Wednesday, November 30, 2011

LOFT LIFE: Home

We all look forward to vacations--the break, the change of pace, the new, the adventure, the exotic, the quiet time, or whatever it is that this year’s vacation entails.

In Europe they even call this a holiday: holy day. This is a set apart time, a time to savor, a time to restore and refresh.
I always jokingly say that work interrupts my husband’s life, and vacations interrupt mine. I like work. I do work I like. 
But, every year, I am in charge of scheduling, ticket buying, and all of the general planning that go into vacations.
Once, we took a 21-day trip through Texas, following James Michener’s book, Texas. It was one of the most wonderful trips we have ever taken. As we explored Ft. Davis, where the University of Texas observatory is, the director said: “You should stop on your way back home, because we are having a star party.” At the time, our son was really into astronomy, so we responded. “I will have to see where we will be then,” I said. 
“Oh, you’re probably like my wife,” he continued. “You probably have envelopes in your purse with the itinerary and budget for every day. My wife plans like that.”
I reached down into my purse, and said, “You mean these?” as I retrieved my 21 envelopes with the event and cash for each day of our trip. I had to chuckle that I wasn’t the only one over-planning such things.
Twenty-one days was a very long trip for me. I like being away four or five days at a time, and then getting back to work--even though my work can actually be done anywhere. It’s just that the fam doesn’t like to see me working when I am supposed to be relaxing or playing. I find both of those things very difficult.
So when I planned our recent eleven day holiday, including Thanksgiving, to California, with a few days in Las Vegas, I wasn’t concerned about the time, because I had work to do in between the fun. We would have a lovely Thanksgiving with our children and grandchildren, the first in almost 20 years, and that would be so wonderful--and was.
And, we would have a couple of days with our Los Angeles daughter and her husband, before the dreaded Black Friday and the surrounding days of preparation she needed as a retail manager. That meant the Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t going to be on Thursday. but on the Sunday prior to the real day. Retailers’ families accommodate. 
Knowing everybody else would probably be having their normal Thanksgiving plans, and that the youngest would be at her store, the rest of the week, we worked in a few days in Las Vegas, where, someday, are planning to retire.
Well, not really retire, since I don’t believe in that, but where we will start our second or third careers. Namely, Jay will do motorcycle restoration and continue building his adventure bikes and other cool bikes, and he will enjoy the diverse terrain of the desert for rides he has always wanted to do. His journey is being chronicled at blogspot also:  www.milesbeyondordinary.blogspot.com


I will continue writing and doing my networking, and my smaller businesses, and my business coaching and resumes. And, like I said, I can do that anywhere. And, since I hate hot, humid, and Jay hates cold, the desert is a good compromise. I will miss trees,  but, we will be less than five hours from the kids, so that will help.
Our days in Las Vegas were charmed. Our word for it is really that we had “favor.” God seemed to be putting people in our pathway who would guide us to the Real estate we wanted to see, and we already were quite pleased with the church we had found in Northwest Las Vegas. Thanks to Groupon, we also had scheduled other events, like U-Drift for Jay (see attached video), and a pedicure for me, and then we also had the whole four days of meals scheduled and paid for. (I told you I plan ahead!)



It was a wonderful week. We felt more sure that this would be a destination for us in a decade or so.
video
We returned to California Sunday night, and even though it took us eight hours instead of four (we forgot it was still Thanksgiving weekend for the non-retailers), we had a wonderful time just talking and praying, and dreaming of our new life--someday.
But, that eight hours, and the long transcontinental plane trip back, via Dulles to Bradley, and we were very, very glad to be home.
No matter how much fun a vacation is, there really is, as Dorothy said, “no place like home.”
What I find rather curious though, is how much our bodies seem to relax, recover the day after we return home--a place that only two years ago, wasn’t any more than another vacation place. Home is where your food is, your shower, your towels, your products, your tea pot, your bed, your pillows--your comforts. Even though the time share and hotel pillows were better than ours, and the beds, remarkably were firmer and more rest-producing, they still aren’t the ones we’re used to.

Maybe it’s jet lag, but I don’t think that is all there is to it. Home is safe; home is the place you can get back to normal. Good as vacations are, home is home.

