Sunday, July 16, 2017

This Summer Sunday

Summer is steadily creeping by. Thankfully, the last three weeks have been quiet after several months of lots going on.

Now that the kids, Ado, and I are settled into the house, we've all found time to relax and just breathe. We have evenings of cooking together, watching movies together, and sitting on the deck to talk about our days. We have days where we each go our own way, but we find time to catch up sooner or later.

I've been cycling with a friend a couple mornings each week, and this same friend and I have been writing then sharing our writing with each other once a week. He's holding me accountable for producing new work, and while it's been a challenge, I'm so happy to have someone push me to create. Most of what I've written has been poetry that will be a part of my sabbatical project, giving me several pieces of the puzzle before I leave for the Pacific Coast ride. I feel like I have a head start, and I actually like what I'm seeing coming out of my own writing.

When I was in college, I took a poetry writing class during one of my last semesters. I needed some elective courses, so I decided to take writing poetry since I love to write. I'd never really tried my hand at poetry, mostly opting for short fiction, so I had no idea how it was going to go. I loved the class, and one of my poems was considered a standout by the professor as well as my classmates. It was just a short, simple poem, but everyone remarked about the imagery and the rhythm. Through the years, I've not written much poetry, just dabbled here and there. Now, though, my entire focus is poetry, which surprises me since I've always said I am a short fiction writer.

One of the more difficult aspects of writing the poetry is the subject matter. Since my sabbatical project will be pieces that somehow address MS, much of my time has been spent thinking back over the years of Mom living with MS. I've had some sad days lately. I didn't really think about how delving into memories might affect me when I wrote up my sabbatical proposal. During the past three or four days especially, as I've been working on the newest poem, I could tell when I needed to take a break and do something happier, like take Ado for a walk or go get a burrito with the boys. One afternoon, as I was getting up from the couch after taking a short break, I thought I need to call Mom. A second later I realized what I had just thought and decided to take the rest of the afternoon off from writing.

Lately, lots of thoughts about family, estrangement, and healing have been swirling in my head. I feel so incredibly fortunate that my kids like each other and enjoy being with one another. At the same time, I feel incredibly sad that my siblings and I are not all that close. We're civil to each other, but we don't go out of our way to stay in touch. My kids have their own group chat and call each other a lot. I have heard them vow to always keep tabs on one another, even as they grow old and gray. I tell myself to call my siblings, or at least email them, but I hesitate then don't do so. I don't know why I hesitate.

So I just keep living my life. Maybe one day I'll find the courage to begin calling my siblings just to say hi. Does there need to be any other reason to call?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Precious Gift

Last summer, at the end of the Northern Tier ride, I thought I'd finished my last long cycling trip. I gave away my tent. I gave away my sleeping bag. I gave away several of my jerseys. In my mind, I was done.

But like the weather in Illinois on an hourly basis, I changed my mind.

During the ride, I talked with a couple of the other cyclists about me applying for sabbatical and using the opportunity to ride the Pac Coast and Southern Tier as part of my sabbatical project. I tucked the idea away, coming back to it every now and then. Once I returned to work and had the sabbatical proposal deadline in front of me, I fleshed out my idea and presented it. The sabbatical committee approved my proposal.

About the time I found out I was granted sabbatical, things began falling apart at home. During these past four months, with all the changes happening, I've gone back and forth about doing both rides. One day I don't think I should do either. The next day I think just doing the Pac Coast is the way to go. When I think I'm settled on what I will do, the desire to do both rides fills me.

Lovely Beautiful Daughter has been my most vocal supporter, telling me I need to do both. This has been your plan for years, she says. You created your sabbatical proposal based on doing both rides, she points out.

Funny Delightful Son has been the nay-sayer. That's a lot of time away, he says. And a lot of money you could be putting into your savings, he points out.

Angel Baby is on the fence. He won't tell me to go. He won't tell me to stay home.

I don't know what to do.

Right now, at this very second as my fingers hit the keys of my laptop, I want more than anything to do both rides. I keep coming back to how my sabbatical is a gift, an opportunity to bring to fruition this idea I've been shaping, sculpting. To not accept this gift, which in a way I look at as grace with a big red bow tied around it, seems irresponsible.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Walking Towards Peace

I witnessed one of the most beautiful moments of my life the other day.

When the kids and I left Tennessee 18 years ago, we moved away from the two people known as Pa and Nanny, the kids' paternal grandparents. While married to the kids' dad, I had a very good relationship with my father-in-law. Not so much with my mother-in-law. After leaving, my father-in-law and I remained friendly towards one another. Unfortunately, because of circumstances, the kids didn't see Pa or Nanny often through the years.

This past week, we visited my sister-in-law and her family. When Pa arrived to help celebrate my nephew's 21st birthday, he went to Lovely Beautiful Daughter and put his arm around her. Funny Delightful Son and Angel Baby then went to Pa and the four of them had their arms around each other. The smile on Pa's face filled my entire being with joy. Seeing the four of them smiling together was absolutely beautiful.

Each day there, walking through my old stomping grounds, I felt more and more at peace with my past. I still sometimes wish the kids had a better relationship with their dad, and I still hope one day they will, but that is something they have to find their way to. And he has to find his way to them.

Cummins Falls

Floatin' down the creek

Angel Baby and dog enjoying the creek

Lovely Beautiful Daughter jumping from a low cliff

Double fun!

Sittin' at the bottom of the falls

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Continuing My Yoga Journey

My journey to becoming a yoga teacher continues. I completed Level 2 training this past weekend, and I walked away feeling surer than ever that I'm on the right path.

My favorite part of the 20 hours of instruction was the discussion of the Yamas and Niyamas. Though it was just a small part of the training, the delving into the philosophy behind yoga offered up much to think about. Now I am reading more about the Yamas and Niyamas from a variety of texts, and I am thinking about them often as I move through my days.

Yamas: restraints. Do no harm. Be truthful. Don't take what isn't yours to take. Keep life simple. Let go of the stuff.

Niyamas: observances. Live a pure life. Be content. Be disciplined. Never stop learning. Live with an open heart.

Both encourage the self to keep an eye on the self, monitoring behavior, adjusting, working to become a better version of the self. When we were asked which Yama we needed to work on most, I knew instantly which one it was for me: Ahimsa, nonviolence. The anger I've had and still have needs attention. For the Niyama, I mulled over Santosha: contentment. When I think about what makes me content, what comes to mind are physical things--my kids, Ado, cycling, gardening. How do I find the contentment from within, from the nonphysical things?

Now, so many questions pop up during my days. Am I practicing doing no harm? Am I being truthful? Is my truthfulness harmful to another? If so, I need to back away in order to do no harm. I especially am drawn to how if one Yama is being violated, it impacts one or more of the others. Living the Yamas really is a delicate, graceful dance. I'm finding the more I think about what I'm doing at any given moment that might be out of sync with the one or more of the Yamas or Niyamas, the more I am forced to live actively rather than passively.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Blue Dragon Emerges

I saw a blue dragon looking me square in the eyes.

Seriously, I did. Funny Delightful Son laughed at me when I told him this. 

But I really did. At meditation. 

We were being guided through Kapalabhati Breath, and when I reached the point of exhaling every last bit of breath from my body, sitting and observing the swirls inside me, a blue dragon appeared amidst the swirls.

I left the class wondering why of all things that could have formed in my mind it was a blue dragon.

I'm not complaining. In fact, I love it was a blue dragon that emerged. I love the symbolism associated with the color blue--confidence, intelligence, calm--as well as the symbolism connected to the dragon--powerful, wisdom, regeneration. I thought, too, about how I was born in the year of the dragon on the Chinese zodiac, so perhaps there is a reason the blue dragon showed itself to me.

