Saturday, April 28, 2007

Health insurance...a precious benefit

It appears that the California Association of Realtors may have solved the health insurance issue for the 8000 Realtors and families who are about to have coverage terminated by Blue Shield. They reported to us this week that Blue Cross will issue guaranteed coverage.

We are profoundly relieved and grateful, and have our fingers crossed that the transition goes smoothly.

This issue, while our immediate problem appears to be solved, is a most critical one for us as well as thousands and thousands of people whose policies are either being terminated or who don't have insurance because of the terrible expense. When it becomes a matter of paying rent and eating over paying your health insurance premium, what are you going to do? Duh...

In discussions about health insurance in the last month or so, I've learned that EVERYONE has a story. One medical practitioner with whom I talked at some length is very concerned. Her spouse had a (curable) disease some years ago that makes him ineligible for coverage, other than guaranteed issue, and their premiums are still very expensive and not all that good. A retired couple on Medicare and an extended coverage policy has premiums that are nearly as much as our regular coverage -- which ain't cheap either. A couple in their 30s, both with good jobs, don't have insurance at all: too expensive for that and for routine expenses.

If you have any assets at all, you stand to lose everything if you don't have health insurance, at least for catastrophic incidents. One ER trip for an asthma attack or a painful kidney stone can set you back thousands of dollars; more if you're admitted.

It is time to demand that our lawmakers pay attention and find solutions to this crisis. This is one we can put squarely at the feet of the insurance companies rather than physicians and hospitals (oh, there are exceptions, I know, but most doctors I know have routine battles with the insurers too.) To have such outstanding medical advances and techniques in this country, and to have them available only to those who can pay privately or -- perhaps -- partially with insurance is criminal.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Gettin' warm

With the highs expected to be in the 90s the next couple of days, I reluctantly admit that winter is over and the chance of real rain is pretty much gone.

Very reluctantly.

I really love colder weather, I guess. I love sweaters and sweats, thick socks. I adore having the woodstove going, merrily blazing and radiating heat throughout the house. I relish flannel sheets, cool bedrooms, and warm down comforters.

I do not like sweating. I don't like sunburn. And while I love sunshine, I get so tired of endlessly bright days without so much as a drop of rain to settle the dust, or a summer thunderstorm to clear the air.

The best part of summer for me is my garden. The green rows of lettuce, beans, tomatoes, squash and flavorful herbs feed us well throughout the long summer days, and then into winter when I freeze sauces and veggies. I love the smell of recently watered soil and the fresh scent of green growth.

In the crunchy brown of summer here, the garden is this little oasis of humid green. The cats love to hang out there, bellies against the cool, damp earth, hiding under big zucchini leaves or the giant sunflowers, and when I call them, at least one always wanders to the porch from that direction.

Guess I'd better dig out the shorts and loose tees. It's coming, like it or not.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Happy Birthday part 2....

I invited about a dozen of her close friends to a party at the nursing home, and we had it catered by the Victorian Tea Room which had lovely salads and a fabulous coconut cake. The day before, we went out (the first time in a very long time for her) to a wig shop and got her a wig that looked just like her hair. You see, the morphine she'd been on had caused her straight, thick hair to thin out a great deal, and she -- always picky about how her hair looked -- wanted a wig while her hair grew back in. (and when it did come back, it came back wavy! Go figure)

The luncheon was perfect. Three kinds of salads, fresh muffins, tea, lots of balloons and flowers, and a fresh coconut cake topped with real pansies. She glowed. I did too.

I was there for a few more birthdays, but that was the best, I think. On her 84th birthday, in 2005, her brother Tom also came, I think, and we celebrated quietly, talking and reminiscing -- they talked, I listened. That was her last one. She was sliding then toward forever...

Because of her, I am a strong, assertive woman. Because of her, I had the courage to follow my beliefs and my gut, and work towards what I wanted. Because of her, I am persistent and only a little stubborn (shut up) and I have a strong moral compass that doesn't tolerate lies and deception, but encourages truth and kindness and compassion and responsibility.

Thank you for that legacy, Mama. Thank you for those gifts. Thank you for your voice still in my head and my heart telling me you love me and that you're proud of me. Thank you for your calming presence when I get wrapped around the axle. I love you. I was so proud to call you my mother, and my friend.

