Book Review: Women Rowing North

I’m reading a book titled Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher. It’s partly memoir and partly a series of case studies taken from the author’s psychotherapy practice. Pipher is a psychologist specializing in women and trauma who’s written several New York Times bestselling books. This one is about women and aging. I am both, so I jumped in eagerly to see what wisdom I could glean from its pages.

Quite a lot as it turned out, despite what I considered perhaps a little too much positivity. But maybe that’s just me. I identified a lot with the author, a self-confessed “good girl” like yours truly.

Overall, though, it reinforced the fact that the glass is half empty and half full at the same time. Or sometimes more full; sometimes more empty. Don’t expect it to be full all the time, she warns. A good lesson for us idealists.

The following excerpt is one of my favorites, a scene from a vacation in the Bahamas.

At night, I lay on a recliner in the yard and looked at the stars. These stars were liquid and hung low in an unpolluted sky. I could hear the soft cadence of the ocean waves and the breeze in a big coconut palm nearby. One night I peered at the heavens with what I realized was a question. I expected the stars to tell me some great truth. I didn’t even know my question, but I trusted the sky would have an answer.

First I experienced the memory of my relatives who had left the world. When I remembered specific moments with most of them, I felt loved and happy. When I recalled the few family members who had caused me great pain, a mask of sorrow swept over my face. My heart hurt as I realized that we never get over things; they stay inside us ready to be remembered and felt.

I looked for a sign–a falling star to tell me that my grandmother was greeting me. I wanted to be recognized in some way by my ancestors or by the stars themselves. After that thought, I had an answer to the question I had not known how to ask.

My answer was simply this: “Let the stars be the stars. That is enough.”  I felt a wave of peace wash over my body. For that moment, I could simply let things be.

Posted in beauty, books, emotions, human interest, nature, perfectionism, poetry, psychology, senior citizens, spirituality, Uncategorized, women | Leave a comment

Jasper Grows Up

My tuxedo feline, Jasper, is rapidly approaching his first birthday. No longer a kitten, but not yet a grown-up cat, either.  He still has more than a little rambunctiousness left in him, and  one of his favorite things is springing from the kitchen counter to the top of the fridge, where he grins down at us, like the Cheshire cat.

As a matter of fact, he’s pretty fond of any and all high-up places and can often be found sizing tall things up to see if he can handle it. More than once I’ve seen him leap from the windowsill to the top of a bookcase next to my computer, nearly grazing his head on the ceiling, then dive down onto the keyboard (where I’m sitting!) with a resounding thud!

And he loves to hide. Several times I’ve found him burrowed under a throw rug with tail sticking out, smugly thinking he’s invisible; or lurking just inside a hallway door ready to spring at the next passerby!

Because of his boundless energy, early on I decided to let him go outdoors during the day, wearing his ID collar and tracking device. A pet panel in the door keeps him inside at night, but the minute he sees me walking in that direction in the morning, he makes a furious dash for the door, bounding off to see what he can see and catch what he can catch!

But in spite of his shenanigans I’m starting to see signs of approaching maturity. Maybe it’s just our brutal Florida summer but he seems to spend more time stretched out on the cool floor and taking long naps under my bed. I guess the day will eventually come when the little hooligan is laying around more than bouncing around– but I’m in no hurry!

Posted in animals, cats, family, fun, human interest, humor, pets, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Little Red Something-or-Other

I belong to a meditation group. We’re doing it on Zoom nowadays. We do more than just meditate though. The facilitator assigned us a little project: bring one of our most beautiful possessions for show and tell. Here’s the story.

I have a grandson named Elvis. A blue-eyed blonde with a sweet disposition. He lives a couple hours from me and when he was four, I kept him a few days, while his baby brother got settled into the world.

Let me just say that I’m a much better grandma than I was a mom. You wise up as you get older. I have quite a few regrets, and I un-did some of those regrets with Elvis those few days he was with me.

We went to a toy store, we went to the park, we went grocery shopping and he got to pick out his favorite junk food. And he got chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast every morning. But the best thing he got was my undivided attention and love. I gave him everything I wish I’d been able to give my kids when they were growing up. In spades.

It was great. And when his grandpa picked him up to take him back home I got a little teary-eyed. Elvis had brought one of his favorite little stuffed toys with him when he arrived, a goofy little red something-or-other with big blue eyes, and he was carrying it as we said good-bye. Before he got to the door, he turned and said, “Here, Gammaw,” and handed me the little red thing. It’s been sitting on the bookcase by my computer for seventeen years.

That’s what I brought to show and tell.

Posted in beauty, children, emotions, family, human interest, mother, nostalgia, psychology, relationships, senior citizens, spirituality, women | Leave a comment

A Red Guitar Under My Bed

I brought home two big tubs of my brother’s clothes yesterday. My sister gave them to me. She had them stored in an outdoor shed and the plastic tubs were grungy. I emptied the tubs and scrubbed them, washed the clothes. Two full laundry loads.

