Thursday, February 28, 2013

Treasure

Just before Christmas, my sister and I divvied up family photographs from my mother's house and we gave them to the nieces and nephews. The more valuable pictures were put on a CD. They were the old ones, pictures of people gone on, pictures that could not be replaced. Each niece and each nephew received a box of family pictures and the CD.

One of my nephews said, "I was hoping that there would be pictures of me as a baby. I have no pictures of myself when I was a baby." His mother dealt with hard times, and there were a lot of moves, and chaos. I never really thought of it. I did not know. That sister was alienated from the family for many years.

He went on: "I've asked everybody. There are pictures of my sister, but no one has pictures of me."

"I have pictures of you. I know that I do." And I did. I remembered coming home on leave from Basic Training. I remembered going to visit them. I remembered the pictures.

I've been looking for those pictures. Unsuccessfully. Until today.

I found a picture of me holding a baby, and it was James. Sweet baby James. Excitedly, I ran through the pictures, pulling them out of the book. There are not a lot of them, but there they are. Pictures of a smiling baby, his grin as unmistakable then as it is today. I have 13 pictures that document his first year.

Slim pickings, but for a 30 year old man who has no pictures of himself as a baby, these will be precious. Treasures.

I clutched those pictures close with a prayer of thanksgiving.

I headed directly to the computer and I messaged him. "James! I found something for you today."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Woman at the Gym

Yesterday at the gym, I saw a very large woman who was working hard, moving from machine to machine with her checklist, disinfecting, doing her reps, and then moving on to the next. I recognized myself in her, and longed to say something encouraging.
Since she never really made eye contact with anyone, there was no opportunity to do so.

So I moved from machine to machine, carrying my check list and my own bottle of disinfectant, writing down my reps.

I did my 40 minutes of cardio after the weights, and I marked everything down, and I thought about that woman as I worked.

It seems strange to me to realize that I can see something laudible in the courage and strength of charactor of a total stranger, yet see none of that in myself.

Life's funny like that, isn't it?


Monday, February 25, 2013

Madame G

Yesterday at church, I sat listening to the music. The young man playing was very talented, switching from the piano to the pipe organ, to a guitar. The instruments came alive in his hands. Curious, I flipped to the back of the bulletin to see his name, and I recognized his surname.

Madame G was a French teacher. She came to our elementary school once a week. To a kid who lived on a dirt road in the woods, she was quite an exotic creature. Thin, and tall, she draped herself in brightly colored scarves. She not only spoke French, she had been there. Many times.

I listened to her amazed. You have to understand my perspective: at that point my dream was to be the bookmobile lady. She not only got to travel (all over the county!), she got to travel with books. Seemed like the idyllic life, and it was about as big as I could imagine. I thought that you were born where you were destined to live.

Madame G did not have much luck teaching me French, I suppose. I was, after all, the child of a man who believed that in America we spoke English, by God! But what she did do for me was to give me a glimpse of a world that extended beyond my dirt road. Even beyond the county.

I made my way over to the young man after church, and I told him my story about his grandma. What a flood of stories I heard in return.

His grandmother loved to travel, but his grandfather did not like it quite so much. He did however, love his wife, and so they traveled. Joe told me that they were actually not wealthy people, so their favorite mode of travel was to find a tramp steamer. They crossed oceans on ships on which they were the only passengers. He said, "She always brought me something back. A little nickel bear from Switzerland, a handcarved figure from Norway, a necklace from Egypt." He laughed as he said, "I never realized how remarkable they were. I thought that everyone's grandma traveled all over the world to buy them presents."

I told him, "Many years ago, your grandmother gave me a glimpse of something far beyond what I knew. My son just got engaged at the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. I have to tell you, I thought of her 45 years after the fact, and how she would have loved that story."

He smiled. Although his grandma had been gone for nearly 20 years, you could tell that he loved having the chance to talk about her again.

I hope one day long in the future, when someone talks to William about his grandma, he gets the same sort of smile on his face.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nosy

Little William came to visit. It was great fun.

We made a big picture of 'under the sea'. I wiped his nose.

I fixed him meals. He ate. I wiped his nose.

We went to the store. I wiped his nose.

He took a nice warm bubble bath in an overheated bathroom. I wiped his nose.

I slathered on the Vicks, and tucked him into footed pajamas. I wiped his nose.

