I have long admired those who speak more than one language, even those who have enough words in the language’s vocabulary to be functional, if minimally so. My (for me) most impressive accomplishment there was my last next-door neighbor, originally from Iraq so she spoke Arabic, a language I knew nothing of but now have a few words, phrases. She and her husband were grandparents many times over. He is from Turkey. He spoke more “American” than she but she and I often had conversations over the back fence. She knew enough words to summon me there by phone, and I understood enough between her few words in English and gestures to have a friendly chat now and then.

I have been taking a sign language class the last few weeks. I know the alphabet but that’s pretty slow when you have to manually spell each word in conversation. Imagine the same in a spoken one. So the basic signs– girl, boy, student, mother, father, family, go, come, here, there, school, store, etc., are not too hard, it’s the temporal ones: when, if, whether that we have not tackled yet that I’m wondering about.

Pronunciation in sign is vastly different from verbal. If you ever took French in school likely you studied from a teacher they said taught Parisian French which I guess is opposed to dialectic or colloquial or provincial. Or Spanish, Madrid maybe, or Brazilian. Like here, southerners are barely intelligible to people from New York. We drop whole syllables and add more. We make up words: y’all could be two or several. All y’all could be who knows? A whole country. Some southerners when they are getting ready to say, do or cook something are fixin’ to. Doesn’t make much sense unless you are from here. For most normal people fixing is to repair something.

I watch the lady who signs in my church sometimes. She is graceful, I have no idea what any of it means (yet) but I enjoy watching her. Her arms float and waft words known to those who can’t hear and sometimes her face becomes enraptured with whatever it is she signs.

Maybe I will be that good someday but it will take a while. Probably a good idea to limit what I do until I understand a lot more.

A big plus: I will have to think before I speak!

Spider therapy

I don’t know too many people who love the sight of one of these eight-legged creatures either encountered on the floor or in surprise meeting on a walk through a near-invisible web in the woods. They scare me, too but I will save one out of a puddle of water.

One recent evening I opened my back porch door so my rescue dog Lily could complete her end of the day ablutions and caught a slight movement out of the corner of my eye. Just beyond the opening of the door was a long silvery strand. I looked above and left and there, moving methodically, was a large brown spider carefully and rhythmically attaching the cross-strands to its web.

I was transfixed.

The only thing I could imagine the other ends of this web would be attached to were the eave of my house and a tall pine that stood just outside the door. This was a span of 4-6 feet each way so I could see this was a massive spider web. As I watched this spider I was a little jealous. Here is this creature sharing this planet with me. The spider comes into being knowing what it will do its entire life. Make webs, catch and eat insects (in some cases with some spiders, small birds), make egg cases and ultimately die. It goes through its life doing exactly as it is meant. It has no ego. It has no higher aspirations. It does not want to be the highest order of spider or become jealous of other spiders for their more beautiful markings or various different webs. It simply exists in and of itself serving the purpose it was born to.

Is it the lack of ego? Absence of fear or other emotions? Is it the presence of these that so inhibits us, sometimes to the point of emotional paralysis? We come to these walls, these blocks. Then somehow we have a breakthrough. We move smoothly, then stuff accumulates. Repeating many times, different circumstances. It’s the journey we are told. Not the end, but we are moving toward… ?

So I watched this spider, long after Lily had returned to the house and her comfy dog bed. Proverbial in movement, graceful almost. Gratified that there are some things over which we have no control and which move on with their lives, small though they may seem.



Many creatures can lose an appendage and not die. A starfish can lose a leg, or 3, and regenerate it. Even the arm can become a new starfish. I did not know spiders could regrow a leg! We know sharks continually lose and replace teeth (evidenced by this summer along my coast). Planaria– those cellular things we looked at under a microscope in high school biology –can create an entire new creature from each piece cut away from the original. And the one we all know, lizards (geckos, anoles, etc.) can grow a new tail if all or part breaks off.

