Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas trees...priceless


Christmas Trees
by Robert Frost

A Christmas Circular Letter


The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn't thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I'd hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I'd hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, "There aren't enough to be worth while."

"I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over."

"You could look.
But don't expect I'm going to let you have them."
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded "Yes" to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer's moderation, "That would do."
I thought so too, but wasn't there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.

He said, "A thousand."

"A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?"

He felt some need of softening that to me:
"A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars."

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn't know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn't lay one in a letter.
I can't help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.


(both photos by Scott Snyder)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~~~~
I love this poem, friends. Sorry I have been out of touch - but it's for a good reason! I am finally pregnant! Scott and I will be expecting our first child together in July. I have been sooo verrrry sleepy these past three months. Hoping the energy will return soon, as well as my words. Thinking of all you readers and wishing you a very happy and special holiday season. Love, Al

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Lights of Life are Shining

On December 1, something very special will happen in Concord, New Hampshire. Every year, Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association (CRVNA) and Hospice fills our town, and the surrounding towns of Contoocook, Penacook, Pittsfield, Henniker, and Hillsboro, with hundreds of electric window candles. Downtown businesses, shopkeepers, and restaurant owners light these candles in their windows, so that every evening in December, the memory of loved ones who have passed shines for all to see.


Anyone can make a monetary donation or simply add a loved one’s name to the Lights of Life Honor Roll. The list of names will be published in the Concord Monitor at some point during the week of December 5. You can visit http://www.crvna.org/donations/lightsoflife.php for more information.


CRVNA holds a ceremony on December 3 to celebrate life and honor the people we carry in our hearts from year to year. Mom, Scott, and I will be there.


These are the names I added to the list this year:


Larry Cox


Les Cox


Lee Holman


Kenny Cox


Katie Gober


Caralee Ladd


Anne Heine


Frans Amelinckx


Jack Savage


Tom Little


Casey Migacz


Pete Vanderboom


Tip Snyder


Mae Beck


You are among heroes, each of you ~ the most beautiful, most true, most loved, and we remember you fondly.


Celebrate these wonderful people with me, and if you have the chance to drive through Concord, enjoy the beautiful candles and pick one for your special person. Happy Holidays!


~Ally







Thursday, October 21, 2010

The old familiar Celtic temperament...

Drench
by Anne Stevenson

You sleep with a dream of summer weather,
wake to the thrum of rain—roped down by rain.
Nothing out there but drop-heavy feathers of grass
and rainy air. The plastic table on the terrace
has shed three legs on its way to the garden fence.
The mountains have had the sense to disappear.
It's the Celtic temperament—wind, then torrents, then remorse.
Glory rising like a curtain over distant water.
Old stonehouse, having steered us through the dark,
docks in a pool of shadow all its own.
That widening crack in the gloom is like good luck.
Luck, which neither you nor tomorrow can depend on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A little bit of fennel, a lot of love


Dear Sarah Barry,

After just fifteen years, Sarah, [I always was a late bloomer] I finally got my mortar & pestle. I remember watching you grind fennel seeds, releasing that blissful aroma, preparing onions and garlic (for every dish!), practicing the perfect rice, trying Indian recipes, stir fry's, and experimenting with exploding, fantastical rice noodles. Oh. Those were good days and I can still feel the warm glow from your living room, catch the hot and steamy scent of good food cooking in your wok, hand-oiled, in that tiny, run-down kitchen in the back of your mother-in-law's house, or other times, in our shared apartment. You taught me to love cooking food, and to relish health and creative artistry at the same time.

I burst my new mortar & pestle out of its box, without even washing it (and you know how I feel about germs), and threw in some fennel, ground the seeds wide open and tossed them into the tomato, onion and sausage quiche I am preparing for dinner. It's baking now, and I am thinking of you with fond and loving memories.

Thank you for teaching me to love, Sarah, in so many wonderful ways. And thank you for bringing me to a deep love of cooking delicious food.

Love, Ally


photos by Scott Snyder

Monday, October 4, 2010

I love you, my testy pony.

Testy Pony
by Zachary Schomburg

I am given a pony for my birthday, but it is the wrong kind of pony. It is the kind of pony that won’t listen. It is testy. When I ask it to go left, it goes right. When I ask it to run, it sleeps on its side in the tall grass. So when I ask it to jump us over the river into the field I have never before been, I have every reason to believe it will fail, that we will be swept down the river to our deaths. It is a fate for which I am prepared. The blame of our death will rest with the testy pony, and with that, I will be remembered with reverence, and the pony will be remembered with great anger. But with me on its back, the testy pony rears and approaches the river with unfettered bravery. Its leap is glorious. It clears the river with ease, not even getting its pony hooves wet. And then there we are on the other side of the river, the sun going down, the pony circling, looking for something to eat in the dirt. Real trust is to do so in the face of clear doubt, and to trust is to love. This is my failure, and for that I cannot be forgiven.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn ode


To Autumn
by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The art of losing

I heard this poem while rewatching "In Her Shoes" - great movie and even better book by Jennifer Weiner. Beautiful...

