Speechlessness

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We say something leaves us speechless when we are moved, or shocked, or stunned to silence.

As a metaphor, it’s pretty powerful, though, as I’m sure some critics will say, somewhat trite.

It’s different though, then something has left one literally speechless.

I have no voice — that’s a terrifying statement to me. It call us visions of powerlessness. Trying to explain, trying to fix, trying to express — all in vain.

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Fortunately, my lack of voice is the passing effects of a chest cough. Laryngitis, nothing more. It has prodded me to raise my voice again through this blog. There are things going on that deserve comment and discussion. My friend Byron calls it Tower Time. I wake in fear, voiceless, trying to cry out against the apocalypse. My son worries about the fall of civilization, of the barbarians overrunning the gates. We talk, only half serious, about stocking up. We count our assets (water in the creek, a cool crawl space for food storage, half an acre of farmable land, room for fruit and nut trees. In the meantime we could live from my always bursting pantry, and black walnuts, wild berries and dandelions.

Is this merely delusional paranoia or are hard times upon us. We’ve just come through hard times — more than a decade of war, six years of “worst recession ever” (aka, a depression). Layoffs, health problems, strife and loneliness, afflict nearly everyone I know.

But I repeat, There are things going on that deserve comment and discussion. We need to talk to each other, raise our voices in passion and with insight, not insult. Tower Time means it is upon us now: if not the apocalypse, then the responsibility to turn our steps to a new direction, where we can avoid that pit, those broken and bitter foundations, and build a better way.

It’s a new year and a time for new hopes and new resolutions. Let us resolve to make those hopes rooted and grounded in love, to bring about stronger foundations that will not tumble from the carelessness of greed or fear. That’s a resolution worth keeping.

And so it is.woman singing

My Favorite Things

I responded to a friend’s internet challenge, to post a list 3 positive things a day. When another friend started as a result of my challenge, I committed to an additional seven.

Here’s the first batch of positive things, and I hope they brighten your day.

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Day 1:

  1. I’m grateful to my son who mowed the yard even feeling crappy and in intense humidity — it was a pleasure to drive down the street to home.
  2. I’m happy that I knit. I could give all 21 slots with a knitting related post.layout2_r1_c2
  3. I’m with Kim that cats make me smile. The world is better place because of our feline companions.

Day 2: 

  1. My garden has given us fresh tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini, as well as lots of Tomatoesonvine2basil.
  2. I am lucky enough to have a granddaughter.
  3. Evenings are getting cooler in Asheville–so much less need for AC, and more chance for open windows, bird song, and breeze.

Day 3:

  1. machine-bestI appreciate breathing…all through the night. I got a loaner C-PAP machine and sleeping is true rest again. What a joy!
  2. I woke early this morning, and one of the first thoughts was “what am I grateful for?” — I attribute that lovely waking to this challenge, which has re-focused my mind on the positive in life.
  3. I’m grateful for metaphoric and literal “off buttons.” There’s a time to walk away from drama and ugliness (as well as a time to act) and knowing when that it lifts a weight and frees the mind and heart. That’s a miraculous thing.
  4. –Oh, and a bonus 4) — I’m grateful it’s Friday after a good week at work.

Day 4:

  1. beautiful bird croppedBirds — when I step out my back door each time I leave the house, there are always birds there — in the trees and scrub, on the feeder, winging by. Bird song and that exquisite flash of upward wing never fail to make my own spirit soar. What a gift that is, through good and bad times, just a bird can make me smile.
  2. Jon Stewart is always guaranteed to make me laugh. He reminds me (in a good way) of my late husband, Dennis, who also could always make me laugh.
  3. barilla3Good Gluten-Free Pasta is no longer a contradiction in terms. There are several mainstream brands making gluten-free versions and this puts some old favorite dishes back on the menu.

Day 5:

  1. zen051Celebration (1)Friends! I could leave it at that, but especially the unexpected close friendships of adulthood. Good friends laugh and grieve with you, make meals, trade favors, secret jokes, and masses of understanding and acceptance. God Bless Good Friends.
  2. With said friends, we drank a bottle of cheap (3.99) red wine that was good!
  3. There’s a new produce stand in my neighborhood. An enterprising older man from the Islands, or even perhaps Africa (lovely lilting accent, gracious and warm manners) has taken a vacant building and desolate lot over — he’s put up a large roofed area and has tables and tables of beautiful fresh produce. I stopped for the first time yesterday and bought 4 tomatoes for $2! We talked about things for a bit and then he gifted me with a giant organic tomato and wished be a great evening.

