klutz

No one else in my family is. Only me.

I looked it up. According to Merriam-Webster online it became commonly used in the late 1950s in America. It is derived from the Yiddish word, klots which literally means ‘wooden beam’.

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I used to laugh this off but as I get older it gets a bit more serious. Like about 15 years ago I was visiting my dad and my step-mother at their house at the beach. She handed me two nested glass bowls that were stuck to un-nest.

Yes. They broke and sliced my finger.

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I wrapped it in a paper towel and figured it would stop bleeding. We kept the conversations going. Three hours later it’s still bleeding. There is no nearby hospital or even a doc-in-a-box (urgent care), so they called an ambulance.  For a cut finger. The ER doc gave me 5 stitches.

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There have been many more instances, I will spare you. Fast-forward to today. Years ago I learned the hard way I can not use a weed-eater. Not only do I get too close to that whacking string but I beheaded many unsuspecting plants. So whenever I want to edge flower beds I use a garden snip. This works really well but is time-intensive. On a day like today I was happy just to be outside. Even though my area of town did not get the quenching rains so desperately needed, the thunderstorms that passed through last night cleared the hot air and humidity.

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So I plopped down in front of the garden stones and clipped the overgrown grass. Lily and Lulu stretched out close by occasionally sniffing the light breeze.

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I absent-mindedly commented to Lulu how much the grass had grown, snipping away, hands buried deep when I felt a sharp pain on the same finger I nicked for my step-mother. Drawing it out sure enough a bright red spot bloomed where I actually sliced off a good chunk of skin.

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I ran inside, wrapped it in thick paper towels, again, holding it over my head. It finally stopped bleeding to the point where I could put anti-bacterial ointment and bandage it in gauze. It has even stopped throbbing now, so I think I will live.

Maybe I should get a weed whacker anyway. I can always replace the flowers.

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Lulu exhausted from the excitement.

 

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time and tide

I can’t remember who decided to make Mom breakfast in bed but my brother and I would wake early on Mother’s Day morning to prepare a breakfast surprise. Sundays were good days because our parents either attended or hosted a party Saturday (and Friday) nights. So nobody but us ever woke early.

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These breakfasts were generally not messy! No attempts at pancakes a la eggshells, or half-cooked scrambled eggs. Neither of us ever even thought of trying something that involved dangerous appliances like stoves or blenders. No, our breakfast for Mom consisted of carrot strips, burned toast dripping with butter. I don’t even think we tried to make coffee. Back then Mom ground coffee beans every morning. But juice and probably milk or at least water, which sloshed over the tray and the plate making her toast a sodden mess. She always gave us a big bright smile and oohed gratefully.

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And we were so proud of ourselves!

My mother had served her country. She graduated Smith College 1943 and enlisted in the Navy. Her father had served in WW I, Army, in France. Her uncle was Navy, serving again in WW II. Mom was responsible for a psychiatric ward in San Diego. She loved what she did. She was deeply patriotic. She never spoke of her time in service.

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My mother was one of the strongest people I have ever known. She survived my childhood, the loss of a child, life with my difficult Father, and cancer. She kept busy. In addition to raising my surviving brother and me, she volunteered in Junior League building a Nature Museum at a popular park, complete with planetarium, was member of a DAR chapter, even participated in a sit-in with other moms when the local government planned to take part of our elementary school playground away for a nearby college parking lot.

Having worked in advertising where she met my dad she was fashionable and confident. I was shy, and shunned fads and fashion.

She lived for golf, and though she was in a garden club she killed any plant she touched. She was in a book club, and second only to golf was her love for bridge. Something she once told me I wasn’t smart enough to learn. But she was so smart, and very funny, and she had many friends who were so dear to her.

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She and I were close in a love-hate kind of way. I argued about everything. She called me a maverick. I had trust issues. Nobody’s perfect (least of all me), but Mom had one failing  my brother and I still disagree over. There were many nights when Dad was not home (he commuted weekly to New York), where I would help Mom to bed, and lock the house. From the age of about 6. My brother and I called it her mood, but she drank. I once told my father who I suppose confronted Mom, who likely denied it, or maybe he didn’t and just assumed I was being the height of disrespectful. Whatever, I got a spanking I will never forget.

