Lyrics

“When there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire”

Yes. That.

No, not literally. I am not promoting self-harm. I understand self-harm. And I want to hug each and every one of you that finds balance in that… but this isn’t that blog… hug post… not that post.

This is a “you can do it post”. A Mr. Rodgers post if you will. This is a hard few weeks for me. It will probably always be a hard few weeks. Nothing you can do about that but go through it. Wasn’t that attributed to Winston Churchill? “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Yeah, that.

We all have those. Sadly, no one is immune.

My husband sent me this clip of a video. I cried. It is the place I am in. But it was like a hug I so much needed… maybe you need this hug or just love Mr. Rodgers… but here you go. Hang in there… we got this.

“Someone turn me round, can I start this again?”

St. Croix

In case you were wondering as of 2/5/2018, the island does not entirely have electricity.

Let me say that again, the island AS A WHOLE DOES NOT HAVE POWER.

Think about that for a moment. Hard to cook. Hard to keep food from spoiling. Hard to keep cool in 80+ temperatures. Hard to dry clothes, heck, hard to wash clothes. Hard to… yeah. That also. And WiFi? Internet. Cable TV. Don’t make me laugh.

We had planned a trip in early May 2017 to visit St. Croix again. I adore the island. It is perfect. It is very non-commercial; the people are genuine salt of the earth people. I want to tell you to visit and yet I don’t want it destroyed (yeah, Kauai looking at you). I emailed some locals I knew and said 1) we want to come if it will help 2) we don’t want to come if it will hurt and they all said COME! So we did.

Was it a different St. Croix that I saw 2 years ago… of course. There is FEMA cruise ship in port. There are linemen everywhere. There is no cable and no Wi-Fi. Restaurants offer frozen drinks based on if they are on electric or generator. (You learn to ask) And yet at its core… this is an island with steel in its spine.

For clarity sake, left side of the island has more electricity than right side (not where Maria hit straight on). So as you drive to the right side, stop lights with no power. And people stop and let those without the right of way out. Think about that. Would that happen where you live? Because that is NOT happening where I live. And it happened, and it was a non-event. A. Non-event.

The people of the island are, and I am not exaggerating… AMAZING. On NYE we went to the Kmart, to pick up some supplies for the evening and basic necessities (what can I say, no street lights, Kkdonk not fond of traveling roads in the dark). Every single person we met wished us a happy new year. They were smiling, bubbling with optimism and just, well happy. It was contagious. I was so buoyed about the new year… just by being around them.

I have spent quite a few years on this earth and have spent NYE in many different places (Times Square, Indiana, Myrtle Beach, Boston, Rochester, Miami, etc.) never in all my days has the spirit of hopefulness filled my being because of the love of strangers.

And I will be very honest… lack of 24 hour news helped, lack of no Facebook helped and as I returned to the 48, I tried to hold that feeling (and the lack of constant news feed). Bottom line, St. Croix needs to be on your to do list… if nothing else for the week to relax, read a bit, ignore life a bit and enjoy a Bushwhacker.

Kindness

My thumb is not remotely green. If I make I through a season and don’t kill too any plants, I consider that a win. It is September and all my hanging baskets are dead. One is still hanging out there in all its dried out glory. It looks lovely as you can only imagine.

My friend and her husband are amazing when it comes to plants. ALL their fingers and toes are green. They share amazing yellow squash (amazing to the point my kid knows when it comes from them and when I have to use supermarket squash) and zucchini. They have beefsteak tomatoes that softballs long to be that size. They are a meal unto themselves. And her flower beds… just wow.

The other day she asked if I needed green beans. The answer was of course YES!

The next day she arrived with a bag full of green beans and said, I just went ahead and cleaned them and snapped them for you.  I thanked her envisioning a pot of bacon and onion and slowly cooking green beans. But it was more than that, it was the kindness. The kindness of sharing bounty with others but more the kindness of taking that extra time to show how much you care.

It has been months since this happened the delicious green beans are long gone and still I think back on it and  how much it touched my heart that she would do that for me… that extra step of caring. And I smile.

Overkill

I can’t get to sleep
I think about the implications
Of diving in too deep
And possibly the complications

Especially at night
I worry over situations
I know will be alright
Perhaps it’s just imagination*

I have been having trouble sleeping as of late. I go to bed, eventually fall asleep. Wake. Wander. Lay on the Couch. Ponder. Wander. Head back to bed. Sleep a bit… Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Sometimes a song will be in my head or a writing idea or something I forgot at the store.

But mostly, it is useless “worry over situations, I know will be alright”. Giant waste of time.

In my teen years, I listed to Men at Work quite a bit. (yes, back when they were new and happening and from far, far away). This song came on the other day and of course I knew all the lyrics and sang along. But it also made me feel better. Someone else does this… enough that he wrote a song… a popular song and other people identified with it.

My point? Not sure I have one… except if you find yourself doing this… Colin and I are probably awake also so don’t feel alone.

