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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lessons Learned

As 2009 draws to a close, I have been looking back at the good and the bad of this year. There was LOTS of bad in 2009. But I am choosing to focus on the good things I have learned.

I have realized that I:
am much stronger emotionally than I realized

enjoy writing now more than I ever did

am a better writer than I thought I was

am very grateful for the opportunity to co-author a book

yearn for a simpler life

have too much 'stuff'

am quite willing to take risks and leaps of faith, and more often than not, things will turn out OK

have a good sense of humor, which I use to help me cope with stress

am a positive person, not the negative soul I always thought I was

now understand the disconnect between the life I live and the life I want

really love outdoor and architectural photography

have been blessed with a body that has withstood the rigors of more than 30 years of running, and am looking forward to many more

have a vision of the life that awaits me once I retire and move to New Mexico

am learning to better support my daughter emotionally

have so much for which to be grateful

can actually lose weight

can relieve much of the pain of bursitis in my hips by stretching twice a day

I am looking forward to making some major life changes in 2010, and to continuing the changes I began in 2009. For 2010, I want to

move to New Mexico and start a new life with my daughter

run 600 miles

continue to care for and support my daughter

do more hiking and bicycling

get involved with OrphanBaby, a non-profit that helps children in Ukrainian orphanages by training caregivers and medical staff to better meet their emotional needs

volunteer with my daughter at a no-kill animal shelter

And there is one more thing, which will remain private.

I am looking forward to moving to New Mexico and getting settled in our new house. It will be stressful, certainly, but I am confident the benefits will far outweigh the stresses. I'm also looking forward to even more personal growth and discoveries about myself.

As the Russians say, "S Novym Godom!" (Happy New Year!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Looking Back, Looking Forward

This has been a challenging, to say the least, yet rewarding year. My daughter has been through some extremely difficult times, which in turn wreaked havoc on me both physically and emotionally. That's the bad.

Now the good: This also has been a year of change and growth for both of us. We are gradually rebuilding our relationship, although much work remains to be done. I have seen many positive changes in my daughter, in her attitude, in her self-confidence, in her interest in arts and crafts, photography and reading, in her realization that taking care of her body with proper food and hydration makes her feel good. She is much more caring toward others, and able to better communicate and acknowledge her feelings and emotions in an open, positive way. She enjoys going to visit 'her' lady in a local nursing home, something she does regularly. She is learning how to give and to accept love.

I, too, have experienced growth and positive change this year. I have learned to take better care of myself. I have lost 8-10 pounds simply by reducing the amount of sugar and carbohydrates in my diet. I have rediscovered my love of writing and photography, talents that never went away but were ignored for too long. I realized how very much I enjoy words -- manipulating them to get just the right sense in a sentence, trying to find a better way of saying something to convey the right meaning and connotation, reading and savoring a particularly well-written sentence or paragraph. I now fully realize the pleasure I get from writing, especially while working on a book about my experiences as the mother of an adopted daughter. This has been an empowering and therapeutic experience. I also have learned to be a better mother to my daughter, who will turn 16 in a few days. Finally, after all the drama and trauma of this year, I am emerging a person with a greater sense of calm, a better sense of self, and a sense of where my life is headed.

We will visit our new house in New Mexico together (the first time my daughter will see it) over the Christmas holiday. We're going to paint her bedroom (her current thinking is that she wants to just 'splash' some contrasting paint onto the walls but leave them their current color) and paint the Pepto-Bismol pink guest room as well. More important than the work to be done, however, is the opportunity to spend time together. She mentioned once that working together to paint the room/s would be a good chance for us to bond.

From there, we will drive to Santa Fe, an amazing city any time of year, but it's supposed to be magical during Christmas. The lights, the farolitos (brown paper bags with sand in the bottom into which a lighted candle is set) and maybe a dusting of snow, should provide a beautiful setting for Christmas. We will walk Canyon Road on Christmas Eve, enjoying the farolitos displayed in rows along walkways and on top of adobe houses.

When my daughter asked recently what I want for Christmas, I could think of nothing material. I told her that I have all I want or need: her, our dogs, a secure job, my health, a new home in New Mexico, and the promise of a new life in the coming year. Work will continue on the book, I am exploring some new volunteer opportunities, and I have taken up 'active wishing' for some things that are on my private 'wish list.'

