Monday, February 21, 2005

Red Hats at Courage Center

It takes fierceness to grow old well. It takes a fierce devotion to the word good-bye -- learning how to say it in many ways -- fiercely, yes, but also gently, with laughter, with tears, but, no matter how, to say it every time so that there's no doubt you mean it.
--Michael Ventura, "Across the Great Divide"; Psychotherapy Networker, Jan/Feb 2005

My Seekers Group met at Courage Center this morning. (Courage Center is known around the world for its innovative treatments for the physically disabled. See link.) Thoughts about starting a Red Hat Society chapter at Courage Center have been rattling around in my head. I had felt it would not be a "real" RHS group, as so much of the fun involved is "strutting our stuff" very publicly, showing our pride in our mature status. So many of the members would be wheelchair-bound or have other mobility issues that strutting about would be decidedly difficult.

However, I decided to bring up the idea, and it was met with great enthusiasm. The four over-50 female types in the group, including the facilitator, pounced on this idea as wonderful and long overdue! Although approval must be given by the Courage powers-that-be, we started making some tentative plans. We will do our meetings at Courage Center, which has all kinds of facilities for eating, arts and crafts, visiting, outside activities, etc. W, the facilitator, asked if staff and volunteers at CC could belong. Of course, they can! Perhaps our need to strut about could be met by parading through the facility a bit at each meeting, whether walking or wheeling.

I feel a group that is totally social would be a good addition to the other therapy modalities there. So often disabled women are limited socially as well as physically.

Plans are still very fluid, but I feel in my bones that Red Hatters will rule at Courage Center, as they do everywhere else! Link

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Blessed Routines

A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature.
--Albert Einstein

I have worked out some routines for different activities in my daily life. They are thoroughly thought out and take into consideration safety, efficiency and production of the desired results. I have a certain way of making breakfast (currently toad-in-the hole is my favorite), of showering using a shower stool, and getting into and out of my car.

Somehow the fact that these routines were mindfully developed, and that I remain mindful in living the routines, gives a blessing to my spirit and respect to the Universe. It is hard to explain, but it's so very true for me.

M showed up on Friday morning and vacuumed my place. He said he would be back on Saturday to do more, but he did not appear. I have chosen to accept his non-appearances with equanimity. I'll be grateful and happy to see him when he comes, but I will not be upset when he doesn't. That way, each time with him will be pleasurable, rather than being contaminated by my own unhappy, "expecting" thoughts.

The vacuuming was definitely needed, and my carpet looks MUCH better. If you combine a long-haired, mostly white cat who objects to being brushed with a blue carpet.....well, you get the picture.

Today I begin working on my grocery list, which I will call in to Store to Door on Tuesday. It's a more complicated process for me than most folks. I'll write more about it another time.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Pleasures

Whatever may be the situation, if it is acceptable, it is pleasant. If it is not acceptable, it is painful. What makes it acceptable is not important; the cause may be physical, or psychological, or untraceable; acceptance is the decisive factor. Obversely, suffering is due to non-acceptance. Why [shouldn't pain be acceptable]? Did you ever try? Do try and you will find in pain a joy which pleasure cannot yield, for the simple reason that acceptance of pain takes you much deeper than pleasure does -- Unknown

I am really pleased about a new kitchen gadget which arrived in the mail yesterday. It is a device that will let you know precisely when eggs are soft-boiled, medium-boiled and hard-boiled. It is bright red, oval in shape, and has a flat bottom. You place it in the pan when you put the eggs on to boil, and different-looking images of an egg appear as they reach each stage of hardness. According to the package, the sensor detects temperature, and it thus adjusts automatically for number of eggs, amount of water and even altitude! My brother, the physicist, described to me the process used to measure temperature precisely. It's basically the same method as is used in thermostats.

Its arrival now is particularly welcome. The companionable commenters at John Bailey's blog, Journal of a Writing Man, directed me recently to a "conversion chart" of British and American terms (link below). Described on this site was the practice of dipping toast strips into soft-boiled eggs. My new timer delivered perfectly-boiled soft eggs, and the toast fingers provided the ideal way to eat them.

I had two very welcome visitors tonight. My Ethiopian friend M had volunteered earlier to do my house-cleaning for me (and for free). He came one time and did a marvelous job, but then I heard nothing further from him. I assumed that he had, out of the goodness of his heart, promised more than he could practically do.

Tonight he came to my door with his young cousin. M was carrying a gift bag, which contained a stunning, hand-made, white robe from Ethiopa. It is hand-embroidered in brilliant colors and intricate patterns. The two men sat down to visit a bit. M at one point asked if white people appreciate such clothing. I simply said, "Beauty has no color and no culture, and this is beautiful".

