Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Amazon made me cry today

I will start by stating that, at this point in the game, I find I like animals more than I like many people.  I like no one in Amazon's customer "service" unit at all.

For anyone who did not already know this, you can set up a wish list on Amazon, and when people shop they can send you things from your wish list.  Gift giving becomes easier.  Libraries get some books this way.  And sometimes, you can help someone out who just needs a few extra things.  A couple weeks ago I had an opportunity to do something very small for someone else.  I follow two sweet cats on Facebook - Trip and Yoga (visit them here and be forever charmed).  Trip has CH like my Winnie and Yoga is a paraplegic due to an injury.  They are both beautiful and fresh and wonderful.  Their mom, Tiffany, has given them a wonderful life and she shares them with us.   Trip & Yoga have a wish list on Amazon.  I was doing some shopping and added something small from their list to my cart.  It was to be sent to them directly because that's how the wish list works.  I chose kitty shampoo.  Having to bathe cats cannot be anywhere near fun...and cats with potty issues need bathing.  It was just a small bottle of shampoo. 

I expected it had been delivered because I received no notification to the contrary, but I did not check on it.  I happened to be cleaning out my pending purchase emails today and I decided to check on that one.  I was somewhat surprised to learn that the package had never been delivered because it was damaged.  This all took place on December 11th....7 days ago.  Not only was the package was in the process of being delivered to ME and NOT to Trip & Yoga, who live in Ohio (which is not anywhere near me) when it was damaged and no one received it.

I contacted Amazon and immediately our relationship began to fail.  First response, filled with customer service BS arrived.  They were so sorry - they know how upset I must have been waiting for something to arrive that was never coming.  (No no Amazon, I dated for many years and did not marry until I was in my mid-40s....I'm used to that)  They were very pleased to offer me options to correct this.  I could receive a refund, or, have the package re-sent to ME overnight at their expense.

I thanked them for their (fake and script-filled) email and asked that the package be delivered to the intended recipient, as should have happened last week.  I then received an email that was worse.  It was a form email that was not filled in properly.  And a sentence began with "unfortunately".  Who decided that it was excellent customer service to EVER begin a sentence with "unfortunately"?  As soon as I hear/read that word, my ears/eyes close and my mind realizes that nothing good is going to follow it.  No no --- they were very sorry but the package could only be delivered to me.

It made me cry.  Literally.  I sat in tears.  Not because of their stupid lack of customer service or the loss of the item - it was cat shampoo.  It was more that  this giant company couldn't help me help these two little cats who have enough to deal with every day.  It was more my frustration at not being able to do something small for someone who does so much.  You know how sometimes you feel sad and it snowballs?  That happened next.  Suddenly it was about animals with special needs never knowing the love they should know.  It was about all the animals sitting in shelters, where volunteers & staff do their best, but these wonderful little creatures live alone in cages.  I wrote about this before (here).  It was one of those afternoons. 

I finally pulled myself together and told them I wanted a refund.  Third horribly written email arrived to thank me for my choice and that they hoped it made me happy. did not.  What made me happy was to go to a pet store on line where I could purchase an egift certificate and send it to Tiffany.  Now she can get more than a bottle of shampoo and she, being an excellent shopper, is going to hold it to take advantage of post-Christmas sales, which will make it work even harder for her.

At the end of the day, it isn't about shampoo or lack of customer service.  It is about doing something, no matter how small, for someone who gives so much to others.  Just do it.  And if you can help an animal in the process, then you're on my good list.  If you don't think you can make a difference, I say to you, try anyhow because you just never know and you will certainly feel happier.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

I am a real person

Did you ever read the The Velveteen Rabbit?  In short, a stuffed bunny wants to be Real...he is loved by a little boy, but more than anything Real is what he wants. {SPOILER ALERT} Through the wonders of nursery magic, he eventually does become a Real bunny.

For close to 20 months I was looking for work.  In a pretty short time, I began to feel very much like I wasn't a real person.  More than once I described the job search process as dehumanizing.  117 job applications and, maybe, 7 in-person interviews.  In most of the 117 cases, I never heard anything beyond the initial, generic confirmation.  Nothing.  I really did believe in myself and in my abilities.  For the most part, I applied to positions where I knew I could bring value and had experience.  And that did not seem to matter.  When I was able to interview, I rarely heard back afterward....not even declines.  Decline me...just tell me something.  I wished for my own nursery magic.

On the plus side, for the entire 20 months, I was surrounded by people who did whatever they could to help me.  From the friends & family who made sure I got out and socialized to the friends who put my name in front of hiring managers to my husband who never stopped believing I would triumph.  I will be forever thankful and humbled by the amount of support I received.  I made a deal with myself that I would give that back whenever I could and am looking forward to doing that.

Then, there were some folks who never responded to my requests for help and that was fine -- no one was obligated to help.  There were also a couple of people who weren't overly supportive and felt compelled to be vocal about what they thought, but again, that was fine -- they didn't need to be cheerleaders.  I believed it would happen and that was all that mattered.  And I strongly believe in Karma - the Universe will sort it all out.

