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Donald Hall, "Essays After Eighty"

Donald Hall’s latest book

Why would a fifty-something-year-old woman relate to the essays of an eighty-something-year-old man? Does that say something about him, about me, or both of us? This is not really a review, but a review of sorts; my stream-of-consciousness emotional reaction to his latest book. In all reality, just what a writer really wants…a confirmation of a connection made, not just an intellectual criticism of the writing.

I have always liked Donald Hall’s poetry, and when I read John Freeman‘s well-written interview with him in Poets and Writers (Nov/Dec edition) and read the excerpts from the book, Essays After Eighty, I was burning to read it. So off to the library I went.

Sitting down to read the first essay “Out the Window,” (without a window in sight) I can see what he sees — the old barn, the snow falling, the birds at the feeder — because he describes his view in vivid language, in a poet’s way. But I also feel what he feels — the isolation of New Hampshire in winter (having just been through the worst winter in my life in MA), feeling unable to do what used to be easily accomplished, and feeling abandoned by contemporaries and left to spend time with the ghosts of old ancestors (those to be joined sooner rather than later). His writing just seems to add credence to what I already know…why? Because my best friend right now is my mother, who is 86. I talk to her daily. She watches out the window when she can and has dreams of cooking and cleaning and doing things she can do now only with difficulty, so I understand the mindset and the feelings. That, and the fact that timing and circumstances took me out of challenging but ultimately satisfying work too young; I have felt abandoned by a changed world that no longer values my skills and my abilities ($9 to $10 an hour to proofread…really?), and no longer believes in my beliefs.

Donald Hall describes old age and aging as “…alien, and old people are a separate form of life. They have green skin, with two heads that sprout antennae…If we forget for a moment that we are old, we are reminded when we try to stand up, or when we encounter someone young, who appears to observe green skin, extra heads, and protuberances.”

And though I have some decades to go before I officially get to his age, I feel the separateness as he describes, as if I went to sleep and woke up on a planet I didn’t recognize, where I was suddenly an outcast, where suddenly people could see my antennae.

Well, that is easily rectified you might think: study the creatures of this new world and remake yourself to be like them. Hide those antennae or — better yet — cut them off. But I can’t do it, ugly as they seem to be, all of my beauty is there. And all the positive personal development books I read tell me to value them. They represent that last crumb of hope I still possess that someday another alien will show up at my door with their own antennae displayed in all their glory, smile, and come in and sit down for tea. Maybe that being will tell me of a colony of others like us, which still exists, and that my isolation has kept me from finding. And we will set out together, where the warm sun and exercise will make me feel 50 again. The gears of my mind will squeak and groan, at first reluctant with pain, but begin to chip off the rust and neglect, and then revel in something too long lost and left behind. But I digress…as old people do.

The book also contains an essay entitled “A Yeti in the District.” Each of the essays in the book ends with Hall’s tongue in cheek, a wry twist on what has come before. This one made me smile from ear to ear. Its truth reflected in my librarian’s reaction to my checking out of the book.

Mr Hall reminisces about trips he made to Washington DC over the years, including the year he was Poet Laureate, and the most recent trip to receive a National Medal of the Arts from President Obama. Let me be clear: the author is “scruffy” in his advanced years, but it doesn’t bother me (he looks much like my own brother!) In the “Yeti” essay, the author writes of the picture published in his local paper of him receiving the Medal. “Top of the first page was a photograph of the President looming over me, hanging the medal around my neck. My mouth is open in life’s widest smile as I confront the neatly dressed Obama in my sports coat and khakis, with my frizzy hair and reckless beard.”

He goes on to tell of the picture then being picked up by a blogger for the Washington Post named Alexandra Petri. “She identified me, called me a poet, and assured her audience that I was not a yeti. She announced a contest for a caption.” But of course in this age of Internet bullying, the picture brought in entry after entry “…gleeful with ridicule. Then there were reactions. I was praised and Ms. Petri was scolded. I was defended as a poet, and flattered despite my appearance.” He ends the essay with this: “…With our increasing longevity, Ms. Petri should live to be a hundred. May she grow a beard.”

