01 March 2015

The Green Mile...



"And I think about all of us, walking our own 'Green Mile'...Sometimes, the 'Green Mile' seems so long..."




To my closest confidants, I sometimes admit to feeling extreme anxiety when I first wake up each morning. I'm afraid of what I'll find. My parents are 90 and 91 and dependent on me for almost everything.

When I was a little girl, I used to live in a state of extreme fear because my Mom and Dad were a good ten years older than my classmates parents. My Mom had me at the age of 35 which, isn't anything close to rare, but certainly qualified them as older than the average age of most of the other parents I knew. I would lie in bed at night, scared that my Mom and Dad would die much sooner than most of those other parents of my classmates and this was a particular fear after 1973, following the sudden, unexpected death of my 23 year old sister, Becky. Her death was followed less than two years later by my 83 year old grandmother who had lived with our family from the time I was in first grade. As far as I could tell, my family members were dropping like flies and my response to this was extreme fear and multiple panic attacks. I lived a very fearful existence, just waiting for someone else near and dear to me to suddenly disappear from my life.

Obviously, this didn't happen - my parents have, in fact, outlived many of my former classmates parents.

I no longer lie in bed and fear the inevitable in the same way I did when I was 10 or 12 or 14 years old, but I know how my own movie ends. Death is non-negotiable for all of us.

When I hear the first stirrings of my Mom's walker in the morning or the clop of my Dad's cane, I'm instantly relieved and then in the very next seconds I gear up for another episode of "Groundhog Day", because frankly, this is exactly what my life is like right now. Every day I answer the same questions about 40 times (no exaggeration) and sometimes I must identify myself. The weather becomes a particularly hot topic because in the span of an hour at the breakfast table, my Mom will ask me, even with the weather on the kitchen television being broadcast in real time, "what's the weather going to be today?". Sometimes I direct her attention to the television set which she'll watch eagerly for maybe 2 minutes and then, as soon as a commercial comes on, she asks me again, and again, and again "what's the weather going to be today? Is it going to snow?".

Cloudy, cold days are the worst. Not only does the pain my Mom experiences in her joints increase as the temperature slides down, but her whole affect is much less amiable and cheery.

Today is the first day of March. I heard my mother remark earlier today that it's "looking like fall". There is no real grasp of time and space for her. I'm not sure if that's true for my Dad because his almost total deafness and inability to carry on a conversation unbroken by "what did you say?" makes small talk an impossibility. I hate speaking in a loud voice and while I made a good go of it the first year and a half, I must confess I no longer do. It becomes very hard. That doesn't stop my Mom - from anywhere in this house one can hear her repeating the same question or comment up to 10 - 15 times, directed at my Dad. Most of the time whatever it is she's saying gets lost in the yelling and given her own abbreviated attention span, more often than not she forgets what her original point was when she began.

Schedules become essential and one tangles with them at a risk. If I serve dinner an hour or so early - say at 4 rather than 5:30 PM,  I'll often hear the click-clack of my mother's walker heading to the kitchen, asking me what we're having for dinner tonight? When I remind her that she ate just a short time earlier, she regards me with a quasi suspicious and embarrassed look. Not quite believing me and embarrassed that I might be right.

Last night I was watching "A River Runs Through It" after I served my parents dinner. About an hour after they had finished, I heard my mother tell (yell) for my Dad to be sure and check the doors. As I was sitting in the living room which is situated right next to their room, I heard my Dad's footsteps and waited for him to "peek" into the living room. I told him all the doors were locked and everything was safe. He gave me a nod and then proceeded to walk to the side door, the door leading to the garage and the sliding glass door in the dining room. I guess he didn't believe me - this is his routine. I smiled to myself and continued watching the movie.

A few minutes later, my Dad appeared again in the living room - "Your mother said she heard some people talking in here and wanted me to check.".

"Dad, it's the television - I'm watching a movie. No one else is here."

He nodded and headed back to their room with the message.

Not fifteen minutes later, my Dad reappeared in the doorway of the living room. "Your Mom keeps saying someone else is in here."

I pretty much gave up watching the movie by this point. I walked with him back to their room and told my mother personally that there is no one in the house but the three of us, as it is most days and nights. I told her I had been watching a movie.