Monday, November 7, 2011

LOFT LIFE: Weathering the storm


During a crisis, there’s always a lot of talk about how people behave. Some people reach out to help, others tuck in and wait, others get angry, some are depressed. Human nature is a fascinating thing to observe, especially in a crisis.
The recent Nor’easter that hit the Northeast, rare in October, wiped out power for more than 700,000 people in Connecticut alone. Other states were hit hard too.
In our apartment complex of about 800 residents, our old manufacturing buildings have central, boiler-room heat, which also supplies our hot water. There is a generator back up, only for emergency lights and the elevator corridors.
We were lucky. In our building there is a library, powered near the elevator, on the generator. In this library, there was still heat and power for light and electricity to charge phones, computers, IPads, IPods and, as we discovered, coffee pots and electric crock pots and griddles.
It’s quite fascinating, as I said to observe how people behave.
As we first wandered down our hallway, we discovered coffee awaiting us, with two lovely families there, providing three pots of the brew. This evolved, over the four days we spent together in the library, into one pot for regular, one for decaf, and one for hot water.
The first day, the coffee pots shared a table with the electronic gadgets, mentioned above, all plugged into power strips in the only two outlets in the room, the power strips also provided by a couple of the residents who had found themselves party to the library gathering. 

By the end of the day, we decided to pull over a second table from the other side of the room, making room for the electronics to have their own table, away from hot water and spills. This redecoration also provided a bigger play area for the children on the other side of the room. We were learning, adjusting, becoming homey.
One of the men was busy making bacon and eggs, and others provided bagels and sweet rolls, and bread, which one of the coffee families informed us could be toasted in their toaster, also now available to all.

By lunchtime Sunday, about 17 hours after the foot of heavy, wet snow had knocked down so many power lines, the clever people in our library had decided their food would spoil if electricity was going to be out for a week, as predicted, so they might as well share.
Dinnertime was a feast. One woman brought in about $50 worth of chicken and steak, and began cooking them on her electric skillet, while she chopped goodies and dished out salsa, sour cream and other ingredients for fajitas. She had thought ahead. Her generosity was dispensed without fanfare or need for applause. She was just being herself. Others brought bacon, brats, hot dogs, and various other meal-hearty foods, with no expectation for return, just sharing.
As new people came in and gathered that Sunday, there were at least a dozen people huddled together, at any given time, enjoying that strangers were becoming friends.



We kind of feared seeing management arrive, because we weren’t sure our electric skillets and coffee pots were allowed. But, we had no worries. Head of maintenance laughed, telling us he knew what was happening because he could see the generator output at his command center. Our general manager and his staff stopped by, actually to encourage us, and to say how pleased he was at our camaraderie. We offered them coffee, sweet rolls and other goodies, and began to realize how blessed we were that they understood and approved.
Families with young children kept them under watch, while they described friends with infants and other family members who didn’t have the luxury of our respite warmth.
By Monday morning, our cold, unlit apartment offered nothing. Coffee was on our minds, and we gathered what food items we could contribute, took our flashlights to the storage room to pick up plates and cups, and our cooler, and headed back down the hallway to the library. There was plenty of snow and ice for the cooler without having to open a freezer.
It was a similar crowd with a few more people, but still amazingly uncrowded, considering that in our building alone, there must be more than 100 people.
Monday was Halloween, and the students in the crowd rigged up a projector and a white board screen for a spooky, family-friendly, DVD. Others brought in bags of candy they had ready, and encouraged the three families present to get their children costumed and ready for tricks or treats, assuring that treats would not be missing, even if power was. The children were ecstatic. The adults felt empowered. Even these little gestures were very important to keep ourselves mentally stable during the long wait for our own places.

 By Tuesday, we had made friends, had begun to network, had shared all of the foodstuff in our refrigerators.
It is curious that others were invited, but were shy, or reluctant, or not willing to be thrown together in a roomful of strangers.
But for those of us who ventured out, we really did establish relationships. I met an entrepreneur who was thrilled to find a writer in her building. We exchanged business cards and promised future work together. 
     

