Monday, March 28, 2005

Potpourri

"Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. Peace is all around us - in the world and in nature - and within us - in our bodies and in our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. It is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of practice."--Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Master

Easter dinner yesterday at my niece's home was a mixed-feeling kind of experience for me. My Brother No. 2 and I were the only ones there who are not religious fundamentalists and Republicans. On the good side, her husband, a successful realtor in Elk River, MN, will come here in the next couple of weeks to give advice on what renovation and redecorating I'll need to do to make my place more salable. He also will be handling the sale.

I was given the advice to not decide on Knollwood Place too quickly. Perhaps there are cheaper facilities out there? After further checking, it appears that Knollwood is probably the best place to go, especially seeing that I don't want to move to the inner city.

W, L and I had our meeting this morning. We reached agreement on most of the basics for organizing the Courage Center Red Hats. Posters are going up to announce our first meeting on Monday, April 11th, at 10:00 in the cafeteria. Since I will be the Queen Mother of the chapter, I will be filling out a CC Volunteer Application. They need to check public records on everyone who is volunteering in order to rule out those with criminal histories or sexual offenders. This is a good thing, as there are many vulnerable adults and children involved.

I did another tour of my complex today. I had been looking forward to a solitary stroll and sitting in the walker for a while, basking in the 65 degree sunshine. A neighbor appeared, however, and started walking with me. She and her husband have Down Syndrome but function at a pretty high level. They have their own condo here, and they do rather well, as long as they have assistance with bill-paying and business matters. I decided that being in the moment with this neighbor was more important than my initial wish for solitude. She is an active advocate for the mentally retarded, and I commended her for speaking out for her community. So few are able to do this.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

SETI@Home

"Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn't more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it."--Sylvia Boorstein

Many people have heard of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Radio telescopes are systematically being pointed around the universe in an attempt to locate radio signals, and thus find other intelligent beings. SETI is organized out of the University of California at Berkeley.

What you may not know is that SETI relies on countless Internet-connected computers around the world for analysis of all the data collected by the radio telescopes. I participated in this for a while two years ago. The program is safe and runs in the background on your computer. No-one has experienced problems in all the years this system has been in operation. There is a bit of a competitive nature to the data analysis as well. People can form teams and earn "credits" for the number of analyses they complete.

On the chance that people might like further information, I have included the link to a fellow member of the Autumn Leaves Webring, Nilknarf. He tells how to start on your own or join a team. I have just joined his.

Being connected up with SETI again is a nice counterpoint to my blogging. A blog is a way to put bits of yourself into the indefinable ether to see if someone might be listening. SETI is making it more likely that Earth will hear if someone is calling out to us. And I can do my part. Link

Friday, March 25, 2005

It's A Good Friday

Be interested in yourself beyond all experience, be with yourself, love yourself; the ultimate security is found only in self-knowledge. Be honest with yourself and nothing will betray you.
-- Nisargadatta Maharaj

This afternoon I grabbed my walker and did a tour of the condominium complex. We're starting a warming-up period here in Minneapolis, today being 42 degrees and sunny. It was a bit blustery, however, so I did not linger or stop to sit in the sun. Usually my body directs my gaze downward, but today I stopped to examine the trees for buds. Sure enough, the first tiny bud-bulges are everywhere. I smiled, glad to see proof that Nature goes on, despite the chaos human beings are causing in the world.

Inside again, I reflected on the awful, still-remembered, Good Friday experiences of my childhood. Raised in a fundamentalist Lutheran church, it was a given that one must attend a service from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Three hours in a darkened church hearing long dirge-like hymns interspersed with words of pain and agony.

I am glad to be the adult here and now, rather than the child there and then.

For too many years, well into adulthood, I lived in a world where every thought, feeling and behavior was instantly recognizable as "black" or "white". "Black" predominated.

In my current life of mindfulness and gratitude, almost everything is "gray". And Truth exists within myself, in the moment, an integral part of the Universe.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Moderating My Enthusiasm

"Instead of frittering away your vibrancy with worry or distraction, realize your mind and body are inextricably united. What calms and tones up one, soothes and improves the other." --Marsha Sinetar

While I'm still very enthusiastic about Knollwood Place, my enthusiasm yesterday had me mentally hurrying myself to start living there as soon as possible. But there is a lot to do, and I don't want to stress myself too much. I will give myself the coming year to get ready.

