Friday, January 29, 2010

It was time

Again, I've been absent from my blog for most of the week. Today Ron and I had to send our beloved Springer Alex to the bridge. It was a decision we made early in the week when it became clear that he was declining quickly. It's been both a horrible and wonderful last few days with him.

As soon as I have my thoughts together and my emotions somewhat in check, I will write more. Alex had a lot to teach us and I'm only beginning to understand it all.

Hug your furbabies tonight.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


It's been an exhausting and long week but I finally have some energy and time to write what's on my mind today. I do think about this blog a lot. If I can't fall asleep at night or if my mind wanders at work for a few minutes, I think about what matters enough at that moment for me to share.

Tonight, I'm thinking about my folks. Mom and Dad have their birthdays in January and February. Dad just turned 80; Mom is turning 79. They live in a large home on two acres of land. A home that was and is their dream home. Took them every dime they had to buy the land in what was then "the boonies" and build a house in a town where they felt better about the environment and the educational system - all for their kids, not themselves. That was in 1972.

Their house has become part of the family, much like a relative or a pet. Dad always did everything himself. From painting, to major renovations, to landscaping (the property looked like wilderness to this kid from the city and I could not picture what a house would even look like sitting in those tall pines). But they had a vision. Now, their favorite part of the house is the screened-in porch they built in the early 1980s. It looks out over their quiet property and hosts many a late-night Sox game. Garrison Keillor's voice and timpani notes from the Boston Pops hang in the breeze on warm summer nights.

They'll be heartbroken when the day comes that the house becomes too much for them. They know that day's coming. So do I. No place else will ever be home to them. No matter how big the porch.

I told Mom tonight that, although they have a big decision to make, this is a great problem to have. They are so lucky to have a nice home to sell which will keep them financially sound for the rest of their lives. They're lucky to have the luxury of deciding instead of having the decision made for them due to health issues. They're lucky that they don't absolutely have to sell in a buyer's market - they can sit on it for a while and wait for the market to turn around.

Life is all about options. And, as long as you can celebrate the fact that you've still got some, then problems turn into solutions.

Still and all, I sure will miss that porch.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Voting day!

I'm headed out shortly to vote and then work the polls in my town. Nothing makes me prouder to be an American than exercising my right and privilege to vote.

If you live in MA, I have one thing to say: I don't care who you vote for, just VOTE.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Litmus testing the Senate race

I've always tried really hard not to make any vote a one-issue decision. It's impossible to agree 100% with any candidate (or any person) on every issue so I do a gut-check on what I consider to be the major issues for me.

The MA Senate race is a tight one. I voted for Brown in the primary more because I wanted to send a message to the Dems that their choices were inadequate. And though Coakley won the primary and, for the most part, represents my take on the issues, I don't like her. Never have. I think it's her stiffness and lack of passion. We can get into a major discussion about gender bias and perception sometime, but this isn't the point of my post today.

As much as I don't like Coakley personally, I find that I have to vote for her. Why? Because of the issue of torture. When Brown came out in favor of "enhanced interrogation", that was when I realized I had no choice but to vote against him.

I've always been an Amnesty International type of girl. But in the past few years since I've joined the Unitarian Universalist faith, my anti-torture stance has been solidified. Torture goes against both my personal and my faith's principles.

So, though I am not one to litmus-test any candidate, this one test is so important to me that I feel I must make an exception to my own rule.

Still, whatever your decision and your own set of tests, PLEASE vote on Tuesday. Voting is a privilege and your duty as a free citizen in a democratic society.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Look! Up in the sky!

Every night when I take the dogs out for their final potty run, I always make a point of looking up at the sky. Not just a quick look to see what the weather is like, but a real long look.

It seems that I spend most of my time with a vision range of about 10 feet. I work from home and my eyes are usually on the computer. When not there, I'm reading or quilting or cooking. No need to look more than 10 feet ahead there! When I drive, I obviously look further ahead and all around. Unless of course there's a Prince song blaring through the speakers, in which case, I'm looking around AND seat-dancing.