Eventually, things would come together.  Job #115 was the magic job.  It was right for many reasons and I started on October 7th.  I have been so happy to go there each day ~ and when I say the commute sucks I'm not kidding ~ but that is manageable.  It's the people and the work.  I think that, in addition to doing work you love, you need to work with people you like and respect.  And I do.  I have been handed so many opportunities to really grow over the last 6 weeks I almost cannot believe it.  I do my best to make sure I am living up to the expectations my team has and those I set for myself.

As a rule, I wake up every day thankful.  I have added my job and my teammates to my list.  They have helped to restore my sense of purpose and value.

My job search time was both wonderful and awful.  I was lucky to have the time home -- I love being home.  I was able to spend the time with family and friends I didn't have before.  I did things out in the yard and in the house I never had time to do.  I adopted an amazing cat with mild special needs - something I would not have done had I been working at that time.  The awful times were how lonely it sometimes could I lost my focus from time to time...and how I wondered if I'd ever be able to continue my career.

I'm glad the nursery magic finally happened for I became Real again.  If you ever doubt your own abilities or feel like giving up - I say to you - keep believing and let the magic happen...I know it will.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hey 50!

So....I turned 50 this past weekend.  Five-Zero.  It is funny about aging -- some people piss and moan about it "Oh-my 20's are almost over...Oh-I'll never see 35 again..." wah wah wah...and some people just go with the flow.  I don't really have an issue with any age - as far as I can see it certainly beats the alternative.

I am one of those people who views a birthday as the start of a new year.  My new year.  Time for resolutions and such.  Along with contemplating the year ahead, I usually look back and shake my head.  No way last year could I have predicted how things would go I always think.  I go through this pretty much every year.  This year, though, with it being a milestone and all, I have been reflecting on the last decade.  Want to hear about it?

My 40th birthday in 2003 was great fun.  My mother & my dear friend Sandra planned a surprise party for me.  I arrived at my folks house thinking it was just another Sunday at the pool.  Except, the first people I saw were my friend Chris and his wife Donna.  I remember stopping to stare for a second while Chris called across the yard "She's here and she saw me".  It was a wonderful party.  So many people I loved in one special place.

2004 would bring so much sadness.  In May, my beloved Uncle Jim passed away.  In August I was diagnosed with two different cancers.  Surgery would resolve one but my dreams of ever having children would end.  The other was also taken care of but the year was a nightmare.  CTRL ALT Delete 2004

2005 started off sadly - my grandmother passed away in January.  But I did experience positive changes at work.  Family dramas and issues would plague us then, happily, my niece Shannon was born in May and brought so much sunshine.

2006 was good on the work front.  On the relationship front it was not but whatever. 

2007 was great.  Through a chance conversation, one of my aunts found that she was working with the person who had been my best friend in high school.  We reconnected and now live 1/2 mile apart.  I love that.

2008 ~  Traveled a little.  Did quite a bit of dating .. to read about that you'll need to visit the "Horror" section.  Highest note -- I was the officiant of my cousin Laura's wedding to Kevin.  That was just awesome.

2009 was the year things turned around.  In January I met Brad.  I knew on our first date he was a keeper.  In October of that year we bought a house and set about creating a new life.

In August of 2010 we got engaged.  In December I injured my back moving furniture around the house.  Herniated Disk.  Just seeing the words makes my want to cry.  In the midst of trying to recover, I was trying to plan a wedding.  Dress shopping was out...I used a cane for close to 3 months and could barely manage standing up without help.  I tried to make the best of it.  Getting married would be more important than the dress.

2011 would be another year full of highs and lows.  We got married in a small, private ceremony on a pretty April day.  The weekend before it had snowed & the weekend after it poured.  Our wedding day was beautiful.  In July we held a reception in a historic barn on a hot & sunny day.  Perfect.  The year would end on sad notes, though.  In November my Aunt De passed away very suddenly.  Two weeks later our cousin Annie would also pass away just as suddenly.  The day after I learned of Annie's passing, I went to work to find out that the company I worked for was shifting it's business strategy and my job was likely to be eliminated.  Merry Christmas.  It was a crazy year.

2012 started out with me leaving the company where I had worked for almost 23 years.  Bittersweet for sure but not bad.  It was the right time.  I spent the rest of the year looking for a job and really learning about myself.  In June, my husband and my stepdaughter Jill were able to reconnect.  Relationships can be very complicated and other people can complicate delicate situations, but he stayed the course and let her know we both wanted to be close to her.  On Father's Day they reconnected.  She and I would meet three weeks later and she has been a vital part of our family since then.

2013 started on high note.  On January 1st we adopted a new cat, Winnie.  She has mild cerebellar hypoplasia, which is a neurological condition (primarily) impacting her balance.  More on sweet Winnie here.  I took two paralegal courses, which I enjoyed.  Still searching for the right job.  Enjoyed visiting colleges with Brad and Jill.  Went kayaking for the first time.  Finally rounded out the decade with a little family party here at our home.  Some folks could not be with us and others were very much with us in spirit.  Over the weekend I was thinking of the party for my 40th.  The friends who were there - those I am still in touch with and close to and those I am not.  My friend Chris' wife Donna passed away in June 2011 after a valiant battle with breast cancer.  She would have been 50 in February 2012 & I know she would have celebrated the stuffing out of it.