So I never said another word.

And I wish I could forget.

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When Dad’s company finally moved us up north and we spent actual evenings home at the dinner table together everything changed. No more ‘moods’. We all became closer. Well, inasmuch as any dysfunctional family can. We did try to find a church but it was a ‘high’ church and swung incense so we didn’t go back. To any church.

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I don’t remember when I decided that she never liked me much. After my divorce she could not understand why I grieved. She and my father had disliked my ex-husband and could not understand that my sadness was not so much for not being married to him as the death of my marriage which I had wanted so badly to work. The distance became greater when she told me my struggles as a single mom were no different than her raising my brother and me when Dad commuted.

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I guess the real sadness was I never tried to talk with her about any of this. She has been gone for 30 years and, with all the tides that have ebbed and flowed and all the time that’s passed, I still miss her.

Or maybe I miss the relationship I always believed we had because I wished so hard for it. So this is a facet of my brokenness. A critical aspect of who I am, but it stems from who my mother never was. And I do try to focus on the happy memories but they are few.

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Kind of like these two boats rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I watched coming down the river this week. Mom and I were never quite together on things.

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But I suppose we can find grace in the chinks of light that shine through our brokenness. These flowers greeted me early this morning. They are from my sweet son. He lives several states away. He’s grown now, successful in his work and friendships. I am so proud of him. There are many regrets though that I have from when he was growing up. I had to work so hard to pay bills and buy food. He doesn’t remember it like that, mercifully. He doesn’t remember my frustration, or what I always thought he lacked.

Grace. What we receive and do not deserve. And mercy. What we deserve but do not receive.

God is so good.

To any Moms who may be reading this,  Happy Mother’s Day.

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strength

Nerves of steel. Iron willed. Rock solid. Unflappable. So many images to describe someone who can withstand adversity. Even capricious betrayal.

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Someone convinces me that s/he is sincerely in my corner, only wanting to help, but instead of my normal step back to consider the thing I jump right in, believing this person is actually the genuine, concerned, true clear thinker that I am not at the moment.

Mistake. At rescue dog Lulu’s expense.

As a person said, after the altered-universe nightmare was over, hindsight is 20/20. Yes. And I know this. I have known it since I entered into a marriage that should never have happened.

When does one finally learn? When do I get to look back and not say “hindsight is 20/20”?

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Sure, she likely needed the treatments she received, but I needed to make that decision. I am old enough to know better. I need to remember it is almost never that anyone else has my best interests in mind or even at heart. Certainly not when s/he is insisting I do something their way. I need to not worry oh gosh what will s/he think of me if I make a different choice.

Lulu mattered. Not the controlling person.

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Mercifully Lulu is none the worse for the experience. The same cannot be said for me. It was not the expense. It was visiting my little dog and seeing her collapse in exhaustion because she cannot sleep in a tense environment with 24-hour noise, prodding of needles and not eating, receiving fluids because she is too terrified to drink on her own.

It was seeing her wild-eyed, cradled in my arms unable to relax until she slept. It was being home without her, my other rescue dog, Lily greeting me when I came home from visiting Lulu sniffing every centimeter of my arms and hands, going to the back door to look for Lulu, who was not there.

It was going to pick Lulu up on my appointed day to bring her home to be met by the ICU tech telling me, no, Lulu is not going home, and me replying Yes, Lulu is coming home today, and bringing her home.

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Thank God Lulu is fine. But now I have another person to put on my “Not to be trusted” list. A person who encouraged me to do a thing and resolved issues vicariously through my experience.

Whatever. I’m just glad it is over. And Lulu is home. The lump on her throat which appeared is still there but not a bother to her in any way, and an emergency vet experience made her no better than her own vet would have. She did need care beyond what I could offer, but not dire.

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But then I will never know. And I have trust issues. The person who told me Lulu needed to go there may have meant well but I know enough to know that people also can have an agenda. So I can remember, if such a thing should ever happen again to say thank you, I will consider the suggestion. And think about it.

And pray that there are no other dire circumstances at the same time, like a broken tree falling in the backyard …..

