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Once upon a time, a little girl lived with her brother, her mother, and her father in a happy brick house in a smallish sort of town. It never got too terribly cold in this smallish sort of town, but winter still did come, as winter does to every town, not matter how big or small.

The little girl’s father loved to walk. And the little girl loved her father very much. He worked a lot, and most days, no matter how hot or cold or wet or dry, her father would walk to work. He would make his way down the cement sidewalks from the happy brick house, around the dangerous yucca plant by the mailbox on the corner next to the old infirmary, and between the tall pillars in the stone wall that surrounded the university campus. Then he would walk briskly past the acres of green grass and majestic buildings with their white marble columns and tall casement windows, down the little hill, and beneath the dark underpass, where the trains ran clickity-clackity above his head. He kept going still, for miles, past the tangled thicket of woods, past tall, fragrant pine trees, and past wide meadows, until he reached his work. It seemed to the little girl that is was a very long way to walk, but she knew that walking made her father happy.

The little girl and her father used to take walks together on the weekends. She loved their walks, when it was just the two of them, and he would hold her small cold hand in his big warm one, and they would talk about everything. They walked in the spring, when she would see the leaves starting to emerge from their slumbers. They walked in the summer, when she would take her shoes off and feel the soft grass beneath her feet. They walked in the fall, when she would kick through ankle-deep piles of crunchy brown leaves. They walked in winter, when her mother would wrap her feet in plastic bags to keep them warm inside her tall red boots.

One day, the whole family decided to walk together. To decorate the happy brick house for Christmas, they were going to gather branches in the tangled thicket of woods that her father passed each day on his way to work. The little girl wasn’t very happy about taking this long walk, because it was very long, and that day it was VERY cold, so cold that there was even some snow on the ground. Her mother dressed her warmly, in her little red coat, and her white hat with the pom on the top and the black and orange pattern around it, with its matching mittens. The little girl loved her hat and mittens. She thought they were the prettiest things she’d ever seen (after the Easter bonnet and parasol purse her grandmother had given her), and since she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold her father’s hand the whole way (because her brother was there), she was happy to have them to help keep her warm. But she was still grumpy about the walk.

They walked and walked and the little girl was so cold, and exceedingly grumpy because no one would carry her. After what seemed like weeks, they reached the tangled thicket. The whole family tromped across the snow to enter the woods, and began to collect branches and boughs and sprigs in bags to adorn the house. The little girl’s mittens kept getting stuck on the branches, so she took them off and tucked them in her coat pocket. It got colder and colder, and then dusk started to settle into the shadows of the trees and the family started for home. But when they had left the thicket, and the little girl went to put her mittens on…. one of them was gone. She began to cry. She begged her parents to go back and look for it, but to no avail. They promised her a new pair of mittens, but she was inconsolable. She knew that mitten would be cold and lost and lonely and would never know why it had been abandoned. She wept as if her heart would break, and would not be comforted. Not even when her Mother told her that it had probably become a nest to keep some baby animal warm.

Years passed, and the little girl grew and grew, as all little girls will, until she was a young woman. She had never forgotten her lost mitten, and, as a rational person, she found this odd. She knew that she had lost many things over the years. Why had the loss of one small mitten been so profound?

At 17, she found herself walking back to that same thicket, which was much less dense and tangled than it had been so many years ago, to look for the mitten. She knew it was beyond fanciful, but she felt she could not leave the now not-quite-so-smallish town without looking for it one last time.

Of course, she didn’t find the mitten.

More years passed, and the woman, who was not quite so young anymore, had moved thousands of miles away from the town, that was now an actually-pretty-big-town. She herself had a little girl, and the little girl, probably because she was so close to the ground, had a wonderful talent for finding small and beautiful things whenever they went anywhere. She would find coins and marbles and jewelry and all sorts of treasures.

She made the woman remember the mitten.

One day, when the dog ate one of her little girl’s favorite little winter gloves (which were black with bright orange and red flames) and she could not be consoled, the woman went to shop after shop until she found another pair that was exactly the same. She knew just how her little girl felt.

Even more years passed, as years do, and the woman’s little girl became a young woman herself, so the woman went to work in the big city. Because of her daughter, the woman still kept an eye out for treasures that others had lost, and whenever she found something, like a hat, or a nice pen, or a handkerchief, she would put it somewhere up off the ground, near the place she found it, in case the person who lost it came back looking for it. She never knew if they did, but she hoped. She hoped that they did, and that they would be happy when they found it again.

