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Archive for February, 2016

There are no easy answers, there’s only living through the questions. (Elizabeth George)

Sun streams through the window and I try to hold onto the brightness, as if blue sky carried answers to questions that don’t fit into logical formulas. Life. Death. Illness. The healed and unhealed. The why.

The husband of a friend died yesterday. Several other people have cancer. A friend of my husband was just diagnosed with non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. Magic wands remain in fiction. Moreover, I look at the political scene and my stomach twists. How can so many people choose hate and see nothing wrong with it? I know a child who could have post-traumatic stress syndrome. I talk to a friend from the Y. “Will you pray for my husband?” Too many folk seem to be suffering right now.

A double rainbow appears on the wall behind my laptop, yet I can’t capture it with a photo. I don’t have adequate equipment. The picture appears dark and the rainbows show pale.  I erase the photo; the rainbows fade. I don’t have the ability to save the world by myself. Nor do I dare to reply to grief with platitudes.

Instead I offer an ear, arms, perhaps some of my time. And perspective appears. What matters? What doesn’t? If I give up my serenity over something small, a traffic delay, spilled juice, a photo that doesn’t work, changed plans that don’t fit my agenda, how much energy will I have when I really need it? Perhaps this is one small part of living through the questions.

Right now I’m aware of what I have and how fragile life can be. However, my attitude can change after a few ordinary, nothing-special days. I pray for awareness, to learn from unanswered questions.

love tainted world Optimism Revolution

 

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Children re-invent your world for you. (Susan Sarandon)

Ella and I play in the shallow end of the water park. We pretend to be in a world where blue, green, and red bears roam with white, brown, and black bears. With mock fear we run from all of them. Ella has told me blue bears eat grass and red bears eat cake, although it could be the other way around. She remembers. I don’t.

Her six-year-old imagination enlivens me.

But when another little girl enters the water with her grandmother I step out of the way and give the children a chance to meet. The other girl hugs toys to her small chest.

Ella notices. “Toys,” she says softly.

The other girl, obviously several years younger, sits in the water next to Ella. She hands her two of her treasures.

“Wow!” I say to the girl’s grandmother. “Unusual for such a young child to be so generous.”

“Well, she isn’t always like that.”

While the children play we grandmothers chat. I celebrate the moment and watch the kids’ stages of interaction, sometimes distant, sometimes close. Never expected.

The girl’s grandfather enters the water. The little girl goes to him and I carry Ella through the oval channel of the Lazy River. Ella points to the little girl and calls her, sister.

I feel blessed by my granddaughter’s simple love. Another woman in the channel comments on the beauty of Ella’s large blue eyes. They relay the honesty of her spirit. Down syndrome limits her body; it does not limit her being.

After Ella and I are dressed and ready to leave, the little girl’s family is in the lobby of the Y. The little girl wants Ella to come to her house. A precious, yet unrealistic request. Ella’s mommy will be picking her up in less than two hours.

I see again the gift of Ella when Mommy and Ella are seated on the floor in our living room. I wish I had a camera ready as our granddaughter leans into her. Ella lets her light shine. Our little girl reaches out to soothe and comfort Mommy, as if she knows she had a long work day.

My world gets complicated even if I don’t work an official eight-hour day. I plan more for one twenty-four-hour period than a planet-toting Atlas would. Then life comes along and adds more. I need to spend time with Ella, choose love first, and then realign my priorities.

No, Ella isn’t an angel. She is human and has her stubborn moments just like everyone else does. But, she doesn’t live in a funk, and she doesn’t hold grudges.

For her each moment is what it is, no more, no less. An incredible opportunity simply to be. I suspect that since I read too much into situations, I have more handicaps than she does.

Thanks for the fun day, Ella.

the world as it should be

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The real index of civilization is when people are kinder than they need to be. (Louis de Bernieres)

The wooden railing that leads to our basement is old and splintering. It left two of those shards in my left hand. I tried the smear-the-area-with-baking-soda-paste cure. One of the splinters disappeared with the treatment. The other said, No way, I’m not giving up that easily. And I am left with an aching hand.

I feel like a fool as I ask a neighbor if she can help me. She recently earned a nursing degree. The temperature outside has dropped into the Frigid Zone and the sun set at least an hour ago. Why couldn’t I have thought to ask her before dark?

But Madison is quick to assist me.

“I’ll come to your house. After all you are doing me the favor,” I say.

“No, no,” she replies. “It’s dark. I don’t want you to fall on the ice. I’ll be there as soon as I get my shoes on.”

