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The blueberries I had with breakfast this morning were so big, they could’ve been plums-in-training! I was so amazed, I took a picture of them, putting them next to other fruit for perspective.

Now, you could look at that blueberry and say, Sure, you’re big for a blueberry, but why can’t you be as big as this Mandarin orange? Or this Pink Lady apple?

Berries can’t conform to dimensions they can’t possibly live up to. Why should they? They’re perfect for what they are.

It might seem like we’re in a big race with each other, based on the fact it’s called “the human race,” but that’s not the case. We’re all running, or walking, or meandering on our own pathway.

It’s never helpful to say, “Why can’t you be like the other…”:

  • Students
  • Siblings
  • Employees
  • Believers
  • Writers
  • Runners
  • People somewhere in the world

Those others can do this thing well. Why can’t you?

Comparing is actually a passive-aggressive way of trying to control others, as well as a quick-and-dirty way of deciding how to treat people. If you believe someone is not trying their best, you feel justified in mistreating them.

Remember: it’s how you treat those you consider “the least among us” that really shows the world who you are.

You can’t possibly know God if you don’t treat people with respect. That’s across the board. Even the people you think aren’t trying.

If you’re doing your best, why not assume others are as well? It might not be your best, but it may be the best they can do right now. And who knows? One day they might catch up and even surpass you. They’ll remember you were kind to them as you raced past. Maybe they’ll even offer you a Gatorade and some freakishly large blueberries!

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In my day, sonny (cue nostalgic music), we used to quietly hold the world together with a pat on the back and a kind word. Nobody noticed but that one child who scraped his knee on the playground who we helped up. Or that person in the grocery aisle who couldn’t reach a can on a shelf, so you got it for them.

As short as I am (5”4), there was an older lady even shorter. She couldn’t reach the can of peas on the top shelf so she looked at it, looked at me, and tilted her head quizzically. She didn’t have to ask. In fact, she didn’t. She just knew a kind face when she saw it.

When my son and his friends were younger, they were amused by what one young man termed Ruth’s Random Rules. One such rule is that when anyone sneezes, everyone is to say “God bless you.” Don’t believe in God? Okay, say “Gesundheit.” Or “Salud.” Even, “I acknowledge that you have sneezed and you are in the same general vicinity as I am; now I shall go back to ignoring you.” Whatever you have to say — but in this home, young men, we shall be civilized.

Another one was that the boys were required to take our dog into the yard every hour on the hour. They thought they were doing me a favor and doing a nice thing for Sheena, which is true. But they were also getting exercise. I wanted to codify it so they had an excuse to take a break from the video game, a real reason to get out into the yard on a sunny summer day.

If you do your best and treat others with kindness every day, those small moments accumulate into a big bunch of blessings.

An online commenter called the paparazzi “sacrophytes” and I’d never heard the term, so I Googled it. It turns out that there is a similar word, “saprophyte,” which is defined as: organisms, particularly fungi, which obtain nutrients directly from dead organic matter. An example would be mold on bread.

Over-analysis kicked in. Wait a minute. Don’t we humans get our nutrients from dead organic matter? Are we saprophytes?!? Aaah! It sounds awful.

On the other hand, since it’s such a scientific-sounding name, I could put that on my resume and it would sound impressive. For many years, I was an Advanced Saprophyte, specializing in the genus, “malus” in the variety of “plantae.” That’s just apple and plant in English.

But another search result took me at my word. Even though the word I’d typed in was incorrect, it really did a deep dive into what it felt I was searching for.

Showing page 1. Found 0 sentences matching phrase “sacrophyte”. Found in 0 ms. Translation memories are created by humans, but computer aligned, which might cause mistakes. They come from many sources and are not checked. Be warned.

Translation memories. Hmm.This was obviously a computer-generated response, but such an unexpected insight into the human psyche: “Be warned.” That computer really sounded human!

Is it possible that, in looking back on painful memories, we may actually be interpreting them incorrectly? Could it be that we don’t remember what happened, but how we felt about it, and that colors our memory of it?

Let’s let bygones be bygones. That is, say “bye” to the past and let it be gone. You did your best. It’s okay to put it to rest. There’s nothing left to translate or interpret. Just you, the road ahead and Providence over your shoulder.

I’d like to nominate a horse named Jenny to run for some elective office.

Why? Here are the top five reasons.

  1. Horses run well.
  2. She’s always been a good “neigh”-bor.
  3. She won’t give you some line of BS. (Because she’s not a bull. She is, however, a horse, so there will be a different kind of “S”. Sorry. Here’s a wetnap for your shoe.)
  4. She’s out standing in the field. Most of the day, chewing on grass.
  5. The other candidates are lame. I’m not suggesting we do to them what is (sadly) done to lame horses. I’m saying, let’s get an actual horse to take the victory lap.

