Nothing is Magic

This title has been rolling around for a number of days.  Because I can’t decide if everything is magic or nothing.  I’m thinking about the changes I’ve made since my acupuncture appointment, and what it means to have your mind, body, and spirit all working in harmony.

Aside from the projects getting completed over that first weekend, I have connected with a PhD student who wants to support me in my vision for Mixed Race community space; I’ve experienced some really affirming and beautiful feedback about who I am as a person and what I contribute to my environments; work has gone very well; I was part of an incredible trauma training; and I’ve finally made a commitment to getting my body back where I want to be – bad coping habits are under control and I’m re-connecting with my love for exercise and the feeling of being strong and fit.  Aside from the things I can name concretely, my overall mood and energy are better, and I’m beginning to see small things appear in my life that are in line with the hopes and intentions I’ve been cultivating.

Last year my mantra was “Better feeling thoughts.”  I played around with that all year through the ups and downs of events that came my way.  The mantra was inspired by things I’ve been hearing from Abraham-Hicks.  I listen to these videos often to get my intention back in line with my best good.  They’re teachings about the Law of Attraction, but in a practical way.  Which sounds funny because basically it’s an old White woman channeling a set of ghosts/energies.  If you can get past that, it’s practical information.  But over the past year especially of listening to this stuff, it’s really just CBT+ (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and then some).

CBT is like the most standard form of change therapy.  As therapists, we’re taught about it from day one, it’s the basis of a lot of curriculum for clients, it’s standard.  It’s the idea that your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interrelated.  Law of Attraction says that Like Attracts Like.  Whatever you practice (thoughts, feelings, beliefs, habits), you bring into your experience (behaviors and relationships).  The hook is that most people don’t want to think they have that much control.  But if you make a commitment to observe this interrelationship, you can see the way you’re contributing to your own joy or misery.

The + in CBT+ for me is taking the additional leap to say you can create your own reality once you have a really good understanding and take control of the thoughts you think, which make you feel good (or bad), which make you think other thoughts that align with feeling good (or bad) which strengthens the feeling, and so on… which brings the experiences and relationships that match your feelings.  For me, part of the key has been that my feelings are the real indicator of where I’m at and where I’m headed.  I think part of where I was stuck was thinking I would get magical results quickly based on good intentions and feelings, rather than realizing it takes some time to get some momentum going in the direction I’m headed.  And I would give up too soon.

However, I think sometimes, there is a blockage or stuckness where you can’t get control over your thoughts and feelings.  This can be depression, grief, trauma, blocked energy, whatever you want to call it.  When I touch on the idea of medication with very depressed people, I talk about the idea of being in water.  When you’re at the surface of the water, you can tread, you can get a breathe, you can swim, you have choices.  When you’re depressed, it’s like you’re underwater and you don’t have those choices available to you, you can’t even see them.  Sometimes medications can help you get to sea level.  Medication is not going to swim you or breathe you, but it gets you up to a level where you’re able to make those choices.  And that’s what I feel like happened for me with the acupuncture.  All of these things that are happening now were in the works, but I couldn’t access them.  I was stuck.

I don’t think medication is magic.  And I don’t think acupuncture is magic.  I don’t fully understand what happened, but I know that something shifted and I became able to jump the dead battery of my life.  And with that, I’ve been able to see things start working out for me in ways that I’ve intended for ages and I’m creating now.  I’m very grateful for that!

Moving On

There could be a long explanation about no new posts for nearly 2 years.  Eh.  Life happens.

Or doesn’t.  I’m writing now to reflect on this turn of events over the last day.  And years.

I’ve been feeling incredibly stuck over the past 6 months to a year, but I hadn’t really allowed myself to fully acknowledge it.  All I know is that things were getting worse as the fall came and bled into the holidays.  Since Barb and Grama died, I have not really enjoyed the holidays, and in fact, I’ve dreaded them.  The first ones were because it felt uncomfortable to be around family and not talk about the elephant in the room:  Here we sit, in Barb’s living room, the scene of the crime, but none of us are really talking about it.  Just catching up, laughing, being around new people, silently missing the old.  This year was different because my cousin sold the house.   Her house.  Where I’ve spent every Christmas of my entire life.  Without telling us.  I still haven’t talked to him.  He still never told me.  So for the first time ever I think, we didn’t spend Christmas with Barb’s family.  It was super weird.  A relief in a way because it was so casual, it was like nothing.  But definitely not special.

