rain

Maybe having brushes with 3 tropical storms and a tropical system, but I cannot remember a year that I have seen so much just general rainfall.

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I do not watch news programs, nor do I subscribe to the local newspaper. So I have no idea what the cumulative rainfall is. It does not really matter. I live in a coastal town so mostly the ground is sand. We have trees so we have leaves and pine needles that fall, decompose and form a thin layer of topsoil. Subdivisions and developments truck in soil to make lawns, landscape crews mulch at least once a year. So not actually on the beachfront there is soil. Not rich, it’s sandy, but soil.

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Still, the rain drains and soaks into the ground within an hour. Not much standing water so thankfully some areas have less mosquitoes. But the area where my neighborhood is was once a watershed.

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Since we are also within 10 miles of the Cape Fear river everything from here drains there.

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I have way overplanted my backyard. In maybe 20 x 80 feet I have three fig trees, two Althea, two hydrangea, a gardenia, two (baby) paw paw trees, a Daphne, beautyberry bush, pussywillows, tansy, 3 lemongrass, asiatic lilies, penstemon, wisteria, passiflora, angel trumpet, old man’s beard, butterfly weed, butterfly bush, iris, daylilies, Black-eyed Susan, echinacea, mint, rosemary, iron weed, elderberry, star anise, Carolina allspice, Vitex, clethra, daisies, firecracker flower and invasive monarda. It’s really hard to walk around back there. I have a few pots with herbs, tomato plants and some okra.

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I have seen two rainbows this week. One a few days ago and one this morning. Because they are a promise, seeing them always makes me cry which is strange. Gratitude I guess. Relief maybe.

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Because it is July, and the rain, most plants are loaded with blooms, and bees and butterflies. I have often wondered where do they go when it rains.

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Wherever it is, they always reappear when the sun comes out and the flowers dry. And the spiders. Especially the ones on the water spout.

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identity

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Flowers grow. A seed falls, it sprouts, takes root, blooms. An insect pollinates it, the flower goes to seed, the cycle begins again. This is what flowers do.

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Birds are hatched, fledge, find a mate, nest, lay eggs and the cycle begins. This is what birds do.

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I bought this baby grand piano when my father helped me buy my first house. It was a long-time dream to learn to play and enjoy hours of music. This was 23 years ago. I have moved this piano eight times, three different states. I have never taken one lesson. I have bought reams of sheet music and taught myself to plink out a couple of tunes (“Simple Gifts”, “The Ash Grove”) but never learned chords. My father had been proud of me for pursuing this dream. But he never asked was I taking lessons nor took me to task about it. I was proud of it. Just having it I believed added a dimension to me that made me feel important. A false dimension. I gave it tangible importance to a relevant yet never fully realized relationship with my father. I grew up believing I was the family screw up, joke, the useful clown diversion when things went south. So this piano I believed gave me a credibility it could never give, especially since I could not play it.

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So I have been burdened lately over this piano. Felt guilt, even. I have enjoyed it for these many years as a piece of furniture, covering it with smiling family photos, a favorite crystal bowl that was my mother’s, scattered pictures of rescue dogs. A musical instrument should be played, loved. Yet I had allowed it to be assumed into who I was, even extending the assumption to a connection with my father who passed away over 12 years ago.

Let it go.

I won’t say I hear voices but this was close. I had to disengage from a created aspect of my life that wasn’t real. It was hard. For a time as I mulled this over I regretted never learning to play. Disappointed that I may have even wanted to have it because my talented mother had played but because she had hated the years of lessons would not allow me as a child to have lessons.

Yet still, this was a piece of furniture virtually unused in any function except a superficial one of a very large coffee table.

After this grappling and deliberating, realizing this had to be a choice I made separate from anyone else’s wishes, and looking into the future— if I had already had the piano for so many years and never learned to play, how likely was it that I would ever learn?

Not very.

So I separated myself from the false identity I had created. I let the piano go to a family of musical people who had always wanted one and would play it and love it and enjoy it as it should be enjoyed.

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I suppose I will always keep a wisp of the dream of learning to play and the place where the piano was still surprises me when I walk into the room and it’s not there.

But I am no less without it.

