Monthly Archives: December 2013

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

As many families did, the Ware family always put up the Christmas tree after Thanksgiving and kept it up until January 1. After we kids were grown and out of the house, however, the tree got put up later and later, especially as Mother’s health declined. Always, though, we had a tree.

For years, Dad would go out and cut a tree down, so we had a great-smelling pine, albeit one seldom the perfect shape. That’s what the wall (or the corner) was for: disguising the bad side of a tree. We’d decorate it with bubble lights and big heavy Christmas lights, using the aluminum bulb shields from the early 1950s. (For all I know, those still exist in a storage barrel in the garage in Egan.)

Mother always had to flock the tree, too — so the search for canned snow went on, year after year, for her to accomplish that. I don’t remember when artificial trees replaced the real ones, but they were certainly more convenient.

As time passed, Mother accumulated any number of Christmas-related decorative items: a tiny bottle-brush tree (long since disappeared); a ceramic tree with tiny bulbs that worked when you plugged the tree in; a tiny metal structure with angels that revolved when you lit the small candles that went with it; all sorts of tablecloths and towels and an apron. And, of course, there was the Elf on the Shelf — three of them, actually, from the original incarnation. Those always got placed on the upright piano. After a few years of storing them (folded, at some point), the elves sort of lost their perkiness. After that (with our typical rather sarcastic family humor) these became known as “the dead elves.”

Once we were on our own, and after Kay married, we didn’t necessarily have Christmas at Christmas. It might fall a couple of weekends early. It might fall in the middle of the week. It just depended on when we could all get together.

Even after Mother died, we always had Christmas in Egan. The exception: the last Christmas that Phil was alive, 1995. That year we had Thanksgiving and Christmas in his room at M.D. Anderson in Houston. Somewhere I still have some of the tiny ornaments from that year, as well as the little artificial tree.

Later, when Dad was ill, we spent a couple of years where we had Christmas in the hospital. I always bought a little tree with lights, set it up, and announced that we were together, and it was Christmas even in a hospital. Dad always smiled.

After Dad died, that first Christmas was the beginning of the new Christmas tradition. By then, the new beach house was complete. This is our second Christmas at the beach house.

It doesn’t really matter where you are, not really. As long as you’re with loved ones, that’s what counts.

The holidays are bittersweet for so many of us as we grow older. Those who aren’t with us, the losses and disappointments that go with being adults — whatever the reasons might be, holidays often darken, morph into days to be endured. By this time of year, articles appear everywhere advising readers how to avoid depression.

Sometimes, our joy in the season simply disappears so gradually that we wake up one day and realize that we really don’t like Christmas. I know that for years I faked it, managing to get through the season because I was the one in charge of getting everything done.

Yet somehow the enjoyment has returned. I find that I enjoy the season again. I even look forward to decorating, though that might not happen until Christmas Eve (as this year, because that is when we’re first all together).

And, I confess, I listen to Christmas music. Not until after Thanksgiving, though, not of my own volition. My iPod has a Christmas playlist that grows every year. My choice of Christmas music is, shall we say, eclectic, to say the least. Certainly there are the traditional albums — those of sacred music, of classics by Pavorotti and the three tenors. And by the Rat Pack. By Chris Isaac, and Elvis, and Jimmy Buffett and Michael Buble. One-hit wonders like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” or “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” And this year’s addition to the playlist: “Duck the Halls,” by the now-infamous Robertson clan of Duck Dynasty fame.

There are presents yet to be wrapped (at least I’m through shopping). The tree is up ready for decorations. Strings of lights need to be put on the deck railing outside. I even have lights to wrap around the front line of pilings.

Oh, and because we’re at Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula, we need to buy fireworks and sparklers — hey, it’s the South. We like to play with fire. And it’s legal here on Bolivar.

As the Dr. Who marathon plays on, setting us up for tomorrow night’s long-awaited Dr. Who special where Matt Smith regenerates into Peter Capaldi, we are all here, The refrigerator is jammed with food. Soon we’ll trim the tree.

