Thursday, November 12, 2015

Stars In My Eyes

Have you had a chance to star watch during the Taurid Meteor Shower this month?   A friend and I camped out in sleeping bags for several hours in the middle of a country field last week, on the one clear night we've had lately.   We saw a few ordinary shooting stars and enjoyed them very much, but just before we gave up and packed it all in, we saw one huge blazing meteor cross the entire sky in a very large ball of fire.   It lasted several seconds while we oooo-ed and ahhhhh-d.   I felt so very lucky to see it, and it was like being a child again to be wrapped in my sleeping bag on the wet grass, up way past my bedtime.    Magical.  The next morning I slept late, but even at 9 am there was frost on the lawn.   The weather here is turning, make no mistake.

My birthday is later this month and, as seems to be my practice, I have been doing a fair amount of  introspective Life Review these past weeks.  A friend, talking about someone else, made the remark that "you can't love someone into loving you," and the phrase struck such a chord with me.   I wish someone had convinced me of that decades ago, it might have changed the course of my life, because I have quite a history of people I've tried to love to that point.   Now, at the inner edge of 66, I need to decide whether to take it to heart.  On the one hand, it seems like it is too late to try to change such a constant part of my personality.  It has always been hard for me to move on from someone you love, even when I have been given every indication that it is a one-way street.   And of course I always dread the idea of change, although I know that fear is a very bad way to make life decisions.   Especially this kind of fear, where one decides without knowing what will really happen.  After all, there is no reason why friendship could not remain even as the focus changes,  and no good reason to close doors because of the fear of losing the good things I already have.  Thing is, at any age, but especially at this age, a good friendship would be a terrible thing to lose, and my gut tells me that if I went looking for more I would lose much of what I already have.  On the other hand, this part of my life is the only (and probably last) time I can try to make those changes, and more than anything, my whole life longing has been to have a Certain Kind of relationship.  It is hard to give that dream up, even now.   And so I think myself in circles.   I'll probably do that until after my birthday, and then go on, life as usual.   I really do not like change, and I already have much to be grateful for.

I got to spend a day this week with my slightly-sick grandson.   There is nothing sweeter than a slightly-sick child, a child in no danger, a child with just a cold.   It slowed him down enough so that our energy levels were a good match, and there was quiet time to talk and catch up.   Sweet times with a child who is growing up so fast.  He will be eleven in a week, hard to imagine.   It seems like only yesterday he was calling me "gah" because he couldn't say grandma.  :)

My attempt at healthier eating continues to go well -- the exercise portion of the plan not quite as well -- but I have lost about 8 pounds so I am not complaining.   A drop in the bucket with a good chunk of chunkiness still to go, but still.  Keeping away from sugar remains a challenge, but it is no longer my most constant thought so I guess that's progress!  It is chilly and windy here today, despite my sweat pants and wool shirt -- I need to find some indoor activity to replace the outdoor walking that has been my mainstay.  

I hope you are all staying warm and having happy thoughts and moments of magic.     There is much to be thankful for in this Thanksgiving season.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Feeling Fluffy

 We all know that clutter and sloth end up making us feel moody and even anxious.  And it's a circular problem: the more we lie about and the more clutter we create, the less energy we have to fix things.   I am feeling lately like I've gotten caught in the Sloth Cycle, and that it's time to get myself in hand.  Past time, really, since the predictable side effect is that I've gained a few extra pounds.   So this weekend I started (again) trying to work on my healthier self.    I am trying to walk most days, which should be so much easier than it has been -- it is beautiful here.   Of course, the trees are a little less pretty when obnoxious teens drive by every so often shouting obscenities out the window or blaring their radios.   Shake it off.   I am increasingly ready to sell my house and move but of course the Sloth Cycle interferes with that plan, too.
I'm going to try to cut down on processed carbs, at least for a few weeks, to try to reset my growing appetite.   It is funny how the less I do, the hungrier I get!   Fortunately for me, it is an excellent time of year for veggies.   Although the lovely summer produce is gone, I love squash and sweet potatoes and root veggies.  And apples, which are plentiful in my region.  Thank goodness we made all that apple sauce!  Those healthier alternatives can easily take the place of the breads and cakes and pies that I have been reaching for with little restraint the past few months.  I'm planning to skip Halloween this year and go to a movie instead, rather than invite bags of candy into my house.   Will power is in short supply around here lately!

