Silver Lining


You know you’re getting old when happy hour is a nap.

I don’t like anything about aging. Not the wrinkles on my chest which don’t straighten out no matter how much I try. Nor the extra effort it takes to jump up quickly when required. I’m also not a fan of the newly droopy eyes which make me look sleep deprived even after a long long night’s sleep. And then there is the permanent frowny mouth that looks like my crabby grandma looked even when she was young. I’m perplexed to find my hair thinning because oh that’s just part of the process sweetie. Imagine knowing that I can’t sit down for a moment “just to relax” in the middle of my day without falling fast asleep even in mid sip of coffee. I don’t like seeing how many old folks have been booted out of their homes by their own families and sent to senior farms to just die off slowly with others who are equally despondent about being tossed into a group living home. I don’t like wondering if this could be me someday. I don’t like being slightly jealous of my dog who sleeps 16 hours a day without guilt. I don’t like losing a parent. And I really don’t like whining so I probably will not post this. Unless I can find a silver lining. Which may have just happened.

I don’t like anything about aging except for the wisdom I’ve gained and the ability to not sweat the small things. Not the wrinkles on my chest which don’t straighten out no matter how much I try so I’ve acquired a nice assortment of pretty scarves which provide a colorful added touch to just about any outfit. Nor the extra effort it takes to jump up quickly when required which is nice, because I can fix this. I still have all my body parts and when I exercise regularly and eat well I notice a big change in my energy.

I’m also not a fan of the newly droopy eyes which make me look sleep deprived even after a long long night’s sleep but unlike other physical problems, I can fix this too. And then there is the permanent frowny mouth that looks like my crabby grandma looked even when she was young although I’ve noticed that when I’m in an attitude of gratitude my set expression changes to curious and amused. I’m perplexed to find my hair thinning because oh that’s just part of the process sweetie and yet now I can get ready to go on a dime knowing it only takes two minutes to dry my hair.

Imagine knowing that I can’t sit down for a moment “just to relax” in the middle of my day without falling fast asleep even in mid sip of coffee but how lucky I am to be able to work from home and set my own hours so if a cat nap sneaks in I can make up the time later in the day. I don’t like seeing how many old folks have been booted out of their homes by their own families and sent to senior farms to just die off slowly with others who are equally despondent about being tossed into a group living home and I really don’t see much of an upside here. I will never like this and I will forever wonder why their families are so cruel. I don’t like wondering if this could be me someday and I know it won’t.

I don’t like being slightly jealous of my dog who sleeps 16 hours a day without guilt but mostly I’m happy to have this little ball of fluff as my constant companion. I don’t like losing a parent, but at least my parent lived a long and full life. And I really don’t like whining so I probably will not post this. Unless I can find a silver lining which is always there if I remember to look.

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.
~ Mark Twain ~

Fresh start

water drop


When we are alone on a starlit night, when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children, when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet, Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash – at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the “newness,” the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, all these provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.  ~Thomas Merton



I don’t remember what they said, only the fury of their words, how the air turned raw and full of welts. Later it would remind me of birds trapped inside a closed room, flinging themselves against the windows and the walls, against each other. ~Sue Monk Kidd

A new year begins again. Clean, unencumbered, a blank slate. Time to reflect on the past and make plans for an uncertain future.

So much changed this year as a family’s shadow side became its public side. Lifelong resentments, hurts and jealousies spilled over and covered all in its path like a dock fire with fresh kindling on a hot summer day. Starting with a loud bang, searing sparks and seething language brought relationships to an end, bringing on an early death. The players in this saga involve an alcoholic bi-polar who physically and emotionally abused the family patriarch. We then have the oldest son who shouted stop, no more to this, and who has now become the villain in the plot for having the intense courage to shine light on evil. There are those who chose to look the other way and live on the banks of denial. Many are keeping a wide berth from one another in order to avoid further conflict and some are able to still tip toe in and provide some sort of comic relief, followed by crushing fatigue while emotional stores are refilled. Less there is any chance of repair we have the bomb thrower keeping the battle alive and destined to years of conflict. Its story defies logic and each deeply entrenched position burrowed solidly into psyches eliminates any chance for understanding or reconciliation. What once appeared as a reasonably well formed ship has now become a charred capsized boat with its barnacles and slime permanently exposed.

