Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sunshine and shadows. And scotch.

After seemingly endless overcast and rain, last Saturday shone bright with crisp Winter sunshine. A friend and I had made plans to meet for lunch and shopping. She treated me to lunch at the Daily Grind. There I met the owners who have become extended family for her and her husband. (Her husband is a photographer. He was in Prague, on a trip for the International Mission Board. He has a blog with pictures taken on the trip.) After lunch, we crossed the street to shop at Short Pump Town Center. The roads and parking areas were jammed with traffic... others, a lot of others, were out enjoying the sunshine with us.

Early Sunday afternoon brought frantic knocking at my door... a fellow resident, a friend, incoherent and in obvious distress. I finally understood that she had discovered my across-the-hall neighbor deceased. But she wasn't sure and wanted me to verify. I've never taken the pulse of a dead man before. I confirmed that he was past help. He had been gone for awhile. In the brief time my finger touched his wrist, I noted the coldness and stiffness of his body... truly "cold as marble." I called 911 and reported our discovery... no, there was no need for medical assistance... just the personnel who investigate the death of a person alone. And, although he as only 40' feet or so from the neighbors who live around him, the walls of his apartment and ours separated us...he was truly alone. His story is not mine to tell. I hope he is finally at peace.

I spoke with my oldest daughter later that evening. Responding to her query of what I had been up to, I told her about my enjoyment of a Saturday spent with a good friend and an afternoon spent confirming a death, comforting a grieving friend, and providing information to the officials who handle the aftermath of death. She called again on Monday to check on my physical health and emotional situation. I assured her that I was fine. She then said that while she and her 5-year-old daughter (my youngest granddaughter) had been out running errands, my granddaughter had been lobbying for a treat... candy... a pass through the drive-thru at McDonald's. She suggested they go home and make brownies. My granddaughter was all for this... but she wanted to make them the way her big sister did... from 'scotch.' I requested a dozen.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Serendipity still surprising and delighting me

A couple of weeks ago, I had a treatment appointment that was scheduled a little later in the morning than usual and I was resigned to driving the lanes of the parking area to find a spot. When I pulled into the lot, my space was waiting for me... the first one... right in front near the entrance! The only way I could have been closer to my doctor was to have parked inside in the hallway outside the office door.

Last Sunday, It started with the phone ringing at 2:56am. Calls in the night instantly awaken me, all cells in my body on the alert... what's wrong?... who's in trouble? Heart thumping in my chest, gasping for breath, I leaped from the bed, turned on the light, and hurried to answer. The caller ID said the call was from the Lobby. Just someone pushing buttons on the keypad, trying to get into the building! I don't let strangers in during the daytime... I certainly wasn't going to do it at this time of night. Fully awake now and, knowing I'd never be able to go back to sleep, I booted my computer and turned on the TV to PBS hoping to find something worth having running in the background while I surfed the Web. Lo and behold, a wonderful program, an Independent Lens offering titled Young@Heart, (which I have already watched at least four times) was on. I got to see the finale and the short animated film which follows. THEN... I saw that a program I had given up hope of ever catching again was about to to be shown and I had time to set my DVR to Record! I couldn't have been more delighted. The program, Between the Folds, is about folding paper... origami, if you will, taken to the nth degree. I had caught a portion of it weeks ago, searched for more show-times, but had given up hope. The reason I wanted to record it is that one of my grandsons has always been interested in folding paper, especially paper airplanes. All sizes. He made one of the smallest I had ever seen (just barely missed classification as a spitball). I had to have this to show him. Success! Can hardly wait for him to visit so I can let him watch it.

For the last couple of years, I've been training myself not to sweat the small stuff... to choose my battles. It takes so much of the stress out of life. Last Spring, I was driving and came to an intersection where I had no stop sign but the cross street did. The school bus on the cross street ran the stop sign. If I had been less alert and going a half-mile faster, I'd have been in the middle of the intersection and broadsided by the bus. My guardian angel was directing serendipity for me again.