He sat on my lap and drank hot cocoa as I wiped his nose.

He watched Winnie the Pooh, and fell soundly asleep. I wiped his nose.

He went home yesterday.

Last night, I began wiping my own nose.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Glimpses

There is something about going back to the place that you used to belong. Walking through the doors of the church that I went to as a teenager, the church that held my mother's funeral was like a homecoming, in a way. I was a bit surprised by the nearly audible 'click' in my own soul as I sat through the service. It just felt like a comfortable fit, and there is something about hearing 'Olde English' that is soothing to my ears.

On Sunday, I went back once more, not to the same church, but to another Episcopal church. They use the Elizabethan English during Lent, and I listened intently. A woman came in with her daughter, and I was surprised to see that she was a member of my former church, active when I was a teenager. She was considered elderly when I was a teenager. Now she looks older but certainly not so much as the 40 years gone by would have indicated. She is still dressed very stylishly, her hair carefully done. She is thinner though, and her eyes vacant. She did not remember me, and when I greeted her by name it frightened her a little, I think, that I knew her name, but that she could not remember mine.

It was a nice morning in church, and I was glad to be there. The other members were anxious to make my acquaintance and to tell me about their church. They wanted me to join them for coffee, but I did not. Not that day. I guess that I am a little mistrustful. I have felt strongly about belonging before. First impressions are not to be trusted. There is plenty of time to ease into where I belong.

I went to the gym. I've gotten used to the other people in the gym. There are some who are very fit. There are others (like me) who go along with their heads down, their eyes focused on their list, carrying their disinfectant bottles with them as they move from machine to machine. Out of respect, I do not try to make conversation unless they seem open to it. I do not look at them for overly long periods of time, aware of how uncomfortable it makes ME to be studied.

Well. I didn't. Until Sunday. Oh my gosh.

In a gym, there is going to be grunting and clanging, huffing and puffing, red sweaty faces, people intent on their workout as the Lumineers sing 'Ho Hey', but this one fellow was a shocker. He'd heft weight, grunting and groaning, and then drop it clanging. He'd twirl around with his head thrown back, or drop to a bench, on his back with his eyes closed. Once he was face down on the floor, moaning, only to leap up and and seize the weights once again.

I couldn't help watching him, first from the corner of my eye, and then finally giving up to stare in unabashed amazement. By the time that he was face down on the floor, I was pausing in my own workout, wondering if this was one of those medical emergencies one hears about. But no...he was up again, and grunting at his weights.

I've been attending to my own workouts. I have lost my 'muffin top', which is kind of cool. I have upped almost all weights and/or reps, except for my quad and hamstrings. For some reason those two machines kill me. I've managed to up the reps, but no other progress noted. My cardio workouts are daily, and I like them.

William was two years old yesterday. We did not see him, but we had him for the weekend. He is an altogether wonderful child. The thing that I love is that when he gets tired, he climbs into my lap. I wrap him in an afghan and talk to him, and he locks gaze with me, intent on the words, sometimes talking back, other times just gracing me with a small and sleepy smile.

He loves balloons, and I buy the big balloons from the dollar store. He went to retrieve the one from his previous visit, and the stretched out material gave a little sigh, and the balloon just collapsed in on itself. There was no pop...just that sigh. He looked dismayed, and he said, "Oh, NO!" in a little voice. He tried to blow on it. When that did not help, he began to cry, loudly and unceasingly, in the manner of little children.

When I picked up the broken balloon and headed for the kitchen, he followed me wailing still, and I said, "William, would you like another balloon? Grandma always has balloons..." and when I pulled the balloon from the drawer, his wailing stopped immediately, and there was a big smile and an joyous " 'Nudder balloon!"

For that one moment, I was the best grandma EVER.





Sunday, February 17, 2013

Small Stuff

It has been a quiet week here. I've struggled to come to grips with the changes, and my own feelings of failure. I have discovered that I care far more than I should about what people think, and what people are saying. I also realized that I am afraid. A lot. I walk around with a nugget of fear inside of me that every good thing that I have can be taken away from me at the drop of a hat. That has been sucking a great deal of joy out of life for a good long time.

Introspection is never a fun time.

But in the midst of the not fun time, I have received good and honest counsel from a friend who I can rely on to see things clearly.

