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.

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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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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a compendium

Since rescue dog Lily’s surgery in early January progress has seemed very slow. She was not permitted to use her leg for about 6 weeks after, then very limited. She was not allowed to go for her beloved car rides so life became uncomplicated, and rather boring.

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This week we have ventured out more. The azaleas are just coming into bloom which is really good because the famous Azalea Festival is this weekend, complete with the Azalea queen and her court of azalea belles (I’m not kidding), hoop skirts, Citadel cadet escorts and all. The parade was this morning and though we were completely awash with rain yesterday it held off today, just cloudy and very humid.IMG_0928.JPG

The fanatic dog was out in full force, with intrepid rescue dog Lulu eager to meet his challenges. Fortunately he did not get over his fence this time, either.

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All the rain has left many swampy puddles and try as I might I can’t keep Lily and Lulu out of them, nor can I convince them it isn’t real drinking water.

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The crazed wisteria vine must cover about half an acre and it is in full bloom. The fragrance is heady.

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Wild blueberries are in bloom! I miss them every year, the birds are way faster than I. Maybe I will get a sample this year.

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For years I have heard that the new growth on pine trees begins a few weeks before the Sunday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. As it gets closer they begin to resemble crosses just before. Here is a small native loblolly pine which I will try to watch and see.

Anyway, a relatively uneventful week, but progress.

Onward and upward.

 

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smart phones

This must be because they can do what we normally did ourselves– keep calendars, address books, camera, small libraries, maps, driving directions, and they can even ping to be found if misplaced.

Then you add things.

I love birds so I have an app from Audubon that gives information about all the birds, their songs, habits, areas and migration. I put a Bible app, a star chart, an app for my library and the weather.

This was why I put having one of these off for so long. Initially cell phones in my life were for emergencies. No one even knew I had one. With the disappearance of phone booths if I had car trouble how would I call anybody?

But the lure was too great. And they are pretty handy. Until they completely interfere with your life and sanity.

I first became obsessed with the health app, being a walker of my dogs and self. Now I have to keep this phone with me at all times to count each step I take.. And I found every time I pushed the steps I took this phone increased my daily average. So  now I have to keep up with the phone.

But the most recent distraction is a game my sister-in-law and niece play. This was something I was absolutely sure would not get me hooked.

I was wrong.

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It is a little game, free, called “Word Cookies”. I love words. I only had 2 years of Latin but being a reader I love learning new words. That’s all this game does. It has many levels, modeled after chef names and has levels within them named for foods. Within that there are 20 levels where you’re given a scrambled word, anywhere from 6-8 letters and you have to find all the words within this word as well as unscramble the main word.

I cannot stop playing this.

I never knew I could be so caught up in any game. Along with figuring out the words you collect coins for different tests and games. The coins can be used if you get stumped. The problem with this for me is I easily become frustrated when a simple word is hidden so well I cannot see it, so I use a coin, then berate myself for having wasted the coin for “into” or “ion”. I am not frugal here. Everywhere else in my life I am very careful.

Maybe this can be a test for me to learn better self-control by limiting the amount of time I play this game. Or patience, waiting until the word I cannot find becomes evident.

Either way I can’t let this thing run my life.

And it just added 700 more levels. At that rate I probably won’t live long enough to finish them all.

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.”   –Theophrastus

escapism

I really love to read. More than going to movies. When my son was growing up we’d go see films that looked good when they opened. Even got preview seats a couple of times. Since actors have become such strong political pundits though I’ve stopped. Pretty sure I couldn’t separate Sally Field’s hateful remarks from whomever she would play on screen. Or Meryl Streep, George Clooney… any of them. Sad.

My mom always told me books are your friends, pretty sure though she did not mean to the exclusion of real people friends. But I am noticing every time I move again (8 moves in 20 years) I withdraw a little bit more. Not fear-driven, not self-centered just enjoy being by myself.

Oh, I take the dogs for their romps, maybe less in summer because it is so blazing hot, I shop for groceries, pick up books at the library, and often will enjoy banter, shallow conversations. Occasionally not so shallow. Strangers can often make for strong confidantes.

Maybe I am just the recluse I have always joked about. But lately I have noticed I speak my mind more, say what I mean, when asked my opinion I give it, I don’t try to determine what I think the asker wants to hear. And sometimes they go off in a huff. Sometimes they are grateful, but to my way of thinking I want a friend who is not manipulative, has no agenda, wants truth, we like each other for who we are and what we each of us likes. With a generous sprinkling of humor and grace.

Maybe I am poorly adjusted, socially. But the more I do engage with others the more I am aware of bristles, as though they are (not) saying: “Go ahead, say what you mean but that doesn’t mean I will agree or even like what you say. I may even get angry.” Then why ask??! Friendship is nothing if not genuine, sincere.