It’s a season to pause and remember our loved ones, here and absent. The Doctor’s digital regeneration might remind some of us of a different and more significant regeneration promised centuries ago.

From the Warehouse Too to your houses, my friends, Merry Christmas with lots of love and hugs.

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Let It Snow. . .

View from My Room -- going back to the highway

View from My Room — going back to the highway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week I’ve traveled outside of Louisiana and Texas for the first time since late July, when I returned from Greece. I spent the week at The Ridge Tahoe in South Lake Tahoe at Stateline, Nevada, where I’ve got a timeshare. The resort is an 11-acre complex on a Sierra Nevada ridge, six miles above Lake Tahoe itself, and overlooking the Carson Valley on the other side.

That timeshare’s acquisition provides me with a rather amusing story. When anyone asks how I got it or makes some comment or face alluding to the cost, I simply say “I bought it on EBay for $1.25, plus transfer fees.” Absolutely true. Every time I’ve been, when I’m at the member’s conference (where a salesperson attempts to convince me I’d really be better off trading my deeded timeshare for a “much better deal” — points in the company’s new travel club, complete with at least $8000 in fees plus annual costs of $2200-2800) and tell them how I acquired it, I see this expression cross the face of said salesperson. Units like mine (a 2-bedroom unit that can be locked off) initially cost at least $20,000. They clearly hate such acquisitions. However, I am now an owner, with an initial financial output of under $400. My annual fee is just under $1000.

This was the third time I’ve been here. The first was over spring break in 2010, and Dad came with me. We rented a car at the Reno airport because I had to drive him to dialysis in Carson City during the visit. It wasn’t snowing at first, but on day three, the storm hit. We were in white-out conditions, and I couldn’t get him to Carson City for Tuesday’s dialysis. He enjoyed just watching the snow fall. The snowplows clearing the roads and parking lot fascinated him. The skiers coming off the ski lift also amused him. We spent a lot of time talking and reading. My cousin Charlie came over one day from near Sacramento, and Dad enjoyed that time with his nephew.

The second time I came was in September 2011, after I retired. It was beautiful and clear. With the rental car, one day I was free to drive around Lake Tahoe itself, which was well worth the day’s trip. Along the way, I stopped a lot for photographs. The Truckee River provided another point of interest — it runs through the area, clear and clean and sparkling.

On another day, I drove through Carson City (state capital) to Virginia City. There I saw the place where Samuel L. Clemens (aka Mark Twain) worked as a newsman. Indeed, when I’d visited here with Dad in 2010, I had a newly published book specifically about Mark Twain and this area. Since I taught Twain in several classes, both undergraduate and graduate, I have always been interested in his time here because it clearly looms large in his development as a writer.

In Carson City and Virginia City, visitors are easily connected to the area’s colorful history — as a mining area, and thus populated by mining towns. Virginia City is perhaps one of the best known of these mining towns, and today it’s a tourist destination that offers a pseudo-immersion into 19th century saloons and the like. When I was there, I found myself dizzy from the various levels of the town — its streets seem to terrace the mountain and well as cut straight down it. At times I felt as though I were going to fall straight down. One thing I still want to do: ride the railroad linking Carson City and Virginia City. I also want to go into some of the mining sites that are now open as safe exhibitions for tourists.

On the day before I left in September 2011, I took a sunset champagne cruise on a catamaran. It was quite nippy despite the time of year, but I loved the experience. The wind was invigorating, and the views of the lake itself as well as of the surrounding trees and houses and shore kept changing as the light itself changed as the day passed into evening.

This time, though, there was snow when I arrived. I didn’t rent a car. Instead, I took the South Tahoe Express to Stateline, Nevada, and then a taxi to the Ridge Resort. On Wednesday night a storm moved in and so on Thursday the snowfall went on for several hours. It was fine simply to stay in the room and visit with the friends who drove over on Tuesday from San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Before my friends arrived, I treated myself to spa time. I had a massage. I had my eyebrows waxed (one of those things I’d put off too long). I also had a facial. One a day for three days. that’s what my days revolved around — spa time. And reading and sleeping.

