Friday, October 30, 2009


Guess what I just realized about myself? I opened the refrigerator door to get a bottle of water this morning and when I closed the door, I stepped back and realized I am one of those people, those people who put everything on the doors of the appliance designed to keep my food and drinks cold.  Yep, that's me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Today is her birthday!

It goes like this. I reached a point in my life nine years ago where I decided it was the right time to get a dog. Although my family always had dogs, dogs that I grew up with and loved, none was my very own, and that's what I wanted, my very own dog. I wanted a female Chocolate Lab puppy. Little did I know that the pup that would be my Christmas present that year had already been born at the time I reached that decision. Nine years ago today, in fact.

Our years together have cost me in many ways. In books and frames, window ledges and shoes, in trips to the emergency vet and two surgeries to replace her knees, and many many food items swiped from the counter tops in my house and the houses of others.

Seven weeks - Day 2

Still, the rewards have been much greater. I got the dog I wanted, and that is to say that what I have is a friend. Cheyenne and I have walked many miles together and seen countless sun rises along the way. Over the past nine years, we swam in rivers and surf, in lakes and ponds. We've climbed mountains and trekked through the snow together. I've watched her baby blue eyes turn an autumn gold. We've run in the rain and played fetch in many parks and yards and even in a couple houses. We've spent days and weeks at the cabin together, free to explore where my eye or her nose led us. I've tripped over her more than once, and she's tipped more than one canoe. She keeps me shaking my head in constant amusement at her antics, whether it's freaking out that her feet are being touched, eating the Easter candy, or backing up to me and growling when she wants me to scratch her back.

And she's been a tremendous source of warmth and comfort to me in times of terrible grief.

Dad & Cheyenne

She's a quirky one, this girl of mine. She's eager, and happy. She's both serious and silly, dramatic and goofy, and she has a whole bag of odd behavior that never ceases to make me smile. She has her moments of pause and her moments of explosive, butt-tucking enthusiasm, and every day when I get home, she's right at the top of the stairs, tail in full wag with a smile that's all her own spread across her face and crinkling her nose.


She's a little bit crazy and a lot of dork. If you know her, then right now you are shaking your head in agreement.


She has a boyfriend, the strappingly handsome yellow Lab, Isaac. He plays Forest to her Jenny, which is to say that he is completely smitten with her. And tolerant. And that they go together like peas and carrote. They have fun together. Oh what fun they have!


She's my friend is what she is, and she's a great one, bless her little brown self. She and I, we're two in a row. I can't really imagine what the past nine years would have been like without her by my side to show me the way and remind me that life? It's good stuff.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One day and... well, yeah, that means my test is tomorrow

I humbly request your prayers, crossed fingers*, rabbit's feet, horseshoes, four-leaf clovers, lady bugs, oils, coins, jade, crickets, dragonflies, rainbows, dolphins, dreamcatchers, elephants and acorns, and even your voodoo or booyah.

*Crossed toes also accepted.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two days and counting

In the last eight weeks, I've filled two notebooks, using the front, back and margins of every single page. I am now mid-way through my third.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Three days and counting

There are two things in this picture that make me happy. One is the vase. It's a porcelain milk carton and I adore it for the whimsy of taking a utilitarian shape and retooling its purpose. The other is the flowers. I picked these flowers from my own little garden. What's not to love about the simplicity of picking flowers from your own little garden and putting them in a porcelain vase that looks like a milk carton?


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Around here

On Wednesday evening, I was out with a couple friends for a brief respite from studying and other things I am stuffing my days with as of late. One of my friends looked at me from across the table and asked, What's up with your blog lately? I asked her what she meant by that. She said that I haven't been writing much.

But I just posted the other day about Camelot and being a sparkling drop.

She rolled here eyes, said, BORING.

Before you get defensive on my behalf, let me say that she said that with a smile on her face and an exaggerated tone, as if she were imitating a child. This friend enjoys when I relay stories, especially stories about times which she was part of, or where she knows all the characters.

