The Year of Quiet Optimism

 

 

snow covered pine trees at daytime
Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com

We started 2019 in the soybean field not with horns and confetti but with deep sighs of relief. Oakley, Hubby and I are healthy for the most part. My sister and her husband (who had quadruple bypass surgery back in September) were able to make the trip from Michigan for the holiday gathering at our brother’s. We have the basics and enough to share. We are truly grateful.

On New Year’s Eve we went to Trader Joe’s, then to our favorite Indian restaurant for tandoori chicken and a dessert that’s like a cross between carrot cake and pudding. We went home and pulled in the day behind us, choosing to stay off the roads. The combination of unrelenting rain, impaired drivers, and cops looking to meet the year end ticket quota put a damper on evening celebrations for us. We finished the day by watching Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett perform selections from the American standard songbook followed by Renee Fleming sing opera and jazz with the New York Philharmonic on PBS. We made it all the way up to 10, then retired. I listened to the big band dance party on WDCB, a local public station that specializes in jazz, blues, folk, and runs a four-hour block of shows from the golden age of radio on Saturday afternoons. A touch of old school tasteful glamor provided a pleasant end to the holiday. Except for the midnight  interruption by the neighbors who observed the coming of 2019 by bringing out the heavy artillery, all was calm.

We woke to a mud-colored sky that spit snow and rain by turns. In spite of that, a sense of peace, of hope settled around me. Relief that 2018 had passed, and that the time to pick up and go on had arrived.

In the smaller, more personal world, the relief was akin to feeling as if I’d pulled into the garage after a drive in a severe snowstorm. We navigated the losses, the changes, and arrived in 2019 with dents and scars, but we’re here and ready to get on with it as the crowds exhort in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

It wasn’t just me who felt it. Some predict that the energies of the universe will lead humanity in a positive direction this year. Others who watch politics believe that the new Congress will finally reign in the chaos emanating from the Oval Office.

Either way, I feel as if it will get better from here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Memorial Day Entry

Or as we call it around these parts of the soybean field, “Monday.”

A very hot one at that with temps reaching well over 80 before 8 AM. Despite all good intentions to get in a 45 minute walk this morning, it grew too hot for both Oakley and me. We bailed at the 20 minute mark. We made one run outside for the most personal of personal reasons since then. He’s taken up camp in front of the fan used to augment the air conditioning and seems uninterested in moving again until dinner.

Hubby is building something in the garage. I have no idea what he’s working on, but as long as he’s happy, it’s all good.

I haven’t done very much today. I’ve played on line; read new-to-me books; watched a repeat of a Swedish spy thriller. The extreme heat precluded work on the garden. Again. It is what it is. The weather should break on Wednesday. Maybe then.

Both weekend days’ highs climbed well into the 90s, too.  Last night, we decided to go to our favorite used book store (20% off everything+selling a bunch of books=a lot of fun for both of us), then out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants across the street in lieu of trying to cook out.

When we turned onto the north-south state route where said attractions lie, we noticed several police cars and IDOT trucks parked at intervals. A bad accident? A sinkhole? Road blocks to check for registration and seat belt usage (and a discreet check for alcohol use)? Nope. The pavement had buckled and shattered in several locations from the heat, necessitating navigation by the officers so all could drive around them in an orderly, safe manner. Tricky on a Sunday night, but had this happened on that stretch of road on a workday, traffic would have been backed up to Kentucky and Wisconsin.

To my best of my recollections,  this kind of weather never happened when I was younger, much younger. There were warmer than average Memorial Day weekends, certainly, but with highs reaching into the low 80s, not pushing 100. Usually, we could go on a picnic with our grandparents and a couple of other stray relatives. Or have everyone over for a cook-out.

Memorial Day is a much quieter affair now. Distance, logistics, and so on have bumped it to the wayside, save for a picnic when the weather is half-decent.  Personally, I don’t care driving on this day, or July 4, or Labor Day. Parades and observations of the two former with no good escape routes in our little town  snarl traffic into dreadlocks. Labor Day just involves keeping a sharp eye out for cops who want to pad municipal coffers at the expense of careless drivers.

I just would rather stay home, thank you. We have left overs from last night for dinner; we have air conditioning; our basic needs are met. WFMT played selections from Gershwin, Porter, and Sousa. We don’t need to be anywhere, so we will simply celebrate the comfort of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Second Day of Christmas

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

We didn’t have a partridge in a pear tree. Nor turtle doves, unless you want to count their two mourning cousins who crashed into the back door while Hubby and I had lunch.

