Tag Archives: longread

Resignation

You know, Ol’ Man, this morning wasn’t as awful as I expected. For a few heartbeats I was angry with Cole for not calling me up last night, but I can’t stay mad at him.

“Ol Man” Scout in a happy, albeit inelegant moment.

I’ll bet you chuckled to yourself that way you do, on and off all night about how we want to change things up this year. I tortured you with my ideas, chattering the whole week before New Year’s. You have always been a good listener. I still have some more ideas to run by you, but that can wait.

Cole surprised me this morning slipping quietly in the door instead of his usual boisterous entrance. I started to tease him but stopped abruptly. I can’t remember exactly why. Perhaps it was the uncharacteristic way he held his coffee mug against his chest. I offered him the tropical green smoothie I’d intended to take up to the house to him – you know, changing things up – but I carried it to the door. Since you didn’t come in with him I went to open the door for you the way I always do.

I surprised myself asking Cole as I turned from him to the door,  “Did your roommate’s grandmother die?”

I never noticed how cold the metal of the doorknob is until I heard Cole respond, “No. Scout died.”

I turned on my heel gasping, feeling Brother’s pain more than mine. The Ol’ Man’s been my friend these five or so years, but he and Cole have been inseparable since Scout was a tiny pup. Silently, I held my face between my hands a moment to keep back the sob and the tears that surely wouldn’t help him that minute.

Cole tried to put a log I’d intended to take up to the main house in my little stove. I held my words until he clearly realized the log was beginning to smolder but wouldn’t fit. Then I said gently, “That one’s for your stove. Let me take it up.” He handed it over but continued staring into the fire.

I found you there where Cole laid you, on your travel blankets in the dining room. You looked peaceful, as if you were napping. I rubbed behind your ears and your throat remembering how we got to play yesterday under clear, blue skies on a perfectly comfortable winter day. It had been weeks since you felt up to playing, but yesterday you moved painlessly once again. You got to greet a new visitor and then we played some more just because the weather was so perfect.

This morning I let you rest when I saw NewOldFriend arrive. Like you, I like her very much too. Cole had already brought the quad up to the house to carry you and some tools. I walked around to tell the neighbor ladies you’d laid it all down and apologized for all the commotion so early in the day. I’m sure you know how they are also fond of you.

Certain the fair weather would not hold out, Duck and his nephew showed up with the back hoe. Ninety minutes later Cole finished packing rich topsoil back over that high spot in the north pasture with the tractor. We all felt we were finished and should go but we couldn’t. Then we heard the horses in the surrounding pastures begin to neigh and whinny, bobbing their heads in a country chorus. Then we said our good-byes too.

We solemnly returned to the main house. It wasn’t one of the rare occasions Scout stayed home alone and he didn’t greet us as if we’d been away for days rather than hours. We toasted our dearly beloved friend and a life well lived. Cole commented that from the kitchen window we can look out onto his spot in the pasture, near the youngest of the trees.

Later, the pasture drew me back before returning to my cottage. Without Scout along it felt colder and empty. I didn’t hear him approach, but as rain began to fall Hero the steer gently nosed me from behind. Taking that as him telling me to stop being a silly human, I returned to my cottage to reminisce on my time with Scout, our dear Ol’ Man.

Scout
September 2005 – January 4, 2018

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.”

Philippians 1:3 (NLT)

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Christmas Eve’s Eve

A repost from What’s Next, Texas, USA, December 2015.  It’s hard to believe that was two years and two states back.

Merry Christmas to all!

 

angel wing cloud nancy

Our Christmas celebration this year will consist of Candlelight Service (maybe with Sister), an actual sit-down dinner together and all three of us taking a restful day off work together, probably with popcorn and Netflix, maybe darts.

The plan was in place.  Sister and I left the house together to do the last minute shopping.  This was an event.  I’ve missed her.  I see her every day, but she’s mostly been away for a few years; discouraged, disappointed, heartbroken and confused, essentially shattered. She holds the pieces of herself so tightly she can hardly do anything else but work. I get it. People we love often hurt us at some point and knocked us down at others. So I stay close and in case of a crash.

Sister, Opal and I move about in the world and live our lives together from behind our walls.  Occasionally, I can’t contain the spirit inside me.  It escapes and preys upon any unwitting subject on my way.  I felt a breakout coming.  “Let me get that door for you…” and the next thing you know I’m engaged in conversation with a friendly, talkative, complete stranger.  Sister usually loathes it, but being so far from friends and other family too she understands – and suffers through my social gushing.

Happy to be out, invigorated by the warm Texas December weather, we were on our last stop for the day.  A seemingly familiar woman approached the door the same time we did.  I actually felt like I knew her from somewhere. Even if I didn’t, I greeted her cheerily and sprang to get the door for her.  “Good afternoon.”

