star

As a child I truly believed a wish on the first star of an evening would come true, so I was very careful with my wishes. I later began to see my wishes were prayers, and God would hear them, not a star, meteor or a comet.

F6361A23-7E21-43F4-81A6-15031F46F2DB

Is sentimentality inborn or learned? Are some more inclined than others? Some call themselves romantics, some pragmatists. Some are just complicated.

People can be influenced by movies. Disney especially is heavy on making fantasy appear real. Or maybe it’s circumstances. Some so dire, dark or sad a child, by nature optimistic, desperately wishes for the magic.

0E4C7734-2E1E-45EA-86DA-70BDC1247D97

When I finally determined that power which I perceived as magic was gifted within each person I wanted it to change the world. I wanted love and light in every heart and, for years could not understand why I couldn’t create this. Which was when I learned where the gifts came from.

6C22AE1E-BF4B-4311-9B1A-2B6E5FD35CD3

I had to realize I did not create this gift, any more than I created me. I admired people who were so confident, so sure of themselves, so certain of their todays and tomorrows, and who could laugh at the mistakes and pains of their yesterdays.

I wanted that. Yet I realized that this, too, I could not create or change. I had to accept them first, all of it, before it could become manageable. And then I had to give the burdens to Someone else. There are days when I still feel the burdens, then I remember that I am promised  to never be alone with them. No longer impeded by them. No, they will never disappear. They are woven into the fabric of my life. But I have Someone who takes them for me because He truly and deeply loves all humanity and wants that no one will carry life alone. I am so grateful for this love, mercy. For this forgiveness that I do not deserve.

126B4C64-5015-4CBF-A46B-0EB47A1988B2

Because it’s not because of who I am, but Who He is.

So when I become anxious or frustrated facing a daunting task or challenge I remember I am not meant to carry it on my own. Willful, independent, self-sufficient as I believe myself to be there are some times I need His help more than ever.

D2141D7F-165E-497B-B1BB-EB8F64C5D9AB

No, this does not mean the task is easier. I still have it to carry. But He gives me strength. No matter what: clarity, stillness, peace, grace are gifts He gives.

I am still learning to turn to Him, to trust Him, to accept them.

CBFA264B-6E64-4A73-97E4-DC1E93C6927F

interruptions

My father was a very smart and talented person. He cultivated friendships. He genuinely liked people. Many were business associates and some provided serendipitous turns in our family’s life.

3C22E940-7489-4A8A-99D4-0160EDC9EA17
One couple I recall very clearly from when I was around 9 or 10. They had a big picnic for families every summer, even with a clown to keep kids happy and out of the grown-ups hair. The couple owned a small business that was kind of faltering so my father offered to help support it and invested in it. As he retired years later, he learned the little company was in receivership and offered to pay its debts and bought it.

Begin phase two of our family’s life.

The business being in bankruptcy we knew we had nothing to lose. But it had offered an important service to the city so Dad was determined to get it going. And he did.

E63FA2E7-3A2E-4F01-817B-106A7E19A669

Initially things went slowly. That first year, home for summer break I was sitting in a comfy chair reading one Saturday morning and as Dad came into the room he tossed a large manual beside me and said, “Read this. Monday morning you’re a typesetter.”

The company did not generate enough income to hire many people so at first our family did everything. My brother was applying to medical schools and interviewed people in his off time. My mother kept the books, paid the bills. Dad insisted on paying us, so I kept a tally of hours I actually worked during the workday. And so we went on until Dad got some impetus behind it.

5D86A06C-37A0-40D6-BF10-01AA9B8AEAA4

He asked people what they wanted to get out of it, what would be most helpful. He asked them to complete surveys and fine-tuned, tweaked and polished the little company until it was useful. And gradually hired a few more people and it started paying for itself.

