Opening the New Year with Compassion

If you want the world to be happy: practice compassion. If you want to be happy: practice compassion.
~ Dalai Lama

I particularly love this time of year, the silent yet stirring segue of the final week of 2015 into the fresh new pages of 2016. As I pondered what I would say here today to open this new year, I found the answer when I prepared to do my morning mindful meditation. Its theme, which resonates deeply in my wishful heart, was: May all beings be well and happy.

This metta-meditation, a very old Buddha technique to cultivate compassion, with regular practice can recondition our minds and open our hearts to both ourselves and others. Metta-meditation tells us we must not decide who deserves our compassion and who does not, but rather that compassion is something all beings deserve, even those responsible for horrendous crimes against humanity.

The guided meditation method to wish happiness and wellness for all beings is to first sit comfortably and, if helpful, close your eyes. First, see yourself in your mind, and mindfully say:

• May I be well and happy. Repeat.
• May I have no fears or sorrows. Repeat.
• May I be healthy and free from illness. Repeat.
• May I live calmly and peacefully. Repeat.

Then repeat the same affirmations for all others in this list, adjusting it to apply to you; for example you may not have a child but someone else you’d like to include. These are examples:

• Parents
May my parents be well and happy. Repeat.
May my parents have no fears or sorrows. Repeat.
May I be healthy and free from illness. Repeat.
May I live calmly and peacefully. Repeat.

Then repeat the meditation for each person on your list:

• Spouse or partner
• Child
• Teachers and mentor
• Friend
• A neutral person with whom you share the simple bond of being a fellow human being
• A person you dislike, keeping in mind the truth that “he or she is just like you—with pains and frustrations, desires and hopes.”
• All humans in the world
• All living beings everywhere, from single cell organisms to the highest form of intelligence

Professor Muesse (see below) states that “medical studies have been conducted and support the claim that prayer has a tangible, empirical effect on the health of those prayed for.” And “whether or not you believe in the effects of this practice… consider the fact that relieving a little of the hostility of just one person—yourself—will make that world a little better for everyone.”

I have found over time this practice has brought a noticeable and welcomed softening to my heart.

IMG_20160101_135251658 (2)

Source: The Great Courses Series – Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation by Professor Mark W. Muesse, PhD, Rhodes College – Lecture #17


Posted in Compassion, Gifts, Gratitude, Kindness, Mystery, Simplicity | 6 Comments

Leaving the Farm, Part II – Hilary, 21 Years Later

As I drove up the mountain to have my car serviced early this morning, I noticed some yellow walnut leaves lightly fluttering to the ground. They reminded me that in a few months there will be, instead of dying leaves, large snowflakes gently falling in a hushed early winter snowfall.

I’d been thinking about my cat, Hilary, and her more than two decades of life thus far. At my vet’s office, she’s known as the poster child for wellness chec2010-06-03 22.08.20k-ups. Why, you might wonder? Well, four years ago I took her in, expecting the usual good checkup, and learned she had breast cancer. Stunned, I didn’t even know cats got breast cancer. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she also needed surgery for stones in her urinary tract. I asked the vet my questions: what was her prognosis with and without surgery? With surgery, if the cancer didn’t re-occur in six months, chances were it wouldn’t. Without surgery, her life could last a few months more. What was her general condition aside from her current problems? Her blood work showed she appeared otherwise in good general health for a seventeen year old cat. What was the cost? Both surgeries could be done the same day and would amount to roughly $1,000.00.

I asked for some time to consider. Alone, then, with Hilary, I looked into her eyes as she watched me, almost appearing to understand we were going to have a serious talk. A tabby, she has black lines near her eyes that also give her the appearance of a perpetual frown.

“Okay, little girl, we have a choice: surgery or not,” I said in a low voice, still not knowing the decision.

“Remember when Mom’s cat got so sick and the vet did more than a thousand dollars of testing to determine what was wrong, and then Buster died two days later?”

Hilary, feet tucked under her on the gray Formica exam table, watched me, seeming to get the drift of the conversation, if her eye expression was any indicator. I stared at her quietly then, weighing our options: aged cat, costly surgery, would it give her added life or would it put her through discomfort and she might die soon after?

Was I imagining it, or was Hilary staring at me with obvious trust in her eyes? The options silently swirled around in my head until finally the vet’s words stood at the front of the line of the other choices: she’s otherwise in good general health.

I had my answer and it felt exactly right. “Okay, Hilary. Here’s what we’re going to do.”
She listened attentively, her lime-green eyes fastened on mine. “Let’s do the surgery. What I hope you can do is survive the six months cancer-free, okay? Let’s hope that will happen because we’ll do the breast cancer surgery just this once.”

