where to

My father defied definition. He was a force.Whether of nature or not I am uncertain, yet he taught me so much, and nothing at all. He shared family history with my brother. He shared magic with me. Mostly tricks that he either explained, laughing, or I figured out to his delight. But something else. I wish I could put into words…

He taught me whenever anyone thinks they know it all they are dead. We never stop learning. He taught me to play chess. He showed me how to dig sand fleas for bait when surf fishing. He took me to Lincoln Center to see the magic of the Nutcracker ballet. We sat at a table with a beaten up aging boxer and his girlfriend at IMG_0088.JPGPaddy’s Clam House to eat lobster. We sang the Air Force “Wild Blue Yonder” and the Army marching song though he was with the FBI during the war because of a mountain climbing accident. But as I grew up we became contentious. We argued about just about everything. I reached an age where neither he nor anyone could teach me anything — I knew it all.

Of course, I didn’t, but our arguments were legend. When I worked for his company the shouting matches caused more than a few employees to quit and I couldn’t blame them.

We especially argued about Christians. Faith. Dad had always been a man’s man, self-made, self-sufficient. He saw Christians as weak, helpless, dependent. Almost like welfare recipients which he had complete disregard for. And emotions ran high when we had arguments about God, or Jesus or anything that was a large part of my faith. So we stopped talking.

That was not the answer. Eventually we began talking again but not about religion. Then he got older, began getting sick. Looking back I wish I’d done so much more. I wish I had read the book of Acts to him. He’d especially have admired Paul I think when he was shipwrecked. Dad loved sailing, all things maritime really and I think this might have hooked him at least a little into being interested in Christians. Especially how Paul became one. Earth-shattering if anything could be.

There are many places in the Bible where heaven is described. Ezekiel, where that contraption with flashing wheels and the being with the heads of an eagle and a lion, wings, talons… nothing I can visualize well, no matter how many times I read it. I also believe heaven is nothing like we can imagine so anyone that tries has to use the words we know which probably don’t even come close.

Dad became very sick after a fall where he broke 7 ribs and went through three or four bouts of pneumonia. My brother called me to tell me Dad’s doctor had told him we needed to be with Dad. So we flew home. Dad was in intensive care and the nurses kindly allowed us to stay with Dad all day. One morning one of his therapists came in to work on opening Dad’s lungs after breakfast. Dad had fallen asleep after eating. This was no small man. Nothing he did or said could wake Dad. He came back an hour or so later, same thing. Dad slept on. Throughout the day various people came to do things or speak with Dad, no response. Sleeping soundly.

At around 5 that afternoon Dad woke. He opened his eyes, blinking slowly and looked around the room. “Is this Heaven?” he said.

I asked him if he could tell us where he had been, what he had seen. He would begin a sentence only to stop abruptly, then begin again, stop again. I realized he’d been given a wonderful gift.

A friend of mine, a Priest, who I’d asked to visit Dad came by just after. I told him about Dad’s day, how no one and nothing would wake him, what he’d said upon waking. My friend slowly smiled. He sat with us a bit, asked a prayer then left.

Sometimes people, badly bruised and hardened by life’s knocks, twists and turns, are shown what is ahead for them. We none of us ever truly knows another’s heart.

God does.

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The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.   –Isaiah 40:8

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endings, beginnings

Today is the last day of June. Which brings the first of July. Each day ends and a new one begins following the night that divides them.

A butterfly lays its eggs on a host plant which, when the larva emerges, will feed it until it is ready to create its cocoon where it will magically end that life and transform into a butterfly, and begin again

IMG_0061.JPG swallowtail on fennel  IMG_0064.JPG

A plant wakes from winter sleep and emerges in spring and buds grow, bursting open with the sun’s warmth and spring rains

IMG_0067.JPG                                                         Hibiscus “Pinot noir”

IMG_0070.JPG                                                        macrophylla Hydrangea

IMG_0069.JPG                                                                  star gazer Lily

IMG_0073.JPG                                                                         Calla lily

IMG_0072.JPG                                                  Echinacea, shasta daisies

The joy of the wonders of nature overwhelms me. The colors, fragrances, designs, all grace this planet each spring. Fall comes and they fade, preparing for sleep, having offered their very best to us for a season.

