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Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it, but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance. (Charles A. Lindbergh, aviator and author, 1902-1974) 

Another inch of snow falls on top of the ice we already have. I can walk across it in boots without making more than a crunchy dent in the surface. Winter has moved in to stay—at least it feels that way. I remember grass as a distant memory. My ’97 Toyota is iced to the curb with almost a car length of solidified snow behind it. I have a medical appointment this week. Mother Nature does not care whether I make it out of my petrified spot or not. At least, I am grateful to be retired. When I worked in a hospital pharmacy, business didn’t close. If this were a few years ago I would need to take a bus in sub-zero temperatures at six o’clock in the morning. Okay, imagining that landscape possibility is one heck of a lot worse.

Yesterday I tried to slam the snow shovel into the offending space behind my car. I could have been attempting to break a prison wall with a marshmallow stick. Nothing. When I went back inside the house to get a spade, the look on my husband’s face irritated me, mostly because I knew he was right. My back already had a few twinges in it, and I sometimes walk with the stiffness of an old metal toy soldier left in the rain too long. So far I have been managing a back problem with heat and exercise. Pushing it may not be a good idea.

So, Terry, consider what you have been able to do: take care of your husband as he recovers from minor surgery; cook some wonderful meals for him; thoroughly clean-out the refrigerator; re-vamp three stories published in 1998 in a local magazine known as “Dream Weaver,” and then have them accepted by http://www.pikerpress.com/. The pending dates are listed on the web page. At least one of those stories you were able to illustrate. So far this has been a good year for poetry and short-story publishing. You remain free of the burden of wealth, but being internationally unknown has its benefits.

How the whole looks in the future is beyond my reckoning. I look at the bird feeder in our blue spruce tree and watch as a red-bellied woodpecker intimidates his fellow feeders. They fly away from his pointed beak. But they come back. Again and again. For as long as the birdseed remains available.

Okay, sun, I know you are out there! Patience? Sure, I’ve heard of the virtue. That doesn’t mean I’m crazy enough to ask for it.

Then, thirty minutes before my younger son, Steve, is due to arrive at our house I rush outside to shovel enough space for him to get his car into our driveway. I can handle the softer additional inch in that time without breaking my back. My eyes widen when I reach the street. Some unseen elf has removed the igloo material from behind my car. I figure out who he could be within seconds and call our neighbor, Brian, to ask if he performed this minor miracle. With what I hear as a heaven-accent soft voice he says that he did. My thanks are honest; I feel warmed by his kindness.

Steve widens the driveway path and finds the road under my car. A peninsula-shaped remnant of the ice remains in the street, but every car battles that one.

My thanksgiving should be complete. I’ve just received a get-out-of-jail-free card. However, a neighbor arrives. Our older son, Greg, and a passing stranger helped her out of her driveway last week with the help of our snow shovel, spade, and a rug that should have been discarded years ago.  She gives us a loaf of homemade banana bread.

I guess I owe Greg a loaf of banana bread…Then maybe I should provide another kindness to the next person I see, to keep the blessings flowing.

(pic not taken from our area; the snow just feels this high)

high snow

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One eye sees, the other feels. (Paul Klee)

This year will probably be the last one for our artificial Christmas tree. The bottom lower branch no longer lights. Our angel has toppled so many times she lies, as if exhausted, at the base. She is supposed to be reigning from above. Maybe she is afraid of heights. I suspect that is better than being a fallen angel.

My husband and I celebrate the full twelve days of the season, even if those days include the ordinary chores of laundry, rug-scrubbing, and bill-paying. Holiday music plays in the background. The greatest celebrations include a full day with our grandchildren.

On December 26 Miss Rebe pretended to be mommy-having-a-baby. Her imagination swelled as she followed that experience with a brain, and then a heart transfer with her newborn. None of these moments fit into anything resembling real life. However, Rebe did understand that surgery includes cutting followed by blood. Even in play young people recognize suffering.

“Don’t look, Daughter,” she told me. Of course within seconds the transformation had occurred and been reversed—several times. In a kindergartener’s world magic slips into the ordinary as easily as wind blows through an open window.

Somehow Rebe’s fantasy touched something real. Physical brain and heart transfers don’t exist beyond imagination. Empathy does. Answers may not come in easy packages. Time may not heal. In-a-better-place isn’t always the best response. Yet a quiet soul and listening ear can speak in unexpected, healing ways.

Most holiday seasons are tainted in some ways; that’s the nature of anything that has created form. This December has been filled with sadness, illness, and tragedy. I have seen friends and acquaintances suffer. Some have died, suddenly, at a moment when the lights were expected to be brightest. Instead they extinguished.

