My Small Taste of Winter Into Spring

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m feeling particularly thankful. The temperature where I’m at is about thirty degrees cooler than back home. There’s snow covering the peaks to the west, and there’s a cloudy sky with a little warmth in the sunlight that breaks through.

I know to most people such things sound tiresome after the polar vortex of winter that’s just now petering out. To me it’s a welcome change from nonstop sun and heat of an extra dry desert winter.

Add in the giant bonus of meeting our newest family member and I’m just a little giddy. More than that, I’m simply overflowing with joy.

On such a day, even the winterbare trees seem joyous and welcoming.

Every child begins the world again…. ~Henry David Thoreau

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Categories: Uncategorized, Gratituesday, Gratitude | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Wild Ones and Volunteers

African Daisies still going bonkers in a few spots.

African Daisies still going bonkers in a few spots.

My wildflowers reach the end of their life cycle this month. MSH keeps insisting I just need to water them. To appease him, I have drenched the poor worn out plants with copious amounts of the precious resource, to no avail. Well, that’s not exactly true. The weeds appreciate the extra moisture and show their appreciation by growing a foot in a day, or at least it seems they do.

No, sad to say, my wildflowers have simply reached the stage in their life cycle where they produce seeds and then let the winds scatter their progeny willy-nilly. By time a healthy seed head appears, the plant itself has given its all, nearly five months from peeking out of the ground to now.

This seed head looks promising.

This seed head looks promising.

Now’s the part of the wildflower process where the hard work kicks in. If I want to share any of the seeds, which I like to, then I gather the puffs of seed heads into a bucket and distribute them into Ziploc bags. These little guys, African Daisies, will grow in almost any climate, even in a regular garden bed during late spring and summer, as long as they get the full sun.

It’s a little trickier gathering the California Poppy seeds. They form in long pods after the flower bloom ends. The seeds aren’t much bigger than a grain of sand. I gather the pods before they open and let them dry out in a container. When the seeds are ready the pod splits open on its own and releases the seeds where they fall to the bottom of the container.

The other much harder part of wildflowering in my rock covered desert landscape is that every plant must be plucked from the ground and disposed of. Usually I pull a few plants a day as they slowly die off, which isn’t too difficult. But this year, there are more plants than ever and we had a really hot patch of weather last week that sped up the process of end of life.

So I’m faced today with the task of cleaning up the dead and dying. It’s a little sad. The yard starts to look bare and desert-ish again. My flowerpots in the shade of the front porch provide my only color fix out there.

Yet in this undertaking (excuse the pun) I have hope, because hundreds or probably more like thousands, of seeds have fallen among the rocks and next years bloom looks promising.

I suppose what I love about wildflowers lies in their self-propagating properties. They voluntarily show up, without any work on my part.

If you aren’t familiar with gardening terms:

“a volunteer is a plant that grows on its own, rather than being deliberately planted by a farmer or a gardener.” ~ Wikipedia

I once had a tree seed blow in and grow in the middle of a series of garden beds. Turns out it was a Brazilian Pepper Tree that grew very quickly. In a matter of three years I had a tall, full tree that provided shade for a south-facing kitchen window. Another time, in the middle of a compost pile, I had a cantaloupe vine grow that gave out the sweetest fruit I’d ever tasted.

Unplanned, yet perfect, colors in my garden.

Unplanned color in my garden.

All winter I had meant to plant vegetable seeds in the open spaces of my back yard flower bed; combine utility with beauty for a perfect combination. I set in a few tomato plants, but that’s all. The deliberate planting never happened. Life and death and illness took hold for a while and got in the way of my good intentions.

And yet, almost miraculously, my back yard flowerbed overflows with nearly all volunteers this spring. Some flowers simply survived the very mild winter, with only one night of below freezing temperatures covered by a sheet. The red Penstemon apparently throw out seeds because they’re spreading and blooming proficiently. A few Sunflower seeds planted themselves from last years batch and have made themselves comfy among the Romaine lettuce and Petunias. Marigolds reseeded themselves as well and threaten a yellow takeover once they start blooming. And Cosmos, with their feathery stalks have already flowered in neon pink, the children of last years few seeds I tried for the first time.

Looking out the back window provides a view of this unplanned but stunning flowerbed at all times of the day.

Not being in too much of a gardening disposition this past winter, I’ve been lucky to have so many plants volunteer to brighten my life. Sometimes, in spite of lack of attention, or maybe because of it, nature sends surprises to delight and lift and cheer.

Categories: Gardening, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Scattering What We Can

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“Nuf said.

“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.” ~
Joseph Addison

I’m headed out to see what good I can do today. If someone smiles back I’ll think maybe it’s you doing good, too.

Categories: Happiness, Mental Health | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

How Many People Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb?

It’s Gratituesday! I’m sure you know a few “how many people does it take to change a lightbulb” jokes. I actually found a website that has them listed alphabetically by profession.  My favorite is this one:

How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one, but it has to really want to change.

What do lightbulb jokes have to do with Gratitude? You’d be surprised at the answer. If you were to seriously ask how many people are involved in the actual process of changing a lightbulb, you’d be surprised. Really. Stay with me here.

I remember sitting in the theater after the movie “Apollo 13” as the credits scrolled by. Astounded by how many people it took to put this movie together, I then naturally wondered how many people it took to put even one actual Apollo mission up into space.

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Japanese calligraphy meaning Gratitude.

From there, for days, even weeks afterwards, I wondered about all the background people we seldom see, pay attention to, or know about that make different things work.

At a restaurant I see a greeter, a server and maybe a food runner, occasionally a manager makes the rounds. Yet, there are cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers, bussers, cleaning crews after hours, delivery truck drivers, garbage truck drivers, food processors and handlers at a factory, sellers, buyers, equipment manufacturers, harvesters, growers, farmers, ranchers, dairymen, water purification workers, just to name a few obvious ones. I haven’t even touched on who made the aprons, napkins, plates, lights, the building or the tables and chairs.

And that’s just a restaurant. What about a college or university or an elementary school?

My simple trip to the grocery store or to the corner drug store involves thousands and thousands of people working to create, produce, package, order, process, sell, ship, inventory, stock, price, and then finally run the store.  All that, just so I can pop in, choose a four pack of lightbulbs and take them home to replace the burned out ones. I’m sure I missed a few steps in there.

How many people does it take to change a lightbulb? We may never know.

My youngest sister posted this as her Gratituesday Facebook status last week. (She’s the one who got me started doing Gratituesdays a few years ago. She’s a smart one! Thanks Becky! )

“Naikan therapy reminds people to be thankful for everything. If you are sitting in a chair, you need to realize that someone made that chair, and someone sold it and someone delivered it – and you are the beneficiary of all that. Just because they didn’t do it especially for you doesn’t mean you aren’t blessed to be using it and enjoying it. Life becomes a series of small miracles, and you may start to notice everything that goes right in a typical life and not the few things that go wrong. ~― Will SchwalbeThe End of Your Life Book Club

I love this expansive way of thinking about the world. I feel more connected, more aware, and more thankful. When I eat my breakfast, a part of my brain thinks briefly of the many people that made my simple meal of yogurt and granola possible. Pretty amazing, if you ask me.

Just a thought here and there about all that goes into making everything in my world exist, work, run smoothly, and my life easier leaves me feeling more blessed than ever today!

Another rock find!

Another rock find!

I’ve decided to get back to my daily practice of a gratitude journal. I’ve run across some slick smartphone gratitude apps. Debating if I want to try one, or if I’m going old school and pulling out a blank book to write in every evening before lights out. Either way, I know, from experiences going back over twenty years, it can and will make a difference in my outlook, my focus and my life. I’ve written a little about it previously in this post if you’re curious.

I’d be interested to know if any of you have tried gratitude journaling, on your phone or in a traditional notebook. Has it made a difference? Or is it just another thing on your to-do list that weighs you down?

Oh, and if you have a favorite lightbulb joke, I’d love it if you shared in the comments. Thanks!

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, People | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Dear Reader: A Letter to Me

April 7, 2014

Dear Me,

Last night after searching Netflix and Amazon Prime for a movie to watch with MSH you left the family room with a rerun of The Twilight Zone playing. Sure, MSH felt slight disappointment that you didn’t want to watch yet another science fiction program, but you’ve never like Twilight Zone, not even any of the remakes.

Former reads.

Former reads.

Remember how you sat down in your comfy chair in the bedroom, put your feet up on the side of the bed and cracked open a new book someone had loaned you? “Mmm…ahh…” Yes, you remember. What a feeling to start reading a new story. You were so excited to begin that you forgot to bring a snack in with you. No sunflower seeds, no ice cream, no popcorn, not even a bit of chocolate. Of course, you were only going to read the first chapter or two and then turn out the lights and call it an early night.

Something happened in that first chapter, or maybe the second, it’s hard to remember now with half a night, and half a morning, of sleep behind you. Looking down at the page numbers, surprised to see that you were in the low hundreds already, you kept reading. Well, you thought to yourself, it’s a YA, young adult book, so it’s a quicker read than most. It doesn’t feel very late. I’ve probably only been reading about an hour. But the clock on the nightstand faced the bed, so you couldn’t see the time and frankly, didn’t care.

You were fully invested in the story, the words, the lives described, the town, the plot, and the nuanced epistolary style of the book. (You remember epistolary? You’re tired today, so I’ll remind you that it’s a book written as a series of letters.) This novel felt more like you had stumbled on someone’s ribbon-tied stack of opened mail to a loved one than a book from a shelf. How could a person put down such a stack of letters mid-pile? Impossible. And so, you kept reading, letter after letter, word after word, and surprise after surprise.

Letters. A thing of the past?

Letters. A thing of the past?

MSH came in to the room after a while. Was it past midnight already? He’s such a night owl, he does his best thinking and programming after you’ve gone to bed. A trait you will never understand in people, as you’re a definite morning person. He laughed at you and said, “are you still reading?” and you laughed back and asked, “you’re not coming to bed already are you?” You wanted to stay where you were and keep reading, not turn down the lights and read like a child sneak-reading under the covers. And you didn’t want to jinx the magic by finding some other comfy spot to cacoon in for the rest of the book. Luckily, MSH found another something to keep himself occupied. You continued to read.

A smattering of books, some read, some waiting for discovery.

A smattering of books.

The thing is, it wasn’t really like reading. It was more like following along while someone thought aloud. Or watching from a distance and hearing everything that went on. You wondered, in the back of your head, how a writer accomplishes that. But mostly, you were so much a part of the story that you couldn’t, wouldn’t, mustn’t stop reading. It would make as much sense as stopping breathing, which is really difficult to do.

The last words of the book crossed your eyes. You hesitated, ran your hand across the page, held it there. What were you hoping for? A sensation transferred through fingertips of the author’s final thoughts? Whispered, unwritten words that the narrator might still wish to pass on to those who are listening with an extra measure of attention? Some feeling of completion, a symphony to accompany credits, a promise of another book?

Something intimate happens between reader and writer, in spite of, or maybe because of the distance paper and ink provides. How else to explain the desire, the drive, to meet the author of certain books? What you want is to meet the characters. Yes, I know what you’re feeling, you want to begin or continue a discussion with those very real characters, find out reasons, background, what happens next, more details about chapter eight, a recipe from chapter fourteen. Whatever little unfinished bits remained, you want more of them.

When you finally closed the back cover, running you hand over those words and illustrations, you let yourself set the book down on the nightstand. And then you simply sat. Remember any of your thoughts? No. Not surprising. You were returning from a journey of weeks, months, years, that had taken a mere four or five hours. You’d traveled through time and space and back past through who knows what science fiction-like means and had returned, intact, whole, and yet changed in subtle and significant ways.

Do you remember pulling the covers up around your ears and snuggling into the pillow? No, you don’t because your mind had wandered back inside the book and carried you dreamlike and floating through that town, the story, to the people. Of course, as dreams do, it all jumbled up with odd real life details. By morning, late morning, since you let yourself sleep in after staying up far too late, you’d lost the sweet vacation essence of the book and found yourself back in reality.

A day of to-do lists and sunlight stood at the door, quietly tapping its foot as you dragged yourself out of bed.

What’s next?

A day or two of no reading. After such sweetness as last night’s book, nothing more will satisfy. In fact completely satiated and full to the brim, you may not need another book for four, or even five days. You might find yourself searching for other books by the same other. That wouldn’t surprise us in the least.

Now, you’ve reveled long enough. Close the door on that book and move on. You have much to do. If you’re productive enough, you might allow yourself a short nap later on.

Welcome back.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments
 
 

Target Practice for Birds

Lovely shade tree with potential messes abounding.

Lovely shade tree with potential messes abounding.

Bird droppings! One of the hazards of a lovely shade tree that covers half of your driveway.  Installing a bird bath with daily fresh water probably adds to the number of birds that visit my yard and tree and consequently, my red vehicle. I know, I know, six months ago I had cleared my garage enough to park my little truck inside it. But we got a different car and MSH (and, yes, I) have once again helped fill up most of the garage, this time with an ancient couch we recently replaced with a newish one.

Looks like a fierce specimen, yes?

Looks like a fierce specimen, yes?

As I was hosing off some bird deposits from my car today, the spray ricocheted off the windshield and gave the cactus a pretty heavy pelting. A small bird head popped up among the spines and gave me the evil yellow eye. Clearly he or she meant to indicate ‘I’m an idiot getting the nest and resulting eggs inside wet and could I move on to doing some other chore.’

Apologizing to the bird, I aimed my hose a different direction. I did my best to avoid disturbing the cactus and said nesting critter while finishing my little chore. After polishing up the windows of the car,  I explored a bit to see if I could get a good view of the nest. On closer approach the bird flew off to a tree two houses down and looked on. Old nests and new nests look the same to my untrained eye and that cactus apparently serves as a roost for many a bird, or it has at some time.

