Tuesday, December 18, 2018

DUELING WITH PROCRASTINATION

During the summer, I listened to a series of podcasts on Productivity for Perfectionists curated by Deborah Hurwitz with a potpourri of speakers, including the Getting Things Done guru, David Allen. After a call with Deborah, I decided to sign on for her Mission Accomplished Group Coaching program in order to learn to use many of the tools she had introduced in the podcasts. 

I began on the day that my neighbor and I had gone out for our usual hour walk in the morning, which ended dramatically as we were almost home, and she slipped on a small patch of gravel and fell. I rushed the last block home to get the car so I could bring her back to her house, but when I returned she was in so much pain she told me I would need to call 911.  I stayed with her at the hospital all morning until an xray revealed that she had broken her femur in a lot of pieces and smashed her knee (which she had done about 25 years earlier) and would need to have surgery that night.  I gave her my phone to call her husband who was out of town, and her parents who live out of state to let them know what had happened.  It will be a long recovery for her, but she is determined to get back to walking with me once she is completely healed--only we will become mall walkers for safety's sake!


So I missed the first live call of the program, but they are all recorded so I was able to listen to it later. 


One of the things that has been really helpful is that the group of 8 which I am in calls us to accountability, to record each day what we have actually done to move toward our goals and to think about what we want to create with our lives.  On the very first day, I got a submission ready for one of the poetry journals that has published my poetry in the past, and I completed the final edit on my last chapter of my book, Spectacular Marriage: 10 Ways to Divorce Proof Your Marriage. That very night, I received an email from a friend who is an Archbishop saying that he would write a foreword for my book if I would pray that he would find the time and inspiration to do it.  That is a done deal!


And I hope to use this space to record the journey--at times dizzying--that I have been on as my creativity is engaged with my struggles with grief as well as procrastination--it has turned into a fascinating if challenging path.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

SUNSET OVER LAUGHLIN

Sunday in Laughlin was somewhat disconcerting.  The Mass for the nearest parish was actually in the casino.  The first few rows of seats were chairs set up auditorium style, reminiscent of a church, but the back half of the room was set up with long tables and chairs around them.  I arrived early so that I got a seat near the front.  The priest announced that he had just celebrated his 70th birthday and was thanking those of his parishioners who had helped him celebrate.  His accent sounded strangely familiar, and then he mentioned that he was from a part of New Jersey where I had met my husband. When I did the math, I figured that he must have been in the seminary class with a priest friend of ours, and when I asked him afterwards, he confirmed it.  It seemed odd that this priest on the West Coast should have come from the small area of the East Coast where we had once lived.

After Mass, I was once again plunged into the chaos of the casino, with the noise of the machines taking people's money, the voices of those funneling their money into the machines or betting live, and everywhere smoke, except one tiny part of the casino reserved for those of us who preferred not to smoke second hand. As I remembered from a brief trip to Las Vegas, on our way somewhere else, almost no one looked happy, except for a few couples who seemed to be gambling in tandem. 

I went outside to take a walk in town, strolling by several more casinos, and a few stores, but at least the air was clear compared to the thick smoke inside.  As I crossed the highway in the Skywalk built over it, I discovered a Mexican restaurant, with a whole series of windows overlooking the highway and the mountains.  I requested one of the tables by the windows. colorfully decorated with suns and moons, and was serenaded by beautiful Mexican music while the setting sun cast shades of orange and deep blue gray on the landscape outside.

I was convinced to eat in this restaurant because menudo was on the menu, a favorite of mine which is difficult to find even in San Diego, except on the weekends (of course it was Sunday here, but it looked as if it were on the menu every day).  The smoky soup with tripe and hominy was satisfying, as was the Mexican shrimp cocktail.  While I ate, I studied the chairs at the various tables, which were carved into parrots, sunflowers, hummingbirds, calla lilies and fruit in a flamboyance of brilliant hues that invested the evening with the ambience of a fiesta.  Though the ceiling was painted to look like a cloudy sky, I felt as if the sun were rising in my heart throughout a delightful dinner.

