The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Sunday Lull May 17, 2015

My kid is in my bed, playing on his 3DS, the volume’s up on the accompanying soundtrack which, after the nineteenth time is annoying enough, let alone the nineteen-hundredth time. He’ll mute it if I ask, but I don’t, because the music seems to add to his enjoyment of the game. This is, after all, Sunday morning. That island in the week where nothing can touch you (if you aren’t a church-goer, that is!). It’s the one day that I let the chickens out a little later, the one morning when the clock tells me it’s 6 am and my heart doesn’t tighten at the prospect of the morning rituals before me… I enjoy my bedroom’s comfy chair on weekend mornings, and although the seasonal bouquets of lilacs and lily of the valley are no longer at their fragrant peak, having them here is a rare treat, and confirms for me that we’re still in that magical and short-lived time of the year I love so well. It’s a Sunday at home in the Springtime, and Elihu and I are together, each doing something that we love to do. Things don’t get much better than this.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been given a couple of unexpected gifts which have really helped to lift my spirits too. I guess I didn’t realize that I presented to the world as being so in need – maybe living in a constant state of never-quite-enough has dulled me a bit to the fact that not all folks live like this – and that there may exist a chance that I myself might not always live this way. While it might be my goal, I’ve never been able to imagine a time when Elihu and I could live without food stamps or assistance to heat our home. I suppose the goal is to glean an income from the Studio one day, yet still, that seems so far off, I can’t quite see it. Currently, our income is most often less than our basic living expenses, with my stalwart mother stepping in to make up the difference. It’s the little things that make it impossible to get ahead – unexpected car repairs, new shoes, haircuts, even shampoo and laundry detergent – things that by themselves don’t seem too much, but when they arrive one after the other can clean out a checking account pretty quick.

Lately I’ve been keeping track of these expenses and trying to nail down where my money goes and why it is I can’t seem to get enough… And one of these recent gifts was membership into a program which helps to get such control over money. The timing of this gift was perfect. Just as I’d been making columns, listing my costs and my income and beginning to use cash only instead of debit cards, this arrived. A woman I’d known from another lifetime as a kid in my hometown had gotten this program for me with the provision that I follow it for the next ninety days. I am so there. Can’t say I’m not a bit nervous – I still haven’t gotten those new gigs nailed down yet, so I’m still short on the income side. That means spending still less, and when you already live so modestly, it’s hard to know how to do that. Reduced my cable to basic, my garbage removal to once a month, trying to unplug the power supplies around the house, turn things off… Still, it’s daunting, this idea of breaking even, let alone of saving.

And then there was the second miracle gift – a person with whom I have some musician friends in common gave me an unexpected gift of cash, which has allowed me to put a little away, as well as pay the electric bill left over from a too-long winter. How did these things happen? Hard to understand, and for me, hard to actually accept the help. I waffled over the offers for a while, before I realized that if I were in a position to help someone else, I’d do it. And my grandmother used to tell me that the best way to receive a gift is to simply say ‘thank you’ – and mean it. I did, and I do. And I’ll be living my gratitude for these acts of kindness by continuing to push up and out of my situation. I’ve got lists, plans and goals. Sometimes I don’t think I’ve made much progress in my time here, but then I’ll look back over the past six years here and realize that a whole lot has happened. And although the steps are tiny, they are forward-moving, and after a while, baby steps actually do get you somewhere else.

Monday morning will come soon enough, and I mean to meet it with enthusiasm and hope. I often say to my kid that this is not a planet for wimps. And me, sometimes I feel mighty wimpy. So I’ll use this lull in my life to recharge and regroup. Church or not – what a blessing is a Sunday morning.

 

Springing Forth April 5, 2015

Never in my four years at the helm of this blog have I passed so much time in between posts. But there are many good reasons for such a break. Too many, most likely, to accurately recount here.

The digest begins like this: Two weeks ago the logging job stopped, and with it came not only the money from the harvest, but the work in earnest began on the Studio (thereby spending all of the windfall in short order.) The logging site was left with a lot more mess than we’d agree upon, and I met with the forester to discuss cleanup, a task I knew would be very hard to enforce once the big machines had left the premises. I’d seen the gear there on Sunday, but by the time I’d finished my early morning rehearsals at school on Monday morning, I returned not only to find every last piece of earth-moving equipment gone, but huge heaps of dirt, stumps and stone ringing the work site. So not what we agreed upon. But then again, they were there to get the timber, not to leave me with a squeaky clean parking lot. But still. One more thing on the list to make right.

