Plant Your Feet

I put up my hummingbird feeder and filled my other bird feeder this week, and visiting birds have given me many moments of joy and wonder. None cooperate when I try to take a photo, but I really don’t need a photo to remember the colors -blue, red,yellow. I’m kind of possessive: “These are my birds, they came to see me.” I’ve discovered I don’t need big splashy expensive experiences to feel joy and wonder. I’m not racing around looking for that “big”moment anymore. Doing less , slowing down and simplifying my life has meant more joy in my life, not less.  I see more because I am not looking forward all the time and  I try to stay where my feet are planted. Sometimes I end up taking a photo of my feet when I’m bumbling around trying to catch a photo of something else. I just realized that deliberately doing this would be a message to myself to stay rooted in time and place. This is also a good idea because I have an obscene number of shoes!

Where are my stocking  feet? I’m hanging out with my doggies. I love the way Molly rolls onto her back, begging me for belly rubs and her little paw reaches out to my hand. It’s so simple really, I want belly rubs and please give me more. She doesn’t use “reverse psychology” to get what she wants, and she doesn’t demand a belly rub. I do end up feeling guilty if I don’t rub her belly because I love her, and I want to give her what she wants. I’m not sure she understands me if I say “I cant do this now, I have to go.” But then again she never pouts either! Roscoe is a whole other story, but I love when his ears are perked up and his tail is going 90 miles an hour and his big brown eyes are looking at me. I love hanging out with my doggies, they are better company than some people I know.

When I have my “crummy”  sneakers on I’m usually  in my yard, mowing, weeding and planting. I get a great deal of satisfaction when I get my plants out of the cheap plastic pots they came in and get them in the ground and watered. I imagine how they will grow and fill in the areas I want filled in. There isn’t much joy in the act of weeding, but I love it when I see the pile of weeds I’ve pulled out and the now weed-free area. My me-powered mower whirls around and throws out cut grass. As I go around following my prior pass, I get to see and appreciate my progress. I haven’t climbed Mt. Everest (yet), but I finished mowing my yard.

If the photo of my feet shows a cast, a walking boot or some sort of a wrap or compression  bandage, then I am usually not too happy. I’m slowed down and staying where my feet are planted, but I feel like I’m in jail!.  If I stop fighting the physical limitation I can get to acceptance and even learn something. I learned to crochet when I had my broken foot and I also made such a dip in the recliner that it never recovered. When I’m sitting in the right chair I can see the birds at the feeder.  I think about the saying  by Nietzsche “He who a why to  live for can bear almost any how.”   I do have lots of “whys” to live for!

Just for fun I’m going to take a photo of my feet wearing each pair of shoes and boots I own. Don’t hold your breath!  It could be awhile….

Mothering

It is  ironic that Mother’s Day comes  a week after a leak from the Supreme Court of a draft decision to overturn Roe V Wade. This year I don’t want cards, chocolates or flowers on Mother’s Day. I don’t want a white, evangelical, Christian man to tell me what the Bible says.  I know what Jesus says. I want a woman’s right to abortion to be upheld. I want a pregnant 12 year-old girl who was raped, to not be forced to give birth. I want women to have a choice about what happens to our bodies. Giving birth does not make me or any woman a Mother. Mothering my son makes me a Mother.

“Those who take seriously the call of Jesus to love our neighbors must ask the Christians whose unyielding abortion obsession imbues our society with such division and rancor: How can you care so deeply about the unborn, yet show so little compassion and concern for the children of God who are already here?”

Excerpt From: Christians Against Christianity by Obery Hendricks Jr.

Thinks

Last Sunday we went to an excellent show,“Seussical”, at Mountain View High school in Loveland. As you can probably guess it was based on Dr. Seuss’s writing.  We couldn’t stop talking in rhymes after we left the show. What stuck with me was  “The thinks you can think”.    I know how powerful my thoughts are, and how they create my world, but this simple saying brought it home to me in a way I  can really understand and use. Lately, my problem is I can’t seem to put 2 “thinks” together to form a meaningful thought. I jump from thought to thought, and these fragments of thoughts don’t provide any clarity for me, or worse leave me anxious and unsettled. The “thinks” I can think..stink.

In my younger days I believed that my thoughts were always true, and my thoughts were lots more negative than they are now. I thought my way into lots of sad feelings and feelings of low self-esteem.  It took many years for me to begin to see that my “thinks” determined how I felt about something and how I made choices. It seems simple to me now, but it is not easy to remember this with my thinking cap on. Perception is what’s it’s all about. For example, when I was a kid I loved snow days, no school and all day to play, but as an adult I think about shoveling, slippery streets and cabin fever.  My childhood “thinks” and my adult “thinks” are ages apart, but I hope I still have some innocence left. I can choose to count my gratitudes or my troubles. What I focus on becomes stronger, so I need to use my “thinks” to help me feel better.

