Sunday, December 25, 2011

Best Present Ever

Holiday Lights
Eric and Josie
I saw a blog prompt the other day which asked what was your best holiday gift ever.  For me, this year, that answer is easy.  The best present I have received ever has been this year when I have been given the gift of contact with both of my adult children, and after an absence in one case of nearly 15 years, the gift is priceless beyond measure!  

Josie and Grandma, with Chauncey and Poosa
And so for me this year this holiday season has been filled with light, joy, and love.  I include a few sample photos in this post and the full holiday photo album may be found here.  Meanwhile, how would you answer this prompt?

Josie, Kelly, and Eric

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What Motivates You?

Why do you do what you do?  I've been thinking about this as I write earlier than I might otherwise do because I want an internet badge.  What, you ask?  Yep, I know it is probably silly but the wonderful site has incentives to keep a person writing.  It is, by the way, a free site where you just (some just) write 750+ words a day.  I started a little over a year ago and today will be my 382nd day in an unbroken streak.  There are a lot of days when I don't feel like writing and days when I only write saying how much I don't want to do anything much and that is how today's entry started.  But I'm writing before I even have my first cup of tea as I really want to earn the Rooster badge, one of the few I don't have.  To earn that I have to write between 5AM (not likely) and 9AM (ok, maybe) for 10 days in a row so here I am making sure that no matter what else happens in the morning I get my words done first.  The pets are anxious.  Thackeray is being very vocal because he hasn't gotten his kitty treats yet, but the words will happen first until next Monday when I will have earned the Rooster badge. (And then I can try for the Bat, the late night one, which will be just as hard and riskier if I do it at 10PM because if I go to bed before then and forget I not only won't get the Bat badge but I'll break my streak!).

That all got me thinking about why I do things, and when I do them supposedly best.  I've just gotten a treadmill and I try to go a bit further or longer or both each day.  I set a goal and I shoot for it.  I'm doing yoga again, just 10 min. a day, because my doctor says I must.  She says it will help my fibromyalgia or at least keep it from getting worse.  I've been doing that for a week now and I'm doing it because I was told to, but I have to admit that it isn't easy.  I think it is hard to get going when I hurt and doing yoga with a nasty headache isn't my idea of a good thing, but I was told to do it for my own good, so there I am.

I find the quilting is going faster and better when I set myself a deadline and so the next two quilts I'm doing for Vashon Youth and Family Services will be ready for pick-up next Monday.  That allows me some slack.  The deadline is not unreasonable, but it keeps me moving as I don't want to disappoint VYFS or the mother and son recipients, so I will find the odd moments in the next few days to make the backs and pin the quilts and then starting Friday afternoon, I'll quilt, square, and bind them.

And my biggest effort of late, writing my novel in the month of November, was done under the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month (that got me another badge on also, by the way!), and I now have a certificate, web badges, and a t-shirt proclaiming my success.  I still obviously have a long way to go to finish the novel as this is only the first draft, but I have to admit, without the challenge, without the fellow participants, etc., I might not have written my first novel, something I have wanted to do for many, many years!

So maybe the badges and incentives are silly.  And I'm sure I would be better off if I had different motivations, such as doing the yoga and the treadmill out of a sense of self-love instead of because I was told to for my own good, for instance.  But until I develop that ability, the badges do help and I do manage to make my own challenges along the way that keep me chugging and keep the quilts going, and so forth and now, in spite of Thackeray's complaints, I have a draft of a blog post done, so not too shabby for first thing in the morning.

What keeps you going?  What incentives are effective for you?  Or do you even need incentives?  Have a super day!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pros and Cons

I receive e-mail prompts for suggestions of topics to write on and most of the time I'm finding they aren't very applicable.  But today's got me thinking.  The prompt was "What's tougher: living with someone messy or someone noisy?"  I'll leave you to answer this for yourself if you are so inclined, but it got me thinking, since I live alone (well as far as another human is concerned), which is tougher, living with someone or living alone.

Obviously if you are living with someone, the answer would depend greatly on who the someone is.  In my youth I was in a marriage for 20 years which I knew was a mistake by the end of the first year.  But I'd made a commitment and I was also scared of being on my own.  Of course it wasn't all bad, and I have two beautiful children as a result, but the marriage broke up when my answer to the question was it would be better to be alone.

Now 23 years later, having lived alone for longer than I lived with another, at least as an adult, I ask the question again.  There are definite advantages to living alone.  I can rebuild my home exactly as I want it and have the colors of paint, furniture, fixtures, etc. ordered to my tastes.  I can set up my day as I wish and have meals when I want, etc.  I have no one to answer to if I decide to quilt all day long or write a novel in a month.  Of course, as I listen to Thackeray complaining because I haven't tended to him as he thinks I should, there are family members who put in their opinions, but for the most part, I order my life as I wish.  And that is a very strong positive, for sure.  I'm not honestly sure, at this point in my life, having been alone for so long, if I could even change.

But there is also a flip side and at this time of year that flip side seems stronger.  It is lonelier and scarier living alone.  Things happen and I have to be aware that if I fall, or as happened a short while ago, if I wake up in the night with my back out and unable to move, I'm on my own.  And even without accidents, there isn't the sharing either.  Now it is true that probably no one else would watch Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas as many times as I am this holiday season!  But it would be nice to share it with someone.  It would be nice to go to the movies with someone, or talk about the book I'm reading, etc.

