Tuesday, August 31, 2010
So I hauled into class and plopped down at the back of the class as is my custom, and the next thing I know, this man is wheeling in our door. Heck. If I'd have known he was headed my way, I'd have asked him to carry some of my books!
In any case, this man is Henry Wesley. Henry is about the most amazing man that I've ever met in my life.
He was dropped off at the doors of Willowbrook Mental Institution when he was just three years old. He spent his formative years in a crib. Because he could not speak, he was erroneously assumed to be retarded. Through his speaking computer, he told us what it was like to be a child in such a place, the squalor and the abuse, straight jackets, isolation, dead bodies stacked in the halls sometimes. Later, when I got home, listening to clips from the institution, the first thing was the noise. Imagine listening to that noise for all of your life, day in and day out. But he did, and eventually Geraldo Rivera was part of a big expose that exposed the goings-on there, and the facility was closed down. Mr. Wesley's life seems to have begun at that point. I listened to his story, and tried to imagine what it would be like to simply have no voice. No choice. No advocate. I couldn't, frankly, and the thought of such a life left me with tears in my eyes. Now he is an activist for people with disabilities. We were allowed to ask questions. Of course I had some, but we could not ask him open ended questions, due to the time constraints for the class. And to pick only one question? Dear heavens. I had so many I didn't know where to start. I finally picked the one I was most curious about. Mine was: "How old were you the very first time you had a choice?" The answer came back. "15." My very next question would have been "What was that choice?" "What did you pick?" "Where did you learn about God?" "Was there always a fire in you to get out, to be someplace else, to do something else?" "What did it feel like when it began to happen?" "Could you hardly believe it?" "What was it like, to be loaded up and leaving that facility?" "What was your first night outside that facility like? Could you even sleep for the joy?" On and on it would have gone. You know me. Imagine my delight when cards were offered, so that people could ask their questions via e-mail, for longer answers. I went up to get one, and I said, "Mr. Wesley, I'm so glad to have this because I have a hundred questions." And he laughed and we shook hands. I looked at him. "I hope you understand that I'm serious." And he laughed again.
What a great day I had. What a totally excellent day! And when I get the rest of this story, I will be sure to pass it along to you.
Monday, August 30, 2010
And no, I wasn't upset to be challenged on this, Bill. Your words were gracious and frank. They carried no sting. I tried to be clear that you were right. It was a thoughtless reporting of a thoughtless remark. It did have the ability to hurt someone's feelings. I had a chance to go back and delete the remark, but that seemed to be blatently wrong, like denying that you've said something that you've said. I know lots of folks who do that. Constantly. Yet they'll read this blog, take exception to something, and begin to complain. "Yes," they say, "but your blog says..." Yes. Yes, it does, and I stand behind what I say. The interesting thing is that they seem to feel that the spoken word is something that can be disregarded. They seem to feel that because I speak with written words I am to be held to a higher standard than they are, because they only say their words. Nope. Words are words, written, or spoken. If you have used your words unkindly, don't be surprised to find that those words have hurt someone. Furthermore, if that person is a writing sort of person, don't be surprised to find their reaction to your words written down someplace. The pain felt reading my words is no more or no less than I felt hearing yours.
Still, if I have done something wrong, I like to be clear about that. This particular comment was made in a careless, non-malicious way. However, malice could be read into it. I chose not to delete the words (in effect, deny their existance), because these words, and others like them are uttered every day, in careless ways, maliciously or not. We need to think about the words we use. Whether we say them, whether we write them.
Oh, and Bill? I took no offense. Your remarks were valid and you were right to call my attention to it. Again, thank you. My regards to you and yours.
Well, today is the day for the 'thing' with the professional photographer at college. I am dreading it, being a person who is not comfortable with her looks. When they asked for my words, I was happy to give them some, however, now they want pictures. Ack.
Oh, and something I wanted to report about the Friday Weigh-Ins. Oy. I gotten out of the habit of reporting the loss, because for a time, I got tangled up in the trauma that is Anatomy and Physiology, and I began to comfort myself with food. I gained some poundage, and then had to lose that again. A couple weeks back, I'd lost back down to where I was when I left off on the Friday Weigh-Ins. I was ready to resume the program. Unfortunately, I have a mind like a sieve, and keep forgetting to do so. (Don't hesitate to bring these lapses to my attention, people.) The fact is, I have continued to lose weight each week. In fact, this week, I am teetering on the edge of the 20 pound mark. By the end of the week, I should have reached it (surpassed it, even.) My goal was to lose 25 pounds for the year, and then re-evaluate. I'm not quite there yet, but I am thinking to make another goal to lose an additional 10 pounds.
I've noticed that when I am productive and happy, I don't think so much about the weight. Or eating. I am more active, naturally. I find it easier to say no to things that I should say no to. Yesterday, when I was getting ready for church, I saw a dress hanging in the closet. It was just a sundress, a long one that I'd picked up at the Goodwill at the end of the summer last year. I'd gotten it because it was brand new, with the extra buttons still attached to the tag in their little plastic bag. When I got it home, though, I was not pleased with how it fit, and so it hung in my closet. I got it out yesterday and put it on, and it fit nicely, much to my surprise. Because losing weight had not been my whole focus (hey! I've been busy!), these little milestones are an unexpected 'perk'.
I'll try to remember to post the Friday Weigh-Ins. Feel free to nag me if I don't. I'll try to think harder about how my words could be misused. Feel free to comment if I don't.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Wasilla Bill is a photojournalist, and a published author, having written "The Gift of the Whale". He works with indigenous peoples of the north, documenting their lives, their customs, the people themselves. Bill's wife is Margie, who is a Navajo. He pointed out (and rightfully so), that "I will admit that I was a little taken back by the "aborigine with the bone in the nose" statement, but then all of us have some gaps in our education, so often in particular when it comes to the indigenous people of the lands that we occupy and live in. At certain points in their lives, I can imagine my parents making comparable comments regarding Native Americans - but not after they got to know my wife and the grandchildren she gave them. "
I've been thinking about that all day, and I have been bothered by it. Bill was right to point this out to me, and I am surprised that I missed it. Peter and Joann are lovely people, and while I do not know them well enough to understand what their feelings are on this topic, I would guess that these are not people who would consciously look down on others. I think that it was just a careless phrase, meant to be a joke. However, if you were an indigenous person reading those words, they might have sounded malicious. I apologize for those words. I believe that they were better left unprinted. Unfortunately, they have been printed. This puts me in an interesting dilemma. I could go back, delete them, and pretend they never existed but that would be a lie. I think that it is better to pull those words out, to look at them directly, to acknowledge them, and to apologize for them.