I discovered my Imagination and creativity once I left behind some of my negative thoughts. I could imagine how painting a piece of junk might become a treasure with some paint and restyling. I could imagine how to do a new crochet stitch in my head. This is creativity: the “thinks” that help me imagine what could be. Without imagination there is no creativity.  I have room to imagine positive things when I jettison negative thoughts. People sometimes make career choices by imaging how they would feel, for instance, as a doctor or teacher. If I cant imagine something, how will I allow myself to experience it? So “thinks”can create or negate. How powerful our thoughts are!

“We’re not paying you to think.”  The Management.  We all know what this means!  This is ass- backwards of course, we know problem solving is an invaluable skill. Too much thinking by employees can threaten the status quo and create fear in those who are invested in keeping things the same. For better or worse, changing my thinking changes everything.  I did have good ideas at work, but I was discouraged from sharing them. Now that I am retired, I can spend as much time as I want thinking about whatever I want.  My time and ‘thinks”are mine.

When I talk to myself in my head I watch my language. I realized that I was often telling myself I was “stupid”, which certainly didn’t promote positive self-esteem. Now I say “I did the best I could.’ or “That was silly.” Changing just this one “think” has helped me feel better about myself.   How many more “thinks” can I change to add more joy to my life? The number of possible “thinks” is infinite. Just think about that!

“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you.

Dr. Seuss 

War Games

The best known war board-game is  “Risk”, where players take turns and use strategy to attain “world domination and conquer all enemies.” The objective is to conquer all the territories of the world by eliminating opposing players.  Sounds like fun right? I have 5 tanks and 3 battleships, what do you have?  Of course, there are rules and no civilians  to bomb, murder or rape.

 The latest war game is the Ukrainian/Russian war. There are lots of daily discussions on the news channels about strategy, weapons and military equipment.  Where are the troops moving and what cities are under siege? As we sit in our safe homes we can imagine the moves being made and decide who won the war for the day. We need to warn you that what you are about to see is very disturbing…  we can be so removed from the suffering of our fellow human beings. We can do blue and yellow flags and sunflowers, but we can’t stop the carnage and genocide happening every day in Ukraine. We can’t even pretend we aren’t aware of what is happening.The Russians have made a good move—they have trapped Ukrainian soldiers and civilians sheltering in a steel plant in Mariupol,    Ukraine. They will not allow aid in or evacuation of the civilians. The Alamo in Ukraine.  Likely most of the soldiers and the civilians will die at the hands of the Russian soldiers, and the world will be outraged, but we will never forget and it will never happen again.  We were outraged at Columbine 23 years ago today (4/20), but we need to be reminded of this tragedy now lost in a sea of school shootings since then. We will forget, and it will happen again.

And then we have the “Culture” wars. My sister asks if humans are still evolving or are we now devolving? Devolve: degenerate, or deteriorate. We may be taller, bigger and stronger than our ancestors, but I think our emotional and intellectual reasoning is devolving. What do we experience in the emotional sphere? We can choose what to allow into our awareness, and we can always deny and lie about what we see and feel. I am a liberal who likes Disney characters, and a not insignificant number of ultra-conservative MAGAS  likely believe I am a pedophile who wants to run through kindergarten rooms yelling “Gay, trans, Gay.”, and spends an inordinate amount of time “grooming” myself i.e. brushing my teeth,  washing my face, and combing my hair. Is this even rational? It is the world according to Q!  Just throw out stink bombs and see who says they smell like roses or vice versa.  Are we losing our reasoning abilities and our thinking skills? Have we lost our minds and our humanity? We are delusional, living our lives on multiple battlefields—and we are losing. We can not allow hate to win.

I Win, You Lose

I say to my friend on the treadmill beside me,“Hey Im doing pretty good on the treadmill today, over 2 miles and  212 calories burned.” And then it happens!  Miss perfect young body gets on the treadmill next to me and cranks it up to highest incline, and some ungodly high mph number, and works on some sort of puzzle on her Kindle,  all without audibly panting as she sails along. I now feel deflated and decidedly less impressed with myself. The trap of comparison in action. I can do this,  but someone else can do it better, or their house or car is much nicer than mine; or the reverse, I am so much better than someone else at A,B and C, or my car is a lot nicer. Doesn’t really matter which way the comparison turns out, either way my experience is reduced to better than, or less than.  Comparison is a trap and a thief. Constant judgement steals the now. So why on earth is it so hard for me to let go of comparing myself to others?