However, if I am honest, at the moment my health limitations are such that I just don't have the energy for being with people, at least the energy required to begin a relationship or a deep friendship and so I suspect I am, as is true for most of us I hope, exactly where I need to be.  My therapist is constantly pointing out that everything has a blessing and a curse attached to it, and being single is no different from other situations in that it has its bonuses and it has its drawbacks.  But overall it works for me, thanks in large measure to my furry companions who have no problem with my singing "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" at top volume!  I hope this finds you well and happy in whatever situation you find yourself.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Only on Vashon

Yesterday my car, Eglantine had a dead battery so that when I came out of Student Link to go home, she wouldn't start.  It was a Wednesday which is my busiest day and I was already late getting out of Student Link.  My first thought was that I would simply have to cancel my afternoon activities.  But first I called AAA.

That is when the fun began.  The very kind gentleman at AAA asked me for the address for Student Link.  I said there really wasn't one, but that the towing company would know where it is because Miles Towing is the only service on the island and we are a small community and Student Link is right next to the community pool.  Well the gentleman was very kind and very polite and very insistent so we finally settled on the High School's street address, which would do Miles Towing no good, but I knew they didn't need it anyway.

Then the AAA gentleman asked where the car was going and I said Doug's Auto and again he needed an address (which I suspect he found on his own) but I said, I had no idea but Miles would know and it was right next to the library.  Ok, he finally got it all set up, and he said, with some amazement in his voice, yes it is Miles Towing.  I suspect that he doesn't get too many situations like Vashon.  He then said that I had to stay with my car and that someone would be there within the hour.

Well, by this time, Nan, the head of Student Link, had discovered my difficulties and she said, no you aren't going to wait here.  Just give me your keys and AAA card and I'll give them to Miles when they get here.  Only on Vashon!  And then Julie, the program's administrator, stopped by on her way into town and she said she'd give me a lift home.  So I thanked Nan profusely and accepted Julie's offer of a ride.  I got home just in time to catch Leigh who was taking a break from work and heading out to lunch, so she gave me a ride to the Senior Center so I could teach my bridge class and afterwards gave me a ride to my therapy appointment, and finally a  ride from that appointment to Doug's Auto as Eglantine was all ready, good as new, with her annual new battery.  Thanks to the fact that Diane never schedules many cars on the day before a holiday, even though Eglantine was their third emergency, they were still able to fix her in a very timely fashion.  And I had, of course, called both Miles Towing and Doug's Auto to alert them to the situation and both were totally fine with how things had been worked out.  Miles gave the key to Doug's Auto and put my AAA card in Eglantine, and all was handled easily and efficiently.

And on this Thanksgiving Day it makes me realize just how lucky I am to be living in a place like Vashon where people just pitch in and help when needed.  Life goes at a pace that addresses are frequently not needed.  We are small, and we are rural, and we are also an island so we know very well that we are all dependent on each other, sometimes, especially in winter, at some pretty basic survival levels.  And so that's how island life runs, at least much of the time.  I was told when I first moved here over 5 years ago not to bother giving my street address when people asked where I live but just to say I'm just south of Young's Corner.  And now, having painted my home bright purple, I am a landmark all in my own right.  People are now known to say that they live near the purple house on 87th.

I've never been a part of a small community before.  It has its drawbacks but it also has a great deal to offer.  Yesterday reminded me of that.  I wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why I Write

The other day I was explaining something which had happened to me and which was related to the topic under consideration and after a bit the person I was talking to just got up and walked out of the room.  I followed, but when the person started talking to someone else I obviously stopped my story.

This happens to me a lot.  I know I tend to ramble on.  My father always said I had logorrhea.  The other week I was in a class where I'd been asked a question and another student interrupted me in the middle of my response, which probably was longer winded than it needed to be, to say that I was off topic and then she proceeded to get things going as she felt they should be.  Of course, it was not her place to do this.  If I were off topic it was the instructor who needed to bring the focus back but so be it.

If people aren't this obvious then they tend to go glassy eyed or antsy.  After all these years I've learned to pick up on the signs and I stop rambling.  Then I've noticed that I have students with similar afflictions, so to speak, and I make sure, no matter what, that I hear them out and listen attentively to them, knowing what the alternative feels like, and knowing that many of them don't have many people in their lives whom they feel safe rambling on to.  And whether or not their current conversation is of great interest to me or not, the student is.  I care deeply for my students and so giving them some time to talk and letting them know that they are truly being heard seems a very good thing.  

Anyway, these latest incidents have made me realize one reason writing is so important to me.  I live alone and don't necessarily have anyone to share stories with, which I know contributes a lot to my tendency to ramble on.  But with my writing, I can keep rambling as much as I like.  The computer doesn't walk away or limit my words and if it is for a blog post, I will never know if my readers stop reading.  True, my pets can get demanding if I write for too long, and it is always interesting to write with cats blocking the screen, but it can be done.  

As I've been writing my novel, an endeavor by the way that only my fellow writers on Twitter or Facebook or my blogs seem to understand, I've written a lot more each day.  In fact, over this past weekend I wrote 7500 words on Saturday and 7100 words on Sunday!  That was a record for me and it felt really really good.  I've discovered just how much writing means to me, how important it is for me to be able to create, whether it is fiction, poetry, a diary entry, or a blog post.  It is a way to communicate with myself and hopefully with others as well.