I have looked at them with new eyes. Again, I apologize for any offense they may have given. Thanks, Bill.
Friday, August 27, 2010
In our lifespan class, we got into a spirited debate about health care reform. There is no right or wrong answer, but we talked about people making poor choices for themselves. My take on it is that many people make poor life choices because they are discouraged and do not see the possibilities. Not at all. If children are raised in that sort of hopelessness, the cycle tends to repeat itself. No answers came from that short class, of course, and the debate threatened to roll on far longer than the alloted class time. The class walked out, but interestingly enough, although we are virtual strangers for the most part, people were talking about this situation. A farm boy said that he felt people did not know how to be self sufficient anymore. A single mother said she knew a lot of parents who were not trying hard enough to do right by their children. The debate continued as we walked downstairs and out the door. We were still at it in the parking lot. I like that. People need to think, to have opinions, to say what they think.
An elderly man watched me walk up the step, and when I knocked on the door, he came to the door, his elderly wife right behind him. "This will be the strangest question you get today, I imagine..." and I launched into how I'd taken a picture of their garage door and I was dying to know how a painting of Sydney Harbo(u)r wound up on a garage door in Jamestown NY. That a number of you were just as curious as I was.
And quite happily, without hesitation, they came out to their porch and unfolded a lawn chair to sit in to tell me the whole story.
Joann spoke first and animatedly, and then Peter spoke. I looked at him, and said, "You're Australian," and he made a face and gestured at the garage door. It made us all laugh. It turns out that Peter is actually a Pommie. His story begins in Yorkshire, UK. He moved to Sydney and lived there for 35 years. He was married, the father of a grown daughter. He was left a widower.
Joann was a widow here. She had a hard time adjusting, and her son gave her his old computer to entertain herself with. Laughing merrily, she said, "I played a lot of solitaire at first. Then he introduced me to ICQ, (an internet chat group)." She entered a profile, and one of the people that she began to chat with was Peter. This was in 1998, Peter told me, and Joann interjected, "He's very good with dates." They found that they had an awful lot in common, both of them having been in management, and both very much animal lovers. Before long, Joann was confiding in her brother that she thought Peter was quite wonderful. Her brother said, "Well, you'd best ask for a picture, because for all you know, you're corresponding with an aborigine with a bone in his nose!" To which Peter quipped, "I should have taken a picture of meself with a boomerang up me sleeve and a spear in me hand!"
In 1999, Peter made a trip to America to meet Joann, who moved a relative into the house for his visit, nervous to be alone with a person she'd met on the internet. Peter must have enjoyed his time with Joann, because he made a second trip over the same year. He finally moved here May 31st, 2000, and they married the second of August before his visa expired. Even their wedding was unique. There was a talk show host, Paul Hoeffler, that Joann listened to. "Oh, he was a very intelligent person!" she said, and Joann would call to take part in the on air discussions, and as a regular, she and the host got to be friends. She told him that she was engaged to be married to a man who was moving from Australia. "Get married on the air!" the talk show host said, and he set it all up. They were married by Mayor Teresi who gave Peter the key to the city. "What for?" I asked interestedly. "I guess because I was from Australia," Peter said in honest confusion. "And weren't they afraid you'd head right on back with the key?" I asked, and we all laughed some more. But Peter did not go back. In fact, the marriage was working out so well that in 2002, they married again in a church wedding.
Peter and Joann are two of the most joyous people I've met in a long time, content in their neat as a pin house with Purr-Purr, a huge tiger cat (with the greenest eyes I've ever seen), and Annie, a small white Chihuahua who listened to the story right along with me. The painting on the door was done by a local artist, Vicki Reding, from Randolph, NY. She also painted vines and humming birds on their kitchen cabinets, and they invited me in to see. We sat down in the livingroom to visit some more. There was a painting of Sydney on the wall, and I commented on it, rising to go take a look. Much to my surprise, it was stitchery, and it was done by Peter himself as a gift to Joann. It was exquisite. Peter allowed modestly that he was not very good with long stitch. I turned to stare in amazement. "I cannot imagine how this would have turned out had you actually known what you doing. It's beautiful!" We visited comfortably, the three of us, as I petted Purr-purr and listened to them. We talked about dogs and cats and life and cancer. Joann has dealt with it three times, and beat it each time that it's come up. She's a corker, and Peter listens to that part with great pride in his wife's courage.
I stepped out the door to their cheerful farewells. "Thank you, Debby!" they called, and promised to see if they can e-mail a picture. (Joanne was having a bad day and was shy about having pictures done.) You know sometimes how you just meet people and it just sort of magically works? 12 years ago, they met on line. It worked. Today, visiting them, I can tell you. There is still magic there. I know it for a fact, because I felt it myself.
Thanks, Peter and Joann, for the rest of that story.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The more time I spend in the class, the more I feel that this is where I was meant to be. Surprisingly, I've put myself in a situation where flying by the seat of your pants and having good people skills is a plus. The instructors talk quickly, animatedly, and sometimes lose track of their train of thought just like me.