Not ten minutes later, their bedroom door opened yet again - it was at this time I believe I looked over toward Cleo and said, "I'm going to stab my eye with a fork!!".

"Did you lock the doors?"

"Yes Dad - everything is locked up tight."

"Just checking. Your Mom wanted me to make sure," so again he makes the rounds until I seriously find myself unable to sit still and I walk up to him, gently put my hand in his and tell him he's done this already tonight. The house is locked up. No one else is the house. It's time for bed.

Meanwhile, I go outside and make about fifteen revolutions around the pool and I do this for two reasons. To shake off the irritation and the rote quality of this and every evening for the past couple of years, and to drive up the steps on my Fitbit. I accomplish both goals in about twenty minutes.

Every single day is both the same and different. The routine is the same but cognition and mental status seem to degrade just a little more. It's sort of like watching paint dry, but it makes me very sad. The intangible loss, the deficits, will break your heart.

I drink a lot of hot tea in the evenings. I build a fire in the wood stove almost every single night and I have an alarm set on my iPhone set for 7:45 PM so that I can listen to the BBC 4 Shipping Forecast. I pull up the maps on my computer and follow along as I listen to the forecast for the gales that are expected at Trafalgar and Biscay, and then I close my eyes and imagine myself bobbing in the small teak cabin aboard a sailboat, holding a mug of hot, steaming tea, tethered to some marina off the Isle of Man, wondering if I'll be able to cast off my lines and head back out to sea. No matter what I'm doing, I listen to that forecast and I visualize that scene. It's a mental image that gets me through another evening after another day of heavy repetition.




26 February 2015

T-R-A-N-S-I-T-I-O-N

 T R A N S I T I O N (S)

I thought about starting a new blog about my adventures in caring for my 90 year old father and 91 year old Mom, but it didn't seem necessary. I have neglected my blog for a long time because I've been up to my eyeballs in taking care of "the twins", as I affectionately refer to them, but my posts on Facebook seem to be getting longer and so I feel it's time to get back to my blog.

In the beginning, this blog was about a 40 something year old woman who found sobriety on 11 January 2004, and learning how to live as a responsible, productive citizen. In the time since my blog began, my son and daughter have grown up, married wonderful spouses and made me a grandma in 2014 - adding 3 new beautiful grandbabies to our family - my son and daughter in law brought their beautiful little girl, Evelyn Sophia, into the world on 8 September 2014 and my daughter and son in law chimed in with identical twin daughters in late October. What blessings!!

In September 2012, it became necessary for me to stop working OUTSIDE my home and tend to my parents. Memories were failing and medications were screwed up and mother suddenly gave up cooking. One day, she just didn't do it anymore. My Dad is a great man, but he's useless in the kitchen, possessing no knowledge of how coffeemakers work, how bread becomes toast or how to scramble an egg.

Me? For most of my adult life I had about as much interest in cooking as I did underwater basket weaving. The kitchen was a place I breezed through to grab iced tea, a snack and frankly I took most of my meals out. In September 2012, I became chief cook and bottle washer - because it finally occurred to me that while Smithfields and Pizza Hut are convenient and tasty options, they aren't sustainable in the long-term. 

So my self-taught culinary education began. At first, it was a clumsy, messy and sometimes inedible affair but as with most things, applying time and tenacity and step by step instructions online, I learned how to cook. I must say I've given a pretty good account of myself and as of this writing, no one has incurred any gastrointestinal issues as a result of my culinary offerings (touch wood). In fact, there are some days I find great pleasure in creating dishes and I have learned to look upon this, and so many other things I've been conscripted to take on, as challenges in the "I dare you to try - let's see what you've got" kind of self motivation. 

