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Archive for February, 2019

Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out—it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. (Robert Service, writer)

I’m ready to start editing, eyes on the computer, coffee cup in my hand. And I set the cup on the pull-out board of my old desk—right smack on top of a pen. Gravity wins. Every thought I had falls out with the hot liquid, onto the floor and rug. Time to wash a load of caffeine-soaked rags.

An unplanned cleanup becomes the metaphorical grain of sand in my shoes, the shoes I’m not wearing yet. Sunrise is fresh and I’ve already drowned the day in spilled coffee. Far from an important event, but I can turn it into an omen. Easily.

Time to brainstorm some perspective. Random fun memories for starters. When the memory occurred doesn’t matter:

A granddaughter at play. She introduces herself as the teacher, Mrs. Tushman. Mrs. Man for short…

My grandson’s huge brown eyes and his turn as pilot. “We’re flying 20 miles and it will take 20 hours…”

Years ago, my parents gathered my siblings and me into the car. We were going somewhere. It could have been a trip to a park. It could have been a trip for ice cream.  The fun came with the surprise. The smell of popcorn! It’s a drive-in movie.

I smile. The splattered area is relatively dry.

I consider simple signs of love that have happened within the past 24 hours:

A thank-you note from my friend, Liz. We haven’t seen one another for years. Our friendship is rekindling.

My husband’s words, “Wait, I’ll do that!” as I carry dishes from the table to the sink.

Countless opportunities to give back. Someone could use a reach-out call from me right now.

I’d like to think that the next time I get in my own way I will be instantly forgiving. Probably not. Besides, the mountain ahead remains ahead.

Companions appear along the way. However, the climber needs to grasp each rock to succeed.

I didn’t really need another cup of jitters anyway.

 

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There is no such thing as the Queen’s English. The property has gone into the hands of a joint stock company and we own the bulk of the shares! (Mark Twain)

A wet snow falls as a man outside the post office asks about our day.

My husband smiles and answers, “Fair to middlin.”

“You know where that expression came from?” the man says.

We don’t. I have never thought about it because it isn’t an expression I would likely use. However, the gentleman’s friendliness intrigues me. Mother Nature is in one of her icier moods. He doesn’t seem to care.

“I’m a country boy.” He grins displaying a huge gap where at least five teeth are missing.

I guessed he has a southern background by his accent.

“Well,” he begins at a slow, mellow pace, as if this were a gentle April afternoon. He must peg us as city folk because he gives a full explanation about where the bacon is found on the pig, the loins, the better cuts versus the less choice. “The middlin is up from the end, not the best quality. It’s still mighty fine though, the part that’s not bad at all. So, fair to middlin is good stuff. Makes up a great breakfast.”

I am not a big meat fan, but I listen anyway. No thanks to slaughter stories.

We wish him a fair to middlin day, better if possible, and move on. The next day I ask Google. The pig story does not appear. It is neither verified nor proven untrue.

The Urban Dictionary refers to the phrase as a term coming from the deep south. It describes cotton that fits the definition but lacks quality.

Later I find a closer explanation to this man’s tale. In America somewhere in the mid 1800’s fair to middling, often pronounced without the g, referred to the quality of livestock. The term did mean better than average.

Perhaps the friendly grown-up country boy with the optimistic, good-enough definition comes with another point of view. One that morphed over time. And gave him strength to ignore bitter circumstances, like ice and snow.

Today I walk in sun that has quickly melted the white. Same month. Same city. The cold continues. For now. Today is all I can experience.

The historian tells only part of any one story, and it contains bias. The future is made up of speculation.

Now, I celebrate the gift of life.

 

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If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. (James Herriot)

My friend is holding back her dog Hosea as I enter her house for a meeting. Hosea knew I was arriving as soon as I parked my car across the street. I am his playmate. At one time I would not have considered petting a dog or cat—not unless I wanted to wheeze, sneeze, or itch.

Sometimes I envy Bobby, another friend’s dog. Bobby is a gentle giant. He has a head the size of the average bear and a heart that is even larger. Time to play, time to play, his tail announces. And I wish I could translate dog barks.

Hahvey and Oui, my sister’s cats, have different personalities. Hahvey greets and expects the first pet. Oui waits it out and makes sure each human is safe first. Yet, the two felines understand one another. They rule the house, exactly as cat-rule demands.

As I’ve gained years my allergies have changed. Furs carry less of a threat. Atmospheric conditions? Well, they will cause even larger problems, for everyone, eventually. My days of allergic reaction are only a fraction of what global instability will eventually trigger. The atmosphere can’t hold much more carbon dioxide.

The animal world didn’t create the imbalance. It didn’t leak oil into the ocean or pollute the air.

Perhaps I focus on animal intelligence because human intelligence has been less responsible. Global warming. Yes, it exists.

In the time the earth has left, I choose to fight for what can be done to extend her life, and at the same time to love with the simplicity of the pets we know. The two can be compatible. And, hopefully worthwhile.

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Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.
(Erich Fromm)

Human animals think too much—without questioning the truth of their source. Unfortunately, we upright-moving creatures are born with ego and an overdose of certainty, based on experience in a tiny section of the world.

I wrote this poem more years ago than I recall. My granddaughter was a toddler. She is now in fifth grade. A ballerina. Grade-A student, She also happens to be significantly taller than I am.

These verses are based on an incident that occurred at the Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. My beautiful girl may have grown up, but she chooses her friends based upon inner qualities, not incidental skin tone. I am proud of who she has grown to be.

Naked Baby Dolls

 

Child-proof dolls

with painted black hair

and eyes forever open

 

lie on the floor

of the toddler room.

Figures identical, except for

 

brown or peach plastic bodies,

the dolls are naked.

The children don’t care.

 

Bare babies and honesty

fit the simple ambience

of parallel play.

 

I watch as each doll

passes from child to floor,

and back again. The brown babies

 

get picked first.

My toddler granddaughter pouts

as another child grabs

 

the dark doll she had been cuddling.

I try to hand her the paler version.

Her frown deepens. On the rug

 

the dolls that wait

look anemic, pale.

I think about human skin shades

 

from ivory to licorice, and mentally

list a larger number of darker tones.

Nutmeg, cinnamon, chestnut, bronze

 

chocolate, mahogany, coffee, umber.

Strange that at this age

the little people choose the toy

 

with the richer complexion.

Yet only a few of the children

resemble darker hues. The toddlers’ choices

 

contradict the prejudiced

adult majority. Someday I pray

these children see beyond the exterior.

 

The dolls wear a paint layer

thin enough to be chipped off.

Their differences can be altered with a brush stroke.

 

People share diverse histories

and cultures, but living hearts beat

a common rhythm.

 

May we grow

together

as one human race.

 

(This poem has been published in the anthology, FOR A BETTER WORLD and in the online magazine PIKER PRESS.)

 

 

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