He again promised to do my regular cleaning, saying he and his cousin will come on Saturday. This poses a dilemma, as the monthly Red Hat Society meeting is on Saturday. Ah well, free cleaning help takes precedence over an afternoon of fun! Link

Monday, February 14, 2005

Watching

Be thankful for each and every morning.Enjoy life and worry not about things that wouldn't matter in 10 years anyway. --Unknown

My niece M makes wonderful flannel pillows with rice sewn inside. When heated a bit in the microwave, they become a wonderful pain reliever for sore spots on the body. They are also simply a comfort for the soul. She has given me one for each of the last two years at Christmas.

This morning I was lying snug on the sofa with one pillow tucked against my tummy and the other between my knees.

Overnight some wet, heavy snow had fallen. Since the temperature this morning was 39 F., the snow was melting and falling in gobbets from the limbs of the maple tree outside my window.

Jenny was on the top of her five-foot cat tower, paws tucked in and tail curled round, watching the clumps of snow as they fell.

I was watching Jenny, watching the snow.

Before long, she realized that the heated pillow was out and available. She came to join me, stretching out with her back against my tummy-pillow. For both of us, a snooze was in order.

Wishing a happy St. Valentine's Day to all, and most especially to those who have no-one to say it to them in person.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Emerging A Little

Be contented with what you possess in life; be thankful for what does not belong to you, for it is so much care the less; but try to obtain what you need in life, and make the best of every moment of your life.
--Hazrat Inayat Khan Gayan

The latest CDC flu map still shows Minnesota in the red zone: in fact, the red area in the Upper Midwest is expanding. However, I will start being about my business in the outside world a little more. I am beginning to suffer some sideffects of social isolation, namely brooding about inconsequential matters and fatigue from lack of exercise.

One of my first jaunts will be to a store that sells used computers. A bit of a story lies behind my purchase of a second computer. My original computer, purchased in 1996, ran Windows 95, and it was a sad little machine by today's standards. I discovered I really liked some of the PC games that were popular then. They were much easier to play than the current monstrosities, which require you to be a 12-year-old male, in my thinking.

Each time I updated my system through the years, more and more of my old games wouldn't run. The collection of compact disks mouldering in a cardboard box kept getting larger. I had visions of partitioning my hard drive with a place for Windows 95. Much easier, however, is to purchase a second, older computer with Windows 95. I have one waiting for me, a Pentium II, with 1.6 gigabyte hard drive, and with a 17" monitor, at a total cost of only $136. My old games can then be played again in all their original glory.

Radical acceptance is a continuous necessity for me. I thought of this yesterday, when three simple errands took over twice the time they would have done a few years ago. Getting into and out of my car takes time and the use of my own little "system". Instead of appreciating my surroundings as I used to, my mind must stay focused on the ground before me and the safety of my next step. But I accept this slowness. I accept my unsteady walk. Each second, letting go, I accept. Say goodbye to what was, so I can welcome what is.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Royals

You cannot find peace
by avoiding life.
-- Virginia Wolf

The British Monarchy has been of interest to me since childhood. Reading biographies, examining genealogy charts, comparing reigns and royal personages; all these have provided many happy, engrossing hours. I have limited my purview to the period since the birth of Queen Victoria, as otherwise there is just too much to read . There are so many other fascinating subjects that command my attention.

My "favorite" royal was Queen Mary, who lived from 1867 to 1953, and was the grandmother of the current Queen. She had a phenomenal sense of duty and loved and supported King George V without wavering. Her main failing, perhaps, was that of being a stiff and unbending mother.

I am a traditional monarchist, placing great value on royal actions that are in line with history and monarchical precedence. I was thus very pleased with the manner in which the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Camilla Parker Bowles will be arranged. It is a luscious compromise.

When Charles married Diana, he had to wed a proven virgin, to guarantee the royal bloodline. Now his heirs are grown, their health good. One can almost be positive that Camilla, at 57, is beyond any possible chance of childbearing. (I would even wager that her being in a post-menopausal state was a necessary precondition to their marriage.) There will be no Constitutional snarl on matters of bloodline. Divorced, she of course cannot be Queen, but HRH the Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Consort are a noble titles.

I also take a longer, historical view of this whole business of royal mistresses. Camilla's great-great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, was the favorite mistress of Edward VII, Charles' great-great-grandfather. When Edward VII was on his deathbed, his Consort, Queen Alexandra, graciously invited Mrs. Keppel to his bedside.

To this Yankee onlooker, this solution to the problem of Charles and Camilla seems snug, cozy and just so historically right.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Mostly Horizontal

Sitting silently
Doing nothing
Spring comes
And the grass grows by itself.

-- Basho


I've had a bit more pain the last few days. I have stayed horizontal much of the time, engaging in the (mostly) pleasurable mental activities of reflecting, remembering and resting. This, of course, pleases Jenny-Cat no end, as I am her favorite warm pillow. Stretching and yawning, she finds a different position on me, then curls up for more sleep.

