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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thoughts About Getting Old

We moved Mama to a skilled nursing facility on Friday. She has been steadily declining since Daddy died and the latest bout with a UTI and the consequent hospitalization and rehab made it clear that she needed to be some place where there was both more medical care and a more pro-active approach to socialization. In the AL place where she lived, she had a rather spacious studio apartment and help bathing, dressing and getting to meals but because she was such a high physical maintenance resident, unless she expressed desire to participate in the social activities, she was taken back to her room after meals. And it wasn't too difficult to ask her "wouldn't she like a nap?", to which my mother would always say "yes". Her two tablemates were so deaf she really had nobody to talk to other than the CNAs whenever she was being taken to meals or put to bed.

Where she lives now, well - what can I say - it looks like a hospital room. A luxury hospital where her own pictures are hanging on the wall and where she has the prettiest view out a large airy window, into a little wooded copse where squirrels and cardinals perched on branches as if to say hello, mind you. There is also a friendly, just chatty enough room mate who seems to have about the same stretch of short term memory as Mama. But. But she really is just lying in a hospital bed.  At least, that's how I left her on Friday.

This is the third time we've moved her. The first time we actually stayed with her a few days, one sister on, one sister off, so she wouldn't feel so disoriented. Of course - she was so glad to be free from the constant bickering with Dad, and had much more mobility and dexterity then - after all, this was 5 years ago. Oh la! Time is just streaming away from us all. Five Years! With her first move she made friends, flirted with old men, got into squabbles with other garrulous old ladies and crashed her motor scooter into furniture. With her second move she was still ready to make friends and participate but her fingers were stiffening and tremors made her such a reckless driver (and she was never a very good driver in the best of times) that she had to switch to regular wheel chair which she was not ever going to propel herself. Dependent on others to get her places, her world shrank.

This move - there was not going to be any staying by her side to ease the transition. I must say that throughout the day all sorts of staff dropped in to speak to her. Not just medical staff, but administration and recreation people popped in, bringing her flowers or little notes - and it was impressive to me also, that they brought her roommate a flower too. She was very frightened about all this - but stoic enough. Also, Mama likes to be cossetted and babied. If just half this much attention, or a quarter, continues, she'll start to enjoy herself. I also noticed that the nurses, 3 of them in rotation, were very thorough in their care of her.

So. So there it is. We hope she'll actually improve a bit now that she's going to be in a more social situation. We also know that this new phase could be brief or lengthy - with no reason to count on either. It will cost almost, but not quite twice as much as where she had been. Thank God there is enough money to keep her there about a decade, at which time she would be 100. Who knows where the state of elder care will be by then. Heck. I may be living there - or BD.

Of course - I don't really believe either of us will be in a nursing home in 10 years - but that's because I don't want to believe it. I am definitely going to be in the old lady category by then and that is something that has nagged at me all week long. It was always going to come back to mememememe, now, wasn't it? Well, this is, after all, TheQueen's blog so She gets to natter on about Herself any time She wants to.  And what has struck me all week was just the sheer oldness of me. There are just decades and decades of memories behind me. I was at the library directors' meeting on Thursday and it hit me full force - the ones I know are so OLD. The new ones I don't know very well look like dewy eyed babies. Funny - they all look like librarians - but then - that's what they are.

I kept wondering, though, as I chatted with people I've worked with and around and along side of for 30+ years .... do they still feel like they're young things? Do they look in the mirror at a stranger in the morning? Are they ready to get out on the dance floor and shag or would they feel embarassed? What are they looking forward to in the next  year? The next decade? 30 years from now?

If I live as long as Mama I'll have 30 more years to fill up, though she had only about 24 active years. Of course I realize I'm not my mother, though we share many traits. For one thing - I could never be as physically idle as she has been all her life. I am also healthier than she - although, after all - she is nearly 90 and though she has diabetes, it is Type 2 and does not seem to be eating away at her they way Type 1 does its victims. But other than that, she suffers only from ancient-ness.

In addition to these pesky imponderables, I have felt rolling waves of nostalgia crashing over me all weekend long. I miss Daddy dreadfully. A film reel of pictures, memories, thoughts of times gone, by is playing in the background of my consciousness, poking its tear jerking nose into my daily routine. An image of Daddy at Datona Beach; the faint echo of Mama and me laughing our heads off the first time we saw Tiny Tim on the Laugh In Show; a glorious May afternoon when I was in college and Mama and I had lunch together - I still remember what I was wearing and how much fun it was to be with her, carefree and blithe. For that matter - I remember asking her, when I was about 7, what blithe meant. Oh la. I am going to weep if I don't stop doing this.