Not sure if this is the current nest or not.

Not sure if this is the current nest or not.

I want to know how they, the birds, manage to fly in and out of that prickly, spiky, spiny spot without getting impaled. Seems downright impossible if you ask me. Do they have special radar or something? Or does getting poked and pierced multiple times a day come with the job description?

Look how sharp those needles are! Ouch!

Look how sharp those needles are! Ouch!

I’m going to avoid sermonizing here. I’m not even going to mention the parenting parallels. No symbolism, nothing at all. I’m simply wondering how birds do it. I guess I could Google it, but that would take away some of the mystery and the magic of nature that I so adore.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Snow In Summer

“Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in daytime language.“~ Gail Godwin

A dream text?

My grandma, texting? No way.

At a family reunion last night in my dreams, my grandmother found me and asked if I had received her text.

First of all, Grandma died over twenty-five years ago. Second of all, she never owned a cell phone or had even heard of the concept of texting.

You can imagine my surprise when she asked me if I’d gotten her text. I fumbled for my phone and searched but saw no messages from Grandma. Meanwhile, she wandered off to visit with other family members. But I remembered her chagrin at my having missed her text and not responded to it, so I went searching for her.

What would she say to me in a text? I can’t begin to imagine it.

More like a Family Bush than a Family Tree

A tree that’s more like a bush.

I knew the names of about half of the people at the reunion. That’s not unusual. Every year more cousins marry, more children are born, little ones become unrecognizable as they reach teen years, and even more prevalent, gray hair multiplies, faces age and change. This particular reunion seemed more crowded than usual, as if Grandma had brought along her siblings and their spouses, and all of their descendants, many who’d passed away ages ago.

As usual games and contests, mounds of food and conversation abounded. What a crowd of happy, energetic people. I’m a lucky woman related to such variety and optimism.

Grandma found me during singing time, which I don’t recall ever being part of a reunion. She had a bundle in her arms. Amid the noise of talking, caterwauling and singing, she pushed the bundle into my arms, leaned in close and said, “you need to do something with this.”

I looked down at what she’d handed me. I pulled back a corner of the cloth wrapping and saw what looked like a manuscript. Pages and pages, and pages of handwritten and typed papers. The heft of it in my arms felt significant, substantial, and curious.

When I looked up, Grandma had disappeared into the crowd, so I couldn’t ask her what she meant. Did she want me to edit, proofread, make suggestions about content, or simply read it? Was it her story? My story? Our family story? Or was it something else altogether? I scanned the group for grandma’s familiar face. Nearly, every face had a familiar feature to it since we’re all related. I’d never find her standing among the throng.

Someone yelled out that lunch was ready and the crowd began to disperse. Then a pebbling of snow began to fall, a light springtime pelting that added more fun than chill to the picnic. I huddled over the manuscript in my arms and ran toward a ramada, less interested in food than in finding grandma and asking for details.

Unraveling

With each step I took toward the announced food, the substance of my dream unraveled. I grasped at threads to pull me back into sleep, but I had lost the wisp of it. I’d crossed the threshold between dream and reality, between sleep and wakefulness.

I lay in bed rethinking, reaching, wondering. I tried to will myself back into my dream, to no avail.

Did Grandma have a message for me in those pages? Or was her appearance simply a logical part of reliving multiple family reunions in one dream? If she did show up at my doorstep, what would we discuss? Or would I, child that I always was while she was alive, simply listen to her talking, telling stories, giving opinions, dispensing thoughts?

What I really want involves those pages. Is it her story? Is it my story? Is it something already written, or something I have yet to write. More than likely most things weigh heavy with symbolism. Or it’s all as ethereal and meaningless as fog.

I’m pretty sure the choice is mine. I can assign meaning, or I can let it slide into the slush pile of thousands and thousands of dreams that have preceded this one. Was it a nice stroll down a tree-lined lane of memory, or a message from somewhere or someone, my subconscious, God, grandma, Kathy, my desires?

I wonder, too, about the snow. Snow at a family reunion, when we normally hold them in the summertime, seems significant. I’ll let than one marinate for a while and come back to it later. I’m sure that one detail means something. At least, I think so.

Hungry for More

Mmmm marshmallows!

Mmmm marshmallows!

But for now, my tummy is rumbling with hunger. All those potluck meals I didn’t eat during my dream have caught up to me. I want ham and killer potatoes. I want brownies and snickerdoodles and barbecue potato chips and potato salad. I want to roast a marshmallow until just before it flames, then eat the crisp outer shell. I want to roast a hot dog over the coals and feel the heat of family around the magic of a campfire.

Most of all, I want to surround myself with people I know and love, who’ve watched me grow from scamp to scallywag to awkward young mother and into whatever this is I am now.

 

“Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.“ ~ Marsha Norman


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Family | 4 Comments
 
 

The Not So Great Pretender

I often walk through life thinking someone will find out the truth about me. They’ll find out that I’m all fluff and nonsense, a shell without substance, cotton candy. My nutritional value is exactly zero.

I am just like my yard, the front public view blooms with bright colors and lovely swept walks, while the back yard grass overgrows its bounds, weeds replicate in frightful numbers and a dead Christmas tree in April houses countless spiders.

Oh, look, it’s not a secret anymore. I just blogged the truth right here for all to see. (Bet you didn’t realize the subtitle of this blog is “True Confessions.”)

Seriously, don’t you ever feel like a fake? I do, all the time. I know all my failings, all my shortcomings, all my whininess and nitpickiness. I hear all those thoughts I never actually say out loud. I think those thoughts. I’m not a nice person. I’m not someone anyone should trust with anything precious or private or close to the heart.

This hangs in my kitchen, you'd think it would sink in to my subconscious mind.

This hangs in my kitchen, you’d think it would sink in.

For example, I often say “Yes” with a sincere smile, when my heart, mind and soul all want to scream “NO!!!! Are you crazy? Why would you ask such a thing of me?”

It’s almost as if some other entity has taken over my brain and formed my lips into the “yes” word. It’s automatic, instinctual, mindless. Where logic dictates a “no” answer, i.e. my schedule can’t squeeze another drop into it, I blithely, trippingly, child-without-a-care-in-the-world answer, “sure, I’d be happy to.”

Then I promptly and privately find a brick wall and bash my head against it, repeatedly. What a fool I am.

I end up letting people down because I’m overscheduled, unorganized and undisciplined. Then I really hate myself as the truth about me leaks out. I’m not reliable or consistent or kind or helpful or anything good at all.

I can’t decide if I’m super easy-going, lacking a back bone, or simply bonkers.

There’s also the reverse problem. I finally, blessedly, miraculously say “no” to something or someone. You’d think I’d breathe a huge sigh, pat myself on the back and get on with my life. You’d think wrong. I second-guess myself, feel guilty for saying “no,” feel selfish for standing up for myself and generally berate my decision and my no-ingness.

I can’t say “yes” and I can’t say “no” without repercussions. Oh, brother.

My kids know and recognize the truth. They know that mending projects may never get finished, regardless of my deeply sincere intentions. They know that “I’m going to bed early tonight” actually means I’ll probably be awake until two or three a.m. They know and have sadly lived with the raving lunatic driver who wishes her car came equipped with a bazooka and a bullhorn. They’ve seen this angry rock-hurling, lawnchair-throwing maniac pushed past her limits.

Lucky for them, they escaped and now live elsewhere. Miraculously, they still call and drop by occasionally, bless their hearts.

I also agree to things that I’m deathly afraid of. (Snake handling, spider killing, heights, skydiving. Sorry, no way. I can say no to those obvious things. That’s easy.) But, ask me to talk to a stranger, I about disintegrate. My insides shatter like so much safety glass. Try something new and different? My legs turn to jelly and I all but fall to the floor in a puddle of goo.

I’m sure people exist who are exactly what you see. No smoke, no mirrors. A secret hidden camera in their home would reveal nothing new or surprising. The public person would exactly mirror the private person. At least I hope so. I hope most people aren’t like me. Happy on the outside, roiling and gurgling on the inside.

It's like I'm intentionally bonkers, it just happens.

It’s not like I’m intentionally bonkers, it just happens.

I only have my own inner battle as evidence. I want to be the same inside and outside. I want to be consistent in public and in private. My inconsistency often overwhelms me and a kind of self-loathing takes over. A huge, overpowering self-excoriating  “how can I live in my own skin” kind of muck happens. It’s not pretty.

I can’t blame hormones, grief, sleep deprivation, lack of chocolate or the weather. I’ve been like this my whole flipping life. I want to convince myself that everyone battles inner demons like this, but I don’t have any evidence to support such a lame thesis. All I have are these boxes of depositions against myself, double stacked nearly to the ceiling, of how I’ve failed to live up to my own expectations, stand up for myself, be honest about my life and feelings, say what I’m really thinking, do what I really want to do, be the real me.

I’m sure some psychologist or talk show host would have a heyday with this scenario.

Even my computer understands my lack of back bone.

Even my computer understands my lack of back bone.

I’m a mess. I admit it. I’m the first to admit it. Well, MSH would also admit it, maybe. Although he says he still loves me. I’m not sure how he manages to do that. Pity or desperation, perhaps. Maybe he’s a little nuts, too. I don’t love me, so how can he?

Life makes me so tired.

Can I just crawl back into bed today and stay there until Saturday?

Does anyone have any chocolate?

How about a spare life-long around the world cruise ticket? I could use one of those. I’m sure it would help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Communication, Humor, Mental Health, self-image | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments
 
 

Much More than Faces and Places

One of the advantages of a smart phone lies in having a camera always on hand. I think I like that more than the texting thingy. I use it like most people use a notebook.

Written on a mirror, so it's a little tricky to read.

Written on a mirror, so it’s a little tricky to read.

If I’m running low on a hair product, I snap a quick picture of it, so I can remember the brand, and which scent and what size and whatever other details will baffle me as I stare at three hundred options for that kind of hair product.  Saves me some serious mind bogglement. (Is that a word: bogglement? Well, it is now.)

Hangs from my rearview mirror. Bought it in Truckee, California.

Hangs from my rearview mirror. Bought in Truckee, California, while visiting Lake Tahoe. Good advice, don’t you think?

Headed to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for one of those recipes that have a zillion items in them, I just point and click a picture of that recipe card or page and voilà, there’s a photo of my grocery list. Nice.

Found another gift of a rock. I wrote about those here.

Found another gift of a rock. I wrote about those here.

I also photograph things in magazines at the doctor’s office, t-shirts people are wearing that make me smile, and things written on chalkboards and strange signs. And anything else that strikes my fancy.

A greeting card on someone's fridge.

A greeting card on someone’s fridge.

I ran across a few that made me smile and I thought I’d just throw out a random blog post with them included.

T-shirt, still being worn. Captures how I feel, especially on Mondays.

T-shirt, still being worn by a favorite teenager. Captures how I feel, especially on Mondays.

Long story short. Use your camera to capture more than faces and places. I’m sure glad I do.

 

Categories: Fun | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Three Year Anniversary of “Saving a Life!”

Kami:

Three years ago today three people saved my son’s life.

Nothing I ever do or say will thank them adequately. My son is alive and well today because of their willingness to stop and help a stranger.

Still takes my breath away.

Luckily, one of the rescuers blogged about it. That makes it easier for me to share with you.

I never get tired of hearing this story. I think you’ll like it.

Enjoy.

Originally posted on Kami's Beautiful Morning:

It’s GRATITUESDAY today! Yes, I capitalized it, because I am extra grateful today. Two years ago, three people saved my son’s life. Rarely does a day pass that I don’t think about and feel thankful to them for being willing to help out a stranger. Thank you Michael Harrison, Rustin Crawford and Sarah Crawford for being Angels that day!!

Sarah wrote on her blog about the rescue. So in celebration, today’s post is Sarah Crawford’s words telling her story of saving my son’s life. It’s a great story, with a wonderful ending. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

From the Crawford Chronicles: Saving a life!

“Rustin and I were blessed to be at the right place at the right time to help save an unconscious man from a burning car on Saturday (March 26, 2011) evening at 5:00 pm. Rustin was driving (just got his permit)…

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Categories: Family, Gratitude, People | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

“As If You Were to Live Forever”

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m thankful that I’m still learning. My brain had to kick things up a notch or two during this past month in a multitude of ways. I’m happy to report that so far, it’s been equal to the task. At least, no one has complained about my progress so far.

I don't think of myself as middle-aged, but in my second young-adulthood.

Describes exactly how I see myself.

I don’t learn things like other people do. I’m not good at simply memorizing words or facts. My brain needs to wrap itself around the whole concept, the what, the why, the relationships, the where is this going, the sense of it all before I can grasp specifics.

(From what I can tell most people need specifics first, then the whole kind of falls into place.)

Once I get the big picture then the little parts of the picture sync nicely into logical order. Understanding dawns, and my mouth says, “Ah, ha!!” I get a little chill up my spine when something new clicks in my head.

I keep thinking I’m going to get brave and sign up for one of those free online courses from the library, but then I chicken out. Not sure why. Time constraints mostly, I suppose. Plus it’d be an almost public failure if I tanked while trying it.

A few of my favorite textbooks.

A few of my favorite textbooks.

What I’d really love is to be one of those old ladies, twenty or thirty or even forty years from now, sitting in a college class full of eighteen to twenty-two year olds, soaking in knowledge like a student on spring break soaking up the sun. I loved school, (the learning part of it, not the social part of it,) as a kid. I loved college as an almost adult. I loved college as a returning student after five years away from it.

Of course, now it’s not even necessary to go to a classroom to get that sort of learning. But there’s something about interaction with real live people in person that gets my heart pumping and makes me smile all the way to my toes. And the discussion afterwards with a professor reminds me of dessert bars on a cruise ship, absolutely heavenly!