She arrives. And so does her husband, Nathan. He brings an electric sander—to get to the source of the problem, the offending basement railing.

I wish I had dressed more appropriately, at least something better than an out-of-season green Christmas sweatshirt and gray long johns. But, Madison and Nathan don’t act as if they notice.

Unexpected gifts are often the best. Nathan smooths the railing and Madison removes the splinter with a steady hand. I barely feel a pinch.

Thanks, to both of you. I feel blessed for hours after you leave. Kindness has a way of lingering.

kindness is earth angel

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There is an abiding beauty which may be appreciated by those who will see things as they are and who will ask for no reward except to see. (Vera Brittain)

I rarely shop at Walmart. I believe employee working conditions could be much better. However, I have been unable to locate sunglasses that fit over the top of prescription glasses. Easy on, easy off. Changing to a tinted pair of prescription glasses while driving is distracting. And I’m not an online shopper. I remember that Walmart carries the glasses. As the last choice, I decide to buy only what I need, and then leave.

The greeter inside the front door frowns at me. I said hello first. I’m reasonably certain I did not come in wearing an attitude.

Then she asks, “Do you have a return?”

I look down at the reusable bag in my hand. “Oh, no! Just doing my small part in saving the environment.”

She nods as if she hears my words, but still believes I’m a space alien.

The trip is successful and I am ready to leave within minutes.

“Have a nice day,” I call to the greeter as I leave.

She stares at me and I wonder if she is considering calling security. But, the short walk to my car is without incident. Perhaps I am reading suspicion into a place where it doesn’t belong. Besides, my spirit was positive enough to purchase sunglasses on a day when gray, snow, ice, and gloom fill the sky. The weather forecast for the rest of the week doesn’t say much about sun. I’m thinking ahead. In a good way.

In the meantime my new sunglasses replace the ones I lost at a park. Lost, found, rediscovered. A continuous process. The snow-covered branches will shine when the sun comes out. Eventually. But the trees are beautiful now. It just takes a discerning eye to see beyond the obvious—an obvious that isn’t necessarily as clear as I think it is.

Perhaps most of us see through tinted lenses, not to protect us from glare, but to keep us inside our own narrow perceptions. The goal is to see things as they are and go with the moment…someday…I’m still working on it.

sunglasses

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We are flawed creatures, all of us. Some of us think that means we should fix our flaws. But get rid of my flaws and there would be no one left. (Sarah Vowell)

Sarah Vowell has written six nonfiction historical books, including Lafayette in the Somewhat United States and Unfamiliar Fishes. She is an actress. I’ve seen her interviewed and been mesmerized by her wit. Therefore, I read the last sentence—several times. “But get rid of my flaws and there would be no one left.” Should that read But get rid of flaws and there would be no one left? Or should it be, But get rid of my flaws and I would not be?

Then again, perhaps Ms. Vowell is onto something. Each individual is a part of the whole. We share flaws the way we share common emotional existence. No one has it all. Perhaps that is why we were designed to be social beings. I am part of the whole. The whole is part of me. Or, she could be saying that without flaws she is only a shell with no one inside. It’s a question for my grammar-freak friends.

Today gray clouds fill the sky, but an almost circular hole opens and lets the blue peek through. By the time I have driven to my destination the sun has won. For now. The TV news loves to forecast sensationalism and doom. Unusually warm winter temperatures should fight with cold air soon, giving birth to storms.

And I realize that storms inside me want to rise, too. They want to make a big fuss about recent mistakes, failures that feel larger and higher than the clouds. Yet, those mistakes don’t rise to more than my four-foot-eleven height off the ground.

Then four-year-old Dakota rushes into our house. His huge brown eyes let me know he is happy to be here. Little people don’t hide their feelings. He asks why at least a thousand times. “Why isn’t your hair long like my mommy’s?” “Why isn’t Jay back from the YMCA yet?” When he heard that I was going for physical therapy for my neck he wanted to know, “Are they going to take your neck off?”

Fortunately that answer was a simple no. I smile at his innocence. He doesn’t know how small he is yet, how much growing he needs to do before he is an adult. The statement, in an hour, has as much meaning to him as the unfathomable size of the universe has for me. I can’t grasp it. Nor will I ever comprehend more than theory.

Yet, none of the people I love are perfect. If they were I would have nothing in common with them. So, I thank Sarah Vowell for her honesty, and look at my flaws with a tad more reverence.

mistakes The Optiism Revolution

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