Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An unexpected gift of time

Of all the things in my life, one of the most precious is time.  Perhaps that's because it seems like there is never enough of it.  The to-do list is a mile long (on an "easy" day), the demands of others draining, and the rising and setting of the sun a constant reminder that life is moving regardless of whether we've used or wasted the day.  That is why I find time so precious, although it is something that cannot be truly quantified, contained, measured, grasped.  It's like trying to hold light -- you may think you've captured a beam, but when you look inside your cupped hands all you see is darkness.

I cannot bind time to me, but I can appreciate it and use it.  That is why one of the most valuable gifts is the gift of time, an unexpected hour or evening or day that once was full is suddenly empty. The possibilities for that time seem endless.

What shall I do with today's unexpected gift? My mind revels in the possibilities, my body takes a breath of peace, and my heart sends up a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing of time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In honor of Vaclav Havel...a Czech-inspired cabbage recipe

I am still in mourning over the passing of Vaclav Havel, a very inspirational leader. (If you don't know much about Havel, you can check out the article on CNN or one on NPR (or here) or the remembrance on Talk of the Nation to get a glimpse into the life of this writer-turned-president.) My way of dealing with grief is to cook.  Sometimes this takes the form of baked goods, but this time it took the form of comfort food.  Czech comfort food, that is, in honor of my favorite Czech.
Cabbage and (chicken) sausage -- yum!
Honey says that I am true to my peasant roots when I make food like this.  Some of my favorite meals are essentially peasant fare from around the world. When it comes to certain parts of Europe, however, I must say that the thought of eating lots of sausage and cheese does not appeal to me. That is why I like this dish -- plenty of vegetables and a bit of sausage.  I found the original recipe on and over the years have tweaked it just slightly to make the meal to suit my tastes.

Czech Cabbage & Sausage (Marie's version)

  • 1 package chicken smoked sausage or turkey kielbasa, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 cup (or two, depending on availability & preference) diced bell peppers
  • 2-4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tbsp oil or butter
  • 1/4 c. balsalmic vinegar
  • salt & pepper, to taste
Melt the oil or butter in a skillet and fry the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant, about three minutes. Add sausage and cook for three minutes.  Add the rest of the vegetables and cook until soft.  (I usually end up cooking mine a bit longer because I like the consistency at around 15-20 minutes.)  If you use red and yellow bell peppers, this ends up being a very colorful dish -- one of the things I love about it.

Meanwhile, heat a stock pot of water until boiling. Add cabbage and cook until cabbage reaches desired tenderness (some people like it just blanched so it's very crunchy, I like mine cooked for a few minutes so that the cabbage is mostly soft with just a bit of crunch left).

Drain cabbage and place is a large bowl.  Add contents from skillet, balsalmic vinegar, and salt and pepper.  Toss until well-mixed.  Serve hot or chilled.

YUM.  And a fitting tribute, in some small way, to the man who has inspired me for many years.

It is hard to believe that the first full-length work that I read of Havel's was a little over a decade ago.  All of his hard work in the 1980s and 1990s was overshadowed, in my young mind, by the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Sadly, my own secondary school education did not teach me about all the various movements and revolutions across Eastern Europe in the 1980s.  Havel, if I did hear about him at all, was just a footnote.  Upon discovering his books in 2000, I was transported, amazed, and I vowed that if I ever had a chance, my students would learn about this man.  He showed that we can overcome great obstacles and that not all politicians are corrupt.  His writings revealed a belief in the necessity of morals and ethics and in the truth of human struggle. If I ever have a chance to teach again, I would love to share Havel with more young people so that he can continue to inspire generations even though he is now gone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rest in Peace, Mr. Havel.

Today was a rough day. A leader of the Velvet Revolution, the first president of Czechoslovakia and (later) the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, passed away.  I did not know him personally (of course) and had the Fates smiled on me and allowed me to meet him when I visited Prague several years ago there would have been very little we could say to each other thanks to a significant language barrier, but this is one world leader whose passing leaves a gray cloud hanging over my soul.

Vaclav Havel was an inspiration to me and many others of my generation, people who wanted to see that a dissident writer, jailed numerous times for his bold writings against the communist state, could promote nonviolence...and win.  Sure, our history books have Gandhi, and the American Civil Rights Era had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but our era -- the late 80s -- seemed removed.  Vaclav Havel showed us that standing for one's belief in a nonviolent way did not mean that one was passive and it most certainly did not mean accepting defeat.  It meant struggling over and over every day to make the world a better place and in the end that works.

I did not always agree with Havel.  There were times in this post-9/11 world that he supported military or government actions that I felt were harmful -- or at the very least not conducive to promoting a peaceful existence.  Regardless, I respected him because I knew from reading so many of his essays and books that he struggled with the idea of making moral and ethical decisions to run a country with the apparent necessity to make harsh political decisions. Juggling politics and ethics was, to him, the Art of the Impossible. A CNN article on his passing quoted Havel as saying, "'I would be glad if it was felt that I have done something generally useful,' he said. 'I don't care much about personal fame or popularity. I would be satisfied with the feeling that I had a chance to help with something in general, something good. That history gave me that chance.'"

In my mourning I was comforted by a student who told me that he remembered what I taught about Havel and the Velvet Revolution -- and the student said "'I'm sad to hear your hero is gone, but that doesn't mean what he did in the past won't have an inpact on others in the future. So see it this way: he is still very much alive to us through history and maybe one day his words/actions may inspire a new revolutionist for the future.'"  Yes, may that be true.  May Havel's words, his passion for understanding the human endeavor, and his desire to improve the world through nonviolent means be an inspiration for all future generations.

Vaclav Havel, I will miss you.  Rest in peace.

(For more on my obsession, you can see an earlier blog post here and here.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

A silent scream (or maybe a bit of hair pulling)

Dear Readers, please feel free to ignore this.  I just needed to scream and pull my hair in frustration.  If, however, you do decide to read this and you have advice, I'm all ears...
WTF is wrong with people?  Seriously!  Having heard from The Cougar (formerly known as Bestie #2) a total of three times in the month of November -- once at First Friday Family Dinner, once the weekend before Thanksgiving wondering what "we" were doing for the holiday (in the past this has meant "Why don't you plan everything and make most of the food and host it at your house and just tell me what dish or two to bring"), and once (in a message) a few days before the holiday expressing dismay over my communicated decision to celebrate the holiday alone -- I now get a lengthy e-mail as if no time has gone by and there are no issues.  Amazing.  The email was newsy -- what the parents and grandparents are up to, how she spent the Thanksgiving holiday, how she has to reapply to the graduate program because it's been a year and a half since she took a class -- and included a question: "By the way, are you still holding first Friday dinners? I wasn't sure since you haven't sent out any reminders (not that I have a Facebook page in order to respond) for a couple months."  Really??  The dinners you've attended without fail for nearly a year and a half (since they started), the last of which was on the last first Friday of the month, those dinners?  Am I still...?!?!?

