Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice - December 22 (12:30 am)

Picture taken from http://www.juliamccutchen.com/uploads/blog//wintersolstice_stonehenge.jpg


 Today begins a new year.
 While I know January first is the traditional beginning of a new year,  there are several other "New Year's" dates that are far more important to me personally.  September, because I am a teacher, is ALWAYS a new year, a fresh start, at school.  And, the Winter Solstice, is by far the MOST important new beginning for me - the day the light begins to return to the earth. Seconds at first, then minute by minute, gradually earth, and we with it, turn our faces to the light once again, a little more every day.  Though it seems, where I live, that winter has not even yet begun, and lies still too many long months ahead ahead, I take comfort in the fact that even though we may eventually be in for snow and winds and storms and many bitter cold days, we are, in fact, actually doing so with more light in the world. That's strong encouragement. Too many bad things happen in darkness, and many more good happen in the light. According to the ancient Celts, the year could be divided most simply into "the dark half," beginning at Summer Solstice, and "the light half," beginning at the Winter Solstice.  Many, many cultures celebrate the bringing of the light into the world in some way or another this time of year, and although I strongly, strongly believe and hold fast to celebrating the Savior of Mankind's birth as that of bringing the MOST light to a dark humankind, it doesn't, in any way, preclude me from celebrating the physical return of a few more moments of sunshine on the snowy ground, either. I love the winter solstice. It is magical, and doesn't require that I buy the perfect present, stress over how many different types of cookies to bake, or worry about getting my cards stamped and in the mail on time. It's a joyful new beginning, just when the world, and I, needs it most.
A New Year Blessing - by John O'Donohue  
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life."

Picture taken from http://blog.thepartybazaar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/winter-solstice.jpg

Saturday, December 10, 2011

High School Boys, and Their Cookies

     In an effort to get into some sort of Christmas spirit today (I always feel like I owe it to my family, at least), I have begun some baking while listening to soothing Christmas music on Pandora radio. It has taken all day, but I’m softening. Oddly, it was discovering that on Pandora (an internet radio station my kids put me onto last weekend) I CAN just listen to quiet, instrumental music, not the awful stuff played on the radio that completely sets my teeth on edge.  That helped. And although I made a list and shopped for items needed for Christmas baking later this week (hopefully I can mix up a batch, one per evening, or SOMETHING at least…), it wasn’t actually Christmas baking I ended up doing today, and this isn’t even a Christmas story. But where I ended up in my head today was nostalgic, and a little sad and a little happy, and I felt like sharing.

     I’m not exactly sure how it started, but I have baked cookies a couple of times this fall for some kids at school, high school boys, former students of mine in 3rd and 4th grade, or 5/6, depending, and for the past few weeks they’ve been seriously BUGGING me for more. I have felt sooo blah that baking was just not even on my radar. I bake when I feel good, when I’m happy, and I’ve just been in such a funk for weeks that every time they poke their heads in my classroom door to ask, hopefully, for cookies, I’ve started cringing, because I just don’t WANT to bake. Last week, things got serious – they took my giant (stuffed) husky dog that I keep in my classroom hostage.  Of course, I didn’t notice until the hostage post-it note was left on my computer, but I have to admit, it was pretty funny. These kids have grown up with my dog, (especially my husky dog-Alaska) obsession, so they knew how to get right to the heart of me!  And I decided this weekend that I really SHOULD bake them some cookies, so, despite not really “feeling it” today, I did finally whip up a batch of the requested peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies.  As I was putting the cookie dough on the sheets to bake, and thinking about the guys I was baking for, I was overwhelmed with a huge wave of deja vue, and nostalgia.

You can't tell, but all of the pink notes stuck to my board behind my computer are notes requesting that I PLEASE bake cookies... notes which I have been ignoring...

This is what I found stuck to my computer LAST week...

So, I guess it's serious, now...
     When I was in 6th and 7th grade, three of my good friends at school (a K-12 school, with less than 500 kids, so everyone knew everyone) were guys who were 5 and 6 years older than me. Mark A. was a Senior when I was in 6th grade, and Ron F. and Rob J. were both Juniors. I had a crush of sorts on all three of them, but I was also genuinely friends with them as well. All three of them were good Christian guys and I looked up to and asked a lot of questions of them, as I searched for my place in the confusing world of religion and faith.  Not an easy task for me growing up, for too many reasons to go into now, but needless to say, all three of them were patient, kind and encouraging teachers and friends to me.   They, all three of them, made a HUGE impact on my life in such positive ways – I’m so very lucky to have had them IN my life as I was growing up.  Anyway, I got thinking about them today, because I used to bake all three of them cookies and leave brown paper lunch bags of them in their lockers at school, on the little top shelves.  My dad worked at school, so I used to get there early, and go up the back stairs, technically not allowed until after the bell rang. Ron and Robbie’s lockers were at the top of the stairs by the math room, and Mark’s locker was down in the very first set of cubbies, closest to the elementary wing. I remember feeling sort of sneaky as I opened their lockers, put the bags up there, and then watched for them in the halls, in between classes the rest of the day. There they’d be, carrying their little brown paper bags, or even just a big handful of cookies with them, happily munching away. They’d grin at me, or yell a loud “thank you” across the noisy crowded hallway. Sometimes I’d get a hug, always praise for my baking, and sometimes even a thank you note scribbled on notebook paper. Those notes always really made my day, since I did have that little bit of a mad crush on them, a hand written note, well, THAT was something! And I could keep it, and re-read it a million times over, closely studying how they had written the L in my name, or how they had signed it or whatever (ok, I was 11 – give me a break!)  I guess I never realized until I had 2 hungry high school boys of my own how much boys like cookies. And now, baking for some of my favorite high school boys, even though they steal my husky dog and leave me ransom notes, I realize that boys are ALWAYS hungry, and anyone, girl, teacher, mom, ANYONE, who makes cookies just for them and fills that constant cookie-hunger they live with, it seems, is a hero in their book. I could use a little more being a hero, some days.
     The nostalgia, thinking back to Mark, Ron and Robbie today, and my early beginnings as a half way decent baker, was nice. Except a little sad, too, because although Mark would now be 54, nearly 55, and Ron would be 53, almost 54, I think, if they were still alive, the fact is, they are not. Ron died quite a long time ago, I bet it was at LEAST ten years ago, if not more, of a brain aneurysm, I think, if I recall correctly. And Mark also passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, probably about five years ago, if not more, of a heart attack, I believe. Both deaths were very sudden, very unexpected, and so very sad, as they were both so young. Rob, though, thankfully, is very much alive still, and lives nearby, though I haven’t seen him in many, many years. I was able to recently reconnect with him through Facebook though, and that makes me feel good, to re-establish a relationship that was so important to me many years ago. I should probably tell him “thank you,” while and since I can one of these days – for the impact he made on my life, for his patience and kindness to a girl who quite obviously had a pretty serious crush on him. Not one of those three guys EVER made me feel foolish, or made fun of me, or talked poorly about me. They were genuinely nice guys, and even if they were not able to return the feelings of an intent, overly romanticized 11 or 12 year (!), they were able to make me feel that I was a friend, a real friend, even at my tender age. It was nice to think back on those days today, and I realized tonight that while I now have a container of cookies with which to negotiate the return of my giant husky dog, I also feel a little better than I did before I started baking today.