The generous fajita cook has a home-based business we are sure to patronize.
Another woman promised to drive me to the Italian market in Springfield, since you all know I don’t do Interstates. I have wanted to go there for two years. 
One of the women who didn’t respond to the invitation, confessed to me the day after we got power, that she was intrigued by the big hearts of those who shared so much. And after the power came on, we didn’t all go back to our apartments and forget. We now see each other in the hallway and say hi. We know names. There’s a special place in our hearts for these people we shared a room with for almost four days.
And, a week later, while about 60,000 Connecticut people still have no power, our people, mostly the ones who had met in the library, responded to the flyer on the doors for a chili cook-off and football game in the Community Room. We gathered again for a meal, strangely again with our crock pots. It just seemed like a tradition. And, we got to talking about what our next Community Room activity would be. We’re friends now. 
They say that crisis brings out the best and the worst in people. Our new friends in Building 2 library certainly were a tribute to human nature at its best.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

LOFT LIFE: Shredding my life away


Our move to Connecticut involved downsizing from 2100 sq. ft. to 1200 sq. ft. with a storage area of about 300 sq. ft. 
This seems to be a growing trend among boomers, so I don’t think we are unusual.
But, do the rest of you feel overwhelmed with the need to discard, dispense, give away, trash and shred the bulk of your life accumulations? It seems like bad stewardship to have spent my life accumulating all of this, and then not to disperse of it intelligently.   
I am becoming a shredder nonpareil. In fact, I am so consumed with un-consuming, I keep the shredder in my living room.
Granted the living room is one third of our 1200 square feet, so unless I want to add it to the dining area, which houses the dining table, buffet, server, chairs, and my 12-foot, regulation-sized, punching bag, or the bedroom, where the large screen TV (which we do not use because we do not subscribe to cable), the bed, the dressers and a chair reside, the living room is really the only place left for the shredder. And, since the living room (really our second bedroom converted to living space) also has our living room couch, chairs, tables and lamps, and our two desks and chairs, this is the natural place for office equipment like a shredder.
Many a day I sit in my living room and shred. I have ten years of banking papers all having to be shredded because in an apartment building with no fireplace (my former means of destroying paper), I can’t chance throwing even one piece of paper away that could contain personal financial information.
I don’t want to do this shredding task. Who does? I am not sure why it is my duty, since all of these papers belong to at least two people. But, I have somehow become the person obsessed with simplifying life, so I do it. I hate it. I feel like the few decades I may have left of life are going to be spent shredding.
When I am not shredding, I am sauntering down the hallway to our storage room to sort through the 400 boxes for something I need, wish to see again, or to give away.

 The boxes are all marked “basement” because all Realtors these days are obsessed with “de-cluttering” other people’s homes in the supposed effort to achieve a quick sale.  Never mind the housing market is in a gutter that no amount of de-cluttering will correct. 
And, never mind that removing all laundry supplies from the laundry room, and having no evidence of life existing in the home, or any personal activity whatsoever, is a major inconvenience. 
What they don’t realize is that when moving day comes, ALL of your belongings are now neatly stored in the basement. So ALL of the 400 boxes now contain your entire life in them and all get marked: basement.
Three years later my storage room contains 400 boxes marked basement. I can find nothing without going through every single box until it does or does not appear.
Like my muffin pan. Since it was not in a box marked “kitchen,” I have now, three years from the move, finally come upon it in my search for blankets for our guests.  Thankfully, I also found the blankets on one of my earlier searches for kitchen things.
I could just load all the stuff on a truck and throw it away. My father-in-law also generously offered to store it for me in South Dakota. I think finding my muffin pan in South Dakota could be more difficult than finding it in my storage room in Connecticut. My mother-in-law’s kind remark that she wished she were closer to help me with the sorting hit the mark much closer. I wish she were here too.
Throwing it all away seems irresponsible. I am not a pack rat. I do not like stuff. I want to live a simple life. Most of this stuff does not belong to me, or at least was not purchased for my benefit.
I mean, really, who is a muffin pan for? I would be happy with my homemade yogurt and granola, and not be sad if I never saw another muffin.
But, like the shredding, it seems to be MY job to open, unpack and dispense with every single pound of stuff in this storage room. We moved 17,000 pounds, 4,000 of which are BOOKS. I tell you, I will NOT move 4,000 pounds of books to our next destination. We have to get rid of most of them. There is just too much. And I can’t lift and carry heavy boxes, so I end up making seven trips to the apartment to unload one box, especially with books.
You know the organizational mantra: 3 boxes. One to give away, one to sell, one to keep. Right. With 400 boxes, three little ones won’t work. Any ideas on this you smarties?
I have stacked up piles of children’s books, clothing, kitchen equipment, and bedding so far, ready for shipping to California, giving it to thrift shops, and finding space for some of it in the living quarters. But, this all seems so hopeless to me.  
Someone suggested I get a wagon. UMM. Does that mean buying yet another thing to get rid of after its use? I don’t want a wagon.  
There has to be a solution short of my spending my last years shredding and hauling, but, I don’t know what it is. I am open to suggestion.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

