Category Archives: Transition

Reflections on Loss of Loved Ones

A prose poem reflecting on the accelerating pace of losses in the years beyond 50, is shared on the 20th anniversary of April’s National Poetry Month.

Someone Left the Window Open

Someone left the window open and they are slipping through,
One by one, and two by twos –
Loving grandparents – drum majors of a parade –
Uncle Don who drove everywhere looking for little pink pigs like ones in my storybook;
Betty Davis, dear childhood friend, named for a movie star, who survived polio to be felled by its re-awakening in later years;
Uncle Frank, who told scary ghost stories, loved Florida and lived life his way;
Uncle William, who lived a formal life as Presbyterian minister till he retired and put away his suits for blue jeans and bluegrass;
Aunt Ermal, who was dietitian at Cumberland College, loved playing Sorry, and made memories with her fruitcakes;
Aunt Verna, who cared for her town as county public health physician;
Aunt Maggie, who liked brandy alexander’s, managed her own business and parachuted from a plane in her 80’s;
Aunt Shirley, who enjoyed taking care of her home and sang country songs while she washed dishes;
Aunt Fanella, twin sister of my father, who kept kinfolk connected and her faith strong;
Dottie, my 6 foot tall college roommate, who had a big heart, a hearty laugh and was a wonderful nurse;
Sweet Alice, my Indiana University officemate, loyal to her friends, who found love in later life;
Mother-in-law Nora, loving mother and grandmother, who taught first grade for 52 years;
Brother-in-law Don, who went at life in a run, and took good care of my sister;
Dad, a talented and happy man who lived life well, but left under the veil of dementia; and
Mother, who loved Christmas, her family, and her home in Madison, and lived to 91.
Someone left the window open, and we keep slipping through.

Sue Marquis Bishop
Copywrite 2013

THERE ARE MANY BENEFITS to living fully in the years beyond 50.  One of the hard knocks we experience with increasing age, however, is the accelerating pace of loss of significant others in our social networks.

I CONTINUE TO FEEL  the presence and influence of loved ones who are no longer here, in so many ways –  in funny family stories re-told,  sage advice remembered, family talents and traditions passed on. My life has been enriched by knowing them. I feel gratitude and joy, that they were part of my life.

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Changing Carpets From Winter to Spring

In spring, nature is like a thrifty housewife…taking up the white carpets and putting down the green ones.” Mary B. Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, 1896.

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ONLY A FEW SHORT WEEKS AGO,  we enjoyed a light carpeting of Southern snow as a snowstorm blanketed the North in huge drifts.  But…it only lasted two days in Charlotte, until it morphed into water and disappeared.

WHEN IT SNOWS IN THE SOUTH,  it only stops in for tea and a brief respite before melting and running away.

SIGNS OF SPRING are emerging here and there in Charlotte as February and March days turn warm, then cool, then windy.  Today, it is sunny and 80 degrees.

Dormant
buds bursting
open winter casings;

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Carolina
Jasmine’s display
beckoning us outside;

Blue
birds gathering
at the feeders:

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Pedaling
with the
wind in my face;
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Rosy
pink ground
cover kissing lawns;

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Forsythia
showing up
gray tree trunks:

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Reading
and dreaming
at Spring Park Pond.

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I’M READY FOR TOMATOES from the garden, flowers blooming in profusion, breezy days on the porch, walks in the sunshine, reading by Spring Park pond, cookouts, and yes… even Spring cleaning.

I AM GRATEFUL to be here, in this place, witnessing the emergence of Spring once again.

“Suddenly a mist of green on the trees, as quiet as thought.”
Dorothy M Richardson, Pilgrimage: The Trap, 1925.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

What’s New for Spring Gardens?

SPRING PEEKS OUT from Winter doldrums.   It’s time to visit Spring Home and Garden Shows…to see what’s new and interesting for Spring 2016.

SPRING FLOWERS will soon be
Dressing yards and neighborhoods in  colorful finery,
Re-awakening senses to the world spread before us, and
Tugging on memories of playful Spring days with loved ones.

We see flowers everywhere on our visit to the Cabarrus County Home and Garden Show in North Carolina.

