Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday slumber

She has the right idea for how to spend your time on a chilly overcast Sunday morning.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Peeling back the years

Beside me is a composition notebook, wirebound with a thick black and white cover. Written in blue ink on the cover label, is her name.  On the line beneath her name, the subject, Spelling.  I am not sure how long the journal served its intended pupose but at some point, she scratched that out with a red pen and above wrote PRIVATE Please! Won't you keep out?  Thanks an awful lot!!!!!!  (Six exclamation points behind that thank you!)  As best as I can figure from the contents, she was 16 when she changed the purpose of the notebook.

Between its covers is a world of discovery for me.  On the inside of the front and back covers, she affixed small blue envelopes which are stuffed with party invitations, graduation announcements and so very many dance invitations.  Staten Island Academy Sophmore Hop, December 21, 1940 and Pomfret School Fall Dance, November 7th, 1942, to name two.  Her dance cards are full, on every line a name is written beneath the printed column heading, Order of Dance.

You are cordially invited to a
to be given
on March 30th
at nine until one
Kindly reply to Nancy Buck
41 Sunrise Terrace

Much much later, I would know that Nancy as my Aunt Nancy.

My mother filled the notebook with Christmas card lists, lists of the movies she had seen, and gifts she received for birthdays, Christmases, graduation.  She included one of her Christmas cards from each year, glued to its own page in the notebook.  Who says Merry Christmas?  Betty Oxholm, of course!  Her highschool graduation announcement is in the notebook, along with her tennis, basketball and hockey game schedules, with notations on win/loss and points.  A Congratulations card from her parents, We are very proud of you.  Love, Ma and Pa.  I know that card must have meant the world to her. 

This morning I discover a few things I'd not seen before.  I unfold an award certificate from the Navy Relief Fund Tennis Tournament, in which she won the girls' singles at the Silver Lake Tennis Club in June, 1942. Clipped to the certificate is a newspaper article under the headline, Betty Oxholm Wins Girls' Net Title. The article includes this description:  Hitting the ball with power and fine direction off both forehand and backhand, Miss Oxholm was never in any trouble as she swept through the title.  Another newspaper clipping focuses on her field hockey team, defeated but once in two years.  Of her, the article says, Outstanding on the Academy team was Bety Oxholm, centering forward, whose hard-hitting skillful stick handling and fine passing work contributed much to the success of the team.

(You GO Mom!)

On yellowed and crispy sheets of notebook paper are handwritten letters from friends and suitors, folded and slipped between the journal pages.  Letters from girlfriends and a few boyfriends discussing the suitability of certain suitors, one ending with Don't share this with anyone, for obvious reasons. Whether or not she shared that particular letter with anyone, I do not know, but she did keep it for the rest of her life.

My mother left behind a suitcase filled with notebooks such as this one.  Dance cards, invitations, journal entries, letters, photos, schedules.  She wanted for the two of us to go through it together, but we never did.  To my eternal regret, we never did.  Much of the contents will forever be a mystery to me, left to my imagination to color in the gaps, imagine the answers to my questions.  It's a bit like watching a foreign film, subtitled in a foreign language.  Still, the contents are magical to me.  They are a connection to a young woman I never met and yet have loved all of my life.

This morning, two years after my mother's passing, I light a candle in her name and drink coffee from her Vassar College Class of 1946 mug.  I spend the morning going through a notebook, opening, unfolding, touching, admiring, learning more about this woman I knew as my mother. It is but a small look into who she was before she met and married my father, before she became my mother. She was a powerhouse of enthusiasm for life, of grace, and of sporting, social and educational pursuits. And she loved to dance. I smile now thinking about that. She always loved to dance.

Mom as a young woman  DSC_0112

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

D is for Dream

It's week four of my 26-week focus on the ABCs of life according to a plaque a good friend gave to me.