My friend Donna told me about something someone she knew did for her 50th.  She celebrated for an entire year.  I loved that idea.  The Year of De.  I want to do something every month for the entire year.  Nothing big.  Just something every month.  I dislike the overuse of "bucket list" so I'm thinking of Year of De things I'd like to do/see.  I'd like to drive a tractor.  I'd like to go horseback riding...on a trail would be nice but on the beach would be super cool.  I have never seen a newborn kitten ~ I would like to see one and maybe bottle feed it.  That is all I have for right now, but I know other things will be added.  I'll share each as they happen.

If you have issues with your age, zip your trap.  No one wants to hear you whining about being alive.  We all have unmet goals and unrealized dreams.  No where is it written, though, that we have to give up when we hit a certain age or anything...Diana Nyad anyone?  If you aren't sure about where you are in life or where you are going - I say to you - stay the course.  Be the best you that you can be.  Make every year the Year of YOU.  Celebrate YOU.  Because there are people who will never be so lucky to make it that far.


Special thanks & love to Bridget and Jannine of JannaBee's for creating my birthday cake.  It was spectacular & spectacularly yummy.  Love you both for sharing your gifts...I will miss JannaBee's but am lucky to have experienced the magic♥

Thursday, August 29, 2013

So deserving of love

I like to think that I have at least an acceptable level of compassion for living creatures (most rodents & bugs, however, do not get any mercy).

Since bringing a cat with mild special needs into our family (read about it here), I have found myself experiencing increased compassion for homeless animals, zero tolerance for anyone who would harm or abandon a pet, and a larger place in my heart for pets with special needs and the people who love them.  My heart does break for people who responsibly surrender - they are doing the best they can for their pet.

I recently read about Homer, a blind cat, who passed away not long ago.  Homer sounds like he was a wonderful companion.  More important, Homer's human shared his story and inspired people all over the world.  I've been reading the messages of love to Homer's human, Gwen Cooper, and I find myself in tears over and over.  Cooper, in sharing his story, has made such a difference.  I think even she is surprised at how broad Homer's story reached and how much it mattered.  She caused so many people to open their homes and hearts to animals who might otherwise have been unloved or euthanized.

I follow a blind Golden Retriever every day.  Ray Charles and his family live a couple towns away.  I love reading the messages posted on his Facebook page.  Because he has not yet reached his first birthday, the messages are written in the voice of a small child which makes them even more charming and fun.  There are haters who cannot wait to mock on his page -- those people do not last long there for sure.  His page is a place for joy and happiness - the updates never fail to make me smile.  His family rescued him from a breeder who was going to put him down when his blindness was discovered.  The idea of purchasing animals from breeders makes me angry, but to put an animal down without giving him a chance just defies logic.

Mr. Magoo the blind cat, every kitty on the CH page I belong to, and countless other inspirational animals [and their humans] are making a difference.  They are showing the world that animals with special needs deserve love and the chance at a good life.  So what if they didn't come from breeders or are not "perfect"?  Ask the humans attached to any of these animals and they will tell you how perfect their little companions are.  My Winnie has no idea there's anything different about her.  She really thinks cerebellar hypoplasia means "precious & adorable" in Latin.  She brings me so much joy - I cannot imagine life without her.  Even my Camille is in a group of animals generally among the last to be adopted -- black cats.

There are some adjustments we've made for Winnie but nothing major.  And that's pretty much what it's like with many special needs animals.  Minor adjustments then business as usual.  My heart hurts when I see how many animals need homes - those with special needs stand less of a chance of finding homes.  They deserve love and they deserve safe homes.  They give so much back.  They teach us how to be tolerant and how far our hearts can stretch.  Best Friends Animal Society works to ensure one day there will be no more homeless pets.  Check out these pages - you might be inspired.  At the very least, you will be touched.

If you have ever thought a pet with special needs would be too much for you - I say to you - look again, because you might be making the most wonderful decision ever.  If not, do what you can to help a homeless pet, whether it means you adopt/rescue/volunteer or just send a gift card for pet supplies to a no-kill shelter -- Winnie & Camille just sent a gift card to the Northeast Animal Shelter to help other kitties have enough to eat.  You can make a difference, too.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Me in a kayak

Inspired by Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop, I wanted to share how my Facebook image - me in a kayak - came to be.

4.) Share the story behind your current Facebook and/or Twitter profile photo

I will start by saying that I am not a good boater.

