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Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. (Jonathan Swift)

“How nice to see you, Terry,” A. says. “But she recognizes my voice as I talk to another Y member, not my short stature and senior version of what was once strawberry-blond hair. A. is blind.

I have met her several times. Each time I get to know her a tad better.

I call her later because I finally figured out the right date for a senior social event. Jay and I will be bringing her home. She expresses concern for the pain in my back.

When she says she will pray for me I believe her, and ask her to add someone else to her list, a young friend who lives out of state. S. will be having surgery at the end of September. I don’t give A. full details, only an overview of a nightmare that began with a bout of pancreatitis.

And I realize the larger story is stuck in the back of my throat, in a huge wad of emotion that won’t be swallowed. A. seems to understand. But I don’t know why this woman I barely know has brought this out in me. Through some intangible connection. Beyond the visual.

“Your husband refuses payment for the ride home,” she says.

“And so do I.”

“Maybe you can come to my house for dinner sometime.”

I pause before suggesting she come to my house instead, after I’ve finished physical therapy. And that will happen by the time of the social event. “I should be just fine by then. Besides, I love to cook.”

But, I think about how A. sees with her hearing and memory—and how I don’t. I have no clue how many steps there are from the table to the bathroom. There is a narrow space between the couch and the television. Jay and I leave our shoes in the middle of the floor. Sure, on that day we would be wearing them, but I take sight for granted.

“You can bring a friend,” I say, more for me than for her. Someone who already knows what she can maneuver on her own. And what she can’t.

She isn’t sure whether she can arrange an escort or not. She hasn’t read my mind. And that is probably a good thing. I will take the leap. Learn. Make a new friend, who will become more than an acquaintance with a keen sense of voice recognition.  Then perhaps, I shall see gifts, once invisible, yet present all along.

just once understand

 

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Making a living is nothing; the great difficulty is making a point, making a difference—with words.  (Elizabeth Hardwick )

A Monday morning toward the end of August. Rebe has said goodbye to braces. Her smile is free from metal. She is at the orthodontist now for the final X-rays. And big-sister Katie and I shop to prepare a special meal for her. Ravioli, her favorite. A dessert Rebe will help make since she will want to be in on the fun. And a carbonated beverage. Cola, a no-no for younger sister for the past two years. Katie and I find small fancy bottles. We choose to savor, not guzzle, since sweet colas and nutrition don’t have much in common.

I tell Katie about the wind and rain at the Hamilton County Fair last weekend. Mother Nature overdid the crowd control. Sure, I had fun and met a few new people. The day was wild. But wildly successful? Not exactly. I expect my granddaughter to go on to other topics: sports, friends, crafts.

Instead she asks, “So, what are you doing to let people know about your book?”

I hesitate. Katie is twelve-years old. My next event could come in a few months.

“What theme comes throughout the book frequently? Use that. In different ways… Make it stand out.”

We are outside a store as she asks. She grabs my heavy backpack and I carry the empty reusable bags for our purchases. I am aware of the disproportion. Not only in weight carried, but in information exchanged. I look at her and laugh.

“What is so funny?” she asks.

“You are. Because you are amazing. Tell me. How do you know all of this?”

“I go to book signings.”

She does. With her father. Gregory Petersen wrote Open Mike. He is working on other novels and has done standup comedy. Katie has made friends with writers. She has a superb imagination. In fact, she gave me an idea I used in my next book. I will give her an acknowledgment.

Not everyone has a twelve-year-old consultant. But then, she fits my audience. And I think about the typical preteen. The typical preteen who lives inside the average adult. In The Curse Under the Freckles Chase doesn’t have much self-confidence. He is surprised to get help from an inanimate thing, a tree, a Rainbow tree that offers magical gifts he could never expect.

The tree helps its Star League member with its multi-hued magic. It draws out the color inside the Star League student.

