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sun reflection on calm water near green mountains
Image of sunrays bathing the shimmering ocean next to majestic, moss-covered mountains

Two men from the basement-waterproofing company arrived to give me an estimate to fix a small leak, walking into my house as if they owned it. 

Following me downstairs, they headed into an isolated area of the basement. One said to me, “Come here! Look! You can see cracks in the foundation. Water’s bound to get in here.”

I said, “I know.”

“No, look, you can see it,” he said, gesturing for me to go toward him.

“Yep, I’ve seen it,” I said, staying put.

You’re going to tell me where to stand? In my own house?

He said the leak from my bilco door couldn’t be fixed without addressing the structural issues in the house, to the tune of $4200. When I looked at him blankly behind my mask, he said, “Could you manage $3200?”

“Thanks for your time,” I said and ushered them to the door.

Another time, my son’s friend asked if he and his boss could give me a presentation about insurance. He said, “I’m not trying to sell you anything, just trying to learn how to do a ‘customer spiel’ from my boss.”

Oh. Sure! I was born yesterday, while simultaneously falling off a turnip truck by the Brooklyn Bridge. Why not? Come over to “not” sell me things.

When they arrived, his boss said, “Why don’t we all move over to this table so we can see the presentation better?” 

Hackles raised.

“I’m fine over here,” I said.

“Oh, but we could all see what I’ll be talking about…”

“Couch is better for my back.”

“Oh, if it’s a back issue, that’s fine,” he said.

As if he was giving me permission to sit where I wanted. In my own home.

People who try to physically move you in this way are gauging how malleable you are. No matter what they say, everybody is trying to sell you something.

Knowing you’ve got the right to say “no” is the most important life-lesson you’ll ever learn. And remember, you’ve got a rock and a foundation to stand on, so, when push comes to shove, you will not be greatly moved.

person looking at the milkyway
Picture of a man facing away from the camera, seen in silhouette, looking at the star-speckled night-time sky

Not to make light of the violence that occurred last week in the US capital, but I’d rather ponder esoteric ideas like life in outer space right now. Quite frankly, proving there’s intelligent life here on Earth at the moment might be a challenge. 

Science fiction books and movies always portray aliens as monsters, but what if they’re watching us right now, not with nefarious intentions, but kind-hearted curiosity?

A study claims there may be many civilizations in the universe, and I find this fascinating. 

What if extraterrestrials are watching you the way you watch those two bluebirds as they flutter around the cherry blossoms in your front yard every morning? Aren’t they magnificent! What will they do next? Pick up a tiny branch? Must be making a nest! Wow! Ain’t nature grand?

What if they’re checking in on you the way you keep an eye on that stray cat who visits your backyard. Does he need food? Where does he sleep? Is he okay? What color is that kitty really — black or brown? He almost seems to have subtle stripes. Look, honey, he might have stripes! Isn’t he a marvel?

Every day, as I look at the headlines, I ponder how strange our new normal has become. At this point, if we had an alien invasion, I might not bat an eyelash. “Aiiight,” I’d say, “just stay in your lane, supply me with coffee and chocolate, and we’ll get along fine.”

Mankind has become desensitized to disaster and demonstrates an utter lack of decorum — even humanity — but one day, civility will return. Empathy will emerge. Compassion will make a comeback. 

Until then, hunker down as best you can, and hold on till morning comes. Or at least till the Mother Ship comes to take us away from all this!

The general consensus seems to be that we’ve kicked 2020 to the curb. Our long, international nightmare is over! But is it? The funny thing about time is that one year tends to spill over into the next year. We still have challenges to face. Old ones. New ones we can’t even foresee. Do we have the stuff to face it? Maybe with a little faith, a little hope and a little grace, we really can begin all over again.

We have swept the mess to the sill.
Still, it sits, casting an accusing eye:
What will you do with me?
It will not be as easy
as clearing the threshold
and shutting the door.
The scent of it lingers,
its obdurate conundrums
persist, twisted as steel
by the side of the road.
Fresh eyes, fresh hearts
are required, new courage
flowing from hope
we didn’t know we had.
Listen to the urgings of your heart.
It is time for a new song,
sung louder, though throats are sore.
Bear up. Lean in.
Call for change
and change will come.

books on ground

I just read that there’s a mystery phisher out there who is scamming authors out of their manuscripts, but has in no way shared or monetized them. 

