knit night, I confessed that I did purchase a box of salted dark chocolate caramels and put them in her bag… However… I ate them all. The best part of it all was that she laughed out loud about my scoffing the candy and giggled about it later. That’s exactly what I hoped to accomplish with my gift—but it wasn’t the bag, the yarn or the extras that made it happen.

So, as I’m finishing up the last of my Christmas gifting, I wonder what will happen with the other items I’m giving and, therefore, getting.  Is it better to give than to receive? Maybe both, Merry Christmas!

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Four Views: One Tree

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Reflection

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Wired With Light

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Up Close

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