Choosing What Comes Next

The last several weeks have been a whirl – I have been writing essays and reading, presented at a workshop, watched Mad Men near its end, and adjusted to a changed diet because of food allergies. I spent so much time in Chicago each week that I dreamed about an apartment there (maybe near the lake, with a view). I tried ChiRunning and I hope this becomes a safe way to run again.

I also became a grandmother, and spending time with my granddaughter is a joy that is hard to describe. I am delighted every time my iPhone snaps its fingers to alert me to a new photo or video!

I found that with warm weather’s arrival and a new focus, I wasn’t posting as often. At first I felt like I had missed a school assignment – a little guilty. But after a bit of serious reflection, I realize that for the time being my priorities have shifted, and it might be a good time to take a break from blogging. I started A Life Curated to explore the idea of making choices; part of making choices is knowing when it is time to do things differently.

So it is time for a vacation. Thank you for reading and commenting on this blog. I will not post for a while, but I will continue to read the many blogs I follow. I have been waiting for summer for months and I am looking forward to getting outdoors, heading to the ocean, completing projects at home, being with my family and much more writing. Whatever your plans are for the months ahead, I hope you have a great time and move closer to whatever gives you joy!

Lilly Pulitzer – Inspiration to Sew

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I have written before about my leanings towards pink; it is a fun color. I like the splashiness of hot pink, how it insists on drawing attention and warms my spirits. I also like Lilly Pulitzer prints, not just the new ones, but the vintage shifts and outfits that screamed the sixties in Palm Beach and signaled warm weather. I purchased two Lilly Pulitzer hand towels, a small thing, but just enough to make me smile at the colliding colors – petal and raspberry pinks, aquamarine blues, limes and oranges. Maybe I need to make a trip to the fabric store, buy some dress patterns, and make my own version of the shifts that Pulitzer popularized years ago. Could become my summer uniform!

Chicago – Michigan Avenue Bridge Surprise

Springtime is about small delights, from the daffodil peeking above ground, followed by the bloom of yellow petals, to the unexpected surprises I come across while walking. Wednesday was one such day. After departing the Millennium train station in Chicago, I was walking north on Michigan towards the river. I had crossed the bridge at Wacker, when I heard bells ringing and saw activity on the other side of the bridge. Then I noticed a uniformed guy directing people to finish coming across, and red and white rails came in front of the cars on the north side of the bridge. I looked behind me, and the rails were dropping on the Wacker side too. I hurried ahead, and soon they stopped foot traffic too. No way, I thought, is this bridge going to open in the middle? I have been across the bridge there more times than I can count, but I didn’t know that they ever lifted it for boats. I, along, with hundreds of other people, stopped to watch the bridge open and lift. It was a little thing, but I was excited. I looked in the river and saw the sailboats, which were the cause of this commotion. Once the south side was high enough, they floated underneath towards Lake Michigan. Continue reading

Food Allergies Have Me Scratching For An Answer

It is a glorious sunny day outside and I intend to do some cleanup in the yard while the weather is good. Last week the city maintenance crews spirited away the Christmas trees that had been buried under the snow for months and this week the daffodils and crocuses are springing up in the lawn.

Other surprises have crept up on me lately. I have noticed some strange reactions to certain foods over that last several months – itching, coughing, and the occasional stomachache. Years ago I realized that apples and cherries were problems. Then almonds seemed to cause a minor reaction. This reaction was later diagnosed as oral allergy syndrome. For those items that I identified as irritants, I practiced avoidance since it was just a nuisance rather than any real danger.

Once the list of foods that seemed to irritate me got longer, I finally decided to see a doctor. The quick diagnosis – I have allergies or sensitivities to a number of foods, even some that I had begun to eat only recently to replace other foods that were giving me problems.

So what is next? I will meet with my doctor next week to develop a plan but my inclination is to avoid triggers rather than take a lot of medicine. I did the allergy shots as a child, then once again in my twenties and I would like to avoid that.