We humans like to measure things. We start by asking our child “ How much does Mommy love you?” and we spread our hands wide and say “This much.”  We are taught more is better.  We “Keep up with the Joneses”, trying to prove that we are as good as other people by getting what they have and doing what they do, even when we can’t afford to.We cringe at the saying ‘He who has the most toys wins.”, because we know we believe this on some level. I ask myself “How am I doing?” or “How am I measuring up.” more often than I’d like to admit. The problem is I become an observer of my own life rather than living and experiencing my life. I’m afraid I won’t be successful if I stop comparing myself to others, and my safety and well being depend on knowing how others are doing. Lately I’m beginning to think the opposite may be true, and it is the comparison that keeps me from success, safety and well being. 

As I age I get to compare how much older or younger I am than someone else. If I were only measuring years, and not trying to define myself by my age, that would be one thing, but I slip into “younger is better” in a heartbeat if I don’t pay attention. We tell some people they don’t look their age and that’s seen as a positive, but what about those of us who look our age?  Does it matter? Perhaps it matters only in the world of on-line dating! Am I a winner or a loser? What if I just don’t care?

“Comparison is the thief of joy .” Theodore Roosevelt

“Don’t compare your life to others. There’s no comparison between the sun and the moon. They shine when it is their time.”

Yes

The answer to my question, ”Can you help?”, was always ”Yes” and I feel so blessed. Yes I received all the help I needed from family, friends, neighbors and nurses and doctors too. When I feel down cause healing is so slow, I just tell myself to pay attention and be grateful for all the goodness in my life.

There was soup of course, but nobody makes Chicken Tortilla soup like my neighbor Amanda. I got to ride in the passenger seat while wonderful people drove me to wherever I needed to go. My sister Ann spent the night after surgery with me and I felt safe and cared for. Crosswords were done and laughter shared. Susan came to visit and helped me laugh. Tyler did his best to be the best son in the world and he suceeded. My sisters sent care packages and cards, and lots of love across the miles. Friends checked in and wished me well.

My right hand has a name and it is Missey! She washed my hair, put my watch on, helped me get dressed and took me to all my appointments and asked all the questions I forgot to ask. I can’t list all the things she has done for me because I will forget something and feel bad I left it out. Most important of all she listened to my frustrations and whining. Thank you Missey.

Thank you just seems like not enough, but I am so grateful to all who answered ”Yes.” and helped me. And thanks to Roscoe and Molly who let themselves be walked by volunteers and were always ready to snuggle.

I Need Your Help

Can you help me ..open this, tie this, cut this, open the door, get my shirt on, wash my hair,  drive me, get my pain pills?? The last few weeks have been a big lesson in humility and acceptance as I had  surgery on my right hand and essentially became a left handed and clumsy woman. It hurt a lot more than I thought it would, and despite my vow to not use pain pills I soon realized this was not a good idea.  It was harder to do almost everything except sit and whine. I really thought I was prepared to “deal” with the surgery and the aftermath, but obviously I was not. It’s  4 weeks out from surgery and I am writing again. I’m typing mostly with just one hand, but I did drive myself to my coffee shop office today. I’m muddling thru.

Two things come to mind for me: This too shall pass. and, Pride comes before the fall. I’ve always hated the expression:  This too shall pass. because I thought it meant sooner or later, mostly later, this shit and pain will pass.  I have no control over this and am at the mercy of the universe.  Now I realize the saying is value neutral, everything good or bad will pass!  With each breath I take the “now” changes as I inhale and exhale . It’s the nature of time,  moving forward and  being spent. Simply, the human condition is temporary. Pain will pass and joy will pass and all humans will pass. I will be able to use my hand soon so it won’t always be this way. Another reminder to me to watch how I use “always” and “never”, and not to use them to awfulize , because this too shall pass.

The other thought that comes to mind for me is  “Pride comes before the fall.”, which suggests if a person is too arrogant, he or she will make a mistake or fail in a big way My arrogance, which says “I shouldn’t  have to experience pain.”and “I will handle my surgery better than any person ever has.” has led to a big fall. Let’s just say I got knocked on my ass, and my surgery and recovery has not been a flawless perfect experience. To me, the worse combination of personality characteristics in all of humanity is stupidity and arrogance. To be stupid or arrogant is bad enough, but to be stupid and arrogant is close to a fatal flaw. To the best of my ability I will admit what I do not know, and remember that being “right” pales in comparison to being kind.