I also realized I do not want to give up my car until there are physical reasons for me not to drive, not just financial ones.

So I will begin some lists of things to do, the order in which to do them, etc.

Right now I'm looking at the Knollwood Place menu to see what I could be choosing for dinner tonight:

March 24

Navy Bean Soup
Tossed Salad
Veal Roast
or Poached Salmon Fillets
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Assorted Breads
Baked Apples
or Butterscotch Sundae

I THINK I can wait.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Good Changes Coming

Your actions in life set your course and determine the destination of your travels. Your reactions in life create the climate in which you travel. -- Beth Joh

I met with the intake person at Knollwood Place this afternoon, accompanied by my brother and sister-in-law. I'll start by saying that this will be a wonderful place in which to live, and I am applying at this time.

The evening meals, as shown on this month's menu, compare well with good restaurant-quality fare. They are offered five days per week at $10 per meal. By registering (for a small fee) with the onsite health care office, a number of medical services are provided by nursing staff on site. I can hire cleaning help as needed. There will be no danger of my falling and lying on the floor for days, because of the "Okay Card" system.

And the amenities! A sunroom with vending machines and a convenience store, card room, computer room, common room with big-screen TV and a library, an auditorium, exercise room, barber and beauty shop, Post Office truck every week, many planned activities and informal groupings, as well as scheduled van transportation 3 times per week. There is a free continental breakfast five days per week with juices, hot and cold cereal, muffins, bagels and toast.

I looked at three of their units. I am going to take one of their smallest one-bedroom apartments, 580 square feet, at a cost of $1199 per month. This will slow down the depletion of my assets. It will be an entirely "livable" space for me, with a 12' x 18' living room and 10' x 13' bedroom. The kitchen is small, but I won't be doing a great deal of cooking. The bathroom is safety-enhanced. There is a good amount of closet space and cupboards in the kitchen.

When I move to Knollwood Place, I believe I will give up driving and sell my car. I will continue my outside activities via senior transportation or taxi. BUT I will be able to take Jenny-Cat with me, for a one-time charge of $350.

The majority of the residents are Jewish, and the diet is kosher. This will not present a problem to me, as I have always believed I was meant to be born Jewish. The brochure says "you'll have an excellent retirement home enhanced by Jewish traditions and culture". Another resident of Scandinavian background told me she is not treated as an outsider. As well, I am very verbal and pro-Israel, so I should do just fine.

The waiting list is 3 to 5 months. I first must do some redecorating, at which I am a novice. I will also get rid of more "things" that I do not need to accompany me.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Life Purpose

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure.
--Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B

I have been considering lately the purpose of my life. After some thought, I realize that I do not need one.

This is not saying my life is aimless. I have daily and intermediate goals and intentions, as well as a calendar book.

What I do mean is that it is okay for me just to be, to exist in this moment. It is enough to watch the sparrow in the tree outside my window and note the sun's passage across the sky. The sun, the sparrow, the tree and myself. We all hold chi, and none of us needs justification.


*********

At Seekers group today we learned that Red Hat Society has been approved by Courage Center. We will have a planning meeting this Thursday. Hopefully we can tease out a bit of a budget for our activities. We hope to have our first meeting in April.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Checking into Knollwood Place

We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.
-- Harrison Ford

I have decided to consider Knollwood Place (see link) as my future residence. It is about 1-1/2 miles from my current home. It is not a full assisted living facility, but the price is much more reasonable. I could purchase additional services, such as cleaning, as needed. I would have to keep using bits of my 401(k) capital, but at a much slower rate than the $6,000 per month cost of full assisted living.

D and D, my brother No. 2 and his wife, have encouraged me to pick a place for myself soon, so that when the time comes I'll live in a place that I myself have chosen. They will accompany me to an appointment at Knollwood Place this coming Wednesday afternoon.