I also started writing again. That and the spa time seem tied to something I usually come here for — a kind of retreat. I can focus on some project. I can clear my head. Slow down.

Even if I just look out the windows, I’m immediately drawn to the scenery. My timeshare unit gives me views of trees and mountains, a ski lift, and houses, as well as one view toward the valley. Sunrises and sunsets always make me pause and enjoy the way light changes as the sun rises or sets, and during this visit, enjoy the way light plays on the snow itself, whether on the ground, or flocking the trees, or decorating cars.

Sunrise -- View over toward Carson Valley

Sunrise — View over toward Carson Valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lake itself is on the border between California and Nevada. In the Sierra Nevada range, it’s an alpine lake, the largest in North America. It’s also the second deepest in the U.S. at 1645 feet; Oregon’s Crater Lake is the deepest. By volume, it’s the 27th largest in the world. Its elevation is 6225 ft. Though 63 tributaries feed it, the Truckee River is its only outlet.

Once pristine, with remarkable clarity, Lake Tahoe is, like many other bodies of water, in danger as pollution encroaches on its health. There is an on-going campaign to raise awareness to the situation.

People visit here year-round. The lake itself during late spring, summer, and into September, offers water sports. There are excursions on boats and catamarans available to the public, as well as other activities for water sports. Obviously, too, the area is known as a destination for skiers. One site lists something like 12 ski resorts, most along the northern shore (where Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is situated). Where I am, one of the closest ski destinations is Heavenly. Even thinking of that name just makes me smile.

I meant to ride the gondola up Heavenly this time, but just didn’t get around to it. Maybe next time. It’s always nice to have something new to look forward to!

As I sit here at the Reno airport, waiting to check in for my flight later today, I’m enjoying watching people come and go (I always find it fun to people-watch). This is a small airport, not huge and sprawling, and has a comfortable feel to it. People leaving, like me, sit around at various places, waiting and waiting. Others grab their luggage off carousels and head out the door. A group of veterans are here, standing around with American flags, and people are very respectful of them. Not sure what they’re doing, but it doesn’t really matter. We’re reminded of just what our military personnel do for us. Ah. . . NOW I see why they’re here — waiting to greet returning military personnel!

Veterans Greeting Returning Military

Veterans Greeting Returning Military

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One very different experience here today — there are a group of volunteers with service dogs, acting as stress relievers for the passengers here in the airport. We’re encouraged to pet the dogs. I first saw the little pug, a 3-year-old, and petted him while his volunteer told me what was going on. Later I saw more, all of them grouped together, and took a photo. I got to pet a beautiful pointer (always, I must admit, one of my favorite breeds). There was also a very sleek, elegant Dalmation. Two standard poodles completed the pack. Quite a neat idea, and I enjoyed being able to pet those beautiful dogs and look into their eyes.

Airport Service Dogs

Airport Service Dogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not just that I’m missing my two Shih Tzus after a week away, though I will be glad to be reunited with them tomorrow. I”m just a sucker for dogs. Dogs have always been part of the Ware household, from Dad’s pointers to various other dogs over the years.

As I sit here with my peppermint mocha, I’m wondering where people are heading. Some, I know, are heading for the casinos here in Reno and elsewhere, gambling. Others are here for family time. Some are skiing. Since it’s almost Christmas, I also find myself wondering whether they’re having Christmas here at a resort. Some, though, like me, are heading out for the holidays.

By the time I get back to Lake Charles tomorrow afternoon sometime, I’ll have time to unpack, wash, and repack a small bag. I’ll need to get Christmas gifts wrapped. On Sunday I’ll pack the car, and with my niece and her boyfriend drive to our beach house near Galveston for our family Christmas. Our long-time friend Charles (really a family member by now) will join us. On Monday, I’ll need to grocery shop and begin the preparations not only for our Christmas dinner but for various munchies necessary to the holiday.

