Monthly Archives: June 2011

Sit by my side, come as close as the air…


I heard Phil Ochs’ song “Changes”on a folk album today and decided to share it with you. You can click on the link and it will open in a new window, so you can listen to it while reading my belated blog.

“Sit by my side, come as close as the air
Share in a memory of gray
Wander in my words, dream about the pictures
That I play of changes.” – Phil Ochs

“Change,” my ex-husband once told me, “is the only thing that is for sure.” We had a lively argument about that statement, and for years I don’t think I believed it. But now, in my ultimate wisdom of 62 years, I know he was right.

Tomorrow I fly out of here to go to my grandson’s eighth grade graduation. To be honest, I forgot they had graduations at that age (I probably had one too and just don’t remember it). So I was really surprised when my daughter told me about it a few weeks ago. I called Hammie and asked him if he wanted me to come. “Yes, Nana, I would really like that.”

Atlantic City, New Jersey is the last place I expected to be on June 15th this year. I pictured myself walking through World War II memorials and ruins in Poland, straining my neck to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling or visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. But Atlantic City? Never in a million years. Just goes to show you how wrong I can be. And how changes affected my life in one incident.

Change. It’s something we relish and dread. If we’re moving, we are excited about our new place (usually); however, we abhor packing and getting ready for the move.

If we’re going to the hospital for an operation, we look forward to getting better, but we do not get all giggly at the thought of someone cutting into us.

We eagerly anticipate the coming of spring and the crocus and daffodils brightening up yards everywhere. Then again, you’ll hear some people complain that they don’t know if they want to do all the work of a garden this year.

The river of life carries us to places we never thought we’d go, where we meet people whom later become our dearest friends. Or it carries us to dark places in our minds where we imagine every possible bad outcome to any situation.

How we deal with changes tells people (and us) a lot about who we are, what our true character is like, and a lot about our faith (or lack of it). I like to picture God laughing in delight if we wind up praising Him during a crisis. If we don’t, my mental picture is one of God saying, “Tut-tut…guess we still have some work to do, don’t we?”

As for me, I’ll try to make the most of this jaunt to Atlantic City. Hugging my grandson after he gradudates will make everything else pale in comparison. And I’ll tell him about the song.

I hope you have someone to sit by your side today, and your upcoming changes bring growth and happiness to your heart.

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A few of “THOSE” days…


flowers
My pansies are still blooming, even in this 90-degree heat! That’s because they’re in the shade and I water them every day!

It’s been three or four days since I wrote in my blog. I know you’ve missed me (smile). I’ve missed me, too.

I’ve always been bad about letting people rent space in my head. Sometimes I think I should have some signs made to put on the back of my shirt or dress. They would say, “Space in Ellie’s head for rent. No charge. Get it before it’s gone!”

However, recently I’ve been working on not letting that happen. As with many things, the minute you start trying to change, the old stuff comes up more fast and furious than ever — it’s trying to see how you’ll deal with it. Will it be different this time? Will the people win the free space, or will you maintain your serenity? Do you get the white elephant gift or the grand prize?

The main problem with allowing others to have that power over you is that you not only lose who you are in the process, but you also feel absolutely crummy, downtrodden and almost physically ill.

The latter is what happened to me this week. I was depressed, felt worthless and couldn’t sleep at night.

When I can’t sleep, I can’t concentrate. When I feel depressed, it makes me wonder how I could feel that way again. When I feel worthless, I don’t really want to see many people…only my good friends who give me hugs, words of encouragement and remind me to pray more.

Yep. When those negative feelings happen, I sometimes forget God. Not for very long, but I forget. This is different than when something negative happens to me, such as a flood or fire (yes, I’ve experienced both). It’s the negative feelings that take over my mind that really are my EGO. EGO in this case means “edging God out.”

God’s grace is so deep, however, that He always puts someone in my path to help point me in the right direction again. Sometimes I have to make the phone call. Sometimes someone calls me. It doesn’t matter who makes the call. What matters is being able to listen to the truth without getting angry or feeling even more “less than” you did before.

