My Winter Pause

From notes I wrote on Jan 14th, 2015

Joy and Momo

Joy and Momo

7:49am with Momo and Joy on Laura’s patio, Miami, FL

I’ve been at Laura’s since Saturday, when I drove in with a rental car, lugging all my stuff. It’s been 3 full days. Yesterday we made a plan to do two sessions, so it was a real working day. M took his study to the fish office, so Laura and I had the ‘garage’ all to ourselves. That’s what they call it. I call it the Healing Center, or Laura’s office.

The first session was approx. 3 hours. It was a re-assessment and going over and creating a new ‘charged area’ list. The second session was called ‘unblocking’ ~ you pick a person, place, or thing, and the therapist asks you a series of questions about it. For example: ‘Concerning ________, has anything been supressed? Has anything been revealed? judged? concealed? validated?’ It’s a process of opening little holes in the tangled web of our most difficult relationships. It’s like chipping holes in a block of ice so air can circulate. It’s work, and often exhausting, although you’re just talking and sitting on a couch or a comfortable chair.

Today I did a little clearing of my favorite part of the house~ the back patio. I hosed it off and scrubbed the floor and washed down all the outdoor furniture. I like things to be clean, clear, and beautiful, and the patio is where I spend most of my time. I can see the sky, feel the breeze, watch the wildlife on the lake, and be surrounded by beauty. It’s funny, I don’t want to go to the store with Laura to shop, or to the restaurant with them, or to the movies that’s a 40 minute drive away. I said “No, thanks” to all the invitations, and just stayed here at home, most of the time on the back patio with Joy and Momo (the elderly German Shephard and her cat friend). Momo’s lying here on the little table next to my chair. The tip of her tail is flicking, so I know she’s ‘feeling’ my presence. If I just make a tiny humming sound I can activate it. We’re tuned into each other.

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I like it here. I can think. I don’t want to get into a car and go out into that world out there. At least not right now. I’m enjoying the space just to be. I’d rather get into a kayak and go out into the world of nature. It’s peaceful, and quiet, and I connect.

Laura's lake.

Laura’s lake.

People pay good money to be in 78 degrees in January, sitting somewhere with their feet up looking out over water and sipping a cool drink. A huge added bonus is that there’s a cat here right next to me keeping me company. She’s a real companion, and I’m not alone at all. Even though it feels so much like a retreat, I’m calling it a ‘pause.’ Laura comes  by, drops in, and brings me a hot tea, or a Vicks Vapo Rub for my neck. We sit out on the davenport together watching the early morning light or the night sky in the evening, sharing stories of our lives. Then I close my eyes and drift off. She heads back inside, and I’m in my space again.

Sunset on the patio.

Sunset on the patio.

Today’s been our ‘day off.’ She made her own schedule, and I made mine. We crossed paths briefly when she was in-between yoga and a lunch date with her husband and a client. “Wanna come in my room and talk while I get changed?” she called through the open door. We touched base, had a good laugh about how well the arrangement we made is working out, and then she was gone again.

Tomorrow is another ‘work day’ and I’m enjoying the unscheduled-ness of today. However, I still made a to-do list. Structure always give me a framework to hang the time on. It wards off the feeling that I’m wasting it, which always bums me out. It also reminds me of jobs that I need to do: writing to my daughter and her husband, repairing the bra I gave Laura, filing down my new partial, making a pot of lentil soup, washing out my handbag and repacking so as to be ready for my next step. I like the feeling of being on top of things. Maybe that’s part of what I need to let go, but for now it serves me well.

On the patio looking out at the lake, I love the sound the coots make when they run across the top of the water, or dive beneath it. There’s always somebody chasing somebody out of their territory, and I never get tired of watching their antics. It’s hard to imagine anything better than this right now. In exchange for some cooking and cleaning, I have a bed with a pillow and blanket, a good book and a lounge chair overlooking a beautiful lake in sunny south Florida. Meanwhile, everybody else is experiencing a cold front, freezing temperatures, and other inconvenient truths. I’m glad, very very glad, to be here.

