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.

josh waiting 1

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.

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Stealth Healing

dennis flowersSometimes we know we’ve healed by what hasn’t happened.

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my husband’s death. And I didn’t grieve.

I still think about him often, still cry occasionally, miss him frequently, and love him always. But I didn’t grieve his loss yesterday. Instead, I bought flowers.

Healing is as natural as blooming and dying, and just as intense or gentle depending on the moment. Sometimes it slips upon us unawares.

Thanks Dennis, for the good and the less-good, for the happy and sad, and for the intention to love always and to strive for the best in us all.

Enjoy your flowers.

George’s Last Fishing Trip

Sleeping George

Sleeping George

Some of you may know that my beloved cat George died on Tuesday evening. He was nearly 17 years old. I know everyone who has a much loved pet thinks that particular animal is special; and I’m no different.

George had a complete and unique personality. He oozed “Georgeness” with every breath. He wasn’t the smartest cat I’ve ever shared my life with, but he was one of the most loving, good-natured, patient and happy cats ever. He had a checkered past: from an early run-in with a rooster that left him with a kinked tail; to a serious bout of ideopathic vestibular disease (his inner ear/balance stopped functioning); to a badly broken leg; to a 3-day ordeal stuck in the top of a very tall tree; to his passion for fishing, and the record 3-squirrel night a couple of years ago.  George lived large.

George riding Josh

George riding Josh

One of his nicknames was Fuz-ee… we called him the great and terrible Fuz-ee, kung fu master cat. Another cat of ours, Topaz, couldn’t resist attacking him in play and always always George won, hands down. Tope would start it, and the great and terrible Fuz-ee would end it. My husband used to say they were playing dinosaur kitties again.

Until a little while before his death, George groomed himself immaculately. This was challenge because he all that fur and very tiny tongue. His white paws were pristine, and his ruff shone in the sun. Once he got too decrepit, his paws soon turned to mud brown. We were bewildered, since he was no longer leaving the house (or so we thought).  But muddy and brown they stayed.

Gorgeous George

Gorgeous George

Many of you enjoyed the posts about George fishing in the creek across from our house. During the course of the year, George gifted us with about a dozen fish. We’d often see him ambling across the street, paws wet up to the black fur, happy as could be. When he caught something he did the usual happy song, yowling his triumph on his way from the cat window to the kitchen, where he’d plop down his prey. When it was a fish, it was often still flopping, which he adored and I hated!

I noticed a couple of years ago that he often brought in a fish after I’d shared a few bites of my fish with the cats. I guess it reminded him how much he liked seafood.

the predator☺

the predator☺

Two nights before he died, in an effort to tempt him to eat, I minced a little cooked fish for him. He actually ate two bites, then, exhausted, went to sleep. Next time Josh and I checked on him, he was gone! Josh went outside to call for him, and saw him coming home from the creek! Wet and muddy, very unsteady on his feet, and barely able to walk up the drive.   No fish, but I bet it wasn’t for lack of trying!

That was last burst of energy he had to give — and he spent it being quintessentially George. Tuesday around midnight, he died in Josh’s arms, while we sat together and kept vigil.

He’s out there somewhere, beating Tope up, catching fish like crazy, and blinking in the warm sunshine… being George.

IMG_0099And so it is.

 

Things Big and Little

Holidays often provoke a thoughtful and slightly sad reaction in me. So many milestones passed, for good or ill. So much done already in life, and still daunting mountains to climb.

I look around at friends’ lives, and I see that we’re all facing challenges — things big and little. An old friend facing a cancer diagnosis; one whose marriage may be stressed beyond redemption; another facing persistent financial lack; overwhelm at work; insecurities about work; boredom, sorrow, fear and loneliness.

Through all these saddening lenses, I also see glimmers of hope: things big and little that give grace and laughter. A bird’s song outside my window; a friend’s supportive and loving wife; petting my cat’s silky fur; listening to music while I knit; a leave fluttering down in the soft summer twilight; my pink petunias waiting to be transplanted; a leader’s decision to speak out and bring hope to thousands; a child waiting impatiently for Mr. Softee (yes, he still exists!).

