Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Those questions again

I am currently devoid of original thought.  My muse has departed for the moment, so I'm going to see if you can help get it back.  I actually did this a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.

So here's the deal.  My follower "thingy" says that there are 538 people who follow this blog. I think that some of them have departed blogger land and some have departed this life.  I have no idea, short of starting the follower thing over.  But it sure would be nice to see who is lurking out there.  And maybe having an inquisition would be a way to do that.
I have been blogging since 2007.  Maybe it's time to open up and answer any questions that you may have.  You can ask your own curious question here, and I'll answer it.  Maybe there is something that you have been wondering about when you've read my posts.  Maybe there is something about marine science that you've been dying to ask.  Maybe you want to know more about sailing, global warming, or any number of things.

So ask away! It will be fun (I think??) to see what questions you may have.  It's not that I am so interesting, but people do have inquiring minds.

The last time that I did this, I had a give away for the best question.  I'll do this again.  It may be a photo of mine, it may be something local, it may be a book.

So ask away.  Come out of lurkerdom and ask away.  It will be cool to see the questions in the comments, so that others can see what is being asked.  I'll post the questions and answers next Wednesday. The only caveat: I will be respecting Tradition Twelve in my answers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Secrets, trust and pain

I'm back from class. Another late night for me.  I wish that I didn't have to miss my home group meeting.  But only four more weeks to go before I'll be able to get back to the group.  I sure do miss the comfort of that group.

I haven't heard from a few people who I sponsor for weeks.  I have to say that I am not really disappointed, although I wonder at times what more I could do to keep the ones that either don't really get started in the program (stop at Step One) or those that stop at Step Four.  I give a few calls to check up on them, and then I have to let it go.

At first when I sponsored a fellow, I was much more of a brow beater.  I wanted them to work the program on some kind of schedule that suited me.  That was the control stuff coming up--do it in my time and on time.  Assignments given so that things could move along at a regular pace.  Now it is so much easier to let people go their own path until they are ready to come back.  That suits me much better than trying to force people to conform to what I think they "should" do.

I am much gentler with myself and others these days.  People will do what they will.  With those of us in Al-Anon, trust is a major issue.  And so often it is not easy to trust our secrets with others.  We've hidden them for so long.  It was a major step for me to connect with a sponsor, be rigorously honest, and share all my secrets.  What a load was lifted off my mind.  Sharing the pain, reduces it.

People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.  ~Jim Morrison

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekend exploring

We had a special time yesterday and today.  It was an excursion to a place that I haven't visited, except for passing through.  The old Navy Yard was closed in 1996, but there are so many interesting places still there on the 500 acres.  I suppose that you would say it exemplifies the military industrial complex in which millions of dollars were spent from the early 1900's until closure of the base.

The officers houses were especially beautiful.  Sadly, many have fallen into disrepair since the base closed.  Most are listed as historic houses and renovations are underway on some. The area where these houses are located is like a park with beautiful lawns and huge oak trees.  These were from a time when money apparently was no object, and the Navy took full advantage of that.

It's sad that the chapel has fallen into disrepair.  Hopefully, there will be renovations done on it before it is beyond saving. 

And then there are some of the spooky industrial buildings on the base.  Here is the Power House that I found particularly interesting.  These buildings were constructed of the best available materials at the time.  I get the feeling that no expense was spared. 

Improvements have been made in certain areas, including a Riverfront Park which winds along the waterfront and is buffered by acres of green space.  Not many years ago, this base was off limits to the public.  Now, it's nice to see a park and trails that people can enjoy.  After all, tax dollars paid for the facility. 

We walked around the park and then had dinner at a Caribbean/Jamaican restaurant which had a nice ambience: Jazz was playing, lots of art on the walls and a great view of the river and the fountain. 

It was a nice weekend spent exploring a part of the city that we knew little about.  The bars, strip clubs and joints outside the base largely closed down once the military left. The area still has a bad reputation for drugs and prostitution.  If the concept of revitalizing this area into a "green" city can be realized, a lot of historic buildings would be preserved.  It seems the ideal place for a research park, too.  

Anyway,  I wanted to share some photos of what we saw.  This place is fertile for taking hundreds of photos. I like photographing old houses.  I'm sure that I'll be back to go on another photo safari in the near future.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What do you fear?

Awoke to brisk weather and a head cold.  Not the way that I wanted to start the day, but I can tell that I have been invaded by something that will sap a bit of energy for a few days.  My head feels heavy, but my spirit feels good.