I'm finding that I really don't care if others laugh about my experiences with yoga and meditation. These experiences are positive for me, helping me move forward in life, set new goals. Being able to hold Crow pose and do a headstand has shown me how strong my body is. Being able to calm my mind and sit for twenty minutes in quiet, listening to my breath (also known as spiritus: the breath of God), feeling how it fills my body, has given me the determination to continue exploring the mind/body connection. The word inspiration has its roots in spiritus as well, so seeing a blue dragon while in the middle of Kapalabhati Breath isn't totally out in left field.

And yet another bonus: Yesterday, when I went for my six-month cleaning at the dentist, the dental hygienist took my blood pressure. While I don't typically have high blood pressure, the last time I was there it was 123/79, which is as high as I've ever been and I left the office bummed out that my blood pressure was inching up as I age. Yesterday . . . . I smiled when she said, "116/68." I smiled even more when she asked if I take any medications, any at all, and I replied, "None."

Monday, June 5, 2017

Becoming One with the Crow

Yesterday I was on the deck when I heard a bird call I've never heard before. I stood and listened. Then I dashed inside to get my camera to try and record the sound. Once back on the deck, the call sounded closer, so I scanned the trees and found the source.

A crow. Or maybe a raven.

I find crows incredibly interesting. I remember when I was around 12 and my sister had gone off to vet tech school that I asked her if she'd be able to bring me a crow for a pet. I'd be the coolest kid around with that pet crow. It never happened, but my fascination for crows never waned.

I was able to get some good video of the crow/raven, and now I'm trying to find information on which bird it is and what this particular call means.


After enjoying listening for a bit, it was time for me to go to yoga class. I had signed up kind of last minute, noticing there would only be two students attending, but it turned out I was the only one who showed up. I had my own little private yoga session.

The instructor asked me if there was a pose I'd like to focus on once we reached the end of practice, and I said, "Crow." I've tried Crow at different times, but I've never been able to truly hold the pose. She promised we'd work on it, and after 45 minutes of a prana flow series, me sweating drops all over my mat, she said it was time. I listened and watched as she explained what worked best for her. I followed her lead.

I found myself in Crow pose, and the excitement of holding the pose as if I'd always been doing it made me laugh. I was one with the crow.

When I returned home, I laid out my mat and went through the steps to achieve Crow. I had to know it wasn't a one-time fluke.

I breathed deeply as I held the pose.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Some Happy Moments

Something very interesting is happening between my husband and me now that I've moved out. We are finding we can actually be together and have a fun time. As long as I go to my place after a few hours, or he goes to his place after a few hours. I've said for the past five years or so that he and I do much better apart than we do together. I've also joked here and there, after several hours of being with my husband, that I've had more than enough husband time.

Friday was our anniversary. I hadn't been thinking about it due to the state of our relationship, and I made plans to attend a concert at Allerton. The Bashful Youngens and Birds of Chicago were scheduled to play, and I knew I would enjoy sitting on the lawn, listening as the sun went down. My husband, though, had been thinking about our anniversary and asked me to go to dinner. I countered with an offer to ride along with me to Allerton. He accepted.

And we had a nice time. The young woman of the Bashful Youngens duo has an amazing voice. The young woman of Birds of Chicago makes you want to hang on to every note that comes out of her. We watched kids dance, turn cartwheels, and blow bubbles in front of the stage. We ate pulled pork and slaw.

Yesterday, I went to his place for pizza and a movie. Actually two movies. Both were entertaining, especially the second movie which seemed like a video game turned into a movie, only it has never been a video game.

It was a nice time.

Today, we did some gardening together.

It, too, was a nice time.

But I definitely need time and space away from my husband. Time of quiet, not having to listen to talk about "those idiots" (me being one) who think there is something to climate change, or the incessant chatter coming from a TV. A space of calm, where I can sit and read and write and think without being interrupted.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sweet Relief

Yesterday, and even more so today, I have felt immense relief. Relief that my youngest graduated from high school though he nearly shot himself in the foot over one class. Relief that Funny Delightful Son kept his apartment in such wonderful shape during the last year, making moving then cleaning a quick endeavor. Relief that Lovely Beautiful Daughter texted with the message that her apartment has rented, so she will get her security deposit back though she is breaking her lease a month early. Relief that at least two members of my family are now aware of what is happening between me and my husband.

And they found out because of me, the person who had agreed to keep things quiet, writing on this blog. A space that had gone silent for nearly two years. A space I decided to use to think through all the junk in my head. A space I returned to with the thought that no one would be reading it. So I wrote openly, and each time I wrote, I felt a working through happening.

I'd not said anything to family out of embarrassment. I couldn't make things work between me and the father of my kids. Now, I can't seem to make things work with this marriage. For my dad, especially, I feel like I have to be one big disappointment. He and my mom were married 50+ years. They were the perfect example of how to do marriage. For whatever reason, their example didn't stick with me.

I found, though, that instead of being disappointed in me, he is concerned for my happiness. And my sister made it clear she is upset that I'd not asked for help. Apparently, I've been wearing my unhappiness on my face for everyone to see for quite some time. I thought I'd been doing a pretty good job of faking happy whenever around others, but according to Lovely Beautiful Daughter, my friends, and now my sister, the unhappiness has been like a blinking neon sign for everyone to see.

The only person who is taking umbrage with my family members knowing is my husband. He's afraid his family will find out, especially his mom. He is concerned she will worry about him, and in worrying her health will be affected in a negative way. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. I keep going back to when we first married and I wanted to keep my maiden name, but my husband argued against it because "what would his mother think?" After several arguments, I caved. Perhaps if I had stood up to him then we wouldn't be where we are now.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Tiger Swallowtail on the Sheer Lace Curtain

My husband and I agreed to have "dates." He can ask me out. I can ask him out. For our first date, we had dinner then talked late into the evening, until we reached the point of frustration brought about by my husband first saying he understands why I've been angry but then going on to show he truly doesn't understand. I left, going back to my place, feeling as if we are forever going to be two ships passing in the dark. For our second date, we went on a yard sale adventure then followed that up with dinner at my place. The yard sale adventure went just fine. The dinner was good. My husband, though, thought my asking him over for dinner meant intimacy afterward. When I declined, he became upset. We parted ways. Again.

We really are so far apart on just about every aspect of life. At this point, I'm not sure if we will ever be on the same page again. Perhaps we have never been on the same page. Perhaps for whatever reason, I just had it in my head that we were when we really were not.

The time we spent together going from yard sale to yard sale was fun. I found a wonderful set of heavy, wooden deck chairs, as well as a wrought iron table with two chairs to make the deck a nice gathering spot. It was at that table my husband and I ate dinner later that evening. It was at that table my husband and I found ourselves once again misunderstanding each other.

Earlier, before my husband arrived for dinner, I had returned to the house after spending several hours hunting for treasures with him. Those hours were filled with laughter and kindness. He happily drove me wherever I asked. He helped load the furniture, at one point a bulky mid-century arm chair I scored for $18. He then helped unload all the pieces, carrying them to where I pointed on the deck or in the house. When we decided we were finished with the yard sales, we went back to his place where I got in my Jeep, and we parted ways. He to a benefit for a long-time friend suffering from throat cancer. Me with Angel Baby to a movie matinee.

After the movie, I made my way back to my place, hoping to get a few hours of quiet. When I walked into my bedroom, a flutter at the corner of my eye caught my attention. I looked over to the sheer lace curtain panel at the sliding glass doors. A bright yellow tiger swallowtail fluttered its wings. I marveled at the vibrant hue. I wondered how it came to be in my bedroom. No windows were open. No doors left ajar. The place had been closed up tight.

