Life · people

Grateful

[a momentary pause before I finish my alphabet challenge]

The other day I got a call from a friend that I hadn’t heard from in a while.

“I’m gong to visit my brother and thought I would reach out to some of my friends while I was driving,” she said.

I was so honored. We hadn’t talked in a long time. At one point we were going to try going for walks together wherever we were and talk on the phone, but it only happened once or twice before it fell by the wayside.

Life has a way of pulling us away from the very best of ideas.

The truth is I need more perseverance, more stick-to-itiveness, in my own life.

The other night I was so frustrated with my job that I went for a walk afterwards and mentally drafted my resignation letter. I thought through the commitments I had made there and when would be an appropriate time for me to give as my last day. I came up with a plan and was heading home to write the letter when I made a quick stop at the grocery store.

After I had picked up my bananas and bread, I headed to the checkout. Lately I’ve been using the self-checkout because I am peopled out by the end of the day, but I recognized one of the check-out people and went straight to her line. It was not the shortest or the fastest, but she was someone I knew from my job at the gym.

During the summer, she and her friend had been part of the early morning crowd. I loved the way they spurred each other on, sometimes only coming because the other was expecting them. M and D were both from Cuba and worked in housekeeping at a large hotel in town.

One day in the fall, M didn’t come, but D did. “Where’s M?” I asked.

“She’s packing and repacking her suitcase with food because she’s going to visit her family in Cuba,” D told me. “She wants to fit as much in as she can but she can’t go over the weight limit.”

“When does she leave?” I asked.

“In the middle of next week,” D said, “but she gets very anxious about her trips so that’s why she didn’t come this morning.”

All week I would ask D how M was doing. She was anxious. The next week, the day before she was to leave, when I asked D, she said, “Everything has changed. M heard from immigration and can apply to bring her children back with her.”

To make a long story short, M came back to Cooperstown with her children several weeks later. Despite hurricanes and glitches with visas, they made their way through the process incredibly quickly. I met her daughter in October, a beautiful girl who didn’t yet know any English.

That night that I was ready to quit my job and had stopped at the store, I saw M working the checkout line, her second job to make ends meet. She looked exhausted, but she brightened when she saw me.

“How are you?” I asked as she was scanning the groceries of the person ahead of me.

“So tired,” she replied.

“How are the kids doing?” I asked.

“We went to the gym Saturday and went ….” I could see her searching for the word. She paused and made an arm movement to show me.

“Pickleball? Racquetball?” I guessed. Pickleball is so popular these days that my mind immediately went there.

She shook her head and did the gesture again.

“I think it’s bowling,” said the woman ahead me.

M nodded vigorously. “Yes! We had so much fun. We want to do it again!”

When it was my turn, we talked a few minutes. It was so nice to hear her enthusiasm for having her family together. “Next week I take my citizenship exam,” she said. “That would be so wonderful to be a citizen.”

I wished her well and went home with a lighter spirit.

My petty complaints about my job seemed just that — petty — in comparison with all that M had gone through and was still going through.

I told a co-worker the next day, “M saved my job. Seeing her last night put everything in perspective.”

I’ve made a list of people that I see at work for whom I am thankful. M is near the top of that list.

She’s teaching me about perseverance, hard work, and joy.

Life

Melting Icy Fingers

Thanksgiving is not a result of perception; thanksgiving is the access to perception.

Virginia Stem Owens

By taking the time to be grateful, I can melt the icy fingers of fear that squeeze my heart today.

Today I am thankful for my neighbors down the road with the Trump sign in their yard and my neighbors in the other direction with the Biden sign. We co-exist on a single stretch of road in peace.

I am thankful for my co-workers who support different political parties and ideologies. We work side-by-side. We laugh together. We learn from each other. We have common ground.

I am thankful for my family members who believe conspiracy theories and for my family members who honor science. Although we may disagree — PASSIONATELY disagree — on issues we hold dear, at the end of the day, we hold each other dearer.

I am thankful that I live in a country where people can assemble peacefully and voice their opinion.

I am thankful for the thoughtfulness and perseverance of the framers of our constitution. I’m thankful for the many people over the years who have served in our government, hashing out amendments and other acts to guide us through turbulent times.

I’m thankful for mistakes because we can learn so much from them.

I’m thankful for wise decisions.

I’m thankful for the dog sleeping here who is oblivious to any of my internal angst. I’m thankful for the cat who tries to taunt the dog — and still the dog sleeps.

I’m thankful for friends who can reassure me that it will be okay.

I’m thankful for coffee.

I’m thankful for quiet mornings when I can gather my thoughts and offer them to God.

I’m thankful for snow. It’s so pretty.

I’m thankful for slush. It means I’ll get to wash the car.

I’m thankful for a woodstove and wood and a cozy room in a drafty house.

I’m thankful that the more things I list here, the more things come to mind. There is a magic in seeing blessings.

I’m thankful for tomorrow because it will come. And the next day, and the next day.

I’m thankful for you, whoever you are, for reading through all this because no matter who you are and what you think or believe, we can link arms and walk a few steps down the road together.

Faith · Life

The Adult Swim Lesson

I stood in the warm water of the teaching pool helping Nahla (not her real name) float on her back. It was my second time giving adult swim lessons, and, honestly, I love it.