I must sound like such a nerd.

That’s okay. At least my brain isn’t shrinking or empty.

If I ever get to the point where learning doesn’t happen, just set me out to pasture and leave me alone to munch on my granola and yogurt while staring at the horizon. Or better yet, put me out of my misery.

Ah, learning! How do I love thee? Let me do a little math and I’ll get back to you.

 

Two quotes from a couple of brilliant dudes:

 

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”  ~ Albert Einstein

and

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Education, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

A Challenge Followed by a Challenge

The oddest thing just happened to me here.

I responded to this writing challenge from WordPress by writing about how and why I’m a writer.

I wrote for an hour, then two hours, a beautiful essay that summed up so many disparate but connected parts of my life. The timing of this challenge synced perfectly with a need I had to remind myself why writing tops my daily list of things to do.

I felt energized and excited about writing again.

I saved the draft, then left the room to take a couple of photos to include in the post. (See the above photos? Aren’t they nice?)

When I returned to my computer what I had written had disappeared. Poof. Into thin air. Not on some computer cloud on the ethernet, or internet or web or wherever. Just gone.

Alakazam.

This magical thing I’d created didn’t exist any more.

Sure I could attempt to recreate it. But all creativity and originality aside, the wind had been taken from my sails. (Yes, it’s a cliche’, deal with it.)

But the words, I just can’t summon them again today.

Silly, I know.

I’ll write again. That is what I do.

Why?

Because.

I am a writer.

 

Categories: Books, self-image, Writing | Tags: , , | 20 Comments
 
 

Excuse Me, Do You Have Change for a Dollar?

Occasionally, we really want some change.

When the soda machine isn’t accepting bills and you’re due for a serious caffeine fix. All that stands between you and that Diet Coke is a thin piece of glass and a few quarters. Makes you crazy if you can’t scrounge some coins.

Our change jar.

Our change jar.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve raided my change jar, or MSH’s change jar because his has more quarters in it than mine. Usually it’s cause I’m headed to the car wash. Sometimes it’s for the lemonade stand some kid has set up across the street at the park. Rare occasions it’s for the laundromat. Unfortunately, sometimes I’ve raided the coin jar just to buy a gallon of milk. That’s a bit awkward at the checkout stand, but hey, real life happens, right?

The change I’m thinking about runs with a different crowd. We don’t often want or go looking for this kind of change.

Today I’m talking the change we often get when things have been running along nice and smooth. Then BAM! some new twist propels itself into our lives. An illness, a job loss, new responsibilities at work, a child moves out, a relative moves in, a new school year begins, we go back to college, a death in the family or a close friend,  an accident, mental illness, aging.

This favorite saying of MSH used to drive me crazy.

“The only constant in life…is change.” ~ Heraclitus, a Greek Philosopher

(Lately, I’ve added and gravity. And the sun rising and setting, unless you live in Alaska. But that’s off the topic.)

Why did this quote drive me bonkers? Lots of reasons. The main one? Because we moved almost as often as those herds of water buffalo that populate nature shows. Seventeen moves in thirty years. One was across the street, literally. Four were within one mile of each other. From one coast to another coast once. We did stay put for about four years in several places. Almost enough time to feel secure and settled. Mostly I resisted putting up curtains, making the rental place feel like my own, because it wasn’t going to last. Nope, we weren’t in the military, just migratory.

Only thing, it wasn’t predictable like the annual migrations of bovines. Add a couple kids to the mix and predictability and a schedule seemed impossible. Add a couple more and you learn to roll, and weave and ride the waves of whatever comes your way.

Spontaneous and flexible became my new middle names. Easygoing rode shotgun everywhere we went. It had to, or I’d have lost my mind. Oh wait, I guess I did once or twice, early on.

Wouldn’t I love to own a home and live in the same house for the next thirty or forty years? Absolutely!

I envy anyone with roots like that like you wouldn’t believe. But I don’t let it bother me, or I’d go bonkers.

That’s the key to survival. Not letting things bother me.

The winds of change?

The winds of change?

Whether you’ve lived in the same place your entire adult life, or you move often, change catches up to you and happens anyway. Big changes, little changes, it doesn’t matter, life will change and whether you like it or not it will change you along the way.

Sometimes I’ve whined and cried about changes I’ve had to deal with. Honestly, a lot of times I’ve wailed and complained. Did it change the change? No. Did I feel better? Maybe for a second, but continuing to feel whiney only made things miserable.

Sometimes the change excites and tantalizes and I tentatively embrace it. Even then, the change can still pinch or sting a bit.

Do I have any great wisdom to share about change and how to deal with it? Not really. I’ve had some experience with it. It happens. I can initiate changes, I can accept them, I can roll with them, I can stomp around and yell about changes. In the end it’s simply me dealing with life.

I hope I’m changing for the better. I’d like to think others are, too.

What and when the next change waiting on the horizon happens I hope I’m ready. Eye on the ball, alert, attentive, awake, and definitely with my game face on.

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Categories: Wondering | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Chocolate Love

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for Chocolate! What food group better addresses my emotional needs? None.

If decadence had a flavor it’d be chocolate. Don’t you agree?

You know, it is American Chocolate Week here in the United States, March 16-22. Not that I find American chocolate all that amazing, it’s not really one of our strong points. I think of it more as a holiday wherein Americans celebrate chocolate’s wonders, magic and joys.

Nothing else warms me quite like a cup of Hot Chocolate with hazelnut.

Hot Chocolate with hazelnut. Ahhh.

Chocolate can gentle me awake on especially groggy mornings. Hot, in a mug, with a dash of hazelnut and cream, its soothing heat penetrates and slowly shakes the Sandman’s dust from my brain. Once a daily ritual, it’s now become seldom, more special in its rarity.

I’ve experienced chocolate in a main dish, which is surprisingly not as weird as you’d think. A Mexican wonder of rich spice and complex flavors, Mole adds an interesting twist to an often overtired food genre.

Has anything escaped being dipped in chocolate? I think not.

What a messy treat!

What a messy treat!

From my earliest memories of a chocolate dipped soft serve ice-cream cone, to my more recent love affair with chocolate covered cinnamon bears, I can only conclude that everything’s better dipped in chocolate. Cookies, cake, apples, pretzels, strawberries, pineapple, caramel, nuts, cherries, marshmallows all reach their natural order of perfection when joined by chocolate. Did I mention coconut? I should have mentioned coconut. Now I have.

I suppose carrots and celery might not mix well with the creamy succulence of chocolate, but pretty much anything else ramps up a notch by pairing off with a bit of the creamy perfection of melted chocolate.

Give me a box of chocolates and I’m your friend for life. Seriously. Keep in mind that I prefer milk chocolate to dark, unless mint gets involved. A box with a map included for navigating the hidden treasures beneath the twists and twirls and peaks of chocolate gift wrapping will make my heart go all a flutter.

Mmmm, Manna.

Mmmm, Manna.

A chocolate factory in Phoenix creates what our family refers to as “manna,” also known as “the food of the Gods.” Cerreta’s turns the standard chocolate mint on its head by encasing a delightfully rich truffle in a blanket of green-mint-melt-in-your-hand-before-it-gets-to-your-mouth white chocolate. Oh my Hannah! You have to try one. Worth every penny you invest in them. I can make one last a good ten minutes by taking teeny bites and letting them simply sit on my tongue, becoming one with my taste buds, serenading my mouth. Another thin sliver of a bite slips over my lips, one after another, until ten minutes later, I’m finally, blissfully, practically in heaven. Mmm. One is enough for a while.

The only thing close to Cerreta’s perfection is a Lindor truffle. The centers of those playful round orbs of Swiss chocolate seem nearly liquid.  Just thinking about it makes me salivate. I figure Switzerland must be one of the happiest places on earth if it can produce such wonders and others like them.

I may need to make a chocolate run here any minute now.

Up close and personal with Texas sheet cake.

Up close and personal with Texas sheet cake.

Other favorites include the infamous Texas Sheet cake, which is mostly butter with some chocolate and sugar added for good measure. I can make myself content with any chocolate enhanced slice of cheesecake. Pour some ganache on a dessert and resistance is futile.

MSH will occasionally arrive home from some errand and quietly slip a Cadbury fruit and nut bar onto my nightstand. I won’t see it until I’m tucking in for the night. Like an unexpected kiss, I feel cherished and known and cared for by such a gesture.

Sometimes the small things bring a smile, turning the corners of my mouth northward.  Sometimes it’s the sticky, lick your fingers kind of things that make me grin. Today it’s both.

Categories: Food, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

A Recipe for Spring

We didn’t get much of a winter around Phoenix this year. I think I covered plants to protect them from freezing one time. I’m not complaining. Flowers still bloom and in fact thrive from last fall’s plantings.

Today’s post is in homage to spring, or what few weeks we have left of it here. It’s not long before the heat locksteps itself into its summer encampment. So I’m reveling in what I can.

If you’re still cabin-bound with snow and ice and freezing temps, maybe this can give you hope of things to come.

Here’s this year’s version of my recipe for Spring.

To one small plot of ground add the following:

photo 2-2 copy 8

Fresh jalapeno’s

Fresh jalapeno’s,

Cilantro

Cilantro

Cilantro

Tomato plants. (These have some petunias nearby for a dash of color and interest.)

Tomato plants. (These have some petunias nearby for a dash of color and interest.)

Tomato plants

Basil, comes in handy for more recipes than this one.

Basil, comes in handy for more recipes than this one.

And don’t forget Basil

I used Romaine, but any will do.

I used Romaine, but any will do.

Newborn tiny lettuces, which hopefully grow quickly before the heat makes them bolt could liven up the flavor of your spring.

Newborn flowers, also known as seedlings if you forget what kind you planted there.

Newborn flowers, also known as seedlings if you forget what kind you planted there.

Add some newborn flowers of various types. (Hopefully, unlike me, you mark which kind you planted where so you know what they are when they sprout.)

Time, patience, kindness, love, they're interchangeable, really.

Time, patience, kindness, love, they’re interchangeable, really.

Mix well and water often and gently.

Bake for a little bit of time and with some patience thrown in for good measure.

Grapefruit, still a few unpicked on the tree, and  their blossoms, bring a particular sweetness to this recipe.

Grapefruit, still a few unpicked on the tree, and their blossoms, bring a particular sweetness to this recipe.

Top off with some fragrance as well, like grapefruit blossoms, which in the evening become particularly intoxicating on the cool air.

photo 4-2 copy 5

Serve on a platter of surprising wildflowers, this pink one showed up among the yellows and oranges, all by itself and makes a sweet addition.

Gnome 1

Gnome 1

What garden is complete without a gnome?

Gnome 2 (they won't tell me their names)

Gnome 2 (they won’t tell me their names)

I added two as a nice garnish.

Bird. This one's pretty quiet.

Bird. This one’s pretty quiet.

Although real birds will visit, I also garnish with a little bird of my own.

Some new leaves on a tree add a nice touch.

Some new leaves on a tree add a nice touch.

Serve alongside anything else you might want to add: new leaves, penstemon, or even a bird bath.

Penstemon comes in many colors, choose your favorite.

Penstemon comes in many colors, choose your favorite.

I think you’ll enjoy this recipe, or any variation you decide to make of it.

Note the bird bath in the corner, attracts birds and toddlers alike.

A bird bath attracts birds and toddlers alike.

You can never go wrong with Spring. It’s fresh, lively, invigorating, and full of hope.

Dig in and enjoy as soon you can!

Categories: Gardening, Hope, Nature, Outdoors, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Can Nothing Feel Like Something?

The pass I’d given myself to wallow, read, sleep, and grieve, expired its “use by” date about a month ago.

“I’m sorry ma’am, that coupon isn’t valid anymore.”

Somehow things suddenly kicked into high gear a couple of weeks ago and my mind and body filled up the space and time I rent from the life library. I went back to the gym, put away my pile of “to read” books, started a new volunteer project, began cooking dinners, even made bread, and made headway with the  stuffpiles that inhabit every room in the house.

photo by Sarang

photo by Sarang

In other words, my life shifted into a new normal. At least I thought so.

Two nights ago, MSH said something completely innocent and ordinary, and with his words the doorknob to my emotional storeroom clicked.

The door opened.

The air changed not in a physical sense, but just as clearly as the temperature and smell in a house changes when a door gets left open in midwinter, I knew something was different.

Can nothing feel like something?

Yes. Without argument. Absolutely yes.

I felt the loss of my best friend as raw and new as January. Instantly.

That emotional door allowed an onslaught of emptiness and loss to escape. I could no more push it away than a person can shove the cold air back outside and slam the door on it. The cold inhabits the room. It takes time and effort to reheat the inside air.

Two days, almost three, and I’ve felt lost again, unable to force away limbo and hurt and sorrow.

It’s not like I’m constantly thinking about her. Not at all. It’s more like her absence inhabits me. How does an emptiness fill something? I have no idea. I just know that’s what it feels like.

There’s a mental numbness involved as well. I find myself not engaging in conversations, barely following the words, the back and forth of it. My body’s in the room, but my mind, my focus, simply isn’t anywhere.

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki

What do I do about it?

I don’t know. Keep breathing. Keep moving. Do.

Or maybe I need to not do anything. Maybe I give myself over to the feeling of loss, all over again. Sit in my porch swing and stare, again. Cry randomly, again. Pray more than normal, again. Muster up energy to respond to texts and emails, again. Sleep way too much, again. Stand around aimlessly and unproductive, again.

I’m guessing this sensation will go away eventually. I’m expecting that writing about it, out loud, here, might help.

It might come back again, too. I think grief does these looping things. It’s not a linear, stage by stage processing of the loss, but a kind of wandering path of varying emotions or lack of them. Occasionally the paths cross, I wander on to a different one without even realizing I’ve changed direction.