Meanwhile, there were decisions to be made about materials and finishes and such, while daily life continued without slowing down. Lesson plans, rehearsals, paperwork for the Studio, meetings, meals and homework all kept going, much to my frustration. I’m not a great multi-tasker, and as such the past month has been a bit trying for me. Panic attacks have been kept at arm’s length (thanks to the miracle of Xanax I can avoid them almost altogether), and as if a perfect bipolar patient, I swing back and forth from one emotional extreme to the next several times in the course of a day. One moment I’m brimming over with hope and visions for a successful future, the next I wonder what in hell it is I think I’m doing here and I’m just about ready to take a job at McDonald’s and excuse myself from the whole affair. Exhausting stuff.

One week ago Elihu and I drove to Philadelphia to meet my cousin (my late father’s nephew), his wife, his sons and one wee one too. It was the first time I’d ever met any Conant relatives as an adult, so it was an important visit. My cousin also took us to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra – box seats, no less – where we heard not only Mahler’s 5th, but also a new concerto written for tuba (!!!). Serendipity came through for us after the concert and we found ourselves walking backstage, escorted by the composer of the piece himself. Elihu was beside himself with the thrill, and I’m afraid that I caused him no small amount of embarrassment as I lost my cool and fell into something of a star-struck stage mom in the presence of both composer and soloist. We chatted with the tubist, and offered to meet up with her again in the summer, when the orchestra (of which she is a member) makes its summer residency in our hometown of Saratoga Springs, New York.

For me the trip involved a lot of driving – more than twelve hours in the car for a brief, weekend stay (and with panic attacks threatening the whole way it was a bit more stressful than it might have been otherwise). But it was well worth it for the new relationship we now have with our family, not to mention the memories we made that will, to use the most trite but accurate expression, last a lifetime.

Since our return from Philly everything at the Studio seems to be happening without pause; decisions I might like to have labored over a bit longer need to be made ASAP; purchases, while modest, are still adding up to steeper totals than I’d imagined, and the reality of our lot in the wake of now-absent loggers still has me concerned. But it’s all good, as I must remind myself. Sometimes even hourly. I’m tempted to cry almost daily with all the money that’s going out… It feels surreal to live on food stamps and state assistance and then turn around and pen a check for several thousand dollars as if it were business as usual. I can’t wrap my brain around the discrepancy between the commerce of the new business, and the lack of commerce here at home.

In an effort to drum up some income (as well as play music again!) I’ve begun to make some plans. Since Elihu is now old enough to be left at home alone for more than a quick run to the convenient store, I’m starting to think about getting something together for the summer tourist season and actually finding some work. Breaking into the local ‘music scene’ (there really isn’t one – it’s just a summer extravaganza of wedding-esque cover bands) is proving to be much more difficult than I’d thought. In spite of knowing a handful of musicians, I can’t seem to find a single job. Not even a freebie – and Lord knows I’d be happy just to sing. My gear is as out-of-date and out-of-the-loop as I am, and my now-ancient (make that vintage) Yamaha S80 won’t cut it anymore, even if I should find work. (Yes, I do still have my Rhodes and Wurli, but those are in dire need of work and require an extra pair of hands to move.) The days of lugging a 70 pound board around – plus amp and gear – are just plain over. Some of my pro friends might pooh-pooh my desire for a lightweight keyboard with, gasp, builtin speakers, but that’s the way this gal is headed, I’m afraid. I found a candidate for a new board on Craigslist, and when this income-free week of Spring break is over and students resume, I hope to make it my new piece of gear. Let’s hope it ends up paying for itself in the coming months.

Sometimes it feels as if I’ve taken a giant hiatus from my life after having become a mother – and a single one to boot. When I stop and look at the stats, I realize that I haven’t worked as a musician since shortly after Elihu was born. That means I’ve been dormant for over a decade! Not that I have any regrets; being present for my child as he’s grown up has been a blessing that many are never given the option to experience. Yeah, being broke has been a drag, but even so, it’s been acceptable, because I’ve been able to be here for my son (plus, when in a true pinch, grandma has always had our back. The significance of that cannot be understated.) I have an amazing child in part because I’ve chosen to be with him and not farm him out to daycare while I grind out a minimum hourly wage. It’s all worked out ok thus far, but I pray things will be changing soon. I’m tired of just getting by. They say do what you love and the money will follow. God I hope. People ask me what my business plan is with the new place, and honestly, I can say that I still do not know. I know what I intend to achieve, but the hows are still the struggle. Lists are being made and ideas being created – and tossed out just as fast. Something will take shape, I know. Just not sure how. But whether I make music myself, or make music possible for others, as long as I can somehow glean an income in the process, I’d be the happiest gal around.

