Looking for Lost Graces

There are moments when I wonder if I’ve missed something, dropped an important bauble, and now its gone forever. I can’t begin to number the times I’ve walked out of a room only to forget what was so urgent. It is that imperative to leave that evaporates. Nothing seems so important anymore. Life is lazy. The water flows. The air gently brushes past me. There is no rushing, no doing, no hurry. It is almost as if time has slowed. The heart slows, the thoughts become languid. Perhaps this is a preparation for the inevitable aging followed by death. I remember anesthetic induction. It was the heaviness of the tongue, the wooden muscles, that indicated that I was slipping into a state of unconsciousness. The world slowed and then stopped. Unlike death, I opened my eyes and resumed living and doing and rushing. Is aging a grace? Is this deceleration a preparation and a gift? We spend so much time in acquisition of things that we fail to recognize the gifts we have been freely given. It must be a human failing that we dismiss those things that are free. Free is the same as worthless in many minds. But what if, the free things are the important ones. The graces, the loves, the assistance, the leading us out of danger, the saving, the mercies, the caring and comfort, are worth more than we imagine. What if we are designed to slow down? What if the slowing is to allow us to appreciate all the things we were too busy to see? What if I have missed it all?

So this is a prose poem. I never thought I’d enjoy writing a poem that doesn’t really have any rules or parameters to follow. Some folks suggest that it isn’t poetry. Some others insist it is.

Looking at Changes

There is a big change afoot in the fabric of my life. Son#2 is moving away from his hometown and going to a city 2 hours away. I don’t know whether to dance for joy or shed tears of sorrow. This will mark a turning point in all of our lives. Today I travel with him to sign the lease and get the key in anticipation of his moving over the holiday weekend.

1. This is a job promotion. He will be the Assistant Manager of a store in the same company. It comes with a pay raise (see point #2). It is also an opportunity to make a big impact on the success of this smaller store. Of special significance, there are only 9 stores and he was singled out by the owners for this position having only been with them for 2 years.
2. He was very proactive and managed to negotiate his salary and start time to allow for finding an apartment and moving.
3. He will have to give up playing for the Elkhart Symphony BUT he can always try out for the Ft. Wayne Philharmonic – if there is ever an opening (aka if anyone ever retires or dies)!
4. He will be able to easily commute back for weekends to visit with his friends and family.
5. The quartet (Silver Strings) has weddings booked through October and he will be able to fulfill those commitments. Especially since another of the members will be living halfway between there and here. Which means practices can be scheduled for the halfway point or even on weekends when he visits town. As a bonus they can expand the area in which they are willing to perform.
6. He will have to split the contents of the house he currently owns with his brother. For the most part it won’t be a big deal. The sticking points will be the gaming systems and the video/CD collections.
7. This move will make calling him up to arrange to meet for an impromptu lunch or dinner impossible. I’m hoping we can still have the once a month dinner together. Perhaps we will be able to visit at his new place….
8. He will likely not be attending the Sunday Ice Cream social with the family extended which makes me a little (okay maybe a lot) sad.
9. But the biggest impact will be that he and his brother will not be living together. They really are best friends and have depended on each other for company. It will be an adjustment for each of them to come home to empty places. Son#2 will have to learn to cook as son#1 does most of the cooking (unless it is mac & cheese or Helper).

So I’m trying to stay positive as I help him pack and fill in the gaps with rummage sale finds. So far he has a set of pots and pans (like new for only $8), a kitchen table and chairs ($60), an end table (a steal at Goodwill for $2.99), a free dish drainer and silverware tray, a crockpot (again like new $3), a huge 55″ LED TV (for $10), several baking dishes, a solid coffee table and a lamp (again from Goodwill for a paltry sum) and a really beautiful and durable cutting board ($3). All that is left on the “must have” list is a microwave, universal remote, vacuum cleaner, modem and router. He is thinking he wants a new bed. I’m trying very hard to convince him that he can wait on one until he figures out how big the apartment bedroom is going to be. He seems to think he wants to buy a house but the housing market is crazy. There really isn’t anything in his price range…

