coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Looking for change

When I was young I fancied myself an artist. After I became a mother, I lost my passion for art. Still, I always thought I would sketch and, perhaps, paint in retirement. So far, I have not.

Then I started working outside the home. I discovered I could be creative in other, non-visual ways. That was an eye opener! I made the most of those years, and I was fulfilled and satisfied in return. I loved working outside the home, and I learned so much about myself in the process.

Quilt design and hand work were my passion for a time. Unfortunately, my last job was a snake pit. I was there for the final 8 years of my work life. It was a problem solver's dream, but it was all consuming and left little energy for personal projects. When I was home I only wanted to rest and recover. I lost interest in quilting. I figured I would get back to it when I retired. Nope, not yet!

In NYS I was an absolute fiend for perennial gardening. Florida is not a perennial gardener's dream. I lowered my gardening expectations. I dabble now for color and ambiance. I am not "really" passionate about gardening in Florida. 

During the 40 years I worked outside the home I was passionate about my job. Work defined me. I am grateful for the jobs, and the people I worked with during those middle years. The role I played became who I was. I eventually lost my passion for the job, too. Then I retired. 

It was harder to retire than I anticipated. I kept thinking I was on vacation and would eventually go back to work. I came to realize this was no vacation; this was my life. Doing nothing became tedious. However, I did NOT want to go out and find a job. I needed to reinvent myself.

Now I write here. I also started contributing to a new feminist blog collective (more on that another time). I continue to moderate for
a large, political Facebook group which is part of the great political awakening of women in the U.S. since that unfortunate election. Becoming politically involved has been a game changer for me in retirement.

We moved to Florida to become a meaningful part of our grandchildren's lives. We gave up home, jobs, gardens, and friends to move to a wild swing state filled with alligators and bugs.
I find grand parenting immensely satisfying. I also find myself loving Florida. It has all been worth the sacrifices.

Reinventing myself is fun. As long as I am lucky enough to wake up each morning, I have time and plenty of it. I still imagine one day I will thread the damn sewing machine, or sketch a still life. 

Let's go out in full glory, okay?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bizzaro World

It feels like summer now to this northern transplant, but it isn't. Summer is yet to come. Summer is a whole other kettle of fish in Central Florida.

After my Mother's Day post, I cannot stop thinking about my mother, especially in this heat. Mom hated the heat and humidity of summer. I can just see her in my mind, sighing and sweating. She preferred the cold, northern winter. I am the opposite. I hate the cold. It chills me to the bone.

However, I've said this before. From June through September it is too damn hot to be outside in the afternoon down here. Our lives are very different since we moved to Central Florida. Now we hibernate in the summer rather than the winter. I am absolutely not complaining. It is neither better nor worse. It's all good! I am simply marveling at how different one place can be from another.

We DO have two vegetable planting seasons. How cool is that? Mom would have loved it. I do, too. She always had a veggie garden, and she used Rotenone like it was going out of style. She was of the "why weed when you can spray?" opinion. I figure that is why she developed Parkinson's Disease. Sigh. There was no telling that stubborn woman anything she didn't WANT to believe.

One planting takes place in October, for things like beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, radishes. Everything else we plant in late February or early March. We have been eating juicy tomatoes from raised beds since late April. 

We grow basil almost all year round (lotsa pesto!). Our perennial herbs are always available. Hmmm, I don't think Mom ever used or grew fresh herbs, except when she made dill pickles. I can picture her kitchen table covered with mason jars, cukes, and sprigs of dill weed. It was one of the things she and my Dad did together. They also made grape jelly, sauerkraut, and put up innumerable quarts of tomatoes. Food was important in my mother's house, and we ate well.

Living in this beautiful, relentlessly sunny place is almost like living in bizzarro world, or in upside down land. However, I'm goin' with the flow. The politics sometimes stink, but every day is beautiful. I am grateful to be right here experiencing big changes in my life, at my age, in these times. No matter how long one lives, life is too short. I try to live my life with joy, and I do NOT use Rotenone. I like reaching into the earth and yanking a skanky weed out by its roots. It feels like a personal victory.

Here are some things in our small veggie garden this morning:

Orange grape tomatoes - they always make me happy

Zucchini blossom, such a tease

Japanese eggplant and parsley
Basil, patient and true

Sunday, May 14, 2017

In My Mother's Day

This is my second Mother’s Day without my Mom.  She had her weaknesses, as we all do; but now I only remember her strength. She was often resourceful and independent.

In March 1964, when I was 12, we moved back to Northern Indiana after a 3-year interlude in the Pacific Northwest. My Mom wanted to go "home" where she had family. There were 6 kids in 1964, and none of us wanted to leave. However, we had to go. My Dad flew back ahead of us to begin work at his new job and get things settled for our arrival. Mom single-handedly packed and shipped our belongings, and we set out in an old 1958 Ford station wagon for the Promised Land.  My oldest sister was a senior in high school with only 3 more months to finish. She stayed with a friend’s family until after graduation.