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I don’t know. The aforementioned heat has kept me indoors the majority of the past several days, and before that we enjoyed 4 days of rain from a premature tropical storm. I have actually cleared clutter, vacuumed, polished till the furniture reflections are blinding. So maybe this is severe introspection but it’s something I’ve thought about for a while. From being little miss party girl most of my life, this is almost bizarre.

I think, too, we all go through seasons. One kind soul (and a stranger) I was speaking with endorsed my current way of life, saying I’d done a lot of time as a single mom in the social realm. This was a time of rest. I did appreciate that.

I do volunteer, I love my gardening, walks (early mornings now) and occasionally meet a friend for coffee or a group for lunch. Nothing warranting a calendar filled with meetings, appointments, engagements. More likely to note the fritillary butterfly I saw, or the first swallowtail of summer, or the turtles sunning themselves by the retention pond after the rains. Or something.

And I am happy.

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Lord, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.” 
 Psalm 39:4

an early spring

So last week temperatures hit record-breaking levels here. People are actually playing in the ocean even though the water is much colder than the air, and the gulf stream has not returned to the coastline yet. Trees have bloomed, some even sprouting early leaves. Pine pollen is coating everything with a filmy yellow-green. The daffodils are in full splendor and tulips are right behind them. Even a few azaleas are starting to open buds.

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The Azalea Festival is a big deal here. It’s kind of an arts festival but there is a queen of the festival and she has a court. They look like antebellum debutantes! Yes, hoop skirts, parasols, and escort cadets from The Citadel in Charleston. Apparently the original mission of this Gala began with the restoration of an unattractive marshy area and it became so beautiful the city decided to celebrate it. Thus began the festival in 1948.

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I have never been.

The azaleas, camellias and bulbs all bloomed last year long before the festival, and it looks as if this might happen again this year. There’s a garden tour which makes for a difficult time if you have no flowers to show in the garden. But each year they persist by holding the festival in April.

At that point tourists have begun returning for the summer, dogs are not allowed on beaches, parking meters have been reinstalled for the busy season, storefronts have been restored and repainted, streets resurfaced, everything has a polish and hums with anticipation of a successful summer.

But I digress.

It’s still February.

Normal spring doesn’t usually start here for at least 2 or 3 more weeks.  And even then it’s been known to snow after the dogwoods have bloomed. So here we are looking at burgeoning life and the skimmers and terns aren’t even back yet to their favorite nesting areas.

I can’t get caught up in all of this. I have to keep my brain focused on the day, not what it feels like.

When does Daylight Savings Time start?

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“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” –1 Corinthians 1:27

interludes

I have lived with daylight savings time all my life and have never gotten used to it. By the time it goes back to standard time I have simply learned to go from day to day with one less hours’ sleep.

I really don’t like it.

I can remember my father returning home Fridays after his week’s commute to New York setting his watch because the time was different there in summer. You’d have thought I’d have more interesting memories than watching my father set his watch, but I doted on him. Since he was gone every week he was the magic parent. He was not home enough to be ordinary so I’d carefully watch and listen to everything about him.

Except when I had ponies.

I never caught the tennis bug or the golf bug or the tanning bug. So summers, except when I had a good book to read or went to a friends’ house or a movie, weren’t too exciting. Oh, I loved the freedom like any kid. No school, no early mornings, I went barefoot and wore shorts and t-shirts every day. But the summers of the ponies were transportive.

I learned about these ponies from a neighborhood friend. Mr. Robinson had all these ponies and he rented them, if a family had an appropriate place to care for them, enough yard, a place for shelter. Our house where I grew up had a detached 2-car garage. We only used one side for a car, the other side housed the lawn mower and various other dusty items that kind of blended into the grey-brown of the inside of the garage. Next to that was an old but sturdy chicken coop, complete with surrounding small fence. It was fine, Mr. Robinson said. So he brought  my first rented pony named Claudia, a couple of bales of hay and a bridle. No saddle, just bareback.

I found some other neighborhood girls who rented ponies at the same time and we rode all over the place. These ponies weren’t shod so we were careful to keep them on the grass. This was true freedom.

So every summer for I guess 5 or 6 years one or two weeks I rented one of these ponies. I never met one I didn’t like, or more to the point, that did not like me. Ponies can be mean little creatures if they take a dislike to you. My brother came to the elementary school playground across from our house where we all mostly rode. It was about 4 acres of wide open space. He wanted to try riding, he said. I slid off and handed him the reins. He looked at me. So we walked the pony over to the concrete picnic tables where he could give himself a leg up. On he went. Something about this the pony did not like.

Off went the pony. Fast. And off went my brother, right in the dirt. I probably should have given him a few tips on how to ride but I figured he’d watched us enough and figured it out. He hadn’t, on top of which he’d had the wind knocked out of him. So I had to stop first and make sure he’d be ok.