In English composition class, I sit in the back row. The boy who sets next to me is an intense techno kid, obviously very smart. The boy on the other side of him wears a black leather arm band with shell casings, chains, tattoos, the whole nine yards. The teacher says controversial things sometimes just to get something stirred up. She brought up the mosque at ground zero. Mister-wears-his-ammo-on-his wrist obviously had strong feelings on the subject and began to espouse them. I listened, but then I countered with "You know, not all Muslims are radicals. The terrorists are scary people, but there are some fundamentalist Christian groups out there that scare me just as badly. I think that having a mosque there would be an opportunity for the Muslims to try to counter the negative stereotypes that many Americans have about Islam since 9/11." Mr. WHAOHW immediately shot back, heatedly, "It's like pouring salt in a wound," to which I countered, "Interesting metaphor, since the reason one pours salt in a wound is to draw out the infection." He snapped, "You can do the same thing with maggots!" to which I responded, mildly, "Yes, you can." The class went on, and there were many more discussions. Before too long, it became very apparent that there were many things that this young man and I will probably never agree on. However at one point, I was speaking on the Gettysburg address. The teacher felt that maybe it was too idealistic. I feel that it is possibly one of the greatest speeches ever, and I defended it, reminding her that this address was originally given to the relatives of soldiers who had fallen at Gettysburg, during the dedication of a battlefield cemetery there. Lincoln was an embattled president, and his presidency was riddled with criticisms and ridicule, yet when he stood before these bereaved families, he did not shy away from raising the specters the dead soldiers. He was direct, and challenged them all to dedicate their lives to working towards the ideals that the soldiers had died for. What politicians do we have today that would speak so directly? They're more concerned with avoiding any comment that might generate controversy." I was surprised to see Mr. WHAOHW lean back in his chair and flash me a big smile, nodding his head. Later, when he commented that we all are losing the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, I had to agree with that.
After class, I was gathering my things together. It had been a long day, and I had a lot of books to get back to my car. I turned around, and was surprised to see him standing there. "I'm sorry if I seemed too aggressive," he said. "Oh, I'm opinionated too," I said. "Other points of view are interesting. I was not offended." He thrust out his hand, and said, "Thanks. I get emotional sometimes." I laughed and shook his hand. "Sometimes, I cry when I get fired up." He looked shocked and said, "Don't do that!" and I promised that I would not, as long as he did not expect me to agree with everything he had to say.
I walked through the crowds with my books and backpack and purse. I made my way across the parking lot to my car. You know, I really do think that if you listen to another person, no matter how differently they may look, no matter how differently they think, you're going to find common ground. If you listen.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
After class, I waited for her, and she walked back saying how glad she was to see me, and that she'd move back to where I sat next class. It was a relief to her to see a familiar face in the class, and, really, it's a relief to me as well. There is another girl from A and P who is friendly enough, but she's much younger. M and I are closer in age, both of us mothers, both of us working and juggling. We were the two oldest students in the psych class if I remember correctly, and the teacher had us both gnashing our teeth. We had a common bond there, and helped each other get through that fiasco. We walked down the hall talking, and I said, "You look really great!" and she said flatly, "My husband and I have separated." Not sure what to say, I said, I dumbed around. In frustration, she said, "I can't deal with school right now, yet I'm afraid to take a semester off. I'm afraid I'll just never come back." She finally decided to give herself a break, take this semester as a part time student while she gets it all figured out. I said "That's wisest, I think. You've got kids, and you cannot keep them on an even keel when you're stretched so tautly that you can barely keep yourself aright." And she said, "Yes." That's all. We parted and strode off briskly in our own directions.
The bewildered look on her face stays with me. I want to help, somehow. I remember what it felt like to feel like she looked. I remember my own dark days and vow to be the friend to her that I longed for back then.
So I did head into fall semester's classes a bit cautiously, and I took my seat at the back of the class and I listened to the teachers' first day talks, and carefully looked over the syllabus (syllabi?...huh...must check that one out.) I think I'll be okay, but I'm not saying that with any great confidence at this point. The OT classes themselves are filled with a very diverse crowd of people, and there are a number of people in that class who are close to my age. I think it will be challenging, but in a good way.
Tim and I were talking in bed, about the weird turns that life has taken lately, about all the exciting things that are happening. For both of us, really. We wonder what this means. Tim mused, "I've been watching your writing take off, and I know where that is leading, but I wonder about the OT thing. Why are you there? Why did that door open so quickly?" Yesterday in class, I listened to a teacher talk about the different facets of OT, about our work in other areas besides geriatrics. She ticked off examples. "Prisons, rehab hospitals, treatment centers for the mentally ill..." She went on, but my mind had stopped. Right there. I thought of what this could mean in my own life. To be able to stop grieving about my girl and to help her, really, truly assist. To make her feel good about herself, to inspire within her the confidence to step out into a new world. And suddenly it was clear to me why this door had opened. I've prayed for that girl for so long. Wept. Wrung my hands. Agonized over what to do. And now, I may find a direction. I cannot tell you what this means to me.
I came home to find an e-mail from WhiteStone that actually had me weeping with joy. She's had good news. She's dealt with ovarian cancer once, and it came back. She's doing her second round of chemo. Lost her hair for the second time. Dealt with all the uncertainties a second time. Yet through it all, she's remained firmly rooted in her faith and family. She has stood strong. She had a PT scan, and well, just go there and read it yourself.
In the middle of my rejoicing about that, Brianna and Buddy walked in. Home for just a time, we took them out to supper. They seem happy, and it was lovely to see that. Those early days of marriage are full of adjustments. It's not easy, but we talked about the baby, and they are downsizing to accomodate the extra expenses. It ended all too quickly. I had to get a notebook from the Walmart and get home to do some homework, but I hugged my girl and I said what I always say. "I pray for you every single day."
It was a wonderful day. Really.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
As I rang up the things, I told the story about someone I knew who bought himself a dog. It was a big dog. A german shepherd, maybe, or a black lab. But he picked the animal up on Friday night, and then went off to work Monday morning as usual. By the time he got home from work, the puppy had eaten the arm off his leather recliner. The man was outraged at the 'stupid dog'. "The dog wasn't stupid. The man was," I commented and both of them agreed, and made some small conversation about training dogs. The man said, with some amount of pride, how quickly their golden was learning to behave, and was even, this early on, showing every sign of being as good as their beloved last dog. Shooting a quick grin to his wife, I said, "Yeah. Dogs are not so different from husbands, I guess. Once you get them trained just how you like them, boy, you just hate to give them up when they get old."
