Archive for June, 2016

When it’s gone, you’ll know what a gift love was. You’ll suffer like this. So go back and fight to keep it. (Ian McEwan)

Most people, whether they wear glasses or not, believe they see other people with 20-20 vision. I have neither X-ray vision nor psychic powers. But, I can erroneously imagine with little evidence that certain actions have clear causes. For example, a woman in the grocery store rages because the check-out lane isn’t moving fast enough. Obviously, she has an easily lit fuse. And, of course when her son demands candy and gets it, he is spoiled beyond rotten.

However, I don’t know anything about this woman and boy. I can’t document the fact that they are mother and son, not aunt and nephew, or babysitter and child-next-door. Missing facts lead to possibilities when it comes to fiction. I can give the woman a bizarre brain disorder. The boy doesn’t know how to cope and regrets his ornery behavior years later through an unexpected twist in the story line.

In the real world, both speculation and judgment are useless. Even if my original guess is accurate, what does it prove? I’ve limited future possibilities for the woman and child.

I’m reminded of the moment in water aerobics when I was talking with another class member about mundane and comical experiences. My husband joked loudly from the back of the pool. I responded with mock criticism, thinly veiled, since my smile must have reached from ear to ear. “Uh, yeah, he’s mine. We will be married 45 years in July.”

She responded, “My husband died 14 years ago.”

And I realized that I had been caught up in a moment of fun in the water, a few stories we had shared about grandchildren—not kicks through loss and grief.

We continued to talk. I deepened my sharing. We listened to one another. We spoke between jumps up, down, left, and right. We said good-bye on pleasant, perhaps blessed terms. I rode home next to my husband and celebrated human, imperfect, everyday love.

Today, I speak to a young girl, obviously successful. From my point of view. Then, the surprise appears. She has overcome difficulties, yet compares herself to others who have not needed to fight to win. The geniuses. The economically advantaged. I assure her of the beauty I see.

Chances are I have not eradicated all of her uncertainties. Any more than I have erased all of my own. But, I have learned not to assume my vision is 20-20. One more time.

Assumptions about people, groups of people, us versus them, lead to ugliness, disintegration, war. I’d like to eliminate hatred with the right word. The right gesture. It won’t happen. Even if debate and arguments were my forte. That doesn’t mean I can’t affect one person…and then another… and another. I may never know the outcome. I have enough trouble keeping my floors vacuumed. Taking over the job as a god is more than I could fathom. Ever.

Taking over the job as one useful, loving human being in a difficult world, is another matter. One. Only one. That needs to be enough.

rumi gratitude as antidote

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Time flows in the same way for all human beings; every human being flows through time in a different way. (Yasunari Kawabata )

My husband sits in a beach chair and chats with his step-sister. One side of the deep end of the pool is set aside for adults only. In this roped-off area I am the only person treading water. An ideal meditative moment.

June has almost disappeared. And sure, I can retrieve parts of it in memory. But, I almost missed two meetings because they seemed to be in the plenty-of-time-yet future. And then, suddenly, the dates arrived. And I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been.

Now I travel the pool invisible-labyrinth style. I watch the people in the distance, the sky, the trees. Take notice of color. Celebrate the moment. Watch for the metaphors that inevitably appear without forcing them.

Two small children wrapped in colorful life jackets cheer divers; perhaps the children are their friends or siblings. Then again, little people know only this moment. They could be applauding style, or a step into the unknown. Toddlers recognize no more than the current blue or gray. The baby pool behind them is not a place of confinement. It is a place of safety. Adults stand next to the little ones. They clap as well.

Earlier I’d been focusing on the dead trees behind the pool area, the ash that have suffered and been lost. Now I recognize green. Trees that have survived. Hope exists.

Not all reality is embraced inside the evening news. Even if certain political names and issues promise more destruction than dead trees, and appear like incurable viruses.

I recall an Ann Frank quote my granddaughter Katie repeats, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”

The water that had seemed so cold when I first let my shoulders drop below the surface, has suddenly warmed. I am moving. The temperature has not changed; I have adjusted. If I could soften the world I would. In the meantime, I simply touch one heart at a time, and pray the trend continues.

Pass it on.

Rumi: The Garden of the World

Rumi the garden of the world no limits

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Anyone who tells you fatherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to you, they are understating it. (Mike Myers)

I watch my sons interact with their children. Both the games and the more serious moments. And I see men who are creating relationships, not simply setting rules from an I’m-boss position. Sure, my sons set limits. But they also let Katie, Rebe, and Ella know it is okay to reach for stars. The girls are worth whatever effort it takes.

In addition, my younger son helps with the care of his fiancé’s son. When Dakota was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he answered, “A daddy like Steve.”

What more could I want?

And yet my sons give to me as well.

A few days ago I called Greg, my firstborn son, when I was in a difficult and frightening situation. I was away at a writers’ retreat and my wallet was not in my backpack. I knew my husband was swimming at the Y. I asked Greg, “Are you home?”

He didn’t say yes or no. He answered, “What do you need?” And while he had very little time he stopped at my house and searched my couch cushions for the missing wallet. And then he called my cell and let me know he had not found it, but would help in whatever way he could.