Things big and little make up our lives. We pray for big joys and small sorrows, but often encounter the reverse. But joy and sorrow need not have binding qualifications. Joy can know no bounds, whether from a bird’s song or a newborn’s wail. Sorrow can be lessened through joy, no matter their relatives sizes.

This Memorial Day, I thank my son and your sons and daughters for their service. I pause, grateful and moved, at the sacrifices of so many. I remember my husband, my parents, and too many friends who have already left us, leaving holes big and small in our lives.

I wipe away a tear that blinds me with refracted sunlight, hear a bird singing in the yard, and listen for the wisdom, big and little, that relaxes my tightness, deepens my breath, and finally transmutes the fears, the sorrows, the pains into peace.

And so it is.

Got the Blues…

Christmas 2007

One lingering effect from my husband’s death a little over two years ago, is the loss of my love of the Christmas holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, my appreciation for the Christ (Truth) wherever and whenever I find it has not diminished. But the celebration of the Winter Holidays — the traditions: carols, the greens,  the tree, the baking, special holiday movies (I haven’t watched them again yet), making gifts, the sheer delight and burgeoning excitement — all gone.

This year, I’ve felt tiny tickles of it. Like a delicate poke at my side, a whispered, “joy to the world — remember?” from deep inside. I did a little Christmas shopping yesterday, and felt mild pleasure at getting things for people. I feel, what, convalescent?

Perhaps that is all it is. Christmas was a special time for our relationship — as it is for so many, of course. I miss the old Dennis, who entered into it all with enthusiasm. I miss the partner-in-crime at spending too much on Josh. The anticipation of surprise. The shared moments of understanding, of heartbreaking delight. I just miss…

I also trust. Joy always returns, Love is everpresent. Happiness is a choice – or rather, a continuing selection of choices that move us into the shining stream of it. So I’m choosing. Today we’ll get a tree (just a small one to start). Drag out the lights and ornaments.  Ooh and aah over them, select the right one for each spot. Put on the holiday music in the background. Eat the first batch of cookies while we work. I’ll lean into the tingles of joy, the moments of delight. I’ll accept the pain and aching empty of missing. I’ll choose to celebrate, not to mourn. And it will get better and better and better.

Happy Holidays to you … may you have joy and peace in whatever ways you celebrate at this ending of the year

Namaste,

L

Closure – finally!

Twenty-five months to the day after his death, Dennis’ estate is finally closed.

He died with $1154 in assets and it cost $1159 to take care of his cremation and probate costs. Two creditors wouldn’t release their claims inspite of a letter from me as administrator letting them know the estate was insolvent. Finally though, probate deemed they since they hadn’t responded in over a year, we could close things up.

The relief is enormous. It’s still spreading gradually through my system and my life. I had no idea that the business of death could be so deeply held inside and have so much connection to the reality and emotion of death.

Nonna used to say something that sounded like “engor” — which meant “enough,” or “finally!”  I agree.

Wake Me in October

My Father, undated

September is a really tough month for me.

The 7th was my husband Dennis’s birthday (he would have been turning 58).

My father’s birthday was the 13th. My Nonna’s the 16th, and my cousin Lisa’s was the 19th.  All gone. 

On top of that, the anniversary of my father’s death is the 18th, and it will be two years on the 20th since Dennis died.

Yikes! No wonder I just want to take a long nap.

Dennis, about 2006

Enough is Enough

Past Lives

This morning I drew the Osho Zen Tarot “Card for Today” and found myself facing Past Lives.

My first reaction was “yuck!” The visual didn’t attract me nor did the commentary. Then I thought more, and realized the my reaction is partly fear-based. The idea of so much flooding in — all the thoughts and emotions of other selves, other times — seems overwhelming and a little dreadful. 

This life is really enough: enough to manage, enough to savor, enough to learn from. “Enough is enough!” my mother would holler when my sister and I misbehaved sufficiently.

“Enough is enough!” I would complain when life got burdened and messy.  “Enough is enough!” when the bills piled in, the bad events multiplied, and the stress and sorrows climbed.

But, do I ever exclaim, “Enough is enough!” when it’s too much good?  Of course not!

It seems ridiculous to fend off the influx of happiness, health, wealth, love, and joy. Friendships can abound, vitality can burst out, laughter can ring through the house in immoderate hilarity… with no complaint in sight from me.