Don’t get me wrong.

I don’t feel hopeless.

That isn’t it at all. I just feel lost. Lost. Lost. Lost. Or empty. Very empty. Very very empty. As if I’ve been poured out on the sand and absorbed.

Wow. That sounds horrible. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, but then it isn’t really great either.

I’m fine. Really.

It’s just…grief.

This thing:

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions.” ~Wikipedia

Sounds complicated.

Multifaceted response?

Dimensions?

Ten dollar words to describe and define sadness, sorrow, emptiness, hurt, and the left-behind perspective.

It’s today’s normal for me. And apparently yesterday and the day before. Maybe tomorrow and the next. We’ll see. Like a lifeboat on the ocean I’ll just drift about and see where the current takes me.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best imitation of a normal person when I’m in public.

There’s this last thought, which I like because it feels hopeful, and it acknowledges that there’s a process in play that I can give myself over to.

“Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.” ~ Emily Dickinson

photo by Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany

photo by Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany

Categories: Death | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

Stir in A Teaspoon of Silliness and a Pinch of Nonsense

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for those little nonsense moments of inane laughter that happen on occasion. For me, now that the kids have all flown away, those moments come most often disguised as a video clip, a status update or a tweet.

I know, it sounds really pathetic. And maybe it is, but I don’t care.

My daily laughter happens one way or another. Some days more than others. Other days I simply shake my head (SMH) and sigh at the stupidity without the laughter. Depends on my mood, actually. What’s funny one day might not strike me as funny the next day.

My kids have always provided the best laughs. They still do, but mostly by saying, “hey, did you watch this video on Facebook?” Or, “did you see this joke yet?”

Long before I joined Facebook my kids shared tickle-my-funny-bone stuff like the Llama song. I still crack up every single time I see it.

And the Russian Car Dance video? Totally makes my day. I still want to make up my own car dance. Haven’t yet. I think I need a posse to do it, y’know a group of people in the car with too much sugar in their system and too many miles under their seats. We could rock some of those tunes. I’m sure of it. Maybe not enough to make our own video, but it’d be fun, at least.

One of my favorite tweeters can make me chuckle as well:

Abe also teaches first grade, so he has great material to work with.

Abe also teaches first grade, so he has great material to work with.

Lately more than the normal amount of cat and dog videos have made the rounds. I reveled along with that Siberian Husky running through a pile of leaves. I felt like I was living vicariously for a few moments through that dogs obvious joy and abandon at such fun.

I secretly take joy in the videos where the cats get their comeuppance. That’s probably because I inherited my Dad’s cat tuning genes. Not to mention cats often get a bit uppity, as clearly evidenced by nearly any cat video out there, of which there are millions.

No apologies today. I’m just grateful that I can laugh at all. I don’t always feel like laughing, even though I know it’s good for me.

Please feel free to send me a link to your favorite laugh-inducing nonsense. I’m sure we could all use an extra laugh or two.

Happy Gratituesday!

Categories: Fun, Gratitude, Gratituesday, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

I Think It’s Time for Some Recess, Don’t You?

It's spring break in our school district here, so the playground's quiet.

It’s spring break in our school district here, so the playground’s quiet.

“Whoever enrolled me in the school of life…

didn’t schedule enough recess.” ~ Peppermint Pattie 

Do you ever get to feeling like Peppermint Pattie? Are you all slumped down in your desk? Can you hear the responsible grown-up people doing their “wha, wha, wha, wha, wha,” droning? Do you find yourself staring blankly off into the distance with not a single thought in your head?

Pretty sure I couldn't make it across these monkey bars even if my life depended on it.

Pretty sure I couldn’t make it across these monkey bars even if my life depended on it.

Yeah. Me too.

I’m pretty sure I need more recess scheduled in. Life’s school has knocked me on my butt big-time this past month or three and I’m tired of the learning curve. I’m afraid the road’s still aimed uphill though.

I think about what kids do at recess and wonder how I can get the same benefits without hanging upside down on the monkey bars. I’m pretty sure I’d probably pass out when the blood rushed to my head.

Boy, do I remember some amazing times spent on various playgrounds. Perks galore happen at recess:

  1. fresh air
  2. screaming time
  3. time to chat with friends
  4. letting boys know you like them without letting them know you like them
  5. figuring out if the boys like you without directly asking
  6. dodging skills
  7. throwing skills
  8. hiding skills
  9. how to stay warm in a dress when it’s fifteen degrees
  10. bathroom break
  11. getting a drink or two
  12. tether ball mastery
  13. figuring out when to tattle and when not to tattle
  14. being glad to get to sit down in the desk again
  15. figuring out the whole being part of a group/or not thing
  16. making plans for later

Admittedly, since I’m married, there’s a couple of those I don’t have to worry about. And since I live in Phoenix the question really isn’t about staying warm as much as it is how to stay cool in the summer while wearing clothing.

Who doesn't love a slippery slide?

Who doesn’t love a slippery slide?

The other thirteen items seem important for navigating life’s school as a grownup. So if I take time to chillax, veg, cool it, take a load off, rest and relax, recreate and even play, in other words, have recess time,  I’d probably get some of the same benefits as those kids screaming out on the school playground. At least, logically, you’d think so.

I’ve been known to scream, but not lately. Mostly my screaming comes out in the form of crying at random unexpected times. Maybe I should try scream therapy? Or maybe not. Of course, by attending a sporting event I’d have a good excuse to scream without making anyone feel bad. That is, if I don’t scream mean things at the ref or the coach. Which I don’t. Usually.

RECESS-ISH

What do I really do that’s like recess?  Hmmm.

  • I recently started back at the gym a couple of times a week, playing Pickleball. That’s very recess-ish. I come away hot, sweaty, tired, laughing and energized. Great way to start a day.
  • Walks, I keep meaning to add those back in to my mornings. Mostly, my walks are spur of the moment with MSH rather late in the evening. Recess-ish? Sure! Chalk it up to the boys/girls relationship thing.
  • I belong to a book club. We chat, we mingle, we nosh. Feels very recessy.
  • My writer’s group has undertones of recess because I LOVE writing, it’s actually fun, enjoyable, relaxing and energy producing. I’m pursuing a long-delayed passion when I write and this amazing group of women encourage me in that pursuit. Definitely recess.
  • Reading. For fun. No assignment involved. Feels like a vacation, an escape, a decadent pleasure in its physical nothingness. A nice contrast to the constant motion of the rest of my day. YES, another recess moment.
  • Sitting on my front porch swing and watching the world go by. My ultimate recess pastime lately. R&R at its best. Does watching others play at the park count as recess? Does relaxing and swinging forward and back letting my mind wander count? I think so.

    photo 4-2 copy 2

    Picked up this bumper sticker at the Phoenix Marathon. Thanks to runnersfeat.com for their brilliant product.

  • Time on Facebook, playing online Scrabble and online Scramble all give me brief moments, okay, sometimes more than moments, of respite from the everyday non-stop to-do list of life. I laugh at a bizarre conversational thread, see what my sibs and friends have been up to, catch a quick cat or dog video, score a pathetic twenty-two points to my cousin’s fifty-six word score, spend two minutes finding words among a square of sixteen letters. A nice mental break. A score for the recess bracket.
  • One forty-five minute segment of a TV series a day. That feels decadent. That feels like sneaking out of class early and spending extra time on the playground when I shouldn’t. Why? I don’t know. Something about staring at the screen mindlessly letting stuff filter in? I shouldn’t feel that way. There’s just SO MUCH to do besides sit there. And I rarely feel satisfied, relaxed or energized by that particular pastime.
There's something oddly relaxing about the squeak -squawk of a swing going back and forth...

There’s something oddly relaxing about the squeak -squawk of a swing going back and forth…

Other things I could do that would rest and relax my mind and heart, but that I haven’t done lately: Listen to music. Dance in the kitchen. Garden. Bake. Nap. Camp. Hike. Bike. Eat dinner outside. Try something new. Plan a real vacation.

What am I doing still sitting here? I’m pretty sure I just heard the recess bell.

What do you do for R&R?

**Check out runnersfeat.com for more awesome bumper stickers related to running and other sports**

Categories: Fun, Happiness, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

My Cousin Went Completely Bonkers This Weekend

Last year my cousin ran the Phoenix half-marathon. Which, according to a bumper sticker I bought her, made her only half crazy. You can read my version and/or her version. They’re both entertaining, even if I do say so myself.

This year, she ran the full marathon. That’s 26.2 miles if you were wondering. And, she did it in under five hours!

Pretty impressive! Or full-on crazy.

Training, Training, and Training

Just another early morning for her. We left for the race at 3:45 a.m.

Just another early morning for her. We left for the race at 3:45 a.m.

She logged a boatload of miles while training for this run. There were twenty-mile training runs, eighteen mile training runs, six-mile training runs, all sorts of running happened frequently outdoors and indoors. Imagine running for three hours on a treadmill. Can you say mind-numbing?

Keep in mind that my cousin holds down a full-time job and does volunteer work as well. She woke long before most of us even begin to drop into dream number three for the night. For months she did this! Her dedication and perseverance astound me.

Cheering from the sidelines took on a different feel this year. For logistical reasons I didn’t even show up at the side of the road until mile twelve. Last year at that point she’d be nearly finished with the race. This year it wasn’t quite the half-way mark. I arrived a bit early to stake some semi-permanent one-word signs in the ground. “Breathe” “Smile” and “Stroganoff.”

Stroganoff?

Yes. A story she told me about a friend of hers she often and unintentionally ended up eating stroganoff with. She suggested that before the race my cousin should write “Stroganoff” in Sharpie marker on her arm to remind her of her friend who’d be cheering her on in spirit. So I figured, if I included the word “Stroganoff” in a sign, she’d know the little series of three signs came from me. She said it worked.

I had a fresh water bottle waiting for her and a backpack filled with possible items she might need. The forecast had called for one hundred percent rain, which changes a race you thought would be warm and sunny, into a different animal altogether. Luckily, it only sprinkled a bit a couple of times. The deluge came later, raining out the Cubs spring training game, filling up water retention ponds and raining on various “parades.” But that’s another story.

One of several signs I'd whipped up for the occasion.

One of several signs I’d whipped up for the occasion.  Next time, I’d post some in the ground ahead of time.

I stood with my sign, and a whirligig. Yes, a whirligig. So my cousin would notice me among the crowd. My first sign said “YES YOU CAN.” Many runners say “thank you” when they read an encouraging sign. A couple of runners said, “Yes! I can!” And one said, “Boy, did I need that reminder.”

I made eye contact with some, others were focused, moving forward without notice of anything going on around them. Every face told a story. Some spoke louder than others.

Mile Eighteen

Once my cousin found me and got her fresh water bottle, I got back in my car and headed to our next agreed upon meeting spot, at mile eighteen. Navigating streets blocked off by a race this big takes some planning and luck and some good parking spots. I did better this year than last year.

Many of the same runners ran past that I’d seen at mile twelve. Makes sense if you think about it. The stories on their faces had changed a bit with eight more miles to go. More of them were walking, running slower or at least looked more worn.

The ones that really intrigued me still had smiles on their faces. I’d like to get their stories!

Familiar Faces

I was glad to see familiar faces and relieved to see them progressing. I was caring about these total strangers again, just like last year. Wish I understood that better.

My cousin ran by without needing any water, so she got my cheering and hopes.

Not much past that point she said it got really hard. Walking didn’t help, so she just kept running. I’m hoping she’ll write about her experience and let me post it here. I think her telling this story makes the most sense.

That's here in the pink jersey. Notice the clouds? Not normal weather around here.

That’s here in the pink jersey. Notice the clouds? Not normal weather around here.

I  hustled to get to my next stop near the finish line. I missed her crossing that line last year. Bad planning, heavy traffic, lots of closures.

26.2 Miles

This year I watched eagerly, not just for my cousin, but for the woman in the burka head covering, and the older woman who ran with such conviction and determination it nearly hurt to watch her move. And the woman who ran with a smile. There was a dad whose three young kids joined him for the last hundred yards. Some nearly burst into tears as they rounded the corner and saw the finish line so close.

I wanted to cry and cheer for all of them. What an accomplishment!

That last stretch looked like it hurt. My cousin wasn’t interested in seeing me there. Her focus zoomed in entirely on that finish line and getting her body across it. She managed to give the official camera a thumbs up and a smile as she crossed.

Simply being on the sidelines is an honor. Witnessing such a feat feels like something almost intimate and privileged.

Completing a marathon is an act of devotion and dedication, one involving the heart in more ways than we know. That’s something my cousin has a ton of.

Congratulations, Kettie!

Categories: Exercise, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Construction Zone Ahead, Please Merge, and Don’t Forget to Say Thank You

It’s Gratituesday! Like the person with a leaky roof, I’ve got gratitude options pouring in on me. I haven’t got enough buckets and pans to set out to contain it all. To zero in on any one of them feels somehow unfair to the rest of my gratitude.

Weird, I know.

One thing that I’ve thought about for a few years now might seem dumb. But it keeps coming to mind even amid the more obvious, showy, big or happy things I’m thankful for.

Up near Flagstaff, actually.

Up near Flagstaff, actually.

I’m thankful today, and have been for a long while, for our amazing freeway system here in the Phoenix area.

When we first moved here nearly two decades ago there existed a north/south freeway of two lanes each direction and an east/west freeway of two and occasionally three lanes. Oh, and one that kind of veered off to the south and east. At least that’s how I remember it. Traffic always backed up all day long, all night long. At certain areas traffic bottle-necked into a tangle that made side streets seem the faster route.