Perhaps this is a legitimate question.  I was, after all, considering calling off family dinners for the foreseeable future.  After some discussion with Honey I decided not to do that but, instead, just not have much contact with family the rest of each month.  I think it's a fair compromise and good for my mental health.  And so perhaps this was just a legitimate effort to see if dinner was still on.

But I am very frustrated.  I do not consider us friends any more, although I am always friendly and polite.  Yet she's always had everything handed to her, everything smoothed over, life made easy.  She chooses friends and when to keep the and for how long and never puts forth effort into a friendship, knowing that the others in the relationship will take care of it for her.  So I stop...and she doesn't make an effort to reach out because she's never had to do that.  Does she still think we're best friends?

On the one hand I want to just confront the issue and be done.  Yet I hesitate because she is currently exhibiting the behaviors and maturity of a 15 year old -- and as we all know, age 15 is the worst age: they think they know everything and absolutely refuse to listen to anyone.  I don't want to initiate a conversation because I believe she would be more receptive to listening if she initiates -- the same as teenagers are more willing to take the advice of a teacher or mentor if they ask for that opinion or advice.

This whole situation is frustrating.  Just when I think "Well, at least I don't have to deal with it anymore" something pops up -- like an e-mail that says nothing and yet says everything.

Detoxing (in a way)

A few weeks ago I saw a very inspiring idea on Pinterest. (Okay, you got me -- every day I see inspiring ideas on Pinterest. It's just that this time I actually did something about it.)  DIY Wallflowers -- you know Wallflowers, the scented plug-ins you buy, they last a few weeks and your home smells incredible and then you have to plunk down another giant wad of cash to buy refills.  Living in an old home filled with old home smells encouraged me to buy a lot of Wallflowers -- one for just about every room of the house.  The house smelled great, but that was an expensive fix!  Then when I lost my job that was one of the expenses that we cut.  I used up the remainder of my house-smell-good stash and then carefully packed the warmer units away, knowing that eventually I would find a use for them.

The DIY Wallflowers idea beats buying refill plugs!  The problem with all of the good smells around the house was that I knew I was actually breathing in chemicals, which is not good for me or for the rest of the family.  Do I want to breathe in chemicals?  No, thank you!  So the idea of refilling the plug-ins with a mixture of water and essential oils was quite appealing.  But where to get essential oils for a reasonable price?

Enter Vitacost -- a website that has low prices on many healthcare and homecare products.  They carry Aura Cacia essential oils for a lower price than I've seen them elsewhere.  The nice thing about Vitacost is that if you get a referral from a friend, you get a $10 credit -- since I went this route I ended up with four bottles of essential oils for about $8 total (and that included shipping).  Not bad, eh?

So if you're interested in a referral, just let me know -- leave your e-mail in the comments section or send me an e-mail and I'll send you a referral.

Right now I have four plug-ins working in my house.  Lavender in the bathrooms and a mixture of mint, eucalyptus, and orange in the living room and kitchen.  I breathe in deeply and enjoy the scent knowing that I am no longer filling my nose with toxic chemicals.

(Oh yeah, and as you probably know, essential oils can be used in many ways. One of my future projects: homemade soap.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chayote Squash

I consider myself relatively knowledgeable in the areas of garden produce.  Of course this is relatively new knowledge, say the past ten years or so, because growing up we didn't have much exposure to fruits and vegetables.  I remember one of the first times I made a meal for Honey, who then asked me where the side dish or salad was. You mean you put more than one thing on your plate for dinner? Nonsense! But apparently that's the way most people work.  Now when I make a meal it tends to be balanced and I try to make it beautiful, like last night's dinner of crockpot chicken mole.

Nevertheless, there are times when I hear about a fruit or vegetable that is completely new to me.  Maybe it's something I've seen before and never paid attention because I've never thought about cooking it.  Whatever the reason for my ignorance, I'm always looking to try something new, so if I find a new fruit or vegetable, we're making least once.

Last week for Thanksgiving, we had blue hubbard squash for the first time -- I grew one in our garden (it wasn't a very good year for winter squash at our place this year) and we ate it as a gratin for our Thanksgiving meal.  Yum -- sweet, perfect compliment to potatoes in the gratin.  This week, Safeway was offering chayote 2/$1.  It sounded like a good price, so of course I had to figure out what this thing was.

I bought three of the best-looking chayote (although that's not saying much, since this Safeway doesn't always have the best produce), did a bit of searching, and finally decided to use two of them to make this recipe.  It called for the chayote to be a bit crunchier, perhaps like a salsa of sorts, to be eaten with tortillas.  I decided to make mine a bit more like a curry, adding coconut milk and letting it cook off so that the chayote was a bit softer (with just a bit of crunch)

Wikipedia says that some people think the chayote tastes like a cross between a potato and cucumber.  Honey thought it was akin to water chestnut or bamboo shoots.  I had no idea what to think.  It has a very mild flavor, so it seemed to adopt the ginger, garlic, and coconut milk and make a nice curry accompaniment to the chicken mole.
So if you get a chance, try it -- it's always fun to expand horizons. And if you come up with an amazing recipe for this veggie, please do share.  We can all learn from one another, right?

Thanksgiving was a success -- now on to Christmakkkah!

Does Thanksgiving weekend seem like a distant memory to anyone else, or is it just me?  It was lovely to have a few days with Honey, uninterrupted by family, unstressed by the need to make (and then consume) a ridiculous amount of food.  The weekend actually felt like a retreat and was restful enough that Honey said "I could get used to a four-day weekend."  Thankfully, we don't have long to wait -- we're taking a long weekend around Christmas and going away, as we do every year, to enjoy time together and escape the Crazies.
Honey started reading the collection of
Sherlock Holmes I got him for the holidays.

