Tuesday, July 26, 2016

BookBub

You may already be familiar with this but if not, it’s a find for Kindle e-books and I love it!  BookBub sends book recommendations to your email inbox every day and all the books are free or just 99 cents or $1.99 instead of the usual $7.99 or more. You customize a list of book genres that are your favorites and you’ll get one recommendation in each category each day.  For example, I get women’s fiction, cozy mysteries, and memoirs.  See a book you like? Click and it sends you directly to the Amazon.com website where you order free or at the discounted price. (Set up One-Click buying at Amazon to make it a speedy experience.)

I’m getting so many books that I’ve disciplined myself now to order only the free books, not even buying the 99 cent ones. Of course BookBub wants you to become hooked on authors and order their other books at full price, and I suppose at some point I’ll break down and do that, but I have so many books backed up on my Kindle now I’ve got to read all those first. Some of the authors are well known in their genres; some are newbies and lesser-known authors. Of those I’ve ordered, a few e-books have been duds but most have been perfectly engaging and satisfying.  Go to bookbub.com and get started.  Tell me how you like it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Pain in the Neck

There’s nothing like a physical ailment to give you gratitude for the health you do have, and for the ailment’s receding.

I woke up one day about a month ago with a throbbing pain in my left arm and shoulder that soon was so severe I couldn’t find a comfortable position to sleep in. I tried bunching pillows around me and various levels of pillows below me to no avail; I resorted to sleeping in my recliner in the living room which was the only position that worked at all.  I started physical therapy and that was painful, too. An x-ray revealed degenerative disc disease in my neck and shoulder and minor bone spurs in my neck.

As the physical therapy progressed and the pain receded some, I still had a numbness and tingling in my left arm, which my doctor said was likely a pinched nerve in my neck.  She suggested I might want to get an MRI, which sent me into a panic until I ascertained my insurance would cover an open MRI for claustrophobics like myself.  She also said, though, that it might be another few weeks or even a couple of months before the problem resolved itself.  I made an open MRI appointment for a few weeks out, hoping I might not need it by then.  I just hope that by the time I go to the beach this summer my arm and shoulder won’t still hurt when I drive.

I’m not alone in my ailments by any means.  One friend has a bad knee that has sidelined her from much activity; she also just had a tooth extracted and is waiting for an implant. Another friend suffers from painful migraines. My stepmother has bad back problems and several surgeries behind her, leaving her on a walker and nearly unable to travel. My sister-in-law is getting ready for a knee replacement which will leave her unable to play volleyball, her passion, though she plans to referee instead.  Scarily, three friends are battling Parkinson’s disease.

We often take for granted these bodies we move around in every day.  As my arm pain has gradually gotten better, I’ve been grateful for the simplest of things, like the comfort of being able to get a good night’s sleep.  I’ll try and remember this as I did when I had my knees replaced, having gratitude for the privilege of walking without pain.  Thanks, my body, I know I give you a lot of grief but I do appreciate you.


So get out and walk and swing your arms and be happy your body is cooperating, because it’s not a given.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mothering Memories

A belated Happy Mother’s Day to all!  I don’t know about you, but Mother’s Day is always a day of reflection for me on some aspect of parenting.  This is the first Mother’s Day I didn’t get to spend with my son, I just realized, in 27 years.  Boo!

I got to thinking about the times I miss from when Sammy was little.  Random and sometimes surprising—like diaper changes.  I never minded those because they were an occasion for his little eyes to stare up at me directly and he always engaged, smiling or even giggling. It was pure “us” time. So was singing to him, medleys of songs my mom and my nana sang to me, from “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” to “Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats and Little Lambs Eat Ivy.”   I also loved reading to him and making up songs to go with the stories when he was a toddler.

In the pre-cell phone days car time was close to pure “us” time, too (yes, I had to pay attention to the road, but never had to compete for his attention with games or texting). We had some pretty good talks alone in that car, from those great little throwaway lines kids are capable of that just crack you up when he was little to more substantive talks as he grew older, and car time yielded secrets of his inner life.  And I’ll never forget the times I’d drive a car full of adolescent boys to the skating rink on a weekend night, the car so full of a mix of colognes that I’d have to open the sun roof to be able to breathe. 

When he was in college nearby, he’d come home on weekends to do his laundry. Though he was thoroughly engaged with his peers, popping in and out of the house, a mere “bye Mom” flying by my back as I sat reading in the living room or stood cooking in the kitchen, and he was not there to specifically see me, I still loved the simple fact of his fleeting presence.

Meanwhile, this year my “little guy” called me on Mother’s Day from Brussels where he’s in the Foreign Service.  One of his friends since elementary school had just been there for a visit and they’d traveled to three other countries in Europe.  These days our communication is by those phone calls and email (no, we haven’t been Skyping as we just can’t seem to get it to work, though it’s time to try again, I think). When he calls, the caller ID always comes up Unknown Caller, so I find myself having to answer all kinds of telemarketing calls I wouldn’t otherwise pick up on, but oh, any chance to talk to my boy! And I check in periodically on his Facebook page to get new pictures and see what he’s doing with his new colleagues in Brussels, or where he’s traveling to with the many friends he’s had to visit.