Yesterday's meeting topic was on fear.  That one word seems to sum up so much of what is at the root of the human psyche.  What do I fear? Less and less.  I have written so much about this trait that seems to come in and undermine living.  I still have the abandonment issues, but I am moving through those by realizing that I will deal with things as they come.  No sense in following the old slogan of F*#k Everything and Run.  We can only run on far, until we are brought down by those jackals of fear.

There is a lot to fear in this world: bad people, bad economy, wars, famine, death, sickness--the list is long.  But at this moment on this day,  I have little to fear.  There are so many things that I am powerless over. Inviting them into my mind is pointless. All I can do is be aware, accept and take action on those things that I can change.

A newcomer to Al-Anon was sobbing because her husband is an alcoholic who is verbally and emotionally abusive.  I could sense the people in the room collectively sigh, breathing out empathy for this lady who faced her fear and came in.  Face Everything and Recover is what we are doing.  It takes time, but I could see the hope in her face as we each told her how glad we were that she was here.

She fears reprisal for being at a meeting, that her husband will yell at her, that he will be drunk, that she will never be happy.  All these things may happen, but there are other options, other plans that can be made to keep the focus on positive action.

There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.  ~ John Lennon

What are your fears today?  Are you avoiding them, putting them off with denial?  Or are you facing them and realizing that there is power in self-awareness? 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

To build or to plant

I am hearing the chirping of crickets and night insects this evening.  It has been near 80 F today.  That is amazing for February.  I'm resigned to the fact that the back of winter may be broken.  The spring flowers are blooming.  Tomorrow is going to be rainy, followed by some cooler weather--to 60 F.  I've hardly used a sweater this year.

It has been a busy day. I drove the boat to the yard for bottom painting.  Hopefully, she will be done and ready to be put back in the water next week. We also worked in the garden, planting potatoes.  The green house has all kinds of plants that we grew from seed--tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, herbs, and flowers.  My wife ordered several of the strip lights for plants so we have tiers of those lights and trays of plants on tall shelves.  We also brought home two truck loads of composted manure for the garden. We are amending the soil--changing its composition and making it better for growth.  This is  not so different from those amends made in recovery.

I'm lost on what to do for the weekend without the boat.  Maybe we will go on a field trip to the Birds of Prey center and take a look at all the raptors.  We had talked about going tent camping but with rain coming tomorrow, it sounds like a wash out.  I also looked into going to a rustic cabin at one of the state parks, but those were booked.  So this may have to be one of those spur of the moment times when we just do what sparks our interest--no plans, just spontaneity.

Meanwhile, I am going to soothe some aching muscles in the whirlpool.  Both of us have been working out hard at the gym and in the garden.  Time to just chill.  Tomorrow will be here soon enough, bringing whatever magic it has in store.  Here is a bit of the magic that was around here today:

In life, a person can take one of two attitudes: to build or to plant. The builders might take years over their tasks, but one day, they finish what they're doing. Then they find that they're hemmed in by their own walls. Life loses its meaning when the building stops.

Then there are those who plant. They endure storms and all the vicissitudes of the seasons, and they rarely rest. But unlike a building, a garden never stops growing. And while it requires the gardener's constant attention, it also allows life for the gardener to be a great adventure.

Gardeners always recognize each other, because they know that in the history of each plant lies the growth of the whole World.―Paulo Coelho

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crippling so many of us

I woke up discombobulated this morning.  Bad dreams last night that left me feeling out of sorts: The old abandonment stuff that seems to recycle every few months, bubbling up from some part of the mind that has held onto yesterday's fears.

It takes a few moments to remember that none of the dreams are real.  And the fears, well, those don't have to be made real unless I allow that.  It's best for me to get up and get moving, rather than to lie there and let the mind reel.

All that abandonment stuff seems so real when it plays out in technicolor when I'm asleep.  Maybe it is there with me even when I'm awake, just lurking beneath the surface, ready to come out and wipe away peace of mind.

Once traumatized, do we ever really rid ourselves of the feelings and images that have held such power in the past?  Maybe the point is to not have to rid ourselves of anything but to simply acknowledge the feelings, check the barometer of life on this day, and make a decision on how to proceed.  I found the following from the psychologist, Carl Rogers, to be interesting:

"I sometimes fantasy about what it would mean if a child....never had to disown his feelings in order to be loved. Suppose his parents were free to have and express their own unique feelings, which often would be different from his, and often different between themselves. I like to think of all the meanings that such an experience would have. It would mean that the child would grow up respecting himself as a unique person. It would mean that even when his behavior had to be thwarted, he could retain open "ownership" of his feelings. It would mean that his behavior would be a realistic balance, taking into account his own feelings and the known and open feelings of others. He would, I believe, be a responsible and self-directing individual, who would never need to conceal his feelings from himself, who would never need to live behind a facade. He would be relatively free of the maladjustments which cripple so many of us." ~ Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person

I suppose it's easy enough to be crippled by what happened in childhood, what our parents did to us, what others did or said that made us feel less than or fearful.  So many people are wounded today.  That wounding comes from all manner of things--loved ones, jobs, the economy, life.  But it doesn't seem to be so easy to be whole again. Or is it?

