Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014!  

We are on the cusp of moving into a new, calendar year. New Year’s Eve is often quite magical. The partying, the reveling, and the excitement are great fun for many people and for them I wish nothing but a safe and happy experience. I, for one, enjoy a quieter time, however. I’m quite content to stay at home away from raucous crowds that sap my energy. I certainly will toast to the New Year and, like so many others, harbor hopes for good health, happiness, prosperity, peace, and joy, but I will do so in my own introverted (yes!) style. I’m much more comfortable that way.

The magic of New Year’s Eve, for me, lies in being introspective. I like to reflect on the year and give thanks for the good things. This year the highlights have been: publishing my memoir, Tumor Me – The Story of My Firefighter; making it through May 24, 2014, the year marker of losing Alex with “a little help from my friends”; enjoying my good pals– the Champagne Study Group and others on the fringe; having the love and support of Rick, who is my best friend; loving my son, Justin and his beautiful family; adoring my grandkids who I don’t see enough; walking my German shepherd and Chocolate Lab/Britney three miles a day; cuddling my one-eyed cat, Poncho; planting flowers at the CAL FIRE St. Helena Station memorial for Alex; being 40,000 words into my third novel (a mystery); staying connected with distant family and former students via Facebook (really!); hiking the Sierra near Lake Tahoe; seeing amazing plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; watching the San Francisco Giants win the World Series (or as my grandson once called it, “The World Serious”); staying fit and healthy; enjoying my new BMW 435i (It’s the “material” girl in me.); enjoying seeing my friends’ successes (Alicia in particular); donating to good causes; planting a garden and watching it flourish; watching our beautiful hummingbirds flit about the garden; feeding the koi; reading, reading, and reading more; writing my blogs; laughing, crying, grieving, smiling, and knowing it’s all okay.

It’s late afternoon on December 31, 2014 and the above is a short list of highlights that immediately came to mind. I suppose I could go on and on, but I’ll spare the reader! This is the last blog of the 2014, and with it, I wish everyone the absolute best in the year to come.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Stopping Place

Another year is coming to a close without you.
“Get over it,” people say.
I will never get over losing you.
I count time in increments.
One month, six, a year –
Days go by
And I manage
And I manage.
Few folks know
That my heart is cracked,
And it hurts
Always, never stopping.
It’s been one year,
Seven months,
Six days.
It could be yesterday.
For no reason
Tangible to me,
You are here
Burrowed in my mind.
Tears and memories
Have come for a visit,
Gone now, for awhile,
And I will move on
As I should
Until next time
When I reach
Another stopping place.
                                                            Some words for Alex on December 30, 2014
                                                            Judith DeChesere-Boyle

Sunday, December 28, 2014

How To Turn It Around                                     

            When I woke up this morning around 6:30 AM, I wandered down the hallway to feed my dogs and cat. What did I find? What wonderful odor permeated the room? You got it! Poop! My precious German shepherd, who, on occasion, has bowel issues, did not hold back this morning! I did not scold her (How could I?) although her demeanor told me she knew she had “been bad”! I let the dogs outside and scrambled into the kitchen for paper towels and 409. This was NOT going to be an easy cleanup! Runny poop was everywhere and GOT everywhere. I stepped in it, spread it around a bit, and realized immediately that my day definitely had begun whether I liked it or not. The choice was clear. I thoroughly cleaned the floor, scrubbing it over and over to make sure it was absolutely spotless and then I headed for the shower.

            After my shower, I brushed my teeth, dressed, put on makeup, and realized that by 8:30 I had accomplished quite a bit. My kitchen was squeaky-clean, the pets were fed, I had done a load of laundry, and the dishes had been put away. I went to my computer, read emails, checked out Facebook, and began writing this blog. When my husband awoke (and he was truly sympathetic about the doggy mess) we decided it was time to take our “mutts” out for their daily, three-mile walk. It was a beautiful morning, crisp, clear, and bright. Simply being outside and feeling the cold air bite my cheeks was invigorating. Now, at home again, all toasty and warm, I am finishing this somewhat mundane piece of writing only because the beginning needed a middle and an end.