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small dramas

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A week of drama… mockingbirds standing up to a hawk, defending their babies nearby

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Spider crabs

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under the watchful eyes of rescue dogs Lily and Lulu on the riverbank

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and a fledgling cardinal in the road, watchful aunts, uncles, parents, cousins frantic chipping overhead

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so much drama.

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survival

When I was younger my father was about 4 steps ahead. Of everything. He talked about ‘cholesterol’ before I ever heard a doctor say the word.

He saw the importance of balancing a healthy diet, exercise and rest before there were personal trainers.

So when Dad started talking about bomb shelters I didn’t  panic but I didn’t ignore him, either.

He and my mother were looking at different places to think about retiring. Sadly, Mom passed away when she was too young, and Dad never really retired. He bought a small business after he left his corporate career and ran it until he died.

Anyway, one weekend he was really excited, he’d found an old grist mill in a (then) very obscure town in the mountains. The walls were 3-foot-thick concrete, and there was a natural spring there. I honestly believed he was going to move us all there— this place with no windows —until Mom talked him out of it.

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Pretty sure if I had to figure out how to survive on my own, in nature, I’d have a hard time. I know a bit about edibles— herbs and wildflowers, but I doubt that I know enough not to starve. I know nothing about mushrooms and wouldn’t eat one someone picked in the wild no matter how much they assured me they knew what it was.

I live in a hurricane-prone area. Since moving here there have been 4-category 1-3 storms in 5 years. So I have a generator, freeze-dried foods, many solar- and battery-powered items. As yet I have not had to use many of these. If something -or someone- were to cause me to strike out on my own I’d last maybe 3 days. My 2 rescue dogs would probably do better.

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I have known outward bound people. They take small groups of kids out at summer camp and ‘rough it’. I have been to summer camps but either this was not an option or my mother felt giving me safer experiences like horseback riding, learning to sail or working with clay made more sense for me.

So I am really hoping I don’t actually have to deal with any hyper-extreme circumstance or situation. At my age my sense of adventure may include sky-diving, body surfing and mule rides into the Grand Canyon, but that’s about the extent of it.

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So even though this picture, taken by my son, is from more than 10 years ago, they say riding a horse is like riding a bike. You never forget.

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minutia

My mother was organized, well-ordered and no frills. She could not be bothered with frivolity or trivia. When she planned something or ordered something by mail she expected it. And whatever it was generally complied.

Not so for me.

During this virus panic I have not changed much of my routine. Pretty much a homebody, I basically pattern my schedule around rescue dogs Lily and Lulu. I have a volunteer schedule that has been canceled so it’s just the dogs.

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We have our walkies, mealtimes and cookies. Since they are nearing their golden years I add supplements to their diet to keep them limber. None of which is available here, I have to order them.

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Two orders I placed since March have gone missing. I can only attribute the losses to this pandemic crisis because in over 20 years of placing orders with Amazon.com I have never lost a single one. So today I am waiting. UPS is holding Lily and Lulu’s hyaluronic acid supplement hostage. It was scheduled for delivery yesterday. Now today. They even gave me a little map to track it. An hour ago the truck was one street away from me, in my neighborhood. Now it’s across town. I don’t get it. I should have walked over to where it was when it was so close. Who knows now when it will get here?

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They still have enough supply here for a week or so but seriously? Why doesn’t the guy just bring us our supplement? It’s like waiting for a pot of water to boil. If it were for me I wouldn’t care but I am the only thing standing between my dogs and justice. I am their provider, defender. When someone makes a joke about little terrier-mix Lulu’s (slight) weight problem I take umbrage.

It’s those small things that you have to watch out for. Little fires. Put them out, quickly.

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This may stem partly from an ‘encounter’ I had with a couple of neighbors a week ago. The upshot was, kind of like the Sesame Street song, “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others, One of These Things Doesn’t Belong”. So I was the ‘thing’, they said, in not so few words.

Cruel.

True, I’m not like many other people. None of us is. But I am realizing I live in something a friend of mine once described as a Stepford wives neighborhood and am politically incorrect besides.

Oh well. It’s true, I don’t have a husband, grandchildren or enjoy travel, shopping or gossip. So no, on those counts I am different. But I have a feeling it’s maybe a bit more than that.