     Maybe I don’t bake when I feel good. Maybe baking MAKES me feel good. Just in case that’s the case, I think I’ll try it again tomorrow. Lord knows I need to get those feel-good endorphins SOMEHOW, and baking is easier than exercising!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Week Thankfulness

 1. Part of growing up spiritually is learning to be grateful for all things, even our difficulties, disappointments, failures and humiliations.--Mike Aquilina (Love in the Little Things: Tales of Family Life)

2. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.--Melody Beattie

      A lot of people have been posting on Facebook this month something they are grateful for every day, between the beginning of the month and Thanksgiving day. It's a nice idea. And awhile back, I had planned to start doing as my niece tries to do, a "Thankful Thursday" post every week. Neither of those things has yet happened for me. My life, if nothing else, is not organized or structured nearly enough to help me accomplish those two things, but, maybe I'm thankful for that. I'm not sure. I WANT an organized, more structured life, but I'm afraid that it is really at odds with the creative and impulsive juices that flow through me and make me who I am. If it would mean sacrificing that, then I'm not sure I would be as happy with rote structure and routine as I think I would. Part of growing older is learning who we REALLY are, and accepting that, instead of fighting it.
     I have so many things to be grateful for, and far too often I don't think about them enough. I think I think about them more than many people, but not enough for my own good. This has not been an especially good year, in too many ways. It's been very stressful. And continues to be. AND, I know that the worst is yet to come, at SOME point. But, that doesn't mean it hasn't been a year without abundant blessings as well. It only means that I have been too caught up in the daily struggles to SEE my blessings as clearly as I have been able to other times. It also means, upon a little reflection and soul searching the past few days, that the things I think I could and should possibly be the MOST grateful for this year are not necessarily the things that stand out most clearly. What I am MOST thankful for, though, is that I am beginning to be able to look at some of those difficulties and challenges and times of pain and frustration, now or in the future, as actual blessings.  THAT change in attitude and view point is a sea change for me, and although I'm still a bit shaky on the ideas and concepts of it all, I am grateful that it appears to be coming into focus in shades of greys, with even a pink streak here and there, instead of all blackness, as it has seemed previously. The hinting of light, or promise of light, even in the midst of darkness, is a thin string of hope, and what could we possibly be more grateful for than hope?  Without it, I am nothing at all, and of no use to anyone, least of all myself.
     So - every day blessings? Children, family, employment, friends, food, shelter, warmth from cold days and nights, clothing, my dogs, the country of freedom I live in, those who are willing to take up arms and leave their families to defend my freedom, laughter, glorious sunrises and sunsets.  Yes. To all of them. I am most definitely grateful. Even on my worst days.
     But less obvious sources of gratitude, the deepest wellsprings for me right now are people who truly, truly understand me, inside and out, the bad, the negative, the ugly,and the good,  and who, instead of judging me, seek to encourage me and try to make me see my own beauty. Not an easy task, and truthfully, I'm not sure I can ever be convinced of my own worth, or beauty, but I appreciate so much the rare person who seeks to make me see it.
     I am grateful for the currents of creativity that run so deeply throughout my soul. They have often been a source of deep frustration, and even outside ridicule, but I'm coming into my own. I can almost celebrate them these days, and to not be so deeply ashamed of them.  I NEED to live creatively and differently from so much of the world. I don't care if that is weird. I'm tired of trying to conform to what "normal" people think is good and right. I'm grateful for having that knowledge re-awakened, and for not ignoring it this time. I've had "teachers" of this along the way, and although none have stayed the course of my entire life with me, I'm grateful that I have only allowed that knowledge and teaching to lie dormant, not die. It's still there. It is being whispered awake again. I'm grateful for past, present, and future teachers and see-ers.
     And, on a totally tangible note - I celebrate this week good blood test results for the first time in years. Health-wise, it appears that MOST things are working as they should be.  Finally. And, I celebrate that one of my closest friends is now appearing in my life in a different role in addition to being a friend for over 40 years. It makes me very happy.  It will make my Thanksgiving one of my best ever, I think, and for that, and all other things, good and bad, in my life, I give thanks.
     Now, if only I could get my family to FEED the turkeys, instead of eat them, all would be well...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sometimes I Get Really Scared