A bunch of years ago, on the weekend before the tragedy of The Perfect Storm, I went out on a deep sea fishing trip from Gloucester MA.  It was beautiful.  Clear skies, nice seas.  Back then, I loved boating.  During the trip, however, the weather conditions changed.  The skies remained clear but the two storms that were coming up & down the coast met and the seas became crazy.  High waves.  Scary moments.  The boat was a good size - maybe 40'?  Without warning, a wave hit us on one side and sent that side almost straight in the air.  I was on the other side that went over toward the water.  I can still see it all in s l o w motion.  We came so close to taking on water but we didn't.  We righted quickly then got slammed by a wave.  I have never been so wet with so many clothes on.  I mean soaked under my skin.  Then that was all - nothing else happened to us.  One giant wave.  We watched other boats nearby have the same thing happen.  The captain told us that the Coast Guard was on the way to rescue someone from a sister ship who had a heart attack.  It was like a movie - they had to lower a stretcher from a helicopter because the sea was too rough to get near them.  Three hours after we left port and the tides changed enough to settle the water, we returned home (ala Gilligan's Island.

Since the boating incident I have never been a good boater.  I always need to be near the life raft or know just where the life jackets are (and be able to see them & reach one quickly).  I've tried - wine helped me on a whale watch last summer - but I never really relax.  We went about 16 miles off the Maine coast last month and I didn't take a good deep breath until we were on land.

I have been in a kayak in the ocean.  This summer, my husband wanted us to kayak in Maine where my stepdaughter Jill lives.  I was afraid to try it.  Basically, I was afraid of tipping over and drowning.  Simple.  To help me be less afraid, he got us a tandem kayak.  This allowed me get a feel for it but not have to be alone.  And I loved it.  I really had fun once I got used to the motion.  It was a great workout and we did not flip over and drown, which I consider to have made the day a success.  Being in the tandem also allowed me to take some great pictures, including the self portrait I'm using on Facebook.

This past weekend we went back up to kayak with Jill.  The water was choppy and it was windy.  Small craft advisory in effect.  Small craft = us in kayaks.  I went out with Brad in the tandem while Jill went in the single.  On the way back, Jill & I switched and I took the single.  Not so easy without Brad in the back.  I felt every wave and every gust of wind.  I was actually swearing out loud when a boat went by.  But I made it back without flipping over and drowning.  Hooray for me!

I may never be a good boater, but I have been in a kayak in the ocean - twice - and that's pretty cool as far as I'm concerned.  If you are afraid of something - I say to you - get in the tandem kayak first so you know what to expect then set yourself free.  It's scary but it feels good (and you'll have the pictures to prove it).


Friday, August 2, 2013

Bravery & Failure

Once again inspired by Mama Kat's Pretty Much Famous Writer's Workshop , I'm sharing a quote I found on Pinterest that inspires me.

The quote:  Don't be afraid to fail.  Be afraid not to try.

I love quotes.  I use them quite a bit and often take some inspiration from them.  This quote is kind of a big deal for me and I'll tell you why.

In March of 2012, I left the company where I had worked for close to 23 years.  There was a business shift and positions were eliminated.  For me it was the right time to step away, recharge my batteries and get ready for the next exciting phase in my life.

I had been doing work that I loved and figured all my talent + experience = a snazzy new job when I was ready.  I waited about 2 months to start looking.  It took me a while to disconnect and get into a new groove.  For the first two weeks I felt guilty leaving the computer...never mind just sitting and watching TV.  I had to transition from work mode to not working mode and it was harder than I thought.  I did learn to watch TV without guilt eventually.

Finally my search began.  I applied to positions that resembled my last job.  And I heard back from maybe one.  I kept applying.  And I kept not hearing much of anything.  Sometimes I would go two months without a response.  I worked with an outplacement counselor and she helped me figure out how to expand my search.  She would tell me ..."Don't be afraid to try - to explore new avenues.  Don't be afraid to market your skill set in a new industry."  And I did it.  I expanded my boundaries.  I figured, what do I have to lose? 

Don't be afraid to fail.  Be afraid not to try.  And that process continued.  It continues still.  I search job postings daily and apply when I have a good feeling.  I've had some interviews, have met and spoken with some really nice people.  My friends have humbled me through their willingness to do whatever they could to help.  I have been incredibly blessed with the level of support I have received.

Don't be afraid to fail.  Be afraid not to try.  This process is not for the weak of spirit.  It is dehumanizing.  I'm a real person without a job.  The silence is the worst part.  I went to an interview on a morning when we were having a blizzard.  It took me three hours to get into Boston - a trip that normally would have taken 40 minutes.  The interviewer was not as sharp as I would have expected considering the organization and his level.  My career was in his hands and it didn't feel great.  And then I heard nothing.  Nothing.  I went there in a blizzard for goodness sake. 

Don't be afraid to fail.  Be afraid not to try. These words keep me moving forward.  I keep applying to positions.  I keep networking.  I ask for help when I can.  I ignore the negative comments from people who have no clue.  While I consider each silence a form of failure, I know I cannot stop - I'm more afraid to give up.  I know the perfect job and I are very close to finding each other.

Don't be afraid to fail.  Be afraid not to try. If you are afraid to fail - I say to you - don't be.  The moment you stop trying, you have automatically failed.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving.  Life has a funny way of working out just as it should - have faith.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My favorite summer view so far....

Was totally inspired by Mama Kat's Pretty Much Famous Writer's Workshop to share my favorite summer view so far.

During July 4th week we were on vacation in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  I have seen some wonderful sights in my life and have been to some amazing places, but there is something about Boothbay that feels like home in my heart.