Yet there in front of me, clinging to the lace curtain, was this beautiful creature. I slowly opened the heavy glass door, hoping to not send the butterfly up to the ceiling. It closed its wings then opened them but didn't seem concerned. I cupped my hands around it, gently pulling it away from the curtain, and stepped out onto the deck. I took it over to the planter where I'd put basil and mint, and flattened my hand to allow it to find its way onto the soil. Almost as soon as it felt the soil beneath its feet, the swallowtail took flight, rising up, going almost to the top of the nearest tree. I watched it land on a leaf, but again, almost as soon as it landed, it took flight, disappearing in the mass of leaves.

I think about that butterfly, still wondering how it came to be in my bedroom though all the doors and windows were closed. I think about it having gone through its own stages of transformation, eventually finding freedom. Perhaps I'm not so different. Perhaps I'm going through my own transformation and one day will find the courage to accept the freedom being set in front of me.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Mass of Radiating Nerves

It always seems like the closer I get to the end of the semester, the more I put off doing what I should be doing--grading final papers--to write poetry or short fiction. More recently, I've been focusing on the poetry.

The space between blood and bone

She sits beside me, relaxed, 
though a layer of weariness cloaks
her like a worn, familiar sweater
she can’t let go to Goodwill.
A small smile is the switch
bringing light to her dark brown eyes,
and she looks at me, whispers 
she is done with soul prostitution.
One hand rests on the place that beneath, 
past skin loosened from sacred creation,
past flesh protecting the space of possibilities,
is blood-warmed hope she planted, 
guards now like Cerberus
to keep safely inside where it roots,
can take hold, nurtured
until like ivy entwines
with bone, with sinew, swaddling
her heart, then spreading 
into her limbs unchecked
until orange ribbons exit 
through her fingers, through her toes
and swirl like tendrils of smoke
around her, a gentle embrace 
keeping good her promise. 

This is another one of those poems that came from an image that developed in my mind as I sat thinking about the solar plexus (for some reason I am fascinated by the idea of a mass of radiating nerves in the abdomen), life, and love.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Bringing Life Back

Go to dinner with me this evening, my husband suggests.

I am working in the garden behind the house. Where the chickens used to be. Where the empty beehive still stands at the far end. I didn't answer.

Think about it for a bit and let me know, he says.

I nod.

As I pull weeds, shift pavers around, lug cinder blocks to line the fence, I think about the neglect of the space. Life resonated throughout the garden once. Chickens. Bees. Birds. Rabbits. Snakes.

Now an emptiness fills the space, and emptiness that began two years ago with the chickens, after a neighbor complained to the city, and a city official showed up one sunny June morning, telling me to remove the chickens from the premises. The emptiness grew when the bees absconded, leaving the hive to follow the queen wherever it was she had decided to go.

The sadness I felt then stirs from my heartspace. Dormant for a long time but still residing within. Still a part of me these two years since.

Bringing life back, somehow, some way, took me into the garden. I'd been standing at the kitchen window, finishing a cup of coffee, when a bird at the empty bird bath caught my attention. That bird, its need for water, sent a whisper through me, triggering my need to feel earth between my toes, sift through my hands, blacken my fingernails.

Perhaps going to dinner with my husband is a start for us to bring life back to us, I think. Perhaps the bird, the garden, are showing me a way to fill the emptiness that is us right now.

My husband returns as I am checking the rain barrel's spigot.

Dinner, he asks.

Yes, I say.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Thirteen Years in a Blink

Early this morning I returned to the house my husband and I have shared for the last 13 years, to see Angel Baby off to school. While I have been staying overnight at the new place, Angel Baby has been staying where he has been for most of his life. This has been the best arrangement for him, a bit of a buffer for the disruption happening all around us. I try to talk with him every day, checking in to be sure he is moving forward, feeling calm and okay with what is happening. He always says he is, but I can tell when he is feeling overwhelmed. He told me recently that he has been confiding in two close friends. I told him I'm so happy to hear this as we all need that someone we feel comfortable discussing difficult matters with. He seemed relieved to see I am perfectly okay with him not confiding in me. And I truly am.

Now he is gone and so is my husband. I am alone in this house. I go to the bedroom I've been sleeping in for 13 years. My side of the bed is still made up. My husband's side of the bed is disheveled, the comforter and sheet tossed back, the pillows thrown haphazardly on top.

In the bathroom, my brush, comb, lotion, soap, shampoo are all gone. The only tell-tale sign I was ever there is the feet care kit I bought recently to show my feet some love. I pull it off the shelf, and as I turn to take it and put it in the bag of items to go to the other house, a strange sensation flits through me. As if all 13 years pass behind my eyelids when I blink. There then gone. I hesitate with the blink. Stay? Go?

I have to go. I know this. Yet each day a moment happens when I feel off balance, as if going isn't the answer.

Since I made the decision to leave, my husband has worked for either a temp service or doing handy-man jobs which are in answer to an ad he created and posted online. He's actually had quite a bit of work just from that ad. If I hadn't taken the step I did, he might not be taking the initiative to find work. He'd still be sitting on the couch, watching his 60 inch TV from morning til night.

I dreamed last night that I met a man. While he didn't look like my husband, his behavior was very similar. Everything was a joke. He asked me out on a date. I looked at him and said no thank you. I then turned and walked away, feeling so strong at having not given in.

Many days I don't feel strong at all. I know I can be, though. I have to be if I'm going to make my dreams happen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Woman to Woman

From my daily journal:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017:

I am in the writing center. I sit and listen as a student confides in me about a tough decision she had to make this week: telling the man she’s been in a relationship with for some time to leave.

He doesn’t support me, she says.

He’s always telling me I can’t do this (return to college), she says.

I’m 50 and this is the third time I’ve tried to get a degree, she says.

I will do this. I will finish, she tells me.

As I watch this beautiful woman’s face go from sad to determined to resigned to happy. I tell her about all the women I have met over the years whose boyfriends or husbands were unhappy with them going to college, learning, finding out how smart they truly are.

And I think back to just yesterday when I arrived at work, feeling so fortunate for being able to extricate myself from a toxic relationship. Thinking about all the women out there who cannot because they don't have a support network. Or they lack skills to find a job to sustain them. Or they are filled with fear. I wondered how I might be able to help these women. Even if in just a small way. 

Maybe this was the small way I could help the women who feel trapped--by listening to their stories. Supporting them. Letting them know where help might be found.

Are you safe, I ask.

She smiles. Yes, I am safe, she says, laying a hand lightly on my arm as if to thank me for asking.

She tells me about having her home to herself again. Enjoying the quiet. Her living room with its plants and her violin nestled amongst them. She will take violin lessons again.

I’m exhausted, she says. 

My own exhaustion tries to surface, feeling a kindred spirit just a foot away. I tamp it down. Exerting so much emotional effort to please? to placate? to avoid conflict? But to what end? 

I'm better off alone, she says.

After the student packs her things and leaves for class, I think about her. Hoping she stays strong. Hoping she believes in herself. Hoping she continues going after her dreams.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

First Night

Ado and I spent the first night in our new home.

My bed--a Japanese shikibuton--arrived earlier in the day, so I lugged it to the Jeep, folded down the seats, and slid it in. It took longer to get the mattress out of the box and the heavy plastic it was wrapped in than it did to get it to the Jeep, in the Jeep, out of the Jeep, then into the house. Once the shikibuton was unrolled, I stretched out on it. I snuggled into its firm support. An hour later, I awoke, totally surprised at having fallen asleep.