After a turbulent year, it seems that we are starting to enter calmer waters. The days and months ahead are full of promise. We both have learned valuable lessons and gained important insights into ourselves and each other. 2010 won't be perfect; no year ever is. But we can look forward to a year of continued growth and change, a deeper bond between us, new skills to deal with life's challenges, and a new life in a state with the most beautiful skies I have ever seen.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas season, happy holidays, and a bright, fulfilling New Year full of love and dreams fulfilled.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Last summer, I was trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Actually, my thoughts had turned to my post-retirement life, but I hadn’t given it a lot of thought. I was in a job that was secure, paid well and had good benefits, but it bored me to tears. There was nothing rewarding or challenging about it.

With my daughter away, I had time to really start to think about my future. Could I retire now or would I have to work a couple more years? Where did I want to live during retirement? What would be the best place for me and for my daughter? Could I start a small business with my photography and writing, or would it continue as a fun hobby? Would I remain alone the rest of my life, or was there room for a male companion at some point?

I spent a wonderful, relaxing week by myself in New Mexico, quietly celebrating my birthday, living according to my own schedule, hiking, taking photographs and just exploring. Some days I sat in the sun on the Santa Fe plaza, or in the beautiful Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. I hiked in Bandelier National Monument and clambered up four 10' wooden ladders to reach an ancient puebloan kiva. I photographed flowers and wildlife at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

One day, I realized how out of sync my life in Silicon Valley is with the ‘real’ me. I noticed that I was nearly always outside: hiking, walking around, dining on the patio, or just driving with the windows down, something I seldom do at home.

After I got home, I started reading a book about callings and how to live an authentic life. It had sat on my book shelf untouched for several years. One day, while working at my computer, I noticed the book. The timing seemed right to start reading. Although much of the book seemed rather abstract and philosophical, I continued to read every day. I knew that my life in Silicon Valley was not authentic. The rapid pace of life, the overcrowding and noise made it very clear that I was a person out of sync with her preferred reality. Spending my days inside an artificially lit room (in some cases with no window) and breathing artificially treated air was stifling me.

One Friday afternoon when I got home from work, I was blown away by how much energy I had. Obviously I was still hanging on to some of what I had learned from talking with my daughter’s therapist and while on vacation. I did laundry and hung it on the line to dry; I vacuumed the entire house. I wanted to go for a bike ride, but a leaking tire stopped that. So instead, I did the grocery shopping, then cleaned out a bookcase. When I finally went to bed, I decided to spend a few minutes reading my ‘callings’ book. Suddenly, the words on one page leaped out at me.

I had read previously that callings are not necessarily passions; they may in fact be things that we feel unprepared for or actually dislike. Then I read: “Expect that through the right lens, all our encounters will appear full of thunderbolts and instruction. Such encounters might include:

An offer to collaborate with someone on a project that draws you in an entirely new direction.

Some harrowing challenge is imposed on you.”

Suddenly I had a vision of my future – I would work to support and educate people about the challenges of raising adopted kids. The ‘offer to collaborate’ was my daughter’s therapist’s invitation to co-author a book with her. The ‘harrowing challenge’ was dealing with my daughter’s problems and what to do about them.

I started crying and wondering how to determine whether this would in fact be my future calling. Not photography, not writing, but working on behalf of other adoptive parents and their struggling kids. How would I know if this was real?

My first reaction was to try to put an action plan into place, to make the calling a reality. But now I am letting it unfold at its own pace. And it is unfolding.

Since then, I have written more than 125 pages of our book, which we believe will give hope to other parents struggling to understand and deal with their adopted kids' issues. I am being considered for a position on the board of directors of a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in Ukrainian orphanages by educating the physicians and caregivers responsible for their care. The therapist also said that she thought I would be a good person to run a group home for struggling adopted children and their parents, to provide respite and education for the parents, and a safe place for the children. As of now, this remains the therapist’s dream, but I was amazed at how these things surfaced in short order. I have been approached by a couple of people with questions about dealing with adopted kids' problems, and I offered what guidance and support I could. And of course, I have bought a new home in New Mexico.

I am relaxed about my future and I'm still letting it unfold on its own schedule. I have learned that trying to force something never works. If this calling is authentic, it will happen as it is meant to happen. I have taken the first step toward a more authentic life by buying a house in a state I love, one with incredible natural beauty, mountains, the bluest of skies and a fascinating architectural style. It offers wonderful photographic opportunities. I will continue working on the book, and who knows where that endeavor will lead?

