Category Archives: Getting Older

Becoming a Grandmother: Part Two

Aven and grandma

As some of you may have noticed, I have been absent from the blog lately. I confess I have not had the energy or the life spirit to write. I wasn’t able to put my finger on the problem until a few nights ago, when I realized that I have been suffering  from the only downside of becoming a grandmother to Aven: an inability to stop thinking about the future and about the terrible world we are passing on to those coming after us.

I can see now that I  must have adjusted somewhere along the way, without even knowing it,  to the fact that my children will, at some point, be living without me in a world full of problems–or I’ve just been so busy being a parent that I didn’t have that much time to ponder! Or I have taken comfort from the fact that I have  at least had the privilege to watch our four grow into adults, and so I know they are strong and loving people and that they will, in any case, have the good sense to hold onto the ones they love  for strength during bad times.

But Aven is so little, so fresh, so vulnerable.  I look at her, and I remember what my Uncle Jack once said about another new baby in the family:  “Even her little insides are all bright and shining.”  I look at her, and I get angry.  I can’t help but wonder why in the world things are so damn difficult for people?  Why in the world can’t we stop all this mess and create together a world that is better and safer for children?

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I can’t stand to listen to the news.  I try, every now and then, thinking I can handle it, but then I hear another story about young girls being stolen off into the woods of Nigeria or about some German guy deciding to fly a plane into the ground, killing a whole class full of students coming home from an exchange program abroad, and I have to switch off the dial.

I do not know how to come to terms with things like ISIS or climate change when I consider even the possibility that such things could, at any point, become real for Aven.  It was easier before because I could think, “well, at least my friends and my sisters and even my children will all die before the polar caps melt” or “well, we’ve all survived so far with terrorists in the world, so maybe we can hold out a little longer.”

But now, Aven is here, and so the time span for my worry has lengthened.  There is this precious little creature in the world with her mama’s eyes who, at the very least, will have to hear about all the future, unimaginably terrible things that will happen–that’s if she’s lucky and doesn’t have to experience them firsthand!

Lizzie and Aven
Lizzie and Aven

 

I haven’t had much luck turning to religion for comfort, so I turn to poetry.   I keep thinking about Yeats’ poem,  “The Second Coming.”  He was writing about a totally different time in history, but he could so easily be writing about today.  I won’t say this poem is uplifting, but it is strangely comforting to me because he wrote it so long ago, and yet he expresses the way I feel lately about the world we live in, especially about all the evil currently being carried out in the name of religion!  Forgive me if I quote the whole thing, but, when I read this poem, I think to myself two things:  1) maybe things aren’t as bad as I thought, since Yeats thought the world was going to hell in a hand basket, and yet we’ve muddled along for almost 100 years since then!  and 2) “I bet Yeats was worrying about his grandchildren when he wrote it!”

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
yeats

 

 

My Aunt Mamie and the Power of “Flopping”

Jane
Jane

My aunt loved to “flop” in the afternoon.  After eating lunch and taking care of one or two things she needed to do, Mamie would always retire to her bedroom and lie down on her bed for about an hour. First, she would read her daily devotion from a little book she kept by her bed called God Calling. Then, she would write down in her journal her daily record of everything she and her husband, my uncle Jack, had done the day before.  And then, she would either take a little nap or lie there in bed, reading. I guess you could say she knew about the value of meditation long before it became popular with the rest of us!

When things got stressful in her life, she would “flop” more often, maybe once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  Her “flopping” time seemed to work almost like a recharging station.  If she felt herself getting stressed or exhausted, she would always take the time to relax, unwind, and breathe.  Nothing could stop her.  She would just announce to all around her:  “I need to go flop!”

Mamie with Lizzie, our first baby

When I was about ten years old and spent time with her one summer for a few months, I at first hated her flopping time because it meant she wasn’t available to do something with me, like going grocery shopping or going to the library or just laughing together about something.   But, as the days went by, I came to love that time of day.  Mamie would flop on her twin bed, and I would flop on Jack’s, andwe would both read or sleep until Mamie was ready to get up.  I suspect I was one of the reasons she needed to flop that summer, but she never made me feel like I was a burden.  We just flopped together.  It was during those afternoons in Mamie’s room that I read all about the history of the FBI and several biographies of famous people.  Sometimes Mamie told me stories about her childhood or I wrote postcards to my family and friends or worked a puzzle book.  All of those memories are pleasant and relaxing and calming to me, even now.