Today it’s Easter, and while this year my son may no longer truly believe in the Easter bunny (can’t help but think he maintains his belief to please his mum!), outwardly his show of enthusiasm doesn’t let on. Last night we watched the old 70s TV special “The Easter Bunny’s Coming to Town” (with Fred Astaire narrating) and today we quoted our favorite passages from the show as we dug into our colored eggs. To my chagrin, when his little half brothers called this morning, they had Elihu turning the house upside down for hidden eggs, which the Easter bunny had not bothered to hide at 3 in the morning when he was filling the basket. The Easter bunny can only do so much. ! And now, I think my kid gets that. But no matter whether he believes or not, it’s still been a special morning for us. We’re both happy to be at home, together. That makes it a good day, no matter what.

Soon we’ll gather the last eggs from the coop for the incubator, and after that we’ll take a long, leisurely walk around the property. We’ll visit the fox’s den in the side of the hill, we’ll check to see how little snow is left in the shady spots, and we’ll see how our mom-and-son cairns by the lightening-struck tree have weathered the years. We’ll shore up the piles of rocks, agree that it was a fine walk, and head home to await an evening meal with grandma and Uncle Andrew.

I’m not sure how things will pan out in the days to come, but today I’ll try not to worry too much about it. Instead, I’ll continue to do what I’ve done for the past ten years of my life – I’ll enjoy watching my son as he makes his way through his childhood and towards his future.

IMG_5592The family! Yay for the Conants of Philadelphia!

IMG_5573Big ones and wee ones…

IMG_5577…and funny ones, too! Just look at that chicken purse! Love it. We’re definitely related.

IMG_5696The Kimmel Center, home of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Elihu just kept expressing his amazement over the space. He’d never been to a concert hall like this before. A night he will never forget.

IMG_5683The hall, gorgeous; the Mahler, rich; but Carol – beyond anything he’d expected. Elihu was simply transported. He loved the piece, and he was given a new appreciation for the virtuosity needed to play such music. Suffice to say he aspires to much more than the common polka these days. Thanks, Michael and Carol.

IMG_5699Chatting backstage with tuba soloist Carol Jantsch and composer of “Reflections on the Mississippi”, Michael Daugherty.

IMG_5697My son and Mr. Daugherty, whom we later learned shares a birthday with Elihu!

IMG_5700Elihu is psyched. !!!

IMG_5616Philly by the light of day. I was interested to learn that the sculptor of this famous bronze figure of William Penn atop the city hall clock tower was by Alexander Milne Calder, the father of modern sculptor Alexander “Sandy” Calder.  There’s even a plaza which is home to works by both father and son.

IMG_5625City of brotherly love…

IMG_5627… and lots and lots of art. There is literally a large piece of art on every corner. Loved that.

IMG_5629So what does lil man want to do when in this historic, all-American city? Eat Vietnamese food, of course! (Wing Phat? How appropriate for my little aviator!)

IMG_5632Hello, cousin Matt!

IMG_5637Tasty quail! We had Pho, too….

IMG_5649Thanks to Matt and Stephanie for taking us to this sweet Asian grocery store (oh, and lunch, too)!

IMG_5648Helpful signage.

IMG_5655Fish heads?

IMG_5659We liked this one… We all agreed it mighta been worth $10 to watch the staff running around trying to catch a loose bullfrog…

IMG_5663Spring-loaded and ready to leap.

IMG_5606Headed back home we can see the famous Boathouse Row across the river.

IMG_5566The whole area is full of boulders and hills. Most of the local houses are themselves made of stone.

IMG_5556A jam-packed weekend had my lil man zonked out.

IMG_5721In the morning, it’s scrapple for breakfast! A Philadelphia delicacy!

IMG_5728Cousin Dave, waving goodbye in front of his stone house. Thank you for the hospitality!!

IMG_5745One last look at the Philly skyline…

IMG_5794… and then it’s on to the New Jersey Turnpike. The language of roadways is different all over; one travels by highway, expressway, turnpike, thruway, freeway, tollway and parkway. Phew!

IMG_5787Next time.

IMG_5914This tells us we’re getting close to the end of our trip…

IMG_5916And so our wonderful little adventure comes to a close as we return home. To snow. !

IMG_5969Sadly, I saw this hairy woodpecker being hit by a car. He lived long enough for me to bring him home. We admired his beauty, then buried him along with our other birds under the flowering quince bush.

IMG_5997Elihu had his buddies over the other day. They had a blast.

IMG_6021Elihu and Sawyer enjoy the hens.

IMG_6025I took the boys for a walk down the road to see how the Studio was coming along.

IMG_6028The sign will need to be moved to mark the new driveway and parking lot, a couple hundred feet to the east.

IMG_6056Mud season begins.

IMG_6032The boys have fun in the room that’s almost prepped for its new floor.