Then the roads started getting widened. It’s tough to see the good when an already too small road becomes a construction zone. But, I remember seeing those workers out late at night with work lights blazing, or during the day in ungodly summer conditions and thinking how grateful I was to them for being willing to work such a difficult and demanding job. When the construction finished I remember thinking how amazing it felt to zip through town so quickly.

Every year for a while, more roads grew out of the desert, then existing ones widened, tweaked, and modified. Every change makes life easier to navigate in a car and simplifies my day.

Phoenix and surrounding ‘burbs now boast a loop that services nearly every community with quick, easy access to a freeway and few areas that truly jam up too much. And more roads continue under construction. To me, it’s an engineering marvel that such things exist.

Uh oh, traffic cones, better slow down a bit.

Uh oh, traffic cones, better slow down a bit.

My Dad worked for the Department of Transportation as an engineer while I grew up. I remember looking at the blueprints, the fancy drawings, the meticulous hand lettering,  the pages and pages of notes, and wondering what that had to do with roads. Back then the math was done with slide rules and on paper, and then calculators; the drawings done without the aid of computers. Amazing stuff now that I think back on it. To this day when Dad drives along a road he helped engineer in one way or another he comments, remembering details and stories about specific curves, hills, turns, side rails and even striping. Is that something? I think so. It says he put himself into his work. He took pride in it. He cared about what he did.

To men and women like him back then when the freeway system was in its infancy and toddlerhood, to the many people now, with the roads somewhere between teenager years and midlife crisis, I feel a great desire to say “Thank You.” And to those who took paper and drawings and transformed them into asphalt and bridges, concrete and smoothness, I also want to say “Thank You.”

Rarely a day goes by that I’m not a recipient of the blessings of their imagination, brilliance, hard work, and sweat.

If you know someone who works on roads somehow from beginning ideas to end product or somewhere in between, could you pass along my thanks? I’m not sure of any other way to do so.

And by all means, in construction zones, slow down!

Cute car I spotted on the North loop 101 headed west. Don't worry, my passenger snapped the pic.

Cute car I spotted on the North loop 101 headed west. Don’t worry, my passenger snapped the pic.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Traffic, Transportation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

Back Flash, Not Quite the Same as a Hot Flash, But Close

This thing is a Thing.

This thing is a Thing.

Saw this car the other day parked across the street that belonged to some parent watching his/her kid practicing soccer. My favorite two-year old couldn’t ignore the thing. In fact she insisted on touching it, tried opening the door, peeked inside, very nearly climbed over the side and into the cute yellow and black plaid seats. Then I suggested a photo-op and she copped a few poses for me. Then she seemed satisfied.

Little did she know I’d just done a back to the future moment during all of that.

I so much wanted to own a VW Thing back in the day. So versatile, I thought. So cool, with it’s convertible roof. I could just picture myself at the beach, my surf board tossed casually in the back after a day of sun and waves. Or just as easily I could envision my backpack and tent piled in the back as I drove to the mountains for a weekend trip. Or even better, imagine me, the famous writer zipping about town in my flashy Thing, to this book signing and that book signing. I’d pop a cassette tape of David Cassidy in the ultra-modern radio console, crank my windows down, put the top back and be the envy of all who saw me.

Not sure how I was going to afford that on my McDonald’s “how may I serve you” salary, but I could surely dream big back then.

I wouldn’t have picked yellow though. Red, fire engine, fingernail, Maverick RED.

And after the dance, the Stomp is what we really called the casual dances, I’d pile my friends inside and we’d head over to the local drive-in and catch a double feature. Wouldn’t that be fun in a Thing? I thought so. Still do.

I liked how different it looked. Not like every other vehicle on the road. Fitting in was for cheerleaders and football players, not smart people.

Flash Back to the here and now. Reality check.

I’m just glad to drive something reliable, even if it’s a bit dated. And, quite frankly, I’ve had my fill of cars that stand out for weird reasons. Fading paint job, a never repaired gash, a window that won’t close, shocks that desperately need replacing on a nearly zeroed out budget.

I’ve been to the beach exactly four times. Closest I came to surfing was a sad imitation of someone boogie boarding. Gave a bunch of people a few good laughs, though.

Camping, I’ve done a ton of that. With MSH and the whole family. There’s some solid good times there. Sometimes all our gear sat atop the tiny Datsun in a totally uncool car top carrier. Sometimes it all fit in the back of the custom van or SUV. Sometimes it took a combination of both.

I met MSH dancing. That turned out okay. We even have a drive-in movie story that’s pretty funny.

We still have a cassette player in the truck we occasionally drive if we have to. There’s some pretty sweet tunes in our cassette collection. Chicago, Vivaldi, Three Dog Night, MoTab, Safety Kids, Brian Adams, Windham Hill, Whitney Houston, Yo Yo Ma, Hercules the Sound Track, Mason Williams, Sharon, Lois and Bram, Bread, Kenny Loggins. I could go on for paragraphs.

No book signings yet, I’m afraid. That would require an actual finished book. Working on that one. So maybe someday…

For the record, nowadays my dream car happens to look like this:

1975 Maverick Grabber

1975 Maverick Grabber

Oh yeah, baby!

Some of us just can’t let go of the past, at least, tiny bits of it. Ah, those were the days!

Categories: Fun, Memory Lane, self-image, Transportation | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

The Hazards of Sleep

Ever grateful when sleep actually envelops me, I really shouldn’t complain.

And yet, this morning I find myself in a fog of sleep’s detritus, muddled, mired, heavy with the night’s work. For some reason the dream machine knobs all ratcheted up to extra high last night. Someone bumped the control panel maybe?

Only in dreams can a skateboard be a perfectly logical means of transportation on a freeway, as well as on a mountain trail.

Only in dreams does a wasteland of sandy desert intersect in clean lines with a dark thick forest of tangled growth and dangers.

Only in dreams can people leap from outlandish heights and end up landing gently in a moving vehicle.

Last night’s ultra vivid movie starred people from my past I haven’t seen in decades, as well as people I just spoke with yesterday. Complete strangers, of course, show up most often. As far as I can tell, no one had anything monumental or prophetic to say. Thank goodness.

Dreams fade fast, like sunsets.

Dreams fade fast, like sunsets.

Even now, as I write, most of what went on fades into the distance as quickly as a stunning sunset. Small glimmers of light wink on briefly but with no hand holds to grab for analyzing.

A couple of nightmares played into the mix as well. Being chased by something dark and evil, a maniacal laugh behind me as I attempted escape. MSH shaking me awake from my frightened cries. I shudder a bit even now as I think about the fogged over memory of it.

Years ago, when MSH traveled frequently for work,  I had a nightmare so real that when I awoke I held the nightstand over my head and was screaming at a non-existent intruder to get out. My children had run into the room and turned on the light and were yelling to wake me. Poor dears were more frightened than I by the whole thing.

Luckily, that’s the only time I’ve been up and about in a dream.

At two and three years of age my son experienced night terrors. What a helpless feeling to see your own child, eyes wide open, screaming, terrified, moving about, but unable to wake up. It took two of us to wake and calm him, one to hold him firmly, the other to get a cool washcloth for his face. Then both of us to talk him into wakefulness.

These remind me of a dream's ethereal and fragile nature.

These remind me of a dream’s ethereal and fragile nature.

I seldom remember my dreams or my nightmares. The few I remember still sit on a memory shelf at the forefront of my mind waiting for me to take them down and replay at will. Those, of course, pack a wallop of meaning and symbolism. Often, when I review the details of those dreams the meaning changes slightly based on changes in my life. I wrote one down once and emailed it to MSH because he played a prominent role in the dream. His interpretation, of course, fell in different lines than my interpretation did. Still does. Otherwise, my dreams stay in my head. No writing about them.

Writing a dream down gives it a different shape and texture. Assigning words to a thing as ethereal as a dream takes away some essential element and replaces it with a less refined, more sluggish substance. Even speaking about them out loud takes away part of the dreamlike quality, like attempting to capture fog in a glass jar.

If I could place an order for a dream or two I’d ask for a dreamy garden stroll with my maternal grandmother. I’d also like a dream of a day fishing with either or both of my grandfathers. And my  paternal grandmother and I at an NBA basketball game would be a dream of epic proportions. And of course, I really want a dream where Kathy and I could chat endlessly. And because it’s a dream and everything could be ideal she’d be the one driving the car and running with abandon and jumping on the trampoline and working on some hair-brained but brilliant project in the garage. Oh, and a dream of being on a cruise for a week would also be nice and relaxing. Of course, the real version of that would be better.

Yeah, I’d like to place my order for those dreams. So if anyone who knows the Sandman and can put in a good word for me, I’d appreciate it.

Awake feels good for now.

Let’s get on with the day, shall we?

Categories: Mental Health, physical health, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments
 
 

When Life Gives You Oranges

Oranges!!!

Oranges!!!

Who hasn’t heard the “When Life gives you Lemons make Lemonade” speech? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Okay, yes we’ve all heard it.

You make lemonade.

How about oranges? What if life hands you oranges? Then what do  you do?

Let’s line up the two side by side and see what we get, shall we?

We should.

Have you ever actually made lemonade? From a bowl of lemons sitting sweetly on your counter? Or from the tree in your backyard? That’s an important distinction.

Those pretty orange globes hanging on the tree make for a cheerful sight.

Those pretty orange globes hanging on the tree make for a cheerful sight.

Citrus trees have fierce hidden thorns and grow thick and tangly. So picking the dang things is like having life hand you lemons. Scratches on your arms, neck and face can definitely happen. I suggest you wear long, heavy-duty sleeves to pick lemons or oranges.

That bucket, box or bin you pick from that “small” tree fills up fast and gets heavy even faster. Hope you brought your muscles along, or at least some helpers. Our “little” orange tree we picked from yesterday filled up a large laundry hamper, a small laundry hamper and two five gallon buckets. It sure didn’t look like that much hanging on the tree.

Between rain and dust and birds the rinds of those fruits need some washing up. We had a two-year old on that job. She found it funner than bathtime. “I get to play in the sink with these hundreds of orange balls and this cool scrubby brush thing?” Oh yeah, she had a great time.

MSH invested in a juicing attachment that fits on my big mixer. That sure speeds up the process of getting the juice from the little round orange balls. Cut in half, press and the squeezing practically does itself. Sort of.  MSH has slightly sore muscles on his arms today.  A strategically placed bowl fills almost magically with copious amounts of juice. Personally I like to strain off most of the pulp and all the seeds. That’s a bit of a process too. MSH loves chunks in his juice. Me, not so much.

Here’s where things kind of split out between oranges and lemons.

Mmmmm. Makes you want to pour yourself a glass. Try squeezing a glass, it's better.

Mmmmm. Makes you want to pour yourself a glass. Try squeezing a glass, it’s better.

To get a useful amount of juice from either lemons or oranges requires more fruit than you’d expect. An eight ounce glass of orange juice takes roughly five or six medium oranges. Granted, ours aren’t specifically juicing oranges, but still, that’s a bunch of oranges for one glass to drink.

After yesterday’s long process, I can tell you I’m not going to chug a freshly squeezed glass of juice like I do a store-bought carton of the stuff. Personal time and effort give that juice a rarified, vintage wine expensive kind of flavor.

Juicer than oranges, lemons might yield eight ounces from four lemons. But you certainly aren’t going to drink that much lemon juice.  Oh no. That’d pucker you up for a week or more, right there. For lemon juice drinkability you’re going to want to add about an equal amount of sugar, maybe a little less, to two quarts of water and ice then stir well. Eight people can enjoy that sweetened lemon juice.

That’s a bunch of sugar right there. About a tablespoon and a half of sugar per eight ounce glass of water and lemon. That whole adage about life/lemons means you gotta add a ton of sweet to the sour stuff life hands you. Is it even possible to balance life that way? Some sour events life dishes out would require a sugaring of, oh I don’t know, a super sweet six month cruise to the Bahamas every half a year to achieve any kind of juice, water, sweetener balance.

Oranges, however, juice out ready to drink. No sugar required. A bit of ice is nice, but not necessary. It does take a hefty bunch of oranges and work to get that glass full enough to drink. Is the work worth it? When’s the last time you had a glass of orange juice, freshly squeezed? It’s a different experience than a processed glass.

Given the choice, we’d all pick oranges over lemons in the grocery store of life, wouldn’t we. Or would we? Some of us like a bit of tang and pucker. Some of us just need the easier route.

Either way, we make the best of what we’re given. And that, my friend, is the sweet and low of it.

Categories: Food, Gardening, Happiness | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

What? It’s Wednesday? Dang it!

What a slacker!

I can’t believe I didn’t post a Gratituesday yesterday. I can’t even come up with a decent reason. Busy. Life. Sidetracked.

Ungrateful?

Never.

Well, maybe on occasion I get grumpy and forget how decadent a life I lead compared to ninety percent of the rest of the world. Shame on me when I do that.

I recognize abundance every day but don’t necessarily mention it online. My journal hears about it. The interior of my car hears my comments and catches glimpses of car dancing and singing I might do when I’m feeling particularly blessed while I’m out and about.

There’s something about putting my gratitude out there for all the world to see that makes it bigger, better, and more real. Almost gives it life, if that’s possible. And so I’ve clung to the idea of Gratituesday since my sister posted one three years ago on Facebook. Tuesday has been like my extra little Hallelujah day.

Six-month old's first selfie.

Six-month old’s first selfie.

So, this Wednesday, a day late, but better than ignoring it altogether, I’ve built a list from this past week.