Then she elaborated. What about those posts you used to write about, about your friends or the cabin and sitting around the patio and laughing?

Well, I smiled, it's not exactly like I'm having those times lately. We laughed at that because truer words could not be more true. What's also true is that it's not exactly as if I'm my usual self lately.

Let me give you a quick example: It took me about fifteen minutes to organize my thoughts and my words into the brief bit I wrote just above. Why that long? Because if I took my thoughts directly out of my brain, and left them unscrubbed, the first paragraph above would like like this:

On Wednesday (a negative times a negative equals a positive) evening, I (a fraction describes a part over a whole) was (Maria) out (Eddie) with a (Kelly) couple (my GRE test is in one week) friends (math homework) for (the difference between any two sides of a triangle must be larger than the third side) a brief (etymology) respite from (Pythagorean triplets are 3:5:4, 6:8:10, and 5:12:13) studying (homework, homework, homework) and other (Maria) things (bisecting a square diagonally creates two 45:45:90 triangles) I stuff (the shaded area equals total area minus unshaded area) my day (many coordinate questions are really about triangles) with these (a ratio is a part over part relationship) days. One (an even negative raised to an even positive gets bigger) of (what does saturnine mean again?) my friends looked at (area of a parallelogram equals base times height) me from across (vocabulary flashcards) the (use FOIL - first, outside, inside, last, to multiply two algebraic terms) table and (Maria) asked, What's up with your blog lately? I asked her what she meant by that. She said that I haven't been writing much lately.

Need I go on? My head is so filled with math rules and new vocabulary words and concern over loved ones, that my thoughts will not stop. Although tired when I go to bed, sleep has eluded me for many nights. If sleep is the ball on a roulette table, well it just bounces and bounces and never lands. Okay I confess, I capture an hour here and there. But real sleep, that wonderful kind of sleep in which all the individual hours of sleep are connected by hours of sleep? There hasn't been much of that in the past couple of weeks. On the rare and delightful occasion when I am able to get there, I have nightmares that are filled with triangles and unreal scenarios and I wake up in frightened or sad confusion.

I need to separate something here. I have so much concern for and heartbreak over a friend who is ill, and for her lover, but I am capable of handling those emotions because I put my sadness and anger and desperation into prayer and conversation with God. I am strong in this capacity, because I have learned to be that way. And that strength, that is how I can be there for my friends, how I answer a very real need they have.

What has me losing sleep is the fact that I am filled with such anxiety over the math in my upcoming GRE that my nerves have overtaken the knowledge that I do have and I stare at the questions on my practice tests and don't understand at all what I'm being asked to solve. All the while, a sweat breaks out all over my body as I imagine a gigantic clock, tick tick ticking over my shoulder, about to announce to the world that I will not get into graduate school because I cannot do simple arithmetic, and then a global email will be sent and that email will say: ISN'T ALISON PATHETIC? Because, seriously, how the hell can she not understand how to convert 0.167 into a fraction and multiply that by the long side of an isosceles triangle to arrive at the volume of a parallelogram, which don't we all know is just a box? (panic, panic, panic)

My GRE study course teacher told me during a one-on-one tutor session a couple weeks ago that my problem is not math, that I know the math, my problem is me and my anxiety towards math. I smiled at her and told her that she didn't understand that my tackling math is the most difficult thing I've done in years, and I've been through a lot in the past several years. As the words came out of my mouth, I thought, Wait a minute. And then I realized that, yeah, maybe I do have some anxiety there. But something needs to get a shake down, because, seriously, math? Math does not compare to the real world, and the little battle I have with fractions and decimals has no place at all in the rest of my world. Period.

But still, anxiety is NOT a reasonable thing. So, asking or telling the anxiety in my head to calm down because I've survived more and others are fighting way bigger battles, does nothing.

Trust me on this: Anxiety is a selfish and self-feeding logic-eater.