IMG_6030A kitchen will add greatly to the building’s functionality.

IMG_6043The view from the Studio’s balcony. The boys are enjoying the last of the snow.

IMG_6072Elihu got a little asthmatic after all that running around, but it was worth it.

IMG_6195Easter morn.

IMG_6197Digging for treats.

IMG_6120Elihu gives Thumbs Up a good smooching.

IMG_6149Elihu and his chickens.

IMG_6152The bigger picture.

IMG_6317A sight we seldom see; neighbors out for a walk on the hillside road. They wished us a happy Easter as they passed.

IMG_6322Mom and son cairns.

IMG_6291The lightening-struck tree. Still looks the same as past Easters.

IMG_6356I found a kite under the snow and we had fun watching it whip in the wind.

IMG_6393Our own Calder-esque bird sculpture by friend and Vietnam vet Ace, and our garage’s dove behind.

IMG_6377Almost home. A perfect Easter day.

Happy Spring to all our friends around the world, and may good things blossom anew for each and every one of you.

 

We Are Three! March 1, 2014

The Hillhouse turns 3 today! Wow, what a lotta stuff here… Some 440 posts, over a thousand subscribers, visitors from over 100 countries… Sitting here in this tiny room, just the two of us, it’s almost impossible to imagine it.

I can hardly remember so much of our past three years (especially the first one), as it all seems so far away now… It kinda feels as if these days we’re living a completely new chapter. I guess we are. My fiftieth year is nearly behind me now, I have a regular job, my father is gone and the Studio is emerging as the new adventure… We’ve learned how to raise and butcher our own chickens and grow our own food. My son has braces, he’s becoming more capable and independent every day, and he has discovered a passion for upright bass…. Yeah, things these days are indeed new and different.

As I pass casually over the old posts I’m reminded of our three-year ride here; in the beginning, Elihu was baby-toothed, had an adorable lisp and his passion for birds – as well as his collection of books on the subject – was just beginning to grow. We shared our life with avian friends of all sorts – from homing pigeons to exotic pheasants and much in between (I particularly loved our button quail, King George, who, along with our cat, lived free-range in our house and made strange, espresso machine-like sounds in the dead of night in his vain search for a mate). The bird adventures still amaze me. We’ve tamed our current bird experiences a bit; having sent our goose Maximus away, we’ve nothing left but some chickens (one of them is in the kitchen recuperating on sick leave from the coop as I write this).

While this blog officially started three years ago today, we’d already lived here for two years. I think of those first two as the lost years, as I was still fairly reeling from the loss of my husband and old life in Chicago. This blog came about as a means to express myself, to free myself from the ceaseless internal turmoil. My ruminations circulated, around and around in my head without resolution, without any sounding board, any witness… And the whole thing had felt very unfair (let’s be honest, it still kinda does). There was no legal justice coming my way, so at the very least I though perhaps I might glean some emotional justice if I could only share my story. So it started as a therapeutic device – but ended up being so much more.

What an amazing world this is in which we live; even when separated by half a globe, we can participate in each other’s lives, give each other support and continue to grow and learn from each other in ways we never could have anticipated. The world in which Elihu will grow up both thrills and frightens me. I can’t being to imagine the challenges his and future generations face, but at the same time I marvel over the potential before them… The planet will continue to shrink as social media and platforms like ours help to bring us all together – so that we may unite in our common goals as one human family. I’m convinced there’s enough on the planet to go around – and I pray that in the not-too-distant future the distribution of wealth and resources will begin to level out. Hopefully the better our ability to express ourselves and communicate, the happier and healthier our futures will all be.

While we haven’t ever known true hardship, Elihu and I have experienced enough challenges here at The Hillhouse to have learned a few important things. May I share them with you? As we see it, here are the top three ‘things’ to have in your bag of tricks as you go along: 1) A sense of humor (cannot be overstated); 2) A sense of adventure (life is a game, be bold and take chances, play as hard and creatively as you’re able) and 3) in the end, act in love as often as possible (for us, gratitude goes into this pot too). Look at that! Three years here, three little pearls to share.

Having said that, I think at this juncture it might be a healthy energetic move to wish my ex, his wife and their two boys, Elihu’s sister and her mother too, my love and good wishes for their futures… I don’t wish any of them ill. Not saying my heart’s not still recovering, or that it doesn’t pose a challenge for me going forward… This whole process – this very blog – has been driven by my discomfort with that situation. But I can say that I’m working on it. I don’t harbor bad feelings for my ex’s new family, and I wish it publicly known. All I wish for is that everyone here on this globe get a fair shake at a good life. And that includes people who’ve hurt me, intentionally or not. I guess we’re all just doing our best. So on with the adventure, and peace to us all.

