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Posts Tagged ‘determination’

fire (2)_LI

Keep yourself a stranger and pilgrim upon earth, to whom the affairs of this world are no concern. (Thomas Kempis)

Wednesday, November 22. Thanksgiving was hours, not days away, yet I imagined the duration as minutes instead. True, my focus seemed sincere: Organic preparation for family I love. Good thoughts about them as I measured flour or cut vegetables. And yet, a plentiful bounty wasn’t going to be the theme for this year. However, I didn’t know it. Yet.

In the afternoon I attended a meeting. How was our small church group going to present our Sunday celebration? The deep pink walls welcomed me. The third member of our team pulled a super-soft furry blanket over our legs. It broke the lingering outside chill.

I’ve always enjoyed Valerie’s house. Her husband’s painting on one wall attracted my attention. The honest white, brown, and tan winter scene seemed alive, the branches ready to sway.

We shared ideas. I’m always impressed by the intelligence of my comrades.

Hours later, after I’d tucked myself into an early bedtime, the phone rang. A member of our community notified our group about a fire, currently raging—at the house where I’d comfortably sat, before old wiring sparked a lightbulb change on the second floor, before it claimed their attic, before my perspective was about to take another turn.

“But, it can’t be on fire.” My thoughts ran wild. “I was just there a few hours ago.”

Sure, I sent positive vibes, also known as prayer. However, worry got in the way for far longer periods of time. What if? What now? Fear questions. Most of my energy remained bound inside my head and bed. Useless. I knew my friend who had warmed my legs earlier had come with her husband to help, immediately.

I was not prepared to see the calm on Valerie’s face on Sunday. She and her husband had lost almost everything. And yet—they had celebrated Thanksgiving. One precious moment at a time. His voice is naturally soft. Nevertheless, I heard every grateful word he said.

“As I watched the flames, I forced myself to think halleluiah.” Valerie’s words, as close as I can recall. No one had been harmed. The repair will be long and extensive.

These two wonderful people realize they are pilgrims on this earth. I am blessed to know them.

 

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November tree 2017It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise. (Nancy Thayer)

A windstorm hit the Midwest last week. I would have sworn every red, yellow, and gold leaf would be blown from its branch—possibly with part of the tree still attached. Most of the deciduous trees are winter-bare, not all of them.

Determination remains in all areas of existence.

I’m working on some edits. For someone else. I have a short deadline. Working on it away from home seems like the best approach because my house looks like the storm snuck inside, then, continued to create further havoc.

Moreover, Thanksgiving celebrations continue before and after the official Thursday. I enjoy cooking with fresh vegetables as well as baking without mixes. However, instant-prepare has an appeal for good reason. Packages take less time. Less clean-up.

So, why don’t I use them? I can’t fit as much love into ready-made. So, why can’t I take this time and put a little bit of me into the pages in front of me? If I didn’t care about this project, I wouldn’t help.

I take off my shoes and climb into a comfy chair. My husband is taking a class in another room. I make use of the time and work as I wait.

A tree sways in the wind outside the front window. Golden leaves sparkle against the blue sky.

One more revision begins. In expectation, copy-editing, and perspective.

 

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both books (2)_LI

I’m growing older, but not up. (Jimmy Buffett)

The tension in my neck tells me I am not in synch with the world as it is. Mass natural disasters are difficult enough to understand; mass hatred is another. I don’t need to delineate any of it. The blind can hear about it, and the deaf can read closed-caption. The unaffected remain in a narrow, wire-thin margin.

Pain begins before the first commercial on any news channel. Gentle heat helps my muscles. Distraction, blended with love, helps my spirit.

My husband and I take Dakota to afternoon kindergarten on Thursdays. Dakota asks me to sit in the back seat with him. We discuss the six-year-old boy world and his unique observations along the familiar route.

This young man notices details: The recycling truck has two steering wheels and two sets of brakes… He discerns how a toy train track fits together. His mechanical expertise will probably surpass mine before he reaches third grade!

During a rare pause Dakota notices the back cover of my second book, Stinky Rotten Threats. It is on the back seat between us.

“Isn’t that your picture? Why is it there?”

I smile. When I am with this young man, my intention is to focus on him. My successes, failures, and mundane trips to the doctor or post office don’t come up. He probably assumes I don’t pretend to pilot a plane without knowing what an instrument panel is. However, other than stocking the refrigerator with his favorite cheese and hot sauce, he wouldn’t know what else fills my day.

“This is what I do, buddy. I write. This is my second book.” (The first was The Curse Under the Freckles.)

“Wow,” he says flipping through the pages without looking at them. “It must have taken you more than an hour and a half.”

Dakota’s notion of numbers and time hasn’t developed yet. I realize I want world change overnight, in my spirit, even if my head knows a sudden transformation is as impossible as writing a middle-grade fantasy adventure in an hour and a half. The Star League Chronicles fights evil—not with fists and swords, but with truth. Even in make-believe, a story takes more than one page for goodness to win.

“Two years,” I answer. “It took me two years.”

He doesn’t say anything, but I suspect he thinks I must be mighty slow.

I don’t mind. Slow is the general idea. My neck thanks me. Growing up all the way isn’t recommended anyway.

 

 

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We are born believing. A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

A friend is doing me a favor. My right hand has limited strength. A fractured metacarpal, age, and arthritis have limited my joint flexibility. Maneuvering a Lovenox injection into my belly prior to a diagnostic procedure would be like repairing eyeglass screws with vise grips. Who knows what I would stick with the needle? A thumb, wrist, or table top in a bizarre flip move—if I managed to remove the tricky cap.