My Mom drove 2,225 miles from Seattle, Washington to Northern Indiana with 5 kids between the ages of 2 and 14, and a cat, in that car. The two youngest were still in diapers. We drove down Washington State to Oregon, eastward to Idaho and Wyoming, through the Rocky Mountains. After that we traveled through the flatlands of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois. Northern Indiana was home. My mother had always been fearless, but never more than on that epic journey when she took us home.

We didn’t stop at restaurants - too expensive. Back then, people didn't really eat at restaurants as casually as we do now. We stopped at small groceries and ate sandwiches at rest stops. Once, when we stopped to eat, the cat got out of the car and ran away into the farmer’s fields that were ubiquitous along the highway. We loved that cat, and looked long and hard. Eventually, Mom said we had to go. We were shattered as we silently drove away. However, a couple miles down the road Mom inexplicably turned the car around and went back for the cat. It was a heroic decision, and this time the darn cat had the good sense to come when called. We were more careful about keeping her safe after that.

Large chain motels didn't exist in the early 60’s to my recollection. Instead, motels were small and unique, “Mom and Pop” businesses. I remember staying overnight at one motel with a series of small, one-room cabins lined up next to each other. We all stayed in that one room. It took us 7 days to get to Indiana. The car broke down in Plainview, Nebraska. We stayed at a motel for two days while it got fixed. It was fun. We were not in school and it was mid-March. That felt strange in the middle of the semester, knowing that kids all over the country were in school leading normal lives. I felt like an outlaw on the run. It was a bit disconcerting, but exciting.

Towards the end of the trip, we started running out of money. There were no ATM’s or credit cards. Mom had a certain amount of cash, and that’s all we had to get where we were going. One night she decided to save money by not renting a motel room. Instead we all slept in the car: toddlers, tween, teenagers, mother, and cat. She parked late at night in a gas station parking lot, intending on gassing up the car when we woke the next morning. It was a cold night and, dontcha know, the car engine froze up. Early the next morning the car would not start. The owner lived above the gas station’s garage. We banged hard and long on his door to wake him up so he could come out and help us, which he did. At first he was angry, but when he saw the sorry lot who woke him up he softened. He helped us, and he didn’t charge a dime. People can be so kind. It is important to remember that.

I remember feeling like a vagabond. At that moment, we did not belong anywhere except in that old station wagon, traveling with our brave mother. She was our home. Eventually, we arrived at our destination and went directly to my paternal grandparent’s house where we were loved and celebrated.

My Mom was amazingly strong during that trip. She was confident, determined and never complained despite the many hardships. I guess one might say she persisted. I believed she could solve any problem that came our way, because she did. I trusted her in a way I have never trusted another human being since. It was a grand adventure that provided experiences and memories I would not trade for love or money. For many years, she was everything to me. I hope I told her that. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Back from the abyss

I can't remember the last time I had the flu, it has been that long. Today is the 12th day of sickness for me. Although I have been up and around since day 7, I am still not 100%. Even now, I would rather lie on the couch than sit up at the computer; but that just makes my back hurt. Too much of a good thing...

Liv wrote earlier this year about her own bout with Influenza B. I remember reading her blog post and thinking, "Damn, it just doesn't want to let her go!" Indeed, B is a greedy, gluttonous bitch. She enfolds you with cadaverous arms, sinks her raggedy-ass teeth in you and sucks all your vitality out while you alternate between fever and chills. After that all you want to do is sleep, apparently for weeks.

The good news is that we went to St. Augustine on day 7 of "B", once I had been fever free for 24 hours. We came home yesterday (day 11). Our daughter and her family rented a small house on Crescent Beach and we went to hang out with them. We have gone there many times in the past. It is one of my favorite places. There was no boogie board frolicking in the ocean or baking in the sun for me this time. However, I could gaze hypnotically at the ocean from the front porch, where there was also a cool ocean breeze and shade, glorious shade.

My husband, T, and son-in-law MV, both had bad head colds this week. My sweet little grandson, N, was seized by that withered bitch, Influenza B, on Monday. Our poor little man is spending his vacation on the couch in the cottage. It was the vacation house of sickness, I'm afraid. However, good times were had in spite of all that sick. What better place to be ill than at the beach, breathing the salt air?

The boardwalk from the cottage to the ocean, surrounded on either side by salt marsh plants

The moon rising over the ocean, behind a saw palmetto

A Gopher Tortoise.  There were also snakes and bunnies living in the salt marsh

I was amazed at how many different varieties of plant life could survive in the salty sand.
This sweet little cactus gets a yellow flower on top
Blanket flower (Gaillardia)?   There were also yellow beach flowers up towards the beach. I wish I had gotten a picture of those, they were lovely.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I'm sick

I have influenza B, haven't been this sick in donkey's years.  I can't really write a long post, but I wanted to let you all know why I am relatively quiet this week.  I think I feel a little better this morning.  We'll see.