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Archive for July, 2015

One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure. (William Feather)

One more headache. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve had in the past few weeks. A mix of unstable weather and stress are the probable causes.

Walking with a heated bean bag on the back of my neck comforts my upper spine but doesn’t do much for my posture. I look like a reluctant version of the Greek god Atlas. Oh sure, lying down would be a far better choice, but I have too much to do and not much time to do it.

The stove top is clogged and not covered by warranty because a cooler leaked over the top. Customer error. My own father once told me I should take a mechanical aptitude test. He wanted to see how low a score I would get. Even so, I investigate solutions through Google. And hope the results don’t lead to even more expensive repair.

I need this research time for another task: preparation for a writers’ workshop. Charm only gets a writer so far. I want to have some work completed—in something better than back-of-an-envelope form.

The battle is on. No weapons, only wits, and mine belong somewhere at the lowest ebb of my throbbing pain. I miraculously manage to get the gas burners to light. The nub on a Samsung doesn’t look like the one on a GE stove, but I clean it with a stripped bread tie. The rest of the stove also gets a scrubbing with a combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.

For me seeing the flames rise in a perfect blue circle is equivalent to a toddler discovering a new chemical compound. Nothing short of miraculous.

Long before I am ready to leave for my conference I need to babysit for my youngest grandchild. I will leave about noon and she will bond with Grandpa.

Ella and I play. She creates an imaginary world and I follow her lead. Adventure at its best. The bean bag stays out of sight for a while. Not long enough, but for a while.

Uh, Ella, can you give me your secret? A touch of your adventure?

So we take turns leading Dora the Explorer and Diego down a plastic slide. This moment. Not the future, not the past.

The conference will present itself as an adventure. And it does. No time for pain…

Finally, several days after the dust settles so do the headaches. I find a new definition for gratitude.

dear stress

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The answers you seek never come when the mind is busy; they come when the mind is still, when silence speaks loudest. (Leon Brown)

If my husband never planned a vacation I suspect I would never travel. Getting from one side of a maze-like restaurant to the other is enough of a challenge for me. However, Jay has a knack for finding the best places at the best times. Perhaps some generous heavenly spirit guides his selection. We may never know, and it doesn’t matter. I’d rather savor the gift than analyze it.

The Blue Water Motel on Route 21 in Grand Bend, Ontario is walking distance from Lake Huron. Pinery Provincial Park is a fifteen-minute drive away. The owners of the motel act as if they were our next-door neighbors, ready to help when we need anything. The guests in other rooms act as if they have known us all their lives, even if we neglect to add eh at the end of our sentences now and then. Yes, Jay and I seem to be the only non-Canadians.

I consider this place a plus since we were not looking for wax museums and endless T-shirt shops. Sure, there is a shopping-restaurant-ice-cream strip with an old-fashioned boat-and-pier flavor to it, but it extends along one or two streets. In fact, Jay and I almost missed it. The lake and beach called louder.

Blue Water Motel07202015_0000

Jay, the quintessential extrovert, relaxes when he interacts with other people, maybe has a beer. (I am grateful that when he says one-beer he is referring to a twelve-ounce can of Alexander Keith, perhaps two, never a keg.) I love the opportunity to edit without worrying about the phone, preparing meals, or washing as many dishes as one sink can hold—even if I do like to cook. I can focus on deleting stray commas and reconstructing sentences that look as if they were prepared in a blender. My good friend, Nancy Johnson, helps me via e-mail from miles south.

Perhaps she and I are separated by an International border and a six-hour drive, but the motel’s free Wi-Fi makes it possible for us to communicate. She finds errors that sneak into what-I-think-should-be-on-the-page. And I smile the width of the room with gratitude. Thank you, Nancy. And thank you, God. You gave me a great friend!

I don’t stay indoors all day, however. Canada is far too beautiful for me to make that choice. And this sixty-nine-year-old body needs exercise or it will cramp into one arthritic knot. My shoes bring back souvenirs in the form of sand.

Let one photo speak.

Lake Huron shore

In the evening we discover the sunset on Lake Huron. While my hubby may be outspoken and I’m introspective, we both enjoy nature. Neither one of us needs to say much. The horizon takes over the show. And we savor the joy of simply being. I photograph a younger couple from the back. They appear anonymous, unidentifiable,  as both old and young watch the powers of nature. It is  greater than anyone silhouetted against it .

silhouette

In the silence of a departing day we watch as the sun touches the horizon. Intense light contrasts the darkness, accepts both, and gives birth to color. No journey is perfect, but the serendipity is worth the effort.

Peace upon all. And a special thank you to Mark and Laura Boogemans for a delightful stay at your motel. Maybe, if we are lucky, we can visit again next year.

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Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. (John Lennon)

We are going on vacation tomorrow morning. The living room has turned into an obstacle course of clothing and maybe-we’ll-bring-stuff. Our passports are next to the remote control. When each to-do item on our list is completed, another is added.

I open the refrigerator to get the last of the fruit. “Uh, sweetheart, why is the light out in the refrigerator?”

I don’t expect my mate to know. It’s a question I don’t want to ask me. The appliance is relatively new. Jay checks the circuit breakers. They are intact. Neither the toaster nor a lamp responds at that outlet. It is as dead as a pond fossil. The extension cord we use for outdoor Christmas lights connects the refrigerator to electrical life. However, it also creates a trip hazard.