Day 6:

  1. I love the way Facebook helps reveal social connections and make them visible in ways I never paid attention to before social media. The spread of this lovely challenge and the interesting variations it has taken fascinate me. Like an old-fashioned game of telephone, spreading the message changes the message and the messenger.telephone game (237x136)
  2. When I stop and think of it, I realized I have been much loved in my life — many of those have left the planet now, but the love doesn’t go away. It lives in me and my memories and I can continue it on by loving others. What beautiful magic that is!
  3. It’s Monday morning and I feel no dread or sorrow or anger at the prospect of going to work this morning and the rest of the week. That’s a blessing — if you’ve ever experienced those feelings in response to work week, you know. It’s also a privilege to have meaningful work in a pleasant setting with good co-workers. It’s one I pray every worker can have. When I center myself around the thought of how blessed I am to have that, I feel the glow of gratitude and joy seep through me and a smile spread across my face.

Day 7:

  1. Gorgeous George

    Gorgeous George

    Pretty much the whole internet agrees with me that kittens and cats are an endless source of fascination: more personality and energy packed in those springy bodies than can be contained, so it leaks out in extreme cuteness and apparent wisdom. When I need to laugh, a silly kitten attacking something harmless with such zeal can always do the trick. And isn’t it great that there’s no prescription cost, or anything….

  2. It’s the last few days of August and I’m not dreading September. Between world events and personal losses, the 9th month had assumed a pretty bad rep in my mind. This year, it’s pretty much just another month — I’m excited to see fall arriving while I mourn the loss of fresh tomatoes and basil. I see the sky lightening in the morning a few minutes later each day. But I don’t want to take to my bed with the covers over me! There’s a song “Wake Me When September Ends” that used to match my feeling, but now it’s just a song again. Since I loved September and its promise of autumn and new starts, I’m grateful to have it back.
  3. Sisters. I have only one official sister, who I love and adore and hope to continue laughing, playing, cooking, knitting, arguing and hugging for decades yet to come. I also have several sisters of the heart that joined my inner family over the years, and they too are a whole bouquet of graces.


With special thanks to Kim for starting me on this, I say with joy, And So It Is.

Searching for Gratitude

transf029GratefulnessSometimes it’s hard to find that grateful place. The inner “ping” that eases the constriction, lets a sigh slip out and opens the heart again.

I deal with a lot of chronic pain, and once in a while it gets to me more thoroughly than I’d like. Today was one of those. I spent much of the morning with my knee and lower leg hurting like a rotten tooth, barely able to take a step.

A visit to the doctor’s and a sonogram eased some of the fear I was feeling — no blood clot or blockage — but simply bursitis on top of the usual arthritis and tendonitis in my knee and — and don’t all those “itis” endings tell tales of dreary misery! But without the tightening of fear, there began to be a little room for easy breath. A new anti-inflammatory gave me a bit of pain relief this evening, and I am now fairly comfortably sitting at the computer, watching a Netflix show and finishing a deep purple hat..

And there it is. That whisper of gratitude. First: it’s my knee — not my hands, so knitting remains a joy;. It’s not my mind, so thinking these things is still easy and fluid; It’s not a loved one’s loss, so tomorrow holds its usual promise.   Once again, gratitude has done it’s work, and I’m smiling as I write, even laughing at myself a little, because I fell for the “con” that I am my pain.  It’s a kind of mesmerism that creeps up a bit at a time, and the weariness that daily pain brings with it leaves little vulnerable cracks in my identify as a multi-dimensional being. I am not my pain, or my fear, or even my joy.

And with the reminder of the truth, that knowing opens the flood of gratitude for the whole shebang of human embodiment. Pain or no pain — living still beats the hell out of the alternatives.

 

Blessings to all.

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Revisiting an Old Favorite

Sometimes the important things you read as a teenager or young adult make you wince when you come across them again years later.

I was (big surprise) browsing in an antique store this past weekend and came across an old favorite that didn’t disappoint me forty-five years after I first read it. In fact, I bought the inexpensive framed poster and just need to figure where to hang it. Anyway, I thought I’d share this and see how it strikes others, whether it’s an old friend or a new:

Desideratagreen road

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
woman singingBe yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

brigitTherefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

As always,

Blessings to All

Let’s catch up a bit…

  • I finished school this week!
  • I have a new job (well, still new-ish) that I really enjoy
  • The cats have grown like mad
  • They are proficient and sneaky yarn-thieves.
  • I’m selling vintage glass, some jewelry and my knitting at the Downtown Market in Asheville. Also on E-bay and Etsy.
  • Christmas is just around the bend and I’m almost there too, these days.
  • Life is good.
  • I’ve missed blogging and plan to resume.