After her imagined ordeal Rebe told Daughter it was time to go home. Apparently she had returned into pretend-mommy mode. Baby, yet unnamed, lay tucked in the crook of her arm. We were on our way. She didn’t say where.

But then, life’s journeys aren’t mapped anyway.

pic from the Optimism Revolution

love tainted world Optimism Revolution

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There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day. (Alexander Woollcott) 

Ordinarily quiet and I get along like cake served with ice cream. However, I’d rather be at my aerobics class. Unfortunately, my breathing sounds as if my lungs were tossing pebbles at one another. After a while those pebble turn into stones and they sting. This isn’t the best time for lively exercise. Left kick, right kick, mamba, turn, and wheeze. Besides, my cough could scare off a class of battle-trained marines.

Since the monster wheeze responds only to steroid treatment I am now faced with the steroid monster’s side effects. I have the attention span of a two-year-old who has devoured half a bag of candy, and I probably won’t sleep much for the next twelve days. However, breathing is not generally considered an extra.

Okay, Ter, focus. How can I do that when one-thing-at-a-time feels as possible as collecting a foot of snow in a thimble?

First, drain that coffee and switch to herbal tea for heaven’s sake! Then try one task that requires physical effort—but not too much since my mind may think I’m marathon-ready. My body will balk.

Ah yes, one small section of an untidy cabinet. Face it, girl. Only one portion of cabinet. Slowly. Yeah, I know buzzed-on-prednisone brain, you also want to write an entire synopsis, make your Christmas presents, scrub the floors, finish this blog, annihilate every cob web in the house, and do laundry…all before your husband comes home from that beloved exercise class and the grocery store. Oh, and you will check your e-mail 47 times in between.

Right. Maybe that’s not the most efficient plan.

After that one reorganized section looks decent, I notice there’s a spill in the microwave. My actions snowball, with only one, okay two stops to check e-mail. As I struggle to keep my thoughts under control and lungs working properly, I think about the difficulties other people face. My husband is reading, “The Reason I Jump,” by Naoki Higashida. When Jay is finished he has promised to let me read it. When he comes home from class and the store he tells me he is ready to share the book.

I turn to David Mitchell’s Introduction and I’m lost in words, in pages, in this world opened by a boy born in Japan in 1992. This story explains the autistic world. It isn’t what an observer sees; it is as different as the interior and exterior of a locked cabinet, a wrapped gift, or a capped unlabeled bottle. Seeing the actions of an autistic person doesn’t tell what happens inside.

Day dissolves into dusk and I continue to read, needing to pause once for a drink of water and once for an inhaler break. Naoki answers questions that appear almost rude, with style and grace. He is thirteen. He cannot speak. He uses an alphabet board. Not all autistic people are alike any more than all people are alike.

One experience Naoki relates concerns listening to others instead of looking at them. Eye contact is too overwhelming. He sees with his ears and that is sufficient stimulation. Thanks to Naoki for helping me to focus, using my heart, paying attention to someone else instead of my own petty miseries.

Here is the Amazon link to his incredible and beautiful story: http://www.amazon.com/Reason-Jump-voice-silence-autism-ebook/dp/B00BVJG3CS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384473869&sr=8-1&keywords=the+reason+i+

walking in someone else's shoes

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Life can be difficult sometimes, it gets bumpy. What with family and kids and things not going exactly like you planned. But that’s what makes it interesting. In life the first act is always exciting. The second act, that is where the depth comes in. (Joyce Van Patten)

Thanks to my savvy brother, my father’s house has been transformed—from worn and dreary to modern and beautiful. Floors shine; appliances sparkle. Even the landscape feels different. The family homestead is for sale.

The memories are not. They simply don’t live in the same space anymore. My siblings and I need to maintain them, in our own ways. Strange how the moments I recall first aren’t necessarily the most significant. I smell Mom’s chicken soup wafting into the living room and up the stairs into my room. Our food budget wasn’t huge, but Mom could make a feast out of almost nothing. Then there was Christmas, the house uncluttered for a change, the lights from the tree reflecting in the front picture window. I watched more television as a child than I do now. Bullwinkle Moose acted as a perfect companion to homework, at least I thought he did. The television is where I learned about the Harlem Globetrotters and laughed with my father, deep hearty guffaws that expanded me a bit because I hated sports. Gym and I were oil and water. I didn’t throw like a girl—any round object could throw me. Meadowlark Lemon lightened my approach.