The woman still loved to walk, just like her father had. One day, the woman was walking briskly down the street in the big city, for it was a cold winter day. She was going to meet her fiancé for lunch, and she was very happy because she had been able to stop to pet a pug named Duke, and she was wearing her favorite sparkly earrings, which were old and unique, and which swayed and played softly about her ear lobes and made her feel pretty. When she got to the restaurant, she hugged her beloved, and took off her hat and realized…. one of her lovely, sparkly earrings was gone.

The woman was sad. She knew it was silly to be sad. She had reached an age where she knew that things were just things, and that everything goes the way of all flesh, and you can’t take it with you, and numerous other platitudes that people tell themselves to make themselves feel better when they lose something they were fond of.

She knew in her heart that she was still just a little girl who had lost her mitten.

She kissed her fiancé goodbye and walked back down the busy street, back the way she had come, back to work, with her eyes on the ground, looking for a small sparkly earring among the shiny patches of ice on the sidewalk. She knew the chances of ever seeing it again were so slim that they were nearly invisible. She crossed where the buses ran, looking for a telltale sign of crushed crystal and gold. She passed the planter where she had stopped to pet Duke the Pug. And out of the corner of her eye, on the corner of the last planter in the row, someone had carefully set a sparkly dangly earring, just so, so that in case the person who had lost it came looking, they would be sure to see it, if they had faith, and if they noticed.

The woman knew that there was another kindred soul in the big city who understood about lost things.

And for the rest of the day, the woman (and the little girl inside her) smiled with her eyes and her mouth and her heart.

The End

DSCF0856

It has been a lovely birthday…iTunes card… key fob from a grand old hotel on St. Thomas… “Green Slime” movie poster… perfect cards… a “hold” on a Maine Coon senior cat at the Humane Society… great lunch (and I am anticipating a great dinner)… and some other mysteriousness in the living room as we speak, courtesy of MKL. My Kelsea wrote me the best letter ever, and left me a rose, chocolate, and two bottles of San Pellegrino in the middle of the living room floor, where I couldnt’ miss them.  It is a happy day.

20130708_190322

Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the Day: “A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.” – Robert Frost.

(My Kelsea is a diplomat. I am, perpetually and thankfully, the same age in her birthday greetings. And MKL has not once made a reference to my actual age – nor will he. I know him.)

Daily gratitudes:

Loving family and friends

Peace

Happiness

Tequila

The thoughtfulness of others

How thankful I am for my own parents for giving me life – I miss them.

Balloons make me smile.  It’s been a hard few days, but we must never forget to smile.

Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Thereare only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” –  Albert Einstein

Daily gratitudes:
MKL
A clean house (thanks to my neice)
San Pellegrino
My Pusser’s cup
Falling leaves on a beautiful day

Photo Title: My Favorite Flower

Marguerite Daisies.  I’m happy to have discovered them at a local Safeway.  Anyone out there wanting to send me flowers now knows what to send.  Just ask me for the right address!

Boulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day:  “Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.”  –  Anonymous

I must say that I was totally thrilled to find myself Freshly Pressed yesterday!  That honor happened once before about a year ago, and I was equally thrilled then.  A couple of friends have asked how such a thing could have happened.  I’m not quite sure myself, but it is truly a boost to a budding author and photographer to receive such encouraging comments, and I just want to give a quick and humble “thank you” (and an angel baby alpaca kiss) to all who took the time to visit and to leave comments.

The downside of at least this latest Freshly Pressed posting is that I’ve received about 700 of the same Spam comments that haven’t made their way into Spam.  I can’t tell exactly what tag or keyword triggered such a barrage of “Pingbacks”.  I think it might have been the word “auction”.  At any rate, if you need to find Boy Auctions, Ab Exercise Auctions, the Latest Make-up Auctions, Free Fitness Tips Auctions, Snoreplasty Auctions, Paintball Auctions, Dog Obedience Auctions, or just about anything else you can think of at Auction, I can probably give you a link. It’s tempting to check on the link for “Boy Auctions” but I think I’d probably find myself on some FBI watch list.  Needless to say, I’ve been diligently marking all of these comments as Spam, but it takes forever.   I still REALLY want your legitimate comments though!!

I guess it’s like having blog paparazzi – the unexpected price of unexpected fame (she proclaims as she steps into her waiting limo, blowing air kisses to all.)

No, actually, I’m putting on my duck pajamas and crawling into bed.  Good-night, all!

They look a lot like this, but not quite...

