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Lafayette, Colorado.

You know it’s not like me to be too Pollyanna-esque, but I am trying to maintain a sense of positivity as we seem to be diving back into the great white hole that is winter. It reminds me of the Great Blue Hole in Belize, where divers become so mesmerized that they simply keep going down and never return. I have never been there, but this is what it looks like, if you’re not familiar with it:

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Great Blue Hole, Belize (image credit: Atlas Obscura)

Quite a different view than from our snow-covered porches, eh?

Being a beach baby, I thought diving would be a wonderful experience for me. My first snorkeling experience was so magical, once I got the hang of it, that diving seemed to be the next logical step. Alas, it was not to be. I took the initial certification class, but unlike any of my classmates, needed an extra lesson before my instructor was comfortable signing off on me. I couldn’t get over the inability to breathe, and the pressure on my ears, and the growing sense of panic as I went deeper. And so, that dream was wrapped in a lacy lavender sea fan, and tucked away safely for the next lifetime. Even snorkeling now is a challenge, due to ill-fitting masks and random hairs and disorientation. But I have my exquisite memory of my first snorkel, playing alone with two Hawksbill turtles for twenty minutes. And accidentally brushing my hand against some fire coral, but that’s a tale for another time. It was after the diving lessons and a talk with my instructor that I realized I was a beach baby, not a water baby. That those two things were different, and that I need to be BY the water, and IN the water, but not UNDER the water. A dream trip to the Galapagos is still on the Bucket List, and MKL and I will brush up on our snorkeling and snorkel there like billy-o.

But back to the cold reality of a Colorado winter. Poor MKL has the flu and has had expensive car troubles since we tried to escape the -19 weather back in November. It seems to have tailed him like some sort of ninja, springing to beat him about the head and wallet with numchuks when he least expects it. And now he is terribly blue. Having just recovered from my own bug, and being swamped at work, I have not been able to bring him supplies (supplies being Sauza Tequila, which is the cure of all that ails one, Vicks VapoRub, chicken soup, and tender nursing.) I keep telling him that this too shall pass, and it will. It always does. The only certainty in life is change.

While I dislike winter as much as he does, and we are tempted to rethink our strategy for where we live after Kelsea gets out of college, I am trying to stay positive. Hence, today’s unicorn snow. Can you see the sparkles in the photo taken along the fence? It glittered as it was falling in the cold sun, and looked like some celestial unicorns were shaking off the last vestiges of a fine slumber. And the birds had not given up hope and were singing, even in the 8 degree morning. What choice does one have but to try to find encouragement in such signs of spring?

However, Colorado has only put a dent in its winter inferiority complex and will be providing us with more snow this week. Let’s see how far into the white hole I can dive without running out of oxygen.

Quote of the day: (As an aside, this was a favorite of my Mother’s and she had it in front of the bathroom mirror throughout her battle with cancer. It sits on my dresser today. I carefully brought it all the way home from North Carolina and dropped it getting out of the car and broke the frame. I’ve left it so, as there seemed to be some kind of symbolism in that occurrence.)

““In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” — Albert Camus

Daily gratitudes:
Getting the occasional ride to work with Elisa
Louis Bayard’s weekly recap of Downton Abbey in the NYT that makes me laugh out loud
Head bonks with Mr. Man
Planning surprises
My beloved

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Buena Vista, Colorado.

This was last weekend up at Cottonwood Hot Springs, where MKL and I spent a blissful three nights, with a lovely mix of sun, stars, and snow.

Here, we’ve had the hype of a Snowpocalypse, with everyone rushing to the grocery store, cleaning the shelves out of bread and milk, and creating checkout lines from the front of the store to the back. I suspect Colorado is having an inferiority complex because of all the snow in Boston and surrounding areas, so we are talking up this weekend’s storm as if it were the first one we’ve ever had. As it is, it’s snowing, yes, a good respectable snow, but nothing fancy. “They” say that we’re getting three storms from three different directions in the course of the next 24 hours, but I have my doubts.

I’ve been so quiet because I’ve been working too much (and had zero connectivity during our three nights at Cottonwood Hot Springs). I realize that this is a pattern that has been in place since I first started working. Looking through my recently unearthed high school yearbook, I saw that several of my classmates said something along the lines of “Don’t work too hard!” It was the first time I had realized that I had maintained this kind of pace for almost 40 years, with only a few exceptions: when I took a year off when my baby girl was two, and when I got down to a half-time job for about seven months in 2010, as I was thinking my life was going to take on a certain shape. Fortunately, it took on a different shape than I had expected, but I picked up the work pace just as I had in the past. It makes me wonder why.

