Saturday, March 31, 2012

More Spring Break Pictures!

I warned you there would be more of my vacay pics!

On Wednesday, Lori and I left St. Thomas and traveled by ferry over to visit St. John.

Yow! We had a great time!

We went by an old sugar cane plantation. I loved the walls.
The builders mixed in coral from the ocean to fortify them.

I could have stared at the walls for hours!

There's Lori!

Everywhere we looked, there were scenes like this! Fantastic!

Just when I thought we were done for the day, Lori announced we were going to go listen to music and dance.

She was my tour guide so I had no choice but to comply.

Who needs sleep?

One more day of pictures and then you will all be released.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Betty's Spring Break!

So what's a girl to do on Spring Break?

Go to the Virgin Islands!

My friend, Lori is there for her sabbatical and invited me to spend the week.

She made sure I had a great time.

She took me snorkeling! It was fantastic!

More pictures tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

The e-mail from the lawyer’s office was one simple sentence.

The final papers for the divorce were ready for my signature.

I sat and stared at the message, unable to decide how I felt. Relief, anger, frustration, confusion, sadness, anticipation, bewilderment: all of these emotions rose to the surface, swirled together like an oil stain on a driveway after a rain.

Seven months ago, I would have been confused by this colorful variety of emotions, but ever since HOB had announced that he was leaving our marriage, I have been forced to accept my inability to articulate a single emotion for very long.

And so on the scheduled Thursday afternoon, I drove to the office to sign the papers.

It tore me up to know I would face those legal papers again—the black and white starkness of the paper and lettering like a graveyard in the winter time. HOB had already signed on the solid line on the left-hand side of the paper. The blank line on the right-hand side waited like the other tombstone on our thirty-year marriage. All I had to do was inscribe my name and the date and it was done--set in stone.

I climbed the stairs to the office and found I was oddly calm as I opened the door, greeted the secretary and reviewed the papers. My heart raced a little, a few tears formed, but then the business-like nature exuded by those papers, and the emotionless language in front of me formed a temporary barrier to any tenderness that may have crept through.

I placed the pen on the paper and signed my name.

Stepping outside the office, I realized I was still lost in a vortex of emotions. Nothing specific surfaced. I tried to force myself to pin down what it was that I was feeling, but the oil slick of emotion just moved and slithered into another indescribable pattern.

I was walking away from a process that had dominated my life for the last six months. It was a process that had been initiated by HOB. It was a process that had been directed by and shaped by his desire to leave our marriage. My normally predictable life had been taken hostage by his decision and the accompanying requirements to meet the demands of the process. I had been run ragged by marathon of changes that I had to make, by the myriad of details I had to attend to, by the dictates of lawyers and the legal system. All this and the incredible emotional toll upon my heart and soul had affected every single second of my day and night.

As I slowly walked down the steps, compressed memories of our journey together came back to me and like spikes on a bar graph, I quickly saw that all our major decisions within our marriage had centered on HOB. Our move from Kansas to California thirty years ago had been HOB’s idea. Our moves to three different cities within the state had been prompted by his education and his job opportunities. To be sure, I had been a willing participant in the decisions we made, but the fact remains that they were always based on his education and his career.

I reached the bottom of the stairs and realized that not since I was a junior in college had I thought of my needs and myself first.

Every decision I had made in the last thirty years had been based on the needs of my husband and children. This had been the way I had chosen to live my life and it wasn't that I regretted it, it was just that I realized that now life would be different. Very different.

I had been playing a fast-paced game of ping-pong for years but had never served the ball.

Now what?

It was a scary and daunting question.

I started the car and drove to the end of the parking lot, where I sat for a minute before I turned out into the street. All my thoughts and planning had been aimed just to get through the signing of the documents. I had not thought about what to do afterwards and so I sat there and briefly considered my options. I could turn right and go get something to eat or go shopping. I could turn left and go home. I could take the freeway and go back to work. I could....

As I sat there, looked from side to side, and thought about my options, there suddenly arose a sound from my throat. It was a sound I had never, ever, in a million years, expected to hear at this dramatic time in my life.

It was the sound of my own laughter.

I sat there in my car and heard myself fill up the air with bubbles of laughter.

I honestly didn’t know which way to go and it was honestly OK!

There were so many choices. It was scary to think about but also exhilaratingly powerful.

Decisions? Lots of them and all mine to make.

Pitfalls? Yes and they were mine to fall in.

Triumphs? Mine to have.

Mistakes? Mine to make.

Lessons? Mine to learn.

Tears? Mine to shed.

