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Breaking Free

Posted by Kathy on Apr 5, 2020 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

For some reason, the coronavirus pandemic and how it affects us has been stirring up some old memories of my mom’s experiences during her life time. I wish she were still here to guide me through, but even recalling her stories gives me strength.

As I sit here during this trying time, isolated and alone, I go through various phases of inspiration and despair – and everything in between. This morning, I thought about it in terms of what solitary confinement might feel like, although admittedly my little 560 square foot apartment is hardly a jail cell.

This is the story I recall hearing my mom, Marge, tell us:

When she was 11, in the 1930s, she was sent from home in New York to a girls summer camp in Maine. Her brother Bob, several years older, headed to a boys camp just down the road from her. Presumably, they were happy and excited to go.

Her brother Bob (my Uncle Bob) was happy enough at his camp, but for my mother, camp was a disaster. She hated it. It was not a warm and fuzzy place, she was homesick, and she desperately wanted to leave during those first couple of weeks, which soon and unfortunately coincided with a measles outbreak there. (She was not infected.) Everyone was quarantined, and her camp experience was already lousy, quarantine or not. She wanted to leave, but that was out of the question, not permitted, no matter how unhappy she was.

Somehow, her brother heard about this and went, at a distance, to check on her. The camp directors allowed her to see him to talk, at a substantial distance. But for my mom, the sight of her beloved big brother was too much for her. In an 11-year-old “outta my way” moment, she ran. Past the boundary, she ran. And right into his comforting arms.

The camp directors’ response?

“Well, now you’ve done it. You might as well go!”

Nice, huh? They did nothing to get her back. I don’t think they even called her folks.

Mom’s brother Bob took her with him, and it was arranged for her to go to the summer house of her parents’ family friend, a woman whose name I don’t recall. Bob stayed at his camp, and the family friend called their parents to update them. The family friend asked her parents if young Marge could stay with them for a few days. She had an idea brewing.

So, Mom spent a few lovely days with this family. She swam, laughed, was taken care of, and on the day she was supposed to head back to New York, the family friend asked little Marge to come sit with her a moment.

“Would you like to go for a little drive with me?” she asked.

They drove to Camp Waziyatah in Waterford, Maine, which was a girls camp at the time. (Never mind the scandal decades later.) The family friend chatted with her friend, who was part of the camp management, while my mom went off to meet a group of girls. By the end of the day, my mother was having so much fun that she could barely stand to leave. The girls were putting on a play that evening, and Mom was involved with it and having a wonderful time.

“Can I stay? Please?” she asked.

And that began five of the most meaningful and happiest summers of her life which, is why our family started coming to Maine years later to visit – and later, to move up (for some of us – the smart ones).

This morning, I pictured that scene of my mom fleeing into her brother’s arms. That desperation to leave seclusion and isolation. The freedom to run, to hug, to hold and be held. Now, there is a part of me that wishes I had the impulsivity of an 11-year-old, that I could allow myself to throw caution to the virus-filled wind, to wrap my arms around someone – anyone – just for a minute. But my 60+ year-old brain and moral compass, at least in this case, won’t allow that.

When this is over, my own brother is going to have to peel me off of him, along with pretty much every friend and family member in my path.

Get ready.

 
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The Song That Kind-of Ends

Posted by Kathy on Mar 18, 2020 in Thoughts from ME

 

This might be the shortest blog I’ve ever written.

NEGATIVE for corona.

With stern warnings to follow all strict corona virus precautions.

So – “Yup! You are free!” Kind of. And I’ll take it.

The  call came in about 11:45 am, after 5 days of waiting for results. I was told to continue taking good care of myself for what feels like the Cold of the Century. I was actually starting to think of a theme song for it. But that’s all been interrupted by “You’re free to go.”

However, in my age group, I must be especially careful in all the ways we have learned. Social distancing. Staying home as much as possible. Hands out of and off of one’s face. You all know the rest. You young folks also need to follow the guidelines so we can all get past this. Please. There are more than just us seniors who are vulnerable. So let’s all be good citizens. It’s the very least we can do for all the brave folks who are the helpers out there.

For now, I can get in my car, drive to the ocean, and dream about the day when hugging will be OK again. When we are all free to recapture human connection in real time, face to face.

It will happen.

 
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Waiting and Watching and Hoping and…

Posted by Kathy on Mar 16, 2020 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

 

 

I’ve had a lot of time to think during the last few days, as I wait for results on my corona virus test. In my last blog (Testing 1-2-3) I shared the surreal experience of getting tested – like something out of a sci-fi film. In that fictitious piece of fiction, I am the star – the patient. (Also, my hair looks good.) Acting career and other delusions aside…

I hope my COVID-19 test result is “negative.” But that’s irrelevant at this moment.