As if she didn’t notice us before that moment the lady straightened very slightly. As I swung the door open and stepped aside, she looked me in the eye like she saw into my soul, “Oh, thank you, Baby.  Good afternoon” she replied warmly, then turned to watch where she walked.  Something clicked – I didn’t know what.  I didn’t care.  I felt alive and fully connected to the world again.

The lady adjusted her large purse and a hobo bag as she reached forward.  The interior door opened into the vestibule so I awkwardly stepped around her to hold that door open for her too.  I was probably overreaching, but I had to.  She was one of those strong women, so knowing her actual age was tricky. The touches of grey in her hair and brows told me she was slightly older than I, but fit and sharp, if slightly preoccupied.

With that she looked into my face again.  Entirely unintimidated – and unannoyed, she responded, “Why thank you, Baby.”  Baby, again, but as if she knew me.  She seemed to start to say something else, but only nodded and began walking away.  Strangely, my heart wanted me to walk with her, but noticing Sister’s expression I checked myself. Instead I said, “Of course.  You have a wonderful day.  Merry Christmas,” and in exaggerated civility took Sister’s arm, walking her inside.

Now smiling, Roan and I entered too as the lady walked away. She glanced back saying, “Why, God bless you.  Merry Christmas,” stepping toward the back of the store and out of sight.

Sis and I shopped around for a nice little something to put beneath the tree; a two-foot paper and wire figure sitting on the television cabinet in the den. Searching around we wound up looking through blouses; something I never do.  I can’t wear off the rack without alterations. Sister can wear whatever she wants.  To make her happy I went along enjoying the feel of the fabrics.

“What are you looking for today?” came the voice from behind us.  I turned to respond and was delighted to find the lady from the door.  Now smiling broadly, wearing a plush red and white Santa hat on her head and a lanyard of key cards around her neck.  As she wandered away I finally recognized her; polished orthopedic shoes, black patterned stockings over support hose, a stylish, upscale, conservative skirt, comfortable, but immaculate.  A shell and cardigan tastefully accessorized, every hair neatly in place; she was a Momma.

Not the same as somebody’s mother, though she possibly was, she’s a Momma.  You’ll find her at the job, at church every Sunday and mid-week service, at the local free day care, senior care center, food pantry, often a volunteer at the local hospital or hospice.  You see it all over her, confidently owning whatever space she occupies.  Calm, collected, always busy, but quick to help wherever she can.  She never misses the slightest nuance, takes life head-on, living comfortably, modestly and entirely in love with people.

Over the years Mommas have been my lifeline.  Commuting to work in Los Angeles, often stuck in traffic, my boys knew if I was late to go to the church office where Momma D volunteered every afternoon.  She’d welcome them in, get them started on their homework and usually have snacks when I got to the neighborhood, worn and often on the verge of panic.  “Don’t you worry, Baby,” She’d say, “They’re good boys.  You can remember me when the offering plate comes around.” A Momma.

As a missionary, the only pink face in a volatile neighborhood, Momma Gen would often be “taking a walk” (in her house slippers) when I left the church building where I worked to walk home after dark.  Nobody messes with a Momma.

Working for an inner-city grass roots community center, putting in 50 hour weeks, Momma Cece would bring plates of dinner for the boys and me at least twice a week, knowing I wouldn’t have time to cook a dinner. That’s a Momma.

Sis and I kept sliding hangers. “Momma Burke” (we’ll call her as I didn’t see a name tag) held out a blouse to each of us. “These colors are perfect for you two and they’re very popular.” Before I could gracefully refuse, she added, “It doesn’t cost but a moment and it’s good to look at yourself in something new.”

You don’t argue with a Momma.  Sister stared me down as I took the beautiful blue, flowing top and stepped toward the fitting room.  I smiled back at her saying, “We’ve got a minute. You might as well.” Momma Burke pushed the rusty red shirt at Sister saying, “Now don’t waste time thinking about it. The store is going to get busy fast.”

Moments later I heard Sister gasp in the room next to me. Both the blouses were perfect.

Sure enough, when we stepped out of the rooms the store was full and noisy. Momma stepped up out of nowhere, smiling. “I knew you’d like ‘em; the colors suit you both and you can either dress them up or down.”

Sister agreed, thanked her and wandered away.  Clearly she was ready to leave.  I thanked Momma and explained I liked the blouse, but it isn’t in my budget until January. “Did you even look at the tag?” she asked, giving me “that look” over her half-frames.  I hadn’t.

It actually was that rare find from the clearance rack.  A second by most standards, but on me it draped perfectly, for $5.61.  I almost giggled.  Momma just smiled and went on to help other customers.  I wanted to hug her tight but snatching up the other blouse from the go back rack I hurried to catch up with Sister and bought both blouses.