When you feel clenched as you think about a problem, that’s actually the time to stop thinking about that problem. Just for now. I know you’ve got to address it, but right now, you’ve reached the point where you’re not doing yourself any good.

So leave the room. Exhale. Focus on something light and pleasant. Think about Jenny, the horse who takes a walk every day by herself in Frankfurt, Germany. Her owner, now 79, is unable to ride anymore, so he attached this note to her: “My name is Jenny. I didn’t run away. I’m just walking.” Neighbors are used to seeing her and treat her like a celebrity. There’s even one picture of Jenny kissing a baby in a stroller, just like any politician would.

Take your mind off of that problem that’s got you feeling clenched like a fist.

Pivot to something pleasant. Later, or tomorrow, or maybe next week, you’ll come back to the situation, fully refreshed, and a solution will present itself like an unexpected gift.

I’m in an abusive relationship…with a church. I was reminded of this during Holy Week, when our pastor made a point of choosing twelve men for the ritual of the washing of feet, because only men can represent the apostles. Except that’s not true. Women have their feet washed by the clergy all the time — the Pope himself does it.

Then, on Good Friday, I went to another parish (ours didn’t have a Mass scheduled at a time my husband could fit into his schedule) only to find an even more antiquated service. There were seven people around the altar. All were male.

Growing up, I was always top of my class. So when someone said something silly like, “Only boys are good at math,” I could laugh it off. I was proof that they were wrong. I was fortunate to receive sixteen years of Catholic education, being taught by great thinkers and being told that I, too, was capable of great thought. I planned my first mass at nine. I narrated The Passion Play at 13. I’ve spent a lifetime as a faithful Catholic. And somehow, I’m still not good enough. I can’t be good enough. I haven’t got a Y chromosome.

“How many times,” I asked my husband after Friday’s ordeal, “do I have to be slapped in the face by my own church?” “All of them,” he replied sadly.

I know, I know. I really ought to leave. Except that I have nowhere else to go. The church that honed my soul and sharpened my thinking is still my home — my bigoted, outdated home. Why should I have to leave?

On the other hand, why bother baptizing girls if we can never, ever have full participation in the church? Why bother with Confirmation, unless to make sure we understand that we’ll never be fully wanted? Why let us in the door if we can’t be trusted to make policy or even determine what happens to our own bodies? Why not just be honest and come right out and say it: “The Catholic Church: We’re not big on chicks”? At least we’d know what we were getting into.

I brought my husband into this church. At some level, I must think it capable of change (just like every other woman in an abusive relationship am I right?). But what I won’t let it do is hold me back.

The other day, I was so productive and got so many tasks checked off my list, I felt as if I’d gotten things done. Then yesterday, I felt rudderless and got very little done. Today, I feel like I’m back into productive mode again. What’s going on?

Every day, you get a chance to start over. But each morning when you look in the mirror, a different version is actually looking back at you. When I woke up today, I realized: I’m not the same person I was yesterday. Not in the dramatic confrontation of lovers in a novel, (You’re not who I thought you were! Cad!) but in the sense that the conditions that prevailed yesterday are not present today.  

And yesterday, you had an ache, or a thing weighing heavily on your mind, or a memory that popped up that you really didn’t know what to do with. You’re dealing with a continuous flow of information and emotion.

It’s not just the data coming at you that you have to absorb, but the intention behind the actions. Is it against protocol these days to speak to each other honestly? Wouldn’t you rather know the truth than continue to pretend everything’s fine?

According to an article about communication etiquette in the modern age, these days, the iron-clad rule is: “Don’t call me before you text.” It used to be, don’t come over to the house without calling first. All of these streams of information are a lot to process and can lead to a logjam.

Take the pressure off yourself to live up to who you were yesterday. Or even who you hope to be tomorrow. Be here. Be now. Do what you can today. Then tomorrow? You’ll get the chance to figure it out all over again.

On the one hand, giving labels with letters to conditions like ADHD or OCD helps people. It gives insight on how to manage it.

On the other, it’s limiting. Here’s what you can do, but more tellingly: HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN’T DO.

If it’s ADHD: You can’t sit still. You can’t focus.

OCD: You can’t stop doing repetitive behaviors. You can’t override your wiring.

I’m not an expert in this field, but could that be the thing to focus on?

You can’t override your wiring. Well, you can take a pill. Get counseling. But maybe, if you can’t beat em, should you join ‘em?

