Category Archives: writing

Friendship Friday ~ Esther

I know what you do in your spare time. 

Esther’s knowing eyebrows move up and down rapidly. She says this each time I tell her, or she overhears, that I have eight children. She seems to know what everyone does in their spare time. When a portly man passes us on deck she looks to me and says, I know what HE does in HIS spare time.

Esther is 88 with bright eyes and a foggy mind. Attentive to her appearance, her thin white hair is updone with various clips and combs, topped with a black floppy bow. This gives the appearance of a crown which helps me to remember her name. Queen Esther. The black bow is a fixture of her look each time I cross paths with her.

She introduces herself as Esther the Pester, but I cannot bring myself to call her that as so many passengers do freely. Hey, Esther the Pester! To me she is just Esther.

She is the one who ends up with the heartiest portion of food at our plated dinner each evening. While my plate arrives with a small piece of fish and some steamed vegetables, Esther’s is piled high with pasta, topped with a chicken breast or two.

Oh my, I’ll never be able to eat all of this. Do you want some? This question is rhetorical, as Esther begins cutting into chicken and sliding pasta onto my plate. She comes from a time when it was a sin to waste so much food. I agree that it is wasteful, but how did I end up the starving child that Esther must feed?

I take the food onto my plate graciously, for along with the generous sharing of her food is the generous sharing of the wine she has brought on board. It is not a bad tradeoff. My glass is filled and refilled copiously.

Esther was a beauty in her day, I am told. I believe it. Her eyes still sparkle, and her smile is free. The deep wrinkles on her face give her character and don’t seem dour at all. She, or someone who loves her, is attentive to her appearance. She looks attractive and smart in her dress.

Each night the photostaff takes several pictures of our table. Esther looks lovely in every picture. She really does. This hints that she looked pretty good once upon a time.

I used to live in Hollywood at Hollywood Studios when I was younger. Several other girls who lived there became actresses in movies. I could have, too, but I wouldn’t cooperate. She says this with that up and down eyebrow movement of hers. It’s pretty clear that cooperating would have involved sleeping with someone somewhere along the line.

This conversation took place eight years before its time, back in 2009. The media had not yet exploded with Hollywood (and beyond) sexual harassment allegations. If hashtags were even a thing, they were not yet mainstream. I was just a young woman listening to an old one relate her life experience and a part of her story.

I assure Esther that I’m glad that she didn’t cooperate or we might not be sharing a table on this cruise ship. I have no other words to offer. Only presence. We sit.

If I get ice cream for dessert will you have some? What flavor should I choose?

Something in me senses that Esther is a Butter Pecan kind of girl, which is exactly what I request for her.

I am right!

My Real Valentine

From the first day
I saw your face
I hoped that we would be
More than friends
Acquaintances
I wanted you to see

That I found you special
Uniquely designed
And in your eyes
And in your smile
I saw that you were kind

You brought such joy
Into my life
Such laughter and such fun
And deep inside
I wanted you
To be the only one

That I would walk next to
To have and to hold
And I believed
With all my heart
Our love was strong and bold

But fragile was
The seed of love
We wanted it to grow
Impatient and impetuous
We simply did not know

That you cannot force love
Demand it be strong
And after many lonely years
We found where we went wrong

We’re standing now
Together here
We’re facing each new day
With boldness and integrity
We’re learning how to play

 It’s knowing what we’ve lost
That helps us be found
Our hearts are drawing close again
We’re coming back around.

Happy Valentine’s Day ’18 to the Love of My Life who has made me laugh and feel safe from day one. You are a gift, Steve McClay. Thank you for becoming more real with me through all the seasons, especially those winter ones. Something beautiful is growing from all of this compost. I just know it! Something beautiful already has. Our love.

This image created with Wikki Sticks was stuck to my car window by Steve in 1987. I saved it in my scrapbook for posterity.

***The header image is from a helium balloon that I deflated and saved to remember the playful love of my then boyfriend, now husband. Thank you for your steadfastness, Babe. You’ve always been the best Valentine.***

Friendship Friday ~ We Belong to Each Other

Last fall I sat in a hospital waiting room late in the day drinking a cup of black coffee from a vending machine. I had pressed the code for a cup of comforting hot chocolate, but out came black coffee, so black coffee it was. It tasted good because I was so tired.

I was waiting to see how my friend’s mother was faring after a traumatic accident on my street. When her text came through asking me to come, I went, and remained throughout the day until returning late.

We belong to each other. All of us.

Sitting alone in the waiting room of the trauma center, I plugged my earbuds in to play music while journaling. I wanted to disappear into my own world, oblivious to those around me.