Happy birthday, Mama

Today marks my mother's 86th birthday, and she's been on my mind a lot in the last several days.

When she was about my age, she retired from teaching school because Daddy retired at age 65. They visited us often, helping with the move from St. Louis to Indianapolis later that year. They went to Europe with good friends and visited England, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Switzerland, and I don't remember where else. They spent winters in Texas square dancing and playing bridge and enjoying fresh fruit and veggies. They went to the races in Hot Springs, Ark. It was a fun, active life.

I remember her young, too, going to school to get her bachelor's degree in the summers, then later her master's degree, also in the summers because she was teaching. I remember when she learned how to drive (just before I turned 16) and got a little Nash Rambler with automatic shift because she hated standard shift. I remember her sewing shorts and matching tops, and skirts and dresses for both of us.

We did NOT forget her birthday or Mother's Day if we wanted to remain in her good graces -- she was very sensitive about being remembered on those days, and I'll never forget the one Mother's Day that I didn't remember -- Daddy should have taken more of a part in helping us to remember it, but we all slipped that year. Life in our house that week was not fun, and I remember how bad I felt to this day.

Her 80th birthday was a wonderful celebration. She had been so terribly sick the winter before that we thought she was dying, and indeed, she had told her doctor that she was ready to go and he had, with all her doctors giving permission, taken her off of all her meds and put her on a cocktail of pain meds and antianxiety meds that kept her comfortable. She was under 100 lbs at that point and her eyes were luminous and huge in her face, and she couldn't feed herself, nor was she at all hungry. She was very calm, very rational.

But the universe had other plans, and she got better, and went back on the heart meds and others, little by little. (to be continued when Blogger permits)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Doing the next right thing

Some time back, I wrote a little about The Secret and the little book It Works, and what our experiences with the latter have been. I've not yet read The Secret, but from what I understand the outcomes are similar.

It works. By directing your mind and your imagination and your beliefs toward what you want and need, doors begin to open for you. Oh, you don't sit back and do nothing. You write down your goals, your desires for right now, putting specifics with it -- timelines, dollar amounts, very detailed descriptions if you can, and then you read and re-read that list multiple times daily.

I believe energy and actions subtly realign in me to attain those goals. I see things happening in our lives that I know we've asked for and are focusing on. Some of the things that are happening aren't exactly how we expected them to happen, but the end result is what we asked for and have been working on.

It's interesting. The mind is so powerful, and we tap into so little of it consciously. I'm so very grateful for blessings that are coming to us now, small ones that are making a difference and will, I can see, lead to larger ones. I want to keep that focus, the gratitude and also the goals, foremost in my mind every day. I want to continue to do the next right thing, read those goals and realign them every day.

Thanks be. Blessed be.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Our eroding rights

In a Cat-E-Whompus post today, my eloquent husband opines on yesterday's Supreme Court decision on partial birth abortion. It's a clear look at an emotionally-loaded subject.

Nearly 30 years ago I was involved in a grass-roots organization that reflected the faith-based points on view on reproductive choice. It's still around, still actively offering a religious point of view towards reproductive freedom that reflects the beliefs of the majority of American citizens. It is an organization that is subject to even more vehement attacks than the better-known prochoice groups such as NARAL because it is an organization of religiously affiliated groups that are working to preserve an individual's right to reproductive choice as a matter of religious liberty.

I have much to say about being prochoice, but I don't intend to use this as a soapbox (and besides, this is not primarily a political blog). I am a strong advocate for adoption. The two are not mutually exclusive. If you want more on my take, e-mail me at

Bottom line: every right we have to make our own choices for our personal religious beliefs and for our physical and mental health is in jeopardy because of this decision. Regardless of your beliefs on reproductive rights, be watchful of this Court. If they can strip away your right to make medical choices for your own health, they can strip away far, far more.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Responsible continued...

Part 2....
Oh, I know how simplistic that sounds. But I don't know how to change anyone else. I only know how to change myself, and how to live with right intention and right action (even when I don't do it, I know how -- and not doing something is a CHOICE, even if it is made without thinking it through.)

I know, for instance, that our local mentoring program is one of those ways in which we individually can acknowledge our responsibility for helping children grow in positive directions.

There are programs to help persons who are poor or homeless, battered, abused, sick, disabled, challenged in some way. Every single one of those programs needs time from volunteers and money to keep the programs going.