To all of our dear readers, thanks for being part of our global family of friends; your love and energetic support means so much to us, and we send it back to you too.

E & E

 

Catch Up May 19, 2013

Almost there. Very close now. I know there are wizened folks who might spoil it all by reminding me that nothing is ever completely done, and nor will I truly ever get there, and that I should enjoy it all and be truly present for the journey of the process rather than jones for the destination itself. Mech. Can’t really get next to that kind of Zen thinking just right now. Cuz after some eight loads of laundry, several hours at the kitchen sink dealing with the dishes and another hour spent dealing with the animals… the end is finally in sight! I’ve been busy busting out the process all day, present only to the idea that I gotta get all this shit done!! . My house has been vacuumed until the bag could hold no more, the tops and bottoms of picture frames and heat registers have all been wiped down, the long-avoided undersides of both beds have been investigated with flashlights and the once-thought-to-be-lost items excavated with broom handles… even the ceilings have been swept of the cobwebs I have spent months pretending not to notice. It’s Spring, after all, and that itself may account for my unplanned campaign today to get things cleaned up.

It’s Sunday too, and a rainy one at that. Had it been warm and sunny, as it was yesterday, today might not have turned out as it did. But in that the two weeks ahead are rather full of events and commitments, I thought it best to muster all my resolve and restore some order before the next round hit. If I didn’t, my sanity was at risk. Plus it was entirely possible I might start breaking one of my own rules of a tidy home, which is to “reduce redundancy”, and I might start simply buying things because I could no longer find the ones I already owned in all the mess. Yup, having two or more of the same thing’s a pretty good sign of a chaotic house. Some redundancy is fine, but when you end up with three hammers or half a dozen pairs of scissors or ten pairs of pliers… that suggests things have gotten a little out of control at one time or another. So I began my piles, like with like, items with shared destinations (the box to go to the basement, the bin to go to Elihu’s room, etc.) and little by little began to make some headway. Elihu helped a bit, and by the time my mother called to say the Conants had a visitor and invited us to come over for a lunch break, much had been done. It was good to see our old family friend, and made me happy for dad to have company. We stayed perhaps a tad too long for Elihu’s allergies, as when we got home he remained rather sniffly right up until bed time.

So now he’s asleep, and I would so love to get into my own clean bed (I wash my own sheets so seldom my dignity prevents me from letting on…) but the coverlet tumbles away in the drier, taking much longer than it seems it should. I am tired. A good tired, though. It’s been a full day. Nice to see our friend Ken today, nice to see my family all in one place, nice to watch my father enjoying an organ concert on TV, lifting his hands at the conclusion of passages, humming, leaning forward in his chair at a certain turn… Most engaged I’ve seen him with anything in a long time. That was nice. And now, as I sit here in my comfy bedroom chair, having just kissed my own beloved son goodnight, I’m feeling pretty good. My house is clean. Things seems possible again. There’s just this ever-so-subtle feeling of hope that begins to germinate in the wake of such a cleaning and inventory-taking. It’s as if you’ve been given a new starting point. Everything from here’s gonna be easy. Cuz you know where everything is again. Like you should. Freshly cleaned, newly put away. And in a moment, I too shall be in my own resting place. Ok, now I can feel that Zen thing. Cuz this is a good moment. Yeah, I’m feeling it, liking it. Sorry I rushed through all those previous moments to get to this one. Ah well. Here we are. Nice, huh? Ah yes, this is a moment I am savoring. Feels good. Ahh, all is in its place.

Finally. All caught up. (For now…)

 

Abundance Invisible May 3, 2013

I suppose one might say Elihu and I are as poor as church mice. On a purely practical level I guess we are. But lately – or more specifically, yesterday – with the sudden and dramatic influx of readers here, I am made aware of the subtle and often unseen nature of abundance. Nothing feels much different today, as I sit in the chair in my bedroom, bed still unmade, morning dishes still unwashed, writing on my ancient little Mac. But of course, things are different. Had no idea how the freshly pressed thing worked, how on earth anyone’s blog got mentioned on it (if it had to do with pure stats alone I was never going to see myself featured) but overnight I’ve become rather acutely aware of what it is and how it serves. Once again, my life is full full full, albeit in ways that aren’t always apparent in everyday life. I feel so much less alone this morning – Elihu too (he couldn’t stop giggling to learn about our sudden spike in readers) and I feel less like a woman muttering to herself, and more like a person with an offering to make. And that’s certainly got value; we as humans all know what it is to feel unimportant or unseen. It feels good to know that we’ve got new friends, and that we might be offering a little joy here on this sometimes incredibly difficult and tedious planet. But that’s enough on that, I don’t want to start taking myself too seriously. ! The challenge now becomes to continue to do what I’ve been doing for the past two years without censorship; without letting my voice or content be influenced by anything other than what’s going on right here and now. With that said, on to more thoughts on abundance…