Since Katie has been helpful I tell her to get something for herself—she buys a present for her sister’s birthday instead. I don’t need to savor sweet cola. I have this precious time with my granddaughter before she starts seventh grade. My Rainbow-tree granddaughter. She brings out color inside me.

following dreams

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The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings. (Kakuzo Okakaura) 

Today could be declared Murphy’s Law day because what didn’t go wrong at least turned sideways. The details would take up too much space to list. Almost anyone living in the real world can give personal examples with little thought.

Readjustments take more flexibility than my agenda allows.

I finally get a chance to write—for what I think will be an hour—when I’m needed somewhere else. No question about it.

“I really hate to bother you,” my needy friend says.

My answer comes with a sigh, but not much thought. “I left a funeral no more than seven hours ago. Two women I know lost husbands this week. What am I giving up?” The answer is rhetorical because I don’t want to admit how much I cherish my precious, guarded quiet time. I think I can get through this.

And I do. My creative inspiration before the interruption lay somewhere between pause and stutter anyway. Most of my work this evening returned into the backspace key. I have already forgotten the erased words, and it is probably better that way. Like every writer, my work doesn’t fall onto the page the way the credits appear after a movie—in quick, neat-flowing lines.

Toys lay scattered on the floor of the room where I type. Another chore on the endless list. And then, I notice a block of Legos and remember my middle granddaughter’s building project. At first she wanted to make a building, with symmetrical sections and colors that match. Windows, or at least open spaces. Decorative pieces in fun places. A roof, all one color. But we didn’t have enough orange pieces to cover the top—not without a wrecking crew and a plan to make something smaller.

Eventually my granddaughter did start over. She designed a cake. She accepted the fact that our building supplies are scarce, and created an imperfectly colored celebration. A happy birthday for her sister turning twelve next week and a blessing for me today.

I can’t expect more from each day than what is. But often, each moment is enough—more than enough.

Miss Rebe’s art

Lego cake

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Love as if never getting tired. (Mother Teresa)

My energy level isn’t where it belongs—I choose a get up at 4:30AM, write, start-crockpot-soup and-then-marathon-until-10:00 PM regimen. At mid-afternoon I would crawl into bed and call it a day if I could. Four-year-old Dakota comes to my side. Jay and I are babysitting. I would be fatigued even if my schedule were as blank as copy paper sealed inside the original packaging.

“Play with me,” Dakota says.

He’s wearing his ubiquitous tool belt. I suggest we find something suitable to repair with a plastic wrench. But his pretend mind and mine aren’t in sync yet. Eventually I pick up my iPad. We find scenes from “Home Alone II.” Then he discovers a game where Santa’s beard is decorated—or mangled—in a barber shop. I help him find a razor in the set of game tools. Santa will be bald this year, with green fuzz. We laugh. Dakota’s dark eyes light up brighter than our tree’s.

The world as he recognizes it during each moment, is all that exists.

We are not officially his grandparents. Perhaps, someday, his mommy and my son will marry. In the meantime, I painted him in as the fourth cool snow-person grandchild on our seasonal wall hanging. I bought it several years ago and added the details.

Dakota is two years younger than our youngest granddaughter. The only boy. He creates an even number to our children’s group. The two older girls have already made future family plans for the fuller set, far beyond a reasonable expectation, including home-away-from-home rooms in our house. I don’t care. The girls’ enthusiasm is both encouraging and beautiful.

When Grandpa Jay arrives home Dakota meets him at the door. Jay has achieved rock-star status in this little guy’s eyes. And all Jay needed to do was take him to the YMCA to shoot baskets. My husband wore out long before Mr. Dakota did.

Later Jay fights sleep at our son’s house and Dakota reaches into the refrigerator for two tubes of yogurt—one for each of us.

“Want to see my room?” he asks.

Really I’d rather ask Jay to move over. I won’t. My neck is begging for a hot compress. I feel twice my age, a feminine form of Methuselah reincarnated.

