Tag Archives: Reflection

March 3 – Assembly Required

by Carol Ziel

Older Woman on Sofa

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I tried to brush the vanilla icing from my lip. It stuck. Or rather “they” stuck: a small colony of coarse white hairs had gathered at the corner. This burgeoning village of whiskers had joined the unicorn hair that sprung from between my eyebrows, and the straggly chinny-chin-chin hairs that could easily be braided into a ZZ TOP kind of look if left unattended. I used to hang on the sink watching my father shave. Never in my childhood fantasies did I contemplate having similar Gillette moments.

Now, even before I begin to shave, I must find my glasses. I have two pairs: not the cute little reading half glasses in funky colors from Walgreens, but serious nerd glasses–one for reading and the computer, and one for distance. Then there is my somewhat new hearing aid.

Finally, the “pad of the day.” I used to have a collection of shoes. My current collection is adult incontinence supplies. I used to buy one Victoria’s secret push up bra or matching panty each pay period. They came in glorious jewel tones. Now my undie drawer is packed with Fruit of the Loom and black sports bras. It would take more than the color black to make a sports bra sexy. And my breasts are no longer even in alignment.

The breast situation at least had an interesting story. I had to crawl my 70-year-old body through my locked truck’s back window to retrieve a key. While my breasts were wedged on the console, my butt was hanging out under a perfect blue sky, bent in an unflattering penitent position. Although I did retrieve the key, backing out was a problem of mythical proportions. Embarrassment gave me momentum. With a pop that was startlingly like a champagne cork, I flopped out. True, the key was in hand, but one breast hung further south than at the beginning of the adventure. Apparently, ligaments are not what they used to be either.

I long to jump out of bed, pulsing with the promise of the day. I miss the time when my breasts were perky and pristine, bladder snuggly in place, my eyes piercing and hearing sharp and when the only cane I owned belonged to a sexy Halloween tap dancing costume. I miss 4-inch heels and disco clubbing. I miss the time when my mail was more than AARP catalogues, Medicare supplement notices, and life insurance advertisements.

But most of all I miss a time when assembly was not required to start my day.

Carol has been an SCN member for six years and is grateful to be nurtured by such wonderful women writers. She is also a gardener, grandmother, social worker, Quaker and Goddess-centered woman who primarily writes poetry but is branching out into more essay types of writing. More to be revealed.


September 11 – Balloons Rising

by Doris Jean Shaw

Enjoying breakfast, my eyes drift to the window. “Is that water tower moving?” I get up and go to the balcony to get a better look. The round part of the top seems to be ascending toward the heavens. Standing there, I spot more spheres popping up. The sun above the horizon bounces off the spheres and I see a dozen hot air balloons at various heights from the earth. Each balloon decked out in an array of colors from bright orange and yellow to purple and blue, rises toward the sun.

I take my coffee to the patio and watch as the balloons rise from the earth, and drift off to dot the sky with colorful blobs. “I’m not sure I would want to be that high and be at the mercy of any prevailing wind.” It tickles my fancy but the sensible person inside defies me to do it. I once saw a balloon that would go up but a rope anchored it to the ground so you could not float off. Curious about the floating since I love to float in the water but I know I can only go so far. Does that mean that I want excitement within limits?

So much for the all that psychological stuff. I sip my coffee and enjoy the daring of others as a breeze comes up and disperses the balloons like throwing dice on a table, the balloons scatter. I tackle clearing the table with a smile. What a glorious way to start the day! Wonder what will cross my path tomorrow?

Doris Jean Shaw

Doris Jean Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of Beauregard Parish Writers Guild “The Ink Blots.” She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals. She presents a workshop, entitled “Reclaiming Me” that helps others find direction for their futures.

August 12 – Quiet in the Storm of Life

by Martha Slavin

park-1319135773TYsHave you had a chance to step outside today and take a deep breath of air? What about a walk in a park where you can be among the trees and grasses?

Today at Osage Park, I walk by a white-haired man reading to his son. His son is not young either, but he sits in a wheelchair with a baseball cap on, with his head slumped against his chest. I wonder about the man. How had he found the reserve in himself to sit quietly with his son and read to him long after his son’s childhood?

We expect our children to grow, leave our homes, and make their way in the world. As with a few of my friend’s children, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Instead, intense parenting, including bathing, dressing, and feeding, continues for a lifetime with help during the school years, but after that, little respite. I watch my friends as they struggle with daily life and find joy in small things. They find resources outside their homes to help their grown children and to give themselves the needed breathing room from the strains of daily parenting care.

A lifelong caregiver could easily be filled with resentment and discontent. Yet I have seen my friends open a space within themselves that gives them the chance to have an accepting and grateful life. Not that they don’t rail against the sky or ask themselves time and time again, “Why me?”