I made it through the holidays but things weren’t really a big relief like they usually are.  I’ve found myself over the past year having the best times in recent past (great self-care, excitement about creating my future), but then also really icky lows (hermitting and binge watching/eating/drinking).  This has been on a rapid cycle as of late, and my friendships started to suffer.

There’s a number of reasons that my therapist brain can point to:  the death of my father last year and experiencing mourning in mild, drawn out waves; the death of another family pet; friends moving on in partnerships and family planning; being 39, still single, still never having had a strong need to have my own children, but acutely aware that time’s almost up and I likely won’t have that experience, and the knowledge that Grama’s line and my dad’s line won’t pass through me; the abstract loss of my sister as he came out as trans; the absence of a clear, sure goal in the near future; settling into just… life… and wanting to make it something else, expanding life outside of work/school/caregiving, yet being terrified that nothing will ever change.  I’ve identified in my brain these things that have kept me on a weird, tired loop of leaps forward and plummets back, never really gaining any momentum into creating this next phase of my life.

I’m self-reflective, I write.  I do EMDR on myself and identified and worked through some negative beliefs.  I was almost ready to return to therapy myself (still considering it) when I remembered that a recent client told me that acupuncture worked in amazing ways with their anxiety.   Last year, I had my first experience with acupuncture in the form of a cosmetic facial treatment series.  It was interesting but I never knew what I was supposed to be looking for.  Toward the end of those treatments I asked my acupuncturist to explain what my client experienced with acupuncture.  I was impressed and interested to hear more about treating the body as a whole and that certain points on the body connect with certain emotions and organs.  I told her I would probably try that treatment next.  I looked a little bit into research and testimonials so I kind of knew what to expect.

A couple of months later, yesterday, I scheduled an appointment and went back in.  I told my acupuncturist that I’d been feeling some depression and anxiety lately, lingering grief, explained briefly about the cycling moods and behaviors.  I told her I knew all of the pieces that were contributing to this, but couldn’t figure it out.  I just felt like something was stuck in my spirit, in my energy.  She told me she understood, and that Chinese medicine is perfect for these kinds of things.  She took some pulses, looked at my tongue, asked about my digestion, and started sticking me.  She warned me that I might experience a wave of emotion.  I got comfortable for the 40 minute rest.  I cried a little bit early on related to grief.  I had thoughts of Barb and Grama and acknowledged that I was afraid to let go.  My next thought was that it was ok to let go because they were still with me.  I continued to lay there, thinking sometimes and not thinking other times.  Tears on and off.  I was more aware of physical sensations in my body.  Then it was time to get up.  She told me to drink a lot of water and don’t do anything strenuous, and reminded me that waves of emotional release was normal.  She told me to come back once per week for a couple of weeks and then we’ll re-evaluate.

I left the clinic feeling exhausted.  And my left arm felt super heavy and sore.  I was dazed as I drove myself home.  I got a little weepy about my dad.  I made a snack and got back into bed for a couple of hours to rest.  I got up later and decided to run some errands.  I got a horrible sinking urge to go into unhealthy mode again and was terrified that nothing was going to change.  But I got to where I was going, my mind shifted, and it turned into a productive day.  I grocery shopped.  I picked up a big storage container.  I was exhausted again when I got home, and got into bed again.

I woke up at what I assume was way too early of an hour and just laid in bed and paid attention to my body and my breathing.  I noticed that depending on who or what I was thinking about, parts of my body lit up with sounds, tingles, or emotions.  I’ve historically been terrible about living from inside my body.  My brain is a mile a minute, so physical and emotional mindfulness is not something that is natural for me, but I’ve been working on it.  It was an interesting experience, and gradually I drifted back to sleep.  I dreamed of a family reunion with my second family, an artsy bus, and skating.  Just before I woke up, I dreamed of leaning over to my friend with the epiphany that we needed to buy a roller rink together.

My body felt slow and heavy and tired, but my brain wanted to get up.  I had coffee and started laundry and set some intentions for my day while reflecting on the experience from yesterday.  I did some budgeting and paid bills, putzed around a little bit, made breakfast, then got exhausted again and went back to bed to rest.

