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Archive for January, 2015

The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. (Arnold Glasow)

My husband and I are sitting in a customer service office in our bank. Jay says that we are trying to get some financial business started early because he will be out of town for a few days. His mother is ill, in hospice. He is going to visit her. The bank’s representative listens and understands what he is trying to do.

Jay adds that our youngest granddaughter was supposed to have open heart surgery at the end of this month. That was postponed. Our little one contracted bronchitis. She will be at too high a risk for complications to proceed with the operation now.

The bank representative pauses and then asks, “Is it okay if I pray for your mother and granddaughter?”

I’m surprised, taken aback in a pleasant way.

“Of course,” I answer, tears in check. “We’ll take all the positive energy we can get.”

Our entire family and Ella’s many friends wait with reluctance for Ella’s surgery because we want the ordeal to be completed. Done. Part of a long-ago past. We want results now. Preferably yesterday. Ella’s power is awesome to watch. At the age of five she has admirers of all ages. Down syndrome may prevent her from developing an over-sized ego. It does not prevent her from spreading joy. She needs a membrane removed that is interfering with the function of her physical heart. Her social heart is intact.

My mother-in-law’s family and friends wait for her passing and hold onto the memories of all she has given as well as celebrate all she is and was: Mary, the strong outspoken woman who was director of social services at a now-closed psychiatric hospital; the social activist; the woman who took people into her home and gave free counseling; the grandmother who bonded with my boys while I worked at a hospital pharmacy.

She will be 95 on February 28 ½ if she rallies. Yes, she was a leap-year baby who learned to turn elongated celebration into an art form.

I talk to her on the phone and she thanks me for the soup I sent.

“You made this?” she asks. “What’s in it?”

“It comes from boiled turkey bones with some extra chicken broth. Plenty of garlic. Rice. Glad you like it.” I don’t go into detail about all of the ingredients. They don’t matter. This isn’t a how-to discussion.

I give soup to heal. In this case it would take more than broth-simmered-all-day to repair a body too worn to journey any longer. I sent the soup for taste and warmth, a hug in a mug. True, chicken soup does provide electrolytes as well as the protein, carnosine. Homemade soup is a potent liquid. But it won’t add a significant number of days to my mother-in-law’s life.

Waiting—for a passing and for a surgery. Very few people win patience awards. And no one can see inside the fertilized egg for tomorrow’s possibilities. Even the chicken doesn’t know what the outside world looks like.

I don’t drink alcohol, so I lift my coffee cup for a toast to today, to whatever blessings it brings. To hope, serendipity, rain, rainbows, and the unseen. Since waiting is inevitable, may it be blessed.

dove and rainbow PIQ

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I am a tiny seashell
that has secretly drifted ashore
and carries the sound of the ocean
surging through its body. (
Edward Hirsch)

I may not live anywhere close to the ocean, but the ocean-sounds of my experiences remain in the short seashell-body of who I am. They hide in anyone old enough to have a past.

Yes, free will exists, but often knee-jerk reaction comes from expected hurt or rejection that has nothing to do with the moment; it involves long-ago scars formed in the evaporated sea of the past.

The love and acceptance of others creates fresh memories and the ability to see beauty—inside and outside of our shells. There are people who walk the earth who don’t know they are angels. They bring enough light for others to see beyond the expected.

Ella’s soft pink animal-print blanket lies over a chair for show—so that it can be photographed. The blanket was made to comfort her, to keep her warm during a time that promises to be difficult. Her open-heart surgery is scheduled for January 30. The large flannel square is a gift, offered by a woman who doesn’t know our little girl. Barb may or may not have seen a picture of our granddaughter. She gives because that is what she does. I told her I included photos of her creativity in my blogs. I don’t think she has ever looked at them. Praise is not her goal. A simple thank-you suffices.

I now want to be resilient like Ella and humble like Barb. I know Barb’s last name because I have finally been introduced to this gentle angel, but if anonymity serves her intentions, then publishing her first name is stretching it as far as I dare.

Once upon a time I recall being in a retreat group that was asked a rhetorical question. “What would the world be like if you hadn’t been in it?” The second question develops from the first: “What persons have touched your lives in a special way, yet never knew they blessed it?” That question was given more time.

Those people continue to arrive. And I suspect that if I am busy enough with gratitude there won’t be as much room for resentment and worry.

The sound of the ocean surges inside my metaphorical seashell. And sometimes it remembers storms; other times it recalls gentle waves and warm water. It explores each grain of sand underneath it, and knows it is not alone.

blanket made by Barb

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Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living! (Amanda Bradley)

Jay and I stand in Home Depot at the light switch display. Every possible way light can be electrically connected is available here. We know one—on and off. An IKEA-sized space has been condensed and moved to one wall, at least a story high, and the focus is switches. This is not the for-dummies section.

Our younger son, Steve, is stopping to replace the broken switch—after work and before he picks up his daughter from daycare. “It’s a simple job,” he said. Steve’s time is limited, probably more limited than our ability to wield a screwdriver. Jay and I look at one another like two kids lost in a New York City crowd. Then Jay sees a man in an orange shirt. I notice that the color is not Home-Depot bright, but Jay has already asked him for help. Apparently, a divine directive has been given to my hubby and not to me because this young man happens to be an electrician, off work today because of rain. Actually the morning started with the freezing variety. Patches linger.

I feel no weather warning inside my being from this man. He asks what color our switch is. I never would have expected the question. “Uh, white?” Is there any other color? As Chuck points out the items on the wall he explains the use for off-white switches. I am so overwhelmed the explanation floats from one ear directly through to the other and out, immediately forgotten. Then he fishes the one we need from the cheap bin; it costs sixty nine cents. He tells us what else we will need and helps us find a wire tester. We choose the least expensive, and he agrees that for our purposes that would be sufficient.

