“Chainsaw Diabetes in the Face!”

Kind of an over-the-top battle cry, but that’s the level of absurdity to which you sometimes have to rise when taking on an epic task.  Yes, Team Galasso stepped out to Stop Diabetes on Sunday…perhaps we should simply have made it a swim-a-thon.  So much moisture in the air!  Thank you to all of our sponsors and supporters!  We had a pre-walk huddle to remember Jim and other friends and family who have experienced the disease first-hand and dedicated our efforts to them.  Here are some photos:

Team Galasso/Seleen/Wiencek/Floeter-Bush/Griessler

…why spell checkers were invented…

Have a great week, folks!  Don’t be afraid to tackle something big; just be sure to come up with a matching pep slogan!

You Can’t Dia-Beat-Us!

Team Galasso will be stepping out at a walkathon on Sunday to raise money for the American Diabetes Association, funding programs and research aimed at relieving the suffering of 26 million Americans with the disease.  This is the fourth year that we have done this as a family, and this year, the event falls on the birthday of my husband, Jim, who died of diabetes-related coronary artery disease in 2008.  This event gives us an opportunity to do something positive in the search for a cure as well as the occasion to gather as family and celebrate Jim’s birthday (and mine, last Tuesday!) and his life.  I will be heading out to Madison after work tomorrow, bustle dress in the back seat, eager to meet up with the rest of the Midwest Galasso Women.  My son, unfortunately, won’t be able to make it.  If you would like to support us in this effort, please click here to make a donation.

Here are some photos of last year’s walk:

We’re heading out to a full-on Italian lunch after the walk.  Happy Birthday to Jim!

Carry On…

I have been reading a book called The Barn at the End of the World: the Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd by Mary Rose O’Reilley.  It has been my companion for months now.  I am reading very slowly, savoring each chapter as a separate essay, which it lends itself to very well.  The author writes about her time with Thich Nhat Hahn at Plum Village as well as her time working with sheep in a barn.  My birthday reading included this passage of notes she took on one of Thay’s dharma talks:

“Koans are buried deep in the unconscious, watered carefully like flowers.  They do not respond to intellectual reasoning.  Mind has not enough power to break the koan.  It should not be answered, but absorbed and waited for in right mindfulness until it explodes and wakens again in the conscious mind as a flower.  What did you look like before your mother gave you birth? …

“At Plum Village, our basic koan is What are you doing?  The answer is Breathing and smiling.  Often I ask a student, What are you doing?  Often the student responds, Cutting carrots.  I say, Good luck.  Now, you don’t need luck to cut a carrot, but you need luck if you are going to get your practice back on track.”

My life is a koan.  My life with Steve is a koan on live chat.  Our relationship doesn’t always respond to intellectual reasoning.  We want to be able to express our irrational emotions and learn about each other from them.   We want to move through adventures and experiences and be aware of ourselves and each other in the moment.  We want to be present, to “show up” with a genuine answer to the question, What are you doing?  And we want to look up.  We’re working on it, and we are truly glad to be doing so.  And sometimes, I realize that it’s easier simply to cut carrots.  And that’s a mystery, too.  “How wonderful.  How mysterious.  I draw water.  I carry wood.” 

My birthday evening was beautiful.  I came home to find flowers delivered — two arrangements!  I opened a bottle of champagne, cooked dinner, listened to music, and let myself loose until I was sobbing all over Steve.  I felt very alive. 

And today, I want to check things off my “To Do” list, eat bad food quickly and hide from my partner.  Is there a reason?

Last Day of the Year

I started this blog 365 days ago.  Today is the last day that I can claim to be “in my 40s”. 

“What have you learned, Dorothy?”  “I’ve learned that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.  ‘Cuz if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.  Is that right?”

Umm…not exactly. My initial post said,”this blog is dubbed scillagrace to symbolize ancient elegance of manner, action, form, motion and moral strength.  It is my goal to post entries worthy of the name.  It is my goal to avoid being dogmatic and prissy.  I want to challenge myself to go deeper into subjects that explore the ancient grace of life.   It is a lot of name and a lot of subject, to be sure.  We’ll see how it goes.”