After finishing a movie, I knew I wanted to take on the overdue task of taking down the Christmas tree.  I barely got the thing up before Christmas.  Frankly, I plugged it in and haven’t unplugged it since.  It’s had the same design for a few years – it’s a raggedy old Charlie Brown looking tree from my grandfather’s basement, with red ribbons and tinsel left over from years ago, disco ball ornaments, and some handmade ornaments from 2011.  That year I gave all my friends and family personalized ornaments with pictures of them.  I used old family pictures for family members and made some for myself. As I removed them this morning, it struck me that pretty much everyone on my ornaments is dead.  Sugar, my dad, Grama, Barb and Rick, Grampa.  It didn’t make me sad, it just struck me.  Parts of my apartment and my life are just a shrine to people who are gone now.  They died and what I understand now that I have more experience with death and a shifted spiritual perspective is that everyone dies, it’s natural, and it’s sad, but it is what it is.  The problem is that I hadn’t moved on.  It’s time to move on.

IMAG1447

Louie watches as his world turns upside down.  

After I got the tree packed up in the big storage bin I picked up yesterday, I looked around at my plants.  They were in pretty bad shape, so I decided to do some pruning that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.  They were so overgrown in some places, rotting in others.  As I cut the long tendrils for clipping to start new ones, it reminded me of cutting hair.  I got a significant haircut this year as well.  Looking at the plants, I kept thinking that I don’t know why I let them get this overgrown when I could’ve started fresh, but I was avoiding cutting the length.  I now have much healthier looking plants that aren’t so tangled and bound together (they can breathe!) and I may have a healthy new crop on the way via clippings.

IMAG1448

Old pizza box doubles as a dead vine recepticle. I’m all about multipurposing. It’s all going to the trash anyway.

I still had the energy so I kept with my momentum.  Another project that’s been calling my name was starting to sew.  I’ve had Barb’s machine but never officially used it in the last 3 years.  It’s a nice looking table!  But I also meant to bring together all the Nigerian clothes that have been made for or given to me.  For the ones I have never worn – some are outfits my dad sent me before we ever met – make them into something I actually want or use them as practice material.  I pulled them out from closets and storage, hung the ones that didn’t need altering on the hangers I bought a couple of months ago, and sorted the rest into my old Christmas bin.  I thought about how long I’ve avoided doing anything with these clothes because they were made for me and I thought it would be bad to alter them.  But were they any better, hanging out in storage not getting used?  The fabric is ready when I’m ready to begin.

In a final use of my energy, I transferred all my CDs and very old tapes from a cardboard box my cats had been scratching at for several months into another bin.  And I packed some of the Christmas stuff I’m giving away into the cardboard box.  I now have 3 tidy containers waiting to go into storage or given away, rather than a ransacked wasteland of unfinished projects.

Is it the acupuncture that unblocked some energy and got my Qi moving around again?  Is it positive expectation and a real desire to move forward in my life?  Is it an incredibly cold Minnesota weekend that kept me cooped up and coincidentally productive?  Who knows.  I’m just grateful I haven’t wasted another day on the couch binge watching some crappy show.  (I take it back, Nurse Jackie is a really good and important show, I’m not sorry for that time spent!)

I keep having this vision of Grama waving and waving to me.  “Bye bye!  Bye bye!”  But it’s not sad.

Argentina in a nutshell

As previously mentioned, I just went for a vacation in Argentina with 3 friends.  We originally began planning in September of last year, when I was employed full time with plenty of banked vacation time and the ability to save at a reasonable pace.  We found a non-stop round trip from NYC to Buenos Aires for $530 – how could I say no?  Even though at the time I didn’t have the money saved, I took the leap.  Argentina was a place that wasn’t on my radar for vacation spots, so I felt I had to take the opportunity.

Between September and late March, I lost my PTO, got laid off, got a new job that seemed promising but didn’t turn out as financially profitable as I thought, and went through some overall pretty high life stress.  The timing was poor.  My friends supported me and gave me time to pay back the tickets, I cashed in an old small retirement account and went for it.  

Was it worth it?  Sure – with some hesitations.  I learned the lesson that I will never ever schedule a vacation without having the money available for the ticket and extra money saved.  That was silly.  Yet from all around me, I got the confirmation that yes, go for it, take the leap, you’ll never have this opportunity again.  So yes, for those reasons, definitely worth it!  Beautiful country, and getting to see another part of the world, not being fluent in the language, being out of my comfort zone, always, always worth it.  