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Then why do I keep worrying in the back of my mind about ‘tomorrow?’

“Leave tomorrow for tomorrow,” says Patty. Think about today instead. It’s a blessing. Don’t be so quick to run off. There’s work here. And sometimes that means just listening to your own breath.

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OK. That sounds good. I’m taking a pause for some fresh air…

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The New York Summer Collection

I’ve been preparing a long time for the internship in New York City this summer, and it’s been intellectually and emotionally challenging: writing and re-writing the lengthy application to sum up my life and spiritual development, lining up people who know me well enough to write recommendations, going through the intense interview process, sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear back, getting the ridiculous but required background medical check and uploading all the paperwork, not to mention forking out way too much dough. It’s been a long haul, but I’m almost there. Start date is June 1st. New York is waiting for me, and yes, I’m excited!

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Now, the last big job is at hand ~ putting together the wardrobe. I was looking for these specifics:

1) Lightweight for the high heat of a New York City summer, but with a little throw of some sort for the air-conditioned workplace;

2) Beautiful, flattering, and colorful, to inspire the people I work with ((no looking like a minister, please!)

3) Comfortable and care-free ~ I don’t do ironing^^

4) Professional, but casual;

AND

5) Inexpensive to the MAX.

There was only one place to go. The Thrift Store, of course! Where else??


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This is the Natick area’s fantastic second-hand store, Savers. It’s only an hour and 45 minute walk from Emilie’s place. Without a car and determined not to waste a single moment sitting at home, I put on my walking shoes and took off with an empty bag and high hopes. I wasn’t disappointed. A few blisters and sore legs and feet later….

Here is my New York Summer Collection.

Polyester dress shirt from Lord and Taylor

Polyester dress shirt from Lord and Taylor

This sheer black Lord and Taylor polyester dress shirt looks good with anything. It has roll-up sleeves, packs into a tight ball in the suitcase and always looks like it just came out of the dry-cleaners. My first find ❤

The polyester/spandex patterned pants I’m wearing with it are my latest craze. I found these new at Beall’s in Florida, and bought a couple of pairs in different colors and materials. They are soft, flowing, and gorgeous anywhere!

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Spring Green top and jacket, by Snoskins

Spring Green top and jacket, by Snoskins

I can spend hours inside a thrift store creating ‘Looks.’ This jacket and pants ensemble by American designer Snoskins is one I expect to wear a lot. I love the color and the fact that I have a little jacket in case Sloan Kettering is chilly inside, which it probably will be. The capri length pants are one of my most exciting finds. Made by Staples, they’re 100% linen, fit perfectly and look elegant. I’m in love! The shoes had never been worn, and were exactly my size. Flat, pointed, and comfortable~ how cool is that!

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I love the way I feel in black and white. The top is a DIY project from last year. I took a knee-length dress two sizes too large and turned it into a tunic top. I’ve kept shortening it depending on what I was wearing it with. Now it’s just long enough to cover my midriff, and it works with a skirt or slacks. The elbow-length sweater is by derek heart. Made of a blend of rayon and polyester, it’s light and a perfect arm cover-up for summer. Love this look! ❤

Sleeveless and totally fresh.

Sleeveless and totally fresh.

I was thrilled to find this Alfani top, and with the original tags on it still. The color is cool for summer and the design is womanly and flattering for a well-endowed woman like me! ha ha. I like that the fabric is stretch cotton. I am going to have to do a little altering, as it’s a tiny bit too large for me under the arms. Next post will show how that comes out.

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I found this turquoise pullover at the Salvation Army Family Store in Clearwater while I was visiting my mother. It’s an Ann Taylor, so they had it on the ‘designer’ rack and I had to pay $8, but I was still pretty happy. I love the neckline, and the 3/4 length sleeves. It’s a great fit and the color really seems to make my eyes pop. Although it may be a little too warm for New York in the summer, I’m going to take it with me and see.