Now back to my librarian. She handed me the book and said, “That’s quite the cover art,” with what I sensed as some distaste (and perhaps a little insult to me for wanting to read it??) I said, “well, yes, it is a bit of a close-up.” I chuckled to release the sense of “judgement(?)” I felt. And she went on, “Yes, I wouldn’t want to put that on my bedside table.” (I hadn’t read the book yet or I would have questioned whether she knew Ms. Petri?). This time I didn’t answer. And she still went on, “Yes, I wouldn’t want to put it on my bedside table because I would feel like someone was watching me.” I then made a judgment on her in return…You are a librarian and you are passing judgment on a Poet Laureate and Medal of the Arts winner???? But again, I digress.

Bottom line is that I enjoyed the book because I enjoy Donald Hall’s writing, his irreverence, and his sense of humor. I’m glad that after eighty he is still writing. And I hope there are plenty of people who won’t judge a book by its cover!

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Outmyfrontdoor230This is the worst winter I can remember in New England. Not that I have TOO many years to compare, but certainly enough. I heard an interview with a 91-year-old woman on the radio…she has a lot more years to compare and even she said it was the worst one she has seen.

On Facebook we all share our “snow” pictures. But the pictures just can’t convey to people who aren’t here what it is truly like. It looks and feels like we are living at the beginning of one of those science fiction movies of the end of the world…Remember “Day After Tomorrow”?

All the services we take for granted: train service, trash service, mail delivery, interrupted or practically non-existent; people taking hours and hours to get to work and get home from work. Every task is harder and takes longer; sore backs and muscles from the endless shoveling…people dying of heart attacks. Everyone is completely on edge: mini-meltdowns are everywhere. Here’s a few vignettes…not horror stories, just stories of everyday life during SNOWMAGEDDON:

My experience — trying to take a left out of my driveway through a “hole” in stopped traffic (because you have to TRY to get to work sometimes…employers don’t expect you to stay inside until spring), completely blinded by snow piles and stopped vehicles I pulled out, only to get rear-ended. The woman and her passenger jumped out of their car screaming and swearing at me. Two kind men from one of the trucks that was stopped in traffic told them to stop yelling and back off. I was forced to retreat to my vehicle, shaking like a leaf. She completely frightened me.

My brother ‘s experience – he was in line at the grocery store before a storm…one of those places where there is one big line and someone directs you which register to go to. Suddenly the woman in front of him started attacking him and swearing about her “personal space.” When she got out of line, the lady in front of her turned to my brother and said, “Don’t take it personally…if that is the worst of her problems she’s got a lot more to deal with!”

I went to the Post Office to pick up my mail because it is not being delivered, despite the fact that the mailbox at my apartment complex has been shoveled out. (at least we have one…most people have resorted to cardboard boxes labeled with a Sharpie). There were others doing the same thing, not too bad a line though. The mail lady (who I have dealt with before and she was perfectly pleasant) would not listen to me…”Is it shoveled out so the mail carrier doesn’t have to get out of his truck?” she demanded. (Mind you, he has never been able to deliver it without getting out of his truck…even in the summer…not where it is situated…but never a problem before.) I told her I was just a renter…she said, “Tell your landlord they have to clean it out or we won’t deliver…and if you don’t fill out a yellow form to hold the mail, we’re going to start sending it back!” She went into the back to look for the mail for a customer ahead of me. He looked at me and sighed. “We have to help each other if we are going to get through this,” he said, and I nodded in understanding. But I filled out the yellow form…no arguing with her. I’ll go in there every day if I have to.

