Happy Holidays


Happy Hanukkah, Boxing Day, and Hogmanay! Kwanzai Greetings!  and come May and June – a blessed Ramadan and a joyous Eid-al-Fitr.  But first and most of all, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each and every one of you! 

May you and yours be well …

May you and yours be safe …

May you and yours be happy …

May you and yours have a future filled with joy …

May we all get along …

May we all be surrounded by Love and Laughter …

Joan and Bill Rough

About The Roomba …

Max the best floor cleaner in the world!

Running a bit late for my Yoga class, I knew I’d have to walk quickly from the parking lot to get there in time.  I’d left home a bit late as a result of a last minute phone call and then there was the fender bender on the bypass that didn’t help either.

 As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed the parking meters were gone.  All of the spaces were now numbered and there were several new signs telling me to remember my parking spot number and go to one of the two pay stations at opposite ends of the lot to pay for leaving my car.

Just a few days ago, I had parked in that same lot to do some shopping.  There was no sign that things would be changing in the near future. I was low on quarters for the parking meter and added a stop at the bank to my To Do List, to get $10.00 worth of coins so that I’d have a stash for my biweekly trips to the Down Town Mall. 

I got out of my car and easily found the place to pay. There was a line of about six people trying to figure out how it worked and no experts about to help.  Slowly but surely, the line dwindled. One person left to find parking elsewhere. A few youngsters ahead of me quickly caught on to the new system and rushed off to their appointments.  

I pushed the button marked Start Here and waited for the screen to to tell me what to do next. It seemed to be in a language that I had never encountered before. Being in my seventies and sensitive about a mind that doesn’t work the way it use to, I was getting more and more embarrassed. I had tried over and over again to figure out how this damned machine worked but got more and more messed up with every try.  

I couldn’t just leave my car there and go off to yoga as numerous large and intimidating signs warned that cars would be towed unless the owners had paid. My anxiety levels were rising quickly,  I knew I would be late for my class, and I was close to tears.  

When I saw my friend, Beverly, walking toward me to say hello, I asked her if she knew how these freaking machines worked. She was able to rescue me as she’d gotten instructions in a different lot just yesterday, when a kind person was walking back to her car.  

As she worked her magic, I stood by trying desperately to memorize the steps to pay for parking. I’d be back in just a few days for another class and some shopping. I thanked her, gave her a hug, and ran off to Yoga, promising we’d chat again very soon.  I made it to class just as it was beginning. 

Thank goodness for Beverly, yoga and Barb, the best yoga teacher in the world.  At the end of class I was relaxed and back to my old self. The rest of the day went beautifully until I went to bed and started to OCD about the new parking system, why it was not a good thing,  and whether I’d remember how to pay next time. It was not my preferred way to start a good night’s rest, but monkey mind is never far away and loves to mix things up especially at bedtime.

As sleep finally began to overtake me I thought again about the Roomba I had considered  getting. The monkey wouldn’t give up. 

I was looking for help in cleaning up after myself in the kitchen. I love to cook, but am messy, dropping lots of food particles on the floor. Though Max is a real live Roomba, and sweeps up after me, he doesn’t snarf up things like onion or garlic skins. He much prefers the juicier tidbits like beans, carrots, yams, or greens. And I seem to be getting lazier by the day. Dragging out the vacuum every time I cook is not part of the pleasure I take in preparing delicious and healthy meals.

Again I began dozing, but old monkey wouldn’t let go. I told myself I’d decide if I’d get one tomorrow, but remembered my friend, Jackie, telling me that she hates her Roomba.  When I asked her why, she told me, “It is difficult to use. There are too many buttons, I don’t understand the directions in the manual, and can’t get it to work.  I have to wait until my husband is around to help me and he makes fun of me, telling me I’m not a technologically capable person.”

As deep sleep finally started to take me away from all of that, I watched visions of my computer, my cell phone, my Kindle, and the iPad I finally gave away last year. I had too many gadgets that I didn’t really know how to use and never wanted to take the time to learn. There are other things I much prefer doing like taking long walks in nature, writing, reading, and making art.  Why waste my time trying to do things that don’t naturally fit into my life? 

Waking with a smile the next morning I knew that though having a Roomba was an entertaining thought, I really just wanted to keep my life simple. I’ll go back to the old way, depending on Max to take care of chopped food on the floor and use a broom and a dust pan for the rest.  They’re light weight, don’t use electricity, are quick to use, and don’t have any buttons to confuse me.