Linen shirt by Charter Club

Linen shirt by Charter Club

I couldn’t resist this 100% linen shirt by Charter Club, although it’s a tiny bit too tight to button all the way down. This photo shows an experimental shot, which I probably would never wear out of the house. I’m absolutely going to make it work though, so I’ll post some other ideas next time 🙂

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More black and white. This is a harve benard linen shirt that Susie gave me while I was visiting her in NC. It was too big, so I took off the sleeves and took the whole thing in, and put it back together. Now it’s a perfect fit.  I like the flower print and the crisp look, and the buttonless collar. Very feminine and practical!

Shoes by SimplyVera

Shoes by SimplyVera

These Vera Wang sandals make me feel like I’m walking on marshmallows. Worn, yes, but there’s still a lot of mileage left on these little puppies 🙂

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An Evening Out?

An Evening Out?

I put this skirt by Merona together with a black top from the Dressbarn. The top has to be shortened a bit to make it look more youthful. In this picture I’m holding it up with my hand in the back to show how it will look after alterations. I loved the top instantly. It’s sexy but still demure. Will I ever wear it? Not sure, but it was only $4 and I was in the mood to be a bit daring.

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Last but not least is the all-important robe to throw on in the middle of the night when nature calls. This hand-sewn kimono-style bathrobe is made of a linen blend of some kind, and feels cool even in the heat of the night. I love the colors and the shape, and how I feel when I have it on.

The total cost of this entire collection: $93 (includes senior discount). Not bad for a fashion lover on a budget.

IMG_0007I’m feeling happy, following my dreams, and wondering where they’ll lead me…

and in the meantime, enjoying the ride 🙂

See you in New York!

Care-giving for Life

Passages

I usually learn best by observing, and then doing. I became a teacher in the actual classroom, not while I was studying. For me, caregiving is the same. I had a chance to do a lot of it this past year with my mom, and it was definitely on-the-job training. Every day brought some new lesson, and I got better at it each time.

While taking care of my mom, I also learned about the importance of self-care. Like putting the oxygen mask on first, I found that I needed to take care of myself if I wanted to be a good caregiver. It makes sense, but it’s easy to forget. In all the caregiver manuals I read, burnout is the number one thing that everyone warns against. Take care of yourself if you want to take care of someone else.

Another important lesson for a caregiver is to cultivate your social network. In her book, Passages in Caregiving, Gail Sheehy, who’s written about many of life’s passages, quotes several studies about the effect of friends on one’s health. Here are two that struck me:

“Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.” (Rebecca Adams, University of North Carolina)

“The best antidote to preserve the brain is an extensive social network. It’s how many people one knows intimately and feels comfortable confiding in.” (Dr. David Bennett)

I didn’t have to organize a social network for my mother. She already had one. She has so many good friends who love and admire her, and who dropped by to visit, take her out somewhere, or offer to help me with her care. When she went into the hospital I saw just how many of them there are, as they were all gathered in one place, bearing the most precious gift of all~ their time.

For me, it’s a work in progress. I have lived in so many places, and left many friends behind each time I’ve moved. I have to reach out much further than my mother does to make contact with them, and I often forget to or find reasons why it’s difficult. However, I’m seeing how important it is by the results I get when I do confide in people. By taking the time to build relationships gradually over time if it’s someone new, and staying in regular contact and sharing the ups and downs with family and old friends, I refresh myself, and find the support and encouragement I need.

I’ve always enjoyed writing letters, and always feel good when I do. It’s cheaper than a phone call, more personal than an email, and because of the time I have to reflect, it’s usually more sincere. Since I started consciously cultivating my social network recently, I’ve written about 15 letters. Sometimes, if I remember to, I photocopy them before sending them off. They seem so special, and I like to keep a record of what I said and to whom. They’re like journal entries, pages in my life, only better because they’ve been shared with someone else, not just me.