Whether I'm writing creatively, something I have just starting to do and have a lot to learn about, or writing blog posts such as this or even writing my end of the day Tanka diary, I find that it is like talking to someone.  Of course that someone is mainly me, but I can process my thoughts, see how the day went, or experience the adrenalin rush of figuring out a plot twist.  And I do feel as if I am also writing to my readers, some of whom I'm getting to meet through their blogs and their comments on mine, and some of whom I don't know at all, but they are still very important in my thinking.  As a result, I have learned a lot about myself from my writing and that is helping in my ongoing healing process.

Nearly a year ago (it will be a year on November 26th) I started writing on a wonderful fun free website, 750, and I have written at least 750 words each and every day since and I plan to continue that discipline.  It helps me to get my words out, to speak my mind, to tell my stories, and to figure out my world.  Daily writing has benefits which I never before even imagined.  Sure I've written all my life, but always as the result of an assignment.  There would be a paper due, or chapter questions to answer or lecture notes to write up.  Some of that was really fun.  I learned the art of picking paper topics which I enjoyed because at the end, no matter how good the topic, I would be tired of it.  But that enabled me to write a doctoral dissertation on Scottish medieval historians views of King Arthur or my thesis for my BA in Latin on modern translations into Latin of Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss, and the Wizard of Oz. 

But now I'm writing not for an assignment or a class but for me.  I realized a long held dream when I finished the first draft of my first novel.  I am not sure where I will go with it, whether I will revise it and eventually self-publish it, or whether I'll move on to writing something else.  Regardless of where I might now go, the very act of completing the novel was a major achievement for me and I learned a lot while having a really good time.  It showed me, among many other things, just how important writing is for me, and I'm sure that those people whom I do run into during the day will appreciate it also since maybe I won't ramble on at them quite so much.  Have a great day wherever your are and thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Update on Life

Gads, I can't believe it has been over a month since I last posted here!  Of course, maintaining lots of blogs--it has now grown to four, is challenging and insane, but even so.  My last post here was still swimming upstream and that hasn't changed, which I suspect is why I haven't posted in awhile.  I love all the things I'm doing, but some days it is hard to keep it all straight, so to speak.

Anyway, here is a quick update and hopefully photos will follow on another post soon!  Let's get the health update first as it is boring.  I had a very nasty spell with my bad back, which really laid me low for several weeks.  I have a great chiropractor and he had concluded that when I fell on the gym floor playing badminton in my stocking feet (not my fault I might add as we were required to do that once because of some resurfacing of the gym floor issues) when I was in eighth grade and I fractured my tailbone, that I did damage which has come back to haunt me.  I've had problems with my left sacroiliac joint since I was in my late forties and it is just nasty at times.  But at the moment, it is doing much better, for which I am most grateful.  I've also found a new massage therapist--so hated to see my old one move away--and she (the new one) does hot rock massage which I am really enjoying!  I've seen her twice now and I am glad friends recommended her.  I had also tried another massage therapist and I made the mistake (for me and you'll soon see why) of going for a deep tissue massage and then not having her stop when it really hurt because I thought that was what a deep tissue massage was.  Anyway, the massage actually increased my chronic pain levels which had been getting worse slowly all on their own.  I went to see my doctor after that and turns out that my reactions to the massage, coupled with a lot of other things, gave my doctor the data she needed for a real diagnosis and it turns out I have fibromyalgia.  For people suffering with that a deep tissue massage can really cause problems, so now I know and I'll stick to the hot rocks!  But the diagnosis has allowed my doctor to set up a new treatment plan and I am glad to know what is going on, why I have such pain issues everywhere not to mention the fatigue and a few other things, but I also realize that this is a very hard thing to treat.  So that's my health update.

Sasha has had her own issues and as her vet said yesterday, Sasha is just keeping us on a roller coaster.  Dr. Nell even said that when she'd gotten Sasha's blood results on Thursday they were so bad that she was ready to dig her grave, but then the ultrasound on Friday showed major improvement in her GI track, no evidence of cancer, a possible kidney infection, and a kind of stasis in her GI track that made her nauseous.  So a few more meds were added and Sasha, bless her wonderful heart, is still being her usual inquisitive self and we are now on the up side of the ride.  Both Nell and I are hoping the ride goes on for a long time.  Sasha was diagnosed with aggressive oral cancer a year ago yesterday and given 2 months at best, but thankfully, Sasha didn't read that diagnosis.  And we are so fortunate to have a magnificent vet tech, Kay, who was genuinely happy yesterday to be back to twice a day visits with Sasha and me for Sasha's meds (definitely a two person job!).  Kay does this as a volunteer and it is a real blessing.  We have been so lucky in all our caring health care providers for Sasha--it has been and continues to be incredible.  All the other pets are thankfully doing well.  Oliver has had some ear issues, Chauncey ear and skin, Poosa eyes, but all very minor.  Thackeray is trying to become a vet tech (among other things) and Laoise is thankfully very healthy as she is so shy and disappears when anyone is around.  

I am really enjoying my work with Student Link (Vashon's alternative high school) and having my own library to run is a dream come true.  The students are all wonderful and being there three mornings a week (and thanks to budget considerations Student Link is only open three days/week) has made a huge difference to both the students and to Nan, the only teacher for 18 independent learners.  I'm not only helping with math but also writing questions and assignments for world history for one student and just generally being encouraging, ready to listen, for all who come through the door.  