     I have found that the things I feel the deepest about, I either can't write about right away, or sometimes not even at all.  I guess the things I can't write about are there, still there, too deep to bring out. and other things just have to settle a bit, settle like sand sifting to the bottom of a lake, fitting itself in and around the bigger rocks and pebbles.  Last Thursday was a day that has taken me til now to be able to ALMOST brush off. And yet, the fear that I felt then isn't really gone, it's down there, settling amongst the rocks, but not really gone. It just isn't on the surface anymore, like it was for a couple of days, so I can ALMOST laugh it off. And if I can't really even convince myself yet to laugh it off, at least I can take it out, examine it in words, and see what I can make of it now. 
     We have a week in October every year when two presenters come in to our 5th and 6th grades from a group called Project KNOW. It's a week where the 5th and 6th graders begin to learn about their bodies, the physical differences between boys and girls, puberty, learning to make healthy choices, self-esteem, etc. It doesn't really matter what it is for the purpose of my issue, but that's what it was. On Tuesday, one of the presenters checked with me to make sure that I would be at school that evening for the Parent and Child meeting of Project Know. I guess it is simply school policy to make sure there is a school representative there when an outside group uses the school to meet? I don't know, but I did volunteer to come back to school for it, since one of the other teachers lives out of town about 15 miles, and the other one who lives in town like I do has small children at home. I double checked the time with him, assured him I would be there by 6:45, and then went about my day. I never once gave that meeting another thought. Not once. So by the time 3:00 rolled around, I went home, cooked dinner, did whatever it was I did on Tuesday night that did NOT include going back to school for a Project Know Parent-Child meeting.
     Had I remembered it Wednesday, I might have been able to write it off as just a silly lapse of memory. But I not only went through my entire day Wednesday, including sitting in on part of the presenter's session with the 6th graders without having it click, but it took me until a full four periods into the day on Thursday before it dawned on me that I had TOTALLY forgotten the meeting Tuesday night. I think maybe one of my 5th graders said something - something very small - that triggered it, and all of a sudden, I realized I had not given it a single thought since we had talked about it Tuesday morning, 48 hours previous. It was like it had never even been discussed.  I got that terrible hot and cold and sick to my stomach all-at-once feeling, thinking I had forgotten to go the night before, went to one of the other classrooms immediately to confess, only to have the OTHER presenter coldly tell me that it was "actually Tuesday night," and then turn away from me to go back to her lesson. 
     I went back across the hall to my empty classroom, shut the door, sat down and had a mini-meltdown at my computer. See, I tend to be very forgetful on a typical basis. My kids tell me things ALL. THE. TIME. that I simply don't register. They will tell me, or ask me, to go someplace "on Saturday night," and then Saturday night rolls around, and I don't have any idea where they are planning to go. Typically, they sigh and say "But Mom, remember? I TOLD you..." and then, oh yeah, it clicks. Sometimes. But sometimes, it doesn't. But that happens ALL the time, not just sometimes when I'm busy.  I also NEVER remember a book after I've read it, a movie after I've watched it,  and half the things the kids say that all start with "remember the time when..." and half the time or more, I shake my head and think, or say, "No, I DON"T remember that."   Its been really frustrating to me for years, feeling like my brain is made of swiss cheese. I have told my kids at school, ever since I started teaching elementary instead of high school  more than ten years ago, "ask me or tell me something over and over. I won't be mad at you. I just won't remember unless you do." Like, if they ask me for an eraser, if I don't, or can't get it right that second, I won't remember 30 seconds later. If a student asks me to go to the bathroom, two minutes later when I go to do attendance, I have to ask, "Where is so and so?" and the rest of the class will say, "You said he could go to the bathroom, remember?"  and then it dawns on me that oh yeah,. I did.
     But Tuesday night's obligation? NO recollection of it. And the overwhelming feeling of shame that I had forgotten, had let down some adult whom I knew not at all but who was counting on me, as well as the parents and kids that did show up (probably not a lot, truth be told), and my two administrators who were also expecting that I would be there was quickly overtaken by a wave of chillingly cold fear. Fear absolutely and positively GRIPPED me - I must have Alzheimers. This is it. This is the beginning of it. All the years of general forgetfulness, of a sieve-like brain for facts and recall, and now, this one, identifying moment - it's clear it is probably the beginning of Alzheimers. Is it early onset? Do I, at my age, qualify anymore as early-onset? 
Since I was sitting in front of the computer, sobbing away, big heaving scary sobs, I quickly reached over and typed in "Alzheimers symptoms" and came with a check list of ten things. And it seemed to me that day that most of the ten really and truly DID fit. I know lots of people are forgetful SOMETIMES, but I sincerely do not know ANYONE who is as forgetful in general as I am. For years I have forgotten appointments, like dental visits and hair cuts.  I just feel like I can't remember ANYTHING, and it is so very scary.
     My mom had Alzheimers.  My aunt - my mom's sister, and at least one of my uncles, her brother, also did. There was a pivotal Christmas when we all realized it, realized something was very wrong with my mom, and that something turned out to BE Alzheimers.  I thought, on Thursday morning in front of my computer last week, that forgetting that evening event at school was MY pivotal moment - that from that point on, people would use that to mark the beginning, the noticeable beginning, of my decline. Of course, that meant I spent the rest of the day wondering about the rest of my life. I'm not quite 50 yet... far too long to lose my memory, given that my physical health will have me living probably another 40 years. I can't bear the thought of being in a nursing home not knowing anyone for the next 40 years.  My kids are too young to "lose" their mother. Will I be able to finish my next 6 years of teaching, or will I have to retire early? Do I have things I need to take care of now, before it's too late to think about taking care of them? Should I change my life if it is going to come to this, or should I stay with the security, such as it is, of life as I've known it for so long?
     Maybe none of this makes any sense to anyone else, especially if you don't have any history of this devastating illness in your family, but I can honestly tell you... I'd rather fight a cancer diagnosis than one of Alzheimers. Maybe if you have a history of cancer in your family, you are hypervigilant about every little mole on your body, or are religious about getting your yearly mammograms in a way that I am not, because I have no history of that. Oh yeah, I get my mammograms sort of regularly, though when I went this summer, I think they told me it had been four years since my last one. But I went in knowing there would be nothing wrong, and came out with that just that exact assurance. It's hard to worry about cancer. It's just not in my genes. I do know it doesn't mean it CAN"T happen to me, but when I have an overriding family history of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and Alzheimers, why would I worry about cancer?  Especially when my cholesterol level is through the roof despite taking medicine for it for years, and watching what I eat. It DOES seem like heart disease is far more likely. And while I do worry, a little, about a heart attack, knowing they CAN kill, I don't worry as much as I do about Alzheimers, because there are things I CAN do to help prevent or at least reduce the likelihood of heart disease. There is NOTHING I can do to ward off Alzheimers, and nothing I can take to cure it when it does come. I guess my unspoken prayer has kind of been, "Dear God, please don't let me get Alzeheimers any sooner than I have to, and I really would like to be old already when I do get it, if I have to get it."
     Nearly 49 is NOT what I call old, and no, I'm not at all ready. 
     So, do I have it? Am I showing signs? Is it early-onset? Did forgetting about Tuesday night's meeting until Thursday mean that I likely am hitting close to the pivotal moment when everyone will look back and say "it started then - we noticed it when she forgot that meeting at school"?  Thursday, I would have told you yes, I believed that, was afraid of that, sobbed my little heart out about that in between classes most of the day (and applied an ice pack to my eyes before my kids came back to the room to cover up the damage that crying does. A meltdown at school is NOT a good idea, and one I avoid at all costs, whenever possible).
     Letting four days pass, I can now say, "probably not." I don't KNOW why I forgot it. I DID go buy a monthly/weekly/daily planner over the weekend, and am now trying to write down every single thing that I need to attend or remember. I was given a post it note on Friday that said "Grapes and 2 large pumpkins" - my reminder of what I needed to bring in to school today. We bought the grapes on Friday night, and I sent my son to buy the pumpkins yesterday afternoon, so I did NOT forget those things. Does that mean anything? I don't know. Can I got back to teaching and not cry in between periods? Yep. Can I forgive myself for the stupid mistakes I made typing up Friday's vocabulary quizzes? Friday, no. Friday I was convinced it was one more sign. Today? Yes. Today I realize that I typically make errors when I type quizzes and papers up for my kids, because I am usually trying to do it in a hurry, at the last minute, and have 27 other things on my mind. I'm also under a lot more pressure at school this year because of a forced "team-teaching" situation in two of my four major classes. And there is a lot more pressure in my life in general right now. Not that my life is worse, or even as bad as, many many others. I just know that stress DOES affect me. I also know that I have pretty severe ADD, and always have. Maybe instead of worrying about Alzheimers, which is probably a stretch at this point, maybe I should go back to the doctor and try a different ADD medicine. It did help before, but the side effects were god-awful. But before I face a permanent sort of melt down, maybe I should give that a try again and see if it helps noticeably.  
     It's Monday. Despite the fact that it's Halloween, not ANY elementary teacher's favorite day to be in school, it was definitely a better day than last Thursday.  I remembered my two big pumpkins and my bag of grapes. I didn't make any mistakes on their vocabulary list I typed up over the weekend, and I remembered to buy candy to hand out for trick or treating tonight.My thoughts and anxieties have settled a bit, sifted down through to the bottom of the lake of fear for now.
     The fear, however, does remain. It's a cold hard ball, and one that can,and will, rise again, bubble to the surface,  way too quickly, given the opportunity I'm afraid. The trick is going to be figuring out how to LIVE with this fear, rather than being crippled by it. 
     