I’ll be honest, at first I was quietly angry that this had even come up. Except for my fondness for the occasional cookie or ice cream, I try to eat healthy foods. Okay, cookies, ice creams, and maybe chips… sometimes. I was totally vegetarian for many years, and if I eat fish, it is not that often. So although I do not usually admit it, I felt that I had “earned” the right not to be bothered by food allergies; the seasonal and other environmental allergens were enough.

But that is not how life works, is it? Who really deserves to be sick, or totally “earns” good health? Quite honestly, my dust allergies kept me out of a load of chores while growing up, so it wasn’t all bad. We do our best and when things don’t turn out according to plan, we shift. So I am shifting. I have moved past the annoyed anger, mild self-righteousness and hint of frustration towards trying to figure this out. When I remembered that a cousin died several years ago after accidentally ingesting nuts that were in trail mix, I got over myself; it was sobering. So was the visit to the pharmacist to pick up my first EpiPen®. It costs more than $200 and I have a good insurance plan and also used the coupon my doctor gave me. What do people do when they don’t have the insurance or the money? I am putting it all in perspective.

I am amused when people ask me, “Then what can you eat?” because right now, I am not quite sure. But there are a host of vegetables, some fruits and other foods that should be fine (Did I mention that I am allergic to string beans too? Seriously, string beans?). And chocolate, a treat that I would find it hard to never indulge in again, is still permissible. A shift in attitude, a shift in behavior – I am already feeling better just knowing what was going on in my body.

How about you? Have you or a family member had to deal with food sensitivities or allergies? What was the hardest shift to make?

Two Plays and a Blanket

The last week has been a full one – I finished knitting my first baby blanket and spent many hours of writing and revising a longer work. I also took the train to Chicago; this city lifts my spirits even when it is cold. I saw two very good plays, Sara Ruhl’s Clean House and Venus in Fur, written by David Ives. I like Sarah Ruhl’s work and had seen Clean House years ago, but enjoyed it a second time. Venus in Fur was a treat, because I did not expect it to be so funny and found myself not quite sure where it was going to take me next. Go see it at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago if you have a chance.

Today is catch-up day, time to run errands, work out, and more writing. I picked up these flowers yesterday, just a little precursor to spring.

In Pursuit of Calendar Spring

 

Have you heard of spring cleaning?  Well, I want to do some winter cleaning.  Frigid temperatures, chilling blasts of air and gray skies have brought on this urge. A look at the calendar gave me hope – spring is only a few weeks away!

I realize that there are two first days of spring.  One is the calendar spring, March 20th this year; it is also known as the spring equinox, the date when the lengths of night and day are equal. The second one is the date it really gets warm enough around here in northern Indiana to discard winter clothes, start planting flowers and pull out the porch furniture. I have decided to focus on the first date and even possibly hasten its coming by behaving as if spring’s arrival in March is a guaranteed event. I started with my closet. For some reason I felt like it would boost my spirits, as if getting rid of heavy clothes signals winter that it is time to move on and make room for spring. If there are only a few weeks of this crazy weather left, then I am going to go through my closet and discard winter clothes that I have not worn this season. I have my favorites and then there are others I have accumulated over the years. Taking a serious look at what I own and don’t wear has been cathartic, and I already have one basket full of clothes ready for Goodwill or a local women’s shelter.

The forecast predicts snow tomorrow; I’m fine with that.  In the meantime I will lighten my closets, glance at the flower catalogs, turn up the lights in the house, and cyber-plan imaginary trips to tropical destinations. By looking at winter for what it is, a time of rest in preparation for growth, I can improve my attitude about the whipping my spirits have taken lately. I don’t drink but I am seriously thinking about pouring myself a glass of grape juice and sticking a little umbrella in it to see if that also gets me going.

I am determined to enjoy what is left of winter the best way I know how and consider it preparation for what will be a glorious spring and summer.