And the big thing for me this month is National Novel Writing Month.  Folks have been doing this for many years, I guess, trying to write 50,000 words in one month, but it is my first time.  I've wanted to write a fantasy novel for a long, long time, but the reality is that I have never before written anything creatively.  All my writing, and there has been a ton of it, has been academic.  So I started writing Flash Fiction (that's my fourth and newest blog), and flash fiction has many definitions as far as word count but it is short, generally 1000 words or less.  I was doing a flash fiction story a day on my blog just to get the creative juices going and I'm sure I will return to that after November, but right now I'm just posting updates on my novel progress (today is day 5 of the challenge and so far I've written 5 chapters for a total of 9223 words--my novel is called Dragon Riders and I've set it up as 30 chapters long, intending to write a chapter/day).  It is pretty brazen to jump right into a novel, but I wanted to try the challenge and so far it is a lot of fun.  It is taking about every bit of energy I have after Student Link, however, so I'm not doing a lot else, but that is quite fine with me.  One of the Student Link students has also joined the challenge and that is truly fun to have a fellow writer whom I know.

My kitchen has gotten tiled and hopefully this week it will get grouted as well.  Leigh is preparing to install the cat walks which I know will please the cats as they haven't had them since last fall.  The remodel is nearing completion.  The garage needs insulation and sheet rock put in, but that will not be mudded, etc. just painted since sheet rock looks horrible.  But having real walls will keep the garage a bit warmer so things like paint don't freeze and it will also allow the garage to be properly organized.  I think work on the garage will also be starting soon.

Ok, so that is the update from my end.  I hope it won't be another month before I write again.  I shall try to get a bit more organized, but my novel will take up a big chunk of writing time!  Hope you are all well and getting into fall weather easily!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Still Swimming Upstream but All is Good

Dear Sasha

Well it has been an interesting couple weeks since I last posted and I still feel as if I am barely keeping my head above water, but in spite of that things are overall quite good.  The main worry has been Sasha, but thankfully she is once again gaining strength thanks to the combined efforts of Dr. Nell her vet and Kay the vet tech who so kindly stops by our house twice a day to give Sasha her many medicines.  Sasha helped me quilt yesterday and assisted with my weaving today, so I know she is returning to her usual friendly happy self.  She still has problems with the litter box, but that seems quite minor after everything else.
Dear Sasha

Chauncey has also had his share of issues having to have surgery for his skin condition which got dramatically worse and it turns out he has a staph infection which does not respond to antibiotics, but he too is getting better and after the trip to the groomers last Friday he doesn't look quite so strange.  Most of his back and right side had to be shaved right down to the skin and when the rest of his fur was longer and shaggy the contrast was not great.  But now he is more evened out and more importantly he is feeling much better.

Dear Sasha
I got a new piece of garden art, and dinosaur, specifically a dromaeosaur which I have named Freyja, and I won her in the Vashon Allied Arts annual fund raising auction.  I was lucky that my therapist's husband loves that event and was very happy to bid on my behalf since I don't do social functions in the first place and don't go out at night in the second.  Freyja was delivered last Thursday and she looks really awesome.

Chauncey and Sasha
And I've done a lot of quilting lately.  I finished my new bed quilt yesterday and slept under it for the first time last night.  It is a lot bigger and it was a challenge to keep shifting it around to work on it.  I used the time when the dogs were at the groomers to lay the whole thing out, back, batting, and top, and get it all pinned.  The only space large enough was of course the floor and trying to do that with three dogs would have been a nightmare, so I learned once again, that sometimes things we don't like (ie., having the dogs gone--the house seems so empty) can still prove to be positive events.  Anyway I was very pleased to have it all finished yesterday and Sasha came and slept on it for a bit last night.  She was the inspiration for the quilt and the reason why I made such a big one because she does like the quilt to go over my big stuffed koala so she can perch on top of it.  Last weekend I was afraid she wouldn't live long enough to see the new quilt, but her improved health and my speed worked well together.  She even helped me quilt it, which was quite lovely.

Freyja the Dromaeosaur
Today I've gotten back to my weaving, working on a project of magenta colored hand towels that I put on my loom last December, but then had to stop work on as the loom when into storage, and since then I've mainly quilted and only done a little weaving.  But at the moment I don't have any names for quilts for Vashon Youth and Family Services so I thought I'd take a break from quilting and do weaving instead.  I spent about 3 hours weaving today while watching the movie Australia, and Sasha helped me with that as well, so it was a lovely way to spend my day.

Freyja the Dromaeosaur
I am doing more and more at Student Link including taking over the library management and how fun it is to be able to put my MALS  (the masters in library science) to good use as I catalog and sort that collection.  I am also writing questions for a world history class for one student as well as marking lots of math of all levels and generally being a coach for the students.  I really enjoy that work.  And one of my former students from my days of tutoring at the library has requested my assistance with Algebra II.  I worked with him as a freshman and then he went off island for his sophomore year, but he is back now and it is great to see him and get to work with him.

Sasha the Quilter
That's about it on this end, at least as far as I can remember.  Construction has been at a halt over the past week as Leigh was working in Canada, but I think things start back tomorrow and I'm hopeful that my kitchen may actually be completed.  I will be throwing a monkey wrench into the works (hopefully not a big one) as I realized where I need one more outlet and that needs to go in before the tiling, but I'm hoping that Leigh can talk Gary, my electrician, into doing it.  Some things can only be figured out when the room is in use, and this is such a case.  Hoping all is well with you and yours wherever you are.  Thanks as always for stopping by!

My New Bed Quilt (102"x108")

New Bed Quilt (and Oliver)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Barely Keeping My Head Above Water

Sasha Eating!