            So, yes, this cold, December day that started out really shitty (Don’t be offended; it’s the perfect word.) has been very good, and I’m pleased to say my mindset made all the difference. In the grand scheme of things in this life, my dog’s “accident” was not a big deal. Not fretting, but instead simply doing what needed to be done, cleared the way (and the air) for a better day. I plan to keep this in mind.

Our beautiful German shepherd.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Memories

When I was a little girl my family always had a fresh tree plucked from a tree lot on some corner in town. Decorated, it usually bore only fat, blue, light bulbs and was covered in bright ornaments and tinsel, placed on each branch perfectly. Our tree often was situated in the corner of the family dining room and as days of the season passed, I loved to lie on the floor and simply stare up at it for long minutes, until I had my fill of the beauty there.

Where I lived, in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, the winters were cold. We often had rain and sleet that sheeted the barren trees and made the streets treacherous. What my brother and I always wished to see, however, was snow. On most Christmases we were disappointed. The proverbial “White Christmas” was as elusive as Santa Claus. On occasion, however, Mother Nature would tease us with huge, fluffy flakes that fell haphazardly to the ground, sticking to frozen grass for a few minutes before melting and seeping into the soil below. No matter. When the snow fell, I watched in awe and I envisioned myself in a fairy wonderland where life was perfect.

Home, unfortunately, was far from ideal in those days. My father was away for months at a time in the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, places whose names were new to me. My mother was one of the few moms in our small town who held a job, but she needed to work to make ends meet. She managed an S & H Green Stamp store, where folks could purchase myriad items with stamps they had earned when they bought gas at Texaco or groceries at the Kroger store or Piggly Wiggly. Though our mom worked hard, she always had time to hug us tightly and fill our lives with love. She was our rock, especially when our dad was away.

My parents were unable to provide us with lavish gifts for Christmas, but we always had presents under the tree, the most memorable when I was very small being a small table, tea set, and baby doll. Later, my brother and I were given new bikes, and when I was a teenager, my favorite gift was a record player. That same year my brother received a small, transistor radio. We were ecstatic! The rest of our gifts were practical: socks, underwear, robes, and slippers. Life was simpler then and we were happy.

On Christmas Eve, my mother allowed us to open one gift, only one. “Happy Christmas Eve gift,” she would say! It was a lovely tradition that intensified excitement that had been simmering for days. We were allowed a cup of cold, homemade custard and cookies cut out like reindeer, stars, or bells; or we had date bars, springerle cookies, and rich, dark fudge. When our snack was over we always prepared a plate of goodies for Santa Claus – a cookie or two, a piece of fudge, and carrots for the reindeer. Even when we knew better, the ritual continued for a good many years, just because.

Remembering now, I must admit that all in all, my childhood Christmas Eves were very special, and tonight, as I celebrate at home, miles away in California, I am touched by the memories. Putting them on paper here helps keep them alive and fills me with warmth. For that, I am grateful.

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! I hope it is happy, healthy, and filled with love.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Blogging Vacation

            I’ve been on vacation, at least from my blog spot. The rush of holiday preparations and a few celebrations have kept me away from my computer, at least more than usual. I always enjoy this time of year; yet when it comes to a close I am filled with a sense of relief. Another chapter is finished and the page before me is empty and ready. How will it be written?

            The close of 2014 has been filled with controversy and tragedy that has hit, at least for me, too close to home. I doubt anyone, if he or she is breathing at all, has escaped awareness of these troubled times. No matter where our sympathies lie, I believe it is time to step back, think rationally, and move forward to a better place. I, for one, am exhausted by media hype, by tragedy, by violence, and by what appears to be an absolute inability of some folks to reason. Wouldn’t it be lovely to see all the negativity replaced by compassion and understanding? What has happened to those qualities? If optimism is ludicrous, I must be terribly flawed, because I cannot help but believe that mankind has the capacity to move forward, together, to write that new page on a more positive note. I may be deluded, but can’t it be done? Certainly it is something to be considered.