I’m waiting, at least temporarily confined, in my apartment.

In my apartment. My sweet, small but lovely apartment, where I have a little outdoor garden spot, wonderfully fun friends, and am only a few minutes’ walk away from stores and restaurants. I hope to be able to go out for recess sometime.

I have food, enough to last me at least a couple of weeks or more, if I’m not picky.  So many people cannot say that, on any day. My situation is likely temporary. Theirs is not.

I have heat if I need it, cool air if I need it; I don’t have a washer and dryer, but I have access to these in my building, normally. Meanwhile, I have enough clothes. Most, I don’t even wear. Not that I’m a fashion plate. Far from it, as anyone who knows me could attest – and undoubtedly chuckle about. Most of my things are many years old, some literally decades old. I will never give up my warm fuzzy fall coat, even though it is disintegrating, thread by thread, at the cuffs. My point is that I have more than enough clothing. If this crisis goes on too long and I need to stay confined, I can probably call a laundry service or wash them by hand as needed. I have running water. Many do not have any of these luxuries, and some of them live here in the USA.

I look out my window and see my ol’ previously-owned 2006 BMW, scratched, needing a good cleaning and TLC, and think how nice it will be to take her on the road again, to pick up some good takeout food,  do some shopping when it’s safe, maybe drive to the beach just four miles down the road. Spoiled? Yes. Grateful? Definitely.

I spent most of my adult life investing my being in family, friends, personal faith formation, and my work as a nurse. I am most thankful for that. I got to a reasonably stable place financially. Not amazing, but good enough. It wasn’t always like that. There were rough times. I don’t think being comfortable makes me spoiled. But it makes me think.

We find ourselves in current times of school closings, children needing food, and those in high risk groups requiring the herd protection of healthy others.

We will need to be the best neighbors we can be.

We will need to do our part to adhere to safety recommendations; to help those who normally are doing “just fine” and those who are not doing well in everyday life even without a crisis. Whatever contributes to an individual that lands them in the category we conveniently call “marginalized” is unimportant. We are called to be brothers, sisters, theysters, without compromise, without prejudice. Without defensiveness. We need to do what we can, individually and systemically, to help in an ongoing manner. With or without COVID-19. We must understand that living under the financial grid and being in need is simply that, no matter what the demographics. Being in need is being in need.

Observe the empty grocery shelves. Some worry about the comforts that may go away for a long time.

I worry less about what is available at the store and more about what’s present in our hearts. There’s no glory in stocking up for the end of days, perhaps finding yourself very alone surrounded by your material goods.

Be generous. Now and always, as you are able.

Be tolerant. Things are not always what they seem.

Be grateful and thank your medical people who are going above and beyond.

Be ever more mindful of what is important. 

And how we can truly become one for another.

Give it some thought.

I will, too.

And let’s leave some stuff on the shelves – and in our hearts – for others.

 

 
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Do you have a moment?

Posted by Kathy on Oct 15, 2018 in Thoughts from ME

I know you only have 3 seconds to read this. I get it. So I’ll be brief.

OK. That’s it. Thanks for reading.

Oh. One more thing.

Don’t give up.

Don’t give up working on something that’s important to you.

Don’t give up on forgiving yourself if you do not finish it. Or haven’t finished it yet.

Don’t give up on hoping for a time when we can face problems together without harsh rhetoric.

Don’t give up taking a few moments each day to sit, reflect, pray or meditate. Try just 30 seconds.

And lastly, don’t give up when things seem dire.

Breathe. Have tea. Wrap a blanket around yourself and your wishes.

You are never alone.  

 
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The New Valentine’s Me

Posted by Kathy on Feb 13, 2018 in Thoughts from ME

Remember the good old days when Valentine’s Day was wonderful?

Me, neither.

Seems it’s so often filled with angst instead of love and romance.

If you’re in love, it can be a great day to celebrate your relationship by going out together and investing lots of cash on your loved one in hopes that the evening may or may not return on your investment. And by that, I mean finding out if she or he will share the chocolate with you.

If you’re not in love, or not with the one you love, there is the danger of cynicism or random feelings of wanting to punch something, and by that, I mean the Valentine’s card display at your local pharmacy. Please don’t do that, because it’s unbecoming to be on all fours cleaning up a mess of cards and muttering, “Damn those medication side effects.”

By now, I either have your attention or you are deleting pictures from your phone because your storage is full. Which brings me to my point of this Valentine’s Day message of love. See, I’m getting older, and when it turned 2018, I made a very quiet promise to myself that I would let the real me out. The unabridged version, the version you may not like. I may end up with fewer friends. But I think I will feel better about myself. To that end, and for today, I have a few words.