With my income(s), I am fortunate enough to be able to take vacations, have a home, pay my alimony/child support, buy books and groceries, go out to lunch with MKL most days, and (hopefully in the extreme) send my daughter to college so she doesn’t come out with student loans. I do not have an extravagant life, but it is comfy. Cutting back on my work would make it less comfy, and would make it more likely that Kelsea starts her adult life in debt.  But I don’t think those are the reasons I work too much. even though I don’t have an answer for why I do. I think it’s important that I explore this element of who I am. At least before I work myself to death.

And on that cheery note, please be advised that today, instead of working, I am writing this post, watching the snow fall, and drinking caramel cocoa as a special treat.

Stay warm, all.

Quote of the Day: “I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” —  Lewis Carroll

Daily gratitudes:
A carb day
Beaches
Lithium water
Taking care of Kelsea
The Birdcage

(As an aside, I started watching “Patch Adams” this morning, which began with Robin Williams committing himself to a mental hospital because he was suicidal. That was hard enough, but then he became roommates with Philip Seymour Hoffman, and I was done. It was too hard to watch. Just felt the need to share that.)

 

 

 

As a woman of a certain age, with two sedentary jobs, I’m not surprised that I feel the need to be in better shape – and lose a few pounds. It’s a thing for me, not for MKL, who loves me just the way I am – which is probably a lot of the reason why I feel better about losing those few pounds – because they matter to me, and he’s not judging me. Because he’s awesome.

I am a stress-eater, not a hunger eater. That started during my Mother’s final days, when I would realize I hadn’t eaten and go in the kitchen in the dark and eat half a pie. And while my stress level is nothing like it was at that time, it’s still pretty high. And I still have that bored-eating, stress-eating thing.

Exercise has, does, and will help, but time is my most precious commodity these days.

We can talk about fitness later, but the good news is that I have lost a few pounds, and will continue to lose more. How did I do it, you ask?

It’s the mouse in the pantry.

Whereas, in the pre-mouse days, I would wander into the pantry and scan the shelves, finding something to nibble on, if I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, or I hadn’t had a proper dinner, or the timing of eating was weird. I’d inevitably eat something not healthy, and eat too much of it.  Now, in the post-mouse-olyptic era, I won’t even go into the pantry without making a lot of noise, and cringing, in case he (or one of his clones) skitters within my line of sight. And furthermore, because the first two consumed almost $200 worth of pantry staples, what’s left (or replaced) in the pantry is now in those big, lidded, storage bins.

I don’t want to move the bins, because he might skitter out from behind one. Which means I don’t open the bins. Which means I don’t nibble in the pantry. He does that now.

I also recognized that most of the stuff in the pantry is carbs, and when I want to lose weight, I quit eating carbs. HE still eats carbs – I’m surprised the two I’ve removed so far haven’t weighed 10 pounds each. Perhaps skittering is exercise for him, and it helps him stay slim. So now, I’m eating lots of good healthy proteins, not much processed food, nothing sweet, and I’m losing weight bit by bit. I’m sure it lights a fire under my internal calorie Bunsen burner when I have to approach the pantry (which is also the laundry room) because my blood pressure shoots up like a fountain.

So that’s my story in a nutshell – oh, wait, the mouse has eaten all the nuts. Never mind. My final words of wisdom: if you want to lose weight and you have musophobia (yes, that’s the real term for it), just put a mouse in your pantry. Trust me. Don’t trust the mouse.

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Grand Lake, Colorado. (And by the way, Mr. Man finds mousing beneath him.)

Quote of the Day: “If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.” —  Walt Disney Company

Daily Gratitudes:
Early treatment for my conjunctivitis
Catfish
Hawks in flight
Metaphorical juggling
MKL

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Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.

Quote of the day: “What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.”  — Joseph Addison

Daily gratitudes:
Looking at the holiday lights with K and J
That Downton Abbey starts so soon!
Three bouquets of baby’s breath on my kitchen table
Soft flannel nightgowns for night’s when MKL is not here to snuggle
Sore muscles from exercising

Daily words:
It is about to get very cold, but it has been a lovely holiday. The Christmas spirit only caught up with me on Christmas Eve, and was found in the delight of MKL in his gifts, and then furthered by laughter with my ex and his family and my daughter on Christmas morning, and then laughter with MKL and his family in the afternoon. And a snowy drive home, a Christmas snow. I have been doing things here and there since, and head back to work tomorrow. Oh, and I got the first bill from the hospital for my little visit to the ER. The initial bill was over $10,000. (I know it’s tacky to discuss money, but seriously???) I’m glad I have insurance, but between car insurance for myself and my 18-year old, flood insurance for my house, and doctor bills, it will be a tight January. If you see a woman bundled in rags selling matches on the corner of the dormant fountain at Union Station, stop and say hi.

