hate

I have learned that hate is not necessarily opposite to love.

This week rescue dogs Lily and Lulu and I went to a park we seldom visit but like, especially before hurricane Isaias hit and the pier was damaged.

Lily and Lulu enjoyed walking to the end of the pier, sniffing the spots where fishermen had cleaned their fish, sitting on the benches as we walked. But the county parks department has been slow in clearing trees and making repairs so though we can still walk at this park the pier is closed.

I noticed a person sitting at a picnic bench and thought what a nice day it was for a picnic lunch when this person yelled, “You better watch out, I have two pitbulls here!”

I looked around to see whether she felt threatened by someone else. Nope. Just my dogs and me walking. So I called back, “Well, how can I get by then to avoid your dogs?” (pitbulls do not frighten me, in fact this lady scared me more than the dogs, as she continued…)

She stood, pointing to the far perimeter away from her, yelling her dogs were on very long chains. I pointed out this was a public park, which I probably shouldn’t have. She replied (I will clean up her words)…

“I’m so ****ing tired of you ****ing slow people down here. Idiots, can’t figure out *unintelligible*…”

Again, probably against better judgment, I replied, “Maybe you could go someplace you’d be happier.” Again came a very angry response as she reeled in her snarling and snapping dogs and their very long chains.

I was beginning to shake at this point. You never know when someone will snap. And many people have guns. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the Second Amendment. My dad was an avid hunter (for food, not trophy) and collector. My brother and I were taught at an early age about guns and how to use and respect them. I have many friends who have guns for protection. These days this is a good idea. But this woman was becoming unhinged and I was worried so we walked faster over to the pier.

Since we had not been to this park in a long time Lily and Lulu were enthralled with the scents and marsh tracks (the Cape Fear is a tidal river and it was low tide), so I let them wander.

I slipped Lily’s collar off so she could have more freedom and she was so happy. She darted in among the reeds, chased little spider crabs, stopped to explore and smell under and around uprooted trees. The day was quickly warming so I put her leash back on to head back to the car, and we circled around the far side of the park to avoid the angry lady.

I glanced her way as we came parallel to where she sat. She was affectionately stroking her dogs who gazed up at her with complete adoration. So whatever had caused this woman’s defensive anger toward me and loathsome comments, had been mollified somewhat by the love she shared with her dogs. I found myself praying for her. For all I knew she may have lost a job, or a relative, or a friend. I will never know what caused her unjustified anger at me. She did not know the first thing about me. She will likely never know. She won’t know that I tend to be impatient with slow people myself. Or that I am respectful toward other dogs we meet on walks even if the persons with them indicate they are friendly. You never really know how dogs will react to other dogs. My language, though much cleaner than when I was a single parent and juggling 12-too-many balls in the air and way more impatient than even now, can be salted occasionally by words I immediately ask forgiveness for.

So despite her preconceptions of who I am and how I behave, however mistaken, she and I had more in common than she will ever know.

love people, use things

My elderly across-the-street neighbor recently moved to her daughter’s house. She had gotten to where she could not manage stairs and did not trust herself to drive. I hope I will be so wise to concede to this if I get there.

I did not know this lady well since I have only lived here for three years, but she would call now and then to chat and I enjoyed her calls.

As she prepared for her move she called one afternoon to let me know there would be several trucks coming to her house to pick up various pieces of furniture. She sounded sad and I waited silently as she gathered her thoughts.

“You know, they are just things, but no one in my family wants them.” I could hear her hurt as she spoke and I could sympathize.

I have my mother’s dining room furniture. Neither my son nor my brother wants it. Well, my brother wants the fiddle-back chairs. Our mom had the seats upholstered with needlepointed patterns she had done years ago. But no one wants the side boards, the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner china and casseroles or the silver. No one wants the very old china plates that my mother waited years for Dad to make plate rails for, and he never did. (You can buy them already made I learned)

So I could understand how my neighbor felt. I know these are things but they hold such memories. And they are beautiful pieces of furniture. And the silver no one makes like this anymore. But they are things. Everytime I get to the point where I think I will donate the lot someone (usually my brother) insists I keep it all, as though it is sacrilege to not want it. I am a practical-oriented person. If I don’t use something in, say over 15 years, it’s time to let it go.

I still have the memories. My mother is not a chair. My father is not in a table. Having the things we used when they were still living and we were a family together is not the same as having the people. And things, for me, do not extend to the person. I am grateful to have had such lovely things but, as with the piano that found a better home, wouldn’t it be preferable for a new family to enjoy them?

If I used these things it would make more sense to keep them. I do not entertain. My son especially since this virus, does not visit me and even when he did we never ate a formal meal.

If I were to leave this planet I cannot take these things with me. They will remain behind for someone to deal with. Everytime I move I occupy a small portion of a house that is mostly used to shelter the furniture I never enjoy. Just seems wasteful.

I have asked rescue dogs Lily and Lulu who have made it clear that they are only interested in being in whatever room I am in. If I am eating they are at my feet, wherever I am. They have their dog beds in every room, so they can rest on a comfy cushion wherever.

