Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Pause to Refect and be Thankful

This week I wrote to one of my long distance craft friends, only to find out that she died a month ago. She had been fighting Leukemia but only a week or so before she died, I had gotten a progress report from her that she seemed, once again, to be ahead of it and beating it back, or so she thought. She was a positive person and I never thought for a minute that she wouldn't beat the odds. It hit me hard that none of us are guaranteed another year, month, week or even day! I had already been sensing my own impermanence and this brought me to an abrupt stop as I sat down to write my condolences to her husband.

I had been in the middle of cleaning out my 3 x 5 note card files that I had kept before I became computer literate. They were my earlier way of storing bits of treasured knowledge, that I then filed by categories. It was one of the ways I used to keep myself organized and keep my multi-tasked brain going in all directions and not lose any important thought that out of sight, might be out of mind forever. It was more fluid, it seemed, than my old zipped day-books, that I had used to take notes in before...that literally, if lost, meant a wild search to find, for it was like losing one's mind.  I am so grateful now that computers can hold what my brain cannot, though I must confess that, being a person who kept a journal all of my life, I still like paper and pen and am still dependent on an old fashioned do-list to keep me focused and on task each day, for I can easily "get lost" simply moving from room to room.

I can see now the relationship between my anxiety about my immortality and my need to clean and organize. I feel more "in control" of my life, when "my affairs are in order" and I had to laugh at the thought that while feeling a sense of accomplishment over all that I clean or sew, this focus is so superficial and downright folly when seen in this perspective.

Indeed sitting before me on little 3 x 5 cards was documentation of a life deliberately thought out and micro-managed. It proved what I have always felt: life is challenging in the extreme. Stretcher meals and budgets, temporary jobs to fit the day and needs of our ever changing family with flexible schedules and demands--each day a contest.  Fortunately my 3 x 5 cards were not just things to do, but thoughts and goals of all kinds, from spiritual to mere dates and deadlines, and then I remembered, almost as clear as if it were yesterday, sitting in a physiology class in college and raising my hand to ask a question of my professor.  This was not unusual. In fact he could almost count on me asking a question at every lecture. Knowing me too well,  as he called on me, he said, "Miss Campen.....but before you ask your question, I would just like to say that I hope your whole education doesn't all fit in a nutshell!"... He was spot on, as my question always had to do with taking an horrendously complex subject and trying to have him summarize it and fit it into "a nutshell" to help my brain make sense of it.

Perhaps I am still working at trying to simplify a life that is too big for my head to wrap itself around and wanting it to be put into "a nutshell" or a 3 x 5 index card, where it can be easily digested, acted upon and made to fit into my comfortable little world, where I am safe and secure, and there is no death, and no problems that are unmanageable or too hard to figure out without  help. I miss my mom and dad, for they were right up there next to God Himself when it came to answers...Mmm...and how appropriate it is that I am living at a place that I now refer to as "Little House".

I hear political pundits discuss opinions regarding how this administration is or isn't dealing with the world's reality, and am comforted to know that perhaps I am not alone in having certain preconceived ideas of how the world should be as I contain my thinking to fit within walls that I have carefully constructed!...My Little House is indeed a very little house, within a very big world, that I can't fathom, much less control.

I wish my friend God's speed in moving to her next dwelling place in heaven...and love the scripture verse that has to do with God preparing a place for us in heaven, where there are many mansions and a room for each of us.

I rationalize about the smallness of my thinking after all there is nothing wrong with "doing small things with great love", as Mother Teresa said so well. We indeed occupy a tiny space in this world, but have an important part to play in the lives of those around us. I will miss my friend and the ways that her life touched me, and I will work hard to not over-think and ponder upon the great mystery of life and death.  I will accept what is and move on and simply take joy in doing what I can do today, never mind that I have too many quilts and pincushions planned and even cut out!

I may or may not get as many days as Grandma Moses to get them all done, and no matter if the directions I leave with each pre-cut quilt will be sewed by another per my directions. I can only concern myself with today and try to live it as best as I can!