So how did I do on my list of Thanksgiving craft projects and recipes to make an accomplish?  As I feared, I did not get as much accomplished with crafts as I had wished.  It always takes time to set things up and transition between projects!  But I made a dent and quite a few things as "in progress" (with today's date reminding me that I need to wrap it up), I love my new craft room, and even Honey brought a chair in a few times to sit and read in the cozy room as I worked on various holiday gifts.

The list of recipes was a bit easier.   And yummy!  After all, who doesn't like trying something new -- especially when it comes to holiday foods. The soups were good, Chick-Fil-A knockoffs actually pretty similar to the real thing (now my mouth and thighs can duke it out over who is most important and who my brain should listen to), the granola a bit of a miss (although it made for good chewy banana-oatmeal cookies later in the weekend), and the eggnog cheesecake divine.
Knock-off Chick-Fil-A nuggets & sauce (with some leftover
biscuits & gravy).

Our Thanksgiving Dinner 2011
There's more good food on the way.  A dear friend of mine sent a belated birthday gift that arrived the day before Thanksgiving.  What did this amazing gift (from a beautiful lady) contain?


So that was the break -- and it was a lovely break!   After all, can you really go wrong when you get time to sit and read...or time to look at adorable cuddly pets?
I think eventually  all five furry  babies made it to the couch.

Bunny the Cat with stuffed kitties. Snuggling!
These pastimes never get old.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Plans for the weekend -- crafting and eating

Long weekends are wonderful in the winter.  It's too cold and wet outside to work in the garden (or feel guilty about not working in the garden), and the prospect of trying to complete a house project in the damp and dreary weather is not in the least bit appealing.  Instead, we tend to retreat a bit.  I do big "winter cleaning" projects, seeing what else I can remove from our closets and house and donate.  Honey works on computer projects.  We both read.  I craft.  We eat...and sometimes we wish we were bears and could just hibernate. (Days like today -- cold, wet, windy -- are generally responsible for the hibernation urges.)

Yesterday, knowing that we have a long weekend ahead of us and happy to know that it will just be the two of us for the weekend, I started a list of recipes and craft projects to tackle.  The craft projects are, of course, the priority because the December holidays are nearly here and I need to have Christmas and Hanukkah gifts ready. Thanks to my obsession with Pinterest, it was a bit difficult to decide what, exactly, I would craft for gifts this year -- I've pinned way too many good ideas.  (And if you don't know about Pinterest, watch out -- once you start, you can't stop.)

Craft Project List

  • Embroidered family portraits (thanks, Martha Stewart!) -- this idea has inspired a baby quilt idea, too, but that will have to wait until after the holidays.
  • Mixed-media family tree -- I haven't found an idea to replicate mine exactly, but I have found some inspiration here, which is close to what I had in mind.
  • Circle scarves -- I've made a couple already and received positive feedback, so a few more are in the works.  So easy! 
  • Fireside coffee or cappuccino mocha mix 
  • Coffee cozies -- I've seen a number of designs, so we'll see what they look like in the end. Perhaps something like this?
  • Ornament vase (this may be experimental and not for a gift -- we'll see how it turns out) or perhaps just some painted ornaments.
  • Button bracelets and washer necklaces for the kiddos
  • Bottle cap magnets
  • Felt ornaments and lavender sachets
  • Felt Christmas tree bottle covers for gifts of wine
  • Fake canvas art
  • Bottle cap wine charms (just an idea floating around based on bottle cap magnets...we'll see if this turns out
  • Note cards -- I haven't made any for a while, but I've been gathering supplies for the photo note cards I make, so I'll probably make themed sets.

Obviously I'll just make a dent, not be able to finish everything in a weekend.  But at least I have a list!

Of course the holidays are times that we eat. A lot. We definitely have a lot to be thankful for this year and every year, living in a place where we can eat our fill.  Honey and I don't like the traditional Thanksgiving foods very much, and we really don't like the idea of stuffing ourselves until we're uncomfortable, but that always seems to happen when faced with a Thanksgiving table (even on the last two years, where I've limited myself to one plate, period). Since we are on our own this year with no obligations to make a turkey or stuffing or anything like that, we're keeping simpler recipe plans.  And most plans for this weekend involve vegetarian meals, since that is what we prefer.

Recipe List for the Long Weekend
Obviously we won't make all of these for Thanksgiving, but I do want to try my hand at making everything on this list by the end of the weekend.
  • Crab Rangoon dip -- I tried making this last night to see if it would work for a holiday party next month. It turned out rather well, although in the future I would add more Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and maybe a bit of ginger. It's really good with celery!
  • Cranberry jam -- I base it on the Williams-Sonoma cranberry relish recipe that Honey loves.
  • Asparagus -- my favorite way because it's easy: lay asparagus on the plate, add a pat of butter, a bit of minced garlic and some soy sauce, cover in plastic wrap and microwave until done. Yum!
  • Spinach salad -- also my way: spinach, croutons, goat cheese, and cesar salad dressing.
  • Cheese & crackers as snack foods
  • Pumpkin pie (of course)
  • Hubbard squash and potato gratin
  • Eggnog cheesecake bars -- I've never tried this before, but the combination of eggnog and cheesecake is just too tempting!
  •  Pumpkin spice granola -- I haven't tried this, either, but I'm always looking for ways to incorporate pumpkin.
  • Potato-asparagus soup -- I love potato soup and the idea of incorporating asparagus is lovely. I especially like that this recipe claims to take about 30 minutes from start to finish!
  • Knock-off Chick-Fil-A sauce (the best in the world so I hope this turns out!) and nuggets (which should be fried in peanut oil but I don't want to contaminate the fryer in case we ever have someone over with a peanut allergy)-- I really, really wish we had a Chick-Fil-A in this state because I am obsessed and only get it when visiting my sister!  Time to figure out if I can feed my own craving.
So there you have it, folks.  Plans for a productive and happy Thanksgiving.

Happy holidays!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Silver linings

The Teenager moved out last Tuesday, November 15. I've hashed and rehashed it all in my mind and know that I cannot do anything about the situation or the choices made by others.  What I can do is learn from experience and look for silver linings.

I had to talk with Honey about silver linings last week.  I learned that it can appear, when I focus on the positive in situations, that I am not thinking through all the ramifications, that I don't truly comprehend the downside.  That's not actually the case, I just don't choose to dwell in negativity.  Learn from things and move on and find the silver lining -- because there is always a silver lining.  That's a motto in my life.