And yet - I would rather weep over these sweet old memories than not have them. I don't believe I would be me without this mental and emotional history.

Nobody prepares you for the old lady state of life. We are trained early to get ready for school, taught in school to step out into life, learn on the job how to be the grown-ups we must be. But nothing prepares you for old age. It just sneaks up on you, insinuates itself into your days and suddenly, Bam! There you are. (Hope I am) happy landing on a chocolate bar.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rain at last and some anniversary photos

We have been promised 36 hours of rain which started yesterday late in the day. Glad it waited till the farmers market was packed up and carted away but even gladder that it is coming in waves of showers so that the dry soil on top isn't being washed away before it can soak up enough to get too heavy for serious erosion. This is thanksgiving rain for sure. 

I could wish to lay about all day in the rainy-ness snuggled with books and maybe a little knitting. (been suffering from some tendinitis in my left wrist so I haven't knit much lately - just dabbed at a few UFOs) I could be happy watching the entire Colin Firth version of P&P or even back to back MIB movies. I could take an afternoon nap, even. 

I shan't though.  Today I head to Richmond to do family business with sister. Mama has to move into skilled nursing and we have found a place we think she will like. but we have to tell her today and we want to do it together. So. Off to the city I go in the pouring rain - let us hope I can get home before the big winds blow up. I think I can. 

The farmers market was fun yesterday - but nobody had any broccoli yet. Lots of pretty lettuce and some beautiful cabbages and strawberries galore. But no broccoli. Fortunately - the way home from the city is past a good grocery store - I can pick up broccoli, mushrooms, good cheese and bacon - and we can have the last Oyster Pie Rappahannock of the season as April winds up the R months. 

Our Anniversary Ramble never did take me to the old parts of Hampton Roads but we got close to the water several times and here are a few photos - starting with a kiss.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Weekend Festivities

I'm feeling particularly festive today - because it's Friday. Because there is a reception for an artist at the library this afternoon. Because there is a wine tasting at the cute little wine shop in town All About Wine.  They have a tasting almost every Friday night and I seldom miss them. I swing by and pick up my friend Lisa and we explore new tastes.  I seldom leave empty handed. In fact - I have never left empty handed. There is always something that needs to come home with me. I'm keeping a list of the wines my family has loved the most along with the food I paired with them.

While on Prince Street (where the action is)

it's just a few steps down to the Tappahannock Artists Guild Gallery   which will be open late tonight. We have a rather staggering number of good artists in the area and there is always something new and beautiful to see inside. It's a fledgling organization and I hope it has great success because it certainly is a welcome attraction to the community.

All this is but the prelude to tomorrows first farmer's market of the year. An intrepid and dedicated group of volunteers has developed the market from a small 3 month project in 2010 to a delightful three season celebration. The excitement and anticipation everyone feels as we wait for the first market to open, the basket laden booths full of flowers, produce - even locally caught fish and locally produced meats and cheeses, makes shopping for groceries feel like a party.

So - though the past month or so has felt like I've been running in molasses - the sulfered kind at that - I am expecting this first festive weekend of the play-time season to wipe all that away. I'm ready to play like a kid again.

Hope you are too.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Where are the April Showers?

Today begins week 4 without any rain at all. Some places in the county have had a little, but my end is closer to the medium yellow than the pale - and it is not a good feeling.  April is often a dry month, welcome for giving the ground a chance to drain a little as the forest leafs out. But that is only after the long dreary rains of March and we hope for some nice soaking showers in May to bolster us up for the hot summer sunshine. Not this year. There are places at the edge of our yard where the leaves underfoot are crunchy! And we shall not even discuss the pollen - beyond saying it kept me indoors all day yesterday. Good thing I can go to the gym today. I usually count on nice long hikes in the woods on the weekends but I wasn't going anywhere in that yellow dusted wind. And with 90 degree days - I can either open the windows and get pollen covered furniture or shut them and swelter. I wonder if any of my Canadian friends could ship me a box of snow.....