I am barely keeping my head above water and this has been an especially busy and stressful week.  Every day since Tuesday I have either been at the vet's with someone or the vet has been here and today it is both.  I thought for awhile that I was going to lose Sasha, but she seems to have turned the corner and the ultrasound yesterday revealed no cancer but instead irritable bowel syndrome.  She was hospitalized yesterday so she could receive fluids and medicines and then I was able to bring her home for the night, but took her back up this morning for another day of the same.  But she did start eating last night and again this morning although not enough to change her weight.  She still weighs 4 lbs. 9 oz. (and she had been at 6 lbs 12 oz before she started the oral meds now three weeks ago), but for the first time in over two weeks she at least didn't lose weight!  So we are all hoping she is starting to recover and we have a game plan that will involve me pilling her with several pills once to twice a day for awhile, but if she can just start gaining weight we will have hope for more quality time.  

Chauncey after surgery to remove 3 bumps
And if that weren't enough, Chauncey's skin flared up really badly and one of his bumps (Cocker Spaniels tend to get lots of bumps as they age) turned really nasty so he had to have surgery to remove 3 of these things and we are still waiting for the biopsy results.  He has a bandaged right paw and he is wearing a blue t-shirt and he doesn't really care for either, but there it is.  Dr. Nell will be out this afternoon to change his bandage and see how he is doing and she will also bring Sasha home!

So adding all this onto my already much busier schedule has left me feeling as if I am barely keeping ahead of the game.  I haven't quilted all week, although I am hoping to do that today and tomorrow.  I haven't written many haiku or tanka or any kind of poem, and my twitter friends probably think I have fallen off the face of the earth.  It is tough when things get this chaotic and I am just grateful for the care and understanding of everyone at Fair Isle Animal Clinic, especially Dr. Nell and Dr. Dana.  

Front yard using new wide-angle lens
I am also very grateful for my new volunteer job at Student Link!  It is a big change for me and it does make for a more active schedule, but I think if the rest of life could sort itself out, I will like the new schedule and I will get used to it.  The students this year are really wonderful.  The program has 18 students and because there are so few, relatively speaking, the flavor of Student Link really changes from year to year depending on who is there.  This is my third year to volunteer here, and I have been amazed at how different it feels each year.  But this is the first time I have been such an integral part of the program and I am enjoying my added responsibilities and my more frequent contact with the students.  Some years I only got to know a handful of them, but this year I'm meeting most.  Some are doing Running Start, which is a program with our community colleges where by they can start early at the community college and so those students are off island during the day and hence I don't see them.  But the majority are here and now that they know I will be there every morning that Student Link is open (TWTh), they are starting to show up more and that is very gratifying.

Anyway, I am having to learn new organizational skills (or resurrect old ones) to keep everything chugging along and I do find by the end of the day that I am totally exhausted, but I'm hoping over time that it will all settle into a normal and not so exhausting routine.  Until then, if I don't respond right away to comments or don't get to reading other blogs from friends, etc. please forgive me.  Know that you are in my thoughts even if my actions don't seem to reflect that!  And now it is time to post this and get some quilting accomplished!  Have a super day wherever you are!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

One Size Doesn't Fit All

One size definitely does not fit all in any realm of our lives as far as I can see.  As you may know, I have just started a new year with Student Link, our island alternative high school, which has a total of 18 wonderful students.  I have been talking about this (as it is a big part of my life for a variety of reasons) and I have run into several people who do not believe that Student Link should exist at all especially in these economic times.  After all the regular classroom was good enough for them so it should be good enough for everyone.

I have been thinking hard about this and as I was dishing out cat food this morning (where one size definitely does not fit all!), I realized that in other times and maybe even now in other places, these students would have been forced into the standard box and if they rebelled they could face military schools, juvenile homes, etc. just because their minds and their bodies do not conform to what society considers "normal," since they learn in different ways.

I grew up in a very authoritarian household and I have also always been a timid soul who has avoided conflict on any level, avoiding it to the point of losing my true identity.  I knew what my father's wrath felt like and I saw it meted out to my younger sister (who was the "no" to my "yes") often enough that I learned early on that I was not acceptable and that my only choice was to force myself into the narrow boxes provided by my family and society at large.

It wasn't until I was in my 50's that I even tried to find the real me.  But even then, the idea, so deeply rooted in my psyche, that who I am is someone terribly flawed on every level, governed my quest for the real me.  I was determined to find myself, but equally convinced that that self must be horrible.  But I was very tired of pretending to be someone I wasn't.  And so at long last I started rebelling, but never with any idea of self-acceptance or that I was ok just the way I am.  It took me into my 60's to start arriving at that conclusion and even now (as I wrote on my Tanka Diary one day about my cat food dilemmas) my first reaction to disagreement or conflict is that I have goofed again or it is my fault or whatever.

So when I see a program like Student Link which is aimed at helping those of us who are not in the mainstream, those who march to a very different drummer, I am proud to be a part of that.  I do not think the answer is forcing the student to march to the same beat as everyone else, but rather to allow the student, all students in fact, to find their own beat, to march on a path that makes sense for them.

We all need to know that we are ok just as we are and that differences should be celebrated.  I so admire the students I work with who are able at such a young age (well, of course they don't think they are so young!) to figure out that they need something else.  And the program at Student Link is actually much harder than the mainstream classroom, requiring more discipline and self-motivation from the students.  They have to plan their curriculum, with guidance, but still they have to do it.  They meet with the Student Link teacher 45 min. a week.  The rest of their 25+ hours of school work/week must be done on their own.  Some have family support, but many come from less than functional families.  Some need to hold down jobs just to keep the family going.  Some have learning differences which they have to work around.  And they are doing that, each and every one of them.  I watch these young people blossom in the independent atmosphere.  I watch them make life changing decisions and learn what being a self-sufficient adult in our culture means.  I watch them follow their dreams and make their lives around things they are passionate about.