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Water features on display are varied and add soothing music to garden displays.

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Hummingbirds prefer a shallow water feature. This year’s show featured artistic hummingbird baths for the  colorful birds to dip their needle beaks into a garden art piece.

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Created-to-order wrought iron garden benches add sculptural beauty to any garden .

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The whimsical item plants smiles in the garden.

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And places to sit a spell and chat, or have an evening meal in artisan-crafted furniture, add comfort and style to outdoor garden rooms.

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OK.  Now, I really do have Spring Fever.  Cool Spring breezes, dining alfresco, flowering bulbs and budding trees, working in the rich earth.  What project do I want to tackle this year to brighten my garden?

Spring …bursts with all the relish of a sudden surprise.”
(Mrs. William Starr Dana, According to Seasons, 1894.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2016

 

Pumpkins Everywhere in Oatmeal, Smoothies, and …?

IT’S FALL!  PUMPKINS ARE EVERYWHERE, ..and they  offer so much more, than jack-0-lanterns for Halloween, and pie for Thanksgiving.  Aside from decorating our front entrances and hearths, pumpkins can be enjoyed in so many sweet and savory foods…and it seems they are healthy too!

THE TEMPERATURE WAS IN THE HIGH 60’S  and sunny early this morning… a great morning for oatmeal. As I opened the pantry to prepare breakfast, I noticed a can of Libby’s pure pumpkin puree. The label on the can suggests pumpkin is chock full of vitamins.  Pumpkin is an “excellent source of vitamin A and fiber” and is very low in fat (no trans fat or saturated fat), only “4 g sugar and no preservatives” added.  That’s a lot of healthy beta-carotene!

WHY NOT PUMPKIN OATMEAL?   I added a couple of tablespoons pureed pumpkin to each bowl, along with raisins, walnuts and a sprinkle of brown sugar.  Pumpkin oatmeal,  orange juice, whole wheat toast, coffee and the morning paper.  What a comforting way to begin a Fall day!

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AFTER AN AFTERNOON WALK walk with our dog Bear, I enjoyed an icy… rich tasting… pumpkin smoothie.
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons almond butter
1/4 tsp almond  flavoring
1 scoop vanilla slimfast protein powder
dash of pumpkin spice and Splenda
ice cubes
After blending,  a dash of grated nutmeg was added on top.   Hmmm. So refreshing.

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WHEN I WENT GROCERY SHOPPING LATER at Trader Joe’s store, I found that pumpkins had taken over the store! There was pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin salsa, pumpkin corn bread, pumpkin pita bread, pumpkin cereal, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin latte coffee, pumpkin ravioli.  pumpkin muffin mix, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin butter, …and more.  WOW. I had no idea.

I PLAN TO KEEP SOME CANS of pumpkin puree on hand this Fall to see where the pumpkin inspiration takes me.  For now, it’s time to savor the transition to Fall and plan a weekend in the beautiful North Carolina mountains.

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

Look Up! The Trees are Shouting “Spring is on the Loose!”

Look up! Look out as you walk! The Bradford Pear trees, Forsythia and Redbud trees, that herald the coming Spring with their fertile flowering, are beginning to shout.
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It’s been a long winter, especially for our friends and family in the North. This year, our mild winter mixed with unpredictable bursts of cold and snow and dreary, left us in the southern U.S, also eager for Spring. What a thrill to walk under and among cascading blooms.

It’s time to put on our walking shoes and get out our bicycles to witness first hand the magical transformation of the season of rest into the season of hope and renewal.
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Spring!
A time
of new beginnings.

Nature
is adding,
dividing and multiplying.

I’ll
make a
change this Spring.

Old grievances
left behind.
It’s a new day.

My forsythia.
Dainty yellow
blooms held aloft
on graceful arms,
longer than a
prima ballerina could.
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Beauty
doesn’t last
but the memory
of beauty savored
does.
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Time to start a list of Spring projects and personal goals.

Spring
breezes whisper
in my ear –
hope, engage, reach –
act now!

Spring! Is it Here Yet?