No, I did not buy an alpaca at auction.  However…

This weekend the Boulder County Fairgrounds hosted the Alpaca Expo.  You may remember from our trip to the Stock Show this year how enamoured Kelsea and I were with the alpacas. Well, even though Kelsea chose to go to the Mall on Saturday, I decided to fly solo to see the critters. 

Empty Corrals at the Boulder County Fairgrounds

O. M. G.

Hello!

There is (almost) nothing I have found that makes me smile more than alpacas.  While the Expo was fairly small, I spent almost three hours there, just hangin’ with my alpaca peeps.  I made friends with several of the ranchers there to exhibit and I learned a lot of little tidbits.

But mostly, I just kind of hung on the railings of the little corrals and basked in the glow of the beasts.  I don’t know what it is about them, but they have amazingly soothing energy.  They are calm, expressive, curious, and gentle.  Kind of like me, but with more hair and bigger eyes.

Adorable Alpaca

I had such a wonderful time that Kelsea and I went back on Sunday.  And as an extra-added bonus, we went to an antique auction that was being held next door.  If you check out my Life List of Things Yet To Be Done (in Lists), you will see that buying something at auction was one of my life goals.  Well, not only did I buy something at auction, I bought somethingS at auction – namely, two pocket knives, a sword, a miscellaneous box of vintage hats, purses and gloves and an amazing piece of folk art – a flying pig, who told me his name was Homer. 

Homer In Profile

Homer From Above

My auction number was 339 and I was flapping my little card along with the other pros, aka, Pierre, George, Tommy and a lady whose shop we had visited in Cheyenne last Labor Day.  Anyway, the whole thing was AWESOME!  And here’s a sampling of the things that I – wisely, in my opinion – didn’t bid on.

Miscellaneous Brasses - I would have bid on this if we'd been there when it was up

Random Auction Items

Creepy Decapitated Doll Heads

Victorian Baby Shoes

Strange Vintage Glassware

As for the alpacas, well, as I said, we learned a lot.  And here are a few things we learned that I’ll bet you probably didn’t know either:

Alpacas are very social creatures.  You can’t have just one.

Just Saying Hello From Behind the Neighboring Curtain

Alpacas only have bottom teeth until they are about three years old, at which point they are ready to breed and get their fighting teeth.

Clinton Showing Off His Alpacas Bottom Teeth

 When they get bored, they chew things.

Dishevelled Beastie Eating the Rail

Alpacas’ adorable “Hmmmm” humming noise means they are stressed.  Or hungry.  But I guess being hungry can make you feel stressed.

Her Close-Up

Like many animals, they like to groom each other, and can often find leftovers in their Alpaca buddies.

I Love Eating My Friends Fur

The Suri is the most dominant type of Alpaca, although it is the least common type outside of South America.

Nancy Showing Off Champagne the Suri Alpaca

But there are also some interesting Vicuna-Alpaca mixes (and all alpacas (and llamas) are part of the camel family).

Alpaca-Vicunas

Alpacas chew their cud in a figure-eight shape.  And when they swallow a lump of cud (what’s that called?), they immediately bring up another one.  If you watch their throats, you can see the one coming down and the other coming up.

Cud-Chewing Cutie-Pie

Alpacas sit on all four legs, but when it’s very cold, they raise their hindquarters slightly off the ground to increase their warmth.

Seated Alpaca

Alpacas are raised for their fiber and for breeding – several people were weaving and spinning at the event.

Dyed Alpaca Yarn

Spinning

 

They don’t always like being touched on the head because their mothers generally nudged them on their heads to discipline them.  They prefer being touched on the neck.

Intertwined Alpaca Necks

And when a randy male alpaca tried to mount Perfection, he was decidedly put in his place by her spitting most firmly in his face after escaping his lascivious clutches.  She is a feisty little beauty.  No one can mount Perfection.

Perfection

Most importantly of all, they give amazingly awesome angel baby kisses.  Storm the big white alpaca kissed me several times.  (No tongue.) I felt truly privileged.

Storm the Kissing Alpaca

So it was a lovely weekend.  I even tried out Zydeco dancing on Friday night.  Not well, mind you, but it was new and fun and great exercise, so I think I’ll try it again.  And since the auctions happen once a month, we’ll definitely be back.  It will be THE place to furnish the new house!

Have a happy week!

OK, it’s just a mini-one-night road trip, but still….yippee!

