Saturday, October 25, 2014

Replete with Peace

Today the girls, my sister,  my father and I participated in the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lake's annual walkathon.  We did this in honor of my mama, gone these two years and some months now.

I signed us up only 3 or 4 weeks ago. It's something I've wanted to be involved with for awhile now. The Cancer Resource Center is a wonderful organization that provides all kinds if support for cancer patients and their families.

My life is very full right now, more so maybe than ever before.  And I wanted to give something back,  do something to remind me that there is so much more in the world than what's going on for me.

This was perfect.  We got there a little early,  Luci was cranky.  I generally like to let Saturday mornings be slow these days,  but this was important to me,  so off we went anyway.

Heather arrived shortly after we did,  my dad just in the nick of time.  And we were off, and just as we began walking the sun cut through the clouds and stayed there for the entire walk.

It was sweet, just sweet. I looked around at all of those faces, so many. Some obviously currently fighting the good fight. Some wearing tags listing who they were walking in honor of. Some somber, some smiling. All of us walking (and cheering on the runners, who left before is and were looping back), all of us just together for this same good reason.

And I felt, rather than thought, for the first time in awhile,  that we really are all in this together. No matter who we are or where we come from, we all love, and we all lose. It is the nature of life,  and if we keep on loving, more and bigger despite our losses, then we win anyway. And we find more richness.

And so today I am replete with love and with peace. It's just all very good.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Some thoughts on grief, 2 years after my mother's passing.


Yesterday was the two year anniversary of my mother's passing. 

I wanted to go visit her grave site, I don't think I've been since this time last year. But life and work were full, and I could almost hear her saying, in that way of hers, "You have plenty going on, come when you can, this day is no different than any other."

And that was who she was. She didn't set a lot of store in holidays or anniversaries, preferring to live and love well everyday, and I am like her in this way.

A few weeks ago Patrick related to me how a friend of his, awhile back, had described the process of grieving to him, and I liked the description. 

His friend said that grief was something like moving to a new town. At first, the whole of the area is new, unfamiliar, bewildering, and overwhelming. 

But as the months and then years pass, you become accustomed to the new terrain. The streets are familiar, you know your way around. You make new connections to the place and the people, it begins to feel more like home, more comfortable.

If I relate that to my experience of moving from San Diego to New York, it feels very true. And I would go further and say that while New York doesn't feel like home in the way that San Diego still does to me, I have now have familiarity and comfort, and some roots here now. I'm easy with it.

I feel easier with the loss of mama these days. Not that I like it, far from that. But I have noticed that some of the intensity of losing her has lessened.

And I had this sudden understanding of why we, why I, might choose to hold on to grief, rather than let it pass through me, as I believe it's meant to.

When the grief was fresh and sharp, it was all so intense and tangible, that it almost felt like she was still here, that somehow those feelings were holding her here.

And as this has softened, gradually, I'm recently aware that I'm thinking of her in past tense. As memories. And I half believe that this is how it should be, and half want to really fight that, as if in fighting it I can somehow hold her more here, more present.

But it doesn't really work that way. I do believe, in some fashion, she is still present. I don't really know what that means still, but I'd like to. And I do believe that I'm more likely to understand as more time passes, and it all softens more.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Confessions of a Generalist, the 40 hour work week

True confessions time: I have spent most of my life avoiding the 40 hour work week, and the fields of work that go along with it.

Yep, that's me. I began working at the age of 14. I liked work then, I still do now. I'm not what you would call an idle person, and in fact don't find it easy to sit still, unless I'm engaged in reading, or sewing, or working at my desk. Busy somehow, sitting for the sake of not doing is not my strong suit. Meditation? Well, I'm working on that, but I love a good walking meditation :-). 

I have never wanted to work 40 or more hours a week at the same place. I have a times in my life put in more than 40 hours a week between several jobs, and during the odd week, at the same job out of necessity, and been fine with that for periods of time.

In general, I have sought to work fewer hours for more money. I prefer to work harder/smarter/faster and be rewarded for this by more free time and a better hourly wage. In my younger days, while living in a big city, this worked well for me and provided me with a lot of freedom in terms of schedule.

Now, due to necessity, I find myself in the position that I have,with the exception of a few brief stints, managed to avoid for over 20 years.  I have children to feed and cloth and be home for in the evenings at least, a husband struggling with health issues, a mortgage and other expenses to pay, and I have planted myself in a small economy with fewer options. So I am currently immersed in the dreaded 40 hour work week. 

I've been doing this for a few months now (okay, maybe 6 weeks, and there was a holiday in there, but it feels longer) and I have some observations. 

