Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Morning Flowers and Weekend Update

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Hope you had a fabulous weekend and are planning great things for the week ahead!

Last weekend, A Certain Very Nice Man invited me to go on a garden tour in Los Angeles.

Racy, right?

Some of the backyards had creeks running through them and bridges like this.

 Of course there were lots of gorgeous flowers too. 

These are some I picked out for you.

Here I am, pretending to be patient as I wait for the dinner held at the mayor's house which was included in the tour.

I am pretty sure I didn't fool the Certain Very Nice Man, especially when he eventually saw me head toward the table full of pies at top speed.

The dinner was held on the tennis courts.  Here are the tables in the process of being set up.  

There were geraniums on every table. 

 It was beautiful!

Hope you have a great week!

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.  What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn?  What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice?  Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.  

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Betty's First 5K

Thanks everyone for your encouraging words on my post yesterday!

My first 5K was SO much fun!  

I am ready to do another one!

It was a gorgeous day.

The energy was great!

Here I am with  fellow runners and walkers from my college.

I am so glad I took a chance and did something new!

What's next?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Running With (Not Away From) Life

Today I am heading over to one of the local colleges to participate in my first 5K Fun Run/Walk.

Now, most of my friends will tell you I can walk 5K with no problem.  In fact, some mornings I go out and walk that on a regular day.  So what makes this event special?

Well, when I signed up for it last fall, I was still aching with pain from HOB's decision to end our marriage.  I sat in my office at work, feeling weak and overwhelmed.

At that time, I was not even sure I could make it to my car at the end of the day, let alone around a 5K route.  After thirty years of being with the same person, living the same kind of lifestyle, I couldn't fathom my future.

I was depressed, confused and full of self-doubt.

When the invitation to to participate in this event came, I stared at that date, April 28th and wondered what my life would be like then.  It would be in the spring, I thought.  Renewal.  A fresh start.  Sounded good.  It took effort and a sort of forced faith in the future, but I put my name on the application.  It felt good to put a pin on a date in the future.  I would use it as a benchmark.

Walking has always been a big part of my life, and I turned to it for my recovery. That was fine but some days when I was walking, I would be absolutely overwhelmed with anxiety.

Then, I would start running.   It was not a healthy kind of running.  It was a lunging, gasping, madly determined kind of running. It was clear I was running as fast as I could to get away from all of the thoughts that invaded my brain.

As I ran, I literally I shook my hands to get all of the mire and pain that I felt hung on my very being. I ran faster and harder than I ever have in my life.  Looking back, I can see it sometimes gave me momentary relief, but overall, it didn't feel good.  It just felt desperate.

Soon, my body decided it had had enough.  It went into revolt.  My feet were the major messengers.  Through extremely painful achilles tendentious and other serious foot problems, I was finally hobbled, sidelined, forced to listen to the quiet inner voices that had been trying to get through.

Slow down.

Deal with what you have to deal with.

You can't outrun this.

You have to sit, center yourself, work through all the emotions, all the pain.

Believe me, I resisted.  I tried running again.  Nope, my body said.  No way.  So, I did what the inner voices urged me to do.  I slowed down.  I stopped. I had to.  I had no choice.  I got into therapy.  I faced my fears, my demons, my shortcomings, even my role in the disintegration of our marriage.  Exhausting?  Yes.  Painful?  Yes. Debilitating?  At times, yes.

But I got stronger.

As soon as my feet got better, I slowly got back into walking.  Then one day, there was an extra kick in my step.  I felt especially light and spontaneously went into an easy jog.  It felt great.  I stopped after about a block, walked anther half mile or so and then ran a little ways more.  Over the weeks, I built up little by little.

Now, I would not claim the title of runner but more often than not, I run at some point in one of my walks.  The difference in the way it feels now, compared to the way it felt back then is amazing.

Then, I was running away from turmoil, trying to escape the mental and spiritual work that needed to be done.  It felt heavy, desperate and depleting.

When I run now, I am filled with a lightness, an energy, an appreciation of my body and the way it carries me through this life.

So, April 28th has arrived--that date I looked at on that flier all those months ago.  I wondered what my life would be like and now I know.  It's good.  It's very good.

So today, I'll join a whole group of people on that starting line and run as much of the route as I can,  walking when I need to, and enjoying every single minute of the journey.

