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Posts Tagged ‘expecting miracles’

A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points.  (Alan Kay)

I awaken from a short evening nap on the couch at my brother-in-law’s house. I can’t breathe. One inhalation of albuterol, two. Desperate, wheezy attempts to get air out of my lungs.

“Should I take you to the ER?” my husband asks.

We are six hours from home. The ER could be one mile away or as far away as Mercury. I don’t know. Finally, a pause between coughs. Water. More water.

I decide I will make it through the night. My brother-in-law escorts me to the most efficient air-conditioned room. My sister-in-law sleeps on the floor. I remain in a recliner I can’t adjust with a fractured right hand in a brace. My sister-in-law maneuvers the chair up and down as I need it, even for my nighttime bathroom trips. She needs to leave for work at eight in the morning, yet is willing to help me.

My wheezing doesn’t stop, but it doesn’t reach a critical level. I have no idea how much time lapses between albuterol rescue inhalations.

A frightening scene? Maybe. However, my in-laws are close-by. Jay is in a room next door. Love lives here. It fills me. Night will not give up a single hour of darkness. Yet, light survives. In hearts and minds.

A trip to Urgent Care. Antibiotics. Prednisone. More waiting to be the full me I recognize.

To breathe freely.

To turn the key in my car’s ignition with my right hand.

To sign Stinky, Rotten Threats, Book Two in the Star League Chronicles, now available, with a signature that doesn’t look as if I were pretending to wield an electric saw struck by lightning.  

To cut my own sandwiches.

To celebrate the ordinary.

The magic available in fantasy doesn’t exist on the everyday plane. The magic available inside the human spirit has power. It changes perspective. I’d like to say my IQ is 80 points higher because I learned to accept and appreciate care.

More likely, I’m simply a lot happier.

The same flower, in darkness and in light

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Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. (Carl Sagan)

I laugh at my middle granddaughter Rebecca’s antics long after she leaves with Daddy. She loves to play with an old pair of crutches that are too big for a nine-year-old girl. Each time she has a different pretend reason why she needs them.

Today’s reason: “I have boneless disease.”

She relays the surgical procedure, including plastic-skull placement with an occasional ouch; then she rises from a chair and reaches for the crutches. The OR is our backyard. She claims that all she needs to sustain her now, besides the beloved crutches, is a house filled with medicine. She pretends to swallow the first roomful.

I smile on the outside and chuckle internally.

“You raised my daddy. You raised my daddy,” she repeats the same line with a rising chuckle. Yet, I know she wants to be just like her father.

Rebe’s daddy, Gregory Petersen, is an author and a stand-up comic. Rebe’s wit is already sharp. Moreover, she has my complete attention, and she thrives on it.

When she is not in pretend-mode, Rebe is one-hundred percent honest. Two years ago, when I gave her a signed copy of The Curse Under the Freckles, a middle-grade fantasy, she took one look at it and asked where the pictures were. She knows I write, but she sees me as her ancient playmate.

Imagination doesn’t need to disappear with childhood. I happen to be a very old youngster.

By late spring, early summer, the sequel to my first book will appear—Stinky, Rotten, Threats. (No link yet. All is in progress.)

Chase Powers and his magic woods friends are attending summer school. Chase failed sixth grade—he studies both everyday fractions as well as how to use magical skills. His friends are self-motivated. They have natural smarts; they grew up with magic.

Of course, even school in a magical setting doesn’t follow the teacher’s plan. The adults in Chase’s family enter the woods for instruction, and Chase sees how much trouble newbies can be. Add interference from the evil Malefics… Then, Chase sees a change in the magical world he could never imagine even with the most potent tools.

Boneless disease never appears in my story. That fantasy belongs to my granddaughter.

Chase Powers is a fantasy character in a world that does not exist. However, his character thinks, feels, and acts like a twelve-year-old boy.  Anna, his friend, is a near-genius who has a knack for unintentionally getting under Chase’s skin, the way real people do sometimes.