I am grateful for the life that I have had, and will continue living in faith that there will be many more days to come, lest I go into overdrive to try to take even more control over what isn't mine to control. Life isn't a race, but a marathon, no matter how short or long the distance. However many days I have, I will treasure each of them, One only has to watch Teresa Caputo on Long Island Medium to know that this life is not the only one we shall have!

I am taking it on faith and promise that there is another life to come, though I will very much miss my Little House with my little studio with my carefully stored stash of materials yet to be sewed. As my dad was dying, he and my mom would joke about her writing him a check so he could take all that he had earned with him. I shall need a large van when I move to heaven and I can hear myself arguing with St. Peter about my stash needing to come with me! I have indeed been very blessed, though more by special people, like my friend that have loved and put up with me, despite my baggage! I treasure all those that have enriched my life, and are now gone from my sight, making me realize that it won't be long before I join them! Life is good, no matter its impermanence!

(This blog is dedicated to my dear friend, Marti.  You will be greatly missed!)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Progress Continues...Junk or Priceless Treasures?

Bits of space and floor are now showing!
Progress continues on the Steve N. Garage and Kitchen Drapery Project, though I have added still more windows and curtains to be washed and pressed before his visit on October 11th. I have a strong aversion to cleaning and so I am not going to waste a visit from a friend to become a big incentive to do what I otherwise procrastinate doing.
Organizing and sorting has been no small job!

Soon, more pegboard up and equipment hung on walls!

Today I was to sort through boxes of my stored "junk" that made it to the garage when our storage sheds collapsed a few years ago under the weight of too much snow, and ran across The Scarecrow Doll from the Wizard of Oz.  In one of my last office nursing jobs, I was teased about being scatter-brained and forgetful.  This is not a good trait for a nurse to have, but per my style,  I learned in my family of origin, if I am to be ridiculed about anything, I will "make fun of myself and run with it". It is a defense mechanism I perfected when I was young.  It hurts less to be in control and beat others to the punch line, or so I used to think.

Gifts given to me, The Scarecrow of Little Brain, but getting wiser all the time!
Being less than clear-brained and seeing others noticing what couldn't be hidden, I took to singing the song, If I Only had a Brain. Taking on the persona of The Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, I made fun of myself.

Its effect soon rippled through this private doctor's office.  Our aide, in search of a home became our Dorothy, needing to wear and click her red shoes together to find her a new home.  Our secretary in the office was the person that had to "get hard to collect on past due payments".  She became our Tin Man in need of a heart while doing her job as many saw her as quite heartless. Then there was our nurse leader who trembled at the thought of taking difficult messages between patients and doctors.  She needed all the courage she could muster, like the famous Scared-y-Cat Lion. We all had our weaknesses, and soon we were given gifts collectively by the other staff that represented our individual issues. Mine were as shown above, the doll and the plaque that read, Wisdom.

I didn't come to know until later how spot on I was that I needed clearness of thought, for I had much "brain fog" caused by Chronic Lyme Disease, and only three years ago suffered a stroke and at the time brain scans noted several brain lesions caused by my what was later diagnosed as Chronic Lyme Disease. These tests documented  what had been issues for me that were beyond my control in the years previous.. Fortunately my stroke's damage was only temporary, except to my psyche that now lives in fear of having a more serious one.

Finding my Scarecrow Doll, given to me by this office staff, served as a bittersweet reminder of the issues that I have had to deal with both physically and mentally, no matter how ineffective I might have done so.. I have suffered from a chronic infection that affects my brain. We all have issues that we have to deal with and though ridicule is not good, humor helps. The late Joan Rivers reminded us all that "anything we can joke about, we can deal with", and her life was proof of that! Should we all realize that our individual differences are likely there for a reason and whether we understand them or not, we have to deal with who and what we are.