The other day, after coming home from the grocery store and laying out all of our goods on the table, I sat back in awe as I tried to fully understand the bounty. “Abbondanza!” I said, over and over again, as much for myself as for making the point to my son that what we saw before us what truly a manifestation of abundance and good fortune. “Imagine one hundred years ago” Elihu mused, “this would be impossible – to them this would be unbelievable!” Yeah, my kid gets it. And how happy I am to have a kid that does. It is pretty spectacular, this bonanza before us, although we’ve become virtually desensitized to such things in our modern, Western world. (If you’re reading this it probably goes without saying you’re likely a member of this privileged club.) Products from all over the world sit on our tiny kitchen table. The lettuce we think virtually nothing of comes from California, some three thousand miles away. Our grapes come from another hemisphere even! I pause to try and imagine the labor involved… it’s not possible. From growers to pickers to drivers of machinery to the designers of said machinery to the folks who unboxed it and placed it on the shelves here in our town… it boggles the mind. It’s why we say grace, why our prayers of thanks in this household are not so much to a creator God as they are offerings of thanks to all our fellow human beings who have toiled – probably without thanks or appreciation for their toil – in order to make our lifestyle possible.

While I may never see the day when I get fully caught up on my electric bill, nor know an era in which I make it through a winter without running out of heating oil, by the grace of some amazing power I have never known what it is go hungry (I suppose if I did pay those other bills I might know it!). I don’t take that lightly. Sometimes, when I claim the income from a new piano student on the Food Stamps re-certification form and they reduce our monthly assistance to little more than $100 a month, sometimes when I find myself enraged that I must choose either food or heat – I have to make an effort to stop myself, and to remember that things aren’t so bad as they might appear on paper. I have to take a breath and step back. Self pity is a demon to fight, and sometimes it’s a challenge to shake myself out of its seduction. A quick look around, a short inventory of the things I do have, and I can quiet the upset… Yes, things are tight, but what do I have? I have a gorgeous baby grand piano in my home – I have a harpsichord too! I live on a stunning piece of property, my son miraculously goes to the most nurturing, supportive school and is joyful every day of his life, my parents are both still alive and live just next door. And let’s not forget, I’m down two dress sizes now, too. ! Things really aren’t so bad. Ok, so I might not make a solid living teaching and playing piano, and I may never get fully caught up on our bills, but our overall quality of life is rather good all things considered, and my son is a very happy and thriving child. Really now, what could be ultimately more important than those two things?

Honestly, we’re able to survive because of my mother. When we run out of cash on hand, when our larder is empty, when I haven’t the gas to drive into town, she always gives us a little something to help us get by. (She quit her job recently, so that sort of help might not be so easy for her going forward. One more thing that lingers in the back of my mind as I assess our future.) Lately, she’s been keen on helping us with some infrastructure fixes. Like replacing the porch roof or insulating the attic. These things will make a huge difference in the liveability of the place, and they’re projects I could never ever take on myself. Yet they are unseen. The new porch is not an upgrade, it’s the same porch. Only now it has a ceiling that doesn’t leak. The attic will just hold in the heat a bit better (which ought to put an end to the oil running out too soon! A major plus.) Nothing in these improvements shows to the eye – but they’re things that must be done at some point. Guess mom wants to know it’s been taken care of before she’s ‘gone’. (Too blunt? Mech, it’s getting that way these days. !) They’re important projects, but as there’s no appearance of an upgrade it doesn’t look like anything’s been done. Although our house is still a tiny little ranch with thin windows and ancient fixtures, at least the roof doesn’t leak, and next winter we’ll be toasty. Abundance here too.

I also am a believer of a sort of ‘like with like’ phenomenon that seems to occur in life. Some folks really live by this law of attraction, and while it does resonate with me, I am still hard-pressed to live by its rules as the true LOA followers endeavor to do. I just haven’t mustered the discipline to shush the constant poverty chatter in my brain. I sometimes wonder if it’s why I can’t seem to just get up and over this hump… then my reality meter kicks in and I consider the idea that folks just plain don’t need piano teachers like they do plumbers or insurance salesmen. I guess. Yet still I can’t help but wonder, if I threw caution and known reality out the window and simply envisioned a truly abundant life – as in thought about it day in and day out, lived as if it already was so, what might happen? I try to imagine not only becoming caught up on my electric bill, but not even concerned about future such bills. I have heard it said that possibilities are limited only by our beliefs. Again, sounds good. Sounds like we might have some control over our lives, it gives one hope. Yet I struggle to integrate it into my life. Am I settling? Am I convincing myself that what I have is good enough? Sometimes I’m fairly sure that I’m settling. That I haven’t invested enough energy into imagining things as I’d like them to be. It seems I might be holding myself back with the ‘poor-me’, ‘if only’ talk. But then other times I have a truly perfect day, and I think I’m way ahead and none of that stuff matters at all…