I will feel different tomorrow and it could be good or bad, but it will not be so for eternity. I will have pain and I will have joy, and I am just one member of human kind.

Pride should never stand in the way of facing the truth.

                                         Charles Glassman

It’s A Joint Project

This Thursday I am having surgery on my right hand. It’s almost shorter to list what I am not having done! Three for one surgery: carpal tunnel, rebuilding the joint at the base of my thumb and cutting some cords that are causing contractures. I will then be wearing a bandage /splint like a thick boxing glove for a couple of weeks. Basically I won’t have the use of my right hand for several weeks and, of course I am right handed. Really sucks actually, but will be worth it in the long run to get my right hand working well for the many years I have left. So its one of those things you do that will be a pain in the short term, but you do it for  long term positive results. I prefer instant gratification myself! 

There’s a lot of positive outcomes that require work, being uncomfortable for a time and a determination to do what it takes to reach the positive outcomes. We’ve all heard the idiom ‘No pain, no gain.” The idiom “no pain, no gain” means to make an effort in order to get the desired result. It speaks of the importance of making an effort in general and we can use it when referring to the necessary suffering a person must endure to achieve their ultimate goal. thecontentauthority.com  No offense to the men out there, but “No pain,No gain” was brought into popular usage by Jane Fonda in 1982. Y’all remember her second coming as a fitness guru and the leg warmers. We all had her videos to help us “whip” our bodies into shape, hence no pain no gain. The use of “whip” is another usage where pain is seen as a necessary part of reaching a goal. It certainly seems  there is a strong consensus that good outcomes don’t come without paying our dues. All things we pursue in life have a cost. I don’t think “no pain, no gain,” is nuanced enough, so I like the concept of “costs” and “benefits” because they can be more quantifiable.

This is what worries me: What if we spend 90% of our lives paying the costs to get to the benefits we’ve earned, and only get to enjoy the benefits 10% of our lifetime? I don’t want to be always striving, and as a consequence, squander the precious moments of my life with no guarantee that the costs I am paying will even be enough. We’re also told ”Easy come, easy go.” I always thought this meant that all good things needed to be next to impossible or very difficult to achieve, so they would not be lost easily.  If I’m not suffering then I’m not doing it right. If love comes too easy, does that mean losing that love will be easy too? My son does not have to “work hard” to get my love, I give it to him freely and easily with no expiration date. So there’s some flaws in the “Easy come, easy go.” axiom.

We frequently say “Take it easy.” to friends and acquaintances as part of saying good-bye. Take it easy means to  “proceed calmly and in a relaxed manner (or) to make little effort; rest.” How the hell are we going to take it easy if it takes immense effort, even pain to get what, who or where we want to be? It’s like telling your dog to “Come, stay.” At this point in my life I’m more inclined to go “easy”, to focus more on what is attainable without pain. Acceptance of who I am, and knowing how little I actually have control over, really clarifies and narrows what costs I am willing to pay. I’m people-pleasing a lot less, so there are fewer voices in my head telling me what I must be working towards.  So I wish that I wasn’t facing some short term pain from hand surgery, but this is one case where I accept “No pain, no gain.”, and I am choosing to go ahead. After surgery I fully intend to “Take it easy.”

The Red-tailed Hawk

I’m hungry, but I don’t have anything in the fridge I want to eat. I have options. I can go to the grocery store and get groceries and make something to eat, I can order out and wait for Door Dash to deliver a meal or I can go out to eat. Of course, I can just stay hungry and not do anything to address my hunger now. After all I’m supposedly the top of the food chain.There are starving people who will die of hunger today, but by the grace of God I am not one of them. 

Why is the title of this post The Red-tailed Hawk? Hawks get hungry too and they need to find food to eat to stay alive. Sometimes that food is fresh road kill and its in the middle of a busy street. Then what?  Door Dash? No. Risk your life to fly to the squirrel’s body in the middle of the street and swoop it up in your talons and fly away? Yes. I first sighted the large hawk in the street sitting near the squirrel’s body. Oh, oh! Cars were coming, and I managed to flag the first car to slow down and shooed the hawk out of the road, but it didn’t go far and perched on a power box a few feet from the street.  As if posing for a photo op, the hawk patiently allowed me and several other bystanders to take  photos. We all knew this was a rare opportunity  to see this hawk up close. Seeking a bit more distance, the hawk flew up to perch on a fence that was still pretty close to the street.