The rest of this story still pains me....I went on to be fired from this job.  The backbiting that ensued in this office took its effect on us all. I was accused of being lazy.  A new schedule had meant not being at my desk and so my desk didn't just appear to be unoccupied-- it had been for days, though by a design that wasn't mine, and my naps in an exam room during my unpaid lunch hour were desperately needed to do the extra long ten to twelve hour work days that my body didn't tolerate. My at-home time in those days included caring for my declining mother as well as my family.  I was anything but lazy and I let my doctor bosses know it in no uncertain terms!

I had never been one to "talk back" and I regretted this "loss of control of my tongue". I have since realized that my final words were "straight and honest".  I was NOT lazy, but VERY hardworking and the work days were not just too hard for me, they were illegally too long for the staff but not the doctors and being misjudged, and treated with prejudice that stemmed from "talk behind my back", it was truly time for me to move on. I still would like to think that my loss was less than their's, though the betrayal of what I thought were good friends was most painful and truly the job market seemed to go from the frying pan into the fire for me.

The life lessons I learned from this were good, however, and remain with me always: judging others needs to be done with careful consideration of all the facts, not rumors; backbiting is never OK and neither is abuse from those in authority. Respect for oneself is critical and there was wisdom in my spontaneous defense, though I didn't think so at the time as it was less than eloquent and clear. Unfairness is hurtful and damaging, and it was truly time to leave, no matter the inconvenience to me.  Kindness is always appropriate in dealing with others, as we don't know their serious underlying issues. Giving more thought before I speak, no-matter-what-the-circumstances continues to be a lesson I need to work on. I of course I am not perfect, and my memory continues to be weak and so my Scarecrow Wizard of Oz Doll along with my Wizard of Oz Wisdom sign will now be prominently displayed to remind me that some experiences and lessons are just too valuable to be thrown away!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Winner is....

The Winner of this month's Common Thread Give-Away Drawing is Wendy Greenspan. Congratulations to Wendy!! She will be receiving Veronica's book, Kiss the Moon!

To all those who did not win this month, please continue to visit all of us Common Thread artists at our respective sites as we will continue to have a free give-away drawing every month.  It is our way of thanking you for continuing to follow our blogs.

The Common Thread Artists besides myself are: Maria Wulf @ Full Moon Fiber Arts; Jon Katz @ Bedlam Farm; Kim Gifford @ Pugs and Pics; and Rachel Barlow@ Picking My Battles.  Their sites are located on the right side of my blog and can be easily accessed by simply clicking on these sites. Veronica Hallissey's From an Upper Floor is also listed among them, as she is a frequent guest artist, and a wonderful poet. Nancy Bariluk-Smith's Spinning Glass Studio has moved to Maine, but she is still creating wonderful jewelry, not to be missed!

A big thanks to all of our readers!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

This Months Common Thread Give-Away Artist is....

This month's Common Thread Give-Away Artist is Veronica Hallissey. I am only too happy to tell my readers more about Veronica.  I have been so privileged to get to know her better this past year.  She is truly a kindred spirit and is quickly becoming a good friend.

This month Veronica is giving away her book, Kiss the Moon, an anthology of her best poetry.  To register to win all you need to do is go to her website and leave a comment for her Monday to Thursday. Be sure to leave enough information about yourself that she can find you if you should become the winner of her drawing to be held at the end of the week.  This is a most generous gift and one that I can speak of personally.

At the time that Veronica sent me her book, Kiss the Moon, I was in the middle of a true crime book marathon, not to be disrupted, or so I thought, but when the murderer decided to save his victim's foot in his freezer as a keepsake, I knew it was time to move onto a less chilling book. As soon as I started reading her Kiss the Moon I couldn’t put it down!!  It is better than any true crime book to be sure!!!!  It was like getting an infusion of life poured right into my soul! I loved it and have picked it up and reread it many times since and have never returned to find out who discovered this poor woman's foot in the freezer!

Unlike my own writing, Veronica has a way of picking her words so carefully that it is much like looking at a special painting that captures thoughts and feelings and pulls you right into the special moment in this artist's life, forming a special connection that makes you realize that there is a bond between us all, except perhaps, for cold blooded killers! They likely couldn't relate to Veronica's beautiful writings!

