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It’s been a while …

since my last blog post. 

Since last time, satan has reared his ugly head and life has given me a bonified black eye, busted lip, bruised rib, and all around beating.

My mom, who I depend on way more than a nearly 50-year old (ok, 47 in two weeks, but still) woman should, has been ill.

In the hospital, taken by an ambulance, ill.

My dad, who leans heavily on my mom, has been beside himself.

My dearest friend has been given (by mere mortals) six months to live.

It has been a trying month.

First off, my mom is home, well and feeling quite herself. 

My dad, an Air Force Veteran (whom we should all be applauding today for his service to the USAF) is better because my mom is feeling better.

It brings a surprising revelation to light.

While this would distress and hurt me beyond comprehension, I have this hope they would die, in their sleep, at the same time.

As awful as this may sound to some, I’d rather mourn them both at the same time than try to handle one without the other.

I can’t frankly speak for my sister, but wonder if she wouldn’t agree.

If that isn’t possible, I hope my dad, my hero and advocate goes first, because I cannot fathom him without my mom.

Mom would miss dad terribly, but she’s strong, and would survive.

Maybe I’m more crazy than I imagined, but I can handle Mom’s tears more easily than Dad’s.

I honestly don’t know how I would deal with him if he had to live without her.

As for my dearest friend, who is battling cancer, I advised her, as I do everyone, to live every day as if it’s the very last one.

Nobody, but nobody has the promise to live further than the moment they are in.

I know where I’m going when I’m gone from this world, so dying doesn’t scare me.

Living, however, without the people who love and understand me, gives me pause.

If that sounds selfish, it’s because it is. 

I thought I’d grow old and watch, with my husband I dearly loved, grandchildren playing in the yard.

Then, I came home one day, and out of the clear, blue sky, found him as dead as Moses.

No warning. No goodbye.  Just gone.

There’s no promise of life, to any of us, past the single moment we find ourselves living in.

If one doesn’t intend to live life as it happens, they forfeit their right to complain when it’s over, or nearly over.

You can quote me on that.

Right now, in this moment, is all I am certain of.

It is all any of us can be certain of.

This moment.

This breath.

This heartbeat.

Each day, if it doesn’t mean something, is wasted.

I say this to family, friends, former friends that I miss with an intensity that embarassess me, and though I can’t think of any specifically, my enemies.

I don’t think I have any absolute enemies.  If I do, they’ve been mighty quiet about it, and I forgive them anyway, knocking out the one leg they, were they real, had to stand on.

That’s good, though, in my way of thinking.  Who, when they have life to contend with, need enemies to muddy up the mess further.

And yet, as I often do, digress.

Now is the only thing that matters.

Grab on or be left behind.

Those are, in actuality, the only two choices.

As Shakespeare said (though he may have meant it differently as words in his day were perplexing, they pretty much say the same thing). To be or not to be … that is the question.

I choose to be, even when it hurts, is painful, annoying, hurtful, betraying or joyous.

I choose to give it everything I have, be whatever I can be and love, even those who don’t love me, unconditionally. 

Be it joyous, angry, confused, happy, sad, contemplative or any number of emotionally relevant states, with bright lights, awesome auroras, sleepless nights and flying debris; I’m there, every day, all the way.

I know who I am and if I die before morning, I know where I’ll find myself.

I love you all, even when you’re unloveable, just as you do me.

We, though we are all in the image of God, are, intrinsically human.

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Ernest Hemingway said …

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

I believe this to be true. 

I’ve been broken so many times that I’ve lost count.

A couple of times, the brokenness nearly won, but for the most part, I came up with my head above water.

What breaks us doesn’t define us, but  having the desire to put the shattered pieces back together does.

I was many times, in the broken places, at my strongest.

I can’t begin to explain the transformation; but there was one.

I’m still looking for lost pieces, but I have faith that if they are meant to be found, they will be.

I do believe Hemingway was spot on when he, a very broken man, said that string of words.

If one hasn’t been broken, they’ve yet to be born and can’t possibly understand the beautiful array of colors that a skewed, broken and pixillated life has to offer.

Until you break it, you can’t begin to know what is inside.

A bit like a Sand Dollar.