The simplicity of the shikibuton suits me. No ornate headboard or footboard. No box spring to have to wrestle with. Just a mattress. I do think I'll raise it off the floor, though. I truly want the mattress to last for many years. After reading about how to care for the shikibuton, I learned mold/mildew can be a problem if the mattress is left laid out on the carpet, so having it off the floor seems like a good way to go. If I decide to go without the platform, I'll have to roll the mattress each morning, which won't be an issue. It's easy enough to manage.

When I returned to the house later in the evening after going to get some dinner, loading my laundry basket with a few things to move, and taking Ado for a walk, I watched as Ado intently inspected the different rooms. I read for awhile. He checked things out, being particularly interested in looking out the sliding glass doors that lead to the back deck. I finally turned the light out and settled in under the quilt. Ado continued to sniff wherever his nose took him. Enough light filtered through the curtains at the sliding glass doors that I could see him moving around the room. About twenty minutes later, he came over and laid down beside me.

Throughout the night, Ado would get up to check things out. Being able to see outside seemed to fascinate him. He would go to the doors, find the spot where the curtains part, and nudge them aside. When he was satisfied, he'd return to take his spot next to me. Around six o'clock, he decided it was time to get up and began his usual cold nose to my face routine.

Though we both didn't get a great night's sleep, it was good. And good is good enough.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Moving On

I've begun moving into the new place. My method is to fill a laundry basket with things to take over, and since I've only done one full basket once a day for the last two days, the move is going to be slow. So far, I've taken over a few towels, some books, my favorite quilt, and a picture of Lovely Beautiful Daughter when she was three or four. Oh, and I also took an old oak dining chair I'd found on the curb a couple of years ago and spray painted black. It has a leather seat and is just kind of fun.

I had decided I want sheer curtains for the windows in my bedroom. I've not had curtains at any windows for the last thirteen years. Shades, but no curtains. The desire to do something different spurred me to try and find some lovely panels to add a soft touch to the room. I went thrifting yesterday and found two pairs of lace panels. I couldn't believe my luck. When I'd been looking at panels online, I had resigned myself to paying upwards of $30 for a pair. For the two sets from the thrift store, I shelled out just over $10. After buying the rods and hardware for hanging the curtains, I spent less than $25. And I'm completely happy with the result.

When I stood back and looked at the window over the desk, I couldn't help but smile. While I didn't get my bouquet of lilacs for the desk (all the lilacs were on their way out when I went to pick some), I did find a bouquet of purple tulips. I can see myself spending a lot of time at that desk. Especially if I put a couple of bird feeders on the pine trees that are just beyond the windows.

My bed is en route. It is scheduled to arrive between tomorrow and Thursday. Once I receive it, I will begin staying at the house on a regular basis. Me and Ado. Funny Delightful son will begin moving in next week. Angel Baby will move over after graduation at the end of May. Lovely Beautiful Daughter is scheduled to join us just after mid-June. I find it interesting how when we arrived here eighteen years ago, it was the four of us. The kids were quite young and we lived in a two bedroom apartment. I remember our year in that apartment like it was yesterday. Now, the kids are adults, yet they are happy to return to it being just the four of us. I feel like I'm being given a priceless gift.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Desk

For many years now, I've not had a desk of my own at home. When I was using a laptop, I would simply sit on the couch or at the dining room table or in the hammock swing and work. Once I switched over to a desktop, I needed a space, especially with having two monitors (which I love, love, love!). Since December, I've been using the part of the desk my husband fashioned, taking what was the L-shape piece from his desk and moving it to create one long piece against the wall of the office.

The space works though it is very cramped. The space works though it means I have to be in the same room with my husband at times since his computer is at the other end of the desk. The space works. But . . ..

Sunday, I bought my own desk. A mammoth, bit beat up wood desk. Seven drawers. A pull-out shelf on each side.

Lots of space.

For my computer. For my drafts. For my books.

Lots of space.

To doodle. To sketch. To jot down ideas when they strike.

To create.

The desk is nestled under two large windows in my bedroom at the house I will begin living in next week. The windows face west, so late afternoon and evening sunshine will spill across the marred surface.

This afternoon, after work, I plan to take a bouquet of lilacs to place on the desk.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Beautiful Birdsong

As promised, here's a short clip of the birdsong by which I meditated. Can you hear the mourning dove in the background?


Friday, April 21, 2017

Meditation to Birdsong

Conference meditation.

Thursday, April 20, 2017:

My cell phone alarm went off at 5:30 am. I swiped it off, rolled over, and went back to sleep. An hour later, I awoke. This time I swung my legs over the edge of the bed. I didn’t want to waste an opportunity to take my mat and find a spot on the park grounds to get in a morning meditation. I quickly dressed in my comfy black sweatpants, light gray sweatshirt, then headed out. I decided to go to the Fu Dogs garden, a wide expanse of grassy area guarded on both sides by cobalt blue ceramic Fu Dogs, statues whose features are a blend of a Pekingese pug dog and the long-haired lion dog. I’ve always loved the whimsy of the Fu Dogs.

The ground was wet from a heavy dew, and the cold against my bare feet helped wake me up. The sun was still low behind the trees. I found a spot between two cedar trees just before reaching the Fu Dogs. It felt private, and if others were up and about, walking the Fu Dogs garden, they wouldn’t feel as if they might be disturbing me. Mat unrolled and laid out, I settled in, resting my left calf on top of my right calf. I set my cell phone timer for fifteen minutes then laid my hands gently on my knees, closing my eyes.

Clear, melodic birdsong along with the sweet scent of lilac carried me to the fifteen minutes. What a gift to be a part of the morning awakening.

Before I packed up, I captured several minutes of birdsong on my phone recorder. My hope is to import the music to my computer and create a loop of song to use for my morning meditations. And it will remind me of the time I was granted this April morning, surrounded by beauty and calm.

I returned to my room, readied for breakfast (during which I could hear the guy in the next room over peeing, which made me wonder if he could hear me peeing), then made my way to the dining hall. Every item set out for breakfast was carbs or sugar: French toast, oatmeal, raspberry yogurt, assorted fruits, and muffins. I opted for the yogurt, thinking it at least had some protein in it, but after just a few spoonfuls, the sugary overtones were more than I could take. I’m so used to plain yogurt that sweetened makes my jaw ache. Thankfully there was plenty of decaf coffee. No one but me seemed to be drinking it. Everyone else was going for regular coffee, so much so, that I watched several people return to the coffee decanter only to find it empty. Their shoulders visibly slumped with disappointment.

Three conference sessions and a lunch of chicken tacos later, I packed my things into the Jeep and headed for home. Still buoyed by the birdsong of my morning.

*Note: I am in the process of converting the recording to a format which can be uploaded here. If I can make this happen, I will share the beauty.

*Note 2: This same day, I received the email I've been waiting for. I have been awarded promotion: Distinguished Professor. Pending Board approval, of course. I've never heard of the Board denying anyone promotion, so I'm hoping this trend continues.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Breathing Life into Ideas

Though my sabbatical doesn't officially begin until August, I've already been jotting down notes when an idea occurs to me, and writing poems and short essays--very rough first drafts of both--to not lose the germ when it strikes. For the first time in my life, I'm taking the desire to be a writer seriously. I'm being protective of my writing time. I write.