I have rearranged the living room. Sounds small, but felt productive. I was happy with the results.

I was kidnapped by my sister. It was a fun day. Lots of laughter in equal portions with serious discussions.

I just happened to drive by the church I attended as a teen just before the Ash Wednesday service, and on a whim pulled in. I was greeted by name although I had not been there since my mother's funeral. The words of the Book of Common Prayer wrapped themselves around me in a very comforting way, and the responses came from me automatically as if I'd never been been away.

I got roses for Valentine's day. I am a lucky woman with a good, good man.

William came and spent the day with grandma and grandpa. I gave him 'jewels' in small empty bottles. He opened the bottles one by one and dropped those jewels into a larger soft drink bottle. He was fascinated and spent a long time on that (follows two step directions, hand-eye coordination, bilateral hand use, crossing the midline) and then pushed a chair up to the sink to help grandma add a heaping helping of silver glitter to his bottle of gems. We added water, coloring, and then for sheer magic, dropped a water light in. He was beside himself at that point, and I took the bottle from him to hot glue the cap on. He loved that thing.

 It went into the bath with him. When it was set in the bathtub, it disappeared under the bubbles where the slowly changing light made for a fascinating game of hide and seek.
 He has a whole basket of toys and cups and pitchers and the like for his bathtub, but he kept coming back to his 'pitty light'.

The bottle went from room to room with him. It went to Wendy's with him. At the end of the day, a tired crying boy went home, clutching his balloon...and his slowly changing light.

A lot of small things have been adding up in an interesting way.

The end.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What I know for sure.

I've been just sick inside since my hours have been cut. Predictably, I responded the way that I normally respond to things like this, by turning the glare of the spotlight on myself, and doing a running inventory of all my flaws and short comings.

There are a lot of them.

I haven't been able to cry over this, so I've just plodded through the last couple days feeling sick to my stomach (good news: when you are trying to lose poundage, this definately helps...) I'm not fun to be around. Tim has been encouraging, but when I thought on all of our sacrifices for me to go to school, I felt even more worthless and ashamed. When I went to bed, I did not sleep.

But these sorts of things do not last forever. They can't. Last night, Mary called. She invited me to go to her church's Ash Wednesday service. I think, as much as I love my friend, I will go back to the Episcopal church, to hear the Anglican service, to hear the words of my childhood once again. But after speaking with her, it did occur to me that this whole thing is coinciding with Lent.

I wondered why.

I received another call. My sister Anna has been through this same thing as a new nurse. It was a very hard time for her. She wanted permission to kidnap me for the day for girl time. She's so funny, and together, we find a lot to laugh about. Tim thought it was a good idea, and so I'll go.

Last night, I went to bed, and my stomach felt better than it had for two days. The knot seemed to be easing, a bit, anyway. I lay there thinking in the dark and it occured to me that I've known this feeling quite often in my life. I have a lot of self doubts. I decided to stop ticking them off one by one and focus on what I know for sure.

What I know for sure is that every hard time brings with it some positives. I have never had a hard time that was not touched by grace and growth.

I will look for that here.

What I know for sure is that in the midst of that conversation with my supervisor, there were positive things said.

I will hold those things close.

What I know for sure is that in all my life, I've managed to sidestep bitterness. I mean, it happens, but it seems to be a brief thing. There is something in my heart that just cannot maintain it for long periods. I've seen bitter, angry people, and it seems like such a waste of a life. No matter what good happens, they don't seem to be aware of it, focused as they are on the unjustness of their lives. That's not me.

I will be grateful for that.

There are holes in our system which need to be addressed, and I can do that, now that I have some breathing space.

I will look for opportunities to excel.

In the meantime, what I will do is walk the path that has been laid out. Will I look for a new job? Yes. But I will continue to do the part of the job that has been left to me to the very best of my ability. I will swallow my disappointment. I will be grateful for the experience. I will continue to love my clients. I will quit worrying about what everyone else is saying (or not saying), and I will listen more to what God is saying (or not saying).

In the end, we'll see what happens. I will either be working for this company, or working some place else.

But what I know for sure is that in the end, I'll still be standing.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bad day.

The perfect job that I had? The full time hours have been cut back to two days a week. I am an occupational therapy assistant, a COTA. I am supervised by an OTR, a registered Occupational Therapist. Two of three Occupational Therapists left within a week of each other. The one remaining therapist is now overseeing everything. She says that I require too much supervision. I've been cut back.