This bandaged solution could help for a week. Maybe. I call my brother Paul, an electrical engineer. He answers the phone.

“That should be an easy fix,” he says. “A fifteen minute job. I have the tools.” He offers to stop by today.

I am grateful because I am the facilitator for a writing group that meets this morning and I don’t want to renege my responsibilities. Jay will be home to welcome our hero.

However, when I return after the meeting I learn that the easy task wasn’t as simple as my brother expected. Our second switch was poorly wired. It was the feeder and was destined to blow. He handles the repair.

Paul is a lifesaver, a frozen-food rescuer, a brilliant engineer, and an all-around good guy. Of course he wouldn’t accept pay for his services—not even a free meal at a restaurant. And I wasn’t thinking White Castle.

All I can do is pass on his kindness to someone else and shout out to the world, or at least my readers, that I have a brother who is the greatest.

We are now on vacation and will be home, or close to home, by the time this is posted. Not every moment here has come as we thought it would either. We got lost but found some incredible beauty. We had some unexpected rain and I finished some edits I was afraid would never get completed in time. Serendipity is both teacher and delight.

Peace upon all that comes your way, both expected and otherwise.

 enjoying scenery on a detour

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it. (Edith Wharton)

As I dust the front windowsill I realize my birthday cards have been on display for almost two months. Some of the messages are serious and genuine, some silly. I celebrate all of them. The cards are an opportunity for gratitude.

However, there is a fine line between gratitude and clutter. If I saved every thoughtful token I have ever received from friends, hoarding would replace genuine appreciation. The sun can’t shine through paper, even beautifully illustrated paper. I will save some cards for future illustration-inspiration. One friend copied a quote on slick paper. It will make a great bookmark.

No one thing lasts forever. Resentments can clutter, too. Sometimes people act in ways that reflect deep hurt—then they fling their pain around as weapons against those who have injured them. They take no responsibility for their choices. As long as the ball of discontent rolls, there is no time to recognize the loss of both logic and common sense. And the discontent grows deeper.

Hate caused Problems MoveOn.org

I think about that as I linger over the cards and shut out unhelpful thoughts concerning a recent situation that doesn’t directly involve me. It affects someone I care about. Nevertheless, it threatens my serenity. I have no control over another person’s choices. Light without shadow doesn’t exist in the real world. And resentments and anger can block out sun for years, sometimes a lifetime. I can’t help anyone if I play that game. Lashing out with quick judgment is tempting, but leads only to more lashing out.

I sigh and then pray for the highest good for the folk who would wish harm. Within minutes I notice that my breathing feels freer. The sky appears brighter, even though gray fills the clouds with promised rain.

However, the mirror reflecting the candle can shine on and on and on… Thanks to all my friends. For all you give and for all you are.

cards

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The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. (Albert Einstein)

The world as we have created it is also a process of our caring, social awareness, and empathy. It cannot be changed without changing our approach to one another, without cutting out all biases and prejudices, seeing with fresh vision.

Wayne, the son of my long-time friend, Gladys, now deceased, shared this story. It fits into the attitudes I share weekly in this space:

“The coolest thing happened tonight. A friend was treating me to dinner at Frisch’s for helping with some mulch. I noticed a table with some special needs adults and case workers right in front of our table. I made eye contact and smiled at the people facing my way and went back to eating dinner. Suddenly, there was an arm around my shoulder and it was one of the adults with Down syndrome from that table. He was dressed in a Cincinnati Reds outfit.

“‘I love you,’ he said giving me a big hug. And I told him that I loved him, too. He then did the same to the young man sitting across from me. This gesture was an example of unconditional LOVE. I felt as if I were in the presence of an angel. I am profoundly touched and grateful.”

Several of Wayne’s friends mentioned a fact those who know special-needs folk realize; their good works aren’t hindered by overworked egos. In my April 8 blog, Scot: It Doesn’t Take Much To Make Me Happy, I introduced a loving adult with Down syndrome. Scot doesn’t let formality get in the way of giving either. He hugs and he is good at it.

Not many people are able to express affection without some reservation. Actually without a lot of reservation. All living creatures deserve respect. And yet I can’t imagine petting a pit bull without a proper introduction. True, I’m allergic to the dander in dog fur. But, this strong breed has an undeserved reputation. And yes, both ego and fear form a larger barrier around me than I would like to admit. I can be shy around people I’ve never met as well.

Wayne is a talented musician. But he was not taught to act as if he were better than everyone else because of his gifts. His mother Gladys also showed me what unconditional love means. At one time I wasn’t sure that I was capable of much of anything. Gladys accepted me as I was—and then helped me to view my life differently. She overcame enormous struggles in her life. Dire Poverty. The death of her mother when Gladys was only six. Gladys lived in the present and saw the good in each day and in each person.

I suspect the gentleman who approached Wayne sensed the honesty in his smile. Wayne wasn’t patronizing the group at the next table. His gesture came from a sunshine-heart.

And perhaps the difference between the special-needs-huggers and the reserved normal folk is spiritual. Just maybe the word needs should be deleted and special highlighted. These people erase the non-essentials: What could happen if?… I don’t know you… This is socially unacceptable… All the artificial contingencies disappear and pure gift remains.

Perhaps, if the special folk decided to take the time to consider the sit-straight, don’t-look-anyone-in-the-eye rest of the world, they might feel sorry for the so-called normal sector.

But I doubt that they would look down on anyone.

if disabled people were head

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