This week's letter is D and the credo is the verb Dream.  I'm going to fall short on this one because I don't have a full grasp of the definition of the word dream.  I don't really dream. Oh, I have dreams, the subconscious type of dreams that enter into my sleep. However, I'm fairly sure that the letter D in the ABCs of life is not telling me to have a good night's rest and dream away.  But I don't really DREAM, the out loud, waking hours, type of dreaming.  Having said that, I do believe that envisioning positive things in your life beckons them to take place.  Is that dreaming, envisioning?  I don't know. I believe in positive thinking, in setting goals and working towards them.  Is that dreaming?  If you believe that to dream is to have aspiration or a goal, then yes, that is dreaming.

After reading the above paragraph, I have to step back a minute.  Maybe I do dream, but call it by a different name.  If dreaming is conjuring an image, a goal, and envisioning myself there, then, okay, I dream.  Still, I'm not sure why Dream is on this plaque.  Is it to remind us that we can change our lives for the better though envisioning where we want to be?  I do not know. 

Because I'm not exactly sure of this one, I'm going to approach it a bit differently than in the past weeks. Rather than take this one out into the world, as I did with Be kind or Accept differences, I'm going to take a look around my own world, around my life, and assess what needs to change or what I want to change, and I'm going to envision that differently.  From that vision, I might be able to come up with a way to get myself from here to there.  If I don't see the goal, how can I possibly find my way to the change? 

Yes, dream!


Monday, January 25, 2010

A weekend in pictures

Austin, Texas.  A lovely slumber at the Wyndham.  A visit with my niece, my sister and my sister's boyfriend.  A day trip to San Marcos with a friend.  A bit of heaven found in every spot I went.

Cheyenne was her usual self all weekend, meaning that she played hard, slept hard, explored obsessively, and swam often. She was also a brat on the drive home.  Nothing at all out of the ordinary.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Love Thursday: Morning walks

One of the websites that I read daily, Chookooloonks, provides me with a steady stream of inspiration.  The woman behind the website, Karen Walrond, uses her writing and photography skills to express her wondefully positive ideas and musings.  A while ago, she started what she calls Love Thursday, encouraging other bloggers to write about Love on Thursdays and to link their stories in the comments section of her website.  I think that's a fabulous idea and I look forward to Thursdays with that focus in mind, to what I'll discover in the name of love.

Today is about the love I feel on my morning walks.  My heart explodes with hope and my mind focuses on promise in the mornings.  I love to discover the day's beginnings during my morning walk.  Every morning is different, different light, different sounds, different moisture. 

I love the way the sun rays beautify a spot of overgrowth and weeds.


I love to discover a vase in a window, a potted plant on a patio.  I love a red door.


I love to walk along side the repeating curves of an iron fence.


I love discovering new life blooming around me...


... and old life still vibrant with color


... and the pop of a green rose bush against the dull brown of a fence.


I love the texture of a bare and wild Wysteria vine.


There's so much to discover each morning.  I love beginning my day with the journey of finding such beauty.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In the round

This is a pedestal table made from reclaimed wood from a 100-year old building in Great Britain.  After years and years of keeping my eye out for the perfect dining table for me, I finally found it.  I wanted a pedestal table and I wanted the wood to have a natural finish, not a stain.  I love that the wood is salvaged from an old building and recrafted and repurposed into a new use, a new life. And I'm quite happy that its new life will be spent in mine.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

C is for Count your blessings

A couple weeks ago, I started down the alphabet of the ABCs of life.  This week, I'm on the letter C and that is for Count your blessings.  That's an easy one for me because I consider my blessings often.  From being blessed with two wonderful parents and a solid household, to being given a college education that set me on a career path I enjoyed, to being let go from that company and setting out on a wonderful journey of discovery this past year, I do feel blessed.  I have my health, I have some wonderful friends, I have a roof over my head and I have a lovely dog with a personality that keeps me amused.  That's to name a few. 

I think it's a good exercise to consider our blessings, especially when it seems that things aren't quite going our way, or when life is a bit more challenging than normal. Recalling the blessings we do have helps us to gain a balanced perspective.  I'll be counting my blessings, great and small, all this week, starting with the simple ability to get outside and walk Cheyenne at the beginning of this beautiful day.