So what did I learn from the situation?
1) Be clear and have consistent boundaries.
2) Expect realities, like family members who won't or cannot be mature adults, teenagers who make poor decisions, and people who don't appreciate you.
3) We can love people without liking them and without wanting or needing to be around them.
4) When it comes to family, at least my family, less is more.
5) Love yourself and make decisions that are good, healthy, and right for you.
6) Prioritize your spouse.
7) You don't have to fix everything.
8) Sometimes the lesson is supposed to be hard so that it will be memorable.
9) All the love and consistency in the world won't help a person (or family) to change if that's not what they want to do.
10) You are not responsible for your family or their decisions.

What is the silver lining?
1) I feel good about giving someone a chance -- and know that it's that person's decision what to do with the opportunity given.
2) I've demonstrated love and consistency and it may be the only "tough love" The Teenager experiences.
3) Honey and I are going to take a few steps back from all family -- Honey will like the holidays better as a result and I will enjoy some piece of mind.
4) My guilt that drives me to help the family is gone.
5) Honey and the pets were very supportive -- Honey by coming home and working from home the next afternoon (having realized from an e-mail that I was probably a bit down in the dumps), the cats by forming a kitty-blanket on my lap.
6) The Teenager's bedroom is now my long-desired craft/sewing/gift-wrapping/office room.

It is, perhaps, number six that I am most excited about, since it is the most tangible change.  I spent the entire weekend working on this transformation.  When The Teenager moved out, he and Crazymaker just gathered most of his clothes.  The rest of his room was left as-is, with them saying they'd be back on the weekend to gather the rest of his things.

That did not happen.

And since he never cleaned his room (and I am a strong believer in giving teenagers a space to call their own and have it be their responsibility -- even if messes drive me nuts), this is what it looked like:

It actually looked worse in person.  Trash and belongings everywhere. And perhaps it was telling, too, that when I repeatedly offered to get him a real bed frame or move the chair and rocker out of the room that he turned down those offers.  Looking back, it seems like he really didn't want to be here, regardless of what he said...or perhaps his ten years of living in a state of upheaval took its toll and this is just a symptom of much larger issues.

I took several hours on Saturday to box and bag everything and move it to the garage.  While I wanted him to clean up his own mess, the desire for a clean room, a workable space, was stronger.

The first thing that I did was make the old desk, my grandmother's desk, into something I'd enjoy.  I'd been saving newspapers from Obama's inauguration for a collage and so the desk now became that collage.
It may be silly, or, as Honey says "Well, that's very patriotic of you," but I like it.  When I look at it I am reminded of all the hopes and dreams we had on that day, tempered by the realization that we elected a man and not a superhero, so not all of our dreams would come true.  But that day was one of the happiest in my life as I sat and watched generations of dreams become reality.  It's good inspiration for a working space.

Saturday and Sunday I worked on gathering all of my various crafting and sewing supplies scattered around the house.  Without a place to call my own, a place to work, supplies just landed wherever.  Not a good feeling for someone who likes organization and cleanliness.  I knew that things would have to get worse before they could get better:
I now have desk drawers sorted and organized with supplies, a closet that houses my gift wrapping supplies, yards of fabric, and all the miscellaneous things I collect for craft projects that may or may not materialize.

My grandmother always had a craft room.  Always.  It was a magical space and she loved spending most of her time there.  As a child, it was one of the best places to be.  I have my own space now -- not cutesy, like those of my dreams that I see in Blogland, but functional -- and it already feels like a retreat.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Well, they're not wrong...

I'm currently reading Philippa Gregory's new book, The Lady of the Rivers, about Jocquetta, Duchess of Bedford, who married her squire, had fourteen children, and whose daughter and granddaughter both became queens of England (pre-Henry VIII).
A number of these books involve "wise women" and a bit of what some people might call witchcraft.  Or magic. Or psychic powers.  Whatever.  I find it fascinating to read.

I have been curious about tarot for a while, and so after reading about it in this book I decided to do a bit of searching online.  I discovered there are different types of tarot and various decks with different meanings.  Some people believe that you can learn lessons from spirit worlds by using the cards.  Since I don't know much about tarot even after reading a bit, I won't say yea or nay to this idea (even though The Crazymaker has assured me all my life that things like tarot are straight from The Devil).  I will say that after going to and just checking to see what it had to say about me based on my date of birth, it is remarkably accurate.  
"When it comes to accumulating wealth, you're so good at seeing things through others' eyes that it's easy to get their financial support. You can seem so cool and reasonable, but underneath burns a desire that won't quit until you get what you want. It's this ability to stay calm on the outside while being so passionate on the inside that leads you to prosperity.

You get such great results because you know which buttons to push without coming across as pushy. Your ability not only to read people, but to read situations, makes you a master at strategy. Patience is one of your allies, because you understand the importance of timing.

When you're as committed to reaching a goal as you are, there's no doubt that you're going to succeed. While some people might give up, you're so focused and committed that you'll stick to it for as long as it takes.

Your psychic powers are at their strongest when engaged in some artistic activity like writing, dancing or playing music. It's as though your third eye is opened when you are exposed to beauty.

You do your best creative work when you are immersed in gorgeous surroundings - you might feel like you are channeling messages through your pen, paintbrush or musical instrument. Your Neptune in Sagittarius gives you a special appreciation for art from other cultures. There's a good chance that you get strong psychic messages when traveling through unfamiliar places.

If you don't have any creative hobbies, you should take one up as a means to develop your sixth sense. You'll be amazed at how much stronger your instincts become after you've been sculpting, sewing or scrapbooking for just a few minutes. Working with an intimate partner can also strengthen your psychic abilities, as having someone to talk with can help you see issues in a whole new light. The more versatile your outlook, the more perceptive you'll be."

I find that interesting. Perhaps I should test it with Honey to see if that reading is the same.

Sometimes difficult decisions are suddenly easy

As I mentioned in a previous post, for several days I have been anxious about the situation with The Teenager, wondering if I should or would hear an apology on Tuesday and decide that he could still live here.  Honey and I talked about it before I picked The Teenager up from school and determined that if it looked like he was penitent, like he wanted to continue living here, then we would take that into consideration.  Either decision, at the time, seemed very difficult...and then we had the conversation.