This is the most recent poem. It came about after an intense, overpowering need to sketch what was swirling in my head. That sketch has been right in front of me on my desk for weeks, helping me get to this:

I dreamed of you during the night, again, the fourth night in a row, 
and you were walking, again, as if you’d never not walked.
I remember awakening in the darkness, smiling at the notion
of you showing me where you are now, your legs working fine,
no MS keeping you prisoner on the burgundy leather love seat,
where you sat through your days then through your nights,
as if roots had somehow sprouted, burrowing down into the cushions,
then past the floorboards beneath, anchoring firmly
into the moist, black soil of the crawl space under the house,
as if your useless legs had fused together to form a thick trunk,
from which the crown above swayed gently under the weight
of the fruits you cradled, fruits ripe with words you devoured,
savoring the sweet escape from that couch, if just in your mind,
if just for an hour, until fatigue forced your eyes to close
and you’d sleep, dreaming, walking as if you’d never not walked.

The title eludes me, but I've learned to be patient and wait. It will reveal itself when it's ready.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Call of My Yoga Mat

For over a month now I've been ignoring the call of my yoga mat. At least when I'm not attending the eight week long yoga 102 class I signed up for. I go to the classes, but at home, the mat has stayed rolled up nice and neat in its carrier. I heard it whispering to me to unroll it, to take some time to move away from that which seems determined to seep into my my soul and keep me from finding and practicing what is positive, loving, good. I just feel frozen. I've never felt unable to act, to trudge forward though my feet seemed encased in mud, like I have over the last month. I find myself standing in the kitchen, staring at the stove but not really seeing it. Or in the bedroom, staring at the bed but not moving to lie down. The other day I realized I had driven through an intersection with a four-way stop, but I couldn't recall if I had actually stopped then proceeded through. I remember passing a few houses just before the intersection, but several seconds from those houses on, up until a half block beyond the intersection, are a complete blank.

Yesterday, when I stepped off the stairs and into the dining area, I looked at my mat hanging on its hook by the window overlooking the fruit garden.

"Today," I heard it whisper.

I went to it, removed it from its carrier, and let it unroll over the area rug in the foyer.

Not fully ready to commit to a practice, I instead took Ado for a long walk during which a boy jumping on a trampoline smiled and waved as we passed, a lone goose waddled along the drainage ditch then decided it didn't like us walking so closely behind and flew further up, landing in the water, its safety zone. We met up with a long-haired white and gray cat that crouched deep into the ditch grasses, as if it thought we'd not be able to see it against the green.

We returned to the house, and as I hung Ado's collar and leash on the hook next to the yoga mat carrier, my unrolled mat again whispered, "Today."

I instead found a recipe online for chai coffee and proceeded to put water in a pot, added cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, whole cloves, and fresh ginger. After these simmered for twenty minutes, filling the kitchen and dining area with a spicy warmth, I added the coffee grounds. More simmering. Then I strained the spiced coffee into a fresh pot and added brown sugar, honey, and milk. More simmering. Then, with a cup of hot chai coffee in hand, I grabbed Mozart's Starling and went to my hammock swing on the deck. There I sipped the coffee while reading or watching the squirrel in our neighbor's tree, who looked down at me, chattering, insulted by my presence.

And so the day went. Me hearing my mat whispering, "Today," and me finding other things to do that I thought might soothe the discomfort deep in my being. Writing. Another walk. More swaying in the hammock swing. Fixing a dinner of salmon and roasted veggies for Angel Baby and myself. Listening to Angel Baby explain the trials and tribulations of waging intergalactic war. Doing my laundry for the week.

Then I found myself at my dresser, pulling out purple yoga pants and an orange top. I quickly changed, grabbed my laptop, and went back downstairs. I settled into Sukhasana on my mat, clicked on the yoga program I've been following, and began. An hour later, after constantly finding myself pulling my wandering thoughts back to my breath, my muscles, my body, I finished practice with Ardha Sirsasana, happy that my shoulder girdle muscles and core are still able to maintain the inversion for ten breaths.

I left my mat unrolled. I will seek it out this evening. I will continue moving forward.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Watching My Pet Grieve

For the past two years, I've laughingly and lovingly said we have a toddler in the house. A four-legged, furry, 100 pound toddler. His mischievous nature, the way he fairly ran to the stairs every morning as I descended from upstairs, his wrapping his lanky body around my legs as if saying, "Hey, notice me. Pet me" brought to mind a child utterly happy with the world. When the young woman we refer to as "Ado's Girlfriend" visits, he would jump on her as if he wants her to hold him like she did when he was just a ten-pound puppy. He would lavish her with sloppy dog kisses and be sure her clothes were covered with his hair.

Since last Monday, since returning home without Max, my toddler has been nowhere in sight. It was like overnight Ado shed his childish ways and became an adult.

No longer does he run to the stairs as I come down for breakfast. Instead, he and I meet in the middle of the dining room, him treading softly, slowly from the living room where he spent the night sleeping on the couch. And this morning, when his girlfriend came to visit briefly, he didn't run to her, jump on her, offer slobbery kisses. He calmly met her at the gate, walked ahead of her to the back deck, then settled in where he had been laying before her arrival.

I want my toddler back.

I want to see that same exuberance for life he used to show.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Delightful Distraction Period

And now I wait.

Yesterday I defended my promotion portfolio to a group of colleagues from different areas of the college: Environmental Science, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing. I've known the members of my reading team for many years, and honestly, it was a real pleasure talking teaching with them. At one point, when one of the readers said our gathering was a celebration of teaching, the thought crossed my mind that they were in favor of my promotion.

But I won't know for sure for nearly two more weeks.

So now I'll have to turn my attention to other things, things that will keep me busy, like loading Ado into the car and driving up to the lake for some long walks. Or working on a few of my own pieces that will be a part of my sabbatical project. Or getting the bike out and taking that first ride of the season now that the sun is warming our days. I'm sure I can find other things to focus on, to distract me from wondering if I will get that coveted letter saying, "Congratulations. You have been approved for Distinguished Professor."

To begin this distraction period, I began working on a piece I've been mulling over for several months now, ever since last November when I learned I have a heart murmur. I'm one of those odd people that finds starlings to be beautiful birds. In searching for information about the bird, I have learned they are hated and have no legal protections of any kind. While I understand why people don't like the bird for a variety of reasons, I am saddened that many people don't take the time to learn more about them. They are kind of remarkable, really.

As if by chance, I walked past a table of books at the book store this morning and saw Mozart's Starling. After reading the first line on the back jacket cover, I knew I needed to read the book. I bought it, drove to the coffee shop, found a seat by the front window to people watch if so desired, and began reading. On page 8 of the "Prelude," I was fighting back tears (I'm fighting back tears just thinking about this!). Someone, something (fate?), knew I needed this book right now.

Two pages of ideas sparked by reading just 25 pages into the book, I know I'm inching forward with the piece that sparked inside me several months ago. I think this distraction period could be productive and delightful all the way around.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Doing What Feels Right

The place the kids and I will call home for the next year, beginning in May, has been found. I am both excited and sad at the same time. Excited for the possibilities that I can see for us to build our lives in a positive direction. Sad over the life with a partner I thought I was building that didn't come to fruition.

My husband has been asking that I don't leave. Last evening, he came into the living room where I was sitting with Ado, to tell me he would take any job that came along, even if it meant only making $10 an hour. For the past year, I have been asking him to do just this, that I didn't care he might only make $10 an hour. Anything would be better than nothing. Going out every day, getting away from the house to do something with the goal of helping out the household, was what I thought would be good for his sense of wellbeing,  He chose to ignore my suggestion for a year. Now that I have made the decision to leave, he will do as I have been asking for a year.

But I've reached the point of too little too late.

He told me I don't get to think too little too late.

I believe I do, and what he said to me next has had me scratching my head, thinking, "Wow" ever since. After my response of I absolutely do get to think too little too late, my husband sort of laughed, saying, "You called my bluff."

This leads me to believe he thought he could do his "I'm searching for a job every day by going online and filling out applications" routine ad infinitum.