And I have finally started pulling out a few boxes from the basement.   Of course, now it is more of a mess than it was before.   But I've already discovered that some of the 'treasures' I was holding onto for resale have been chewed by mice, so I am trying to get my mind set to just Get Rid Of anything I am not using now.   I have bins and bins and bins of photos and honestly, I am not even sure who half the people are.   I'm hoping to scan the ones I know and ditch the rest, although it is hard for me to turn my back on all those people who only exist in boxes in my basement.   I remember when my sister went on this De-Clutter Journey several years ago, and discovered that, once through the Valley of the Shadow of Materialism, she was able to move from a big house to a one bedroom apartment with room to spare.   I don't ever expect to become that efficient, but would be very happy to cut my belongings in half!

This was a nice weekend, with lovely weather and time with a friend.   My family has been down with a virus so I've put in quite a bit of Grandma Time over the last week, and there is nothing sweeter than a only-slightly-sick child.  I know, that's awful, but it is so, so true.  

I also replaced my phone, a task that I think I put off as long as I could.   My iPhone 4 started really acting out this weekend, shutting down completely, refusing to take calls, simply unacceptable behavior.     I don't mean to be harsh, because more than one person has pointed out that it might not have developed such habits if I, for my part, had not taken it to the bottom of the Au Sable river.   No hard feelings on my part.   Anyway, I got a 5S this week and I am not sure yet whether I am happy with it -- or rather, whether I am going to be happy with the much (much) cheaper Boost service now that I've cut ties with the more pricey Verizon.   I just can't justify spending twice as much, but I am truly hoping that I haven't cut my service in half, too. 
And this evening I married a nice young (so young) couple, who seemed perfect for one another.  All of the guests were telling me that they were a match made in heaven, and they sure were sweet.    I wish them a lifetime of happiness together. 

But best of all, the weekend is not over yet for me, because my schedule changed this week because of a computer-training requirement involving new software -- so I have Monday off!   I see a movie in my future. :)

A coworker told me once that the perfect weekend would include something productive and useful, something fun, and time with someone you love.   For me, this has been a perfect weekend.  I hope yours has been as good as mine.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015


We re-processed all of the dozens of jars of grape jelly, in many (many) small batches, and we finally got jelly!   Thanks for the tip, Kim!  It was an all day job, but it is done and we can finally claim the sweet taste of success . . . and jelly.
There were still more grapes on the vine, and more apples to sauce, but we were able to go at it with a more optimistic attitude now that we've been jelling.    We picked and juiced and jellied for a couple more days and there are still plenty of grapes left behind for the critters.   The weather was much colder this weekend so the wasps and spiders kept themselves scarce.  I could barely feel my fingers by the end.   We made juice and I decided it would be fun to try a concord grape pie -- something I had never heard of.  It was delicious, truly surprisingly good, although a pain in the neck to make.   And so nice to have warm pie after a cold day outdoors.

Another thing we tried was oven-roasting them, baking clean grapes (still on the stem), tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper,  for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.   When we pulled them warm off the  stems, the seeds stayed behind and they were as sweet as the jelly.  We ate them with cheese and crackers.   Ummmm.

I saw the cutest little lady on my walk this week, sweeping up acorns on her sidewalk.   She told me to think of her as the woman who lives in the Nut House.

Also this week,  at work, I wrote and signed my quarterly 'chaplain letter,' which I send out to our hospice families every three months.    By the end of the stack of 275, I could hardly remember how to sign my own name!

This weekend was the annual Zombie 5k Fun Run in a town near me, and our search and rescue group was asked to help keep the city safe from zombie infection and Save The World.     We screened people as they entered the park to be sure no Zombies got in, even though it was clear from the program that we would fail.  It was a lot of fun.  And of course there was a bonfire with a s'mores bar and a Zombie meet and greet afterwards.

