test flight

One of my past lives was as a librarian. I enjoyed this work because I helped people chase their dreams, start small businesses, children learn the joy of reading, way more than telling people to “Shhhh” or sternly with thin lips accuse them of the desperate owing of library fines. I came into libraries by volunteering, then having to study for a masters, right about the time they began to digitize. Pretty exciting. Besides loving books and reading I am something of a trivia addict.

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Maybe all those other career pursuits I thought would happen but didn’t were just practice. Veterinary assistant, legal assistant, newspaper production, travel agent, and the many years as a temp so I could be home for my son after school. Some are born and just know what they want to ‘be’. I didn’t. So my working life was kind of trial and error. I don’t know that I ever earned my wings but I had many fascinating pursuits trying.

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This is one of those kind of scary large bugs that occasionally appear in great numbers but in off years there aren’t many. On their best years the sound cicadas make is almost deafening. For some reason this one was having a hard time flying the morning I saw it on the front walk. It welcomed my help and grasped my finger for a free ride. I suppose it didn’t know I wouldn’t eat it but climbed on anyway. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu were very interested until it started its loud chirring, then backed away. I found a thick bush where it climbed into the branches. Maybe a bird tried to have it for breakfast and it escaped, who knows.

This morning after the dogs had their breakfast I walked out to the porch to greet the day and immediately Lulu raced to a corner at the front of the porch and tried to get around the flower pots and chair legs at something. I looked over to find a  fledged baby cardinal that had flown in fluttering against the screen which explained the loud chirping and frantic flying of the adult birds just outside. I leaned over and gently grasped the little ball of fluff, its crest straight up and it stopped struggling momentarily. I walked outside to the fence where its parents darted back and forth chirping loudly, held it at the top of the fence and opened my hand. A flash of red swooped past and the baby immediately followed leaving no trace. A few moments later I saw both parents loudly chirping,  perched in the butterfly bush near where I had released their baby. Maybe they came back to thank me.

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I guess we all are here for a reason. Some of us just have our metamorphosis later.

 

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surprise endings

For many years in late summer I have enjoyed a week in the cool, forested North Carolina mountains in the heart of the Blue Ridge. It’s kind of a reset. On the surface my life appears stress-free… I am retired, my son is grown and living a happy, successful life on his own. But stuff does happen. Things build up. So these precious few days alone in the cooler air seem to clear my head and I get maybe not a do-over but a restart.

This is usually in prelude to a visit with my family at a beach south of where I live. We’ve been meeting there for the past ten years, for a week at a little inn where the same families come back each year. For better or worse it is our “family vacation” and I always look forward to it.

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Until Lily.

Two weeks ago today we were outside for the last perimeter check before bed. The people on the other side of the fence behind my house have a super-aggressive dog that loudly charges the privacy fence between us. Rescue dog Lulu, all 20-pounds of terrier responds in kind. Rescue dog Lily, somewhat protective of her little sister wandered over to be sure aggressive neighbor dog failed at her efforts.

Then Lily quickly walked back by me and sat down. Hard. I looked over at her. “Lily?”

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She turned to me. “Can you come over here?” I asked. She rose, painfully and with a pronounced limp came over to me.

No. But yes. The other acl is now torn.

So no plans. Cancelled the little mountain cabin the end of this month (I’d planned to bring Lily and Lulu this year). The only pet sitter I trust Lily with declined staying with her, understandably concerned about the intensive care Lily will require after her surgery.

I have not yet told my family I won’t be joining them though I have cancelled my reservation at the inn.  There is a reason for everything.

I reflected on life, years ago in my chaotic vortex, newly divorced, sudden responsibilities of single parenthood, jobs, schools for my son, sitters, car maintenance, the whole aspect of LIFE that happens for everyone but I had never had it all. And I believed that. I believed it was all on me.

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Bit by bit, mistake by mistake I gradually learned I could depend on God. No matter what it was… a new clutch for my car, an unexpected medical bill, leak in the ceiling. No, God did not come here to fix these things Himself. But He gave me peace. He strengthened me when I wanted to run away. He helped me persevere, gave light and calm in the storms.

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And I remembered my feeble prayers! Sometimes just a faint, “Help, please!” And He did. He heard me. He strengthened me. Every time. For any reason, crisis or not. He truly never left me. He keeps His promises, even when we forget, ignore, disbelieve or panic. He doesn’t give up on us.

My prayers in those times weren’t great. Sometimes I don’t think even I believed them. But He did. Because what or how or why I prayed them was not the point. His faithfulness is all that matters.

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So Lily and I will get through this. And about the time she is finished with her physical therapy and beginning to be strong the weather will have cooled enough for her to enjoy her walkies again.

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seeing

Eyesight is so taken for granted. When asked if you had a choice of losing hearing or eyesight (neither!), many prefer to keep seeing. Things we experience by sight are very hard to describe unless others have experienced it too. If the only star someone can imagine is a pentagram or stars in the night sky how do you describe a flower?

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How would you describe the curl of an ocean wave, or the liquid gold surface of the ocean as  it reflects the morning sun?

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There are caterpillars that cause a lot of damage, destroying an entire tree, and borer beetles that destroy whole pine forests. There are other caterpillars that eat a plant to a nub, only to have the plant grow back because that is one of the things the plant was created for.