Looking at Retired Life

As the fiscal year winds down and I reflect on the second year of retirement, I realize that I really do have the best of both worlds. Financially speaking I am very secure. I have enough money coming in to support my hobbies and interests as well as to pay all my bills. This means that money worries are off the table. I am able to schedule my work activities according to my schedule and at my convenience. This is not something that should be taken lightly. There are very few people who have this kind of flexibility. I also have time. Time to read, write, create art, and nap. Yes, if I stay up late to check my WP comments, I can take a nap and no one has any issue with it! So all things considered, I am having fun in my retirement…

Take my hand and walk through the door
Else I will leave forever more

Why is this the end of living
I always thought life would hold more

It isn’t greed that burns my hand
My itching palms want something more

A kiss without love feels empty
Love without touch makes me want more

A thief takes my heart and pawns it
For a few coins, it is worth more

Leisure activities take time
With time and drive I can do more

The poet writes these worthy words
Ignore fierce lines and truth no more

The above is a Ghazal, a 7th century Arabian poetry form composed of 5 – 15 couplets that are structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous. Each line is approximately the same length. The 1st couplet second line end word is repeated as the end word in all the following couplet’s 2nd lines. (Yikes it sounds very complicated but it isn’t.) Each couplet must be able to stand alone. And perhaps it is a little bit of ego but the final couplet usually contains the poets name or their name’s meaning…

Looking at Relatives

It dawned on me that on my mother’s side of the family, she is the only one standing between me and becoming the oldest surviving member of the family! That is a heavy responsibility. I had mentioned this to a friend who nodded in understanding. Seems when her mother died, the family fractured. No one organized holiday celebrations. There were no more family reunions. No effort was put into staying in contact with Aunts and Uncles and the cousins were flung far and wide.

On my father’s side I am the 3rd in line as I have 2 older cousins. Sadly we are somewhat distanced, even though three of the four have relocated back to their hometown (which is where Sparky and I have lived since 1991). The eldest is living in Israel. The time zone, her Orthodoxy, and the cultural differences create an almost insurmountable barrier to family get togethers. It has been about 7 years since I last saw her in person. It was a treat to get to watch a video of her being interviewed on Around the Shabbos Table (the Intentional Jew network).
The other 3 cousins in town are busy with their own lives. The 2nd oldest retired from the USPS and is very involved with being a grandparent. The cousin my age had been living in Texas, came back, went back to Texas, and then returned again. I’m not sure what she is up to as she has not spoken to me and I have no idea why. The youngest cousin was a flight attendant for many years based out of Dallas, TX. After he retired he moved back but soon took a job in Chicago. Now he’s back in town too. I ran into him at the grocery just before the pandemic. Of course with the restrictions I haven’t seen any of them.

My mother was an only child therefore I had no first cousins on that side. My father had only a sister (and she was his twin) so I have only 4 first cousins in total. Sparky’s mom was one of 8. He and his 5 siblings have so many cousins that he literally doesn’t know all their names! I guess what I’m talking about is connectedness. There are these thin silvery lines made of spider silk memories that connect families. The remembrances keep the family together. I worry that my sons and their cousins may not have the stories and experiences to bind their histories to each other or to the larger family…

Looking for Daddy

Sunday was Father’s Day and I was just reminiscing… When I was in college my roommate was having a hard time with her father. He had made the pronouncement that she would NOT major in elementary education. Instead she toyed with art, which met with disapproval. She tried history which also was not acceptable. She ended up in the school of business as a labor relations major. She was miserable. My dad had driven me to campus to drop me off after a break. After he left she looked at me with tears in her eyes. Her words made a lasting impression, “I wish I had a Daddy, instead I have a Father.” I always called my father Daddy, that was his name. I never thought about it until that moment in college. Then it was clear that almost all of my friends called their fathers “Father”. A very few, and mostly the guys, called their fathers “Dad”. I was the lone hold out still using “Daddy”.

I then looked at the relationships they had with their parents, and fathers in particular. Almost all of them were distant. Most had very authoritarian fathers and mine was no less than theirs. Mine often responded with phrases like, “Because I said so.” His word was law. And yet there was never any doubt that he loved us beyond measure. He baked cookies for us. He would join us for Saturday morning cartoons and laugh hard. He would tell jokes (and yes they were dad jokes) and we would all laugh. We would join him in watching Laurel and Hardy, Jerry Lewis, The Three Stooges, and a variety of others that contained slapstick humor. He would laugh. We would laugh. He would laugh at us laughing at him laughing and finally we’d all be crying and holding our sides. Every so often he’d come home from work with a bag of candy – Chuckles, Circus Peanuts, Jelly Beans or if we were lucky Gumdrops or perhaps Orange Slices. Although I spent a fair amount of time at the homes of my friends, they seemed to spend more time at my house.