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

~Elizabeth Bishop

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Poem for the job weary ;)

Vocation
by Sandra Beasley

For six months I dealt Baccarat in a casino.
For six months I played Brahms in a mall.
For six months I arranged museum dioramas;
my hands were too small for the Paleolithic
and when they reassigned me to lichens, I quit.
I type ninety-one words per minute, all of them
Help. Yes, I speak Dewey Decimal.
I speak Russian, Latin, a smattering of Tlingit.
I can balance seven dinner plates on my arm.
All I want to do is sit on a veranda while
a hard rain falls around me. I'll file your 1099s.
I'll make love to strangers of your choice.
I'll do whatever you want, as long as I can do it
on that veranda. If it calls you, it's your calling,
right? Once I asked a broker what he loved
about his job, and he said Making a killing.
Once I asked a serial killer what made him
get up in the morning, and he said The people.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Three of my favorite guys

(can't remember who took these pics...)



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Consider yourself invited!

Don't forget to visit Rock, Water and Light from time to time, to see what we're up to. I've been trying to write again, and Scott has been posting the most fantastic photos of the most beautiful children. I'm thinking he should go into child portraiture...but he does love the quiet solitude of those hours traipsing the wilderness and beaches. Come visit! Be inspired.

~Al

Sweetness and light

These are two sweet pictures I want to share from my good friend Marie's blog - two that cheered me up today. Her blog is always good for a cheering.



~Ally

Monday, August 30, 2010

Corporate America

(image from questyoga.com)

Well, folks, I have worked for various forms of Corporate America now for about thirteen years. In bold are some of the principles I have learned about how to succeed in such an arena. Below each item is an alternate version of reality I have learned at the same time - in other words, what I know to be true about life itself. You will see my obvious dilemma...


1. Shut the fuck up and smile while doing it.
~ Use direct communication and conflict resolution, say what you mean, do not use false words, and be honest.


2. Put your head down and do your work.
~ Try to be engaged with your work and enjoy the learning process. After all, this is where you spend the majority of your waking time.


3. Don't do anyone else's work. [And if you do, you will suddenly be under a pile so big you will never get out!]
~ Pitch in where needed, help out, and do not let work go undone - have pride in your product!


4. Leadership qualities are simply overrated characteristics that will not get you to the top but rather piss people off.
~ Step up, show what you're made of, come up with new ideas and better business strategies. Be your best self and this will inspire others to rise to the occasion and become better themselves. Expect the best from yourself and everyone with whom you work. This motivates people!


5. Innovation and improvement ideas are not welcomed. [There is no such thing as a real open-door-policy.]
~ Life is short and you should streamline and improve whenever possible. Do your best work - double check and ensure that it is perfect. Everything you touch represents your company and its mission. Make sure you are contributing to excellence. Put your best foot forward and the company will prosper.


6. Accept whatever your boss says.
~ Offer ideas, be creative, and think outside the box. Many problems are solved by looking at the problem from a new perspective, taking time to "sleep on it," and offering multiple solutions from which to choose. Everyone can learn from each other.


7. Be on time. In many ways, this is more important than anything.
~ Well, you know how I feel about this one. There are so many things in life that are more important than an on-the-dot schedule. And yes, folks, being a harp about time and not being considerate about the chaotic lives people rush to leave in order to get to work is just as disrespectful as being five minutes late. Get a life!


8. Come in early; stay late. [There is no such thing as too much work.]
~ Cultivate balance in your life. Nurture friendships and family relationships. Pursue hobbies, artistic endeavors, culture, and self betterment through active, lifelong learning. Work on getting and staying in shape. Get your sleep and take vitamins. Your health and happiness is all you've really got.


9. Those at the top do the least work and can be the most badly behaved and disrespectful of others.
~ It is vitally important to treat others with respect. Every level of the company is comprised of valid, contributing employees who are doing their best to promote the company's goals. Each human deserves your undivided attention, active listening skills, kindness, and respect. No one needs to be the brunt of your personal problems, emotional upsets, or lack of digestive balance. In addition, those at the top should be leaders, beyond reproach, motivating and inspiring others through their goals, wisdom, knowledge, and strong moral character. Lead by example.

10. Managers make their own rules. Schmucks do the work and will never rise up.
~ There must be reward somewhere, somehow, for those who work hard. Having a strong and determined work ethic has inherent as well as outward value. Hard work pays off and helps you attain your goals. Doesn't it?...


11. Nice is not appropriate or necessary in the workplace.
~ EVERYONE deserves your kindness. Flexibility is a good thing, as well as patience, human caring, and general decency. No one will remember the report you stayed up all night completing, but they may remember that you asked how their son was doing in the hospital.