Lots of heavy jeans, tee-shirts, one with a big green planet earth on the front, the logo for his struggling lawncare business;  baseball logos; Lynrd Skynrd the Last Rebel; a red bandana. He was a motorcycle dude. A tattooed, beer-guzzling, guitar-playing kinda guy who ended up losing everything. A tough dude. We weren’t all that close. He’s ten years younger, and I’m the kind who plays by the rules. Ms. Responsible.

His wildness eventually caught up with him and he ended up in prison. Too much beer and brawling and a redhead’s temper led to a final violence. He’s been there 13 years now; two to go. Got cancer and was transferred to a medical prison. The cancer came and went and came back; this time with a vengeance. And his kidneys are shot. He’s probably at the end of the road. Maybe six months if he’s lucky, according to prison staff. He’s just 63.

He had $500 when he went in, wanted me to buy him a guitar with it, so he’d have something to look forward to when he got out. Why not a certificate of deposit I said, something that’ll make money? Nope, he said. A guitar.

It’s under my bed in a canvas case. A pretty, shiny, garnet-red thing.

So I have a decision to make. If an early release is approved do I take him in, do the caregiver thing? Health care facilities won’t take him straight from prison. He has to have an address first, then maybe he’ll get on a wait list for some end-of-life care, a nursing home or hospice.

How long will that take? My home is small, my adult son already lives with me; just out of the hospital for suicidal tendencies, not real good with disruption and change, doesn’t really know his uncle. And I’m getting up in years–and stress out easy. I’ve got a lot of reasons to say no. Justifiable ones. Some have suggested he may be better off staying in prison where he has the medical care he needs, people and structure he’s familiar with.

And yet, I seem to make decisions more with my heart than my head. So I’m pondering. Asking for guidance from the gods of wisdom. They speak very softly, and I can’t really make out what they’re saying. So I wait. Wait until I can hear better. Wait while I wash his clothes and re-arrange furniture in the back bedroom to carve out some space, just in case maybe he gets to play that guitar.

Posted in emotions, family, human interest, illness, psychology, relationships, senior citizens, spirituality, worry | Leave a comment

The Benefits of Not Sleeping Alone

My kitten, Jasper, is growing up. He no longer spends the night in his own room so that I can rest assured knowing he won’t tear up the house while I’m sleeping. After a few months, he graduated to having the whole house to roam around in overnight. Except for my room. I’ve never slept with animals. No fleas in my room, thanks. And I tested positive to cats when I got allergy-tested years ago, so not a good idea.

But my grown-up son moved out recently, and it’s been a little lonesome. So I decided to leave my bedroom door open when I went to bed and see what happened. Jasper, who loves a good snuggle, decided to join me sometime during the night. He stayed politely around the bottom half of my bed, nuzzling into the puffy coverlet over my legs. When I flipped and flopped he rolled with the punches; I don’t think it even woke him.

And in the morning, when I started to stir, he padded over, put his nose up to mine, checking for signs of life, and gave me what can only be described as a tender little good morning smooch.

After that, I decided to leave my bedroom door open from then on and it’s been just fine, except for last night when he jumped up to the closet shelf and knocked down a box full of stuff! I scolded him gently, put the stuff back, and that was that. I went back to sleep and he settled down for the night.

It looks like I’m hooked on having a bed buddy. And, despite the dubious results of my allergy testing, I’m not sneezing, coughing or anything else. The benefits are all on the plus side.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Boy on the Balcony and Other Chance Encounters

“Hello!” shouted a youthful voice from somewhere above and behind me. I looked up and saw a little boy standing on a balcony, waving.

“Hello!” I said, waving back.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Walking!” I shot back.

“Don’t walk in the road,” he said.

“There are no sidewalks!” I replied. “But I’ll be careful.”

“Okay,” he said, sounding satisfied. “See ya!”

I’d never seen the little guy before. Maybe he was bored and lonesome, with no one to play with, like many of us during the Covid era.

A little later I passed a man bringing his trash can up from the curb, with a gold and white cat sitting in front of the driveway. A cat I’d seen frequently on my walks, who loved to be petted. A cat I called Honeybun, because of its gold and white coloring.

I stopped and asked, “Is that your cat?”

“I firmly believe that cats adopt us and not the other way around,” he replied. “But, yeah, he’s ours.”

“What’s his name?” I asked, bending down to pat Honeybun.

“Jonesy,” he answered.

“Have a good one,” he said, walking back up the driveway with his trashcan as I gave Honeybun one last pat.

Then, a little later, my path converged with that of an elderly gentleman walking his dog across from the softball field.

“Cute dog,” I said.

Sensing my interest, he told me she was an Australian Shepherd named Sugar. Then, warming to his subject, he told me of Sugar’s sweet disposition, and how she got her name. “She’s a tri-color; the three colors of sugar: dark brown, light brown and white.”

Pretty soon we parted ways and he turned toward his house. I said good-bye to Sugar as they peeled off and she turned her head toward me. “You got her attention!” laughed her master.

