About blessedbebeth - Middlescapes.com

Social worker, educator, writer, and workshop presenter for close to 30 years (23 in Canada) and full time caregiver to my 91 year old WWII veteran mom.

Sparkle Ears

40594-diamonds-blue-diamonds-wallpaperYesterday, after making a Sunday’s worth of sandwiches, I excitedly drove to Nordstrom’s Rack to buy $9.97 worth of sparkle for my ears. I was happy. Truly happy. First, it was a spectacularly sunny day, work was over for the day, and had $10.00 cash in my hand. I laughed out loud as I snatched the cubic zirconia studs from the rack. Taking my place in line, I contemplated the journey that brought me to that savored moment.

A few months ago, in an effort to further simplify my life and yet again, reduce monthly expenses I cut my hair, short. From that moment to this one, I have often thought, that the silver that has been added as a result of my mother’s death would go well with a pair of diamond studs. In the intervening weeks I have belittled myself many times for entertaining such a frivolous notion in the face of what occasionally is experienced as never ending financial challenge.

Then one morning, while re-reading the book of Ruth I had an epiphany that led to a course correction of rippling magnitude. Considering all the many, many unexpected, unearned miracles and treasures that have come into my life in the last several months is it really so far out of reach to think that the cubic zircons of myself won’t eventually become diamonds?

Clutching my bright future tightly in my hand, I suddenly became aware that a number of people in line were complaining. LOUDLY – about the wait. Couldn’t they feel how blessed we were to be there? Weren’t they too experiencing the sweetness of acquisition? I thought of at least 174 people who would have gladly traded their places for ours.

Arriving home, I immediately put on those earrings then proceeded to laugh at myself, because they didn’t really look at all like diamonds. Then again, they weren’t pretending to be. I left them in and went about the rest of my day. I moved the last of the fire wood to the back fence and swept the porch to make way for the worn lawn chairs that have sat out there each of the years I cared for my mom.

Later, while washing my hands in the bathroom, I happened to glance at myself in the mirror. Not only were my eyes burning brightly, more importantly, they had finally become part of a familiar face.

I may not be totally myself yet, but at least my twinkle has returned.

Thread of Life

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From one end to the other, a single continuous strand. Deliciously delicate. Colorful and bright. Our job is to see it through without breaking it. At times, a breeze to follow, the pattern recognizable and clear. At others, an indecipherable tangle, with stops, starts, re-takes, and perhaps seemingly endless. Occasionally, we may become so confused, that it hardly seems worth the effort required to continue the project.

By times, entanglements can appear so limiting, that they feel hopelessly knotted or stuck. In these moments, the greatest of ease, loosening, lightness, and peace may be required to follow the thread where it leads. Moment by moment and breath by breath we may continue to work our way through some of the more challenging jumbles and snarls.

Incredibly long or way too short. However we arrive or depart. The only certainty – two finite points.

May the great divine mystery of your creation reveal itself to you – for the truly magnificent work of art that it is.

One Meter, Stitch, Sandwich, Word, Compassion … at a Time

IMG_1066Like many people, I have spent a good deal of life setting goals. Some  have been easily achieved and others, despite high expectations have fallen by the wayside.

Perfectionist all or nothing thinking, has often led to my biggest setbacks and disappointments. Expectations that do not include room for humanity and beliefs that mis-takes can’t become re-takes have created times of looping back again and again through the same issues.

Many of us set unbelievably high expectations – saying we will never eat desert again or miss running a single day  – with no exceptions. The first time we do – because life intervenes, every step taken to the good of our goal may go out the window.

This is not to say we shouldn’t set our sights high, or that some people don’t achieve incredibly super human standards it is just to consider a both and approach that allows room for learning rather than just powering through at the cost of our humanity.

If caring for mom has taught me anything, it is to honor the pace and reality of life. This is by far the most challenging of all lessons to date. How do we continue to make progress towards our dreams or goals, while staying true to ourselves, honoring our responsibilities, and where we are in the moment?

As of last night I have logged 125,340m, or 77.88 miles so far in the Virtual Challenge. There are people in the challenge, and on my team that have already completed 4 or 5 times that amount. AND for me I see my meters as a HUGE victory.

There are women in my knitting group, who complete an entire project every week, while I continue to rip back, again and again the scallop edge of my shawl. I thought by now it would be finished and I would be posting a picture of it here. Yet row by row it still grows and it is beautiful.

Everyday, I go to work and make the same or similar sandwiches 50 – 60 per day. The next day I start again, and some days I even have to throw away the ones I made the day before. It doesn’t matter. I put my heart and soul into them by considering them works of art some how in service to the greater good.

