identity

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Flowers grow. A seed falls, it sprouts, takes root, blooms. An insect pollinates it, the flower goes to seed, the cycle begins again. This is what flowers do.

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Birds are hatched, fledge, find a mate, nest, lay eggs and the cycle begins. This is what birds do.

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I bought this baby grand piano when my father helped me buy my first house. It was a long-time dream to learn to play and enjoy hours of music. This was 23 years ago. I have moved this piano eight times, three different states. I have never taken one lesson. I have bought reams of sheet music and taught myself to plink out a couple of tunes (“Simple Gifts”, “The Ash Grove”) but never learned chords. My father had been proud of me for pursuing this dream. But he never asked was I taking lessons nor took me to task about it. I was proud of it. Just having it I believed added a dimension to me that made me feel important. A false dimension. I gave it tangible importance to a relevant yet never fully realized relationship with my father. I grew up believing I was the family screw up, joke, the useful clown diversion when things went south. So this piano I believed gave me a credibility it could never give, especially since I could not play it.

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So I have been burdened lately over this piano. Felt guilt, even. I have enjoyed it for these many years as a piece of furniture, covering it with smiling family photos, a favorite crystal bowl that was my mother’s, scattered pictures of rescue dogs. A musical instrument should be played, loved. Yet I had allowed it to be assumed into who I was, even extending the assumption to a connection with my father who passed away over 12 years ago.

Let it go.

I won’t say I hear voices but this was close. I had to disengage from a created aspect of my life that wasn’t real. It was hard. For a time as I mulled this over I regretted never learning to play. Disappointed that I may have even wanted to have it because my talented mother had played but because she had hated the years of lessons would not allow me as a child to have lessons.

Yet still, this was a piece of furniture virtually unused in any function except a superficial one of a very large coffee table.

After this grappling and deliberating, realizing this had to be a choice I made separate from anyone else’s wishes, and looking into the future— if I had already had the piano for so many years and never learned to play, how likely was it that I would ever learn?

Not very.

So I separated myself from the false identity I had created. I let the piano go to a family of musical people who had always wanted one and would play it and love it and enjoy it as it should be enjoyed.

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I suppose I will always keep a wisp of the dream of learning to play and the place where the piano was still surprises me when I walk into the room and it’s not there.

But I am no less without it.

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isolation

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

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

He is within us.

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

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

Thus the whole day stretched out before me.

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

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

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At least, that’s how it was for me.
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(almost) freedom

So husky-mix rescue dog Lily had her vet recheck this week. Cautiously guarded, he gave Lily his blessing and released her to normal activity.

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“Chasing bunnies and squirrels?” I asked. He nodded.

“Going up and down stairs on her own?” Another nod.

He told me to keep watching for plate rejection which they thought caused the irritation that made her chew a spot on her leg, now healed. She still wears the “cone of shame” at night and if I leave the house (which happens seldom since she goes pretty much wherever I go). So we enjoyed many celebratory walkies this week. Her favorite by the river. Her most favorite at the nature preserve. She made the whole trail walk, about 2 miles.

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So for now we are enjoying the freedom of no restrictions. I had not realized before how completely restrained we had been. She could not be off-leash at all. She could not bolt if she saw a rabbit, squirrel or a cat. She would look at me as I shouted “NO!” without defiance, just confused obedience. Which makes me wish I could be as resilient as she. And as compliant. I suppose for Lily obedience is pretty easy. Here I am standing right there telling her what to do or not to do. Pretty clear. She can either do what I said or not.  She doesn’t have to question or try to figure it out.

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When she was younger there was some of that. I would give her a command, she would hear me, look straight at me, and not do what I said. Or we’d be on our morning run and she’d dash in front of me sending me flipping over her while she chased whatever it was she saw in the half-light of early morning.

But now she is older. She is 12. A little stiff, less lean, more patient. She has mellowed. It is sad I suppose that so many years go by before a friendship becomes so comfortable, so easy. Companionable. But worth it.

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time matters

In my brief attempt at a happy marriage I failed miserably in befriending my mother-in-law. After a couple of years my son was born and life for me had more purpose. Then the happy part of the marriage disappeared and so did my son and I. From the marriage at least. He was two and suddenly I was no longer a stay-at-home mom. Working both in and out of the home presented interesting challenges and required more than one calendar. But we managed it, even had a little fun.