After all, I am no longer running away from life.

I'm running with it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sour Cream Cookies!

Hello, My Blog Friends!

Sorry I have not been around too much lately.

School has been crazy and my weekends have been very a very good way.  Details to come!

I made these cookies for my department meeting the other day.  My colleagues liked them very much.  Hope they don't remember just how much they liked them because I am never making them again.  I am just not a rolled cookie gal.  I nearly killed myself off trying to roll these out.  There was flour all over.  It was not pretty.

You are probably more patient and talented, so go for it!


3 1/4 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. soda
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. butter

Sift together: flour, salt and soda. Combine, in different bowls, butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla, mix. Add sour cream and 1/2 of flour and blend. Add rest of flour. Put in refrigerator 20 minutes. Roll thin and cut out. Bake in oven at 350 or 400 degrees until done (light brown). For softer cookies don't roll out thin.

Don't the cookies look pretty?  

Yeah, well...

Here's what my sweatshirt looked like after the battle with the dough.  

How do normal people make cookies without making a mess?  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Night Flowers

Oh!  This delivery is SO late! 

I am sorry!

I wouldn't blame you if you withheld my tip this week.

Hope you all had good days!

Life is an adventure in forgiveness.

         --Norman Cousins

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jubilate Agno, Fragment B [For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry] by Christopher Smart

Jubilate Agno, Fragment B [For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]

For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in
his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in
the spirit.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.

--Christopher Smart

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Morning Lilies!

Happy Monday!

Did you have a good weekend?

Hope the week ahead is fabulous.

Here are some yellow lilies to get it started!

If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.
--H.G. Wells

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lemon Cornmeal Cookies!

Hello, My People!

I don't know about you, but I get a real charge out of cornmeal. It's corn. It's meal. It's cornmeal. It's sunshiny yellow and reeks of goodness and heartiness. I can't get enough of it and there just seems to be very few opportunities to use it in everyday life.

So, when I found a recipe for Lemon-Cornmeal cookies, I went a little cuckoo and made up a big batch for the office wing gang.

This is not the exact recipe I used. I used one that called for refrigeration of the dough for a whole six hours. However, this required delayed gratification which is not a character trait I care to exercise when it comes to any part of the cookie experience. My original recipe did not include ginger, but I think it sounds darn good.


1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 4 ingredients (through ground ginger); stir with a whisk. Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Scrape sides of the bowl occasionally. Add egg; beat well. Beat in grated lemon rind. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and beat at medium-low speed just until blended.

3. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons batter 2 inches apart onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned and almost firm. Remove from oven. Cool on pans for 2 minutes or until firm. Remove from pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Betty's final note: Being the demanding woman I am, I needed even more sweetness than this cookie originally gave me so I slathered on some icing.

Yow-Wow! These were good cookies. Hope you try them and enjoy them!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Betty Gets Her Brain Back

Anyone who goes through a life event like a divorce will tell you that from the very beginning of the process, your life and brain are taken hostage for months.

You must go on with your life in some manner, but even as you work, pay bills, go shopping, take a shower, all the airspace in your head in consumed with the situation you must face.

It is as though there is a loud TV blaring in the back of your brain. The volume button is stuck on the highest setting and there is only one channel playing the same shows over and over again “Modern Divorce,” “Dancing With Divorce,” “Project Divorce,” “American Divorce,” “Divorce Road Show.”

You get the idea.

Many of the shows feature scenes from your own life—the night he left, the nice dinner you had just before he announced he was leaving, the conversations in the weeks leading up to his announcement that you didn’t pay attention to but now, too late, you do.

Re-runs, over and over again. In living color and at top volume.

And as the unwelcome, unstoppable television screams in the background of your life, questions like, “Can I make a life on my own? “How am I going to do this?” “What will my life be like?” "Will any one ever love me again?” dart all round in your cranium like crazed bats. Nocturnal, they are strongest at night, diving and swooping wildly, getting tangled up in the net of dreams.

You are, to put it nicely, quite the mess.

Scattered, fragmented, I was able to teach only because I had so much experience and because my classes were in one-hour segments with a lot of short exercises. I was able to grade, but only a few papers at a time. Conversations with friends were fine if they corresponded with the blaring TV and were about the divorce. Any other subjects, ones that required sustained thought were out. I just couldn’t focus or concentrate with the background noise in my head.