Nahla had grown up in another culture, one that didn’t have access to swimming pools and swimming lessons. She wasn’t the person who started me thinking about immigration, but it has been weighing on my mind. I’m too much of a news junky not to think about it, but I’m always frustrated with the one-sided telling of the story.

“What do you think of immigration?” I asked a wise friend a few days later.

Jonathan paused before he answered me. “That’s a big question,” he said.

I had made a quick trip to Washington, DC, and gotten together with some people I know from Hutchmoot. I knew that I would get a thoughtful answer.

My own experience is limited. It is, perhaps, a downfall of living in a small, rural community. A few weeks of international travel opened my eyes, but certainly has not made me an expert on much of anything.

Doug, the other person at the mini-moot in Washington, joined in by telling a story about something that had happened when he was working with refugees. Then he told a story about his father, followed by a story from Sweden. He strung the stories together with the common thread of immigration. Some revealed one side of the issue; others revealed the other.

Never once did he tell me what I should think. Nor did tell me exactly what he thought.

His and Jonathan’s stories made the topic of immigration multi-dimensional. I could walk around the issue while I thought about it — kicking the tires, tooting the horn, taking it for a test drive.

On the other hand, memes — and I feel like I’ve been inundated with memes lately — take a complex issue and flatten it into a pithy saying.  Sometimes the pith is crumpled, fed into a cannon, and fired at those with opposing views. Those who agree laugh and A-men. The targets become offended and angry.

Memes are not conversation, nor are they conducive to conversation.

Last week, a picture showed up in my Instagram feed that showed a young woman holding a sign that said, “Behind millions of successful women is a an abortion they don’t regret.” Frankly, I found it offensive.

I thought, I’d love to introduce you to some women who do have regrets about their abortion.

I thought, I’d love to introduce you to some women who didn’t choose to have the abortion, and yet are still successful.”

And how do you measure success anyway?

Then I thought about the fact that the woman holding the poster has a story, too. I need to hear her story — with open ears and an open mind. She probably won’t change mine, and I won’t change hers, but we’ll be one step closer to understanding each other.

I thought about the pro-lifers who wave posters showing gruesome pictures of aborted fetuses. I’ve wanted to tell them about my friend who 30-some years ago had a late-term abortion because complications with the pregnancy were causing her kidneys to shut down. She and her husband had to make a Sophie’s choice. They don’t need their noses rubbed in it.

Oh, how we need to hear each other’s stories!

So I stand in the teaching pool, gently supporting Nahla’s back, encouraging her that it’s okay because I’m right there in the water with her.

A thousand thoughts run through my head — thoughts on immigration and fear and courage and the struggles women have and how grateful I am for this moment.

Mostly, that’s it — I’m grateful.

 

 

 

family · Uncategorized

October Gratitude

On October 29, I am grateful for these — collected over the course of the month.

  1. Harvest time
  2. A few stalks left behind
  3. Airports
  4. A full-circle rainbow seen from above
  5. Tennessee sunrise
  6. A quiet place to stay
  7. That bald-headed guy resting his arm on the chair (below)
  8. The woman in the middle in the greenish shirt (above) (Her eyes always sparkle.)
  9. Dining with friends
  10. A new book
  11. An afternoon walking around a mall with a friend (sorry, no picture)
  12. The Dalek I saw there
  13. A bald eagle sighting
  14. A new job
  15. Chipmunks in the house (only the tail visible here)
  16. Mice trapped in an empty can and released into the wild
  17. Beautiful sunsets
  18. A girl to take the picture for me while I drive (rearview mirror)
  19. Late autumn colors
  20. The way the afternoon sun hits the hills
  21. Concentric spiky circles
  22. Apples
  23. Pears
  24. Hallmark movies
  25. Family humor
  26. A funny sign
  27. A visit from my grandson (the walker isn’t his)
  28. My father and my grandson playing together
  29. A military funeral (no photo, but a memory I’ll hold onto)

How has your October been?

 

poetry

Cold Morning

i thank You God for most this amazing day:
for the glittering icy brilliance of snow
and the pink-streaked watercolor dawn;
for the bare branches of trees whose tiniest twigs
point upward,
upward,
upward,
reminding me there is more.

thank you for the take-my-breath-away cold
that freezes in my throat,
and for the merino warmth of my scarf, hat, mittens, socks.
the bitterest cold helps me to appreciate
the snuggliest warmth.

this, this is a privilege
that my southern neighbors rarely know —
the nip on my nose,
the tears frozen in my eyes,
the soft flakes that land
(and sometimes melt)
on upturned chilly cheeks

thank You God for winter —
for leaned-on shovels
and salt-sprinkled sidewalks;
for glacial ground
where grass breaks instead of bends;
for barren landscapes
that belie the promise
of new Life
and Spring.

thank You God for most this amazing day.
may the ears of my ears awaken to hear
and the eyes of my eyes open to see.

may the tastebuds of my tongue
rejoice in snowflakes that land there,
outstretched and waiting,
as i am
for You

IMG_5220[1]I woke up this morning with the words of e e cummings’ poem “i thank You God for most this amazing” running through my head, but winter in New York has no “greenly leaping spirits of trees.” Instead, we have snow forecast.  Still, I’m thankful.