I'll write again when sitting at the computer is a tad easier.



Sunday, February 06, 2005

My Town

If God meant we shouldn't need each other, he would have put each person on a separate planet. -- An elderly Jewish neighbor of mine

From an idea from Dancing in the Divine, linked at right, I am writing today about the town in which I live. St. Louis Park, Minnesota, is an inner-ring suburb with Minneapolis as it's eastern border. Approximately 44,000 people live in its 10.8 square miles. It has 51 parks and many small lakes and ponds. The suburbs are interconnected with each other and with Minneapolis and St. Paul for shopping and socializing. The entire Twin Cities metropolitan region consists of 7 counties, with the 2000 census showing a population of around 2,650,000 people, 54% of the population of the State of Minnesota. The Twin Cities seem to slurp up young people "just starting out" from the farms and small towns of the Dakotas and Iowa. The same effect is seen for cultural, educational and sports activities. This state is quite consistent in being politically, socially and religiously liberal. In St. Louis Park, 64% of people own their homes rather than rent, and one in ten households consists of a woman living alone.

Until 1987, I had lived my entire life in the City of Minneapolis as a renter. When I decided to buy myself a home, I chose a condominium to avoid outdoor maintenance. St. Louis Park was an ideal choice. Crime rates are quite low, and all the cultural amenities are near at hand. I live rather in the middle of a square made by four major highways and freeways, so transportation is very "doable". Being an inner-ring suburb, one still has the feeling of being right in the city. I am such an urban-type person that too much open space and sky can make me feel slightly disoriented. There are numerous social assistance programs. Basically, if there is a conceivable human need, there is a program with eager volunteers to address it. I have included a link below to programs in St. Louis Park. Other needs are met on a more metro-wide basis.

One of the things that is especially important here is "Minnesota nice". We are pleasant to each other, meet strangers' eyes in a friendly way, are honest in business and will generally help those we meet, even if not asked. I believe this stems from the fact that, due to the sometimes horrible weather, we NEED each other. Not many years ago, any stranger might knock on your door during a blizzard, seeking some warmth or a phone to use. A friend of mine, a Sikh from India, said that Minnesotans are the most accepting of them as immigrants than anywhere else in the country. We tend to avoid "labels".

We Twin Citians scoff at other US metropolitan areas that are totally brought to a standstill by an inch of snow or a bare scraping of ice. It is considered bad form here even to be late for work unless the snow exceeds four inches.

Here's an "only in Minnesota" story. A few days ago, during the warm weather spell, a good friend was walking around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. People were fishing through the ice, while joggers ran around the lake in shorts.

I had intended here to write exclusively about my own suburb. I realized, however, that a major metropolitan region is hard to define by a small, artificially-defined part of it. Suffice it to say, where I actually live, and the entire metro area, is a good place to be.


Link

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Tooling About

Today I want to write about my wonderful little green walker.

I have a Piper Mini Deluxe walker, made by the Evolution Company out of Canada. (The link will show you a picture.) This model is for individuals from 4'7 to 5',0", and under 200 lbs. in weight. It's constructed of tubular, super-strong aluminum and weighs only 13 lbs. It has four 8-inch wheels, excellent for jaunts out in the world, but designed to leave no marks on tile or linoleum. The seat, made of high-impact plastic, contains a handle. Using only one hand, I can pick up the walker, partially collapse it in the process, then insert it in the backseat area of my car.

Another feature of the walker is a hooked-on basket for carrying small purchases. There is also a zippered vinyl bag with handles. This can snap into the basket to keep items rain-free (or concealed!). The bag can also be put over the handles and carried somewhat the way one carries a backpack on one's shoulders. Also included is a tray, which can be used for collecting food in institutional dining cafeterias. It has hand brakes, which are essential for safety. They can be pre-adjusted with a "speed limit", in the event someone is concerned that the elder in their care may go too fast. There is a soft semi-flexible strap that acts as a backrest when sitting. As one small, final fillip, there is a cupholder attachment for toting your beverage of choice.

Possessing this is such a blessing for me. It provides better balance and less stress on the heel of my hand than the cane. Psychologically, it gives me a nice safety zone where I am more protected from injury. Best of all, when I get tired or sore, I just put on the brakes, turn around, and sit down.

When I was shopping for this walker, I justified getting "the best" I could by the fact that I was only 56 years old. Getting one at that early age, I DESERVED the best, darn it! I had my choice of colors; fire engine red, forest green, and navy blue. I thought forest green was pretty and not too loud. The next one I get, after further personal shrinkage, will definitely be fire engine red.