When I gave one of my son’s friends with ADHD a project he was interested in, I’ve never seen better focus. He was all in. But when he was without a specific goal, he tended to touch everything. He moved constantly. Once, he put his hand into a pan that was sitting on the stove. “Don’t do that! What if it was hot?”

“It wasn’t,” he said. “Just checking.”

“Don’t check with your hands, son,” I said. But it was too late. He was touching everything else in the house.

I realized that he’s a tactile learner. He takes in the world using his hands. He’s gathering data. Processing it all.

If there were such a job, I think he’d be a great Reverse Inventor. He could tell you how something works by taking it apart, examining it and putting it back together, perhaps in a different configuration.

It’s only fitting you should be who God made you. Work around the aspects of your condition that hold you back. Get help and treatment, if possible. But also, why not write a letter to yourself? A reminder to give yourself a break and your soul some TLC.

In a restaurant, crumbs on the table tell you that it hasn’t been wiped clean since the last customers sat there. It could indicate that the staff may be so overworked and underpaid that they’re cutting corners, trying just to get through the day. It might also give you second-hand insight into the state of the kitchen, where people you don’t know are alone with your food. All of that energy is going into the entrée that ends up on your plate in front of you.

At home, crumbs on the counter tell you that whomever you share your space with (spouse, kids, roommate) isn’t considerate enough of your feelings to clear the space once they’ve used it.

As someone with MS, I can process exactly one (1) bit of information at a time, and when you crunch the numbers (crumb pun!) crumbs are dozens (12s? Twelveses?) of pieces of information in a small space. If data comes at you as a stream, crumbs are the tiny rocks causing ripples in that stream. Knocking over the tiny tugboat.

This may sound melodramatic, but my brain receives crumbs as agents of chaos, disrupting the order of life. Okay. That really DID sound melodramatic!

It may not bother you, but if someone you care about says it bothers them? Why not take that tiny step to make it right? It’s not too much to ask that you clean up after yourself if you share a space. Or turn the volume down if someone is studying. The Golden Rule isn’t some lofty ideal. It’s doing the right thing as a way of life. Being considerate in the small things is a big deal.

Lori’s post, “Who Walks With You?” and SueBE’s post, “If Only…” were uplifting to me and I was reminded yet again of the way the three of us who write this blog sustain each other from afar on a regular basis. Lori’s comment that “people are amazed when I tell them we’ve never met in person” made me ponder: What is it that makes people connect and form into a community?

It also made me wonder: what if we met and were not at all what we expected? Would the community come apart?

For example, I seem to be the Kindly-Auntie type on this humble blog, but who knows? Maybe in real life I’m an obnoxious loudmouth who stands so close that you have to hold your breath — for some reason, I’ve always just eaten onions.

Not really. I actually am the Kindly-Auntie type. (Plus I don’t eat onions.) I’ve got the bona fides: cat’s eye glasses, knitting, Lifesavers in handbag. I used to have a cat. That’s another Kindly-Auntie thing — remembering lost loved ones in regular conversations. KitKat is still a part of the household in that way, and a part of our hearts.

Kindly-Aunties are able to shift gears from lighthearted to deep-rooted on a dime. We still carry change purses (speaking of dimes). And I am not on board with this push to eliminate pennies. Oh, and we’re also known to go off on tangents.

Of course, I use the Kindly-Auntie lexicon — “handbag” not “purse.” I call everyone “son” or “dear heart” and have pocket packs of tissues available if anyone sneezes.

The reason we get along so well is that we just get each other and think the world of each other. We don’t need to be in the same place on the planet to be on the same wavelength. True blue friends like that are a blessing indeed.

Today is Easter Sunday, a day on which Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after his crucifixion.

The Cross is the universal emblem of the Christian faith, and its poignant significance resonates around the world. But another symbol I hold dear is the rock. The stone that was rolled away after the resurrection always reminds me: you don’t have to stay in bondage. If you think you can’t get out of an abusive or untenable situation, remember the stone that was rolled away. You can and you will. Pray about it, then get up and go.

There’s also something solid and unchanging about the symbol of a rock in a changing and challenging world.

When I think of Psalms, this is the one I always return to:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2 NIV

In that passage, there’s so much “strength” mentioned that I feel encouraged every time I read it. Like I’m getting stronger just sitting here. Now that would be an exercise plan I’d sign onto: sit and strengthen. That could be a thing!

The core principles we learned as children are like bedrock. Treat people well. Take care of your body like a temple. Do the work in front of you with all your heart. Be forgiving of yourself and of others.

I may not belong to a particular denomination, and my pew may be this chair I’m sitting in right now, but between the rock and the cross, my faith has a firm foundation. Easter blessings to you and yours!

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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