While sipping a hot cup of Earl Grey tea, I lament the voluminous uproar of leaf blowers clearing the sidewalks and lawn in the small community in which I live. I, for one, would love the opportunity to walk through the leaves, listening to their crunch, collecting those that speak to me of peace, passion, and the spirit of days gone by. The trees have been covered in the brilliant colors that October in Virginia brings. Red Maples, especially, have been aglow in brilliant scarlet, orange, and yellow. 

The peak of this autumn magic is near.  Soon we’ll be left with the dark silhouettes of naked trees against the steel grey of winter skies, until the return of spring when the sun brings more light and the land begins to warm. 

Fall has always been my favorite season.  As a child I loved diving into the piles of leaves my father raked up and then burned at the curb in front of our house. There were no leaf blowers or huge plastic sacks in which to place the leaves to be trucked away to the dump.

 The whisper of rakes, rather than today’s clamor of blowers, brought peace to my world, along with the pungent smell of leaves burning near where they had fallen.  I knew that snow would soon be coming to cover the land with white fluff.  I would build snowmen with carrot noses. Ice on local ponds would thicken quickly in the cold, making for hours of skating, as I envisioned myself to be an olympic ice dancer.  

In Northern Vermont, years later when I had children of my own, we spent September gathering falls from our orchard of five old apple trees. We piled their fruit into the cider press, squeezing them to make luscious apple cider which we sold to neighbors. We’d put a stash of our own in the freezer to thaw later, drinking it heated with a stick of cinnamon and a slice of orange on frigid winter days.

I raked the leaves from our giant maple tree into a huge pile for Mark and Lisa, who both loved hiding in them with their friends, just as I had when I was small.  We never burned the leaves.  We simply let them rot on the ground under the frequent Halloween snow that would remain on the ground until late March or April. 

This is my seventy-seventh year on our planet. As the noisy squadron of men with their gas consuming devises head to another property to remove more leaves, I mourn the quiet of the “old days.”  I’m beginning to understand my own parent’s displeasure with the changes and the speed of life that is always increasing.  

My own days bring memories of the way things used to be.  But where would we be today without computers, cell phones, the tiny bits of plastic found in the melting ice at the South Pole, or the Roomba I’ve been thinking of buying?  

Way back, in Vermont, besides making apple cider, I raised sheep for their wool, had a vegetable garden that was about an acre in size, and a flock of laying hens. I baked bread in the old, iron wood stove that heated my kitchen in winter, filling my home with the welcome aroma of life well lived.

As I grow older it takes me longer to do the simplest of chores like folding laundry, or vacuuming the floors in my home. It is ironic that I  consider the convenience of robotic gadgets to give me more time to sit, read a good book, write in my journal, take a nice long walk, or simply stare into space. 

I do miss those days. I am still a hippy at heart. But I can no longer do the work that sustained me back then. Instead I fuss over buying a small disk-like gadget that will do the vacuuming for me, and betray the person I still think I am.

There is much about aging that I do love. I can say what I want, look beauty in the face and stick my tongue out at her, and pretend that I’m retired with all the time in the world to do whatever I want. But like the leaves, I know that I too will fall to the ground, becoming something else, in the not too distant future.    

In the meantime, I’ll text my grandkids to ask how to do some tricky things on my computer, take a nap when I feel lazy, and try to figure out why I need a Roomba.


Wishing You and Yours a Very Happy Thanksgiving!


It was a cold, dark New Year’s day.  The end of another holiday season. I took the tree down a few days ago, and stashed all the decorations away in the attic. I was ready for life to rev up and begin again.  Over the years I’d come to feel that Christmas was just another dull holiday that had lost its meaning amidst our human need for more, more, more.

It was way back when personal computers were just beginning to flood the market. My kids were playing on the “Trash-80,” we’d picked up as a family Christmas gift at Radio Shack. I wasn’t taken with this new Thing that would soon begin consuming our lives. Yet I sat behind Mark and Lisa watching them giggle and shout as they took each other out in whatever silly game they were playing.  It was fun watching for a while, but I was tired and ready to get away from such nonsense. 

I had just proclaimed that New Year’s Day was the most boring day of the year when I looked up and out the window into the pasture just beyond our driveway. Our dogs, Chippy and Mildred, were fighting and looking as though they were trying to kill each other.

I popped out of my chair and ran outside to break them up.  As I sprinted down the driveway I could hear and see the seriousness of what was happening, Both dogs were snarling and beginning to draw a bit of blood.  I picked up speed, forgetting that there was a cattle guard between us.

Before I could stop myself, I landed with my right leg caught between two of the steel bars of the guard. I heard a snap as I went down, and began shouting for help. The dogs immediately stopped fighting and Bill came to my rescue. He carried me to the car when I told him I thought my leg was broken.  