So when I hear the nay-sayers complaining, I gently smile and try to help them see that one size doesn't fit all.  Some very gentle souls are lost and broken by the structured approach which does not listen to the individual or allow for individual differences.  The school system here on Vashon thankfully recognizes that and that is why they have in their wisdom provided for Student Link.  And as I watch these students find their way and grow into the adults they were meant to be, the wounded soul in me heals a bit more.  May each of us be allowed the freedom to find our true selves and blossom into who we are meant to be.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life in the Purple House: Updates and Photos

Thackeray says dog beds aren't just for dogs!
I have just uploaded a bunch of photos to my Picasa album Mostly Pets, and I shall pick a few to post here but feel free to check them all out if you want.

Anyway, this past week was the first real week of school.  The previous week saw Student Link orientations, but the start of my regular tutoring began on Tuesday.  I survived and I am sure I will become more and more used to the new routine.  Meanwhile, I do really enjoy tutoring and these students, in Vashon's alternative high school, are just fantastic!  They have figured themselves out better at 16+ than I did for most of my life.  We bond over our mutual adolescence and they are so determined to figure out what they need to do to succeed as adults.  I feel honored to be part of their journey as they are a part of mine.

Sasha prefers glasses for her water!
Meanwhile, the construction update is mostly painting.  One kitchen cabinet did get finished.  The kitchen cabinets have been "nearly finished" since February, as our fourth cabinet maker commented, but I think we are getting closer.  And the exterior painting is coming along well.  Since summer has finally put in an appearance here in the Pacific Northwest, I think the exterior will get completed with any luck.

Chauncey high up on cat furniture hoping for food

Overall the pets are doing well.  I am concerned about Sasha as she is still not eating much if at all, and she now only weighs 5 lbs.  She has not had any chemo oral meds for over a week so I'm hoping they will be out of her system soon.  Those medicines which the oncologist assured us would be something most cats never even notice and that the chewables were something they would gobble down, well that proved to be false on every front for poor Sasha and we shan't be trying that again!

Oliver after the groomers (and Thackeray in back)
Laoise enjoys the sun on my dresser

Chauncey has lost some weight on the "pumpkin" diet but he obviously doesn't think much of it.  Earlier in the week when I decided that our couches could return from storage, I had moved things around to make room for the couches and inadvertently left a piece of cat furniture next to the kitchen counter.  I went out for about 15 minutes and came back to find Chauncey standing up in the middle of the counter looking very pleased with himself has he had emptied all the cat food dishes!

Chauncey standing proud where he has no business being!
Chauncey after the groomers

Poosa, Oliver, Thackeray, and Laoise are all doing well, thankfully!  And our regular vet will soon be back in town.  She comes to the house on Wednesday afternoon and that can't happen soon enough for me!

Chauncey on the counter hoping for more food. The bowls
are squeaky clean!

First ever quilt with only frogs for a 6 yr old frog lover
I have also been quilting and I have finished off three more quilts for Vashon Youth and Family Services and also finished the top for a new lap quilt for me and laid out and partially sewn the top for a new bed quilt also for me.  Today I am cutting lots of squares for the next set of three quilts for VYFS, and I hope also to get at least one of them laid out.  

So that is the update from the Purple House!  I hope all is well wherever you are with you and yours.  Thanks for stopping by!

Life is Fleeting

This has been a week of transitions and one where the brevity of life has been exposed more than usual.  A very fine Haiku poet, Svetlana Marisova, died this week of brain cancer.  I had known her for only a short time and even then only through NaHaiWriMo's Facebook page, but even as a novice I recognized the magnificence of her writing.  I was most surprised to learn that she was only 21 at the time of her death.  Some have already called her the best haiku poet in any language in the last 150 years!  She has left us a remarkable legacy.

And then a friend had to say farewell to a beloved dog after 16 years.  Further my own Sasha is not doing very well and I have no clue how much of a future is still in store for us.

Obviously these are very different passings or projected passings, but the point is that for all species, life is  a short and fleeting event.  Some species by their very nature live longer; others live only a few hours.  Some are able to live their allotted time frame; others have their lives cut short by illness, accident, war, etc.  But in all cases, even for those who live a relatively long time, the fact is that everything will one day die.  

We tend to fear death, which is natural in the first place, and an inborn survival mechanism for the species in the second place.  But the reality is that life and death are just flip sides of the same coin.  Life on this planet is eternal (or so I hope unless we as a species manage to kill off Mother Earth) and I suspect there is life elsewhere in the universe.  Life will continue in the big picture, but not for the individual.

At this time of year, with fall approaching, we can easily see Nature's natural rhythms of birth and death.  I used to dread winter especially as everything seemed so dead.  And humans have set up a frenetic pace of life around the Winter Solstice as if trying to deny that we are also carbon based life forms and we too need to slow down and do our "cave work" in the winter, just as the rest of nature does, resting and regenerating for spring.

All of life is cyclical and our time here in this world is limited.  This is not meant to be morbid, but simply to recognize the very nature of the universe at large.  Recently a blog I follow had a post entitled Kittens and Death and the writer's point was just that.  Every relationship we have, big and small alike, will end.  What does this mean?  It means I think that I need to acknowledge that and then live to the fullest, in the present moment, noticing what is going on around me, treasuring my companions along the way, looking up from my quilting to notice the birds foraging outside my window or the butterflies flying past, enjoying every moment with my four-legged companions knowing that I will in all likelihood outlive them, enjoying the good along with the bad, simply being present and aware.