I've learned a lot of lessons, gained new skills, been made humble and stumbled a few times - but the good news is that I've grown and stretched in more ways than I can count. I'm grateful, but it's not all sunshine and daisies. There are days when I'm sure I'm in my last moments of sanity. There are nights I hit the bed and I'm positive I won't be able to summon the physical and emotional strength to get back up again. Some days I feel as if my head will explode if I hear my dad retell the same stories he's been repeating for the past few years. When upcoming doctor's appointments arrive and I'm tasked with getting both of my parents to Wilmington Health for a visit with Dr. Babiss, I feel as if I'm herding cats - my Mom with her bulky walker and my Dad with his lack of coordination and failure to recognize the building we've visited so many times - asking me if he's ever met "that lady doctor" before. When it's time to dispense my parents' daily meds, my Dad always ALWAYS asks if he's ever taken that pill before and is it for him? He's only been taking that pill for about 20 years and yes, it's for him. We have that same conversation every single day. Every. Single. Day. Not a day goes by that my Dad doesn't see a speck of dust or a leaf on the floor that he doesn't bend over, pipe fully lit in his mouth, and dump hot ashes on whatever it is he's trying to pick up which isn't nearly as noticeable as the trail of sometimes red hot sparks that drop out of his pipe. I remind him daily, please don't bend over with your pipe in your mouth to which he instantly asks me "how come? I won't spill anything!". Ummmm, yeah you do and it's dangerous.

Watching the mental and physical deterioration of my parents is one of the most painful experiences I've ever been exposed to. It's so heart wrenching at times that it almost physically makes my heart feel as if it's breaking. My parents have been blessed - it wasn't until their late 80's that mental deficits began piling up but when those glitches began happening, they have accelerated so that as I write this in late February 2015, there are days that my Mom doesn't really know who I am. She knows my name is "Susan", but I'm not "her" Susan. She doesn't connect the dots. My Dad will look at his great granddaughter and when I ask him who she is and what her relationship is to him, he'll think for a couple of minutes and exclaim, "She's my grand niece!". This from a man who has devoted most of his retired life to genealogy research and has over 15,000 names on his Family Tree Maker. 

But there are those golden moments, and they never fail to catch me by surprise. I will hear my Dad loudly and lovingly exclaim to my Mom, bending close to her face as she sits in her recliner in their room, "I love you, I love you, I love you!!!!" or, "did you know you're prettier today than the day I asked you to marry me?". There are those moments when my Dad comes over to me and gives me a tender hug and says, "Your Mom and I sure do appreciate how you take care of these two old people...". Some mornings I'll walk in the kitchen to get their breakfast started and he will be ever so gently holding the chair for her and easing her into a sitting position with the greatest care imaginable. Some evenings I'll walk by their room and overhear my Dad patiently answer my Mom as she asks him, "When are we going home? How long have we been here? Do my parents know we're living together here? Can we go to West Virginia and see my brothers?". My Dad tenderly tries to bring her into the present, as much as his own memory has a grasp on it, and with kindness tries to give her comfort.

This is an emotional gig I find myself in the middle of and tears come with the territory, but I keep them private and out of view. As a 55 year old adult, I understand perfectly what is happening to my parents from a clinical standpoint, but as the only living offspring of these two, I dearly miss my parents a little more every single day. It sucks to see your two most amazing role models, a pair of the finest people you could ever hope to meet, who have guided you and been incredible examples of integrity and love, falter, fail to recognize you, grapple with the simplest of tasks like opening an e-mail, working a simple jigsaw puzzle or turning off a faucet rather than just walking away and leaving it running. 

This is what I want to use my blog for now. As difficult as so much of this is, and for as much as I sometimes imagine myself far removed from this situation, I know there will come a time when I will want to remember so many of the little things. I want to remind myself that we all did the very best that we could.

I'm not alone by any stretch of the imagination - there are a lot of us baby boomers out there engaged in the same role of caregiver. My situation may be a little unique in that I have no living siblings and I am a full-time caregiver to both parents. I'm outnumbered and on most days, I honestly surprise myself that I've managed another day of keeping it all together, but there are moments I feel desperately tired and I just want a few hours where I'm not in charge of anyone or anything. 

I do have full-time aides who are furry and go by the name of Cleo and Sailor - two rescue dogs that rescue me on a daily basis. They interject "life" into my daily grind. They demand that I go outside and throw a tennis ball and almost every day they insist that I take them on an errand, even if it's nothing more exciting than a trip to CVS or Smithfields or the grocery store. When they see me grab my Doc Martens, coat and car keys, they are front and center and, because I fear my parents may accidentally open an outside door leaving the dogs to take the opportunity to run like the wind, I feel safer taking them along with me on most every outing I make. They are wonderful companions and they also have proven themselves as fantastic therapy dogs to my parents. Their antics, affection and interaction never fail to add laughter and joy to my parents' lives. I couldn't get through my days without Cleo and Sailor. I will forever be in their debt.

