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Archive for November, 2012

When money speaks, the truth keeps silent. (Russian proverb)

I may have spent as long as two minutes fantasizing about winning the Powerball. After all, my husband bought one ticket. Sure we had a better chance of a November heat alert in southwestern Ohio, but thinking about incredible wealth was fun while it lasted.

I imagined my grandchildren with secure education funds. The city’s special needs kids would have what they needed without sending their parents to work doing triple overtime. All my family would drive the best transportation. My ’97 Toyota could accept a well-deserved retirement. . . I didn’t dare extend my imagination any longer. It would be like dipping into the candy dish too many times, not really good for the body or soul since it added nothing worthwhile to the moment.

We matched one number. I didn’t ask which one it was since it was a moot point. After all, 16.66% is a failing grade in any system.

However, this picture, which has been traveling over the Internet, gave me an idea: Let the numbers represent positive possibilities. Only one of these include cash, and it wouldn’t be enough to buy another ticket. The numbers don’t represent an actual count; they refer to a different way of seeing.

13     Chance meetings with old friends

28     Walks in the park on a sunny day

38     Vacation photos that turned out A-OK

51     Cents found in last year’s winter coat pocket

53     Perfectly ripe red grapes

18     Birds of different species feeding peacefully at feeders

We didn’t win a single dollar, but I received an even better gift on Thursday. An aerobics instructor at the Y told me my husband raved about what a wonderful job I had done performing at a local music cafe on Tuesday. She added that he always talks about how proud he is of me. I walked away with a lump in my throat. We live an everyday life. In a small house. With a simple income. With the same difficulties everyone else in the world has. Yet, you can multiply all the above numbers, put dollar signs in front of them, then add a dozen zeros after, and you won’t find the wealth love can give.

Pass it on!

losing Poweball Ticket Lars Larson Show

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Until death it is all life. (Don Quixote)

My father sleeps the awkward sleep of pain and old age. I kiss him on the forehead and he doesn’t respond. I hope he wakes up later, and sit next to him in the common room of the nursing home. My sister Claire will be here soon, after the accident clears on the expressway. She drives an hour—perhaps to visit the father she knew—perhaps to visit a shell of what he was.

I wait, pulling a folder of writing work into my lap, when a woman in a wheelchair catches my eye. She looks upset.

“There’s something in the back of this chair.”

I hesitate, and then notice her oxygen tubing. It’s probably the handle from the tank.

It is. One hand on her arm, I move the handle out of the way. “Is that better?”

“I don’t know.”

An aide appears with a blanket to tuck behind her. When my dad could still sit, I always wondered why one wasn’t inserted before this kind of irritation started. Then he was moved to a geri-chair that could be adjusted for lying down. No handle in the back, just the difficulties of a worsening condition.

“That should do the trick.” I smile and gently pat her arm. She smiles back.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

She answers with both her first and last name and her personality emerges, a wit hidden a few minutes ago. Touch, perhaps it is more magical than I think. Or—it is simply essential to well-being.

“I like your coat,” she says. “Gray and blue go together well. Hey,” she says to the woman in a wheel chair next to her. “You grab her and I’ll get the coat.”

Her comrade looks surprised.

“Just kidding.”

I laugh, talk to the pair for a few minutes and return to my work. I can’t help but overhear their talk about another resident. “She’s not happy about anything,” one of the women says to the other. “Well, I don’t know what you can do to change her.”

Later the woman I suspect to be the object of  their conversation appears. She battles with the personnel, puts on a genuine show. I wonder what internal demons she fights, and feel even more blessed by the first two women.

The core spirit doesn’t go away because the scenery has been altered. It remains, whether that individual is fighting traffic on the Interstate or exchanging conversation in a nursing home.

Claire arrives, smiling. She lives positive attitude. Traffic was blocked for miles. She tells the story, but doesn’t complain about it.

I introduce my sister to my new nursing home friend.

“Your sister is prettier,” she says. Then when I tell her Claire is a lot younger than I am, she smiles and adds, “Just kidding.”

Claire and I have the opportunity to have time together. Dad’s feet threaten to fall off the chair. Many times. We move them back, as gently as we can. He never rouses enough to know we are there, at least while I am present. I leave before my sister does.