At my yoga class yesterday two ladies were talking about trash. “We don’t know when they are going to pick up the trash, and where do we put it? The days are all mixed up and no one tells us anything. My mother has been living with us and she has a cat. We keep bringing the bags of dirty cat litter down into the cellar…we don’t know what to do with them!” I smile to myself; I live in an apartment…I’m stuck with those bags. My complex has a dumpster, but I have to walk across an ice field to get there. When there is a lull between storms, I have to load up my car with bags of trash and drive them over there. But then…the “yoga” ladies were also laughing about the prospect of Valentine’s Day spent with her mother because the couple couldn’t go out to be alone…so amongst the complaints, there were jokes. Jokes about the weather people’s glee as they go on and on about the snow. “Better than hearing about ISIS,” I said.

Thank goodness there are some people able to grin and bear it, shared moments with kind strangers, like the men who checked on me after the accident, the old lady who told my brother not to take it personally, and the man in the PO. And there’s the wonderful jokes being posted on Facebook: snowmen being threatened with “harm”, signs that say “Massachusetts is closed!”

Finally, I want to share what one of my friends on Facebook said so perfectly. She thanked everyone for posting their snow pictures, stories and jokes because it made her feel like we were all in it together; no one was alone. We were fighting back against one of the worst effects of all…the isolation, especially for older people. I was secretly happy that the “yoga” lady had her mother at her house, secretly happy that woman wasn’t alone.

This isn’t a science fiction movie, it is real life and it WILL pass. Spring is only about a month away…hard to imagine, but that, along with the fact that I still have electric power and heat while I write this, is something to be grateful for.



{November 5, 2014}   Talking to Ourselves

cartoon

Talking to Yourself

I have a confession to make: I talk to myself…a lot. I have done so since I was a child when my brother would harass me with his “talking to yourself” song and make me feel bad (and how many times in my life did people give me weird looks and tell me I was crazy…more times than I can count). But the reason I am able to confess this in such a public way now is because I’m not ashamed of it anymore. Now I realize how many people do it…a lot.

This thought struck me yesterday as I listened to a coworker: a lovely woman who I don’t think is crazy at all. And suddenly I became aware that many people I work with chatter away to themselves all day. I hear them as they use the copy machine, which is near my cube, and I listen to the mumblings that float over the walls. Is it more prevalent now than when I was young or am I just noticing it because of close working conditions? Is it an age thing? (Most of the people in question are over 40.) I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but I allowed myself to observe some of the functions this conversation seemed to provide for my coworkers (and myself):

  • We are helping ourselves get through a task (speaking the steps helps us to be involved in what we are doing). For myself, I find this especially helpful when I am doing something really boring when my mind tends to wander. It keeps me in the moment.
  • We are reminding ourselves of things. When I am interrupted, sometimes I forget that I had a planned list of things to do. “After I finish copying this material I need to put this on Joe’s desk and then stop at Kelly’s and pick up that file from her before I go to the bathroom on the way back to my desk…”
  • We “blow off steam” after an encounter with someone. “Boy, was that customer rude!” or “What a jerk!” It helps us get rid of frustration.
  • We are trying to make our own fun and keep ourselves entertained. I love hearing the little asides people mumble about conversations going on over the cube walls. They say it soft enough to not seem like they are participating in the conversation…and yet, loud enough that some people can hear and appreciate the comment.
  • Lastly, I think it relieves loneliness. Most workplaces discourage stopping by someone’s cube to tell them about an encounter that didn’t go well (or did); we are all supposed to keep our minds on our work and not socialize. And let’s face it, going to lunch with people who all sit silently around a table and look at their phones is not very satisfying social interaction.

So after writing all this I did a search and came up with this article. I guess I forgot that function of encouragement. That’s a big one.

Since it is now “okay” to talk to myself, I can at least make it work for me by making it positive instead of negative. Heck, maybe if someone overhears me congratulating myself they may join in.

All I know is that the constant chatter of people around me reminds me that I am not alone and I find it comforting.

What about you readers? Do you talk to yourself?




I had a rough week at work last week; one of those weeks that makes you take a whole weekend of doing things you love to recharge.