Link

Friday, February 04, 2005

Respite of warmth

What is it in this teaching we call "Sitting in meditation?"In this teaching, "sitting" means without obstruction anywhere.Outwardly and under all circumtances, not to activate thoughts."Meditation" is internally to see the original nature and not become confused. --Huineng


I will continue in flu-avoidance mode for yet another week. The CDC weekly map, linked below, shows Minnesota still in the red, "widespread" infection status. The red area has expanded even farther with this new report, now including Iowa and North Dakota.

However, it has been very warm for this time of the year, approaching 50 deg. F the last couple of days. Feeling a little cooped up with the thought of another week spent mostly inside, I left the building, retrieved my walker from the garage and took off to do a little walking around outside in my complex. The sun had melted the snow and ice from the dark surface of the parking areas, so walking was safe. I found a nice spot, sheltered from passing cars, and sat in my walker a while to bask. Content and hopeful, I later came inside, knowing winter is a temporary annoyance, even here in Minnesota.

I know my current solitude would be much more difficult without my daily sitting. When I get back to wholeness and serenity inside, I can just be here as I am.

I know that I have always been unusually content to be by myself. I am quite introverted, and what is occurring in my brain is sufficiently interesting to continue without much input from others. I am lonely very rarely. Loneliness arises, I feel, when one feels that there is no-one "out there". I always feel like friends, my brother and neighbors are accessible.

I ate another little breakfast today that was full of nostalgia: toad in the hole.
Link

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Caring Bridge

Without setting foot outside your door, you can know everything under heaven.

Without looking out the window, you can grasp how Nature works.

The farther one goes,the less one knows.

Thus the sage knows without stirring, recognizes without seeing, accomplishes without making any particular effort. -- Daodejing Chapter 47 (translation by Via Negativa, linked on right)

CaringBridge is a wonderful online resource. Websites are set up for people (usually children) who are suffering from life-threatening or terminal conditions. The parents use the sites to update family and other people on the patients' conditions, ask for prayers and share photos. A wonderful part of CaringBridge is that the prayers, emotional support and guestbook entries of strangers are always welcomed.

Caring for others has always been a prime value in my life. My "kids" at CaringBridge enable me to do this from my home. There are too, too many children and adults struggling just now.

One of the most special CB Kids was Amy Mareck. She fought osteosarcoma with all her might for over five years. And she lived her life to the max! Amy was from rural Minnesota, about 85 miles from here. Amy passed away on November 29, 2004, and even though I had never met her, I wanted to share in her funeral tribute. I was treated royally and received SO many hugs. Amy's sister said my presence gave a "face" to all the strangers that were on Amy's team.

I also got the opportunity to meet a few of the CB kids I've been supporting. Laura came over to hug me, tall, slender and beautiful, limping a bit because of her artificial leg. I sat at the dinner with Davis and his mom. Davis had just finished his last round of chemo. It's a really neat 13-year-old young man who'll give a hug to a strange woman my age. The dear Chepokas family was there, still missing their son, Mitch, so much.

My heart was full. I had spent my day on the other side of the Bridge of Caring. I came away with enough blessings to keep me active in CaringBridge for years to come.

A link to Amy's CaringBridge site is below.


Link

Hibernating

The eyes are given to see;the soul to see further. -- Inayat Khan

I ventured out into the world today to have my therapy appointment. Wearing mask, not touching eyes, nose or mouth, washing hands -- all these have become almost second nature. I have been wondering if I am being a bit paranoid about all this. My therapist assured me that, with my fragile health, I'm just being wise.

Back home again, safely tucked into my box of flu-free air, I've been considering some new, simple food ideas to try. A few days ago, Daily Om (link below) extolled the virtues of kale as a excellent source of calcium, vitamins and minerals. I'll find a recipe to make a simple side dish with it. This evening I am making the Cheese-Garlic Biscuits from the recipe on the Bisquick box. They are almost as good as Red Lobster's, if one adds additional garlic.

I've developed a really yummy breakfast treat. You take a small whole wheat tortilla, spread a little Cheese Whiz down the center, top with a scrambled egg (done in the microwave first), then finish with a strip of my "frozen" bacon. Wrap the tortilla up over the fillings, and nuke to warm. Then just enjoy! Jenny must join me, as is usual, sharing a bit of egg with cheese sauce.

I'm also joining some e-mail campaigns to protest the government's lunacy. I don't consider it "my" government any more. Too many violations of our long-held national ideals and belief in the rule of law have occurred. I do support our troops. I support their right to be home in America leading their normal lives rather than fighting in a war that's totally wrong. Paraphrasing what I've read elsewhere, wrapping the American Flag around the Cross is no justification for the illegal acts the government is committing. In the 1960's I was protesting with the best of them for the end of the war in Vietnam. Doing e-mails isn't as exciting, but at least it's a lot safer.
Link

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