I was in a weird head space on the trip.  Super stressed out about work.  As seen in my last post, last minute opportunities for job change.  Then I’ve just struggled with wondering if I’m slipping a bit back into depression.  Minnesota had a long, cold, HARD winter, and that certainly didn’t help.  So I didn’t go in the best mindset.  

That said, I liked Argentina, but I didn’t fall in love.  I’ve known a couple of people who went before, including one of my friends on the trip.  While there, the 3 people I was with loved it.  I liked it.  But I wasn’t fully present.  And I was sick right before the trip, and then got a horrible, lingering head and chest cold over the final weekend there.  It was tough.  On two of the days they went out exploring, I stayed home.  The pace was hard for me, I was worn out.  Before all that though, I want to get into my perceptions:

Buenos Aires is a HUGE, gorgeous, old, magnificent city.  We stayed in a highrise apartment that had a breathtaking view of the expanse.  It was glorious.  

But it’s dirty.  The beautiful old historic buildings were spray painted.  Picking up dog shit is not a value, so walking down the streets you have to keep an eye out for poop and overall garbage.  

My favorite places we saw:  San Telmo and the Recoleta Cemetery.  San Telmo is an old part of town, and they shut down several blocks of this one cobblestone street every Sunday for an open air market.  There are souvenirs and a variety of wonderful handmade crafts and artworks, antiques, and food.  Sometimes bands play on the corners, there are performance artists interspersed, and if you stay til the end, there is a tango demonstration and open dance in the square.  Really beautiful and fun, inspiring!  

Recoleta Cemetery is probably best known as the resting place of Eva Peron.  It, too, is very old, filled with mausoleums and statues.  I got some really beautiful photos there.  However, there was lots of juxtaposition there as well.  Some were beautiful and maintained, some had been vandalized.  The cemetery is raising money to try and maintain it.  I guess a big part of my conflicting feelings about Buenos Aires is that I love old architecture and historical things, but much of it seemed to be undervalued and not well kept.  Which could be for any number of legitimate reasons, including a struggling economy.  It was just sad to me.  The other thing about the Cemetery was the cultural difference.  It was so interesting.  In Minnesota at least, we don’t do a lot of mausoleums.  And if we do, they are typically solid stone and things are hidden away with maybe a little flower holder visible.  In Recoleta, it was lots of marble and glass. You could see coffins and shrines inside of the mausoleums.  It creeped me out a lot at first.  And then you would have the vandalized ones and you could literally reach in and touch a coffin.  I am very interested in death rituals.  My mom used to take me to cemeteries as a kid to just look at the old stones and statues.  I enjoyed it.  So this was very different and fascinating.  I loved it!  

The people of Buenos Aires were kind and helpful.  My Spanish is so-so.  Very good for someone who has only taken 2 short community ed classes.  I had 8 years of French, which gave me a leg up.  Still, you can go there without Spanish and probably be ok.  Many people there spoke a little English at least, and with restaurants, shopping, and tourism, there was almost always someone who spoke English.  Still, it was fun to go and try to use my Spanish.  During times when I went out on my own, it was a little nerve racking but I managed.  All of us tried to use our Spanish as much as possible and I would love to continue it.  

I could count the number of people I saw of African descent on two hands, and the majority were in San Telmo.  I was surprised to see how “White” everyone looked there.  Though there were a variety of skin tones and features, the influence of Spain was evident in the phenotype of the majority of the people.  With that, I expected some racism or staring or exoticism or double takes or something.  But nothing.  There were virtually no microaggressions.   A delightful absence.  However, I’m not exactly sure how I appeared to the people.  I’ve been asked by Mexicans a number of times if I’m from Brazil.  Though I don’t feel as racially ambiguous as many Biracial people, I know that when my hair is up you can’t see my tight curls which often signal my Black ancestry.  My skin was darker than most Argentinians, but maybe they thought I was just from another South American country.  The four of us had an interesting conversation about race.  I’m Biracial, one friend is Multiracial (1/4 Jamaican mixed with White, doesn’t look Black but you also know he’s not White), and then 2 White people.  With 3 of us coming from Minnesota, we had a lively discussion about the contrast.  Which gave me a lot of food for thought, but that’s for another post.  

It was a wonderful trip, and I probably would’ve experienced it differently if I were in a different frame of mind.  It was beautiful and there is so much to do and see!  I do recommend it, it’s a pretty great travel destination.  Myself, I have other places I want to see more before I would consider going there again of my own volition.  I’m thankful for the experience, and it’s always nice to get away, get back to myself, hit the reset button, remember what’s important in my life and move forward.  