Monday, October 24, 2011

Awesome Autumn

     When you teach writing to kids, it's hard to not spend a lot of your own time "thinking like a writer." I only wish THEY would spend half as much time at it as I do!  .
     Last Friday we began something called "showing, not telling," whereby I am trying to get them to add details to their writing to allow the reader to FEEL what they are writing about, not just read ABOUT it.  Some of them  "get it" and some of them don't (and never will, I'm afraid).
     Saturday morning, when I got up to let the dogs out just before 6 am, and then again about 8-ish, I had the bold thought (I know, it's a big one, and before coffee, even) "It's Fall."  And then, like a writer, or rather, like a writing TEACHER, I thought to myself, "Really, Laurie? How do you KNOW that? SHOW me."
 
     In the summer, when I open that door to let the dogs out, the air is warm on my face, the sun halfway above the fence already.. Today, the air is not only much cooler, but it is crisp, crystally.  The air feels chill,  as though there were a frost last night, and the last of the icy crystals are just now evaporating into the feeble,distant, thin sunlight. The mist-covered sun, though, is just beginning to be visible through the trees, low to the horizon, behind the fence. It is rising, but it is not up high enough yet to actually spread any warmth. The trees by that back fence, a thick mass of green in the summer time, are now covered in  golds and russets and oranges,  leaves that still cling, tenaciously, to the uppermost branches, not shaken loose yet by the autumn winds that have passed through. Brown and yellow leaves litter the ground underneath, and rattle like skeleton bones as the dogs run over them, through them. The chill in the air has made the dogs quite frisky - three of the four of them chase, tumble and run past each other as they chase around and around the yard, while the fourth one, too old and achy in the joints in this crisp morning air, stands stiffly by my side, barking out her encouragement to the younger ones. I shiver, involuntarily, standing there in my thin tshirt and jeans, and wish the coffee was already done, wish I had a warm cup to wrap my hands around, tendrils of coffee steam spiraling upwards for me to inhale.. Breathing in that fresh, clear morning air, smelling the lingering scent of wood smoke, left over from last night's fire in the wood stove, feeling happy as a few geese in a straggly V formation honk noisily overhead, I realize that fall has come to New York.
      It's autumn here- colored leaves stand out brightly on the hillsides against their dark evergreen counterparts, crisp morning air greets you and lingers until mid morning at least, crunchy tart apples in bushel baskets beg to be eaten, the bright orange globes of pumpkins on front steps and the yellows, rusty golds and reds, purples, whites of fall mums in beds hold a beauty so singularly breathtaking it is hard to soak it all in. Fall is such a short season here, but a glorious one.
The view from my friend Holly's house; taken by Holly LaBenne
 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Grapes


 Concord Grapes. Did you know they grow on trees in Western New York?  Well, at least in MY back yard they do. Look closely. Can you see them there, hanging overtop of the bird house, in the tree above my fence?  What? You've never heard of tree-grapes before?  Never planted a grape tree?



 Yeah, me either. But I AM lucky enough that the neighbor's vines, behind my fence, grow up OVER my fence, and on up into my trees. Except that the higher they grow, the harder they are to pick!



But they are oh-so-sweet, and make the best jam ever. And since my neighbor works even harder than I do, and has less time off, and not enough time to use them all, I'm free to claim as many of them as I want. I think THIS weekend will involve some home made grape jam, some home made grape JUICE, and some grape pie.
Grapes growing in trees in my back yard. One of the sweetest things about fall in my area. Literally!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stress, Oh How I Love Thee