 And we had snow!  It didn't stick, but it was coming down like crazy.     Even so, we are not completely finished enjoying summer.   The wife of a friend volunteers at a local garden called Dahlia Hill, a real showcase all summer long.   Because of the weather forecast (which certainly came true!), she and the other volunteers cleared out the flowers last night and she was able to keep a lovely bouquet for herself.     Sweet memories of a wonderful summer.  And now I am looking forward to lots more fun in the seasons to come.    Tomorrow I plan to see a movie with a friend -- Bridge of Spies -- and have dinner with him before it's back to another work week.   I hope your weekend has been filled with fun.  :)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Another Beautiful Weekend

Last weekend a friend and I canned dozens of jars of applesauce.  I warmed a bowl of it after supper tonight and topped it with a scoop of ice cream.   Amazing.
This weekend we picked and processed 70 or so jars of what was supposed to be jelly.  Except that, as it turned out, it is more the consistency of ice cream topping.   Delicious, but much too thin.   We will let it set for a few more hours and then decide whether to try reprocessing it.   This is our second year of failure and I am pretty sure I know where we are messing up, and hopeful that maybe this time I've argued those points more convincingly than last time. 
I love picking grapes, and love the smell of the cooking juice.   I am not nearly so crazy about the wasps, but they seemed almost drunk from gorging themselves in ripe grapes and didn't both us even though we accidentally picked more than one of them along with the grapes.    Even after I washed the grapes and drained them in a colander, several wasps climbed up and out as I was taking grapes off the stems.    My canning buddy carried them outside, where they staggered around on the railing of the deck for awhile before flying away.
The grapes also held several tiny spiders, a few earwigs and then this big mama, a nursery spider.  I am not a fan of bugs, but all of the critters in the grapes were too mello to worry me.   And it was interesting to read that this kind of spider actually stays around to protect her young ones -- not very successfully in this case, I'm afraid.   We set her free to start another brood.
The colors are reaching their peak north of us, but the trees are still turning in my neighborhood.   I hope the season holds on for as long as possible.  
I am trying a new project this weekend, my first attempt at chalk painting.   I've read about it in several blogs and loved the idea that I could refinish something without stripping, sanding or much of any of the usual prep work.    My dining room table was water spotted and marked up with paint and markers from years of kiddie projects so I figured I had little to lose.   I bought one of those 8 ounce paint samples at a local hardware store and used that, along with the chalk powder from BB Frosch and painted away.   I've now put on my third coat of wax and tomorrow I will buff and begin to use the table.  According to all I've read, the finish should hold up to my usual life.   The final product is not perfect, I think I will do a better job at it next time, but I think it will be an improvement over the old finish and I am not ashamed to use it so I 'chalk' (ha ha) it up as a win.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Another Year Flying By

I watch the obituaries, awful as that sounds, as part of my job.    Especially now.  My part time hours have been cut even further, there are days when I am not connected to the Hospice system, and so I watch to see which patients will still need to be seen and which have passed on while I am off.    And so, one of the things I've learned in the course of this job is this:  I am too old now to ever die young.     At best I have joined the group of people of whom we say, "she was not that old."    It's a strange feeling because, as I'm sure many of you have also found, I am younger these days than I've ever been, and for the first time in my life, I feel ready to actually begin.

On an impulse recently - or more accurately, the combination of an impulse and a Groupon --  I had my DNA analyzed by    One of my (many) aunts has traced my maternal line back quite a ways, and my father's family claimed to be purely Lithuanian, so I knew there might not be many surprises, but I was hoping for a few.  No such luck.   We are more thoroughly eastern european (91%) than the eastern europeans who currently live there (82%).   I have only a smattering of other bits, with trace amounts from Finland/northwest Russia (5%), Great Britain (2%), Scandanavia (1%) and Ireland (1%).   As a child I had fantasies that I was adopted into a family that was not a good fit for me, and in that fantasy I was Irish.   Yet another fantasy bites the dust.  Sigh.