Today was such a day. A full-on sunshiney Spring day in the one of the most beautiful city parks I know, the whole Waldorf school in attendance at their annual May day celebration in which the fourth grade (of which Elihu is a part) experiences a rite of passage and dances around the May pole weaving intricate patterns with the ribbons in the style of schoolchildren from a bygone era. We were able to get grandma and grandpa out in the fresh air too. Such good fortune; it was an important day for Elihu and they were there to share in it. After the festivities Elihu and I remained in the park where he chased ducks (as he always does) and he caught two right off the bat – with no bait, just his swiftness and cunning! We stayed there for hours, and after a bit took a walk up to Broadway, where we visited a very high-end chocolate shop. After a rare treat there, we returned to the car by way of the local hippie shop. We passed nearly an hour there admiring rocks and crystals and chatting with the dredlocked girls who worked there. We made some egg deliveries, then returned to the park. We realized that we hadn’t eaten in hours, and so as a final chapter in our grand day, we decided we’d eat out. Had the best chicken in the world at Hattie’s, grooved to some classic R&B as we ate, then made our way home (organ trio for the ride back.) When we got to the train tracks the gates were going down – and wouldn’t ya know, it was our good friend Mike at the wheel! We honked, and he leaned way out the window, smiling and waving. (He really did look like something from a children’s storybook, his elbow out the window, that striped engineer’s cap on his head.) That was a hoot. We rode home with the sun and warm wind streaming through the open windows, and we were happy.

We got home and Elihu, although he’d said he was getting tired, found a burst of energy and took off running after the birds. So far, a good chase hasn’t lost its appeal. Good thing. It buys me a minute to sit and catch up on my thoughts. As I begin to wrap up the post, he calls me. He wants me to watch him climb the apple tree. So I join him. We pick violets which we’re happy to discover now carpet our lawn. We inspect the garden and find some perennials returning. Things feel so good. Simple, but so very good. We’ve even got leftovers for another fine dinner tomorrow, too. Seriously, what else do we need? Our lives are full and we are happy.

So for now I’ll settle for the idea that when we’re happy and grateful, even more things that make us happy and grateful will find their way to us. We’ll walk that fine line, falling off every now and then, throwing little temper tantrums and feeling sorry when things aren’t as we think they should be, but then we’ll shake it off. We’ll get up, look around us, take another inventory of our lives and begin again. The evidence of an abundant life might not always appear as we think it should, but we have everything we need to live. Some times not as much as we’d like of one thing, sometimes a true abundance of another, yet always just enough.

 

Sleepless in Saratoga January 31, 2013

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal... — wingmother @ 4:13 am
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Ok, this is nuts. It’s been going on for a couple of years now, and I’ve had it.

I live a full and busy life. For the most part I’m pretty happy, daily I’m grateful, and never am I idle. My chores start before sunrise and end late at night. I cook two mealtimes a day plus make my child’s lunch. I work a few hours, I practice an hour, I do laundry and dishes daily and keep up on correspondence. I prepare for students, I teach students. I have a great relationship with my son, I love my home, my family is all alive and well… I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol and the coffee I drink is decaffeinated. All in all I’m healthy, and things are goin pretty well. So why in hell can’t I sleep? Oh I can get to sleep initially – but if I get up at night to pee – it’s all over. Likely I’ll be up for the duration, catching half hour naps here and there on a good night. Some nights I just wake up for no good reason at all. Either way, there I am again, watching that stupid clock. I’ll turn the clock to face the other way, but that won’t help. And yes, I know the other tricks – get all your wandering and pressing thoughts down on paper. Concentrate on your breath. Don’t drink lots of fluids close to bedtime… check, check and check. 