Okay - enough complaining about the weather. It won't change things and it doesn't make me feel better to vent. I'm sure it only piles up more complaints like so many cumulus clouds and ... if those clouds don't plan on raining on my little inch of the world, I'd just as soon not see them. Instead I will talk about ... Bess' Girls' Camp - which is an intermittent warm weather gathering that happens down here on the farm whenever there are girls in the family who want to come play with my toys. I have the best toys and I share. This past weekend I had Cousin F for a few days. A soul-mate gift from the heavens, Cousin F never needs me to explain things. Her eyes sparkle, that little smile appears, and we are off on an adventure - be it knitting or reading or making things. Her generous parents lend her to me whenever I have a serious girl deficit. On Saturday her family drove down from the city to pick her up and we got all the girls (and LD) going on High Seas - a board game BD invented when my step-son was about 10 - low these 35 or 36 years ago. It consists of a map of the world with 100 seaports identified. They're linked across oceans by sea lanes divided into 300 mile increments. You are given a merchant ship and a home port at the start of the game. You then draw a destination card for one of the ports and roll the dice to see how much you'll earn when you get there. All movement is decided by dice rolls - cargo, speed of movement and warfare. As you accumulate riches you can buy more merchant ships and as long as you still hold the card for the seaport your ship is in it is in a safe haven. But as the game progresses you - or your opponent - can purchase a naval station and build a navy - which can be predatory or defensive or any combination thereof. A navy ship can blockade ports. It can attack other naval vessels. It can prevent passage into or through important areas of the globe. Once one player has a navy other players tend to escalate their military might as well. Great swings in fortune occur at this point because without a mercantile base, the unwieldy military dwindles through warfare and defeat. A final option occurs if you are loosing badly - Piracy! Yes. You can turn pirate and devastate the board.  Pirates can't earn any cargo but they can capture merchant ships on the high seas and they can battle naval ships. They always loose on a tie and they're not allowed to move in tandem, if you gang up a bunch of them on the same spot. In fact, the only artificial rule in the game is that pirates are not allowed to win. Should pirates wipe out every other ship on the board - they still 'lose'.

It's a wonderful game that teaches strategy and geography all at the same time. It also takes about 2 and a half times longer than a game of monopoly so ... unless there is an avid and probably 10 year old enthusiast - it doesn't get played that much. We've lent the game out to a few families, over the years but now that we have girls visiting again it was laid out on the dining room table and we went at it.

In the end - Cousin F was Master of the High Seas - this time.

And now it's Monday and I have a gazillion things to do, including a school tour of the library at 8:45! How do people get to work so early?!?


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Knitting Mojo Boogied On Down to Tara

Sometimes you've got it - and sometimes ... well ... maybe you still have it but you can't find it. My own has twinkled away lately and I am blaming the combination of hitting a tricky math spot in my current project and the generally chaotic and stressful recent retrograde of Mercury AND Mars. (a.k.a.  new technology and recent budget process) Work has been more emotionally draining the past 3 weeks than at any time since we built the new library - and this little sauce of finance complexity was poured over the plate of full of New Technology I had to digest in Jan. and Feb. It ain't over yet, neither! But the horoscopers promise me that with both M and M moving forward ...

Things will be better ... at Tara.

In the mean time my knitting projects sit unloved, unremembered and mostly un-knit. With which I am, for the most part, okay - except for one thing. I don't like riding in a car without a knitting project. I know this all the time, at some deep place within my psyche, but I often forget it till I find myself in the passenger seat with nothing to knit. This happened last night and TheQueen did not like it at all. It'll happen next week, in fact, and I am wondering if I can push through the technical problem in my current project in time to knit on it then or if I should cast on yet another. Or should I pull out some unfinished socks and knit through to the toes?

Knitters Review had some suggestions a few weeks ago, but a goodly number of them involved inventorying your stash or your UFOs and I realize, as I am typing this, that part of my current state of mojolessness is that, in addition to The-Wonders-Of-Technology and the Intricacies-Of-The-Budget, this winter has also involved The-Packing-Away-Of-My-Stuff. Right now, I can't really pull out my stash to inventory it.


Well no wonder my knitting Mojo boogied off.

Good to know the underlying causes. As Heraclitus says, "All things flow". None of these impediments are going to last forever. The present round of techno efforts are running smoothly and the budget will eventually get unkinked. Space will open up in the house. I'm sure Me 'n Mercury 'n Mars can get things movin'.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Sacred Spaces

I've been blessed, since I moved to the country, with several sacred places - Praying Places I call them - with reverence and truth - not in the typical slightly ironic fashion of TheQueen's customary designating style. The first time a place shot its transforming energy into me was when we had been here only a few weeks; a few constantly raining weeks in July. I was crossing the middle swamp on planks BD had laid across the wettest places and a mist of rain began to fall, turning everything to silver. A hum began inside my head and energy flowed through me, though I couldn't move. Now, no matter the season, when I cross the swamp bridge I remember the day the world turned silver.

My garden corner was another spot that seemed always to be full of something more - something beyond what I can touch and see, but not what I can feel. Well. In fact - I have see some things in the garden that are beyond this world. I mentioned it once to my girlfriend Toni and she said, with complete understanding "Of course. It's a matrix point." When I questioned her she said "It's where spirits pass in and out of this life."


