Gratitude, Life, Menopause

Me and the Mice: A True Story

Creature

A post by artist Helen Hawes:

Iʼve got a mouse problem.

I can hear them in the walls scratching their way through my hard earned insulation.

At night they party while I lay awake planning the next dayʼs strategy for all out warfare, dreading the morning when I know I will find their prima materia left behind in my silverware drawer.

They even appear now and then fearlessly scampering, in broad day light, across my kitchen or living room floors.

The tenants are concerned and threatening to move out.

I am catching four and five a day in my have- a- heart traps. Still they keep coming. I have trapped well over twenty so far. I am both frantic and ashamed of my franticness.

Like the mice, all my worst fears seem to be coming out of hiding.

Who will see my dirty house?

Who will discover what a bad mother I am, an irresponsible adult, unable to control things around me?

The mice are in charge here. Nothing I can do. Like aging and death, the granddaddy of all my fears, these mice just keep on coming. Desperate and angry, but still not ready to kill them, I spend a small fortune on sonar devices. I put them everywhere.

“Now,” I smile crazily to myself, “I can speak mouse.” I can tell them in no uncertain terms to leave and never come back.

With an evil chuckle, I carefully place the last sonar device inside my oven, a very popular gathering place. I collapse into bed, hoping for a morsel of peace.

In the 90 degree heat I can barely breath and dreams of small hairy four leggedʼs dance in my head. Between nightmares, I call on every available deity for help, praying that the mice will be gone in the morning.

Finally, in the first faint glow of daylight, exhausted from a sleepless night, I stagger into the kitchen, where horrified I discover I can still hear the dreadful clicking of claws and high-pitched squeaks. There is a celebration going on in my oven.

I am not proud of what comes next.

On this hot muggy summer morning in 1986, at 21 Line Street, in the countryʼs third most expensive city to live, beside myself, in a fit of fury and self loathing, I decide to incinerate the hateful creatures.

I turn the oven on to its highest temperature and leave the scene of my murderous intent.

I go and sit on the coach in the next room, glowering and white knuckled in my pajamas, preparing myself for the price of victory.

I didnʼt have to wait long. In a very short time, from the next room, I smell burning plastic, and see sparks coming from the wire that leads to the closed door of the mouse cafe.

My fire alarm begins to wail. I had forgotten about the sonar devise I put inside the oven.

I race into the kitchen, grab a Santa Claus cooking mitt from the hook, and yank the red hot mechanism out of the oven. I feel the heat burn through the mitt, yelp in pain, and let the device drop hissing into a molten heap on my tile floor.Then I too drop to the floor and sit crying and defeated.

Moments of black despair pass as I remain locked in the final stages of a losing battle. At last I give up. I surrender. The battle stops, the dust settles, with nothing more to lose or gain, I can see what is really here.

I turn and pick up the melted device and bring it towards me. Its double speakers are spaced like eyes and the burnt out wires are standing on end like a cartoon of someone startled. A melted seam along the bottom sags open to reveal a toothy grin.

Creature

There looking up at me is the funniest, most lovable face I have ever seen. The device has transformed while in the oven and melted into this unimaginable creature that now sits smiling in my lap.

I begin to laugh and laugh and then the tears begin to flow. I feel such a kinship with this silly frantic face, all frazzled and dazed, yet smiling in a wide grin.

Helen

This is me, more lovable than I had ever dreamed I could be.

In this moment I see how precisely in place everything is to bring this image before me, how perfect my antics, how perfect my fear, and most importantly, how perfect the mice. I sit thanking god for the mice that brought me to this moment of sheer delight in the perfection of now!

Epilogue: The next day the mice were gone. Their job here was done. They had received my unconditional love. I had tasted the bounty of surrender and laughed with compassion at my illusions of control.

The sonar device, a gift, gratefully received, now sits on my altar of metaphors.

Photos:

Top Photo: The meltdown personified

Middle:  Helen, in joyful recognition

Bottom:  Helen with her grandson

Helen with Grandson

Helen Hawes has been a practicing artist since she was six months old, when to her mothers dismay she was creating dramatic wall murals with the overflowing contents of her diapers. Later she worked with architects to continue the wall mural theme with more archival materials.  As her imagery and scale changed she began to work as a consultant for a software company in Boston.