It's a sure way to feel wonderful, when you take stock of the blessings you have been given.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Football Sunday

Here's a secret about me.  I've always been uncomforable when it comes to entertaining people in my home.  I've been nervous about what food to serve, what drinks to serve, what I will do if the guests do not leave.  I'm good with one person, but more than one becomes a party and I'm just nervous to be at the head of that party.  It's a mystery really, how I could feel this way, because I grew up around parties.  My parents were fabulous party hosts and they threw parties, big parties, more than 100 people in their house kind of parties.  And they did so seamlessly. Somehow, my little apple didn't fall close to their tree when it comes to this particular thing.

But lately something weird has happened to me. A budding hostess has appeared inside me and she wants to get out. I invited a friend over for dinner last week and I cooked and set a nice table and we had a good meal and good evening.  Empowered by that success, I decided to invite some friends and family over on Sunday to watch the Vikings and Cowboys game. And I decided to make a chicken and white bean chili dish that I'd never made before.  No worries.

Everyone knew ahead of time who I was rooting for, but just in case it slipped their mind, I had these as well.


I had five people in my house. Five.  At one time.  Five people, not including me.  I didn't break out into a sweat once.  In fact, I had a blast!


This is my friend Pam. She's chopping eggs and onions because she brought caviar. Don't you just love a friend who brings caviar to your house?  To watch a football game.  I do.


Pam is a big Dallas fan and I accept that character flaw.  But still I have to show you what she looked like when the Cowboys missed that kick (the first time).


My friend Dee had balked when I told her about the white bean chili I planned to serve. She didn't think chili was a chicken dish and she couldn't believe I was putting beans in chili.  She changed her mind when she had this chili though.  That was my second highlight of the day, the first of course being the Vikings win.


I enjoyed having my friends and my niece and nephew over yesterday.  I enjoyed cooking for them and I enjoyed spending the afternoon with them in my home. I don't know when I'm going to have my next party, but with this one under my belt, I'm already looking forward to it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Current events

I have Haiti on my mind.  I was a young girl when I first heard of Haiti. My parents were discussing their plans to visit the country and I ignorantly asked, Where's that?  When they returned from their trip, they spoke to me of  incredible poverty and beautiful people.  My father looked down in thought, shook his head, said, such beautiful people, such a troubled country.

I've done what I could in the immediate.  I texted HAITI to 90999, which is the text fund-raising campaign launched by the Red Cross.  I did some research to see if there was anything I could do there.  Was there a group I could join? Did I have anything to offer if I went there?  I learned that my skills are not the ones that are needed.  I don't have medical training or grief training or any emergency response experience.  I learned that a person going to Haiti would need life support, a place to sleep, a way to eat, a place to dispose of waste.  My heart was in the right place but I don't belong there, I belong here.  Yesterday, I prayed. Today I'm packing a box of gently worn clean clothes and a couple of sleeping bags that I will take to a center gathering such items for distribution in Port-Au-Prince.  It doesn't seem to be enough but then again, maybe a clean shirt will land in the hands of someone who needs just that and maybe a sleeping bag will provide a bit of comfort through the long nights.

Estimates I've read say that one third of Haiti's population has been affected by this earthquake.  That's one million people.  Hard to imagine.

Earlier this morning I stood outside in the rain while Cheyenne took her time doing her business.  I was moving my feet back and forth, impatiently waiting while she selectively sniffed here and there for the perfect spot.  It was chilly, I was getting wet, and I shivered in my discomfort.  And then I laughed.  How convenient, the inconvenience I was experiencing.  Just a few feet away, my warm and dry house, electricity, clean water, food, anything I could possibly need or want.  Everything I take for granted as being there.

As I've been writing this, I've also been tuned in to the news, watched planes arrive in Port-au-Prince. A plane from Cuba with 70 doctors, a plane from France with water, food, chainsaws, emergency supply packs, a plane from China with medical supplies, one from Finland, one from Spain, Canada, the US Air Force. As I watched, I was struck by the amazing way that humanity answers a need, how we come together for our neighbors, how we are able to set aside differences and lend a hand. In the worst of times, the best of humanity is always among the first to arrive.