12. Work is not supposed to be meaningful. Some of what we do is to satisfy arcane regulations or simply keep you looking productive. When we don't know what to do with you, we'll throw a fun new title your way!
~ Meaningful work will keep you happy, productive, and living a long, fulfilling life. Humans were meant to work hard and to pursue goals of innovation, help build communities, and support beauty in all its forms. A major life goal of mine is to wake up in the morning happy to do what work is laid before me, pleased to apply myself to achieve something and leave a lasting impression on this earth. [Meanwhile, if one more jerk says, "Do work you love and you'll love your work," I will punch them in the face. Smug Happy Careerists are equal to Smug Marrieds. Try buying groceries on work you love, buddy. Unfortunately, some of us don't love the stock market.]


13. Attend lots of meetings and sign up for committees, even if you won't have time to complete your own work.
~ Your primary job is to master your job responsibilities and be the best at that work. As time allows, support others and continue learning new skills by participating in work-related education and joining associations. But these should not take away from the job you were hired to do.


14. Delegate whenever possible.
~ Share the load and bear your brother's burden when need arises - he will in turn bear yours when you need it. Show that you are working as hard as those who report to you. Take personal responsibility for the outcome of your tasks and the quality of your work. Live in such a way that you can be proud of what you contributed and your family can be proud of what you do.


15. Be prepared for changing rules.
~ Above all, flexibility and smooth work flow are worth seeking, both for your own personal growth and for the overall health of your workplace. Show a patient, bending attitude and learn to go with the flow. Allow goals and priorities to change, as this reflects true scientific learning. There is no reason to cling to "what we've always done." How then can one improve? That said, there is such a thing as too much change and sometimes you have to try one idea for a few minutes to see if it will really work. Allow people time to learn and adjust and you may be pleased with the results!

16. Whoever told you the computer age will eliminate paperwork was selling something.
~ You will never get away from paperwork, phone calls, follow up, and task lists. Even if you do most of them on your Blackberry. There is a reason for the paper-trail (I learned that in HR). Embrace the mundane and move on.

17. If you are looking for self-improvement or career enhancement, you've come to the wrong place.
~ Your job should be a stepping stone to greater self awareness as well as providing good for your community (on any scale). At the end of the day, you want to look back and see how far you've come. This will urge you onward and build momentum. Be honest about your mistakes, learn from them, and listen to constructive criticism. This is your one life. No one can take away your spirit or your combined experiences. Jobs will end, bosses will get re-orged, tasks will change; but your character and attitude will remain with you throughout the rest of your life.

18. Corporate America is not for the weak. Appreciation as well as monetary raises are not to be expected. Do your job and be grateful you have one (peon).
~ Make sure to actively and verbally appreciate the hard work people do each day. Take a moment to notice that the well-oiled machine not only got oiled, but also at some point got repaired, restructured, and improved. Every single person at your company contributed something. Noticing and praising these contributions help people develop pride in their work and strive to do better the next day. Every single person deserves to be noticed for showing up. Without them, the entire project would fail.

19. You will never be truly happy until you are working for yourself or are the CEO.
~ There will ALWAYS be another asshole boss, a demeaning and selfish employee, a slacker co-worker, and someone who makes everyone else routinely feel like shit. Absolutely the only way to try to avoid this is to quit the rat-race and work for yourself. But be aware, you will always have customers, contacts, vendors, and associates. There is an asshole around every corner! Learning to be your best self and deal with the conflicts and personality issues now will help you immensely down the road, no matter what you do. Even if you quit the world and stay in your basement until the end of your life...guess what, there's an asshole lurking right inside your own self!! So get used to it and rise above, honey.

20. I hate Corporate America and am not cut out for this type of work.
~ Being a creative, life-loving soul who wants meaningful work AND enough money to live on AND time for family and outside activities...does NOT a successful Corporate American make. I have been and will continue to be frustrated with the politics, endless meetings, mindless labor, bad decisions of bosses, and really disgraceful behavior of others in the workplace. I can envision working for myself, or being the (best) boss (ever). But for now, I have to look within and find the strength to change what I can about myself, learn the life lessons presented to me, give up worrying what everyone else thinks of me, and become my best self in my current job.

That said, if some venture capitalist wants to back me...I could really make some changes in this world of ours!


Thoughts, ideas, reactions?


~Al

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

a poem for today

Thread
by Dan Chiasson

I lack the rigor of a lightning bolt,
the weight of an anchor. I am
frayed where it would be highly useful—
and this I feel perpetually—to make a point.

I think if I can concentrate I might turn sharp.
Only, I don't know how to concentrate—
I know only the look of someone concentrating,
indistinguishable from nearsightedness.

It is hard for you to be near me,
my silly intensity shuffling
all the insignia of interiority.
Knowing me never made anyone a needle.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oldies but goodies

Some great photos I found while perusing through old files...