Happiness? Mine to discover.

I must have sat there in the car for a full minute, listening to my own sincere, absurd, astonishing laughter.

Then, still smiling like a maniac, I turned left, toward where the sun was shining.

Toward my home.

Toward my own beautiful, uncertain, exciting future.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Poetry Tuesday: "Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom"

Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom

Daily dawns another day;
I must up, to make my way.
Though I dress and drink and eat,
Move my fingers and my feet,
Learn a little, here and there,
Weep and laugh and sweat and swear,
Hear a song, or watch a stage,
Leave some words upon a page,
Claim a foe, or hail a friend—
Bed awaits me at the end.

Though I go in pride and strength,
I'll come back to bed at length.
Though I walk in blinded woe,
Back to bed I'm bound to go.
High my heart, or bowed my head,
All my days but lead to bed.
Up, and out, and on; and then
Ever back to bed again,
Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall—
I'm a fool to rise at all!

--Dorothy Parker

(My Dorothy Parker Pose)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Morning Flowers: Raindrops on Roses

Good Monday Morning!

We had some rainy weather here yesterday, but I managed to go out between showers and get you some roses.

Hope you enjoy them and I hope you have a wonderful week!

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.
--Ashley Smith

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Poetry Tuesday: "A Blessing" by James Wright

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more, they begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

--James Wright

Note: I've posted this poem before. It's one of my favorites. I post it today in honor of my son, Evan's birthday. It's the first year I have not been with him on his special day. I miss him, but am SO proud of him! Those last three lines sum up exactly what I felt when he was born nineteen years ago.

Happy Birthday, son. I love you!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Morning Flowers

Good Mondays To You All!

Spring Break is over here, so it's back to school for me.

Hope you have a great week!

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.

--Henry Miller

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Betty's Back! Happy Sunday!

Hello My People!

I apologize for going AWOL on my blog!

I am back and have lots to share with you in the coming week.

Today, I give you lots of root vegetables, fresh from the earth. Why?

Because just like them, I was in a dark place, never sure I was going to see the light.

However, when I emerged and shook the gloom and the dirt off, I discovered my own unique beauty again AND (bonus!) I found that the entire time I had spent in darkness, I had been growing in ways I had never expected.

Happy Sundays!

Glad to be back!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Poetry Tuesday: "Revival" by Luci Shaw


March. I am beginning
to anticipate a thaw. Early mornings
the earth, old unbeliever, is still crusted with frost
where the moles have nosed up their
cold castings, and the ground cover
in shadow under the cedars hasn't softened
for months, fogs layering their slow, complicated ice
around foliage and stem
night by night,

but as the light lengthens, preacher
of good news, evangelizing leaves and branches,
his large gestures beckon green
out of gray. Pinpricks of coral bursting
from the cotoneasters. A single bee
finding the white heather. Eager lemon-yellow
aconites glowing, low to the ground like
little uplifted faces. A crocus shooting up
a purple hand here, there, as I stand
on my doorstep, my own face drinking in heat
and light like a bud welcoming resurrection,
and my hand up, too, ready to sign on
for conversion.

--Luci Shaw

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Morning Flowers

Happy Mondays, My People!

I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.

May all your days be filled with wonder and delight!

Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.

--August Wilson

Friday, March 2, 2012

Notes from the Past. Notes for the Future.


It’s a joy, a delight, and a vehicle to the blue skis of pure joy.

Except when it’s a jagged hook that snags your soul and drags you into the oxygen–deprived depths of hideous emotion.

Back in October, two months after HOB made his unexpected and hasty departure from our marriage, I found myself in my classroom on a cold and rainy day. My students had gone and I sat in front of a table filled with ungraded papers.

Normally, I load everything up and head back to my office, but the rain was coming down, my classroom was nice and warm, with the energy of my students still buzzing in the air. I decided to stay and knock out some grading.

Since my classroom is a “smart” classroom which has a video/sound system built into the room and I was in the mood for music, I got on the Pandora website and cranked up the speakers designed to fill every corner of the classroom.

Here’s how Pandora works: you type in an artist’s name and the computerized system plays the music of that artist and selects other artists in the same category and plays their songs as well.

Great, right?

I clicked in James Taylor since I have always loved his music.

I don’t know what I was thinking.

I wasn’t thinking.

With astonishing speed, the first song swept me back to another rainy day in college when HOB and I skipped out on classes and instead stayed inside my warm and cozy apartment listening to James Taylor and planning our future together.