While it's true I have no siblings, I do have an amazing posse of the most generous and steadfast friends one could ever hope to meet. My dear sweet Sharon leads the pack - this woman truly makes my life so much easier and is a constant reminder that I am not alone. Sharon was one of the first friends I made when I moved to Wilmington in August 2000. I knew absolutely no one but it didn't take me long to find her. She watched in horror during the early years of our friendship and pulled me out of many of dicey situation, courtesy of my serious relationship with red wine and when it was finally time for me to confront my drinking and admit that I had become powerless, she truly held my hand and helped me believe that I was stronger than I felt. In the years since I popped that cork back in the bottle, as I've grown and regained so much that my drinking took away, she has celebrated my victories and made me believe in myself. For those reasons alone, she's been one of the most pivotal humans in my life but as I've made my way through this journey of caregiving, she's been not only a staunch source of support, but she's done a great deal of the heavy lifting right there with me. In every way except blood, she IS my sister, along with our buddy Anne, and these two women keep me laughing, cry along with me when it's needed and their support gives me courage; when you're taking care of "eldertwins", you need all the courage and stamina you can get your hands on. These women, along with other angels in my life, deliver in spades. I can honestly say that while the mission of caregiving can be a lonely business, I have seldom, if ever, felt truly alone. My friends make that impossible for me and I'm so dearly grateful for each of them. 

Reaching out doesn't come naturally to most of us. However, it does become necessary. I want to be someone who learns to lend Grace as my own friends have so often and generously given Grace to me. Friends both local and far flung have showered me with so much kindness, packages of spirit lifters, cards, teas, sea glass, sailboat pillows, mugs with sayings that make me smile and feel loved, books that share advice for this passage, notes and cards that whisper comfort and joy. I'm so humbled by these gifts. I'm incredibly blessed by these angels who literally light my path and "walk me home". I can't even express how much this love means to me - a gentle envelope or box of strength that, regardless of what it contains, says, "Yes, you can keep going. You'll be fine.". There are so many wonderful people in this world and when you're in the trenches, you notice them as never before. 

I don't know how much I'll be updating this site, but I want to try and keep it current. If you're in the middle of parental caregiving - feel free to reach out to me. If you're not, feel free to reach out to me anyway. I'll do my best to reach back to you.

05 August 2010

Tending Gardens...

It's been awhile. I almost forgot how to blog. A lot has happened since my last post - I believe in that one I had just announced the happy news that my daughter had become engaged way, way back in March 2009. Eons ago. As I write this, her wedding is just a hair over two months away.

When last we met, my son was preparing for his wedding in June. Justin and Stephanie have now been married one year and two months. They had a beautiful ceremony on Wrightsville Beach and a lovely, quiet reception in our backyard.

A lot has taken place in the past seventeen months. It's been a wonderful period of time. We've all grown in our individual ways and I'm not going to even attempt to pack it all into a synopsis, rather, I think I'll just write the first things that come to my mind because trying to recount history sounds more like an assignment and I've decided that writing should be more fun than that.

So here we are in early August 2010. It's hot here in the South and I love this time of year, though June and July are absolutely more favored months because there's more of summer to be spent. By August, we start hearing about fall and those silly "back to school" advertisements run ad nauseum. I used to dread that time of year. I never looked forward to relinquishing my summers. I gave them up kicking and screaming. I still feel like that. I'm not one of those people who can whole-heartedly enjoy Fall because of the looming winter that follows it. Summer fits me so much better.

This summer in particular, I have thrown myself into gardening. Flowers and vegetables have captured my attention. I have spent more time this summer with my hands in the dirt than ever before in my previous 50 years of life. I find myself entranced, mystified how you can pop a small seed into dirt and wind up with something as miraculous as a cucumber, tomato, cone-flower or daisy. It's incredible to me. I know it's been going on since forever, but for some reason I am new to this garden party and I just can't believe how crazy cool it is. Sometimes I walk out in the back yard and I just look around at an area that I seeded maybe six weeks or two months ago and I am thunderstruck to discover there are plants, blossoms, edible veggies where there once was a few weeds and black dirt. It's just nothing short of a miracle to me. I mean that with all sincerity.