Why do this? It’s making my brain hurt. 

It’s causing a fissure in my understanding of evildoers in the world, to wit: 

a. They do bad things. 

b. They profit from said bad things.

Maybe miscreants don’t even know why they do the wrong thing themselves. It could be they don’t set out to cause harm. And you never know; good people might have a whole other side we know nothing about.

Maybe it’s our own writing professor, SueBE, who just happens to be working on a cozy mystery and needs an unexpected plot twist. She and the Mystery Phisher both like books. Coincidence? Hmm?

Or our poet-in-residence, Lori, looking for new sources of inspiration for her work. Like the mystery phisher, she, too, uses email. Coincidence? Hmmmm?

Best bet would have to be, well, me! The Kindly Auntie who spins humorous little yarns, knits on a round loom, and has a cat named Squeaky. Who would ever suspect such a sweet soul? And admittedly, I, too, have used the internet. Coincidence? Hmmmmmmm?

This may be the year when we all finally, collectively, decide it may not be possible to understand all the Whys in the World — chief among them, why did we have to suffer through a pandemic? — but we can help each other with the How.

Fissures are divisions, and we’ve had our share of those this year. Politics. To wear a mask or not. To gather socially or not. To shut down towns or not. It’s a mystery why we’ve decided to stop getting along. 

If 2020 was a wounding time, let’s make a resolution for the coming year: to resurrect compassion. To allow the tincture of time and the poultice of prayer to heal all these fissures. It’s no mystery Who to call on to help us write this story of hope.

person writing on white paper

Hand writing with pink marker on white paper to create a list of projects to be managed.

This week, the idea of “maps” was on my mind. Some days, it seems clear what I need to do and where I want to go, but lately, it’s been murky. I decided to strip it down to basics, as if I was re-upholstering a chair. The cushion isn’t comfortable? Let’s get rid of it. 

My early morning “routine” (scanning news headlines, scanning my body for what hurts most today) leaves me anxious, so I had to ditch it. Instead, I’ll start the day with “beditation”  — meditation in bed, comprised of deep breathing, stretching and prayer.

The fabric on that armchair is rough? Let’s find soft, new material. 

In the same way, sometimes it helps to re-define and re-design your goals.

What actually is working right now? Stationary biking for half an hour, praying as I go through the day and counting my blessings by name. That stays in the “best practices” category. 

What really isn’t working right now? Not having the stamina to keep the house as clean as I’d like it to be. Always having pain somewhere in my body. Keeping track of appointments and zoom calls. That goes into the “project management” category.

What’s uplifting? Writing with Lori and SueBE. Not just our blog posts, but the emails we write to each other. We really do a deep dive into life. My low vision community. Bluebirds. Bach.

What’s troubling? Re-label that a project, not a problem. What resources are available to address it? Connect with others who face the same issues, and you’ll heal along with them. 

Find comforts you can count on. Have some herbal tea or chocolate milk. And every morning, bask in your blessings. Breathe in grace. Breathe out gratitude. Calibrate your compass to align with Providence, and you’ll be heading in the right direction.

December 8 celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which (as anyone who reads me regularly knows) has nothing to do with baby Jesus and everything to do with baby Mary. The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary being conceived without Original Sin. She comes into the world, unlike the rest of us, sin-free. And she stays that way.

What would you do with a brand new, spotlessly clean soul? If the past is any indication, I’d probably just soil it again. Even after being absolved of my sins in the sacrament of Reconciliation — despite my sincere vows to not fall into the same traps again — I inevitably sin.

Is it the human condition to fail and fall, over and over again? Can we ever rise beyond our nature? Surely some of us do. But how?

What must it take,
once washed white,
to stave off soil and stain?
Love, mercy, justice,
wielded wisely.
Love launders.
Mercy bleaches clean.
Justice proofs the fabric
against what muck may come.
Lather liberally. Saturate spots.
Rinse and repeat as needed.

Potbelly stove - Wikipedia

Picture of rusty, brown pot-belly stove

At the physical therapy center last year, I sat on a table, getting TENS unit therapy for the pain in my legs. 

There were several patients there that day, and most were pleasant enough, considering we were all in various levels of pain.