My life this year has been full of challenges, but also opportunities. I am looking forward to the next chapter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How Much Is Too Much?

While walking the dogs on this cold, dark morning, and related to recent writing about gratitude and Thanksgiving, I suddenly asked myself "How much is too much?"

This question often pertains to material things: How much house is too much? How many pairs of shoes are too many? How many flat-screen TVs are too many for one house? But the question can be asked about non-material things as well: How much exercise is too much? How much time spent on work or household chores, rather than with loved ones, is too much? How much food is too much? How much television watching is too much?

As Americans, many of us suffer from "too much." As a country, we are woefully overweight, often the result of eating too much. We worry too much about what others think, about getting the latest fad in personal electronics or cars or designer clothing. We focus too much on getting ahead in our careers, often to the detriment of our families and relationships, or our health.

Our homes are filled with too much stuff. I, too, am guilty of having 'too much.' I recently bought a BlackBerry, despite having a perfectly nice cell phone that is only a few months old. I don't like a cluttered home, yet my place, despite numerous trips to drop off donations at the local Goodwill and library, still has 'too much' stuff. There are too many books to fit on the shelves, too many pieces of art to hang on the walls, too much food in the pantry and garage, too many clothes in the closets, too many CDs on the rack.

So as we enter this season of reflection and thanksgiving, and for some of us, the celebration of the birth of a savior, let us think about what is most important in our lives. Is it the 'too much' stuff that clutters our lives and our homes? Or is it the often-overlooked and neglected, intangible things: our relationships, our good deeds, our health, the opportunities we have to make a difference in someone else's life?

It isn't the quantity -- of years, of friends, of money or of things -- but rather the quality of our lives and our relationships -- that is most important. I love the concept of simple abundance, and my commitment at this special time of year is to learn more about this concept and to embrace it more fully, to make it a bigger part of my life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts

This year, despite many, many trying times and a huge amount of on-going stress, I truly do have much for which to be thankful. My daughter is in a safe place, getting the help she needs to deal with her demons resulting from a traumatic childhood in Russia. I have just closed on a fabulous house in New Mexico, and I am looking forward to moving to that beautiful state permanently in about 7 months. I am very disappointed that I can't move at the end of this year as originally planned, but the move is in sight.

Unlike millions of Americans, I have weathered the current economic recession in pretty good shape. My investments have increased by more than 4.5% this year, my job with the federal government is secure, and I have good benefits, including health insurance, which so many Americans don't have. And unlike many others, I have no debt other than two mortgages -- and that's only a temporary situation until I sell my house in California in a few months.

I am healthy, and just today I ran my 600th mile of 2009. My hips have been hurting, so I will probably rest for the remainder of the year and then resume running on January 1. In the meantime, I can enjoy walking, bicycling and hiking. I have lost 8-9 pounds this year simply by cutting back on the carbs in my diet. My blood pressure and resting pulse are excellent, and I am not afflicted with any of the problems that beset so many people of my age.

I have been given the opportunity to co-author a book, which allows me to pursue one of my favorite activities, non-fiction writing. I have set up a Web site featuring some of my best Southwest photographs for sale. I haven't sold anything yet, but I remain hopeful. An exciting volunteer opportunity is on the near horizon for me as well.

This has been a very difficult year for me. But I have learned a lot about myself in the process, and I am optimistic that what I have learned will make me a better mother and a better person overall.

So when I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this year, I will be more mindful than ever of the many blessings in my life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Second Step is Underway

This morning I went to the bank and wired the money to a New Mexico title company as a down payment on my new house. This afternoon, I met with a notary at work and got four documents notarized, then I took the entire fat package of paperwork to the nearby FedEx box for delivery tomorrow.

As much as I want this house, actually buying it, withdrawing a large amount of money from savings and completing the paperwork is an amazingly stressful process. Add to that the realization that for the next several months I will have not one, but two mortgage payments, and have to pay property taxes and insurance on two properties, and it becomes almost unfathomable.