Did I go deeper?  Did I go beyond my own backyard?  Here are my top ten Most Used categories: Awareness.  Photography. Philosophy.  Nature.  Relationships.  Writing.  Psychology.  Sociology.  Education.  Spirituality.  I have 200 followers, but the most “likes” I’ve ever gotten on any post is 24.  Which I suppose goes to show that you can’t please all of the people.  Not even once.  But statistics don’t tell the story.  Numbers have no meaning; it’s the narrative that goes along with them, the interpretation, that gives any statistical information its significance. 

Here is an ancient grace of life: deepening a relationship.  I have made new friends in far away places through this blog.  I have re-connected with people I haven’t seen for some time.  I have bonded with my mother in a new way, and I’ve even come to know myself better.  That will probably remain the enduring value of this blog.  I have grown up this year, and I hope to continue to do so as I go on aging. 

Last year…

I am planning to continue to blog, but probably not as often.  I am planning to get a new camera for myself and to spend more time writing.  I will be going on a 3-week adventure in October when I end my season as a living history museum interpreter.   There will be more change, more grace and, hopefully, greater awareness to come.

Outside of the Box

System, structure, dogma, convention, party line, category, pigeon-hole.  There are all kinds of ways to get living beings corralled into something that some authority will find manageable.   And then there are those of us who defy this kind of tidy dismissal.   Here are two examples that I photographed on my walk yesterday:


Here’s to all you defiant ones!  Thank you for teaching me a thing or two…


Steve and I have been together just shy of 4 years, now.  Lately, I’ve been noticing how my thinking about ‘Us’ has evolved.  I keep my late husband’s last name, always, to retain that common bond with my children.  I have internalized Jim in many ways, as my sister pointed out in a recent comment.  I am adding a sense of past, present and future with Steve.  I wrote last about celebrating birthdays with his sister and brother-in-law.  I do feel like I’ve joined his family throughout a year’s worth of life events now: holiday dinners, post-surgery visits, weekly breakfasts, etc.  Now I’m feeling the reflected perspective of work colleagues who met us as a couple.  We’ve been invited to our first party!  Totally un-family, totally unofficial (although with friends from work), like a real social engagement based on what we do as partners.  That’s a new thing for us. 

A visitor to the museum met us while my daughter was touring the facility for the first time.  I took Emily into the wagon shop to surprise Steve (neither of us knew she was coming).  The visitor thought we made such a happy little family reuniting, that she asked if she could take photos.   After her visit, she sent this photo to the Historic Society and asked if they’d forward it to us.  She included some very nice comments about how delightful and kind we were.   I look at it and think of Emily behind her, making me crack up.

photo credit: Carol Toepke

We are eager to go off on our next adventure – a 3-week road trip to “Metaphorical Montreal & Maine”.  Where we actually end up is immaterial.  The adventure is continuing to forge our partnership, responding to new situations like dancers in tango.  We are becoming more graceful, more complementary, even though we have many more decisions to make. 


At Table

My mother quoted something to me over the phone this morning: “At table, we never grow old,” I think it goes.  I am savoring this idea, thinking of birthdays and family members, extended in geography and generation.  Steve’s sister had a birthday wish in April to dine at a French restaurant here in Wauwatosa.  That finally was accomplished last Saturday night, but as her husband’s 50th and my 50th are coming up next week, we decided that we were also celebrating our birthdays…and then we included Steve’s so he wouldn’t feel left out, even though his is 3 months away.  We spent over 3 hours at a table in the front window of the restaurant, sampling cheeses, drinking French wine, dining on lamb and pheasant and dissolving chocolate pastries on our eager tongues.  We laughed a lot.  We talked about philosophy and aging and Mars and mold allergies.  I was welcomed into this threesome who have been best friends for 30-47 years as a 10%-er…meaning I’ve only known them for 3.  But they like me!  They really like me!  That feels good.  My mother will be hosting my siblings and niece for dinner on Sunday.  My brother’s birthday is Saturday.  My brother-in-law’s birthday is the following Saturday.  I’m sure they will be dining for a good three hours or more, too, talking about philosophy and music and zoology and whatnot.  I wish I could be there in body and tastebuds, but I will be there simply in spirit. 