I can’t be the only one! I see the commercials for sleep medications – that lovely, luminescent butterfly gliding in and out of suburban bedroom windows, gently coaxing pretty women to sleep… And I myself have taken such medication. Many times over the last five years I’ve depended on em for a true night’s sleep. But I’d very much like to sleep on my own now, only it just aint workin. It’s driving me nuts. Ok, there are two things I know I haven’t tried – exercise and yoga. Those two disciplines, worked routinely into my life might tip the scales. They might be just what I need to find sleep a naturally occurring phenomenon again. Ok. On the list…

Oh, yeah, and speaking of lists, there’s that ‘other’ list too. The ‘low-grade worry’ list that continues, like a ticker at the bottom of your screen on the nightly news…. not enough money so the electric might shut off soon, not enough money but the fuel oil’s nearly out, not enough money so now the phone’s been cutoff, not enough money but sure hope the the kid’s violin rental won’t be cancelled , not enough money, hope the car insurance won’t lapse….did the bank charge me two or thee overdrafts? How much was that total?  I need more students, I need more egg customers… where will I find them? Even then, will it be enough? This is all old news by now, but it’s there, nonetheless, and perhaps it contributes to the problem. Shouldn’t think so, but then again…

My mother insists that this is simply what happens to all women in or nearing menopause. Many other women say that’s baloney. Who’s right? What’s the cause? What the hell is going on here and why can’t I sleep???

Years ago – as in maybe more than 20 – I was an extra in a Sandra Bullock movie, shot in Chicago. Folks were all abuzz in the costume room, but all I was was tired. My husband had long told me I was making too big a deal over sleep. We humans didn’t need much, he would say confidently, we could function on so much less than we got every night. Alright, so I decided to live ‘like him’ for 24 hours to see how true this was. We had a gig the night before, stayed way up, retired way late. Drove him the O’Hare for his next gig somewhere, then I went back downtown to the set. I was shown the cloakroom, told the extras were already on the street but I had a good twenty minutes yet to find a coat and get down to the set (we were given coats to wear, not much different from our own). There was a pile of coats on the floor left by the extras – and it looked so inviting. Maybe, just for a couple minutes. A power nap. Yeah, that’s just what I need. And there’s no one here – I’m all by myself. Perfect. I laid down and slept. When I awoke, it seemed to be lunchtime. I’d missed the morning’s scene, but I’d at least make the afternoon scene. Got in line and put some very good looking food on my plate. I was just about to taste the tip of a perfectly prepared asparagus spear when a very stern woman came up and informed me that this was dinner for the crew, and that the extras were outside, on set. ?? It took me a minute to realize what had happened. I’d been deeply asleep for at least eight hours – through the commotion of lunch break too – and it had only felt like fifteen minutes! Woah. Very Rip Van Winklesque. Kinda disorienting. The woman made me dump my plate into the garbage and leave the building. Ok. I’m going. I wasn’t bummed about not being in the movie, but I was instead feeling quite smug inside. Turns out this girl does need her sleep. Body don’t lie.  

And the name of that movie? “While You Were Sleeping”. Ha! I certainly know that I need my sleep – more to the point I want my sleep – but these days the challenge is actually getting it. Here I go, back to the task at hand… rested or not, see you in the morning.

 

Out Cold January 24, 2013

Well, now I can understand a little better how my poor chickens feel. Somewhere around four this morning my nose woke me up. My nose was cold. The room was cold. The kind of cold that tells me something’s up. I knew that kind of cold. It got me out of bed to inspect the thermostat, which was now dipping below 50. Crap. I’d done the math – I’d allotted two gallons a day, and I’d kept the house at 50 when we were out, and near 60 when we were home – we weren’t due to need fuel oil til middle of next week. I’d planned it all out; a couple of students’ pay plus my next paycheck from Waldorf and I could afford a small delivery. While I’m pissed at myself for once again needing help, instead of wallowing in it I need to learn the lesson. Otherwise it’s a wasted experience. The lesson? Apparently it takes a tad more fuel just to keep the house at those modest temperatures when it’s super cold out. (Note to self: if it’s lower than 20 degrees out, you’re burning another half gallon a day easy. Check.)

I didn’t want to ask my mom for help, but today I did. The state has already given us our $600 ration of fuel assistance for the year (try heating a house on that for eight months!), so until next week I have no options. If it weren’t for the very real risk of a burst pipe I’d tough it out. Year before last Elihu and I went for nearly two weeks without heat. We just hunkered down in my bedroom and camped out with a small electric heater. Wasn’t the worst experience – in fact we ended up having fun, making up games and reading entire books cover to cover. But in that it’s in the single digits outside right now, I can’t afford to wait.

I was a little preoccupied at school this morning as I hadn’t yet heard back from the fuel guy. As soon as I finished my classes I zipped home, where I thankfully found a receipt from him stuck in my door. They fronted me the oil! Wow. Sometimes it’s good to live in a small town where people know who you are. I ran downstairs and restarted the furnace right away.  So thanks to my mom, and Charlie and Steve, the oil guys, our house will be comfortable again soon. Warm hearts and fuel oil have saved us from being out in the cold.

Post Script: Now I’m doubly inspired to help out those poor hens. I’ll put up a curtain over the drafty door and get another heat bulb hung before tonight.