Archive for January, 2014

I want to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random, it would be a cool photograph. (David Nicholls) 

On a January Friday the main roads are clear and there are a few hours before the next arctic blast, so Jay and I run errands. We stop for lunch at a fast-food restaurant, not our first choice, but it works with the time we have.

A man with long white hair, Santa-style beard, and red T-shirt stands looking at the picture menu. We step back to let him enter the line ahead of us.

“No, you go first. I haven’t decided yet.” We talk about the weather as Jay and I wait to order.

“That will be $10.51,” the woman at the register says, sounding terminally bored.

The gentleman with the flowing beard tosses his credit card onto the counter. I turn around, stunned. “Thank you, but…”

“You don’t have to thank me. Thank, Jesus.”

I hold my breath, fearing a lecture on Christianity. It doesn’t happen, and I am grateful. My church has strong Christian roots, but I believe that a person’s spirituality can develop from multiple sources. The proof comes in the individual’s life, in an ability to love. This man makes his statement. Once. Then chooses to live it. He speaks of other matters: retiring in the distant future, current outside temperature, different kinds of chicken sandwiches. He waves to one of the employees working in the back.

His blue eyes sparkle. He definitely gives the impression of an individual who lives outside-of-the-box. But that is the way with geniuses, artists, and saints. “Just pass it on,” he says.

This may be January, almost a month after Christmas. However, I wonder if Santa, or Saint Pass-On-Some-Kindness hasn’t been hanging out at unlikely places lately, waiting to give folks a smile just when they need it.

The sun brightens—for a while, a blinding blue on top of the last coating of white. It won’t last long. No weather pattern in this part of the world ever does. It just feels that way. The result of generosity? Well, it can be a seed that grows into almost anything that is beautiful.

how you treat others

Read Full Post »

The hard and stiff will be broken, the soft and supple will prevail. (Tao te Ching)

Ice remains in patches along the sidewalk, but since I’m wearing my trusty hiking boots I move to the grass whenever possible. The snow is crunchy, but a maneuverable two-inches deep. Since my destination is downhill this ploy helps.

A thought strikes me as I notice the difference between the sidewalk that has been shoveled and the parts that haven’t been touched, the softer snow on the grass versus the ice on the sidewalk. The precipitation came from the same sky. Any good science student could explain why the snow became ice on the concrete when the temperature lowered, and the grass had an easier time with the transition. Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question beyond a superficial level without extensive research. The science buff’s enlightenment is welcome.

My meanderings step beyond the practical into metaphor—about resentments. Past hurts will never be undone, but they don’t need to continue into the present, rigid, holding onto all that falls on top of them, as if they were priceless treasures, never to be released. The ugly memories of the past can be shoveled away and dumped.

In this section of the Midwest the grass accepts the snow and remains burdened by it—for a while. Then the snow becomes softened by the soil; the earth shares the weight. As the sun warms the ground, snow melts and waters trees and grass. The ground, generally, survives.

Of course eventually, ice and rock salt create pot holes and havoc in roads, hard surfaces that crack under pressure.

I’d like to say I have lived my entire life without hurts or difficult moments. I could, but it would be complete fantasy. Few people can claim that prize. However, some of those awkward paths have led to beautiful, blessed places. Eventually. Somehow. I can’t trace the process, nor do I choose to go back and figure it out.

Today brings enough challenge, like these steps that need to be found again, under another few inches of that lovely, yet annoying white stuff. No sense in arguing with Mother Nature. She is much larger than I am.snowy steps

Read Full Post »

I suspect the most we can hope for, and it’s no small hope, is that we never give up, that we never stop giving ourselves permission to try to love and receive love. (Elizabeth Strout)

I am tossing two-for-one-sale whole-grain tortillas into my cart when a woman behind me speaks.

“Those are really good.” Her musical twang signals more than enthusiasm. She wants to talk. At first she tells me about baking sun-dried tomato tortillas and serving them as snacks. Then she says she is a southern girl with down-home ways and opens the stories of her past.

For a change my agenda doesn’t have the feel of a block of frozen spinach, leaves frozen together so that the pieces can’t be separated from one another. As long as this pause doesn’t turn into a filibuster I can handle it.

She tells me about her health and how she has overcome emphysema sufficiently to function without oxygen. “I’m 76 and a survivor.”

Her mini-memoir includes the story of her ex-husband’s mental abuse. “He told me that as long as he gave me food and a roof over my head he didn’t owe me anything else.” She has family and has given them love, even though their father could not. I nod when she mentions Women Helping Women. They made it possible for her to make her own way. She was in her sixties when she left her husband. I suspect there is more to her tale. Much more.