Once you’re broken, you can’t stop looking at all the intricate shapes, shards and pieces.

I’m not much on working puzzles, but the pieces and parts of life fascinate me.

I don’t start at the corners.

Instead, I start in the center and build outward because the corners will always be corners.

Those broken already know where the corners are; it is the center that perplexes us and makes us stronger than we would have been were we not broken.

I, as we all do, struggle sometimes.

It’s part of the journey.

If we don’t struggle, we lack understanding and in doing so, give up.

If we give up, the broken places win and the corners cease to matter.

I’m not a poor loser but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer to win.

Romans chapter Twelve is my favorite place in the bible. Each verse speaks to me directly …

But this one, in particular, (Romans 12:12) speaks louder each time I read it …

It says “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instantly in prayer.”

There are times I’m certain God doesn’t hear me. I know, as any believer does, when these dark, silent times come.

The silence is deafening.

Unnerving.

Unwavering.

But at others, when the silence is broken and I know He hears me, I’m mesmerized.

Goosebumps threaten to overtake me and nearly make me forget what I was praying about to begin with.

Life is hard.

It’s hard for everyone.

None of us have the franchise of a life unriddled with trials and hardships.

But it’s also, if you pay attention, riddled with joy.

To give up or give in is a selfish act that says we weren’t willing to fight; to survive.

A coward’s way.

I was a coward for much of my life.

I refuse to be one through the rest of it.

I’ll look for those missing pieces, lost friends, severed relationships, missed opportunities.

I haven’t always, but I do now; but, if I don’t find them, so be it.

I’ll find them somewhere along the way or understand they weren’t for me to begin with.

I’m OK where, often alone, I find myself.

I always have been.

Whom shall I fear?

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In order to recognize an imposter cat …

it is important to understand what a real cat does.

Real cats chase mice, keep spiders away, keep all rodents from invading the home front and bask in the sun when they have the chance.

They climb trees, chase butterflies and practice pouncing on anything that looks pouncable.  (disclaimer:  pouncable is not a real word, but worked in this post so I made it up and used it).

It is also good to know the difference between inside and outdoor cats, real ones, not the imposters.

When dealing with imposter cats, cat rules and regulations apparently do not apply.

I have learned this the hard way.

Inside cats shed their downy fur onto everything … furniture, inside the refrigerator, the sink, underwear drawer and everywhere else that isn’t covered in plastic and securely duct-taped.

Outside cats are different, but not in a big way.

Real outside cats rub on the porch, scratch the railing making it look mauled and walk up and down across both the front and back window of your car leaving muddy paw-prints as evidence.

And they don’t care that they leave evidence because they are cats and cats are immune to human fallacies.

They will urinate on your vegetation and cause it to either stop growing or grow into something that isn’t of this world.  It is quite the phenomenon … the results of cat urine.

They will become accustomed to being fed at certain times and if not accommodated, will scratch at the door like dogs.  (don’t tell them they act like dogs though or you could easily lose an eye).

They will chase other cats away if any should show up at your door by hissing and chasing, thus making them look like real cats who do cat things like chase mice.

When you see the first sign of mouse droppings inside your house, you will know that your outside cats are not on the job.  For further proof, watch the food bowl.

Imposter cats will sit and watch birds eat their food.

Birds.

Cats.

Cats watching birds as they eat the food they scratched on the door for.

What Brigadoon have I fallen into where this kind of thing happens?

I didn’t ask for these cats, they just appeared.

I don’t have the heart to see them  hungry, so I fed them.

My mistake.

Now I have a horde of furry creatures that look like cats but don’t chase mice, let birds eat their food and put their paw-prints all over my car.

Imposters, one and all.

I would call the dogs, but the cats are laying against them to keep warm.

What, I ask, is the world coming to?.

What, indeed?

Hello.  I’m Yellow Tom.   What’s your name?maternity_crystal-132

Friendship comes in many forms.friendship

Birds fighting over cat food.thebirds

Picking and culling …

is a real pain in the nether regions.

I’ve been going through things in my house today, what to keep, what to trash and I find that there are really very few things I have any use for.