I may never see these people again; they’re just random encounters. But they lift my spirits every single time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Hug

I live with my forty-five year old son and four month old kitten. My son isn’t big on hugs. Birthdays, Mother’s day, yeah, but regular days are not meant for hugging as far as he’s concerned. He’s just not the huggy type. So, at this time of Covid isolation, I’m pretty hug-hungry.

But I get my hug fix every morning from my kitten, Jasper.  Jasper has his own bedroom, complete with food, litterbox and cat toys to keep him company overnight. I can’t sleep with animals and I don’t trust him to wander around unsupervised all night. I’d probably be awakened by a big crash in the wee hours!

So every morning when I open his bedroom door, I pick him up, put him on my shoulder and give him a big, long “schnuggle” as we walk down the hallway to the living room, with him purring enthusiastically all the way. I put on my best baby talk, tell him good morning, ask him if he slept well, if he’s ready for a brand new day (he always is!) and then he hits the deck running.

I look forward to this little ritual of ours every morning, and I’m pretty sure he enjoys it as much as I do. I hope he never outgrows it.

Posted in animals, cats, Covid-19, emotions, family, health, human interest, humor, love, pets, psychology, relationships, senior citizens, spirituality | Leave a comment

The End of the Tunnel?

Maybe there’s light at the end of this long, lonely tunnel.  Some of my friends have already gotten their first Covid vaccine, and one is getting her second tomorrow. I’m still trying to snag an appointment for my first shot. At this time last year I was getting ready for a week-end away with friends. Little did I know it’d be my last adventure for a year!

I finally learned how to slow down and take pleasure in simple things; in some ways my anxiety level was up, in others it was down. I guess it ended up even-steven. But slowing down didn’t come easy. It took awhile to shift gears; to transform boredom into mindfulness–like a cat sitting still, just being a cat.

Speaking of cats, the kitten I brought home in November sure made life funnier! I traded Zen pursuits for strategies to outmaneuver this little bundle of curiosity that loved nothing better than to get underfoot! His antics made me forget whatever loneliness was still trickling through my veins.

And there’s another thing that arrived in the midst of this plague. An unlikely thing. A possible boyfriend-in-the-making. A man I met at my socially-distanced outdoor community pool to whom I bravely gave my phone number and address back in November when I quit swimming until the weather warmed up. “In case you’d like to get together and do something after Covid,” I said.

To our surprise, we discovered we lived just a couple blocks from each other.  I bike down your street all the time, he said. And I walk down your street all the time, I said. Who knew? And so, one afternoon he showed up on my doorstep and we chatted on the porch. And I stopped by his place while walking one morning. And so it goes. Little by little we’re getting to know each other, and an easy friendship is forming. We talk about going places post-vaccination. It’ll seem like a whole ‘nuther world.

I’m grateful that I got through 2020 without hardship, without serious illness, without gaining 10 pounds!  Christmas with the kids was cancelled, I gave up gym workouts, traded in-person activities for this thing called Zoom. I got by. But if all goes as I hope it does and the world returns to some semblance of normal, I’m ready!

Posted in animals, Christmas, Covid-19, dating, emotions, friendship, fun, human interest, humor, love, pets, psychology, relationships, romance, senior citizens, spirituality, Uncategorized, women | Leave a comment

New Years Eve

Bang! Bang! Bang!

New Year comes charging in
with raucous abandon,
music blaring,
whistles blowing,
fireworks blasting!

Bang! Bang! Bang!
She lands on her feet,
applauding her entry!

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Covid Christmas

Christmas is on the way. Not the Christmas I’d envisioned a few months ago, when all four of my kids were planning to be home at the same time for the first time in years.  I bought a new tabletop Christmas tree, started planning the Christmas menu, even thought about buying a ping pong table to put in the carport. Just for fun. And then Covid ramped up again.

We’ve decided to wait until it’s safer to get together. After a vaccine is out. I already have respiratory issues even without Covid, so it’s for the best, as one of my sons said.

Now that I’m faced with a much more subdued Christmas, with just me, my live-in son and our new kitten, Jasper–what will it look like? Well, for one thing, it won’t be all that subdued with Jasper around! He doesn’t know how to do anything but have fun. He makes us laugh when things seem bleak. He reminds us what it’s like to be irrepressible and full of life! It’s hard to be down about anything around him.

Pretty soon I’ll start putting up Christmas decorations, ordering Christmas gifts, planning a smaller Christmas menu. My son and I will have a big breakfast of blueberry pancakes with all the trimmings, I’ll take a long walk, play with el gatito, talk to or Zoom with family. Crank up a wood-burning digital fire on the TV if it’s cold enough; never a sure thing in my Florida city–I’ll be happy if we don’t have to turn on the air conditioner!

Christmas will be good because we’re alive and well, because there’s a vaccine on the way, because we’re part of the human family, even if we can’t all be together right now.

I just hope Jasper doesn’t destroy my new Christmas tree!

Posted in animals, cats, Christmas, Covid-19, depression, emotions, family, health, human interest, humor, love, mother, pets, psychology, relationships, spirituality, Uncategorized, women | 4 Comments