If you really love someone, you will never, ever send them, on “Messenger”, one of those cartoons or photos or videos that people send around at holidays and other times when they see something inspiring, which usually follows large amounts of caffeine consumption. If you love someone, you will never, ever send the video of that 5-year-old who sings like the next Beverly Sills. You won’t even send the cool one of the hands passing a glowing ball of light to each other. And you especially will not send a picture of Valentine’s roses.

Why?

Because I, like millions of people around the world, get the “Your storage is almost full” message on my phone quite regularly. And I just spent an hour deleting, one by one, a bunch of these things from Messenger to free up enough space to take my own pictures, get apps for things I need or want, and so on.

Not to be mean or ungrateful, but STOP IT. Not to be unkind, but STOP IT. Not to be bossy, but STOPPPPPP ITTTTT. For everyone’s sake, STOP IT. Also, some of them may be insidiously harmful in other ways (viruses or hacking.)

If you really, really love someone, or even might like them, you will call them, visit them, send a handwritten note (WHAT?!?!?), email, text, or message them with your own real words. Yes, real words. Like the kind we used to make up. Before pre-fab messages were born. Those really were the good old days, the days of awkwardly saying, from the heart, “I’m interested in getting to know you” or the famed “I love you.”

So please – skip the pictures that we’ve all seen a thousand times. RESIST the temptation to send that picture of a bouquet of flowers to everyone on your Messenger list.

JUST. STOP. IT.

Any questions?

PS – I love you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 
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Why I Am My Own Best Date and Other Ways To Save Money

Posted by Kathy on Sep 1, 2017 in Thoughts from ME

Yeah. I tried online dating. I was gonna try it for a month, but for another six bucks or so, they said I could have three months. That three months was the longest two years of my life…

“I’m on an over-50 dating site. When I log in, I see photos of gorgeous 40-somethings, false advertising at its prettiest. No leg veins there. No saggy man-pecs. Only thing missing is the “Just Kidding” sign.

Back in the day, we met people the good old-fashioned way—in bars. Most singles now, even boomers, rely on dating sites. I recently wrote about dipping my dating toes into the sea of eligible men. And I use that term as loosely as the skin hanging off my various body parts. I ended up quitting a free site. But like peeking at an accident, I can’t stay away, so I subscribed to a different one. The results this time? Not great.

I want to talk to the women first. Because, men? You know there are 3,000 women for every one of you. So go watch sports for a few minutes.

Ladies, you’ve learned by now that if a nice older man becomes divorced or widowed, you have exactly four minutes to snag him. Three, if you live in Northern Maine (population factor, plus—cousins.)”

For more of my amazingly pathetic entree into the boomer dating world, read the whole story at: http://mygenerationmaine.com/2017/08/02/love-at-first-site/

Love at first site?

 
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A Sign of Holidays To Come

Posted by Kathy on Oct 27, 2016 in Thoughts from ME

Kathy-Book-CoverEvery once in a while, I pass a lawn sign that truly horrifies me. I am not talking about the political signs spread far and near, though it’ll be years before we get through our collective PTSD from this election season.

No, I’m referring to a piece of signage I saw that gave a blaze-lit-up, sparkly countdown-of-days ’til Christmas. Talk about your pre-holiday stress. Nothing like getting in the mood for spiritual contemplation by having something that reminds you daily, in neon, to get the heck to the store and buy, buy, buy.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. I have begun my shopping. I’m trying to buy local, trying to support the little guy, trying to keep things meaningful and modest, trying to avoid the large conglomerates, blah, blah, blah. So, I thought I might make some gifts this year.

Trip #1 to a craft store netted me a bunch of T-shirts to start my project, reminiscent of the good old days when I sewed dolls, pillows, dinner…and I had to take Trip #2 back to the store because the fabric paint I had at home had dried up. I guess that happens after a decade passes. Go figure.

I thought about giving baked goods, like a very organized friend of mine does each year. I figured that to properly do so, I’d need to buy a bunch of those little mini bread pans. I’d have to find recipes for various breads, with choices that don’t involve something I like to eat, because that never ends well. Definitely no chocolate chip-anything. With that in  mind, what’s worth baking?!?

There are 30-something, maybe 20-something days ’til Christmas as I write this… essentially  about a month…that’s only four weeks…and during that time?  Thanksgiving. TV ads. Meals to eat. Appointments, work, and showering. You know what? In real time, Christmas is basically tomorrow.

There’s no time to make stuff.

Happy Holidays, friends.

If you need me, I’ll be at the mall.