EACH SEASON OF THE YEAR BRINGS IT OWN DELIGHTS, and I enjoy each one as it lingers awhile before giving sway to a new one. There is one season though, that I want to speed up its arrival… and that is SPRING. No doubt about it. I have Spring Fever!

I LIVED IN WEST VIRGINIA, KENTUCKY AND INDIANA for much of my life. When I lived those years in the Midwest, as February came to a close, I was so ready for Winter to be over. I was eager to put away heavy winter coats, boots and gloves,… to no longer have cold hands, nose and feet, or have to scrape the car windows of ice and snow. All of a sudden, I seemed to notice the drab winter colors everywhere. Mother used to say, “Don’t wish for Spring too soon. The too warm air colliding with the cold air causes tornadoes”. She was on alert in the Spring for tornadoes as long as she lived in Indiana.

I BEGIN TO MAKE TO-DO LISTS for Spring, think about cleaning out sock drawers, and previewing seed catalogs for herbs and flowers. February was a trifle early in the Midwest to look for Spring, but it never failed that each year I developed a growing yearning for Spring to bust forth in all its colorful new growth and warm breezes.

I HAVE LIVED IN THE SOUTH for over 20 years now, and still appreciate getting just a little head start on the arrival of Spring …or so it seems to me. One week ago, we had snow for a few days… then it warmed up to 70 degrees. It is cooler today and rainy, but I have started my annual look-out for signs of Spring. Daffodils are up about 4 inches, and red bud trees are in full bloom spreading touches of pinks and rose over the still quiescent landscape.
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RUNNING ERRANDS TODAY, I was happy to see redbud trees everywhere proudly waving their Spring colors in the wind.

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THE GRASS IS MOSTLY BROWN, yet to awaken from Winter rest to herald Spring with a showy new green carpet. The rosy blooms against the blue Carolina sky are a contrast with the brownish grass…reflecting en environment in transition.

WE LUNCHED AT MIMI’S. When we shared it was our anniversary, we were treated to a trio of desserts: apple crisp, bread pudding with bourbon sauce and crunchy brownie with ice cream. Although I love chocolate, my favorite was the bread pudding…soft, sweet and custardy!

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I WILL WATCH FOR, and celebrate, other signs of Spring, as I go about my daily chores. In the meantime, I am grateful two of my indoor orchids are showing their lovely blooming faces to cheer us, as we warm ourselves by the fire and have a cup of hot cocoa and cranberry orange muffins.

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Do you look for signs of Spring?

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

It’s Time to Downsize and I’m Not Ready!

I HAVE BEEN ON HIATUS from the internet for several weeks, fully engaged in navigating a life transition that I thought I was ready for… but found more difficult than I anticipated.
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WE WERE TWO EMPTY NESTERS in a three story house that continued to grow larger by the month. My husband and I agreed it made sense to simplify our life by selling our “family home”. We came to that conclusion one day when we realized we were using cell phones to find one another…it’s not easy to “shout out” when we are two floors away from one another…and we didn’t need 4.5 bathrooms.

For several years, we have enjoyed spending time in our small vacation house in the NC mountains. When I am there, I realize that we don’t need all the “things” we have in our home in Charlotte. Daily choices are fewer: two sets of sheets only for each bed (when clean set goes on, the other set goes into the washer), two tablecloths for each season, three flower vases, fewer dishes and small kitchen appliances. The closets are smaller there, with less clothes, so there are fewer choices of what to wear. An added bonus is the ease in keeping a smaller space clean and tidy…less floor to sweep and mop. Life seems easier somehow. So, we reasoned, although we really loved our family home in Charlotte, we decided we were ready to sell it and move to a smaller house. After all, we didn’t need all that space, did we?

You would think we had come to grips with selling our home, before we put up a “For Sale” sign…and I guess the answer is “yes” and “no”. Yet, we were surprised in December to receive an offer on the house. The buyers wanted possession right away by December 23, but we had the good sense to say no… taking down the Christmas tree two days before Christmas… No Way!
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I WANTED TO HAVE OUR LAST CHRISTMAS with our children in our home of many years. And, we needed at least 60 days to make the move. After all, we weren’t expecting to sell that soon, and we didn’t have a place to move to. We also had over 4,000 square feet of house spread out on three floors, with furniture, accessories and odds and ends accumulated over many years of marriage. A few pieces of furniture were my parents and some were from my husband’s side of the family.