Despite living in Massachusetts my entire life, I never visited that region until last summer.  And I fell in love right away.  This year there was no discussion about where we would spend vacation - back to Boothbay we headed.  We've been home for 4 days and I am already looking forward to next year.

During our visit we decided to take a boat trip out to Monhegan Island.  I am not much of a boater, so 16 miles away Boothbay (though only 10 miles from the mainland) was a big deal for me.  I was mildly panicked on the ride out but it was a pretty morning and the seas were sort of calm.  Though the skies were clear, there was low-lying fog, which caused the island to suddenly appear before us, which was spooky & neat.

It is charming and lovely.  No paved roads.  No vehicles aside from some trucks used to transport luggage and large items.  Beautiful walking trails.  A small beach.  A shipwreck.  A lovely inn where we stopped for a scrumptious lunch.  This is a village - people live and work here.  We took care not to venture off trails into anyone's yard.  Everyone we passed was friendly.  Despite how hot and humid the day was, we walked as far as we could.  We even ventured up a good-sized hill and were rewarded with the most spectacular view.  We could clearly see the inn where we had just eaten.  The wharf was still shrouded in fog.  Manana Island, just next door, was barely visible.  In my eyes, this was the most wonderful view of summer I have had yet.  I even submitted the photo to a local photo contest....wish me luck.

If you have a chance to try something new - I say to you - put your fears aside because the reward just might outweigh everything else.  And sit near the lifeboats if you really can't let go.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The best things in life aren't things

I was getting ready to write about how some things are important.  A wedding gift we received broke last week and I was very sad about it.

A little back story ... when my cousin Laura got married in 2008, I gave them a gurgling cod pitcher.  Laura told me she would give me one when I got married.  At that time, I was single and believed I would never get married so I didn't choose a color or anything.  Fast forward to 2009 when I brought my new boyfriend to Plymouth to meet my Aunt Nancy, Uncle Ed, Laura and her husband Kevin.  As we walked along the beach, Laura asked me what color cod I wanted.  I had already decided I was keeping this boyfriend - either he'd marry me or I'd chain him to the basement wall.  Laura knew he was the one also.  Fast forward again to August 22, 2010 - the day we got engaged.  I called Laura and told her to pick out the cod.  She and Kevin gave us two small cod as a pre-wedding present & the larger cod for our wedding.  They maintained a special place in my heart & on our mantle.

Last week a framed image we had above the mantle fell down.  It took the large cod with it.  Our wedding cake topper was spared but I felt so sad at the loss of the cod.  It can be replaced and I have the story but I still felt sad.

Then last night I saw the horror in Oklahoma.  Homes - gone in an instant.  Incredible devastation.  Children trapped in schools.  People missing.  The first thing I did when I heard about it on the news was to send prayers.  I kept hoping the trapped children would be OK.  I kept hoping that families would find one another and that the death toll would not be high.  I woke up to mixed news.  Sad.  My heart hurt looking at the photos.  When I saw the video of Barbara Garcia finding her puppy in the rubble I was reminded of what really mattered.

All of the heartache and destruction in Oklahoma slapped me in the back of the head to remind me that it isn't about things.  Yes, we can cherish our belongings and feel sad if anything happens to them.  At the end of the day though, if my house disappeared, as long as I had Brad and our cats, Camille & Winnie, we would be OK.  Brad and the cats are my family and they are what matter.

If you get wrapped up in what you have or what you do not have - I say to you - count the people and not the things and never lose sight of what is really important. ♥


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cruise Control

People who know me - or more specifically, who have been in the car while I have been driving - know my patience all but disappears when I'm behind the wheel.  I have little tolerance for drivers who do not pay attention, who will not use a directional, who make driving the second or third thing they're doing while they are in the car, and who get in my way while doing any combination of these things.  I yell, I beep, I show them the state bird.  The thing is, I'm not sure why I lose control so easily.  Maybe because I think of motor vehicles as dangerous weapons and the users need to be careful.  You want to run a stop sign while on the phone and smoking and yapping at your passenger - do it someplace else but do not do it front of me.  

Yesterday, my husband and I took my stepdaughter Jill up to Orono, Maine to visit a college.  It is a four hour trip each way.  I demanded that he split the driving with me.  He really does not enjoy my driving and considering how patient a man he is, well ....   He finally agreed.  Because the roads were dry and there was very light volume, he suggested I just set cruise control and relax.  We had many miles of moose warnings and I really needed to keep my eyes on the sides of the road and not the speedometer.  Cruise control it was.  And what a difference.  I found myself far more relaxed than I ever am in the car.  I did the same thing on the way home and again found myself much more relaxed than I was used to.  Why do I never use it?  What a waste of a neat feature.

This morning I did it on the way to church, and again it worked!  I relaxed.  I had my speed set and what everyone else was doing really was not my problem.  I just did my own thing and made my way without incident (and with lower blood pressure).