The nice thing about the phone calls and emails is they are intentional communication, where he’s specifically reaching out to me.  I miss my son and though I wax sentimental with memories at odd times, it’s the present connection that nourishes and sustains me the most. I love you, son!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Today's Gem of Grace in the Gray Areas

“Grace swoops in where you least expect it, where highs and lows collide.  One day, perhaps some breakthrough string theory of the heart will explain why awkwardness and elegrance can be perceived at the same moment, why gloom and enchantment can hit you at once.


But until then, let’s just call it grace.”

                               (Sarah Kaufman in The Art of Grace: On Moving Well through Life)

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Bombings in Brussels


I knew something was wrong last Tuesday morning when the phone rang earlier than my relatives and friends expect me to be up, though that day I was.  When I saw my dad’s name in caller ID I worried it was about his health or my step-mom’s. 

But no, he was saying, “Don’t worry, Sammy’s all right, but there have been some bombings in Brussels.” It took just a second for the alarm bells to start ringing inside my head, combined with a huge sense of relief.  My son, God bless him, had sent an email around to the whole family at 4 a.m. our time and my Dad knew I might not get to my email for a while.

It was horrible, all those people killed and injured on an otherwise ordinary day, just going about their business, with the mundaneness of the daily commute to work and the bustle of the airport.  It shattered all the illusions I had had about Brussels being a plum assignment, a “safe” assignment as my son’s first tour of duty in the US Foreign Service.  At his graduation ceremony last fall from the Foreign Service Institute I listened as the assignments of his classmates rolled off the speaker’s tongue, places I knew were plagued by civil war, religious violence, and more, and I thought how lucky we were and how scared those parents of his classmates must be.

This was an anger-inspiring reminder that nowhere is “safe” anymore, and that includes our own home, the US.  Millions of people across the world already knew this, living with terrorism and other violence on a daily basis, but so many of us were also so na├»ve.

I had just talked to Sammy the day before as he threw together a stir-fry for dinner and we happily talked of what was going on in our lives. The next morning I was running to my computer to read that he was safe and sound but that his office, where he was by then hunkered down, was close enough to the airport that he had heard the explosions.  I wrote him back, told him I loved him bunches, then went to the TV to get more information and to grieve with all the others watching.

Thursday he called me to check in again and told me that one of his colleagues had just found out her husband had been one of those killed—more than two days she had been frantic with not knowing.  It’s like a small town, he said, everyone knows someone who was at the airport or in the subway station. 

I have nothing wise to say, nothing that makes sense of the senseless, except love those you love fiercely and hold in your hearts the loved ones of those lost in Belgium last week, and around the world every day. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Busting a Move

I’m finally coming up for air.  I just moved—groan—locally but still a huge transition, one I’ve had to go through far too many times.  The move was all-consuming; I dreamed about it, I went to sleep and woke up thinking about how things were going to fit in my new place, I read and watched TV at night with one eye always landing on some corner of the room that I wondered if I could purge more clutter from…

I wouldn’t have gotten through it all with my sanity intact without the help of super-organizer and packer Sheryl Morgan of Morganization Plus.  Sheryl is a dynamo, packing me up quickly and efficiently (and most importantly, so I could find things when unpacking at my new place).  Although I had for months in preparation for my move to a smaller space been hauling things off to charity and throwing things in the trash, she still gave me gentle and good-humored de-cluttering guidance when something came to light that I hadn’t used in the entire four years in my old place.  I became brutal—toss it, donate it, throw it, purge it all!  (Sheryl might argue here as my new apartment is, albeit tastefully and colorfully, filled to the gills. No wall space has gone undecorated, no flat surface remains bare. But it fits!)

The last two weeks I was all packed up with boxes from floor to ceiling, waiting for settlement on the condo and for Sheryl to get back from a previously scheduled vacation before the big move date (which had to be postponed because of snow).  I had only the basics to live with those two weeks. For example, in my kitchen—one knife, fork, and spoon, one bowl, one plate, one cup, one pan.  It makes you realize how little you can really do with if you have to.

Sheryl told me she considers her work a healing profession, and I agree with her.  Having someone walk with you through one of life’s greatest transitions isn’t just about packing boxes, it’s about emotional support and her welcome constant reminders that everything was going to be all right, and indeed it was.  This move was one of the smoothest I’d ever experienced thanks to her, and I can’t recommend her highly enough.  Now with boxes all unpacked and out the door and paintings all hung on the walls I’m going through Sheryl withdrawal, back to tackling life’s challenges alone again. 

I love some things about my new place, like an opener floor plan in the living and dining space, and am still getting used to others (like a tiny shower). I am making new acquaintances in my new building and enjoying its amenities.  I lucked into another southwestern exposure so am uplifted by lots of light all day and beautiful sunsets through the stark bare trees outside my windows. (This poetic view is available if you lift your eyes above the cars in the not-so-pastoral parking lot.)


I don’t recommend moving if you don’t have to, but it is a survivable experience.  Now it’s time to get my head back in the game at work and socially, and live my life in the now rather than as a pending disaster.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Today's Gem of Grace in the Gray Areas

“When we come to understand the paradox that what we most value in our lives was often born out of conflict and struggle, we can begin to get a glimmer that perhaps one day we may begin to embrace our difficulties and find grace in them, even if that day is not today.”


                                                            (Jack Kornfield, from A Lamp Unto Darkness)