But first, before I face rush-hour traffic and who-knows-what-kind-of-chance-to-lose-perspective, one more kiss on Dad’s forehead, even if he doesn’t know I’ve placed it there. After all, I can’t understand the twists and turns of existence, but “until death it is all life.”

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The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit. (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Molière, actor and playwright, 1622-1673)

Eight-year-old Kate calls the day before Thanksgiving to talk to Grandma. She wants to know what her cousin Ella has done today, especially anything funny. I’m getting ready for the big feast, so I don’t have all three of my grandchildren at the house on my usual Wednesday. Sure, it would be difficult to prepare with three active kids in the house, but I miss the precious presence of the other two children.

I tell Kate about how I found Ella’s shoes on Barney, the Dinosaur. It’s the kind of story she wants to hear. Later I learn this game was initiated by Grandpa, but it doesn’t matter. It makes Kate laugh.

Ella reaches for the phone. She’s been out of the loop too long. I put the conversation on speaker, and then let our youngest granddaughter communicate, in her own way. She kisses the receiver. Blessings fill the air.

After Ella reluctantly gives up the phone, Kate tells me about someone she knows who is pregnant. The baby may have Down syndrome. The parents are waiting for test results; they are frightened. I am amazed at my granddaughter’s adult understanding. She knows what a joy her cousin is—and yet, she recognizes the difficulties of caring for a child with special needs.

Ella tries to climb onto the television stand. “No!” I call to her. She stops before I get to her, and I am grateful, but I am also glad she is extending her horizons.

It’s been a long haul since our little one was born seven weeks early, facing two surgeries before she was three months old: one for duodenal atresia and the other for an A/V canal defect. The second meant open heart surgery.

When her heart was cut open, our hearts were, too. The entire family learned what was important and what wasn’t. We continue to grow with her, to share enthusiasm when Ella points to the first letter of her name and pronounces “E” clearly. No, we probably won’t have a Harvard graduate. But a positive attitude teacher? Definitely.

“See you tomorrow, Kate. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Grandma.”

I’m not sure much of anything else matters.

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He who is afraid to ask is ashamed of learning. (Danish proverb)

I grew up in the age of carbon paper and typewriters, when term papers meant staying up until one in the morning, bleary eyed. An error always occurred at the bottom of the page. It couldn’t be erased, and the entire page needed to be retyped. The backspace key had not been invented yet. But tears had been. They flowed freely. If only. . . If only my fingers wouldn’t falter I could get an A-plus in Ancient History. Maybe. Who knows? At least that was my fantasy.

The single light bulb above Dad’s old manual burned as dimly as my enthusiasm by page five. Intelligent thought faded into the carbon paper by the end of the assignment. Black. My future looked black.

Now writing five pages, at least from an efficiency point of view, isn’t such a chore. However, my understanding of my precious computer comes from a brain born in the technological dinosaur era. My three-year-old granddaughter with Down syndrome discovered how to get Facebook for five cents a minute on my cell phone while I was in the bathroom at a hotel in St. Louis. We are talking less than two minutes! I had no idea my I-don’t-even-text phone could do that.

Life is a mystery. So are the 0’s and 1’s that draw me to the computer, even when I should be doing something else. Actually, the keyboard draws me especially when I should be doing something else.

I ask questions. And don’t want you-do-it-for-me. Well, not unless the problem is so knotted even a genius needs to confide in the next genius up.

Now, my word processor is giving me new challenges. One of my best friends gave me one answer, then another problem took its place. I have thought about chucking my precious laptop and printer out the window. However, that could be counterproductive, to say nothing of a mess to clean up in the yard.

Does anyone else fight with technology?

(I suspect this photo, found in an e-mail sent by a friend, is strictly a set-up. At least I hope it is.)

Image

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And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. (Nelson Mandela)

Kate somersaults across the living room—with a cast on her left hand. “Did you see that, Grandma?”

“I sure did.”

“I’m going to do it even better this time.”

I want to yell, No, we don’t need any more trips to the hospital! But, her movements are confined, and the other kids are in the toy/computer room right now, so she isn’t going to knock anyone over. (Whether toy or computer comes first depends upon whether kid or computer plays the dominant role.) Besides, I am the one who was on the phone when our granddaughter broke her finger diving into the couch. The cast was necessary because the break affects a growth plate. I heard her scream, and then went into shock for a day or two.