It seems that the most important things to me are my photo albums, laptop, external hard drive, camera, national geographics, 1000 places to see before I die book, coffee grinder, a portrait I drew of my dad as an Airman, the photos my daughter and nieces have drawn through the years, a blown glass wine cork and my lava lamp.

When it comes down to it, that, out of a houseful of useless things, doesn’t amount to much.

I suppose, if I needed to, I could easily put all my “treasures” in a garbage bag and live happily under a bridge.

I like hot showers, though, so that might pose an oppositional equation.

I have friends and family who have things that they treasure.  I don’t really treasure anything.

Not anything I can hold in my hand.

They are just things.

The objects I treasure aren’t objects one can take off the shelf and admire … they aren’t really objects at all.

God.

Creation.

Friends.

Family.

Loyalty.

Music.

Words.

One can’t own this stuff.  They can simply be a part of the magnificence as it as unfolds, one day into the next.

I didn’t mean to have an epiphany while cleaning house and doing laundry, but it just happened.

I had the chance to drive across the Hoover Dam back when you could drive across it … and drive through the desert to get there.

I had the chance to stand before the Lincoln Memorial and know that I was living a dream.

I have so many places I want to see, so much of creation that is only a picture in my mind, not one imprinted on my soul for I have not seen it for myself.

I want to.

That is what I want to hold onto.

The dreams of what can be accomplished, what can be sought after, what can be found simply by following the imagination.

I have things that my late husband gave me.  They are good for nothing but reminders.

The memories are in my heart and mind and soul.

I’m not really big on memories as it seems the difficult ones, the hard ones … they are the ones that come to mind.

I have to work to bring up the good ones.

So I’m culling more than picking … and I feel good about that.

Someone I admire a great deal …

likely much more than is good for me …

once told me they occasionally live a John Denver kind of life … I’m going to try to be more John Denver-ish myself.

I will have the courage to submit my book, my poems, my photographs.

I will have the courage to feed my wanderlust and see the place I long to see.

I will simply have courage.

I earn a paycheck as a nurse, it is true, but in my heart, I am more and, at the same time less.

I only have so many years to live.

What is that song?  100 years?

There is no point in deluding myself that I will ever make it to a hundred years old.

Why wait?

Why indeed?

The innumerable stars of the sky

The innumerable stars of the sky

Love is the most powerful of emotions

Love is the most powerful of emotions

Through Abby's eyes ... i miss this sweet girl

Through Abby’s eyes … i miss this sweet girl

fear and uncertainty …

filled his blue eyes, open wide and full of worry.  At first glance, from the hallway, the only visible things were a single foot protruding from beneath a blanket and a partially filled urinal on the tray table.

I wondered, before walking into the room to speak with him, what I would find.  I was already feeling badly for him simply knowing that a container holding his urine sat on a table where soon, his lunch would be placed.

I felt that surely, had there been family present, that would not have been the case and, not to my surprise, I found him alone.

He was worried.  It was evident in his sad, sad eyes.  They were wide open, showing the incredible blueness, wrinkled at the edges from a lifetime of emotion; laughter, tears, anger.

He was a widower.  He had children, but his voice betrayed his attempt at courage as he spoke of wishing to go home.  His blue eyes became even more sad as he spoke of a home that he knew, in his heart, he would not return to.

I felt a wave of righteous fury toward his children, none of whom had been to visit him during his week-long stay in the hospital, as he spoke of having nobody to care for him.

I thought of my own father.  Thought of his sadness were he to lose my mother and be left to live out his days without the woman that he loved more than life.

Many times, and to my mother I have said such, I have prayed that if my parents cannot die at the same time, I hope my dad goes first.  I cannot bear to even entertain the thought of him trying to cope without my mother.  He is strong in body and spirit, but would be lost without her.

She, on the other hand, is tough as nails.  A survivor full of beauty and strength and would, though with sadness and tears, move on and make the best of a seriously bad situation.

While her tears would cut me deeply, tears shed by my dad shatter me.  I would be of little use to him, not that he would last for long without her as he would soon die of sadness.  I know this as surely as I know the sun rises in the East.

But I digress.  I wasn’t speaking of my parents, but of poor, sad-eyed mister who lay in the hospital bed, dwarfed by the room, confused by the lingo, hurt by the antipathy of his children.

