Monday, October 22nd, 2018

I am Lousy at Self-Care

Hi. I’m Joyce and I’m lousy at self-care.

I’m in the thicket of bronchitis. I’m closed in by Bottles of Nyquil, scattered tissue boxes, inhalers galore, rumpled sheets, and an orange prescription bottle standing out from the flotsam and jetsam. Five days of snoozing and snoring and sniffing and coughing hysterically wondering if there would be one last cough and whoosh I’d zoom around the room like a balloon let go. I must be getting well because I’m crabby. Too sick to clean up the mess but too well to stand it. Off to a new bedroom. “Clean cup! Clean cup!”

I had the misfortune of having easy  health and energy for most of my life. Rarely missed school or work. Had abundant energy for a family of five kids, demanding work and a husband running his own private counseling practice primarily in the evening. People would ask how I did it. Don’t know. Just did. But, nothing put the brake on. I told my body to “go” and it did.

After retirement, I did have a heart attack. It was easy to ignore—no scars, felt good right away, hooray for modern medicine. Now I have what I call ailments.  I have two reactions. One is to ignore my body and the other is to be mad at it. Impatient.

I am horrible at self-care. I hate the phrase. But this round of bronchitis has me remembering that I was a varsity field hockey, soccer, basketball, and tennis player. I was a member of a formal dance group in college. I loved movement. I did not swim or bike or run. For me, there was no dance to those, no winning, no wonderful moments of a sweet spot.

I have a hard time thinking of myself as less than healthy.  Well, the fog of this almost ten days of limited breathing held up a mirror to me. (Maybe to see if I was still alive.)  I know the mantra of caring for self to be able to care for others. It just doesn’t move me. Literally, I guess.

I don’t mean this to sound perky or light-hearted. Or grim. I’m simply sharing the strength of my own denial so that I can hear it. Talk about Truth Burp. I am lousy at self-care.





Monday, October 15th, 2018

Noodlings From Rangeley, Maine

“Up to Camp “is how we say it in Maine.We went up to camp into the mountains with our five year old granddaughter for four daysTo our quirky little house on Pleasant StWe bought it for under 30,000 dollars, maybe less. Thirty years ago. Each of our five kids had a lousy summer fixing it up.

One painted kitchen cabinets

One gouged (I mean sanded) the floors.

One poly-urethaned  bead board walls that slanted and so created perpetual drip marks

One had the supreme horror of insulating the space

One weeded and weeded  (stalling, afraid of new assignment) a hopeless raspberry patch

Sullen was the look for that Summer Of Our Discontent. David would go to the hardware store and the kids and I  would all play hooky immediately.Swarming outside for Frisbee and freedom.

Now the house is a living museum.My parents Lazy Boy chairs are there. My dad’s Liberty Bell graphic, framed from the Chicago World’s Fair hangs proudly, a water color my mom painted (first and last one} my childhood game of Cootie, ancient blankets from previous lives and marriages, clothes we can no longer fit into and, best of all, every one of our many college books. David and I were both English Lit majors so there are many duplicates of Penguin Classics—most priced under three dollars.Two original Lady Chatterly’s Lover copies. (Could they be worth something?)



—one of my favorite things is to see a stately dark green pine sprinkled with gold leaves froma birch. Festive, festooned. Not so much a Christmas tree decorated, but more like Cinderella dressed for the ball with jewels in her hair. One gust of wind and back to char woman.

—Our granddaughter in her mom’s and aunt’s old room, door shut, thrilled to have her own space. She immediately unpacked and set things up to meet  her taste. I would hear her various voices as she played all the different parts of her stuffies (cat, goose, chipmunk and bear). Kids playing pretend is my all- time favorite sound.

—Nature didn’t cooperate. We went down to the lake on a warm/hot day. The beach had been closed so there had been no  caretaking. Soooooo we were on the Rangeley  Lake beach land mined with duck poop. Lots and lots of duck poop. We picked our way to the water, shrugged, and picked our way back to the car. We didn’t see a single deer, moose or wild turkey that usually think of our lawn and trees as a salad bar.

