glory days

My father was a complex man. He loved his home, Colorado yet held his own in corporate life. He negotiated on national and international levels but did not forget who he was.

One high school summer we drove from our transferred home in New Jersey to see Dad’s boyhood home in Colorado Springs. This was a typical family drive, broken into 3-4 days with the usual insanity caused by boredom and being in close proximity. But we survived and arrived in one piece and with no bloodshed

We drove from Colorado Springs to Aspen, over Independence Pass where I learned my iron-clad, fearless Mom was acrophobic. Hairpin curves, well over 10,000 foot altitude.

Being summer the mountain meadows were dotted with brilliant yellows and reds of Indian paintbrush, cool blues of columbine. We stayed at a small lodge and over the few days there the owners invited me to work there the following summer. Never having been on my own up to that point, I was thrilled.

My brother and some good friends also planned to be there to work at opening an abandoned silver mine on the Pass and we’d see each other on the weekends.

Minimum wage then was barely a dollar an hour. I worked as a maid at this lodge and as a novice employee was not entitled to tips, the other maid was unless it was her day off. Her efforts at training were hopeless. Everything was new to me. She was a party girl, I was not, so I pulled her weight many mornings she dragged in late, once not showing at all. That particular day we had almost 100% checkouts for the day. AAA rating was the highest possible, until that day. Hotel inspections are never announced and that day was the day.

The lodge failed inspection. Not lower. Flat-out failed.

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In all fairness the owners were angry at senior housekeeper. She had no way of knowing the inspection was the day of her massive hangover, but still. I knew how to clean a bathroom, change bed linens. I could not figure out what I’d missed.

As the days crept morbidly on my brother came to town a couple of times. I was given accommodations across the street at a different lodge with housekeepers for that lodge. We ate scant meals to scrimp and save but I really wanted to offer a feast for my brother and his friends so I proudly put select vegetables, potatoes and a sirloin roast in my cart. First time ever buying groceries. 17 years old. No idea the price on the roast was per pound, not $1.70 for the whole roast. My entire paycheck was gone! I was saving not enough to get home.

It so happened brother and friends were also running out of money and decided to fold up their tents and drive home. I went to my employer and explained this looked like my only possible means of getting home so I would be leaving. In the middle of the summer season.

Did I realize I would lose every chance at an opportunity to come back and work there again?

Oh, yes, I did.

Did I understand how inconvenient this was?

Oh yes, I was very sorry but could see no other option.

So I was dismissed.

We did have a bit of fun, the Aspen Music Festival where all the events were, then, free. We had a couple of parties, one of which I frankly do not remember. At all. And that elaborate dinner.

Memories of glory days.

— to my kind readers: I am struggling with this new WP editor. I can’t find where to insert tags! So I hope against hope this is not my last post since I have been writing on this blog for over seven years. But it might be. If it is I want to thank you deeply for your thoughtful comments and for sharing a corner of my life. You have become my friends. Edith

🌹

compliance

Driving over a thousand miles I had no preconceptions of what I’d see on the roads. I know some states have restrictions but not where I was driving. People are flying again and airlines are increasing passenger numbers.

Highways were crowded. Mostly semis but a lot of passenger cars, from all over. It was encouraging. People aren’t still cowering at home.

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Gas stations at every stop required a mask. The only stop where I did not see them worn, though there were signs for them was Alabama. The rest rooms were closed because of covid but no mask.

When I stopped on the way the first night the desk clerk was vocal about disliking the mask. I couldn’t argue and we had a good laugh about masks being hot, and not in a good way.

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When I got where I was going in Texas hill country the inn proprietor had no mask. Noticing mine (hard to miss) she said the whole county had no active covid cases and had only 3 people die of it, one who was 106 years old. Reassuring.

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So on my visit there were actual handshakes, hugs and normal distancing. What a difference from where I live. I reflected how sad it is, the level of fear. I realized these severe precautions are not so much concern for others as it is out of fear. And we don’t even see it.