I can't allow myself too much worry, and I have to have faith that everything will work out in the end. When I started this process, I decided, and I announced to one person, that I was going "to take a huge leap of faith and buy this house." That's exactly what I did. Since then, my plans to retire and move in January 2010 have been delayed for a few months.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is what I wanted. I loved this house from the time I first saw it in an Internet listing. Buying this house is, as the tired saying goes, the first step of the rest of my life. There is light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. I have to keep that light in mind. I have to remember that by next summer, I will have retired from my government job and I will be living in a beautiful house with a view of the Sandia Mountains. I will be enjoying the crisp air, the southwest ambiance, and a quiet homesite devoid of the incessant traffic and sirens and other noise that bombard me constantly now. My future, and a new life, await.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Taking the First Step Toward a New Life

In less than a week, I will close on my new home in Rio Rancho, NM. I found this house during an Internet search, fell in love with it, and after some initial hesitation, flew to Albuquerque to take a look at it. I was picked up at the airport by a Realtor, looked at fewer than six houses, and flew home that same evening.

A few days later, I made an offer on the house. It has everything I was looking for. It's only 12 years old, is a pueblo style, 1 story, with a very southwestern interior. It has lots of windows, is on a 1/2-acre lot and has a view of the mountains from the living room. The house is nearly twice the size of my little house in California. The front is enclosed by an adobe wall to make a beautiful courtyard. All the homes in the area are on 1/2-acre lots, and they all have back yards that face the mountains. The road in the area is unpaved, and the house is about a 10-minute drive from shopping. It couldn't be more different than where I live now.

Buying the house was just the first step on the road to my new, post-retirement life. As part of my plan for that new life, I'm reading a book about wishing. It's called The Wishing Year, by Noelle Oxenhandler. It was recommended to me by a woman with whom I have shared my recent dreams about my post-retirement life. I'm not even 1/3 of the way through the book, but I have started a daily practice of 'active wishing' for a couple of things that will, I hope, bring joy to my life.

I find the concept of 'active wishing' (that's my term for it) to be intriguing. Can wishing for something actually make it happen? Does 'putting it out there' really bring us the object for which we are wishing?

I can't answer that just yet, but I know that finding this house on the Internet and flying to New Mexico to see it seem very natural, almost pre-ordained. I'm not one to make rash decisions, but everything about this just seems right.

I still have to work for a few more months before I can move to the Land of Enchantment. But that's OK. I can do a lot of wishing during that time. Julia and I will spend a couple of days painting her bedroom in the new house over the Christmas holidays, then go to Santa Fe for Christmas. I have always wanted to spend Christmas in Santa Fe. The adobe buildings, the farolitos on Canyon Road on Christmas Eve, the snow, the beauty of St. Francis Cathedral -- all should make it a special holiday for us. And it will give us a taste of the new life that awaits us.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Remembering My Mom

This is a sad day for me. It was 3 years ago today that my mother died at age 80. She had Alzheimer's, but it appears that it was shingles that also attacked her brain and caused her death. She was in a drug-induced coma the last week of her life. We all knew that her passing was a blessing, but it certainly didn't feel like it then, nor does it now. My father slept on a chair in her hospital room, refusing to leave her except to go home to shower and change clothes. My brother flew in from Alaska, and as the end drew near, his wife and kids also joined us.

Julia, who had already suffered so much loss in her short life, either stayed in the waiting area or was entertained by family friends who took her to the movies or shopping to help pass the time. As it became obvious there was nothing more the doctors could do for my mother, I asked Julia to write a letter to Grandma. She wrote a very touching letter, thanking Grandma for welcoming her into the family and for being her Grandma. Although we didn't know whether Mom could hear what was going on around her or not, we pulled the curtain around her bed and Julia entered the room to read her letter to her Grandma. It was extremely touching, especially knowing how close Julia had been to her Russian grandmother. Julia's letter, along with letters and drawings from each of her cousins, was put into the casket and buried with my mother. My father also included a special memento for his wife of more than 60 years.

I wasn't particularly close to my mother, but that doesn't matter. Losing a mother is never easy. My Mom was a kind, good-hearted woman who seldom spoke ill of anyone. She was active in her church for close to 50 years, and she was a long-time member of the church women's group.

I think I was a disappointment to her, and I know that I hurt her sometimes. She opposed my decision to adopt Julia, but she welcomed Julia into the family with no apparent regrets. Julia loved her Grandma, and although she didn't show it, I'm sure losing her hit her hard.

So on this sad anniversary, I offer a prayer of thanks for my Mom, and remember her with sadness and love.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Grateful for Small Miracles

I thought this was going to be a good day. I slept well last night and didn't get up until just before 7 a.m..