Yesterday, I was prescribed something to calm me down. It's a very small dosage of a powerful substance to calm my nerves enough to allow me to focus. That small dosage is going to get smaller tonight because although I did sleep wonderfully last night, when I woke up I felt as if I'd been hit by a truck and the resulting impact left me with mashed potatoes for brains. It took me three cups of coffee before I could feel my head atop my shoulders, much less use the brain inside that head.

Anyway... all of this is to say that for the time being, it's not all patios and laughter-filled conversations with friends and loved ones around these parts. Part of the reason for that is painfully beyond my hands, but in my prayers. The other part is the GRE test looming large on my horizon. Someone recently reminded me that this test is not something that defines who I am, but rather a means to an end. And nothing more. And that is something I keep telling myself. Over and over and over again. I hope the 1/16th of that pill I'm taking is listening.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Words that guide me

From Camelot, final scene.

The night before the final battle against Sir Lancelot, King Arthur has come across a young boy (Tom of Warwick) who wants to fight for him. Arthur knights him and instead, instructs him to return home.

Sir Pellinore, an old and trusted friend of Arthur's, is with Arthur and observing this.

Arthur tells the boy: Each evening from December to December, before you drift to sleep upon your cot, think back on all the tales that you remember of Camelot. Ask every person if he's heard the story and tell it strong and clear if he has not; how once there was a fleeting wisp of glory called Camelot. Camelot! Camelot! Now sing it out with love and joy.

Sir Tom of Warwick repeats after King Arthur: Camelot! Camelot!

Arthur: Yes, Camelot, my boy. Where once it never rained till after sunset, by 8:00 a.m. the morning mists had flown. Don't let it be forgot that once there was a spot for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot. My teacher, Merlin, who often remembered things that hadn't happened better than things that had, told me that one day, a few hundred years from now, it will be discovered that the world is round. Round, like that great table at which we sat with high hopes and noble purpose. If you do as I ask, perhaps one day men will sit around this world as we did around our table and go questing once more for honour and freedom and justice. Now run, Sir Tom, behind the lines...

Sir Pellinore: Who was that, Arthur?

Arthur: One of what we all are, Pelly, less than a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea. But it seems that some of the drops sparkle, Pelly, some of them do sparkle!

Years ago, I clipped from the Playbill those last words between Pelly and Arthur, framed them and placed the frame on my bedside table. I read them often, and I strive to be one of the sparkling drops.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Words for the day: Thank you

My waking thoughts this morning were of gratitude. Another day, another opportunity to give thanks, to be a friend, an Aunt, to open my mind to the lessons around me and open my eyes to the beauty around me. I stayed in bed, snuggling in the comfy disarray of the sheets and pillows, and letting my mind roll out the ribbon of all I am thankful for. There is so much. Then I excitedly jumped out of there and into my sweats, raced Cheyenne down the stairs, and together we set out for a long walk in this perfect weather.

And I wouldn't be me if I didn't have a camera in hand.

With these photos, I wish you a happy Friday and a good weekend. Perhaps you too will discover appreciation for the many gifts that are always present.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Embracing the surprises

Today could be a turning point in your life. Maybe yesterday was. Maybe you won't discover it until weeks or even months or years from now. It often happens that way, with slow winds and quiet moments, not flashing lights and loud fanfare. In the past, I've searched for reasons, for something I could pinpoint as the catalyst for a certain change. Usually I cannot decide or discover that one thing. Something within us, something about awareness, suddenly gives us consciousness of new ideas, new choices. Something pushes us to think outside the limits of our usual ways. Life begins to fit together in a different way, a better way.

As turning points go, some are not particularly great. But inside are hidden many gifts and opportunities for change. A firm believer in silver linings and making the most of what you have been given, I'm not someone who fears change. That feeling was challenged when I lost my job last February. That turning point was a surprise and sudden, a shock to my system that led to an emotional time, to be sure, but it was not a frightening time. Now I look back to that day with gratitude. I didn't know then what God was planning for me or what new path He wanted me to walk.