The last couple of weeks have been busy with a graduation (nephew launching into the great wide open); the family holiday gathering piggybacked on that to spare the Michigan relatives a second drive down in a week; a wonderful Yule party thrown by a couple of friends, one of whom is a culinary school grad; and yesterday came the season finale with dinner at another couple of friends’.

Today is the big deep sigh of letting go, of making space for the new year. It’s up to a whopping two above as I write, making it a good day to dream, to reflect. We’ll be back in double digits by Thursday, sort of, anyway. One of the almanacs predicted that we’d be cycling in and out of the deep freeze this winter. All OK as long as we don’t get the huge snows to go with it, or stay stuck there for protracted periods.

And that’s good. Several occasions warrant leaving the house whether I want to or not. We have a couple of vet visits coming up. The 10,000 mile annual check up and three year rabies shot needs to be scheduled with the regular vet before the 11th.  Oakley goes to Dr. V for a recheck of his eyes on the 8th. We’ll be discussing what longterm management of his uvulitis [sp?], the autoimmune condition triggering the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eyeballs. In the handout that she gave me, Dr. V said that humans who have it described the pain of this process as severe cramping. I’m not thrilled about Oakley being on Prednisone long term, but if it’s a choice between side effects from a maintenance dose of it or a 100% chance of him going blind in a lot of pain, I think you know which risk I’ll take.

So far, Oakley has had minimal side effects from the Pred and the anti-rejection drug  taken with it. The former necessitates a couple more potty runs during the day and makes him hungrier and thirstier. The latter caused him to emit sulphuric gas clouds–no cramping or discomfort, just gas–the first couple of days. Since dogs have different standards for what constitutes a pleasing odor than humans, I’m sure he’s enjoying it. I swear I’ve seen him smile a couple of times after he’s cut one. His eyes are clearing up and he’s much more comfortable.

For now that’s what counts.

And even with the generosity of family and friends, there’s nothing else I could ask for.

 

Strawberry Moon

 

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image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Strawberries are nature’s way of preventing humans living in colder climates from committing suicide during the winter. The promise, the thought of them can keep a person going through the darkest days.

While the winter berries from Florida are a nice try, they just don’t measure up to the ones ripened in the summer sun and not subjected to a ride in a refrigerated truck. The full moon in June is known in indigenous circles as the strawberry moon. The real strawberries, the warm juicy ones just from the field are available at farmers’ markets now. It’s best to eat them standing barefoot in the grass, or better yet, having them fed to you, or feeding them to someone.

That is how the humans came to be according to the creation stories of the Cherokee. The Supreme Goddess had created First Man and First Woman, then placed them on earth. All was blissful until the first couple had the first dust-up. First Woman walked off in a huff with First Man frantically trying to catch up with her. The Goddess looked down, and knew that she had to do something to slow First Woman down. And so She created the first strawberry plant and quickly put it in First Woman’s path. First Woman stopped. Gently, she touched the crimson globes hanging from the stems. They emitted a scent as sweet as the warmth of the day. She plucked one and nibbled on it. She plucked another and as she enjoyed that began to think of First Man and the joys they had shared together. By then, First Man had caught up with her. She fed him a few strawberries and, well…now you know where humans came from.

Even in situations where one may not be able (ahem) to express one’s self openly, strawberries still make for a luscious dessert.  Fruit that’s been macerated in wine is a common summer dessert in the Mediterranean region. Slice the strawberries into a bowl, pour a light red wine over them, add sugar (this will vary with the sweetness of the berries and the wine) and let them sit until well acquainted. Works great with a sparkling wine like prossecco, too.

For the celebrations of Canada Day (July 1) and US Independence Day (July 4), you might need to come up with a more G-rated dessert for family picnics and barbecues. Strawberry shortcake goes well with whipped cream. Just slice up some berries and let them macerate in some sugar or stevia for a couple of hours to get them good and juicy. While that’s happening, make a batch of baking powder biscuits. When they’re done, split in two, fill with the berries, and spoon on some whipped cream. If you want to up the ante, put a scoop of vanilla or strawberry ice cream between the biscuit halves.