The old man's eyes went wide, and his jaw dropped open and a bellow of laughter burst from him, so loud that one of the managers popped his head around a display to see what was going on. The old lady said "You hit that one just right, I say," and she was laughing too. The little old man picked up his bag, and he grabbed the hood of his wife's sweat shirt. "Come on now," he said, still laughing. "I don't think I want you and this one doing any more talking," and they went out the door still laughing. I heard the little old lady saying, "Well, why do you think I keep you around?" and the man let loose with another bray of laughter.
I do so love people.
Monday, August 23, 2010
yet there are always bright patches.
I saw this fellow sitting in a tree surrounded by a half dozen crows. Right away, I thought, 'The Outsider' but when I turned around to go back for the picture, the crows had departed leaving our friend to sit alone.
Life is whirling about me in a very exciting way. Amazing things are happening right now. I am one of the college's four 'poster children' for "older, non-traditional students". I said to someone, "When did non-traditional become a good thing?" and the reply came back, "Nevermind 'non-traditional'...what about the 'older' part?" My response? "Well, yeah, that too." But the interview is done. We have to meet with a photographer. (Erk.) I will put up a link to their website when it is done.
I have had the strangest experiences lately. I am meeting people who tie into other stories, reacquaint me with other times and other people and other places. An amazing synchronicity that I cannot really explain. It's the sense of belonging that I described in the last post. It's that, but it's more also more than that. I'm having some amazing conversations with complete strangers. So amazing that the strangers come back to speak with me again, just as astounded as I am. Flashes of insight. Moments of remarkable beauty. Wonderful opportunities. It's been going on for a couple weeks now. I don't know how to explain it really. I wish I could. It's quite an exciting time.
Last night in bed, I whispered to Tim, "Do you have the feeling that God is at work in our lives right now? Bigtime?" And his answer came back, softly. "Yes."
And so we wait to see what happens next.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Susan waved at a man in the window of a coffee shop. He looked familiar. Turned out that he was the editor who originally hired me to write for the paper. I had no self confidence, but Jude sent very short, very encouraging e-mails that made me see myself differently. He told me several times that he was certain that I had a book in me. He was the first to do that. Since then, I have heard that so many times at this point that I've kind of accepted it as fact and am patiently keeping my eyes open for a suitable topic (and no, the world does not need another book on breast cancer from a person who has no new wisdom on the topic anyway.) But it will remain the truth forever: I heard this from Jude first, and I remember the shock of reading those words, not daring to believe them.
We walked into the little store and I was amazed to see Leslie, a wonderful woman that I used to work with many years ago when we first moved back here. I was a janitor in a plastics plant (now defunct). We talked in passing, and I liked her very much, but the janitor is a busy person, and I almost always only met people in passing. Leslie was so glad to see me, and greeted me so warmly that it actually made me a little teary. I introduced Susan and we fell into a three way conversation like old friends.
I had a great laugh at the bank with the teller and another customer, and then wandered over to get gas. I went to the full serve only because I wanted to visit with Alex. "I miss you," he said, and I said in all truth, "I miss you too. You were a great person to work with." He is a person with a good, good heart, and so tall that I nicknamed him 'Tree', and I'm sure that the store is not a pleasant place for him (if you were to listen to the talk, you'd think for sure that his first name was G-- D--- and his last name Alex), but he quietly goes about his business there, and lets the nonsense run off his big, big shoulders.
I stopped in Tractor Supply to talk to Jeremy about placing an order, and really, the difference between the old job and the new job struck me again. I was hailed cheerfully, and I greeted them back. We laughed and bantered back and forth, and then I headed out again. I've never heard anyone speak about anyone else disrespectfully there. That comes from the top, I think.
I went to the college for the required physical for OT. As I was getting out of my car, I heard my name, and turned around. It was New Mary. Tim was the one that pushed me towards college (I felt like I should wait until Cara was done with her college), but it was Mary who pointed out that OT was a hot field. I watched the papers and saw that she was right, and so that is how I picked the field. I didn't recognize her because each time I see her, she looks so different. Her hair has grown long enough, post chemo, to be tucked into a pony tail and I touched it, amazed. As we hugged, I noticed she had a text book, and I said, "MARY! Are you taking classes?" She is. She's taking OT as well. I screamed with excitement right there in the parking lot, and we fell into step talking a blue streak about J-numbers and classes and her job and any number of things. I took her to admissions to get her number for her ID and then, unfortunately had to take leave of her to get to my own appointment. We exchanged hugs and "I'm so glad" and "We'll be study buddies" and "Call me!"
As I waited for my physical, I ran into two people from A and P and we enjoyed laughing about it. (Lord knows, there was not a lot of that while we were IN the class...) A woman listening to us had a brand new A and P text book. "You are scaring me," she said, uncertainly. And we told her the truth. It is hard, hard stuff, but she'd make it, just like we did.
I stopped by the emu farm, to tell them what an e-mail friend had told me: that emu oil was soothing to her radiation burns. While I was visiting with the workers there, an elderly woman stood listening, and when I walked out, she walked out with me. "Did I hear correctly? Did you have cancer?" We talked about that. Her daughter had breast cancer too. She is in the post treatment stage, and feeling lost too. She tries to read up on things, to minimize her chances of reoccurence. She's careful about her diet. It sounded very familiar. In frustration, the mother said, "They will not tell her that she is cured." I looked down at this 74 year old woman. I totally understood what she wanted. Crap. It's what we all want, really. We all long to hear that we are 'cured', but that's not the way it works. I explained it to her as gently as I could. "Listen," I said reaching into my purse. I wrote down my e-mail address. "I've been really encouraged by others, and your daughter is certainly welcome to e-mail me." And she tucked the paper away in her own purse carefully. We hugged and she whispered, "Good luck to you." I whispered back, "and to your daughter too."
I got home and picked four quarts of blueberries. For Tim and I and also for my old friend Mary. She shares generously from her garden, a sign in her yard offering daily produce for free, and their corn was just the best this year. I think of her and Danny eating the blueberries I'm picking now this coming winter, and it makes me smile to myself. There's plenty more picking out there.
By then, Tim was home. We were going to get a load of firewood. We were going to put rain gutters on the front of the garage on one of the rentals. Out of the blue, he said, "Let's don't work tonight," and so we didn't. The sunset was gorgeous, and we rode along companionably.