It's embarrassing and humiliating. It also breaks my heart a little. I tried really hard.

Snow Event.



We've had some pretty bad weather here since the beginning of the year, but nothing like this.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bob and Buck Weigh In

We live in a lovely, large house. I love my house. But...we have no central heat. Not yet. Probably this year. We make do with natural gas heaters for every room. Turn them on when we're in the room, off when we are not. It works pretty well, but one thing that I don't like is that the floors are cold. Even with socks and slippers, the floors are cold.

The logical thing would be to put rugs down. Tim and I have been debating this issue for some time now. He nearly killed himself refinishing the hardwood floors and he wants them displayed in all their glory. And they are glorious, don't get me wrong. Just...cold.

So anyhoo, we've been debating this since last year, and hadn't really reached a solution. He says no. I say but. And then he tells me that he loves the floors. I tell him my feet are cold. He tells me to wear shoes. Around and around it goes. No real resolution. For two years. But who's counting. Besides me.

Anyways, we happened to be at Lowes. They had some rugs on clearance. I pointed them out to Tim. "You know," I said, "this would look very nice in the library, and I really think that the rug would show off the hardwood floors..." Much to my surprise, Tim stopped. He said, "Well, the price is right..." We bought a rug. (One room down, 12 to go....)
Buck and Bob watch us working. Buck says, "I don't know...I think it's going to detract from the floor. Bob wisely holds his counsel until the rug is down.

They study the rug as Tim tells me that he thinks I was right about the rug. They do not detract from the wood floors at all, and it makes the room look very cozy.
Bob and Buck decide that if they had feet, they'd appreciate the new rug even more.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mr. Reier

The first three paragraphs are about my friend. Just a brief mention but what a lasting memory for me. I will never forget him. I saw him once again, perched high in our July 4th parade as our county's oldest veteran, and he smiled and waved at us all. I know that he did not see me in the crowd, but it was a happy moment for me.

I was invited to his 100th birthday celebration.

It makes me sad that it will not happen, but I console myself that Jim and Bertha are doubtless dancing together once again.

God bless you my friend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Public Service Announcement.

Boy. Men can be an exasperating critter.

I just had to get that out there.

Monday, February 4, 2013

I'm Back.

I'm not a football fan, truth be told, but Tim is.

Long before there was me in his life, he and his friend had a tradition to watch the superbowl together. Nowadays, we alternate houses. One year we go to Dean and Marsha's. The next year they come to ours. You can't tamper with tradition, so this year we went to their house.

Now usually, I just watch for the commercials, but this year was different. The game was a runaway in the beginning, Baltimore soundly trouncing San Francisco. I watched the commercials as usual. But then in the third quarter, San Francisco seemed to wake up and notice they were on a football field, scoring two touch downs in short order and changing the whole game.

Lucky the game was good, because the commercials weren't so great. Go Daddy came up with probably the ickiest commercial I've ever seen. There was a simultaneous 'ewwwwww....' heard around the room.

But there were some good commercials. However, here are my three top picks.

Number 3: This one just made me giggle.

Number 2: Doritos? If I was not on a quest to be skinny, and doing so stinking well at it, I'd buy a bag of Doritos. You folks were on a roll.

Number 1: Doritos did not take top honors. This is perhaps my all time favorite commercial. Made me cry.


Since beer triggers migraines for me, well, I won't be buying your product, but, gosh. You do good advertising, people.

I just got my computer back after taking it to the shop last week. Good old Dan waved his magic wand and fixed it. Yet again. At some point, I'll feel confident enough to repopulate my address book. Again, anyone who was affected by this, I'm very sorry.

You know, yesterday, I was ironing. When I went to put the things in the closet, I noticed a pair of pants hanging there. I'd bought them, and they were my size, according to the tag anyway, but they were just tight enough in the hips that they looked funny. I've been working out for only two weeks , but I've been working hard. Yesterday I did a 450 calorie workout.

I studied those pants, and I felt stupid, but I tried them on anyway. They fit. In fact, a coworker who knows that I've been working out said, "Wow. Let's hear it for baggy pants!~"

Moments like that are the ones that provide the drive to keep on keeping on.