Instead I answer, “Sure.” Mother Teresa did not leave the words “as if” out of her statement about love. Real life limits remain.

The rewards, however, continue.

4 grandkids

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Each minute we spend worrying about the future and regretting the past is a minute we miss in our appointment with life. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

The electricity flashes off about eight in the morning, turns on again, and then gives up seconds later. I’m in the shower. Fortunately there is enough light to turn off the water and grab a towel.

The computer screen is a dull, uncooperative black. Google is as accessible as the inner chambers of a collapsed, condemned mine. At least temporarily.

I’m grateful my car is out of the garage because the garage door doesn’t have a convenient old-fashioned handle. It has a one-track attitude; it responds only to an electronic opener—and intact electricity. Sure, the door can be opened manually. If you are taller than the average fire hydrant.

Apparently the power outage has affected more than our short street. A traffic light at a major intersection is out. I am grateful for courteous drivers. Yes, they do exist. Unfortunately, the-guy-with-the-need-to-read-bumper-stickers-while-driving-seventy-miles-an-hour-three-inches-from-your-bumper demands more attention than the individual who understands four-way stops at a malfunctioning light.

The plot thickens. The electricity returns. About three hour later. But, suddenly we lose our land line, television, and Wifi connections.

A slow, steady rain falls, but no heavy wind, no indication of a thunderstorm. I think about unexpected struggles. Sometimes they are trivial, like a delay in access to my beloved connections to the world. Then again they can be violent, obviously coming from an uncontrollable force. The death of a faithful friend or family member, or a major loss.

And sometimes struggles come from unexpected, uncomfortable change. The slow disintegration of the agility in my hands, suddenly cramping without warning, or a discomfort that works its way into pain. Example: I suspect I pulled something in my left arm during an exercise class, but no length of rest, no amount of heat or cold, helps.

The nagging thought that this pain could be something more than a minor mishap crosses my mind. Not helpful. So, I imagine fear dissipating with the next breath, or out through an ear or… a nostril—don’t care where it escapes as long as it leaves. If something serious is happening let me face it when it is discovered, not now.

I slip my watch onto my wrist and discover that the time is correct. For a change. It may need a new battery. Or the timepiece may be past its prime. No object lasts forever. Uh, hold that thought until later. A lot later.

I discover that the pain in my arm is caused by a pinched nerve. Exercises that require weights will be off-limits for a while. A while may not have a definite end, but it does have one. Eventually.

Our push-back into an earlier non-electronic era ends as well. Apparently, our contact with the outside world had been stopped by a malfunctioning power brick.

So what is a power brick? I look it up and my virus protection warns me that the page isn’t safe. Other links assume I already know what a power brick is. Google images present pictures so diverse I feel as if I am a kindergartner who has drifted into an advanced technology class, or a pre-school kid who has volunteered to guide customers through Home Depot.

Anyone could easily guess I don’t know what I am doing. Let the experts install the master switch that guides my electronic universe. My husband and I thank our service technician and he thanks us for being pleasant customers.

I celebrate re-entry into the current century and take on gratitude.

My watch’s slowness can be faced later. “Uh, silver time-keeper, I’ll pencil you in for a checkup tomorrow at two.” Of course real life could make some other appointments in the meantime. Who knows? One day, one hour, one second as it develops.

watch

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Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. (Richard P. Feynman)

But I do wonder why. A friend is suffering, fighting for her life. The cause of her illness appears to be random. She is young, with two elementary-school-aged girls. Another person I care about is going through chemotherapy for stage-three breast cancer. Beauty, ugliness, life, death, intertwine. Colors bleed into one another. They rarely remain sterile. Each horizon appears slightly different even in the same location. One same-tint batch of paint may differ slightly from the next batch.