WE CELEBRATED THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS as usual, knowing it was the last holiday in this house. The month of January was an extended time of letting go, as we gave away so many things to friends, family, neighbors, and others who had need of specific items.

There was a flurry of activity for weeks with folks coming and going as items were carted away. We watched the treadmill loaded up and taken away (we will just find a place to walk outside), the barbeque grill, outdoor patio furniture (we don’t need it all), sectional sofa in the family room, tables, bookcases and lamps. The pool table stood as a lonely sentinel in the family room waiting for new owners.
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We donated bags of clothes, books and accessories to Goodwill and Veterans groups. I felt an unexpected loss as I watched my white dresser, with nine drawers, moving out of the house. My sister passed it on to me years ago and I had painted it a shabby chic white. It was my dresser for a few years until it was moved to our guest room. I don’t know why it bothered me so to see it go. I distributed a number of house plants, large and small, to delighted friends.

I WATCHED OUR 12 FOOT CHRISTMAS TREE out of sight as it was carried across the street to the neighbors’ garage. That tree presided over so many happy times in our home. I was comforted by the thought that our tree would reappear in its Christmas finery next December, but this time keeping watch over our house from the window across the street.

AFTER THE INITIAL GIVING AWAY, it occurred to me that there was a life cycle of “things” assigned. My dresser went to a young couple in a new home who didn’t have a dresser… the treadmill to a midlife man who wanted to lose some weight and get healthy…grandpa’s mandolin to our daughter who is the musician in the family and would appreciate it most…dishes to our daughter who is a great cook,…some of my husband’s tools to our son…bookcases to new neighbors who moved in boxes of professional books…our freezer and second refrigerator to a young chef who is developing a catering business… a doll to a 5 year old girl who loved it…and so on. There is a cosmic rightness about it all… passing on… recycling treasured items… and seeing them appreciated all over again.
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A COUPLE WITH A YOUNG FAMILY bought our house. It’s comforting to think that another family will be making new memories there. As we left closing, my husband told the young couple who bought our home, “I hope you’ll love living there as much as we did”. I said, “Take care of our house.”

IN JANUARY, we experienced record breaking cold, snow and ice in North Carolina, as we packed and moved in stages. It was a challenge! (But that is another story.)
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AS A FORMER FAMILY THERAPIST, I know it often helps with closing one chapter of life, to take time to say goodbye to spaces and places (as well as people) that have had meaning. In our final visit, my husband and I walked throughout the house and shared some of the memories we had of each room; happy times with our parents when they were still with us, summer cookouts by our Asian rock garden, dinner parties with friends and holiday gatherings with family. Our steps echoed in the empty rooms now filled with the ghosts of remembering…

I WAS REMINDED of the exciting day we bought the house…and I felt a sense of appreciation for this place and pride that we had, in fact, created a home that we loved and that welcomed others. Although we had some sad times over the years, this home had been a happy place…. And then, we walked away.
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WE ARE IN A RENTED 3-BEDROOM TOWNHOME for 6-8 months, to give us time to decide where we want to create a new home. My dining room furniture is incarcerated in storage temporarily. But, we are unpacked and organized here and are developing a routine in a new place.
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WE SPEND OUR LIVES collecting things…ultimately we enter a time of life when acquiring things is no longer a priority. Sorting out treasured items among a myriad of “things” that have become attached to our lives is difficult under the best circumstances… Maybe it ushers in a sense of freedom as well… especially when collections are dispersed with purpose. I will reserve judgment on that until time brings more perspective.

NOW, IN THE MIDST OF our transition in downsizing, we are following new rules of the house:

1. Don’t bring in anything new, unless we get rid of something else.

2. We can do just as well with fewer options (e.g., I don’t really need 25 different flower vases or kitchen gadgets I never use).

3. Unless we need it, really love it, AND have a place for it, don’t bring it home.

I’LL SHARE MY ADVENTURE from time to time, of finding a place to make a new home… and invite your comments about letting go and moving on….

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014