    Lately I've been repeating a quote to my older daughter so many times it has become a mantra of sorts: "When you're going through hell, keep going."  Little did I realize that the mantra may have been as much for me as it was for her. I'm not sure it's helping either one of us, truthfully. But on the other hand, what other choice does one have, really, other than to just keep going on, one foot in front of the other,getting through each day. 
     I guess the problem is two-fold - part of it is when expectations come up against reality, and the two don't match.  The other part is that I guess I never really expected such a large part of my stress at this point in my life to still come from my children, who are now all nearer to adulthood themselves than childhood still. Sure, when they were 1,3,5 and 7, there was lots of stress. And even when they were  11, 13, 15 and 17, they were the requisite handful that one would expect out of raising 4 children that close in age. I expected that, and was not disappointed in the least!  :)
     But I guess, as they began to get old enough to head off to college in the past few years, and did do just that, fairly easily enough, it seemed, I began to prepare myself for a year with just my last one left at home. We've talked about it a lot in the past few years, what it would be like when it was just her left. And as the activity level around my house has decreased greatly, (along with the food bills, the piles of laundry, the mess and noise in general), I began to look forward a bit to that "empty nest" syndrome. I loved it when my house was full of noise and kids for all those years, and it has taken me a very long adjustment time every time one of them has left. But eventually, I DID adjust, and kind of got used to it. And it is sometimes nice to just MISS your kids instead of having to deal with the constant bickering between them, and such.  
     So as the third one went off to college this fall, my eldest, who graduated in May, ended up coming home, due to lack of a solid career or further education plan on his part. I won't bother going into the details, but suffice it to say, though I love him to death, I am NOT happy to have him home again under these circumstances. He has a degree, he SHOULD have planned better, should have studied harder, SHOULD have done a lot of things he didn't, and because he didn't, he is now living back at home, working 30 hours a week at a minimum wage job, trying to figure out the next course of action for his life. OK, so the job market sucks for everyone these days. I get that. And it makes it a LITTLE easier not to be completely pissed at him, and to be fair, he does try to do a little more around here now than he did when he was growing up. But, it's not what I expected. At his age, I had graduated, had my first real job with my first real income, was living on my own, bought my first car and had a car payment, bills, and was in grad school.  I am worried mostly that he will STILL be living here, STILL not gainfully employed at 30. That worries me.
     And the girl, now in her third year at college, a college that becomes more and more difficult to pay for in this economy, (no little part of my insomnia many nights) the girl who has had the same room-mate for both of her first two years, best friends and "roomies for lyfe" as they always put it, now that they have moved into a triple, instead of the double they shared, is the one who is "going through hell."  Suddenly, out of nowhere, not only is she not getting along with her roommate, but her roommate has teamed up with the other girl in the triple, AND the three in the room next to them, to pretty much launch an all-out attack on my daughter's personality. It's hard to feel good about yourself when there are 5 people confronting you about how much they suddenly hate you, and everything about you. It's been absolutely miserable. And, in the end, today, my daughter is moving across campus into a new room with a complete stranger. It sucks. The whole thing sucks. And although I know her personality has its quirks and I know she can be annoying as hell at times, she also has a heart as big as all outdoors, and does NOT deserve this. I just want her to get settled in, and for her life to settle back down. Unfortunately, it's a small campus, and I don't know that moving is going to make life all good again. So, although it's her drama, it has taken a huge toll on me, worrying about her, listening to the crap her room-mates have been putting her through the past couple of weeks, and really not being able to do anything at all for her, except listen to her cry over the phone, 300 miles away. It sucks. 
     Meanwhile, the boy in Ohio, 7 hours away, has decided that there is simply no way he can live 7 hours away from home. He has burned through all his money that was supposed to last him for at least an entire semester by coming home nearly every weekend, because he can't stand to be out there, that far away from his life here he loved, with nothing to do. He doesn't like the school, doesn't like being away, doesn't want a job out there because he just wants to be home. So, while dealing with the issues of the older two kids, there has also been this,  ongoing with him. It came to a head this weekend, while I was away at an EMS conference. I was on the receiving end of dozens of texts and phonecalls this weekend, begging me to let him come home. On his own, he applied to a tech school near here last week, to transfer to in January, closed out his bank account today, withdrew from college out there, packed up his entire apartment full of stuff, and is currently on his way home. 
     And then there is child number four, my senior in high school. The one who was looking forward to being the only one at home for a year, who now has to share that time with both her brothers.  She has been looking for a college to apply to for next year, and although we visited one in Asheville, NC this summer that seemed like it was going to be "the" college for her, it was not. So last weekend we took a 12+hour trip to Maine and Massachusetts to look at two more "perfect" places.  Now, she "doesn't know."  Seems like that should be HER worry, HER concern, but again, as a parent, her worries and concerns ARE mine. Not only that, but since she has doubled up her last two years of high school and bundled her junior and senior years into one, and is actually graduating a year early, will, in fact, be 16 when she enters college. That is a HUGE concern to me regarding her choice of a college.  I can't seem to divorce myself from worrying about any and all of my kids and their issues. I know, that's normal, and I would be worried about my ability to be a good parent if I WEREN"T concerned about them. But lately, it just seems like every single one of them has such BIG issues, and all four of them together, that I feel like if I don't keep moving, don't keep "going," though this current little hell, if I stop to think about any one of them too long, I'll drown. But I'm getting tired of constantly swimming alone against this current, too. 
     And it's not like I'm without my own every day issues with work, finances,  and life in general. I think I could manage to deal with those better if I didn't just feel so overwhelmed by so much else, by all my kids' problems.  I think about taking some time out, taking a weekend off, and do, in fact, have a quiet cabin weekend coming up in two weeks, but instead of looking forward to it, hoping it will help me to step back and breathe again, I know it will only be full of trying to get caught up on the school stress of not having papers corrected and lesson plans done, while at the same time worrying about THREE of my kids being at home together with no adult supervision to keep them on task and not bickering and fighting with each other all weekend.  They are nearly adults, so I shouldn't HAVE to worry about that. But they are NOT adults yet, just bigger, taller, heavier versions of themselves at younger ages.  And as I struggle to find my place again in this unexpected, unplanned, world of THREE of my kids living at home again when I had only planned for there to be 1 left at this point, I know they, too, are struggling with the changes they hadn't counted on, either. 
     Thankfully, I guess I should be glad that home is still their sanctuary, still a place they WANT to be, still the place that is their respite from stress... but I pray they are not all still here when I retire in 6 more years, or there will be hell to pay then. And I will NOT keep going - I will stop and demand that they GET OUT. No, not really. But lordy, I do hope things start taking on a brighter hue, a better tone, soon. I don't swim well to begin with, in fact, don't even like to be wet. And right now, I'm barely keeping my head above the puddle.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Want LAST Weekend Back Again...

I'm not a big Zinnia fan, but I thought these were beautiful anyway.,

Last weekend, well nearly TWO weekends ago now, since tomorrow is Friday again (where DO my weeks go???) was filled with flowers, cookie making, fresh fall apples, and lots and lots of productivity.


Behind the Gladiolas I bought from a local flower farmer, you can see the piles of laundry I folded. HATE folding it, but love having it done, even though it only lasts a day before the piles of dirty laundry start building again. I love starting my week with the laundry done, folded and put away  taken upstairs to sit in piles for another week or two.


