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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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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making new friends

Runs with scissors. This would be me. So far, except for one small mishap in high school which only required a butterfly bandaid I have been very lucky.

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Don’t Play Well With Others

This would apply to rescue dogs Lily and Lulu.

I adopted Lulu somewhat late in her life, 3 years ago. She is maybe 8 or 9 now. I adopted Lily when she was about a year so she is now around 11 or 12. Lily’s sole purpose in life (after eating) is to be my Nanny. She follows me everywhere, keeps me in her line of sight at all times. If we encounter other people on a walk she places herself between them and me. When she lost her rescue buddy Murphy 5 years ago she was heartbroken. This was a surprise since they tolerated each other but did not appear to much care if the other came or went. When Murphy died I realized that despite outward appearances animals form strong bonds. Lily looked for him, even after I moved 200 miles east. So enter Lulu.

I fostered her for about a week to see how things would shake out. Lulu confiscated all the toys and appropriated all the beds within a day or so. Only once did I find her shaking, cornered by Lily for some unknown altercation. Lily and I discussed her new friend and that put an end to her hostility toward Lulu. They are sisters now.

On walks and hikes whenever they encounter any other dog, happy, peppy puppies, sullen surly dogs, or any other attitude they are tolerant, receptive but non-interactive. So I figured they had decided they were enough. Until a few days ago.

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This happy but laid-back little fellow ambled over one afternoon. We had just finished our walkie and were about to head home. Taking an immediate interest, he was undaunted by Lily and Lulu’s complete nosiness. He welcomed it! There was no growling, no defensive posture. Just happy sniffing and wagging of tails.

So sometimes there are exceptions to even the truest of generalizations.

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It’s important to keep an open mind.

 

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panic to peace

I live in relative solitude. Lily and Lulu, the occasional friendly neighbor to stop and make small talk. My family all live several states away, so my life is pretty quiet. Occasionally stirred by a frenetic morning.

So the routine usually is the same. Very little deviation from it. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu receive the first attention– they go outside, then get their breakfast, dental treats. Pretty simple unless my morning is strange.

I couldn’t get the order right today. Confusion doesn’t exactly ensue but I’m thrown off balance. Then the server disconnected except that every wireless device still showed they were online, only they weren’t. So the dogs and I went for our walk. Unlike most mornings when we go to the electric company’s property for something different

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we walked to an adjacent subdivision where the fanatic dog lives. He comes snarling down his backyard fence then hurls himself up to the top rail of the fence but never jumps high enough to get completely over, thankfully. Not sure what might happen if he did and I’d rather not know.

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We did spot this beautiful red-tailed hawk on our way out and he permitted me to take a picture.

So we got home and I called AT&T. First you go through their sales hurdle, no thank you, I do not want to upgrade. I’d just like for what I have to work. Then the service tech. They go through every test, pingback and process to determine what’s wrong. Then they have you unplug everything, wait 10 seconds, then plug back in and wait till it all reconnects. That worked. I’m writing that down so I can try it first if there’s a next time.

While I am on the phone my doorbell rings. It’s the neighbor who’s lost his wife before last fall’s hurricane wanting to borrow a step-ladder. He is building a house near one of his daughters and his ladder’s over there. So I go to get the ladder and find he’s gone into my garage and helped himself to another ladder.

?<<surprise>>?

I like to think I would respectfully ask if I could do something like that before doing it, but that’s just me. So after I hung up the phone I got the step-ladder and took it to his garage where he and his daughters are working and see them with my ladder. All I could think to say was , “I want that back when you’re finished!” They all casually nodded and kept working at whatever they were doing.

<<Neither a borrower nor a lender be.>>

This kept clanging around in my head until I was in a frenzied panic over a stupid ladder, absolutely sure it would disappear, eaten by the contents of their in-process moving. I have a tiny yard and most of my gardening is confined to plants in pots which I think can be very pretty, so I busied myself with potting up some planters.

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I tend to go to extremes about stuff, forgetting important truisms like “Love people, use things, don’t use people and love things.” So I keep busy.

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It helps take my mind off whatever I am fretting over but not usually for very long. So I wandered around the yard to take in what the warm spring temperatures were coaxing out

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More violets. While most gardeners I know think these are a horrible, invasive weed, if my whole yard was covered in these plants I’d be happy. Even when they stop blooming their lovely green broad-leafed leaves stay low to the ground and shine in the sun.

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A brown turkey fig that has started to leaf. It will not bear any fruit yet because it’s still too young but it is one of three and I hope someday to be able to pot up some preserves.

After all of this busy-ness one of my neighbor’s daughters returned the ladder. We chatted a bit about what this is like, the work of sorting through the tangible remnants of a loved one’s life.

And I am glad, however small, I could help.

 

 

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reflections

Probably the last hold-out for a smart phone, I caved and visited the phone store this week. I was early but not the first person so was placed on the digital line. Kind of like those coasters they give you at restaurants when you have to wait, instead of flashing lights my phone would beep. I wandered from one display to anotunnamed.jpgher comparing prices and functions. I knew a phone that had basic functions– calling and text –was what I was looking for, but also thought gps, wifi and better camera capability would be nice.

So as I looked at the offerings I overheard a lady explaining how difficult it was for her to adapt to change… she was worried about a new phone and her ability to use it.

I moved to another display of fitbits. Curious I started reading about them. A few feet away I heard a gentleman who had come in to have his phone screen repaired since it had gotten cracked.