All of these numbers – meters, sandwiches, knitted projects, goals are created one at a time. Most of us have the strength and resiliency to row one single meter, make one sandwich, knit one stitch or whatever and that is the success on which we must build. May you see this truth for the strength that it is, and experience small happy endings many times in your day.

Erging My Way Back to Life

IMG_1062It is clearly January, and as many of you know that means the Concept2 January World Virtual Rowing Challenge is underway. This is my fourth year erging for Ariel Toy, under the watchful eye of our Team Captain Bob Reichart. It is a fiercely competitive team made up of heroic warriors, including a US Olympian, US Military personnel, and most of the Detroit Boat Club.

Last year, I barely scraped by to exceed the minimum requirement of 100,000 meters in 31 days due to exponentially expanded caregiver demands. This year brings an entirely new challenge and even though my overall meters may not be as high as in years past, it is a triumph of infinite proportions to even have re-upped for the event.

You see each of the years that I have participated mom has served as my cheerleader, coach, and witness. Walks with Molly punctuated long hours out on the porch in all kinds of conditions. So I knew this would be tough. I did my best to prepare.

For starters, I moved my rowing machine off the frozen tundra of the porch and into the den. Next, there was the issue of having not erged much since early last spring. I have been pretty sedentary over the last few months of intense grief. So last month I started doing 10 minutes per day. Which doesn’t sound like much but took tremendous courage. The first three times, there were long periods of sobbing after getting off the machine.

Facing ‘the erg’ on January first, I planned for 20 thousand and managed 12. It was humbling, to say the least. I had to keep stopping every few hundred meters for water, and to adjust my feet which were pretty sore from work. Needless to say my total meters for the day, although a decent showing, took what felt like forever to complete. The second day I tried to recapture the joy of beginners mind – I put on music and did a shorter stint. The third day I was pissed off and feeling extremely sorry for myself. And then something happened….

I began to remember how much I like the motion, and the feeling of strong competence as my legs push back and my arms follow through. I thought about how at one time my erg felt like my best friend and the anchor that helped me stay and take care of my mom.

With each successive day the image of myself once again gliding across the water with the loons and swans of Lake Cochichuate in the predawn darkness has grown stronger. As of today, at 54,193m I stand at number twenty of forty-nine team members, while Ariel Toy currently runs ninth, out of two hundred eighty-two teams. There is still a long long way to go.

All I know is there is a new confidence beginning to grow. I am still here, altered though I may be. I will survive. I have purpose and direction.

My goal for this month is simply to row each of the thirty one days, and to finish strong. It is clearly a year when moderation will be key to making it through.

Each month a new goal and another step back to living. Next month is LICSW test prep class. In the meantime I continue to make sandwiches, knit daily, dream of spring, and erg. And that ain’t bad all things considered.

Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Mini Series

IMG_1060And the Award goes to ….

Freeba, the Bear. The crowd erupts with cheering until an expectant hush falls, as the winner, dressed in Marcia Bear Born, makes her way regally to the microphone.

“There are so many humans who deserve this award far more than me. At the same time, it is an honor to finally be recognized and acknowledged for my work. It was a grueling role absorbing so many tears and fears through dark nights, all the while remaining silent about the miracle I knew would soon arrive. I spent years preparing for it with single-minded focus, and it is exhilarating to know I have fulfilled my life’s purpose.”

When asked about her next adventure, the divine Ms. F replied thoughtfully, “Dying may sometimes be difficult, but REALLY living – now that is a challenge. I am certain something wonderful will come along. Until then I am going to remain true to my calling of being a stand in for whomever Beth needs to fully embrace herself and life.”

Blessings to you all for a joyful, peace filled, and healthy New Year.

Behold – the Miracle of a Christmas

IMG_1053I sit in my knitting spot, the comfy chair that used to be my mom’s. Snow flakes fall softly, the wind chime sounds delicately clear, and the wood stove punctuates this story with crackles and pops. The curious assortment of shipping boxes that beckoned from beneath my tree have been opened, their treasures revealed and their paper guardians cleared away.

IMG_1051From the outside looking in, it appears to be a rather ordinary day, except for the fact that I am not making sandwiches AND sporting a fairly daring ensemble of navy tights, red slippers, a knee length striped nightie, and my hot pink Underarmour sweatshirt.

There is a hint of magic hanging in the air. A tinge of excitement hums beneath the surface, creating a space to reflect on all the things that make life wealthy beyond measure.

Last night, I spent a few delightful hours with my special friends Patrick, Tim and their amazing family. As all good celebrations do, this one was made of a beautiful setting, good food, laughter, singing, merriment, stimulating conversation and love. What struck me though, besides my utter happiness in all of it, was how life leads us exactly where we are meant to be.