To start this tale, I should tell you I’ve been sick. But sick in a balanced way. A kidney stone on the left and an ovarian cyst on the right. That’s me, always balanced. Pain on both sides. A post-bath collapse as I tried to feed the cat. A trip to the ER on a busy Friday night. Pills to kill the pain, pills to make me relax, pills to help me sleep. As many pills as a 92-year old woman. Enough of that. Now, I’m just going to get better, since medicine doesn’t seem to be doing the trick.

But perhaps cat treats will help.

The night after all the hoopla of pain, after my hero MKL had gone home, I crawled into bed and felt something hard. Upon further drugged investigation, I discovered a single cat treat – Purina Whisker Lickins, to be exact. I didn’t really think anything of it. I wasn’t really thinking anything about anything. And I slept. I think that was Sunday. I spent Monday on the couch with pain pills and a heating pad and my computer. When I got in bed on Monday night, I noticed that there was a lot of …. debris in the bed. Like crumbs. I often produce sand in my sleep (yes, it’s a thing), so I wasn’t really that concerned. I figured Mr. Man had tracked something in, since I hadn’t made the bed that morning.

Tuesday was another at-home-drugged-on-the-couch day, though this time I did make the bed before moving to the couch. When it was time to shift back to the bed, I again found the debris, and after sweeping it out and crawling in, I discovered another cat treat. I was puzzled, but still not too aware of my surroundings to be curious.

Let me say that Mr. Man does like to be in the bed, but he has consistently crawled between two of the comforters – never between the sheets. When I look everywhere for him and can’t find him, I know to look for a lump on the bed, and if I pet it and it’s warm, I trust that it’s Mr. Man. But he has not left my side since I got back from the ER.

So now we come to Wednesday. Another day at home. The bed made, and again kibble debris on Wednesday night. When I awoke this morning, I went to make the bed, and found three cat treats positioned neatly in a triangular shape on MKL’s side of the bed, near the pillow. And now I’m stumped.

I wondered if Mr. Man was somehow getting cat treats from the bag on the Boat Anchor and bringing them into the bed, but have ruled out that theory because:

1. He can’t reach the bags on the Boat Anchor

2. He doesn’t have opposable thumbs to open the bags, even if he could reach them

3. When he gets a treat, he wolfs it down completely as one watches.

He’s not one to squirrel things away.

Then I thought perhaps, horror of horrors, a mouse had made some kind of nest in the bed and was nibbling breakfast and saving lunch for later. So I have stripped the bed completely, and found no sign of rodent. If I had, I’d have had to burn the house down.

My next theory, which I have not ruled out, though no doubt most of you will, is that the house spirits are leaving treats for Mr. Man, as a way to help me out since I’ve been sick, making sure he’s taken care of. It’s possible.

My final theory is that I’m doing this. The sleeping pills I’m taking (and have been taking for a month or so) are ones that do not make people inclined to sleep-eat, sleep-drive, or sleep-murder (my doctor and I discussed this), but it does happen, and back in my college days, I had a tendency to sleepwalk. Is it possible that I am getting up at night and bringing Mr. Man cat treats? And further, was the unexplained extremely strange taste in my mouth of late evidence that I have been eating the cat treats? And all this in my sleep?

This would make me just about the best cat mom ever, and would assure future purchases of Listerine by the case if I ever want MKL to kiss me again.

So tonight, I have washed all the sheets and comforters. We’re starting fresh. I have woven a complex maze of my work badge lanyard around all the cat treats. I am about to drug my pain-ridden self and go to bed. If the treats are disturbed in the morning and there’s kibble in the bed, I’ll have my answer.

If not, perhaps I’ll fall back on my Mother’s explanation of “A man came in and did it.” (Kelsea uses that phrase now.)

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My Mother died this night eight years ago, and I miss her beyond words. (Maybe she’s been feeding Mr. Man.)

Winter, particularly these two weeks, are very difficult for me. It seems especially hard this year. I am heavier than I have been. My depression is thick. My back hurts again. I am having a hard time remembering to be grateful for the wonderful things I have and that I’ve recently had an amazing trip to somewhere lovely and warm. And that in itself makes me sad.

When I trudged up the stairs from the bus station yesterday, as most I do most days, I came into Union Station (a story in itself). There are two remaining original benches in the new version of this place where I used to find such solace. On bad days, like yesterday, I try to lower my stress levels for a minute by sitting on one of these benches and just soaking in the spirits that still remain from thousands of travelers who passed through this building for over 100 years – including my own grandfather.

