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.

IMG_1109.JPGTiger swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on fennel plant

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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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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encouragement

Winter notwithstanding, this has been an oddly grey week for me. Lily has had a set-back all because of me.

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Her second recheck with her vet was so hopeful I threw caution to the wind. She was walking without a hitch as if she’d not injured her knee at all. So, forgetting they told me not to, I put her in the car and we resumed almost the routine we knew pre-surgery– went to parks, took longer walks. After about a week with all going well (so I thought), Lily’s surgery leg got caught in the slip cover when she tried to get out of the car. I helped her down, but it wasn’t right.

She couldn’t put any weight on her leg.

Convinced she’d undone the mend I called the vet and he recommended letting her rest a few days and, if she wasn’t any better he’d see her.

She wasn’t.

He manipulated her leg, pronounced her still ok, and I confessed my false confidence. Her pain and anti-inflammatory medicines were refilled. I was instructed to continue her walks at home to strengthen her leg and we came home, with her vet telling me to call again if she needed.

So that was almost 10 days ago. It’s been incremental but she is improving. What has been so discouraging on top of my own personal guilt are the well-meaning neighbors we’d pass on short walks through the neighborhood, who don’t know us or about her injury asking questions that basically translate to ‘why are you so badly mistreating your dog, can’t you see she is plainly in pain’?? And I explain though they remain skeptical.

So I have felt puny, as my mom would say. Then my brother called on Monday, not his usual day to call, and lent a sympathetic ear, which gave me a boost. God must have known that was a good start but then a prayer warrior from an organization I support called to see if I would like for her to pray with me! Still He lifted me again the next day when a good friend called just to say hello and listened to Lily’s and my quandary. To top the week my son called on Friday. I’d not heard from him in quite a while and was eager to hear his news and share a bit of mine.

So though we are still carefully working at restoring Lily to the level she’d reached before I feel better about it,  I am reminded how much others, those who understand, can truly lift spirits.

And I am grateful.

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Lulu has helped support Lily, too.

 

 

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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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hidden blessings in lessons

My father, though generous and kind was a perfectionist. No one is really perfect, but he wanted us to believe he was and he expected it of others. Hard to please. He was in his late 80s before he told me he was proud of me which came as a complete and utter surprise. So much that all I could say in response was that I was proud of him, too.

So for many years this high bar was the source of a lot of frustration.

My ex-father-in-law I can recall often said, “don’t do as I do, do as I say do.” Though he was one of the most humble men I have ever met.

I have learned many things. Just watch as a dog struggles to dislodge a rawhide chip or some other much-wanted morsel from under something. Until all efforts are exhausted they will go at this with persistence showing no anger or impatience.

So this week my two rescue dogs, Lily and Lulu and I were finishing our long walk when I threw a stick for Lily, a favorite game of hers. As she turned to go after it she yelped and came limping back, her left hind leg dangling uselessly. Not far from the car I helped Lily into the backseat praying the whole way home it was not her ACL.

It was.

Her vet scheduled her surgery for January 8 and sent us home with two prescriptions for pain.

She occasionally looks up at me with her “Walkies?” face and I sit by her and pet her soft fur and explain we can go for walkies but not today. In nature the injured, sick and aging are often left behind their pack. I reassure her that she is still loved and she will be ok.

When we go outside I have learned to walk more slowly so as not to rush Lily. I notice things. I can feel tension drain away. I feel more rested. I am more present with Lily, with myself, the air.

IMG_0810.JPGMarquise Amaryllis that I noticed blooming this week

I am realizing that even though I have been retired for over 10 years I need to slow down more. Like Lily I can no longer push myself as I once did, or I shouldn’t.

I have 4 steps onto my front porch. Lily can manage getting down much better than she can climb. So I help her as she steps up each step one at a time. How many times I have cried out to God when I find myself in a mess or situation that leaves me helpless.

And each time He has shown me the way.

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 Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”  –Isaiah 30:21 NASB