Saturday I had a visit with a friend I have known for 50 years. She just got back from a fabulous trip across Europe. I missed her, but she sent me pictures every day as if I were travelling with her. Priceless. There’s no jealousy on my part; she shared her trip with me and I felt happy for her. That is the way it should be with friends who love and value each other.

Yesterday was a glorious sunny day and I had an outing with a treasured old friend, one that I have known for 30 years. We have many interests in common; we both love to walk and take pictures, but we don’t live close so these events have to be planned in advance. Time flies when I am with her. When I am feeling like someone who has been transported to a hostile planet, she brings me back home. She reminds me of who I was, and still am somewhere inside, despite the fact that I may feel transplanted, lost, and downright scared. You can’t put a price on that.

Yesterday we were walking around a graveyard and found this gravestone. We both loved it, read the words aloud together and took a photo.

Gravestone for Ann Ellery

A Loving Gravestone

 

There was a silent pause as we both thought about Ann, who we never had a chance to know. But my friend said it first, “She sounds great; I would feel lucky to have those things said about me.”  In the post-feminism age, these qualities may sound laughable to some. But the description makes me think of a Jane Austen heroine, vibrant and full of life, someone who must have been fun to talk to, and valued as a friend. It’s wonderful not to have to explain this, or excuse this thinking to my friend. I know we have more than surface things in common. We have deep values about what is important…this is why we are still friends despite the changes in our lives.

In case you can’t read it, this is how Ann Ellery is described:

To the memory of Ann Ellery…

In every aspect of life, she exhibited a becoming behavior,

was sensible and quick of apprehension,

spritely and agreeable in conversation,

hospitable, charitable, sincere and pious.

 

I have to say, I don’t believe we see these qualities too often in today’s selfish greedy society, and I think we are the worse for it. But I feel lucky to know some people who wouldn’t choose to put on their gravestone achievements or job descriptions, but a picture of a treasured human being.



{February 22, 2014}   Survival Lessons

Survival Lessons

Survival Lessons

A friend recently recommended this book to me. I like Alice Hoffman‘s writing very much, so I got it out of the library.

I like to read thought-provoking or spiritual  materials in the morning. In the preface, Alice Hoffman describes her book as a guidebook for going through a life crisis; in her case, being diagnosed and fighting breast cancer. She said she wanted to write the book that she was looking for at that time, but couldn’t find.

It took me 1 hour to read: the time it took me to have two cups of tea and a couple of pieces of toast, so in effect, I devoured it. I would definitely recommend it as a “breakfast time book.” As I read it,  I could think of many friends I would love to give it to, people with loved ones going through battles with the big C. All of that being said, when I finished it, I thought, “If she wasn’t already a successful writer, this book wouldn’t have been published.” Not because it was wasn’t worthwhile, but because it was so simple. Some thoughts about life thrown together (not in a bad way), like having a good conversation over breakfast with a friend or reading some of the well-written blogs out there, complete with uplifting quotes and pictures. The reviews were quite good, if you would like to read them, but this is not a review…it is where my mind went after reading the book.

Every day I feel like I’m learning my own survival lessons, though I’m not going through a crisis of Alice Hoffman’s magnitude. Perhaps if I was, I would have gotten more out of it. I have been sick all week and I have been struggling through each day, unable to take a day off. Ok, I admit I was feeling some self-pity. I don’t have anyone to take care of me, and I live so on the edge financially that illness means a lot of money spent that I don’t have. It is a minor disaster to have to buy kleenex and medicine.

As I walked into the lady’s room with a coworker yesterday, I complained a little. She said, “what you need to do is talk to someone who is worse off than you.” Now, I have been told that before…and yes, sometimes it does the trick. But at what point does being surrounded by people with disasters in their lives make you suffer survivor guilt or give you a vision that life just contains too much pain and too little joy? A bit later I overheard her talking with her daughter on the phone and I knew she was suffering her own problems. I got up from my chair and went over to her, “That person worse off than me that you were talking about…was that you?” I said. Her eyes teared up, she gave me a quick synopsis and I gave her a hug.