  • seeing a six-month old becoming mobile, rolling, stretching, reaching, becoming less dependent every day
  • joy clearly visible in the eyes of a physically challenged older adult when music plays and people sing
  • tiny purple wildflowers mixed in among the orange and golds
  • a chorus of birdsong to wake me every single morning
  • the dogs down the street who howl with the fire engine sirens, as if they know some sorrow has occurred
  • an orange eaten fresh from the backyard tree, juice running down my chin, fingers sticky with delight
  • a reliable, decent looking vehicle, new to me since December
  • opportunities to help in a different way than I’m used to or comfortable with
  • warm, clean water pouring out from the faucet at the mere twist of a handle
  • time with my children talking, laughing, texting, sharing
  • a zillion book choices for reading, mental traveling, learning, wondering
  • a red valentine balloon, droopy and deflated, but filled with love of the purest kind
  • a refrigerator full of food, cupboards stocked, every need supplied
  • friends and hugs, support and encouragement
  • wonderful memories to fill empty spaces

And that isn’t even half of the amazement that rocked my world.

I found another rock gift! Cool, isn't it?

I found another rock gift! Cool, isn’t it?

Oh, I know to anyone looking in on my life it would seem ordinary and boring. Maybe it is. But noticing and acknowledging the blessedness of it all makes it extraordinary in my eyes. And that’s all that really counts, isn’t it?

As is my wish every Tuesday, I hope you find happinesses in your life as well.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Happiness | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Rural Suburban Surprise

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful to walk less than a mile from my home and find a bit of country life.

photo 3-2 copy 4

These guys look like mischief just waiting to happen, don’t they?

I’m not kidding. There are little “county islands” that haven’t been incorporated into our town that still boast acre lots, with quite the variety of farm animals. Some Clydesdales hang out for part of the year across the sidewalk from the Riparian Preserve. A small flock of emus and a steer or three wander a two acre corner lot. Of course that one also backs up to a major intersection of power lines where you can hear the buzz of electricity overhead. Still, the cattle moo with all the gusto of country cows, and the roosters still encourage the sun to hurry up and get on with things.

photo 2-1 copy 10

I couldn’t even begin to tell you what breed of rooster this guy is.

On a recent walk we spent a few minutes watching a determined rooster dig for grubs. Oddly mesmerizing and fascinating if you’ve never seen it before. A few goats also joined in the entourage thinking maybe we’d brought them something to eat. Sadly we hadn’t. And a tiny Shetland pony nuzzled up to the fence looking for a bit of love and a nibble.

I felt transported for those few brief moments, leaning against the bars of the fence. Soaking in the pastoral wonders led me to wishing I had an acre lot of my own.

You’d never suspect it driving the streets of our little town now, but when we first moved here seventeen years ago, I often spotted a fox or coyote loping across a field as I drove my two oldest to high school. Seeing huge jackrabbits almost two feet tall wasn’t unusual. Smelling a dairy farm came with the territory of living here.

photo 1 copy 10

What a sweetie!

Now those things are rarities. The building boom ten years ago tripled the size of our town and pushed most of the rural life further into the desert.

Happily, several weeks ago we did see a coyote run through the park across the street. I imagine he’s found an easy to reach hen-house nearby and has made a few raids. Poor lost little guy. It’s not that difficult for most wildlife to follow the canal roads from the mountains down into the valley where the pickings seem abundant and unaware. I hope they don’t get caught.

I’m a lucky woman to find such variety in close proximity to my home. I like to think there’s still a bit of wild in the wild west where I live. Thankfully, I’m finding evidence of that every time I venture out.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Outdoors, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Rocking Things Up Around Here

photo 1 copy 9

“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” This one let me know that sitting quietly for long period of time was perfectly okay.

“What are men to rocks and mountains?”~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

(If you’re new to my blog, or don’t follow regularly, this all makes more sense if you know that my best friend passed away at the beginning of January.)

A multilayered message.

A multilayered message.

Have you ever felt like you stumbled on to a treasure hunt? I have, just recently in fact. I’ve been finding these gems around my yard this past month.

photo 3-2 copy 3

Whoever did this for me is amazing!

And by gems I mean rocks.

Not just any rocks though.

These rocks ROCK!

These rocks speak to me.

Okay, I admit, that wasn’t very descriptive. So I’ve included photos.

photo-20 copy 20

Beautiful, yes?

Someone, with an artistic flair and a bunch of love, painted words on rocks and tucked them in little hidden spots around my yard and garden. I’ve found one in every flower bed, another under the bird bath, another on my porch swing and yet another tucked in a ceramic pot filled with flowers.

Each one appeared on a day that I needed that message or idea.

Each seemed infused with care and compassion.

I’d call that magical, or serendipitous, or simply really nifty.

I’m not sure if I’ve stumbled on them all yet, either. So I find myself noticing things more as I pull some weeds, tuck in some seeds, water plants, or clear some frost damaged leaves. Whether I find more or not doesn’t matter, for what I find as I pay better attention to yard tasks is a kind of mindfulness that I need right now.

photo 2-1 copy 9

Psalm 46:10

Rushing through tasks isn’t in my nature lately.

I’m trying to give all I can to the moment I’m in. Less multitasking and more one thing at a time. Enjoying now.

It’s a new idea for me.

From words that directly let me know something, to words with layers of meaning. From the simple to the profound. Anyway you read them they speak of love.

The combined rock messages have helped me see things in a new light and reminded me of things I needed reminding of.

So, THANK YOU, rock painting person. Your kindness is noted, appreciated, cherished and smiled at often. YOU ROCK!!

photo-20 copy 21

You’ve succeeded in making me feel loved! Thank you!

Categories: Gardening, good ideas, Gratitude, Love | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments
 
 

What I Miss About You

photo by Richard Croft [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

photo by Richard Croft

Dear Kathy,

So apparently there’s no texting allowed in heaven or I’d have heard from you by now. Dang it.

I figured maybe, just maybe, you’d get a split second or two to do some reading, since you love to read. So I thought if I wrote out some thoughts I’d had lately, you’d get the message somehow. Call me naïve, or silly or weird, I don’t care.

Also, you’ve been on my mind more than ever, imagine that. I find myself thinking of things I need to tell you about, and then remember you aren’t close by to just drop in and have a chat with. So I’ve been kind of keeping a mental list of things to talk with you about. Maybe you won’t mind if I drop you a letter once in a while to sort of make sure I’m staying connected with you somehow.

For my first letter to you I’ve come up with a list.

It’s a list of just some of the things I’ve missed about you since you left almost a month ago:

  • How insistent you are about being on time, and others being on time, too. Like a contract, you always say.
  • Seeing your face light up when you think about, talk about or get a text or a call from your husband.
  • How you always say, “love you” when I leave, and how I know you mean it.
  • Hearing about your wild and crazy daycare adventures.
  • Being completely comfortable in my skin with I’m with you. No need to weigh my words, or be careful about what I say or do.
  • Finding you sitting in “your spot” on the third floor at the Mayo, when I wander up from parking the van. That smile I get when you see me finally come around the corner.
  • How you don’t like it when we end up wearing the same color shirt to go somewhere together.
  • Getting a text from you asking “what ya doing?” and knowing it means I get to spend time with you.
  • Talking about books and movies and kids and husbands and life and death and religion and politics.
  • How you watch the clock for Sonic Happy Hour to roll around.
  • Eating pita bread and hummus while we talk nonstop, then being too full to eat our Fatoosh salad or Kabob.
  • Picking up a conversation with no glitches or strangeness after two or three or even four weeks of not seeing each other.
  • How you aren’t afraid or hesitant to ask for what you need or for what you want.
  • Finally being over a cough or cold so I cold come hang out again.
  • Having you help me make sense of the latest weird development in my strange life and how you say it makes your life seem normal by comparison.
  • Taking photos of your blooming bushes or my wildflowers to show you, or having you point out the cactus in bloom when we drive.
  • Feeling at home in THE CHAIR in your room and talking about nothing and everything.
  • Getting fries from McDonald’s and a Frosty from Wendy’s.
  • How vigilant you are when babysitting your daughter’s stuffed animals and dolls.
  • Saying it like you see it, no sugar added.
  • Just being together whenever and wherever.
  • Feeling like one of the cool “in” people when I’m with you.
  • Knowing I have someone who totally gets me without having to lay it out in detail.

So that’s all I can think of at the moment to tell you about. Except, I’m feeling pretty lucky to have you for a friend. You’re one of a kind, in case I forgot to tell you. Oh, and I love you and miss you like you can’t believe.

I’m guessing you’re busy being all angelic and stuff. I get that. So don’t worry about trying to get in touch.

Mostly I feel like you’re right here in my heart anyway. I can hear your voice in my head, telling me to crank the tunes, open the sunroof and enjoy my Diet Coke. I’m trying to do just that, cuz you’d want me to. But, it’s not just the same without you in the passenger seat.

256px-Mail_Boxes_Bruny_Island

photo by Reinhard Dietrich

Try to stay out of trouble up there.

I miss you.

Your bestie,

Kami

Categories: Cancer, Death, Friendship, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments
 
 

Good Grief and other Nonsense

My internal weather.

My internal weather.

“The only education in grief that any of us ever gets is a crash course. Until Caroline had died I had belonged to that other world, the place of innocence, and linear expectations, where I thought grief was a simple, wrenching realm of sadness and longing that gradually receded. What that definition left out was the body blow that loss inflicts, as well as the temporary madness, and a range of less straightforward emotions shocking in their intensity.” ~Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take the Long Way Home

I read this book by Gail Caldwell a while back. Before I’d met my best friend. It was an interesting read back then. I even quoted it several times in this blog post last year.

Now I’m rereading the book as a roadmap, trying to find my way out of this jungle I’m lost in.

I had no idea I’d feel this way. I thought I’d feel sad, of course, after Kathy’s Myeloma wrenched her from life. But this isn’t anything like any sadness or depression I’ve ever felt.

There’s real, tangible physical pain. No one ever told me about that. People don’t discuss grief actually, so when would I have learned this?

And I have only one channel in my head that comes in clear enough to see or hear, the Kathy Channel. Twenty-four hours a day it plays. That bluish light that a TV screen throws out haunting the recesses of my head day and night. Oh sure, I hear and see other things. I go about my day at one-quarter speed, doing dishes, moving laundry about, showing up at places I said I’d be at.

But the background buzz, hum, light, music and weather consists of Kathy. She’d find that funny and pathetic at the same time. Glad I could humor her, sorry if I’m letting her down.

I can’t find a remote to change the emotional channel I’m stuck on.  And it takes more energy than I have to look for it and figure out the buttons if I stumbled onto it.

Insert exhaustion photo here. Picture whatever fits for you, I can’t think that hard today.

I feel successful when I get dressed. When I eat. When I carry on a conversation without saying her name or referring to her somehow.

Please don’t ask me to go to the grocery store. It takes hundreds of steps to get to the dairy section, and more energy than I have to lift the gallon of milk into the cart. And then seeming miles away the produce section waits, the logic of its order lost on me. And the loudspeaker blaring, do loudspeakers do anything else but blare? Obviously the overnight restocking crew cranks the music up and no one ever turns it down. How am I supposed to think through this grocery list with so many bad songs from the eighties and nineties blasting away at my every thought? And heaven forbid I should see someone I know. I dig up my cheerful face, drag out my pretend untired voice, pull my shoulders back to give the illusion of standing up.

I attempt all the right responses.

“Fine. Great. Tough. Getting through. Life. Goes On. Thanks. Sure. Uh huh. See ya around.”

Then I cave in on myself. I want to curl up in the shopping cart and sleep, right there beside the salad dressings and croutons and bacon bits. Pull some cereal boxes over my head like a bad blanket.

But that would indicate some kind of madness or lack of sanity or a grip slipped. So instead, I stare at the grocery list and find something on it that tells me what I should do next, if I can go home yet.

All this from a mere five-year friendship.

I can’t begin to fathom a twenty-five year marriage with half of the duo gone. It’d be like a body with no skin, all raw, exposed nerves and internal parts on fire with rage, salt encrusted, oozing.

Someone should do something to fix this. This can’t be right. Aren’t there rules or laws that make this kind of pain illegal or impossible?

Categories: Cancer, Death, Mental Health, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments
 
 

Adopted by Love

Like Aspen groves, Kathy's extended families provide support in unprecedented ways.

Aspen groves expand through an extensive root system in a colony that gives strength and vitality to every tree in the system.

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for all the open arms, hugs, expressions of sympathy, shared tears, flowers, cards, notes, texts, messages and understanding I’ve received since Kathy passed away.

I know friends of the deceased often go unnoticed and unacknowledged, but that has definitely not been the case here. I’ve been cared for and comforted by both sides of her family and by my family, acquaintances, strangers and friends in wonderful and unexpected ways.

I’ve been included as if I were a member of her and her husband’s extended families. I should not have been surprised by all these kind relatives of Kathy, of course they’re just like her; warm, welcoming, kind, sensitive, funny, generous, perceptive, direct and filled to overflowing with love.

Every conversation with one of them, every hand or arm extended, every gesture of kindness toward me felt like her speaking, her arm, her hand, her kindness, her presence still in my life.

Just like Kathy always managed to do, they turned the situation around. Instead of me providing comfort and sympathy to them, they filled me with warmth, surrounded me with empathy and cradled my heart, gently lifting me and sending healing and strength my way.

How thankful I am for such kind people who have helped ease the sting of such a loss.

I wish them comfort and healing. I wish them moments of clarity and joy. I pray they find solace often in every day things. I hope they hear Kathy’s voice in their mind from time to time whispering words that only she would know to say to them.

I pray they occasionally hear her laughter in the wind and see her smile in the faces of the family around them. I hope they feel as much love from each other as I felt this weekend in their presence.

If that happens, I know they’ll be okay.

Categories: Cancer, Death, Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Missing Words and Missing People

It’s Gratituesday. Today I feel profound gratitude for the five years I enjoyed with my best friend Kathy. She passed away early on Friday.

A Lincoln rose, Kathy's favorite.

A Lincoln rose, Kathy’s favorite.