My last couple of mini-road trips haven’t been particularly stellar, due to my frame of mind.  But I’m optimistic for this one because, well, I’m just feeling more optimistic these days.  It was an impulse decision this morning to go away tomorrow to see something new and cool before I hit the cubicle next week.  It’s an Ice Festival up in the mountains in an old town that I’ve only driven through before.  (As you can see, I continue to try to embrace winter as fully as possible, for which I deserve a pat on the hand, or elsewhere if you choose.)  So look for a tale of adventure, woes, joys, villans, food, hidden treasure and old graves this weekend, complete with pictures.  I believe there’s internet at the reformed (wait, I mean remodeled) schoolhouse-turned-inn at which I am staying, just in case installments are necessary.

To whet your appetite, here are a couple of pictures from yesterday’s blister-inducing hike:



I have always loved travelling alone.  It is nice to remember what I have always loved.  It’s a challenge when you’ve shared so much of yourself and the things and places you love with someone you love who you don’t have anymore.  I was feeling so desperate for a while, thinking I could not return to those places, those activities without memories pulling too hard at my heart.  I am overcoming that little tiny bit by little tiny bit, and focusing on loving me, and remembering who I am at heart all by myself, remembering that the things I loved before I loved the man are still the things I love.  I just showed my love – and shared my love – by sharing them with him.  And sharing your love – and loving yourself –  is what life’s all about.

Time to sync up the iPod!  And to share with you the beautiful moonrise this evening…

On January 1, I decided to participate in WordPress’ “Post-A-Day” (see details here).  Since I post with a fair amount of regularity, I didn’t think this would be too tough.  However, as others who post frequently know, it is sometimes hard to come up with anything to write about.  I have been known to resort to random thoughts, or, if I have too much time, one of my Slightly Bizarre History posts. 

As I have been contemplating my future – both the journey and the destination – I am recognizing that I need more discipline.  The lack of discipline in my life is a detriment to me.  My recent relationship was really helpful in providing a sense of discipline, as my partner had trained himself to be quite disciplined and it worked for him. For the most part, it worked for me too.   At any rate, I feel it is good for me – it feels like something I have pushed against unnecessarily – really just to be contrary –  for my entire life, and I’d like to stop pushing against it now.

So the “Post A Day” feels like a pekingese-sized way of instilling a bit of discipline in my life.   And that, my friends, is something that makes me smile.

 

(And Boo here ALWAYS makes me smile!)

I’m a warrior on a quest for my healthier body.  I was going to call it my old body, but I’ll never be 20 again, and I don’t want to think of my body as old.

The fact is, I let myself go.  There are all kinds of excuses – deaths, grief, desk jobs, divorce, stress – you name it, it can be turned into an excuse.  I sometimes joke that I’m trying to lose the baby weight.  Kelsea is almost 14. 

In my younger days, I was a dancer – ballet and contemporary.  I took class with companies in Durham and in Boston.  I took master classes with legends in the art through the American Dance Festival.  I was appointed to the Governor’s School in North Carolina for my dancing.  Visitors used to come to class in Boston to watch me dance.  I was slim, strong, and graceful (except when walking – I was a complete klutz when it came to walking.)

Even though the dancing stopped due to broken toes and torn back muscles, I still stayed slender and active and fit.  I got a little out of shape in my mid-twenties, but got it back courtesy of free weights, 5-mile walks home from work, and Lean Cuisine.  At 30, during the dark year, I lost too much weight, thanks to marital problems and a steady diet of whiskey, fried chicken wings and country/western dancing until the wee hours.

As things got better, I (and my diet) got healthier again.  I was a little heavier than I wanted to be when I got pregnant, but when Kelsea was two, another round of hiking, supplements and protein shakes helped me shed that extra weight to get to a beautifully balanced place.  After that, physical work helped me stay fit for a few years, but when I finally got that good-paying desk job, the downhill slide started.  It was slow, gradual and kind of hard for me to notice.  But eventually, that pair of pants didn’t fit anymore (huh, they must have shrunk).  Or my shirts were too tight.  (Pat must have put them in the dryer – shrinkage again.)  I would look in the mirror and – I don’t know quite how to express this – I would see myself, my old self, wrapped in denial.  I look okay, right?  When I suck in, I can still see muscles.  That roll on my belly when I sit down, that’s just water weight.  Yes, denial. 

I got back into slightly better shape once I started going to the islands.  But nowhere near where I needed to be to be healthy.  And then, as I lost my parents and the Captain and my marriage, it just got worse and worse.  I was eating emotionally, to fill a need, to distract myself from pain, because the comfort food was there.  Excuses, excuses.  I was depressed and lonely and didn’t feel like exercising or eating right.  It was all I could do to get out of bed, to get through a day.  Thank the stars for Kelsea – she was my raison d’être, although I knew I was setting a poor example for her.