LOFT LIFE: What I didn't know in high school


There are lots of things I didn’t know in high school. I mean, what does a 15, 16 or 17 year old know anyway? This is funny just thinking about it from my elder perspective. But, the most important lack of wisdom I am now discovering is how wrong I was about who to choose as friends, and my oversight of some really fine people in the making.
How do I know this now? Strangely it is Facebook again that has opened up my horizons.
As my classmates gather together for a big reunion year, one of my classmates, yes, one who I overlooked then, asked me if I would create a website for our reunion. I recommended a Facebook page to start with.
In doing that, more than a dozen classmates have signed up to get the information on our 2012 reunion, and most of those people are ones I hardly knew in high school. They were popular, or athletic or quiet or not in my classes, or they were the boyfriend of a friend who ditched me in high school, or they just weren’t in my purview at all.
But, these people, as I connect or reconnect with them now, are really good people, people I want to know, people my husband and I would go out to dinner with, people who have wonderful values, outlooks on life, and who are kind to me and uplifting, and even encouraging. They are people of faith, people who are hard-working, family-oriented, savvy, and friendly. 
Why didn’t I see this in them in high school?
It makes me sad to have missed so many friends then, and maybe even so many years of friendship since then. But it makes me happy that it isn’t too late. Thanks to social media, we are connecting.
And, the best part: when we gather for a reunion next year, it won’t be to compare grey hair, girth or success. It will be to say hello to people who I am now feeling very connected to, very excited about seeing again, face to face. Thanks to social media, we already know about the grey hair, the girth, the successes, and so we can get right down to sharing more edifying stuff. 
I wish I could pass down this information, this wisdom, to my grandchildren. One of the adages that comes to mind is something one of our church family friends in California said to my youngest daughter: The nerds of today are the CEO’s of tomorrow! That actually made an impression on her. She chose boyfriends based on it--no kidding. That made me laugh, because I had no such mentor when I was in high school.
But, it isn’t just the nerds who I missed out on. Actually, I always preferred them. But, I didn’t know that John, who loved motorcycles and black leather jackets, was intending on law school, or that Ronnie, the athlete, would be a friend who organized reunions and attended to details like researching names and phone numbers and emails and addresses so all of us didn’t have to do that, or Mike, Allan and Ed, who share political concerns with me, and who I hardly spoke to in high school, or Sally, who was voted best dressed in our yearbook, but who I have come to know on FB as a very loving woman, who I wish I had known better back then as someone more than a very pretty face.
Anyway, you get the picture. I was a young, clueless teen. I am now an older, wiser woman. And, I am grateful that it’s not too late to find friends in my high school class.

And, maybe it's not too late to pass down this wisdom to someone--like you--so you can pass it down to your children and grandchildren.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

LOFT LIFE: Jane Jetson has come to life

After the initial euphoria of using a video phone on my computer, and now Skype, the reality of what this entails has begun to set in.
Yes, I can call my grandchildren--which I still haven’t done. And, I can call clients, without the complication and expense of air travel, and yes, there is always the real advantage of free calls to Europe, Canada, and the U.S. among fellow Skypers.
But, the actual usage of Skype comes with it the realization that: they can SEE me.
Now that kind of crashes through the whole working at home in your lounging garb advantage, doesn’t it!
I mean, there is a reason why Jane Jetson donned her mask for video calls prior to her donning her full face make-up. (This isn't something I thought of. A friend pointed it out.) 