I will be able to be content with a new living situation. Contentment comes not from the physical place of residence but from how one is living inside spiritually.

Here in Minnesota we typically have one of our worst snowstorms around the time of the vernal equinox. This year was no exception. I had to forego lunch with friends on Friday, and our Red Hat Society meeting, planned for today, has been postponed.

Kitchen tip: Pizza is much easier to cut if you: 1) Let the pizza sit for 1 minute after it comes out of the oven. This will "set" the cheese. 2) The easiest way to cut pizza is with a kitchen scissors. Link

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Body and Soul

Do not carry the burden of the past; do not live in the future. The only important thing is that one lives in the present authentically and fully.

Whatever your current life is, be the most you can be by living in the moment.
-- Chan Chih

I've just finished an impactful book, "Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul". It is a series of essays by published authors. Two main themes are addressed in the 18 essays. The first theme centers around life cycle changes and medical conditions that filter down into and change the female personality. The second is how life-affecting it can be to vary greatly from the "ideal female form" that is touted in American society today.

What is considered ideal is subject to change. Until about 1920, a thin woman wouldn't be an attractive marriage prospect. "Thin" meant difficulty bearing children and probably illness and early death.

And no matter what the ideal, the average dress size for a woman is 12.

Somehow, my mind has always considered physical appearance unimportant. What matters is the soul that looks out through the eyes. What is the emotional depth, openheartedness and honesty of people who cross my path? My focus on "who is living in this body?" has been a protection from those who might bring harm. It also has led me to many kindred spirits. Link

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Author, Author

"My heart is afraid it will have to suffer," the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.
"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity."
--Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

This past week I received some totally unexpected, very good news. A couple of folks at Courage Center are planning to publish a book with the central theme of "disability and the soul". It is to be a compilation of pieces written by disabled people. They apparently came up with this idea after seeing some of my blog entries. I will be a contributor, although I don't yet know what this will entail. Perhaps I'll be asked to write on a certain theme.

The book is in the early planning stages yet. If it goes through to publication, I will have the great pleasure of seeing my work not only in the virtual world, but in print and being commercially sold.

In case folks are wondering if I will receive any monetary gains from this, the answer is no. I'll be doing this as volunteer work, with profits from the book going to Courage Center. I am just happy to be able to contribute.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Accepting Impermanence

Birth will end in death
Youth will end in old age
Wealth will end in loss
Meeting will end in separation
All things in cyclic existence
Are transient and impermanent
-- Unknown

I have been absent from blogging recently while I dealt with a difficult personal separation, set to occur at the end of May. C, my therapist of four years, will be retiring. I initially started seeing her for depression. She helped me to come to terms with, then be at peace with, a lot of old hurt and pain and new medical issues. In addition, she pointed me toward clinics and other resources that have greatly enriched my life. Most important, I started on the path of mindfulness and meditation.

Ah, but impermanence!

I have been in some rebellion lately, and there were health consequences. Emotional distress and not staying in the moment led to a definite slippage in my self-cares (and blogging IS a form of self-care for me!) Now I have been dealing with some hard issues with C, expressing anger that she is leaving me. Anger has always been the hardest emotion for me. And somehow the reality of the impermanence of all relationships is percolating further down into my soul. I am finding some level of acceptance at a more than shallow level. My blogging entries, therefore, should appear more consistently.

I will be continuing on with therapy, for both reviewing and processing my life, as well as to allow further emotional and spiritual growth. W is the facilitator of the Seekers group at Courage Center. I asked her if she knew of a psychotherapist at CC that would be preferable for me. In just a few seconds, her eyes lit up. She knew of a good match for me, because of my emphasis on mindfulness. She promised to see if that therapist had room in her schedule.

The therapist she recommended, P, does have available time and also thinks we'd be a good match. Between now and the end of May, I'll be having an intake evaluation, a joint meeting of C, P and myself, and a couple of sessions with P while I'm still seeing C weekly.

I think this planned transition will be of great value. I am realizing that my medical fragility makes my emotional "safety zone" quite narrow, and that zone must be guarded. Separation, I know, can be a time of much growth, as well as stress. I want to soften the turns in my path to allow a safe journey.

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