Labor Day Blues

27 08 2014

This is a strange time of year – the cusp of autumn.  Change is palpable; it is in the air. It is exhilarating for some and stress-producing for others.

Autumn is not an easy season for me. As the days begin to shorten, I find my mood darkening with the atmosphere.  As many as there are like me, there are others who anticipate winter’s chill and bluster as a time of magic and wonder. (I do not understand how this can be, but I have witnessed it in otherwise perfectly sane friends.)

Knowing that I do not like “football weather,” pumpkin chai latte, or the loss of Daylight Saving Time, but that I am powerless to stop their onslaught, it’s time to find a way to get out of this funk.

Change is part of life – it’s really a definition of life – so, in my sixtieth transition from summer to fall,

I am going to embrace the change of season.

I am going to revel in the transient beauty of painfully brilliant blue skies and a sun that seems to be glancing sideways at Earth, casting gold streaks across everything in its path.

I am going to delight in the scratchiness of a wooly sweater.

I am .  .  .

Oh, who am I kidding, I am going to sulk until April!

Please Be Patient

20 08 2014

The Oxford dictionary defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.  We commonly use the word patience, when we really mean perseverance, especially in this often-used statement:

“I wish I had the patience to do that.”

Last weekend, I heard that, more than once, at a fine art and craft show. Have you, while gazing at some complex bit of beauty in a booth, overheard such a comment, had a friend say it to you, or perhaps even said it yourself?  There stands the artist, whose soul is on display as surely as his work, and, BAM! – someone has reduced his effort to just being able to “wait it out.”


I got the chance to visit a fine artist in her studio, last week, to observe her at work.  While I could learn many of the component tasks that go into creating her work, I could never – no matter how patient I might be – do what she does. This is not self-deprecation; I am merely stating a fact. The bases for this assertion are many, but let’s just go for the big obvious ones:

  1. Her muse speaks to her, alone. No one can copy another’s creative spirit. (Yes, we can copy work, but that’s not the same, and you know it!)
  2. She has devoted time and intellect to researching, experimenting, documenting, refining, and pushing the boundaries of her chosen medium.
  3. She is fearless in her work, because she completely trusts her vision of a piece and her ability to realize that vision.

Those things – creative fire and genius spark; desire, diligence, and artistic acuity; technical skill; and mad courage – are what we really see in the finished works of master artists and artisans. I think where patience enters the equation, perhaps, is when an artist merely smiles in response to, “I wish I had the patience to do that.”


This Post is Not About Robin Williams

13 08 2014

It is about all of us who remain alive after someone we love has gone from our Earth.

Being the one left standing is an immeasurably hard role, but we have been – or will be cast in it – at some time in our lives.  That is the nature of things, so we should try to prepare for it .  .  .  but we can’t. There’s no training manual, no play book, no YouTube tutorial. We must learn the part the moment it is thrust upon us.  With that understanding, I know this will be of little use to the uninitiated, but I hope it helps those new to the play.

Saturday marked the fourth August 9th without my sweet daughter. Two days later, hordes of fans, friends, and family felt the shock and loss at the death of Robin Williams.  The magnitude of mourners differs. The way in which they died differs. The rest of the story is the same. A light in our lives has been extinguished.

That does not, however, mean there is no other light.

Last week, many of my friends reached out with words of kindness and comfort. One who also shares the mother-wound, but who is in a different place in her grief, moved me to write this in response to her email of support and sympathy.

We lost immeasurably, my Friend, but we have not lost all. Your wound is fresher, but I hope you are – please – allowing it to heal.  The scar remains, but the love and laughter of family and friends makes it less acutely painful.

This morning, I looked out at Jessie’s pond and it was alive with birds, splashing and splattering water all over the place for their Saturday baths and I felt joy. I chose to feel the way Jessie would feel to have seen such a feathered water fight.  Choose, with all your might, my Dear, to feel the joy life has given you; the anguish does not deserve such energy.

Every time you choose to feel the joy – although it will be hard at first – you will strengthen your heart’s ability to feel it the next time. By choosing joy, you will be a light in the lives of others. Without any other effort, your choice will brighten their paths, your joy shining into the darkness of their grief.  For my sake and for your sake, please, choose joy.

Down Came the Rain and Washed the Cobwebs Out

6 08 2014

I have, for years, begged my mother to throw away some of the “junk” she has been storing, “in case she might need it.”


Well, a week ago, we came home from a family wedding to find that, while we were gone, there had been a deluge or two of epic proportions in south central Pennsylvania and there was an indoor pool where my mother’s family room used to be.

Having, as a child, lost all her family possessions – twice – in house fires, Mom grew up to be a “collector” of all kinds of stuff.  Much of it was in the flooded area of her home. Had it been my house, I would, I assure you, still be sitting on a step ladder, weeping.

My mother, who turned eighty-four in March, is, however, a very different animal.

Had I not happened by to catch her toting a soaking wet cardboard box up the steps, she would have not even told me about the mess that was her basement. There she was: clearing out boxes of ancient household records, carpet remnants, the detritus of her three grown children’s toy boxes . . .

8-6-14 - 2

She was handling it with energy and resignation – no crying.

I was able to convince her to let me Shop-Vac up some of the water and remove the drenched area rugs only because it would make me feel better to help.