As I walk by the man and his son, I think that the quiet moments allow them to embrace the life they have in a way they never envisioned for themselves. Seeing them together I can see the beauty and grace in the life they have absorbed. Those quiet times carry with them a sense of peace that I was able to share for just a few seconds on my walk around the park.

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. Her blog, Postcards in the Air, can be found each Friday at www.marthaslavin.blogspot.com She also writes poetry, memoir pieces, and essays. She creates handmade books, works in mixed media, watercolor, and does letterpress. She lives with her husband and two cats in California.

July 17 – No Explanation

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

“I don’t believe this,” I exclaimed to my husband. “The caregiver at ARC informs me that Stephen needs a new wheelchair. The one just purchased last year is already missing a headrest and a foot rest.”

Stephen lives in a home for the disabled; as he was born with profound disabilities and was predicted to die within weeks, then months which now have become 50 years this August 17, 2015.

Oh, I made an attempt to keep him at home, until sleepless nights coupled with uncontrollable seizures gave me no choice but to relinquish his care in a setting where caregivers had 8 hour shifts; thus relieving them of the constancy of his care.

These caregivers are only paid a minimum wage. Thus, the constancy of his care is compromised by the frequency of staff leaving for a better paying job. And, yet, the legislature drags their feet regarding any increase in the minimum wage for workers caring for the ‘least of these among us.

Their primary concern is to halt all abortions. You know their spiel about the sanctity of life, blah, blah, blah. Does that include quality of life as well? Have any of them visited or cared for a child who is profoundly disabled in all facets of their bodies?

Stephen needs touch and a constant pair of eyes and ears. Vicky, a massage therapist, gives him a massage twice a month and then reports to me the state, or lack thereof, of his home and care. She has become my eyes and ears regarding his care.

Stephen, I pray that when you and I both are not bound by the limits of the physical realm we can have a conversation about all these years and the profound impact they have had on each of our lives.

Patricia Roop HollingerPatricia is a retired LCPC/Chaplain from a inpatient/outpatient psychiatric hospital as of 2010. She is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and the daughter of a mother who will be 102 on July 12th, 2015. She is a voracious reader, musician, lover of cats, and is currently exploring her writing skills.

June 3 – The Art of Dying: Rehearsing for Death

by Lily Iona MacKenzie

I’ve been reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead, intrigued with a section on meditation that seems important to me just now: The art of dying begins with preparation for death. As for any journey, there are innumerable preparations one can make. Known in Tibet as The Book of Natural Liberation, the book suggests at least five main types of preparation while still living: informational, imaginational, ethical, meditational, and intellectual. (52)

I think my interest in taking up a more focused spiritual practice again is to experience some of these things listed as preparations for death and the wisdom texts can help with that need. I don’t want to be like the ostrich with its head in the sand; I believe in preparing for life’s various stages, being knowledgeable, being ready.

Meditation as an active practice attracts me again. I did it daily for many years when I was living alone before my husband and I met. The Tibetan Book of the Dead has a good section that gives an overview of the various meditations one can do, from the basic calming meditation of one-pointed attention, to using ordinary daily activities as opportunities for contemplation: This involves using sleep as a time for practice.

As the authors say, “You can convert the process of falling asleep into a rehearsal of the death dissolutions, imagining yourself as sinking away from ordinary waking consciousness down through the eight stages into deep-sleep clear-light transparency. And you can convert the dream state into a practice of the between-state, priming yourself to recognize yourself as dreaming when in the dream…. It is very important, for if you can become self-aware in the dream state by the practice of lucid dreaming, you have a much better chance of recognizing your situation in the between after death.” (57)

I have had numerous lucid dreams over the years, but I hadn’t thought of them as vehicles for preparing for death! I feel I’ve had fewer since I’ve stopped practicing meditation regularly, as I did for so many years when I lived alone. It’s harder to make time for it in a relationship and while raising a family if your partner isn’t interested. Now that my husband’s son and daughter from a previous marriage are no longer living with us, I can pursue this practice again.

I’m using OM MANI PADME HUM as a meditation, especially when I awaken in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep. I found it in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and I like the idea that it evokes a universal good in all things, which can prevail even in times of misfortune. Of course, you need to believe that there is a universal good in all things for this mantra to be effective. I want to believe that.

LilyMac_3-12-15hires (1)Lily Iona MacKenzie has published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, essays, and memoir in over 145 venues. Fling, one of her novels, will be published in July 2015 by Pen-L Publishing. Bone Songs, another novel, will be published in 2016. Her poetry collection, All This, was published in 2011. She teaches writing at the University of San Francisco.