My guardian angels were busier than a mound of termites eating a house this week. I would get down and then get a phone call. I’d be okay for awhile and then get down and make a phone call. That lasted some time, then there I was at the bottom again. Then I would pray for God’s guidance and ask for the strength to follow it.

It’s about thinking I can do it all myself. It’s about how we’re brought up to be independent and taught that we’ll have more satisfaction if we do it ourselves.

I started really coming out of it yesterday morning (except I still didn’t sleep last night — oh well).

Remember my friend Wille from a prior blog? Here’s the link in case you missed that one.

Well, Willie came over yesterday with his darling daughter Kim, whom I haven’t seen in quite awhile now. They came to help me plant some plants that desperately needed to go into the ground and to fill hanging baskets with multi-colored treats of nature. Kim and I worked on the latter; Willie worked on the former, as well as hanging plant brackets, helping me turn my mattress around and pressure washing my deck (Gosh, it looks SO good now!).

Playing in the dirt always calms me down and makes me concentrate on the task at hand. I talked about that in another blog. In case you haven’t read that one either, here’s the link. That, in turn, begins the process of evicting the unwanted tenants in my head. Watching little Kim use the trowel to fill the hanging baskets one at a time, seeing the delight in her eyes when I told her the last one was the one she could take home, and having Willie kid me as he always does turned my whole day and week around (except for the sleeping – but that’s a small price to pay, don’t you think?)

I told a friend who’s having difficulties of her own to pray unceasingly this week. When I said the words, a little voice in my head said, “So, are you going to follow your own advice? Huh? Huh?”

I did. And maybe that’s really the thing that turned my whole day and week around, because when we are trying to BE like God and do God’s will consciously, something in our whole being changes.

I hope you’ve had a good week this week. I hope that you feel strong, healthy and at peace with the world.

Two final notes: If you want to see how someone overcomes adversity, watch this video about a homeless boy in South Korea auditioning on Korea’s Got Talent.

And finally, if you like my blogs, won’t you please pass them on to your friends and family and publish the link on your facebook page? Thanks so much! (Shameless self-promotion 🙂

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Soaking Wet – Nurturing My Inner Child


little girl with wet face
Oh my GOSH! This photo is so perfect! Another offering from morguefile.com. This time it was taken by Kakisky: http://morguefile.com/creative/kakisky

I was watering my hanging flower baskets and container veggies when all of a sudden I noticed there was a leak in the handle of the spray attachment on the bright yellow hose. My glove was dripping wet. Before long, more water was coming out and part of my pants  was also soaking wet.

I laughed out loud, remembering the days of running through the sprinkler, getting caught in sudden downpours, and falling down while water skiing. It was perfectly acceptable to get wet in those circumstances. But sprinkling yourself until your pants are dripping? Well, that’s a little iffy in my book.

My mind is not my friend. “That was stupid. Why didn’t you just tighten it up when you noticed it was dripping?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t think of it then. I was having too much fun watering the plants and watching the rainbows I made with the water and the sun.”

“Well, don’t you think you’re a little OLD for stuff like this?”

“Not really. I feel younger than I have in years. Do you have anything else to say, maybe something constructive?”

“Not really.”

I remember when I taught my grandson how much fun it was to jump in a rain puddle. His mom was none too pleased with the results of wet shoes and pant bottoms, but we had a great time that day.

A few weeks later I taught him how to drag a stick along a metal fence to make fence music. He liked that and so did I. That’s why being a grandmother is so much fun. You don’t have to worry about the day-to-day things like parents do.

Now he’s 14 and graduates from the eighth grade next week. Jumping in puddles doesn’t interest him anymore, but playing video games and making animated films does. Time does more than fly — it whizzes by so fast the older you get that you wonder how you can keep up with anything.

When I was sick as a child, my dad used to bring me records from this favorite shop of his in San Francisco. They cost him $1.00 each. He brought me musicals because he knew how much I loved them. I knew all the words to all the songs in Carousel and South Pacific before I ever saw them in the theater or on stage. Thanks, Dad, for a good memory. I bet you and Mom are having the time of your lives in heaven.