She rode through her ordeal like a soldier and flashes her red and blue cast as a badge of honor. In fact, there are no more spaces on it for Grandma to sign her name. A place to fit initials would be difficult to find.

Children’s bones bend and heal easier than a grownup’s bones do. It seems my eight-year-old girl’s spirit is mighty powerful, too. Kate is drawn to children with special needs. She doesn’t see them as different; she sees them as people, like herself, with challenges. Perhaps having a younger cousin with Down syndrome has given her that blessing; perhaps that gift is innate. I don’t know.

I watch Kate perform one more somersault. With a smile. With ease. And I know I’ve learned something important about resilience.

pic from MorningCoach.com

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Experience is a good teacher, but she sends in terrific bills.  (Minna Antrim)

Okay, I could tab to indent on my computer a few minutes ago. What happened? The cursor thinks a new paragraph begins toward the end of the line. Sure, the story I’m writing is fantasy, but the wild and unusual is supposed to remain within the context of the tale, not jump out into the keyboard.

So far I haven’t figured out how to fix it. In the meantime I count spaces and try to refrain from cursing—at least out loud. Impatience can be costly. More than once I have experienced the Lewis Carroll quote, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”  Several days ago I broke our Waterpik. Cracked an attachment. With my bare arthritic hands. Amazing what a little hurry can do. Then I noticed our printer is suffering from overuse and old age. Just when I promised to print out a couple hundred-thousand pages of something. (slight hyperbole)

Patience, patience, where art thou? Perspective, you should be around here somewhere, too. They both have a tendency to hide, generally when they are most needed. These are the times when made-from-scratch cakes fall. Cups fall from shelves and break, on their own of course. And that essential map for a trip gets left on the coffee table at home.

I sigh, and then pick up my plan for our small group’s church service on Sunday. Perhaps I should look at it and see if I am missing anything since my brain’s auto pilot seems out of whack. Darn, I sure don’t have to be concerned about running out of flour and oil like the widow in l Kings 17. Oh, we aren’t rich, by any means. Open our refrigerator door and the kitchen is blocked, but we aren’t poverty-stricken either. I have a computer, satisfactory health, and the ability to help others when they need it.

Pause. Breathe. Come back to the problem later. Or get someone else to help. Maybe even learn something new.

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Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time. (Howard Nemerov)

Okay! The challenge is on.

I know imperfection inside and outside. My PhD has nothing to do with a doctorate in philosophy. I am positively of human design. The mirror has the audacity to point out every wrinkle and bulge in my barely five-foot-tall frame, and I don’t deny what it reflects. Sure I should have given away all of the rest of the Halloween candy, but some of it lives in a circle around my waist. At least the last bag will be empty soon. Then I can move on to perfection—never. Other flaws will pop out, probably out of my mouth in verbal form, or reflect in a stumble somehow.

Or, I can feel and worry a tad too much for my own good.

Last Sunday my precious oldest granddaughter broke her finger while she was at our house. I had answered the phone, and missed everything but the scream. As her mommy and daddy took her through the rounds of x-rays and doctors, my concern exceeded the practical.

In fact, as my husband and I took a long walk the next day, my little finger felt awkward inside my glove. Strange, I felt as if my hand didn’t fit into the weave anymore. Now that is going overboard! I suspect that if I had needed to take my granddaughter for the required medical visits, I would have quieted the over-the-top empathy and stood firm for her. However, that doesn’t mean my heart rate wouldn’t have developed the power to generate electricity.

Imperfect? The list of examples could go on for pages.

Somehow I suspect even the genius is made-up of more flaw than masterpiece. Omniscience is an incredible burden: no peers, all work, no play.

Give me friends who readily admit error. I’m comfortable around them. The folk who have all the answers either bore me into a stupor or tempt me to search the room for escape routes.

Okay, I’ve finished my dissertation on the common. Unfortunately, I don’t have hours of time left in my day to twiddle my thumbs and do nothing. Most of life’s chores don’t involve words;  knowledge is only part of my journey.

I hope everyone has an imperfectly perfect day, filled with sufficient blessing to see the unique in everyone, even that slightly off-center person reflected in the mirror.

(pic from The Optimism Revolution)

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