I was driving home after finally going to order a new pair of glasses and sunglasses, something I have been putting off for months because of the cost. I got a great deal (50% off lenses and frames). So far, so good. Then I got into a car accident on Saratoga near 280 (a terrible intersection that I try to avoid).

A young woman hit the right side of my SUV with her Acura. The accident, fortunately, sounded much worse than it was. We pulled into a gas station parking lot to assess the damage. No one was injured, her car suffered a dented and scratched front bumper, and my small SUV suffered some scratches below the passenger door on the plastic cladding and a couple of small scratches on the paint. It isn't serious enough to warrant a repair. We exchanged information just in case something develops in the next few days. She was very apologetic and took full responsibility for the accident. I am shaken, but unhurt.

I am so grateful that no one was hurt and that the damage to my vehicle was so minor. Traffic was heavy and neither of us was going very fast. I am thankful that the young woman stopped and that she took responsibility for causing the accident. Things could have been so much worse. I am hopeful that the rest of the day, and the weekend, will be better. It's a beautiful day and I'm about to go running. Breathe, Ann, breathe!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

On Time and Growing Old

As is customary every Saturday and Sunday morning, I took Mila and Tia to the nearby park this morning, rather than going for a boring walk around the neighborhood. It was a foggy, cool morning, and Mila was enjoying herself, sniffing and exploring on her long leash. Suddenly I noticed how much she has aged over the years. Her face, the color of a yellow Labrador retriever, always bore the cream-colored markings of a beagle. But now, her face is more silver than cream or yellow.

My girl, now 11 years old by best guess, is showing her age. Mila has always been a quiet, keep-to-herself kind of dog (kind of like her mom), so I can't say that old age has slowed her. I found her, abandoned, collarless and pregnant, when I lived in Houston. After checking the greenbelt area where she was found and seeing no 'lost dog' signs, I decided to keep her. I figured that turning a pregnant dog over to the local shelter would be a certain death sentence for her.

So I had her spayed (she was carrying at least 10 puppies) and her hips x-rayed. Mila always did the 'bunny hop' when she ran, and the x-rays confirmed that my new 18-month-old dog indeed had bad hips. They have never seemed to bother her, except the day after we did a 2-mile fundraising walk for the local humane society. She was barely able to move the next day. She still jumps into the back of my SUV and onto my bed without assistance.

It is sobering to watch my "Miss Pig" (one of her nicknames) getting old. Tia, at age 8, hasn't slowed down any, although she was recently diagnosed with arthritis in her left elbow. My father will be 85 next month and is suffering from a myriad of medical issues. All these things have made me acutely aware that time marches on, and there is little that we can do about it.

My daughter, whom I adopted when she was 11 years old, will be 16 next month and is very much a young woman now. She will always be my 'little' girl (although she is a good 6 inches taller than I am).

I am extremely fortunate to be aging well. More than 30 years of running, a pretty healthful diet, love of hiking and bicycling, and watching my weight have enabled me to avoid the all-too-frequent complaints of people my age. My blood pressure is 90/60, my resting pulse 60. I have aches and pains from time to time, a knee that isn't always happy to be running, and I suffer from insomnia, but all in all, I can't complain. I am learning to take better care of myself and to do nice things for myself at least once in a while. This weekend's treat was a bunch of sunflowers, which always bring me joy.

So go out and do something nice for yourself and for those you love, be they human, canine, feline or any other species. Time is short, and none of us knows how much we have left.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Gratefulness List

It's taken a lot of time and pondering, but at last I have completed my list of 100 things for which I am grateful. I really encourage people to do this exercise at least once, if not daily (I'm not disciplined enough yet to make a daily list of 5 items, but that is a goal of mine).