I waited and waited for the hawk to make it’s move to retrieve the squirrel, but stubbornly he just sat and watched the humans staring at him. Reluctantly, I moved on to finish my walk. Of course, I was curious to see the progress of the hawk,  so I circled back at the end of my walk.  Ta Da! The hawk was sitting close to the fence with the squirrel carcass in it’s talons. I watched him fly off with his meal and I wanted to applaud him.  Instead, I sent good vibes and my respect for a job well done. I was grateful that I was able to witness the hawk, and I felt hope and reverence.

I can not send this post without talking about my deep respect for the Ukrainian people and President Zelensky. They are inspiring the world with their courage and zeal to save their democracy. I am in awe of their courage. Do we have the courage to save our democracy? The tanks aren’t rolling in and missiles aren’t hitting their marks, but make no mistake, our democracy is at stake. Voting rights in peril, our history being twisted to support white nationalism, and a former President who would like to stay in power for life, even when the people voted him out of office. The Russian people do not have the right to vote for their leader, their votes don’t count and any dissenters are jailed or murdered. In America, the armed insurrection on January 6, 2020 intended to stop a democratic act of Congress. This is not the path to establishing a “more perfect union”. No one in their right mind, would say that Putin is a “genius”, or attempt to withhold military aid to Ukraine in exchange for “dirt” on a political opponent.  THINK!

I want to believe that “We the people” will rise up as the Ukrainian people have done, and stand up to those who would destroy our democracy. We can be tough and refuse to give up like the red-tailed hawk.  I hope we will make this choice.

The Light Gets In

Ring the bells that can still ring.

Forget your perfect opening.

There is a crack in everything. 

That’s how the light gets in. 

Leonard Cohen

Sometimes life hurts, sometimes life hurts a lot, and sometimes the hurt is unbearable, but we bear it in the moment and the next moment….  A baby is born, perfect only in a parent’s eyes. It’s only purpose to grow and thrive, and to love and  be loved. I think this is our purpose   throughout our life span, no matter how short or how long. Doing this “perfectly” is not possible. We all get broken by life in some way, there are no exceptions. The longer I live, the more scars I get. I have been beat up, but I’ve thrown some good punches too.

So what are my “…bells that can still ring?” I have an old electronic piano keyboard that has a few keys that are not perfectly in tune. I still play and enjoy it and work around the imperfect keys. My brain seems to fill in the note for me, and I still hear it in tune. I’ve adapted to this limitation because there is so much that is good about making music. I don’t always come up with the best word while I am writing, but that’s what a thesaurus is for. I have to say “no” more often, so I can say “yes” to what is most important to me. I have less people that I tell “ Call me day or night or 3 a.m. and I’ll be there if you need me.” I need my sleep. I have seen and felt horrible things and my soul and body will carry them everyday. Bad things happen to good and bad people. Not all wounds heal. My presence, my love, my friendship are bells I can still ring.

At times, I’ve actually believed that if I was perfect, or tried hard enough, I could make things happen. This makes me laugh now! There is no “perfect”, and if there were I suspect we would all be a bit bored. I now realize my desire to be perfect before I could act was a “perfect” excuse! What I see now is that going for this unattainable state before I acted meant I could avoid my fear, stay safe and avoid failure. There is nothing noble in avoiding life out of fear of failure no matter the reason. “Fake it till you make it.”sounds much more real and possible. It says to me “Just keep moving!” and “Now!”

We all know what a “broken” heart is. It’s not visible on an x-ray, but we’ve all felt it if we are human. The image is of a heart fractured, like a crack in a vase, a heart no longer whole. I am heartbroken. The losses I have experienced have cleaved my heart. My heart is still beating and although I am heartbroken by life I am not in despair. Most days I am happy and hopeful.  I call this courage and perseverance . Leather is softest when it is worn and cracked. My favorite shoes don’t look the same as when I took them out of the box, I’ve broken them in and they fit my foot very well. I am worn and broken in, soft, pliable and teachable.

A closed mind or a closed heart may block pain, but the light is also blocked. A closed heart blocks love, and a closed mind blocks the truth. So the light gets in when there is an opening or crack. It is impossible to navigate in complete darkness, or to see the beauty in my or my loved one’s soul. The light gets in to make me more compassionate towards myself and others. The words of Leonard Cohen and others others teach me and light my path:

Light is the symbol of truth.– James Russell Lowell. 

If light is in your heart, you will find your way home.  Rumi 

There’s a sorrow and pain in everyone’s life, but every now and then there’s a ray of light that melts the loneliness in your heart and brings comfort….  – Hubert Selby, Jr.

So light a candle and pray for the people of Ukraine.