gifts

Talent. This word makes me think of someone who can sing, dance, play an instrument, play a sport or sail.

Gifted makes me think of someone who has intellectual acumen, or who can make things– knit, paint, draw, pottery, jewelry.

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Imagine creating this. A leaf. It has beauty, it feeds its plant, it gives shade, makes nests for animals, fuel. So our talents and gifts we are either born with or at least have the ability to learn.

All of us are capable of creating beauty in some way.  I took cookies to our local sheriff’s department. I have done this before and was asked for my name and address. This year when I said I had brought cookies no one said a thing. Just stared at me. The people who were in the lobby as well as the deputies. So I added, “I bring y’all cookies every year.” A person in the waiting area muttered, “isn’t that nice,” which prompted a deputy to say “Aww”, guardedly.

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Really?? Cookies. Maybe it was the festive bag and tissue paper. Maybe I look suspect. I think I look rather ordinary. Whatever, there was palpable tension as I stood there, until one of the brave deputies said, “You can hand it through here” indicating a glass shield with an opening the bag could fit through. I noticed the x-ray machine where persons put their briefcases and purses when they came to visit people in the jail and was glad I didn’t have to put it through that. But still. It’s sad to me that you can’t do anything nice for people without causing some degree of alarm.

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I brought a bag of treats to the nearby police station. There was an employee outside the building, talking with someone. As I caught her eye she said she worked in the building but did not say to give her the festive holiday bag, so I asked, “I can give this to you?” Not defensive, just clarifying. She nodded and I handed it off. Then went on to my volunteering stint at the city garden. I felt pretty good that I had done something nice for people, but sad that it had caused them some concern if not alarm.

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How should this be handled? I get why law enforcement might be concerned when someone brings a bag. I suppose it could be anything.

Maybe next year I will mail it.

 

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small revelations

Relationships can be tricky things. The truth that we dislike in others that which we dislike in ourselves. And take it a step further by claiming we can ‘fix’ it in others, not realizing it’s in us, too. My dad used to tell me this is known as projection, a therapist’s term (which he was not). The Bible has a better way to understand it in Matthew 7:4-5

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It’s really hard to be critical of somebody else once you understand this. It took my sister-in-law’s self-criticism to help me see. We were speaking on the phone and she simply could not say anything good about herself. I reached past my irritation and found a deep compassion for her, because self-deprecation is a bad habit I have tried to kick for years. Suddenly I realized that by recognizing this in someone else and feeling not just empathy but a strong connection I began to understand how it can be overcome.

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It is nothing more than a feeble attempt at a false humility that accomplishes nothing! It isn’t funny, it isn’t encouraging, it simply isn’t true.

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Nothing is permanent in this life. Everything changes. So that which someone finds fault with in herself will change. Either with time, with understanding, or just a change of attitude.

Truth matters.

 

 

possum

We are early risers. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu go outside for their last evening ablutions around 7. With cooler weather here we woke even earlier than normal today. Lulu got to pick front or back yard, and chose back. Lily ambled over to the end of the yard to scratch and sniff what changed over night. Lulu took the other side. Leaves flew, loud hissing and a grey blur darted out, long, ropy pink tail.

Oh no! Rats again. I looked closer before running to get a broom. Too big for rats. Small possum!

It was somewhat cornered. The house was to its left, I was behind it, Lulu was in front and Lily to its right. Lily had yet to catch wind of it and Lulu was feigning disinterest. It backed away, looking over its shoulder every second or two at me. I gave it a wide berth, and it turned and ran around me to the other side of the yard where it climbed the fence. Lulu, realizing her quarry was escaping dashed after it, too late as it topped the fence and toddled away. At this point Lily got interested and she and Lulu darted back and forth along the fence to see where it was.

Long gone.

I am happy to have these little visitors. They don’t carry rabies because their body temperature is too low. They feast on beetles, cockroaches, ticks and all sorts of other unwanted pests. They are virtually harmless and more afraid of me than I of them.

IMG_0216.JPGWe know something is out here. We’ll wait.

I haven’t seen a possum in the yard for a while. Maybe being so preoccupied with Lily and her surgery recoveries I hadn’t noticed. Besides, there are fewer steps to the front door than the back door so because it’s easier for Lily we’ve gone out there more than the back yard. Not much happens in the front yard. The occasional rabbit maybe.

I miss seeing deer. To many people they are big pests. They eat a lot of flowers and shrubs but they are so graceful. Where I moved from I often would see them early mornings at my bird feeders eating all the birdseed, then drink out of the bird bath. It did not take much to scare them off. They would sail over the yard fence like they could fly.

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There has been a lot of new construction in this little town. New homes, shopping centers. Development is normally a good thing but eventually there is no more room to build. Which means wildlife has no place to go. So they find themselves in backyards and some humans are not willing to share. Seems unfair to me. Here we have helped ourselves to their homes, cleared their trees and underbrush. When I lived in south Florida I learned about melaleuca, a small, non-native invasive tree also known as tea tree. These were planted everywhere because they soak all the water with their fibrous root system and make marshland dry. So every now and then a massive hurricane comes along where nature tries to reclaim itself.