It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.  ~Alfred Adler

Be happy rose

 Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.  It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity ~ Carl Jung

I don’t know how it happened or even when it happened. But it did. I walked out of my dark world and tiptoed into a lighter one. I would have told you about this while it was happening, but I temporarily lost my voice in the process.

I’m wondering why. Must I be dreary to write? Had I joined the ranks of the tortured artists who can only create when miserable?

I clearly went through a metamorphosis of some sort … or perhaps it was even bigger, like a baby traveling though the birth canal, in silence only to let out it’s scream at the end.

I will probably never know, and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is what happens from here – the choices, the way time and resources are spent with the people whose lives are entwined with mine.


Darkness comes.  In the middle of it, the future looks blank.  The temptation to quit is huge.  Don’t.  You are in good company.  You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward.  But with God, nothing is impossible.  He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits that you can conceive.  Wait.  Pray without ceasing.  Hope.  ~ John Piper

Almost Missed


~View from my backyard



I knew I would buy the house that felt right.  The one that screamed loudly, “It’s me, it’s me.”  But I thought this would be an intellectual exercise, a thoughtful and curious walk through a home selection.  And for awhile it was.  I looked at dozens of homes and bravely wrote offers on a few. Well, not at the same time less you think I’m one of THOSE people.  But yes, I wrote offers at fair market value and negotiated dispassionately reminding everyone around me how important it was to be prepared to walk away if we couldn’t come to terms, after all, there were many houses on the market. 

We drove past many homes and looked inside dozens.  It was important to me to have an “Ohio” house.  I didn’t know exactly what that meant,  but I did know that I didn’t want a home that looked like Southwest style homes with stucco sides and terracotta tile roofs.  After over 35 years in California, and not being a fan of Mediterranean architecture, I was stucco’d out.

The first house which received my offer had the exact exterior I imagined I’d buy.  A buttery yellow two story home complete with ample front porch with two adorable wood rocking chairs.  The inside did not disappoint, although some of the paint color choices were questionable (seriously rust?).  But I could see myself there and knew I would enjoy the great room for large family gatherings.  After a brief negotiation, we came to terms on a price.  I felt that I had overpaid for the home, but it was my yellow two story front porch home so it must be right.  Right?

After my offer was accepted, the owners stopped watering the yard.  They also wouldn’t cooperate with some other real estate mumbo jumbo.  I started to wake up in the middle of the night feeling like I might throw up and when people asked me how I was feeling about the house, the only word that came to mind was ambivalent.  Now you don’t have to be a genius to know that spending many thousands of dollars and ambivalent don’t belong in the same sentence.

The next house was a charmer indeed.  Its exterior closely resembled my family’s home, the home of my youth where my parents still live.  It was a lovely older home perched proudly on a small knoll overlooking a golf course and stream with a sweeping view of mature pine trees.  The crowning glory of the home was a recently added solarium.  I imagined spending time there in the winter watching the snow fall while curled up in an angora blanket, surrounded by a stack of books and a freshly brewed pot of coffee.   There was something about the house I loved, but there was another part of the house that said, “I belong to someone else.” The decorating style was, well, decorated.  Everywhere.  This owner had obviously never met a wall that didn’t call for ornate wallpaper.  Her color scheme was blue, yellow and white.  Hmmm, how would I incorporate my red, green and cream furnishings?  The master bath was also a bit too master.  It reminded me of what a Roman bath for a queen might look like with the tub floating in the middle of the large room flanked by 4 ornate pillars.  Details, details I thought.  Cosmetic stuff that I can fix down the line.  So I put in an offer at fair market value.  The owners never responded so I mentally moved out of the house.  Apparently the house did belong to someone else, its owner.  It’s now been six months and they never did sell it.

House three was an immaculate brick home in an upscale neighborhood.  The house was decorated perfectly.  Yes, it was a designer’s dream home and the attention to detail was everywhere to be seen.  I remember thinking that it looked perfect – for my sister – but perfect enough for me too.  Again I put in an offer at fair market value and found out the next day that there were two competing offers.  Because I hadn’t even fully mentally moved into this house,  and being the shrewd real estate tycoon that I am, I walked away from the negotiation.  So there.  Take that brick house.  Off I went to find MY home.