We all need human touch, human kindness and compassion to be able to grow and develop into fully functioning, responsible, caring human beings. Most of us are lucky to find that through family or friends or even groups (sometimes family is not a positive influence).

But when we give back, we benefit too. We become better than we might otherwise be. We learn things about ourselves, and we touch people's lives. OUR lives are touched and changed, and we find hope. Even a shred of it can keep you going in a dark world.

Oh, how idealistic. I know.

But isn't it better than doing nothing? Than blaming the gun seller, the poetry teacher, the students, the university itself for what happened in Virginia and tsk-tsking over yet another tragedy and everyone's failure to notice this disturbed young man? Let's make a difference however, wherever we can. Here. Now.

We are responsible

How do you begin to make sense of the Virginia shootings? (Or perhaps there simply is no sense to be made -- ) When the Columbine shootings happened, the shooters were analyzed for months in the media, and it was full of shoulda-coulda-wouldas and Monday morning quarterbacks and recriminations and accusations.

It's happening again.

Everyone who taught or attended classes with Cho will come under scrutiny by the blamers. Everyone who ever sold him anything will be at fault somehow. It's got to be SOMEone's fault that he did this, doesn't it? Someone could have done SOMEthing to have prevented it or recognized that he was troubled or locked him up or something. It's somebody's fault, somewhere.

Except it's not. At least not in the ways that are being suggested.

The world is not a fair place to be. We do not all have equal opportunity, equal wealth, equal health, equal anything. Poverty exists. Mental illness exists. Evil exists. As does good.

There are many programs and watchdogs already in place to keep an eye out for the standouts on either end of the "normal" spectrum when a child enters agencies such as day care and school -- both for the gifted and the troubled individuals. And then there are the millions in the middle, the ones who may lurk at the edges, not quite noticed enough.

Most of these kids muddle through without major incident as part of the masses. What we forget is that something as simple as a teacher taking a little time to compliment a student, or to ask a kind question can turn a life around. Similarly, an unjust act or ignoring even a small plea for help can also turn a life around.

In that respect, we are all responsible. We forget every single day that a kind word or action, a cruelty or failure to acknowledge someone can forever change everything for an individual.
to be continued...

Blogger again

So I can post on Tony's computer, but somehow mine is not working right. I haven't changed settings, although there were IE and FF downloads last week.

Go figure.

I love technology when it works well and seamlessly and flawlessly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Practicing Gratitude

The weather changed over the course of this day, going from mild and breezy
this morning, with sun and puffy clouds, to much cooler, much cloudier, and
spatters of rain on the windshield as I was coming back from town this
afternoon. I hope the spatters will lead to rain, but the stars are bright
tonight so I have little real hope.

Although the rolling meadows have increasing spots of golden, there are
still blossoms everywhere. The trees, while not the young green of spring,
are not the tired blue of fall either, and are vibrant and full of healthy
energy. My little garden has green rows of lettuce, sugar snap peas, teensy
spires of green onion, and what may be two rows of radishes (I can't
remember). Those fearless seedlings sway in the wind and just hang on.It was
cold enough tonight for a fire and it felt good. The forecast looks showery
and cool for the rest of the week, too -- appropriate April weather! This is
a beautiful place to live.

I am grateful for the chance to be so close to the earth, to dig in it, to
feel sun and rain on my face, to watch the wind whip the trees. I'm grateful
to feed four old horses morning and night (okay, okay...Tony feeds them in
the morning 9 times out of 10) and give them pats on those soft, old,
velvety noses and on solid necks. To listen to them chomp happily on their
evening meal of bran and supplements and hay. To have them greet us with
nickers and the occasional impatient kick at the barn wall. We're borrowing
them, these horses, while their owners are on vacation, but they know us and
watch for us.

I'm grateful to be without eminent health issues, to feel good, to sleep
soundly at night, to be able to walk and garden and read and type without
physical issues. I'm grateful for music that sings deep in my soul when I
hear it. I'm grateful for the hugs of understanding friends and neighbors
and e-mails from others. I'm grateful for the universe giving us second
chances and putting opportunity in our paths.