So that’s what we did. She came through the surgery beautifully, passed the six-month cancer-free marker, and we got to share two more healthy years. When I took her in for a check-up last year, she’d been noticeably losing weight and I braced myself. Her new diagnosis was renal failure, quite common in older cats, I learned. “How much time does she have?” I asked the vet.

“It’s hard to tell,” she said. “She’s lost a lot of weight, but she appears to be doing okay otherwise.” She prescribed some maintenance medications which have brought us to today. Hilary’s a little over five pounds now, tips and totters a lot when she walks, yet still seems comfortable as she maintains her usual patterns. She sticks to her routine of waiting by the door each morning for me to let her out on the front deck where she spends her Virginia retirement in warmth, she begins pacing when around 6pm when it’s time for her wet food, and, otherwise, is a bit snippy with my other cat, my son’s cat when she visits there, and my daughter’s dogs who really want to be her friend.

And so, as golden leaves gently spiral to the ground, I do the one thing I can: I treasure each day, aware that the bitter-cold day will come when she and I will have to say good-bye.

Posted in Animal friends, Gifts, Gratitude, Health, Mother Nature | 7 Comments

Those Ten Pounds – Three Months Later

Remember those ten pounds I talked about three months ago that transformed into my wake-up call? The pounds that caused my A1C (a 3-6 month average of blood sugar levels) to elevate high enough that my doctor put me on diabetic medication. I was horrified, since I’d been controlling my Type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise for the past twenty years.

That day I decreased my portions and increased my walking to roughly 10,000 steps a day, about 4 miles for me. My beagle-wippet, Beau, loved all our walks together! Me, too.

Three months later, I requested another A1C test, after losing fifteen pounds. My doctor called the day after to tell me my A1C was the lowest she’s ever seen for me. Discontinue the glucophage, she said, and keep working on lifestyle. I was, of course, thrilled.

Am I bragging? Not at all.

So, then, why do I write this post? Simply, once again, I’m stunningly reminded that we are sometimes graced with the ability to improve our health simply with our choices. How awesome is that?


The final glucophage tablet is on the placemat. I no longer need the medication.


Posted in Change, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Health | 8 Comments



For time to cherish

a lovely autumn day

on a country road

with a good dog,

equally as appreciative.


Posted in Animal friends, Change, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mother Nature, Peacefulness | Leave a comment

Parallel Journeys

I’m on the homestretch of a deep, final edit of my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life, and have found this the most fascinating part of the entire writing journey. The draft topped out at 115,000 words and my goal has been to reduce the manuscript to about 95,000, or less, words.

Today I broke through the 100,000 milestone and closed out the day at 99,902 words. I cup-of-teacelebrated with a cup of tea! Now, with seven chapters remaining to edit, I know I’ll meet my goal. As the words melt away while I focus on one paragraph and then the next, my writing becomes more concise and I can both sense and see the story transforming  from an adolescent phase of writing into a mature form. It’s exhilarating.

On another note, some of you know I’ve been working at losing weight. (That story is here.) As I worked out on my treadmill yesterday morning, part of walking my ten thousand steps daily, I had a sudden thought:  my manuscript and I – we are both slimming down.

Such a good feeling!

Wishing you each a fine weekend.

Posted in Grace, Health, The Writing Life | 6 Comments

Missing, Presumed

Always, it’s wonderful to discover a new author in one’s favorite genre. Mystery has long been my favorite genre until memoir stepped in some years ago and now shares my top spot with mystery.41sp1sXYFrL._AC_US200_

Susie Steiner is a new author for me, although Missing, Presumed is her second novel. I read a review of the book that intrigued me and ordered it from my library. Today I’m nearly done and am enjoying this book so much, I want to share that, if you have enjoyed British mysteries such as the Elizabeth George series with Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers, I suspect you’ll enjoy Missing, Presumed as much. Her Detective Inspector is Manon Bradshaw and her partner DC Davy Walker.

I point out this book, in particular, because Steiner has crafted an outcome unique to any mystery I ever remember reading.

Steiner has written a previous book, Home Coming, that I will order, set in a rural town, which I particularly favor. As I write, Steiner is crafting the next Bradshaw and Walker mystery which I shall be watching for.

Nearly a hundred reviews appear on Amazon, to learn more.