An older man named Steve was getting treatment for his neck on the table next to mine. “Women always let themselves go after marriage,” he said to his physical therapist. “They never put themselves together with hair and makeup. And the worst part is, they always gain weight.” He shook his head.

There was silence as the other patients and physical therapists around him — all women — processed what he’d just said. Lying on the table there, his own gut was what one would call “voluminous”. He had the girth of a pregnant woman carrying triplets. As he stood up, it occurred to me that he resembled a pot-belly stove: short, squat, and kind of rusty.

That insult to women hung in the air until finally, his physical therapist said something to the effect of, “Sometimes, we just can’t see ourselves as others do,” which I thought was just the right amount of diplomacy and wisdom. Nothing else needed to be said.

This time in history may be remembered for many negatives: the pandemic, divisions based on race and politics, and most notably, an alarming deficit of empathy.

Whatever negativity you encounter today, rise above the visceral instinct to “put someone in their place.” Remember, Comeuppance Coordinator is not an actual job, even though it’s a way of life for many on social media. Keep in mind that everyone is an amalgam of humanity and divinity. This mindset will help the world find its way back to grace again.

The giving of thanks
brooks no exceptions.
Conjunctions, those buts,
those yets and whethers
have no place at the table,
festooned as it is
with the fruits of our year.
We do not qualify these gifts
for smallness or imperfection,
but look only with eyes that see
peel, stem and leaf, the curve
of the orb, each freckle and seed,
without censure.
It is perfect.
It is what we have.
Give thanks.

This past week I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries. One on the Cuban Missile Crisis really drove home the importance of communication.

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

For those of you who don’t remember the historic specifics, Russia put missiles in Cuba. These missiles made the US a viable target. Kennedy announced that any Russian ship trying to approach Cuba with military weapons would be considered hostile.

A Russian sub was detected by the Americans. The agreed upon method to tell an enemy sub to surface and surrender was to drop charges. What the two sides hadn’t agreed on was how many charges should be dropped to send that particular message. The Russians expected a three charge memo. The Americans thought it took five charges to send the message, so that’s how many they dropped. Oddly enough, the Russians were hesitant to surface.

World War III nearly started because no one had thought to discuss how many charges should be dropped to signal a request to surrender. Never mind that it might be smart to find a better way to communicate.

This really spoke to me. How often do we assume that everyone sees things our way? After all, our way is logical. It is rational. It is natural and right. And if everyone we talk to agrees with us, that only reinforces our delusions. Then when someone doesn’t do what we think they should – BOOM.

The next time someone seems to be ignoring you or doesn’t give the answer you want, take a deep breath. Ask God to open your ears and heart. Maybe just maybe, you are talking past each other and none of us meer mortals has the complete picture.

As if we were submerged in a big, old can.

–SueBE

Squeaky the cat sleeping peacefully on a forest-green, chocolate-brown and cream-colored blanket I knitted.

The clock in my kitchen stopped working at exactly 6:35 on a day many years ago. Removing it is one of the things on my to-do list, but because its cord is incorporated into the trim, I’d have to hire a contractor to punch out part of the wall to take it down. 

So there the clock sits, not working, but also, not going away. 

Isn’t it a lot like the problems in our lives? 

Every day seems like a dance in which you step back and forth, trying to strike a balance between what you should be doing and what you could be doing.

What if life stopped at 6:35 like a train pulling into Splendor Station and let you out to toddle around? Would you be able to savor life if you literally had all the time and resources in the world? 

Many days, I find myself saying, I’ll just plow through my to-do list and be “in the moment” later. 

Tomorrow, I’ll look at the autumn leaves wafting onto the ground in the backyard. Those two bluebird pals sky-diving from the fence to the feeder. Wait, there’s a deer in the backyard. Here comes his friend, bounding playfully. Now they’re running back and forth. Are they racing?

The cat bumps against my leg and slow blinks at me. 

“I’ll be right there, Squeaks,” I tell him. But I’m already there. Aren’t I? We’re here. At home. Where the heart is. 

Let’s not wait until time runs out before realizing it’s not about getting “there” before everyone else. Or acquiring things so you’ll have some way to measure your accomplishments. God’s metrics are simpler: be yourself. Be where you are. Be grateful for your blessings. Be centered in your soul. Breathe. Be.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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