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November

November is one of my favorite months.  The weather starts to finally change a bit,  it gets dark earlier, and it cools down at night even if the days are warm.  I tend to have more energy for projects, and usually pick up my knitting to make a couple beanies or a scarf.

The last few months have had their normal ups and downs.  Daisy had some health issues and finally had surgery a few weeks ago to remove a hemangiosarcoma and broken tooth.  Totally unrelated.  She has healed well, the got good margins on the tumor, but with this type of cancer metastasis is quite common.

Work has been the same ups and downs with the new boss, more downs than ups but I am trying to let them go and carry on.  Work becomes such a big part of our lives, its hard to just leave and not bring it all home with you.  At least right now he is picking on one of the other department heads instead of me, I have a feeling this may change.

The holidays will be here before you know it, and I want to be more ready an I have in the past. Also spend less money.

Kitchen in finally back to full use. I had a pipe leak that was repaired 6 months ago, part of the hardwood floors were removed because of damage.  Last week they finally finished the floors and put the cabinet back.  That is a relief.  It just all the bills pile up at once.  I also had to have my big oak tree that is slowing dying trimmed.  Another big bill.  Its ok. I am grateful that I have a kitchen to cook in and a tree to shade my house, and a house to live in.  So no complaints, just observations.

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Grandmas Birthday

gramma

Today would have been my grandmas 106th birthday.

My grandmother would bring me to the sewing factory with her in the afternoons when school was out, it smelled like fabric, and oil, and little like something was burning, that always brought up the anxiety in me. It was a safe place, yet a little scary at the same time; lots of machines, pressers, cutting tables, scary things; things that could hurt you if you didn’t know how to use them correctly.

The sewing machine next to my grandmothers was empty so that is where I set my bookbag and hung my red sweater; I always wondered why that space was empty. Lots of spaces were empty.

I would quietly walk around to visit each of the ladies at their machines, just stopping by to smile and maybe ask a curious question about what they were doing. Each one had a different job, one might be sewing the sleeves onto a dress, another putting the dress together, there was a process, it was methodical, I liked that.

They were all so nice to me, sometimes saving me a special cookie or piece of candy from their lunches. One always had a butterscotch for me, I liked that creamy buttery taste, it was something I had never experienced, but did not like the mint ones they were hot like a chili!!

I made the rounds, I was particularly interested in the woman who did the buttonholes, it was a special machine that was magic to me as a 7 year old. It sewed the thread all around then the opening was cut.

“How does it know how big to make the hole?”

“What if the cut is to long and it breaks the thread?”

“What if your finger gets caught?”

That horrified me!

It took several visits, and many questions to the lady with short curly white hair who was very tall, Josephine, to finally figure out that there was no magic to making a buttonhole. And I did find out what happened if your finger got caught one day when I spotted the band-aid.

Back then many of the woman in the factory were white and they all spoke some English. Even though grandma was from Mexico she spoke perfect English, she was proud of that and that she had become a citizen. The lady who set zippers, like my grandma did, wasn’t very friendly so I always skipped her, I realized later it was because she didn’t like my grandma trying to persuade her to register to vote.

One of the ladies in particular used to ask me if I was wearing lipstick because my lips looked like rosebuds. I would wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and show her that “no, no lipstick, see”! I was not allowed to wear lipstick! Even though my grandma was also an Avon lady and sometime would give us some of those little white sample tubes that would come by the dozen in the green plastic containers, we were only allowed the very light colors, and we only used those for dress up I explained.

The presser was always last, maybe because the big pressing machines terrified me, and my grandmother always said not to bother her, but Lupe was the youngest, probably 18, and she always would gesture, come over, say hello. I watched as she lowered the big pressing machine, ironing half a garment at once! I always wished I could bring my white blouses to be ironed here, they took me so long at home and I was so afraid of getting burned! Grandma had got Lupe the job there, she had not finished high school, I think grandma was afraid that I might distract her too much, she needed that job.

After I made the rounds I would sit at the empty machine, next to grandma and do my homework or read with the sounds of the factory in my ears.

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Taos, New Mexico

Taos MDJ

 

I am sitting outside among the trees, with the wind blowing and the birds chirping, magpies! Its overcast, pleasant enough. Actually a bit cool, I have my wrap my journal and my laptop. All is good.

The Mable Dodge Lujan house is amazing. So peaceful, spiritual; the rooms are simple, but comfortable. I actually unpacked my clothes. I landed I settled in. Dinner the first night was an amazing chicken with avocado salsa, cauliflower with pesto, a black rice salad, and a green salad. I think I may have even tried a Dijon vinaigrette dressing (I hate mustard). I slept well.

I woke up and got out of bed around 6:45, found some coffee. Felt refreshed after a cup and washing my face so I thought I would try the dance awake, It was nice the last song she played “Hallelujah” brought me to tears. Emotions flowed.

Breakfast was turkey sausage, spinach frittata amazing custardy French toast, I indulged in; not usual for me but this is vacation!

But most spectacular of all I am at 7000 feet in the mountains. The MOUNTAINS! Coming home I call it, even though it is not Tahoe. The religion is the same just a different church.

What am I doing here, what do I want? Am I a writer, or do I even care. Do I just want to put words on paper, do I want to just remember. Forgetting scares me.

I am glad I am outside writing today, I think it may get to warm later in the week to take advantage of this mid day outside writing.

A LADY BUG JUST LANDED ON MY SCREEN!

That was cool.

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Coming Home

I have recently been teaching a chair yoga class at a cancer center.  I was wondering why I felt so at peace afterwards. You would think that I would be sad for these patients, their struggles, their fears, and their hopes.