It seems easier to blame others for unhappiness.  Or perhaps to find fault with others rather than looking inward at myself.  I like what Rogers describes as ways to live a "good life".  It makes a lot of sense to me.

  1. A growing openness to experience – move away from defensiveness and have no need for unconsciously applying strategies to prevent something troubling from entering the consciousness.
  2. An increasingly existential lifestyle – living each moment fully – not distorting the moment to fit personality or self concept but allowing personality and self concept to emanate from the experience. This results in excitement, daring, adaptability, tolerance, spontaneity, and a lack of rigidity and suggests a foundation of trust.
  3. Increasing trust – Trusting my own judgment and ability to choose behavior that is appropriate for each moment.  Not relying on existing social norms but trust that by being open to experiences, I will be able to trust my own sense of right and wrong.
  4. Freedom of choice – not being shackled by the restrictions that influence an incongruent individual (= a false individual in pursuit of personal regard), I am able to make a wider range of choices more fluently. Believing that I play a role in determining my own behavior and so feel responsible for my own behavior.
  5. Creativity – feel more free to be creative without feeling a need to conform.
  6. Reliability and constructiveness – Acting constructively. An individual who is open to all their needs will be able to maintain a balance between them. Aggressive needs will be matched and balanced by intrinsic goodness in authentic people. 
  7. A rich full life – he describes the life of the fully functioning individual as rich, full and exciting and suggests that they experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage more intensely. 

Here is Rogers' description of the good life:

This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one's potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.
I like the idea of launching myself fully into the stream of life: the good, the bad, the perceived, the real, the imagined, the ugly, the beauty, the wonder and the joy.  Let's do it. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book list, classes and parallel universes

I am back from class, and it's late.  I signed up for another course--this one on Seamanship.  It's basic information but helpful in preparation for Sea School which I plan to attend some time in the near future.  I am going to go for a Master's license of as much tonnage as I am allowed with my qualifying sea time.  Most probably, that will be a 50 ton vessel.  One would think that after so many years of school, that I would be sick of it by now.  But it seems that I am a born student of something, whether it is marine science, marine piloting, seamanship, or the Twelve Steps.

Tonight, we talked a bit about the recent Costa Concordia wreck on the reef off the coast of Italy.  It seems to eerily echo what happened with the Titanic.  A misjudgment and human error resulted in a terrible tragedy, although the Concordia incident was not nearly as horrible as that of the Titanic.  I've read a few books on the Titanic sinking, and every one sends chills through me.

Reading starts my day and also ends it.  I read a few blogs and read the newspaper (which takes all of 15 minutes in this town) in the morning.  In the evening, I read more blogs, read class material, and finish up the day with the latest book.

Reading has been a great escape for me over the years.  I still lose myself in books, just as I did as a kid.  Back then, it was a good way to avoid having to go to the dinner table.  It was a way to separate myself from my father when he was in his cups.  Now, it's a way to learn about people, adventures, and life experiences that I find fascinating.  Maybe there is still the escapism in books.  I don't really care.  All I know is that in the few hours a day that I spend reading, I come away a better person for it.

Here's a list of what's stacked on our bedside tables:

Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond between People and Dogs by Caroline Knapp. Ms. Knapp lost her parents, sobered up and adopted Lucille who provided not only companionship but love.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. An honest look at a genius who changed so much in technology.  A revolutionary of a different ilk.

Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz.  You can tell that we like reading about dogs.  Knowing how dogs view the world gives me hope that humans may one day be as civilized.

Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. Here is the question of this book: "What is reality?". Lots of information on physics for the non-theorist. That's good. String theory and its hypotheses of ten spatial dimensions and one time dimension, parallel universes, and time travel make me aware that "Beam me up, Scotty" may indeed be possible.

The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks.  Passion, sadness, love, rage, sex--lots to think about and to quiet the mind.

Greedy Bastards by Dylan Ratigan.  Bank bailouts, outsourcing, corporate greed, oil, health care--I need to read Rumi after reading this.  And also think about a parallel universe.  Che (see below) had a solution but not one that I like.

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs.  Another type of parallel universe that isn't pleasant. Heavy stuff about an adolescent who was passed from one dysfunctional family to another.