77E6413E-DC62-4E34-803C-5C9977F16C91

Some 30-years later Dad passed away and my brother and I kept the business. After a year or so it began to falter again, so I went back to see what it needed. It needed a lot. The years before he died, Dad had trusted others to manage things and neither my brother nor I were close by to help. So after a few months of tweaking, cleaning and many hundreds of hours of prayer, 14-15-hour days a friend of Dad’s approached us to ask about purchasing it. My brother and I discussed it and felt it was the best for the business.

6C58E1A1-BADE-4319-B60B-A85692BD8FDD

In a short span of 10 months or so I learned quite a lot. About a company, coworkers, stress management, keeping calm, and about myself. I understood how my father became successful.

Hard work. Selflessness. Redeeming the time. Wasting nothing.

So though that time was an unexpected interruption it was a crash course in humility, gratitude, inner strength, courage and complete reliance on God. Dad was no longer here to advise me. To this day I miss him, his deep belly-laugh, his wisdom, a no-nonsense approach to people and life. He never lied, and he always left people feeling better about themselves.

He was gifted.

7E2152C6-D744-468F-A7BE-084FFEA3EF4Fwisdomquotes.com

 

refocus

In summer rescue dogs Lily and Lulu’s walkies are before sunrise and after sunset with quick outings through the day in the backyard. Has to be this way because the heat gets to them. To me, too

FEF42739-3474-483A-857A-0AA57378754C

So this morning, because of some lovely late cold fronts was very cool as we ventured out around six, still in the dark.

Summer walkies are an adventure. More bunnies and toads. Never is husky-mix Lily more focused than when a reptile crosses her path. When a toad stops the required hopping Lily does not lose interest. She will gently tap it with her paw until it starts to hop around again. This morning she actually tapped it with her nose.

She knows better.

Toads have a protective toxin they coat their bodies with. This causes a dog to froth at the mouth. Which Lily did. She is tenacious. She kept at the toad so I stepped in and moved it to a shrub and we walked on, Lily spitting and shaking her head.

As we turned the corner toward home both Lily and Lulu went on high alert— a rabbit jumped in the road. It waited till they were just at attack position before it bounced away.

Still, the excitement made their obligatory morning naps reminiscent of the chase in their dreams.

3E8A3E58-FAEA-412F-BABF-23CF1DE3A196

So many times this week my emotions got tossed like waves in a storm, listening to armchair commentators critiquing the virus. Who to blame, wrong information, who said what, what should be done, and shouldn’t be done, until I was angry in my own head.

So I refocus. This experience is no surprise to God. Neither are requirements that are levied on our communities. So I look to Him. I ask for peace. I pray for people who need prayer. I find things to be grateful for.

So many things.

2BCC1129-E5C3-461A-9B5D-7FDBA3788ACE

what if ….

Maybe it’s the aloneness, though I don’t think so. I am used to being on my own (present furry canine rescue company excepted). Maybe it’s that the entire United States of America (who’d have ever thought) has come to a grinding halt.

3F524CE6-31E2-422E-BD74-8AB1EC630666

Or maybe the thought that, not unlike Passover, a silent death creeps among us.

Or maybe it’s all of it. But lately I have had many things brought to mind for which I need to make amends. And I have followed those promptings. A note to a kind neighbor that I may have slighted. An overdue apology to my son for hurtful things once said. Phone calls made that were put off for far too long, these are reminders to me that this is not a dress rehearsal. This life is temporal. Getting it right is not as important as grace, kindness, patience.

7E22248A-8392-4AFD-A067-239C0A021A34

What would you do if this were your last month/ week/ day to live? Somehow for me, this question has become quite real.

This viral plague that, in order to protect ourselves and others has restricted us so harshly has made me stop and think.

I have never been in a situation before where I cheated death. I have also not yet lived regret-free.

85D2B44B-BF20-477A-AE34-61EB87D989D6

But I’d certainly like to, if not get a do-over, at least a restart.