My father had a very stern demeanor. He looked ferocious. But soon my friends realized that he was not a Grizzly Bear but closer to the Teddy Bear. I remember the first time my friend Anita saw my father laugh. We had gone to the theater to see the movie Peter Pan. As Captain Hook was dangling and the croc was snapping at his posterior my Daddy started roaring with laughter. Yes, out loud in the theater! Her eyes got really big and she turned to me not knowing what to think. We were all laughing and she had to laugh too. That was the turning point. All of a sudden she was no longer afraid of him. Her own father on the other hand was a very sour man. I never saw him laugh or smile for that matter. He basically ignored her which might have been part of the issue causing her to pull out her eyelashes…

My friends all had fathers but I did not
Their fathers worked from sunup to sundown
‘Twas never jealous of what they had got
Their fathers’ faces wore always a frown
To my house they’d come each and ev’ry day
To escape their fathers’ short temper fuse
I welcomed their presence to join my play
Wondered why my house was the one they’d choose
As I grew up it became crystal clear
Cookies baking, giggles, and jokes galore
All the laughter and fun times drew them near
My house welcomed all with an open door
I had two parents so don’t be too sad
I lacked a father but had the best dad

This is a sonnet but I really don’t like iambic pentameter so this is as good as it gets… Sonnets by the way are 14 lines with a rhyme scheme of: a/b/a/b/c/d/c/d/e/f/e/f/g/g written is iambic pentameter (10 syllables – 5 feet of 2 syllables where the 2nd syllable has the stress)

Looking in the Dumpster

Have you ever gone dumpster diving? Well, I have to admit that I can now scratch that off my imaginary bucket list. The family was gathered for the Sunday night ice cream social when one of my SIL mentioned that there was a dumpster parked on the driveway of the condo on the corner. You would have thought that they were kids hearing the faint sounds of the ice cream truck heading their way. People sat up straight, ears at attention, and then the discussion began. “Is there anyone home there?” There was a brief accounting of who lived there, when they died, what was being discarded. This was immediately followed by a ransacking the garage for flashlights and a group of us headed to the dumpster. Fortunately the end door was not latched which made it much easier for all of us old farts to get a look at what was being tossed. Basically whoever was doing the clean out was pitching everything. The salvaged items included: a hand crocheted lace round table cloth, 2 cloth aprons, a box (12″ x 12″) filled with all occasion greeting cards, a bag of cloth grocery bags, a pair of nearly brand new wool mittens, a desk lamp, 3 framed prints, 2 picture frames, a large metal mixing bowl (with rings on the sides for hanging), a cast iron skillet, an ironing board, 2 push brooms, a small case containing 45rpm records, and an arm full of sweaters, jackets, and blouses.

So I brought home the greeting cards and one picture frame. My MIL thought the table cloth would work on her kitchen table but it didn’t so she gave it to me… We later discussed the folly of just pitching the contents. One SIL’s mother was a hoarder and when she had to be moved into a rehab center (due to a fall and complicated by dementia) they had to sort the valuable from the junk. They found money hidden in all sorts of places – inside shoes, as book marks, in coat pockets, paper clipped to calendars, and stuffed in sugar bowls. Another SIL said that when she and her husband were sorting his mother’s estate they found stock certificates and bearer bonds in her piano bench interspersed with old sheet music! I went through the cards and only found 2 postage stamps. Still 2 Forever stamps are now worth a little over a dollar! Then about a week later Sparky and I were out for a little evening stroll. We passed the dumpster again. The previous load had been hauled away and new things were in the dumpster – a very nice sofa, a variety of sinks and counter tops, a couple of badly broken mirrors and medicine cabinets and some more clothes. Right on top was 2 large bottles of Gain laundry detergent. One was unopened. It saved me some money and kept that out of the landfill!

The saying is that one man’s trash is another’s treasure… So have you? Gone dumpster diving that is? Or trash picking? Or to rummage/garage sales? Please let me know I’m not the only one trying to keep things out of the landfill!