So yeah, I feel a tug-of-war happening deep in my being, but after filling out the application for the house, after talking to the landlord who is incredibly nice and made it very clear he is happy we are going to be living in his home, the decision to leave just feels right.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

So Many Wonderful Memories Still Can't Stop the Pain

Last week, Wednesday, I made the appointment I've been putting off.


His legs were giving out on him as he walked across the floor or down the steps. His chin quivered at times, indicating pain.

But he always looked at us as if he was the happiest dog on earth.

It was easy to rationalize he was okay, that he still had a few weeks, a few months, maybe a few years left.

The day he dragged his hind quarters across the floor as he went to get a drink of water made me see how unfair we were being with him.

Yesterday, we said goodbye. In a warm, cozy room. Our hands stroking his black coat. Our voices telling him how much he meant to us.

When we returned home, Ado circled us, sniffing, looking at us as if to ask, "Where's Max?" He went out into the yard. Searching. He came back inside, found the collar and leash, and nosed at it. Where I went, Ado went. As I worked at the computer, he lay at my feet. Then, he stood, went into the room where Max used to sleep. I heard him howl. Just once. Then he came back and nudged my arm.

Our hearts are hurting where a big hole formed yesterday with Max's last breath, and no matter how many wonderful memories of Max I think about, they still can't stop the pain.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Determined to Emerge

I have found myself fumbling about, grasping at trying to become motivated to do something. Anything. Just do. For several weeks now, I've not been able to convince myself to shed the dispiritedness that has taken hold. I do enough to get through my days, completing the tasks required of me at work, but even those are done less than half-heartedly. I desperately want to move past whatever this is making me feel like my whole body and mind are trudging through mud.

Yesterday, my husband tried, again, to convince me to stay. He'll get a job. He'll fix this financial issue he created. He'll take walks with me and Ado. He'll do all kinds of things if it means I will stay. I want him to become a better version of himself, but I doubt that me staying will make that happen. And I think this because as we talk, woven between what he'll do to make things better are comments about how the reason we are where we are is my fault.

Perhaps I am the reason we are at the point of no return. After all, I expect certain behavior from those around me. Like pulling one's weight by being gainfully employed. I don't necessarily care what one does to make money, as long as it's legal. Like helping with the mess that comes with living in a house. See a cup on the table? Put it in the dishwasher. See dog hair bunnies hatching in the corners of the room? Pull out the sweeper and give the room a going-over. Like wanting to join in for a bike ride, a walk, just reading in the same room. He accused me of doing whatever I want whenever I want. I do because I've asked him to do things with me and he has turned me down a lot.

So yes, I guess I am to blame for our relationship swirling down the drain. I'm not content to sit in front of a TV. I'm not content to sit in front of a computer and scroll through videos, memes, and other inane social media what-not. I prefer to be more involved in life, life that is happening all around me, even along the familiar path I walk each and every day.

I almost passed by these purple pretties while Ado and I strolled along the drainage ditch. Thankfully Ado paused to nose at something, and I happened to look down. The fragile beauties emerging from their winter rest made me smile.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Teaching Writing Isn't for the Faint of Heart

As I was driving to work today, the thought that a week from tomorrow I go in for my promotion portfolio defense flitted through my mind. A nano second later, that rush of adrenaline that happens when a person feels fear shot through the pit of my stomach. I calmed myself, thinking hopefully my portfolio readers are all reasonable people. Then, almost as soon as I sat down at my desk my phone rang. I answered and found it was one of my promotion portfolio readers. Another rush of adrenaline coursed through my core, speeding up my heart. The reader, someone I've known for many years and have cycled with, tells me a page from my teaching philosophy is missing. The last page. Pages 1, 2, 3, and the works cited were all there. Page 4? Where'd it go? I quickly pulled the document up on my computer to check it. Yes, page 4 was there. Why it wasn't in the portfolio is beyond me. I checked, double checked then triple checked each copy of the portfolio before submitting them, so I know the entire document was there when I dropped the binders off at HR. Thankfully, my reader simply said, "Email me the teaching philosophy. I'll print it out and hole-punch the missing page then put it in your portfolio." At least one of my readers is a reasonable person.

This promotion portfolio is extremely important to me. I've gone through four promotions during my time teaching here, moving from instructor to Assistant Professor to Associate Professor to Professor I then to Professor II. Now I'm up for Distinguished Professor. The obstacle I knew I had to hurdle in putting together my portfolio was the perception my readers hold concerning what a writing teacher should be teaching. Over the last 25 years, I've heard on many occasions that we writing teachers aren't doing our job. We're allowing students to move out of our comp classes though they can't put a coherent sentence together. Instead of teaching concepts like voice, audience, and context, we should be focusing on grammar. For many of my colleagues who are outside the writing program, grammar is the end-all to good writing.

This emphasis on grammar came out loud and clear in an email exchange that occurred the week before classes began this semester. Long story short: I am in charge of our Writing Across the College initiative. In my time here, others have tried to get WAC up and running but it always fizzled out. I knew this going into this newest WAC attempt, and as such, I wanted to take a different approach from my predecessors. With assistance from my Chair, I drew up a survey to get a sense for my colleagues' attitudes concerning what made good student writing. That survey revealed pretty much what I figured it would. Correct grammar means good writing. Those who teach "content" courses don't have time to teach writing because there's so much content to cover. It is the responsibility of the writing teachers to prepare students to handle the writing assignments they'll face across the college. While not every person to respond to the survey shared in these beliefs, many did, and after drawing up a response to the survey results and sharing it with all faculty, the proverbial crap hit the fan.

Several very vocal senior faculty members expressed their beliefs that the survey was "rigged" to elicit the responses that it did (never mind that the participant had the option for each question to not answer if he/she didn't wish to). These faculty members went on to suggest that the goal of the writing program is to remove teaching of grammar all the way around and push it off on everyone else (never mind that we created a class specifically to focus on grammar-related issues for incoming students who didn't place directly into English 101). The culmination of this heated, and even vitriolic at times, email exchange came when one individual personally attacked a writing program faculty member. I was simply stunned by what was said in a forum that included all faculty, full time and adjunct (which tells me this person has no idea what voice/audience/context mean and should have to back up and take English 101 and English 102).

With all of this in mind I wrote my promotion portfolio. I may have been snarky at times, referring now and again to "the more traditional-minded instructor," but I build what I believe to be a solid case for teaching writing the way I teach writing. I bring in scholars of the field as well as scholars from the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and sociology. I offer anecdotal evidence from my students over the last five years. And I demonstrate my own involvement in continued professional development through the years. My hope is my portfolio readers see that writing and the teaching of writing is, as someone once said, "Fraught with peril." Peril that involves much more than correct grammar.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Changing The Way I Think

Last evening, I did something I've never done before in my 53 years of living. I showed my feet some love. Yep. I took an hour out of my evening to wash my feet with hot, soapy water then go over them with a pumice. From there I rubbed in some lotion, massaging my feet along the way. As I reveled in the relaxation brought about by the kneading of the muscles in my feet, I wondered what took me so long to realize the neglect I'd been showing two very important parts of my body. I mean, they do so much work each and every day. You'd think I'd have figured this out a long time ago and taken steps to make sure they were given the attention they truly deserve. Now that I've seen the light, I will see to it that my feet are given due care to keep them in working order.

Part of my feet care was me finding other things to do than play Fallout: New Vegas. I wasn't so sure I was going to enjoy this version of Fallout when I first started it, but if the nine hours of playing Saturday afternoon and evening is any indication . . .. So yes, I'm enjoying it tremendously. That nine hours of play showed me something about myself: I have to stop thinking the way I tend to think. I'm usually a very logical, point A to point G kind of thinker. This won't work in the gaming world. Anything is possible in the gaming world. Once I took this to heart, I began having a better time in the game. I still run into obstacles and have to ask for help, but my asking for assistance has brought about some wonderful conversations with Funny Delightful Son and Angel Baby.

