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 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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E870358E-BEFB-432C-B620-C877269B0336brainbrewblog.wordpress.com

 

 

isolation

Years ago, inspired by a book I had read about inner awakenings I sought the solace of a nearby Abbey. This unique place offered retreats to individuals of different lengths of time and, completely unaware of what I would encounter I chose one for five days, the longest offered.

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I am not Catholic. I have attended and joined nearly every denomination that exists in my search for God. This five days helped me see where He is.

He is within us.

I was shown my quarters and invited to attend any or all of the monastic service or prayers. They begin at 3:00 a.m. which required rising at 2:30. I wanted the whole experience.

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The services followed an order of worship, psalms, an illumination on the readings. At 7:00 a.m. they were completed for the day, until vespers and compline in evening, 6 p.m.

Thus the whole day stretched out before me.

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I guess I had never before been completely, utterly alone. At this time I had no cell phone. There was no television, no radio at the Abbey. There was an order of silence on the grounds except for the services or times of community (meals or, for the residents, the workday). There were books and a wonderful library. There were gardens and a historic Civil War-era cemetery. So I began exploring. But I began to feel and know the impact of being in a place where God was the singular focus of life. And it hurt. I was appalled, shamed, humiliated, and, at moments, terrified. There, I was, by self-imposition held against the perfect One. In the light of His focus (inescapable) and His love I squirmed. I cried. I pleaded. I begged Him to not see me. And finally, spent, I stopped fighting. I released my fears, my selfness. I began to listen. In His complete love that exists for each of us I heard His gentle coaxing and came near. I think for the first time I realized I could come near.

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I have been back to the Abbey many times. Each visit is like going home because the reason I go there refocuses my mind, resets my heart. I find clarity. These stressful days where we are asked to voluntarily close ourselves away are not difficult for me. But I hear comments from others of boredom, anxiety. It is hard being alone with yourself, until you know, beyond who you are, Whose you are.

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At least, that’s how it was for me.
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Lent

About 10 years ago I started taking this season seriously. I have way too much baggage in my past to believe I get to skate in any aspect of my life. I did not grow up in a family that lavished luxuries on either my brother or myself. Whatever I had I had to earn. We always had more than enough. But I remember a Christmas when my mother asked my brother and me if we would welcome an orphan for that day. I did not want that. So neither did my brother. I wish my mother had sat down and tried to help us understand what opening our hearts would have meant. I remember the pain in her eyes.

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Over the years I came to understand this season. Not quite as well marked as Christmas with so much hype. There are no Easter “carols”, no beautiful trees or decorated houses, no candles lit as Advent. I only recently discovered boxed Easter cards. Anyway, where Advent is a time of excited anticipation, Lent is a time for examination. Mourning in a way of the things we did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say and a time to shed what we were for more of who we could be. Or something. So people give up sacrificially to get closer to the person we’ve buried or hidden from ourselves. I decided those many years ago to stop watching television. I never believed I’d make it the whole 46 (yes. 46 because ‘they’ don’t count Sundays) days, but I did. Each year it’s gotten easier, even a few years ago when I became so addicted to schmaltzy Hallmark movies.

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In fact this year it seemed so easy I felt like I was cheating so I looked at what others do. Give up coffee. At a fellow blogger’s suggestion I tried that last Advent. It isn’t as easy as you’d think! One year when my son was in high school we divided Psalm 119 into doable segments and read through it during the season. I realized many well-known verses are from this psalm alone, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” for one.

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Other suggestions were to add something. Pray through the psalms. To pray for one specific thing each day during the time. Another was to give up sarcasm. Another, be more mindful. For an impulsive person like me this would certainly be a challenge.

In everything I do I hope to shed some old me that is worn, fearful, outdated. Then, when Easter Sunday comes I am more me. He knows what I mean.

 

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