Every evening after dinner, I grab a cup of coffee and Cassie and we do a walk about - making a wide circle through the back lawn...always stopping first at the "black eyed Susan" triangle which flanks the west end of the pool, bedazzled in yellow petals and dark chocolate centers, growing almost as if in a perfect sphere with some purple wave petunias garnishing the edges. Cassie seems as wide-eyed as me as we peruse the petals.

Then we amble over to the "true garden" behind the proper fence and through the morning-gloried gable. Inside there, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, mint and yes, big, beautiful canteloupes sit among the weeds and atop the soil. WOW. I can't help but whip out my Android and snap some shots of the bounty. I remember when those things were tiny seeds scattered in soil and they didn't show much promise at all or elude in any way to what they were destined to become. Who knew? Well, God of course. But I sure didn't. Even though I knew that planting can sometimes result in a harvest, I just didn't think it could happen to me. Not to any ground I clumsily tilled and dug around in. I considered myself to the far left of amateurish status and in a way I still do...viewing myself much greener than whatever tint my thumb might be, but there's the evidence and gosh darn it, stuff's growing all over the place in ways I can barely fathom. And I got to be the lucky girl who stuck the seeds in and had fun getting my hands dirty. Now, I'm starting to eat cucumbers and tomatoes that have emerged from that plat. Seriously - I stare at it all and I am incredulous. Baby, I'm amazed!

It's both a source of pride and a lesson in humility, all at the very same time because in reality, hands and elbow grease are merely tools...like rakes and shovels and sprinkler systems. Gardening has both empowered me and reminded me of my place, all at the same time. I didn't create the miracle of life at all, but I sure got lucky enough to get my hands in it!

How did it take me 50 years to figure this out? I don't know, and I don't really even care; I'm just glad I arrived at all.

It touches every single sense I have - I get to feel the dirt with my hands, smell the flowers and fresh produce, see the results with my eyes, listen to the crunch as I bite down on a ripe cucumber and taste the finished product. All of that from a seed. Is that mind-boggling or what?

It is addictive. Some evenings I have no intention of getting dirty and I may innocently reach down to pull just one weed or pluck a spent flower, and then before I know it, I'm on my knees regardless of what I'm wearing, and I am pulling dollar weeds and crab grass to beat the band and then I just give up and if I start out with a lot of concerns or worries, they wind up with the pulled weeds and my mind magically clears. There's nothing more to it - it just happens and no pharmaceutical company can compound or design a drug that can impart anything close to the feeling of clearing a patch of flowers or veggies of weeds and it's calming effect on one's mind...on one's soul. Side effects? You may have to use a nail brush and gritty soap to remove a little debris. No prescription required.

It's just plain good for you. It's so good for me that I have now decided that when this crop is finished, I am going to plant a fall garden - and in making that decision, I have ordered seed catalogs, a garden book from The Farmer's Almanac and a lot of googling of "best plants for fall planting in Zone 8". I've decided that just because summer will be shutting down, my garden doesn't have to and I'm not about to give up the great effects this summer of tending the garden has bestowed upon me. No way. I've got plans to plow it up and set new seeds and be dazzled all over again.

And that is what I'm up to these dog days of summer. I get up, I go to work, I get excited around 4:00 and I look forward to coming home, eating a bite and getting into my old shorts and t-shirts and playing in the dirt. If the rain precludes my plans, I just assume that God has decided that my crops need an extra drink and I need a rest...its become one of my healthiest obsessions. It bespeaks calm and it seems to spill over into many other areas in my life and I am grateful for that. A garden seems to produce more than beauty and nutrition...it's feeding me in other ways and satisfying hungers I didn't even know that I had.

Green is good. God is great!

22 March 2009

Can You Solve This????

I love puzzles. I love any kind of puzzle. I'm so weird I even love math word problems.

This will be a decidedly short post and because I love puzzles, I'm going to post one - see if you can solve it... :-)



John and Katie





PLUS (+)




One Engagement Ring



E Q U A L (=)

KATIE AND JOHN ARE ENGAGED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say, we are excited, thrilled and happy for both of them. We love them both and wish them all kinds of happiness.