427BF58D-0D55-4689-8E64-6D9CC30D62DB

E870358E-BEFB-432C-B620-C877269B0336brainbrewblog.wordpress.com

 

 

not sissies

Occasionally as a know-it-all young adult I’d be among older people. They would joke and laugh about aging which I was certain I would either not do or do way better. A favorite thing they’d often say was aging isn’t for sissies.

They were 100% correct.

I am older. At the age I was then I never considered the age I am now. I should have listened.

85C4459E-39D4-4AD4-B76A-7B3FCA7E4E9D

I have never been what I consider athletic. Not sedentary, just competitive other ways. Like all students I had phys ed classes which I begrudgingly participated in. I learned to play basketball (not well), field hockey (ditto), volleyball (some better), other sports. My favorite form of exercise is walking. There were a few years after I retired and had way too much time on my hands when I ran 4-5 miles every morning. Husky mix rescue dog Lily was a fun companion. When we adopted terrier mix rescue Lulu we stopped. She is not fast-moving.

25FCE3E4-129D-45F4-966D-00D6EEF6279F

Any large puddle will do. Water resistance is good exercise. Also thirst-quenching.

So aging. My brain still thinks like it did when I was 17. Not arrested development, exactly. Just filter. Mercifully I have the benefit of several decades of age, experience and  (I hope) subsequent wisdom. But I am now seeing a glimpse of what may be coming. Response time from mental concept to physical action is unsatisfactory. Maybe I have unreasonable expectations. But it’s an indication.

BC21E059-E1FF-4231-A6CE-186070C51F2C

I remember art classes. We learned dimension, spatial thought and perspective. Funny thing, seeing everyday images through artistic eyes. Vanishing point I will never forget. The term for what you see when you stand in a road and look toward the horizon. The point where the lines of the road’s edges come together. It kind of objectified the romantic aspect of a rambling country road but made it easier to draw.

So we move on through the days. Taking what comes, moving things around, some we can control some not.

But, still here. Thankful.

5FB36B20-F971-42C2-A624-3D8B079E50BA

small revelations

Relationships can be tricky things. The truth that we dislike in others that which we dislike in ourselves. And take it a step further by claiming we can ‘fix’ it in others, not realizing it’s in us, too. My dad used to tell me this is known as projection, a therapist’s term (which he was not). The Bible has a better way to understand it in Matthew 7:4-5

external-content.duckduckgo.jpg

It’s really hard to be critical of somebody else once you understand this. It took my sister-in-law’s self-criticism to help me see. We were speaking on the phone and she simply could not say anything good about herself. I reached past my irritation and found a deep compassion for her, because self-deprecation is a bad habit I have tried to kick for years. Suddenly I realized that by recognizing this in someone else and feeling not just empathy but a strong connection I began to understand how it can be overcome.

IMG_0246.JPG

It is nothing more than a feeble attempt at a false humility that accomplishes nothing! It isn’t funny, it isn’t encouraging, it simply isn’t true.

IMG_0258.JPG

Nothing is permanent in this life. Everything changes. So that which someone finds fault with in herself will change. Either with time, with understanding, or just a change of attitude.

Truth matters.

 

 

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.

IMG_1169.JPG

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?”

IMG_1224.JPG

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.

th.jpg

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.

IMG_1223.JPG

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.

IMG_1222.JPG

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.

th.jpg

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.

IMG_1030.JPG

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.

IMG_1032.JPG

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.

IMG_1045.JPG

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.

IMG_1024.JPG

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.

IMG_1038.JPG

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.

IMG_1042.JPG

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.

IMG_1023.JPG

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.

IMG_1014.JPG

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.

IMG_1043.JPG

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.

th.jpg

 

 

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.

IMG_0956.JPG

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.

IMG_0954.JPG

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

IMG_0960.JPG

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

IMG_0958.JPG

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.

IMG_0951.JPG

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.

IMG_0950.JPG

 

de28b32e784c23b81e8dbcc73d9325a6.jpg