I still remember the rotating of the black vinyl disk, the familiar faint smell of dust, oil and heat from the stereo as it played that album over and over again. We talked for hours and hours, about our hopes, our dreams, our plans.

I gave myself over to emotion and stayed in the classroom, listening to more artists from that era, each song propelling me down a darkened hallway in my own Natural History Museum, each song, a stop in front of a lighted diorama—a choreographed scene of our life together—dating, marrying, moving, having children.

I sat there I the classroom and wept, my tears mirroring the rain outside.

From then on, I assiduously censored the music I listened to. I didn’t let Pandora out of her box again for a very long time.

But I’ve come a long way, Baby.

Just last week, I was in Trader Joe’s, mindlessly pushing my cart, when I heard “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor over the store speakers. I suddenly understood all those women I had seen at dances and parties, crowding the dance floor without partners to dance with wild abandon to this particular song.

There in the bread aisle, I couldn’t contain myself. I swear I started dancing, my lentil wrap, almond milk and bananas rolling from side to side in the cart as I boogied down there next to the sourdough. It was incredible!

I got it!

I felt it!

I knew the truth of the words of that song:

First I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live
without you by my side
But I spent so many nights
thinking how you did me wrong
I grew strong
I learned how to carry on

It took all the strength I had
not to fall apart
kept trying hard to mend
the pieces of my broken heart
and I spent oh so many nights
just feeling sorry for myself
I used to cry
Now I hold my head up high
and you see me
somebody new
I'm not that chained up little person
still in love with you.

I came straight home from the store, put on my I-Pod and cranked up that song. As fate would have it, the song right after that was “Happy Girl” by Martina McBride. I danced all over my house, leaping and jumping from room to room, my cats waking up from their naps as I swayed and sang at the top of my lungs.

I used to live in a darkened room
Had a face of stone
And a heart of gloom

Lost my hope, I was so far gone
Cryin' all my tears
With the curtains drawn

I didn't know until my soul broke free
I've got these angels watching over me

Oh watch me go
I'm a happy girl
Everybody knows
That the sweetest thing you'll ever see
In the whole wide world
Is a happy girl

I used to hide in a party crowd
Bottled up inside
Feeling so left out

Standing in a corner wearing concrete shoes
With my frozen smile
And my lighted fuse

Now every time I start to feel like that
I roll my heart out like a welcome mat

Oh watch me go
I'm a happy girl
Everybody knows
That the sweetest thing you'll ever see
In the whole wide world
Is a happy girl

Laugh when I feel like it
Cry when I feel like it
That's just how my life is
That's how it goes

Oh watch me go
I'm a happy girl
And I've come to know
That the world won't change
Just 'cause I complain
Let the axis twirl
I'm a happy girl

Oh watch me go
I'm a happy girl
Everybody knows
That the sweetest thing you'll ever see
In the whole wide world
Is a happy girl

Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
I'm a happy girl

Oh yeah!

These days I unleash Pandora from time to time, but I click in safe bets like Miranda Lambert (“Come and Get It” is a great song for someone going through what I’m going through) and the Dixie Chicks. (Great, except “Landslide” still gets to me....)

Interestingly, one song appeared in my James Taylor list and also in the Miranda Lambert list. It was a version of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love.”

On that day in October I cried when I heard this song. I cried because this song speaks of the kind of love I was afraid I would never have in my life again.

I wanted a soft place to fall.

I wanted a place of refuge from the world.

I wanted total acceptance and all-enveloping passion.

Yes, I wept that day because I was afraid I would never have that kind of love again, but, to be honest, I also wept because it dawned on me that I hadn’t had that kind of love for a very long time and I had just accepted its disappearance from my life as the natural progression of a long-term marriage.

To Make You Feel My Love

When the rain
Is blowing in your face
And the whole world
Is on your case
I could offer you
A warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows
And the stars appear
And there is no - one there
To dry your tears
I could hold you
For a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you
Haven't made
Your mind up yet
But I would never
Do you wrong
I've known it
From the moment
That we met
No doubt in my mind
Where you belong

I'd go hungry
I'd go black and blue
I'd go crawling
Down the avenue
Know there's nothing
That I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging
On the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change
Are blowing wild and free
You ain't seen nothing
Like me yet

I could make you happy
Make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends
Of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love, To make you feel my love

In October, that song made me cry, but now it makes me smile. I know when I am ready, there is a man out somewhere out there who is ready to give me that kind of love.

I know I deserve it and won't have to settle for less.

And you know what?

It's the kind of love I want to give too.

Life (and love) in Phase Two of my life is going to be great.

I just know it.