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Welcoming Life

October 2012

Hunkering and Battening--preparing for Hurricane Sandy

This photograph shows a bit of the preparation for possibly being without power for the next few days. Most of what is seen needs no explanation. What you can't see is the little measuring cup with Sophie's (my little dog) food. The brown object in the middle is a gluten free rosemary and kalamata olive loaf of bread I baked this afternoon and there is a cinnamon loaf rising. The book I've set aside is Calvin Trillin's --Feeding a Yen. I have LOTS of books, but this book calms me--it's about food and humor written as only Calvin Trillin can write (I admit as a writer, I have  Trillin envy). Right now, I am sitting at my computer waiting to hear the wind beating against  my condo's windows. It's dark now. But I peek out every once in awhile to watch the leaves drift down from a big tree to the left of my patio. The scene is mesmerizing. But I am conflicted. Half of me is mesmerized--half of me is on high alert. I've referred to my strong nesting instinct before in this blog, and my book Above & Beyond Wellfleet made it very clear that in order to recover from the loss of my husband, I had to find a home in which to put my heart. It is hard to think about a strong--very strong--wind damaging my nest--even harder though is to think about the fact that there may be loss of life due to this storm which we are being told could rage out of control wreaking havoc up and down the Eastern seacoast. As I made the bread this afternoon, I was comforted about participating in a process of my forbears. Those who survived without power. Maybe that's why I made the bread. There was something calming about thinking about the courage of those who came before. Sorry if that sounds just a bit too saccharine, but the thought of past courage gave me present courage. Who knows if the wind will howl tonight or the next few days. Who knows whether the bread I made will be toasted or sliced untoasted and slathered with jam. I've charged the cell phones, discovered that I have a remarkable number of flashlight batteries, and have stood in line to get the requisite water and "no perishables" (this from advice from my daughter). My thoughts tonight are less fearful and more hopeful. I pray that no one will be severely battered by this storm. I hope everyone has someone watching out for them.We live in a country that does its best to care for our well being. I'll keep that thought in my head tonight too, when I begin to hear the winds swirl.

Weekends

I am writing this on a Friday night, and I'm happy. It wasn't always so. After my husband died, I dreaded the weekends. No, let me be clear--I hated them. So much so that I devoted a whole chapter in Above & Beyond Wellfleet to the adjustment I had to make. 
I had always loved weekends. They were especially wonderful when I was a teenager. I went to high school in Omaha, Nebraska. I loved my almost five years in this city--so much so that when my father was transferred back East, I cried from the Council Bluffs bridge to Rochester, NY. One of the things that made my teenage years so happy was that there was always something fun to do on the weekends. Yes, I'm of the age of sock hops, pep rallies and
"be true to your team."  I recovered from my sadness of moving away from my high school friends, and made new friends in college. Weekends were still eagerly anticipated. I went to a women's college--so they were REALLY anticipated. After I was married, weekends were still looked forward to. Bridge parties replaced fraternity parties--but having fun and relaxing were the watchwords. We had earned the right from working hard all week to revel in the company of friends or planning something special for the family. There was a clear demarcation from Friday to Sunday--a time reserved to pause and enjoy life. When my husband died that pause gnawed at me. I was no longer a couple and even though I was blessed with wonderful friends, their company in the beginning only added to my misery--as to where there used to be four there was only three. The good news is I've learned to make TGIF less holy.I've figured out a way to keep the demarcation of making the weekends special.The photograph accompanying this post is how I am choosing to make this Friday night special for just me--the warmth of the fireplace, a lobster stew simmering, a glass of chardonnay, and looking at the new man of the house--he is on the mantle.Of course, there are things I miss--but I have learned in the last ten years to count my blessings.Tonight I dine alone, but tomorrow and the next night I will be with my daughter on her birthday weekend, having been included with two different sets of her friends.I'm happy to report that one of the phrases that has become a common expression  for me is "it doesn't get better than that"--and it doesn't.