In January, I hit my peak weight.  It was ridiculous.  I went to a gym with a friend and realized I wasn’t one of those fit, hot women.  I was darn near porky – and middle-aged.  It was an awful epiphany.  My friend has watched my struggles and has encouraged me to eat healthier for years – and been frustrated with me when I don’t.  As hard as that’s been to hear, I need it.

I started the Atkins Diet right around the beginning of the year.  The weight didn’t exactly fall off, but it did start to drip off.  In the early summer, I joined the Rec Center and started using the machines a little bit.  I found a couple of fitness classes that I like.  By the time I went away in the summer, I had lost 20 pounds.  But after the EAR, where Kelsea and I were on the road so much, and struggling with eating healthy, and not exercising, I gained 8 pounds back.  It was so frustrating.  I know the whole thing isn’t a diet – it’s a lifestyle change, it’s a mental shift, but I find I still struggle with the deprivation mentality from time to time.

Now I’m back on the regular regime.  I’ve even added a few carbs back to my diet – a little milk here, a couple bites of chocolate there – to help avoid that deprivation hurdle.  I haven’t stepped on the scale in weeks.  Some diet experts say you should weigh yourself daily, others say weekly, others say never.  I find that often, if I’m feeling good about my weight loss and the scale tells me something different from what I think, I get discouraged and switch to “What’s the use?  I might as well eat” mode.

Today, I had a great class.  I’m wearing something slightly more form-fitting than a baggy gym shirt.  I used heavy weights.  I could see my neck and my collarbone more clearly – I wasn’t just looking at fat.  It felt really good.  This is what I call my “easy” class, since the instructor is not the ass-kicking hard body that I take Kickboxing, Zumba, and Ultimate Core class from the other days of the week.  But it was still tough – lots of slow, strength building movements.  I was up front, and I swear I could have been teaching it.

After class, I went to the grocery store.  I notice I shop differently now.  I almost never go down any of the inner aisles.  I buy fresh stuff – a few veggies, cheese, fish, meat, chicken – almost nothing is processed.  When I asked the fish monger how his day was going, we exchanged gushing sentiments over our awesome, amazingly marvelous moods.  Better living through chemicals and salmon.

On Saturday, I hiked over 6 miles with a friend.  When we first started hiking together, I could barely go a half a mile.  After Saturday, I was proud of myself.  Yes, when I sit down, there’s still fat there, but not what there was in January.  I haven’t stepped on the scale yet this week – maybe tomorrow – but I feel really good about how strong I’m getting, about this new body, to go along with the reborn spirit and the gentle, recovering heart.

It makes me look forward to life – and to Kickboxing class tomorrow.

It crossed my mind today that recovering from a divorce is like recovering from an accident, or perhaps more appropriately, from a death. 

I was loading groceries in the car, trying to figure out how to structure the rest of the week – picking up and dropping off Kelsea, getting Pat from the airport, dropping off the recycle, doing laundry, doing the half-time job, dropping off stuff at the used bookstore and the donation center, working on the book, submitting one article, finishing two others, starting two new ones, having a date (!), working out, planting the back garden at the cottage, heading out of town this weekend, feeding myself (no small feat).

When someone dies, you have to clean out their stuff, just as you have to clean out your own stuff when you move out from a divorce.  It’s hard, walking through memories.  When a marriage has been ill for some time, it’s just like having been a caretaker to someone you love with a long illness.  No matter what you did, you couldn’t make it survive.  And so you experience a different kind of grief, that complicated grief that I had with my mother, where it’s as if a veil is before your eyes, a thin piece of black chiffon that changes the color and texture of your world.  It’s all you can do to just get the basics done – most of the time.  I feel as if I should be doing better than I am, be farther along in the loss (or healing) process than I am.  I actually suspect that I AM farther along than I feel today – being in my old house for a week has just caused me to have something of a setback.

As with an accident, there’s a lot of healing that has to happen after a divorce.  You don’t even know where or what some of the wounds are.  Wounds that seem to have healed can reopen, and one injury can cause another part of the body – or heart, or mind – to stop functioning properly as well.  I guess it takes more time than I imagined it would.  It seems like I’m drifting around in the healing process.  Am I supposed to be more focused?  Are there certain things that I’m supposed to be working on?  Processing?  Is there a “formula”?  (I hate that term when it is applied to anything divorce-related.)  Some book I’m supposed to reading?

Or is it just that great healer of all things, time?

April 2014
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