Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trust Your Intuition!


I've been learning to be comfortable in my own body and to trust what it tells me. I have always trusted my intuition, honoring those little tugs to do something or act in a certain manner. Yesterday it paid off in a big way.

I spend a great deal of time on my deck. I love having breakfast there, writing in the morning, entertaining friends, tending my plants, taking a hot tub, etc. The deck gets full sun in the afternoon so I don't spend time there then. My late afternoon routine is to watch the 6:30 national news and then Wheel of Fortune with my son and return to the deck after that. Yesterday was hot and humid here. In Dayton that means that it takes a while for the heat to burn off so I might not have gone back on the deck till after dark.

But my impulse, at 6:30 when I am usually watching the news, was to go out on the HOT deck and read. Although it puzzled me, I honored that impulse. It was still muggy and I could hear the air conditioner laboring underneath the deck. As I settled into a chaise lounge, I gradually became aware of an acrid smell, like burning plastic. I jumped up, instantly alert, and ran into the house and turned off the air conditioner. When I went out to check on the unit, the smell had faded and I could see no smoke or scorched areas.

I called Dayton Air Conditioning and got their after hours message to leave a voice mail if it was an emergency and someone would call back. I did and got a call within five minutes. The serviceman explained he could come out right away but it would be more expensive than if I waited until the morning. There was no smell now, the air conditioner was turned off, what to do? Again, that little nudge moved me, a kind of tickle up my spine, and I asked him to come over now.

I am so glad I did. After he pulled open the wall box, he asked me to come and look. The photo above shows the initial damage. The photo below shows the inside of the box. Here is the chilling part, while I had turned off the air conditioner, I had not turned off the circuit to it! The wires were still live. He cut off the circuit, made sure everything was safe, and will be back today to replace the problem elements.

What if I had resisted the pull to go out on the deck? What if I had not decided to have him come over immediately? Instead of a repair bill, I could very easily have been dealing with a house fire and huge damages. So, trust your intuition even if it seems inconvenient or a bit odd. I'm sure glad I did. I am one very grateful woman!



Sunday, June 15, 2014

Le Vesinet, France

I had the privilege and the pleasure of living with a French family for four days as part of a Sister City exchange. My group, Oakwood Sister Cities, has the Paris suburb, LeVesinet, as one of its twins. Six of us represented Oakwood at Le Jumelage (twinning) and La Fete de Marguerite celebrations. This year Le Vesinet was marking the twentieth anniversary of their twinning with Wooster, England so there was also a group of about forty English guests including a company of Morris Men dancers.

Le Vesinet is a beautiful, planned city about twenty-five minutes from Paris. The streets and boulevards are tree lined and immaculately clean. The RER (French train system) has two stops in Le Vesinet, La Pecq and Centre Ville. My hosts live quite close to Centre Ville so I could easily walk into the city center for a morning croissant, usually chocolate almond.

In addition to a Friday evening welcoming buffet, there was a luncheon celebrating Le Jumelage on Saturday, and a picnic celebrating La Fete de la Marguerite on Sunday. The Le Vesinet Community Band provided music during the luncheon. The city pays the director and provides rehearsal space and uniforms for the band but the musicians volunteer their time. It was delightful to notice how members had personalized their straw hats with flowers or pins.


On Saturday afternoon we visited Chateaux de Malmaison, Empress Joesphine’s home. Josephine was married to Napoleon Bonaparte who divorced her when she could not bear children with him. Josephine was a woman of many talents and interests. She collected art, had a passion for flowers, especially roses, and animals. She had excellent decorating skills and oversaw the decoration of many of the finest homes in France. She was quite astute politically and entertained often. Our tour guide's  extensive knowledge about Josephine, Napoleon, and Malmaison, and her passion for it made history come alive for us.

The Fete de la Marguerite began with an outdoor mass where dogs were welcome. This little fellow was in the row in front of me. It is common in France to see dogs in restaurants and places of business. I wish this was so in the United States! 



My favorite part of the visit was the time with my hosts, Catherine and Roger. Roger is retired from a business career in technology. Catherine, retired from her position as a librarian, is devoting her time to Le Vesinet as an elected Deputy Mayor. Although both Le Jumelage and La Fete de la Marguerite were her responsibility and she was very busy, she and Roger managed to make me feel completely welcome. They have a beautiful home including a lovely porch that I claimed as my writing spot.



 On Saturday evening, they hosted a barbecue for sixteen of their friends. In addition to beef, lamb, and duck shish kebabs and tabbouleh, Roger prepared an amazing Greek Salad and was kind enough to share his recipe. I do not know if it will taste as good as it did that night given the freshness of the ingredients and that Roger used olive oil from their property in Crete, but I am going to try and make it at home.