As I watched the light flooding through the high, round, window, a Cat Stevens song came on over the piped-in music. I think it was “Morning Has Broken”. I remember hearing that song when I was in the sunny front window of my first restaurant at 17. At that time, I knew where I wanted to go to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew where I wanted to go. I was a little slip of a thing, a dancer. I was looking forward to my future, even though I couldn’t see what it was

There was a line in “Out of Africa”, one of my favorite movies, that says, “Perhaps God made the world round so we could not see too far down the road.”

I believe that.

I never thought I would be living in Denver, would have been here for over 30 years. That wasn’t in the plan when I stood in that sunny front window that afternoon. I wonder when I lost track of the plan? I wonder if I ever had a plan? MKL and I were talking about this the other day – how I have a hard time with creating a plan and sticking to it, especially when I have more than one thing to focus on. Together, he and I are building a plan, and that feels good. I never thought I’d be divorced, much less re-marrying. All of that makes me look forward to my future.

I watch my daughter planning her future – I think she’s better at it than I was, but then she’s more down-to-earth than I was. But I wonder, in twenty years, will she look back on being just 18, and having all these plans and dreams, and have achieved them? Or will she be like me, looking back and wondering, “What happened?”. If that’s the case, I hope she finds herself happy with where she is.

There’s that other saying that I love (credited to many) that “Life’s what happens when you’re making other plans.”

I believe that too.

So what’s the point of this ramble? I suppose it’s that when we are younger we cannot see our future, no matter how much we think we can or how optimistic we are. It’s great that we have that vision, but it’s a real challenge to make the vision a reality. I didn’t really understand that at 17. I do now. So that’s part of the point.

And the other part is that I am a gloomy otter and the eighth anniversary of my Mother’s death is next week.

I’ll find my light again. I promise.

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Little Cayman.

It is a night for positive prayers and intentions:

That people and animals less fortunate than I will find a warm and caring place to survive the projected cold and our current -7 degree night

That my sweet friend at work’s family finds strength and peace in their time of approaching loss

The MKL and I can successfully accomplish our tropical sabbatical to fend off winter for just one week longer

That this cold snap is gone before we return

That Mr. Man is well looked after by his caretakers in my absence (it’s his birthday on Friday)

That I can accomplish the long list of to-dos before departure time

That my physical not-rightness improves and is healed by rest and rum

I have always found my prayers more powerful when I turn my eyes to the sky and speak to the Great Spirit as a friend. This church in the Bahamas inspired me to do that. It was lovely inside and out, and a visiting orb accompanied me during my solitary explorations there.

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Georgetown, Great Exuma, Bahamas.

Quote of the day: “Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur? Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention. If you don’t have this, all your pleas and desires are boneless, floppy, inert; they swirl at your feet in a cold fog and never lift.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

Daily gratitudes:
Straight roads and green lights
Loving my daughter
Feeling blessed by my relationship with my parents (and missing them daily)
A warm nightgown and bedsocks
The kindness of strangers, experienced twice today

Why a random picture of a duck? Why not? He participated in one of my senior picture shoots with Kelsea. And he has an awesome Mohawk.’

Today would have been my father’s 93rd birthday. I miss him.

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Lyons, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” — Hermann Hesse

Daily gratitudes:
A beautiful day
Working on the book again
A good visit with my darling daughter
Having the freedom to vote
New tires on the truck

The Cat

He sits
close enough to my head
on the Red Couch
to be within reach
and to lick
the salt of my tears
off my hand
with his sandpaper tongue.

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Quote of the Day: “Dignity: The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. ” — Shannon L. Alder

Daily gratitudes:
Tomatoes ripening on the vine (not mine this year)
The other house in my neighborhood with a metal winged pig
MKL
Kelsea’s happiness
Horseradish cheddar cheese toast for dinner
The return of Peyton Manning

This year, we have icicles on apple blossoms. I feel like that myself sometimes – a bloom encased in frost. I have been poked and prodded and scoped and smushed this week, all for the routine testing to ensure that I am not following in my Mother’s cancer-prone footsteps. And all appears to be well. Just one more test result to go. It is nice to be emerging from this long winter, and I feel changes coming. I am trying to get a grip on whether I want some things to change, and am making steps in some new directions as a writer. I am looking forward to consolidating houses with MKL, although that is an amazingly daunting process. And so looking forward to my sweet cousin coming to visit next month. The house will never have been cleaner. I’m actually enjoying spring cleaning, and have dug a garden bed. There’s a little azalea plant, and some johnny jump-ups, daisies, and globe basil in the sunroom. And my poinsettia seems to have survived repotting – it’s over eight years old now. My boss gave it to me when my Mother died, just before Christmas in 2005.

This seems to be all random stream of consciousness, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s the snowmelt of my mind.

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Louisville, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” — William Shakespeare

Daily gratitudes:
Cute babies
My bed
Ginger ale
Surprise flame roses from MKL
Opportunities

 

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