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One morning, I tried a sample of skin cream my dermatologist had given me, and, as soon as I slathered it on, my skin began to burn. Next came the intense itching, and finally, an outbreak of acne. 

I called the dermatologist’s office, and told the on-call doctor I was having an allergic reaction to the sample. He said, “It’s probably not an allergic reaction. Everyone who starts with this cream has some mild irritation.” He proceeded to tell me not to worry and to start using the cream again a few days later.

I thanked him, hung up, and set about doing the things I knew would alleviate the pain: take Benadryl, put an ice pack on my cheeks, and drink lots of water. Far be it from me to correct a doctor, but his advice was unhelpful, so I didn’t heed it.

The next day, as my skin was peeling off my face in patches as if I’d been severely sunburned, I thought, What was the disconnect here? Was it just that doctors don’t believe patients? Men don’t believe women? The younger generation doesn’t believe older people?

It reminded me of the time I’d hired an animal control company to capture a groundhog. The young man arrived to set up what he called an “inescapable” trap, and, each time he’d set it up, he’d catch the groundhog, then lose it again. 

I called the owner of the company and told him the groundhog had escaped four times. “Impossible,” he said. “That trap is iron-clad. No way any animal can get out of it.” Far be it from me to tell a business owner he’s off-base, but I had video of the groundhog breezing out of the metal trap like a teeny Houdini.

I went back out to the yard and said to the young man, “The owner says the trap is impossible for a groundhog to escape from. Why does this keep happening?” 

The young man said, “Well, I’ve done this job for a number of years, and set this trap a number of times, and this is really hard to explain.”

At that moment, it occurred to me: Zero is a number. He’s done this job for zero years. He’s had zero training. And he captured zero groundhogs that day. What a life lesson this was for me!

When it comes to what’s happening in your life, you know the deal. 

When somebody tells you that your experience didn’t happen? They’re denying your reality. They can talk all day long, but if you aren’t getting what you need out of the situation, you’ve got a right — even an obligation — to show them the door. Wish them well on their journey…and may it be far away from you. What was it the Bible says about not being a clanging cymbal?  We don’t need noise without substance.  We need those who see and hear us.

Alt-text: This is Squeaky, my mackerel tabby with tiger stripes, sitting on my laptop as I try to participate in a Zoom meeting. He is sitting on the keyboard to keep warm, but also to discourage me from doing anything other than patting and playing with him. The laptop is on a dark brown and greyish-silver table and is next to my blue iPad. In the background, there is a peach-colored wall and two square, white windows. There is a black metal floor lamp with a white shade nearby. In the windows, there is a reflection of the trees in the backyard that is striated by the light coming through the bamboo blinds.

This morning, my cat, Squeaky, was tossing around his toys, and when one of them rolled under the couch, he looked at me with those piercing “guy-liner” eyes expectantly. “Can you get that ball for me, O Servant? Sometime today, please,” he seemed to say. Even silent, he’s pushy, but that’s part of his charm.

So I felt around under the couch and found the ball, but it was covered with dust. I picked off the schmutz, and, without realizing, touched my face. Uh-oh. I’m allergic to dust. Earlier this year, I got a skin infection from scratching my face after I’d dusted. Not again! I ran to the sink to wash the dust off my face.

Dust off my face. Huh. Isn’t that what we’ve all had to do recently as we get semi-sorta back into IRL (in real life) meetings using Zoom? If you’re going to be in a Zoom meeting on camera, you’re going to have to take your face out of storage and dust it off. 

Being on video means we’ve got to remember to do laundry the night before so we’ve got clean “work clothes.” In the morning, we’ve got to shower so we don’t show up with “Bedhead” hair on camera. 

As we get back into the swing of things, let’s all remember to dust off another thing we’ve collectively put on the shelf: kindness. 

It takes a lot of energy to deal with everything being thrown at us. As we all dust off our public faces, and remember how to conduct ourselves in public spaces, tensions flare. So if someone comes at you today in a bad mood, try not to respond in kind. Show grace and conduct yourself with dignity. You might just be the metronome of mercy that sets the tone for those around you. 

Picture of my tiny basement window, with a yo-yo next to it for scale. It is rectangular in shape, with two sliding sections. The basement is sparsely finished, and there is a pole lamp to the right of the window.

