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I would love to hear your thoughts. Who knows; maybe your comments will one day appear in a book (with your permission of course).

Please share your thoughts: how you use your life's lessons, your creativity and spirituality to navigate life.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Family: a New Dynamic

This is the first school break we are spending with our sons, both home from college. I have noticed how different this feels from those school breaks when they were little and ten days in close proximity was not always happily anticipated.

As "older parents," we were hard pressed to find the energy to full-time parent our active sons when they were young. When they started school, we only had to muster energy for part of each day, so it was manageable. When the specter of 10 days at home together approached, I would panic. Snow for a few days, hot chocolate, a fire in the fireplace, some board games, cocoa, etc. -  this was fun. After those few days, the kids were bored, complaints ensued and we all couldn't wait for school to start.

As they grew older and more independent, they entertained themselves with computers and friends, so time together was much more enjoyable (for my husband and I, anyway. As for the kids, there were periods they didn't want to be caught dead with us, which happily, they outgrew). Vacations were now less work for us as we didn't have to cater to constant meals and snacks. Yes, the good news was that they were growing up. That was also the bad news.

The dynamic this past summer vacation was different and wonderful. The boys each had a friend with them, so it was like a huge family; especially the one night we all shared with my sister and my two nieces. I treasured watching the boys in the kitchen fixing dinner together and serving us! The only thing to even hint at imperfection was that the time we had together was too short.

Then we had a nice Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin's house - like a sister and brother to me, my cousin and her husband have been close to us since the boys were born.

Now here we are at the holiday break and we have our younger son home for a full winter break. He and his friends have already been here jamming: drums and electric guitars shaking the rafters. Our older son is here for nine days, which is the longest we have been with him at one time, since he went back to college in Boston. He is cooking up a storm for us, for his friends and for Christmas dinner at my mother-in-law's house. Our grocery bill just quadrupled, I've gained 7 lbs. since he got here last weekend, and my kitchen is hostage to food preparation and its aftermath.

It is annoying? Yes. Does it feel intrusive? Yes. Is it wonderful? Oh, you can bet your life, it is!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Honoring Loss / Ode to Joy

You may be thinking, "Why would I want to honor loss?" It's such a bad feeling, but it is part of our lives, as sure as is breathing.

Over the life span of this blog, you will probably read more than one entry about loss. It's because we all experience it, and we do so in many ways. Throughout our lives we all lose loved ones, animals, things, experiences, hopes and dreams. But why dwell on it, you may wonder? It is important because it shapes the very fabric of who we become.

From early on, when we lose our first teddy bear, to the present when we lose our keys, loss invokes a sense of hopelessness, frustration, anger and maybe even despair, when the stakes are high. Surely our personal temperament adds a layer to how we cope. Being organized helps us not to lose our "stuff," and is an easy strategy, within our control, that we can employ to reduce these negative feelings.

When loss is thrust upon us and not in our control however, it shakes our foundations. We can't do anything to stop it, control it, prevent it. When loss is premature, it is somehow more unfair. When a life is well lived and fruitful, we accept loss with a little more understanding.

This past month, a dear friend passed away after a decades-long bout with cancer. It kept coming in new places and she kept on seeking treatments, conventional and unconventional. What was striking is how she lived with this incurable disease. She had so much left to do in her life, and cancer wasn't going to interfere (only temporarily during treatments). She reported the latest medical news of the past year each summer, where we saw her at our lake cabin in Maine. Each summer in past years, as I knew the cancer stubbornly kept returning with greater vengeance, I feared she would not be at the lake. In the last 2 summers, my fears were realized as she was in too much pain to make the long trip. Instead, I visited her upstate NY where she lived year 'round.

In spite of horrific pain that not even morphine would control, she continued to make her plans from the couch: another article to be mailed, a story to be written (she was a writer). I hurt for her, mostly saddened to see what cancer had done to her body, and fearful of how much more time I would have with her, all the while not wanting her to suffer. The doctors could not explain how she held out in the past years as her condition was so frail and she was riddled with cancer in every organ and bone of her body. She simply wasn't ready to die, I reasoned.

Last week I tried calling her house numerous times and got no answer. I had a feeling, and kept trying. She had been in and out of the hospital and I assumed she was back in . . . . or worse. Finally the call came on Saturday, that she passed away the previous Friday - when I began calling her home.

Her family tried to find my phone number, knowing I would want to know, and that their mother wanted me to know. Just in time, we got the call that the memorial service was the following day. I sobbed only when we first sat down in the church. Once the service began, I felt a warm embrace from my friend, for she was still looking after those who loved her.

She loved music. She raised her children with music all around, and produced several talented musicians among them. Various family members played and sang just the right music, spoke the right words and prayers and later at the reception, showed photos from her life, set to music. Indeed, this was a fitting tribute and celebration of an amazing life, that we were all privileged to share.

So while I will miss her, I am grateful for being chosen to share in her life. She had enough love for a family with six siblings, six children, a dozen grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, to give some to her many friends. I am blessed to have been one of them.

So I say to my dear friend Joy, who was so appropriately named by her parents, be at rest now after your painful journey; embraced by the love of everyone you loved here on earth.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Possessions, Creativity and Clutter

All day, I was doing paperwork, cleaning up and cleaning out, moving "stuff," shining shoes (yes, I actually do shine my own shoes, with the old fashioned brushes and paste shoe polish), looking for a variety of misplaced objects. Seems to me I lost a whole day. I know things get misplaced when we straighten up and I know it's because there is too much in this house! For sure, I blame my husband for a lot of misplaced things. Like last month I asked where our mitre box and saw was. He couldn't find not the one, not the second, and not even the third set I know we own. He offered to go to Home Depot to get another one. I was nearly hysterical! Who needs 4 mitre box sets in one home?

I resent all the attention we need to give to our possessions. It seems to me that the more tools and gadgets we get to make our lives easier, the more work we have to do to; clean them, put them away, and worst of all, find them when we need them again. I swore some years ago that I would start downsizing. I was beginning to feel my "stuff" owned me, rather than the other way around, so I struck a bargain with myself. If something new came in, something old would have to go. If something needed special care, it was off the list. I was good for awhile, but being the pack rat of "things that will be good for a future art project," the stuff just kept piling in.

Who could resist the bargains at Goodwill or on closeout? What about all those interesting "found objects" (read: junk; garbage) that would look great in the next piece of art I want to create? I need things to carry things around in, containers to store things in, shelves to put them on . . . .  and on it goes!

Maybe for next year, I will resolve to use all the things I have in my studio before bringing in anything new materials. Yeah, maybe . . . . .