The next morning we were shoehorned back into the non-deluxe motor coach, and I traveled with my faithful French horn in my lap instead of under my feet.  I'm not sure which way was more uncomfortable, but I was thrilled when we made it back to our point of departure and I was able to unbend myself and describe the grand adventure to my daughter, who met the bus and brought me back to her house, so I could drive home, where the silence and the untainted air were welcome! 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

WHAT HAPPENED IN LAKE HAVASU

I got up early enough the next morning to practice my horn (with my Silent Brass to keep from waking up most of the hotel denizens) and have breakfast before we left Laughlin for Lake Havasu.  I  left my horn in the hotel so my seat on the bus was minimally less cramped than the drive to Laughlin the day before.
When we arrived in Lake Havasu, we were in an area that looked as if it had been a giant dirt lot that now was decorated with booths of every variety, a stage and performers, and in the middle, a lot of trucks that were apparently the haulers of the hot air balloons. We got off the bus, and it was cold and windy; I walked around with the woman I'd met on the bus and we investigated the different booths, bought a few balloon-focused items and other things.  The vendors were friendly and talkative, and the day went fairly quickly.  As we approached dinner time, it became apparent from the wild waves on the lake and the heavy, wintry wind blowing that no balloons were going to be launched, and they announced that instead they would have a Ring of Fire, where all the balloonists would burn off their fuel in bursts of flame. 
They had various groups playing music, and a DJ as well, and as I was sitting before dinner, trying to stay warm, I glanced at a nearby bench and saw a friend whom I had known many years ago through World Wide Marriage Encounter, before we were both widowed.  At that moment, "I'll Never Find Another You" by The Seekers
came on, which was played at the end of every World Wide Marriage Encounter Weekend when we were active in WWME.  Both of us had tears in our eyes, and the bond between us grew even stronger.
Once the sun had set, the Ring of Fire began, and it was a spectacular sight as the balloonists set off their fuel in towering pillars of flame, synchronizing the burning of the fuel to the music, or in patterns of fire alternating around the circle.  
As we left the grounds, we crossed over the London Bridge, which had been moved here to Arizona years ago, brick by numbered brick.  It was an amazing sight, a bit of London here in the desert of the Southwest. In the early 1960s, English officials discovered that the Bridge was sinking into the River Thames one inch every eight years.It looked as if the granite bridge built in the 19th century would be headed for the junkyard, but Robert McCulloch, an American entrepreneur, was persuaded to buy it as the centerpiece for Lake Havasu City, where he had previously bought thousands of acres of land aiming to make it a tourist oasis.  
The gamble paid off: in 1974, the town's population had grown from a few hundred to over 10,000, and seen nearly two million visitors to the iconic Bridge. I was glad to have seen the Bridge; in the evening light, it was a striking monument to the beauty of English design and American entrepreneurship and ingenuity.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

NOT WHAT I EXPECTED BUT...

In January, I dipped my toe into the activities that our local widows and widowers group offers.  One of the members is a travel agent, and she arranged a tour for the Balloon Festival in Lake Havasu, Arizona.  As long as I didn't have to get on a hot air balloon, I thought it would be interesting to see them going up in a big group.

I arranged with my daughter Mary to take me to the drop off point; she had her two youngest, including the baby, with her, and as we were waiting for the bus to arrive, we were both surprised at people asking if baby Bernadette was going to gamble.  We couldn't figure out what balloon ascensions had to do with gambling.  Would people take bets on which balloon would be launched first, which would go highest, where they would land?

I got on the bus when it arrived, and found a space, though it took some maneuvering to get my French horn partly under my seat, since it didn't fit in the overhead rack.  That was when I understood why, when I was working as a travel wholesaler, our company always emphasized that we used "deluxe motor coaches."  There was nothing deluxe about this bus.  Before we left, my daughter came on the bus and asked if I had my allergy medicine, and I assured here that it was packed in my suitcase, as it always is. I thought it was sweet of her to check, but when we stopped for lunch in El Centro, I discovered it was because one of the women had brought her dog--and I am allergic to dogs and cats of every variety.  Fortunately, she sat up in the front, and I was near the back.

By lunch time, I was ready to get off the bus and stretch my legs, which had been cramped up above my French horn case.  My legs are long, and it took a while to get them back to normal.  Then back onto the bus for another couple of hours of sitting in one spot without moving, as if I were an astronaut confined to a very small space capsule.  

When we arrived at our destination, Laughlin, Nevada, I understood immediately why we had had questions about the baby gambling.  Laughlin is just a smaller version of Las Vegas: the town in one casino after another, filled with bright lights and noise. We had to go through the casino in the resort where we were staying to get to our rooms or the restaurants.  I never knew there were so many different kinds of gambling. When we drove through Las Vegas on a trip to Minnesota for a World Wide Marriage Encounter Weekend, I went into one of the casinos, put 20 cents in one of the machines, lost it all, and was convinced of the evils of gambling.  I never really looked at the casinos at all after that.  