I like my nightly ritual. While the dogs are sniffing around, I'm gaping open-mouthed at the stars. I love the layers of nature at night. The snow on the ground with its little embedded paw prints is the first thing I see. The next layer is the silouettes of the tall white pines towering over my house. On a clear night like tonight, the midnight blue sky is beautiful all by itself. But wait, there's the Milky Way and all those bright galaxies and stars that I will someday learn!

The rhythmic on-off-on-off lights of a few small planes are what bring me back to earth and my visually impaired routine. Again, I turn my gaze to the 10 feet in front of me. The dogs are ready to return to their comfy sofa. And I've got muffins in the oven.

For those few minutes every night, I remind myself that my life is just one of many. There are eyes like mine who may never think to look up and out every night. But for those eyes that do, I'm smiling too.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pro-(all) life?

Jury selection begins today for the trial of a pro-life advocate who killed a doctor that provided late-term abortions (
I find this dichotomy fascinating and always have.

How can someone who calls himself "pro-life" commit pre-meditated murder and not feel hypocritical? Isn't killing someone in the name of protecting life a contradiction in philosophies?

I guess that these fanatics can throw the Hitler argument back at me. "Would you have killed Hitler if you had the chance in order to stop his genocide campaign?"

It's an interesting discussion that leads back to thoughts on when life actually begins. And is there a difference between lawful abortions and lawless genocide when the result is loss of life (in the eyes of the murderer)?

I still can't help but think that cold blooded murder of a doctor who is performing a procedure that is not taken lightly by either the doctor or the patient AND is sanctioned by law, is somehow still murder. Not some valiant crusade to protect society from itself.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

So the saying goes

While trying to fall asleep last night, I got to thinking about some of my favorite sayings. Everyone has them. I've been either inventing them or co-opting them for 50 years. I'm not talking about offhanded comments or wiseass comebacks. I'm talking about sayings that help us sum up a situation or help us through a tough time. Sayings that we share with others to help them understand our position in concise terms.

I find sayings that people repeat often are an insight into their characters. Here are some of mine with sources if I can remember them. I'm not sure what they say about me, but then, I'll leave that up to you.

A little hard work never killed anyone. -- my dad
If money is your only problem, you have no problems. -- my mom
It's better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. -- my brother
The hardest thing to do is always the right thing to do. -- my sister
No one ever learned anything by talking. -- not sure where I heard this originally.
You can't reason someone out of something they didn't reason themselves into. -- friend Jay
The only way out is through. -- friend Gretchen
Deeds are more important than creeds. -- R.W. Emerson
The only way to succeed greatly is to dare to fail miserably. -- Bobby Kennedy
I'd rather be respected than liked. -- me
Never confuse my job with my life. -- me
It's not the bad things that happen to you that count. It's how you deal with them that matters. -- an 80's sitcom
It's all marketing. -- my husband
Better never than late! -- an English professor
Do not communicate so that you can be understood. Communicate so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood. -- an old boss
Dying's just a part of living.  -- my grandfather
I'd rather be sexy than pretty. Sexy gets you more places. -- me (though it sounds like Mae West)

I'm sure there are more. I'll add them as I think of them. What are some of yours?

Monday, January 4, 2010

What might have been

For the past 7+ years, I've been living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When I tell people that they often express concern. I tell them, "It ain't gonna kill me." But still, it is a daily battle that is absolutely no fun at all. I hate to dwell on it and try to keep it in perspective.

When I was diagnosed, I was working at a job I loved for a company that was/is very good to me. I had some bad experiences at other companies because I felt that my efforts weren't appreciated. I'm a self-starter who hates to be micro-managed so I never looked for any hand-holding. Just respect and recognition of a job well done.

For the first time, I was making what I consider to be "good money" which helped finance home improvements, vacations, retirement investments, and a generous hand with our favorite charities.

When it became clear that I could not work full-time and was physically unable to handle the demands of a stressful career, I knew I had to do some "giving up". Not of my life but of my list of responsibilities and passions.

A friend talked me into volunteering years ago and said that non-profits needed people like me who were passionate about issues and could make things happen. So, I jumped in -- make that bungeed in -- to some major volunteer work. This work became a second full-time job but I loved it and got a lot in return. I not only did some major hands-on work at these non-profits, but also sat on the board of directors of both.