When driving, I try not to get upset about traffic delays. I've had so many experiences where being a few feet further up the road would have put me in harm's way or I would have missed delightful chance encounters. Now days, I start anticipating the surprise that may be waiting for me... the one I would have missed if not for the delay. I used to get irritated at myself when, after finally getting out the door, I'd discover I had forgotten something again and had to go back... just at the moment the phone started ringing, heralding a call I needed not to have missed.

Life is grand. There can be delight even in the bad spots, if I slow down, take a deep breath, and await the grace that's coming my way. It's the small gifts that are usually the best, even if only because they are more frequently received than big ones.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Conquering a fear and waiting for Spring

I don't remember being afraid of an inanimate object. Sure, I feared a monster in the closet but I wasn't afraid of the closet door. I went through a season of keeping my feet from hanging over the edge of the mattress because there was something under my bed that would grab them at the first chance. That was more a fear of the space under my bed after dark. I had purchased a Multi-slicer for slicing and match-sticking vegetables and decided to use it for the first time a couple of days ago. I had heard and heeded, I thought, the warnings about the extreme sharpness of the blade. I used the guard to hold the potato and keep my fingers away from the danger. On the third pass, over the blade, something jammed and my finger hit the blade. Pain. Blood. More blood. Taking a blood thinner everyday didn't help. Finally staunched the flow, applied antiseptic and a bandage. I felt fear. I was afraid to touch the slicer, sure that it would get me again somehow. I didn't really think it would jump up and attack me if I got near it again, but I didn't go near it that day. What to do? Didn't want to throw it away and definitely didn't want to pass it along to attack someone else. Next day, I decided I was being silly, carefully washed it and replaced it in the box. I was not going to let this thing get the best of me, although I admit it will be awhile before I use it again. But I've been thinking... what if it wasn't the Slicer? What if it was the potato?

We've been having cold weather and I admit I'm ready for it to be over. Thank heaven it hasn't been as bad as they have endured in the northern states. But, I'm in my usual Post-Holiday funk... the lovely lights are no longer lit and the remaining decorations look tired and unappealing. I am so ready for Spring. The first day the temperature rises above 50 degrees, I'm going to open my windows and air out my apartment. The forecast says it may happen tomorrow! The air will be colder at my 7th floor level, but I don't care. Time to get some fresh pollution in here!

The snow is mostly gone from the Garden and elsewhere; just the remnants in shadowed areas and the huge piles of snow that were pushed aside to allow access to roads, parking and buildings. Winter is a good time to see all the things that are hard to see from a distance when the leaves are on the trees and bushes. Also the reason I enjoy driving in Winter... I can see the buildings, fields, lakes and streams that have been hidden from view during the green months.

It is already the middle of January! I'm struck again by the question of how the days can seem long and but the weeks pass so fast.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Finishing the old year and staring the new

Went to spend New Year's Eve with my oldest daughter and her family. The kids enjoyed staying up 'til midnight, eating snacks and then putting on hats and blowing on horns to greet the new year. It was easy to get the youngest to go to bed. The male teen retreated to his room (man cave) and probably stayed up using his computer. The 10-year-old wanted to stay up longer but didn't really fight for it.... just didn't want to admit being tired and sleepy. The sky was overcast so didn't get to see the Blue Moon. Lots of wind. Brutally cold for us, but grateful not to have the weather that people are struggling with farther north.

The rest of my children and their families joined us on the 2nd for a get-together. Had my three children and nine of my ten grandchildren there. The oldest was sick. We missed her. At some point, after we had started eating but before the gift swapping game, the adults noticed that it was eerily quiet in the next room... the one with all the kids. Peeking around the corner, we saw every one of them hunched over their personal electronics, stylus and thumbs flying over tiny screens and keypads. Not a sound from any of them. Must admit, we grownups enjoyed visiting during the quiet spell.

Knowing Santa would have taken care of their special wants, I had taken the easy way out and put money in cards for all the kids. Knew I had 'done good' when the first one to open the card shouted, "I got money!"

Looking forward to a wonderful year spending time with my family & friends and in the Garden.

Happy 2010 to all.