Another aspect carried forward from her childhood is the joyful discovery of cross species communication that has been ongoing since the day she arrived. This has enabled her to listen “innocently” to her drawings, drawn blind and in collaboration with the “body in situation”, which is limitless. She works with groups and individuals sharing this process to empower others to ground themselves in a palpable connection between direct experience and unconditional awareness.

She lives and works in Vermont, where she co-owns a small creative arts retreat center (www.geryunant.com).  She is a Focusing coordinator/trainer,practicing artist, and walker in the woods..  She and her three sisters give collaborative Playshops, which intertwine each of their specialties, music, visual arts, writing, and animation, into a film that each participant takes home with them. To date the workshop has been given in Sweden, NewZealand, Vermont, and the next will be in North Carolina. Keep an eye open on Facebook for the Four Sisters’ Playshops.

Gratitude, Menopause

I Named a Bread!

Semolina Sunshine

Every girl has dreams.

I had dreams, years ago, of making it big as a writer.

But alas, despite some success with my writing, I’m not exactly well known (well actually known at all) to the editors of the New Yorker.

But I named a bread!

For real and true.

My son-in-law, the brilliant baker, creates new styles of bread.

He recently sent out a call:

“We’re going to make a new whole grain bread next month with semolina flour, millet, and sesame seeds.  It will be topped with a thorough crust of sesame seeds.  I need a good name!”

The email went on:  “FYI, semolina is made from durum, which is a sub-variety of wheat that is typically used in pasta.  It has a nuttier flavor than normal wheat, a lot of protein, and is very sturdy.”

That all sounded complicated to me.

I really don’t get wheat and how it magically turns into bread, but I do know that Mrs. Sun assists grandly by shining down on those amber waves of grain.

Semolina Sunshine!

I submitted the name to the Editor of the Bread.

The next thing I knew, there it was, labeling the delicious loaves themselves:

Semolina Sunshine Label

They say every good blog post needs a takeaway.

And so here’s mine for today.

Nope, I didn’t make a lot of dough with my writing.

But I’m lucky enough to have a son-in-law who makes a lot of dough, delicious dough.

And I’m lucky enough, in mid-life, to have new avenues for creativity such as blogging and bread naming.

I bet you, too, have opportunities you never thought you’d have, in places you would least expect them.

Let the sun shine on us!

The Bakery:  The next time you’re in Charlottesville, Virginia, stop in to the bakery, Great Harvest Bread Company.  Try some samples from the Bread Board:

Bread Board

And meet the Baker, Matt Monson, and his wife:

IMG_0657-427x640_thumb

Aging, Celebrations, Gratitude, Life, Menopause

One Day She… The Empowering Art of Marylou Falstreau (and a Giveaway!)

Okay, Menopause Girls, read these messages slowly and

with happy confidence! 

Meet the artist, Marylou Falstreau, here:

Check out Marylou’s website:

http://www.mfalstreau.com/Women_and_the_Hourglass.html

Giveaway: One day, I woke up and decided I was going to start blogging and support writers and artists with giveaways. For a chance to win two cards from Marylou’s Falstreau’s Women and the Hourglass Series (wrinkles and birthdays), simply post a comment by November 3 saying you’d like to win.

Celebrations, Children, Grandchildren, Grandmother, Grandparents, Gratitude

The Baby Is Here!

Babies are everywhere, or almost everywhere, and we’ve got one now too.  One happy grandma here!

Mazen Duke Younger-Monson was born at 3:38 in the morning on September 7 at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia. He weighs eight pounds and is 20.5 inches long!  Here he is:

Everywhere Babies is witten by Susan Meyers with illustrations by Marla Frazee (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).  Babies adore the book because babies like to look at babies! I hope Mazen likes the copy I bought just for him. I’m bringing it with me when I go back to the hospital to visit him tonight. Can’t wait!

Gratitude

Early Morning Gratitude Check

  

Tea kettle on the stove.  Check.

Purring cat on the couch.  Check.

Furnace rumbling in the basement.  Check.

Family sleeping upstairs.  Check.

Day on the horizon.  Check.

Gratitude within.  Check and check.

When is your best time of day for a gratitude check?

Photo:  I bought this papier mache sun on a trip to Mexico about twenty years ago.  Mr. or MRS. Sun greets me every morning when I come into this old kitchen to make my first cup of tea.  I’m a Lipton girl all the way.