I don’t wear make-up at home. And, I usually don’t attire myself as though ready for public eye. Jane Jetson at least seemed fully clothed in all of the cartoons I remember. But that was the ‘60s, and the early ‘60s at that. (It re-aired in the ‘80s)
So I have to get used to the idea that using my video phone means: getting dressed, putting on make-up, caring about how my hair looks, and checking the mirror, if not the camera to see what the final appearance will be. And, that is when I am “making” the call. I haven’t even addressed the horror of having to “answer” a video call I wasn’t expecting. That would mean being “ready” all the time!! 
That is a LOT of trouble to talk someone for ten minutes or less. Almost as much trouble as flying to Chicago from Hartford. Okay, Okay. Maybe a slight exaggeration. But, it is almost as stressful, for me.
I see the Jane Jetson video phone mask as the next great marketing idea. I know I will regret telling you this, because the enterprising among you will rush right out and start the assembly line. I mean, it should at least be as popular as the Pet Rock. Right? And, that made that marketing genius a millionaire. And, I don’t think we need any environmental permits or special regulatory compliance forms, so a few patterns, the right materials, and we should have the next cottage industry--hopefully here in the good old U.S. of A. Any partners out there who want to share this?
I am sure I will adjust to the idea that on certain days and times, I do have to get ready to talk via Skype. Maybe I can make phone calls on the days I am ready to go shopping, which isn’t most days. I keep wondering why my daughter can go through six lipsticks a year and I am still using ones that are ten years old. (I know, I’m going to get bacterial infections!) Now I realize that she uses hers daily, and I only about two times a week. That shouldn’t add up to ten years of life for the little sticks of goo, but they really do last a long time. And that translates also to lipstick removers, cleansing cremes, toners, moisturizers, etc. lasting a long, long time.
Am I giving you T.M.I. here?
Really, combined with my intention to exercise and get healthy, this new thought of being “ready” for a video call may become a plus. No more sitting at the computer, blinds closed, succumbing to the inertia of doing only what is necessary. Because when  you’re dressed, made up and presentable, you think differently. You’re less dour. That is a good thing.
Come to think of it, Skype may just change my life. Who knows? I may end up getting dressed and putting on make up more days than just going out ones. June Cleaver comes to mind. I had an aunt like that. Aunt Hilda was dressed, with modest make up, and had on her high heels every single day. 


So, if I do this it may mean being ready for a call any time, any day, any hour. I will become like my favorite Aunt Hilda. 


I will have to think about this. It may mean my life will take on a readiness I do not presently enjoy. It may mean my mind will engage more often than it does. It may mean a longer life. It may mean things I can't even think of.
I am dying to know what you think!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

LOFT LIFE: Who is Juanita?