It did not go well.  Can I be surprised that he was not in the least bit apologetic for his actions when he is a person who believes deceit and manipulation are acceptable, even laudable behaviors?  Can I be surprised that this is the way the conversation turned out when The Crazymaker was sitting there by his side justifying his actions, saying that all teenagers lie and manipulate and so she wasn't sure why we were making such a big deal about this?  I'm not surprised, just heart-sick.  And I wish that I had family I could respect and trust and want to be around, but that does not appear to be my lot in life.  

Our home is childless once more.

Yet every dark cloud has a silver lining, and ours is this: Honey has a quiet house back and I have a room for crafts (or at least I will this weekend once all of The Teenager's stuff is packed and moved).  Life will return to normal.

The past eight months have been extremely difficult.  This is not the only situation that has caused stress.  Since March I have finished a dissertation, argued with a university over receiving my diploma, tried raising a surly teenager, had another brother move in with us for a few months at the end of the summer, had yet another (teenage) brother prove, through a series of actions, that he is totally untrustworthy, lost a best friend who decided that sleeping with a child was more important than our eight year friendship, lost my job and started job searching, gardened and harvested and learned new skills, lost extended family members to illness, and have taken classes to try to discover the inner me and some spiritual gifts.  Rather a lot to handle, I'd say, and I'm always tired.  The trees and plants outside are preparing for winter, for a rest in preparation for another growing season, and I find myself relating to their efforts.

To that end, I think that this year will be the first year Honey and I refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving with any members of the family (from either side).  For a number of years we rotated through the families, sharing Thanksgiving with the in-laws one year, my family the next, until about four years ago when we moved in to our current house and it was large enough for me to host my family and Bestie #2's family here. I worked hard to put Thanksgiving together each year since.  This year will be different, perhaps even the start of a new tradition -- me and Honey alone, eating what we want (which is not traditional Thanksgiving food -- except pumpkin pie, I must have pumpkin pie), and enjoying each other's company instead of dealing with family nonsense.  I think it could be a worthwhile new tradition.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Owl ornament

My sister and I had big plans to craft while I was visiting her. Unfortunately, between a pregnant woman (sister) and an exhausted woman, and all the playing with kids and big days we had, we were far too tired to craft.  We did try making felt ornaments.  This was my first attempt at an owl and I think I'll make more in the future!  It took forever but it was fun.


This long weekend (the one beginning on 11/11/11, a date that I love because of its symmetry) has been filled with ups and downs.  The ups are numerous because I am visiting my sister and her kids and it is so nice to be able to play with and cuddle my Awesome Possum and Abi-Gansta.  The days are packed and seem tiring yet more relaxed at home, perhaps because I am only cooking dinner and doing minimal cleaning and I have the rest of the day to talk and be with people I love.

The downs from the weekend come from The Teenager.  We've been struggling for months with attitude, responsibility, respect, and the like.  All of the normal teenage behavior magnified by 16 years without any decent training or upbringing and compounded by the idea that I am in a parental role without being the actual parent.  Honey wonders why I thought this would work at all.  My heart is too big, my head too naive, too trusting.  I always want to believe the best about people until I'm proven wrong.  I want every situation to work out.

But that is not always the way life works.

I left for the airport early Friday morning.  The plan at home was that Honey would take The Teenager over to The Crazymaker's for the weekend -- he'd been asking to go, the timing worked for her, we planned this for over a week.  Friday night through Sunday night he would be there.  On Friday at noon The Teenager sent Honey a text asking to go to his sister's (Jo-Cool) for the night. He'd take the bus, put the dog in her crate before leaving the house. Honey asked what time he wanted to leave, offered to drive him, and said he'd need to communicate about the change to The Crazymaker, to which The Teenager responded he liked walking in cold weather to the bus, he'd text Crazy, and that he'd leave around 4PM. Honey got home at 4:30 and the dog was loose in the house (thankfully not having one of her massive panic attacks that she's had ever since out house was broken in to 20 months ago).  At 6PM he sent a text asking if The Teenager had made it to Jo-Cool's safely.  No response.  When I called Honey at 6:30, he mentioned this to me and I said I'd call Jo-Cool.

Jo-Cool had no knowledge of this. She was not even home from work yet. I called The Crazymaker -- did she know what was going on?  I called The Teenager twice, no response. Sent multiple texts, no response.  Asked Jo-Cool to try, no response.  Called and sent texts to the Leprechaun (another sibling), but no response. I was picking up Tin Man from a wedding and so had him try reaching The Teenager -- and apparently he eventually did by promising not to tell me where he was, just say he was safe. (Let's leave aside that I feel like I've been completely betrayed by Tin Man -- at least he let me know the kid was safe.)  I did hear from The Teenager about 24 hours later, saying "I'm sorry that I lied but I was tired of people making plans for me when I had other plans."  Let us be clear: that is not an apology.

The Teenager was already on a trial basis at our house.  I love living with him even though he drives me crazy.  I thought that his attitude and other things were improving.  Honey disagreed.  And it seems, through this event, that Honey was right.

The problem:
1) A direct, bold-faced lie -- one that neither Honey nor I understand because every time The Teenager has asked to go to a friend's house, we've always made it work, regardless of what else was going on in our lives. Our only requirements: finish your homework and chores and let us know where you'll be and where/when to drop you off/pick you up.  Quite reasonable, I think.  (But then again, I'm not a teenager.)

2) Refusal to respond to any texts or calls, which shows a severe lack of respect -- especially since this is an issue that's happened in the past and we've talked repeatedly about it and why it's a problem and what expected acceptable behavior is.

I can handle a lot of things.  But a direct lie destroys all trust and respect.  And since this was a trial period and things have already been on shaky ground, this seems to be the last straw.

I felt much more strongly that this was the last straw earlier in the weekend.  Now I am losing my resolve, wanting to forgive and move on and let things be as they are (or were).  I want to have the serious conversation and then let him stay with us.  Up through yesterday, I was very firm in my belief that he needs to learn about life through a bit of tough laws and enforced expectations; he needed to return to live with his mother.  Why am I now losing my resolve?  I think about the good things that I saw with The Teenager living with us and I worry about him going down the really wrong track when with The Crazymaker.  I worry that he'll think we abandoned him (when in reality these are the consequences of his choice and playing a victim should have no part in this).  I worry he will lose all the progress that he made.

My sister tells me it's not my responsibility.  It's his mother's responsibility to raise him.  I've done what I could.  But I still wonder if there is more I should be doing.  I wonder if I'm making the right decision.