I'm grateful, always and most, for Tony. This relationship, this amazing
love, is what makes everything else special. I'm grateful for a comfortable,
warm bed. And that's where I'm going. Goodnight.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

More sewing stories

**I'm gonna post while it's working...I dunno what the problem with Blogger has been**

Back to the Bernina:

Mother adored her new Bernina and took many classes to learn about all its features. I'll never be the seamstress that she was -- I want to make stuff I can see significant progress on in one session. That said, I bought some new patterns this spring and plan to make a few tops out of fabric that has been stored for -- oh geeze -- 10 years. Finding tops is always hard, and I decided that it was about time I dug out the machine again.

Anyway. This wonderful machine cost nearly $500 back in 1973 -- a lot of money then. It has all sorts of custom stitching, more than half a dozen presser feet (foots?) with individual functions. I will likely rarely, if ever, use all its features -- but Mom sure did.

She made my first wedding dress on it too....white linen with lace overlays, and she created a short train, also with lace overlays. The dress wasn't even a wedding pattern: I'd seen one I liked in Brides magazine, and we found a dress pattern that was similar and adapted it. I still have that dress...(what does one do with a wedding dress? R won't use it, I'm sure, nor will V)

I felt close to her this afternoon as I was stitching long seams on those curtains. She spent many hours creating clothes and home decor items, and would listen to the radio or, in later years, watch a tiny TV that sat on her sewing table while she worked. I think it was a wonderful de-stressor for her. And in my past life, I spent many hours at my sewing machine (pre-Bernina) making dresses for R (prom or Easter especially), blouses and shirts, teeshirts and nighties. And curtains. LIke today.

Sewing memories and checking off lists

New curtains are actually hanging in the bathroom window. They look GOOD. I had a bit of trouble with the tension rods, but think I fixed it, at least temporarily. But it is nice to have curtains that coordinate with the rest of the room. So our bath looks pretty good -- photos hung, clean, new curtains. The other bath I did a while back and I like that too.

Next: my desk. *shudder*

I got out the sewing machine today and had to spend a little time with the instruction book to remember everything, not that I ever used this one all that much.

It's my mother's Bernina 830. She gave it to me around 1998 when she couldn't get downstairs to the basement anymore to sew. The instruction booklet is filled with her notes in the margins and samples of each of the stitches and the different presser feet (foots? feet?).

I remembered so many things that she sewed for me and for Rachel on that Bernina over the years -- most especially (because it is around Easter) I remembered the white eyelet Easter dress. R was about 8, maybe 7, and we'd looked all over Indianapolis to find an Easter dress. We both wanted one of white eyelet, and there simply were none -- in fact, the dresses were pretty much ugly. Both of us were discouraged, and I'd reassured her that we'd find something.

We came home to a package. It was a white eyelet dress with a pink ribbon sash that Mother had made for R, and it fit perfectly. Of course we called her immediately and told her about our futile search. I don't remember ever telling her what we were hoping to find, and I don't think she'd said anything about making a dress... R looked darling in the dress, and I tied pink ribbons in her ponytails to match the sash.

Mother got her Bernina in 1973. She'd had a Singer Featherweight for many, many years, and made many garments, drapes, curtains, slipcovers, and more on that little workhorse.

**I am having more trouble with Blogger. GRRR*
More on the Bernina later. It's too late to fool around with stoopid stuff tonight.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Trouble in Blogger City

Posting to Blogspot the last two days has been very frustrating and it's not over. Please bear with me...

I don't know if it has something to do with new browser updates that were installed, or on Blogger's end. I do know that others have had similar problems, although not everyone. I'll keep trying.

Update: apparently this is linked to Javascript enabling. As soon as I enabled Javascript in Firefox, I had no trouble logging in. We'll see about posting -- but at least that's cleared up. Unfortunately a program I use for business in IE won't work properly if Java is I guess I'll just go back and forth.

I love technology when it works well and uneventfully. It's when you rely on it and it fails that you get really frustrated. Like cars. Computers. Software.

It's Friday.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gottados have gotta go

My to-do lists are growing, not shrinking, and I'm feeling the pressure of'gottadogottadogottadoNOW.'

I thought I'd gotten to the point where I might actually get those stupidbathroom curtains done. I bought the fabric in Davis a few weeks ago and allit takes to finish it are seams -- they're nothing fancy. Our bedroom stillneeds to be deep cleaned and a few more things hung, and my desk is stillfairly disastrous, but the other rooms have been cleaned and done, mostly.