I can’t be bothered with what others think of me.

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But I really do want to know when this supplement will be delivered. Not why it isn’t. Just when. Even if it seems such a little thing.

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bees

This morning after rescue dogs Lily and Lulu had their breakfast and walkie we wandered the backyard. I disrupted the peaceful silence by crashing a clay-potted plant. I brought out a broom and as I swept up the soil heard an unfamiliar sound.

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Bees.

The busy summer sound of bees buzzing has been blatantly absent this spring. But I turned to see bees flying around the flowers, on the flowers.

The importance of these ordered, efficient, productive little creatures has been emphasized for a while. From honey production and pollination to economy and hobbies. Some have ventured to say if we lose our bees we starve.

I hope we don’t lose our bees. They are an integral part of everyone’s summer. But I remember chasing lightning bugs, or fireflies when I was little. I haven’t seen them.

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Butterflies, beetles, dragonflies, ladybugs, ants all pollinate, either by accident or not. But bees are the real workers. People plant gardens to attract and feed them. Like hummingbird and butterfly gardens.

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So I was surprised in a good way to hear them this morning. I hope they liked it enough to stay.

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negative return

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(courtesy NASA.gov)

I was 14 when Buzz Aldrin and Cmdr. Neil Armstrong walked /bounced on the moon. I recall clearly, looking at the grainy, blurred black-and-white images, trying hard to reconcile what I was seeing on a small television screen with reality. The American flag, in a place with no air, little atmosphere, stretched out as though it were held with wires.

This made a deep impression on me, but at the time (and my age) I was unable to articulate.

After the program was scuttled in 2011, today, watching this launch I actually cried.

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I felt a little silly, husky-mix rescue dog Lily walked over to me to comfort me but I wasn’t sad, just incredulous. Here we live in the most prosperous country on the planet and, with riots that serve no purpose, social divisions beyond COVID-19 ‘distancing’, political enmity, and censorship of freedoms including speech and worship, we are still reaching for the stars. Somehow I suppose I see it as a sort of escape from all these earthly woes. There is a place where people can be, far away from all of it.

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I don’t imagine, with all the poverty, persecution and environmental issues that exist, that all people see this as I do, but I have no answers. I know I do what I can to help. This man in Minneapolis who was allegedly murdered, his family has a fund that people have given to. There was a man featured amidst the infernal Minneapolis riots whose sports bar was looted and burned. He watched his life’s work be utterly and completely destroyed. He cried. A go-fund-me was started, cap set at $100,000. Last I heard it had $300,000. Americans, in general, are a compassionate, giving people.
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So I won’t begrudge my government reaching for the stars. A goal the beloved President John F. Kennedy yearned for.

And I will always know, no matter what happens or who is in government, God is sovereign.

God-speed, Astronauts Bob and Doug.
Safe journey. And safe return.

 

3770A7E2-342D-43D8-AFDB-82BBDED8A7B3 agodman.com

 

projects

Like most others in this forced lockdown I have sought out projects. It’s amazing how much you can find to do when you really look.

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Some shrubs had grown halfway up the window. How is it I did not notice I couldn’t see out of the window? So I pruned them. Amazing the difference an enlarged perspective made.

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My mom always told me books are my friends. Some are such good friends I had 2 or 3 of the same book, or very similar. So I culled through my bookshelves. I stored the boxes of books in a room I don’t use much. It looks like I am moving. Maybe the used bookstore will open soon, or the library will receive donations again.

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Next project— a couple of slow moving drains. This can be a pretty gross chore, but the all-natural cleaning method of baking soda, cleaning vinegar and salt is very gratifying. All that fizzing!

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A realtor who listed a former house for me told me to wash window sills and baseboards. Who knew these got dirty?? So I learned a new housekeeping chore. Check.

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My latest project will take longer. The caps on the fence posts around my yard are literally disintegrating. So I went to the hardware store. They all have 4×4, 6×6 but not 5×5 which is what I have so I looked online. There is a company called Post Cap Depot. Who’d have ever guessed? I had hoped to have a project for this Memorial Day weekend but this one will have to wait. So I am repotting some plants that are pot-bound. No one should be confined.

