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Posts Tagged ‘positive attitudes’

You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet. (Hal Borland)

The sunflower that bloomed at the base of our blue spruce wasn’t meant to be as permanent a gift as I thought it would be. I watch a squirrel nibble on stray birdseed and then chomp off the yellow head of the flower.

Beauty gone in seconds. And a meal on the run for the squirrel.

Unfortunately, the tree, towering above the yard, has lost branches to disease. My husband’s uncle gave us the spruce when our first son was a toddler. In recent years the tree’s maintenance has cost enough to support an arboretum. Spruce’s upkeep has ended. Nature’s natural longevity will take over. Nature wins.

Later in the afternoon Jay, Ella and I wait on the front porch for Ella’s daddy to arrive. A squirrel stops to eat seed in the yard. He moves closer and stares at us. Ella moves toward the critter; the critter doesn’t skedaddle. I pull my granddaughter back. This is NOT natural for a squirrel. I get up to shoo the pest.

Jay grabs some feed from the bag not far from the front door, inside the house. “That’s probably the squirrel I fed yesterday. He’s looking for more birdfeed.”

Squirrel waits while Jay tosses a seed meal onto the sidewalk. Critter does not care that I photograph him. His snout has a slightly dark edge. Is this the thief that beheaded the sunflower? Maybe. Don’t know for certain.

My thoughts are not sweet. Don’t like you, squirrel. Yet, as he eats I see parts of life that are graceful and disarming, annoying yet universal and not made of solid darkness. All living beings need to eat. The way he picks up tiny seeds has charm.

And yet, I don’t want him too close to my family. Wild animals, even small ones, need to remain wild.

Fear, however, needs to be tamed. I think about the news, the same inflammatory stories repeated on an infinite loop, tenebrous expressions on a national leader’s face, dark enough to suggest malice, worse unspoken. Horror grows strong in the imagination.

Reaction born of hate, however, adds fuel to malice.

The next day as Jay leaves for a class he calls to me, “Your squirrel is here. He’s begging to be fed.”

“Not my squirrel,” I answer laughing.

However, squirrel has a handful of seed before Jay leaves the driveway. The seed is given via my hand. I admit it; I don’t have all of life’s answers.

After squirrel’s feast, with photo of possible suspect

Before the crime with a pic of the injured tree

 

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The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. (Carlos Santana, musician)

I don’t take breathing for granted—not after a two-month fight with asthma and bronchial issues. Then I broke my hand and the complications escalated. My second book in the Star League Chronicles, Stinky, Rotten Threats, came out.

While my hand was in a brace, a pen could have been a foreign object. For weeks after my hand was freed, I wrote with a strayed moth-like path across the page. Typing wasn’t much better, slower, yet possible. My twisted middle finger crossed over my ring and little finger.

I continue with occupational therapy to correct the problem. My handwriting is legible. Pain is minimal.

Now, as I drive in the rain I wonder what to do next. Each day I missed allowed my work to get lost among the grand onslaught of well-known-first-to-be picked publications, then independent press and self-published books.

In my new fantasy, Chase and his friends face evil capable of destroying their magic woods and killing their leader. The kids don’t give up; they can’t. And, of course, as the writer, I saw snags appear along my way—like a computer that turned itself off as I finished final edits the day before my deadline. The gosh-darned-electronic-device erased a whole slew of edits.

No, I didn’t take that incident as a quit-while-you-can prophecy. I understood it as a challenge. (After a few cleansing yet non-repeatable expletives) Can I do the same with my health issues?

I begin the uphill drive home when I see a woman walking with a cane in the downpour. If only I had Star League powers… Maybe magic tools don’t exist in real life, but I do have an umbrella. And several more at home. I pull over and call to the woman, offer protection from the deluge, albeit late. Her hair hangs drenched in her face.

“I’m almost home, but…” She pauses. “Thank you. Not many people would stop and do that. You can pray for me, though. My name is Geneva.” She stands in the wet and shows no sign of urgency. “I paid my rent. I really did. My landlord says I didn’t. He’s going to evict me.”

I am dry inside the car, yet feel a sudden chill. “Of course, I will.”

Geneva asks for nothing else. The futility of a one-umbrella gift hits me, and yet she says, “You’ve made my day, though. Thank you. Thank you more than I can say.” She turns and continues to walk.  Without the umbrella. Uphill, far more uphill than I drive. Far more uphill than any challenge I face.