May 31 – Morning Moments

by Linda Hoye


One of the great gifts of retirement is the opportunity to wake naturally in the morning when my body is ready. After so many years being jarred awake by the clamour of an alarm–too often after a mostly sleepless night and with my mind in go mode before my feet even hit the floor–to wake according to the rhythm of my body is a precious luxury.

These days I wake gently, often with the dawn in these late spring months. With the windows open, morning air fresh in the room, and the sound of birdsong filling the room, I surface slowly to a wakeful state. I stretch, perhaps holding lightly to the remnants of a dream, and listen to the calm cadence of my Yorkie Maya’s snoring and the peaceful resonance of Gerry’s breathing. The day stretches in front of me rich with possibility.

I take time to pray for those who are on my heart. I think about the day ahead–not in the hurried stomach-churning way I once did—instead making plans with gratitude and anticipation. There is work to be done: gardening, things around the house, and errands to run; there are also creative pursuits like photography prompts, writing projects, and even some quilting projects I’ve been thinking of getting back to.

There is satisfaction in knowing I have the gift of time and I can choose which activities to focus my attention on that day. I find deep satisfaction in living, not according to unrealistic deadlines and unrelenting demands all too common in the corporate world, but instead moving to the ebb and flow of this simple life we have chosen.

The June garden calls to me like a siren and, on those days when I can tell from the early morning air that it’s going to be a hot one, I make plans to head out early to work. On other days I consider the harvest that is already beginning: the canning, freezing, and dehydrating projects that are ahead of me; and I plan how I’ll fill the pantry this year. There is always something to think about; something to work on. I am busy according to my own schedule and pursuing passions that fulfill.

There are still challenges in this life: concerns about situations that cause angst; circumstances I can’t control; burdens that, at times, feel too heavy; but in these early morning hours when I linger in bed listening to the sweet melody of the finches waiting for the first rays of sun to come through the window, I am at peace and filled with gratitude.

These still morning moments strengthen me. I am blessed.

meLinda Hoye is a writer, editor, adoptee, and somewhat-fanatical grandma who recently retired from a twenty-five-year corporate career. She lives in British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier and finds contentment in her kitchen, at her writing desk, behind her camera, and in her garden.

She is the author of Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude and blogs at A Slice of Life.

May 24 – Two Spare Rooms

by Barbara Churchill


I am dead committed to writing now. New vows and I’m sticking to them. I write at least two hours every morning, sometimes more, ferreting out journals accepting submissions, and joining organizations. Surely there’s a critique group somewhere that has room. I go to workshops.

I’ve received an unemotional, but polite, e-mail rejection so far, so that means someone actually read the thing, right? My spirits lift. The others are pending.

The really difficult mornings are when I have to find somewhere else to write because my cleaning lady is here–noisy–and lawn services are everywhere. I have Starbucks and noise-canceling headphones for such emergencies.

After my morning’s labors, I have other obligations: making worm casting soup to spread on my vegetables, reading, sometimes a volunteer commitment, and answering e-mails from friends. My spam filter gets rid of annoying email and of course I have caller ID so I only answer the calls I want and block the others. I check the mail and some days there’s the tedium of the grocery store and drug store shopping. Occasionally I reward myself for these tedious afternoons with a pedicure.

Today, for example. I went back to a new place I just found– quiet with brand new massage chairs. It’s second time and I have Tu again who runs me a hot foot bath. I nod, signaling the water temperature is right, and carry on answering e-mails. I have a book in my bag too–just in case.

But today, Tu draws blood. It hurts! I jump a little and frown. She offers a heartfelt apology and pours nail polish remover into the wound. While I writhe, she commends me on how quickly I stop bleeding compared to those who have “sugar in their blood” by which I assume she means diabetics.

Now, much to my dismay and pain, I am stuck chatting with Tu.

She begins:

“You live around here?” Yes.

“House?” Yes.

“You have kids?” Yes.

“They live with you?” No.

“You have husband?” Yes.

“He work or retired?” Works.

“Here?” Here and in LA.

“So, just you in house?” Sometimes.

“How many bedrooms?” Three.

“You want to rent me bedroom?”

Tu is six years in the U.S. from Vietnam, divorced from her second husband, and with no children. Because she lives on a manicurist’s salary she’s forced to rent a room in her ex’s house which they share with his mother. His mother is old, smells, and is mean to her. Her ex sounds like no prize either. Tu does the cooking and cleaning and works six days a week. She assures me she is never home. There’s also a cat who smells.

She needs to rent a room. Why don’t I?

Barbara Churchill is am a retired English teacher trying to make her way back into the world of writing. She has published a little but publishing isn’t really her main goal now. Writing is.