Self-care is a life-long work. We start out learning to hold our own spoon, brush our own teeth, and walk without assistance. Later, we learn to care for our thoughts and emotions. Eventually we can begin taking care of others in an effective and healthy way. The friends we cultivate become our social network, and provide us with the comfort, encouragement, and strength we need to keep on giving, not just to others but to ourselves as well.

Hot Pockets ~ Microwavable Rice Bags

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I love the rice pocket heat pack my daughter Emilie made and let me use while I was visiting her. I used it every night behind my neck and then under my lower spine. After a few days, my muscles weren’t painful anymore, and that’s BIG!

I decided to make my own, because I knew I couldn’t live without one, and then I made one for a friend in Belgium who has been sick and could probably use the comfort, just like I did. Now I’m making them for all my friends, and sending them without the rice, because it’s too heavy to mail.

Directions:
1. Cut two pieces of fabric to the shape you want.
2. Sew wrong sides together on 3 sides.
3. Sew rows an inch or so wide.
4. Fill rows with rice (not too full, so it is more flexible)
5. Sew open end closed.
6. Heat in microwave for 1 minute.
7. Wrap in a thin cloth if too hot for your skin,
and enjoy!

Beef Wellington

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I don’t usually read cookbooks. But my daughter does, and she has picked up a lot of information along the way: how to massage kale, for example, or brine a chicken. I learn something new every day that I spend in her kitchen with her.

Kids these days have a whole new food vocabulary than when I was growing up. We ate hot dogs and hamburgers and asked for ketchup; she and Joachim are making frittatas and asking for the sriracha. What language is that, anyway?

I like the fact that they are always open to trying something new. For me, menus are daunting. Just order something for me, if you don’t mind. For them, it’s an exiting challenge, and they like to roll a new taste around on their tongues and talk about it. We ordered a rare Kenyan coffee brew yesterday at Peet’s, and they were exclaiming about it to each other. What did I think? I’m not sure. It was nice ~ yes, I guess it was better than Dunkin’ Donuts.

This past week we were watching a food channel on Reddit~ that was a first for me ~ and saw Gordon Ramsey’s Beef Wellington video. We all got excited. “Let’s make it!” “Why not?”

Gordon called it a Christmas dish, but we decided to celebrate Easter day with a bike ride to Wellesley, the Kenyan coffee, and our first beef wellington. These are the photos Joachim and I took, and they’ll give you a basic idea. There were a few additional steps that we forgot to capture ~ like the layer of mustard followed by the mushrooms and prosciutto, which we used to just call thin sliced ham.

It was great, and we’re definitely going to be making this again 🙂

Sear the meat first.

Sear the meat first.

Finely chop the portobello mushrooms

Finely chop the portobello mushrooms

wrap meat with mushroom and prosciutto.

wrap meat with mushroom and prosciutto.

Roll the meat in a sheet of  puff pastry and brush with egg yolk.

Roll the meat in a sheet of puff pastry and brush with egg yolk.

Bake until golden brown.

Bake until golden brown.

Slice and serve!

Slice and serve!

If you decide that you want to try it too, you’ll be surprised how easy it is once you have all the ingredients gathered.

Happy Chefs

Happy Chefs

Bon Appetite!

More FOOD for Thought

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Today’s FOOD for Thought: Baked Sweet Potato Slices

These little round treats virtually melt in your mouth. All you need is a flat baking pan, a little olive oil and your favorite seasoning, and a couple of sweet potatoes (peeled or unpeeled, as you like)

=Preheat oven to 420 degrees
-Peel and slice the potatoes about a 1/4 of an inch thick, thinner if you like them crunchier. Leave the skins for a heartier taste, just make sure you scrub and dry them well first.
-Toss in a bowl with several Tbsp of olive oil, until well-covered.
-Arrange on a shallow baking pan (or a cookie sheet), and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings.
-Cook for 10 minutes, and then turn the slices over and cook for another 10 minutes.
-Serve hot and enjoy!

White potatoes work well too.

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