During my drive I was thinking about cruise control, both in the car and in my life.  Over the last two days it has really been great in the car.  But when I looked at my life I realized that I've been too much on cruise control lately and have not been as in tune as I needed to be.  I've been out of work for 13 months and the search process has been exhausting and dehumanizing to say the least.  In late January I began two classes toward a paralegal certificate.  In addition to spending a couple of hours each day on my job search, I now spend 5-6 hours per day on school work.  I am doing really well in both classes and am pretty proud of myself, but I put my life on cruise control to do it and I am not sure it was the best idea.  

I love going to the gym, especially spinning.  Yet, for the last few weeks, at the end of each day I am so exhausted, I have not been going.  I have sacrificed my fitness because I had to hit cruise control to keep myself on track.  The thing is, I miss it so much but cannot seem to make myself go.  And that bothers me.  

So I'm done with cruise control outside of the car for now.  Tomorrow night I will be back on the bike where I belong.  My school work and job search and laundry and house cleaning will also be done, but if they are not, it will be OK.  I have another chance on Tuesday to get everything done.

I think it is very easy to get into a rut.  In fact, I know it is easy.  Getting out should be just as easy.  All I have to do is tap the brake and cruise control turns off.

If you find yourself needing to let go of a little control or needing to take some back - I say to you - look at your cruise control.  If it is on, tap the brake.  If it's off, set it and make your life a little bit easier.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

I miss ... you

Ever just miss someone all of a sudden?  Maybe it was a song or a smell or a flower that reminded you of them.  Maybe it's their birthday.  Or an anniversary.  Or maybe you just miss them.

I, like many others, miss people who were special to me and who have passed away.  Some have been gone for a long time.  My mother's mother died when I was not quite 3.  I was her first grandchild and from what I have been told, I spent quite a bit of time with her.  I remember a few little, random things - this park we used to visit in Winchester (I really just remember weeping willows - my mother told me where we went) and the little Dachshund we used to see.  What I do believe I remember is the day she died.  She wanted to see me but because I was a child I was not allowed in the hospital.  I remember being in the parking lot with my dad and seeing her up in the window.  I have a pretty good memory so it might be real, even though I was so young.  She's been gone almost 47 years and I miss her.  I think I miss the relationship I know we would have had.  She never met my brothers and she would have adored them.  Her birthday is next month and I still note it on my calendar.

My dad's mother died in 2005 and I miss her very much.  Today, March 9, is her 104th birthday.  It makes me sad that she never met my niece, Shannon and she never met my husband.  They both would have charmed her socks off.  She taught me to crochet and whenever I do I feel close to her.  I often use the first hook she gave me - it was her favorite and it is mine.  She hated the idea of cooking with fake substitutions - she believed natural was better.  I used to roll my eyes at her and preach low-fat this and low-fat that.  She'd roll her eyes right back and tell me real ingredients were better.  You know what - she was right.  I prepare more healthy recipes using fewer "fake" elements and better natural ingredients. 

I also miss people who are still living.  I do not get to see them often or often enough.  Most live close by and the business of life rips the time from the calendar at an alarming speed.  Our visits become fewer and farther between.  It is also very easy to get wrapped up in our own schedules and is sometimes very difficult to even think about veering away from what we always do to make time for anything else.  I am not sure if that is a casualty of growing older - we don't remember how to just let go.  What's the harm in meeting for coffee or ice cream or a short walk.  Will everything break or stop working or grind to a halt.  Nope.  I think that, as we age, we need each other to help keep grounded.  I have a husband who never skips a chance to hug and I love that.  But I also love hugging my female friends.  It's a special bond we have where sometimes a hug is all we need.  

I am vowing to see people I miss more.  When some of you hear me forcing you to meet me despite schedule issues and whatever - know it is because I miss you.  Ask my sister-in-law Erin - my mother and I were having lunch last week and I asked Erin to join us.  I felt like seeing her.  I do not get to spend much time with her and I felt that morning that I really wanted her to join us.  So I gave her two hours notice and she beat us to the restaurant.  I was very happy she did that.  Yes - she had 957 other things to do, but she put them aside for a little bit and the three of us had fun.

As a Christian, the season of Lent has me thinking of many things.  I am not one of those "must-give-up-everything-and-then-whine-about-it" types.  I like thinking of making other changes.  Giving up unhealthy things or habits.  And cleaning.  Spring Cleaning.  Lent is a time to put away what we can do without, so we can be free to focus on getting ready for the joy of Easter - it is the right time to spring clean our souls and our minds.  The United Church Of Christ, to which I belong, is doing a great Spring Clean for Lent.  It was today's posting that made me think of the other side of missing people -- the people I have on the edge of my life who probably don't need to be there any more.  Maybe at one time we were close but we are not now.  Maybe we only caught up from time to time but now we do not.  I learned this lesson some time ago, so that is a short list.  This is the time - my spring cleaning.  I don't miss them and, obviously, they do not miss me.  Our guide for today: Lent Day 24 (22) (3/9/13): Say goodbye to someone you need to say goodbye to. Whatever the circumstances, good or bad, remember that “goodbye” comes from “God be with you.”