When the rains forced my mom to do what I could not convince her to do, I felt relieved. I also felt guilty.  I never understood why it was hard for her to let go of things – things I knew were worthless.

Then I felt stupid.   What is trivial to one is treasure to another. If she wants to keep something because it comforts her or makes her happy, it’s valuable. The only thing of genuine value to me in that house –  the house I grew up in –  is her.

Protect your valuables, Friends.  The real ones are irreplaceable.


May I Quote You, Mr. Chagall?

30 07 2014

I am not a fan of Marc Chagall’s paintings. I am, however, a fan of two quotes attributed to the man. The first is a beautiful comment on color, which appeals to my love of Nature, who can sing this tune to perfection:

All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.

Who would deny how well these analogous colors – pink, violet, and blue – get along in this geranium blossom?

7-30-14 geranium for blog

Friends . . .

And just look at this daylily ‘Woodside Romance.’  Its metallic blue anthers are bursting with golden-yellow pollen grains. All the way across the color wheel, these hues each make the other even more vibrant.

7-30-14 woodside romance for blog

and Lovers . . .

The second Chagall quote struck me very personally:

I was scared of growing up.

Me, too, Mr. Chagall.

I was so scared of growing up that I wondered whether I would ever do it.

I’ve been eligible to vote since 1972.

I became a mother in 1990.

I lost my only child in 2010.

I have been married for almost 30 years.

I am an adult; I am responsible and capable, but that does not mean I am grown up, at least according to my definition of grown-up:

Grown-ups do not eat raw cookie dough.

Grown-ups do not need their mommas

Grown-ups do not dissolve into tears when a pet dies.

Grown-ups do not want ice cream for dinner.

Grown-ups do not wear their good clothes to play in the yard.

Mr. Chagall, I have decided that I am not scared of growing up; I am just not going to do it.

Mom says I don’t have to, if I don’t want.

A Deliberate Act

23 07 2014

Several weeks ago, I read this interesting little snippet of language: a beautiful and clever woman named Danielle Duffy said she was going to “create deliberate joy.”  Isn’t that a lovely idea?

Create Deliberate Joy.

I am a happy person. I wake up each morning with the feeling that the day is going to be a great one.  Of course, some days, that feeling is slapped out of me by some unexpected unpleasantness, but that does not stop me from arising with the same positive feeling the next day.

Create Deliberate Joy.

Something turned over in my mind, the moment I read those words.

Yes, I am a happy person, but the idea of creating joy – consciously – actively – is different and exciting.  It’s wonderful to be happy, but how thrilling it is to go from being happy to “doing” happy, to look for ways to grow more of it and to share it with others.

Danielle’s declaration, Create deliberate joy, has set me on a path that has improved my already damn fine life.  I am taking every opportunity to engage with my happiness. I am not taking it for granted. I am noticing the goodness, paying attention to all the wonderful things around me.  I am also – and this is not easy for me, for, even though I wear an extrovert’s clothing, I am truly an introvert at heart – reaching out to others to create deliberate joy for them, too.

If this sounds a little bit too intangible, are you ever mistaken!  One of the surest ways for me to create deliberate joy is not only tangible, it’s smell-able and taste-able – Orange Creamsicle Cookies, a recipe I’ve, in my opinion, perfected and share with you, here, so you can create some deliberate joy of your very own. I can tell you, it created some deliberate joy at the neighbor’s house, yesterday!


Orange Creamsicle Cookies  – PKL

2 ½  c  flour

¾  t      baking soda

1/2  t    salt

1 c       unsalted butter, softened

¾ c      sugar

¼ c      firmly packed brown sugar

2          medium eggs

1 t        vanilla extract

The zest – outer orange part, only – of 2 large oranges

2        Ghirardelli white chocolate bars, hacked into approximately quarter- to half-inch chunks (Yes, the chips are cheaper,

           but do NOT substitute. The bar is much better quality!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Cream butter and sugars until light. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth. Blend in orange zest. Stir in flour mixture until combined. Stir in white chocolate chunks.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 8 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Do not overcook! Cool for a minute on cookie sheets before transferring to rack to cool completely.

Store in airtight container – who am I kidding – eat them all, immediately!

Boy, am I Full!

16 07 2014

My heart is broken. That’s surely an odd phrase; what does it mean?

For me, when I lost my sweet Jessica, it meant I needed to wear a cast made from the love of my family and friends and a sling of fond memories until it healed.

My broken heart has mended. There is still a big nasty scar and I find I rely on that sling when it feels particularly heavy, but it works.

My heart works.

When we feel the wound of great loss, for a while, it surely seems as though it could be a mortal blow, but it isn’t. Our hearts are not meant to die with our loved ones; they are meant to rebound with renewed appreciation for what we had, what we have, and what is yet to come.

My heart is full.  This is an equally interesting one.

To me, it means to be so aware of all the love around and within us that, like a toddler with a full glass of juice, we can’t help but slosh some out and get it all over the people around us. That’s why hearts full of love always have the ability to hold more.

Splash that love around.

Jump into it with both feet.

Litter your neighborhood with it like cosmic confetti.

Even if your heart is broken, the exercise will do it good.

My broken-mended heart is full.  If your heart needs some love, I hereby give you some of mine.

purple pavement a 6-24-14

This post is dedicated to a dear friend and his sweet mother.  Love and strength and peace to Big Henry and his family.


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