Even so, something incredible is about to happen.  In the story, and in real life. Yes, a lot of bad news rolls off commentators’ tongues with the same tone of voice used to forecast a partly cloudy day. Ugliness is real.

However, so is beauty. A friend calls. A child draws a picture—just for Grandma, Mommy or the dog. Not all brightness comes from sun. Hope is like a seed, or a plot. You can’t tell how it will grow in the beginning.

I do hope you will bother to turn a page that promises a lead out of darkness. Of course, I would recommend my own work. However, if anyone has suggestions for inspirational titles, go for it. I am always glad to hear about a good, positive-minded book.

Peace, and may something incredible touch all.

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Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

I am in a small circle of friends, sixteen people today. We have religious roots. Some of us cling to them more than others. However, dogma doesn’t come up in our sharing. It is secondary. Spirituality, how-we-live, is another matter. One woman in our group has brought her daughter and six-month-old grandson.

As expected, he steals the show. I pull out my iPad to sneak a picture as he points to the words in a songbook. However, my library of photos is overfull. No picture happens. A message appears: Go to settings and… This moment will need to stay in my memory. Perhaps, even better, I will need to find meaning in what is happening now, over and beyond a cute pic.

I consider the baby’s innocence. As we sing, share, pray, he brightens even more, his sweet smile blessing all of us. We discourage political discussion—particularly in depth—less as a set rule than as a directive. We are on the same page politically anyway. Rants prove nothing. We try to work toward peace, toward being peace.

Quiet acceptance and encouragement refreshes my spirit. I suspect baby felt that presence long before I did. It allowed him to goo and coo his acceptance of the much older folk in the circle.

Yes, prejudice and hate masquerade as virtues: taking a few incidents and calling limited evidence the whole, posing as victim. However, pointing out another person’s flaws rarely helps. Most folk have an instant defense system. Closed ears, open mouth, or both.

Now, how to love in a world where hate is the norm? That question may take more than a lifetime or two to answer.

one light, a beginning

photo taken from my iPad (Yes, I finally accomplished that small challenge.)

lit-candle

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We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are. (Anais Nin)

I am at the funeral of a man whose name I have heard for more years than I can count. Yet, I have never met G. He could have had brown, blue, or green eyes, been tall or short, had red hair or none.

Sure, I have created a picture of him in my mind. However, I have met people after hearing only their voices and my predictions have had a zero percent accuracy rate. Chances are, the image I’ve summoned keeps my prediction skills in the same nonexistent category.

I have come to support friends who knew G.

He had a mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia. Yet, he was not his diagnosis. When the people at his church came to know him, they recognized his unique sense of humor. The church members accepted G—as he was. He liked coming to services and being part of something important.

Smoking comforted his symptoms until that comfort turned on him and destroyed his body. One incredible day, with the prayer support of his friends, he gave up a three-packs-a-day habit within twenty-four hours. Too late, but nevertheless a miraculous change had occurred. He knew he had done something for himself.

As buoyed as I am by the beauty of the funeral service, I realize I missed something. I missed knowing G. The casket is closed. If I speak to the man inside, only his spirit may hear. I will not get a response, except in my thoughts and imagination.

I think about the anonymity of the casket. Those who mourn see inside with their memories. I need to listen even closer, and catch opportunities to recognize truth beyond the obvious, the judgments people make without even realizing they are making them.

Sure, a talkative lady with a quick smile is easy to approach. A child next to her who appears to have multiple disabilities may seem to disappear in the crowd—even though the child’s presence is like the ignored elephant-in-the-room. He is not his disabilities.

Sometimes I have no problem saying hello to people with obvious difficulties. Then, at other times I have felt every intelligent thought I have ever had drop away. Opportunities to make connections evaporate, especially when I feel anger in the air.

All of us are of infinite value. I pray to recognize that worth—even in the wrinkled face I see in the mirror. I can be hardest on me.

you are of infinite worth

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A good friend is a connection to life—a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world. (Lois Wyse)

A. and I sing along with Christmas carols played in the background at the senior Christmas party. She is not distracted by the colors and movement around her—she can’t see them. Her white cane leans against an empty chair next to her.