I face the hard times, the difficult events, the pains and losses of life because I must. Sometimes I wish I could call a halt. I can’t, of course, unless I call a halt to the good, too. 

But of all that sweetness, that  joy and beauty, there’s never too much, but always just enough.  And just enough, is all we need.

Here’s Osho’s wisdom on Past Lives and their meaning for us:

The child can become conscious only if in his past life he has meditated enough, has created enough meditative energy to fight with the darkness that death brings. One simply is lost in an oblivion and then suddenly finds a new womb and forgets completely about the old body. There is a discontinuity. This darkness, this unconsciousness creates the discontinuity.
aaa
The East has been working hard to penetrate these barriers. And ten thousand years’ work has not been in vain. Everybody can penetrate to the past life, or many past lives. But for that you have to go deeper into your meditation, for two reasons: unless you go deeper, you cannot find the door to another life; secondly, you have to be deeper in meditation because if you find the door of another life, a flood of events will come into the mind. It is hard enough even to carry one life….
aaa                                    Osho Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen Chapter 7
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Commentary:  The hands of existence form the shape of the female genitals, the opening of the cosmic mother. Revealed within are many images, faces from other times.
aa
While it might be entertaining to fantasize about famous past lives, it is just a distraction. The real point is to see and understand the karmic patterns of our lives, and their roots in an endless repetitive cycle that traps us in unconscious behavior.
aa
The two rainbow lizards on either side represent knowing and not-knowing. They are the guardians of the unconscious, making sure that we are prepared for a vision that might otherwise be shattering.
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A glimpse into the eternity of our existence is a gift, and understanding the function of karma in our lives is not something that can be grasped at will. This is a wake-up call; the events in your life are trying to show you a pattern as ancient as the journey of your own soul.

Delizioso!

I finally ate my Fusco’s gourmet penne rigati. My friend Carolyn and I had it for supper with a tomato sauce – rich with fresh basil from my garden – and a little grated cheese.

It was scrumptious. The pasta tubes were huge – much bigger than I expected, and had just the right resistence to the tooth, truly al dente!

This evening is a cultural melting pot for me. Carolyn is dealing with her brother’s death and all the mess and upheaval a family death brings. We talked a lot about funeral customs and other very culturally determined concepts. Then I made us true Italian comfort food…

Next we’re going to watch some old West Wing episodes. These are our friendship’s cultural comfort food. I’m “petting her” this evening, which is southern Appalachian for fussing over her and giving comfort.

Gotta go… President Bartlett, Josh Lyman and treasured friendship rituals await.

My Mother

Mary, Mommy, Me (l-r); Easter 1956

My Mother would have celebrated her 97th birthday this weekend. Like many mothers and daughters, our relationship was. . .interesting at times.

 
This photo on the left, from the simplest of times, was taken by my father on the streets of Paterson, New Jersey on Easter Sunday in 1956. I was 3, Mary was 5, and my mother  was 43, pregnant and glowing. We were on our way to an Easter visit with her family.
 
She lost the baby a few weeks later, and much of the glow dimmed for a long time….
 
I write today to remember, to honor, to express my love, and my perpetual confusion about what made this beautiful and vibrant woman — intelligent, witty, experienced in moving through the world — limit her life in so many ways.
 
What fears and demons drove her, literally, to drink? In what ways did we all collaborate for so many years to keep this unmanageable truth secret? Where is she in me?
 
My sister and I were blessed and honored to be an active part of my mother’s death in 1995. She’d been sober for 17 years — since the birth of my son in 1978. But she’d never allowed for open discussion of the past, preferring to think it didn’t matter once she stopped drinking.
 
Mary and I knew better — our lives have been shaped (and distorted) by her alcoholism. Our strength, our laughter, and our love tempered by it; our fears and frailties exacerbated. Our children’s lives have in part been shaped by our experiences, as will be their childrens’ in their turn.
 
My mother’s legacy hovers over the two sweet girls in the photo: looking like all that is proper, dainty, and acceptable, but with an anxious smile, a yearning to please, and many doubts about the future.
 
Her courage ultimately triumphed over demons, drinks, dread and doubt. My Mother, Ruth Elizabeth Holster Fusco, died at peace, bravely and with all the demons vanquished. 

I loved “the divil out of her.”