Scott snowshoeing in Franconia Notch, 2007 - isn't he handsome?
(taken by me)

Dad and me coming down the beach, heading to the wedding, 2003
(taken by Steven Johnson)

I loves my Daddy.
(taken by Steven Johnson)

Me and Laurel at Profile Falls, NH, 2007
(taken by Scott Snyder)

Matthew as a baby, curling up in Tip's bed! 2005
(taken by me or Scott)

Scott and me, just after our wedding ceremony on Ogunquit Beach.
(taken by Steven Johnson)

Ally in the Lupine, Sugarhill, NH 2007
(taken by Scott)

Allison & Scott coming down the aisle as a happy married couple, 2003.
(taken by Steven Johnson)

Me and Scott, kayaking at Grape Island, 2005.
With Tip's ears in the front corner!
(taken by Laurel?)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

for Lauren and Happy, Happy Birthday, Girl!

40 Things That are Great About Being 40!

(for Lauren on her 40th bday, July 26)


(photo by Scott Snyder)

1. No more dreading turning 40!

2. You still have more than 50 years to go.

3. No more school photos.

4. You can wear skirted bathing suits with no shame!

5. You won’t get carded for a glass of wine.

6. You can cry if you want to.

7. You know lots of things already.

8. You can braid your chin hairs into a warm, comforting winter scarf.

9. No more standardized testing!

10. You never have to worry about what brand of jeans you are wearing.

11. You can go grey or stay red - or try a whole new hair color!

12. Skeevy men will probably stop hitting on you.

13. New, older skeevy men will start hitting on you.

14. That whole “find your purpose when you’re 33” pressure is off.

15. Your best sex is still ahead of you (so they say).

16. You can gracefully call wrinkles “laugh lines.”

17. There’s no need to spend time tanning.

18. Shave. Don’t shave. Whatever.

19. You can start a new career and get scholarships for moms over 40!

20. You can have your cake and eat it too. (But you will probably have to make it yourself.)

21. You can blame tummy bulge on middle age.

22. You can blame your husband’s bad behavior on middle age (not that he would ever).

23. You can pretty much blame anything you want on middle age!

24. You can vote - whoop de do!

25. If you haven’t smoked by now, there’s no point in starting - good for you!

26. You can watch your children grow up while you still have the energy to enjoy them.

27. When your kids go to college, you’ll still be young enough to travel the world!

28. No one can tell you you’re being immature. It’s your right now.

29. Behold and embrace those laugh lines - you earned ‘em!

30. You can write a really long list of your accomplishments.

31. You can remember things from the 80’s which are now considered “from yesteryear.”

32. You can pull outfits out of your closet that your kids will wear to oldies costume parties.

33. You can say things like, “Back in the day.”

34. It is perfectly valid to start using that, “Uphill both ways” story with pride.

35. You am who you am and it’s high time to accept and love YOU.

36. You can feather your hair and wear high heels with skinny jeans because hey, you’re worth it! (And you waited so long that it’s now back in style.)

37. You have a family that loves you and gives your life meaning.

38. You’re not 50.

39. You can start your memoirs.

40. THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Great things I did on my summer "vacation"...

...and it's not even half over yet!


1) Went on a 3,008-mile road trip with Scott to visit friends, family, grandkids, and an old college buddy.

2) Had dinner in Andover with Kel.

3) Talked on the phone regularly with Robin in Canada.

4) Helped Laurel and Conrado (and Bumbers) move into their first new home!

5) Went surfing with Scottie and Mattie in Hull at the wonderful (and missed) Nantasket Beach...followed up by dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, Punjab Cafe in Quincy.

6) Went kayaking on a beautiful mountain lake with Barb and Ted.

7) Planted flowers on Dad's pretend grave for Father's Day and introduced Scott to the Concord Beef & Seafood store. (And later, the quirky, strange and delicious Gas Lighter Restaurant, which has a Ms. Pac Man machine!!!...I am in heaven.)

8) Hiked up to the Canterbury Water Tower with Izzy and Tammy.

9) Doggie-sat for Dufus, our favorite canine neighbor.

10) Went to Beech Hill Farm (to visit our favorite goats and their new goat-lings, donkey, and ice cream barn), and to Dimond Hill Farm for incredibly fresh and delicious produce.

11) Started going weekly to the Concord Farmers' Market, and sometimes the Art Market and other local farm stands.

12) Went to the wonderful hidden treasure, the Mill Brook Gallery and Sculpture Garden.

13) Took photographic adventures with Scott, including Merrill Pond and Bear Brook State Park, to name a few.

14) Saw the hysterical musical, "A Year with Frog and Toad," and yes, I said Frog and Toad.

15) Had a great Fourth of July with Mom, Laurel and family, and Scott, including swimming at the pool AND Lake Winnisquam, and fireworks in downtown Laconia.

16) Swam in the Merrimack River with Mom and Scott on a lazy hot afternoon.

17) Went to warm and inviting gatherings with White Mountain Sangha.

18) Enjoyed backyard-neighbor barbecues and fellowshipping.

19) SWAM IN OUR NEW POOL!!!!