My turn came and I explained what I was looking for, asked about 2 or 3 model phones, prices, function. We looked at them and I decided on one. While the salesperson activated the phone I stood quietly watching how easy this was for him, hoping I could adjust quickly. A lady came in briskly asking where a specific employee was, she had her card. Another salesman said she was off that day, could he help. The lady went on to say she was unhappy with something she’d purchased 2 weeks prior, why would they stock something like that? An unanswerable question, the salesman explained the warranty and the lady responded she’d been in Europe for 2 weeks. My salesperson continued to be very focused on my phone and I watched him, diligently. A sharp remark from the lady jerked my head up momentarily, I quickly looked away again. She stalked out. The person who had attempted to help her shook his head, muttering something about being yelled at. Mollified, I commented ” Some people just cannot be happy no matter what you do”. He perked a bit at that and I suddenly realized I was each of those people I’d noticed in that store.

At some point in my life I’d been impatient, demanding, frustrated, angry. A phase I mercifully grew out of. Or prayed my way out. Occasionally I encounter a situation or a new process in life that requires risk or change and I am briefly uncomfortable until I begin to understand it. And I have had many accidents in my life where I have broken things.

So, armed with this new device, a screen protector and insurance I have fortified myself as best I can to use this new little phone and protect it.

It is hard to see ourselves as others see us! Sometimes we exaggerate the good, other times the not so good. But that day I was given a gift of seeing where I had been and realized how patient others were.

Sometimes it’s important to see the kindness of others through others’ eyes, or behaviors.

13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— ”   Ephesians 4:13-15

 

 

 

Recap, going forward

Sometimes a little introspection helps before stepping ahead. I have not been hearing much in the way of resolution-making.  It seems more of a collective sigh the end of this year rather than gathering steam for plunging into the beginning of a new year.

I have heard more of One Word. Picking a word to carry into the new year. In emails, a book I recently started reading, blog posts– oddly each of these has brought up the one word concept instead of making a to-do list for the new year.

So I am going to try this. It took me a few days to decide, but my word is patience. I have none. Or very little. And to make it interesting I am making this word an acronym.

P- prayer. This is where I stop talking (rare for me), get still, find a place to be alone. I focus on breathing (ok, so maybe prayer for me is more like meditation but it works). I get focused. Obviously this is not going to work when I am sitting at a red light that turns green and no one moves. Or I am in bumper-to-bumper traffic all lanes moving 10 miles under the speed limit and I am 5 minutes late. No, that would be where I breathe deeply, force a smile on my face or start singing. A form of prayer. Maybe. Depends what I am singing.

A- Adapt. I have never been one to be aggressive or selfish. Nor have I ever demanded everything is done my way, not even when I had a business. The best way to lead a team is let each member realize their own importance and combine ideas and efforts. So adapting… I will be resilient. Like at that traffic light. Find reasons to not be impatient.

T- trust. This is probably the biggest one. I question everything, everyone. I doubt. I counter. I take opposing sides just to prove to myself the side I believe in works. So trust. I mostly will have to learn to trust myself. Have faith. Confidence. But humbly.

I- Initiative. I cannot allow inertia to win anymore. So maybe yes, it is comfortable to curl up with a great book and hide from the world. I can’t do this (not all the time anyway). If opportunities come my way I need to consider them, take advantage of some, realize which make sense, when to stop taking initiative.

E- Effort. I am lazy! I love doing things the easy way, or encouraging others to do what I could do. Put more into little and big things. Whatever committees I am on put everything into my part. Even housework. Don’t skip dusting.

N- Nurture. Not just everyone else but me, too. Take a little time to rest, recreate. Allow responses to form rather than spouting off replies impulsively. Be considerate, thoughtful. Allow myself time. And family. Be there for them even when they are not there for me.

C- Careful. I don’t mean this in a fearful way. Taking care with what I say, how I respond, feelings that burst forth before I have understood a situation. So I want to be careful of others’ feelings, careful of the words I use. Restraint. Careful of my facial expressions. And listen. Much more listening.

E- Endurance. I have to stop running away. Away from feelings, confrontation, sparring for a purpose, values, beliefs. I have to begin to stand. For what I believe,  for what is right. And sometimes that means waiting.

So this is my word for 2018. Patience. And all that I see within it. It seems an awful lot right now… my Dad always said it’s not that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, you just don’t have enough time to chew it.

One year. I have a whole year, 365 days. I can do this.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  —Ephesians 6:13

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

 

Kindness

We have come to expect so much these days. It is as if we overcompensate for fear lest even our most basic of needs will not be met. So when we are gently met with grace we almost don’t know how to respond.

I learned long ago that others’ kindnesses towards me are as a result of who they are, not because I am deserving of it. That is what grace is, after all, isn’t it? Something that floats down to us, undemanded, often undeserving, but with something important for us to learn.

It comes to us in the oddest places– when we are toting a cumbersome load of shopping bags, fumbling for our keys struggling to open a door and often unseen the door opens for us because someone noticed.

We sit, waiting in the emergency lane or the on-ramp while others zip by us and a car slows so we can merge into traffic. Someone noticed.

During a heavy storm in the night we hear limbs crashing to the ground, next morning we awaken to find they have all been placed by the curb to be picked up. Someone noticed.

A woman runs frantically into the library, her eyes laser-like scouring the area when a librarian, tearful child in tow, sticky lollipop in hand, smiles at the harried, beside-herself with apologies mom and hands her the child. Someone noticed.

Every day we are overwhelmed with receiving moments of grace, sometimes the benefactor, sometimes the beneficiary.

Either way, someone notices.

Psalm 97

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.

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.