100 Things For Which I Am Grateful

1. my dogs Mila and Tia
2. my daughter Julia
3. my blue eyes
4. my photographer’s eye
5. classical music
6. smooth jazz
7. hiking
8. mountains
9. New Mexico
10. the beauty of nature
11. reading
12. my writing talent
13. fresh peaches from my yard
14. fresh strawberries
15. grilled salmon
16. wine with a slice of lemon
17. time
18. golden retrievers
19. terriers
20. mutts
21. blue skies
22. Arizona’s red rocks
23. continuing to grow
24. my wonderful bed
25. Good Earth tea
26. books
27. sunshine
28. the smell of a pine forest
29. air conditioning
30. fireplaces
31. fresh, crisp mountain air
32. my therapist
33. freedom
34. sunflowers
35. carnations
36. low humidity
37. the high desert
38. Santa Fe
39. wolves
40. my fruit trees
41. rediscovering myself
42. my job at the humane society
43. Tony Hillerman books
44. time to read
45. sunsets
46. Native American jewelry
47. my hybrid SUV
48. this blog
49. good knees after more than 30 years of running
50. hot showers
51. my sense of humor
52. Enya
53. my new bicycle
54. being able to speak Russian
55. chocolate
56. black walnuts
57. salted cashews
58. warm chocolate chip cookies
59. my NASA career
60. my favorite shampoo
61. warm, sunny days
62. e-mail
63. living in Moscow
64. soft, warm sweatshirts
65. fresh-squeezed orange juice
66. family
67. friends
68. education
69. solitude
70. abundance
71. my independent spirit
72. flannel pajamas
73. Coke Classic in a can
74. beautiful sunrises
75. residential treatment centers
76. whales
77. vacations
78. taking better care of myself
79. losing weight
80. daisies along the highway
81. a good night’s sleep
82. waking up every morning
83. my New Mexico House
84. faith
85. resilience
86. healthy mind
87. healthy body
88. opportunities to develop new facets of myself
89. inner strength
90. willingness to take risks
91. hope
92. opportunity to co-author a book
93. optimism
94. life’s lessons learned
95. being in control of how I feel
96. love
97. serenity
98. rainbows
99. animal rescue groups
100. forgiveness

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Mother's Heart

A Mother’s Heart

A human heart is about the size of a fist and weighs less than a pound, but a mother’s heart is different. A mother’s heart is the biggest, strongest thing in the world. Although it looks like any other human heart, a mother’s heart is special. Its extraordinary qualities cannot be seen even under the most powerful microscope; they can only be felt.

From the time she first sees her child, a mother’s heart is no longer hers. Whether she is a biological or an adoptive mother, her heart will belong to her child until she takes her final breath and her heart beats no more. The mother gives her heart away willingly; indeed, it would be almost impossible for her not to give her heart to her child.

A mother’s heart, although physically small, is full of love that never ends. It is like the deepest well, replenished from an unknown, unseen source. This heart also is filled with hope and wisdom and courage. A mother’s heart is tough, yet gentle. It can be stern, yet it gives love without questioning, without reservation.

A mother’s heart swells with pride when her child does something special. It is elated when her child gives her a drawing or anything created by her child’s own hands, no matter how rough or crude the attempt. A mother’s heart knows no sweeter sound than her child saying “Mommy.”

A mother’s heart is more perceptive than the most sensitive of instruments. It can sense things that cannot be seen or heard, only those that can be felt. It just ‘knows’ when something is wrong or when her child is hurting, when intuition is her only guide.

A mother’s heart can endure incredible pain. It can be broken into a million little pieces when she watches her child struggle. When her child screams at her “I hate you.” When she sees her child put her life at risk with self-destructive behaviors. When her child is crushed by the failure of a first love. When her child betrays her mother’s trust. Broken, crushed, hurting, the mother’s heart goes on.

Although the mother’s heart may ache with an almost unbearable pain, the flow of love never ceases, like a river suddenly swollen by the melting snows or a torrential rain.

Her child may ignore or hurt her, but the heart’s well of love never runs dry. It may need some time to recover from being broken; it may need time and distance away from the child it so loves. But invariably, the hurt and the anger and the disappointment will pass.

Somehow, in some magical way, a mother’s heart heals yet again. The pieces go back together once more, although the heart may never be the same as it was. A mother’s heart may always bear the scars of loving too much, of giving more than the mother should give, or of caring so much that her own needs go unmet. But no matter how deep or how many or how raw the scars, a mother’s heart always seems to heal. It never gives up hope. And it never stops loving.

Copyright 2009 Ann Sullivan

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Gratitude List

I'm stealing this idea from a wonderful blogger named Deb. Thanks, Deb! I like the idea of a gratitude list as a way of helping me focus less on the drama and trauma of life, especially life with a teenager, and more on the positive things about my life. It's so easy to overlook the good things and become overwhelmed by life's troubles and irritants.