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I hope my carelessness caused no harm, to anyone. But the warmth and normalcy were heartening. I had no idea how absence of human touch, or even the ability to choose it or not, had adversely affected me.

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Returning home to tropical storm Isaiah damage shocked me back to reality. The morning after the storm husky-mix rescue dog Lily decided to guard the little Bradford pear tree the storm knocked down, I suppose to make sure nothing else fell off. I had the tree cut down and cleared away before I left but debris piles are still around. Takes a while to clear it away.

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star

As a child I truly believed a wish on the first star of an evening would come true, so I was very careful with my wishes. I later began to see my wishes were prayers, and God would hear them, not a star, meteor or a comet.

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Is sentimentality inborn or learned? Are some more inclined than others? Some call themselves romantics, some pragmatists. Some are just complicated.

People can be influenced by movies. Disney especially is heavy on making fantasy appear real. Or maybe it’s circumstances. Some so dire, dark or sad a child, by nature optimistic, desperately wishes for the magic.

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When I finally determined that power which I perceived as magic was gifted within each person I wanted it to change the world. I wanted love and light in every heart and, for years could not understand why I couldn’t create this. Which was when I learned where the gifts came from.

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I had to realize I did not create this gift, any more than I created me. I admired people who were so confident, so sure of themselves, so certain of their todays and tomorrows, and who could laugh at the mistakes and pains of their yesterdays.

I wanted that. Yet I realized that this, too, I could not create or change. I had to accept them first, all of it, before it could become manageable. And then I had to give the burdens to Someone else. There are days when I still feel the burdens, then I remember that I am promised  to never be alone with them. No longer impeded by them. No, they will never disappear. They are woven into the fabric of my life. But I have Someone who takes them for me because He truly and deeply loves all humanity and wants that no one will carry life alone. I am so grateful for this love, mercy. For this forgiveness that I do not deserve.

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Because it’s not because of who I am, but Who He is.

So when I become anxious or frustrated facing a daunting task or challenge I remember I am not meant to carry it on my own. Willful, independent, self-sufficient as I believe myself to be there are some times I need His help more than ever.

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No, this does not mean the task is easier. I still have it to carry. But He gives me strength. No matter what: clarity, stillness, peace, grace are gifts He gives.

I am still learning to turn to Him, to trust Him, to accept them.

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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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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.

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birdies

My brother plays golf. He and our mom hit the links every chance since he could walk. I never caught the bug so was not as close to Mom as my brother because she lived to play.

My birdies are the kind with feathers.

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Last spring I put a bluebird box. The backyard is not very big, so a lot of interest in the box but no residents. Rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I spend a lot of time outside. I garden, terrier mix Lulu checks the perimeter, husky mix Lily suns herself or eats small lizards.

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This year we have a family. Barely audible baby cheeps are coming from the box. Conveniently there is a feeder of mealworms a mere few feet away. Lily and Lulu aren’t remotely interested in birds. Good thing. My dad had a setter bird dog that once ate a baby mockingbird. For the rest of her life she was kami-kazied every time she left the back porch.

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These beautiful creatures should have a lot to worry about— wind, rain, mites, ants, snakes, protecting their babies, food. But they don’t. They live in most areas where they are found year-round. And each year they find a home and raise their families. Their only brooding is with family-raising.

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And they sing. They sing with all their heart. It’s a pure, chaotic little song that has a random tune.

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If they aren’t happy someone should tell them they make others happy.

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refocus

In summer rescue dogs Lily and Lulu’s walkies are before sunrise and after sunset with quick outings through the day in the backyard. Has to be this way because the heat gets to them. To me, too

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So this morning, because of some lovely late cold fronts was very cool as we ventured out around six, still in the dark.

Summer walkies are an adventure. More bunnies and toads. Never is husky-mix Lily more focused than when a reptile crosses her path. When a toad stops the required hopping Lily does not lose interest. She will gently tap it with her paw until it starts to hop around again. This morning she actually tapped it with her nose.