Giveaway:  Congratulations to Judy, who won the happiness book.  Happy reading!

Gratitude, Hot Flashes, Menopause, Skin

Turtle Thoughts with a Slight Link to Menopause

The other night, I had a dream I was wading through dozens of  enormous turtles.  And so the next day I tried to figure out the dream’s message for this menopausal blogger.

Should I up my efforts to declutter the house so we can fit into a smaller shell in a few years?

Do I need to increase my walking pace?  Wear stronger sunscreen to prevent leathery skin?  Buy some funky placemats in an earth-toned geometric print?  Eat more greens?   Be more patient?  Be less patient?

Should I tuck in my head, think deeper, and write harder?

Or does dreaming of turtles suggest I am behaving much too turtle-like?  Do I need to stop writing with such intensity and abandon my semi-turtle shell life?   More party and less keyboard pounding?

Is the dream urging Cliff and me to put our shells in gear and get going on the world travel we long for.  (The dream was vaguely set on the Galapagos Islands.)

Was the dream’s purpose to teach me, once and for all, that I need to get over the frustration of not being able to solve the world’s mysteries?  I’ve always wondered how it feels to be a turtle, and I will NEVER have the privilege of knowing.  Chill, Barbara.  But I still wonder:  Do lady turtles go through menopause?  Bless their turtle hearts if they do.  Menopause and a shell can’t be a great combination.

OR (and I promise this is the final “or”) does my dream mean, plain, happy, and simple, that I’m lucky, very lucky, to live in a world graced by amazing and intriguing creatures?

And now a hypothetical question for you, my dear human readers:  What would you MOST like to ask  one of the world’s creatures?  Leave a comment by clicking on “Comments ” below.

Photo:  I found this lovely turtle, who is really a tortoise, on Mongabay.com.  I’m pretending she has in-shell access to the Internet  and is a fan of Friend for the Ride.  I’d love to have some readers in the Galapagos!

Change Your Life!  Learn once and for all, the difference between a turtle and a tortoise by watching this SHORT video.

Celebrations, Gratitude, Life, Losing a Parent

Valentine’s Day 1965 Redux

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Ya’ll are sweethearts  to read my blog.

Do you have one?  A Valentine’s Day gone wrong?  I did.  1965.  The Fifth Grade Valentine’s Day Square Dance.  Hampton Elementary School.  Towson, Maryland.

At the practice dance the day before, one of the cool, cute boys asked me to be his partner.  Yes!  I was set for the real shindig.  I was sure of it.   We would dance together again on February 14.

On Valentine’s morning, the boys began inviting girls to be their partners.  (No, we girls didn’t ask the boys in 1965.)  The oh so cute, cool boy asked another girl.  Devastation for this eleven-year-old.

Soon almost everyone was paired up. Poor Barbara.  No one to do-si-do with.

Finally, one of my friends did some negotiating, and Eddie Pissaro asked me to be his dance partner.  Not anywhere near my first choice.  I still remember how lumpy and sweaty his arm felt as we promenaded right and left.

Fast forward 45 years to my dad’s memorial service.

“Barbara, I’m Eddie Pissaro.”

The name shot through me like an arrow from a winged cherub.

“Eddie!  How wonderful to see you!  You knew my father?”

“I live in your old neighborhood now.   When your dad was out raking leaves, I’d stop and chat with him.”

We reminisced a bit about Hampton Elementary School and the kids we knew there.

And now, TA DA!   I would make his day.  (My girls had told me that despite my lack of eye makeup, I looked pretty good in my funeral dress.)

“I haven’t forgotten you were my partner for the Fifth Grade Square Dance.”

“I was?” said Eddie.  “I don’t remember.”

“You don’t?”

 Eddie shook his head.  “No.”

How could he forget?

That week, when I came home to Hillsborough, I did a bit of archival research in my closet.  Note the goofy-looking girl with the glasses in the bright pink velvet  jumper.  Does she look like a dream date?

“Your dad was a good guy,” Eddie said as he left the church that August day.

“Thanks, Eddie.”

I should have added, “You’re a good guy too, and on 2-14-65, you were a REALLY good guy.   What an honor to be your square dance partner.”

P.S.  I circled Eddie.  The boy who passed me over shall go uncircled.

Now tell us your worst Valentine story by clicking on “Comments” below.  Have the years mellowed or enlightened that story at all?