Kiss the Moon begins with a preface of Veronica's humble testimony about knowing of a special Presence in her life. There is no doubt that she has a special connection with her creator that flows through her.  Her ability to see the world with such clarity of vision and then express it with such precision and conciseness is truly an art form that is uncommon in today's world. Her poems are epic as they tenderly speak of love and of all of the seasons of a person's life.

I loved  her poem about the woman taking her dear friend, her cow to be sacrificed to feed her children after supplying them with milk for so many years. Her love and appreciation for her cow is palpable. Another favorite of mine was one about eating dinner while watching the news and her husband declining desert saying that he was experiencing a bit of indigestion that must have been caused by something he ate. Veronica's subtle humor comes forth as it wasn't the dinner but the ingestion of such a horrible stream of news events that would be enough to sicken anyone! It made me laugh as to how obtuse our thinking really can be! Her daughter-in-law's  artwork sprinkled through the book is equal to the beauty of Veronica's poetry.

For the sake of brevity in my blog I will leave yet other favorites for the subject of blogs to come, and spare my readers of my ramblings, though Veronica's writings have inspired me to open up my journal with renewed interest and try to better capture the memoirs of my own life. Her poems have touched my heart and made me realize that I am still very much alive, no matter how inundated I can be with life's pressures. Her keen awareness of all that life teaches us makes me realize that all of my life's events are full of blessings that I am sometimes too blind to see.  Isn't that the purpose of good art, to open us up and make us appreciate the richness of our own life?

Veronica's writings are indeed a very special gift that she shares with the world! Don't miss visiting her website at http://fromanupperfloor.com for samples of her work, and do treat yourself to her books and read what she herself considers to be the best of her work!  They will feed your soul! Thank you Veronica for nourishing mine!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

....BUT Sometimes an Idle Body

I felt a bit guilty posting last my blog, No Idle Hands or Brain at Little House and then writing to some of my friends that I was again down for the count.  I made it sound like accomplishments are "straight line courses" and I must confess that they rarely are.  No project seems to get done without lots of interruptions for my body to go idle...as demanded by my treatment and the herxes it causes.

Sometimes I don't heed the warnings, and demand that my body "be normal" and get myself into real trouble. It can be most frightening. My primary care doctor relocated some time ago now and having seen her just before she left, I have procrastinated finding another primary provider in the immediate area. It will be a hard and potentially expensive search to replace her. "Lyme-literate" physicians are rare, especially in Vermont where it seems that they have made an example of one of the best Lyme doctors this country has to offer.  All of us who knew him well, know that it is not by his own choice that he isn't with us still, though he never speaks of the details of having to close his practice to those with Lyme Disease to his other patients. His Lyme patients miss him terribly. It can be most frightening to have symptoms of early infection, knowing that I don't tolerate antibiotics, and have no local "Lyme-literate" doctor available to help me wade through my options to get to feeling better. I am so glad that I am, by profession a graduate nurse and apply what I know to caring for myself!

Any of us living with chronic illness knows that we live moment to moment and know our limits, though we, more than infrequently, don't honor them.  When we are "going good", we overdo it, knowing that the next day will likely be one that we have to put our feet up.

Pinterest becomes my serious occupation when I am down.  I take dreaming seriously and spend my horizontal times doing just that.  I plan and scheme and re-order my do-lists to make the most of when I am ready to challenge my body. I don't mean to complain. I indeed relish in what I can do versus what I can't, and am so blessed with a supportive family! Living with a person afflicted with a chronic disease is more than enough to try even the most loyal!

Denial is also part of my routine.  I am determined to not let Lyme keep me down.  I am still on the Marshall Protocol after almost six years.  My friends ask when it will be over, (treatment, not life,I hope?) and I avoid the question. I wonder too, if treating this disease will ever be over.  Where is the cure? And if not this treatment, what will be next?  All who suffer with Lyme ask that question and simply carry on and live as fully as they can in the "between" times!