An older woman wrapped in hospital blankets was wheeled out from the treatment area and left beside me. Alone. Unable to stay isolated in my bubble, I felt compelled to demonstrate presence as she dozed.

I unplugged.

A local man recognized her and walked up to say hello, startling her awake. He introduced himself as a friend of her son, and while she did not remember him, he knew her. She began to explain her plight, how she fell the day before while riding on public transit, because her scooter was not secure.

He asked if Ray knew she was here. I sensed that Ray was a mutual hospital connection who would know her and could help. He looked over at me and asked, Are you here with her?

We had never met before, but I was with her.

The man tried to call Ray’s number, but did not get an answer. I’ll keep trying. Maybe he is in a meeting. He turned to leave.

I looked at the woman and she at me. She began to talk. I listened. She had been there since 5:00 that evening. It was 7:30.

A text came through from my friend asking to get some food for her mom who would be discharged soon and had not eaten. I took the order and stood up to go. Turning to my new friend, I asked if I could get her food, as well. She said yes.

I returned with her requested ham sandwich and Dr. Pepper as a nurse was preparing to take her back to receive further care. I was grateful for the handled bag I had taken at checkout as I hung it on the arm of her wheelchair.

She said, Thank you. I answered, Of course. Enjoy! We smiled knowing goodbyes having shared the sacred space of a hospital waiting room together. I took food back to the tiny trauma room that housed my friend and her mom.

The hospital is an hour from my home. We may never meet again in this life. But for an hour in the ER, the woman in the wheelchair and I belonged to each other.

Just like we all do.

Friendship Friday ~ Facebook

Last fall found me wrestling the Facebook conundrum, once again. It remained on my mind throughout the season, as I made the adjustment from working full time to being back home.

On the one hand, I loved being able to connect quickly and instantly with so many past and present friends and acquaintances. I loved being able to pop into their worlds at will to see the latest news. I loved the number of hits and shares that my blog posts received when I cast them out into Facebook land.

On the other hand, I hated the quick and instant connection with so many past and present friends and acquaintances. I hated being able to pop into their worlds at will to see the latest news. I still loved the affirmation and hits and shares and likes, though.

I sat in ambivalence for several months, vacillating from focusing on the positives to considering deleting the account, often within minutes of each other, usually when in a place of high social media stress and emotion.

My grounding felt shallow and weak as I struggled with identity issues, while carrying on with daily tasks. Facebook became an escape from what was best, even though there was some good. My default was scrolling and peering through everyone’s cyber-windows and feeling all of the feelings for all of the people while absorbing all of the issues.

Something had to change.

I decided to be intentional about whatever choice I made, and in the end chose to disable my personal account and keep the blog page open. It offered a middle ground and opportunity to reset my personal self while still engaging my writing self.

At the end of two weeks I feel more space in my soul and less stress for all of the things beyond my control. I feel more real-life connection. I feel less awareness of the theoretical and more grounding in the practical.

There are things that I miss.

I miss the instant connection. I miss the reminders of where I was 3, 5, 7, 9 years ago. I miss the cute pictures. I miss the events and invitations (sometimes) and tagging. I miss knowing when a weather apocalypse could be coming (actually, no I don’t). I miss my groups. I miss being in the loop about the things that could actually matter.

To be honest, I have received a screen shot or two from an adult child who knows I would appreciate what pops up in her feed or might need a heads-up regarding an impending school delay or possible snow day. My husband sometimes shares things with me from his feed. I am not guaranteed to see things, though.

What about you, Dear Readers? How do you engage social media and all that goes with it? What am I missing while on my hiatus? I would love to hear your perspective! Thank you for stopping by my cyber-space today, however you managed to find me.

Staying Connected

As 2017 winds down and I ponder changes on the horizon, one of the biggest is finding and working out a balance between virtual and real life connection. On the one hand, the blog’s link to social media offers a broad base of connection with readers. It gives opportunity for liking and sharing. On the other, it provides too many windows for me to look through, inviting much distraction.

Many times I have considered deactivating my personal Facebook account but then hesitated due to the prospect of losing that connection with readers. There is some tidying I plan to do in the new year, but I am not sure exactly how it will look. I am fairly confident it will involve rearranging social media.

That said, if you wish to stay in the blog loop and have not done so already, please consider signing up to receive email notifications of new posts. Should I do some deleting and shifting and moving, I would love to have you along for the ride. I at least want to have given you fair warning.

This April will mark five years since the beginning. My blog, like other parts of my story, is evolving and finding its place in the world. I am looking at where it has been and where it is to see where it might be going.