Blessings to all.

Getting Back on Your Feet


budget_storyThis may be the hardest part of a financial crisis. It’s officially over – In my case, I got a new job: I start next week and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’m also, frankly, looking forward to getting a real paycheck again!

Unemployment saved me, certainly, and I am most appreciative of the safety net it provided. It would have been an awfully long way down without those benefits. I was fortunate, too, in that I did really want to go to school, and was able to access a federal program called the Worker Initiative Act. This paid my modest tuition and less modest books at the community college, and allowed me to collect unemployment while I was “retraining” for a new career.

I’m just past the midpoint of the last full semester. One more course this summer and I’ll have the AAS in Business Administration. None of those things would have been able to happen without a robust network of assistance, options, and community and personal resources.

I got to breath, grieve, regroup, focus on the future, and keep my house and car… by the skin of my teeth, but I managed.

My new employer is willing to work with me some scheduling accommodations so I can finish in early May – saving me from that tough choice of finishing school or grabbing hold of an opportunity. I’m not being forced into that unpalatable set of choices.

Reality Check

So, with all this good news I’m relaying, why do I say this is the hard part?  Well, the crisis is over, and that means a whole bunch of assumptions and beliefs we hold about how things are supposed to be get triggered – crisis over? Cable TV back on? Paycheck coming? Eating out more often? Work wardrobe needs reburbishing? Ooohh, new clothes and, wait for it, new shoes…..aaahhhh.shoes

But the difficult reality is that there is no money to these things for a while. Breaking even will be triumph enough for the first few months. So much has gone unattended. Things have been back-burnered, let slide, pushed down the line…. whatever your favorite cliché. To not leap into fresh disaster (another food metaphor: from the frying pan into the fire) takes a very simple task: Planning….

Okay, I take it back, it takes a very complex task: Planning…..

I really is a little of both. Here’s what I want: I want everything that’s been on my wish list for the past 22 months. I want several pairs of new shoes, I need a tune up and new tires for the car, I want home repairs to the floors and gutters, and heavy yard clean-up, and a better television (you know, for with that new cable service. I need to get to the dentist and want to tune up my sewing machine.   I want to rebuild my tattered IRA account start the climb back up from crisis to stability.

This is a lot of expectation to lay on a simple little paycheck. Will this suddenly turn me into a master planner, able to exert unnatural discipline in the face of temptation? I’ll craft the perfect, magical budget that will simply follow itself, that’s how perfect it will be.

Now, back to our reality check:  I didn’t win the lottery, I got hired by a lovely local nonprofit (I won’t mention them by name since I don’t yet know their social media policies).

Please allow me to proclaim again, in all seriousness, I am extremely fortunate. I will enjoy the job I’ve gotten, my skills and talents will be appreciated, I’ll have the magic phrase: paid medical benefits. I will clearly be better off within a few weeks of my start date.

But then what?

I need – more than all those other wants and needs spurting out above here – I need to get a plan and prioritize what I’m going to do.

A Whole New Kind of Pyramid Scheme

pyramid_schemeHere’s where Financial Literacy 101 helps. Begin at the biggies – you know, rent or mortgage, utilities, car payment, regular medical expenses, insurance and so forth. Write down what the cost is each month for the items you know, put a guess in the spots where you don’t know and we’ll return to them later. Get a broad idea of how much it costs to live each month. We’re looking for the basic nut – the amount you must have to stay safe and warm and dry. These items all stay pretty much the same each month, so the financial pyramid now has its base.  The next level is the regular expenses that aren’t the same amount all the time – food, gas, usage-based utilities, etc. These make up the middle chunk of the pyramid. The amounts vary, but they happen each week or month and you can, with a little review of your spending, develop a pretty keen sense of how much these represent each month. NOTE: this is fertile ground for trimming expenses down the line.

Finally, the top of the pyramid. This is the chunk that breaks off and slams you periodically. These expenses represent the apparently random ones that are actually startlingly predictable, but on a longer curve than monthly. Over the course of a year, these expenses are bound to occur. The amount, timing, and particulars may change, but they happen. Imagine driving a car that never needs repair and maintenance? If there were such a thing, we’d all be riding in one.

Here’s one of the big secrets of budget planning: everything we own, everything tangible, is subject to breaking down, wearing out, or becoming obsolete (just think rotary phone if you doubt me). So we’re going to always be in the midst of fixing or replacing one thing or another. Holidays and birthdays roll around with boring predictability (so why do they always take us by surprise?) The question is often pay now or pay later. Regular maintenance reduces long-term repair costs. Setting aside money in advance each month towards these costs reduces stress, credit card interest, late fees, and insanity.