I know this. Yet, I get caught up in either tragedy or joy as if either one were the whole of life. During a water aerobics class one day another woman and I talk. She asks how my book is doing. I tell her it’s okay as far as I know. Several copies of “The Curse Under the Freckles” are available through the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Eventually, of course, my beautiful grandchildren slip into the conversation. I mention the fun trips I have had with my husband. When I stop long enough to ask about my exercise partner’s life I discover she won’t be having a fun Thanksgiving. She is having surgery, to repair a previously botched surgery. She lives in constant pain.

This time I need to listen. Both ears open, my lips sealed. I remember a phrase used for a children’s class that made me smile at the time: This is my time to talk and your time to listen. Except now the advice is reversed. I stand close, watch every movement she makes.

I place both of my hands on my pool partner’s shoulders and wish her well. For now this is all I can give. She smiles.

The songs presented by Dan Erdman in his most recent Oasis evening come back to me as I leave the water. Dan’s music focuses on the positive, on the real power of love. Sometimes I hum softly as he plays and stifle the desire to belt it out. Occasionally there are moments when all are invited to join in. Then I feel uplifted, engaged. All of it is good.

Dan’s wife, Marcia, is a dear friend. She accepts me at the core of my being, both the places that express savvy and those that need work. She is the most intuitive person I know.

Needs-work seems to be the human condition. And I love people who readily admit they fit into the imperfect category. Together we can explore the world, find the beauty in a decaying leaf, a breaking body, an unpleasant surprise, and pain. We can celebrate with love, even if we don’t recognize the experience as love at the time. Perhaps it is difficult or downright ordinary. I’m not sure that depth can be seen from inside one moment anyway. I think it needs the context of time and distance. And we can’t do that alone. I know I can’t.

Thanks to all my friends along the adventurous path called life.

life challenges PIQ

 

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Children don’t need much advice, but they really do need to be listened to and not just with half an ear. (Emma Thompson)

Eight-year-old Rebe and I have a girl-bonding day. We are mermaids at the YMCA Water Park. Young mermaids! I need a lot more imagination than she does to fill this role. She explains the scenario and I follow, adding as much absurdity as I can.

The pool is divided into sections. Upper-class kid mermaids swim in the larger, shallow, easy-to-manage section. The lower class lives in the slightly deeper territory. I tell her I can’t fathom wealth, so I will tread water. (I prefer this area anyway.)

Of course her game morphs and she spends most of the time in the freer kicking space. She can swim. I celebrate listening to her banter. She doesn’t want to leave as the time grows closer.

“One more minute.” She raises one finger. Then she smiles. “Five more minutes?”

Rush-hour traffic isn’t going to get any better one way or another. Dinner is semi-prepared. Daddy won’t be picking her up for two and one-half hours.

“Five more minutes,” I say.

She grins.

Then a tall, slender woman pushes a young man in a wheelchair into the water. The young man is paralyzed. Rebe watches as the woman, smiling, pulls him from the chair and works his arms and legs through the warmed water.

“Therapy?” Rebe asks in a soft voice.

“I think so.”

“Or fun?”

“Maybe that, too.”

A huge man with skin the color of milk chocolate enters the water. He helps. I think about what a good idea his presence is. His size and strength could be helpful getting the young man back into the chair. The thin, pale woman and the large man laugh and joke with the younger man. I see the paralyzed man bat his hand at them. A response, probably enormous judging by the cheer of his two helpers.

“Therapy,” Rebe repeats. “Or maybe they are family.”

I pause taking in the beauty of my granddaughter. The two assistants look nothing alike. Yet, Rebe and I both know families—more than one—with a father the color of dark honey, fresh graham crackers, or gourmet licorice, and a mother as pale as apple blossoms or an unpicked peach. Rebe looks inside to who an individual is. The outside is secondary. She goes to a school where color is superficial; I live in a neighborhood where skin colors match the picture below.

Probably not, I think. “Maybe,” I answer.

I tell Rebe it is time to go back to my house. Grandpa is waiting for us. But I am grateful for those five extra minutes. They brought a larger gift than 300 extra seconds in pool water.

skin colored crayons

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