Mamie had a pretty hard life in some ways, but she learned how to deal with her problems in a real practical way.  I’ve never known anyone better at taking care of herself.  She never allowed herself to get too stressed or worried or busy or anything.  She just “flopped” when she needed to, the rest of the world be damned!

I have decided that I need to learn from Mamie.  I think I need to worry less and recharge my engines whenever possible. I need to learn how to “flop.”

The First Heavenly Blue Morning Glory, and New Chicks

Sadhvi
Sadhvi

Every summer I wait and wonder if my favorite morning glory will appear.

There are many of the deep purple “Grandpa Ott’s” and the pink “Carolina Morning” variety, as well as lots of white and light blue ones with blue stripes that start to bloom very early in the season. They are lovely, but by this time of the year I am pulling them out because they start to take over.

There is only one that truly makes my heart beat fast, and that one starts to open at the end of summer.  It’s called “Heavenly Blue”, for a reason.

Oh! "Heavenly Blue"!
Oh! “Heavenly Blue”!

I saw the first one by the chicken run the other day and it made me feel so happy…that shade of blue, its unreal!  Even if I am stressed and in a hurry or having a time keeping up with things, or missing something or someone, I have no choice but to stop and stare at “that blue” and fall into the moment.

When it was time for our “Sally” hens to be “harvested” a few weeks ago, I decided that I would be able to do something that I was not able to do with the previous 3 flocks we’ve had,  and that is, to eat them.

I can’t do the actual killing, and I can’t even be around the killing of them, but really, since I am a meat-eater I should be all right with eating them, right?  Some of my friends find that thought horrifying!  I also have friends who cannot stand having the bones in the meat they eat because it reminds them that they are eating what was once a living animal.  But really that is what eating meat is!  We couldn’t have loved our hens any more than we did; we fed them homemade organic kefir and organic feed and scratch, and since they had to die one day, I believe they would want us to eat them!

I went back and forth as to whether or not we should get another batch of chicks, because I feel like we’re getting older, and I know that I might have to clean out their house once, plus maybe I don’t want to get attached to another batch of hens.  In the end, I found myself calling McMurray Hatchery to place another order of “Black Star” hens.

Here is how they looked on July 21st when they arrived by post.

Then they started to get bigger and a few days ago I took a video of them coming out of their house.  I decided to name them “Shanti” instead of “Sally” (my mom’s name) since I think it is good to say the word “peace” as often as possible these days.

For the next 2-3 years, these hens will be part of our lives, and I’m OK with that idea.  Plus, I cannot wait until they start laying eggs because once you have had fresh eggs, it is not easy to eat any others.  Om Shanti!

Sadhvi Sez: “The Hundred Foot Journey” and, it’s still Summer

Sadhvi
Sadhvi

Summer is not over yet, but seeing all that Halloween stuff in the stores, you might think it’s just around the corner – it is not!  It is still summer, and only on Tuesday, September 23rd will I start to think it’s Fall!

I love summer, and this one has been pretty dreamy, but a lot hotter than I can remember.  Has anyone noticed how stressed out people are these days?  Everyone seems to be jacked up on Mountain Dew or something!  Or maybe because it’s getting hotter.

I don’t know about you, but I have given up on being freaked out or surprised by things these days.

I also have given up on trying to figure people out.  I am sure there are lots of folks out there on drugs and meds, in pain, or having a hard time, so my heart is wide-open like Our Lady of Guadalupe.

oops50 hundred foot Being “over the hill” and not knowing how much time I have left, I’ve decided to try enjoying my life.  I know, I know, I should have been doing that for a long time now.  But I happen to be a work-a-holic, and love to create things, which means, I am almost always doing something.  Always.

So taking the time out to go see a movie once in a while is really good for my soul.

There are SO MANY movies to choose from!  To make it easy to pick just one good one, I am going to let you in on one that you MUST see: “The Hundred Foot Journey”.  It takes place in a small French village, and it is, well, I don’t want to tell you anything about it, just go see it!

