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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rejoice!

Stress, worry, anxiety is like exercise for the brain, adrenal glands, sweat glands except it isn’t very healthy. But we are told to rejoice, no matter what. We are told to be grateful even when there doesn’t seem to be anything to give thanks for.

It sounds perverse but it is the pathway to peace. Sanity.

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Rescue dog Lily did fine in her surgery. She thanks everyone for thoughts and prayers.  She is textbook recovery dog. Not licking sutures, allowing for physical therapy, ice compresses, hot compresses no whining or objection. Once again a hind leg is completely naked from top of the hip to her ankle, but it’s summer! So even though I have never shaved her hair in hot months now she has her own partial cooling system.

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She rests quietly. She tries, when I ‘carry’ her in her walker sling, to drag me over to the garage. This is to let me know that surgery or no surgery she is ready to get in the car and go to the park or the river or anywhere and start taking her walkies again.

Well, not quite, Baby Girl. We have a ways to go yet. She will get her stitches out in a couple of weeks. Then her walkies can go from 5 minutes to 10. A month or so after that her surgeon will look at her and decide how much more she will be able to do.

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But right now, pain or no pain, she wants to be free. She wants to have her walks and chase little anole lizards and toadies. She is not at all happy having restrictions of any kind.

She is a very good girl. She is obedient and knows her commands and likes to do what makes me happy. But this? This even though she just went through it with her other leg, she is not too patient with.

It will get better.

Sooner than she thinks.

Rejoice!

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finding gifts

Not long ago a friend recommended  Ann Voskamp’s little book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully, Right Where You Are. This was a popular book a few years ago yet I’d not heard of it  A horrific tragedy that the author witnessed as a child prompted her to write the book and its premise is living fully, in the moment.

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Easy to forget or ignore, with busy schedules, air conditioner failures, medical problems, commitments of all kinds. It came to mind this week when Lily’s vet called to reschedule her surgery as a result of a staff schedule issue.

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Frustrated at first, I expressed my concern for Lily, now dealing with this knee for 6 weeks. As I spoke into the residual silence I realized my comments would make no difference. Had the surgeon a sooner opening I am certain she would have scheduled Lily for it. Was I being punished for moving from veterinarian to veterinarian, in search of one who would be open and truthful with me about my dogs? Maybe, but unlikely. Veterinarians’ primary concern is for the patient, not their person, I hope.

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The extra 4 days has given me opportunity to research the type of surgery she will have, and I read aloud to Lily the prognosis for success (very good) and the recovery and how she and I will deal with it.

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In the meantime the air conditioning unit has been busy filling up its overflow drain pan. The first time, mentioned in a previous post actually shut off the unit itself which was how I discovered the problem. Four repair calls and a new shop-vac later it is still filling the pan. The drain has been cleared (twice), the crawlspace pipe has been elevated, the unit has been examined totally and discovered to be problem-free. Clearly something still needs to be looked at.

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So today, as I did a few days ago, I vacuumed up 12 containers of water. The gift here? I accidentally face-timed a friend and learned how to turn the function off so it wouldn’t keep happening. I noticed the tiny attic had space to put some boxes I want to save. I went up and down those attic stairs 12 times so got in exercise steps which matters now that it is too hot to walk the dogs and Lily can’t walk anyway. Lulu won’t walk if Lily doesn’t go. And sweat! No idea how to measure the amount pouring off but I understand it’s cleansing.

IMG_0011.JPGRescue dog Lily patiently waiting for her new surgery day

My son called to let me know he’s visiting a college friend nearby and will drive up to visit me for a couple of days. Even though Lily will be in recovery and we can’t do much of anything we’ll hunker down with some tacos and old movies and have a fun time.

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So I’ve got lists going for things to do to prep for Lily’s big day, things to do while she is at the hospital and stuff to prepare for my son’s visit.

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Busy week coming up.

IMG_0016.JPGRescue dog Lulu not worried at all

 

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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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broken Love

So I was driving somewhere this week and the radio station I happened to be listening to was asking what people were planning to do with their loved one for Valentine’s Day. One woman said she and her husband never planned anything for Valentine’s Day. Their marriage was one in which their love is such they do not need a special day to show it.

I’d never heard that one before. Impressive.

So much hype comes with days like this– birthdays, anniversaries, remembrances. It doesn’t have to be like this.

After my divorce I was a complete mess. There was a comic strip I used to read, “Beetle Bailey”, this scrawny private in the military constantly being beaten to a pulp by his superior, Sarge. The comic would show this with a flattened remnant of an individual, feet and hands sticking out oddly, a few teeth gone.

That’s what I felt like.