He wanted to go home and held, other than that wish, no other ambition or hope.

It would not come to pass.  He would not go home.  Not to the home where he lived for over fifty years with his wife before she died.  Not to the home where his children, who had now abandoned him, had been raised.

He would not go back to where the garden once thrived with vegetables and a myriad of flowers in the summertime, the trees bursting full and golden in Autumn.

He would not walk the familiar halls that had brought him comfort in his time of need.

He would not sleep in the bed that conformed to his body due to years of use.

He would be a stranger among strangers.

It took all of my strength and everything I could dig from the depths of myself to not burst into tears while speaking to him; seeing him old and broken and alone.

His wide eyes, full of worry, filled me with compassion and empathy.  I, in my mind and heart, brought him home with me.  Though there is an unwritten rule among nurses to not become too attached, he has been here, dancing on the edges of my thoughts, since the day I met him.

I have cried for him, prayed for him and inwardly cursed his children for their inattentiveness.   I want, in these last years of his life, happiness for him.

I try no to get too attached, but I am human and I fall in love with those the world has so blithely displaced.  He will remain in my prayers and though I will likely never see him again, his eyes will haunt me.

They haunt me now as do so many others; young, old, suffering, addicted, betrayed, sickened, world-weary souls who need, more than anything else, to be loved.

I have said it before and I reiterate it now … I am too softhearted to be a  nurse.  I always have been.

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Leviticus 19:32  ~ Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord.

Wet roads and 18-wheelers …

isn’t my first choice when it comes to driving conditions, but considering what I have found myself driving in from time to time, it also isn’t my last.

I like to drive.

The mindless task of following the road is among my favorite things to do.  It doesn’t matter, really, whether it is barely a ditch carved out of dirt, a steep ribbon of pavement curving and winding into a mountain or long stretches of interstate that seem, at times, to fade into infinity.

My thoughts flow freely, my mind wanders aimlessly and I feel as uninhibited as the birds in the air when I am behind the wheel.  If the weather is so that I can put the convertible top down, the pleasure is multiplied tenfold.

The destination isn’t all that important; going somewhere specific,  heading nowhere in particular or coming home.

It doesn’t matter.

Heading home today from a weekend out of town, it didn’t occur to me to concern myself with the rain falling in torrential sheets, pooling on the already wet road.  It didn’t make me nervous or anxious or fearful … even when coming up behind the tractor-trailers spewing a nearly blinding mist up in the road, it didn’t occur to me.

I figure, at those times, the two choices are to either take my place behind them and suffer the constant barrage of what they throw up from the asphalt or speed up and pass them.

There was something ethereal about the verdant greens along the sides of the interstate, beneath the falling rain.  I had a hard time finding fault as long as I could see the yellow line and, at the same time, take in the sulking, brooding gray of the heavy sky above the greenery and blooming things of late April.

My intentions were to spend today hiking in the Smoky Mountains, however, the weather did not cooperate.  While I don’t mind taking a risk or two to get to the places I wish to see, I’m not going to invite disaster.

Hiking on the wet, steep, rocky trails alone would have been careless and while I have my moments of carelessness, I try not to make a habit of being so on purpose.

I started home in the rain and muck with a song on the radio and the highway stretching out before me.  When I came to the last few miles, a narrow country road (in my mind, “my road”), an offshoot of a country highway, I was stunned.

In the two days I have been gone, it seems that Spring exploded on Big Moccasin; the fields edging up to the base of Clinch Mountain are greener, fuller.  The high grass, dancing in the wind and the wildflowers, now abundant, unfurling their vibrant, colorful blooms without shyness or fear of frost took my breath away.

The sheer magnitude of the beauty of it, of home, of Spring, brought tears to my eyes.

I was reminded, once again, that no matter what I may have seen today had I stayed where I was, it wouldn’t have been any more beautiful than the height of spring in my own back yard.

On a larger scale than the peaks and valleys of Clinch Mountain, perhaps.  But not more beautiful.

It just goes to show that springtime in the mountains, irregardless of which mountains, is a stimulating treat for the senses.  As for the rain … well, nothing smells quite so wonderful as the Spring mountains after a rain, now does it?