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Archive for the ‘musings’ Category


New York makes me nervous.  The constant rushing, people walking every which way, mobs of people moving shoulder to shoulder – it makes me irritable and brusque at the same time it stimulates and invigorates.

It doesn’t help to stay in the theater district during Thanksgiving time.  Broadway around Times Square is one packed people mover, everybody with their own agendas and absorbed in their own worlds.  And if it’s raining?  Forget it – expect to be poked and prodded with umbrellas – no body part is off-limits as people rush in every direction hurrying to their destinations.  Me included, by the way.  I have no patience for strolling tourists who block entries to stores and stand gawking at the galaxy of mega neon signs in high-rise city.  They stand in the middle of the sidewalk, oblivious to pedestrian traffic around them.  This is every man and woman for themselves time and I find my temperament adjusting accordingly.

When we finally make it to the hotel and into the pint-sized elevator to our closet sized room the quiet becomes a deafening respite to the symphony of noises outside.  Sigh…. and collapse onto the bed.  At home in Tennessee, every window invites a view of the woods and gardens.  Here on the 6th floor of the Amsterdam Court Hotel on 50th between Broadway and 7th – I get a peek through a dirty window at an even dirtier building next door.  There is no nature to soothe the senses until you make it to one of the many small parks – and the mother of them all, Central Park.

And yet – I love it.  For a short time it’s the only place I want to be.  Enveloped in a myriad of foreign languages, I love the direct and forthrightness of life in the Big Apple.  Listening to New Yorkers yell at each other as part of casual conversational discourse is refreshing and reminiscent of home in Philadelphia.  That’s just the way North Easterners talk to each other, thank you very much.  A brusque, in your face, no holds barred style of conversing.  Say it like it is, no hidden agendas.  Ahhhhh… home.

The sophistication, the melting pot of nationalities, the open-minded acceptance of every creed and sexual identity is what America is about.  Should be about, anyway.  And I appreciate the individual expression of it all.

But I’m also glad to come home.  To take a rest from the crazy, bustling, busy busy busy world of NYC to the woods, hills and mountains of Tennessee.  The nervousness fades, the irritation subsides and the deep breathing resumes.

Carry on…

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This weekend finds us tending family fires, both the cozy and the more crackling kind.  After all there are few families who resemble the Waltons, all warm and fuzzy with never any cross words between them.  My family is more like the Bickersons, actually, we all have much to say and if it gets a bit heated at times, ah well, that’s life.  Yet beneath the prickly surface we are bound to each other deeply and unconditionally.

My husband and I don’t see our respective families often; we live hundreds of miles from them, and have since we left our homes for college.  On Thanksgiving we all make the effort to reunite – first with his family then with mine.  It’s the one holiday that is sacrosanct and I love the tradition.  Parents, brothers, sisters, spouses, nieces, nephews, and now their spouses and children, all pilgrimage to a family house to squeeze around a growing assortment of tables and feast the day away.

Thanksgiving isn’t one of those hallmark card holidays, you know the ones whose only purpose is to lighten our wallets.  Hey, it’s very good these days to boost the economy, but in our family Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ & Fathers’ Days pass us by without fanfare.  Thanksgiving is different.  It offers a genuine opportunity to take inventory of our lives and devote a day, or even a weekend, to reflect on our personal good fortunes.

I’m among those who hold an optimistic perspective about life and tend to view the proverbial cup as half full.  The way I see it – each individual is on this planet for a finite period and what happens after that is up to personal interpretation.  I’ve been around long enough to know that a few problems will give way to better days and there will be gorgeous sunrises and sunsets that bookend each one regardless of the content between.

Research shows that an attitude of appreciation helps boost the immune system, which keeps all kinds of nasty stress causing ailments at bay.  And while money may help lower stress, studies also find it is not the panacea some people like to think.  Generally speaking, altruistic acts foster personal well-being.  As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says,

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

I spend time as a hospice companion and it’s a great teacher for the practice of “count your blessings.”  Offering friendship to people facing the end of life is proving to be a priceless gift to myself where I’m privileged to witness profound, yet simple examples of genuine appreciation.

One patient’s caregiver is grateful for each morning he’s able to maneuver his wife’s increasingly rigid limbs to dress her for the day.

Another patient eagerly waits for my visits so I can read the day’s news events because her eyes no longer cooperate with her habit of voracious reading.

And although taking care of her mother until that final breath keeps this caregiver virtually housebound, she is filled with gratitude for the opportunity to share such an intimate journey with her hero.

IMAGINE BEING THANKFUL FOR SUCH HARDSHIPS IN LIFE.  

The late Steve Jobs said,

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  

To me that means live your dreams, have no regrets and be thankful for the opportunity – all the opportunities, in fact.