And I am going to reflect, in this time of harsh restrictions, on the brave American military who have fought to protect our God-given freedoms for over two centuries.

We are all fighting for those freedoms now.

CDF0FFD1-5D08-4313-9BB1-AFF7FD4D4FF8Lily and Lulu are worn out!

So I wish everyone a safe and healthy reopening, and I won’t ever take any freedom for granted again.

 

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strange

I should’ve taken a picture.

One thing this viral plague (not) has done for me is take my shopping outings down several degrees. Which is a good thing, though the shopping did keep me around people in my semi-reclusive life.

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I didn’t though, take the picture. A few weeks ago I read a blog post where the blogger was upset with shoppers who ignored or were oblivious to aisle signs directing shopper traffic. (I never actually imagined I would say words like that.) I laughed to myself thinking, seriously? Now there’s somewhere that directs people in how to walk in a grocery store??

I couldn’t imagine it. Until I got yelled at.

I had a shopping list for a local food pantry and could not find the rice aisle. A large woman on a shopping scooter cut the corner short into the aisle I was exiting, frowned at me and said “you’re going the wrong way.”

I stood dumbly for a second trying to process what she meant. And recalled the post I’d read.

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I looked down and saw the large stickers on the floor at each end of the aisle: green, go this way; red, don’t enter this way.

Oh My Gosh.

So I guess this better enables us to not breathe other people’s exhaled breath or something. So in addition to trying to find items that potentially, because of high demand, may not be available I have to watch which way I can go down the aisles. For me, in my simple little routined but free-form life this is a significant adjustment.

As long as I live (or as long as this fiasco lasts) I will not scold anyone for going the “wrong” way down a grocery aisle.

At least some of the beaches are open now. And considering some other states and their authorities restrictions it could be worse.

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So let’s don’t mention the new tropical storm coming this week. Maybe it will blow the bad germs out to sea.

 

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interruptions

My father was a very smart and talented person. He cultivated friendships. He genuinely liked people. Many were business associates and some provided serendipitous turns in our family’s life.

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One couple I recall very clearly from when I was around 9 or 10. They had a big picnic for families every summer, even with a clown to keep kids happy and out of the grown-ups hair. The couple owned a small business that was kind of faltering so my father offered to help support it and invested in it. As he retired years later, he learned the little company was in receivership and offered to pay its debts and bought it.

Begin phase two of our family’s life.

The business being in bankruptcy we knew we had nothing to lose. But it had offered an important service to the city so Dad was determined to get it going. And he did.

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Initially things went slowly. That first year, home for summer break I was sitting in a comfy chair reading one Saturday morning and as Dad came into the room he tossed a large manual beside me and said, “Read this. Monday morning you’re a typesetter.”

The company did not generate enough income to hire many people so at first our family did everything. My brother was applying to medical schools and interviewed people in his off time. My mother kept the books, paid the bills. Dad insisted on paying us, so I kept a tally of hours I actually worked during the workday. And so we went on until Dad got some impetus behind it.

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He asked people what they wanted to get out of it, what would be most helpful. He asked them to complete surveys and fine-tuned, tweaked and polished the little company until it was useful. And gradually hired a few more people and it started paying for itself.

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Some 30-years later Dad passed away and my brother and I kept the business. After a year or so it began to falter again, so I went back to see what it needed. It needed a lot. The years before he died, Dad had trusted others to manage things and neither my brother nor I were close by to help. So after a few months of tweaking, cleaning and many hundreds of hours of prayer, 14-15-hour days a friend of Dad’s approached us to ask about purchasing it. My brother and I discussed it and felt it was the best for the business.

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In a short span of 10 months or so I learned quite a lot. About a company, coworkers, stress management, keeping calm, and about myself. I understood how my father became successful.

Hard work. Selflessness. Redeeming the time. Wasting nothing.

So though that time was an unexpected interruption it was a crash course in humility, gratitude, inner strength, courage and complete reliance on God. Dad was no longer here to advise me. To this day I miss him, his deep belly-laugh, his wisdom, a no-nonsense approach to people and life. He never lied, and he always left people feeling better about themselves.

He was gifted.

7E2152C6-D744-468F-A7BE-084FFEA3EF4Fwisdomquotes.com