This should not be so difficult. I have books and clipped articles with tips on helping people declutter, downsize or minimize. Even one that I no longer have that was purported to be most authoritative, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning”. Since (so far as I know) I am not on the brink of death this was a little too final. Even if my sister-in-law is Swedish.

hot spots

Back in the ‘70s this would be a place my parents wouldn’t have allowed me to go to. Not under any circumstances. Swinging, happening, mod… none of that was part of my experience. No, we were not Amish, Mennonite, Mormon or even Catholic. My parents were cautious and protective of my brother and me. Based on how some of our neighborhood pals turned out I am glad they were that careful.



Go forward a couple decades. Hot spots are specific designated WiFi accessible places like airports, hotels, campuses. With smart phones it’s not that important now but they are still around.

Not that kind, either.

A couple of weeks after I came back from Texas I noticed something on husky-mix rescue dog Lily’s fur. It looked like I spilled water on her but didn’t seem to bother her. I found her grooming brush to get it out and a large clump of hair came with it. Lily turned her head toward me and I leaned closer to figure out what this was.

Hot spot.

She had not had one of these in a couple of years. It’s an allergic reaction, sometimes from a flea bite or allergy or other skin irritation and generally bothered even more by extreme heat and humidity. If they chew or scratch it becomes worse. I’ll spare further graphic description but her vet confirmed that’s what it was.

So we came back home loaded with antibiotic, allergy pills and an anti-itch antiseptic spray. They shaved a large area on her back around it so it could heal.


Well, it has healed and as you see here Lily and terrier-mix rescue dog Lulu are eagerly searching for a small lizard living in this plant. Not bothered anymore in the least. She still has that bare spot that draws curious looks when we are on our walkies but probably also provides welcome cooling to her double-thick husky fur coat.

Crisis resolved.

rites of passage

I often think of the life I grew up in. We drank out of the garden hose in summer, ate cookies we dropped on the floor if we were quicker than the dog, ignored cuts and bruises, had no air conditioning (attic fan… with all the upstairs windows open it was like one giant ceiling fan).

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We spent summer evenings chasing lightning bugs, playing kick the can till well past dark. We occasionally got into mischief, breaking into a neighbor’s paint shed and spattering the paint, catching someone’s goldfish out of a backyard pond or picking flowers from someone’s flower bed. When we got caught we got paddled.

We generally went to church on Sundays and ate a big dinner with family and friends after. Summer reading was Dick and Jane and Dr. Seuss books in elementary school until we were assigned books. We pledged allegiance to the flag in the morning and had bomb drills where we got under our desks and laughed at how silly it was. We said our prayers at night with Mom or Dad and had a long list of people, dogs, friends we asked God to bless. We were allowed to go pretty much anywhere as long as our Moms knew generally where we were. We didn’t need secret passwords for school because we weren’t likely to be kidnapped and we were smart about strangers.

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We knew enough to come inside out of a lightning storm and heard stories about people who got struck by lightning bolts. We ran barefoot almost all the time and our moms made sure tetanus shots were up to date. We told ghost stories, night or day and halfway believed them.

We had jobs cutting lawns or babysitting that paid 50 cents or a dollar an hour and we thought we were rich. An “allowance” meant an exception to punishment, not more money.

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Almost everybody had a dog. Some had cats but if they didn’t have something they didn’t seem quite right. Arguments were settled with “am not!” “are too!” until we got distracted and forgot the fight altogether. We didn’t hold grudges.

Some families had televisions that took a while to warm up, then the picture disappeared to a dot of light when you turned it off. If you were sneaky you could watch really quietly until around 11 p.m. when the channel signed off with the national anthem, a flag waving, and then a test pattern with a really annoying monotone.

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We didn’t have electronic games, PlayStations, Nintendo, iPhones or iPads. No computers. We relied on our energy and imaginations. We didn’t worry about hurting ourselves. We just ran until we either ran out of time or strength. Or both. We played fair and called out anyone who didn’t so they could make it right. We played by rules everybody agreed to and they shouldn’t be broken. Even as little kids we believed there was a right and wrong and we did our best to do things right and hold our friends accountable as they did us.

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When did everything change, and why?

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compliance

Driving over a thousand miles I had no preconceptions of what I’d see on the roads. I know some states have restrictions but not where I was driving. People are flying again and airlines are increasing passenger numbers.

Highways were crowded. Mostly semis but a lot of passenger cars, from all over. It was encouraging. People aren’t still cowering at home.

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Gas stations at every stop required a mask. The only stop where I did not see them worn, though there were signs for them was Alabama. The rest rooms were closed because of covid but no mask.

When I stopped on the way the first night the desk clerk was vocal about disliking the mask. I couldn’t argue and we had a good laugh about masks being hot, and not in a good way.

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When I got where I was going in Texas hill country the inn proprietor had no mask. Noticing mine (hard to miss) she said the whole county had no active covid cases and had only 3 people die of it, one who was 106 years old. Reassuring.

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So on my visit there were actual handshakes, hugs and normal distancing. What a difference from where I live. I reflected how sad it is, the level of fear. I realized these severe precautions are not so much concern for others as it is out of fear. And we don’t even see it.

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I hope my carelessness caused no harm, to anyone. But the warmth and normalcy were heartening. I had no idea how absence of human touch, or even the ability to choose it or not, had adversely affected me.

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Returning home to tropical storm Isaiah damage shocked me back to reality. The morning after the storm husky-mix rescue dog Lily decided to guard the little Bradford pear tree the storm knocked down, I suppose to make sure nothing else fell off. I had the tree cut down and cleared away before I left but debris piles are still around. Takes a while to clear it away.

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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.