I still do not know, but here's what I do know: The path is a good one. I've been given opportunity to be a fully present friend who is needed. I've been given opportunity to spend time with family. I've been given opportunity to expand my mind through reviewing and setting new goals and continuing my formal education. I've been given opportunity to take care of an elderly loved one who needs assistance. All of these opportunities are fulfilling.

When I wake up each morning, I thank God for this completely unexpected path, for the turning point He gave me that was initially disguised as something I thought I did not want. And now I find it was the beginning of changes in my life that I very much do want, and embrace.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday morning Snorgle

If you have never met a Snorgle, let me introduce you to mine.


Thursday, October 08, 2009


The entrance to MD Anderson Cancer Center hospital is through two sets of doors that are massive and open automatically. The first set is nondescript, purely functional. The second set, however, has a random pattern of large diamonds etched deep into the glass, and rising like wishes to the sky. With the movement of the opening doors, the diamonds grab and reflect the light and what you walk through is a song of colors.

On Tuesdays, a volunteer plays the grand piano in the lobby and fills the space from floor to ceiling with beautiful notes. You expect to see people sitting in the lobby and you expect to see the empty wheelchair by the door and the volunteer sitting at the information desk. You expect to see doctors ambling about and patients out for a stroll, but piano music is not what you expect when you enter a cancer center. It's a pleasant surprise.

What these gifts give your heart and mind is a moment, just a moment of pause when you walk into and through the lobby on your way to the elevators that carry you up to the tenth floor where you will spend the day with your friend who for the time being is in the corner room.

From the phone calls, emails and texts I received, apparently I worried a few people with yesterday's post. It was not about me. I wrote it about my friend, wrote it to my friend.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Point blank

There are times when nothing in you arsenal prepares you, times when your experiences, your lessons, your favorite sentence in your favorite book, your beating heart, your grieving heart, your epiphanies learned from your private moments, your incessantly pulsing blood, your empty but soul-searching time spent in nothingness while driving from here to there, your fist raised in the air, your favorite photograph or most delicate ornament on the Christmas tree; none of it can prepare you for what you hear when you hear the words. When the immediacy of knowledge spikes your brain and shreds your soul, strangles your breath and steals your hopes. There are no experiences you've painted your name on, nor any that have branded their name on you, none at all that will step up and console you. None that will say to you, it will be okay.

It won't be okay. Life will go on, but it won't be okay. And this? Knowing this? This will be the secret and most regrettable voice in your mind, in your heart. It will be the day you never forget and the words you will forever despise, the words that will always take you down, because this was the moment you will forever trace your weary fingers backwards to discover over and over again to be the beginning of the end.

All I can offer you right now right here is this song I heard while taking the long way home tonight.

Just Breathe
- Pearl Jam

Yes I understand that every life must end
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go
I’m a lucky man to count on both hands
The ones I love
Some folks just have one
Others they got none
Stay with me
Let’s just breathe

Practiced are my sins
Never gonna let me win
Under everything, just another human being
Yeah, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world
To make me bleed

Stay with me
You’re all I see

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t, now I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
As I come clean

I wonder everyday as I look upon your face
Everything you gave
And nothing you would take
Nothing you would take
Everything you gave

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t now I’m a fool you see
No one know this more than me
As I come clean

Nothing you would take
everything you gave
Hold me till I die
Meet you on the other side

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Turning the page

Do you love October? I do. Each year, I look forward to turning the calendar page and seeing the date, October 1st. October reminds me that it doesn't take much to please me. October brings simple things to the front for me. One elusive goal after another lately has made me hurry by some beautiful things, I'm sure. But October reminds me to stand still once and again and observe the world around me. The leaves consider change, a bright cluster of mums is placed on a neighbor's porch, an owl calls out to another in the evening.

Much is required of us because to give and receive is the order of life. And that has been particularly true of my life lately. But it is the quiet, timeless, natural activity that October ushers in the calm, that rests me and puts a glow on my face. Everything is not duty, I am reminded. Much is reward, rewards I don't remember earning but that are everywhere around me nonetheless. October reminds me to slow down and enjoy those rewards.

I want you to slow down and recognize those rewards too.