Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Day with Nothing that Needs to be Done!!!!

Coversational grouping that makes the "new" desk/studio area possible.

Conversational grouping that makes the “new” desk/studio area possible.

"The" chair and my work area

“The” chair and my work area

The view from my "new" work table chair. Looks like Frida sneaked into the picture as well!

The view from my “new” work table chair. Looks like Frida sneaked into the picture as well!

Thunbergia blossomsThunbergia blossoms

Today I woke up at 7 to Frida’s gentle nudge of my hand that was hanging over the side of the bed. I let her out, then woke up again sometime before 9 to let Diego out and to feed them both. Birdie the cat met us at the door.  She is the most polite so got fed last.

For three years, I’ve been living with a heavy balloon of guilt over my head.  If I wasn’t working on the book, I felt I should have been—so any carefree moments have felt stolen, not taken.  Today, however, I’ve chosen to do what I want to do all day long.

This is a lesson that Mexico has been teaching me.  You can’t delay the good moments, because tomorrow you may not be here.  Do it now.  Mañana means either this morning, tomorrow or sometime in the future. You get to decide when it is.  So, esta mañana, I woke up, had my smoothie and decided to try to make my house more comfortable according to what I want to do in it.

A year or two ago, I came to an interesting insight about my house—one you would think I would have done something about a long time ago; but you know, we get busy.  We overlook.  We make excuses.  So it was that I, whose pet “house peeve” is unused spaces, had for years rarely made use of the largest space in my house—my living room.

This was the room I had expended the most time and energy in putting together, yet I used it only when company was here. My time alone was spent in the art studio below or in my bedroom where my computer setup was. Guests had described my sala (living room) as comfortable, colorful and inviting, yet to me it was a room made sad by disuse.

Then, in a flash of inspiration, I thought of a solution: a six-foot-long, one-and-a-half foot deep workbench on wheels, built out of a beautiful light wood, to put in the living room! I merely moved the couch out into the room into a more intimate arrangement with the other couch and the TV and put my workbench in front of the sliding-glass doors to the terrace. It has a matching two-foot-wide stack of drawers that are usually stowed under the table but, because they are on wheels, can also be moved out to use as an additional horizontal surface and/or to make room for another person at the work station. In the drawers are tools, paints, jewelry findings, glue and other art supplies.  One drawer is devoted to computer and writing supplies.  A huge slide-action commercial paper cutter sits to one side, made beautiful by means of a colorful Lacandon basket, candles and a plant that also serve to soften the effect of the blade and ruler. My laptop is in front of me, my printer sits to the side, a pull-out breadboard-like surface pulls out of the top of my drawer stack to support another laptop if I need it for research.

It is actually a perfect work environment, and I now let whole days and weeks go by without entering my studio or unpiling the chair that sits in front of my desk in the bedroom.  This “new” workspace is where I’m sitting now. My view is of the lake, Colima volcano, two dogs stretched out on the patio, lots of green plants and a small kidney-shaped pool and hot tub now littered with the flowers and leaves of the Virginia creeper, bougainvillea and thunbergia vines blown by an unseasonable wind.

For the past few years, there has been an extra big chair no one ever sat in standing between the part of this room used as a dining room and the part used as a living room. It was a solitary chair, built too high to be of comfort for a lounger or reader or TV watcher; but It is a beautiful chair I couldn’t bear to part with and there was no other place in the house to put it—or so I thought.

Today, I moved that chair to my work station and it is now my work chair.  I moved other objects into its place—a dining room chair, a pedestal with a sculpture on it—and then went on to rearrange three other areas of the room (including the drawers in my work bench) to make them less cluttered and more functional.  I’ve spent all day doing this, but now the room feels right.  I’m sitting in the chair now, giving it the respect it has never had since I first had it made.  I put it on a Oaxacan rug so its metal feet don’t scratch the tile. I can put my feet up on the wooden rail at the back of the worktable and it no longer matters that the chair is too high. With a pillow at my back, it seems to be made for this task.  I feel happy.  I love objects that are both utilitarian and beautiful, and this chair now meets both criteria for the first time in its life.

Semana Santa (the week leading up to and including Easter) is a time when nearly everyone in Mexico takes a week-long vacation to either the seashore or a lake—and around here, the lake they go to is Lake Chapala, where I live. I can hear the sounds of Semana Santa all around me: a boombox somewhere far away, more cars driving down my street at a faster pace than usual, the voices of big families celebrating together all day and all night long, the Nazi wail of a siren announcing some church procession or visiting Virgin, dogs strange to the neighborhood barking, barking, egged-on by revelers; but not my dogs, at least—so I have no responsibility to scold.

It is so satisfactory that I have been able to spend the entire day making my home more livable without having to experience any feelings of guilt.  I was slightly depressed yesterday, but I think today I’ve found the cure.  Yes, do what you should do and must do, but remember also to do what you want to do!!

Call for Your Stories!!!!

I received a very honest email from a friend today.  She was talking about the death of her mother which occurred over 50 years ago.  I hope to publish it on this site, as soon as she lets me know how she wants it posted.  I hope others write their stories as well.