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My son’s father had a liberal amount of visitation privileges so I signed my son up for frequent flyer programs. Most of our vacations were driving distance ones, but my brother lived in interesting places, Washington, DC, then New York city and invited us to visit. This way I only had to pay for one round-trip airfare and I felt like a genius. Although one of those visits was by train because, well, trains. They are an experience.

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So yes, some– well, most –of it was hard but my son doesn’t remember those parts. Thankfully he remembers the fun. And he surprised me this year with a Thanksgiving visit. Generally I visit my brother and his family in Houston, which is also where my son happens to live now. But my brother took his family to the Galápagos and my son’s girlfriend’s family were going to be in Houston instead of Colorado this year so my son had plans pretty well set, too. Which is ok, I have been on my own for many years now and don’t mind being by myself.  So when he called a couple of days before Thanksgiving I was delighted. And scrambled. Suddenly I needed a dinner and breakfast food. And everything was accomplished and the day was a great day.IMG_0291.JPG

We walked down by the river, noted little raccoon handprints and other unidentified tracks in the river mud. The wind was brisk which made standing out on the pier a challenge, and cold, so we did not stay out there for long. But Lily and Lulu with their fur coats and the fascinating scents found it hard to leave.

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Rescue dog Lily’s surgeon is concerned about her recent knee operation, that she might be rejecting a component which can happen occasionally and can be remedied, but requires another surgery. So the chances of seeing my family at Christmas don’t appear to be likely. So I was happy to have an opportunity to see my son.

But his life is busy and he works very hard, so his taking a little time to share with me is something for which I am very grateful.

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Happy memories.

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vicious to vicTORious

Three letters inserted in a word that means spiteful, malicious, hateful… tor. It’s not a much-used word. These 3 little letters, meaning “a high rock, a pile of stones” (Oxford English Dictionary) change the basest attitude to triumph.

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I recently read a devotion by author Lysa Terkeurst about the devil. He does all he can to distract, delude, dissuade, discourage, divert me off track. He wants to make me sad, angry, self-pitying, ungrateful, hopeless, discouraged. And sometimes he is almost successful. The tears he covets are cleansing, not destructive. The more he produces frustrated tears, the more washed my soul. He never wins.

Because of my Rock.

Dorian, as destructive as it was to many places did very little damage to my area. But it did not miss me. Maybe the damage began with last year’s storms and became evident this year. I am among those now waiting for insurance companies, adjusters, appraisers to give me a final word about the roof. But the Rock in my life is my steady, strong anchor. Not a stumbling block. This Rock keeps me on course, gives me hope, strength and encouragement.

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So though repairs are largely a frustrating plan-and-wait, at the mercy of other people and their schedules I cling to the Rock.

No matter how capricious life is, He never leaves.

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(pinterest.com)

He puts His power in me through my faith in Him.

 

 

 

information

Sometimes too much information is not a good thing.

In all the research I have done for the kind of surgery rescue dog Lily had I learned what it was, what to expect in recovery, when she could begin to use her leg, some caveats, how much better the recovery is than other surgeries.

All good. Until today.

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In doing more research for Lily’s current stage I learned the plate they put in can be rejected.

I am not normally prone to panic, but this surgeon/vet is tacit in her directions and instructions for supporting Lily almost as if I need to read her mind. Do these people truly have that much of a problem explaining things? It’s very frustrating.

Lily seems to be doing ok. Her leg is not swollen. She walks with almost no limp. I was told to put her back on anti-inflammatory meds because her xrays showed inflammation and swelling. No one showed me, just told me.

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I realize all dogs are different. I realize I know Lily better than this surgeon. I realize the procedure she had on this leg is much different from the lateral band procedure she had the first surgery. But that one, her vet told us to get her walking soon, walk her slowly but daily to ensure her muscles did not atrophy.

In this case she has been absolutely immobile for almost 5 weeks. Very strange for her.

Like dead calm at sea.

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At some point momentum has to start again.

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Miss Frances

The inn where my brother and his family stay is over 80 years old. Some sort of record for an ocean front property. We have vacationed there for the past 10 years. The current owners bought it 11 or 12 years ago and have kept things as they have always been with a few modifications to the menu. Three full meals a day are included in reservations. So a lot of walking is required to at least be the same weight when you arrived as when you leave.

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Miss Frances runs the Inn. And has. Forever.

She manages the kitchen, the staff, the laundry and schedules. It is expected that every guest is at every meal when the bells are rung. If there is any deviation it is expected that Miss Frances know in advance to plan the meal. It is an unspoken discourtesy to do otherwise.