Nurturing your inner child can be done in a myriad of ways. You can fly a kite, catch a butterfly, dig a hole, ride your bike, play catch with your own kids or friends, pick some flowers from the garden and present them to your Mom if she’s still alive or enjoy them yourself.

Eating dessert before dinner is a great way to let your inner kid come out to play. Didn’t you always wonder why you had to eat dinner first when you were young? I did. Today I do that sometimes. It feels fabulous.

Dying Easter eggs with your own or others’ children, doodling while you’re attending a boring business meeting, taking a different way to work, watching re-runs of “Leave It to Beaver” or “Happy Days,” or playing with a yellow duckie when you take a bath will all keep you young longer.

I have two inner children, the one that loves to come out to play and the one that is wounded emotionally. It used to be that I spent a lot more time holding the hurt kid. But today she only comes around every so often. Today I spend a lot of time recognizing the one that wants to play and the little things I do or someone else does to make that possible.

I hope you will take care of your inner child today in some way. I know you’ll be glad you did.

Ice cream, anyone?

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Endings and beginnings – more about friendship


children

I wish I had a picture of me and Janet, but I don't. So, I found this one on morguefile.com. Phaedra is the gal who took it. Her page is here: http://morguefile.com/creative/phaewilk

I’m going to Fayetteville, GA next week to see my friend Janet, who has cancer and the most amazing fighting to stay alive attitude I’ve ever seen. Janet is the person who opened her home to me in 1998 when I came back from my first year teaching in South Korea. She never charged me a  penny’s rent, helped me buy a computer and a car, and most of all, she accepted me exactly the way I was.

I was raw. I didn’t want to come back to the states, because I think I’m a true expat at heart. We’re both Scorpios, so we got along pretty well most of the time. Her husband was dying of Alzheimer’s and in a nursing home. I was so self-absorbed, I don’t think I was much comfort to her. We met online through a writing group. Janet was more of an editor than a writer, and she ran critique groups for budding writers – all online. Her site was writelinks.com, but it’s no longer on the Net.

However, while it was up and running, Janet did more good for more people than you can imagine. She encouraged, advised and just listened. She had a huge list of links to various other writing sites, resources which were invaluable to all the wannabe writers and pros alike.

A few years ago, Janet started knitting. She got so good at it that she started teaching classes at Michael’s, the hobby store for those of you who don’t know. Then she branched out. Instead of just knitting for friends or friends of friends, she started knitting baby things to be donated to an organization, the name of which I don’t remember. There are lots of these organizations, though, so if you’re a knitter, you might want to do a search for them.

Janet knitted me some washcloths to give as gifts to my family. I also got one. I still have it. It’s off white and the best cloth I’ve ever used to really get the dirt and grime off my face and body.

She has a mind like a steel trap — it traps information and keeps it to throw up as trivia or to explain some complicated medical process or to answer questions about everything from parenting to literature. I love her mind.

She’s traveled all over the world. Her husband Len worked for Delta Airlines and that was during the time when a buddy/family pass was exactly that. The pass cost a pittance compared to today’s rates. That was also when baggage was free, meals were free, and people took real books on planes instead of laptops and Kindles or Nooks. She has a map with little red push pins showing all the places she and her beloved husband went together.

When she was sixteen, she started a restaurant. Later she got advanced degrees in psychology and was a school psychologist for years. She’s soft-spoken and rarely gets angry, but she loves a good debate.

She’s from California like I am, and we had lots of laughs about how most people in the South don’t know what Swiss chard and artichokes are.

The night I arrived in Georgia from Korea via California, she took me to Ryan’s a buffet restaurant, so I could have my favorite stewed tomatoes and okra. She bought my favorite foods at the grocery store until I started making money with my writing and we challenged each other on computer games that didn’t involve killing monsters, aliens or humans. They were mostly word games as I remember. We both love words.

I call her every day now, just to see how she’s doing. Some days are good, some are bad. She’s in a lot of pain most of the time now. Treatments for the cancer are finished.