As we enjoyed fine champagne, excellent wine, and then seventy-year-old Armagnac, I had the pleasure of talking with their guests and learning about life in France. Although I wanted to practice my new French skills, most had excellent English. One gentleman amazed me with his "nose," identifying each of the facets of the Armagnac. Under his tutelage, I experienced tastes I would otherwise have missed. As I relaxed with my new friends, I could not help but think how fortunate I am to be in France, sharing dinner and drinks, learning new things, and loving life.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lottie Ann's 1st Birthday

She has the sweetest face!


Lottie Ann came into my life last July just as CJ, my beloved animal companion of 15 years, was leaving. My second Yorkie, Buddy at age 9, welcomed Lottie Ann and taught her about life as a Whelley. Then, in December, Buddy died suddenly from hemangiosarcoma, a blood cancer usually found in large dogs. Buddy always did think he was a big dog. I was heartbroken.

Lottie Ann was the saving grace during all that loss. Now, I am celebrating her first birthday with her and my heart is filled with gratitude. I often say to my friends that I feel sorry for people who do not have the joy of an animal companion. Lottie Ann has a healing way about her. She is still full of puppy energy, moves at the speed of light, and delights in everything. Unlike CJ and Buddy, she loves to play fetch with a rope or one of her squeaky toys and will do so until my arm gives out.

She sleeps with my son. She chases chipmunks. She barks at birds. She loves potato chips. She has the kind of eyes that when you look into them you know she is looking right back. When you talk to her, she understands. She is a great snuggler. If I take a nap on the couch, she curls up on my shoulder. Her fur is black, tan, and silver and is silky soft. One ear stands up and the other flops down. In other words, she's perfect.

Happy 1st Birthday Lottie Ann. Thank you for joining the family and for all the joy you bring!

Lottie, Bren, Buddy

She is NOT this calm.





Friday, May 30, 2014

Friendship Force Bliss


One of the most delicious things about my sixties thus far has been travel. 

Andean woman in traditional garb. The goats were only a week old.

Last November I visited Peru with the Dayton Friendship Force. Friendship Force International was founded in 1977 by Warren Smith and Jimmy Carter. Its mission is: To promote global understanding across the barriers that separate people. Travel with Friendship Force includes a home stay in addition to touring places of interest. Chapters have outbound experiences, like my trip to Peru, and inbound experiences, where the chapter hosts both domestic and international groups.

The Dayton chapter recently hosted fourteen visitors from New Zealand. I was fortunate to be able to have several of those visitors and their Dayton families over for a cook out on my deck. People who belong to FF are citizens of the world. They love travel, meeting people, trying new things, and are very curious and friendly.

As I sat and listened to travel stories being shared, I was astounded by the number and variety of places these folks had been. One woman shared that she had just returned from Russia after having visited there in 1994. It was fascinating to hear how things have changed and how they have remained exactly the same. You experience a country differently from the living room of a new friend than you do as a business traveler or tourist.

I am traveling with my son to Puerto Rico for a basketball tournament in November. Several folks had been there recently and suggested we schedule an outing with a boat company that will take us out to where the waters are luminescent. And, I got a follow up email the next day with reservation information. I have always wanted to experience this and also have a desire to see the Northern Lights. I gathered plenty of suggestions about that as well, including both the best time of year and the best vantage points. If you want insider travel tips, talk to FF travelers!

By the end of the evening my heart was full. I had some new friends, some travel inspiration, and felt so very fortunate to be able to revel in it all. Life is good.




Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cozy Awakening



Sensuous moments come at unexpected times. I love high-count Egyptian cotton sheets. The more you wash them, the softer they get. I had pulled the sheets off my bed, took them to the laundry room and then forgot about them until it was time to go to sleep. So I pulled these flannel sheets from the linen closet and decided to make do.

Well... Ohio has unpredictable weather and during the night the temperature took a dip. I had left one window open and by morning the bedroom was downright chilly. Having these flannel sheets and the furry warmth of the coverlet was divine. I reveled in this cozy nest.

I love the pace of my life now. I usually wake up when I have had enough sleep as opposed to when an alarm sounds. Today's waking was to bird song, warm sheets and covers, and gratitude for the sensuous life I live.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Full Bloom




These spectacular tulips greeted me at the corner of Riverside Drive and Monument Avenue at Riverscape Metro Park in Dayton, Ohio. I was stopped in my tracks by their gorgeous full blown beauty.