I move that each day be designated personal thanks day.  All those in favor …?

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My neighbor was walking the neighborhood this morning with her grown daughter, deep in conversation as they passed by Pogo and me.  We share the daily ritual most days – usually my neighbor is with her husband and dog.  On weekends her daughter joins her.  It seems they use the time to catch up on intimacies from the past week as they lead their independent lives.

“A mother’s treasure is her daughter. “~ Catherine Pulsifer

Watching that close repartee sparked a yearning for the same.  I miss that kind of friendship between mother and daughter, a relationship I never actually experienced.  I’m not sure how you can miss what you never really had, but somehow I do.

“The mother-daughter relationship is the most complex.”  ~Wynonna Judd

My mother was my biggest supporter as a child; she schlepped me to one audition after another as I chased my dream of being on stage.  And after each rejection she comforted my heartbreak by telling me that someday she just knew my time would come.  Just persevere.

And when my heart was breaking from a boy I loved who wouldn’t be mine, it was my mother who helped me recognize that life wasn’t over.  And it was also she who comforted the boys that loved me but weren’t able to win my heart.  She counseled them on the phone and encouraged them to move on.

It was also my mother, and only my mother, who came to my piano recitals, choir performances, plays (as a chorus member), and later – talent shows and performances at college.  She rooted for me in everything I did and felt that I could hang the moon if I wanted to.

“1 mother + 1 daughter = 2 best friends”  author unknown

But she was never my friend.  As I grew older we continued to talk, but we grew farther apart never really learning much about what makes the other tick.  She was consumed with her frustrations and I with a need to offer her ways out of them, though she never heeded any of my suggestions.  She was not a mother who pulled her children close to her, in fact, she looked forward to the days when we’d be out on our own and she could fly solo again.

I have a few women friends who adore their mothers, respect and admire them and spend as much time with them as possible.  I’ve always envied them; I wish I’d known that closeness.

What’s your relationship like with your mother?  And how has it changed over the years?

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Last week’s exercises in my non-fiction creative writing class were interesting ones.  We were asked to list obsessions and strong memories, then expound on them.  A collective sigh came from the four of us until the juices started flowing inspiring each of us to become absorbed in our unique internal lives.

Early on it became clear that this assignment would offer each other glimpses into who we are.  We met as strangers from different parts of the area and today we’d share intimacies – because of a writing exercise.

A single woman in her early 30s struggles with a driving desire to find herself, to one-day have the courage to leave her job of 12 years and follow her dream.  Trouble is, she can’t identify that dream.  Maybe this writing class will coax that passion to the surface.  Or maybe writing will help her understand why each new relationship ends up falling apart as she wonders on paper whether this current beau will stand the test of time.  She’s plagued by the need to compare herself to peers with husbands and children which feeds a certain panic in her soul.  Now we understand her a bit better.

The woman to my right obsesses about her weight and writing and, hopefully, earning money from her prose.  She used to be a teacher and grew very frustrated with the politics of education and students’ lack of interest.  She yearns for the day when the solitary hours spent putting thoughts on paper will be validated with a check in the mail.  She and her husband are retired and she struggles with the balance of taking care of him and the urge to spill herself into her fingers on a keyboard.

Then there’s the woman whose childhood trauma sparked a love for poetry.  Pouring her tortured heart onto paper somehow eased the pain of losing her mother when she was nine years old.  A drunk driver slammed head on into the family car while her mother was at the wheel.  While this girl waited outside the car for an ambulance to arrive she remembers hearing her mother gurgling, still trapped behind the steering wheel.  Those injuries proved fatal.  The father spent days in the ICU recovering from his physical injuries, though his heart never healed.  So that nine-year old girl and her siblings were shipped out to be cared for by others. Today this now grown woman has a deep story to tell and skimmed the shallow surface with us.

As for me, I wouldn’t say I have obsessions, per se, what I have are driving passions, one of them is horses.  Though I’ve never owned a horse, I usually find a way to be around them; lately it’s volunteering at a horse rescue where we rehabilitate neglected and abused horses.  This past week I also attended horse camp where we brushed up on our riding skills mounted on Paso Finos and Tennessee Walking Horses.  Their strides are smooth as velvet and much easier on the legs and back.

Eye of a Horse (Andalusian)

Image via Wikipedia

They say that horses are windows into your soul and maybe that’s why I’m filled with emotion when grooming them.  Watching their powerful, graceful bodies prance around a pasture fills me with awe.

There are a lot more stories inside us waiting to be coaxed to the surface.  We humans are fascinating creatures – each with a unique story to tell to the right listener who extends a sincere invitation.

What are some of your stories?

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