I like to think that God will answer my prayer for a miracle for Janet so she can go on being herself here on earth and enriching others’ lives.  On the other hand, if God doesn’t answer that prayer, I know he must need another angel. Janet will be an awesome angel. I hope she’ll visit me often, but I know if I’m not on her visitation list others will be, and their lives will be all the better for the time with her.

So, I’m going to Fayetteville on Tuesday next week. I’ll stay in a hotel and visit her once a day for two days. She says she doesn’t need me to stay with her. I guess the way it’s going, it will be the last time I’ll visit her. But instead of thinking of it as an ending, I’m thinking of it as a beginning.

Why?

Well, it’s a beginning because our friendship will ever be new. It’s the start of another phase of her life and mine without her.

What I know today is that my mother used to say I would be lucky if I had two true friends in my life. I have been more than blessed with quite a few more than two. I don’t believe in numbering a list of best friends, with this person being number one, the next being number two, etc. However, I do know that Janet is at the top of my unnumbered list today. The hope she gave to me, the consolation she provided when I was down, the good and practical advice she always gave – they will always be with me.

Lord, I hope I can be as good a friend to others as Janet and others have been to me. I hope that I can give people strength when they are feeling weak, the words they need to hear when they have a problem, and the ability to bring a smile to their faces when they are with or think of me.

Who will you be a friend to today?

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Friends, Pets and Families


girl on couch

My friend's daughter asleep on my couch while her Dad, some friends and I moved me.

Yesterday afternoon I sat down in my nice easy chair with the cats on my lap and fell asleep for about 45 minutes. I awoke to the sound of a lawn mower, and I knew it was my friend and former neighbor over here cutting my grass. It was a welcome sound, because the grass in the back was as high as my knee (or should I say the weeds IN the grass?).

But more than that, it was a happy sound because I love my friend. He did almost all the packing when I moved, came over in the middle of the night to fix a faucet that thought it was Niagara Falls, and left straight from work the day he found out I was in the hospital so he could visit me there. He brought me flowers on Mother’s Day in 2010, helped me hang pictures and cleaned out the fireplace in my house here. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We laugh, he’s listened to me cry, and he has the greatest laugh. He’d protect me from anything or anyone, stand up for me if needed, and always has a smile on his face and a good word about life.

Pets are like people friends. They accept us for who we are, snuggle up against us to keep out the cold, and, if they’re dogs, will protect us from anyone who tries to harm us. My cats wouldn’t know how to protect me from anything…they can barely catch a slow-crawling bug as it makes its way across my hardwood floors. They try, but they’re just not very good hunters. Pets only complain if they’re hungry or in pain. They’re different from friends that way, because friends allow us to complain about anything or anyone; and, if they’re very good friends, they listen and don’t judge us.

Some people say they have a closer relationship with their friends than than with their family members. It’s understandable, don’t you think?

After all, our families suffer from the e-word syndrome — EXPECTATIONS. This is not to say that friends don’t also have expectations, because they do. However, family expectations cover years and years of everything from manners to the madcap adventures of teens and those other members who never quite got out of adolescence. Some parents and siblings say the want “the best” for us. What that really means is that they want us to be like they are — to make the same types of decisions, marry the right type of person and live our lives the way they think we should.

The difference between friends and family is often the fact that our friends really encourage us to push on toward our dreams, to give it all we have, and to be fully who we are. We rest comfortably in the fact that if we fall down, they’ll not only be there to pick us up, but they’ll also be there at three in the morning if we have a pressing need to vent about everything from boyfriends to money, from being ill to feeling crazy, or from laughing out loud to sobbing a bucket full of tears.

Lots of families are there for their relatives too. They loan or give us money, remember our birthdays and send us flowers when we’re in the hospital. My mom used to always cook my favorite meals when I would return home for a visit, and my room always had a goodie basket with things like black licorice and red vines, pretzels and apples. She always knew when something was wrong, too. I’d swear I wasn’t going to tell her what was wrong before I made the call; however, she’d ask me how I was and then tell me that I didn’t sound “fine.” So, I always told her. I believe that no matter what we think our parents did or didn’t do, they did the best they could. I know my family loves me, and I love them, even though we don’t always agree. I think I’ve finally learned to accept them exactly the way they are, too, and that feels REALLY good.