Our culture is obsessed with peak beauty, youthful beauty. We hear the phrase "past its peak," the implication being that the most beautiful moment has passed. 

But is that true? Take a closer look.


More is visible when the tulips are fully open. We can see and appreciate what's inside.

What if we begin to look at one another that way? Recognize that a mature woman allows us to see beyond the perfection of youth. There are few things more attractive than a woman fully present in her body, fully aware of her power and creativity.

Let's go forward today and look for those women. When you see one, share that smile, that look, that glance, that says I see you and you are gorgeously in full bloom.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May = Farmer's Markets

Here in Ohio May signals the beginning of open air markets. I am fortunate to have a delightful one within walking distance of my home. Well, it is about a mile and a half away, an easy distance there but often a challenge back. Not everything fits easily into a backpack!



This is especially true at the beginning of the season when many of the offerings are plants. Right now is the time to stock up on lush hanging baskets, heirloom tomato plants, flats of flowers and vegetables and perennials for the garden beds. You can easily see the transport issue! I compromise by walking to the market, usually accompanied by my Yorkie Buddy,  leave my purchases with the vendors, and drive back later to do pick up.  I've considered a wagon but then couldn't manage Buddy and he really loves being a market dog. Have you noticed that many of the folks who shop at farmer's markets are also dog lovers?

Spectacular hanging basket

Last Saturday, in addition to some chartreuse hostas, lavender, and three huge geraniums, I bought fresh eggs, granola mix, and some delicious crusty bread. Next week the first of the season greens will be available.


It's good to know the people who care for the chickens who provide my eggs!


Cooking with Amber
The market has a new feature this year, Cooking With Amber. Amber has a small cooking spot set up and creates a dish using what is available at the market that day. The latest offering was French Toast made with eggs from National Trails Farm, Challah bread from Rinaldo's Bakery, and served with several vendors' local maple syrup, jam, or honey. To everyone's delight Amber had a sous chef this week, her darling baby on her back.

Don't you just love farmer's markets? Food for the body and food for the soul!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Just Write!



In November of 2012 I participated in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The goal was to write the first draft of a novel, defined as 50,000 words, in thirty days. That breaks down to 1,667 words per day. An idea for a novel had popped into my head one day in late August. In September, while vacationing with my son and dogs on Bald Head Island, North Carolina, I did the character development and a general plot outline.

So when November 1st, the first day of NaNoWriMo and also my birthday, rolled around I was ready. Over thinking and striving for perfection can derail writing. This process allows no time for either of those. One has to let go and just write, write, write. There is no stopping to look something up or rethink the structure of a sentence. There is no time to seek that perfect word or phrase. To get the job done you have to sit down and just plow through.

I learned if I had two possible directions to go to just pick one and go there. And if that didn't feel right when I got through it to just grab that other direction and write from there. I did not delete any wrong turns or less than lovely sentences; I just wrote.

And amazing things happened. The more I wrote the more the words came. A new character appeared. A new plot line emerged. Dialogue flowed. Now was all of this golden? Of course not! But as I kept going I stopped worrying about it and just wrote.

I had two goals. I wanted to get to 50,000 words and I wanted a draft that had a beginning, middle, and an end. So I planned that when I got to 40,000 words I would begin to craft an ending. I was not completely successful. I ended up with three possible endings and wrote them all. I finished the challenge early, on Thanksgiving Day, and submitted my 51, 516 words to join the winner's circle.

I let it sit for a week or so and then read the draft. The good news is that I liked it, a lot. How did that happen? How did some fine writing come from this crazy process? Yet, there it was.

Not all of it was good. Some I just cut. Some I realized was probably the basis of another novel, a different story. There were gaps in the story line. I had vacillated between first person and third person. I experimented with using multiple points of view. In other words, lots of work to do!

I needed some motivation to move to the next step and found it in Camp NaNoWriMo. While NaNoWriMo specifies that you begin a new novel, Camp NaNo is designed for works in progress.  I set a goal of 25,000 new words to fill in the gaps and flesh out the story. At 25,621 new words, I did it!  I can proudly add a Camp NaNoWriMo winner badge.  I'm planning to go to camp again when it is offered in July with the goal of polishing this draft to the point where I can give it to some trusted readers for feedback.

If you're a writer and looking for a process to fuel your work, I recommend this. Check it out at  NaNoWriMo and just write!







Monday, April 22, 2013

Fontanelle, Rome’s Little Fountains


I love travel. I love being in a new place and discovering what makes it unique, its specific charm. One of my favorite quotes is, “Travel is the one thing you buy in life that makes you richer.” Today I am feeling very rich indeed.