We’ll trim our tree and put up lights. I’ll probably make my two dogs, Zsa Zsa and Gypsy, wear costumes again for a little while.

We’ll sit on the deck, We’ll watch television. We’ll play Monopoly and maybe cards.

And we’ll be happy to be together.

All week I’ve been thinking of Bing Crosby and hearing his “White Christmas” in my head. I think it’s time to watch “Holiday Inn” again.

Though there’s snow here, I’m sure there won’t be back home, but that doesn’t matter. Not really. There will be family and friends, food and drink, laughter and conversation. And a Christmas tree with ornaments and some presents and a few stockings.

Merry Christmas, my friends. Happy Holidays. Kalo Kristouyenna.

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The Giving Season

Conversations with strangers can lead to unexpected connections.

Only this weekend, while I’ve been at Lake Tahoe, this happened to me. I was having a facial and in talking with the esthetician she said that she’d just moved her 83-year-old father from an assisted-living facility here in South Lake Tahoe to a nursing home in the valley about 30 miles away. The move had been less than two weeks ago, and she was clearly still in that dizzying transition period. Immediately, a connection emerged — and I shared with her about what Kay and I had experienced with Dad.

It’s so new for her that she hasn’t yet stopped reeling from moving him from one type of facility to another, clearing out and cleaning his apartment, and settling him into the new place. It’s 30 minutes away, but the difference in cost? It’s about $2000 a month cheaper there. It will mean that she has a bit farther to drive, but that cost difference is tremendous.

So many memories have been swirling ever since our conversation. It’s been two years since Dad fell and by the end of December, it will be two years since he lost mobility. January will be the two-year mark for the visits to doctors, for x-rays and CAT scans and the like. February will be two years since he had surgery to repair the spinal damage from the fall, followed by his nearly two months in a rehab unit. In April it will be two years since we brought him home from rehab, and on April 24 it will be the second anniversary of his death. It’s not that distant in time, but the pain and exhaustion have only recently really ebbed significantly.

For Carla, the esthetician, it’s only just beginning.

Her father, like mine, was basically living on his own. For Dad, though, it was different, because he was in his own home. I just spent more time there. He never had to adapt to living in an assisted-living facility. Had circumstances been different, though, that might have been an option. For us, it just wasn’t — and I’m not sure that Dad would have ever been able to make that adjustment. Others I know have made that transition with ease and grace. Fortunately, though, we could manage to have Dad stay at home.

Regardless, though, she dropped in to his apartment as I did to Egan, though perhaps more often since she was in the same town. That’s the stage where our dads were pretty independent, given everything.

Yet Carla began to take over more responsibilities, as Kay and I did, for many things. For doctors’ visits, for medical decisions, for financial discussions. Incrementally, daughters began the move to parental responsibilities. It’s that point where parents and children begin to shift roles, reversing the long-established relationship.

Because I basically lived with Dad part-time and then full-time, that he couldn’t drive anymore was a gentler adjustment, in a way. I could drive him, or get a friend to do so. He didn’t have to rely on strangers, on hired staff. It was an easier adjustment for him, though he made remarks that let me know just how much that loss of independence meant to him. We joked about my being his chauffeur, but I know that he felt the loss.

When Dad fell, that really was the beginning of his slide towards death. At 89, he just couldn’t recover quite enough. The nearly two months of rehab were a kind of hell for him, I’ve come to think — he had no privacy because he had a roommate, and not one who was one of his choosing. Dad was intensely private, and modest, and those are casualties for patients on rehab.

For much of that time, Dad was a good soldier — he didn’t complain a lot, at least to me. He read at first, but that stopped. He didn’t really watch television. My visits and visits of friends were his connection to his real life, to life itself. And even that changed as he withdrew. He became mobile, albeit with a walker and a wheelchair, but he could not recover any stability of sorts. One day I came to visit and found him pretty much unresponsive and unable to recognize me. We had a trip to the hospital emergency room where they ended up transferring him to a cardiac unit in Lafayette for a perceived heart attack. He didn’t have a heart attack. But it was a setback, regardless. Now I am convinced that had I not visited when I did, Dad would have died that night. Did I do the right thing? I don’t know; I only know that at the time, it seemed so.