I hope you are enjoying what is left of summer, and this beautiful life.

Taking my Youngest Daughter to College

oops50women
JANE

 

Yesterday we drove our youngest daughter, Josie, to Virginia to start college.  It was an emotional day for me.  I’m not saying only bad emotions were involved.  It was just an emotional day.

The good emotions included excitement that she is attending my much-beloved alma mater, Randolph College (formerly and forever known by me as Randolph-Macon Woman’s College—to hell with the fact that it is now co-ed!), relief that she has a great roommate, and happiness that the college seems to be the same great place, full of brilliant professors and caring people, that I remember.

Main Hall, Randolph College
Main Hall, Randolph College

Also, there was gratitude that her sister and brother went with us on the trip and that her other sister and her husband,  who couldn’t come because of work, kept in touch by text throughout the day!  I think they all wanted to make sure their baby sister was going to be all right, and it touched my heart.

Finally, there was the pleasure of witnessing Josie finding her way in a new environment and seeing that she will be fine without me.  Sometimes it helps to see our kids in different settings, just to be reminded of how much they make us proud.

Before you are overwhelmed with my sappiness, let me admit there was also the pure joy of realizing that I no longer have to prepare a single school lunch or attend a single Parents’ Night at our local high school ever again!

oops50 women
Josie (R) and her wonderful friend Nora (L) in Pittsburgh at the Phipps Conservatory

So, that’ was the good stuff.  There were also bad emotions, or I guess I should say “difficult” ones, as in the ones that made me want to curl up in the fetal position and sleep for about 48 hours.

First of all, the experience of actually being a parent, bringing my daughter to college, at my very own campus was somewhat surreal, especially considering the fact that all the people who taught me such wonderful topics as “The Poetry of W. H. Auden” or “Social Stratification Systems” or “German History before 1900” (yes, a liberal arts curriculum) are dead.  It’s strange enough to walk around a campus and see no students you recognize but it’s past bizarre to see a bunch of young upstarts pretending to be professors, sitting in all my professors’ offices.  It was a little like being in a Twilight Zone episode involving, perhaps, time travel and robots.

Secondly,  I have to say, it is really, really hard to say goodbye to your youngest child, the last one leaving the nest.  It doesn’t matter that your logical brain says, “she’ll be back for fall break,” or “but you have your oldest daughter and her husband back at home with you at the moment, so the house won’t even really be empty for another few months.”  None of that apparently weighs in heavily enough to balance out the overwhelming feeling at the pit of your stomach: “My baby is all grown up!  How in the world did that happen so soon?”

(There was also, I admit, a self-centered, nagging feeling of fear and depression that, damn, I must be really old if Josie is old enough to go to college, but we’ll ignore that one for now.)

I can sum up the whole experience this way:  I am really happy that my girl is off to college, and I am thrilled that she was able to walk off confidently to her new dorm room, with only a couple tears in her eyes, but I am also heavily burdened at the moment with the grief that comes from realizing my youngest child is leaving home, officially, and probably for good.  Hold on, you say, she’ll be home for Christmas and spring break and summer.  What are you bitching and moaning about?  Here’s the reality:  once they walk out that door to go to college, they never really come home again, not in the way you want them to.  Not in an everyday, being there and belonging there sort of way, where they can take their time to grow up, since you’ve got all the time in the world to go on vacations together, eat food at the same table, plan what color to paint their room.  Yes, they come back, but only in a visiting their parents sort of way, where you get a temporary hold on their time, nothing permanent.  You may be able to check out that book for a few weeks, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it will ever be part of your library again!

So, this whole “empty nest” thing that I thought would never have reality in my world,  is real.  Big time.  And so I’m dealing with some rough, emotional stuff at the moment.  As a result, I may not be in the best shape for a while.

This is, however, only Day One of this new phase.  I’m sure I’ll be much better, real soon. Come a week or two, I’ll be able to walk in her room without crying!  And, after some more time,  I’ll only weep uncontrollably on those days when she (like her sisters and brother) leaves again, after a visit, to go back to school/new home/new job/whatever.  In the meantime, I’ll just curl up tonight in her room and bury my face in her pillow for comfort!

Oops, I forgot:  she took that with her, too!