We practically flew through the rest of the shopping and were home before we knew it.

I couldn’t stop thinking how God places exactly the right people in my life at the perfect times.  I’d longed for something new to wear for months.  With bills to pay and paying gigs scarce, I’ve made due with what I have.  What I have often isn’t a big deal. But it is today.

As I readied for Christmas Eve the next day, the mail brought a cash surprise. Immediately I thought of the leggings Sister wanted – and Momma Burke.  I couldn’t get to the store fast enough.  I found the leggings straight away and then went to the fitting room to find Mrs. Burke.  The woman that also worked there yesterday was absolute that she’s never seen anybody over twenty-something working in the store and she’s worked there almost two years!

Perhaps Momma Burke is a new hire starting late into Christmas season.  Maybe not.  I won’t be surprised to confirm sometime in the future, that Momma Burke is one of those angelic beings that appear and vanish when we actually need a little special help.  I shall look forward to seeing her again wherever it happens.

candles and nuts christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” Hebrews 13:1, 2 (NLT)

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Throwdown

To those who have been following the journal of my latest relocation, integrating my life into the home of my oldest, best friend, I submit this latest recount of the process. To new, readers I present an object lesson, and to those who’ve figured life out, my apologies for the rant.

Throwing the Gauntlet

My presence in our new home brought change for Erin as much as for me. For many readers change is no big deal, but as we age – the longer we age – especially while working through mental health issues, we want to wrestle it, pin it to the mat. I understand this and had assumed Erin did too.

We had always stayed in touch, but we hadn’t lived together in over thirty years. A lot of water flowed beneath these two bridges. She lived alone for the past three years while I often longed to. I mostly enjoyed the three years I lived in my beautiful apartment – alone and lonely for my friends and family (who lived at least an hour away – too far for young families or my old truck to drive every week).

So, here’s these two old broads, best friends for over half a century, experiencing our first upset with each other in over thirty years.

gauntlet pinterest

* Old Lady Gauntlets

For three months I had collected little straws, petty little things that bothered me and sometimes disrupted my routine. Thinking they were too insignificant to mention, before I realized it I began to feel like the haystack was going to break this camel’s back.

Now y’alls probably never do that, or if you did it happened once – just once. Doing it more than once is just stupid. As if three years of counselor training hadn’t taught me better, I had surrendered weeks of joy to frustration, and still I was reluctant to talk to Erin about it.

Growing up in a violent, dysfunctional family ingrains a reluctance to confront, or it encourages emotional bullies. I’m intimated by how easily I pivot toward both. So, I didn’t want to offend her – and then have to live with the repercussions.

I grew up with Erin’s family. Now as adults I recognize how she and her siblings bear crosses between them they have no business shouldering. I’m not gonna lie, this isn’t the first time I found some degree of comfort seeing her family is not perfect either. Now I realize they too sometimes transfer their feelings to each other or overlook their responsibilities for their choices occasionally. So, I held it all in, keeping my concerns to myself and carrying my burden alone.

Once I realized it was a big deal I started worrying the next straw would blow the roof off our home sweet home. I’d begun ranting to the cats when Erin was out of the house. Coco’s blinking at me dispassionately made me feel resentful (we’ll blame her – she doesn’t care). I was angry from ignoring all those sore little straw scrapes. That left me feeling frustrated, hopeless and ultimately fearful.

My moods weren’t lost on Erin either. Several evenings she came to my doorway asking, Do you feel any better yet? Are you angry at me? Are you still happy here? Because that was usually late for me I was tired (so not entirely approachable) and I can be bitchy, I’d tell her everything’s fine. I lied.

My. First. Conviction.

With that I began to actually think. By not talking to Erin had I been packing casings with my issues, loading them into the .45, and then pointing it toward my foot?

bullets-on-wood-table-5305x3537_25636** bullseye**

At the peak of this madness sister Ellie called me, casually asking as she always does, “how you doin’.” It was a surface level, polite question. In my state of mind, I ass-umed she and Erin must have talked about my moods. But because I won’t talk to Ellie about Erin, I couldn’t honestly answer her. Instead, my dam broke and I cried. I told her I’ve been depressed and it had me worried.

After saying the “D” word aloud, I realized I had to buck up and somehow talk with Erin about what was troubling me. That started my second conviction: years of misdiagnosis and medication gorking me out unnecessarily proved I don’t suffer from depression. I know this, but each body ages differently. I lamely reasoned being sick seemed much more palatable than accepting I’d been cowardly. That bird didn’t fly far.

I was glad Erin spent the next few days at Keira’s, so I could think, play positive, encouraging music 24/7 pray (aloud) and fast. The cats disapproved, but quickly got over all the noise.