There is a place on our lane where I can also go to pray - and there used to be a spot where, whenever I was driving away from home, I would begin praying the moment I drove past it. Several terrific storms, hurricanes and more ordinary, though gigantic, summer storms have torn that place up so much that I am not quite so moved anymore. Now, when I drive to work in the morning I just remember how I would begin praying and somehow... it feels different.

A year ago we rented out White Oak Swamp to some hunters who built a maze of wide smooth paths through it; avenues I can walk on without being ripped to shreds by blackberries and walking sticks. As soon as hunting season was over I began traipsing it, mostly with BD & dogs, but sometimes just all by myself. I'll often call him before I leave work and if he starts walking out there we usually meet up at the same time. I also love to just walk straight over there from home, loving the idea of legs as transportation. It's about a 4 mile stroll though we can make it longer by exploring every path.

Yesterday we ambled on over, my first walk through it since the winter rains filled all the puddles and low spots. The moment I stepped beneath the forest canopy I felt it - that thrum that makes my torso shiver - that physical attestation that tells me I'm in another sacred space. My face flushed as I stood, breathing in the delicate air. A word whispered in my ear ... Gaia - earth goddess - - mother nature. And I knew. I was in another sacred space. I'd had inklings before that here was a place to come pray - I had felt the peace that walking on this bit of earth could bring to me - but this was the first time I heard the divine speaking to me, not as succor for trouble, but as part of my daily life. It said "come to me. I am here. You belong. You are loved"

Truly. I am blessed. We all are. The world is full of sacred spaces. We have only to walk quietly out to them and let them speak to us. May you find a sacred space today.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Memories


This year Easter came in on frosty toes. Since there is no fire in the stove I'm bundled up in my winter fleece. After an amazingly hot and dry March, we are having a chilly and dry April. At least, the mornings are cold, though afternoons warm up as old Sol lingers in the sky a few more minutes each day. We're promised more sunshine and warm temperatures today - which is fitting for an Easter Sunday.

I don't have a pocket full of Easter Memories, the way I have for Christmas or Autumn or Birthdays but the ones I have are soft and precious. It seemed in my childhood that it always rained on Good Friday - though this year it didn't, so I suspect there were, at times, other blue sky beautiful days leading up to Easter. I also never remember anything but sunshine on Easter morning. There was one beautiful day I remember, sitting on lush green fragrant grass with my basket, still fairly full of candy, feeling the promise of summertime as it flooded out of the sky. I have so few childhood memories of unhurried time, un-alotted moments available for just sitting. That Easter afternoon is one of them and its scent still lingers.

There was a special Easter, when I was 7, when we visited Daddy's aunt & uncle - beloved relatives who lived too far away in the magical land of Florida. Uncle Walter, a man I would have adopted myself to in a heartbeat, had an orange tree in his back yard. He left oranges on it well past the season because he thought we'd all want to go pick our own breakfast oranges. We were there with second cousins - 7 children altogether, though nobody my age - which was rather fun. I didn't have to play nicely with an unknown but it was not embarassing to play with the little kids and the 2 big kids had to be nice to me.

Somewhere near by was an Excalibur dealership and Daddy took us over after church, in our crinolined Easter outfits (complete with white patent leather Mary-Janes and matching pocketbooks that snapped shut) where we got to sit in the white convertible. I remember thinking this was the fanciest car I'd ever seen ... come to think of it - it still is the fanciest car I've ever sat in. The door made a little 'snick' sound when it closed.

I also remember trying to break open a coconut by smashing it on the sidewalk. I was finally successful but the milk splattered over my favorite blouse and it was ruined. That stain never washed out.

Daddy, were he still here, would remember that Florida trip for something else. Once as we were reminiscing about favorite vacations he told me that on our return, somewhere in the deep south, he went through a speed trap town and got caught. He had the choice to pay up then and there or come back for a hearing. He had no more vacation that year for traveling back to podunksville. The fine was so high he had to plead with the authorities to leave him enough money to buy gas to get his car full of kids home. What I remember is that we did not stay in a motel on the return trip but drove through the night in that cramped station wagon all full of sisters' breathing and jabbing elbows.

Memories - they certainly are treasures. It's fun to pull them out and look at them - tickle them a little to see if more emerges - feel their love. May your Easter memories be as sweet as candy.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Secret Sartorial Snooping Shopping Saturday

Of course - now that I am blogging about it, it isn't so secret but I do think I am ready to go poke around some big stores in the city to look at spring clothes.