They sleep, and then they begin it all again.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans.”                   Proverbs 16:3

 

 

reflections

Probably the last hold-out for a smart phone, I caved and visited the phone store this week. I was early but not the first person so was placed on the digital line. Kind of like those coasters they give you at restaurants when you have to wait, instead of flashing lights my phone would beep. I wandered from one display to anotunnamed.jpgher comparing prices and functions. I knew a phone that had basic functions– calling and text –was what I was looking for, but also thought gps, wifi and better camera capability would be nice.

So as I looked at the offerings I overheard a lady explaining how difficult it was for her to adapt to change… she was worried about a new phone and her ability to use it.

I moved to another display of fitbits. Curious I started reading about them. A few feet away I heard a gentleman who had come in to have his phone screen repaired since it had gotten cracked.

My turn came and I explained what I was looking for, asked about 2 or 3 model phones, prices, function. We looked at them and I decided on one. While the salesperson activated the phone I stood quietly watching how easy this was for him, hoping I could adjust quickly. A lady came in briskly asking where a specific employee was, she had her card. Another salesman said she was off that day, could he help. The lady went on to say she was unhappy with something she’d purchased 2 weeks prior, why would they stock something like that? An unanswerable question, the salesman explained the warranty and the lady responded she’d been in Europe for 2 weeks. My salesperson continued to be very focused on my phone and I watched him, diligently. A sharp remark from the lady jerked my head up momentarily, I quickly looked away again. She stalked out. The person who had attempted to help her shook his head, muttering something about being yelled at. Mollified, I commented ” Some people just cannot be happy no matter what you do”. He perked a bit at that and I suddenly realized I was each of those people I’d noticed in that store.

At some point in my life I’d been impatient, demanding, frustrated, angry. A phase I mercifully grew out of. Or prayed my way out. Occasionally I encounter a situation or a new process in life that requires risk or change and I am briefly uncomfortable until I begin to understand it. And I have had many accidents in my life where I have broken things.

So, armed with this new device, a screen protector and insurance I have fortified myself as best I can to use this new little phone and protect it.

It is hard to see ourselves as others see us! Sometimes we exaggerate the good, other times the not so good. But that day I was given a gift of seeing where I had been and realized how patient others were.

Sometimes it’s important to see the kindness of others through others’ eyes, or behaviors.

13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— ”   Ephesians 4:13-15

 

 

 

letters

I love writing letters. Nobody does anymore though, because of email, cell phones. I have two or three friends who write but infrequently. My letters are not erudite or profound. I love receiving letters and answer by return mail.

I admire authors who write entirely through letters. Introspective, expressive words on paper. I am basically socially inept and do better if I write my thoughts. What I put on paper makes more sense than anything I say. I have no idea why it is easier to organize thoughts that way rather than verbally or why I find it easier.

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I love writing paper, note cards. I have way more than I will likely ever use and I keep buying it. Maybe I can decorate the walls with it. Like those old fashioned roses that used to clutter old wallpaper. When I was growing up we lived in an old drafty farmhouse with 12-foot ceilings, my room was covered from floor to ceiling with these roses. My mother, trying desperately to change me from a lonely tomboy to make me a frilly little girl bought me a little pink wastebasket with dancing white poodles painted on it sparkling with rhinestones. She had my room painted a soft pink and adorned the 6-foot tall windows with filmy sheer curtain panels. I truly missed those roses.

Ironic that I love writing letters now. As a child I was terrible at writing thank-you notes. My godmother taught me a very important lesson about gratitude. She had sent me a pretty scarab bracelet for my birthday and I th.jpgpromised my mother I would write her promptly. I did not and soon after I received a note from her. She said as I had not taken the trouble to thank her for her gift either I had not liked it or was simply ungrateful. Lesson learned. It is always important to let someone know that I appreciate their thoughtfulness.