A little bit later I had a conversation with another coworker who is in the process of finding out whether the cancer she just had removed is anywhere else in her body. She is extremely anxious about it, which is understandable, and I feel for her.

I said, “Ok God, I got the message,” and I shut my mouth because I didn’t deserve to complain. But I do have some bones to pick with the “do what you want to do” attitude portrayed in positive message blogs and in “Survival Lessons.”

Alice Hoffman recommends a lot of things in her book, one of which is to go on a trip to someplace wonderful: she chose Venice. And where does a normal person who is surviving one day at a time get the money to finance such a trip?? The people in crisis I know are lucky if they can pay their mortgage or afford their medical procedures. If I thought I was going to die soon, would I spend my retirement money? Yes. But, my grandmothers lived to be 102 and 96; unless the unforeseen happens, I have to be responsible and prepared to be able to take care of myself for many years to come, so a big “dream” trip is not reality for me.

I see people post wonderful blogs about doing all the things you want to do. I applaud them for doing what makes them happy, but I’m not a risk-taker so I’m not going to jump out of an airplane, and to be honest, I have no desire to. Even watching the skiers and snowboarders at the Olympics do the crazy things they do, gives me the shivers. So how does someone who doesn’t have big dreams or financial means celebrate life?

In very small, not particularly exciting ways. I enjoy walking, reading, blogging and playing with my cats. I am glad to say I have times when I feel content. But when I see others actually getting “excited” about things, I think I’m doing something wrong. I have convinced myself I don’t need much and really want for nothing, which is healthy, but is it real? I sometimes miss my younger days when a new CD or going to a show made me gush. Nowadays I don’t think anything is important enough to keep me from getting my sleep (including the Olympics).

So… “Survival Lessons,” I think I have achieved a passing grade: I am surviving. I have learned to appreciate each day in a quiet and grateful way, but sometimes I ask myself, am I living?




inspirational books, midlife books

My Navigation Manuals

I mean this in more ways than one. Literally, it IS time for me to rewrite the brief, third-person “about” page I wrote when I started this blog almost 4 years ago, when I had no idea what I was doing beyond reaching out desperately for a purpose in my disconnected desert of a life. But…I am also at the stage of my life when I have been struggling to find out who I really am (better late than never!). If you are into labels, there are many — menopause, mid-life crisis, empty nest syndrome — and just as many ways that it can play itself out in life. Sometimes it is a brief sense of vertigo where you lose your footing for a moment but get right back up with just a scraped knee; sometimes it is like suffering a stroke and having to learn to walk and talk again. We don’t choose the path; it appears before us. It is almost always a time of loss of some sort, but it can also be a time of renewal; it depends on how you approach it. As Christiane Northrup, M.D. writes in her book, “The Wisdom of Menopause”:

At midlife, I, like thousands of others, had to give up my fantasies of how I thought my life would be. I had to face, head-on, the old adage about how hard it is to lose what you never really had. It means giving up all your illusions, and it is very difficult. But for me the issue was larger than where, and with whom, I would grow old. It was a warning, coming from deep within my spirit, that said, “Grow…or die.” Those were my choices. I chose to grow.

I’m making that choice as well. I have had days when I literally felt like I was fighting for my life; dark thoughts were demons I allowed to hide and survive in the “gloom and doom” inside for too many years, and they came at me with ferocity. But I proved equally fierce. The time had come to break open the caves and let in the sunlight, sending them racing off to live somewhere else. To this end, I have been meditating and reading a lot. The aforementioned book is one that has helped me. “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach is another. And these books appeared on a “free table” at work, calling my name; others were given to me. I MUST CONCLUDE I HAVE A COMPANION ON THIS JOURNEY WHO IS HELPING ME ALONG. And I am comforted by that.