A.’s enthusiasm buoys mine. We have already exchanged gifts, nothing dramatic. She gave us the practical items we asked for: potholders and handkerchiefs. We got her a grocery gift-certificate. The gifts don’t matter. Our intentions do.

“You don’t know it, but you really helped me,” I tell her.

Then the leader of the senior program goes to the microphone and asks for quiet. Among a group of older folk, that’s something like suggesting a tornado stop mid-whirl. For a change, everyone’s hearing aids are tuned-in. A little girl plays a few carols on guitar, single notes, but the songs extend into complicated musical patterns.

The featured entertainer switches from guitar to keyboard.

“He’s good,” A. says, tapping out the rhythm to “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

Our friends at the table seem to pick up on her enthusiasm. A. wins one of the door prizes.

When we are in the car and returning home, A. asks how she could possibly have helped me.

I tell her about how our friendship deepened when Jay was in the hospital in the fall. I was having muscle spasms and needed to care for my recovering spouse. She was sunshine when I felt uncertain and more than a little frightened. A. told me then she could listen and would be my friend forever. Her assurance helped me get through a difficult time.

I watch as she feels the items through the plastic wrap over the basket of the door-prize win. Dish cleaner, a wash cloth, some unidentified smaller objects, possibly kitchen oriented. I can’t see anything tucked under the visible objects. I don’t know if any other treasures wait inside. A ceramic angel is situated on top, in the center.

At first I wonder how an angel could have anything to do with miscellaneous cleaning products. Maybe the connection doesn’t need to be obvious. Maybe the blessed isn’t separated from the ordinary. And a human-angel is appreciating a ceramic image with a tactile dexterity I have never experienced.

The winter solstice appears now. Each day slowly adds daylight. A. has never seen light. Yet, she has absorbed it through her being, even if her eyes can’t observe a single cloud, or recognize one shade of blue or gray.

I see the shapes and colors. However, I haven’t captured the fullness of what I can touch, taste, smell, see, and hear. Yet.

A., my newest life teacher, unlocks her apartment door. “Call you in a couple of weeks,” she says. I hope she doesn’t mind if I contact her sooner. This student has a short memory.

The Solstice: created from a public domain image

winter-solstice-with-background

 

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

Today. Finally. I’ll get a few errands completed. Even though old man winter is mocking the bright blue sky by plunging the temperature below ten degrees. My key opens the lock on the door of my 1997 Toyota on the second try.

The ignition responds. Unfortunately, the door doesn’t close—not because the seat belt is in the way. I pull the door shut and try to hold it sufficiently tight to lock, with the false hope that it will stay there. Oh, sure, the lock catches, but the door is not properly positioned—and I can’t get it unlocked again.

Great! I. Am. Stuck. Inside. This. Car. And Jay is at the auto repair shop now getting an oil change for his car. Naturally, my purse and phone are in the house. I am simply warming little green for a minute or two. My old car has decided it doesn’t want to go anywhere.

Now, if I can get the window to open… I press the buttons. The windows lower only on the passenger side. That means I get to climb over the gear shift, pray I don’t drop the keys out the window, and open the door from that side.

Hallelujah! I’m sprung. Little green Toyota remains iced, but at least I can call to see if Jay is still at our friend’s repair shop. Our friend suggests Jay make a simple repair with a spray; it does not work. Jay and I both drive back to the shop—not in our neighborhood. He follows, as my car-dian angel.

The warm drive allows the door to relax and behave as if nothing had ever been wrong with it. Ack! Ack! Triple ack. At least my-car-that-could-be-almost-classic-if-it-didn’t-resemble-a-demolition-derby-look-alike gets an oil change. And I learn to cover my key with the point of a pencil (graphite.) Graphite in the form of a pencil point or graphite spray helps to loosen the lock.