Blue Nights by Joan Didion.  Not as good as the Year of Magical Thinking, but another look at death and the fears of getting old.

Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson.  After 800 pages, I will know more about Cuban history, the revolution,  and the enigmatic Che than I want to, but social injustice is something that interests me.  I am ploughing through it, even though the sociopathic behavior and the mass murder of so many is hard to take.  Not a parallel universe to Steve Jobs. And not the solution to the Greedy Bastards.

I'm getting ready to head off to read for an hour.  It feels like a good night to read about dogs.  Here's hoping for insight.

What books are you reading? Give a little synopsis if you want. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Snow dreams

It poured rain today.  Sheets of wet came down as the rain bands from a big storm moved up the coast.  I went back and forth to the boat, with all foul weather gear on and stayed dry.  The sailing team at the college was having a race today so there were kids from various schools competing.  They were having a great time since the rain didn't matter much to those in the boats.

What was just liquid here became frozen further north.  I checked the radar and saw that my home town in Virginia is snowed in.  I felt a bit home sick, thinking back to waking up on those mornings when the world outside was white and so quiet.  I had an impulse to get in the car and drive north to that whiteness.  Instead,  I enjoyed the fantasy of a fire inside a warm house, knocking the chill off after having been out for a walk around the fields of the old home place.  One of those memories that comes back like it was yesterday.

It has been a mild winter in these parts.  And now the daffodils and hyacinths are starting to bloom.  The spring peepers will start their chorus as soon as there are enough warm days in a row to beckon them to come out of hibernation.  Their sound also brings up memories, but ones of a different sort.

For now, I am content with these last few days of winter.  Soon enough, we will be into March when the force of spring comes in.  These gray days of winter aren't depressing to me because they are infrequent in this part of the South.  They provide an opportunity for a lazy day of reading and napping.  Just for a few hours though,  it would be nice to have the raindrops that are hitting the roof turn into soft flakes of snow.  I can dream.

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home. ~Edith Sitwell

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday living

The old clipper sailboat that was built in Shanghai sold yesterday. She was bought by a nice fellow who was thrilled to get her. He is going to do a year-long restoration on her.

I know how thrilled he is because I am still so glad to have bought my boat a little over a year and a half ago. It was a happy day but also a bit daunting too. But any hesitation I had is gone. Since then I have gotten so much pleasure out of her, even though I spent money on her too. I don't begrudge any of that. I want to live a life that gives me and those I love pleasure.

The man who owned the old boat was a fellow who spent no money on her. He ran her aground four years ago and did nothing to check for damage. When she was pulled from the water yesterday, about 3 feet of her rudder was gone. He had told me there were a few "chips". In the final deal, he let the boat go at a much reduced price because of the rudder damage. He did not gain anything from his inaction or from not being forthcoming. Frankly, I was embarrassed to have told the buyer that the boat was in good shape when there was such a flaw.

I take care of the things that I have. My father taught me to treat things well and to not expect replacements. I am mindful of the value of what I have. Plus, I like fixing things myself--a DIY mentality. And if I can't fix something, I pay someone who will.

There are all kinds of people in this world. I don't have much respect for ones who hide and conceal things from others. Eventually, we all are found out for the wrongs that we do. What goes around does eventually come around.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


It was a good day yesterday spent taking an old classic sailboat down the coast to a boat yard for surveying.  The potential buyer is coming in today.  Hopefully, the old boat will have a new owner and be restored back to her former glory.  She is a gem that was custom built in 1978 at the Cheoy Lee yard in Shanghai for a former Navy Captain and his wife.  She was sailed throughout the Pacific and then over to the East coast where she was owned by a gentleman who can no longer give her the TLC that she needs.  Yesterday, she moved like a dream, and we all enjoyed feeling the sturdiness of this boat as she was underway.

Last night, calls of confusion came in from my wife's mom.  She was saying that there had been a party and all her china was broken, she hadn't had anything to eat all day, and no one was home.  Jessica, the caregiver, called to tell us that Mom was having a bad day.  Some days she is perfectly lucid and others days she isn't.

An older friend told my wife that some caregivers abuse their patients, slamming them into wheelchairs and slapping them.  We know that Jessica and Brad are great people and treat Mom with love.  And we stop by often to see her.  I suppose that there are those who just reach the end of their rope with taking care of others, whether it's the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled,  or low bottom alcoholics.  We are supposed to have compassion, but the human psyche can only take so much stress.

Sadly, the number of people who have caregiver burnout is increasing as more caregivers take on the job without getting the help they need, or try to do more than they are able to--physically or financially.  Those who are burned out experience fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression which sometimes can result in wanting to hurt those for whom they are caring.