20) Just enjoyed a wonderful and too-fast weekend at Grape Island in Maine with Laurel & Co. and Laurel's family, including old summertime friends and Conrado's sister Shanti (whom we just love).

What am I missing? I'm sure I'll remember some other fun soon.

I am blessed and grateful.

~ Ally

(photo by Scott Snyder)


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

EPL: To know this world and God

I am reading Elizabeth Gilbert's wonderful book, "Eat, Pray, Love." Every day, I feel inspired to write after reading some of her book. But the problem is, I am stuck in the middle of my workday and lunch is over and there ain't no way I can be blogging in this job! So I will spend a few posts giving you the highlights of her words which affect me. Today, I'd like to share this word image:

(excerpt from ch. 8, in which she asks a ninth-generation Balinese medicine man in Indonesia for the desires of her heart)

"...'what I want to learn is how to live in this world and enjoy its delights, but also devote myself to God.'

Ketut said he could answer my question with a picture. He showed me a sketch he'd drawn once during meditation. It was an androgynous human figure, standing up, hands clasped in prayer. But this figure had four legs, and no head. Where the head should have been, there was only a wild foliage of ferns and flowers. There was a small, smiling face drawn over the heart.

'To find the balance you want,' Ketut spoke through his translator, 'this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it's like you have four legs, instead of two. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God.'"


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Well, kitties, I wrote something. You can hear about our road trip to the deep south on Rock, Water, and Light, and for those of you following the baby saga on Yahoo, you can hear a bit about that too. Sign in, check in, and tell me all about you.

Writing has been an elusive little monkey of late - no time or energy - but it feels good to be back in the saddle again.

Am reading "Julie & Julia" for all you readers and resident foodees. I highly recommend it. Even better than the wonderfully fun and inspiring movie.

Au revoir for now!

~Ally

Monday, May 17, 2010

grief

It is so very complicated. Not unlike our other up-and-down relationships - years gone by, details forgotten, then remembered in an instant.

My friend Jean who works in hospice calls the sudden just-happened-yesterday moments "grief bursts." She is so right. Attending a funeral that feels a little too familiar. Insert my family members instead of these random strangers and we are at Dad's funeral all over again. The songs the choir sings - are they singing for you, Dad?

Dad seems to keep showing up in the form of great and majestic birds...not surprising, really. The other day, a Peregrine falcon flew alongside Scott's car, right at eye level on the drivers' side, looking at him while he drove. They beheld each other. It made Scott cry and opened up his heart in a big, momentary way. Earlier, there was the eagle that flew right over us and landed in a tree a mere twenty feet away, too low for an eagle to land, too close to not be some kind of sign of your presence. And the loon(s). And the hawks that circle above or the black crows, always flying in twos, that lead me on many days. I see you. I'm glad you are flying now. You waited a long time to fly.

About a week ago (or two now?), my friend died. Literally five minutes later, another friend's husband passed. The next day as my mother told me of both events, I felt them sit down in my heart and stay awhile. The heaviness of grief can be overwhelming. Our friend's husband's memorial was a few days later. Mom and I went and boy, if it didn't feel a little close for comfort. The wife, now widowed, gave a long message at her husband's service, attributing all his accomplishments and passions to his great strength of character, blessing his children by telling everyone how much she had loved him. It hurt, in a good way. The wife asked Mom to read a piece on grief. In it was the phrase, "grief is my friend." And Mom would not read that. She just couldn't. But I could have because I have become so entwined with that relationship, that "otherness" of Grief that it might as well be a member of the family.

It is not a friend in the sense of comforting - or maybe it is. But it is close to us, always present, showing its colors in different forms. Like the fact that at coming on two years past Dad's death, I am just about strong enough to finally read his fishing memoir. I loaned the book to a co-worker in hospice, a social worker, who wanted to read some stories to a patient who was basically unresponsive...except when a nurse showed him pictures of big fish he'd caught. So I passed on the stories. And maybe when I get the book back, I can actually read it without getting sick to my stomach and throwing it back on the shelf.

Dad, life is going on, but not without you. I am still pissed at you, don't get me wrong. But only because there is so much I'd like to be able to discuss with you. So many things we still have to do together. Like skydiving. And fishing up at Chazy. Going to the funeral of your best friend's daughter - I know you would never have chosen to miss it. And hiking up the correct side - the steep but MUCH SHORTER trail to the top of Locke's Hill. Mom showed it to us, and it wasn't so bad. We came down the back side, the longer trail you tried to ascend and I can see why you thought it was miserable!

We are making fajitas tonight and watching stupid TV. Want to join us? Wish you could.

I'll be looking for you in the sky, Dad. My Buddhist teacher (oh stop rolling your eyes!) says the sky is always there and all is well.

All is well, Dad.

Love, Al

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Little girls singing

There is a little girl who lives in the house behind our condos. Often when I am sitting outside on our patio, I can see her through the trees. She is dancing or bouncing on the trampoline. And she is singing at the top of her lungs. Today she is singing and clapping while pacing back and forth.