Waiting for Mundane

It’s been a pretty wild few months with work.  Which is a challenge because at the beginning of each of the last 2 years, all I wanted to do was settle into my work so that I could focus on the areas of my life outside of work.  

So almost exactly 5 months ago, I was laid off.  It shocked me so deeply even though in retrospect I really should’ve seen it coming.  Because it felt like such a blow, even with the promise that we would most likely be hired back soon, I went immediately into job search survival mode and had 2 decent offers within a week.  My old agency didn’t communicate with us for a week and a half, which left me a lot of time to think.  So when they offered my my job back with a salary almost restored back to pre-cut levels… I did a very difficult thing and said no.  I took one of the other offers and have been there since.  

My current job is called ARMHS work – Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services.  My clients are SPMI (Severe and Persistent Mental Illness), typically receiving government assistance and having a shit ton of people involved in their care plan, and I go to their homes or meet them in the community for our sessions.  The purpose of ARMHS is to restore lost function to people whose mental illness symptoms have caused a significant impairment in multiple areas of functioning (accessing supportive services, social, interpersonal, gaining and maintaining home and finances, self-care, transportation, etc.).  This is the typical work of a person in my area who has graduated with a Masters degree and is still logging the required hours for licensure.  It can pay somewhere between crap and shit, much of your paperwork time is unpaid, and you’re driving all over the city.  At first I thought it would be a great financial move because the hourly rate was much higher than my pay cut rate at the old agency.  However, if clients cancel or don’t show up, you don’t get paid.  And my gas budget has about quadrupled from where I was previously.  So it can be hit and miss, and as with any work with people – it takes time to build your solid client base.  

Things have been plugging along for the past few months.  If I want to keep up my own self-care and go to the gym and eat right, it’s a process to prepare to get out the door in the morning.  I pack my work clothes, a portable breakfast, lunch, and snacks, map out my routes, bring up any forms I may need, and try to hustle out the door somewhere between 6:30 and 7am.  It’s exactly as stressful as it sounds.

Another thing about having a Masters but not yet being licensed is that you have to be supervised by a licensed professional approved by your licensing board.  Since I graduated, I have been lucky enough to have a board approved supervisor at each of my jobs.  Last month, my supervisor gave notice and the replacement is not a board approved supervisor for me.  New expense:  $240-400/mo.  With how exhausting it is to drive all over the city and surrounding suburbs for a living, coupled with the hustle it takes to keep your client load up, added to increased expenses in a budget that was already strained following depleting my savings over the past year to survive on a pay cut only to be laid off… I recently realized this job just wasn’t gonna work out.  And I’m exhausted.  

So.  It’s job search time again.  

My plan was to come on this vacation and when I return go into high intensity job search mode.  However, some interesting opportunities have come up.  I’ve been talking with my friends about them and the contrast is just odd.  For the past couple of months I’ve felt so trapped and like I have to accept this crappy place in my career for the next 9 months or so until I’m licensed.  But realizing that it’s only 9 months away has helped me to begin to dream and wake up and look forward.  I just need to get through this time, and then things will break wide open for me in terms of the variety of positions I’ll be eligible for, along with a significant increase in pay.  Halleloo!  So in looking toward the future and figuring out where I want to go after this first hurdle of licensure is reached, I have a couple of options to consider even before I search for something new to tide me over.  

At my current company, they’re trying to build their mental health program, which is only a year old.  The new supervisor is actually really great, I like her and respect her, and she is showing me that she sees and values me and my work.  She would like to add a location for outpatient therapy, and in trying to keep me, she wants me to be the first therapist to start seeing clients there.  Once licensed, she wants me to become the Clinical Director for that location and help it to grow, get it off the ground.  However, this option, even the outpatient therapy position, has no firm start date (estimated 4 months out) and I would need to continue doing ARMHS work and transition into therapy as clients build.  This is a long term plan.  