I started my list of 100 things for which I am grateful last week -- a very ambitious goal indeed! So far my list includes 76 items, and the list is growing v-e-r-y slowly. Once it's complete, I'll post it for everyone to see. Some of the things on the list are rather silly -- chocolate, for example. Others are more important, such as the high desert I love, or my dogs.

It's an interesting exercise to actually think about and record the things for which I am grateful. There is no rhyme or reason to my list, and no significance to the order in which items appear. It's completely random. But putting this list together has caused me to think seriously about just what is most important in my life. Perhaps this is an exercise that more people should do. Even if they can't come up with a list of 100 things, how about 50? or 25? or 10?

Studies have shown that people who have gratitude lists -- and some people do them daily -- are better able to shift their perspectives than those who don't. I am facing a lot of stress right now, on a number of fronts. Anything I can do to help me deal with my stress and keep me positive and moving forward is worth doing.

Try it, and let me know how it works for you!

Scary Things in the Dark

This morning, I was lazy and didn't get up when I should have. So I decided to take the dogs for a shorter walk on a different route. It was still very dark outside, even after 6 a.m. Tia, my little golden retriever, is easily frightened. Lawn sprinklers, plastic bags, sheets of paper -- all send her scurrying for safety.

This morning we passed a house with some Halloween decorations in the front yard. One of the tombstones lurking in the shadows must have looked particularly frightening to her. Rather than trying to run away, she walked slowly, looking back over her shoulder to keep an eye on the evil monster lurking in the dark, undoubtedly awaiting the opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting little dogs foolish enough to venture out in the early morning darkness.

Fortunately, we all escaped the clutches of the malevolent tombstone, this time at least, and we made it to the safety of home.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Own Piece of Heaven

In July, I visited New Mexico for my annual trip. One of the new places I visited was some ancient Puebloan ruins at Abo State Monument. It consists of the ruins of a large church made of the common red sandstone, as well as a couple of old, roofless adobe homes nearby. The site was abandoned a few hundred years ago.

I picked up a small piece of red sandstone from the nearby river that runs behind the ruins. Shaped somewhat like an old-fashioned eraser, it is the perfect size to slip into my pocket. Once I got home, I realized how much this little piece of New Mexico means to me. I carry it with me every day. On particularly stressful days, when I desperately wanted to retire and move to New Mexico, I would hold this little piece of heaven in my hand, almost as if by clutching it I could extract some of the beauty and peacefulness of that state. It may seem strange, but this little piece of sandstone is my talisman, my connection to the life that awaits me once I retire and move to The Land of Enchantment. No, I don't 'channel' the spirits of the native people who once inhabited that area. I don't attribute any special powers to my rock. But having it near me brings me peace and serves as a reminder that this special place will be waiting for me, as soon as I am ready to move.

A Walk in the Dark

What makes an otherwise normal, sane person crawl out of a wonderful, comfy, warm bed at 4:45 a.m. and take her dogs for a walk? It's still pitch black outside, the wind is blowing at 15 mph or worse, it's cold, and my cup of hot tea is cooling in the house.

I should be at home, if not in bed, at least wrapped in a warm, fleece robe, drinking my tea, listening to classical music and reading the morning paper. Instead, I'm freezing my tail off as my dogs happily sniff the markings of other dogs who have passed this way, presumably in warmer weather. And of course, there is the ever-present plastic poop bag in my pocket, ever ready to do its nasty chore. But today, I got lucky. There was no poop to pick up and carry until we got home.

I once again dismissed the thought of going running this morning, as I did yesterday for the same reasons. Maybe I'll go after work, when I can at least see where I'm going and it won't be quite so cold outside. For now, I will enjoy my tea and a hot shower and prepare for the day ahead.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Something New

This is my first attempt at blogging. I have always loved writing, so this will be a new outlet for me. I'm currently co-authoring a book and working on a short piece for my own enjoyment as well.

The title of my blog, "Red Rocks and Sunflowers," refers to a couple of my most favorite things. I visited Sedona, AZ, the site of perhaps the country's most well known red rocks, in February this year. It was a place of awesome beauty. And who doesn't like sunflowers, with their happy faces tracking the movement of the sun across the sky? For the same reason, seeing the highways in Utah lined with wild black-eyed susans always brings a smile to my face. Who can be cranky or in a bad mood when looking at such happy natural beauty?