She reminds me of me, around age 8 or 9. I used to spend hours in our backyard growing up in Chicago, swinging on the old rusty yellow swingset, pumping fast and flying as high as I could. I would sing through all the songs I knew, especially the ones I learned in music class at school.

When we learned the patriotic songs like "America the Beautiful" or "The Star Spangled Banner," I loved singing those at the top of my lungs. That was probably my most patriotic time and I felt proud of my country. I knew in my heart that the neighbors must enjoy my singing. :)

I also really loved to sing this little Simon & Garfunkel ditty:

Hello Lampost,
whatcha knowin'?
I've come to watch your flowers growin'.
Ain't you got no rhymes for me?
Do-it-n-do-do, feelin' groovy!

I got no deeds to do,
no promises to keep.
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep -
let your morning time drop
all its petals on me.
Do-it-n-do-do, feelin' groovy!

Da da da da--da--da--da, feelin' groovy.

~Ally

Friday, April 23, 2010

Aging

It's exceptionally hard getting older.
It's hard to realize your body isn't working the way it used to, healing as quickly from injuries, rising to the occasion like it once did.
It's infuriating to be told you cannot (should not) drive anymore. To have your keys taken away, and not for the intoxicated party night, but for good.
It hurts when your friends - the same age as you! - begin getting cancer, or dying of headache-turned-brain-tumors. It's horrifying when a loved one drops dead of a heart attack.
You can't believe it when the thought of going up that damn driveway hill with the garbage bin is exhausting, or your just don't feel like watering all the plants in the garden anymore.
When you realize your clothes look like the outdated relics of your mother's closet...

Aging sucks.

This is what I am learning as our parents start to enter the age of grief, shocking diagnoses from the doctor, and visits from friends who are now widows.

These are the things I think on as I work to tend the sick and dying every day, albeit in my administrative, secretarial way, at my Hospice job. People are sick and dying EVERY SINGLE DAY. I find myself saying in my head things like, "If only someone would die so it would free up the schedule a bit." These are the sick thoughts you have when you work in Hospice. These are the blow-off-steam moments that get you through the day. You find yourself so, so tired and worn out at the end of the week (like tonight). Until you realize, you have been surrounded by various stages of death all day, and lending every bit of compassion you have to suffering and grieving families who need it. And I'm not even the nurse.

Last night I found myself at the semi-annual memorial service Hospice holds for families members who have lost someone they loved. On my name tag, I wrote: "Allison Snyder" and under In Memory Of, I wrote "Larry Cox." Because the one you've lost doesn't go away after a year of prescribed grieving time. They are with you always, every day, in your thoughts and frustrations, memories and laughs.

In the service sat several dozen families - some with other family members, some alone (a spouse, a brother, a daughter). Tears were shed and laughs were shared. A beautiful choir sang three songs, each bringing you just a bit closer to your loved one and God (though they were very respectfully not religious). Several people looked me in the eye and did not look away during the service. I made myself keep returning their gaze. In grief, you long to connect, even with a stranger. You find yourself in this unlikely and miserable Club you didn't realize existed - the Club of Those Left Behind. There should be a bumper sticker, key chain, and a membership T-shirt. Instead, there is just a knowing look between stranger-friends that happens every few months (or years), the stories of love lost just on the tip of everyone's tongue, no matter what time has passed.

Afterwards, Hospice offered cookies, cheese and crackers, and juice...as if that could help. But in some way, it did. It is so normal to share a snack with others. And normal is what you crave like the dickens when you feel so lost, your world turned upside down and inside out, never to return to its previous glory.

I talked (listened) at length with a man who's brother-in-law had died in the last few months. He told me endless fishing stories (the tall tales I have heard all my life) of 4 ft Stripers and the night the boys caught 60 sharks off the shore, etc etc. I think he was channeling my Dad, who might have been coming through saying, "I'm still here in every ordinary way."

Aging brings the shadow of death with it, and we all feel that chill and try to run. There's no fight mechanism in place - it's all flight at the start. I am not changing, getting older, slowing down! I'll be damned if I ever give up my (insert your favorite passion)! I don't need anything but the cool, sweet earth and my fishing pole.

Oh, and you. And your support and kindness. And maybe a wipe of my chin where the kernel of corn has stuck and won't let itself free. Remind me, what year was it that we took that wonderful trip? Have you seen my glasses (that rest on my forehead)? There's nothing wrong with my head! Oh, you said "bread"?

Grace. Compassion. For others. For ourselves and this ever-changing body and spirit.

Grace from me, to you.

~Ally

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poem

A Remedy for Insomnia

Not sheep coming down the hills,
not cracks on the ceiling—
count the ones you loved,
the former tenants of dreams
who would keep you awake,
once meant the world to you,
rocked you in their arms,
those who loved you . . .
You will fall asleep, by dawn, in tears.