It was such a nice day, and I was hard pressed to explain just what it was for a while. It just niggled at me until I figured it out at the end of the day. Where ever I was yesterday was just where I was supposed to be. I belonged everywhere I went. I was meant to be there.
That doesn't happen every day. How blessed I am.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
At the beginning of my first semester, back in January, when I was slogging to school every day, uncertain, nervous, self conscious, I'd walk over a bridge, past this scene. I remember thinking that the obelisk in the back was kind of strange. I never really studied it other than to give it a quick look.
Towards the end of the semester, when I began to figure that I wasn't going to totally humiliate myself, I began to look around myself with a bit more interest. One day I walked out of a building and caught sight of the 'obelisk' from a different perspective. It wasn't an obelisk at all, and I remember stopping dead in my tracks on a bright sunshiny spring day to look, amazed that this sculpture so perfectly captured my own joy that day. I always meant to get a picture of it for you all. Now I have.
Another picture I always meant to take was this. At the end of the year, I learned a new way to get to the college, less traffic. Look at this garage door. There's a story here. The Sydney Opera House doesn't show up in Jamestown NY, unless there is a story. When I find out I will tell you.
Everyone stops to watch an 'extreme fishing' display.
He was fun to watch.
This beach also had, back by the retaining wall, a nice little shelter for a stray cat. The cat dish was full, and there was a piece of carpeting. Someone is taking good care of the fellow, and that made me glad.
We hopped on a ferry and headed out to Put-In-Bay Island. I kept myself busy taking pictures, because, gotta tell you, boats make me sick. All boats. I took a canoe ride once. Everyone says that you don't get sick on a canoe. Yeah, actually, I do. There is something about shutting your eyes, and it seems like you are going fast. You look at the water, and you're not going as fast as you feel like when your eyes are closed. And then you look at the shore and you're scarcely moving at all. At some point during this process, my brain decides that I must be drunk and sends the message to my stomach that I must purge my system of the alcohol that I did not drink. I start to feel nauseous. That's step one. (Believe me. You don't want to hear step two.) Anyways, I've gotten sick after the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. I've gotten sick on the 1000 Island Boat Tour (although I've done that twice, for the sake of company. I'm noble like that.) I've gotten sick when friends took us out on their boat so that the kids could go tubing and water skiing. In my life B.T. (before Tim), we owned a boat. I never went on it. Ever. Well. Except when it was in the driveway once. So when Susan said she wanted to do the ferry, I groaned inside, but took a deep breath, said nothing, and headed out praying like crazy. I did not get sick.
Not like this...the neighbors are a mite close for my taste. And, jees, you'd hate to be a sleep walker. Or a drinker. Either one.
Too much traffic.
Yeah. Okay. This is the one I want. Plenty of room for me to build my mansion. By me, I mean Tim. I'll do what I always do, which is fetch stuff and 'hold this right there'.
Once we stepped off the ferry, all heck broke lose when the plane crashed.
Ironically, the sign next to the register at the restaurant where we had breakfast read, "Have an amazing day!" Um. It was shaping up to be pretty darn amazing, alright.
Some random island shots:
Randy has his own cannon. Tim wants his own cannon. The guys were doing a lot of talking about cannons. This does not bode well.
So I leaned out and looked at the water. I did not get sick.
I leaned out even farther. That poor sap on the first level is probably down there because he gets sick on boats. Not everyone has 'sea legs' (Lake Erie legs?), doncha know.
Random notes: The gift shops had lovely things, but there were also a bunch of whale stuff. There was a large concrete hippopotamus and a great white shark to be photographed near. Strange. We were (hello?!!!) on Lake Erie. I have never heard of a great white sighting there (although Presque Isle was closed for a day because a fisherman caught a piranha. It was later discovered to be a vegetarian cousin to the piranha and the beach was reopened.) No hippos on Lake Erie either. So these things puzzled me.
Susan was talking about the plane crash at a gift shop, and the staff were looking at her video. The owner of the establishment walked out, and the cashier holding the camera said, "A plane crashed into the bay this morning! Did you know?" to which the woman responded "*sigh* Not AGAIN!!!" We looked at her amazed, and she quickly said, with a smile, "Well, now, you did not hear that from me...."
We also ran into the rudest person ever at the Dairy Queen. I haven't been into a Dairy Queen for ever so long. It was hot and we stopped to get a drink. I saw that they had iced tea, so I asked if they had unsweetened tea. "Yes," the impatient young man said. "Okay, then, I'll have that, with double lemon please," and the man said, "We don't have lemon." I began to study the menu. The young man snapped, "Are you getting something or not?" To which I replied, "Gees. Sorry I'm wasting your valuable time here." He had a big cup at the counter labeled "TIPS". He did not get one from our party. Especially since he got snotty with Randy and Susan afterwards.
I did not take a lot of pictures on the island, probably because I was talking so much. There was a winery there, and a cave that you could explore, and we traveled around on a golf cart. We had a nice time, and by the time we were back home, Tim was saying wistfully, "I'd really like to get out to see Randy and Susan some day." I imagine it will happen.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I left work, came home and made supper. It was pre-prepared, zucchini stuffed with sausage, peppers and onions and tomatoes. I just had to zap it in the microwave and toast some garlic bread to go with it.
I helped Tim bleed the brakes on 'the car that will not die', an 88 Oldsmobile 98 with nearly 200,000 miles on it. We drove it down town to test his work, and stopped to pick a bag of coffee beans. I found an excellent deal on notebooks and picked up a half dozen for school. By the time we got home, the car was making a strange noise. This was the same car that left me stranded downtown. "When does this car become unfixable, Tim?" and Tim laughed and popped the hood on it. I grabbed the bags from the back and said, "I'm not driving it anymore, and I don't think you should be either," and with his head under the hood, he muttered, "Well, now that's a new one..." and he laughed once more as I rolled my eyes and huffed.