If you need to capture the feeling of a summer day to inoculate yourself from the dark cold days, try making preserves. Aunt Google will help you find a recipe, or you can ask an older relative or your county extension service. Strawberries do not take kindly to freezing. Instead of ruby red drops of summer, you get tasteless mush when they thaw. There is plenty of cold and slush to deal with outside. You don’t need it on your oatmeal.

However you decide to celebrate the strawberry, don’t forget the whipped cream.  Not on the berries and wine, but the shortcake wants the whipped cream. It just wouldn’t be shortcake without it, and it just wouldn’t be summer with out shortcake or strawberries.

A Back-to-Basics and Stay in the Moment Year

Happy New Year, gentle readers. I hope that your end of year commemorations were peaceful and happy, or at the very least the local people in blue were not last minute additions to the guest list.

Mine passed peacefully, but not without a few bittersweet notes. My niece and nephew are adults now. Very odd to see them as such, especially my nephew with his shaved head. My sister and brother, now firmly entrenched in their 60’s, have finally figured out that 1. what happened in 1955 should stay in 1955 and 2. we no longer have the luxury of time to quibble about that, or which dead relative said what, or the color of the sky. The darker note was my sister in law’s diagnosis of dementia. The last round of neuropsych testing indicated that she’s holding steady with no deterioration since the last consult with the psychiatrist. For every remembered name, for every recalled detail, for the results of this doctor’s visit, we give thanks. We know what the future is likely to hold, but we will deal with it when it gets here.

The last chapter of 2015 completed, we step into 2016 with a focus on the truly important things. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Intentions, yes. Resolutions sounds too harsh and unforgiving. If the intention comes to fruition, great; if not, oh well. My intentions are pretty simple:

  • to remain civil and kind in the face of the unrelenting wave of bat crap craziness that intensify as November’s presidential election draws closer. To remain civil and kind, period. I shudder at comments on social media and the lack of anything resembling manners in the real world. I’m not advocating the strictures of “Downton Abbey,” but can we say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” at the very least with a response of “how interesting” when someone 180 degrees from you on the political spectrum tries to pick a fight?
  • revitalize meditation and yoga practices to help keep my brain focused and not let the ADHD gremlins hijack my thoughts.
  • to plant a vegetable garden this spring.
  • read more real books. I just read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent and wondered where I’d been since it saw the light of day.
  • and the ubiquitous lose weight.

The last is a radical journey to what works. I’m combining two things that have worked in the past: paying attention to body cues and following an exchange plan that I used in high school. It’s worth a shot.

May you have a year of many moments worthy of your precious attention, and may you have a year of peace.

And for the sake of any deities you believe in, or for the sake of humanity, get out and vote in November.

 

 

 

T-16 and Counting

I’m much more of a New Year’s person than a Christmas person, so I count the days until then. Not wishing them away by any means, just counting them.

Today started wet and dreary. Oakley followed me upstairs and went back to bed while I took my shower. He has play group this afternoon, so I’m not concerned over the lack of walking. I filled his treat ball with teeny tiny turkey treats. We both are happy. He gets some noms; I find it amusing to watch him bat the ball with his nose and paws to release the freeze-dried chunks of turkey. We ride for Ms. Lanette’s at 11:45.

While he weaves around the coffee table in pursuit of the ball, I’m countering the chill with a pot of rustic pear and apple sauce. “Rustic” is code for chunky and unpeeled. I had a bag of pears on the brink, so I salvaged most of them and put them into the pot with a couple of apples. Dash of salt. Sprinkle of cinnamon. We wait for them to break down. Shouldn’t be too long.

Christmas will be nice. On the day itself I’ll be joining friends for chili and trimmings. Two days later will be the gathering of the clan.

And then we have New Year’s. We had so many releases this year, including Hubby’s leap into retirement. It will be good to get there, to see who and what await. One of my friends and I will be meeting on January 1 to create vision boards for 2016–the kind that you look to for goal setting and clarification, not the ones you stare at in vain hopes of having your desires drop from the sky.

The pear-apple sauce smells lovely, a bit like the scent of childhood holiday memories and the way that advertisers want you to think Christmas smells. Oakley is saving his energy for an afternoon of play with his friends, snoring away next to me.

The New Year is coming, and will arrive when it gets here. In the meantime, this is a pretty nice place to be.