It's spring (or is it?) so once again the spring-winter closet dilemma hasresulted in clothes from both seasons slowly migrating from one closet tothe other, leaving storage boxes open on the floor and transitional clothingon the spare bed.

I have many routine tasks for real estate -- ads, posting online, followupwith clients who we've talked to or written over the last several months,sending letters, designing cards. Oh yeah. I wish it brought better results.

And then there are the writing gigs we're both working on. You wouldn't knowit from anything that's made its way to paper, at least for me, but it'sperking in my brain and slithering through my sleep. I started one thing today that I expect will pretty much write itself tomorrow because I've beencogitating on it for about a week. That's how my creative muse likes towork...research, think, research, muse, research, putter, more think, moreputter, a little gardening, some clothes folding, and then BOOM. It flows out of the fingers.

It had better. I need it Friday.

I still want to plant some spinach and start a row of beans in the garden.All the lettuces, onions, radishes and sugar snap peas have poked theirheads up and really liked today's rain. It won't take long -- it's just getting out there to do it.

And then there's a meeting next week for which there needs to be somepreparation. Volunteer stuff hasn't been high on my "gottado" list lately,although the first magazine from our Realtor association has been put to bed and will be here next week (YAY!)

So I feel back to "doing" rather than "being." I gotta find some "being"time this weekend, I think, in the garden or on the sewing machine, or maybejust reading for an hour or so. I haven't posted what I'm reading becauseall I've been doing is catching upon magazines! Oprah, Cooking Light,Sunset, Newsweek, various Realtor magazines, AARP, plus newspapers. Since I finished the last novel, I haven't even started another.

Gottado. I gotta do something about these 'gottados.' Life is too short tospend too much time like this.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

It ain't over till it'sover

I was reminded again today that life is short. Even when you live to be 90, it is short.

And I also was reminded that it is never too late to do what you want to do.

It was a story in the Record Searchlight, in the Currents section, just underneath a regular column by Stewart Elliott titled "Notes from a Nursing Home." He wrote for Scripps-Howard from his room in an Evansville, Ind., nursing home, offering hints to seniors about managing their affairs, about life's little jokes, about his "old musings."

And he died a few weeks ago. His last column -- and his obituary -- ran today.

I'd read his column since the paper began carrying it and enjoyed it because his outlook was positive, matter-of-fact, and practical about aging and death and living. I especially liked it because after he went into the home, he found a completely new career in writing.

Maybe I paid more attention because my mother was a nursing home resident for six years, there not because her mind was shaky, but because her body was so fragile from osteoporosis and a heart condition revealed only a few years before the osteoporosis tore her spine to shreds and unalterably changed her life.

It's nobody's ambition to end up in a nursing home with "old" people who may have to wear Depends or be spoon fed or be confined to a wheel chair or have to use a walker. We all would prefer to die peacefully in our sleep, at our own home in our own bed, preferably following a day doing something wonderful, and when we're very, very old (like about 40 or 50 or 60 years older than we are going to be this year).

Bottom line is that there are likely to be even more nursing home residents in the next 20-40 years as we baby boomers hit retirement and fall victim to the many diseases and conditions heredity can deal out and to which aging bodies are susceptible.

What Stewart Elliott showed in his columns is that there is still life, there is still potential for growth and change and joy and contribution. He spoke honestly and from a peaceful place in his heart -- and his life wasn't all roses, either.

My folks showed us by example that when bad things happen you can either get angry, become bitter, and let the illness/disability rule, or you can accept where you are and do all you can with what you still have. I wish things had not been so hard for my mother in those last years, so painful. But she maintained her grace and dignity despite indignities, she contributed her ideas and opinions to make the nursing home better, she listened and talked to so many young aides and nurses who sought her counsel. And she loved us deeply to her end. And still.

Life does not end until breath and brain cease working. We have opportunities to contribute, to explore, to influence others until then.

Traveling mercies, Mr. Elliott. Thank you for your grace and your example. I'll miss your column.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Music hath charms to sooth... and soar

There are some pieces of music that just make my heart and soul soar. They're the ones you just can't stop listening to, that you hum along with, move your hands to, move your body to -- you just can't help moving, and there is no question of multi-tasking. They run non-stop in your head, sometimes for days. You gotta stop and listen.