Of course, this cure only helps in models old enough to earn rust stains. My vehicle fits in that category. Little green is not old enough to remember carburetors, however.

My errands will wait for tomorrow. Maybe. Fate, the weather, Armageddon? Whatever tomorrow brings, I’m grateful not to be a four-foot eleven-inch ice cube.

iced-in

 

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Intuition is seeing with the soul. (Dean Koontz )

As Jay drives to my ophthalmologist I sit in the backseat next to my granddaughter, Ella. Headlights from oncoming cars mildly bother me even though it’s daytime. Morning. No glare from dark to light contrasts. And discomfort from dilating drops hasn’t happened yet.

I am certain I need new glasses even though I got a stronger prescription last year. But am I a candidate for cataract surgery? Don’t know. Yet. Besides, the hot, polluted Midwestern air teases my lungs, constricted by asthma.

I sit next to Ella. By choice. At six she is old enough to entertain herself. We play games together. I look at a bright Ella instead of an outside sky I’m not ready to face even with sunglasses.

“Name an animal,” she says.

Mickey Mouse is also playing. I hold the toy and act as proxy. “Mouse,” Mickey answers.

Ella nixes that response. Mickey is a mouse. He needs to think outside his own species. At least I gather that from her head shake. And I smile.

“Monkey.”

Better.

She adds, “Moose.”

At the office Ella sits so close to me I have difficulty filling out the paperwork. She glides her hand down my arm and sticks her head into mine. “You be okay.”

I’m grateful Grandpa is taking her to the park. My sweet granddaughter doesn’t need to sit and recall her own surgeries. Including open heart. Twice. Although she couldn’t recall the first. She hadn’t been six-months old yet.

Ella's last day at Children's Hospital

“Fine. I will be just fine.” I bring my fill-in-the-blanks sheet back with me. Down the hall. Not far. But, my memory slips back to a day before Ella learned to walk. To the first time I realized Ella could connect with my spirit in an unexplained way.

I was sitting on the floor as she crawled across the floor. My husband was watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He saw fiction. I saw a scene. A girl who could not escape. And I heard her scream. A waste of breath. The sound reached into my gut and ripped out my own memories… a moment that had been bad enough. The degradation afterward worse. I gasped.

My granddaughter could not have understood what I saw. Or remembered. Or felt. But, she climbed onto my knee and interrupted the scene, her eyes wide. She did not have language yet. Nevertheless, her face said, Look at me, not at the television.

At that moment I lifted Ella into my arms and returned to the present. The beautiful and blessed present. The horrid rerun of the past disappeared instantly with the power of her remarkable, aware soul. She caught me before my thoughts became entangled in the ugly. We moved to another room, another scene. Into the moment.

Ella has Down Syndrome, a tripled-twenty first chromosome. And, most likely, a tripled intuitive sense, a gift that is uniquely hers.

She is also right about today’s visit: I am okay. I need a new prescription for glasses. No surprise there. But, no cataract surgery yet. My vision may be surreal for eight more hours. And eyes a tad more sensitive. But, I don’t need perfect sight to recognize love.

“Name an animal,” she says.

And the game continues.

Ella back view at Mt. Airy Park April 2015

 

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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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There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story. (Frank Herbert)

From my grandchildren’s point of view my published book is something like an honorary mention trophy. Nice on a shelf. When I gave my eight-year-old a copy of “The Curse Under the Freckles,” she wanted to know where the pictures were. The girls are more impressed by ice cream—chocolate chips blended in sweet raspberry flavoring. Or a day of pretend with Grandma. Touch a child’s life directly; that is what matters. The words will hit later.

My older son, Gregory Petersen, is also a writer. His book, Open Mike, was published through Martin Sisters several years ago. He is working through an agent with his next book. Greg is capable of writing thousands of words a day even though he has a full-time position that includes a leash phone; he takes his job as daddy seriously. I am more proud of him for his excellent relationship with his daughters than I am for his incredible ability with words. And his gift for expression is exquisite.