    How are you handling winter?   Do you enjoy cold weather?

Little America – Lake Charles Louisiana

Lakes Charles is a place of scents that lure and tempt; above all else, I will remember its smells. Nestled in the southwest corner of Louisiana, slightly more than 30 miles from the Texas border, Lake Charles is home to hearty Cajun food, friendly people, 4-H clubs, and a huge casino that seems out of place.  It is also my nephew’s new home, and the reason why I went down there with my brother in the first place. Continue reading

What I Am Reading

I realize that I need to keep better records of the books I read.  Twice recently I have wanted to refer a book to someone and could not quite recall the name of the book or the author.  I guess I could go back to the library or bookstore, but that is not always convenient.

I have been reading quite a bit lately, still writing, but lots of reading.  I often read books that are on related topics for a period, then move on to something else.  I alternate periods of reading serious works with popular or informative fare.  For example, I read a couple of books on aging well (I cannot remember one title, but it covers the years from 50-65, 65-80 and beyond), then Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Facelifts (aging with attitude), and I have Jane Pauley’s new book, Your Life Calling, in the lineup too.  Last night, I watched the French film Amour, which captures the life of a couple, both in their 80s, as the husband and wife deal with her illness and the issue of death.  I chose these books, and the movie, not because I am considering cosmetic surgery or a new profession, but instead for many of the same reasons I started this blog.   I have always looked ahead and feel that by examining the lives of people who have gone before me I can get a sense of how rich or challenging life can be as I age and how best to prepare.  One lesson I have learned is that you cannot prepare for all of it.

Older people have always intrigued me, how they live and the stories they tell.  Maybe it is because growing up I had my grandfather as an example.  He worked in his yard, had great parties and always made us feel welcome in his home.  “Baby, get some of that candy from the dish.  Are you thirsty?”  He did not seem to be very sick until the last couple of years, but even then he was alert, talkative and particular about his attire and food.

This feels like rambling even as I reread it but I am trying to share what I have been thinking about lately.  And in order to do a better job of passing on information, I need to keep better records of what I read.  This blog serves as one way to capture/curate some of my thoughts and experiences.   I am certain that in a week or so, I will be on to a new topic.

What are you reading these days?

Backyard after the Snowstorm

Despite the additional three hours it took to get home yesterday from southern Ohio to northern Indiana, I found the snow to be so still and beautiful.   The typically crowded expressways were almost empty in some spots, and the road stretched ahead like a white carpet.  This photo was taken from my brother’s backyard.

Backyard in Ohio in Winter

Backyard in Ohio in Winter

Bring on 2014 – Happy New Year!

I like the opportunity for reflection that the end of a year provides.   I don’t really make resolutions; instead I look back, celebrate what went well and try to take in the lesson from things that went awry.   But for the most part, since I am optimistic by nature, I feel gratitude that I am blessed to have another year.

The holidays have been wonderful for me – time with family, either here at the house or catching up by phone.  Dinners with friends are a gift, especially since with travel and other commitments we cannot always get together as much as we’d like.

I also got a chance to visit Key West this month; it was my first trip to the island.   I like a city with a reputation for celebration, but what I appreciated most about Key West was its sense of history.  Yes, you can trot up and down Duval Street until 4:00 a.m., but the weaving of different cultures and their traditions was more fascinating to me.

I’ve begun getting up a bit earlier, which gives me time to reflect, read, write or just sit still.   It is dark outside this morning, and the temperature is only 14 degrees.  By the end of the week we will be in single digits, but I’m okay with that, the days are already getting longer.  I remind myself of the need for this period of seeming dormancy for life to spring forth in the warmer months.   If it works for the plants, flowers and trees that I love so much, then I guess it must be good for me too.

I hope you have had a great year, and if some things did not work out, I hope that you had the support you needed to get through them.   I start fresh tomorrow.

Happy New Year!