The night Erin returned home she came to my doorway (yeah, around ten p.m.). I’d just started to drift off to sleep, so I don’t remember what she asked me. Hopefully I mumbled something to the affect of Goodnight, but I heard her say as she walked away, “You didn’t answer me.” Exhausted and still reluctant, I let it go for the night.

The next morning I made Erin’s coffee, my double espresso latte and woke her early. I read to her from The Love Chapter” of the Bible***. Then locking eyes with hers said, “I don’t have to remind you I love you. I’m not running. I’m not depressed, but I am sad and a little scared. We must hunt the elephants.”

We talked back and forth for hours, continuing the conversation on-and-off all day during my breaks. Sure it was a short work day. My writing probably took a few hits with the weeks of distractions, but today we’re both talking and feeling much better.

As we age changes, confusion, and some hard feelings are natural. This is particularly so for unmarried people, these feelings can escalate astoundingly quickly and easily develop into withdrawal, isolation and despondency. As we diligently invest in our relationships, the odds for problems decline significantly. In our house we chose to invest and accept deposits as well.

A fool would throw away a fifty-something-year-old friendship. I can be silly sometimes, but I’m no fool – not yet.

puppy-on-beach-4435x2939_53724**

Erin has my six and I’m on her nine.  To this she says, “Sure, point out my side’s bigger than your skinny, old side.” We enjoy the pun, even if nobody else does.

*** “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)

 

Images courtesy of *Pinterest and **ABSFreePics

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Cloudbursts

The forecast in our region was for cooler temperatures – yeay! That’s due to scattered thunderstorms. Forgive the pun, but it put a damper on some of my plans.

Undaunted, I took my hourly walks around the neighborhood despite the forecast. Between cloudbursts I had a revelation: The preeminent times of my life occurred between cloudbursts.

Storms are a mixed blessing. They not only nourish and cleanse the earth, freshening the air, but they can also cause some astounding damage. That pretty well describes my family’s history. Metaphorically, tempests formed our lives – together and individually. Winds brought limbs down, lightning started fires that consumed everything familiar, burnt us and tore our family apart at times.

And yet we lived. Can I hear a hallelujah?!

Most of my family members enjoy above-average lifestyles now, despite having experienced several very close strikes and some direct hits. You’ve probably never felt like you needed to throw or hit something lest you explode. We feel that way sometimes. I’m not especially proud of my 78 m.p.h. pitches. We still freeze at the sight of some old photos or some familiar-looking strangers. Then there are those moments when we go from serene to raging tempests in a heartbeat. Or mention certain names and my mind goes blank as if it had just been erased. I came through all that while trying to understand letters and words that rarely looked or sounded right. Still, I learned.

“But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O LORD, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress.  You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat…” Isaiah 25:4

Twisted as it sounds, I like to remember the moments after my son returned from Iraq in four-plus pieces – after the surgeon told me to prepare myself for the worst. I wondered if they actually rehearse those insipid lines. I recall unintentionally staring the man down for what he later described as “an uncomfortably long pause.” I remember thinking through what he’d told me, wondering who on earth does his hair, and recalling everything God promised me. All I said to the doctor was, “You obviously don’t know Who you’re dealing with.”

And I love to remember Nathan’s second first steps weeks later.

Around and in between all that I:

  • danced alone in the rain along the Mogollon Rim,
  • loved with abandon,
  • surfed,
  • sang to the Blue Mountains at sunset,
  • looked into the eye of a whale off the starboard deck,
  • coasted down Jerome, Arizona’s roads at midnight by moon light only,
  • ran with wolves, wolf-dogs and mustangs,
  • watched my sons learn to dive, hit home runs, graduate, be inducted into the military and fire houses, drive cars, trucks and tanks (God spared us all), fall in love, weep as they became fathers and paced the floors with their babies,
  • and a hummingbird rested on my knee as I rested during my yard work.

Though Seagh actually went on ahead without the rest of us, he’s safe and at peace now. We’re all still standing. Some days we’re stronger than others, but we dance in the rain and breathe easy between cloudbursts.

What brings it all into perspective is my family is only one minute particle of humanity, and yet, God cares for us as if each one is His only child.

“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:2 (NLT)

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Walk

Today again I appreciate more and more how we are fearfully and wonderfully made. First, who knew how changing my post days to Monday and Thursday would go like this?

Today’s revelation began two nights ago – I was actually cold beneath my wool blanket and goose down throw. In case I haven’t mentioned it before I never feel cold, so in the gorgeous spring weather of the Western Slope, that was the first clue that I have been running overloaded for too long. I just checked: The temps were 46 degrees to 78 degrees here that day – around 70 degrees when I retired.

This morning confirmed my suspicion when I awoke with what I generally call hamburger throat, imagining what my insides might look like with that sore, raspy feeling.