We like our friends because they let us know what great people we are. And when they criticize us, it somehow doesn’t sting as much as it does when a family member does it. But nothing felt as good to me as a hug from my mom, dad, sisters or brothers.

This is a rambling blog tonight. I know it may seem as if it almost has no “point.” But it does.

The point is that you can drive the most expensive Jaguar, live in a fabulous restored Victorian home and have $100,000 in your bank account, but if you don’t have people in your life who love you, you have nothing. You’re doubly blessed if you have a faithful Fido or comfy cat.

At the same time, you can have no money for a car of any kind, live in a neighborhood where drive-by shootings occur occasionally and live from disability check to disability check, but you have people in your family and group of friends who tell you every day they love you — and somehow life seems worthwhile after all.

We can’t change our brothers, sisters, moms or dads. We usually don’t try to change our friends. Wouldn’t it be great if we could give that same acceptance to our families and thank God every day that we even have a family?

Acceptance of others exactly the way they are brings a multitude of blessings, which include less stress, more smiles and more of a sense of purpose.

My wish for you tonight is that you cultivate acceptance of others, grin from ear to ear and understand that God loves you more than you’ll ever know.

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The Garbage Man and the White Pillow Case


bicycles and garbage can

Two bicycles near a garbage can. Photo taken by Penywise: http://www.morguefile.com/creative/penywise

This morning I was out watering my plants when the garbage truck came. I love being outside in the morning when all is bright and new. It just gives me a new lease on life.

The man who picks up my garbage and I have a history. When I first moved in and had gotten almost completely unpacked, I was still very ill. Dishes would sit in the sink for days, I had no energy to cook anything that didn’t come out of the freezer or a can, and I spent more hours in bed than I did doing anything else — including my housecleaning and taking out the garbage.

So one morning the doorbell rang. I wasn’t out of bed yet, but I jumped out of bed and threw on my mother’s beautiful Christian Dior robe, which is ivory with gold trim. I went to the front door and there stood the garbage man. I opened the door and said, “Hello.”

“I was just wondering if you had any garbage today. There wasn’t anything in the can,” said the medium tall, stocky man.

I told him I’d been sick and just forgotten to take it out. He said, “I’ll wait while you go get it,” he said. I brought the bag to him, and then he continued. “Listen, I’m sorry you’ve been so sick. I’ll check every week, and if there’s no garbage, I’ll come to the door to get it from you.” His mouth broke into a wide, white smile.

I thanked him profusely and thought how God takes care of sometimes the smallest things. But to be honest, I was blown away. Here’s this hard-working man who labors all day, smelling the filthy trash, trying to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer (impossible with no air conditioning in garbage trucks). He has a million stops to make and often works from dawn to dusk.

But he took the time to make an offer to one of his customers. Why? Just because he’s a nice guy.

This morning he got out of the truck and walked toward me. “Guess what!” I said. “I’m finally well again!.”

“That’s great news. I’m glad to hear it,” he said.

“Yep,” I said. “I thank God and my doctor.”

“Amen,” he said. Then, “Do you have a white pillowcase I could have? It’s so hot, and I want to put it over my hat. Oh, and some scissors.”

I told him I did and went into the house to get them. I brought them out and he carefully cut the pillowcase in two pieces, then draped it over his head. “Thank you so much,” he said. This will really help.”

The pillowcase was my mother’s. It had a couple of iron burns on it, but I knew it would do the trick. And somehow, just somehow, I kind of think Mom is smiling down on me for giving it away today.

What will you give away today?

Footnote: Thanks for reading my blog. I love writing it. You can subscribe and get it automatically, you know. And I do reply to every comment made.  You can click like or share on this and all my entries if you will. I’d appreciate that! Have a blessed day!

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