Mixed Bag Weekend

Window with rag dollsI love being able to sleep until I wake up on weekends. Getting up at 5:50am on work days is hard for one who is totally not a morning person and even though I try to get to bed at a decent hour, I’m usually somewhat sleep deprived by Saturday. Now that I changed to a Wed. WW meeting instead of on Sat., I’ve got more time to wake up slowly and then piddle around doing stuff.

The original plans for the weekend were to head to the Durham Fair but I ended up not going. Much as I loved the idea of seeing farm animals, crafts, and riding the ferris wheel, I was a little worried about the amount of standing and walking involved. Not to mention the stations of fried dough. I don’t even like it but it’s awfully tempting to eat weird fatty stuff just because it’s around.

So instead of the fair, I attempted to put up curtain rods. Ha ha ha. It was quite an adventure that took me two days and two trips to Home Depot. There were three rods all for double windows, for a total of 9 supports and 18 anchored screws. There was the problem – I ended up mangling some of the anchors and/or pulling some out of the wall, leaving big holes that required spackling. Thank heavens they’re all up now and they do look pretty stylish if I do say so myself.

The curtains are another matter. Last weekend I went to the Country Curtains store to pick out curtains, knowing that being able to see and touch them make it a lot easier to do than just using a printed catalog or website. I ended up with insulated weaver’s cloth tabbed curtains in a natural shade, made for really wide windows for “proper draping”. Unfortunately, once they were up on my bedroom wall, I knew they were not going to work. Too blah and too much fabric.

So today I was on the road again, entertained by Prairie Home Companion as I drove back to the store. I exchanged the boring curtains for different kinds for the two rooms, a lovely soft rose microsuede for my bedroom (goes nicely with my quilt) and a soft burnished gold patterned velvet lined curtains for my study. I was struck on the way home by how lovely the ride was – more trees were sporting reds and golds than even last week and I can tell we’re into fall.

Cleaning up the mess I’d made with the curtain rod installations led to full-scale house cleaning, including mopping the kitchen floor, which I despise doing. I’m still sneezing from the dust I released but things do look a lot better.

The cleaning also gave me a physical release for the emotions that were bubbling inside. I learned today that a friend died on Saturday morning. Bob had been recovering from complications related to knee surgery when he went into cardiac arrest and died. Just like that, he’s gone.

ob was a giant in my field and had been looking forward to retiring in a few years after a satisfying career that took him from local to national and international activities. He was an extremely wise, intelligent man with great compassion, a lively sense of humor, and keen insight. He was also a good friend to many of us, including me, and news of his death is already filling the ether with shock and grief.

“Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord. And let light perpetual shine upon him.”

What I Believe

Stained glass angelThe mother of one of my colleagues died last weekend. Although I never met her, J told me lots about her mom, both the woman she was and the medical problems she had been facing in the last months.

I went to the wake last night, a little wet around the edges since I went to water aerobics first, and paid my respects to my friend and her family. Wakes make me uncomfortable and are so stilted, yet they are the place where people talk with each other and share memories and verbal support.

This morning was the funeral. I have to admit that, as weird as it sounds, I like funerals. They have a place in the ritual of endings and closure and give the living a place to be comforted with structure and words of faith. Those who attend become The Church in a very concrete way.

When I lived in Boston, my choir sang for quite a number of funerals and I know that liturgy and words of the Episcopal service – but all funeral services are similar. In my tradition, death is named and not turned into euphemistic “passing” which doesn’t fool anyone. It’s important to hear and know both that death is real and that there is life after death.

That is what I believe – that this life is not the end of who we are, that there is a God who is loving and waiting for us when we die. There is no guarantee that life will be easy and being happy and content is up to us. God isn’t going to sit around to strew the path with roses, money and good health.

I believe in free will; God isn’t going to make me do anything or predetermine the choices I make. But He’s not going to prevent bad things from happening, either. What we are promised is that we will not be alone as we walk through our life – and we are not alone in our death, either.

Going to the funeral brought it home again. I was there to be part of the body of Christ, to support my friend and honor her mother. But I was also comforted myself, hearing the familiar words of the lessons and rituals, and singing with a full heart:

I am the bread of life
He who comes to Me shall not hunger
He who believes in Me shall not thirst
No one can come to Me
Unless the Father draw him

And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up on the last day

The bread that I will give
Is My flesh for the life of the world
And he who eats of this bread
He shall live for ever
He shall live for ever

Unless you eat
Of the flesh of the Son of Man
And drink of His blood
And drink of His blood
You shall not have life within you

I am the resurrection
I am the life
He who believes in Me
Even if he die
He shall live for ever

Yes, Lord, we believe
That You are the Christ
The Son of God
Who has come
Into the world

And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up on the last day

© 1971 G. I. A. Publications

Open Your Eyes

Scribbled Face on a Utility BoxDoing my daily inventory is sometimes a pain in the neck. But one really positive thing that’s come out of it for me over the last six months is that I make myself look beyond my narrow me-focused world to see things and people. Here are some of the questions I answer every day:

  1. What did I do today that I like and respect myself for? (or: How did I behave better than I felt?)
  2. What did I do for someone else today?
  3. What happened today that I enjoyed and appreciated that had nothing to do with me?
  4. Where did I have problems today? (or Where did I feel bad or negative today?)
  5. What am I proudest of today?
  6. What made me feel feminine today?
  7. On a scale of 1 – 10, how much close interaction did I have with people today?