Posted in A Wonderful Book, Mystery | Leave a comment

Remembering “Stories from the Heart I” – February, 2002

I’d been writing life-stories for about a year in 2002, when Story Circle Network announced its first National Conference: Stories from the Heart in Austin, TX. I, a shy  writer and rare traveler, made plane reservations to fly to Austin-Bergstrom Airport. I knew I needed to go–a strong nudge from the universe, I’m certain–and that my quiet life-style was not going to keep me home as it often did. Some women from my online writing circle 2 would be there–Marie Buckley, the facilitator, Kara Flathouse and Tricia Stevens, with whom I felt connecting threads–and I looked forward to meeting women in person that I knew, until then, only from the internet.

A heady three days well-describes my experience with the attendees, the workshops and leaders, the energy, the Open Mike readings, as well as seeing a little of Texas for the first time. I still recall many moments from that conference from arrival to airport departure. Yet, there is one now-favorite moment that I am reminded of each day when my eyes once again enjoy the beauty of these ceramic pieces in my living room.


As door prizes were awarded during one of our luncheons, we applauded as each woman’s name was drawn and she stepped to the podium to accept a gift-wrapped package. Several gifts were presented and then I was stunned when my name was called. With delight, because I never won gifts, I walked forward to shyly accept my prettily wrapped gift.

Back at my luncheon table, I loosened the tape (yes, I’m one of those slow un-wrappers!), removed the paper and folded it up to probably use again, then opened the box, which was weighty. I peeked into the tissue within and lifted out one of the ceramic pieces in the photo.

Member Rebecca Roberts had crafted those pieces. Each contains seeds that are noted on the back: ginko, maple spinners, and the third has unfortunately fallen away. When I shake one as if it’s a rattle, the seeds within give a pleasant, unique sound, depending on the size of the piece and type of seeds within. I was initially thrilled with the beauty of these pieces and still am, noting them as another of the abundant gifts Story Circle Network brought me in those early years and during each year that followed.

When I arrived home in 2002 and continued to become more committed to writing, I grew to appreciate these beautiful pieces on a much deeper level. These days, when I pick up one of Rebecca’s pieces and shake it, I’m reminded that these beautifully-crafted pieces of nature, clay and seeds, are rich reminders that within myself are also seeds: for many more stories to write as part of my legacy.


Posted in Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mystery, Simplicity | 5 Comments

Talent – A Book Review

I enjoy writing book reviews for Story Circle Network for so many reasons: I keep up with the latest books by women indie writers; the reviews support the finest Book Review site on the internet for these well- written books by women authors; it’s always a challenge to write one, and I always know where to go when looking for a good book to read and review.

When I attended Stories from the Heart 2016 Conference in Austin last April, I returned home with nearly a dozen books to read. Last month I pulled B. Lynn Goodwin’s young adult novel Talent from the pile. Although Lynn is a SCN member, I hadn’t planned to review her book because our book review site already had a great review of it.

Every now and then I read a book that I enjoy so much that I write a review of it outside the ones I normally write. Talent is one of those books. I wish every parent, teacher, police officer, clergy person, and other community members who connect with the lives of our children/adolescents could read this book. It provides a stunning road map to recognize when our young people are hurting and how to sensitively help and support them.

The review is posted here. index


Posted in A Wonderful Book, Book Reviews, Change, Compassion, Courage, Grace, Kindness | 2 Comments

Crikey, It’s Only Ten Pounds!

Twenty years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Horrified, I opened the door into this disease to understand it. I learned, for starters, that I had to begin eating differently and that I had to exercise regularly. In time I would examine the other dis-eases in my life that, if they had a volume button between 1 and 10, would have sounded out at 20. Hello! Wake up call! You are a mess, girl! I hung my head. Well, yes, I was.

I was deeply stressed at work, (running through MacDonald’s for a quick lunch most days), in the throes of a devastating personal crisis, and had recently separated from my spouse after we agreed our marriage had sadly, dismally deteriorated. It was beyond time to wake up.

I do urge you to be compassionate with diabetics. (Well, I urge everyone to be compassionate at all times.) It’s hard to learn how to eat properly if you’ve never studied this science. Do you know that all carbohydrates transform into sugar, the diabetic’s worst enemy? Or that ½ cup of rice or pasta or potatoes is the maximum amount to eat in one meal if you’re diabetic? Or, how about this: since healthy fruits and juices contain a high level of sugar, ½ banana or apple or ½ cup of orange juice is all you should eat or drink in a meal.


You may know all this. Back in 1996, I did not. I sat with paper and pencil so many evenings, agonizing over portion sizes, daily meal plans, what food to take to work, and shopping lists. It was laborious yet, in the end, I transformed my eating habits from horrible to healthy. When I re-committed to exercising regularly, I realized how worn out I felt on days I didn’t exercise. I changed my lifestyle as well as other aspects in my life that were suffering.