All my friends keep saying Jay had better die before me because he will never be able to figure out where all of our money is. That is to say, I do the budget, pay the bills, and decide on the credit cards, and, trust me, I have a very complicated system.
It all started because, I am dyslexic, which my friend April says I am not--she says I have a visual processing disorder (actually, it’s easier just to say I’m dyslexic. I mean, can’t I simplify even this?) Anyway, I decided, after we signed up for four extra credit cards on our 25th anniversary airplane trip to our cruise to the Caribbean, (they gave us free airline tickets) that since we were up to eight credit cards, and since I have this visual processing disorder, I would just use the eight cards as an accounting system. So I used each of the cards for a different category of purchase: Jay’s budget, My budget, travel, dining, business, household products, memberships, and business travel.
My CPA told me that was a fine system, however complex, if it worked for me.
So I created my Payment Grid, which on a monthly basis, I would fill out like a table to see the date, the balance, the payment made, the date due  and which bank it would be paid from--Umm--forgot to mention that I also have five banks with several accounts in each, also in categories. *Sigh* The table also lists the last four digits of the credit cards (which amazingly I had memorized).
That worked fine until the banks started sending us REPLACEMENT cards with different ending digits, and then also sending Jay and me different numbers if we were signers on the same cards--which we always are. That meant there were now SIXTEEN credit card numbers.
Now I look at my payment grid, and NONE of the original numbers are the same as when I started this five years ago. I also tried showing Jay the grid once, hoping he would see it, say how clever it was, and want to study it. But, no. That did not appeal to him at all. Really, the reason bill paying fell to me early on in the marriage, was that this is not Jay’s bailiwick. He hates sitting still for the time it takes. We originally tried "the sitting at the table together paying bills routine," and we would get about fifteen minutes into it and Jay would need to go to the kitchen for something, or check something in the backyard, or the garage--which meant, I would not be seeing him again for quite awhile, certainly not in that evening. I ended up finishing the bills myself. I got the message. “How about I just do this, honey?” which was fine with him.
So recently, I started thinking of all the pressure this system of mine puts on poor Jay to die first. I mean, I don’t want him to even have to think about doing that. So, because this system is degenerating, and because I have decided to simplify our finances so Jay doesn’t have to die at all, and because all the numbers are now on their third round of being REPLACED by the banks, and because we now use an American Express card which breaks down all purchases into categories for me, I am reducing the cards to a mere THREE: American Express, business and travel.
I still plan to do my payment grid for the three cards, and to break out all of the categories monthly to track spending. But, this is a whole lot simpler. Except I accidentally paid a couple of the EIGHT cards twice and have credit balances on them, so I can’t retire them quite yet. And I received yet ANOTHER replacement card for a card I haven’t used in months, so I don’t remember my ID and password to activate it online, so I will be able to put this card away again and NOT use it.
I tried the online chat thing with Bank of America. That was a huge mistake. After the agent apologized for fifteen minutes and told me how much she understood my frustration, she still hadn’t even asked me the first security question.
I almost worked myself into apoplexy with this person after another ten minutes, when she started the process by asking me for my daughter’s social security number (she is NOT on any of our cards). Then she asked for information about someone named Juanita! I have nothing against Juanita, and at the risk of being politically incorrect, have NO IDEA who Juanita is. I assure you this is certainly no one in our family. So, why would a B of A employee ask me this? Wait. I know. It is for my protection. Security. Right. The system to protect me is so complicated and dysfunctional that if some criminal wants to get into my account, I am sure they can. BUT I CAN’T! I am locked out by all the so-called security measures, like not knowing who Juanita is, let alone what her relationship to my account is supposed to be. 
I ended the chat and called B of A. A cordial, English-speaking young man answered, and we activated the dormant card in five minutes.
Do any of you see something wrong with this picture?
I think I need to simply my life some more and get B of A out of my life completely, before I keel over from sheer exhaustion at dealing with this new world of “protecting me” from myself.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

LOFT LIFE: Uncle Sandy and Aunt Gail

I have told you how much we love the Mystic, CT area. We escape there whenever possible. It is a great adventure to discover all the town and its surroundings have to offer.
This time, we shopped in Olde Mystick Village, where we purchased some wonderful new kitchen items, and I perused books about local color, and learned, for instance that Pepperidge Farm is a Connecticut icon. I always thought it had a great taste, but didn’t know the history of the farm. From now on, whenever my commercial choices are limited, I will patronize this farm’s products. Reading the ingredients, amazingly, it isn’t really a bad choice. (I am considering, however, just bypassing chemicals, additives, and highly processed “whole grain” bread available commercially, and making my own bread. I’m now doing that with yogurt and will never look back. No sugar, no preservatives: live food. So delicious.)
But, enough about me. 
We ate at Ten Clams again, where no dish is more than $10, hence the name. Jay had a sirloin steak with potatoes and mixed vegetables, which for that price was quite a good value and was delicious (of course I did my usual, I don’t want that, I’ll just have a bite of yours).
We spent a day at Foxwoods, exploring the small city there and playing a little and enjoying $1 coffees and juice. July 4th, we did Mystic Seaport, where restoration work on the Charles W. Morgan whaleship, the last wooden whale ship in the world, is coming along nicely. This time we also attended the planetarium show, Saturn being up close this time of year, and it was very informative and fun.
The highlight of the trip for me was meeting the Beechers: Sandy and Gail, who own the Roseledge Herb Farm. (www.roseledge.com)
I always research the B&B market, and this time, decided Roseledge looked good. They sounded friendly, the reviews were good, and the description of the fresh farm breakfast sounded irresistible, with ingredients fresh from their own gardens.
The first afternoon, I was looking for a book in their library and have always wanted to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, so seeing a copy on their bookshelf off of the lovely dining area overlooking the lush herb garden, I picked it up. I began reading by the sunlit window at the front of this cozy historic property.