One of these latter found its way on my sun porch. I was on the phone and my rescue dog Lily was close behind me. It was up on the screen and it took a minute to realize it was on the inside. Probably would have been fine, minding its own business but knowing Lily’s capabilities and appetite for the new and different I thought it would be better off if I caught it and took it outside.


First, do you know how hard it is to actually lay hands on one of these? Then when you have it the little thing wriggles out of your (however light so as to not squeeze it to death) grasp till all you have is its tail, which it breaks off by swaying rapidly back and forth. Maybe it does this intentionally. Lily made quick work of the still-wriggling tail while I tried to gently capture it again. Success, opening the door, placed hand on the rail by the steps and it wouldn’t jump off. No matter how many ways I turned my hand it trotted back up my wrist as though that which would save it (anywhere off my arm/hand) was more of a danger than I. Flattering but not my intention for the little thing. Lily caught on to what was happening and raced by me to place her massive open jaws underneath my hand should he misstep and fall into them. He saw this and jumped off to the safety of the brickwork that is my house.


I imagine he will have quite a tale to tell all his friends.


You know that saying if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans? He must be laughing.

This past Saturday was one of those lovely slow mornings where you think it’s going to be a cushy day full of enjoyable moments and slow relaxing. 7 a.m. my cell bings and it’s my son, at an urgent care in pain waiting for a CT scan. We texted back and forth a few moments till he was being seen. So I called my brother. Sister-in-law answered, I felt terrible knowing in Texas it’s 6 in the morning, apologize for waking her, tell her what’s going on. She asks where is he, I gave her the cross-streets which at that point was all I had. Wait, I say, I’ll ask him.

He gives me the name, says it’s a new place. I call my sister-in-law back, she’s dressing to go over there. God bless her! She is not particularly a morning person but sure was a blessing to me at that very moment, and my son.

I texted my son, right away he comes back: “She’s here, that was fast!” So they sit together and wait for the CT results.

And I sit here 500 + miles away.

Acute appendicitis, not horrible but bad enough and very painful. Ambulance is called. I text my son: “I am coming.” Wondering, is this necessary? He will be fine, doesn’t need me (the worst words a mom can think to herself about a child).

“OK,” comes the response. I am now at a park chatting with a friend about all this. Still shaking because I am not there, she looks very concerned, reinforces my thought that he’ll do fine without my being there, being considerate of the fact that I just moved to a new place, am still unsettled.

But this is my child. Thirty-five years old, still my child.

Calling my vet, yes by some miracle they do have a spot for my Lily rescue dog, on Labor Day weekend.

Delta whisks me through the reservation, gives me a medic rate, I give them the hospital phone number for verification.

I don’t think any flights have ever been easier in my entire life, even with a connection in Atlanta.

Still, this is a very simple surgery, he doesn’t really need me.

Sister-in-law generously offers their guest room to me. Gratefully I accept hoping I am not such an inconvenience, short notice like this.

She meets me with my niece at the airport. At the hospital there is my son, post-surgery, still weak but looking well, skin is warm to the touch but not clammy. That’s all I wanted. Lay eyes and hands on my child.

I stay an hour maybe, by the generosity of my sister-in-law. I know she is tired. Besides watching my son carefully, scrutinizing doctors and medical people for me, keeping by him with his girlfriend throughout this very trying day she takes her daughter to swim practice and does the various thousand other things a mother of a pre-teen does on any given weekend. And yet she allows me as much time as I need to assure myself that despite absence of appendix my son is whole, mending.

Unexpected. The hospital gives Bill their blessing and his walking papers on Sunday mid-day. His girlfriend whisks him away. My sister-in-law and I go to visit him that afternoon while his girlfriend goes out to pick up the meds the hospital prescribed for post-op/recovery and a few groceries. He is moving slowly, still reeling a bit, coming back from the suddenness of it all.

His girlfriend returns, we exit.

Unplanned. Unbidden. Unwanted. Unavoidable. Blessings come in all sorts of disguises.

Thank You God for taking such good care of my son, of me, of my brother, sister-in-law and niece.