The Glads were especially beautiful, and at a quarter a piece, I think they're a steal. They remind me of my childhood. My next door neighbor, who stood in as my adopted grandfather as well, grew rows and rows of beautiful Gladiolas every summer in his garden. He made sure my mother had a vase-full throughout the summer. He also grew cucumbers, and would always pick tiny ones for me to eat fresh, dirt and sun's warmth included free of charge. The Glads brightened up my weekend, both in their own beauty, and in that of bringing back a treasured memory from long ago.
Fresh Cortlands say "Fall."  Yum.Crispy, a bit tart, but filled with all the sweetness of autumn in western NY.




All four dog houses got stained, twice., and their new lids 3 x.  Love the way they look, all fresh and cleaned up for a new season. Love that the dogs don't have to be hooked out or use their houses all summer, but glad they have them, all warm and cozy, in the fall and winter when I'm in school. 


Got some good tug of war time in with my gorgeous Bramble dog. She loves nothing more than playing, playing, playing, and I always feel guilty that I don't provide her with the level of activity she craves and needs. So I'm always glad when I have time, or MAKE time, to play with her. SHE was thrilled!  And loves her new pink tug of war rope from Tractor Supply.


Other puppies were glad to be outdoors as well. It was a BEAUTIFUL weekend, for all of us. 
And THEN, there was LAST weekend. 

It rained. ALL weekend. Which was ok on Saturday. I did go to that big craft show/farm market Saturday, and it was cold and rainy and brisk, and it felt good to be outdoors in the weather. Even though it was, in some opinions, a crummy day, I felt refreshed by the wind and rain and cooler temperatures. I had a great day. I bought nothing but a jar of black currant jam (I want to plant black currants, but wanted to make sure I liked the jam. I did, so planting them will be a good choice), and a used book that I need for one of our book club selections later this year. Oh, I bought a pumpkin spice latte to drink while I wandered about in the rain, which also buoyed my spirits. Nothing better than the beginning of "pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING season"!
But Sunday? That was a different story. It continued to rain, but I was locked indoors, in my classroom, trying to get ready for the week, and trying to STILL get caught up.



This is the view from my classroom window this year. Yeah, beautiful., I know.  More like, DEPRESSING, with a capital D. My room looks out over the roof to the cafeteria, and has all these vents and blowers and other half walls. UGLY. And with the rain, and being captive in my classroom all day, from 10 am until 7:30 pm, and leaving then STILL not even CLOSE to being caught up, it was a dreary, dreary, DREARY, and oh, did I mention DEPRESSING Sunday? Sigh.


Oh yeah, and then, to top off the just "perfect"  weekend? I lost half a tooth while munching away on Jordan Almonds. Losing a tooth = an automatic call/trip to the dentist. Honestly, I'd rather give birth again. There is simply NOTHING on earth I fear more than going to the dentist. The split second I realized I was chewing on a part of my own tooth, I got hot, then cold, then sweaty and clammy, and felt like throwing up, THE DENTIST. Double UGH.
Could I PLEASE just have last weekend back again? You know, back when life was all about playing tug of war with my dogs, and painting dog houses, and eating apples? Because I COULD eat apples back then, not just the apple SAUCE I've been sucking down this week because I can't eat anything hard? Yeah, THAT weekend. A formal request for a weekend do-over has been filed. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Rough Kind of Day

Tequila, also known more frequently as "Fat Cat"
Well, it's been an interesting week so far. Hopefully, it will grow LESS interesting as the days continue to pass.  Not only did we have a student suicide last week, but there was also one in Buffalo, a 14 year old boy.. That one, sadly, made headlines, as being connected to bullying issues. And then someone, not sure who and I guess it doesn't really matter, decided to call a Buffalo news station to let them know about "our" suicide, so that it, too, could be linked to bullying (a fact which is totally un-knowable at this point. It is pure conjecture, as Lee did not leave a note to explain his reasons, and some kids say yes, he WAS a target, other kids, including my own, say no, he had lots of friends and seemed like a pretty happy kid. IF he was bullied, his family was not aware of it, which would seem rather odd to me. Whatever. At this point., I'm really, really SICK of the whole topic, tired of people arguing about it, tired of people blaming the school for not stopping the bullying, tired of people in the school blaming the parents. Tired of blame, period.  It's a huge issue, but it encompasses SO MUCH. Having the TV crew come to my little town, my little school, did NOTHING but enflame people, fan the fires.I feel for my Superintendent right now, who is taking many of the hits on public forums - like it is somehow solely HER fault. I stopped by her office yesterday morning to check on her, and found her pretty upset. It only got worse as the day went on. There were, by the end of the day, rumors that
Annie. I love her smiles!
the mother of the child who died had called the news herself and was showing up at the Board meeting last night, also, along with the news again, to begin the process of publicly blaming the school.  Oddly, and uncomfortably, her father, the child's grandfather, has been our longstanding School Board President for many years. I could not figure out how that was going to go. Again, there is SO MUCH BACKGROUND to this whole story that comes into play, and it isn't even worth it to attempt to go into it all. Nothing could be better than to take what we can from it to try hard to ensure it doesn't happen to others, and then move on.  Dwelling on the negative, feeding on it, is like swallowing poison and then passing the glass around.
Yeah, the grass needs cutting,, but it was too nice a day to do that
In addition, as if that weren't enough for my Super to be dealing with, apparently there was another issue last week as well, that only came to public light this week. A bus driver for our pre-K program left a three year old on the bus, strapped into her car seat, in the seat directly behind her. How she missed her, forgot her, I have no idea. But the fact is, she drove the bus into the bus garage, got off the bus, and left the little girl alone on the bus. Sadly, she was also ONLY discovered when another parent called the bus garage because her son left his backpack on the bus, and the transportation supervisor went to check for it on that bus. Thank GOD. Literally, thank GOD that child forgot his backpack. THOSE parents were DEFINITELY on the agenda for last night's board meeting.  By early afternoon yesterday, it was pretty clear that as many of the faculty and staff , as many of us, who could show up to present a supportive front for our Superintendent, our school, our transportation supervisor (who felt HORRIBLE, absolutely positively HORRIBLE about the bus driver, though it was no more his fault that she left the child on the bus than the superintendent's fault a child committed suicide)  would be good, and necessary.  The day was an unsettling one, to say the least..
I love watching the sun go down in the west, over my side fence, through the trees. 
It made me glad I had had such a good weekend. I kept going back to it yesterday, in my mind. It was a tense and long day. It ended ok. There were a lot of us there. I was proud of that. We are good, most of us, and do ANYTHING we can to stop and address bullying. We don't deserve the "rap" we're getting. ONE of us even has a letter in her file for attempting to stop bullying a year or so ago (yeah, I can KIND of laugh about it now, but it's STILL a sore subject) . There were no news crews there. The Board President thanked us all for coming to support our school.  The parents of that poor baby left on the bus were there, and when they went into executive session with them to discuss that personnel issue, it was clear nothing bad was going to happen. We were able to head home.
     But it was the picture of my fat cat, and my smiling dog, and the sun going down in my back yard Sunday that somehow were able to keep me grounded yesterday.  I had a GREAT weekend. It's not been a great week, but I think it's getting better.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Week Done