She knows better.

Toads have a protective toxin they coat their bodies with. This causes a dog to froth at the mouth. Which Lily did. She is tenacious. She kept at the toad so I stepped in and moved it to a shrub and we walked on, Lily spitting and shaking her head.

As we turned the corner toward home both Lily and Lulu went on high alert— a rabbit jumped in the road. It waited till they were just at attack position before it bounced away.

Still, the excitement made their obligatory morning naps reminiscent of the chase in their dreams.

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So many times this week my emotions got tossed like waves in a storm, listening to armchair commentators critiquing the virus. Who to blame, wrong information, who said what, what should be done, and shouldn’t be done, until I was angry in my own head.

So I refocus. This experience is no surprise to God. Neither are requirements that are levied on our communities. So I look to Him. I ask for peace. I pray for people who need prayer. I find things to be grateful for.

So many things.

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brave new world

My mother must have thought her ears were playing tricks on her one Saturday afternoon. As a high school teenager I enjoyed completely zoning out in a swath of contemporary rock music. But instead of the usual chaotic sounds of Hendrix, J. Geils or James Gang, Dvorák’s symphony no. 9, “From the New World” wafted from the stereo in the den. I was reading the album cover (long before cds and liner notes) and glanced up to see her peering around the doorway, quizzical expression. I gave a slight smile and her face vanished.
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During this pandemic many grocery and other stores here have a “senior shopper hour”, usually 6-7 am. Like lots of others I believe age is just a number and never considered myself a senior but my drivers license indicates that I am. Having to buy for only one (human) means, for me, shopping trips are infrequent. So this week I availed myself of the early opportunity.

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I was unprepared. There weren’t many others, at first, but they all (except for me, most of the store employees and one other lady that I noticed) wore gloves of some kind, and a face mask. Their eyes darted furtively over the scarf or bandana or medical mask gauging the distance between the nearest person and where they wanted to push their cart. I realized we have had to adapt to a completely new sort of analysis in this social distancing requirement and juxtaposition is a whole new factor.

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I gathered the few items and Easter preparations on my list, avoided the paper products aisle and made my way to the cashiers. My personal shopping bags were not permitted, they said. What if I bagged my own stuff, I asked. That is ok. So the very polite young man and I chatted while he scanned and I bagged, how cheery and helpful the store associates are, how nice to have the hour offered. As I toted my purchases to my car the sky was a brightening translucent blue and a dappled pattern of small pink-white clouds. Turning the key in the ignition, the radio station played the New World symphony. Right there, a combination of my own memories, this weird virus and our paralyzed country I felt sorrow well up inside. Before the tears fell I told myself, no. This is not the way the world will always be. We will not always push ourselves apart or wear masks and gloves or have ‘special’ shopping hours or be remanded to our homes.

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We will overcome this. It will not last forever. This is not the new ‘normal’.

Happy Easter. Blessings of Passover. God is sovereign.

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what if ….

Maybe it’s the aloneness, though I don’t think so. I am used to being on my own (present furry canine rescue company excepted). Maybe it’s that the entire United States of America (who’d have ever thought) has come to a grinding halt.

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Or maybe the thought that, not unlike Passover, a silent death creeps among us.

Or maybe it’s all of it. But lately I have had many things brought to mind for which I need to make amends. And I have followed those promptings. A note to a kind neighbor that I may have slighted. An overdue apology to my son for hurtful things once said. Phone calls made that were put off for far too long, these are reminders to me that this is not a dress rehearsal. This life is temporal. Getting it right is not as important as grace, kindness, patience.

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What would you do if this were your last month/ week/ day to live? Somehow for me, this question has become quite real.

This viral plague that, in order to protect ourselves and others has restricted us so harshly has made me stop and think.

I have never been in a situation before where I cheated death. I have also not yet lived regret-free.

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But I’d certainly like to, if not get a do-over, at least a restart.

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