This means that my little family has TWO (count 'em two!) engaged couples - one wedding on the calendar (Justin and Stephanie - 21 June 2009) and the promise of another wedding (TBA).

We officially, and with great affection, and excitement welcome Stephanie and John to the Cook/Parker clan. I will officially be the grandma to three grandcats (Boo Radley, Olive and Soprano), and I am looking so forward to having a new daughter-in-law (Stephanie) and son-in-law (John).

Empty nesting was an adjustment, but it's turned rather exciting. I love the nests my kids are creating and the special people they have chosen to nest with.

I couldn't possibly be more happy and pleased. As any Mom will tell you, when the kids are happy - I'm happy!!!!

Today is about the endless possibilities and mystery of love.



12 March 2009

Forty Nine Years, in a New York Minute

And that's exactly where I spent my 49th birthday - in New York City, visiting my beautiful daughter and her handsome and very tall boyfriend. We celebrated with a dinner at Les Halles, my favorite French Restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, along with John's fabulous Aunt Melanie, who treated us to this sumptuous feast. Les Halles is the same restaurant where Katie and I shared a meal with my favorite French writer and best buddy Michel a couple of years ago. We remembered that fun evening with great fondness, as we went about the business of making new memories.

Michel, being the charming man that he is, sent me the most beautiful daisies on my birthday so that when I arrived back home, they were waiting for me - he knows they're my favorite flower - and they were exquisite. Michel is family, after all these years, and he's working on a book that I can't wait to read. He's promised us a visit after he sends it to his publisher. We're going to hold him to it.

Turning 49 was a piece of delicous chocolate cheesecake, complete with a candle and singing.

It was 12 degrees when my plane landed at La Guardia. To my southern sensibilities and skin, it felt positively Arctic.

John and Katie's new apartment is on the Upper West Side, just a couple of blocks from the Time Warner Center and dangerously close to Border's Bookstore. Before my send-off to NYC, my office surprised me with a cake, candles, singing and two extremely generous gift cards with instructions to use them on my trip. I didn't disappoint them and Borders was the better for it, as was Barnes and Noble, and several other establishments.

Katie and I spent my actual birthday walking around Manhattan, seeing "He's Just Not That Into You", drinking hot coffee in very cold and wintry Central Park, and eating delicious food. And giggling - we giggled a lot. Made keen, obtuse observations, and in a way it was like hanging with a best friend, who just happens to be my daughter.

On the day after my birthday, we made our way to the Barnes and Noble near Lincoln Center where she hung out with the cookbooks and I drifted off to biographies and nonfiction. We lugged our loot to a sitting area just across from LC, and while Katie perused her baking book acquisitions, I sat back and took the opportunity to do what I love doing most in Manhattan - watching people. There was much to see, as there always is. NYC never disappoints and is always lively and over-stimulating.

It was a delightful way to spend a Saturday Afternoon and, thankfully, the temperature rose above freezing. Hardy NY'ers were positively basking in what they considered "mild" conditions. Me? I was gloved, wrapped in a scarf and ensconced in the faux fur coat my best friend Sharon lent me because living in Wilmington, I refuse to own outerwear that's more substantial than my leather jacket. I would have frozen solid without Sharon's generous contribution to my comfort. It's just one of the many reasons I adore Sharon.

We dropped back by K & J's apartment long enough to collect John and headed for a late lunch at the Olympic Torch Diner. But before venturing out, we ventured up - to the roof garden of their apartment building which happened to be on the 57th floor. It was breezy for certain, but what an incredible view! As sunset enveloped the city, the lights twinkled before us, like scattered stars - some static and others in a sort of Brownian motion. What a sight it was - the Hudson River to the left and Central Park to the right and everything imaginable in between.

However, at that haute height, the only noise to be heard was the wind whistling a very icy tune. I still can't imagine that my daughter lives up there and has made that town her own in the almost three years she's been a resident. Amazing. It constantly amazes me. She thoroughly thrives up there, as does John. It's like they've always been there, so comfortable and at ease in a town I always liken to semi-controlled chaos.