I hope they know:  we hear your cries, we grieve your dead, and help is on its way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

Be Kind

Last Monday, I posted about the ABC's of  Life, beginning with the letter A, Accept Differences.  I put accepting differences up front in my mind and kept it there as I went about my life last week.  It helped me, to purposefully consider our differences when I internally questioned something I saw or heard that I did not understand or agree with.  It helped me to consider, just to consider, that I might not know the whole story in that person's life before that moment that I was about to form an opinion. Doing so gave me pause to think before reacting, whether that reaction was action, words or opinion.  Doing so kept me open and appreciative rather than opinionated or close-minded. 

This week's credo is from the letter B. Be Kind.  Kindness is wonderful. It can be a tiny thing or an enormous gesture.  Either way, it doesn't have to cost a dime!  Wear a smile, share a laugh, hold the door open for a stranger, forgo that parking spot you're gunning for, wave someone in front of you in traffic. Listen, forgive, let it slide.  Donate, volunteer, take your time.  Kindness is limitless. It's not about getting credit, quite the opposite really, but the feel-good return is almost immediate.  This week I'm going to give it with verve.

The act of kindness shouldn't be reserved for others only; in fact, I think it's important to be kind to yourself.  With that in mind, I bought myself some bright yellow flowers this morning, and they are right now like a big yellow smile in my window.


Thursday, January 07, 2010


Nothing in my life is so bedraggled and beaten down as my courtyard is this winter.  It promises me nothing and shows me only wilted, brown and drooping leaves.  There is no grand palette of green, no eager buds, just a droning sympony of brown. 

But I know something.

As dreary and insignificant as it looks now, my little garden will return.  Before Winter, I groomed and mulched and prepared the plants for dormancy in the cold weather. And yesterday afternoon, I covered them with sheets to protect them from the forecast freezing temperatures of the next several days. Oh goodness, it's a pitiful site, my garden is.

The time will come, however, when the garden will return the care I've given it. Life there will be renewed and restored. I'm a perennial believer and I know that when those first warm rays of sunlight hit my little garden, it will re-awake with bountiful life. 

We are not unlike my little garden.  A hard freeze of dissapointment or pain can enter our hearts and settle in there, leaving us fearful or bitter with dwindling hope.  But if we have prepared our heart, if we have tended to its needs, groomed and encouraged its growth, if we keep our faith through the night, through the cold, if we believe that we won't always feel this way, something happens. In time, we find that our hearts thaw, that hope breaks through and blooms again, that love find its way back.  In time we find that our hearts re-awake with bountiful love.

And like my garden when it blooms and the scent of budding flowers floats in the air, a loving heart is a delightul thing to encounter.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Beginning with the letter A

Several years ago a good friend of mine gave me an inspirational plaque called The ABCs of Life.  On the plaque are brief suggestions or approaches to life that begin with a verb which starts with that particular letter of the alphabet.  I hung the plaque in my bathroom and whenever I take a good soak in the tub, I read the plaque and ponder the lessons and inspiration there.  Beginning with A, Accept Differences.

Can you imagine if we all accepted each other's differences?  Different skin color, different religion, cultures, political leanings.  Different backgrounds, experiences, reactions.  Can you imagine if we approached differences as opportunities to learn?

I think that the first step in accepting differences is to adjust our mindsets, to practice respect. My mother used to say that the world would be an awfully boring place if we were all the same.  She taught me the importance of respecting differences, or learning from the differences. 

Respecting other people’s differences, accepting other people's differences, what would that do to your life?  I'm going to practice the letter A on the ABCs of Life plaque, actively practice it.  I'm going to do so all week, keeping it up front in my consciousness.  Next week I'm going to move on to the letter B on the plaque and then each week for the first 26 weeks of this year, I'll move through the ABCs of Life.  Starting with A, Accept Differences.  Doing so won't  lessen the world's conflicts, but it might help me with conflicts in my own life.  Certainly, it will be eye-opening to learn where I am not accepting and where there's room in my life to practice respect and acceptance more often.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A simple wish

Happy new year to you!  It is my wish for you in 2010, and for myself too, that you keep your eye out for the beauty in the hidden places, the power of simplicity, the love that's always there, and that once you find it you let it in and you let it warm and inspire you and then you give it away. Work the magic that is in you and give that to the world, and watch the world work it back your way. Perfect harmony.


You know I love you.  XOXO