She was ready for it.  For her, death arrived with relief and peace and hope.

We had talked openly and frequently about death during her war years with cancer. Turns out that theory and talk didn’t prepare me for this reality.

I’ve never seen anyone with such a capacity for honesty and directness. Never one to beat around a bush, Kathy simply says what she thinks. And somehow, through charm or charisma, or that cutesy high-pitched teenage voice, she gets away with it. In fact, I’ve found myself emulating her straightforward ways and am all the better for it.

Spunky, gutsy, and get ‘er done doesn’t quite do her justice. If she set her mind to something you’d better get out of the way or pick up a hammer and get to work beside her. Determination resonates as her middle name.

Hand in hand with such spunk is her fearlessness which still dazzles me. My breath catches when I think of the countless number of times she faced a new chemo treatment, another experimental drug, another bone biopsy. Courage of astounding proportions resided in that heart of hers.

She wrapped her all around her children and her husband. Family first, family always. We talked more about her family than any other topics combined. She loves that bunch of people with every bit of herself. Literally and figuratively.

Her fierce capacity for love, listening, acceptance and caring radiated and warmed so many.

Whatever I come up with to express gratitude for her sounds so inadequate. The right words seem caught on the jagged edges of this crater left in my heart by her passing.

Unlike Kathy, I find myself woefully unprepared for her death.

This surprising onslaught of grief seems equally weighted against the laughter, joy and beauty she brought into my life for which I will be forever grateful.

Categories: Cancer, Death, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

The Odd Ways We Say Goodbye

Everything drips with symbolism lately.

photo 2-1 copy 5

Whether shiny, sparkly or pale the gold looked stunning next to green boughs.

I’ve undecorated the tree this afternoon. It’s time to let go. In fact, it’s past time. The needles are dropping faster, brownish tan slowly outshines the evergreen color. Sure, in a certain light, night-time,with just the small twinkle lights on, it looks vibrant and adds such ambience to the room. But in reality, a fire hazard stands in the living room.

When we first became acquainted, this tree sent its voluptuous pine scent wafting about the entire house. I thought it seemed happy here. But truly, it was simply on its last few weeks of a life spent outdoors, gazing at the stars, tucked in under the snow, basking in the sun, drenched in the rain. Then it found its life cut short and quickly waning. For a brief span of time it glowed and sparkled with beauty and light and life, its last bit of energy expended giving joy and lifting hearts.

photo 1 copy 5

A well-lived life draws to a close.

But now, fully spent, its time has come to move on. Perhaps a few of her needles will become part of the mulch that nurtures next autumns flowers into a radiant bloom. Perhaps a chill night will be brightened and warmed by her last few embers. Perhaps in years to come a photo of a decorated tree, fallen over with the weight of too many ornaments and not enough balance, will lighten the heart of an aged woman. Or another photo of that same tree redecorated and standing proud and straight with a sweet smiling man at her side will bring cheer into a grandchild’s mind.

This sweet Christmas tree oversaw a bittersweet holiday.  It did its job with honor and aplomb. If there were medals awarded for Christmas tree service above and beyond the call of duty, this tree would have earned and worn an extras star of honor.

Now a small brass angel oversees the last of the boxing up of the gold and white bulbs, the untangling of the white lights from the branches. Tonight that tree will look up at the stars once again and dream.

photo 4 copy 2

A few baubles waiting to get boxed up for another year.

Tonight, my living room will feel empty. I’ll walk in and feel lost knowing something important is missing. The empty spot will continue feeling empty regardless of the rearranging of furniture or placing of photos and lamps.

Now you see that I’m a silly, melodramatic woman, with far too much time for thinking and not enough to keep my mind and hands occupied.

I keep saying goodbye in such odd ways.

Maybe this year, this new set of twelve months, will be spent doing just that.

Categories: Death, Holiday, Memory Lane, Relationships, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Glass Tinted the Color of Rose

It’s Gratituesday! What a year! Our family grew by fifty percent this year! If a business grew that much competiting companies would be making offers to buy us out. We added a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, another  son-in law, a granddaughter and a future granddaughter. Every child of ours experienced an amazing year of growth, love and forward momentum. What more could a mother ask for?

empty nest syndrome

empty nest  (Photo credit: butterfingers laura)

All that good brought with it a breathtakingly rapid emptying of the nest, which I’m still adjusting to. Mostly, it’s a good thing. What am I talking about it, it’s a wonderful thing! I must be low on oxygen now to think it’s anything but wonderful to have alone time with MSH, quiet time to write and read, parts of the house that actually stay clean and a schedule that doesn’t involve a spreadsheet and color coding.

The past three hundred sixty-four days held so much more good than bad this year. In fact, the good weighed more by far in quality and quantity than the bad. On a strictly symbolic basis, the sunny days radiated, the semi-cloudy ones still shone with brilliance, the gray days brought much-needed rain.

But I’d be lying if I pretended there hasn’t been symbolic thunder and flooding, earthquakes and tornadoes. This quote from the beginning of Dickens’ best book, A Tale of Two Cities sums up this past year honestly.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” ~Charles Dickens

As true as that may be, today, though, this Tuesday of Gratitude, I’m focusing only on the good, the blessed, the wonderful, the hope, the light and the heavenly.

selfshooting through rose-colored glasses...

selfshooting through rose-colored glasses… (Photo credit: jmtimages)

Today I choose to look back through a window tinted the color of rose.

Tomorrow is a whole new year. What will its days and weeks bring? Hold on to your seat and keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times, it’s sure looking like a doozy.

(If you haven’t had the chance to read A Tale of Two Cities, or if it’s been a while since you have read it, I’d suggest a plan in the coming months to pick up a copy, be it tangible or digital and familiarize yourself with his wisdom and words. You’ll be glad you did.)

Categories: Books, Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Sunday Afternoon Magic

So, here I sit out front, fuzzy black slippers on, in my porch swing. My computer sitting on my lap. I thought, maybe, being outdoors would somehow prompt some inspiration or insight or intelligence. All “in” words, which is contrary to being “out” here.

photo-19 copy 17

If you look closely you can see a reflection in the water.

Still, there’s something comforting on the breeze. The cooler air smells different, fresher, promising, tentative. A couple of hummingbirds hover at the feeder that I’ve let run dry in the past day or two. I should get up off the swing and make up some nectar to fill it. Then the tiny chirps would sound less insistent. Two house wrens, make that three,  jump from bush to bird bath, taking turns dipping into the water, drinking, checking, drinking, checking.

The bush they flit about in needs a good trimming. It’s overgrown and leaning to the east. Every time I’ve thought of getting out the trimmers for a little shaping the bush is in full flower, purple over the entire outer surface. The unkempt look of the bushes matches the wildflowers which are getting taller in sporadic and uneven places. They look more like weeds than ever. I’m not sure where I’ve put the “Wildflowers Under Construction” signs. I should locate and set those out so the HOA knows not to fine me for weeds.

Leaves skitter down the road from time to time as the wind picks up occasionally. Drifts of orange curls settle in crevices and under bushes and between stepping-stones. Then here and there a rain of tiny gray-green leaflets fall from the boughs that oversee almost the entire front yard. I ought to get the blower/vac out tomorrow morning and clean things up a bit, before the garbage truck arrives. But I probably won’t. Let the rest of the leaves from the trees on our street finish their deleafing, then I’ll “clean up” what ought to be left out for crunching footsteps and mulching gardens.

Still with a lengthening to-do list growing in my head as I swing I find a sense of okay-ness out here.

Maybe it’s the family groups that walk or bike the perimeter of the park.  Maybe it’s the sound of children playing on the swings across the street. Could be the chips and cheeps of unseen birds or the blue softness of the sky. It could be the ease of a Sunday afternoon spread out languidly before me. Nothing but a diet Coke to work on.

Choices abound. I recognize how amazingly lucky I am to have the option of being comfortably inside or outside in December. That I live in a place with room for a porch swing feels almost decadent. That growing things surround my home and provide homes for birds and rabbits and an occasional stray cat helps me feel more of life in my days. Healthy and able to walk or dance or bake or spend time with MSH or my children seems like something I shouldn’t ignore or presume.

Yes, pending loss cracks open the shell of the universe, hearts border on breaking.

And yet, somehow goodness and beauty soothe and succor. Something about the outside world gentles the  pounding in my heart and hushes the worry circling my head.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Laughing Even When it Seems Wrong or Impossible

Kathy loves to laugh. She can see humor in some of the most surprising places. I’ve even heard her chuckle a couple of times this week, in spite of the rapid changes happening to her.

She, more than anyone I know, appreciates a bit of morbid laughter and jokes about dying. Like I’ve said before, there isn’t a topic she’s afraid of. Death certainly wasn’t taboo. Joking about it made it all the more approachable. So here are a few chuckles to lift the mood in the room.

20131228-113206.jpgOn more than one occasion we’ve discussed the movie “Patch Adams” and that wonderful scene between Patch and Bill, but we could never remember all the euphemisms for death that they came up with. So, I finally looked it up.

Patch Adams for real, not the movie version.

Patch Adams for real, not the movie version.

“Death. To die. To expire. To pass on. To perish. To peg out. To push up daisies. To push up posies. To become extinct. Curtains, deceased, Demised, departed And defunct. Dead as a doornail. Dead as a herring. Dead as a mutton. Dead as nits. The last breath. Paying a debt to nature. The big sleep. God’s way of saying, “Slow down.” To check out. 
 To shuffle off this mortal coil. 
 To head for the happy hunting ground. 
: To blink for an exceptionally long period of time. 
 To find oneself without breath.  To be the incredible decaying man.  Worm buffet.  Kick the bucket.  Buy the farm. Take the cab. Cash in your chips.” – Patch Adams

Kathy likes being the center of attention. So this one in particular seems appropriate to share.

20131228-094814.jpgWe’ve taken turns over the past few years being one fish or the other. She, admittedly, was usually the glass half full fish.

20131228-113252.jpgThat thin line between humor and truth can bring out some startling and deep thinking. Calvin and Hobbes  seem wise beyond their years in this one.

20131228-113219.jpg

Categories: Cancer, Death, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Flummoxed

The sun rose from the southern sky this morning. Okay, maybe it leaned a bit to the east, but not by much. I wondered if winter solstice got ignored, or the axis of the earth shifted a bit over the past few days. I wouldn’t have noticed with how sidetracked and discombobulated I’ve felt.

So yeah, apparently, we’ve bypassed winter solstice and moved into a new phase of the earth/sun cycle.

I suppose it’s possible that the sun has risen further south every day for months and I’ve only just today noticed. In fact, that’s the more likely explanation isn’t it?

Reason flew out the window, though.

Barometer Glass

Barometer Glass (Photo credit: cobalt123)

It feels to me like the other way around. A change in the cosmic mechanisms of the universe feels more likely. Cogs slipping, everything off kilter just a bit. At least in my heart and in my head that’s what’s happening. So if the sun chose to follow along, I’d completely understand.

There’s more to it than the angle of the sunlight, lower and more southern than normal. My wildflowers pushed up through the rocky soil of the front yard four weeks ago. Normally those tenacious little seedlings wait until after December and sometimes into late January to show off their leaflets.

But not this year. Nope. My front yard’s awash in a carpet of green. African Daisies cover the majority of the area, but even the California Poppies have spread out and filled in normally barren areas. Odd.

I blame it on the ridiculous three-day rainfall we experienced around Thanksgiving time. Our winter rains, traditionally a December thing, showed up early and often.

As further proof that nature’s off-balance, the trees are dropping bright orange leaves as if we live in New England in the fall. That usually happens in a much less colorful way in January, when we have a freeze, the leaves turn brown overnight and then a windstorm rips them from the branches a week or two later.  But not this year.

There’s frost covering the lawn at the park every morning as well. There’s a solid white sheet draped over the whole expanse of green, giving it an aged patina with a bite of cold. As the sun inches up, (from the south) a kind of steamy fog lifts off the surface of the grass and gives the area a Middle Earth feel. If Hobbits and Trolls and Elves start tromping about the earth’s surface around here I won’t startle one tiny bit.

We’ve even had some unseasonably warm temperatures. High seventies, flirting with eighties, in December! Kids run barefoot in the grass that hours earlier wore an icy film. How is that possible?

Because, as I’ve been trying to tell you, everything’s flummoxed.

flum·moxed 
adjective
1. bewildered or perplexed.

Confusion abounds here in the desert this year.

It all matches my internal environment, that tundra in my mind and heart. A little lost, uncertain, trying to leaf and bloom, drenched in sweat and rain, changing colors and moods in a confusing array of signals about what life is or is not going to do next.

Aneroid barometer

Aneroid barometer (Photo credit: explainthatstuff)

If the sun decides to rise from the north or even from the west tomorrow I’d just nod and say, “of course, that stands to reason.” If snow decides to fall from a desert sky and settle in among the cactus needles, I’d not wonder at such a rarity.

Honestly the most appropriate weather, to match my internal barometer, would rain down in torrents a cold, soaking waterfall of heaven’s tears to mingle with my own.

Any day now a dam will burst and earth will fill with sorrow.

At least for a while.

Categories: Cancer, Death, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

From Me to You Wherever You Are

It’s Gratituesday! Who would have thought that one birth, one life, one death, could have such an impact on a world.  It has on mine. And this year particularly, his resurrection feels like a part of the season of celebration and gratitude. I think perhaps it will continue that way  for all the Christmases that follow.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

I wish you Peace!

A quilt work of the heart my youngest daughter helped me make.

A quilt work of the heart my youngest daughter helped me make.