Josey tea Carli JeanWith no fever it’s all good. I arose only slightly slower than usual and was sipping my Black Silk amaretto latte by the time Erin arose. I marvel at how, in only four weeks we’ve achieved very close to perfect sync with each other. It’s almost as though the past thirty-five years had been mere weeks.

thumb driveRight on course, by then I’d already checked my drafts for today’s post and had dismissed all of the ideas I found there. By Erin’s second cup of Black Silk Vanilla ambition, she suggested I consider her idea from a few days before, the things we miss while driving.

Before I prepared my second latte Erin invited me to walk downtown with her to City Hall to pay a bill and get some fresh air. Because my second latte was super low fat, low caffeine with evaporated cane juice, (and my body’s fighting off an infection 😉 ) I considered her suggestion longer than I usually would.

Despite having volumes of words and photos to consider, I immediately prepared to walk anyway. Walking simply seemed right.

Though I felt tired before we wrapped up the 1.6 miles, I’m glad I went. Walking alone and had I not been feeling slightly puny, I would have logged in 3 miles in that time. However I would not have met the neighbors.

Two blocks from home a Mini-Schnauzer, a Shih Tzu, and a Great Pyrenees/German shepherd pup rushed into the road, barking happily to greet us. The pup, already bigger than her mature dog companions, but clearly a baby, loped along. Their people, Guy and Barbie were right on their heels.

Without Erin I wouldn’t have stopped to chat. We wouldn’t have learned Guy and Barbie also have property just a stretch of the legs from Keira and Newlyn’s property (Erin’s mom and her late father) where we go for Sunday dinner every week. And yet, we paused a good ten minutes, met our neighbors briefly and their fur kids – well enough that 3-month-old Big Baby began walking with us as we departed. We’ll consider doing that another day.

pit bull leashHow delightful that Guy knows Keira and Newlyn’s place by the spayed Amstaf terrier that lives in the next lot on the road just before Keira’s. Though Guy doesn’t recall knowing Erin’s two brothers, everyone in town knows Nancy the pit bull, who initially seems ferocious, but locals all stop to greet her – usually with a treat. I adore the friendly, small-town atmosphere despite the wide geographical span.
coeds

Ordinarily under other circumstances I wouldn’t have stopped to chat up our two young, co-ed neighbors taking a break from their studies either. I wouldn’t have told them they remind me of mornings on our porch back home where Roan, Opal and I would sit, wrapped in our blankets, mugs of coffee in hand to see the day in.

What’s more, the girls wouldn’t otherwise have extended an invitation to join their occasional parties any time, and they wouldn’t have welcomed us to visit them for food and grog where they both work at the local chain establishment. We wouldn’t have chatted about the advantages of the new Fitbits and the knock-offs that are out there.

GJ Law ofcI also noticed the amazing array of flora, from blooming cactus to peonies, vivid iris and the many varieties of columbine, and how they differ in full sun and from beneath the immense shade trees. Nor seemingly everywhere the vintage, refashioned architecture styles and landscaping seen on the Western Slope.

 

 

cactus flower1 flora fence Iris GJ iris maybe yellow cactus flower

 

I noticed how the many other pedestrians nodded, saying, “hi” and how one in particular paused to ask us about the shell casing we’d found in the grass a few feet in front of him. “Weird,” he said. We agreed. I wouldn’t have noticed the bird calls, especially the dove that called to us, seeming to follow us from tree top to tree top going from our block and then welcoming us back to it.

What I didn’t notice is vehicle traffic. Aside from a rare, occasional car passing (below the speed limit), the driver waving or nodding politely as they passed, there are very few cars moving through the neighborhood mid-to-late weekday mornings. The breeze and bird calls aren’t drowned out by more obnoxious sounds. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I might have heard some dandelions groaning as they struggled for root room in the thick grass of one sunny lawn.

Then there’s the view of the Book Cliffs, Sleeping Ute, Mount Garfield, The Mesa and the National Monument towering around us. If they don’t take your breath away you need new glasses – or perhaps a check up from the neck up.

Sleep Butte  Mt Garfield

Whether I’m actually sick or simply run-hard-and-put-away-wet, I’m delighted to have experienced some of the beauty we miss when we drive ourselves to our various errands. Clearly it’s good therapy. I feel extravagantly blessed that whatever we need in our household is walking distance from our front door, even when we need a break more than anything else. The reorganization project will be waiting for us whenever we return.

God knows this deep sense of belonging to family and community is exactly what I’d hoped and prayed for. Clearly He held it all together here just for me :D.

Thanks God!

 

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21 (NLT)

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The Best Choice Today

Have you ever faced a hard choice wishing it was not up to you? Have you ever regretted a decision? Welcome to my thoughts today, as I seem to bear the weight of the world!

whats right

 

Today I’m considering quotes. Usually quotes from my late brother help me most often, like “It’s not about who’s right, but what’s right.” But that’s not much help today.