Time flies by so quickly and nothing much is guaranteed.  Bring people closer or let them go.  Make the time for people who are important.  If you are not sure you can let go - I say to you - "God be with you" is not the worst way to send someone off into the world.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Crazy? Cat Lady? I'm not worthy.

I remember having pets when I was younger ...Smokey...Peter the Girl...Spotty...Princess...Thumper.  I remember the pets my folks had after I moved ... Mittens & Logan.

What I don't remember is how much I loved them.  Did they sleep with me?  Did I talk to them and play with them?  While many young girls were developing their love for animals - through horses it seemed - I was developing a love for Donny Osmond and David Cassidy.  I liked our pets and I could not watch any film where animals were harmed.  As a matter of fact, to this day, I can't get through Bambi or Dumbo without bawling.  But did I really have a strong love for the animals in my life?  I do not remember that I did.

In 1987 I took a giant step and moved into my very first apartment.  And for some reason never known to me, I decided I HAD to have a cat as soon as I got settled.  So off to the shelter I went.  I was suddenly overwhelmed.  Cage after cage of cats who needed homes and me - not able to take them all.  I visited with a few and when one actually curled up on my lap and fell asleep I knew who was coming home with me.  I named her Emily.  She was a sweet little calico - double-clawed on all four paws.  Because her only daytime friends were chipmunks, she began communicating with me using the clicking noises chipmunks make.  She was so adorable.  But she was also pretty sick, which I did not know.  I didn't have for her quite a year when I lost her suddenly.  I was so heartbroken.

Not long after I lost Em I learned of a young female who had been abandoned at the Stoneham Animal Hospital and was ready to be homed.  She was the office cat and at only 6 months old and they wanted her to be in a home, but so far no one had been interested.  I went to meet her and fell in love.  I took her home, named her Allie, and spent the next 18 years as her companion.  As I think about many of those years, I honestly don't think I fully appreciated her.  She met me at the door every night - how many nights did I just drop my stuff and walk by her?  She also slept with me every night - not just on the bed but either up against me or on me.  Did I understand how lucky I was?  No.  I recall it bothered me sometimes and I would put her out of my room and close the door.  How undeserving was I.  I didn't deserve the gift of her but she never gave up on me.  I finally did learn to appreciate her, though.  As we both aged I saw what a blessing she was.  Together we dealt with terrible relationship issues, two moves, a break in, cancer and death.  No matter what was being thrown at me, Allie was right there to remind me that I was not alone.  During the spring of 2006, she got sick.  She was almost 19 then and she didn't linger long.  I buried her in the yard at my parents' home and I visit with her there often.  I placed a small stone to mark her resting spot - it depicts a dragonfly with the words "time passes - love remains".  I always think of her when I see a dragonfly.  Dragonflies live short lives and they remind us to make the most of the short time we have.

To say I was heartbroken after losing Allie is an understatement.  For two weeks I was unable to touch any of her things.  I finally asked my mother to remove her favorite blanket while I was not home, because I didn't have the heart to do it.  I still have her little bowl - I could not part with it.  I cannot think of her without missing her even now.

In late spring of 2006 I knew I needed another companion - I lived alone and missed having another breathing creature in my apartment.  This time, I wasn't letting myself miss out of anything.  I would find a new cat and make the most of all of our time.  Claire, from the Melrose Humane Society, had a male who was looking for someone like me.  Arthur needed a quiet place - no kids & no other pets.  I prepared to meet him and to take him home.  When you go to meet a pet in a shelter or in a foster home, you really need to be ready to take them.  So I picked up a nice blue place mat & blue bowls along with a sweet little blue blanket.  Thing is - Arthur didn't really care for me.  He actually hissed at me when I met him.  Was he in touch with the men I had been dating??? Hmmmm

Claire told me about a female she had.  Two years old - had been abandoned right before she had a small litter of kittens.  Her kittens had all been adopted but she was having trouble being placed.  It seemed she was kind of shy and wasn't good with other animals - they bullied her and she did not defend herself.  I met her and that was that.  I brought her home, renamed her Camille, and she still rules my life.  I felt badly that all she had were blue things - I did get her a pink blanket.  She had been abused and flinched when I reached for her.  She spent the first three days with me hiding beneath my dresser.  She eventually came around and filled the gap Allie's death left.  She's very social and lovable & has become even more so as we enter middle age together.

Thing is, I thought her easy-going personality would be right for me to bring another member into our family.  A couple weeks ago, almost against my own will, I found myself typing into PetFinder "female - special needs"  I honestly think it was some kind of out-of-body experience.  I wasn't looking for another cat.  I had not even discussed the idea with my husband.  I just did it and there was Winnie.  I first fell in love with her face then her name then her story.  Her face is precious.  Her coloring is beautiful and her eyes are so green.  Her name - my aunt's mother was named Winnie and I took it as a positive sign.  Her story - she was rescued from a kill shelter with one day left, lived with her saviors, was adopted then returned, then she moved to a foster home.  This little girl needed a place where she could settle down.  She has mild cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) which isn't really causing any issues.  She wobbles & sometimes falls over but she's fine on the stairs and she can jump up on the bed or onto chairs & she can get around OK.  She has made herself completely at home and we're very glad.  Camille is very s l o w l y coming around to her - we still have quite a way to go - but I have faith in my girl and I think she will come to love Winn.