One of my favorites is "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity" from Holst's The Planets Suite. Most especially I love the middle section that begins about 3 minutes into it, also known as the hymn "I Vow to Thee My Country." The cellos (I think)-- or in a symphonic band arrangement, the French horns -- glide through this soul-singing, soaring melody and then it's repeated by the rest of the orchestra. Alas, this part goes all too quickly. On my CD player I usually go back and replay that section at least once more.

It's worth noting on this one that Princess Diana loved the center hymn too. I Vow to Thee My Country was played at both her wedding and her funeral. There are several versions on YouTube as well that feature it with the words.

Another is what's known as the Organ Symphony written by Camille Saint-Saens. It's Symphony #3 and the last part of it, the Maestoso and the Allegro, is one of those goose-bumpy ones that you want to play at top volume. The organ floats all the way through it, but really blows it out in this last. Amazon has a sample -- it's No. 8 on Disc 2.

Actually this is one of my favorite dentist-chair CDs. I can let it blast through my ears and don't even hear the drill. (Okay, almost...)

Not a classical piece, but another one that grabs me by the throat lately is You Raise Me Up -- okay, it's sort of schmaltzy, but it does for me now what Wind Beneath My Wings used to do back when it was first introduced. I like how both reflect our inter-dependence with each other. It speaks to the best parts in us when we love and help and support each other. Oh, I'm quite capable of standing on my own two feet and making my own destiny -- which has been a criticism of the lyrics -- but I believe that when we love and share our dreams and our lives that we all become "more than *I* can be."

Classical music probably makes me swoon the most, but in my past lives there are several songs to which I've listened over and over and over...and over...

Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues. This one came out when I was in college and it just fit with that semi-depressed state college students so often live in. Those, of course, alternate with the semi-manic states where you stay up all night writing intense research papers on intense writers like Dylan Thomas or T.S. Eliot -- which then lead back to the semi-depressed state. Y'know what I mean? I know I drove my roommate crazy listening to this on our stereo. (There. It's been a REALLY long time since I was in college. Nobody listens to stereos anymore and haven't for years.)

Catch the Wind by Donovan. I'll never hear this without remembering my high school boyfriend. We both loved this song by the gravelly-voiced singer -- the Brits' version of Bob Dylan -- and while it wasn't "our song," it might as well have been since it's the one that always evokes his memory for me. Our relationship lasted into college despite the hundreds of miles and two states that separated us. We reconnected in more recent years, and he and his life partner and Tony and I have shared several meals and good visits. They even came to our wedding!

There are a bunch of choral music pieces that I love, although few that make me swoon. I like most of John Rutter, especially his Te Deum and Requiem pieces, but he has some lovely arrangements of traditional Christmas carols and familiar hymns that are a little different and beautifully melodic.

I like the Brahm's How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place very much, especially the big swell at the end. It's fun to sing.

I'll probably think of a dozen more as soon as I hit publish -- but I'll keep a list and do this again.

My head is full of lovely music tonight. Who needs an iPod?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

April's hopes

April is such a month of rebirth, of "new" everything, of promise. Spring, though officially beginning in March, takes full hold in April and the universe brings the earth back to life. Grass greens and grows, daffodils and tulips and hyacinths spear up from moist dirt into flower, limbs unfurl tiny bright green leaves that will, in summer's oven, turn nearly blue.

Easter is often in April -- such a symbol of hope and rebirth rising from death and despair. And Passover seders recall deliverance from bondage and slavery into freedom.

Already in my newly planted garden are the tiniest of leaves poking up from the dirt - no, I don't remember exactly what I put there, but think it's either radishes or onions. The other furrows are still bare -- but I water them and talk to them daily, and encourage them to grow in this bountiful sunshine.

Actually, the sunshine is a little more bountiful than is good for this part of the country. The meadows are already crispy in some places, the grass is not lush and thick but rather sparse in most places and a layer of brown sits on the sunnier areas already. It may be a long, hot, dangerous summer. (Tony's said that several times. I put my hands over my ears and sing "Lalalalalala..." I want more rain. Clouds.)

It feels new again: new possibilities, new opportunities, new thoughts, second chances. New beginnings. That is April's potential and her gift to the world, I think.