We went to get firewood after that. My favorite dog in the world, Bearly, was glad to see us as usual. She's a beautiful dog with golden eyes that are really quite striking in her black face. Unlike usual, she didn't amble over for a thorough petting. She had killed a woodchuck and was in the middle of dinner. She did thump her tail amiably but kept her mind on more important things. I thought about what a lucky dog she is. Really. She is what she is: a beloved pet, but still, a dog who is allowed to be a dog. I don't imagine that she knows what a leash is. What binds her to her home, to her owners is even stronger: it is love. We talked to the man and watched Bearly eating in perfect contentment. Now that she's older, she catches a woodchuck about every other week, but used to be that she got one nearly every day, ranging far, and then carrying it in from distant fields. I did not want to hear another old dog story, and it made me think about my old Buck. But we laughed when the owner sighed. "She'll stuff herself and she won't want dog food for a few days."
We went down to get the firewood, and suddenly two horses came running up to the fence, along with a small cow. Surprised, I went over to pet them and talk to them, when I heard it. "What's that?" I asked Tim, listening. He stopped too. It was coyotes, carrying on very excitedly about something. We listened to them for a time. It was a large group from the sounds of it. Their yips and half howls carried across the fields, and I hoped that Bearly was still having dinner safe in her yard, because coyotes are more aggressive in a group than they are when they are alone. A pack of coyotes will attack a dog. After we got a truckload of firewood, we headed down in the direction of the ruckus, but the noise stopped. We sat in the cab of the shut down truck, silent except for our own breathing and listened to the sound of a late summer night.
We came home and we unloaded our wood, and we talked about the winter coming, and joked with each other, and when we went to bed that night, we were ready for bed. I was not ready for the rather large spider on the ceiling directly above our bed, and I made Tim kill it before the lights were put out, lest it lose it's grip and fall, landing in our bed where we slept, slack jawed and unaware.
Today, I will head off to school for the day. I will spend exorbitant amounts of money on a very large pile of books. I will head back and go to work. I will enjoy that too.
Life seems very balanced lately. I love when that happens.
Monday, August 16, 2010
First thing was convincing Tim. He's kind of a quiet dude. I was worried that he'd be a little shy about hanging out with people we had never actually met before. But when I broached the subject with him, he said, immediately, "That sounds like fun..." It's been a long time since we had a vacation. Before, we did not have the money to go any place. Once we both got back to work, well...there wasn't the time. But this was a day trip. So I cautiously e-mailed Susan yet again, to tell her that Tim was game. Turns out that her husband Randy was willing too.
At that point, the only obstacle was getting the time off work. Since the whole thing was being pulled together very quickly, I didn't have the time to put in a proper request for a day off, and I was shy about asking for favors as such a new employee. Imagine my surprise as I walked into the breakroom to look at the new schedule and found I was not on the schedule to work Friday. I was free!
Another flurry of e-mails followed.
We found out that they were getting in to Detroit at 1 AM Friday morning. They planned to sleep in their rental car, and meet up with us later on. Tim, of his own accord said, "You don't work Thursday evening. Why don't we just drive out the night before, and get a hotel room? They can at least have a place to to get a shower." And so I made reservations. The hotel room had two double beds. "Um, listen," I said to the nice hotel lady. "We're meeting up with friends. They won't be getting in until much later in the morning. Can they crash in the extra bed for three or four hours? Can they use the shower?" And she assured me that this was fine, and that there would be no extra charge for this.
So I was talking to Susan on the phone, explaining about the showers, and I was trying to figure out how to offer the extra bed without sounding like a potential wierdo. I mean, remember, Susan and I have never met. Turns out, at the same time, Susan was trying to figure out how she could ask me about the extra bed without sounding like a wierdo. Because, basically, I am a wierdo, I finally just came out with it. "Listen, I don't want you to think I am a wierdo, but you all are welcome to come in and grab the extra bed. I hate to think of you both trying to sleep in your car..." and she said, "Well, I don't want you to think that we're weirdos, but we're taking you up on that..."
And lo, it came that Tim and Debby left the woods.
We got into the little town of Port Clinton, and found the Bayside Inn. We watched the television. Since it's been a long time since we watched television, we got bored rather quickly. TV really sucks. We'd forgotten.
We hit the hay early, because that's what we do, and even though I was very excited, I managed to fall soundly asleep. The phone rang at 4:30 AM. Susan and Randy had arrived. I shot out the door in my jammies and scooted across the parking lot. Eh. When you've written back and forth for a couple years, pajamas are acceptable attire for a first meeting. Even if it's outside. Anyhow, you may not have noticed, but I'm a terrible blabber. I really tried to keep quiet when they came inside, because I knew that they had to be exhausted. Still, I whispered a couple things to Susan, and then Tim clamped his hand across my mouth. And so I shut up, and much to my surprise, I fell soundly asleep one more time.
Then we headed out. This is the car that Randy and Susan rented from Detroit.
As reported, we were standing on the beach at Put-In-Bay, blabbing. I heard a solid 'sploooooooooosh' behind me and turned around to see this:
Being a practical person, I thought 'It is not possible that this plane crashed into the water', and I looked for pontoons. There were none.
Then the nose dipped under the water, and suddenly the tail was straight up. At this point, I began to think 'hm. This is not a good thing...' and before our very eyes, people appeared in the water, and you could hear the shouting. The ferry you see is the one that we had just disembarked from.
By golly, then things started happening. You had the Police Choppers.
You had the news choppers.
You had the boat that was going to bring the plane back up. We did not wait to see more than that, however. We had stuff to do. That will be our next post.
Friday, August 13, 2010
More later. Great time. Great people.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Somehow it felt as if I glimpsed eternity as I listened to the bell toll as it has tolled for countless others since our church's beginnings in 1865. I can't explain it any better than that. When the service was over, although the people there are dear to me, I did not stay for the meal. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to remember my good friend. So I walked to my car and as I drove up route 62, a bald eagle soared out in front of my car, the bright white of his head and tail catching the sun as he lifted higher and higher on powerful wing strokes. I watched him until he was out of my sight. At Bill's funeral, it had been read: 'But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.' Seeing that eagle made me smile.
Well, I best finish packing. We're heading out in a couple hours. In a few hours, I'll be meeting Susan and her husband Randy for the first time, although we've been online friends for as long as I have had a blog. I'm looking forward to this day trip very much.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Last week, we had friends in for a cookout. We were sitting on the deck blabbing, and I heard a helicopter. It was not headed west, to Erie, where people go when they are lifeflighted. It did not seem to be coming from the direction of the river, where they often run the length of our county, dropping their load of Bti to control blackflies. But I was blabbing, and laughing, and just sort of registered the sound of that chopper, without giving it a lot of thought.