When a bottle is poured and glasses are raised, when family gathers in the same place year after year, when we face each other in candle light, Time in its immaterial essence becomes irrelevant as well.  Am I 10, learning to sip a drink and taste its fragrance for the first time?  Am I 20, listening to my beloved ask my father for my hand?  Am I 30, looking at my four children settling in next to their grandparents?  Am I 40, appreciating my parents through my own experience as a parent?  Am I 50, holding my husband and father in a deep, inward place as I use my hands, my voice, my mind to embody all of us?  I am all of these ages, and others besides, when I sit at table and nourish myself, body and soul, in this banquet of love.

Justifying Decisions

There’s something I do sometimes that drives Steve nuts.  I know it, and I’m trying to stop, but it seems to be a deeply ingrained habit.  He asks me to make a simple decision about something, and the first thing that comes out of my mouth is rarely my true feeling about it.  It’s either, “Well, we could do that….” or a few practical reasons to do something, none of which is genuinely revealing.  It’s like I’m protected my deepest self, the one that really wants something particular.   I imagine this is a coping strategy that arose from being Daughter #4 in my family of origin.  I probably didn’t experience much success simply saying, “I want that!” so perhaps I tried to come up with smart sounding reasons why giving me what I want was good for the general public?   Maybe.  Maybe the rejection of my true attachments was too painful, so I would pretend to be interested more in logic, which would appeal to my father.  It’s an interesting head game, anyway.

It came up again this morning, as I was thinking about how to justify something that I’ve wanted for more than a year.  I want a new camera.  I have been using a little Lumix that I borrowed from Steve’s aunt.  I had a Canon AE-1 which my husband bought for me when we were dating in high school.  It lasted 30 years, and then a gear broke down, and I couldn’t advance the film.  So I moved onto the digital point-and-shoot camera, but I’ve dearly missed the ability to focus manually with ease and get really sharp pictures.  What’s been keeping me from just buying a DSLR?  This weird thing I have about justifying what I want.  I never buy anything for myself until I can think of a few practical reasons or some really sentimental reason that will please someone else.  Pretty neurotic, actually.  

The breakthrough this morning was that I thought of the last bit of rationalization I needed to move forward.  It’s not enough that I just want a camera.  It’s not enough that I am turning 50 years old in a week and a half and a birthday present to myself is due.  It’s not enough that I have the money because I’m still only earning minimum wage at my seasonal job.  It’s not enough that I’m planning to take a lot of pictures on my upcoming 3-week trip, and I want them to turn out well.  What got me over the hurdle was thinking that Jim, my late husband, would have bought me that camera in a heartbeat.  On credit, even if he didn’t have the money.  The first camera he bought me was still working fine when he died.   I can hear him now, “Look, dear, the life insurance money is for you, from me.  I want to buy you a new camera.  It would make me happy.”  It would, I’m sure.  And he’d throw in all kinds of extra gadgets just for fun.  A macro lens.  A carrying case.  He was that kind of guy, generous and spontaneous to everyone, including himself. 

Why do I struggle so with offering up a spontaneous decision when I’m asked?

Do Something and Do Nothing

I would like to change the world.  I would like to see less violence involving guns.  I would like to see more wild and rural land reclaimed from developed areas.  I would like to see more tolerance and listening and compassion.  I would like to see more curiosity and play and wonder and less capitalism, competition, and greed.  I am never going to be an “expert” at anything, and I don’t want to market myself or make disciples.  How can I make an impact? 

“Integrity,” Steve says.  Know your vision and live it.  Don’t be afraid to do something and don’t be too busy to do nothing.

I can imagine myself being afraid to do something because I don’t have enough information, or I haven’t figured out exactly what the “right” thing to do is.  I will never know the perfect solution, but I don’t have to settle for inaction.  I can imagine jumping on some band wagon and stumping away at a project because others are encouraging me, without thinking critically or allowing time for observation to inform me.  I can imagine myself feeling obligated or slipping into habit and just going on and on.  I don’t want to do any of that.  I really want to live out of a peaceful center, spontaneously responding with integrity to the issues that I face.  And I want to be able to accept the fact that I may not be noticed…and that I may. 

I am a visual person, too.  I like examples, illustrations.  Who lives like this?  Gandhi.  Thich Nhat Hahn.  Pete Seeger.  Anyone else?  You tell me.