 I spent the next  few days having a pity party all by myself, going through the list of why this was the most unfair thing that had ever happened to me. I would spend the next four months recuperating, as both my tibia and fibula healed.

I didn’t know that those months would be a time of learning or that sometimes the universe interrupts our insane, shake-a-leg world so that we can learn the importance of slowing down and enjoying life.  I’d been rushing around in a workaholic kind of way, raising two kids, teaching natural dying and spinning, cooking, cleaning, and going to bed each night totally exhausted.

 Then a few friends came to visit, bringing books, flowers, and chocolates. I began to rethink my situation.  I couldn’t rush around experiencing overwhelm because I had too many things to do and not enough time to do them. I’d forgotten about the simple things in life that we all need in order to live happily. 

Reading good books took over my time. I remembered being a ravenous reader when I was a kid, but since then books and reading had taken a back seat to being a wife, mother, teacher, and housekeeper.  I missed the feel of holding a book, turning its pages, and the flow of words that so often had filled my heart. 

 I started to keep a journal.  Along with my leg bones, I wanted to heal my thinking and the anger I was carrying around with me. I’ve kept a journal ever since. It’s a place where I explore my thoughts and feelings, and eventually led me to write and publish my instruction book on Australian Locker Hooking, and then to my memoir, Scattering Ashes. 

I learned that slowing down and being mindful was the best medicine for any kind of healing, whether it be physical or mental.  The Universe had whacked me over the head with a 2” by 4”, reminding me that I was on a downhill course and out of control. 

Since then that merciless piece of lumber has been following me around, and when I see it approaching out of the corner of my eye, I hastily slam on my brakes.   

Over the past two years pain began developing in my shoulders, especially the right one.  My husband has been diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment, which means he might or might not develop dementia. Uncertainty has become the watchword of our lives.

As a result, we decided to downsize and find a place where we might be more comfortable and less responsible for things like shoveling snow, keeping the garden looking as beautiful as it was, and mowing the grass. The move took a lot out of us, but for the time being at least, we’re happy and comfortable where we are and continue to explore our options as our bodies and minds continue to age.  

After having the rotator cuff in my right shoulder surgically repaired in mid January, I spent six weeks in a sling unable to do much other than sit and relax. It has now been put away on a high shelf in my closet. I still  must take it easy, using my right arm very carefully and have about six more weeks until I’m able to drive.

I’m once again reminded of the most important and simple things in my life. I’m using this time as a retreat as I nourish my  body and mind. That in itself will help me to be a good caretaker for my husband of fifty-three years should it become necessary. It is also inspiring me to be think creatively. I continue writing, reading, making art, and simply enjoying life.

We all live in a world filled with uncertainty. Take care of yourself.  Give yourself time and love all of the little things that make you happy. If we’re not careful that 2″ by 4″ could be headed your way!


Last week I had a spell of feeling sorry for myself. I wanted the early spring days that had visited us with temperatures around 70 degrees to return. Instead it was cold and rainy. I drew frowny faces with my left hand. I hated the sling. Wanted to do jumping jacks. And was generally a pain in the butt to be around. I’d had enough winter, slings, and being stuck in the house.

Wandering around in my studio I came across one of the visual journals I had started well before we moved here to Out Of Bounds, which is what this development we live in is called. The cover read, “Let’s Dance.” I said to myself, “Self, how can I dance with this stupid sling holding my arm too close to my body, making me feel clumsy and off-balance?” Self didn’t respond.

I flipped through the first few pages of the journal, noticed the warm, bright colors. I was inspired. There were two pages that I had painted with a background wash well over a year ago, all ready for me to play with when inspiration struck. I was very attracted to the yellow page. It’s the color I favor most in Spring … as in pansies, forsythia, and daffodils. I decided right then and there to decorate the page with whatever I could find.

I found the box marked Stencils and Collage. Tucked in the top were three plastic bags, each one filled with images and words I had cut out from old magazines and books ages ago. I spilled the contents of bag #1 onto my work table and found a few images that caught my attention. There was a little wiener dog on a skateboard. A blue scaredy cat with all of its hair standing on end. 

In bag #2 I found the title of what this page would be about and immediately glued it in place. As I rummaged through the rest of the cutouts, words kept appearing that Self urged me to use. After arranging them and then gluing them on the page, I used markers to fill in blank spaces with stars, a few flowers, and wiggly lines. 

What you see below is what magically happened. That old Self of mine surely knew what she was doing. From now on when she doesn’t respond to my questions, I’ll remember to let myself open up and invite her in, knowing that she’ll show me the way to the answers I seek.