I feel grateful for those of you who already faithfully read and encourage me to keep writing. I am grateful to those of you who like and follow the Facebook Page. From the beginning, I have wanted this to be a place where people choose to come and read and be met right where they are.

I am thankful for all of you who have done just that.

So as you read and engage and ponder your own changes coming into the new year, consider how you may want to stay connected, and know that I value each of you and what you bring to my cyber, and real, life.

Blessings, Friends!

Comfort and Joy

The house is thick with silence as I sit on my bed and think. This rare moment of comfort is brought to me by a son’s work party, another’s dinner invitation, a youth group gift exchange, a husband spending quality time out with the youngest, and animals whose bellies are full.

Comfort.

The pink candle glowed with the others as we ate chicken noodle soup and cream-cheese crackers sprinkled with mini pepperonis. A gift-box on the felt tree reminded of the gifts that we give and receive. It symbolized the greatest gift.

Those around the table joked of Santa and presents and the meaning of the colors pink and purple in those contexts. The TRUE meaning of Christmas. Wits were quick and laughter quicker and for some moments there was joy, deep and rich and full and secure. Brief. Fleeting.

Joy.

Hours have passed since I first sat down to write. The rare, thick, quiet comfort vanished within minutes by a knock at the door, the bark of a dog, the return of people. Activity resumed. Cookies appeared.

For an introvert who feels deep joy in silence, it is challenging to have constant engagement crashing the space. I love all of the people, the other introverts and extroverts who live in this house with me, and we all struggle. For some the exuberance is too much. For others the quiet is too much.

For me it is all too much.

Wherever we land on the socialization spectrum, there is too much, too many. I joke that each of us would have made a great only child. Yet here we are. Together. Trying to figure out life. Braving the season of joy. Feeding off of one another when the groove is right, crashing and burning into each other when we are off.

My room attracts everyone like a magnet. They gather around as I try to wrap up my rambling words into some sort of cohesive point on joy that seems to be slipping further and further from my thoughts. There’s a video to watch and a dog to hold and a younger sister annoying an older one. I know now that the feeling rising inside of me is a warning, and it is not of impending joy.

Using my voice to ask for what I need, I request a few more bits of quiet to wrap up this writing before tucking everyone in for the night. They graciously adjourn to the dining room, where I hear laughter that threatens to turn.

And I sit. Grateful for the gift of a place to ponder and feel what it means to experience comfort while waiting for the joy that is here.

Coffee Corner

Fresh Coffee

I hear the grinder in the kitchen whirling beans. Rattling, Clanking. Pouring. Fresh coffee is set up by the one who loves me so well. This Wednesday morning is Thanksgiving Eve, and instead of being dressed in the kitchen doing a final slapping of peanut butter on bread or filling a thermos with Spaghettios, I am sitting in bed, Bible and journals scattered.

Usually by this time the house is in full buzz with last-minute running around and waking of sleepers whose errant alarm clocks failed to alarm. Today my scholars are home beginning their holiday rest, so I rest a little longer, too, savoring the blue glow of the approaching sunrise outside my bedroom window. I write a bit more and try to silence a mind already racing ahead to the rest of the day.

Fresh coffee means love and kindness from the one who knew I would be sleeping in, and its meaning is not lost to me.

I remember drinking coffee in Florida, its taste a comfort as I got “toddies” with my sister from Barnies Coffee and Tea Company before walking around Coastland Center in Naples. It offered respite from the work week, transition to shopping for a new outfit or item.

Akin to Starbucks with a signature plaid green trademark, coffee at  Barnies symbolized rest and hope. I carried the ritual with me to Pensacola and the rare opportunities I had to get off campus with money. Both transportation and finances were in short supply back then.

I began drinking coffee in earnest when I lived in Golden Gate, Florida. It helped fuel my early morning work hours and kept me going into an evening full of classes. Warm comfort in a mug adorned my desk, carrying me away to a time when things would be different. I am in that time today ~ or am I? Are things different? I wonder.

Coffee.

It is a ritual that Steve and I have shared since our PCC “coffee station” days. He would walk from our breakfast table each morning to fill our mugs. Handcrafted coffee beverages were not as popular thirty years ago as they are today. There was not a campus coffee knockoff of Starbucks ~ or Barnies Coffee and Tea Company. There was morning coffee with Steve in the Varsity Commons out of beige melamine cafeteria mugs.

Family legend holds that I drank coffee at two years of age out of tiny creamer cups. My mom would fill them for me while we visited with her friend, Sarojeni, an Indian woman whose name I could pronounce perfectly, according to folklore.