The next day, we were both shocked to read that a couple eating lunch at a park at a local beach had been accosted by a man with a gun who tied up the man with duct tape and abducted the woman. At 3 in the afternoon. Broad daylight. These things don't happen, not here. But that's a lie. Because they do.
Tim headed out the door for work. I headed out the door for work. I left a note for Cara, sitting atop of the newspaper. "Stay away from the dam" I wrote. And when I got home, that evening, we were blabbing. She laughed at one point. "I was thinking to leave a note saying that me and the gang had gone to the dam to look for that man." And she went on to poo-poo my fears. "He's long gone," she said. "He's not in Warren County."
I looked at this girl. We are so different. But we comfort ourselves with the same words. "It can't possibly happen. Not here." But the difference between her and I is that she still believes it.
This morning, Tim walked out to get the newspaper. There it was. They caught the man. He'd headed up into Canada. I was glad to hear that he is caught. There is so much ugliness in the world. So much that it has begun to overlap into the quiet corners of the world. There's nothing that I can do about it, actually. I know it. All I can do is step out into this world, and try to be the best person that I can. Kind to others. Cheerful. Faith-filled. Seems like an awful small gift to the world. But if we all made that commitment...
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
That's a first. Anyone else discovered the same thing?
Monday, August 9, 2010
Sunday turned out to be quite a day. We went to a birthday party. We found out that our friend had slipped into a coma and was breathing his last. There were tears. We all wanted to do something, but there is nothing really to be done at that point, is there? So we grabbed up our hymnals and headed for their front yard where we stood in front of the open window and sang four of the old hymns that Bill loved so much. The Old Rugged Cross. Be Thou my Vision. It is Well With My Soul. Amazing Grace. Although we had walked over as a group, cars following us with the people who could not walk, we came back in rag tag groups, quiet. It seems impossible that we will not hear Bill's voice again, booming out to us "This is the day that the Lord hath made..." and we will not call back to him, "Let us rejoice and be glad in it..." I cry a little every time I think of it. Of him. Of Connie, left behind. Bill died last night, a few minutes after seven. I cried again, when it was confirmed, although, at that point, it was not unexpected.
As we were pulling out of the driveway to get a few things to pack in lunches, a four wheel drive pulled in. We were delighted to see our bearded buddy Rae. We kidnapped him and we all went downtown for the groceries, came back home for an impromptu cookout on the back deck, and we blabbed as if we hadn't seen him since the New Year. Mostly, I think because we hadn't seen the coot since the New Year. That was nice to catch up with him.
I picked some blueberries, and the neighbor dog picked a few from the lower branches for himself, smacking his lips appreciatively. Probably better than the tin foil he pulled off the grill and ate after our cookout last week.
It was a quiet weekend. I can't say it was a great weekend, because we lost a good friend. I can't say it was a bad weekend, because it was full of planning, and handholding and spending time with my husband. Time spent laughing with a friend. Time spent crying with my friends. Like it or not, life and death...well. You can't have one without the other.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
We have had a nice weekend, so far. Quiet. Lots of handholding. Yesterday, we went garage saling and found some things for the grandchild on the way. We went out to a just opened pizza shop in an out of the way place, and enjoyed a vegetable pizza. This new shop is a very bare bones operation, but I watched the owners tenderness with a obviously challenged man. He came in, excited about his sheriff star. "Got my badge," he said, repeatedly, pulling on his shirt. And we all congratulated him. Just to see the patience of everyone as they zipped around, trying to get the pizzas done, at the same time, listening kindly to the man with the sheriff's badge...it was kind of heartwarming really, and since I love to watch kindness, I found myself hoping that this struggling new business 'makes it'.
That's it really. What a nice weekend this has been. To think! We still have a full day in front of us. Church, a party, and then home to plan a day trip for next Friday.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
We have this weekend off. Both of us. The whole entire weekend. I can't remember the last time that happened. I felt like a child on the first day of summer vacation when I left work last night. I got home and Tim had made popcorn. We shared a glass of ice water, and we talked. We went to bed, still talking. We were still talking when we turned out the lights, and in the darkness, my hand traced the familiar curve of his jaw. I've missed that, the quiet intimacy of marriage. We read the paper together this morning, talking about the news while he ate his cheerios, while I drank my coffee. These small rituals happen each and every day. I know them by heart, but usually I drink my coffee alone, after he's eaten his cheerios and left for work. Or, vice versa, on the weekends. He's gone to take care of a small chore at one of the apartments, but he'll be back shortly. We have the afternoon to do as we please. We have the evening to do as we please. We have tomorrow to worship together, because it pleases us to do so. And then, we'll have Sunday stretched long before us, waiting to be filled with the quiet things of our lives. Monday will come. It always does, but we've got a weekend to re-discover the small pleasures of our marriage, of our life together.
I can't help wondering why, out of all the people in the world, (MILLIONS, I TELL YOU!) they chose little ol' me to receive that e-mail, that once in a life time offer? I've been tossing it around for a while, and I've come to the conclusion that it is because some folks, well, they just can't manage money. Me and Tim? We can. I guess I should say I can, because the e-mail came to my mail box, not Tim's. So, they have their doubts about Tim, but me? Hey, I can handle the riches (MILLIONS, I TELL YOU!). Anyways, Tim is lucky to be married to me, because when I am rolling in the dough (MILLIONS, I TELL YOU!), I am willing to share with him.
I get millions of these offers (MILLIONS, I TELL YOU!) every day. Sweepstakes, and stocks, and *psst* Hey buddy, wanna buy a watch? sort of things. Honestly. It amazes me that anybody would fall for this stuff. But they do.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Having a chunk of free time on her hands is intolerable to Cara. So she is headed to Dylan's house in Fleetwood. The two of them are flying out tomorrow morning for San Francisco. Why? Because they've never been. Because they're bored.