Today, I arrived to work and found a gift bag--containing a lovely dark chocolate bar--hanging from my office door handle. I asked several people about the small gift, and I finally found out who left it for me--someone I've called friend ever since I began teaching in this small Illinois town. Such a kind gesture by my friend. When I asked if she left the bag, she replied that yes, it was her and she'd been thinking about me all weekend. I've been giving this "thinking about me" a lot of thought lately, so the fact that someone showed me I was being thought of makes me want to do better at showing others I'm thinking of them. I know I don't tell people as often as I should that I was thinking about them, and I'd like to find ways to let the people I care about know that I am.

After work, after Funny Delightful Son and I went to look at a rental, I had an emotional meltdown. It was all I could do to keep myself together until after I dropped FDS off at his apartment. Once I knew he could no longer see me, I fell apart, driving down the road with tears slipping down my face. Then I sat in my car for several minutes after pulling into the garage, wondering how in the world I'd reached this point in my life. I feel like I just keep making the same mistakes, and part of this happening is because I won't stand up to bad behavior. I'll point it out. I'll say, "That's isn't acceptable." But I won't go any further, at least not until the bad behavior does irreparable damage. Kind of like with the gaming, I need to change the way I think or I'm going to just keep spinning my tires.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Some Dreams Just Stay Dreams

Monday I'm going to look at a house. To rent. In town.

For the last fifteen years, I've been dreaming of finding my house in the country. A small farmhouse with just two or three acres. In my dream, I have a cat or two, a dog or two, a Jersey cow for milk, and maybe a sheep or two so I learn to sheer wool, make yarn. A large garden outside the back door supplies me with veggies to can and freeze. The fruit trees I plant give me cherries, apples, and peaches. The red raspberries stain my face red because I eat more straight from the vine than I save for jams.

But, some dreams just stay dreams.

I know I'm not the only person whose dream won't ever materialize. There are many, many people who move through their days with the hope that maybe, just maybe, one small part of the dream will happen, but know most likely it won't. This is one of the saddest parts of life.

I keep going back to at least I'll have my children with me in whatever house we decide to rent. And we'll play Scrabble (I always win), we'll share our days' stories with each other, and we'll help each other move closer to making our dreams come true.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Getting Back to Teaching Mind

Lovely Beautiful Daughter went back east yesterday. I began missing her before we had even left the house to take her to the bus which would carry her up to O'Hare. The last time we said good-bye at the small airport here in our little city, I watched her wipe tears away as she went through security. Yesterday, I wiped tears away as I walked back to the car. We had such a wonderful time together during the five days she was here. She's a spark of life that makes everyone around her feel happy.

While she was here, I didn't get my students' paper read like I'd hoped to. A few years ago, I would have been agonizing over not finishing the grading as planned, really stressing myself out, but now? Now I shrug it off and send a note to all students, telling them I'm behind and will complete the grading during the next few days.

My position about my job, about teaching writing, these days is so different from just five years ago. I believe having strong writing skills is a valuable asset that can definitely help a person in different areas of life. I also believe, though, that at the end of the day, it's just writing. It's not like the students and I are on the brink of finding a cure for cancer. Which would be very cool if it were the case, and definitely something well worth writing about. But this isn't the case at all. I have a few who are on the brink of really "getting it" in regards to developing a voice the audience wants to listen to, but the majority are where they'll always be in respect to writing: average.

The one bright spot with my f2f class this semester is we are now past midterm and I still have all 22 students who began the semester with me. This is unusual. The typical is losing two or three by this time, and having another two or three with really bad attendance. The 22 in this class are there most class periods, talking, writing, discussing ideas. While I'm not certain, I have to wonder if this might be due to the change I made for starting each class period. I no longer say hello and jump right into a reading or assignment. This semester, I begin each class by checking in with everyone, asking how they are feeling. For ten minutes or more, we talk mind/body connection. I listen as they tell me about illnesses (a severe rash picked up while working out at the gym--doing what is considered good for the body yet becoming ill in the process), family issues (acting as caretaker for an ill grandparent), and being stressed due to car problems (simply not having enough money for gas any given week). The students listen to each other, offer suggestions, and even say, "Text me. I'll drop by and pick you up for class." We too often dismiss how our bodies are feeling and the impact this has on us as we move through out days.

My hope is to move through my days mindfully. I hope this for my students, too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Ending of Spring Break Brings Hope for a New Beginning

Sometimes, when I'm working on a new written piece, especially a poem, I'll sketch out what I'm seeing in my mind, what I want to take from the swirling that is in my head to paper. Today, as I was working on a poem that has been pulling at me, I had the overwhelming urge to get the sketch pad out and let the pencil go to work. At one point, I felt as if I wasn't even the one sketching. I wasn't thinking about how I wanted the image to look. It just happened. I've never felt this experience before. I thought, too, that I'm not truly worthy of this kind of experience since I'm not an artist. But I quickly checked myself. For some reason "something" was speaking to me and helping me get what was in my head to the sketch pad. I need to honor that and work to make my vision become tangible.
Now, with the image in front of me, I'm finding the words are happening though the writing is slow.

Last night I dreamed I was with a friend from work and another person I didn't know. We were in a place I didn't recognize, so we were trying to figure out where we needed to go that was familiar. We went into a small building, only big enough for the three of us to just step around each other. Along the wall opposite the door were panels of lights and buttons, and to the left side of the panel a blanket hung from the ceiling to the floor. I pulled the blanket aside to see what was behind it and found myself staring at faces contorted in agony. People had been put into what looked like a tube and left there. They appeared to have been trying to get out but couldn't. A similar tube with people in it was behind yet another blanket on the right side of the panel with lights and buttons.

The three of us were quite freaked out over this, so we went to the door to leave. It was locked. I looked around and found a bobby pin (cue Fallout 4 and Fallout: New Vegas!). I've become a pro at using the bobby pin to unlock things in the games, so I quickly worked the bobby pin in the door lock. I could see the little tab I had to connect with inside the lock, and within seconds we were outside the building. At this point, I looked down the road we had walked and saw a car outside another building. The car hadn't been there when we passed it, so I figured it was the person who put all the bodies into the tubes, and I could feel the fear building. Then, a little voice in my head said, "This is a dream." I was like, okay, good to know, nothing to fear here. The three of us headed away from the horror building but I ended up waking up. I figured once that inkling of the whole thing being a dream is put on the table, the game's over.

Sort of like spring break. It's over, and right when we had a beautiful, sunny day after days of snow, wind, and cold. Ado and I enjoyed two nice walks to be sure we took advantage of the warmth. In between the walks, because Lovely, Beautiful Daughter came in to see Angel Baby perform in his last high school jazz concert, the three kids and I had a family discussion. I'm learning my kids are and have been very concerned about me and are very much in favor of me finding a place of my own. We decided that it would be in everyone's best interest to find a place we all could share, splitting rent, utilities, and other costs. I'm really very surprised with how the kids have no reservations about living with me and all of us helping each other out. It's kind of cool.

Now we're all looking for a place we can call home for a year. We agreed to rent for a year then reassess how things are going. I'm trying to focus on work and finishing up the next eight weeks. Just eight weeks! Then? A new beginning.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Listening For Beauty

All of yesterday and all morning today, snow fell. Big, soft flakes much of the time. Every now and then, the wind would gust, pushing the snow sideways. But now the sun is shining. The snow is melting. I imagine by tomorrow evening all of the snow will be gone. The transience of this weather event is a reminder: keep looking ahead, for what seems insurmountable now will reveal itself as just a small inconvenience in the bigger scheme of things. Or as my mom always used to put it: this, too, shall pass.