Against humans it is something of a losing battle.

I wish I had an answer.

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dependence

This is almost an unknown anymore. No one wants to need anyone or anything. Self-sufficient, self-reliant. No one needs anything or anyone.

Until we do.

I know next to nothing about cats. I have never shared my home or my life with one, nor have I ever developed a long-term relationship with one. I had seen a grey tabby wandering our neighborhood street once or twice and though most of my neighbors have dogs there could be someone nearby with a cat.

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I know that cats are reputed to be aloof, independent. The very few encounters I have ever had were mostly friends who had cats that would deign to allow me to pet them, or not, and a lovely white cat, one blue eye and one green eye, who paid an occasional visit when I lived in a small condo years ago. Then one afternoon this same cat came running on its hind legs frantic, clearly having recently given birth to a litter which I was never able to find.

The cat disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared.

So this grey cat. When the dehumidifier was going in the crawlspace one of the guys installing it came out and asked if I had a grey cat.  I replied I did not (rescue dogs Lily and Lulu I am sure would not permit this), but I had recently seen one in the neighborhood.

IMG_0889.JPGLoropetalum, a favorite landscaper’s shrub, in full bloom now

Well, it’s in your crawlspace.

Not fully understanding whether I was now meant to go in there and flush the cat out or this was simply information being conveyed, I was relieved to learn it was the latter when he continued, “We got out of its way and it ran out.”

So the installation was completed and they left, promising to return at a later time to finish attaching the door frame, assuring me the crawlspace door was tightly secured.

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That night I was awakened around 2 by a plaintive, faint “meow”. I guessed the cat was passing by and talked to itself.

The next night my son who was visiting for the weekend heard it, too.

Again Monday night I heard this, persistent now. I decided this cat had maybe had a litter that the installers somehow did not see and it was trying to get back inside. So I went outside and walked clear around and found nothing.

IMG_0893.JPGGaillardia (blanket flower) setting buds

An hour or so later I heard soft thudding noises from under the house. Clearly somehow this cat had got back in unnoticed while the installation was going on and was trying to get out. In the light of morning I unscrewed the door and cracked it open, leaving it that way for about 30-40 minutes. Then closed it. I did not hear any more cat.

I called the people who’d installed this thing and explained about the cat. I spoke with the lady that scheduled jobs and she clearly had heard nothing about a cat but assured me she would send the person out who was to finish the door. He came in and inspected everywhere finding the cat had shredded the sealants (thudding noises I’d heard) that had been installed to close the vents so he had to replace those as well.

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So this cat, feral, wild and free, absolutely needed help when it found itself trapped under my house, which I happily gave it.

I guess we all need a hand now and then, even from a perceived enemy.

 

IMG_0896.JPGLily sleeping peacefully, no cats to ward off

IMG_0895.JPGLulu sleeping happily, cat-free environment

 

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nourishment

Before rescue-mix husky Lily’s surgery 3 weeks ago she relished her food. No sooner had I put her bowl down for her than she had vacuumed up every morsel. Even during the 2 weeks before her surgery after the injury. She ate everything.

She has always been all about food.

So part of the reason she tore her acl was her weight. This is my fault and I need to correct it. After all it’s not as if she can get her treats out of the cupboard. So I have been trying to be careful.

But her regular food? Completely turns her nose up at it. After her surgery the vet changed her food which might be part of the problem. She’s never been picky though, so I had no concerns when they sent me home with an enormous 30-pound bag of kibble that this would be a problem.

Most days though, later in the day she will go to her bowl and quietly eat her food. So maybe she just wants me to think she doesn’t like the change.

When I was little every Sunday after church my grandparents who moved from New York to be nearby would join my family for Sunday dinner. These were my mom’s parents (I never met my father’s, they were in Colorado, a long way from North Carolina), and I adored them.

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I was a picky eater. After everyone had finished, even dessert there I’d sit, my plate with remnant peas or whatever it was I did not care for staring back at me and as everyone else left the table I was told I had to sit until I finished my plate. My grandfather always sat with me.

He would not berate me, maybe offered a word or two of encouragement, but the important thing, for me, was he thought enough of me to not want me to be ashamed. Or alone.

This is something I think many of us do not understand. We have our comfy homes, our lovely friends and we do not see the ones who are alone. In our comfort we simply don’t see them.

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Nourishment comes to us in so many ways. Our physical food, the joy of a familiar voice, the wag of a dog’s tail, a favorite symphony, an unexpected note in the mail, a good book, a phone call from someone checking in, the family member who remembered something and wanted us to remember, too.

There is a hunger though, deep in each of us that no one else and nothing else can fill but God. His love that has known us since before we were born. He is with us every moment. In our fast-paced lives we may try to fill this empty need with many things… human attention, any number of substances that are bad for us or, at least, in excess are not good. All of which are fleeting, inconsistent at best and capricious at worst.

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So we move forward, day by day. We make our plans, work at our jobs, all the while knowing ultimately it is not we who are in control.