As the day passes I’m tempted to go back and look for Geneva. Perhaps, I will find her again. I don’t know. In the meantime, I pray not to forget that moment. Or her.

Photo: Sun and Rain

The sunflower appeared compliments of a visiting bird. No sunflower seeds were planted. It was nature’s gift.

 

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Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. (Joseph Addison)

When I try to make a fist, my middle finger doesn’t want to cooperate. It remains in an upright position and causes my ring finger to cross over my little finger—a bully gesture caused by a hand attached to a profoundly nonviolent individual. I didn’t like football before I knew about the number of brain injuries in head-butted players.

Therefore, I wait in my orthopedist’s office to discover whether I will need surgery. I’m early for my appointment and I open Janis Thornton’s new cozy mystery, Dead Air and Double Dares.*

Janis opens the story with a powered parachute destined to crash. Inside is an asparagus-thin woman who runs a newspaper in a small town. Crystal Cropper’s age fits in the senior citizen category, but she bristles when she hears the o-word. Besides, she investigates crimes without fear. And, after her experiences in Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies, if she isn’t afraid after almost—oops, no plot spoilers permitted—she isn’t afraid of anything.

I have only read as far as Chapter Six and I have laughed several times already. Out loud. Crystal’s personality sparkles with every action. She has spunk.

Author Janis makes it clear the victim is dead, but long descriptions of the scene a coroner would explore, is gratefully absent. For me, facing a fictitious dead body beats the possibility for slicing my right hand.

I’m called back to be seen by the doctor sooner than I want. One more page, just one more page. This office is entirely too efficient.

Fortunately, an x-ray shows I do NOT need surgery, just a time machine to go back and remove twenty years of accumulated arthritis. Yes, the metacarpal fracture did cause residual damage, but occupational therapy should help. In time. Lots of it.

Patience is a virtue I’m told. However, when it comes to a good cozy mystery, I’d rather not wait. I wiggle my offending fingers a few times and pick up my new signed book. (Thanks, Janis.) Chapter Seven and onward. Reading is to the mind what occupational therapy is to my fingers. No interruptions please…my mind is busy.

*The links for Janis’s books can be found on her website.

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The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. (Albert Einstein)

Ella leads our play and I follow: trick or treat, hide and seek, happy birthday in multiple forms—bunny’s fifth birthday and mine. Ella plays the role of Daddy; I am Daughter. I ask how old I am today. The reply? Seventy. In the make-believe world, the next obvious question has an unknown answer. It doesn’t matter.

While my spirit keeps up with the imagination of my granddaughter, my bones don’t. My lower back aches. But, I don’t tell Ella. Later, when her daddy and Grandpa come back from their errands I will put heat on the complaining area. For now, I will move a tad slower.

Then, I notice the microwave announcing my food is ready. I didn’t put anything in it. My bed buddy is warm.

Ella admits she did it. She shows me how she placed the fabric-covered bag of rice inside and hit Express. “For your back.”

How did she know? And get this warmed for me so quickly? During hide and seek?

Ella goes to the toy room and grabs the box of bandages. She places a strip inches from the most annoying area. Comforting heat relieves the discomfort in my back. I sit leaned against the chalkboard on the floor in the room with the toys as we play.

“You are amazing, Ella. How did you know my back hurt?”

“And your throat, too.”

My hiatal hernia has enlarged and burned the inside of my throat. Not a problem I would share with a child of any age.

Ella’s Down syndrome may have affected her muscle tone and other areas of her development. However, she has been reading phonetically for several years. Her intuition is beyond exceptional. She is a blessing in my life.

I’m not sure she knows how to explain how she understands what most people of any age would never recognize. To me, the answer is a mystery. For her, she is simply being Ella.

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I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened. (Wilma Rudolph)

I am a cloud-white, magnet-covered refrigerator. Appliances don’t celebrate birthdays. We don’t speak either, but I’m making an exception. For my final goodbyes.

My compressor stopped. And the husband living in this small house immediately sought help from an expert, a neighbor who can repair anything from ceiling fans to jet engines. The expert declared me incapable of resuscitation. Then he offered a cooler to save my interior parts—including at least a hundred dollars’ worth of items bought less than an hour ago from the grocery.