For years I have been questioning why the things that used to bring me joy do not anymore, as if it were a sign of an illness or disease, distressing myself all the more, not knowing how to “cure” myself. Reading Christiane’s book made me feel more relaxed about it, made me feel it is not something “wrong” with me, but a normal part of a growth process. Sarah Ban Breathnach gave me the “discovery journal” and “personal treasure map” as navigation tools for my journey. She says it better than I can:

Pray your journey be a long one. Savor the stops along the way. They make the search marvelous. Meaningful. Memorable. Find and honor your own pace. There are still so many harbors to be seen for the first time. You’re headed for someplace you’ve never been before. Keep your thoughts held high….Set your course for Authentica. Legend has it that once you reach her shores, you’ll not leave the same woman.

I’m set to enjoy the journey. For those new to my blog I hope you’ll want to join me and enjoy it as well. For those who have been with me for a while…I hope you are enjoying it…there are still so many harbors to be seen…don’t get off the boat!



{November 18, 2013}   Cursive Death

cursive writing

Childhood cursive

To keep cursive writing as part of elementary school’s curriculum or not: this story came on the radio in my car as I was driving the other day. My ears pricked up; I had actually had a draft post on this issue from July of last year that I never completed. I guess it is time.

This is one of the instances when I am proud to be from Massachusetts. Normally a liberal state, but at times…conservative. With the increasing use of computers and hand-held devices, the continued value of teaching cursive script in schools has been questioned in recent years, but the time has now come to make a decision as far as the law is concerned. Massachusetts is one of a few states that will continue to require cursive script to be taught in public school; 45 states are considering not requiring it.

The ramifications for future generations hit me personally, as I sat scribbling in my journal this morning in my own “hybrid” version of handwriting (random printed letters jumbled with cursive). It occurred to me that the generations ahead that I hope might be interested in my written ramblings, may not even be able to read what I have written.

Last year I sat at the desk of a coworker twenty years older than me. I looked at the notes she had written on stickies; some of them were difficult for me to read. Why? Because she wrote in TRUE cursive…I realized it had been so long since I  had seen capital letters written in cursive script that I had to work to process it. (Sometime in high school and college I found it faster when taking notes to use printed capitals and then switch to cursive as I write the words.) I began to experiment in my head, then on paper; I went through the alphabet mentally trying to write each capital letter in script. Guess what? There were a few I wasn’t sure I had totally right, and two I didn’t remember at all (Q and Z)! It horrified me!

I started thinking…Do they still make those preprinted, center-dotted-line pages we used to use in school to practice our cursive? I started thinking I wish I had one of my childhood school papers as a piece of artwork for the wall (I used to have beautiful writing)…I started thinking if future generations don’t learn to write it, they won’t be able to read it and won’t value it. I suppose someone will write a computer program where pages of cursive could be scanned in and translated, but…would anyone bother with the old letters and journals of a dead relative? I like reading my grandmother’s journals, but then I’m from the generation still nostalgic about antiques.

Readers, what do you think? Is learning cursive writing still important?



{November 6, 2013}   How NOT to Fail as a Blogger

Okay, I think we can all agree, “not failing” is not the same thing as “succeeding.” There are plenty of posts about how to succeed as a blogger (including this recent one)…and I don’t feel qualified to write another. If popular success is what you are looking for, this is not the place to find it. Why I am writing about “not failing”? I think I’m an expert at that, I’m not ashamed of it and I think a lot of discouraged bloggers could use the information.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

I will admit that seeing the movie “Julie and Julia” and a fascination with the story of that author’s road to success was part of what got me started blogging. But I didn’t follow that road, and somehow along the way, success morphed into not failing, which morphed into a vision of success completely different from the one I started with. How so?

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”  Winston Churchill

I can honestly say that blogging sustained me and perhaps saved me during a difficult time in my life. I had lost all dreams, all joy, and did not know where to turn. Writing my blog gave me a (initially a very small) purpose, a motivation to look at my bleak life and find something interesting in it to write about. For the first year, the only feedback I received was in emails from friends and acquaintances who said they were enjoying reading it. This helped keep me going, gave me the little sustenance I needed to continue until I made friends, found a purpose, became part of the wonderful blogging community and felt at home there — no longer lost.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Mark Twain OR Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. 