It was such an awakening to understand how much control I had over my health; I’ve never forgotten that. For the next twenty years I managed my diabetes with diet and exercise.Not long ago I was telling a friend about this.

I can give you many reasons for why the following happened last winter, but I won’t: simply, I slacked off on exercising and got lax with those freshly-made local tortilla chips most evenings. By early spring I’d gained ten pounds. I didn’t like my expanded waistline but there it was.

When I went for my six-month health check recently, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was stunned. My A1C, the six-month average for blood sugar measurement, had climbed to an unacceptable level and my doctor prescribed diabetic medication twice a day. I was so frustrated with myself for backsliding that badly. I drove home determined to lose those ten pounds and more by the time I see my primary care provider next time. To date, I’ve lost 9 pounds. How? By walking 10,000 steps/3-4 miles a day and decreasing portion sizes. Well, okay, I stopped ordering those chips too. No new fad diet, just common sense.

My goal is to end my diabetic medication regime. I have to add, too, that I’m feeling a lot less sluggish these days…. Crikey, what a difference nine pounds less makes!

Posted in Aging, Change, Compassion, Grace, Health, In the Kitchen | 10 Comments

A Sweet Bovina Story – Maple Syrup


A long-time friend from Bovina, NY recently brought me a treasure of a gift: pure locally made maple syrup. As I gathered my maple syrup thoughts this morning, I realized how little I know about its origins, so engaged on an interesting little search.

Ever wondered who first made maple syrup, that divine sweetener that has long been my absolute favorite? Although we have no written documentation for today’s scholars, there are many interesting stories and all  seem to circle back to our Native American ancestors. I found the following tale in several places and reproduce it here from the Southern Maine Maple Sugarmakers Association:

Legend has it that the first maple syrup maker was an Iroquois woman, the wife of Chief Woksis. One late-winter morning, the story goes, the chief headed out on one of his hunts, but not before yanking his tomahawk from the tree where he’d thrown it the night before. On this particular day the weather turned quite warm, causing the tree’s sap to run and fill a container standing near the trunk. The woman spied the vessel and, thinking it was plain water, cooked their evening meal in it. The boiling that ensued turned the sap to syrup, flavoring the chief’s meal as never before. And thus began the tradition of making maple syrup.

It certainly matched my experience: maple water, or sap, from sugar maple trees begins to flow during a brief window of time between late winter and early spring, when days are warming up and nights are still cold. I well remember a day each year, often in March, when I lived on our Catskill Mountain farm in the mid-1970s, when I’d step outside the farmhouse into a still-cool, slightly-humid morning and well-embedded knowledge in my bones by then, told me that maple syrup season had arrived. This fact was a sweet lift from the long Catskill winter and always made me smile.

My husband, Don, and his father, Ed, would tap the numerous sugar maples on the farm, and fasten sap buckets.  When sap filled the buckets, the men fastened a wooden wagon,the gathering tank on it, onto the back of the old John Deere tractor. After gathering sap from the buckets into the tank, they’d putt-putt down to the old sap house below the house that was nestled by the stone-wall fence above the stream.

Smoke soon puffed from the stovepipe chimney where, inside the humid, sweet-smelling sap house, a wood fire was boiling down the sap to the right temperature. Forty gallons of sap was needed to make one gallon, a huge amount for our small operation. In our best year, I remember, we made fifty gallons.

Maple-syrup making was one of the many ways in which we lived so connected to the land for our food. It was part of the magic of living in rural America that I have always cherished and held close to my heart.

And, so, when I opened my bottle of pure maple syrup this morning, I slid back through decades to a rich time in my life for which I’ve always been profoundly grateful, a time when I learned so much that I’d never had known if I’d remained a city girl.

I also feel gratitude today for my friend, Jan; for this sumptuous syrup; for a tiny community and the people in it who carry on this timeless tradition today; for the Iroquois woman–if legend is accurate–who inadvertently discovered the secret within maple sap; and for the sugar maple trees of the northeast, so generous in their gift to us. May we each respect and appreciate the wonder and integrity of this sweet earth we all live upon.





Posted in Bovina Stories, Community, Friendship, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mother Nature, Mystery, Peacefulness, Simplicity | 2 Comments

The Cat’s in the Cradle

I walk past my oldest antique, a cradle that my grandmother, Edna Cartwright Davis, born IMG_20160523_105247902in the late 1800s, slept in as an infant. When she grew out of it, someone carried it upstairs into an attic where it remained for decades. I never knew about the cradle until my grandmother brought it downstairs one year in the early 60s and asked if I would like to have it. I was in my early twenties then,married and mother of two sons, and pretty sure I wouldn’t have more children. But that didn’t matter because this was a family heirloom and I was thrilled to say, “Yes, I’d love to have that cradle,” to my grandmother. She wasn’t often physically affectionate, but that day I reached out and gave her a big long hug of gratitude and love.