That is not a very simple task, but it is one that I for one need to remember, and weeks such as this one, bring the point home and give me a chance to reflect and remember to stay present.  The past is gone and I have no idea what the future holds, but I know I have this moment right here right now, and that is more than enough.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yard Photos and Life

Well, I finally got some yard photos taken and there are too many to put in a blog post so I'll just give the link to my My Yard and Sasha album on Picassa.  Meanwhile, today I cleaned out my closet, getting all the clothes that no longer fit off to Granny's Attic where they can be resold for charity.  I have had to learn a difficult lesson.  Over two years ago I was quite overweight, a problem I've had most of my life.  One of the benefits of chronic sinus infections is that I didn't have much appetite, so as my life improved and I healed, I started eating only when hungry.  The pounds melted off and I was finally at the weight my father said was my ideal weight.  And I managed to maintain that for a long time by simply not eating much and watching absolutely everything I did eat.  There was no joy in any of my food and finally my doctor and my therapist convinced me that I was not at a healthy weight.  I was actually too thin.  So I've tried to eat more sensibly now and actually enjoy what I eat.  I stay off the scale (for the most part), and I still eat when hungry, but I'm not afraid to enjoy a sandwich or a piece of Amy's gluten free chocolate cake.  So, of course, I've now gained weight, which again both my doctor and my therapist assure me is a good thing.  

So I sorted clothes this morning and I also realized that when I first lost all my weight I tried "new looks," just the way an adolescent would, but then that is about where I am now.  I enjoyed the change for a bit, but truly it wasn't me in a lot of ways, so sending most of the clothes off was a recognition not only of my changed size but my discovery of what works for me.  I was never allowed to try out different looks.  I was just told what I had to wear to compensate for my short legs, bad build, etc., etc.  So it was fun to have the freedom to see what actually does work for me, and I have a much clearer idea now of what I like.  Healing is always a lengthy learning process and I'm just going with that now.  It would be easy to say that I could have known from the start that my father's idea on weight and looks would be as flawed as many of his other ideas, but I had to go through the process myself to see first, that I could do it, and second, that it was unhealthy to live like that.  It seems that this old lady is finally growing up, and that is a very good thing.  Hope you are having a splendid day!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Photos--Long Overdue

Well, I haven't posted photos in way too long so this post will be mostly photos of the way my Great Room is shaping up.  I hope you enjoy them!

Thackeray, Oliver, Poosa in kitchen 
Great Room 
Notice all the lovely art on my Great Room walls!  All have been painted by my friend Allison and I am truly lucky to have found an artist whose work I enjoy so much!

Great Room

Ok the photos are already out of date thanks to the electrical mess we had recently.  I now have new sheet rock to the right of the front door and across the ceiling toward the laundry area.  That meant I had to move my loom out of the way and so the loom is now where you see the piano in the above photo and the piano is below the clock in the photo below--where a couch usually is but the couches are thankfully still in storage because of Chauncey's back surgery.  Much easier to remove anything he could jump on than it would have been to keep him confined!  But at least you can get an idea about the room.

Computer/Desk Area of Great Room

Great Room

You can see the area to the right of the door where the sheet rock was removed.  It also was removed across the ceiling and both lights are currently in the garage.  But the good news is that the circuit has been rewired, new sheet rock has been installed and mudded, and I only have to survive two sandings and one mudding (I think).

Kitchen Area

The handles are on my fridge and freezer.  Vertical handle is the refrigerator and the four horizontal handles are the freezer drawers.  It is a really nice look, I think!

Thackeray, Laoise, and Sasha

Queen Bee Mating

Queen Bee Mating

Sasha, Laoise, Thackeray

It is rare to find my three cats so close together!  Sasha has decided that my bed needs to be made over my stuffed Koala so she has a lovely perch.

New Soffits Being Installed

Fabric for a New Quilt for Me

Since Sasha has devised a new way for me to make my bed I need a wider quilt to cover everything so I picked out all this Kaffe Fassett fabric to use.  Thanks, Sasha, since we should end up with a spectacular quilt!

Island Quilter Bounty

Went to my very favorite quilt store, Island Quilter, yesterday and came home with all these treasures!  I would never have gotten into quilting if it weren't for this fabulous store and more importantly, Anja and Paul, who have been so encouraging and helpful!

Quilt #145
This is the first quilt I have finished in four months! Thank heavens I am feeling human again.  It is for a friend's mother-in-law's 85th birthday.

So that is the current state of me and mine at the moment.  Hopefully more current photos, especially of the yard, will be forthcoming soon!  Have a lovely day!

Apathy or Drug Side-Effects

Apathy: I have recently discovered that the main reason why I wasn't feeling alive or human was due to apathy which was a side effect of the 5-HTP I have been taking in fairly large doses for a number of years (doctor prescribed, by the way).  When I mentioned to my therapist how much better I felt even though all my "normal" chronic medical problems are still with me, we figured it had to be a result of taking a "drug holiday," specifically from the anti-depressant stuff.  She told me that one of the side effects of most anti-depressants, and one that isn't mentioned a lot, is apathy.  Well, it all makes sense now.  I just had no interest in anything and for ages I've had to push myself to do anything even when I knew once I got going I would enjoy it (like quilting, tutoring, etc).  I have just been forcing myself to care for me and my companions and to do what I knew I ought to be doing.

