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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.

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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!

Today, Holy Thursday, begins the Triduum, the three days that recollect and celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Most of us know this story well. We’ve pondered that journey. But how often do we think about the people who walked the path with Jesus?

Simon of Cyrene was picked out of the crowd to help Jesus carry the cross. How and why was he chosen? Well, we know he was from Africa. He might have been a person of color. Or the Roman guards simply noticed he wasn’t Jewish — he was “other.” Or he might have expressed sympathy for Christ. Whatever the reason, he is an outsider, someone from the fringes — the type of person Jesus favored in life.

The women of Jerusalem wept for Jesus and were comforted by him. Women weren’t exactly valued commodities in Jesus’ day. They were mostly seen as possessions, with no voice or agency of their own. Yet Jesus turns to women again and again in his life and along the road to his death — he listens to them. He values them. He speaks to them. Again, Jesus chooses the outsider.

Veronica wipes Jesus’ face. Again, a woman does the unthinkable, and Jesus rewards her with kindness.

The penitent thief (sometimes called Dismas) is crucified next to Jesus. What do we know about him? People were crucified for all sorts of crimes in Jesus’ day, but to be crucified for mere petty theft would have been a long shot, unless the thief was from the lower classes, or worse, a slave. Or the theft was far from petty — it was violent and extreme. There is some conjecture that the “thieves” were more like terrorists. Once again, it someone from the fringes, someone most unlikely, who responds to Christ’s call. In radically changing his heart, Dismas is promised paradise.

Women. Foreigners. Criminals. These are the people who walked the way of the cross with Jesus. Not his apostles. Not religious leaders. It was the most unlikely of people who shared the journey.

People are always amazed when I tell them that SueBE, Ruth and I have never met in person. Yet in my dark nights of the soul, they consistently walk with me. This Easter, take some time to ponder who walks with you. You just might be surprised.

I need to organize, like Norma Rae. That’s just a saying I made up, and I say it to myself as I attempt to sort through closets and drawers, vainly looking for:

  • The spatula with the melted handle that got too close to the flame on the stove
  • The meat tenderizer/hammer-looking-thingie I’m going to repurpose into an ice cracker
  • A copy of that screenplay I wrote about Amazon warrior women in space, submitted cheekily to Amazon via their Storywriter submission tool two years ago that they rejected instantly (uploaded – 11 AM, “declined” – 12 PM)
  • An energy booster like you see in video games to beat the late afternoon drowsies
  • Another hour of daylight
  • That other sock

Yep, I really need to organize. Heck, I need a union! A union of one. A one-ion, if you will. I really need to talk to whoever’s in charge of getting these closets in order, because they’ve got some explaining to do! Who’s in charge here? Bring ‘em out. Huh? Oh. That would be me.

Like so many people, I’m fascinated by the existence of someone such as Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing guru who suggests discarding all items in your home that don’t “spark joy.” I do think she’s on to something, but then how do you flip a pancake? My spatula (referenced above, semi-melted) doesn’t spark joy. It’s merely functional.

Now, when it comes to clearing out a memory of past pain from our soul’s storage, the only way to eliminate it is to remind yourself you did the best you could at the time. Remember all you’ve got to be thankful for nowadays. This might be the key to optimal mental health. De-clutter the space in your soul and make room for the better things coming your way.

At 3 AM, I woke up suddenly, and these words popped into my head:

Major drama in one minute.

Within a minute, a massive clap of thunder shook the house. Lightning flashed and crackled. Torrential rain flowed like a river from the sky. It was as if a switch was flipped. Peaceful. Click. Tumultuous. It turns out to have been a micro-burst, a powerful storm that knocked down trees.

It was the kind of sudden loud surprise that makes you curse, even if you really don’t curse. What the -! Holy -!

And in that surprised, scared, angry space, I actually had this thought: Well, if you can warn me it’s coming, Lord, why can’t you just make it not happen in the first place?

Bad things happen to people. It could be the loss of a loved one. A betrayal by a spouse. I’m not sure what the net benefit will be as you go through it, but going forward, it builds your resilience muscles. It gives you experience to make informed choices in the future. It will almost certainly deepen your reserves of compassion, now that you know from the inside of the tunnel how scarce light can be till you pass through it.

It’s not that unexpected, unwelcome things aren’t going to pop up like a sudden storm. They are. Who knows why. All I can assume is that God’s got his reasons. But you are going to get through them. Sometimes you’ve just got to hold on until morning.

Rough chop can have various meanings, depending on who’s saying it.

A French chef saying, “You’ll just want to do a rough chop of your vegetables for this stew” is one thing. If the pilot says on the overhead speaker, “We’re in for some rough chop ahead”, that’s a whole different story.

Tension isn’t always a bad thing. It’s necessary if you’re playing a guitar. Or knitting.

And pressure isn’t always a negative thing. In the shower, with shampoo in your hair, you want strong water pressure. But when it comes to the human psyche, it’s a whole different story.

Did you ever wonder about those friends of yours that you only see once in a blue moon? Doesn’t it seem like they’ve fallen off the face of the Earth? It could be that they need to re-charge their batteries after reaching a threshold of sorts. It’s probably not you. It’s the whole human circus of sights, sounds, smells. Personalities. Interactions. Micro-aggressions. Traffic jams.

I know for a fact that I ghost people, even people I love. My psyche says it’s time to hibernate. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means some sort of relief valve has tripped, and for the sanctity of my soul, for the sanity of my mind, I have to decompress. De-escalate. Disconnect. Even from dear friends. It releases the internal build-up of steam so I don’t reach the point of melt down.

You wouldn’t say to a bear, Where have you been? You’ve been a no-show all winter! That’s what she has to do to survive.