I never received another gift from my godmother.

Things are way more casual now. Even my family only occasionally acknowledge receipt of gifts so I not only do not know that they received it, I have no idea if they liked it. It’s tempting to take the page from Aunt Adelaide’s book and write a shaken finger letter but I keep thinking how times have changed. It’s rare to find gratitude anywhere, or humility. I suppose expecting to see that is old-fashioned, or too demanding, or takes the fun out of giving gifts (and now there’s re-gifting!).

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When did it become uncool to be grateful? Is it the sense of entitlement so many have adopted either from a fear of losing whatever standard of living they have become accustomed to, or because so much is available to so many for so little? And we assume it will always be like this?

I don’t have any answers. Maybe I’m not really looking for answers. It is sad though. When people are grateful there is a sense of appreciation not just for the gift but for the thoughts of the giver. And a sense of joy about the recipient.

I still like to give presents. I can’t help it. I do know without doubt rescue dogs Lily and Lulu are always happily surprised to find an unexpected treat or toy.

And so grateful.

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Miss Woofie’s teeth

Every vet I have taken husky-mix rescue dog Lily to has marveled over her lovely teeth. She will be 11 this year and has permitted me to brush her teeth once a week for the 10 years she and I have been friends. She loves the way the  toothpaste tastes which is why I think she tolerates the little brush.

A week ago I noticed a small swelling on her face so I took her to her vet.

Picture0609181407_1.jpgmaybe if I sit here really still she won’t see me……

“It’s an abscessed tooth,” the vet said. “Likely a fracture.” So we scheduled Lily to have her teeth cleaned yesterday, have the offending tooth removed and see if there were any others.

I brought her at the appointed time she having had no food or water since the night before. I filled out their papers acknowledging my agreement to let them clean her teeth and basically do whatever they deemed important while Lily was there. Lily is naturally curious about everything , everyone and everywhere she goes. So she blithely went out of the exam room with the hygienist. And I went home.

Terrier-mix rescue dog Lulu was waiting at the door and I had her obligatory toy for having left her alone. She bounced away squeaking it and I grabbed a book and plopped down.

I couldn’t sit still. So I ran the dishwasher, unloaded it, rearranged the patio stones in the backyard garden. An order of plants arrived so I took them outside and decided where to place them. At 12:16 p.m. Lily’s vet called me to let me know Lily was going into surgery. I’d almost rather they’d not let me know I think. I was told the procedure would take 2 or 3 hours depending on how many teeth had to be removed. Rejecting all thoughts of Lily gumming her food from now on I returned to my book. Then I looked at my emails. Back to my book. This went on until the vet called me again at 3:35 p.m. and told me Lily had done very well, both her upper pre-molars had to be removed and I could come pick her up at 5:30 p.m. when she would be more awake.

Her vet told me how to feed her, how to care for her and protect her sutures until she has her re-check in 2 weeks, gave me her pain and antibiotic medicines and we came home. She was wobbly but happily flopped down on the cool tile kitchen floor.

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She would not open her mouth until I waved a piece of roast chicken in front of her, which is how I managed to give her the antibiotic and pain pills. She was still a little wobbly, but this morning I cooed and made much over her, and gently scratched her face where she raised the side of her mouth in her characteristic “smile”

She’ll be ok.

Picture0609181408_1.jpgsoon she will be surveying her favorite ghost crab colonies again….

escapism

I really love to read. More than going to movies. When my son was growing up we’d go see films that looked good when they opened. Even got preview seats a couple of times. Since actors have become such strong political pundits though I’ve stopped. Pretty sure I couldn’t separate Sally Field’s hateful remarks from whomever she would play on screen. Or Meryl Streep, George Clooney… any of them. Sad.

My mom always told me books are your friends, pretty sure though she did not mean to the exclusion of real people friends. But I am noticing every time I move again (8 moves in 20 years) I withdraw a little bit more. Not fear-driven, not self-centered just enjoy being by myself.