(I love that we don’t know who really came up with that quote)

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” Mark Twain

After almost 4 years I have just over 300 followers. I’m sure that doesn’t sound like success to people who have managed to get thousands of followers in less than a year. I get that. But I’m grateful anyway. You have to go beneath the surface of the stats to understand why…what cynical people might call “spin-doctoring.” I have 300 followers, but I haven’t even written one year’s worth of posts! That means on average that every post I have written has touched at least one person! 

I write when I have time; I write when I think I have something to say. This is considered the “wrong” way to go about it; all the articles say that is not the way to attain blogging “success.” But I keep going. I enjoy it, It has become a very important element in my life. I have learned that I am not a quitter. I have not “succeeded” but I have not failed as a blogger and I’m proud of it. If you think that is the equivalent of every child getting a star on their paper, so be it. I like my star.

Versatile Blogger Award

My “Star” on My Paper

Take another look at your statistics and see what you see, feel what it makes you feel. Write on, my friends!




I was telling my mother (currently my best friend) about my last post on different kinds of friends. My mother said, “Well I can’t read it because I don’t have a computer.” Fair enough…I understand that and I don’t hold it against her.

I have been told by some friends: “I don’t have time to read blogs…sorry.” I also understand that and I don’t get angry; many of them work a lot of hours, and we all have our priorities and different ways of relaxing. I don’t go to some peoples’ “events” because I don’t have time or it doesn’t fit my lifestyle, but I am choosing NOT to make it a priority. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about them, but I know I am missing out on getting to know them better and sharing an experience that is part of their life. It IS a choice that I am making and I have to “man up” about that.

But acknowledging and understanding these responses as choices doesn’t stop me from thinking that because my friends and family don’t read what I write, they don’t know me as well as bloggers from across the globe who’ve never met me! What’s up with that?! Of course our blogging personas are different than our “real life” personas, but they are surely an aspect of who we are.

That got me curious…fellow bloggers…Do your friends and family read your blog?

Just for fun, fill out this quick poll and let’s see what we find out!




Veteran's Section Cemetary

Veteran’s Resting Place

Although Memorial Day in the U.S. started out as a holiday to honor the soldiers who have served the country during wartime — a day for parades and family cookouts — over the years it is has morphed into something completely different: a celebration of summer, the first three-day weekend after a long winter (in the North), or simply a chance for a short vacation. I’ve previously written about my memories of Memorial Day as a child, my enjoyment of the parades in my small hometown, my pride in my father who was a veteran of more than one war, so this change is not a welcome one to me.

I know I am not alone. For anyone without family or those who are going through troubles, economic or otherwise, “holidays” like these can be tough to stomach. It’s hard to block out the shreds of others’ conversations about vacations and social plans and how much they are “looking forward” to the long weekend. It’s hard to feel there is nothing wrong with treating these days as if they are any other or with celebrating them in a quiet or different way.

For some people, this is the right recipe to be cooked up for such a holiday: don’t compare yourself to others, don’t set up scenarios in your mind about what your life is “supposed” to be like. JUST ENJOY ONE MORE DAY IN YOUR LIFE.

I thought I would share a poem I wrote last year:

Alone on a Holiday

Holidays can be dreaded things:

the Social noise

salt on a wounded heart.

Silence feared, but solace found only there,

where the heart talks to itself

like a mumbling old fool –

Write it down;

Walk it off;

Alone,

Enjoy the fresh air —

stop and watch the delicate butterflies

at their colorful buffet;

the bathing goldfinch, hopping joy,

in a puddle a passing cloud discarded —

those very clouds are the excuse I give

for the pall, the aimlessness, the gray mood —

but excuses are poor crutches.

Some days searching for some high purpose,

some philosophical answer is like ripping open a hornet’s nest

that no amount of home remedy can assuage.

Take a holiday,

Give up the game;

Read, rest, live.



et cetera
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