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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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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the unknown

19DEEF51-CD17-48AF-83F0-78B6886C8543For the most part we are surrounded with that which is familiar— family, friends, hobbies, books, habits, work, neighborhoods. Not much surprises us. Our lives aren’t so much predictable as they are routine. Never boring because our perceptions continually change or adapt.

There are things that happened this year I could not have foreseen. Rescue dog Lily’s two knee surgeries and remarkable recoveries. Political ‘resistors’ in America who violently attacked innocent individuals. New neighbors next door who turned out to be a dear, kind couple. My son calling a few days before Thanksgiving to let me know he will visit me.

0537814D-DD4E-41AB-9168-347F036FC7B0Some pathways are clear. There are boundaries to keep us in a safe area. We know to follow this. Well, mostly. I can remember driving home after a day’s work with my free-spirited father who had salvaged a small business in receivership. In the companionable silence he’d suddenly brake the car, saying something like, “let’s see where this goes,” turning off the highway onto an obscure road, not really concerned whether we’d wind up lost. Dad was never lost. He had the strongest centrifugal force of anyone I knew.

Those adventures translated into other life decisions which I suppose taught me no matter what your decision, things can be worked for good.

0A3CE1C3-C245-4451-A364-CD4101A1C000So though at times the curve up ahead may appear at first to be a dead end, keep moving forward. There are many forces —mostly good— that travel with us.

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I wish everyone a Happy New Year.

 

(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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