~Vera Pavlova

Monday, April 5, 2010

Good Things

A list for Caralee, my dear friend who is sick in her body but not in her heart:

GOOD THINGS:

The first day of spring when you roll down the car windows to feel that whoosh of cool air.
Trading in your shoes and socks for sandals and painted toenails.
Getting a real letter in the mail!
Finding a fiver in your pocket from last year.
Not having to wait for the cable guy from 2-5 (that's as close as we can estimate...).
Cats rolling around on their backs on the patio because, oh, it feels soooo good!
Putting the plants back outside and hoping, waiting, for flowers to bloom.
Having an old friend come visit you with no agenda, just wanting to be with you a while.
Getting a compliment from your boss at work!
Getting a raise (even better...).
The first day of softball weather - you know what I'm talking about. Mmmm.
Homemade meals where you can actually taste the love cooked in.
A delightful surprise!
Daffodils - 'nuff said.
White birch trees standing like ghosts on the edge of the water.
Cooking out the first steak of summer (which we did on Saturday).
Walking in the woods with your mom.
Looking through old pictures that make you laugh all over again.
Campfires. Oh, that smell!
Snuggling up with a warm puppy dog who is so, so tired.
Cats with extra toes (believe me, and O'Reilly, this is a constant delight)!
Writing out your thoughts and feelings.
Time to sew.
The joy of waiting for someone you love to walk through that door.
Knowing you are loved.

Love you Caralee! Many blessings and hugs~
Ally


Back row: sisters Laurie and Jennifer
Front row: Kaylee (the pooch), dad Emerson, Caralee, and mom Doris

and this is Caralee's favorite muttsky, Kaylee

(photos by Emerson)

Friday, March 26, 2010

This Simple Woman's Day Book

The Simple Woman's Day Book . . .


FOR TODAY, March 26, 2010

Outside My Window... it has turned to night. The sun stays out longer now and the air has been quite warm, though today, evening brought a chill with it. New Hampshire is officially in Springtime, as the snow and ice have melted, buds have begun on the bravest of trees, and the ticks, bees, geese, and even one sly black fly have returned. Don't they know it's only March? Ripe time for a blizzard. But our pool house opened today and we have forgotten our mittens and shovels altogether.

I am thinking... how amazing it is that a song, a scent, or the words of a stranger can evoke the strongest heart pulls toward an old friend. Last night, I heard a Little Song by Sarah Jarosz that made me long in my heart for my friend Molly, whom I have not seen in years. Today, the scented oil at the massage therapist reminded me of Amy - and now that sweet smell is on my skin, continuing to bring me back to my dear sister-like friend. Some moments in life never fade on the inside, and we are blessed by the unexpected reminders.

I am thankful for... the wonderful women with whom I work - who are kind, generous, and able to laugh at themselves. Today at work we celebrated Social Workers' Month. In Hospice, this is a particularly hard job, not for the weak of heart. I used to know a woman who worked with Aids patients. I wondered how she could endure such pain and suffering on a daily basis. Now I know that it is in helping people through their most vulnerable, frightening, and fragile times that our hearts are strengthened to love more fully, listen more deeply, and relax into the ever-present changes of a life.

From the kitchen... Scott and I will soon be enjoying the L&A Sausage Quiche, which I made again last night. Delicious! Will make some blueberry muffins - good ol' 50 cent Jiffys are still the simplest and best in my opinion - and maybe a salad to accompany the eggy pie.

I am wearing... jammies, since I am a) off work, b) home, and c) ready to enjoy a relaxing weekend! It's movie night here at Snyderville tonight - we are deciding between a scary one (Sixth Sense), a silly one (Boat Trip), and an interesting one (The Real Dirt on Farmer John).

I am creating... new habits of relaxation and de-stressing my body. Each day I work on stretching, sleeping, and bringing down my crazy by deep breathing, meditating, reading on my lunch hour, or taking in the natural world around me.

I am going... to a moving party tomorrow. Sarge, my 84-yr old friend is finally moving out of the big family house and into some more affordable apartment housing. It will be a big relief for those of us who do his finances and help with his complicated old man life. But it will probably be hard for him to leave that old house. He loves his yard projects, his gardening, his "home improvement" ventures, and most of all, his independence. How will we convince him that living in an apartment does not mean he isn't independent? And he will be right downtown, able to do all the walking and visiting he loves, shopping in his daily haunts and running up his tab at Madeleine's. All good things. His wife died in that house, and he has put in 50 years of love, sweat, and toil. I hope tomorrow he will be buoyed by friendship and laughter, and not too sad.

And FOR TODAY, March 29, 2010

I am reading...
The Elegant Gathering of White Snows, by Kris Radish

This is an amazing book that tells the stories of eight women who decide one night to take off from their lives and begin walking through the night, and then many following days. They are on a pilgrimage of sorts to think about and evaluate their lives, sharing sorrows and unraveling the tales of how they experienced life. I don't know how to put it in graceful words, but this book is very powerful and moving. Each woman's life is part of the universal story of women everywhere. It is definitely worth reading. I have been enjoying it bit by bit on my lunch hours, falling into the prose and not wanting to stop reading.