As in Las Vegas, very few people looked happy; occasionally I would see a couple who looked as if they were enjoying gambling together--or maybe they were temporarily winning.  The noise was deafening, and except in one small no-smoking area, cigarette smoke was everywhere--and I'm allergic to that, too.  The first night I was there I had agreed to meet one of the widows whom I had known years ago, when our husbands were alive and we were all involved in Marriage Encounter, in the non-smoking bar for a drink.  When the bartender asked me what I wanted, I remembered that since I left the East Coast, I had never been able to get a Sloe Gin Fizz, so I asked him if he could make one.  He assured me that he could, and although he put it in the wrong kind of glass, it was indeed a Sloe Gin Fizz, and I was so delighted to have one after forty years, that I had a second. I had dinner with my friend, and despite the casino chaos, it was a lovely evening.  

My room was comfortable, I had a view of the Colorado River, and I was looking forward to the Balloon Festival the next day, which also turned out to be very different from what I expected, but that will be the subject of the next blog post.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

EPIPHANY

The feast of the Epiphany, which the Catholic Church in the U.S. celebrates today, celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah, when the Magi followed a star that led them to the child and offered gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.  Two other aspects of this manifestation are the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan (which this year will be celebrated tomorrow, although interestingly, the same Gospel was read yesterday) and the miracle at the wedding in Cana, when Jesus turned water into wine and his disciples began to believe in him.

I was discussing this with a friend, who is a relatively recent convert to Catholicism, and she mentioned the Rosca de Reyes, which pinged a memory way in the back of my mind, from my years studying Spanish.  It is a sweet bread decorated with candied fruits to symbolize the crowns of the three Kings (as the Magi are sometimes called), with traditional figurines placed inside the bread, sometimes just of the baby Jesus, sometimes with Joseph and Mary, hiding from Herod's attempts to kill the newborn king of the Jews and fleeing to Egypt.  Whoever traditionally found the child Jesus in his piece of bread has to make a party for the celebration of El Dia de Candelaria on February 2, Candlemas Day or the Feast of the Presentation.

When I came home, I found a giant Rosca de Reyes on the kitchen counter, a delightful surprise from my friend.  Since I am alone tonight, I shall cut myself a piece, and save the rest for friends and family who stop by in the next few days.  She suggested that it was enough for a soccer team, so when my daughter Mary comes by on Tuesday, I will send the rest home with her, since her four oldest all play soccer and her husband coaches at least some of them.  I think they will take care of whatever is left!

But it was a nice ending to a day that included lunch with some new friends, a charming newly married couple.  He is of Jamaican descent, and his wife is from Senegal.  We had lunch at a restaurant that served shawarma among other Middle Eastern dishes, and our conversation ranged over a wide variety of topics.  It is clear that we are all life-long learners, and their welcoming smiles and the hugs we exchanged as we said goodbye warmed the rest of the day, and made me grateful to be alive.

The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple also honors Our Lady of Candelaria, and includes the blessing of candles.  The fact that the Rosca de Reyes is tied to that by the finding of the figurine of the baby Jesus is more than a quaint tradition, but can help believers remember that God can turn the darkness and bitterness symbolized by the Holy Family's escape by night on the long journey to Egypt, into sweetness and light.

Monday, January 1, 2018

FULL MOON BOOKENDS

I've just completed Michael Hyatt's Five Days to Your Best Year Ever course for 2018, set my goals for the coming year, and now I just need to fill in the next action step for each goal.

One of my goals was not to become a more regular blogger, though there is a goal about writing more regularly and getting at least one of the books I've finished published.  

But because I'm a writer and want to get back to writing more regularly than I have been, I wanted to start the new year with a blog entry--especially as I see it has been a long time since I published one.

I love the full moon, and check my calendar every month so that I don't miss it--and even wrote a poem on full moons recently.  When my son and I were looking at the moon last night, I wanted to see when in January it will rise; I learned that it will appear today, and then again on the 31st.  Tonight it will be categorized as a supermoon, though with the naked eye we will probably not be able to tell that it will appear larger and brighter than any other moon this year.  Imagine it as a subtle New Year's light show, far less spectacular than the fireworks in London last night, but a scene which we have done nothing to prepare, and only have to enjoy, wherever we are in the world.  And we can enjoy it twice in January, though then February will be even bleaker than usual, without a full moon at all!

Here is the poem:


LUNAR LANDSCAPE: JULY 9, 2017


Yearning to see the full moon rise

I could only glimpse its golden glow
through black branches of trees
crossed outside my window.

I couldn’t remember what our son

called it when he was little
—dazzled by its radiant roundness—
and you have gone
around the moon’s silent curve
tangled in charcoal-brittle
sketches, no breath of breeze,
no torn scrap of fondness
from six months of goodbyes
leaving me with no answers,
a distant, tattered lunar portrait
shading into a luminous vignette.

Perhaps the luminous vignette of the supermoon will be a 
harbinger of light rising in my life!