I think that living with active alcoholism has the effect of burnout.  All the positivity of a life can become filled with anger and frustration.  Feeling that there is no one to turn to, no one to share the secret with can create such isolation that life seems hardly worth living.  And the alcoholic is likely feeling the same way--isolated, ashamed, lonely, desperate, filled with loathing.  More than one person gets lost to the disease when there is no respite from it.

We all need breaks from whatever stressful activity we are doing.  I needed it when I was working so I would take vacation days.  We give the caregivers a break by either staying there ourselves or bringing in temporary help.  And I give myself a respite now and then for no particular reason by spending a shining day on the water on an old boat.  Just keeping things in balance. It really helps.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Loving you

“The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.” ~ Rumi

This is a day for the romantics.  I'm one of those. Last night, I was in the card store,  and there were about a dozen of us looking at cards.  Some picked a card right away. Others, like me, were looking for something that resonated, something that captured a feeling.  I remember the little Valentine cards from elementary school.  I still have some of them that were saved.  They are precious reminders that someone took the time to say something nice to another.

It's a sad fact that this day is filled with unfulfilled expectations.  Nothing sends the message "You are nothing if you are not part of a couple" quite like all the commercialism surrounding Valentines Day.  Many out there will feel more alone and unloved than ever because there is no one "special" in their life.  I like to think that every day is a chance to love and be loved.  It isn't about today because much of this is just hype.  It's about changing my mind to be loving and to act on that.

No matter who you are,  you are worthy of being loved.  I realize that every moment I may not feel lovable, but I know that those are just passing feelings.  And they are a replay of the old tapes of the past.  I also don't have to go out seeking love.  I can just be who I am, offer up a smile, a wave, a nod to others. Amazing how that can chase the negative thinking away.

To reject that message of feeling unloved, I can turn it into thinking about what I can do to brighten someone else's day.   One of the things that we did together today was to exchange our cards, tell each other of our love, have a nice brunch, and go visit the FIL.  I also helped make some cookies for the meeting tonight.  The ladies like it when I bring them cookies.  And the hugs and smiles are nice to receive.  Maybe I will pick up a pack of those juvenile cards and give each of the members one of them.  I'm okay with being silly.

Today, is a really good excuse to remember the practice of letting the people in my life know that they are special to me.  It helps me to be positive and not to think about what I might be missing, but to think of who I have in my life that I love.

So on this day,  I am celebrating the love that is within me and has been there all along.  I don't need a special day to remind others that I love them.  I can do that every day. We have this habit of telling each other several times a day "I love you." One never knows what can happen.  As Joan Didion wrote: "Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant." I don't go to bed angry anymore.  She is the love of my life.  I am grateful that we had a chance to keep loving each other.  That is the miracle of today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Doing life

I seem to be doing life more and more without worry or fear.  It is a good feeling.  There are more days of utter contentment, even in the midst of those circumstances that baffle me and used to make me feel estranged from myself.

I like that I am doing life without the goal of trying to please others.  The people pleasing behavior is one of those things that children of alcoholics know how to do.  It never worked, and I would always be filled with resentment when my "good" deeds would go unnoticed or be glossed over.

I guess that it's not unusual to want to be liked or to please the people that we love or who are important to us.  But it seems that alcoholism has a way of warping how much pleasing I did.  Being ill at ease with who I was from the time I can remember,  I would try hard to fit in.  But I never could quite achieve a feeling of oneness with others.  Sure, there were moments of having a sense of belonging.  But overall, there was a feeling of not being a part of.

I hear these words said in so many meetings--"I didn't fit in", "I felt different", "I didn't belong".  And these are said by alcoholics and Al-Anons.  I recently heard that those who grow up around alcoholism don't have a data base to learn how to "do life" like other children do.  For many, growing up around alcoholism is filled with anxiety and tension.  The child doesn't learn to be a child because the moments of being carefree are short lived.  Not knowing what is going to happen next takes away the ability to relax.

I can remember times in my adult life where I did not feel fully present.  Those are familiar feelings from the past in which I was just going through the motions of pretending to be a child, pretending to like what was going on, pretending to feel comfortable, pretending to do life.

I understand this quote from Dr. Jan Woititz because it is what I have often felt:

"It is hard for adult children of alcoholics to believe that they can be accepted because of who they are and that the acceptance does not have to be earned. Feeling different and somewhat isolated is part of your makeup."

Getting comfortable in my own skin is part of recovery.  I know that I have come a long way because I am not striving to fit in with every situation, and I'm not judging myself harshly for it.