Currently, our plan is: I fly home Tuesday morning.  The Teenager going to the local community college all day that day.  I will pick him up at 5PM and bring him home to speak with me and Honey about what the consequences are and why, and to hear him talk about his reasons for his actions.

I wanted The Crazymaker to be a part of this.  I called on Saturday and could not reach her.  I called and sent several texts on Sunday asking to speak with her; the one time she spoke with me she said she was tired and would call before noon. Instead, around 6PM I get an angry call from Honey, "[The Teenager] is here!" (This after my e-mail, "I need to speak to you!" to the Crazymaker said that The Teenager was to stay with her until Tuesday, not return to the house until I was home.)  He handed the phone off to Crazymaker, who gave about a million excuses as to why she hadn't returned my call and said she brought The Teenager there to apologize.  My brain kept screaming, "This is why he is like this! You're a horrible example! And you always play the victim!"

Honey did not let The Teenager apologize.  Instead, the kiddo grabbed his schoolbooks and headed back out the door with The Crazymaker and I spent the next two hours listening to rants from Honey and then excuses from Crazy.

I sent The Teenager a text saying that I loved him and I was looking forward to talking with him on Tuesday.  I never received a response.

But still...I feel like the mother.  I feel the weight of responsibility.  I want him to be successful and I want to give him every opportunity for success.  I wonder if I'm overreacting.  And I feel completely miserable every time I think about it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Birthday Wishes

Like many people, there are days when I struggle with insecurity, days when I feel like I am just making up memories and accomplishments.  Today is not one of those days.  It is a good day.  My birthday.  And to celebrate my birthday some of my former students sent me well-wishes.  Most were of the "I hope you have a lovely day" variety, but I've decided to keep some of them here so that I can look back and see what they had to say on those days when I need just a bit of encouragement.
I wanted to write you on your birthday and let you know how glad I am that this day exists. Without you I wouldn't have discovered a true passion of mine, I wouldn't have faith in the education system anymore, and I wouldn't believe that a teacher would have the capability to care beyond a test. I'm so glad that out of all the possibilities in life that you were born and happened to be a part of my life, because I am truly a better person for it. 

I hope you know how much you are adored by all your former students. I also hope that today is everything you hope for it and that you get a chance to relax, a contrast to your perpetual need to help others. 

Have a wonderful day.
(Luke B.)

Happy birthday!!! Hope your day is as amazing as you are :-)
(Brittany J.)

thank you is not adequate to explain how grateful I am for all that you have done and continue to do for me, I was telling one of my kids the other day that the reason I do so much for them is because when I was 18 and needed someone to talk me down that I had people like you, so thank you. happy birthday.
(Rebecca D.)

[And then a note from earlier this week but not a birthday wish....]
I will never forget something you told me in a past post, "Sometimes people from your past dissapear because they don't belong in your future" Not said exactly like you said it, I couldn't find the post. But I will always hold true to that. Thank you for always commenting on my statuses, you have such wise things to say that help me so much with the hard times I am going through. Thank you.
(Gabby P.)


I keep telling my kids that I appreciate all of their kind words, but they are the ones that inspire me to work hard and help others.  I love my kids!

Update: A student posted a day late after realizing her birthday wishes were not saved on FB (stupid FB), so here's another one I should save:
I hope this new year brings you great things (and a killer job!). You are an amazing person who gives so much to everyone. You are a true role model and a wonderful inspiration. :-) I am so happy I had you as a teacher.
(Alisha F.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Fall Curried Stew (recipe)

Yesterday was a busy day, as most weekend days are for us.  In the summer and early fall months, Honey and I are usually working on house or garden projects.  By the time the late fall rolls around it's time for the grape harvest and wine-making season.  Grapes are very demanding little fruits and must be dealt within a small window of time after their harvest.  White wine grapes are particularly labor-intensive, and since this was such a horrible year for the harvest, this year we ended up with only white wine grapes.

Thankfully our new crock pot allows me to put together a meal and forget about it so that by the time we're ready to clean up and eat dinner is actually ready.

This stew was originally meant as a curry, but it ended up with plenty of broth and tasted good as a soup. Normally I create very spicy meals, but this was flavorful without being spicy and so it works as a recipe we can share with others.  I found inspiration for this meal here and here, but the recipe is my own creation.

Ignore the mess!

Happy Fall Curried Stew
1/2 c. lentils (I used red lentils)
1/4 c. split peas
1 large sweet potato (or yam), chopped
1 acorn squash, chopped
2 medium apples, cored and chopped
1.5 lb. spinach
1 onion, diced
2" ginger, peeled ad grated
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 can coconut milk
2 cans diced tomatoes
1.5 c. water
1 tbsp. Madras curry powder
1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
1.5 tsp. tumeric
1.5 tsp. garam marsala
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1.5 tsp. sugar
salt & pepper to taste
We used acorn squash from our garden -- they were really tiny this year!
So two squash from our garden equals about a pound, the size of a
small, store-bought squash.

Layer ingredients on the bottom of the crock pot -- sweet potato, onion, squash, apples, lentils, split peas, ginger, garlic.

Pour canned goods on top (coconut milk, tomatoes).

Add half of the spinach.  It will fill the crock pot but don't worry, it will cook down and you'll be able to add the other half later. (Or, if you're not a huge fan of spinach, just add the 3/4 lb and don't worry about adding the rest.)

Take the empty coconut milk can and fill it half-way with water.  Add the spices (curry, tumeric, garam marsala, paprika, red pepper flakes) and mix to get a paste.  Fill the can the rest of the way with water.  Pour on spinach.

Cook on HIGH for two hours.  Mix and add the rest of the spinach.  Continue cooking on high for another three hours.

Add balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and salt/pepper to taste.  Serve by itself, with garlic bread, or over rice.  Yum!