As I exercised in my basement the other day, I wandered over to the tiny window near my stationary bike and checked to see if it was locked.

Strangely, it wasn’t. Huh. That’s unsettling. I’ve lived in this home for 26 years and can’t ever remember checking that window to ensure that it was locked.

I stood there for a moment in disbelief. That’s a safety risk! Granted, you’d have to be downright Lilliputian to squeeze through that window, but I felt it was my duty to make myself worry retroactively. An unlocked (albeit diminutive) window for all these years! That’s very troubling! 

For some reason, I’ve always felt that part of my job in life is to worry. I should’ve been on the ball about this! I considered standing there in the basement and worrying retroactively. But for how long? For the equivalent of 26 years? Where’s that blasted “panic” button when you need it?!?

Deep breaths! Okay.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” a wise sage once wrote. Every problem is a project in disguise. My worry about that tiny opening that only a leprechaun could fit through was really a window of opportunity. A learning experience, taught by the Great Teacher.

It’s not my job to stress over problems I didn’t know existed. My job is to do my best in this moment, grateful for the grace that has kept us covered through the years.

“Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,” Proverbs 12:25 NASB.

Here’s the good word: whatever is too heavy a burden to bear is not yours to carry. Hand it off to God and bask in the blessings of each new day.

Picture of a cup of brown coffee in a small, white, ridged mug, and a pink, puffy pastry on a dainty, flowered plate next to an open book.

Thank you for meeting me where I am, even when I forget to be present. 

As I lumber up, into the day, I feel as if I need to plow through a massive to-do list to earn my keep in the world. 

And, inevitably, every day, it’s the same old thing. Too much to do. Not enough (insert one: time, money, resources, etc.). Crisis du jour appears. 

But today, I received a reminder that every good and perfect gift comes from above. Somehow, even when I feel I don’t have everything I need, “enough” always seems to find me.

Every dollar that comes to me was routed through the Bank of Goodwill/God’s Will. Every time I see a number on my phone that makes me exclaim, ”Well, hello there, dear heart!” — that’s a bonus. 

And when I’m too focused on challenges, I flip the script in my head. There’s a pile of innovative solutions (neé “problems”), and a folder filled with “unpaid bills” that’s actually a map/manual of finding a way. 

Looking back, when I had too much, I used it all up; still, I wasn’t satisfied. Now that I have just what I need, I appreciate it like nobody’s business. 

Thank You for giving me the good sense to be grateful for what I used to take for granted, like the heat in this home. Also, the warmth in this home. A cat who sits next to me as I knit, fascinated by the ball of yarn. Family and friends who check in with me “for no reason” when I just happen to be feeling blue. Food on the table. Bear claws from the bakery. Coffee perking. A tiny pitcher with real cream for that cup of Joe.

Sometimes you just need to look at your life in the clear light of day to see how blessed you really are.

green ceramic mug beside book
Sepia-toned picture of an open Bible next to a coffee mug on a wooden bench. It is situated next to a peaceful body of water that is shimmering in the sunlight.

So I was wondering aloud what the latest ache on my body meant…arthritis? A fissure in a bone? Some kind of new mystery malady that hasn’t yet been discovered and will have to be named after me?!? It could be anything! 

Luckily, I was with my physical therapist, who’s got a good head on her shoulders and her feet firmly planted on the ground. (Let’s explore those phrases for a moment. Who has a bad head on their shoulders and is levitating? I’d like to meet them. Hm. Or maybe I wouldn’t!) 

Anyway, she said, “Always start with the simplest thing first.” So it turns out that I slept funny. Another phrase to explore. Since I consider myself an undiscovered talent in the world of comedy, ladies and germs, I always sleep funny! Ba dum bum. Is this thing on? I’m here all week!

I’ve come to realize that experiencing trauma as a child can imbue your worldview so that you end up seeing catastrophes in every minor event in your life. How’s that for an abrupt change from a light-hearted blog post to an in-depth exploration of the psyche? But so much of life is a combination of light and dark. Joy and pain. 

Somehow, the muscles you tone while lifting heavy burdens are the same ones that help you hold onto what brings you joy. You come to appreciate the people who light you up when they walk into a room. You realize that small comforts (your cat, old movies, fresh-baked muffins) are a big deal. You learn that if you don’t loosen your grip on the injustices you endured, your hands won’t be open to reach for blessings that want to find you.