Oh Holy Night

- Marcus Tidmarsh

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name
Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

 “God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity … down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.” ~CS Lewis on the incarnation

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Holiday, Hope | 3 Comments
 
 

A Bit of Perspective on Kissing and Other Stuff

It’s that time of year where half the world seems to lose all perspective.

christmas 2007

A Disco Christmas? (Photo credit: paparutzi)

Chatting with my best friend the other day about Erma Bombeck’s list of things she would have done differently in life prompted her own short list of things she would have done if she had more time.

“These are not a list of regrets,” she was quick to assure me. “I have no regrets!” She gave me that look that said she was seriously completely honest about that statement. “No regrets!”

That’s true. She has used these past few nauseated chemofied pain-managed years making sure there would be no regrets that she had control over.

But there is this short list of ‘would have if she could have’ that I wrote down as we talked, with her permission of course.

  • Kiss her husband more often for at least six seconds each time
  • Pull her kids out of school for whatever, more often
  • Travel more
  • Jump on the trampoline when the kids asked instead of “later”
  • Ride bikes with the kids more
  • Teach more life skills that come in handy like “let the dryer do the ironing” and such.
  • Read bedtime stories more regularly
  • Be more gracious and nicer to her husband
  • Attend temple more often
  • Never ever start drinking soda
  • Adopt a Chinese baby since her husband speaks Chinese and could help keep their culture
  • Yell Less
  • Exercise more consistently
Gift!

Gift! (Photo credit: allie™)

I noticed the “more” she wished for wasn’t something that could be put in a package, wrapped up and tied with a bow then slid under a Christmas Tree. The “more” wasn’t something she could send someone on an errand last-minute to take care of.

I sure hope I’m making the big things the big things and not getting it backward.

It’s so easy to let the minor things take over and get major league treatment. Meanwhile The Really Important People and events end up forgotten, rolling and banging around in the cargo area.

I’m pretty sure my list would be full of BIG regrets. Not something like this “woulda been nice if” list.

Lipstick Kiss

Maybe I ought to start doing something about my regret list now, while I have time. At least, I think I have time.

We never know, do we?

Pucker up MSH, I’m headed your way.

Categories: Cancer, Death, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

The Winds Will Blow

Thursday Afternoon:

The current variety of stomach bug snuck up on me  from behind and attacked in full force with vengeance and slaughter as its only aim.

Thursday Night:

The wee hours brought a thunderstorm that parked itself over our house and proceeded to play a few frames of Bowling with the Gods. In my semi-delirious state I thought perhaps they’d be carrying me away when the games played out.

Friday Morning:

Surprisingly I woke in my own bed the next morning, spent, still spinning a bit but able to walk. I slogged to the front door and peeked out to see what havoc had rained down whilst I attempted sleep. A gray sky still hovered low and ominous save for a small area of sunlight valiantly attempting a go at it. I grabbed my camera and captured this image.

photo-19 copy 15

All gray sky but this one small area of sun trying to break through.

And with this scene I also captured a desire to go outside, under that sky. I wanted to capture a few lingering raindrops, to feel the fresh air on my pallid skin. More than anything I wanted to replace the rancid indoor air of my lungs with this ozone enhanced and rain cooled wonderful misty infused oxygen.

Friday Noon:

I’m sure I’ve never walked so slowly through the Riparian. My energy levels sat near zero, but my wish  outdoors drove me there almost as much as the car did. My slow pace lent itself to noticing things I sometimes miss. The overcast skies kept the wildlife active and vibrant where they’re usually subdued and snoozing at midday.

Friday Afternoon:

I’d certainly walked too far for how ill I’d felt the day before, but the effects of nature’s tender cloud filled  embrace had worked magic on my heart.

Saturday:

Here I share a few of the glories available less than one mile from my home. I think it’s time I made a regular practice of visiting there as I did a few years ago.

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir

Categories: Nature, Outdoors, physical health | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Taking One Day at a Time

It’s Gratituesday! I’m grateful for time with my best friend today. It felt like a “normal” day, not a month or so away from dying kind of day. We talked like it was any old kind of day, well, except for everything we talked about that isn’t like any other kind of conversation most friends get to have.

good day sunshine

good day sunshine (Photo credit: eye of einstein)

But really, it felt wonderful. It felt almost normal. She had more energy than usual. We were in sync, the world’s machinery ran smoothly for us, we laughed, we dodged crying, we felt like a couple of teenagers getting away with something.

We snuck out of the house and got some early lunch before the germ filled crowds showed up. We went to a matinée movie, sitting in a theater completely empty except for the two of us. The place as bacteria free as a person can get out in public. Her immune system appreciated it. We even talked out loud during the movie which made the day even better. No shushing involved.

I think we must have looked like two old sisters spending time together toddling about town leaning on each other, holding each other up.

I often wonder who is helping who in this relationship. Actually, there’s no wonder involved. I’m pretty certain I’m the one getting helped, being served, feeling loved and learning how to be real.

Yup, today felt great.

I’m thankful for every day I can get in with my bestie.

Categories: Cancer, Fun, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Good Enough is Good

‘Tis the season for rampant perfectionism.

Oh my, yes.

Perfect decorations, perfect parties, with perfect desserts and perfect jokes and perfect laughter and perfectly festive outfits outdone only by perfect gifts wrapped with perfectly sculpted bows. Perfect music wafting through a perfectly scented  perfect candle flickering perfection of perfect everything. And perfectly happy everyone everywhere.

Eesh.

Imagine my wonder and joy when I stumbled on something that was perfectly acceptable as a good enough something. And I never, ever dreamed I would do this in a million years.

My friend gave me a DVD of a fireplace. If it had been anyone else on the planet I would have balked at it. Actually, I did balk at it, but she persisted. And who’s going to argue with my best buddy? Certainly, not me.

You see, this particular burning fire DVD also has someone manning the fire whom their family has named “Charles.” Pronounce it with an uppity pre-WWI British accent mangled by an American accent and you have “Chawles.” Chawles mans the fire, meaning his arm occasionally shows up on the screen to stir, or adjust, or move something in the fire. My favorite is when Chawles puts another log on the fire.

Crackling, popping, blazing sounds emanate from the TV speakers. The glow fills the room with, well, glowiness.

At first, I put the DVD in to say I’d done it and then I’d planned to, gasp, not use it again.

Shame on me.

More skeptical than I, MSH sat down on the couch, scoffed, mumbled, grumbled and proceeded to chat about something completely unrelated.

We talked in front of the “fire” for a good hour. We stared at the light, the flickering, the mesmerizing leap and wane of flame, the way the light cast shadows on log and ember.

We analyzed the structure of the fireplace, the metal grate, the way the coals and embers piled up, rolled, flickered. We wondered at what kind of wood it was, since it burned steady and slow.

Like all good fires it set a backdrop to conversation and pondering. Contented sighs escaped our lips. Our to-do lists fell to the wayside. Relaxation settled in like an extra blanket laid over the bed on a cold night.

How is that possible? From a fake fire!

How can something not real have an effect as real as the real thing.

No mess to clean up, no fire to douse or worry over at bedtime, no flue to open or close, no wood to haul, chop, or carry, no matches to locate and keep out of reach, no fire hazard, no muss, no fuss.

But yes, the ambience. The feel, the mood, the restful drifting off of worries.

Then I thought, how is this any different than a symphony orchestra (perfection) and a recording of a symphony orchestra (pretty darn good enough.)

I’m sold.

Who am I to question good enough when it happens. No way. Not me. I’m taking it where I can find it. This is good enough and more.

I wonder if there’s more where that comes from?

  • Good enough baking?
  • Good enough gifts?
  • Good enough music?
  • Good enough happiness?

Who knows. Maybe I’ve found a new quest.

Mock if you must, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

Categories: Uncategorized | 7 Comments
 
 

Denial, Arizona, USA – Not Exactly A Travel Brochure

Greater Roadrunner, Phoenix, Arizona, USA Fran...

A Roadrunner! I’ve seen these occasionally here! haven’t heard them go “beep, beep” though. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people think I live in Phoenix, Arizona. That’s not exactly true. I live in one of the suburbs of Phoenix.

But where I really live most of the time is in the State of Denial.

Most people spend some time here once in a while. Some spend more time in Denial than others. It’s not exactly a vacation destination, but it’s a nice break from Reality.

And as we all know, Reality can bite.

Living in Denial helps me ignore these funky spots I have that probably should be seen by a dermatologist. Skin cancer happens to everyone else after all. Not fair-skinned light-haired teen year sun broiling with baby oil before the invention of sunscreen people like me. Besides it’s not urgent. It can wait til after Christmas, Valentines, Labor Day or Thanksgiving. I’ll get to it.

See how that works? Handy isn’t it?

Living in Denial saves me worry about so many things:

  • Unpaid debt
  • The future
  • Retirement
  • Getting older
  • Planning in general
  • How I fritter away my time, especially when it’s past bedtime

Hanging out here in Denial also allows a kind of all’s right with the world point of view:

  • Those elected officials surely are looking out for my best interests.
  • That smooth tread on my two front tires needs some attention, but really, it hardly ever rains here.
A couple in a Hammock.

Reminds me of my days spent in Denial. Looks comfortable, doesn’t it?(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Living in Denial helps me maintain my sanity. It’s very basic a way to cope with the stresses of life. Imagine my neuroticism if I actually thought about all the hazards out there. I’d probably never get out of bed. There’s a long list of things I just don’t let cross my mind while I’m lounging about here in Denial:

  • Our financial instability
  • The unknown
  • Relationships that need my attention
  • Not having a college degree and my utter lack of employable skills
  • My spiritual insensitivity
  • Pending death of my best friend
  • My children’s and their children’s future

And that doesn’t even touch on the big Capital Letter topics like War, Starvation, Disease, Genocide, Global Warming, National Debt, Pollution, Violence, Crime, Safety, or Corruption. It’s enough to make your heart stop and your tear ducts run uncontrollably.

Two American Alligators (Alligator mississippi...

Look how cuddly! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can you blame me for wanting to vacation here in Denial? I’d take up a permanent address except there’s a strict temporary residency only policy. I can’t even get a Post Office Box here. Go figure.

Denial is a strange but comfortable and balmy environment, not unlike Florida, I hear, minus the alligators. There are some harsh reality checks when you have to leave Denial and return to Real Life.

If you can’t find me at home in Reality, at least now you’ll know where I’m hiding.

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Categories: Humor, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

‘Swonderful

I captured some bits of nature this past month. Actually, I only managed to get photographs of those bits. The real thing took my breath away, time after time, and sadly, had stay behind.

photo-21 copy 8For instance, this lady bug that took a layover on my jeans as I sat lakeside. Crawled right on my finger, no hesitation, no worry. Then back to my jeans. The bright orange-red, the antennae, the black spots, vibrant and stunning in comparison to the azure water, the cerulean sky, the gray rock and sand.

photo-19 copy 3While hiking in the November forest, most of the trees bare for the coming snows, a few trees donned this delicate lacy moss. Reminded me of ice crystals, bright green and practically growing as I watched. Not sure I’ve ever seen a more lovely winter coat.

photo 2-2The waves at Lake Tahoe, one of the clearest I’ve ever seen, created this pattern in the beige sand, with a light dusting of almost black sand adding contrast. Incredible unique artwork.

photo 1-2But then I took a walk on the dock and saw this underfoot. Nearly the same waves duplicated in the wood that stands above the water. Nature duplicating nature?

photo-19 copy 13Trees never cease to surprise me. Frosty mornings, one after another, can strip most trees bare fairly quickly. And yet, here and there, bright colors hang on to their branches tenacious and brilliant. How many shades of orange can you see?

photo-18 copy 6Taking an alternate path down the mountain from the one we hiked up led to some backtracking, exploring and uncertainty. Fortunately it also led back, eventually, to somewhere close to where we started. Nature continued to surprise and delight along the way. Looking back where I’d been I captured this view, one that felt somehow like biting into a fresh peach. The juice of the moment running down my chin, the sweetness saturating all my senses.

If I ever get to doubting about the wonder and beauty of life, I simply need to slow down, look around and pay attention.

‘Swonderful!

 

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Six to Eight, Give or Take a Little

Blink

Blink (Photo credit: ballookey)

What would you do with six to eight weeks to live?

Six weeks equal forty-two days.

Forty-two days!

That’s 1008 hours. That’s all!

Eight weeks equal fifty-six days. Which amounts to 1344 hours. Sounds like a lot put that way, sort of.

Blink.

Blink again and it’s gone.

What did you just do in the past six weeks? In the past two months? Did you do anything noteworthy? Impact someone’s life for the better? Make a change in your life that felt good? Spend time with family? Apologize? Make amends? Let go of a grudge? Let go of the past?

What plans for your future are you going to miss if you’re gone in two months? Who will you miss? Who will miss you?

Have you laughed much in the past six weeks? How about tears, how much have you cried in the past eight weeks? Did you read anything life-changing, interesting or worthwhile? Did you learn something new in the past eight weeks?

Has anything caught your breath in the past one thousand hours? Been surprised by something? Have you just sat quietly with someone and felt comfortable in the silence?

Have you thanked someone in the past two months? Have you taken some time to think about all the hard things you’ve overcome to get you to where you are now? How about thinking through the good, glorious, hilarious, fun, astounding and amazing things you’ve had in your life so far?

Could you let go of it all?

Who would you say goodbye to? How would you say goodbye?

Is there someone who’d need to hear that you love them before you left, or are you sure they know? Are you really sure?

I can hardly breathe for thinking about such things.

Maybe the six to eight weeks will really turn into twelve weeks or more. That’d be good, that’d be great!  But still, it wouldn’t be enough. Not nearly. What I want is six to eight more years, twelve more years, a thousand years.

I don’t want to have to say goodbye. I don’t want to let go of a friendship. I don’t know how to permanently let go of a best friend.

I’ve never had to do that. I don’t ever want to do it.

And yet.

Blink.

Categories: Death | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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