I figured out where I had left my wallet with all its essential interior parts later—after stopping credit cards and replacing my driver’s license. All my money and identification cards were locked in a restaurant safe. And I sent Greg a voice message to let him know all was well. However, he must not have received the message yet when I called about something less important. He answered his cell even though he was busy at work. Of course I told him we could finish the secondary business later. And we did, while making plans for Father’s Day weekend and for the next day Grandpa and I have with his girls—our grandchildren.

Once again, what more could I want?

Not that long ago I called Steve in a state of near panic. I’d gotten lost on my way to a funeral. And never made it to the service. My husband was out of town at the time. While I knew my friends would forgive my absence, I had difficulty forgiving me. Steve, his girlfriend Cecelia, (also my good buddy) Ella, and Dakota seemed to know exactly what to say—and exactly when to simply listen. Yes, even the children seemed to be aware on some level.

When I was able to let my husband know about the incident, Jay offered me the same kind of listening ear and positive feedback.

This is a blog, not a full-length memoir. I can’t tell every story.

I am blessed. What more could I want?

Then, of course, there is the humor the men in my life provide. All three of my Petersen men know how to enhance a celebration or lighten a sad situation. Greg and Steve have a mock rivalry going about who is the good son. They have even signed cards or notes that way.  It’s the family inside joke.

Happy Fathers’ Day, Jay, Greg, and Steve. My mantra of gratitude repeats: What more could I want?

Happy Fathers Day


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Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me. (Carl Sandburg)

I like to cook and prefer baking from scratch. If I don’t know what the chemical ingredients are on the side of the box, chances are I don’t want anyone to swallow them. However, Memorial Day weekend didn’t give me enough hours to make a dessert for a family celebration. I picked a mix that didn’t have a what’s-inside list long enough to fill a full-length hard-bound chemistry text.

A new neighbor moved in on our street. I also wanted to bake a loaf of sweet bread for her. A welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift. But the time for that baking didn’t appear either.

Finally, a few hours open. I find an Internet recipe for blueberry bread. (I change every recipe just a little, part whole wheat maybe, and olive oil, but the link connects to the directions.) My flour bin looks nearly empty, but an unopened bag waits in the cupboard. First however, I decide to listen to a message on the recorder. A toll-free number. And I have no idea why I decide to clear the flashing red button now. The light does not interfere with measuring cups, blueberries, or cooking time. I expect the voice to tell me I’m getting a free medical alert system—all previous calls for this offer have been deleted.

Perhaps, I read some divine-intervention sign because the robo-call is from our local grocery store chain. The introduction begins with the usual, perky “hold on for an important message” and background music.

The deep voice advises that the store’s records indicate I may have purchased a bag of Gold Medal flour containing e-coli. The made-for-advertising voice continues with the package sizes and suggests a website.

Okay! Yeah, guess what, oven? You get a break today. At least until after a trip to the store for a refund. I’d planned to purchase an organic brand the next time anyway.    

As I read further, the recall seems to be overcautious. Most of the illness came from a few people who ate raw dough. Connection unverified. It’s the usual American hype. I am grateful for the caution. However, larger problems continue.

Yes, contaminants can appear in and on food. Monsanto has been accused of causing enormous harm according to multiple scientific studies; money and power protect the company. Another blog could develop from this one on that issue. I hope it does—on another page. Through many bloggers. For now, I look at serendipitous timing. And the learning that came during that process.

I have a friend who refers to certain unexplained well-timed moments as god-incidences instead of coincidences. She may have a point—especially when the moment continues into deeper thought. And greater awareness.

what is left of the blueberry loaf I made for Jay and me

blueberry bread

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Maybe who we are isn’t so much about what we do, but rather what we’re capable of when we least expect it. (Jodi Picoult)

I read the notice, but my brain interprets it in its own way: This road will be closed from April 23 until it is ready for the landing of the Apocalypse ship. Sure, I know another way to get to the Y. But, I’m not certain where the construction begins and ends. And part of that road leads to our friend’s auto repair shop.

My car is running okay, but it is a 1997 model—old by mechanical standards. And I have no idea how soon the ship will land. Okay, I’m exaggerating. However, the detour sign has become the new travel standard.

Expect long delays. Great! I need to pick up my granddaughter. At least back streets are available. And my direction-deprived brain knows them.

Life detours are another matter. An old friend learned her cancer has returned. Another friend battles a second bout of sepsis, cause unknown. I talk to someone I haven’t seen at the Y for a long time. She moved to Arizona, and then returned to Ohio because her daughter developed MS. The daughter needs constant care.

Even on a less serious level I woke up last week with pain in my shoulder. Too sharp to go back to sleep. Fortunately, I was able to figure out that movement made the discomfort worse. I had no shortness of breath. No heart problem. No reason to wake my husband.

Nevertheless, I had no idea what had caused the muscle pull. Even holding a book caused pain. I tried anyway. A day and a half of heat and rest revitalized me. The perfect time to notice the beauty of the moment. I fought the urge to get up, clean a dirty corner, work on my next book, jump through the next hoop, cross the next bridge, or detour, before I came to it.

Rest. Sometimes I get lost in my own overdone good intentions. Maybe the good intentions don’t matter as much as what I can do when the detours appear. This is the season.

enjoying scenery on a detour

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