You have to clench it to carry it. What if just for today, you loosen your grip on it and leave it in Higher Hands? When the past crosses your mind today, just say this: “That was then.” Today, all is well.

white house under maple trees
Picture of a white house with forest-green and red trim, with a tree in front on the right side, and a white picket fence. There are autumn leaves of gold strewn on the ground.

If home is where the heart is, why do we spend so much time away from home? Most people are at work all day so they can make money to feather their nests. And then they’re never there!

Even with all that effort, they can end up feeling at loose ends, as if they still haven’t “arrived” yet — even when they’re home.

So I wonder: is there some kind of metaphysical map somewhere that tells us how to get “there” — wherever “there” is?

What if you could order “the good life” online?

e-Bay’s “You Complete Me” Package:

  • Neat and tidy house in the suburbs
  • White picket fence
  • Perfectly-coiffed spouse
  • 2.5 semi-well-behaved children 
  • Fluffy the dog, optional

“Best You Yet” Medical Makeover:

  • Liposuction is first, then we’ll strategically remove internal organs you’re not using (appendix, a rib or two, spleen). 
  • Next, that portion of your brain you never really put to good use will be trimmed. You know, that part with “logic” and “reason” in it.😉 
  • Act now and we’ll throw in a free set of Ginsu knives!

But the truth is “the good life” is closer than you think. 

My friend, Tina, said to me, “Enjoy this day. It’s the only one we have.” And she was right as rain! The past is a ghost and the future is a fantasy. So what should we do on this only day we have? This one right here, that the Lord has made.

Well, the Biblical answer is “Rejoice and be glad in it.” 

What if that was the key to life? Here’s a hint: it is!

No matter what’s piled up in front of you, just remember Who’s behind you. God’s got your back, so keep looking ahead. Travel at Godspeed and you’ll arrive “there” right on time.

two white and yellow ceramic mugs
Picture of a yellow mug with the words, “So Very Blessed” on it, along with holiday decorations, including a small orange gourd and autumn flowers.

Looking out the window on this beautiful fall morning, I saw that the bluebirds (Indigo Montoya and Azure Likeit) were eating the food I’d put out for the stray cat (Vanessa Vavoom, who’s got a luxurious orange and white, flowing mane). 

At the same time, the squirrels (Steve & Shirley Squirrely) were stealing the seeds I’d put out for the birds.

No matter how you plan, life happens the way the leaves fall. The wind carries them off and they land on new real estate, far from where they started.  Everything changes and that’s the way it’s meant to be.

This is what I was thinking recently, when there were so many things to get done and nothing was going as intended. I wished I could get it all under control.

But wait: that’s God’s job. There’s no way I can get my arms around the world and suspend it in space. Nor can I go back in time and change seminal moments so that I wasn’t deeply affected, even to this day.

But I can be blessed, right where I am. Sit on the couch next to the cat as he basks in his own blessings: a nice perch by the window to monitor the wildlife that dares to populate his yard. Catnip toy to gnaw on. Soft blanket to curl up in. A cool breeze on an autumn day with Mom nearby, working away on her computer. Squeaky has got it good! And, you know what? So do I.

“Good” is being content with where I am right now, while still trying to improve whatever needs fixing.

“Better” is when I trust that God has got my back, no matter how long the road ahead may seem.

“Blessed” is my birthright. The state of being in which I know all is well, no matter what is going on around me or inside me.

All in all, life is good, but it could be better. And it will be, as long as I focus on my blessings and leave the rest in God’s hands.

body of water during golden hour
Picture of an orange, yellow and purple-streaked sky at sunrise over low-lying mountains and a slightly-rippled ocean.

A tornado spawned by Hurricane Ida hit us here in central Jersey last week, leaving destruction in its wake. We’d received a jarring emergency alert that said, “Take Shelter Now!” at 7:30 PM on Wednesday, so my son, Coleman, and my feline-overlord, Squeaky, joined me in the basement. We stayed there until the alert expired at 8:15 PM and we all went back upstairs. 

Thinking the worst was over, I grabbed my laundry and headed back down to the basement. Halfway down the stairs, I stopped. 