Naturally an early riser, the last couple of summers I have quietly crept down the creaky wooden staircase to the kitchen to help set up the dining room for breakfast, brew coffee, move tables according to additional guests, fill cream, sugar, jams, jellies, syrup. And quietly listen as Miss Frances witnesses to me about her faith. A faith we share, but she brings the Gospel to vibrant life in that pre-dawn kitchen. She holds informal Bible studies with interested staff. And I have always loved hearing her lilting Gullah cadence speaking of her love for Jesus.

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So this year rescue dogs Lily and Lulu accompanied me and we stayed in a nearby cottage. I began my day with the distant roar and hush of the ocean, watching the light emerge in faded color as I walked Lily and Lulu toward the beach. The rising rosy glow still holding a dewy chill in the air. My thoughts drifted to Miss Frances moving slowly about her domain, gently polishing the stainless service before setting places at the tables. Glancing occasionally toward the porch overlooking the awakening day.

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I shared those three meals with my brother and his family during our brief stay, then packed us back in the car for our drive home. My brother texted me a day or so later to let me know this year is Miss Frances’ last, she is retiring.

Sad that I was not a part of this, she leaves a legacy. Her larger-than-life presence being absent will leave a strange void. Nature abhors a vacuum, and I cannot think of anyone who could comparably carry on.

But someone will.

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snapped

I honestly have no idea what happened. One day things are perking right along, the next day my blood pressure’s off the charts,  (I have normally abnormally low blood pressure) I’m screaming blue murder at no one in particular (in my house, thank God), freaking out when rescue dog Lily tries to get up on her own after her sutures were removed, and not sleeping with racing thoughts.

Honestly. No idea.

Well, some idea.

I let go my hold on my true life preserver– Jesus. I stopped praying and let my anger get a real grip. My thoughts were out of control.

When I took Lily for her suture removal I had some questions: when can she stop her medications? I thought they wanted to x-ray her leg that had surgery? what about her exercises, compresses?

The tech printed out the same ‘information’ sheets I was given when Lily had her surgery, with an area highlighted about the x-ray. No other answers. Oh, except the ever-vague ‘wean her off the meds’.

The unasked questions: is my dog ok? have we been doing the right things? can I get a “Great work, she looks like she is doing fine!” This was the same issue she had before, completely different surgical procedure.

Is it me or are veterinary clinic people becoming just that–> CLINICAL? Cold. Uncaring. I moved to this little coastal town about 4 years ago leaving a vet I had taken my dogs to for over 30 years. This is the 6th vet I have gone to. Maybe it’s me. There has to be something I do or say that rubs these people the wrong way but honestly? If their dislike for me broaches a point at which my dogs may suffer I am seeking help for my dogs elsewhere even if it means going to every single animal hospital in this town. And if I go through them all and still come up empty I move.

Like any genuine pet person I will do anything to get the best care for these dogs. But this? Seems unreasonable.

Maybe it’s because I spent 6 months helping Lily with her first ACL surgery and now we are embarking on another 6 months for the other ACL. Cabin fever? It’s possible. It’s gotten me in trouble before. Or maybe I was upset because I will miss seeing my family for our yearly vacation. So that was something I could remedy and rented a cottage near the inn where they will be staying. Just for a few days. But at least Lily, Lulu and I will have a change of scenery.

And maybe I can hold it all together for the remaining 4 months. Only with my Life Preserver.

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focus

Husky-mix rescue dog Lily’s new injury has once again caused us to slow down. Our routine has changed. Not frustrating, rather a good thing. We notice things otherwise overlooked

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Even Lulu has helped me see things, a butterfly visiting

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Walking Lily in the yard I noticed a plant I’d bought a few years ago, planted and forgotten. Since I never saw it grow the logical conclusion was it had been dead when I planted it, not dormant. But it wasn’t

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The past few mornings have been almost comfortable, at least 10 decrees cooler than normal so I’ve taken advantage of the welcome change and begun pruning some of the overgrowth. I was greeted by this little one

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Early evening I realized I’d almost missed this surprise bloom. Several buds had dropped from the plant but not this one

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The humidity and showers from a tropical wave offshore have brought these guys out, but mostly heard, seldom seen

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An evening stroll with Lily around the backyard last night we found this little surprise

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So In focusing not on the forest so many individual things of beauty, joys forever.

 

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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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