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Archive for May, 2013

Hooray! Hooray! The end of the world has been postponed! (Hergé)

One definition of serenity: mind and body occupying the same space at a given moment in time. Tranquility, calmness, and peacefulness, all show up as synonyms on dictionary.com and meriamwebster.com. Sure, I’m serene; that’s why I can’t find my car keys. And I know they have to be in this small house. Somewhere. I used them less than two hours ago. And I need them again—now! Amazing how the loss of a few slivers of metal can create instant panic.

Okay, what story did my friend Carol share just a few hours ago?

She had been mowing the grass. She had a lot on her mind at the time, a mountain of responsibilities. Her husband has a rare and crippling disability, and he needs constant care. Life hasn’t compensated with extra privileges to make her job easier.

Yet, she knows how to redirect counterproductive thinking. She gave herself a task: a one-hundred-item gratitude list. It eased her work, lightened her being. I can do that. Who knows? It may even free my mind enough that I can focus and find my gosh-darned missing keys.

These blessings could appear on my list: a cool breeze on a hot day, a swim at the Y, an unexpected invitation to brunch, a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. At least they make a good start.

One activity at a time, Terry, I tell myself. Think logically. I already searched the pockets of the pink Capris I wore this morning. But, that was in panic mode. This time I explore more carefully. And the keys are in a side pocket. No mysterious disappearance at all. “Minor Armageddon” averted.

As my gratitude list grows I realize that sweetness comes from contrast. Dark versus light, cold versus warmth. A delicate spring flower expresses a deeper beauty because it survived winter. No one can live long without embracing sadness, even horror. However, what’s the point of living in the past? In cold or darkness.

That doesn’t mean I would ever tell anyone not to be sad, no matter the reason. An emotion is what it is. I would say, don’t isolate. Find a friend. See your own goodness, despite appearances. Sometimes a positive attitude takes work. And that is okay.

I start my ’97 Toyota with a single turn in her ignition. Okay, she’s old. But, by a young person’s measure, so am I. But not too old to begin again. One intentional step at a time.

negative committee

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Above all else, go with a sense of humor. It is needed armor.
Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lip is a sign
that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life. (Hugh Sidey) 

 Famous last words: Sure, one kid today? I can handle this by myself. After all, didn’t I take two sons through the stages of their early lives? Don’t Jay and I frequently have as many as seven children in, out, through this house? It gets a good scrub job later. But we manage. What damage can one three-year-old girl cause?

Ella climbs into the desk chair at the computer—time to watch her favorite videos: “Sesame Street,” “Sid the Science Kid,” “Curious George,” “Super Why.” We share laughs over the same scenes as well as a few new ones. Elmo from Sesame Street explores learning through humor. A bird and a fish don’t nibble the food Halle Berry gives them, so Elmo finds a tiger to demonstrate this word that means “tiny, tiny bite.” Absurdity and learning fit well together.

So do fluke events. At least I don’t think Ella means to find the exact spot on the screen that turns it upside down! My mouse is  confused, too. Fortunately I have a laptop so I flip it over to find an icon with a clue. No luck. Ella’s daddy could help me later, but I decide to call computer-whiz-nephew Alan. He talks me through it with relative ease.

After that crisis I check to make sure that all is upright in the laptop world. Ella escapes my radar. For three seconds. Small crash, fortunately only pretzels. All over the floor. She feasts from the kitchen tile.

“No! No! No!”

Ella is as unimpressed by my censure as the bird and fish were by Halle Berry’s insistence that to nibble does not mean to gobble the entire item, or worse, to absorb Ms. Halle’s hand. Ella grabs a handful of pretzels and stuffs them into her mouth.

“These only.” I give her the few that remained in the bag and reach for the broom and dustpan. “Then I peel a banana for her, better nutrition anyway.

Later, during a more focused moment I ask Ella, “Are you a little girl or a monkey?”

She smiles, looks me in the eye, and answers, “Ooh, ooh.”

Maybe it was that last banana.

(pic from The Secret of Humor is Surprise)

pizza on floor the secret of humor is suprise

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May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the
foresight to know where you’re going, and the insight to know
when you’re going too far. (Irish Blessing)

 I like to create meals, not throw a piece of baked chicken and microwaved potato on a paper plate and call it dinner. Nothing wrong with that. Sustenance is sustenance. However, in everyday life I prefer adding the attitude of gifting to my daily preparation: a color, a spice, or a hidden nutrient.

On those rare instances when my husband is out of town or has other plans for the evening, my spark fizzles. I have no interest in planning a surprise party for myself, no one else invited.