I’ve just spent a lovely week in Rome. It was not my first visit there and as I was meeting some friends to write; I was not focused on the tourist high points, amazing as they are, but rather on feeling like a Roman going about my daily work.

It was about a two-mile walk from my hotel in the Veneto area to my writing group at University of Washington University Rome Center near Campo dei Fiori,  just a few minutes from the Tiber River.

As I knew I would be indulging in delicious Italian cuisine all week, I vowed to walk to and from Campo dei Fiori to burn some extra calories. Walking and writing... bliss! The weather was glorious, sunny and in the seventies. I had a date with some friends at Mercato Hostaria on the campo the night before the group was to meet. This was an opportunity to familiarize myself with some walk routes and time it so I could arrive promptly the next day.

I purchased a bottle of water to store in my backpack for the walk. When I got to the restaurant, within view from our al fresco seats I could see a small fountain, nothing pretty or elaborate, with water running continuously from a down spout. As I watched, people refilled their water bottles. The vendors from the square were also filling buckets to use in their booths. Upon inquiry, our waitperson declared the water not only safe to drink but delicious. I had to try this. Not only was the water good, it was icy cold! It was not necessary to buy bottled water. 

I began to look for other fontanelle, “little fountain,” and realized they were everywhere, most are iron containers with a plain metal down spigot but some are more decorative. There are about 2,500 in Rome. The photo at the top is my personal favorite located a few steps off Campo dei Fiori on one of the charming side streets. I think the animal head is a boar.

The other name for the fountain is nasoni, “big nose”, a reference to the shape of the metal spigot. You can cover the bottom, nostril if you will, with your thumb or palm and the water will spurt through a hole in the top making a drinking fountain for those without bottles to fill.

Given the drought in many parts of the USA, I was amazed by the constantly flowing water. I was glad to learn the water is recycled. The elaborate fountains in Rome, such as Fontana di Trevi and Fontana del Pantheon get their water from aquifers as well. The height or force of the fountain spray is related to the gravity available, depending on the source for the water. Trevi was deliberately sunken to allow for more gravity and a higher spray. The fountain near the Pantheon has a gentler flow. Fascinating!

Trevi Fountain





Fountain at the Pantheon







If you are fortunate enough to visit the Eternal City, don’t hesitate to refresh yourself with a drink of icy cold, delicious water from a nasoni, a unique Roman pleasure. And then have another drink for me!

Ciao!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Less Traveled Road


My writing spot by the Miami River

Good Friday was a day of self-care and reflection for me. I scheduled an early massage appointment at Harmony Farm because I wanted to have time to walk the labyrinth on the grounds before having lunch in Tipp City.

The massage was blissful, opening my mind to new thoughts and connections. The weather was perfect, the first day in weeks with temperatures warm enough to want to do the hike down to the labyrinth and be comfortable walking slowly. My mantra, Solvitur Ambulando, It Is Solved By Walking, guides my steps. As I navigated around the twists and curves of the labyrinth, I stayed open. I found myself asking, who am I? The immediate answers were wife, mother, friend, writer, creative, and teacher. That wife came first was eye opening. I am no longer a wife. But its place in the list tells me how important that role was to me. And though I am no longer a wife, it does not mean I wasn't a very good one because I was. It's been a long journey to recognize and accept that. 

After the labyrinth, I decided to walk down to the Miami River. Harmony Farm has picnic tables and benches there, a fine place to write, reflect, and enjoy nature. As I walked I kept noticing forked sticks. After the fourth or fifth one, I decided to pick one up. I had a flash back to Lent ten years ago. I was reeling from the discovery of my husband's affair and was in my home town in Pennsylvania. I fled there while my husband remained in Ohio to decide if he wanted me or the twenty three year old woman with whom he was having an affair. As I write that I am astounded that I tolerated that. I expect that most folks who know me are surprised as well. Severe trauma can do that; it can bring us to our knees. Literally in this case. I remember going to confession and sobbing out my story to an elderly, very startled priest. He had no idea how to help me. I did not know how to help myself but I knew I needed help. Which brings me to these forked sticks in my path. I had to make a choice back then. I chose to survive and I chose to do whatever it takes to feel whole again. 