So with whatever was left I decided to self-destruct. I became involved with some unsavory characters. I drank too much. Even though I had a child and managed to look respectable I also struggled hard to dig further into the hole I found myself in. Not sure how bleak I hoped to make it but one morning I woke to see my son standing in the doorway to my bedroom. At that point I realized what I had been doing. Ignoring that which was important. Living in a black pool of anger and resentment regardless of any cost.

So  as I walked into each new day I functioned. I cooked, I cleaned, I took care of my son as far as my brokenness would allow. Hoping no matter what I said or did he could know that the brokenness was not his fault. Hoping he could know love despite the personal chaos I had created. I kept an orderly home, worked, paid bills on time, for all intents and purposes things looked fine. Normal, whatever that is. But inside I was a wreck. No order about my thoughts, just survival. Life. Later in the year my son was visiting his father. I found myself reading a little religious magazine I’d subscribed to but never read. I kept the issues I received bound in rubber bands. No idea why. And one day I came across them.

It was a sunny, fresh day. I took them outside to my condo’s little patio and unwrapped the rubber band. I sat in the warm sun, taking them one at a time I read through each one. Each telling me no matter what God loves me. That His Son died an undeserved, humiliating and unimaginably painful death because my pitiable human life is such that I cannot come before my Creator on my own.  Because of His incredible love His sinless Life died for my sinful one. No matter how bleak, how dark, how distant, how bad. Before I was halfway through reading these little booklets I was in tears. A complete mess, but a good mess. It was the old me, the stubborn, angry, bitter me melting before Him Who came to save me. It was me realizing, understanding maybe for the first time ever that there was nothing I could do or be to make myself good, acceptable, clean. It was me seeing this One, this Perfect One who came to this planet to save all people from self and sin, and He was holding His arms out to me, His heart open as it probably always had been but I never saw it. And in Him I saw true hope.

I walked into those arms. I have never felt lost again. I have been alone but seldom lonely, wrong but He is always quick to forgive when I come to Him honestly and tell Him everything. I have been sad from rejection, from hurt but He has always comforted me. I have been afraid, maybe of something I imagined but afraid just the same and He has given me courage. He strengthens me, nourishes me, refreshes me, guides and instructs me, sustains me.

His love has been since before this world and will be, forever. And He won’t ever let me go.

So even though today or any day I find myself at a place of fogginess where I can’t see the road clearly in front of me I know He is here. I know whatever direction I take, wherever I go He will be with me.

I won’t be perfect. But life will be ok. And it will be right. And true. And real.

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For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

 

 

simple gifts

As I began the slow climb up the mountain Aaron Copland’s “Simple Gifts” played on the car radio. Appalachian Spring is a favorite composition of mine. . .  “‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ’tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, and when we find ourselves in the place just right, ”twill be in the valley of love and delight… ”

I thought of a favorite author, Ann Voskamp’s book “1,000 Gifts” where she found herself at a place I reach occasionally… I can no longer see beauty for the mundane I have built in my own presupposition. So in her book Ann seeks to find gratitude in the hard, unpleasant times in her life. She finds beauty in the angry, strength in the weak. She finds God in her gratitude when she would perhaps find discouragement, instead finds courage.

So I became overwhelmed by that which I had lost sight of, what I failed to notice… rescue dog Lulu tickling me with her whiskers when she hopes to be noticed. Rescue dog Lily slathering my face with a slobbery kiss. Birdsong echoing in the pine thicket where my dogs and I walk at sunrise during summer. Tiny frogs in the eave of my house croaking loudly after a rainstorm. Puddle shimmers on the walkway reflecting under the porch ceiling. The sun gleaming on pine needles. Water droplets edged on grape leaves like tiny crystals.

During my time away I relished the sound of lively conversation and laughter among random small groups chatting happily on the lodge veranda. The gentle creak of rocking chairs as I watched a deer delicately pick her way along the edge of the woods munching leaves. The soft hum of crickets outside my open window where rainwashed, cool fresh air gently blew over my toes. Up the mountain the clouds hovered just below the peaks, hugging the light mist that floated below them. Plodding up each switchback I offered to God my challenges, cares, fears, and a few  tears. I thanked Him as I walked down the mountain, for the answers He would bring, for the comfort I already knew, for the peace over that which I cannot control.

Hope is a simple gift of the heart. It grows through faith and through my answered prayer. When allowed its freedom hope is indomitable, strengthening, comforting, and offers freedom from whatever tries to contain me. I can overcome it, whatever it is.

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Thank You God.

— Shaker lyrics, “Simple Gifts” written by Elder Joseph Brackett, 1848

Another birthday

Each one spins by faster than the one before. This year my son came here to visit me. We did a lot of things but mainly we spent time. It cost him, yes– a plane ticket, time away from an important deadline at work, he is still recovering from his surgery a few weeks ago, but he came to spend something that cannot be bought or borrowed or hoarded. He gave me his time.