I got up with Tim. He leaves the house at 5:30 to get to work by 7. Since Cara does not get up until later (the girl still believes that 9:30 is the 'butt crack of dawn') I had some time to myself. I wandered about in blogland and managed to scare the bejeebers out of myself. Someone had made a reference to the Beaumont children of Adelaide. Having no idea what they were speaking of, I looked it up. Three siblings disappeared from a crowded Adelaide beach in 1966. Just vanished. Never to be heard from again. I tried to imagine what happened to the parents of those children. How does your life move past such a point? The parents seem to be just as completely gone as their children. I found nothing on them at all.
And my mind began to wander as my mind is wont to do. I think of my own children, as the children that they were. I think of them during all their days. From their first breaths. Learning to walk. Learning to talk. First day of school. Elementary school. High school. Graduation. The pictures flicker through my mind, and I am happy to have them. Lucky to have them. I spent the quiet time reading and thinking, and roaming about in my mind. Last night, when Cara and I had gone shopping for Dylan's birthday, she asked, "When you were my age, were you so crazy busy that you did not feel like you were able to realize that you had fun until after the fact?" Interesting. I thought. "I guess, maybe," I said. And she said, "I feel bad sometimes, because when I get to thinking about things, looking back, I'll realize that I really enjoyed something that I didn't really take the time to enjoy while I was actually doing it."
This morning, looking back, I felt like I really understood what she meant.
Cara finally got up, and we read the paper this morning, and had bagels with our cappuccino. We talked. About this and that. Nothing special, nothing in particular.
Her bags were waiting at the door.
And now she's left.
A group of 40-year-old girlfriends discussed where they should meet for lunch. Finally, it was agreed upon that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the waiters there were very good looking.
Ten years later at 50 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for lunch. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the food there was very good, the wine selection was good also, and the waiters were cute.
Ten years later at 60 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for lunch. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because they could eat there in peace and quiet, the restaurant had a beautiful view of the ocean, and the waiters were sweet boys.
Ten years later, at 70 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for lunch. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the restaurant was wheelchair accessible, they even had an elevator, and the waiters were kindly.
Ten years later, at 80 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for lunch. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because they had never been there before.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
She looked at me with a smile playing around her lips. "....but you forgot," she filled in.
I chopped on. "Yep," I said. "I forgot."
She just about fell off the steps laughing. Who raised that smart alec anyway?
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Hit and run. Conewango Twp. Police reported that on Friday at 10:15 p.m. James Swick of Warren was driving a 2005 Dodge Caravan east on Jackson Run Rd. when he turned right onto Market Street. At the same time, police said, a white sports car, possibly a Ford Mustang, was traveling north in the southbound lane, in reverse, at a high rate of speed. Police reported the sports car then spun forward, struck the Dodge on the driver's side front bumper, and fled the scene traveling west on Jackson Run Rd. According to police, no major injuries were sustained and Swick was able to drive his vehicle from the scene. Police asked that any information regarding the suspect or the suspect's vehicle please contact the Conewango Twp. Police.
Cara and I had a good laugh when we read the paper. Tim? Not so amused. His 'new' vehicle is waiting for new front and rear bumper covers. (The previous owner ran it into a ditch.) He's half expecting local police to show up at our house with questions. I can tell you that at 10:15, Tim was in bed. So was I. Unfortunately (?) there are no witnesses to attest to that.
Yesterday was freight day at the store. It is a day to work hard, getting everything set out on the floor. The manager running the show is a hard, hard worker, and he was heaving around bags of dog food and bird seed like a weight lifter. I tried to keep up with him, but there was no way. Plus, I am a bit of a handicap since I have to ask 10,000 questions, not having figured out where everything in the store goes. But I also noted that I was not the only one with questions. All night long, the call went out across the aisles. "Hey? Jeremy?" "Jeremy!" Jeremy..." as we all darted about putting stuff away. At one point, I had to laugh. "Do you sometimes get sick of hearing your own name?" I asked. And he looked at me with the biggest grin on his face. "No comment," he replied. So we all worked together, quickly, almost at a dead run, sometimes. It is good to work hard, and I enjoy it, even though I was going through unsweetened ice tea, double lemon, at an enormous clip. At the end of it all, the manager apologized to me. "What for?" I asked, honestly confused. He felt that he was short with me. Brusque. Rushed. Too bossy maybe. He explained that he wanted to get the job done as quickly as possible. "Jeremy," I said. "You were working harder than any of us, but we were all working hard. We were all working fast. We all wanted to get done. I didn't think you were rude. I took no offense." And he grinned and hauled a pallet of dog food out back. I went back to work too. It really is a civil place to work.
Cara is home for a few days. She and Dylan will head out to San Francisco Saturday. Then she will be back and headed off to school. This summer has flown by so quickly, and I can scarcely believe that it August already. But, I'm making the most of it. We will have company in for a cookout today, and we will laugh hard and make memories.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
I pull into the parking lot of the job that I love, and before I go in, I sit there a moment, saying a little prayer. I take a deep breath. Then I stride into the store, and I greet my coworkers.
Okay, so I'm working at the store and an older gentleman walks up to my counter, and I greet him cheerfully and he answers, "Hello, Baby!" I glance at him quickly because he's not the sort you'd be expecting to pop out with something like that. He looks back at me just as shocked as I was looking at him, I imagine. He stammered, "I meant to say Debby (my name is on my vest). I don't talk like that. Jees. I don't even know where that came from." And he was so embarrassed, standing there apologizing, and I felt awful for him. I guessed that what happened was that he took a look at my name tag, initially misread my name, did a quick double take, and then just blurted out the wrong thing. I don't know. Anyways, he was really embarrassed, and I do know this man, a little, from the Cancer Center, though I don't think he remembers me. The best way to describe him is 'salt of the earth'. He would no more talk to a stranger like that than my Tim would. So I looked back at him, and in an attempt to put him at ease, I blurted, "Oh, no. Please don't give it a second thought. Usually it's me coming out with something that makes me sound like a ninny." Long pause as we studied each other. My face began to turn as red as his. "Not that you sounded like a ninny," I stammered. "I don't know where that came from..." Bless his heart. He was still laughing as he went out the door.
Ay yi yi.