The next day I looked at another two story cute brick house on a small pond with high hopes. It was next to a one story Mediterranean style stucco home which was also for sale.  Hmmm, two houses for sale side by side?  I thought maybe my sister and I could buy adjacent homes and I went into a quick daydream about borrowing eggs and sugar.  Maybe this would be the home of my dreams, after all, there would be no neighbors behind me and after my experience with the last house I owned, and The Tree, having a neighborless back yard was ranking higher on the list than buying an Ohio looking house.  I walked in and the home was oppressive and sad.  The kitchen counters were dark purple.  The decorating everywhere was drab and depressing.  The view of the pond was blocked by the inconvenient design of the home.  I quickly realized that no amount of money would bring this house around, so ended the house tour abruptly.  As we drove away, I couldn’t help but notice how out of place the little stucco house next door looked next to all these Ohio houses. 

As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned to months, I began to wonder if my wish list was unrealistic.  Here I was, a grown human now living with my parents while I house hunted.  I began to think that if I didn’t carve a few “must haves” off the list, that I might never find the right home.  But what was I willing to give up?  I knew I had to have an Ohio house – well I think I’ve made that pretty clear.  I wanted a light, bright home with a neighborless back yard.  I also wanted to have a view of water, be it a lake, pond or pool.  I knew I must have a sun room, ample bedrooms, an open kitchen and a fireplace or two.  And storage, did I mention storage?  Being Martha Stewart lite, I do have a lot of stuff.  I also wanted sufficient square footage in the master bedroom, a walk in closet and an attached bath, with a tub.   I didn’t know why such a reasonable list was so elusive in my house search.

The next weekend, my sister, now in town and also on a house hunt of her own, invited me to join her in a quick blitz of several open houses.  I agreed, glad that I could take a break from my discouraging search to help her find the house of her dreams.  We grabbed the Sunday paper and still not knowing the area well, plugged the first address into the navigation system.  I was still entering addresses into the nav when we arrived at our first destination.   I looked up and was surprised to see that it was the stucco house next to the purple kitchen counter house that I had viewed weeks before.  I hid my disappointment and tried to focus on looking at houses – for her.  Well, maybe she would like this little Southwest home clone.     

We walked through the front door and the house took my breath away.  Literally.  It was profoundly perfect in every way.  Now flushed, I walked through the home becoming increasingly enchanted by every nook and crannie.  I was swept off my feet not just with the home’s features, but with its energy.  I felt cradled and safe, transported to another time.  As others entered the home, well it was an open house you see, I felt irritated if they didn’t wipe their feet bringing in dirt and dust into MY home. By the time I caught my breath I realized that I had moved in and nothing, nothing at all would stand between me and my new home.  After making my sister promise that she wasn’t interested in the house (OMG, I didn’t want to fight over it!)  I wrote a full price offer on the spot.  So much for dispassionate tough negotiations.  So much for fair market value.  So much for a great real estate tycoon.  I was butter.  A pile of mush.  Asked later about the unwanted stucco exterior?  I replied, “You don’t live on the outside of your house.”

It was then I realized that sometimes, great solutions and even answered prayer come wrapped in disguise.  I bought the house I said I would never buy and paid more than I said I would pay.  The house is my answered prayer and my offer was my seller’s answered prayer.  Somehow, the phrase “blessing in disguise” has now taken on a whole new meaning.

Do due diligence


Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.  ~Author Unknown

So I fired my real estate agent for all the reasons you can imagine and some you cannot but you would have fired him too and I’ll just leave it at that.  I really want to blame him for his incompetence but the main person I’m blaming is myself for not doing my usual due diligence before engaging him.  

I decided to make a more informed decision this go-around and like George and Winifred Banks interviewing nannies before they hired Mary Poppins, I opted to be more methodical in choosing my next agent.  So I lined them up and ran my interviews like my life depended upon it which in a weird way was true.

My first interview was with Karen, the pre-closer.  Before she was even past the entry hall carpet, she was attempting to close the sale.

“Hi, I’m Karen.  If this meeting goes well today will you be listing with me?” 

Minutes later, she went for it again.

“I brought a contract with me which is at a much higher commission percentage than you’ve paid in the past, or that you’re comfortable paying, but my writing is pretty, so will you be listing with me?”