So I have always been about coffee, which is why I can sit and sip and close my eyes and let all of the feelings flood me like the water that would flood the grounds in the single-serve red French Press that I got as a teen when trying to find who I was.

I was coffee. Fresh.

Just like this day.

There’s Hope

There’s hope for the house on the corner,
The one with the tub in the yard,
The one that’s been rundown and empty,
That looks as if life has been hard.

For now the dark house on the corner
Has workers that come and that go.
It has a large bin in the side yard,
A place where old fixtures they throw.

Some doors and some windows stand open.
There’s light shining into the dark.
The house on the corner looks hopeful,
As if they’ve ignited a spark.

It’s brighter down there on the corner,
In spite of the shade of the tree.
The brick has been lightened and brightened
By whitewash applied expertly.

When I take a walk to the corner,
The dog trotting next to my feet,
The progress the old house is making,
Feels to me especially sweet.

For as long as I have been passing,
The house has stood empty and sad.
For a long time my heart has been pining
And struggling with being glad.

But to everything there’s a season
It may be a house or a heart
That needs quite a bit of reworking
To give it a fresh face and start.

It might take some scrubbing and scraping,
And things could look worse once begun.
A job taken on in excitement,
May suddenly not seem so fun.

Then one day the turmoil and trouble
Will be as a thing of the past,
That opened new space in the spirit
For changes to stick and to last.

The hope for the house on the corner
I’m holding for you and for me.
It’s never too late to get started
To grow into who we will be.

Lump Day

It is mid-week. Hump Day. In navigating my new normal there is still much I have to learn about pacing myself and having realistic expectations for what I can accomplish and what constitutes enough. Our themes follow us no matter where we go. Mine are here in my quiet house with me this morning.

It was a kind gift to wake with my alarm and read my Bible before starting the day. That led to a timely shower and the surprise of breakfast made for me instead of the reverse. Fed, clean, and clothed, I was able to take on the rest of the kitchen routine and pack lunches without being thrown by the unexpected surprises that usually occur between 7:00-7:20am.

Drop-off was smooth-sailing, and the dog-walk uneventful. The brilliant morning sunshine was a welcome lift to my sagging spirits. I recognized the kindness of a canceled plan which opened space for me to tackle an overdue task that has been hanging over my head. It moved to the top of today’s list.

Finishing my evolving morning ritual, I gathered supplies to the table to begin working on an art journaling project. It was fun to plan out and gather the words and images to use. I opened a new package of glue sticks and dug some scissors out of the drawer. Immediately I realized the blades were sticky and squeaky, but I decided to make do rather than extract myself from the table to my bedroom for the good scissors.

The ambient sound of scrapbooking!

A voice from the living-room couch piped up after I had been working for awhile. My son was seizing a few moments of his morning off to read a book he had received for his birthday. The silence of his reading was punctuated by the sounds of my tearing and cutting and gluing.

I even tried not to cut too loudly with these awful scissors!

I laughed. We both have sensitivity to certain sounds and pitches and noises. This caused more laughter and an invitation from him to take a break and watch an episode together in the living room. I accepted and hunkered down on the loveseat. Dewey trotted over and jumped right up, settling onto me for a nap.

Twenty minutes later, I looked at us and laughed, christening the day Lump Day, as we were lumping on couches and not accomplishing much. Then it was time to get moving. He has to work. I have to clean up the art journal mess and sort the rest of my time before picking up kids from school.

OR

I might just keep lumping.

Shhh! Don’t tell.

The original post was edited to include this video shared with me by my baby sis who now mothers her babies every day and knows about songs like this!

Welcome, October

I feel hopeful.

The air is crisp. The leaves are falling. The colors are vibrant.

A month into my new normal things are finally beginning to feel, well, more normal. A daily routine is evolving, lending itself to one that is weekly. I am learning my boundaries and limits through trial and error.

I am discovering more about myself in the quiet spaces and recognizing my tendency to fall down the path of least resistance, rather than lean into the hard. This results in me putting things on the back burner that really need focus and clarity. It is easier to escape into Netflix than to engage in reading and writing.

My good intentions will never happen unless I am intentional.

This month, intentionality looks like taking time daily to write. I hope to post these writings on the blog. We shall see what happens.

In moments of adversity, I tend to shut down and think, What’s the point?

I am so grateful for those who send words of encouragement my way, whether through Facebook Messenger, email, comment, or text. All methods are recognized and appreciated. They have helped me choose to continue engagement. To persist.

Here’s to a new month full of promise and possibilities. Welcome, October! I’m glad there’s you.