Reading has always been my refuge, my ticket away from reality and into other worlds. I had a stack of novels by my bedside I desperately wanted to read, but when I tried, the TV blasted out divorce news, reviews, and to-do lists, and I couldn’t concentrate. The only books I could read were about how to make it through a divorce. The authors of those books know their audiences; the chapters are usually about five pages long with bulleted lists and boxes to break up the text.

So, for months, you live with that TV on, with your calendar packed with meetings with lawyers, with accounts that have to be switched, with major decisions that have to be made.
You try to keep up with it all, running from your job to take care of all the details that must be taken care of.

Then one day, one very strange and emotional day, you sign your name on a line on some papers and as your pen reaches the end of that line, the final letter of your name pulls the plug of the blaring television from the socket in your brain.

It all stops. It all ends. There is no more to do. The television is silenced.

When that noise stopped in my own life, of course I was glad, but I was also surprised and stunned to find that it actually left a void in my life. Strange? Yes. But for seven months this process of divorce had hijacked my life. I had been forced into quick and sometimes frenzied action and then, it all stopped.

I was a little like someone getting out of prison. I was happy to be free, but also a little shaky. I was unsure of myself and what I would do with my life. I had hated every single minute of the divorce process and yet it had given me a purpose, things to do, places to be. When it was over, it left a space, it left time that I had to learn to fill. I no longer had the role of wife to fall back into and since my son had left for college, my role as mother had changed. For the first time in my life I lived alone.

I tried to get back to the things I loved like reading, baking, and writing, but it was hard adjusting to my “new old” life. Nothing clicked for me. Some nights I found myself at loose ends, just sort of wandering from room to room in this big house, waiting for bedtime. The bats still flew around my head, disrupting my thoughts when I attempted any activity requiring focus.

About three weeks passed and then one day I was at the bookstore café with a friend. It was a gloomy day outside, but the café was bright and cheery. We each had our warm drinks and were sharing a cookie. He was already engrossed in a book, so I picked one up from the stack on our table and before I knew it I was on page three.

That’s when I realized I was reading again. I was reading! My brain had been fully engaged with the page. It was such a familiar act, one ingrained in me from childhood, but one that I had feared my scattered brain and my shattered soul would never be able to enjoy again. And I was doing it!

I looked across the table and then across the café and saw other people reading too. It was amazing to be normal again. I wanted to jump up and shout, “I’m back! I’ve joined in again! I can read a book again!”

Of course, I didn’t.

Instead, I just smiled an incredibly wide and goofy smile at that friend (a certain very nice man) across the table, put my left hand on the stack of books between us, felt his hand over my hand, and went back to the book on my lap.

I went back to the quiet, solid, dependable, promising lines of print.

At that moment I felt ridiculously happy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Green Party

Betty tries to be an earth-friendly citizen, but I need reminding from time to time of ways that I can show Mother Earth that she's my Number One Gal.

When I was planning Kitty's birthday party, I was all ready to go out and get some disposable tablecloths, some heavy paper plates, and some plastic cutlery. Then I remembered not too long ago, my good friend Karen gave a speech at Toastmasters titled "The Green Party." It was not a speech about the political party. Instead, it was a speech about how just by using reusable items at parties, we can avoid adding gunk to the landfills.

I called Karen and told her I wanted to give a Green Party. She squealed. She was happy. Another convert. And she was kind enough to loan me her supplies.

What Karen did a few years ago was invest in some white tablecloths. (She has different runners for them for different kinds of parties.)

Then she bought some sturdy but fairly cheap silverware.

She bought simple glass plates at the 99 Cent store. (These aren't her plates, but you get the idea.)

She keeps all these neatly packed away in her garage and then when it's time to throw a party (or her friend is throwing a party) she just gets it down and uses it. Genius!

Yes, after the party, I did have to wash the dishes and the tablecloths, but it was really not a big deal. In fact, it was really pretty easy and I was happy that my garbage can was not full of trash from the celebration.

I think about all the kid parties I threw when my boys were younger and I wish I would have just invested in some really good plastic plates and plastic cups and kept them to use over and over.