People react to trauma in different ways. With regard to affairs and divorce, it is quite common to see some divorce quickly and then immediately find another relationship. Some folks stay together without doing any healing work and live with toxic hurt and mistrust bubbling below the surface. Some couples work together, maybe for the first time in their relationship truly being honest and vulnerable with one another, and create a better, stronger marriage. In my case there was no quick divorce nor was there any healing. So it was up to me to do the work on my own. PTSD is not something one heals from quickly. But I chose to walk that way; I took that fork in the road. Perhaps all these sticks in my path were there to remind me to do it again. To look at the possibilities and decide where to go next. The journey was difficult but rewarding. I'm glad I took the time to sort through all the hurt and pain and examine who I was, who I am, and who I choose to become. My first, most important role is to be myself. Only then can I successfully meet others' needs. To get here required time. To get here required making difficult choices. I needed to be on my own. I did not need to fill the hole created by divorce with another person; I needed to fill it with myself. Now I wake each day with gratitude and say, "I choose to be happy." I've put on my traveling shoes and look forward to the journey.


Embracing life!

The last stanza of Robert Frost's poem,  The Road Not Taken: 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Winter Be Gone!



Although it is officially spring, Dayton is covered in snow. I've been away from this blog since November first when I began participation in NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month. I've also been doing some extensive traveling in the past year: Cuba, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and will be in Rome in April. With the travel, finishing the draft of my first novel,  following my beloved Dayton Flyers basketball team and then the NCAA beginning rounds here in Dayton, I've been neglecting my blog. I'm happy to be back and will do some catch up posting on my travel and writing experiences to get back in the blogging groove.

When all this snow arrived I decided I needed a dose of spring, set out to find some pansies to buy, and saw this sign. This was just the booster shot I needed. I got my free pack and purchased several more. When the snow melts I'll plant them in a large pot by my front door but for today they are braving the snow surrounding a garden stone I made. Enjoy!






Thursday, November 1, 2012

PTSD in Partners of Sex Addicts



I am pleased to share this link to my first radio production, PTSD in Partners of Sex Addicts. At the site you can click to hear the story as well as read the story notes. This piece is the culmination of a six month radio production training program Community Voices at WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

My piece, along with the nine other pieces produced by my Community Voices 2012 classmates, premiered at the FilmDayton Festival on August 26th at The Black Box Improv Theater. Since then it has played during the Sunday Evening Documentary Hour and during Excursions on WYSO.

Dr, Barbara Steffens, interview subject, is the nationally recognized expert on PTSD in partners of sex addicts. She has developed a new treatment model that rejects the addict centered model that labels the partner as a co-addict or co-dependent. Instead her model treats the partner for the trauma they have experienced, focusing on the partner as opposed to the addict. You can contact her and learn more about her research and treatment model at Safe Passages Counseling.

As a Community Voices graduate I now have the skills to produce additional radio programs. The Dayton area is rich in story and I am looking forward to exploring new project possibilities. I'm currently interested in foreign language speaking groups in the area. If you know of any good stories, let me know!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Making Strides


A  joyous survivor
I finished radiation treatment for breast cancer, following two surgeries, three years ago. This year I participated for the first time post-cancer in the Making Strides Against Cancer 5K walk. I walked with two friends, also cancer survivors. They took me to a table where we got bright pink ribbon sashes emblazoned with the word SURVIVOR.
This was unlike any 5K I have walked. There was a suggested start time but you could begin anytime within a four hour window. We were there in the first hour so I did not expect many people. I was wrong. We joined a steady stream of walkers. I planned to do this in a meditative manner. I wanted to think about cancer, what it meant to me, what it taught me, and how it affects me now.

I began to observe my fellow walkers and strike up conversations with them. I also stopped to take photos. As a result I passed the same man three times, learning a bit more about him each time.


He was walking in honor of his sisters, two have passed on and one is a survivor. I was impressed by his thoughtful pace and quiet dignity and his devotion to his sisters. 

It was a beautiful day, sunny after morning showers and in the mid 50's. The walk started downtown went up one side of the river, crossed a bridge, looped through a park, and then wound back down the other side of the river. The last half was mostly on the top of the dike with a stunning view of the city.


I began to pay attention to the tee shirts folks were wearing. Some were funny, some poignant. Here are some examples. A group of folks were sporting this shirt.

Front
Back
I started to photograph the adult in this picture when his son asked to be included. His shirt was covered by his jacket but he eagerly unzipped to show that he too was "Tough Enough to Wear Pink."


I laughed out loud at both of these.



The family groups tugged at my heart. I felt so lonely during my cancer journey as I was going through divorce at the time. 

And then there were these.


It was a good day for me. I'm grateful to be three years out and continue to make life style choices to stay healthy. I honor those who have made the journey before me and wish healing to all those currently on the path.