 
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Welcome To The Tropics Of Westbrook

Posted by Kathy on May 31, 2016 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

Kathy-Book-CoverI do not have a green thumb. But due to circumstances beyond my control, I am left in charge of my plants, gardens, and a big piece of land. I have help, but because I have inherited my dad’s sense of, uh, economy (aka I’m cheap), I try to do some of it, in pieces, for myself. Mathematics would predict that taking care of it this way just doesn’t work.

I have two pots of purple flowers out front, one of which has turned into something of a crunchy breakfast cereal. I’m waiting for the day I see someone pouring milk on it. The other pot of flowers is closer to my door, so occasionally I notice it and water it. The rest of my yard is flourishing, and by that I mean that in less than two weeks, it has grown up like a tropical forest. It’s my personal “Little Shop of Horrors.” A stage set for Tarzan and Jane. Jack and his beanstalk have nothing on me. Particularly disturbing is a large once-vegetable garden that now is a combination of grass, weeds, and assorted vegetation. Last year, there were a couple of big, plump pumpkins in it by summer’s end.

Why not chop some of it down, you might wonder. Why indeed.

Well, I would, except I have no tools left. See, last summer I put my house on the market. It took a while to get everything tidied up and ready. I remember the day I started really getting into the idea of downsizing and decluttering. Get rid of the clutter, everyone said. You’ll feel so FREE!!!!! And I remember the day, soon after, when I thought it best to take it of the market for the colder months.

Here’s some advice: Think. Think twice, before you turn to your lovely grown child, who lives in another town in his own little home, and say, “You know what? Take all the tools, honey. Take the yard equipment. I won’t need any of it.” Oh – and also think twice before you pay to have someone load it, including all the large items, on a big truck to make it possible to deliver it to said grown child. sigh…

Um, yeah. That was when I thought the house would sell right away.

Weed whacker, anyone?

 
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Out of the Blue

Posted by Kathy on Dec 31, 2015 in Thoughts from ME

Kathy-Book-CoverWhen we were teenagers in New York, active in music and theater programs, my mom used to warn us about feeling let-down when a show came to a close. Ice cream helped a lot. That, and getting into another production.

This Christmas season, just over a year after my husband Ted’s death, I was surprised at how everything felt quite a bit easier than the previous year, when the pain of losing him had been so acute. Yes, I still miss him plenty. But this year, when my daughter Sally came up from Brooklyn several days before Christmas, the fun began immediately. Ted once remarked that he never heard me laugh so much as when I was with Sally. To be fair, there are a few others who can get me going to the point of wondering if I will, in fact, need to call 911. (Can someone actually die laughing?)

We buzzed through the hectic, wonderful week in good form, connecting with other family members and friends. I felt peaceful, even with tears. We sang carols at Ted’s grave in the dark on Christmas Eve, and I wondered if we’d be kicked out of the cemetery by some lurking security guard of my imagination. At home, we played a fast-paced trivia-type game Sally bought for me that left me with the question “Where did my brain go?”, which would be an apt title for it. We went to the movies, shopped, and took field trips to the refrigerator with complete “live for today” abandon. I do regret that part, just a bit, as I face the new year and all that resolution junk. Oh, well. Whatever.

I felt so good about this year’s experience that I wrote a long email to my former grief counselor. A model of hope and growth, I detailed how I got through the holidays in reasonable shape (other than the fit of my clothing…)

Then Tuesday morning came. We got up at what some people call early morning (aka the middle of the night, for me), and I drove her to the airport. I knew I would miss her company. But it didn’t hit me until later that day: the feeling of life in slow-motion, my head prodding me to physically move, to put dishes away, to unclench my jaw. The next morning brought that forgotten, familiar desire to stay in bed. I had to force-feed intentions to call friends, to make plans, to say yes instead of no.

The waves of loss and aloneness that have risen up have captured my attention – this unexpected piece of life that catches me when I’m not looking and threatens to overtake me.

The trick is to feel it…to let it be there…and still, somehow, keep the motion going.

If only it were as easy as signing up for another show.

 
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Shopping Redux

Posted by Kathy on Dec 14, 2015 in Thoughts from ME

NewBernMe6For unto us a shopping list is born…hope you are all enjoying whatever holidays you wish to celebrate! May this be a time of great peace and joy for all. THANK YOU to all my many readers who have enjoyed Not Even Dark Chocolate Can Fix This Mess this year since its publication in May. I am grateful – and also getting ready for my first chocolate fix of the day.

It’s not to late to pick up a copy at your local bookstore or online! It’s fast and easy! Click on the book cover to the right, which will bring you (eventually…remember, it’s the season to feel peaceful and also pray for that prime parking spot at the mall) to ways to get your copy – for you, or for that special friend or family member who really needs a good laugh. Good news: There is absolutely nothing to learn from this novel. It’s just FUN!!!!

Love and hugs to you all! Make peace, laugh, and share chocolate.

 

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