I take more time making decisions these days than ever before. Perhaps that’s because America is caught up in the Presidential Election Primaries – so much information, the actual facts (verses misinformation or subjectivity), so little time. Maybe because I am older than I ever thought I’d be and yet vital, I approach many decisions more seriously. More than ever before in my history every choice seems more important in nearly every area of life.

Faced with making a decision that will directly impact my household, possibly my entire family, I’ve been profoundly circumspective the past few weeks – months actually. It’s not all bad. I’ve discovered among the blessings of aging is history; I can look back at choices I made and examine what was good, what could have been better and what didn’t work out so well – and why. As recently as a few years ago, my history had me reluctant to make decisions that had much bearing on anyone but me. One such choice about three years ago was to combine my household with my sister and brother. That decision brought me here, both geographically and metaphorically.

During weeks of introspection and examining the facts, thoughts from Louie Giglio’s book, I Am Not But I Know I Am come to mind (paraphrased):

  • I am not God. Therefore I cannot alter His plan.
  • God doesn’t have a backup plan in case I screw up His plan.
  • This story isn’t over, not even the results of decisions I regret because I chose while angry or hurt.

One choice that faces us all more than we even notice, is to do what’s best. Granted, I like to examine everything from every available perspective –  which often annoys my housemates. For example,

shall I:

  • get up now or go back to sleep,
  • eat cheese, eggs, beef or chicken, tea or coffee
  • walk in the morning or afternoon
  • spend now to save or do without

Under our intense circumstances our household often faces choices that ordinarily seem simple but are actually complex and have an impact on someone else or another area of life:

I’m groping here, but for example:

  • leave a light on in case someone in the household isn’t home yet (impacting the electric bill)
  • shop for food today because supplies are scarce or wait until the coupons and sale ads arrive
  • spend any more time trying to save a few pennies

But the biggest choice facing me now,

  • should I stay in my present household with family or move to somewhere more conducive to my needs.

The hardest part of the process is considering the list under the category,

What if

Some choices offer immediate results so they seem simpler. Those involving others and bear more dramatic, long-term or unseen ramifications are more challenging. With all our advanced technology, seeing ahead is sometimes as difficult as ever, particularly when our choices affect the lives around us.

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Spock

When faced with difficult choices, I rely upon intensive prayer and fasting. Even then answers can seem subjective, especially to my vision in the moment. So, whenever possible I give myself time. I dread the chance I may have missed something important simply because there’s so much to consider. While I’m undeniably an emotional being, just as able to make a decision that could be influenced by my feelings in the moment, faith also guides my decisions.

When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” Proverbs 29:18 (NLT)

When open communication is tricky, confusion and offenses weigh in, being no more self-centered than the next human, my maternal instincts tend to override other logic. Still, I’m careful about doing something or entertaining thoughts that seem to be all about me – essentially evil.

“See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (King James Version)

Today my search for wisdom and direction led me right back where today began. My only plan remains to prepare myself to be ready when the time comes to either stay or move.

“If only you would prepare your heart and lift up your hands to him in prayer! Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you. Job 11:13-14 (NLT)

A die hard scout, I shall prepare for whatever, continue listening and wait.

Good talk. Thanks!

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Filed under Notes from the Apex

Christmas Eve’s Eve

angel wing cloud nancy

 

Our Christmas celebration this year will consist of Candlelight Service (maybe with Sister), an actual sit-down dinner together and all three of us taking a restful day off work together, probably with popcorn and Netflix, maybe darts.

The plan was in place.  Sister and I left the house together to do the last minute shopping before Christmas.  This was an event.  I’ve missed her.  I see her every day, but she’s mostly been away for a few years. Discouraged, disappointed, heartbroken, confused; essentially shattered, she holds the pieces of herself so tightly she can hardly do anything else but work.  People we love often hurt us at some point and knocked us down at others. I get it.

Sister, Opal and I move about in the world and live our lives together from behind our walls.  Occasionally, I can’t contain the spirit inside me.  It escapes and preys upon any unwitting subject on my way.  Sister and I both felt it coming.  “Let me get that door for you…” and the next thing you know I’m engaged in conversation with a friendly, talkative, complete stranger.  Sister usually loathes it, but being so far from friends and other family too she understands – and suffers through my social gushing.

Happy to be out, invigorated by the warm Texas December weather, we were on our last stop for the day.  A seemingly familiar woman approached the door the same time we did.  Feeling I actually knew her from somewhere, and even if I didn’t, I greeted her cheerily and sprang to get the door for her.  “Good afternoon.”

As if she didn’t notice us before the lady straightened very slightly, and as I swung the door open and stepped aside, she looked me in the eye as if she saw into my soul, “Oh, thank you, Baby.  Good afternoon” she replied warmly, then turned to watch where she walked.  Something clicked – I didn’t know what.  I didn’t care.  I felt alive and fully connected to the world again.