I’m really good at seeing the problems that get in my way but it’s often been hard to think up things that made me feel feminine or that I enjoyed or appreciated. Knowing that I’m going to have to answer the questions, though, has helped me heighten my awareness and actually, well, appreciate both the questions and the things they focus on.

Clean hair and earrings are sometimes the best I can do on the “what made me feel feminine?” question but usually there’s something else — for example, a compliment on a piece of jewelry reminds me of how pretty or interesting it is and how much I enjoy wearing it. Or simply wearing clothes with colors that work rather than just something that fits can make me feel prettier and therefore more feminine.

The big ones for me, though, are the questions about interactions with people and things I enjoyed and appreciated. I’m not necessarily spending more time interacting with folks but I am very aware that I’m already doing things for other people — being a listening ear, cleaning things up in the bathroom, helping an elderly neighbor with trash, letting cars cut in front of me without yelling at them, giving directions to a lost tourist. When I’m feeling isolated or cranky, it helps to remember that I’m doing things to pull me out of my hole.

Now every day as I move from morning to bedtime, I’m seeing the world around me. The deer eating leaves outside my apartment, the single red leaf on a tree of green, cute little babies being pushed in strollers, the color and bustle of the college campus, funny window displays, chalk drawings on the sidewalk, pretty flowers on a stoop, aromas from a busy kitchen, the smile on the face of the bus driver.

Yesterday on the way home the bus was stopped at a light and I noticed that the scribblings on a metal utility box across the street looked like a face. I pointed it out to the woman next to me who grinned and then said, “Thank you for showing me that. I guess that’s what I needed to learn today, to open my eyes and enjoy the things around me even as I’m scurrying from work to class to home.”

Who knew that opening my own eyes and initiating conversation could hit home like that?

Family Matters

AngelOne of my colleagues is mourning her mother today. She died yesterday of a brain tumor after suffering for months and moving in and out of hospitals and care facilities, though her death itself seemed very sudden.

We found ourselves talking today about families, about what it was like to lose parents and be the oldest generation. I know I’m incredibly fortunate to be 53 years old and still have both of my parents alive and in good health. Each of my parents lost a parent of their own when in their mid-30’s and most of my friends have buried at least one if not both.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be the oldest generation of my family, to not have my parents to visit and talk to on the phone several times a week. They’re not particularly profound conversations but they are chatty and newsy, and we keep each other up to date with what’s happening in our worlds. I diagnose computer problems and Mom shares recipes. Dad always checks to make sure my finances are in order. We all downplay any medical news.

My brother and I have our own conversations about them, of course, wondering how they’re doing and assessing whether forgetfulness is more frequent or how impaired mobility might be. All the legal documents are signed and in order – wills, living wills, health proxies. Funerals have been planned and paid for. My mom even has what she calls her “Boy Scout Folder” with everything legal things, account names and numbers, contact people, even text for their obituaries.

I hope I have my parents for many more years but am realistic enough to know that anything could happen at any time, as my friend here learned yesterday. So I’m extra glad that they’re coming to visit me next month, to see where I live now and the world that surrounds me at home and at work. We’ll have quiet time without the bustle of holiday doings and extra people around. I don’t really know that they will be back up here anytime soon; it’s easier for me to travel to them than for them to come to see me. My dad’s celebrating his 80th birthday in February and I’m hoping the weather cooperates for me to be there to celebrate with him.

Because family matters. It is to be celebrated and cherished, through rough times as well as happy ones, so that there are no regrets about things done or left undone when loved ones are no longer with us.

My Tummy Hurts

Lying Down with a Stomach AcheI have an upset stomach and want to just curl up on the couch in a fetal position – in fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do when I finish writing this and doing my daily inventory. And take some Tums.

I’ve eaten very off-program this weekend and my system is paying for it right now. It’s highly unlikely that I’m going to go out and buy another tub of chocolate frosting to use to dip apple slices – that was yesterday’s stupidity. I knew it was a bad idea even as I did it and think I was “inspired” by watching eleventy million Pizza Hut commercials for pizza slices with dipping sauce. I didn’t want THAT but the idea of having apples and chocolate sounded yummy. And it was good but it was too much and I knew with every dip that it was getting worse and worse.

There were no trips to the gym this weekend, just trips in the car to go spend money. Sigh. I needed to get curtains for my wide windows to help block out light and insulate in the winter (I’ve been through too many New England winters not to know that this will be necessary) and with the parents coming to visit in 2 weeks, I need to take care of the light blocking fast. Curtains meant curtain rods and the price mounts. And another trip to Bed Bath and Beyond yielded a dust buster thing purchased with the 20% off coupon.

My big accomplishment was working on a letter of recommendation for someone up for promotion at her library. I had agreed to review her work and write something but finding time to do it during the work week just didn’t happen. The letter wasn’t hard to write since I actually believe what I was writing and I enjoyed weighing words to find exactly what I wanted to say. Plus I learned how to print envelopes so I’m feeling accomplished.

Mostly, though, I have a stomach ache. Tomorrow I’m back to balanced normal healthy options. My tummy is much happier when I do that and deviating just reminds me that there are consequences to eating rich things. I used to be able to do this often without a problem but I’m not that person anymore.