All life can be presented as a story. I often have difficulty turning that perception off because imagination doesn’t always fit the moment. For example: in the middle of the night. Oh sure, I’m told to write ideas down, whenever they come. But that doesn’t seem to be realistic when the notion isn’t a one-liner. The rolling avalanche of a plot and the inevitability of sleep deprivation are counter-productive in the long run.

Sometimes relaxation comes from reading—letting the thoughts of others feed me, especially when those thoughts lead to the profound. My sister Claire shared a book she had already read, Same Kind of Different as Me. It fits into the grab-the-soul category. Thanks, Sis.

Authors Ron Hall and Denver Moore tell a true story. Ron is an international art dealer. Denver is a modern-day slave, a sharecropper, who runs away into a life as a homeless person and decides it is better than being unofficially owned. The love of Ron’s wife, Deborah, leads toward an unlikely friendship.

Denver Moore says, “I found out everybody’s different—the same kind of different as me.” What and how he discovered that similarity, the human center-core spirit, is where the beauty of the story lives—sometimes clothed in miracles, or incredible pain, or deep sadness.

Stories never really end. The characters in my own tales develop a kind of reality. But in fiction, at least before publication, entire chapters can be erased and rewritten and then changed again. The past, present, and future are as pliable as soft clay.

In Hall and Moore’s story the facts of their lives remain solid because “The Same Kind of Different as Me” is non-fiction. At the end of the narration at almost seventy, Denver admits he has a lot to learn. The last page is not the last page.

In April Paramount plans to release a movie starring Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellweger, and Djimon Hounsou based on Ron and Denver’s New York Times best seller’s impossible journey. I did not know this until I checked the Internet for more information about the original publication.

Impossible, hidden, a forgotten acorn that becomes an oak…who knows? The story continues…Any story can continue…

same kind of different as me

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You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on them. You don’t let them have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space. (Johnny Cash)

Somewhere around two in the morning I waken with a throbbing right hand. Did I roll over onto it? Did my sleeping body drift into the past and forget that arthritis rules my right thumb. Inflammation tells each movement what it can do and what it can’t. And it is a strict taskmaster.

Of course I rebel. I have writing projects to complete, and the cooking, cleaning, and laundry don’t do themselves. Fantasy appears only in story form. Even on the written page reality intervenes. Sure, I can invent a character, a girl who floats into the air at will. However, if she levitates at the local Seven-Eleven havoc will appear, unless, of course that is part of the plot.

A cold compress helps my hand. It tells it to stop complaining for a few minutes anyway. Somewhat. So does calming thought. But sleep does not return. I get up at four and begin to write, trying to embrace the silence as a gift. I add a page to my next novel, then another. This does not mean they won’t be backspaced later. A story has progressed. The missed sleep will demand to be repaid later. For now I take advantage of the moment.

The ache reminds me that I am alive. Fully. In this moment. I’m told this is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis. As my parents, aunts, and uncles told me: “It won’t kill you. You’ll just die with it.”

Finding someone with more serious problems is easier than I would like. I’ve been praying for a young friend who is expected to be in intensive care for longer than the two weeks originally expected. She, too, is a writer. And a reader. Her security is a book resting on her chest along with the ambiance of IVs, monitors, and an existence where pain owns the building. She has had two surgeries. Complications continue. So far her miracle begins with survival.

A child close to me has a friend who died of a rare inherited disorder; her sister has the same disease. My little friend is reluctant to talk about her grief. So I cannot reveal her identity. Life and joy do not circumvent difficulties. They travel through them.

The sun peeks through the window of my office, also a toy room, the place where my grandchildren and I play. The rays will find family pictures, disorder, my half-empty coffee cup, and possibilities I don’t see yet.

Sure, I would like to take the brace off my hand post-miracle. But I’m not going to count on it. However, I haven’t typed the ending to my story yet. That choice isn’t mine anyway.

 

seeing the inside brightness

hand brace09212015_0000

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