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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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worry

I know, worry helps no one and nothing.

Two or three weeks ago when this virus started making headlines I texted my son, who occasionally travels for his work, did he have any travel plans?

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He called immediately. “Yes,” he said. Plans to visit friends and his girlfriends’ family in Germany.

No, they wouldn’t postpone it.

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So they left last Wednesday. An hour after their flight took off there were many changes. No international flights from Asia or the European Union. I began to perspire a bit.

Then a little clarification. US citizens would be permitted to enter (but for how much longer I wondered?) So I texted him what information I had and tried to sleep.

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I heard little to nothing from him Thursday. He could not get the airline website for poor WiFi or overburdened site or both. Could not get a call through. I told him what I knew, limited flights from Europe.

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When the UK was added to the list apparently he began to work at returning sooner in earnest. He texted today saying they are returning to Frankfurt with tentative seats on a morning return flight home. Thanking God he made this choice. Not sure he’d have a job to come back to if he missed a window of return and had to wait out the 30-day hiatus. I will be so grateful when I hear his voice and Houston traffic in the background.

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Rescue dogs Lulu and Lily are way better at waiting than I am.

 

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Lent

About 10 years ago I started taking this season seriously. I have way too much baggage in my past to believe I get to skate in any aspect of my life. I did not grow up in a family that lavished luxuries on either my brother or myself. Whatever I had I had to earn. We always had more than enough. But I remember a Christmas when my mother asked my brother and me if we would welcome an orphan for that day. I did not want that. So neither did my brother. I wish my mother had sat down and tried to help us understand what opening our hearts would have meant. I remember the pain in her eyes.

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Over the years I came to understand this season. Not quite as well marked as Christmas with so much hype. There are no Easter “carols”, no beautiful trees or decorated houses, no candles lit as Advent. I only recently discovered boxed Easter cards. Anyway, where Advent is a time of excited anticipation, Lent is a time for examination. Mourning in a way of the things we did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say and a time to shed what we were for more of who we could be. Or something. So people give up sacrificially to get closer to the person we’ve buried or hidden from ourselves. I decided those many years ago to stop watching television. I never believed I’d make it the whole 46 (yes. 46 because ‘they’ don’t count Sundays) days, but I did. Each year it’s gotten easier, even a few years ago when I became so addicted to schmaltzy Hallmark movies.

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In fact this year it seemed so easy I felt like I was cheating so I looked at what others do. Give up coffee. At a fellow blogger’s suggestion I tried that last Advent. It isn’t as easy as you’d think! One year when my son was in high school we divided Psalm 119 into doable segments and read through it during the season. I realized many well-known verses are from this psalm alone, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” for one.

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Other suggestions were to add something. Pray through the psalms. To pray for one specific thing each day during the time. Another was to give up sarcasm. Another, be more mindful. For an impulsive person like me this would certainly be a challenge.

In everything I do I hope to shed some old me that is worn, fearful, outdated. Then, when Easter Sunday comes I am more me. He knows what I mean.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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WordCloud

This is an odd fad that I have seen people use on social media. Somehow the program will sum up all a person’s posts in a year or some specified time frame into a conglomeration of words. Not sure how the program knows which words to pick out, but the upshot is meant to be a summary of attitude based on words used in posts the person made. There are programs online (WordClouds.com is one) where you can copy and paste an essay or list or whatever and the program will mash it into what you said. Or something.

I remember many times when I worked for my dad’s company training new employees. In addition to my working with them I had fashioned manuals for each position of production, explaining what the job was, why it existed with keystroke-by-keystroke instructions on data entry and submission. This was a painstaking process but greatly facilitated the assimilation of any employee we hired, thus enabling their joining the company a seamless process.

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It also made my father very happy because if I happened to be out of the office and any questions arose these manuals were designed so anyone who could read could walk in, read this manual and do whatever the task was. Thereby alleviating any awkward “I don’t know” situation for my dad, which was a rare occurrence anyway. This was also how my mother taught me to cook. I once asked her, as a small child, how do you cook? “If you can read you can cook,” was her answer. She was an amazing cook, and I know there was way more to her cooking than just reading.

Life is kind of that way. You have to live through a substantial amount of experiences before any sufficient measurable wisdom is attained in order to see a pattern or theme I think. Some situations I wished I had an operations manual. Like when my son was born. His birthday was yesterday. I was telling him what that day (the greatest day!) was like. I especially recalled the day after when I was being prepared to go home. They brought my brand new baby to me and showed me how to give him a bath. I watched in horror as they slung him side to side in the little tub sloshing him all over with soapy water. Later when he was bundled in his little onesie and blankets they handed him to me. I looked at him a moment, then asked the nurse could they not keep him longer, say till he was ready for school? I was terrified I’d break him.

I didn’t.

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But life doesn’t come with manuals. Which is why some may like being perpetual students. Being in school you are learning, but what does learning something matter if you never apply it to anything? And I know plenty of people who did not go to college and are smarter than many that did. That’s likely more a matter of personality than intelligence. Both help.

IMG_0449.JPGLulu’s wordcloud is always growing

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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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