Just like that, the entire basement had flooded. Six inches of water? In fifteen minutes? 

So many things crossed my mind as I dealt with this crisis.

Why is everything going wrong all at once?

It’s not. It’s just another natural phenomenon. No need to take the weather personally.

We’ve been in this situation before. 

What you learn from one major drama makes you better prepared for the next one.

Wouldn’t it be better if I didn’t always have to soldier on through so many challenges alone?

Not really. It’s better to look back on your life and give yourself credit for dealing with challenges and learning to be self-sufficient.

How in the world do Lori and SueBE deal with all the tornadoes in their area?  

They get through it by heeding tornado warnings, getting to shelter with their families, and praying their way through the storm. And through life, for that matter.

So when the storms of life head in your direction, take one thing at a time. Put your hard-earned knowledge to good use. Flex your resilience muscles. Lean on friends for support. Call on God to get you through. Before you know it, the stormy night will pass and dawn will come, bright and clear as day.

Picture of a chocolate layer cake drizzled with ganache glaze and decorated with buttercream rosettes.

Last week, I celebrated my birthday, and started to think about things I’ve yet to accomplish. I realized that a life well-lived is one that’s in a steady state of grace. 

The contentment that comes from being shored up by grace doesn’t fall on a date on the calendar. It’s not measured by a number on the scale or the dollar amount in your bank account.  

The good life is the sense that you can count on what I call “mundane miracles:” a warm blanket to curl up in. A comfortable cardigan. A pair of sneakers that are broken in perfectly.  

My greatest “creature comfort” is a sweet, tiger-striped cat named Squeaky who trills, chirps and meows his way through the day. He knows when I need a gracious pick-me-up, and he’ll come over and sit near me, nudging my knees playfully.

I’m also truly blessed to have a son who’s considerate. Last week, when he ordered take-out and realized they’d forgotten something in the order he knows I was looking forward to, he looked genuinely annoyed. “Aw man! They forgot the cole slaw!” It was such a small thing, but these tiny grace notes accrue until you realize how blessed you truly are.

All of these things remind me that grace is a steady stream of positivity, unseen but on-scene at all times. Could be that this is God’s way of saying, “I’m here. All’s well. I’ve got you.”

It’s comforting to know, too, that my sisters of the soul, Lori and SueBE, keep me covered in prayer and send lo(a)ve in my direction constantly. I swear, there are moments during the day when I just KNOW one or both of them is thinking of me. 

So, feel free to wish me a Happy Birthday, but as I sit here basking in blessings, gifted with grace, most of the time, I’ve got a Happy Everyday. And I wish the same to you.

This is a picture of my mackerel-tabby, Squeaky, sitting on a cabinet in my bedroom, poking his nose through the blinds to wake me up.

When my cat wants me to wake up at the crack of dawn and I’m just not being cooperative, he clambers up onto the cabinet by the window and noisily pokes his nose through the blinds.

He’s sending a message, loud and clear: Is there food in my bowl? If not, why not? Since you’re up now (FINALLY!), are you going to play yarn-toss with me now? Or what?

People tend to do the same thing, but in a different way. They’ll come up with ways to rattle your blinds so you pay attention to them. Or it could be that they’re so involved in their own lives, they don’t realize they’re impinging on yours.

Take my neighbors, for example. Please! I jest, of course. They’re not bad. It’s just that they’ve got rambunctious youngsters who love to play on their backyard trampoline and they do so at full-volume. Today, their grandparents bought them a kiddie pool. Now they’re all screaming at the top of their lungs, splashing around, raising a ruckus and making it hard to concentrate.

But, if you think about it, my cat rattling the blinds to wake me up and my noisy neighbors are actually blessing accentuators. They point out the fact that I’ve got blessings in abundance. 

Normally, the neighborhood is peaceful. That’s why I notice the noise from my neighbors’ kids when it happens. It’s unusual.

Here is Squeaky sitting on the cabinet with the blinds now closed. The lighting from the window makes him look slightly blurry, like an animation.

Usually my cat is cuddly and loving. That’s why I notice when he’s doing something that seems obnoxious, like rattling the blinds. He doesn’t do it often. 

You may not even notice your blessings until something gets in the way of your basking in them.

Having patience with those around you when they get on your nerves will remind you how much you’ve got to be thankful for. 

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