I am hoping... I have so many hopes right now I don't know where to begin. But I am also thinking on a principle from Donna Q. about how the combination of our longings and self loathing thoughts form a constant circle of frustration. Our attachments to wants and "shoulds" bind rather than free us. But meanwhile, a few of my hopes are: that Sarge can accept and delight in his new life in the apartment; that Caralee can have a break from her cancer pain and suffering and enjoy the many last days of her life; that Lauren will find a close woman friend in Mexico to share her joys, thoughts, and burdens; that my grandmas will feel loved and well taken care of in Indiana and Minnesota; that Kenda's wedding plans will bring her joy and turn into a wonderful day she will love remembering; that Laurel's new job will be a blessing to her; that my father and Grandpa C. will know they are loved and remembered, wherever they are; and that Dad will send a special blessing to Mom for their anniversary this weekend.

I am hearing... the hum of the noisy but comforting refrigerator. It is time for bed and I am avoiding the start of a new and exhausting week. But I am grateful to not be experiencing The Sunday Night Dread, as I have been lucky enough to find a job I like.

Around the house... are piles of tasks waiting to be accomplished - laundry, financial papers, my new pine cone project (from beautiful branches I gathered on our walk at the Pine Barrens on Saturday), library books to return, movies to watch and return, Pete's birthday present to mail and Easter goodies to be stuffed in baskets...the list goes on and on...

One of my favorite things... is cooking for someone else. Tonight I enjoyed making an Aztec Casserole for a dear friend and nurse with whom I work. I bribed her with Mexican food so she'd work an extra on-call shift tomorrow. I happily prepared her meal tonight, while listening to traditional mariachi love songs and cooking up a storm. I also made homemade cornbread for the first time, and it was yummy! Scott and I thoroughly enjoyed our Mexican treats before K. gets the rest tomorrow. I love cooking for my husband too.

A Few Plans for the Rest of the Week... I did a lot of my errands and appointments last week. So this week I will spend time with Scott, work on finances and budgeting, clean up the house, and get ready for Easter with Mom on Saturday and Sunday. I bought the eggs to be colored and the goodies to fill Easter baskets, and gathered some special pine cone twigs for decorating. What am I, Martha Stewart? I also desperately need a haircut, so maybe I can make that happen this week. Do the world a favor, right??

Here is picture thought I am sharing...


And there you have it, my Simple Woman's Day Book. View other entries at Simple Woman's Day Book. Try writing one yourself! It makes a lovely snapshot of your life, as it is - perfect in all its beautiful imperfection - today.

~Ally

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Helped by the stranger

I like this quote, posted by Attitude of Gratitude:

"All of us are influenced by somebody. Not to be influenced is to remain an ignorant person. Most of us hinder our thinking, particularly around spiritual things, because of pride. We don't like change. We find it hard to accept attitudes and opinions that differ from our own. Pride keeps us deaf and often stupid. However, the daily program of a lived spirituality encourages a variety of opinions and attitudes. We can learn from different customs, lifestyles and religions. We can be helped in our understanding of life by the stranger." ~Fr Leo

Daily Dose from Shoeboxblog

All credits of hilarity go to Shoeboxblog

More New Academy Awards Categories

* Best Soundtrack Song by Gloomy Indie Band that nobody will ever hear from again
* Best Boy (What is that anyway?)
* Dog that most reminded everyone of that one dog, from that one movie with the dog
* Creepiest Creepy Kid
* Best Tolerance of Nicolas Cage
* Best telephone conversation when no one’s really on the line
* Best Boobs in 3-D
* Best Scene That makes you yell, “He would have so died from that!”
* Best Movie Poster that over promised laughter…by, like, a LOT
* Most Scientologistical


Even More New Academy Award Categories

* Most critically lauded film that you saw and were like “What?”
* Best Movie directed by Gary Marshall (never presented)
* Best Performance by a hot actress playing a frump
* Best application of Duane ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s body make-up
* The Ed Begley Jr. Award for most self-righteous Prius driver
* Most bullets fired by a single character
* The “Ooh! It’s Indie!” for most pretentious piece of yuppie-bait
* Best Craft Table Hummus
* Best Performance by restaurant background couple


For your reading enjoyment and visual enrichment

Just wanted to invite you to continue following the Rock, Water, and Light blog that I write, with my husband's incredible nature and art photography. I wrote a piece tonight on formative memories, life paths, and looking at the stars. If you're into stars and all.

Scott is also doing a year-long photographic exploration of Shaker Village, nearby in Canterbury, NH. His blog for this project is called Hands to Work, Hearts to God. The name is taken from a Shaker concept of living fully in the moment, with your heart dedicated to worship in all mundane tasks. Beautiful thought, really.

We want you to be part of our lives.

~Ally