* Overkill by Colin Hay (lead vocal of Men at Work)

Mom hands

During my lifetime, I saw my mother’s hands perform a variety of actions. They kneaded the most delicious homemade bread. They spanked my brother when he lied. They held the hands of residents in the nursing home as they took their last breath. They planted flowers and did needlepoint. They would sew and paint and carve wood… they even did macramé and decoupage when it was in vogue. They attempted to hang wall paper and rung the necks of chickens we would later eat.

Average size, they were soft, age spotted but with nails cut fairly short and never polished. Well, except for her thumb nails. Those nails she kept longer and pointier (still no nail polish). I have a theory she could have filleted a fish with those thumb nails. Even when I would visit the nursing home and trim her nails for her, she frequently told me the thumbs were “just fine and leave them alone”.

The thing I remember most about her hands involved my feet and cross country practice. I would get home after doing 6-8 miles and after supper she would ask if I wanted her to rub my feet for me. I honestly don’t remember at the time if I knew that it was hard for her to do that, as the arthritis was starting to move into those small joints, but she was so very good at it and my feet felt so much better afterwards. In my 20s, I would think of those times with guilt for being self-centered and maybe causing her pain.

It took me until my own child arrived to understand. As a drum major the arms are frequently out and up and that triangle in the middle of your back gets tight and sore… especially after an 8-4 Saturday practice. I volunteered to rub those sore muscles the other day. Knowing my hands would ache after, as arthritis is starting to move into those small joints… but I didn’t care. Small price to pay to see your child relieved of pain.

I saw my mom’s hands on my kid’s back, understood and let the niggling guilt go.

Blending

Billy Joel’s The Stranger album was one of the first albums I ever owned. Yes, on vinyl, back in the dinosaur days… the first time vinyl was cool. I went on to purchase the piano music for the entire album (the only part I was ever able to play was the first 20 keys from Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, but I tried. I learned all the lyrics (by playing the album over and over and over again). My thrifty nature is such that I listened to every single song to get my money’s worth… and learned every single song by heart. Even today I get to the grocery store and have no idea what I came for, but I can sing every single song on this album. It will look wonderful on a resume, I know.

The album represented a world for me I had never experienced. I grew up on a faux-farm in a small river town. We raised chickens, few cows, rabbits and the most evil goat in the world. Everyone in the town had the same skin color. I had never met or even seen an EYE-talian before. They sounded exotic from the album. Three different colors of wine? Apartments? Fighting? Moving out? Names with lots of vowels? Squealing car tires in music? It was a fascinating education in twelve inches. Ok, twenty four because you needed to flip the album.

My favorite was… and still is The Stranger.

Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone*

Hearing this, I realized for the first time that I was not the only person on earth that worked to modify her being to fit her setting. Only showing certain people certain parts of me. It was eye opening to think that were others of us out there. So many in fact that a song was written about us. With the addition of age and the internet to allow others to share their thoughts, I can see now where it could also be about infidelity, etc. But even now, it makes me think of the different faces we put on to blend in society and how few people get to see the real us.

 

* lyrics displayed from The Stranger by Billy Joel.

Joy

On my one adventure to Vegas, I did not win enough money to retire (I know this surprises you). However my travel companion and I ROCKED the claw machine. We left with an entire bag of stuffed monkeys. It was so fun to just hand random kids stuffed monkeys as we walked down the street. “Really? For ME?”

Saturday, we went to the local driving range/batting cage/mini golf/arcade place. And of course did it all because I am now a grown up and don’t have to pick just ONE THING. (What can I say, getting older DOES have some advantages). We finished up in the arcade and they had three claw machines, with tiny stuffed animals. They were so small that if you worked the claw correctly you could get like three at a time. After winning a few times, I spotted a Pink Rabbit Named Rose. And tried for her. Tried like four times for her. It was not to be. I came away with a handful of random animals but not the Pink Rabbit Named Rose. At the machine next to me was a young boy (five-ish?) and I mentioned that I was trying for a Pink Rabbit Named Rose but I didn’t have any luck and gave him one of the animals I did win. I continued to play different games at the arcade, winning tickets to redeem for fabulous prizes.

All of a sudden he appears at my elbow. He had such happiness and joy radiating from him… I swear he glowed. “I did it! I did it! I got you a Pink Rabbit Named Rose!” And he hands it to me. Not expecting reward or payment or anything. Just the joy of having made someone happy was enough for him. I told him how wonderful that was, thanked him and told him how impressed I was with his claw talents. He just beamed. I gave him one of the random dogs I had won. And he went back to his claw game.

That pure, undiluted joy that comes from helping someone unexpectedly … I have felt it on the inside, but can’t remember the last time it saw it on the face of someone else with such intensity. Makes me want to go out and do Random Acts of Kindness today.

Waiting

Waiting can be difficult. Waiting for big events… birthday, first day of school, grandparents coming to visit was so hard. When my child was small, we used to talk about “how many more sleeps it would be” until something happened. I sometimes still think in number of sleeps.