Sure it was a little easier just to gather up the plastic tablecloth and dump all the plastic forks and plates in the trash at the end of the kids' parties, but what kind of example was I setting for my kids and their friends? By purchasing reusable items, I would have been a better earth citizen and saved money too.

(Crafty people out there! Wouldn't it be a good idea to give a parent of a toddler a "Green Party Set" complete with sturdy, reusable party ware? You could include all kinds of cute cloth, or oilcloth tablecloths with runners and rugged plastic cups that could be used for years and years. A carrying case for all of it would be a bonus too!)

Since I plan to be a party girl for a very long time, I will invest in my own Green Party goods very soon. Think I should get this many plates or maybe a few more?

Thanks, Karen, for inspiring me! I will vote for the Green Party from now on!

Today, I am linking up with Rural Thursday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Birthday Party at Betty's

Last weekend my friend Kitty turned 55 and we had the party at my house!

I made it a 50's/60's theme and had a great time digging out some of my vintage glassware.

It was fun decorating my house.
That spinning tray held Crackerjacks, Salt Water Taffy and Candy Cigarettes. Yum!

I made my living room into a little mini-bistro for the dinner portion of the evening.

"Happy Birthday to You" sounds great when played on a banjo.
(That's Kitty's husband, Jim.)

More entertainment for the Birthday Girl. These three are childhood friends, reuniting to sing a song Jim wrote for Kitty after their first date. It was very sweet!

Alas, near the end of the evening, I fell to the lure of the wild life--candy cigarettes, Diet Pepsi, and the company of one of the disreputable band members.

It was a fun party!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Poetry Tuesday: "Looking at the Sky" by Anne Porter

Looking at the Sky

I never will have time
I never will have time enough
To say
How beautiful it is
The way the moon
Floats in the air
As easily
And lightly as a bird
Although she is a world
Made all of stone.

I never will have time enough
To praise
The way the stars
Hang glittering in the dark
Of steepest heaven
Their dewy sparks
Their brimming drops of light
So fresh so clear
That when you look at them
It quenches thirst.

--Anne Porter

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Morning Irises

Happy Monday!

It's the start of a new week!

Don't you just love new beginnings?

A certain very nice man presented me with a bouquet of irises this weekend.

I love irises with all their intricate lines and brilliant colors.

They also signal the start of a new, fresh season.

I loved this gift of purple brilliance that graces my table and reminds me of spring, growth and renewal.

(I am starting to see that life as a single woman could be interesting indeed!)

Hope you all have great weeks!

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, My Dear Ones!

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life.

--S.D. Gordon

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spiraling Into Control

The stack of five notebooks is on the desk by my bed.

Some of the notebooks have scuffs on the covers, some have pages sticking out awkwardly, and one has the dark remnants of a spilled soda on the bottom that causes the pages to flare out in a wavy pattern that resembles dried rose petals. All of them are filled with the scribbling and scrambling of my life over the past seven months.

To someone else this stack of notebooks would simply look like trash ready to be taken out, but I look at them and see them for the life preservers they are.

When, one week after both my sons had left home, the emotional tsunami of unexpected divorce crashed into my life, I was dragged under into the turmoil of waters I had never entered before. The suffocating emotions threatened to drown me.

I did what I have always done in my life when faced with confusion or an excess of emotions. I grabbed on to a notebook, took the inky blackness that surrounded me and madly funneled it through the tip of a pen. I wrote, I wrote, and then I wrote some more. It was not neat writing. It was not cohesive. It was not organized. It was most certainly not polite. Sometimes it was not even comprehensible, but I wrote anyway.

Anyone who loves writing can tell you about the power of putting words on paper during times of distress.

It’s not just the freedom of expressing inner chaos on paper that gives relief. It’s also just the mere physical act of writing, the placing of the pen on the paper, the movement of the hand. It’s watching the letters and the emotion come out—reflected by the jagged cliffs of M’s and K’s, the loops created by words with double o’s, the low dip of a lower case y. The sprawling out of that ink, the unconscious but oh-so-revealing decision to stay on the lines or to forget the lines even exist is so very important.

Each time I frantically wrote in my notebook, I felt relief when I felt the life preserver beneath my hand, grounding me, slowly lifting me up to the surface so I could breathe again.

I never went anywhere without my notebook during those months. I needed it. It was my lifeline. It was the way I made it through my days.