Looking in My Purse

The poem below is a Nove Otto. It is a rhyming syllabic poetry form created by Scott Alcorn. It consists of a 9 line poem with 8 syllables per line and a rhyme scheme of: a/a/c/b/b/c/d/d/c

Over my shoulder hangs my bag
Containing all my precious swag
It’s just like Mary Poppins’ purse
Into its maw my keys are tossed
So big and deep that things get lost
It is my blessing and my curse
It carries needs both small and great
My aches and pains are from its weight
But all in all it could be worse

When I was a single girl, all I needed in my purse was a tiny wallet, a comb, a compact and my keys. I had little purses that now are referred to as “a wallet on as string” or a “wristlet”. That all changed when I became a mother. Not only did I carry a purse that had to contain all things for any emergency (adult or child) but a diaper bag. Once the diaper bag was not needed, I still had to carry a purse the size of a suitcase. It contained a near complete first aid kit (I had 2 sons), snacks (my sons would get hangry), an assortment of kleenex, lip balm, phone numbers, credit cards and cash, and the odd toy, crayons and coloring books. At various times I carried knives, multiple pairs of sunglasses, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent. Now I have a messenger bag. It has to contain things to respond to any emergency, geocaching conundrum, or worst case scenario plus the phone, cables and battery backup charger. It weighs a ton, well maybe 10 pounds on a good day. I always wanted to go on the “Let’s Make A Deal” show because I carried most of those things in my purse! What’s in your wallet/purse??

Looking for Safety

There have been several posts on WP where individuals are attempting to come to grips with a return to people gathering in groups, relaxation of mask wearing, and the reverting to the old normal. I’m throwing my two cents in just for fun.

The family extended has resumed our Sunday night ice cream social. All the vaccinated have decided to gather and consume the summer treat. This has brought much joy to the matriarch and the patriarch of Sparky’s side of the family. I have even enjoyed the hello and good-bye hugs. Now that the youngest niece and nephew (15 and 14 years old) are eligible for the vaccine they’ve gotten their 1st shot and scheduled their 2nd one in just 2 weeks. My son#2 who must wait 3 months since he had COVID is allowed to participate now too. Therefore we are pretty comfortable being around these people. It is a return to a sort of normal activity.

A less comfortable return is going to Mass. The state mask mandate was lifted. Wearing masks is still encouraged but only a few of us are still wearing masks. The bishop announced that the obligation to attend Mass in person is now back in place. The church is back to full capacity and people are packed in like sardines. This has increased my unease and sent my anxiety into over-drive. The pronouncement from Father Jacob was that if we have compromised health we can continue to attend via live stream but he’d really like for us to be physically in the church. To that end he suggested we ease into attendance by going to the 7:30 AM Mass that is much less crowded.

Lastly is the idea that the CDC said masks were not needed. Which was not the case. The guidelines state “Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, EXCEPT where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.” Our county mask mandate is still in effect – sort of. There are way too many unvaccinated people running around unmasked and they now feel that they have carte blanc to stand in your personal space and breathe down your neck. The grocery store is the worst. The stores have posted new signs saying “masks are recommended”. The anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers feel vindicated and are mingling among the vaccinated. Wearing a mask is now seen as “living in fear”. Funny though that several of the previously unmasked, who caught the virus, are now sporting masks. Seems a brush with death has changed their tune.

So my final thought is that we must remain vigilant and wear masks, distance and wash hands. It is only prudent. Even in my family (not Sparky’s as there are so many nurses that have seen the pandemic up close and personal), there are a couple who have opted to not vaccinate as they feel that they have already had the coronavirus. At every turn they are quick to quote a new study that “proves” their point of view. I worry that we could see a second wave and all those unvaccinated and unprotected could succumb.

Anyway my masks will be kept (unlike the many who gleefully tossed theirs in the trash or even littered them all over the parking lot) because it was really nice to not have a common cold for 2 years! And my allergies are so much better too! Sparky has grass allergies and mowing the lawn usually means he comes in and has to take an antihistamine and lay down. Since I suggested he wear the mask to mow, it is a miracle – no coughing or sneezing or need for drugs or even a nap!!

Looking Educated

Education is and always will be a hot topic. Everyone has an opinion on what and how to teach. I was a victim of “New” math, the open concept school, and also rote memorization. My sons experienced “Whole Language” approach to reading which didn’t hurt or help them as they were reading before Kindergarten (I taught them phonetically). But more to the point there are fads and trends in education. Some endure and others fade. In the western world, the US particularly, there is a focus on learning logic, building on previous knowledge and making connections through inquiry. This makes for wonderful scientists and nurtures those with an aptitude in hard sciences and practical applications. However it also creates a deficit in emotional intelligence, expression of a poetical soul, and the natural song of life. Hence we have the actuary making six figures and the poet in poverty – at least when you compare tax returns. If we assume that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a valid theory of motivation, and agree that the five categories of human needs dictate an individual’s behavior, then it would seem that many very successful, wealthy people would be writing poetry and music to fulfill their self-actualization needs. It is my opinion (and I’m not an expert in the field of education) that the US system of education has neglected the education of the creative spirit and failed to nurture the tender heart. There are severe cuts to art and music education. Theater and Drama programs are soon to be nearly invisible. So here I am, a scientist, writing poetry. I have had to choose which road to take and the one that ensured food on the table and enough money in my pocket won out over the starving artist. Is this the way it is now or has it always been this way? Do the poets and artists, musicians and actors, always struggle to find a way forward to express their inner life and their soul songs?

Educate my heart
Teach me love
Leave my brain alone

This is a Lune, an American form derived from Haiku, created by Robert Kelly. It is a syllabic form with a single 3 line stanza. The syllable count per line is 5/3/5.

Looking Leaky

It was a normal Sunday morning. We prepared to depart for church – Sparky in his car and me in mine a little after his departure. (He sings in the choir and had to be there early for a practice). As I put the finishing touches on my outfit (trying to find a matching mask), I realized that I had a bit of static cling going on. An easy fix, I headed to the basement laundry to grab a dryer sheet to tame the cling. I turned on the light to a disaster. The floor and rug were wet, the wall was wet, there was standing water on the dryer, the water softener was streaming water, and there was a fine mist spraying from a water pipe. I was very calm. My first thought was, I need to turn off the water supply. My second thought was, where the heck is the shut off valve? After looking around unsuccessfully I decided that my best bet was to mitigate the damage as quickly as possible.

I pulled the trash from my 5 gal. plastic bucket, and positioned the bucket under the drip by placing it on top the water softener. Then I grabbed a stack of old towels (kept in the past for wet dogs and car drying and the specter of basement floods). I sopped up the water on the new dryer as it was running over my electronic control panel. I wiped down the water softener, moved the wet hangers, sweater drying rack, and the laundry baskets (empty). Using all my “MacGyver” mojo, I cut plastic bags to cover electrical outlets. I used plastic bags and clothespins to funnel the mist and drips into the bucket.

Then I went to church. Yep. I literally threw in the towel and left. After church I gave Sparky the message and urgently asked him to “GO HOME NOW”. With all due speed he managed to get home and after a quick inspection, decided to change clothes and have lunch. There was some serious hand wringing on my part. I guess my temporary efforts to contain the problem contained it too well and he thought it wasn’t much of an emergency.

After some further inspection we (I was still in MacGyver mode and I’m pretty handy with a hot glue gun) made a temporary fix to the pinhole leak in the water pipe but the leak in the pipe that drains from the kitchen sink was not in our ability to staunch. The water was turned off. The plumber was contacted. Then another plumber was called. Finally on Wednesday professional help arrived. He replaced the PVC Y-piece that drains from the kitchen (which had cracked) and put in a new section of copper pipe between the water softener and the ceiling. We wrote a check for more money than I made last week and he left.

You would think the story was over but you’d be wrong. When it rains it pours. Sparky went into the basement the next day to do a little work at his desk when he heard a “drip, drip, drip”. We had another leak. This time it was from the pipe coming into the water meter in the basement from the street. The plumber was contacted. All the toys and games in the basement closet were removed and laid out to dry. The floor was dried, the ceiling panels removed, and a bucket positioned to contain the water dripping. The last “fix” failed and we didn’t call the previous plumber (aka King of the shark bites) to make the repair. It took a little time and a lot of effort but we have shiny new copper piping and all 7 shark bites were removed. (BTW a shark bite is a valid fix but 7 in a 5 foot span is a little lazy not to mention they were doomed to fail because of the high pressure in the pipe.)

Perhaps by the time you read this we will have things back to normal. Well except for the slight mustiness of wet cardboard being air dried. I just hope my plumbing issues are done!