I now like to do things for others without expecting anything in return.  I now know that my friendship and love is enough. I don't have to give gifts all the time or take people places or do any of the other things that I would do whether I really wanted to or not.  I can do what feels okay to me, without strings attached.

Doing life now is about ease, not strife.  It's about being authentic and not pretending, not worrying about what others think, not looking for others to fill the hole or patch me up.  I've found my childhood as an adult.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cold and windy days

This late night blogging is difficult.  I find that by the end of the day, I'm fairly non-sensical.  Contributing to my nonsense is the cold and wind that permeated everything today, including every layer that I had on.  What can I say--I am a southerner which means that temperatures in the 20's are cold to me.  With the 35 knot breeze we had last night and this morning, it was pretty miserable to be outside or on the water.

I do have some photos from the oyster roast last night.  We braved the chill and had a great time.  There were a few hardy kids from Asheville who decided to spend the night in tents.  It looked like an Occupy movement in the back yard.

Anyway, here are some of the photos from the evening. The first few are indicative of the host's sense of humor. This is a great family with a lot of warmth and creativity. I am amazed at the great things they do--going to LEAF (a music festival in NC) every year, keeping a traveling journal in which strangers are asked to write their thoughts, painting, playing in a band, and working as a carpenter.  I am attracted to this kind of a family--open minded, clever, intellectual, and talented.  The grown kids are wonderful to be around.  And for the party,  he and his kids decided to decorate the portable toilet with some art work and an eery green light.  It was called a portal in time--LOL.  And it was one of the only places to get out of the wind.  

The portalet was decorated with art work
for the party
It was declared a portal to the future
And there was a manifesto about the
portalet time machine--remember to keep
arms and legs out of the portal hole!
G., the host, getting ready to explode the Christmas tree
The flaming tree signifies the official end of Christmas 
Eating some of the savory mollusks
Trying to stay warm!
Two old friends jamming. Back in the day, we used to crank it out. 
Lots of good music being played but the fingers got cold!
I have nothing else worthwhile to share.  I had a good weekend.  And tonight, we are warm and sitting in front of a fire.  Nothing but contentment here at the moment.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Busy time

I've had a busy but good couple of days. Much of the time I was cooking! I made a pot of chili for the oyster roast that we go to this afternoon. This roast is hosted by some good friends who are artists and musicians. All kinds of instruments get played and it turns into a super jam session. It is always a good time because the guests are eclectic.

I also made some spaghetti sauce for the sailing club meeting on Thursday night. The sauce was voted as being the best there which was great. I used those spicy Italian sausages which really added to the flavor. I am finding cooking to be relaxing and have become more experimental with recipes and seasonings. It'a good to not treat cooking as a chemistry experiment but to ad lib and have fun with it.

My wife came back from receiving her award and was renourished by seeing old colleagues. She was given a standing ovation by over a hundred scientists who recognized her research. That could not have come at a better time. Just a little bump to the self- esteem meter does wonders.

I found a great horned owl yesterday that was sick. I saw it sitting on the ground in the morning which was unusual. Later in the day the owl was lying on the ground. I saw that it was alive but very weak. I carried it to the Birds of Prey center, but it was too sick to survive. What an incredibly beautiful animal! I had not seen one up close.

A staff member told me that the owl was emaciated. The great horned owl mates for life and starvation can occur if its mate dies. The animal kingdom is filled with those who have a pair-bond. I thought about that yesterday afternoon when my mother-in-law came to visit her husband. The two of them were sitting side by side in wheel chairs eating ice cream and cookies, smiling at each other, and talking. All is good with them at the moment. Two old people still together after so many years--when the moments are good, I can forget the painful times, as apparently they do also.

The weather is windy today with a northerly bite to it--perfect weather for being near a bonfire, roasting and eating oysters. So much promise is in this day. I'm going to treasure that.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Keeping my mouth shut

I went to visit my father-in-law yesterday.  He was confused,  not making much sense when I was talking with him.  Until yesterday, all his days in the nursing home had been good.  He had walked around the halls, gone to the physical rehab gym, read magazines, and talked with the staff.  Yesterday, he wasn't coherent and was in bed.

The confusion may be relating to the levels of ammonia building up in his brain.  So he is being given lactulose to try and remedy that condition.  Cirrhosis of the liver inhibits removal of ammonia, a byproduct of protein breakdown, which then builds up and causes confusion.

My wife has not gone to see her father yet.  She says that she simply isn't ready to see him.   Today she flew to DC to pick up a lifetime achievement award for her scientific work.  I talked to her a few minutes ago, and she said that it was a nice ceremony.  I know that she needed this break for just a couple of days to see colleagues, friends, and former students.  She also said that she wants to see her dad when she gets back.  I think that will be a good idea. 