So it's up to each of us to decide what needs to go to make room for the new, what we can do in our own lives to renew ourselves professionally, physically, spiritually, mentally. What is out there waiting for us? April's freshness permits clarity of insight that is obscured by the dust and pollen and impending heat of May and June and July, and by then we might as well wait for winter's cold..

I can see potential unfolding, petal by petal. I love the fresh moist smell of growth, the tang of still-chilled air in the mornings. The full moon lights pathways through the softening night. I welcome the challenge of discovery and the invitation to renew. Isn't it such a gift that we get to do this every year!

I am grateful for insight and blessing and clear thought from the new beginnings and second chances and hope that April offers. May you be blessed as well.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


We had a lovely getaway just overnight this weekend in McCloud at the McCloud Hotel, and a wonderful dinner experience on the Shasta Sunset Dinner Train. What made it even more fun is that we went with a whole group of friends -- there were 16 of us, and a lively bunch it was, too!

There were no TVs in the rooms, no phones, and it was quiet == not that it is noisy out here in the country, but the lack of urgency to DO something wasn't there, nor was the vague sense of "I ought to be doing....(pick your favorite to-do)" that is nearly always present. It was simply relaxing and enjoyable. I wasn't thinking about what to fix for dinner or breakfast, wasn't thinking about doing laundry or answering e-mail or organizing the desk or anything. I was completely focused on what was happening in that moment....listening to the stories, watching the animated faces, laughing at silly comments.

The slow clickclack of the train through the piney woods was wonderful ... just enough sway to remind you that you're on a train, but it was easy to walk through the car without stumbling. And the car itself was just magnificent -- completely restored wood, lovely tables set with heavy flatware, white tablecloths and fresh flowers. Three attendants took care of the whole car -- probably around 50 diners -- for three hours, taking drink orders, pouring wine and water and coffee, serving four courses, and chatting as though you were the only people there. They were efficient and very pleasant and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

It's so interesting to watch people in a group. We knew most of the people who came, and easily visited with the new acquaintances. We discovered things we didn't know about the people we already knew, and enjoyed the new personality mixes.

I found out a few things about myself, too. I watched more than I participated this weekend.... oh, I talked plenty and laughed a lot. But one group started singing on the train -- lots of songs I've known and sung for years -- and while I followed along, it was quietly and not in the middle of the group for a change. They were old songs, and I've known all the words to most of them for decades (oh, those college drinking days!)

It was a bit of a new experience to stand back and observe the personalities and interchanges, and to watch the others in the group and on the train as they reacted to the singers. I was aware at different times of pulling back and watching and listening instead of sharing a comment or a related story -- and that was different for me. There are very strong personalities in this group and I learned a lot by just watching.

Yes ... I can keep my mouth shut and stories to myself on occasion!

Strangely, tonight I'm really tired -- we talked about it at supper and decided it was just letting down our guard and getting away even briefly, and that it was very, very relaxing, and that is what we're both feeling --

We love our home office. But you don't ever leave the office either -- even when you shut off the computer and walk into the other parts of the house, it comes with you. We need to get away more, I think, and let it go.

Friday afternoon I planted seeds in the garden -- romaine lettuce, buttercrunch lettuce, mesclun, radishes, green onions, and sugar snap peas. And I threw a few bell pepper seeds into the ground to see if they'll root. The dirt is loose and fine from tilling it again just before I planted, and I hope to see seedlings later this week.

But we've already had a bumper crop of rocks. The garden is located on the old debris pile for the entire subdivision -- lots of trees, shrubs, rocks, etc. were dumped there in the late '70s when it was built. When we moved here, we burned the pile, which had sunk considerably, and it glowed for a week. We tilled and put a couple of loads of manure on top of it and let it sit over a winter before we put it into raised beds and tilled again.

And the rocks keep coming -- they grow little rocks. Some of the charred smaller sticks that were deep in the pile are coming up to the surface this year too. And rocks. Big rocks -- four or so inches. Gravel. Little rocks.

Long as the garden keeps growing, it's okay. I'll just keep sifting through the rocks with my fingers and toss them onto the paths around the garden. I expect to be sifting for many years.

It was a good weekend. I feel almost ready for the coming week -- but first, a good sleep in our own bed, kitties snugged in with us.