After that, Dad peaked in his recovery and stalled. And with that stall he seemed to retreat more and more.

Once he was home, he had a good first week. We got him to dialysis. Now I can’t believe that we did that, but we did. Week two saw a slide, though. He fell, not once, but twice. Keeping him in the hospital bed was tricky, even though he couldn’t walk.

The second weekend, though, was when everything fell apart. On that Friday night, he bled enough that I called an ambulance. In the emergency room, they stabilized the bleeding. Then I had to get us home without an ambulance. Luckily, Kay was there and could drive us back.

He continued to bleed on Saturday, but we handled it. On Sunday morning, we consulted with the Home Health nurse and shifted to hospice. No more dialysis. We knew that it was pointless, that anything more would simply be torture for him.

He was still alert then, most of the time, and on Monday morning visited with a former neighbor who came to see him. Within an hour after she left, though, he quickly lost ground. By 1 Pm, I was using more morphine and more morphine to control the pain. By then he was talking to his mother, long dead, and thinking I was my grandmother. Early on Tuesday morning, Dad died.

These memories never really disappear, but they have (for me, anyway), moved from giving constant pain to only occasionally rising up to bite me. And even then, that bite, though sharp, no longer gouges open any kind of wound.

Listening to Carla, recognizing and remembering the path she’s now on, I once more am conscious of how loss and grief can begin long before we even recognize, simply becoming part of our daily reality– at least with prolonged illness and not sudden death.

With the scenario of prolonged illness, we lose our loved ones gradually. They change, almost imperceptibly, before our eyes, and we watch them disappear. As that happens, we grieve, often (maybe usually) without the time or energy to acknowledge that we are grieving. And even if we do recognize it, we’re too bound up in caregiving to have the time to do much about it.

Catching a 30-minute nap becomes far more important than allowing that grief to surface. If we did, it might overwhelm us. Caregivers are on their own spiraling path of change, of adapting. Somehow we have to keep going, because we must. Someone depends upon us.

As Carla left, I wished her well. My caregiving path has ended, but hers has just taken a turn.

There are so many of us out there, so many of us boomers caring for aging parents while trying to juggle our own families and jobs. If we’re single (as I am), there’s one less problem to contend with. I had no husband to help (or hinder, since not all partners are supportive). I had no children to care for. Others, though, like my sister Kay, are the sandwich generation, caught between caring for children and parents. And self. That’s always part of the equation. (And usually the part that gets ignored.)

We may not have much in common otherwise, but that caregiving role links us tightly, changing us forever.

As Carla and I agreed, we were the fortunate ones whose parents were good parents, and who have (or had) a good relationship with those parents. While some people wonder at what we gave up of our own lives in order to become caregivers, others know just how precious that experience can be, despite the exhaustion and frustration and depression that come with it.

My friend Charles and I talk about this often. We had choices — and we chose to become active caregivers. I think we had a choice — and yet had no real choice, given our families and personal experiences and values. Had I chosen otherwise, I would not have been the kind of person my parents brought up. It was not so much a sense of obligation, of giving up something.

Just the opposite. It was a sense of love, of returning the care and love that Dad and Mother lavished on me when I was a child. They never preached this. I just watched them and absorbed what I observed.

Some argue that it wasn’t my role – that I should have put Dad into the care of others earlier.
But my role as daughter is as flexible and as elastic as it needed to be.

In this season of Christmas, of gift-giving and receiving, I am reminded of the gift of love.

I gained so much more than I lost. Love is never wasted.

Carla will discover this, I hope. That’s my wish for her this Christmas season.