I know that each of us has to deal with uncomfortable situations in our own time.  I know that I want her to visit her dad.  But I won't tell her what to do.   I would like for her to have a sponsor.  I feel strongly that having a sponsor is important in recovery.  But how she works her program is not my business. 

It's good that I have learned to keep my mouth shut, even when sometimes I have to bite my tongue hard.  It is so tempting to direct the lives of others. Allowing her to make the choices that she wants without interference from me keeps us on good terms with each other.  It allows her to figure out what works without my interference.  And that makes life a lot easier. 

"Life is fraught with opportunities to keep your mouth shut". ~Winston S. Churchill

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dogs and sea glass

We had a nice weekend out on the boat.  The weather was warm but breezy.  It's unusual to have temperatures in the mid to upper 60's in February.  Even the plants are befuddled because the azaleas and the tulip magnolias are already blooming.  The hyacinths and tulips are coming up and budding.  Crazy El Nino weather this winter.

This weekend we took our newest boat dog, Amelia, out with us.  She is the daughter of our old girl that recently died.  Amelia is an English Labrador who seems to enjoy getting in the dinghy and going to shore.  Getting back in the dinghy for the return trip was not her favorite thing, generally resulting in my having to coax her to get close enough so that I could lift her into the boat.  She weighs about 80 pounds and would go limp when it was time to transfer her from the dinghy to the boat.  And that lifting was upward!  Whew, what a workout.   It may take several more trips before she gets the hang of it.  I am posting this photo next to her sleeping berth so that she will get the idea of what some dogs do.  Maybe this handsome Newfoundland will be her hero!

It was surely good to have some time to ourselves.  Having cheese and crackers for a snack, fixing pancakes on Sunday morning, flounder and Spanish rice for dinner on Friday evening--reminders of having good food after walking the beach for much of the day.  We found several nice shark's teeth to add to the collection and a beautiful piece of aqua sea glass.  I would like to have the sea glass made into a necklace for my wife.  Here is what I think would be creative and attractive:

Maybe it is something that I can create myself from the wave-worn glass that we find on the beach.  She is much more of an aquamarine spirit, than that depicted by a shark's tooth wrapped in silver.  The color of the sea becomes her, wrapped with thin strands of silver.  

Our weekend, however brief, brings to mind a poem by the sad but brilliant Sylvia Plath. 

Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea

Cold and final, the imagination
Shuts down its fabled summer house;
Blue views are boarded up; our sweet vacation
Dwindles in the hour-glass.

Thoughts that found a maze of mermaid hair
Tangling in the tide's green fall
Now fold their wings like bats and disappear
Into the attic of the skull.

We are not what we might be; what we are
Outlaws all extrapolation
Beyond the interval of now and here:
White whales are gone with the white ocean.

A lone beachcomber squats among the wrack
Of kaleidoscope shells
Probing fractured Venus with a stick
Under a tent of taunting gulls.

No sea-change decks the sunken shank of bone
That chucks in backtrack of the wave;
Though the mind like an oyster labors on and on,
A grain of sand is all we have.

Water will run by; the actual sun
Will scrupulously rise and set;
No little man lives in the exacting moon
And that is that, is that, is that.

And that for tonight is that.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

More was revealed

When a friend went to visit my father-in-law yesterday, I met him at the nursing home. I had more clothes to drop off and some laundry to pick up. He took those things back to Pop. They talked for a few minutes. When he came back to the nurses' station, he said, "Hey man, he seems to be in a good mood so what if I ask him if he wants to see you?". He came out nodding yes.

When I went in the room, Pop smiled at me and asked how I was doing. Well, I sat down next to him and told him how sorry I was for my actions the other night. I told him that I hoped we could still be part of each other's lives. When he said that things happen sometimes and all is okay now, I felt such relief.
It was one of those moments when a great weight is lifted. It is like the soul lets out a deep sigh.

So we had a good visit. My friend, D., likes history so Pop told him stories about the naval war in the Pacific. The nurses said that they liked Pop and thought that he was "sweet". What a difference a few days made.

When I called my wife, she cried. She did not want to be estranged from her dad. I realize that all of this is one day at a time, but I do think that by understanding more about his disease, I am better prepared for any change in mood. He is on a mood stabilizer which helps him, but I can't help but think that other things factored in. My friend D. who has been a recovering alcoholic for 21 years can be witty, charming and disarming. The Higher Power provided a positive energy and opportunity. I know that things can change, but I said what I wanted to say to him with love and no anger.