 

Welcoming the Light

At 5:03 central time, the wheel of the year makes another quarter turn and winter officially begins. We welcome the day. We welcome the return of the light, even if it is only a minute or so every 24 hours.

Just finished a walk with Oakley. Due to colds, work, and other seasonal issues, we walked on our own at the big forest preserve by the house instead of in our usual Sunday morning group by the river in the next town over. It’s cold and overcast, but much warmer than it was at this time last year. Solid white puddles left from the last round of rain dot the bare dirt roads here and there; otherwise there’s been no precipitation to speak of.

We had at least four inches of snow on the ground by this time last year and every two or three days storms dropped anywhere from three to six inches the rest of the season. We’d had many days when the mercury scratched its way into the low teens and held there with broken fingernails. Many were the days when leaving the house proved hazardous due to Kelvin-level wind chills or bad roads. Trading in the sparkly blue and white dangers for dreary but navigable days is a reasonable tradeoff. I can get out and go about the business of life as needed, and not have to juggle this and run to get that to make sure we were stocked up on basics like toilet paper.

Even beneath the overcast skies, the light peeks around the edges of the clouds. Will they break in time for sunset this afternoon? I hope so. At this time of year, the sun’s trajectory follows the railroad tracks that run through the trees by the entrance to the big forest preserve. At dusk, the sun hovers over the tracks framed by the trees. It hangs there as if it’s sharing a bit of last minute small talk before slipping further west down the tracks with a promise to be back in the morning.

The Post-Thanksgiving Report

I know. I know. To use the current butchering of the language, Thanksgiving was literally so last week.

Still, it was a good one. We did a basic but tasty turkey with cranberries, green beans, and mashed potatoes and stuffing, the things that we really like. We had pumpkin pie tartlets, just big enough for a bite for me but not big enough to blow my remaining points for the month.

MHz ran a “Montalbano” marathon. Chez nous, the National Dog Show and a telethon on Fox that showcased dogs in need of adoption bookended it. Usually, I don’t watch TV like that, but sometimes exceptions must be made.

Oakley enjoyed the turkey, the National, and the telethon. He dozed on my lap the rest of the time.

For that matter, Hubby and I drifted in and out of our turkey comas, too.

I’d been able to walk Oakley early, but the clouds that invited themselves and the chill wind negated the effort to get out for a second walk.

So it was just the wind, and the peace, and the quiet of the day making it the way it was supposed to be.

Countdown

Two weeks to Christmas Eve. 

Three weeks left in 2013. Three weeks and one day to 2014.

I don’t want to wish away that most precious commodity: time. Especially now that I’ve reached That Certain Age mark. Especially now that I’ve started getting notifications about high school classmates and friends making their passages. Especially now that I get word of friends whose lives are catching up with them in the form of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. 

This has been a long year, and I’m just ready to let it go. 

Hubby and I have never been really big on going out for New Year’s or that into Christmas. Yes, I make something yummy for the latter, and we go out to lunch at an Italian place for the former, but we just don’t make a big deal about it. 

2013 brought a lot of changes and growth. My wish is that 2014 be calmer.

 

 

 

 

 

The Obligatory Holiday Post

I just am not into holidays, so please don’t come around looking for suggestions on how to place tinsel on the cat or get the dog to wear a Santa suit without shredding it or your face. 

Christmas was my mom’s show. Until her unexpected passage when I was nine, it ran like clockwork and brought joy to all. Afterwards, not so much. What was supposed to be joyful, or at least civilized, descended into a chaotic swirl of bad behavior leaving me with sour memories and a ton of resentment for getting too many celebration related tasks dumped on me too early.  December ends up being a month-long attack of PTSD for me. 

In adulthood, I followed suggestions to cope–volunteer work, letting others do the planning and entertaining, singing in recitals. Still, they left me feeling hollow and unfulfilled. So I opted out of the observations, preferring to practice acceptance instead. 

If I could, I’d check myself into a Buddhist monastery until the 30th. New Year’s I like, but the rest of it is not to my taste. 

However, I would be unable to take Oakley with me, so that’s out of the question. I will content myself with Netflix, DVDs, and internet radio without the incessantly grinding demands to be HAPPY and JOYFUL and all that. 

If you are into Christmas, may this be the best one ever for you and yours. And if things get too overwhelming, you’re welcome to join me and Oakley behind the love seat.