I used our large (6 quart?) crock pot and it was full of stew. This makes enough for about ten hearty bowls of stew -- so enough for dinner plus leftovers for lunch at work!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Yesterday was The Cougar's birthday.  I spent it elsewhere, celebrating my own birthday (albeit a week early).  This is the first time in years that we have not celebrated together.  Not too long ago I decided that instead of doing a clean break and getting rid of the friendship (something that I couldn't figure out how to do because our families have been so intertwined for years that the prospect seemed even messier than a divorce), I would just stop initiating.  Anything.  Full stop.  I stopped hearing from her for two weeks.  And then our birthdays arrived.  I made plans for this Saturday, her birthday, and so that meant that she asked if we could go out to dinner on Sunday.  I will go, but I am not looking forward to it, and sometimes I wonder why I continue in this way.  Honey asked if I should just be direct about things and I explained why I was being kind and friendly but not initiating, waiting to see if she asked or could figure out the problem.  The reason is this: in many ways The Cougar is like a 14 or 15 year old.  Her emotional maturity is severely lacking, and while there were plenty of signs there I refused to see if for a long time.  Now that I see it, I'm trying to figure out how to address things in an age-appropriate way.  Young teenagers do not do well with direct confrontation; things really backfire if that's your game plan!  But if they come to you and ask for help or advice, that's when they're finally ready to listen.  I'm still waiting for that with The Cougar.  We may never get there.  I wonder how long the awkwardness will last.  I'm glad Honey and I did something else yesterday.

It was a beautiful day in our city and Honey and I were in downtown with some friends -- the first time in ages we've been downtown together.  On days like this, it's easy to remember why we live in (or near, as the case may be) this city.  When the rain clears and the sun comes out, few places are prettier.

Honey had to take a picture of the pretty plaza.
Of course I may be a bit biased.

Yesterday was an excellent way to celebrate my birthday.  We went to see the film Anonymous with our friends, a lovely couple whose family is like our extended family, and then we stopped by my favorite bar to have a drink during happy hour.  (Who am I kidding? The last time I went out was years ago and this is the only place I know -- but it's lovely and trendy and nationally known for its unique drinks and best of all it's relatively cheap during happy hour.)  Afterwards, we returned to our friends' house for dinner and wine and had a very enjoyable time visiting.  I received the two things that I wanted most for this birthday -- a treadmill (thanks, Honey! :-)) and a fun afternoon/evening with friends.

This morning, Honey received an e-mail from The Crazymaker, who thought that it would be lovely if we'd all go over to her house for dinner on my birthday.  It is very clear that The Crazymaker has no idea what I would like for my birthday, which is, primarily, to be left alone.  Chances are she'd make (or buy, since she can't cook) pork or beef, neither of which I eat (a fact I've been trying to get her to remember for a decade), and we'd sit awkwardly for an hour or two, all the while I'd be thinking "I could've just had a nap. That would be a lovely birthday gift."  Part of me wants to say "No! I'm doing what I want to do!" but the rational part of me realizes that I should not willfully hurt others.  That is why we'll go to The Crazymaker's (although maybe I can convince her that I'll bring pastries and we can just have coffee in the morning together -- a compromise), we'll go out to eat with Honey's family (an ever-so-painful experience complete with a snobby restaurant with overpriced food, stilted conversations, people who don't know what espresso is even though it's been explained every year for three years, and the knowledge that if I contemplated ordering a glass of wine I would forever be condemned to the pit of hell), and then I'll come home and do what I always do -- make dinner, sit down, and have a couple hours to unwind before the week starts all over again.

I have a difficult time learning what is a good balance between being selfish (but feeling sane) and being self-sacrificing (but feeling like I need to be committed).  This year it has been a slow process for me to find that balance and every time I think "Okay, now I've got this," a new situation arises and tests me.  I don't know how to handle everything perfectly.  For now, some compromise will have to be good enough.

UPDATE: I should clarify that I do love my family and Honey's family. They have good hearts.  I just love them all more at a distance, punctuated with brief interludes that remind me why distance is so beneficial. And there are a few members of either side of the family who I love and wish I could see them more often.  Okay. Hopefully that is a helpful explanation.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Anonymous" and the Question of Shakespeare Authorship

Roland Emmerich's film Anonymous premiers across the nation on October 28 -- tomorrow.  I am so excited to take friends to see this film because it is the first movie to deal with the question "Who wrote the works attributed to William Shakespeare?"  I was privileged to see the world premier of the film before it made its debut in Toronto and I found it quite enjoyable.  Just look at the preview and you might catch a bit of my excitement.

It is amazing to me the kind of flak that this movie stirred up already -- and most people haven't even seen it yet!  One thing that I noticed is that the reviewers attack the concept behind the film: that an earl wrote the plays and used a commoner as the face of the plays.  That strikes me as odd.  What about the story itself?  If this were 100% fantasy, not set in Elizabethan England, not using historical figures as characters, would reviewers still criticize the plot as a preposterous notion?  Or would they be able to sit back and enjoy it for what it is -- a movie, something that is meant to entertain.  When Shakespeare in Love premiered were people up in arms saying, "Now our children will believe that Romeo & Juliet is based on Shakespeare's life!"  I don't remember that happening...but maybe it did.  Again, I would say, it's a movie.

I am willing to admit that perhaps I just defend the film because I have studied the authorship question for years and don't believe that William Shakespeare from Stratford wrote the works attributed to the Bard.  Maybe that makes me crazy.  Certainly when I mentioned this in passing to a recent acquaintance I received a look of incredulity upon my admission.  But why do we believe Shakespeare wrote the plays?  And why it is so wrong to question that assumption?  Shouldn't we strive to know what we believe and why -- and hope that those beliefs are at least somewhat grounded in logic and reality?

Growing up I was taught that Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon was the Bard. However, once I was in college I started questioning that assumption. As someone who was looking to make sense of her long-held beliefs (about many things), I wondered why or how someone who received relatively little education and who left behind little evidence regarding his life was attributed with writing the greatest plays in the English language -- plays that surpassed even those authored by better-educated contemporaries, such as Marlowe.  After researching theories and learning about Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, I concluded that while authorship cannot be definitively proven, it makes more sense to ascribe the writings to someone like Oxford.

As an educator, I believe that some learning fundamentals and adolescent development have not changed much with the passage of time. Throughout my experience working with students, I was constantly reminded that while students may have innate genius and talents, without a person or a system to support the development of talents and encourage the expression of genius, the talents and genius will give way to more pressing concerns (like "How can I get a job to help my family?"). In Elizabethan England, I find it hard to believe that Shakespeare from Stratford had the time and resources to learn about multiple languages, countries, political intrigues, histories, etc., and then have the time to write in addition to holding a job and providing for his family. 

If, by some miracle, it was possible for Shakespeare from Stratford to read and educate himself far beyond the levels of a countryside grammar school education and he was able to write beautiful works, I wonder why there are not more examples of writers with this level of education writing as Shakespeare's contemporaries. 