—We had goofy drama. The muffler fell of the car. My granddaughter looked like she had chicken pox so we spent an afternoon trying to get her seen. (Never travel without written parental permission to treat a grandkid of have a house without calamine lotion.) The kitten we brought along (yep, we did) disappeared in the house. Issa to the rescue. I was stunned by the fortitude and determination of this five -year- old kid. She searched and searched and searched. And found. The kitten was sound asleep in the very narrow broom closet with the door shut.The problem with mini-drama is that they take time away the “real” trip.  You can guess what Issa will remember—lost kitten and duck poop.

—The  Fall color was the most intense I’ve ever seen it. It was right on the edge of garish. Rollicking maybe. Rolling puffs of gold and orange and red making the mountains soft.The strict, sturdy, upright pines of blackish green were a relief. I get the same kick out of a shower of fall leaves as I do of the first fall of snowflakes. Just makes me immediately happy.

—Most good was the rhythm of the day. No electronic screens. Classical music at breakfast. Quiet. Calm. Slow. Easy. Meals at the same time each day. Washing dishes by hand. Constant coffee at hand. Sitting at the table together each doing our own thing—what I call pioneer table.

Grateful for this interval, this family history, this natural beauty, this  coziness during a time of harshness in our world. This Rangeley time together.



Monday, October 8th, 2018

Pockets of Peace



—The world is too much with us: late and soon

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

For this, for everything, we are out of tune—


Thanks Wordsworth. We are out of tune as a people, as a country as a world.We are discordant. There is not enough common ground to stand on together.And, at this point, we don’t have a process to create social harmony.I believe we will. But for now, we are out of tune.

But while we work out a new social contract with the greatest good for the greatest number, we need to have Pockets of Peace to nurture us to live in the fray. Pockets of Peace are restorative and simple. When I have my five-year-old granddaughter overnight, the deep breathing she finally falls into as her hands relax and I am officially off duty, is a wonderful Pocket of Peace. When my husband and I clash over daily irritations and we shut up and have a silent hug, this is also a pocket of peace.

Other Pockets of Peace for me are when I:

— drink a fresh cup of coffee in a red mug and sit and sip—no thought, no purpose, just coffee

—share a belly laugh and can’t stop, especially if caused by one of my grown kids                        —get an email from a best friend that affirms who and how I am

— write my truth

— do my kind of prayer/reflection and get a glimpse of timelessness

—remember to light a candle

—give up the day. right before sleep and  surrender all imperfections

—treat myself to lunch alone

— create a little beauty that tickles me like a bouquet of paper plate flowers

—climbing into a freshly made bed (that I haven’t made)


I have the impulse to sing, “These Are A Few of MY Favorite Things” but I’m not talking so much about indulgence and pleasure as I am about refreshing the self in small ways so that each of us can give what we have to give in a world that needs our individual gifts


Monday, October 1st, 2018

Autumn is a Carnival

My dear friend and pen pal allows me to publish parts of her email to me. I was pondering the first day of fall when my computer pinged. Here is what I wish I could write:
summer last Friday, autumn’s arrival yesterday and today in pants throughout the day for the first time. i do love the easy on and off of shorts and sandals and tan legs but sweatshirts and fleecy pants and thick socks have their own cozy appeal. and autumn has the appeal of diversity after weeks of relentless summer sunshine. now, a breeze springs up for an hour, a brief rain shower, cottage cheese or wispy clouds. something for every taste. liveliness. capriciousness. summer is dour but autumn has a sense of humor.
Maggie comes alive. chasing wild rabbits in the pasture, flat-out sprinting after orchard deer. her thick fur coat no longer a physical burden and liability. i plod along and after a whole-hearted and futile chase, she circles back, her tongue hanging out and as long as her ears and smiling, familiar with our walking route. i congratulate her on yet another failed attempt.
autumn is just a prime season to be outdoors. perennial cone flowers and geraniums and coreopsis and marigolds, asters and mums are in full bloom. pumpkins, as yet uncarved, grace front steps and porches. red and gold Ash leaves lazily drift to the ground and add bling to grass. crows play in the wind, cruising with it and then flapping vigorously against it for one more ride. everything seems more rather than less alive than in summer. autumn is nature’s carnival.