No. I don't need more clothes. I have mountains of good things to wear - even some newish things. It's just that in spring and fall - I like to look. I want to see what's out there. What's new. Right now I am heartily sick of wool and corduroy and sober shades and tights. My toes want to peep out in coral polish from beneath floral espradrilles. My shoulders want to be lightly covered with cap sleeves. My legs want to be clad in bright colored jeans. And I need a better rain coat. I have one - and it's a bright sunny yellow. But it looks terrible on me. I need something better.

I like to shop with girlfriends too, but then it's all about being with peeps, not about really looking - and selfishly thinking about me me me me me. Scouting missions need to be done alone. Besides - the yarn store in F'burg has sock yarn on sale today. I could pick up some guy colored sock yarn for Christmas gifts.
The garden that was

Or I may stay home and play in the garden. LD has been here this winter and earlier this week he grubbed out all those walnut and sassafras trees and the sumac and blackberries that had choked out everything but the hardiest flowers.  I want to dig up a small vegetable bed this year and slowly increase the beds till I have something like I used to have... only smaller.

There is a tempting stack of New Books and Magazines on the hall table too - I could just stay in bed all day and read. Well. No. I don't believe I could do that because it's too sunny and bright outside - even if it is a bit chilly. Early training still has me believing that if it is not raining outside then I should be Out In The Fresh Air.

Whatever I choose to do - I'm sure it will feel delicious and I'm wishing you a delicious Saturday as well. Ta.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April's Pick of My 12 for 12

Okeydokey (Yeah I know. I'm quaint)

It's a new month and time to pick another good habit to add to my daily routine. In January I added food tracking, with the goal of looking like Helen Miren on my 60th birthday too - well - maybe not in the bikini. Don't really like bikinis. Nor do I hope for the dangle-less neck skin, since I can't afford the surgery I'd need to have that jawline. But you get the picture. I'm aiming at my version of hot at 60.

So far I've done pretty well - clawing my way down to within 10 lbs of my old Weight Watcher's triumphant goal. There have been some ups too, sadly but at least I knew what caused them and several times, knowing how much I've already eaten in a day has proved to be the stop sign I needed to keep me from crashing into excess. Also - with the exception of one week when family duty really kiboshed my efforts, I've tracked everything I've eaten for 3 months.

February I knew I needed something different. February was a fractious cranky month. In February I chose to add prayer to my daily routine. I have my own highly personal way of praying. Well. I suppose everyone does. Mine combines meditation and searching with being open enough to see the value of what I get in answer to those prayers. I love it and it has certainly helped me as I navigated a tough winter. Now and then it's skimmed me over rough ground very lightly. It has been harder for me to squeeze my own special TheQueen type prayer into my days than I'd have thought it would be - I have not been as consistent as I'd like to have been - but for sure I have taken the time for this quiet introspective conversation with the divine a lot more frequently than I would have had I not decided to make the effort. And ... these are things I want to add to my life forever, so I have the next couple of decades to get better at it.

March, knowing things were only going to get tougher, I decided to go easy on myself and add only the habit of drinking enough water every day. Like prayer - I have not been quite as perfect as I'd have liked to be - but there has been progress. The big deal is weekends ... I really can forget to drink water on the weekends. So now when I make coffee in the morning, I fill a big 20 oz glass with water and leave it out on the kitchen counter. Two of those downed get me close to the goal.

And now it is April and though all the astrologers promise me the second half of the month will be much more fun - I still have to slog through the first two weeks. I shan't go into detail about this. Just know that right now is an inordinately demanding time for me. I am far more prone to wake up dreading the day and there's nothing I can do but slog my way forward. There is another side and I will get there. But I'm not putting any unnecessary pressure on my psyche, my spirit or my brain. What I will do is choose to add to my life something I know will help me both now, during these hard days, and later, when things slide into easypeasy land. For April I choose #2 on my original list.

2. Wear a pedometer and get those 10K steps
10K steps, 4 activity points, whatever you want to call it - the goal is to build into my life more movement - I move - but not enough.

I actually love activity and fitness and only drift away from it because it's easy to drift away from anything. I've also been pretty good about getting in some exercise each week. I'm going to make this month the one I totally concentrate on strengthening TheQueen and to start off right, I've scheduled a session with the personal trainer at my gym. 3:30 today. Can't wait!

So. I leave you with my Virgo Horoscope from Rick Levine: 

You can feel the winds of change blowing through your life, but you're not able to catch the right breeze just yet. It's as if the wind tries to pull you off course instead of pushing you toward your desired destination. However, trying to resist can wear you down quickly. Don't try to fight against the prevailing currents. Follow them until they settle down and then you'll be able to correct your course more easily. 

Ta now - may the new moon come quickly.