It becomes more challenging when as an adult, you don’t know the number of sleeps… you don’t know when the other shoe will drop or the next major life event will happen. You get more anxious about am  I wasting time not doing enough (or being enough, but that is a whole other post) and attempting to squeeze every second of “value” out of every minute.

We were in a city a few weekends ago… and the restaurant did not take reservations, wait time was 60-90 minutes (the food was worth it). We put in our name, waited and in 70 minutes were seated. When I looked up after ordering, I saw this adorable little boy lying in the street (don’t panic, the street in this area was closed) using the curb as a table and just coloring. He was oblivious to the people walking by and very seldom would his head even come up to look around. He was that intent in his work and very patiently waiting until it was time to eat.

He stuck in my head for a few different reasons. First off… how patient he was. There were many examples (in LOTS of different age ranges) not being that patient. Sighing loudly. Harassing the hostess. And in the midst of all this, was my small friend. Second, how he spent his time. Paper and crayons. Not a single electronic device to be seen. I felt guilty. I had been on my phone, playing a game, checking email, etc. while waiting. I wondered if I might feel more relaxed if I had been just randomly doodling or sketching. And finally his smile. While he was working, he was smiling and the drawing. His inner world was a very happy one, regardless of if he was happy with his drawing or telling himself a story in his head… he was just happy.

I got home and tucked a small notebook in my purse with a pencil… just an idea for the next time I need to wait.

Trees

The other morning … way too early… way too cold… I was outside watching the sky grow lighter.

There is a tree in my back yard. A good tree. Strong tree. One my mother would have approved of as she was tree person. Going through her pictures, upon cleaning out her house, was an entire album of tree pictures. I know it sounds a tad nuts… but I kept it and it is oddly soothing to look through.  It shows nature at its strongest and its most vulnerable. I am glad I kept it.

Outside I looked at my tree… I could make out the trunk. Pretty much just the trunk. The limbs were hidden in the still night sky. I shut my eyes and tried to find my inner Zen. Zen missing, I opened my eyes and looked at my tree and saw bigger limbs coming off the tree. I watched the tree. It got lighter and limbs seemed to grow as I watched, no longer the same color at the night sky… taking on depth. (ok at one point I thought wow that really looks 3-D and my next thought was “need to limit screen time”) As I continued to watch the tree… quietly and focused I started to be able to see more limbs and tiny branches. As the sky continued to lighten (no sun… Northern Indiana in the winter… don’t be greedy), I was able to see the entire tree… every single branch, limb, twig… all of this wonderful tree.

That is it, isn’t it? The quietly, focused and waiting… seeing what appears. Patience.

I need more patience. If I might be so bold, you might need some also… so let’s do this… let’s be like my mom… look at more trees… have more patience.

Blood Draw

I have a morning routine. I would guess most of us do. My 17 year old’s routine seems to consist of hitting snooze and then running around like a headless chicken. Mine involves getting up at 530, having coffee, catching up on the news, friend’s social media posts, and ok playing this one game I have played for 178 days straight (don’t judge) for the first 30 minutes of the days. It is the calm before the day’s storm.

Today was a fasting blood draw. One can only imagine how that messes with my morning routine… no coffee, no veggie juice, no oatmeal. Sipping ice water while reading the news… ah delightful.

Needless to say by the time I got to the lab this morning, I wanted my blood gone and to be in the coffee line. Stat! Today was a tech I had not had before, lovely person… very, very talkative. The type where your presence is really all that is needed; no words. As she was telling me one story and then another about trying things that had happened to her the last few days (she was coming off two week vacation) but in a very positive roll with it way; it was apparent she was a person of very strong faith. Not in your face, you need to believe my way. But her faith was such a solid core part of her. And she reminded me so very much of my mother.

I’d been struggling a bit this season. Trying to give back and give in the right way of my time and my compliments. Doing Random Acts of Kindness. And normally all that helps, but this year, I still very much struggle. She mentioned in passing how things happen for a reason and you have to trust that reason even if you don’t know it. The draw was painless and fast. And she put on the folded gauze and tape and said “oh wait honey no one leaves me without this” and she drew a smile on the makeshift band aid.

I got up out of the chair, put on my scarf and put on my gloves and went over to her and I said with tears in my eyes, “thank you, I really needed you in my life today” and she got tears in her eyes and we hugged. Really hugged. Like you would hug a dear friend who was going away for a bit or your child as they headed off on a long trip. We wished each other well and a Merry Christmas. And I left. I sat in my car and cried a bit.

I’ve mulled the encounter, dissected the encounter, tried to figure out what I was to learn, do next with this encounter…as I am known to do. And I have decided, it is like the coffee I buy for people behind me. I never expect there to be free coffee for me at the window, but I do it often for others. Maybe this was just a gift for me, a hug from a stranger that was really a hug from a loved one in disguise.