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Rebooting

It’s been a while since I blogged — indeed, since I wrote anything. When I was at the beach house in November, I couldn’t manage to get online, and after that, I simply found myself in a kind of funk/period of contemplation. Day by day, I lived with a low-level depression that was, I only later realized, the onset of a rip-roaring sinus infection that felled me right after Thanksgiving.

In the weeks since I blogged, I spent time watching my house as painters managed to prep it for painting. Since we were dodging periods of rain that still persist, it’s not yet done, though it is well on its way to being completed. Right now, plastic still drapes most windows.

The house is painted the coral color I love, and the white trim is almost done. The porch ceiling is a pale blue that marks Southern architecture (supposedly a good trick for keeping wasps and the like from building nests). The front doors — yes, I have two adjacent front doors — are painted a beautiful dark green (with a lot of black, the green that you often see in New Orleans). The porch will be the same color. The brick porch surround has been painted a deep clay color, with white trim. The front steps will be the same dark green as the doors and porch.

I’d originally planned to paint the house with relatives and friends, but it’s a good thing that didn’t work out. I saw a friend’s law office being painted, liked what I saw daily, and ended up hiring the two guys responsible. As they worked, we found things that hadn’t been done (or done properly) earlier in prior jobs.

One problem dates back to Hurricane Rita. My asbestos slate roof was lifted up and set back down; I had some leaks as a result. A new roof was another result — with architectural shingles rather than more expensive replacement shingles. The roof was replaced by January 2006, and only in November 2013 did I find out that the roofers had failed to put flashing everywhere. Fortunately, I didn’t have any resulting rot. Add a day of labor and more money for flashing material.

A second problem emerged as they began to prep the Hardie siding that I had put on the spring following Hurricane Ike. That contractor’s workers had failed to nail it enough. Nor had they caulked properly. Since the contractor had run way over time and budget when he worked on that job, I somehow was not really surprised at this evidence of shoddy work. Once more, I ended up paying for this work to be done properly. Again, fortunately, nothing major had gone wrong as a result.

So when my house is finally painted and looking spiffy, I’ll be a happy camper. Maybe by the New Year, with fingers crossed.

As that’s gone on in spurts, my kitchen project has also stalled. A bit more painting (a new cabinet) needs to be done, but again, it’s too rainy and damp to take it outside, paint it, and put it back in. Further, I am guilty of laziness — I must sit on the floor and use a scraper tool to get the vinyl tiles off before I can have new flooring put in there. But the kitchen is at least in much better shape.

My plans for renovation continue: My house is on piers, and I want my dogs to be able to enjoy the back yard. Two sides are already fenced by neighbors, so I only have to put in one side, plus connect to the house on both sides, and put a gate. But because the house is on piers, it’s necessary to enclose the open areas, preventing the dogs from going under and getting out. I’ve decided on latticework between the piers.

The renovations took only part of my attention. Because they are beyond my control (at least in large part) because of the weather, I simply shrugged off the frustration that kept trying to insinuate itself into my life.

Instead, I worked on jewelry because my friend Myra and I were selling our wares at a local holiday fair. I made earrings. I wrapped bails for pendants. I made a few items from precious metal clay. I tried to fuse glass with my tiny kiln (a learning experience). The one-day fair came and went. We survived. We made enough sales to cover our table cost and to take home money.

One more project in that time I’ve been off the blog: getting my memoir manuscript out, writing a proposal, going to a conference, and pitching to three agents. My first attempt at doing this — probably not my last. But it was a mixed experience. No one fell over offering me amazing book deals. Nope. But I didn’t get bad responses, either. I got lots of good suggestions and feedback.

And for three weeks, I conducted a library discussion group about Jean Lafitte, using Lyle Saxon’s Lafitte the Pirate and wrote the final report on that.

But write other than that report? Nope. And I need to do that. I have a huge writing project due in January. I spend time thinking about it. I’ll be ready in a week, I think, to hit it full on.

After all that focus on writing — the manuscript I’ve worked on (on and off) for years — I found myself depleted. I’d sit at the computer at first, start to type, and then quit. After a while, I simply stopped trying.