But it has been a continual uphill struggle.  I was raised with (or born with) the idea that one didn't complain, one just pulled oneself up by one's bootstraps and got on with what needed doing.  I have been fairly successful at that, but I get so tired from the forced effort.  But now that I'm off all those drugs, I'm finding that I actually want to do things.  I wake up in the morning now not bounding out of bed (I have never been a morning person) but with the thought that good stuff will happen and that I have nice things to do.  That is a real first for me.  I am still dealing with chronic pain, Hashimoto's Thyroid Disorder, sinus/allergy issues, constant headaches, fatigue and low energy, etc.  But that is just part of me and life and I am amazed now that I thought the reason I couldn't get up the interest to do anything was because of those aforementioned problems.  I see now that the real problem for me was the apathy.

I would never say that anti-depressants don't serve a purpose and I'm sure I did need them when I was in what I call the black hole of calcutta, but I had no idea that they take so much of the edge off of both depression and anxiety that they can leave one totally apathetic.  I don't plan ever to take such drugs again, knowing how they affect me (and again, they don't affect everyone in the same way).  If I start sliding into that black hole again, I'll work hard at finding other alternatives.  

Right now I feel as if I've gotten out from underneath a horrible cloud and that I am human again, and the relief is absolutely overwhelming.  I can deal with the other problems and now that I actually want to do things I have already found out that I will have to pace myself and pay attention to my limited energy levels.  I've started working with a chiropractor who I am hoping will be able to help me with a lot of my pain issues.  But some things I'm sure I will just have to accept and live with and actually that is ok with me.  I am just so happy not to be apathetic, not to have to fight to do anything.  The world is looking much brighter, thankfully!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Oh, What a Difference a Day Makes

I realized I haven't posted here in a very long time--guess that's one of the problems with having three blogs!  I post every day on Tanka Diary and also Daphne's Haiku, etc. so I tend to lose track of this one, and quite honestly, this summer has been a rough one health-wise, so that hasn't helped. First off, I do not recommend having 3 surgeries in the family in just over a month!  The surgeries began when I had sinus surgery, which I am still recovering from and the jury is definitely out as to whether this was successful or not (so far I say not).  Then Chauncey, my 13 yr. old cocker, had to have back surgery, which necessitated several trips off island to Tacoma, and his staying in Tacoma for 2 1/2 days, thanks to emergencies which delayed his surgery. And nearly simultaneously (as in just 12 hours later), Sasha (who will be 16 tomorrow) had surgery to remove a second oral cancer growth.  The surgeries for both Chauncey and Sasha have been extraordinarily successful, reaping better results than predicted, and they are both recovering nicely, but the stress has been considerable.

I am reasonably good in a crisis, but once the crisis is over, I inevitably collapse, and by the end of last week I was definitely someone to be avoided.  My back went out, my headaches have gotten worse, and then there were difficulties with the kitchen cabinets, and the net result was that I fell apart, was snappy and tearful, and definitely was someone to avoid.  For me, the worst was that I knew what I was doing but couldn't stop it.  My therapist later told me that no one communicates well when they are in pain and that was certainly true.  All my old survival methods came into play, and it was definitely not pretty.  I'm told that the fact that I could recognize my bad behavior was a plus, and I guess that is the case, but I sure would like to have better defense strategies for such situations.

In any case, I apologized to all concerned for my knee-jerk reactions, explaining that my pain levels had escalated out of control.  I am one of those who lives with chronic pain, and much of the time I can set it aside as just a fact of life, but not when it gangs up on me from all sides and jumps up to 8 or 9 on the pain scale.

I spent the weekend in my recliner, barely functioning at all, doing the absolute minimum to keep me and my companions going.  Yesterday was only mildly better, but hey, I'll take it.  Then this morning dawned as a new day!  My back was significantly better and that made the whole world look better!  I also had more energy than I've had for months, and I felt up to doing some gentle yoga.  As I was doing it I also realized that part of my problem might have been related to my going off 5-HTP.  I'd been on mega doses of that for several years, but started cutting back at the beginning of the summer.  I am now not taking it at all, but in looking on the internet, I read enough to realize that I might have low energy as part of the withdrawal from the 5-HTP.  I'm not sure if this is true, but it makes sense since it has now been 2-3 weeks since I last had any and maybe I'm coming out the other side of this.  

But what all this has taught me is that when any of us is sick or hurting, we can react in ways which don't sit well with others.  I have been doing a lot of work over the last few years to learn better ways to communicate, and according to my therapist, I have made significant progress.  She also pointed out that the progress has happened in spite of my health issues, and I guess I can believe her.  But when things get too far out of control, either pain or energy or stress, I slip back into the patterns developed when I was very young.  So I need to have compassion for myself in this as in other areas.

I also think it was a valuable lesson to apply to others.  I live in fear of most of the world and most people totally intimidate me.  At some level, I'm still that small child who was convinced that whatever I did I would trigger an angry response.  But I need to realize that when someone snaps at me or reacts badly in some way, that it probably has nothing to do with me and that the person could easily be hurting or sick or under stress.  This knowledge may not make the actions feel any better, but at least I can show compassion and not just assume I goofed again.

And so, once again, life's trials have taught me more about myself and have helped me see where I've made progress and where I still need to heal and grow.  I guess that's what life is about, but at this point, I'm hoping that I don't get anymore "major" lessons for a bit.  I would like what remains of August to be delightfully dull and uneventful so that I can rest and heal before the start of another school year!