I want to reach out and touch her arm—but don’t. My nod says that she made the right choice, whatever that involved. A touch could signal the pain that brought her to seek survival. Moreover, I don’t know her. Instead I step back, just a little, not out of avoidance, but respect.

Besides, I am only a stranger in a large grocery store. Did this woman stop other shoppers also? Did they listen, or did they look at her as if she had two heads with three mouths? I have never seen this woman before this moment, and may never see her again. Probably all she wants is the reassurance that she has strength, that it shows in her being. Somehow. She never asks for my name, nor does she offer hers.

“Peace,” I say. “Have a blessed day.”

I pray for her now—days later. May she no longer need to rely on strangers for support. May she have people with her that she can count on. Perhaps I could have done or said more, offered to pray with her—right there. I’m not sure I would have had that much courage. It would have been less embarrassing if she ran away, than if she decided to shout alleluia in the middle of the bakery department. Perhaps I haven’t arrived at perfection in any form just yet.

Thanks to all my friends, the ones with the huge shoulders and the fine-tuned ears. I am grateful for our shared laughter and tears.

feel what I feel

Read Full Post »

Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.   (Carol Saline)

When I was sixteen-years-old my mother gave our family the gift I always had wanted—a sister. Sure, I had great brothers. But I was an all-girl girl, and I didn’t understand the male species.

My brothers would engage in rough play with Dad until they cried. I declared outrage, but seconds later my brothers would be at it again with a grin on their faces I interpreted as lunacy. I soon learned that it made no sense to try to protect them.

I remember telling Mom I wanted an older sister. She never seemed to understand that even at the age of six I’d figured out that was impossible, although I suppose secretly I wanted someone else to guide me through the make-believe and the real world with wisdom. Life didn’t always make sense, and grownups definitely belonged to another galaxy. They knew all the rules and expected kids to know them, too. Most of the time I learned rules by breaking them first.

Of course by the time my sister was born my dolls and childhood belonged to a long-ago past. As a teenager I played the role of built-in-babysitter and big sister.

Claire’s birthday is Monday. She hasn’t been a baby in a long time. She works as a pastor’s wife, which means she has a schedule that requires a wall-sized calendar. She has a married son and a daughter-in-law now.  I could call her my little sister, but she isn’t tall. However, I’ve shrunk, and she is quick to point that out.

I don’t mind. Our relationship has nothing to do with height. I don’t recall when the bond between us developed into something that transcended the difference in our ages. Once, when my sons were still at home, Claire and I got into a deep discussion about our lives. We were standing outside my house by the barbecue grill, white with flaming charcoal. Our mother could see us from the back window. She came outside to see if we were all right. We had shared how we really felt in a way only sisters can understand. Of course we told Mom everything was just great. We told the truth even though we had spoken of sadness and fear as well as hope: we had each other and I knew we always would.

Happy Birthday, Sis! Thanks for being you.

from Positive Energy

best kind of people from Positive Energy

Read Full Post »

Family is not an important thing, it’s everything. (Michael J. Fox)  

Snow keeps Jay and me indoors today with two of our grandchildren—three of their friends also arrive. Our house is economy-sized. The children’s sound belongs in a gymnasium, or perhaps the great outdoors. Some of it is channeled into the cold as they make a snow man. However, they dry off inside, and then finish two large bowls of popcorn, a pot of homemade hot chocolate and a full can of whipped cream.

The girls may not understand why I insisted on holding their minor feast at the dining room table, but I am grateful later when a broom and a dust pan repair the floor damage in minutes. The rest of the house may be another matter, but more snow will come soon. Time for cleanup will happen then. Perfection is not my mantra. Somehow the noise and confusion don’t matter either; the young people do. The clock tells me it isn’t 11:00 AM yet. Nevertheless, exhaustion leaks everywhere from my forehead through my toes.

Then my oldest granddaughter, Kate, tells me I need to play the part of the principal in their pretend school because they have been fighting for the role. She gives me the name Mrs. Orange. When Mrs. Orange comes into the bedroom and makes a ridiculous mock speech Hannah, one of our guests, smiles. My toes wiggle with a tad more enthusiasm, and so does the rest of me. Amazing how such a simple gesture creates energy. I am going to survive. Perhaps the children tire, too, because they switch to television, a PBS program. Rebe snuggles with me and I borrow some of her youth through her warmth. By dark the house will become quiet again. The temperature outside will plummet, and I will have a choice: I can either remember the times I felt torn in as many directions as there were people in the house, or I can savor the joy and the laughter.

May the New Year bring new cheer. Peace to all!

(the girls’ creation)

snowman Jan 2, 2014

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: