Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas - A Time For Family

In my collection of days, there never is a day that passes that doesn't either remind me of family, that I don't speak to a family member, or I fail to experience what it means to be a part of a family.  As Christmas approaches, I am keenly aware of all kinds of families, which aren’t all as mine is, and I stop to ponder just what is going on in this world. 

I always believed that families were a special entity, designed to love, support, build up, and take care of each other.  Even in my darkest days, when I was reminded by a family member that I had disgraced our family name, I was never abandoned by my family, or made to feel like I was not a part of my family.  They circled the wagons around me, protected me as best they could, prayed for me, and more than anything, loved me.  Even though many members of my family are not close to me geographically, with cell phones, texting, Facebook, and yes, even snail mail, we stay in touch with each other on a regular basis.   We are bound together by our heritage and our DNA, and the family ties are ones that can be pulled and stretched, but never shredded or broken.   Families are treasures that should be cherished and protected with all our might.

This brings me to something that breaks my heart.  I have some very close friends whose families are not like mine, or display the concept of family that I so strongly believe in.  I don’t understand it.  There are mothers whose grown children have not spoken to them in over a year, fathers who have been cut off from their children for reasons that they don’t understand, and children who have not been in contact with their parents or siblings in many years.   As I talk to these friends, I listen to their stories, wondering what has happened to the family.  Where is the love?  Where is the compassion?  Where is the forgiveness?  Where is the heart that is supposed to be at the heart of family?  What has happened to the family?

It is Christmastime.  It is time to celebrate family, set aside differences, forgive transgressions and failures, rejoice in victories, and bask in the love of God.  While we stop to think about the birth of Jesus, we also need to think about what he taught during his ministry.  He didn’t teach us to abandon or judge members of our family because we don’t agree with them.  He didn’t teach us to turn our backs on our children or our parents because they hurt our feelings or made us angry.  He didn’t teach us to hold a grudge against members of our family who have slipped along their path.  He taught us to forgive, to love, and to reflect God and God’s love through our lives.
As I think about all these things, I am reminded of a young woman I have recently met.  Her story is one of troubles, drug abuse,the loss of a child, and a myriad of problems that would make many people cut and run.  Her mother is an alcoholic who was never an ideal candidate for Mother of the Year at any time in this young woman’s life.  However, as this beautiful young woman has gotten her life back on solid ground, she has never stopped loving her mother or trying to help her.  While she is not rewarded by her mother with support and love, she continues to be a part of her mother’s life, always hoping that she will change.  She makes these other families look pitiful in contrast, because she knows the importance of family, even a far from perfect one.  It is not a pretty story, but she gives me hope for other families.

I am thankful for my family, and my wish at Christmas is that everyone will rediscover something about family that may have been forgotten, buried, hidden, or brushed aside for one reason or another.  My wish is that forgiveness and love will triumph where hurt and disappointment has tarnished the beauty of family.

Christmas is a family time of year.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Viet Nam - Then and Now

I wonder how many of my blog readers remember these? 

It was a Fall day in 1972 at the University of Georgia.  As I got off of the campus bus on my way to class, I stopped at a table outside the student center to see what was being sold.  The table was covered with bracelets just like this one.  The young woman at the table explained to me that they were POW/MIA bracelets with the names of soldiers engraved on them.  For $5, I could purchase one and wear it until the person whose name was on my bracelet was either released or found.  I didn’t have $5 to spare that day, but I selected a bracelet, put it on my wrist, and let go of my beloved $5 bill.

I wore the bracelet until the war ended and the prisoners of war were released.  I searched the newspaper for the name of my soldier, but I never saw his name.  I placed the bracelet into my “treasure box”, and over the years forgot about it.

This fall I have been re-introduced to the Viet Nam War through a special veteran friend, and from meeting another veteran and two young Vietnamese men who are now in charge of a not-for-profit organization in Viet Nam, Project Renew, to find and disarm unexploded munitions left there from the war.  What I knew about the war, and more, has entered my life through these individuals.  Then, to top it off, I watched a special on television last night about The Smothers Brothers and television censorship.  It was an excellent program and brought back memories of those war years that I had tucked away.

The other day while I was going through some of my possessions that I retrieved from my house this past summer,  I found my POW bracelet.  Gone was my treasure box, but in the bottom of a garbage bag that Phil had filled for me to take to my new home, gently lay the silver bracelet.   Now that we are in the information age, I was able to Google my soldier’s name.  I was delighted to discover that he was released from prison in Viet Nam, and was not one of the war’s casualties.

As I think about these days in my life, spread out over four decades, it is amazing to me how the threads have woven together to bring this story to its conclusion.  However, as I think about it, I realize that the story isn’t over.  The Viet Nam War is still with us in the veterans who survived and carry memories of their days there, and in the Vietnamese people who today are the victims of explosions of bombs we left behind.   I am grateful to the Americans and Vietnamese of Project Renew who continue working to heal the wounds we inflicted to this faraway land.  I wonder what happened to my soldier of the POW bracelet, and if he is still alive.  I may never know, but I am thankful that I found my bracelet, have been re-awakened to the Viet Nam experience, and have concluded this chapter in my collection of days.
Now, it is a new day.  What will it bring?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Goodbye Sweet Ellie

I arrived at the kennel early Thursday morning with only one thing on my mind – sweet Ellie, the German Shepherd.  Ellie has been boarding at Ashley Hills since long before I began working here, but for the past year-and-a-half, she has become one of my dearest canine friends.  This particular morning was special.  Today was Ellie’s last day to board with us.  Tomorrow her life here on earth would end, as she is escorted into eternity and all of her pain will be over.  I wanted to have a few minutes with her alone before our day began in earnest, and to pet her and talk to her on this final day at the kennel.

Ellie is special.  She is a beautiful German Shepherd with a gentle disposition and dark liquid eyes.  She is a regular guest, because her owner traveled a good bit in her work and wanted Ellie to stay where she was loved and cared for.  Ever since I have been here, a year-and-a-half, Ellie has been suffering from hip dysplasia, which has caused her to have increasing pain and trouble getting around.  While she has had happy times of frolicking with other dogs, those days became fewer and fewer in the recent months.  When she stays with us, she is visited and treated by an animal acupuncturist and a dog chiropractor.  She also discovered swimming a few weeks ago, where she learned that being in the water made her feel young and whole again.  She loved the pond!

For her last days, her owner brought her to us to stay overnight.  She got to go for a swim in the pond, play on the training field with her German Shepherd friend, Rommel, and receive one of Ashley’s wonderful baths, which she came out of “smelling like a girl.”   We loved on her, gave her a zillion hugs and kisses, and at the end of the day when her mama came to pick her up, we told her good-bye through tear-filled eyes.

What more is there to say or write?  Ellie, you will always hold a place in my heart.  I am happy that our paths in life crossed.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hitching My Wagon to a Star

I’m not sure where I heard this phrase, but it has become part of my vocabulary, and I use it often when talking to people about their relationships, dreams, and goals.

This past week in New York City, I found myself in a conversation with a fascinating young man who was attending Brian’s private screening of his movie, “Checking In.”  As we became acquainted through our conversation, I learned that Brian had recently officiated at the wedding of this gentleman and his partner.  He shared with me some of his feelings about how wonderful it was to be married to the man he loved and to be able to call his partner his husband.   I said something about him hitching his wagon to the star of his partner, from which a new conversation began about what the phrase means.  I also commented that I felt that Brian tied a strong knot whenever he officiated at a marriage, to which he smiled and confirmed that he believed his knot was secure.

I have been single for over a year now.  I have met a couple of men that I liked, but until this past April, none whose star shone brightly and strongly enough for me to think about hitching my wagon to.   Now, as I move through the first stages of a new relationship, I am re-thinking this phrase, and wondering if it is applicable to my life anymore.   At sixty-five, I consider whether I want to hitch my wagon to another’s star, or if maybe I’d prefer to pull up alongside his star and travel side by side while still hitched to my own star.    Or perhaps we could hitch our individual wagons in tandem to both of our stars and travel the universe together while not fully letting go of our own vehicles.  Could this make our journeys through life easier - us sharing each other’s load?  Would this be possible in a healthy relationship?  I’d like to think it could.

I have to admit that I am a bit shell-shocked after my last experience.  I trusted totally, and followed blindly behind a star that was in its last stages before burning out in tragedy.   I thought I was smart and strong, but I wasn’t.  It has left me somewhat bewildered and befuddled about relationships, questioning if I will ever be able to be in a healthy and solid relationship.  I find myself insecure about myself and my ability to love, and often in a confused state of mind.   I don’t want to ruin what I have found, because this new one is a rare gem, and one I don’t want to lose or throw away. 
Can I hitch my wagon to his star, and do I want him to hitch his to mine?  I don’t know.  On this day in my collection of days, I ponder life and relationships, and hope that somehow the right path will be revealed to me. 

 I also hope I don’t crash my wagon in the process!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Longing for the Ordinary

Extraordinary days in an ordinary life….this is the title of my blog.  I am beginning to believe that my life is extraordinary, and I would love to have an ordinary day!  Recently, none of my days have been ordinary, and I am reeling from the adrenaline flow, the pushing and pulling from tension and stress, and from riding the emotional  waves of my life. 

This morning I am sitting in the family waiting area at Saint Joseph’s Hospital while a friend has knee replacement surgery.  He didn't want to burden his children with feeling they needed to change their daily schedules for him, so I volunteered to bring him this morning and be with him today.   While sitting here all morning has not been my idea of a fun day, it has allowed me to do some writing, catch up on correspondence, and to spend a little down time with no interferences bombarding me.

This past month has been one of reflection and introspection squeezed in with record numbers at the boarding kennel where I work, creating hectic and harried days, and causing my mind to reel and my body to scream at me to slow down.   Emotions have been resting on the surface of my skin, bringing forth free-flowing tears, a grand showing of my stubborn streak, and a severe case of tunnel vision.  I have not been an easy person to be around.   I have also discovered that the past couple of years of my life have done some damage I had not been aware of.  I am having a terrible time learning to trust again, of allowing myself to open up and be vulnerable, and of being able to express my feelings in a comprehensible language.  I have footprints all over my face from putting my foot into my mouth, and a few bruises where my words have caused my foot to kick me squarely in the face!  I have not been very happy with myself.

I wrote in my journal this morning in an attempt to understand my patchwork quilt of recent feelings and emotions.  I dare not go back and read it – I am afraid it may not make much sense!  I’d like to exchange this quilt for a monotone colored blanket of dull and faded colors.  I want a little ordinary in my life more than anything in this world right now.   A little normal would be mighty nice.

As I sit here waiting, the ordinariness of this waiting room comforts me while I listen to bits and pieces of conversations as people discuss the surgeries that are happening behind the big brown double doors, and as I tune in on phone conversations informing loved ones of successful operations.  I also can’t help but overhear conversations of people sharing tidbits of life as they wait for the doctor to walk through the doors.  This is life.  This is an extraordinary day for a room full of ordinary people.

And I am one of them.   Somehow this makes me feel better.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

To Fly!

One of my favorite pet owners brought his two dogs, Kendra and Kincade, into the kennel today to board for a few days.  Tracy and I enjoy chatting when he brings the dogs to stay with us, and our conversations can cover just about any topic.   Today, we began talking about wishes coming true.

Tracy asked me, “If you could have one wish come true: to either fly or be able to read other people’s minds, which one would you choose?”

No hesitation at all for me!  To fly! That would be my one wish.  He nodded in agreement and said that he would wish the same thing.   I told Tracy about my recurring childhood dream of being able to fly, and he told me that he had similar dreams.  From the topic of flying, we segued into cloud gazing, only to find that we both enjoy the same sport, as clouds are integral ingredients in the world of flight!

My childhood dream is so vivid, I can picture it as I sit here typing.  It follows the theme of Peter Pan, as the children are sprinkled with pixie dust and float out of the nursery window on their journey to Never Never Land.  In my dream, I am in my bed, and a fairy appears waving a wand over my body, sprinkling sparkly dust all over me.  As the sparkles touch me, I begin to float and soon find myself high above my bed.  I use my arms and legs to propel myself through my bedroom window, where I soar above the trees in our backyard, and float with the night breeze toward the moon.   I am not afraid, but fully caught up in the sensation of drifting higher and higher above the earth.  The dream never had an ending or a conclusion – I would always wake up while in mid-flight!

To fly!  I still have that wish and dream.  My spirit soars with the wind and rides the clouds, but my body remains glued to the earth.  I gaze at clouds, wishing they were the pillows of fluff that they appear to be from my vantage point on earth, and long to jump into them, leap from one to another, and feel their softness against my skin as I tumble into them  and become enveloped in them as one does in a down mattress .  I also gaze at the nighttime sky, and want to explore the galaxies.   The black velvet of the nighttime sky beckons me as I dream of dancing from star to star and sitting on the crescent moon to observe all of God’s creation around me.

It is a dream, only a dream.  But perhaps one day I will be able to fly, and my dream will come true.  When it does, I hope I’ll be able to write about it to share with you!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My New Sidekick

I have gone downright goofy over my new roommate and companion, Sunshine.
I knew from the first day that she spent the night with me that my home was her home.  She knew it, too, although she was a bit nervous and unsure of what was happening to her at first.

Sunshine has been with me a month, and I can’t imagine my life without her.  She is a mess!  Stubborn and headstrong, she certainly doesn’t have the temperament of a German Shepherd.  She isn't my Diamond, and she reminds me every day that while she can’t take the place of Diamond in my heart, she can wiggle and wag her way into a vacant spot that had been unoccupied until she came my way. 

I am learning many new things from Sunshine.  I now notice every squirrel, bird, leaf, and stick that happens upon our path when we are out for a walk.  My ears perk up as Sunshine goes into alert mode over a strange sound or unexpected movement along our path.  I am soaking in her enthusiasm of the world around her, and her exuberance over walking through a park makes me smile and feel better about my life.  We are becoming best pals.

Sunshine loves sitting in my lap.  While she is a little whirling dervish when she is on the playground at the kennel with other dogs, and jumps up and down greeting new dogs as they make their way down the aisle to their runs at the kennel, she is a couch potato when we are home alone.  She has learned to wait for me to invite her to get up onto my lap, but with my invitation, it only takes one flying leap for her to land squarely in my lap.  And once she is settled, it only takes a heartbeat before she is snoozing comfortably in my arms. 

When I first began training Sunshine, she rebelled at every opportunity.  However, with each day that we are together, her trust in me grows, and she now responds to my commands to sit, wait, heel, and stay (most of the time).  She still wants to meet every new friend by jumping up onto them, and it is difficult for her to learn not to do this.  She wants to make friends with every person and animal she meets.  But her eagerness to please sparkles in her big brown eyes, and I know she wants to make me proud of her.

Sunshine and I have big plans for spring and summer.  We want to go hiking together and check out parks and recreation areas to explore.  She is going to help get me back into shape, and I am going to keep her busy doing all the things a little Mountain Feist likes to do.   

Yep, we are pals!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Post-Birthday Musings

I think I am experiencing birthday hangover.  Or maybe fun depletion.  Could it be I’m getting old?  Certainly not that, I keep telling myself!  Then, what could it be?

I have to say that this birthday is the best one I’ve had in several years.  I didn’t have a big bash like the one  when I turned 60, but this birthday had more depth and breadth than any in my memory.  Emotions ran high as I basked in the warmth of friendships and family lovin’.

Anyone who reads my blog or follows my days on Facebook knows my excitement over turning 65 and getting my Medicare card.  You also know some of what this past year has done to me.  But what you may not know, unless you are good at reading between the lines, is that this birthday has been an affirmation of who I am and a celebration that I am still here, still standing, and still moving forward. 

And so it is today, three days after my big day, that I sit down at my computer to reflect, contemplate, dream a little, and pray a lot.  I am alone.  Except for my little dog, Sunshine, I am spending this time in solitude.  I am a little lonely, a bit melancholy, and on the verge of tears.  But don’t feel sorry for me! Or worry about me!  I think all of these feelings are necessary for the next stage of my personal journey and growth.  I would rather be where I am today than where I was a year ago, so I am not complaining.  No, not one iota!

My birthday is officially over, and life is settling back into normalcy and daily routines.  But the milestone of this day has been set along the road I am traveling with a great big happy face etched into the stone for all to see who might find themselves traveling along my road for a distance.

My birthday is now past for another year, but the celebration of life continues.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Red Letter Day for Little Miss Lou

March 1 is tomorrow - the day I’ve been waiting for all year long! 

This is the day that I will officially be on Medicare.  For the past year I have been uninsured, walking on eggshells, hoping that I wouldn’t get sick or injured.  And now, the day is almost here, and I can feel the weight lifting from my shoulders.

I didn’t think I would look forward to becoming 65 so much.  But under the circumstances, it looks like a pretty good number to be.  I guess I could say that I am retirement age, but realistically, my days of leisure are still a few years away.  Most of my visions of retirement evaporated into the mist last year, being replaced by one of continuing to work, earning a living, and preparing for that day when I will sit down in my easy chair, pick up my book or knitting needles, and watch the world go by from my window while I sip a cup of herb tea.  YUCK!  Is that my vision – REALLY??

Instead, as of tomorrow I’ll be insured (somewhat), still working, not yet drawing Social Security, and gazing at the world with fresh eyes, not from a window, but from a broader perspective.  My budget is tight, my jeans are loose, my head is clear, and my future is fuzzy.  I don’t know what this day will bring my way, much less the next year.  I am traveling a new road, taking in the sights, picking up souvenirs, and finding people (and animals) to travel with and stories to share along the way.

Now all I have to do is make it through today without tripping, falling, running into something, or otherwise causing injury to myself. I’ve done it for a year- I think I can manage it for one more day!

March 1 - HERE I COME!!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

You Are My Sunshine

Last week my friend Kasey, who runs a dog rescue not-for-profit, asked me if I would be interested in fostering a dog she had rescued from Gwinnett County for a few days.  She told me that Peaches was a sweet little dog, and needed a good home. Kasey had pulled her from the shelter the day before she was to be euthanized. She had spent a few days at another foster home which hadn’t worked out.  Of course I said yes.
On Wednesday, Peaches arrived at our kennel after being spayed.  We placed her into one or our suites to rest overnight.  I would take her home with me on Thursday.

Off and on during the day on Thursday, I stopped by to say hello to Peaches so that she could get to know me.  When it came time to go home, she eagerly jumped into the backseat of my car, and settled down as if she had done it hundreds of times before.  When we got to my house, she followed me inside, investigated, and found the kennel I had set up in my bedroom. 

I knew from the get-go that I couldn’t call her Peaches.  It just didn’t seem to suit her.  On Friday morning when I opened her kennel to let her out, I said, “Good morning, Sunshine.”  I knew then that was her name.  The song, “You Are My Sunshine” started going round and round in my mind as I remembered my childhood, listening to my dad sing it every morning while he dressed for work.  Sunshine, she is.

By Saturday, I knew I was a foster failure and that Sunshine would be staying with me.  We have some adjusting to do to get to know each other, but she has wiggled and wagged her way into my heart!

She knows she is home, and I do, too.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Life As I Once Knew It

One year ago today, my life took a turn.  Actually it wasn’t really a turn, but more like an earthquake, or even a tornado.  My life changed drastically, and life as I had known it ceased to exist.

One year ago today I was placed in handcuffs and escorted to the Walton County jail where I spent a humiliating and humbling night, and came out a different person from the one I was the day before.

For the next few months I wandered through a dark tunnel, not knowing what my future would be, or if I would ever exit the tunnel intact.  During these months, the blinders were removed from my eyes, my trust and faith in the person I loved was destroyed, and I was stripped down to my core.  When I was able to sleep, my dreams were nightmares, most carrying an entrapment theme. I would wake up terrified and disoriented.  I didn’t know who I was or how I had landed in this dark, dark place.   I spent many hours writing in a personal journal, berating myself for my weakness, and generally wishing I could just fall into a hole somewhere and disappear.  I was on a journey I didn’t want to be on, and I saw no way to exit off of this particular highway.

As the months passed, small gifts came my way, enabling me to grab hold to the sides of the tunnel and begin walking toward the pinpoint of light I thought I could see in the distance.  I got a wonderful job, which took me out of my house every day and enabled me to concentrate on something other than myself. Friends and family began praying for me, encouraging me to get out of my situation, and cheering me on to take a step I was afraid to take.

In a moment of crisis in June, I knew I had to take the leap and leave the environment I was living in and escape to a new and yet-unknown future.  Again, with the support of friends and family, I stepped off the ledge, amazed to find a bridge beneath my feet leading me to a new life. 

It has been a horrible year.  I would never wish what I have been through on anyone, and I often find myself shaking my head realizing that all of this really happened to me.   I wasn’t the person I thought I was, and I let myself be drawn into something that I never in my wildest dreams would have ever conceived of on my own or even thought about as something I’d like to be a part of.  I was weak, na├»ve, trusting, and ignorant- none of which were good excuses for the predicament where I found myself.

It has also been a wonderful year.  I have been surprised by grace, encouraged by the love of friends, both old and new, propped up by my family, and strengthened by a faith that has grown by leaps and bounds as I have made discoveries of grace gifts placed on my life path at critical places, designed to help me and lead me forward.  My life today is rich and full, and I am thankful.

My nightmare isn’t over yet – it could drag on for several months to several years.  But I have embraced my new normal, put down roots into solid ground, and have chosen not to pay attention to the bad dreams.  I am living each day with a thankful spirit, and am determined to make my life one of paying it forward as a way of thanking all those who unselfishly poured out their love and support for me during this year.

Tomorrow begins another year for me.  I am a different person, I hope a better person, and a person closely attuned to God’s voice in my life.   I have wandered through the tunnel, and have found the sunshine once again.

Happy New Year to me!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Jungle Fun Room - Unleashed

Saturday found me in Danville, Virginia, at George Washington High School, where Brian’s play, “The Jungle Fun Room”, was being performed by the high school’s drama department.  Brian warned me ahead of time that it was going to be “different” from other performances I had already seen, but I didn’t anticipate the rare treat I was in for!

We arrived early at the school for the 3:00 matinee, but there were already a few of the cast members there, anxiously waiting for time for the show to begin.  Enthusiastic and cordial, they greeted me with the warmth of an established friend – a few handshakes, and quite a few hugs.    They had been with Brian all week long while he conducted workshops with them and watched their rehearsals.  It was obvious that they were as in awe of my son, the playwright, as I was!

I found an auditorium seat to claim as mine, and watched from my place as the cast scurried back and forth, getting ready for the performance.  It took me back to my senior year in high school, when I was in the ensemble of “Oklahoma!”   I enjoyed the energy, electricity, and enthusiasm I was witnessing, as well as remembering the excitement I felt as a teen-ager about being in a stage production. 

Brian sat down beside me to watch the play, visibly on pins and needles and nervous, not knowing quite what to expect.  Together, we listened to the opening music and held our breaths as the stage lights came up, illuminating the stage and set.  The play began.

What a treat – a unique and rare treat!  Those kids interpreted Brian’s play in a way I never could have imagined.  They became their characters on stage, improvising when necessary over forgotten or missed lines, and helping each other out during tense moments, at times carrying their fellow actors through the performance.  They added things from their own imaginations as they became the characters they were bringing to life, skipping parts that either didn’t suit them, or those that they forgot.  It was not “The Jungle Fun Room” that I had seen in New York or Lexington, and it certainly didn’t strictly follow the script I had read and re-read as Brian’s proofreader while he wrote it.   But it was great!  The audience loved it, and the young actors had one hell of a good time on stage!

Afterward, at the cast party, I watched and listened as the kids reveled in performance after-glow.  A couple of them talked to me and shared dreams of their future with me.  A few adopted me as “Grandma”, and all were sad that it was over and time to say goodbye to Brian.

There are no written words to adequately describe the experience of this day.  “Unique” doesn’t begin to encompass what I saw, heard, and felt.  What is important to me as I record this day in my collection is that I shared it with my son, and that we now share a day in our lives that only the two of us can ever understand, appreciate, and re-live in our storytelling.  If we were able to recreate our adventure word-for-word and frame-by-frame, few would believe us!

The students of the George Washington High School “Jungle Fun Room” will live in my heart and memory as long as I live!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Little Blue, the Parakeet

On Monday morning, our groomer arrived at the kennel as she does every day, with a smile, sometimes an egg biscuit, and always an enthusiasm for life that is contagious.  However, on this day, she was somewhat subdued. I didn’t understand why until she put her case down and pulled something out from underneath her sweatshirt.

She handed me a tiny blue bundle, and asked me to keep it warm for her.  Tucked inside of a fleecy slipper sock was a beautiful little blue parakeet.  Pennie told me that it was her mother’s bird, and that it had been fine earlier in the morning, but she found it laying in the floor of its cage as she prepared to get ready for work.   Pennie’s mom is bedridden and lives with Pennie and her family.  The little bird, Blue, was her mom’s companion in her bedroom where she spends her days and nights.
I took the tiny bundle, and stroked Blue’s little head, talking gently to him, while Pennie prepared some kind of concoction to feed him through a syringe.  She also took one of our large feeding bowls and placed some bird seed in it.  When she attempted to feed Blue through the syringe, there was no response from the little bird, and it dribbled down its chest and onto the sock.

Pennie and I decided to take Blue out of the sock and place him in the dish with the food.  We made a small nest out of the sock, and placed Blue in it.  He moved a little and flapped his little wings a time or two, and then was still.  I touched him to feel that he was still warm and breathing, said a quick prayer to the angel of little birds, and we gently placed him on a corner of Pennie’s grooming table. 

The next hour was busy for me, as I checked in dogs for grooming and for boarding.  As soon as it quieted down in the office, I slipped into the grooming room to check on Blue.  When I touched him, I knew he was gone.  Pennie was bathing a dog, and asked me about Blue.  I told her that he had died, and she came over to touch him, to confirm what I had told her.   As I looked at this tiny, fragile creature, I thought about Pennie’s mom, and how this little guy had brought her joy and happiness as she enjoyed his company.  I wondered if Pennie would get another bird to replace Blue.

I also pondered on the fragility of all life.  Like little Blue, we are all here on earth for a moment, we touch the hearts and lives of others, we flap our wings hoping to fly, and we chirp our songs of thankfulness to our creator.  A tear meandered its way down my cheek as I touched Blue one more time and said good-bye.  Pennie told me that she would take him home and bury him in her yard when she finished her day at the kennel. 

I can still feel the small bundle that Pennie placed in my hand on Monday morning, asking me to keep it warm.  I can still hear my words of encouragement to the tiniest of God’s creatures, as I whispered to Blue and stroked his little head. 

I believe that Blue is somewhere out in God’s Heaven joyfully flying and singing a happy song. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Palm Pavilion- Clearwater Beach, Florida

Recently on Facebook there have been some postings about memories of growing up in the Clearwater, Florida, area.  Although I did not grow up down there, but moved there when I was 16, I was familiar with the area all my life, since my dad was born in Palm Harbor, and he and my mom both graduated from Tarpon Springs High School. We used to go down to Clearwater every year to visit our relatives, and a trip to the Palm Pavillion was always on our list of things to do. The following is a childhood memory that I wrote about in my first book.

The Palm Pavilion

The brilliant April sun shone on the bleached white sand.  A rainbow array of blankets, quilts, and towels decorated the wide beach, adding color to the stark brightness of the hot spring day.   Rustling softly through the palm trees separating beach from parking lot, a gentle breeze lazily floated past.  Seagulls soared and dived in joy, screaming in high-pitched voices to one another, white flecks against the aquamarine sky.  Mama and Daddy sat relaxed on our patchwork quilt, while Molly and I decided how we would spend our day at the beach.

I stood enthralled at the blending of sky, sea, and sand.  Wiggling my barefoot toes in the powdery sand and feeling the sun’s warm touch on my winter-white shoulders, a tingle of excitement made chill bumps pop up on my arms, despite the heat of the day.  I stood rooted in the sand surveying the panorama before me, amazed at the beauty and wonder of my surroundings.  Where should I begin my day?

Standing nearby as a giant oasis between sunny beach and steamy asphalt, the Palm Pavilion silently beckoned me toward its cool sanctuary.  Its weathered red-and-green-striped roof spread across the low-slung rambling building like a giant faded beach umbrella.  A wide wrap-around porch lined with a row of wooden Adirondack chairs offered shady rest for sun-baked beachcombers.

I scuffled through the deep sand toward the pavilion.  Two creaky steps up, and I was standing on the cool, shady porch.  The splintery floor was made of wide, rough planks spaced unevenly side by side, allowing sand from my feet to filter through to the ground beneath.  A row of bronzed leather skinned grandparents lounged in the deck chairs discussing the latest gossip, reminding one of chirping birds perched along a telephone wire. 

Flung open were two wide doors, revealing a dimly lit cavernous interior.  I stepped through the doorway, temporarily blinded until my eyes adjusted to the absence of light.  Above, two ancient ceiling fans rotated wearily, stirring the humid air.  Whiffs of buttery popcorn, spicy hotdogs, and greasy fries drifted enticingly in the breeze.

As my eyesight got used to the change in light, I spotted a wide counter along a far wall sporting rows of straw hats in lopsided stacks.  I cautiously approached them, careful not to bump into anyone laden with popcorn boxes or overflowing fizzing sodas.  I carefully picked up a floppy hat, placing it lightly on my head.  The world became a checkerboard as I peered through the loosely woven brim toward the open doors.  Giggling, I carefully returned the hat to its place on the stack.

On another counter near the beach hats sat dozens of brightly colored buckets and shovels, all child-sized for collecting ocean treasures and constructing elaborate sand castles.  Spotting a shiny royal blue one, I picked it up, rubbing my fingers over its polished belly.  It had a pearly white handle twisted into a tight braid.  Inside rested a canary yellow shovel.  It was beautiful, and it was exactly what I needed!  I pulled two crumpled dollar bills that Daddy had given me from my pocket, and headed for the cash register with my purchase.

The pail and shovel mine, I glanced around quickly to see if there were any more discoveries to be made.  Satisfied that further adventures could wait until lunchtime when I would try a famous Palm Pavilion chili dog, I skipped across the cool, gritty floor toward the brightness of the morning.  Waiting for me outside was a magnificent sandcastle yet to be created, and a bucketful of seashells washing up on the shore, to be discovered by one little girl.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2013- Off and Running

So, we are now almost a week into the new year.  I’m still not sure what to think about it or to be very excited about it.  But I am doing my best to be optimistic and hopeful.

The new year began for me with a case of laryngitis.  I’ve always heard that what you do on the New Year is what you’ll do all year long.  If this is true, then it will be a very quiet year for me!  I didn’t do much talking.  However, a phone call from a childhood friend was a surprise and a treat for the day, and if I have a year of reuniting with old friends, then that will be something pretty neat.   I also spent the day watching old movies, sipping on Irish cream, and taking cat naps.  A year of this wouldn’t be bad, either! 

On New Year’s night, I encountered one of my inner demons, as I awakened after a bad dream thinking about all of the uncertainties facing me this year.   I fought going into the dark tunnel of fear and terror with all my might, and with the help of a couple of good friends who are my sounding boards and listening ears, and a long walk in the mid-day sunshine, I was able to get off of the pity potty and shake off the depression before it could get its grip on me.   This morning I am baking bread, which is also helping me look forward with positive thoughts instead of negative ones.

On Thursday, I had a surprising experience that could have turned out badly, but it didn’t.  As I’ve told the story, it has brought on gales of laughter as I have related it to my co-workers.  I’ll share this with you, my reader.

I am chauffeuring a rather energetic and exuberant Golden Retriever to the kennel for day care every day for the next week or so while his owner recovers from quadruple bi-pass surgery.  Bailey is a strong, happy dog with very little discipline or manners.  While I am pretty strong and know how to handle most dogs, Bailey probably weighs almost as much as I do, and it can be a work-out to manage him.  What I didn’t know was how Bailey felt about cats.

On Thursday morning, when we arrived at the kennel, I got a good hold on Bailey’s leash before letting him get out of the car to enter the kennel.  It was early, and we were the first ones there.    All was going well.  We made it to the door, where I put him into a rare sit, and put my key into the door to open it.  What I didn’t realize was that Edmond, the kennel cat, was on the other side of the door, waiting for the door to open to go outside.  As I opened the door, Edmond darted out the only way he could, between Bailey’s front paws.  Bailey took chase, catching me off-balance and off-guard.  I went sprawling into the cedar shavings alongside the breezeway walkway.  Thankfully, the weight of my prone body slowed Bailey down, resulting in a short sleigh ride, minus the sleigh, leaving skid marks in the shavings.  Edmond escaped around the corner, and Bailey gave up chase.   I checked myself out, realizing that I wasn’t mortally injured, while Bailey looked at me with a “why did you stop me?” look in his eyes.  Brushing myself off, I escorted him into the kennel and into his run, promising him a come to Jesus talk later in the day.  I discovered that I was mostly uninjured, but had split the skin on my knee, underneath my jeans.  A band-aid did the trick, and I was ready for the day.  Since then, I have scoped out the territory before transporting Bailey through the kennel.  I’m a fast learner.  It only takes one time for me to learn that Bailey and Edmond should not be in the same proximity with each other! 

The highlights of my first week of 2013:  a little bit of the blues, a scary adventure that ended up being funny, and three loaves of cracked wheat bread baking in my oven.  Maybe it will be a pretty good year, after all!