I know this for certain when I put Lily’s food in her bowl.

healing

When people are hurt we are likely to seek help in a way we can find solace. When people are sick we see a doctor. We develop a bond of trust that the doctor knows how best to help us.

Animals are different.

When rescue dog Lily was ready to come home after surgery and they brought her to show me how to care for her she very tentatively entered the room until she had assurance that I would not reject her. I praised her for her bravery and she could barely contain her delight to see me.

When I was younger I was very fond of a little terrier my dad had given me. One summer vacation in high school I worked in Aspen, Colorado. My parents and I had written letters occasionally but they did not tell me that one evening when they’d had friends to dinner my father and the husband of the other couple got into a political argument. The man and his wife left in anger and no one noticed my little Piper had got out of the house until she yelped when he ran over her. He stopped immediately of course and they took her to the vet. The accident had broken her leg, thankfully it wasn’t much worse.

I came home from this job and called for Piper. No response. At this point my parents let me know what had happened and I began to search for her. I found her under an arm chair in the living room. She wouldn’t come out. I got on my hands and knees and, lowering my head so I could see her eye to eye and telling her how glad I was to see her only then did she come out and let me see her injury, cast and all. After that she clumped around happily, knowing I loved her all the same.

Attachment-1.jpegWe have to learn to trust. Some have little problem with it having been treated honestly and well in their lives. Others who have not are continually testing their faith, filled with doubt. Lily knew, when she realized I love her and will care for her that she had no reason to doubt or fear. God has never given me reason to doubt or fear Him, either. But there are times when I confuse what I hope to expect from people on the same level I trust God.

Doesn’t work that way.

This is why I think people have told me through my life not to hold too hard to stuff. To take others and myself lightly. Being dependable is so important but, being imperfect it’s not possible. Not always, and maybe even not as others interpret dependable.

But Lily. She only knows she is injured. I know she will heal. When she arrived home she immediately responded to the familiar with attempts to behave as though there were no injury at all. So she had to adjust to her limitations.

Even today, though each day she is incrementally better, she expresses frustration at not being able to take off after a squirrel like she would have before. She looks at me as if I could do something. I pet her, reassure her that it is ok that she can’t get that squirrel. I convince her that her very commanding presence is enough to put great fear in this little squirrel and that is sufficient. Well, I like to think I do.

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not the pumpkin

I can remember when I last participated in Hallowe’en. Fall 2008. I was living in northwest New Mexico. I had just adopted a new rescue dog, husky-mix Lily. She was the ideal dog! She knew all her commands– sit, stay, shake, lie down, treat, ride, walk and she could give you “five”.

Until Halloween night. I bought a huge amount of treats. I was so ready for this. Then the doorbell rang. Lily was apoplectic. She raced to the door, clawing at the door frame snarling, saliva flying– she was her own night of terror.  I had to find a way to hold her back, open the door and stick the bowl of candy out the door. Fistfuls were taken I am sure but I was so relieved to shut that door. Half a minute later the entire scene threatened to repeat but, though I heard Lily she was not at the door. I opened the door, gasped at the little monsters waiting their cavity-inducers and closed the door to see Lily standing on the baby grand piano barking in a complete frenzy.

Ok so this won’t work. I took the bowl, poured the other bags of candy and set it at the end of the walkway, turned out the lights and went to bed.

Lily was at peace.

So this year my son called me walking on his way home from work to let me know he would be nearby this weekend for a meeting and would like to come see me. I was so happy! But he sounded a little hesitant. The only reason I can think is because his live-in girlfriend and I have never actually found a common ground. Except my son, which she seems to lord over me. Why I have no idea because clearly, the relationship each of us has is vastly different. But the tension is there all the same. She is ‘New Age-y’, I am conventionally traditional. My son is stuck in the middle.

So we chatted about the weekend and he explained he was juggling a bag of groceries, the phone and a large pumpkin for Halloween.

That stopped me. The image I had was not the literal items he mentioned but the other things in his life– his girlfriend, his work, and me. So I said, “I don’t want to be the pumpkin.”

“What?!” he said.

I explained what he was doing right at that moment was kind of exemplary of other things he was also juggling in his life and I did not simply want to be something superfluous in his life that he would eventually throw away.

Sometimes my worry fantasies are a bit far-fetched. I guess this one was.

A little history: My parents were traditional in that they belonged to the country club, took the family to church (most) Sundays, every major holiday, saw to it we had a good education. Beyond that their lives were consumed with (Dad’s) executive jet-setting, Mom’s golf, book club, junior league, garden club, DAR, bridge club and travel with Dad. I do not take after them much at all. They were unconventional in that we the children fell in there somewhere but inconsistently. We weren’t the pumpkin but we were sometimes rather incidental unless and until we had trouble. My brother? Never. Me? often.

Anyway, sadly my son has nothing whatever to do with the life I knew growing up. He is innocent. Yet I carry this baggage around and sometimes say or think things totally irrelevant to a situation. Because of that history.

Insecurity factors in I suppose, but still.

I do not ever want to be the pumpkin

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Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.”   
 –Psalm 139:16