The thing about ponies is when they start running if nobody’s riding they don’t stop. So having the assurance my brother would live and somehow not find a way to get Mom after me for his injuries, gritting my teeth I took off. Last I’d seen she rounded the side of the school to the front of the building. Right after that would be a street. Not a highly traveled one, but still.

I pumped around to the front of the school to find her there on the lawn, calmly grazing. So relieved I nearly cried, I slowly walked up so as not to spook her off again and gently picked up her reins. Crisis averted.

There were 4 or 5 of those ponies that were my favorites… Claudia was the first, Vera (she shared more than one summer with us), a little strawberry roan named Peaches… Peaches I got two weeks one year, for the price of one. Mr. Robinson liked the way we cared for those ponies, and she’d gained a little weight…

Fun times.

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Repairs

My father loved clocks. I don’t know if this gave him some sort of illusion of mastery over time but he enjoyed their mechanisms, workings, tinkering with them. We had a dear friend who owned a lovely and very old grandfather clock in constant disrepair. Whenever our families visited at their home Dad would spend considerable time with this clock. He usually fixed whatever was wrong but invariably it would need attention again, prompting another visit.

He once built a clock, my mother needlepointed the face of it, a blue bird and a cardinal, Roman numerals. This clock chimed every quarter hour and somehow never woke the household during the night. I loved hearing its chimes and the graceful sway of the pendulum. My brother and I would take turns pulling up the weights to rewind it.

Some years after my brother and I finished college and had left home another clock appeared in my parents’ home. Dad told me it is called a kitchen clock. It has a cast-iron body sculpted with Hummel-like figures over its face. The color has faded some but you can still tell what they are. He said it was his family’s when he was growing up and over the years the glass front has broken so the clock face and pendulum are exposed but I love this clock.

I found the clock in Dad’s attic when he passed away. It was lying on its back on the attic floor, abandoned. I did not know if this was because Dad had no place for it, or my step-mother didn’t like it, or it reminded him too much of his home with my mom, but I gathered it in my arms and carefully put it with the few things I was taking home. It ran well for a year or so, then stopped. I lived in New Mexico at the time and a coworker told me of a clock maker she knew so I took it to him. He repaired it and told me some of its history: not of great value, it had been made circa 1858 by W. S. Johnson, N.Y., the cast-iron front made by N. Muller and was considered to be what then was known as a kitchen clock, as Dad had said.

Again, after a year or so it stopped running. Now I had moved home to North Carolina and found another clock maker that many people recommended. He wanted to know how I had come by the clock. I told him of its history as I had known it, and that it had been repaired not long ago. After about 3 months he phoned to let me know I could come and retrieve Dad’s clock.

It runs at a 6-8 day stretch and needs winding with a key. The past few weeks have found it needing to be wound every 3-5 days. Then I would have to restart the pendulum several times before it would pick up momentum on its own. One recent morning, in a hurry to leave I wound it too tight and heard a terrible sounding crunch! I wanted to cry. I knew I had done something awful and found a clock repair person nearby.

He arrived one afternoon to look at the clock. I told him what I had done and he said it likely was the mainspring and gave me an estimate for what it would cost to replace it and clean the rest of the clock. I watched as he carefully carried it away to his car, his promise of its return in about 3 weeks.

My house is now silent. No friendly tick-tock greets my day. It’s like a heartbeat has stopped. Oh, the chimes stopped working long ago, but the ticking is what I really miss. As though it spoke to me, marking the minutes and hours of my days with me.

My father loved clocks, I suppose because they represented something of such great value to him: Time. He made the most of opportunity and everything life presented to him. He was intuitive and decisive, a combination which afforded him the best of everything he was and did. He often said no matter what happens, even in mistakes, you can make them work. And it’s not that you bite off more than you can chew, you just run out of time to chew it in.

He never ran out of time, but it did run out on him.

Miss you Dad. Looking forward to getting that clock fixed.

“Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight…”  ~Elizabeth Akers Allen

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Time

Before I retired when I worked every day there was never enough time. As a single parent I divided time the best way I could but nothing ever seemed to have enough of my attention for me to feel it was fully redeemed. I am certain this is not a peculiarity to me. All the stuff that has to be done… laundry, cleaning, cooking, budgets, school, work, and then somehow play gets left till last.

Not fair.

Play needs to be an integral part of life. Not to the exclusion of other important things but as important. Playing gives more room. More breathing space. Makes time stand still.

This past week I truly enjoyed 4 days with my brother and his family. Unfortunately my son did not join us, but we had that many days of incredibly pretty weather– sun, soft, puffy clouds, sparkling ocean and bright blue sky. The International Space Station even made an appearance a couple of nights for a few minutes.

I love mornings at the ocean….

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look to the west and there’s this, just where the moon has set–

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and you meet the most interesting characters….

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or others, not quite so frightened but part of the peaceful beauty of the sunrise-

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Time. Everything else is so still no matter how much time passes. Thank you.