It's Friday, Cue sigh of relief...
Another week done, and a better one in so many ways, for the wider community of school and town.  I'm thankful. Not so much my own family - still some serious issues that need attention here, and a big one that popped up out of nowhere this week. But, we'll deal with them.  And I feel comfortable in my role of Mama Bear - "Don't you mess with one of my cubs, because I will rip you to shreds in a heartbeat."  Well, maybe not quite in the mode in which I'd LIKE to, but I do think I have resources to fall back on, places where help can possibly come from, and if I can't SHRED someone, at least I am hoping to be able to HELP my child. But, I can't do anything until Monday. So, between now and then is a great-looking weekend. There's NOTHING in it that is required of me, if I don't feel like it, except being prepared for, and showing up to, work on Monday.
Oh, there's a ton of laundry and dishes and vacuuming and the never-ending cleaning to be done. The lawn needs mowing. The rabbit needs brushing and plucking. The coop could use a cleaning. I'd love to take the dogs for a walk, or at least a good romp and a few games of tug of war in the back yard. I need to find the bedroom that I believe might exist in that room, that place, that my second son, the one now off at college, existed in for the past few years. I'd like to reclaim it as a bedroom for him, not as a second garage, a workshop for engine repair, that it became in the past few years. And then there are still all the projects half completed that need finishing, but they won't see completion, any of them this weekend. It's complicated, but it's also not. Since I can't do a lot of things I need to, and should, I will do a lot of things I'd rather. I have two good books started, and need to get a copy, soon, of a third one I should be reading, also. I have a few shows taped that I'd like to watch, and two movies I need to preview for my classes at school for background on Appalachia in the 70's. I have peanut butter cup cookies to bake, and maybe a large craft show and farmer's market to wander around in tomorrow, if I can make myself get up that early to get there. Since there is no chance I CAN complete some of the projects this weekend, I intend to force myself to simply do the things I WANT to do. That's so much harder for me than it sounds like it should be. We'll see what the score is, come Sunday night!
It's a quiet house this weekend, a laid back one. I'm looking forward to it. The cats have already gotten an early start on THEIR big plans for the weekend. .

Friday, September 16, 2011

September

Summer is over. I wrote nothing this summer. I'm not really sure why. I guess it was a combination of just BEING in summer, instead of analyzing it, thinking about it, writing about it. It was also not a super happy summe for me. There wasn't really anything particularly or specifically bad about it, but I struggled with some left over grief over my dad's death, and struggled to face and accept some of the changes I knew were awaiting me at the end of the summer. And the longer I went without writing, the worse I felt about not writing, which made me even less able to start again. Finally, this week, I knew I wanted to write again, and decided who cares if I haven't written for two months. So, here I am again, for better or for worse.


Sadly, September is always the month of adjustment for me anyway, and I was struggling, as usual, already this month. It's hard to get back into the habit of not being able to get enough sleep, of having to give up doing things I like in favor of things I HAVE to do:  correcting papers lesson plans, jumping into my days with a bunch of noisy 9 year olds instead of quietly sipping my coffee on the front porch, listening only  to the roosters crow. I think it would probably be easier, in the long run, if I had a 12 month job, instead of having my summers off. I just enjoy them way too much, and DISlike aspects of my job way too much to ever be able to make a graceful and smooth transistion. But, I was working on it, and this week was better, or would have been better, than last week. And next week is bound to be slightly easier still. It's the way of things.


Or, it is, until you throw in a teen suicide of a student in your youngest child's class on Monday evening of this week just past. Then, the week gets far more difficult than you ever could have anticpated. Only, unfortunately, I DO know what it's like. We all do. It's the second suicide of a classmate of one of my children in 4 years time. And the pain and wounds and hurt the first suicide caused have not yet healed over, and now there is this one. A terrible, violent ending of a life not even fully begun. No answers to the why, no answers for his parents, grandparents, brother. No answers for his friends, classmates, teachers. And when the adults have no answers for the kids, how do we comfort them, help them, teach them to grieve? How do you comfort those big, tall boys wearing their work boots, and Carharrt Tshirts, who don't know what to do with that terrible, open pit of sorrow?

I don't know. I don't have any answers this week.
I'm not sure there ARE any answers. Welcome to September. October will be better.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I'm All In