After I gave up the full-time hours, I slowly retreated from all volunteer work. As much as I loved it, the stress of being a passionate leader was also taking its toll on my health.

When the yoga didn't work out (now THAT's a good story for another day), I did what I had been wanting to do for many years, and that was to go back to church. My experience with the Catholic Church is also a story for another day. I wanted to go to a church where I could have my spirit fed and also just "be" for an hour a week. Y'know, get lost in the moment.

I joined the UU church I had been driving past for years and it has been one of the best decisions of my life. I do my share of volunteering there but never to the point of exhaustion as everyone there knows I have my limit and respects that.

So, where am I going with this? I occasionally take time out of my day to think about the what-ifs in my life. Since I lived most of my adult life feeling that I had no restrictions on my future, the CFS was truly the only hurdle I faced that I couldn't pass. But what did I really lose?

I lost the ability to earn a decent living and help my husband carry the financial load. I had to come to terms with the fact that I couldn't do everything I wanted to do in life -- I had to choose carefully and pace myself. I lost the career path I was on and, unless there's a miracle cure, will not get back. I struggle with weight issues now since I am unable to do any serious aerobic exercise without ending up in bed for days.

And what did I gain? The what-if goes both ways. What would my life be like if I hadn't been saddled with CFS? I know that I wouldn't have walked into my church that Sunday morning. And, because of that, I wouldn't have met some of my dearest friends, met and mentored someone who is very special to me, become a vegetarian (which was a long-time coming), learned to quilt, or sung in a chorale again.

But more importantly, I wouldn't have learned how to just "be" as I wished years ago. To have the time to reflect and find joy in life's simple lessons. I also wouldn't have had the time to do the kind of writing I really enjoy. I always say that if I had the energy, I'd write a novel. But, if I had never lost the energy, I wouldn't have even considered it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The child of ignorance and fear

When I was in high school, the city of Boston was conducting a statewide contest for short poems to stamp on tiles. These tiles would be used in the new T stations in town. So, given it was the city and the 70s during the forced busing era, I submitted the following:

The clouds of prejudice
rain ignorance and fear
on the cities below

Not Robert Frost, but good, I thought. I never heard back so I'm assuming it wasn't chosen. Just as well. It'd be covered in cigarette butts and discarded Charlie cards by now.

My parents raised their kids to be open-minded and accepting of people who are different from us. Race, creed, language, religion - none of it ever came into play when they or we chose friends. There were plenty of people on my street growing up who were outraged that a Jewish family was moving in next door to us. My parents welcomed their new neighbors as they were welcomed by others when they arrived years before.

The Byers family lived next door to us for many years and were always there for my folks. Frank Byers was a fairly successful business man. When my dad was out of work, Frank suddenly came up with a million odd jobs he needed done: his house needed painting, his car needed an oil change, etc. And, because he was so busy, he just never had the time to do it himself. Wouldn't my dad have some time now? And, of course, it would come with pay.

When Frank's daughter got into some trouble with the law, my folks stood by them both privately and publicly. When the Byers' house caught on fire, my folks welcomed them into our home and stayed up all night with them while the firefighters came in for my mom's fresh coffee, and the Byerses tried to come to grips with losing everything in their home.

I didn't know then that the other neighbors shunned our next door neighbors. It wasn't till Frank died and my dad was the only neighbor who went to the temple that I started to look at my neighbors with clearer vision.

I've encountered anti-Semitism all my life. And, as I was raised to do, I do not sit silently when a prejudiced comment is made. After all, as dad said, "Silence is acceptance." The new phrase is "Speak truth to power." Same thing; just more empowering.

It's no less upsetting to me at almost 51 years old than it was then. I thought by now I'd be able to respond with less emotion and more steady reason than I did when I was younger. I can't. And, quite frankly, don't feel I should have to.

If ignorance and fear create prejudice, then reason and acceptance should prevail. But how do you act and speak reasonably, and accept someone who is hateful? I hope that by the time I figure that out, there will be no more prejudice for me to have to react to. Until then, I will not be silent.