When I mentioned how much I was enjoying the book, Gail pointed out a tidbit I had completely missed--Beecher, as in Harriet Beecher Stowe, was a relative of her husband’s. Talk about a Connecticut icon!

It’s amazing how once you make this sort of connection, how much more meaningful everything around you becomes. I was reading a historic book, by an author who truly changed the world, right in the presence of one of her descendants.   
I drank in the story Harriet Beecher tells, so much more appreciative of the parts about New England, which might have just been a blip without my new knowledge of her Connecticut roots. She had been steeped in the New England culture, so her contrast of that upbringing with that of those in the Deep South, where her story is situated, were all the more impacting.
Those of you who have read this masterpiece, please forgive me for my newness to this. But, as I read, I can’t help but find myself worshipping God for the Christian spirit with which this author calls out to us all, a call to action and a change of heart.
As I read St. Clare’s soliloquies, especially, my soul can hardly be contained with the mixture of sorrow and wisdom she imparts through him. It changes me deeply. If you have read it, many years ago, I implore you to re-read it and to gain from it a new perspective, you may not have had many years ago.
I also think of Karthryn Stockett’s recent bestseller, The Help, which moved me in much the same way for its telling of the ‘60s of our own time and, sadly seeing how little progress we actually had made in cultural attitudes, since Harriet Beecher’s storytelling.

Roseledge Herb Farm, the property itself, did not belong to Harriet’s family’s, yet, nevertheless, is steeped in a history, both from its original owner, John Meech, and from the heritage Sandy and Gail bring to it. I'm sure, they are in a long line of appreciative Connecticut patriots, which I also am becoming.
In any case, the book absorbed me every afternoon, as I sat by my sunny window, with Indoor Cat at my neck, and a tall glass of fresh lemonade or a wonderful glass of Merlot at my side. There were also fresh cookies, and leftover blueberry breakfast muffins in the afternoon, which, unfortunately, I could not resist.
Gail had greeted us from her work in the garden on the first hot, humid afternoon, and I thought she looked a bit embarrassed to have been “caught” before she could get herself in the hostess mode. She seemed apologetic, and maybe tired. What she didn’t know was how endearing this was. This place was obviously a lot of work for two people: the home, the restoration, the gardening, the harvesting, the meal planning, the cooking, the serving, and the cleaning, not to mention running the business itself with all that requires. But, what we saw was the loving and caring they both showed, and we appreciated that it was all for us--and their other guests.
This lodging truly felt like a home, and I will consider it one of our homes away from home in future trips to Mystic.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

LOfT LIFE: Community

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about community--that gathering of friends and acquaintances that makes us feel like we belong somewhere. 
Maslow put this third on the hierarchy of needs after survival (breathing, food and water), and security (physical safety).
So, it’s a basic need, not a luxury, to have a sense of belonging, social interaction. 
This brings us to the arguments for and against social media as an authentic community, real enough, though virtual, to substitute for face-to-face community.
Now, you won’t find me arguing that face-to-face isn’t important. But, I must tell you that this may be more a matter of individual usage than a general fact for all that social media bridges a gap.
I have lived in five different states, attended more than a dozen churches, graduated from several schools, and lived in at least ten different neighborhoods, and joined numerous professional and other organizations. I tell you it is impossible to keep in touch with people in those places the old-fashioned way.
Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, and other social media sites have been an interesting and fulfilling way to connect with people I have known. Quite a few benefits come to mind:
  • I can connect with all five states and some foreign countries where my friends have moved to.
  • My friends can all comment at once on, say, my posting of a video of the tornado that just hit our area
  • I can introduce my friends to other friends
  • I can remind my friends to read my blog and see comments so I know they have resonated with something I care about
  • I can share pictures with no cost at all except for my wireless connection
  • I can see family, grandchildren, baseball games, birthday parties, baptisms in far away places from Connecticut, like California
Well the list goes on--you know these things. But, really, if I had to contact more than one or two of these people, it just wouldn’t ever happen, not because I don’t care about them, but it would be just too time-consuming and cumbersome--not to mention I don’t even have addresses for most of them. And, please tell me how often you think I would be writing to my friend Aaron in Spain, or my high school classmates, or my college roommates, or my church friends in California and Illinois. I can tell you the answer--not very often. But, in this age, I can relate to them, albeit briefly, every single day.
And, how many photographs would I be getting from my kids showing my grandsons’ playing baseball? Or my granddaughter’s birthday party, or their first day of school? Again, probably wouldn’t happen.
There’s more.
Today, I Googled my own blog, and amazingly, the list included a couple of these blog stories related to food on All-Recipes. I was floored to see EIGHT comments from people I have never met or known, about my story on soft drinks. Think of it! Eight people care about what I had to say about the Ugly truth about soft drinks.
That makes me wish to write back to them. In the old world, I would never be able to connect with like-minded people who care about kids and nutrition. But, in the new world, we gather to share these things, and we all feel a little more connected, a little more educated, and a little less alone.
Isn’t that what community is all about? OK, I need the hugs from those in close proximity. But, I have to tell you, for me social media is real, good and appreciated. In fact, it's a basic need fulfilled.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