Oh, I take the dogs for their romps, maybe less in summer because it is so blazing hot, I shop for groceries, pick up books at the library, and often will enjoy banter, shallow conversations. Occasionally not so shallow. Strangers can often make for strong confidantes.

Maybe I am just the recluse I have always joked about. But lately I have noticed I speak my mind more, say what I mean, when asked my opinion I give it, I don’t try to determine what I think the asker wants to hear. And sometimes they go off in a huff. Sometimes they are grateful, but to my way of thinking I want a friend who is not manipulative, has no agenda, wants truth, we like each other for who we are and what we each of us likes. With a generous sprinkling of humor and grace.

Maybe I am poorly adjusted, socially. But the more I do engage with others the more I am aware of bristles, as though they are (not) saying: “Go ahead, say what you mean but that doesn’t mean I will agree or even like what you say. I may even get angry.” Then why ask??! Friendship is nothing if not genuine, sincere.

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I don’t know. The aforementioned heat has kept me indoors the majority of the past several days, and before that we enjoyed 4 days of rain from a premature tropical storm. I have actually cleared clutter, vacuumed, polished till the furniture reflections are blinding. So maybe this is severe introspection but it’s something I’ve thought about for a while. From being little miss party girl most of my life, this is almost bizarre.

I think, too, we all go through seasons. One kind soul (and a stranger) I was speaking with endorsed my current way of life, saying I’d done a lot of time as a single mom in the social realm. This was a time of rest. I did appreciate that.

I do volunteer, I love my gardening, walks (early mornings now) and occasionally meet a friend for coffee or a group for lunch. Nothing warranting a calendar filled with meetings, appointments, engagements. More likely to note the fritillary butterfly I saw, or the first swallowtail of summer, or the turtles sunning themselves by the retention pond after the rains. Or something.

And I am happy.

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Lord, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.” 
 Psalm 39:4

uninvited guests

First, please know I love all things nature. This is why I live near beaches. My favorite places to walk are nature preserves, especially the privately-owned one where rescue dogs Lily and Lulu can go off-leashPicture0526181425_1.jpgcrossing the millpond

Even with a paralyzing fear of all spiders, I will gingerly capture one on a tissue and run outside to deposit it back in its natural world before it can jump on me. Snakes do not even frighten me like a spider will. I know there are more good snakes than not good ones and the good ones even eat not good ones.

But rats… this is a whole dimension beyond what I can live with. At close proximity that is. This being sharing the same air space.

So when I saw Lily and Lulu tearing around the yard after a small grey streak one recent twilight, then noticed a small corner of screen on my side porch chewed out I had to call in the big guns.

The exterminator had many theories about why these creatures chose my backyard and crawlspace. There is a lot of new construction within 3-5 miles of my neighborhood. I have many (well, 4, is that a lot??) bird feeders in my yard which he told me I have to remove. I have water sources… he went on explaining how I am creating a sublime environment for these little things. I pictured a virtual feeding frenzy and not in a good way.

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I totally zoned out imagining a veritable rat subdivision under my house.  The exterminator man happily whistled away as he set several large black boxes (“They love this stuff,” he grinned) around the foundation assuring me this will not affect my dogs, not even if they eat whatever eats whatever is in those boxes. Unless they eat a lot of them. I have not ever seen either Lily or Lulu go after anything dead. Sniff it maybe, but not try to eat it. Even a possum successfully convinced Lily recently it was a total waste of her time.

Next day I spotted a small gray form in the road. Sure enough one of them had indulged in the tasty toxin

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I did not especially have to see evidence of the efficacy of this but I know we are one down, _?_ to go.

A bit of excitement when I opened the screen porch door that morning to let the dogs out and saw another grey form fling itself to the floor and escape out of the hole they created. Lily and Lulu didn’t miss a beat and flew out the dog door after it. I will patch the spot when I am assured there will be no more holes made. Meantime I have large sheets of impenetrable plastic over the screens.

Hoping the end of the holiday weekend will see the end of the rats.