Sure I could “should” all over myself about how eating well is not pampering. But, it’s like going to the movies alone—no one to share the story with after the show.

In time either Jay or I will be alone; it’s inevitable since invincible isn’t part of the human condition. I’m meeting with a friend this week who knows that experience. Living alone. Grief. Cooking for one. Recalling the past. Walking into the future one baby step at a time.

So, I decided to share—soup, for me, for my friend. Besides, a pot holds as much liquid as I am willing to give it. And, I can save a portion for my granddaughter Ella.  She loves my homemade chicken soup. She absorbs it: through her pores, into her hair, over her shirt, spilled onto the floor. Soup Ella-style is more than a meal. It is an experience.

For this pot I will add all the usual ingredients: water, Amish bouillon, garlic, onion, pepper, and simmer it in the Crockpot for hours. I will also add prayer and good wishes, a willingness to accept the present as it is, leave the past to itself, and embrace the future. I have regrets. Don’t we all? But living there doesn’t change anything.

Each batch of soup tastes slightly different. I don’t use a recipe. But then life doesn’t follow rules in any exact order either.

For all, may this day bring unexpected blessings, and blend them with both the rare and precious.

for you

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Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun. (George Scialabba)

My two older granddaughters want me to do watercolors with them, an honor. However, painting my hand and then splatting it on paper asks a bit too much. This artistry is part of their Mother’s Day gift for their mommy. And they are excited about doing it, in deep, dark purple.

My computer paper supply slowly diminishes and the dining room table looks like an upside-down wastepaper basket.

Finally Kate decides it’s hand washing time, much to my relief, and she begins another drawing. A purple girl with turquoise hair and a green hat. Her project has purpose. The girl has a story, in sci fi form, with human feelings, a past and a future. I listen, looking down at my wimpy sapling with a few dabs of pale green for leaves. I had no interest in creating it to begin with. It felt like a doodle on perfectly good 20-lb weight paper destined for the trash.

Rebe experiments with color. What happens when orange blends with blue? An odd shade of brown. Then what happens if it is streaked with purple? A storm has been brewing for the past hour. At the tender age of five Rebe knows what a lightning strike can do. The last crash felt farther away. She says that artwork has distracted her. Her wisdom brightens me.

I’m amazed at how easy it is to underestimate the insight of a child. The next day our little girl will pass her next swim test. I won’t be there, but will hear the joy in her voice when she tells me about it on the phone.

Then I will need to use my imagination, envision her quick strokes in the pool, not on paper. And hope that perhaps someday I can approach the world with the simplicity of children at play.

Somehow, as a child, I thought growing up meant knowing-it-all and freedom. Yet, if I’m really learning I discover that wisdom, truth, love, can’t be grasped and held. They expand and grow. Always. Like orange blending into purple and a child’s drawing becoming story, as an older woman watches two young girls embrace color as a gift. Not circles of hardened pigment swirled with water.

The storm passes. For now.

(pic taken from Morning Coach)

learning from children  morning coach

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 A diamond doesn’t know how valuable it is to others. (Mark Tyrrell)

Five-year-old Rebe churns the water as she reaches the halfway point in the swim test lane. Anyone watching would have known I was her grandmother, even if I wasn’t screaming. My grin takes over my face.

Early last year she played in the shallow end—safe, preferring to stay in the pretend world. Within months she jumped off the side and let Grandpa catch her. Oh, she still loves the imaginative. But, this expansion of her spirit warms me. The next step, to tread water for a short period of time, should be easy for her, as soon as she gains the confidence. I have no doubt that she could have traveled the length of the pool, back and forth, as easily as she could have walked poolside.

You are a diamond, little girl. Your surfaces haven’t been polished yet, but, somehow, that gives the innate you even more possibility.

Of course I don’t talk to a five-year-old child in metaphors. “Good job, Rebe,” suffices.

I want my granddaughter to see her potential, her beauty. However, as I think about some grownup friends, I realize it’s not necessarily that easy to reflect the goodness I see. When someone suffers deep sadness, pain takes over.

I tell one of my friends what I see in her. She can’t look me in the eye. She isn’t ready to accept anything more than grief. And, somehow, I suspect I would not fare any better if I walked her path.

Perhaps it isn’t easy for any diamond to be shaped and formed, not easy for any person to develop either—at any age.

 In the meantime, an almost kindergartener passed her first swim test at the Y. And a yellow wrist band sparkles, in its own way.

(pic from Positive Inspirational Quotes)

becoming PIQ

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