How often do we think of what someone does out of love for us as a gift? How often do we take it for granted or (far worse) feel it is deserved?

So much of life is a gift and I am saddened to the point of tears at times to realize how long it has taken me to understand how much I have that I did not work for, did not earn, didn’t even ask for but it is right in front of me, all around me.

It also makes me wonder because of the glut of richness in this life– not just the colors of the earth or the softness of a fawn’s eyes or the sound of wind in the trees or waves on the sand or laughter of a child –we do not truly see, nor do we hear. Some of us are so busy with amplifications or distortions of some sort or our selves that we can only see and hear no further than our own parameters.

My son had precious time, and he chose to share it with me. He went beyond himself, the rim of his existence. I hope he received something in return, my love, my joy at his gift.

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No remorse

And thank You God for that. I have moved a few times where immediately I regretted the house I chose, West Palm and Miami being such places and the last house another but it kind of grew on me. I loved its long, sloping back yard and the nearby greenway.

This house I feel at home in, well I will as soon as I unpack all these boxes.

The previous owners were the original occupants and the Mr. was formerly with IBM. He kept meticulous, scrupulous records of everything. They maintained from underneath this house to its roof. There was not one grain of sand, no speck of dust when I had the final walk-through before closing.

It’s beautiful.

I am 10 minutes’ drive from the beach. The neighbors have been very kind in a non-invasive way. It seems like a gentle place to live. And there is a walking trail around the perimeter of the neighborhood, with a cool, clear creek running alongside for Lily to splash in.

The floor people and I did a massive cleaning of my former house, top to bottom. Hardwoods, carpet, tile, paint touch-up, scrubbing doors, bathrooms, appliances, windows. Pressure washing driveway, front porch and walkway. It gleamed!

It goes live this Wednesday and I hope sells quickly.

But for now I feel snug as a mug of hot cocoa.

Love

This is something we feel, yet it is completely intangible. It is a bond that once established remains forever. When that with which we share the bond is gone it’s almost as though an appendage has been severed, or a critical food source has stopped. We feel the hunger for the sustenance, yet we feel no real pain. What we feel is the absence of what once was. We don’t like this emptiness. We cry over it, we bemoan its end. We bargain, pray for and hope against all we have or know to have it again but we know we will not. Somehow when that reality eventually settles in our minds the cruelty of the loss becomes even sharper and we have to fill the void with memories. It helps to write or talk about that which we have lost. It helps to remember specific things we did or said or that happened. We have to remember the value of what was through what we shared or else we’ll fall into an abyss of loss. We have to be tossed a bit on the waves of grief, crying our hearts out for sadness over what we loved. Is it that we continue on, leaving the beloved behind, or is the beloved moving on, leaving us behind? Doesn’t matter. The simple fact is that love which existed only in and of and for itself, specifically between ourselves is no longer living and breathing in our dimensional world.

We have to remember. Before and after we say good-bye. And be grateful for that which we did have, for however short a time.

Gratitude

I am speaking of the humbling side of being grateful. Not so much where I feel so good after a great meal, or time with friends, or that it snowed instead of rained– those are more things that make me happy. I guess it’s easy to blur the lines between real gratitude and being happy. Gratitude can make me happy, being happy can also make me grateful, but I think genuine gratitude is more than that.

These past few weeks I have sought out people who, however long or short ago, have done things that some people might overlook. A passing comment at a point of dispiritedness, an invitation when I felt most alone, or even way back in junior high when I was having a particularly rough time with parents, friends and just general growing up. A classmate’s mom took note of this and, with my mother’s permission, asked if I would like to walk with her in a nearby park, to see whether I would like to talk about things. At first I was pretty confused. This happened at a time when my own parents clearly (and probably deservedly) wanted to disown me. So why was this woman, someone else’s mom for that matter, showing me kindness? It wasn’t until later that I understood. Because no one else was. She did this as a reflection of true grace– something I did nothing to deserve certainly not in light of the trouble I’d gotten into –in herself. Before that time I don’t think I’d ever experienced such kindness. Oh, my grandmother had come to my defense a couple of times when I was little because she wanted to dote on me which is what grandparents do, but this was a lady unrelated to me who saw how alone I was and wanted to reach out to me. So I found my classmate and extended my thanks to her, through him.

Then there was a friend, more the mom of a friend of my son’s, who included me even when it was awkward to include a single mom. She saw me as a person, not just for the baggage I lugged around, the stigmas, the hardships, but beyond all that to who I was as a person. To these people I had dimension in and of myself, not for all that I was dealing with or had happen to me, but for me.

What I hope beyond all these specific memories is that I can recall the others. I am sure there have been many and I don’t want to leave one unacknowledged. How many times where people have dropped little sparkling gems into the waters that immerse my life and I hope someday to thank all of them. Sometimes it may not possible, but in my heart I will if not in some tangible form.