The lady adjusted her large purse and a hobo bag as she reached forward.  The interior door opened into the vestibule so I awkwardly stepped around her to hold that door open for her too.  I was probably overreaching, but I had to.  She was one of those strong women, knowing her actual age was tricky, but the touches of grey in her hair and brows told me she was slightly older than I, but fit and sharp, if slightly preoccupied.

With that she looked into my face again.  Entirely unintimidated – and unannoyed, she responded, “Why thank you, Baby,” She said “Baby” again, but as if she knew me.  She seemed to start to say something else, but nodded and began walking away.  Strangely, my heart wanted me to walk with her, but noticing Sister’s expression I checked myself not wanting to seem patronizing or just plain crazy.  Instead I said, “Of course.  You have a wonderful day.  Merry Christmas.”

She’d started to walk away, glanced back saying, “Why, God bless you.  Merry Christmas,” as she stepped toward the back of the store and out of sight.

Sis and I shopped around looking for a nice little something to put beneath the tree; a two-foot paper and wire figure sitting on the now vacant television cabinet in the den. We searched around for one of those special finds, and wound up looking through blouses; something I never do.  I can’t wear off the rack without alterations, but Sister can wear whatever she wants.  To make her happy I went along enjoying the feel of the fabrics.

“What are you looking for today?” came the voice from behind us.  I turned to respond and was delighted to find the lady from the door.  Now smiling broadly, wearing a plush red and white Santa hat on her head and a lanyard of keys and key cards around her neck.  As she wandered away I finally recognized her; polished orthopedic shoes, black patterned stockings over support hose, a stylish, upscale, conservative skirt, comfortable, but immaculate.  A shell and cardigan tastefully accessorized, every hair neatly in place; she was a Momma.

Not somebody’s mother, though she possibly was, she’s a Momma.  You’ll find her at the job, at church every Sunday and mid-week service, at the local free day care, senior care center, food pantry, often a volunteer at the local hospital or hospice.  You see it all over her, confidently owning whatever space she occupies.  Calm, collected, always busy, but quick to help wherever she can.  She never misses the slightest nuance, takes life head-on, living comfortably, modestly and entirely in love with people.

Over the years Mommas were my lifeline.  When I commuted into Los Angeles for work, stuck in traffic, my boys knew to go to the church office where Momma D volunteered every afternoon.  She’d take them in, get them started on their homework and usually have snacks when I got to the neighborhood, late and panic stricken.  “Don’t you worry, Baby,” She’d always say, “They’re good boys.  You can remember me when the offering plate comes around.” A Momma.

As a missionary, the only pink face in a volatile neighborhood, Momma Gen would often be “taking a walk” (in her house slippers) when I left the building to walk home after dark.  Nobody messes with a Momma.

Working for an inner-city grass roots community center, putting in 50 hour weeks, Momma Cece would bring plates of dinner for the boys and me at least twice a week, knowing I wouldn’t have time to cook a dinner. That’s a Momma.

Sis and I kept sliding hangers. “Momma Burke” (we’ll call her as she didn’t wear a name tag) held out a blouse to each of us.  “These colors are perfect for you two and they’re very popular.” Before I could gracefully refuse, she said, “It doesn’t cost a thing to try them on and it’s good to try something new once in a while.”

You don’t argue with a Momma.  Sister stared me down as I took the beautiful blue, flowing top and stepped toward the fitting room.  I smiled back at her saying, “I’m going for it, You might as well too.” Momma Burke pushed the rusty red shirt at Sister saying, “Now don’t waste time thinking about it. The store is going to get busy fast.”

Moments later I heard Sister gasp in the room next to me.  Both the blouses were perfect.

Sure enough, when we stepped out of the rooms the store was full and noisy.  Momma stepped up out of nowhere, smiling.  “I knew you’d like ‘em; the colors suit you both and you can either dress them up or down.”

Sister agreed, thanked her and wandered away.  Clearly she was ready to leave.  I thanked Momma and explained I liked the blouse, but it isn’t in my budget until January. “Did you even look at the tag?” she asked, giving me “that look” over her half-frames.  I hadn’t.

It actually was that rare find from the clearance rack.  A second by most standards, but on me it draped perfectly, for $5.61.  I almost giggled.  Momma just smiled and went on to help other customers.  I wanted to hug her tight but taking the other blouse from the returns rack, hurried to catch up with Sister and bought both blouses.

We practically flew through the rest of the shopping and were home before we knew it.

I couldn’t stop thinking how God places exactly the right people in my life at the perfect times.  I’d longed for something new to wear for months.  With bills to pay, paying gigs scarce, I’ve made due with what I have.  What I have often isn’t a big deal. But it is today.