We left on the boat early this morning to catch the tide. So far, we have walked on the beach, read and slept. It has been a good day. Tomorrow evening, we will head back and C. will visit her dad. Her mom is visiting tomorrow afternoon. For the moment, things seem positive and possible.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Waste in worry

A day full of errands and meetings has me tired this evening.  I went to the noon meeting, met my local sponsor for lunch, worked out doing interval training, got clothes to the nursing home, had a sailing club meeting tonight and am finally getting a few moments of quiet.

Tomorrow we are going on the boat for the weekend.  A good friend of mine has offered to visit the father-in-law at the nursing home and chat with him.  He still does not want to see either me or his daughter.  But it isn't right for him to be left all alone in a strange new place.  This friend likes to listen to stories about the war, and he is patient.  He thought that it would be good for him to visit the old man and keep an eye on him, take him some snacks and just chat.

I am ready for some "blank" time in which I listen to the waves hitting the hull and feel the gentle rocking of the boat, not thinking of anything really.  The past week has been a trying one.  I am looking forward to escaping for a few days.  It's amazing how easy it is to get an attitude adjustment by being on the boat.

Today's meeting topic was on worry.  God knows I have done my share of that.  The worry was more like an anxiety that truly was a symptom of just how unmanageable my life was.

I inherited the worry gene from my parents who were telling me all kinds of things to watch out for--mostly people who were going to screw me in some way.  So much negativism creates anxiety.

I can remember worrying about money, grades, relationships, parents, work projects, animals--so much time spent worrying about things that I really had no control over.  I would put together lists of things to get done and then worry that the lists weren't inclusive enough.  It was sheer insanity.

Some time before coming into Al-Anon, when I was at my worst in terms of unhappiness,  I quit caring about the lists and worrying about what might happen in the future.  I didn't know about the idea of One Day at A Time then.  But I had gotten to the point that I didn't much care what happened today or tomorrow.

Not I know that worrying doesn't help anything go smoothly or get better.  It doesn't help me get things done or have a better day.  In fact, it pretty much ruins the day.  I can't explain the change in me, other than to say that I have been able to let go of outcomes and have come to a place of accepting what happens.  And somehow that is enough to switch off the worry gene most of the time.

I'm going to keep the worry at bay for the rest of this day.  I'm too tired to be worried about anything.  Tomorrow isn't here yet.  Who knows what it will bring?  I'm not going to worry about it.

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.  ~Leo Buscaglia

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What money can't buy

Today, my father-in-law is supposed to be discharged from the hospital.  He is going to a nursing home where he will have a private room.  None of us, including the doctors and social worker, think that he should come home.  This is reality, but it is still difficult.

Yesterday, we put together clothes for him.  The clothes included the new ones that he got for Christmas.  It was just a little over a month ago that he was here, opening his presents, having a good meal, and sharing Christmas with us.  He seemed happy.  We added his new robe to the pile of clothes--the one that he got for his birthday on January 15.  Something happened between the time we gave him these things and now.

I talked to a lady after the meeting last night.  She said that her father went crazy after recent surgery, hitting his son, spitting on her, screaming and throwing things.  He is now in restraints and is wearing a face mask at a local hospital.  She said, "This isn't my dad. What happened?".  I don't know really.  What I think is that parts of the brain are dying, and the circuitry that is left isn't really enough to sustain what used to be a sociable person.

I have learned that money talks in all of this. It is all about money.  The nursing home manager wanted to know whether there was enough money for him to have a private room and for his wife to have her 24 hour a day caregivers at home.  Is this something that is any of her business?  I don't know.  I simply said "Yes.".  She was sure there was a great room for him then.

The bank manager was suspicious of my wife when she went to inquire about how much her dad had withdrawn when he escaped with the car the other afternoon.  She was told that he did not want her to have access to any of his accounts.  C. said she felt like a criminal but bravely produced the durable POA.  The bank manager then asked her a lot of questions about what happened and how he seemed so nice the other afternoon, just before he came home and went crazy.  None of her business, but C. answered as best she could: "I don't know really. He just went berserk. Maybe dementia or Alzheimer's. We don't know."

We left the bank knowing that we had to find the money he withdrew and deposit it back in the bank.  Eventually, we found it--a fat stack of $100 dollar bills.  What was he planning to do with it?  It was enough to pay for one month in the nursing home or go on a nice cruise to the Mediterranean.  I don't know.

There is so much that we don't know right now.  What we do know is that he will be in a safe place, have a nice room, be well taken care of, have clothes and food.  But he won't be with his family.  Money can't buy that.