I'm trying to keep this in mind given the tension my entire being is feeling right now. I know holding onto the anger is unhealthy. I know I need to use the tension and the anger to walk a more creative path. Only I find this so difficult when my husband is in the same space, which is much of the time since he is and has been unemployed for the last year. I find myself intentionally leaving the room when he enters. I stay at work longer than I need to simply to not have to be here with him. I truly do not know if I can move away from the anger this time. It has seeped deeply, settled into my very core.

Some writing is happening, which helps alleviate some of the tightness gripping my heart space. For quite a while I went through a spell of not finding anything revealing itself to me. I've learned not to force something that doesn't want to be. So I simply listen. Last evening the listening brought me a new idea, and I started to flesh it out. This morning, another idea whispered to me as soon as I sat on the couch. Not having any paper beside me, I grabbed the book I'm currently reading and found a page with lots of clean space. I wrote the words that unveiled themselves to me. Now I have two works I hope to breathe life into.

I have to wonder if Ado is sensing my unease. He comes to me often, placing his paws on my lap and snuggling his head against my chest. Just that. For several minutes. Then he returns to his spot on the couch and settles in. The love he offers me is so sweet and gentle. We took a short walk this morning, and after returning, after hanging his leash near the window overlooking the fruit garden, I heard a Cardinal singing. Through the window, I could see the Cardinal in the forsythia across the street.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Quiet Simplicity and Solitude

It is spring break, and we're under a winter weather advisory. Snow. The white fluff is supposed to start later this evening and continue into tomorrow. Several inches, they're saying. Winter's way of shouting, "Hey, hold on a minute. I have eight more days. Then Spring can have her way." I'm secretly hoping Winter stays north of us, smoothing her white blanket over Wisconsin and Michigan. 

Today I finally found the courage to tell my husband I have decided to find a place of my own. I'd been rehearsing the talk in my head for the past few days, but like usual, I went off script fairly quickly. I didn't quite know how he was going to respond. I thought maybe he would get angry as that has been his MO when I offer up how his behavior has harmed our relationship. This time, he remained calm. He suggested he understood how I was feeling. He went on to say he doesn't want me to leave, but he does understand. Later, after Angel Baby and I returned from a run to the store for milk and eggs, I found a card on my keyboard. Inside the card, my husband had written an apology note, saying again he does not want me to leave.

I've realized over the past few years that I crave being alone. When I think about being in a space that is mine, just me and Ado, I feel a longing grip me. I desire nothing more than to create a home free of tension and full of calm. I know I will never get this if I stay here. I read recently how in the Hindu tradition the life of a human being is broken into four 25 year periods. I am in the vanaprastha period, which is, as one writer put it, about "quiet simplicity" and going into a life of solitude after completing the duties associated with maintaining a household. Quiet Simplicity and Solitude pull at me now as if they are puppies yanking on my pant legs.

Today, as Ado and I walked a path next to a drainage ditch, I thought about how embarrassing it is to be that person with yet another marriage not working out. Angel Baby told me recently my failed relationships are because I'm not the marrying type; I'm too independent. Lovely Beautiful Daughter said it's because I don't want to stop taking advantage of the world. I love them both for their take on the situation. Soothes my bruised ego a bit.

For now, with everything out in the open, I'm feeling better. More optimistic. And even if we do get the six inches of snow they're saying we're going to get, I'm won't hide from it. Rather, perhaps I'll actually get that one cross-country skiing expedition in for the season. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Taking Quiet Moments

With no meetings scheduled for tomorrow, I am officially on spring break. I do have papers to grade over break, so I won't have a week of no work-related items to finish up, but since I have no plans whatsoever, I don't mind having papers in need of grading.

This semester has been quite strange for me. I've always taught five or six writing classes each semester for the past 17 years. That's a lot of papers to read and respond to. This semester, because of the release time I have for WAC and the Writing Center, I'm only teaching two writing classes, one of which is online. This puts me in the classroom for one class twice a week. The reduction in assignments to grade has been such that I have not had to spend several hours in the evenings and during the weekends grading. I've been able to do other things. Like read. Take Ado for longer walks. Clean my shop. Sit in my hammock swing on the back deck. Just so many non-work related activities that have been good for my soul.

These soul-refreshing moments are sorely needed. With the emotional turmoil I've been feeling, having time to not have to concentrate helps me think through all the garbage in my head. This evening, after a dinner of salmon and sauteed veggies, I sat in the quiet of the living room, just thinking. I don't think I've ever just sat for several hours, thinking, It felt good.

Yesterday's Sunset

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What Lies Ahead

Sunday was my birthday. I am 53 years old. Now, more than ever before, I think a lot about what lies ahead for me, and what I keep coming back to is: alone.

You'd think this would scare me, but it doesn't. To the contrary, I find the idea of being alone enticing.

Things aren't great in my marriage. To be honest, things aren't even good. The disquiet that hangs over my head has been there for some time now. It didn't just start during the past few months or even during the past few years. Rather, the unsettled feelings have been a part of my life for many years now. I've been searching for ways to make things better, and I have been able to move beyond the anger at different times, but my mind keeps returning to the idea that alone is the only true answer.

More recently, another issue cropped up that is a direct result of my husband. The person who is supposed to be my partner. Only he isn't. The person who is supposed to discuss matters with me and take my opinion into consideration when making big decisions that affect both of us. Only he doesn't. He pretends he is a partner. He pretends he considers my opinion. However, if both of these were true, we wouldn't be facing the issue we currently are. Every fiber in my being was opposed to the decision he made, and he knew this. It wasn't like I was silent about my position. I was, in fact, quite vocal.

This has been the pattern for many years. While I don't want to quit trying to make things better, I also don't want to be the only one trying. That's not a partnership.

So alone seems to be the direction I'm headed. Honestly, I'm okay with this. I realized yesterday, as I was talking with friends and getting their feedback, that the tears have dried up. I no longer become emotional about the loss of the friendship, the closeness, the fun my husband and I used to share. This lack of emotion is incredibly sad to me.

The next few months will be rough, but the one thing I know about myself is that I'm strong. I will be okay.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Removing the Technological Clutter

I took the first step this morning to removing some technological clutter. I closed my LinkedIn account. It's kind of funny how I'm feeling a bit unsettled over actually clicking the Remove Account button. I so rarely even visit my LinkedIn, so I'm not sure why I'm feeling like I've just lost a really good friend. Does technology have that much power over us? Me? This is exactly why I want to declutter. I don't want to feel so attached to spaces online that suck away time. Time is precious. I have come to believe Time should be treated with much more care.

As such, I'm gradually going to close the various social media accounts I have open. Twitter is next. It, like LinkedIn, is a space I rarely visit. I go in every now and then, but for what? I don't truly enjoy scrolling through the tweets, most by people I don't even know. I have a few friends on Twitter, but overall, those who I follow and who follow me are strangers. I want to focus my attention on the actual warm bodies that I call friends.

Facebook will be the more difficult space to remove myself from. I do enjoy seeing what family and friends are up to. However, I know I can find out what they're up to through a phone call, a letter, a text, an email. These seem much more personal and immediate. These focus on the individual rather than putting it out there for them and everybody else. I want to focus my attention on the individual.

Working through my feelings over stepping away from social media, I'm finding I really am okay with doing so. There's too much life happening and to make happen.

Time. Life. These need my focus, not the online world.