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I can’t imagine not hearing the dawn chorus each morning, rain or shine, cold or hot. Or not seeing the bright red plumage of a black-masked male cardinal. Or floating on the scatter-brained song of a bluebird. The sound of wind in the pines, ocean waves crashing on shore, rumbling of distant thunder.

Offerings of creation.

 

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calm

There seems to be an increase in doomsday predictions. Naysayers. This is terrible! Focusing on something no one knows anything about except that it will happen loses sight of what’s important.

The here and now.

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No one knows the future. When people get all in a twist about something nobody knows will happen they make chaos.

Stop it.

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Being grounded takes a lot of effort for me. I am easily distracted. But doomsday people have never held any interest for me. Staying focused on what’s important matters. But the end of the world? Why stir everybody up over something no one knows?

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Maybe this is why I love flowers so much. And trees. They just are. Day after day, season after season, year after year. They are what they were created to be. Some become diseased and die. So do we. Some grow old. Very, very old. So do we. We have seasons. We change. But nature doesn’t freak out over an ice storm. It endures it. Or a hurricane. Their leaves are blown off, they may get drowned but if they live they put out more leaves.

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We replace siding, or shingles, or whole roofs, or whole houses. But mostly we face whatever disaster or trouble we get. We have to. Jumping the gun, skipping to the end when the end isn’t here yet, when we don’t even know when the end is, doesn’t make any sense.

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So I have to take the end is near people lightly. The end I don’t take lightly, but I have no idea when that will happen. So I need to keep on keeping on and trust God. He knows.

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That is all that matters. It’s His business, mine is to trust Him.

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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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indecision

One of those days.

I thought I’d sneak away for a while, just me and run a few errands. Dogs have radar for this. So no matter how nonchalant or casual I was about it I couldn’t get past the hallway to the garage door. Somebody’s nose would appear as if to say, “you’re not leaving without us, are you?”

It’s getting to where it will be too warm for Lily and Lulu to go for rides with me. We will be having our morning walkies before the sun rises and after it sets. So no errands.

Today has been the same. Rain squall, then almost sun, then grey. All day it’s been trying to decide whether to just all-out rain or not.

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Since the beginning of the Lenten season from Ash Wednesday I turned off the television. At first maybe about a week I have withdrawals. Strange how I can get so used to the noise and nonsense coming out of a large piece of electronics. Then I settle in to the silence. I hear birds more, breezes, crickets even now that it’s warmer. I hear neighbors laughing and talking.

I hear life.

Funny how insulated I can be inside a house with artificial noise. Without it time goes more slowly, things become deliberate. My head is clearer.

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Well, comparatively so. I read more books. I made some wind chimes out of those really large sea urchin spines.

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I made a bracelet with shells I have been finding on the beach in the shape of a heart. I discovered these are the “insole” part of a seashell called a lady’s slipper, but when the outer part breaks away it leaves this piece

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so I thought they’d look pretty in a bracelet. I don’t wear jewelry. At all, ever. So if I make these I’ll have to give them away or something. And I have thousands of these shell pieces since I have collected them for years and they are everywhere here where I live, though I have never seen them on any other beach.

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But somehow the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday has me in its grip. I can’t help but wonder how those disciples and followers of Jesus must have felt. Here was the One they knew was Messiah. And He had died. They watched it. Well, John and some of the women. How dark, frightening that must have been. Jesus tried to tell them He would rise and live but I don’t think I would have understood what He was saying either, even if I’d been a witness to His raising Lazarus.

I know how this story ends. With joy! Victory! Life and hope. Newness.

But Saturday. Somehow it helps me to have this day, dark as it must have been because I know what happens.

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sticks and stones

Build a great house but they can do a lot of harm when used as weapons.

My mom taught me that rhyme when I was little. I must have had a bad day in second grade and was letting her know. It’s amazing how much easier it was to memorize from then. Now I can’t remember seven seconds ago what I went into another room for.

So I tried using that thing once or twice but gave it up when I realized it really didn’t work.

Words can hurt.

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Several years ago a neighbor who had been shunned from everyone in our little cul-de-sac asked if she could join me on my morning walks. I said sure and we arranged to meet a few mornings later.

She opened her heart to me and told me how difficult her marriage was. I listened for a while and when she mentioned something her husband had said I quoted that little verse. She came right back with how wrong that was.

It never occurred to me to think any differently.

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So this is probably why psychotherapy became such a multi-million dollar business, and people bought up those self-help books. To me therapy was nothing more than paying someone to be a friend. But I realize some have been deeply scarred. And some come to a point where hope is so dim help has to come from someone trained to listen and offer help beyond what friends can offer.

I have always listened to other people. For me sharing in other people’s troubles connects on a level where I can help them carry a trouble, a hurt, a burden. I think we were created to share with others on many levels, like this….

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But sometimes life does not offer a friend and I pray. Or offer prayers for others. I depend on Someone who is always reliable.

And always there.

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So like the donkey that fell in the well, when people started throwing dirt down to bury him in that well he stepped aside and as the dirt grew into a large pile, stepped on top of it until he could climb out.

There is always hope.

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