The second interesting option has to do with my old agency, which was swallowed up by the meganonprofit, and rebirthed as a new culturally specific agency.  When all employees were laid off, not many accepted their positions back when offered.  The mental health team especially took a huge hit.  I have been in touch with several old coworkers and have regularly asked for updates on how things are going and whether things have stabilized.  Recently, people have reached out asking what I would need to come back and encouraging me to apply.  Just before I left on my trip, I got a call gauging my interest on coming back and working part time in school-based therapy, part time outpatient.  I said I was definitely interested and would like to have an interview when I returned from vacation.  The opportunity to do therapy immediately while being full time and salaried after these past 5 months is looking better and better.  But I also want to know about the opportunity for growth once I’m licensed.  I’m hearing that there are good options at the new agency and with the meganonprofit, but it all remains to be seen. 

The 2 options are definitely interesting, and I can still do some other general job searching.  It forces me to look at my priorities for today and my path for the future.  I’m thinking about how to present myself confidently and being clear about my strengths, talents, and goals.  I need to learn about and practice negotiating salary.  And I need to have my focus clearly on myself and my needs – I have never been very assertive in interviews and negotiations, and often get caught up in what and who I’m leaving behind.  In addition, I can’t ignore that I still have hard feelings with the old agency about the way things went down, and I have no idea whether I should trust what’s being promised at my current company…  

But I’m excited for the opportunity in this next decision to put myself first and get the best deal I can.  It doesn’t have to be a permanent or even long-term choice, just the best choice for me right now in this point in my life.  Change is coming.  I have to accept that and understand that now is not my time to relax into the mundane, stable work life of my dreams.  I’ve got to push a little further.  Plus, who am I kidding, mundane is not my calling!  

Together

So my aunt’s birthday was this past Sunday, February 16.  I was dreading it.  Since my grandmother’s death, I have been wearing Grama’s bracelet, one of two that she put on in India in the 1940s and never took off until the doctors had to cut them off in surgery late in life.  

So, after surgery, my cousin, Barb’s daughter, got the intact one, and I got the one they cut off.  It was eerily creepy to me during the surgery because during my entire life they were a part of Grama’s right wrist.  But she did live several years after that.  So her bracelet sat in my collection for several years after surgery.  But when she died, I put the cut bracelet on and never took it off again.  

Until Sunday, 2/16/14.   What would’ve been my aunt’s 60th bday.  

As I said, it wasn’t intact.  It was cut in one place and was a precarious piece on my wrist for the next year and a half.  But it was completely Grama.  I noticed it opening back and forth for the past couple of weeks.  I knew it wouldn’t last forever.  But I never thought it would break on Barb’s birthday.  When it happened, I cried like a baby, expecting and dreading it together.  I felt a sign reaching through to me.  “We’re here, together” wherever.  

No final answers on what it means, but here I am.  And that is all.  

“Getting to know your machine…”

One of the things Auntie Barb left me was her sewing machine.  I haven’t touched it except to shuffle it around my condo during rearrangement times since she died nearly a year and a half ago now. I just for some reason couldn’t bring myself to get into it.  Until tonight.  

I have to say, I’ve always intended to use it, for sure.  She gave it to me intentionally because she knew I liked to sew.  However… I just couldn’t really touch it until this month.  This 2014 is a year of mindful goals… I told myself February would be the month.  In homage.  Her birthday was the 16th, Sunday.  The same as her lockbox code when we needed to stay with her and come and go when she couldn’t get up to answer the door, but wasn’t yet ready to go into inpatient hospice.  021654.  Her birthdate.  

So tonight, duty intact, I started wiping it off and reading the manual.  To be honest, I can’t wait to use it and take care of it, and love it!  I loved to sew.  I learned later in life and then my mom ruined my little portable machine when I lent it to her.  

As Barb faced the inevitability of death, she started to give away her things.  She offered me her old table top Singer.  My mom had already broken mine so I said yes, of course. 

When I was little it was a prop in the basement to hold up the old beautiful wood chess set.  When she was dying, it was an upstairs prop.  Holding items for her daughter’s wedding crafts.  If I remember right, previous to that it was her birdcage stand.  Even earlier it was in the spot of her weaved macrame plant holder?  The spot and the machine have been a feature of my whole life.  

Looking through the pages of the manual marked, “Getting to know your machine,” and through the storage areas of this tabletop machine, I found many surprises.  My aunt’s original married name before the uncle who was THE uncle, addresses I never knew, printed and signed on repair tickets, years that contradict.  A mystery to solve.  I’m sure there’s not much of a mystery actually, just pieces of a puzzle to put together.  Questions for my mother.  Clarifications.  But another piece of my aunt to look forward to, rather than backward.  Which is something nice for me.  I miss her so much.