Instead, I turned, as always, to books, to reading. And to hibernating, to sleeping. To visiting with friends. To making jewelry.

Maybe I needed that outward activity, rather than any more inward time. Of course, I also needed antibiotics and steroids.

Now, though, I find myself ready to write again. Words have started popping up in my head, flowing again after weeks of not. In the last couple of days I kept using the Notes app on my iPhone to write down things as I thought of them. This was especially true on Friday, as I traveled west to Nevada.

Here I am at Lake Tahoe, at the Ridge Resort where I have a timeshare (an amazing good deal — but that’s another blog). I’ve not been here since 2011, when I came in September. I flew in to Reno on Friday, took a shuttle here, and have been very quiet.

Not that my life in Lake Charles and in Texas is loud — but it’s involved. Here, I find, I am simply quiet. The television? Haven’t turned it on yet. I cook light meals in the kitchen in my two-bedroom suite. I ate chili in the deli yesterday for lunch. I had an omelet at the deli just now for brunch. I read. A lot. I sleep.

And I visit the spa. Yesterday, I had a foot and hand massage. Today I had my eyebrows done, something I’d been meaning to do for two months. Tomorrow I’ve got a facial scheduled. I’m also thinking of maybe a massage. . . .

Until Tuesday, when friends from the Bay Area come up for a few days. My solitude will end then. It’ll be fun.

Yesterday I realized that I wanted to write again. Today I started. And I’m ready to haul out the memoir and work on that manuscript, beginning another revision, this time with the input of the agents I talked to. And next week I’ll start on the project I’ve got to finish in January.

I’m not going to ski. On the other hand, I probably will ride the ski lift because I want to see the beautiful scenery. The Ridge is right near Heavenly. Isn’t that a great place name?

Somehow, in the last two days, I’ve unwound– when I didn’t even realize that I was wound up. I’ve recovered a sense of balance.

In the last month, I’ve come to see, I was reeling from over-scheduling myself, from setting a series of projects too close together, even simultaneously. Perhaps that’s a natural consequence for me, someone who spent 3 decades (if not more) of constant juggling. I don’t have to do so much all at once. I can spread things out more than I did. Duh. . . I’m retired.

I’m not really sure what triggered the lightbulb moment, but when it happened, I felt the moment of release, of “oh, that’s what I did.” And realized that this has been another step along the way to creating and shaping my life. That I don’t have to pile everything on at once. I can spread it out.

The depression, mild as it was? Probably due to the stealth sinus infection, in part. And the sense of being overwhelmed by projects. Only in part was it grief — November was my mother’s birthday month, and I thought about her often, but not with despair at all. Simply with the sense of missing someone.

No, I can’t blame it on grief. Maybe, too, it’s just a part of my having to manage the ongoing cyclical depression issues I’ve had most of my life. I now recognize the symptoms, and must say they’re milder than ever –thanks to medication, certainly, but also to a much less stressed life. Winter has always been hardest for me, and this year isn’t any different than most years in that respect.

Despite all of this, I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my sister, niece (and her boyfriend) and our friend Charles. I actively look forward to Christmas with the same bunch — at the beach house, our new Christmas tradition. For years I didn’t enjoy Christmas — it was simply another day, something to be endured. Not anymore.

Lots of friends have been posting on Facebook for November (and into December) what they’re thankful for. For me, gratitude is something I chart almost weekly. In the last few weeks, though, I’ve truly been thankful for what I’ve got — even for what (and whom) I’ve had and lost. My life is so much richer for having had friends and family I love, and those who are gone are still with me.

My circle of friends and family is most valuable in my life. I cherish them. My career was wonderful and fulfilling; my retirement is turning out to be the same. I thought I’d miss teaching far more than I have; my memories are, for the most part, warm and wonderful. I now focus on creating in a different way. I focus on love of family, of friends. I’ve been neglectful of some friends, and hope to mend that neglect.

It’s been a time of reflection, of recognition, and of learning about myself yet again.

Words are back.

Look out!

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