Next was Gary.   Gary works for a company whose real estate sweet spot is in selling 2 -20 million dollar homes.  Gary tried to convince me that my very modest home would work well with his client base.  What he didn’t tell me is that my home would work well for their client’s household staffs, their parents, grandparents, 14 of their children and a couple cousins.  I sent Gary on his way to flash his fancy Rolex and long teeth to the Rolls Royce crowd.

Third in line was Janice, a charming southern belle who proceeded to redecorate my home as I gave her a tour.  Soon I didn’t know if she was adding flair to the rooms or was simply a kleptomaniac.  Janice’s sales pitch was to insist she really wanted to buy the house for herself, because the house is so darlin’ but if for some reason she changed her mind, she was sure she would be the one to sell it. Ya’ll.  When I didn’t choose Janice, her demeanor became somewhat curt.  Well, let’s be more specific, it became downright hostile.  I guess southern belles aren’t used to being told no.

I finally chose an agent who I hoped would be practically perfect in every way.  Making sure I clearly conveyed my very realistic expectations, I informed her that after enduring what felt like an eternity of incompetence while working with my former realtor, that it would sure be swell if she could sell my house within the week.  

And so she did. 

Having gone through this process, I’ve learned another very valuable lesson.  If the situation stinks, change it.  That’s why it is called do due diligence.

The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.  ~David Russell

Food for thought

The past is never there when you try to go back.  It exists, but only in memory.  To pretend otherwise is to invite a mess. ~Chris Cobbs [tweetmeme]

I’m going to tell you something so utterly pathetic that I can’t even believe I’m admitting it in writing.  But being that my writings are true, partially true, partially fiction and partially outright lies, you can decide which category my confession fits into.  And for those of you stuck at the difference between partially fiction and partially outright lies, I feel your pain but there’s a subtle distinction, but that’s not my topic although could be, so you’ll just have to sort it out if it’s really bugging you which it shouldn’t because in the aggregate it doesn’t really matter but here I go again getting off on a tangent.   

You may recall that I recently made a wonderfully healthy fruit and veggie dinner of popcorn and raisins because there were no groceries in the house.  I woke up the next morning thinking this was disgustingly pitiful since although I’m on a budget I’m certainly not a pauper.  And I wondered why dinner for one needs to be so lame.

So the next day I decided to make a fabulous dinner for myself which required finding special ingredients at three stores.  That evening I played music, sipped wine and concocted one of my best meals ever which somehow ended up involving virtually every pan and bowl in the cupboard.  I wouldn’t normally have used so many dishes but I wanted to show myself that I really had cooked and once I consumed my meal, a satisfied tummy and the dish trail would be my only proof.  A little sauce, a little stirring, steaming the vegetables, grilling the main dish, a soufflé for desert, it was fabulous.  Of course, for someone who can eat popcorn or Special K for dinner, my bar is set pretty low, but I have to tell you, it was really good.

I savored every bite and contemplated how important it is to take better care of myself, even indulging in a divine meal from time to time.  I tend to cook less now that the house is on the market because things need to be kept squeaky clean. 

Now here’s the truly pathetic part.  After dinner I looked at the disaster zone formerly known as the kitchen and made a conscious decision to not clean up until the morning, because when I woke up, I wanted to be reminded of the nice meal from the night before. 

As the sun shined through my bedroom windows I looked at the alarm and turned it off 5 minutes before it was due to go off.  It was a particularly bright morning and the birds were chirping loudly outside.  I realized that for the first night in many months I had slept solidly through the night without my normal dozen wake ups and I was feeling good.  I remembered that I had bought my favorite creamer during my shopping spree the day before and was looking forward to enjoying a large pot of coffee with my morning paper. 

I hopped into my slippers and went downstairs where I was confronted with the world’s messiest kitchen.  There was stuck-on food in pans, bowls, plates, utensils, and spills on the stove.  My once majestic meal had now become a kitchen battleground and something that would have been a fifteen minute clean up the night before now took me forever.  My mood took an instant thud.

In my desire to be reminded of a pleasant memory from the previous night, I created a stinky chaotic mess which got my day off to a very bad start. 

Had I given it just a tad more thought the night before, I would have realized that you don’t need to preserve a memory by tossing proverbial bread crumbs behind you when you walk.  Heated up leftovers would have done the trick.

Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories.  Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart. ~Thomas Fuller