It is a nice story and of course one wants to believe that a peasant with little education and experience was able to rise above a hum-drum life and write some of the most beautiful poetry in the world. As Americans, I think we long for the fairy tale that says a bit of talent, a bit of genius, and a bit of hard work is all that is necessary to bring success. Nevertheless, reality is often very different, as we see daily. It might be nice to say that Shakespeare from Stratford wrote the works of the Bard, but I don't buy it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Recipe: Crock Pot Elk Stew

My obsession with my recently purchased crock pot seems only to grow as time passes. Now I understand why there are blogs devoted to recipes for this marvelous slow cooker tool.  It is lovely to mix a bunch of ingredients together and then ignore them, knowing that over a number of hours they will slowly cook together and make a meal.  Chicken has turned out especially well, easy to shred and full of flavor.  With that success behind me, I decided to tackle a much more daunting hurdle: elk.

Elk, like most game meat, tastes, well, gamey.  When I first made elk, I used plenty of garlic and soy sauce to leech the gaminess from the meat, but there was no disguising the roast for what it was: great for fajitas (where the strong flavors mask the gamey bits), but I wondered what else I could do with it.  At the time, I thought that marinating overnight and/or slow cooking it in the oven could be an option.  Then the package of elk roast was hidden in the freezer, covered by frozen fruits and vegetables, and I forgot about it...until now.

Crock pot + elk + hours of cooking = possible incredible meal.

I found this recipe and a few others for elk stew or elk stroganoff.  I most closely followed the linked recipe but of course had a few of my own variations.

Crock Pot Elk Stew

    Elk roast (I used one package -- maybe that's a pound?) 2 medium russet potatoes, chopped 3 long carrots, chopped 1 yellow onion, diced 1.5 TBSP minced garlic (I like a lot of garlic and it helps mask game flavors) 3 sticks of celery, including leaves, chopped 1 pkg dry onion soup mix 2 cans cream of celery soup (I would've used cream of mushroom but we were all out) 2-3 cans of water
    1/4-1/3 c. low-sodium soy sauce
    1 small acorn squash (from our garden!)
    1 TBSP red pepper flakes (use less if you don't like spice)
    1/2 TBSP chicken bullion powder
    garlic salt (to taste)
    sugar (to taste -- about 1/2 TBSP)

Put soy sauce in the bottom of the crock pot.

Open package of elk meat, rinse it, pat dry, and put in the bottom of the crock pot (over the soy sauce).  Spread garlic over the top.  

Add onions and celery, then sprinkle onion soup mix and other spices (all except garlic salt and sugar) over the top.

Add potatoes, squash, and then pour creamed soup and water over everything.

Cook on high for three hours. Take out the elk and chop it into large (slightly bigger than "bite sized") pieces and return to the pot.

Cook on low for another five hours.

Taste.  Add garlic salt and sugar as needed.  *I also added 1/2 c. Greek yogurt and 2 tbsp. flour in the last hour and then served the stew over pasta like a stroganoff because that sounded good today.

*Tip: 1-3 tsp. of sugar is the secret ingredient in many recipes. It helps to balance the flavors in soups, chili, curries, and other dishes.  Try it! Just start by adding a little bit -- you don't want a savory dish to suddenly be sweet.

P.S. Thanks to the lovely and talented Shiree and her family for the elk!  It's been a treat!  And The Teenager thanks you for saving him from a meatless existence this week. :-)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Busy Bee

Today I get to stand in front of a room full of graduate students and teach.  I am nervous and excited.  I love teaching!  And this is the second half of a workshop (the first half I taught the beginning of the month) and so I know the group, which is good.  It's a paying gig, which is helpful since I'm currently unemployed, although if I calculated how much time I've spent preparing and teaching against how much I'm being paid...well, let's just not do that right now.

Teaching is my life.  I love it.  I especially love teaching when it's a subject I enjoy.  Perhaps that is why I friend suggested last night that I try a new type of business.  She noticed how much I enjoy doing things at home -- cleaning, cooking, canning, gardening, harvesting, baking, crafting -- and said that I was like a professional homesteader so maybe I should see about teaching adults and teens how to do the things that I love.  This is a lovely idea.  I'm not sure how to turn something like this into a business -- most of the time I think "Yeah, but this is all so easy and anyone can do it and I am certainly not a professional and most of the time I'm just winging it."  I worry that someone would discover I am a fraud.  Hey, lady, who do you think you are?  You think you actually have some sort of valuable information to share with people? Who are you kidding? 

Obviously, I have to work on squishing my Critic and Guilt Monster because they are threatening me, undermining my inner thoughts.  But for now I will shove them into a closet inside my mind, ignore them, and think about possibilities.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The phone works both ways...or does it?

Last week I came to the conclusion that I would need to allow my relationship with The Cougar to end.  And although the twelve-months-ago me would have argued vehemently against this relationship ever ending, the last week me knew it was the right thing to do -- just not how to do it.  How does one pull out the cords from lives that have been completely intertwined for years?  (Sometimes, I wish that life came with a life's-messy-problems-seam-ripper.)  After a bit of thought, a bit of talking with an amazing woman I really respect, and a bit of input from Honey (who tends to remain very grounded, especially during my flighty moments), I decided that the best way to let this particular tapestry by The Fates dissolve would be to just not initiate anything on my side of the friendship.

Today I realized that I haven't heard from The Cougar in over a week.

I'm not sure what that means on her end, but I think that it means that my policy of not initiating -- not making sure she has someone to talk to after work, inviting her over for meals, making sure things are taken care of and she has the support to get through life -- is working on my end. The tapestry is dissolving before my eyes.

I have decided to let a quote attributed to Dr. Seuss be my motto in terms of this relationship: Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.

For me, it truly seems over, although I imagine there will be a state of flux for several months at least. (Of course I imagined that last week and look at how that turned out, so maybe I'm through the flux already.)  This is one relationship where I will still be able to look at old pictures and smile and laugh because the memories are good.  It's just that sometimes memories are not enough to keep something moving in the right direction. And sometimes, when on life's journey with a friend, it's okay to look at a fork in the road and decide to go in separate directions.

I read a quote on Pinterest recently and the quote really resonated with me (I wish I knew who wrote or said it): At some point, you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.

So bear with me for a while as I get nostalgic. Learning to let go is a lesson I have not yet mastered, but it seems that every year I get a chance to work on it a bit more.
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