In it, I could write those long rambling, disjointed passages of disbelief that my brain needed to get out. But, just as importantly, in those early days, there were the short notes that allowed me to merely function. Dramatic events often make temporary Alzheimer’s patients out of their victims. I needed direction. I needed to be reminded of what normal people did in the course of an average morning. At the urging of a friend, I made lists for myself that included:

1) Get out of bed.

2) Take a shower

3) Walk to kitchen and make lunch.

4) Eat.

It worked. Sometimes the only reason I did these things was because of the list in my notebook.

I made it through the semester of teaching without missing a day. (Some mornings, I had to set my GPS in my car to remember how to get to the campus I had been driving to for 20 years, but I always made it.)

While it was years of experience, my need for routine, and my true love of teaching and my students that allowed me to make it to every class, it was my notebook that got me through every class period.

Some days, I’d focus just enough to get my classes started on an activity and then I would retreat to the lectern where my notebook waited and I’d write notes to myself. “Just hang in there.” “You can do this!” “He will not take away your working life.” “You can go to your car and cry at the end of class, but for now you must stay strong.”

Little did my students know that while they were in groups working on their sentence-level skills, finding comma splices, fixing fragments, and creating complex-compound sentences, I was at that lectern writing sentences to stay level, desperately splicing together my thoughts and gathering up enough fragments to try to appear complete.

Complex-compound? Indeed.

Little by little, I began to need my notebook less and less. One day just last month I left it in my office for a night and I realized I would be OK without it. Yesterday, I finished the last page of a notebook and I went to the store to get another one. The past five had dark covers. This time, I symbolically choose a bright orange cover.

The frantic, disjointed writing of the past has been replaced by more cohesive, flowing entries. I rarely need the survival notes I used to scrawl, but knowing I have a place to write them if I need to is still a comfort to me.

I look at the stack of tattered, worn notebooks and I am in awe of them.

Even though there is heavy pain, a ton of sorrow, and the leaden weight of mourning on those pages, those notebooks still helped me to keep afloat. They helped to buoy me up on those difficult days.

Perhaps woven in with the fibers, pressed into the pulp, infused into the cellulose of those pages, is always the stronger-than-sorrow buoyant promise of renewal and growth.

As I work my way back into life, I am starting to understand that same promise is pressed and woven into the fibers of our souls as well. The grace and possibility of the blank page, the fresh start, is within each of us whenever we want to grasp on to it. We may not think it is there, that we don't have it within us, but it is and it is just waiting to be discovered, to be released, to help us to rise as high as we want to go.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Poetry Tuesday: "Places I Have Heard the Ocean" by Faith Sherin

Places I Have Heard the Ocean

In a cat's throat, in a shell I hold
to my ear — though I'm told
this is the sound of my own
blood. I have heard the ocean
in the city: cars against
the beach of our street. Or in
the subway, waiting for a train
that carries me like a current.
In my bed: place of high and low
tide or in my daughter's skates,
rolling over the sidewalk.
Ocean in the trees when they
fill their heads with wind.
Ocean in the rise and fall:
lungs of everyone I love.

--Faith Sherin

(My great-nephew Turner!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Morning Flower Fantasy

Good Morning, Lovelies!

I brought a lot of shells back from the Virgin Islands and was musing the other day what it would be like if they grew in our back yards among the flowers.

Wouldn't that be wonderful?

You could just watch them grow and then pick some when you wanted to.

Wait a minute.... Maybe this guy is on to something!

Happy Mondays!

Perhaps middle-age is, or should be, a period of shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, the shell of the ego.
--Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Last Spring Break Pictures

It's back to the Virgin Islands for one last visit.

Great signs!

Loved the colors of the buildings.

Lori and I were able to go out on a boat to get in some snorkeling in the deeper waters.

We snorkeled to a nearby tiny island and collected shells. It was so much fun!

Back on land there were new friends to meet.

These past six months were the most difficult of my life.

By sheer coincidence the appointment to sign the divorce papers fell on the afternoon before I was scheduled to leave for the Virgin Islands.

I signed them, and was soon on a plane, off to my adventure to this beautiful island.

This trip to see my friend, to see a new part of this big world, to see myself in a brand new light was an absolute gift.

Ah, this crazy, complicated life!

I'm looking forward to what's ahead!