Today I went to my women’s writing group.  It is amazing how many fine writers there are at lakeside.  I read another piece about growing up in my hometown of Murdo, South Dakota.  Perhaps one day I’ll have another book on that topic.  Perhaps, in fact, I’ll ask for people’s stories from that tiny town.  I guess all of our memoirs are written, in part, from a place of loss.  Even painful memories carry with them a sense of nostalgia.  What do you think about this?  I don’t want to write into empty air.  Please give me your thoughts on this statement!  Wind coming up.  i’m getting sleepy.  It’s been a long day but too early to go to bed. Is anyone else present out there? I promise to match you story for story.   Judy

Update – My friend has graciously allowed me to post what she wrote:

How I coped with Mom’s death:
I was eleven years old, and I didn’t cope well when it happened.  Back then, there were no grief counselors.  Dad made us go up to the graveyard in the long, hot months after her interrment.  He would fall to his knees on her grave and cry.  It was awful. Embarrassing.  Plus, I thought about what was happening to her underground, and it made me so sick.  I got so I didn’t cry. People were nosy in our small town.  “How are you coming along out there, all by yourselves?” old people often asked me on the street, and I’d say just fine, just fine. The only positive thing I did for myself was in my making a vow to Mom that I’d somehow make her proud.  This vow stopped me from being totally wild when I was in high school, from going “too far” with just any guy, and it made me want to make A’s.  Yes, A’s would convince me that I was good enough to please my mother who wert in heaven. When I got engaged at age 16 I “went too far.”  Afterwards, I would cry and cry in my boyfriend’s arms, just so sad for me that I was a motherless child.  My boyfriend hated it.  He couldn’t get me to stop crying. All my life I have dealt with handling her death.  I got so greedy to have any little snip from her life, but started with that too late.  By the time I was no longer embarrassed to ask people what they remembered of mom, most of them were dead.  I asked Dad for her writing.  He said, “I got rid of it.  It made me too sad.”  He probably got rid of it because he married a year or so after Mom’s death. I have a little box of her things, such a little box.  Sometimes I hold a scrap of paper she’s written on to my nose, as if I can smell her into being. I have bonded with females, I think always wanting a mother.  None quite works.  I am still in grief when I read a wonderful book and think, oh!  Mom would just love this.  I envision calling her on the phone and sharing.  She’d love her grandkids and they’d love her.  I can’t even think long about this.  My daughter Carolyn named after Mom has built a shrine to Mom in her house that includes many of Mom’s pictures.  A beautiful face with bright, intelligent eyes.  I’m still grieving, aren’t I?  And yes, I’ve had counseling, and the grief stays pretty raw despite all those good words.  —Carolyn O’Neal

What I did for the rest of the night, the night I FINISHED THE BOOK!!!!!

I’m sitting at my desk listening to Duckie sing and play Mike Nesmith’s “Propinquity” on the guitar. (I love that song.)  He’s in Missouri.  I’m in San Juan Cosala, Mexico on the shores of Lake Chapala.  The wind is down tonight, both dogs are curled up in their private places and I’ve just finished what I hope are the last changes to the pdf file the printer will print the final run from.  I may be finished with this book.  Tony, we are this close!!!!! Duckie and I have known each other for 2 3/4 years or some part thereof.  We met online and clicked and we spend about 3 months a year in each other’s company.  We talk almost every day. He sings and plays the guitar for me and gives good advice on periods, commas, vocabulary and life in general. And, he has the best music in my world!!!  Duckie is one of the nice things that have  come about from my following my own advice in this book––before it was ever finished. I hope you’ll share your own successes. This is not going to be a gloomy site!  Yes, we talk about everything–the saddest of things, sometimes–but the purpose is to raise us out of the lows of life, no matter how slowly, and to teach each other how to keep growing our lives.  We are never finished!!!  Judy

I’ve just sent the book I’ve been working on for 12 years to the printer!!!!

Lessons from a Grief Diary: Rebuilding Your Life after the Death of a Loved One

   1 Master embossed -cream big & little spine copy copy

Lessons from a Grief Diary: Rebuilding Your Life after the Death of a Loved One

a new book by:

Judy Dykstra-Brown and Anthony Moriarty, Ph.D.

 A widow’s grief diary chronicling the illness and death of her husband as well as the process of her recovery from grief over the next eight years is analyzed in alternating chapters by a psychologist. Includes methods of overcoming grief, suggested further reading and ending notes that summarize main points of the book.

—Available on Amazon, Kindle and in Barnes and Noble Bookstores.  In Mexico, sold at Diane Pearl Colecciones and jose Melendrez in Ajijic, MX.

What I’m doing here—

When my husband and I bought a house in Mexico in 2001, little did we know I would be moving into it without him. Three days before we were due to begin our journey, we discovered he had pancreatic cancer. He lived for three weeks. That is how, 2 months later, I came to be lying on an air mattress in an empty house in a country where I knew neither a soul nor the language. This blog will be about grief. How it expresses itself, how I responded to it and how I came to realize that it is a powerful agent for growth and change. This is how life is set up. We will all face death over and over in our lives. If you need a companion in dealing with this surprising, astonishing, earth-shaking event in your life, here I am!