Not only does J. arrive to help me at 7:30 in the morning on five consecutive days, she brings in the newspaper—and one morning she delivers a bag of apples. Farmers’ market fresh. The photo below is no longer accurate. I had two ripe red beauties for lunch today. Four have been baked, cinnamon sweet. Yum, maybe one more now.

A pre-school neighbor has an EpiPen dependent peanut allergy. Even so, for the experience, her parents took her door-to-door to greet neighbors on Halloween. I gave the little girl two dollars to spend on a treat for herself earlier Tuesday morning. However, the snacks we shared with visiting princesses and superheroes were not safe for her.

I offered her an apple. She was thrilled. J.’s gift expanded. Something as simple as a piece of fruit has made a child happy.

The apple has further symbolism for me. I belong to a spiritual group that is, yes, named after a fruit. Many years ago, before I joined, a young woman read a Scripture quote, “You are the apple of my eye.” Several members were pregnant, and round as apples. They laughed. The name stuck, long after the developing children were born, and became parents.

Now, we are grandparents. Ephemeral fruit, hoping to nurture life in a different way. Acceptance of ourselves and others, the ability to listen, change at any age, live and not simply exist—no matter how ugly the world may become.

Once fresh fruit rots it can become compost. It nourishes the soil. Rotten places inside me, any human, can disappear into the past…if I let go. And accept a humility that wasn’t in my agenda.

An apple seed. A thank you. A belief that grows through kindness, yet never calls itself perfect. Gratitude, renewed each day…

Thanks, J.

 

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Whatever might be taken from me need not leave me with a deficit in its wake. (Craig D. Lounsbrough)

Sometimes when sun rays slice through a tree, a new dimension jumps out where the light touches a branch or gnarly root. Now, as autumn strikes the Midwest I want to hold onto the last of warmth, and grab color for a little longer. I found a seasonal water-color painting in my basement. I painted the picture some lost number of years ago. I can’t find an old unused frame. Maybe I’ll buy one, maybe not. The drawing now stands bare in a cheap photo holder.

I saved unprotected paper. A small stain mars the left corner of my amateur work. The stain cause remains unknown. Outside, real leaves drift from one yard to another. Real memories float through my mind. Some are wonderful; the birth of my sons, the gifts of friendships, blessed guidance from an innocent child.

Other memories bring out the stains of the past.

Events better forgotten, emerge like uprooted poison ivy plants. Repeated reminders come through social media. Me-too, statements from women who have been the victims of sexual assault, pop up across the page, and then scream: You are not alone and never have been.

Some of the women, both old and young, share sparse details. Others do not. Eventually, I add a detail or two. Multiple assailants. Their conviction. My mother, as she passes judgment on me. A life sentence that ends only when I can forgive her, far more difficult than forgiving men I expected to leave me in a ditch somewhere. Since these individuals never cared for me, there was no trust to break.

Through social media, a few women admit assault, yet can’t face their memories. Many of the young Me-too’s express anger. Normal. Better than depression and self-destruction.

The real Me-too experiences flash like colorful leaves, but instead of floating away, join into fresh power with other survivors. You are all beautiful; you are not what was taken from you.

 

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Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase. (Martin Luther King Jr.)

My teenage granddaughter is helping me with a novel I’m writing; she sees with younger eyes. I value her perspective. I value Kate.

As I drive to her house to drop off the first few chapters, the early morning sun blinds me. Sunglasses dull the intensity of the glare, but the shadowy lenses darken the road and traffic as well.

A premonition hits me. This day is not going to be easy. I’m not completely well yet. Fatigue wants to take over my thoughts and body. I can’t let it.

Along the well-known route I pass a dead opossum in the middle of the road. Around the next corner I see a young boy with a backpack. He is probably waiting for a school bus.

I see both death and learning. 

One turn north and my eyes get a temporary respite. Maybe today’s metaphorical staircase will contain more winding, uneven steps than a direct passage, up or down, in or out of sun and darkness.

The discomfort in my gut lightens for a while, yet the pain I see in the world grows beyond what I understand.

I feel a need to begin with accepting whatever happens today, hear what others say. Even if I can’t understand.

Faith—it’s taking each step as it comes. Into the glaring light. Into the frightening darkness. Into the unexplainable. Into giving without judgment. Into peace.

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What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The flower our beggar squirrel beheaded has replaced itself—threefold. I suspect what I thought was a sunflower gift is a weed, a wild sunflower. The plant’s leaves appear as worn as my septuagenarian skin. I photographed the whole plant anyway. The leaves are part of its reality. I wear flawed parts, too, like every other ephemeral life form.

I struggle to conquer uncertainty and borderless fears. My husband and I are traveling to Europe soon. On past trips, I have met people who have brightened my spirit. Nevertheless, the worry-pain I build-up feels like surgery without anesthesia.

I have the same sense of direction as an untethered balloon. Leave my familiar surroundings and I float wherever the wind takes me.

I imagine telling my husband, “Sweetie, I’m following you everywhere you go as we travel. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Um, even on my way to the men’s room?”

There may be a few problems with my plan. Maybe I’ll take everywhere out of my request. Superlatives such as everywhere, the greatest, the worst, and all, lose truth somewhere. Death is final, as far as I know, at least as far as my limited vision can see. The other side has only sent subtle hints, two or three pieces from a billion-piece more-than-I-can-fathom puzzle.

In the meantime, I study the weed in my front yard. Yellow. Green. Hints of brown. Sun. Shadow. And I wonder how one dull, broken stalk replaced one flower with three.

“Hey, girl!” I tell myself. “You’re taking a trip that frightens you because you know it’s worth the risk. Have a good time, and recognize the flowers among the weeds. Who knows what lies ahead?” I’m about to find out.

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