Another neighbor also came to the rescue. She said she had a freezer in her basement. I was impressed. The wife, the woman who rules the kitchen, turned my controls to the coldest possible temps. I gave it one more effort. I brought life back into me, Lazarus raising Lazarus.

Maybe I don’t have vision in the human sense, but I know Terry smiled. She saved my handle when it broke last year. With black duct tape. True, it’s not a conventional cure, but it kept me in alignment for a while. The sides of the tape are frayed, but the handle works—even if my energy can’t be promised for much longer.

Yes, I too ran and ran and ran. However, modern stoves, refrigerators, wash machines, weren’t made the way my ancestors were—to function through generations. Before profit became a god. No need to mention my brand. The notion is universal.

My replacement isn’t going to be loyal any longer than I have been. I plan to hold on until the delivery service pulls my plug. I’ll go wherever I’m led. I can’t hold on much longer anyway.

Tomorrow? Who knows? But, I count blessings. I lost nothing I was given to guard. I thank a kind neighbor. And that sudden burst of energy to run one more time.

the old handle, new stainless steel, and old in thermal camera view

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I can’t control what’s fair and unfair. I can’t control the nature of the business or the nature of society or the nature of the world, but what I can control is how I choose to see the world and what I choose to put back into it (Aisha Tyler)

A squirrel destroyed our squirrel-proof birdfeeder and then escaped through the break he created. The chunky critter had eaten his fill and then emptied the rest of the seed onto the grass. Sure, I grumbled, but at least a few birds managed to find some of the loose food.

A few birds. Nowhere near enough to approach a notion of fairness for our smaller visitors. Fairness has little to do with reality. I’d like to say I accept whatever falls from malevolent skies with the tranquility of a Buddhist monk in perpetual meditation. However, I suspect that few individuals have slipped while striking a nail with a hammer, smashed a thumb, and responded with an innocent smile, “Oh shucks.”

I remember a time when I was in a distant, lost personal place. A well-meaning acquaintance said she couldn’t understand how sadness and depression could keep someone from seeing the grandeur of a dogwood tree in spring.

I didn’t have an answer then. I see differently now. This woman’s judgment cut me off and ignored the fuller picture. I didn’t know yet that I needed to understand beauty by experiencing bugs, storms, disaster, and disease as well as delicate blooms. The word perfect is an adjective that lives fully only inside its definition.

In real life, darkness contrasts light, and creates shade as well as variant grays. 

Not every difficult place in a person’s life needs to be spread across an Internet page and sent into the world. I prefer to send a word, a gesture or two, an image. Then let it speak for itself. A book-sized explanation isn’t always necessary.

What could one smile or phone call do? It seems inadequate when approaching deep sorrow and pain. And yet, many years ago, a friend unexpectedly stopped by my house with a casserole. I recall its simple tomato-based contents now. Even more, I remember her timing, and the fact that she believed I was worth her effort.

May your lights and shadows create fascinating paths, rather than no-outlet mazes, or resentments built of broken birdfeeders and other stolen treasures. If not now, when the timing highlights the gems in each developing pattern.

light, shadows, and a goldfinch at one of our feeders

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The world may think you are only one person. But to one person, you may be their world. (Author Unknown)

My recovering fractured right hand failed as I was browning chicken to oven fry. I dropped the meat into oil and splattered searing hot drops onto my left wrist. Ella sees the gauzed area and wants to make it better. Now. My skin is red, with a few ready-to-pop blisters. I keep the injury covered because I don’t want my granddaughter to see it. And worry.

I turn the situation into play and call on Ella as a pretend Doc McStuffins, the Disney character. Since I have a box of miscellaneous bandages that have the lasting adhesive power of glue left uncapped for at least a year, I don’t mind if Ella uses them.

“Don’t look,” she says as she gets a slightly twisted bandage ready. She gives me an invisible shot. And I promise her I’m not going to cry.

Within minutes I have plastic strips on my hands, arms, and legs. Doc Ella McStuffins is thorough. She wraps her healing around the wrist of a small doll.

“One more thing,” she announces.  She presses the last strip in place on my arm. Then, she kisses the final bandaged surface.

My playroom rug holds a mound of empty bandage wrappers. Ella’s heart, however, is far from empty. I am blessed to be inside it. She is inside mine as well.

 

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