Today I had someone new, she was having Chemo tomorrow, and clearly she was well into her treatment as she had a scarf wrapped around her head.  She had never been to my class. Never done yoga. She took to it, the breathing, the positive visualization.  I could see she was desperate for hope.

After the class she said, could I come Wednesday with my “Chemo”, as if it was her new friend. We discussed what that meant, her port would be accessed and she would have a bag (of poison) to deal with.  I said of course, we would make sure to adapt anything you need. It seemed reassuring to her. My mantra, if you can breath you can do yoga.

When I left I felt energized and hopeful. Why? After I came home I realized this was coming home to me, I spent years in the hospital, off and on, with Natalie. They are like a safe place to me sometimes.  How many days and nights did I spend, trying to find the best cafeteria food, and most comfortable niche to hang out in. Natalie didn’t die of cancer but that really doesn’t matter. they are not only a place of death, but a place of healing and hope. I am bringing hope.

I teach in the infusion room, the place where the poison happens, but we turn it into a place of hope and love, community and love.

Bring on the Chemo.

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Frank Sumatra

This morning I stopped for coffee in town, like I do every morning on my ay to work. Beantown is a great little place where all the locals congregate in the morning.  There is a table with retirees (I think) crowded around sharing stories. I sometimes envy them, their freedom, there ritual of coffee together each morning, being retired.

This morning one of these retirees was at the bank of coffee pots, there are several flavors. I in particular enjoy the English Toffee, or Chocolate Almond.  This gentleman was pouring cream into his cup, then some powdered chocolate, more cream, then Sumatra.  Quite a process for a cup of coffee. He looked at me quite seriously and said, “Sumatra, like the famous singer, Frank Sumatra!”  “Yes”, I replied.  “you are even preparing your coffee like the song, My Way”.

We had a good laugh. I walked out of Beantown with my Chocolate Almond with some half and half, a smile on my face and the song “My Way” in my head.  A nice way to start a morning.

 

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I was in Indianapolis for a Library conference last week.  It was cold. There were 10,000 librarians and me. I am not a librarian but I am responsible for a Library.  I love the work.  Not sure if I wrote about that here, but last January 2013, I inherited the Library as part of my domain at the City.  So I went to this huge conference and listened to many great speakers, Brian Stevenson, Simon Sinek, Jane Pauley, Ann Patchett, just to drop a few names.  It inspired me to read more and to write more.

One speech, I think it was Jane Pauley got me thinking about things. The past, life, making a home. I don’t recall what she said specifically but I remember the flood of memories that came to me when she spoke about what a “home” would be like, and how hard I tried to “create” that for myself.  I am fortunate, I have a home, I own it and the house payment and the “maybe” termites that might be moving in, the gutters that need to be cleared and the fact hat it was built almost 20 years before I was even born.  The plumbing that needs to be replaced in the kitchen and the windows that need dowels to hold them up. And I have never felt more at home in my life than I do now.

It made me remember when I felt so out of place, when I was a kid. My parents divorced after my year in kindergarten, that was when it was taboo especially since I went to Catholic school. I want so badly to fit in with the rest.  I was the outsider.  I wasn’t allowed to have friends over and I wasn’t allowed to make friends in the neighborhood, my mother said all the kids had lice.  So I read and fantasied about everything that wasn’t reality.

When I got a little older I finally started to visit other peoples houses, usually through my grandmother taking me along on her Avon visits. What I noticed was that everyone had a sofa in the living room.  This must be the way normal people live, I thought.  We had a bed in the living room. My grandmother slept in it, and sometime she let me lay with her to watch “I Love Lucy”. I remember being in that bed late at night and waking up the night Bobby Kennedy was shot.  The black and white TV was on and my mother was in the living room along with my Grandmother, they were both crying.

We didn’t have a lot, but my grandmother being the crafty seamstress she was made a fitted cover for the bed and upholstered the 1 chair we had in the living room with the same green brocade cloth and added a couple pillows. Looking back on this I can clearly see that she was making this “home”. But for me it never seemed normal, and I was embarrassed that we had a bed in the living room.

When I finally moved out on my own at the age of 19 the first thing I bought was a sofa.  I had inherited a bed and dresser  in the move and the little apartment above the garage I was renting was partially furnished.  But I needed a sofa.  I remember saving up and buying my first one, it was brown, I think it was $400.  A lot for a staving student working 2 jobs and going to UCLA.

I had that same sofa until about 12 years ago when I finally got rid of it.  I alway have a sofa in the living room now. What’s even better is that there is usually a dog on it too.

IMG_1208

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Busy Year

So far this past month has been extremely busy. I don’t even know where the time has gone.  I usually get a little downtime at the office, not so far this year.  This past month I turned 54.  J thought it would be more fun to turn 35 again, I don’t think he connected the dots. I was 35 when his mom, my sister, died and he and his sisters came to live with me.

cake

We went to see “The Eagles” in concert 1/24 the day after my birthday, all in all it was a great birthday weekend. On Saturday everyone, got together and we went to have pasta. It was the nicest birthday in a long time because C was acting decent and kind.  She even brought me flowers and a cake.

Today it is 8 years since Natalie died.  I almost didn’t remember until I started writing this post.  For some reason I can’t link back to that post;

Though she only was with us for 21 short years, Natalie experienced a lifetime of fun and experiences. She lived in Lake Tahoe and learned to ski, she made several trips to the east coast to visit family, Natalie spent 4 weeks in Costa Rica living participating in a program to build a school in a small village. Natalie, went away to college at Cal State Monterey Bay , she fell in love, and lived independently after her transplant. She loved Pablo Neruda poetry, gummie bears, her dog Roscoe, and her favorite saying was “It’s all about the love”.

February 1, 2006

Natalie Catrine 
January 16 1985 – February 1, 2006

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