As I readied for Christmas Eve the next day, the mail brought a cash surprise. Immediately I thought of the leggings Sister wanted – and Momma Burke.  I couldn’t get to the store fast enough.  I found the leggings straight away and then went to the fitting room to find Mrs. Burke.  The woman that also worked there yesterday was absolute that she’s never seen anybody over twenty-something working in the store and she’s worked there almost two years!

Perhaps Momma Burke is a new hire starting late into Christmas season.  Maybe not.  I won’t be surprised to confirm sometime in the future, that Momma Burke is one of those angelic beings that appear and vanish when we actually need a little special help.  I shall look forward to seeing her again wherever it happens.

candles and nuts christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Filed under Longreads

Voithos 2.1.1

Journal entry 2022Feb01

gorge Jeff SheldonJanuary in Southeastern Washington is mild compared to the last month I spent with the kids in Chicago. Now settled back into the apartment at the ranch from my two month visit, I’m comfortable and happy.

boyd sans cape

Moving home to the Ranch, so close to my crazy kid brother could have been worse, but it was the best move I ever made. However rough he’s always been a gem.

To be living my dream is marvelous. Royalties from my app already provided enough residual income for all those travel pieces. Aside from my blog, releasing rights as featured spots on my friend’s newspaper blog was a good call. I’m so glad I networked the project out to young Techies that keep my work on the cutting edge of the market place.

telex-vulcanhammmer-infotypewriter-pixabayAnd to think I actually salvaged so many of my old manuscripts. Those ones I keyed from a an old, rented typewriter onto discarded telex paper rolls (so I didn’t have to feed paper sheets). Did I really get through them all only five years after I moved back to the Ranch?

I shake off the chill and voice, “Voithos, coffee please.” In moments I could breathe in the aroma of a fresh mug of brew. “In a few more weeks I’ll enjoy opening the new electronic wall to bring in the fragrance and color of the landscape – and let the dogs in when I call them.” Not realizing I’d been speaking my rambling thoughts, Voithos, in his rich brogue responds, “Acknowledged.”

Heh, heh, I think. The folding, patio doors I installed, replacing the original garage door is now considered old school. I sigh. Dated or not, I love them.

Was it only five years after that first WordPress Blogging U course (fine, the second), I became a paid Technical Adviser for the upcoming YouTube enterprise? And collaborating with Two Are Better than One was a blessing.

I gaze over my office area, past the wood burning stove (the only heat source when I moved here). I installed a solar powered HVAC and water heating systems. Then I remembered the many rejections I printed and papered on my work area wall. I framed the last one, that sits on my old desk. “Lest we forget…” I startled, not intending to say it aloud, Voithos responds, “Acknowledged.”

img_1869 img_1862And to think, I did all of that while working a ranch, daily horseback riding – for leisure, traveling, hanging out with friends, cruising all over the globe with the gang and my offspring who now fly in from all over.

Thankfully my sons and daughters-in-law served more than their fair share in the military and public service so their grand kids aren’t subject to TDY assignments or the terrorist threats we all endured.

I reflect upon the happy years that followed, blogging about my stays around the globe. I met up with Lisa and her gang, Jacqueline, Mitch, J.Gi, Diane, David, Michelle, MescaAmir, Christi, and so many other great friends in the blogging community (what parties those were)! Traveling has certainly been more peaceful since Iran, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia all made nice and the U.S. got out of their business!

How often I once dreamed of this life, and now it’s hard to remember the long, hard nights working. But I recall when the results finally took off. And now, with the wonderful people I’ve met in along the way, it’s hard to believe I ever felt lonely for someone, anyone to remind me life is worth living. God forbid I ever forget.

I must have dozed. What was I thinking? No matter, I’m breathing. “Voithos, start a new chapter, date 2023 November 22, draft title JFK-CSL. ‘With the years of memories I’ve collected, and some considerable loss… [I pause to rethink]’ ”

Voithos softly interrupts, “Roo, Roan is calling. Do you wish to answer or shall I intercept?” I sigh happily, saying, “Voithos, answer now. Hello, this is Roo.” [Momentary silence]… “Voithos, Increase outgoing volume. Hello, this is Roo.” like Roan doesn’t already see me in her holographic monitor. She looks too thin… “Hey…” Roan says with that confused tone I know so well. I wonder, who forgot what. I respond with our usual reply, “Hay hell, you’re old enough for oats.”

Suddenly I realize we had talked about letting the Jeep drive us to the Gorge – today – and her plane from Galveston departs in minutes.

I think, this must be what heaven will be like.

My foot rolling onto the cold, concrete floor shocks me into reality – I actually had been dreaming – a wonderful dream.

Wait, “Is that a trumpet I hear…**”

 

**“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 (NIV)

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Filed under The World According to Roo, Writing and Blogging