Not a Quick Fix

It can easily take a year of building reserves for these irregular and periodic expenses before you can draw against your own savings to meet an “unexpected” expense. Just keep socking the allotment you’ve determined aside, again and again, until it works. There’s a great moment of pride and relief the first time your car breaks down and it’s like, “so what, big deal. I’ve got the money…. I just need a ride to work while it’s in the shop.”

Starting Now

I haven’t even started work yet. I won’t have a paycheck for several more weeks. I have new expenses to consider and old ones to whittle away at. But all a person can do it begin. Gather the information starting now. Write down the expenses, keep the receipts, think before you buy – oh, and never, never shop when you’re hungry.

 

Commitment

What a loaded word!

Do I need to commit? Or be committed? Or is it a singular thing,once accomplished and then done.

I am using this space today to announce my re-commitment to myself: my health, my energy, creativity, ability to move, and change and keep my being whole and happy.

I am recommitting to the image of myself at 19, full of joi de vivre, energetic and at ease.

Let’s see what happens next.

Gee, I feel like heading to Ft. Lauderdale… Oh wait, it’s only Spring Break!!!!!

I’m done. Finished. On time. Every single assignment. All week ahead, with nothing but time to knit, read books, knit, get some laundry done, knit, meet friends for a drink, knit.

……After this week, we come back for only another month (something a little screwy with that schedule, isn’t there?). Then it’s time to start the planning and deciding and juggling schedules, funding, priorities for another semester.

Actually, I love it all. Even the deadline pressures, the moments of “what the heck does that professor want!” or “that can’t be right!”

I’m going to recommend going back to college in your later years as a comical, self-deprecating Fountain of Youth. You’re buoyant with excitement, with the newness of the challenges, the changing semesters, and humbled by the energy of the young, the certitude, and the sweet, sweet callowness.

I Blinked….

Wow! It’s November 1st and I’m wondering where the last couple of months have gone.

I’ve been in school, getting that rhythm back after 20 or more years. I’ve been struggling to learn to live on less while still feeding my raging yarn and knitting obsession.

I’ve given up Farmville but am firmly in the grasp of a Zuma Blitz blitz.

I’m knitting hats for the local folks from Occupy Wall Street — Occupy Asheville is a pretty mobile group and it’s getting cold out there (it was 28 degrees in Asheville this morning, which is ridiculous for the south on November 1st).

What else….

I fell — a little over a week ago, and slammed my knee HARD. The bruising and swelling is finally going down. It was a reminder of how bad my walking ability was a year ago, and how far I’ve come back to better health.

Swimming!! I joined the gym and starting doing mild water workouts. I’m really enjoying it, though I no longer can do the hot tub because of leg circulation impairment. Still, a hot shower gets rid of most of the sore muscles. The water is a blessing for me: I feel weightless and graceful, and can float and bob effortlessly. I do a lot of treading water and just paddling around. Keep moving is my main rule.

I keep moving in other ways too. The deep wounds of losing my job — being laid off with no warning at all — still resonate in me. I am moving forward into this new life, but I am still troubled with some fairly obsessive thinking about the old job and what happened. Since I know there answers that will change anything, I turn my thoughts as soon as I can. In the meantime, I try to hold them lightly… and let them drift away on the currents of the water as I swim… so I just keep swimming.

School Days, School Daze.

This week school starts, like it does each late summer, across this vast country and many others: in spite of unrest in parts of Europe, Africa, the MidEast, South East Asia, and Mexico — to mention a few hot-spots. While Nero fiddled and Rome burned, I bet there were kids sharpening their pencils right ’til the last moment.

Office supplies line the shelves of Walmart, Dollar Stores, and office supply warehouses, a bit like the specialized gear to handout to our troops. The trappings for the mission must be just right; the pencil-case Ms. B requires; the 3-ring graph paper Mr. X insists upon. Oh the glories of new school supplies!

I’m buying my books tomorrow.  I have a list and comfy shoes to brave the line. I also have a voucher, which is part that intimidates me a little.  Will it work? or will I be embarrassed, having to scramble around, getting in touch with Job Link, trying to stay cooled out. At least I’ll have some leeway before my first class on Wednesday.

Can you tell I’m excited? I keep hearing the bit from You’ve Got Mail, When Tom Hanks writes to Meg Ryan that he’d like to “buy her a bouquet of sharpened pencils.” Sigh.

A new school year: still full of promise and butterflies in the stomach; the sense of purpose and the dread of boredom or bewilderment. A truly human experience. I can’t wait.