What if, just for today, we showed up for the ones who never show up? We’ve got your back till you get back. Once you know the facts behind the facade, it’s a whole different story.

Have you ever had a dream so vivid that you felt as if it was a message from the universe? It happened to me yesterday at 5 AM, so I bolted out of bed to write it down.

A lovely voice was singing to the tune of Al Green’s “So Tired of Being Alone” with different lyrics.

She sang:

When you’re out of here

When you can’t go on

When you feel like giving up wherever you go

And it bothered me. My first thought was to worry that my son might be feeling this way, so before he left for work yesterday, I told him about the dream and asked him if he was feeling like that. He said he wasn’t. I said, “I’m aware that I don’t always leave open avenues for our actually communicating. Often, I come at you with tasks or concerns instead of listening.” I asked the second question. “Do you want to talk about anything going on in your life right now?” He really listened to what I said. He told me he knew he could talk to me, and that he was okay.

Who was this message for?

In that patented Nicely-Noodgy way I have, I’m now in the process of cycling through my list of loved ones and contacting them. You okay? Had this dream. Want to make sure you’re feeling copasetic.

So when you ask the people in your life, “Are you okay?” and they say, “I’m fine,” ask the second question. “How are doing, really?”

Check on your loved ones.

Don’t tune out.

Check in with your soul.

Don’t check out.

We’d love it if you stuck around. We’ll stick by you. Let’s make it better, together.

P.S. If you need to talk, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 800-273-TALK (8255).

We lost our boy. Jaspurr was nineteen — that’s a long time to know a person, much less a cat (which is what Jassy was). His name (pronounced Jasper) stemmed from his loud and enthusiastic motor. He was a lover, a cuddler, a lap kitty. He was, as our dear pet sitter described him (and like Frankie whom I wrote about last week), the matriarch of the family: It was because of Jaspurr’s loving instincts that we were able to have eleven cats in our home at one time. He took care of everybody. Now he is gone, along with the rest of his adopted kin. He was, as my mother would say, the last of the Mohicans.

Sometimes terrible doubts grasp me: What if there is no heaven? It’s not fear for myself that motivates me — the idea of oblivion is terrifying, of course, but I don’t mind so much for myself as for Jaspurr and our other lost pets. Surely there must be a forever place for him? He did nothing but love with his whole heart every day of his life.

I find myself arguing transitive qualities, like a proof in geometry: If I love Jaspurr and God loves me, then…. But it’s useless trying to wrap my brain around it. Jaspurr was good, and if good survives beyond this life, then surely he does, too.

There is only one way to deal with this grief and it is to walk through it. I have to imagine Jaspurr in paradise, a paradise he understands, filled with dishes of cereal milk and all his friends. Here’s a haiku to celebrate:

A pause in heaven —
gentle tiger-striped rumblings —
a cat has come home.

Plantie wearing her Crop Circle.

When I couldn’t knit using needles anymore due to visual issues, I decided to give the round loom a shot. That’s basically a plastic circle with pegs on it. You wrap the yarn around the pegs to knit, and there’s a tiny slot on each peg so that if you can’t see it that well, at least you can feel it with your knitting tool.

So I was knitting what I thought was a headband, but when I put it on my head, it flopped right off. Oh. I guess I was supposed to incorporate some kind of elastic element to keep it in place. I tossed it onto the table next to my plant. Her name is Plantie. Yes. See, I’m a writer. Good wit woids, as we say in Jersey. I wanted to name her Petunia, but that’s an actual name of a flower already, and she’s… I don’t know. Some other kind of green grow-y thing.

The vet’s office had sent Plantie to me when my KitKat passed away. I thought it was a very kind gesture, but I never could keep a plant alive. Still, I welcomed her, watered her, and tell Plantie every day she looks lovely and healthy. Give her a shpritz with the mister. (This may be risque for a prayer blog, but…why does that phrase sound obscene to me?😏)

One day I put Plantie in the center of the Unrealized Headband I’d knitted. Huh. That looks pretty decent, actually. Why, my word! That’s not a headband after all. It’s a tiny round knit thingie to adorn my plant’s basket. Let’s call it a Crop Circle! This could be a thing!

Every bit of your creativity has a purpose. Let it speak to you and find its own rightful place in the world.

Speaking of bare minimums (as a recap, here’s a link to my last wee postie), I remember the time I went to a franchise donut shop and experienced a real-life example. I’m not naming names here, but it rhymes with Flunkin Flonuts.

When I got my order, the employee handed me a small, flat piece of cardboard with my coffee. I asked her what it was.

“It goes on your to-go cup.”

“What for?” I asked.

“In case the cup is too hot,” she replied.

Oh. Shouldn’t it be on the cup already? Cuz now I’m holding it. You know what? It is too hot. Really does need a sleeve.

I wondered why they would do it this way. It’s happened every time since, and that was a few years ago, so I have to assume it’s a company policy.

Let me see. They were sued because the coffee was too hot. Instead of ordering the manufacturer to make new cups that were thicker (and would cost money), they ordered sleeves that could slide onto their already existing cups.

Rather than making it policy for employees to put the sleeve on the cup (which would take three extra seconds and theoretically cost the company profits), they decided to do the barest minimum possible.

Here’s your to-go cup filled with scalding coffee. We know it’s too hot for your hands to hold. So here. Take the Java (nay, let’s call it “Lava”) in one hand (we’ll call that your expendable hand, so if you’re right-handed, use your left), the sleeve in the other. And here’s a coupon. 10% discount for your visit later today to the Medi-Merge.

Here’s my point. Isn’t it better to raise the bar just slightly than to avoid improving a situation? Food for thought on a Sunday afternoon.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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