Before I met my husband I declared - out loud - that I was done dating and would get the requisite number of cats to qualify as a crazy cat lady and live my life out with them as my only companions.  I know that I can just be crazy - I don't need cats to confirm that.  I also know that Cat Lady has many negative connotations but I have two and I love them so whatever.  I also know I'm not worthy.  They really do give me so much and I try hard to give it back but I don't think I quite make it.  I will always try to make up for not appreciating what I had before - that's my tribute to Allie.

If you think you're crazy or you think you don't have enough love to go around - I say to you - remember the lesson of the dragonfly.  Life is short - live yours as best you can.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Days of our Lives

This blog is not about the soap opera, which I watched for years and years by the way - it is about making our days count (and counting them if you want to).

I regularly receive email from a blog I subscribe to entitled Healthy Spirituality.  It is thought-provoking and refreshing.  The author, Jean Wise, often challenges her readers to look at their spirituality and look at their lives and work to strengthen the spots where the two intersect and the spots where they do not.  This is not written for the faith I follow but I find peace in it just the same.

I would have to say I haven't been "spiritual" for very long.  I was raised in a faith that did not feed my soul.  I didn't agree with much of what I heard and knew.  So in 1986 I quit.  I was teaching junior high in a faith-based school and the entire religious experience destroyed what was left of my own beliefs.  Formally and officially I left.  Beginning then, I thought I was just spiritual and not religious, seeing as how I no longer had a religion to call my own.  Truth is, what I had was no clue.  My spirit was lost and it would be some time before I got it on track.  All part of the learning & growing process I guess.

Fast forward to 2001.  I visited a church (Melrose Highlands Congregational Church) felt completely welcomed and came to my spiritual home.  In March of 2002 I became a member and have been there ever since.

Back to the days of our lives.

In her January 3, 2013 email, Jean Wise wonders why we need to experience a loss or something bad to remember to wake up and embrace life.  It's true for me at least.  I want to find something wonderful if every day - there IS something wonderful in every day.  Just the fact that I am alive is a great place to start.  There are blessings all around me all the time and I try very hard to appreciate them.  But then I get distracted by non-blessings and I stop paying attention.  I get bothered by little things and waste energy on them when I know better not to.  Not a good way to live.

Jean notes how many days she has lived and vows not to waste the precious gift of life.  As of today (01/06/13), I have lived 17,904 days.  I think I calculated it correctly - I did note the leap years.  Seventeen thousand nine hundred four - that is a lot of days.  Have I appreciated most of them?  No, I have not.  Will I change that?  I sure will try.

The new year is a common time for people to develop resolutions - I see them in action at the gym.  Why now?  Why not back in August when you realized you were overweight or out of shape or you wanted to take better care of yourself?  Why not then?  Why wait until January to eat well?  Why didn't you do it before?  I think many of us are so busy just trying to get from one end of the day to the next that it makes more sense to pick a goal and aim at it.  January more sweets...gym every day...sleep 13 hours a nice to everyone.  OK.  Then on January 10th, when things aren't working out so well because the goal was so unreachable, people feel good about trashing their resolutions and going back to complaining about how they want to lose weight and want to eat better and need more sleep.  It is a nutty circle of silliness.  If I make resolutions I tend to make them on my birthday, which is my new year.  And I keep them private - it's just me having to answer to myself.  Do you make resolutions?  How do you do keeping them? 

I also think resolutions are a way to make sure you get more out of our days.  "I will eat better" might translate to "I will spend meaningful time planning a menu, making healthy food choices, taking better care of me and my family, enjoy preparing our meals"  We're all busy.  My ears bleed when I hear people piss and moan about how they can't do anything because they are too busy.  Hey - you drive the train - you want to fill your time so you can use it as an excuse, go right on and do it - no skin off my nose.  Are you making the most of your days though?

I saw this neat idea - set out a jar and beginning on January 1, fill it with  notes you write.  The notes are the blessings you found in the day or something good that happened.  On New Year's Eve, dump the jar and read the notes.  You can enjoy reviewing your year and see just how blessed you are.  So I told my husband this would be happening.  And I set out a jar (of sorts).  And it has two notes in it that I wrote.  Two?  We are six days into this year - why aren't there at least six notes?  What am I doing?  It was my idea and I'm not doing it.  I know the last 6 days have been filled with many good things.  No - unicorns don't wake me up each day and things are not perfect - but they don't need to be.  I can still be blessed and I am going to fill that jar.

I want to make the most of as many days as I have left.  I want to have to get another jar before December because mine is too full to hold all the notes.  I'd like to see a unicorn and maybe one day I will.  If you're not sure about making the most of your days or meeting your resolutions - I say to you - just do it.  One day at a time.  Waking up is an automatic blessing ~ it will keep getting better from there.


PS - the photo is of our January 1st blessing ~ Winnie.  She's a sweet little girl who just joined our family.  Camille isn't that fond of her but she will come around. ~^..^~