So for those who wish that they had the time for such frivolity as to live from pincushion to pincushion and project to project, I reply, "Be careful what you wish for".  I miss working out in the world, though I am working on the goal of "being out in the world more".  I treasure my Little House and bringing you, my readers, the details of running it and making pretty things for those of you whose lives are too stretched. I remind myself and my readers as well, that it is in incremental steps that most of us achieve our dreams!

Friday, August 22, 2014

No Idle Hands or Brains at Little House!!

A lot is happening here at Little House! No idle hands or brain here! A brief glimpse at the projects ahead:

The Steve N. Garage and Kitchen Project, slated for completion before October 11th is moving right along thanks to my daughter, and husband!!

As for sewing projects, thirty-four pincushions are pushing for completion for the first craft show of the Holiday Season at Jon and Maria's Open House at Bedlam Farm Columbus Day weekend.

....And still more fleece socks for my holiday shows that will start November 1st at the Holiday Inn in Rutland, Vermont! Is there no end to the fleece sock production? I wonder that myself!! Likely not until after the last of five holiday craft shows ending December 13th.  I will be sure to tell you where and when in advance so you can come and see us in person!

And last, my New Jane Make-Over Project that began four weeks ago is off and moving ahead, albeit very slowly with needed pauses for continued "herxing". It  is a start, however, to getting my energy and strength back following my 5 1/2 years of special treatment for Lyme, that is still continuing! A new hair cut last week, along with getting new underwear, and a new "old" car.  My PT Cruiser bit the dust last week when it failed its inspection as its muffler couldn't be fixed as the entire frame of the car was rusted out. I was fortunate that it didn't drop me in the middle of the road!! My mechanic told me when I was missing it, to go to my local department store and look at the toasters, as one of them will likely be my car incarnated into its next life!  But who would miss it when I now have this new dated and pre-driven one, that is already pre-scratched, pre-dented and a bit worn, a fitting mascot for my new make-over that is once again proving that there is "new life" to what some might consider"old" and "done in"!

Still to come as part of my New Jane Make-Over will be the sewing of some new clothes to refurbish my old wardrobe (AKA the Vermont Dreaming Objective, sung to the tune of California Dreaming); an overdue dentist appointment to rehabilitate my smile; finding a new primary care doctor that is Lyme Literate (always a challenge); and getting new glasses to eliminate my need to literally "feel my way" along in life!  Life is busy and good at Little House!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Generosity or Curse? One Can't be too Careful!

My daughter's return didn't just change the atmosphere in the house, it literally changed how we navigated. Only two steps in the door, she plopped down all that had been packed in her car. The mudroom/ pantry/laundry room not only collected her bags, complete with dirty laundry and souvenirs, but also a plethora of fresh produce.  It seemed that she had taken to stopping at every roadside stand to collect fresh fruits and vegetables on her way home!

Not only would we have to watch our step but we would be thrown right into canning.  Fortunately she anticipated my reaction and quickly added that that she had a plan: she would place her smaller collections in the refrigerator,  blanch the wax and green beans herself to prepare them for freezing, then she would season and roast the tomatoes and freeze those for sauces,  and only then did I generously offer to help with canning thirty pounds of fresh peaches! The fifteen pounds of beets were carried to the basement where it is cooler in hopes that they will wait till the end of the week to pickle.

This month's housecleaning was instantly undone, and our house status is now "back to normal"...chaos reigns again! Fortunately she brought me home a new Ann Rule book to take with me to my upper tower room, where I can hide out and read about what is even more frightening than my daughter's return to rule! These stories of true crime will make me appreciate my daughter's good and generous heart, though it should be noted that I carefully watch her or my husband take the first bites of her home-cooked cuisine....one can't be too careful these days!  My favorite aunt used to say, "Just because I am paranoid, doesn't mean someone isn't out to get me". I quite agree and I am sure that Ann Rule would too!