I'm so happy for them because they're so happy! I miss having her in town, no question about it, but taking queues from my parents, I choose to revel in their joy and right now, their joy is in the 18th floor apartment that is surrounded by glass buildings and busy streets and throngs of people; if that's where they find happiness, where they thrive and live and have carved out an inestimably interesting life with a view that won't stop, well, then that makes me happy, too! And very proud. So very proud of both of them.

Katie has grown into such a lovely, capable woman - the young girl who was always wise beyond her years has matured into an insightful, thoughtful, creative, accomplished adult. Watching the metamorphosis has been captivating, enchanting...a precious gift from a young lady who has generously given me ever so much along the way. As she has expanded her horizons, she's exponentially expanded my heart and my mind. Can you tell I'm proud? I make no apologies for this gushing - she can back up my accolades in a way that words can't come close to expressing in any sort of adequate form.

On Sunday Morning, 8 February, I packed up my suitcase and Katie rode the elevator with me downstairs and she gave me one final wonderful "Katie" gift of the weekend...she allowed me the comic thrill of watching her hail the cab that would start my journey back where I belong - in the land of iced tea and warm southern breezes. I love watching the NY side of her...so determined, full of chutzpah, certainty and with a confidence her very southern mother couldn't possibly manage.

Just before I got in the cab, headed back to La Guardia and the commuter plane that would deliver me back to my corner of the US, we snapped two photos. No tears, not even the hint of them did I feel. We had a spectacular visit, shared so much fun with Katie's seamlessly ascerbic and amusing turns, but it was time for me to head home to the much more decidedly genteel land of tea, Andy Griffith reruns, cats, a dog , so many cichlids and two parents I enjoy so very much, and it was time for her to return to her epic pace of ordering groceries from Fresh Direct (just a click of the keys and the cupboards are restored!), baking sinfully rich and mouth-watering desserts, and the quiet (it's all relative!) life she lives on the 18th floor of a very tall building in a very large city with a very tall boyfriend, two cats and a red kitchen-aid mixer. It's good we know our place, eh? :-)

I've been working like crazy since my return,. I've been slammed at work and I've enjoyed every minute of it. Every single minute. I am also typing this from a new Toshiba laptop that my parents bought me last week and I'm loving that, too. It's lightning fast, has a 17" screen and I can load my huge spreadsheets on it, have five applications running and never miss a beat. It's great fun and we're still getting to know each other, but I'm feeling a delicious synchronicity.

There is, however, excitement in the air! Upon my return from Yankee Town (NYC), I was informed by my beautiful daughter-in-law to be, that she and my son had set a wedding date! Yes! June 21st, on Wrightsville Beach, my son Justin and his lovely fiancee Stephanie will officially TIE THE KNOT! We're all very excited for them.

On April 3rd, I will be catching another plane and this time I will head North by Northwest to a town I haven't visited for over 12 years - Charleston, WV. I'm flying up to spend four days visiting my son because I haven't seen him since August and I need a Justin fix! I can't wait to see Justin and Stephanie. I'm looking forward to a tour of my old hometown courtesy of my 22 year old son and his soon-to-be-bride. I have talked with his boss, who happens to be his father, and he has agreed to let the fellow off for a few extra hours to entertain me. I'm looking forward to this trip and by the time I return on 6 April, before you know it, Katie will be coming down to visit and help prepare for the wedding - at which she will not only be the sister of the bridegroom, but will also be the official photographer!

We have much to celebrate, to be grateful for and sometimes when I think of my family, my friends, my town, my animals, my books, the ocean, and the list goes on, I am struck - literally - by just how blessed each of these days of our lives truly are - they are so inextricably intertwined, but in the best way possible, because somehow they are fashioned in a way that allows us to be close, even as we each chase our own dreams, realize our respective goals, struggle and learn and make our way on paths that feel bathed in dappled-sunlight and I know intrinsically that this light must absolutely originate from the center of heaven. It really does feel that way and I am in awe of every single second of it. It occurs to me that I wouldn't understand how precious all of this is, how illuminated these paths are, without having walked down a few dark wrong curves and you know, I'm grateful for those, too. For the lessons they impart, a determination they stoke, and a perspective that would be impossible to understand by any other means.

Spring is in the air, daylight lingers later into the evening now, and though I don't own a sailboat as of this writing, I appreciate these days of fair winds, and following seas.