            So, the blog is back! Here’s to vacations and to resuming routines, however habitual, however mundane. I’m happy to be back to it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

'Tis the season . . .

            . . . to be jolly?

Certainly the holiday season brings with it opportunities for joy. We decorate our homes in our own special ways; we make cookies, candy, and Grandmother’s fruit cake; we brave our way through crowded stores and spend hours perusing the Internet in search for the perfect present; we sing songs; we eat, drink, and eat some more. We celebrate our traditions, seek out our friends and family, and rejoice in our beliefs. Many of us are very fortunate.

This holiday season, however, and I use that term to be inclusive, has been one fraught with much unrest, misunderstandings, distrust, and downright hatred. From the streets of mid-America, to college campuses, metropolitan areas, and living room couches, the air has been filled with people voicing their opinions, asking for respect, demanding that someone listen, insisting on justice, or calling for calm and peace. Sentiments and points of view are as varied in nature as our nation itself, and perhaps that is as it should be. Liberty does allow us to speak our minds, doesn’t it? Speaking out, no matter what one’s view, is basic to the principles on which our country was founded. Freedom of speech is a right. On the other hand, rampant vandalism that has accompanied the voices of some is not, and I have to wonder at what point does the proliferation of mayhem close the door to understanding, to empathy, to tolerance, and ultimately to real communication. Destruction and vandalism at the hands of those whose intent is simply that, damages the likelihood of true conversation, and that’s a shame. It throws a pall over Christmas and to the promise engendered by it. It draws attention away from the basic tenets of the season. Yet, how can we acquiesce to the ridiculous notion that the season is ubiquitously jolly?

Is it? Not for a mother who has not a nickel for a gift for her child, not for a homeless family sheltered in place, not for a body racked with cancer, not for the jobless, the indigent, or children of the streets. So many people are suffering while the rest of us celebrate. Are we wrong to do so? No, I don’t think so at all, but for those of us who are very, very fortunate, within the circle of our giving this year, perhaps we should make sure to play “Secret Santa” to a family down on its luck or donate generously to our favorite charity. Why not pass on the “jolly” this season, and when it’s all over, maybe we can step back, take a good, long look at each other and talk, all of us, face to face, with honesty, integrity, and intent. Now wouldn’t that make the New Year bright?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

When It Rains, It Pours . . . On Facebook
            -- A Reflection on This Day

            I live in Northern California. It has been raining here steadily for the past twenty-four hours, and the continuous downfalls, combined with strong wind gusts, have been quite impressive. Because of the intensity of the storm that swept over our region, schools were closed, businesses did not open, roads were flooded, and many folks wisely stayed home. And what did they do? What else? Facebook!

            I usually look at Facebook about three times a day for a few minutes – once early in the morning, once mid-day, and again at night while the television blares in the distance. (I’m not a big TV fan!) Today, however, many people, me included, have cozied up to their computer screens and spent probably too many hours socializing with their friends. It has been a newsy day with folks posting photos of problems that have occurred as a result of the rain: flash floods, fallen trees, snarled traffic, swollen streams, and people in vehicles “behaving badly”!

            Tomorrow is another day. I would imagine most people intend to head back to work. I certainly need to work here at home, adding lines to my current manuscript. I’m actually looking forward to it. Today, however, has been unique and interesting, almost like a mini-vacation, or a free-fall gathering of myriad friends, some of whom have never met and likely never will. No matter. They have chatted, interacted, reacted, “liked”, commented, and posted, posted, posted. Facebook today, has been a particularly amusing diversion. So, here’s to rain, lots of it, and, as a result, to an outpouring of connections and communications on our ever-expanding, social media!