Person's Best Friend

One of my dedications in Above & Beyond Wellfeet was to my dog, Binker ("the closest to being human on four paws). She was my trusted companion when I was beginning my solo flight after my husband died. I had to say goodbye to her this summer (she was nineteen). My son and his family helped me over this horrible hurdle, Rob sitting by my side as I held Binker for the last time. This was the second time we had said goodbye together to a treasured friend.When I called Katie to tell her about Binker (this human dog was Katie and David's "first child), she said "don't worry, mom, we'll give you Sophie and we'll get a new dog". I protested-but not too much. Sophie had been chosen by Katie and her family four years earlier because she resembled Binker and they knew she would provide the comfort when the time came to say goodbye to Binker.And she has. This is she with her green frog. What is it about animals that give us comfort and companionship? Some relate--some don't. I relate. I've always had a pet for a friend. I get so attached that each time I lost one growing up, my parents issued the edict that I could not get another, because I got too emotionally attached. I begged and wheedled and they would relent. When Katie and Rob's dad and I bought our first house, the first thing we did was get a dog. Benny the Dalmation was the first "Marley". Trouble was his middle name, and we finally had to find him another home. We thought we could survive as a family without any more pets; we were wrong.Shortly after finding another home for Benny, we gave a new golden retriever puppy, "Tessie James", our home. Because our kids knew we were push overs, there was a time when we had a virtual managerie --gerbils (don't ask about their fate), and three adopted cats. One of the cats we adopted after a neighborhood child was going door to door to find a home for a kitten. Our reputation was too public.Finally, the family of pets was narrowed to a cat and Tessie and then only Tessie. She was a dog with nine lives. My children barely knew life without her until she finally got too old to live her life happily; she was almost 17 years old when we had to say goodbye. To those who cannot relate, I should explain. The pets my children had when they were growing up taught them to care about the welfare of someone other than themselves.They nursed our pets when they were sick, Tessie was a human desk on which Rob used to do his homework. Katie slept with Tessie on the living room floor for days after Tessie had been hit by a car and couldn't' climb the stairs up to her room. For me, the act of caring for someone other than myself  is still important. But I get much more than I give.Sophie knew she had big paws to fill, and she has. My children showed me enormous love when they sensed my sorrow and knew how to comfort me. Were my parents right? Do I get too attached to my pets. Yes, I do. But it's an emotional risk I'm willing to take.

CivicsI

I almost made the title of this post "politics", but I am mindful that politics is one of those subjects that can cause great rifts among family and friends. But I have something to say which I hope will not be contentious. I looked up the definition of "civics", and I liked it. It is "the branch of political science that deals with civic affairs and the rights and duties of citizens". Readers might be wondering what this subject has to do with my book Above & Beyond Wellfleet. For those of you who don't know me well, my late husband was a much admired and loved civic leader. He was a politician, and he wore the label proudly. He was a Democrat. His resume began with the fact that he "cut his political teeth on Jack Kennedy's campaign" as a young man and as a slightly older man he became the County Democratic Chair in Rochester, NY and then "Mario Cuomo's hand picked New York State Chairman."He had a knack for convincing people to run for public office, who never had an inkling that that was something they wanted to do. One of his favorite phrases in selling potential candidates on the idea of serving their neighbors was giving the person the "opportunity to participate". He saw being involved in the political process as a high calling as well as one's duty as a citizen. A friend and former New York political reporter who recently read my book wrote to me and said how she related to what I had written about my husband. She wrote "these sentences really struck me 'if the odds were great, he was inspired. If he was told something was unachievable, he achieved it". That is true, he asked a lot of the people who he convinced to run for office, but he worked shoulder to shoulder with them. But more than his desire to win, he made sure that the races were always civil. He gave politics a good name. He was respected by Republicans and Conservatives as well as Democrats. He was gracious when he won as well as when he lost. I miss him most days, but particularly now. I wonder what he would think of the current political climate. He was not in favor of negative campaigning, so as successful as the practice has become, I'm not sure he would approve. He preferred to encourage people to vote FOR someone versus voting AGAINST someone. That having been said, I know that he would want all of us to be involved some way--even if that just meant going to the polls to vote. That's why I chose the title "civics"--because I believe as he did that voting is not your right--it is your duty.
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