This was a fun weekend.   I saw the movie The Martian, which I really enjoyed, and went to hear Soltre, a small celtic band, fiddles and banjo and guitar and bodhran, and that was lots of fun, too.  Today I performed a wedding ceremony, a small group of the couple's closest friends were there and the atmosphere was loving and casual.   I have really gotten tired of doing weddings, but this one reminded me of how sweet a task it can be.   
I found out -- on Instagram! - that my grandson is apparently taking lessons on the french horn as well as the cello.    This grandma spins so far out of the loop during the school year when the kids and the littles are all so busy.    Thank goodness for social media, though, where I can lurk in the shadows and still have hints about what is going on in their lives!  Life is good -- if a bit chilly these days.   Not sure whether I will get back into a canoe or kayak this year like I was wishing, but all in all, no complaints!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Seeking My True North

I am getting ready to move on to some new adventure, and I use that term oh so very loosely.   When I leave my job at a local Hospice, I will be leaving some things that have become oppressive and frankly annoying to me.   Our census has shrunk by about 90%, and yet the complaining of one branch of co-workers has increased at least that much.   Meanwhile, my hours have been cut way back.   As a result, we are doing less and less to serve our clientele, through no fault of our sweet manager but with no excuse that I can see except lack of engagement.  Or burn out, which is certainly understandable given what we do and see every day.    I should be able to just shake off the attitude of the one or two on our small team, so maybe it is a sign of my own burn-out that I cannot.   I am beyond ready to leave and only staying this long because of a promise I made to another coworker, that I would stay until the end of the year.   On the other hand, I will miss the work that I did in the beginning, and rarely have the opportunity for now.    It is a humbling and amazing experience when you get to touch someone's life at this final, mysterious stage, and it has been a privilege.      I seem to have a talent for work that people consider depressing, which might not be such a good thing when you think about it, but it has been valued by the few who get to experience it.

Still, after decades of volunteer work and employment in the areas of loss and death, including AIDS, homelessness and bereavement, I am ready for something more lighthearted.   I just don't know yet what it will be.  So I am taking inventory of myself and my life and my preferences, trying to find direction.
One thing I have experienced in just these past few years is Fun.  As improbable as it sounds, I had no idea what it was and, in the beginning I would repeat silently to myself, "this is what Fun feels like."    Turns out, I like it.    I wish I had started learning about it sooner but I am glad I finally learned to laugh out loud.      Part of that is that I have a friend that I enjoy doing things with, which is both good and bad for me.   Good because I have so much Fun, so so much Fun.   But bad because we are not a couple, not a partnership, so I can't count on it and yet I haven't learned yet to have the same kind of Fun on my own.   I need to work on that.  So many things I have to work on!  I need to settle my mind and get ready for another leap of faith.    "Jump.  The Net will appear."

Friday, September 25, 2015

Still Having Fun

The weather just gets more beautiful!  My summer annuals are looking shabby so I got some potted mums to take their place.   I guess I should buy more since the bunnies have eaten my huge hostas down to the ground and there is nothing in front of my house except a few bushes.   I added 3 large potted mums today, and I hope they will look nice when they finally bloom.
I have also been working on this year's Christmas gift for the girlies in my life.   I am making braided bracelets, quite pretty and very easy to make.   I have half a dozen made, probably more than I will use, but I will make a few more anyway because I enjoy the project.   On most of them I am using magnetic clips, because girlies of a certain age have aging fingers that don't work as well as they used to.
I had supper with a friend and his daughter who was visiting from another state.   We went to one of our favorite restaurants, a middle eastern menu, and we all enjoyed it.    His lovely daughter was accompanied by her boyfriend on this trip and it was a real pleasure to meet him.  They are both the nicest "kids," bright and interesting and sweet.   And who doesn't enjoy being in the presence of young love?!  :)

And I finally made it to our local Farmer's Market again today after a too-long absence.   I have been busy almost every Market day this summer so I need to make up quickly for lost time.    I went for cut flowers but they were sold out.   Still not a wasted trip, because they had Snow apples, which were a favorite when I was a child, although we called them Snow White apples.   They are absolutely pure white inside, thus the name, and deliciously tart -- perfect with caramel dip, just one of my many fall dietary failings. 

And beautiful heirloom tomatoes, which I put into almost everything I make.   I love me some tomatoes.  :)
Summer is quickly coming to an end here.   The leaves are starting to pop with color, just one tree every here and there.   Although I hate to see the season end, the fall colors will be more beautiful every day as the weeks go by for the next month or so.    I am still hoping for that one-more canoe trip before the liveries put their boats up for the winter.  But whether I get it or not, I certainly can't complain.   It has been a fun and active summer for me.     I hope it has been good for all of you, too.