It is true, I have been fairly lost and a tad pathetic, since mom’s departure. I have also discovered things about myself I never knew, simply by virtue of being a caregiver who often put her needs above my own. Dawning now behind the sadness of “the first holiday season without mom”, comes the realization that she has bestowed upon  me with her passing, a great and miraculous gift.

It has been both terrifying and exhilarating to face the permanence of death and my mortality without her as a buffer. I have gone to bed many nights cold and shaken to my core by this ‘alone’ knowing. Now strangely, I feel liberated from something I can’t as yet name.

I am grateful for beloveds, friends, and family who have been witness to the despair of this past few months up close and personal, in all it’s full blown un-gracefulness – perhaps at times with concern or consternation. I am grateful for my beautiful home, resiliency, the slower pace of winter and the great abundance of love in my life.

Later today I am joining my wonderful neighbors to share Christmas dinner. I know we will have a joy filled time sitting around what used to be mom’s dining room table and sharing a fabulous meal.

Thank you mom, for launching me into the future with so much to be thankful for in my life.

And to all of you, may blessings of great joy and peace find a way to warm your day.

Knitting for Sandwiches

Labors of Love

The week began with a trickle of vitality.  It created the sensation that begins to approximate coming closer to myself. I took this as a good sign and pushed ahead to complete two luxurious scarves that were mailed off to Detroit on Wednesday. In between ignoring pain by spending countless knitting hours by the fire I made many many sandwiches. The Panini’s and specialty sandwiches seem to be the most popular. At least my co-workers seem to enjoy them.

Some of my best customers

My dept. manager Dan

This makes Dan my dept. manager pretty happy, and that is a good thing.

I came out of work one day to snow on my car and while brushing it off, burst into tears at the discovery that another season has begun with Mom and Molly still gone. I figured it is time to face that they are not coming back. So on my way home I picked up a small Christmas tree.

The bright lights remind me of the continuity and renewal of life. It is hard to be down when there is so much color glowing in a corner, and it was also wonderful unwrapping ornaments not seen during the years of caring for mom.IMG_1017

Saturday was the monthly service in South Natick with my Natick Praying Indians family. Afterwards many of us gathered for a holiday feast. There was lots of good food, and laughter.

Earlier that day I had spent several hours cooking wonderful dishes and plating them on mom’s serving pieces. My mom, in fact both my parents, were wonderful at entertaining. I felt guided by her in some small measure while selecting the table linens, dishes, and decor. She may not have been able to relate to Native Regalia or Christmas trees but she sure knew what to consider in making a good party, and she taught me well.

Chief Caring Hands and her family had a wonderful time and it was great to feel the house filled with the possibility of friendship.

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Herb made a beautiful cake to celebrate both Peter and Harry’s birthdays. The kids had a great time helping to blow out the candles.

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There were wonderful conversations flowing easily around the room as we all learned more about each other than we knew before.

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M'lkebet, Medicine Deer, and Strong Bull

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By the time the evening ended it with Herb, Kim and Hannah helping with clean-up, it was way past my bedtime. Oddly, although exhausted, I also felt full and complete in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time.

Getting into bed warmed by the after glow of good food, thought provoking conversation, and laughter, I was smiling. I couldn’t help but think about mom and how she unknowingly orchestrated my introduction to the very people who monthly, have become so pivotal to my recovery.

Though things are still difficult, there are signs that life is slowly but surely re-asserting itself and that my friends is a HUGE relief. This knowing makes it possible to go on making sandwiches for six hours a day with one fifteen minute break, and working my knitting therapy the rest of the time. I may not have the capacity to share too much these days, but believe me, there is plenty good goin’ on.

Severe Weather Alert

By night I am tossed by staggering swells of grief in the face of flashbacks of my mothers last days and the feeling of Molly’s head tucked against my tummy as she breathed her last breath. By day I am shredded by gusts of pain, left over feet vs car incident this past summer. Yet I remain. I refuse to be swept away. A tad battered, and somewhat bruised, I am DETERMINED to ride out these waves. Like all storms at sea this will either dissipate or make landfall eventually and all will be calm again.

I wrote that last week, shut down my computer and turned away from all of you who support, love, and read my blog. I apologize, but I simply didn’t feel I could pour negativity over all who themselves are facing so much. This week things are better.

I lash myself to the mast with spinach eggs, way too much coffee, and a little makeup to approximate an outward appearance of normal vitality. Driving through the dark I sing along with Donald Lawrence’s, Go Get Your Life Back, an oldie but much needed goodie. While recounting my blessings one by one, (of which there are MANY) I remember to send love to all the places and situations I could be living that would be so much worse. I can do this.

Driving into the employee parking lot, while recognizing the permanence and completeness of death, I access memories of past success, and methods of coping. I remind myself that my body will adjust, and eventually the physical pain will subside. After all isn’t cooking, cleaning, and service how I have made my life for the past few years? I can do this.