It's not all bad. There are some benefits to being in the same place doing the same things for that much time.

1) For example, I rarely feel pressed for time  at work, or a sense of urgency in getting things done. There's usually enough time in the day/week to get what needs to be accomplished without feeling rushed, at least in my current position. I'm well treated and respected, and the work load is reasonable. I'm more relaxed at work. And less focused.

2) I'm getting better and more organized at what I do, now that I'm putting in more hours. I've always believed that to be true. That which I focus on most I improve most. As I spend more and more hours there, I'm often struck with ideas of how to streamline what I do, and become both more focused and productive. I've put some of these into place and they work. My sense of competency is increasing.


There are probably more good things about this, but that's what I'm coming up with now. 

On the downside....

1) I feel more rushed at home. Between working and commuting I'm now away from home at least 9 hours a day. There never seems to be time to get the house clean, the laundry put away, make a nicer meal, or just put my feet up and sit (didn't I just say I don't like that?), or play with the kids. Evenings during the week feel like a rush to feed everyone and get them to bed and I now both understand a) the attraction of convenience foods (but still, gross!), and b) the desire to be home even less, because it's so overwhelming, all that needs to be done and so little time to do it.

2) I have small children, and I feel less connected to home, and to them and their lives when I work this much. I used to think I wanted to be a full time at home mom. Once I began working part time, when Helena was about 3, I realized that this was perfect for me. I got to exercise my brain, interact with adults, and remember the me that was me before I had children. And I got to be there for pretty much everything I wanted to be there for, feel deeply connected to her every day, and really engage her without feeling like we were always rushing on to the next thing. 

Case in point, the other day Lucy was injured while I was cooking dinner. It was minor, and I picked her up and soothed her for a few moments and then she was on her way, back to whatever she had been doing. But I was struck with the fact that that sort of thing happens often throughout the day, and I am not there for it. I'm grateful to the wonderful people who care for her when I am away, we are blessed in that regard. And I'm not sure that she suffers for the lack of me being the one to do it. But I miss this keenly. And Helena, who is a social butterfly and happy to play with other kids most of the time often says she misses me these days. Sigh.

So while I don't think I would like to go back to being a full time, at home mom, I never had the illusion that I wanted to be a full time working mom. I respect those who do it and love it, but, wow, not me. 

When the girls are grown and really don't need me a lot, I might fit better in that setting, but actually, I doubt it, because....

I am, at heart, and introvert and a homebody. I like to go, and do, and interact with the world, and I also love to be in my home, my garden, my space, my place. It's not quite the sanctuary I want it to be yet,  but it's getting there. But not very fast now, because I spend so little time here these days.

And I am a generalist. I'm doing a lot one thing, and little or none of many other things that I love and miss and have little time or energy for.

I don't have a magic solution to all of this. Much has been written of late on the 40 hour work week and if you Google it, you'll find many articles on the subject. Necessity is what it is, and all things have their cycle and purpose. Hindsight will likely reveal gifts of this situation that are harder to see when I'm immersed in it. 

Are you generalist working a 40 or more hour week? What do you do to help you thrive?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Confessions of a Generalist, an Introduction

Several years ago, a friend and I were discussing our life choices over dinner. The work we did, the hobbies we loved, the way we spent our time. She manages a locally owned and run store and I asked her if she liked her work. Her response was intriguing to me, probably because it resonated with me so deeply.

She said, (and I'm not quoting directly, but, in reaching back into that conversation from the past, trying more to come up with the essence of her words), that she was reasonably content with her job and liked the people she worked with, and that it paid the bills and provided health insurance. I asked her why this and not something she loved more, and her response was that she is a too much of a Generalist to pick a more specific career path and pursue it. A lover of home, gardening, cooking, and herbalism, and probably many other things I'm unaware of, she preferred to have bill paying work that was perhaps less demanding than other career choices might be, so that she could fully devote her off time to other pursuits she loves.

Some years later these words are still bouncing around in my brain as, in the midst of midlife, I try to make sense of my own choices. 

Merriam Webster defines a Generalist as "one whose skills, interests, or habits are varied or unspecialized." This description leaves me a little flat, because it doesn't describe the rich variety of pursuits that I love, but it's not inaccurate. 

If I has to list my favorite hobbies and pursuits, they would include gardening, cooking, preserving food, sewing, knitting, crocheting, needlework, painting, refinishing furniture, Feng Shui, home decor and design, real estate, hospitality, food service and presentation, travel, languages, yoga, writing, reading, acting and theater...and that's just off the top of my head.