     It wasn't the 6 am start I had hoped for, and planned on. It was nearly ten am by the time we left the house.  But, it's summer, and the extra sleep was needed, available, and felt so good this morning, so I simply said, "oh well," and let it go. It's summer. Who cares about self-inflicted schedules?  We hooked up thefriend's boat we were towing to the lake for her, and rolled off into the bright country morning , windows down in the truck, good country music blaring, fields, and cows and swamps and people beginning their Saturday rolling by on the twisty back roads. I had not a single serious thought or concern in my head. The morning began to get steamy as we neared noon, hot bright summer sun shining overhead.  Dropped off the boat, stayed a few minutes, played with some ducks and some dogs, and then turned around to make the reverse trip home. The truck was loud, the country music louder, and my thoughts were all very quiet. I even dozed a bit on the way home, sun on my face.  The orange Tiger Lillies are bountiful, as are the wild daisies along side the road, and I can't think of a place more beautiful today than right here, right now. 
     Last night we had a campfire out back for a couple of hours, myteen-aged kids and some of their friends, and I. We made smores and toasted marshmallows until I, at least,  was stuffed. While it doesn't bode well for the "healthy eating for summer" kick I embarked upon yesterday with a public and official weigh-in, it did wonders for the soul. The stars and fireflies were both out in force. There was no place I would rather have been last night but right here.
     I have meant to do my dishes for several days, and the lawn needs mowing. But the cat had kittens yesterday.  Despite the fact that I feel incredibly irresponsible for letting one of my animals slip through my fingers unspayed, the miracle of birth, even that of unneeded kittens, is something that the world needs to stop for, and marvel at. At least, in MY world. So I did, for most of the afternoon. But it's summer, and it was the best place to be yesterday, and so the dishes went undone and the lawn unmowed yet another day this week.
     The day before that, I had animals that needed to go to the vet;  there, and back and a return trip and back.  That, and some grocery shopping, and an ambulance run, pretty much took up THAT entire day.   And Wednesday, well, that was my sister's birthday, and although I've never been particularly stellar at remembering to send cards, or do gifts for my siblings, I decided once my dad passed away this spring,  that now that all we have is each other, I NEED to do birthdays. I NEED to celebrate my siblings, and remember and honor them, for me, for MY continued sense of family. I don't want my parents to have been the only glue that held us all together. I vowed to not let a single birthday of theirs go by unacknowledged and uncelebrated by me. So I took my sister out for lunch. It was so much fun.
     And Tuesday, the first day after my last day of school, well, I don't even remember what I did that day, except perhaps laze around, recover from the end of school and graduation, and I think maybe I made my TO-Do list for summer. I think I napped a lot, too.
     So, those dishes? Yeah, It think I'll do them tonight. And maybe mow the front lawn at least. And then, when I'm done? I'm going to sit on my front porch with a frozen drink, and watch the sun go down and hopefully pull with it some of the blistering heat of the day, and celebrate summer, and happiness. Here's to it - and to being here, and to living in the here and now, and for being happy with it all. Here's to learning to relax, and let go of artificial plans and schedules and structure for a few weeks. I hope my summer holds more days like today, full of sunshine and country music and road trips with no time line along dirt back roads lined with local wild flowers. It may take me a week to make the transition. I think I might have said, only once or twice though, I'm sure, that I just don't "do" change well, not even GOOD change. But, I think the change has occurred. I think today was the final slipping away of ten months of routine and all that goes with that part of my life. I think that's behind me, now. I've rounded the corner and I only see summer ahead.  Maybe I'll bring some wild daisies in and put them in the blue-sky vase on my kitchen table. Once I can find it again. You know, after I get the dishes done and clean up the kitchen.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

OH! There You Are, Melanie Gould!

     I don't know any details yet, and I'm not sure how many, if any, we'll ever know, but Melanie WAS found safe and alive today, after having been missing for 11 days.   I have no idea what the "story" is, but I am relieved and grateful that God answered that prayer for so many thousands of people. I hope and pray that all will be well with her.
   

Friday, June 10, 2011

Where Are You, Melanie Gould?

      There is an old Willie Nelson song, "My Heroes have Always Been Cowboys."  In my mind, the song long ago became "My Heroes have Always Been Mushers," 




and they are among the few real heroes I have. Mushers are REAL people, as down to earth and friendly and helpful and kind hearted a group of people as you will ever meet, most of them.  I like a person who had dog hair on his or her coat and is unapologetic for it. And, when you've followed mushing as long as I have, and read all the bios and stats and everything else you can find on them, and follow all their races, either in person or online, those people become real to you, as well,  You feel like you "know" them, even when you've never actually met them.  It's a community of people I would be proud to be a part of, if that were possible. 


     I read this quote on that same Facebook page today - "Hope never abandons you; you abandon it" (George Weinberg) and it helped. I realized that I MUST keep hope alive. If I were in her shoes, would I want everyone to just give up after a certain number of days had passed? Of course not. I also have felt a little bit faith-shaken. Not in a big way, just a little of the "I know GOD knows where she is - why won't He give US a clue?" kind of way. But, then, I remember that we are suppose to pray unceasingly, and continue to hope, so I will do that. Or try to. Try hard to. It's all I CAN do. If I lived in Alaska, I would put on my hiking boots and join the search. I would post fliers everywhere. I would offer to help feed the dogs, water the flowers, take care of the yard, anything at all I could DO to help bring Melanie home, and to keep hope alive in a physical way.  It's HARD to wait, hundreds and hundreds of miles away, with nothing tangible to do to help. In times of need, or sadness or frustration, I'm a do-er. I bake. I clean. I DO. And it is driving me out of my mind that in this case, there is nothing I CAN do. Nothing that would be of any use from the thousands of miles away I am.
     Another woman went missing outside of Fairbanks just a couple of days after Melanie, and another young girl disappeared from a British Columbia campground about the same time. So why am I not gripped by those Missing Person reports as much as I am by Melanie's? I guess it is because I feel a kinship with Melanie that I don't with the others. I don't "know" the others, or know anything about them at all. I don't feel any connection to them, other than sadness that they, too, are missing. Melanie lives by herself in a small, remote cabin with no running water, no electricity. That's about as off the grid as you can be, and still have friends and a job and a community surrounding you. I envy and identify with that lifestyle.












 In addition, she has dogs, and is, gosh darn it, a musher, two things I again can identify with, and aspire to. I keep thinking of her dogs - do they wonder where she is? Do they miss her? Mine would. They don't eat much when I'm gone, and only return to their normal eating and sleeping habits when I'm here. No one can take care of my dogs the way I do, and the dogs know it. It's hard for me to leave my dogs for long, knowing this, so I feel certain that she would feel the same way.   
     Oh, my heart just aches for her dogs, for her, for her family and friends and community, and even for Alaska. Alaska is a funny place. It's big, but it's tightly knit when it comes to "one of their own,". I know all of Alaska, as well as half of the rest of the world, it seems, is watching and waiting and checking and hoping that THIS will be the day Melanie comes home. My days have become a ritual of ongoing mental prayer: thinking of Melanie, picturing her, picturing God knowing where she is and holding her and keeping her safe and strong and not afraid, not irretrievably hurt or injured, just holding her, and her terrible circumstances, close in my heart. 
     I light a virtual candle every 48 hours for her on line, but starting tonight, I'm going to light a real one at home as well.  I will let it burn for an hour every night until she returns. I know it's not much, but lighting a candle will symbolically let me DO something.  A friend on her facebook page  (http://www.diamonddogsracing.blogspot.com)(I feel like we are ALL friends on that page, though I know no one, but we are all strongly united in our hope and concern for Melanie and that pulls people from all over together, I think) put this one on line, and I think it is just beautiful. She allowed me to repost it here.  

     So, to Melanie, keeping the faith and hope alive, and the candles burning, until you come home...  I pray it will be tomorrow. 
(The other pictures on this page I took from the page started for Melanie as well:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Have-you-seen-Melanie-Gould/160060884060648?sk=wall)