LOfT LIFE: Life and health

I am tired of battling infection, shingles, and all else I have been through in the last two years. You know, I have always been a very healthy person. This sick girl isn’t me. So, I started reflecting on what has changed.
OK, I am older. Right. What else?
Well, they say that shingles erupts with too much stress. I have analyzed that condition also, and after reading three books, I think I have reached some very basic conclusions:
The two little Christian books my friend Connie gave me are about combating fear, and claiming health. The fear book is all about our two choices of believing the Spirit of life and truth, or believing our Enemy who tries to scare us into dying. Now, yes, we are going to die. But, do we have to go there afraid? NO!
The other book is Dr. Marc Siegel’s new book, Inner Pulse, which I am finding fascinating reading. It too, recommends tuning into the “truth” we know within, and choosing to listen to our inner pulse, rather than other voices--be they doctors, friends, family, or whoever, who would deny us that strong desire to reach deep within and connect with this pulse. 
You can call it insight, intuition, God’s whisper, or something else. But, what I believe is that God has placed within each of us a great capacity to hear Him, and to know ourselves. None of this is about fear. Fear and negative thinking produce all kinds of changes to our brain chemistry and our bodily systems. 
Siegel tells case history after case history to demonstrate that we can actually change our metabolism, our blood pressure, our blood sugar levels, and more simply by this positive or negative energy that occurs from what we believe and how we think and feel.
I find this to be good news. I do have some control over my life--until it is time to die.
So, I decided to stop wallowing in the morbid and morose, and to return to my usual positive outlook.
The strangest thing. The shingles pain, although slightly present here and there, mostly disappeared. The pain in my lungs disappeared. My somewhat labored breathing returned to normal. And, I think my slightly elevated blood pressure has calmed considerably.
Here’s another discovery I have made. I listen to news daily, and sometimes hourly. The news is not good news. And, being a very intuitive person, my spiritual discernment also kicks in, and informs me that the prophets of doom are probably right. The world is not going in the right direction. There is hatred all around the globe. History may be about to repeat itself, and worse, for places like Israel. Floods, earthquakes, fires, tornados, famines--they are all accelerating, and more and more of us are living in disaster zones. 
Now, I think it is important to stay informed. But, it is also important not to continually bathe myself in this bad news and doom. I didn’t realize how much it may be affecting me. So I am going to stop listening to this at such a pervasive level. My spirit cannot be cheerful and healthy with bad news.
The little book on healing says that listening to the Good News is what makes us stay well. For me, that means reading the Word of God, listening to music that is uplifting, watching shows and reading books that lift and enlighten, rather than devouring crime novels and television shows about crime and death. I read a review of a designer who celebrated Satan and ended up committing suicide. I felt so sick after reading about him, I realized if this one story affected me, these other things must be also.
It is pretty radical to think of changing all of this. And, then my pastor’s message this week was about seeking the Kingdom above all else. That clinches it. I am worth it. I must practice what I believe.
No, I will not completely stop reading crime novels, or watching Dexter (who I still think is sweet). But, I will not immerse myself in these things. I can’t. My health is at risk.
I say these things to encourage you to look at your own pastimes and thinking. I wish you all life and health!