I have worked in a variety of fields in my adult life, including natural food retail, hospitality (read: bars, restaurants and hotels), massage therapy, Feng Shui consulting, real estate, bookkeeping/finance, and construction. I have always wanted to be that person who loves one thing most, and could pursue that career path and immerse myself in it fully. It seems so simple, to have a love and just follow it to where it leads and makes most sense. But I am not that person, have never been that person. I am a Generalist, a lover of oh so many things. 

So how does a generalist, a lover of many things, thrive in a world that prefers the 40 hour+ work week. How does one pay the bills, love and support family and friends, and still have time to devote to these life loves?

Are you a generalist? How are you making all of this work for you?

More on this....


Monday, June 30, 2014

June, the Gardener's patient month.

Today is June 30. Summer is truly here. Kids are out of school, the days and nights are hot and steamy.

I have decided that June is the patient month for the gardener. The time of mostly watching and waiting. 

My lettuce is in full production now, and our salads are lush, but simple unless we buy vegetables to add. I wander through my garden now, pull a few weeds, add a few things, and mostly watch the progress of it all, but there's not much to do, much to harvest. It's just time to watch, wait, and turn to other things. 

In a few short weeks we will be eating green beans, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, and more. But now is a time of quiet in the garden. These quiet interludes in life are good, to be savored.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Secret to Great Vegetable Soup

Not all vegetable soups are created equal. 

If you love soup as I do, you know this. 

The best vegetable soups have bite sized pieces of vegetables that are tender and succulent, ready to soften in your mouth with each bite. The flavors blend gently and it's this beautiful dance across your palate.

For years I've wondered how to create this kind of vegetable soup and finally realized the answer. I'm sure this is not really a secret, it's probably been scattered across blogs and cookbooks everywhere. But it was a revelation to me when I figured it out, and I had never seen it written just straight out, so here it is, for you.

Saute the vegetable first, all of them. 

That's it. Simple, right? 

Many recipes have you saute the onions and garlic, sometimes the celery, then add the stock or broth and at various points other vegetables. Don't listen. Saute them all in the beginning.

I use a tablespoon or two of olive oil most of the time. You could also use butter, bacon fat, or coconut oil, depending on the flavor you want to achieve. But do saute everything until it softens a little, then add your chosen stock or broth and other seasonings and cook just long enough for the vegetables to soften a bit more and you're done.

If you're patient, put the soup away until the next day and allow the flavors to blend and you'll love your soup even more. That's not a secret...everyone knows soup is better then second day.

Try it this way, you'll thank me.



Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dear Blog...Sunday, June 8, 2014....Gone, and Not

I haven't been much of a blogger these days.

In all honesty, I haven't had much to say. How many times and in how many ways can I say I'm a busy, tired, sleep deprived working mom of awesome kids who misses her own departed mom keenly, before it gets boring and redundant?

Not too many.

But this morning I woke up thinking of my mama just the same. Had my tea, cycled through some laundry, and found this quote, the lyrics from a Patty Lovelace song, in my facebook feed:

"Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain. Life's about changing, nothing ever stays the same."

Of the many things I want from myself, the ability to take an attitude of acceptance toward loss and change is pretty high on the list. I have only to watch my children, almost 10 and almost 3 (wow!), and I am forced to acknowledge the inevitability of change. We cannot hold on, we can only appreciate the moments we're living, and love as fully as we are capable.

I feel like I'm getting closer. And once again I encounter paradox and wish for a moment that life were black and white, clear cut, simple. How does one fully acknowledge the loss of someone so important, while simultaneously embracing the concept of change and letting go. What the heck does that even look like?

Occam's Razor: "among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected."

In other words, stop over-thinking this Diana, it probably looks like exactly what I'm doing right now. Which is mourning her when I need to, and also recognizing her continued presence in my life.

This weekend I made yogurt, did face paint (fancy healthy stuff she bought for us) and paper chain dolls with the girls, packed up some Lemon Balm Mint Tea from my garden last year to send off to my cousin with the new baby, read Harry Potter and Sesame Street while cuddling my girls, was interrupted in writing this at least 5 times by various family members but came back to it, and probably did a half dozen other things, just like those, that were truly her, her gifts to me that still live on, through me, and maybe someday through my girls.

I can't hold her or hug her, or talk to her (though I sometimes do still), but she does live on, and in the calm that has begun to follow her loss, I'm beginning to really know and feel the truth in this. 

I have some thoughts brewing on other topics that I hope to write about soon, but we'll see. I'm still that busy, tired mom. Until then, wishing you days and weeks as rich as full as mine have been these days.