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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.

pain of healing

Forged in the fire, no pain, no gain, that which does not kill me makes me stronger…

I have watched husky-mix Lily closely these couple of weeks as she has recovered from her surgery. She did not do any of the things I prepared for– lick her stitches so avoided the “cone of shame”, cry out, object to the physical therapies I have done to keep her leg limber and exercised. At least not at first.

Her pain has been recent. When I take my other rescue dog, Lulu out for a short walk Lily is left behind. She is feeling better. She doesn’t understand why I am still holding her back from racing to the door if the doorbell rings, bounding down the porch steps to go outside, checking the backyard before bed to ward off the possum that sleeps in one of our trees. Maybe it isn’t painful for her, but for me. I feel badly that I can’t yet allow her to be herself.

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I think we all become complacent sometimes. Then something blindsides us or something we saw coming but hoped wouldn’t, happened. Or we lose someone, in some way– death, divorce, argument –and we are hurting. We sort through what happened and face some truths, which can hurt more than the thing that happened. But that hurt is the beginning of the healing. We are free when we face the realities of it. You can see it for what it is, put it in perspective. Lies hold us in bondage both to the lie as long as we persist in believing it, and the truth that we won’t yet face.

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Years ago I read several books by Dr. Frederick Buechner, a favorite of mine, Telling Secrets. This book illustrated well for me that our secrets are lives we live that no one else sees, and we may fabricate a life that we present to others that we believe is more presentable. But it’s in our secrets that we unlock who we truly are….

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Lately Lily’s resistance to my helping her stretch and exercise her leg has become stronger. This is frustrating for me, likely for her, too. This is to be done 3-5 times each day and as she heals and becomes stronger it’s gone to more like maybe 3 times a day. Thankfully her stitches will be removed this week and I really hope her vet tells me she can be freer in her walking and movement. She has helped me see, though, how it must be when my Father, God, wants to do something for me or through me and I struggle, disobey, assert my own will.

I need to get out of His way and wait for Him. I guess it’s good I have a lifetime to work on this.

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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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too strong to cry

For years after my husband and I divorced I did not cry. I might say could not but since I cry easily these days I would guess I could have but for whatever reason just didn’t.

I did not cry for my failed marriage. I did not cry for our son who would be shuttled between two states and so many dynamics of family. I did not cry for abysmal relationship mistakes made years after. I did not cry when my taskmaster Father for whom I worked in business blamed me for any and everything that went wrong, personnel, technical, anything. I now realize as a business owner he wanted me to understand what it meant to take responsibility but I was in overload in that department already.

I did cry when my mother died, 7 years after my divorce. The floodgates opened. She and I had drifted apart because I had too many tightropes to walk and could not relate to anyone. But when she died I snapped back to reality. Six years after she died my little dog of almost 16, with an enlarged heart, enlarged liver, degenerative disc disease and latent seizures had to be put to sleep.

I cried harder for my little Piper than for my mom.

As my son grew and life came back into focus my perspective became more balanced. I suppose sometimes you have to go off the deep end to see what’s right more clearly.

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At first I moved very slowly because life was newer, fresher but not strange. Having come to the end of myself I handed me off to God. I knew at once how badly I needed Him, how much I depended on Him. For breath, for wisdom, guidance, peace, grace, comfort, understanding, forgiveness, life.

And though I was still somewhat confused that purpose and vocation could be but were not necessarily one and the same thing that, too became clearer. First I was a child of God. Next a mother. Then a provider, sister, daughter, friend. And nothing is compartmentalized but can interchange.

Life, I learned, is rather fluid.

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Sometimes we find a niche and alight for however long.

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Other times, we fly.

I write this post after my son called to tell me he is in Tennessee with his father. His step-mother, a woman whom I have never got to know (why would I have) is not expected to live through today. They said that though on Thursday when she was admitted to hospital for sudden pain that has turned out to be a super-resistant infection.  And she is still here.

So I told my son I will pray for her, this woman, a virtual stranger but she is important to my son.

So she is important.

And I will pray.

And I cried. For a woman I do not know.

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“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”   –Psalm 23:4

“For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”    —Psalm 91:11