Not every memory brings a smile. Life doesn’t work that way. Grief, death, and trauma also touched those seven rooms. However, they didn’t live there. They moved on, as the clock moved from one hour to the next, as my parents accepted heaven’s invitation.

Sunday, just before I entered the small area where my church community gathers, I spoke with a man who said he had just found a place to live. His apartment had been sold, so he had been kicked out. He said someone gave him a sandwich, but it was getting cold. I heated it for him in the microwave. He didn’t seem to know how to use one. I was struck with how much I take for granted.

I always grew up in a house, small maybe, but a house. My father called me his little girl even as I reached my sixties. My childhood is gone, at least externally. My parents live with the angels. Nevertheless, I am grateful, for the good and the bad. I wouldn’t be me without both.

May I live in this day, with whatever comes, and find its blessings. Peace upon all.

enough

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If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.  (Nelson Mandela)

Service we needed done in our house takes up a large portion of the afternoon: drilling, decisions, and comforting a five-year-old who doesn’t like noise. No time left to go to the Y for a swim. I expect Kate and Rebe to express serious disappointment. They handle the situation well.

Rebe gets custody of PBS Kids on my iPad while nine-year-old Kate and I do artwork in the second-floor storage area of our house. There is no air-conditioning here since we have no place for duct work, but this has been declared girl territory, a clubhouse arena of sorts. The heat isn’t as horrid as August usually offers. I’m holding out. Rebe manages for a while, and then returns downstairs to the cooler air and Grandpa.

“You can have this page,” Kate says, tearing it out of her brand-new book of designs to create and color. “You can make cards for the family, and then copy them on the computer.” Kate is always planning. She wants to turn our storage area into a play room. That will take not only time but ingenuity. With Kate’s enthusiasm, however, I can see it happening.

She watches as I show her how to blend colored pencil, rounding strokes inside a circle, adding depth by easing orange around the edges of yellow. “See how it looks if you leave a tiny bit of white in a block of turquoise—on purpose.”

We share, heart to heart. I feel free to tell her that someday Grandma and Grandma may need to sell this house and move to a condo, when Grandpa gets too old to mow the grass. Not now. Someday.

“I hope that never happens,” she says. “There are too many memories in this house.”

I am impressed by the depth of a child who hasn’t reached double digits yet. She adds that she is not disappointed that she didn’t get to swim today. She got to spend time with me.

I look around at the haphazard space around us: old blankets, photos, a box with my old published materials, the dolls I bought for my mother—nothing of outstanding value. No one from Better Homes and Gardens has ever approached us with an offer to do an article. Nor do I expect any in the future. Yet, I am blessed.

Finally Rebe returns upstairs, her demeanor comments on the heat as she looks at us working in the corner. “Whatever are you thinking?” she asks.

Kate and I laugh. One more memory has been added to the rest.

learning from children  morning coach

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You can’t wait for inspiration. Sometimes you have to go
after it with a club. (Jack London)

Our street is blocked because of utility construction—gas line work. No parking on either side of the street. Enough noise to get the ears in the neighborhood accustomed to the upcoming Fourth of July blasts. And, of course, there’s the joy of trying to maneuver in and out of the driveway. Sure, I realize I’m lucky. I have a house and a car. More important, I have a husband of forty-two years and three granddaughters. The car may be seventeen years old, but it starts—most of the time anyway.

But, unexpected inconvenience can masquerade as the end of the world. Well, with enough flare for drama, it can. So, at dusk I decide to look out the back window of the house after the workmen have left for the day. Two fawns lay resting in our yard. Their peaceful pose would make a great photo for a meditation page.

I sit at my dining room table in between separate realities: In the front of the house, a ravaged scene, divided into light and blacktopped squares covered with huge metal plates. Signs along both sides of the street read—no parking Monday through Friday from 7:00 A.M. until 5:30 P.M. Rocky rectangles of sidewalk.  In the back yard the two young deer remain on the grass. Plenty of grass nourished by weeks of rain. Green provides a rich buffet for buck, doe, or fawn from the top of the hill to the bottom. City reigns from one window’s view, nature from the other. What I see depends upon which scene I choose.

No season lasts forever. Even construction. Although I have seen more of it in recent winters. Perhaps that isn’t so bad either. Not in an economy where folk need jobs and lines need repair. Maybe I won’t take that parking place in front of my house for granted when the work is completed. It’s possible. Then the deer can return to the front. Of course, they ate all the tulips years ago. There are plenty of weeds, however, to make a fine dawn or dusk meal. Eat, nature, and enjoy.

sign in Albuquerque, New Mexico

closed from Inhabitants of Burque Albuquerque construction

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