Life changed unexpectedly after that and I became a single mom for several years. When I re-married, Polly arrived four years later and two years later, Susan. To prepare the cradle for Polly, I purchased 3” soft piece of foam and crafted a mattress, then made sheets to fit from fabric with a small pastel-colored kitten pattern. Both girls slept contentedly in the cradle and grew out of it more quickly than I would have chosen.

Following the baby years, the cradle slowly filled with baby memorabilia: a triangle patchwork baby quilt crafted by my mother’s friend, Geneva; a crocheted pale green-and-yellow afghan my mother made; a lacy baby pillow made by a Bovina friend. When the girls began to outgrow their dolls, dolls began to spend their days in the cradle, so many beautiful dolls. The lovely yellow-haired doll with a baby blue handmade dress made by a talented Bovinian, Lisa, found her way there. The Raggedy Ann dolls I made, each with a heart embroidered with, “I love you,” secreted beneath their dresses and aprons were tucked close by, the small Raggedy Ann nestled on the larger one’s lap. Then, life-sized baby doll, Bonnie, was tenderly placed in the cradle, still dressed today in the pink-checked bunny bunting with little white ears I’d brought Polly, and then Susan, home from the hospital in. The bunting is still in perfect condition these near four-decades later.

Now, it’s the cat who naps in the cradle, comfy as can be atop the folded patchwork quilt. As I smile down at my sweet feline friend and his surrounding company, sweet memories fill my heart. Then I wonder: who will nap in the cradle in its future years?


Posted in Animal friends, Bovina Center, NY, Stories, Change, Childhood, Family, Friendship, Grace, Quilts | 5 Comments

One Wedding Ring – A Quilt Story

Wedding rings have been on my mind the past few days, with an abundant arc of images ranging from the simplest of bands to the most glamorous and sophisticated rings passing through my mind. Why wedding rings? Am I getting married? Not at all.

Rather, I’ve been remembering my research for a quilt design to reflect the contents of Chapter 3 in my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life. The chapter tells the story of my parents’ meeting when they worked for 20th Century Fox in Manhattan in the early 1940s and their subsequent marriage. When I found two patterns I liked, the “Single Wedding Ring,” and the “Double Wedding Ring,” I became curious about the origin of wedding rings. How long had humans worn rings as a symbol of marriage?

Research revealed that historians believe the ancient Egyptians started the ring-giving tradition more than 3,000 years ago. Interestingly, those earliest-known rings were usually braided of hemp or reeds. The circular shape represented endless love between a man and woman. The third finger of the left hand was chosen as the ring finger because of the belief that particular finger held a special vein connected directly to the heart. This idea passed on to other cultures, and centuries later, became known by the Latin term vena amoris or “vein of love.”

I wondered next when and why men started to wear wedding bands and found that a small minority of bridegrooms began wearing them toward the latter part of the last century. I also found a suggestion that World War II had, in part, occasioned a shift to men wearing wedding rings, particularly soldiers, who wore them as a comforting reminder of wives, children, and family back home.

I liked both wedding ring patterns, and my choice of which to use was easy. I’d make the Single Wedding Ring because my father had never worn a wedding band. Then I became curious to know when and where the design originated, and turned to a great quilt research site I’ve found during my present quilt journey, The Quilt Index. There, in an essay by Wilene Smith on June 30, 2011, “Wedding Ring? or Single Wedding Ring?”  I learned the earliest known Wedding Ring design was published as an engraving on October 1, 1887 in a Springfield, MA magazine named “Farm and Home.”

Later, in 1930 , Wedding Ring was renamed Single Wedding Ring, and although, as with many patterns, it acquired other names–for example, Saw Tooth, in 1890-1894, and Odd Scraps Patchwork in 1895-1897–it continued to be known as Wedding Ring in most publications for the next 41 years.

Smith’s essay also answered the question: When did the Wedding Ring pattern become the Single Wedding Ring? She found “…it was April 12, 1930, in the Kansas City Star newspaper illustrated by Eveline Foland and has been generally known by this name ever since.” She explores why the name changed and if the popularity of the new Double Wedding Ring pattern influenced the change. That, and a multitude of information about single and double wedding ring patterns is included in the essay at the above link.

Here is my own version:


One Wedding Ring, May, 2016

Posted in Family, Mystery, Quilts | 9 Comments