Before punching the time-clock, I face the mirror to position my glasses, apron, and hat. Gazing into red rimmed eyes I repeat   – “You can do this and you will. It is only six hours. This is a good job, working with wonderful people, and you like making sandwiches.” Resolutely walking through the friendly packaging of the Nature’s Promise aisle on the way to my station I am happy to have a purpose for the day.

Who knew that sandwich making was so complex? It is wonderful to be busy and I mean BUSY from the moment I step to my post until check out time. It is great concentrating on freshness, quality, presentation, sales, and the finesse of creating edible works of art from various breads, meats, cheeses, produce, and condiments. I do take great pride when one of my Buffalo Chicken or Little Italy Panini’s flies off the shelf.

Returning home, it has been all I can do to rebuild the fire, and sit knitting while recovering from liver damaging amounts of ibuprofen. The good news is I have finished three exquisite scarves now, which have gone a long way to coax my quaking spirit back towards bravery. On the other hand I have neglected you, and for that I apologize.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for caring and for sticking by me through this challenging time. Blessings and peace to all of you. I hope next week will be better. Much love.

That’s the Way – uh huh, uh huh – I slice it ….

Disco Momma 1975

My apologies to KC and the Sunshine Band, but this is what continues to roll around in my head as I contemplate the deli department. I am fascinated by the idea that there may be a connection between my 1975 disco dazed platform shoe wearing self and my latest persona of Deli woman, even though I have no idea what it may be.

It seems fairly obvious that thinking about safe food handling, store protocols, and the infinite nuances of Boar’s Head product varieties leaves little room for either grief or disco. Perhaps this is a good thing on both counts.

I look in the mirror these days and barely recognize the woman I see. I am not talking about the process of aging, although it does seem to have accelerated this past year. I am speaking of the ongoing and continuing process of transformation that plays out on my face as I explore living for the first time in well over 20 years in an environment without a single live being, human or four-legged breathing along with me.

Do I bear a striking or even faded resemblance to the woman in all the mirrors that have come before? Who was the caregiver, Pilates devotee, rower, co-worker, mom, photographing, beading, adventurous, beach combing, disco mamma passionate Beth? Where do these parts of me now reside? Is it possible to repurpose the qualities that contributed to each of those roles? Is there a way to coax at least some of them back; nuanced now with added depth of textures and flavors that the recent years have brought?

There are times when the silence of my home is peaceful and welcoming. It is luxurious to get up in the middle of a sleepless night to bake, knit, do laundry, or listen to music without having to consider waking anyone. There is joy in coming home tired from work and eating a handful of pretzels on the couch instead of cooking dinner. And yet…

I am finding my way, even through the crying that accompanies, stacking the last cord of wood, hearing the heartbeat of the drum during the Micmac Honor Song at church, Molly’s collar falling out of the closet as I reach for my hat, or coming home from work in so much pain that I can not move.

I begin to contemplate the honor in food preparation and service from a new angle.  I look forward to a day, when there may be another place mat or place mats joining mine on the kitchen table as I create an elaborately luxurious meal to share.

After all, “That’s the Way… Uh Huh Uh Huh, … I slice it.”

Damsels in Distress – A Dime a Dozen

Bit of a glitch this week finding time off from anxiety about the election outcome, impending storms, and both unpaid bills/taxes, to post something inspiring. Just keeping it real dear readers, for while gratitude for each little victory continues to run high, discouragement is nipping at my heels.

Taking care of other people in is a great job, and one that I enjoy tremendously. At the same time, unfortunately, they cancel dates or change schedules with regularity, making it very tough to pay bills, or schedule other life necessities with any predictable consistency.

In an effort to reinstate a sense of control over my life, and refusing to take on the role of ‘Damsel in Distress’ – I will be training this coming Saturday for my latest position at the Deli counter at a new Stop & Shop in our community. It is honest work for which I am grateful, and I am looking forward to being in a stimulating environment learning new things.

I went to orientation last night in the height of the wintry storm, and wondered often what I was doing in a room with six other trainees who ranged in age from 15 – 18 listening to a talk about customer service. As time went on though, I enjoyed being focused on things like safe food handling, and store protocols. I even managed to get a few rows of my latest knitting project done on my break!

My new job is only six miles from home, and although not really a good color for me, I like the idea of my cheery new uniform, (gold jersey, black apron, matching ball cap and slip free shoes). The fact that I won’t need to buy clothes is a bonus.

Oh, and have you ever looked at images for damsels in distress? I was surprised to find that the overwhelming majority of them have to do with bondage and pornography. What’s up with that?

And to all our Veteran’s past, present, and future, we thank you for your service.

Here’s praying as I head ‘off to a good start’, opening to the next version of this strong resilient woman. Blessed be.