“What would it cost for an electrician to repair this?” Jay asks. As we have been walking the aisles he has been telling Chuck about how our loyal son is doing the job for us after work, squeezing in time that doesn’t exist.

Chuck shrugs. “It depends upon experience.” We discover the range is anywhere from twenty to fifty dollars. He pauses and shrugs. “I could do it for twenty, after I leave here.”

We agree to meet at the checkout. While we wait an employee expresses concern for our safety in this uncertain world. Jay and I don’t know any more than this man’s first name. And I asked for that. While the employee has a point, I have been watching Chuck’s body language. He had no idea we would be asking him to do anything. He never avoided eye contact. And with my height, that is a considerable glance downward for anyone who doesn’t shop in the super-short shop. Moreover, our fellow shopper had no obligation to help us in the first place.

Chuck finishes the job in no time. Jay gives him an additional five. Chuck notices that the extra light bulb package we bought contains one cracked bulb, apparently dropped and then put back on the shelf. Divine protection is aware someone else needs assurance.

Jay and I decide to return to the Y to work out, our original second destination, after a trip to exchange the light bulbs. We see the same cashier. Apparently she has been worrying that she could be seeing our faces on the six-o’clock news, although she doesn’t say that directly. Instead she appears grateful, and the story she has told to fellow workers about two trusting senior citizens can have a happy ending.

Yes, yes, the world holds murderers, thieves, and folk who have souls boiling with hate and fear. Then again there are people living ordinary lives, caring, making mistakes now and then, yet moving from moment to moment, making each day a bit better because they are in it. Chuck just happens to belong in the second category. I have no way to thank him again directly, so I need to pass on some kindness in another way. Chances are I won’t need to look far.

Peace to all, today and always.

believing something amazing is about to happen

 

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A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it. (Chinese Proverb) 

As I read an e-mail message with bad news that gives me chills, I wish I could be like the broadcaster who tells about a mass shooting and then shifts to a story about an adorable newborn zoo baby without missing a beat. Something incredibly ugly rises from the page as I follow each word; it haunts me.

Later I discover that the story wasn’t true. The truth is even worse because the lie had been designed to hurt and that hurt spread to the friend who sent me the message. However, her e-mail had asked for prayer—and I can’t rescind the positive thought I sent out into the universe. In fact, I wish I could have doubled it.

I don’t have permission to reveal either the lie or the truth, but any horrid example from the universal store of inequities would do. Besides, further reaction exacerbates the problem.

Sometimes when I hear the word outrage used to refer to a situation, personal or political, little warning signals flash inside my being. Anger can lead to action: an increased awareness, energy, gifts of money or time. But outrage triggers war. I’m-right-you-are-wrong yields more I’m-right-you-are-wrong, not a solution.

The multiple awful situations the world offers lose their power as I turn my attention toward the blessed places in my life. My youngest granddaughter’s speech is improving. She lives hope and love—it exudes from her like warmth from a furnace in Midwestern January. She has given her two older cousins sufficient example to affect their lives. They respect everyone. Down syndrome, autism, physical handicaps are superficial in their eyes. Kate and Rebe see deeper, into hearts.

The people who wreak havoc have hearts, too,—somewhere—often so injured even they can’t find them anymore. I wish I had answers for them, and for us who are surrounded by the damage they cause. I don’t know how to soften stone. But I know peace takes time. Peace may flow in my words, but I have to work toward it as hard as everyone else does when injustice affects the people I love.

The next message I read or hear could bring good news. There is always that very real possibility. Yesterday I listened to my two sons laugh and banter, as friends, allies. And I celebrated the moment. Today a little girl giggles as her grandmother leads her through the water at the Y. I feel the goodness of their moment through the waves.

Water, ego-less, shape-free, open to sea, pool, or sewer.

Peace and hope to all, wherever you may be.

hope

 

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Giving opens the way for receiving. (Florence Scovel Shinn)

The cord to the tree lights is a tad out of my reach. Sure, I could ask Jay to help, but he is in the middle of working on our finances. The two older grandchildren will be here any minute. I’d like to greet Kate and Rebe with some sparkle from the tree, up for only a few more days. Str-e-e-tch your short body, Terry, one more inch, one m-o-o-o-o-re…

Maybe not such a good idea. Crash! My son is pulling into the driveway. The girls run to the front door. They are greeted by broken glass and scattered ornaments. Son number one is going to be late for work. And he can blame it on his clumsy mama. Fortunately, he doesn’t waste time with unnecessary words. He sets the tree upright and leaves with a pleasant good-bye, see-you-later as I get the garbage can and Kate cracks the eggs for breakfast.

Electricity becomes the un-theme of the day after Kate becomes enthralled with a battery-operated candle flame and tiny glass lantern. She decides we will pretend to be a pre-modern-appliance-aged family. We weave our own clothes, plant and grow our own fruits and vegetables, as well as maintain an orchard, an old artificial pine with a few wayward branches in the real world. The television and iPad remain off for most of the day.

Some exquisitely embroidered pillows, a precious and unexpected late Christmas gift to the girls, also become an important part of the game. They provide portable bedding—the pillows travel from one-room cabin to tent to wagon train as the day progresses. The photo below was taken under a sheet tent made with the dining room chairs as posts.

“Don’t you want to go out somewhere today?” I ask the girls.

“No, we want to stay here and play, they both answer.

“Besides,” Kate adds. “Cars haven’t been invented yet.” Okay, so the answer is something of an anachronism, but if our house is a suitable playground, I guess I really can’t complain, even if the day did begin with a broken-glass cleanup. The tree comes down by the feast of the Epiphany anyway. The fun, I’m hoping, lives here.

pillows from Nora

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